Monday, November 15, 2010

100,000 people joined our campaign telling President Obama to "fight, don't cave" on tax cuts

Obama, are you kidding??

Since Thursday, over 100,000 people joined our campaign telling President Obama to "fight, don't cave" on tax cuts. The Washington Post, MSNBC, and others have covered our petition's progress.
But while the President was out of the country, his advisers did some "soul searching" about the election and came up with this brilliant insight, according to the Washington Post:
"They think he must forge partnerships with Republicans on key issues and make noticeable progress on his oft-repeated campaign pledge to change the ways of Washington." 
ARE YOU KIDDING??? Proposing compromise with the current cast of Republicans is like getting punched in the face repeatedly and then proposing that "both sides" stop punching each other in the face. 
Tell President Obama that Americans want him to START FIGHTING on issues like ending the Bush tax cuts for millionaires -- and Democrats will keep losing if he keeps caving. Sign the petition here.
Let's be clear: Republican leaders have zero interest in compromise. None. Zilch. Nada. "Bipartisanship" to them means Democrats vote for Republican ideas. Obama and his advisers need to understand that.
Even when the overwhelming majority of Americans supported the public option, not a single Republican leader said they'd consider voting for it. Instead, they called Obama a "socialist" for supporting the will of the people -- and Obama never fought back.
The American people don't want Obama to "compromise" just for the sake of compromising. And they certainly don't support cutting Social Security to pay for tax cuts for millionaires. 
When Obama is right and Republicans are wrong, Americans want their President to fight and win.
Join 100,000 others in telling President Obama to "fight, not cave" on ending the Bush tax cuts for millionaires. Click here.
The AFL-CIO and Democracy for America have joined us in calling for one vote on tax cuts -- for the middle class, not the rich -- and DARING Republicans to vote no.
Working together, we'll push Democratic leaders until they finally fight for "change we can believe in."

-- Adam Green, Stephanie Taylor, Forrest Brown, Michael Snook, and the PCCC team

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Czech List: Sometimes Even A Conference Can Teach Vivid Political Realities

By Barry Rubin*
August 25, 2010

I'm not a big fan of conferences. There's nothing more repetitive than sitting in a panel where the presentations have interesting titles but are otherwise disappointing. Or listening to a speaker who may be very good but says absolutely nothing you don't know already. 

But sometimes you have fascinating experiences which are not exactly on the agenda. Here are three from a conference I attended in Prague a few years ago, each of which contains its own lessons. Incidentally, nothing about the below was off the record, though the names and some details have been omitted since this is about points, not personalities.

1. The German parliamentarian was well-dressed, angry, and red in the face. He raised his voice in righteous indignation. Why, he complained, were there a number of Israelis at the meeting but no Palestinians. Obviously he thought that he had caught the Czech hosts in some politically incorrect indiscretion. 

After he finished his somewhat insulting remarks and sat down, one of the Czechs stood up and explained very politely that plenty of Palestinians had been invited; all expenses paid, and had accepted but had simply not shown up. That's something I've seen plenty of times.

A Lesson: Why get rewarded for deciding not to succeed? Hamas refuses to act peacefully, and then is rewarded for having committed aggression and been soundly defeated as a result (2008-2009). Same applies for Hizballah (2006). The Palestinian Authority refuses to make peace and then is rewarded for alleged suffering under an occupation it has the power to end when it so wishes.

Recently, a reader made a startling suggestion to me that I think is a brilliant insight. In this day when not only equal opportunity but equal results is supposedly supposed (yes, that double use is deliberate) guaranteed, Israel is being "unfair" at doing so well socially and economically. 

In past decades, the failure of a nation to achieve democracy or prosperity would have been attributed to its own choices. That's a good thing because its people can then realize their mistakes, realize them, and succeed. Today, however, failure is often attributed to being a victim of racism, imperialism, and pure meanness.

Woody Allen allegedly said (it isn't clear that he did) that 99 percent of life is showing up. Yes, indeed. Showing up and performing well. But in the counter-Calvinism of our time, material achievement is a proof of damnation. 

The development theory of the 1950s and 1960s focused on how a country could achieve take-off to progress and prosperity. It is a model followed nowadays by China, South Korea, and some others.

The currently dominant view, at least in intellectual circles and among fashionable dictators and terrorists is the idea that underdevelopment is not a result of history, culture, society, and bad choices but of imperialist exploitation.  Instead of reforming yourself, the object is to wage war and other struggle to get the West to hand over the loot. This leads to violence, social intransigence, political stagnation, and failure. But at least it is a popular, rationalized failure.

