Monday, July 31, 2006

Molly Ivins on why US progressives should oppose Hillary Clinton's 2008 bid

"What kind of courage does it take, for mercy's sake? The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it.

"The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage. The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush's tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich.

"The
majority (66 percent) wants to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes.

"The
majority (77 percent) thinks we should do 'whatever it takes' to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That is the center, you fools. WHO ARE YOU AFRAID OF?

"...Oh come on, people -- get a grip on the concept of leadership. Look at this war -- from the lies that led us into it, to the lies they continue to dump on us daily."

Why not put cigarette machines inside public schools to provide extra revenue?

If only Edmonton Public Schools would decide to stop making money from feeding children zero-nutrition, high-sugar garbage drinks which lead to obesity and diabetes. O, beautiful dreamworld... would that Edmonton Public Schools could dwell in you....

"High-calorie fizzy drinks will no longer be sold in thousands of schools across the US after a deal agreed by the country's top drinks distributors.
"

"Currently, about 119 million, or 64.5%, of US adults are either overweight or obese.

"According to projections, 73% of US adults could be overweight or obese by 2008, Trust for America's Health warned.

"In turn, this would mean many more people with obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, which could cost the nation billions of dollars.

"The biggest rises in obesity have been seen in the south-eastern states. Oregon in the north-west was the only one not to see an increase between 2003 and 2004, maintaining a steady adult obesity rate of 21%."

And see also: "Ontario Liberals selling Pepsi to elementary school audience"

Also regarding Canadians: "Losing the battle of the bulge"

Refugees taught how to eat American food

"Salt not good. Sugar not good. Oil not good. Fat not good. Blood pressure, heart problems. Yup, Yup."

Super-hawk Zbigniew Brzezinski against Israel's war on Lebanon

Thanks to Max Blumenthal for the link to The Nation's article. Zbigniew Brzezinski, of course, is the former Carter official who claimed he'd laid an Afghan trap for the Soviet Union which ultimately destroyed the Union itself. "Last Thursday, Brzezinski gave a fascinating talk sponsored by the New America Foundation, where he labeled Israel's ferocious military bombing of Lebanon 'dogged, heavy-handed, politically unproductive and morally wrong.'

"'What Israel is doing today in Lebanon is in effect the killing of hostages,' Brzezinski said. And the US government enabled the military campaign 'by abandoning the tradition of being a negotiator to a promise of complete partiality.'"

Juan Cole on the folly of equating Hezbollah with Al-Qaeda

Cartoon courtesy of Max Blumenthal (and Juan Cole for the link).

Juan Cole writes: "Western and Israeli pundits keep comparing Hizbullah to al-Qaeda. It is a huge conceptual error. There is a crucial difference between an international terrorist network like al-Qaeda, which can be disrupted by good old policing techniques (such as inserting an agent in the Western Union office in Karachi), and a sub-nationalist movement.

"Al-Qaeda is some 5,000 multinational volunteers organized in tiny cells.

"Hizbullah is a mass expression of subnationalism that has the loyalty of some 1.3 million highly connected and politically mobilized peasants and slum dwellers. Over a relatively compact area....

"Where subnationalisms are organized by party-militias willing to use carbombings and other asymmetrical forms of warfare, they are extremely difficult, if not impossible to defeat militarily. It would take a World War II style crushing military defeat of these populations, with the willingness of the conqueror to suffer tens of thousands dead in troop casualties. Israel is not even in a position to risk such a thing, given its small population.

"Hizbullah is not like al-Qaeda in any way, sociologically speaking, and making such an analogy is a sure way for a general or politician to trick himself into entering the fires of hell....

"One hope the Israeli hawks appear to entertain is that they can permanently depopulate strips Lebanon south of the Litani river. Since most Shiites vote Hizbullah and offer political support and cover to it, fewer people means fewer assets for the party-militia. This project would require the total destruction of large numbers of villages and the permanent displacement of their inhabitants north to Beirut.

"That is why the massacre at Qana occurred. The Israelis had bombed Qana 80 times. They were destroying all of its buildings. Therefore, of course, they destroyed the building where dozens of children and families were hiding. This tactic is both collective punishment and ethnic cleansing all at once. It is not only a matter, as the Israelis claim, of hitting Hizbullah rocket launchers. They are destroying all of the buildings.

"The Israeli demographic project of thinning out the population of the far south of Lebanon will fail. They do not control that territory, and cannot stop people from coming back and rebuilding. The Israelis have an Orientalist myth that the Arabs are Bedouin and not attached to their ancestral villages. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Palestinian refugees in Lebanon still around their camps in accordance with the geography of their former villages. The Lebanese Shiites will mostly come back.

"The Israelis cannot win this struggle against a sophisticated, highly organized and well armed subnationalism...."

Fighting anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim hatred

Juan Cole makes several noteworthy remarks here.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Robert Fisk: How does British response to the IRA compare to Israel's response to Hezbollah?

Robert Fisk writes: "When the IRA used to cross the Irish border to kill British soldiers--which it did--did Blair and his cronies blame the Irish Republic's government in Dublin? Did Blair order the RAF to bomb Dublin power stations and factories? Did he send British troops crashing over the border in tanks to fire at will into the hill villages of Louth, Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal? Did Blair then demand an international, NATO-led force to take over a buffer zone--on the Irish, not the Northern Ireland side, of the border?

"Of course not. But Israel has special privileges afforded to no other nation. It can do exactly what Blair would never have done--and still receive the British Government's approbation. It can trash the Geneva Conventions--because the Americans have done that in Iraq--and it can commit war crimes and murder UN soldiers like the four unarmed observers who refused to leave their post under fire."

Forget about context! Forget about history! War is peace! Freedom is slavery!

