Monday, January 31, 2011

Comparing The Egyptian Revolt to the Tea Party Revolt

This evening in Cairo:


September 12, 2009 in DC:

David House Interviewed on His Visits to Bradley Manning Last Weekend

Palingates vs. Politicalgates


No - I'm not about to take sides. Earlier in the month, the Palincentric blog, Palingates, had a parting of the ways between Regina - on one hand - and Patrick & Kathleen - on the other hand. One Alaska blog certainly took sides. This one isn't. Not yet, probably not ever. I've had great relationships with Patrick, Kathleen and Regina.

Palingates remains on the blogroll as an "honorary AK blog." I'll wait a couple of weeks to see how Politicalgates, Patrick and Kathleen's new blogspot niche works. I wish them, as well as Regina, all the luck and positive vibes in the world.

Meanwhile - traffic since the breakup:

Palingates:

January 31:
Arctic with Bruce Parry vs Sarah Palin's Alaska.... - 81 comments


January 30:
Open thread - Sunday - 141 comments

Sarah Palin - 311 comments

January 29:
Open thread - Saturday - 381 comments

SarahPAC 4th Quarter 2010... [great article!] - 335 comments
Housekeeping - 103 comments

January 28:
Open thread - Friday - 528 comments

Things I need to say - 461 comments

January 27:
Brace yourselves - 2,628 comments


Politicalgates (new blog):

January 30:
Sarah Palin: "Mr. Caribou has to take one .... - 849 comments


January 29:
Civil unrest continues in Egypt - Will there be..... - 465 comments


January 28:
Welcome to Politicalgates! - 1,566 comments


As one can see, both blogs are getting high traffic and very many comments.

Great Video from Sunday's Anti-Koch Demonstrations in California



The great idea that corporations aren't persons and shouldn't be treated s such?

Guess who one of the leading Americans on this issue is? - Riki Ott, from Cordova.

Guess how many articles by Alaska's "lamestream" media (the label truly fits, in this case) have been written about Ott's advocacy of this idea? - If you find one - let me know.

Shannyn Moore Now Broadcast on AM and FM in Southcentral Alaska - 95.5 FM

[from Shannyn's blog]

The Shannyn Moore Show goes FM!

Starting today, FOX NEWS TALK KOAN 1020AM will be simulcast in the Anchorage Bowl on KOAN 95.5FM!

Tune into The Shannyn Moore Show from 3pm-6pm EST/11am-2pm AST.

As always, you may stream the show on either KOAN Anchorage or KXLJ Juneau . Miss a show? Podcast it here!

CALL THE SHOW AT 907.522.1020!




NOW, 5 WAYS TO LISTEN:

  1. 1020 AM
  2. 95.5 FM
  3. www.1020koan.com
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  5. http://shannynmoore.podbean.com/

Bradley Manning: Punitive Psychiatric Status Remains, but Hopeful About Youth Uprising in Tunisia and Egypt

--- by Jane Hamsher

This weekend David House had his first opportunity to visit with Bradley Manning in over a month.

House faced even stricter scrutiny from the guards, and Manning is still being detained under MAX/POI. Once in, Manning had some interesting observations about the situation in Egypt and Tunisia, as well as about American punditry’s reaction. Meanwhile, the new brig commander is going over Manning’s file, and a decision about possible changes in the conditions of Manning’s detention may be coming this week.

We drove down to Quantico on both Saturday and Sunday. Because David was concerned for his friend’s health and his first priority was being able to see him, we made the decision not to pursue delivery of the petition (now with 51,382 signatures) to the brig commander at this time. A new brig commander was appointed last week after the previous one abused Manning’s medical classification in order to punish him for “disobeying orders.” We also wanted to give her time to review Manning’s case and hopefully make the decision to remove him from punitive POI watch/MAX custody.

Access to the Brig

Per the request of the guards who detained us last week, this time David drove on to the base in a taxi cab with a driver who has been going there for 15 years. The driver had been on the base just the day before with no problem. This time, however, his cab was searched and he was ordered to be accompanied by two vehicles — one behind and one in front — on a slow three-mile drive to the brig. And for the first time, David was subject to two checkpoints between the gate and the brig during which their IDs were taken and they called ahead to the brig to clear them.

When going to the FBI academy on the other side of Quantico, the driver said that he was accustomed to being accompanied by one vehicle but never two. He said he had never been accompanied at all by an escort on this part of the base. A trip that had never taken us more than two minutes before now took approximately 20 minutes.

Manning’s Condition

Bradley was brought in to meet with David, per usual, in chains. His MAX custody classification means that the entire facility is on lockdown whenever he leaves his cell, and he must be accompanied by two guards at all time. During his conversations with David, Manning’s guards listen closely to everything they say, and make it a point to make noise and shift around frequently to call attention to their presence in the room.

David was initially quite concerned about Manning’s state of mind, and felt he was beginning to exhibit some of the damaging symptoms of prolonged isolation including emotional withdrawal and impaired cognitive function. Bradley seemed slow to respond when they spoke, and could not process information as quickly as he normally did.

Bradley became excited and engaged, however, when David mentioned the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

Youth-Driven Social Media-Enabled Uprisings

“Bradley is in a shocked state due to solitary confinement, but his mood and mind soared when I mentioned the democratic uprisings in Egypt” said House on his Twitter feed last night.

Bradley was specifically interested in the role that online social networks had played in facilitating the uprising of young, technologically sophisticated youth in both Tunisia and Egypt. He noted that at a certain point, crowds seem to collectively intuit that they have reached a size sufficient to overpower the police. He felt that the broad instant communication capabilities of social networks in Tunisia and Egypt had enabled the quick assembly of enough people to reach this “tipping point” in a way that had not been previously possible.

