Saturday, August 4, 2007
By Richard Becker, Western Regional Coordinator, ANSWER Coalition
Friday, August 3, 2007
A crime against humanity committed by the occupying power.
For the past 24 hours, Baghdad has had virtually no running water.
Major parts of the city of six million people have lacked running water for six days, while daily high temperatures have ranged from 115 to 120 degrees. The tiny amount of water dripping through the pipes is causing many of those who must drink it to suffer acute intestinal illness.
According to reports, not enough electricity is available to run Baghdad’s water pumps. This in a country with vast energy resources.
Corporate media outlets—to the extent they have reported this horrific and mind-boggling story at all—have treated it as a failure on the part of Iraqis.
In reality, it is an appalling war crime committed by the occupying power, the U.S. military. It threatens the lives of tens of thousands of people in the short term and unthinkable numbers of people unless it is rectified immediately.
According to Article 55 of Geneva Conventions (1949) to which the U.S. government is a signatory: "To the fullest extent of the means available to it the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population; it should, in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate."
Article 59 states: "If the whole or part of the population of an occupied territory is inadequately supplied, the Occupying Power shall agree to relief schemes on behalf of the said population, and shall facilitate them by all the means at its disposal."
To say that a huge city deprived of running water is "inadequately supplied" would rank as one of the great understatements of human history.
Of course, the shortage of water—the most vital of all necessities—does not extend to the U.S. personnel and contractors occupying Iraq.
The U.S. government tries to relieve itself of its obligations by pretending that Iraq’s "sovereignty" was restored in June 2004. But that is just another hoax.
Since its illegal invasion and conquest of Iraq in the spring of 2003, the real state power in the country has been the U.S. military.
This latest catastrophe to afflict the Iraqi people is another poisonous fruit of imperialist occupation. Not even in the worst times during the U.S. blockade of Iraq from 1990-2003, did such a disaster occur.
The U.S. regime in Iraq must provide the people of Baghdad with relief in the short-term to avert unprecedented disaster. The U.S. occupation must come to an immediate end. The officials responsible for the terrible crimes committed against the Iraqi people must be held accountable. The U.S. government owes Iraq vast reparations for the death and destruction imposed on that society by an illegal war of aggression.
Friday, August 3, 2007
Many of our nation's highways and bridges were built in the late 1950s and 1960s. There was a mad rush to build at the time for several reasons. The Cold War mentality that had us jump under our school desks for nuclear war drills (and just what was that supposed to do?) recognized that in the event of a nuclear bomb attack, we would need to be able to evacuate our cities quickly. Large scale interstates were built under the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956.
President Eisenhower was a proponent of building these highways, based on his experiences in World War II. However, even earlier, federal planning for a nationwide highway system began in 1921 when the Bureau of Public Roads asked the Army to provide it with a list of roads it considered necessary for national defense, resulting in the Pershing Map.
Interestingly, our current national mental state of a “war on terror” has not brought a similar rush to build or rebuild the infrastructure. This, even though we have seen the congestion and resulting danger on September 11 in New York City. Money is spent on a wide range of “security” items, from cameras to polo shirts that identify rescue workers. But was anything spent to make it easier to get out of NYC in the event of a disaster (either natural or man-made)?
From The Raw Story:
The American Society of Civil Engineers warned in a report two years ago that between 2000 and 2003, more than 27 percent of the nation's almost 600,000 bridges were rated as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
America must change its transportation behavior, increase transportation investment at all levels of government, and make use of the latest technology, the society's wide-reaching Report Card for America's Infrastructure added.
In my city of Baltimore, there is a new push for “traffic calming,” which I endorse because people speed and it's dangerous. The main artery near my house just had millions spent on it to add median islands and curbs that narrow the road, so that in many places cars must merge into one lane north or south.
That's fine, except that this is also marked with little blues signs that say “evacuation route.” Oh my. I'd better start clearing some space underneath my desk again ....
“Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were both on television last night, answering questions,” said Jon Stewart on Wednesday's Daily Show, comparing the rarity of the event to “a giant squid having sex with Bigfoot as the ghost of Jim Morrison claps giddily.”
Senator Elizabeth Dole denounced the bill, saying “Of the 20 percent of the adult population that smokes, around half are in families earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level. In other words, many of the families SCHIP is meant to help will be disproportionately hit by the Senate’s proposed tax hike.”
Aww, she's standing up for the poor people. What a wonderful person.
But wait — Dole's home state of North Carolina is also a major producer of tobacco. Uh, could her compassion really be more about money in North Carolina and getting re-elected?
Senator Dole's concern notwithstanding, the Senate overwhelmingly approved the legislation by 68-31. The House also approved a similar bill. The two bills will now need to be reconciled.
President Bush has vowed to veto this bill, but the votes in both the House and the Senate are more than enough to override a presidential veto.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr. President!
Thursday, August 2, 2007
Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D., Wisconsin) and Congressman Donald Payne (D., N.J.) have signed on as cosponsors of H. Res. 333, a bill proposing articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney, according to Congressman Dennis Kucinich's office. Kucinich is the original sponsor of the bill. Baldwin is the fourth member of the House Judiciary Committee to have added her name to the bill. A fifth Judiciary Committee member, Steve Cohen, has thus far signed on only to a bill proposing the impeachment of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Latino teenagers, including illegal immigrants are being recruited into the military with false promises.
In 1996, Jesus Alberto Suarez del Solar was a 13-year-old boy, up from Tijuana on a family shopping trip, when he stopped at a Marine Corps recruiting table at an open-air mall in Chula Vista, Calif.
Jesus had been an easy mark for the recruiter — a boy who fantasized that by joining the powerful, heroic U.S. Marines, he could help his own country fight drug lords. He gave the recruiter his address and phone number in Mexico, and the recruiter called him twice a week for the next two years, until he had talked Jesus into convincing his parents to move to California. Fernando and Rose Suarez sold their home and their laundry business and immigrated with their children to Escondido, where Jesus enrolled at a high school known for academic achievement. But the recruiter wanted him to transfer to a school for problem teenagers, since its requirements for graduation were lower and Jesus would be able to finish sooner. He was 17 and a half when he graduated from that school, still too young to enlist on his own, so his father co-signed the enlistment form, as the military requires for underage recruits.
Three years later, at the age of 20, his body was torn apart in Iraq by an American-made fragmentation grenade during the first week of the invasion. In the Pentagon’s official Iraq casualty database, his death is number 74.
Now Jesus is in a cemetery in Escondido, and his parents, who blame each other for his death, are painfully and bitterly divorced. While his mother bears her loss as a private tragedy, Fernando, who has dual Mexican and American citizenship, is working tirelessly to protect other young immigrants from being manipulated by U.S. military recruiters—the way he wishes he had protected his son.
In the Iraq war, citizenship is being used as a recruiting tool aimed specifically at young immigrants, who are told that by enlisting, they will be able to quickly get citizenship for themselves (sometimes true, depending on what the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) branch of the Department of Homeland Security finds) and their entire families (not true; each family member has to go through a separate application process). Nevertheless, with the political pressures on Latino families growing daily under this administration, many young Latinos are unable to resist the offer, which immigrants’ rights activists see as blatant exploitation of a vulnerable population.
Read the rest here.
Rumsfeld tries his usual dodges of the questions and vague responses, but Kucinich doesn't let him off. He calmly persists with his question, rephrasing, repeating, and persisting so that Rumsfeld can't slime his way out of it. My favorite exchange between them:
“Was there a Department of Defense press strategy with respect to the war?” the Ohio Democrat asked.Go Dennis!
“If there was, it obviously wasn't very good,” Rumsfeld quipped back.
The Rumsfeld remark drew Kucinich's ire.
