Friday, December 29, 2006

Saddam is Dead

I won't pretend for a second to say that Saddam Hussein didn't deserve his punishment. He is dead at the hands of a nation who he held captive by fear, hanged about 9:00 pm CST (Chicago time). My wife Mary Pat and I had just finished shopping for some "frou frou" (good Americans that we are) to put in our new office space in our home, and we were enjoying a sandwich and a salad at a Houlihan's in Oak Brook, Illinois. At just about the time he was executed, we were discussing, over a glass of wine, the fact that Saddam was not likely to survive into the new year.

I mentioned to Mary Pat that I saw a number of profound ironies in Saddam's fate: how, until the last fifteen years, the United States had supported him in many ways; evidence suggests that the US supported the Ba'athist coup attempt that eventually led to the deposing and execution of Marxist dictator Abdel Karim Kassem; that Saddam may have been on the CIA payroll as early as 1963; that, still stung by the deposing of the Shah of Iran, the hostage crisis, and the "Islamic revolution," the Reagan administration secretly rooted for the Soviet-armed Ba'athist Republic of Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war; that despite official US neutrality, we removed Iraq from the list of nations supporting terrorism; by 1983, the Reagan administration began officially supporting Iraq in the war, despite repeated Iranian allegations of Iraqi use of chemical and biological weapons; at the same time, Donald Rumsfeld, acting as a personal envoy of President Reagan's, traveled to Iraq to throw US support behind Saddam's government; that George H.W. Bush's special envoy to Iraq, April Glaspie, all but gave the go-ahead to Iraq to take Kuwaiti oil fields in late 1990; that, throughout the 1980s, the United States, under both the Reagan and Bush (I) adminstrations provided Iraq with "computer controlled machine tools, computers, scientific instruments, special alloy steel and aluminum, chemicals, and other industrial goods for Iraq's missile, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs," Howitzers, Huey helicopters, and bombs.

I mentioned to Mary Pat that he was convicted of and executed for the murder of 148 Shiites in 1982 following an assassination attempt. I opined that while the total number of his victims certainly dwarfs that body count, it is impossible to say just how many people died at his hands, and I thought it was a travesty that he was being executed before his trial for the gassing of Kurds in 1991. Why? How was justice served by executing Saddam now, before all the trials were completed?

I also mentioned that the number of American GIs killed in Iraq as a result of our invasion will probably reach 3,000 before the New Year, and the number of Iraqi civilians killed is at least 52,000 and perhaps more than 500,000. I have never seen estimates of Iraqi casualties under Saddam as high as that, and have seen no evidence of combined deaths of more than 30,000 under Saddam.

None of this is to dismiss Saddam's brutality. None of this is to say, "Oh, poor Saddam and the poor Iraqi people who mourn him." No one mourns him. No one. He is gone and good riddance.

But, c'mon folks -- here is another monster we created, or, at the very least, helped to create and supported for far too many years. Let's not pat ourselves on the back. Let's hear no self-congtratulatory bullshit from the current administration. We were wrong ever to have supported Saddam, and deposing him -- while throwing Iraq into chaos -- does not exculpate us from our shared responsibility for all the evil that resulted.

America, welcome to the "culture of life."

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas 2006

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This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it.' cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. 'Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.'

'Have they no refuge or resource?' cried Scrooge.

'Are there no prisons?' said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. 'Are there no workhouses?'"

- A Christmas Carol, Stave 3: The Second of the Three Spirits
This Christmas, my fervent wish is that we use our wealth and our might to lift people out of poverty, to share the blessings that God has given us with the billions in the world who, through no fault of their own, have been left behind. But my most fervent wish is that we take control of our media from the hands of multinational corporations, and bring real journalism back to America. Otherwise, we will remain ignorant of the crushing poverty and pain that others suffer, and we'll continue to live IN THE DARK.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Incredible Racist Stupidity From the Right

Debbie Schlussel, according to her website bio, is a "Conservative political commentator, radio talk show host, columnist, and attorney." What her bio doesn't tell you is that she is an idiot.
...I decided to look further into Obama's background. His full name--as by now you have probably heard--is Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. Hussein is a Muslim name, which comes from the name of Ali's son--Hussein Ibn Ali. And Obama is named after his late Kenyan father, the late Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., apparently a Muslim.
You with me so far?
And while Obama may not identify as a Muslim, that's not how the Arab and Muslim Streets see it. In Arab culture and under Islamic law, if your father is a Muslim, so are you. And once a Muslim, always a Muslim. You cannot go back. In Islamic eyes, Obama is certainly a Muslim. He may think he's a Christian, but they do not.
Follow the logic....right over the cliff.
So, even if he identifies strongly as a Christian, and even if he despised the behavior of his father (as Obama said on Oprah); is a man who Muslims think is a Muslim, who feels some sort of psychological need to prove himself to his absent Muslim father, and who is now moving in the direction of his father's heritage, a man we want as President when we are fighting the war of our lives against Islam? Where will his loyalties be?
And where are your loyalties, Barbie....uh, Debbie? Certainly not with any American values I can identify.

