Monday, May 31, 2010

Wag the Dog

Perhaps you saw news footage of President Obama in Grand Isle, La., on Friday and thought things didn’t look all that bad. Well, there may have been a reason for that: The town was evidently swarmed by an army of temp workers to spruce it up for the president and the national news crews following him.

Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts, whose district encompasses Grand Isle, told Yahoo! News that BP bused in “hundreds” of temporary workers to clean up local beaches. And as soon as the president was en route back to Washington, the workers were clearing out of Grand Isle too, Roberts said.


"As soon as the president left, they were immediately put back on the buses and sent home."


New Orleans NBC affiliate WDSU reports that the workers were paid $12 an hour and came mostly from neighboring Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.


....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Video From the Flotilla

“Despite the raising of white flags, the Israeli army is still shooting.”

  Juan Cole

Video embedded in this Cole post from the ship under attack, the Mavi Marmara, sponsored by Turkey, and carrying civilian volunteers from several countries (apparently including the US), appears to indicate that the Israelis were attacking with tear gas and stun grenades before they boarded. At the end of the video, someone on the ship is announcing in English that people should return to their cabins, because "We are unable to protect ourselves."

UPDATE: Here's the video:

World Reaction to Israel's Attack on Aid Ships

Turkey has threatened Israel with unprecedented action [and] recalled its ambassador to Israel


Two Turkish activists were reported to be among those killed in the flotilla. Ankara warned that further supply vessels will be sent to Gaza, escorted by the Turkish Navy, a development with unpredictable consequences.


Egypt is under pressure to end the blockade of Gaza while Greece has cancelled a military exercise with Israel.

  CNN-IBN Live

Syria and Lebanon “condemn the heinous crime committed by Israel through the brutal attacks on unarmed civilians on board the Freedom Flotilla,” both leaders said in a joint statement, after a pre— planned meeting in Damascus.

They have warned that Israel’s “violations of basic humanitarian norms and international laws threatens to plunge the Middle East into a war which will not only affect the region.”


Meanwhile, hundreds of Lebanese, Palestinians and followers of the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, demonstrated in front the UN headquarters in Beirut.

China on Monday condemned Israel's raid. "We were shocked by the Israeli attack which led to severe casualties and condemn it," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu in a statement.

Ma said China urged the Israeli side to seriously implement relevant UN Security Council resolution and improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

The British government on Monday called on Israel to open all crossings to allow unfettered access for aid to Gaza. Foreign Secretary William Hague meanwhile urged Israel to "act with restraint and in line with international obligations".


Russian Foreign Ministry noted in a statement that the incident was "a confirmation that Israel's blockade to the Gaza Strip must be lifted as soon as possible."

"Moscow condemns and expresses its deep concern over the issue, first of all for the loss of lives and injuries among the humanitarian convoy participants ... It is obvious that using arms against the civilians and stopping the vessels in open sea with no judicial ground is a gross violation of the international norms," the ministry said.


German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has telephoned his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman and requested a comprehensive investigation, including demanding a quick clarification of the fate of five German nationals who were believed to be on board.

In a statement, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that he was shocked and couldn't understand Israel's attack in the context that the initiative of the flotilla was known by international community already.

"Nothing can justify the use of such a violence that we condemn."

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Israel's attack was "absolutely serious" and he "absolutely deplored" the killing of civilians in the navy attack.


The Spanish presidency of the European Union (EU) Monday condemned Israel for the attack. "Both the Spanish government and in its role as current president of the EU wishes to express its utmost condemnation of this action," Secretary of State for the EU Diego Lopez Garrido said.


United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was "shocked by reports of killing of people in boats carrying supply to Gaza" in international waters, and called for full investigations into the incident.


[President Obama] expressed deep regret at the loss of life in today's incident, and concern for the wounded, many of whom are being treated in Israeli hospitals. The President also expressed the importance of learning all the facts and circumstances around this morning's tragic events as soon as possible.


