Monday, November 23, 2009


Reports today that former VP Dick Cheney says that Obama bowing to the emperor of Japan "harms" the United States.

Here's a cartoon by Pat Bagley of The Salt Lake Tribune published on November 17th showing what right wingers including Dick Cheney would have preferred.

Bagley shows Obama bowing on the left to a chorus of "Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!!!" but on the right Dick Cheney has just shot and killed the emperor with his shot gun.

Bagley calls this, "The Right-Wingers Guide to International Etiquette."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I see a glaring weakness in Pres. Obama's foreign policy: Latin America.

True, Obama did attend the OAS meeting several months ago and personally met most of the Latin American leaders including Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of Bolivia. But since then, Obama and his secretary of state Hillary Clinton seem to have put policy toward Latin America on hold.

Consider what is now happening: Peru and Chile are in a serious contretemps based on Peruvian claims that Chile was spying on Peru. Hugo Chavez is threatening to wage war on Colombia and its conservative president Alvaro Uribe, principally because Chavez objects to Uribe permitting !,000 North Americans to occupy Colombian bases. And the whole world wants to see Cuba free from the shackles of the U.S. embargo, something Obama has inexplicably not done.

Obama needs to get involved, and fast. It seems the whole Latin American world greeted his election with delight and a sense that U.S. policy would be more receptive to Latin needs. In these months since, there has been a growing ominous sense that Obama plans to continue Bush's policy of neglect and condescension. The military agreement with Colombia has Latin leaders wondering who in the Obama administration was so blind to Latin sensitivities that they would not see or recognize the Latin fear and resistance to having U.S. soldiers stationed in any country in Latin America. And why has Obama not immediately lifted the useless Cuban embargo? There are no answers to these questions that do not reflect poorly on Obama.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


The government of Israel under prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems to approve new settlements on occupied Palestinian land every month. Today the BBC reports that Israel has approved 900 new homes in East Jerusalem. Remember this is land seized by Israel during the 1967 War. International law is clear that such settlements are illegal: all land seized during armed conflicts must be returned to the losing side, otherwise every nation would have carte blanche to start a war with a weaker neighbor, seize land by military force, then keep it.

The BBC reports:

"The Israeli interior ministry has approved planning applications for 900 new housing units at a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem.

"The planning and construction committee authorised the expansion of Gilo, which is built on land captured in 1967 and annexed to the Jerusalem municipality."

So in the battle between U.S. president Barack Obama and Israeli prime minister Netanyahu about Israeli settlements, it is clear who is winning: Netanyahu. Obama seems powerless to stop the ongoing settlements. And there can be no peace with the Palestinians when Israel is holding their rightful land and continues to expand its settlements on their patrimony.

Reports the BBC:

"The BBC's Tim Franks in Jerusalem says Tuesday's announcement represents by far the largest batch of planning approvals for building on occupied territory since Mr Netanyahu became prime minister.

"The 900 housing units, which will be built in the form of 4-5 bedroom apartments, will account for a significant expansion of Gilo. The interior ministry said construction work would be unlikely to start for another three or four years once the plans gained final authorisation.

"A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the planning approval was "yet another step that shows and proves Israel is not ready for peace".

""This step will ruin every single attempt - European or American - to preserve the peace process," Nabil Abu Rudeineh said."

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Imagine a sitting Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court requiring that any story in a high school newspaper about his visit be first edited by him and his staff before allowing publication! Bullying of this sort is inimical to a concept of freedom of the press and the First Amendment.

The offender is Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

Adam Liptak reports on the story for The New York Times:

"It turns out that Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, widely regarded as one of the court’s most vigilant defenders of First Amendment values, had provided the newspaper, The Daltonian, with a lesson about journalistic independence. Justice Kennedy’s office had insisted on approving any article about a talk he gave to an assembly of Dalton high school students on Oct. 28."

Kennedy's actions amount to interference in the workings of a school newspaper. Kennedy is clearly out of line and his restrictions amount to censorship. How could a Justice of the Supreme Court do this? Is he so afraid of criticism that he would put limits on a high school newspaper reporting on his visit and talk?

Reports Liptak:

"Ellen Stein, Dalton’s head of school, defended the practice in a telephone interview. “This allows student publications to be correct,” she said. “I think fact checking is a good thing.”

"But Frank D. LoMonte, the executive director of the Student Press Law Center, questioned the school’s approach. “Obviously, in the professional world, it would be a nonstarter if a source demanded prior approval of coverage of a speech,” he said. Even at a high school publication, Mr. LoMonte said, the request for prepublication review sent the wrong message and failed to appreciate the sophistication of high school seniors.

"“These are people who are old enough to vote,” he said. “If you’re old enough to drive a tank, you’re old enough to write a headline.”"

How can Justice Kennedy handle a case regarding censorship if he cannot tolerate misstatements or misquotes about his visit to some high school? It would appear that his vanity has no bounds and that he would go to absurd lengths to make sure the newspaper portrays him in what he thinks is a silhouette favorable to his ridiculous self-image.

