Bob's Links and Rants

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Saturday, January 31, 2004

From the Black Commentator.
No need to choose
Should Bush be impeached for starting an illegal, immoral, unnecessary war, as the better Democratic candidates might suggest, or simply because he's made such an awful job of it, as wusses like Kerry, Edwards and Lieberman (who voted for the war) say? There has been plenty of evidence for the first argument in the past couple of weeks, from Paul O'Neill and David Kay especially. For evidence of the latter, look no further than today's headlines:

A car bomb targeting a police station in Iraq's third largest city killed nine people and injured 45 others Saturday, while three American soldiers died when a roadside bomb ripped through their convoy near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. -- AP

Whether you believe the ends justify the means or not, it seems as though "Bush must go" is the obvious conclusion. In the war in Iraq, the means sucked, and so do the ends.
The MoveOn Ad
For my opening post of the day, I turn my time over to the distinguished Senator from Illinois, Richard Durbin:

Before the FCC adopted rules in June to raise the cap to 45 percent, the cap was limited to 35 percent. Upset at what the FCC had done, a strong majority in the House and Senate agreed to roll back the FCC rule and take it back down to 35 percent. Why is this important? The White House and the Republicans in this conference on this Omnibus appropriation bill, with no Democrats present, came up with a figure of 39 percent as the new cap--39 percent. What is so magic about 39 percent? Allow me to explain. This wasn't chosen at random; it wasn't a good-faith compromise. No, it just so happens that Viacom, which owns CBS, currently owns stations reaching 38.8 percent of American households, and Rupert Murdoch's news corporation, the owners of that "fair and balanced" Fox Network, owns stations reaching 37.8 percent.

Interesting. Interesting that the White House and Republican leaders in Congress pushed a provision in a spending bill in the dark of night, without Democrats present, that benefited two corporations when it came to their ownership of television stations--Fox, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party, and now Viacom, CBS. Both entities currently violate the old FCC limitation. They needed this new language. They would have been forced to sell off stations if their Republican friends in Congress and the White House had not come through for them.

So the White House and the congressional Republicans give CBS a significant corporate favor and CBS rewards them by killing an ad critical of the Bush White House during the Super Bowl. Doesn't that sound like a perfect subject for a "60 Minutes" investigation? Oh, I forget. "60 Minutes" is a CBS program. I don't think we are going to hear about this on "60 Minutes." I don't think Mike Wallace and Lesley Stahl are going to be taking an undercover camera into the boardrooms of CBS to find out what is going on there.

Read the whole speech, and wonder along with me: Why isn't Durbin running for president?

Friday, January 30, 2004

The next excuse
It WAS about the oil. September 11 never flew as a reason for invading Iraq. WMD's don't fly anymore, if they ever did. Even the Bushies will probably start admitting that it was about the oil, now that Human Rights Watch has shot holes in the "humanitarian intervention" argument:

Now that the war?s proponents are relying so significantly on a humanitarian rationale for the war, the need to assess this claim has grown in importance. We conclude that, despite the horrors of Saddam Hussein?s rule, the invasion of Iraq cannot be justified as a humanitarian intervention.
The invasion of Iraq failed to meet the test for a humanitarian intervention. Most important, the killing in Iraq at the time was not of the exceptional nature that would justify such intervention. In addition, intervention was not the last reasonable option to stop Iraqi atrocities. Intervention was not motivated primarily by humanitarian concerns. It was not conducted in a way that maximized compliance with international humanitarian law. It was not approved by the Security Council. And while at the time it was launched it was reasonable to believe that the Iraqi people would be better off, it was not designed or carried out with the needs of Iraqis foremost in mind.
-- via Billmon.

I haven't finished reading the HRW article, but from what I have read I see that they fairly clearly and rather authoritatively state criteria for humanitarian intervention, and show how the latest Iraq war fails to meet those criteria. Their analysis can be considered both authoritative and fairly unbiased; HRW was a major critic of Saddam's abuses back when Rummy, Powell and Bush Sr. were selling him WMD's. HRW makes no attempt to deny that Saddam was a brutal dictator; just that his crimes of a genocidal nature were well in the past and that no large-scale killing was going on in Iraq before the war started in March. HRW argues that, given the brutal and dangerous nature of war, it can only be considered as a "humanitarian" effort when genocide is ongoing or at least imminent. That wasn't the case in February 2003 in Iraq.

Billmon has lots of interesting things to say about this, as usual. I may have more to say tomorrow when I'm better rested and have time to read the whole HRW article.
The New Imperialism
From an inspiring anti-globalization article from Arundhati Roy:
Let's look this thing in the eye once and for all. To applaud the US Army's capture of Saddam Hussein, and therefore in retrospect justify its invasion and occupation of Iraq, is like deifying Jack the Ripper for disemboweling the Boston Strangler. And that after a quarter-century partnership in which the Ripping and Strangling was a joint enterprise. It's an in-house quarrel. They're business partners who fell out over a dirty deal. Jack's the CEO.
It was wonderful that on February 15 last year, in a spectacular display of public morality, 10 million people on five continents marched against the war on Iraq. It was wonderful, but it was not enough. February 15 was a weekend. Nobody had to so much as miss a day of work. Holiday protests don't stop wars. George Bush knows that. The confidence with which he disregarded overwhelming public opinion should be a lesson to us all. Bush believes that Iraq can be occupied and colonized as Afghanistan has been, as Tibet has been, as Chechnya is being, as East Timor once was and Palestine still is. He thinks that all he has to do is hunker down and wait until a crisis-driven media, having picked this crisis to the bone, drops it and moves on. Soon the carcass will slip off the bestseller charts, and all of us outraged folks will lose interest. Or so he hopes.

From R. J. Matson.

From Bob Gorrell.

From Mike Lester.

Maybe not. Indiana does have WMD's:

The nerve agent VX stockpiled at the Newport Chemical Depot in Indiana is stored in 1,690 steel ton containers commonly known as "TCs".

From Ted Rall.
Another letter to the NY Times
To the Editor:

Re "Halliburton Says Worker Participated in Kickbacks" (news article, Jan. 24):

A spokesman for Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, claims that a contract for logistical services for troops in Iraq was awarded two years ago? Not only was our government overcharged for these services, as Halliburton now admits by repaying $6.3 million, but this contract also predates the invasion of Iraq by more than a year. How could a company get a contract for an event that had not yet taken place unless it surely knew that it would?

Paul H. O'Neill, the former Treasury secretary, surely got it right when he claimed that almost from the inauguration the Bush administration was involved in planning to invade Iraq. This is another reason, perhaps, that Vice President Dick Cheney (chairman of Halliburton until 2000) doesn't want the content of his secret meetings with energy companies made public.

Jackson, N.J., Jan. 24, 2004

Here's the relevant quote from the article she refers to:

"We will bear the cost of the potential overcharge, not the government," said Randy Harl, the president and chief executive of the Halliburton subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root, to which the contract in question was awarded, in a statement.

The contract was awarded two years ago by the Army Field Support Command. It called for the subsidiary to provide a number of logistical services for troops in Iraq, including housing, transportation, food, laundry and recreation. Kellogg Brown & Root, in turn, contracted with the Kuwaiti company to handle some of the work.

Two years ago. January 2002, more or less. We didn't have troops in Iraq. "Major combat operations" were just winding down in Afghanistan (still are). Bush had just introduced us to his "axis of evil." And while there were those prescient enough to see what was coming, the rhetoric against Iraq had barely begun. They didn't start selling that product until September, following Andy Card's go-to-war timetable. No Congressional resolutions, no new UN resolutions. But Halliburton already had a contract to provide services for troops in Iraq.

Those Bushies, they tell a lot of lies. But the nonsense about going to war being their last choice--Herr Goebbels must be so proud.
From today's letters to the Times
To the Editor [NY Times]:
"9/11 Commission Says It Needs More Time to Complete Report" (front page, Jan. 28) points to a troubling reality in Washington, and illuminates the rather stark hypocrisy with the post-9/11 "patriotism" flowing out of the White House.

Those who were so gleeful and aggressive in their support for an independent investigation into President Bill Clinton's sex life did not even want an independent commission to be formed to investigate the atrocity of Sept. 11, which killed my brother David, among many other people.

Now they do not want to extend the commission's deadline, afraid that the release of its report will coincide more closely with the Republican National Convention in New York City in August.

How is it patriotic to place one's re-election worries before the need of the American people and the 9/11 families to know what mistakes were made leading up to the worst attack on American soil?

Oklahoma City, Jan. 28, 2004
Some heads gotta roll!
From today's Krugman:
In any case, the point is that a grave mistake was made, and America's credibility has been badly damaged — and nobody is being held accountable. But that's standard operating procedure. As far as I can tell, nobody in the Bush administration has ever paid a price for being wrong. Instead, people are severely punished for telling inconvenient truths. And administration officials have consistently sought to freeze out, undermine or intimidate anyone who might try to check up on their performance.
These people politicize everything, from military planning to scientific assessments. If you're with them, you pay no penalty for being wrong. If you don't tell them what they want to hear, you're an enemy, and being right is no excuse.

Still, the big story isn't about Mr. Bush; it's about what's happening to America. Other presidents would have liked to bully the C.I.A., stonewall investigations and give huge contracts to their friends without oversight. They knew, however, that they couldn't. What has gone wrong with our country that allows this president to get away with such things?

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Sometimes the ACLU defends Rush Limbaugh...
And sometimes I defend the oil companies. Here's a letter to the editor in today's Ann Arbor News:

Last month I bought gas at $1.42. Now it's $1.65. That's a 16 percent hike. The oil companies say this is due to changing over their formulas due to the weather, and the increased use of home heating oil.

I don't buy that. Winter isn't unexpected, like a volcano. It comes every year.

If increased use means higher prices, then doctors should increase their price per visit, hospitals jump their room prices 20 percent and antibiotics should go out of the roof because of the flu epidemic.

-Dan Den Houter, Whitmore Lake

I try not to devote too much blogging time to the ravings of idiots, except for those in the Bush administration. But this guy wrote in complete sentences, and raised some interesting points despite being extremely clueless. So...

First off, the flu is caused by a virus, so a flu epidemic won't have much effect on demand for antibiotics. Nevertheless, I believe I've read that the costs of health care, including doctor visits, hospital stays, and drugs, have been skyrocketing for some time now. Next, seasonal variations in prices in lots of commodities are to be expected, and shouldn't come as a surprise to Mr. Den Houter.

But the main reason I'm bothering with this at all isn't to shoot down some paper tiger. It's this idea that gasoline prices are high. They aren't. They're outrageously low compared to most of the rest of the world, and even historically when inflation is taken into consideration. And the absurd distortions on the American economy and landscape have done permanent harm to millions of people and their home planet. Wars are being fought for cheap oil. Mr. Den Houter is right to distrust the oil companies. But I'd rather see gasoline selling for $10 a gallon myself. Then we'd have real mass transit, an end to sprawl, and real efforts towards conservation and alternative energy.
$87 Billion, and the troops are getting hand-me-downs

If and when bullets rip into the Humvees of Army National Guard F Co., 425th Airborne Infantry in Iraq, a lot of Michigan police officers - including those in Ann Arbor and Sumpter and Van Buren townships - are hoping their used, bullet-resistant vests will protect the soldiers inside.

The unit's Humvees, designed to supply combat units but not to work in combat zones, are not armored. So the soldiers have been retrofitting the vehicles with panels from bullet-resistant vests that police discarded because of expiration dates. Soldiers from the Army National Guard 1462nd transportation unit based in Howell are doing the same, with vests donated from three Livingston County police agencies.
The effort to help the 425th Airborne began after a Southfield firefighter in the unit, Staff Sgt. Gerhard "Gary" Seidel, wrote to fellow firefighters about the lack of armor on Humvees.

Seidel asked for help in finding donated bullet-resistant vests, said Southfield Fire Capt. Joe Dell. A few laptop computers, accessories and a computer projector with extra bulbs wouldn't go wanting, either, Seidel told the firefighters. They would help with morning briefings and allow the troops to e-mail families or watch DVDs.
-- Ann Arbor News.
7 Dead, 3 Wounded
In W War I, that is, Afghanistan. That brutal and pointless war has been going on for over two years now, and seven more US soldiers are now dead because of it.
Oh, the things they said!
Atrios has a long rundown of Bushie WMD hype dating back a year and a half. The last one comes from Fearmaster Cheney:

Iraq is busy enhancing its capabilities in the field of chemical and biological agents, and they continue to pursue an aggressive nuclear weapons program. These are offensive weapons for the purpose of inflicting death on a massive scale, developed so that Saddam Hussein can hold the threat over the head of any one he chooses. What we must not do in the face of this mortal threat is to give in to wishful thinking or to willful blindness. (8/29/02)

Actually, the wishful thinking and willful blindness described in the third sentence is exactly what the first two sentences were.
Why do people believe that Saddam was a threat?
Because they were told, and told, and told, and told. The Bushies are still telling the lie, and the media is only hesitatingly suggesting that it may not be precisely the whole truth.

I consider the entire Bush "presidency" to be an impeachable offense, but I think there are two overriding issues that need to be pounded into everyone's heads until impeachment hearings begin.

The first is the ongoing effort to prevent us from knowing what really happened on September 11, 2001. The administration's stonewalling of the 9/11 commission after delaying its inception for over a year is clear demonstration that they have plenty to hide and have no interest in knowing how to best protect the country. They had two hydrocarbon-based war plans on the table, and 9/11 provided them with a convenient excuse to undertake both. There were also stacks of suggestions for curtailing civil liberties that had been thoughfully provided by fascists in some law enforcement agencies, and the Bushies used 9/11 as a reason for giving these nuts what they wanted as well. As has been pointed out here several times, there are plenty of holes in the 9/11 story, and the Bushies don't want them filled in. Whether their pre-9/11 sins were of omission, commission, incompetence or something else, there is no way that not finding out what went wrong on 9/11 can possibly make us safer. It only allows them to carry on with their criminal agendas.

The second, of course, is the lies told to Congress and the American public about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq being a threat to the U.S. As I pointed out yesterday, no matter how well-intentioned or apparently authoritative the evidence was that they used to argue their case for war, that evidence was shown to be seriously flawed well before the war began. That the Bushies went ahead with their pre-emptive war, which was illegal even if Saddam had had WMD's, without rechecking their sources based on the reports of the UN weapons inspectors, was a high crime of the highest order.

Hopefully we'll hear plenty about these issues from the Democrats, and from MoveOn, TrueMajority, and others. But please, everybody, do whatever you can to make this an issue! Call your Congress critters (Capitol switchboard--800-839-5276). Write a letter to the editor. Contact the presidential candidates. Join in a protest march (we've got one here in Ann Arbor on March 20). The Bush administration is the worst criminal gang ever in America, and if they're not stopped now they may never be stopped.
Army to add 30,000 soldiers
"Add" isn't quite the right word, since the basic plan is to force soldiers to stay in through "stop-loss" orders. Dropping a war or two here and a base or fifty there would be a lot smarter and cheaper, but sense in the Bush administration is like WMD's in Iraq--there ain't any.
Don't confuse Dick Cheney with the facts
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune writes some great editorials. Yesterday's was in response to David Kay's statements about the phantom WMD's. Here's the conclusion:

Recall what was happening at the U.N. Security Council prior to the war. France, Russia and Germany weren't denying that Saddam might pose a risk; they disputed that the risk was imminent; they disputed that war -- especially immediate war -- was the only alternative.

The Bush administration was having none of it; Saddam had 12 years to comply with U.N. demands and had not; years of inspections had failed. Iraq needed to be invaded.

Adopting that unyielding line was a political decision, not an intelligence judgment. It came from the neoconservatives in the administration and was pushed most actively by Vice President Dick Cheney.

He's still at it. Last week, Cheney continued to assert that the United States had discovered two mobile biological weapons labs. That is simply false. Ask Kay; he'll tell you the two mobile trailers were just what the Iraqis said they were: hydrogen generators for weather balloons.

Cheney also continues to spread the tale that "there's overwhelming evidence there was a connection between Al-Qaida and the Iraqi government." That, too, is false. There is no such evidence, as Secretary of State Colin Powell and others have acknowledged.

What the American people are hearing from Cheney now is just what the world heard from other prominent administration officials before the war. It's all wrong, and Cheney's responsibility for that can't be neatly off-loaded onto intelligence agency scapegoats.

Shorter Star-Trib: Fearmaster Cheney is a lying liar.

From Steve Sack.
It wasn't just the UN inspectors...
Telling the Bushies that Iraq didn't have WMD's before the war. The Center for American Progress lists several instances where the Bushies were told of the "dodgy" character of their "intelligence:" From the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of Energy, the State Department, and the Air Force.

This is all in addition to the UN inspectors, who had full run of Iraq for nearly four months, and couldn't find any of the weapons that Bush, Powell and Blair insisted were there. Tuesday, Bush repeated his earlier attempt to deny that the UN weapons inspectors ever existed:

And then we went to the United Nations, of course, and got an overwhelming resolution -- 1441 -- unanimous resolution, that said to Saddam, you must disclose and destroy your weapons programs, which obviously meant the world felt he had such programs. He chose defiance. It was his choice to make, and he did not let us in.

Some Republican senators are picking up on this talking point. Weapons existed. Weapons inspectors didn't. We have always been at war with Eurasia. The Big Lie. Goebbels would be proud.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Shorter Previous Post
(The post below seems a bit wordy, so I'm going to summarize it here.)
Four months of UN inspections may not have proved that Iraq didn't have WMD's, but it did prove that US intelligence on Iraq's WMD's was crap. We don't need David Kay to tell us that; we knew it back in February.
Kay's getting close...
[Kay] said he did not believe that anyone had pressured intelligence officials to conclude that Saddam's government had banned weapons.

"Almost in a perverse way, I wish it had been undue influence because we know how to correct that," Kay said. "We get rid of the people who, in fact, were exercising that.
-- CNN

Kay's attempts to cover for the Bushies, blaming one of the most stupendous "mistakes" in US history on some obscure intelligence failure, instead of a clear intention to find any excuse to go to war, fly in the face of plenty of evidence. From 2001, there was the clear intention to "take Saddam out," as reported by Paul O'Neill, even though Colin Powell and other administration officials stated publicly that Iraq had no significant WMD's and was not a threat to its neighbors. From early 2002, Bush's statement overheard by some congresspeople: "F*** Saddam. We're taking him out."

But mostly, I don't see how anyone can excuse them after UN weapons inspectors had returned. They went everywhere the US told them to go (although the US didn't give them all of "intelligence" it had, which in itself was a violation of Res. 1441) and found nothing. Even if this weren't proof that Iraq didn't have WMD's, it was certainly very strong evidence that whatever evidence the Bushies were claiming they had was seriously flawed. WE KNEW THIS BEFORE THE WAR STARTED. Double checking and investigations into the sources of these claims should have been done then.

