Thursday, June 28, 2007

Chris Bambery, Mary Jordan, Rob Scheffield

Rob Sheffield writes for Rolling Stone. In his early days, I read along laughing, thinking he was a put on, a send up. As the years passed, I realized he was not mocking disposable pop with his shrill remarks, he actually did have the mentality of a 12-year-old (and the tastes as well). If you ever need to know who your young niece (or gay nephew) is crushing on, you only have to turn to Rob's latest writing because he's crushing on him too.

He has brought a straightforward 16 touch to rock journal and, since it's not intended to be a joke, I find myself laughing at him more and more, instead of with him. I say all that to note that on page 70 of the latest Rolling Stone (June 28, 2007). Rob's trying to review the Beastie Boys' new CD The Mix-Up. Only Rob, clip-whore that he is, could compare Beastie Boys and U2 and only Rob could make the statement: "But now, with U2 bigger than ever and vaugh anthems all the rage, the Beasties can be forgiven for sounding confused themselves." A) It's an instrumental album the Beasties have released. B) Vauge anthems the rage? What Fergie song would that be? There are no anthems today burning raging. It's all disposable crap. C) U2 bigger than ever? They are in the studio right now, back with Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno because their 'sound' isn't their own, it's that of a producer. And they haven't burned up the singles charts in years. If peaking at 87 on the pop charts ("Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own") now qualifies as the "rage" . . . If they're lucky, they will have reduced three albums this century. If they're lucky. Three bad albums, but three none the less. They are the definition of the oldies circuit, touring to promote their latest album that most of the public avoids while playing all the old hits. Rob, my eleven-year-old niece called, she wants her sensibilities back. She said, however, you can keep her Justin Timberlake poster.

Tony Blair, another twit, is no longer prime minister of the United Kingdom. Mary Jordan (Washington Post via San Francisco Chronicle) notes this:

Blair spent much of his last address as prime minister defending the war in Iraq and began his remarks by saluting three British soldiers who had died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I know some may think that they face these dangers in vain; I don't and I never will. I believe they are fighting for the security of this country and the wider world against people who would destroy our way of life," he said.

Of course he doesn't think "they" were left to "face these dangers in vain" -- he wasn't with them. No one in his family was with them. When it's someone else or someone else's children you're sending off to war, it's just "they" and never "us."