David and Bradley did not discuss the role that leaked WikiLeaks documents played in sparking civic action in Tunisia and Egypt. Bill Keller of the New York Times, however, recently wrote that the “WikiLeaks cables in which American diplomats recount the extravagant corruption of Tunisia’s rulers helped fuel a popular uprising that has overthrown the government.” And Michael Hirsh, writing in he National Journal, says that “the Wikileaks cables may have done more to inspire democracy in the Arab world than did a bloody, decade long, trillion-dollar war effort orchestrated by the United States.”

Manning had seen Harold Ford’s appearance on Meet the Press and thought that his observations were compelling. In response to Mike Murphy’s comment that the uprising in Egypt could mean a “disaster for American foreign policy,” Ford referred to a giant board containing Twitter postings and said:

The, the median age in Egypt is 24. This is a group of global citizens who understand that board better than some sitting around this table, and even some who fashioned foreign policy for America in the ’70s and ’80s and ’90s. In many ways, as, as Martin [Indyk] said, this is a, this is a 21st century revolution that a lot of the old paradigms and old rules we apply, and all the analysis–not that it’s bad analysis, it’s just maybe dated.

Manning thought it was interesting that Ford acknowledged the young people in Egypt understood their own political situation much better than professional American pundits, in a way that could make their roles as commentators obsolete. He also found the aggressive pushback Ford received from his fellow panelists to that notion extremely amusing.

The government has not charged Manning with leaking cables to WikiLeaks, nor has Manning admitted to doing so. U.S. military officials recently told NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski that investigators have been unable to make any direct connection between Manning and Julian Assange.

New Brig Commander and Psychiatric Status

This week, the new brig commander, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Denise Barnes, will decide whether the punitive psychiatric evaluation of Manning ordered by the previous brig commander, James Averhart, will continue or not. Manning is being held in “special quarters” as a result of this status. Manning’s attorney, Iraq veteran Lt. Col David Coomb, cited SECNAVINST 1640.9C in recent statement on Manning’s status. It reads: “Special quarters are not a punitive measure and shall not be used as such. Prisoners must be made aware of the reason they are berthed in special quarters.”

Neither Manning nor Coombs has received an explanation as to why Manning is being held in Special Quarters. In his press conference last week, Department of Defense spokesman Geoff Morrell indicated it was due to the threat Manning posed to national security. However, according to people familiar with military law, placing Manning in MAX custody solely under the basis of the charge would be a violation of Article 13. They indicate Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces has stated that a confinement facility must point to more than just the nature of the allegation.

Punitive psychiatry for political ends was systematic in the Soviet Union from the 1960s to the 1980s, according to the British Medical Association. “In a monolith state, psychiatry can be used to bypass normal legal procedures for assessing guilt or innocence and allow political imprisonment without the usual odium attached to such political trials.”

Brig Commander Averhart’s decision to hold Manning under Protection of Injury Watch and MAX custody was made against the advice of three brig psychiatrists, who have recommended that Manning be moved to Medium Detention In (MDI) and without POI watch restrictions. Contrary to the assertion of Department of Defense Spokesman Geoff Morrell, Manning is the only detainee at the Quantico Brig being held under POI watch/MAX custody.

On January 9 2011 Manning’s lawyer, Iraq veteran Lt. Col. David Coombs filed a demand for a speedy trial with the Government. Since July 12 2010, according to Coombs, the case has been on government-requested executable delay which was approved by the court-martial convening authority. Coombs indicates that “the case is currently awaiting the start of a Rule for Courts-Martial (R.C.M) 706 Board. This board will likely begin its work in February.”

Manning has now been in pre-trial confinement since May 29, 2010.

You can still sign our petition to incoming Quantico brig Commander Barnes

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Rally Sunday in CA Against Koch Bros. Billionaire Cult Gathering



Guess Who Obama Wants to Help Him on Egypt? - Elliot Abrams - Updated

This morning, secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Omar Suleiman, Egypt's brand new Vice President. He's the guy who ran Egypt's torture program for about 15 years. She called his hire a move in the right direction.

Now comes the announcement that one of the sleaziest operators in recent American history will be advising Obama on what to do next:
Just got late word that Dunne, Kagan and others from their group including former Bush NSC Middle East hand Elliott Abrams, as well as George Washington University Middle East expert Marc Lynch, have been invited to the White House Monday.
Elliot Abrams is not only intensely dishonest, he is almost always wrong. And he is far more loyal to Israel than to the United States. Here's how Bill Moyers covered Obama's new advisor, as the crimes of Elliot Abrams and others were initially exposed:

Part One:


Part Two:


Update - Monday morning: Abrams cancelled:

Abrams sends regrets, couldn't change plans for WH Egypt powwow. Kagan couldn't get flight back from CA in time http://politi.co/g8aqoD

Joe the Teabagger - Still Begging for your $$$$$

Got this in the email this afternoon from Joe. You'd think he would have gone out and gotten an honest job as a clerk at Drop Zone by now, eh?

Translation of SoS Hillary Clinton's Remarks This Morning

Mondoweiss Challenges firedoglake – “Sign the Petition – Cut off Netanyahu”

I. On Friday, firedoglake founder Jane Hamsher asked us to sign a petition, requesting that "Congress ... immediately vote to cut off any American aid to the Egyptian government." I signed it. Then I republished Jane's post at my blog, where more people read about this important issue, and signed the petition.

Jane's post at firedoglake sported an image of a tear gas canister that had been fired at protesters in Egypt late last week. The canister (as are the rubber bullets and many other anti-riot implements used in Egypt) was made in the USA. Combined Technical Systems in Jamestown, PA makes the tear gas projectiles. In my republication of Jane's post, I added an image of the place in Pennsylvania where Combined Systems makes and packages some of this stuff. There, outside the company's HQ, are a pair of flag poles. Atop one sits the American flag. Atop the other one, just as tall, perhaps higher, sits an Israeli flag.

