Saturday, July 05, 2008

Conversation with Matthis Chiroux

I recently had a conversation with Matthis Chiroux, the soldier who is refusing to be deployed to Iraq. Outside of the list of questions I sent his way, we had a very interesting conversation. Here is what transpired.

hi there


Hi, how are you?
good and you thanks
I'm fine. Super busy and even more broke, but not in jail, and still kicking against the flow.
So those questions you sent me, what exactly were they for?
You didn't really specify.
great stuff
for my blog
just an interview type thing
Oh, I see.
You did send me that, didn't you.
send what?
my blog?
I did
Sorry, my heads been in about amillion places at once.
in an earlier note
ahh understand
Yeah, that's right.
I bet there's a lot of things going on up there
it is

Well, just got back to brooklyn and am trying to figure out how I'm not going to be another homeless vet.
oh my
what are your options?
Quit the activism and get a real job.
Or some kind of public support needs to start flowing in.
isnt that always the way?
you know
there is a real need for money on the left
things are not as organized
or perhaps are too organized
than what they used to be
although of course I wasnt around for that time
but i mean
they could actually operate
and it wasn't
Well, there is just too much independent thought.
it was a way of life
People heading in 30 ways at once.
Not a bad thing, but makes organizing difficult.
are you an agent provacateur?
I dont know
I think there is a bit of that
but no
I think what there is
is just too much coalescensce
and too much
you know the black panthers
alwasys had
at least a million dollars in their coffers
That's pretty nice.
IVAW does not.
of course
And not nearly as many guns, either.
In fact, I have a broken one tattooed on my arm.
for sure
but alas
the panthers
also had the second most successful newspaper in the country
from 69 to 72
and there were a lot more people
with money
who were willing to put their money
and their lives
whre there mouths were
as you can hear now
a lot of neoliberal right wingers
complaining now
about Leonard Bernstein
and Jane Fonda raising money for the black panthers
Well, unfortunately, things have devolved in this country. Alienation has set it. The shocks of oppresion have masked the shocks of economic reform which has all in all left everyone quite broke and helpless.
well alienation was always there
but solidarity
certainly has fallen apart
and yes
everyone is broke and helpless
But you know, I don't buy into the whole astrology thing, but apparently the stars haven't been aligned like they are right now since the American Revolution.
but so will be the rightwingers too
this country
as a whole
is falling apart
and thats not necessarily a bad thing
I have never heard anything about that

Ransom Claim in Ingrid Betancourt Release

(Two Items)


By: Haroon Siddique and Agencies
The Guardian (UK)
July 4, 2008

Ingrid Betancourt arrived in France today after
being held captive for six years in the Colombian
jungle, amid claims that a ransom was paid to free

The Colombian government said that she was freed in
an audacious operation after the military tricked
Farc into handing the French-Colombian politician
over without a shot being fired.

But quoting "reliable sources", Swiss Radio
reported that a ransom was paid of around $20m

It said that the US, which had three citizens among
those freed, was behind the deal and that "the
whole operation afterwards was a set-up."

The station reported that the wife of one of the
hostages' guards was the go-between, having been
arrested by the Colombian army.

If proved true, the allegations would be hugely
embarrassing for the Colombian government which was
showered with praise for the efficiency of the
operation. Many commentators had predicted that it
would even spell the end of Farc as a credible

President Nicolas Sarkozy met Betancourt at the
Villacoublay military air base south of Paris.

The hero's welcome for the 46-year-old, who has
held by the Farc, is being shown live on French

The government is to throw a party in the
presidential Palace in her honour later this

Addressing journalists after landing she said: "I
am amazed that I am standing here alive. I have
cried a lot. Today they are tears of joy. Before,
they were tears of pain."

Betancourt was kidnapped by Farc rebels during her
election campaign in 2002. She was freed on
Wednesday with 14 others. The rebels were tricked
into handing them over in a Colombian covert
military operation.

Next week, Betancourt is expected to be received by
the Pope. She is a devout Catholic and made wooden
rosary beads to pray with in the jungle.

At a press conference in Bogata upon her release,
Betancourt urged Farc to release the rest of its
prisoners - it has about 700 captives, including 40
high-profile hostages - and embark on a peace
process. She has vowed to work for the freedom of
all hostages.

"I hope that the Farc understands that this is the
time to release all its hostages and use this
release, this act, not only to improve its now
tarnished image, but especially for us here in
Colombia, to try to make this first step towards a
negotiated peace."


FARC leaders were paid millions to free hostages: Swiss

Thomson Financial News
July 4, 2008


Leaders of the Colombian FARC rebel movement were paid
millions of dollars to free Colombian politician Ingrid
Betancourt and 14 other hostages, Swiss radio said on
Friday, quoting 'a reliable source'.

The 15 hostages released on Wednesday by the Colombian
army 'were in reality ransomed for a high price, and
the whole operation afterwards was a set-up,' the
radio's French-language channel said.

