Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Work For Peace

I was listening recently to "Work For Peace" by Gil Scott-Heron. This 1994 release of the 1970's "proto-rapper" is profoundly prophetic as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to dog us. Furthermore, the military-industrial complex and our government's funding priorities are even worse than when Mr. Heron sang about them.
The Military and the Monetary,
get together whenever they think its necessary,
They turn our brothers and sisters into mercenaries,
they are turning the planet into a cemetery.

The Class of 2000 at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute might remember when I performed his "Revolution will not be televised" at senior farewell. Though the sound on the mic was too low, people said they never saw an audience in that auditorium so quietly listening to the words of the speaker. Afterwards I remember that my old English teacher Ms. Bowie congratulated me on the performance saying something to the effect "That was my joint back in college."

I cannot help thinking that I should have performed "Work for Peace" instead. While less belligerently militant and exciting, the message is equally revolutionary and contains a much sharper analysis. I could have broken up some of the more boring parts of the hook by letting Justin have more time to play on the turn tables with some Gil Scott-Heron and Common records.

I tried to channel that 2000 performance at Poly again on March 5th 2003 when I performed the poem without a microphone to gather a crowd for the "Student Strike" antiwar protest at University of Maryland, College Park.

Perhaps this hindsight of my own reflects a growth or maturation, much like the artist's (Gil Scott-Heron) own growth from 1970 to 1994. The revolutionary fire that motivated him threatened to overcome him, but his experiences opened up a path to liberation that he may not have considered revolutionary 20 years before.

As Scott-Heron points out,
If everyone believed in Peace the way they say they do,
we'd have Peace.
The only thing wrong with Peace,
is that you can't make no money from it.

I wanted to incite people when I performed "Revolution," but where does incitement lead us without wisdom to put that energy to work? Where are we gonna be 20 years from now? Are we going to be "working for peace" like all of those people out there "working for war." How do we incite our neighbors to become dedicated to work for peace, justice and community?
Nobody can do everything,
but everybody can do something,
everyone must play a part,
everyone got to go to work, Work for Peace.
Spirit Say Work, Work for Peace
If you believe the things you say, go to work.
If you believe in Peace, time to go to work.
Cant be wavin your head no more, go to work.

HR 4437: Passing the Buck on National Security

On February 10, 2006, a van carrying 28 undocumented immigrants hit a
spike strip laid by the US Border Patrol on Rt. 905 in San Diego. The
spike strip flattened at least one tire while the van was traveling at
"close to freeway speed," causing it to jump a guardrail and careen
down an embankment, ejecting and scattering passengers in a scene that
San Diego Fire-Rescue's spokesman likened to "a mini war zone."
Twenty-one passengers were injured, eight seriously. And this wasn't
the first time. According to the The San Diego Union-Tribune, similar
chases of undocumented immigrants have led to more than 50 traffic
accidents in San Diego and Imperial counties since 1993, killing 75
people and injuring over 500.

No one can deny that our immigration policy is broken. Now immigrant
rights groups and armed right-wing militias are engaged in a showdown
over how to fix it. In February, Border Angels and Gente Unida
(People United) crisscrossed the country on a "March for Migrants" in
opposition to HR 4437, the "Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and
Illegal Immigration Control Act" that passed the House and is expected
to go before the Senate soon. The Minutemen, on the other hand, left
their binoculars and firearms in Arizona and headed to Washington, DC,
to rally and lobby Congress to pass the anti-immigrant legislation
that will criminalize doctors, social workers, and charities that help
undocumented immigrants.

The Border Angels is one such charity that will face jail time under
HR 4437. The organization began in the mid-1980s as an outreach
program of several San Diego religious groups. The gospel is their
motto: "For I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty,
and you gave me drink." (Matthew 25:35). Volunteer Angels bring
water, food, and blankets to life-saving stations in the desert in an
attempt to stem the growing number of migrant deaths at the
Mexico-U.S. border. Over 4,000 migrants have died since October 1994,
when the Defense Department's Operation Gatekeeper erected a steel
wall made from landing platforms used in the first Gulf War. Rather
than reducing the number of illegal immigrants, Gatekeeper has shifted
migration flows to the harsh mountains and desert east of San Diego,
resulting in a 500% increase in border deaths.

The Minuteman Project is notorious for its vigilante patrols of the
U.S.-Mexico border. Many Minutemen are armed and some have humiliated
detained migrants or held them at gunpoint. However, the militia's
biggest impact may be in Congress. The Minutemen joined with other
anti-immigrant organizations, and, with the support of racist groups
such as the National Alliance, Ranch Rescue, and English First, they
are lobbying for the passage of HR 4437, which will extend the wall on
the U.S.-Mexico border, increase the penalty for being an undocumented
immigrant from a civil violation to a felony, and potentially
criminalize doctors, social workers, members of the clergy, and
charities for assisting undocumented immigrants.

The criminalization of undocumented immigrants and doctors who treat
them is particularly disturbing. A handful of states passed
legislation in the 1990s that similarly required doctors to play the
role of law enforcement by reporting pregnant drug users' positive
test results to the police for prosecution. The Supreme Court
eventually struck down the laws because they were a violation of
patient-doctor confidentiality, and because the American Medical
Association argued that the laws harmed women and their fetuses by
deterring drug users from seeking prenatal care and drug treatment.
Enrique Morones, the executive director of Border Angels, says that
while the Supreme Court may also strike down this section of HR 4437,
the fact that lawmakers even proposed it is "a tremendous statement in
racism." Furthermore, like the hundreds of pregnant women who
delivered their babies in prison prior to the Supreme Court ruling,
immigrants and doctors will suffer while battles rage in the courts
for years.

The effect HR 4437 will have on asylum seekers is also troubling. It
will lengthen the amount of time those who enter the US illegally are
held in jail and make it easier to deport them before an asylum
hearing. The law also expands the aggravated felony category to
include being in the US illegally (currently a civil offense) as well
as a variety of misdemeanor crimes such as drunk driving. Asylum
seekers convicted of an aggravated felony will be permanently barred
from seeking permanent resident status. Given that asylum seekers
find themselves in grave danger in their home countries, many travel
with fake documents and enter the US illegally, committing an
aggravated felony under HR 4437. Thus, this bill jeopardizes our
obligation to asylum seekers under international law.