The same company that makes these canisters being used as I write against the Egyptian people, makes many, many more, that are used every week against courageous Palestinian and Israeli people, who fight against policies of the apartheid regime in Tel Aviv. American college student Emily Henochowicz lost an eye to a Combined Systems product on May 31st, as she demonstrated at Kalandi crossing near Ramallah, against the murders of eight young Turks and another American college student, Furkan Do─čan, by Israeli "commandos" brandishing more American made products in their arsenal. American Tristan Anderson was severely injured by a Combined Technical Systems product near Ni'in in the west Bank, on March 13, 2009.

American-made white phosphorus products killed scores, perhaps hundreds of Palestinians, including many kids, during Operation Cast Lead. If you haven't seen the images of these ruined kids, you should.

On Friday, I commented at Jane's petition post, asking:
Where’s the petition to cut off the similar aid package to Israel, Jane? Essentially, they’re part of the same overall package and mindset, even if the Israelis have a very different U.S. constituency than that of the Egyptians.

A few commenters agreed. After one commenter engaged further in my question, Jane answered:
Petitions are a tool we use to identify people who are interested in a particular issue. Once we identify them we can ask them to take actions of increasing sophistication and complexity in consort such that maximum pressure is exerted on identifiable weak spots within a system.

Thank you for your concern. When it comes to the influence of money in a political system you might be surprised what we understand.

II. Today, the blog Mondoweiss, in an essay penned by their founder, Philip Weiss, all but challenges firedoglake to put up a similar petition regarding U.S. aid to Israel. Here's the relevant excerpt:
In his bumbling press briefing two days ago, Robert Gibbs put the U.S. "assistance posture" toward the Egyptians on the table, warning the gov't not to crack down on the protesters or there goes our money. People are listening. Firedoglake has called for ending aid to Egypt, citing the teargas canisters we produce being used against demonstrators.

Let me remind you, the Israelis killed nearly 400 children in Gaza by dropping white phosphorus on them over 22 days of hellish attacks on a population of 1.5 million two years ago, and the U.S. said nothing. The siege of Gaza is collective punishment, a war crime. And pro-democracy demonstrations in the West Bank, where the people have no rights, are routinely suppressed by Israel. A worldwide movement has called for boycott, divestment and sanctions.

Will Firedoglake and Robert Gibbs see the writing on the wall?

It is a worthy challenge. I've been commenting at fdl since 2005, writing here since 2008. I've been commenting at Mondoweiss since 2008, and Weiss has asked me to begin submitting articles there (I will, when the Rachel Corrie civil suit concludes in Haifa).

Weiss' blog (he's now working closely with Adam Horowitz and The Nation Institute, and featuring many dynamic writers) is dedicated to "The War of Ideas in the Middle East" and to Jewish identity. firedoglake is perhaps the most formidable progressive public forum in the United States on a wide array of issues, only one of which is Palestinian rights. But with Weiss' challenge, there appears to be a cognitive dissonance that, through resolution, might bring about some positive results.

image - Jane Hamsher & Philip Weiss

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Obama on Tuesday - "We Stand With the People of Tunisia" -- Obama on Friday - "We Stand With the Dictator of Egypt"

What's the difference between the two?

There are several, but paramount is that our most selfish, ungrateful ally - Israel - prefers to be surrounded by corrupt dictators who are more willing to make sleazy, behind-the-scenes deals with an apartheid, expansionist state, than help their own people. That has worked fairly well for the Israelis for decades. It is about to come to a screeching halt.

Along with the toppling of the corrupt Tunisian government last week, came the final election results in Lebanon, with Hezbollah choosing the final configuration of the government, and publication of what have become known as "The Palestine Papers," which show both Israeli dishonesty in dealing with the Palestinian Authority since before the Oslo Accords, and the inadequacy of many central PA figures. Thousands are demonstrating against the U.S.-backed government in Yemen; hundreds are demonstrating in Jordan. Now, we are seeing gigantic demonstrations in the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and Suez.

In the U.S. the GOP leadership is openly backing the Egyptian dictator. So is Vice President Biden. So is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

GOP leadership:
Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R- MI 11): "America must stand with her ally Egypt to preserve an imperfect government capable of reform; and prevent a tyrranical [sic] government capable of harm."
Vice President Biden:
Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things. And he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interest in the region, the Middle East peace efforts; the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing relationship with – with Israel. … I would not refer to him as a dictator.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce:
[T]he U.S. Chamber of Commerce maintains a network of foreign affiliates known as Amchams, “which are foreign chambers of the Chamber composed of American and foreign companies.” In Egypt, this foreign affiliate is known as the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt, known in short as AmCham Egypt.

AmCham Egypt’s relation to the Mubarak dictatorship stretches back decades. In fact, the Egyptian dictator even personally intervened to create the organization. In 1981, Mubarak issued an order to allow for the creation of the AmCham by giving it an exemption from Egypt’s strict NGO laws — which help limit the influence human rights and democracy promotion organizations. Since then, the chamber has grown to have hundreds of members. While roughly 75 percent of the organization’s members are Egyptian businesses, many of them are also large Western multinational corporations, like Coca Cola and BP. The Chamber’s member companies account for nearly 20 percent of Egypt’s GDP.

When a powerful corporate-backed entity like the AmCham Egypt gains favorable treatment, it is natural for it to try to protect its patron. So last year, when a group of U.S. Senators — lead by Russ Feingold (D-WI) — introduced legislation that called on the government of Egypt to end crackdowns on pro-democracy activists and hold free and fair elections, AmCham Egypt, at the behest of the Egyptian dictatorship, sprung into action.

As Al Masra Al Youm, a major Egyptian paper, reports, the Mubarak regime tapped AmCham Egypt President Shafik Gabr to do its bidding. Gabr was “dispatched expressly” for the purpose of scuttling the bill.
In Israel, the government itself has remained silent. Others, particularly past government officials, are more open:
Israeli officials say in private they cannot believe President Hosni Mubarak will be overthrown by the demonstrations. But if he should fall, there is no guarantee whoever might follow him will continue to tend to Israel ties.