Alexander Cockburn writes: "The guiding rule in this tsunami of drivel is that the viewers should be denied the slightest access to any historical context, or indeed to anything that happened prior to June 28, which was when the capture of an Israeli soldier and the killing of two others by Hamas hit the headlines, followed soon thereafter by an attack by a unit of Hezbollah’s fighters.

"Memory is supposed to stop in its tracks at June 28, 2006.

"Let’s go on a brief excursion into pre-history. I’m talking about June 20, 2006, when Israeli aircraft fired at least one missile at a car in an attempted extrajudicial assassination attempt on a road between Jabalya and Gaza City. The missile missed the car. Instead it killed three Palestinian children and wounded 15.

"Back we go again to June 13, 2006. Israeli aircraft fired missiles at a van in another attempted extrajudicial assassination. The successive barrages killed nine innocent Palestinians.

"Now we’re really in the dark ages, reaching far, far back to June 9, 2006, when Israel shelled a beach in Beit Lahiya killing 8 civilians and injuring 32...."

US slavering for destruction of Cuba's social sector

Saul Landau writes: "Bush's July Cuba plan calls for the resumption of US control in the post-Castro era; privatizing its economy and reshaping its politics.... The United States would even show Cubans how to manage their schools and farm efficiently. As of July 2005, Bush had already appointed a transition coordinator ­ without even bothering to invade Cuba, as he ordered for Afghanistan and Iraq.

"The 'Made in Washington' blueprint shows the mind-altering glue inherent in imperial memory. In Washington, the policy crowd sticks to old economic claims on Cuba. The July plan should remind Cubans that they will lose free education, health and housing and start paying heavy prices for these services. Cubans should imagine life under real-estate hungry Miami exiles. How hard and meaningless their work lives would become when their labor went to enrich a true parasite class!"


US evacuated rich American college students from Lebanon first

"When fighting broke out in Lebanon, college students studying there for the summer anxiously awaited their turn to evacuate. As it turns out, if you were an Ivy League student in Beirut, your turn came first.

"Among those enrolled in the summer Arabic program at the American University of Beirut, students told ABC News, those from Harvard, Yale and Princeton were in the first group evacuated – by high-end private security firms. Students from other American schools were left behind, waiting it out for days while the U.S. embassy formulated its plan.

"A.G. Leventhal, a Junior and Near Eastern Languages concentrator at Harvard University, was enrolled in summer classes at AUB when bombs began falling on southern Beirut. Leventhal was immediately contacted by Harvard and informed of the International SOS service, which would begin evacuation the next day.

"While Leventhal and his cohorts were being bussed or flown to safety, other students were told to stay put as bombs falling nearby shook their dorm rooms.

"The students left behind recall their frustration and a feeling of isolation. One student who wanted to remain anonymous for security reasons said, 'It was unfair that the private, wealthy schools were afforded the luxury of a quick evacuation.' Both her university and her government, she says, failed to help her out of a dangerous situation. "


Five myths to justify Israel's war on Lebanon

Jonathan Cook: "[David] Horowitz's response to every question, every development in the Middle East, whether it concerns Lebanon, the Palestinians, Syria or Iran, is the same: 'They want to drive the Jews into the sea'. It's as simple as that. Not even a superficial attempt at analysis; just the message that the Arab world is trying to finish off the genocide started by Europe. And if Laura is any yardstick, a lot of Americans buy that stuff."

The Second Qana Massacre: 50 dead, including 37 children

"The European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said nothing could justify the Qana bombing and said he had spoken Siniora to express his 'profound dismay'."

"Lebanese citizens responded with fury at the news that more than 50 people were killed in an Israeli strike
on a house in the southern town of Qana on Sunday.Across the nation, Lebanese woke up to graphic pictures of at least 37 dead children being removed from the rubble of a destroyed house."

"We utterly condemn what happened in Qana," says Khaled Mansour, spokesman for the UN in Lebanon. "The Secretary-General has called for an emergency session of the Security Council with the hope of bringing an immediate cessation of violence."

"Nearly ten years after the first Israeli massacre at Qana which killed 120 civilians who had taken shelter at a UN compound, Israeli air strikes at a civilian shelter in the town killed at least 56 Lebanese civilians, including 37 children, on early morning Sunday. More bodies are buried under the rubble and the rescuers lack the equipment to dig up more bodies or save buried survivors. Qana is already a potent symbol of Lebanese resistance against the Israeli military.

"The raid on the southern village of Qana was the bloodiest single attack during Israel's 19-day-old war on Lebanon which claimed over 600 civilian lives so far."

"The Israelis appear to be engaged in a concerted campaign of ethnic cleansing in the Shiite towns and villages of southern Lebanon, and are indiscriminately bombing all buildings in the area south of the Litani River. They have chased hundreds of thousands of residents out, and are destroying the property they left behind in a systematic way, rather as they destroy the houses belonging to the family members related to suicide bombers. In other words, the Israelis are engaged in collective punishment on a vast scale."

Jack Straw in revolt against Blair over Israel's war on Lebanon

"The Cabinet revolt against Tony Blair intensified last night as Jack Straw broke ranks to condemn Israel for causing 'death and misery to innocent civilians'.

"Mr [Jack] Straw, now Leader of the House, said that he grieved for innocent Israelis but also the '10 times as many innocent Lebanese men, women and children who have been killed by Israeli fire', adding: 'It's very difficult to understand the kind of military tactics used by Israel. These are not surgical strikes but have caused death and misery to many innocent civilians.'"

Dudley Randall: “Roses and Revolutions”

"Musing on roses and revolutions,
I saw night close down on the earth like a great dark wing,
and the lighted cities were like tapers in the night,
and I heard the lamentations of a million hearts
regretting life and crying for the grave,
and I saw the Negro lying in the swamp with his face blown off,
and in northern cities with his manhood maligned and felt the writhing
of his viscera like that of the hare hunted down or the bear at bay,
and I saw men working and taking no joy in their work
and embracing the hard-eyed whore with joyless excitement
and lying with wives and virgins in impotence.

