Sunday, October 31, 2010

Justice with a little “j” and morality with a little “m”

[Originally written in January 2004]

I have been thinking about the Iraqi regime (Saddam) vs. what is going on in this country.

Baathist regime had people tied up and thrown off of buildings (per video, reportedly from Iraq).  Brooklyn Detention Center had people tied up and slammed into walls (per video).
Both cases were videotaped, the first one used to scare people (I presume) and in the second case, they wanted to hide it.  Who knows if the people in Iraq were really guilty, but in the second case, the people slammed into walls were “guilty until proven innocent”.  No one was charged with anything in the USA case, beyond visa violations.
Iraq cases surely resulted in more serious injuries.  American cases only resulted in busted teeth and cracked ribs, I guess.

Saddam invaded Kuwait to neutralize a serious military threat to Iraq and to free the Kuwaiti people from their evil dictator (per Iraqi bloggers – that’s what they were told).
Bush invaded Iraq because Iraq was a serious threat to the USA, might sell WMDs to terrorists, and to free the Iraqis from their brutal dictator.  After no WMDs were found, Bush then said we were bringing them freedom and democracy (which I don’t believe any more than the threat to the USA part).

(Has Bush even thought of the fact that most Arabs hate the USA, and if given the choice, they will choose to boot the USA out of there?)

USA secured the oil fields in Iraq, along with the oil ministry buildings, before anything else.  Most of everything else, including nuclear materials, was looted.  Iraq secured Kuwaiti palaces and the Bank of Kuwait (thinking there was gold there).  I got this information from the book “The Threatening Storm” which was kinds hard to read since so much of it was wrong).

Iraq tortured it’s citizens and captives.
USA shipped a Canadian to Syria to be tortured for them.  No crime, no charges.
Were the Iraqis guilty of a crime?  Who knows…. No open courts there.  No open courts for POWs down at Guantanamo Bay, either.

[Update, October 2010:  We now know that the US tortured at home, overseas, in secret prisons and black sites, and anywhere they could.  Only low-level military were held accountable.  The ones who make the tortures legal, the ones who ordered it, the ones who overlooked it or covered it up, were never charged with a crime for the torture they

Keeping political power
Saddam went into his political gathering (in 1979?) and had people pulled out and shot.  He cried real tears while doing this, and again, it was video taped.  Guess he was not afraid of the law catching up with him.
Bush administration did not like Wilson criticizing Bush, so they leaked the identity of a CIA agent to the press and slime ball Novak ran with it.  That ended her career, and maybe compromised national security.  Well, I guess Saddam wins this one… he ruined careers by ending lives.  Don’t know if he compromised national security or not.  But then, he did compromise the well-being of his people by taking them into unnecessary wars – and so did Bush!

Well, now, the real question is:  are we better people by nature or genetics, or is our country set up so that really bad abusers will be identified and punished?  Hard to say, considering our history over the last 200 years.

Here’s a quote from “The Threatening Storm”:

“Washington had worked so hard to ignore Saddam’s obvious flaws that it had essentially convinced itself that Saddam was little different from other brutal dictators with whom the United States had developed long and profitable relationships.”

Well, actually, I doubt Saddam is much different from other brutal dictators, but that is really not the point here… it is those “long and profitable relationships” that is the point.  So, I guess 9/11 was a small payback for those “long and profitable relationships” with
other dictators?  How hard do you think those folks in Washington have to work to ignore their own VERY obvious flaws?  How long can we keep up this kind of policy?  And what further paybacks will we see?  And how long can the American public stay ignorant of this behavior?  If they depend on TV news, my guess is forever.

Another quote from “The Threatening Storm”:

“The American military presence in the Persian Gulf is under pressure.  The people of the region are generally unhappy with the presence of the US military forces in their countries.  Some see it as a necessary evil; other condemns it as a form of imperialist occupation.”

Golly, I wonder what they think now that we are occupying Iraq?  It is hard to read this book, it is so wrong.  Next I am going to read “All the Shah’s Men” – which I hope is more accurate.  It is about the US take over of Iran in 1953.

[Update, October 2010 – “All the Shah’s Men” was very accurate and worthwhile reading.]

Saturday, October 30, 2010

IVAW Statement on the Iraq War Logs - A Call for Accountability

Written by Iraq Veterans Against the War

The recent Wikileaks release--The Iraq War Logs--has shed important light on the high rate of civilian death and widespread atrocities, including torture, that are endemic to the war in Iraq. As veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are outraged that the U.S. government sought to hide this information from the U.S. public, instead presenting a sanitized and deceptive version of war, and we think it is vital for this and further information to get out. Members of IVAW have experienced firsthand the realities of war on the ground, and since our inception we have spoken out about similar atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are asking the U.S. public to join us in calling on our government to end the occupations and bring our brothers and sisters home.

The U.S. government has been claiming for years that they do not keep count of civilian death tolls, yet the recent releases show that they do, in fact, keep count. Between 2004 and 2009, according to these newly disclosed records, at least 109,032 Iraqis died, 66,081 of whom were civilians. The Guardian reports that the Iraq War Logs show that the U.S. military and government gave de facto approval for hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape, and murder by Iraqi soldiers and police officers. These recent revelations, along with the Afghan War Diaries and Collateral Murder footage, weave a picture of wars in which the rules of engagement allow for excessive violence, woven into the fabric of daily life with the U.S. military presence acting as a destabilizing and brutalizing force. The Iraq War Logs, while crucial, are reports produced in real time and themselves may be slanted to minimize the culpability of U.S. forces. Still, they represent an important part of evidence in assessing the reality of the Iraq war, evidence that can only be improved by the further release of documents and information and corroboration by individuals involved. To this end, our members are reviewing both Wikileaks' Afghanistan War Diaries and the Iraq War Logs to identify incidents we were part of and to shed more light on what really happened.