HR 4437 is the right's obvious attempt to further capitalize on 9-11
by equating immigrants with terrorists. Daniel Morales from Gente
Unida says that conservatives are using immigration as a wedge issue
in the same way they used gay marriage during the 2004 elections. In
reality, HR 4437 does little to nothing to address the security
failures that led to the terrorist attacks. Congress members who
support the bill, such as Delaware's Mike Castle, like to point out
that the majority of the 9-11 hijackers were in the country illegally.
What they choose to ignore is that most of them entered the country
legally. Existing mechanisms were not enforced when the hijackers
overstayed their visas. Furthermore, as Morones points out, "Had the
wall on the Mexico-U.S. border been 100 feet high, September 11 still
would have happened." HR 4437 is designed to merely make us feel
safer while inflicting further suffering on the Latino migrant workers
who hold up our economy.

HR 4437 does nothing to address the reasons migrants risk their lives
to cross the border. It doesn't stop the US government from creating
conflict zones or funding military regimes, which leads to an influx
of refugees. It doesn't stop NAFTA from decimating the Mexican
economy, causing former farmers to seek work in the US. It doesn't
stop the US from pursuing this failed policy for other countries
through the Central American Free Trade Agreement and the Free Trade
Area of the Americas. It also doesn't stop restaurant kitchens across
the country from using cheap undocumented labor, or force
slaughterhouses to improve safety so that more US citizens would work
in them, or close the legal loophole that allows big agriculture to
pay farm workers a fraction of the minimum wage. Would any Minuteman
take a job that pays 45 cents for every 32 pounds of tomatoes picked
during a grueling 12-hour shift in the burning sun?

Until US employers stop capitalizing on the misfortunes of
undocumented immigrants, start paying living wages, and bring all
workplaces up to health and safety codes, the most virulently
xenophobic bills will not stop the influx of immigrants—it will only
cause more to die trying. Immigrants don't take jobs that would
otherwise be filled by citizens, and they don't depress
wages—capitalists do. Why else would Perdue Chicken oppose HR 4437?
Tyson Foods executives weren't smuggling undocumented immigrants to
work in their plants because of a severe shortage of available labor
here in the US. They did it because they don't want to pay minimum

In the end, HR 4437 is a racist, xenophobic wolf in a pro-national
security sheep's clothing. Congress should stop labeling immigrants
as terrorists and instead pass earned legalization laws that reward
the full rights of citizenship to the migrant workers who support our
economy. After all, Al Qaeda's roots can't be traced to Mexico. Its
humble beginnings are right here in Washington, DC, on the CIA

For more information:

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Zombís en la Habana

To anyone who has every seen a George Romero movie, I want to share with you an idea for a movie that I think will be an instant cult classic: Zombis en la Habana. To those that haven't ever seen a Romero movie, check out the original Dawn of the Dead (though the remake is also very fun to watch). For other Zombie movie suggestions see yesterday's post.

My screenplay borrows part of its title from the seventies era Cuban cartoon film Vampiros en la Habana, which I suggest to all Spanish speakers enthusiastically. Subtitled versions are available for rent in hip American rental stores like Video Americain. I also think that children in the movie should be watching "Vampiros en La Habana" at some point early in the movie, focusing on the introduction where the narrator says "pero Pepé se involucró en otra guerra... una guerra sorda y cruel... una guerra de vampiros," after a second of the musical introduction of the movie (which includes some of the wickedest horns I have ever heard) the family can be left in the dark from an "apagón," a roving blackout.

The rhythm of the movie should borrow much from the traditional Romero narrative, while the subtext of the plot should refer to two events/periods in modern Cuban history. The movie will be set, first of all, in "pleno periodo especial" after the collapse of the Soviet Union and during the intensification of the US American war of attrition on the Cuban Revolution during which time famine and hunger were rampant in Cuba for the first time since 1959 and streams of "boat people" headed for Miami in the largest emigration wave since the Mariel boat lift of 1980. In addition, the the Cuban government response in the film will draw a lot from the public health response to the AIDS epidemic in Cuba.

I figure the story will start out with a family drama about finding food, work and money in Special Period Cuba as background media start to make vague references to an outbreak of a strange disease near a US American biological research/bioweapons facility. Details about the origins of the disease can be borrowed from Romero's "The Crazies" in which a plane carrying an experimental biological weapon crashes near Pittsburgh. The news of strange deaths and riots will become increasingly central to the attention of the characters on everything from Radio Reloj (which beeps every second of the day and tells the time on every minute as narrators give news, propaganda, and announcements between minutes) to a clip of a Castro speech on the incident to the evening news.

At some point a case of Zombismo will reach the island, perhaps by boat people fleeing from Miami, or perhaps involving the Guantanamo naval base in some way. Castro will give a speech declaring this an act of imperialist aggression, and the already disintigrating chaos of Cuban life in the special period will collapse, resulting in military organization, debates on the appropriate response, quarantine of sick people, etc. This point of the movie should draw on imagery from riots in Centro Habana and Habana Vieja in 1984, with battles between zombis, hungry Cubans and "Constructores" -Castro loyalists brought in to quell such disturbances.

The zombi attacks must bring out the resiliant spirit of Cubans and the Cuban sense of humor despite the "susto fatigado" (exhausted shock) of daily life during the collapse of Cuban society.

At one point, borrowing from the dark comedy that at least one Cuban doctor used to cope with the difficulty her patients faced, a sign in the hospital should read "Está prohibido hablar de la cosa" (It is forbidden to talk about the thing - Originally a doctor in Santa Clara had to stop her patients from complaining about the hardships of the special period because she did not have time to hear all of their concerns and still treat all her patients).

This outline is very vague, indeed, I have left it fairly vague on purpose. I think any such movie should have a strongly Cuban identity and sense of humor, and that it should be primarily written or Co-written by a Cuban (and Roig has been only slightly helpful in the matter). Other possible details have occurred or been suggested to me. I think that the drama of the movie during the full crisis should unfold at Hospital Ameijeires, which towers over the skyline of Centro Habana at the Malecón. Others have suggested that Cuban Santería or the country's proximity to Haiti should be used to further explore the origins of the mythology of zombies based in "voodoo" (mixtures of Catholic and African traditions).

