Bob's Links and Rants

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Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Borders Strike Settled!
Apparently, the workers got quite a bit of what they were asking for. Congratulations!

Monday, December 29, 2003

Dean calls for government support of beef industry
Just a reminder of whose side he's on. An industry that has consistently and systematically put profits ahead of the health of consumers, the rights of workers, and the humane treatment of animals finally gets a well-deserved comeuppance--and Dr. Dean wants to bail them out. Screw them, I say, and Dean too. The death of the American beef industry would be of far greater benefit to the future of the nation and the world than was the capture of Saddam Hussein. This statement by Dean reminds me of Gore's calling for opening up the strategic oil reserve back in 2000 because gas was selling for a little more than its normal planet-destroying price--a clear demonstration of a total lack of principles. If Dean is on the side of the beef industry, he's NOT on your side.

From Mike Lane.
Greetings from Arnoldfornia!
It's been down in the 30's at night, and now it's raining. But I did go down to Point Lobos, south of Monterrey, with my brother yesterday. We saw seals frollicking in the surf and other cool things. Pictures later. My brother was in an accident about a week ago, and his VW was totalled. He's been renting a Toyota Prius hybrid, and is now thinking of buying one.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Arnoldfornia, here I come!
I'm flying from Detroit to San Jose, via Dallas, tomorrow morning. I'll be staying with my brother in Palo Alto through January 3. Blogging will probably be substantially reduced, although there are rumored to be some primitive Internet connections on the left coast. I will be checking my e-mail from time to time. If you miss your rant fix, I recommend the blogs on the right. I just recently added Big, Left, Outside and Left I on the News to the list.

Happy Holidays, and don't worry, because

I'll be back.

Army on the attack
Attacking just about anything, apparently, including the Sheraton in downtown Baghdad:

An explosion rocked central Baghdad on Wednesday night, and a U.S. soldier said it was a rocket-propelled grenade that narrowly missed the Sheraton Ishtar Hotel.

A U.S. army spokesman said the explosion occurred during an ongoing American military operation. "That was us," Capt. Jason Beck of the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division, the unit that controls Baghdad, told the AP. Guests at the Sheraton, called by satellite telephone, said they were fine.
-- AP

Kucinich champions civil liberties
Good article in the Washington Post.
Froot Loops Launderers and Other Terrorists
Michelle directs me to the Progress Report, which points out that many of the cases the Department of "Justice" touts as victories in the "war on terrorism" (I never used to use so many quote marks!) have, um, nothing to do with terrorism:

The Justice Department has been touting "a list of more than 280 cases that the department cites as evidence that it is winning the war on terrorism." The list has been "regularly highlighted by Ashcroft and other Justice Department officials in speeches and congressional testimony, and even by President Bush." But when the LA Times asked for documentation of the Justice Department claims the "department declined to provide a complete accounting of the terrorism-related prosecutions that Ashcroft and others cite." After the LA Times filed a Freedom of Information Act request they received "a highly redacted accounting covering only about half the number that Ashcroft trumpets." Included in that list were "two New Jersey men, operators of small grocery stores, who were convicted of accepting hundreds of boxes of stolen breakfast cereal, in a crime that occurred 16 months before the terrorist hijackings." A Justice Department spokesman admitted that some of the cases included in the count "don't necessarily involve terrorists or people convicted of terrorism-related crimes."

Michelle also notes some very interesting remarks from Fearmaster Cheney from the same report:

On a visit to Abu Dhabi [in 1996], Cheney criticized U.S. sanctions on Libya saying, "There seems to be an assumption that somehow we know what's best for everybody else and that we are going to use our economic clout to get everybody else to live the way we would like." While many oil CEOs were loathe to attack the U.S. sanctions - especially while visiting foreign nations - Cheney was not. As the Journal of Commerce reported on 5/6/96, "Cheney, Halliburton's chief executive, has publicly slammed the sanctions while others have not."
In May of 1997, Cheney criticized the Congress for tightening sanctions on Libya, and specifically said the oil industry had a right to do business in countries with deadly WMD. As Oil and Gas Journal reported, "Cheney said oil and gas companies must explore where the reserves are, and that means doing business in countries that may have policies that the U.S. does not like." Cheney said, "The long-term horizon of the oil industry is at odds with the short term nature of politics."
The next year, Cheney ratcheted up his campaign, once again criticizing the U.S. security policy on foreign soil. According the Malaysian News Agency reported, "Cheney hit out at his government for imposing economic sanctions like the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act."

Do you get the feeling...
That THIS is what the "war on terrorism" is really all about? Turning America into an armed camp?
Three more soldiers killed
The online news sources put these stories farther and farther down on the page, but the soldiers are just as dead. The total number of U.S. dead is now approximately 468, although the Washington Post still uses various devices to downplay the death toll:

The deaths brought to 205 the number of U.S. soldiers killed since Washington declared an end to major combat in Iraq on May 1.

To fully understand the actual number of casualties, this site is helpful. The So-Called Liberal Media isn't.

From Jen Sorensen.
Wehrmacht launches "Operation Iron Grip"
Coalition attack helicopters, aircraft gunships and batteries of field guns pounded a southern district of Baghdad early Wednesday in the opening salvo of what the U.S. military has dubbed "Operation Iron Grip." -- CNN

Artillery in a city of five million that you claim to have controlled for eight months. Lovely.

"We have launched Operation Iron Grip. It will be focused on Baghdad and ongoing for the foreseeable future," Capt. Jason Beck of the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division told CNN.

The pre-emptive strikes by units of the 1st Armored Division come amid U.S. military intelligence reports that Iraqi guerrillas may be planning a series of strikes on U.S. and coalition forces over the Christmas and New Year period.

"It's very apparent to us that the enemy will probably use the holidays as a means to psychologically make its point. We know that and we're prepared to meet that," Beck said.

I think the point has already been made, Captain. U.S. forces are there to dominate, not liberate.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Mad Cow USA
The first apparent case of mad cow disease in the United States has been discovered, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Tuesday. -- CNN.

The book Mad Cow USA is available as a free download from the fine folks at PR Watch. I read it a year or two ago. Just one more reason to be a vegetarian.

I'm probably a total jerk for suggesting it, but this may not be bad news overall. Beef consumption is one of the worst things you can do to the planet (along with driving the SUV to McDonalds to buy it), and anything that scares people off from eating beef takes pressure off of the world food supply and the rainforests. Hopefully no humans get infected and not many animals either. Some herds may be pre-emptively slaughtered for protection, but most cattle don't (doesn't?) have long happy lives ahead of them anyway, with an appointment at a slaughterhouse already made. The capitalists whose stock will drop are some of the worst around: Tyson Foods (which owns IBP, the leading beef producer in the country, if I remember my facts correctly), McDonalds, and a bunch of obnoxious J. R. Ewing types down in Texas who gave megabucks to every Bush campaign. Unfortunately, the workers whose jobs are at risk are some of the most vulnerable, especially slaughterhouse employees. (See Fast Food Nation for some of the horror stories.) But I believe that cattle ranching is one of the least labor-intensive enterprises in agriculture, so if beef gets replaced by non-meat foods in a lot of people's diets, it might actually improve the employment situation.
Play the Plame game, John!
Cyndy links to a letter sent by Senators Daschle and Levin to Attorney General John Ashcroft complaining about the lack of action on the leaking of classified information from the White House, particularly the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame as retaliation against her whistle-blowing husband. The concluding paragraph of the letter states:

Your continuing refusal to name a special counsel, despite the possible involvement of senior Administration officials, and the appearance of a conflict of interest, make it even more imperative that the Congress and the American people be assured that this case is being thoroughly pursued free of partisan influence and you are personally committed to achieving a prompt, successful conclusion. Therefore, we request that you provide us an update on your Department=s efforts in this investigation, the steps you have taken to ensure its independence, and any measures you have implemented to stem the tide of leaks of classified information. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

"We look forward to hearing from you soon?" Don't these guys know how to make an ultimatum? Here's my suggestion for how they should have ended the letter:

If we don't get an appropriate response by the end of this year (that's right, John, NEXT WEEK), we'll be by the Justice Department on January 5 to pick you up. We'll be going to the White House, complete with camera crew, and going door to door asking everyone there, including the president and vice president, to sign affidavits stating that they were not involved in any of these leaks. You will be asked to sign too, John. We'll be bringing Mike Wallace and Michael Moore with us, since we already know that nobody in the administration fears mere Democrats anymore.

Oh, and John? Merry Christmas.
Or, "Rocky and Bullwinkle continue the battle against Boris and Natasha."
Or, "Georgia on my mind, part MMIV."

The Asia Times has a fascinating article on the intrigue going on in the Caucuses (you know, the leaders of Azerbaijan and Georgia being recently replaced under extremely dubious circumstances, complete with visits from Rummy and Powell and Baker and other assorted criminals):

In May, during a solemn pipe-laying ceremony for the start of the Georgian stretch of the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline (BTC), Georgia oil executive Georgy Chantiurua said: "This was the start of the integration of Georgia into the NATO zone ... this pipeline will become an artery feeding energy to the US and European countries." The US$3.6 billion oilfield and pipeline development project involves a 1,767 kilometer pipeline, the world's longest, snaking from Baku through Georgia to a new terminal at Ceyhan on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey.

Ramzan issues a chilling warning: in 2004 "the war will seize the entire Caucasus from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea. Apart from Ossetia and Ingushetia, this year another guerrilla war has already started in two areas of Dagestan bordering Chechnya. I swear by Allah, this is only the beginning."

Significantly, Ramzan suspects that "Western governments and their security services also secretly finance us through different Islamic funds and organizations. I am convinced that there are Western powers in whose interests it is to keep Russia permanently involved in such a slow-burning conflict as the war in the Caucasus."
And there is also little doubt that September 11 provided the ultimate excuse for the US to install its military bases in Central Asia and the Trans-Caucasus - a former Soviet sphere. So the "war on terror" is not about a clash of civilizations between Islam and the West, and not even solely about "terrorism". The name of the game is basically Pipelineistan: monster oil corporate profits to be made by controlling Central Asia-Caspian Sea oil and gas, bypassing both Russia and Iran, and exerting extra pressure on China. As countless watchdogs have stressed, this is a ruthless "do or die" corporate war. As From the Wilderness puts it, it will be carried out "at any cost, no matter the suffering it may bring to human beings or the devastation it unleashes upon the environment. Such are the characteristics of today's imperialism, the source of war and terrorism."
So it comes as no surprise that the road map for what will happen in the next few years is Cheney's May 2001 energy report: the strategy is to to gain access, leverage and control of oil and gas from Colombia and Venezuela in South America to Iraq in the Middle East and the Caspian. Thus the American demonization of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, the fight against FARC in Colombia, the war against Iraq, the push for BTC in the Caspian, the courtship of Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov, etc.

It takes an exceptional degree of naivete to believe that the invasion of Iraq had anything to do with liberation or democracy or weapons of mass destruction once you get a glimpse of what's really happening.
Bob Harris is traveling the world
Bob Harris is the author/radio guy who sometimes guest-blogs on Tom Tomorrow's blog, turning it from a very good blog to a great one. He's already visited England, South Africa, Singapore and Malaysia, and has been sharing his experiences on the web. Here's one I particularly like from the Malaysia visit:

Inside, there's another four-story staircase leading up to the innermost temple, and when I was there, six guys were moving a house-sized pile of bricks up the staircase simply by throwing them, one-by-one, bucket-brigade style, apparently the only way to accomplish the job in such an enclosed, remote space. Hard work? Definitely. But they were laughing and singing and playing, even as their arms must have wanted to fall off.

Never having been the kind of guy who could laugh and giggle while my arms fall off in a cave, I had to stop and chat. They were all from Indonesia, it turns out, and they had moved to Malaysia for the money -- the brick-slinging option apparently paid way better than anything back home. Thus the whole we-are-Santa's-elves deal.

Keep this in mind, next time you're bummed because somebody cut you off in traffic or whatever. At least you're not so poor that

lifting bricks
by hand
up a four-story stairwell
in the middle of a cave
in Malaysia

would be a step up worthy of singing about.

Just around the corner
Al Giordano promises something big, left and outside for the new year; something about breaking the code of the unethical commercial media. Be sure to check his blog on New Year's day between cups of coffee or football games or whatever you're doing that day. Al says:

I've spent much of the past two months studying and contemplating this problem: how to revive ethical journalism, and am very close to uncloaking what I've really been up to of late.

As you head into the holidaze, kind readers and friends, don't get too depressed in the darkest days of the northern hemisphere... If at some point the bastards (including the ones you're related to, heh) get ya down, keep the following in mind: that when you awaken on New Year's morning, January 1, 2004, you are cordially invited to come looking here.

That's when my collaborators and I will uncloak something big. Our biggest assault on the unethical Commercial Media yet. We've cracked a code. And journalism will never be the same again.

Monday, December 22, 2003

And YOU get to pay for it all! Yes you do!
Truer words
Modern cyberspace is a deadly festering swamp, teeming with dangerous programs such as ''viruses,'' ''worms,'' ''Trojan horses'' and ''licensed Microsoft software'' that can take over your computer and render it useless. -- Dave Barry
Making travel exciting
I'm planning on flying to California on Christmas day. Might be more exciting than I was planning on, what with orange alerts and earthquakes.
The Night Before Baghdad, take six

I first wrote this in September 2002; my previous update was back in June. I've just added four more stanzas on the end:

The Night Before Baghdad, by Bob Goodsell

'Twas the night before Baghdad, and through the White House
Not a Bushie was thinking, not even his spouse
The war maps were hung by the table with care
In hopes that Dick Cheney soon would be there.

They'd bribed and extorted, threatened and lied
Not a one of them cared how many would die
Pope's, vets' and citizens' thoughts do not count
When you've an Iraqi invasion to mount.

No weapons were found by those sent to inspect
But all this meant naught to the pres'dent select
It matters not the UN closed the door
Our very own Hitler will have his own war.

People will die by the thousands and more
America's name soiled by blood and by gore
Lying for truth and warring for peace
The whole world suffers from Bush's disease.

The prez he was nestled all snug in his bed
While visions of 2004 danced in his head
With Condi on keyboard and Colin on bass
Rummy on vocals sang "Bush won't lose face!"

When out on the south lawn there rose such a noise
It had to be Rummy's destructive war toys
But astonished we were as our startled eyes fell
On a tall bearded man riding high on a camel.

"Tell me," asked Condi, "is that a llama?"
"No, token black woman! That is Osama!"
He hopped off his camel and gathered his rifle
Clearly this was someone with whom we won't trifle.

He walked to the door and passed in front of us
He asked to be taken to the Oval Office
The Senate had some of its members in there
And when he arrived he gave them a scare.

"Out Daschle! Out Feinstein! Out Smiling Joe Lieberman!
Out Lott! Out Hatch! Out Schumer! Out Clinton!
You're self-serving pawns of the corporate swine
Selling your souls to the Bush-Cheney line.

"I wanted a war 'twixt Islam and West
You've given me everything! Thanks, you're the best!
Thanks Condi, thanks Rummy, and thanks Colin, too!
And when he wakes up, please thank W!"

He went to the warroom and smiled at the plans
"The hated Saddam is soon a dead man!
The world in turmoil will be fertile ground
For radical Islam to be spread around!"

And flipping a finger toward one and all
He laughed so hard that it shook down the wall
It made so much noise that the prez left his sack
And came down to ask "Is it time to attack?"

And back to the garden Osama did go
No chicken hawk stopped him as he walked out the do'
Not Rummy, not Condi, not one of the staff
Stopped Osama bin Laden or his terrible laugh.

Then George Bush the Senior entered the room
By reading his lips we all sensed the gloom
"You've tried your best, George, I'll give you that, son
But make no mistake: the terrorists have won."

Meanwhile in Iraq Saddam slipped away
He'd be nowhere around on the bloody next day
He'd go into hiding and show up no more
'Til another dumb Bush sought another dumb war.

And back in the states with the press all embedded
Comes the crackdown on freedom that we've all dreaded
When ruled by a man who's conscience bereft
The right to be silent is all we'll have left.
'Tis three months since Baghdad and throughout the land
Not a weapon's been found in the concrete or sand
The lies they were told so to war we could go
'Bout nukes bought from Niger and 'thrax on the go.

Thousands are dying and millions are crying
As foreign invaders in khaki are trying
To bring back to Baghdad the order destroyed
By their bombs and their guns and their missiles deployed.

They toppled a statue and thought they had won
But now they are finding the war's just begun
The water's polluted and everything's looted
All victims of a mad leader deluded.

There's money for Bechtel and Cheney's old firm
The travesty just has to make Jefferson squirm
The Bushies care nothing for those who are dying
As long as the oil flows down the pipeline.

He flew to a ship sailing ten miles from shore
So that all the dumb freepers could once more adore
A dimwit from Texas who still had the gall
To celebrate war after he went AWOL.

If weapons were there who knows where's their location
Be it Qaeda or Hamas or Aryan Nation
And if they were not then our "president" lied
And for this lie many soldiers have died.
Now nine months have passed since the shrub first attacked
Saddam has been found and his bad boys been whacked
No weapons were found as know all with some sense
Still aWol the shrub says "What's the difference?"

Soldiers are dead by the hundreds, what's more
Thousands are wounded, their legs turned to gore
Others "supported" while tours drag on
As the liar in chief tells their foes "Bring 'em on."

Soon the Night Before Christmas will be upon us
Soldiers in Mosul not Indianapolis
Hoping to get home undead and unhurt
While the rest of us go on high terror alert.

Iraq's got no weapons and Saddam's not in charge
But people who hate us are always at large
And as we ponder their plans for the season
We know that Iraq gives them just one more reason.
Ted Rall previews Saddam's trial
[Ahmed Chalabi, prosecutor]: Um--OK. When did you decide to invade Kuwait?

[Saddam Hussein, defendant]: That was a terrible misunderstanding. Look, the other OPEC guys were leaning on me to do something about Kuwait because they were exceeding production limits and driving down prices. They're your problem, they said. I figured, why not kill three birds with one stone--reunite with a province artificially partitioned by the Brits, sate OPEC and stop the Kuwaitis' nasty habit of drilling sideways into our oilfields? But I was a good CIA employee. I would never have done something like that without talking to my bosses in the Bush Administration first.

AC: This would be George H.W. Bush?

SH: Yeah, yeah, the slightly smarter one. Anyway, I had my intelligence people analyze statements coming out of the White House to figure out whether they'd mind if I invaded. On July 24, 1990, a week before we went in, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said, "We do not have any defense treaties with Kuwait, and there are no special defense or security commitments to Kuwait." On July 31, Representative Lee Hamilton asked Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly, testifying before a House foreign affairs subcommittee, whether it was true that the U.S. would not send troops to defend Kuwait if I invaded. "That is correct," Kelly said. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie--they both told me it was OK to take out Kuwait! Then, when I did, they pretended we'd never talked about it first. It all goes to show, never deal with a middleman. I didn't want to bother President Bush during his August vacation. That's what you get for showing a little consideration. By the way, do you think there's any chance I could get my old job back? Tell Rummy I miss him!

