Friday, April 06, 2007

NYC's biggest blight

For years, the world has asked: How do we free NYC from its yoke of assholes? In asking New Yorkers that question, I've been struck at the simple, commonsense solutions they offer: Get rid of the Friedman.

Mohammad Zafrulla Ali Salam, is a 26-year-old dynamo who grew up in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He runs an up and coming, uptown party planning firm but when we met he seemed far from happy. "Every day," he explained, "that fat ass Thomas Friedman breezes past me while I'm standing outside having my morning smoke and he'll say, 'Hey Abdul, I need to get crosstown. Where's your cab? Chop, chop, I'm in a hurry."

Sighing, he explained that he had never driven a taxi, that he'd come to NYC after Harvard, and that it was very insulting, as a Pakistani-American, to have some "bloated fat ass forever assuming I'm a cab driver."

"I will get by regardless," he affirmed, "but life would be so much better if Thomas Friedman was banned from the city."

Cindy Adams, gossip columnist, NYC native and TV personality, shared, "It is surprising with all the problems that one might think would be on the minds of New Yorkers, the most oft cited is ridding the city of Thomas Friedman. But I spoke with him last Monday, for a column, and it became perfectly clear why so many see him as the eqivalent of a variance the municipality should never have granted. When he finally returned my phone call, I explained I was interviewing various people for a column on the Easter Bunny. He screamed at me, 'I'm Jewish!' 'Tommy,' I said back to him, 'I'm not inviting you to Midnight Mass. The Easter Bunny is a non-Biblical character, it really shouldn't be an issue.' He launched into a 15 minute, profanity laced, screeching marathon during which he repeatedly implied that either I was or my ancestors were from an Arab country or else I was 'one of those sympathizers whose name should be placed a list for imprisonment and deportation.' When he was done calling me every name in the book and suggesting that I traveled with a bomb strapped to my waist, I said to him, 'Tommy, it's not all about,' using the phrase he kept repeating, 'Foreskin Politics. Along with Grace Slick, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jake Gyllenhaal, Henry Winkler, Barry Manilow and Alicia Silverstone also shared their thoughts with me. It's a Bunny, for God's sake.' Which led to his questioning my concept of God and suggested that since rabbits were frequently caged, they were like Jews and began screaming, 'I won't be your good time Jew, Cindy! I won't yuck it up and make it pretty for you! Move back to Iran you --' and if I thought I'd been called every name in the book, I quickly learned I was wrong and that Tommy Friedman obviously has a much bigger book of foul names than anyone else on the planet. I honestly felt I had aged 20 years in what was only a 15 minute phone call."

Peter Madonia, former chief of staff to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, greeted the question of how to improve NYC with a heavy sigh before answering, "Day in, day out, the most pressing issue in phone calls coming into the Mayor's office wasn't potholes, wasn't trash pick up, wasn't even stop lights that weren't working. Day after day, the complaint was Thomas Friedman and how do we get a non-New Yorker off the pages of 'The New York Times.' We were always explaining, 'Our hands are tied. We have no control over the paper.' We would suggest petitions, even sit-ins, but, in the end, that remains the biggest problem to our city and it haunts Mayor Bloomberg. My first thought when I opened Friday's paper and saw his 'Cellphones, Maxi-Pads and Other Life-Changing Tools' was, 'Thank goodness, I'm working for the Rockefeller Foundation' because I knew the switchboard in the mayor's office would be lit up with complaints."

Kathie Sarachild, Redstockings, explained that "Friedman's use of the term 'sanitary napkin'is laughable and insulting. He also seems unclear on the difference between maxi-pads and tampons. But most damaging may be the aside where 'rags or soil or mud' are being used and he never takes a moment, possibly because the thought never crossed his mind, to consider the damage done by that: infections, illness. The entire column reads like it was written for shock value and as a shared dirty joke. I think of him as 'A Country Bumpkin Goes to The New York Times Op-Ed Pages'."

Add all of this up and you have what impresses me most here: a huge cross-section actively loathes my husband Thomas Friedman as much as I do. If our married life has demonstrated anything it is that proximity does not make the heart grow fonder. My interviews clearly demonstrated that neither does distance. To merely know of Thomas Friedman creates as strong a gag reflix as does being married to him.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills)
Friday, April 6, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, lies of war get exposed but Cheney continues to lie, the US military aids a terrorist group (designated as such by the US State Department) in Iraq -- aids and escorts, and airstrikes hit the Diwaniya province.

