Bob's Links and Rants

Welcome to my rants page! You can contact me by e-mail: Blog roll. Site feed.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

I hate to say it...
But I think the White House is right:

The White House again rejected calls to tap into the nation's emergency stockpile of oil, called the Strategic Petroleum Oil Reserve. "You have to keep in mind that there are national security concerns involved when you are talking about that issue, particularly after September 11," McClellan said.

Higher gas prices, I realize, are about as popular as gangrenous hemorrhoids. But keeping gas prices low has cost us so much over the years in terms of lives, pollution, sprawl, wars, social fabric, and so on. And on this one, although they're probably just helping out their oil exec buddies, the Bushies are right. When a severe oil shortage hits, which it will, the strategic oil reserve may well be needed to provide critical heating needs in a cold winter and to keep the ambulances and firetrucks running. Depleting that reserve so we can save 10 cents a gallon now (and continue to blissfully ignore the inevitable) would be as shortsighted as, well, huge tax cuts for the rich in the face of massive deficits.

The best and simplest way to address the impending oil shortage is by substantially raising the gasoline tax. Unfortunately, the two Skull & Bones candidates are trying to outdo each other in saying how stupid this great idea is.
Poppy the Wimp Defends aWol the Idiot
I guess it's appropriate that our second worst president ever would defend the worst.

An emotional former President George H.W. Bush on Tuesday defended his son's Iraq war and lashed out at White House critics.

It is "deeply offensive and contemptible" to hear "elites and intellectuals on the campaign trail" dismiss progress in Iraq since last year's overthrow of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, the elder Bush said in a speech to the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association annual convention.

"There is something ignorant in the way they dismiss the overthrow of a brutal dictator and the sowing of the seeds of basic human freedom in that troubled part of the world," he said.
"Iraq is moving forward in hope and not sliding back into despair and terrorism," he said.
-- Reuters

I guess he doesn't read the news either.
Go with slow
John Ashcroft before September 11 had refused to increase counterterrorism funds and had not placed terrorism in the top-priority issues for the Justice Department. When I and one of my staff met with Ashcroft early in the Administration, we were left wondering if his discussion with us had been an act. My associate asked me on the drive back to the White House, "He can't really be that slow, can he? I mean, you can't get to be the Attorney General of the United States and be like that, right?"

I wasn't sure. "I don't know," I said. "Maybe he's just cagey, but after all, he did lose a Senate reelection to a dead man."
-- Richard Clarke, Against All Enemies, p. 256.

Clarke continues:
What Ashcroft and others did in the case of Padilla, and in proposing to amend the Patriot Act to allow for actions without judicial review, was to fundamentally shake the confidence of many Americans in the government's ability to safeguard our rights. At a time when we need greater citizen trust in the government so that we can adapt to the terrorist threat, Ashcroft is doing such things as engaging in a war of words with America's librarians over whether the FBI can scan reading records. The probability of the FBI ever needing to do that is so remote that this controversy should never have been allowed to develop. The Battle with the Librarians, the case of Jose Padilla, and the request for Patriot Act II make it very difficult to gain consensus to do the things that are needed to improve security, because trust in government's sensitivity to civil liberties is eroded.

I just finished reading the book. I don't agree with Clarke on everything. But unlike Bush, Ashcroft or Rice, he gives the distinct impression that he really knows what he is talking about, and is therefore far more deserving of the benefit of the doubt. His criticism of the war in Iraq is scathing and comprehensive. No reason, no need, poorly explained, poorly executed, costly, and a total failure. Plus a few more things besides!

One more quote, for now:
September 11 erased memories of the unique process whereby George Bush had been selected as President a few months earlier. Now, as he stood with an arm around a New York fireman promising to get those who had destroyed the World Trade Center, he was every American's President. His polls soared. He had a unique opportunity to unite America, to bring the United States together with allies around the world to fight terrorism and hate, to eliminate al Qaeda, to eliminate our vulnerabilities, to strengthen important nations threatened by radicalism. He did none of those things. He invaded Iraq.
After a thorough one-hour investigation while the fires were still burning...
The FBI has determined that it was NOT, repeat NOT, an act of terrorism. What wasn't an act of terrorism? A series of explosions at the nation's third largest oil refinery, a BP-Amoco facility in Texas City (near Houston). According to Reuters, the FBI had just issued warnings a few days ago about possible terrorist attacks on refineries.

How could they possibly rule it out so quickly? The first explosion happened at 7:15 Tuesday evening, and the story was apparently on the 11 o'clock news in Houston, including the bit about the FBI saying it wasn't terrorism. They didn't say they knew what it was, just what it wasn't. I can see ruling out certain types of terrorist acts through a quick investigation: No airplanes crashing, no car bombs. But how could they rule out a bomb on a timer or with cell-phone activation, or an inside job of sabotage? Maybe the thing just blew up on its own. But I don't see how they can possibly be sure that quickly.

I remember when, two months after September 11, an American Airlines plane crashed in the Rockaway Beach neigborhood of Queens near JFK Airport. The crash happened about 9 AM. At 12:30, then White House press secretary Ari Fleischer was asked if it was a terrorist attack. In probably one of the few times he ever told the truth, Ari answered that it was too early to tell. But then, about an hour later, Colin Powell is making a statement that it absolutely was not terrorism. What the Secretary of State has to do with investigating a plane crash I'm not sure, but I was quite sure that his statement was based entirely on politics and not at all on facts. September 11 had, with LOTS of help from the media, made Bush look "resolute" and "determined" in "leading the nation" through the tough times. Another terrorist attack so soon might have caused people to start thinking that "incompetent" and "unprepared" were better words to describe him. So Powell pre-empts that discussion and says "not terrorism." And back in November 2001 Powell still had a rather substantial reservoir of credibility. It's bone dry now.

So when I hear the FBI say "not terrorism" I hear "terrorism." Conditioned response.
600 Reasons Why Bush Should Be Impeached
Five more soldiers killed near Fallujah, bringing the total U.S. killed to 600. And not one of them for a good reason.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

She shook her head and waved away my words of sympathy, "It's ok- really- I'm one of the lucky ones... all they did was beat me."

The Iraqi-based blog Baghdad Burning has a story about a family being dragged off to Baghdad's notorious Abu Ghraib prison by American troops.

M. and her uncle later learned that a certain neighbor had made the false accusation against her family. The neighbor's 20-year-old son was still bitter over a fight he had several years ago with one of M.'s brothers. All he had to do was contact a certain translator who worked for the troops and give M.'s address. It was that easy.
Jesus returns, questions war on Iraq; White House goes on the attack
The White House, still reeling from this week's surprise return of Jesus Christ and His condemnation of the Bush administration's war in Iraq, has gone on the defensive.

An administration aide admitted to growing White House frustration that staffers had been "caught napping," not only by Mr. Christ's unexpected return, which the aide likened to "a thief in the night," but especially by His strongly worded condemnation of Bush's foreign policy. "After all," stated the staff member on condition of anonymity, "we've been working since day one to bring about Armageddon specifically to hasten the Lord's return. Then He does this. I've got to question both His loyalty and His timing."

In a blitz of morning show appearances yesterday, administration officials sought to cast doubt on the savior's credibility, as well as His motivations. National security advisor Condoleeza Rice stated on NBC's Today Show that the King of Kings "Never gave us a plan to follow, really. We would have welcomed his input, but He was apparently too busy converting water into wine."
Appearing on conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh's program, Vice President Dick Cheney questioned the Everlasting Light's credibility in His scathing critique of the Iraq war. "Frankly, He was out of the loop. I mean, where's He been for the past 2,000 years?" Cheney asked. "And now He suddenly makes Himself manifest in an election year?"

Fox News released a transcript purporting to show four different versions of the Messiah's story. Former Republican governor James Thompson referred to Fox's story stating "Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. At least three of these are lies." "I'm from the Midwest," Thompson added.

More here! I found it a blog called A-Changin' Times; they link it to DailyKos, but I couldn't find it there. So I really don't know who wrote it.

And Big Jim? I'm from the Midwest, too!
The War on Terror
It's working--for al Qaeda. Nineteen die in Uzbekistan, while bombing plots are apparently foiled in England and the Philippines.

The president of Egypt said, "If you invade Iraq, you will create a hundred bin Ladens." He lives in the Arab world. He knows. It's turned out to be true. It is now much more difficult for us to win the battle of ideas as well as arresting and killing them, and we're going to face a second generation of al-Qaeda. We're going to catch bin Laden. I have no doubt about that. In the next few months, he'll be found dead or alive. But it's two years too late because during those two years, al-Qaeda has morphed into a hydra-headed organization, independent cells like the organization that did the attack in Madrid. -- Richard Clarke on Meet the Press, 3/28/04.

From Tom Toles.
Kerry whoring on gas prices
Occasionally I get my moments of doubt. I should lay off John Kerry--he's better than Bush, one of them is going to win, better Kerry than Bush, etc. I've heard all the arguments, and they sometimes make a dent. But then Kerry opens his mouth again and reminds me what a total sellout sleazebag he is.

He's now announcing a plan to cut gas prices, which as I've tried to point out again and again are WAY TOO LOW for the good of the country and the world.

With gasoline prices at a record high, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry is calling for the government to stop pumping oil into its emergency stockpile.

Kerry says that's one of several steps President Bush could take to slow the soaring cost of gasoline, which reached a national average of almost $1.80 a gallon in the past two weeks, according the private Lundberg Survey.

"If it keeps going up like that, folks, Dick Cheney and President Bush are going to have to car pool to work together," Kerry said at a fund-raiser Monday night in San Francisco, California.
-- CNN

Digging into the strategic oil reserve was the Gore plan in 2000 that convinced me that he wasn't serious about his environmental positions, and Kerry's suggesting the same thing.

Plus, that car pool joke is really stupid. First off, carpooling is a good idea, and Kerry seems to be suggesting that it's asking way too much of people or something. Second, Bush doesn't drive to work--he lives in the dang office!

Kerry needs to be attacking Bush on his greatest vulnerability--the war in Iraq and how it has made us much less safe while costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars. Everything is in place: the policy has been shown not just to be wrong, but to be criminal in many ways. And since one of the real reasons for the war was to corner the market on world oil, Kerry needs to be informing people that it is a limited resource, that prices WILL go up, and if we're unwilling to make a few sacrifices now we'll be forced to make much greater sacrifices later. Instead, he panders on an issue that is of greatest concern to those who have been wasting oil prodigiously--the SUV driving commuters and soccer moms.

It's all just a game to Kerry, pretty much like it is to Karl Rove. Regardless of the facts or common sense, Kerry will say whatever he thinks will buy him a few votes. Those on the left who have unconditionally given him their support already just enable him to slide farther right. Maybe he actually is a liberal, and will resort to those policies once elected. But the pandering just validates the ridiculous arguments on the right and prevents the uninformed voters from learning what is really happening. And they REALLY need to know. If they did, Bush wouldn't stand a chance against Kerry, or Nader--or Satan, for that matter.
Testify! Testify!
CNN is reporting that the White House will now allow Condiliar to testify publicly under oath before the 9/11 Commission. Which, of course, she would like nothing better than, according to her 60 Minutes interview:

The secretary of state, defense, the director of the CIA, have all testified in public under oath before the commission. If - if you can talk to us and other news programs, why can't you talk to the commission in public and under oath?

Nothing would be better, from my point of view, than to be able to testify. I would really like to do that.

I sure wish Max Cleland were still on the commission. I'm not sure if I trust any of the current commission members to cook Rice properly.
Takin' it to Turd Blossom
Hundreds rallied Sunday outside the home of Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser, urging legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants who graduate from high school to legalize their status and qualify for in-state college tuition.

Protesters stood outside Rove's Washington house to show their support for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or the DREAM Act.
-- CNN.

From Dwane Powell.

From R.J. Matson.

From Jim Day.

From Steve Sack.

From Mike Thompson, who deserves a Pulitzer for that!

Here's the quote and a link:

"When you are dealing with secretive regimes that want to deceive, you're never going to be able to be positive" about intelligence, Rice told NBC on Thursday. -- CNN, January 30, 2004

Monday, March 29, 2004

Stealing a post from Left I
Eli at left I had this post regarding the shutting down of a paper in Baghdad:

From The New York Times:
American soldiers shut down a popular Baghdad newspaper on Sunday and tightened chains across the doors after the occupation authorities accused it of printing lies that incited violence.

Thousands of outraged Iraqis protested the closing as an act of American hypocrisy, laying bare the hostility many feel toward the United States a year after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

"No, no, America!" and "Where is democracy now?" screamed protesters who hoisted banners and shook clenched fists in a hastily organized rally against the closing of the newspaper, Al Hawza, a radical Shiite weekly.

A newspaper? Printing lies and inciting violence? I have just a few things to say:

The New York Times. Judith Miller. Invasion of Iraq. Tens of thousands of Iraqis and Americans and others dead or permanently injured.

Short and to the point!
A letter to the Ann Arbor News:
Democracy in Iraq. Wow. And at the point of a sword. A page out of Moslem proselytizing. Too bad the CIA and father Bush kept it from the Iraqis by keeping Saddam in power for 35 years.

If all the Arab-Moslems are suspected of being terrorists, should all Catholics be suspected of being child molesters?

Sahag Avedisian, Ann Arbor

Paul Craig Roberts gets it
Roberts is a conservative who used to write for the Washington Times (I don't see him there at the Moonie Times anymore--the Times is owned by Rev. Sun-Yung Moon, a long-time Reagan and Bush supporter). Here is Roberts' take on what I think is Richard Clarke's most damaging assertion: That what the Bushies have done since 9/11, particularly in Iraq, has made us LESS safe.

From Roberts' latest column on

There are no excuses for the invasion of Iraq. Intelligence failures notwithstanding, terrorist attacks are surprises by definition, but we knew beforehand that Iraq had nothing to do with 911.
Prior to the US invasion on March 19, 2003, Iraq was not a major problem for the US. One year later, it is. The occupation strains our military and budget. The US seeks to install a puppet regime, but the majority Shi’ites are having none of it. Will civil war and the breakup of the country come next?
Stung by criticisms that the invasion of Iraq has undermined the war on terrorism, the Bush administration has pressured its Pakistani puppet to risk the stability of his own rule by sending his army into tribal areas in search of bin Laden.

The Pew poll found that 65% of Pakistanis have a positive view of Osama bin Laden, but only 7% have a positive view of President Bush. A symbolic capture of bin Laden that resulted in the overthrow of the US puppet, Musharraf, would be a bad bargain.
The invasion of Iraq is a far greater intelligence failure than 911. The mistake is too great to be acknowledged. Denial will rule while unintended consequences play out to America’s disadvantage.

The question for the 911 Commission is not whether the Clinton administration missed chances to assassinate bin Laden or whether the Bush administration’s loose immigration controls and interagency communication failures ensured the terrorists’ success. The only question is: why does the US persist with a foreign policy that breeds terrorism?

The challenge for the US is to break free from the folly and arrogance that power begets.

Conservatives like Roberts and Pat Buchanan get it:

Why does the US persist with a foreign policy that breeds terrorism?

Why can't John Kerry get it too?

You can still vote in this poll! (Here, on the left, about halfway down.)
Israel and the Iraq War
From Juan Cole:
The fact is that Israeli intelligence failures in Iraq contributed to drawing the United States into the war (pace the Knesset report). Undersecretary of Defense for Planning Douglas Feith, a representative of the American branch of the Likud Party, met repeatedly with Israeli generals at the Pentagon (who were not properly signed in, contrary to post-9/11 regulations), and they gave him fodder for his pre-determined insistence on ginning up a war against Iraq, reinforcing what was being said by liars like Ahmad Chalabi. They were conveying Israeli intelligence to a key American policy maker, and it was wrong.

Of course, being wrong is one thing. Deliberately being wrong is another. Although the subcommittee report refuses to consider the possibility, it seems clear that there were conspiracies within the intelligence and military services of the UK, Israel and the US intended to draw the US into war against Iraq. One sees reports in the British press of a "Rockingham Group" in the UK ministry of defense pushing for war, and of British intelligence planting anti-Iraq stories in the US press.
I'm surprised that someone this smart was actually in the Bush administration at all
MR. RUSSERT: But if you were willing to go forward, and, as you say, "spin" on behalf of the president, then why shouldn't people now think that this book is also spin? Why should people believe you?

MR. CLARKE: Because I have no obligation anymore to spin. When you're in the White House, you spin. And people have been doing a lot of that against me this week. You know, they're engaged in a campaign. People on the taxpayers' rolls, dozens of people, are engaged in the campaign to destroy me, personally and professionally, because I had the temerity to suggest that the American people should consider whether or not the president had done a good job on the war on terrorism. The issue is not me. The issue is the president's job on the role on terrorism.

Check out the whole Meet The Press transcript.

More excerpts:

MR. RUSSERT: On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate President Bush's performance on the war on terror prior to September 11?

MR. CLARKE: Well, there wasn't any personal performance by the president prior to September 11.
MR. RUSSERT: It sounds like a failing grade.

MR. CLARKE: Well, I think they deserve a failing grade for what they did before because, frankly, they didn't do--they never got around to doing anything. They held interim meetings, but they never actually decided anything before September 11.

Tom Tomorrow's whole cartoon is on Salon (brief ad-viewing required).

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Kerry's got a halo now
You've probably seen those staged photos of Bush with a halo around his head. Here's one of Kerry from the Detroit Free Press:

60 Minutes
Shorter Bob's rant on 60 Minutes: Rice bad, Pickering okay, Adu--can't wait until Saturday!

I just watched 60 Minutes. It's hard to imagine that Condiliar convinced anyone with her performance. She practically gave away the game anyway by saying that they continued with the Clinton anti-terror policy for eight months (and the questions aren't so much about the policy, anyway, as they are about how diligently they were pursuing it). She cited long-standing precedence, supposedly, about National Security Advisors not appearing before Congress. But the 9/11 Commission isn't Congress, or even Congressionally-appointed, and besides, who cares? As Ed Bradley said, why not waive precedent for an unprecedented event like 9/11? Clarke 2 billion, Rice 0.

The segment on Charles Pickering was certainly interesting. Maybe it was a setup, but I thought Judge Pickering came off looking great, while his critics like Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) looked petty. Sixty Minutes had several people, mostly African-Americans who have dealt personally with Pickering, vouch for him. The only argument presented by Schumer was that in one case, Pickering reduced a sentence for cross-burning from 7 1/2 years to 2 1/2 years. Pickering made a reasonable explanation for his ruling, I thought. I don't know what would actually be an appropriate sentence for cross-burning, but it certainly seemed as though Pickering took the defendant's previous record (none) into account and lowered the sentence in at least an arguably reasonable way. Mandatory minimums are not a good idea, even for hate crimes, IMHO. Overall, Pickering made a pretty good case for a long pattern of fair and non-racist behavior on his part, and Schumer could only respond by taking a single case and blowing it out of proportion without really considering the facts (very much like Bush's current attack ads on Kerry).

And then there was this:

Charles Evers: You know, maybe you don't know, you know that Charles Pickering is a man helped us to break the Ku Klux Klan. Did you know that?

Clarence McGee: I heard that statement made.

Charles Evers: I mean, I know that. Do you know that?

Clarence McGee: I don't know that.

Charles Evers: I know that. Do you know about the young black man that was accused of robbing the young white woman. You know about that?

Clarence McGee: Nope.

Charles Evers: So Charles Pickering took the case. Came to trial and won the case and the young man became free.

Clarence McGee: I don't know about that.

Charles Evers: But did you also know that Charles Pickering is the man who helped integrate his churches. You know about that?

Clarence McGee: No.

Charles Evers: Well, you don't know a thing about Charles Pickering.