War was the reason; WMD's were the excuse. The UN inspectors had nearly succeeded in destroying the excuse, so Bush called them off and started the invasion. As far as Bush's guilt in lying to take us to war, it doesn't matter if the CIA gave him completely bogus information or not. That information, wherever it came from, WAS being checked and it WAS found to be erroneous (or dodgy, as the Brits would say), but it was still used as the casus belli.

IMPEACH, INDICT, GUANTANAMO! Bush looked like such a dork in that flyboy jumpsuit, but he would look simply fabulous in a bright orange jumpsuit basking in the Cuban sun for the next 25 years. They could paint an arrow on the floor of his cell pointing to Wall Street.
Fouling our own nest
This is what has happened: The GOP has succeeded, woefully, viciously, in demonizing nature. Right now, to love our unlogged forests or to wish air quality to be protected or to hope our leaders don't allow monster crony oil companies to jam their snarling proboscises into our country's nature preserves for a handful of crude is now to be thought of as a dreadlocked Greenpeace-Earth First!-tofu lover.

It's true. You cannot think solar power is cool without being labeled a hippie. You cannot want the U.S. Navy to knock it off with the goddamn high-powered sonar that damages whales without being cast as some sort of New Age freak. You cannot drive a Prius without being deemed some sort of nutball geek who probably feeds your kids only hemp seeds and homemade sproutburgers with a side of fresh mulch.

This is the other thing: Bush is the worst environmental president in the nation's history. Period. The proofs are irrefutable, and the list of his administration's sinister assaults on the pale blue dot we all call home is painful and tragic and punishable in the afterlife by seven billion years of listening to Lynne Cheney being scraped across a chalkboard.

No natural resource has been left unmolested: From forest management to air quality to water pollution to emissions standards to land management to industrial farming to reduced controls on heavy polluters to global warming to nuclear waste to our energy policy, BushCo has made atrociously efficient progress in decimating, in just three short years, 30 years of staunch environmental protections.
-- Mark Morford

I'm going to do a little experimenting with alternative energy sources. I have ordered a "power pack"--a combination battery and inverter which can provide 120V AC power. It can be charged just by plugging it into the wall, or more interestingly by connecting it to a solar panel or high-tech windmill. If anyone has any suggestions in this area, bring 'em on!
Welcome to my world

Photo taken yesterday morning as I walked from the bus to work.

I also used my digital camera to film a bit of my trudge through the snow. I actually recorded over 2 minutes, but trimmed it to a 12-second Quicktime file for your viewing pleasure.
23 Minutes
That's how long American Airlines Flight Attendant Betty Ong talked to employees at American Airlines operations in North Carolina. She described the situation on the plane--people stabbed, mace or some other choking gas being used, the cockpit locked and inaccessible by intercom. Air traffic controllers knew that the plane had veered off course and that they couldn't communicate with the crew. But no alarms were sounded, and no fighter jets were scrambled in time to protect either WTC tower or the Pentagon. (The heroic "let's roll" scenario with brave passengers struggling with hijackers may not be what actually caused Flight 93 to crash in Pennsylvania.)

When air traffic controllers lost contact with golfer Payne Stewart's plane in 1999, fighter jets were escorting it within 20 minutes, trying to contact the pilot and ready to shoot it down if it appeared like it would crash in a populated area. On 9/11, there were fighters closer to the hijacked planes and their probable targets than in the Stewart case, yet at most one of the four was successfully intercepted. The plane that hit the Pentagon is completely inexplicable. It had been off course and out of radio contact for over an hour, and even Condi Rice could have figured out by then, with both WTC towers on fire, that terrorists might actually use airplanes to attack buildings. And Andrews Air Force Base is ten miles away.

It's no wonder that the Bushies continue to stonewall the 9/11 commission; the political price of obvious stonewalling is clearly much lower than what they'll face if the truth about 9/11 ever gets out. Thanks to Eli at Left I for pointing out the 23 minutes part of the Washington Post article. The Post writers seem to have missed the significance completely.
Bush Knew
The 9/11 Commission is asking for more time to do their work, while Republicans oppose it and the White House continues to stonewall:

The administration initially opposed creation of the 10-member independent commission, known formally as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

Administration officials have acknowledged concern that Democrats, particularly the Democratic nominee for president, will try to make use of the report's findings to embarrass Mr. Bush, especially if the report contains any suggestion that the White House failed to act before Sept. 11 on intelligence suggesting that a catastrophic attack might be imminent.

The White House confirmed news reports last year that an Oval Office intelligence summary presented to Mr. Bush shortly before the attacks suggested that terrorists might be planning an attack using passenger planes.

"It smacks of politics to put out a report like this in the middle of a presidential campaign," said a senior Republican Congressional aide, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The Democrats will spin and spin."
-- NY Times

The report could have been done long ago if the White House hadn't opposed it every step of the way. That smacks of politics of the worst kind.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

"RFID" stands for "radio frequency identification," and many corporations are hoping to make it the invasive wave of the future. Microsoft is now on board. If you fully trust Microsoft, other large corporations like Wal-Mart and Proctor & Gamble, AND the US government to always act in your best interest, you should have no problem with this. Otherwise, watch out! Products that you buy, from pens to razors to sweaters and lots of others, may soon be individually identified with RFID tags. These tags can be passively read at a distance of twenty feet or more by scanners. Whoever has one of these scanners will be able to find out what is in your pocket or purse, as well as what is on your back. If they are connected to store databases, those items may identify you directly (if you purchased the item with a credit card, or used a store "discount" card, OR if you were carrying some previously identified item with you when you made the purchase). In other words, you will have no privacy. You'll get sent to the long line at the airport if you've got an Al Franken or Michael Moore book on you, while O'Reilly and Coulter "readers" will get the express treatment. And when the hammer comes down, all of us who disagree with our current government will be rounded up--easily.

Go here for a lot more on the dangers inherent in this technology, and why and how you should oppose it.
The Coalition of the Willing...
May get run out of office. Tony Blair's in trouble. Ariel Sharon's in trouble. George W. Bush definitely should be, although the US doesn't have a free press like Britain and Israel do.
The carnage continues
A roadside bomb exploded next to a passing U.S. military convoy west of Baghdad Tuesday followed by a second bomb when reinforcements arrived, witnesses said. Three American soldiers and two Iraqi civilians were killed.

A U.S. military spokeswoman said the casualties occurred in a "large explosion,'' but gave no other details.

He said three American soldiers and one Iraqi civilian were killed and several Iraqis were injured. Hospital staff, however, put the Iraqi death toll at two.
-- AP

The New Hampshire primary and the snow will drive this news way back in most papers, but people continue to die in bunches in a war started to disarm an unarmed man.

He should know
Corruption provides sanctuary to the forces of terror (and) saps the legitimacy of democratic governments. In it's extreme forms, corruption even threatens democracy itself, because democracy lives on trust, and corruption destroys trust.

When governments play favorites, when they award contracts and make decisions based on corruption that favors the connected, rather than competition that favors the citizenry, freedom is stymied.
-- John Friggin' Ashcroft, speaking at Davos, via Billmon.

From Jim Day.

From Rob Rogers.
Rubber Ducky, You're the One!
World traveler Bob Harris goes to Raratonga and names a new constellation:

I say this in all seriousness: for the first couple of days, I had a little trouble believing this place is real.

Imagine water so clear that you can often stand on the shore and simply watch as brightly-colored schools of tropical fish swim by in all directions, just as if you were snorkeling without a mask.

Imagine an island so small that you can ride a mountain bike all the way around in just a couple of hours... so quiet and isolated that it's hundreds of miles to the next largest island, and almost two thousand miles to the nearest actual city... and so thinly-populated that after just a few days, you realize you're seeing the same friendly faces again and again, wherever you go.

Y'know that "beach" screensaver you see sometimes? Back home, when I stop working for more than five minutes, my Macintosh begins a montage of ridiculously green trees, blue water, and white sand. This is that. I can't swear to it, but it sure seems like they must have taken some of those pictures here.
You may have to drive to the middle of nowhere to see it, but I'm really not kidding...

There is a gigantic rubber ducky just to Orion's left. Plain as day. It's the clearest image in the starry sky, at least when there's hardly a damned bit of light for a thousand miles and all the stars are out.

From here, she (imposing gender) is just to the left of Orion, about the same size, and turned 90 degrees so her bottom points toward Orion and her beak is pointing to Earth. Which means, I guess, that in the northern hemisphere, Bob's Big Rubber Ducky (as I hope future astronomers will call her) would be to Orion's right, with the beak pointing away from the ground.

I'm really not kidding. I pointed out the BBRD to a young couple walking on the beach, and (once they got done thinking I was nuts) they saw it, too -- even laughing about how obvious it was.

If you feel like taking a virtual trip around the world on the cheap, check out Bob Harris' complete travelogue; he's promising pictures soon as well.

Monday, January 26, 2004

52% say they don't want Bush re-selected
But 78% say it is at least somewhat likely that he will be. (New Newsweek poll.) I guess that speaks pretty clearly about Americans' faith in our "democracy."
We're waiting, Bill
"If the Americans go in and overthrow Saddam Hussein and it's clean, he has nothing, I will apologize to the nation, and I will not trust the Bush administration again." -- Fox blowhard Bill O'Reilly, March 2003.

According to a web site called, O'Reilly has several times set deadlines, and then extended them. On June 11, 2003 he said "We the people deserve an extensive update from the President before he goes on summer vacation. This is not a partisan issue. This is a people issue. There are things we have the right to know about, and the President must tell us." On July 31, he said "We're confused about the WMDs. And Mr. Bush has an obligation to clear this up by the end of the year." And on October 8 he said "Well, certainly the WMD situation is troubling, okay. All Americans should demand within the next nine months -- before the Presidential candidate, uh candidates, really swing in -- for an explanation of what exactly happened."

The White House continues to try to spin the issue:

[Press Secretary Scott] McClellan, traveling with President George W. Bush in Arkansas, was asked repeatedly by reporters if the White House still believes weapons of mass destruction will be found -- but he did not reply. In the past, he has insisted WMD would be found.

But he continued to defend the U.S. decision to go to war in Iraq as the "right decision.

"Saddam Hussein was a dangerous threat. The world is safer because of the actions we took," said McClellan.

So with Kay saying that it is unlikely that weapons will be found, and the White House no longer insisting that they will, isn't it time for O'Reilly to drop the hammer and stop spinning in his "no-spin zone?" We await your apology, Mr. Bill.
Oh Joy
A winter storm is expected to dump several inches of snow throughout Michigan during the next few days, according to the National Weather Service.
AWol merely AWOL or a deserter?
Orcinius examines the issue in detail.
You still have the right to remain silent
Thanks to a 9-0 Supreme Court ruling today which upheld Miranda rights. Feel free to use it when dealing with cops, but don't be afraid to speak out and let people know what the Bushies have done!
Glass House Dweller Throws Stones
Russia's democratic system seems not yet to have found the essential balance among the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. Political power is not yet fully tethered to law. Key aspects of civil society - free media and political party development, for example ? have not yet sustained an independent presence.

Certain aspects of internal Russian policy in Chechnya, and toward neighbors that emerged from the former Soviet Union, have concerned us, too. We recognize Russia's territorial integrity and its natural interest in lands that abut it. But we recognize no less the sovereign integrity of Russia's neighbors and their rights to peaceful and respectful relations across their borders, as well.
-- Colin "Satan" Powell, in an op-ed he wrote for the Russian paper Izvestia.

The Repugs in Congress enact Bush's insane agenda, no questions asked. Bush uses a recess appointment to install a racist judge while Congress, who had already rejected said racist, is out. Congress crassly hands over the authority to go to war to a pResident clearly unworthy of it. And Powell has the nerve to lecture the Russians on the "essential balance" among the branches of government.
Earth to Republicans--Does the name "Hans Blix" ring a bell?
The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Sunday that his panel is investigating the prewar data. But Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas told CNN's "Late Edition" that if Hussein didn't have weapons of mass destruction, "why on Earth didn't he let the U.N. inspectors in and avoid the war?" -- From the LA Times

Fortunately, for once, the press sets the record straight. The next paragraph in the Times is this:

Hussein did allow U.N. inspectors into Iraq in November 2002 as momentum for war built, and they conducted nearly 600 inspections of about 350 sites. The inspectors made no significant discoveries of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons programs, although there were unresolved questions.

AWol himself said the same thing back in July (last paragraph--it's even on video! Go here and click the video link on the right side. It's amazing, since his aides try two or three times to get him out of there before he says something stupid, but he keeps taking one more question until out it comes!) Here's what aWol said on July 14, which has renewed relevance in light of David Kay's recent statements:

The larger point is, and the fundamental question is, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer is, absolutely. And we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power, along with other nations, so as to make sure he was not a threat to the United States and our friends and allies in the region. I firmly believe the decisions we made will make America more secure and the world more peaceful.

Anti-immigration activists looking to take over Sierra Club
Anti-immigration activists some with loose connections to alleged white-supremacist groups, have launched an aggressive bid to take over the Sierra Club, one of the most respected environmental groups in North America. -- From the Globe and Mail.

In the fall of 2002, I was disturbed by the Sierra Club's unwillingness to oppose Bush's war plans. (I'm a long-time member.) The national club was even reprimanding local clubs in California and Utah for passing anti-war resolutions. When I got my notice to renew my membership, I sent it back without any money, and included a note telling them that they couldn't pretend to be protecting the environment if they didn't oppose war. Apparently I wasn't alone, as shortly after that the Sierra Club signed on to True Majority's "Win Without War" campaign, probably the wimpiest anti-war stance around outside of Wesley Clark's, but still anti-war. So I renewed my membership.

When I got my ballot for SC board members, I e-mailed all of the candidates telling them that an anti-war position was required for them to receive my vote. Most candidates replied quickly and supportively, and I voted for those who seemed to be most anti-war.

This Globe and Mail article is the first I've heard about these "anti-immigration activists" attempting to take over the SC board. I don't know what to recommend right now, except to look more fully into the issue. There are certainly valid reasons for opposing Bush's immigration plan that was recently announced, and I'm willing to consider the possibility of plans to reduce immigration if they recognize the economic factors driving it and the complicity of the US government and corporations in driving those factors (forcing people off the land in Mexico and Central America, especially). If their plan is based on America first xenophobia and racism, I am not willing to consider it. But certainly anyone who is a member of the SC should be aware that this is going on, and may want to query the board candidates about their positions. I haven't received my ballot for this year yet, but I'll try to get statements from the candidates on their approach to the immigration issue and summarize them here.
W goes to Roswell
Michelle links to a page on the White House web site describing "Remarks by the President to the press pool" from last Thursday. Bush is at a restaurant trying to order some ribs, and reporters keep asking him questions. He keeps telling them to stop asking questions and order some food so they'll help the local economy. It's kind of funny, and I can almost sympathize with Bush in this situation--they want to talk, he wants to eat. What's really bizarre is that this exchange was posted on the White House web site at all; and that it came from Roswell, N.M. So they may have had even stranger visitors in that restaurant.
aWol, the Dry Drunk
Cyndy at MouseMusings links to this Counterpunch article which attempts to explain the weird psychology of the eldest son, an on-the-wagon alcoholic, following in his father's footsteps.

George W. Bush’s father set him up in business, and his father’s presidency helped him get his start in politics. His father, for all his success, experienced failure on three occasions. He was widely criticized for not finishing the job in Iraq-- for not moving the troops in to “take out” Saddam following the Gulf War victory--and he failed to get his bill to fund a NASA flight to Mars, and finally, he lost his bid for re-election.

What a unique opportunity has fallen George W Bush’s way. The prodigal son can not only prove himself to his father but he can show up his father at his own game. Remember that for his cabinet and key advisers, he chose some of the same men from his father’s regime. He chose people, furthermore, who would be favorable to a return campaign, “a crusade” against Iraq. Given his past history and tendency toward obsessiveness, the temptation to achieve heroism through a re-enactment of his father’s war clearly would have been too much for George Bush Jr. to resist. To accomplish his mission he would have to throw caution and international diplomacy to the winds, lie convincingly to the American people, threaten allies, bully members of the United Nations, but in the end he would be able to dress in full military regalia and declare “mission accomplished.”

Read the whole thing; it's pretty interesting.
Blogs and the blogging bloggers who blog them
A Fair and Balanced Look at the Blogosphere
Billmon reports that the wealthigencia gathering at Davos are discussing blogs. If you're interested in blogs, how they relate to the mainstream media, their hopes and dreams for the future, etc.--read Billmon's post.

From Ted Rall.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

60 Minutes
I just watched, via TiVo, Leslie Stahl's 60 Minutes piece on companies doing business with "rogue states," aka countries which "sponsor terrorism." So many levels of hypocrisy here, but still a great story to have out there, and this time it wasn't competing with an NFL playoff game.

Stahl interviewed William Thompson, the New York City comptroller who oversees the $80 billion in pension funds for all city workers. He wants investors to know about three corporations which are doing business in Iran and Syria, nations on the State Department's list of "terrorist" nations. The three corporations? Conoco Phillips, General Electric, and HALLIBURTON.

Halliburton uses apparently sham subsidiaries in the Caymen Islands and Dubai in an attempt to meet the letter of the law, but Stahl's investigation showed that these subsidiaries were not independent as the law requires. These deals were apparently set up during the five-year reign of Dick Cheney as Halliburton's CEO. Lord, I'd love to see that excess of evil behind bars.

The other level of hypocrisy, besides that of the corporations, is the arbitrary labelling of Iran, Syria and Libya as sponsors of terrorism, while countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Egypt (not to mention Israel) are left off the list. Eighteen of the 19 9/11 hijackers came from either Saudi Arabia or Egypt. While I'm sure some case can be made for dozens of states being connected to terrorism (including Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Florida, California, TEXAS...), the State Department's list is purely political. Unfortunately, 60 Minutes, Thompson, and the whole gist of the story bought the whole "state sponsors of terrorism" BS without question.

Good to see them going after Halliburton, though. Once people start to see the hypocrisy, maybe they'll catch on that there's a whole lot of it out there. Bush's speeches immediately following 9/11 opened my eyes to it, and you can see where it has led me!
Kay covering for Bush, sort of
Newly-resigned weapons inspector was interviewed by NPR today. He repeated his statements from Friday that he believes Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. He also attempted to provide some cover for the war criminals in the Bush administration:

"We led this search to find the truth, not to find the weapons. The fact that we found so far the weapons do not exist, we've got to deal with that difference and understand why,'' Kay said Sunday on the National Public Radio program "Weekend Edition.''

Asked whether he feels President Bush owes the American people an apology for starting the war on the basis of apparently flawed intelligence, Kay said: "I actually think the intelligence community owes the president rather than the president owing the American people.

"You have to remember that this view of Iraq was held during the Clinton administration and didn't change in the Bush administration. It is not a political 'got you' issue. It is a serious issue of how you could come to the conclusion that is not matched by the future.''

Actually, I don't mind him saying this. For one thing, it should enhance his credibility with fence-sitters who haven't been willing to believe that our lying liar of a pResident has been lying. Kay is trying to say what he found (nothing), rather than attacking Bush. Harder to marginalize than O'Neill was with his "blind man deaf people" quote.