I am putting this idea out in the public domain because I'd rather encourage the idea to develop than claim ownership over it. However, I reserve the right to take some part (however small) in the production, and to demand that a Cuban be the main driving force behind subsequent development of the plot.

Also, anyone with links to Tom Savini or George Romero should bring this to his attention. This is an instant cult classic with almost unlimited potential.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

A Brief Discussion of Zombie Films

The foundation of the modern cinematography of the zombie comes from Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" (though I haven't seen the 1990 Tom Savini remake, the 30th anniversary addition adds extra footage that makes the movie worse. In other words, watch the original.

The 1978 sequal "Dawn of the Dead", in which the protagonists hold up in a shopping mall, is amazing and birthed the modern cult following. The 2004 remake changes the story and sets it in the new millenium, but keeps the archetypes and location intact. It is perhaps the best Zombie movie of all time.

The 2004 edition also changes the almost comical slowness of the zombies, satirized by Shaun of the Dead, according to the rules of the British quasi Zombie film 28 Days Later. In the new rules, the Zombies are as fast as they are strong and are actually something to be scared of.

The third film of Romero's original trilogy is the 1985 "Day of the Dead." I'm not a huge fan, but some of the images from the flyovers of South Florida may be useful to use in "Zombís en la Habana."

The recent renaissance of Zombie enthusiasm encouraged Romero to make another Zombie film Land of the Dead. While I enjoyed seeing John Leguizamo as a Zombie, and enjoyed very much certain parts of the film, I was kind of dissapointed with it.

"Let Sleeping Corpses lie" is an Italian movie directed by Spaniard Jorge Grau. It's a good film with a different rhythm, following a small zombie outbreak in a small British town caused by irradiation of crops. While the movie lacks the apocalyptic onslaught of zombie hordes that are a mainstay of the zombie genre.

There are of course, plenty of horrible Zombie movies. The worst of which is Troma's Redneck Zombies. The gratuitous zombie rape scene (indeed the film was originally titled "Redneck Country Rape") shows poor taste and the bizarre, violent fetishes of the movie's writers. The LSD trip scene is the only redeeming part of the movie as far as I can tell. Many viewers will be too bored to watch all the way to the rape scene, though others, including the IMDB commentators, thoroughly enjoy the film. IMDB raters call it "a perfect thanksgiving movie" filled with "obscured morals." I'm skeptic of this analysis to say the least.

The Italian 1979 "Zombie", mostly shot on a tropical island where "superstitious natives" make the dead including conquistadores (repeatedly mispronounced throughout the movie) come to life and eat the living. The racist overtones of the movie are overwhelming. However, the film does contain perhaps the most ingenous scene in any zombie movie in which a zombie fights a shark. (the shark wins but swims away without eating the Zombie). One friend calls the movie 90 minutes of novel and gory ways to kill a person.

Also worthy of mention is the "Thin Dead Line" episode of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer spinoff Angel. In the words of Sleeptight "This episode is really cool. who doesn't love zombie cops? ... this episode has a creepy but very cool thing going around. great episode!"

Friday, February 24, 2006

Veteran South African Journalist Allister Sparks Compares Israel to South Africa

In the waning minutes of an interview with Amy Goodman on the February 23rd edition of Democracy Now, veteran journalist Allister Sparks said "This [South African apartheid] was ... part of the divine ordinance of creation, that a people had a right to ... have their own land..., a contest of ownership over a country... And that is what you find between the Israelis and the Palestinians and the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. Those are the true analogies of the South African struggle... The solution if you were to apply it to the Palestinian-Israeli situation would be one secular country shared by all and ruled over by the majority. If people find that unthinkable, perhaps they have some appreciation of what we have done" in South Africa.

Mr. Sparks statements cut right to the point in the debate that many people in solidarity with people suffering in Palestine about the use of the word apartheid to describe Israel and the discussion about what tactics best serve a nonviolent agenda for peace and justice in the Holy Land. This debate has been especially strong within communities of North American Jewish activists. While many Jewish individuals agree that the Israeli rule over the occupied territories warrants a comparison with apartheid South Africa, a critical mass of Jewish people, even those who would not consider themselves "anti-Palestinian" argue that the comparison is unfair or even somehow essentially "anti-Semitic."

Furthermore, this comparison begs the question of whether a world wide divestment campaign, modeled after the campaign against apartheid South Africa in the 1980s, would be a fair and effective tactic for pressuring Israel to respect the Palestinians' human rights. While not answering the second part of that question, Allister Sparks suggests that such an action would be legitimate and should be very seriously considered. It also suggests that activists should not be considered "anti-Israel" for simply supporting divestment than Nelson Mandela would be considered "anti-South African."

Of course the formation of these two nations (or three, if one includes stateless Palestine) have as many differences as similarities. Though both are colonial projects born of European politics, Afrikaners and other European colonizers in Africa were not fleeing the aftermath of genocide as the Jews were. This fact adds a layer of complexity to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

In any case, the word of such a veteran South African journalist who wrote on behalf of truth and justice should go far to legitimizing the discussion over divestment in Israel to many who are still unwilling to consider it open for debate.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

New Orleans, Haiti, and Grammy Peg

New Orleans according to Bill Quigley

Loyola-New Orleans law professor and Haiti solidarity activist Bill Quigley continues his advocacy on behalf of the people of New Orleans with "Who was left behind then? Who is being left behind now?" Bill Quigley left Haiti, where he was offering legal solidarity to political prisoners like Gerard Jean Juste, in the days before Hurricane to be with his wife, an oncology nurse at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. After the hurricane they were trapped for almost a week in the institution where over 40 people died after the electricity failed.

Head of Haitian Election Commission Flees Haiti

The Miami Herald is reporting that Jacques Bernard, appointed three months ago to head the Haitian Election Commission, has probably fled Haiti for Miami. According to the article Bernard fled after a turbulent weekend.
On Friday, Bernard had reported receiving threats and requested more security amid complaints about the vote count from the Feb. 7 elections, which returned former President René Préval to office, Brunache said... Bernard's ranch in a town just northeast of the capital of Port-au-Prince was burned and looted over the weekend.

I guess the implication is that Preval's supporters are responsible, but none of the sources I have found even explicitly suggest this. Neither do they ask the question clearly, Who is responsible for the threats and violence? While anti-coup militants are likely to be responsible, it seems to me plausible that coup supporters are enraged that he allowed Preval to win which may lead to prosecution of war criminals.

