Thursday, August 28, 2008

Democracy In Action At the Democratic National Convention

Let's take a quick peek at our wonderful democratic process in action at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Exhibit A: A pig privileged by government to initiate violence valiantly butts a young lady from Code Pink in the head with what appears to be a baton during a protest:



Exhibit B: CBS4 News in Denver reports on the metal cage accommodations the city of Denver has graciously provided for anti-war protesters and other assorted malcontents who refuse to shut up and get with the program:



We report. You decide.

ADDENDUM (Exhibit C): Just saw this story linked to today's Strike-The-Root reporting the arrest of ABC News producer Asa Eslocker as he and his camera crew tried to take pictures of Democratic senators and their assorted paymasters leaving a Denver hotel. The crew appeared to have been on a public sidewalk as they took the pictures, though the Denver gangsters in blue claim that said sidewalk is owned by the hotel, which had been complaining of the crew's presence.

Sure, if I owned the sidewalk, say, in front of my home, it would be perfectly reasonable of me to have my hired gang assault whomever was walking on it that happened to annoy me at the time, and then have them hauled off to a barred cage until they coughed up some ransom money.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Tribute To Edward M. Kennedy

In light of the Democratic National Convention's recent tribute to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Rob Moody linked a tribute of his own choosing to today's Strike-The-Root homepage.

Click here.

Bringing Back the Golden Age of Really, Really Manly Men

Came across this piece by Sarah Churchwell yesterday, at the UK Independent, on a new book called The Retrosexual Manual: How To Be a Real Man:
The author of The Retrosexual Manual – who shall remain unmanned, I mean unnamed – has been publicising his book with articles explaining its provenance: "It was my girlfriend's fault," one article begins. Of course it was. She talked him into wearing mascara a decade ago, and his masculinity has been in crisis ever since.

The real culprit emerges soon enough: "30 years of feminism have emancipated women, but emasculated men. While girls gained their freedom ... to sleep with whom they wanted and to succeed in any career they chose to pursue, boys were gradually formed by social pressure into what women – confused and giddy with their new-found freedom – thought they wanted their men to be." Yes, there's nothing like having sex and getting a job to really fluster a girl.

So he explains how to be a real man. I hate to get all phenomenological on Mr Castrato, but realness isn't technically something that should require instruction. His idea of virility is, predictably, pure cartoon: hirsute, drunken, and boorish sums it up. But it's a free country: if he chooses to be a selfish jerk, good luck to him. I hope no woman would deign to sleep with him, but sadly the sisterhood can sometimes lack self-respect.

I object, rather, to two covert aspects of this tired argument. First: pleas for the return of real men always blame castrating, omnipotent feminists who have brainwashed society with their nefarious demands for equal pay and physical safety. In such arguments, heterosexuality is a zero-sum game, in which any gain made by women entails a loss to men (a loss always located around their testicles, for some reason), instead of just, well, happier women. The "real man" is an allegorical figure: introducing Mr Backlash, invented specifically to force women back into their places.

Which leads to the second objection: these arguments always insist that women prefer voluntarily submitting to men. "The family unit will become happier and stronger as we play our natural roles," Mr Backlash ordains. "There will be a return to the stable marriages of the Fifties and Sixties as the man feels free to do things he wants to do and to be himself."

Marriages were "stable" 50 years ago because people had no other options. This doesn't mean they were happier: prisons are stable, too. Why stop with longing for the days when it was legal to rape your wife? Or when a woman couldn't hold property in her own name, or get a divorce? Then you can really do what you want.

I wonder if Ms. Churchwell has read Amazon.com's product description of the tome in question:
It's time to go back to basics—back to when men were men and women made breakfast the morning after. This book is a celebration of it all. Relationships are covered, and the dangers of sliding from caveman to Ikea shopper. Where to find her, how to get her, and how to have sex with her—it's all here. Examples are given of great retrosexual men throughout history, from Errol Flynn to Ray Winstone; as well as such anti-retrosexual horrors as nancy boys and equal opportunity legislation.
"Where to find her, how to get her, and how to have sex with her"? Gosh, I don't understand what Churchwell is so upset about here. Is it really so awful to reduce women to the equivalent of hunting trophies? I mean, what's her problem? Doesn't she like the idea of being stalked as the sexual prey of "a real man—the hairier, louder, and more dominant the better"? You know, a "caveman," which is apparently the idealized conception of masculinity upheld in the book?

