Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The view from under the bus

Since I was young, I've understood that our national political discourse is stupid, fearful, and fundamentally rightist. Forty years on, I've had to revise this view: it's irredeemably stupid, fearful, and right-driven.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Zimbabwe - arms race

There is a Chinese ship carrying weapons intended for delivery to Mugabe's forces. It was turned away at the port of Durban after the South African transport workers refused to unload them, a decision upheld by a judge. (Once again, no thanks to the current SA government, which disgracefully was quite willing to let the weapons be shipped across SA to Zimbabwe. Unions, churches, and concerned citizens prevented the transit of the weapons.)

After efforts to make arrangements to offload in Mozambique, whose authorities refused permission to dock, the ship is now heading for Angola.

The results of the Zimbabwe election, now three weeks in the past, are still not being released, and there is every sign that Mugabe and ZANU-PF want to have these weapons -- 70 tons of mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and AK-47 ammunition -- before the results of their fraudulent "recount" are announced. Ten Chinese officers carrying revolvers have checked in at the Holiday Inn in Mutare, Zimbabwe, where about 70 senior officers of the Zimbabwean army are also staying. They are going back and forth between the hotel and the army headquarters. The official line, which we've heard from our own government in many similar situations, is that they're there to protect their country's economic interests. But the weapons shipment and the meetings make it look very much as if they're advising and assisting Mugabe's efforts to subdue the population and thwart democracy.

Actions around the world (see end of this post) are helping Zimbabweans to know they're not alone as the crisis deepens. Continue to urge the African Union and regional body SADC to send a delegation to Harare to support the demand for immediate release of the election results. Urge the government of Angola to refuse transit to the Chinese weapons shipment (link to details to follow).


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sorta like mowin your lawn 3

The relative silence that's greeted Pres. George W. Bush's nonchalant confirmation that he authorized torture -- in the corporate media and among some biggish liberal blogs where I'd expect to see at least a reference -- has been unsettling. I'm sure they all have their reasons or excuses.

For now, an antidote is to focus on actions that can be taken, however small.
  • You can support the ACLU's call for a special prosecutor.

  • Thanks to tenure, John Yoo will probably not be removed from his position on the faculty of Berkeley's law school unless and until he is convicted for the crimes he committed. However, there's no issue of academic freedom surrounding his association with the U.S. Constitution Center; help end it. Via commenter James Mullin.

  • The Defense Appropriations bill will be considered in the House before too long. Urge your Congressman to
    attach H.R. 1416 the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007 repealing the portions of the Military Commissions Act which suspended habeas corpus and the Geneva Conventions --- and H.R 1352 the Torture Outsourcing Prevention Act which would “prohibit the return or other transfer of persons by the United States, for the purpose of detention, interrogation, trial, or otherwise, to countries where torture or other inhuman treatment of persons occurs, and for other purposes.” [Digby, whose response to the recent revelations has been exemplary.]

  • Urge ABC to follow up on their own story by asking the presidential candidates about it. [Many editors and reporters in the stenographic traditional media openly say that they won't cover issues unless members of Congress or candidates are talking about them -- that'd be "making news."] This excellent suggestion courtesy of dday:
    contact them here and demand that they follow up their reporting on torture by pushing it into the Presidential race. Contacting World News Tonight with moderator Charlie Gibson and ABC News Programming Specials would probably be the most helpful.

Update: 10:00 pm, 16 April - The disgraceful quality of ABC's debate questions makes clear that the above suggestion was pointless. But you can help break the silence by writing a letter or letters to your local and area newspapers. Firedoglake's gizmo makes it easy, and you'll be one of many. As you compose your less-than-200-word message, you may find inspiration in Dan Froomkin's column of a few days ago. He explains concisely why this story is new and startling.

Image: Tom Tomorrow design from June 2004, as seen on my wrinkly T-shirt. Alas, no longer available via his CafePress store.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Let them know they're not alone

Zimbabweans who have voted for a new government have once again been let down by their most powerful potential ally. All of us who have looked to our Congressional representatives for help in resisting the creeping dictatorship in this country can identify with the feelings of democratic activists in Zimbabwe working to throw off an entrenched dictatorship:
I’m struggling to write this because I am angry, I feel sick, and yes, I am crying over my keyboard.

