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UNDERNEWS: August 26, 2011

UNDERNEWS: August 26, 2011

Since 1964, the news while there's still time to do something about it


Bloomberg leaves prisoners to fend for themselves in hurricane

Jean Casella and James Ridgeway, Solitary Watch - “We are not evacuating Rikers Island,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a news conference . Bloomberg annouced a host of extreme measures being taken by New York City in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Irene, including a shutdown of the public transit system and the unprecedented mandatory evacuation of some 250,000 people from low-lying areas. But in response to a reporter’s question, the mayor stated in no uncertain terms (and with more than a hint of annoyance) that one group of New Yorkers on vulnerable ground will be staying put.

According to the New York City Department of Corrections’ own website, more than three-quarters of Rikers Island’s 400 acres are built on landfill–which is generally thought to be more vulnerable to natural disasters. Its ten jails have a capacity of close to 17,000 inmates, and normally house at least 12,000, including juveniles and large numbers of prisoners with mental illness–not to mention pre-trial detainees who have yet to be convicted of any crime.

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For a warning of what can happen to prisoners in a hurricane we need only look back at Katrina, and the horrific conditions endured by inmates at Orleans Parish Prison in New Orleans. According to a report produced by the ACLU:

[A] culture of neglect was evident in the days before Katrina, when the sheriff declared that the prisoners would remain “where they belong,” despite the mayor’s decision to declare the city’s first-ever mandatory evacuation. OPP even accepted prisoners, including juveniles as young as 10, from other facilities to ride out the storm.

As floodwaters rose in the OPP buildings, power was lost, and entire buildings were plunged into darkness. Deputies left their posts wholesale, leaving behind prisoners in locked cells, some standing in sewage-tainted water up to their chests …

Prisoners went days without food, water and ventilation, and deputies admit that they received no emergency training and were entirely unaware of any evacuation plan. Even some prison guards were left locked in at their posts to fend for themselves, unable to provide assistance to prisoners in need.

Pocket paradigms

The wondrous mystery of America is found not in its perfection but in its ability to improve, its perpetual search for a more perfect union. The idea had been fading for some time, not just because we came to think of power as an adequate substitute, but because we came to ignore such mundane matters as teaching children democracy with the same vigor that we teach them how to drive or about the dangers of drugs. And so we tried to recover from 9/11 with a flag and loyalty to a place called America, but without its dream. We used instead military power, anti-democratic security measures, seductive technology, and yet another elephantine bureaucracy -- offering still more temptations for guerrillas with simple weapons and no love of life. The 9/11 attackers, and the tens of millions around the world who share some measure of their anger, have only seen our money and our fist -- not the decency, democracy and dream that made America strong in the first place. These virtues are still lying in the rubble. Our job is to recover them, revive them, share them, and become once more a model rather than a target. Only then will we be both safe and free..– Sam Smith

Wikileaks: US diplomats shilled for Monsanto & Dupont to push GM crops

Truth Out - Dozens of United States diplomatic cables released in the latest WikiLeaks dump reveal new details of the US effort to push foreign governments to approve genetically engineered crops and promote the worldwide interests of agribusiness giants like Monsanto and DuPont.

The cables further confirm previous Truthout reports on the diplomatic pressure the US has put on Spain and France, two countries with powerful anti-GE crop movements, to speed up their biotech approval process and quell anti-GE sentiment within the European Union.

Government owned foreclosed homes to be sold to vulture funds with huge discounts

Roger Arnold, The Street - The largest transfer of wealth from the public to private sector is about to begin. The federal government will be bulk-selling the massive portfolio of foreclosed homes now owned by HUD, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to private investors -- vulture funds.

These homes, which are now the property of the U.S. government, the U.S. taxpayer, U.S. citizens collectively, are going to be sold to private investor conglomerates at extraordinarily large discounts to real value.

You and I will not be allowed to participate. These investors will come from the private-equity and hedge-fund community, Goldman Sachs and its derivatives, as well as foreign sovereign wealth funds that can bring a billion dollars or more to each transaction.