Ordinary Egyptians have never warmed to Israel, despite more than three decades of peace, and regularly blame it for their woes.

"If Mubarak is toppled then Israel will be totally isolated in the region," said Alon Liel, a former director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and a former ambassador to Turkey.
The Israelis had an awful year with their neighbors, particularly Turkey:

After successfully helping orchestrate the demands for an international panel to look into the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the Israelis, with their eager partners in the Obama administration, managed to stifle a similar international query into the murders of several Turks and an American, by Israeli "commandos" aboard the Turkish-flagged vessel in international waters, the MV Mavi Marmara.

The publication of The Palestine Papers
has effectively finished killing any rational possibility of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Here's Steven M. Walt:
[T]hese releases can also be read as the final obituary for the Oslo peace process. Lord knows it had been on life support for years, and most analysts have already understood it was going nowhere. In that sense, these documents aren't really revelatory: They merely confirm what most of us had suspected ever since Obama began walking back from the Cairo speech. But what I've argued before is now abundantly clear: The Palestinians aren't going to accept anything less than a viable state (plus at least symbolic acknowledgement of a "right of return"), and Israel isn't going to offer them anything remotely close to that. (See Jeremy Pressman here for further details on the difficulties.) It's equally clear that the United States is incapable of acting like an honest broker on this issue, despite its importance to our broader security position. That means no "two states for two peoples," which in turn means that some future U.S. president is going to face some really awkward choices.
Walt concludes:
[I]f we step back and take a larger and longer view, it begins to look like the U.S. position in the Middle East, which seemed so dominant after the fall of the USSR and the first Gulf War, is now crumbling. Hezbollah just formed a government in Lebanon, possibly after the United States convinced former PM Saad Hariri to go back on a compromise deal over the U.N. tribunal investigating the murder of his father. Iraq is now governed by a Shiite government with extensive links to Iran and is denying the U.S. any future military role there. A democratic government in Turkey, while not anti-American, is charting an independent course. The Mubarak government in Egypt, long a close U.S. client, has been shaken, and even if it survives the current turmoil, its long-term status is up for grabs.

The problem is this: The United States has no idea how to deal with a Middle East where the voice of the people might actually be heard, rather than being subject to the writ of various aging potentates.

And having followed policies for decades that are unpopular with most of those same people, we may be about to reap the whirlwind.

Is it too late for Israel and the U.S. to avoid having to reap this "whirlwind"? Perhaps not.

One thing that struck me about the events in Tunisia was the extent to which young, educated professional women there participated. Their interests in changing the government were almost exclusively non-religious. Although the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in Tunisia was almost non-existent, it is playing a part in the events in Egypt, Yemen, Jordan and Gaza. What that involvement means is being spun by conservative apparatchiks here and abroad, as a sort of boogie man figure, to which it is very easy to attach the usual racist anti-Arab stereotypes and Islamaphobic labels. The young people involved in the ongoing demonstrations don't seem comfortable with the hardliners from Islamist groups. The young populations of these countries tend to be suspicious of religious police, as they should be. The young women involved, especially those who have benefitted from higher education, generally despise conservative religious figures because of their anti-women views.

It is about time that Americans attempt to understand the role of millions of young people in these ongoing disturbances against corrupt paradigms we have so fully supported in the past.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Bill Weimar Wanted in Florida for Sexual Battery of a Victim Under the Age of 12

My boss for seven years, Bill Weimar, is wanted in Florida. I wasn't surprised when he was convicted for giving politicians bribes, because I had known for a long time that he did that. Along with a lot of other Alaska businessmen with contracts with the state. They still do. Ask Ray Metcalfe. But Bill never struck me as a sexual predator.

Sign the Petition - Cut Off Mubarak



--- by Jane Hamsher

The people of Egypt are in revolt against Hosni Mubarak, an oppressive dictator propped up for thirty years with billions of dollars in United States military aid — your tax money.

Wikileaks reported today that the US has known of widespread abuse, torture, and even murder of political dissidents under the regime of Egypt’s dictator, Hosni Mubarak. In the streets of Cairo this week, American-made and supplied weapons are aimed at Egyptians, who are choking from tear gas also made in the USA.

That’s OUR tax money, used to torture and kill innocent people in Egypt.

Earlier today, the White House said it was going to “review” the $1.3 billion in military aid we send to Egypt every year. But the time for action is now while the people of Egypt fight for their freedom.

American policy in the Middle East is designed to help autocratic leaders like Mubarak torture Egyptians and suppress dissent. There have been rumors about Egypt as a channel for extraordinary rendition by the CIA, and we’ve seen the use of American weapons for thuggish purposes in the streets of Egypt this week.

We do not want to hear boilerplate public statements about “meaningful dialogue,” because there is no reason to assume the US government is being truthful about its backchannel communications with Egypt. And we do not want to hear that the government is “watching the situation,” as Egypt’s government beats back its own people who simply want a democracy.

We’ve watched long enough. Our tax dollars have propped up Egypt’s murderous regime for 30 years. It’s time for that to end.

images:

top - CNN's Richard Engel in Cairo holding a tear gas canister that says "Made in the USA by Combined Tactical Systems of Jamestown, Pennsylvania"

bottom - The place in Pennsylvania where the canisters are made. Note the Israeli flag, flying slightly higher than the Americn on on the adjacent pole.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

ElBaradei Returns to Egypt Today - Let's Hope He Doesn't Turn Out to Be the Next Benazir Bhutto



Mohamed ElBaradei has been pissing off American presidents and Secretaries of State since he took over the International Atomic Energy Agency from Hans Blix in the early part of Bill Clinton's second term. Both Clintons despise him, irrespective of obligatory positive comments they've occasionally made. George W. Bush and Colin Powell did everything they could to thwart a man who so thoroughly predicted the messiness of the Iraqi quagmire those two Americans led us into.

