Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Great Recession

Barry Grey (WSWS) reports:

In a further sign that the economic slump is deepening, the Conference Board reported Tuesday that US consumer confidence dropped almost 15 points this month to its lowest level since April 2009. It was the biggest point drop since October 2008, at the height of the financial crisis.

The private research group said its Consumer Confidence Index fell to 44.5 from a revised 59.2 in July, far lower than the 53.3 level forecast by economists.

The depths of consumer pessimism and economic weakness can be gauged from the fact that it takes a reading above 90 to indicate that the economy is on solid footing. “Consumer confidence deteriorated sharply in August, as consumers grew considerably more pessimistic about the short-term outlook,” said Lynn Franco, director of consumer research for the Conference Board.

Yeah, well, when you're lied to repeatedly, spin won't work anymore. Which means if the economy doesn't show real gains in the next months, expect to see a Christmas shopping period that is worse than what it was in 2009. Much worse.

And this time, false hype and promises of a recovery won't be enough. People will need to see tangible results. If shopping doesn't really rally as the year comes to a close, the true hollow nature of the recession will be plainly visible.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Wednesday:

Wednesday, August 31, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Ayad Allawi weighs in, weasel words are the favorite press tool, Dan Choi fights for First Amendment rights and much more.
Law and Disorder Radio --is a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings on WBAI and around the country throughout the week and is hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights). On the first half of this week's show explore issues of media and dissent. A.N.S.W.E.R.'s Brian Becker speaks about the disinformation media campaign on the Libyan War and its future implications for the next DC desired 'regime change.' We'll note this section.
Michael Smith: Brian, the United States, although it is supporting the war there and is actually having the CIA fly predator drone assassination planes, but the Congress has never declared war against Libya. And [US Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid, the head of the Democratic Party in the Senate, said, 'Well this war's going to be over with so quickly we don't have to declare war.' But the Constitution of the United States says quite clearly that Congress must declare war. Nonetheless, they're going abou supporting the overthrow -- regime change is what Obama articulated -- without doing that. What's your reaction to that?