Israeli Attack on Aid Ships

UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald provides perspective:

In December, 2008, Israel, citing rocket attacks from Hamas, launched a 22-day, barbaric attack on Gaza, bombarding a trapped population, killing hundreds of innocent civilians (1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed), and devastating Gazan society. A U.N. report released earlier this month documented that, as a result of the blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel and Egypt (the two largest recipients of U.S. aid), "[m]ost of the property and infrastructure damaged . . . was still unrepaired 12 months later."

The flotilla attacked by Israel last night was carrying materials such as cement, water purifiers, and other building materials, much of which Israel refuses to let pass into Gaza. At the end of 2009, a U.N. report found that "insufficient food and medicine is reaching Gazans, producing a further deterioration of the mental and physical health of the entire civilian population since Israel launched Operation Cast Lead against the territory," and also "blamed the blockade for continued breakdowns of the electricity and sanitation systems due to the Israeli refusal to let spare parts needed for repair get through the crossings."


The six-ship flotilla was carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid along with 600 people, all civilians, which included 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland, European legislators and an elderly Holocaust survivor, Hedy Epstein, 85.


[I] t is only the massive amounts of U.S. financial and military aid, and endless diplomatic protection, that enables Israel to act with impunity as a rogue and inhumane state.

  Glenn Greenwald

-------Original post follows-------

Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip on Monday, killing nine passengers in a botched raid that provoked international outrage and a diplomatic crisis.


The flotilla of three cargo ships and three passenger ships carrying 10,000 tons of aid and 700 activists was carrying items that Israel bars from reaching Gaza, like cement and other building materials.


Dozens of activists and six Israeli soldiers were wounded in the bloody predawn confrontation in international waters.


There were conflicting accounts of what happened early Monday, with activists claiming the Israelis opened fire without provocation and Israel insisting its forces fired in self defense.


Speaking alongside the Canadian prime minister, Netanyahu expressed "regret" for the loss of life but said the soldiers had no choice. "Our soldiers had to defend themselves, defend their lives, or they would have been killed," he said.


A reporter with the pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera, who was sailing on the Turkish ship leading the flotilla, said the Israelis fired at the vessel before boarding it, wounding the captain.


Israel said it opened fire after its commandos were attacked by knives, clubs and live fire from two pistols wrested from soldiers after they rappelled from a helicopter at about 4 a.m. to board one of the vessels.


Yes, knives, clubs and two pistols from a ship of activists bringing aid against Israeli naval commandos. And just why were they boarding the ship at 4 am in international waters?

Communications to the ships were cut shortly after the raid began, and activists were kept away from reporters after their boats were towed to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

What a surprise.

Sixteen were jailed for refusing to identify themselves, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Israel had said activists would be given the choice to be deported or imprisoned.

Is it not yet time for sanctions against Israel?

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

In Memoriam

They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. But in modern war, there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason.
— Ernest Hemingway

In case you haven’t noticed, we…dehumanize our own soldiers, not because of their religion or race, but because of their low social class. Send ’em anywhere. Make ’em do anything. Piece of cake.
— Kurt Vonnegut

Naturally, the common people don’t want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship…Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.”
—Hermann Goering

I bring you the stately matron named Christendom, returning bedraggled, besmirched, and dishonored, from pirate raids in Kiaochow, Manchuria, South Africa, and the Philippines, with her soul full of meanness, her pocket full of boodle, and her mouth full of pious hypocrisies. Give her soap and towel, but hide the looking glass.
—Mark Twain

Also, today, please remember those returned and deployed soldiers who have taken their own lives, the countless war wounded, and the many soldiers still on the battlefield.

Tuesday, May 25, was a very important day for the 200 U.S. war resisters who are seeking sanctuary in Canada. The case of Jeremy Hinzman, the first to do so, was argued in Canada's Federal Court of Appeals.


The court's decision, which is expected to take several months, may also determine the fate of other young men and women who are facing deportation to the U.S., followed by courts martial and imprisonment.

Also on Tuesday, May 25, the Canadian Parliament held a debate on a bill that would allow Iraq War resisters to remain in Canada. The House of Commons is expected to vote on this bill, C-440, in September.

