Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Musical Innerlube: A Perfect Circle - 'Fiddle and the Drum'

A Perfect Circle - Fiddle and the Drum The first real Ice Cream Production.
A vid against the War with Fiddle and the Drum from the album Emotive

William Bowles: Reform or revolution?

In 1945, following the defeat of Fascism, the Labour Party was swept into power with a mandate to bring about radical change to British society. There followed the nationalization of transport, energy, communications, the establishment of the National Health System, an overhaul of education (actually done by the preceding Tory government), massive investment in public housing.

We were promised Socialism, what we got however was a 'reformed' capitalism, Keynesianism, and for domestic consumption only, elsewise it was 'business as usual', except that the state was broke and in debt up to its eyeballs to the US (a debt only recently paid off).

The reality however was that those changes were demanded by the organized working class through its trade unions and constituency (local) Labour Parties and of course supported by our minuscule left. In other words, it was propelled by grassroots activism and importantly, they were demands that could not be ignored. British capitalism was not only broke it was backward in a big way. Had they not reformed capitalism, in all likelyhood there would have been a real revolution (not that the US would have allowed it anymore than it did in France and Italy). It really was the case of the Labour government heading off revolution at the pass, but then this has been the Labour Party's role since its founding.

The post-war Labour government effectively bought off the working class without altering one iota of its imperialist mission: the defence of Empire, even if now it was no more than a poodle for US imperialism and literally on the frontline of the Cold War.

This view of the role of the Labour Party doesn't sit well with many on the left, especially those who cut their teeth during that post-war period, wedded as they were (and many still are) to the idea of reforming a Labour government slowly, ever so slowly, leading us, we were led to believe to a real socialist society. Just how wrong they were is surely obvious now even to the most myopic.

The contrast with 'New' Labour's response to the latest and worst crisis of capital could not be more illuminating and the reasons obvious to those who look. The labour movement is a shadow of its former self, the constituency Labour Parties pretty well emasculated and a left even more marginalized and fragmented than it has ever been. This is the real legacy of 'reformism'.

Thus without pressure from below, New Labour is free to act in the interests of the class it really represents, the capitalist class. What's left of the organized working class whilst it may have the occasional spat with New Labour, especially the critical (to the state) public employees unions, as long as the interests of their members are protected, we can expect nothing of substance from the trade unions to challenge the power of the state and capital.

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Musical Innerlube: The Clash - 'Lost in the supermarket'

Ukraine 'Inferiority complexes of Baloha, Yushchenko led them to each other'

Baloha's career developed in his home region of Transcarpathia before he moved to Kyiv. Our sources in Transcarpathia have explained how his home town of Mukachevo is considered to be a “village of hicks,” a rough place by its nature and a backwater with an uncultured mentality. The town's rival and administrative center of the oblast - Uzhgorod - is a very different city, led by different kinds of politicians. Both cities are similar in size. Yet competition between them has always been intense. This historic rivalry has been intensified by personal rivalries between Uzhgorod's Mayor Serhiy Ratushniak and Mukachevo's Baloha. This rivalry is made worse by Baloha's inferiority complex towards Transcarpathia's more cultured and intellectual city. Unlike Mukachevo, Uzhgorod has a long history as a regional center, with a sometimes vibrant art, cultural, and intellectual life.

Mukachevo's rough-hewn nature integrated with a very non-Ukrainian character to the city. After World War II, there was an influx of Russian and other Soviet nationalities to the new military bases, adding to the city's rough edge. Theatre and cultural life in Uzhgorod is in Ukrainian, while in Mukachevo Russian is the predominant cultural lingua franca. Uzhgorod is the center of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church in Transcarpathia while Mukachevo is the centre of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate. Uzhgorod always adapted to the ruling dominant culture, while Mukachevo was a center of rebellion with a rougher working class culture that contributed historically to the popularity of extreme left groups.

Mukachevo continues to have a high proportion of Hungarians, Russians and remnants of local ethnic Germans (Shvabs). The city includes major centers of Hungarian culture of great importance to Hungarian national identity and historical memory. Among these is the Mukachevo Castle, the largest castle in Eastern Europe. The castle was recently leased to a business owned by the Baloha family, together with close friends and business acquaintances. Like many Transcarpathians, Baloha's ethnic roots are mixed, with a surname that is typically Hungarian. It is therefore ironic that the presidential secretariat has launched a campaign claiming that Yulia Tymoshenko is not “pure Ukrainian.” Of course, ethnic origins should not have any place in a democratic society built on civic citizenship.

