Archive for 2011

Evidence of Religions Damaging Lives and Brains

Yes, I am editorializing.  All religions do damage, especially to women.  Thanks to Annie Laurie Gaylor, Director of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, for pointing out four articles in today’s New York Times.  Each, from my/our point of view, shows how dangerous religious beliefs are, especially when they are used as the basis of law.

Annie Laurie writes

The lead story on the front page, “For Somali Women, Pain of Being a Spoil of War” details atrocities in the name of religion, starting with a teenaged girl being buried in the sand, and stoned to death for refusing to marry a Shabab commander.

The article details the horrific rise in rape in war-torn and starving Somalia, including the experience of a 17 year old gang-raped by five militants claiming to be on a “jihad, or holy war.”

She points out that

The Old Testament shared in common by Muslims, Christians and Jews alike of course sanctions the use of women as “the spoils of war:”

Not that the New York Times is picking on one, or any, religion; they’re being “objective.”  But you get the sense just in this one day’s news coverage how religious views are shaping public discourse, as much or more than when the Bush regime instituted its offices of public instruction in “abstinence only.”

See

Israeli Girl, 8, Finds Herself at Center of Tension Over Religious Extremism

and

Battling Anew Over the Place of Religion in Public Schools

The Times points out the change in 4 years in  Appealing to Evangelicals, Hopefuls Pack Religion into Ads

Gone are the suggestive and supposedly subliminal images of campaigns past, as when Mr. Huckabee caused a stir in 2007 after releasing a commercial that appeared to show a cross floating in the background.

The new, more pointed religious references reflect how campaigns are scrambling for support among evangelicals who are still divided over whom to support as the caucuses near.

All of this has to be challenged directly if we want a world that values critical thinking and the well-being of women.

 

 

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One Million + Dead & Displaced in Iraq for This?

I can’t tell you anymore than this: The Bush regime’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, based on lies, was illegitimate, unjust, and immoral from the start.  Barack Obama’s announcement yesterday that the “war is over” is wrong on so many levels.  For those on the ground, the millions in Iraq, and the one million US military sent there, it won’t end.

The wealthiest country and military in the world leaves behind billions of dollars worth of trashed equipment, and civil and physical society in shambles.

A young soldier, Bradley Manning, formerly stationed in Iraq, will begin a court martial Friday at Ft. Meade, because the U.S. military claims he released classified information about the war to Wikileaks.

But today, the New York Times reports that 400 pages of classified documents on the interrogation of U.S. Marines about the notorious massacre of civilians in Haditha, in 2006 were

discovered along with reams of other classified documents, including military maps showing helicopter routes and radar capabilities, by a reporter for The New York Times at a junkyard outside Baghdad. An attendant was burning them as fuel to cook a dinner of smoked carp.

Aftermath of U.S. Marine killing of civilians, Haditha, Iraq, 2006

Shaun Mullen, a columnist for The Moderate Voice comments

That the true story of the 2005 massacre of 20 Iraqi civilians, including an elderly man in a wheelchair and women and children, has finally come out because an Iraqi was using transcripts of secret interviews with the Marines involved to cook dinner is a fitting coda to a nearly nine-year war that officially ended today.

Says Leon Panetta, current Secretary of Defense for the Obama administration about the war on Iraq

“the cost was high — in blood and treasure of the United States, and also for the Iraqi people. But those lives have not been lost in vain — they gave birth to an independent, free and sovereign Iraq.”

Say what? from 7 of the 8 Iraq veterans CNN interviewed who were deployed to Iraq during the war.  Their one sentence pull-outs mirror everything I’ve heard over 8 years:

“I don’t think that the gravity of what we were doing ever really hit me.” Emily Trageser, Army

“We removed one corruption and replaced Saddam with officials who were just as murderous and evil.”  Nicholas Panzera, Army

“I lost everything.  My wife, my place to live, my friends, and the future I had once seen.”  Marc Loiselle, Army

“I have never felt more proud in my life to be a part of something.” Tyler, Army, who is currently in Iraq shutting down bases.

“Although we did depose a dictator, we ruined the country in the process.”  Eric Sofge, Army

“The principle excuse to invade Iraq to discover WMD was a non-starter from the get-go.”  Jeffrey Tracey, biological weapons inspector

“None of us could see a reason why we were still there.  And it just kept going on and on.” Jim Lewandowski, South Dakota National Guard

“I don’t know any soldiers that really have a positive view on any of it.”  Spencer Alexander, Army

It’s not over, people.  The U.S. is ready to send troops back to Iraq, and will keep thousands on the border of Kuwait.  The ceremony is only for public consumption.