According to several polls, nearly two-thirds of Canadians want their government to allow U.S. war resisters to have legal status in Canada. But Prime Minister Stephen Harper, leader of the Conservative Party, does not agree. The Conservative government has already deported several war resisters and is aggressively pursuing the deportation of others.


The War Resisters Support Campaign in Canada is a national network of churches, labor unions, activists and artists, including Vietnam War resisters who are now Canadian citizens. The War Resisters Support Campaign has been supporting our war resisters ever since early 2004, when Jeremy Hinzman arrived in Toronto.

  Veterans for Peace

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Difference of Opinion

Scientists from several universities have reported plumes of what appears to be oil far from the site of BP's leaking wellhead, which is more than 5,000 beneath the surface.

Those findings — from the University of South Florida, the University of Georgia, Southern Mississippi University and other institutions — were based on video images and initial observations of water samples taken in the Gulf over the last several weeks. They continue to be analyzed.


During a tour of a BP PLC staging area for cleanup workers, CEO Tony Hayward said the company's sampling showed "no evidence" that oil was suspended in large masses beneath the surface. He didn't elaborate on how the testing was done.

Hayward said that oil's natural tendency is to rise to the surface, and any oil found underwater was in the process of working its way up.

"The oil is on the surface," Hayward said. "There aren't any plumes."


Now, How About Marja?

We're heading into Qandahar, supposedly on the basis of results of a "test" in Marja, which, you may recall, was an area calculated to be easier, and therefore provide a propaganda boost for the Qandahar failure-to-be. I say that confidently, because, although we don't get news of it, Marja is still not done.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Oil Obsessed Obama

WHAT HIS JOB RIGHT NOW IS: “And so my job right now is just to make sure that everybody in the Gulf understands this is what I wake up to in the morning and this is what I go to bed at night thinking about.” That is how Bush used to answer every question about Iraq and/or terrorism.


And speaking of Bush…

From Oliver Stone's documentary, "South of the Border".

And Who's Calling the Shots?

I'm sure you can guess.

Media organizations say they are being allowed only limited access to areas impacted by the Gulf oil spill through restrictions on plane and boat traffic that are making it difficult to document the worst spill in U.S. history.


A CBS news story said one of its reporting teams was threatened with arrest by the Coast Guard and turned back from an oiled beach at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The story said the reporters were told the denial was under "BP's rules."

  Raw Story

And It Just Keeps Getting Worse

"A week ago Sunday the first research vessel ... was commissioned by NOAA to scour the area" [...] "They found 'a gigantic plume' growing about five to seven miles from the site of the original leak." Matt Simmons, founder of energy investment bank Simmons & Company, known for predicting the oil price spike of 2008 says sending a small nuclear bomb down the leaking well is "probably the only thing we can do" to stop the leak.


His idea echoes that of a Russian newspaper that earlier this month suggested the US detonate a small nuclear bomb to seal the oil beneath the sea. Komsomoloskaya Pravda argued in an editorial that Russia had successfully used nuclear weapons to seal oil spills on five occasions in the past.

  Raw Story

Just How Big Is It?

Click the picture to change the location of the oil spill outline to your city.

And it's only getting bigger.

Failed. Again.

“After three full days, we have been unable to overcome the flow from the well, so we now believe it is time to move on to another option . . . This scares everybody — the fact that we can’t make this well stop flowing or the fact that we haven’t succeeded so far.” -- BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles

BP Managing Director Bob Dudley says they will shift strategy from stopping the spill to containing it. He says they will rely on undersea robot maneuvers to help capture the oil on the sea floor and move it to the surface for collection.


Dudley told the NBC television program Meet the Press this plan is simpler than "top kill," and more likely to succeed.

  VoA News

Right. So that's why they haven't already tried it? That's why they chose the top kill method over this?

The top White House advisor on energy and the environment is Carol Browner. She told Meet the Press there is a likelihood oil will keep pouring out of the deep water well until late August, when work is completed on two relief wells.
And then we'll have two BP oil wells out there instead of one. Much better.

Oh, well, maybe it won't matter – after the one we have gushes for 6 months, the Gulf may be dead.

The much smaller Exxon-Valdez spill killed billions of salmon and herring eggs and as many as 250,000 seabirds. Only ten percent of the oil was recovered, with most of the rest infesting the underwater sand, being degraded by only 4% a year.