In the process, these investors will instantaneously become the largest improved real estate owners and landlords in the world. The U.S. taxpayer will get pennies on the dollar for these homes and then be allowed to rent them back at market rates.

How to tell you're no longer an empire

John Mueller, Foreign Affairs: “An al Qaeda computer seized in Afghanistan in 2001 indicated that the group’s budget for research and weapons of mass destruction, almost all of it focused on primitive chemical weapons work, was some $2,000 to $4,000.”

Stupid Christian hustler tricks

Ladies and gentlemen, I don't want to get weird on this so please take it for what it's worth. But it seems to me the Washington Monument is a symbol of America's power, it has been the symbol of our great nation, we look at that monument and say this is one nation under God. Now there's a crack in it, there's a crack in it and it's closed up. Is that a sign from the Lord? Is that something that has significance or is it just result of an earthquake? You judge, but I just want to bring that to your attention. It seems to me symbolic. When Jesus was crucified and when he died the curtain in the Temple was rent from top to bottom and there was a tear and it was extremely symbolic, is this symbolic? You judge. - Pat Robertson

The GOP platform

State Rep. Carol McGuire (R-NH) believes the federal minimum wage is too high. In a statement to reporters, she said she would like to repeal all minimum wage laws and have corporations pay workers whatever rate they desire. She also said the $7.25 minimum is overly generous to young people: “It’s very discriminatory, particularly for young people. They’re not worth the minimum,” she said.

The war against children: recess being heavily cut

More evidence that current national educational policy is a form of child abuse

Mother Nature News - Children's free playtime has dropped over the years, replaced by structured activities and screen time, including television and computer use, studies suggest. A 2003 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that a quarter of kids under age 6 watched TV for at least two hours a day; these same kids spent 30 minutes less per day playing outside than kids who didn't spend so much time in front of a screen.

At the same time, unstructured childhood time is vanishing. A pair of University of Maryland studies of children's time use found that in 1981, kids ages 6 to 12 had about 57 hours of free time per week. By 2003, kids had only 48 hours in which to choose their own activities. Time spent outdoors was especially hard-hit.

Early schooling often exacerbates play's demise. A 2009 report by the Alliance for Childhood surveyed kindergartens in New York City and Los Angeles and found that children had less than 30 minutes a day, on average, of "choice" time, in which kids could do whatever they wanted. Kids in L.A. had only about 19 minutes of free time each day. The rest of the kindergarten day was filled with academics and standardized test preparation, the study found.

According to the American Association for the Child's Right to Play, as many as 40 percent of school districts in the United States have reduced recess in the aftermath of the No Child Left Behind act, which emphasizes testing scores.

These reductions tend to hit lower-income kids harder, experts say. In her practice, Gilboa sees children who get very little physical playtime during the day because of long school days and after-school programs that find it easier to keep an eye on kids who are watching movies rather than running around.

"Sixty minutes of vigorous physical activity a day prevents obesity in kids, and it used to be that between recess and gym you were getting that," Gilboa said. "This generation's kids would take that, but they're just not getting the opportunity."

The result, experts say, is children who come into school without good play skills. Used to regimented activities, these kids may struggle with the give-and-take of playground games, said Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a psychologist at Temple University. That's not a natural state, she told LiveScience.

"If kids were left to have some time on their own, they would in fact develop play," Hirsh-Pasek said. "Now what we do is, we endanger the species by taking play opportunities away from them."

Despite the increasing amount of academics schools are trying to cram into their day (a 2008 study published in The Elementary School Journal reported that up to a quarter of elementary schools don't even schedule recess regularly for all grade levels), some advocates are jumping in to improve kids' playground experiences.

Student drug testing doesn't cut use

NORML - Students subjected to student drug testing programs in school are no less likely to report consuming illicit drugs, tobacco, or alcohol than their peers, according to survey data published online in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

An international team of researchers from the United States, Israel, and Australia assessed the impact of school drug testing programs on a nationally representative sample of 943 high school students.