Starting with war resistance, approximately 40 US war resisters have self-checked out, moved to Canada and filed paperwork to be legally granted asylumn in Canada. (Approximately 40 have filed papers, hundreds have gone to Canada and are not attempting to go through the legal process.)
Reuben Apple (Eye Weekly) notes that war resisters appearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board to argue their case are prevented from saying "We think this killing is unlawful" and they "are asking our Federal Court of Appeal for the right to say" those six words. Apple notes that attorney Jeffry House -- who represents many war resisters -- is a Canadian citizen today because of the country's policies during an earlier illegal war (Vietnam) when a real prime minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, didn't cower before Tricky Dick Nixon but instead declared, "Canada should be a refuge from militarism." Tricky Dick's response to that statement and policy was to call the Canadian prime minister an "asshole" and Trudeau's comeback was that he'd "been called worse things by better people."

Apple notes war resisters Ryan Johnson ("wake up and get involved with something, nuclear disarmament, the Canadian Peace Alliance, the War Resisters Support Campaign, anything, because it's the people that can end this"), Jeremy Hinzman, Joshua Key: "Two weeks ago, three big men in trench coats, claiming to be 'Toronto police,' came with questions to the home of Winnie Ng, a campaigner who once hosted Key. According to Toronto Star reports of the incident, it seems American military authorities would like to speak with Key. If they want to discuss The Deserter's Tale with its author, they can go to his next talk, or they can call his lawyer, Jeffrey House. Key has legal status in Canada as a refugee claimant, and officials should tell the American government that our police, if those men were our police, are not their messengers."

Earlier this week, Monday, on Canada's
Gorilla Radio, host Chris Cook interviewed the War Resisters Support Campaign's Lee Zaslofsky on the topic of US war resisters in Canada. Zaslofsky spoke of what was known and what wasn't known -- such as Kyle Snyder was detained by Canadian police (and that was on the US military's orders though Zaslofsky didn't note that) but he was not deported. During this "mistaken arrest," Snyder was told he was being deported. (He legally cannot be deported.) Cook noted that when a war resister appears before the Refugee and Immigration Board, they are not appearing before a group of people, the board has one person designated to hear that case. Like attorney Jeffry House, Zaslofsky came to Canada during Vietnam as a war resister. Zaslofsky noted that Synder's status in Canada has changed as a result of the fact that he is now married. (That would be to Maleah Friesen, whom Zaslofsky didn't note.) As Friesen's spouse, Snyder has more avenues available to Canadian citizenship. March 19th, Zaslofsky noted, Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey were before the Federarl Court of Appeals and are awaiting a decision which, if necesarry, Zasolfsky states, "We'll appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada."

Snyder, Key, Hinzman and Hughey are part of a movement of resistance within the military that also includes
Ehren Watada Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Corey Glass, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo, Camilo Mejia, Dean Walcott, Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

From war resistance to reality as we dig into some of the lies of the illegal war. From yesterday's

Robert Knight: Also in Iraq, a spokesperson for Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is today denying reports that Sistani rejected a new draft law that would allow former members of the Baath party to retain or regain government employment. Sistani's Beriut based representive, Hamed al-Kafaf said, "What some news agencies said, quoting who they described as an aide to al-Sistani about his position on the de-Baathification law was not true." Recent reports that Sistani was against the draft law can be traced to a meeting earlier this week between Sistani and the prevaracating US intelligence asset Ahmed Chalabi who heads the so-called de-Baathification commission and who remains dead set against an easment of the anti-Baath legislation imposed by the occupation forces. Sistani's representative added, "We are surprised by attempts trying to get the Shia clerical establisment involved in a case which is the speciality of constitutional organizations."
And in other news, the overnight release of 15 British sailors by the Iranian government has generated mixed signals in what some say was a quid pro quo that in regard to the 5 Iranian diplomats who were seized last Janurary by American forces in Iraq. Iranian media reported overnight that an Iranian diplomatic official would be allowed to meet with the five diplomatic detainees. But Secreatary of Defense Robert Gates said today that the Bush administration was not planning to release the five who were abducted in a raid on the Iranian consulate's office in the northern Iraqi city of Ibril.
And in a related note, a captain among the detained British sailors who were released was revealed to have admitted that there mission the Shaw al abray waterway between Ira1 and Iran, unsurprisingly did indeed involve elements of intelligence gathering Britain' s Murdoch owned Sky News is reporting today that Sky News went on patrol with Captain Chris Air and his team in Iraqi waters close to the area where they were arrested and just five days
before the crisis began, in an interview recorded the Thursday before the seizure that happened two weeks ago, Captain Air stated to the interviewer that his crew's assignment was "To gather intelligence. If they do not have any information because they're there for days at a time, the people on the boats can share it with us. Whether it's about piracy or any sort of Iranian activity in the area obviously we're right by the bufferzone with Iran." And that's some of the news of this Thursday April 5, 2007. From exile in New York, I'm Robert Knight for

Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes today that "British Defense Secretary Des Browne defended the intelligence operation. Browne said it was important to gather intelligence to 'keep our people safe'." Goodman also noted that Sky News sat on the story "until the release of the sailors."

Turning to other lies of war,
R. Jeffrey Smith (Washington Post) reports today that a US Defense Department report (declassifired yesterday and written by Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble) states the obvious -- in 2002 the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency both knew the claims that Saddam Hussein had a links to al Qaeda were incorrect. Smith notes the report was released yesterday, "on the same day that Vice President Cheney, appearing on Rush Limbaugh's radio program, repeated his allegation that al-Qaeda was operating inside Iraq 'before we ever launched' the war". Dick Cheney's remarks are not merely 'incorrect,' they are lies. Peter Speigel (Los Angeles Times) reports that "The Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA each 'published reports that disavowed any "mature, symbiotic" cooperation between Iraq and Al Qaeda,' the inspector general's report found." AP notes that US Senator Carl Levin "requested that the Pentagon declassify the report prepared by acting Defense Department Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble. In a statement Thursday, Levin said the declassified document showed why a Defense Department investigation had concluded that some Pentagon prewar intelligence work was inappropriate." Strangely in the face of Cheney's lies about terrorism, Michael Ware (CNN) reports that the US military is currently protecting a non al Qaeda group in Iraq that the US State Department has "labeled a terrorist organization" -- Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) -- and that "[t]he U.S. military . . . regularly escorts MEK supply runs between Baghdad and its base, Camp Ashraf." Why? MEK is an anti-Iranian group. Ware reports that the Iraqis government wants the group out and quotes Iraq's National Security Minister Shirwan al-Wa'eli stating, "We gave this organization a six-month deadline to leave Iraq, and we informed the Red Cross. And presumably our friends the Americans will respect our decision and they will not stay on Iraqi land."

Returning to the topic of the lies that led to war, they were lies in real time -- scary lies to some -- they're sad lies now. Another popular lie is "if only we knew then . . ."
US Senator and 2008 presidential candidate Chris Dodd tells that sweet little lie: "Had we known before the war what we know today -- that there were no weapons of mass destruction; that there were no links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda; that there was no imminent threat from Iraq to America's security or vital interests -- Congress would never have considered, let alone voted to authorize, the use of force in Iraq." A comforting lie to some, but a lie nonetheless. In October 2002, (PDF format warning) US House Rep Dennis Kucinich provided an analysis of the US administration's false claims and noted, among other things: "There is no proof that Iraq represents an imminent or immediate threat to the United States. A 'continuing' threat does not constitute a sufficient cause for war. The Administration has refused to provide the Congress with credible intelligence that proves that Iraq is a serious threat to the United States and is continuing to possess and develop chemical and biological and nuclear weapons. Furthermore there is no credible intelligence connecting Iraq to Al Qaida and 9/11." The analysis makes the point repeatedly: "There is no credible intelligence that connects Iraq to the events of 9/11 or to participation in those events by assisting Al Qaida. . . . There is no connection between Iraq and the events of 9/11." 125 Democrats in Congress voted against the Iraq war resolution. Kucinich, who is running for President, was among the 125.

To suggest that 'we were all wrong' is to replace one lie with another. Professor Francis Boyle was interviewed by Bonnie Faulkner for the March 28, 2007 broadcast of
KPFA's Guns and Butter and he shared the experience, from March 13, 2003, of joining former Attorney General Ramsey Clark for a meeting with Congressional Democrats where the subject was impeachment of the Bully Boy and how impeachment could stop the war. Though there was strong interest in that, an appearance by John Podesta deralied it as he screeched that doing so would hurt the Democrats 2004 election chances. As Kat notes of that interview, Boyle and Clark "were both getting their cabs" after and Boyle asked Clark what had happened? Clark explained that Democratic leadership wanted the illegal war. Boyle also discussed the meeting with Dori Smith for Talk Nation Radio in May 2006 (link takes you to audio and transcript via Information Clearing House) where he noted: "The main objection" to impeachment "was political expedience and in particular John Podesta was there. He had been [Bill] Clinton's White House chief of staff. He stated he was appearing on behalf of the Democratic National Commitee and that as far as the DNC was concerned it was going to hurt their ability to get whoever their candidate was going to be in 2004 elected President if we put in these bills of impeachment. I found that argument completely disingenuous when the Democrats had no idea who their candidate was going to be in 2004 as of March 2003."

