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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Winning the War on Terror

Now that the Bush and Kerry camps are back in complete agreement on the winnability of the "war on terror," let's take a look at the headlines:
The Bush and Kerry camps will likely deplore the first, commiserate with the second, and applaud the third. Reasons given for the attack will only be recognized in the third case.

The Israelis have been fighting their "war on terror" for years by abusing and killing Palestinians. No evidence there that a "war on terror" is winnable.

Like a child turning on her parent

The World Trade Organization has ruled against the U.S., authorizing the European Union and other leading U.S. trade partners to impose sanctions against the United States in response to antidumping rules.

This is similar to Comical Allawi pretending that he can actually do something in Iraq without US approval. The WTO was created by the US, for the US, and of the US, just like the UN and the IMF and the World Bank, and the US will ignore it whenever it suits its purposes. The best possible outcome here would be for the administration and Congress to fight these sanctions, eventually leading to the complete disintegration of the WTO. Here's yet another paragraph from Chalmers Johnson:
There is no known case in which globalization has led to prosperity in any Third World country, and none of the world's twenty-four reasonably developed capitalist nations, regardless of their ideological explanations, got where they are by following any of the prescriptions contained in globalization doctrine. What globalization has produced, in the words of [Peruvian diplomat Oswaldo de] Rivero, is not NICs (newly industrialized countries) but about 130 NNEs (nonviable national economies) or, even worse, UCEs (ungovernable chaotic entities). There is occasional evidence that this result is precisely what the authors of globalization intended.


Bush takes back his "can't win" statement:
In a speech to the national convention of the American Legion, Bush said, "We meet today in a time of war for our country, a war we did not start yet one that we will win."
Apparently, VP candidate John Edwards did the obligatory Democratic response to one of Bush's few sensible statements:
"What if President Reagan had said that it may be difficult to win the war against communism? What if other presidents had said it'd be difficult to win the war - the Cold War?" Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards said on ABC's "Nightline" program. "The war on terrorism is absolutely winnable."
So who wins in this stupidity debate? Halliburton, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, the Carlisle Group, al Qaeda, and the Democratic and Republican leadership. Who loses? Everybody else in the world.

Immensely reassuring to hear Edwards citing Reagan as an example, giving St. Ronald undeserved credit for the fall of the Soviet Union, which in reality happened because the USSR pursued policies in the 1980's remarkably similar to what the US is pursuing now. (Invade Afghanistan, anyone?) So John-boy: What if President Ford had insisted that the war in Vietnam was winnable? What if Jefferson Davis had insisted in 1865 that the "war of northern aggression" was winnable?

Bush says absolutely ridiculous things every single day. But the Kerry campaign jumps on him the hardest in those rare moments when he is making some sense.

I don't buy one single word of the "war on terrorism." September 11 just gave American militarists one more excuse to pursue world domination (see post below). We continue to harbor many known terrorists in Miami (and in our government, like Poindexter and Abrams and Negroponte), and continue to be allies with hotbeds of terrorism like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan. We've already committed the equivalent of probably dozens of 9/11's on the people of Afghanistan and Iraq in just the past three years.

I turned strongly anti-Bush shortly after 9/11 after hearing his widely-applauded atrocious speeches--especially the "with us or with the terrorists" line. Only since then have I learned of the ongoing and practically unbroken series of crimes committed by my country under both Republicans and Democrats. The only answer I have to Repugs who ask why I wasn't protesting Clinton in 1999 for the bombing of Yugoslavia like I protest Bush now for the rape of Iraq is that I was ignorant then. In my defense, I never voted for either one of them.

Ethnic Cleansing? Mass Graves?

Eli at Left I on the News has an update on those "hundreds of thousands" of Kosovars killed by Milosevic which "justified" Clinton's bombing the crap out of Serbia in 1999:
"The war crimes tribunal in The Hague is 'beginning to panic' over its case against former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic according to a Vancouver detective sent to unearth mass graves in Kosovo and a Canadian filmmaker who documented the exhumations.

