Archive for July, 2009

Gonna pick up posting again soon – just a bit busy right now. But here’s some extremely skillful but rather rather melancholic and soulful sand anime from the Ukraine (looks like it’s related to WWII in the Ukraine, then a part of the USSR). Thanks Inga.

kelly

Was Dr. David Kelly a target of Dick Cheney’s “Executive Assassination Ring”?

By Tom Burghardt

Revelations that the Central Intelligence Agency launched a world-wide assassination program, and then concealed its existence from the U.S. Congress and the American people for eight years, carries an implication that death squads may have been employed against political opponents.

The Wall Street Journal reported July 13 that “A secret Central Intelligence Agency initiative terminated by Director Leon Panetta was an attempt to carry out a 2001 presidential authorization to capture or kill al Qaeda operatives, according to former intelligence officials familiar with the matter.”

Investigative journalist Siobhan Gorman writes, “The precise nature of the highly classified effort isn’t clear, and the CIA won’t comment on its substance.”

The Washington Post however, revealed July 16 that the assassination plan was sanctioned by President Bush. Unnamed “intelligence officials” told the newspaper that “a secret document known as a ‘presidential finding’ was signed by President George W. Bush that same month, granting the agency broad authority to use deadly force against bin Laden as well as other senior members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.”

According to Post reporter Joby Warrick, Bush’s finding “imposed no geographical limitations on the agency’s actions” and that the CIA was “not obliged to notify Congress of each operation envisaged under the directive.” This implies that targets could be hit anywhere, including on the soil of a NATO ally or inside the United States itself.

According to the Los Angeles Times the program “was kept secret from lawmakers for nearly eight years at the direction of former Vice President Dick Cheney.”

Despite these reports and hand-wringing amongst congressional Democrats, there’s something fishy here. After all, isn’t the whole point of America’s “global war on terror” to “capture or kill” al-Qaeda suspects? What’s so secretive or controversial about that?

The descriptions of the operation that have so far emerged however, bear a striking resemblance to charges laid earlier this year when investigative journalist Seymour Hersh said that the Bush administration stood-up an “executive assassination ring.”

During a “Great Conversations” event at the University of Minnesota in March the veteran journalist told the audience: “After 9/11, I haven’t written about this yet, but the Central Intelligence Agency was very deeply involved in domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state. Without any legal authority for it. They haven’t been called on it yet. That does happen.”

The program was allegedly shut down by Panetta on June 23, a day after leaning of the agency’s clandestine initiative. What make these revelations all the more significant is that the CIA Director only learned of the program fully four months after assuming office.

“The implications,” socialist analyst Bill Van Auken writes, “are clear. The CIA maintained the secrecy ordered by Cheney even after the latter had left office, and continued to conceal the existence and nature of the covert operation not only from Congress, but from the Obama administration itself.”

But was the program shut down? The Washington Post further revealed that the plan, allegedly “on the agency’s back burner for much of the past eight years, was suddenly thrust into the spotlight because of proposals to initiate what one intelligence official called a ‘somewhat more operational phase’.”

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, a former top aide to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell hints that the program was in a “somewhat more operational phase” years earlier, despite repeated denials by CIA officials and congressional staffers.

Wilkerson told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show July 14, “What I suspect has happened is what began to happen while I was still in the government, and that was we’re killing the wrong people. And we’re killing the wrong people in the wrong countries. And the countries are finding out about it, or at least there was a suspicion that the countries might find out about it, and so it was shut down. That’s my strong suspicion.”

According to Wilkerson, the teams may have been dispatched under deep cover, using Joint Special Operations Command as a cut-out, a confirmation of charges made by Seymour Hersh in March. When U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was queried by the State Department, “after some hemming and hawing, which was Rumsfeld’s forte, he finally admitted that he had dispatched some of these teams,” Wilkerson explained.

Powell’s former aide told Maddow, “It’s laughable that the CIA has never lied to Congress. “They lie to Congress on a routine basis.” Much the same can be said of General Powell who lied to the entire world “on a routine basis” during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

It must also be said there is precedence for the CIA’s alleged death squad activities during the Bush era. In Vietnam for example, the CIA and U.S. Special Forces jointly ran a secret assassination program that targeted Vietnamese dissidents. As author Douglas Valentine revealed in his definitive study, The Phoenix Program, Operation Phoenix “was a computer-driven program aimed at ‘neutralizing’, through assassination, kidnapping, and systematic torture, the civilian infrastructure that supported the insurgency in South Vietnam.”