Although Egyptians might not fully want a person regarded as an expatriate coming in to take over the opposition to Mubarek's police state, others regard him quite highly, as a man who gave their country a very high and positive international profile in a world that was rapidly becoming Islamophobic and racist toward Arabs.

The most recent example of an expatriate leader returning to a powerful country in the Muslim world was of course that of Benazir Bhutto returning to Pakistn, only to be cut down by assassins soon afterward. Mubarek's people are certainly capable of such nasty business.

Siun at firedoglake has written a post at which she asks us to call the White House, State Department and D.C. Egyptian Embassy, to show support for freedom in Egypt:
We can stand with the people of Egypt and ElBaradei as they put so much on the line for democracy. One way to do that is to make sure they – and the White House and US State Department – know that we are watching carefully and insist on protection for the protesters and ElBaradei. You can call right now to deliver that message:

White House Switchboard 202-456-1414
State Department 202-647-4000
Egyptian Embassy 202-895-5400

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Saradise Lost - Book 5 - Chapter 34: Palin - "He Would Aspire Americans to Celebrate"? WTF, Sarah?

Palin's use of the English language often borders on atrocious. Her meretricious attack on Obama's lame speech is a case in point -"He would aspire us to...."

She follows that with this: "What happened back then, uh, with the, uh, former Communist USSR, uh, and their victory, uh, in that, uh, race to space - yeah, they won, but they also incurred so much debt at the time that it resulted in the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union."

Sputnik I was launched in October 1957. The USSR collapsed about 32 years later. This is the first time I've ever heard anyone connect the money spent on Sputnik with the collapse of the Soviet Union. For sure, the USSR collapsed from internal decay. It had many reasons, some of them economic, some political, some having to do with longstanding aspirations of the captive nations of the USSR. I think my December 1957 Mad Magazine came closer to describing what Sputnik I meant - "Their German scientists are better than our German scientists."

Her "Spudnut moment" diatribe was so pathetic that Greta moved right beyond it to talk about something more important - Bristol's future.

I Hate War

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jonesville Mine, Sutton IMPORTANT MEETING

MONDAY, JANUARY 24, 2011 5:30-8 pm Sutton Elementary School

DNR Informal Conference about Jonesville Coal Mine permit renewal. Bring your friends and neighbors. This is a chance to comment on the Coal Mine Permit for Black Range Minerals/Ranger Alaska to strip mine in Sutton.

Talking points:


* Mine plan must be updated- most of it was written in the 1990′s- the surrounding community has many more homes.

* Jonesville Road is a neighborhood and should not be a coal truck transportation route- there is an alternate route past fewer residences.

* A Health Impact Assessment should be done to determine the human health impacts from this coal mine before mining proceeds.

* Mandatory water testing and monitoring needs to be expanded, to protect the drinking water of residents of Jonesville Road and 17 Mile Lake.

* With mining, underground coal fires may begin again- bonds must be high enough to cover the cost of putting out these fires.

* Blasting operations should be limited to business hours on weekdays.

* Recreational access to Slipper Lake and the Matanuska Valley Moose Range will be restricted.

Background:

The Evans Jones Coal Mine operated between 1920 and 1968 in Sutton, where it produced over five million tons of coal and was the site of a serious mining accident in 1937 when 14 miners died. Much of the mine (now known as the Jonesville Mine) is currently under various stages of active reclamation under the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Act, due mostly to underground coal fires. There are still active underground fires at the site.

Throughout the 1990′s and 2000′s there was sporadic interest in re-opening the mine and some exploration occurred. In 2008 Australian-based Black Range Minerals purchased the Jonesville Mine rights through a subsidiary corporation Ranger Alaska, as well as two adjacent leases comprising 1,450 acres. The Jonesville Mine plan is to re-mine the coal mine tailings piles as a surface strip mine and initiate underground mining. The site has primarily medium-grade bituminous coal, which would most likely be exported to Asia.

Background:

In 2010, Ranger Alaska applied for an extension of the mining permit at this site. The public comment period for this extension ended on October 19th, 2010. Some of the biggest local concerns about the re-opening of the mine have to due with traffic and pollution associated with the transportation of the coal. Other issues have been raised such as possible groundwater contamination from the ongoing coal fires. [GroundTruthTrekking.org]

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Israelis target Macy Gray with racist diatribes after she agrees to play Tel Aviv (and who are the “assholes?”)

--- by Max Blumenthal

[Macy will be performing in Tel Aviv about the same time Sarah Palin is reported to be planning to also be in that city - PA]

The Israeli media is filled with reports about Macy Gray confirming her plans to perform in Tel Aviv in March. This should have been an occasion for Israelis to celebrate their continuing ability to behave as a normal society despite occupying millions of people, holding Gaza under siege, maintaining an apparatus of racism against its non-Jewish citizens. But in a poorly calculated stunt designed to wash her hands of human rights concerns, Gray had first
asked her “fans” if she should perform despite what she called Israel’s “disgusting” treatment of the Palestinians. Within hours, thousands of people who had no prior interest in Gray or her music flocked to her Facebook page (they only had to “like” her page in order to post) to register their opinions. Gray, who appeared to have every intention of performing anyway, remarked after announcing her plan to go to Tel Aviv, that some of those urging her to boycott were “assholes.”
It wasn't enough for Macy Gray to agree to perform in Israel. She has to take a virtual loyalty oath, too.