Brian Becker: Well Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution makes it clear that only Congress has the right to declare war. This is clearly a war when you drop thousands of bombs and missiles. And the Americans are doing most of the bombing, by the way. It's not simply "leading from behind" -- that's partly public relations by the Obama administration. The bulk of the sorties are carried out by American aircraft. Very few voices in Congress -- Dennis Kucinich was one who clearly made the point and has demanded that the Obama administration be held accountable for what is basically a violation of the Constitution. Obama even went beyond what George W. Bush did in one sense. In Iraq, Bush demanded and got from Congress something of a blank check for later military operations -- that was the vote in October of 2002. In the case of Libya, the Obama administration said, 'Well, we don't even have to introduce any legislation that would give us any kind of pretext or premise for engaging in military hostilities" because they said that the bombing of Libya doesn't "constitute a hostility in the traditional sense in which the word hostility is meant." I mean that's real, true double-speak. I think a lot of people don't realize the extent to which that this is not simply NATO supporting a rebel force but the entire operation is a NATO operation. The Guardian newspaper on August 23rd says, for instance, and I'll quote you, "British and NATO military commanders are planning what they hope will be the final onslaught on Col Gaddafi's forces to put an end to put an end to all resistance from troops loyal to the Libyan leader." And then they go on and describe -- and this has come out only in the recent days -- how French and British and, in particular, a British commando unit have actually been leading the troops into battle. Giving the advice, yes, but also leading them into battle and coordinating with the US, the British and the French airforce for pin-point, precise, military bombing campaigns against Libyan resistance forces. And so leading from behind is just more euphemistic language designed to conceal what is, one, an illegal war as you suggest -- or certainly as I would assert because it has no authorization -- certainly the [UN[ Security Council isn't a legal entity that gives the United States executive branch the authority to carry out wars of agression. But it's not simply supporting people in the field who have a beef or a grievance or are in armed struggle against Gaddafi. If it was them and them alone, they would never have survived -- succeeded, to the extendt that they are succeeding. This is the military efforts by the Pentagon and their colleague in Britain and France to overthrow an independent government and they're using disaffected Libyans as foot-soldiers in this battle.
Michael Smith: I would add that the United States when it was formed, when the Declaration of Indepence was issued in 1776, it was issued on the basis that the people in this country had a right to determine for themselves what type of a government they had. Whether you agree or disagree with the Gaddafi government, that would be, I would say, the business of the Libyan people, not the American government. And the principal of self determination which was a great principal that was established in the American Revolution two hundred years ao is the princpal that's been violated now, wouldn't you agree?
Brian Becker: I would and I think that we need -- political people need to recognize that the last century has been the era of imperialism. The slogan of self-determination has no credibility except in that struggle against imperialism.
A.N.S.W.E.R. will be taking part in two October actions:
Washington, District of Columbia, October 6, 2011
San Francisco, California, October 7, 2011
On the subject of protests, Randy Furst (Minneapolis Star-Tribune) reports at least 200 people turned out yesterday to protest (weakly) against War Criminal (strong War Criminal) Barack Obama as the US president breezed through town to speak to the VFW. They "shouted slogans and denounced his polices on Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya." But like battered spouses, when Furst spoke to them, they weren't sure they could deny Barack their vote. Really? Men and women and children are dying in these wars. Wars you supposedly oppose. And you can't put it on the line to say, "End the war or don't get my vote?" How very pathetic. If true. But is it true? Tim Nelson (Minnesota Public Radio) puts the turnout at "more than a hundred" and portrays the same situation that Furst does. Protesters too in love with Barry to protest much.
They sell us the president
The same way they sell us our clothes and our cars
They sell us every thing from youth to religion
The same time they sell us our wars
-- "Lives in the Balance," written by Jackson Browne, first appears on Jackson's Lives In The Balance album.
And Fight Back! reports a much more lively, more passionate, and seriously opposed to war protest than do the other two outlets. Excerpt from Fight Back!'s coverage:
Jess Sundin, one of the raided activists, said, "In his address to the American Legion, the president sought support for his policies of war. Outside the hall, protesters, including organizations of veterans and military families whose voices exposed the human costs of these wars, not only on the people of Afghanistan or Iraq, but also on the troops sent to fight these wars."
She added, "We are coming out to protest because Obama's policies of endless war and Wall Street bail outs have failed to meet the needs of the majority of people at home, while costing countless lives abroad. We stand up together to support our community members who have been targeted with repression for speaking out against these policies. We demand an end to attacks on activists, an end to U.S. wars, occupations and bombings around the world and we demand funding of human needs here in our own country."
How could the other two get it so wrong? Oh, yeah, they're not fans of protest. They don't like protest and both outlets did their part to create the Cult of St. Barack so presenting 'reluctant' protesters as the norm certainly allows them to play it as "so good even his opponents have a hard time protesting his wars." I don't think it's reporting, I think it's indoctrination, an attempt at controlling the masses. (To be clear, the people in those other two outlets coverage do exist. To afraid to deny Barack their vote. But Fight Back! offers a real look at the protests which means either someone didn't want to really do the work required or they deliberately distorted it in the media's continued efforts to restore and refinish Brand Obama.
Switching to the UK, London's First Out Cafe is hosting Bradley Secker's photo exhibit of LGBT Iraqis in Syria: "His primary aim was to create a photo essay with writtne, first hand testimonies. Accompanying the images, a short documetary film has been made to further highlight the issue in another medium. Through photos and interviews, the individual accounts are posing questions as to how, and why, such acts of violence and brutality can be overlooked in a new 'free' Iraq." August 22nd, Bradley Secker posted a photo from the exhibit to his blog and explained:
After being left for dead by militia men in Iraq for photographing a story about the treatment of gay men, Nasser fled to Damascus, Syria, barely alive. 18 months later he is robbed in Damascus, everything he had stolen by a boyfriend. He was feeling betrayed and impatient, and tired of waiting to hear of news of resettlement to another country through the United Nations.
Nasser wanted to go to Bulgaria, smuggling himself into the European Union illegally.
Instead he went back to Iraq to get new documents, risking his life doing so.
Arriving back in Iraq Nasser was kidnapped and has dissapeared. His whereabouts, his survival; unknown.
I just had a phone call from someone in Iraq telling me that Nasser had been taken away, and that his friends are worried he might have been killed for real this time.
In the search to make a new start, Nasser; a very brave, quiet and confident man may have lost his life and become another number added to the countless others killed because of their sexuality in Iraq. Sexual genocide continues.
He may be alive, held somewhere.
If he's alive, his courage will allow him to break out, escape, and start the new life he has been wishing for.
Sexual genocide does take place in Iraq. And, fortunately, this year the UN decided that equality means equality and, in June, as Jill Dougherty (CNN) reported, their "Human Rights Council passed a resolution [. . .] supporting equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation." That was one of two steps that allowed the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to cover the status of LGBT Iraqis in [PDF format warning] "2010 Report on Human Rights in Iraq" released earlier this month. From that report:
Article 17 of the ICCPR mandates the right of privacy. This provision, specifically Article 17(1), protects private adult consensual sexual activity, including homosexual behaviour.
In 1994 the Human Rights Committee considered the case of Toonan v Australia. The committee concluded that the criminalisation of sexual acts between consenting adults was a breach of a right to privacy and that the right to be free from
discrimination on grounds of sex included sexual orientation. Since then, the committee has developed and consolidated its own jurisprudence. During the Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council in Geneva in February 2010, Iraq expressly and officially rejected calls by UN member States to act to protect persons on account of their sexual preferences, and to investigate homophobic hate crimes and to bring perpetrators of such crimes to justice.
UNAMI continued to receive reports during 2010 of attacks against individuals based on their perceived or actual sexual orientation. The topic of homosexuality is largely taboo in Iraq and seen as incompatible with the country's culture and religion.
Members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community usually keep their sexual orientation secret and live in constant fear of discrimination, rejection by family members, social ostracism, and violence. The Iraqi Penal Code does not expressly prohibit homosexual relations between consenting adults. However, a variety of less specific, flexible provisions in the Iraqi Penal Code leave room for active discrimination and prosecution of LGBT persons and feeds societal intolerance. Police and courts regularly take into account the alleged homosexuality of the victim as a mitigating factor in relation to crimes committed against persons on account of their perceived or real sexual orientation.
Reports published by Ali Hilli, the pseudonym of the sole publicly known representative of the Londonbased Iraqi LGBT, state that on 16 June, 12 police officers burst into a "safe house" in Karbala' and violently beat up and blindfolded the six occupants before taking them away in three vans. The same report states that the police confiscated computer equipment found in the house before burning it down. The six people arrested reportedly included three men, one woman and two transgender people. Two days later, one of the men turned up in hospital with a throat wound claiming he had been tortured. UNAMI has not been able to ascertain the whereabouts of the other five individuals.
UNAMI continued to follow the cases of ten men who were persecuted in Baghdad because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation. As previously reported, the men had suffered extreme forms of violence and abuse at the hands of members of the Mahdi Army, police officers, religious leaders and local criminal gangs, which had forced them to flee to a neighbouring country in May 2009 from where they hoped to seek protection in third countries. While one of these cases was subsequently resettled through UNHCR, some of these men subsequently returned to Iraq because they claimed they lacked funds and adequate means of support. One of them contacted UNAMI stating that he was homeless and alleging that he was being subjected to further acts of violence. He reported that he could not return to his family who had threatened to kill him because of his sexual orientation.