"And as I groped in the darkness
and felt the pain of millions,
gradually, like day driving night across the continent,
I saw dawn upon them like the sun a vision
of a time when all men walk proudly through the earth
and the bombs and missiles lie at the bottom of the ocean
like the bones of the dinosaurs buried under the shale of eras,
and men strive with each other not for power or the accumulation of paper
but in joy create for others the house, the poem, the game of athletic beauty.

"Then washed in the brightness of this vision,
I saw how in its radiance would grow and be nourished and suddenly
burst into terrible and splendid bloom
the blood-red flower of revolution."

Seattle shootings: an act of sickening evil

The recent shooting of innocent people at a Seattle Jewish community centre was a sickening act of depravity. I don't care who you are, what's been done to you or people like you, or what your anger is at whatever topic, NO ONE EVER HAS A RIGHT TO HARM THE INNOCENT, and "innocent" should be defined as absolutely broadly as possible in all contexts.This killer, Pakistani-American Naveed Afzal Haq, while differing in planning and results, is morally on the same plane as Timothy McVeigh.

Our prayers go out to the victims:

"Six women were shot, including 58-year-old Seattle resident Pamela Waechter, who died from her injuries. Other victims were:

"Dayna Klein, 37, of Seattle, who was in satisfactory condition early Saturday at Harborview Medical Center with a gunshot wound to her arm.Cheryl Stumbo, 43, of Seattle, who was in serious condition at Harborview. Carol Goldman, 35, of Seattle, who was shot in the knee. She was in satisfactory condition. Layla Bush, 23, of Seattle, who was in serious condition. Christina Rexroad, 29, of Everett, who was wounded in the abdomen. She was in serious condition."


The photo from The Seattle Times carries the caption: "Muslims reach out: Temple B'nai Torah congregation member Lynda Matthias, left, walks to the temple with Farida Hakim, middle, who came with a friend (who declined to be identified) to leave flowers in honor of the shooting victims. The shooting is 'all the more reason that we work together for peace and justice,' Hakim said."

Given that many Jewish Americans (some regular folks, some famous intellectuals) have spoken out against the Israeli government's war on Lebanon, I'm reassured to see more examples of Muslims reaching out to Jews after a Muslim commits such a heinous crime against Jewish people.

I deplore the reality that bloodshed should ever have to be a motivating factor in bringing people together, but given that we're in this state, I applaud that some people choose, during the worst of times, to try to connect with compassion. And compassion means, after all, "suffering together."

The Haq family released the following statement:
"We are shocked and devastated with this tragic event. Our hearts and condolences go to the family of the deceased lady. Our deepest sympathies go to those who have been injured and we pray for their speedy recovery. We could not have imagined for a moment that our son would do this senseless act. This is utterly contrary to our beliefs and Islamic values. We have always believed and practiced in fostering love, peace and harmony with everyone, irrespective of religion, race and ethnicity."

In recent years, Jewish Americans and others have been targetted for hate crimes. The Seattle Times supplies the following list of hate crimes, mostly committed by neo-Nazis.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Mazisi Kunene's “Thoughts on June 26 (South African Liberation Day)”

My friend and colleague Gwen Becker pointed out to me how this brilliant poem by South African writer Mazisi Kunene could be read not only in a voice of defiance, but of profound ambivalence.

"Was I wrong when I thought
All shall be avenged?
Was I wrong when I thought
The rope of iron holding the neck of young bulls
Shall be avenged?
Was I wrong
When I thought the orphans of sulphur
Shall rise from the ocean?
Was I depraved when I thought there need not be love
There need not be forgiveness, there need not be progress,
There need not be goodness on the earth,
There need not be towns of skeletons,
Sending messages of elephants to the moon?
Was I wrong to laugh asphyxiated ecstasy
When the sea rose like quicklime
When the ashes on ashes were blown by the wind
When the infant sword was left alone on the hilltop?
Was I wrong to erect monuments of blood?
Was I wrong to avenge the pillage of Caesar?
Was I wrong? Was I wrong?
Was I wrong to ignite the earth
And dance above the stars
Watching Europe burn with its civilization of fire.
Watching America disintegrate with its gods of steel,
Watching the persecutors of mankind turn into dust
Was I wrong? Was I wrong?"

Friday, July 28, 2006

Stephen "Cut and Run" Harper: Eat now... your Kibbles-n-Bits are getting dry.

Stephen Harper, Canada's prime minister, said a few months ago that Canadians should not "cut and run" from Afghanistan. It's revealing that Harper precisely parroted the Bush phrasing (regarding ending the US occupation of Iraq).

But when Israel apparently deliberately targets a clearly-marked UN compound in Lebanon (after receiving ten warnings from the UN not to hit the base), our courageous PM first questions why our peacekeepers would stay in harm's way!

Let's get this straight--he demands that peacekeepers explain why they remained on duty in the face of aggression, blaming not their killers, but them.

Stephen "Cut-n-Run" Harper has said to Israel, "Go ahead. You killed eight Canadian civilians. You've killed a Canadian peacekeeper."


Further reading:

"The wife of a Canadian soldier missing and presumed dead in an Israeli air strike on a United Nations observation post in southern Lebanon says she believes the attack was intentional."

"The wife of a Canadian peacekeeper presumed dead in Lebanon demanded to know Thursday why Israeli missiles struck the UN site where her husband was stationed as an observer, even as she held out hope he might still be alive."

"Prime Minister Stephen Harper's reaction to the death of a Canadian peacekeeper in Lebanon was irresponsible and risks making Canada irrelevant in the region, interim Liberal leader Bill Graham said Thursday."

