Sophocles rides the N Train

by Mickey Z.

Nobody walks in the subway anymore. I say this to myself but even in my own head, my voice sounds weary this early in the morning

Look down in the New York City subway and you'll see feet. Lots and lots of feet. In high heels, sneakers, work boots, dress shoes, and casual loafers, the feet pounding on the filthy, century-old floor have one thing in common: they are moving quickly. If it's not an all-out sprint, it's at least a two-steps-at-a-time, get-the-hell-out-of-my-way stride. In the middle of it all, I try to maintain a more reasonable pace amidst enough jostling and bumping to please even the most diehard roller derby fanatic

The prehistoric subway system of New York City was obviously designed well before anyone could have ever have dreamed of millions of riders each day Still, in general, that imposing amount of straphangers could theoretically all fit without much fuss if humanity was further along in its glacially gradual evolutionary process. But, since we're stuck in the primitive confines of the early twenty-first century, illogic reigns supreme and the trains are a daily-but essentially unfunny-replay of the infamous (and over-rated) stateroom scene in the Marx Brothers' classic 1936 film, "A Night At The Opera." I say "over-rated," because the Marxsters did infinitely more comical work but somehow, it is the stateroom that has become synonymous with their genius thanks to myriad film critics afraid to buck the system and be original

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Bush's "New" Iraq Strategy Revealed: More Troops, More War

by Chris Floyd   

US plans last big push in Iraq (Guardian)

Did anyone really imagine it would be any different? The Guardian reports that Bush has already decided on his "new" strategy for Iraq, ahead of the recommendations of the "Iraq Study Group" he appointed – and ahead of the internal government review of strategy which he ordered only this week. And what is the strategy? More of the same. How could it be otherwise? The Decider-in-Chief cannot admit, not even to himself, that any of his decisions have ever been wrong. How can they be, when they are dictated by his "gut," and his gut is guided by God Almighty?

Yet no man rises to such a position – even with the enormous, endless help of his elitist family and friends – without some animal cunning. Bush knows that he cannot do what he would have to do to "win" the war on his terms: send in hundreds of thousands of more troops in a brutal, no-holds-barred campaign to eradicate all active opposition to the imposition of a docile Iraqi regime and the permanent installation of American bases. He knows there is no political will, even among his own party and most of his "base," to take this route. (Barring, of course, another convenient terrorist attack on American soil, this time blamed on the Iraqi insurgents. Then there would be no limit to Bush's "justifiable retaliation." This scenario, although unlikely at present, is certainly not to be discounted altogether.)

And so he is going to intensify the war as much as politically possible, push the envelope of further brutality and repression as far as he can, for as long as he can, and hope that this will finally do the trick. It won't, of course, but as the Guardian notes, quoting a former top Bush official, "He is in a state of denial about Iraq. Nobody else is anymore. But he is." He believes that his willfuly ignorant "gut feelings" – formed, of course, out of the malevolent whisperings of his handlers, especially those who most assidiuously flatter his prejudices and his enormous, infantile ego – must be correct and will win through in the end.

Thus he is now planning to send at least 20,000 more troops to Iraq, to "secure Baghdad" and free up the U.S. forces currently tied down there to spread out and "pacify" the rest of the country. There will be a stab at securing "regional cooperation" for the "successful rehabilitation" of Iraq. The Saudi and Kuwaiti royal families – longtime business partners of the Bush Family – will be hit up for "reconstruction" money: more fodder for Bush-connected contractors and the bottomless corruption of the Bush-backed Iraqi government. How then will this be different from the epic of waste and corruption we have already seen in the "reconstruction" process?

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That's me on screen!

by Craig Murray

The similarities between Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, and a character in a new spy series are uncanny. So why is the BBC denying it?

I was first alerted to BBC1's new conspiracy thriller The State Within by a friend who pointed out some of the BBC publicity to me. It concerned a character in the series, a former British ambassador, whom the BBC described thus: "James Sinclair. An outspoken critic of President Usman and the human rights abuse he encountered in Tyrgyzstan. As a result he was recalled and subsequently fired from the job of ambassador. Seen as an embarrassment to the UK government, who support Usman and have many commercial and strategic interests in the country.