Who "Lost" Iraq, Part II

I told you already -- it is the media's fault'
See, it's really the AP's fault we're losing the war. (Plus, it's ignoring all the "good news" from Iraq.) For warbloggers who have been chronically wrong about Iraq for nearly 50 straight months, the AP conspiracy theory represents a cure-all so important that Malkin herself has vowed to travel to Iraq to wander around the bombed-out streets of Baghdad in order to prove her AP allegations.

Uh-huh. Well, at least we're all on the same page with one point: We're not winning.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Guide to Grading Exams

One of academia's little secrets is leaked to the blogosphere. As my students know, I don't give exams....

Heightened Levels of Inactivity

It is a few days until Christmas, and the end of the Fall semester. I am in the process of reading and grading 70 or so final papers averaging about 11 pages each (several exceeding 18 pages!). My grades are due by the end of the week, and only then will I be able to re-enter the "real" world, at which point my first task will be doing some REALLY LATE Christmas shopping. Until then, forgive me for my inactivity here.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pray for Tim Johnson

I got a cryptic e-mail from my right-wing friend in New York, Howie, early this morning that started a bit of back and forth (all spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes are Howie's):

Howie: With todays news, perhaps it is Gods will that the Senate remain Republican........

Me: Howie, that is blasphemy.

Howie: OK, Fallon, you made me laugh today.....

Me: Why did that make you laugh? It was a serious comment.

Howie: I assumed you meant the sacred thing that I have gone against would be the Demoncratic Senate......Besides, I was being an optimist....I was looking at the brighter side of an unfortunate event.....

Howie had just lectured me the previous day on the political partisanship of the Democratic Party. It was a sort of "You started it when you hit me back" thing. There's no question that there's too much partisanship in Washington today. But I'll never be deluded into thinking either that: 1] the Democratic Party is solely responsible for it; 2] the Democratic Party created it; or 3] the Democratic Party fights as dirty as the GOP.

Which brings me to FOX "News." Like Howie, and Republicans everywhere, FOX was ready to "pull the plug" on Sen. Tim Johnson. Bill Frist had already declared him brain dead. And all they could think about was SOMEHOW regaining control of the Senate. Think Progress gives us the play-by-play:

"KILMEADE: Steve, remember we were down this road before? If something happens that Johnson can’t continue, 50-50 with Dick Cheney breaking the tie.

DOOCY: That’s right, and you know, in the state of South Dakota, I understand there is the issue of incapacitation. It’s not spelled out in the state law, at the state level. However, the secretary of state of South Dakota says there would be a precedent at the federal level. Is that how you understand it as well Megan?

FOX ANCHOR: Yeah, indeed, there’s a big laundry list that they would have to go through in order to determine that he is incapacitated. It’s something that, ironically enough, might be weighed in on by his advisers. In other words, Sen. Harry Reid, the incoming majority leader, and Chuck Schumer, may advise him on whether he should declare his incapacity, if in fact he’s in a position where he can declare it or not. And so, we’ll have to see what happens in terms of, you know, what exactly his condition is and who’s going to weigh in on whether it should be declared an incapacitation or whether that’s just clear from the facts."

Don't lecture me on partisanship, Howie. This is disgraceful.

Iraqis : We're in Worse Shape Now Than Under Saddam

A new poll of Iraqis shows that more than 90% believe Iraq is in worse shape today than it was before the US invasion. The poll also shows that 95% of Iraqis believe that security in their country has deteriorated because of the US presence. The poll was taken by the independent Iraq Centre for Research and Strategic Studies in Baghdad, a think tank created by Saadoun al Duleimi, and Iraqi exile who returned to his native home after the invasion.

According to Source Watch, Saadoun al Duleimi, Iraq's current Defense Minister, is a "member of a powerful Sunni Arab tribe from the Western Anbar province" and a "former lieutenant-colonel in Iraq's army who left the country in 1984 and lived in exile in Saudi Arabia until dictator Saddam Hussein lost power in 2003." Duleimi "spent the year before the war in Washington [DC] training with other exiles to take up the reins of power in Iraq once the fighting was over."