Mukachevo is also the center of Transcarpathia's Rusyn movement and especially of its minority pro-Russian extremist wing. In March 2007, the Transcarpathian Oblast Council voted to recognize Rusyns as a distinct east Slavic nationality, a move that the council could never have taken without the support of Yushchenko's “crisis manager.”

It is indeed ironic that a president denounced by Moscow and perceived by eastern Ukrainians as a “nationalist” has a chief of staff who is a supporter of separate Rusyn identity. Baloha is not seen by the Rusyn movement, however, as someone who genuinely supports them. In the very likely event that Yushchenko loses the December 2009 presidential elections returning to Transcarpathia and seeking a base of support in the Rusyn movement could be one of Baloha's future options. After Yushchenko leaves office, Baloha will find it difficult to find a place in Ukrainian politics. Ukraine's next parliamentary elections are in 2012, but it is unlikely that any political force will include him on their list.

Earlier this year, the World Congress of Rusyns based in Slovakia and headed by Professor Paul Robert Magocsi of the University of Toronto, condemned the activities of Dmitriy Sydor and the organization he leads, the Soim (Parliament) of Subcarpathian Rusyns. Sydor is a priest in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church within the framework of the Moscow Patriarchate. The church is the largest religious body in present-day Transcarpathia, which traditionally had been a stronghold of the Greek-Catholic Church, as in the three oblasts of Galicia.

The State Security Service of Ukraine, known by its Ukrainian SBU acronym, has investigated the aggressively pro-Russian wing of the Rusyn movement in Transcarpathia. The pro-Yushchenko Ukrayina Moloda (Nov. 10, 2008) published details of the funding given to Sydor from Ruski Mir, a Russian government-funded non-governmental organization in Moscow. “Political technologist” Vyacheslav Nikonov headed the Politika Fund in Moscow with which Sydor has been cooperating since 2005. In 2007, President Vladimir Putin appointed Nikonov head of the newly-established Ruski Mir organization which Ukrayina Moloda described as, “a sub-structure of the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation.”

Transcarpathia's Rusyns, particularly the pro-Russian extremist wing, exhibit a strong sense of hatred towards Galician Ukrainians. This animosity is based on the assumption that Galicians are arrogant, a trait they allegedly inherited from Polish rule, and that they exhibit a strong sense of hatred towards everything Russian.

Mukachevo's urban ethnic mix has produced a somewhat crude Homo Sovieticus mentality, whose representatives speak a Ukrainian-Russian patois (surzhyk) without any modicum of empathy for the local Ukrainian culture found in the surrounding villages of Transcarpathia. Those who arrived in Mukachevo from the surrounding countryside, such as Baloha, were looked down upon by the chauvinistic urban Homo Sovieticus culture.

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These nights are for Alexis; a closer look into the December uprising in Greece


The police murder of the 15-year old boy cannot be seen as an isolated incident, although this is what the authorities want you to believe. Alexis is one of many victims of police violence, which holds the Greek society hostage. Since 1985 approximately 25 people have been killed by police bullets, although the number is likely to be much higher since it doesn't include the number of people who died as a result of police violence in prison. Many Greeks, not only the minorities, have experienced some form of police violence or oppression in their lives. Perhaps the reason behind the high(er) level of violence used by the Greek police can be traced back to the post-Junta historical context when the Junta's power was transferred to parliament, a democratic system was established and consequently the police took over from the army in oppressing the Greek people in 1974. There are examples of the police cooperating with right-wing extremists. Every now and then some cop is exposed for being a member of a right-wing extremist group or organization, like the killer of Alexis, who is a member of the fascist Golden Dawn group.