And his replacement (cooked up in a deal with Tony Blair years ago) is no better. This is Chris Bambery's "New Labour leader Gordon Brown spurns calls to move leftwards" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Millions of people in Britain will have been pleased to see the back of Tony Blair as prime minister. Many will have greeted Gordon Brown's start as premier as an opportunity to put an end to the failed New Labour policies of war and privatisation.
Those who have despaired of the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may hope that Brown will have confidence to stand up to George Bush and bring the troops home.
Many will be hopeful that the new cabinet will act on the funding crisis in the NHS, which has led to the sacking of staff and the closure of hospitals and wards across the country, while private companies get rich by leeching off the health service.
Hundreds of thousands of people who are living in overcrowded, substandard and overpriced accommodation will expect policies to deal with the housing crisis.
Yet in accepting the leadership, Brown made clear his devotion to Blair's policies -- in particular to the "strong relationship" with the US, and to Britain continuing to play a central role in the global "war on terror".
The closest he came to acknowledging the failure of the war was when he said that Iraq had "been a divisive issue for our party and our country" and that his government would "learn lessons that need to be learned".
But he then concluded that the war had been "necessary".
Further evidence of Brown’s commitment to militarism came last week as he stood in the pulpit of a Kirkcaldy church to announce his support for replacing Trident nuclear submarines as a defence against "terrorism".
Failed approaches
But it is not just on the issue of the war that Brown is proving that he is unable and unwiling to break from Blairism.
Anyone who thought that the influence of the super-rich on the government might end is also going to be disappointed.
Brown has signalled that he has no intention of closing a tax loophole that allows some of the richest people in Britain to avoid paying tax.
This ensures that key rich list Labour donors -- including steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, venture capitalist Sir Ronald Cohen, and multi-millionaires Lord Paul and Sir Gulam Noon -- had something to celebrate.
In a sign that previous hints of policy change on the privatisation of housing and health would not amount to anything, the new prime minister also made clear his disapproval of some of the more left wing statements made by the contenders for the deputy leadership.
He promised that there will be no return to the "failed approaches of the left".
The Blair government spent much of the extra funding it allocated for the NHS on a variety of privatisations and maintaining the increasingly costly internal market in health.
The Private Finance Initiative (PFI) is tying health authorities into expensive long term arrangements that benefit corporations rather than patients.
No wonder an anxious John Cridland, deputy director of the bosses' CBI organisation, told Brown that "to spurn the PFI now would be a huge step backwards for this country", and urged him to "continue to resist populist calls for the PFI's abolition and instead champion it".
Consensus pollitics
Commentators regard driving Labour into the centre ground of politics as Blair's great achievement. His hallmark was junking policies that aimed at a fairer distribution of wealth or limiting the power of the large corporations.
The revelation that Brown has approached the Liberal Democrats about joining his new government, by offering former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown a job as secretary of state for Northern Ireland, is an extension of Blair's political philosophy.
This doctrine seeks to replace the divisions of "left" and "right" with consensus politics, in which neoliberal economics is king and the only thing that separates the main parties is their style and spin.
As if to show the world just how New Labour Brown is, he has declared that the political influence of the unions in the Labour Party is a major obstacle to creating the new political alignment he seeks.
The unions that nominated Brown for leadership -- including Amicus, CWU, GMB, T&G and Unison -- now find that he will not be returning the favour.
Instead he plans to limit their influence at the party's conference, which will see "divisive" votes replaced by "consensus" decision making.
The gap between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown is already looking awfully thin.
Harriet Harman: 'I'm sorry, don't apologise'
The utter humiliation of the arch Blairite Hazel Blears, who came bottom of the poll for the deputy leadership, is a good indicator of how even many Party members feel.
But the pressure on Harriet Harman, the newly elected deputy leader, to "toe the line" has already started.
Millions of viewers heard her saying, "I agree" when rival candidate Jon Cruddas told a BBC Newsnight hustings that the government should "say sorry" for the Iraq war.
Yet after the election Harman says that, "I've never said the government should apologise."
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As you'll find out in a minute (if you don't already know), 3 British soldiers died in Iraq. Their government announced that today. Gordon Brown isn't planning on changing a damn thing. That's not me gloating or taking joy in the fact that another government's screwed up. There's a lesson here, and all the gas baggers making 2007 all about the 2008 elections, pay attention. (Yes, that includes the staff of The Nation.) Leadership changed (in name, if nothing else), the illegal war stayed on the table. Something to remember when you're looking at a candidate who won't address Iraq seriously. Something to remember when they go for soundbytes. Something to remember when you examine their statements to see if you find a respect for self-rule or just a desire to blame a people for a government the US installed.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" which has the details on the 3 dead British soldiers and more:

Thursday, June 28, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, AP runs a he-said-and-then-he-said article on self-checkouts, the British and US military announce more deaths, 20 headless corpses either were or were not discovered today, and more.

Starting with war resistance.
Estes Thompson (AP) gets tasked with filing the featue based on AP's 'study.' AP's studying data on self-check outs from the US military -- data compiled by the branches and "each branch of the military keeps statistics in different ways". Of course, as NPR demonstrated last month, that 'tracking' of figures is often fudged. But working from the data, Thompson wants to tell you that "the US military does almost nothing to find those who flee" and buying that really requires ignoring the realities of Kyle Snyder's story. Snyder self-checked out after serving in Iraq (something the military tells Thompson really doesn't happen -- these self-checkouts, according to the military are people who haven't served anywhere yet) and went to Canada only to return to the US in October of 2006 after his attorney and the military had reached an agreement. Upon turning himself in, Snyder found out that the military which lied to him repeatedly was still lying. He was not being discharged. Snyder self-checked out again and began a speaking tour across the country (also worked on reconstruction in New Orleans) and what happened then?

What happened then was that Snyder, who truly did not believe the US military was interested in what he was doing and was quite public about where he would be speaking, suddenly found the police showing up at every scheduled stop. And the instructions to the police were reportedly coming from Fort Knox in Kentucky. That's before Snyder returned to Canada. Once he returned to Canada, as he was about to get married, Canadian police show up at his door to arrest him, carrying him out in his boxers, and doing so on orders from the US military. We could also go into the two US military officers that accompanied a Canadian police officer to Winnie Ng's home, her Canadian home, in search of was resister Joshua Key and the fact that the two US military officers posed as Canadian police -- an offense several times over in both countries. It's an article meant to lull everyone to sleep and, for peace resisters, that will probably be the case. For those who've paid any attention at all, prepare to laugh repeatedly. In fact,
let's note this: "In recent years, the military has lowered its standards to fill its ranks, letting in more recruits with criminal records or low aptitude scores. But officials said that does not appear to be a factor in the rising desertion rate either. In fact, Edgecombe said, recruits who got into trouble before they enlisted tend to shape up under the influence of the military's code of honor and discispline."

