Saturday, April 25, 2009


Anyone have any Tamiflu handy?

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Office: Broke 

[Spoilers ahead, so stop reading this and go sympathize with some pirates.]

Is the latest episode of The Office a prophecy that Wall Street will fire Obama and give Bush his old job back?

Friday Cat Blogging 

this could get me watching television news again 

Does anyone else find this disturbing ... ? 

... indeed, nauseating?

By LARRY NEUMEISTER, Associated Press Writer Larry Neumeister, Associated Press Writer – Thu Apr 23, 6:56 pm ET

NEW YORK – A Pakistani immigrant described by prosecutors as "Hezbollah's man in New York City" was sentenced Thursday to nearly six years in prison for airing the militant group's television station.

U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman handed down a sentence of five years and nine months to Javed Iqbal, who had pleaded guilty in December to providing aid to a terrorist organization.

Iqbal, 45, admitted as part of a plea agreement that he used satellite dishes on his Staten Island home to distribute broadcasts of Al Manar, the TV station of the Lebanon-based Hezbollah, which has been fighting Israel since the early 1980s and has been branded by the U.S. government as a terrorist group.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Snyder said Iqbal recruited Al Manar, even traveling to "the belly of the beast, South Beirut," to meet with its general manager. "He was, in a very real sense, Hezbollah's man in New York City," Snyder said.

Snyder said Iqbal bought special satellite equipment to allow Al Manar to provide 24-hour programming from November 2005 through May 2006 so Hezbollah could use it to recruit followers and suicide bombers. Prosecutors said Iqbal's business was paid $28,000 monthly for at least five months for airing the station to its North American customers.

Note: Hezbollah has not engaged in suicide bombing or even anything that could be called "terrorism" since the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Argentina in 1995, when it was in many ways an entirely different organization.

I am not idealizing Hezbollah. It is a violent fundamentalist organization.
I am sure al-Manar is not pleasant viewing -- I'm sure there is plenty of gory horror broadcast on al-Manar.

But: a) Hezbollah has been far less effectively violent than the Israeli Terrorist Army in the last 5 years. b) Hezbollah did the world, the cause of peace and justice, and in fact even Israel itself a big a favor by defeating the Israeli Terror assault on Lebanon two years ago. c) 6 years in prison for broacasting a TV channel?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

paging Mr. DeBord. Mr. DeBord to the white courtesy phone 

Joe Bageant's essay on our national Matrix isn't exactly, well, chock full of new ideas, but for someone like myself who has lately been feeling a bit beset and narcotized by his own image-addiction habits, it was a worthwhile read:

No matter how smart we may think we are, the larger world cannot and does not exist for most of us in this room, except through media and maybe through the shallow experience of tourism, or in the minority instance, we may know of it through higher education. The world however, is not a cultural history course, a National Geographic special or recreational destination. It is a real place with many fast developing disasters, economic and ecological collapse being just two. The more aware among us grasp that there is much at stake. Yet, even the most informed and educated Americans have cultural conditioning working against them round the clock.

h/t Ethel The Blog

Plus, Wow. I can't even tell what the Barton thought the "gotcha" was:

"EPIC WIN!!!" said the sledgehammer to the fly 

W.B. Jourdan:

Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse, the accused ringleader of the pirates that held a US captain hostage, is facing life in prison...Prosecutors are claiming that he is 18 or 19 years old, while Muse’s court-appointed lawyer says that he is only 15 years old. According to his family, they have no money their only resources are a small amount of livestock. According to Associated Press, Muse’s mother sells milk at a small market, saving around $6 every month for school fees for her oldest son and around $15 a month in rent.

I can't find exact numbers, but let's estimate, conservatively, that it takes a million dollars to train a Navy SEAL. So the cost of the three Navy SEALS that killed Abdiwali's co-conspirators would be approximately $3,000,015 (that's including the three bullets. SEALS probably use fancy $5 bullets.)

That sum would keep Mr. Muse's mom in school fees and rent for the next eleven thousand years. Or would pay the lifetime housing and educational expenses of 200 Mrs. Muses.

According to teh 'pedia, there are about 1000 armed Somali pirates. So for the cost of training at most 15 Navy SEALS and giving them each a bullet with which to blow up the skull of a Somali pirate, one could house and educate all of the Somali pirates for the rest of their lives.

Keep on kickin' ass, America!

Less depressing 

José Angel Aquino, a judge in the Dominican Republic, has convened a tribunal in an attempt to prohibit the country's popular practice of "contemptuous, extravagant or vulgar" naming.

Among the names for which he seeks specific moratoria are: Adicto de los Santos (Saints Addict), Ernesto Che Pérez, Winston Churchill de la Cruz, John F. Kennedy Santana, Rambo Mota, Bruce Lee Antonio Félix, Nat King Cole Martínez, Elton John Herrera, Querido Familia Pérez (Dear Pérez Family), Teamo Amador, Querida Piña (Dear Pineapple), Mazda Altagracia Ramírez, Datsun del Carmen Ureña, Nisan de la Cruz, Toshiba Fidelina Gómez, Daweoo Radhamés García, and Chocha Colón ("Pussy Colón").