IVAW has been speaking out about these atrocities and abuses since our inception. Our organization is comprised of over 2,000 veterans and active duty troops who have served since September 11, 2001. We demand immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, reparations for the people of those countries, and full benefits for returning veterans, including mental healthcare. At our March 2008 Winter Soldier hearings in Maryland, more than fifty veterans and active-duty service members publicly testified about the orders they were told to carry out in these countries, sharing stories of excessive violence, trauma, and abuse.
Josh Stieber and Ethan McCord, two IVAW members who were in the unit captured in the Wikileaks "Collateral Murder" video, have spoken out about how the incidents caught on film are not isolated cases of 'a few bad soldiers' but rather, part of the nature of these wars. "There has been little accountability in the wars that my friends and I once thought represented everything that was noble about our country," wrote Stieber in anticipation of the Iraq War Logs. In an open letter, Stieber calls for policy makers to "take accountability for these wars and the full truth about them."

As veterans, we know that the violence documented in the Iraq War Logs traumatizes the people living under occupation. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also have been marked by staggering rates of military trauma and suicide among the troops tasked with carrying out these orders. Last year, 239 soldiers killed themselves and 1,713 soldiers survived suicide attempts; 146 soldiers died from high-risk activities, including 74 drug overdoses. A third of returning troops report mental health problems, and 18.5 percent of all returning service members are battling either Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or depression, according to a study by the Rand Corporation. Our Operation Recovery campaign, launched on October 7, seeks to end the cruel and inhumane practice of redeploying troops suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Military Sexual Trauma, Traumatic Brain Injury, and other mental and physical wounds--a practice that underlies the continued occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Critics attacking Wikileaks founder Julian Assange's character are attempting to use ad hominem arguments to detract from the real issues and divert public attention from the content of the Iraq War Logs. We urge honest and thorough discussion of the content of these documents, and we think this discussion must not be sidelined. Furthermore, with past Wikileaks revelations, U.S. administration and military authorities were quick to vilify Army Specialist Bradley Manning who is being accused of leaking these documents to the public. Yet we insist that it is the right of the U.S. public to have accurate information about wars that are being fought in our name and funded by our tax dollars, and we support the public sharing of this information. Exposing war crimes is not a crime.

Government deception is inexcusable. Authorities have kept this information secret in the name of 'national security,' but what they really are afraid of is public opinion, which they know will turn against them if the truth about these wars gets out in the mainstream. An accurate count of Iraqi dead, acknowledgment of torture, and full disclosure of the role of private contractors are facts that should be made public in a democracy. We believe that real national security is created where government transparency and accountability, free press, and an end to spending on illegal wars and occupations are the norm. Continued silence and secrecy is a grave threat to the security of the Iraqi and Afghan people, and we demand openness, accountability, and real discussion of these revelations.

We grieve for the Iraqi and Afghan lives that were lost and destroyed in these wars. We also grieve for our brothers and sisters in arms, who have been lost to battle or suicide. The Iraq War Logs bring home part of the harsh reality of these wars, a reality that we--as veterans--live with everyday. We demand a real end to both wars, including immediate withdrawal of the 50,000 "non-combat" troops who remain in the Iraq. The Iraq War Logs underscore the urgent need for peace, healing, and reparations for all who have been harmed by these wars. The first step is to bring our brothers and sisters home.

In Solidarity,
Iraq Veterans Against the War

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Obama Nation or Abomination?

This track is not an attack upon the American people
It is an attack upon the system within which they live
Since 1945 the united states has attempted to
Overthrow more than 50 foreign governments
In the process the us has caused the end of life
For several million people, and condemned many millions
More to a live of agony and despair

The strength of your dreamin
Prevents you from reason
The American dream
Only makes sense if youre sleepin

Its just a cruel fantasy
Their politics took my voice away
But their music gave it back to me

The land where their lumpkin are consumed by consumption
Killing themselves to shovel down food and abundance
I guess a rapper from Britain is a rare voice
America is capitalism on steroids

Natives kept in casinos and reservations
Displaced slaves never given reparations
Take everything from Native Americans
And wonder why I call it the racist experiment

Afraid of your melanin
The same as its ever been
That aint gonna change
With the race of the president

I see imperialism under your skin tone
You could call it Christopher Columbus syndrome

Is it Obamas nation or an abomination?
Is it Obamas nation or an abomination?
Is it Obamas nation or an abomination?
Doesn't make any difference when they bomb your nation

O! Say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through perilous fight
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming

The worlds entertainer
The worlds devastator
From Venezuela
To Mesopotamia

Your cameras lie
Cause they have to hide the savage crimes
Committed on leaders that happen
To try and nationalize

Eating competitions while the worlds been starvin
Beat up communism with the help of bin-laden
Where would your war of terror be without that man
Every day you create more Nidal Hassans

Kill a man from the military, youre a weirdo
But kill a wog from the Middle East youre a hero
Your country is causing screams that are never reaching ear holes
America inflicted a million ground zeros

Follow the dollar and swallow your humanity
Soldiers committing savagery you never even have to see
Those mad at me, writing in emails angrily
Im not anti-America, America is anti-me

Is it Obamas nation or an abomination?
Is it Obamas nation or an abomination?
Is it Obamas nation or an abomination?
Doesn't make any difference when they bomb your nation