2. The pompous American intellectual made a stirring speech about how great things were going in Afghanistan, a country he obviously knew nothing about. He was playing those Washington and academic games in which the lives of distant people are toyed with on the basis of book learning and theories. The fact that this particular fool happened to be conservative didn't change anything in the usual pattern.

My Afghan friend, who had been analyzing his own country for years and seen, as he put it, half his family murdered by the Communists and the other half murdered by the Islamists, could take no more. He stood up and countered with facts and details. His talk was a devastating response. The police in Kabul wouldn't leave their barracks to deal with violence. The war lords were out of control. Despite official optimism, Afghanistan was still Afghanistan and American plans were just illusions. 

A lesson: One would have thought that the arrogant fool would have been forever silenced by the graphic demonstration that he knew nothing and was speaking nonsense. Of course, such people are never influenced by that kind of humiliation. I've heard and read him since saying similar things. These "masters of the universe," to use Tom Wolfe's phrase-historically on the right but nowadays much more common on the left-think about their egos and careers, not the lives being affected by their prattling.

Nevertheless, the experience provided a stirring example of the difference between the real and fantasy worlds, between those who know and those who blow hot air, between those who merely articulate their ideological desires and those who have the courage to speak the truth.

I'm cynical enough to ask: Guess who gets the bigger honors and rewards? But not so pessimistic or craven to stop trying to do what's right. 

3. Its one thing to be a pacifist but quite another to talk like a pacifist while being a high-ranking official at the French Defense Ministry. The well-dressed, debonair, and relatively young man was explaining how nothing was worth fighting for, how conflict had to be avoided at virtually any cost. Naturally, he would object to my summary but it is nonetheless accurate.

I have a friend, though, who loves being provocative in a funny way. In personal life, he is a sweet and considerate person but he loves to play the role of the nasty, arrogant hardliner. You could see in his glittering eyes and slight smile that he saw a big fat target of opportunity.

And so as the French bureaucrat proclaimed that no one should go to war without prior approval of the UN, my friend stood up and pointed out that France had intervened dozens of times in Africa-overthrown governments, put down revolts, backed up oppressive regimes-without any reference to the UN whatsoever.

Up on stage, the French guy was livid, totally losing his temper, rose menacingly, and as I remember it threatened to punch out my friend. The spiritual man of peace had instantly turned into macho man cruising for a bruising. I think someone physically restrained him.

A lesson: When others advise that you have no right of self-defense, are using excessive force, and similar such stuff, note how ferocious they become and totally indifferent to moral or legal considerations when their interests are at stake.

*Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go to You can read and subscribe to his blog at

Sunday, August 08, 2010

The False Issue of "Race" in the Arab-Israeli Conflict

August 8, 2010

As the waitress whose family had come from Ethiopia put the pizza on the table at the Tel Aviv restaurant, I contemplated the ridiculous misuse of "race" as a factor in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Regardless of skin color, we belong not only to the same country by way of citizenship but also to the same nation and people in a very profound way that isn't true for countries that are merely geographical entities. 

Among the scores of ridiculous things said, thought, and written about the Arab-Israeli conflict, the pretense that it has something to do with "race" ranks high among them. This has been interjected for two reasons. First, this is a blatant attempt to demonize and delegitimize Israel.

Second, as part of that point but also due to trends in Western intellectual discussions, there is a conflation of nationality and race. Often, there is an attempt nowadays to portray any form of nationalism in the West as racist, though this is never applied to Third World nationalists situations. Neither the internal conflicts in Iraq (among Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds) nor in Lebanon (among numerous groups) are about race but rather arise from national, ethnic, and religious (sometimes all rolled up into one) conflicts.

One of the most basic lessons in looking at foreign or international affairs is to understand that countries just don't think alike about issues. America, and in a different way Europe, has been obsessed with race. That doesn't mean everyone else is racially oriented. Israelis don't think about skin color as such and are well aware that Jews, while having a common ancestry, have been affected by many cultures and societies.

With intermarriage rates between Jews whose ancestors came from Europe and those who came from the Middle East approaching half in Israel today, there is no way to classify people. In fact, Israelis are far less interested than other countries about people's ancestral travels.

Moreover, what does one say about such "darker-skinned" Israelis as my Hungarian-Yemenite colleague or my Syrian-origin pianist neighbor (whose wife is from Poland by way of Argentina? There is absolutely no issue involved here. And many Israelis of European origin are not exactly "white" in their appearance.

