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Left In Lowell » International

Left In Lowell

Member of the reality-based community of progressive (not anonymous) Massachusetts blogs

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August 18, 2008

Good Overview of Georgia-Russia Conflict

by at 12:05 pm.

I recommend reading this article (hat tip: Mr. Lynne) if you want to understand the context of the Georgian-Russian conflict. The short version: no one is the good guy in this, up to and including the United States, which has consistently embarrassed or ignored Russia by doing things such as violating the ABM treaty.

August 11, 2008

What is Russia Up To?

by at 10:29 am.

Things in the Georgia-South Ossetia region worsen, even as the Georgian president calls for a cease-fire. And Russia didn’t stop on the border between Georgia and South Ossetia…

Russia has asked for a high-level meeting with NATO to explain its actions in the separatist Georgian province of South Ossetia, Moscow’s ambassador to the alliance said Monday, even as Russian forces moved into Georgia proper, seizing a military base in western Georgia near Abkhazia, a second breakaway region.

The new forays into Georgia — even as Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili signed a cease-fire pledge — appeared to show Russian determination to subdue the small, U.S.-backed country, which has been pressing for NATO membership.

As far as I can gleam, this is about two things for Russia - one, it does not want a NATO ally on its border (it thinks it should have a say? *sigh*), and Georgia is very pro-West. And two, as I understand it, there’s oil and oil pipelines in that region.

This is very bad news. If Russia is getting expansionist again, there’s no stopping them. Are we still able to use MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) to maintain some balance? Are we too overburdened (and showing it) in Iraq and Afghanistan to even muster a show of might that could give Russia pause? They likely will just laugh at us, and know that there isn’t much we can or are willing to do, between the threat of nuclear war, our conventional forces bogged down (and our military worn down), and our economic future uncertain. Russia on the other hand is making oil money hand over fist.

Georgia went into South Ossetia militarily a decade after it broke off - they are not necessarily lily-white in this episode. I’m sure they’d be happy to control any oil in the area too. But the more troubling crisis is Russia and its actions.

Thanks, George. Thanks a lot. Don’t let the door hit you on the ass when you leave. Or maybe you should - at least it could be good for a laugh. We could use one right now.

August 5, 2008

Did They Do More Than Make It Up?

by at 3:05 pm.

Ron Suskind is known for being a heavy-hitting journalist. It’s he who was told by a Bush administration official that he was part of “what we call the reality-based community” and “while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” Which is, of course, why the words “reality-based community” is proudly displayed on progressive blog sites the internet over (including this blog).

Suskind has a new book, and it’s a bombshell:

Author Ron Suskind appeared on the Today show and said that Bush ordered the CIA to forge a letter after the invasion linking Saddam Husein and al-Qaeda, in an effort to justify the invasion after the fact. His new book is “The Way of the World.”

President Bush committed an impeachable offense by ordering the CIA to to manufacture a false pretense for the Iraq war in the form of a backdated, handwritten document linking Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, an explosive new book claims.

Suskind’s sources are named and from the intelligence community who claim to have actually seen the letter and witnessed key discussions.

ThinkProgress; Today; Crooks and Liars has some excerpts and details.

The Surge? Or Ethnic Cleansing?

by at 2:45 pm.

These three videos by a native Iraqi showcase a much different point of view of Iraq today than the one espoused by Republicans and Senator McCain. Rather than seeing that the surge has worked, he sees walls - walls which now keep monoethnic neighborhoods trapped and segregated. It makes sense that the violence has gone down, with the ethnic cleansing of the last few years resulting in the uprooting of once-peaceful mixed neighborhoods.

“”Baghdad is a city where one street is at war with the next … it has been transformed into a city of walls.”

“There are 20 miles of walls slicing up the city into Sunni and Shia ghettos…each wall over 12 feet high. They are the main reason why the causualties have fallen…”

In part two, he talks about the ethnic killings themselves…and the chilling, desolate field of shallow graves of the unknown victims of militias.