Under normal circumstances, Gray’s roundhouse attack on some supporters of BDS and her subsequent pledge to perform in Tel Aviv should have pleased nationalistic Israelis. However, her initial criticism of Israel’s occupation has invited a firestorm of racist, sexist and generally hateful diatribes from Israelis. Indeed, many Israelis are more furious with Gray for performing inside their country than for refusing to come. Several internet forums, including one called “Don’t Betray,” have sprouted up to incite public anger at artists such as Gray who have criticized Israel — even if they agree to perform in the country. Meanwhile, the talkback sections of articles in the Hebrew media about Gray’s Tel Aviv shows have provided a forum for the most extreme screeds about the singer.

I have collected and translated a sampling of talkbacks from an article in the Hebrew edition of Ynet, the online version of the Israeli paper Yedioth Aharonoth, which highlight the attitude of some Israelis towards Gray. The talkbacks are almost entirely negative towards Gray, with many urging her to cancel her show for daring to criticize Israel, while others call her a “nigger” and denigrate black music as “contaminated.” Gray might be vaguely aware of Israel’s systematic abuse of Palestinians, but is she aware of the racism towards black Africans inside Israel, including Ethiopian Jews? Has she considered how she might be treated if she were living in Israel? And who are the “assholes” anyway?

Some of 500+ comments from the talkback section to the Hebrew Ynet article provocatively entitled “Gray is against Israel but not canceling:”

THe ugly niggers are joining the Darfurians entering here. All of you go away. wedontwantyou

Go find whoever is going to shag you you fucking whore. Every piece of garbage opens their cunt on us. muslimit

David from Safed: She should take all her brothers the Sudanese and Eritreans and fuck off here.

Another “afro american.” Nice name that the niggers made for themselves. Max

Black music is inferior music that fits you. No name [Another commenter calls him a racist.] “No name” replies: What is racist about that? To say “black” is racist?

Who wants you? You look like a monkey. Mikhal

It’s really disgusting that Israel is going to see black!!! music. Disgusting. Contaminates your soul. Ayela

Don’t come we don’t need your ugly fat ass here. Dude

Blacks and Muslims always go together. Brainless fraternity of people. Shai

[Responding to other commenters denying that any occupation exists]: Right, what chutzpah of us to survive in the jungle around us, as if she can’t understand the jungle. M

They [Americans] killed thousands of innocent people in Iraq but they come to complain here. moshe

What Israeli fans does she have here? Leftist garbage maniacs [bastards] need to be killed whoever comes to her show. victor

What Palestinian people? What peaceful people? Maybe terrorism? Maybe right of return on your expense? Bruriera Hess

Don’t give us favors. IF she’s contemplating coming Israel should cancel the show. Dontgiveusfavors

I returned the ticket. And you? Anee

Maybe they will let her perform in Gaza. Raymond

Go to Gaza, perform and fuck for the Hamas. May your name be cursed. pessey

When you’re being spit at at least you have to get a kleenex to clean it up. hamitnaseh

Fuck you who wants you here anyway? Sharon

[Quote by David Ben Gurion]: “It doesn’t matter what the goyim will say it matters what the Jews will do.” LT

Sweetheart, don’t come here. We don’t want you. Who do you think you are talking about us? IsraeliJewishFighter

Those who are “disgusting” towards the Balestinians [mocking the Arabic pronounciation of Palestinian] are the Balestinians themselves. Hineh

Please don’t cancel. What are we going to do without your show? My Asshole.

Juliana Osinchuk to Perform Franz Liszt Sunday at Anchorage Museum Recital Hall

My favorite Alaskan pianist, Juliana Osinchuk, will be performing this weekend at the recital hall in the old part of the Anchorage Museum (now the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center):

Winter Soiree ~ Sunday, January 23, 2011

When: 7:30 PM
What: “The Poetry & Fantasy of Liszt - Celebrating his 200th Birthday”

Featuring: Juliana Osinchuk, piano

Last winter, Juliana presented a similarly programmed recital of piano music by Frederic Chopin, honoring his 200th birthday. It was the most outstanding solo piano recital I've ever attended in Alaska.

My other favorite Alaska pianist, Timothy Smith, is well-known as one of the country's preeminent Liszt performers. And deservedly so. Juliana Osinchuk is better known for her interpretations of Chopin, Mozart, Eastern European composers, and for the numerous performances and premieres she has debuted around the country of Alaska composers such as John Luther Adams, Craig Coray, George Belden and myself.

Osinchuk does play Liszt too, though. In 2004 she performed Liszt's 1st Piano Concerto with the Anchorage Symphony, in a concert at which she played not only the Liszt, but my own Piano Concerto - back to back.

I loved that concert, but my favorite rendition by Osinchuk of Liszt was back in 1996, when she performed the master's Funerailles in Seattle. The concert was at Seattle's alternative arts venue, the Fremont Fine Arts Foundry. We packed about 120 people into the foundry in folding chairs. The piano, a full-size Steinway concert grand, was brought in from Sherman & Clay, Seattle's main Steinway store. Along with the Liszt work, she introduced music by Adams, Coray and me to a Seattle audience that was stunned by the quality of her playing and the unique sound from the foundry.

During her rendition of Funerailles, somebody out in the back alley started pounding on the huge metal shipping door at the back of the building. My best friend at the time, the late sculptor James Acord, went back to the small door next to the freight entry. He quietly opened the door to the alley, leaned out, and sternly told the door pounding young man, "If you do that one more time, I'll kill you!"

The pounding stopped and the music soared.

Here's Juliana performing her own Variations on Alaska's Flag, as an encore at her most recent Anchorage Symphony appearance:

Saradise Lost - Book 5 - Chapter 33: This Story is Not Going Away

Here's a screen shot from a google search on Sarah Palin over the past 24 hours. Leading the pack is a reference to 130 articles written over the past day about the affair or whatever between Todd and someone not his wife:
Then there's this:

Palin has so far been notably quiet about this.

Saradise Lost - Book 5 - Chapter 32: Assange Will Charge Palin, Should She Go Down Under

Julian Assange is not happy with Sarah Palin's statement last year that he be "pursued with the same urgency we pursue al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders."