Aside from the police problem Greek society harbours social, economic and political problems that played their part in fueling the uprising. For many people it is difficult to survive financially.
[...]There is an establishment that accumulates wealth for itself while the people have to improvise in order to survive. Businesses are shaken down by corrupt tax officials , EU money disappears before it reaches the projects it is meant for(1). For many it is obvious that those in power and in money do whatever they want and that the government collects a lot of money that goes straight into their pockets. A taxi driver says:''Power corrupts and when you are on the outside looking in you make sure that when you finally get in, you get your share too.''  http://ahistoryofgreece.com/finalwords.htm

For the youth, “no future” is a reality, especially when you're a child of an immigrant. In Dromos, the freshly opened up social centre for immigrants and refugees in Thessaloniki, I get to talk with Gazmend. Gazmend is an Albanian immigrant, he fled Albania when an armed uprising broke out after the collapse of its economy is 1997. We talk about his experiences as an immigrant in Greece and the law for immigrants that was passed in 1998: ''The law connects a working permit to a recidential status. If you don't have 300 workstamps (=working days) in 2 years, even if you miss one and have been here for 15 years, you will get deported. Mostly you buy these stamps because there is another law which ''allows'' immigrants to buy 20% of these stamps. In this way the government earns extra money from the immigrants. Also, if you're under 18 and over 60 you are not allowed to stay because you are not working. You are allowed to stay with your parents but as soon as you turn 18- even if you are born here- you have to return to your country of origin. You have no rights. When the law was passed in 1998, many illegal immigrants applied for a legal status and there were very long ques and a big chaos. Many remained in Greece without papers.''

I also talk to Li. Li teaches art history and is part of the Clandestina info-network for immigrants and refugees. The network is based around a website (in Greek, Turkish, Albanian, Russina/Ukrainian, English and soon German) that informs people about the aspects of the European genocide of immigrants and refugees, the situation of immigrants in Fortress Europe and especially Greece, and also the struggles of immigrants, refugees and the solidarity movement. Li: “The attack on Konstanina Kuneva(2) reveals the true nature of Greek society: The ''new conditions of work'' mean that workers are hired to companies and managed as slaves by a new slave trading system. Especially in sectors of the less privileged workers like the cleaning and construction sectors. This Third World labour market also has its Third World tactics of scaring, warning and punishing the disobedient ones…''

Tefik tells me more about the position of refugees in Greece. He is one of the people who took the initiative to open up Dromos. He is a refugee from Turkey. ''Thousands of Irakis and Afghanis tried to get asylum in the past few years but most of them were deported. When the papers do get examined 99% is rejected. Greece has one of the lowest acceptance rates of asylum seekers in the EU. Greece usually ignores most (EU) legislation for the rights of refugees. Police and border police torture more easily and most people turn a blind eye to torture… Detention centres have abominable conditions here, even though the legislation covers all kinds of so called rights of hygiene, social rights, etc…'' About Dromos and his work for refugees, he says: ''We don't just run the social centre, we run a broader network. The difference between us and other groups who work for refugees (NGO's, charity groups) is that we also provide places for refugees to sleep and we're active politically; we're not just interested in demanding more rights for refugees, we are demanding everything, the full quality of life. Our activities are humanitarian and political. The immigration problems were created by the EU and imperialist countries. They invaded our countries and therefore we can't recognize their legal framework. So when someone crosses the border I cannot think 'this person is here legal or illegal', I don't care.''

Li: ''Any society is sick if it cannot accept others, if it controls, oppresses and uses people for its own purposes. [...] We cannot claim better lives for ourselves if we don't fight on the side of refugees, immigrants and other marginalized people for their rights. Ever since their arrival in great numbers in the early 90's immigrants have been doing all the dirty jobs and have provided the country with cheap labor, which created a boost of the economy and increased the country's wealth. Without their sweat and blood the Olympic Games in 2004 could not have been realized. The Greeks are very oblivious of this. In order to inflict positive, social change we must not only attack the State and its institutions but question the hostile attitude towards the marginalized people in our society and understand that there is a new rift in society – “natives against immigrants”. [...] So in this context, the ''December uprising'', the riots and the rebellious moments in the streets, must be taken as a powerful moment in itself, but should also be measured against real social change…In other words, as the German comrades say: “Aufstand ist unser Argument”, the uprising is an argument in itself. A very clear political message went out from the uprising as people knew exactly what they were targeting: banks and police stations, big business, that is to say, the […] symbols of Capital and the State. Therefore the incidents don't need further analysis.