And, if we can get anybody to pay attention, his mention of the Clinton view contradicts what Powell said in February 2001--that sanctions had worked, Saddam had no significant WMD's, and posed no threat to his neighbors.

We should recall that aWol claimed that the war was necessary because Saddam was in violation of any number of UN resolutions. Most of these hinged on WMD's; without the WMD's, it seems as though Saddam certainly wasn't violating as many resolutions (of course, the US-British aggressive war violates the UN CHARTER). And lets look back at why Congress, including candidates Kerry, Edwards and Lieberman, authorized aWol to go to war in the first place:

Whereas after the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, Iraq entered into a United Nations sponsored cease-fire agreement pursuant to which Iraq unequivocally agreed, among other things, to eliminate its nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs and the means to deliver and develop them, and to end its support for international terrorism;

Whereas the efforts of international weapons inspectors, United States intelligence agencies, and Iraqi defectors led to the discovery that Iraq had large stockpiles of chemical weapons and a large scale biological weapons program, and that Iraq had an advanced nuclear weapons development program that was much closer to producing a nuclear weapon than intelligence reporting had previously indicated;

Whereas Iraq , in direct and flagrant violation of the cease-fire, attempted to thwart the efforts of weapons inspectors to identify and destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction stockpiles and development capabilities, which finally resulted in the withdrawal of inspectors from Iraq on October 31, 1998;

Whereas in Public Law 105-235 (August 14, 1998), Congress concluded that Iraq's continuing weapons of mass destruction programs threatened vital United States interests and international peace and security, declared Iraq to be in `material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations' and urged the President `to take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations';

Whereas Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations;
-- from the Joint Resolution

I'd say their "Whereas's" are looking pretty bare-assed about now. And where'd they get those lies from? George W. Bush.

Impeach. Now.
The World Socialist Web Site explains the horrible spending bill passed by the Senate last week. It cut overtime pay for $8 million workers, allowed further media consolidation, and included billions in pork. In other words, just one more giant forced gift from the people to the corporations. The whole ugly mess was constructed by the White House, and was presented to Congress as a yes-or-no proposition. Senator Robert Byrd spoke for the old (true) Democrats:

“Under the constitution, Congress writes the laws and the president executes them,” declared Byrd. “Under the constitution, the power of the purse rests with the Congress, not the president.... This omnibus bill leaves those pillars of our constitutional system in shambles.”

Tom Daschle spoke for the new (false, wimp, sellout, Republican) Democrats:
“We feel we’ve had the opportunity to make our statement about this issue,” Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, a Democrat from South Dakota, declared Wednesday, signaling an end to Democratic opposition to the legislation. “We’re certainly not going to shut down the government ... or deny important funding.”

Of course not. That would call attention to the criminal nature of this bill, the Republicans who promoted it, and the Democrats who permitted it. Out of the 8 million who lost overtime pay, probably 7 million won't realize it until after they get their first 40-hour paycheck for their next 60-hour week.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Colin Powell is Satan
Any reasonable thinking person could see that Bush was an idiot and Cheney a ghoul. But lots of people thought that Colin Powell was serious and sober and intelligent. And he was. He also possessed absolutely no scruples whatsoever, and still doesn't.

Powell was asked about comments last week by David Kay, the outgoing leader of a U.S. weapons search team in Iraq, that he did not believe Iraq had large quantities of chemical or biological weapons.

"The answer to that question is, we don't know yet," Powell told reporters as he traveled to this former Soviet republic to attend the inauguration Sunday of President-elect Mikhail Saakashvili.

Powell acknowledged that the United States thought deposed leader Saddam Hussein had banned weapons but added, "We had questions that needed to be answered.

"What was it?" he asked. "One hundred tons, 500 tons or zero tons? Was it so many liters of anthrax, 10 times that amount or nothing?"
-- LA Times

That would be zero tons, zero liters, Colin, you scum of the earth. The question had been answered for you by Scott Ritter, by Hussein Kamel, by Saddam Hussein, and by Hans Blix. But they didn't give you the answer you wanted, so you "asked" using our own "shock and awe" WMD's--which is exactly what the various brutal bombs in the US arsenal are. Ten months later, nothing has been found, the guy (Kay) that you placed your trust in says they won't be found, and you and Cheney are still pretending your war was justified. You needed questions answered? They were. They'd be preparing a special place in Hell for you, Colin, if you didn't already run the place.

BTW, Colin is in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, extorting more of the world's oil to be burned in huge American SUV's. Please don't send him back!
The only thing we have to Bush himself
The New York Times tells us: The President Makes Danger His Campaign Theme.
Five more soldiers killed, six wounded
Four more Iraqi civilians were killed as well. CNN

All because of dozens of alleged weapons of mass destruction program related activities.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Michael Moore takes on Peter Jennings
As you may recall, at the debate last night Jennings asked Wesley Clark about Michael Moore's suggestion, in Clark's presence, that George W. Bush (better known here as aWol), was a deserter from the Air National Guard. Moore provides the links to back it up here.
No WMD's, says Kay
Of course this news comes out late on Friday afternoon.

"I don't think they existed," Kay said. "What everyone was talking about is stockpiles produced after the end of the last (1991) Gulf War, and I don't think there was a large-scale production program in the nineties," he said.
"I think we have found probably 85 percent of what we're going to find," he said. "I think the best evidence is that they did not resume large-scale production and that's what we're really talking about."
-- Chief US Weapons Inspector David Kay

Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, told them there were no WMD's. Former Marine and UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter told them there were no WMD's. Hans Blix and company looked everywhere they told them to, and found no WMD's. And now, after seven months of searching, David Kay says "no WMD's."

Today, no nation can possibly claim that Iraq has disarmed. -- The Liar in Chief, March 17, 2003.

Impeach, prosecute, Guantanamo. Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld and Rice. Traitors.
LA passes anti-Patriot Act resolution
Welcome to the club! Here in Ann Arbor, we've passed TWO of them!
January 15, 2004 -- STEVEN Brill had a summit meeting of TV anchormen and their bosses over dinner at his Fifth Avenue apartment on Tuesday night with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to discuss how they'll cover the next terrorist attack. Brill, whose book "After" detailed the response to 9/11, spearheads the America Prepared Campaign to educate the public. Joining Brill, his wife Cynthia and two of their three kids for dinner were Fox News Channel boss Roger Ailes, ABC News prexie David Westin, CBS News chief Andrew Heyward, CNN anchor Aaron Brown, plus Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw. -- from the New York Post.

I'm sure Brezhnev used to do this with the Pravda staff, although the food probably wasn't as good. I wonder if Ridge told the state-run media when they might expect the attack, where to put their cameras, what to say about how this will affect the election. Maybe he provided them with video tapes of Bush's "strong and determined" statements about the attack, and guidance as to which country would be bombed in response.

Thanks to Michelle for the link.
Boots on the ground
The American Friends Service Committee placed 500 pairs of empty boots in the Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago on Wednesday:

Our local Veterans for Peace group is planning a similar display, "Arlington Midwest," in conjunction with our March 20 peace march in Ann Arbor. Their plan is based on the Arlington West project that VFP did in Santa Barbara:

Who needs insurance? Health care is what is needed.
This is a point Kucinich makes whenever he talks about universal health care. Dean and Kerry (and others) talk about providing "health insurance" for more people. But that leaves them tied to an insurance company which sets deductibles and copays, regulates access to doctors, and decides what is covered and what isn't. Kucinich says that we need to provide health care, not insurance.

The level of stupidity in this game can be seen in this paragraph from Bob Herbert's latest fine column:

I wrote a story last week about the tens of thousands of low-income youngsters in Florida who are eligible for a children's health insurance program but are being put on waiting lists. State officials say they can't afford to insure the kids now. In California, an estimated 300,000 eligible children are being shunted to similar waiting lists. No one knows when they might get coverage.

A waiting list for insurance? Why not just give them access to doctors when they are sick, and pay those bills? Instead, Florida and California (I'm sure with the full support of their wonderful governors) insist that the insurance companies get their money before the kids get care. And care is what they need; not coverage. And not all of them need care. It sounds like when the states find some money, they'll INSURE 50,000 kids based on their order on the list. Most of these kids will be relatively healthy for the next year or two. But there will be a few thousand farther down the list who will have serious illnesses or injuries, but they won't get adequate treatment because they're not insured. Screw the insurance companies; take care of the kids.
Third world, here we come!
The definitions aren't exactly clear, but this chart shows that the sectors of the US economy that are growing (I'm assuming retail, services, outsourcing consulting) pay substantially less in wages than the sectors that are contracting (manufacturing, high tech?). Nationwide the average wage in contracting industries is $44,570, while the average in growing industries is $35,410. (Via MaxSpeak.)

The Cheap-Labor Conservatives are winning.
Levin and Stabenow voted against the spending bill
Good for them. The bill contained nasty Republican provisions cutting overtime pay, allowing even more media consolidation, and delaying requirements that country-of-origin labels be placed on meat and produce in supermarkets. AP tries to make it sound like they let down Michigan because the bill contains some 200 pork projects for the state. Fortunately, they were willing to stand up against these evil Republican bribes and defend workers' rights and a free press. Unfortunately, few of their Senate colleagues were similarly principled.
More Republican Dirty Tricks
Republican staff members of the US Senate Judiciary Commitee infiltrated opposition computer files for a year, monitoring secret strategy memos and periodically passing on copies to the media, Senate officials told The Globe.

From the spring of 2002 until at least April 2003, members of the GOP committee staff exploited a computer glitch that allowed them to access restricted Democratic communications without a password. Trolling through hundreds of memos, they were able to read talking points and accounts of private meetings discussing which judicial nominees Democrats would fight -- and with what tactics.

The office of Senate Sergeant-at-Arms William Pickle has already launched an investigation into how excerpts from 15 Democratic memos showed up in the pages of the conservative-leaning newspapers and were posted to a website last November.
-- From the Boston Globe.
The price of freedom fries
CARQUEFOU, FRANCE--Why do they hate us? And where do they get their hatred from?

These questions haunted me and three other American visitors as we studied a huge display of cartoons drawn by local schoolchildren assigned to convey their impressions of the United States. Panel after grisly panel depicted the United States, George Bush and those ubiquitous symbols of American commercial culture--McDonald's and Coke--as murderous, predatory and gleefully vicious. Obese Uncle Sams chopping up Iraqi children with a knife, their blood gushing across construction paper. A leering Statue of Liberty holding a hamburger in one hand while firing missiles at dying Afghan civilians across the ocean. The American flag, its bars transformed into prisons for the child inmates of Guantánamo. A baseball bat painted red, white and blue poised to smash a ball--which is a globe. The juxtaposition between the artwork's ferociously angry imagery and the childish drawing styles of the third graders would disturb the most jaded reader.

I didn't see a single positive portrayal of the U.S.
-- Opening paragraphs of Ted Rall's latest column.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Kucinich explains the Iowa Edwards deal
Now, with respect to what happened in Iowa, let me state this: that if I was looking for someone to pair up with under the Iowa caucus system based on who I agreed with, I wouldn't have had anyone to agree with...


... because the fact of the matter is, I've had a really great difference of opinion, having been the only one on this stage who voted against the war and the Patriot Act.

But John Edwards and I are friends. And one thing we agreed on in Iowa is that we both wanted more delegates. That's what we agreed on.
-- from tonight's debate.
Do you ever have deja vu, Mrs. Lancaster?
I don't think so, but I can check with the kitchen.

One of the great lines from "Groundhog Day," the movie where Bill Murray relives Groundhog Day over and over and over. I just watched it for the first time yesterday (although maybe it's the thousandth time I've watched it in somebody else's endless deja vu). After he tries numerous times and numerous ways to break out of the cycle, he decides to take advantage of the situation. The movie has been out for ten years now, and I doubt if I can come up with any original thoughts on it. It's chock full of easy morals: live every day to the fullest, be nice to people, seize the moment, etc. Still, it's about the most enjoyable and interesting movie I've seen. (I watched "The Truman Show" a couple of weeks ago, and it is quite similar in many ways. "Groundhog Day" is more fun, though.) The Ann Arbor Library is great; they've got lots of wonderful movies on DVD and VHS.
In two weeks, I will send you a budget that funds the war, protects the homeland and meets important domestic needs, while limiting the growth in discretionary spending to less than 4 percent. This will require that Congress focus on priorities, cut wasteful spending and be wise with the people's money. By doing so, we can cut the deficit in half over the next five years. -- State of the Union Address

Senate Approves Huge Spending Bill After Democrats' Delay

The Senate gave President Bush and his Republican allies a victory today by approving an $820 billion spending bill covering more than a dozen federal departments and agencies in the fiscal year that began almost four months ago.

It gets worse.
Democrats objected to provisions they said will allow the Bush administration to threaten the overtime pay of millions of workers; relax media ownership rules; and delay a requirement that supermarket meat and produce carry labels identifying them by country of origin.

Not enough Democrats, apparently. A filibuster against the bill was voted down 65 to 28. So millions of Americans will be working long hours without pay, at least until the mad cow sets in. The state-run media will never let them know what hit them.
I'm so famous...
My letter to the editor ran in yesterday's Ann Arbor News:

I hope that Ann Arbor area Democrats will consider voting for the one presidential candidate who offers a real change from business as usual: Rep. Dennis Kucinich. Kucinich not only opposed the war in Iraq: He still does, and offers a plan to get the UN in and the U.S. out within 90 days. He proposes a Department of Peace to put the U.S. back on a more peaceful basis with the rest of the world. He promises to repeal NAFTA and the WTO, which together have cost many thousands of manufacturing jobs in Michigan. Kucinich proposes a single-payer universal health care plan, similar to what Canada has, which will free citizens from an enormous worry, free business from an enormous burden, and also save money overall.

He strongly defends workers' rights, and was the only candidate to join the picket line during the strike against Borders. Learn more about Dennis Kucinich at, and register to vote in the Feb. 7 Democratic caucus at (before Jan. 31). Vote for a better, more peaceful future. Vote for Kucinich!

Two more soldiers killed, one wounded...
More victims of aWol's illegal war.

From Matt Davies.
No signs of intelligent life forms here...

From the always brilliant Lalo Alcarez.
Okay, Dean was a little exuberant...
I'm probably one of the last people in America to see the video of Howard Dean's speech on Monday night. Some seem to think it may have killed off his campaign, and maybe it did, but I don't really see why. I saw a much more ridiculous speech on Tuesday night. Candidates always try to give rousing speeches, and that's what Dean was doing. He didn't say anything wrong or especially stupid. Screw the media, and Leno and Letterman, if the demeanor of a candidate in one speech, given while he's dead tired and disappointed yet still trying to rally the troops, is seen as a reason for ridicule and rejection. I think there are plenty of reasons why Dean isn't the best candidate, but his little Iowa speech isn't one of them.
Who knows what Saddam could have done with those dozens of activities?
Tom Tomorrow reminds us of this fabulous line from the State of the Union address:

Already, the Kay Report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities.

Already! Imagine that! That line got quite a laugh from the three hundred or so of us watching at the Residential College Tuesday night.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Zapatistas: Ten Year Anniversary
A collection of articles is here.
State of the Union
I watched the Liar in Chief spout his nonsense with about 300 people last evening at the UM's Residential College, courtesy of the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace. We were watching CBS; hopefully everyone got to see Ted Kennedy's reactions. Here are some other responses:

Dennis Kucinich
The "Democrats"
Stephen Zunes
Ten-year-old interested in flying software
Massachusetts goes on Red Alert.

Michelle links to an article about cops snooping around a woman's house in Massachusetts because she and her ten-year-old son had discussed the possibility of purchasing Microsoft Flight Simulator with the clerk at their local Staples store. Apparently the clerk took the orange alert nonsense a little too seriously and reported them to the FBI.

I don't know if we should be happy or sad about this, but the Freepers seem to feel pretty much the same way as I do about this story. ("Freepers" are the Bush-loving wingnuts who hang out at I googled around for a more complete article on the story, and came up with this one:

The comments from the mother, the Air Force Reserve Pilot, in the article are pretty scary:

"At first, I felt a little angry and violated" about someone telling authorities about her inquiry, said Julie Olearcek, a 15-year Air Force Reserve pilot. "But now that time has gone by, I realize it may take someone like that, who's a little nervous, who may save the day." Olearcek's husband, Henry, is also a flier, currently on active duty, and frequently away from home these days.

About a week before Christmas, Olearcek said the couple's 10-year-old son, who has flight simulation software and is keenly interested in learning to fly like his parents, commented that he'd have to wait until his dad retired to learn to fly by instruments. She went to Staples soon after and took her son to the office supply store, where he looked through the available software.

"He was disappointed because there was military stuff, but it was all fighting stuff, so I asked the clerk, and he was alarmed by us asking how to fly airplanes and said that was against the law," Olearcek said. "I said I couldn't imagine that, but, because (the clerk) was a little on edge ... I left." But "what saves us, is people are paying attention," she said.

Olearcek said she and her husband both were well aware that the Office of Homeland Security had raised the threat level during the holiday and of the generally increased terrorism alert following the Sept. 11 plane attacks.

"And rightly so, this puts people on edge," she said.

That article, which originally came from the Greenfield, MA Recorder newspaper, had been posted on the Free Republic web site. Check out some of the Freepers' comments:

  • "he was alarmed by us asking how to fly airplanes and said that was against the law" -- Jaw dropping stupidity. How does such a person even get through the day?
  • "he was alarmed by us asking how to fly airplanes and said that was against the law" -- Seems a little Gestapo like to me!
  • "At first I felt like, 'Wait a minute, this is America.' But we also have to understand... It isn't, anymore. Score one for the alliance of international terrorists and home-grown power-hungry police."

The Plaid Adder weighs in on this silly concept. Excerpt:
Now you can say that within the context of a primary fight, the focus on 'electability' is purely strategic - what after all is the good of picking a candidate that Bush will beat? What I am arguing is that if we are determining electability based on perceptions created by the mainstream media - as we inevitably are - then we are essentially allowing the corporations to pick our candidate for us. Money is what the media are loyal to; and my friends, money does not want a Democrat in the White House. You know that, I know that. We know that money does not have our best interests at heart. So when money tells us who's electable, why do we listen? Why is it so hard for us to remember that yes, money talks, but it does not tell the truth?
Story from the Iowa caucuses
Cyndy links to this story about what happened in one Iowa caucus.
Tom Tomorrow sums up the State of the Union address:

Actually, that cartoon is from last year, and is a reprise from a cartoon TT did in 1992 featuring Bush Sr.
Health Savings Accounts
And starting this year, millions of Americans will be able to save money, tax-free, for their medical expenses in a health savings account. -- from aWol's State of the Union Address.