The poll is reported on in Al Jazeera, not in any US medium that I have been able to find.

Latin American Left Favors "Capitalism With a Heart"

Interesting analysis by the Miami Herald. Excerpts:

Yes, Latin America has taken a leftward step. That, however, does not mean that Latin America is becoming Chávez Country. The true story of Latin American politics is that the left has moved to the center, advocating a new brand of capitalism with a heart. The new Latin American left is no threat to the United States. In fact, it has much to teach Washington.

If the United States truly wants to regain its standing, it could study the views of socialists like Bachelet and Lula, who don't turn their backs on democracy or capitalism but recognize that the state does have a role to play in alleviating the suffering of the poorest of the poor and in providing the tools to help them become
productive citizens with a measure of human dignity. As one Buenos Aires resident told me, "The real danger in Latin America is not Chávez; it's poverty.''


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Food for Thought

A new CBS News poll shows that 51% of Americans believe that George Bush and the Democrats in Congress will NOT be able to work together. And yet, at the same time, in the same poll, 65% say they are "optimistic about the next two years with the Democratic Party in control of Congress."

If there is any other way of interpreting this than that the American people want the Democrats in Congress to act as a brake on the Bush administration, I'd like to hear it.

What say you?

Who "Lost" Iraq?

I can hear it right now: The question on right-wing "talk" radio, the gossip on right-wing blogs, the burning question: Who lost Iraq?

Why, the media, of course. Damned liberals.
Nearly eight in 10 Americans favor changing the U.S. mission in Iraq from direct combat to training Iraqi troops, the Washington Post-ABC News survey found. Sizeable majorities agree with the goal of pulling out nearly all U.S. combat forces by early 2008, engaging in direct talks with Iran and Syria and reducing U.S. financial support if Iraq fails to make enough progress.

Furthermore, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll shows that only 15% of Americans think the US is winning the war, 14% think the insurgents are winning, and 66% see no winner.

It wasn't the bad plan for deposing Saddam and winning the peace.
It wasn't Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition, or secret prisons.
It wasn't the suspension of basic human rights, such as habeas corpus.
It wasn't the Bush administration's inability -- or refusal -- to modify its approach to the problems we are facing in Iraq in the face of compounding difficulties.
It wasn't the utter contempt in which George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzalez and Donald Rumsfeld seemed to hold the intelligence of the American people.

Nothing is Bush's fault, nor his administration's.

It's the media.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Nobel Peace Prize Winner : To Win War on Terror, Fight War on Poverty

Muhammad Yunus, the winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Peace, has a message for the world, and for the United States of America: If you want to win the "war on terror," fight a war on poverty.

Yunus, the creator and founder of the Grameen Bank which extends "microcredit" -- collateral-free loans to small-business entrepreneurs in less devloped parts of the world, believes that capitalism is the way to lift impoverished peoples out of misery and guard them from the allure of terrorism. But existing economic structures need to be overhauled, and more money must be invested in small businesses in less-developed countries.
Poverty is a threat to peace...Over one billion people live on less than a dollar a day. This is no formula for peace.
He said that the UN Millenium Goals is a structure for this type of economic development. But in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, the developed world had lost sight of those goals.

“Till now over $530 billion has been spent on the war in Iraq by the USA alone,” he said.

“I believe terrorism cannot be won over by military action,” he said, but added that terrorism had to be condemned “in the strongest language” and the world must stand solidly against it.

“We must address the root causes of terrorism to end it for all time to come,” he said. “I believe that putting resources into improving the lives of the poor people is a better strategy than spending it on guns.”

Yunus and his bank has been putting those resources into the hands of the poor for 30 years. Will the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization follow suit? And will the "liberal media" pay any attention to him?