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Report from Guantanamo, Live, Thursday 12/15

GuantanamoThursday evening, World Can’t Wait’s regular national conference call will feature a discussion with Candace Gorman, attorney for Guantanamo prisoners and Adviser to War Criminals Watch.

Candace represents prisoners still held in Guantanamo, 2.5 years after the Obama administration said it would have been closed.  She has just returned from a visit there, and will give us not only the latest news, but her perspective on her years-long efforts to get her clients released.

Anyone concerned about the “rule of law” and the National Defense Authorization Act should join in this60 minute conversation.

Thursday Dec. 15
10 pm EST / 7 pm PST

Read  Candace at GTMOblog.

Write for details to join  the call.

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Who Needs the Far Right when you’ve got birth-control obstruction by Obama?

With kudos to Jodi Jacobsen, I’ve grabbed the last line of her piece Wednesday as inspiration for my title.  “As the saying goes, with friends like these, who needs the far right?”

Wednesday, in direct contradiction to the recommendations of the FDA, Kathleen Seblius announced that the administration will not allow women under 17 to get Emergency Contraception (EC, Plan B) without a prescription.  This makes Barack Obama the first president to counter the FDA by executive order.

His action goes against the science.  There is no medical or ethical reason to impede a woman of any age, who, for whatever reason, wants to avoid an unplanned pregnancy.  How does it help the future of that young woman to put her through more hoops, including a doctors’ visit, potentially leaving her vulnerable to all the complications of a pregnancy for a young person?

The New York Times quoted Dr. Susan Wood, a former F.D.A. assistant commissioner who resigned in 2005 to protest the Bush administration’s handling of Plan B, saying  “there were many drugs available over the counter that had not been studied in pre-adolescents and that were far more dangerous to them.”

“Acetaminophen can be fatal, but it’s available to everyone,” Dr. Wood noted. “So why are contraceptives singled out every single time when they’re actually far safer than what’s already out there?”

Jacobsen says

Experts, noted the statement, “including obstetrician/gynecologists and pediatricians, reviewed the totality of the data and agreed that it met the regulatory standard for a nonprescription drug and that Plan B One-Step should be approved for all females of child-bearing potential.”

This is the president who said while campaigning that his administration wouldn’t listen to the climate crisis-deniers and the gay marriage haters.  Many people thought that Obama meant he wouldn’t cave into the right, but how else do you explain this move?

His action goes against the wishes of a majority of people who think that peoples’ access and use of birth control — and abortion — is their own business. Period.  It’s not the business of the Pope, the Council of Bishops (who directly intervened with Obama on this one), some right-wing fanatics in Congress, or their own partners of parents, and not the president business either.

Jodi Jacobsen yesterday,

Apparently the health and rights of women do not matter, but placating the far right does. Because apparently helping teens actually prevent unintended pregnancies isn’t an authentic a goal of this administration. Perhaps it was among the topics on which President Obama came to “understand the concerns of Catholics [read the 281 bishops],” as Archbishop Timothy Dolan assured the New York Times after his private meeting with the president.

This president, this government, just acted against the interests of all of us who are women, or who care about women’s’ lives, in a craven way which will only give encouragement to those on the right who want to enact even worse measures, including bans on abortion and all birth control.

 

 

 

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On the Crackdown Against the Occupy Movement

Interview with RT today:

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Stopping the Police State Growing Around Us

Brownville Brooklyn, November 1, 2011

(Henry James Ferry - WeAreTheOther99.com)

Over the last few weeks, there have been many protests to stop police brutality in NYC.  I’ve been at two very dynamic and inspiring civil disobedience actions to STOP “Stop & Frisk,” including the most recent on Tuesday in Brownsville, Brooklyn, where the NYPD stops people at the highest rate.  Most are young men, but I met several men way over 40, and a woman in a wheelchair who have all been stopped in the area.