Investigators reported that the imposition of such programs had no positive impact on males' self-reported drug use. Student drug screening programs were associated with minor reductions in females' self-reported drug history, but only among women who attended schools with 'positive' environments. By contrast, investigators found that the enactment of drug testing programs in 'negative' school environments were most likely to be associated with "harmful effects on female youth"

Authors reported, "Consistent with previous research, students in schools that conduct drug testing do not report less substance use. ... In total, the results indicate that, to the extent drug testing is effective, it is primarily for female students in schools with positive climates."

They concluded: "The current research expands on previous findings indicating that school drug testing does not in and of itself deter substance use. Indeed, drug testing appears to be particularly ineffective for female students in negative climate schools, which tend to have higher substance use rates and thus are in most need of effective substance prevention programs. Interventions that improve school climate may have much greater efficacy. Thus, our findings indicate that drug testing should not be undertaken as a stand-alone substance prevention effort and that improvements in school climate should be considered before implementing drug testing."

Judge defends cell phone user rights

Computer World - On Monday, there was a big win for the Fourth Amendment when Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the Eastern District of New York stood up for the Constitution and ruled that law enforcement must establish probable cause to secure a warrant before cell phone providers can be made to hand over location history.

The federal government had asked the court to order Verizon Wireless to turn over 113 days of location data about a suspect's phone. Judge Garaufis wrote that because we have our phones handy at all time, "our physical movements are being monitored and recorded, and once the government can make a showing of less-than-probable-cause, it may obtain these records of our movements, study the map our lives, and learn the many things we reveal about ourselves through our physical presence." In fact he called it 'fiction' ¬ the idea that most Americans consent to warrantless government tracking and access to their location history by 'choosing' to carry a phone.

Judge Garaufis even referenced George Orwell's 1984. In the conclusion, he wrote:

“While the government's monitoring of our thoughts may be the archetypical Orwellian intrusion, the government's surveillance of our movements of a considerable time period through new technologies, such as the collection of cell-site-location records, without the protections of the Fourth Amendment, puts our country far closer to Oceania than our Constitution permits. It is time that the courts begin to address whether revolutionary changes in technology require change to existing Fourth Amendment doctrine.”

Pocket paradigms

There are two basic ways of securing oneself against others: (1) not making them mad at you and (2) defending yourself when they are. What is so striking about our leaders is that they spend so little effort on the first option and so much on the second. The problem with this is that you not only have to shield yourself from bullets but from the rest of life as well. And it's worth remembering that no one lives in a medieval castle for protection anymore. It turned out that they weren't as safe as the inhabitants thought..– Sam Smith

Proof that CEOs are grossly overpaid

John Kenneth Galbraith once noted that the fact that the departure of a CEO had so little effect on the value of a coporation's stock was strong evidence that CEOs were vastly overpaid. For further proof check Apple's stock, which fell less than 1% with the departure of Steve Jobs.

Latinos now outnumber blacks in colleges

Washington Post - For the first time, young Hispanics outnumber blacks on college campuses.

A study released by the Pew Hispanic Center finds that enrollment of Hispanic students aged 18 to 24 rose by 24 percent in a single year, reaching 1.8 million in October 2010.

That’s 349,000 new Hispanic students. By contrast, black enrollment rose by 88,000 and Asian American enrollment rose by 43,000. White enrollment declined by 320,000. These crisscrossing numbers amplify the shift in the overall makeup of the college population.

There are now 1.8 million Hispanics enrolled in American colleges, 1.7 million blacks and 800,000 Asians. White enrollment has declined from about 8 million in 2009 to 7.7 million last fall.

475 Payless and Stride Rite stores to close

Jokes from the Edinburgh Fringe

Comedian Nick Helm has won an award for the best joke of the Edinburgh Fringe. He won for the joke: "I needed a password eight characters long so I picked Snow White and the Seven Dwarves."

Other winners

Tim Key: "Drive-Thru McDonalds was more expensive than I thought... once you've hired the car..."

Matt Kirshen: "I was playing chess with my friend and he said, 'Let's make this interesting'. So we stopped playing chess."

Andrew Lawrence: "I admire these phone hackers. I think they have a lot of patience. I can't even be bothered to check my own voicemails."