So, the 'minorities' who take up a large part of Greek society have every reason to be angry. Fueled by a mix of rage, despair and sadness people went out in the streetsto demand the change they are longing for, with the uprising as their powerful argument. [...]

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The ‘December Days’ rising of Greek youth

A Marxist perspective (which Greece's rebellious youth reject) from China Worker:

2009 starts with big education sector protests

The new semester in Greece started with a big mobilisation, of at least 15,000 university students and teachers, on 9 January. This is an indication that movements in the field of education will continue be in fervent over the next period.

The Karamanlis government has been forced to make a cabinet reshuffle, removing amongst others the minister of education and national economy. These are side effects of the 'December Days', last year, in Greece. However, the school students, who were the main driving force of the youth revolt that shook Greece from the 6 December until the Xmas holidays, have not taken strike action, so far. The December Days are, in this sense, over. But they have left their mark on Greek society and on Greek youth, in particular.
The “accidental death” of a school student

Alexandros Grigoropoulos (Alexis) was shot on the evening of 6 December 2008, outside a café in the centre of Athens. The policeman responsible for the student's death claimed it was a “misfire” and that the bullet hit the pavement or a wall before killing Alexis, and that it was not intentional. However, eye witnesses said that they saw the policeman (a 'special guard') aiming straight at the 15 year school student.

The killing provoked a massive response from youth and the whole of Greek society. Thousands gathered in every city on the same night of the murder. Tens of thousands protested on the day (Sunday) following the killing, and also on Monday afternoon, Tuesday and so on. The universities were immediately occupied by students. The school students simply refused to enter classes. Rallies and demonstrations became a daily phenomenon, everywhere. Tens of police stations were surrounded daily by school students protesting about the killing. The police reacted to all such demonstrations with tear gas and other 'crowd control' chemical weapons. The Ministry of Education was forced to stop lessons in classrooms and to organise excursions, picnics and “educational visits” to divert school students' attention away from protests and keep them away from the demonstrations.

There were daily clashes between the youth and the police. But what is perhaps even more important than this manifestation of the anger of the youth, was the support in society generally for the struggle of youth. There are numerous examples of working class people and pensioners shouting at the police as they chased youth in the neighbourhood streets, throwing objects at police from balconies, getting between the police and the youth to protect the latter, and, in general, showing support to the youth and sympathizing with their anger towards the police.

It is obvious that a murder, in itself, could not have caused such huge social unrest and a revolt of the youth. There were deeper causes to this development: in the social conditions facing Greek youth and the working class, in general.

Social causes

Unemployment, poverty, inequality, massive intensification of work and exploitation, massive corruption of the 'tops' of society, as one after another corruption scandal came to light, and the “lack of future” for youth – these were the factors behind the youth revolt.

Around 22% of the Greek population live below the poverty line. This is the official figure, and it does not fully explain the reality of being poor – the poverty line in Greece is about €850 per month for a four member family. With rents in Athens and Salonica ranging from €400 to €500 per month for a two bed-room flat, one can very easily understand that when the official statistics speak of “poverty” they actually mean “starvation”. It is absoloutely impossible for new working class families and young people to survive without the support of the older generation and wider families.

Poverty does not only hit the unemployed and pensioners but also those with jobs. Around 25% of all those in work receive € 700 per month or less in wages. 67% of these are young people, up to the age of about 34.

There is no heavy industry in Greece, and no 'well paid' jobs in the private sector for workers. Young people and their families see a university degree as an absolute must if they are to receive a living wage. The 1990's and the early 2000's saw young people study for endless hours to get into a university and to have a chance of obtaining a 'good degree'. School students were repeatedly referred to as the hardest working people in the country by the press, studying an average 65 hours per week. Xekinima (CWI Greece) repeatedly commented that these intolerable pressures demanded by Greek capitalism was preparing the new generation for revolt and revolution. For after massive sacrifices, and after they obtained a university degree and very often a postgraduate degree, young people would get a job (not only in the private but also in the public sector) of € 700 plus 10% 'university degree allowance', i.e. a total of less than € 800 a month, very often without social insurance (health insurance and pension).