Those programs never died and have since morphed into above top secret “Special Access Programs” used with deadly effect in Central- and South America during the 1980s and across the Middle East today.

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Wired Science published an article a couple of days ago on PBDE, a neurotoxin that also found its way into found in our food.

PBDE (PolyBrominated Diphenyl Ethers) are compounds that are used as flame retardants and therefore can be found in a wide array of products, including building materials, electronics, furnishings, motor vehicles, airplanes, plastics, polyurethane foams, and textiles.

Since the 1990s scientists have questioned their safety. People are exposed to low-levels of PBDEs through ingestion of food and by inhalation. PBDEs bioaccumulate in blood, breast milk, and fat tissues. Personnel associated with the manufacture of PBDE-containing products are exposed to highest levels of PBDEs. Bioaccumulation is of particular concern in such instances, especially for personnel in recycling and repair plants of PBDE-containing products.

People are also exposed to these chemicals in their domestic environment because of their prevalence in common household items. Studies in Canada have found significant concentrations of PBDEs in common foods such as salmon, ground beef, butter, and cheese. PBDEs have also been found at high levels in indoor dust, sewage sludge, and effluents from wastewater treatment plants. Increasing PBDE levels have been detected in the blood of marine mammals such as harbor seals.

Click on the link below to read the Wired Science article.

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war trauma

Soldiers in a single Army unit killed as many as 11 people after returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the military said last week. One contributing factor? The psychological trauma of war.

NPR’s Daniel Zwerdling talks to Guy Raz about the military’s efforts to deal with soldier trauma and ease their re-entry into civilian life. Go to NPR to listen to the 4 min interview.

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Lia Tarachansky speaks to Nancy Youssef, Pentagon Correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers currently based in Kabul, Afghanistan. Youssef speaks about a list recently released by Pentagon, identifying that 14% or 74 former detainees of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base detention center are “confirmed or suspected of reengaging in terrorist activities.” Following to story of former inmate #798, Haji Sahib Rohullah Wakil who after imprisonment for 6 years in the Bagram Airbase and Guantanamo Bay was found back on the list in spite of the allegation, Youssef says, being baseless. She says that, “It’s not really clear who compiles that list and how they determine who’s a suspected terrorist and who’s a confirmed one. As I mentioned earlier, this is the fourth list that they’ve released, and there are a lot of inconsistencies. The list is not complete. They say that there are 74 people suspected or confirmed as returned to terrorism, but the names listed is only partial ones.”

Bio

Nancy Youssef is McClatchy Newspapers’ chief Pentagon correspondent. She spent the past four years covering the Iraq war, most recently as Baghdad bureau chief. Her pieces focused on the everyday Iraqi experience, civilian causalities and how the US’ military strategy was reshaping Iraq’s social and political dynamics. While at the Free Press, she traveled throughout Jordan and Iraq for Knight Ridder, covering the Iraq war from the time leading up to it through the post-war period.

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Israeli soldiers involved in the attacks on Gaza at the start of this year claim that they were ordered to fire, regardless of the risk to civilians. Israel banned journalists from its invasion of Gaza in December and January, making it hard to verify allegations of indiscriminate firing, the use of phosphorous bombs, and forcing Palestinians to be human shields. Now an Israeli human rights group has produced a disturbing account of what it says happened in Gaza, as told by soldiers.

This Channel 4 clip is already a few days old but it’s good to get a reminder of how the anti-Semitic Nazi State of Israel operates (even though I find it hard to cope with having to listen to Mark Regev).

A very thoughtful article by Robert Jensen on his personal process of political radicalisation. Rather than two pathways that readily come to mind, the one of hands-on activism and that of intellectual endeavour, he talks about a profound sense of grief for the pain in the world without whom joy cannot exist.

baltermants.grief

Getting radicalized, slow and painful

By Robert Jensen
Robert Jensen’s ZSpace Page /ZSpace

[Rob Shetterly, the artist who created the Americans Who Tell the Truth website (http://www.americanswhotellthetruth.org/), asked some of the people he painted to respond to this query: “Everywhere I go, kids and adults want to know how you got started. What was the defining moment that triggered your dedication to fighting for justice or peace, or the environment?” Below are my thoughts.]