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Art under occupation 

Essential and devastating reading about the situation for artists and poets in the West Bank.

"For us the tunnel is so dark that you cannot even see the light at the end. In a different situation I would like to give up my poetry about Palestine. I can't keep writing about loss and occupation for ever. I feel it deprives me of my freedom as a poet. Am I obliged to express my love for my country every day? You have to live for love, for freedom. The subject of occupation itself becomes a burden."

Monday, April 20, 2009

Take a second and sign this petition 

From Jane Hamsher at firedoglake.com:

Dear Friend,

If you saw the front page of the New York Times today, you saw them pick up an important story that Marcy Wheeler broke on FDL on Saturday -- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in one month.

She reported how the interrogators went far outside of anything they were legally allowed to do, even under the expansive laws written by the Bush Administration.

Marcy's work shows just how important it is that Attorney General Eric Holder appoint an independent special prosecutor to investigate the torture of detainees.

You can sign the petition here:


The ACLU will be delivering the signatures to Secretary Holder later this week. The deadline for signatures is 9am ET, Thursday, April 23.

Thanks for taking the time to stand up for the rule of law.

Jane Hamsher


Many different sources are talking about the latest scandal surrounding the warrantless wiretapping program. Incriminating evidence against California rep Jane Harman was apparently captured some time ago on a legal NSA wiretap. However, Attorney General Gonzales supposedly intervened to drop the case against her because (and this is where the irony meter explodes) Bush officials wanted her to be able to publicly defend the warrantless wiretap program.

via Slashdot, h/t joshr

new henwood 

From his talk at Left Forum this weekend:

let me return to my original political point, which is that President HopeNChange has pretty much turned the federal government into a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street. It’s fashionable in some circles, even around these halls, to attribute this to misunderstanding, or some sort of Clintonian hijacking of a phantasmic transformative agenda, or even imagine this to be some clever feint before a New New Deal is announced. Ha. There’s a reason that hedge fund ubermensch Paul Tudor Jones threw Obama a fundraiser in April 2007, only two months after he announced his candidacy. He knows an ally when he sees one. Obama is a very intelligent fellow, and a masterful politician. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He didn’t appoint Summers and Geithner out of naivete or sloppiness.


Just a reminder of what a New New Deal might sound like. Here’s FDR, in his October 1936 speech announcing the Second New Deal (which, it doesn’t hurt to remember, came just months before the return to fiscal and monetary orthodoxy that launched the second Great Depression in 1937):

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace–business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism [what’s wrong with that, exactly? - DH], sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me–and I welcome their hatred.

You just can’t imagine Obama saying anything like that, can you?


It seems more promising to me to talk about things that we can almost imagine doing, at our present level of political development. Rather than taking over the banks, let’s use some of that bailout money to create new financial institutions. (There’s that “us” problem again, but let’s bracket that for now.) Cooperatives, nonprofits, community development groups. Here in New York City, it would be wonderful to create some sort of economic alternative to the Wall Street-dominated economy, like small-scale, specialized, environmentally friendly manufacturing or food processing; we’d need some sort of planning mechanism with a financing operation at the center to make that happen. I wish I could say there’s someone working on this sort of thing, an all they need are some fresh funds and encouragement, but that doesn’t seem to be happening.

Or, instead of foreclosing on a few million houses, we could create some sort of public corporation or corporations that would take title to the houses and create new ownership structures, like limited equity co-ops, or LECs. In an LEC, people buy their dwellings from the co-op, but can only sell them back to the co-op (and not on the open market), at a price reflecting only inflation and property improvements. This would satisfy the apparent mass need for homeownership, the appeal of which I have to say eludes me, at the same time it would take housing, one of life’s essentials, out of speculative markets forever. Such a scheme would probably work best where the properties are concentrated in a single geographical area, as they are here in southern Queens and central Brooklyn; not so well in exurban Nevada or Florida.

In other words, all I can do is stand here and call for what used to be known as “creeping socialism.” That’s rhetorically and politically very disappointing. I’m even disappointing myself. But these creeping interventions would change material relations and consciousness to at least some degree. Sad to say, though, even this compromised creepy agenda looks heroic under the current configuration.

the kleinlash 

Al G. responds to Naomi Klein.

I responded in comments:

I hold no brief for Klein, that article is terrible, and her last book was equally bad. I hope to god none of her facile neologisms make it into everyday speech. They seem custom-designed to become eye-clawingly bad cliches spouted by braindead television anchors desperate for a new way to appear "balanced" in the face of total right-wing implosion.