Atheists more honest than Christians

Current - In "The New Criminology", Max D. Schlapp and Edward E. Smith say that two generations of statisticians found that the ratio of convicts without religious training is about 1/10 of 1%. W. T. Root, professor of psychology at the Univ. of Pittsburgh, examined 1,916 prisoners and said "Indifference to religion, due to thought, strengthens character," adding that Unitarians, Agnostics, Atheists and Free-Thinkers are absent from penitentiariers or nearly so.

During 10 years in Sing-Sing, those executed for murder were 65% Catholics, 26% Protestants, 6% Hebrew, 2% Pagan, and less than 1/3 of 1% non-religious.

Steiner and Swancara surveyed Canadian prisons and found 1,294 Catholics, 435 Anglicans, 241 Methodists, 135 Baptists, and 1 Unitarian.

Dr. Christian, Superintendant of the NY State Reformatories, checked 22,000 prison inmates and found only 4 college graduates. In "Who's Who" 91% were college graduates, and he commented that "intelligence and knowledge produce right living" and that "crime is the offspring of superstition and ignorance."

Surveyed Massachusetts reformatories found every inmate religious, carefully herded by chaplins.

In Joliet, there were 2,888 Catholics, 1,020 Baptists, 617 Methodists and 0 non-religious.

Michigan had 82,000 Baptists and 83,000 Jews in their state population. But in the prisons, there were 22 times as many Baptists as Jews, and 18 times as many Methodists as Jews. In Sing-Sing, there were 1,553 total inmates with 855 of them Catholics (over half), 518 Protestants, 177 Jews and 8 non- religious. There's a very interesting qualified statistic.

What really happened at Fukushima?

Libya notes

Robert Dreyfuss, Nation - What do you call it when the full force of a US/NATO aerial bombardment is coupled with political support for a ragtag rebel group that, when victorious, promises to hand over its oil resources to its Western backers? A war for oil.

Don’t believe for one moment that the US backing for Libya’s opposition was about freedom.

Was the US/NATO campaign closely coordinated with each advance by the rebels? In an article in today’s Washington Post, headlined, “Allies guided rebels’ ‘pincer’ assault on capital,” we learn that every inch of the rebels’ advance was facilitated by pinpoint military attacks by NATO. It quotes a Pentagon spokesman: “We have a good operational picture of where forces are arrayed on the battlefield.” Some revolution!

And listen to this. In the New York Times, in a piece headlined, “The Scramble for Access to Libya’s Oil Wealth Begins,” the rebel leader who heads the opposition Libyan oil company, which was formed with support from the Arab Gulf kleptocrats, says that Libya’s new leaders, a combination of wealthy defectors, tribal chieftains, and Islamists, plan to favor their NATO backers when handing out access to Libya’s oil.

Amy Davidson, New Yorker - The Obama Administration has, for a couple of months now, been arguing that our country is not even involved in “hostilities” in Libya. That is plainly untrue. We have been conducting military activities that aim to overthrow a government; our troops are flying and dropping bombs that kill people¬and just because they may be bad people does not make this operation something it isn’t. The Obama Administration persisted in its strange non-definition because it just really, really didn’t want to go to Congress about this, as the War Powers Resolution required him to do after sixty days, or, if really necessary, ninety. One can be very glad to see Qaddafi fall, and even proud that our country played a role, and still be unhappy that Obama dodged the law.

Ivan Eland, Anti-War - Worst of all, we don’t really know what will come next in Libya. In retrospect, Gadhafi may look much better if radical anti-U.S. Islamists eventually take over the country. The U.S. has seemed to be so worried about this outcome in Syria that, up until recently, it was reluctant to call for the ouster of the equally brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad in Syria. The same worry should have applied to Libya. The problem with wars, even ones with laudable goals, is that the unintended consequences are usually severe. Recalling that U.S. support of Islamist rebels in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union morphed into the worst foreign threat to American soil since the War of 1812 should have given the United States some pause in getting involved in the Libyan conflict. It didn’t.

