Monthly Archives: June 2009

On Obama and the Military Machine

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I just finished watching Jeremy Scahill’s devastating indictment of the Obama Administration and the American war machine on the Bill Moyers Journal. In particular, Scahill describes the increase in troop deployment, defense contractors and misuse of defense contracts, extrajudicial detentions at Bagram Airforce base, and the continuous killings of innocent civilians along the way by the desanitized drones.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Absolutely no idea whatsoever. We’ve spent 190 million dollars. Excuse me, $190 billion on the war in Afghanistan. And some estimates say that, within a few short years, it could it could end up at a half a trillion dollars. The fact is that I think most Americans are not aware that their dollars being spent in Afghanistan are, in fact, going to for-profit corporations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. These are companies that are simultaneously working for profit and for the U.S. government. That is the intricate linking of corporate profits to an escalation of war that President Eisenhower warned against in his farewell address. We live in amidst the most radical privatization agenda in the history of our country. And it cuts across every aspect of our society.

BILL MOYERS: You recently wrote about how the Department of Defense paid the former Halliburton subsidiary KBR more than $80 million in bonuses for contracts to install what proved to be very defective electrical wiring in Iraq. Senator Byron Dorgan himself, called that wiring in hearings, shoddy and unprofessional. So my question is why did the Pentagon pay for it when it was so inferior?

JEREMY SCAHILL:This is perhaps one of the greatest corporate scandals of the past decade. The fact that this Halliburton corporation, which was once headed by former Vice President Dick Cheney, was essentially given keys to the city of U.S. foreign policy. And allowed to do things that were dangerous for U.S. troops. Provide then with unclean drinking water. They were the premier company responsible for servicing the US military occupation of Iraq. In fact, they were deployed alongside the U.S. military in the build up to the war. This was a politically connected company that won its contracts because of its political connections. And the fact is that it was a behemoth that was there. It was it was the girl at the dance, and they danced with her.

. . . Because we’re killing innocent civilians regularly. When the United States goes in and bombs Farah province in Afghanistan, on May 4th, and kills civilians, according to the Red Cross and other sources, 13 members of one family, that has a ricochet impact. The relatives of those people are going to say maybe they did trust the United States. Maybe they viewed the United States as a beacon of freedom in the world. But you just took you just took that guy’s daughter. You just killed that guy’s wife. That’s one more person that’s going to line up and say, “We’re going to fight the United States.” We are indiscriminately killing civilians, according to the UN Human Rights Council. A report that was just released this week by the UN says that the United States is indiscriminately killing civilians in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world. That should be a collective shame that we feel in this society. And yet we have people calling it the good war.

. . .  Well, I think that what we have seen happen, as a result of this incredible reliance on private military contractors, is that the United States has created a new system for waging war. Where you no longer have to depend exclusively on your own citizens to sign up for the military and say, “I believe in this war, so I’m willing to sign up and risk my life for it.” You turn the entire world into your recruiting ground. You intricately link corporate profits to an escalation of warfare and make it profitable for companies to participate in your wars. In the process of doing that you undermine U.S. democratic processes. And you also violate the sovereignty of other nations, ’cause you’re making their citizens in combatants in a war to which their country is not a party. I feel that the end game of all of this could well be the disintegration of the nation state apparatus in the world. And it could be replaced by a scenario where you have corporations with their own private armies. To me, that would be a devastating development. But it’s on. It’s happening on a micro level. And I fear it will start to happen on a much bigger scale.

Definitely not good for the home team.

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Euro Sham Elections or Stealth Democracy

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Today people across Europe are voting for those politicians who will theoretically represent them before the European Parliament. Unfortunately, just like with Spain’s unrepresentative electoral system, many EU states’ Parliament members are elected through closed lists — where only the candidate at the top of each list has actually been publicly debated — is a total sham, completely void of accountability, and a mind-boggling offense to the taxpayers and their wallets.

For example, I was just looking at the present list of Spanish members of the European Parliament. I don’t think I recognized a single one. There were 54 of them from a handful of parties, including 22 from PP and 24 from PSOE. So imagine that of these 22 PP and 24 PSOE elected officials only two of them were ever publicly debated or vetted prior to the election, and the remainder’s qualifications were never discussed. They are like stealth politicians, flying below the radar, and as a result, their performance is never publicly evaluated to determine whether they deserve to continue receiving the salary that we, the tax-payers, finance.

It is no wonder then that EU elections have such incredibly low voter turn-out. As long as the voter is so far removed from their so-called elected officials and is therefore not treated as a constituent, the EU will continue to lack real, voter-earned political legitimacy.

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Traduttore Traitore

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Today I was reading an article (that I cannot find at this time) about the large number of Internet searches for the meaning of the Arabic phrase “as-salam alikum” after it was used by Obama in his recent Cairo speech.  The article correctly explained that the phrase meant “peace be upon you” but then went on to translate another sentence in Arabic but leaving the word “Allah” untranslated.

Why is “Allah” not translated? Allah means “God” in Arabic. Not the Muslim God, just God plain and simple. Christian and Jewish Arabs say “Allah” when they refer to God, so why does the press always insist on giving the impression that Muslims pray to a different Allah? And the name Abdallah (literally, “servant of God”) historically was both a Christian and Muslim name, just as the name Jihad is very common amongst Arab Christians. Did the genius writing the aforementioned article bother to explain that the Arabic word “salam” actually comes from the same root as the Hebrew “shalom” or that all Arabs, regardless of religion, address each other with the exact same greeting?