Writes Liptak:

"It is not unusual for Supreme Court justices to exclude the press entirely from public appearances. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, for instance, spoke to more than 1,000 people at Yale Law School last month in an off-the-record session that was closed to the news media.

"But Mr. LoMonte said the demand from Justice Kennedy’s office crossed a line.

"“It’s a request that shouldn’t have been made,” he said. “That’s not the teaching of journalism. That’s an exercise in image control.”"

The high school editors and staff should not accept Kennedy's censorship. Better not to publish any story about Kennedy or his visit than agree to have one's freedom of speech curtailed or otherwise be constrained by Kennedy's vanity and pomposity.

Friday, November 13, 2009


When governments, even democratically elected ones, face embarrassment or potential ridicule, they all do the same thing: clam up.

We see that with the British government. The British courts have ruled that information about torture of a British citizen previously held in Guantanamo must be released and made public. In response, the Foreign Office claims, all without any basis or reason, that the torture disclosures will harm British intelligence and national security.

Richard Norton-Taylor reports in The Guardian yesterday:

"A top Foreign Office official has accused high court judges of damaging Britain's national security by insisting that CIA evidence of British involvement in torture must be revealed. . . .

"In an unprecedented assault on the judiciary, he claims that demands by two judges that the CIA material should be disclosed have already harmed Britain's intelligence and diplomatic relations with the US. In a statement, Manley says the judges have "served to undermine confidence within the US in the UK's ability to protect the confidentiality of diplomatic exchanges and will inevitably have a negative impact on the candour of their exchanges with UK officials"."

So the British government is claiming that because the United States government wants to keep all these dark doings a secret, that it too has a right to conceal what the Americans did to one of its citizens. There is of course no basis in the law for allowing a government to cloak its evil doings in secret. Just because the information, if released, has the potential to diminish the reputation of Tony Blair or Gordon Brown is of no legal consequence. Those leaders who approved, endorsed and implemented methods of torture cannot escape the glare of publicity by claiming "national security" as a reason to continue refusing to disclose.

Writes Norton-Taylor:

"The judges rejected the foreign secretary's claims that disclosing evidence of unlawful treatment would harm national security and threaten the UK's vital intelligence-sharing arrangements with the US. "The suppression of reports of wrongdoing by officials in circumstances which cannot in any way affect national security is inimical to the rule of law," they ruled. "In our view, as a court in the United Kingdom, a vital public interest requires … that a summary of the most important evidence relating to the involvement of the British security services in wrongdoing be placed in the public domain … Championing the rule of law, not subordinating it, is the cornerstone of democracy.""

That's exactly what American leaders and now British leaders are trying to do: hide wrongdoings in the cloak of national intelligence and national security. Why? Because they know that the whole world would condemn them and their actions of torture once the veil is lifted.

"The judges made it clear they were exasperated by the attitude of the foreign secretary and British officials. There was no "rational basis" for claims made by Miliband and Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, that disclosure of the CIA material would put British lives at risk."

We always say, no one is above the law. But government leaders are always trying to prove the statement wrong if their honesty, reputation or wrongdoings are apt to be disclosed.

Monday, November 9, 2009


I don't understand why Pres. Obama gives access to Israel's prime minister Bibi Netanyahu to come to the White House for talks, yet Obama refuses to talk with leaders of Hamas.

Both Hamas and Israel's IDF have been cited by Judge Goldstone as committing atrocities and war crimes. Hamas, by allowing Palestinians to fire rockets aimed at Israeli villages and towns. The IDF because of all of its anti-civilian actions during the three-week war this past January. Specifically, the Goldstone Report found that the IDF randomly shot at and killed civilians, including women and children. Bombed U.N. food distribution centers and schools. Used white phosphorous bombs and shells against a civilian population. Refused to allow civilians to flee the conflict. Destroyed homes and apartments that had no military purpose.

So why should Obama allow someone like Netanyahu who defends the actions of the IDF as necessary and proportionate? Come on, Obama, stand up to the bully Netanyahu and say publicly that Judge Goldstone's report should be accepted.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Some Democrats voted no to the health care reform bill last night in the House. Yet they voted for the Stupak amendment barring insurance companies from paying for abortions.

One of those Democrats was Jim Matheson, Democrat from the Second Cong. District of Utah, who prides himself as being a Blue Dog and fiscal conservative.

If Matheson knew that he would not vote for the final bill, why did he vote to deny abortion? It is as if he just wanted to be obstructionist as possible regarding health care reform.

Consider Jim Matheson's other votes in the past: voting to pass the Bankruptcy Reform bill in 2005 making it much harder for debtors to file bankruptcy; voting for Bush's military authorization to take action in Iraq; voting for all of Bush's tax cuts; voting for the federal Defense of Marriage Act; voting against setting a date certain for pull-out of American forces from Iraq; and now voting against health care reform.

Let's take away Jim's congressional health care and see how he reacts if he or one of his family suffer a catastrophic illness. Will he consider personal bankruptcy in such a case? Will he call upon United Healthcare for more political donations so that he can pay for all the attendant medical and hospital care? Perhaps he will change his mind about health care reform. Maybe then he will have some sympathy for those financially unable to pay for health insurance.