Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Guaranteed freedom has another side
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom serves as the very
cornerstone of American liberty. By minimizing sectarian political
rivalries, it helped American religious institutions to flourish. To the
connoisseur of human folly, however, it’s literally a godsend, providing
an endlessly diverting spectacle of gullibility and fanaticism. Judging
by recent American history, there’s no doctrine so self-destructive that
some fast-talking scoundrel can’t gather a band of zealous followers,
nor any lack of soft-headed defenders to rationalize their
transgressions. After the 1978 Kool-Aid suicides at Jonestown, the
self-immolating Branch Davidians of Waco and those peculiar young men
who killed themselves in San Diego in the rapt expectation that benign
space aliens from Planet Nutball would transport their souls to a
technoparadise in a distant galaxy, one wouldn’t have thought further
innovations in the realm of magical thinking possible.

Then along came Warren Jeffs, prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS, a century-old breakaway
Mormon sect. Among other theological absurdities, Jeffs teaches that
polygamous marriage brings glorification in Heaven. At least three wives
are required for salvation. With Apocalypse looming—the end is always
near among crackpot sects—there’s no time to waste. Young girls must be
married and impregnated as soon as possible to save their immortal

If polygamy were the whole story at the Yearning for Zion Ranch in
Eldorado, Texas, it wouldn’t matter much. Bigamy is normally prosecuted
only when there’s deception or tax fraud involved. “It injures me not
whether my neighbor believes in twenty gods or none,” Thomas Jefferson
famously wrote. “It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” Same
deal with multiple wives, most would say.

Indeed, given the popularity of “Girls Gone Wild” and “Barely Legal”
videos in the secular world, it’s tempting to see peddling obedient
young brides to middle-aged husbands as a stroke of ecclesiastical
marketing genius and leave FLDS members alone. Unfortunately, there’s a
lot more to it. Many brides aren’t barely legal at all; they’re
children, years younger than the age of consent, which is 17 in Texas.

Jeffs’ zeal for mating girls as young as 13 with pious old goats
personally chosen by the patriarch earned him a Utah prison sentence as
accomplice to rape after a highly publicized trial. The Yearning for
Zion group migrated to Texas partly because states like Utah and
Arizona, with higher populations of orthodox Mormons, were wise to them.

Equally objectionable, if harder to prosecute, was the practice of
culling teen-age boys like excess roosters. Reportedly, the so-called
Lost Boys were worked hard for far below minimum wage, then abandoned.

Given the tragedy at Waco, Texas officials must have been highly
reluctant to act. The last thing the state’s already overburdened,
underfunded Child Protective Services agency needed was 463 new clients
needing shelter from such modern corruptions as TV and the Internet lest
their religious sensibilities be violated. FLDS members also shun
processed foods, wear clothing unavailable at Wal-Mart—the color red,
they believe, is reserved for Jesus alone—and are accustomed to living
together in large extended-family groups. Their First Amendment rights
must be honored and protected, even as the alleged crimes of the fathers
must be prosecuted.

It’s already been determined that of 53 girls between the ages of 14 and
17 currently in state custody, 29 have children and two are pregnant.

Persons moved by the televised tears of FLDS women, argues Sara Robinson
on the invaluable Orcinus Web site, don’t understand that they’re
virtually slaves: “Almost every feature of these women's lives is
determined by someone else. They do not choose what they wear, whom they
live with, when and whom they marry, or when and with whom they have
sex. From the day they’re born, they can be reassigned at a moment’s
notice to another father or husband, another household or another
community.... If they object to any of this, they’re subject to losing
access to the resources they need to raise their kids: They can be moved
to a trailer with no heat, and given less food than more compliant
wives, until they learn to ‘keep sweet.’”

Does it matter that the original 911 call allegedly from a 16-year-old
girl who complained of being sexually abused by her middle-aged husband
inside the Yearning for Zion compound may have been a hoax? Not
necessarily. As long as Texas authorities acted in good faith, any
evidence they uncovered should stand up in court, although it’s surely
ironic to hear people who complain about criminals being turned loose on
legal “technicalities” argue that it should not. Correction: Anybody who
writes for a living gets used to having perfect strangers analyze his
secret motives. It’s part of the fun. People have a perfect right to
their own opinions, but not their own facts. Voices writer Roy Murtishaw
of Pine Bluff accuses me of being a “major player” in a 12-year cover-up
of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s “nefarious behavior” by “Arkansas’
corrupt-to-the-bone media.” In fact, I worked for Texas Monthly,
Newsweek and Entertainment Weekly during the Clinton years, never
attended a gubernatorial press conference and wrote about Arkansas
politics hardly at all.