Justin Raimondo, Anti-War - No doubt the Libyans will go through the sham of “democratic” elections, although you can bet there’ll be no Green Party on the ballot. In reality, however, the outcome is being decided in advance. After all, why bother having elections to a legislative body if the laws have already been written?

The resemblance of all this to what happened in Iraq is eerie: the first public face of the Iraqi opposition was Ahmad Chalabi, the trickster-embezzler and “hero-in-error,” who funneled fake “intelligence” to the Bush White House and was paid to lie us into war. Chalabi never talked religion, but only about “democracy” and “liberty.” Chalabi’s group, the Iraqi National Congress, was swept aside in the elections, in which the Islamist parties divided up the vast majority of votes. Chalabi made his peace with them and was appointed to high office: today Iraq is Iran’s best friend in the region, and is making sympathetic noises at poor beleaguered Bashar al-Assad of Syria, an Iranian ally, while Washington demands his ouster.

Can we expect a repeat in Libya, where – as in Iraq – a secular “socialist” authoritarian regime is overthrown, and the ostensibly secular elements of the opposition quickly go over to the Islamists? Such a question must surely have occurred to our all-wise policymakers in Washington: no doubt it was quickly brushed aside in order to facilitate the Obama administration’s harebrained scheme to hijack the “Arab Spring” and turn it into the engine of Western imperialism in the region.

As many have noted, we are facing yet another “Mission Accomplished!” moment, with a “victory” hailed, this time, by the more rabid Obama-ites. War fever blows particularly hot over at MSNBC, whose full-throated cheerleading is surely a major embarrassment for “progressives” who still cling to their anti-interventionist principles. Rachel Maddow declaring that war skeptics have been “proven wrong” by the apparent taking of Tripoli is like Jonah Goldberg hailing Iraqis “dancing for joy” at the “liberation” of their country by the US.

The hit man in Obama’s Wall Street scam

Robert Scheer, Truth Dig - The administration has rushed to the aid of the banks once again and is attempting to intimidate the few state attorneys general who have the gumption to protect the public interest they are sworn to serve. As Gretchen Morgenson of The New York Times reported:

“Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, has come under increasing pressure from the Obama administration to drop his opposition to a wide-ranging state settlement with banks over dubious foreclosure practices. …

“In recent weeks, Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and high-level Justice Department officials have been waging an intensifying campaign to try to persuade the attorney general to support the settlement. …”

Donovan has good reason not to want an exploration of the origins of the housing meltdown: He has been a big-time player in the housing racket for decades. Back in the Clinton administration, when government-supported housing became a fig leaf for bundling suspect mortgages into what turned out to be toxic securities, Donovan was a deputy assistant secretary at HUD and acting Federal Housing Administration commissioner. He was up to his eyeballs in this business when the Clinton administration pushed through legislation banning any regulation of the market in derivatives based on home mortgages.

Armed with his insider connections, Donovan then went to work for the Prudential conglomerate, working deals with the same government housing agencies that he had helped run. As The New York Times reported in 2008 after President Barack Obama picked him to be secretary of HUD, “Mr. Donovan was a managing director at Prudential Mortgage Capital Co., in charge of its portfolio of investments in affordable housing loans, including Fannie Mae and the Federal Housing Administration debt.”

Shifting the blame from the swindlers to the victims is the cynical rot at the core of the response of both the Bush and Obama administrations to the housing collapse. It is a response that aims to forgive and forget the crimes of Wall Street while allowing ordinary folks to sink deeper into the pit of debt and despair. It infects Donovan and many others who claim to be concerned for the very homeowners they are betraying by undermining the few officials such as Schneiderman who seek to hold the bankers accountable.

Meanwhile. . . .

Stupid Rick Perry tricks

Even if an alcoholic is powerless over alcohol once it enters his body, he still makes a choice to drink. And, even if someone is attracted to a person of the same sex, he or she still makes a choice to engage in sexual activity with someone of the same gender.” -Rick Perry, 2008

Internet sightings

Furthermore. . .