My transition to political radicalism — going to the root of problems, recognizing that dramatic and fundamental change in the way society is organized is necessary if there is to be a decent human future — involved a lot of pain, in two different ways.

The first concerned the process of coming to know about the pain of the world. I had never been a na? person who thought the world was a happy place, but like many people who have privilege (in my case, being white, male, a U.S. citizen, and economically secure, though never wealthy) I was able to remain ignorant of the depth of the routine suffering in the world. I was able to ignore how white supremacy, patriarchy, U.S. imperialism, and a predatory capitalist economic system routinely destroy the bodies and spirits of millions of people around the world. When I made a conscious choice to stop ignoring those realities — in my case, when I returned to a university for graduate education with the time to read and study — the process of coming to know about that pain was wrenching. But I found myself wanting to know more.

Why would someone with privilege press to know more about the pain of the world when that knowledge creates tension and emotional turmoil? In my case, coming to understand that the world’s pain is the product of profoundly unjust social systems helped me understand a different kind of personal pain I had been struggling with. Most of my life I had felt like a bit of a freak, like someone out of step with the culture around him. There’s nothing dramatically wrong with me physically or psychologically, but I always struggled to fit in. I had always had a lingering sense that I didn’t want what others around me seemed to want. Because of my privilege, the world offered me a lot, and I am grateful for much of what I have — work I have usually enjoyed, an adequate income, relative safety. But I could never figure out how to be normal — how to kick back with the guys; how to get excited about sports, television, or the latest hit music; how to care about what kind of car I drove. In many ways I had it made, on the surface, but that sense of being out of step always dragged me down.

The best way to deal with our individual struggles is to put them in a larger context. That means both understanding the forces that shape our world as well as placing our problems in perspective. Becoming radicalized politically allowed me to see that I was suffering because I didn’t want to fit into a world shaped by unjust systems; the problem wasn’t my values and desires but the pathology of those systems. That didn’t solve all my personal problems, but it sure helped. Radical politics also helped me understand more clearly how others were suffering much more than I; it shook me out of my self-absorption. Both realizations led me to want to continue the search for more knowledge and understanding about how this all worked, and to commit as much time and energy as I had to movements for social justice.

The paradox is that since I have immersed myself in the pain of the world, I have been able to find new joy. I still understand that the world is not a happy place, and to be truly alive we must face what my friend Jim Koplin calls the “sense of profound grief” that comes with looking honestly at the world. As the writer Wendell Berry has put it, we live on “the human estate of grief and joy” [The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture, 3rd ed. (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1996), p. 106]. Grief is inevitable, and it is only through an honest embrace of the grief that real joy is possible. The conventional world tries to sell us many pleasures, but it offers us little joy. That’s because the conventional world is also trying to sell us many ways to numb our pain, which keeps us from that grief. So long as we are out of touch with the grief, we are unable to feel the joy. We are left only with the desperate search for pleasure and a panicked scramble to avoid pain.

This process has, for me, been slow and gradual — there have been no epiphanies. I don’t believe in epiphanies, and I don’t trust people who claim to have epiphanies. I don’t think the deep understanding of the world that we strive for can come in a single moment. It comes from the long and painful struggle, with the world and with ourselves. Insight doesn’t magically descend upon us. We have to work for it, and that always takes time.

As the singer/songwriter Eliza Gilkyson (who also happens to be my partner) has put it, “Those are lost who/try to cross through/the sorrow fields too easily” [“He Waits for Me,” from the CD “Beautiful World,” Red House Records, 2008]. To expand on her metaphor, we cross those fields not in search of a utopia somewhere ahead. Our life is that journey across those fields, facing the grief and celebrating the joy along the way.