Class relations

Such social conditions create fertile ground for social explosions, and, at a later stage, revolutionary movements. This is particularly so as the “visions” created by the Greek ruling class (and the capitalist class internationally), over the past years, have been undermined by the actual development of life under capitalism.

Mention of “globalisation”, as the means to bring about economic growth and prosperity, causes rage in Greece. The former Prime Minister, Kostas Simitis, a few years ago, even had the gall to repeat Martin Luther King's famous phrase, “I have a dream”, to further the lies he and the Greek ruling class peddled to the population. Initially, it was the entry of Greece into the European Union that would supposedly “solve” all the problems of the Greek economy and society. Then it was the advent of the Euro currency, in whose name Greek workers were asked to make “sacrifices”. Then it was the Olympic games, held in Greece in 2004, which were supposed to bring back the “spirit” of ancient Greece. All of these false dawns led to accumulating mass anger in Greek society, as more and more workers and youth realised it was all lies and yet, in the meantime, the Greek bankers and ship owners, who exported their capital to the Balkans and Western Europe, were enjoying the highest profit returns in the whole of the EU!

The 'December Days' of the Greek youth did not, therefore, break out like thunder in a clear blue sky. They were preceded by major movements of the youth and the working class.

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How an art-loving chauffeur saved Russian revolution in paintings

Dozens of works saved from obscurity by a chauffeur who loved art will go on show at Tate Modern this week.

They are masterpieces of Russian Constructivism which George Costakis began to collect when the rest of the Soviet Union - and the world - had shunned them.

Without them, the new exhibition on Aleksandr Rodchenko and Lyubov Popova, two of the most important Russian avant-garde artists, would scarcely have been possible.

Mr Costakis, who was born in Russia before the revolution to Greek parents, discovered his first Constructivist paintings in a Moscow studio in 1946.

He became friends with Varvara Stepanova, Rodchenko's wife, tracked down friends of the major artist Kasimir Malevich, and was the principal saviour of works by Popova, who became his favourite artist. When he left to live in Greece in 1977, Mr Costakis gave dozens of the best ones to the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

Now they are being reunited in Britain for the first time, along with 60 more from the collection his family houses at the State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Mr Costakis died in 1990, aged 76. His daughter Aliki, 69, from Athens, said she was looking forward to seeing the show.

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Naomi Klein: Public revolt builds against rip-off rescue plans for the economy

Watching the crowds in Iceland banging pots and pans until their government fell reminded me of a chant popular in anti-capitalist circles in 2002: "You are Enron. We are Argentina."

Its message was simple enough. You--politicians and CEOs huddled at some trade summit--are like the reckless scamming execs at Enron (of course, we didn't know the half of it). We--the rabble outside--are like the people of Argentina, who, in the midst of an economic crisis eerily similar to our own, took to the street banging pots and pans. They shouted, "¡Que se vayan todos!" ("All of them must go!") and forced out a procession of four presidents in less than three weeks. What made Argentina's 2001-02 uprising unique was that it wasn't directed at a particular political party or even at corruption in the abstract. The target was the dominant economic model--this was the first national revolt against contemporary deregulated capitalism.

It's taken a while, but from Iceland to Latvia, South Korea to Greece, the rest of the world is finally having its ¡Que se vayan todos! moment.

The stoic Icelandic matriarchs beating their pots flat even as their kids ransack the fridge for projectiles (eggs, sure, but yogurt?) echo the tactics made famous in Buenos Aires. So does the collective rage at elites who trashed a once thriving country and thought they could get away with it. As Gudrun Jonsdottir, a 36-year-old Icelandic office worker, put it: "I've just had enough of this whole thing. I don't trust the government, I don't trust the banks, I don't trust the political parties and I don't trust the IMF. We had a good country, and they ruined it."

Another echo: in Reykjavik, the protesters clearly won't be bought off by a mere change of face at the top (even if the new PM is a lesbian). They want aid for people, not just banks; criminal investigations into the debacle; and deep electoral reform.

Similar demands can be heard these days in Latvia, whose economy has contracted more sharply than any country in the EU, and where the government is teetering on the brink. For weeks the capital has been rocked by protests, including a full-blown, cobblestone-hurling riot on January 13. As in Iceland, Latvians are appalled by their leaders' refusal to take any responsibility for the mess. Asked by Bloomberg TV what caused the crisis, Latvia's finance minister shrugged: "Nothing special."