Indeed, Israel has more "blacks" among its Jews (from Ethiopia) than do the Palestinians by far. Israeli media never use racial stereotypes or epithets while Arab and Palestinian media have had numerous racist remarks and cartoons about such American leaders as Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, and now even Barack Obama. In a recent radio interview one of the leaders of the Islamist movement in Israel, in other words from the Arab minority here, said that it was a disgrace that a black Israeli soldier could ask for the identity document of an Arab Muslim. Yet such racism from the Arab/Palestinian side is ignored in the Western media.

While there have been some incidents in reaction to the arrival of Jews from Ethiopia, these have been few and universally rejected. Moreover, Israel has given refuge to the American "Black Hebrew" movement when it easily could have deported them.

It is officially estimated that at least 19 asylum seekers have been shot dead by Egyptian forces in Sinai. To my knowledge no one in this category has ever been injured in Israel.

I have had friends, mostly Filipinos, who were illegal workers (they overstayed work permits) deported from Israel and they simply accepted it and were soon working in another country. None of them bears any grudge against Israel, quite the contrary they could serve as citizen ambassadors on its behalf. None of them ever reported a single case of "racial" mistreatment and I don't believe there has ever been--and workers' advocacy groups have never reported--a racial assault or even insult on any foreign worker in Israel. The problem, of course, is that there is at times terrible economic exploitation by unscrupulous employers, which is in no way atypical in the world today.

The Israel-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflicts are in no way "racial." National identity is something quite different from "race" generally. Israelis and Arabs are not easily distinguished by skin color, though of course there are exceptions.I was in an Israeli government agency meeting a high-ranking official whose skin shade was darker than that of Barack Obama. This was only something I noted because I was planning to write the article you are reading now.

I arrived at the meeting mentioned above by taking a cab from my neighborhood taxi stand. I gave the address and the driver went back to speaking on his mobile phone in Arabic, which is the only reason I realized he was an Israeli Arab. I couldn't tell just by looking at him.

The attempt by anti-Israel slanderers to inject a racial aspect is ludicrously nonsensical. If you have ever travelled in Syria you would find that the average skin color of people there is lighter than that of Israelis on average. Generally speaking, there is less variation in "racial terms" between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs than there is among member states of the European Union.

It just doesn't apply to conditions here. ‎'While Palestinian Arabs are on average a shade or two darker than Israelis you can find wider variations within the EU member states.

But if you can label someone as a "racist" because they are engaged in a conflict with another nation or group automatically "proves" they are in the wrong. If the conflict is a national one, however, you actually have to think about it. Who's right in the following conflicts: Irish Catholics or Protestants; Basques or Spain; Bosnians or Serbs; Russians or Chechens, Somalis or Ethiopians; Iraqi Sunni, Shia, or Kurds; India or Pakistan; Azerbaijan or Armenia, and so on?
The answer cannot be deduced automatically. But label one side as racist and the discussion is over. This, then, is a trick for deceiving, not a tool for understanding.
The ridiculousness of attempts to transfer American or European situations to Israel was embodied in an American student asking an Israeli professor how many blacks were on his university's basketball team. Actually, there are many on the professional teams but they are all, of course, from the United States, though I believe one or two had converted and remained in Israel. 

I don't think there's any question of the fact that there is far far more racism in Europe or in the Arabic-speaking world than in Israel--and that's an understatement. 
*Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go to You can read and subscribe to his blog at

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Why Afghanistan is a lost cause

More money leaves the country for private bank accounts each year than the government collects in taxes and fees, the Wall Street Journal reported

By Joel Brinkley

As Gen. David Petraeus assumed his new command in Afghanistan earlier this month, he took up a strategy that has already failed - though not for the reasons most people assume.

Certainly, as most everyone knows, the battle plan appears hopeless. Every night in Marjah, Taliban killers post "night letters" in mosques and other public places, warning city residents they will be killed if they cooperate with the Americans. The next day, quite often, they follow through on their threats.

At least 26 of every 100 children born in Afghanistan die before they reach the age of 5. UNICEF says that's the worst child-mortality rate in the world. Of those who survive, almost 60 percent suffer from moderate to severe stunting - also the world's highest rate. Stunting results from sickness or malnutrition during infancy, and it's irreversible. The children grow up to be small and not very smart.
It makes sense, then, that fewer than one-third of Afghan adults can read and write. On average, they earn about $250 a year and die before they reach age 45 - also among the lowest figures in the world. Finally, they are served by a government that is practically the most corrupt on the planet. Transparency International rates only one country, Somalia, as worse.

Tribune Media Services Inc., Jul. 11, 2010

American and NATO troops "liberated" Marjah in February, hoping it would become a showplace, and now occupation forces number one for every eight city residents. Still, more people are dying in gunbattles on the city's streets right now than during the operation in February. Local officials are afraid to travel by car to the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah. They take a helicopter instead, even when the drive would take only 20 minutes.

