Archive for June, 2009


June 30, 2009

Today at 11:51am
30 June 2009


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Greta Berlin (English)
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Caoimhe Butterly (Arabic/English/Spanish):
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[23 miles off the coast of Gaza , 15:30pm] – Today Israeli Occupation Forces attacked and boarded the Free Gaza Movement boat, the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, abducting 21 human rights workers from 11 countries, including Noble laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (see below for a complete list of passengers). The passengers and crew are being forcibly dragged toward Israel .

“This is an outrageous violation of international law against us. Our boat was not in Israeli waters, and we were on a human rights mission to the Gaza Strip,” said Cynthia McKinney, a former U.S. Congresswoman and presidential candidate. “President Obama just told Israel to let in humanitarian and reconstruction supplies, and that’s exactly what we tried to do. We’re asking the international community to demand our release so we can resume our journey.”

According to an International Committee of the Red Cross report released yesterday, the Palestinians living in Gaza are “trapped in despair.” Thousands of Gazans whose homes were destroyed earlier during Israel ’s December/January massacre are still without shelter despite pledges of almost $4.5 billion in aid, because Israel refuses to allow cement and other building material into the Gaza Strip. The report also notes that hospitals are struggling to meet the needs of their patients due to Israel ’s disruption of medical supplies.

“The aid we were carrying is a symbol of hope for the people of Gaza , hope that the sea route would open for them, and they would be able to transport their own materials to begin to reconstruct the schools, hospitals and thousands of homes destroyed during the onslaught of “Cast Lead”. Our mission is a gesture to the people of Gaza that we stand by them and that they are not alone” said fellow passenger Mairead Maguire, winner of a Noble Peace Prize for her work in Northern Ireland .

Just before being kidnapped by Israel , Huwaida Arraf, Free Gaza Movement chairperson and delegation co-coordinator on this voyage, stated that: “No one could possibly believe that our small boat constitutes any sort of threat to Israel . We carry medical and reconstruction supplies, and children’s toys. Our passengers include a Nobel peace prize laureate and a former U.S. congressperson. Our boat was searched and received a security clearance by Cypriot Port Authorities before we departed, and at no time did we ever approach Israeli waters.”

Arraf continued, “ Israel ’s deliberate and premeditated attack on our unarmed boat is a clear violation of international law and we demand our immediate and unconditional release.”


Betraying the Planet

June 29, 2009


So the House passed the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill. In political terms, it was a remarkable achievement.

But 212 representatives voted no. A handful of these no votes came from representatives who considered the bill too weak, but most rejected the bill because they rejected the whole notion that we have to do something about greenhouse gases.

And as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn’t help thinking that I was watching a form of treason — treason against the planet.

To fully appreciate the irresponsibility and immorality of climate-change denial, you need to know about the grim turn taken by the latest climate research.

The fact is that the planet is changing faster than even pessimists expected: ice caps are shrinking, arid zones spreading, at a terrifying rate. And according to a number of recent studies, catastrophe — a rise in temperature so large as to be almost unthinkable — can no longer be considered a mere possibility. It is, instead, the most likely outcome if we continue along our present course.

Thus researchers at M.I.T., who were previously predicting a temperature rise of a little more than 4 degrees by the end of this century, are now predicting a rise of more than 9 degrees. Why? Global greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster than expected; some mitigating factors, like absorption of carbon dioxide by the oceans, are turning out to be weaker than hoped; and there’s growing evidence that climate change is self-reinforcing — that, for example, rising temperatures will cause some arctic tundra to defrost, releasing even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Temperature increases on the scale predicted by the M.I.T. researchers and others would create huge disruptions in our lives and our economy. As a recent authoritative U.S. government report points out, by the end of this century New Hampshire may well have the climate of North Carolina today, Illinois may have the climate of East Texas, and across the country extreme, deadly heat waves — the kind that traditionally occur only once in a generation — may become annual or biannual events.

In other words, we’re facing a clear and present danger to our way of life, perhaps even to civilization itself. How can anyone justify failing to act?

Well, sometimes even the most authoritative analyses get things wrong. And if dissenting opinion-makers and politicians based their dissent on hard work and hard thinking — if they had carefully studied the issue, consulted with experts and concluded that the overwhelming scientific consensus was misguided — they could at least claim to be acting responsibly.

But if you watched the debate on Friday, you didn’t see people who’ve thought hard about a crucial issue, and are trying to do the right thing. What you saw, instead, were people who show no sign of being interested in the truth. They don’t like the political and policy implications of climate change, so they’ve decided not to believe in it — and they’ll grab any argument, no matter how disreputable, that feeds their denial.