Clarence McGee heads the NAACP in Hattiesburg; Charles Evers is the brother of murdered civil rights leader Medgar Evers. Both are black.

Maybe the whole Pickering thing was 60 Minutes' way of making up to the Bush administration for the Clarke and Rice interviews. But unless the whole thing was faked, I think Democrats like Schumer look really stupid trying to attack Pickering as a racist. Complain about his position on abortion or find something else, but don't pick one case out of hundreds to label him a racist without talking to the people who have worked with him.

And then there's Freddie Adu, the 14-year-old soccer phenom who will debut for DC United next Saturday. The kid is amazing, and just as likeable as can be. I'm a soccer nut, and I can't wait to watch him play!
Government Of the Corporations, By the Corporations, and For the Corporations
Left I On the News cites two recent news stories about how the Bushies have been handing out the grandkids money to their corporate buddies.

One article concerns a huge giveaway to Boeing for aerial refueling tankers. The funding was stuck into one of the post-9/11 pork bills by Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), and had/has the support of House Speaker Dennis Hastert (from Boeing's headquarters state of Illinois) and Rep. Norman D. Dicks (from Boeing's manufacturing base in Washington state), as well, of course, of the White House. Boeing itself was given the "task" of rewriting the specifications for the tankers, eliminating 19 of 26 requested features so that it's 767 could meet the requirements and "beat out" competitor Airbus' bid (which met more of the requirements and was $10 billion less, but they're FRENCH, y'know).

Among the original Air Force requirements Boeing eliminated was that the new tanker be equipped to refuel all the military services' aircraft, refuel multiple aircraft simultaneously, and carry passengers, wounded troops and cargo. Boeing also eliminated an Air Force requirement that the new tankers be at least as effective and efficient as the 40-year-old KC-135 tankers they would replace.

Well, when you're only paying $23 billion, you can't expect everything. And kudos to Sen. John McCain for making a stink about this.
Condiliar is on 60 Minutes Tonight
I hope Ed Bradley makes her take an oath before she starts talking.
Clarke is Way Smarter Than the Bushies
The former chief counterterrorism adviser at the White House, who has criticized the Bush administration's preparedness for the attacks, said he would welcome the attempt by leading Republicans to declassify 2-year-old congressional testimony. -- NY Times

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has been suggesting that Clarke perjured himself by contradicting what he told to Congress two years ago with his testimony. Frist was probably counting on the previous testimony remaining classified so that he could slime Clarke without having to actually deliver the evidence. But just as he did with his opening statement apology on Wednesday, Clarke has immediately taken the wind out of the attack dogs' sails.

With the apology, he took away the argument "How can you blame this all on Bush? Don't you bear some of the responsibility for 9/11?" Clarke took responsibility right from the beginning. And with this statement, Clarke is saying "I have nothing to hide. Bring it on." Frist was bluffing, and Clarke has called his bluff.

Paul O'Neill was shaky from the start. He was unsure of what he was saying, and unwilling or unable to stand up to the heat. He deserves credit for opening the door, but he wasn't ready to really go after the Bushies. Clarke has apparently been preparing for it for a year, and has taken what happened to O'Neill into account. He's credible, he's smart, and he's prepared. If he manages to bring down the Bush administration, he will be one of the greatest American heroes of all time, IMHO!

Not that I want to help Bush get re-elected, but if he were smart (which he isn't) this is what I would suggest that he do:

Immediately stop attacking Clarke. Go on TV and apologize to Clarke for the attacks, and recognize his decades of dedicated service to protecting America--INCLUDING writing his book, talking to 60 Minutes, and testifying before the 9/11 commission. Apologize to the American people for failing to stop 9/11, along the lines of Clarke's apology.

Of course, the only way Bush can possibly pull this off is to admit that he was at least somewhat out of the loop, and was deceived by his subordinates (but not Clarke). This means heads must roll. Condi for sure, then probably Cheney and Wolfowitz, and maybe Rumsfeld and Hadley as well. Then offer Clarke any of the openings created, with a free hand to change things and unlimited access to the president.

It might actually work, but Bush is more likely to balance the budget than he is to apologize. It seems much more likely that they'll try to Wellstone1 Clarke, so I hope he's got some good bodyguards and stays out of small planes.

(1. Wellstone (vt): To kill someone in a small plane and make it look like an accident. See also Carnahan, Mel, and Kennedy, John F. Jr.)
The incomparable Thomas Friedman
Demonstrates once again what a moron he is:
I have a confession to make: I am the foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times and I didn't listen to one second of the 9/11 hearings and I didn't read one story in the paper about them. Not one second. Not one story.

Lord knows, it's not out of indifference to 9/11. It's because I made up my mind about that event a long time ago: It was not a failure of intelligence, it was a failure of imagination.
I am so hungry for a positive surprise. I am so hungry to hear a politician, a statesman, a business leader surprise me in a good way.

Not hungry enough, apparently, to listen to Richard Clarke and all the other witnesses testify in the 9/11 hearings, however. Friedman made up his mind a long time ago, and doesn't want any facts to get in his way.

By the way, Tom Tomorrow has an argument going on with the NY Times over several recent cases where their op-ed columnists Friedman, William Safire, and David Brooks apparently just made up crap to support their opinions. Go Tom! Too bad you don't still have Sparky to help you out! (Obscure reference: Tom Tomorrow's This Modern World cartoons feature a caustic liberal penguin named Sparky. Unfortunately, Sparky was recently hit in the head with a flying toilet and turned Republican.)
Iraq punished for not having WMD's; Libya rewarded for having them
The World Socialist Web Site points out the numerous hypocrisies involved in comparing the U.S. and British treatments of Saddam Hussein and Moamar Khaddafi.

Here's a summary:
  • It is widely accepted (I don't know if it's true) that Khaddafi has supported terrorist organizations targeting U.S. and British citizens. He has accepted responsibility (albeit under enormous pressure) for the explosion of Pan Am 103 in 1988. As I said, I don't know how much of this is really true, but it is the accepted position of the U.S. and British governments. The only supposed terror attack on the U.S. that has been linked to Saddam Hussein was an assasination attempt on former president Bush in Kuwait in 1993. Details on this are sketchy. (I'd also add that if any bad guy in history would ever have been justified in killing another bad guy for having screwed him over, Saddam killing Poppy would have been it. Poppy helped Saddam to get the conventional and unconventional weapons that he had, gave him the green light to invade Kuwait, and then destroyed his country when he ran that green light.)
  • Libya has actual WMD's; Iraq hasn't had them since about 1995 or so, apparently.

Okay, we already know that Bush and Blair are hypocrites. But why are they being hypocritical with Khaddafi in such a different way than they were with Saddam? The WSWS suggests:
  • It's about oil. U.S. and British oil companies are ready to go flying back into Libya.
  • It's about weapons. U.K. and U.S. weapons manufacturers are preparing to re-arm Khaddafi with multi-billion dollar deals.
  • Most importantly, it's a cynical political ploy to show that the "lesson" of Iraq is working. Bush and Blair will continue to lie and pretend that the lesson is that if you support terrorism and have WMD's, you'll face the consequences. The airhead wingnuts in this country will buy that (they already have). But the lesson most of the world will get is that WMD's and terror are your only defenses against American imperialism: Saddam had neither, and look what happened to him.

WSWS concludes:

The diametrically opposed treatment of Iraq and Libya is not due to fundamental differences between the regimes of Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gadhaffi. Notwithstanding the invocations of humanitarian concern for the Iraqi people and other rhetoric associated with the so-called “war on terror,” Iraq was conquered so that the US could establish its hegemony over the oil-rich Middle East. Libya is now being courted out of the same essential considerations. London may have stolen a march on its European rivals, but the Bush administration will demand the lion’s share of Libyan oil contracts as payback for its billion-dollar [? Try hundreds of billions--Ed] investment in the Iraq war.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Mutual Aid Society
Bush and Osama, that is. Together, they have greatly increased each other's mandate and influence. And when Bush started getting close to catching Osama, he backed off and went after Saddam instead:

The fact that the Pentagon pulled the fighting force most equipped for hunting down Osama bin Laden from Afghanistan in March 2002 in order to pre-position it for Iraq cannot be denied.

Fifth Group Special Forces were a rare breed in the US military: they spoke Arabic, Pastun and Dari. They had been in Afghanistan for half a year, had developed a network of local sources and alliances, and believed that they were closing in on bin Laden.

Without warning, they were then given the task of tracking down Saddam. "We were going nuts on the ground about that decision," one of them recalls.

"In spite of the fact that it had taken five months to establish trust, suddenly there were two days to hand over to people who spoke no Dari, Pastun or Arabic, and had no rapport."

Along with the redeployment of human assets came a reallocation of sophisticated hardware. The US air force has only two specially-equipped RC135 U spy planes. They had successfully vectored in on al-Qaida leadership radio transmissions and cellphone calls, but they would no longer circle over the mountains of the Pakistan/Afghanistan border.
-- The Guardian, via Atrios
Sharon May Face Bribery Charges
Saddam's gone. Aznar's gone. Bush, Blair and Howard are in trouble. And Sharon too? Richard Clarke was right last Sunday when he told Leslie Stahl, "I think the world would be better off if a number of leaders around the world were out of power."

Those were six of the worst. Two down, four to go.

(I know, tough call. Should I lump Saddam in there? It gives Bush some credit for getting rid of him, but it nicely lumps the rest of those criminals in with Saddam. I think that was what Clarke was hinting, and I'm going with it!)
I don't think anybody could have predicted that we'd have an National Security Advisor this stupid
"I don't think anybody could have predicted that ... they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile." -- Condoleezza Rice, May 2002.

I have pointed out before how ridiculous this statement was, since planes had been flown into buildings in reality, in planning, and in fiction for years before 9/11. Tom Clancy's 1997 novel Debt of Honor ended with a 747 being crashed into the Capitol building.

Allan from Ottawa e-mailed me, telling me about another fictional hijacking story:

Here is a "Summary" Plot for the popular movie, "Executive Decision", copied verbatim from "The Internet Movie Database":

"When Oceanic Airlines flight 343 is hijacked, the U.S. Military devises a plan to get Army Commandoes onboard the jet at 39,000 feet. The hijackers are unaware of the commandoes, while the soldiers are unaware of a weapon planned to take out the eastern seaboard of the U.S., the rogue unit must fight against time and the shaky government before they blow the jet out of the sky."

And when was this training script for terrorists released? ... 1996!

Of course, maybe Condi doesn't read many books or watch many movies. Too bad nobody else noticed the similarities between these stories and the reality of 9/11. Except New York Times reporter Michiko Kakutani noticed it immediately:

For the most part, however, large-scale terrorist plots and huge public disasters--so sensationalist in tone, seemingly so far removed from our daily reality--have remained the province of commercial screenwriters and novelists like Tom Clancy, whose 1994 novel, "Debt of Honor," featured a plot in which a Boeing 747 is crashed by a Japanese airman into the Capitol building during a joint session of Congress, killing virtually everyone. The Sylvester Stallone movie Daylight postulated a disastrous explosion in the Holland Tunnel; Die Hard 2 showed terrorists taking over the air control system at Dulles Airport and crashing an airplane; and Black Sunday depicted an extremist group planning to blow up the Superbowl with explosives loaded on a blimp. Executive Decision depicted Arab terrorists armed with a nerve-gas bomb who take control of a 747 and head for Washington. -- NY Times, September 12, 2001, quoted from the blog Remains of the Day.

So Condi doesn't read books, doesn't watch movies, AND doesn't read the nation's most important paper. Nor apparently does she study reports of previously-attempted terrorist plots, like crashing a plane into the Eiffel Tower, crashing a DC-10 into FedEx headquarters, simultaneously hijacking 12 jetliners over the Pacific, etc. WHAT THE $%$@^@!! DOES SHE DO? Just watch football and play the piano while New York burns?

There's really only two choices for Rice--she's either terribly dishonest or terribly incompetent. Either way she has no business being National Security Advisor. No wonder she doesn't want to appear before the 9/11 commission.
Electric Bill Cut in Half!
My March 2003 electric bill: 610 kilowatt-hours over 29 days, $56.84.
My March 2004 electric bill: 284 kilowatt-hours over 29 days, $25.66.

I have gas heat, hot water and cooking. So while it was slightly warmer this winter than last, I don't think that was much of a factor (the furnace fan is a big KWH user, so warmer weather would be part of the story). The main savings? Probably the compact fluorescent bulbs, which I have installed in most of the lamps and fixtures in my house. But I also bought a high-efficiency washing machine last April, and I've put most of my "phantom" loads onto power strips so I can cut their power off completely when I'm not using them. Anything with a remote has a phantom load, usually three to five watts. Anything plugged in with a clock, like a microwave, is also a constant phantom load. I found that my 19" CRT monitor also draws about 55 watts when it's on, even in blanked-out "power-saving" mode. So even if it is more convenient to leave the computer on sometimes when I'm not using it, I try to shut off the monitor.

I expect even bigger savings this summer, since with a little research I discovered that my biggest energy hog over the course of a year was the dehumidifier in the basement. It's control mechanism is pretty worthless, so I had been letting it run almost constantly during the humid summer months. But it draws about 480 watts, and that adds up to a lot of KWH when run constantly! I bought a humidity guage at the hardware store so that I can more accurately judge when the dehumidifier is needed. I will also stop using the bathroom and shower that I have in the basement, and make sure that all clothes drying in the summer is done on the outside line.

Is the $30 savings on my March bill worth it? I think so, even just from an economic point of view, although I'm not poor (and I'm really not giving up much of anything). But DTE Energy supplies that power by burning coal, oil and natural gas and through nuclear fission. [Ed. Note: I mistakenly had "fusion" there for a week!] And these are things that we have to cut down drastically on or stop completely. Unless you've already carefully analyzed your energy usage and taken a lot of steps to cut it down, chances are that you too can cut your bill in half or more.

One very useful tool for ferreting out your power hogs is a wattmeter. Here's the one I bought, which works just fine and was about $100 less than I could find anywhere else. (For some reason they are not easy to find in stores.) You just plug the wattmeter into the wall and the electrical device into the wattmeter, and it tells you how many watts it is using. For appliances which cycle on and off a lot, like refrigerators, it will tally up the total kilowatt-hours while keeping track of the time so that you can determine an average wattage. If you live near me (Ann Arbor, MI), I'll be glad to loan you my wattmeter for a day or two--it should only take a couple of hours to check most of your stuff.

Another key to saving energy? If you've got natural gas, use it anytime something needs heating. Gas furnaces, hot water heaters, and ranges are much more efficient than their electric counterparts. Reheating on a gas stove is more efficient than in the microwave (microwaves are huge energy hogs, drawing 500 to 1500 watts).

I did all this research because I wanted to install some solar panels. I still plan to, but since I've already cut my bill in half, there's no way I'll save as much through solar as I will through some simple conservation methods. From a strictly personal economic viewpoint, the solar panels and batteries are unlikely to pay for themselves for a very long time unless electricity costs skyrocket (albeit a very real possibility). Solar power will be my new toy. But I hope that the panels on the roof will at least get my neighbors to ask me some questions, and I can tell them just what I've told you here: you can probably cut your electricity use in HALF without giving up a thing.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Tom Toles, via Michelle.
The real goal
The real goal until November is to lower W's popularity down to 1 or 2 percent so that conservatives can vote for Kerry and liberals for Nader without having to worry about Bush.

Wouldn't it be great if Kerry supporters were badgering the far right to get them to vote for Kerry, because "a vote for Bush is a vote for Nader?" Conservatives angrily demanding that Bush drop out of the election for fear that he'll throw the election to Nader?

I mean, seriously--of those three candidates, why is the best one the one who is being asked to drop out? And there will be Green, Libertarian, Socialist, and probably several other candidates on the ballot. All will be better than Bush, and most probably better than Kerry.
Gasoline $3 a gallon by Labor Day?
Paul Roberts writes in the LA Times about the end of cheap crude. The U.S. has refused for three decades, and continues to refuse, to face the inevitable. Instead of weaning ourselves from oil, we've actually become even more dependent on it. What could have been a gradual and well-planned transition to a more sustainable America will probably just end up being totally FUBAR. Massive unemployment, riots in the streets, people dying. The longer we remain in denial and try to "solve" the problem by cornering more of the world oil market through war and threat of war, the worse it will be in the long run. Allowing prices to find their appropriate high level seems to me to be about the only way in a somewhat free-market economy to sort this out.
Nailing the hammer?
Tom DeLay, the Congressional Republican mafioso from Texas, may have to step down from his post as house majority leader "if he is indicted by a Texas grand jury investigating alleged campaign finance abuses."

DeLay is one of the most evil and corrupt politicians in U.S. history, and that's saying a lot. Throwing him in jail would go a long ways towards fixing our system.
Chomsky's Blogging!
Noam Chomsky on the candidates:
People in the more civilized sectors of the world (what we call "the third world," or the "developing countries") often burst out laughing when they witness an election in which the choices are two men from very wealthy families with plenty of clout in the very narrow political system, who went to the same elite university and even joined the same secret society to be socialized into the manners and attitudes of the rulers, and who are able to participate in the election because they have massive funding from highly concentrated sectors of unaccountable power that cast over society the shadow called "politics," as John Dewey put it.

Noam Chomsky on the March 20 demonstrations:
I spoke at a demo of about 20,000 people in Vancouver, very enthusiastic and engaged, and as far as I could tell, inspired to go on. Also to audiences of several thousands, which seemed the same. The pre-war demonstrations were without historical precedent, and surely important. The anniversary demos were also without precedent, and again surely will have an impact. Obviously no one expects the same turnout in a mass effort to prevent a war and in a later mass effort to compel the occupiers to grant Iraqis authentic sovereignty, along with a host of other highly significant concerns.

Those who participate should understand that demos are doubly significant: first as a message to the rulers, but more important, as one step in the far more important process of popular mobilization and activism that goes on day after day. No one expects a few dramatic mass actions to stop a juggernaut. But they do throw a wrench in the works, raising the costs of the next move. And if they continue and grow, they can halt its course, reverse the course, and dismantle it. But only if they serve the primary function of popular mobilization, bringing people together, energizing them, increasing their commitment to engage in the constant hard work of education and organizing, and undertaking appropriate actions that range from very local to international in scope.

Kerry comes up with a good plan to bring $12 billion back to the government...
But says he'll give it all back to the corporations:

In a speech in Detroit, Kerry will propose ending a tax provision that lets companies defer paying U.S. taxes on income earned by foreign subsidiaries. He would use the $12 billion in annual savings for a 5 percent cut in corporate tax rates. -- Reuters

Jeez, John! Wouldn't that $12 billion fund the "No Child Left Behind" bill that you voted for but complain about Bush not funding? Or buy lots of body armor? Or provide health care for millions? Maybe just pay down the huge deficit?

If cutting corporate taxes is your idea of the best way to spend $12 billion, you ain't no Democrat.
Thank You, Richard Clarke!
Billmon points out that a topic which has been almost taboo for 2 1/2 years--what really happened on 9/11--is now being openly discussed in the media and the public. And we have Richard Clarke to thank for that:

...The fact that the general embargo on critical thinking about 9/11 has been broken is very encouraging. The truth -- the whole truth -- is probably too much to expect, given the narrow limits of what's considered "legitimate" debate in this country, and the powerful forces lined up in defense of ignorance. But at least people are asking questions, and looking for answers. Compared to where we were just a few months ago, that's an ecouraging good sign.

Which means that whatever the accuracy, or completeness, of Richard Clarke's story, he's done a great public service simply by breaking the strange spell of public apathy that's been choking off debate about what happened on 9/11 -- and why -- for the past two and a half years.

From R. J. Matson.

From Jim Morin.