Now determined to turn western public opinion against Usman. And to force both the UK and US administrations into withdrawing their support for him." Now, if you substitute the very real Uzbekistan of President Karimov for the fictional Tyrgyzstan, you get a description of me precise in every detail. Uniquely so; there is nobody else that description remotely fits. There are other coincidences. When I was ambassador, the Uzbek prime minister was named Usmanov. James Sinclair is an anglicised Scot like me. I live in Sinclair Gardens. Sinclair's wife has the common Uzbek name of Saida. I have an Uzbek partner. Like me, his tipple is neat scotch (not as common as you might think). Both "Tyrgyzstan" and Uzbekistan are in Central Asia; both have major US airbases threatened by a change of allegiance of the dictator. Both are described by the US and UK as "an ally in the war on terror" and "a backdoor to Afghanistan". Both have perpetrated a large-scale massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators.

Fine by me. I like the series, and Sinclair is well played (by Alex Jennings). I have received scores of emails from viewers, mostly complete strangers, commenting on the series, often asking me about its accuracy. So I was surprised to hear the BBC was not just denying the character was based on me, but denying it vehemently, as though it were an appalling accusation. A journalist had inquired on my behalf, and received rebuttals from both the press department and a producer.
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The Price of Imperial Arrogance

by Stephen Lendman

Lyndon Johnson was a conflicted man about Vietnam almost from the time he took office. As early as May, 1964, he confessed his doubts about the conflict to his good friend Senator Richard Russell in one of the many phone calls he taped in the Oval Office. That was three months before the fateful Gulf of Tonkin Resolution gave him congressional authorization for military action in Southeast Asia without needing a formal declaration of war for it. Later that year, he privately acknowledged the Tonkin Gulf incident never happened and told Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara "we concluded maybe they hadn't fired at all." He was referring to the claimed attacks by North Vietnamese torpedo boats on two US destroyers which, on its face, seemed preposterous but which propelled this country deeply into the Vietnam conflict that didn't end until President Gerald Ford evacuated the last of the US forces and a few South Vietnamese collaborators in humiliation from the rooftop of the US Embassy in Saigon 11 years later in April, 1975.

They left behind a nation in ruins, its landscape devastated and chemically poisoned that remains so today, and a few million dead Southeast Asians in three countries showing the kind of men Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon were - imperial war lords who never had to answer for their war crimes as they never do under a system of victor's justice. The only compensation the victims got was their freedom from US aggression when realizing it couldn't win it decided to give up a futile fight and pull out.

Long before he left office, Johnson knew the war was unwinnable, and in 1965 told Secretary McNamara "I don't believe they're ever going to quit. And I don't see....that we have any....plan for victory - militarily or diplomatically" - spoken as he was about to escalate the conflict dramatically by shipping over many thousands more US forces that would eventually exceed a half million before things began to be scaled down in preparation for the final exodus in disgrace and defeat. Johnson did it even while confiding to his closest Senate friend, Richard Russell, that he was on the horns of his greatest dilemma. He had to find a way out of the Vietnam mess he felt was pointless but said he couldn't do it without being impeached - for Johnson, a classic Hobson's choice or in his own words "I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't." He asked his savvy friend for advice, but Russell told him he had none. Johnson felt trapped, and in May, 1964, (when the US commitment stood at a 16,000 troop strength level) he told Russell "We're in quicksand up to our necks, and I just don't know what the hell to do about it."
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Sympathetic Labour Pains: Tony Blair's Post-Election Panic Attack

by Chris Floyd

How did Tony Blair react to his American partner's humiliation at the polls last week? By racheting up the "War on Terror" to new heights of fear and division, with panic-mongering speeches, more draconian security measures – and a shocking "blood libel" against British Muslims. (This is my latest piece for Truthout.org.)

I. The Waters Ran Red

They say the fountain in London's Trafalgar Square turned the color of blood on Armistice Day last weekend, as Britons in their hundreds of thousands trudged out in the November gloom to comm emorate the end of the First World War, and lament the dead in all the wars thereafter.

But the turning of the water was no miracle, no divine judgment on the leader whose fateful partnership with George W. Bush is producing – week after week, month after month, year after year – fresh cause for future mourning. The color came from the thousands of fake poppies tossed into the fountain in what The Observer called "a spontaneous act of remembrance": an offering of the ubiquitous charity emblems worn by most of the population in the week leading up to the memorials.