And the rocket's red glare,
The bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night
That our flag was still there,

O! Does that star spangled banner yet wave
O'er land of the free and the home of the brave

I don't care if him and Cheney are long lost relations
What matters more is the policies I lost my patience
Stop debating bringing race into conversation
Occupation and cooperation equals profit makin

Its over - people wake up from the dream now
Nobel peace prize, jay z on speed dial
Its the substance within, not the colour of your skin
Are you the puppeteer or the puppet on the string

So many believe that they was instantly gonna change
There was still Dennis Ross, Brzezinski And Robert Gates
What happened to Chas freeman (AIPAC),
What happened to Tristan Anderson its a machine that keeps that man breathing

I have the heart to say what all the other rappers arent
Words like Iraq, Palestine - Afghanistan
The wars on, and you morons were all wrong
I call Obama a bomber Cause those are your bombs

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Obama promises to end the war back in 2007

Obama talking about the war in Iraq - three years ago.

“I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.” ~ Candidate Barack Obama, October 27, 2007.

Quote: "When I am commander in chief, I will set a new goal on Day One: I will end this war. - I will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. We can responsibly remove one to two combat brigades each month." - Fayetteville, N.C., March 19, 2008
Pledge tracker: Has Obama delivered on campaign promises? -

What would be your top three national security priorities if you were elected?
My first priority would be to end the war in Iraq. It has cost America dearly in terms of blood and treasure, been a diversion from the fight against al Qaeda, stretched our military, and undermined the view of the United States the world wide. Ending the war in Iraq will permit us to develop a comprehensive strategy against terrorism, which will be another chief national security priority of my administration.

Barack Obama on the Issues | Campaign 2008 |

Obama campaigned on a promise to bring a swift end to a war that has claimed the lives of more than 4,300 U.S. soldiers and drained the U.S. Treasury of hundreds of billions of dollars.
With an economy only starting to recover from recession and a deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, the Iraq war has not been a top priority for Obama, although he has appointed his vice president, Joe Biden, to manage it.
Reuters AlertNet - RPT-ANALYSIS-Obama faces moment of truth with Iraq election

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange defends the unauthorized release of 400,000 classified US military documents on the war in Iraq, saying they revealed the "truth" about the conflict.  (AFPTV/POOL)

I am glad this information is now available.  I will be posting some more on what was revealed.  I have found many new photos for the Faces of Grief blog from this exposure.  I am finding these photos and reports in the European press, while the American press seems to be ignoring this story.  I am boiling mad over what was done to Iraq by the US government and US military.  I have always been opposed to this war (and all other wars, too) and I have been solidly against this massively evil war of aggression.  I am like a rock - solidly opposed.  I find it maddening that there are so few Americans who stand with me.
I stand with Julian Assange too.  He is a hero in my eyes.


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton answer reporters' questions during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, DC. Clinton condemned "in the most clear terms" the leaks of any documents putting Americans at risk, while the Pentagon warned that releasing secret military documents could endanger US troops and Iraqi civilians.  (AFP/Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla)

This women makes me sick. She has no morals, like nearly all US politicians. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Email from my US Representative

Rep Shuler had this to say in an email on 10-15-10:

“Chile did not successfully complete this rescue operation on its own.  Other countries, private businesses and non-profit groups contributed aid, manpower, technology and know-how to make sure those miners survived.  The chances of those miners getting out alive would have been much slimmer without the all of those parties working together to reach a common goal.

All too often, we fail to work together to accomplish the things that would in fact benefit us all.  How often do we see good legislation fail in Congress and never see the light of day because it is stopped by either the far right or the far left?  However, when we work in a bipartisan way, we often come up with better solutions to the problems facing our country.”

My response:

Our economy is in terrible shape, with no end in sight.  This mess started with the Reagan administration undermining unions and giving excessive tax breaks to the rich.  It continued under Clinton with NAFTA, and his repeal of Glass-Steagall Act.  It really took off under Bush, with rampant fraud.  Those policies continued under Obama.

Our government is occupying two countries, and bombing several more.  This is immoral - very immoral.  It is also counter-productive, if the goal is to stop terrorism from coming to our shores.  Bush started these wars and occupations and drone bombings, and Obama is escalating them.

The US government tortures, imprisons people without any regard to rule of law, allows rape by contractors and the US military, kidnaps people and transports them to black sites not under the review of the ICRC, and holds them without charges.  This is immoral too - we are engaging in horrendous human rights abuses.  This really got started under Bush, and Obama continues it and also does not call for any arrests of the torture enablers.

I think I have had about all the bipartisanship I can stand.

I guess I failed to point out that it was the socialist government of Chile who made sure those miners were rescued.   
Yeah, working together is good - as long as you are working for something good.

Videos from Winter Soldier 2008

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Kids with US drone bombing parts

North Waziristan

Children in North Waziristan with debris from drone missile

"I wonder, why was I victimized?"
Pakistani victims of U.S. drone strikes speak out in a new report on increasing civilian casualties in the region
By Justin Elliott

A new report from the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) concludes that innocent civilians in northwest Pakistan are getting hammered by all sides -- the U.S. (drone strikes), the Pakistan military (ground and aerial bombardment) and local militants (terrorist attacks).

Christopher Rogers, the Harvard-trained lawyer who authored the report, did some great reporting. He interviewed many family members of slain Pakistani civilians -- voices that are virtually never heard in the U.S. media. Here, for example, is his summary of the first drone strike on President Obama's watch, way back in January 2009:

    The Obama Administration carried out its first drone strike in Pakistan on January 23, 2009, three days after the President’s inauguration. However, instead of striking a Taliban hideout, the missiles struck the house of Malik Gulistan Khan, a tribal elder and member of a local pro-government peace committee. Five members of his family were killed. “I lost my father, three brothers and my cousin in this attack,” said Adnan, his 18 year-old son. Adnan’s uncle claimed, “We did nothing, have no connection to militants at all. Our family supported the government and in fact … was a member of a local peace committee.”