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Amazing UFO incident involving Greek Air Force and airline

At this point two F-16's were sent up too intercept the UFO, while the various control towers monitored the object from earth. The object then shot off at incredible speed skyward and the Jets failed to indentify anything. While both staff at the Athens Airport and the Parintha Mountain Air Force Radar Unit confirmed that they clearly observed the object their radars picked up nothing.

The ensuing deliberate cover-up of this incident by the Greek authorities is being treated as fact by that country's media.

Possibly the most bizarre aspect of this sighting is that although the object was witnessed simultaneously by three pilots with decades of flying experience between them, staff at multiple radar and ground control stations and the Greek Air Force, who actually sent jets up to chase it, it has been dismissed by some Greek Government officials as a mistaken sighting of...wait for it….Venus! This, despite the fact that the captain of flight 266 remains convinced he saw a UFO. With that in mind, are these Government officials  planning to request an investigation into the capability, if not sanity, of their country's  Air Force ground control staff?  Don't hold your breath.

It is hardly surprising that if indeed aliens are visiting earth they would take an interest in Greece, that cradle of western civilization. What is more surprising is western media's complete non-coverage of this incident and the continuing and sometimes absurd attempts by governments to deny the obvious as far as UFOs are concerned. Perhaps the ancient Athenian culture of intellectual curiosity and questioning existing belief systems has been replaced by one of secrecy, concealment and the idea that the public does not have the right to know what is happening in the universe around them.

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Obama indicates he doesn't back lawmakers' calls to probe Bush abuses

As Democratic leaders struggle over what to do about the Bush administration's past abuses, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy joined those advocating a “truth and reconciliation commission” that would seek facts, not jail time.

“We could develop and authorize a person or group of people universally recognized as fair minded, and without axes to grind,” Leahy said during a speech at Georgetown University's Law Center on Monday. “Their straightforward mission would be to find the truth” about controversies such as torture of detainees and warrantless wiretaps.

“People would be invited to come forward and share their knowledge and experiences, not for purposes of constructing criminal indictments, but to assemble the facts. If needed, such a process could involve subpoena powers, and even the authority to obtain immunity from prosecutions in order to get to the whole truth,” the Vermont Democrat said.

Later Monday, asked whether he would support Leahy's plan, President Barack Obama declined comment, saying he was unfamiliar with it. He then reiterated his ambiguous response from the campaign, that no one is above the law but that he favored looking forward, not backward.

“What I have said is that my administration is going to operate in a way that leaves no doubt that we do not torture that we abide by the Geneva Conventions and that we observe our traditions of rule of law and due process as we are vigorously going after terrorists that can do us harm,” Obama said at his first prime-time news conference as President.

"My view is also that nobody is above the law, and if there are clear instances of wrongdoing than people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen. But generally speaking I am more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backwards.”

Leahy is expected to introduce a bill soon that would create his proposed truth commission. Last month, Leahy's counterpart in the House, Rep. John Conyers, sponsored similar legislation to create a blue-ribbon panel of outside experts to probe the “broad range” of policies pursued by the Bush administration “under claims of unreviewable war powers.”

But Conyers also has called for the appointment of an independent counsel to launch a criminal probe into the Bush administration's policies. Leahy said his plan would be designed to meet public demands for accountability but not lead to prosecutions of any sort.

The dilemma of how to proceed on Bush administration crimes became more acute in the last two months when President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney admitted publicly that they had personally authorized the waterboarding of at least three suspected terrorists and allowed interrogators to use harsh methods against 33 other suspects.

Though Bush and Cheney continued to insist that their actions did not violate anti-torture laws, waterboarding – a technique that makes the victim believe he is drowning – has been regarded as torture at least since the Spanish Inquisition and has been treated as a serious war crime by the U.S. government in the past.

As recently as the 1980s, a Texas sheriff was prosecuted by the Justice Department for using waterboarding to extract confessions from suspects.

Many rank-and-file Democrats and constitutional scholars have argued that criminal prosecutions of senior Bush administration officials are the only meaningful way to achieve accountability. Otherwise, they argue, the United States is making a mockery of the core American principle that “no man is above the law” as well as the nation's historic leadership on human rights.