Before he was fired last month, Gen. Stanley McChrystal called Marjah a "bleeding ulcer." All of that is part of a noxious stew of problems on the battlefield. Still, in 2005 and 2006, the war in Iraq looked equally hopeless. Since then, however, the situation there has improved significantly.

But a larger problem afflicts the effort in Afghanistan, one that coalition forces are virtually powerless to address. That is the population's blighted state of affairs. Consider a few statistics that limn the people's lives.

At least 26 of every 100 children born in Afghanistan die before they reach the age of 5. UNICEF says that's the worst child-mortality rate in the world. Of those who survive, almost 60 percent suffer from moderate to severe stunting - also the world's highest rate. Stunting results from sickness or malnutrition during infancy, and it's irreversible. The children grow up to be small and not very smart.

It makes sense, then, that fewer than one-third of Afghan adults can read and write. On average, they earn about $250 a year and die before they reach age 45 - also among the lowest figures in the world. Finally, they are served by a government that is practically the most corrupt on the planet. Transparency International rates only one country, Somalia, as worse.

The cornerstone of the coalition's counterinsurgency strategy calls for the Afghan government to step up and provide stronger government institutions and public services. Afghans must begin to regard President Hamid Karzai's administration as an efficient, helpful alternative to the Taliban. The government must also provide security nationwide once the Americans leave.

But consider what the dark social statistics mean for that plan. An estimated 90 percent of the new recruits for the Afghan army are illiterate. You don't have to read to shoot a rifle, but you do need to be able to read the rifle's instruction manual.

The Afghan police are no better educated, but that's not the most serious problem. Across the country, police set up impromptu checkpoints along the road. They stop cars and demand a payment for permission to pass. These are the lawmen who are going to protect the people after the Americans leave? As it is, most won't investigate a crime unless the victim pays a bribe.

What is the Afghan government doing to remedy these pernicious problems? It is sending suitcases full of cash, at least $1 billion a year in bribe proceeds and purloined foreign aid, out of the country to private accounts in Dubai or other banking capitals. That's not a secret; the shipments are declared as they pass through Kabul's airport. The money has been laundered through hawalas, private money-transfer businesses, and the government gives this practice its blessing.

"Taking money out of the country is fine," Karzai said during a news conference last month. "The relatives of government officials can do this," even "my brothers," who are generally regarded as the nation's most avaricious thieves.

More money leaves the country for private bank accounts each year than the government collects in taxes and fees, the Wall Street Journal reported. When pressed, Karzai did allow that "there's a possibility of corruption." The United States is well aware of the problem. Congress is demanding investigations; the military is chartering audits and inquiries.

But that leaves the United States in an impossible position. To win the war in Afghanistan, the United States must turn a nation that stands as a model of bald-faced thievery into a clean, honest institution that cares for its people, now the most neglected in the world.

It can't be done.

Joel Brinkley, a professor of journalism at Stanford University, is a former Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for the New York Times. To comment, e-mail Contact us via our online form at

Category: Taliban, US-NATO, HR Violations, Poverty, Corruption - Views: 102

PM Netanyahu's remarks at the start of today's Cabinet meeting

Shalom, everyone.
These are Bibi's remarks about his visit to the U.S., also known as Prison Nation

11 Jul 2010
PM Netanyahu reported to the Cabinet on his visit to the United States.

Israel Cabinet meeting (Reuters archive photo)
(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)

Following are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks at the start of
the Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 11 July 2010:

"Last week I held a series of meetings in New York and Washington, first of
all with US President Barack Obama. I also met with senior American
administration officials, media figures and Jewish community leaders.

The alliance between Israel and the US is stable and strong. It has the
support of the American administration and people. My visit to the US last
week gave tangible expression to strength and durability of this unbreakable
bond. In my meeting with the US President, we had a comprehensive and
excellent discussion in which we covered a broad range of issues.

The first issue that came up was advancing the peace process between us and
the Palestinian Authority. I reiterated to the President Israel's desire to
proceed immediately to direct negotiations with the PA, with the goal being
to advance the diplomatic process and try to reach a peace agreement. The
condition for achieving this agreement is scrupulously maintaining the
security of the country and its citizens. I gained the impression that the
American side as well there is the recognition that we must proceed to
direct talks in order to advance the peace process. I gained the impression
that the President is also attentive to the State of Israel's special
security needs. On these issues we are working in concert. We hope that the
PA will accede to the call to begin direct talks at soon as possible.