Palin's comment, posted on her facebook page, was more of a dig at President Obama than at Assange, but the latter will take action against Palin, should she travel to Australia, Assange's home country:

Robert Stary, Assange’s Melbourne-based lawyer, in an interview published by National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, stated:
“Our main concern is really the possible extradition to the US,” he said. “We’ve been troubled by the sort of rhetoric that has come out of various commentators and principally Republican politicians — Sarah Palin and the like — saying Mr. Assange should be executed, assassinated.”

Stary added: “Certainly if Sarah Palin or any of those other politicians come to Australia, for whatever purpose, then we can initiate a private prosecution, and that’s what we intend to do.”
There have been no announcements of pending travel to Australia emanating from the Wasilla or Arizona Palin cult compounds. Only of probable late winter or early spring travel to Israel and to the U.K.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Thoughts on Keith Olbermann's Departure from MSNBC on the Day COMCAST Takes Over

We don't get MSNBC, so - unlike many friends and relatives - we never got into any sort of regular watching of a person who crafted a persona that sought to compare himself to Edward R. Murrow. Progressive Alaska has published as lot of video clips from the show, though, as Olbermann's relentless pursuit of getting the truth out on Sarah Palin's vast shortcomings resonated all across the liberal and progressive Alaskan blogosphere.

He usually struck me as over-rated on foreign policy. He completely avoided many important issues. If you watched Olbermann, the following important events didn't happen:
• Operation Cast Lead
• The inept and deadly interception of the MV Mavi Marmara
• The Obama-approved coup in Honduras
• The Obama-backed militarization of the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border
• The reaction of some European countries (particularly Iceland) to the 2008-2009 financial crisis - actually prosecute banksters
• Virtually any meaningful coverage of union issues in other countries (he wasn't wild about covering U.S. union issues, either)
Olbermann was one of the few U.S. commentators to question the ongoing torture of PFC Bradley Manning. Even two of my favorite Alaska blogs, The Mudflats and the Immoral Minority, haven't, to my knowledge, dared to go there, as much as they loved Olbermann.

On other domestic issues, Olbermann was light on coverage of continuing erosion of union rights. He was fairly good on covering Islamophobia, and gave more than lip service to the growing dangers of Christofascism.

Unlike the roster at FOX, I never caught him in a lie. In that sense he was like Murrow. Unlike Murrow, Olbermann was unable to get some major politicians to appear on his show. That wasn't Olbermann's fault, though. It was MSNBC's, and also due to the way American politics has devolved in the 50 years since Murrow was on prime time.

Had President Obama agreed to appear on Olbermann's show next week, instead of O'Reilly's, Keith would still have a job.

People who expect MSNBC to be a viable progressive news source, or think that it actually has been or is, need to ask themselves, "Compared to what?" Compared to FOX, it is far more liberal. Compared to CNN - somewhat. Compared to Democracy Now, GRIT TV, The Young Turks, RT TV, it certainly is not.

Under COMCAST, MSNBC will get more like FOX. It will replace the existing lineup - with the exceptions of O'Donnell and Tweety - within a year. O'Donnell will move to their prime spot, as he manipulates the departure of others. Obama will be his first guest after O'Donnell throws Maddow under the bus.

Some of my friends have speculated that Olbermann is having to leave MSNBC to accept the job opening as Obama's Press Secretary.

Dream on, Obamabots.......

Please Sign the Petition to Stop the Torture of Bradley Manning

Bradley Manning’s Attorney Files Complaint Against Quantico Brig Commander After His Conditions Get Worse

--- by Jane Hamsher

For over five months, Bradley Manning has been held under Prevention of Injury (POI) watch at the Quantico Brig against the recommendations of three forensic psychiatrists. Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, has filed an Article 138 Complaint under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, asserting that this represents an abuse of Brig Commander James Averhart’s discretion.

Coombs’ complaint was filed after the Brig Commander placed Manning under “suicide risk” and MAX custody earlier this week, which made his conditions dramatically worse. Glenn Greenwald broke the story about the inhumane conditions of Manning’s pre-trial confinement last month, shortly before the New York Times reported that the Justice Department strategy regarding Wikileaks was to “persuade” Manning to testify against Julain Assange.

Dr. Jeff Kaye, who works with torture victims, wrote about the potential effects of Manning’s extended suicide watch/POI. He says that extended isolation is “a technique well-known to break down individuals.” But when the Brig Commander moved Manning to suicide risk/MAX custody, his conditions grew even more extreme:

  • Must remain in his cell 24 hours per day, up from 23
  • Stripped of all clothing except his underwear
  • Prescription eyeglasses taken from him
  • Forced to sit in “essential blindness” except for brief times when he is given reading or limited television privileges
  • Guard outside his cell watching him at all times

The Brig Commander made this decision against the recommendations of three psychiatrists who have seen him, relying instead on the observations of the guards who watch him. Given the strenuous objection of Manning’s attorney and David House, both of whom continue to observe a marked decline in Manning’s physical and emotional condition, it is hard to view the Brig Commander’s decision as anything other than punitive.

After David Coombs filed the Article 138 complaint, and made the Army Staff Judge Advocate’s Office aware of what was happening, the Office worked through military channels and Manning was placed back on POI watch yesterday afternoon.

But the Army has never given an adequate justification as to why Manning is being held this way, and the Brig Commander has not explained why he continues to ignore the countless testimonials from site psychiatrists in making his determination to do so.

The Washington Post, CBS News, The Guardian and AP cover the story today.

Over 40,000 people have now signed the petition to the Brig Commander, requesting that he heed the advice of the three psychiatrists and lift Manning’s POI/suicide watch.