From Howard Zinn's A Power Governments Cannot Suppress (
City Lights Press), pp. 199-200:

Now that most Americans no longer believe in the war nor trust Bush and his administration, and evidence of official deception has become old news, we might ask: why were so many people so easily fooled?
The question is important because it might help us understand why Americans -- members of the media as well as the ordinary citizen -- rushed to declare their support as the president was sending troops halfway around the world to Iraq.
A small example of the innocence (or obsequiousness, to be more exact) of the press is the way it reacted to Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation in February 2003 to the UN Security Council, a month before the invasion, a speech that may have set a record for the number of falsehoods told in one talk. In it, Powell confidently rattled off his "evidence": satellite photographs, audio records, reports from informants, with precise statistics on how many gallons of this and that existed for chemical warfare. The New York Times was breathless with adminiration. The Washington Post editorial was titled "Irrefutable" and declared that after Powell's talk "it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction."
The truth was that a small army of UN inspectors could not find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. A large army of 100,000 soldiers marauding through the country could not find them. But back in February 2003 the White House said: "We know for a fact that there are weapons there." Vice President Dick Cheney said on Meet the Press: "[W]e believe Saddam has in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." On March 30, 2003, Rumsfeld said on ABC TV: "We know where they are." And Bush said on Polish TV: "We've found the weapons of mass destruction."
The only weapons of mass destruction in Iraq turned out to be ours: bombs and missiles raining down by the thousands, cluster bombs spewing out deadly pellets, the arsenal of the greatest military power on earth visiting destruction on yet another country.
Self-determination for the Iraqis becomes an ironic claim as the new officialdom, headed by wealthy exiles, is flown by U.S. planes into Iraq and positions of power. In Vietnam there was a similar claim as Ngo Dinh Diem was flown into Saigon to rule South Vietnam in the interest of U.S. hegemony in Southeast Asia.

Which brings us back to the points Robert Knight was making earlier about Chalabi. On Tuesday,
Edward Wong (New York Times) reported that Ahmad Chalabi was stating that al-Sistani was opposed to allowing former members of the Baath party to rejoin the government (Wong notes that Chalabi heads up the commission and that it was "set up L. Paul Bremer III, the American pro-consul who governed Iraq from May 2003 to June 2004. Mr. Bermere's very first order was to purge former Baathists from the government, a task that Mr. Chalabi's commission pasisonately carried out"). On Wednesday, Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reported that: "An official spokesman for Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani distanced the ayatollah from reports published Monday and Tuesday saying that the marjiay, the most senior Shiite clerics, disagreed with the plan, which was proposed jointly by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and President Jalal Talbani." Which begs the question why any serious outlet would take a word from Chalabi's mouth seriously? The exile who helped sell the war is attempting to position himself back to the top of the puppet regime. But, as Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) notes today, Chalabi's got competition from another US backed exile: "Some politicians say they believe the talk of a new parliamentary alliance is a cover for an attempt by Allawi to take another run at ruling Iraq. Allawi was installed as interim prime minister in mid-2004 by the U.S.-led government in Iraq, but he was swept from office by the groundswell of support for religious parties in January 2005." That's Iyad Allawi a one time prime minister of Iraq who was then and is now also a citizen of Britain. Allawi and Chalabi aren't only exiles (heavily funded before the illegal war with US tax dollars), they're also related. The current puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki (emphasis on "current") is another exile who returned to Iraq only after the US invaded. Which must mean that around kitchen tables across Iraq, children are being told, "Clean your plate, spend some time in exile, and some day you can grow up to be Prime Minister."


Most attemtnion is on Ramadi today where a bombing has claimed multiple lives.
CBS and AP report the death toll at "at least 27" and many more are wounded from "A suicide bomber driving a truck loaded with TNT and toxic chlorine gas [who] crashed into a police checkpoint in western Ramadi". CNN notes at least 30 wounded and that two police officers are among the dead. AFP calls it "the biggest chemical attack by insurgents in Iraq since the invasion" and notes that it took place "next to a market and residential buildings".