—–––––•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and
recipient of the National Magazine Award.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Today ---------- 28 April 2008
News & Analysis

US intelligence on Syrian reactor: justifying last year's crime to prepare for new ones

Sarkozy television interview seeks to reassure French corporate elite

Britain: Scottish refinery workers strike

Toronto Transit workers forced back to work by strike-breaking law

Germany: The SPD's bogus minimum wage campaign

Spain's "water wars": A scramble for essential resources

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Hang Bush, Blair, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, et al by the NECK till DEAD

‘Western Leaders Are War Criminals’

By Mick Meaney

26/04/08 "
RINF" -- -- The former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, has echoed calls for Western leaders to be charged with war crimes over the illegal invasion of Iraq.

Speaking at Imperial College in London Mahathir, who was in office from 1981 to 2003, singled out US President George Bush, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Australia’s former prime minister John Howard as he wants to see them tried “in absence for war crimes committed in Iraq”.

The event was organised by the Ramadhan Foundation which is a leading British Muslim youth organisation working for peaceful co-existence and dialogue between communities.

Mohammed Shafiq, spokesman for the group said: “It was an opportunity for students to put a range of questions about war crimes and the international situation. He said that people have to stop killing each other and use arbitration, negotiation and discussion as an alternative to violence, war and killing.”

Speaking about the Iraq war, Mahathir focused on “the thousands dying, the economic war, the power of oil and how we could utilise some of these tools to have a leverage against the people who commit countries to war”, Shafiq said.

The event was incredibly well attended with over 450 people and 200 more had to be turned away.

Among the mountain of war crimes Western leaders are guilty of include:-

The illegal use of napalm and other chemical weapons

Intentionally torturing and abusing detainees

Blocking aid convoys

Killing unarmed civilians, including shooting into family homes

Western leaders are also guilty of many other violations of the Geneva Convention, the Charter of the United Nations, the Nuremberg Charter, International Law and the Constitution of the United States, including crimes against peace and crimes against humanity.

International law professors have called the attack against Iraq “a fundamental breach of international law (that) would seriously threaten the integrity of the international legal order that has been in place since the end of the Second World War.”

Mahathir Mohamad’s statement appears to be valid as the International Criminal Court defines the following as international crimes:

(a) Crimes against Peace:

Namely, planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing:

(b) War Crimes:

Namely, violations of the laws or customs of war. Such violations include, but not be limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity:

(c) Crimes against Humanity:

Namely, murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Superdelegates shouldn’t ignore the odds
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Leave it to Democrats to try drawing to an inside straight in the most
important presidential election of our times. For the uninitiated,
that’s a poker metaphor for making a long-shot bet against the odds.
Will America have its first woman president, its first black man or
neither? Nobody planned it, apart from Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack
Obama, that is. The other 37 Democratic candidates were of the customary
white-dude persuasion. Six months ago, amid the wreckage of the Bush
presidency, a Democratic victory appeared inevitable. Then the
Republicans nominated an extremely white 72-year-old dude who can’t keep
Sunni and Shiite straight, knows less about economics than my spaniel
Buffy and is considered unfit for the presidency by many in his own
party. The Washington Post recently quoted high-ranking Republicans
saying that Sen. John McCain’s screaming temper tantrums and propensity
for holding grudges make him a poor choice. McCain’s the ideal GOP
candidate for the influential white-sorehead demographic. The so-called
straighttalking-maverick-war-hero also happens to be much beloved by
Beltway media courtiers, largely because he feeds them donuts and tells
them funny stories about his youthful pursuit of Brazilian strippers.
Both Democrats handle reporters as gingerly as poisonous reptiles.
Hence, what ought to be the proverbial “lay-down hand” for Democrats now
looks chancy.

Obama may have caught a glimpse of what a general election campaign
might bring during a recent debate on ABC TV. Badgered by anchors
Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos about arcane (yet predictable)
trivia such as U.S. flag pins and his relationship with former Weather
Underground terrorist William Ayers (who hosted his first political
fund-raiser in 1995), Obama came across as startlingly unprepared.