From Chris Britt.
My cat Ragu sends a message to Bush

Thursday, March 25, 2004

On foreign policy, Kerry keeps singing Bush's tunes.

Venezuelanalysis has a rebuttal to Kerry's position on Venezuela.

The leader of my upcoming Global Exchange tour to Venezuela sent that, encouraging us to contact Kerry and complain. Of course, I already did.

You're probably sick of reading my complaints about Kerry. Sorry!
Digital Camera Fun
My trip to Venezuela is coming up, and I wanted to see if the rechargeable battery in my digital camera would hold up through 150 pictures (the approximate capacity of the memory card). It did! I took some pictures of my dead old car, my "new" '89 Toyota pickup, my cats, my house, my cats, the yard, my neighbor's cat, and, well, my cats. These are my two favorites. The first one is my cat Marcos (Subcatendante Marcos), with a lot of playing around with brightness, contrast and gamma. The second one is my neighbor's cat Ray, whose eyes don't really glow like that.

I guess the WMD's are just a big joke to Bush now. He spoke at a media gathering last night:

Bush put on a slide show, calling it the "White House Election-Year Album" at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association 60th annual dinner, showing himself and his staff in some decidedly unflattering poses.

There was Bush looking under furniture in a fruitless, frustrating search. "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere," he said.

Check inside your head, nimrod.
Two more soldiers killed in Iraq
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A U.S. soldier died in a bomb blast north of Baghdad on Thursday amid warnings that attacks will likely increase with fewer than 100 days left before the coalition hands over sovereignty. A day earlier, a gunbattle with insurgents left one American soldier and three rebels dead. -- AP
The despicable Thomas Friedman
There he goes again:

There is nothing more important for the future of Western democracies than the question of whether, in the wake of the Madrid bombings, the new Spanish government will go ahead with its plan to withdraw Spanish forces from Iraq ? unless the U.N. assumes control of the occupation forces there by June 30. If Spain goes ahead, every terrorist in the world will celebrate, and every democracy will be a little more endangered. I so hope Spain's incoming prime minister, Jos? Luis Rodr?guez Zapatero, reconsiders this decision.

Right Tom. Nothing more important for the future of Western democracies than for the new Spanish government to ignore the will of the people who elected them. You're probably right there--no democracy left when that happens.

You know Tom--If displeasing al Qaeda is more important than pleasing your own constituency, well, I hate to say it, but the terrorists have won.
Operation Enduring Occupation
From the ashes of abandoned Iraqi army bases, U.S. military engineers are overseeing the building of an enhanced system of American bases designed to last for years.
Now U.S. engineers are focusing on constructing 14 "enduring bases," long-term encampments for the thousands of American troops expected to serve in Iraq for at least two years. The bases also would be key outposts for Bush administration policy advisers.
-- Chicago Tribune
Maybe the biggest thing wrong with the 9/11 commission...
Is that they are only investigating what MORE might have been done to stop 9/11, without considering that 9/11 was the result of TOO MUCH aggression and meddling over the years. From the WSWS:

Not one panel member broached the issue of US foreign policy in Afghanistan and the Middle East, and its role in fostering the growth of Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda. Nor was there any probing of the economic and geo-strategic interests that underlie the policy of succeeding US administrations toward Central Asia and the Persian Gulf. The word “oil” went virtually unuttered in the course of hours and hours of testimony.

Instead, the framework for the hearings was the assumption that 9/11 was the result of a “failure” of intelligence, or diplomacy, or military policy—or a combination of all three. From this narrow and disingenuous starting point, the thrust of both the witnesses’ testimony and the questioning by the panel followed: namely, that the proper response to the threat of terrorist attacks is to remove all remaining restrictions on US spying and covert operations abroad, including assassinations, intensify government spying within the United States, and apply the Bush doctrine of preventive war on an even more massive and bloody scale in the future.

The gist of the criticisms made of both the Clinton and Bush administrations—including those made by Clarke—was that they were too timid and squeamish in the pre-9/11 period, and too bogged down by considerations of US and international law. They should have used military force and covert violence sooner, more often and on a larger scale.

The most rabid of the panel members was former Democratic senator and current president of the New School University in New York, Bob Kerrey, who, as a Navy Seal in the Vietnam War, led a death squad attack on a village in which the six enlisted men under his command killed 21 women, children and elderly men. In one revealing exchange, he berated Albright for failing to use military force to eliminate Osama bin Laden in the 1990s. She replied: “You, senator, I know, were the only person that I know of who suggested declaring war. You were, you know, in retrospect—you were probably right.”

How Lieberman won the nomination
The ballots have been counted and, for all intents and purposes, the Democratic primaries are over. In a stunning come-from-behind upset, a clear winner has emerged—Senator Joseph Lieberman.

True, Lieberman failed to receive more than 5 percent of the vote in most of the states in which he contested the nomination—including his home state of Connecticut—and did not even put his name on the ballot in a number of primaries because of lack of support. His efforts produced not a single Lieberman delegate for the party’s upcoming convention in Boston. Yet he is a winner nonetheless, as it is his right-wing, pro-war politics that will serve as the fundamental platform of the Democratic Party in the 2004 presidential election.
-- from Socialist Equality Party presidential candidate Bill Van Auken.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

From Rob Rogers.
Clarke right, Bushies wrong
That's my shorter Fred Kaplan.
There's a limit to intelligence...
But no limit to stupidity. Here's a letter to the editor from yesterday's Detroit Free Press:

I find it terribly ironic that President George W. Bush is being criticized for not taking action against Al Qaeda before they attacked the United States at the same time he is being criticized for taking action against Iraq before they attacked us.

Even those who aren't Bush fans have to see how ridiculous that is. Make up your minds. You can't have it both ways.

Vicki Morton, Troy

Earth to Vicki Moron:
A brief review--
Al Qaeda: Had attacked America before, had promised to do so again.
Iraq: Had never attacked America, had no weapons with which to attack.
Canada: A lot bigger and closer than Iraq, and better armed. Why aren't YOU criticizing Bush for not attacking Canada?

You can't have it both ways.

On a brighter note, seven of the eight letters to the Free Press about Spain's election and decision to withdraw troops from Iraq were supportive of Spain. The eighth was relatively incomprehensible.
Daschle on the attack--again!
For the second day in a row, and the second time in recorded history, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle makes a strongly-worded speech criticizing the criminals in the Bush administration.

I've got to believe that Bush is toast now. He's actually costing his big-corporation backers money, the replacement emperor is in place, and the order comes down from on high: Release the hounds!
Kerry, you swine!
We need a balanced energy policy that protects consumers from high gas prices, invests in renewable energy and promotes responsible development here at home. -- John Kerry, quoted in the NY Times, reacting to "high" gasoline prices.

I knew Kerry would do the wimpy political thing on gas prices, but it's still disappointing to see that I was right. Gas prices are NOT high by either historical (inflation-adjusted) or world levels. A gallon of gas still costs less than a gallon of milk, and the price is not high enough to cause most Americans to have a second thought about buying an SUV or taking an unnecessary trip. "Investing in renewable energy" means handing out research dollars to multinationals like BP-Amoco, now one of the leading makers of solar panels. (There really should be anti-trust action to keep big oil's hands off of the solar energy business. We need that good old American entrepreneurial spirit in the renewable energy field, but with giants like BP and Siemens dominating the market and ready to buy up--and shut up--real innovators, we won't get it. BP's interest is in keeping solar from becoming affordable.) "Responsible development here at home" means more drilling.

No candidate is serious about protecting the environment, nor about protecting America from foreign terrorists, who is unwilling to seriously promote conservation. Most people in this country could probably cut their energy consumption in HALF without any noticeable lowering of their standard of living. But gasoline, electricity and natural gas are so absurdly cheap that they see no incentive to do so. Kerry doesn't even MENTION conservation as part of a "balanced energy policy."
Chavez Wins in Venezuelan Supreme Court Decision
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Wednesday celebrated a Supreme Court ruling against an opposition referendum bid as a victory over "counter-revolutionary'' enemies, but opponents said the decision was biased and exposed him as a dictator. -- Reuters

Chavez was democratically elected and Bush wants him out. Aristide was democratically elected and Bush got him out.

Musharref took over Pakistan in a coup. Karimov boils people in Uzbekistan. These are Bush's buddies who are receiving lots of dollars as part of the "war on terror."
Condiliar explains why she can't appear before the 9/11 Commission
You see, I suffer in secret from a terrible malady: I have Swearing-Induced Investigatory Commission Immune Deficiency Syndrome. If I testify under oath before an investigatory committee on a matter of the utmost importance to our nation, my entire body will swell up until I burst, suffocate, and implode.

Read the rest from Tom Burka.
Two brief reminders
That Kerry really sucks:
Kerry vs. Kerry-lite
Bush vs. Bush-lite

Both via Left I On the News.

And the "Democratic" repression machine is out in full force trying to silence anyone who tries to point this out. The insults and name-calling towards a Nader supporter in Atrios' comments were repellent.

I don't know what I'm going to do. I think we owe it to the world to stop meddling with their politics, stealing their resources, and exploiting their labor while destroying the world environment in the process. In foreign and economic policy terms, Kerry only promises to do what Bush is doing more efficiently, and with more help. I don't know about you, but I prefer an incompetent criminal acting on his own to a brilliant gang leader intent on the same crimes. Here's a choice quote from the first of those two articles:

As for Iraq, if Kerry has a problem with Bush, it's that he didn't drag France, Germany and Russia into the war, preferring to strike a grabby, it's all mine, pose, rather than the "let's divide up the loot" approach the Democrats favor. Apparently, a gang rape is better than a rape carried out by a lone assailant, which, I gather, would make a gang rapist a rapist-lite, and therefore more worthy of our backing than a rapist who goes it alone.

But, for the record, Washington hasn't gone it alone in Iraq, managing to cobble together a coalition, though one lacking France, Germany and Russia, whose backing, in some perverted twist of reasoning, is supposed to have invested the rape of Iraq with legitimacy. Apparently, if you can lure other renowned rapists into a gang rape, it gives the whole sordid affair moral weight.

Since neither Bush nor Kerry has any intention of addressing the real problems with this country, I'm seriously considering moving to another one. With the agreed-upon goals of Bush and Kerry, no place is safe from American meddling. If Kerry's going to meddle more efficiently and ruin my sanctuary sooner, why should I care if my vote for Nader would actually be a vote for Bush?

[Note: This is angry lashing out, not a reasoned statement about what I'm going to do nor a suggestion about what you should do. But I do think everybody should know exactly what Anybody-but-Bush Kerry is offering: Better-managed wars.]
Gasoline Prices at a Record High!
According to CNN, the nationwide average of $1.738 per unleaded gallon is the highest ever. Hallelujah! I say. I get so sick of seeing wave after wave of huge vehicles rolling down every street. Park the stupid car and get on a bus or a bike!

Among the factors listed are rising consumption, insufficient refining capacity, complicated federal and state clean fuel regulations and chronically low inventories.

Oil producer group OPEC, which controls roughly half of the world's exported crude, is also mulling a new reduction in supplies starting April 1, adding to a series of cuts that recently brought oil prices to nearly $40 a barrel.

Of course, CNN spends most of the rest of the article focusing on OPEC and those "complicated" fuel regulations, without another word about rising consumption. (They do have a link to a list of high-mileage cars, however.)

Note to John Kerry: I see higher gasoline prices as a good and necessary thing. Cheap gasoline has destroyed our landscape, damaged our air, kills 43,000 a year on our highways, and is our main reason for continued war in the Middle East. If you, Senator Kerry, do like Gore did in 2000 and pander to the ignorant masses by calling for lower gasoline prices, I'll abandon you for Nader just like I did Gore. Don't make me do it, John! I'm serious! I will!
You really need a program on this one
From Atrios:
I have to say that Rummy's assertion today that it would have been a mistake to go after Bin Laden before 9/11 because 9/11 would have happened anyway but it would have then be seen as some sort of just retaliation by Bin Laden's people is truly one of the weirdest things I've heard... I guess that's part of the patented Rumsfeld "outside the box" thinking...

I guess that I sort of agree with Atrios that it's weird, but you've got to be careful. Our new hero said exactly the same thing as Rummy did:

Well, this attack would have happened anyway...In fact, if we had killed bin Laden in June with the Predator and this still happened, our friends at CIA would have blamed us, said the attack on New York was retribution, talked again about the overly zealous White House counterterrorism guys. -- Richard Clarke, Against All Enemies, page 27.

Now Rummy probably got the argument straight out of Clarke's book, and is just hoping that someone will jump him for it so he can pull out the book and read from page 27. And it certainly concerns me that Clarke seems more worried, at least in this passage, about what the CIA guys think than about the overall situation. But I have to say that I think that both Clarke and Rummy are right on this one--killing bin Laden before 9/11 wouldn't have stopped 9/11. Atta and the other hijackers were already here, already had their funding, already had their training.

But I see this whole thing as a diversionary tactic. Getting bin Laden then was no more important than it is now. He's just one man, and al Qaeda is a loose network of cells not dependent on one man. Bin Laden the martyr would probably be of just as much use to the overall organization as bin Laden the living person. Maybe without his ongoing leadership al Qaeda would have eventually shrivelled up, but it seems very unlikely that this would have happened before the hijackers had struck. This argument is one of those that the Bushies are using to deflect criticism towards the Clinton administration. If you buy the argument that invading Afghanistan and killing bin Laden was crucial to stopping 9/11, then I think the Bushies win this round.

That isn't the point, though. September 11 could have been stopped if the CIA had told the FBI about the al Qaeda agents living in this country. It could have been stopped if the FBI had more thoroughly investigated the suspicious behavior at the flight schools. And on the simplest level, it could have been stopped just by improving airport screening. Of all the steps taken since 9/11--the war in Afghanistan, the Patriot Act, the holding of hundreds of "detainees," the war in Iraq--only one, the tightened security at the airports, would have been necessary or effective in stopping 9/11. (And the Bushies have already said that they had "chatter" about hijackings, so tightened airport security should have been an obvious step.)

Now I don't like much of anything the Bushies have done since 9/11, and I certainly wouldn't have liked it if they had done them before 9/11. Like a lot of people now, I think the war in Iraq was a horrible act, not just in and of itself but in terms of terrorism. I agree with Clarke that that war is a DEFEAT in the so-called "war on terror"--there are far more people devoted to attacking the U.S. now than there were before. Unlike a lot of people, I also think that the war in Afghanistan was a horrible act. Thousands were killed, of whom no more than a few dozen could possibly have had anything to do with 9/11. The U.S. created far more enemies than it killed or captured. And now, we can even use the Rumsfeld/Clarke argument against that war--killing bin Laden would not stop terrorism.

I still think that it's possible that there is a real smoking gun from the pre-9/11 days--that the Bushies knew it was coming and didn't stop it because they knew how enormous the political benefits would be. If that is the case, then they are the worst criminals in U.S. history, bar none. (And their secrecy and stonewalling certainly adds credence to this possibility.) But if it was a matter of emphasis and priorities, a failure to recognize the seriousness of the threat, a failure to read this memo or that, then I think it is misguided to go after them mainly on their pre-9/11 actions. Their post-9/11 actions have been taken with full knowledge and warnings of the consequences. Their actions abroad in Afghanistan, Iraq and a hundred other places have increased the likelihood of attacks on the U.S., and their slowness in taking real measures to secure the ports, the nuclear plants, the chemical plants, and so on has left us very vulnerable. This is the most damning part of Clarke's argument, and we shouldn't let the Bushies deflect it with excuses about the pre-9/11 failures.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

He's already acting like the president--pick out a code word and send out a stock response.

I sent an e-mail to John Kerry complaining about his anti-Chavez policy in Venezuela. Here is the response I got:

Thank you for sending John Kerry your thoughts about foreign policy in Latin America. Too often in the past, this Administration has sent mixed signals by supporting undemocratic processes in our own hemisphere. John
Kerry has a clear vision for the direction US foreign policy should take in this critical region.

It then referred me to the same articles I was complaining about, and asked me for money.

I understand that his staff is busy and all that. But a response like this doesn't even indicate that they acknowledge my concerns, much less does it address them. I would hope that they were at least keeping some sort of tally, but it looks to me as though they just search for code words and send out a canned response. Code word: Venezuela. Response: Latin American canned message. Donate to Kerry. Volunteer for Kerry. Vote for Kerry.

Why should I think he would pay any attention to my concerns next year when he won't this year when he needs my vote? Please, oh please, can we have a do-over so we can get a good candidate?
Piling On!
The cost of our mistakes . . . with regard to the explanation of why we went to war in Iraq are far greater than Iraq itself.

We are in grave danger of having destroyed our credibility internationally and domestically with regard to warning about future events. The answer is to admit you were wrong, and what I find most disturbing around Washington . . . is the belief . . . you can never admit you're wrong.
-- Former WMD Hunter David Kay, in a speech at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Note to all you Republican senators like McCain, Lugar, Shelby, Lieberman, Biden, Feinstein and Clinton: The cover is in place. You can now criticize Bush on Iraq and the "war on terror." Richard Clarke and David Kay are not Democrats, not liberals, not doves, not "soft on terror," not "appeasers." They're not Jimmy Carter or Howard Dean or Jacques Chirac or Dennis Kucinich. Criticizing Bush is now mainstream, and there's TONS of material! Hey, even Tom Daschle was critical today!

Look here! Even a real Republican senator joined in:
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) said he believes the White House has to respond directly to Clarke's allegations rather than question his credibility. "This is a serious book written by a serious professional who's made serious charges, and the White House must respond to these charges," he said.

So, I'm telling you John, Richard, Richard, Joe, Joe, Diane and Hillary: You can do it! C'mon! Join the fun! And help us get rid of the worst president in history while you're at it.
Welcome to the undisclosed location
As I made it to the bottom of the stairs in the East Wing, I turned the corner and found a machine gun in my face. Cheney's security detail had set up outside the vault doors, with body armor, shotguns, and MP5 machine guns. Although they knew me, they were not about to open the vault door.
In the Presidential Emergency Operations Center the cas was decidedly more political. In addition to the Vice President and Condi Rice, there was the Vice President's wife, Lynne; his political advisor Mary Matelin; his security advisor, Scooter Libby; Deputy White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten; and White House communications director Karen Hughes.
"How's it going over here?" I asked.

"It's fine," Major Fenzel whispered, "but I can't hear the crisis conference because Mrs. Cheney keeps turning down the volume on you so she can hear CNN...and the Vice President keeps hanging up the open line to you." Mrs. Cheney was more than just a family member who had to be protected. Like her husband, she was a right-wing ideologue and she was offering her advice and opinions in the bunker.
-- Against All Enemies, pages 18-19.

I bought Richard Clarke's book last night. Having someone say that Bush has done a terrible job in the "war on terrorism" on "60 Minutes" is worth $20 any day. I'm only up to page 24. The preface said pretty much what Clarke said on TV. The first chapter is his personal story of what happened on 9/11; the passage above describes his entrance into the secure bunker in the East Wing of the White House.
Who said this?
The purpose of government isn't to make the President look good. It isn't to produce propaganda or misleading information. It is, instead, to do its best for the American people and to be accountable to the American people. The people around the President don't seem to believe that. They have crossed a line--perhaps several lines--that no government ought to cross.

We shouldn't fire or demean people for telling the truth. We shouldn't reveal the names of law enforcement officials for political gain. And we shouldn't try to destroy people who are out to make country safer.

I think the people around the President have crossed into dangerous territory. We are seeing abuses of power that cannot be tolerated.