Bradley Manning has not been convicted of anything. Abusing his mental health classification while attempting to “persuade” him to testify against Julian Assange has alarming echoes of the techniques used to elicit false confessions from terrorist suspects. It should alarm everyone that we could be watching pre-trial coersion becoming acceptable American shores. If so, we can all wave goodbye to “innocent until proven guilty.”

I’ll be driving down to Quantico tomorrow with Bradley’s friend David House, who will deliver the petition to the brig.

I know that it has been extremely meaningful to Bradley to know that he has the support of so many people.

Can you sign the petition and forward it to your friends?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Saradise Lost - Book 5 - Chapter 31: Gary Wills on "Blood Libel" and Palin

Gary Wills is certainly one of America's most able commentators on Catholicism, and Christianity in general. His list of books about Christianity is quite long. His writings on Judaism are much more lean, and tend to be in context of the development of early Christianity in the backdrop of being a faith that came out of Jewish communities in its early generations.

At the New York Review of Books' blog, Wills has tackled Sarah Palin's use of the term "blood libel" at the beginning of this week:

Robert Draper, who did the extensive interview-cum-article about Sarah Palin in The New York Times Magazine, still has good sources in her camp. On that basis, he told the Daily Rundown show on MSNBC that Palin timed her morning statement on the Tucson tragedy to play against the president’s anticipated speech later that day. The setting and solemnity of her presentation were manipulated to show who could be more “presidential,” she or Obama. That is a measure of her aspirations and arrogance.

This makes it all the more astonishing that careful work with her speech writers should produce her attack on pundits who “manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn.” What on earth does that mean? The classic blood libel tale has four elements.

This makes it all the more astonishing that careful work with her speech writers should produce her attack on pundits who “manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn.” What on earth does that mean? The classic blood libel tale has four elements.

1. Jews kill an innocent Christian child.
2. Then they use his blood to cook Passover matzahs.
3. The Jews are then captured and executed.
4. The murdered child becomes a martyr-saint—Saint Simon, Saint William, Saint Hugh.

How does what happened in Tucson fit that pattern?

1. An innocent Christian child was murdered, but by a non-Jew.
2. No use was made of her blood (the point of a blood libel).
3. The murderer was caught but not executed.
4. The girl was offered as a saintly model by the president.

There is not enough there to justify invoking the dread tale. How about if we look at other elements.

1. There was an attempt on innocent life, that of Gabrielle Giffords, but she is a Jew, not a Christian, and she was attacked by a non-Jew.
2. Once again the key element, the use of blood, is missing.
3. Her assailant is caught but not killed.
4. The president presents her recovery as a kind of miracle.

There are even more missing elements in this scenario. Nothing that happened in Tucson can be forced into the blood libel story. That is because Palin is not interested in what happened in Tucson. She is interested in something closer to her home—herself.

1. The innocent Christian attacked is Sarah Palin, and her assailants are “pundits.”
2. Still no blood.
3. The pundits are not even named, much less apprehended.
4. Saint Sarah canonizes herself.

Note that, cast about how one may, it is impossible to find a single Jewish attacker in the Tucson story. A blood libel without evil Jews and without blood is not a blood libel.

Though Palin is a Christian, she does not claim that she was attacked for her religion. Her offense was that she was simply “speaking up and speaking out in peaceful dissent.” The pundits who attacked her were “those who embrace evil and call it good.” That puts her in the middle of a cosmic struggle, with the forces of evil arrayed against her. Perhaps she liked the apocalyptic note in the sound of “blood libel.” Only something catastrophically evil could measure the extent of her martyrdom. If people point out that she obviously does not know what a blood libel is, she will just count that another part of her martyrdom by those who “embrace” evil as well as history.

The commenting community at the NYRB blog is highly educated. Here a a few of the comments attached to Wills' entry:

Questioning whether Palin understood the meaning of blood libel is akin to questioning why she was unable to name a single US Newspaper or magazine she got her news from, and why she couldn't cite a single Supreme Court decision she disagreed with, and why she didn't even know which countries make up North America.

She's a dope.

All she knows is that it's imperative to incorporate terms & images of violence into her rants (lock & load, blood libel, crosshairs, etc.). As to her complete indifference to the lives lost in Tucson (like the lives lost in Iraq) is due to her complete lack of empathy and her moral bankruptcy (not unlike George W Bush).

The biggest question really should be at this time, why is someone most Americans never heard of prior to September 2008 & who lost in a demolishing landslide that year, still covered breathlessly by the national media. She's an out-of-work, celebrity wanna-be who is shockingly ignorant. It's time for the press to stop covering her.

One commenter disagrees with that assessment:

Sarah Palin and her handlers are smart enough to have captured a great deal of attention, as well as the adulation of millions (yes, millions) of voters. She is counting on her opponents' continuing underestimation of her. Today, she can use conspiracy paranoia to inspire her followers, so they feel like virtuous underdogs fighting an evil empire. Tomorrow, as an election approaches, she can shift to a milder impersonation of serious statesmanship, and augment her base with gullible and inattentive undecideds. Time to take her very seriously.

Commenter David O'Connell makes an observation I've made - in one set of terms or another - here at PA many times:

I think Mr. Wills and many others miss the point.

If readers of the NYR are to be of service, they should be thinking hard about why Sarah Palin is attractive, to whom, and why. She does not play to the left, she plays to others, alien to us, frankly, unknown to us, and that frightens. It is as if they are the great unwashed, and beneath contempt, because they flock to an icon we think stupid.

We judge. Do we have the right to condescend and ignore those with whom we disagree? If we focus on just how dumb Palin's vivid word choices may be, or how inflammatory we believe they are, and stop there, we give up thinking about why it appeals to her constituency.

As I wrote earlier in the week, I'm confident the people who prepped Palin's pre-presidential speech Monday knew what the term meant, even if she didn't, and that its use was not her choice. That being said, it was an inept phrase, at best, and, even with several prominent Jewish Americans coming to her defense, it will have negative ramifications when she visits Israel early this spring.