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Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center. His latest book is All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice (Soft Skull Press, 2009). He also is the author of Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007); The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege (City Lights, 2005); Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (City Lights, 2004); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang, 2002). Jensen can be reached at rjensen@uts.cc.utexas.edu and his articles can be found online at http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rjensen/index.html

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LA VA Hospitals dumps veteran in skid row

By Saul Landau
Saul Landau’s ZSpace Page /ZSpace

Amidst interminable “reporting” on the “poor” victims of Ponzi maven Bernie Madoff – would anyone care if people had blown $65 billion trying to get richer in Las Vegas? – an alarming July 5 NY Times headline informs: “Safety Net Is Fraying for the Very Poor.”

In the story, by Erik Eckholm, we learn Obama’s stimulus package has softened the impact of recession on many of the working poor; but the neediest have become more destitute. Estimates of those lacking homes, jobs, and all basic support range as high as 3.5 million.

As dupes of Madoff like Elie Wiesel kvetch about his and his charity’s lost millions, the LA Times reported that “officials at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles and Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center had discharged patients, put them in cabs and dumped them on skid row.” The hospital officials pleaded that only the most destitute area in Southern California has “a concentration of social services for the patients, including homeless shelters and drug and alcohol programs.” (April 7, 2009)

ABC News showed video of Carol Ann Reyes, 63, being “loaded into a cab by Kaiser Permanente hospital staff and dumped on Skid Row, wearing nothing more than a hospital gown and socks.” Regina Chambers, who works at the Union Rescue Mission, said Reyes “was very disoriented. She didn’t know where she was or what she was doing.”

Marveil Williams, another dumping victim, informed ABC: “They told me I needed to get out that hospital bed and go find somewhere to stay.” The reporter concluded: “His head and eyes still swollen, Williams was dumped on the doorstep of Skid Row’s Union Rescue Mission.” Other area hospitals also far from downtown practiced similar policies. Police officials complained that “the practice worsens the already grim conditions on skid row. They also disputed the hospitals’ contention that the patients taken to skid row are always ready for release.” (March 24, 2006)

Hospital managers insisted “dumping” indigent people assures “the best interests of the patients because skid row offers their best chance of receiving the follow-up services — as well as shelter — that they need once they are discharged.” Mehera Christian, director of public affairs for Kaiser Permanente Metro Los Angeles, whose hospital is eight miles west of downtown, said: “There are just a scarce number of places in the community to assist our homeless.” (LA Times, April 7, 2009)

Since last November, homelessness has increased in California while the state continued to reduce benefits and services to the poor. In May, A., a sixty year old African American woman, complained to her health care worker that she received $154 less on her monthly disability check – leaving her $436 a month. Her rent is $300. She began “working the streets” at age 12. Her godmother eventually took her in and she finished high school, married, had children and worked at a series of unskilled jobs. Then, eight years ago, her boy friend set her on fire in a fit of pique, leaving her unable to work.

“What was I supposed to do when a woman calls me at home and says she’s his wife? He admits it and I tell him to leave and he gets mad, you know, and he drugged me and while I was passed out he poured lighter fluid on me and lit me. Now that shit will wake you up.”

A. earns “bus money” by recycling. The burn scars show vividly on her arms and cover her torso. She spends her days going to crowded soup kitchens to scrounge enough food, and visits her new “boy friend” at a state supported rehab home where he is recovering from a stroke. “You can’t have too much of a social life on $136 a month,” she chuckles.

J., white and 36, begins the day by injecting herself with 2 grams of heroin “just to get well.” She says she wants to go on methadone and stop using, but it never works out. It began 20 years ago, she recalls, when a pimp pretending to love her got her hooked and turned her out. Once on the habit she had to work to meet the cost of her daily intake, now $200. She earns this by giving blow jobs and shoplifting. “You steal a box of detergent, find a receipt on the sidewalk or in the trash to match the purchase price and the store refunds the money,” she explains. “After several hours of this and a couple of blow jobs she makes enough to score,” says a person who treats her at a free clinic.

Recently, J. met a bus driver who promised to pay her $12 a day in methadone fees. “He really likes me. He says he wants to go into business with me. You know, I could do graphic art.” She repeats this pipe dream of a man who will “save me, take care of me, get me off dope.”