There's more where that came from.
Michael Moore's letters from the troops
Short version. Full version.
Two soldiers and an interpreter killed,
two more soldiers wounded.
Support the strikers!
Politics in the Zeros gives a report from the front lines in the grocery strike in LA. For those of you who, like me, will be enjoying a few days off for the holidays, please remember that people in unions had a lot to do with making those days off possible. If you can do something to support workers who are striking this holiday season, please do so. Join the picket line, bring some food, support and promote the boycotts. To learn how to support the Borders strike, wherever you are, please go to this web site. I'll see if I can find out a list of recommendations for supporting the LA grocery strikers.

Bob's silly definition of the day
Iraqnophobia: Fear of spider holes.
Take my rights--Please!
No, this isn't standup comedy; it's bend-over-and-take-it tragedy. Thank you, Mr. Ashcroft, may I have another?

Lots of Americans are apparently willing to give up liberty for security: probably maximum security. Billmon is saddened by this; me too.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Nice little Kucinich plug
from Dave Pollard:

Kucinich remains the progressive standard-bearer

Dennis Kucinich, in an interview with Salon and LinkTV shows why he's the only real liberal in the Democratic race, and brilliantly deconstructs arguments he is 'unelectable'. I'm just more and more impressed with him. I think he'd have a superb relationship with other world leaders as President, and having that kind of collaboration and cooperation, instead of the Bush bullying and unilateralism and confrontation, could make all the difference in the world. Even if 2004 is not his year, watch this guy -- he's not going away and could well turn out to be the best President of the 21st century.

Feeling safer?
Terror threat level raised to orange. Orange you scared?

What will probably happen is many people will decide to drive instead of fly and end up getting killed in car crashes. Auto accidents kill more Americans every month, on average, than have been killed by terrorists in the past ten years, including 9/11.

Of course, the genuine thrill-seeker will be flying to Columbus, Ohio for the holidays, and spending all day cruising the freeways. Hijackings, car crashes, and snipers: a multi-threat vacation!
Think there are holes in the spider hole story?
You're not alone. Michelle has links to several articles from around the world describing a more plausible story behind Saddam's capture.
Pipelines and storage depots attacked in Iraq
From AP:
Insurgents attacked pipelines and an oil storage depot in three parts of Iraq, setting fires that blazed for hours and lost millions of gallons of oil, officials and media reported Sunday, as the country faced a critical fuel shortage.
The Oil Ministry introduced rationing on Thursday to overcome shortages that have created mile-long lines of cars at gas stations and waits up to 12 hours. At the same time the U.S. military began to crack down on black marketeers who sell gas for as much as $1.85 a gallon. The official price equates to 5 U.S. cents a gallon.

Baghdad blogger Raed gives some details about the "crack down on black marketeers" that the AP left out (quoted verbatim):

THREE to TEN years behind bars, is what I'll get if "they" got me buying petrol from the "black market"!!!!
I was reading this arabic leaflet (full of grammar mistakes) printed and distributed last week with my eyes opened .. opened very much .. this much >>> OO
Ladies and gentlemen , you either wait for 6 hours in the gas station queue, wondering how to keep theifs and bullets away from your cars, or you'll enjoy our prisons of freedom for the rest of your life.
Other unemployed free people, you either stop drinking and selling petrol or you'll be considered as "criminals", and the new Iraqi courts will put you in freedom cells; comfortable beds with free breakfast.
Iraq was unable to disarm as Bush insisted...
Because it had no weapons of which to disarm itself. Libya apparently has a barrel here and a vial there, and is willing to bring them to a parking lot and destroy them; hence Libya will not be invaded, at least not for a while. There's plenty to be said on this, especially regarding Bushian hypocrisy, and Billmon has said a lot of it. Plus it's 12:30 in the morning. So read Billmon, and check back in the morning!

Saturday, December 20, 2003

You think they lie to us? Look at what they told the Senate!
"Local" news from Florida's "Space Coast," via Left I:
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Monday the Bush administration last year told him and other senators that Iraq not only had weapons of mass destruction, but they had the means to deliver them to East Coast cities.

Nelson, D-Tallahassee, said about 75 senators got that news during a classified briefing before last October's congressional vote authorizing the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Nelson voted in favor of using military force.

Nelson said he couldn't reveal who in the administration gave the briefing.

The White House directed questions about the matter to the Department of Defense. Defense officials had no comment on Nelson's claim.

Nelson said the senators were told Iraq had both biological and chemical weapons, notably anthrax, and it could deliver them to cities along the Eastern seaboard via unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones.
Think it's bad? No! It's much, much worse than that!
Canadian journalist Naomi Klein recently attended "ReBuilding Iraq 2, a gathering of 400 businesspeople itching to get a piece of the Iraqi reconstruction action." She wasn't reassured by what she heard, as she reports in the Nation:

Bremer's Iraq is, by all accounts, uninsurable.
Just when the mood at ReBuilding Iraq 2 couldn't sink any lower, up to the podium strides Michael Lempres, vice president of insurance at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). With a cool confidence absent from the shellshocked proceedings so far, he announces that investors can relax: Uncle Sam will protect them.

A US government agency, OPIC provides loans and insurance to US companies investing abroad. And while Lempres agrees with earlier speakers that the risks in Iraq are "extraordinary and unusual," he also says that "OPIC is different. We do not exist primarily to generate profit." Instead, OPIC exists to "support US foreign policy." And since turning Iraq into a free-trade zone is a top Bush policy goal, OPIC will be there to help out. Earlier that same day, President Bush signed legislation providing "the agency with enhancements to its political risk insurance program," according to an OPIC press release.
At the Microsoft-sponsored cocktail reception in the Galaxy Ballroom that evening, Robert Dees urges us "to network on behalf of the people of Iraq." I follow orders and ask Lempres what happens if "the people of Iraq" decide to seize back their economy from the US firms he has so generously insured. Who bails out OPIC? "In theory," he says, "the US Treasury stands behind us." That means the US taxpayer. Yes, them again: The same people who have already paid Halliburton, Bechtel et al. to make a killing on Iraq's reconstruction would have to pay these companies again, this time in compensation for their losses. While the enormous profits being made in Iraq are strictly private, it turns out that the entire risk is being shouldered by the public.

So Bechtel or Halliburton can spend a billion dollars of our money building a port or pipeline or highway in Iraq, something a French firm would probably gladly have done for half as much, or an Iraqi firm for one tenth as much or less. Then, when the inevitable feces hits the inevitable air circulator and said facility gets blown to smithereens and/or nationalized, Bechtel or Halliburton will bill us for another billion dollars to compensate for their loss. Rush Limbaugh and his pals call Kucinich a socialist for suggesting that profit be removed from health care, but the Bushies have removed profit from providing carpetbagger care in Iraq, since insurance companies recognize there's no profit in insuring glass at a rock-throwing festival. By doing so, profits are guaranteed for the crooks at Halliburton, Bechtel, and so on, and losses are guaranteed for you and me and Iraq.

Thanks to Allan in Ottawa for the link!
They say "abuse," we say "torture."
Let's call the whole thing off.

Al Giordano notes that the video evidence of the torture of people detained after 9/11 at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, N.Y. is being reported as "abuse."

The report concluded that as many as 20 guards were involved in the abuse, which included slamming prisoners against walls and painfully twisting their arms and hands.
A federal dragnet after the Sept. 11 attacks resulted in the detention of more than 1,200 foreign nationals, including 762 people who were the focus of Fine's original probe. Most were of Arab or South Asian descent and were held on immigration violations under a directive from Attorney General John D. Ashcroft while authorities attempted to determine whether they were connected to the attack or to terrorist groups. None was ever charged with terrorism-related crimes, however.

From Boondocks.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Red meat for the suspicious
Don't believe the Saddam capture story? You'll love this.
From a blog called Xymphora...
Comes this concise summary of the Bush/Blair war crimes case:

Bush says there is no difference between Saddam's having weapons of mass destruction and the possibility that he could move to acquire such weapons. Of course, there is all the difference in the world. The Bush/Blair argument for war absolutely depended on an imminent threat, and for that Saddam actually had to have the weapons in hand and be able to use them. Thinking about getting weapons, pondering getting weapons, planning getting weapons, having the capability to attempt to acquire weapons - none of these is good enough. After the Second World War the world community decided on the sanctity of the sovereignty of nations, and prohibited wars waged on the basis of the various excuses used by people like Hitler. To say that the war was fought as Saddam would be a threat if he acquired weapons is ridiculous, as any war could be fought on that basis. There has to at least be either an imminent threat of attack and no other way to avoid war, or the agreement of the United Nations. Otherwise, the war is illegal, and allowing it destroys the understanding carefully created to ensure that another Hitler couldn't hide behind vague claims of security to wage colonialist wars. Bush in fact may not be smart enough to understand this, but the American attack on Iraq was clearly illegal, and sets a terrible precedent for the world.

David Kay is getting tired of looking for something which he knows isn't there, and wants to quit as the man in charge of dragging the search for WMD out long enough so Bush won't be embarrassed. I assume he believes that Bush no longer needs to pretend that there are such weapons now that a Saddam-like figure is in the bag, and so he can give up the charade. Kay, who has spent much of the last fifteen years mongering for the obscene attack on Iraq, has become a rather pathetic figure, dragging his ass around the desert so he and Bush won't look like bloodthirsty fools.

With Saddam in custody all the war criminals seem to feel comfortable about brazenly admitting that the weapons that provided the excuse for the attack didn't exist. Complex diplomacy and the lessons of the Second World War have been laid waste, and the world is a more dangerous place.
Clark and Milosevic
Left I has an interesting comparison of various news reports on Wesley Clark's testimony in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic.
Cheney, Drugs, Halliburton
Need I say more to get you to read this article?

Okay, how about this little excerpt:

Dick Cheney's footprints have come closer to drugs than one might suspect. The August Center for Public Integrity report brought them even closer. It would be factually correct to say that there is a direct linkage of Brown and Root facilities - often in remote and hazardous regions - between every drug producing region and every drug consuming region in the world. These coincidences, in and of themselves, do not prove complicity in the trade. Other facts, however, lead inescapably in that direction.
Cheery thoughts from George Monbiot
(with which I totally agree)
Every generation has its taboo, and ours is this: that the resource upon which our lives have been built is running out. We don't talk about it because we cannot imagine it. This is a civilisation in denial.
No one with expertise in the field is in any doubt that the global production of oil will peak before long.

The only question is how long. The most optimistic projections are the ones produced by the US department of energy, which claims that this will not take place until 2037. But the US energy information agency has admitted that the government's figures have been fudged: it has based its projections for oil supply on the projections for oil demand, perhaps in order not to sow panic in the financial markets.

Other analysts are less sanguine. The petroleum geologist Colin Campbell calculates that global extraction will peak before 2010. In August, the geophysicist Kenneth Deffeyes told New Scientist that he was "99% confident" that the date of maximum global production will be 2004. Even if the optimists are correct, we will be scraping the oil barrel within the lifetimes of most of those who are middle-aged today.
As the price rises, the sectors which are now almost wholly dependent on crude oil - principally transport and farming - will be forced to contract. Given that climate change caused by burning oil is cooking the planet, this might appear to be a good thing. The problem is that our lives have become hard-wired to the oil economy. Our sprawling suburbs are impossible to service without cars. High oil prices mean high food prices: much of the world's growing population will go hungry. These problems will be exacerbated by the direct connection between the price of oil and the rate of unemployment. The last five recessions in the US were all preceded by a rise in the oil price.
We seem, in other words, to be in trouble. Either we lay hands on every available source of fossil fuel, in which case we fry the planet and civilisation collapses, or we run out, and civilisation collapses.
In view of all this, the notion that the war with Iraq had nothing to do with oil is simply preposterous. The US attacked Iraq (which appears to have had no weapons of mass destruction and was not threatening other nations), rather than North Korea (which is actively developing a nuclear weapons programme and boasting of its intentions to blow everyone else to kingdom come) because Iraq had something it wanted.

There's a limit to broadband
Comcast, which provides the broadband cable-modem service to my house, has apparently disconnected some customers for downloading too much. I haven't looked at my contract, but according to the article, there are no stated limits on broadband usage. You pay for broadband because you want to access a lot and download a lot. But now if you do, they may cut you off.
There's an ad on TV now which shows a seventh-grade class deciding to help a needy family for Christmas. They raise money through odd jobs and bake sales and such, and then they go and buy presents--at Wal-Mart. The same Wal-Mart that has done so much to increase poverty in this country. Heck, the mother of the needy family may actually WORK at Wal-Mart! Or maybe she lost her job at the textile mill because Wal-Mart buys mostly from China.

So Wal-Mart is using the good intentions of school kids to promote their vile brand of commerce. They're also promoting the insidious notion that there's nothing sadder than Christmas without crappy presents. Why not just give the money to the mother and let her pay the rent or buy the food her family really needs?

Bah humbug.

(Warning: Half-formed thought follows)

I'm thinking about Wal-Mart, and about Henry Ford. Henry Ford was an interesting individual, a bizarre collection of great and terrible ideas. He was an innovator, an anti-Semite, a pacifist, a failure, and an amazing success. And while in his later years, during the 1930's, he was vehemently anti-union, he also had some interesting ideas in the labor field. One for which he is best known is the $5 work day, which I believe he introduced around 1914. This was a substantially higher wage than most laborers could get at the time. Ford's reasoning was that his workers had to be paid enough to be able to buy his cars. I'm not sure that the logic was really sound, but it was an interesting concept.

What strikes me now is that Wal-Mart takes the opposite approach. By keeping wages low, they make it so that the only place people can afford to shop is Wal-Mart.
Women's Lib
Supposedly beneficiaries of the Bush wars, women in Afghanistan and Iraq are not doing well, according to Juan Cole:

The sad reality is farther from this extended political commercial than even the most hardened cynic could easily imagine. Women have been frozen out of significant political office in Afghanistan and have been silenced with death threats from hardened warlords when they have dared speak out.
In Herat, warlord Ismail Khan's policies toward women differ only somewhat from those of the Taliban!
Likewise, in Iraq, the US invasion and occupation has certainly been a disaster for Iraqi women.
Juan Cole on the security situation in Iraq:
Just a personal note. I lived in Beirut during the early years of the civil war there in the mid to late 1970s. When I see correspondents reporting from downtown Baghdad, and hear the repeated gunfire and bombings in the background, I cannot help flash on Beirut then. Apparently Baghdad closes up at 9 pm every night, and people are desperately afraid for their security. It isn't even clear whom the gunmen are fighting. These obvious signs of near-anarchy are visible whenever Wolf Blitzer or some other anchor talks to an American in Baghdad nowadays. It is incredible to me that anyone is optimistic, given this obvious lack of security in the country's capital, which is occupied by thousands of American troops! I mean, this really is an 'emperor has no clothes' scenario, but Wolf and others seem too polite to just say so. -- Juan Cole
Justice for Gitmo?
In another legal setback for the Bush administration, a federal appeals court has concluded terrorist suspects held in secret U.S. custody on foreign soil deserve access to lawyers and the American legal system. -- CNN

I had to search several news web sites to find one (CNN) which actually accorded this important decision its own headline. The NY Times, Washington Post, even the Globe & Mail all simply added it on to the Padilla decision which was delivered earlier yesterday.

Of course, CNN's web site is giving the main headline to the all-important Michael Jackson story, while the attack on Bremer (which has apparently been covered up for two weeks) and another explosion in Baghdad get minor billing. The headline for the Gitmo case was only to be found hiding, for some strange reason, in the "World" section near the bottom of the page.

In any case, no matter how the media tries to hide it, this is great news for justice and bad news for Bush. Win-win.

Billmon has a much more thorough post on the legalities and history behind these decisions. Highly recommended.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Some day, some of this may matter
Michelle has dug up another bizarre tidbit regarding the 9/11 investigation: Thomas Kean, chairman of the 9/11 commission, has had business dealings with Osama bin Laden's brother in law.

According to a 1998 Senate testimony of former CIA director James Woolsey, powerful financier Khalid bin Mahfouz' younger sister is married to Osama bin Laden. (US Senate, Senate Judiciary Committee, Federal News Service, 3 Sept. 1998, See also Wayne Madsen, Questionable Ties, In These Times,12 Nov. 2001 )

Bin Mahfouz is suspected to have funnelled millions of dollars to the Al Qaeda network.(See Tom Flocco, 28 Aug. 2002)

Now, "by sheer coincidence", former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean, the man chosen by President Bush to lead the 9/11 commission also has business ties with bin Mahfouz and Al-Amoudi.

Thomas Kean is a director (and shareholder) of Amerada Hess Corporation , which is involved in the Hess-Delta joint venture with Delta Oil of Saudi Arabia (owned by the bin Mahfouz and Al-Amoudi clans). Delta-Hess "was established in 1998 for the development and exploration of oil fields in the Caspian region...In Azerbaijan Delta Hess is involved in the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli PSA (2.72%) and the Garabaghli-Kursangi PSA (20%). It is also an equity holder in the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline"

A reminder: The families of 9/11 victims were promised by Bush that they could pick one of the five Republican members of the 9/11 commission. Their choice was former New Hampshire senator Warren Rudman. Instead, Bush appointed Henry Kissinger, who withdrew rather than reveal his conflicts of interest. So Kean was selected. No Rudman. Kean therefore may have the extremely dubious distinction of being one of the few people in the world having fewer scruples than Henry Kissinger (Bush and Cheney are in that select group as well).

Even so, this moral cipher may yet be so appalled by what he finds out that he'll do the right thing.
MSNBC's got an online poll.
Weapons found
Saddam's enormous bushy beard contained several mobile bioweapons labs, twelve Scud missiles, some African yellowcake enclosed in a lead capsule, and a dachshund named Mordecai, who had disappeared in early March. -- from Opinions You Should Have
I hate to defend Dr. Dean, but...
This Washington Post editorial is, to use their own word, ludicrous:

The argument that this tyrant was not a danger to the United States is not just unfounded but ludicrous.