Peace resisters will probably nod along. Those who have given a damn about the illegal war will immediately think of three words: Steven Dale Green. Steven D. Green belonged to which branch? The Army. And Green made his decision to sign up when? After he got busted (again -- this time for possession of alcohol). Moral character waiver took care of that, just wiped it away. Soon enough, Green was in Iraq.

And what happened then? Small media ran from it in the summer of 2006. So let's go to CNN for the words of Captain Alex Pickands, summarizing as military prosecutor, exactly what Green and others did: "
They gathered over cards and booze to come up with a plan to rape and murder that little girl. She was young and attractive. They knew where she was because they had seen her on a previous patrol. She was close. She was vulnerable."

Abeer, the story small media ran from as if their life depended upon it. (Exceptions have been noted before.) Green, who will be tried in a civilian court and maintains his innocence, and others watched Abeer, leered at her. Green ran his finger down the 14 year-old's face. He freaked her out. Abeer told her parents who made plans for her to stay elsewhere. The day before that could happen, the plan Pickands noted would be implemented. March 12, 2006, Paul Cortez, James P. Baker, Jesse Spielman, Bryan Howard and Steven D. Green began the criminal actions. (Howard was reportedly the lookout. Barker and Cortez have confessed in court to their actions and those of the others involved.) Green, Barker and Cortez entered the home of 14 year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi. While Cortez and Barker began gang raping the 14 year-old girl, Green took Abeer's parents and her five-year-old sister into a bedroom and shot them dead. While she was being gang-raped, Abeer could hear the gunshots. Barker and Cortez made room for Green who then joined the gang-rape. After the gang-rape, Green shot Abeer. They then attempted to set her corpse on fire.

Now that doesn't fit with the sunny annecdotal 'evidence' that gets quoted by the AP; however, that is reality. Green, the high school drop out, let into the Army on a moral waiver shortly after being busted by the cops (again), has been described as the "ring leader" from the start. (Again, Green maintains he is innocent.)

Edgecombe is Major Anne Edgecombe, a military flack whose job it is to spin. She does that repeatedly with sunny anecdotes -- as opposed to facts and figures -- and the AP runs with them -- as opposed to reality. 11,020 is the US Army's official count on check outs since the start of the illegal war. Thompson's article is a test book case of weakening journalistic standard. The article takes official data and official statements. This isn't even the he-said-she-said (the 12 lines about Ricky Clousing -- the closest to an independent source in the entire article -- is not 'balance' in a 114 line article).
On March 19, 2007, Nancy Mullane broke the story of the US Army's undercounting on NPR. The AP article gives no indication that Thompson is familiar with it. In that report, Mullane explained how the 2006 figures for the Army were said to have dropped. That was wrong. The number given before NPR caught them was 2334. Mullane reported: "Instead of 3100 deserters [for 2006], the real number may be closer to 5,000. That's according to analysts within the Army's personnel division at the Pentagon and at the Fort Knox desertion information center.
Both reached that 5,000 figure by adding on soldiers who deserted and then were discharged from the Army throughout the year." Search Thompson's article in vain for any mention of that. There is none. Thompson merely repeats the figure 3,301 for 2006, never notes the military's 'problem' with numbers and uses a military flack to offer anecdotal evidence and 'conclusions' throughout the article.

Despite that nonsense, the movement of resistance within the US military grows and includes Joshua Key,
Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Augstin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Care, Kyle Huwer, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