Jeez. She really needs to just lighten up, doesn't she?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My Last Tuesday Edtion of 'Strike-The-Root'

I've been a guest editor for Strike-The-Root.com for--I think--the last couple of years or so (though don't quote me on that time frame), usually slapping the links together for that site's Tuesday edition each week.

The edition up today will be my last. I simply decided that I needed to clear some things from my weekly schedule, and my gig guest-editing S-T-R was one of the things I decided to erase from my calendar.

Of course, I will continue to put in my 2 cents on S-T-R's blog every now and again, as well as submit the occasional original article, so it's not as though they'll be rid of me altogether.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Time Will Run Back

Everybody knows that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 was a complete and total surprise out of the clear blue sky, an attack that nobody was expecting.

Right?

Anyone who assumes The Official Narrative to be correct may be surprised to come across this interesting historical tidbit, courtesy of Comic Book Resources, recently published as part of their ongoing series "Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed":
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: An Uncle Sam comic book featuring Pearl Harbor being bombed was released…in November of 1941!!

STATUS: True

Reader John Trumbull suggested this one a couple of weeks ago.

Astonishingly, in National Comics #18, which was a Quality Comic starring Uncle Sam, the main story involved the bombing of Pearl Harbor!

And the release date of the comic was November of 1941!!!!

The story was written by Gil Fox, with artwork by Lou Fine.

The big difference between this comic and actual events is that in this comic, it was GERMANY who attacks Pearl Harbor.

The bombing attack was actually a ruse to lure the United States Navy away from the Eastern Seabord, where Germany attacks - with Maine being their first target...

As amazing as it sounds at first, the idea of Pearl Harbor being attacked was not exactly the most original idea - it was the home of the United States’ Pacific Fleet, so it was a natural location for an attack.

But still, for it to be released just a MONTH before it was actually attacked?

That really IS amazing.

Yes, it really is amazing, isn't it? Though I don't know which is more amazing--that anyone actually entertained the idea of Nazi Germany dispatching ships across several thousand miles of ocean to attack the U.S. while it was simultaneously bogged down in Russia, fighting in North Africa and occupying conquered territories in Europe, or that any pre-adolescent American school boy living in November 1941 who could read a comic book knew that the U.S. Pacific Fleet was docked at Pearl Harbor, making it a "natural location for an attack."

What's also amazing is that anybody discussing Pearl Harbor would fail to mention that the U.S. government had imposed a trade embargo cutting off Japan's access to oil supplies several months before the attack, the culmination of a lengthy period of tense relations between the two governments.

But the Japanese assault on Pearl was a complete and total surprise.

Yup. Sure it was.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Nobody's Fools

It seems that there are at least some people in war-torn Georgia who know where the blame squarely belongs for the bloodshed that has recently soaked their streets--governments, and on all sides, including their own:
If Vladimir Putin's aim is regime change in Georgia, as American officials claim, it may already be working. Many of the weary-eyed refugees were too angry to speak to journalists. But they are bitterly angry with their government. "Kill Saakashvili," a few hissed...

Four days into the conflict, the consequences of war are spreading quickly. In Tbilisi, refugees stand pleading outside government buildings, begging for food and shelter. Residents wake at night to the sound of bombs. Wounded soldiers flood Tbilisi hospitals. Doubts about the government's integrity are rising.

Indeed, the violence and chaos are eroding support for a president who was already waning in popularity. There still appears to be an urge among a majority here to rally around the government and the country. It makes sense: They are at war and now are being occupied, with the Russian takeover of several Georgian cities. But with the rising deaths and number of refugees, negative sentiment towards Saakashvili appears to be greater than ever before...

There is also great anger here at the West. The sense is that Europe won't intervene, because of dependency on Russian gas and oil. And many feel betrayed by America, especially with the Bush administration having been a vocal supporter of independent Georgia. "As for now, I have no faith in the European Union or the United States," says Giorge Abesadze, 25, a resident of Tbilisi. "I only have faith in myself, Georgia and the Georgian people. Georgians have always been alone in the world."...

"We have an idiot president," said Marika, 40, a physician, who wouldn't disclose her surname. "He ruined our country and that's his idiotic politics." She said her co-workers have no idea if their relatives in South Ossetia are dead or alive.

Now, if we are to believe the Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili that the Russians just can't stand to see a former Soviet satellite state like Georgia make such "progress toward consolidating democracy, eradicating corruption and building an independent foreign policy," then why is it that his countrymen beg to differ?