Maybe Dean was basing his judgment on that of Colin Powell:

He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. -- Colin Powell, Feb. 24, 2001

If the editorial board at the Post thinks former dictators of disarmed nations hiding in spider holes are a danger to the U.S., they must not be getting much sleep. Which would probably explain the utter stupidity of this editorial.
Of course, calling aWol a hypocrite is like calling Michael Jackson weird. Fish in a barrel, you know. But Michelle reminds us that many months ago, before the bombs and the soldiers started falling, aWol wanted Saddam Hussein to go into exile, presumably escaping the punishment now planned for him:

Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing. For their own safety, all foreign nationals -- including journalists and inspectors -- should leave Iraq immediately. -- aWol's speech, March 17, 2003.

Michelle, whose paranoid suspicions I deeply respect, and not just because they provide cover for mine, seems to suggest all sorts of fancy intrigue for this offer of exile--secret arms shipments and so on. While there may be something to that, I think the explanation is simpler: Bush was going to start a war, and he wanted some way to blame it on Saddam. He confirms this himself later in the speech:

Should Saddam Hussein choose confrontation, the American people can know that every measure has been taken to avoid war, and every measure will be taken to win it.

In other words, by not doing something that Bush knew pretty much for sure that he wouldn't do, Saddam was to blame for the war. Still, Michelle has a point. Even as a cynical ploy that he expected, Bush was saying that he was willing to let this tyrant and his sons get away. That sort of puts a chimp wrench into his latest statements about how important it was to remove the threat of Saddam's return to power FOREVER. From aWol's speech on Sunday (emphasis added):

The capture of this man was crucial to the rise of a free Iraq. It marks the end of the road for him, and for all who bullied and killed in his name. For the Baathist holdouts largely responsible for the current violence, there will be no return to the corrupt power and privilege they once held. For the vast majority of Iraqi citizens who wish to live as free men and women, this event brings further assurance that the torture chambers and the secret police are gone forever.

And this afternoon, I have a message for the Iraqi people: You will not have to fear the rule of Saddam Hussein ever again.

That is, the "rise of a free Iraq" is a lot more important to aWol now than it was back in March, when he was offering different excuses:

Today, no nation can possibly claim that Iraq has disarmed. And it will not disarm so long as Saddam Hussein holds power.

Why does anyone believe anything this lying liar says?
Another soldier killed
and one wounded, along with an interpreter. -- NY Times

And, from the same article:

On Wednesday delegates on the Iraqi Governing Council, the 25-member body appointed by the Americans to help run Iraq, denied reports that Mr. Hussein had been taken out of Iraq, possibly to Qatar, on the Persian Gulf.

"Saddam Hussein is still in greater Baghdad and will remain there to be tried in Iraq," Mowaffak al- Rubaie, a council member, said at a news conference here.

So once again we don't really know where Saddam is.

Court orders release of Padilla
President Bush does not have power to detain American citizen Jose Padilla, the former gang member seized on U.S. soil, as an enemy combatant, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

The decision could force the government to try Padilla, held in a so-called "dirty bomb'' plot, in civilian courts.

In a 2-1 ruling, a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Padilla's detention was not authorized by Congress and that Bush could not designate him as an enemy combatant without the authorization.

The former Chicago gang member who converted to Islam was arrested in May 2002 Chicago's O'Hare airport as he returned from Pakistan. Within days, he was moved to a naval brig in Charleston, S.C.

The court directed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to release Padilla from military custody within 30 days, but said the government was free to transfer him to civilian authorities who can bring criminal charges.
-- AP

Finally a court is trying to show Bush the meaning of America justice.

A Mighty, Mighty Union
is what retail workers need.
The best present New York City's retail workers could get this holiday season is a card -- a union membership card, according to a new report issued today by the Economic Policy Institute. "Unionization and Poverty: The Case of New York City Retail Workers" analyzes the 10-year decline in wages and benefits paid to New York's retail workers and reviews the failure of existing public policies to address these declines. It concludes that the surest way for retail workers to improve their lives is by joining a union and the most effective public policy to help them get there would be policies that protect their right to organize.

My brother explained it to me decades ago. During World War Two, millions of working-age Americans went off to Europe or the Pacific, where economically speaking they were strictly consumers and not producers. And even though the quality and quantity of some of the things they consumed, like food and housing, may have declined from their previous standards they were still consuming these, and overall the Americans abroad were far more voracious consumers than before. Ships, airplanes, guns, bombs, ammunition, and so on were being consumed at incredible rates. And not just by American soldiers and sailors. The American "arsenal of democracy" was supplying the British, Soviets, Chinese and several others with whatever they needed to continue fighting the Axis powers. All of this was being produced by a drastically reduced workforce at home. Of course, women and others who hadn't worked in factories before were employed, and many people worked very long hours. Nevertheless, it was demonstrated that America could produce goods in amounts dramatically larger than would normally be needed in peacetime with only a fraction of the workforce.

The war ended; the troops came home. Rather than figure out a way to share the work and the wealth in some way that guaranteed nobody would get too much of the former or too little of the latter, it instead became common policy and wisdom that the only economy we could have is one with constant growth and excessive consumption. Not only does this economy destroy the environment, it also concentrates wealth. And wealth is power. When you buy something at a store, the clerk you give your money to has basically no say in how that money is distributed. The CEO sitting at his desk will get a much higher cut than the clerk will; probably hundreds of times as much. And since we have this incredible excess of "productivity," the clerk is easily replaceable if she complains or tries to take a larger cut. Only by organizing do the clerks of the world have a chance at anything like a fair share.

I don't know the answers, but I'm quite sure that things can't continue in the direction they're going now. The goal of the "cheap-labor conservatives" is to continue increasing their share of the pie to as close to 100% as possible, and they're already very close. People deserve to be able to live, but that right is systematically being denied them.

So, in the short term at least, do whatever you can to support unions.

From Lalo Alcarez.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

This was not something that had to happen.
September 11, that is. According to Thomas Kean, chairman of the commission investigating 9/11.

"This is a very, very important part of history and we've got to tell it right," said Thomas Kean.

"As you read the report, you're going to have a pretty clear idea what wasn't done and what should have been done," he said. "This was not something that had to happen."

Appointed by the Bush administration, Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey, is now pointing fingers inside the administration and laying blame.

"There are people that, if I was doing the job, would certainly not be in the position they were in at that time because they failed. They simply failed," Kean said.

The CBS story gets a little muddled after that, leaving Kean's statements and going to those of 9/11 widow Kristen Breitweiser. Between the two, it would appear that Condiloser Rice may take the brunt of the blame. She certainly deserves it for incompetence, if nothing else. As Breitweiser points out, nothing so completely convicts her of incompetence at the least as Rice's incredibly stupid (naive, ignorant, duplicitous--choose one or several) statement from May 2002:

I don't think anybody could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile.

Maybe, in spite of all that the Bushies have done to cover up what really happened on 9/11 and to thwart any and all investigations of it, the 9/11 commission will still come through with the stunning revelations that will guarantee aWol's defeat next year, if not his impeachment. And, just as with Nixon and Clinton, it won't be the initial crime or failure or blow job that does him in, but that he knew about it and lied in order to cover it up.
Bush administration embroiled in Boeing scandal
A good analysis from the WSWS.
Woohoo! I agree with aWol on something!
W: The best day of my presidency was when I was sworn in as President and — because it gave me a chance to assume this high office and implement a strategy that would make the world more peaceful and more free and a country more compassionate. That's so far been the best day of my presidency. -- from the Diane Sawyer interview.

Definitely the best day of his presidency. He was only president for half the day. It's been all downhill ever since.
In case you missed it...
SAWYER: But stated as a hard fact, that there were weapons of mass destruction, as opposed to the possibility that he could move to acquire those weapons still --

BUSH: So what's the difference?

ABC's Diane Sawyer interviewed aWol last night, and actually pressed him on the phantom WMD's. Liberal Oasis has the "highlights," while ABC has the full transcript.

And since there exists the possibility that any of us might move to acquire WMD's, I guess none of us are safe from the whims of W. But you knew that anyway.
Ashcrotch sanctioned
Chief Inquisitor John Ashcrotch has been sanctioned by a federal judge for twice violating a gag order. A remorseful Ashcrotch promised not to do it again very often.
Saddam's Confession
No need to continue questioning him; Billmon has already written his confession for him:

"I, Saddam Hussein, freely admit to having conspired with agents of the Syrian and Iranian governments to smuggle weapons of mass destruction into the Vatican. I confess to meeting personally with Muhammad Atta at the Prague Airport in April 2001 to plot the September 11 attacks. I am personally responsible for the spread of the global AIDS epidemic." etc. etc.

This as part of a larger post comparing yesterday's NY Times with the old Soviet paper Pravda. Read everything else Billmon has written lately; as the Rasta guy used to say on Dark Angel, "It's all good." (I wrote a much longer post on all these great Billmon rants earlier today, but Blogger crashed and I lost it all. So I'm leaving it up to you, dear readers.)
Brainwashing is easy
I just finished reading Peter Maass's book Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War. Written in 1996, it describes Maass's experience as a Washington Post reporter during the Bosnian war in the early 1990's. The book is excellent, in a massively depressing sort of way. I was particularly struck by these paragraphs:

When the votes were counted, the [Serbian] Socialist Party had picked up twenty-two additional seats in Parliament. Milosevic's remarkable success had nothing to do with slick propaganda--the stuff was crude and badly produced. Dead bodies, stiff anchormen, more dead bodies, more stiff anchormen. It would be tempting to conclude that he succeeded in brainwashing Serbs, and succeeded with such ease, because Serbs were stupid and backward (and very different from us). The theory would appear to be supported by the fact that the war in Bosnia was so despicable that, as any outsider knew, only a nation of mildly retarded people could be conned into waging it. But this notion would be wrong. The propaganda succeeded because it imparted a clear, Reaganesque message: Milosevic was defending Serbs who lived outside Serbia, and defending Serbia itself from the Islamic-Ustashe dangers lurking at its borders. Simple, clean, effective. Serbs swallowed it. In a similar situation, so might we.

I sought guidance from Milos Vasic at Vreme magazine. The wall above his desk was papered with cartoons, one of which showed a map on which America was identified as "the United States of Serbia," and the caption said, "What's Serbian pacifism? Greater Serbia to the Pacific!" Vasic was a master at exposing the lies of nationalists and the conceits of foreigners, and he had a standard response when asked for the secret behind Milosevic's brainwashing success: "You must imagine a United States with every little TV station everywhere taking exactly the same editorial line--a line dictated by David Duke. You too would have war in five years."

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Free Trade is just for those poor countries
First the steel tariffs, and now the Iraq contracts, violate the terms of the World Trade Organization:

Incensed that foreign countries were playing favorites in doling out billions of dollars to build airports, roads and dams, the U.S. became a prime cheerleader for a global agreement on government procurement.

Now, the U.S. stands accused of violating the very pact it worked so hard to create.

The Pentagon said last week that companies from France, Canada and other countries that didn't contribute militarily to the Iraq war would be barred from bidding on $18.6 billion in U.S.-funded reconstruction contracts. That sent officials from excluded countries to their lawbooks, looking for ways to strike back.

The European Commission, which called the Iraq bid decision "ill-thought-out," is considering filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization in Geneva. Under the WTO procurement pact for which the U.S. heavily lobbied, governments in most cases must open their purchasing processes to international competition and treat domestic and foreign firms equally.

Attacks on Supremes' McCain-Feingold Decision
I'd heard many suggestions that the McCain-Feingold-Shays-Meehan campaign finance bill was flawed, that it wouldn't stop the corruption, that there were too many loopholes and ways around it. But my impression was that most people were on board with it, thinking it was a necessary first step, however flawed. I thought that only neanderthals like Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell tried to use the "campaign contributions are free speech" argument. The bill passed, Bush signed it. McConnell challenged it in the Supreme Court, which just recently upheld almost all of it as constitutional.

But now I'm seeing a surprising number of political cartoons berating the Supremes for "destroying free speech." It might be expected from normally right-wing cartoonists like Mike Lester and John Cole, who even takes a personal swipe at Reagan appointee Sandra Day O'Connor.

But I've also seen cartoons with the same message from normally liberal cartoonists, like Steve Benson and Signe Wilkinson, more than I recall seeing back when the bill was being debated in Congress (and when it was more in the news). I'll confess I don't know all of the details about the bill, but I don't think that cash is free speech. We all know that there are limits even to free speech (yelling "Movie!" in a crowded fire station, for instance). And there are rightly limits on spending money (unless you're Rush Limbaugh). Theoretically, in my dream world at least, democracy is not supposed to be for sale. So where are all these complaints about the Supremes' decision on M-F coming from, and why now?
NY Times Editorial on Smith-gate
Or maybe we should call it MoNICKa for the younger crowd: the attempted bribery of a Republican congressman to get his vote on the Medicare destruction bill.

The Times doesn't say much, nor do they suggest that their paper will start a full-scale investigation. They just suggest it's sort of sordid and whimper. SCLM, indeed.
Kids say the darnedest things
Doesn't the University of Michigan have any admission requirements?

"It is great that we have captured the man who has been responsible for the whole war and hardship of the Iraqi people," said LSA freshman Amy Stein. -- from a Michigan Daily article on student reactions to Saddam's capture.
Borders cancels negotiations
Some sort of vandalism was done to the Borders store in downtown Ann Arbor between midnight and 5 AM on Monday morning. I haven't seen it, and it hasn't appeared in the Ann Arbor News, and I can't get to the Michigan Daily web site, so I don't know what happened. All I have is two e-mails, one from the union and one from Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality. Both deny any involvement with the vandalism. Borders has apparently used the vandalism as an excuse for cancelling the negotiations which were scheduled for yesterday. Accusations appear to be flying in all directions. The whole thing could get very ugly.

Monday, December 15, 2003

The big story of the weekend
Was the attack on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Billmon suggests that "Musharraf's survival is probably a hell of a lot more important than the precise dimensions of Saddam's spider hole, or how many cavities they found when they examined his teeth."

Why? Because Pakistan has nukes, and missiles to deliver them. Because the attack on Musharraf may have been an inside job. And Billmon thinks that overthrowing Musharraf is now al Qaeda's number one priority. He concludes:

Musharaff remains the key to keeping the uneasy peace in Pakistan. The day he dies is the day a new front opens up in the war against terrorism -- one more central to the ultimate outcome than Iraq will ever be.
Quote du Jour
What happened Sunday was that the Republicans captured a former ally, with whom they had later fallen out. -- Juan Cole.


Kucinich's Media Plan
Campaigning in Iowa on Sunday, Kucinich issues a detailed plan for reforming the media in America that called for:

* Breaking up the major media conglomerates in order to encourage competition and quality, as well as diversity. Kucinich wants to limit the number of media outlets one corporation can own in a given medium, such as radio, print, or television. He would also prohibit cross-ownership of newspapers, radio and television in the same market by a single corporation.

* Expansion of funding for public broadcasting channels on television and radio, and expansion of support for community-controlled media, in order to ensure the existence of media outlets that are free of the influence of advertisers.

* Requiring broadcast and cable networks to provide substantial free air time for candidates and parties during election campaigns.

* Opening up the regulatory process so that citizens can more easily challenge the licenses of local broadcast outlets that fail to provide local coverage and to direct coverage at the entire community they are supposed to serve.

* Permitting not-for-profit groups to obtain low-power FM radio station licenses. Kucinich wants to encourage the development of new, community- based, noncommercial broadcasting outlets.

* Withdrawal of the U.S. from the World Trade Organization. Media companies have been lobbying the WTO for the creation of policies that would allow trade sanctions against countries that limit foreign ownership of domestic media, establish standards for local content and fund public broadcasting.
-- The Online Beat
Good one, Howie!
Really. Gotta give the doctor his due, although I prefer the liberal candidates.

"George W. Bush is preventing entire nations from bidding on contracts in Iraq so his campaign contributors can continue to overcharge the American taxpayers," Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean said while campaigning in Iowa Friday. -- CBS
AWol obviously holds non-torture means of interrogation in low regard:
Q: Given your skepticism about Saddam Hussein's ability to tell the truth, do you think his interrogation might help resolve any lingering questions about what he did with his weapons of mass destruction and his ties to terrorist groups?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't know. I would think not. I mean, he's a deceiver. He's a liar. He's a torturer. He's a murderer. I can't imagine why he would change his attitude, since he'll be treated humanely by the U.S. coalition -- U.S. troops.
-- From today's press conference.
AWol's nose skewers two dozen reporters with this one:
David, I think you've seen about our foreign policy is that I'm reluctant to use military power. It's the last choice, it's not our first choice. And in Iraq, there was a lot of diplomacy that took place before there was any military action. There was diplomacy prior to my arrival, diplomacy during my time here, and we tried all means and methodologies to achieve the objective, which was a more secure America, by using diplomatic means and persuasion. -- aWol, from today's press conference.

I guess "diplomacy" means "sanctions and bombs" in the Bush dyslexicon.
aWol babbles to the press
And I can understand why people would be afraid to act in Iraq, afraid that Saddam might come back -- after all, he's a torturer and a killer. I met with a doctor today, the guy took me aside and he said, I want to thank you, my dad was murdered by Saddam Hussein. A lot of people share that sentiment, by the way, because it's happened to them. And you can understand why people feared him -- after all, he stayed in power by fear, by ruling through fear. -- aWol in today's press conference.

Too bad he didn't leave the airport when he was in Iraq. People could have taken him aside and said "I want to curse you, my dad was killed by your dad," or "I hate you, you miserable SOB: my daughter was killed by you." Saddam was just one of the "Butchers of Baghdad." And aWol has certainly learned his lesson from Saddam--stay in power by fear, rule by fear. From earlier in the press conference:

aWol: I will never forget the lessons of September the 11th, 2001. Terrorists attacked us. They killed thousands of our fellow citizens. And it could happen again. And, therefore, I will deal with threats -- threats that are emerging and real.

For the billionth time: Neither Iraq nor Saddam Hussein ever attacked or even threatened the United States.
They only hear what they want to hear, and disregard the rest...
Time claims to have the results from the initial questioning of Saddam Hussein. US officials are unimpressed, saying “He’s not been very cooperative,” said [an] official who read the transcript of the initial interrogation report taken during the first questioning session. By "not cooperative" he means "not saying what we want to hear."

Saddam was also asked whether Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. “No, of course not,” he replied, according to the official, “the U.S. dreamed them up itself to have a reason to go to war with us.” The interrogator continued along this line, said the official, asking: “if you had no weapons of mass destruction then why not let the U.N. inspectors into your facilities?” Saddam’s reply: “We didn’t want them to go into the presidential areas and intrude on our privacy.”

Apparently Saddam is going on a potty strike to end the occupation:
When offered a glass of water by his interrogators, Saddam replied, “If I drink water I will have to go to the bathroom and how can I use the bathroom when my people are in bondage?”

Same way you did before, old chap!
Welcome back!
Michael Moore has a few things to say about the capture of one of the butchers of Baghdad (the other two are Bush Sr. and Bush Jr.):

Thank God Saddam is finally back in American hands! He must have really missed us. Man, he sure looked bad! But, at least he got a free dental exam today. That's something most Americans can't get.