While this became a big issue, the New York Times couldn't lead or do much for coverage. The Denver Post could and did lead on the subject. The New York Times? It was as though it was the 80s all over again, when AIDS moved from new disease, to vastly growing outbreak to a crisis. And all the while the New York Times wanted to look the other way, especially on the op-ed (opinion and editorials) pages. It was just too 'icky' for the straight-laced and sexually repressed Times apparently. And in the years between, they have begun to publish smiling photos of same-sex consumers who wish to announce marriage but that's about the marriage industry, it's not about equality or any real concern for all. That was made clear when the 'brave' staff of the paper just couldn't bring themselves to provide some serious coverage of the assault on Iraq's LGBT community.
Tim Arango is back in the US for a rest (like so many foreign reporters covering Iraq, he's been out for the month of August) which means Michael S. Schmidt gets to face my wrath today instead. And he can take comfort in the fact that (a) he's just written the perfect piece for the Times and (b) my hatred of it won't do a thing to change the way its embraced by the Grey Lady. "Iraq War Marks First Month With No U.S. Military Deaths" gushes the headline -- and sadly, the headline writer properly summarized Schmidt's article. Really? That's a milestone?
Hmm. Not seeing it. In fact, there's sort of a stink wafting from the article, a We're-so-much-damn-better-than-everyone-else-in-the-world. In other words, a "milestone" in Iraq would be a month when no Iraqis were killed. That would be a "milestone." This? Not so much.
Leave aside the wounded this month -- the New York Times certainly did, never reporting on any of them -- and the attacks on US forces -- ibid -- and the fact that the administration wanted US troops confined on bases for all but "essential missions" this month (after the heavy death toll in July). Set all of that aside. And grasp that since the Iraq War "ended" (Barack's August 31st declaration of the end of combat operations), the Pentagon says [PDF format warning] 56 US military personnel have died. In one year. In one year since the illegal war supposedly ended. The 56 who died in the last 12 months are still dead. If they'd all died in June or all died in January or at a rate of a little over 4 each of the 12 months, they'd still be dead.
And grasp -- even though the New York Times can't -- that is the real story. Grasp that it takes a lot of Dumb Ass on the one year anniversary of Barack's speech declaring an end to combat operations in Iraq to fail to write the story that needed to be written, the story that noted the US death toll in the year since Barack's announcement.
By all means, instead write a crappy, ill-focused article that attempts to ride a wave of Operation Happy Talk. Pretend that the US "milestone" is really the story of Iraq. Pretend the entire country's empty except for US forces. If you can do all that, you can stomach Schmidt's article. If you can't, if context or perspective are 'hang ups' you have trouble letting go of, be prepared to read the article slowly, in slack-jawed wonder.
(Schmidt can also take comfort in the fact that context has never been the paper's strong suit in their Iraq reporting. The Los Angeles Times -- Alexandra Zavis, Tina Susman, Ned Parker and others -- has always mastered context better than any other outlet when it came to Iraq War coverage.)
Are US troops staying in Iraq? Oh the fun never ends when watching US outlets cover that one. It's especially cute to listen or read denials from Americans who don't read Arabic. They mock US Secretary of State Leon Panetta, for example, and don't have the first clue that Arabic media reported and quoted accurately what English media bungled. Add UPI to the clueless list. Today they trumpet that the US State Dept insists that Iraq hasn't made a request to extend the SOFA. No, they haven't. Nor are they planning to. Arabic media has made a huge deal out of Jalal Talabani's house parties -- the big meet-ups he's hosted. It's not been so newsy to US outlets. But in the last meeting at the start of this month, that's when the "trainers" was agreed to.
"Trainers" don't require a SOFA. Among the hold ups currently is determining -- the US and Iraq -- whether "trainers" require a vote by Parliament or not.
Also on this topic, UPI headlines another report "Maliki reportedly says he wants U.S. out" and it's good for the press to be skeptical -- journalists are supposed to practice a healthy skepticism. However, for UPI, the issue is that Press TV reported it and that's why they're skeptical.

What makes Nouri al-Maliki, a known liar, a trusted source?

Even while Radio Netherlands is noting: "The outgoing UN Special Representative for Iraq, Dutchman Ad Melkert, has taken the unusual step of openly contradicting the Iraqi government. Mr Melkert has publicly aired his disagreement with statements made by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki about the position of Iranian refugees in Iraq's Ashraf refugee camp."

For more on the UN's public rebuke when Nouri insisted upon lying publicly, see Monday's snapshot. And remember Lara Jakes (AP) reported Melkert "bluntly disputed" the version of events Nouri was insisting took place in their final meeting (the UN Secretary-General has a new special envoy to Iraq) . Jakes notes, "The public disavowal was rare for the U.N. office in Baghdad, which goes to great lengths to avoid engaging in political disputed."
Nouri gets treated as a trusted source -- on this topic, even more amazing. This is the same Nouri who was publicly rebuked by the Iraqi Parliament at the end of 2006 for extending the mandate for US troops to remain on Iraqi soil without consulting or informing the Parliament? The same Nouri who was again publicly rebuked by the Iraqi Parliament at the end of 2007 when he yet again extended the mandate for US troops to remain on Iraqi soil without the consent of Parliament?

Trust in Nouri doesn't stop continued deployments to Iraq. WJXT reports that 240 members of the Florida National Guard are deploying to Iraq. Ayad Allawi's political slate won the March 2010 elections in Iraq. He weighs in with a column at the Washington Post which includes:
Debate rages in Baghdad and Washington around conditions for a U.S. troop extension beyond the end of this year. While such an extension may be necessary, that alone will not address the fundamental problems festering in Iraq. Those issues present a growing risk to Middle East stability and the world community. The original U.S. troop "surge" was meant to create the atmosphere for national political reconciliation and the rebuilding of Iraq's institutions and infrastructure. But those have yet to happen.
Turning to today's violence, Reuters notes a Baghdad car bombing claimed 3 lives and left twenty injured, 1 corpse discovered in Daquq, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured three people, another Baghdad roadside bombing left eight people injured, a third Baghdad roadside bombing left two people injured and a Daquq bombing in a cemetery which injured "a woman and her daughter."
Turning to the violence of human trafficing, the Pakistan Observer reports, "The deployment of Filipino workers to Iraq and Afghanistan will stay but will exclude those employed in the US military bases in those countries, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said. The Aquino administration reached the decision after Washington's Central Command ordered all contractors last year not to hire third-country nationals whose domestic laws prohibited their citizens from traveling and working in Iraq and Afghanistan, Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said. That ruling would allow some 7,000 Filipino workers in Iraq and Afghanistan to keep their jobs, he said." What's going on? Along with record unemployment among Iraqis in Iraq, several things. From last Wednesday's snapshot:

Today NTD Television reports (link has text and video) that the Iraqi government has decided to begin "deporting foreign workers. With the official unemployment rate at 15 percent and another 28 percent in part-time jobs, their aim is to create more job opportunities for Iraqis as their country rebuilds after years of war." The Ministry of Labor and Social Affair's legal counsultant Hossni Ahmed is quoted stating, "Unemployment rate is very high. Priority should be given to the national laborer. Therefore, we agreed to act on laws and the most important one is the residential law No. 118 of 1968." Though the government made the decision, some Iraqis object. Salam Ahmed is a restaurateur and he states, "I do not support the deportation decision because they work from early morning until 10:00 p.m. They do not complain and they do not say we are hungry and they have no more demands. The salary of a foreign worker is less than the salary of an Iraqi worker." The report notes, "Officials say the government is only issuing work permits to workers at foreign firms that hire at least 50 percent Iraqis for their work force."
Last Tuesday, the International Organization for Migration held a press briefing to announce (link is in Spanish*, FYI) that they were not only providing humanitarian assistance to 35 Ukranian and Bulgarian workers in Iraq but were calling for private companies to follow the rules with regards to national immigration, labor laws and human rights. Why? Because they did several inspections of construction sites and found migrants living there, overcrowded, no light and no ventilation. The 35 workers are part of 271 foreign workers brought into the country at the end of 2010 to work on construction within the Green Zone and hired with the promise of excellent pay but, after working hours and hours for many months, they've only been paid a few hundred dollars a piece. They can't appeal to the subcontractor who hired them. He's skipped out. (After getting his fee from the person subcontracting to him.) He never provided the employees with the work permits he promised and so these people are now undocumented workers, more or less trapped within Iraq, attempting to secure alternate employment. Some are agreeing to take $1,000 and leave the country. (The 35 are continuing to work and do construction.) Remember, this is after months of work with no pay, months of back breaking hours doing construction work. And the $1,000 wouldn't all go to them. Not only would they need to pay for their trip home, they are also being informed that they have to pay various fines due to the fact that they do not have the proper visas (the ones the employer who skipped out was supposed to provide). Meaning that even after the $1,000 is paid, they could immediately be broke due to fines the Iraqi government is attempting to levy against them. IOM's Livia Styp-Rekowska stated that the workers should immediately receive wages for the work they have done, that employers should not threaten to leave the country without paying the workers and that the workers should be assisted with returning home in a safe and dignified manner. That's the press conference. I'm adding that since this is an ongoing problem, one way to deal with it would be for subcontractors bringing foreign workers into the country to have to put up a bond which they would lose if they (a) skipped the country or (b) refused to pay the workers they brought into the country.