As others like John Maxwell have pointed out. We seem to be entering into a new attempt to destabilize the post-coup Haitian government (which has not risen to power yet). For example, another Herald article quotes
Tim Carney, the acting U.S. ambassador in Haiti, [that] Préval clearly would have won the election but acknowledged the disputed outcome could hurt his government if he fails in office.

''If he doesn't perform, yes it could weaken him,''... ''I think the elections confirmed that Aristide is a man of the past, unlikely to have any role in Haiti's future,'' he said.

Notice strong anti-Aristide stance and the veiled threat that the disputed election will be used against Preval if he "doesn't perform" for the Americans. This suggests that American and Haitian elites may be willing to end Preval's second term as they have ended both of Aristide's (with a coup).

A question from Grammy Peg
My grandmother Peg is a long time activist who is quoted in the press as saying "I love my country like I love my family. And I love my family enough to tell them when I think they are doing something inappropriate." Since learning of the political oppression against non-violent catholic priests like Gerard Jean Juste has been following the news in Haiti. After all of this reading, she has asked me, with sincere confusion, "Why does the United States hate this man Aristide so much?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Another Haitian Revolution: How it happened and where to go from here

The Miami Herald and Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti follow up with good analysis of the results of the Haitian Election.

The Herald points out that

The news [of Preval's victory] came after a day of closed-door meetings involving Préval, foreign diplomats, the U.S.-backed interim Haitian government and the nation's electoral council, according to Haitians and foreigners who participated in the meetings...

Ambassadors from Brazil and Chile led a push to change the way blank votes were tabulated, something first suggested by U.N. electoral advisors, according to people in the meetings. Canada and France, two countries with long-standing traditional ties to Haiti, initially insisted the council stick to a count that would have forced a runoff, but agreed that significant flaws in the election process would make it impossible to declare the results with precision.

Notice that this doesn't mention the role of U.S. ambassadors, representatives of a government that provided troops, training, guns, money and diplomatic support of the coup leaders who were leading this referendum on their power.

Prensa Latina (Cuba) [site currently down] suggests that U.S. representatives put pressure against this resolution.

This result suggests that the pressure put on the U.N. by the Haitian Information Project and solidarity activists paid off. They, like the Brazilian General of the U.N. forces Becellar were sick of collaborating in such a bloody mess. The solidarity activist in the U.S., Canada and possibly France were such that the governments were willing to cede their arguments rather than risk allowing the crisis to grow. This set a much less violent stage for Haitian street protests than had been seen during many demonstrations and elections in the past.

Concannon's analysis, while happy with the resulting Preval victory, is more ambivalent about the terms of the deal. He points out that the deal allows coup supporters (and the New York Times) to accuse Preval of a fraudulent victory, while the real fraud was what kept Preval's numbers in the poll deceptively low in the unofficial returns. Pointing out the continued existance of Haitian political prisoners, he continues..

The defective vote tabulation is just the latest in a long string of efforts to minimize the impact of the poor voters who backed Preval. The IGH engaged in a comprehensive program to suppress political activities of the Lavalas movement, where Mr. Preval drew most of his support, in the ten months before the elections.

Several prominent politicians were not able to participate as candidates or activists because they were kept in jail illegally. Political prisoners included Haiti's last constitutional Prime Minister, a former member of the House of Deputies, the former Minister of the Interior, and dozens of local officials and grassroots activists. When Haiti's most prominent dissident, Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, was diagnosed with leukemia, it took a massive campaign, including intervention of top U.S. Republicans, just to obtain his provisional release for desperately needed treatment...

Haiti's politics are not parlor games. Each coup d'etat leads to thousands of deaths, and many more times that are killed by diseases that would be prevented or treated by the programs of a less embattled government. The life expectancy for men in Haiti has dropped below 50. It is far past time for the International Community to stop condemning Haiti to repeating this outrageously unjust history.

This call to the "International Community" must also be directed at "Civil Society" and "The American Street." We need to keep our eyes on Haiti. We need to demand the release of the Lavalas political prisoners and the prosecution (if possible) of War Criminals like Guy Phillipe. Any moves to destabilize Haitian politics must be immediately recognized and condemned, and we need to keep our eyes and ears tuned to the words of Haitian activists themselves, like the journalists of the Haiti Information Project.

Most importantly, professionals of all kinds need to get serious about what Paul Farmer calls "pragmatic solidarity." We must be called to work with Haitian partners to improve health care, economic justice, education and improved living standards.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Preval Declared Winner of Election

Miami Herald among other sources is reporting that Preval has been declared winner of the Haitian election by the Haitian Election Council. All I can think is, the Haitian people did it, again, but it is important for a Haiti solidarity movement to take this moement and build long term connections and goals so that a stronger network is in place the next time powerful actors try to violate the sovereignty and the will of the Haitian people.

Also interesting is the following line in the Herald piece "But U.S., U.N. and Organization of American States officials had been leaning strongly on the council to somehow break the counting impasse and declare Préval the outright winner."

This suggests that the tireless work of solidarity activists in the U.S., Canada, and Latin America helped create the environment in which massive repression in response to the Lavalas uprising wasn't really possible. Time to pat ourselves on the back, and not skip a beat. It's time to go to Haiti and do some Paul Farmer style "pragmatic solidarity."

P.S. Below I a letter I sent to the BBC over factual errors in their reporting.

I found the recent article on Haiti to be rather strange and filled with inaccuracies and poor analysis that has plagued BBC reporting on Haiti. In particular, the piece contains the following passage.

"Mr Aristide later returned to power, but with allegations of corruption and vote-rigging accompanied by increasing instability and violence, he took a US flight in early 2004 to South Africa, where he remains in exile."

This suggests that Aristide took a US Airways flight to Capetown because he was tired of governing. In fact, he is quoted as saying "Tell the world it is a coup. I've been kidnapped." Whether or not this is entirely true, surely BBC's representation of the event is misleading. Furthermore, the American plane that flew Aristide from Haiti did not take him to South Africa. Cursory research shows that the Americans took him to the Central African Republic where he remained for several days before being allowed to leave freely.
>Simon Fitzgerald, USA

While I am glad BBC factcheckers found and corrected the factual error hours within publishing it, the false assumptions of the author convey troubling, consistent errors in fact and analysis. The stories disproportionately take information from State actors in Haiti, the United States, or the United Nations peacekeeping force (MINUSTAH). The resulting misinformation is biased in favor of the coup government and its actors including Guy Phillipe and other war crime criminals and suspects.

>URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4687856.stm

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Non Haiti Round Up

Since I have been focusing on Haiti so much recently, I have ignored the other stories.


The big one in the eyes of the American media is the continuing and violent protests over cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammed in a Danish newspaper in September. Other papers in Europe reprinted them in an act of "free speech solidarity." While, of course, they have the right the cartoons were originially solicited to ask for conservative rural danes to express their views on Islam. All 13 cartoons received were published, as far as I can tell without any discussion of what they mean about Danish Representation of Islam rather than what they say about Islam itself.

The violence in the protests also seem absurd in comparison to the cartoons. Amy Goodman had two days of discussions on the topic (i think on February 6th and 7th), that I found pretty good. The analysis of the Angry Arab As'ad AbuKhalil and Raul Mahajan, each featured on a separate day with Amy Goodman. Though, to be honest, As'ad got pulled into a shouting match with Fox news favorite Irshad Manji.

Mahajan and AbuKhalil both argued that Syria, Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia were allowing arabs to blow off steam on an issue that was of little political significance to the ruling classes of these nations. While protest directed at the U.S. and Israel or at the corruption of Middle Eastern dictatorships could cause actual political upheavels.

AbuKhalil in this way trivializes the cartoon uproar "You have your outrages; and I have my own outrages... I choose to be outraged over this: "Aya was the second child killed by the Israeli army last week. Soldiers near Ramallah shot 13-year-old Munadel Abu Aaalia in the back as he walked along a road reserved for Jewish settlers with two friends. The army said the boys planned to throw rocks at Israeli cars, which the military defines as terrorism." Angry Arab also featured a post which says that CNN host Jack Kafferty referred to the cartoon crisis about the Prophet Elijah Mohammed.


The real big news was the video of British troops beating shoeless Iraqi teenagers after a crowd had thrown rocks at the soldiers base. The violence, while brutal and mindless, is not altogether surprising given the other evidence of torture and brutality. The real shocking thing about the video is that it shows how minor the skirmish that led to this violence was, and, moreover, the troops shooting the video were getting so sadistically excited about the beating that it was almost sexual. Furthermore, the video was shown around the unit and to Corporals in England before a whistleblower told the News of the World newspaper. The fact that he went to the press (rather than starting a courtmarshall proceeding) suggests that the whistleblower was of low rank. One just has to wonder what happens on the other side of the wall any time any Iraqi is dragged off the street that goes untaped.


Lastly, I had meant to return to my blog yesterday and point out that Cheney was the first sitting Vice-President since Aaron Burr, who shot and killed the secretary of the treasury Alexander Hamilton in a duel, to shoot a man. By now the Daily Show with John Stewart beat me to it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

U.N. Troops Kill Haitian Democracy Demonstrators

The AP and other sources are reporting that
U.N. peacekeepers opened fire Monday on Haitians protesting election results, killing at least one and wounding four, witnesses said as flaming roadblocks paralyzed the capital.

In an image that galvanize this uprising,
Associated Press journalists saw the body of a man in the street in the Tabarre neighborhood, a T-shirt bearing the image of leading candidate Rene Preval soaked in blood. Witnesses said Jordanian U.N. peacekeepers opened fire on them, killing two and wounding four. The body of the second victim was not at the scene.

Haitians have complained for over a year that the tensions were highest with Jordanian troops over other nationalities in the peace keeping force. In Haiti Information Project publications Haitians pointed out the irony of the army of dictatorship occupying them ostensibly to bring the Haitians democracy.

Meanwhile the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network is also reporting U.S. troop movements into the Dominican Republic. This, along with the credible fraud allegations reported on yesterday, is a potentially dangerous development. The Nonviolent Haitian Uprising is starting to look like the Orange Revolution in the red, blue and white of the Lavalas Movement. The UN troops have long been on the repressive side and US forces have almost a century of a brutal legacy which includes numerous violent occupations. The American instructors trained for most of the top military leadership of the Duvalier dictatorships and for key players in the 2 coups against democratically elected governments (of Jean Bertrand Aristide), while the CIA had these "Tonton Macoute" on their payroll.

Haiti is in need of attention and solidarity. What do we have to give?

On a side note, CNN's title for coverage of the killing was "Witnesses Claim Peacekeepers in Haiti Open Fire." Well at least AP staff was decent enough to be among the witnesses.
La Luchita: Paz, Justicia y Libertad

Fraud, Protest and the Haitian Presidential Election

Miami Herald is reporting that Port Au Prince has been paralyzed by massive protests featuring street barricades. Though the election was characterized by relatively little violence (relative to previous elections there), this tension is very dangerous. If the coup installed government feels that it can get away with repression right now, this might result in the type of violence that people had been fearing.

The Herald specifies the tension.

The airport was closed, and neither Haitian policemen nor members of the U.N. peacekeeping forces were visible on the increasingly tense streets early in the day.

Dozens of barricades, made from everything from rocks to old tires, old truck chassis and telephone poles, cut off all traffic around key parts of the city although no major outbursts of violence were reported.

The council's last report showed that with almost 90 percent of the polling places tallied, Preval was leading with 48.7 percent of the vote, short of the majority he needs to avoid a run-off. Far back in second was former president Leslie Manigat, with 11.8 percent.

But the delays in counting the vote, plus independent surveys from foreign electoral officials that gave Préval about 52 percent of the vote, are fueling suspicions that the nine-member electoral council is trying to force a run-off.

Furthermore, the AP is reporting that "A member of Haiti's electoral council said the presidential election results are being manipulated. And he's not alone." (referring to the rallying cries of the street protesters) "Council member Pierre Richard Duchemin said he needs access to the vote tallies to learn who is behind the alleged manipulation. He's calling for an investigation."

This news corroborates earlier reports by the Ezili Danto project of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network.

The widespread suspicion that its not who votes that count, but who counts the votes in Haiti. I am so far impressed by the discipline of the Haitian poor to stand up strongly for their 4th democratically elected president (all of the Lavalas Movement) after two coups and much political violence. That the crowd has avoided violence has also shown the moral highground, and will make it harder for the government to successfully launch a violence crackdown.