  1. Ralph Nader
  2. Dennis Kucinich
  3. Tom Daschle
  4. Robert Byrd
  5. Molly Ivins

The answer is between here Tom Daschle and here (run your mouse over the blank area to read the answer). Read the whole thing here.
I lied to the UN,

and I'll lie to you!
Israel targets entire Hamas leadership
Jerusalem — Israel will continue striking at Hamas leaders, Israel defence minister Shaul Mofaz said Tuesday, a day after the founder of the Islamic militant group, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, was assassinated in a missile attack.

Mr. Mofaz and his security chiefs decided to try to kill the entire Hamas leadership, without waiting for another terror attack, security sources said Tuesday.
-- AP

Robin Cook on the failure of the "war on terror"
Cook is a former UK foreign secretary and leader of the House of Commons, and wrote an op-ed commemorating the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Some excerpts:

It says much about the nervousness in the [British] government over Iraq that they had no plans to mark Saturday's anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. This was sensible on their part.

Any retrospective examination would inevitably draw attention to questions that they find increasingly difficult to answer - such as why they ever believed Saddam was a threat since he turns out to have had no nuclear programme, no chemical or biological agents, and no delivery system with which to fire them.

A fitting way to mark the anniversary would be to drive a stake through the doctrine of pre-emptive strike and bury it where it cannot be disinterred to justify another unilateral military adventure.
Given popular sentiment in Spain it is almost certain that nine out of 10 of those murdered in Madrid had opposed the Iraq war. There is no certificate of immunity which can be obtained from al-Qaeda. The rational approach is to ask whether our actions are making the world as a whole safer from their malign intentions.

The sober, depressing answer to that question must be that the invasion of Iraq has made the world more vulnerable to a heightened threat from al-Qaeda, which is precisely what our intelligence agencies warned the government about on the eve of war. The bombs in Madrid resulted in the worst terrorist atrocity in Europe in 15 years and were the latest in a litany of murderous assaults from Turkey to Morocco.

Our own experience in Northern Ireland has demonstrated that the only way to diminish the threat from terrorism is to isolate the terrorists and deny them any sympathy from their own public.

The invasion of Iraq has handed the terrorists a whole new weapon to deploy on the Arab street. The great irony is that invading Iraq is precisely what al-Qaeda wanted us to do, because it served their agenda of polarising the West and the Islamic world. As George Soros has observed, "We have fallen into a trap".

Part of the problem of the present Western approach on terrorism is the insistence of our leaders in Washington and London on describing it as a war. As a metaphor the language of war may be a forceful means of expressing the priority our security forces should put into defeating terrorism.

Unfortunately too many in the Bush administration appear to have been misled by their own language into believing that terrorism can be beaten by a real war, as if we can halt the terrorist bombs by dropping even bigger bombs of our own.

In truth we would have made more progress in rolling back support for terrorism if we had brought peace to Palestine rather than war to Iraq, but President George Bush's promise that he would give priority to peace in the Middle East has become another of the commitments given before the invasion and broken in the year after it.

The Spanish people have been charged with appeasement for their impertinence in turning out a government that supported Bush. To accuse them of being soft on terrorism is to add injustice to their injuries. Their refusal to remain conscripted in Bush's coalition simply reflects that they, more than anyone else, have cause to know that his strategy on terrorism is not working.

Walter Cronkite writes Senator Kerry a letter
Kerry was "accused" recently of being a "liberal," and his response was to call it "a laughable characterization" and "the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen in my life." Now, as far as foreign policy goes, I would tend to agree with him, but why deny it? Liberals are the good guys, Senator! Your response should be "Thank you!"

That's pretty much what Walter Cronkite tells him in this letter.
Bob Graham for Vice President!
Florida Senator and ex-governor Bob Graham was for awhile a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. When he was in he was frequently my second choice after Kucinich. His approach to foreign policy seemed so much better than Kerry's or most of the others. He voted against the war in Iraq precisely because he thought it would divert resources from chasing al Qaeda. And now he has rushed to the defense of Richard Clarke while the Bushies try to smear him:

"Dick Clarke had a front-row seat on America's counterterrorism efforts for almost two decades," said Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida, a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He added: "The facts are that within six months of the first bombs falling on Afghanistan, this administration was diverting military and intelligence resources to its planned war in Iraq, which allowed Al Qaeda to regenerate. As the people of Indonesia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and most recently, Spain, have learned painfully well, this president failed to execute the real war on terrorism."

I'm sick of the stupid "war on terrorism" rhetoric, but I'm glad to see Graham pointing out the obvious. I disagree with him and Kerry when they say that Bush hasn't done enough in the "WOT." But what he has done has only made the situation worse.
Juan Cole is NOT happy with Ariel Sharon
Juan Cole is the University of Michigan professor whose blog informs many on the ins and outs of Iraqi and other Middle East politics. He has posted a lengthy reaction to Israel's assassination of Hamas leader Shaikh Ahmed Yassin. I'll leave the well-explained reasoning in his post for you to read; I'll just give you the highlights of his conclusions:

The US can to some significant degree thank Ariel Sharon's iron fist for the distrust and suspicion with which their presence in Iraq is greeted.
Sharon wouldn't recognize decency if he were served a steaming bowl of it next to the two lambs a day he must devour to stay at that obscene weight.

The most dangerous regime to United States interests in the Middle East is that of Ariel Sharon, not because he fights terrorists, but because he is stealing the land of another people and is brutalizing them in the process--and those are people with whom the rest of the Middle East and the Muslim world sympathizes. A US counter-insurgency fight against Muslim radical extremists requires winning hearts and minds, which is impossible as long as Sharon behaves the way he did Monday, since everyone in the region knows that the US coddles the Israeli Right. Israel once had a proper prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, who knew how to make peace and how to be a good partner for America. Sharon is not good enough to shine his shoes.

I'm President Bush, and I almost approved this message...

From Boondocks.
Out of the loop
Billmon's time machine provides us a glimpse into the future:

WASHINGTON, May 7, 2007 -- Top aides to former President Bush reacted with scorn to his claim that he was manipulated by top administration officials, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney, into invading Iraq.

In an emotional 60 Minutes interview Sunday, Bush blamed the disastrous war (now in its fourth year) on a small cabal of neo-conservative officials, who played upon his ignorance of world affairs and his obsessive desire to destroy the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Former administration officials derided Bush's claim, saying the former president was in an alcoholic stupor through most of the period in question, and couldn't possibly have detailed knowledge of the key decisions that led to war. "He was out of the loop," said former Vice President Dick Cheney, currently serving a 20-year sentence in federal prison for his role in the Carlyle Group scandal.

President Kerry pardoned Bush for his role in the affair last year.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Don't forget the Iraqi soldiers
I brought this up in one of our planning meetings for our March 20 march and rally, but it still got missed. As Left I points out, the Iraqi soldiers killed and wounded in Iraq were just as innocent as the civilians. And chances are that the number of dead Iraqi soldiers is in the tens of thousands. They were defending their country against an illegal invasion by a vastly superior force. They didn't even had any chemical or biological weapons to use to defend themselves, much less cruise missiles with 2000-pound bombs. And as was the case in the first Gulf War, the U.S. violated the Geneva conventions by failing to count or account for in any way the Iraqi casualties.

Also frequently ignored are the dead and wounded from the "coalition" forces--British, Polish, and so on. (And so on being about three countries.) And the American, British and other civilians working for Halliburton and other contractors. It has just been one big gory bloodfest for over a year, it had no purpose, it achieved no worthy goal, and it's all George W. Bush's fault.

Human Peace Sign in Budapest on Saturday, via Common Dreams. I think ours from last year was bigger:

Bush's Medicare dream turning into a nightmare
From the Detroit Free Press.

Enactment of a sweeping Medicare overhaul law last year was supposed to be the crowning achievement of President George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatism" as he readied himself for re-election.

But less than four months after he signed it into law on Dec. 8, Bush's Medicare reform dream has turned into a nightmare and a potential drag on his bid for re-election. The biggest expansion of the government social service net in a generation now is drawing fire on several fronts:

The Health and Human Services general inspector's office is investigating a claim by the government's top expert on Medicare costs that the administration concealed from Congress the true cost of the program.

The House Ethics Committee plans to investigate whether threats and bribes were used to pass the bill in the House.

The General Accounting Office (GAO) is investigating whether the Bush administration spent millions of taxpayer dollars on TV ads touting the Medicare reform law that look suspiciously like Bush campaign commercials.
When it comes to Kerry's programs, the Bushies CAN forecast costs
Bush Aide Sees $1 Trillion Gap in Kerry's Plans. Sort of like the one-eyed, three-fingered guy in the woodshop telling you to be careful.
There's still time, George!
On March 31, 1968, having gotten the United States into a bloody quagmire based on lies, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that he would not run for re-election. Do the first honorable thing of your miserable life, George W. Bush, be like LBJ, and head home to Texas--permanently.
It's about time everyone started ganging up on the criminals in the White House!
In addition to the Richard Clarke bombshells (see below), we've got:

And what do the Bushies have to defend themselves with? Condiliar Rice.

Meanwhile, Israel has assassinated a paraplegic Hamas leader, and the Dow appears to be heading back below 10,000.
Once again, Dick Clark(e) tells us what happened when the ball was dropped
Right on the ball
Two and a half years later, and the Wall Street Journal looks at the strange events of 9/11.
"I think he's done a terrible job on the war against terrorism" -- Richard Clarke
The Richard Clarke 60 Minutes interview is getting very little coverage in the major newspapers (or at least their web sites). In anything close to a rational world, it would be more than enough to finish Bush off. Fortunately, the blog Sadly, No! has a transcript taken directly from the show. Here are some of the choicest lines:

CLARKE: What I said was, you know, invading Iraq or bombing Iraq after we're attacked by somebody else, it's akin to, what if Franklin Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor instead of going to war with Japan said, "Let's invade Mexico." It's very analagous.
CLARKE: Well there's a lot of blame to go around and I probably deserve some blame too. But on January 24th of 2001, I wrote a memo to Condileezza Rice asking for, urgently -- underlined urgently -- a cabinet level meeting to deal with the impending al Qaeda attack and that urgent memo wasn't acted on.

STAHL: Do you blame her for not understanding the significance of terrorism?

CLARKE: I blame the entire Bush leadership for continuing to work on the Cold War issues when they came back in power in 2001. It was as though they were preserved in amber from when they left office eight years earlier. They came back, they wanted to work on the same issues right away -- Iraq, Star Wars -- not the new issues, the new threats that had developed over the preceding eight years
CLARKE: I began saying, 'We have to deal with bin Laden. We have to deal with al Qaeda.' Paul Wolfowitz the Deputy Sec'y of Defense said, 'No, no, no. We don't have to deal with al Qaeda. Why are we talking about that little guy? We have to talk about Iraqi terrorism against the United States.' And I said, 'Paul, there hasn't been any Iraqi terrorism against the Untied States in eight years,' and I turned to the Deputy Director of [the] CIA and said, 'Isn't that right?' and he said, 'Yeah, that's right. There is no Iraqi terrorism against the United States.'
STAHL: Was there any connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda?

CLARKE: Were they cooperating? No.

STAHL: Was Iraq supporting al Qaeda?

CLARKE: No. There's absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda. Ever.

STAHL: You call certain people in the administration and they'll say that's still open ...

CLARKE: Yeah, well ...

STAHL ... that's an open issue.

CLARKE: Well they'll say that until Hell freezes over.
CLARKE: If you compare December 1999 [when the Clinton team apparently thwarted an al Qaeda attack on LAX] to June and July of 2001, in December '99, every day or every other day, the head of the FBI, the head of the CIA, the Attorney General had to go to the White House and sit in a meeting and report on all the things that they personally had done to stop the al Qaeda attack, so they were going back every night to their departments and shaking the trees personally and finding out all the information. If that had happened in July of 2001, we might have found out in the White House, the Attorney General might have found out that there were al Qaeda operatives in the United States. FBI, at lower levels, knew -- never told me, never told the highest levels in the FBI.
CLARKE: ... When the President starts doing things that risk American lives, then loyalty to him has to be put aside, and the way he has --

STAHL: You think he risked American lives?

CLARKE: I think the way he has responded to al Qaeda, both before 9/11 by doing nothing and by what he's done after 9/11 has made us less safe. Absolutely.

STAHL: Don't you think he handled himself and hit all the right notes after 9/11, showed strength, got us through it, you don't give him credit for that?

CLARKE: He gave a really good speech right after 9/11.

STAHL: You don't give him credit for anything. Nothing.

CLARKE: I think he's done a terrible job on the war against terrorism.
CLARKE: The White House carefully manipulated public opinion, never quite lied, but gave the very strong impression that Iraq did it.

STAHL: But you're suggesting here that they knew better --

CLARKE: They did know better.

STAHL -- and it was deliberate.

CLARKE: They did know better. They did know better. We told them. The FBI told them. The CIA told them. They did know better. And the tragedy here is that Americans went to their deaths in Iraq thinking that they were avenging September 11 when Iraq had nothing to do with September 11. I think for a Commander in Chief and a Vice President to allow that to happen is unconscionable.
CLARKE: He asked us after 9/11 to give him cards with pictures of the major al Qaeda leaders and tell us when they were arrested or killed so he could draw X's through their pictures, and you know, I write in the book, I have this image of George Bush sitting by a warm fireplace in the White House drawing X's through al Qaeda leaders and thinking that he's got most of them and therefore he's taken care of the problem, and while George Bush thinks he's crossing them out one by one there are all these new al Qaeda people who are being recruited who hate the United States in large measure because of what Bush has done.

STAHL (exp): {He says that the war in Iraq has not only inflamed anti-Americanism in the Arab world, it drained resources away from the fight in Afghanistan and the push to eliminate Osama bin Laden.}
STAHL: Don't you think that Iraq, the Middle East, and the world is better off with Saddam Hussein out power? That's just a widely --

CLARK: I think there --

STAHL: That's just a widely held view that

CLARKE: Leslie, I think the world would be better off if a number of leaders around the world were out of power. The question is, what price should the United States pay? The price we paid was very very high and we're still paying that price for doing it.

[Ed. comment: He's got that right! Bush and Blair are at the top of that list.]
CLARKE: Osama bin Laden had been saying for years, 'America wants to invade an Arab country and occupy it -- an oil rich Arab country. He'd been saying this. This was part of his propaganda. So what do we do after 9/11? We invade an oil rich, and occupy and oil rich Arab country which was doing nothing to threaten us. In other words, we stepped right into bin Laden's propaganda and the result of that is that al Qaeda and organizations like it, offshoots of it, second generation al Qaeda, have greatly strengthened.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

60 Minutes definitely was worth watching!
Richard Clarke covered pretty much all of the key points:
  • Bush ignored terrorism before 9/11 despite repeated warnings from Clarke and other Clinton administration officials
  • Bush and Rumsfeld wanted to attack Iraq immediately, despite lacking any evidence of Iraqi involvement
  • The administration kept demanding reports showing Iraqi involvement with al Qaeda, sending them back when they didn't give the desired answers
  • The attack on Iraq "stepped right in to bin Laden's propaganda," validating his claim that the U.S. wanted to invade an oil-rich Arab country
  • All of Bush's actions, before and after 9/11, have made us less safe.

The White House and Republicans like Joe Lieberman (yeah, I know what it says his party is) are already attacking Clarke, although his anti-terrorist credentials are probably second only to the late John O'Neill's (O'Neill died in the WTC on 9/11 after leaving his FBI job weeks earlier). The guy is known as a hawk, and served in the Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II administrations. His credentials at least match those of Cheney, Powell, or Rumsfeld, and far exceed those of Rice or Bush. The Repugs succeeded to some degree in discrediting Paul O'Neill as a naive whiner, but I'm not sure they'll get far with this guy.

The key as to whether anything comes of this will be, I think, some key Republican senators: John McCain, Chuck Hagle, Richard Lugar, Richard Shelby, and maybe a few others. If they come out in support of Clarke, Bush is finally in real trouble. Clarke knows more about al Qaeda and terrorism than just about anyone; he was chosen to continue serving in both Bush administrations, and he says that Bush's war on terrorism has made us less safe. Since its basically aWol's entire platform, maybe the Repugs will start looking for another nominee? I sure hope that somebody calls for Bush's resignation or impeachment.
60 Minutes
is probably worth watching tonight! Richard Clarke, former anti-terror expert in the Clinton and Bush administrations, is going to set the record straight on aWol's miserable failures in the "war on terror." Here's a selection, via Billmon, who has lots of interesting insights as well:

"The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, 'I want you to find whether Iraq did this.' Now he never said, 'Make it up.' But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this. "I said, 'Mr. President. We've done this before. We have been looking at this. We looked at it with an open mind. There's no connection.' "He came back at me and said, "Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there's a connection.' And in a very intimidating way. I mean that we should come back with that answer. We wrote a report."
Clarke continued, "It was a serious look. We got together all the FBI experts, all the CIA experts. We wrote the report. We sent the report out to CIA and found FBI and said, 'Will you sign this report?' They all cleared the report. And we sent it up to the president and it got bounced by the National Security Advisor or Deputy. It got bounced and sent back saying, 'Wrong answer. ... Do it again.'

"I have no idea, to this day, if the President saw it, because after we did it again, it came to the same conclusion. And frankly, I don't think the people around the president show him memos like that. I don't think he sees memos that he doesn't-- wouldn't like the answer."

Methinks they might protest too much
Now that our latest Ann Arbor peace march is over, I have turned my attention to my (snail) mailbox. The ballot for directors of the Sierra Club has been sitting there for a week or two. I mentioned back in January that there is some controversy surrounding this particular election. The "old guard" is alarmed by the attempts of "an unusual alliance of anti-immigration advocates and animal-rights activists" to take over the Sierra Club. The "old guard" has the endorsements of MoveOn, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and at least our local ACLU president.

My problem here is that the "outsiders," led by former Colorado governor Dick Lamm, don't seem so bad to me. Lamm's "radical" agenda? From his candidate statement:

My priorities are wilderness and biodiversity loss caused by habitat destruction and resource extraction?overpopulation and overconsumption are critical root causes. Our country?s population is exploding, 44 million added since 1990 alone, driven by rising fertility and record immigration. The Club?s population programs?global and domestic?must be strengthened.

Meanwhile, almost the entirety of the old guard's argument seems to be based on a supposed anti-immigrant position and the fact that the outsiders are outsiders. They also refer to support some of the outsiders have received from racist organizations like the Center for American Unity and White Politics Inc. Apparently, since some unsavory characters support the outsiders, I should support the "mainstream" and let the Sierra Club ignore important issues like population control, immigration, and animal rights. And frankly, I was not impressed by the SC mainstream in the months leading up to the Iraq war. They not only refused for a long time to oppose the war, but actually were reprimanding local chapters that did. Finally, enough outcry from members (like me) got the SC to sign up with the wimpiest of the anti-war groups, "Win Without War." And in this issue their response to the challenge is far from enlightening. Instead of pointing to specific points from the challengers and refuting them, or promoting some positive agenda of their own, they are acting like typical politicians: attacking a lack of "experience," and using code-words like "extremist" and "outside the mainstream." I heard enough of that stuff working on the Kucinich campaign, and it tends to bias me against those who attack that way.

So right now I'm kind of confused. I certainly don't want to vote for any white supremicists who want to increase the persecution of immigrants in this country. But I also think that it is legitimate to address the whole problem of immigration, especially since so many immigrants end up in parts of the country that are already unsustainable in terms of water and energy. If we can reduce immigration by reducing the pressure on the poor people in Mexico and elsewhere to leave their lands, much of that pressure coming from US corporations, it could be good for all concerned (except those corporations, who thoroughly deserve to be screwed, BTW). And why in the world should the Sierra Club be opposing "animal-rights activists?"