    The family provided CIVIC with detailed documentation of the deaths of the five family members, including a report from the Assistant Political Agent of South Waziristan and a local jirga requesting the government to pay compensation. The documentation confirms the family was innocent.

Reliable numbers of how many civilians have been killed by U.S. drones are impossible to come by.

More on drone bombings in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD — Islamabad and Washington must publicly track civilian deaths from military operations and drone strikes in Pakistan and compensate the families of those killed, a U.S. advocacy group said in a new report.
The study by the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict warned that unless the Pakistani government and military take action, they risk undermining public support for the war against Taliban and al-Qaida militants.

It also cautioned the U.S. that failure to provide greater transparency about who is targeted and killed in the growing number of drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal belt could drive more people to join the extremists.

"Despite the severity and consequences of these losses, civilian casualties receive too little attention from U.S., Pakistani, and donor-nation policymakers, as well as military officials," said the report, written by Christopher Rogers and released Wednesday.

The group, founded in 2003, urges warring parties to help civilians harmed in armed conflict.

Why not listen to the Bamiyan Diaries

Friday, October 22, 2010

Review of "The American Way of War"

The American Way of War

This is a book by Tom Engelhardt (of and was published in 2010.  It is a collection of his essays over the years.  He starts with this sentence:

“War is Peace” was one of the memorable slogans on the façade of the Ministry of Truth.”

He then goes on to describe how the USA is constantly in a state of war since the attacks on 9/11, yet it is quite peaceful here.  Our wars are in other countries, far, far away.  He describes the hypocrisy evident in American beliefs and behaviors.  An example is how we routinely bomb and destroy innocent civilians, without notice or care (well, not true for me, but true for the vast majority of Americans).  And then we turn around and call cutting off someone’s head as “barbaric”.   We have killed many innocents in our “war on terror” resulting in hundreds of dead innocents for every person killed in the 9/11 attacks.  We engage in torture, rendition, rape, and every evil acts known to human kind, in a rather large scale.  And no one is held accountable except some occasional low-level person in the US military, who was doing what was expected of him or her.

And he described how our air bombings are handled.  First, the military claims only combatants were killed, while local officials claim that there are children and women killed and injured, and that the men killed were not combatants at all.  (Kind of hard to claim a newborn baby is a combatant, but the US does it.)  Then an investigation is done, and after several months, the US military says “opps” and admits that some of the dead, like the babies, might not have been combatants after all.  Then they say sorry for the mistake, and then they turn around AND DO IT AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN.  They follow the same pattern with the night raids that end up with dead native people.

This book also points out how bombing people from the air never breaks their spirit or will to fight.  In fact, it has the opposite effect – it cause more of the local population to join in the resistance.  This book does not mention any cases were this was not true, and lists scores of cases were it is true.  The only exception to this truth was the extensive bombing, including nuclear bombing of Japan in World War Two.  And the population of Japan knew that they started the violence!  This reality was very evident after the bombings on 9/11.  Americans everywhere rallied together to go and attack the offenders.  That day’s bombing with civilian airplanes did not tempt us into doing nothing, or even to reflect on WHY they might be doing this.  It was just explained by ‘they hate us for our freedom’ nonsense.  It seems that most of the US population, the US politicians, and the US military, have NO ability to image how the people being bombed and occupied might actually feel.  The end result is that the native populations in these far off lands keep on fighting, dying and killing any way they can.  I suppose that this end result is really intended by the Masters of War.  They want the wars and occupations to continue, for fun, profit and/or job security. 

Engelhardt goes on to describe other aspects of war making by the USA.  One aspect is that the military, the veterans, and the continuing occupations, take up over half the US budget.  And no one talks about cutting off all this money.  I guess we are going to keep on doing this – while our bridges fall down, mines and wells blow up, and 26% of American kids never graduate high school – until we go broke.

Meanwhile, the war planning goes merrily along.

Engleheadt covers how the occupations and bombings of various countries have now become Obama’s Wars.  And he points out how it is getting worse.

Meanwhile, the innocent children of other lands are hurt and killed and generally destroyed by the never-ending US war machine.  The genetic future of these children has been destroyed also.

The great EAT DOWN

I am currently in an "eat down" mod.

My reason - my neighbor died, and I volunteered to take all her remaining food to the local food bank (except for the opened stuff, and the beer and wine - which I kept). I noticed that she had a LOT of stuff by the "best by" date - sometimes the best by date was 1999 or 1998!!

And then I decided to go through every cabinet that I have - and I found stuff that was past the "best by" date (but only a year or less). I separated out the food into PAST best by date and NOT PAST the best by date.  The later group I donated to the food bank.  I would eat the rest of it before restocking.

That was a over month ago. I can see now that I am going to end up with pasta and cereal..... and nothing else.

I am purchasing fresh items needed to complete the food I have - like milk for cereal and eggs for the cake mixes.  I kinda doubt I will get it all eaten by Thanksgiving, and I really don't have all that much.  My deceased neighbor, on the other hand, had a lot.

I will post when I reach the end of the "eat down".

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"Protest FBI Raids and Harassment of Antiwar Activists!"