In other resistance news,
Iraq Veterans Against the War's Liam Madden "may not have to get ANY discharge" from the IRR, the AP (Heather Hollingsworth) reports citing Col. Pat McCarthy as the source of that quote. He shouldn't need one. He's already been discharged from active duty and the IRR doesn't usually do discharges. The AP notes that Madden wants, in writing, the US military to admit "that my statements are neither disloyal nor inaccurate." Along with Cloy Richards and Adam Kokesh, Madden has been targeted by the US military brass for speaking out against the war and sharing what they observed first hand in Iraq. Iraq Veterans Against the War are currently conducting a summer base tour that takes them to Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina tonight at 7:00 pm; the US Social Forum in Atlanta, GA on June 30th at 7:00 pm; Fort Benning in Columbus, GA on July 1st at 7:00 pm; a fundraiser in Philadelphia on June 3rd at 6:00 pm; a fundraiser in NYC on July 5th at 7:00 pm; the Naval Sub Marine Base in Groton, CT on July 6th at 7:00 pm; and concluding at Fort Drum in NY on July 8th at 4:00 pm. Madden, writing at Iraq Veterans Against the War, notes of the kick off Saturday (Green Belt Park) in DC: had an early visitor, a police officer who apparently does double duty as a 'journalist': "This confirmed to all of us that he was indeed, not a journalist and in fact, a cop with a bad attitude who wanted to leave before he was subject to any more inquiry. Then, to top it off he drove by with a bright, fluorescent orange vest in his passenger seat. You know, the kind cops wear when they need a bright fluorescent vest. We carried on with the BBQ and 7 active duty military personnel joined us along with at least a dozen IVAW members and another 15 civilian supporters. We declared the first cook-out a success as we recruited 4 new members, raised over $200 and did what we set out to do, have meaningful conversations and meet good people. We later got a phone call from the news station asking why we sent their reporter away. Ooops."

At his website,
Adam Kokesh responds to comments that have been left, pro and con.

In Iraq, the escalation, like the year long and counting crackdown, has achieved little as evidenced by the continuing daily violence.


Mike Drummond (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on the Baghdad car bombing that claimed the lives of 25 people and "struck during the rush hour in Baghdad's Bayaa neighborhood as many of the victimes were lining up to catch rides to work. About 40 minibuses were incinerated, police reported." John Ward Anderson and Naseer Nouri (Washington Post) count this bombing as "at least the third time that the site has been targeted".
Molly Hennesy-Fiske (Los Angeles Times) counts 50 wounded, along with the 25 dead, and quotes Ahmad Kamil, "I felt the huge blast and I was pushed away violently. I didn't realize what had happened at that moment. I almost fainted. I felt that people came to me and carried me away amid cries and shouting for help and voices of people in pain." Dean Yates (Reuters) notes that the explosion "dug a huge crater where the minibuses parked. Residents could be seen searching the burned out minibuses for bodies. Corpses, some charred beyond recognition, lay twisted on the ground." CBS and AP report, "Bystanders, some weeping, gingerly loaded human remains into ambulances." AFP rightly notes the obvious regarding the beefed up US presence in Baghdad: "The increased presence has failed to prevent continued communal bloodletting including car bombings." Mike Drummond (McClatchy Newspapers) observes that car bombings are once again on the rise in Baghdad after a drop off earlier in the month.

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad mortar attack that left 12 injured, a Baghdad car bombing "near Al Mansour fuel station" that claimed 4 lives (10 injured), 6 other Baghdad mortar attacks that left 6 people dead and eight wounded, a Baghdad bombing "near Al Tobchi not far from Ibn Haian bridge" that left two people wounded, two other Baghdad bombings that left 5 wounded and "Police sources in Basra city said that 5 civilians were killed yesterday evening when a British helicopter bombed their vehicle in Al Hussein neighborhood" to the west of Basra.

On the topic of civilians killed by the US military,
yesterday we noted Mohammed al Dulaimy's report that the people of Khalis maintained those killed (and wounded) on June 22nd by a US helicopter attack were not 'terrorists.' The BBC reports today, "Relatives of 11 Iraqis killed by US troops in the village of Khalis last week have demanded compensation, and have called for the Americans to withdraw claims the men were from al-Qaeda."


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports one shooting death in Baghdad.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 15 corpses discovered in the capital. NPR reports that 30 corpses ("hands and legs bound") were found "on the banks of the Tigris River southeast of Baghdad . . . The male bodies -- all aged 20 to 40 years old -- were bound at the hands and legs and some of the heads were found next to the bodies, two officers said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information." Almost immediately, Iraqi's Interior Ministry began casting doubts. Dean Yates (Reuters) reports an official with the ministry asserts those who have gone to the site have found no corpses.