In anycase, solidarity activism in the U.S., France, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America are urgent right now. Perhaps more importantly, the international press has to step up, stop relying completely on un-elected government sources, and has to ask some tough questions and do some real investigative reporting. We must not let this election, with so much promise turn into another bloodbath of repression of the Lavalas movement by the Haitian elite and their powerful international allies.

Monday, February 13, 2006


The post below is reprinted with permission from the Common Ground Project in New Orleans, Louisiana.
La Luchita: Paz, Justicia y Libertad



On Monday, February 13th, the New Orleans homeless population will skyrocket, and the survivors of Katrina will be victimized again. FEMA's short-term hotel program expires for most of the 26,000 displaced hurricane survivors and most of these evacuees have not been provided with long-term, or even transitional housing solutions. An immediate nation-wide phone call and email campaign is needed to help keep families off the street. Don't let Katrina survivors be further victimized by the poverty-promoting plans of those with the power to correct the issues!

FEMA Nicol Andrews, Deputy Strategic Director, 202-646-7917,
MAYOR NAGIN ph 504-658-4900, fx 504-658-4939
CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS ph 504-658-(1010 John Batt) (1020 Renee Pratt)
(1030 Jacquelyn Clarkson) (1040 Cynthia Morrell) (1050 Cynthia Lewis)
(1060 Ed Sapir) (1070 Oliver Thomas)
GOVERNOR BLANCO ph 866-366-1121, fx 225-342-7099

• Tell each council member and the mayor to provide housing now! Council members must stop pushing trailer parks out of their districts, and the mayor must take a stand for housing NOLA citizens. Now is not the time for self-interested political jockeying.
• Tell the elected officials: There are major absentee voting efforts organizing their evacuated constituents. If they do not act in the best interests of ALL their constituents they will be defeated in the upcoming elections.
• Tell the elected officials: Governor Blanco's plan to shelter survivors for 30 days in cities far from their jobs and their damaged homes is unacceptable. Those shelters must be provided in New Orleans.
• Tell the elected officials: Our tax funded National Guard should not be used to force survivors into homelessness at gunpoint.
• Tell FEMA: that they are mandated by the Stafford Act to provide housing for disaster victims for eighteen months. Their attempt to cut-off shelter programs is illegal as well as immoral.
• Tell FEMA: The Stafford Act requires that transitional housing and rental assistance must be provided locally to the survivors workplace. Trailers hours outside of NOLA are not feasible, or acceptable.
• Tell everyone: The money that has been pledged to the recovery belongs to the people, not the corporations. Homeowners need the grants to rebuild, give corporations the loans – they were insured.
• Tell these hotels to honor the FEMA extensions Don't evict hurricane survivors into homelessness to house wealthy Mardi Gras tourists! Royal St Charles 504-587-3700, AmeriHost Inn and Suites 504-299-9900 Quality Inn: Maison St Charles 504-522-0187

For more info contact
www.no-heat.org, 504-883-8225


On Monday, February 13th, the New Orleans homeless population will skyrocket, and the survivors of Katrina will be victimized again.
FEMA's short-term hotel program expires for most of the 26,000 displaced hurricane survivors and most of these evacuees have not been provided with long-term, or even transitional housing solutions.
For those lucky enough to have gained access to FEMA's long-term resources, many have been told they must live far from their jobs, far from homes needing repair, and out of reach of their communities. Transitional housing is meant to aid people in fixing up their houses and reclaiming their previous lives. Despite not having any local long-term housing for the hotel guests, the National Guard is on call to evict people at gun point. There are three groups of people who are making the decision to evict these people; these three groups should be the targets of our dissent.

FEMA – The Short Term Lodging program is required to provide shelter until transitional housing is provided. All FEMA guests should be extended until a long-term solution has been found for them. Rental assistance needs to cover a market that is roughly triple the pre-Katrina levels. Trailers must be placed locally for survivors to maintain their jobs, rebuild their homes and reclaim their lives.

HOTELS – Many hotels refuse to honor FEMA extensions beyond the 13th preferring instead to house wealthy tourists for the Mardi Gras season. However, according to the Chief Financial Officer of a hotel group, FEMA is paying the going rate for each room, each day. According to several managers, the hotels have made more money this
winter season then they have in many years. All extensions from FEMA should be honored and, if someone doesn't have a place to stay, the hotels should grant them a few amnesty days before eviction – it is the hotels turn to give back to the survivors whose tragedy has made them so wealthy. Few of the hotels housing FEMA guests are: the Marriott, the Sheraton, Quality Inn: Maison St. Charles, Royal St.
Charles, Queen and Crescent, and the AmeriHost Inn and Suites. People should be present at all of these hotels on Monday. If you cannot come to New Orleans you can hold solidarity actions at the chains local venue. If you live in a major city, it's likely that hotels in your town are evicting evacuees on 2/13 – there are thousands across the country. When you call the hotels in New Orleans please be nice to the
staff, they are mostly survivors living as FEMA guests too.

LOCAL POLITICIANS - Hundreds of FEMA trailers have arrived in New Orleans, yet they sit in train yards unoccupied. City officials continue to bicker over where the trailers should be placed. Many public housing developments also lie vacant, despite remaining virtually unscathed through the storm. The only solution the Governor
has offered is a thirty day shelter program in either Baton Rouge or Lafayette. This is not an option for those who maintain jobs or are fixing up their homes within New Orleans.

On Monday we will be facing the National Guard on these streets and we are asking that everyone with the means to come down to New Orleans converge in support. We need as much of a presence as possible to put a massive amount of pressure on all three targets. If you can't get down here please start calling FEMA, New Orleans politicians, and the hotels. Don't let survivors be taken out by governmental neglect, corporate greed and the National Guard!

Cheney Shoots Lawyer: No Charges Filed Yet

According to news reports. Vice President of the United States of America Richard Cheney has shot and injured 78 year-old lawyer Harry Whittington. No word yet on if charges will be filed in the incident.

La Luchita: Paz, Justicia y Libertad

Haiti Election Update

In a bizarre move, BBC has gone back to linking its earlier story on the Haitian election "Ex-Aristide ally leads Haiti poll" from its main news page. In contrast to the BBC story up last night "Haiti Poll May Go to Second Round," BBC is now saying no more than "Initial results from around the Haitian capital show he has more than 60% of the votes, electoral officials say."