“Playing gotcha with Democrats and patty-cake with Republicans,” Joe
Conason explained on salon. com, “will remain basic operating procedure
for the mainstream media this year, no different from the past
half-dozen presidential campaigns.... [T]he same fuzzy but obsessive
focus on ‘character’ that plagues Bill and Hillary Clinton will be
turned on him with equal or greater ferocity by those who once claimed
to admire him. He is now subject to the ‘Clinton rules,’ which have long
permitted pundits, editorialists and reporters to indict the former
president and first lady for sins that other politicians, mostly
Republican, may commit with impunity.”

Conason compared the hullabaloo over Hillary Clinton’s exaggerated
account of her landing in Bosnia to the free pass that Ronald Reagan was
granted for his purely imaginary account of liberating Nazi
concentration camps, and President Bush for his unexplained “lost years”
in the Texas Air National Guard.

Obama’s inexperience left him vulnerable. If he didn’t want to talk
about flag pins, he ought never have explained why he doesn’t wear one.
(False patriotism, basically.) Dumb symbolic issues have a way of
looming large in November. Obama ought to have purged himself of
potentially embarrassing Chicago figures long ago, i.e., Rev. Jeremiah
Wright, Ayers and political fixer Tony Rezko. That he hasn’t suggests a
certain softness Republican smear artists are sure to exploit

Which brings us to the forbidden issue of electability. Is it realistic
to think that a gifted novice like Obama can win enough states to
prevail in the Electoral College? Among Democrats, it’s possible to
avoid the question by crying racism, as Obama supporters did early and

While it’s claimed that the Clintons “racialized” the campaign, Obama
surrogates brought up the so-called Bradley effect on TV the night of
the New Hampshire primary. Many white voters, they hypothesized, must be
secret bigots. The next morning, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., Obama’s
national co-chairman, accused Clinton of faking tears on the campaign

“But those tears also have to be analyzed,” he said. “They have to be
looked at very, very carefully in light of [Hurricane] Katrina, in light
of other things that Mrs. Clinton did not cry for, particularly as we
head to South Carolina, where 45 percent of African Americans will
participate in the Democratic contest.”

For sheer, raw racial demagoguery, nothing that either Clinton has ever
said comes close. So spare me the histrionics. Let’s talk demographics.
Making himself the black candidate has definitely worked for Obama in
the primaries. But the unfortunate fact is that most African American
voters reside in states that Democrats either can’t win (the Deep South)
or almost can’t lose (New York, Illinois, California). So what about the
“Bradley effect”? Even granting Obama the 20 states that Sen. John Kerry
won in 2004—a big maybe in a couple—I’ve taken to challenging his
supporters to name two more that he has a realistic chance to capture.
They normally change the subject. Democratic super delegates can’t
afford to. That Clinton has obvious weaknesses, mainly high negatives
after 16 years of GOP pounding, should be obvious. But she’d win
Arkansas easily. There’s reason to believe she’d also take Florida. But
then, Obama supporters don’t like to talk about Florida, do they?

—–––––•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and
recipient of the National Magazine Award.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

McCain: A Question of Temperament? Or is he just nuts...

John McCain cupped a fist and began pumping it, up and down, along the side of his body. It was a gesture familiar to a participant in the closed-door meeting of the Senate committee who hoped that it merely signaled, as it sometimes had in the past, McCain's mounting frustration with one of his...

read more | digg story

Friday, April 18, 2008

News & Analysis
In midst of recession, multi-billion-dollar paydays for US hedge fund managers

US Supreme Court upholds lethal injection, opening way to resumed executions

The Obama "mistake": Breaking the taboo on discussing class in America

Australian prime minister's world trip: "a bright new image" for US alliance

Cuban "reforms" promote private property and social inequality

UAW calls off rally, prepares sellout of American Axle strike

Shades of 1929: the global implications of the US banking collapse
Part 2

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Obama’s remarks feed class resentment
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Some weeks ago, this column asked a rhetorical question: What could
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama possibly have been
thinking about, sitting in a Chicago pew for 20 years listening to the
crackpot effusions of Rev. Jeremiah Wright? Surely the one-time editor
of the Harvard Law Review didn’t subscribe to Wright’s delusional view
that the U.S. government invented the AIDS virus to exterminate black
Africans, so why did he expose his children to it under God’s authority?
Unlike many observers who swooned over Obama’s moving speech about race,
I thought it ducked the most salient question: Did he actually buy
Wright’s theology? His successive rationalizations failed to satisfy.
First, he hadn’t heard the offending sermons. Then he’d heard things he
disagreed with, but thought of Wright like an eccentric uncle. Finally,
Obama said he’d have quit the church had his spiritual mentor not
retired. “Anybody named Clinton or Gore who sat still for something like
that,” this column observed, “would be derided as an inauthentic phony
patronizing black folk for political gain—a faker, a con man.”

