America’s Secret Prisons In Poland Under Investigation

June 28, 2012

photo of Stare Kiejkuty by scx.hu/whirlybird

Kidnapping (a.k.a. rendition), secret prisons, and torture. The Polish people suffered through this illegal and inhumane treatment under the former Soviet Union. Polish war heroes who bravely fought the Germans in World War Two, were rounded up and tried as terrorists. Those who survived the initial purges went into hiding. They called themselves the “cursed soldiers.” In plain clothes, they went about diligently sabotaging the Soviet/Communist occupiers. The last surviving member was executed in 1963.

The Poles are understandably shaken to discover that their hero country, the United States, operated similar prisons in Poland in 2002 and 2003. They are conducting a full investigation, and will prosecute any Polish official who cooperated with the CIA. This includes the former head of the Polish Intelligence Agency (ABW) – whose signature graces some damming evidence – all the way up to the former President of Poland, who denies any knowledge of the matter.

Thomas Hammarberg, Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, told THE NEWS, POLAND, “We know who was held there and what interrogation methods were used. They can be described as torture.”

Two men, captured in Pakistan and the UAE, respectively, and brought to the black site by the US in 2002, have been granted victim status in Poland. They have since been transferred to Guantanamo Bay and have been held for ten years without being charged with a crime.

Mikolaj Pietrzak, who represents one of the men, told the LA Times, “It’s the kind of thing we expect from Soviet Russia. We remember the Soviet occupation; we remember the German occupation. The fact that this beacon of liberty which is America would allow this — it’s a great disappointment in the United States as the land of the free.”


Ben Bernanke Gives Ultimatum To Wall Street

June 24, 2012

Now, when I first heard the report saying that to improve the economy, one needed to improve the jobs climate, I naturally thought that meant corporations need to hire some people. When I heard that it was Fed Chair Ben Bernanke who said that the jobs market desperately needed to improve, I thought he was giving an ultimatum to Wall Street. After all, all those companies have the power to hire people.

But no! He was chastising Congress for the labor market. And said, if they don’t extend the tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, the country is going down the toilet on January 1st.

Of course, he chastised softly, and gently, as if he weren’t blaming the Middle Class.

But really, the rich are too “nervous” to make a move. They are paralyzed with fear about their taxes going up. And they won’t do a thing until the middle class lifts her skirt and gives up Social Security and healthcare.

With trembling hands, the bankers and brokers were quoted in the press as agreeing with the Fed Chairman. The tax cuts are expiring! The tax cuts are expiring! It’s a “fiscal cliff” in which the economy is teetering! Only the wealthy holding on to their money can save us! Only middle class sacrifices will save us!

We all know that Ben Bernanke, and Jamie Dimon, and all their friends, would never dream of giving up their retirement plan, or benefits. They are the deserving. And they don’t feel any responsibility to the rest of us. We are the rabble.

I will just go ahead and be a cab driver. And my husband will be, too. And we’ll move my mother in here to take care of the kids. And we’ll drudge and slave and die in the gutter, because when we’re too old to drudge and slave, there will be no social safety net to catch us.

You see, it’s not about Wall Street not taking responsibility for its actions, and making us pay for the window it broke with their rock throwing investments.

Bernanke says, Congress needs to fix the jobs market by not making the corporations pay taxes.  (JP Morgan alone gets $14 billion in federal subsidies – i.e. welfare — which it uses to pay its executives huge salaries and bonuses, according to a study done by the IMF)

The rich have had their “temporary” tax cuts since 2003. The economy has worsened since then. I’m trying not to conclude this post by telling Bernanke to go fuck himself. Why stoop to name calling? I am a rational human being…

I wonder if my Senator will tell him?


Coup d’États Planned By US Embassies Throughout The World?

June 22, 2012

“Well, as Evo Morales says, the only country that can be sure never to have a coup d’état is the United States, because it hasn’t got a U.S.embassy,” joked the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, in an interview by Julian Assange for RT (Russian Television, May 20).

That the US Department of State uses its embassies to plan coups was part of the State Department cables that were released by WikiLeaks in November 2010.

This news is getting renewed interest now that WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, is hiding in the Ecuadorian Embassy seeking asylum.

These memos revealed, among other things, that the US embassy in Ecuador was paying the police on the side. (That’s called bribery, no?)

Here’s the quote from President Correa:

“Before, there were whole police units, key units, fully funded by the U.S. embassy, whose officers in command were chosen by the U.S. ambassador and paid by the U.S. And so, we have increased considerably the police’s pay.”

The US ambassador was expelled shortly after the news came to light. The US accused Assange of treason, and has a sealed indictment. It coincides with an investigation in Sweden involving two women Assange had sex with. No charges have been brought by Sweden, but they seek Assange’s extradition. Assange sees Sweden as a go-between for the US to get his extradition to the US where, he feels, he will be jailed indefinitely.

Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the lawyer for Assange and WikiLeaks, told the following to journalist Amy Goodman, on her show, “Democracy Now!”

“Well, first of all, you have to remember, President Correa got rid of the U.S.military base in Ecuador. The WikiLeaks cable talked about the corruption of the police within Ecuador. And what you see President Correa says, well, they were being paid by the U.S. embassy. And, of course, his great line is that the only reason there’s not a coup in the United States is there’s no U.S. embassy, essentially, to plan it. So you’re seeing—you’re seeing a good part of this world understand the importance of what Bradley Manning allegedly did and understanding the importance of the publication by WikiLeaks of the diplomatic cables. Obviously not just in Ecuador—the secret war in Yemen, in cases that my office has been concerned with about prosecution of Rumsfeld and others in Spain—we see the U.S. interference all over. And the positive part, a strong positive of WikiLeaks, is they exposed to the world not just the war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, but incredible hypocrisy in our own State Department.”