Reuters notes a Hawija bombing that left four police officers wounded, two Kirkuk bombings that left six people wounded and mortar attacks in Baghdad which killed three and left five wounded.

Al Jazeera reports that "in the city of Diwaniya, Iraqi and US forces clashed on Friday with fighters loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shia leader in a major operation. . . . Residents and an Iraqi security source in Diwaniya said a curfew had been imposed and that troops were blocking streets and conducting house-to-house searches." DPA notes "at least 30 men were killed and many others wounded" and that "US military aircraft flew over the city and all roads were sealed off . . . The local authorities also imposed a curfew all over the city." Steven R. Hurst (AP) reports: "Dr. Hameed Jaafi, the director of Diwaniyah Health Directorate, said an American helicopter fired on a house in the Askari neighborhood, seriously wounding 12 people as the assault began." Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reports, "A man named Jassim, from Sadr's Diwaniyah office, said that U.S. troops had entered the city before dawn from three locations with tanks and helicopters flying overhead, taunting the Mahdi army fighters. . . . He claimed that two civilians had been killed by snipers as they tried to go to work" which the US military denies. AFP notes at least one dead and that "Polish aircraft dropped leaflets over the city ordering local police officers to stay home, warning that anyone who went out with a weapon will be considered a target, a military spokesman confirmed."


Reuters reports Sheikh Ghazi al-Hanash was shot dead in Mosul, three police officers were wouned by gunfire in Baghdad, Sheikh Karim Omran al-Shafi was injured in an attack in Hilla, and two people were shot dead "in the Amil District in southwestern Baghdad."


Reuters notes four corpses discovered in Tal Afar. As noted in yesterday's snapshot, the corpse of Khamail Khalaf was discovered yesterday. Bloomberg News reports: "An Iraqi reporter for a U.S.-backed radio station has been found dead in Baghdad after going missing two days ago. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said on its Web site that the body of Khamail Khalaf was found with bullet holes in her head and wounds on her body" and the article notes she had worked for RFE "since 2004." This was noted yesterday but she has been reported as a TV journalist -- which she was until the start of the war.

Finally, on Thursday,
Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) explored the latest developments in governmental spying "a secret FBI intelligence unit helped detain and question a group of protesters in a downtwon parking garage in April 2002. Some of the protesters were interrogated on videotape about their political and religious beliefs." Excerpt:

Amy Goodman: We're also joined by Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, an attorney and co-founder of Partnership for Civil Justice. Mara, talk about the significance of this, of the years of denial that the FBI were involved.

Mara Verheyden-Hillard: Well, as Nat said, the FBI and the Metropolitan Police Department have steadfastly held that it didn't happen. We believe our clients. We know that this happens. We have evidence in other cases of FBI involvement in intelligence gathering on political protesters. And in discovery request after discovery request, in sworn responses in hearings before the court, over and over again, the FBI, the MPD have done everything they can to suggest that this is somehow complete fabrication. And we have sought for years, as well, to get a particular document, the document that now places the FBI squarely at the scene of the arrests and doing intelligence gathering. And that's the running resume. It's a document that indicates, line by line, what the MPD and federal police and other law enforcement agencies are doing during protests. We've been able to obtain them in virtually every protest case we're litigating in D.C. And in this case, they actually told us it didn't exist, and they swore it didn't exist -- and now we know why. This document says very clearly FBI intelligence is on the scene and the protesters are being questioned. And the only way this finally came up is they gave it to us the one business day before a deposition we were taking of one of the MPD members who's responsible for developing this document.

Juan Gonzalez: And what has been the response of the law enforcement officials who kept saying that they didn't have any records of this?

Mara Verheyden-Hillard: Well, we want a response. We have filed a motion for sanctions with the court. As well, the FBI has filed a motion to dismiss themselves from the case. We don't see that there can be any basis for their dismissal -- and this situation is really important, because we think it's sort of the tip of the iceberg. We think it's one tentacle coming up that's quite visible of a larger operation. The questions that they were asking protesters, the questions about who were you with, what are your political beliefs, where are you staying -- associational, political questions -- that's programmatic questioning. It's not random questioning. It's the kind of information you collect when you're building a database, an associational database and a network database of information. And it's all purely political. It's all First Amendment-protected political activity, political association.