Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Gaza Relief Ship Damaged In 'Encounter' (If That's What Being Repeatedly Rammed Is Called Now) With Israeli Military Vessel - CNN.com
(CNN) -- An Israeli patrol boat struck a boat carrying medical volunteers and supplies to Gaza early Tuesday as it attempted to intercept the vessel in the Mediterranean Sea, witnesses and Israeli officials said.
CNN Correspondent Karl Penhaul was aboard the 60-foot, Gibraltar-registered pleasure boat Dignity when the contact occurred. When the boat later docked in the Lebanese port city of Tyre, severe damage was visible to the forward port side of the boat, and the front left window and part of the roof had collapsed.
The Dignity was carrying crew and 16 passengers -- physicians from Britain, Germany and Cyprus and human rights activists, including former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney -- who were trying to reach Gaza through an Israeli blockade of the territory.
The captain of the Dignity said the Israelis broadcast a radio message accusing the vessel of being involved in terrorist activity. But Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor denied that and said the radio message simply warned the vessel not to proceed to Gaza because it is a closed military area.
Palmor said there was no response to the radio message, and the vessel then tried to out-maneuver the Israeli patrol boat, leading to the collision.
Penhaul said at least two Israeli patrol boats had shadowed the Dignity for about half an hour before the collision, moving around the vessel on all sides. One of the patrol boats then shined its spotlight on the Dignity while the other, with its lights off, "very severely rammed" the boat.
The captain of the Dignity told Penhaul he received no prior warning. Only after the collision did the Israelis come on the radio to say they struck the boat because they believed it was involved in terrorist activities. VideoWatch the chaos in Gaza and Israel »
The captain and crew said their vessel was struck intentionally, Penhaul said, but Palmor called those allegations "absurd."
"There is no intention on the part of the Israeli navy to ram anybody," Palmor said.
"I would call it ramming. Let's just call it as it is," McKinney said. "Our boat was rammed three times, twice in the front and one on the side."
In Full @ CNN
Friday, December 19, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
December has been an interesting month for marijuana... The USSC invokes the Commerce Clause just ahead of a new pro-pot Commerce Secretary
December has been an interesting month for marijuana... First The U.S. Supreme Court's Gonzales v. Raich "Commerce Clause" Based Ruling Limiting States Rights, Then Came Obama's New Commerce Secretary Bill Richardson, Who Is Assuredly Pro-Legalization.
"Since 1965, America has arrested over 20 million Americans for violating marijuana laws," explains Armentano. "Penalties include probation and mandatory drug testing; loss of employment; loss of child custody; removal from subsidized housing; asset forfeiture; loss of student aid; loss of voting privileges; loss of adoption rights; and loss of certain federal welfare benefits, such as food stamps. In human terms, some 34,000 state inmates and an estimated 11,000 federal inmates are serving time behind bars for violating marijuana laws. In fiscal terms, this means U.S. taxpayers are spending more than $1 billion annually to imprison pot offenders."
Could Obama's Pro-Marijuana Commerce Secretary Spell a Golden Era for Pot Reform?
By Scott Thill, AlterNet
Posted on December 18, 2008
December has been an interesting month for marijuana, or cannabis as it is known to scientists and all too few others. To kick off the month, the U.S. Supreme Court decided against reviewing a California state appellate court ruling arguing that its medical marijuana law trumped federal law. That, in effect, set the stage for better implementation of medical-marijuana law in not just California, but every state that has one, while also reminding local police that the job of enforcing federal drug policy is, in fact, not its job.
Two days later, the oldest stash of cannabis ever found was unearthed from a 2,700-year-old grave in the Gobi desert, aptly reminding humankind and its ass-backwards politicians that pot has been around a lot longer than lobbyists. If the eye-candy archaeological slideshow didn't fully illustrate the value of such a stash, the scientists did.
"As with other grave goods, it was traditional to place items needed for the afterlife in the tomb with the departed," explained Ethan Russo, lead author of the Journal of Experimental Botany paper that announced the find.
But as readers pondered packing their own trusty pot for use in the afterlife, better news broke on the same day: President-elect Barack Obama nominated New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to his Cabinet as secretary of commerce. Given that Obama had already confessed to inhaling -- "that was the point," he classically cracked -- and once declared the hyperbolically named War on Drugs "an utter failure," adding that America needed to "rethink and decriminalize" American cannabis laws, Richardson's nomination to Commerce was cause for celebration. After all, Richardson signed a bill in 2007 making New Mexico the 12th state to legalize medical marijuana.