The abscesses from 20 years of daily injecting have left her arms and legs a mass of cavernous scar tissue. She clings to the dream that someone will come along and save her. But she lacks the will to go to the methadone clinic by herself and rescue herself.

Nan, a former high school teacher, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. A female student assaulted her with a knife, but didn’t actually cut her. The incident and subsequent mental and emotional problems caused her to quit teaching. She got disability payments and then got a job in a bakery. But she had problems relating to her boss and had to leave that position as well. Back on disability, she could not afford to pay the rent on her apartment. Last November, she became homeless and now lives in a secluded spot in the Oakland hills with her dog. She still has access to a social worker and some psychological help, but the budgets for these programs are being cut. She has no hope of getting a roof over her head, especially with her only friend, the dog. From teacher to homeless woman without a viable agenda!

The people who lost millions or hundreds of thousands speculating with Madoff have generated media attention, which they would not have done if they had lost their money in a Vegas casino. The truly poor remain marginal in all arenas of consciousness. We see them on downtown streets, begging, talking to themselves, sleeping, or just staring into space.

In 1997, my wife and I stopped our car on Nebraska Avenue in Northwest Washington DC. We were on our way out of town. A man in his thirties lay on the curb, moaning. “I fell. I couldn’t walk any more,” he told my wife, a nurse. We helped him sit up. He had just been discharged from DC General Hospital despite the fact that he suffered from acute pancreatitis. “I was a practicing lawyer and let the bottle get the better of me,” he explained in the next few minutes. “So now I’m jobless, homeless, without my family and hospitals don’t keep people for more than a day.” We gave him $20 and hailed a cab and told the driver to take him to the homeless shelter.

Most of us do not want to admit the obvious: there but for the grace of God — or State legislatures – go I. Responding to recession, people who feel absolutely assured by God’s Grace, Members of State legislatures in almost half of the states have dramatically cut programs for the disabled and elderly and reduced public schools budgets as well. The states remain in the red to the tune of tens of billions.

In the 1960s, California built public colleges and universities, expanded state parks and made libraries more accessible.  But the wealthy don’t use public education, health or transportation and own parks on their estates.

Tax cuts – the mantra of the right wing – means less money for public services. It also means more homeless, jobless, and hopeless people.

Funny, how few Members of Congress even hesitate before voting $800 billion for a war system – excuse me, defense, that doesn’t defend us – and hopeless far away wars. The wretched of our country, however, don’t merit even much newspaper sympathy – compared to those swindled by the iniquitous Madoff.

Landau won Chile’s Bernardo O’Higgins award for human rights. Counterpunch published his A BUS AND BOTOX WORLD. He is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow whose films on DVD are available. (roundworldproductions@gmail.com)


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The WHO and the US administration in alliance with Big Pharma are involved in a major propaganda campaign to implement compulsory vaccination. There is no more “honest reporting” by mainstream TV as in this 1979 CBS TV program. Today, with some exceptions, network TV in America and in other Western countries such as Australia is complicit with the government’s disinformation campaign.

This is how The 1979 CBS program begins: “”The flu season is upon us. Which type will we worry about this year, and what kind of shots will we be told to take? Remember the swine flu scare of 1976? That was the year the U.S. government told us all that swine flu could turn out to be a killer that could spread across the nation, and Washington decided that every man, woman and child in the nation should get a shot to prevent a nation-wide outbreak, a pandemic.

Well 46 million of us obediently took the shot, and now 4,000 Americans are claiming damages from Uncle Sam amounting to three and a half billion dollars because of what happened when they took that shot. By far the greatest number of the claims – two thirds of them are for neurological damage, or even death, allegedly triggered by the flu shot”. (CBS, 60 MINUTES, 1979)

Source: Global Research, which also has the full transcript of the 60 Minutes show.

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Excellent interview with Chuck D and his wife Gaye Theresa Johnson. It raises to our awareness the importance of black radical politics and black activism for a history that is not America’s as white liberals claim, but that is that of the black people in that country. Obama might be a symbol of that struggle, but neither does he acknowledge the roots of the wave that swept him to the presidency nor is he part of that tradition. He might still be subject to racism, but being the product of Ivy League education and identifying himself with the conservative Democratic political structure, he never was or will be part of that political struggle that Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Malcom X and many others represented.

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