NYT in its Cheney article (of all places) still refuses to call waterboarding torture, referring to it, oddly, as a "suffocation technique." - Greg Mitchell

Dog that can open and shut doors

Nearly one in ten big employers plan to end health insurance

Stupid Rick Perry tricks

Even if an alcoholic is powerless over alcohol once it enters his body, he still makes a choice to drink. And, even if someone is attracted to a person of the same sex, he or she still makes a choice to engage in sexual activity with someone of the same gender.” -Rick Perry, 2008

New York AG thrown off key committee because he refused to accept corrupt sweetheart deal with banks

Business Insider - New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was kicked off the 13-person executive committee for negotiating a nationwide foreclosure settlement with U.S. banks, Bloomberg reported.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said in a statement yesterday that Schneiderman's office had "actively worked to undermine" the effort.

From Bloomberg:

“New York has actively worked to undermine the very same multistate group that it had spent the previous nine months working very closely with,” said Miller, who is leading the state group. For a member of the executive committee, that “simply doesn’t make sense, is unprecedented and is unacceptable,” Miller said. . .

Schneiderman is said to object the deal because it could compromise investigations into the practices on the securitization side.

Over the past year, Attorneys General from all 50 states have been investigating bank foreclosure practices and working to reach a settlement with the banks. Many in the Obama administration, the Justice Department and HUD have been pushing aggressively for a deal to be reached.

The New York AG has been vocal against barring further investigations by states aspart of the settlement with the banks.

He's not alone in that camp.

Schneiderman including Delaware's Beau Biden, Nevada's Catherine Cortez Masto and Massachusetts's Martha Coakley are among those Attorneys General who want to continue their own probes after an agreement.

“Ongoing investigations by attorneys general cannot be shut down by efforts to settle quickly and those responsible must be held accountable," a spokesperson for Schneiderman said.

What's more is booting him from the panel doesn't look like it's going to keep him quiet either.

"While it is Attorney General Miller’s prerogative to remove us from the executive committee, we will continue to be an active voice on these issues as a part of the 50-state coalition and in other forums," his spokesman said.

Matt Taibii, Rolling Stone - This deal is all about protecting the banks from future enforcement actions on both the civil and criminal sides. The plan is to provide year-after-year, repeat-offending banks like Bank of America with some stability and certainty, so that they know exactly how much they’ll have to pay in fines (trust me, it will end up being a tiny fraction of what they made off the fraudulent practices) and will also get to know for sure that there are no more criminal investigations in the pipeline.

This deal will also submarine efforts by both defrauded investors in MBS and unfairly foreclosed-upon homeowners and borrowers to obtain any kind of relief in the civil court system. The AGs initially talked about $20 billion as a settlement number, money that would “toward loan modifications and possibly counseling for homeowners,” as Gretchen Morgenson reported the other day.

The banks, however, apparently “balked” at paying that sum, and no doubt it will end up being a lesser amount when the deal is finally done.

To give you an indication of how absurdly small a number even $20 billion is relative to the sums of money the banks made unloading worthless crap subprime assets on foreigners, pension funds and other unsuspecting suckers around the world, consider this: in 2008 alone, the state pension fund of Florida, all by itself, lost more than three times that amount ($62 billion) thanks in significant part to investments in these deadly MBS.

New York’s Schneiderman, who earlier this year launched an investigation into the securitization practices of Goldman, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and other companies, is screwing up this whole arrangement. Until he lies down, the banks don’t have a deal. They need the certainty of having all 50 states and the federal government on board, or else it’s not worth paying anybody off. . .

My theory is that the Obama administration is trying to secure its 2012 campaign war chest with this settlement deal. If he can make this foreclosure thing go away for the banks, you can bet he’ll win the contributions battle against the Republicans next summer.

Recovered history: Two little known aspects of MLK's "I have a dream" speech

An excerpt from a book by Clarence B. Jones, one of those who helped to draft the original talk, no easy task. As Jones describes it:

As I stood some 50 feet behind the lectern, march Chairman A. Philip Randolph introduced Martin, to wild applause, as "the moral leader of our nation." And I still didn't know how Martin had pulled the speech together after our meeting.

After Martin greeted the people assembled, he began his speech, and I was shocked . . .