"Mr. Harper deserves an F for his poor response to this crisis. From the handing of the evacuation, his office trying to down play the severity of the crisis, his comments about Israel’s "measured response," which killed Canadian civilians, and his utter disregard for the life of one of our peacekeepers after which he didn’t condemn Israel’s apparently deliberate attack on the well-known UN position. "

Many Jewish people oppose war on Lebanon

JANE TOBY: "I’m Jewish. And I’m here because I feel that the Jewish community needs to talk out, to speak out against the crimes that the U.S. government and the Israeli government is perpetrating against the people in Palestine, committing genocide in Gaza and killing people in Lebanon."

Listen to/watch/read the rest of "Protests Across U.S. and Around the World Call for End to Israel Bombardment of Lebanon" here.

And let's not forget that innocent people are dying in Israel. Yes, the numbers are ten to one "favouring" Lebanese civilian death, but all deaths of innocent people are monstrous crimes. Check out coverage in Ha'aretz here.

Ralph Nader: U.S. Carries "Inescapable Responsibility" for "Israeli Government's Escalating War Crimes"

Ralph Nader: "The border between Israel and Lebanon involves raids of Israel, much more than Hezbollah, because of the more powerful factor. They still control large farm acreage, the Shebaa Farms, which are Lebanese soil. The Israelis have abducted civilians. They won’t tell the United Nations or the Lebanese government the location for thousands of land mines in South Lebanon so they can be deactivated.

"And during the 18-year occupation of South Lebanon, itself illegal under international law from 1982 to the year 2000, Israel drew water, precious water, from the Litani and even took fertile topsoil back to Israel, and other plunders.

"So, you know, for Tony Snow to act like, well, you know, everything started with this attack by Hezbollah, which is basically an attack designed to provide for a prisoner exchange. This has happened numerous times over the Lebanese-Israeli border.

"But as Israeli commentators pointed out, this invasion of Lebanon doesn't have anything to do with it. This is just a pretext by Israel, that Israel wants a puppet regime in Lebanon. It cannot stand an independent Lebanon, and it seeks to achieve that objective by this massive invasion and dividing the sectarian conflicts, as it did in 1982."


Watch/listen to/read the rest of Nader's comments here.

Israel's death toll in Lebanon rises to at least 450

Israel's air force has continued to pound Lebanon as its ground forces battle Hezbollah fighters in the country's south. Lebanese police said that Israel had carried out more than 130 air raids on Friday, killing at least 13 people and wounding many more.

“The flurry of air attacks came amid reports that Israeli troops were retreating from the town of Bint Jbeil near the Israeli border. The first Israeli bombs on Friday fell shortly after dawn, killing two people in their home in the village of Deir Aamiss south of the city of Tyre.

“A separate Israeli air raid destroyed a deserted four-storey building near the town, a local official said. The building housed a construction company owned by a Hezbollah member, the officials said. Hussam Abu Shamet, a Jordanian man in a nearby house, was killed by missile shrapnel in that attack.

“Others civilians died elsewhere across southern Lebanon and also in the Bekaa valley where Israel's air force struck at a suspected Hezbollah stockpile of long-range missiles.

"At least 450 Lebanese have now died in the 17-day conflict....

“Meanwhile, US officials said that Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, would return to the Middle East this weekend if needed. In London, the prime minister's spokesman said that Tony Blair would seek a UN resolution to end the violence next week.

“On Thursday, Lebanon's health minister estimated that as many as 600 civilians have been killed so far.”

Israel says it's received OK to keep destroying Lebanon

"Israel has said it has received implicit 'authorisation' from international powers to continue its attacks in Lebanon.

"The Israeli justice minister, Haim Ramon, said Israel had 'in effect obtained the authorisation to continue our operations' by Wednesday's 15-nation Rome conference on the crisis in Lebanon."

US blocks any Security Council censure of Israel's killing of UN peacekeepers

"The UN Security Council has passed a statement expressing shock at Israel's attack on a UN observer post in Lebanon on Tuesday which killed four peacekeepers, but made no condemnation of the action. The United States had refused to allow any criticism of Israel in the statement.

"China's envoy to the UN complained that the final version was 'watered down'. The statement, passed unanimously by the 15-nation council, said: 'The security council is deeply shocked and distressed by the firing by the Israeli Defense Forces on a United Nations observer post in southern Lebanon on July 25.'

"After the meeting, Dan Gillerman, Israel's UN ambassador, said the resolution was 'a very fair and balanced statement' about what he called 'a tragic accident'. Large parts of the original Chinese draft text were taken out in order to get the 'presidential statement' passed.

"A paragraph which said 'the Security Council condemns any deliberate attack against UN personnel' was deleted, along with a phrase which would have called on the UN to be involved in any Israeli inquiry."

Britain breaks with US over Israel's war on Lebanon

"Britain dramatically broke ranks with George Bush last night over the Lebanon crisis, publicly criticising Israel's military tactics and urging America to 'understand' the price being paid by ordinary Lebanese civilians.

"The remarks, made in Beirut by the Foreign Office minister, Kim Howells, were the first public criticism by this country of Israel's military campaign, and placed it at odds with Washington's strong support.

"The Observer can also reveal that Tony Blair voiced deep concern about the escalating violence during a private telephone conversation with the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, last week. But sources close to Blair said Olmert had replied that Israel faced a dire security threat from the Hizbollah militia and was determined to do everything necessary to defeat it.

"Britain's shift came as Israeli tanks and warplanes pounded targets across the border in southern Lebanon yesterday ahead of an imminently expected ground offensive to clear out nearby Hizbollah positions, which have been firing dozens of rockets onto towns and cities inside Israel."