Bush's health care "plan" could be called the "Leave No Corporation Behind" plan. While leaving millions of Americans with an expensive, hit-or-miss system of health care, it GUARANTEES that the HMO's, insurance companies, and big Pharm will get their billions. I certainly don't know the ins and outs of all of it, but I am familiar with Health Savings Accounts (HSA's), since I've had one the last two years. In an HSA, you put a portion of your paycheck (automatically withdrawn in most cases) into the HSA. Then, whenever you have a qualified health-related expenditure not covered by your health insurance (if you've got it, which I do), such as deductibles, co-pays, non-prescription drugs, orthotics, crutches, eyeglasses, etc., you fill out a form, send in the receipts, and the company managing the HSA sends you a reimbursement check (from your own money). The benefit? All the money you put into the HSA is tax deductible. The catches? First, you don't have use of your money until you make a claim. Worse, if your qualified expenditures don't match what you've put in (or you forget to file, lose receipts, etc.), the company managing the HSA keeps the money.

I'm ashamed to admit that I fell for the scam. Two years ago, I signed up. "Fortunately," I was ill a couple of times and diligently pursued optional expenses to make sure I got my money back. Last year, I had almost no expenses, lost the receipts on those I did, and the HSA walked away with $180. This year I wised up and didn't sign up. I've always thought that most insurance was a scam; you give some corporation lots of money over the years, then if something bad happens to you AND you can prove you weren't to blame AND you complete all the paperwork, the less-unscrupulous of the insurance companies will give you some of your money back. They will of course raise your rates to recoup the money. But HSA's may take the cake. They get the interest on your money regardless, and they get to keep it all if you don't get sick or you forget to do the paperwork.

Like everything in Bush's speech, HSA's are a way to take money from those who have little and give it to those who have much. And they offer no benefits at all to low-income people. The deductibility is on the federal INCOME tax, and as the right-wingers love to point out, those "lucky duckies" who are poor pay little or no income tax. They do, however, pay sales taxes and payroll taxes, and HSA's offer no relief from these. So aWol's call for HSA's is mostly a benefit to the companies that run HSA's, with a moderate benefit for the wealthy who get sick and conscientiously file the forms.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

What it's all about:
The Bush years are a study in deliberately wasted effort: Repeal of the estate tax. Tax exemption for stock dividends. Ballistic Missile Defense. The USA PATRIOT Act. The war on Iraq. Each of these initiatives has a clientele. None of them seriously aims to achieve its stated goal, be that economic recovery or homeland security or national security writ large.

The method is clear to any who choose to study closely: It is a method of subterfuge and deception. It is the systematic and relentless pursuit of partly hidden agendas, sold to the public with slogans. The tax cuts were not aimed to produce recovery and jobs; they were a reward to the rich. The war on Iraq was not waged to help the war on terror; it was about getting Saddam, as we have now had confirmed by Paul O'Neill's report on the Iraq agenda Bush carried from the beginning. Missile defense is not about North Korea, and still less about Iran or any other "rogue state"; it's about the contracts. In all these cases, the decision on what to do came first -- then the circumstances of the day were arranged to suit.

So it is today on the economy. What does Bush want? He wants a growth rate high enough to get him through the election. That's obvious. After that, he doesn't care. His clientele -- the military contractors, oil companies, pharmaceutical firms and big media that control this government -- make their money on patents, contracts and the exercise of monopoly power. (Case in point: Bush is pressuring impoverished Central Americans, in trade negotiations, to add 10 years to the length of drug patents.) These people have no interest in full employment. They like unemployment, weak labor, low wages and a government that bullies on their behalf. And after the election, if Bush wins, that is what they will get for four more years.
-- From James K. Galbraith in Salon (subscription or free day pass required)

Should be a short speech
Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern suggests that the Bushies are trying to keep lies out of tonight's State of the Union address while still claiming the war in Iraq was justified. McGovern cites the Carnegie study and Paul O'Neill's revelations, and then adds:

But the most damaging revelation came from an internal Iraqi document -- this time, happily, not a forged one -- confirming that a high-level order to destroy all chemical and biological weapons was carried out in the summer of 1991 (there were no nuclear weapons). U.S. officials learned of this in mid-1995 from what intelligence officers would call ''a reliable source with excellent access.'' Everything else he told us has checked out.

That source was none other than the person in charge of Iraq's nuclear, chemical, biological and missile programs: Saddam Hussein's son-in-law Hussein Kamel -- the one who gave the order to destroy those weapons. Kamel defected in August 1995.

Documentary corroboration that Kamel's order was carried out surfaced this month in a handwritten letter obtained by Barton Gelman of The Washington Post. The letter was written by Hossam Amin, director of the Iraqi office overseeing U.N. inspectors, five days after Kamel's defection. It confirms that Iraq had in fact destroyed its entire inventory of biological weapons during the summer of 1991, before U.N. inspectors even knew of their existence.

Does this mean that Kamel's testimony had been known in Washington and London more than seven years before Bush's address last January, and that during that entire period no evidence had come to light poking holes in the information he provided? Yes.

Well, maybe they didn't tell the president. If that is true, ''they'' should be fired.

There is, I suppose, a chance that Bush's advisors missed the information from Kamel's debriefing -- or forgot it. But Newsweek on Feb. 24, 2003, reported Kamel's assertion that the weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed. That was more than three weeks before our troops were sent into Iraq, ostensibly to ''disarm'' Iraq of those same weapons.

Both Bush and Vice President Cheney have accorded Kamel fulsome praise as defector par excellence, emphasizing his revelations about the Iraqi biological and chemical weapons but not mentioning that Kamel also said that those same weapons were destroyed at his order in 1991. This brings the practice of ''cherry-picking'' intelligence information to new heights -- or lows.

From Jen Sorensen.

From Boondocks.
Iowans like guys named John.
Best explanation I can come up with for the caucus results. According to preliminary e-mails I've gotten from the Kucinich campaign, Edwards' strong second place may have been due in large part to the Kucinich alliance. Reports from Kucinich supporters say that they were just short of 15% in many caucuses, and went over to Edwards as part of the deal. Sounds like a tough sell, though, with the results showing Kucinich at 1% with zero delegates, while Gephardt drops out with 11%, and Dean being said to have been dealt a severe blow at 18%. If it can be sold, though, it leaves Kucinich as the only candidate with a strong pro-labor (anti-NAFTA) position.

I'm just depressed about this. I really want to work on a campaign this year to get rid of Bush, and I'd like to be excited about it. Imagine passing out leaflets for Kerry:

Voter: Why should I vote for Kerry?
Me: Because Bush started two illegal wars.
Voter: But didn't Kerry vote for both?
Me: Well, yeah. But Bush passed that awful Patriot Act!
Voter: But didn't Kerry vote for that too?
Me: Well, yeah. But Bush supports even more "free trade" agreements which benefit the wealthy few at the expense of working people in all countries!
Voter: But doesn't Kerry support them also?
Me: Well, yeah. But Kerry's better than Bush on the environment.
Voter: Okay, but so is ExxonMobil. How can someone support illegal wars, which pollute like nobody's business, and trade agreements which undercut environmental regulations and still claim to be pro-environment? Don't you need a higher bar than "better than Bush?"
Me: John Kerry is not George W. Bush.
Voter: Okay, I'm sold, but that's the best you can come up with?

Monday, January 19, 2004

Pardon my abbreviations, but WTF?? Kerry compensates for taking bad positions on the issues, especially Iraq and trade, by being extremely dull. Apparently that plays well in Iowa. Of the Democratic candidates, only Lieberman do I like less than Kerry. At least Dean won't walk away with the nomination, but this could be much worse. I think, aside from Lieberman, that Kerry would be the least improvement over Bush, and have the worst chance of beating him. Kerry could put Al Gore to sleep. Let's hope somebody else wins in New Hampshire. Sheesh!
In case you're wondering...
Wolf Blitzer explains the Iowa caucus system.

There are 1,933 caucus sites around the state.

At 7:30 p.m. ET, 6:30 p.m. CT, people gather in schools, community centers, church basements and even private homes.

By 8:00 p.m., they're asked to divide themselves up initially into various corners of the room -- Kerry supporters in one corner, Gephardt supporters in another, etc.

There will be a separate grouping for people who are not committed to any one candidate.

Supporters of candidates who don't receive a minimum of 15 percent of the caucus-goers in the room -- will then have to make a decision: support a different candidate or go over to the uncommitted corner.

Other attendees will be lobbying the supporters of the unviable candidates, the ones with less than 15 percent of caucus-goers in their corner, to chose another candidate and join their group.

This process could last for a few minutes or even an hour or longer.

Eventually, the debating and horse-trading will end, with each person at the caucus in a specific group -- either a candidate group or the uncommitted group. At that point, the caucus precinct leader will call Democratic Party headquarters in Des Moines with word of the tally.

So, that makes it relatively clear, to me at least, what the Edwards-Kucinich deal is about. If a particular caucus has 100 voters, and the initial division has 11 Kucinich supporters and 9 for Edwards, the Edwards supporters are being encouraged to go to the Kucinich corner, giving one of the two "viability," meaning having over 15%. If the situation is reversed in another caucus, then Edwards would get the Kucinich supporters.

Wolf didn't explain exactly what the "tally" is; is it just the number of voters in each "viable" corner, or one delegate for each 15%? Also, I wonder what Wolf means by "horse trading." Without the quid pro quo implied by the Kucinich-Edwards deal, made before any caucuses start, and without the actual candidates present, I don't see what viable corners could offer to the unviable ones. Could Dean supporters offer guarantees to the tiny Lieberman corner about supporting Israel? Could Kerry fans offer Sharpton supporters that Kerry would take a real position on something? I'm assuming that offers of cash are prohibited, but I can't see what else there would be to trade. Will cell phones be allowed, so voters can arrange deals between caucus sites? Should I have asked these questions earlier?

[Update] The Washington Post's explanation.
Press release on Kucinich-Edwards Deal
is here.
Kucinich and Edwards team up for Iowa
Can you say "Hmmmm?"
Democratic presidential candidates John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich have struck a deal to support each other should one candidate fail to draw the minimum support needed to compete in Monday night's Iowa caucuses, Edwards campaign sources said.

The decision could give Edwards, a U.S. senator from North Carolina, a boost in the convoluted caucuses, the first major Democratic contest of the election year. An Iowa poll published over the weekend shows Edwards is in a tight race with the four front-runners. The same poll has Kucinich, an Ohio congressman, drawing the support of just 3 percent of likely caucus-goers.

"Both of us believe in a lot of the same things, and we like each other very much," Edwards said. "But both of us also recognize at the end of the day, caucus-goers will have to make their own decisions about this."
Edwards and Kucinich have agreed that in any Iowa precinct where either candidate fails to garner the minimum needed to survive the first round, their supporters are urged to line up for the other candidate, Kucinich spokesman David Swanson said.

"They both have a positive approach, and they both have an optimistic vision," Swanson said. "Where we need 15 percent, we've got 9 and he's got 6, they'll come to us, and where he's got 9 and we've got 6, we'll go to him."
-- That's from CNN.

The e-mail I got from our local Kucinich coordinator including the following information, apparently from a press release:

1. Neither campaign is ending nor endorsing the other. This is only because of the unique nature of the Iowa caucuses where you have to have 15% in each and every caucus room to be a viable group. It applies to no other state, no other night.

2. This is not a "strategic compromise." Rather it is a deal that works toward the long-term goal of keeping the race tight and keeping Dennis in it ALL THE WAY TO THE CONVENTION. We never expected to win Iowa, but to get delegates in enough states so that the Kucinich platform is decisive AT THE CONVENTION. Please remember that the Kucinich campaign would have to end if one person (i.e. Dean) coasted to wins in Iowa and New Hampshire.

In other words, it's not a statewide deal, but a caucus-by-caucus deal.

My initial impressions:
  • I'm concerned that it makes it look like Kucinich is dropping out, even though they're trying to make it clear that it's just a one-time thing based on the Iowa rules.
  • Even with that, it probably benefits the Kucinich campaign by getting him some press. He's got support, but little coverage.
  • If (big if) Edwards had voted against the Iraq war in October 2002, he would be my easy second choice at this point, based on what I've heard from him in the debates. He's sharp, articulate, and decent. Watching the debates, I thought that Edwards and Sharpton were consistently the most impressive, if you ignored specific positions and went solely with the quality and delivery of the arguments. I may have watched Kucinich with the too-critical eye of a fan, and I generally found Dean, Kerry, Gephardt and Lieberman to be insufferable. I only saw one debate with Clark in it, and was neither greatly impressed nor turned off. I remember Kucinich saying in an interview that Edwards was his best friend among the contestants.
  • I hope it works, and it gives Dennis a boost! Finishing third or fourth would be an enormous help to the campaign. Having Edwards win would probably at least be a boost for Dennis' positions.

I received an e-mail with the following three articles about Dr. Martin Luther King:

Martin Luther King's Radical Legacy
By John C. McMillian, In These Times
10 February 1999
Ernest Hemingway once wrote that "the dignity ... of an iceberg is due to only one eighth of it being above water," while the rest remains submerged, unavailable to the naked eye. Something of the same might be said for Martin Luther King Jr. Though there are a number of reasons why we should all be grateful for the federal holiday each January honoring the birth of King, we should also recognize that this event helps to promote a shallow understanding of his true intellectual legacy, leading to a misconstrued image of King that he scarcely could have endorsed himself.

The scores of politicians who spoke on Jan. 18 about the pressing need to fulfill King's "Dream," for example, were generally
endorsing a simplified, static portrait of King. Meanwhile, we have been bombarded with a steady stream of television commercials, advertisements and newspaper articles that imply King was merely a liberal reformer, whose sole preoccupation was civil rights. Where was the discussion of King's plans to transform the structures of power and privilege in society? Who remembered King's call for a "radical revolution" of American values? As historian Vincent Harding has remarked, "It appears as if the price for the first national holiday honoring a black man is the development of a massive case of national amnesia."

Even before the advent of his public career, King pondered fundamental economic changes in American society. "I imagine you
already know that I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic," a 23-year-old King wrote in a 1952 letter to Coretta Scott. If most Americans don't know this, the federal govemment certainly did. Because of his alleged ties to Communism, the FBI launched an extended campaign to smear King, tapping his phones, sending him threatening mail and trying to discredit him among journalists and potential donors and supporters. Following King's famous speech at the 1963 March on Washington, FBI Assistant Director Louis Sullivan charged that King had become (in a curious pair of adjectives), "The most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country."

We further need to be reminded that King demanded a total restructuring of our foreign policies, and-unlike Jesse Jackson and
many other "leftists" of our era-he would have had nothing but scorn for President Clinton's criminal bombings of Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq. Indeed, King began speaking out against U.S. militarism as early as 1965. Most symptomatic of this, of course, was the "nightmarish conflict" in Vietnam, which he said was "one of the most unjust wars that has ever been fought in the history of the world."

In the last years of his life, King also began to focus greater attention on entrenched patterns of exploitation. In these terms,
integration did not simply mean mixed lunch counters or diverse neighborhoods, but rather a meaningful sharing of power and
responsibility in all aspects of society. Though it is true that King pined for a nation where people would be judged "not by the
color of their skin, but by the content of their character," few things are more deliberately cynical than the conjecture of
conservatives- from Ward Connerly to David Horowitz-who claim that King would have opposed present-day affirmative action programs. In fact, the opposite is true. In his 1964 book, Why We Can't Wait, King argued that "among the vital jobs to be done, the nation ... must incorporate into its planning some compensatory consideration for the handicaps [the Negro] has inherited from the past."

Elsewhere, he cited both the federal Gl Bill and India's program of "preferences" for the "untouchables" as worthy efforts to make up for disadvantages that certain groups had faced. King also spoke publicly against "systemic rather than superficial
flaws" in our economic system, questioning the basic tenets of capitalism and calling for full employment, national health care and a guaranteed annual wage. As a means to these ends, he envisioned a massive escalation of nonviolent civil disobedience. Whereas much of his early work in the South simply sought a recognition of general principles mirrored in the Constitution, King planned for subsequent campaigns to be waged in confrontation with the federal government.

Nonviolence, he argued, "must be adapted to urban conditions and urban moods.... There must be more than a statement to the larger society, a force that interrupts its functioning at some key point." But above all, King called for a revolutionary re-examination of America's character: a point that was lost on virtually all of the joumalists and politicians who commemorated King this year.

Obviously, we should continue to honor King's greatness on the third Monday of each January. But in the future, we need to demand that these celebrations look beyond the popular, sanitized images of King that are spooned out to us annually. As Stanford historian Clayborne Carson has pointed out, "The historical King was far too interesting to be encased in simple, didactic legends designed to offend no one."

Remaking King
By Mumia Abu-Jamal
8 February 2000
On the day I received the kind invitation from SCLC Board/King Planning Committee Member, Maureen Flynn-Hart, the news media announced that the Catholic church hierarchy was considering naming the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a Baptist, Protestant minister, as a Christian Martyr; an extraordinary honor to a non-Catholic. As I thought of this honor, I was also reminded of how political conservatives have appropriated the name, image, and selected texts of the late Dr. King to further their right-wing, white supremacist agenda. A prime example, of course, is the anti-affirmative-action initiatives that have been placed on the ballot in California and other places, actions that would've sickened the heart of King if he was among the living.

It is the nature of the state to co-opt movements to further their own interests. That's the nature of capitalism, isn't it? A deep reading of King, however, shows, not so much Christian Martyr as Social Reformer - someone deeply concerned about economic and social justice, as well as American militarism. Consider this: When Dr. King was cruelly martyred, was he assassinated while working for the church, or while working for a decent wage and dignity for striking garbage workers in Memphis?

It's easy for us, the living, to forge Dr. King into an icon; it's safe. It's much harder to do the work that Dr. King would be doing
today. How would he look at a president like Clinton's dark, pragmatic embrace of the death penalty? What would he say about two million people in prison? How would he address homelessness in the richest nation on earth? What would be his response to injustice in the so-called halls of justice? I hazard a prediction that, health permitting, the good Rev. Dr.
would be passionately protesting these, and other, injustices -- just as we should do!

Dr. King Was Not a "Dreamer"
By Paul Rockwell, In Motion Magazine
10 May 1999
Every year, millions of Americans pay tribute to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King. We often forget, however, that King was the object of derision when he was alive. At key moments in his quest for civil rights and world peace, the corporate media treated King with hostility. Dr. King's march for open housing in Chicago, when the civil rights movement entered the North, caused a negative, you've-gone-too-far reaction in the Northern press. And Dr. King's stand on peace and international law, especially his support for the self-determination of third world peoples, caused an outcry and backlash in the predominantly white press.

In his prophetic anti-war speech at Riverside Church in 1967 (recorded and filmed for posterity but rarely quoted in today's
press, King emphasized four points: 1) that American militarism would destroy the war on poverty, 2) that American jingoism breeds violence, despair, and contempt for law within the United States, 3) the use of people of color to fight against people of color abroad is a "cruel manipulation of the poor," 4) human rights should be measured by one yardstick everywhere. The Washington Post denounced King's anti-war position, and said King was "irresponsible." In an editorial entitled "Dr. King's
error," The New York Times chastised King for going beyond the allotted domain of black leaders -- civil rights. TIME called King's anti-war stand "demogogic slander...a script for Radio Hanoi." The media responses to Dr. King's calls for peace were so venomous that King's two recent biographers - Stephen Oates and David Garrow - devoted whole chapters to the media blitz against King's internationalism.