Indeed, if there was a defining moment in Friday’s debate, it was the declaration by Representative Paul Broun of Georgia that climate change is nothing but a “hoax” that has been “perpetrated out of the scientific community.” I’d call this a crazy conspiracy theory, but doing so would actually be unfair to crazy conspiracy theorists. After all, to believe that global warming is a hoax you have to believe in a vast cabal consisting of thousands of scientists — a cabal so powerful that it has managed to create false records on everything from global temperatures to Arctic sea ice.

Yet Mr. Broun’s declaration was met with applause.

Given this contempt for hard science, I’m almost reluctant to mention the deniers’ dishonesty on matters economic. But in addition to rejecting climate science, the opponents of the climate bill made a point of misrepresenting the results of studies of the bill’s economic impact, which all suggest that the cost will be relatively low.

Still, is it fair to call climate denial a form of treason? Isn’t it politics as usual?

Yes, it is — and that’s why it’s unforgivable.

Do you remember the days when Bush administration officials claimed that terrorism posed an “existential threat” to America, a threat in whose face normal rules no longer applied? That was hyperbole — but the existential threat from climate change is all too real.

Yet the deniers are choosing, willfully, to ignore that threat, placing future generations of Americans in grave danger, simply because it’s in their political interest to pretend that there’s nothing to worry about. If that’s not betrayal, I don’t know what is.

“urban uprising insurance”

June 25, 2009

Selective Sympathy for Iran

June 24, 2009

“There was no campaign to use Twitter as a tool to protest the killings and defend the Gazans right to live.”

Happy Facts

June 22, 2009

On Friday, June 19, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a stealth report. The media hastily buried it. The actuarians of joblessness zeroed in on the regional disparities, with the West showing the highest regional jobless rate (10.1%), and the Northeast with the lowest (8.3%). Both the Old Economy (Michigan is at 14%) and the New Economy (Silicon Valley is at 11.2%) were struck with the global financial flu. The national rate is now 9.4%, 3.9% higher than last year. No vaccine is in sight.

The Geneva-based International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that this year around the world between 210 and 239 million people will be unemployed, making for a global unemployment rate of about 7.4%. These numbers are routinely low, since they are unable to properly capture the unemployment and under-employment in the informal economy, which is now on the rise.

In May 2009, the banks foreclosed on 321,480 homes in the United States. That brings us to about a million homes seized by banks between March and May alone, with several million people joining the ranks of the homeless in the process.

UN official released sobering numbers on Friday, saying that the world’s hungry will top 1.02 billion this year.

during the entire collapse of the world financial system, none of the countries took their red pens to their military budgets. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s 2009 handbook shows that in 2008 the world spent $1.5 trillion in weapons, up 4% since 2007 and 45% since 1999.

the National Priorities Project ( ), whose analysis shows us that 37.3 cents of every dollar paid in tax for 2008 goes to the military.

around the planet, 9.8 million are in penal institutions, or 145 people are in jail for every 100,000; in the U. S., the world’s largest incarcerator, the rate is 756 per 100,000.

the US spends $214 billion on the police


Obama’s America: “A Peaceful Country” – Expanding the Farce

June 19, 2009

by Lenore Daniels

Okay. We no longer have to listen to a U.S. President and wince. We no longer anticipate hearing the explicit farce of a U.S. President who somehow managed to speak of gynecologists who “aren’t able to practice their love for women all across the U.S.” He was a good front man: entertaining, but no less devious than his sidekick and the company of men (and women) behind them. In the end, many believe the farce has ended.

We are now in an era of “transparency” with a U.S. president who has a command of the English language. Suddenly, people who once chuckled or winced with the world, listen to the eloquence of words flowing through the airwaves. The U.S. is still fighting “terrorists” but we call them “extremists” now.

America, a peaceful country, is fighting a just cause but with a fresh, new approach!  (continue reading at

Home Loan Scamming Is Still Going Strong — and Now You’re Paying for It

June 17, 2009


Everyone knows how loose mortgage underwriting led to the go-go days of multitrillion-dollar subprime lending. What isn’t well known is that a parallel subprime market has emerged over the past year — all made possible by the Federal Housing Administration. This also won’t end happily for taxpayers or the housing market.

Last year, banks issued $180 billion of new mortgages insured by the FHA, which means they carry a 100 percent taxpayer guarantee. Many of these have the same characteristics as subprime loans: low down payment requirements, high-risk borrowers, and in many cases, shady mortgage originators. FHA now insures nearly 1 of every 3 new mortgages, up from 2 percent in 2006.