Could it be because he recklessly ordered an invasion of Russian-allied South Ossetia--itself a former Soviet state that won independence after a long, bloody slog against Georgian soldiers in a bloody war in the early 1990s--thus raining down the recent firestorm of death and destruction on the Georgian people? Could that be the "idiotic politics" that the physician "Marika" was referring to?

That, on top of the Georgian government's history of attempting to jail political opponents on trumped-up charges and beating protesters, has probably not done much to win over the Georgian people, claims of "consolidating democracy" and "eradicating corruption" notwithstanding.

But one has to wonder: Just where on Earth did Saakashvili ever get the idea that picking a fight with Moscow's client state would be a good thing to do?

Hmmm...I wonder...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

What will I say when my children ask me...

I absolutely cannot believe that I totally forgot the terrible significance of this day. I feel like such an ass for not giving it a single thought until now, as the sun begins to set on me and my neighbors.

But now that I've been reminded, I'll be thinking about those hundreds of thousands of people slaughtered in cold blood. The mothers. The fathers. The children. All of them--total strangers though they were, who lived long before my time--are on my mind right now.

Nobody in this country should ever forget what this day means. Nobody. Ever.

Nobody.

Ever.

The North Korean Threat To All Human Civilization That Never Was

Please shout this one out to all your friends and neighbors. Wake them from their slumber, if need be (emphasis is my own):
In circumstances echoing the Iraq war controversy, hardliners in US President George W. Bush's administration spun intelligence and triggered a nuclear crisis with North Korea, says a new book to be released this week...

Now with the Los Angeles-based Pacific Council on International Policy, [former senior CNN journalist Mike] Chinoy wrote "Meltdown: The inside story of the North Korean nuclear crisis" after gaining unprecedented access during his 14 trips to North Korea and conducting 200 interviews in Washington, Seoul, Tokyo and other Asian capitals.

The book showed that US intelligence did discover in 2002-2003 a North Korea effort to acquire components that could be used for uranium enrichment but that it was only a procurement effort.

There was no credible intelligence that North Koreans actually had a facility capable of making uranium based bombs.

Yet, conservative hardliners bent on ending an "Agreed Framework" nuclear deal with North Korea forged under president Bill Clinton's administration seized on the issue to force a confrontation, the book said.

It added that then US assistant secretary of state James Kelly was given instructions not to negotiate on his October 2002 trip to Pyongyang but simply tell the North Koreans they had to abandon their uranium program before any progress was possible...

It was widely reported then that the North Koreans admitted to Kelly they had an uranium program and this led the United States to take a series of retaliatory steps that led to a downward spiral in ties and Pyongyang restarting its nuclear program and testing the bomb in 2006.

But Chinoy, who interviewed most of the members of Kelly's delegation, said he could not find any evidence that the North Koreans explicitly admitted having such a program.

"It's interesting that the transcript remains classified but it appears that a North Korean official used much more ambiguous language and also tabled an offer to negotiate -- which Kelly rejected," he told AFP.

"There are parallels and differences obviously with the way the intelligence became a source of controversy in Iraq but unlike Iraq, the actual intelligence that the Americans had in North Korea in the spring and summer of 2002 was pretty solid," Chinoy said.

"But the combination of internal politics and media generalization...created an impression that it was somewhat different from the reality," he said.

Colin Powell, the US secretary of state at that time who discovered he had used questionable American intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction ahead of the Iraq invasion in 2003, also found himself in a predicament with intelligence on North Korea.

"They wanted to use this as a flaming red star cluster into the sky that the North Koreans cheated, abrogated the Agreed Framework, 'we always told you this was a bad idea,'" Powell said of the hardline opponents of engagement with North Korea.

The 405-page book also documents in more detail than has previously been available how the stunning turnaround in policy toward North Korea took place under the second term of the Bush administration.

It showed how Kelly's successor Christopher Hill seized control of the policy process -- first, by violating instructions from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and holding unauthorized bilateral meetings with the North Koreans, and then, after winning her over to his side, by freezing out hard-line opponents of engagement, including critics in the Vice President Dick Cheney's office.

Hill helped reinvigorate six-nation talks that led to North Korea shutting down and disabling its key nuclear plant in Yongbyon from where plutonium was produced to make bombs.

The Bush administration is currently prodding North Korea to dismantle its nuclear arsenal and surrender all its nuclear weapons in return for normalized ties and security guarantees.