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Jewish Peace Group: "shameful to hide these misdeeds behind specious accusations of anti-Semitism"

Howard Dean: Iraqi PM an “Anti-Semite” for Criticizing Israel

"Meanwhile, leading Democrats continue to denounce the Iraqi Prime Minister over his recent criticism of Israel’s attack on Lebanon. Several Democratic lawmakers boycotted Maliki’s speech. The boycott came after Senate Democrats wrote Maliki Tuesday they questioned his leadership because of his stance on the Israeli attack.

"But the harshest criticism of Maliki came from Democratic Party chair Howard Dean. Speaking at a gathering of business leaders in Florida on Wednesday, Dean called Maliki “an anti-Semite.” Dean added: 'We don't need to spend $200 and $300 and $500 billion bringing democracy to Iraq to turn it over to people who believe that Israel doesn't have a right to defend itself and who refuse to condemn Hezbollah.'"

Jewish Peace Group Criticizes Howard Dean's Comments

"Dean’s comments are coming under criticism. In a statement released to Democracy Now, Mitchell Plitnick of the San Francisco-based Jewish Voice for Peace said: 'Israel opens itself up to legitimate criticism with its killing of so many civilians on top of 39 years of occupation of Palestinian lands.

"'It is shameful to hide these misdeeds behind specious accusations of anti-Semitism. Mr. Dean and others like him belittle centuries of Jewish suffering by using accusations of anti-Semitism to shield Israel from legitimate criticism.'”

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

D.R. Congo headed for historic elections

All Africa.com reports: "The election in Democratic Republic of the Congo will be the most expensive to be supported by the United Nations (UN), costing the international community as much as $400m to give the country a new start.

"On Sunday, more than 25-million registered voters will go to the polls to elect a president and parliamentary representatives.

"Incumbent President Joseph Kabila is considered a favourite, though yesterday opposition demonstrators rioted in the capital, pulling down his campaign posters.

"Foreign troops, including 780 from Germany, are on the ground to help quell violence.

"German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany saw the election as a chance for lasting peace in Congo.

"There are 17,000 UN Mission to the Congo troops in the country, helping to disarm militias and preparing for the election. But this force does not have the best reputation in Congo. It was not able to prevent civilian massacres in 2003 and its members have been accused of sexually exploiting local women and girls.

"But what matters to the Congolese are the elections, on which many are setting great hopes.

"Too great a hope, say many political analysts. 'The expectations are about as great as shortly before independence,' says one western diplomat. 'This can lead to bitter disappointments in a few months.'

"The country has almost no experience with democracy, and the role of the opposition is still uncertain. The government is the result of negotiations that in 2002 ended the five-year civil war. Kabila has so far governed with four vice-presidents who represent the interests of former warring parties.









"In the mineral-rich east of the country, militias are still active and terrorise the population.

"Government critics suggest there are some in power who have an interest in keeping the conflict alive so they can use the chaos as cover to do a lucrative business in raw materials in the region.

"UN officials in Bukavu said, however, that the run-up to the election was on track.

"'The situation is normal. There are pockets of insecurity and the situation is not perfect but we are hopeful the election will go ahead without disruption,' UN spokeswoman Jacqueline Chenard said.

"'People should be able to cast their ballots as planned.'

"Posing the greatest threat to the election is a force of about 2000 under the command of renegade Gen Laurent Nkunda, an estranged member of RCD-Goma. RCD-Goma was a main player in the civil war, when it was backed by Rwanda.

"RCD-Goma itself retains significant military power, but it is disproportionate to the party's electoral base, so there are concerns the elections may persuade other dissatisfied RCD-Goma members to throw in their lot with Nkunda."

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Public Enemy No. 1 for College Students

"WACO, Texas -- Did you know that many college administrators and other officials feel that credit card debt is a bigger problem on college campuses than sex, drugs, and Rock and Roll?

"Students who carry large credit card bills earn lower grades, work more (the two are apparently related), are more depressed, and are more likely to drop out.

"And, the problems don't stop there.

"College graduates with bad debt on their records may find it more difficult to find a job (yes, employers look at these things), get a home loan or go to graduate school.

"Additionally, they also are less likely to take lower paying jobs (teachers, non-profits) because of the need to pay off their debt.

"'Parents, be sure to take the steps necessary to be sure that little Johnny or Sally is prepared to pass Credit Card Use 101 when he enters the school of hard knocks,' says James A. Roberts, Associate Professor of Marketing at Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business.
"

Nigeria evacuates 500 from Lebanon

"Nigeria has so far evacuated 500 people to safety as hostilities rage on in the Middle East, Nigerian Foreign Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said in Abuja on Friday.

"Okonjo-Iweala, who addressed a news conference in Abuja, said that the evacuees were moved to Syria, adding that 420 of the evacuees were Nigerians while 80 were Africans from other countries."

Rumsfeld announces Bin Laden located

Osama Bin Laden Found Inside Each Of Us"WASHINGTON, DC—Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced Tuesday that Osama bin Laden, prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, has 'at long last been found.'

"'For more than two years, we combed the Middle East looking for bin Laden,' Rumsfeld said. 'Frankly, it was starting to be an embarrassment. You can imagine our surprise when we finally found him hiding deep inside the darkest recesses of each and every one of our souls.'"

Canada is militarily protecting the Neo-Taliban regime?

The former "Klondike Days" parade in Edmonton (part of a summer carnival of rides, children's gambling and bad deep fried food) had a military theme this year. For the Americans reading this, understand that military parades are definitely not a big part of Canadian culture. They exist, but they're rare.

I can't help but wonder if our new minority government's emphasis on imperialism (whoops, I mean to type "being openly sycophantic remoras to the American war machine, rather than the more covert sycophantic tapeworms of the American war machine under the Liberal government) helped decide this theme. Then again, the theme was probably chosen before the Conservatives came into office.

But hey, when our Prime Minister shows the kind of bold leadership in declaring that the wiping out of a Canadian family and aerial stone-ageing of an entire, modern, beautiful country is "measured," then I guess all bets on common sense are off, huh?