The second issue that arose in my conversation with President Obama was the
danger of Iran achieving nuclear weapons and thereby threatening not only
Israel, the Middle East and the peace therein but the entire world as well.
I very much appreciate the Us President's statement that he is determined to
prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons. I expressed my appreciation
that he brought a decision on sanctions to the UN Security Council and that
he signed into law aggressive US sanctions several days ago. I expressed
both my hope that other countries will join in these aggressive sanctions
and my assessment that if Iran indeed achieves nuclear weapons, there will
be no effective containment policy against it. Therefore, everything must be
done so that Iran does not achieve nuclear weapons.

The third issue that arose in our talks was the nuclear disarmament
conference. President Obama and the White House reiterated the American
commitment to important strategic understandings with the State of Israel in
this area. The President made it clear that American policy on these
strategic issues has not changed and that the US understands - as the
President put it - that due to the size of the threats against it and given
our history, the State of Israel is in a special situation.

The fourth issue that came up in our conversation was Gilad Shalit. I asked
the President to use his full strength and influence to help us in achieving
Gilad's release after four years of captivity, in which he was been denied
any Red Cross visits - another war crime being perpetrated by Hamas.
Immediately upon my return to Israel, my wife and I met with Aviva and Noam
Shalit. I updated them on my talks on Gilad's release and the efforts to
bring this about.

These and other issues also came up in my meeting with US Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. I also spoke with
them about the diplomatic process and Israel's security needs, and our plans
to strengthen ourselves in the face of the possible plans of others in the

I also met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and, as I have said, with
senior figures in the American media, including the editors of The New York
Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, as well as other
networks and analysts. I also participated in a very warm meeting organized
by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

In all of my meetings, I found understanding and support for Israel as a
whole, understanding that Israel must be supported at this special time
against the attacks - including physical and political - that we have
withstood in recent months. I found broad support for our decision to lift
the civilian blockade on Gaza while strictly maintaining the security
blockade, and the understanding that we are doing what must be done in order
to prevent the entry into Gaza of weapons, missiles and rockets, out of
concern for the security of Israel's citizens.

On Tuesday, I will meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo. This
will be our fifth meeting in one year. I hope to work with him in advancing
the direct talks with the Palestinian Authority."

Monday, May 17, 2010


The old man stood on his porch on a tree lined street in a town in Arizona and madly fired off a round from the 30.6 rifle he cradled in his arms.
Within minutes, South Tucson and Tucson Police surrounded his little white stucco house,
and believing that a group of snipers was inside, filled the house, and the old black man, with a number of high impact projectiles.
During the "battle" two Policemen, Sargents, Andy Garcia and Roy Garcia were hit by stray bullets.
Andy's wound caused an ugly scar, he was transported by ambulance to Tucson Medical Center.
Sargent Roy Garcia of the South Tucson PD., was hit in the spine, and paralyzed from the neck down.
The old man now lay on his back, cold and stiff on the pavement in front of his lawn, killed in the opening salvos of gunfire.
Al quesada and I were manning the Paramedic unit that night and were asked to verify the man's death.
"He's about as dead as he could be." Al remarked drily, after a brief visual exam.
"Poor son of a bitch," I muttered.
One of the cops looked down through veiled eyes, hand resting comfortably on the blue steel revolver on his hip, "Call a Meds unit for this worthless, former, piece of shit, fellas, let's go home."
I'd been with the Dept for almost 20 years, I'd experienced a lot of death and disaster, but this particular scene left a very bad taste in my mouth.
Chief Roquillo had watched the entire scene unfolding, his dark, handsome face impassive throughout.
After the ambulance removed the body his eyes were moist, "Christ, what a waste of human life." he said.
He looked at the Paramedic Unit, then at Al and I.
"Take it back to the corral, Men." He said.
Al backed the vehicle out of the driveway, pointed the wheels to the north, and gunned the engine.
Some of the crowd that had gathered looked in our direction.
I heard someone say, "Look at all the blood!" as he pointed towards the sidewalk.
We drove slowly back to the Station in the light of a full moon, the black asphalt street wet and reflective from rain.
A barefoot Mexican kid trotted paralell to our rig, splashing up glassy puddles as he ran, shouting and waving, "HEY Rescue! Hey Al, Hey Mike!"
Al clicked on the siren for a second as he waved at the urchin, who beamed back gratefully, his shiny, black hair streaming rain drops.
We'd been running calls all night.
A cold film of sweat covered my face, my uniform was blood-streaked and damp.
Al pulled the truck to the curb, an ancient, black crone laid on the sidewalk, struggling to rise.
Her white hair was in disarray as she lay propped on one skinny arm.
Al walked over to her and spoke gently, "Are you alright, Grandmother?"
I felt like I was in a dream.
From a small adobe hut in the blackness across the street, mariachi music brassily poured out into the night, mixed with muffled yelps and cries.
The old lady snarled, "Get away, leave me alone or I call the police!"
Next to the house emitting the strange sounds was an old market, made useless by a recent fire.
The rain brought out the smell of burned and blackened timbers, a sickly, smokey, dead odor.
The crone rose unsteadily, desperately clutching a wet paper bag which threatened to dissolve, exposing the green wine bottle within.
Al looked bemused as he returned to the rig and drove on.
He was the kind of Fireman that was moved by death and exposure to the daily grind of existence for so many of the poor in this little barrio in Arizona.
Thunder exploded in the distance, my window was down, the rain drenched my face, it felt good.
Al turned the corner and we approached the Station.
A small, foamy, brown river churned in front of the driveway as we backed in.
Al shut down the engine and I snapped off the radios as he climbed from the rig.
"Let's have some coffee, Mike," he suggested softly.
He walked around the shiny, red unit, opened my door lightly and rested a hand on my shoulder, "Come on, Partner."
I rubbed my eyes wearily, I felt old.
"Go ahead, Al, I'll be right in."
I couldn't get the eyes of the dead, old man out of my thoughts.
As I'd kneeled over him and looked into his staring, sightless eyes, I'd felt something, something that I couldn't verbalize.
I wiped my face with the back of my hand.
I was sweating profusely, techincally, I was diaphoretic.
I gazed through the windshield at the stall door, my thoughts drifting.