Martin was essentially reciting the opening suggestions I'd handed in the night before. . . When Martin finished the promissory note analogy, he paused. And in that breach, something unexpected, historic and largely unheralded happened. Martin's favorite gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson, who had performed earlier in the day, called to him from nearby: "Tell 'em about the dream, Dream, Martin, tell 'em about the dream!"

Martin clutched the speaker's lectern and seemed to reset. I watched him push the text of his prepared remarks to one side. I knew this performance had just been given over to the spirit of the moment. I leaned over and said to the person next to me, "These people out there today don't know it yet, but they're about ready to go to church."

What could possibly motivate a man standing before a crowd of hundreds of thousands, with television cameras beaming his every move and a cluster of microphones tracing his every word, to abandon the prepared text of his speech and begin riffing on a theme that he had used previously without generating much enthusiasm from listeners?

Before our eyes, he transformed himself into the superb, third-generation Baptist preacher that he was, and he spoke those words that in retrospect feel destined to ring out that day.

John F Kennedy didn't want the speech

Posted by TPR at 8/24/2011 0 comments

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Pocket paradigms

Revolutions are defined not by the wonder of their promise but by the horrors of what preceded them. They replace evil, but without a warranty.– Sam Smith
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Libya: More military pornography

With the help of a thoroughly embedded media, the United States has spent the past decade using the pornography of warfare to keep its citizens minds off the collapse of its Constitution, democratic systems, and economy. The grotesque amount of coverage being given Libya at the time of America's greatest economic crisis since the Depression is another example of this.

Patrick Cockburn, Anti-War - It has never been a straight trial of strength between two groups of Libyans because of the decisive role of Nato air strikes. The insurgents themselves admit that without the air war waged on their behalf – with 7,459 air strikes on pro-Gaddafi targets – they would be dead or in flight. The question, therefore, remains open as to how the rebels can peaceably convert their foreign-assisted victory on the battlefield into a stable peace acceptable to all parties in Libya.

Precedents in Afghanistan and Iraq are not encouraging and serve as a warning. The anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan won military success thanks, as in Libya, to foreign air support. They then used this temporary predominance arrogantly and disastrously to establish a regime weighted against the Pashtun community.

In Iraq, the Americans – over-confident after the easy defeat of Saddam Hussein – dissolved the Iraqi army and excluded former members of the Baath party from jobs and power, giving them little choice but to fight. Most Iraqis were glad to see the end of Saddam Hussein, but the struggle to replace him almost destroyed the country.

Will the same thing happen in Libya?

Pro Publica - NATO's stated mission was simply to protect Libyan civilians, but its actual role appears to have gone well beyond that.While NATO has denied that it has any "boots on the ground" in Libya, British and American officials speaking anonymously have said that there are "dozens" of British Special Forces soldiers, as well as American CIA operatives, working in Libya. An Al-Jazeera film crew captured images of armed Westerners in the rebel frontlines west of Misrata, and a rebel source told Al Jazeera in April that he had received training from American and Egyptian special forces.

In April, France and Italy also announced they would be sending a "small number" of military officers to "be mentors" to rebel forces. . .

The track record of rebel groups on human rights isn't comparable to the bloody massacres by Qaddafi's forces, but it's still been far from stellar.

Human Rights Watch accused some rebel forces in the western mountain regions of burning and looting hospitals, homes, and businesses in several towns they managed to overtake. They were also accused of beating people suspected of being Qaddafi loyalists. One rebel military commander admitted some of the abuses but said they were in violation of orders, according to Human Rights Watch. The rebels later issued a statement condemning the abuses and pledging to investigate.

Questions about the rebel groups' unity and adherence to the rule of law resurfaced again in late July, when the top rebel military leader was mysteriously shot dead. Rebel leaders later acknowledged that a group of rebel soldiers had assassinated Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes, who had been close to Qaddafi prior to his defection to the rebels.

The incident also underscores the fact that the rebels are fundamentally a loose coalition made up of various factions whose actions aren't always in sync -- so it's unclear at times which faction was responsible for accused abuses...


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