People are making a lot of money off of foreign workers but foreign workers rarely see the money, a point driven home by yesterday's Times of India: "JALANDHAR: The local police have booked a travel agent for duping two youths by sending them to Iraq and then leaving them in a lurch. Duped youths Prem Pal and Ripan Kumar of Khojpur village, who returned from Iraq on Saturday, have accused one Tarsem Badhan of cheating them." Today the Times of India reports:

CHANDIGARH: The Union government on Tuesday informed Punjab and Haryana high court that 26 workers, who were sent to Iraq by unscrupulous agents and forced to clear the remnants from the Gulf war there, were brought to Baghdad and the Indian embassy has taken charge of them by arranging for their food and accommodation. The information was provided by joint secretary (consular) P M Meena before the bench of Justice M M Kumar and Justice Gurdev Singh in response to a petition filed on the issue.
The Punjab police also informed that eight criminal cases have been registered so far against travel agents "in relation to nine youths."

Sanjeev Verma (Hindustan Times) reports India's Embassy in Baghdad is working on "return tickets and exit visas" for the 33 youth who would otherwise be stranded and that they're also providing lodging and food for 26 of those 33.
Turning to the US where a DC federal court has put a trial on hold. Jessica Gressko (AP) reports that Judge John Facciola has put the case on hold because he feels Dan "Choi has shown, at least preliminary, that he is being treated differently because of the subject of his protests" and "the nature of his speech or what he said." John Riley (Metro Weekly) adds that "the government prosecutor told the court she intended to file a writ of mandamus (or writ of prohibition) against Mag. Judge John Facciola for allowing Choi's defense team to investigate and pursue a defense of vindictive prosecution by the U.S. government against Choi for actions related to his First Amendment rights."
The trial is now on hold. What's going on? Lt Dan Choi is an Iraq War veteran and was a member of the US military until he decided to refuse to live in any closet and came out to the world in order to embrace truth, life and equality back in March 2009.
That was months after Barack I-Will-End-Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell-If-Elected was sworn in. So it shouldn't have been an issue. But after that, he was discharged even though the administration was 'moving' on the issue (largely filing briefs opposing court decisions ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell). Since 2009, he's been one of the most visible protesters against a corrupt and unconstitutional (check the court verdicts) policy. Now he's on trial for civil disobedience and exercising free speech. Towelroad explains, "Lt. Dan Choi's trial began in federal court yesterday for protesting 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' with 12 other activists on November 14, 2010. Choi and the others chained themselves to the White House fence while chanting 'I am somebody,' 'We do this for you' and "President Obama, Silent Homophobia.' Choi faces 6 months in prison or a $5,000 fine for an obscure infraction of Parks and Wildlife federal regulations." Others accepted plea bagains, but Choi has refused to do so. Lou Chibbaro Jr. (Washington Blade) reports:

Choi told reporters at a news conference outside the federal courthouse Monday, after the trial recessed for the day, that he rejected the government's plea bargain offer because he believes the law and regulation used to arrest him is unconstitutional.
"I believe there is no law that, in the history of this country, abridges freedom of speech, assembly, or the right to protest for redress of grievances, which were clear and made plain by all of the defendants," he said.

Unless, out of 'unity,' we've again passed an attack on the Constitution like another PATRIOT Act, Dan is correct. John Riley (Metro Weekly) reported on the trial last night:

After calling six witnesses on Monday, the prosecution completed making their arguments early this morning. Feldman then called Capt. James Pietrangelo, who was arrested with Choi during the March incident, to testify, followed by Choi. Both men testified for more than two hours apiece -- with Choi's testimony running longer than three hours.
On the stand, Choi said the First Amendment provides for the right of people to petition the government for a redress of grievances, which also, he said, is a moral responsibility of patriotic Americans. Choi responded under questioning by Feldman that he believed his actions were a form of speech, and that the government did not have a right to censor them by arresting him.
At times, Choi raised his voice and spoke in such a tone that he almost seemed close to shouting, especially when asked about his arrest. Under cross-examination by Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela George, he compared the various protests against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to the 1960 sit-in by students in Greensboro, N.C., at a Woolworth's department store and said he was "insulted" by his prosecution on federal charges.

Should the verdict be guilty, Dan could be sentenced to six months behind bars. He has four attorneys and last week Steve Rothaus (Miami Herald) spoke with one of them, Norm Kent, about the case and straegy. Sunday, he Tweeted:
Dan Choi
ltdanchoi Dan Choi
Dan Choi
ltdanchoi Dan Choi

Eric Tucker (AP) notes of Choi's testimony yesterday:

He said was flabbergasted he was on trial in the first place when people went to the White House to cheer the U.S. military raid that led to the death of terror mastermind Osama bin Laden. He said those people gathered at the same fence but never faced any sanctions.
"What's the difference?" Choi demanded of George at one point. "You have not given me a reason why my free speech should be curtailed and their free speech should be amplified."
And we'll close with this from John V. Walsh's piece at CounterPunch on 'anti-war' Juan Cole:
Cole claims to be a man of the left and he appears with painful frequency on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now as the reigning "expert" on the war on Libya. This is deeply troubling – on at least two counts. First, can one be a member of the "left" and also an advocate for the brutal intervention by the Great Western Powers in the affairs of a small, relatively poor country? Apparently so, at least in Democracy Now's version of the "left." Second, it appears that Cole's essential function these days is to convince wavering progressives that the war on Libya has been fine and dandy. But how can such damaged goods as Cole credibly perform this marketing mission so vital to Obama's war?
Miraculously, Cole got just the rehabilitation he needed to continue with this vital propaganda function when it was disclosed by the New York Times on June 15 that he was the object of a White House inquiry way back in 2005 in Bush time. The source and reason for this leak and the publication of it by the NYT at this time, so many years later, should be of great interest, but they are unknown. Within a week of the Times piece Cole was accorded a hero's welcome on Democracy Now, as he appeared with retired CIA agent Glenn Carle who had served 23 years in the clandestine services of the CIA in part as an "interrogator." Carl had just retired from the CIA at the time of the White House request and was at the time employed at the National Intelligence Council, which authors the National Intelligence Estimate.
It hit this listener like a ton of bricks when it was disclosed in Goodman's interview that Cole was a long time "consultant" for the CIA, the National Intelligence Council and other agencies.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The infrastructure

Hurricane Irene was not the national disaster some feared. It was damaging in places. In New Jersey (where I have two family members), the report I got back was no big deal and, for example, my aunt wished she hadn't left the area. (And I'm sure Atlantic City wishes they hadn't shut down at the height of summer tourism.)

Kate Randall (WSWS) notes the tragic deaths and the larger overall message:

In the days leading up to Irene’s landfall as a Category 1 hurricane last Saturday, East Coast residents from the Carolinas to New England were warned to expect substantial power outages. Although Irene did not strike with the intensity that had been predicted in some areas, the storm was powerful, leaving at least 35 people dead.

Some 5.48 million homes and businesses were without electricity along the Eastern Seaboard as of Monday afternoon. The massive power outages serve as a stark reminder of the decrepit state of the US infrastructure in general, and the country’s electrical grid in particular.

The widespread loss of power cannot be explained simply as a result of forces of nature beyond human control. Rather, what is exposed is a system that cannot provide the most basic necessities to the population, and subordinates the generation and delivery of energy to private profit.

The infrastructure is crumbling around the US.

In my area, for instance, back in 2006, the Big Dig Tunnel, a section of it fell and that concrete section landed on a car killing the driver.

All around the country there's been a failure to invest in maintaining and improving infrastructure. And that's what Hurricane Irene revealed.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Tuesday:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Danny Schecter offers up some reflection, a journalist is attacked in the KRG, additional info out of England about Blair's pre-war planning, and more.
Danny Schechter pens a piece at ZNet where he admits he snorted the Kool-Aid. But while I hope Danny will return to the real world, it's very much true that time makes 2008 a little hazy for Danny.
He writes, "I was denounced as a super sexist by a few for not buying into her [Hillary] centrist Clintonista crusade."
Actually, I think you were called a sexist for the use of terms like: "Clintonista." Hillary ran for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination and did win the popular vote and you're belittling her as a "Clintonista"? Ruth can (and I'm sure will) respond at her site. She posted on Danny's sexism resulting in an e-mail exchange with Danny (that he initiated). Unless he's got amnesia, he knows exactly why he was called a sexist. He's an alleged media critic, a self-proclaimed "News Dissector," and yet he refused to call out the constant sexist attacks aimed at Hillary? (While engaging in his own.)
That's not a minor point. If you're a media critic, you call out press attacks -- and, yes, that includes sexism. Things got worse at News Dissector after Barack became the nominee. Suddenly, we're getting a ton of e-mails here from his readers about what the hell happened? Danny had created a space, they thought, where various views were welcome. You didn't have to be a Democrat or even vote to be welcome at Media Channel. Then suddenly he was Uber Partisan. He ran off his audience.
And I keep stopping and saying, "Delete that," as I dictate this. Pulling punches. When I really shouldn't. Barack's position on Iraq was always known. Bill Clinton rightly termed it a "fairy tale." Long before Bill did that, I had heard similar from US House Rep Bobby Rush. Danny claims he had no way of knowing the truth about Barack. I believe Glen Ford and Bruce Dixon were documenting truths about Barack in 2008 at Black Agenda Report (including the DLC membership which Danny feels he had no way of knowing).
The "News Dissector" was silent on sexism and he was silent on homophobia. I like Danny, despite the 2008 crazy, and the column makes me more likely to link to him in the future. But we paid for telling the truth here. We were delinked by many sites -- including Danny's -- and that's fine -- sites that repeatedly asked us to promote them and that we repeatedly promoted. But when push came to shove, we told the truth and we did so in real time. And the thanks for that was that we were attacked and trashed and delinked from a number of sites -- sites that still send things to the public account wanting links. And having paid for being the Cassandra, I won't just say, "Great job, Danny!" I'll note that he's been more honest than anyone thus far --- and I'll applaud him for that sincerely, but I'll note there's not full honesty.
I was talking to a friend about this last week -- someone who knows Danny from his ABC days -- and I said -- of this entire period and of much more than just Danny, "A part of me wants to let go of it. And if I weren't doing stuff online, I probably would. But this was such a breakdown for the left, this was such a pivotal moment. And to act as if it didn't happen would encourage it -- and beg for it -- to happen again."
Danny has gone further than any of his crowd in taking accountability and I say, "Good for him." And I mean that. But I also mean that what happened never should have. And I keep remembering the e-mails, like from the guy who had followed Danny since 2003, heard him speak somewhere (I'm blanking on the location) and just couldn't believe that the Danny of 2008 was the same Danny he'd been reading all that time. And I remember the shock of so many LGBT-ers on the left who refused to drink the Kool-Aid and couldn't believe that Barack's constant use of homophobia was not being called out. That's where the thrown under the bus usage comes from. Bit by bit, Barack threw (while people like Danny looked the other way) one segment of the left under the bus, one segment after another.
I would love to read Danny writing a piece -- even a paragraph -- explaining how he justified ignoring the use of sexism and homophobia by the campaign. Or of giving delegates to a candidate not on the ballot. Or stopping a floor count at the convention when Nancy Pelosi was afraid that the vote would be too close and Barack might not be the winner. Do we believe in count every vote or not? Was our outrage over Bush v. Gore motivated solely by a dislike for Bush? Or we rightly offended that the will of the people was thrwarted? Until those issues are addressed, the same thing could happen in five more years. (I doubt it will happen next year just because so many have realized how badly they've damanged their repuations.) And, to be clear for those late to the party, Danny wasn't the only one and I don't think he can even be termed the worst or the top twenty worst. But he's the media critic, he's the News Dissector, he's the one who's written books about people coming together to overcome. And he got taken in by a media creation -- one John Pilger was calling out in real time as a media creation.
So how did it happen and how do we make sure it doesn't happen again?
It's not a minor issue to me. The only reason I'm still stuck online is because of Barack and the idiotic notion that he was going to end the Iraq War. Still hasn't happened, has it? Support for him had real life implications especially for the Iraqi people. Repeating, how do we make sure that "2008: The Year of Living Hormonally" never happens again? Last night Betty quoted Joan Didion on the 2008 crazy and we should note it again because a lot of people have forgotten Joan's remarks:
What troubled had nothing to do with the candidate himself.
It had to do instead with the reaction he evoked.
Close to the heart of it was the way in which only the very young were decreed of capable of truly appreciating the candidate. Again and again, perfectly sentient adults cited the clinching of arguments made on the candidate's behalf by their children -- by quite small children. Again and again, we were told that this was a generational thing, we couldn't understand. In a flash we were sent back to high school, and we couldn't sit with the popular kids, we didn't get it. The "Style" section of The New York Times yesterday morning mentioned the Obama t-shirts that "makes irony look old."
Irony was now out.
Naivete translated into "hope" was now in.
Innocence, even when it looked like ignorance, was now prized.
Partisanship could now be appropriately expressed by consumerism.
I could not count the number of snapshots I got emailed showing people's babies in Obama gear.
Now I couldn't count the number of terms I heard the terms "transformational" or "inspirational." The whole of election night I kind of kept dozing on and off and the same people were on always on television and every time I woke up
to them they were saying "transformational."
I couldn't count the number of times I heard the sixties evoked by people with no apparent memory that what drove the social revolution of the sixties was not babies in cute t-shirts but the kind of resistance to that decade's war that in the case of our current wars, unmotivated by a draft, we have yet to see.
It became increasingly clear that we were gearing up for another close encounter with militant idealism by which I mean the convenient redefinition of political or pragmatic questions as moral questions -- which makes those questions seem easier to answer at a time when the nation is least prepared to afford easy answers.
As Danny rightly notes, "He took an anti-war stance on pragmatic grounds only, preferring Afghanistan to Iraq. He hasn't extricated us from either battlefield." And that's due to the Cult of St. Barack. As we noted at Third in December 2008, alleged leaders of the peace movement were disgracing themselves. In that piece, we quote one of the only people who can hold their head high today:
Debra Sweet (World Can't Wait) noted of UPFJ's recent session:

Not to directly challenge Obama's escalation of the war in Afghanistan is shameful. On the anniversary of "Shock & Awe," and under a new president, the anti-war movement needs to be in Washington. And many of us WILL be there.
World Can't Wait wrote a
letter to the anti-war movement. We posed:

"We in this country, and those of us in this movement, have a choice. We can side with our government, with the "good war" fought in our names, and act like American lives are more important than anyone else's lives.Or we can show the people living in the Middle East, and the world, that in the U.S. there is a difference between the people and their government, and that the people are taking responsibility to end an unjust war and the war crimes that have been carried out in our name. We can act like we care about the whole planet."
If everyone had shown the same courage and determination as Debra Sweet and World Can't Wait, you better believe all US troops would be out of Iraq and the administration wouldn't be in negotiations with Nouri al-Maliki today to figure out how many troops they're both comfortable with keeping beyond 2011.
The decision to 'block for Barack' and abandon demands like "OUT OF IRAQ NOW!" had real world consequences. For example, Iraq Body Count is considered a conservative count. For 2010, they count 4,045 Iraqis killed. The dead aren't coming back. In this Antiwar Radio segment, Angela Keaton talks with Scott Horton about the efforts to build a left-right antiwar movement. Those working on that issue have done real work in the last years and deserve real credit (including Angela Keaton). (And Scott Horton who's made it a big and reoccuring topic on his radio program.)
John Glaser's overseeing's Blog and he's also posting on the main site including about a newly released US State Dept cable, released by WikiLeaks:

The cable excerpts a letter written by Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, addressed to then Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. American troops approached the home of Faiz Harrat Al-Majma'ee, a farmer living in central Iraq, to conduct a house raid in search of insurgents in March of 2006.
"It would appear that when the MNF [Multinational Forces] approached the house," Alston wrote, "shots were fired from it and a confrontation ensued" before the "troops entered the house, handcuffed all residents and executed all of them." Mr. Faiz Hratt Khalaf, (aged 28), his wife Sumay'ya Abdul Razzaq Khuther (aged 24), their three children Hawra'a (aged 5) Aisha ( aged 3) and Husam (5 months old), Faiz's mother Ms. Turkiya Majeed Ali (aged 74), Faiz's sister (name unknown), Faiz's nieces Asma'a Yousif Ma'arouf (aged 5 years old), and Usama Yousif Ma'arouf (aged 3 years), and a visiting relative Ms. Iqtisad Hameed Mehdi (aged 23) were killed during the raid.

And that may remind some of the 2007 killing Michael Ware observed. And one may wonder why the US government thought they had any right to conceal this news from the American public. That makes them as guilty as those who shot and killed that family. And when the US government knows about the killing of a five-month-old baby, they better be able to say someone was punished. Maybe Condi & crew can write about that in their little no-tell-alls? Refusal to do so should result in every interview starting with a reference to the above cable that no-one-could-have-guessed should have read. It might take a little pressure. As I remember her 9-11 commission testimony, it took a lot of pressure to get no-one-could-have-guessed to identify the PDB's title "bin Laden determine to strike in the US."