You can read the candidate statements here. The point-counterpoint of the two sides is also online. The "old guard" point of view is here; the "outsider" viewpoint is here. If you have any comments on the candidates or suggestions as to whom I should vote for, please e-mail me.
Ann Arbor still says "NO!" to war
We didn't get the spectacular aerial photos this year because of rainy, windy weather, but we still had a good protest march in downtown Ann Arbor yesterday. The Ann Arbor News estimates 2500 people attended.

Michelle links to an article which presents the real reason for the war in Iraq--to keep the dollar as the global currency:

If the euro becomes a global currency to rival the dollar, central banks and other traders will sell down their dollar reserves, causing the value of the dollar to plummet (and devaluing the debts of poor countries at the expense of their creditors). The unwanted dollars will be withdrawn from the US asset market and will flood the market for US goods and services. The US property market will deflate (so that poor Americans can more easily afford homes, at the expense of current property owners). The US stock market, being more volatile than the property market, will fall faster. The real prices of property and shares will fall further than the dollar prices because the dollar itself will be devalued. The additional dollars chasing US goods and services will fuel domestic inflation. They will also increase exports, reducing the current account deficit to compensate for the slowdown of foreign investment, and reducing domestic living standards as measured by consumption of goods and services. Inevitably, the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates in order to reduce the inflation, support the dollar, attract more foreign investment, and delay the day of reckoning on which America will have to export real goods and services to pay for its imports, service its foreign debt, and accumulate reserves of euros. But that will not rescue the landowners and shareholders and bond holders, because their assets can be devalued not only by reduced foreign investment, but also by higher interest rates.

And of course the price of oil in US dollars will increase; but this time there will be no compensating increase in the global demand for dollars.

So what does this have to do with Iraq, the "axis of evil," and the Bushies' assault on democracy in Venezuela?

The first OPEC member to show serious disloyalty to the dollar was Iran, which has expressed interest in the euro since 1999. In January 2002, George W. Bush named Iran in his "axis of evil", provoking a wave of anti-American demonstrations reminiscent of the Khomeini era, and undoubtedly setting back the political and religious liberalization of that country. Undeterred, Iran converted most of its currency reserves to euros during 2002, and a proposal to price Iran's oil in euros has been submitted to the central bank and the parliament.

Let us see whether the Americans find an excuse to destabilize Iran's toddling democracy in favor of a dictatorship that just happens to prefer dollars to euros.

The second offender was Venezuela. In 2000, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez convened a conference on the future of fossil fuels and renewable energy. The report of the conference, delivered by Chavez to the OPEC summit in September 2000, recommended that OPEC set up a computerized barter system so that members could trade oil for goods and services without the use of dollars or any other currency. The chief beneficiaries would be OPEC's poorer customers, who did not have large currency reserves. Chavez made 13 barter deals. In one of them, Cuba provided health services in Venezuelan villages.

In April 2002 there was a coup against the twice-elected President Chavez. The coup was welcomed by the Bush administration and by editorials in numerous American newspapers, but collapsed after two days, leaving evidence that the U.S. administration was behind it.

The third and most blatant offender was Iraq. In October 2000, Iraq persuaded the United Nations to allow Iraqi oil to be sold for euros instead of dollars, with effect from November 6. Iraq then converted its entire $10 billion "oil for food" reserve fund from dollars to euros. These events went unreported in the U.S. media.

In case you don't already know it, the American economy is one giant house of cards. Without cheap imported oil, cheap labor via "free trade," and the hegemony of the dollar, we're basically Russia--a failed economy and lots of weapons of mass destruction. And rather than attempt to face this reality and work our way out of it in a reasonable (and peaceful) manner, our politicians would prefer to keep the blinders on and continue rushing full-tilt towards oblivion, just so long as we don't get there before the next election.

From Doonesbury.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Ann Arbor Still Says No To War!
Unfortunately, the weather stopped us from getting the great picture this year, grounding our aerial photographer. Hopefully I'll have some pictures later. If you're wondering where I've been today, that was it.

Friday, March 19, 2004

More from Pat Buchanan
Okay, I read this article from Pat which attacks Kerry from about the same point of view as Tom DeLay or Dick Cheney would, so I'm already less un-repulsed by Buchanan than I was in the previous post (below). What's disappointing in that article is not so much that he operates from different assumptions and positions, but that it is so full of the same kind of meaningless rhetoric that you hear from almost all of the candidates ("John Kerry, by his voting record over two decades, is outside the American mainstream." -- I mean, wo what?)

Still, Pat's got some good things to say, and he says them well. Moving on to Pat's article previous to that one, and he's attacking the Republicrats "free trade" policy, and doing it well:

North Carolina welcomed Sen. John Edwards home after his unsuccessful campaign as a hero. Why? At the end, Edwards was a fiery adversary of the Bush-Clinton trade deals, a denunciator of NAFTA, a champion of workers. Indeed, just as almost all the Democrats ended up the campaign sounding like Howard Dean on Iraq, on trade they had all begun to sound like Dennis Kucinich.
The trade deals the U.S. government then negotiated, at the behest of U.S. corporations, were not really trade deals at all, but enabling acts. U.S. corporations were told: You can now shut your U.S. factories, shed your U.S. workers, build your new plants in Mexico, China and India, and bring your finished goods back to the United States, free of charge. Go for it!
Republican free-trade dogma inhibits action to protect U.S. jobs. The GOP is hogtied and hamstrung by its ideology in dealing with the crisis. Its only response is to mutter with Dr. Pangloss that it is all for the best.

The GOP is fortunate its opponent in 2004 is John F. Kerry, who is as clueless as they are on the new world economy that has been designed, and is operating, to loot America of her patrimony.
Who is the real opposition party?

The pResident gave another dumb speech today, demonstrating once again that he learns nothing from experience. Tax cuts cause job losses? More tax cuts will fix it! Wars cause terrorism? More wars will fix it! Being incomprehensibly stupid and arrogant makes you the laughing stock of the world? Be even more stupid and arrogant! Here's a part of his speech today:

The war on terror is not a figure of speech. It is an inescapable calling of our generation. The terrorists are offended not merely by our policies -- they are offended by our existence as free nations. No concession will appease their hatred. No accommodation will satisfy their endless demands. Their ultimate ambitions are to control the peoples of the Middle East, and to blackmail the rest of the world with weapons of mass terror. There can be no separate peace with the terrorist enemy. Any sign of weakness or retreat simply validates terrorist violence, and invites more violence for all nations. The only certain way to protect our people is by early, united, and decisive action.

Here are two selections covering the same subject, one from a speech, the other from a magazine column, both from two days ago (3/17). Which one do you think offers the clearest, most sensible alternative to Bush's "war on terrorism?"

1. And while we should seek allies, we must never give anyone else a veto over our national security. At this decisive time in our history, when we confront ongoing challenges in Afghanistan as well as Iraq - and the mortal challenge of those that would use terror as a weapon and religion as a shield, there is no greater imperative for a President than the Constitution's command to provide for the common defense. If I am President of the United States, we will do whatever it takes to ensure that the 21st century American military is the strongest in the world. I will not hesitate to use force when it is needed to wage and win the War on Terror.

2. What is Nagasaki ? the atomic bombing of a defenseless city of a defeated nation ? other than an act of slaughter, killing 40,000 men, women and children in minutes to force Japan's warlords to submit to America's will?

But that was war, we say, and Japan was the aggressor. Does that also justify Dresden? Is air terror permissible in a just war if a nation can demonstrate it was the victim of aggression?

Saddam's Iraq did not threaten us, did not attack us, did not want war with us, did not have weapons of mass destruction. Yet, we attacked, invaded and occupied Iraq. And when Iraqis attack our troops, we call it terror and we call them terrorists.

Is terrorism, then, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder?

John Brown murdered men in Kansas in reprisal for the killing of Northerners and killed civilians in his raid on Harper's Ferry to ignite a slave revolt. Brown was hanged as a terrorist. Yet the 1920s epic poem on the Civil War written by Stephen Vincent Benet would be titled, "John Brown's Body." And the first lines of the fighting song of the Union army were: "John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave, but his soul goes marching on. Glory, glory halleluiah."

One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Or so it would seem.

The first one is John Kerry two days ago. The second one is Pat Buchanan. I'll confess that I haven't fully researched Buchanan. Generally if you mention his name you get a shudder or a scream in response. I know he was a speechwriter for Nixon, not a plus on the resume as far as I'm concerned, and he has been accused of being a fascist, although I think that is more based on a (real or perceived) anti-Jewish position than on a totalitarian point of view, because I think Pat is quite libertarian in outlook. But when I read his articles or hear him talk on TV, I find myself agreeing with him most of the time. I get the feeling that like Kucinich on the left, Buchanan has been shunned by the right for pretty much the same reason: he threatens business as usual. There are huge bucks being made from continual war, and anyone who threatens it, whether from an internationalist point of view like Kucinich or an isolationist point of view like Buchanan, is usually ignored and occasionally ridiculed. But as far as foreign policy goes, I'll take Buchanan's approach any day over Bush's or Kerry's. He's willing to talk sense while Bush and Kerry are merely trying to out-patriot each other.

[Update] I've read a few more of Pat's columns, and he is pretty scary on the domestic agenda. So take Kerry's domestic agenda (if you can figure out what it is) and combine it with Buchanan's far less belligerent approach to foreign policy, and you'd have just about the perfect candidate! (Kucinich, that is.)
Kerry asked Spain not to pull troops from Iraq
Apparently, anyway. I can only find articles on Zapatero's rejection:

Prime Minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero tonight rejected US Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry’s call for him to reconsider plans to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq.

Zapatero, the Socialist who won Sunday’s general election, noted that he had campaigned on a pledge to withdraw those 1,300 troops unless the United Nations takes charge in Iraq, and did not devise the plan simply because of last week’s terrorist bombings in Madrid.

“My commitment is my commitment,” Zapatero said in a television interview.

He added that he wanted “the best relations with the United States”.

Kerry yesterday joined other politicians in the US in expressing alarm over Zapatero’s insistence on bringing home the troops by June 30 when their mandate runs out unless the UN steps in.

Some Americans said Spain would be appeasing terrorists if it went ahead with the plan.

“Maybe John Kerry does not know – but I am happy to explain it to him – that my commitment to withdraw the troops goes back before the tragic, dramatic terrorist attack,” Zapatero said.

“If the United Nations does not take over the situation and there is not a rethinking of this chaotic occupation we are living through, in which there are more dead in the occupation than in the war phase, the Spanish troops are going to return to Spain”, Zapatero said.

I've googled and Yahooed to find a direct quote from Kerry; his statement doesn't appear to exist in American media or on his web site. I found the above article from the Scotsman, and just this article from the Jerusalem Post, which says:

US Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry asked Spain's incoming Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to reconsider his decision to withdraw Spanish troops stationed in Iraq.

Kerry said that the international community has a responsibility to bring stability to Iraq.

Our bloodthirsty pResident, with the support of our bloodthirsty Congress, including Kerry, got Spain's government to join us in a brutal crime against the will of the Spanish people. Spain apparently being a lot more of a democracy than the U.S., the people there rejected that government. The people of Spain don't have any responsibility to "bring stability" to Iraq, even if having troops there had anything to do with that.

Since I can't find any direct quote from Kerry, I won't rip into him--too much. But I think that anyone who expects U.S. foreign policy to improve significantly in a Kerry administration is in for a very rude shock--and awe.

Donald in Lala-land
The Secretary of Offense wrote an op-ed for the NY Times today. He again tries to pretend that somehow the war in Iraq is fighting terrorism, and then goes on to this donsense:

Today, in a world of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and states that sponsor the former and pursue the latter, defending freedom means we must confront dangers before it is too late. In Iraq, for 12 years, through 17 United Nations Security Council resolutions, the world gave Saddam Hussein every opportunity to avoid war. He was being held to a simple standard: live up to your agreement at the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf war; disarm and prove you have done so. Instead of disarming — as Kazakhstan, South Africa and Ukraine did, and as Libya is doing today — Saddam Hussein chose deception and defiance.

So now it's "prove you have done so." He had already disarmed. He prepared 11,000 pages of documentation, let the inspectors back in. And, of course, if Don and his buddies in the Reagan and Bush I administration hadn't spent ten years supplying Saddam with all those nasty weapons...

Oh, Don, we used to be such good friends! Why did you turn on me?

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Is It Safe?
Not when Dick "Zell" Cheney, the Halliburton Man, is around. Billmon noticed the uncanny resemblance between the Veep from the Deep and the evil Nazi dentist (triple redundancy?) Christian Zell from the movie "Marathon Man." As I recall, in that movie pretty much everyone with a speaking part except Dustin Hoffman ends up dead. Hopefully this movie ends up somewhat better. Having Fearmaster Cheney more than a pacemaker beat away from the presidency would be a good start.

You do change horses in midstream...
...when the horse you're on already has you up to your eyeballs in cold water and is determined to head for an even deeper part of the stream. The Spanish know this; will Americans? Unfortunately, the closest horse to jump to is also looking longingly towards the deep water. Do you risk drowning completely while looking for a truly suitable mount, or just jump on the nearest one and hope for the best? That is THE question of 2004.

Josh Marshall has a more colorful analogy.
Juan Cole, an Ann Arbor blogger who really knows what he's talking about, has a great post about the Socialist victory in Spain. He says of course it isn't a victory for al Qaeda, but it sure is a defeat for Bush.
The New Pravda strikes again
From a supposed news article from the NY Times:

At the same time, the White House and its allies tried to halt any notion that other nations might be tempted to follow Spain's example of bending to terrorists.

Spain had an open democratic election. The government that the Bushies liked but the Spanish hated was replaced. And the NY Times, without qualifiers, says that Spain set an example of bending to terrorists.

They voted. The warmongers lost. Get over it, and stop lying about it!
Scum of the Earth
The Repugs, that is.

"Here is a country that stood against terrorism, and had a huge terrorist act within their country, and they chose to change their government and to in a sense appease terrorists," House Speaker Dennis Hastert said.

Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, said, "If we follow the example of the new Spanish government and we accept failure in Iraq and permit the victory of the terrorists, there there will no counting the number of people around the world who will suffer the consequences."

Gee, Dennis, attacking Iraq was an act of terrorism, not standing against it. And Tom, with you bloodthirsty warmongers there is no counting the number of people who have already suffered the consequences of your illegal war on Iraq.

Hurray for Spain!

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

War on Terror Continues
After the big success in the WOT in Madrid, a followup from Baghdad. CNN has a new poll up: "Do terror attacks in Iraq make you more resolved to help establish democracy in the nation?" Do they mean Iraq or the U.S.?

Meanwhile, Howard Dean is trying to help Kerry find a spine, but Kerry prefers to take his orders from the Bush team:

The chairman of Bush's re-election campaign called on Kerry to repudiate the comment that Dean made during a conference call arranged by the Kerry campaign.

"The president was the one who dragged our troops to Iraq, which apparently has been a factor in the death of 200 Spaniards over the weekend,'' Dean said as he defended Kerry from a Bush television ad that accused Kerry of turning his back on U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq.

Asked about the comment on his campaign plane Wednesday, Kerry said, "It's not our position.''

And obviously it can't be, because Kerry helped Bush to drag our troops to Iraq.
I lost my program--someone please explain
MoveOn has a clip from Sunday's "Face the Nation" showing Donald Rumsfeld being contradicted by Iraq-hawk Thomas Friedman, of all people, about whether anyone in the administration said that Iraq was an "imminent" or "immediate" threat. Rummy claims that nobody did, and Friedman hits him with two of his own quotes; in the first one Rummy uses "imminent" (albeit in a double-negative kind of way that could be argued out of), and in the second he says "immediate."

What I'm confused about is why Rummy would be arguing that nobody in the administration claimed Iraq was an imminent or immediate threat. Isn't he therefore arguing against the main reason used to justify the war? Let him say it! That's what most people who opposed the war said before it started--that Iraq wasn't a threat. And Rummy is arguing that same point! Is he covering up for the lies about WMD's by insisting that we went to war for no reason?

And Congressional Repugs want to CONGRATULATE Bush for this murderous, expensive boondoggle. Call your representative today and tell him or her that Bush needs to be censured (and impeached!), not congratulated (800-839-5276).

My dream photo? Bush in an orange jumpsuit, in a cage at Guantanamo Bay, with a sign over his head reading "Mission Accomplished."
Online Poll
CNN asks: "Whose position do you support on Iraq?" The choices are Zapatero (Spanish PM-elect), or Bush and Blair.

Spain's prime minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has rejected an appeal from President George W. Bush to stand by the United States and has reiterated his threat to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq.

"My position is the same. I have explained it throughout the election campaign," Zapatero told Onda Cero radio in an interview quoted by Reuters.

Zapatero -- swept to power after last week's Madrid train bombings -- has pledged to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq by July 1 if the United Nations does not take charge there.

"The occupation is a fiasco. There have been almost more deaths after the war than during the war," he said. "The occupying forces have not allowed the United Nations to take control of the situation."

Tony Blair welcomes Sr. Zapatero to the world stage by insulting him:
"The idea that if you were to give in over the issue of Iraq that that will be the end of the matter is completely and hopelessly naive," Blair told the House of Commons.

The idea, Tony, you dickhead, is not that getting out of Iraq will be "the end of the matter," but that staying in will undoubtedly make the matter worse. And getting in in the first place is a large part of the reason that there is a "matter" needing ending. Bush and Blair are part of the problem; Zapatero is hopefully part of the solution. (Just in case you didn't no how to vote in the CNN poll!)

BTW, Zapatero currently leads in the poll, 52% to 48%! Go world!
Three weeks from now I'll be on my way to Venezuela
Let's hope it's still there. Michelle has a long post about the latest developments in the sham recall drive in Venezuela. Suffice it to say that without the Bush administration Venezuela would have a lot fewer problems. But that's true of anywhere.
Bush actually going to run on his war record
A year after ordering the invasion of Iraq, President Bush is moving the war to the forefront of his re-election effort with a weeklong barrage of speeches, an orchestrated set of interviews with senior Pentagon officials and a new television advertisement questioning Senator John Kerry's support of the troops. -- NY Times

Both Bush and Kerry failed the troops by sending them to an illegal war with no valid reason. It is such a shame that the Democrats didn't nominate someone who could hammer Bush on this point, instead of the appeaser Kerry (a Bush appeaser, not a Saddam appeaser).

But for Bush to try to run on a record of a war based entirely on lies which has killed thousands and wounded many more? Well, what else has he got? He should do the honorable thing and drop out of the race, like that previous Texan who got us into a quagmire, LBJ. But George W. Bush has never done the honorable thing in his miserable life.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

From Steve Benson.
The terrorists were going to win either way
The execrable David Brooks in the NY Times, many cartoonists, like this particularly obnoxious and racist one, and plenty of other wingnuts are claiming that the victory of the Socialist Party in Spain is a victory for the terrorists.

To which I have many replies, first and foremost of which is: So what? By siding with Bush and Blair in the unnecessary, unprovoked and brutal war against Iraq, Aznar was himself a terrorist. So voting against him, even if it did please al Qaeda, was a better choice than voting for him.

And to follow the wingnut argument to its logical conclusion: Suppose that we knew with absolute certainty, before the election, that al Qaeda had blown up the trains for the express purpose of getting Aznar out of office. Is that supposed to mean that every Spaniard was then supposed to vote for Aznar, no matter what they thought of him? In other words, the bombings were Osama's ENDORSEMENT of Aznar? Millions in Spain opposed the war in Iraq in part because of the potential blowback. When the blowback went from potential to real, is it any surprise that they would reject the warmongering leader who helped to make it real?