United for Peace and Justice stands in solidarity with the anti-war and international solidarity activists whose homes were raided by the FBI on Friday, September 24.  Homes in Chicago and Mineapolis were raide.  Doors were kicked in during the early morning raids and personal belongings including childrens' artwork, posters of Martin Luther King, Jr, were taken, as well as cell phones, computers and boxes of paper records.  About a dozen activists from Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan have been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury.

The FBI emphasized that no arrests were made, but that evidence was being collected regarding the possible 'material support' of terrorism.  The 'material support' statute is so broadly written that it can, and does, criminalize international peace-building activities whose only connection to terrorism is to reduce it.

Only one week ago, the Justice Department's own Inspector General released a report documenting political surveillance by the FBI.  Friday's raids are the latest violations by a recidivist agency whose abuses have unfortunately recurred throughout its history.

The FBI's raids threaten the First Amendment, our Peace Movement, and reflect the dangerous expansion of guilt by association pervading the Justice Department's "counter-terror" prosecutions.  They cannot stand, and the FBI should be held accountable for any abuses.  Activists are encouraged to join demonstrations at FBI and/or Federal buildings in cities around the country."

A Working Class Hero – song by John Lenno

Monday, October 18, 2010

Some worthwhile comments from UFPJ listserve

"What is needed is for the peace movement to return to its historic mission, which is to educate people on the wars and to convince them that the wars are wrong, no matter how they are fought and no matter what their costs."   Tyler Cullis
Tyler and all,
I agree 100% with your point about the costs of war, and have made this argument many times.  Focusing on the costs of war, such as with the campaign to reduce military spending by 25%, is well-intentioned but false.  Wars and occupations are wrong regardless of their cost, and we lose both our moral focus and our political clarity by focusing on the costs of war, as if somehow this is an exercise in budgeting.   And yes, the increasing reliance on drone attacks, which are relatively cheap and which reduce US casualties while increasing civilian deaths abroad, fit it quite nicely with efforts to "streamline" the military.  Let's return our focus where it belongs, on the horrors of warfare and on the imperialist nature of US wars and occupations, not on their economic cost.
Mark Stahl

Charlie Brooker on the American News Media

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Detroit grows it's own good news story

A worthwhile read:

Detroit grows its own good news story

A community's attempt to regenerate its neighbourhood by urban farming has really borne fruit – with some help from a DJ crew.

It is all too rare that a piece of journalism makes a difference. But the exceptions – when they come – make everything worthwhile.

That is certainly the case with my experience of reporting on the amazing work of Mark Covington and the Georgia Street Community Collective as they seek to change the decaying face of Detroit through urban farming.

Covington's story is simple. Finding himself unemployed and living back in the blighted neighbourhood that he had grown up in, he decided to improve things by turning vacant lots into vegetables plots. Not only did the work improve the look of Georgia Street it also started to change local people's lives: reasserting community pride and helping people have healthier diets in a city where fresh food is unforgivably scarce.

This is a video from an English band, using this project as a back drop:
And this is a link to their wonderful garden!

Very inspiring.

Will Sanity Be Restored and Fear Be Kept Alive?

This was sent via an email, but I suspect he has put it on his website too.

Will Sanity Be Restored and Fear Be Kept Alive?
By David Swanson

"It's not meant to ridicule activism," Jon Stewart tells NPR, speaking of his planned rally on the National Mall. But you can see where someone might have gotten that impression. In the video of Stewart's announcement of the event, he rejects crazy right wing ideas and the idea that Bush allowed 9-11 to happen; he condemns right wing lunacy and the idea that Republicans oppose providing healthcare; he denounces lies and fascism plus daring to accuse war criminals of being war criminals. Stewart opposes activist messages and their messengers.

The problem seems to be, not so much accuracy as inappropriateness and volume. You should not shout anything or say "war criminal," but you especially should not shout "war criminal!"

Yet such a position cannot avoid the substance of the matter. Assuming that the United States, as is well documented, has been fighting illegal wars, imprisoning, torturing, and murdering, how "sane" can it be to reject any discussion of war criminals -- or, for that matter, to allow Tony Blair to come on your program and tell you the United Nations authorized the invasion of Iraq?

If our government is, uniquely among wealthy countries, denying people healthcare, shouldn't we talk about that? How "sane" can it be to always seek out the middle ground and believe whatever propositions lie halfway between advocacy for peace and justice and advocacy for glorified racist ignorance and corporatism?

Stewart rejects as insane the idea that Bush allowed 9-11 to happen, whether that idea is whispered or shouted. Yet Bush was warned of the possible attack and did nothing, after having refused to prioritize the matter and after having rejected opportunities to bring bin Laden to trial, which would not have pleased the Saudis.

Stewart claims that 70 to 80 percent of Americans reject all such facts as extremist, but polling doesn't back him up. However, most people do not participate in public demonstrations or engage in activism of any kind. There is indeed a majority out there willing to be praised for a lack of engagement. In his video, Stewart tells people that if they hesitate to come to a rally, they are exactly the sort of people he wants at his rally. The people he does not want are those who engage in real (as opposed to fake or comedy skit) activism.

The event's website reads:

 "'I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!'
 Who among us has not wanted to open their window and shout that at the top of their lungs?
 Seriously, who?  Because we're looking for those people. We're looking for the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat; who feel that the loudest voices shouldn't be the only ones that get heard; and who believe that the only time it's appropriate to draw a Hitler mustache on someone is when that person is actually Hitler. Or Charlie Chaplin in certain roles. Are you one of those people? Excellent. Then we'd like you to join us in Washington, DC on October 30 - a date of no significance whatsoever - at the Daily Show's 'Rally to Restore Sanity.'"