Predictably, this unfashionable observation drew accusations of racism.
I responded by e-mailing news reports of Obama’s final renunciation of
Wright. As the candidate himself had now thrown the controversial
preacher overboard, was it still racist to criticize him? Nobody

The national media declared the controversy settled. The caravan moved
on. My rhetorical question, however, remained unanswered until last
week, when Obama gave an off-the-cuff response to a questioner at a
$2,000-per-person fundraiser in, yes, San Francisco who asked, in
effect, how Mr. Hope could possibly be having trouble selling his vision
to Pennsylvania voters. Obama apparently didn’t think he was being
recorded. Being a black man named Barack Obama, he allowed, was only
part of the problem.

“[O]ur challenge,” he continued, “is to get people persuaded that we can
make progress when there’s not evidence of that in their daily lives.
You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of
small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and
nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton
administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive
administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna
regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get
bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t
like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way
to explain their frustrations.”

Like the poor, deluded peasants in Wright’s congregation, in short,
rednecks out in the boondocks cling to superstition, bigotry and
conspiracy theories because the world’s too complicated for them to
understand. Never mind that Obama’s been touring Pennsylvania touting
his own religious piety and opposition to NAFTA, or that Sen. Hillary
Clinton seized upon his remarks with the awkward zeal of a basset hound
pouncing on a pork chop. A more perfect expression of
pseudo-Marxist/academic cant—or a greater gift to Sen. John McCain and
the Republicans—would be hard to imagine.

This is what Democrats get if they choose an inexperienced
faculty-lounge lizard as their presidential candidate. People tend to
assume that a black candidate has a lot of street sense, but Obama
increasingly comes off as a classic Ivy League brainiac too impressed by
his own SAT scores to change a tire without delivering an oration on the
economics of rubber tree cultivation.

Since 1968, when Richard Nixon put his famous “Southern strategy” into
play, two big themes have kept the GOP in the White House most of the
time: race along with class and regional resentment. In seeking to
transcend the former, Obama has handed them the latter on a silver
platter. Republicans won’t have to caricature him as a condescending
snob who looks down on working stiffs. He’s already done it to himself.
Sheltered, cosseted and treated as a wonder of nature most of his life,
Obama’s never run against a tough opponent, and it’s showing.

Obama’s attempts to joke his way out of this mess amuse only the already
converted. No, Clinton’s not a very convincing huntress, but she
certainly knows that nobody goes duck hunting with a “six-shooter.” For
pointing these things out, the Clinton campaign, hitherto run on strict
standards of political correctness—too timid even to point out that it
was Obama’s fellow Chicagoan and national co-chair Jesse Jackson, Jr.
who “radicialized” the campaign by accusing Hillary Clinton of shedding
no tears for black victims of Hurricane Katrina long before Bill Clinton
alluded to his famous father—can now be accused of helping Republicans
make their case. But what should she do? Stand silently watching the
disaster unfold? Instead, she might try pointing out that it was
working-class Democrats Obama insulted. Also, that far from falling
during the Clinton administration, employment in Pennsylvania rose by
more than 500,000 jobs between 1993 and 2000 while unemployment dropped
from 7.3 to 4.1 percent. That’s the perfectly rational reason that many
cling to her candidacy.

—–––––•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and
recipient of the National Magazine Award.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Have Fun the Bush Bastard way!! Spend $3 TRILLION DOLLARS

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Today on the WSWS
12 April 2008

News & Analysis
Top Bush aides directed torture from the White House

IMF cuts US growth forecast, warns of global slump

India: Rising food prices threaten social calamity

Italian elections: polls favour Berlusconi comeback

American Airlines cancels hundreds more flights

From One Dictator to the Next

Inter Press Service
Analysis by Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail*

BAGHDAD, Apr 12 (IPS) - Many Iraqis have come to believe that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is just as much a dictator as Saddam Hussein was.