"Mike, wake up! Wake up! We have a call!"
I had dozed off in the cab, still belted in.
"I'm awake, Al." I groaned.
"Are you alright, Mike?" He looked concerned.
I shook my head, drops of perspiration flew from my face, "I'm fine, Al, let's roll."
I grabbed the Meds Radio microphone, "What have we got?"
I looked over at Al as he shifted the vehicle and rolled out into the still rainy night, "Structure fire, " he answered, "Wood Bros Hardware."
I keyed the mike, "Meds, this is Rescue four zero, we're out of service responding to a structure fire at 2229 east two ninth street."
"Check, rescue four zero, let us know when you're back."
"Ten four, Meds control" I replaced the mic and looked in the direction we were headed.
Even in the rain and grey, overcast sky , thick black clouds of smoke were visible.
"We're going to earn our pay tonight, Al." I commented, drily.
Al nodded.
Adrenalin was flooding my system, and I began focusing on what I'd be doing next.
Over the years I'd developed some techniques for dealing with fireground situations, most of the techniques involved ways of physically controlling the results of stress that assaulted the body and mind, while working inside of a building that has become a blazing inferno.
Within a few minutes I would be, once again, putting those techniques to the ultimate test.

Thick, black, smoke billowed in the distance, tinged with orange.
A steady stream of conversation and messages crackled over the Motorola radios, STPD, TPD, and both cities fire depts responding to what was obviously a large structure fire.

Adrenalin flowed as we pulled into Wood Bros Hardware parking lot.
Fire trucks were rolling up, gears grinding and billows of diesel smoke churning out behind them.

Hoses were being strung out and water cannon were being played onto the sections of the building where the fire had broken through. We drove to the Chief's car and I spoke to Ronquillo. “Chief, what's the situation?”

He looked immaculate in his white shirt and cap, “There's civilians on the roof,.... Al, you set up a first aid station, Mike you go with Frank Quiroz and get the civilians down.”
“Check, Chief.” I answered.
“Mate”, he jokingly responded.
Quiroz was standing a 32 foot ladder up the building's
side, I grabbed a turnout coat, helmet and pants from engine one and slung a battered looking yellow air pack on my back and followed Frank onto the roof..

It was a scene from hell.
Huge fireballs exploded from the roof fifty feet in front of us.
I looked into the flames and saw what looked like funnels of fire which sucked the oxygen from the air around us.

We ushered the two civilians onto the ladder, and as the last one clambered over the side of the building he yelled, “Don't fall through!” I looked back towards Frank and saw his yellow helmet level with the roof, then disappear in a puff of smoke.
I thought, “Shit, Frank lost his helmet.” Then it hit me, “Frank fell into the building!”
I realized that the roof felt spongy, a distinct feeling, a warning, remembered from recruit training, about the way a roof feels just before it collapses.
I ran towards the wall and “Crack!” felt my foot go through.
As if to defy terrible gravity I willed myself upwards, threw my other foot forward and felt it rush threw a new opening in the roof, as superheated air rushed out.

Like a cartoon character I ran through the air and with a gasp fell into the inferno below me, my hands dragging at the collapsing roof now above me, madly clawing at the wall as I plunged downwards.