The best estimates of independent scientists for the amount of petroleum being released [into the Gulf] daily is now north, possibly well north, of 25,000 barrels a day.


Every 1000 Americans consume roughly 68 barrels a day of petroleum. This statistic means that what is gushing up from the BP well equals the daily amount of oil used by 367,000 Americans per day, that is, by cities the size of St. Louis or Minneapolis. Imagine all the cars and trucks filling up in such major cities every day, and the buildings using heating oil, and imagine taking all that oil and gasoline and dumping it in the Gulf of Mexico. Every day.


If there is a silver lining in the scary and depressing Great BP Gulf Catastrophe of 2010, it is that it may finally get state and federal legislators off their duffs and legislating sane energy policy for the health of the earth.

  Juan Cole

Only if alternative companies start making really big campaign contributions.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

It Would Be Funny...

...if it weren't so pathetic, obvious, and predictable.

Guerrillas fired mortar shells and used small arms to attack the major US military base in south Afghanistan, Qandahar Airfield, on Saturday. The operation was the third major attack by insurgents during the past week.


The bold attacks come as President Barack Obama addressed West Point cadets, declaring victory in Iraq and predicting a similar positive outcome in Afghanistan. Obama alleged that the US was withdrawing from a now-democratic Iraq that would not be a platform for attacking the US, implying that Afghanistan would be brought to a similar end-state.

  Juan Cole

Of course we could have declared victory years ago –that "Mission Accomplished" moment would have been a good point.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

No Habeas For Your Corpus

That is, if you're being detained by the Americans in Bagram. Glenn Greenwald comments on the awesome hypocrisy of the Obama Administration.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Today's Notable Quote

"From where I sit, the entire Republican Party should head to OZ – looking for a brain, a heart and a pair of testicles." -- Helen

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Today's Best Oil Spill Quote

"Everything in that marsh is dead as we speak," [Louisiana] Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said after touring the clogged marshes. "Had you fallen off that boat yesterday and come up breathing that stuff, you probably wouldn't be here, either."

Oh Well, Maybe the Nukes Will Do Us In

...before the oceans are smothered in oil.

Hillary says it's beyond doubt that North Korea torpedoed a South Korean ship in March, and there will be consequences.

Why not? Things are totally FUBAR anyway.

North Korea denies the charge, and hey, it's not like we haven't experienced the Tonkin affair, the sinking of the Maine, and who knows how many other phony provocations in between.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Wanted: More Tar, More Feathers

Kentucky's Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul is criticizing President Barack Obama's handling of the gulf oil debacle as putting "his boot heel on the throat of BP."

Paul says Obama's criticism of the oil company sounds like an attack on business and "really un-American."


Reaping What We Sow

"A lot of [the leaked oil from the BP rig] is diffused now in deep layers," said Felder, who is coordinating a seven-volume scientific encyclopedia on the Gulf. "It's like it's under the rug. You can't see it on the surface, so it's kind of out of sight, out of mind. But it's not out of mind to most of the biologists who are concerned about its long-term effects."

There are many uncertainties about how much has spilled.


Originally, BP and the federal government said 42,000 gallons were flowing per day. Then the number was upped to 210,000 and that's been the best case scenario, with calculations that the spill didn't start until April 24.

The best case scenario seems increasingly unlikely. On Thursday, BP acknowledged more oil than that is pouring into the Gulf. The company said its makeshift tube put in place to suck up the leak is siphoning 210,000 gallons a day into a barge — the full amount of oil the company said was leaking. Yet, there's still lots of oil flowing out into the Gulf that can now be seen live on a webcam.

"Anyone can look at that and determine that even though it can't be metered or measured, it's significantly less than it was," said company spokesman Steve Rinehart. "That suggests pretty clearly that taking 5,000 barrels a day (210,000 gallons) out of that stream puts a real dent in it."


How encouraging. A dent. And only many weeks of unfettered gushing?

"Originally, BP and the federal government said 42,000 gallons were flowing per day."