"There is an irony here that the hardliners' attempt to pressure the North Koreans to give up the bomb, in fact, created circumstances where the North became a nuclear power and made the whole process of undoing their nuclear program much, much harder than had they adopted a similar approach at the beginning," Chinoy said.

So in pursuit of what it stated as the goal of a nukes-free North Korea, the U.S. government's continual insistence that the North Korean government had a uranium program--a charge based on some alleged, undocumented admission on the part of the North Korean regime itself--sparked off a chain of events that ultimately provoked the North Koreans to actually develop what was possibly a very real, honest-to-gods atomic bomb--and it turns out that there was in fact no reason to suspect that the North Koreans ever had a uranium program in the first place, when the Bush administration claimed that they did.

Paging Dr. Strangelove...

So just who in the North Korean government ever made this alleged confession of having anything that could honestly be called a "uranium program"?

Historian and investigative journalist Gareth Porter reported back in 2004:
[I]n October 2002, an anonymous State Department munchkin told a few media sycophants that some anonymous DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] official had "admitted" to him at a cocktail party that the DPRK had a clandestine uranium-enrichment program, built right under the noses of the IAEA.
That's the intelligence that convinced the Bushistas the North Koreans had a uranium-enrichment program--cocktail party gossip??? Perhaps that's where Chinoy should have went looking for "evidence" of North Korean nuclear confessionals--the Beltway party circuit. I wonder if this "anonymous State Department munchkin" had anything to do with spreading the "Saddam's nukes" meme...

James Kelly claimed that it was North Korean deputy foreign minister Kang Seok-Ju who informed him of a supposed nuclear program, but the North Koreans have always denied that any such admission was made, and as Mike Chinoy discovered, there's no evidence that any such admission was ever actually made by anyone in the North Korean government, nor was there ever any evidence of a uranium-enrichment program in the first place, regardless of what any North Korean officials may or may not have said. (Which causes one to puzzle over what intelligence, exactly, the U.S. possessed that Chinoy describes as "pretty solid.")

As Porter reports, what Kim Jong-Il and his gang really did have was a reactor that been supplied by the now extinct Soviet regime, as well as "a reprocessing plant capable of extracting nuke-grade plutonium from the reactor's spent-fuel. They had much larger plutonium-producing reactors and reprocessing facilities under construction."

Neoconservative uberhawks pressured Bill Clinton in 1993 to bomb the North Koreans and their nuclear facilities after they refused new IAEA inspections, which were demanded due to some discrepancies in data supplied by the North Koreans to the IAEA on their nuclear program. The discrepancies had mainly to do with how much of their reactor's spent fuel they had actually reprocessed.

Gareth quotes Clinton--who, as it would later turn out, would never be one to be too reluctant to wage war on foreigners--as having since stated that his administration had in fact been quite close to actually bombing the North Koreans, just as the neocons wished--and all for an inconclusive dispute over the amount of spent nuclear reactor fuel the North Koreans had or had not actually reprocessed. But, not surprisingly, the North Korean state agreed to a diplomatic compromise instead (one would assume they didn't expect a U.S. bombing to be much of a pleasant experience), that being the so-called "Agreed Framework," which, among other things, stipulated that their nuclear program was to be frozen and their nuclear power plants replaced by light water reactors, with oil and electricity being provided for them until said reactor was up and running.

It's important to recognize that the North Koreans agreed to the Agreed Framework in the face of the threat of force by the U.S. government--the only government on Earth to have ever actually dropped atomic bombs on civilian populations.

But then, that wasn't enough. Some unknown U.S. State Department yahoo (supposedly) and an assistant secretary of state start spouting claims that someone on the inside of the Kim Jong-Il gang had allegedly confessed that they had some kind of facility or program to produce highly-enriched uranium, a purely unsubstantiated rumor subsequently spread by the Bushistas as though it were gospel--with the always helpful corporate-state news media providing the stage and the bullhorn--and lo and behold, the U.S. government, based on this totally unverified allegation, breaks off the Agreed Framework in 2002, and a defensive North Korea withdraws from the NPT and eventually uses its existing plutonium facilities to make an A-bomb, detonating it on some mountain top by October 2006. (Such as it was--it is quite likely that the test explosion was more fizzle than pop, and it's not even clear just how nuclear the device actually was.)