Dr. King may be an icon within the media today, but there is still something upsetting about the way his birthday is observed. Four words - "I have a dream" - are often parrotted out of context every January 15th. King, however, was not a dreamer - at least not the teary-eyed, mystic projected in the media. True, he was a visionary, but he specialized in applied ethics. He even called himself "a drum major for justice," and his mission, as he described it, was, "to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed." In fact, the oft-quoted "I have a dream" speech was not about far-off visions. In his speech in Washington, D.C., August 28, 1963, Dr. King confronted the poverty, injustice, and "nightmare conditions" of American cities. In its totality, the "I have a dream" speech was about the right of oppressed and poor Americans to cash their promissary note in our time. It was a call to action.

In 1986, Jesse Jackson wrote an essay on how Americans can protect the legacy of Dr. King. Jackson's essay on the trivialization, distortion, the emasculation of King's memory, is one of the clearest, most relevant appreciations in print of Dr. King's work. Jackson wrote: "We must resist this the media's weak and anemic memory of a great man. To think of Dr. King only as a dreamer is to do injustice to his memory and to the dream itself. Why is it that so many politicians today want to emphasize that King was a dreamer? Is it because they want us to believe that his dreams have become reality, and that therefore, we should celebrate rather than continue to fight? There is a struggle today to preserve the substance and the integrity of Dr. King's legacy."

Today, the media often ignores the range and breadth of King's teachings. His speeches -- on economic justice, on our potential to end poverty, on the power of organized mass action, his criticism of the hostile media, his opposition to U.S. imperialism (a word he dared to use) - are rarely quoted, much less discussed with understanding. In fact, successors to Dr. King who raise the same concerns today are again treated with sneers, and their "ulterior motives" are questioned. A genuine appreciation of Dr. King requires respect for the totality of his work and an ongoing commitment to struggle for peace and justice today.
Shouldn't we ask the Martians first?
Letter-writers to the Detroit Free Press seem pretty united; Spaceman George's Mars plan is an election-year gimmick. This one was my favorite:

I just wanted President George W. Bush to know that as a taxpayer I have no problem with his grand plans for space trips, as long as he promises to bring back food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, jobs for the unemployed and medical care for the uninsured. Hope he has a nice trip.

Joan C. Brown Clinton Township

Another letter suggests:

No space program could unify us better than having an astronaut team composed of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Karl Rove and Tom DeLay on a one-way trip to the Red Planet.

Hey! Don't forget Ashcroft and Rice!
Nolo Contendre
The only Democrat running for the House seat of retiring Republican Nick Smith (of Medicare bribery fame) has dropped out of the race. Several Republicans, including Smith's son Brad, are seeking the Republican nomination, which apparently will be the same as being elected. My nephew, his wife, and other left-leaning seventh-district voters will end up with probably NO voice in choosing their next representative in Congress.

Somebody please tell me what in the world a winner-take-all two-party system has to do with democracy. I can't see the connection.
Students walk out on Jeb
About a dozen students walked out Monday before Gov. Jeb Bush gave a Martin Luther King Jr. day address at historically black Florida A&M University.

The group, identified only as "students of FAMU," handed out a one-page statement describing Bush's holiday visit as disrespectful to King's legacy and black students.

Georgia and the Caucusus
No, nothing to do with "The Doctor went down to Georgia" to worship with a former president non-story. No, this is about the OTHER Georgia, the one where the cold war continues, strategically located between Caspian oil and the Black Sea or Mediterranean links to Western SUV's.

Richard Miles, the U.S. ambassador to Georgia, announced on Saturday that U.S. soldiers who arrived in the country in early 2002 to help train Georgian units in counterterrorism would stay indefinitely. The more than 200 troops, stationed at a former Red Army base near Tbilisi, were to leave in March.

"The Cold War is over and we will not give up our independence. Russia cannot treat us as their former colony," Mr. Saakashvili told the BBC. "We are friends with the Americans because they helped us."
-- Globe and Mail

Of course, by "we," Saakashvili means "I," just like the kings of yore. The questionable election of his Russia-connected predecessor, Eduard Shevardnadze, was overturned, apparently with American assistance, and Mr. S. "elected" to replace him, also apparently with American assistance.

Washington promised expanded aid to Georgia -- the country already receives the second-highest amount of U.S. aid per capita after Israel -- in the wake of Mr. Saakashvili's election, and highlighted Georgia's potential to become a member of NATO.

The latest step comes amid heightened tensions between Moscow and its former satellite over the two bases that Russia still maintains in the country from the Soviet era. After his election this month, Mr. Saakashvili made it clear that having Russia swiftly withdraw its units would be one of his priorities.

Bush lied, people died, most Americans couldn't care less
From Ted Rall:

Nearly 500 American servicemen have been killed in the war against Iraq. At least 2,400 more have been wounded. We've killed so many Iraqis--tens of thousands, certainly--that the Pentagon can't keep count. We've borrowed more than $160 billion to pay for this extravaganza, with many more hundreds of billions to follow. And what was the point of this waste of life and treasure? "To disarm Iraq," Bush told us.

But Iraq, as everyone from the CIA to Hans Blix to Saddam told us beforehand, didn't have any arms to dis.

Calling off the WMD hunt is Bush's tacit admission that he lied about the reasons for war. It's hard to think of anything worse that a president can do. It's even harder to imagine the American people, so cynically accepting of deception, holding him accountable.

War on Afghan children continues
A U.S. helicopter attacked a house in a village in southern Afghanistan, killing 11 people, four of them children, Afghan officials said Monday. -- USA Today

There's a frequently-used and abused word for this: Terrorism.
Is Bush Doomed?
Paul Craig Roberts is a right-wing columnist for the Washington Times. Here's a column he wrote recently, in its entirety, via

Is Bush Doomed?

by Paul Craig Roberts
Fear must be coursing through President Bush's veins as he realizes the Iraqi trap in which the neocons have placed him. Bush is caught between an Iraqi civil war and a wider insurgency. Desperate to extricate himself from the weekly carnage well before the November election, Bush can neither deliver on his promise of democracy via direct elections nor impose his plan for an Iraqi assembly elected indirectly by caucuses.

If Bush delivers on his democracy promise, the Shi'ites with 60% of the population will be elected, and the country will break out in civil war. If he tries to water down Shi'ite representation with his plan for an assembly elected indirectly by caucuses, the so far peaceful Shi'ites are likely to join the violence.

If the Shi'ites become violent, the insurgency would be too large to be contained by our present occupying force. Moreover, the outbreak of a general rebellion in Iraq would spill over throughout the Middle East where unpopular secular rulers are sitting on a smoldering Islam. Our puppet in Pakistan would likely bite the dust. Israel would then face countervailing Muslim nukes.

If you think more US troops are needed now in Iraq, imagine how many more would be required to deal with a wider conflagration. Where would they come from? The US military is already so thinly stretched that soon 40% of the occupying troops will be drawn from the National Guard and reservists, resulting in tremendous disruption in the affairs of tens of thousands of families.

Pilots and troops are shunning the cash bonuses offered for reenlistments. The troops recognize a quagmire even if their neocon overlords cannot. The only source of troops is the draft.

A Shi'ite insurgency that brought back the draft would deprive Bush of reelection. A civil war with the prospect of a Kurdish state would bring in the Turks. On January 14 Turkish prime minister Erdogan said that Turkey will intervene in the event of Iraq's disintegration.

The Shi'ites and the Turks are forming an alliance as both have the same interest in maintaining the geographical integrity of the Iraqi state. The US could come dangerously close to military conflict with a NATO ally.

All of this was perfectly clear well in advance of the ill-considered invasion. If Bush wasn't smart enough to see it, why didn't his National Security Advisor or his Secretary of State? How did a handful of neocon ideologues hijack US foreign policy?

Bush did not campaign on a neocon policy of conquest in the Middle East. There was no public debate over this policy. The invasion of Iraq was the private agenda of the neocons.

Why have the neocons not been held responsible for their treason in abusing their presidential appointments to substitute their personal agenda for America's agenda?

Bush has been the neocon's puppet for so long that he is now stuck with responsibility for their horrible mistake. With no way of his own to get out of his trap, his arrogance toward the "irrelevant" UN and our doubting allies has disappeared. Come bail me out, he pleads.

Bush, desperate to be extricated before doom strikes him is experiencing a reality totally different from the chest-thumping of neocon megalomaniacs, such as Charles Krauthammer, who declared the US so powerful as to be able to "reshape, indeed remake, reality on its own."

Bush now knows that he lacks the power to deal with the reality of Iraq. Indeed, Bush cannot even deal with his own appointees.

So: Bad News--It looks like there will be a major regional war in the Middle East, killing tens of thousands, including thousands of Americans, many of whom will be drafted.

Good News--We may be able to excrete the Dimwit-in-Chief and the neocon dimwits who started it all.

Really Bad News: Roberts may be being optimistic. He's probably spot on about the war expanding and the draft coming back, but the American public is at present so stupid that aWol may be re-selected before they realize what is happening, if they ever do.
The half of Iraq that certainly won't be better off now that Saddam is gone...
is the female half. The Iraqi woman who writes Baghdad Burning complains about the proposal that Islamic Sharia law is being endorsed by the Iraqi Governing Council (the US-backed puppet government) as the basis for an Iraqi constitution. While she points out that Sharia isn't necessarily a bad thing--she's a practicing Muslim and believes it to be a religion of great benefit to women--it has been abused by clerics and used to oppress women (think Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Taliban). She's got a long post on the subject; here's her conclusion:

During the sanctions and all the instability, we used to hear fantastic stories about certain Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar, to name a few. We heard about their luxurious lifestyles- the high monthly wages, the elegant cars, sprawling homes and malls… and while I always wanted to visit, I never once remember yearning to live there or even feeling envy. When I analyzed my feelings, it always led back to the fact that I cherished the rights I had as an Iraqi Muslim woman. During the hard times, it was always a comfort that I could drive, learn, work for equal pay, dress the way I wanted and practice Islam according to my values and beliefs, without worrying whether I was too devout or not devout enough.

I usually ignore the emails I receive telling me to 'embrace' my new-found freedom and be happy that the circumstances of all Iraqi women are going to 'improve drastically' from what we had before. They quote Bush (which in itself speaks volumes) saying things about how repressed the Iraqi women were and how, now, they are going to be able to live free lives.

The people who write those emails often lob Iraq together with Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan and I shake my head at their ignorance but think to myself, "Well, they really need to believe their country has the best of intentions- I won't burst their bubble." But I'm telling everyone now- if I get any more emails about how free and liberated the Iraqi women are *now* thanks to America, they can expect a very nasty answer.
Or maybe it was just manufacturing lies for the Bush administration...
An around-the-clock operation, to be sure. From the Suskind/O'Neill book, via the San Jose Mercury News via Left I:

"Tenet pulled out a long scroll, the size of an architectural blueprint, and flattened it on the table.

"It was a grainy photograph of a factory. Tenet said that surveillance planes had just taken this photo. The CIA believed the building might be 'a plant that produces either chemical or biological materials for weapons manufacture.'

"Soon, everyone was leaning over the photo. Tenet had a pointer. 'Here are the railroad tracks coming are the trucks lined up over here...They're bringing it in here and bringing it out there...'

"[Vice President Dick] Cheney motioned to the deputies, the backbenchers, lining the wall. 'Come on up,' he said with uncharacteristic excitement, waving his arm. 'You have to take a look at this.'

"...After a moment, O'Neill interjected, 'I've seen a lot of factories around the world that look a lot like this one. What makes us suspect that this one is producing chemical or biological agents for weapons?'

"Tenet mentioned a few items of circumstantial evidence -- such as the round-the-clock rhythm of shipments in and out of the plant -- but said there was 'no confirming intelligence' as to the materials being produced."

Hmmm...We used to have "weapons" factories just like that here in Michigan, but most of them have closed down and moved to Texas or Mexico or Japan or China. Railroad tracks, trucks, things going in and out, just imagine... Hey world! If you've got an economy, the Bushies can find an excuse to invade you! Wait...think... Afghanistan, Somalia...Hey world! Whether or not you have an economy, the Bushies can find an excuse to invade you!
9/11 Panel won't get extension
The White House has stonewalled them for months, making their job nearly impossible, but insists that they finish in May.

I'm having trouble finding a specific quote, but I recall that one of the few excuses the Bushies have left for invading Iraq is that Saddam was concealing evidence from weapons inspectors. Well, those same Bushies have been concealing evidence about 9/11 since, well, 9/11 (or earlier?). They already knew that they were going to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, so what difference did it make who actually did 9/11? (Especially if it made them, the Bushies, look bad, which it most assuredly would.)
Shorter Washington Post
Lying may have consequences.

Unfortunately, only the people of the well-informed world, that is, the non-US, seem to think that blatantly lying repeatedly damages one's credibility.
Smoking Gun
The Bushies and Blairoids have done so many sleazy, crass, underhanded, deceitful, illegal and unconstitutional things in the past two years that it is hard to keep track of them all. One of these was spying on the UN delegations of several countries last winter in an attempt to get them to vote for a Security Council resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq. (Yes, some of us actually thought that might matter to these criminals, but that's another story.) Like the vast majority of the criminal activity of the Bush administration, this particular crime would probably have gone undetected if not for the heroism of one British woman--Katharine Gun. She released documents related to this illegal spying to a London newspaper. Of course it was the Bush administration who was committing the crimes, and it is Katharine Gun who will be punished.

More from Bob Herbert and Michelle.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Giant Sucking Sound
Turning down a $182.6 million bribe, Electrolux Corporation announced that it will close its Greenville, Michigan plant next year, moving the 2700 west Michigan jobs to Mexico.

The company estimates wages in Mexico are 10 times less expensive than the $13 to $15 an hour plus benefits it pays its Greenville workers.

The Free Press found some MIT economist to spout the usual cheap-labor-conservative line:

MIT economist Michael Greenstone said traditional manufacturing job skills won't be able to support a family in the future.

"The employment growth and the wage growth is not going to be there," Greenstone said. "If you step back from it, this particular plant reflects what are very broad forces that are difficult to reverse unless people are willing to work for wages that won't support their families. No one is willing to do that."

There are ways to reverse those "broad forces." Boycotts. Tariffs. Tearing up destructive "free trade" agreements like NAFTA and the WTO, and not signing any new ones. Make the economy local, diverse, and broad. The wealthy of the world have taken advantage of instant communication, (artificially and temporarily) cheap transit costs, and abundant corrupt politicians to put all of the world's people into a bitter and unnecessary competition with each other. It has cost them their economic independence.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Preparing his insanity defense, apparently:
No President has ever done more for human rights than I have. -- George W. Bush, in a New Yorker interview.

Billmon found a baker's dozen's worth of presidents who clearly did more for human rights than aWol.

How could he possibly make such a statement? Is he just ignorant, or arrogant, or a compulsive liar, or completely delusional? Yes. Does he really think that taking Afghans from the oppressive order of the Taliban back to the oppressive disorder of the warlords, killing thousands in the process, is progress in human rights? Or that replacing the brutal old American-installed regime in Iraq with a brutal new American-installed regime, killing thousands in the process, is his ticket to immortality? Or maybe it's locking up people for years without charges, and without the right to a lawyer, or to answer the charges, or to a speedy trial? Brutally repressing demonstrations and setting up "free-speech" zones so he won't have to hear how wrong he is?

Don't miss Billmon's post on this.
While Congress is away...
AWol appoints racist judge to federal appeals court. We are getting very close to a monarchy here, and the king is an idiot.
U.S. Soldiers killed in Iraq, counting the three killed today. If you or I did something that was stupid, reckless and illegal that caused even one person to die, we'd be facing long prison terms, and civil actions as well if we had any money. AWol does something incredibly stupid, outrageously reckless and completely illegal, killing 500 Americans, thousands of others, plus wounding untold thousands, and he's strutting around at million-dollar fundraisers. I won't deny it--I HATE Bush.

Friday, January 16, 2004

From John Cole.
Another thought on CBS and MoveOn
CBS said on Thursday that advocacy advertisements were out of bounds on professional football's biggest day. -- From the article on CBS's decision not to air MoveOn's "Bush in 30 Seconds" ad, as well as an ad from PETA.

Partially in defense of CBS, and mostly to contradict them, I'll mention that I watched the NFL playoff games on CBS last Saturday and Sunday. On both, they ran ads for 60 Minutes featuring the quote from Paul O'Neill saying that Bush "was like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people." But according to the Reuters article:

In a letter, CBS told PETA that it would not run advertisements on "controversial issues of public importance."

So, we can't say that CBS has been blindly supporting Bush, since they did run (and advertise) the 60 Minutes segment. But they're not being consistent with their stated ad policy when they ran ads for their own show that were on "controversial issues of public importance."
Quote du Jour
I have noticed a troubling pattern that characterizes the Bush-Cheney administration's approach to almost all issues. In almost every policy area, the administration's consistent goal has been to eliminate any constraints on their exercise of raw power, whether by law, regulation, alliance or treaty. And in the process, they have in each case caused America to be seen by the other nations of the world as showing disdain for the international community. -- President Al Gore, quoted in Bob Herbert's column today.


This will really help the peace movement
CBS says they won't run the MoveOn ad
Liberal group, known for its Internet funding power, told members this week that it hoped to have the first political Super Bowl ad.

But its hopes were dashed when CBS said the spot, which asks "Guess who's going to pay off President Bush's $1 trillion deficit?" was an issue piece and could not run.

As you're probably aware, MoveOn had a big contest, "Bush in 30 Seconds," for TV ads against Bush. You can watch the winner here.

Let CBS know that they need to stop covering for Bush. There's a feedback link at the bottom of CBS's home page.
Trouble in Mexico
The Mexican government is cracking down on an indigenous community in the state or Morelos. Via Big, Left, Outside.

I don't know the details of this particular situation except what is in the article--one "dissident" killed, five wounded as the state government forcefully reinstated a mayor, who was apparently elected fraudulently, according to the dissidents. But from what I learned from my Chiapas trip last spring, the issue is a very important one. Many Mexican communities are still relatively autonomous, at least in terms of their economy. Much of what the people eat is grown locally, and much of the rest of the economy is within the community as well. "Globalization" threatens this system: Large agribusinesses, mostly U.S. based, start selling food for less than it can be produced locally. As locals buy this food, local farmers go broke. Many will end up trying to find work, without luck, in Mexico City, and then inevitably head north. They'll sneak across the border, and end up working in the fields for the same agribusinesses which chased them off their land in the first place. Meanwhile, that corporation or others like it will be buying up that very land in Mexico.