Monday, December 11, 2006


Bush approval slips to 30%.
More than 2/3 (68%) believe the US is "losing ground" in Iraq.
The Brits, at least, seem to think the so-called "war on terror" is over.
The GOP survivors seem to be happy to see the GOP losers leave.
Even in death, some monsters inspire only violence.
What's happening in Latin America is not pro-Socialism, it's anti-global Capitalism.
And Nobel Peace Laureate Muhammed Yunus backs me up: fight a war on poverty, not terror.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A Tale of Two Schools

This is the tale of two schools, the Latin American School of Medical Sciences and the School of the Americas. The Latin American School of Medical Sciences (LASMS) is the product of a Socialist society -- Cuba -- and the School of the Americas of a Capitalist society -- the United States of America.
It was Fidel himself who in the late 1990s came up with the idea for this school, which trains doctors from throughout the Americas, not just in the ABCs of medicine but in the need for health care for the struggling masses.
The LASMS is, to be sure, a pure piece of propaganda. It is meant in no small part to show the outside world the moral superiority of Socialism. But while it is doing the propaganda work of a flawed social and economic system, it is also -- undeniably -- doing objective good in the world.
The Cuban government offered full scholarships to poor students from throughout the region, and many, including 90 or so from the United States, have jumped at the chance of a free medical education, even with a bit of socialist theory thrown in. "They are completing the dreams of our commandante," said the dean, Dr. Juan Carrizo Estévez. "As he said, they are true missionaries, true apostles of health."
The Gospel of Matthew says, "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." (Matthew 7:17-20)

Still, Cuban authorities are eager to show off this exporter of Cuban doctor-philosophers as a sign of the country's compassion and clout in the world. The sympathetic portrayal of Castro, whom the United States government tars as a dictator who suppresses his people, is sinking in among some students.

"In my country, many see Fidel Castro as a bad leader," said Rolando Bonilla, 23, a Panamanian who is in his second year of the six-year program. "My view has changed. I now know what he represents for this country. I identify with him."

It is not just the Panamanian and other Latin American student who get the message.

Tahirah Benyard, 27, a first-year student from Newark, New Jersey, said it was Cuba's offer to send doctors to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, which was firmly rejected by the Bush administration, that prompted her to take a look at medical education in Cuba.

"I saw my people dying," she said. "There was no one willing to help. The government was saying everything is going to be fine."

In the United States of America, we have the School of the Americas, recently reformed and renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. Like the Latin American school of Medical Sciences, it takes in students from the Americas and sends them home to do the work they have been trained to do. "Ye shall know them by their fruit." (Matthew 7:17) Here is some of the fruit that has been borne by graduates of the School of the Americas:

In Guatemala, last week a court ordered the capture of the SOA graduate Angel Anibal Guevara, the former Defense Minister, and for SOA graduate German Chupina, the former head of the feared National Police, for their involvement in homicide, terrorism and kidnapping during Guatemala’s civil war. The brutal School of the Americas counterinsurgency strategies that were implemented in Guatemala left over 200,000 people dead and no SOA official has ever been held accountable.

In Mexico, a repression campaign is being unleashed against the people of Oaxaca who are struggling for direct democracy and justice. At least 18 high-ranking SOA graduates have played key roles in civilian-targeted warfare against indigenous communities in the states of Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca.

In Colombia, the largest customer of the SOA, 2,000,000 people have been killed or displaced by massacres and assassinations carried out under the direction of SOA graduates. Earlier this year, General Montoya Uribe was named the head of the Colombian military. Gen. Montoya has a history—dating back 30-years—of collaborating with the paramilitaries in killing innocent peasants, massacring villages. He was also a student, and later, in 1993, a teacher, at the SOA. The killing in Colombia continues.

In Argentina, when SOA graduate Leopoldo Galtieri headed the military, 30,000 people were killed or disappeared. And in Chile, 10 of the officers indicted with Pinochet for crimes against humanity were trained at the SOA.

In Honduras, 19 of the ranking officers of the notorious Battalion 316 death squad were SOA-trained. And in Nicaragua, over 4,000 soldiers were trained at the SOA for Somoza’s National Guard death squads.

In El Salvador, SOA-trained soldiers massacred over 900 men, women and children in the village of El Mozote, assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero, raped and murdered four U.S. church women and massacred 14 year old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba and six Catholic priests, professors of the University of Central America in San Salvador.

In Venezuela, in April 2002, graduates of the School of the Americas were key players in an attempted coup against the democratically elected government. Democracy prevailed as the people took to the streets. One hundred people died in the violence during the coup attempt.

In Bolivia, people across the country protested in October 2003 against unjust economic policies. The government responded by sending the troops - many under the command of SOA graduates to suppress the dissent. The people stood strong and prevailed. The president fled to the United States. Eight-five people were killed in the preceding repression campaign.

The Latin American School of Medical Sciences is the work of Fidel Castro. He is a Socialist. Therefore, we in the United States of America know little about it. The School of the Americas is the work of every American President since Harry S. Truman. The work that is done there, quite frankly, is evil. Therefore, we in the United States of America know little about it.