Normally, I'd say that whomever was responsible for asserting the specious "admission" that set off the chain of events that eventually led to the 2006 North Korean bomb test--whether it was James Kelly, some State Department flunky, or both--should be publicly tarred and feathered. Their unproven assertions set off a chain reaction between two states that could very possibly have concluded in a bloody confrontation that would have left many thousands of innocent people maimed and slaughtered at the hands of the U.S. government, which, tragically, is not an entirely unknown experience to many Koreans.

But it would be unbelievably naive in the extreme to pin the responsibility for this almost-deadly escalation solely on mere water carriers for the Bush administration. One should keep in mind that U.S. claims of a North Korean uranium-enrichment program came about ten months after George W. Bush's 2002 State of the Union address, in which he fingered North Korea as being a member of the infamous "Axis of Evil" club. I have a hunch that if Kelly were to walk into the Oval Office today and tell Bush that a dog catcher in Ontario informed him that the Canadians secretly possessed a Doomsday Machine, such "intelligence" would be solid enough for Bush to order the bombing of Ottawa--provided that Bush had always wanted to attack Canada in the first place.

As for North Korea's totalitarian regime, they, like the Iranian gang, are a very real and deadly ongoing threat to the particular people who live within the borders of the geographical territory they forcibly monopolize, but to paint them as threats to the United States or the world at large is utterly ridiculous. The U.S. government possibly possesses nearly 10,000 offensive nuclear weapons, pledging to reduce that arsenal to a piddling 5,000 or so by 2012, and yet the North Korean government is a global threat with its little Soviet-era plutonium facilities and half-assed bomb test?

It's all the more mystifying that the Bush administration, as reported in the AFP article linked at the top of this entry, "is currently prodding North Korea to dismantle its nuclear arsenal and surrender all its nuclear weapons," when it's not entirely clear that the North Koreans actually have any nuclear weapons following the one they tested in 2006, regardless of any bluster that has come out of Pyongyang, or Barack Obama's (or anyone else's) unproven claims.

In any case, perhaps if the U.S. government never subsidized Kim's oppressive regime--that is, if they never robbed American taxpayers to keep him ensconced on his throne in the first place--his tyrannical rule would have already ended by now and he would no longer be a threat to anybody.

Friday, August 1, 2008

What??? You Mean It WASN'T Saddam???

Following the suicide of US Army bioweapons researcher Bruce Ivins, who, as it turns out, was about to be charged by the US government for the 2001 anthrax attacks and murders, Glenn Greenwald reminds his readers of the whopper of a conspiracy theory propagated by ABC News back in October 2001:
If the now-deceased Ivins really was the culprit behind the attacks, then that means that the anthrax came from a U.S. Government lab, sent by a top U.S. Army scientist at Ft. Detrick. Without resort to any speculation or inferences at all, it is hard to overstate the significance of that fact. From the beginning, there was a clear intent on the part of the anthrax attacker to create a link between the anthrax attacks and both Islamic radicals and the 9/11 attacks...

Much more important than the general attempt to link the anthrax to Islamic terrorists, there was a specific intent -- indispensably aided by ABC News -- to link the anthrax attacks to Iraq and Saddam Hussein. In my view, and I've written about this several times and in great detail to no avail, the role played by ABC News in this episode is the single greatest, unresolved media scandal of this decade. News of Ivins' suicide, which means (presumably) that the anthrax attacks originated from Ft. Detrick, adds critical new facts and heightens how scandalous ABC News' conduct continues to be in this matter.

During the last week of October, 2001, ABC News, led by Brian Ross, continuously trumpeted the claim as their top news story that government tests conducted on the anthrax -- tests conducted at Ft. Detrick -- revealed that the anthrax sent to Daschele contained the chemical additive known as bentonite. ABC News, including Peter Jennings, repeatedly claimed that the presence of bentonite in the anthrax was compelling evidence that Iraq was responsible for the attacks, since -- as ABC variously claimed -- bentonite "is a trademark of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program" and "only one country, Iraq, has used bentonite to produce biological weapons."

ABC News' claim -- which they said came at first from "three well-placed but separate sources," followed by "four well-placed and separate sources" -- was completely false from the beginning. There never was any bentonite detected in the anthrax (a fact ABC News acknowledged for the first time in 2007 only as a result of my badgering them about this issue). It's critical to note that it isn't the case that preliminary tests really did detect bentonite and then subsequent tests found there was none. No tests ever found or even suggested the presence of bentonite. The claim was just concocted from the start. It just never happened.

Is there any reason, any reason at all, to grant one damn ounce of credence to anything that anyone in the state-privileged corporate news media has ever said about anything?