I'll go back to my original argument, which I'll confess is highly un-American in the George Bush/John Kerry definition of American. That argument is, so what if the terrorists won? Appeasement, that dirty word, clearly didn't work with Hitler or with George W. Bush, but I think the evidence may point the other way when it comes to terrorism. Hitler and Bush attack because they are insane with power, and the more you give them the more they want, which is why appeasement doesn't work with them. Terrorists attack because they are angry. Make them happy and frequently they stop attacking (see Algerian terrorism against France in the '60's, IRA terrorism against England, and so on--see Pat Buchanan's article What Price the American Empire? for more on this).

And if you define your policy as being "whatever the terrorists don't want," aren't you in effect giving them complete control of your policy? I'm sure that al Qaeda, which considers a bare ankle to be a wardrobe malfunction punishable by death, was in full agreement with Michael Powell and the other wingnuts who were shocked by the Super Bowl halftime show. So shouldn't Bush, Powell and the others be promoting full frontal nudity on all TV because it's not what the terrorists want? It's absurd to let your policy be simply opposing what other people, no matter how horrible, want.

In Spain, I think the issue was fairly clear. Not getting involved in Iraq was clearly the preference of the majority of the country, but Aznar went ahead anyway. This certainly showed the people that he was not responsive to their wishes, which should be a good enough reason to vote him out. If the bombings swayed more people away from him rather than toward him, it just shows that the Spanish are smarter than Americans.

From Don Wright.
Go Hans!
President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair have lost credibility, the world is not safer now that Saddam Hussein is out of power and it was clear 10 months ago that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, according to Hans Blix, the former U.N. weapons inspector who returned to New York on the one-year anniversary of the war. -- CNN

"It was a reaction to 9/11 that we have to strike some theoretical, hypothetical links between Saddam Hussein and the terrorists. That was wrong. There wasn't anything," he said in an interview with NBC's "Today" show.

And he disagreed that the war had made the world a safer place.

"Sorry to say it doesn't look that way. If the message was to terrorists that we are willing to take you on, then that has not succeeded. In Iraq, it has bred a lot of terrorism and a lot of hatred to the Western world," he told an audience of 1,200 at NYU.

"Disarmament by war and democracy by occupation are difficult prospects."

He was especially critical of the United States and Britain for claiming the war was meant to uphold U.N. resolutions when the rest of the Security Council refused to back the conflict and he said Bush and Blair "oversold" what they knew.

By May I knew there was nothing because the Americans had interrogated so many Iraqis by then and even offered money and still they found nothing.
-- Hans Blix, former U.N. weapons inspector

"The moral of this story was clearly a loss of credibility for the leaders of this war and that they didn't think the council mattered, that was a mistake," Blix said.

Referring to passages from his book, the 75-year-old Swede identified Vice President Dick Cheney as his No. 1 opponent inside the Bush administration.

Cheney is EVERYONE's number one opponent.

Blix said he had been convinced for years that the Iraqis were hiding weapons of mass destruction but began having doubts when intelligence provided by the United States and other countries wasn't producing results. He blamed an over-reliance on defectors and a refusal on the part of the White House to consider the possibility that the intelligence was wrong.

Monday, March 15, 2004

And so it goes
Sixteen US troops, including 12 marines, were injured during a raid on Saturday, when five home made bombs were found and seven insurgents captured, the US Army said.

An army spokeswoman declined to give details on how four Task Force All American soldiers and 12 marines were hurt during the operation on Saturday in Ramadi 100 kilometres (65 miles) west of Baghdad.

In other violence, a US soldier was critical but stable after being stabbed several times by an unknown attacker in the US-led coalition's headquarters in Baghdad early Sunday, a US military official said.

And the body of a policeman from Fallujah, west of Baghdad, who disappeared two days ago, was discovered riddled with bullet holes, a police officer said.
-- AFP

To be fair and balanced, I should point out that while seven American soldiers were killed and dozens wounded over the weekend, approximately 240 Americans were killed on the highways. The soldiers were killed and wounded as part of an effort to keep the highway carnage going for several more years.
Quote du Jour
The war in Iraq was a disaster, the occupation of Iraq is a disaster. -- Spain's prime minister-elect, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.


Regime change is addictive
Washington has been channelling hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund the political opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez - including those who briefly overthrew the democratically elected leader in a coup two years ago.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that, in 2002, America paid more than a million dollars to those political groups in what it claims is an ongoing effort to build democracy and "strengthen political parties". Mr Chavez has seized on the information, telling Washington to "get its hands off Venezuela".
-- The Independent

Three weeks from Thursday I'll be in Venezuela. I'm guessing Chavez will be a lot harder for Bush to kidnap than Aristide, or maybe even Saddam, was. Let's do everything we can to make sure that Bush doesn't try (again).
Lying Liars at it again!
If you've read any of the exposes of the public relations industry, like Trust Us, We're Experts! from PR Watch or Global Spin, then you are aware that much of what is presented as "news," especially on local news shows, is actually just packaged PR from corporations and lobbying groups. Well, if you see "news" about how wonderful the new Medicare bill is, it probably was paid for by your tax dollars (unless of course you are rich).

The Department of Health and Human Services has prepared video tapes and scripts bragging about the bill:

The videos are intended for use in local television news programs. Several include pictures of President Bush receiving a standing ovation from a crowd cheering as he signed the Medicare law on Dec. 8.

The materials were produced by the Department of Health and Human Services, which called them video news releases, but the source is not identified. Two videos end with the voice of a woman who says, "In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting."
The government also prepared scripts that can be used by news anchors introducing what the administration describes as a made-for-television "story package."

In one script, the administration suggests that anchors use this language: "In December, President Bush signed into law the first-ever prescription drug benefit for people with Medicare. Since then, there have been a lot of questions about how the law will help older Americans and people with disabilities. Reporter Karen Ryan helps sort through the details."

They withheld information on the real costs of the bill from Congress, they offered bribes to representatives on the House floor, they kept the vote open for some three hours longer than the customary fifteen minutes so that Bush and his cronies could twist more arms, all to pass this huge giveaway to the drug and insurance companies. Now they have the audacity to try to sell this load of crap to us with our own money, and try to disguise these blatantly political ads as news. And given how fervently most local stations worked to sell the war in Iraq, it seems likely that these scripts will be read and videos shown just as the Repugs want.

Here's more:
Kevin W. Keane, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said there was nothing nefarious about the television materials, which he said had been distributed to stations nationwide. Under federal law, he said, the government is required to inform beneficiaries about changes in Medicare.

"The use of video news releases is a common, routine practice in government and the private sector," Mr. Keane said. "Anyone who has questions about this practice needs to do some research on modern public information tools."

But Democrats disagreed. "These materials are even more disturbing than the Medicare flier and advertisements," said Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey. "The distribution of these videos is a covert attempt to manipulate the press."

Actually, they're both right. Anyone who has questions about this practice does need to do some research on PR methods (PR Watch being a great source). Because there are still a lot of people out there who believe that TV news is, well, news, and not government and corporate propaganda. And the sooner they are relieved of that mistaken impression the sooner we can get started on fixing this country.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

The reign in Spain
Is blown up like the trains.

Bush buddy Aznar's support of the Iraq war was apparently blamed for Thursday's bombings, and the Socialist Party is taking over.

The Socialist Equality Party is running Bill Van Auken for president in this country, giving voters an opportunity to reject the two warmongering parties leading this country and world to ruin (along with Nader, the Libertarians, and others). Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans have drunk the two-party Kool-Aid and believe that warmonger Kerry is the only alternative to warmonger Bush. Also unfortunately, we still don't have runoff elections or instant runoff voting which would actually allow people to vote for their favorite candidates without having to worry about helping their least favorite. Anyhow, let's hope that Spain marks the beginning of the end of the pitiful "coalition of the willing."
So sad
I just watched the CNN Presents special on the Dean campaign. (It was shown last night, but I recorded it on the TiVo and watched it tonight.) If you've been reading the blog for a while, you know that I wasn't a fan of Dean's. But to watch that show documenting the dreams of so many Americans being raised sky-high, only to be crushed by the media and party machines, was very depressing.

It's hard for me to fight off the impression that the crushing of the spirit was part of the plan all along. The big-money folks wanted Kerry against Bush all along, since they win either way. But Kerry wouldn't have survived even as long as Dean did if he had been the frontrunner all through last year. Since Dean had a good thing going with the fiery talk and the Internet fundraising and meetups, the media decided to play along. Put him on the cover of the major magazines, get his name on the front pages and on the evening news broadcasts a lot. Get lots of idealistic people, including many of the millions who marched against the war last year, interested and excited about Dean. Let them think that they really were going to change the country. (Also, take them away from the real anti-war candidate, Kucinich, but that's another rant.) A lot of them were young people who hadn't been a part of a campaign before, and they were thrilled to think that they were a part of something big. Give them their big shining moment in early December: President Gore's endorsement, and huge leads in the polls.

From then on, the media and the party turned against Dean. Instead of giving him good press no matter what he did, they gave him bad press. When he said something obviously true, such as that the capture of Saddam Hussein didn't make us safer, the media jumped all over it as though he had pissed on the true cross or something. Kerry, to his eternal shame, jumped all over that comment, saying it showed that Dean wasn't fit to be president (one of the many reasons I can't stand Kerry). The media kept talking about "electability," suggesting without any real reason that Kerry was more "electable" than Dean. And so many people were so media-led that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Iowa caucuses turned into The Match Game, where you win if you pick what most people say. And just in case those results from Iowa weren't enough to finish off Dean, the media picked one film clip from his speech that night and played it over and over and over. The CNN Presents piece showed video of the "Dean scream" from a handheld camera behind the stage--the crowd was cheering, and you couldn't even hear Dean.

CNN focused mostly on Dean's campaign manager, Joe Trippi. From what they showed, I liked Trippi a lot.

Anyhow, I think a lot of people in the Kucinich, Dean and Clark campaigns were hoping that what they were taught in ninth-grade civics might actually be true: that the people can make a difference in choosing who runs the country. The rise and fall of the Dean campaign was, I think, a lesson from the rich and powerful to the rest of us that that just isn't so. They decide who runs the country (and the world). We don't.
Four more soldiers killed
How many more?

Saturday, March 13, 2004

It's all my fault
When a butterfly sneezes and all that. Last summer at the Ann Arbor Art Fair, I was manning the Kucinich booth in the non-profit section. We were selling "Regime Change 2004" T-shirts with a picture of smirky Bush and a big circle and line through it. The Dean and Kerry booths were selling the same shirt. The guy at the Kerry booth ran out of larges, and came down to trade two smalls for two of our larges. I agreed to it, instead of telling him to send the buyers down to our booth. The Kerry campaign got $10 (we were making about $5 profit per shirt), the Kucinich campaign got $0 (I don't think we ever sold the smalls), and now we're faced with a battle between the incumbent hawk and the challenger hawk.

I am profoundly sorry.
The carnage continues
From Nicholas Kristof:
Here's a pop quiz. Rank the following in order of the number of American lives they claim in a typical year: food, guns, terrorists, flu and cars.

Ready? The most deadly are automobiles, which kill 117 Americans a day, or nearly 43,000 a year. Then comes flu, which (along with pneumonia, its associated disease) kills 36,000 people. Third is guns: 26,000 deaths. Fourth, food-borne illness: 5,000. And finally, terrorism, which in a typical year claims virtually no U.S. lives — with horrific exceptions like 2001. But antiterrorism efforts get most of the attention and the resources.

That's right. More people killed in a typical month of car accidents than in pretty much the whole history of U.S. terrorist attacks, including 9/11 and Oklahoma City. And by keeping gasoline prices artificially low and the highways crowded, the various battles being fought in the name of the "war on terror" would probably still be causing more Americans to die even if they were legitimately going after terrorists. (Did that make any sense?)

Full disclosure: I work for a transportation research institute, where we do contract studies for GM, Chrysler and others on new automotive safety devices. And while some of these devices will help save lives, eventually, far greater savings will be achieved when the total miles driven drops dramatically. And 100 years from now the total miles driven will be far below what it is today, because most of the oil will be gone. The real question is how horrible and bloody the century will be, and what will be the condition of the planet. By conserving now we can reduce the bloodshed both on the highways and on the battlefields, and hopefully give the planet enough breathing space to recover from the threat of global warming.
Meanwhile in Iraq
Two more soldiers were killed and five wounded this morning in Tikrit. Two others were killed on Thursday. And in Afghanistan, Operation Mountain Storm begins tomorrow after weeks of warning to Osama bin Laden.
My latest article...
is now up at the Daily News Online, here. Actually, if you've been reading this blog for a long time, you'll recognize it as an old post (December 26, 2002) updated.

Friday, March 12, 2004

From Kirk Walters of the Toledo Blade.

Like I said a few days ago, the Davis-Bessie nuclear power plant is only about sixty miles from here. Two years ago, it may have been only months away from a nuclear catastrophe. It is now being reopened by the same corrupt corporation, FirstEnergy, that owned it then, and is still being overseen by the same corrupt government agency, the NRC. The threats already within our borders, whether they materialize because of terrorist activity or just greed and incompetence, are far greater than any threats from overseas.

From Ed Stein.

From Steve Greenberg.

Unfortunately for Mars, the Deimoscratic party kept chasing the Rephoboscans to the right and failed to call attention to the Martian warming problem until all hope was lost. The Deimoscrats tried to show that they were more Marsiotic than the Zoxg dynasty by being even more warlike, Mars being the god of war, after all.

From Jim Morin.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

We've got 9/11
Spain has 3/11. Two and a half years to the day later. I spent a few days in Madrid in 1993. Nice city, great public transportation. My condolences to all.
No time to paraphrase...
So just go check out Michelle's posts on Venezuela: here, here and here.

In a month, I'll be in Venezuela with the Global Exchange tour. Hopefully, I'll gain some insights about Chavez and his Bolivarian revolution and be able to share them. For now, I'm operating on the principle that George W. Bush is ALWAYS wrong, so Chavez must be okay.

BTW, one of those articles quotes U.S. ambassador to Brazil Donna Hrinak as saying "It's difficult to understand Brazil's silence given the recent abuses of human rights in Cuba." Surprisingly, I agree with her. I think everyone should speak out about the human rights abuses going on at Guantanamo Bay.
Haiti Crimes
From a Sean Gonsalves article, via Michelle, who has lots of interesting posts on Haiti. I've reorganized the quotes in Gonsalves' article to make my own points (i.e., value adding!).

Question: Who in the U.S. government coordinated the overthrow of Aristide?
Answer: Investigative reporter Wayne Madsen also points to something studiously ignored in the "liberal" media; namely the policymakers behind the scenes.

"They include the State Department's Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega (a one-time staffer for Sen. Jesse Helms and promoter of El Salvador death squad leader Roberto D'Aubuisson), U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Negroponte (a promoter of Honduran death squads while he was ambassador to Honduras), Iran-contra felon Elliott Abrams (who is now at the National Security Council), and Otto Reich, Noriega's predecessor who was not confirmed by the Senate and who organized a similar coup in April 2002 against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias."

Comment: Oh. Criminals.

Question: So who's running Haiti now?
Answer: According to Brian Concannon Jr., a human rights lawyer with the International Lawyers' Office, "Guy Philippe, the U.S.-trained self-proclaimed new army chief, (has been) implicated in running drugs, executing suspected gang members, attacking the National Palace and trying to blow up a hydro dam, even before he started killing his former police colleagues."

Then there's Louis Jodel Chamblain, co-founder of Haiti's brutal FRAPH death squad who was convicted for atrocities committed during Haiti's last dictatorship (1991-1994). Both are now living up to their reputations as world-class thugs, hunting down and executing government supporters, emptying the jails, and spraying whole neighborhoods with gunfire."

Comment: Oh. Terrorists.
Britain frees all five former Gitmo "detainees"
I hope they find some way to sue the smirk off of Bush's face. He took two years of their lives away from them which they'll never get back.

Robert Lizar, the lawyer for al-Harith, who was released Tuesday at the air base, said his client wanted the U.S. authorities "to answer for the injustice which he has suffered."

"He has been detained as an innocent person for a period of two years. He has been treated in a cruel, inhumane and degrading manner, he wants the authorities to answer for that," Lizar added.
-- USA Today

I want the authorities to answer for that, too. We've all seen Bush in a flight suit he had no right wearing. One of my fondest dreams is to see him in an orange jumpsuit of his own at Gitmo. And then let those still being held there decide on Bush's punishment.
Bush selects outsourcer for manufacturing czar post
Six months after promising to create an office to help the nation's struggling manufacturers, President Bush settled on someone to head it, but the nomination was being reconsidered last night after Democrats revealed that his candidate had opened a factory in China.
But Kerry's campaign, tipped off about the impending nomination several hours earlier, hastened to distribute news reports that Raimondo's firm, Behlen Manufacturing Co. of Columbus, Neb., had laid off 75 U.S. workers in 2002, four months after announcing plans for a $3 million factory in northwest Beijing.
-- Washington Post

No matter what they try to call themselves, "free traders" or whatever, cheap-labor conservatives remain cheap-labor conservatives. Bush doesn't KNOW anyone who hasn't been involved in screwing American workers. That's why it took him six months to pick someone for this post he announced last Labor Day, and he still couldn't get it right.

From Boondocks.
Lying Liar
Some politicians in Washington see this new challenge, yet want to respond in old ways. Their agenda is to increase federal taxes, to build a wall around this country and to isolate America from the rest of the world. They never get around to explaining how higher taxes would help create a single job in America, except maybe at the IRS. -- George Worthless Bush, speaking to a group of "small businesswomen" in Cleveland.

I don't think I have to cite examples from specific politicians: Increased taxes can a) be used to hire more teachers, cops, firefighters, and yes, IRS workers to chase down Bush's tax-cheat friends; b) Provide unemployment and food stamp benefits to the poorest Americans, who will spend the money almost immediately, providing jobs at grocery stores and the like; c) Pay for highways and other infrastructure, providing further jobs.

The difference is that this explanation of increased taxes increasing jobs has a substantial history of success (see Roosevelt, F. D.; Johnson, L. B.; and Clinton, W. J.). Bush's plan of cutting taxes has a growing history of failure (see Reagan, R. W.; Bush, G. W.; Bush, G. W.; and Bush, G. W.)

Furthermore, Bush and his unilateral-preemptive-war-against-whoever-for-no-apparent-reason policy has isolated America far more than any tariff or other "protectionist" measure ever has. Isn't it ironic that someone who claims, with no basis in fact, that he has "protected" America from terrorist attacks, uses the word "protectionist" as if it were a swear word?

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

I saw this in the Globe and Mail: McCain won't rule out running with Kerry.

"John Kerry is a close friend of mine. We have been friends for years," Mr. McCain said Wednesday when pressed to squelch speculation about a Kerry-McCain ticket. "Obviously I would entertain it."

But Mr. McCain emphasized how unlikely the whole idea was.

"It's impossible to imagine the Democratic party seeking a pro-life, free-trading, non-protectionist, deficit hawk," the Arizona senator told ABC's Good Morning America during an interview about illegal steroid use. "They'd have to be taking some steroids, I think, in order to let that happen."

I'm still in shock at the Dems choosing a "free-trading" war hawk as their presidential nominee. If McCain would consider running against Bush and Cheney, he should have done it as a Republican. I'm really appalled that a party could have an incumbent be as bad as Bush and not even consider seriously replacing him.

Assuming that Kucinich and Dean are out of the question as Kerry's running mate, I hope he picks Bob Graham. Graham would be a knowledgeable voice of moderation on foreign policy, which Kerry badly needs, and would also help win in Florida, which just might be important.
For it's One, Two, Three, What Are We Fighting For?
It's human rights violation reporting day at the World Socialist Web Site. First, a story about a recent Human Rights Watch report detailing the mistreatment, including torture, of prisoners held by Americans and U.S.-backed Afghans in Afghanistan.