Get it? If you don't think the country or the world is in such dire straights that urgent and passionate advocacy is called for, if you reject the international scientific consensus on the dangers of environmental collapse, if you find nuclear energy and weaponry unconcerning, and if you believe the bankrupting of the nation to pay for illegal wars that slaughter human beings by the hundreds of thousands need not come to an immediate end, then you are "sane." You're not sane because you have the facts right. You're sane because you avoid facts that are too unpleasant.

 "Ours is a rally for the people who've been too busy to go to rallies, who actually have lives and families and jobs (or are looking for jobs) - not so much the Silent Majority as the Busy Majority. If we had to sum up the political view of our participants in a single sentence. we couldn't. That's sort of the point."

Imagine how this sounds to people who, despite all the personal and financial hardships that are always involved, have engaged in activism for years on behalf of peace or justice rather than the promotion of a television program. Imagine how people feel who believe they have a moral duty to try to influence decisions that can mean life or death to millions of people. Imagine how active engaged Americans feel when they start seeing protesters with posters that mock themselves rather than actually protesting.

Now, it's not Jon Stewart's fault that the October 2nd One Nation Rally was a schizophrenic pep rally for Democrats / demand for the Democrats to completely change. But Stewart could have promoted the less subservient half of that event had he wanted to, rather than scheduling a rally less than a month later which some people would choose to go to instead.

Whether it's the tea partiers or the sane non-shouters (plus Stewart and his audience, both of whom always shout and scream, even when announcing a rally for non-shouters) public demonstrations have become something created by the corporate media, largely agenda free, lacking any strategy for social change, and devoted to the promotion of a particular celebrity or two. What good can come of this?

Well, the message could become one of huge opposition to Glenn Beck, even in the absence of clear support for something else. People could discover that they enjoy fake activism enough to try the real thing. Activist organizations could finally get it through their thick skulls that we cannot succeed without creating our own media, media large enough to announce and create rallies to restore such things as habeas corpus, the fourth amendment, or the U.N. Charter, rather than "sanity." People could choose to engage in less name-calling. Stewart could discover that his comedy doesn't work on the National Mall and get out of the fake activism business. His special guests could drop the fakeness and speak what needs to be spoken, just as Harry Belafonte did on October 2nd. Stephen Colbert could mock fearmongering warmongers in a way that opens someone's eyes, and Stewart could choose not to "balance" that performance with ridicule for peace activists.

Or everyone could learn that the coolest kind of activism is anti-activism. As far as I'm concerned that would keep fear alive. No joke.

Coups and attempted coups in Latin America

Saturday, October 16, 2010

My Interpretation of the “News”

This was written in the spring of March 2004.  I submitted it for an op-ed in the local paper, but it was not published.


“I've been waiting for something to happen
For a week or a month or a year
With the blood in the ink of the headline
and the sound of the crowd in my ear
You might ask what it takes to remember
When you know that you've seen it before
Where a government lies to her people
And a country is drifting to war.” – J. Browne, 1985

I feel the above words by Jackson Browne are pertinent today, with the exception that our country did not ‘drift’ into this war… our leaders pursued it wholeheartedly.  The case was presented to the American people again and again by every TV and radio station across the nation:  We needed to urgently attack Iraq and take out Saddam, because his regime had weapons of mass destruction and connections to al Qaeda.  We could not wait for UN inspections, and never mind the fact that most of the rest of the world was opposed to this war.  But today, there are no WMDs found in Iraq and no known connections to bin Laden.  Instead, we have tens of thousands of Iraqis dead, hundreds of Americans dead, and a country that is in an economic and humanitarian crisis.  How, as a nation, did we succumb to this extraordinary level of misinformation?

“On the radio talk shows and the T.V.
You hear one thing again and again
How the U.S.A. stands for freedom
And we come to the aid of a friend
But who are the ones that we call our friends--
These governments killing their own?” – J. Browne, 1955

Our big TV news shows have reported every single American causality in Iraq, which they should.  They have reported again and again on the evil ways of Saddam Hussein, which is not new information.  They fail to mention the American policies, and statements that contributed to the genocide that Saddam and his government committed.  They fail to mention how UN inspections did disarm Saddam.  Further, our TV media barely covers the Iraqi civilians that died or were injured, or the lives or homes or businesses that have been ruined in THIS WAR.  I have heard little mention of the estimate of the number of Iraqi civilian deaths.  I am convinced that Americans do need this information presented to them, so that we can fully realize what we have done.  There are reports of Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence, but little mention or in-depth reporting on American-on-Iraqi violence.

“They sell us the President the same way
They sell us our clothes and our cars
They sell us everything from youth to religion
The same time they sell us our wars.” – J. Browne, 1985

I do believe that we were sold this war.  The TV media presented, over and over, time and again, what our administration had to say, with little analysis of incongruent information, or presentation of alternative viewpoints.  The TV news channels sometimes engaged (and are still engaging) in ridicule of anyone who opposed the war, including heads of foreign countries.  They give us infotainment on subjects that have little or no national or international relevance.  They give us “rally-round-the-flag” videos.

“I want to know who the men in the shadows are
I want to hear somebody asking them why
They can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are
But they're never the ones to fight or to die.” – J. Browne, 1985

No one is asking the people in charge “WHY?” on our TV news media.  As always, the ones who determined that we needed a war were not the ones to fight it.  I have the deepest of respect for the men and women who make the decision to serve this country.  It is a noble sacrifice they make, and sometimes it is a final sacrifice.  The costs that troops sometimes face should be foremost in our elected officials minds at all times.