28 people were arrested almost as soon as they stepped in front of the 73rd Precinct.  It took until sometime today to get them all out of jail. The last young man released, a 2011 college graduate, just cannot find a job.  He has no arrest record, no tickets, but they still held him almost 48 hours for not having a photo ID.  He just told me on the phone however, that despite dealing with mice and nasty conditions, it was a “much-needed” experience, and he learned a lot from the men he was locked up with.  Going home? No, “I’m going right back down to Occupy Wall Street. THANKS for getting me out!”

This campaign is not stopping, and I am so happy to be doing it with such vibrant, committed, radical people, from clergy to communists.   A question came up at a meeting, from someone who had been arrested in the first action in Harlem, “Are we only trying to stop one policy of the NYPD, or are we thinking about more?  I’ve been stopped and frisked in other cities, including in other countries.”  It’s systematic.

On October 22, I was at my 16th consecutive annual protest to “Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation.”  Once again, heart-breakingly, the parents and siblings of people killed by the police got their chance to speak.  I thought mainly of how many years the toll has piled up.  And these are only a few cases!  Hmm, it’s systematic.

The repression thing, too, is systematic.  The policing of political protest — and I think this is why the authorities really hate the idea of Occupy Wall Street in Brownsville, Brooklyn — is about repressing dissent.  Tana Ganesa asks a good question today on Alternet, “Why is OWS Blanketed with NYPD Cameras, and Are Police Breaking the Law?”  She writes about the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative’s office where Wall Street firms have access to the footage taken by thousands of surveillance cameras

The surveillance gadgetry available to the NYPD, and apparently to the very finance industry forces that OWS is protesting, is sophisticated. There are license plate readers that can capture license plate numbers and match them to a database. The cameras can be programmed to alert officers to activities like loitering, and people can be followed as they move from camera to camera.

Mostly, police departments don’t have the legal authority to maintain records on people not suspected of criminal activity, but increasingly, that’s just what they do.  From the first week of Occupy Wall Street, officers from NYPD’s TARU, the Technical Assistance Response Unit, have ringed the plaza, constantly scanning activity, and peoples’ faces.

This whole “police state” atmosphere doesn’t begin and end with local police departments.  Ken Theisen, in Spying is US: Obama Administration Spends $80 Billion to Continue and Expand Bush Spy Programs details how these programs are growing nationally, with a budget of $80 billion over the last fiscal year

“Only” about $3.5 billion of this amount was spent on Iraq and Afghanistan according to the Department of War.  So how are they spending the other $76 billion?  A look at the 2010 Washington Post Series called TOP SECRET AMERICA   gives you an idea of where much of the money goes.

This machine carries out a systematic, criminal repression of the people.  That’s why the mission of World Can’t Wait is to end the crimes of our government.

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What do we owe Wikileaks’ revelations?

Bradley Manning supporters at Occupy Wall Street

I thought Michael Moore had a good idea when he proposed naming Occupy SF after Bradley Manning.  Bradley is accused by the U.S. government of leaking to Wikileaks government reports and cables on years of military operations and communications about and with other governments.

He may go before a court martial soon, although there is apparently deep disagreement between different sections of the government over what evidence to let the defense see, and what they will allow to be made public.

Michael’s point is that the “Arab Spring” beginning with the uprising in Tunisia last December, spreading across the Mid East, and continuing now in struggle against highly repressive regimes in Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen, was fueled by revelations posted by Wikileaks.  MissionLocal reports

Energizing protesters, he said the origin of the Occupy movement could be traced to Tunisia and the Arab Spring. But the ultimate credit? That belonged to alleged WikiLeaks informant and U.S. Army soldier Bradley Manning, whom Moore called the original Occupy instigator for his purported role in leaking thousands of U.S. government cables. Moore even proposed renaming Justin Herman Plaza to Bradley Manning Plaza in his honor.

BradleyManning.org quotes Moore as calling on people to remember the (alleged) contribution of Bradley Manning, saying it’s

“… sad, tragic and criminal that he is still in jail. Has not been charged with a crime or put on trial. Having done a very brave thing, when you draw a line from A to B to C, that we are here in this park today in part to his courage.”

It’s worth thinking about the war crimes revealed, and how putting reality before people really can bring about change in how the perceive injustice, and how they act.  Isn’t this what we’ve been working on for years?

The BradleyManning.org site has a good summary of those revelations in What did WikiLeaks Reveal?Download PDF version of article here.