As I fell I saw intense orange flame everywhere, I felt my flesh beginning to cook inside my fire suit.
Sometimes in life time slows down, as it was doing now.
I could feel hot embers in my mouth and then the orange flame changed to total blackness as I landed with a thud on the concrete floor of the building.
The heat was intense, I thought, “I'm blind, my eyes have been burned out!”
The pain was becoming intense, I thought, “Death should come quick. Or... maybe I'm already dead! Maybe I'm in Hell!”

Then I heard a scream. It was Frank.
I looked in the direction of the scream and saw a pinpoint of light in the distance, a window.
I struggled to my feet and ran, explosive sounds and wave of heat following me as I sprinted across the cement floor to the window.

Engineer Garcia was leaning into the window, hands stretched out as I grabbed his wrists and he pulled me into the  daylight.
Within minutes I was in the back of an ambulance, with Frank Quiroz, and being administered morphine.
I reached up to my face, it felt hard and deformed.
The pain in my body changed to numbness as my mind began drifting and my senses succumbed to the narcotic.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Republican party, the easy way out.

The world is in trouble, economies are suffering, wars are raging, people are starving and dying.
The Republican  party has  found the easy  way out.
Once you decide that homeless people are homeless  because “they choose that lifestyle,”
as Reagan declared, once you decide that, “America is the greatest country in the world, and we have the right
 to do as we please”  globally, and that selfishness is a virtue, you are ready to become a Republican.
You may be a Christian, how do you square that with Republican  policies?
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
The Christian Messiah reportedly said, “The poor will always be with you.”
One could  use this as justification for refusing to help others.
After all, you don’t want to make a liar out of Jesus, do you?

Speaking of lying, this is the new Republican strategy.
Just lie.
They said that Obama is a communist.
A facist.
A socialist.
They said that Health care for all Americans meant “death panels.”

My point?
Vote the bums out.

Monday, April 19, 2010

U.S. Preparing Plans to Destroy Iran's Nukes

CNN and other sources are reporting that President Obama has ordered the military and intelligence agencies to update contingency planning for a military option against Iran, should their leaders continue to refuse cooperation with world leaders calling on them to allow inspections and cease development of Nuclear Weapons.

The effort has been underway for several weeks and comes as there is growing concern across the administration's national security team that the president needs fresh options ready for his approval if he were to decide on a military strike, according to the official who is familiar with the effort.

Meanwhile, like Saddam Hussein, before his denoument, Ahmadinejad  is blustering and threatening
civilized nations ""Iran's army is so mighty today that no enemy can have a foul thought of invading Iran's territory," the Iranian leader said in a speech, according to state media.

There have been growing signs of Iranian efforts to militarily protect their nuclear sites. The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency notes that last year Iran established a separate air defense force, with the stated intention of defending nuclear sites with missiles and air defense radars. 

Friday, April 16, 2010

Wall Street Reform, A Message From the President

My Fellow Americans,
It has now been well over a year since the near collapse of our entire financial system that cost the nation more than 8 million jobs. To this day, hard-working families struggle to make ends meet.

We've made strides -- businesses are starting to hire, Americans are finding jobs, and neighbors who had given up looking are returning to the job market with new hope. But the flaws in our financial system that led to this crisis remain unresolved.

Wall Street titans still recklessly speculate with borrowed money. Big banks and credit card companies stack the deck to earn millions while far too many middle-class families, who have done everything right, can barely pay their bills or save for a better future.

We cannot delay action any longer. It is time to hold the big banks accountable to the people they serve, establish the strongest consumer protections in our nation's history -- and ensure that taxpayers will never again be forced to bail out big banks because they are "too big to fail."

That is what Wall Street reform will achieve, why I am so committed to making it happen, and why I'm asking for your help today.

Please stand with me to show your support for Wall Street reform.

We know that without enforceable, commonsense rules to check abuse and protect families, markets are not truly free. Wall Street reform will foster a strong and vibrant financial sector so that businesses can get loans; families can afford mortgages; entrepreneurs can find the capital to start a new company, sell a new product, or offer a new service.

Consumer financial protections are currently spread across seven different government agencies. Wall Street reform will create one single Consumer Financial Protection Agency -- tasked with preventing predatory practices and making sure you get the clear information, not fine print, needed to avoid ballooning mortgage payments or credit card rate hikes.

Reform will provide crucial new oversight, give shareholders a say on salaries and bonuses, and create new tools to break up failing financial firms so that taxpayers aren't forced into another unfair bailout. And reform will keep our economy secure by ensuring that no single firm can bring down the whole financial system.