In any case, Tony Blair never saw the vision of blood in the Square; he was in Hyde Park, with the Queen and other worthies, conducting formal ceremonies where no free action or unscripted word from the public was allowed to intrude. These offices of the dead were a fitting end to a week which saw Blair and his ministers launch a massive new fearmongering campaign, promising a "generation" of terror, war and tyrannical security measures in a "long and deep struggle" against his own nation's Muslim minority.

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The New Media Offensive for the Iraq War

By Norman Solomon

The American media establishment has launched a major offensive against the option of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

In the latest media assault, right-wing outfits like Fox News and the Wall Street Journal editorial page are secondary. The heaviest firepower is now coming from the most valuable square inches of media real estate in the USA -- the front page of the New York Times.



The present situation is grimly instructive for anyone who might wonder how the Vietnam War could continue for years while opinion polls showed that most Americans were against it. Now, in the wake of midterm elections widely seen as a rebuke to the Iraq war, powerful media institutions are feverishly spinning against a pullout of U.S. troops.

Under the headline “Get Out of Iraq Now? Not So Fast, Experts Say,” the Nov. 15 front page of the New York Times prominently featured a “Military Analysis” by Michael Gordon. The piece reported that -- while some congressional Democrats are saying withdrawal of U.S. troops “should begin within four to six months” -- “this argument is being challenged by a number of military officers, experts and former generals, including some who have been among the most vehement critics of the Bush administration’s Iraq policies.”
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A different kind of occupation - American Indians and Alcatraz Island

by Mickey Z.

Until the notorious federal penitentiary was closed in 1963, Alcatraz Island was a place most folks tried to leave.On November 20, 1969, the island's image underwent a rather drastic makeover. That was the day thousands of American Indians refused to leave thus beginning an occupation that would last until June 11, 1971.

The 1973 armed occupation of Wounded Knee along with the siege at the Pine Ridge Reservation one year later (which led directly to the incarceration of the still imprisoned Leonard Peltier) are etched deeper in the public consciousness in terms of recent Indian history, but is was the Alcatraz Island occupation that ushered in a brave new era of Native American activism.

"The occupiers," writes Ben Winton in the Fall 1999 issue of Native Peoples magazine, "were an unlikely mix of Indian college activists, families with children fresh off reservations and urban dwellers disenchanted with what they called the U.S. government's economic, social and political neglect."
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Help "Help Africa"

by Michael Wills (British MP for North Swindon.)

It looked unstoppable. In 2004, the draft EU Constitution contained a little noticed provision for a citizen's petition where a million signatures would force the EU commission to take action.

My colleague Gisela Stuart, MP for Edgbaston, and I were excited by the potential for the first such petition to have great symbolic importance and generate significant political momentum.

We couldn't think of a better target for Europe's first citizen's petition than to tackle the devastation caused by HIV/ AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa which has created over ten million orphans already. Tackling this terrible pandemic is one of the most urgent moral imperatives facing the world. Five billion euros a year would fund generic anti-retroviral drugs and support for the millions of people in Africa living with AIDS. The funding would help end a human catastrophe -- what the World Bank has called a development crisis.

We thought that this money could be found most easily and fairly by reforming one of the key reasons for public scepticism about the EU. Of all the idiocies I came across as a government minister, the most glaringly unforgivable was the Common Agricultural Policy. This European boondoggle puts £8 a week on the food bill of the average family of four in Britain, but because poorer families spend a higher proportion of their budgets on food, it costs them proportionately more. And the World Bank estimates such agricultural protection costs poor countries around £40 billion a year by shutting them out of rich country markets, when food is often the only thing they can produce competitively to sell! And it doesn't even help the European farmers most in need of help. Although it gobbles up nearly half of the EU budget, around a quarter of it goes to the 2% richest farmers.

(That's right. You read that correctly. 2% OF EUROPE'S RICHEST FARMERS GET OVER 10 BILLION EUROS A YEAR IN HAND-OUTS FROM TAXPAYERS.)

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No Exit: The Baker Commission and the Trap of Reality

by Chris Floyd


As Washington waits with bated bipartisan breath to unwrap the shiny Christmas present known as "the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group," it becomes more and more obvious that the newly empowered Democrats are walking into a trap.