Oversimplified to be sure, but that's a large part of what is going on around the world. It has already happened in this country, with very few people here having any sort of control over their food security. With the passage of NAFTA in 1993, the Zapatistas realized that the end of local control and food security for millions was near unless drastic action was taken. They rose up on January 1, 1994, the day NAFTA took effect, and have been demonstrating on behalf of local control and autonomous communities ever since. The big multinationals want abundant cheap labor and unfettered access to all of the world's resources; the vast majority of the people in the world want to be able to survive. I side with the majority on this one.
I just voted in the Michigan caucus!
For Dennis Kucinich, of course! Registered Michigan voters can apply to vote online or by mail here. You don't have to be an official member of the Democratic Party, and it doesn't cost anything.
Correspondent Bob Harris reports from Kiwi Hobbit land
Author, radio guy and Jeopardy champion Bob Harris has been travelling the world. He has been sharing his fascinating experiences and observations with us. Bob's latest stop is New Zealand. I'll let you read his descriptions of the other land down under for yourself; I'll just pick out, as usual, the political stuff which puts aWol in a bad light! So, here it is:

I don't know how to convey the depth of public disdain for Bush down here. It's casual; it's assumed; it's like being against poverty, ignorance, intestinal worms, or potato blight.

And while I have yet to see even a hint of anti-Americanism directed at myself -- most folks everywhere seem to understand intuitively that I am not my government, a consideration I suspect the people of Iraq might have appreciated from us -- this next is fairly mind-blowing.

A recent study published in the Sunday Star-Times asked Australians and New Zealanders which country they would like to visit, but would not, because they consider it too dangerous. Here are the results:

1. United States (14%)
2. Iraq (13%)
3. Indonesia (11%)
4. Israel (7%)

and so on.

I kid you not; I can't find a link online, but I've got a hard copy of the paper in my bag. All in all, 28% of New Zealanders want to visit America. Fully half of them won't.

The Aussie numbers are almost identical. America is consciously avoided in numbers down here exceeding even countries in open internal armed conflict.

I was spun around by those numbers myself. Looking again at the phrasing of the question, you'd think America's number is obviously amped by the large number of people who want to visit in the first place.

But the poll also asked which countries Kiwis wanted to visit, safety aside. The whole civilized world shows up at the top of that list -- the UK, Canada, Italy, France, etc. The U.S. is the only industrialized country on the entire considered-too-dangerous list.

Think about it... half the people down here who want to see the U.S. think it's too dangerous to be worth an actual visit.


Why? Not exactly hard to guess, thanks to the steady stream of orange alerts, not to mention our rate of violent crime, obsession with firearms (widely seen as ludicrous), and lack of national health care that might help a visitor taken ill. Also, seven percent of those polled in both countries wouldn't visit the US simply on ethical and political grounds, and another seven percent would not visit the US because they believed there was too much corruption.

That's what we look like here, folks. And it fits with what I hear from talking with people in cafes and on buses and whatnot.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Bush combines new proposals into one big proposal
At the State of the Union address next week, AWol will unveil his BIG NEW PROPOSAL:
(Drum roll, please....)

The Defense of Immigrant Marriage on Mars With Immense Tax cuts Act of 2004, better known as the DIMMWIT Act.

Look. I LOVE space exploration. John Glenn orbited the Earth on my fourth birthday, and I was watching on TV. I went to a parade for Gemini spacewalkers James McDivitt and Ed White in Ann Arbor in 1966. I watched Neil Armstrong step on the moon. I've watched Tom Hanks' documentary series From the Earth to the Moon twice, and will probably watch it again. But I don't believe W has any interest in space exploration. Karl Rove told him it would get a few votes and funnel more money to campaign contributors, so Bush says Mars.
Yee Haw! Into the abyss...
Big engines are back, according to auto-industry-promoter-disguised-as-Detroit-Free-Press-journalist Mark Phelan:

Fueled by inexpensive gasoline, surging truck sales and improving energy efficiency, U.S. buyers' demand for V8s has risen every year since 1994, according to Ward's data.

Who can blame them? Gasoline prices vary, but don't seem to affect V8 sales, and fuel economy is rising.
GM and DaimlerChrysler could build as many as 3 million vehicles with these V8s annually. That means displacement on demand could reduce U.S. fuel consumption far more than selling a few thousand chic hyper-efficient gasoline-electric hybrids would.

You might ask, why not just build more four-cylinder engines in the first place? They cost less, and burn less fuel.

The answer is that you can't give a four-cylinder away in a big pickup, SUV or large car. That's why V8 demand has grown more than 50 percent since bottoming out at 19.2 percent in 1993.

"We expect V8 sales to continue to grow," Purcell said. "The customer likes them. You can do a lot of things with that much power under the hood."

Inexpensive gasoline? What does this moron think the $166 billion and 500 soldiers' lives (and counting on both) on the Iraq invasion was for? Democracy? Bridge for sale, Mark.

It's getting really hard to keep liking this country.
First Gem from the Dave Pollard Site:

That's from a post Pollard calls the Wal-Mart dilemma. The basic idea is that we're stuck in the red cycle, with low wages forcing low prices forcing the exporting of jobs overseas. Pollard says the way to move from the red to the green cycle, where wages, prices and quality are high, is to impose duties and other regulations to protect domestic producers if a product can reasonably be produced domestically. In the green cycle, a country has mild inflation, which Pollard says is the most painless way to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor. In other words, the green cycle benefits most people; the red cycle benefits only those at the very top of the economic pyramid. We're stuck in the red right now, thanks to Bush and Clinton and all the other so-called "free-traders" out there. Importing stuff you can make yourself is BAD for your economy.
How to save the World
Cyndy gave me a quick response to the request at the end of my previous post, suggesting Dave Pollard's blog, How to Save the World. I've only looked at his roadmap so far; I'll keep looking through the blog and share any nuggets I find with you. It looks promising! Thanks, Cyndy!
Auntie Trust is already dead...
...but the big corporations continue to dance on her grave. Bank One and J.P. Morgan Chase plan to merge, and you can bet that the Bushies won't take any anti-trust action to stop them. Your real options for getting a mortgage, checking account or credit card will be reduced further, and the merger will be used as an excuse for "downsizing" staff at both corporations. (Chances are many will be replaced by Indians working for one-fifth as much.) Excess corporate executives will be given multi-million dollar golden parachutes. In other words, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer as their number gets larger, and the fascist state advances.

I've got a Bank One Visa card which supposedly helps support Amnesty International (I got the offer from AI). Is the pittance going to AI worth more to the future of the world than withdrawing my patronage of this soon-to-be-even-larger multinational corporation would be? Has AI sold out just by offering the card?

I've been thinking about writing a major rant about boycotts and how progressives should spend their money in general, but I'm not sure that I can come up with much of value to say. I'm certainly holier than some in this area, but I've got lots of contradictions--that Diet Pepsi I'm drinking right now, for instance. If anyone out there knows of a good article or web site to help guide us in our purchasing decisions so they help to create a better world, please send me a link!
Ted Kennedy's Speech
The full text of yesterday's speech is available at Kennedy's web site. If you are looking for a solid summary of the case against the Iraq war, this speech is it. I disagree with Kennedy about the war in Afghanistan being justified (at least in the brutal way it was fought), especially since the administration has resisted all attempts to determine what really happened on 9/11, and since none of the hijackers were from Afghanistan. But Kennedy provides a solid summary of the history of the buildup to the Iraq war, the political purposes behind it, and the illegal nature of it. While there are a few choice quotes in the speech, the whole thing is worth reading. Here are some extended excerpts to whet your appetite:

In his [2002] State of the Union Address, President Bush broadened his policy on Afghanistan to other terrorist regimes. He unveiled the "Axis of Evil"-Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Those three words forged the lock-step linkage between the Bush Administration's top political advisers and the Big Three of Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz. We lost our previous clear focus on the most imminent threat to our national security-Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

What did President Bush say about bin Laden in the State of the Union Address that day? Nothing.

What did the President say about Al Qaeda? One fleeting mention.

What did he say about the Taliban? Nothing.

Nothing about bin Laden. One fleeting mention of Al Qaeda. Nothing about the Taliban in that State of the Union Address.

Barely four months had passed since the worst terrorist atrocity in American history. Five bin Laden videotapes had been broadcast since September 11th, including one that was aired after bin Laden escaped at the battle of Tora Bora. President Bush devoted 12 paragraphs in his State of the Union Address to Afghanistan, and 29 paragraphs to the global war on terrorism. But he had nothing to say about Bin Laden and only one single fleeting mention of Al Qaeda.

Why not more? Because of an extraordinary policy coup. Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz-the Axis of War-had prevailed. The President was changing the subject to Iraq.
In all these ways, we are reaping the poison fruit of our misguided and arrogant foreign policy. The Administration capitalized on the fear created by 9/11 and put a spin on the intelligence and a spin on the truth to justify a war that could well become one of the worst blunders in more than two centuries of American foreign policy. We did not have to go to war. Alternatives were working. War must be a last resort. And this war never should have happened.
The Administration is breathtakingly arrogant. Its leaders are convinced they know what is in America's interest, but they refuse to debate it honestly. After repeatedly linking Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden in his justification for war, the President now admits there was no such link. Paul Wolfowitz admitted in an interview that the Administration settled for "bureaucratic reasons" on weapons of mass destruction because it was "the one reason everyone could agree on."

The Administration is vindictive and mean-spirited. When Ambassador Joseph Wilson publicly challenged the Administration for wrongly claiming that Iraq had purchased uranium from Niger for its nuclear weapons program, the Administration retaliated against his wife, potentially endangering her life and her career.
President Bush said it all when a television reporter asked him whether Saddam actually had weapons of mass destruction, or whether there was only the possibility that he might acquire them. President Bush answered, "So what's the difference?" The difference, Mr. President, is whether you go to war or not.

Colin's Cancer
I'm not speaking of the one he was recently operated on for, but his total lack of honesty. How this man managed to maintain an image of sober integrity for as long as he did is a mystery. But there is no doubt that that integrity is now in complete tatters, at least to sentient life forms. Derrick Z. Jackson effectively cremates the remains of said integrity in an op-ed from yesterday's Boston Globe (via Common Dreams via Left I). Highlights:

Then came the presentation on Feb. 5. Powell said: "We have no indication that Saddam Hussein has ever abandoned his nuclear weapons program. On the contrary, we have more than a decade of proof that he remains determined to acquire nuclear weapons. . . . Saddam Hussein is determined to get his hands on a nuclear bomb. He is so determined that he has made repeated covert attempts to acquire high-specification aluminum tubes from 11 different countries, even after inspections resumed. . . . We also have intelligence from multiple sources that Iraq is attempting to acquire magnets and high-speed balancing machines . . . to enrich uranium."

Powell also said, "Our conservative estimate is that Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agent. That is enough agent to fill 16,000 battlefield rockets. Even the low end of 100 tons of agent would enable Saddam Hussein to cause mass casualties across more than 100 square miles of territory, an area nearly five times the size of Manhattan. . . . When will we see the rest of the submerged iceberg? Saddam Hussein has chemical weapons."

Powell said: "One of the most worrisome things that emerges from the thick intelligence file we have on Iraq's biological weapons is the existence of mobile production facilities used to make biological agents. . . . We have firsthand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails. . . . We know that Iraq has at least seven of these mobile biological agents factories. . . . Saddam Hussein has investigated dozens of biological agents causing diseases such as gas gangrene, plague, typhus, tetanus, cholera, camelpox, and hemorrhagic fever. And he also has the wherewithal to develop smallpox. . . . There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more."

At one point Powell said: "This is evidence, not conjecture. This is true. This is all well documented."

But no stockpiles of either chemical or biological weapons have been found. There was no effective nuclear program. The United States still invaded Iraq.

This is Nuremburg-quality documentation. Powell, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, and maybe a few others, should be tried for war crimes. No secret evidence or shaky eyewitnesses are needed. Their convictions are in their public statements. They lied; thousands die. This is evidence, not conjecture. THIS is true. This is all well documented.
Pointing his bird in the wrong direction
An American Airlines pilot has been arrested in Brazil for "making what Federal Police officers described as an obscene gesture." He and his crew apparently objected to Brazil's new policy of treating American travelers exactly the same way as the U.S. is now treating Brazilian travelers--with fingerprinting and mug shots.

At a conference of Western Hemisphere heads of government on Monday, Brazil's president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, personally asked President Bush that Brazilians be exempted from the requirements. He followed that on Tuesday with public criticism of the United States procedures, saying to reporters that "if the problem is to fight terrorism, this measure makes no sense" because "we have no culture of terrorism" in Brazil.

Mindless arrogance has its price. Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, and probably several other Latin American countries are now realizing that they'd better stand up to the Washington bullies now if they're to have any chance of retaining (or regaining) their economic and political independence.

Michelle is keeping track of events in Venezuela. Most of the recent bluster about Cuba has likely been aimed at Venezuela, its president Hugo Chavez (who is too friendly with Castro for aWol's liking), and especially its oil. The U.S. has a long and sordid history of messing with Latin America, and what the Bushies are doing now is at least as sordid as any of it. Leaders like Lula and Chavez are playing a dangerous game by standing up to Bush, but backing down would probably be even more dangerous for them and their countries.

From Ted Rall.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Suskind's book is out!
Buy it at your local independent bookstore, or even Borders, now that the strike is over.

For a teaser, check out Michelle's highlights here and here.

The big problem here, of course, is that those of us who already know that Bush is an ignorant, uncaring sociopath are going to be the only ones to read the book. Jesus Christ himself could tell the ignorant masses the truth about Bush, and they would listen instead to Rush and O'Reilly and Coulter, defend Bush, and re-crucify Jesus. They ignored Scott Ritter, Pat Buchanan, and now they'll ignore Paul O'Neill, even though these people are clearly not liberals or Clintonites or anything else they've been taught to hate. It's truly scary that so many people are loyal to an awful scumbag like George W. Bush.
Go Teddy! Go Teddy!
Ted Kennedy gave a "blistering" speech today blasting the Bushies for the war. CNN only has a brief summary and I'm short on time; I'm assuming I'll be able to find the whole speech later on Common Dreams or Kennedy's web site. Here are a couple of quotes from the CNN article:

The administration and the majority in Congress have put the state of our union at risk, and they do not deserve another term in the White House or in control of Congress.
By far the most serious consequence of the unjustified and unnecessary war in Iraq is that it made the war on terrorism harder to win.
The administration is vindictive and mean-spirited ... The administration is breathtakingly arrogant.

Administration lackies immediately fired back with their usual inanities:

"He just needs to be reminded that the president worked with Congress. The president worked with the U.N. as he continued to work through the issue of whether or not we went to war in Iraq," said Commerce Secretary Don Evans.

Sorry, Donny Boy. "Lying to" is not the same as "working with."

At a briefing Wednesday, Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters, "Let me remind you that the world is safer and better because of the action that we took to remove a brutal regime from power in Iraq."

Sorry, Scottie Boy. It is inappropriate to "remind" someone of something isn't true, and never was.

Anyway, way to go Teddy!
Ahhh! A day at the beach!
From the webcam in South Haven, on balmy Lake Michigan:

The webcam at Michigan Stadium here in Ann Arbor is currently inoperative. If it were working, the picture would look something like this:

Yup. It's snowing polar bears and penguins here.
On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, about seven hours after the twin towers of the World Trade Center had collapsed, the 45-story WTC 7 building across the street collapsed. Some debris from the collapsing towers had fallen on the building, and there were some fires inside. Neither seems to come close to explaining the building's collapse, according to this article. Perhaps the tenant list provides some clues:

Besides the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Department of Defense (DOD), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and New York?s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) were all tenants.

The article doesn't offer answers, just questions, especially: Why so little attention paid to the collapse of a fire-protected steel-framed building? According to the article, and the FEMA study that it cites, such buildings have rarely, if ever, collapsed due to fire. (The twin towers did, but they may also have been affected by the impact of the planes. There was no significant impact on WTC 7.)
Time to plan another march!
A March march, that is. The Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace is going to sponsor a peace march on March 20, the one year anniversary of Iraq's Pearl Harbor.
"Jobs Not War in 2004" is this year's theme for the AAACP, and for this march. The first planning session is tonight: If anyone out there in readerland has suggestions for cool things we might do, please e-mail me!

As locals and long-time readers will recall, our march last February 8 featured "The World's Largest Human Peace Sign," which we formed on the University of Michigan Diag and had photographed from an airplane:

Click on picture for large view.

I've already talked to a pilot friend of mine (last year's pilot/photographer turned out to be a Bush supporter, even though he did a pretty good job for us) about this year's march, so I'll think we'll be able to do something similar. Hopefully even cooler! I'm thinking maybe more than one pose, or even animation--sort of a marching band for peace! (Six members of my family, including myself, were in marching bands in high school and/or college.) Maybe some effects during the march as well--ribbons or reflective stuff that would show up in an aerial photo or movie. I think a flag-draped coffin brigade--one coffin for each US soldier killed in Iraq--would be very effective. Any suggestions on how to do that inexpensively?

Anyway--let me know of any cool ideas you have!
Late Night
I'm playing in an indoor soccer league. Last night our game STARTED at midnight. Trying to catch up on the outrages du jour. Michelle's got a bunch of them, if you're in a hurry.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

This is not, repeat not, satire:
MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) - President Bush acted Monday to bar people involved in corruption from the United States, a move that coincides with one of his goals at a summit meeting of 34 Western Hemisphere nations.

Corruption of public institutions hampers U.S. efforts to promote security and strengthen democratic institutions and free-market systems, Bush said in a proclamation the White House released at the two-day summit, which began Monday.

He said the United States is acting to restrict international travel and prevent entry into the country of people who have committed, participated in or benefited from corruption conducted while performing public functions.

The restrictions apply, he said, when corruption has had a "serious adverse'' effect on the international activity of U.S. business, U.S. foreign aid goals, the security of the United States against transnational crime and terrorism or the stability of democratic nations and institutions.

"We think that fighting corruption is a good way to strengthen democracy,'' said Sean McCormack, a national security spokesman at the White House. "It's an important part of our discussion down here.''

That's exactly how it appears in the Guardian, and probably hundreds of other papers and web sites around the world, being an AP report. Let's just hope they mean it, and that Bush, Rice, Powell and whatever other corrupt officials they've got with them are barred re-entry into the U.S. Because $200 million in campaign contributions, aka bribes, and no-bid contracts to Republican-connected firms, and so on, and so on, and so on, IS corruption.

From Encarta:

Corruption: dishonest exploitation of power for personal gain.