With so much at stake, it is not surprising that allies of the big banks and Wall Street lenders have already launched a multi-million-dollar ad campaign to fight these changes. Arm-twisting lobbyists are already storming Capitol Hill, seeking to undermine the strong bipartisan foundation of reform with loopholes and exemptions for the most egregious abusers of consumers.

I won't accept anything short of the full protection that our citizens deserve and our economy needs. It's a fight worth having, and it is a fight we can win -- if we stand up and speak out together.

So I'm asking you to join me, starting today, by adding your name as a strong supporter of Wall Street reform:

Thank you,

President Barack Obama

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Nancy Grace, Judge, Jury, Executioner

The body of a child was found in a duffel bag, Correy Byrd, the boyfriend of the mother, was babysitting the child when he disappeared.
On tonight's show, talking about the mother, the word as spoken by Grace “mother” was dripping with sarcasm, and if the audience didn’t catch it, Grace said, and “And I use the term ‘Mother” very loosely in this case.”
The mother works all day at low wages. As a reporter commented, “I have been to her house, she is a good mother.”
This sent Grace into an angry tirade against the mother for dating a man with a criminal record.
This is typical of Grace.
A case is unfolding, and it does appear that the boyfriend had some involvement in the child’s death.
The mother is understandably distraught, she is poor, and black, and she obviously is in deep pain.
That is not enough for Grace however, Grace feels the need to completely smear and assassinate the mother’s character.
Nancy Grace once drove a young, female suspect in a child’s disappearance to commit suicide.
She is currently being sued for wrongul death as a result of her reprehensible actions. 
The mother in this case is a victim.
But to Grace she is evil incarnate.
To me, Nancy Grace is evil incarnate.
If you are interested in doing anything to remove this vicious person from TV, here is a great web site that might help:

Friday, March 12, 2010

Euopean Union Condemns Hamas, Demands Release of Gilad Shalit

In an unprecedented move, the European Parliament on Thursday passed by majority vote a call for the immediate release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit.

Members of parliament from across the political spectrum signed on to a letter to European Union foreign policy chief Lady Catherine Ashton ahead of her visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories next week.

The letter demands that Shalit, who also holds French citizenship, be released and voices protest against the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip.
Noam Shalit, the father of the abducted soldier, called the letter sharp and clear and said he hoped that it would encourage the Israeli government to work toward his son's release and the Hamas government to submit its response to Israel's offer at once.

The elder Shalit met Wednesday in Strasbourg, France, with European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek and updated him on the stalled negotiations with Hamas on a potential prisoner exchange. Hamas has not responded to Israel's most recent proposal.

Shalit  urged for the EU resolution to call for the immediate release of his son and to demand that he be treated according to the Geneva Convention.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Good news for the poor and minorities, Sheriff Joe Arpaio under investigation for corruption

Reporting from Denver - A federal grand jury is investigating Joe Arpaio, the Arizona sheriff known for his brutal stance on illegal immigration, for possible abuses of power in launching investigations of local officials who disagree with him, authorities said Friday.

Two Maricopa County officials have been subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury to testify about Arpaio's actions against county officials since they moved to cut his budget in late 2008.

Since then Arpaio and County Atty. Andrew Thomas, an ally, have filed criminal charges against two county supervisors, have said dozens of other county workers are under investigation and have filed a federal racketeering lawsuit accusing the entire county political structure of conspiring against them.

The investigation of Arpaio has been rumored for months, but the statements from County Manager David Smith and Deputy County Manager Sandi Wilson confirming the subpoenas, issued Thursday, are the first official confirmation.

The FBI and U.S. attorney's office in Phoenix declined to comment on the investigation. Arpaio's office did not return a call for comment.

In an interview Friday, Wilson, the county's budget chief, said a prosecutor from the U.S. attorney's office met with her and Smith this week. "They told us that they were looking at abuses by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his office, abuses of power," she said.

Wilson said she was not asked about the sheriff's controversial immigration policies. Arpaio uses his deputies to enforce federal immigration law and is known for sending hundreds of officers into heavily Latino neighborhoods to ask anyone who commits violations as minor as jaywalking about their immigration status.

Among the officials targeted by Arpaio and Thomas has been Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, the lone Democrat on the board, for possible conflict of interest.

Wilson, whom Arpaio has named as part of a possible criminal conspiracy, said it was a relief that the federal government had looked into complaints from a wide array of Arizona officials about the sheriff's behavior.

"My children are adopted from other countries, and I used to feel good about having brought them here, but now I'm not sure," she said. "It doesn't feel like America here in Maricopa County. You have no idea what it's like to know you could be arrested for just doing your job."

n icholas.riccardi@latimes.comCopyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times