Wednesday, May 27, 2009
During a Memorial Day event at Long Island National Cemetery, Cub Scout Kyle Maebert places American flags. (Photo: AP)
I was on an airplane flying to Orange County from Sacramento to attend the al-Awda Conference, which is a Palestinian Right's Conference (al-Awda translates to "The Returning"), when the pilot's voice filled the cabin to make an announcement that I think went unnoticed by most of my fellow passengers, but I heard it.
As the plane was on the approach to John Wayne airport, the Captain came on the intercom to remind us all to "remember our brave troops who have died for our freedom." Even in this post 9-11 paranoid paradigm, if I wasn't belted in for landing, I would have popped out of my seat at 13D and charged up to the cockpit to let the pilot know that my son was killed in Iraq and not one person anywhere in this world is one iota more free because he is dead.
As a matter of fact, the people of Iraq, the foreign country thousands of miles away where my oldest child's brains, blood and life seeped into the soil, are not freer, unless one counts being liberated from life, liberty and property being free. If you consider torture and indefinite detention freedom, then the pilot may have been right, but then again, even if you do consider those crimes freedom, it does not make it so.
Here in America we are definitely not freer because my son died, as a matter of fact, our nation can spy on us and our communications without a warrant or just cause, and we can't even bring a 3.6 ounce bottle of hand cream into an airport, or walk through a metal detector with our shoes on. Even if we do want to exercise our Bill of Rights, we are shoved into pre-designated "free speech" zones (NewSpeak for; STFU, unless you are well out of the way of what you want to protest and shoved into pens like cattle being led to slaughter), and oftentimes brutally treated if we decide we are entitled to "free speech" on every inch of American soil.
If you watch any one of the cable news networks this weekend between doing holiday weekend things, you will be subjected to images of row upon row of white headstones of dead US military lined up in perfect formation in the afterlife as they were in life. Patriotic music will swell and we will be reminded in script font to "Remember our heroes," or some such BS as that.
Before Casey was killed, a message like that would barely register in my consciousness as I rushed around preparing for Casey's birthday bar-be-que that became a family tradition since he was born on Memorial Day in 1979. If I had a vision of how Memorial Day and Casey's birthday would change for my family, I would have fled these violent shores to protect what was mine, not this murderous country's. Be my guest; look at those headstones with pride or indifference. I look at them now with horror, regret, pain and a longing for justice.
Bush's Shocking Biblical Prophecy Emerges: God Wants to "Erase" Mid-East Enemies "Before a New Age Begins"
The revelation this month in GQ Magazine that Donald Rumsfeld as Defense Secretary embellished top-secret wartime memos with quotations from the Bible prompts a question. Why did he believe he could influence President Bush by that means?
The answer may lie in an alarming story about George Bush's Christian millenarian beliefs that has yet to come to light.
In 2003 while lobbying leaders to put together the Coalition of the Willing, President Bush spoke to France's President Jacques Chirac. Bush wove a story about how the Biblical creatures Gog and Magog were at work in the Middle East and how they must be defeated.
In Genesis and Ezekiel Gog and Magog are forces of the Apocalypse who are prophesied to come out of the north and destroy Israel unless stopped. The Book of Revelation took up the Old Testament prophesy:
"And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them."
Bush believed the time had now come for that battle, telling Chirac:
"This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people's enemies before a New Age begins".
The story of the conversation emerged only because the Elyse Palace, baffled by Bush's words, sought advice from Thomas Romer, a professor of theology at the University of Lausanne. Four years later, Romer gave an account in the September 2007 issue of the university's review, Allez savoir. The article apparently went unnoticed, although it was referred to in a French newspaper.
The story has now been confirmed by Chirac himself in a new book, published in France in March, by journalist Jean Claude Maurice. Chirac is said to have been stupefied and disturbed by Bush's invocation of Biblical prophesy to justify the war in Iraq and "wondered how someone could be so superficial and fanatical in their beliefs".
In the same year he spoke to Chirac, Bush had reportedly said to the Palestinian foreign minister that he was on "a mission from God" in launching the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and was receiving commands from the Lord.
Part of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel suite, which has a gold plaque on the door noting its history, went to the installation of a panoramic elevator on the floor.