On September 11th, our intelligence agencies did not protect us.  As good as our Air Force was, they could not scramble in time to take down any of the four hijacked planes.  Yet one airplane came down in Shankville, PA.  That plane came down when ordinary American citizens got complete and correct information… and then made the decision to take back the plane.  All of this was dependent on INFORMATION.

We desperately need complete and correct information from our TV news today.  We do not need entertainment, we do not need ridicule of opposing ideas, and we do not need news media that constantly hawk us the “company line” of our hawkish US administration.  We need to know what information is being presented in the media of foreign countries.  We need TV news that can tell the difference between a family tragedy and national news, and they need to skip the family tragedies.  They need to skip the celebrity crime stories.  We need TV news that will present what is happening, and what has happened, no matter how unpleasant this may be for Americans to watch.  Because, in the words of Jackson Browne:

“And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire.” – J. Browne, 1985

Media reform/watch organizations include:  FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) whose website is  Media Channel is another one, at


In the years since I wrote this piece, things have only gotten worse on our TV “news”.  They are still intent on misinforming Americans, by omission and distortion and outright lies.  Today, I think it is pretty hopeless to think that any media reform organization will ever work.  The only hope we have is the internet, and for news shows like Democracy Now (  to keep us informed.  Today, Americans are more uninformed and misinformed than ever.  And this is very dangerous.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Water, Water, Water

Today, bloggers are asked to blog about water.  Water is vital to life, all life.  Obviously, I love water - that is why it is a part of my blog name.  (I also love dancing!)  But I really, really love water.  I love drinking it, I love making tea with it, I love getting clean in water, I love swimming in it.... I love looking at it and I love smelling it.  I did whitewater kayaking for 20 years, and I loved boating on it (well, most of the time - it can be scary at times, too).  I love watching it fall, as in the picture below of Whitewater Falls, which is on the border of North Carolina and South Carolina.

 A lot of the streams in my area are beautiful and clear.  My own tap water comes from an impounded creek high up in the mountains of western North Carolina.  It is, of course, treated before going out to the residents.... but even with that, it is great tasting water.  I wish everyone could have clean water to drink and clean water to look at and clean water to smell.

This blog post is part of the Blog Action Day on water.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Friday, October 08, 2010

These ugly, brutal wars...

Yesterday marks the anniversary of nine years of war in Afghanistan - which is spreading to Pakistan.  Violence and horror continue in Iraq.  This is a new video from RETHINK AFGHANISTAN.

And here's a nice review of the drone bombings, and other bombings, being done in Pakistan by the Obama administration.  As usual, the bombing campaigns are not 'breaking' the Taliban or the combatants in Pakistan.... as usual, it is making more combatants interested in fighting back.  (The only time where bombing really did break the will of the people was in Japan in WW2 - and that likely only worked because they knew their government had started it!)

I believe Obama is worse than Bush.  He is doing more bombings, more extrajudicial killings, and more human rights abuses.  He totally failed to keep his promise to get out of Iraq.  There are 50K US troops still there, and even more "contractors".... I read there were 75,000 of them!

Stuck in Feedback Loop: Drone Strikes Provoke Terrorists Who Provoke More Drone Strikes

The latest attacks on fuel tankers along the blocked NATO supply route
that crosses from Pakistan into Afghanistan at the closed Torkham
crossing have resulted in three deaths and possibly more than 20
tankers burned. The Taliban in Pakistan have claimed responsibility
for the attacks, vowing to continue them until the supply lines are
completely blocked. The Taliban also said the attacks are a direct
response to drone attacks, which, although reaching record rates in
September, have not disrupted plans for attacks in Europe, leading the
US Department of State to issue a travel warning for Americans going
to Europe.

The situation in Pakistan appears to have reached a point where a
positive feedback loop prompts continued escalation on both sides. The
US sees drone attacks as its primary weapon and has stepped up such
attacks in the belief that they will create more security for military
actions in Afghanistan and disrupt planning of terrorist attacks on
the West. Instead, the attacks appear to enrage the surviving targets,
recruit more to their ranks and lead to more attacks.

And to see a map of the supply lines and the recent attacks, go to the bottom of this link.
I will not vote for any politician if they have blood on their hands. Not now, not ever, never again.  I will always go to the polls and vote for someone, but not a politician with blood on their hands.  I will vote to respect the fact that people have gone to prison and died to give me the right to vote, even if our voting choices today are dictated by corporate money and interests.

From David Swanson - about the occupation of Afghanistan

In 1963 William Polk gave a presentation to the National War College that left the officers there furious.  He told them that guerrilla warfare was composed of politics, administration, and combat:

"I told the audience that we had already lost the political issue -- Ho Chi Minh had become the embodiment of Vietnamese nationalism.  That, I suggested, was about 80 percent of the total struggle.  Moreover, the Viet Minh or Viet Cong, as we had come to call them, had also so disrupted the administration of South Vietnam, killing large numbers of its officials, that it had ceased to be able to perform even basic functions.  That, I guessed, amounted to an additional 15 percent of the struggle.  So, with only 5 percent at stake, we were holding the short end of the lever.  And because of the appalling corruption of South Vietnamese government, as I had a chance to observe firsthand, even that lever was in danger of breaking.  I warned the officers that the war was already lost."

In December 1963 President Johnson set up a working group called the Sullivan Task Force.  Its findings differed from Polk's more in tone and intention than in substance.  This task force viewed escalating the war with the "Rolling Thunder" bombing campaign in the North as "a commitment to go all the way."  In fact, "the implicit judgment of the Sullivan Committee was that the bombing campaign would result in indefinite war, continuously escalating, with both sides embroiled in a perpetual stalemate."