The federal government obviously taking BP's word for it. And so I repeat the quote of the century from Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation: "The Gulf of Mexico is a crime scene, and the perpetrator cannot be left in charge of assessing the damage."

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Headline of the Month

(Yahoo news): "An island long used by the U.S. government for secret disease research may be sold to the public."

Caveat emptor.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Quote of the Century

"The Gulf of Mexico is a crime scene, and the perpetrator cannot be left in charge of assessing the damage." -- Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

And Don't Forget About Marja

Farmers from the district of Marja, which since February has been the focus of the largest American-led military operation in Afghanistan, are fleeing the area, saying that the Taliban are terrorizing the population and that American troops cannot protect the civilians.

The departure of the farmers is one of the most telling indications that Taliban fighters have found a way to resume their insurgency, three months after thousands of troops invaded this Taliban stronghold in the opening foray of a campaign to take control of southern Afghanistan.


Over 150 families have fled Marja in the last two weeks, according to the Afghan Red Crescent Society in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.

Marja residents arriving here last week, many looking bleak and shell-shocked, said civilians had been trapped by the fighting, running a gantlet of mines laid by insurgents and firefights around government and coalition positions.


Mr. Khan, the governor’s adviser, expects a further exodus of civilians. “People are just waiting for the harvest to be over and then they will leave,” he said.


A Taliban resurgence was not entirely unexpected, especially now as the poppy harvest ends, freeing men to fight, and as the weather warms up. But the military had seen Marja as a “clear and hold” operation in which the first part, clearing the district of militants, would be wrapped up fairly quickly. In fact, clearing has proved to be a more elusive goal.


As though we had no previous experience and couldn't have foreseen that.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Agency Overhaul

The US agency that regulates offshore drilling was broken up into three separate agencies Wednesday as part of a move to end cozy industry relationships exposed by the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, officials said.

The shake-up came a day after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told lawmakers the Minerals Management Service, which issued lucrative offshore exploration leases and was also responsible for enforcing safety rules, needed to be cleaned up.

  Raw Story

So now when oil companies want to pillage, they'll have to go through three agencies instead of one. They'll still get there, but more federal agents will get a chance to line their pockets.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Tar & Feathers May Be Too Good

"The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume."

"We will fix it. I guarantee it. The only question is we do not know when."

---BP Group CEO Tony Hayward


At least it would be if it weren't so distressingly predictable these days.

In a BBC interview British Petroleum CEO Tony Hayward said Friday that the massive petroleum gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, the greatest oil-based environmental catastrophe in recorded history with the exception of global warming itself, should not forestall further deep-water drilling.

I’m not sure whether Hayward was channeling Sarah Palin, that font of good sense, or vice versa.


You have to go to amateur video shot from a helicopter above the Gulf of Mexico and posted on Youtube to get the best reporting on the extent and implications of the BP oil volcano.

  Juan Cole

Glenn Beck Has Nazi Tourette's

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Back in Black - Glenn Beck's Nazi Tourette's
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Bye Bye, Miranda

Appearing on the Sunday shows for the first time today, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Obama Administration wants to change the Miranda rule -- the requirement that police inform suspects of their right to remain silent and to a lawyer before interrogation -- in terrorism cases to "something that is flexible and is more consistent with the threat that we now face."

Holder said on Meet The Press that the Administration wants to work with Congress to make the public safety exception to Miranda -- in which information from questioning before reading the Miranda warning can be admitted in court, in certain situations in which public safety is a concern -- "more flexible."


Somewhere in the future – maybe not so far away – someone is going to have to fight and die for American civil liberties all over again.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Friday, May 07, 2010

And something else that's funny...

Obama says authorities are investigating the wild swing in the market yesterday in order to prevent it happening again. That's really funny.

Funny Headline

Pakistanis pose as Indians after NY bomb scare

It's from Yahoo, and the reason it's funny to me is the idea that they think any American can tell the difference between a Pak and and Indian.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Drill, Baby, Drill

We shouldn't need any more argument against it than this. Wonder how that offshore drilling proposal of Obama's will fare now.

UPDATE Sunday: "the oil probably will keep gushing for months"

....but hey, do what you will anyway.