But that hasn't dimmed the aura of the place where the ex-Beatle and Ono staged their bed-in for peace between May 26 and June 2, 1969, and recorded the iconic antiwar anthem "Give Peace a Chance" the day before they left.
"The furniture has changed because of course it's 40 years ago and we do renovate every five to 10 years," hotel spokeswoman Joanne Papineau said as she gave a tour of room 1742 on Tuesday.
Pictures of Lennon and Ono during the bed-in dot the walls. Sunlight floods in from the large window in the sitting room where Lennon positioned the couple's mattress and held court with throngs of people in 1969.
Papineau leafs through a security log book from the visit, which notes the couple's room service orders - a mix of British and Japanese food - and a request for an extra large comb plus a cage for a white mouse.
"They were throwing (flower) petals into the air a few times a day so we had to keep vacuuming the floor," she said with a chuckle.
"There were 200 'fellow Beatles' who were running around in the lobby so you see it was a bit of a circus and guests were not always so happy."
The Queen E, as the landmark hotel is nicknamed, didn't boast about holding the event at the time.
"It created a lot of problems with guests," Papineau said. "They didn't talk about it for a while but guests wanted to see where it happened."
There was a spike in interest after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States when Lennon's message of peace was given increased resonance.
Now, many fans of Lennon and the Beatles want to book the room. Others reserve it for romantic getaways.
"Guests love it," Papineau said of the room. "A lot of them feel a presence. They say there's a special vibration."
When she needs a lift or money to buy clothes, a girl will turn the charm on her father.
But it seems that a daughter's influence on her dad goes far beyond the odd favour.
Research has found that the more girls a man has, the more likely he is to be Left-wing.
Daughters have such a profound effect on their fathers that they can switch their political viewpoint, a study suggests.
Compared to men, women are more likely to favour Labour or Liberal policies such as higher taxes to fund provisions like the NHS.
They also tend to earn less than men so won't be as hard-hit by higher taxation.
As a man fathers more daughters, he will gradually be won round by their more Left-wing viewpoints.
The study, carried out by Professor Andrew Oswald from Warwick University and Dr Nattavudh Powdthavee from York University, also found that a predominance of sons can make a mother more right-wing.
The researchers even suggested that well-known Left-wing politicians and personalities owed their beliefs to the high numbers of daughters in the family.
Looking at the poll results we see clear evidence of the hack. The first letters of the top 21 finalists in the poll spell out 'Marblecake, also the game'. Evidence of precision hackery for anyone to see. And yet, Time says they rebuffed all attempts to hack the poll. Quoting from the time article: "TIME.com's technical team did detect and extinguish several attempts to hack the vote". Which leads me to wonder whether Time.com is being dishonest or is just plain incompetent. Considering Hanlon's razor , I have to go with incompetence. (And if you have any doubt about Time's incompetence, take a close look at the Poll. Notice that Oprah Winfrey and Ratan Tata have the exact same number of votes. That's because they both shared the same ID in the poll. A vote for either one was a vote for the other. Same goes for Michael Bloomberg and Gustavo Dudamel. If you vote for one, you vote for the other.)
By New Zealand correspondent Kerri Ritchie
Interpol is still trying to find a couple of cashed-up Kiwis, believed to be living it up in Asia, after they were mistakenly given $8 million ($NZ10 million) by Westpac.
Rotorua service station owners Leo Gao and his girlfriend Cara Young fled New Zealand with about $NZ3 million after they discovered the money in their bank account.
But their chances of being caught have increased after they were joined overseas by Ms Young's sister, Aroha Hurring, who posted details about their location on her Facebook page.
Police believe the trio are in China after Ms Hurring foolishly updated her status to say she was drinking the local Asian beer and enjoying the heat.
Her mother Sue Hurring, who runs a hairdressing salon in Blenheim, has been helping police with their inquiries.
"Well, you've got to have a laugh," she said. "It is bizarre.
"She's never pinched a thing in her life. Probably as a little girl, yes, but so honest."
Ms Hurring says she blames her daughter's boyfriend.
"Well, if you really want to know I'd like to wring his blinging neck for getting the whole... I don't know what to say.