America used to like Saddam. We LOVED Saddam. We funded him. We armed him. We helped him gas Iranian troops.

But then he screwed up. He invaded the dictatorship of Kuwait and, in doing so, did the worst thing imaginable -- he threatened an even BETTER friend of ours: the dictatorship of Saudi Arabia, and its vast oil reserves. The Bushes and the Saudi royal family were and are close business partners, and Saddam, back in 1990, committed a royal blunder by getting a little too close to their wealthy holdings. Things went downhill for Saddam from there.

But it wasn't always that way. Saddam was our good friend and ally. We supported his regime. It wasn’t the first time we had helped a murderer. We liked playing Dr. Frankenstein. We created a lot of monsters -- the Shah of Iran, Somoza of Nicaragua, Pinochet of Chile -- and then we expressed ignorance or shock when they ran amok and massacred people. We liked Saddam because he was willing to fight the Ayatollah. So we made sure that he got billions of dollars to purchase weapons. Weapons of mass destruction. That's right, he had them. We should know -- we gave them to him!
Stay strong, Democratic candidates. Quit sounding like a bunch of wusses. These bastards sent us to war on a lie, the killing will not stop, the Arab world hates us with a passion, and we will pay for this out of our pockets for years to come. Nothing that happened today (or in the past 9 months) has made us ONE BIT safer in our post-9/11 world. Saddam was never a threat to our national security.

Palast Coup
While lauding the capture of Mr. Hussein, experts caution that the War on Terror is far from over, noting that Osama bin Laden, James Baker and George W. Bush remain at large. -- Greg Palast
Gun control in Britain
Katharine Gun told the truth about US spying on UN delegations back in March, and is now paying the consequences.

Katharine Gun's truth-telling did not stop the war on Iraq, but it did make a difference. Some analysts cite the uproar from the leaked memo as a key factor in the U.S.-British failure to get Security Council approval of a pro-war resolution before the invasion began in late March.

The government of British Prime Minister Tony Blair quickly arrested Ms. Gun. In June, she formally lost her job as a translator at the top-secret Government Communications Headquarters in Gloucester. On Nov. 13, her name surfaced in the British news media when the Labor Party government dropped the other shoe, charging the 29-year-old woman with a breach of the Official Secrets Act.

She faces up to two years in prison if convicted.

From Paul Conrad.
What do these actors have in common?
Carl Weathers, Elpidia Carrillo, Bill Duke, Sonny Landham, Kevin Peter Hall, Richard Chaves, R.G. Armstrong, and Shane Black.

A Bobber Award to the first correct response, which should be in the form of "They were all in __________ but have never been _________."

What the wingnuts really want
From Tom Tomorrow. (Salon day pass required--just view a brief Powells ad.)
Cheery thoughts for a Monday morning
I got the following from our local e-mail discussion group. The person who posted it says that Shamir is "an Israeli journalist and gadfly." Although I found Shamir's home page, this article doesn't seem to be on it, at least yet. Therefore, I'll post it in its entirety:

Saddam Bound

By Israel Shamir

- Turn on the TV, - my wife, alerted by a phone call, yelled from the kitchen. On the screen was George W. Bush's mug photo with a caption reading 'Bush - the former dictator is arrested'.

I can't deny it was a moment of great elation. Indeed, Mr Bush deserved to be arrested and tried - for his invasion of sovereign Iraq and Afghanistan, for the thousands of dead and tortured men and women wherever he took his War on Islam, for his support of ENRON, and for his doubtful role in September 11. In light of the Patriot Act which gave the government broader surveillance authority and erased the traditional American liberties, and for the unconstitutional way he got to the White House, Mr Bush can indeed be called 'a dictator'. But 'former'? Had the people of the United States shown themselves the worthy heirs to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, risen up in arms and removed the tyrant?

Alas, no such luck. The former dictator referred to was, of course, the deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. What an anticlimax! Pictures of the humiliated Hussein, bearded, tired, confused, treated like a captured tiger in a Zoo, were repeating endlessly. He opened his mouth, and we were forced to look in. He looked human and frail; too human, his dishevelled beard and large innocent eyes make him akin to Leo Tolstoy or Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

Indeed, if in December 1941, Hitler's army had not been stopped by the 39 Red Guards of Panfilov on the outskirts of Moscow, this would have been the fate of Joseph Stalin; to be brought in an iron cage to Berlin and presented as 'the captured, bloody dictator'. And it would have been Mao Zedong's fate, too, had the Chinese soldiers not stopped General Macarthur's hordes on the banks of Yalu River in 1950. Vae victis, woe is defeat, especially a defeat to the ruthless and arrogant enemy.

I crossed the street to a Palestinian café, where Jerusalem artists and teachers mingle with villagers on business in the big city over backgammon and cardamom coffee. Gloom was hanging over the low tables like a rain cloud in the December air. The Palestinians were distressed and spoke in hushed tones. Their best feelings were hurt by the dishonourable display of the captive ruler. Whether one liked Saddam Hussein or not, he was the legitimate President of a great Arab nation, and his humiliation was the
humiliation of all Arabs.

He was not the first captured ruler in the world's bloody and long history. More than 800 years ago, the great West European Crusader princes were captured by a victorious Arab army. Then, however, the Arab commander, Saladin, treated the captives courteously. He did not parade them with an open, red-painted mouth in front of his troops. But Chivalry and Honour, so dear to an Arab heart, are not American virtues: the US dared to attack Iraq only after ten years of UN sanctions disarmed it.

The Palestinians had additional reasons to worry. Iraq was a big and independent Arab country. It was by no means a counterbalance to the united might of Israel and the US, but its existence could stay the Zionist hand from particularly wild actions. In 1948, Iraqi volunteers stopped the Israeli army expelling the Palestinian residents of Jenin and Nablus, and saved them from the fate of homeless refugees. In 1973, the Iraqi presence stopped Israelis moving on to Damascus. Since then, the Iraqis have supported Palestinians, collecting money to sent to Palestinian widows and orphans of the resistance.

But the American-installed regime in Baghdad is rabidly anti-Palestinian and pro-Israeli. Ahmad Chalabi, the American protégé, called to establish friendly relations with Israel; plans to send Iraqi oil to Haifa refineries are being discussed, and the occupation forces expelled Palestinian refugees from their temporary homes in Baghdad. Saddam Hussein could not do much; his anti-Islamic policy did not endear him to religious Arabs, but he was a friend, and an independent Arab voice.

Israelis in a nearby pub were excited. For them, Hussein's capture was good news politically and economically. Since the US-led victory, the Israeli companies have aggressively moved into Iraq. "All inquiries about doing business in Iraq are referred to a select list of intermediaries issued by the American authorities", I was told by an Australian businessman. "All are Jewish and most of them are Israeli. Heading the list is the Israeli law firm that Douglas Feith (an American extreme-Zionist official) is a partner in". The Iraqi Jews have presented multi-billion dollar claims for properties they claim were confiscated from them. Hussein's capture will undermine the Iraqi resistance and allow the Israelis to increase their share of the war spoils.

But Israeli politicians foresee an even better outcome. "Deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein could be offered a deal in which he would give his captors information on how he smuggled some of the weapons of mass destruction into Syria," said the military observer of the Israeli daily Haaretz. "In exchange, he would face life imprisonment and not be executed for war crimes", It will save George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair' bacon, following accusations that they lied to their people to justify war. More important, it would accomplish an old wish of Israeli leaders: that US tanks would roll into Damascus. With the conquest of Syria, the next stage of the Middle East subjugation to Israel would be complete, and the road to Saudi oil riches would be open.

In short, Hussein's capture will not bring peace to Iraq and the Middle East. Most probably, it will be used to jump-start the new round of war in the troubled area.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Left I for the smart guy
Eli at Left I on the News is trying to put things in perspective:

At its peak, terrorism killed fewer than 3000 Americans in 2001; historically, the number is an order of magnitude or two lower. The U.S. government is spending hundreds of billions of dollars (not to mention ripping up the Constitution) to "fight" this problem.

36,000 Americans die every year from the flu. Thanks to the decimation of the public health system in America, and the near total reliance on "private enterprise" (a.k.a. the profit system) to solve our health problems, this year there is a well-publicized shortage of flu vaccine. Needless to say, a fraction of a percent of the money being spent to kill innocent people in Iraq or Afghanistan could have prevented that shortage.

A more rational analysis
Okay, I'm a little bitter here. AWol is getting a ton of credit he doesn't deserve, and I hate the guy's guts, so I'm having trouble being objective. Billmon also hates aWol's guts, but I think he does a better job of being objective.
State-run media hard at work
Saddam Hussein's capture lifted a huge political weight from President Bush after months of rising casualties and growing doubts about his handling of Iraq. Around the world, it sent a thundering message of America's resolve to prevail in the war against terrorism. -- AP

Gag me with a friggin' spoon. "War against terrorism?" Even the insane Bushies have conceded that there were no ties between Saddam and 9/11. What has been accomplished, if anything, is the semi-completion of an immensely bloody illegal coup which violated the UN charter and international law. The US has no right to arrest Saddam Hussein, any more than it had any right to invade his country. Thundering message of criminality and barbarism. But the corporate state-controlled media, which continues to downplay aWol's many crimes and coverups, intends to play this BS to the hilt. But like I said before, nothing will improve, and the Bushies will be left without their last excuse.

Wilson! I'm sorry! Wilssssonnnnnn! (Sorry, that was my first thought when I saw the pictures.)
Bushies play their last ace in the hole
By announcing the capture of Saddam Hussein, the neonuts have pretty much used up their last excuse for their miserable failure of an occupation. As the violence continues, people continue to die, and WMD's continue not to exist as former Iraqi officials continue to insist, the neocons won't be able to blame it on old Saddam any more. They're so desperate now, however, that they feel they need the big boost this will give them in the US and the small temporary boost it will likely give them in Iraq. (I'll concede the small possibility that the official story bears some small resemblance to the truth, but in reality Saddam may have been captured at any time since March, or this whole story could be a hoax. And don't hold your breath waiting for a public trial.)

The capture has already knocked the story of another major car bombing, this time in Khalidiyah, off of the front pages. The bombing at an Iraqi police station killed at least 17 and wounded 30.

Saturday, December 13, 2003



According to Reuters:

A KBR sign adorns the Halliburton corporate headquarters near downtown Houston, December 12, 2003. The company has removed the Halliburton name from the building and renamed it KBR (Kellogg, Brown and Root) amid controversy that surrounds the company's White House links and overbilling the government for military contracts in Iraq.

Michelle, as usual, found this one. I can see where they got the "B" and the "R"; where'd they get the "K"? Also, I assume that it's no coincidence that Halliburton's KBR's headquarters looks like about half of the US embassies I've ever seen pictures of.

By several measures, Kucinich is now running second to Dean
According to the Utne Reader:
The same internet statistics that predicted within less than one percentage point the percentage Howard Dean won the the internet primary by shows Dennis Kucinich ahead of all the candidates except Howard Dean, who holds a strong lead on Kucinich as well. And in the California Democratic Council (CDC) Vote, Howard Dean took a commanding first place with 56.11 percent of the vote with Dennis Kucinich placing second with 17.19 percent and Wesley Clark with 14.48 percent.

Kucinich is now, with a usual estimate of two percent support in most polls, where Clinton Was in the Months before the Start of the 1991 Primaries. But the congressman's very strong showing in web activity is a very positive sign that suggests pollsters who poll just a few hundred people may be wrong about Kucinich. The stats used in this article that show Dean, then Kucinich in the lead, ahead of the pack, are based on data from hundreds of thousands of internet users. The CDC vote was based on votes from delegates, representing 130 Democratic clubs and county central committees.

The most common response I get when I tell people I'm volunteering for the Kucinich campaign is "Oh, I like him, but he doesn't have a chance." Last week I was distributing flyers at John Dingell's talk a couple of days before Kucinich's visit here, and one woman said "Oh, Kucinich--you're shaming me for not staying with him." There is nothing about Kucinich, his positions or his campaign that makes him unelectable. He is smart, extremely energetic, and has a vision for saving this country. His positions on NAFTA, universal health care, and the environment are supported by millions throughout the country, and his plan for withdrawal from Iraq gets more appealing with every day and every soldier's death. The media and some in the party machinery (including some of his presidential opponents) have done everything possible to treat him as a fringe candidate without a chance, and unfortunately a lot of people seem to believe it. But I suspect that if every Democrat voting in a caucus or primary would vote for their first choice, not their first supposedly electable choice, then Kucinich would finish first or second in most states. He also would have a great chance of beating aWol in the general election, because he would be offering something distinctly different that most people could understand.

So please, wherever you are, don't buy the lame argument that Kucinich is unelectable, or that voting for him will in some way harm the eventual Democratic nominee. (Remember that a drawn-out primary race and a contested convention will call a lot more attention to the Democrats; free publicity they'll need to counter aWol's millions.) Get the word out about Kucinich, and vote for him when you get a chance. Thank you for your support.

From Steve Sack.

From Ted Rall.
Two more soldiers killed, two wounded
AWol's American body count, Iraq division, is now at 455 dead, some 2600 wounded. The number of Iraqis killed is in the tens of thousands. C'mon America, impeach the bastard!

Friday, December 12, 2003

The ball's in your court, Mr. Safire
The NY Times reports that the Iraqi who by some discredited accounts had met with 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta in Prague has stated that the meeting never happened. The CIA and FBI believe that Atta never left the US during the time of the supposed meeting, and this statement should convince pretty much everyone except for Dick Cheney and NY Times columnist William Safire. Every three months or so, Safire drags out the old story and says once again that it justifies the invasion of Iraq. I suspect we'll see another such column any day now.
The Gulag Bushipelago
The Guardian has a lengthy two-part article on the ongoing war crime known as Guantanamo Bay. Of the multitude of really horrible things that Bush has done, this is one of them.
BartCop has it right
BartCop is an outspoken Okie who doesn't like aWol or the whole Bush Family Evil Empire (B.F.E.E) very much. I think he nails aWol's "puerile taunt" perfectly:

"It's very simple: Our people risked their lives; friendly coalition folks risked their lives. And, therefore, the contracting is going to reflect that. And that's what the US taxpayers expect." -- the evil Bush boy

I got really, really angry when I heard this yesterday.
Maybe f***ing outraged out of my mind is a better term, because I just can't believe he's admitting it.

Bart's Law #2: Any time a person or entity makes a "mistake" that puts extra money in their pocket, expect them to make that "mistake" again and again and again.

Bush is saying that since it's mostly Americans that have died, the B.F.E.E. is entitled to the hundreds of billions of dollars to be made by rebuilding that which Bush destroyed.

The more men die, the more rights Halliburton and Bechtel have to those billions.

Just like with Auschwitz, where the B.F.E.E. got their start, they have to kill to get that niagara of money rolling in. They can't make any money during peace time, they have to manufacture a phoney war.

Do you think it's a coincidence that both Bushes started wars in the Middle East?

Doesn't that make anybody else angry?

Also, in today's edition, BartCop has an online presidential poll. It's about 1/4 of the way down the page; go let BartCop know about Kucinich!
Gulf Wars keep on killing...
Long after "mission accomplished."

Mildred Muhammad said she and the now convicted sniper had been a happy couple until he returned from the first Gulf War a changed man, and that he believes he is a prisoner of war now that he is in jail.

"I feel that right now he's operating as a prisoner of war. So he gives name, rank, and serial number. I wasn't surprised that he did not give a psych evaluation, because he doesn't want anyone to know how he thinks. So I'm sure he's creating diversions in jail to make an escape plan," she said.

She says her former husband was a happy man with a strong sense of humor before Operation Desert Storm. She said their relationship began to fall apart when he returned home.
-- Good Morning America

So add the name of John Allen Muhammad to those of Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, and Osama bin Laden on the list of those whose attitudes towards life in general and America in particular were changed for the worse by Gulf War I. And that Bush war was a cakewalk compared to this one.
Not his first "puerile taunt," he keeps bringing 'em on...
From a great editorial in today's Washington Post:

When told yesterday that Mr. Schroeder believed Mr. Bush's contract decision might violate international law, the president responded with a sarcastic gibe: "International law? I better call my lawyer." Like other puerile taunts delivered by administration officials, the president's words will merely serve to further erode support for his policies in countries that historically have stood with the United States.
Mr. Bush and his Pentagon hawks may believe they are meting out just punishment to countries that have opposed the mission in Iraq. But there will be little cost to Germany, France, Canada or Russia. Instead, the real price will be paid by Iraqis and the American soldiers and civilians trying to help them. They will have to continue an uphill struggle to stabilize and rebuild Iraq without substantial support from many of the world's richest and most powerful nations. Efforts to repair U.S. relations with Europe and sinking American prestige around the world will be set back once again. And what will Mr. Bush have gained? Better ask his lawyer.
Cleland out, Bob Kerrey in
The commission supposedly investigating the attacks of September 11, 2001 and what the Bushies did or did not know or do about them has been further compromised. Not only has the most outspoken member of the commission, former Georgia senator Max Cleland, left the commission, he is being replaced by former Nebraska senator Bob Kerrey. The WSWS reports many reasons for being concerned about Kerrey's selection:

In 1969, Kerrey, then a Navy lieutenant, led a SEAL unit in a death squad attack on a Vietnamese village in which he and six enlisted men under his command killed 21 women, children and elderly men. The massacre was carried out as part of “Operation Phoenix,” a CIA-run program that targeted political supporters of the Vietnamese liberation movement for assassination and claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Vietnamese civilians.

For more than 30 years, Kerrey remained silent on the 1969 massacre. When it was exposed by the publication of a New York Times magazine article in April 2001, he continued to evade responsibility, speaking only in the vaguest terms about his actions. Last year, he published an autobiography, When I Was a Young Man, that amounted to yet another attempt to cover up his own role in the massacre.
Kerrey’s own conflicts of interest are myriad. As vice-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Kerrey is a veteran of political cover-ups. While Kerrey was no longer a senator at the time, the committee on which he had served as the highest-ranking Democrat carried out a whitewash of the government role in 9/11, together with its House counterpart, in their toothless joint investigation of the terrorist attacks last year.

Kerrey was also one of the key figures who approved the nomination of CIA Director Tenet and has remained his defender and political ally. What the CIA knew before September 11 is one of the key questions facing any legitimate investigation into the events.

The former senator is also complicit in the Bush administration’s manipulation of the September 11 events to justify a war, already decided upon, against Iraq. Little more than a year ago, Kerrey surfaced as a leading member of an outfit known as the “Committee for the Liberation of Iraq,” formed to promote an unprovoked invasion of the Middle Eastern country.