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Despite Police Violence, Occupations are “SO Not Over”

Scott Olsen October 25, 2011

Scott Olsen wounded by Oakland CA police projectile

The counter-attack of city authorities to clear the “Occupy” movement has now led to a serious injury, leaving protester Scott Olsen critically injured by an injury to his brain from a police projectile.  Oakland police attacked a peaceful encampment on Tuesday at 5:00 am, after massing 500 police, for hours.  Within minutes, hundreds were driven away, and police destroyed everything.

Tuesday evening, over 1,000 people gathered again in downtown Oakland to protest the eviction, and they were attacked viciously with tear gas canisters shot into the crowd, concussion grenades, and reports of rubber bullets.

While New York Mayor Bloomberg was not able to carry through on his eviction plan of Occupy Wall Street on October 14, because thousands of people answered a call to defend it, we continue to hear rumors and threats, as the New York Post, Fox News and other reactionary media outlets argue for more police repression.

Last night, hundreds from Occupy Wall Street marched uptown to protest the police attack on Oakland, and have adopted the slogan “We are All Scott Olsen.”  I’ve been on the phone all afternoon with a young woman arrested last night in the march who received a puncture wound in the leg from being beaten up by police.  She’s still awaiting arraignment, and may be there until Friday.

The authorities cannot tolerate such gatherings in public space.  Huge numbers of police are surrounding the encampments, and any marches proceeding from them.  Is there anyone that thinks, if there were just more police, that would solve any of the underlying problems causing people to take to the streets in a mix of desperation, anger, and hope?

Kristin Gwynne writes today on Alternet about Scott Olsen:

The videos of his injury (below) are heartbreaking.  The victim is lying in the street, bleeding from the face.  Demonstrators run to help him, and a cop tosses a canister at the crowd gathering around the injured vet.  It explodes. Carried out by a  group of organizers, Olsen emerges from a cloud of smoke, bleeding from the head, his eyes in a daze. His body is limp, with his arms dangling above his face.  When they scream “what’s your name?” he can’t respond. His hand moves, but his eyes stare straight ahead. The crew screams in horror “MEDIC!! MEDIC!!!”

Jon Stewart was shocked by the Oakland police attack.

“They were concerned about a public safety threat, so they did this? [cue footage of tear gas clouds and exploding stun grenades].”

There’s no evidence yet that the police attacks are deterring people from their righteous occupations in the U.S., as the much, much, more violent state repression against the spring uprisings beginning in Tunisia did not, and has not stopped, the people, who continue in Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen to battle the authorities.

Occupy Oakland is back, bigger than ever, and for the time being, the city has backed off with the heavy police presence, at least for now.  Occupy Wall Street is sending them $20,000 and new tents.

We need our own version of mass support for the occupations.  If you can’t get to one right now, get into print, get online, get on the phone, and weigh in:

“Hands off Occupy!”

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Another Terrible 10 Year “war on terror” product: The USA PATRIOT Act

In this season of 10-year anniversaries, one almost got by me, just as it almost got by many of us on October 26, 2001.  The Ashcroft Justice Department, which could hardly find a case of discrimination against a Black person or a woman to prosecute, and was busy dismantling its Civil Rights division, had apparently been busy elsewhere.  Even before 9/11, they had written the USA PATRIOT Act (that’s “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism” for those of you not patriotic enough to think that up yourselves).

They had cobbled bits of nefarious repression not included in the Clinton administration’s also egregiously-named 1996 “Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.” This law has its own deep problems, as a vehicle for stepping up federal executions, and criminalizing protest.  The Bush regime built on it, and not because of the 9/11 attacks; a bill that long could not have been written in 15 days.

But let’s just be clear.  The Patriot Act is domestic political repression, widening the government’s power to spy on people electronically, break into our homes and offices physically in “sneak and peak” operations, view our email, reading habits, photos, and much more.

I thought this might be a big day: 10 years of a huge escalation of repression, but found a total of 38 articles in a Google search on “USA Patriot Act” published on the anniversary.

Carol Rose, in Boston.com points out how the act is actually used

The Patriot Act hasn’t been about getting the bad guys – namely, terrorists or even criminals. The government had the power to do that without the Patriot Act. Instead, the Patriot Act gives the government the power secretly to collect and forever keep information on ordinary people who are not suspected of doing anything wrong…It gives the Feds virtually unchecked power to spy on ordinary Americans without a warrant.