"Never mind Leo, he can stay there. Just come home now please [Cara]. It's going to be OK."
But getting the trio home could prove tricky, because New Zealand does not have an extradition treaty with China.
The affair began after the couple applied for a $10,000 loan to stop their business going under, but Westpac mistakenly transferred $NZ10 million into their account.
Westpac's New Zealand spokesman Craig Dowling says he had not banked on all the publicity the case has attracted, but is confident the accidental millionaires will be found.
"We're concentrating on making sure our people are OK with the attention this is getting, and then also following the money trail.
"The details of that we're still wanting to be a bit cagey about - we don't want to say anything that will jeopardise our chances of recovering the outstanding money."
He says a bank employee made a simple mistake.
"The entry in one area jumped from $100,000 to $10 million, so it was about a couple of errant noughts that caused a, quite a major issue."
The employee is reportedly so traumatised that they are now receiving counselling.
AP photo / Keith Srakocic
By Chris Hedges
In the musical "Urinetown," a severe drought leaves the dwindling supplies of clean water in the hands of a corporation called Urine Good Company. Urine Good Company makes a fortune selling the precious commodity and running public toilets. It pays off politicians to ward off regulation and inspection. It uses the mechanisms of state control to repress an increasingly desperate and impoverished population.
The musical satire may turn out to be a prescient vision of the future. Corporations in Colorado, Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and upstate New York have launched a massive program to extract natural gas through a process that could, if it goes wrong, degrade the Delaware River watershed and the fresh water supplies that feed upstate communities, the metropolitan cities of New York, Philadelphia, Camden and Trenton, and many others on its way to the Chesapeake Bay.
"The potential environmental consequences are extreme," says Fritz Mayer, editor of The River Reporter in Narrowsburg, N.Y. His paper has been following the drilling in the Upper Delaware River Valley and he told me, "It could ruin the drinking supply for 8 million people in New York City."
Trillions of cubic feet of natural gas are locked under the Marcellus Shale that runs from West Virginia, through Ohio, across most of Pennsylvania and into the Southern Tier of New York state. There are other, small plates of shale, in the south and west of the United States. It takes an estimated 3 million to 5 million gallons of water per well to drill down to the natural gas in a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The water is mixed with resin-coated sand and a cocktail of hazardous chemicals, including hydrochloric acid, nitrogen, biocides, surfactants, friction reducers and benzene to facilitate the fracturing of the shale to extract the gas.
The toxic brew is injected with extreme force deep within the earth. The drilling is vertical for about 5,000 to 7,000 feet. The technology, developed by Halliburton, allows drills to abruptly turn sideways when they reach these depths. The lubricant and biocides propel the sand on a horizontal axis for as far as half a mile. The fissures created are held open by the sand, and the natural gas flows to the surface through steel casings. Feeder lines run from the grid of wells to regional pipelines.
About 60 percent of the toxic water used to extract the natural gas—touted in mendacious commercials by the natural gas industry as "clean" energy—is left underground. The rest is stored in huge, open pits that dot the landscapes at drilling sites, before it is loaded into hundreds of large vehicles and trucked to regional filtration facilities. Such drilling has already poisoned wells in western Pennsylvania, Colorado, Alabama, Arkansas, New Mexico, Kansas, Montana, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming. Those whose water becomes contaminated, including people living in towns such as Dimock, Pa., must have water trucked in to provide for their needs. Farm animals that have drunk the toxic mixture that has leeched from gas drilling sites have died. Cattle ranchers in Colorado, where drilling is occurring in close proximity, have reported that their livestock birthrates have gone down and animals are bearing deformed offspring.
"The single biggest concern is the release of poisons into the environment and its impact on all that live in proximity to the drilling activity," the River Reporter's editorial this week read following a visit to local drilling sites. "Large pits, lined with sagging black plastic, did not instill confidence that it couldn't escape into the environment. And we wondered how migrating birds would know the difference between this body of fluid and an area pond. Ironically, the effect on animals became very real that afternoon when, upon our return, we received the news that in Caddo Parish, LA, 17 cows died after apparently ingesting fluids that escaped from a nearby gas pad."