The group, in which Kerrey was the only prominent Democrat, was essentially an offshoot of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a Republican think tank that served as a virtual administration-in-waiting. Its principals included Richard Cheney (now vice president), Donald Rumsfeld (now defense secretary), Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld’s deputy secretary), George Bush’s younger brother Jeb, the governor of Florida, and Lewis Libby (Cheney’s chief of staff). The PNAC elaborated a blueprint for achieving US global hegemony by means of military force, beginning with a war against Iraq.

Kerrey had himself been a proponent of a war against Iraq since 1998, joining right-wing Republicans in sponsoring the “Iraqi Liberation Act” and forging close political ties to the Iraqi National Congress, which is headed by the convicted bank embezzler Ahmed Chalabi.

The more the Bushies try to cover up what they knew and what they did, the more I believe that they, at the very least, allowed 9/11 to happen in order to further their agenda. Cynthia McKinney would have been absolutely right if she had actually said what she was accused of saying.
I guess Poland gets a (small) contract now...
Bombing in Iraq wounds two Polish soldiers. Billmon has a great post about the insanity/silliness of the Bushies regarding the awarding of contracts.
Take on the media, Dennis!
Who cares about Al Gore?
Dennis Kucinich now has Al Giordano and Michelle on his side!

Al, formerly of Narco News fame, has some great suggestions for the Kucinich campaign to capitalize on Tuesday's debate in New Hampshire. In the debate, Kucinich took ABC's Ted Koppel to task for focusing on the game--polls, money, endorsements--instead of the issues. Kucinich further placed much of the blame for the lack of substance in politics on the corporate media. ABC's response, as you probably already know, was to pull their reporter off of covering the Kucinich campaign, and doing the same thing to Al Sharpton and Carol Mosely-Braun. (I'm still unclear as to whether ABC dropped the two black candidates as cover for their retribution against Kucinich, or used the spat with Kucinich as an excuse to drop the black candidates, which they probably wanted to do anyway.) Al Giordano suggests that Kucinich make media THE issue for now:

My first advice to the Kucinich campaign: Use your paid advertising in the New Hampshire-Boston market to show the confrontation with Koppel and tell the story of WMUR Manchester's flagship - ABC - getting revenge on your candidate for having told the truth that all Americans and New Hampshire citizens know is the truth:

KUCINICH: ...and I can tell you, Ted, you know, we started at the beginning of this evening, talking about an endorsement. Well, I want the American people to see where the media takes politics in this country...
Dennis: You've GOT $750,000 in the bank, more than enough to saturate the New Hampshire media markets with such a message. If WMUR bans your ad, that will be a national story. If ABC's Boston affiliate WCVB Channel 5 bans it, well, you've got yourself a lawsuit, plus an FCC complaint, in the town where the Democratic National Convention will take place next summer.

Begin, today, the teach-in about "where the media takes politics in this country." If you do, if you make THEM, the real usurpers of democracy, the Commercial Media, the issue, you will have found your issue... which is our (as in "We, the People") issue... and the voters will come.

You'll be surprised how fast it happens if you do it right.

Al also makes some great points with respect to the totally uncalled for disrespect of Kucinich's candidacy:

Whether you are Republican, Democrat, or Independent... whether you like Dennis Kucinich or hate him or don't care... something much larger is at stake here... and ABC should not be allowed to use our airwaves to pick and choose which candidates are in the race.

It's particularly disturbing because Kucinich, by the following standards, is one of the top three candidates in terms of measurable public support: website traffic, number of "MeetUp" groups, and his second-place finish in the MoveOn online primary.

Kucinich is also a standing, elected, member of the United States Congress. Like him, or not... agree with his views, or not... he deserves an equal and fair shake to be reported on before a single caucus or primary has taken place.

And thanks to Michelle for finding this for me, and for adding her own inciteful comments!

Excellent Mike Thompson cartoon on Russia!
It's a little too big to fit on the blog, so just click here to see it.
Tell Florida to drop charges against FTAA protesters
You can send a free fax here.
Labor and Anti-war movements coming together?
There's some hope. I attended a very small discussion this evening on the topic, featuring a few UAW organizers and a couple of people involved with the Borders strike. One of the UAW guys is a member of USLAW, or U.S. Labor Against War. He said that while unions in general are torn between the "patriotic" support of war and their own interest in defeating the Republican agenda, the anti-war message has a lot more resonance among union members now than it did in the Vietnam era. Two women who have been involved in organizing at auto parts suppliers among Latino (mostly Mexican) workers reported on the difficulties involved and the nasty and cynical tactics used by employers to exploit immigrants, especially undocumented ones. The speakers were not especially optimistic about the Borders strike, but said that it was necessary and would serve a needed function even if it fails. Meanwhile, we'll do what we can to help it succeed.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Global trade is killing the environment
Just one early impact of increasing long-distance trade is the emerging issue of "food miles." The fossil-fuel energy spent to transport food products often exceeds the energy contained in the foods themselves. To add insult to injury, transportation is a major source of carbon-dioxide emissions.

Sustain, a U.K.-based food and farming alliance, has shown that iceberg lettuce flown from Los Angeles to London requires 127 calories of fuel for every food calorie. Sustain also reports that countries often end up swapping food instead of importing critical items that cannot be produced locally. The U.K., for example, imported 126 million liters of milk and exported 270 million liters in 1997.

Researchers at Iowa State University have found that fruits and vegetables travel an average of 1,500 miles within the U.S., a 22 percent increase since 1981. When imported foods are added to the mix, the average distance from farm to the dinner table increases significantly. Studies show that a basic diet with imported ingredients can easily consume four times the fossil-fuel energy and emit four times the carbon dioxide compared to domestically produced ingredients.
-- Salon
A Peace of Her Mind
From Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian woman who won this year's Nobel Peace Prize:

In the past two years, some states have violated the universal principles and laws of human rights by using the events of 11 September and the war on international terrorism as a pretext. The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 57/219, of 18 December 2002, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1456, of 20 January 2003, and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights Resolution 2003/68, of 25 April 2003, set out and underline that all states must ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorism must comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights and humanitarian law. However, regulations restricting human rights and basic freedoms, special bodies and extraordinary courts, which make fair adjudication difficult and at times impossible, have been justified and given legitimacy under the cloak of the war on terrorism.

The concerns of human rights' advocates increase when they observe that international human rights laws are breached not only by their recognized opponents under the pretext of cultural relativity, but that these principles are also violated in Western democracies, in other words countries which were themselves among the initial codifiers of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is in this framework that, for months, hundreds of individuals who were arrested in the course of military conflicts have been imprisoned in Guantanamo, without the benefit of the rights stipulated under the international Geneva conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the [United Nations] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Moreover, a question which millions of citizens in the international civil society have been asking themselves for the past few years, particularly in recent months, and continue to ask, is this: why is it that some decisions and resolutions of the UN Security Council are binding, while some other resolutions of the council have no binding force? Why is it that in the past 35 years, dozens of UN resolutions concerning the occupation of the Palestinian territories by the state of Israel have not been implemented promptly, yet, in the past 12 years, the state and people of Iraq, once on the recommendation of the Security Council, and the second time, in spite of UN Security Council opposition, were subjected to attack, military assault, economic sanctions, and, ultimately, military occupation??

Two more soldiers die
Along with 14 wounded and one missing. (Apparently the one soldier killed by suicide bombers is worthy of a Washington Post headline, but the one who drowned in the Tigris is not.)
Eli of Left I on the News cited a particular bit of Rumsfeld Donsense (a term Eli claims to have created and has actually copyrighted--I'm applying the fair use concept to my stealing of it here) reported in the Village Voice: use the phrase 'targeted killing' I think is a misunderstanding of the fact that we're in a war where, obviously, the people who don't surrender, who are terrorists trying to kill innocent Iraqis and coalition forces, are people we want to stop. We would be happy to capture them, we'd be happy to have them surrender, and if they don't, we'd be happy to kill them. And that's what's going on. But the implication or the connotation of 'targeted killing' I think is unfortunate because it suggests an appetite to do that, which is not the case. The goal is to stop terrorists from killing innocent men, women, and children, Iraqis, and coalition forces. It seems like a perfectly logical thing to me.

I left Eli some comments, and I'll post them for you here:

Shorter Donsense:
"The people who don't surrender...are terrorists." The people who do surrender? Enemy combatants.

"The goal is to stop terrorists from killing innocent men, women, and children, Iraqis, and coalition forces." As far as I know, Iraqis are the only ones in this list that US forces HAVE NOT killed in Afghanistan (ask the Canadians about the coalition forces).

"It suggests an appetite to do that, which is not the case." "We'd be happy to kill them."
My GOOD quote du jour, from Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, from Greg Palast via Politics in the Zeros.

The President raced through a dozen more examples, from Bolivia to Chiapas, Mexico, where the miracle of the marketplace came out of the barrel of a gun.


Quote du Jour
There's nothing I am worse at than long-term planning. -- Condiloser Rice. Perfect choice for National Security Advisor to an idiot. Maybe somebody a little better at planning, or even just someone with a CLUE, would have been able to imagine airplanes flying into buildings.


From Doonesbury.
Big Bend National Park
You see desert, mountains, beautiful scenery in a fragile landscape. Republicans see just one more way to make a quick buck. The picture is from Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas, as close to the middle of nowhere as I've ever been. Aside from the few National Park facilities and a couple of places to hire rafts, the nearest towns on either side of the Rio Grande are about 100 miles away, in a landscape just as dry and barren. So how are these Midland maniacs going to turn a buck out here? By drilling for water and shipping it El Paso and elsewhere:

Angry West Texans and some state officials are demanding a halt to a deal that allows a group of politically well-connected Midland oilmen to tap the desert and sell billions of gallons of water from the state's public reserves.

The venture was advancing without announcement or competitive bidding by the powerful Texas General Land Office, which controls 20 million acres of public lands and the liquids and minerals beneath them.
Asked why the talks with Rio Nuevo had not been announced at the time, Mr. Patterson said, "We don't announce a lot of things under consideration."

I'll bet that's right.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Supremes Uphold McCain-Feingold
Good news, I guess. Now if they'll just commit to not overturning elections themselves. The votes were 5-4, with Sandra Day O'Connor leaving the bad guys to vote with the good guys on this one. I wish Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) were here right now so I could laugh in his ugly face.
Gore's early endorsement drowns out voters' voices
This op-ed from USA Today expresses pretty clearly what I've been thinking.

The former vice president's endorsement is another sign of how a compressed campaign increases the influence of party insiders at the expense of voters. Gore conceded that a quick end to the contest was behind his move, calling on Democrats to unite behind Dean as "the strongest candidate" to defeat President Bush in November.
In fact, the primary process emerged from an attempt to move away from the days when insiders picked candidates. Yet, the nation appears headed back there again.

The reasons driving the early 2004 schedule are not solely of the Democrats' making. The Bush campaign's plan to raise a record $200 million presents a formidable juggernaut. Little wonder the Democrats want to settle their race and turn to the main event.

But while the rushed schedule serves insiders' purposes, it doesn't serve the interests of voters cut out of the process.

Of course, in America, what the voters think doesn't much matter.
Bottled Water: An environmental and social disaster...
as well as being a corporate hoax. According to a fine article in E/The Environmental Magazine, bottled water is generally held to fewer standards than tap water:

"Unlike tap water violations, which are directly enforceable, if a company exceeds bottled water standards, it is not necessarily a violation-they can just say so on the label, and may be insulated from enforcement." Further, while EPA rules specify that no confirmed E. coli or fecal coliform (bacteria that indicate possible contamination by fecal matter) contamination is allowed in tap water, the FDA merely set a minimum level for E. coli and fecal coliform presence in bottled water. Tap water from a surface source must be tested for cryptosporidium, giardia and viruses, unlike bottled water, and must also be disinfected, unlike bottled water. Hoober also notes that food products such as "carbonated water," "soda water" and "seltzer water"-in addition to most flavored waters-are held to even looser standards than "true" bottled water.

Bottled water also requires huge amounts of plastics, which causes environmental problems in both its manufacture and disposal.

One issue that the article doesn't address is the economic threat it poses to municipal water systems and the less-than-wealthy people who rely on them. Because people who have too much disposable income (Americans) are willing to spend three times as much per gallon for bottled water as they do for gasoline, bottled-water corporations like Coke and Pepsi are willing to pump springs and aquifers dry to meet the demand. Since the wealthy are getting their water in bottles, they lose interest in the municipal systems and become unwilling to pay for safe and reliable public water. This is a major concern in Chiapas, Mexico (where I visited last spring). Companies like Coca-Cola have their greedy little eyes focused on the fresh water of Chiapas, which is some 30% of all fresh water in Mexico. By bottling this water up and shipping it to other parts of the country and world that are able to pay for it, they threaten a key requirement for survival of the local population.

So, PLEASE don't buy any bottled water! (Thanks again to Michelle for the link.)
Pot. Kettle. Black.
"The comments and actions made by the leader of Taiwan indicate that he may be willing to make decisions unilaterally, to change the status quo, which we oppose," Mr. Bush said in the Oval Office. "We oppose any unilateral decision by either China or Taiwan to change the status quo." -- Globe and Mail
Incoming Canadian PM finds Iraq contract snub "difficult to fathom"
"What is most important is, in fact, the reconstruction of Iraq," Mr. Martin told reporters. "There's a huge amount of suffering there, and I think it is the responsibility of every country to participate in developing it.

"I understand the importance of these kinds of contracts, but this shouldn't just be about who gets contracts, who gets business, it ought to be, what is the best thing for the people of Iraq."
Deputy Prime Minister John Manley said in Paris that, if the Pentagon decision has been accurately reported, it could lead to a reassessment of official Canadian government aid to Iraq.

"To exclude Canadians just because they are Canadians would be unacceptable if they accept funds from Canadian taxpayers for the reconstruction of Iraq," Mr. Manley said.
-- Globe and Mail
Why James Baker is now in charge of Iraq's "debt"
From Greg Palast:
Well, ho ho ho! It's an early Christmas for James Baker III.

All year the elves at his law firm, Baker Botts of Texas, have been working day and night to prevent the families of the victims of the September 11 attack from seeking information from Saudi Arabia on the Kingdom's funding of Al Qaeda fronts.
For the Bush administration, this marks a new low in their Conflicts-R-Us appointments process.

Or maybe there's no conflict at all. That is, if you see Jim Baker's new job as working not to protect a new Iraqi democracy but to protect the old theocracy of Saudi Arabia.

Iraq owes something on the order of $120 billion to $150 billion, depending on who's counting. And who's counting is very important.

Much of the so-called debt to Saudi Arabia was given to Saddam Hussein to fight a proxy war for the Saudis against their hated foe, the Shi'ia of Iran. And as disclosed by a former Saudi diplomat, the kingdom's sheiks handed about $7 billion to Saddam under the table in the 1980's to build an "Islamic bomb."

Should Iraqis today and those not yet born have to be put in a debtor's prison to pay off the secret payouts to Saddam?

Then and now
Shortly after 9/11, several leading neocon whackos got together at the American Enterprise Institute and had a conference. Newtron Gingrich and Prince of Darkness Richard Perle were there, and some others, including super neocon nut Michael Ledeen. He called for total war:

If we just let our own vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don't try to be clever and piece together clever diplomatic solutions to this thing, but just wage a total war against these tyrants, I think we will do very well and our children will sing great songs about us years from now. (The quote was frequently mis-attributed to Perle)

It looks now as though Ledeen was wrong about "we will do very well," but his children may well sing songs about him. After all, he finds them jobs for which they are clearly unqualified:

Simone Ledeen is serving her country. She is the daughter of Michael Ledeen, the Iran-Contra luminary, AEI scholar, and all-around capo in the neocon mafia. She's 29, a freshly-minted M.B.A., with little to no experience in war-torn countries. But as an advisor for northern Iraq at the Ministry of Finance in Baghdad, she is, in essence, helping shape one quarter of that nation's economy.

When the history of the occupation of Iraq is written, there will be many factors to point to when explaining the post-conquest descent into chaos and disorder, from the melting away of Saddam's army to the Pentagon's failure to make adequate plans for the occupation. But historians will also consider the lack of experience and abundant political connections of the hundreds of American bureaucrats sent to Baghdad to run Iraq through the Coalition Provisional Authority.
-- from an article in the Washington Monthly.

Ledeen Jr. isn't the only young Republican holding a patronage job in Iraq. According to the article:

CPA officials say that the older GOP functionaries do a reasonable job keeping their partisanship publicly under wraps. But the younger Republicans in Iraq spend much of their time plotting against the Democrats. "Everything is seen in the context of the election, and how they will screw the Democrats," said one CPA official. "It was really pretty shocking to hear them talk."

"They are all on the campaign trail," said another official. "They see this as a stepping stone to a better job in the next Bush administration." "I don't always know if they are Republicans," said yet another senior CPAer. "But what is clear is that they know nothing about development, and nothing about transitional economies." They're trying to do the right thing, this official adds, "but they do what they do without any knowledge of how the post-war world works in reality. They come up with hare-brained schemes that cause so many problems they take more time to fix than to create."

It's also driven journalists on the ground, watching these operatives move in and out of Saddam's marble Republican Palace, which CPA commandeered as its headquarters, to joke: "They don't call it the Republican Palace for nothing."

The terrorists have won
According to Billmon and the Guardian. From the Guardian article:

There is a tendency in the west to play down - or ignore - the extent of Bin Laden's success. The US and UK governments regard mentioning it as disloyal or heretical. But look back on interviews by Bin Laden in the 1990s to see what he has achieved. He can tick off one of the four objectives he set himself, and, arguably, a second.

The objectives were: the removal of US soldiers from Saudi soil; the overthrow of the Saudi government; the removal of Jews from Israel; and worldwide confrontation between the west and the Muslim world.

His success in the first is clear-cut. Bin Laden's animosity towards the US began in earnest with the arrival of tens of thousands of US soldiers in his home country, Saudi Arabia, for the war against Iraq in 1991. He objected to their presence because Saudi Arabia holds Islam's two holiest sites, Mecca and Medina.

After September 11, the US did exactly what Bin Laden wanted. It pulled almost all its troops out of Saudi Arabia and moved its regional headquarters to Qatar. Relations between Washington and Riyadh have remained strained since September 11, not surprising given that the bulk of the attackers were from Saudi Arabia.

Bin Laden has not succeeded in his second objective of overthrowing the Saudi regime. But its position is much more precarious than when he first called for it to be deposed. The US government's ambivalence towards Riyadh has created jitters in the kingdom. The Saudi authorities, after a decade in denial, are now confronting al-Qaida and cracking down on preachers regarded as too fiery. Saudi Arabia, in spite of its oil wealth, has huge economic and social problems -including a large, disgruntled pool of unemployed youths - that leave it vulnerable. Reports of firefights between the Saudi authorities and al-Qaida-related groups are now commonplace.