Some human rights experts also note that U.S. commitments under international law require legal action against anyone implicated in torture, either by prosecuting those responsible in the country or by turning them over to international courts.

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Sale of '867-5309' pulls in almost $200K on eBay

If Jenny wants her number back, she's going to have to cough up some serious cash.

A New Jersey disc jockey could be walking away with $186,853.09 after the conclusion of an auction on eBay for the telephone number immortalized in the 1980's classic "867-5309/Jenny".

The winning buyer, an anonymous eBay user with a "Power Seller" rating, only made two bids on the number, which is attached to a Vonage Voice-over-IP line.

The seller, Spencer Potter, a disc jockey from Weehawken, New Jersey, has claimed that the New York-area number is one of the last working versions of the number available in the U.S. Because of the popularity of the song, released in 1981 by the band Tommy Tutone, many area codes no longer support the number.

Potter and eBay spokespeople did not return requests for comment on the sale or on the identity of the buyer.

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Obama’s envoy voices support for International Court

Ambassador Susan Rice signaled a shift in U.S. policy toward support for the International Criminal Court, a tribunal the Bush administration opposed, in her first speech to the United Nations Security Council.

The International Criminal Court “looks to become an important and credible instrument for trying to hold accountable the senior leadership responsible for atrocities committed in the Congo, Uganda and Darfur,” Rice said in a closed council meeting, according to a text provided by the U.S. mission.

President George W. Bush opposed U.S. ratification of the treaty that created the court out of concern that it didn't include adequate protections against politically motivated prosecutions. The U.S. sought and received UN immunity for its citizens from tribunal prosecution from 2002 to 2004.

Crimes against humanity in Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Cambodia gave impetus to creation of the Hague court, whose jurisdiction took effect on July 1, 2002. The court's prosecutor last July sought the arrest of Sudanese President Umar Hasan al-Bashir for war crimes in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Rice's remarks at the Security Council meeting on international humanitarian law won praise from envoys used to seeing the U.S. isolated on issues such as the International Criminal Court's jurisdiction.

'She Was Incredible'

“She was incredible,” French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said of Rice, who was chosen for the UN post by new U.S. President Barack Obama. “What she said on human rights and international law I could have written myself.”

Ambassador Jorge Urbina, of Costa Rica, a Security Council member, said the mere mention of the court by a U.S. envoy “raises expectations” of support for ratification of the treaty that established it.

The U.S. in 2002 vetoed a Security Council draft resolution extending a peacekeeping mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina because of a reference to the court. The U.S. abstained from a 2005 vote in the council to refer crimes committed in Darfur to the court.

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Plausible deniability: 'It?s foolproof, even though it was concocted by a fool'

From John W. Sammon's Bush Used Plausible Deniability to Escape Crimes

It´s simple. Much simpler than it sounds. I tell you to commit a scheme, an illegal plot, but don´t tell me the details of how you´re going to do it, to carry it out, so that if it comes to light, if we get caught doing it, I can claim (rightly) that I had no knowledge of it.

It´s a perfect form of dishonest honesty. During an investigation of Iran Contra, a trial, Reagan claimed he didn´t know, or couldn´t remember, anything about the plan. In truth, he couldn´t. He´d told his boys not to tell him the details.

He made them take the heat instead of him.

The power of the presidency and ignorance of orders given, after they´re given. The perfect scam. It´s foolproof, even though it was concocted by a fool (Reagan).

Plausible deniability will be used again. By the next Republican president, if there ever is one.

It´s a perfect plan, because even though the president gives the order to carry it out (a dishonest plan); in fact the president has no knowledge of how it was carried out.

Reagan used this dodge to exchange arms for hostages in Iran and also to fund Contra Rebels in South America in the Iran Contra Scandal of the 1980s.

Bush used it again, although he put a different spin on it. Instead of telling cronies to carry out a plan to attack Iraq without his knowledge, he cherry-picked the evidence to justify the attack, and then lied to the American people that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Bush simply threw out every bit of evidence that ran contrary to what he wanted to do (attack Iraq). He needed an excuse, because if he told you the truth, if he said, "we don´t know if there are weapons of mass destruction, but we´re invading Iraq anyway because we want to do a regime change, and we want to re-make the Middle East, and we want their (Iraq´s) oil, and we want a puppet state there."