So it is perhaps no surprise that "my" government is militarily backing the Afghan government which is responsible for the following.

"AFGHANISTAN’S notorious Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which was set up by the Taliban to enforce bans on women doing anything from working to wearing nail varnish or laughing out loud, is to be re-created by the government in Kabul."

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Jackson Browne's "Lives in the Balance"

I always loved this song. Thanks, Jackson.

"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 headlines
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 a people
And a country is drifting to war

"And there’s a shadow on the faces
Of the men who send the guns
To the wars that are fought in places
Where their business interest runs

"On the radio talk shows and the TV
You hear one thing again and again
How the USA 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?
Or the people who finally can’t take any more
And they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone

"There are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire

"There’s a shadow on the faces
Of the men who fan the flames
Of the wars that are fought in places
Where we can’t even say the names

"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

"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


"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."

Friday, July 21, 2006

And if things weren't bad enough: ETHIOPIA INVADES SOMALIA

Al Jazeera reports: "Hundreds of Ethiopian troops in armoured vehicles have entered the central Somali town of Baidoa, home of the country's transitional government.

"Residents said Ethiopian troops arrived on Thursday afternoon and set up a camp near the president's home there. A spokesman for the transitional federal government denied that any Ethiopian soldiers were in the town and maintained the claims were part of an Islamist plot to launch an attack.

"'It is absolutely false," Abdirahman Nur Mohamed Dinari told AFP news agency. "Every time the Islamists want to attack, they start propagating rumours and manufacturing lies.'

"A top Islamic leader Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed responded to the reports saying: 'We will declare jihad if the Ethiopian government refuses to withdraw their troops from Somalia.'"

The Concord Monitor reports: "Hundreds of Ethiopian troops in armored vehicles rolled into Somalia yesterday to protect their allies in this country's virtually powerless government from Islamic militants who control the capital.

"The move could give the U.S.-backed Somali government its only chance of curbing the Islamic militia's increasing power. But Ethiopia's incursion could also be just the provocation the militia needs to build public support for a guerrilla war.

"'We will declare jihad if the Ethiopian government refuses to withdraw their troops from Somalia,' a top Islamic official, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, told the Associated Press."

Somali.Net reports: "The top security official of the Islamic Courts Sheikh Yusuf Mohamed Siad known as ‘Indha-adde’ said on Thursday if Ethiopia invades Somalia capital then they would attack Addis Ababa, amid fears of possible confrontation between increasingly powerful Islamic militiamen and Ethiopian forces who entered Baidoa town, to defend the UN-backed Somalia government based there."

And here's the BBC's take.

PAST MIDNIGHT (literally and figuratively)

Thank God for Ralph Nader, and thank God for Israeli peace activtists and brave journalists.

Listen to Ralph Nader and Illan Pappe (Israeli
academic) here.

And check out my man Gideon Levy here. Go, Gideon.

I'm sure they're ou
t there, but I as a non-Arabic reader would love to hear from far more Arab journalists and activists on the problems internal to their countries (I'm obviously fond of Lebanese-American professor As'ad Abu-Khalil, but I'd like to hear of and from more). So anybody out there have good dissidents I should know about, please let me know.

And of course, the same goes for every single country of the Afrikan planet. Please, please, please let me know.


I'm taking this current Israeli war against Lebanon very personally because of my work there last year and my great affection for the amazing people I met, but I want to make absolutely clear that I have nothing but contempt for Hezbollah's violence and for the brutality committed by the governments of Syria and Iran (and I've spoken out against both constantly, not the least because each is responsible for torturing and/or killing Canadians, but more because of the vast and disgusting violence they inflict on their own people). I certainly hope that the people of northern Israel subject to Hezbollah's rocket attacks will be safe. I don't wish them harm, I wish them peace and safety from the horrifying aggression and destruction of their country to which Israel is subjecting them. And I wish safety and peace to all the people of beautiful Lebanon, including the dark-skinned foreign workers on the second-lowest tier of Lebanese society, and the Palestinian refugees who are at the very bottom.

Yesterday I ran into a guy I know at a rally for peace in Lebanon . He asked me, and I was quite shocked that he would ask me this question (in fact, I'm still not sure why he asked me this question), "Do you think that Israel should be wiped off the map?" (I think he was either playing devil's advocate or grotesquely misreading my comments to him about restorative justice... i.e., reparations). Good heavens, no. I wish that every country of that region (and the rest of the planet) should be transformed by the nonviolent democratic struggle of its peoples for a secular, non-racial, pluralistic government which promotes equitable sharing of wealth. I hope that I live to see the day when Jewish and Palestinian people in Israel will be equal citizens in a state as (yes, flawed, but generally) pluralistically peaceful as Canada (please forgive me, all the First Nations people who just read that comment... I'm obviously not referring to the grave injustices done to you so that the rest of us settlers can live in luxury while you live at the bottom of Invader-Canadian society). I hope I live to see the day when the people of Darfur live in peace, justice and prosperity, when women in Saudi Arabia and Kurds in Iran and Iraq and gay and lesbian people in Namibia and Zimbabwe can live in freedom with the opportunity to know joy, self-expression, hope and what it's like to eat three kot-tam meals a day and drink clean water and write almost anything you like or say almost anything you can think of without fear of being locked up, burnt, electrocuted, gassed, bombed, genitally mutilated, infected with HIV or malaria or cancer or....

Man, it's 1:52 in the kot-tam morning and I'm sad and angry and just would love to see EVERYBODY STOP MAKING EXCUSES FOR KILLING PEOPLE. FOR KILLING INNOCENT PEOPLE, EVEN FOR KILLING GUILTY PEOPLE. CAN WE JUST, MAYBE FOR ONE YEAR, PLEASE STOP FINDING EXCUSES FOR VINDICTIVE INFLICTION OF PAIN? CAN WE STOP ALLOWING PEOPLE, BECAUSE OF OUR INDIFFERENCE, TO SUFFER AND BE IMPRISONED, TORTURED, POISONED OR STARVED TO DEATH?