"Al-Maliki is a dictator who must be removed by all means," 35-year-old Abdul-Riza Hussein, a Mehdi Army member from Sadr City in Baghdad told IPS. "He is a worse dictator than Saddam; he has killed in less than two years more than Saddam killed in 10 years."

Following the failed attempt by the U.S.-backed al-Maliki to crack down on the Mehdi Army militia of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the situation in Iraq has become much worse. Iraq appears to be splintering more widely under this rule than under Saddam's.

Fierce fighting has broken out between Sadr's Mehdi Army and Maliki's army and police forces in Baghdad, which comprise mostly the Badr Organisation militia, the armed wing of the political group, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC).

According to statistics compiled by the U.S. military in Baghdad, there has been a sharp increase in attacks against U.S. and Iraqi security forces, from 239 in February to 631 in March. Most of these attacks are believed to have been carried out by the Mehdi Army.

The Mehdi Army is known to have substantial control of the streets of Baghdad, Basra, and many other predominantly Shia areas in southern Iraq.

But there is also considerable Shia support for Maliki's effort to disarm the Mehdi Army. "Those who shout loud against Maliki and his legally elected government are all thieves and murderers and must be executed," says Aziz Mussawi, a resident of Hilla, 100km south of Baghdad, who fled for Baghdad when the clashes started there last month. "These militias will destroy Iraq if left unleashed."

Many Iraqis feel caught in a cross-fire in what they see as a battle for power between the Shia factions. "Over a thousand Iraqis got killed and more than that number wounded just for a game of chess between warlords," Mohammad Alwan, a lawyer in Baghdad told IPS. "All of them call for dissolving militias while they keep militias of their own. Most of those in power in the government are militia leaders."

Sadr and his followers are calling for unity, in an attempt to bring as many Iraqis as they can, Sunni and Shia, to their side. The rival Fadhila Party, that is powerful in many Shia provinces and in cities like Basra where it holds the governorship, has also called for unity.

It is widely believed in Iraq that parties who call for unity are using the issue to get public support against federalism, seen to be supported by the U.S. and Iranian backed parties such as the SIIC and Maliki's Dawa Party. Many in Iraq see federalism as the break-up of the country.

After five years of occupation and suffering, with no end to it in sight, many Iraqis have become skeptical of all political and religious leaders.

"Sadr is another face of the Iranian project, despite their pretending to be a national movement," Jassam Hady, a colonel of the former Iraqi army in Baghdad told IPS. "All those in the Iraqi government in the so-called Green Zone have militias that have killed Iraqis under one flag or another."

Hady, like many Iraqis, believes that the current spasm of violence will worsen as the two main Shia groups, the Sadr Movement and Maliki's affiliations, continue to vie for power ahead of the provincial elections slated for October.

Division has broken out also within tribes; many have now come to back Sadr, not because they like him, but because they hate the Badr militia of Hakeem's SIIC and Maliki's Dawa party.

"Our problem in the southern parts of Iraq and other Shia dominated areas is that all options are bad," the chief of a major tribe in Basra who fled for Baghdad, told IPS on condition of anonymity. "Iranian controlled militias killed so many chiefs of tribes because they refused to support these division projects concealed under the flag of federalism."

Several tribes in the south have formed unions to fight the separation project, but some sheikhs have formed counter unions to support the Badr and Dawa agenda.

Most people seem to oppose any federalism that would separate Shia from Sunni Muslims.

"We will be weak without our Sunni brothers," says Shamil Mahmood from Sadr City, the east district of two million in Baghdad. "The whole of the south will be swallowed by Iran, that will humiliate us and treat us like animals."

(*Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who has reported extensively from Iraq and the Middle East)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Let Obama-Clinton contest play itself out
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, April 9, 2008

