Bob's Links and Rants
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 Kirk Anderson.
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
up a four-story stairwell
in the middle of a cave
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
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.
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.
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
From Robert Ariail.
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.
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
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
YEARS? not DAYS?
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.
HOW DARE YOU BUY PETROL FROM THE MASS DISTRACTION MARKET ??
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!