If you want to pray, pray. If you want to donate, donate. If you want to send pencils, send pencils. I don't care. Just please do something before midnight tomorrow so that if a freaking dinosaur-ending comet smashes into the Earth, you'll be able to say, "At least I started to try."

Report Confirms Chicago Police Tortured Black Prisoners


Democracy Now! reports: "...torture and brutality here in the U.S. For nearly two decades an area in Chicago's city jails known Area 2 was the epicenter for the systematic torture of dozens of African-American males by Chicago police officers.

"Close to 150 people say they were subjected to abuse including having guns forced into their mouths, bags places over their heads, and electric shocks inflicted to their genitals.

"Four men were released from death row after government investigators concluded torture led to their wrongful convictions.

"Yet to date no police have been charged with any crime.

"...[Y]esterday the findings of a four-year investigation into the cases were released. The investigation found evidence that several officers in the department tortured criminal suspects but concluded that they cannot be prosecuted because too much time has passed.

  • Flint Taylor, an attorney with the People's Law Office in Chicago. He represented many of the torture victims and was directly involved in spearheading the special prosecutor's investigation.
  • David Bates, one of the men to come forward with allegations of torture.
AUDIO/VIDEO and text are HERE.

Neo-con manifest destiny: the "Lebanonization of the Middle East"?

Tom Hayden: "What I fear is the rehabilitation of the discredited U.S. neoconservative agenda to ignite a larger war against Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran.

"The neoconservatives’ 1996 'Clean Break' memo advocated that Israel 'roll back' Lebanon and destabilize Syria in addition to overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

"An intellectual dean of the neoconservatives, Bernard Lewis, has long advocated the 'Lebanonization' of the Middle East, meaning the disintegration of nation states into 'a chaos of squabbling, feuding, fighting sects, tribes, regions and parties'....

"One might argue, and many Americans today might agree, that Hezbollah and Hamas started this round of war with their provocative kidnappings of Israeli soldiers.

"Lost in the headlines, however, is the fact that the Israelis have 9,000 Palestinian prisoners, and have negotiated prisoner swaps before. Others will blame the Islamists for incessant rocket attacks on Israel. But the roots of this virulent spiral of vengeance lie in the permanent occupation of Palestinian territories by the overconfident Israelis.

"As it did in 1982, Israel now admits that the war is not about prisoner exchanges or cease-fires;
it is about eradicating Hezbollah and Hamas altogether, if necessary by an escalation against Syria or even Iran.

"It should be clear by now that the present Israeli government will never accept an independent Palestinian state, but rather harbors a colonial ambition to decide which Palestinian leaders are acceptable."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Robert Fisk: "The scale is... obscene"

I may not care for Fisk's opening comment below, but the rest is good stuff, as usual:















"It amazes me -- I mean, living here in Beirut, as I have for 30 years. Here are the Lebanese people, sophisticated, educated, cosmopolitan, people who don't look like the Arab world, they look like us; I mean, people who could be quite at home on the streets of Paris or New York and London, and some of them are; people who read, who are very well educated; people who speak English fluently, French beautifully, and fluent Arabic, as well, of course; and who, when they die in such large numbers, the best we can produce is a call for restraint by the State Department and a claim by the British, our own dear Tony Blair, that the Israelis are using disproportionate force.








"The exchange rate for neutral slaughter between Israel and here at the moment is now 1 to 10. 24 Israelis – I think 25 now -- to 242 Lebanese, many of whom, as I say, most of whom, but a far larger proportion of civilians.

"Many Beirut people were very moved Saturday when the Lebanese Beirut newspapers carried a very, very tragic picture of a young girl, a little girl -- must have been 4 or 5 years old -- near a place called Ter Hafra, lying dead in a field in her blue pajamas, looking, as I said in my newspaper, very similar to that terrifying picture from Poland in 1939 of a little Polish girl lying dead with her weeping sister beside her.

"I did receive a phone call today from an Israeli woman living in the East Coast of the United States, who said she thought that what was being done to the Lebanese was unforgivable. I thought she was a very generous and good woman, saying she prayed for the Lebanese people and the Palestinians, and for the Israelis, of course.


"But it's a tragedy of immense proportions, because it’s also tearing apart a country. In the last 24 hours we found the Israelis have turned to attacking a milk factory, Liban Lait -- it’s actually the producers of milk I drink every morning in my tea -- a paper box factory, for heaven’s sakes, hardly a terrorist target.

"We've already seen them smash up the runways of Beirut Airport and destroy part of the -- most of the lighthouse, the new Manara lighthouse, in Beirut. The Israelis today even attacked the factory which imports Procter & Gamble goods here. We've had an ambulance convoy, a convoy of new ambulances from the United Emirates, cross from Syria into Lebanon, got attacked from the air. It's an all-out war against the economy infrastructure of a country that was at last beginning to look modern again, after the 15 years of civil war, which cost 150,000 lives. And it's very sad to see.








"I think the massacre of the innocents must obviously apply to both sides. The Israeli dead have an equal right to that claim. But the scale -- I mean, “disproportionate” is not the word for it -- the scale of the response is obscene.

"Even a small example, I’ll give you. Yesterday, something fell out of the sky over a small area of Beirut called Qurashim [sic]. I think it was part of the wing, the wingtip of an F-16. The Israelis say it’s not, but I think it probably was. And it crashed in a fiery volcano glow and burned trees, bushes, the roadway, and decapitated a young man in his car who was driving home to his family.

