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Friday, May 20, 2005

Ingenius!

I think it should be obivous to the government that fighting wars does not work like an election campaign, but I am obviously wrong. From MSNBC:

LONDON - The U.S. military acknowledged Friday that a photo of ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in his underwear, which a British tabloid newspaper published on its front page, was real and said it was "aggressively" investigating how it could have been taken and by whom.

. . .

Those sources, the Sun stated, said they were handing over the pictures “in the hope of dealing a body blow to the resistance in Iraq.”

Now if we can only get the Weekly World News to publish photos of aliens advising Osama bin Laden, maybe we can win this war.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Clark Butler: Nobody Likes Me

The Independent Florida Alligator has a good editorial today on the frivolity of "shopping mall tycoon" Clark Butler's lawsuit against The Gainesville Sun. Butler claims "intentionally and recklessly portrayed him in a false light" by publishing articles about his close personal and political connections with local and state politicians who were voting on projects that would financially benefit Butler.

I don't often defend The Sun, but I have to in this case. Butler has no case. The Sun has reported facts and, apparently, Butler's defense is not that the facts were false, but that he's really a honest, nice dude that does not deserve such scrutiny.

What I find ironic is that The Sun has actually gone out of its way not to make a huge case out of the ethical imbroglio involving Butler, state Sen. Rod Smith and Alachua County commissioners Cynthia Chestnut and Paula DeLaney. Butler stands to make millions if the county will build an expensive four-lane road that is otherwise not needed, yet The Sun has not found the space in its editorials to condemn the situation. Sure, there have been a few small news articles in which facts were reported, and one lousy cartoon by the paper's right-wing knucklehead, Jake Fuller. But otherwise The Sun has treated Butler with kid gloves.

Doubt me? Well, if this situation involved different people – say, County Commissioner Mike Byerly or another elected official that The Sun loves to hate – then the paper would have treated it like a crime against humanity. Such was the case when Byerly defeated a Democrat opponent last year, and the loser made unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud without presenting any evidence. The paper ran repeated stories with large headlines, despite the fact that it was an obvious case of sour grapes that went nowhere. In fact, the paper continued running articles about the "case" even after state ethics officials had promptly refused to even consider it, lacking any proof.

But when it comes to the rich, powerful good old boys like Butler and his buds in office, The Sun is relatively apathetic. That must make Butler's suit sting the most, if you're the publisher. I mean, how much ass do they have to kiss to keep Butler's lawyers at bay?

Our Man in Uzbekistan?

In the 1980s, the Reagan and Bush administrations did all it could, until 1990, to support Saddam Hussein's murderous regime, even helping supply him with technology, hardware, biological and chemical agents and military intelligence that he used to make war with Iran and use massive amounts of chemical weapons on the Iranians and Kurds. At one point Reagan successfully lobbied Congress not to enact sanctions for gassing more than 5,000 Kurdish villagers.

Now of course Saddam has been placed next to Hitler on the Reaganites list of bad guys, and America's collective memory has flushed all relevant history regarding our support for the crimes with which he is now charged.

In Uzbekistan, however, we have an ally whose repression and bloodthirst rival that of pre-1990 Saddam, and surprise, surprise, Bush and Co. are doing little but expressing slight concern and encouraging President Islam Karimov to play nice. Otherwise, he remains a staunch ally.

Read this Reuters article to see how little attention Karimov pays to freedom, human rights and life. In response to protests, he unleashed a massacre at least equal to if not worse than the Beslan school massacre.

Jonathan Schwarz, consistently one of the funniest and insightful bloggers out there, drives the point home with this sickeningly hilarious photo illustration.

One wonders how Americans can believe Dubya is sincere when he squints his little angry eyes over Saddam's atrocities, which were quite real, yet smiles and shakes hands with an equally repressive and dangerous leader. Dubya should come right out and admit that his administration's working motto is "Ignorance is Strength."

Monday, May 16, 2005

Know Your Rights: While You Still Have Some

The Satellite has a good article this month on a short film called Busted: Citizens Guide to Surviving Police Encounters. Created by Flex Your Rights (flexyourrights.org) and narrated by Ira Glasser, former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, the film "aims to take the fear and uncertainty out of run ins with the law by dispelling law enforcement myths and providing citizens knowledge of their basic legal rights," according to the article.

You can read the article on the indy monthly's web site here.

And don't forget The Clash song, Know Your Rights. I appaerntly forgot this line: "You have the right to freeeee Speech as long as you're not dumb enough to actually try it."

Go Go Citgo

If we have to live with high gas prices – and, yes, many people like myself have no choice but to drive to work – we might as well be sending the money to a good cause. And by good cause I certainly don’t mean ExxonMobile or any of the other friends of Dubya.

In this case I mean Citgo. Sure, it is a US refiner – but it is also “a wholly owned subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company,” says Jeff Cohen in an article published today at CommonDreams.org.

If you believe that government should share the wealth with more than the already rich elites and that the government should provide health care and a good education to all people, regardless of their tax status, then you’ll likely appreciate Venezuela President Hugo Chavez and the reforms he has been instituting, using the proceeds from state oil money.

And if you hate Dubya, as I know many, many of you do, then you’ll really love Chavez. Using worldwide forums and having ample media attention, Chavez regularly calls Bush (rightly) an imperialist and dangerous war criminal. And Chavez doggedly reminds every other Latin American nation that Bush’s government helped stage a three-day coup of his government that was brushed back by the masses of people who support Chavez and his pro-peasant reforms.

If you don’t know much about Chavez, his reforms or the state of affairs in Venezuela, you should check it out. Venezuelanalysis.com is a good site with lots of news and links. Chavez is leading a continent-wide reforms by setting such a positive example of neighboring nations and by sharing some of his country’s vast oil wealth.

Anyhow – if you live in Gainesville, there’s a half-dozen Citgos spread across town, so stop by and fill up. You can click here for a list of Gainesville-area Citgo stations and here for an online tool for finding a station near you.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

At Least He Didn't Call Them Jigaboos

On Friday, Mexico President Vincente fox told a trade group: “There’s no doubt that the Mexican men and women — full of dignity, willpower and a capacity for work — are doing the work that not even blacks want to do in the United States."

In response to the negative reaction to the comment, Mexico’s foreign relations secretary told The Associated Press (via MSNBC) that Fox's comment Friday was not motivated by racism but rather a desire to show that Mexican migrants have "a positive role” in the US.

I consider this a profound insight into the elite view on economics and society. Certain jobs, such as collecting our trash, are beneath whites and instead are relegated to minorities, who often have no choice in life but to do our dirty work.

I've always felt that a major reason why the rich do not properly fund education and health care in our country is because they need to have a class of poor people who have no options. In the US, blacks are an obvious candidate because of the historical chains we have shackled to them – slavery, followed by a long period of discrimination that prevented freed slaves from advancing in any sector of society. Now that civil rights has made inroads against institutional racism, the elites look to the poor in Mexico to take over.