Miami Herald
on the other hand is now reporting
On Saturday, the official tally gave him 49.6 percent of the votes, with 72 percent of the stations counted. But foreign electoral officials said an independent survey showed Préval received 54 percent of the vote, although the survey has yet to be adjusted for blank ballots, which could reduce each candidate's percentage points slightly.

According to the Ezili Danto Witness Reporting Project associated with the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network reports "It is reported that Preval had 49.6% with 72% of the votes counted. But, Fequiere, another member of the CEP, disagrees with these figures released by Bernard of the CEP and maintains Preval already has the absolute majority."

While it is hard to authenticate this claim, the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network has been doing very good work and has a very good reputation. A representative of the group was interviewed on CBC and completely and effectively countered the interviewer on all of her false assumptions on Haiti until the interviewer said "Ok. I admit that I misspoke, but let's move on." The interview is available online here. The first guest is a representative of the pro-coup so-called "Haiti Democracy Project." The interesting thing about that half of the interview for me is, though I strongly disagreed with much of what that representative was saying, I still found the quality of the interview as news MUCH better than anything available in Maryland (I suspect Miami and perhaps Boston or New York stations may have higher quality reporting because of the large Haitian population there.)

Ezili Danto representatives are speculating that the contradicting reports might be due to what the New York Times calls "mixed signals" towards Haiti about democracy by the U.S. and other governments. The implication is that the Haitian elite are refusing to recognize another democractically elected president from the Lavalas movement because up until now they have been allowed and at times encouraged to overthrow leaders found unsympathetic to the interests of the U.S. and local and international capital. The Miami Herald reports on the Haitian elite today in a story called "Win for Preval would be Stunning Defeat for Haitian Elite."

Saturday, February 11, 2006

BBC and Preval

BBC is reporting that recent updates in Haitian polling in the presidential election put Preval at %50.2 suggesting that he may not be able to win outright.

Though, as a testament to the BBC's quality of reporting on Haiti, the article linked ended in the following way as of 9:30 Eastern U.S. time Friday, February 10th (the story has since been changed).

In one positive sign, a prominent gang leader declared that his group would lay down their guns if Mr Preval - seen as the champion of the poor - becomes president.

But he

In conclusion, But he

Friday, February 10, 2006

Preval appears to be clear winner in Haitian election

Though initial news reports indicated that no reliable exit polls had been taken and that conclusive results would not be available until Friday at the earliest, reporters are increasingly suggesting that Preval is the clear favorite. Others are suggesting that he may have won over %50 percent of the vote outright, making him president without the need for a runoff election.

Kevin Pina and the other independent journalists of the Haiti Information Project are reporting that their exit polls and initial results show Preval with %63 percent of the vote. It is not clear where their exit polls were conducted. The Miami Herald is also reporting, based on "several individual polling centers -- which post results on their outside walls -- in the capital and the port cities of Gonaves [sic] and St. Marc [that] Préval might win outright.

The Guardian is reporting that
A campaign official said Preval had won almost 68 percent of the 359,000 votes counted so far.

Leslie Manigat, believed to be Preval's strongest rival in the field of nearly three dozen candidates, said early returns showed Preval has surged ahead.

``There is a tiny chance that we will have a second round, but I fear Preval has made a clean sweep of the votes,'' Manigat said.

The real question is will the Haitian elite and their foreign allies that conspired to overthrow Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide in February of 2004 allow the Aristide ally Preval to remain in power.

This is a critical moment to mobilize in the United States, Canada, France and other nations in theCaribbeann and around the world to keep a close eye on Haiti and the powerful actors who may attempt to disenfranchise the Haitian people again.

Bush's Budget: War on Terrorism and War on the Poor

Perhaps the biggest announcement of Bush's State of the Union speech and the following media blitz was the president's new budget proposal for the upcoming year. In short, the proposal is morally reprehensible, suggesting cuts to every social program previously attacked in congress and many more including education, adult literacy, public housing, community policing, supplemental food for the elderly and the poor, vocational education, and a $36 billion dollar cut to medicare. While these cuts are ostensibly in response to "to an all-time high of $423 billion," according to CNN, this same budget calls for renewed tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, as well as a %7 percent increase in military spending and %8 increase in Homeland Security. Furthermore, the real military spending will be much higher because these costs do not take the real cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan into account.

Robert Scheer offers an analysis in the San Francisco Chronicle that touched me personally because it reminds me of the outrage that initially got me interested in politics at the end of elementary school. How can a government with no conventional military enemies justify so much militarization at the cost of its vulnerable and marginalized communities in our own country. While Scheer argues that this is a "War on Terrorism, not on Poverty," it is perhaps more accurate to call this a "War on the Poor" as Paul Farmer suggests in his most recent book.

The criminal neglect that caused the horrors of Katrina and the daily horrors in places like West Baltimore will continue because of the criminal military aggression that has caused so much violence against the poor in Iraq and Haiti (and would have caused more in Venezuela had the coup there been successful).

The text of the budget is available online at BushBudget.com and on the US Government's server

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Rebel Imports and the National Conference on Organized Resistance

I am back to publishing, after almost a week without a word from me. I spent the weekend at the national Conference on Organized Resistance at American University in Washington, DC. This is the premier annual meeting for progressive grassroots organizers in the area.

Along with Kristin B. of Delaware and Jason C. in Philadelphia I have been helping set up an anti-capitalist importing group Rebel Imports. We sell fair trade merchandise, with the hope of opening up new markets for community producers.

Our products includeHoly Land Olive Oil from Palestine, Zapatista slingshots, and a wide variety of artisanry from Zapatista Women's Cooperatives (Kristin highly recommends the necklaces).

We earned about $800 from selling this wares and serving fair trade coffee from Chiapas which will go toward paying off debt and making the next big purchase from Mujeres por la Dignidad and other cooperatives in Oventic, Chiapas.

Haitian Elections

Even those who have been following the struggles of the Haitian people may have forgotten that today was the date for the presidential elections to replace the interim government swept to power in the coup of February 2004. Until last night I did not even believe that the elections would be carried out because they had already been postponed by the unelected interim government.