That IS the Bush administration.
Where has all the money gone?
In addition to the $100 billion or so that has already been spent on the illegal and unnecessary invasion and occupation of Iraq, billions have been given to Halliburton, Bechtel and other Bush cronies for "rebuilding" Iraq. What are they doing with it? According to Maria Tomchick, practically nothing:

The picture is clear: U.S. taxpayer funds spent on Iraqi reconstruction are lining the pockets of George Bush's corporate associates, while U.S. taxpayers, who should expect that money to be spent for a good purpose, are being cheated. Meanwhile, Iraqi citizens, who've been promised help but not received any, are left to twist in the wind, while U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq are forced to manage an increasingly dangerous situation.
Of course they will!
Like me, Billmon had joked about aWol's Moon-Mars Extravaganza being another way to send tax money to Halliburton. It turns out, unsurprisingly, to be no joke. Billmon quotes from the Petroleum News:

Dr. Geoffrey Briggs, director, Center for Mars Exploration at the NASA Ames Center, told “Meet Alaska” that NASA is looking at ways to drill on Mars to look for water — and the life it might contain. Briggs said NASA has been working with Halliburton, Shell, Baker-Hughes and the Los Alamos National Laboratory to identify drilling technologies that might work on Mars...

Halliburton and Baker-Hughes are working on some very advanced systems, Briggs said, some so advanced they aren’t willing to talk much about them. He said the NASA Ames Center relies on working with people in the industry who “really understand the problems and make us face up to the realities …

Billmon and his commenters have lots of interesting things to say about it.
Revisionist Historians
Tom Tomorrow has an interesting post about the variety of spin excreting from the right wing in reaction to Paul O'Neill's claim that the Bushies were discussing invading Iraq from the very start of their misadministration. AWol yesterday seemed to take two different approaches. First, we were always for regime change, just like Clinton:

The stated policy of my administration toward Saddam Hussein was very clear. Like the previous administration, we were for regime change.

But then it's the old "9/11 changed everything" line:

And in the initial stages of the administration, as you might remember, we were dealing with desert badger or fly-overs and fly-betweens and looks, and so we were fashioning policy along those lines. And then all of a sudden September the 11th hit.

As TT points out, back in January aWol was pushing the second line:

Actually, prior to September the 11th, we were discussing smart sanctions. We were trying to fashion a sanction [regimen] that would make it more likely to be able to contain somebody like Saddam Hussein. After September the 11th, the doctrine of containment just doesn't hold any water, as far as I'm concerned.

Of course, when he was running for president, Bush was against all of this nonsense:

If we don't stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we're going to have a serious problem coming down the road. I'm going to prevent that. -- From aWol's debate with Al Gore, October 3, 2000.

So there you have it. October 3, 2000. The last time George W. Bush was right on anything. Because we've sure got a serious problem now.

Monday, January 12, 2004

The infinitely pliable American corporation
Subway restaurants have spent several years worth of advertising turning Jared Fogle into the second most famous nobody in America (the first is here). Jared has been their poster boy for low-fat dining, since Jared lost over 200 pounds on a low-fat diet featuring Subway sandwiches. Subway's web site still features lots of information on the benefits of a low-fat diet, and while they've always had plenty of stuff on the menu that isn't low fat, I think most people would agree that low-fat offerings have been the key feature of Subway's advertising over the last five years. So they must believe in it, right?

Nah. They're now offering two "Atkins-friendly" sandwiches, the Turkey and Bacon Melt and the Chicken Bacon Ranch. I've met some actual people who've lost some weight on Atkins, but it sure sounds like suicide to me. I used to eat crap like that, and I don't remember it being any easier to lose weight then. If I exercise A LOT, I lose weight; otherwise I don't, even on my vegetarian diet. Of course, I've always liked cookies.
More Commie Libruls Attack Fearless Leader
From the Washington Post:
A scathing new report published by the Army War College broadly criticizes the Bush administration's handling of the war on terrorism, accusing it of taking a detour into an "unnecessary" war in Iraq and pursuing an "unrealistic" quest against terrorism that may lead to U.S. wars with states that pose no serious threat.

The report, by Jeffrey Record, a visiting professor at the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, warns that as a result of those mistakes, the Army is "near the breaking point."

It recommends, among other things, scaling back the scope of the "global war on terrorism" and instead focusing on the narrower threat posed by the al Qaeda terrorist network.

"[T]he global war on terrorism as currently defined and waged is dangerously indiscriminate and ambitious, and accordingly . . . its parameters should be readjusted," Record writes. Currently, he adds, the anti-terrorism campaign "is strategically unfocused, promises more than it can deliver, and threatens to dissipate U.S. military resources in an endless and hopeless search for absolute security."

So folks in the Army are opposed to Bush. Real (i.e. non "neo") conservatives are opposed to Bush. Progressives are opposed to Bush. Only the ignorant, knaves, and ignorant knaves still support aWol. If you know what he's done, you can't support him.
US Death Toll in Iraq at 496
After one more killed, two wounded today. Three more counts on the indictment of war criminal George W. Bush.
9/11 Commission to ask Bush, Cheney, Clinton and Gore to testify
According to the NY Daily News.
The American Conservative
We believe conservatism to be the most natural political tendency, rooted in man's taste for the familiar, for family, for faith in God. We believe that true conservatism has a predisposition for the institutions and mores that exist. So much of what passes for contemporary conservatism is wedded to a kind of radicalism: fantasies of global hegemony, the hubristic notion of America as a universal nation for all the world's peoples, a hyperglobal economy. In combination with an increasingly unveiled contempt for America's long-standing allies, this is more a recipe for disaster.

Against it, we take our stand.

That's from the mission statement at the Buchananite American Conservative magazine. While I certainly don't agree with a lot of what they say, I do wish that these people represented the opposition instead of the neomorons of the Bush administration. These people have real principles and are willing to debate them logically. The Kwiatkowski article below is from American Conservative.
Neocon job
From retired Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski:
War is generally crafted and pursued for political reasons, but the reasons given to Congress and the American people for this one were so inaccurate and misleading as to be false. Certainly, the neoconservatives never bothered to sell the rest of the country on the real reasons for occupation of Iraq?more bases from which to flex U.S. muscle with Syria and Iran, better positioning for the inevitable fall of the regional sheikdoms, maintaining OPEC on a dollar track, and fulfilling a half-baked imperial vision. These more accurate reasons could have been argued on their merits, and the American people might indeed have supported the war. But we never got a chance to debate it.

My personal experience leaning precariously toward the neoconservative maw showed me that their philosophy remains remarkably untouched by respect for real liberty, justice, and American values. My years of military service taught me that values and ideas matter, but these most important aspects of our great nation cannot be defended adequately by those in uniform. This time, salvaging our honor will require a conscious, thoughtful, and stubborn commitment from each and every one of us, and though I no longer wear the uniform, I have not given up the fight.

For it's one, two, three, what are we fighting for?
The "footballs are round" half of the Blair-Bush Project is having his doubts about the fabled WMD's in Iraq:
Tony Blair yesterday signalled that weapons of mass destruction may never be found in Iraq, in his first admission of fallibility over the central justification he gave for going to war with Iraq.
In his most downbeat assessment of the contentious issue so far, the prime minister said he did not know whether WMD would be unearthed, and conceded that this flew in the face of widespread initial expectations.

"I do not know is the answer," he admitted. "I believe that we will but I agree there were many people who thought we were going to find this in the course of the actual operation ... We just have to wait and see".
Mr Blair's uncharacteristically flat response, in an interview in which he was bullish about top-up fees and the Hutton inquiry, spoke volumes about his diminishing certainty that WMD would be found. He pointedly failed to refer to the weekend discovery of 36 shells containing chemical agents in the Iraq desert north of Basra, believed to be remnants from the Iran-Iraq war.
-- Guardian.

Bush (probably) and Blair (possibly) were mostly lying, although there may have been some failures by intelligence agencies which led them to believe that Iraq actually had a few weapons. Whatever it was, we should never forget that inspectors had returned to Iraq and were scouring the country--and finding nothing. Whatever the intelligence may have indicated in October 2002, it was largely refuted by March 2003. But Bush and Blair started the war anyway, and both should be prosecuted for it, just like the Nazi war criminals were at Nuremburg.

From Randy Bish.

From Bruce Plante.

From Ted Rall.
O'Neill on 60 Minutes
A transcript, of sorts, is available on the CBS web site.

"It's a huge meeting. You got Dick Cheney from the, you know, secure location on the video. The President is there," says Suskind, who was given a nearly verbatim transcript by someone who attended the meeting.

He says everyone expected Mr. Bush to rubber stamp the plan under discussion: a big new tax cut. But, according to Suskind, the president was perhaps having second thoughts about cutting taxes again, and was uncharacteristically engaged.

"He asks, 'Haven't we already given money to rich people? This second tax cut's gonna do it again,'" says Suskind.

"He says, 'Didn’t we already, why are we doing it again?' Now, his advisers, they say, 'Well Mr. President, the upper class, they're the entrepreneurs. That's the standard response.' And the president kind of goes, 'OK.' That's their response. And then, he comes back to it again. 'Well, shouldn't we be giving money to the middle, won't people be able to say, 'You did it once, and then you did it twice, and what was it good for?'"

But according to the transcript, White House political advisor Karl Rove jumped in.

"Karl Rove is saying to the president, a kind of mantra. 'Stick to principle. Stick to principle.' He says it over and over again," says Suskind. "Don’t waver."
Michigan Readers!
If you haven't already, please sign up to vote in the February 7 Democratic caucus! You don't need to be a registered Democrat; just a registered voter. This will be your only chance to officially vote until November, so don't miss it! And vote Kucinich!
Online Presidential Poll
From TruthOut. Vote here! When I voted, Dean and Kucinich were neck-and-neck.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

I just watched former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's 60 Minutes interview with Leslie Stahl. Pretty interesting. You'd think that a guy who served in the Nixon and Ford White Houses and was CEO of Alcoa wouldn't come off as a babe in the woods infested by the likes of Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, but that's pretty much what happened. O'Neill concludes, "I can't imagine that I'll be attacked for telling the truth." Well Paul, tomorrow you won't have to imagine it. It will be reality.

Still, I hope everyone in America saw it, although I know they didn't. Third quarter Packers-Eagles, y'know.
Well, one person is happy
But only because no one else is. There are ten letters to the Detroit Free Press today regarding aWol's recent proposal regarding undocumented workers in this country. All but one denounces it: some from the right (taking jobs away from Americans and legitimizing lawbreaking); some from the left (unfair treatment of immigrant workers); and a few from both (unfair to ALL workers--need to raise the minimum wage, etc.)

Then there's this genius:
President Bush's Medicare prescription drug coverage bill passed last year, and his proposal to allow foreigners to obtain work permits easily have something interesting in common: They are both opposed by the political left and the political right. Those on the left say the programs do not go far enough, while those on the right say they go too far. Typically, the truth lies somewhere in the middle, which would mean these programs are just right.

Troy Ontko, Manchester

That may end up being aWol's campaign strategy: Everybody hates me, so I must be doing something right.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

O'Neill tells all!
Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill says that President Bush was so disengaged in cabinet meetings that he "was like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people." He also states that war in Iraq was on the table from the very beginning of the Bush administration:

The Bush Administration began laying plans for an invasion of Iraq, including the use of American troops, within days of President Bush's inauguration in January of 2001 -- not eight months later after the 9/11 attacks as has been previously reported.

That's what former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill says in his first interview about his time as a White House insider. O'Neill talks to Correspondent Lesley Stahl in the interview, to be broadcast on 60 Minutes, Sunday, Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

"From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go," he tells Stahl. "For me, the notion of pre-emption, that the U.S. has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do is a really huge leap."
In the book, O'Neill is quoted as saying he was surprised that no one in a National Security Council meeting questioned why Iraq should be invaded. "It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying 'Go find me a way to do this,'" says O'Neill in the book ["The Price of Loyalty," by Ron Suskind, coming out soon].

So 60 Minutes should be extra special tomorrow. Unfortunately, the Packers at Eagles NFL playoff game doesn't start until 4:45 EST, and it's on Fox, so it will probably run right over 60 Minutes. If the late game were on CBS, it would get a lot more viewers.

Still, I hope this gets lots of coverage. It should make it especially difficult for those in the administration, including William Safire, to keep trying to push the ephemeral Saddam-9/11 link now that the WMD story has been shown to be complete bunk. If Iraq was attacked because of ties to 9/11, and the invasion plans were made before 9/11, that means the Bushies knew about 9/11 before it happened. Which many of us have suspected all along. But even the servile White House press corps might raise this point now if McLellan or any other Bushie tries to raise the Saddam-9/11 story again.

Read the whole CBS story; there's more good stuff in there.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Supremes to hear Hamdi case
The Supreme Court stepped squarely into a momentous debate over national security and personal liberty today by agreeing to consider the case of a man who has been held without charges by the United States military since he was captured in the fighting in Afghanistan.

The justices agreed to hear the appeal of the captive, Yaser Esam Hamdi, who is believed to hold both American and Saudi citizenship and who is in a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C.

The Bush administration had urged the Supreme Court not to hear the Hamdi case, so the announcement today represented a sharp rebuff to the president, Attorney General John Ashcroft and other architects of administration policy.
-- NY Times

Recent Supreme Court decisions, including this one, seem to suggest that the two somewhat non-whacko Reagan appointees who in turn helped appoint aWol have been having buyer's remorse. Kennedy and O'Connor have been voting for things like affirmative action, repealing sodomy laws, and campaign finance reform lately. Hopefully they'll stand tall on this issue and toss Bush, Ashcroft and Ted Olson out on their fascist ears.

One thing that intrigues me is the reports that we heard after the 2000 election fiasco that Sandra Day O'Connor wanted Bush to win so that she could retire from the court knowing that her replacement would be appointed by a Republican. Well, she's still there, and I'm wondering if maybe now she's hoping to outlast Bush. Conservative is one thing; fascist is another. There's no hope for Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas, but with O'Connor and Kennedy there may be, even though they gave us our worst president ever.
Yet another take on the Bush undocumented-worker plan:
Along with currying favor with Hispanics, the president's move is a bid to further ingratiate himself with the business sector. It's this simple:

Boss man drives up to work site in his new Cadillac Escalade, steps out and calls work crew to come listen up.

"Your foreman tells me you guys aren't satisfied with the 2 percent pay raise you got last year, don't like all the overtime and want medical benefits, so you're talking to some (expletive deleted) union S.O.B. I'm only going to say this once, so you better get it the first time. You make one move to unionize and I'm laying off the whole bunch of you. Then I'm going to the government, to tell them I want to hire a crew of Mexicans. You can bet your butts they won't be talking to any union S.O.B."
-- From Oh!pinion

When you consider the problem with compassion and an open mind, it's very difficult. But for cheap labor conservatives like Bush, it's simple: ALWAYS make sure there's a substantial supply of people willing to work hard for little money with little freedom, and the people who own the land and the factories can just keep getting richer and richer.
Borders' workers ratify contract
From the Ann Arbor News:
Highlights of the agreement:

Beginning in April, 25-cent increase in starting pay. Cashiers will receive $6.75 per hour, booksellers $7.25. Workers had asked $7.95 per hour starting pay, reaching $9.95 after two years, with $10 per hour for starting supervisors.

Also beginning in April, merit raises of 3 percent. Workers had asked for an annual increase of 4.5 percent.

In lieu of $360 worth of store credit each year, Borders will add 11 cents to hourly wages. According to the company, it adds about $200 to each worker's paycheck annually.
Old Blue Eyes pays tribute to Old Black Mustache
A Bushflash tribute to the relationship between the U.S. and Saddam Hussein, which concludes: "Ladies and Gentlemen, we've always had him."
The outrage we should see everywhere...
Can be found in an editorial from yesterday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Along with replaying the usual list of lies from Bush, Cheney, Powell and others and comparing them with what has actually been found (Hint: NOTHING), the Post-Dispatch offers this story which I hadn't read before:

British Prime Minister Tony Blair told British troops last month that Mr. Kay's group had produced "massive evidence of a huge system of clandestine laboratories, (and) workings by scientists." But when a British reporter read Mr. Blair's assessment to L. Paul Bremer - minus Mr. Blair's name - the U.S. administrator in Baghdad said, "I don't know where those words come from, but that is not what David Kay has said." After Mr. Bremer was told the source of the quote, he added in embarrassment, "There is actually a lot of evidence."

The Post-Dispatch's conclusion?
Altogether, the distortions and exaggerations amount to a major misuse of intelligence. The nation needs a tough, nonpartisan investigation to get to the bottom of this failure in order to guard against a president again leading the nation into war based on seriously flawed information and hype.

Followed by impeachment. I'm outraged, and I never believed that Iraq was a serious threat (although I thought, like just about everyone else, that they at least had a barrel or two of mustard gas or something somewhere). I think that if I had drunk fully from the Kool-Aid and believed all of lies, I'd be absolutely furious, albeit extremely embarrassed. Those of us who opposed the war should be outraged; those who supported it more so.
Bush to seek manned flights to Moon, Mars
"We're running out of room for detainees at Guantanamo Bay," he explained. He promised to pay for the new programs through more tax cuts and wars. He said that his program wouldn't be as expensive as Apollo, since all of the scientists and engineers will be graduates of faith-based education. "If they believe hard enough, we'll get there." The first contract in the program was awarded last week: $200 billion for Halliburton for building barracks and dining halls on Mars. Bush added: "We choose to go to the Moon and Mars, not because it is easy, but because it is an enormous opportunity to give taxpayer money to campaign contributors. Almost as good as war."
Attack of the Cheap Labor Conservatives
Billmon completely restores my lack of faith in aWol regarding his "compassionate" plan to "legalize" undocumented workers. He quotes former Clinton staffer Maria Echaveste as follows:

The president's proposal is, at best, an empty promise and, at worst, a cynical political ploy to attract Hispanic votes. The proposal would essentially have undocumented persons in this country sign up for second-class status, only to be removed once their temporary tags expire.

Billmon also recalls the "bracero" program which existed in this country before 1964. That program, like Bush's, allowed immigrants to be "legal" only at the whim of an employer, giving the employer pretty much master-slave control over the worker. The workers' only real recourse was to accept deportation, and that seems to be the gist of Bush's plan as well.

And while some Republicans have already complained about Bush's plan giving "amnesty" to undocumented workers, I have yet to see one complain about it giving amnesty to the corporations that have hired them.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

The Fallout from NAFTA
By YVES ENGLER (from Counterpunch)

As Mexican President Fox plays host to President Bush next week, one wonders if the two leaders have any honest, frank discussions. If they did, here is how a conversation about the 10th anniversary of NAFTA might go:

"So George, did you know that when NAFTA was signed there were 2.4 million undocumented Mexicans in the U.S., yet now that number has more than doubled to 4.81 million. (1) The total number of Mexican-born people in the U.S. also doubled to about 9 million from 1990 to 2000. (2)"

"That's true Vicente, because your hard-working people were attracted by all the wonderful jobs we created in the late 1990s."

"But then George how do you explain that as the U.S economy shed millions of jobs in 2001 and 2002, these two years were the biggest ever for illegal migration with more than 600, 000 Mexicans going north in 2002 alone (3)."

"We're trying to stop them illegals, Vicente. Since the implementation of Operation Gatekeeper the number of U.S. border patrol agents has jumped from just over 3000 in 1993 to some 9000 in 2002. (4) Heck, we even built a huge fence all across southern California."