"'I would think they'll have a tough time with the charge of genocide with only 5,000 bodies,' said retired Vancouver detective sergeant Brian Honeybourn. 'It seems as though The Hague is beginning to panic.'

"Mr. Milosevic's trial is to resume next week with the former Serbian dictator defending himself against charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. Former Canadian Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour made history when she laid the charges -- the first against a head of state -- as the tribunal's special prosecutor.

"Calgary filmmaker Garth Pritchard and Sgt. Honeybourn are critical of Ms. Arbour, now UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and her claims that the Serbs, directed by Mr. Milosevic, murdered as many as 200,000 civilians during its ethnic cleansing of Kosovo.

"The alleged massacres were used by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Western leaders as justification for their bombing campaign and intervention in Kosovo, and were regularly and routinely reported as fact on television networks such as the CBC and CNN, as the West backed the Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) against the Serbs.

"'This was a massacre that never happened,' Mr. Pritchard maintains.

"Sgt. Honeybourn and forensic team leader Brian Strongman echoed Mr. Pritchard's doubts that the genocidal massacre by the Serbs ever took place.

"'I can't say that there weren't 200,000 bodies because I wasn't covering the entire country,' said Sgt. Honeybourn.

"'But I never saw any sign of anything like 200,000. If there were that many, then why did they have us exhuming single graves? The biggest mass grave we examined contained about 20 and there was another one of 11. But mostly our nine-member team worked on single graves.'

"In the six weeks Sgt. Honeybourn spent digging up fetid graves in Kosovo during the sweltering summer of 1999, the Canadian team exhumed 86 bodies."
Sounds a lot like Tony Blair's gross exaggerations of the number of mass graves in Iraq. And the reasons seem to be the same. Here's a selection from Chalmers Johnson's The Sorrows of Empire:
Kosov's Camp Bondsteel, a Brown & Root [That's Halliburton--ed] product, is a spooky place, surrounded by a 2.5-meter-high earthen berm and nine wooden guard towers. All trees in the are have been removed to provide open fields of fire. Dominated by a mass of communications antennae, satellite dishes, and hovering attack helicopters, it has a six-mile perimeter and seems too large and permanent an installation merely to meet the requirements of peacekeeping in southern Serbia, a mission that President Clinton asserted would last no longer than six months and that George Bush said in his election campaign he wished to eliminate. More likely, Camp Bondsteel is intended to play a role in a grand strategy to secure for us Middle Eastern and Central Asian oil supplies and to control oil going to other countries.

Camp Bondsteel is actually located astride the route of the proposed AMBO (Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria Oil) Trans-Balkan pipeline. This $1.3 billion project, if built, will pump Caspian Basin oil brought by tanker from a pipeline terminus in Georgia across the Black Sea to the Bulgarian oil port at Burgas, where it will be piped through Macedonia to the Albanian Adriatic port of Vlore. From there, supertankers would take it to Europe and the United States, thus bypassing the congested Bosporous Strait--as of now the only route out of the Black Sea by ship--where tankers are restricted to 150,000 tons. The initial feasibility study for the AMBO pipeline was done in 1995 by Brown & Root, which updated it in 1999. Bondsteel appears to be a base camp for what the University of Texas political scientist James K. Galbraith has called the "military-petroleum complex," of which Dick Cheney is assuredly a godfather.