And, to be clear, most likely no one was punished. You never heard about the slaughter until WikiLeaks released the cable. Any good defense attorney would have been aware that the US govenrment wanted to keep a lid on the story and if his or her client was being prosecuted would have floated the threat of going public.
Yesterday's snapshot included, "Today Chris Ames and Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) report that in October 2002, Bush and Blair decided they need not seek a second resolution to declare war on Iraq. This comes via an October 17, 2002 letter Tony Blair's secretary Matthew Rycroft wrote to then-Foreign Minister Jack Straw's secretary Mark Sedwill." I also disagreed with their summarization of a section of the letter (with the "That was the only way they could persuade the Bush administration to . . .") and noted the letter might be posted at Chris Ames' Iraq Inquiry Digest. He has posted it [PDF format warning] here. Here's the section they summarized yesterday:
The meeting concluded that the only way to keep the US on the UN route was for there to be a clear understanding that if Blix reported an Iraqi breach of the first Resolution then Saddam would not have a second chance. In other words, if for some reason (such as a French or Russian veto) there were no second Resolution agreed in those circumstances, we and the US would take action.
That fits with the interpretation that seemed to emerge from the Iraq Inquiry -- at least Roderic Lyne's line of questioning. The letter has stronger wording than the article's summary of that section. That may be due to the press narrative of Tony Blair as weak poodle. The problem with those media characters of Blair and Bush was always if Bush was such an idiot, how did he keep Blair on a leash? What's emerged in testimony to the Iraq Inquiry fits with the letter: Blair led Bush. "The meeting concluded that the only way to keep the US on the UN route . . ." Whose leading in that sentence? It's not the White House, it's not Bush. Blair's getting his way. They're both War Criminals and this interpretation (which could be completely wrong -- I'm often wrong) doesn't change that. But there's been, in the US, a desire to demonize Bush but look at Blair with pity. Blair wasn't tugged along, Blair was leading the way. And his desire for regime change, established in the public testimony, predates Bush being given the White House by the Supreme Court.
Chris Ames offers an indepth analysis on the meaning of that letter especially when combined with a statement by Michael Wood:
But the recently published statement of Michael Wood, who was in October 2002 and subsequently the Foreign Office's (top) legal adviser, to which the story also refers, may turn out to be as significant as the Rycroft letter in demolishing Goldsmith's explanation for changing his mind about the legality of the war. Wood makes very clear that everyone, including the Americans, knew that the proposed resolution did not provide legal cover for war and that talk of American red lines was smoke and mirrors.
On page 8 of his statement Wood describes the various diplomatic exchanges in mid October 2002 concerning the "new American compromise language" for the resolution and specifically for what became "virtually unchanged" operational paragraph 12 (OP12) of the resolution that would be unanimously agreed three weeks later. He reveals that on 16 October Britain's UN ambassador (Jeremy Greenstock) repeated to his American counterpart what foreign secretary Jack Straw had said to his American counterpart, Colin Powell, "that we needed a second resolution and that it was extremely unlikely that we could find a legal base without it". Greenstock also said that after the resolution was passed "the explanations of vote were likely to make it unequivocally clear that there needed to be a second resolution". On 17 October, Straw told his French counterpart, Dominique de Villepin, that the Americans acknowledged that the wording of the resolution "implied that there needed to be a second SCR".
David Owen is a former UK Foreign Secretary (1977 - 1979) he currently leads the Social Democratic Party and is a member of the British Parliament's House of Lords. Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) reports that Owen is calling for the Rycroft letter to be turned over to the Iraq Inquiry and for the Inquiry to make the letter public.
In Iraq, protests return to Tahrir Square in Baghdad on September 9th (protests were halted during Ramadan). The Great Iraqi Revolution notes today, "In an attempt to sabotage the coming demonstrations, the deputy of PM Maliki's party, the State of Law Coalition, stated that 'there are internal and external parties that will try to use the demonstration in 9/9 to overthrow the government, calling on all political forces to unite to thwart these external and internal challenges' !!" Meanwhile Political Stalemate II continues and gets closer to nine months. At this rate, it may end up surpassing Political Statement I in terms of length of time. Al Mada reports that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is again planning on hosting the leaders of the various political blocs at his home in an attempt to end the ongoing political stalemate. Their last meeting was August 2nd and the major leaders -- including Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Najaifi, Iraqiya's Ayad Allawi and State of Law's Nouri al-Maliki -- attended that meeting. It is said that the recent series of meetings culminating with the August 2nd meet-up led the blocs to all agree to resume the Erbil Agreement which would mean, among other things, creating a national council which Allawi would serve on and head. However, the problem with that last time was Nouri (who ignored the Erbil Agreement after he got what he wanted) and no sooner was Talabani receiving praise in the press at the start of this month than members of State of Law were publicly complaining about the proposed national council.
While we're on the topic of Iraqi politics, let's not the ongoing scandal from Nouri's Cabinet. Alsumaria TV reports, "Iraq Ministry of Oil said on Sunday that it found falsified correspondences in order to provoke international companies. The letters use the names of Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate and the Ministry of Finance over the fourth round of bids. The Ministry stressed that these letters aim at undermining the work of the Ministry and stressed that it will follow the parties who are involved in this issue. Iraq Minister of Oil Assem Jihad told Alsumarianews that Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate found a number of falsified papers used to exploit its name and that of the Ministry of Finance addressed to international Oil Companies that qualified to the fourth round of bids asking for money from these companies. However, these parties are still unknown he added."
And still the Iraq War continues. AFP notes Nouri al-Maliki has declared, "The agreement on the withdrawal of American forces will be implemented on schedule by the end of the year, and there will not be any bases for US forces here." Nouri's word never carries much weight -- especially after yesterday when he tried to lie about what the United Nations was saying forcing the UN to issue a press release correcting the record. In another AFP report, one reflecting on Iraq since 9-11 (it's a theme, 9-11 had nothing to do with Iraq but everyone's going to ram 9-11 down your throats for the next two weeks), it's noted that Bagdhad and DC agree Iraq's "unable to secure the country's airspace, borders or waters" and that they are open to keeping "trainers" (US soldiers) in Iraq beyond 2011. David Dayen (Firedog Lake) points out, "It's important to make this clear: call them trainers, call them troops, they would still be military forces, they would presumably still have guns, and they would still be used in the event of raids or firefights or other dangerous missions. They would be troops in everything but name."

In today's violence, Reuters notes that a Baquba roadside bombing injured three police officers and that in Hilla (yesterday) two corpses were discovered ("a government employee and his wife." Aswat al-Iraq reports a Kirkuk bombing left "a woman and her daughter" wounded and the Baquba bombing left five police officers injured.

AFP reports that journalist Asos Hardi was attacked and beaten with the butt of a pistol. The wire service notes that Human Rights Watch sees this as part of a continued and increasing wave of attacks on journalists in the Kurdistan region. Human Rights Watch issued the following news release on the attack:

(Beirut) -- The Kurdistan Regional Government should conduct a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation into the attack on the prominent journalist Asos Hardi on August 29, 2011, and prosecute whoever is responsible, Human Rights Watch said today.
Hardi is the director of the Awene Press and Publishing Company, which publishes the independent newspaper Awene in Iraqi Kurdistan, and a member of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa advisory committee. He told Human Rights Watch that a young man dressed in black attacked him as he was leaving the newspaper office at 7 p.m. The assailant, who was waiting near Hardi's car, knocked him to the ground with a blow to the back of the head with a pistol and continued beating him as he lay on the ground. Hardi was hospitalized and received 32 stitches for six wounds to his head.
"The attack on the respected journalist Asos Hardi is the latest example of the grave risks faced by independent media workers in Iraqi Kurdistan," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Kurdish authorities should act decisively to bring whoever is behind this attack to justice."
Hardi told Human Rights Watch that he believes he was targeted for his work as a journalist. "I have never had any personal problems with anyone my whole life," he said. "It is very clear that this attack is related to my job as an independent journalist and my vocal support for freedom."
Xendan news media, a local news organization, reported on its website that Prime Minister Barham Salih of the Kurdistan Regional Government had ordered authorities in Sulaimaniya to investigate the attack. Police said they are investigating the incident and took a statement from Hardi.
Since the start of protests in Sulaimaniya on February 17 over widespread corruption and violations of civil and political rights, journalists in Iraqi Kurdistan have faced escalating attacks and threats, including from members of the government's security forces. In March, Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 20 journalists in Kurdistan and found that security forces and their proxies routinely repress journalists through threats, arbitrary arrests, beatings, and harassment, and by confiscating and destroying their equipment.
Hardi expressed concern that the government's promised investigation will go nowhere. "There are many cases like this in Kurdistan," Hardi told Human Rights Watch. "Police always say they investigate the attacks but no one is captured or tried."
AFP's Prashant Rao Tweets:
prashantrao Just spoke to Asos Hardi, #Iraq #Kurd journo beaten outside his office last night. Was 'confident' police would not catch assailant.

Hardi told Reporters Without Borders that his assailant pointed a gun at him and then hit him repeatedly. The gunman acted alone but a car was waiting nearby.

"I had to be rushed to hospital and I have 32 stitches and six bruises on my

head, but my condition is now stable and I was able to leave the hospital

during the night," he said.

The autonomous Kurdistan region's authorities said they were investigating the attack in order to identify "the motives and those responsible."

Despite repeated pledges by Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani, the number of cases of physical violence and abusive treatment of journalists has been increasing steadily ever since a wave of protests began in mid-February. Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to do everything possible to shed light on this case in order to realize their declared desire to improve the safety of journalists.

The latest wave of the Turkish military bombing the KRG continues. Alsumaria TV notes, "Kurdistan Parliament called to close all Turkish military and intelligence bases in Kurdistan. Kurdistan Parliament rebuked Turkish violations against Kurdistan territories, a source told Alsumaria." Sebnem Arsu (New York Times) notes the Kurdish military continues to boast of its kills -- or at least some of them, others they deny (such as two Sundays ago when they killed 8 civilians while bombing a village) -- and how they rushed out the boast of 150 dead on Monday. Today's Zaman reports, "A leading executive of Iraq's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has stated that the Kurdish administration in northern Iraq has been planning to deploy peshmerga troops along the borders with Iran and Turkey -- two neighbors that have launched operations inside northern Iraq targeting Kurdish terrorist organizations that have bases there."
Meanwhile, what's going on at Baghdad airport? Al Rafidayn, citing a customs source, reports that a US service member was stopped at Baghdad International yesterday as he was trying to leave the country and is being detained for attempting to smuggle $80,000 out of Iraq. Iraqi Oil Report Tweeted:

iraqoilreport #Baghdad airport closed for about an hour today for unnamed "security threat." Re-opened without incident.
But Aswat al-Iraq says that the airport has remained closed and that the US military also closed "all Iraqi air space" and, "The source told Aswat al-Iraq that the Iraqi side received instructions from the American forces to close Baghdad International Airport until further notice, without giving any explanation or reasons for such closure."
Turning to the US, I agree with every word John Walsh says in this piece at CounterPunch. We are not excerpting because the one being called out by Walsh is someone I don't want to give publicity too. A few weeks back, I noted that after our excerpt of an exchange on Law & Disorder Radio, co-host Michael Ratner made a point on that I strongly agree with, so to listen for that. It was a critique of the same person. We have called him out for over five years here and at Third and, six or so months ago, I made the decision we just weren't going to mention him. But we will highlight the critiques of him by others. John Walsh has a great one. I'll throw it out to a community vote. If you'd like Walsh's column excerpted in tomorrow's snapshot, weigh in at one of the two private e-mail addresses (just "Yes" or "No" so people working the accounts aren't overloaded -- and put "Yes" or "No" in your subject heading).
Back to the topic we started with, someone else (besides Debra Sweet) who never lost his way in 2008, never lost his voice, never whored, Chris Hedges. This is from his "The Election March of the Trolls" (Information Clearing House) and let's hope everyone reads it and grasps it:

We have begun the election march of the trolls. They have crawled out of the sewers of public relations firms, polling organizations, the commercial media, the two corporate political parties and elected office to fill the airwaves with inanities and absurdities until the final inanity -- the 2012 presidential election. Journalists, whose role has been reduced to purveyors of court gossip, whether on Fox or MSNBC, descend in swarms to report pseudo-events such as the Ames straw poll, where it costs $30 to cast a ballot. And then, almost immediately, they blithely inform us that the Iowa poll is meaningless now that Rick Perry has entered the race. The liberal trolls, as they do in every election cycle, are beating their little chests about the perfidiousness of the Democratic Party and Barack Obama. It is a gesture performed not to effect change but to burnish their credentials as moralists. They know, as do we, that they will trot obediently into the voting booth in 2012 to do as they are told. And everywhere the pulse of the nation is being assiduously monitored through polls and focus groups, not because our opinions matter, but because our troll candidates understand that by parroting back to us our own viewpoints they can continue to spend their days lapping up corporate money with other trolls in the two houses of Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court and television studios where they chat with troll celebrity journalists.

The only commodity the troll state offers is fear. The corporate trolls, such as the Koch brothers, terrify the birthers, creationists, militia lovers, tea party militants, right-to-life advocates, Christian fascists and God-fearing red-white-and-blue patriots by proclaiming that, unless they vote for Perry or Mitt Romney or Michele Bachmann or some other product of the lunatic fringe of our political establishment, the American family will be destroyed, our children will be corrupted and the country will turn socialist. Barack Obama, who they whisper is a closet Muslim, will take away their guns, raise their taxes and bring homosexual couples into kindergartens.

For those, usually liberals, still rooted in a reality-based world, one that believes in evolutionary science, the corporate trolls offer a more refined, fear-based message of impending doom. If you abandon the Democrats we will be governed by Bible-thumping idiots who will make us chant the Pledge of Allegiance in mass rallies and teach the account of Genesis as historical and biological fact in our nation's schools.

And underneath it all runs the mantra chanted in unison by all the trolls—terror, terror, terror. The troll establishment spins us like windup dolls and laughs all the way to the bank. What idiots, they think. And every election cycle we prove them right.