"I know George, but that only forced migrants into the Arizona desert. This year during the hot summer months about 200 people died trying to cross it (5). Some say it is the worst border in the western world and the deadliest across land anywhere. And another thing, your increased clampdown has made it even more profitable for the so-called "coyotes" who help migrants across the border. The money available in the "coyote" trade has spurred an increasingly violent network of organized crime that has some comparing the border control situation to the futile war on drugs."

"Well Vicente, I'm not sure what to say, except that this whole NAFTA thing hasn't worked so well for us either." Then President Bush could go on to tell his Mexican counterpart that in the early 1990s, 10 years after Mexico's 1982 peso devaluation and the beginning of the country's neoliberal economic restructuring, the flow of "illegal" migrants had become a political issue in the U.S.. So, before Mexico entered NAFTA proponents of the accord proclaimed that its growth inducing properties would curb the flow of northbound migration. The argument put forth was that NAFTA would boost Mexican growth, which would create jobs and with more jobs Mexicans wouldn't need to seek work in the U.S.

NAFTA did create hundreds of thousands of (Maquiladora) jobs, mostly in the north of the country. By 2000 some 700 000 Maquiladora jobs were the result of NAFTA but by 2003 300 000 of those jobs had disappeared due to the downturn in the U.S economy and more importantly Chinese competition (6).

The reasons for migration then probably lie in the effects NAFTA and its economic liberalization agenda have on the country's economy. Let's be clear NAFTA has benefited some. Mexico has had a major increase in billionaires. Large segments of the country's business elite and professional classes have done well. And certainly a few multi-nationals aren't complaining. Unfortunately, most Mexicans aren't members of these sectors of society.

Compared to Maquiladora job creation NAFTA's first decade saw some 2.5 million Mexican farmers driven from their land by a flood of subsidized U.S. food and reductions in their own subsidies. (7). Also, since the agreement took effect, real wages for Mexican manufacturing workers have dropped 13.5% (8) Mexico's economy has done so well that money sent home (remittances) from the U.S. has surpassed tourism and foreign direct investment as the second biggest source of foreign currency to the country after the oil sector. Over 1 billion a month was being remitted in the first half of 2003, nearly 30% more than 2002. (9)

To put this number into perspective lets add the likely combined wages of all 700,000 Maquiladora jobs created during the first seven years of NAFTA. Assuming 700,000 workers work 50 hours a week for 52 weeks a year at $1.47 per hour the total amount brought into the Mexican economy is $2.68 billion. So the growth of remittances in fact dwarfs the increase in wages from the Maquiladora sector.

After a decade of NAFTA the remittances from increased economic migration, which NAFTA was supposed to curb, are what's keeping the Mexican economy afloat. "So George can we talk about re-working that agreement."

[My value adding contribution follows]
Bush responds: "Well, Vicente, of course we can't talk about re-working NAFTA. Those multinationals that aren't complaining give millions to my campaign coffers, as those Mexican billionaires do to yours. They like cheap labor, no matter which side of the border it's on. Thank God for Clinton (don't tell anyone I ever said THAT); he convinced millions in my country that NAFTA would actually be good for them. So now all I have to do is mutter 'free trade good; protectionism bad' and everybody agrees. You're not REALLY concerned about those poor shlubs dying in the desert, now are you? Because, you know, we do regime changes."
ABC makes nice with Kucinich
There was a nice profile of Dennis Kucinich on the ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings this evening. You can see it, or read about it, on the ABC web site. No mention was made of Ted Koppel, the debate last month, or the ABC reporter being pulled from the Kucinich campaign. While the profile showed Kucinich in a fairly good light, it didn't discuss the issues at all.
Q: What's harder to find than WMD's in Iraq?
A: The last remaining shreds of Colin Powell's credibility. Our Secretary of Misstate continues to defend the indefensible. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace released a report today that found Iraq had ended its programs by the mid-1990s and did not pose an immediate threat to the United States before the 2003 war. Powell replied with the same old tired lies, saying "This game is still unfolding."

Powell noted that Iraq used chemical weapons in the Iraq-Iran war and on the Kurds in the 1980s and had the chance to come clean about its programs to the international community through the '90s.

"It's a fact," he said.

He said there was a "solid case" from U.N. inspectors and other officials that the Saddam Hussein regime "was a danger we had to worry about."

These supposed concerns of Powell's conflict with statements made by a senior administration official back in 2001:

We had a good discussion, the Foreign Minister and I and the President and I, had a good discussion about the nature of the sanctions -- the fact that the sanctions exist -- not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein's ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction. We should constantly be reviewing our policies, constantly be looking at those sanctions to make sure that they are directed toward that purpose. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was ten years ago when we began it. And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.

And which official said that? Secretary of State Colin Powell, in a press conference of Egypt, which amazingly enough is still available on the State Department web site.

I still remember in early December 2000, before the Supreme Court selected aWol to be president, how Bush paraded Powell as his choice for Secretary of State. Many people were convinced that aWol's obvious lack of competence in foreign policy would be largely compensated for by having Powell on the team. Instead, Powell's undeserved reputation was used to enable Bush to enact the most criminal of enterprises: unprovoked war. If there's anyone on the planet more despicable than Bush, it's Colin Powell.

On the plus side, it's great to see this as the lead story on CNN; the war on Iraq is the crime of the century (having surpassed 9/11 10 or 20 thousand deaths ago), and the American people need to get that through their heads. And go vote in the online poll!
Online Poll
CNN asks "Was the war in Iraq justified if Iraq was not pursuing a weapons of mass destruction program?" Go to the CNN main web page; the poll is near the bottom on the right.
Michigan Readers!
If you haven't already, please sign up to vote in the February 7 Democratic caucus!
What Happened to Peace of Earth?
Cyndy has an MP3 version of Willie Nelson's new song, with a short Kucinich blurb at the end.
Bechtel's punishment...
...for shoddy work in painting and repairing schools in Iraq? Another huge contract ($1.8 billion). This is what the war was all about: Taking our money and Iraq's oil and giving it to Republicans. It's one giant Republican welfare program.
Budget and Trade Deficits Threaten World Economy
According to the International Monetary Fund. The IMF is usually just one of Washington's tools of corporate globalization, but even they are alarmed at the insanity of Bush's don't tax and spend policies.
The Carnage Continues
Black Hawk down, killing all eight onboard.
Mortar attack kills one, wounds 34.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Semper Fi
Billmon has a great post about the "hearts and minds" approach that US Marines intend to take as they move in to occupy a portion of Iraq, and how it contrasts with the "shoot and ask" (as in "shoot first and ask questions later") approach that the Army has been using. Some Marine officers are apparently quite critical of the Army approach, and even some Army officers think the Marine approach will work better. Billmon points out that it's a difference in methods dating back to Vietnam, where the Army approach failed and the Marine approach wasn't given much of a chance.
So when's the impeachment?
From the front page of today's Washington Post:
Investigators have found no support for the two main fears expressed in London and Washington before the war: that Iraq had a hidden arsenal of old weapons and built advanced programs for new ones. In public statements and unauthorized interviews, investigators said they have discovered no work on former germ-warfare agents such as anthrax bacteria, and no work on a new designer pathogen -- combining pox virus and snake venom -- that led U.S. scientists on a highly classified hunt for several months. The investigators assess that Iraq did not, as charged in London and Washington, resume production of its most lethal nerve agent, VX, or learn to make it last longer in storage. And they have found the former nuclear weapons program, described as a "grave and gathering danger" by President Bush and a "mortal threat" by Vice President Cheney, in much the same shattered state left by U.N. inspectors in the 1990s.

I suggest that Congress make Bush take a "truth, whole truth, and nothing but the truth" oath before reading his next state of the union address later this month. That sick twit lied, lied, took a vacation, and then lied some more to get this bloody, horrible war. Worst excuse for a human being ever, except for possibly his brothers. Oh, and I don't like him much, either.

I just finished watching "The Truman Show," the Jim Carrey movie where he is raised from birth inside a giant movie set, his whole life experience staged for him while the whole world watches. AWol's life has been a lot like that, except that, unlike Truman Burbank in the movie, Bush is WAY too stupid to ever figure out that it all has been staged for him. As Jim Hightower says, he was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.

From Boondocks.
Gotta love Big, Left, Outside Al!
Al Giordano gives us Kucitizens some hope to counter the media's focus on Deanevitability:

Dennis Kucinich, who, in last Sunday's debate, masterfully set a trap for Dean by standing alone for immediate pullout of U.S. troops in Iraq, forcing Dean to make the same mistake that still haunts Kerry: ending up on the pro-war side of the coin when your supporters believe in you because they thought you were anti-war.

It was, so far, the top political play of 2004. At that Iowa televised debate, Kucinich forced Dean to state, in clear terms, that he is against pulling out of Iraq. (That is precisely why Dean's numbers have peaked and are starting to slip. Watching that debate, I could hear the sound of a million jaws dropping in disillusion with the man who told them he was the anti-war candidate.) The Kucinich supporters are going to the Iowa Caucuses, and they're going to engage in hand-to-hand combat educating Dean supporters who thought they were going to the caucus to vote against the war. I can't wait to see the flyer that the Kucinich people hand to all the Dean people at those caucuses. "Dude! Where's my anti-war candidate?" Where the Kucinich supporters, and the disillusioned anti-war Dean supporters, go on the second ballot in each Iowa precinct could prove historic.

Dean opposed the Iraq war; Kucinich opposes it. Big difference.
More on the Undocumented Workers Plan
Josh Marshall posted a long transcript of a press conference between unnamed reporters and "senior administration officials" which took place last night and discussed the details of aWol's new temporary worker visa program. Josh doesn't summarize it much, except with this:

Here's a question: how many people actually think the president expects to or even wants this 'policy' to pass?

One point that I can make based on my limited knowledge of the subject: The bill would require that aliens be sponsored by an employer. And although the bill claims to grant these workers labor protections such as minimum wages, it seems as though they would still be pretty much at the mercy of the employer, with the only real recourse to ill treatment at work being to accept deportation, which the bill would make easier because the worker is "in the system."
Where's the catch?
Looking at the headlines on, I see two items which suggest, against all odds and precedent, that a wave of compassionate reasonableness has descended upon the Bush White House. They are planning on releasing hundreds of prisoners held in Iraq, and planning on giving a sort of amnesty (while not calling it that) to millions of undocumented workers here in the U.S. Of course, they've lied about everything before, so I'll try to keep an eye out for the hidden agendas in these proposals.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Don't get your hopes up too high...

Bush: "I had sexual intercourse with perhaps three or four, I don't remember the exact number, women, at different times. In Thailand once, I have a pretty clear recollection that there was one time in Thailand and in Hong Kong."

Brown: "And you were married to Mrs. Bush?"

Bush: "Yes."

Brown: "Is that where you caught the venereal diseases?"

...because that's aWol's little brother, Neil, being questioned by his (ex-)wife's divorce attorney, Marshall Davis Brown. And because in America it's better to be a genocidal liar than a bank-robbing adulterous sex addict. And Barbara Bush, mother of both (and Jeb too), had the gall to call the Democratic presidential candidates a "sorry group."

(From MediaWhoresOnline)
Jenny throws the (good) book at the Republitrons
Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm is taking flak from Republicans for remarks she made on a Michigan Public TV show:

"Off the Record" host Tim Skubick and Gov. Jennifer Granholm were talking about budget cuts when Skubick asked whether the governor thought it was "interesting" that some of the people calling for the cuts were "so-called Christians."

Granholm: "Yeah, I do and I'll tell you why. What I think is so interesting about this is that people come from very, very different places and yet we all want to do what is best for the state. Often those who cloak themselves in a cape of religiosity happen to be some who are the biggest cutters. Now, some of that can balance out. But when you get to cutting the services for the least of these -- in the 25th chapter of Matthew in the 37th verse, the Lord says, 'Whatsoever you do to the least of these, so also you do unto me,' -- that's when I question whether somebody is really living out the faith that they profess."

Air Traffic Constraints. Right.
The U.S. Air Force in western Europe is likely to shift to bases farther east and south where pilots can train with fewer air traffic constraints, a top Air Force commander in Europe said Tuesday.

"South and east is a reasonable assumption for us to make right now,'' said Gen. Robert H. Foglesong, who is chief of all U.S. as well as North Atlantic Treaty Organization air forces in Europe.
"We're looking south and east. That makes sense to us, to posture our forces in positions (where) they could be employed quicker'' for military operations outside NATO's European borders, Foglesong added.

Folgesong did not mention which countries in eastern or southern Europe might agree to host U.S. air forces, but he noted that Poland recently hosted a large-scale NATO air exercise.
-- AP

In other words, France and Germany are farther down the list of countries to threaten than are Syria, Iran, and the countries in the oil-rich Caspian area. Also, take the economic benefit away from the cheese-eating chocolate makers of western Europe and give it to Coalition of the Billing members Italy and Poland.
Saddam's Secret Police Force is mostly gone
But here comes George's!

The Bush Administration will fund the agency in its latest bid to root out the Baathist loyalists behind the insurgency in parts of Iraq. The force will cost up to $US3 billion ($A4 billion) over the next three years.

Its ranks will comprise Iraqi exile groups, Kurdish and Shiite forces - and former agents who are now working for the Americans. CIA officers in Baghdad will play a leading role in directing their operations.

A former US intelligence officer said: "If successfully set up, the group would work in tandem with American forces but would have its own structure and relative independence. It could be expected to be fairly ruthless in dealing with the remnants of Saddam."
How to screw your workers...
A helpful service of the U.S. Department of Labor.

The Labor Department is giving employers tips on how to avoid paying overtime to some of the 1.3 million low-income workers who would become eligible under new rules expected to be finalized early this year.

The department's advice comes even as it touts the $895 million in increased wages that it says those workers would be guaranteed from the reforms.

Among the options for employers: cut workers' hourly wages and add the overtime to equal the original salary, or raise salaries to the new $22,100 annual threshold, making them ineligible.

Left I comments:

CNN's Aaron Brown, who tipped me to this item in his "Tomorrow's Headlines Tonight" segment, commented that he was perplexed because he thought the "Labor" Department was actually supposed to be working on behalf of labor, i.e., workers.

Aaron apparently doesn't know that the Bush administration has secretly changed the names of several departments. The new names are:

The Department of Cheap Labor
The Department of Empire (previously Defense)
The Department of Raiding the Treasury
The Department of Destroying Education
The Environmental Destruction Agency
The Department of Wasting Energy to Benefit Campaign Contributors
The Department of Genetically-Modified Agribusiness
The Department of Colored Alerts, aka Homeland Senility, aka Gestapo
One way for the soldiers to come home
Three soldiers have been discharged from the US army for mistreating Iraqi prisoners of war. They were found guilty of beating and harassing detainees at a detention camp in the south of the country.

An internal inquiry found soldiers had thrown prisoners down and kicked them in the head, groin and abdomen in an incident at Camp Bucca last May.

The three soldiers, a woman and two men who said they acted in self-defence, have all returned to the United States.
The senior officer, Master Sergeant Lisa Marie Girman, 35, knocked a prisoner to the ground, "repeatedly kicking him in the groin, abdomen, and head, and encouraging her subordinate soldiers to do the same", according to military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Vic Harris.

She received what the army calls an "other-than-honourable conditions" discharge from her immediate commander.
-- BBC

This is the type of stuff that Saddam's thugs did, and for which many will be punished. The Army is sending all sorts of wrong messages here: 1) Beating prisoners isn't a serious offense; 2) In fact, it's a good way to get out of the hellhole of the occupation of Iraq; and 3) Dear Iraqis--We don't care about your hearts, your minds, or your balls.

And the reward for those soldiers who survive their deployments relatively intact? When they get back, they can't get out of the Army! According to Reuters:

The Army will prohibit troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan from retiring or leaving the service for other reasons for up to 90 days after arriving at their home bases, military officials said Monday.

So much for the volunteer Army.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Kucinich quote from yesterday's debate:
We have to break the hold that the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies have on our health care system. You know, hundreds of years ago, they used to treat patients by bleeding them with leeches. Well, you know, the insurance companies do that very well today. (APPLAUSE)

Bush in Thirty Seconds
MoveOn has posted the top fifteen "Bush in Thirty Seconds" ads for your viewing enjoyment. They're all pretty good, but the mother-on-the-park-bench one unfortunately isn't among them. It appears to be no longer available for viewing online. It featured this young mother sitting on a park bench, telling us why we have to get rid of Bush. I'll paraphrase what I recall from the ad:

It's not that he's rolled back environmental standards, or that he's done nothing to improve energy efficiency. It's not that three million jobs have been lost while he gave tax cuts to the rich, nor that he's gutting our civil liberties. (Be careful, Billy!) It's not that his deficits are forcing cutbacks in health care, schools, and other things we need. It's not even that he lied, repeatedly, to get us into an unnecessary war. No. It's that he's so g**d*** f***ing stupid! That's why we have to get rid of Bush.

Bush In Two Words
William Rivers Pitt offers the two little words that need to be said to add aWol to the unemployment lines: Bush Knew.

Defending the Doctor
Left I and Daily Kos point out an egregious error in the AP story on yesterday's debate. The story quotes Howard Dean as saying "I opposed the Iraq war when everyone else up here was for it," when in fact the transcript quotes him as saying "I have two big policy differences with almost everybody up here. I opposed the Iraq war; with the exception of Dennis and Carol, everybody else supported it." (Al Sharpton and Wesley Clark weren't at the debate.)

As Kos suggests, AP deserves a ton of grief for this. He suggests contacting AP and any news outlet (paper, web site, TV station, etc.) that runs it and asking them to get their facts straight:

Don't just focus on the AP. If your local paper runs either of these two stories, call them up and complain. You can believe that if their member papers (who pay the AP's bills) complain about the quality of AP's stories, the AP will get the message better than we can deliver it directly.

Another Update: [AP writer] Nedra [Pickler]'s contact info:

Phone: 202.776.9421
And don't forget to cc' the AP's main email address:

Just so you don't think I'm going soft on Dean, I will point out that, according to the transcript, Dean said "I opposed the Iraq war." I believe that Kucinich is the only one who can honestly say that he "opposes" the Iraq war, since he offers a plan for getting out quickly.

Where's the beef?
A beef distributor in San Jose, CA sold beef from the herd in which mad cow disease was discovered to a grocery store and six restaurants. Health officials named the store (Maxim Market), but said that federal rules prevent them from identifying the restaurants. Always looking out for us, those feds. (Via Left I)

From Jen Sorensen.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Happy New Year!
Okay, I'm a little late. I flew back home from California yesterday, getting home about 12:30 AM. If you'd like to see pictures from my trip, go here. For my registered voter readers in Michigan, the most important thing you can do RIGHT NOW is SIGN UP TO VOTE in the Michigan Democratic caucus. Then, as soon as you receive your ballot in the mail, cast your vote for Dennis Kucinich!!!

Here's the truck belonging to somebody who hates Bush almost as much as I do:

Click on truck for larger picture.