Saying the United States, which had three of its
citizens among those freed, was behind the deal, it put
the price of the ransom at some $20 million.

The radio said its source was 'close to the events,
reliable and tested many times in recent years.'

The report added said the wife of one of the hostages'
guards was the go-between, having been arrested by the
Colombian army. She was released to return to the
guerrillas, where she persuaded her husband to change

Switzerland, along with France and Spain, has been
mediating with the FARC on behalf of Colombian
President Alvaro Uribe.

According to the official version of Wednesday's
operation, a Colombian army intelligence agent
infiltrated the FARC and tricked the rebels into
believing their top leader had sent a helicopter to
pick up the hostages.

Colombian soldiers posing as FARC guerrillas flew the
hostages from a jungle hideout where they had been
assembled before revealing their identity.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the rescue
'was conceived by the Colombians and executed by the
Colombians with our full support,' while implying that
Washington had provided intelligence and even
operational help.

U.S. ambassador to Bogota William Brownfield also told
CNN that Washington had provided 'technical support,'
while Colombian Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos
insisted it was a '100 percent Colombian' effort.

The top U.S. military officer for Latin America,
Admiral Jim Stavridis, head of United States Southern
Command, said the rescue of Americans Thomas Howes,
Marc Gonsalves and Keith Stansell had been 'a priority
of this command'.

The three were seized by the rebels as they conducted
an anti-drug mission for the Pentagon in February 2003.

The operation enhanced Uribe's prestige as he seeks a
third term in office, and enabled him to stick to his
line of no talks with the rebels without the hostages
being freed, the radio noted.

Copyright Thomson Financial News Limited 2008.


Portside aims to provide material of interest
to people on the left that will help them to
interpret the world and to change it.

Go Venus, Go Serena!

Friday, July 04, 2008

What Can I Do For You?


Cher, Patti, and Labelle

What Can I Do For You?


People want truth
Or nothing at all
People want sincerity
And nothing false
People need happiness
As land needs rain from above
We need rain. We need life, We need love
Most people find it so hard to live without
Love, love, love, love, love, love
Oh yeah

People want to live, not merely exist
People want to enjoy, not suffer and fear
People need understanding, not impatience or confusion
Oh I wonder should we hate those
Who present us disillusion
They talk about love, love, love
And lie about love, love, love
And they talk about love, love, love
Oh yeah

We need power
We need power
And we need peace, peace, peace, peace
I think we all agree
Let's stop fighting
Let's stop fighting
And become sisters and brothers
And become sisters and brothers
And become sisters and brothers
And become sisters and brothers
And show its not too late to
Love, love, love
Love, love, love
Love, love, love
Love, love, love
Love, love, love
Love, love, love
What can I do for you
What can you do for me

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Why I'm Not Patriotic by Matthew Rothschild

Why I’m Not Patriotic

By Matthew Rothschild, July 2, 2008

(In memory of George Carlin.)

It’s July 4th again, a day of near-compulsory flag-waving and nation-worshipping. Count me out.

Spare me the puerile parades.

Don’t play that martial music, white boy.

And don’t befoul nature’s sky with your F-16s.

You see, I don’t believe in patriotism.

It’s not that I’m anti-American, but I am anti-patriotic.

Love of country isn’t natural. It’s not something you’re born with. It’s an inculcated kind of love, something that is foisted upon you in the home, in the school, on TV, at church, during the football game.

Yet most people accept it without inspection.


For when you stop to think about it, patriotism (especially in its malignant morph, nationalism) has done more to stack the corpses millions high in the last 300 years than any other factor, including the prodigious slayer, religion.

The victims of colonialism, from the Congo to the Philippines, fell at nationalism’s bayonet point.

World War I filled the graves with the most foolish nationalism. And Hitler and Mussolini and Imperial Japan brought nationalism to new nadirs. The flags next to the tombstones are but signed confessions—notes left by the killer after the fact.

The millions of victims of Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot have on their death certificates a dual diagnosis: yes communism, but also that other ism, nationalism.

The whole world almost got destroyed because of nationalism during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The bloody battles in Serbia and Bosnia and Croatia in the 1990s fed off the injured pride of competing patriotisms and all their nourished grievances.

In the last five years in Iraq, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have died because the United States, the patriarch of patriotism, saw fit to impose itself, without just cause, on another country. But the excuse was patriotism, wrapped in Bush’s brand of messianic militarism: that we, the great Americans, have a duty to deliver “God’s gift of freedom” to every corner of the world.

And the Congress swallowed it, and much of the American public swallowed it, because they’ve been fed a steady diet of this swill.

What is patriotism but “the narcissism of petty differences”? That’s Freud’s term, describing the disorder that compels one group to feel superior to another.

Then there’s a little multiplication problem: Can every country be the greatest country in the world?