In this last part, the reporter talks to children forced to grow up far too soon. And makes a statement about the next generation, uneducated due to lack of schools or indoctrinated at the orphanages run by the militias.

If you watch these videos and do not cringe at what our policies have done to these people, then there is no hope for your soul. The fear and anguish displayed in these interviews should rend your heart. We cannot help by leaving our military in place in Iraq, not one iota. The future must be in Iraqi hands now. We caused and are in the middle of a civil war - of our making, but for which there is no foreign solution. They want us out. And who can blame them?

(Via dkos.)

July 29, 2008

Boycott the Summer Olympics

by at 9:11 am.

I’m not the biggest watcher in the country of either the summer or winter Olympics, but this year, I will not watch one damned second of the Games. Why? Because though the Olympics are supposed to be a symbol of cooperation and open spirit, China has actually become more repressive in the lead up to the opening ceremony.

Whatever possessed the idiots on the selection committee anyway? I could have told them this was the worst idea back when they chose China. Hey, where are the next Olympics going to be? North Korea?

China hasn’t changed, I don’t care how many upstart millionaires there are there now. The government is still repressive (Tibet, anyone?) and is paranoid-delusional, they think a few thousand monks are dangerous to their rule. The Chinese are not a free people. They do not have free access to information, they are not free to vote as they will, or move as they will, or determine a lot about their lives. So what is so Olympic in spirit about China? Nothing, absolutely nothing, and anyone who watches the Olympics this year needs to be a little ashamed, for in some small fashion enabling this regime to do this to their own people. Let’s see this Olympics have the worst viewership in history - boycott watching any part of this once-august tradition, now sullied by the host country which may have moved mountains, but not its politics, to obtain the honor.

I refuse to take part. Will you?

May 16, 2008

SJ, IHBO’R: Billo Is Insane

by at 2:30 pm.

Billo the Angry One has labeled Markos of Daily Kos as “probably one of the most despicable Americans in the country” - because of a Dkos diary which never made it onto the front page or the recommended list which posted photos of Jenna Bush’s wedding and juxtaposed them with gruesome pictures from the Iraq war. The first commenter on this lowly diary actually said “Poor Taste” and most of the comments on the thread are arguments about the diary’s appropriateness. In fact, the diary garnered a mere 11 recommends, which for dkos is a paltry number, and there’s no way this diary got anywhere near the recommended list.

But to Billo, it’s Markos’ fault, end of story. He reaaaaaally doesn’t get the internets, does he? Oh, Billo. You need therapy, my friend. Before you blow an artery or something.

SJ, IHBO’R is short for “Sweet Jesus, I Hate Bill O’Reilly,” in case you missed that.

Listen to the rant at Media Matters. It’s just…awesome. In that train wreck fascination sort of way.

Another irony to this - it took a O’Reilly rant about Daily Kos for FOX Noise to put up photos of the war that depict its sad reality. Hey, if that’s all this incident does, show the FOX viewers a little of what’s really going on instead of the usual Bush propaganda, I guess this stupid and very tasteless diary did do something useful…

Edit: By the by, Billo compares Markos to David Duke. As someone who has herself been compared with that bigot by a media personality, I offer my sympathies to Markos in this trying and troubling time. But hey, at least you didn’t get compared to NAMBLA…

April 21, 2008

Bush Propaganda: It Was Worse Than We Thought

by at 12:27 pm.

Everyone online is talking about this new NY Times report on the way the Bush administration used thinly veiled bribery to get retired military officers out on the airwaves to support Bush policies. It’s as big a news story as it sounds.

To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

In other words, those who took full advantage of the industrial military complex’s revolving door for outgoing military personnel. People who had every financial reason to support going to war and staying there, as their companies or clients were, and are, raking in millions.

This is the embodiment of what Eisenhower warned about.

[Retired military a]nalysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.

In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.

A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.

The article is pages long, and is something every American should read. Why now? Because the information has finally come to light:

Five years into the Iraq war, most details of the architecture and execution of the Pentagon’s campaign have never been disclosed. But The Times successfully sued the Defense Department to gain access to 8,000 pages of e-mail messages, transcripts and records describing years of private briefings, trips to Iraq and Guantánamo and an extensive Pentagon talking points operation.