So here’s my question: If it’s such a lead-pipe cinch that Sen. Hillary
Clinton can’t win the Democratic nomination, why are so many people
indignantly demanding that she drop out? What harm can come from letting
this fascinating seven-game series of a primary contest play out?
Indeed, I’d go so far as to say it’s her patriotic duty to continue.
Sen. Barack Obama’s supporters aren’t the only ones who could end up
feeling embittered if their candidate gets the bum’s rush. For example,
Obama magnanimously offers to accept 50 percent of Michigan’s disputed
delegates, a state where his name did not appear on the ballot. And
people say that Clinton acts arrogantly “entitled” to the presidency.
How many fancy speeches will it take to rationalize that away? Besides,
the Clinton-Obama race is bringing voters into the party at a record
clip. According to USA Today, 172,000 new Democrats have registered in
Pennsylvania during the past three weeks alone. Come November, the
party’s nominee will need every one to defeat Sen. John McCain in the
general election. People who imagine otherwise don’t seem to understand
how presidential elections are decided, i.e., by the Electoral College.
Not, that is, by a poll of “Meet the Press” panelists, star-struck
Obamaphiles, happy wanderers on Mc-Cain’s “Straight Talk Express”
campaign bus or the first 500 names in D.C. hostess Sally Quinn’s
Rolodex. Yeah, there’s a certain amount of redundancy in that list.

Am I the only observer struck that the celebrity courtiers of the
Beltway media act as if the presidency were a prize for them to bestow?
MSNBC, for example, which sold itself as the anti-FOX News network, has
turned into an unintentional parody of same. Most nights, “Countdown”
anchor Keith Olbermann outdoes Stephen Colbert for smug
self-satisfaction. (Except Colbert’s kidding, of course. ) His
once-indispensable program has become the “Obama Hour,” with the same
pundits repeating the same predictable opinions every night.

Anyway, the answer to my opening rhetorical question is very simple:
People declaring the race over are employing a number of hidden premises
they don’t wish to discuss. Here’s how Daily Kos blogger Markos
Moulitsas limns the argument in his Newsweek column: “No matter how you
define victory, Barack Obama holds an insurmountable lead in the race to
earn the Democratic nomination. He leads in the one metric that matters
most: the pledged delegates chosen directly by Democratic voters. But he
also leads in the popular vote, the number of states won and money

Moulitsas concludes that Clinton’s “ephemeral” chance of victory “rests
with a coup by superdelegate,” warning that “if Beltway bigwigs steal a
hard-won victory, it would amount to a declaration of civil war.”

Virtually all of this happens to be factually false. An alert
eighth-grader would recognize that cash on hand and number of states won
have nothing to do with anything. One can stipulate in advance that GOP
nominee McCain will win more states than his Democratic opponent in
November. Like Obama, he’ll sweep the states inhabited by more cows than

In fact, neither Democratic candidate can win enough pledged delegates
to secure the nomination. Both need the votes of “Beltway bigwigs,”
elected Democratic officials for the most part, to prevail. What
Moulitsas also isn’t saying—indeed, what none of the pundits clamoring
for Clinton’s withdrawal will say—is that even Obama’s vaunted lead in
the popular vote depends upon Michigan and Florida being

Add those numbers into the mix, Princeton historian Sean Wilentz points
out in his column at salon. com, and the “difference in the popular vote
would fall to 94,005 out of nearly 27 million cast thus far—a difference
of a mere four-tenths of 1 percentage point—and the difference in
delegates would plummet to about 30, out of the 2,024 needed to win.”

With 10 states and territories left to vote, Clinton can definitely pull
ahead. Never mind all the “Who shot John?” arguments over the DNC’s
screwball decision to penalize those two crucial swing states for moving
their primaries up (although New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina were
permitted to do so ). The fairest solution would have been a re-vote,
but Obama supporters have prevented that from happening. Tell me again
what a “transformative figure” he is, because on this score the
politician Obama most resembles is George W. Bush. Wilentz also points
out that if the Democrats used the state-by-state, winner-take-all
standard used in Republican primaries and the general election, Clinton
would now have approximately 500 more delegates than Obama and have the
nomination locked up. That’s because she’s won almost all the big,
Democratic and swing states necessary to prevail in November. Finally,
there’s this puzzler: Evidently, it’s hunky-dory for Massachusetts
superdelegates like Sens. John Kerry and Ted Kennedy and Gov. Deval
Patrick to pledge their votes to Obama, even though Clinton won the
state’s primary decisively. How, then, can Obamaphiles call it an
anti-democratic outrage for other superdelegates to support Clinton,
even if she wins their states, too? See what I mean? Let the voters
speak, then decide.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

'Handed Over' to a Government Called Sadr

Inter Press Service
By Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail*

BAGHDAD, Apr 2 (IPS) - Despite the huge media campaign led by U.S. officials and a complicit corporate-controlled media to convince the world of U.S. success in Iraq, emerging facts on the ground show massive failure.

The date March 25 of this year will be remembered as the day of truth through five years of occupation.