The Toronto Star ("The Josh Marshall of Lower Nutland") writes that Canadian Governor General Michaelle Jean "sliced off and sampled a piece of seal heart from the dripping carcass of a freshly slaughtered seal" at some local thing.
Is this Michaelle Jean's "Sister Souljah moment" on national security?
By Philip Smucker
BERMEL, Afghanistan — The Taliban took shelter in the U.S.-built school they blew up last year before they began the 400-foot climb, rockets in hand, to the American bastion on the hill.
Wrapped in space blankets — thin foil sheets familiar to campers — to avoid detection by the thermal imaging cameras in the U.S. outpost, they zigzagged up the escarpment. Troops at the base said insurgents had come right up on the helicopter landing zone, fired their rockets, then disappeared "like ninjas into the night."
Fortress Margha, with its grenade launchers and mortars sticking out from behind sandbags and bulletproof windows on three watchtowers, is a safe redoubt for the American troops stationed there. Within its walls, soldiers play ice hockey and video games that imitate guerrilla warfare.
For the Afghans who live in a medieval world of mud homes with interlocking walls in the valley below, however, reality is a reign of terror.
Taliban fighters rule the day and the night in the Bermel district, using threats and atrocities to control the civilian population, Afghans in the valley told a visiting reporter in interviews over two weeks. Accompanied by Arab and Chechen advisers, they behead civilians or sever their hands to force their cooperation. One of the latest Taliban edicts is a ban on cutting trees, so that insurgents can hide and lay ambushes for foreign troops.
From a distance, the U.S. base in Margha, occupied by a platoon from the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division out of Fort Richardson, Alaska, is a monument to a risk-averse, shorthanded American strategy in Afghanistan.
That could change with the arrival of an additional 17,500 American combat troops and of Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a hard-charging special operations man, to replace Gen. David McKiernan, who'd been faulted for failing to implement counterinsurgency strategy quickly enough.
The small U.S. base can be defended against as many as a thousand insurgents at once, confident American soldiers said. That sums up their dilemma, however: The fortress protects American troops, but it does little to help win a guerrilla war that's now in its eighth year and about to enter another violent summer.
The announcement was made Thursday by Overture Films and Paramount Vantage.
The film is not yet titled. Moore earlier planned to make it more broadly about America as an empire. Instead, the documentary explores the causes of the global economic meltdown. Moore has called it "the biggest swindle in American history."
The division between rich and poor is old territory for Moore, who broke through 20 years ago with "Roger & Me" _ about General Motors closing a plant in his hometown of Flint.
Moore won the Academy Award for best documentary in 2003 for "Bowling for Columbine."
They broke down the front door. Accompanied by dogs, American and Iraqi troops burst into the Jassam family home in the town of Mahmoudiya south of Baghdad.
Ibrahim Jassam, a cameraman and photographer for the Reuters news agency, stepped forward, one of this brothers recalled. "Take me if you want me, but please leave my brothers." The soldiers rifled through the house, confiscating his computer hard drive and cameras. And then they led him away, handcuffed and blindfolded.
That was Sept. 2.
No formal accusations have been made against Jassam, and an Iraqi court ordered in November that he be released for lack of evidence. But the U.S. military continues to hold him, saying it has intelligence that he is "a high security threat," said Maj. Neal Fisher, spokesman for detainee affairs.
The Obama administration harshly criticized Iran for its imprisonment of Roxana Saberi, the U.S.-Iranian journalist who was convicted of espionage and sentenced to eight years in prison before being freed two weeks ago. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton criticized Iran's treatment of Saberi as "non-transparent, unpredictable and arbitrary."
Washington also has called upon North Korea to expedite the trial of two U.S. journalists being held on spying charges.
Yet the U.S. has routinely used the arbitrary powers it assumed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks to hold journalists without charge in Iraq, as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.
None of the detained journalists has been convicted of any charge, undermining the United States' reputation when it comes to criticizing other countries on issues of press freedom, committee executive director Joel Simon said.
"The U.S. has a record of holding journalists for long periods of time without due process and without explanation," he said. "Its standing would be improved if it addressed this issue."
Reuters has expressed disappointment over Jassam's detention and has said there is no evidence against him.