“Well you know maybe it was very good because you actually covered up the Tillman case for awhile, you covered up the Jessica Lynch case, you covered up Abu Ghraib, so something was working for you,” he said. “So something was working for you.”
Rumsfeld angrily denied any cover up “on this matter.”
It's not clear if this is a direct result of the recent meeting between President Bush and the new British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, but the timing is interesting.
Also this week, Iraq's largest Sunni Arab bloc resigned from the cabinet yesterday. They said they were resigning in protest against what they said was the prime minister's failure to respond to a set of demands, including the release of security detainees not charged with specific crimes, the disbanding of militias and the participation of all government groups in security talks.
Nuri al-Maliki's regime now consists of only two Sunnis in the 40-member cabinet. This does not bode well for efforts to have the sectarian groups work together in a united Iraq.
House Democrats pushed through legislation Wednesday to add 6 million lower-income children to a popular health insurance program while making deep cuts in federal payments to Medicare HMOs, defying a veto threat from President Bush.
On a 225-204, mostly party-line vote, the House passed the legislation, which would add $50 billion to the decade-old State Children's Health Insurance Program and roll back years of Republican-driven changes to Medicare.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
thunder and lightning and our world
is another place no day
will ever be the same no blood
they know this storm in otherwheres
israel ireland palestine
but God has blessed America
and God has blessed America
to learn that no one is exempt
the world is one all fear
is one all life all death
2 Wednesday 9/12/01
— Lucille Clifton
If you think there is no need for these workers to organize, imagine the working conditions they must endure. Do you think either the government or the private sector cares about their safety or well-being? Of course not. In fact, the Oil Ministry is busy drafting the “Hydrocarbon Law,” which will give foreign oil companies huge access to Iraqi oil. The law contains 3 sentences on Oil Revenue Sharing and 33 pages on Privatization. And the Bush-Cheney Administration, with its undeniable ties to the world of private oil money, are pushing this law at the expense of the Iraqi people.
Dennis Kucinich, my candidate for President in 2008, wrote his colleagues recently,
“The law, if passed, is expected to open the country's billions of barrels of proven oil reserves, the world's third largest, to foreign investors....Under the new law, the Iraq National Oil Company would have exclusive control of only about 17 of Iraq's approximately 80 known oil fields.”
Saddam Hussein outlawed worker organizing in the public sector; subsequent U.S. occupying powers and now the Iraqi government do not recognize the workers' rights to organize.
A nice summary of this situation written earlier this year is Iraq Labor vs. ExxonMobil, BP and Shell at Truthout.org.
photo of an Iraqi oil refinery worker by David Bacon at Oil For Freedom.
Investigators think that alcohol was a factor in a head-on collision in Comal County on July 18 in which two victims were pulled from their car naked.
“The only thing they had on was the radio . . . and their seat belts,” Department of Public Safety Cpl. Rick Alvarez said.
On the evening of July 18, Lisa Marie Bishop, 25, of Austin was driving north on FM 1102 north of New Braunfels when she went around a curve and swerved into the southbound lane, crashing head-on to a truck driven by Juan Montoya, 49, of New Braunfels, Alvarez said.
Montoya was not injured. Bishop sustained injuries that were not life-threatening, but her passenger, 26-year-old Robert Rydeen of Austin, was airlifted to San Antonio and was in stable condition Monday, officials said.
Bishop told investigators that she and Rydeen had been at Schlitterbahn Waterpark and had removed their wet clothes for the drive home, Alvarez said. Investigators found some wet clothes in the car as well as evidence of alcohol consumption.
Alvarez said that in his 13 1/2 years as a DPS trooper, he had never before investigated a crash involving nude drivers.
“But she's from Austin, he said, and I figure Austin folks are a little different.”