"Mehdi army militias controlled all Shia and mixed parts of Baghdad in no time," a Baghdad police colonel, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. "Iraqi army and police forces as well as Badr and Dawa militias suddenly disappeared from the streets, leaving their armoured vehicles for Mehdi militiamen to drive around in joyful convoys that toured many parts of Baghdad before taking them to their stronghold of Sadr City in the east of Baghdad."

The police colonel was speaking of the recent clashes between members of the Shia Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army, the largest militia in the country, and members of the Iraqi government forces, that are widely known to comprise members of a rival Shia militia, the Badr Organisation.

Dozens of militiamen from both sides were killed in clashes that broke out in Baghdad, Basra, Kut, Samawa, Hilla and most of the Iraqi Shia southern provinces between the Mehdi Army and other militias supported by the U.S., Iran and the Iraqi government.

The Badr Organisation militia is headed by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who is also head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) that dominates the government. The Dawa Party is headed by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The number of civilians killed and injured in the clashes is still unknown. Iraqi government offices continue to keep largely silent about the events.

"Every resident of Basra knew the situation would explode any minute between these oil thieves, and that Basra would suffer another wave of militia war," Salman Kathum, a doctor and former resident of Basra who fled for Baghdad last month told IPS.

For months now there has been a struggle between the Sadr Movement, the SIIC, and the al-Fadhila Party for control of the south, and particularly Basra.

Falah Shenshal, an MP allied to al-Sadr, told al-Jazeera Mar. 26 that al-Maliki was targeting political opponents. "They say they target outlaw gangs, but why do they start with the areas where the sons of the Sadr movement are located? This is a political battle...for the political interests of one party (al-Maliki's Dawa party) because the local elections are coming soon (due later this year)."

The fighting came just as the U.S. military announced the death of their 4,000th soldier in Iraq, and on the heels of a carefully crafted PR campaign designed to show that the "surge" of U.S. troops in Iraq has successfully improved the situation on the ground.

"I wonder what lies General David Petraeus (the U.S. forces commander in Iraq) will fabricate this time," Malek Shakir, a journalist in Baghdad told IPS. "The 25th March events revealed the true failure of the U.S. occupation project in Iraq. More complications are expected in the coming days."

Maliki has himself been in Basra to lead a surge against Mehdi Army militias while the U.S. sent forces to surround Sadr City in an attempt to support their Badr and Dawa allies.

News of limited clashes and air strikes have come from Sadr City, with unofficial reports of many casualties amongst civilians. Curfew in many parts of Baghdad and in four southern provinces had made life difficult already.

"This failure takes Iraq to point zero and even worse," Brigadier-General Kathum Alwan of the Iraqi army told IPS in Baghdad. "We must admit that the formation of our forces was wrong, as we saw how our officers deserted their posts, leaving their vehicles for militias."

Alwan added, "Not a single unit of our army and police stood for their duty in Baghdad, leaving us wondering what to do. Most of the officers who left their posts were members of Badr brigades and the Dawa Party, who should have been most faithful to Maliki's government."

The Green Zone of Baghdad where the U.S. embassy and the Iraqi government and parliament buildings are located, was hit by missiles. General Petraeus appeared at a press conference to accuse Iran of being behind the shelling of the zone that is supposed to be the safest area in Iraq. At least one U.S. citizen was killed in the attacks, and two others were injured.

"The Green Zone looked deserted as most U.S. and Iraqi personnel were ordered to take shelter deep underground," an engineer who works for a foreign company in the zone told IPS. "It seemed that this area too was under curfew. No place in Iraq is safe any more."

Further complicating matters for the occupiers of Iraq, the U.S.-backed Awakening groups, largely comprised of former resistance fighters, are now going on strike to demand overdue payment from the U.S. military.

(*Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who has reported extensively from Iraq and the Middle East)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Iran wins again
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Maybe it’s too bad that Baghdad isn’t actually a part of the United
States, like, say, New Orleans. Bush administration loyalists would be
arguing that its make-believe “Green Zone” government had become the
ultimate welfare state and needed to be cut loose of its dependency on
U.S. dollars and military might lest it remain permanently crippled.
What’s more, they’d be right. Instead, the al-Maliki government’s
ill-advised attempt to overthrow its rivals’ control over the Iraqi port
city of Basra saw American soldiers enlisted as partisan fighters in
what is essentially a domestic quarrel. Why should we care which
Iranian-backed Shiite political party prevails there? With one crucial
exception, the differences among the three main parties concern Iraqi
civil and religious issues of no importance to Americans. How many
Americans should die over whether or not Iraqi women are forced to wear
veils? Don’t look to our own peerless leader for an answer. As usual,
President Bush limned the conflict in cartoonish goodguy-vs.-bad-guy
terms. He described the fighting in Basra and elsewhere as “a bold
decision” by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and predicted “a defining
moment in the history of a free Iraq.”