This belief system magically transforms an accident of birth into some kind of blue ribbon.

“It’s a great country,” said the old Quaker essayist Milton Mayer. “They’re all great countries.”

At times, the appeal to patriotism may be necessary, as when harnessing the group to protect against a larger threat (Hitler) or to overthrow an oppressor (as in the anti-colonial struggles in the Third World).

But it is always a dangerous toxin to play with, and it ought to be shelved with cross and bones on the label except in these most extreme circumstances.

In an article called “Patriot Games” in the current issue of Time magazine (July 7), Peter Beinart, late of The New Republic, inspects his navel for seven pages and then throws the lint all around.

“Conservatives are right,” he says. “To some degree, patriotism must mean loving your country for the same reason you love your family: simply because it is yours.”

And then he criticizes, incoherently, the conservative love-it-or-leave-it types.

The moral folly of his argument he himself exposes: “If liberals love America purely because it embodies ideals like liberty, justice, and equality, why shouldn’t they love Canada—which from a liberal perspective often goes further toward realizing those principles—even more? And what do liberals do,” he asks, “when those universal ideals collide with America’s self-interest? Giving away the federal budget to Africa would probably increase the net sum of justice and equality on the planet, after all. But it would harm Americans and thus be unpatriotic.”

This is a straw man if I ever I saw one, but if the United States gave a lot more of its budget to eradicating poverty and disease in Africa and other parts of the developing world, it might actually make us all safer.

At bottom, note how readily Beinart disposes of “liberty, justice, and equality.”

He has stripped patriotism to its vacuous essence: Love your country because it’s yours.

If we stopped that arm from reflexively saluting and concerned ourselves more with “universal ideals” than with parochial ones, we’d be a lot better off.

We wouldn’t be in Iraq, we wouldn’t have besmirched ourselves at Guantanamo, we wouldn’t be acting like some Argentinean junta that wages illegal wars and tortures people and disappears them into secret dungeons.

Love of country is a form of idolatry.

Listen, if you would, to the wisdom of Milton Mayer, writing back in 1962 a rebuke to JFK for his much-celebrated line: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

Mayer would have none of it. “When Mr. Kennedy spoke those words at his inaugural, I knew that I was at odds with a society which did not immediately rebel against them,” he wrote. “They are the words of totalitarianism pure; no Jefferson could have spoken them, and no Khrushchev could have spoken them better. Could a man say what Mr. Kennedy said and also say that the difference between us and them is that they believe that man exists for the State and we believe that the State exists for man? He couldn’t, but he did. And in doing so, he read me out of society.”

When Americans retort that this is still the greatest country in the world, I have to ask why.

Are we the greatest country because we have 10,000 nuclear weapons?

No, that just makes us enormously powerful, with the capacity to destroy the Earth itself.

Are we the greatest country because we have soldiers stationed in more than 120 countries?

No, that just makes us an empire, like the empires of old, only more so.

Are we the greatest country because we are one-twentieth of the world’s population but we consume one-quarter of its resources?

No, that just must makes us a greedy and wasteful nation.

Are we the greatest country because the top 1 percent of Americans hoards 34 percent of the nation’s wealth, more than everyone in the bottom 90 percent combined?

No, that just makes us a vastly unequal nation.

Are we the greatest country because corporations are treated as real, live human beings with rights?

No, that just enshrines a plutocracy in this country.

Are we the greatest country because we take the best care of our people’s basic needs?

No, actually we don’t. We’re far down the list on health care and infant mortality and parental leave and sick leave and quality of life.

So what exactly are we talking about here?

To the extent that we’re a great (not the greatest, mind you: that’s a fool’s game) country, we’re less of a great country today.

Because those things that truly made us great—the system of checks and balances, the enshrinement of our individual rights and liberties—have all been systematically assaulted by Bush and Cheney.

From the Patriot Act to the Military Commissions Act to the new FISA Act, and all the signing statements in between, we are less great today.

From Abu Ghraib and Bagram Air Force Base and Guantanamo, we are less great today.

From National Security Presidential Directive 51 (giving the Executive responsibility for ensuring constitutional government in an emergency) to National Security Presidential Directive 59 (expanding the collection of our biometric data), we are less great today.

From the Joint Terrorism Task Forces to InfraGard and the Terrorist Liaison Officers, we are less great today.

Admit it. We don’t have a lot to brag about today.

It is time, it is long past time, to get over the American superiority complex.

It is time, it is long past time, to put patriotism back on the shelf—out of the reach of children and madmen.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

McCain's Temper is Catching Up With Him

Read this article about McCain grabbing a Nicaraguan official in 1987.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

From now on, Ralph Nader should introduce himself by saying "I am not a white man, I am Lebanese."

Tyranny Run Amuck In Zimbabwe

Robert Mugabe should definitely be relieved of his penis. Oh to get rid of patriarchy....