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton arrived in Sweden on Saturday – the first such visit by a State Department official since 1976. She said she was “thrilled” to be there.


The Female Part That Dare Not Speak Its Name

June 19, 2012

photo: @freep #sayvagina t.co, by mariahlgrw via Lockerz 6/18/2012 11:46:28 PM// 4:46 PM

Do lawmakers in Michigan know where babies come from?

Rep. Lisa Brown, while debating a restrictive abortion law in the Michigan House, used the word “vagina” and was banned from speaking on the floor for the next 24 hours.

But it was the Speaker of the House that was giving her the silent treatment, not notifying her of the length of the ban until she was informed she could not speak during a debate on education the following day.

Rep. Brown’s words: “Finally Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you are all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.”

Her colleague, Rep. Barb Byrum, was also banned from speaking for using the word “vasectomy.”

Rep Byrum wanted to attach an amendment to the abortion bill that outlawed vasectomy unless a man could prove his life depended on it.

To help the men end their fear of women’s anatomy, 9 female legislators performed “The Vagina Monologues” on the steps of the Capitol Building in Lansing, Michigan on Monday (June 18th). According to the AP, 2,500 men and women came to see the play by Eve Ensler, who was there for the performance. Before the show, audience members chanted “Vagina! Vagina!”

Here’s the live blog of the event, via The Detroit Free Press.


Big Soda and the “Nanny” State

June 18, 2012

 

“Soda Noir,” by Owen Smith

New York City is banning super-sized soda pop, and suddenly, everybody’s a critic – of healthy initiatives!

Never mind that pop rots your teeth*, your bones**, and that the caramel coloring will give you cancer ***– drink lots, and give it to your babies!

Speaking of babies, we’re the babies! Government is regulating our every move as if we’re children, and the government is the “Nanny.”

Well, not really. Once upon a time, people railed against seat belt laws, and helmet laws, and not being able to smoke anywhere they pleased.

No one wants to get diabetes; or for their parents to get it; or for their kids to get it. I remember hiding my father’s cigarettes, hoping he’d quit. When I was six, my friend was thrown during a relatively minor fender-bender. But because he was small and light, and it was before seat belt laws or special seats for kids, his head connected with the windshield. In high school, a girl lost her two front teeth going too fast, and hitting an unpainted speed bump. Needless to say, her face wouldn’t have smacked the dashboard had she been strapped in.

Soda pop isn’t outlawed. It’s just really clear now that it’s really bad for your body.

In California, the state was going to make Coke and Pepsi put cancer warnings on their cans and bottles, but the companies decided to change the chemical ingredients in the caramel coloring instead – isn’t that a good thing?

People hate it when their poison of choice gets regulated. They’re addicted. They want it. They’re pissed when the cigarettes are found in the freezer, and thaw wet and kind of unsmokable.

But you can’t really get mad at someone for wanting to save your life. The government isn’t the “Nanny.” The government is like your educated kid, who wants you to live to see them grow up.

**************************

*There is a science experiment that children used to do in first grade: put a tooth in some Coke, and in a week, the darn thing is completely dissolved. (I used to think this was an urban myth, until my mother told me her class did it.)

** Phosphoric acid can be good when it’s not an additive, like it is in soda. Too much phosphoric acid in your body leaches the calcium out of your bones, and contributes to kidney disease.

*** Cancer: see paragraph seven.


Syria: Why Call It A Civil War?

June 14, 2012

photo: Stf/Associated Press

By changing the terms used to describe Syria, calling the fighting “civil war” instead of an attempt to overthrow the government — as part of the “Arab Spring” — diplomats signal the possibility of outside military intervention.

In Egypt, it was a successful, largely bloodless, “overthrow of the government.”

In Tunisia, it was the “overthrow of the government.”

In Libya, it was the attempted, and failing, “overthrow of the government” until the US/NATO got involved. Then the government was overthrown. (What’s left is rebels fighting the interim government – which just postponed elections till July 7. Sixteen people were killed in fighting just today. But, since we’re all supposed to think this was a successful intervention, Libya is no longer a headline.)

Over a year ago, fighting started in Syria… to “overthrow the government.” It is failing, but the rebels persist.

The US keeps asking, “Is it a civil war yet?” The UN visits and asks, “Is it a civil war yet?” Today, on NPR, the reporter announced that it is officially a  “civil war.”

The rebels don’t like this label. They call it a “popular uprising.” One could call it  a revolutionary war, or an attempted coup. (In Egypt, what looked like a people’s overthrow of the government is really a coup, because the military is in charge, not the people.)

The cause of the escalating violence in Syria is not that suddenly it’s a “civil war”, it’s because both sides have acquired more weapons. Everyone is parsing how and why Russia has sold Syria weapons (and is still under a decades-old contract to do so).  Well, the rebels are getting weapons from outside, too. 

Officials to want to call it a civil war, because calling it a civil war makes it easier to justify foreign intervention.

But by foreigners, they don’t mean Russia, or Saudi Arabia, or Oman. Foreigners, in this case, means the US.

This is horribly, horribly, wrong. With Russia supplying the Syrian government, and the looming possibility of the US supplying the rebels and NATO, the conflict starts to look like a proxy war between the US and Russia. Do we really want to go there? Only 15% of Americans think this is a good idea.


If a Naked Guy Stands On His Head Against a Tree, Is It Art?

June 11, 2012

 

And if he video tapes it, and sends it around to magazines, is it art?

And if the guy who does this is an art teacher, is it art?

If he has a PhD, is it art?

If I think it’s bullshit, is it still art?