[South African President Thabo] Mbeki, after going to Harare to see Mugabe, says today that there is “no crisis”…

I cannot believe I am so upset - again - because whenever I know Thabo Mbeki is about to meet to discuss anything to do with the Zimbabwean crisis, I steel myself for extreme disappointment. He never fails to deliver, so why do I stupidly, even when I expect it, feel dumbfounded when it comes?!
A general strike has been called for next Tuesday to demand the publication of the election results. Meanwhile, the houses of opposition candidates are being burned, and supporters are being beaten. Follow the news at Action for Southern Africa.

Human solidarity is what the people of Zimbabwe need now. Despite Mbeki's disgraceful, apparently unshakable support of Mugabe, continue to pressure the governments of Southern Africa, individually and through their regional body SADC, to back the demand that election results be released. To his credit, Jacob Zuma, African National Congress candidate to succeed Mbeki as president of South Africa, has joined this call.

Via Thomas Nephew at Newsrack. Image from Sokwanele blog of burned-out house in western Zimbabwe.

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Friday, April 11, 2008


There's much of interest for the clear-eyed in this Washington Post front-page story on Obama's big-dollar fundraising. But this bit was grimly amusing:

The Chicago contingent also includes James Crown, a director of General Dynamics, the military contractor in which his family holds a large stake. The company has been the beneficiary of at least one Obama earmark, a request to spend $8 million on a high-explosive technology program for the Army's Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The program got $1.3 million.
Crown said he and Obama never discussed General Dynamics, which, with its focus on Army programs, is a defense contractor that has benefited directly from the Iraq war. Obama's opposition to the war never meant that he wanted the armed forces to be poorly equipped, Crown said.

"I stand in agreement with what he has said [about the Iraq war.] Those who work in the defense industry are extremely focused on the national defense," he said. "That doesn't mean we want to be fighting wars."
Just as long as the money keeps rolling in.

Ward bosses in Philadelphia don't need to read the Post article to know that their candidate is not hurting for cash, and are ticked off that his campaign has no plans to take part in the tradition of street money for get-out-the-vote efforts. If they stick to the high road, the campaign could lose a few wards to Clinton.

Festivals of democracy at both ends of the most unequal society this side of Brazil...


Thursday, April 10, 2008

The gang's all here

We don't have to wonder who should be on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity:

In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House, the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency ...
The high-level discussions about these "enhanced interrogation techniques" tortures were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

The advisers were members of the National Security Council's Principals Committee, a select group of senior officials who met frequently to advise President Bush on issues of national security policy.

At the time, the Principals Committee included Vice President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

As the national security adviser, Rice chaired the meetings, which took place in the White House Situation Room and were typically attended by most of the principals or their deputies. [My editing from Orwellian to plain English in the first paragraph - Nell.]

What a surprise to see that Colin Powell took part, after all the exertions of Larry Wilkerson and other loyalists to paint him as out of the loop and shocked, shocked...
and Wilkerson Armitage, as Powell's deputy, is likely to have attended some of these sessions himself.

Wondering who was the source for this story?

Then-Attorney General Ashcroft was troubled by the discussions. He agreed with the general policy decision to allow aggressive tactics and had repeatedly advised that they were legal. But he argued that senior White House advisers should not be involved in the grim details of interrogations, sources said.

According to a top official, Ashcroft asked aloud after one meeting: "Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly."

Update: 10 April, 3:00 pm - Emptywheel has a different and very plausible possibility for the source, and corrects my misunderstanding of who would have been Powell's deputy at Principals meetings. She helpfully lists all the deputies.

Update: 20 April, 3:30 pm - Cogent further post and comments at Emptywheel on the question of sourcing. Most persuasive to me are cases for Robert Mueller (FBI Director) and David Ayres, Ashcroft's chief of staff.

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