Next, a report about Iraqis being tortured and killed by British troops. Also, a report on how those Guantanamo Bay "detainees" lucky enough to be released may face another arrest and/or surveillance. And finally, Australia is giving their attorney general wide authority to declare organizations to be terrorist, hence making any one who supports these organizations intentionally or unintentionally liable to arrest.

Destroying the free, democratic village in order to save it.

From Mike Keefe.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Women's rights in Afghanistan
"Please, my dear brothers, let your wives and sisters go to the voter registration process," [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai told a gathering to mark International Women's Day. "Later, you can control who she votes for, but please, let her go." -- Toronto Star
Yeah, he'll protect the children!
John Ramsey, father of slain child pageant star JonBenet, is seriously considering a run for the Michigan House of Representatives.

Ramsey has established residency in Charlevoix, where he has long vacationed, and has indicated he wants to succeed term-limited state Rep. Ken Bradstreet, R-Gaylord, said Matt Resch, spokesman for House Speaker Rick Johnson.

Ramsey is being urged to run by local Republican officials in Charlevoix, according to a report in Monday's edition of the newsletter Inside Michigan Politics.
-- Detroit Free Press

A wealthy businessman with name recognition. Hey, it almost worked for the Republicans in the 2000 presidential race, so why not try again? Charlevoix is up in the Republican northwest part of Michigan.

This highlights one of the most serious flaws in our system. The cynical Repugs in Charlevoix realize that Ramsey's name recognition gets him in the game, and then the whole campaign will revolve around the JonBenet story. The Repugs will ask, "Should baseless allegations of criminality, for which there have been no convictions, disqualify someone from running for office?" And lots of people will say, like I do, "Of course not." Unfortunately, most of those people will see that as the only issue, and having decided not to vote against Ramsey because of JonBenet suspicions, they will decide to vote for him. The lack of qualifications other than name recognition and sympathy for having lost his daughter will be ignored; Ramsey will be tried in the court of public opinion for the murder of his daughter. If the jury finds him not guilty, he's in the Michigan House of Representatives.

Any reasonable process for selecting a president of the most powerful nation on Earth would have eliminated George W. Bush from consideration almost immediately. Our system, on the other hand, will, for the second time in four years, present Bush as an either-or proposition. Either you think he's the most god-awful sucky excuse for a leader you've ever seen (that is, you are right), or you don't. Unfortunately, most of those in the second category will vote for him. They would also vote for someone substantially better (John McCain comes to mind) if offered the choice. But they aren't offered the choice. You're either with Bush or against him. And a lot of people will be figuratively flipping a coin on it. A reasonable system wouldn't have Bush's ugly mug on either side of that coin. Nor would it have Ramsey's.

I taught high school for a year back when the "New Kids on the Block" were popular. For many ninth-grade girls that year, whether you liked New Kids or not was THE most important question. How she answered it defined who a girl was. I couldn't figure out why in this mega-multi-choice world that so many people focused on a fairly meaningless yes-no question. But no matter how ridiculous the question, if it gets framed in either-or, yes-no, true-false, with-us-or-against-us terms, you can be sure that there will be a significant number of people on both sides. We really should be working to keep questions from being framed that way.
Tax Cuts for the Rich don't Work
And the lying liars who claim they do need to read Krugman's column today, which features this chart:

Monday, March 08, 2004

I'll probably be safer in Venezuela
The Davis-Besse nuclear power plant near Toledo, about 60 miles from here, is due to reopen. It will still be operated by FirstEnergy, the corporation which nearly allowed it to have a catastrophic failure. FirstEnergy was also to blame for last summer's blackout. I always picture Burns and Smithers running the show at FirstEnergy, with Homer Simpson in charge of safety.
Phantom Loads and Dehumidifiers
My preparations for installing a solar-power system have uncovered some watt-sapping suspects. Even though I don't use air conditioning, my summer electric bills have been way higher than my winter bills. I have gas heat, but still I should be using less light and less in general during the summer, since I am home and inside less. The prime suspect? The dehumidifier. I bought a small humidity meter the other day so I'll be able to track my need for dehumidifying better this summer. I've also read that "phantom loads," appliances and electronics that are on even when they're off, like TV's, VCR's and other devices with remotes and microwave ovens with clocks, use substantial amounts of energy. I've ordered a watt meter so I can get a better idea of where the power is going, but I've already made a preemptive strike on several phantom loads, putting my computer and entertainment systems on power strips and making sure to turn those off when I'm done using the equipment.

I'm excited about having the solar system, but I suspect that my biggest energy savings (and definitely the biggest dollar savings) will come from these conservation efforts, not from the solar panels. I certainly suggest that you look at your utility bills and get your hands on a watt meter to track down your biggest energy guzzlers. We don't pay much for electricity in this country, but it isn't cheap. We can save a lot of energy (and cut down on the associated pollution and wars) by making a few simple changes which will have only minimal impact on our lifestyles. If we are willing to change our lifestyles more substantially, much more is possible.

And that's your sermon for the day!
The Bush Ads
Defending his 9/11-exploiting TV commercials, aWol replied:

First of all, I will continue to speak about the effects of 9/11 on our country and my presidency. How this administration handled that day, as well as the war on terror, is worthy of discussion. And I look forward to discussing that with the American people.

The World Socialist Web Site (along with several 9/11 family members quoted there), Josh Marshall, and I'm sure many others quickly pointed out the contradiction between this statement and Bush's 2 1/2 year obstruction of all investigations into "how this administration handled that day."
Quote du Jour
"I would vote for Saddam Hussein before I would vote for Bush.” -- Ron Willett, whose 29-year-old son John Charles was killed at the World Trade Center (from WSWS).

To which I respond, "Is he running?" Actually, it demonstrates how ridiculously low the "anybody-but-Bush" standard is. Out of some 6 billion people on the planet, some 5,999,999,400 or so would be better presidents than George W. Bush. The remaining 600 are either in his administration, in his family, in Congress, or work for Fox News (or all of the above).


As usual, Michelle is keeping better track of what's going on over our oil than I am. As far as I know, Michelle is the only reader of my blog who took me up on the invitation to join in on the Global Exchange tour to Venezuela in April. We're both hoping that events don't prevent us from going.
Bush Ads and 9/11
I saw some of the Bush ads on TV yesterday. Your head would have to be quite deep in the sand, or far up somewhere else, for the ads to sway you towards Bush. The words "cognitive disconnect" come to mind. But I guess I'd have to say that if Bush wants to remind everyone that he presided over the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, well, bring 'em on! The claims about "calm leadership" and reviving the economy are so laughable it would take years of Fox News viewing to desensitize oneself against them.

Too bad the Dems don't have someone really good who could bash Bush over the head with this crap!

Sunday, March 07, 2004

The Republican Mafia
Republican Mike Murphy decided to run for Congress, challenging 80-year-old Republican incumbent Ralph Hall for the party's spot on the ballot in Texas' fourth district. And he started getting phone calls:

"Just consider what you're doing now. You don't want to have the freakin' president of the United States mad at you for the rest of your life." That came from Larry Telford, the National Republican Congressional Committee's "incumbent retention director." Another Republican mafioso, New York Congressman Tom Reynolds, suggested that Karl Rove and Tom DeLay had been notified and were not pleased with Murphy's candidacy. The NRCC tried to deny the namedropping threats, but Murphy had his tape recorder running.

Now, Murphy seems to be running because Hall is a recent party-switcher, having been a Democrat until January. So it seems unlikely that I would agree with Murphy on much. But shouldn't the people of Texas' fourth district, EVEN the Republicans, have the right to choose their own representative to Congress without threats and bribes from the RNCC and the White House? (Hint: Yes.)

I recall that early in 2002 similar pressure was put on Minnesota Republican Tim Pawlenty when he wanted to run against Paul Wellstone for his Senate seat. Pawlenty got a call from Dick Cheney, who told him that the national party preferred Norm Coleman, so why doesn't Pawlenty run for governor instead? Pawlenty gave in (and is now Minnesota's governor), but apparently Murphy won't. Even though I probably disagree with him on most things, I'm tempted to send him a donation. Of course, I shouldn't be deciding who represents Texas' fourth district any more than Rove or DeLay or Bush should.

Ralph: Vote the way Tom and Karl tell you to, and you can have your House seat for life. Heck, you can put it in your will if you want!

(via Michelle)
A week late, a holler short
The "good" news: John Kerry says he would have stepped in to keep Aristide in Haiti.

"I would have been prepared to send troops immediately, period," Mr. Kerry said on Friday, expressing astonishment that President Bush, who talks of supporting democratically elected leaders, withheld any aid and then helped spirit Mr. Aristide into exile after saying the United States could not protect him.

"Look, Aristide was no picnic, and did a lot of things wrong," Mr. Kerry said. But Washington "had understandings in the region about the right of a democratic regime to ask for help. And we contravened all of that. I think it's a terrible message to the region, democracies, and it's shortsighted."
-- NY Times, which throws its own gratuitous comment into the article by referring to Aristide as "Haiti's widely disliked elected leader," in the first paragraph, no less. (Of course, we all know who the most widely disliked world leader is. But he wasn't elected.)

Of course, if anyone is tempted to believe Kerry, I would suggest that you re-read Mr. Kerry's disgusting little foreign policy speech from a week ago Friday, less than two days before Aristide was kidnapped by Americans and exiled to Africa. Try to find any reference to Haiti or Aristide. Not there. No recommendations from the leading Democratic presidential candidate for dealing with an immediate crisis; not until a week too late. Oh well, at least he's disagreeing with Bush on this one.

And then there's this from the Times article:

But the core of Mr. Kerry's argument in the interview was that divisions within Mr. Bush's foreign policy team have frozen the art of preventative diplomacy and kept Secretary of State Colin L. Powell from doing his job.

"I think simply Powell, who I know, like and admire, has been never permitted to be fully a secretary of state in the way that I envision the secretary of state," he said, describing how he believes that Mr. Powell has been regularly undercut by the administration's more hawkish members, led by Vice President Dick Cheney. "I think Powell — I'm not sure they didn't lock the keys to the airplane up sometimes."

Two years ago Kerry would have had some sympathy for that position from me. But Powell has proved, again and again, that he is willing to do anything for Bush, including lie repeatedly. Others have offered him the out that Kerry did, but he has repeatedly refused to take it, instead vigorously defending his lies and those of the rest of the Bushies. I hoped for months that Powell would take a principled stand and resign in a huff, until I realized that he is a lying Bushie through and through. He has no principles on which to take a stand. And if Kerry still likes and admires Powell, then Kerry has no standards either.

One other thing: While complaining, a week too late, about Bush's Haitian policy of supporting the overthrow of a democratically-elected government, Kerry says nothing about Bush's support for similar efforts in Venezuela to overthrow Hugo Chavez. There's nothing in the NY Times article. The only references to Chavez on Kerry's web site are to UFW founder Cesar Chavez, and Venezuela only appears as a country choice on the contribution page! (Hmm...I didn't think Venezuelans could contribute to U.S. political campaigns.) Kerry should take a stand, NOW. Stop by Washington, if he remembers where it is, and introduce a resolution in the Senate opposing U.S. meddling in Venezuela, before the National Endowment for Democracy, which he admired so much in his speech, overthrows another demcratic government.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Ministry of Truth, Washington Division
Eli at Left I dissects a hideous Washington Post editorial (but I repeat myself) from Friday. Hugo Chavez, the democratically-elected president of Venezuela, presided over amendments to that nation's constitution. One of the amendments was a recall provision, which the wealthy opposition in Venezuela is trying to use against Chavez. The commission appointed to validate the signatures on the petitions ruled that many were invalid. The Post considers this to be a "coup," and suggests that our unelected autocratic mentiroso-in-chief step in and overthrow Chavez like, well, like he's doing all over the world. Of course, this is just what aWol wants to hear; he and the editors at the Post work for the same people. Hint: It ain't you, it ain't me, and it certainly isn't the vast majority of the people in Venezuela.
Still Here!
Just busy, tired, uninspired
Hazy, lazy, somewhat crazy
Furious, curious, somewhat self-injurious
Tellin' hokey little jokey, singin' silly Kerry-oke
Bit more joggin', bit less bloggin', maybe straighten out my noggin'.
Back tomorrow? Probably! Please log on to check and see!

Friday, March 05, 2004

Oh, horrors!
Gasoline prices may rise this summer. May I suggest something like excommunication for the first Democrat who suggests that something must be done to bring prices down, such as tapping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve? Low gasoline prices have kept us from moving towards energy independence, have polluted our air and blotted our landscape, and contribute to the 40,000 annual highway fatalities. Both Iraq wars were fought in large part to keep gasoline prices low, and the Bushies are trying to overthrow Venezuela's democratically-elected president for the same reason.

I don't want any oil execs or Saudi sheiks getting any richer than they already are, but higher gasoline prices would be one of the quickest ways to restore this country to sanity and to protect what's left of our environment. I was going to vote for Gore in 2000 until he called for tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which demonstrated to me that all his talk about protecting the environment was just that--talk. If the Democrats are concerned about shortages, they should demand an increase in gasoline taxes, not further destructive measures (drilling and wars) to increase supplies.

By both world and historical standards, gasoline is cheap. Given the ultimate limits on the world supply of oil and the damage caused by extracting, refining and burning it, gasoline is being wrecklessly given away. Any politician who adds lower gasoline prices to his platform is not to be trusted, or voted for. I suggested to someone last week that I'd like to see the true cost of gasoline passed directly to the consumer. How about a sign on the pump like this:

87 Octane: $11.99.9 per gallon, plus one week on the front lines in Tikrit.

Things would get better in a big hurry.
What's less than nothing?
The Bush administration's claim that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had ties to al-Qaida - one of the administration's central arguments for a pre-emptive war - appears to have been based on even less solid intelligence than the administration's claims that Iraq had hidden stocks of chemical and biological weapons. -- from a Knight-Ridder report, which Juan Cole boils down to its essence:

1. Although it is true that Abdul Rahman Yasin, a suspect in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was attempting to hide out in Iraq, Saddam offered to turn him over to the FBI in 1998 in return for US
acknowledgment that Iraq was not involved in that incident. The Clinton administration declined the deal. Cheney cited the continued "harboring" by Iraq of Yasin as one "proof" of an Iraq-al-Qaeda connection. Yeah, Saddam and Yasin were obviously really tight.

2. Bin Laden is said to have refused an offer in 1998 to go to Iraq, made by Iraqi intelligence officer Farouk Hijazi. A report made available to the CIA, however, said that Bin Laden declined the offer because he did not want to have Saddam's agenda dictated to him. The Knight-Ridder team does not point this out, but if you read this item in conjunction with # 1 above, it seems entirely possible that Saddam thought the US wouldn't deal for Yasin because he wasn't a big enough fish, and went looking for a more important terrorist to trade them for the US favors he wanted.

3. Cheney tried to tie Saddam to Abu Mus`ab Zarqawi. Such ties haven't been proven, but even if they were, it seems clear from the Zarqawi letter that he was not part of Bin Laden's group and only lately tried to get money from Bin Laden.

4. The US charged that Saddam was training terrorists at Salman Pak. The US military has found no evidence of such a training facility at Salman Pak,
according to Seymour Hersh
. There certainly were no chemical weapons there.

5. Then there was the canard about Iraqi intelligence offical al-Ani meeting with Muhammad Atta in Prague. CIA director George Tenet has flatly denied this report, and the FBI discounted it long ago.

6. Bin Laden/Iraq contacts in Sudan in the early 1990s, even if they did occur, led to no operational cooperation whatsoever.

Wouldn't it be nice if the Democratic candidate for president could actually make a big deal out of the total illegality of the war in Iraq? But the only way to get accomplices to turn on crime bosses is to threaten them with prosecution and offer a deal for testimony. Unfortunately, there's no court in the world that can do that to Kerry.
If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all
Ashcroft Hospitalized With Pancreatitis

Attorney General John Ashcroft has been hospitalized in an intensive care unit for a severe case of gallstone pancreatitis, his chief spokesman said Friday.
Symptoms include sudden, severe abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and fever.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

The Best Bush-Bash Book...
...that I've read, by far, is Kevin Phillips American Dynasty, which I just finished. I'm trying to remember some of the other books I've read: Michael Moore's Dude, Where's My Country?, Scott Ritter's Frontier Justice, and a couple of others. Most were interesting in some respects and provided me with a few new bits of information, but for the most part they pretty much told the same stories that are recounted in this blog. That is, I already knew about most of them.

And I knew many of the things Phillips said, as well, but he makes a convincing and fairly new-to-me case of the corruption and danger posed by the Bush family dynasty. When George H. W. Bush said that Saddam Hussein was "worse than Hitler," it was more than just rhetorical hyperbole. Bush Sr. knew all about Saddam Hussein and his weapons, because he had been instrumental in supplying those weapons to Saddam through most of the 1980's, and even well into 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait. And he may well have known about Hitler from conversations with his father, whose finance firm helped to bankroll Nazi Germany's military buildup in the 1930's and into the early years of World War II.

Phillips recounts the three major foreign-policy scandals connected to G. H. W. Bush during his years as vice president and president: the October Surprise, Iran-Contra, and "Iraqgate." Here is Phillips' description of Iraqgate:

The third scandal, Iraqgate, was also the most prejudicial to the public's high-flying early-1991 perception of Bush as a successful Persian Gulf war leader. Discussion of Bush's prewar aid to Iraq had grown intense--witness the remarks which a grave Ted Koppel had opened ABC News Nightline on June 9, 1992: "It is becoming increasingly clear that George Bush, operating largely behind the scenes through the 1980's, initiated and supported much of the financing, intelligence and military help that built Saddam's Iraq into the aggressive power that the United States ultimately had to destroy."

Basically, the clear impression you get from reading Phillips' book is that the Bushes are probably THE greatest crime family in history. Hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps millions, have died, legitimate governments overthrown, dictators installed and armed, money stolen, laws galore broken, all so this huge genetic defect can grab and hold power. Recalling that Bush Sr. crashed his plane in the Pacific in World War II and was rescued by a Navy boat, I'll offer again my paraphrase of Trent Lott's tribute to Strom Thurmond: If the Navy hadn't pulled George H. W. Bush out of the Pacific, we wouldn't have had all these problems over the years.

And frankly, I think all Bushes should be barred from ever holding office again (well, except maybe cellblock captain). And the same applies to any secret-society buddies of his.
Ted Rall has been removed from the NY Times web site
The New Pravda, as Billmon calls it, moves even further to the right.

From Dwane Powell.

From Milt Priggee.
Am I missing something?
Or is this cartoon suggesting that we all need assault rifles because Osama is going to raid our refrigerators?

From John Deering.
The November 3 Movement
As those of you still reading this blog after my increasingly bitter posts of the past few days are undoubtedly aware, I'm not a fan of John Forbes Kerry. I've been thrashing about, wondering what I might do next. I certainly don't want four more years of Bush. I don't want four years of Kerry either. And I'm a bit exhausted from fighting the losing battle for a candidate I really like, so I can't get excited about jumping off the Kucinich bandwagon onto Nader's when both wagons seem to have four flat tires, and the parade is on another planet anyway. About the best I could come up with was that I could support candidates that I really like, like Russ Feingold in Wisconsin and my local mayor John Hieftje and councilwoman Kim Groome. If that brings out the vote for Kerry, I can live with that. I just don't think I can ASK people to vote for Kerry. But that was all the plan I had--until I read Sam Smith's latest.

Smith's article is titled The Election is Over; We Lost. Here's how it starts:

The winner is a supporter of three of the worst government decisions of our time: the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act, and the Bush education law.