The financial results so far are not as dire as those created by the subprime frenzy of 2004-2007, but taxpayer losses are mounting on its $562 billion portfolio. According to Mortgage Bankers Association data, more than 1 in 8 FHA loans is now delinquent — nearly triple the rate on conventional, non-subprime loan portfolios. Another 7.5 percent of recent FHA loans are in “serious delinquency,” which means at least three months overdue.

The FHA is almost certainly going to need a taxpayer bailout in the months ahead. The only debate is how much it will cost. By law, FHA must carry a 2 percent reserve (or a 50-to-1 leverage rate), and it is now 3 percent and falling. Some experts see bailout costs from $50 billion to $100 billion or more, depending on how long the recession lasts.–_and_now_you%27re_paying_for_it

Obama Charges Backward On Health Care

June 11, 2009

Barack Obama, like the little kids that used to appear on Art Linkletter’s TV show, says “the darndest things.” He has discovered that the “root cause” of America’s health care cost problem isn’t the insurance companies, or the drug barons, or the hospital corporations. Medicare is the villain. “Disastrously, he has created a situation in which health care ‘reform’ is predicated on stripping Medicare down to the bone.”

Glen Ford

How the Democratic Party Kills Hope

June 10, 2009

Another aspect of the Democratic Party’s tag team role with the GOP: there’s a trick that the two ‘major’ parties play on the Progressive/Left movement over and over again; the Dems put forward a policy that no self-respecting progressive should support, the GOP attacks this policy with hate and smears, Progressives panic and dig in around the policy that none of them should support as if it was their fondest dream. The nomination of Sotomayor is a great example. She’s far from a progressive candidate for a Supreme Court that desperately needs an injection of progressivism. As soon as her name comes out, the Howling Right hits her with smears that they know won’t stick – but they’re not intended to stick! They are, in my opinion, intended to scare Progressives into digging in around bad policies, bad choices, etc..

paul kane

Family of Oscar Grant celebrates victory, Mehserle to face murder charge

June 9, 2009

A victory in the campaign for justice for Oscar Grant III was celebrated today after the presiding judge, Superior Court Judge C. Don Clay, concluded the preliminary hearing in the trial of Johannes Mehserle by ruling that the former BART police officer will stand trial for murder. June 18 is the date Mehserle is scheduled to appear back in court and declare his plea of guilt or innocence before the full trial begins.

The defense had called numerous witnesses over the course of the three-week hearing, including Mehserle’s fellow officers who were with him on the Fruitvale BART platform on Jan. 1 when Oscar Grant was murdered. The testimony of the BART officers did not help Mehserle’s case, as they were continually contradicted by the evidence from multiple videos shot by BART passengers that night.

Prosecutor David Stein was very thorough in his questioning and cross examination, exposing the numerous lies of the BART police officers.

In the courtroom at the conclusion of the hearing today, family and friends waited anxiously to hear what the judge might say. When Judge Clay announced his decision, they broke out in tears of joy, amazed that rare justice for a police murder might actually be realized. While family and friends know that this is just a first step towards achieving justice for Oscar Grant, they were relieved, elated and a little bit giddy that the efforts of defense attorney Michael Rains failed to have the initial murder charge reduced or dropped.

Trigger man Johannes Mehserle’s defense attorney, Michael Rains, questioned BART Officer Tony Pirone as Mehserle  and Judge Donald Clay looked on. On cross examination, Pirone admitted that the position Oscar Grant was in just seconds before he was shot made it impossible for him to have grabbed and used a weapon even if he had had one, the Oakland Tribune reported. “I didn’t see the hands, so I didn’t see a threat,” Pirone said. “It didn’t pose a threat to me … or any other officer.” –

After the hearing today, family and friends gathered in downtown Oakland to share a celebratory dinner. During the meal, a corporate TV news report came on which gave the story just about one minute. Tom Mehserle, father of Johannes, was quoted in the broadcast as saying that the preliminary hearing was a sham and that no justice could be reached in Oakland, an obvious attempt to push for the trial venue to be moved out of Alameda County.

Undeterred in their mission for justice for Oscar Grant, family and friends then went to Lafayette Square Park to discuss their feelings about the result of the hearing.

Shout-outs of gratitude were given to Judge Clay, Prosecutor Stein and numerous supporters who are fighting along with the family for justice.

For more video, audio and written reports related to the Mehserle preliminary hearing at the Alameda County court house, see