Carrie Johnson, for NPR quotes the ACLU’s report on the Patriot Act:

“We’re now finding from public reports that less than 1 percent of these sneak-and-peek searches are happening for terrorism investigations,” says Michelle Richardson, who works for the ACLU in Washington. “They’re instead being used primarily in drug cases, in immigration cases, and some fraud.”

The ACLU filed suit today to learn more about the secret use of the Patriot Act, citing an example of how there is no check on its use

One section in particular, Section 215, gave the FBI unprecedented authority to obtain “any tangible thing” for an investigation related to international terrorism or espionage. The FBI has the power to use Section 215 to collect records held by businesses such as hotels, banks, stores, and internet service providers. They need to show only that the information is “relevant” to an investigation and, in 2010, every single 215 request was granted.

Michelle Richardson of the ACLU warns us of more to come, says NPR.

“The White House’s cybersecurity proposal right now makes the Patriot Act look quaint,” Richardson says. “And really, the collection that it would allow would really outpace anything that’s probably being done under the Patriot Act.”

The ACLU calls for the act to be reformed.

I say the whole thing is unjust, fascistic, and should be repealed.  It’s the government that should be transparent, providing privacy for its citizens, and not vice versa.

 

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Iraq: The World Still Waiting for US Withdrawal

Despite the Obama administration’s announcement Friday that U.S. combat troops are finally leaving Iraq — giving rise to the popular perception that “Iraq war is over”–  I ask those who are celebrating to consider: where is the joy coming from?

It’s been ten years now since Donald Rumsfeld’s brain went “9/11 = attack Iraq,” apparently minutes after the WTC was hit by airliners.  From that moment, when the world’s largest military machine began planning it, through today, after over a million Iraqi deaths, this war and occupation has never been legitimate, just or moral!

Tens of millions of us who care about humanity protested to prevent the Bush regime from getting the coalition it sought to attack Iraq; much of the world was convinced the U.S. was not invading to “save” Iraqis but to advance its own imperial agenda.  Our actions did contribute to this loss of legitimacy as the United States military ran into deep geopolitical difficulties in the region (remember, Bush and Cheney planned to sweep through Iraq as a gateway to dominating the rest of the region, including Iran, a strategy that has, shall we say, not gone well.)

The Nobel Peace President, who promised an end to war on Iraq, isn’t exactly blazing a peace trail.  The Bush Regime set this time frame of “withdrawal” in 2011.

In fact the Obama administration, through the State Department, pursued very hard the plan to keep U.S. fighting forces in Iraq beyond this year.  It was the Maliki government, which in general has been very compliant to its U.S. funders, who balked at allowing U.S. military to stay because the terms demanded by Obama included immunity from local prosecution for the troops.

Think of that: The widest sustained, imperialist government sponsored, mass war crime, destroying a whole country, displacing 4.5 million from their homes, the turning of a secular society into a bloody sectarian battlefield, was to be justified and continued only on the basis of immunity from the victimized country!

Glenn Greenwald specifically attributes the Iraqi government stand to the revelation  of a cable

released by WikiLeaks in May, 2011, and, as McClatchy put it at the time, “provides evidence that U.S. troops executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old infant, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence, during a controversial 2006 incident in the central Iraqi town of Ishaqi.” The U.S. then lied and claimed the civilians were killed by the airstrike. Although this incident had been previously documented by the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the high-profile release of the cable by WikiLeaks generated substantial attention (and disgust) in Iraq, which made it politically unpalatable for the Iraqi government to grant the legal immunity the Obama administration was seeking. Indeed, it was widely reported at the time the cable was released that it made it much more difficult for Iraq to allow U.S. troops to remain beyond the deadline under any conditions.

War crimes in 2003; war crimes never prosecuted at the hands of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, and one can go on into the dozens, as War Criminals Watch does.

I am not celebrating!

More to come on the continued U.S. State Department presence of fighters; the black operations, and the hundreds of thousands of U.S. contractors staying in Iraq.

May 1, 2003 Bush announces "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq

Remember, George. W. Bush, the master of creating his own reality,  announced that it was over on May 1, 2003, in his famous “Mission Accomplished” speech, wearing his pseudo-airman’s costume:

“Operation Iraqi Freedom was carried out with a combination of precision and speed and boldness the enemy did not expect and the world had not seen before.”

Any commander in chief of an illegitimate occupation should be very careful what he announces.

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