He is a Yale graduate and a member of a secret society of dubious values and influence. He is arrogant with the sense of self-entitlement of the fully privileged yet has done little in life to justify this self esteem. And he is a tenured and servile member of an establishment that has trashed the Constitution, badly weakened the economy, made us hated around the world, and effectively brought to the end of the First American Republic.

To be sure there will be a consolation runoff in which we get to decide who we would rather do battle against for the next four years. This choice of battleground is not an insignificant matter but neither is it what a democratic election is supposed to be about. It is more like a cancer patient choosing between surgery and chemotherapy. We don't have to wait for Katherine Harris; this election has already been fixed.

In other words, Smith sees Kerry the same way I do. But he offers a decent option: The November 3 Movement. November 3 is the day after the election. Smith suggests that progressives should start organizing now to be the opposition to whoever wins on November 2. Smith's one rule is for organizing is that election 2004 strategy is not open for discussion. Those supporting Kerry can't criticize the Naderites, and vice versa. Agree on the progressive agenda without destroying the progressive movement over election tactics.

Smith has lots of good ideas in his article, but in my current bitter mood my favorite was this:

There are many who might vote for Kerry but who would never include themselves among his 'supporters.' If those preaching so loudly about getting rid of Bush would quiet down for a minute, they might discover that the best way to achieve their end might be to hand out airplane barf bags with the inscription, "Vote for Kerry."

From Mike Thompson.

I know, I should be a good little Bush-hater and rally behind JFK, no matter how awful he is. But if there's any lesson for me to learn from the past two years, it is this: What I say doesn't matter. So I'll just add on to Thompson's list:
  • Want more war? Kerry '04!
  • War in Iraq? Kerry on.
  • Vote for yet ANOTHER Skull & Boneser!
  • The Kerry Jobs Program: 40,000 more troops!

I'm still pissed at that MoveOn comment: "We're all ready to put aside our small differences." War, no war. NAFTA, no NAFTA. These are real, life and death issues, not "small differences." Bush and Kerry are on the wrong side of them. I am not ready to put that aside. I don't know what I'm ready to do, but supporting Kerry isn't it.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

MoveOn sells out
I saw this coming, but it's still disappointing.

And after a race that Republicans hoped would be deeply divisive, our unity is even more clear. We're all ready to put aside our small differences and focus on the big goal: a new President. -- from a MoveOn e-mail I just got.

I'm sorry, guys, but anti-war versus pro-war is not a "small difference," and I'm not ready to put it aside. I resent MoveOn's claiming we're all ready to do so. They claim to be anti-war, but in reality they're just Democrats, and wimpy ones at that. My big goal is a more peaceful world, and right now I can't see how a Kerry presidency contributes to that.
Still in Mourning
I can't get into blogging today. What's the point in further pointing out the crimes of Bush when the Democratic candidate was an accomplice in many of them, and appears to have no desire to make an issue of them? Karl Rove must be smiling right now. All those cartoons and op-eds about how excited the Repugs were about facing Dean were run for this very purpose. While vulnerable on every front, Bush is most vulnerable because of his lying us into war. That flank has now been covered.

But, in case anyone is relying on me as a news source, here are the headlines:

Haiti's a mess;
Venezuelan panel decides against recall, saying many of the petitions were fraudulent; (BTW, in Kerry's speech he berated Bush for not funding the National Endowment for Democracy sufficiently--the NED has been spending its endowment funding the coup leaders against the democratically-elected president in Haiti and the opposition against the democratically-elected president of Venezuela).

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

A very sad day for America
Demand nothing, and that's what you get. It looks like Kerry will win nine of the ten primaries and lock up the Democratic nomination. This is bad news for those of us who have been out protesting against the Bush wars for over two years. If you think that Kerry would be better than Bush on foreign policy, read his speech from Friday. I think Paul Wolfowitz wrote it for him.

And the Republicans have him boxed in a corner. Bush has done horrible things in every way, and the only clear case Kerry is going to make is for raising taxes! The war is the worst Bush crime, and Kerry not only wasn't a critic, he was and is an accomplice.

In the past, I bemoaned the awful choices the two parties gave us for president, and in the last three elections I rejected both. But I was never anywhere near as well-informed and involved as I am now. I've marched in anti-war marches, passed out fliers, hung door tags in South Bend at 4 am, even made those awful phone calls, all in hopes that we'd have a real choice in 2004. In the first Democratic debate last May, there were five candidates who were at least nominally anti-war: Kucinich, Dean, Graham, Sharpton, and Mosely-Braun. Wesley Clark joined the race later. Any one of them could have faced George W. Bush in a debate and said "You took us to war illegally and for no apparent reason. Hundreds of Americans and thousands of others are dead, many more wounded, and the cost to the taxpayers is in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Iraq posed no danger that demanded an attack, and there certainly was no need to hurry while the inspections were going on. You violated the highest trust of your office, and you don't deserve another minute in office."

Kerry's just going to muddle around about tactics, and his telling blow will be "Let's raise taxes."

I think the tax cuts were a huge mistake and need to be rescinded, but how Democrats can think that Kerry is going to be more electable than an anti-war candidate is beyond my comprehension. Well, maybe not. The Republican media has been telling them for two months that Kerry is electable, and they believed the media over their own eyes and ears. In September, the same media will tell them that Kerry is not electable.

I kind of enjoy the politicking (except the phone calls), but I will NOT be working for Kerry. Maybe I'll help Feingold, and I'll help our mayor and city councilwoman get re-elected. I'll help with voter registration, which will probably help Kerry indirectly. But I won't work for Kerry, because I can't come up with a good reason why people should vote for him. If you think I'm over-reacting, go read his stupid speech again. If you don't like war, you can't like Kerry.
Sixty Minutes
Is the longest that Karl Rove thinks that W can manage to stonewall the 9/11 commission without giving away the game. And not the whole commission, either. Just the Republican chairman and the neo-Republican co-chairman. The Center for American Progress makes a few interesting points:
  • Bush talked to Bob Woodward for over four hours to help him write his book;
  • The White House gave Woodward access to many of the Presidential Daily Briefs (PDB's), including the August 6, 2001 briefing which supposedly provided warnings of an impending terrorist attack. The White House has blocked most 9/11 commission members from viewing any PDB's.

See Uggabugga for a dramatic display of Bush's commitment to the truth.
NAFTA...ugh...What is it good for?
Absolutely nuthin'.

Ten years ago, the North American Free Trade Agreement was sold to the people of the United States, Mexico and Canada as a simple treaty eliminating tariffs on goods crossing the three countries' borders. But NAFTA is much more: It is the constitution of an emerging continental economy that recognizes one citizen -- the business corporation. It gives corporations extraordinary protections from government policies that might limit future profits, and extraordinary rights to force the privatization of virtually all civilian public services. Disputes are settled by secret tribunals of experts, many of whom are employed privately as corporate lawyers and consultants. At the same time, NAFTA excludes protections for workers, the environment and the public that are part of the social contract established through long political struggle in each of the countries.

As Jorge Casta?eda, Mexico's recent foreign secretary, observed, NAFTA was "an accord among magnates and potentates: an agreement for the rich and powerful...effectively excluding ordinary people in all three societies." Thus was NAFTA a model for the neoliberal governance of the global economy.
As soon as the ink was dry on NAFTA, US factories began to shift production to maquiladora factories along the border, where the Mexican government assures a docile labor force and virtually no environmental restrictions. The US trade surplus with Mexico quickly turned into a deficit, and since then at least a half-million jobs have been lost, many of them in small towns and rural areas where there are no job alternatives.

Meanwhile, Mexico's overall growth rate has been half of what it needs to be just to generate enough jobs for its growing labor force. The NAFTA-inspired strategy of export-led growth undermined Mexican industries that sold to the domestic market as well as the sixty-year-old social bargain in which workers and peasant farmers shared the benefits of growth in exchange for their support for a privileged oligarchy. NAFTA provided the oligarchs with new partners -- the multinational corporations -- allowing them to abandon their obligations to their fellow Mexicans. Average real wages in Mexican manufacturing are actually lower than they were ten years ago. Two and a half million farmers and their families have been driven out of their local markets and off their land by heavily subsidized US and Canadian agribusiness. For most Mexicans, half of whom live in poverty, basic food has gotten even more expensive: Today the Mexican minimum wage buys less than half the tortillas it bought in 1994. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Mexicans continue to risk their lives crossing the border to get low-wage jobs in the United States.
-- from the Economic Policy Institute

My suggestion to the Nader haters
Stop paying attention to Ralph. Start paying attention to what he says. If you want me to vote for the Democrat instead of Ralph, have him say some of the things Ralph says. If you want me to vote for Ralph, keep insulting him. It just further demonstrates that you don't have any valid answers to his questions.

I got an e-mail from the "Council for a Liveable World" asking me to send Ralph a letter asking him to drop out. I told them they should instead ask Kerry to drop out, and then removed my name from their e-mail list. I remember they were raising money for Democratic congressional candidates in 2002, using opposition to war in Iraq as the main selling point. But after the October 11 vote, CLW continued to raise money for Kerry and the other phoneys, without even mentioning their despicable votes.
Ultra-Conservative model with compassionate disguise. Not designed for poor people. Guaranteed to increase carbon dioxide emissions. Use carefully around national debt.

Note: Bushocchio is not a real Naval Aviator. Some of our competitors have been marketing Presidential Action Figures that give this impression, but really the guy is an AWOL chickenhawk. Do not be fooled by imitations.
Last-minute plea!
If you live in California or Ohio or New York or any other state having a primary today, and you haven't voted yet, and you prefer peace to war--PLEASE read John Kerry's speech from last Friday. US domestic policy would probably improve under Kerry, but it sounds like foreign policy will get even worse. ABBOK, I say! (Anybody but Bush or Kerry.)

This war isn't just a manhunt-- a checklist of names from a deck of cards. In it, we do not face just one man or one terrorist group. We face a global jihadist movement of many groups, from different sources, with separate agendas, but all committed to assaulting the United States and free and open societies around the globe.

As CIA Director George Tenet recently testified: "They are not all creatures of bin Laden, and so their fate is not tied to his. They have autonomous leadership, they pick their own targets, they plan their own attacks."

At the core of this conflict is a fundamental struggle of ideas. Of democracy and tolerance against those who would use any means and attack any target to impose their narrow views.

The War on Terror is not a clash of civilizations. It is a clash of civilization against chaos; of the best hopes of humanity against dogmatic fears of progress and the future.

I'm sick of having a president who spouts this kind of racist BS, and I sure don't want another one. The US doesn't face a global jihadist movement--it is one, and Kerry's a part of it.

Much more on Haiti
And on the news coverage from CNN (yay!) and the NY Times and Washington Post (boo!) comes from Billmon, including several more links. I called my senators yesterday to complain about this latest U.S.-backed coup. I respectfully suggest that you do the same. With Bush's popularity and credibility low, and at least some of the mainstream media raising at least a few questions about this latest American coup, a few hundred phone calls might put enough spine in a few congresscritters to make a real stink about this. All members of Congress can be reached toll-free through the capitol switchboard: 800-839-5276.
Whose side is the New York Times on?
You need look no farther than their headlines:
Not "Opposition's Plan to Recall Chavez Faces Setback in Venezuela." No, the plan belongs to Venezuelans, apparently all of them, including the 80% or so who voted for Chavez, according to the Times. And not "Aristide describes U.S.-led Coup." No, he's just a bitter old nut.

Even CNN, hardly a progressive source, has headlines that are a lot less biased:
Sunday, Billmon got in touch with his inner Ann Coulter by expressing disappointment that the global-warming tidal wave in the upcoming movie "The Day After Tomorrow" probably wouldn't reach the Times building in Manhattan. I'm starting to agree with him (as long as Krugman and Herbert are safe).
Quote du Jour
Mr. Greenspan pushed through an increase in taxes on working Americans, generating a Social Security surplus. Then he used that surplus to argue for tax cuts that deliver very little relief to most people, but are worth a lot to those making more than $300,000 a year. And now that those tax cuts have contributed to a soaring deficit, he wants to cut Social Security benefits. -- Paul Krugman


It happened on American Idol:

When it came down to the big, bear-like black guy against the skinny white guy.

Wouldn't it be great...

If the same thing happened again? (Although I'd rather have the white guy win this time.)

Sorry! I fear that what little is left of my Kucinich dream will be shattered by this evening. Californians and New Yorkers and the rest will largely vote for whom they are told to vote, not for whom they want nor for whom would actually provide real hope for change. I think I'll go hide in the corner for a while.
Gestapo's Birthday
Today is the first anniversary of the founding of the Department of Homeland Security (Gestapo). This Orwellian mishmash of lucrative contract awards and color-coded alerts was the brain fart of Senator Joe Lieberman. It was co-opted by George Worthless Bush in 2002 after he had opposed it for many months as a way to distract attention from his multitude of failings which enabled the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Exceedingly expensive, poorly coordinated, and apparently still pretty much unclear about what the heck it is doing, DHS is, like most items in Bush's (and Kerry's) platforms, politics at its worst.

Here's a little DHS-related passage from Kevin Phillips' book, American Dynasty:

The defense business, soon fleshed out by companies providing homeland security services, was one of the few to flourish through the bear market.

Homeland security became a cornucopia as the new Homeland Security Departments's annual budget hit $40 billion, and hundreds of Secretary Tom Ridge's former aides and other insiders registered to lobby for companies seeking a slice of the pie. "Homeland Security appears to be viewed by the lobbying firms as a huge honeypot," complained Fred Wertheimer, president of the public interest group Democracy 21.

Those better connected than former Ridge aides had found the pot of gold within months of 9/11. Marvin Bush, the brother of George W. Bush, was a large shareholder--through his Winston Partners investment firm--in Sybase, which marketed a "Sybase PATRIOT Compliance Solution" to put companies and banks in compliance with the anti-money-laundering provisions of the 2001 USA Patriot Act. Clients included the People's Bank of China and Sumitomo Mitsubishi Bank. Former CIA director James Woolsey, a leading neoconservative, was a principal of the Paladin Capital Group, a private firm investing in companies that defended against terrorist attacks; Richard Perle had a stake in the Autonomy Corporation, a supplier of eavesdropping equipment to intelligence agencies.

L. Paul Bremer III, the antiterrorist expert named by Bush to govern Iraq in May 2003, was profiled this way by The Nation a month later: "On October 11, 2001, just one month after the terror attacks in New York and Washington, [Bremer,] once Ronald Reagan's Ambassador at Large for counter-terrorism, launched a company designed to capitalize on the new atmosphere of fear in U.S. corporate boardrooms. Crisis Consulting Practice, a division of insurance giant Marsh and McLennan, specializes in helping multinationals come up with 'integrated and comprehensive crisis solutions' for everything from terror attacks to accounting fraud."
-- Kevin Phillips, American Dynasty, pp. 273-274.

It goes on and on and on. For decades, the Bush family and their capitalist cronies have had enormous stakes in world instability and war. They got rich off of Vietnam; they got rich off the Iran-Iraq war; they got rich from Nicaragua and El Salvador and Panama; and they're still getting rich from 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Haiti. They have no interest in world peace; exactly the opposite is the case.

So happy birthday, Homeland Security! Here's hoping it's your last!
Over 100 killed in Iraq bombings
More blood on the hands of our miserable failure of a pResident.

Monday, March 01, 2004

My upcoming trip to Venezuela just got more interesting
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez just called Bush an 'asshole' for, he said, supporting a short-lived coup in 2002 that briefly toppled him. -- Reuters

"Mr. Bush must know that if he gets the mad idea of trying to blockade Venezuela, or, even worse, of invading Venezuela, if that happened, the people of the United States should know that not a drop of oil would reach them from Venezuela, not a drop more," Chavez told tens of thousands of cheering supporters.

Now where would Chavez get the idea that the U.S. might invade Venezuela? (I say as the Marines are landing in Haiti.)
Grocery Workers Ratify Agreement
The 20-week strike was the longest in U.S. grocery history.
Aristide kidnapped by U.S. troops?
From the NarcoNews:

A man who said he was a caretaker for the now exiled president told France's RTL radio station the troops forced Aristide out.

"The American army came to take him away at two in the morning," the man said.

"The Americans forced him out with weapons.

"It was American soldiers. They came with a helicopter and they took the security guards.

"(Aristide) was not happy. He did not want to be taken away. He did not want to leave. He was not able to fight against the Americans..."

Put down the chalupa!
United Students Against Sweatshops is organizing a boycott and protest against Taco Bell because of the slave wages paid to the workers who grow and pick their tomatoes. Go here to register your protest with Taco Bell brass.
C'mon California: Kerry?
From an article by Stephen Dinan:

With current polls showing John Kerry leading at 60% for the California primary next Tuesday, I begin to wonder if our culture of innovation, independence and frontier adventure is beginning to fade.

C'mon California: Kerry?

Two months ago, Kerry hardly registered on the radar here. Most thought him too patrician, too dull, or at least too conservative on issues from the Iraq war to NAFTA to gay marriage. Few people in California contributed to his campaign. Top honors went to Dean and Kucinich in terms of donors and number of volunteers. Both have revolutionary fire and some shoot-from-the-hip West Coast attitude. They are bold, authentic, and willing to rattle conventional opinion. They give speeches straight from the heart and aren't afraid to go off script.

Kerry is safe. He is the frightened man's bet for the race against Bush. He's the compromise candidate, a man about whom we will say, "I suppose that's the best we could hope for." He has the pedigree, the power broker network, the height, and the moderate positions on everything. When many people I know talk about voting for Kerry, it is with a sigh of resignation rather than the hurrah of freedom.

It does not have to be this way.

Californians have been seduced by the media trance that has ordained Kerry the winner. However, we in California are supposed to CREATE the spell of the media rather than be seduced by it. We make the magic of movies and push the frontiers of technology. We innovate, pioneer, and explore. We don?t march to the beat of the establishment drum.

Next Tuesday, I would like to see some spunk in the California vote, some fire to send to the convention. Let's tell the party that we want substantial change. We want a rainbow of color rather than shades of gray. We want nectar of the gods rather than stale bread. We want a Democratic Party that doesn?t feel like it has had the lifeblood sucked from it.
So send a positive change message to the Democratic establishment by voting for Dennis next week. Neither Kerry nor Edwards sends a meaningful message for change now. They are the safe candidates. If you want to play it safe and scale down on your dreams, they are your guys. If you want to go boldly towards the future, Dennis is your man.

In March 1968, Democratic president Lyndon Johnson was under so much political pressure because of the Vietnam war that he decided not to even seek his party's nomination for re-election. And while the Vietnam war in 1968 was certainly bloodier in both American and overall terms than the Iraq war is currently, the reasons for the Vietnam war had not yet been discredited (the Pentagon papers were disclosed in 1971). Unlike Bush, Johnson had been elected in a landslide in 1964. And, certainly unlike Bush, Johnson had some real achievements to point to from his White House tenure: civil rights legislation and medicare. Still, dissatisfaction with the war had risen to such a level that Johnson felt compelled to drop out of the race.

This time around, we've got a president from Texas who bungled the nation's security so badly that the worst terrorist attack in American history happened on his watch. He has started two bloody wars with little justification; all reasons given for the second war are already thoroughly discredited, while they've blocked and delayed all attempts to find out why the first one was justified. The deficit is huge and jobs are disappearing. The outrage should be so big that Republicans should be scrambling to find a replacement. If Californians and New Yorkers and Ohioans vote for Kucinich tomorrow, it might be a sign that the opposition to Bush and his wars is real. If they vote for Kerry, who supported the wars and the Patriot Act, and who thinks that Bush "has done too little" in the "war on terror," the Republicans can sit back and relax with Bush as their candidate. Win or lose, they win.

From R. J. Matson.