But it's not an artful contrivance prepared for their demise by the infinitely devious Karl Rove -- the "political genius" who, since his appearance on the national stage, has managed to lose two elections (2000 and 2004) and eke out very narrow, dubious victories in two others. (And it wasn't Rove who cheated Bush into office in 2000, so that doesn't count even as a technical KO for him. The post-election coup d'etat was directed by Bush family fixer James Baker -- now chairman of the, er, Iraq Study Group.)

No, the trap awaiting the Democrats has been laid by reality itself. As so often noted here before, there is no good solution to the blood-puking hell that George W. Bush has wrought in Iraq. There is no path out of this killing field that won't involve more slaughter, more suffering, more hate, more grief. No "bipartisan panel" – certainly not one led by the lifelong peddler of Bush Family snake oil, Jim Baker, and the Democratic whitewasher for all seasons, Lee Hamilton – is going to find some new, unlooked-for way to untangle this knotted gut. They can only sift through the same reality that we all can see. The options are extremely limited, and all of them have ugly consequences.

Writer and documentary-maker Edward Cox gives a mostly excellent analysis of the situation in a recent Guardian article, Same as it Ever Was. (He is, I think, off base in a brief look at the 2008 presidential election, but this is a minor point in a penetrating takedown of the wildly unrealistic expectations rising around the "Baker Commission.") Very briefly, the main choices break down this way:

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To Hell with Centrism: We Must Reclaim the Inspired Edge

by Phil Rockstroh

"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act".  
-George Orwell

"I don't want to be part of your revolution if I can't dance."
-Emma Goldman


Rumsfeld is gone. Mehlman is gone. Delay is gone. Yet -- let's not have our progressives' version of a strutting on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier moment. Because mission has not been accomplished. 

For those who haven't noticed: While we were busy with other concerns, many of our rights and liberties went missing. Moreover, along with them, have went or are going fast: our planet's polar ice caps; accountability of the corporate sector (our nation's true power brokers); as well as, a sense of place, history, and even a cursory understanding, among a large percent of the populace of the US, of the precepts of civilization and of democratic discourse. 

These circumstances, like the melting of the polar ice caps, have transpired, incrementally, and have been going on for longer than that Reign of Terror in Tiny Town known as the Bush presidency. For example, regarding the increasingly authoritarian terrain we negotiate our way through daily: In American work places, bosses routinely snoop into underlings' personal e-mails and monitor our web-surfing practices. How did it come about that so many Americans have grown to accept such demeaning intrusions into our privacy?  Add a comment
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To the Victors Belongs Impunity

By Jason Miller

Of Incorrigible Transgressors, Tacit Complicity, and Lady Justice’s Conspicuous Absence 

“The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer.”

---Henry Kissinger, New York Times, October 28, 1973


Baghdad’s kangaroo court has issued a verdict that virtually guarantees that Saddam Hussein will launch his journey into the hereafter from the platform of a gallows. Convicted of “revenge killings of 148 people, deportation of 400, and razing of orchards,” (1), and still facing a charge of genocide that resulted in the deaths of 180,000 Kurds, Hussein is undoubtedly a malevolent individual.
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First Real Test for Democrats: The Lame Duck Session of Congress

by Dave Lindorff

Forget all the talk about civility and compromise.

It's clear that President Bush and his aiders and abettors in the Congress are going to do their damndest to cover their tracks over the next few weeks, using their "lame duck" majorities in House and Senate to pass legislation, while they still can, protecting them as much as possible from future investigation and retaliation.

Bush clearly wants a bill granting him retroactive immunity for his crime of violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act--probably the surest path to his impeachment in a growing list of some dozen crimes against law and Constitution. He may push other actions insulating himself and his cohorts from future prosecution too, as he already did just before the election in ramming through a bill immunizing him against prosecution for authorizing torture.

While the Democrats won't have a majority in either branch of Congress until early January, when newly elected Democrats are sworn in and replace some 30 Republican members of the House and six members of the Senate, they have plenty of members already in place to perform a blocking action--particularly in the Senate, where the Democrats can fillibuster to death any bill they want by just keeping 40 of their 45 caucus members together.

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