Bin Laden has not achieved his third objective either: the destruction of Israel. In spite of its suffering at the hands of suicide bombers, Israel is in the ascendant, with strict controls over the daily lives of Palestinians, frequentassassination of suspected bombers and other militants, and a continued land grab in the West Bank. But the one-sided nature of the conflict and the emotions it arouses beyond its boundaries have helped Bin Laden achieve the fourth and most important of his objectives: polarisation.

Returning to the scene of the crime
Donald Rumsfeld was recently in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, near the Qala-i-Janghi prison fortress where hundreds of POW's were killed two years ago. The WSWS has the details.

While largely forgotten and less expensive in terms of American lives and dollars, and having had more international support, the Afghan war was just as criminal as the Iraq war. W's statement that he makes no distinction between terrorists and those who "harbor" them was a crock from the start, for several reasons. Pretty clearly, there was at least one other nation with much stronger ties to the 9/11 terrorists than Afghanistan: Saudi Arabia. Also, these people had been "harbored" in the US for several months (including in the rogue state of Florida), and were being "harbored" in Germany before that. Furthermore, I doubt that the Taliban could have expelled Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda if they had wanted to. (I ranted in detail about this back in September.) Furthermore, the invasion of Afghanistan, like that of Iraq, was already on the Pentagon's drawing board before 9/11.

The administration and the media presented attacking and invading Afghanistan as an either/or proposition. Either we bomb the poorest country in the world even further back into the stone age, or else the terrorists have won. There were many possible responses to 9/11 aside from invading Afghanistan and doing nothing. Actually finding out what happened on 9/11 and why would have been a good start. Two bad wars and tens of thousands of deaths later and that still hasn't been done.
What does George Bush have against the children of Afghanistan?
Six more killed, making a total of at least 15 in the last week.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Can you say petty and stupid?
The Pentagon has barred French, German and Russian companies from competing for $18.6 billion in contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq, saying the step "is necessary for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States."
Under the guidelines, which were issued on Friday but became public knowledge today, only companies from the United States, Iraq and 61 other countries designated as "coalition partners" will be allowed to bid on the contracts, which are financed by American taxpayers.
-- NY Times

I guess, given the fine jobs that Halliburton and Bechtel are doing, we wouldn't want them to have any free-market competition in wasting our $87 billion.

I guess these could be considered sanctions for NOT violating the UN charter by supporting the illegal invasion of a sovereign country. AWol's granddaddy continued to do business with Germany after they had pre-emptively invaded several neutral countries; aWol won't do business with the Germans now for NOT invading a country.
Firebomb Hits Arab-American News Building in Dearborn
Police believe someone tried to burn down the building that houses The Arab American News in Dearborn late Monday or early Tuesday, Local 4 reported.

Investigators say the building on Chase Road was hit with what appeared to be a homemade firebomb. A glass bottle was found shattered near the back entrance where the sidewalk was charred from the fire, according to the station's reports.

From Mad Magazine! (Funny that Mad would go after someone so close to them.)
Cleland off 9/11 panel
This story is over two weeks old, but I just read about it for the first time on BartCop. Former Senator Max Cleland, who lost his legs and one arm in Vietnam, and lost his seat in the Senate from the former Confederate state of Georgia to Diebold black-box voting machines, has been nominated by aWol to serve on the board of the Export-Import Bank. Accepting the post, which apparently Cleland is doing, requires that he resign from the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, aka the 9/11 Commission. Cleland has been probably the most outspoken member of the commission in complaining about the secrecy and stalling of the Bushies in providing the information needed to complete the investigation.

I know why aWol offered him the post at the Export-Import Bank, but why would he take it?
Sending another man to the moon?
Don't knock it until you've heard this suggestion:

Nine out of ten Democrats said that sending a man to the moon was an excellent goal, as long as that man was George W. Bush. "We don't have much money to spend on big goals," said Democrat Kirsti Summers, who was taking up a collection, "but sending Bush to the moon could end up saving us trillions." -- From Opinions You Should Have
Kerry does a lousy job of getting nasty
When I voted for the war, I voted for what I thought was best for the country. Did I expect Howard Dean to go off to the left and say, `I'm against everything?' Sure. Did I expect George Bush to f--- it up as badly as he did? I don't think anybody did. -- John Kerry in a Rolling Stone interview, via AP

Kerry got some attention for using the f-word, but jeez, it's the only thing in the whole statement that makes any sense at all. Voting for the war was best for the country? Howard Dean on the left? Left of what? Lieberman? And I'm highly insulted that Kerry doesn't recognize that I and millions of others knew that aWol would "f--- it up." Besides, he had Afghanistan to look at. Bush has never done a single thing well in his miserable failure of a life. And Kerry's just pathetic.
Israel trains US assassination squads in Iraq
Israeli advisers are helping train US special forces in aggressive counter-insurgency operations in Iraq, including the use of assassination squads against guerrilla leaders, US intelligence and military sources said yesterday. The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has sent urban warfare specialists to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the home of US special forces, and according to two sources, Israeli military "consultants" have also visited Iraq.

US forces in Iraq's Sunni triangle have already begun to use tactics that echo Israeli operations in the occupied territories, sealing off centres of resistance with razor wire and razing buildings from where attacks have been launched against US troops.

But the secret war in Iraq is about to get much tougher, in the hope of suppressing the Ba'athist-led insurgency ahead of next November's presidential elections.

US special forces teams are already behind the lines inside Syria attempting to kill foreign jihadists before they cross the border, and a group focused on the "neutralisation" of guerrilla leaders is being set up, according to sources familiar with the operations.

"This is basically an assassination programme. That is what is being conceptualised here. This is a hunter-killer team," said a former senior US intelligence official, who added that he feared the new tactics and enhanced cooperation with Israel would only inflame a volatile situation in the Middle East.

"It is bonkers, insane. Here we are - we're already being compared to Sharon in the Arab world, and we've just confirmed it by bringing in the Israelis and setting up assassination teams."
-- Guardian

Juan Cole comments:

The US is doomed not just to a small run of the mill disappointment in Iraq if it goes on riding roughshod over ordinary Arabs' feelings like this. It is doomed to a major blow-up that will do incalculable damage to the security and well-being of you and me. Any of you who write your congressmen should please take up the issue of Boykin and his crazy schemes to Sharon-ize the US military.

It is no wonder that the US effort in Iraq is being slammed even by friends such as the Indonesian Foreign Minister.

I have a sinking feeling that Bush just lost the war on terror.

Mitch Albom on Smith
What made Nick Smith notable was that his story found its way to the public. Here was a rare brave guy who not only voted his conscience, but was willing to say he was politically bullied -- out loud, where we can hear it -- and of course, the minute he said it, the pressure doubled on him to backtrack.

He should name names. They all should. They won't. The saddest part of this coercion story isn't that it came out -- it's that there are so many others that never will.
-- Mitch Albom

Detroit Free Press on the Nick Smith bribery case:
From last Friday's Free Press:

Smith won't say exactly who made the offer.

He should. It's a serious charge, if not rising to the level of a federal bribery offense, then certainly worthy of a review by the House Ethics Committee. Smith may not wish to further offend the GOP leadership by naming names, but to do otherwise casts a pall on every Republican in Congress and hands the Democrats an election-year issue.

If this was just hardball politics, well, that's hardly a new game in Washington, and Democrats played it pretty well when they had the power. But if somebody stepped over the line from nasty rhetoric to outright threats and even an offer of money for a vote, the public has a right to know. Smith decided not to shut up about it. Good for him. But now he should put up and let this air out -- for the good of the Congress.

John Dingell on Medicare:
Yesterday, when the president signed into law the Medicare bill that barely passed Congress, he performed radical experimental surgery that will cause great long-term harm to one of our nation's most vital health care programs. This new law ends Medicare as we know it, a program that has provided efficient and quality medical care to our nation's seniors and disabled for nearly 40 years.

The most draconian change of all turns Medicare into a voucher program. Known as "premium support" it marks the beginning of the privatization of Medicare with the end goal of giving seniors a set amount of money to pay for health care. When this provision goes into effect in 2010, long after the next election cycle, up to 6.8 million people will be thrown into the world of HMOs and other private insurers, leaving them to fend for themselves.

Read the rest of the article. John Dingell is my representative in the House, and a pretty good one.
So depressing
The money interests have apparently decided that picking a Democratic candidate is too important to be left to the voters, so they're all stacking the deck for Dean. Al Gore's endorsement is getting all sorts of headlines, encouraging the casual voter to just concede that Dean is a done deal. Apparently, that, and not any great love for Dean, was behind Gore's decision:

Prior to Tuesday's endorsement, a source told CNN that Gore -- the Democratic Party's presidential candidate in 2000 -- thinks a protracted primary campaign would serve only to help President Bush.

Completely wrong. Handing Dean the nomination on a silver (and lots of gold) platter would only help Bush, and especially the big-money concerns supporting him and Dean--no more debates about withdrawing from Iraq, about cutting the Pentagon budget, about universal single-payer health care, about withdrawing from NAFTA and the WTO, about ending the corporate stranglehold on the country. Business as usual in America.

Well, I'm committed to supporting Kucinich all the way. I despise Bush, I don't like Dean, and I'm seriously considering leaving the country if those are my choices. This country is just too stupid to be believed.
At least two more soldiers dead, 33 wounded
Bombings at two U.S. bases in northern Iraq wounded at least 33 American soldiers Tuesday -- attacks that occurred less than three hours apart, U.S. military officials said.
Two U.S. soldiers died Monday in Iraq when a bridge collapsed near Balad, overturning two of the Army's newest fighting vehicles called Strykers. A Pentagon official said that one of the Strykers landed upside down in the water below and that at least two soldiers were killed.
-- CNN
Terrorist Plot in Rogue State
According to KTVT, the CBS affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth, federal authorities seized “at least one weapon of mass destruction—a sodium cyanide bomb capable of delivering a deadly gas cloud” as well as “at least 100 other bombs, bomb components, machine guns, 500,000 rounds of ammunition and chemical agents.”
The threat was serious enough to be included regularly in the presidential daily briefings and to trigger a nationwide FBI manhunt. Yet, outside of Texas, the case remains virtually unknown. The reason for the silence is clear.

The convicted individuals were not Arab or Muslim immigrants, nor could they be linked to any Islamist groups. Rather, they were native-born US citizens connected to the extreme right.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Army blows the whistle on Bechtel
Kudos to Army Major Linda Scharf for speaking out about incredibly shoddy work done by no-bid contractor Bechtel:

During repairs, "reports started coming in about poor quality," said 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion Maj. Linda Scharf, who was responsible for the schools in question, and who started fielding calls from concerned teachers and headmasters.

"So I asked one of my teams to go verify the rumors," Scharf said. "They took their digital camera, and the reality turned out to be worse than the rumors."

What they found: The subcontractors Bechtel hired left paint everywhere - on the floors, on desks, all over windows. The classrooms were filthy, the school's desks and chairs were thrown out into the playground and left, broken. Windows were left damaged, and bathrooms that were reportedly fixed were left in broken, unsanitary condition.

"Would you allow your child to use that bathroom? I wouldn't," Scharf said, pointing to a photograph of a stained, broken hole in a dirty, tiled stall.
Scharf said that, "because of the work in the schools, I have come out very vocal that I will do everything in my power to keep Bechtel out of my area."

Congress should cancel Bechtel's contracts and demand that they repay every penny they took for work not adequately performed. If they don't have it on hand, take it out of Bush campaign contributions.

(via Left I on the News)
Mr. Smith went to Washington, refused a bribe, then wouldn't say who offered it...
and it's hard to find anything about it in his home district newspaper. Browsing through the editorials and letters to the editor in the Jackson Citizen-Patriot, I finally found this one letter calling on Rep. Smith to come clean:

I am disturbed by reports that a Republican congressional leader attempted to bribe Rep. Nick Smith in an effort to sway his "no" vote on the Medicare bill. I urge Rep. Smith to go public with the name of the would-be briber. To stay silent on the matter would be to allow dirty business as usual to continue in Washington.

Stephen Fife-Adams, Chelsea

Harley Sorensen on Wal-Mart
As Californians, I think we should support our grocery workers on strike and lockout in Southern California. If they lose, we all lose eventually.

On the other hand (and this is where it gets complicated), we should at the very least sympathize with supermarket management. If not for their fear of Wal-Mart, they'd be willing to settle with their workers.

Maybe the California Legislature can repass the bill outlawing big-box stores (i.e., Wal-Mart). Maybe Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will sign such a bill. His predecessor, Gray Davis, vetoed it last time around. Schwarzenegger is more honest than Davis, but, then, who isn't?

You and I can save money by shopping at Wal-Mart. We also can save money by stealing. The question becomes, Is money the most important thing in our lives, or do we have higher values?

The whole article is here.

Early in the article, Sorensen writes:

To the best of my limited knowledge, Sam Walton did not break any laws building his fantastic Wal-Mart empire.

What about anti-trust laws? Isn't the very idea of anti-trust that companies should be able to compete in the marketplace but not control it?
Buchanan for President!
No, not Pat Buchanan, and no, I'm not abandoning Kucinich as my choice in 2004. But I do now have a favorite for the Republican nomination: John Buchanan. From his campaign web site:

Are you worried about the future of America under George W. Bush?

Do you think George W. Bush put corporate greed ahead of sound policy - in National Defense, Jobs, Medicare, the Environment, Energy, and Taxes? Do you think George W. Bush misled us about the reasons for sacrificing over 400 brave American lives and $166 billion in Iraq - while he gives billion-dollar no-bid contracts to Halliburton? Do you want an end to secret government, "outing" of CIA officers, domestic spying under the un-American USA Patriot Act, and official coverups - including the coverup of September 11th? Then YOU have a choice in the Republican Primaries!

Don't give George W. Bush four more years to lead America to ruin. Vote for John Buchanan instead! With your help, we can Stop the Corporate Takeover!

Thanks to Cyndy for finding that. I was pretty bummed when Wesley Clark decided he was a Democrat; I was really hoping he'd take aWol on in the Republican primaries. Clearly, this guy Buchanan has a long way to go, since this is the first I've ever heard of him (you too, I'll bet, unless you've been reading MouseMusings).

Buchanan has an interesting comparison between "Real Republicans" and "Bush's Anti-Republican Record" on his web page.
Fallout from the Bush Administration
Michelle is keeping track of the numerous mysterious deaths of politicians, diplomats and scientists with possible links to the Bushies, as well as a long list of resignations. Her latest addition to the death list is Gus W. Weiss, 72, of Tennessee, who had lots of ties to the intelligence community, was very opposed to the Iraq war, and just happened to fall out of a Watergate apartment window last month.
Another Link in the Cheney
Newsweek reports that lies about WMD's and supposed links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda were funnelled directly to one of Fearmaster Cheney's top aides, John Hannah.

For months, Cheney’s office has denied that the veep bypassed U.S. intelligence agencies to get intel reports from the INC. But a June 2002 memo written by INC lobbyist Entifadh Qunbar to a U.S. Senate committee lists John Hannah, a senior national-security aide on Cheney’s staff, as one of two “U.S. governmental recipients” for reports generated by an intelligence program being run by the INC and which was then being funded by the State Department. Under the program, “defectors, reports and raw intelligence are cultivated and analyzed”; the info was then reported to, among others, “appropriate governmental, non-governmental and international agencies.” The memo not only describes Cheney aide Hannah as a “principal point of contact” for the program, it even provides his direct White House telephone number.
Hearts and Minds
Quotes from yesterday's New York Times article by Dexter Filkins:

"With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them," Colonel Sassaman said.
"This fence is here for your protection," reads the sign posted in front of the barbed-wire fence. "Do not approach or try to cross, or you will be shot."
"You have to understand the Arab mind," Capt. Todd Brown, a company commander with the Fourth Infantry Division, said as he stood outside the gates of Abu Hishma. "The only thing they understand is force — force, pride and saving face."
"We really hammered the place," Maj. Darron Wright said.
In Abu Hishma, residents complain that the village is locked down for 15 hours a day, meaning that they are unable to go to the mosque for morning and evening prayers. They say the curfew does not allow them time to stand in the daylong lines for gasoline and get home before the gate closes for the night.

But mostly, it is a loss of dignity that the villagers talk about. For each identification card, every Iraqi man is assigned a number, which he must hold up when he poses for his mug shot. The card identifies his age and type of car. It is all in English.

"This is absolutely humiliating," said Yasin Mustafa, a 39-year-old primary school teacher. "We are like birds in a cage."

Colonel Sassaman said he would maintain the wire enclosure until the villagers turned over the six men who killed Sergeant Panchot, though he acknowledged they may have slipped far away.
Another Day, Another Dead
Soldier killed in Mosul.
Sunday talk shows
I don't watch them, but apparently there was plenty of excitement yesterday. Hillary was doing the only thing that pro-war Democrats like her and Kerry can do; complain about how the war is being fought, not that it shouldn't have been fought at all. She thinks we need even more troops over there to get shot at. I used to kind of like Hillary, but I'm thinking she's worse than useless at this point. One thing Rush Limbaugh and I can agree on. Andy Card was responding to Newtron Gingrich's "off a cliff" remark about what's happening in Iraq.

And while I really, really don't like Howard Dean, I'll give him kudos for his remarks:

Dean, interviewed on "Fox News Sunday," defended his recent statements in New Hampshire that he needed to "teach" Bush about defense because the president "doesn't understand what it takes to defend this country, that you have to have high moral purpose."

"There are not very many countries, after three years of George W. Bush's presidency, where people want to be like us anymore," Dean said. "That is what I mean by the loss of high moral purpose." He also said Bush had backed off efforts to cut combat pay for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dean was asked about his comments on National Public Radio's "The Diane Rehm Show" last week concerning the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He said then: "The most interesting theory that I've heard so far -- which is nothing more than a theory, it can't be proved -- is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis."

Dean said yesterday that "I can't imagine the president of the United States doing that," but added that Bush needs to "give the information" to the commission investigating the attacks. Asked why he raised the theory, Dean said: "Because there are people who believe that. We don't know what happened in 9/11."

Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie later called Dean "reckless and irresponsible" for "floating this incendiary theory."

Screw Gillespie. Calling attention to the Bushies' coverup of 9/11 is the most responsible thing Dean has done in his campaign. Release the documents, not just to the 9/11 commission but to the NY Times and CNN and the BBC and AFP; let everyone know how and why 9/11 happened, and let the chips fall where they may.

As usual, Liberal Oasis has a good summary on his weekly Sunday Talkshow Breakdown.