Today the
UK Ministry of Defence announced: "It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the deaths of two soldiers from The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, and one soldier from 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh (The Royal Regiment of Wales) in Basra, southern Iraq this morning, Thursday 28 June 2007." The deaths bring to 156 the number of British soldiers killed in the illegal war since it started in March 2003. Sophie Borland (Telegraph of London) reports that the soldiers had been on "a supply run to a base in Basra Palace" while the BBC reports plans for British troops in Basra to begin moving "from Basra city to the airport" and that this is part of a "military plan over the next 12 months . . . to reduce the numbef of British troops from 5,500 to just 1,500, although he cautioned that this coud be changed by surprise political announcements." Ed Johnson and Robin Stringer (Bloomberg News) remind that the British have already turned over three out of four provinces to Iraqis and that the "U.K. is scaling back the number of troops it has there and plans to hand control of Basra Palace, the last remaining British base in the city, to Iraqi forces next month." On the de-escalation, Reuters observes that the UK has cut the number of troops from "7,000 to about 5,500." China's Xinhua notes that the appoximately 5,500 troops have been "based mainly" in Basra. Sam Marsden (Independent of London) quotes Major David Gell on a fourth soldier, one injured in the bombing, "He is now receiving the best possible medical care" while "being treated at the field hospital at the the British base at the airport."

The three deaths come one day after the Bully Boy's poodle, Tony Blair, steps down as prime minister of England. Yesterday,
Military Families Against the War were present to bid Blair farewell with banners, portraits, etc. For video of the protests, click here (ITV). Rose Gentle notes that, "For the past 3 years I have asked Mr. Blair to see Military Families, but he has refused to meet us. This the man that sent our loved ones to war, so to me this man will leave as a coward. I have now asked Gordon Brown to meet with us, as we all need answer. Lets hope Gordon Brown will not step into Blair's shoes and look at the families of our brave troops as if we should just shut up and go away. Let's hope Mr. Brown's reputation is not the reputation of Mr. Blair. But this is just to let Mr. Brown know that Military Families will always be here, we will be here longer than any prime minister will be."
The three deaths come after, as
Sophie Borland (Telegraph of London) observes, one day after John Rigby's corpse was returned to England from Iraq. As Alan Hamilton (Times of London) reported earlier this week, John Rigby was wounded from a roadside bomb and taken to a field hospital in Iraq where he died from the wounds. This is London notes that his twin brother Will was at his side when he died (they both were serving in Iraq), that the roadside bombing took place on their 24th birthday and quotes their father Doug Rigby stating, "The Army has been enormously supportive to us but as to what they are doing over there and the cause which they are fighting for and the politicians that have caused that to happen, the boys were less than impressed, especially Will. He could see through the whole thing and I don't think that he liked it." A family statement is quoted by BBC, stating John Rigby was "a cherished and devoted son and brother; a talented hardworking and successful soldier, popular with his peers and across all ranks alike."

Today, the
US military announced: "A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier was killed when a combat patrol was struck by a roadside bomb in an eastern section of the Iraqi capital June 28." The announcement brought the total number of US service members killed in the illegal war since March 2003 to 3570 and to 93 for the month thus far.

Julian Barnes (Los Angeles Times) reports that US commanders in Iraq are preparing for Congress to impose some sort of redeployment/drawdown by the end of summer. This is in anticipation of the report that Congress will receive as to the 'progress' in Iraq resulting from Bully Boy's escalation. However, CBS and AP report that Daniel Speckhard ("second-ranking U.S. diplomat in Iraq) told reporters on Wednesday "predicted progress by fall" and that chiefly appears to be based on Speckhard's hopes of strong arming the Iraqi Parliament to pass legislation guaranteeing the theft of Iraqi oil. The two reports aren't necessarily in conflict. Once that so-called 'benchmark' has been achieved, there is little need to occupy the country. The oil fields? That's another issue.

But . . . Asad al-Hashimi remains 'at large.' Iraq's Culture minister has an arrest warrant on him for alleged activities in a 2005 assassination attempt.
Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reported today that Alaa Makki (who is handling the negotiations between al-Hashimi and the Iraq authorities) stated, "The minister is ready to face justice, but we believe that the investigation was weak and it was faked. We are negotiating with the prime minister on this matter, and we have three demands to which we would like a response: the release of all his guards, restoration of the minister's good name and a new, independent investigation committee."

Finally, in the US,
Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted: "The nation's body of city mayors has called on the Bush administration to begin planning for a quick withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. In a measure passed this week, the U.S. Conference of Mayors says; '[the Iraq war] is reducing federal funds . . . for needed domestic investments in education, health care, public safety, homeland security and more.' The resolution was passed by a vote of fifthy-one to forty-seven."