"Ye shall know them by their fruit."

Felipe Calderon?

It looks like the American "mainstream" is more to the right than the Mexican right.
Right off the bat, he slashed his salary and those of other top officials by 10 percent and said the money would go toward social programs, adopting in one fell swoop one of his leftist rival’s favorite campaign promises.
Fine. But he's pretty wealthy anyway. And so is his government.
Then Mr. Calderón introduced a budget that slashed spending in his office and the Interior Ministry while raising spending steeply for public security and health care.
Hmmm. Redirecting government spending toward the public welfare....Didn't we end that in the Reagan years?

Finally, on Thursday, the president used his first out of town trip to highlight the poverty in Guerrero State and announced a program to pump money into 100 of the poorest towns in Mexico.

He said closing the gap between rich and poor would be one of his top priorities. “I know the enormous debt that Mexico owes to marginalized people and that this debt should be paid with acts of the government,” he said.

Huh? A debt to "marginalized people" that should "be paid with acts of the government?" This guy was the right-wing candidate in Mexico?

As my wife, Mary Pat, said, "Can we get him to be President up here?"

Thursday, December 07, 2006

World Social Forum : US "War on Terror" a Sham While it Harbors Its Own Terrorists

The World Social Forum for the Integration of Peoples convening in Cochabamba, Bolivia points to a US double-standard in its so-called "war on terror." How can a nation both claim to be fighting terror and harboring a man who was responsible for the 1976 bombing of an airliner?

Recently declassified CIA documents -- now in the National Security Archives of George Washington University -- indicate that Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban exile and former CIA operative, masterminded the attack of Cubana Flight 455 30 years ago that killed 76 people. Another former CIA operative involved in the attack, Orlando Bosch, was pardoned by President George H.W. Bush in 1990.

Our new Defense Secretary-designate Robert Gates had dealings with Posada during the illegal Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages crimes of the 1980s.

When will the "liberal" media stop ignoring history?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Iraq Study Group Says Iraq Policy A "Failure"

They also said the war was a "grave and deteriorating" crisis sliding toward chaos. They said US policy in Iraq was "not working." They also suggested regional talks on the future of Iraq with, among other states, Iran and Syria.

And Defense Secretary designate Robert Gates said yesterday that the US is not winning the war in Iraq.


Quote of the Week #1

The Kingdom of Christ is the kingdom of love, of peace; the kingdom of justice, of solidarity, brotherhood, the kingdom of socialism...This is the kingdom of the future of Venezuela. -- Hugo Chavez Frias

Things I'd Like the US Media to Tell Me More About...

Just wondering when we'll be hearing these on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FOX, etc....

Monday, December 04, 2006

Democracy is on the March; Bush Administration is in Retreat

An update on the "New Axis of Evil"TM

Hugo Chavez has won another term as Venezuelan President.
The National Electoral Council said Chavez won 61 percent of the vote while rival Manuel Rosales, a governor of an oil-producing province who managed to unite the fractured opposition, won 38 percent after nearly 80 percent of the vote had been counted.
US-backed opponent Manuel Rosales conceded, without charging fraud. His quick concession is regarded as a reason why there were few protests or disturbances.
We recognize they beat us today but we will continue the fight.
With 61 percent of the vote, and an overall turnout of 70 percent, Chavez can legitimately claim a "mandate" for his Bolivarian Revolution, even if a recently chastened and defeated US right-wing care to deny it (right, Howie?). There is another way to do business in the world aside from the global, un-regulated, laissez faire, "free-market" capitalist way.
Having already taken on multinational oil giants to demand they hand more control to the state, Chavez will likely press for more share of Venezuela's vast oil and mineral resources and increase land distribution for the rural poor.
Chavez's landslide reelection is the newest and clearest sign of landmark changes in Latin American -- and global -- political and economic thinking and a continuing challenge to the post-Cold War "new world order." Bolivia's Evo Morales, Brazil's Luis Inacio Lula Da Silva, Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega, Chile's Marie Bachelet, Peru's Alan Garcia, Ecuador's Rafael Correa, all have attempted to maintain capitalist economies while injecting a government mandated -- and sometimes government sponsored -- social responsibility.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Donald Rumsfeld is gone. John Bolton is gone. The GOP House and the GOP Senate are gone. The era of the Project for a New American Century may be close to an end. Neo-cons are cutting and running.

Mr. Bush: Democracy is, indeed, on the march. Can you handle it?