Well, daily civilized life in Baghdad has gotten so bad, the US government is just not going to report on it anymore. A bit of denial that sounds a little dysfunctional to me! From the LA Times:
WASHINGTON -- As the Bush administration struggles to convince lawmakers that its Iraq war strategy is working, it has stopped reporting to Congress a key quality-of-life indicator in Baghdad: how long the power stays on.
Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week that Baghdad residents could count on only “an hour or two a day” of electricity. That's down from an average of five to six hours a day earlier this year....Iraq's electricity supply has received less attention than other national indicators as debate over the president's surge has intensified in Washington.
The administration's July progress report focused on 18 benchmarks of Iraqi government progress toward political reconciliation among ethnic and religious
However, the reliability of the electricity supply has long been seen by Iraqis as a key indicator of the success of the U.S. enterprise.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
From today's Washington Post:
Doctors who examined the stricken Chief Justice John Roberts called the episode at his Maine vacation home a "benign idiopathic seizure," meaning they found no tumor, stroke or any other explanation.
Monday, July 30, 2007
Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman’s forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player’s death amounted to a crime, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
“The medical evidence did not match up with the, with the scenario as described,” a doctor who examined Tillman’s body after he was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2004 told investigators.
The doctors — whose names were blacked out — said that the bullet holes were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away.
After raising the minimum wage by 70 cents an hour this week, many members of Congress are ready to give themselves a pay increase of roughly $4,400 per year.
That would take their annual salaries to nearly $170,000.
Under current plans, members of Congress will receive an automatic pay raise, estimated at 2.5 percent, in January. In a show of bipartisan consensus, the House voted 244-181 last month to kill a proposal that would have forced a straight up-or-down vote on the pay increase.
Congress approved the law making its pay raises automatic in 1989, giving legislators an easy way to avoid tough votes that could hurt them during re-election campaigns. Since then, congressional salaries have nearly doubled, from $89,500 to $165,200 a year.
President Bush is paid $400,000 a year. His salary isn't affected by changes in congressional pay.
From AlterNet.org: “Is the US Heading for 'Developing Nations' Inequality Levels?”
The Raw Story has “US plans massive arms deal for Saudis”
In 1985 there were just 13 US billionaires. Now there are more than 1,000. In 2005 the US saw 227,000 new millionaires being created. One survey showed that the wealth of all US millionaires was $30 trillion, more than the GDPs of China, Japan, Brazil, Russia and the EU combined.
Congress will be asked by the Bush Administration to approve $20 billion in advanced weapons and planes for Saudi Arabia, at the same time that Israel, along with Congress, are nervous about Saudi Arabia's role in the war effort, the New York Times will report Saturday.From Mother Jones “Cheney Big Brother?”:
There are growing signs that Cheney was behind the whole incredible series of events that culminated with Gonzales and former chief of staff Andy Card being sent to a nearly comatose Ashcroft's bedside on March 2004 with an envelope with the orders to reauthorize domestic spying program.From the Huffington Post, “McCain Puts Straight Talk Express on eBay”
In what some political observers are calling an ominous sign for his cash-starved White House bid, Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) today posted his campaign bus, The Straight Talk Express, on the Internet auction site eBay.
BagNews analyzes the meaning behind the image in President Bush's recent photo op with wounded veterans in “'W' On His Own Two Feet”
It portrays what appears to be a pot-bellied president being propped up by the amputated veterans, each seemingly stronger and more stable than he.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Some people find the phrase “civil union” more acceptable, but there's a major flaw in this phrase: not every state recognizes it. And even in the states that do recognize civil unions, such as New Jersey, many couples are still being denied access to their employer's benefits for their spouse.
I accept, though I disagree with, religious beliefs against marriage of two gay persons. I do not accept that anyone's religious beliefs have any bearing on my civil rights. Some religions think women should not drive cars, and Americans have voiced outrage at such an idea. Yet how is that any different than a religious belief banning me from marrying my partner?
For an excellent description of the real flaws in the concept of civil unions, check out AlterNet.org.