I also completely agree that the extra-electoral (revolutionary) left in North America is basically an ineffectual homogenous sectarian sub-culture at this point.

However, there are some things in your piece I'd like to address and question:

First, I think you're giving short-shrift to the achievements of the direct-action wing of the Global Justice movement. As short-lived as it was it played a key role in undermining the Washington Consensus. David Graeber's excellent essay "The Shock of Victory" goes into the detail, but as a result of these movements the world was already distancing itself from "free trade" agreements, the IMF, World Bank, and WTO before the Iraq invasion further isolated the United States on the global stage. That's no small potatoes. It fell apart after 9/11, and it obviously didn't destroy capitalism, but it certainly took a lot of wind out of it, and set the stage for later develpments, including the Obama movement. For one thing, that movement morphed, partially, into the anti-war movement which, despite all its problems, did help set the stage for Obama to become an anti-war candidate. None of that rhetoric would have entered the Presidential campaigns had it not been for the hard thankless work of people in the anti-war movement.

Further, one of the things that was exciting about the Global Justice movement, at least in North America, was that it was the first time in a long time that the privileged white-kid left and the working class had managed an alliance. There were a lot of union folks at Seattle and Miami.

Now Obama is seeking to breathe new life into an IMF that this movement effectively destroyed. So we'll see how that goes.

Second, although I think you're soft-pedaling the egregiousness of the bank bailouts, and omitting the Af/Pak situation, Obama's achievements thus far are laudable, and doubly impressive for occuring so quickly. We do need to "demand" more, but we also should be thankful for victories. Real people's real lives will be improved, or at least avoid total catastrophe, as a result of some of these policies.

What I worry about, and don't understand (as I'm not a participant in the Obama movement), is that for one I don't see the endgame to this sort of pure pragmatism you're outlining, and for another I think it may close off options that are actually more possible than people appear to believe, such as single-payer healthcare. (I might be totally wrong about this, but given popular support for single-payer, if the Obama movement really got behind it and pushed it, I can't see how it could fail. A reform like that alone would guarantee Dem party dominance well into the next decade and necessitate a complete reconfiguration of the Right. If the moment is lost in passing half-measures that keep the insco's in the game, we would be waiting another generation for such a system.)

The way Obama bailed out the banks, and his rhetoric, makes it pretty clear that he's interested in restoring America, not transforming it. I think the post-war period of prosperity appears to be what he has in mind, the so-called Golden Age of Capitalism, thus all the FDR comparisons.

But say it works as advertised. Say that stability is restored to the economy, and the green programs lead to a period of growth. Say it even happens well through the end of Obama's second term. If there's no structural change, won't the capitalists just regroup and launch another counter-offensive like the one they started in the 70's and led us into the morass we're in today? If we're not aiming for reforms that will also transform, how are we not just setting ourselves up for another round of pillage and plunder? Don't we want to get beyond ping-ponging back and forth between hyper-exploitative capitalism and state-ameliorated exploitative capitalism?

So, I could certainly see that just getting America back to something resembling the period of post-war liberalism would be a huge move toward our mutually agreed upon anarcho-syndicalist dreamworld, but once that happens, then what? How do we get there from here? Or rather, how do we even get there from the here of ten years from now which will presumably be better if we all pitch-in and work for/with Obama?

The other thing I don't get, and would appreciate an explanation of, is the idea of the Obama movement now moving toward organizing on behalf of Obama's budget and other policy proposals. Before the election, it was promised that the Obama movement would "hold his feet to the fire", but this seems to be off the table now, internet critiques notwithstanding. Perhaps the "how" of that organizing will be decentralized and grass-roots, but the policies are still coming from above. Wouldn't a Bolivian-style situation, in which not only were ground conditions changed by organizers, but policy itself was generated by the grass-roots, be a preferable alterative?

I respect the accomplishments, dedications, hard-work and diversity of the Obama movement. Can you explain though why working for the budget is the best move for the movement right now? Why does it appear to be sitting back and waiting for orders from above? Is that a misperception? If so, how?

Maybe America is just not quite there yet, and the grass-roots, even after coming off an historic victory, still needs to feel its power more before things get to the stage where state officials are taking orders from them, not the other way around. But I imagine what makes it hard for the extra-electorals to get out there and pound pavement, is partly the idea that they're being asked to do it in service of policies generated from above. "Get out there and get people behind the chief's plans!" is a hard row to hoe for a lot of folks, especially ones who are just not fond of chiefs for whatever reason.

Although maybe you don't really care about the craws of the extra-electorals. It certainly seems like it, and honestly I can't see why you would. In that case though, if they're so irrelevant, marginal and pointless, why waste such valuable vitriol and precious pixels on lambasting them?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cartoon from Jordan 

At truthdig.

Brilliant on multiple levels, including the fact that what the U.S. and allies are most scared of is indeed the reality of human skeletons who are starving to death.


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