Bob's Links and Rants
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.

From Mark Streeter.
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 Scott Stantis.

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

From Mike Thompson.
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:

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.

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