Most Iraqis undoubtedly saw the Basra offensive as a clumsy power play
to weaken so-called radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr before
scheduled provincial elections. Because it followed Vice President Dick
Cheney’s recent visit to Baghdad, al-Maliki’s gambit was assumed to have
received his approval. That would be the same “Big Time” Cheney who
recently made it clear that American public opinion means nothing to him
as he knows he’s right.

One can only imagine how little Iraqi public opinion means to Cheney.
The seeming success of Gen. David Petraeus’ “surge” has been due to two
factors: the willingness of Sunni tribes west of Baghdad to take U. S.
cash and weapons in return for resisting al-Qa’ida, and al-Sadr’s
cease-fire declaration in the Shiite south. His Mahdi Army’s temporary
truce greatly reduced Iraqi violence.

Some observers also wondered if the secondary purpose of the attack on
Basra was to drag nearby Iran into the conflict, justifying the U.S.
bombing raids that Cheney and his neo-conservative cabal have long
dreamed of. So infatuated was al-Maliki with dreams of martial glory
that he personally flew to Basra to mastermind the assault, issuing
demands that al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army disband and disarm, first in three
days, then 10, then....

Alas, a funny thing happened on the way to Tehran. Even with U.S. air
support power and heavy weapons, Iraqi government forces got nowhere
against the Mahdi Army. Despite five years of American training, intense
street fighting left al-Sadr’s forces unbowed. An Iraqi reporter for The
New York Times who made his way into Basra concluded that “[t]here was
nowhere the Mahdi either did not control or could not strike at will.”

Militarily, this shouldn’t be a big surprise. Iraq’s army remains
essentially a mercenary outfit serving what most regard as a U.S. puppet
regime. Al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army shouldn’t be romanticized. It’s full of
gangsters, thugs and religious fanatics who have indulged in brutal
ethnic murders. But they were also fighting for their very lives and
families on their own sacred turf. The concept of Iraq as a nation means
little or nothing to them. Clan, tribe and mosque mean everything.

Al-Sadr loyalists also staged uprisings in Kut, Amarah, Nasiriyah and
Diwaniya, the capitals of four southern provinces. Iraqi police
mutinied. Baghdad’s huge Shiite slums erupted in violence. Rockets began
raining down upon the Green Zone, killing two American civilians among
others. Hundreds of Iraqis died.

Meanwhile, with al-Maliki off playing at being an Arab Napoleon, members
of his own Dawa Party reportedly undertook a secret trip to the Iranian
holy city of Qom, headquarters of the Shiite ayatollahs who run the
country. There they met with Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, recently designated a terrorist
organization by the U.S. Senate (with Hillary Clinton and John McCain’s
support). With Suleimani’s help, they brokered a truce.

Speaking from an unknown location, al-Sadr ordered his Mahdi Army to
stand down contingent upon a cessation of government attacks. There
would be no disarmament. So far the cease-fire appears to be holding.
Al-Sadr also demanded a general amnesty and a release of Sadrist
prisoners not convicted of crimes. Should the October provincial
elections come off, it’s assumed his party will be a big winner. To
Iraqis, the humiliation of al-Maliki and the Americans could hardly be
more complete. Once again, the inadvertent beneficiary of Bush
administration policy turns out to be Iran. The only possible good news
is that what makes al-Sadr a “radical cleric” in U. S. journalistic
shorthand, besides his populist attacks on Iraq’s corrupt ruling class,
is that he’s also a fierce nationalist who demands that American
occupiers go home.

—–––––•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and
recipient of the National Magazine Award.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

News & Analysis
The sieges of Basra and Sadr City: another US war crime in Iraq

Presidential candidates speak on housing and credit crises
Clinton, Obama, McCain defer to Wall Street

Global food prices rise and famine increases

US: Death sentence postponed for Mumia Abu-Jamal