"So what if it's risky? It's the right thing to do," he said of his decision. "My God, let's be reasonable."
Reason is indeed what proponents of decriminalization have been crying for after four consecutive presidential terms derailed their hopes and maneuvers for legalized cannabis, medical and otherwise. But something has always stood in the way of that inevitability, and it has usually leaned quite heavily on the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause, which states that Congress has the right to regulate commerce between the United States and other nations, as well as between its own states. It remains the most widely interpreted clause in the Constitution and has been more abused than the American people's goodwill. In the landmark case Gonzales v. Raich, the U.S. Supreme Court, under the distracted leadership of Justice Antonin Scalia, sided with the Bush administration's argument that banning the homegrown cultivation and consumption of marijuana is a federal imperative, even when no cannabis changes hands or travels across state lines.
The lunacy of the ruling even threw rightward justices like Clarence Thomas, Jr. off their creaking rockers.
"Certainly no evidence from the founding suggests that 'commerce' included the mere possession of a good or some personal activity that did not involve trade or exchange for value. In the early days of the Republic, it would have been unthinkable that Congress could prohibit the local cultivation, possession and consumption of marijuana … Respondents Diane Monson and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana.
If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything -- and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers."
In Full @ Alternet
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Barack Obama: He's not really against the war. Not like you and I are. - William Blum, The Anti-Empire Report
Image courtesy of muzzlewump
The Anti-Empire Report
December 1st, 2008
by William Blum
Vote First. Ask Questions Later.
Okay, let's get the obvious out of the way. It was historic. I choked up a number of times, tears came to my eyes, even though I didn't vote for him. I voted for Ralph Nader for the fourth time in a row.
During the past eight years when I've listened to news programs on the radio each day I've made sure to be within a few feet of the radio so I could quickly change the station when that preposterous man or one of his disciples came on; I'm not a masochist, I suffer fools very poorly, and I get bored easily.
Sad to say, I'm already turning the radio off sometimes when Obama comes on. He doesn't say anything, or not enough, or not often enough. Platitudes, clichés, promises without substance, "hope and change", almost everything without sufficient substance, "change and hope", without specifics, designed not to offend. What exactly are the man's principles? He never questions the premises of the empire. Never questions the premises of the "War on Terror".
I'm glad he won for two reasons only: John McCain and Sarah Palin, and I deeply resent the fact that the American system forces me to squeeze out a drop of pleasure from something so far removed from my ideals. Obama's votes came at least as much from people desperate for relief from neo-conservative suffocation as from people who genuinely believed in him. It's a form of extortion – Vote for Obama or you get more of the same. Those are your only choices.
Is there reason to be happy that the insufferably religious George W. is soon to be history? "I believe that Christ died for my sins and I am redeemed through him. That is a source of strength and sustenance on a daily basis." That was said by someone named Barack Obama.1 The United States turns out religious fanatics like the Japanese turn out cars. Let's pray for an end to this.
As I've mentioned before, if you're one of those who would like to believe that Obama has to present center-right foreign policy views to be elected, but once he's in the White House we can forget that he misled us repeatedly and the true, progressive man of peace and international law and human rights will emerge ... keep in mind that as a US Senate candidate in 2004 he threatened missile strikes against Iran2, and winning that election apparently did not put him in touch with his inner peacenik. He's been threatening Iran ever since.
With his popularity Obama could get away with almost anything, but he'll probably continue to play it safe. Or what may be more precise, he'll continue to be himself; which, apparently, is a committed centrist. He's not really against the war. Not like you and I are.
During Obama's first four years in the White House, the United States will not leave Iraq. I doubt that he'd allow a complete withdrawal even in a second term. Has he ever unequivocally called the war illegal and immoral? A crime against humanity? Why is he so close to Colin Powell? Does he not know of Powell's despicable role in the war? And retaining George W Bush's Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, a man against whom it would not be difficult to draw up charges of war crimes?Will he also find a place for Rumsfeld? And Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, a supporter of the war, to run the Homeland Security department? And General James Jones, a former NATO commander (sic), who wants to "win" in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who backed John McCain, as his National Security Adviser? Jones is on the Board of Directors of the Boeing Corporation and Chevron Oil. Out of what dark corner of Obama's soul does all this come?
As Noam Chomsky recently pointed out, the election of an indigenous person (Evo Morales) in Bolivia and a progressive person (Jean-Bertrand Aristide) in Haiti were more historic than the election of Barack Obama.
He's not really against torture either.
Not like you and I are.
No one will be punished for using or ordering torture...
In full @ The Anti-Empire Report