This should not have been news.  The U.S. State Department had known the War on Vietnam could not be won as early as 1946, as Polk recounts:

"John Carter Vincent, whose career was subsequently ruined by hostile reaction to his insights on Vietnam and China, was then director of the Office of Far East Affairs in the State Department.  On December 23, 1946, he presciently wrote the secretary of state that  'with inadequate forces, with public opinion sharply at odds, with a government rendered largely ineffective through internal division, the French have tried to accomplish in Indochina what a strong and united Britain has found it unwise to attempt in Burma.  Given the present elements in the situation, guerrilla warfare may continue indefinitely."

They knew they wouldn't "win" but just couldn't stand to "lose" and so kept it going.  Telling them they've lost is, therefore, not a clear solution.  Telling them to stop wasting our money is.

So, let's not talk in their terms.
If the United States were to elect officials and compel them to heed the public's wishes and retire from such foreign military adventures, we would all be better off.  Why in the world must that be called "losing"? 

They can't even explain what winning in Afghanistan would look like.  Is there, then, any sense in behaving as if "winning" is an option? 

If wars are going to cease to be the legitimate and glorious campaigns of heroic leaders and become what they are under the law, namely crimes, then a whole different vocabulary is needed.  You cannot win or lose a crime; you can only continue or cease committing it.

[Photo is of Looking Glass Rock in North Carolina]

Thursday, October 07, 2010

No Time for Love (If they come in the morning)

The Village Rake
(Jack Warshaw)

You call it the law; we call it apartheid, internment, conscription, partition and silence.
It's the law that they make to keep you and me where they think we belong.
They hide behind steel and bullet-proof glass, machine guns and spies,
And tell us who suffer the tear gas and the torture that we're in the wrong.

No time for love if they come in the morning,
No time to show tears or for fears in the morning,
No time for goodbye, no time to ask why,
And the sound of the siren's the cry of the morning.

They suffered the torture they rotted in cells, went crazy, wrote letters and died.
The limits of pain they endured - the loneliness got them instead.
And the courts gave them justice as justice is given by well-mannered thugs.
Sometimes they fought for the will to survive but more times they just wished they were dead.

They took away Sacco, Vanzetti, Connolly and Pearce in their time.
They came for Newton and Seal, Bobby Sands and some of his friends.
In Boston, Chicago, Saigon, Santiago, Warsaw and Belfast,
And places that never make headlines, the list never ends.

The boys in blue are only a few of the everyday cops on the beat,
The C.I.D., Branchmen, informers and spies do their jobs just as well;
Behind them the men who tap phones, take photos, program computers and files,
And the man who tells them when to come and take you to your cell.

All of you people who give to your sisters and brothers the will to fight on,
They say you can get used to a war, that doesn't mean that the war isn't on.
The fish need the sea to survive, just like your people need you.
And the death squad can only get through to them if first they can get through to you.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

More from the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers

Dear friends of love,
We wish to thank you for being our friends, in particular, those of you who tried so hard to contact us on International Peace Day 21st of September, strengthening us with tears and songs in our predicament. We were deeply touched by your solidarity from as many as 20 different countries of origin.

Forgive us if you couldn’t connect for our failure to overcome ‘technology’ and know that our longing to connect will not diminish.

We are human beings yearning for love’s concrete practice above a decent piece of bread. And if this love of ours, held up by you, is perceived as 'weak' or 'naive', so be it. We know this love cannot be dismissed. It is the most resolute resistance we can harness, so please stay with our shared power as we ask together, "Why not love?"

We are working to put together a THANK YOU collection of these conversations, because we yearn for this love to grow so wide, we'll finally see the natural woods healing the thorns.

Meanwhile, we ordinary Afghans watch with foreboding as the international forces announce their mythical Operation Dragon Strike on Qandahar.
As if killing was pragmatic.
As if dragons were real.
We are not dragons or beasts. 

No man shall ram the towers of yesterday and escape the falling stones. No one shall open the floodgates of his ancestors without drowning. Kahlil Gibran

Love and peace,
Hakim and the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers

From Our Journey to Smile newsletter

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Vets for Peace tell it like it is!

For immediate release  Oct. 1, 2010


Veterans' 25 x 17banner tells it straight to Obama at 555 PA Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.

Today at 1:00pm eastern time, U.S. military veterans hung an enormous banner on the front of the Newseum, wrapping their message around the First Amendment chiseled in five stories of limestone. 

Opposed to the wars and occupations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Palestine, the vets' message said loud and clear:  "MR. OBAMA: END THESE FUCKING WARS!  WAR IS THE OBSCENITY."

Several veterans dropped the banner down the front of the Newseum, while others distributed special edition copies of the War Crimes Times, explaining the action and what they considered obscene.

"The American public should be shocked that we are still killing and crippling thousands of innocent people in these countries as well as our own soldiers -- that's what's truly obscene," said Mike Ferner,59 who served as a navy corpsman during Vietnam. "Blowing people's arms and legs off, burning, paralyzing them, causing sewage to run through their streets, polluting the water that kills and sickens children, terrorizing and bombing people and their livestock with flying robots-- that defines obscenity.  If this banner shocks and offends a single person who hasn't been shocked and offended by what's being done in our name, we've accomplished our misson."

Veterans and activists taking part in the event include Ken Mayers, Kim Carlyle, Mike Ferner, Bruce Berry, Debbie Tolson, Nic Abramson,Tarak Kauff, Mike Hearington, Will Covert and Elliott Adams of Veterans For Peace.