If he told you that, he knew you might not support the war. So, he made up a lie, and did so in a way to convince himself it was the truth, believing it was in the best interest of the American people.

The perfect scam. A form of plausible deniability. If Bush can convince himself it´s the truth, then he´s not lying, even though it´s a lie.

~ more... ~

US soldier who abandoned unit returns from Canada

He said he fled because he doesn't think the war has improved the lives of Iraqis, and he couldn't stomach the thought of killing.

"During my training, I was ordered that, if anyone came within so many feet of my vehicle, I was to shoot to kill," said Cornell, who enlisted in 2002 but never deployed to war. "I didn't join the military to kill innocents."

The Army artillery specialist made it to Canada in 2005 and soon started a new life working at a grocery store on Gabriola Island in British Columbia.

Cornell's exile ended last week when he crossed the U.S.-Canada border into Washington state. He left voluntarily to avoid deportation.

The first U.S. service member forced out of Canada after the government denied him protective status as a war objector was 25-year-old Army Pvt. Robin Long of Boise, Idaho. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison last August after pleading guilty to desertion charges at Fort Carson, Colo.

Michelle Robidoux, spokeswoman for the Toronto-based War Resisters Support Campaign, said the group has worked with about 50 U.S. service members seeking refugee status or political asylum in Canada. The group estimates more than 200 have fled to Canada, most of them hiding out illegally.

~ more... ~

2012: Waiting for the Apocalypse (satire)

Will this wind...?

From "The Secret Policeman's Ball" 1979 benefit for Amnesty International.

'Welcome to the sane asylum' - Swami’s 2009 State of the Universe

From The Shift Has Hit the Fan: Welcome to the Sane Asylum by Swami Beyondananda

Just as the eight-year journey that took us from Whitewater to Blackwater was coming to an end, some overzealous Bush-bashers hurled footwear to give the departing regime one final boot. That was understandable, but unnecessary. Better we should keep our shoes on, and use them to stand together at a time when healing wounds is more important than wounding heels. Besides, without Bush there could have been no Obama. His alarming actions awakened more people than Buddha, and a body politic in a fear-induced coma miraculously regained consciousness.

And now there is a new President: Barack Hussein Obama. After eight years of insanity, we can proclaim to the world, “America has a President Hussein!”

So now, we must face another awesome truth: We are living in a world gone sane.

Welcome to the sane asylum.

Trickle Down Goes Belly Up

It's a good thing our political fates are on the upswing, as our economy has taken a sharp downturn. The house of credit cards economy based on trickle down has gone belly up, and we must face another, sadder truth. Individually and collectively, we've been suffering from Deficit Inattention Disorder, and since we were unable to do the math, we must now do the aftermath. It's a buy-o-logical fact. You cannot spend more than you have. Nature knows this. We can use no more energy than what we have in reserve. We cannot charge energy on our Ascended Master Card and repay it next lifetime.

So yes, the casino economy coming down, but there is an upside to the meltdown. There is a great opportunity in the crisis. Consider this. When the dollar hits zero, we can pay off our entire $10 trillion national debt and hardly feel it!

~ more... ~

Republican discloses top secret info ... via Twitter?

Republicans appear anxious to demonstrate their new-found affinity for technology, web apps, and gizmos. A recent debate between candidates for RNC chair featured an argument over who had more friends on Facebook. It's all rather silly, but the minority party wants to demonstrate their ability to embrace new mediums.

Once in a while, this goes a little too far.

A congressional trip to Iraq this weekend was supposed to be a secret.

But the cat's out of the bag now, thanks to a member of the House Intelligence Committee who broke an embargo via Twitter.

A delegation led by House Minority Leader John A. Boehner , R-Ohio, arrived in Iraq earlier today, and because of Rep. Peter Hoekstra , R-Mich., the entire world -- or at least Twitter.com readers -- now know they're there.

"Just landed in Baghdad," messaged Hoekstra, a former chairman of the Intelligence panel and now the ranking member, who is routinely entrusted to keep some of the nation's most closely guarded secrets.

~ more... ~


image from http://www.spitting-image.net

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