From Ted Rall.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

NGO-rgia on my mind
It's late and I'm tired and the sink is full of dirty dishes, so I don't have time to read the Counterpunch article Cyndy links to about NGO's being involved in the Georgian coup.
The Nick Smith saga continues
Rep. Nick Smith (R-MI) recently tried to retract his allegations that Republican leaders tried to bribe him on the House floor during the Medicare all-nighter in November. Fortunately for us, his accusations were caught on tape, effectively rebutting his rebuttal:

According to a report last night by WOOD TV, a Grand Rapids station, Smith confirmed the $100,000 offer in a taped phone interview with Vandenbroek on Dec. 1:

"And so the first offer was to give [Smith's son Brad] $100,000-plus for his campaign, and endorsements by national leadership, and I said no, I'm going to stick to my guns on what I think is right for the constituents in my district."

Thanks to Michelle, again, for helping me keep up with this one. Neither of us have figured out yet how it ties into the "rose revolution" in Georgia, but we're working on it!

Never Mind
I never thought I'd say it, but there's an excellent editorial in today's Ann Arbor News:

It was Emily Litella who immediately sprang to mind Friday when we learned that U.S. Rep. Nick Smith, the Republican congressman representing much of Washtenaw County, had retracted his accusation of the previous week that leaders of his own party tried to bribe him into voting for the Medicare bill.

Smith, who voted against the 10-year, $400-billion measure, also had been claiming that congressional leaders had threatened to block his son's attempt to succeed him if he didn't back the bill. Smith is retiring next year after 12 years in Congress.

"I want to make it clear that no member of Congress made an offer of financial assistance for my son's campaign in exchange for my vote," said Smith, backpedalling on the bribery charge in a story that ran Friday. "Some members said they would work against Brad (his son) if I voted no."

In other words, "Never mind."
Nick Smith's use of the word (bribe) would seem to mean one of two things. Either it reflects little thought on his part in shrilly using it to fight back at those playing hardball politics in trying to win his vote on Medicare. Or, if there was any truth in what he was alleging, he owed his constituency and the public at-large more backbone than giving up his accusation just one week after making it.

Whichever scenario is the more accurate, Smith should be embarrassed.

From the picket line
AKA "The Central Front in the War on Corporatism." I just spent an hour and a half on the picket line in front of Borders. The strike will be one month old tomorrow. While business seems to be down, quite a few people still cross the picket line, which is depressing. Even in supposedly liberal Ann Arbor, the "I've got mine, screw you" mentality is rampant. I was getting a little bitter, and started haranguing people leaving the store with purchases with some variation on: "Happy holidays to you, sir (ma'am) for choosing to support a criminal corporation over the workers. You are destroying America by helping the corporations turn it into a sweatshop. Because of your purchases, your children and grandchildren may be working for $2 an hour with no benefits, if they can find a job at all."

You can support the strikers in several ways. If you're in or near Ann Arbor, come downtown and join the picket line for a while, and/or bring them some food. Don't shop at Borders or Waldenbooks, or at Go to the Borders Readers United web site and sign the petition and make a donation. They also have flyers that you can print out to hand to people outside your local Borders. Calling your local Borders and telling the workers about the strike is also suggested (only the Ann Arbor store is on strike, and only it and one in Minneapolis have unions).

Workers and unions spent a century of blood, sweat and tears to bring basic rights to working people, and many of us enjoy those rights (weekends, holidays, overtime pay, health insurance, etc.) even if we don't belong to unions. The "cheap-labor conservatives" have spent the last quarter of a century chipping away at these rights. It is coming to a head now; if the current strikes are lost and aWol gets reselected, America WILL become a sweatshop.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Freedom's Just Another Word...
In Abu Hishma, encased in a razor-wire fence after repeated attacks on American troops, Iraqi civilians line up to go in and out, filing through an American-guarded checkpoint, each carrying an identification card printed in English only.

"If you have one of these cards, you can come and go," coaxed Lt. Col. Nathan Sassaman, the battalion commander whose men oversee the village, about 50 miles north of Baghdad. "If you don't have one of these cards, you can't."

The Iraqis nodded and edged their cars through the line. Over to one side, an Iraqi man named Tariq muttered in anger.

"I see no difference between us and the Palestinians," he said. "We didn't expect anything like this after Saddam fell."
-- NY Times
US Kills 9 Children in Afghanistan
An air attack by the United States-led military against a suspected terrorist in Afghanistan apparently killed nine children on Saturday as well as the intended target, the Central Command said.

In a statement issued from the headquarters of the American-led military forces at Bagram Air Base near Kabul, the military said ground forces searching the area after the attack had found the bodies of the children as well as the body of the suspect, who was said to have been involved in the killings of two contractors working on Afghanistan's main highway connecting the capital with the cities of Kandahar and Herat.
-- NY Times
Marching through Georgia
The World Socialist Web Site has no doubt about the causes of the recent "revolution" in Georgia:
The US-backed coup in Georgia and Washington’s subsequent diplomatic saber-rattling have nothing to do with the spread of democracy or similar clichés. Georgia, strategically situated between the Black Sea and the oil-rich Caspian, has long been a focus of intrigue and conflict between the great powers. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, the goal of weakening Russian influence and achieving US domination of Georgia and the rest of the Caucasus became a central preoccupation of US imperialist policy.

From the early days of the Clinton administration, Washington invested enormous political and diplomatic capital in the construction of a pipeline that would connect the oil fields of Baku, in Azerbaijan, to Western markets, while skirting the territory of both Russia and Iran. This made Georgia all the more critical, since such a pipeline would have to run through that volatile, backward and ethnically torn country.

The pipeline—running from Baku to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan—is slated to open in 2005. For Washington, the maintenance of relative stability in a Georgia run by an unambiguously pro-US regime is a matter of the greatest urgency. The interests of US energy giants and the global military and the strategic aims of American imperialism as a whole converge on this question. Herein lie the roots of the so-called “rose revolution” that toppled Shevardnadze last month.

Here's an interesting twist:
There seems little doubt that the [Shevardnadze] regime resorted to vote-rigging and ballot-stuffing, but the public perception of a stolen election was enhanced by exit polls showing a victory for the opposition parties. These polls were funded by US agencies and American-backed non-governmental organizations; they were broadcast on Rustavi 2 TV, a Western-backed oppositional media outlet.

So, in the former Soviet state of Georgia, exit polls were used to raise questions about the accuracy of an election. Last year, in the former Confederate state of Georgia, exit polls were supressed so that questions wouldn't be raised about the black-box no-paper-trail elections of a Republican governor and Republican senator, both of whom had trailed substantially in polls taken before the election:

In the meantime, exit-polling organizations have quietly gone out of business, and the news arms of the huge multinational corporations that own our networks are suggesting the days of exit polls are over. Virtually none were reported in 2002, creating an odd and unsettling silence that caused unease for the many American voters who had come to view exit polls as proof of the integrity of their election systems.
Your Ten Cents Worth
CNN asks: Whose image should be on the dime? The choices are Ronald Reagan and the incumbent, Franklin D. Roosevelt. You know what to do! (Lower right of page)
Smith backing down from bribery charges. Rep. Nick Smith (R-MI) now says his allegations of attempted bribery by Repug leaders on the House floor in the all-night extortion session leading to passage of the Medicare destruction bill were "technically incorrect." Smith also said Republicans were not pressuring him to back away from his previous comments.

No word yet from the White House as to whether Smith's son will still be named an enemy combatant or whether the JFK Jr./Carnahan/Wellstone airplane sabotage team would be reactivated.
Keep up!
As you can tell, I've been a little busy the last couple of days, so I haven't commented on several new and old scandals, including the return of that old walking scandal himself, James Baker III (ay-ay-aaay!). I suggest You Will Anyway and Left I On the News as good places to catch up until I do!

Friday, December 05, 2003

Kucinich's speech in Ann Arbor
Cyndy and Craig have posted a video.

Oh, and Dennis? You're welcome! (Sorry for the self-promotion :-))
Go Jenny, Go Jenny...
I am not going to stand for cutting out the legs from the social safety net, balancing the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable citizens because they (Republicans) don't have the guts to pause a rollback in the state income tax that equates to $11 a person. It is irresponsible and cruel. -- Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.
Soros explains his contributions
in today's Washington Post.

I have scrupulously abided by both the letter and the spirit of the law. Both America Coming Together and the Voter Fund are "527" organizations -- referring to Section 527 of the tax code -- which are entitled to receive unlimited contributions from individuals. Both groups are fully transparent about their motives and activities. Both file detailed and frequent reports with government regulators.
President Bush has a huge fundraising advantage because he has figured out a clever way to raise money. He relies on donors he calls "Pioneers," who collect $100,000 apiece in campaign contributions in increments that fall within the legal limit of $2,000 a person, and on those he calls "Rangers," who collect at least $200,000.

Many of these Pioneers and Rangers are corporate officials who are well situated to raise funds from their business associates, bundle them together and pass them along with tracking numbers to ensure proper "credit." They are buying the same level of access and influence for their corporate interests that they previously obtained with their own and corporate funds. With the help of Pioneers and Rangers, President Bush is on track to collect $200 million.

To counter the fundraising advantage obtained by this strategy, I have contributed to independent organizations that by law are forbidden to coordinate their activities with the political parties or candidates. That law minimizes or eliminates the ability to purchase influence in exchange for my contribution. Moreover, I don't seek such influence. My contributions are made in what I believe to be the common interest. ACT is working to register voters, and MoveOn is getting more people engaged in the national debate over Bush's policies.

The good-news offensive...
Didn't work out so well for the Bushies in Iraq. Even the corporate media just couldn't bring themselves to put stories about painting schools ahead of stories about chopper crashes killing 17 US soldiers. But their good-news offensive on the economy appears to be working. Left I On the News has a good post about the meaninglessness of some of the recent numbers that have been making front-page news.

News reports claim that "productivity surged to a 20-year high," but, curiously enough, any actual data about "productivity" (output per hour), or actual data about actual output, are noticeably lacking from the article. What the data quoted in the article say is that "productivity rose at an annual rate of 9.4 percent" in the third quarter, "the best since the second quarter of 1983." In other words, the rate of increase of productivity was at a 20-year high, not productivity itself (that may be true, but, as I said, there is absolutely no evidence presented that it is).

Suppose for instance that you're considering finding loose change on the street as an alternative to your day job. Let's say you found a dime on Monday, 15 cents on Tuesday, a penny on Wednesday, and two pennies on Thursday. While Tuesday was clearly your best day to any reasonable person, it represented only a 50% rate of increase over the previous day, overshadowed by Thursday's dramatic 100% increase.

Since many of the reports released come from the Bushie-controlled government, there is really little reason to believe any of them. They have shown repeatedly that they will lie about anything to get their way, and the labor and commerce departments should probably be considered to be parts of aWol's reselection campaign. Some things may be improving in the economy; others getting worse. It doesn't really matter to the Bushies. All they care about is that there have been several days in a row with headlines about supposedly improved economic numbers. They know that the majority of reporters and the vast majority of the general public won't bother to investigate whether there is any truth and/or meaning to the numbers being hyped.
AWol caves on steel tariffs
Dennis Kucinich reiterated his pledge to withdraw from NAFTA and the WTO yesterday, and cited Bush's reversal on the steel tariffs as evidence that the WTO has caused the US to relinquish sovereignty. According to the NY Times:

Employing relatively untested powers, the eight-year-old World Trade Organization authorized European and Asian nations to devise retaliatory tariffs against the United States, just 11 months before a presidential election. Not surprisingly, the Europeans pulled out an electoral map and proudly announced they would single out products made in the states Mr. Bush most needs to win a second term.
The raw political fact remains that the W.T.O. made the price of protecting the steel industry simply too high. It was left to the Europeans to design the penalties, and they pinpointed textile mills in the Carolinas and farmers in the Midwest and California with a precision that Karl Rove, the president's political adviser, must have grudgingly admired.

Whether aWol succeeds in retaining or gaining the votes from those states sufficiently to counteract the possible loss of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia remains to be seen. I hope not. I was frankly hoping that Bush wouldn't cave to the WTO, not because the tariffs seemed like a great idea, but because it might have led to the destruction of the WTO, which would be a very good thing.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Great Kucinich Day in Michigan!
Dennis Kucinich came to Ann Arbor today at about 12:30. He was greeted by a large crowd at the Michigan League, then walked over to Borders where he joined the picket line. He then went on to Lansing, East Lansing, and Detroit. He was joined by the Peace Walkers, who are walking across the country to draw attention to Dennis' campaign and the issues he champions. I started my day having a bagel breakfast with the Peace Walkers, then joining the march and rally at the League and Borders, and finally driving to East Lansing for his appearance before a big crowd.

Here are three photos that I took. You can see the rest at Ofoto.

Kucinich addresses the crowd outside the Michigan League

Kucinich on the picket line

Breakfast with the Peace Walkers (walkers Clara Wilson and Jonathan Meier are in the back left corner of the table)

Borders Readers United has more pictures.
Won't be much blogging today
I'm heading downtown to help with the various Kucinich events, and then on to East Lansing for another Kucinich rally. When I get back, I'm going to a Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition meeting, and will then watch the Red Wings on the TiVo after that. I'll probably post something at 11:30 or so; maybe some pictures from the rallies.
Checkbooks roasting on an open fire...
Polizeros reports:
An Austrian trade union has claimed the repetitive playing of Christmas carols in department stores is "psycho-terrorism" for salespeople.

Here's the comment I made on his site:

Amen to that! I was in a local grocery store before Thanksgiving and they played one of those half-hour versions of "Chestnuts Roasting" sung by some lounge lizard. I have a soft spot for some of the traditional carols, but these sleigh-ride to grandma's house for some fantasy very-white Christmas songs seem intended to enrage or depress just about everyone.
More on the Nick Smith affair
As you may recall, Nick Smith is the retiring Republican congressman from Michigan's 7th district. He was reportedly told that $100,000 in campaign contributions would be given to his son, running to take his seat next year, if the elder Smith voted for the Medicare "reform" bill. This attempted bribery is a clear violation of the law.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Terence McAuliffe has written a letter to AG Ashcrotch asking him to investigate and prosecute the matter. Josh Marshall has a copy of the letter.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Kucinich in Ann Arbor tomorrow!
The schedule:

10:15 am: Breakfast with Peace Walkers at Bruegger's Bagels, 709 N. University. The Peace Walkers are four people who are walking across the country to draw
attention to the Kucinich campaign and the issues it addresses, especially peace and international cooperation.

11:30 am: Presentation/discussion by Peace Walkers at the Michigan League, North University at Fletcher, 3rd floor, Room D.

12 noon: Dennis Kucinich arrives at the League for a short speech and discussion.

12:35 pm: Walk from the League to Borders to support the striking workers and join their picket line.

Please join us if you can!
Much less safe than we were three years ago
Stan Goff reports that the Bushies combination of secrecy, punishment of whistleblowers, favoritism for corporations, and wars (which have the dual impact of enraging much of the world AND sending many of our first responders off to get shot at) has left us pretty much completely vulnerable. Some choice quotes from the long article:

Mark Hertsgaard, "Nuclear Insecurity," Vanity Fair, November 2003: Over the past two years, the Bush administration has talked tough about defending the United States against terrorism, pointing to the September 11 tragedy to justify much of its domestic and international political agenda, from invading Iraq to limiting civil liberties to relaxing environmental regulations. But... the Bush administration is in fact failing disastrously at the practical job of keeping the American homeland safe from terrorist attacks. In particular, the administration is doing worse than nothing ... leaving serious flaws in the nuclear-security system unrepaired, it is silencing the very public servants who are trying to fix the problem before it is too late.

Argonne National Laboratory, for the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 1982: [A] large commercial airliner striking the reactor dome... would easily penetrate the reactor dome... obliterate the reactor core's primary containment thereby immediately releasing massive amounts of radiation into the atmosphere without any chance of evacuation. Thousands of people would quickly perish and thousands more would perish over time... the explosive force of jet fuel exploding inside the containment dome would... convert the containment dome itself into a bomb.
Whistleblower protections were excised from proposals for the Department of Homeland Security and the newly formed Transportation Security Administration (TSA). To his great credit, Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa--breaking ranks with many in his party--issued a call in 2002 to restore whistleblower protection to all jobs and contracts.

"Government agencies too often want to cover up their mistakes," said Grassley, "and the temptation is even greater when bureaucracies can use a potential security issue as an excuse. At the same time, the information whistleblowers provide is all the more important when public safety and security is at stake."
The nation's 103 nuclear power plants have packed the waste fuel from each reactor into water-filled cooling pools like sardines. In addition to the threat of intentional activations of these cesium-bombs for malicious motives, accidental loss of cooling will also cause a pool fire, which Brookhaven National Laboratory estimates could cause--depending on the location and conditions--up to 140,000 cancer deaths, $500 billion in off-site property damage, and contamination of thousands of square miles.

This nightmare scenario can be rendered moot by simply re-racking these waste fuel assemblies back to the original design distance, where air convection can prevent self-ignition. Unfortunately, few elected officials want to confront the nation's powerful utilities about their irresponsible behavior, and the putative Nuclear Regulatory Commission has its leadership appointed by people who win elections with generous contributions from the very utilities that continue to gamble with public safety to protect profit margins.
While European nuclear plants began in the eighties to harden their own plants--especially spent fuel storage--against aircraft crashes, accidental or intentional, the NRC made a conscious choice not to impose this financial hardship on the U.S. nuclear industry.
Apparently "al Qaeda" figured out that there is no need to transport a radiological weapon into the United States, when 103 of them are already deployed around the country, invariably near urban centers.

What the Department of Homeland Security apparently has not figured out is that it is likewise not necessary for attackers to hijack airplanes outside the country to activate the huge "dirty bombs." The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) released a report in September 2003 that showed 70 general aviation aircraft had been stolen inside the United States within the last five years. That is an average of 14 aircraft a year. These are small planes at short-takeoff-and-landing (STOL) airfields.

Cursory research shows that the most common light aircraft in the United States is the Cessna Skyhawk.

A Tomahawk Cruise Missile is a precision weapon that can hug the earth, evade radar, travel to a range of 600 miles, and deliver up to 1,000 pounds of high explosive onto a target. A Cessna Skyhawk has a range of 687 miles, can carry a payload up to 675 pounds, and likewise can hug the contours of the earth to evade radar and deliver its payload with pinpoint accuracy.

These general aviation aircraft then, with the simple addition of a committed pilot prepared to die and 500 pounds of high explosive, could be employed as a "poor person's Cruise missile."
It is very difficult to understand how (1) muzzling whistleblowers, (2) concealing security criteria from public scrutiny and accountability, and (3) "backing off" on reporting security violations are consistent with this administration's rhetoric about "homeland security."