"I got there in about eight minutes. And there were three very friendly Lebanese soldiers. By chance, I knew one of them, the sergeant, who said, “Mr. Robert, you must be very careful. The Israelis will come back and bomb again, but we’ll take you into the fire and show you as much as we can.” And they stood around me and protected me as we went up the road for about a mile walking -- or running, to be very honest with you, because Mr. Fisk here is not a very brave warrior. And I saw parts of what appears to be a wing. I think it was burning fuel all over the road. I think it came out of whatever the aircraft was. I think what actually happened is a Hezbollah missile probably hit an F-16, and the Israelis didn't want to claim it. They said that it was part of a barrel containing propaganda pamphlets and leaflets, which -- well, I didn't see leaflets anyway, and I know they burn on fuel, but anyway, I saw what I could and got away afterwards and said, you know, waved at the soldiers and thanked them.

"And the Israelis did come back some hours later and bombed the barracks of these soldiers, which were members of a logistics unit. Their job was to repair bridges and electrical lines. They weren't combat soldiers. And they killed ten Lebanese soldiers, including the three young men who had protected me the previous day. This was outrageous, because the Israelis know what each individual Lebanese army unit is doing. They know if it's a combat unit, armored personnel carriers, helicopters, whatever.

"And they picked on this sole barracks to destroy those men, to exterminate them, because, of course, their job was to keep Beirut alive, to keep the power systems running, to repair the bridges which were being destroyed -- 46 bridges now, according to Minister of Finance, who told me this a few hours ago, have been destroyed in Lebanon."

Read the rest and check out the audio/video here.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Israel kills 8 Canadians (including 4 children); death toll now at least 140

Today's headlines from Democracy Now!

Israeli Attack on Lebanon Enters Sixth Day; Death Toll over 150
Hizbollah Rocket Attack on Haifa Kills 8 Israelis
Israel Warplanes Destroy Palestinian Foreign Ministry Office
Eight Canadians Killed in Israeli Airstrike in Lebanon
Lebanon’s Infrastructure Dismantled
Tens of Thousands Flee Country
U.S. Blocks UN From Calling for Ceasefire


BACKGROUNDER TO THE CRISIS
"As Israeli warplanes continue to bomb Lebanon and Hizbollah fires rockets into northern Israel we get context on the crisis with two analysts: As'ad AbuKhalil, a Lebanese professor of political science at California State University (he runs a blog called "The Angry Arab News Service") and Chris Hedges, a senior fellow at The Nation Institute and the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times (read Hedges' article, "Mutually Assured Destruction in the Middle East")."

Audio/video interview is here.

Lebanon's The Daily Star writes:

"Israel's attacks on Lebanon intensified over the weekend with the Israeli military bombing Beirut's southern suburbs, in addition to targeting villages and infrastructure throughout the country. At least 39 people were killed and 105 wounded in Israel's offensive on Sunday. Five straight days of Israeli bombardments and air strikes. Full Story is here."

Sunday, July 16, 2006

US, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Lebanon - 3 Rules of the New Era

"One side fights with awesome high-tech weapons; while the other side fights with whatever it can get its hands on. The Iraqis (and now the Afghans) did not invent the art of asymmetric warfare, but they seem to be writing a new chapter. In the process, Iraq and Afghanistan are steadily sliding toward mayhem. The 'victor' in this war will be the one that has the political capability and resolve to outlast the other side."

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The need to civilise primitive peoples

Like my friend Tim who gave me the link, I don't like Russia's de facto dictator Vladimir Putin.


So I'm impressed by the following observation by Putin:

"'If we go back 100 years and look through the newspapers, we see what arguments the colonial powers of that time advanced to justify their expansion into Africa and Asia.... They cited arguments such as playing a civilizing role, the particular role of the white man, the need to civilize 'primitive peoples'....















"We all know what consequences this had. If we replace the term 'civilizing role' with 'democratization,' then we can transpose practically word for word what the newspapers were writing 100 years ago to today's world and the arguments we hear from some of our colleagues."

I agree with the need to civilise the uncivilised.

I disagree with some on who fits into which category.

Abstraction vs. murder

I was in Lebanon last year just around this time. I was at the airport that has now been bombed by Israel. I visited the refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh which Israel has attacked. I was in Beirut neighbourhoods where Israeli jets are maiming and killing people as I type these words.

Hell, people are being murdered by their own governments or somebody else's or their own church or somebody else's or their own mercernaries or somebody else's all the time, all over the world. So why focus on this case? Other than the extremely subjective fact that this all seems more real to me because I've actually been there, and more personal to me because I've met people who are being affected (if not wounded or killed) right now, I'm angry at the double standards of Western corporate reporting on the Middle East.

On Israel's current aerial invasion of Lebanon, Meris Lutz of The Daily Star (Lebanon) writes, "'Israeli attacks have been barbaric. We have one killed for every two wounded,'" Health Minister Mohammad Khalifeh told a press conference Friday, the death toll mounting even as he spoke.

"As the sun set over Beirut, the ground trembled from repeated Israeli strikes against the capital's Southern suburbs, and by 8 p.m. the total number of deaths had reached at least 73 as Israel continued its onslaught."

The Telugu Portal writes, "Beirut/Tel Aviv, July 15 (DPA) Israel continued its concerted assault against Lebanon Saturday, attacking areas and infrastructure in its northern neighbour as Hezbollah guerrillas carried on firing rockets at the Jewish state in defiance of a call by Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Seniora for an immediate ceasefire.

"The latest Israeli attacks brought the death toll in Lebanon to close to 90 people. At least 20 people were killed in southern Lebanon when an Israeli missile struck their minibus setting it ablaze. The casualties included a number of children, Lebanese sources said. Meanwhile, Israeli first aid officials said 58 people were wounded and others were suffering from shock as a result of the nearly 60 missiles that landed in northern parts of the country Saturday."