Another good example would be the word “madrasa”. We are led to believe that a madrasa is a religious school where some odious form of extremism is taught to Muslim jihadists. Actually, madrasa is the generic word in Arabic for school. Evangelical Christians from America established missionary schools in Syria and Lebanon in the 19th Century, all called madrasas. And today, A Christian school in Bethlehem, for example, would be a madrasa. A public school, a private school, or a religious school — like the ones that Republicans would love to give tax-payer funded vouchers for — would all, in Arabic, be madrasas. And guess what? The great majority of suicide bombers, jihadists and Al Qaeda members, like Osama himself, have no formal religious training from madrasas or elsewhere.

So why the insistence on creating differences where they simply do not exist?

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Don’t Close Guantanamo Just Yet

We’ve got Christian terrorists, killing in the name of the Lord (on Sunday at Church no less), to round up, detain, waterboard, and deny due process to before Obama puts our national security at risk. There’s a fatwah against abortion, with scores of Pro-Life jihadists, not in caves but in the heartland calling for the deaths of the unholy doctors, and we need all the illegal interrogation tools Dick can fathom to prevent, God forbid, Christian assassins from getting their hands on nuclear weapons.

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Here’s a Question

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Would it be racist to assume the obvious: that just one single non-white justice during the Supreme Court’s first two hundred years would have reached a better judgment, say, in Dred Scott or Plessy than the Court’s first 100 exclusively all white male justices had?

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Meet the Horrible Press

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I was trying to watch yesterday’s Meet the Press when I kept feeling woozy each and every time David Gregory either aided in promoting a baseless claim or failed to ask the obvious question, perpetuating the farce that has become our political dialogue.

This week it was about Judge Sotomayor and whether, according to a bunch of unelected white guys, she is racist. Gregory allowed Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions to talk about the nation and its Supreme Court’s long heritage of blind justice in contrast to Sotomayor’s alleged judicial philosophy without bringing up the obvious: in its entire history, the Supreme Court has only had two female justices and two African American ones. Not until the second half of the 20th Century did our beloved legal heritage, embodied in an activitist Court, rule that separate was not equal. And in the entire history of the United States of America, Alabama has one of the worst records on civil rights. Why is a white southerner from a state with a well documented history of lynchings and injustice be permitted to make such a claim completely unchallenged? Furthermore, why are all these white guys so upset?

To be quite frank, Sotomayor’s remarks about the wise and experienced Latina woman are very aligned with our long cultural heritage of romanticizing the underdog and believing that the underdog is somehow more virtuous. Heck, I would surely hope that someone who comes from poverty and a tough neighborhood plus several years of stellar legal experience would have greater insights than someone who has lived in total comfort. What’s so controversial about that? Notice that when the white guy, Alito, says the same thing it’s alright, but when the Hispanic woman does it is reverse racism.

Now I’d love to love Mr. Gregory; we went to college together. But he is so brain dead (or cynical) that in a later segment he discusses corporate discrimination against women with Xerox’s Anne Mulcahy. Of course, it wouldn’t have occurred to him to bring up discrimination on the bench a few minutes earlier when he was discussing how having two women and seven men on the Supreme Court would prejudice men.

Glen Greenwald once again saves the day by summing up just how bad the press has become:

I really don’t want to be Sotomayor’s unequivocal defender.  I continue to harbor some questions and reservations about how good of a choice Sotomayor is.  But none of those questions are being asked — at least not yet.  Instead, the discourse is, as usual, filled with totally fact-free and inflammatory claims which, if we had a minimally functioning media, would have been exposed as the obvious falsehoods they are from the start.

The silliest part of it, though, is that the Republicans probably won’t have another chance at such a moderate Obama nominee. Regardless of how we classify races and ethnic groups in America, Hispanic or Latino is not so easily definable. For example, Mexico and Puerto Rico share a language and religion but little more. They don’t live in the same parts of the country and they don’t necessary have the same political interests. So thinking that all Hispanics are going to be liberal on all issues at all times is naive.

Finally, I’d love to find a single one of these journalists who can actually explain and then cite examples of judicial activism as opposed to strict constructionism. If Supreme Court Justices simply interpreted the law in a vacuum, you could use computers to do their job. That’s not how American jurisprudence works. How stupid can a debate get? Please!

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The Unattractive Talented Millions

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The world is full of unattractive people, so the only surprising thing about Ms. Boyle is the fact that the world was so surprised about her talent.

Just think about the entire history of pop and rock music with its overwhelming population of butt-ugly male musicians. Probably only a handful of them have even mediocre talent, yet they become sex symbols. And somehow, out of the blue, we are supposed to be so impressed with Ms. Boyle. Why? Because she is unattractive? Is her voice even that impressive? It’s good, but come one. The world is full of unattractive talented people, but for some reason the untalented beautiful women and the mediocre and ugly men are given the contracts.

What should truly surprise us is just how susceptible we are to television marketing campaigns and how little we value women or real talent for that matter.

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