Since September 11, state and local emergency services budgets have been stripped bare, National Guard troops have been sent to Iraq, reservists who worked in local police, EMS, and fire departments have been subtracted from net manpower, the entire northeast was blacked out, California burned, children across Southwest Asia and North Africa wear Osama bin Laden t-shirts, and Iraqis are more and more often naming their newborns Saddam.

Sleep well.
Turns out it was Thanksgiving dinner, after all
Wayne Madsden has a long article on the various forms of atrocious reporting surrounding aWol's turkey hop to Baghdad. A Washington Post reporter had written that Air Force One landed at Baghdad Airport at 5:20 AM, while it now seems likely that it landed at 5:20 PM. (I'll admit that I was confused by the supposed morning time. I first heard about the trip shortly after noon (EST) on Thanksgiving. The CNN embeds (they're ALL embeds) were saying that they couldn't report anything until after the plane had taken off. Since Baghdad is eight hours ahead of Michigan, that means they were reporting at about 8:30 PM Baghdad time. That's consistent with AF One being on the ground from 5:20 to 7:55 PM. (Insanity base: The turkey has landed.)

The article points to lots of other inconsistencies in the various stories about this expensive GOP campaign stunt.
More on the Samarra shootout
The US military’s initial account of Sunday’s firefight in the central Iraqi city of Samarra, uncritically relayed to the American people by a servile media, has proven to be a tissue of lies. It turns out that the “major victory” over the Iraqi resistance consisted of American forces blasting away indiscriminately in Samarra’s city center, killing innocent men, women and children, damaging property and buildings—including a mosque and a kindergarten—and further enraging the local population.

The Samarra incident in its various aspects—the battle itself, the military’s claims, the media’s role—is a microcosm of the US occupation of Iraq.

Read the rest at the WSWS.
Paramilitaries: the key to security?
Apparently helping to pave the way for the eventual Iraq civil war, Paul Bremer and the Iraqi Governing Council plan to set up a paramilitary force with militias from five of the major factions in Iraq. According to Juan Cole:

Ghazi al-Yawar, a Sunni member of the IGC, told the LA Times that this was a very bad idea, and that the militias should be disbanded rather than being legitimized.

Al-Yawar is right, of course. This step is ominous, moreover, because this genderamerie will report to the Interior Ministry, which is dominated by the appointees of ex-Baathist Iyad al-Alawi.
Escape hatch closing?
Our cold neighbor to the north, Canada, has seemed to many liberal types as a cool alternative to this ever-worsening batch of nationalistic fundamentalist patriotic yahoos we call the United States. Unfortunately, Canada has a new prime minister, and he's already talking about increasing the military and dropping out of the Kyoto agreement. Not a good sign.
88% of Canadians support mandatory labeling of GMO foods
Meanwhile, probably 95% of Americans aren't aware that they're eating frankenfoods every day, one of the many great stealth crimes perpetrated in the last ten years on the people and the planet by the amoral corporations and their Republican friends.
Supreme Court's decision to review "enemy combatant" crap...
is already affecting the Bushies. Not only are they releasing many of the "detainees" at Guantanamo Bay, they have now granted one of the three US-citizen "enemy combatants" the right to a lawyer.
Dingell's Visit
My congressional representative, John Dingell, spoke to a group of students and townspeople at the Michigan Union last night. As congresscritters go, he's one of the best, and has been in the House since 1956, longer than any other current member. He helped to create and pass Medicare in the 1960's, and was not at all happy to witness the beginning of its destruction in 2003. He was harsh in his criticism of the Republicans in the House for their shutting Democrats out of debates on key issues like Medicare. Dingell said he could accept the reduced leadership role as a member of the minority party in the House, but could not accept that the Republicans were closing the door on representation to the millions across the country, including us, who are represented by Democrats. His outlook on the wars was bleak, as was his view of the economy, given the huge deficits being run up.

I asked him if he witnessed any bribery or other shenanigans going on during the all-night House vote on the medicare, since I had read about Rep. Nick Smith's apparent allegations of attempted bribery. While Dingell said he didn't personally witness any bribery, he did say "If Nick said it, it's true." He was harsh in his criticism of the Bush administration in dragging the vote out in violation of House rules in order to overturn a clear vote (218-216) against the Medicare bill.

Dingell was asked about fuel economy, one issue on which he has disappointed me. He said, frankly, that it is a difficult topic for him to address since so much of the economy of his district is tied up in the auto industry. His main suggestion was to follow the lead of Europe by getting the sulfur out of diesel fuel. He feels that diesel is a better option than hybrids or fuel cells, and that most large European cars are now diesels. He said that switching to diesel could double fuel economy.

All in all, Dingell is an excellent congressman, and it's a shame there aren't many more like him. He voted against the Patriot Act, the Iraq War, the tax cuts, and the Medicare bill.
Quote du Jour
From the Gropenator, aka ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: I think that gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman. -- Progressive Review.


Caucasian Chalk Circle
Michelle is making an admirable attempt at explaining what's happening in Georgia. I just read it, and I'll have to admit I'm pretty confused. Which I think means Michelle's doing an excellent job; if you think you know what's happening there, then you probably aren't paying attention.

It occurred to me that Condi Rice may be having problems explaining the situation to aWol as well, given that he's an idiot, while she's either an idiot or does a good imitation of one. Let's imagine their conversation.

Condi: Mr. President, there are some issues in Georgia that need your attention.

aWol: Well, I'll be in Atlanta next week for a fundraiser. Maybe I can talk to somebody then? How about that Zell Miller guy--I'll talk to him.

Condi: Not that Georgia, sir. The one that used to be in the Soviet Union.

aWol: You're pullin' mah leg, right? Georgia in the Soviet Union? Is there still a Soviet Union?

Condi: No sir. It broke up back when your Daddy was president. Now it's a bunch of little countries, including Georgia. NOT our state Georgia, sir, the one in the Caucuses.

aWol: I thought I didn't have to worry about the caucuses since no Republicans are running against me.

Condi: The Caucuses are a mountain range, sir.

aWol: Well, we got through them in 2000, we'll do it this time. So what were you tellin' me about?

Condi: They had a crooked election in Georgia.

aWol: I know. Thank God! That Max Cleland was nothing but trouble. Always flaunting his triple ammuni-...ampura-...that he only has one arm and no legs. Like he's some sort of hero or something. Thank that Diebold guy for me again, willya?

Condi: Yes, sir. No, sir, the crooked election was in the other Georgia, in the Caucuses.

aWol: Whatever. So we want to fix it?

Condi: Well, they've already overturned the results of the election and replaced the government.

aWol: Hmmm...that's a dangerous precerent. Should we change it back?

Condi: No sir. Shevardnadze wasn't doing what we wanted, so he had to go. We like the new guy, Saakashvili.

aWol: Does he have a nickname?

Condi: Not that I know of, sir.

aWol: Well make one up for him, willya?

Condi: Right away, sir. I think we need to get someone over there to talk to him so we can get our pipelines built.

aWol: They've got oil?

Condi: Not much, but there's lots of oil on the other side of them. We need to be able to run pipelines through Georgia to keep it out of the hands of the Russians.

aWol: Okay. Tell Powell to fly to the capital tonight.

Condi: Tbilisi?

aWol: I doubt it. Colin's starting to get pretty feisty about goin' on all these trips.

Condi: You might want to talk with China's president before he goes.

aWol: And that's who?

Condi: Very good, sir!

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

RICO Complaint filed against aWol and cabinet
I thought that I had posted this before, but I can't find it. Stuff like this gets way too little attention!

A 9/11 victim's wife has filed a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) complaint against the Bushies.

Philip J. Berg, Esquire, announced today that he, attorney for Ellen Mariani, wife of Louis Neil Mariani, who died when United Air Lines flight 175 was flown into the South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9-11 at a news conference regarding the filing of a detailed Amended Complaint in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on 11/26/03 in the case of Mariani vs. Bush et al that he is alleging President Bush and officials including, but not limited to Cheney, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld and Feinberg that they:

1. had knowledge/warnings of 911 and failed to warn or take steps to prevent;

2. have been covering up the truth of 911; and

3. have therefore violated the laws of the United States; and

4. are being sued under the Civil RICO Act.

Go get 'em, Philip and Ellen! But be careful; mobsters have notoriously unscrupulous ways of "resolving" court cases.
The only thing to fear
From Charley Reese, via Michelle:
You should also remember that two years later, the Bush administration has: (1) failed to identify and capture the anthrax killer; (2) failed to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, the actual boogeyman who got us; (3) failed to capture or kill Saddam Hussein; and (4) failed to capture or kill Mullah Omar of Taliban fame.

Worse, rather than going after the terrorists who actually attacked us, Mr. Bush has invited all of the world's terrorists to attack us by declaring war on them and has gotten us bogged down in two guerrilla wars. Whatever happened to the peace dividends? You certainly can't find them in our $400 billion military budget.
The secret of the game afoot is that Mr. Bush has no desire to win the war on terrorism. What he wants is perpetual war, because that means perpetually enhancing the power of government.
First it was fascism, then communism and now Islam. In the meantime, our own country grows less and less free and more and more in debt while those who profit from the war state rake in their billions of dollars.

You as a citizen ought not to fall for this fearmongering. All we have to do is cut the apron strings from Israel and pull our troops out of the Middle East, where they have no business being anyway, and Middle East terrorism directed toward us would evaporate overnight. We have no natural conflict with the Arab world or it with us, and most assuredly Islam is not our enemy.
The truth is, the only enemies we have are those our own government is manufacturing to justify a powerful central government that is sucking the wealth and liberty out of this country like some monstrous leech.

There is no need to be $6 trillion in debt, there is no need to maintain a $400 billion defense budget, and there is darn sure no need to give up our liberty in the name of security.

Sprawl Affecting Military Bases
Apparently bases that used to be out in the middle of nowhere are being surrounded by subdivisions, and some of the new homeowners are complaining about all the noise and shaking and accidental explosions and such. From Reuters.

My solution: Get rid of both!
They're at it again
Assuming, as seems likely, that the situation in Iraq has pretty much no chance of improving in the next year, and that all the BS about the improving economy is just that, the Bushies are busy laying the groundwork for more wars. Neocon wingnut Under Secretary of State John Bolton leads the way today:

"If rogue states are not willing to follow the logic of non-proliferation norms, they must be prepared to face the logic of adverse consequences," Bolton said. "It is why we repeatedly caution that no option is off the table."

Bolton specifically cited Iran, North Korea, Syria, Libya and Cuba as rouge nations "whose pursuit of weapons of mass destruction makes them hostile to U.S. interests."

Look here, Bolton, you moron, by the administration's decision to attack Iraq, which didn't have WMD's, while not attacking North Korea (or India or Pakistan or Russia or France or Great Britain or China or Israel or North Frigging Dakota) which does, you made it pretty clear to the world that having nukes is about the only defense against a US attack that any nation has. The US of A is the now the roguiest of the rogue states in the world.
Democracy in Action
Some Republican leader tried to bribe a Michigan congressman during the three-hour Medicare vote last week. Nick Smith's district is just to the west of here; he represents my sister, brother-in-law, two nephews, their wives, and numerous friends. Smith didn't cave into the threats and bribe offers, but now he's apparently not talking about who actually made the bribe offer. From Slate:

Rep. Nick Smith, R-Mich., says that sometime late Nov. 21 or early in the morning Nov. 22, somebody on the House floor threatened to redirect campaign funds away from his son Brad, who is running to succeed him, if he didn't support the Medicare prescription bill. This according to the Associated Press. Robert Novak further reports,

On the House floor, Nick Smith was told business interests would give his son $100,000 in return for his father's vote. When he still declined, fellow Republican House members told him they would make sure Brad Smith never came to Congress. After Nick Smith voted no and the bill passed, [Rep.] Duke Cunningham of California and other Republicans taunted him that his son was dead meat.

So good job, Nick, for not caving. Now, keep up the good work by turning in whoever it was who offered you the bribe. According to the article, Smith has already indicated that it wasn't Speaker of the House Hastert, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, or Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, whose very presence on the House floor that night was in violation of long-standing House lobbying rules.

Perhaps those of you in his district should contact him, thank him for not caving to the pressure and the bribes, and encourage him to turn in the attempted briber(s). Heck, we all should! Smith's contact information is here, or, like everyone in Congress, his office can be reached toll-free through the Congressional switchboard: 800-839-5276. You may want to read the whole Slate article before calling.
Pravda Reports
From Left I on the News:
On the subject of media dutifully reporting what they're told, CBS News reporter Mark Knoller, on the "White House beat" reported tonight (in a piece entitled "Clueless in Crawford") on being "fooled" by being handed, and then reading on the air, false reports that George Bush was making holiday phone calls to U.S. troops overseas, when in fact he was in Iraq at the time. Knoller closed his piece with this observation: "From now on, when I report that the President is at his ranch, neither you nor I will be sure of it." Now one might ask this: if Knoller isn't sure of it, why is he reporting it as fact? If he is just going to read White House press releases, why exactly do we need him anyway? Can't the White House just email its press releases in to CBS Evening News?
Another soldier killed
How many more?
Trying to keep up!
Congressman John Dingell will be talking with us this evening at the Michigan Union (Pendleton Room, 6 pm). Tomorrow night the four "Steps for Peace" walkers will reach Ann Arbor, and will be here on Thursday when Dennis Kucinich arrives! Kucinich will appear at a rally on the UM campus at 12:10. The crowd will then proceed over to Borders on Liberty Street and join the picket line there.

So with all this going on, I'm having trouble keeping up with everything, especially the multitude of confusing developments in various former Soviet republics. Michelle in Missouri sent me an e-mail about how someone could be both Soros and against us (which really means for us, because he's anti-Bush), explaining that Bush may have supported the ouster of Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze for the usual fossil-fuel reasons, while billionaire Bush-hater George Soros may have supported Shevardnadze's removal on democratic prinicples. Michelle is also looking into links between what is going on in Georgia and what has been happening in Russia--the arrest of billionaire oil magnate Khodorkovsky by Pooty-Poot and how Soros may be involved with that as well. She's got another good post about Georgia as well.

So I'll be spending much of this week trying to get Kucinich elected and getting the Borders' workers a fair contract. Oh, and working, too. If I get a chance, I'll try to figure out what's going on in Georgia, but you might want to keep checking Michelle's blog for now.

From Doonesbury.

Monday, December 01, 2003

They'll lie anywhere, anytime
Apparently, a British Airways pilot saw Air Force One, the blue-and-white 747 sneaking aWol into Baghdad, while it was crossing the Atlantic:

Bush aides recounted with excitement the moment during the flight to Baghdad when the BA pilot thought he spotted the president's blue and white Boeing 747 from his cockpit.

"Did I just see Air Force One?" the pilot radioed.

There was a pause. Then came the response from Air Force One: "Gulfstream 5" -- a much smaller aircraft.

As one of Bush's aides recounted, the BA pilot seemed to sense that he was in on a secret, and replied: "Oh."

Probably familiar with the ways of Bush, the pilot then knew for sure that it was Air Force One. And "Bush aides recounted with excitement?" Get a life.

Meanwhile, Michelle links to a Counterpunch article which did the math and shows that aWol's Thanksgiving "dinner" in Baghdad Airport was really breakfast.
The answer to my poll question below is Nebraska, according to today's NY Times. Nebraska has seven of the twelve poorest counties in the nation, including the three poorest. If I hadn't read the article, I would have said Mississippi.
Words versus Actions
My attitude is the more money you've got in your pocket, the more likely it is your family is going to be okay. -- aWol today, speaking today employees at a small Michigan company.

Under a proposal by President Bush, more than 8 million workers might not be paid extra for the overtime hours they work. President Bush can make these changes through executive order, even over objections from Congress. Please show your support for overtime pay during the Overtime Pay National Week of Action by signing this petition.

More on Gitmo
According to Time, activities leading toward release of the 140 prisoners have accelerated since the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. It said U.S. officials had concluded some detainees were kidnapped for reward money offered for al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. -- ABC

Two years in a concentration camp, 8000 miles from home, without any legal rights whatsoever, as punishment for being kidnapped? You were kidnapped because the US military was offering reward money? You are only released because the Supreme Court FINALLY agreed to consider the constitutionality of your detainment?

God bless America, we sure don't deserve it. More here and here.
Colorado's GOP redistricting plan unconstitutional
Chalk one up for the good guys. Hopefully this decision will lead to a similar result in Texas.
A quiz for you!

Answer later.
Hostages to be released from Gitmo?
Senior Defense Department officials said Sunday that the military may soon release to their home countries scores of detainees, perhaps more than 100, who are being held in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

That would still leave over 500, none of whom have been charged with crimes, none of whom have had access to lawyers, and most of whom have been there for nearly two years.
Major Combat Operations Just Beginning
The military now says that 54 Iraqis were killed in the attempted ambush of two US convoys yesterday. According to the NY Times:

The A.P. quoted residents as saying that when Saddam loyalists attacked the Americans, American forces began firing at random, prompting civilians to get guns and join the fight. It said many civilians were bitter about recent United States raids in the night.
Residents and police officers in Samarra said less than a dozen Iraqis had been killed and contended that many of those wounded were civilians, the Associated Press reported. The residents were clearly incensed at the immense firepower used by the Americans.

No matter which side is telling the truth (probably neither), carnage on this scale is clear evidence that there is very little hope for the US military ever creating a democracy in Iraq. Not that that was ever their intention. It's about oil and empire, and always has been.

I think we're starting to see the latest excuse for continuing this bloody occupation, and battles like this one are key to it. Anyone paying any attention already knows the stuff about WMD's and al Qaeda ties was all lies. The democracy BS is looking pretty frayed too, especially when the Bushies' concerns for democracy in places like Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan are concerned. No, the main reason being sold to the mostly ignorant American public now is simply the "these colors don't run" nonsense--the idea that "loss of honor" is worse than the loss of thousands of troops (as if US honor wasn't already completely destroyed by the illegal invasion in the first place).

Screw all that. Bring the troops home now. Whatever chaos ensues in Iraq is unlikely to be any worse than the chaos that will happen if the troops stay, and the troops will without a doubt be better off at home.

From R. J. Matson.
Georgia on other people's mind
The Globe and Mail's Moscow correspondent Mark MacKinnon doesn't answer my questions (below) but does say that excitement for peaceful revolution has spread from Georgia to other former Soviet republics, especially Moldova and the Ukraine.
Georgia still on my mind
Cyndy forwards a BBC article which says:
Ousted Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze has accused the US of helping to remove him from power.

So we've got two articles from a Canadian journalist, one pointing the finger at the Bush administration while the other points it at George Soros, and now this article which supports the first explanation. I'm still looking for an article which either explains how (and why) both could have been involved, or which supports one explanation while refuting the other.