The documents released by the Pentagon do not show any quid pro quo between commentary and contracts. But some analysts said they had used the special access as a marketing and networking opportunity or as a window into future business possibilities.

Disgusting. Those are your kids, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, cousins…your tax dollars…and your country, your media, which have been used, abused, and cynically manipulated for years.

Many also shared with Mr. Bush’s national security team a belief that pessimistic war coverage broke the nation’s will to win in Vietnam, and there was a mutual resolve not to let that happen with this war.

The free press won’t suit us, because they might report things that make people unhappy, so we’ll just stop that little nagging inherent right of all Americans dead cold.

It goes on. Read it.

March 22, 2008

Killing Our Own Troops

by at 9:52 am.

This is how our executive branch supports our troops??

If you were watching Countdown tonight, you saw Keith Olbermann in his “Bushed” segment report that at least 12 service members have been electrocuted in Iraq due to faulty wiring at facilities maintained by Halliburton spinoff company KBR. As appalling as that is, the details are even worse.

The diarist quotes a Houston Chronicle article:

At least a dozen soldiers and Marines have been electrocuted in Iraq over the five years of the war, and investigators now are trying to learn what role improper grounding of electrical wires played in those deaths.

And Houston-based KBR — which builds bases and maintains housing for U.S. troops in Iraq — is at the center of the probe, with questions being raised about its responsibility to repair known wiring problems.

On the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, California Democrat Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter Wednesday to Defense Secretary Robert Gates seeking details about electrocutions of military and contract workers in Iraq and about KBR’s role in making electrical repairs.

KBR had been contracted to provide maintenance on the building in 2007, the memo said.

Maseth was killed, the memo said, when an electrical water pump shorted out after he had stepped into the shower and turned on the water.

An electrical current then passed through the water pipes to a metal shower hose in the shower.

This is just gut-wrenching. We have got to halt all contracts to this Halliburton subsidiary. Or any other Bush crony corporation which is war profiteering in Iraq or Afghanistan.

March 19, 2008

What You Can Do To Mark the Fifth Year

by at 12:34 pm.

Today is the date on which we mark a fifth year of a war that never should have happened to begin with, that was badly run from its outset, and where we have lost nearly 4,000 troops in an escalation that has done little to fix the political situation there, but only prolongs the inevitable.

At 5pm, you can join Greater Lowell for Peace and Justice at a vigil at the corner of Market and Central streets (sign up and details here) to remember those who have given their lives, and to call for an end to this war.

You can also sign onto a comprehensive foreign policy plan from some impressive Congressional candidates. Says AMERICAblog:

From a policy standpoint, it is clear, comprehensive, and reality-based. Implementing this platform would do a great deal to improve our nation’s security, as well as its military and intelligence structures. It also has plenty of endorsements (and input) from credible military and foreign policy professionals.

The plan, which is impressively detailed, boils down to a handful of major points:

- End US Military Action in Iraq
- Use US diplomatic power
- Address humanitarian concerns
- Restore our Constitution
- Restore our military
- Create a new, US-centered energy policy

These Democratic candidates, including Washington’s Darcy Burner, Donna Edwards of Maryland, and Eric Massa of New York, have taken the time to create a coalition like this while running for Congress. I find that impressive, and potentially highly effective. These candidates represent the future of the Democratic party, and you can read their full plan and sign on to support their plan.

February 18, 2008

Tsongas Town Hall

by at 2:27 pm.

Representative Niki Tsongas is hosting her first Town Hall meeting in the district. She will be discussing her recent trip to Iraq, her newly filed withdrawal bill, and other issues that people would like to talk to her about. It will be held on Wednesday, February 20th, 6:30 P.M. at the Acton-Boxborough High School Auditorium.

If you go, you could also ask her about Net Neutrality, or the House’s fight to hold the line against giving big telecom retroactive immunity for illegal spying. :)

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