Kevin Pina and the Haiti Information Project published an article yesterday about the Dark Storm Brewing
in Haiti due to the elections. Of a recent Gallup poll in Haiti he says

[the] poll inadvertently exposed ... the true numbers and strength of the movement that ousted Aristide. While the opposition to Aristide was portrayed in the press as a broad movement with widespread public support, the poll shows the political parties that led the movement are mostly polling in single digit numbers and combined represent less than 30% of the electorate. The major candidate representing the movement, Baker, is only polling at 10%.

On the eve of the elections, what is equally clear is that the majority of Preval supporters are drawn from the same base of the electorate that supported Aristide and his political party known as Lavalas. It is comprised mostly of peasant farmers in the countryside and urban slum dwellers in Haiti's major cities.

He also says internet chat of the Haitian elite forshadows potential problems.

Hundreds of letters currently circulating on the Internet to plant the concept of "resisting" the outcome of the elections if Preval wins as expected.

What all of this really shows is that the so-called "forces of democracy" that overthrew Aristide, and were backed by the United States, France and Canada, were anything but democratic.

According the the Miami Herald, disorganized and late opening polling stations caused confusion and anger that saw the death of one person in a stampede. They also add

at one of three polling centers that serves the volatile slum of Cité Soleil -- a place where electoral officials and U.N advisors have repeatedly assured wary voters and observers that they were prepared -- supervisors were woefully unprepared.

By 6 A.M. when the center was supposed to open, an estimated 3,000 people had lined up. They continued to arrive by the hundreds, marching excitedly and jogging. An hour later there were at least 5,000 lined up a half-mile back.

Most said said they were there to vote for Réne Préval

and that problems were "isolated to parts of the capital"

While BBC had woefully poor coverage of the election, at one point suggesting that "he took a US flight in early 2004 to South Africa, where he remains in exile." While this may sound like Aristide boarded an US Airways flight to Capetown, he claims to have been kidnapped by American forces, and was, in fact, taken to the Central African Republic where he was held for several days.

To BBC's credit, they have finally have taken down the misleading and poorly researched analysis piece "Aristide's Shadow" that argued that Aristide was to blame for the violence that resulted after the coup that forced him from the country.

While allegations of fraud have been reported, it looks like Preval will prevail. However, a second round of elections will be needed if Preval does not win %50 (which some argue is likely). Furthermore, as two coups in the last 20 years suggests, power may not be handed over by tillegitimateate authorities. For this reason it is urgent that Haitian solidarity activists join together now and formulate an action plan to mobilize on behalf of Haitian democracy and be willing to pressure American, French, Canadian and Haitian authorities when the right to democracy is violated. This is a long term project, but now is a critical phase that demands action.

Andrea Schmidt on Democracy Now points out the obvoius that other news sources ignored. The same places where voters had the most difficulty voting were the poorest neighborhoods like Cite Soleil and Bel Air. Not only were polling stations purposely kept out of these neighborhoods, but they were not set up on time, ballot boxes arrived late, and polling stations opened many hours late. Schmidt continues that, while voting in wealtheir neighborhoods we're orderly, well-prepared and timely, voting in Cite Soleil "looked less like a mob mentality than an organized campaign of disenfranchisement."

Amy Goodman also interviews recently freed political prisoner and banned Lavalas party presidential candidate Gerard Jean Juste.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Interrupt State of the Union : Investigate Corruption!

I attempted to watch the 2006 state of the union speech last night. Twice, actually. I watched the beginning, calmly enjoying the Pomp and Circumstance as some sort of Masquerade of Nobles. I enjoyed the dynamics of clapping, and ritual noisemaking for several minutes of Bush's speech. I thought that I would watch the whole speech and political commentary.

At one point, though, Bush was talking about Democracy on the March and Fighting for Freedom. On the subject of Iraq, he talked about a "clear plan for victory." Then he said "we're continuing reconstruction efforts, and helping the Iraqi government to fight corruption and build a modern economy."


Did he not read yesterday's post.

Well, here is an excerpt
Millions of reconstruction dollars [were] stuffed casually into footlockers and filing cabinets, an American soldier in the Philippines ... gambled away cash belonging to Iraq, and three Iraqis ... plunged to their deaths in a rebuilt hospital elevator that had been improperly certified as safe.... Much of this money was not American at all, rather it was seized Iraqi oil money and other Iraqi government assets. The TimesOnline (British) reports
nearly $9 billion (£5 billion) of Iraq’s oil revenue disbursed by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which governed Iraq until mid-2004, cannot be accounted for.

This investigation only focused on $88 million dollars and how it was dispersed. This may be an illustration about how billions of dollars were systematically mishandled by unelected American officials. Of course, there is no way to be sure because there is no paperwork to account for the rest of the money.

I had to distract myself and talk to family. After 20 minutes I came back, mostly ignoring Bush while concentrating more on the behavioral dynamics of some of the better known senators. I really enjoyed when Sen. Schumer refused to get up, laughing, clapping and mouthing to his neighbor "we will never surrender to evil."

Then the President started discussing "expanded budgets" and cutting the "deficit in half by 2009". He then asked the rhetorical "you to join me in creating a commission to examine the full impact of baby boom retirements on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. This commission should include members of Congress of both parties, and offer bipartisan solutions."


They don't even have a proper investigation of Katrina yet, where government corruption, neglect, and mismanagement took the lives of thousands and displaced thousands more. That same sort of corruption and influence peddling associated with Jack Abramoff, Tom Delay and others also played an univestigated role in Katrina.

According to Inter Press Service
What is clear is that Brown was named FEMA's deputy director by his college roommate, then-FEMA director Joseph Allbaugh, who secured Brown's elevation to the top spot after Allbaugh, a Bush campaign director in 2000, left government as U.S. troops invaded Iraq to create his own consulting firm for clients in the overseas disaster-relief business, including Halliburton Co., which, of course, was headed by Vice Pres. Dick Cheney in the 1990s and has received many billions of dollars in Iraq-related contracts.

I just couldn't take it, I started yelling, "Investigate Katrina, Investigate Iraq, Investigate corruption."

It reminded me of a day in mid-April 2003. (Wow! It's been three years since the invasion of Iraq.)

If the State of the Union Speech is such an act, why doesn't the opposition ever call the president out for lying. All they would need to do would be chant over the clapping, hell, let the President of the senate hammers the gavel and calls on the capitol police to drag out some law makers.
Post script: Looks like Cindy Sheehan had the same thing in mind.