Not coincidentally, in February 2003, the United States also began to build two new military bases at Burgas. On November 14, 2001, the Bulgarian parliament ratified an agreement giving the United States overflight and transit rights for the war in Afghanistan; when Turkey withdrew its support of Washington's 2003 invasion of Iraq, the United States turned to Sofia for a permanent installation, to which the Bulgarians agreed. The air force took over much of Burgas International Airport, one of three commercial airports in Bulgaria, and flew in numerous construction crews to build a garrison at a nearby beach for American military personnel. It is called Camp Sarafovo. The large number of airmen who arrived seemingly overnight are the first foreign troops to commandeer the Burgas airport since the Luftwaffe seized it in 1943. During the second Iraq war, the United States flew KC-10 and KC-135 aerial refueling missions from Burgas to support air operations over Baghdad. The port of Burgas is home to the country's largest oil refinery and, under the terms of the Bulgarian-American agreement, supplies all the fuel required by the air force. Just a few hundred miles up the Black Sea coast, at the Romanian port of Constanta, the air force is building a similar base complex. Constanta is the center of Romania's large oil industry. The Afghan war and the second Iraq war turned out to be splendid opportunities for the United States to consolidate its oil strategy for the Balkans, the first stage of which was Camp Bondsteel.
Pretty much a seamless transition in foreign policy from Clinton to Bush. Expect no different if Kerry wins. Behind the smokescreens of sexual scandals and gay marriage and swiftboats, the goal of the two major parties is the same: Consolidating the wealth of the world into the hands of the American elite. Any excuse will work for any war that furthers that cause.


Check out CNN's main web page. The whole top and right side of the page are devoted to the Repugs. The main headline says "Bush lauded as bold, decisive." I think "thoughtless, insane" would be a better fit.

Solar Mission

My dabbling in solar power is generating interest as well as electricity. At least three people from my neighborhood have asked me about my panels. I just got a second, larger panel that I ordered over the Internet and had delivered to work. Several people at work have asked me about it, including one guy who wants to get some solar or wind gear for family of his living in South America.

I'm making a somewhat more permanent setup with my new panel. With my first panel, I had it mounted with hinges on a roll-around cart so that I could move it around the yard and point it at the sun. The cart holds the charge controller and the battery, which I switch with another battery when it is fully charged. I then carry the charged battery inside and use it either to power my TV through an inverter, or a little 12-volt car fan. I have propped my new panel against the south side of my house, with the power wires running through a small hole in the window screen and into my spare bedroom. I've got a charge controller and four batteries hooked up there, and will connect the batteries to the inverter and on to the TV or other AC devices.

Here are some photos of my first panel and how I'm using it:

My brother gave me the cart, and my friend Steve did the carpentry to attach the panel, through hinges, to the top of the cart. Between the wheels on the cart and the hinges, I can keep the panel pointed at the sun (when I'm at home, anyway).

Shows the panel (top), charge controller (lower left), and battery (lower right).

Two batteries hooked up in parallel. The clips at the top connect to the

inverter (left), into which the power strip is plugged. I can run my TV and home theater for three to four hours off of two charged batteries this way.

I'll post some pictures of my new panel and setup after I take them!

Only sees evil where he wants to see evil

From David Catrow.


Quotes from the NY Times:
At a prime-time news conference in the East Room of the White House on April 13, Mr. Bush said: "One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we are asking questions, is, 'Can you ever win the war on terror?' Of course you can."
In the interview with Matt Lauer of the NBC News program "Today," conducted on Saturday but shown on the opening day of the Republican National Convention, Mr. Bush was asked if the United States could win the war against terrorism, which he has made the focus of his administration and the central thrust of his re-election campaign.

"I don't think you can win it," Mr. Bush replied. "But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world."
You've certainly achieved that in your own case, Mr. Bush. You are probably the least acceptable person in the world.

I saw that Today show quote on a couple of blogs yesterday, but figured it would just be ignored. At least the Times made it a major story on their web page.

Of course, the scary thing is that once again Bush comes across as more reasonable and realistic than his Democratic opponent. John Kerry says "Today, we face three great challenges above all others - First, to win the global war against terror..." It wouldn't surprise me in the least to see Kerry attack Bush on this latest statement. That wouldn't be a bad thing, if he pointed out the flip-flop and how stupid it was of Bush to ever think that a tactic of warfare could be defeated. But that's not what he's likely to say. My prediction is that Kerry will say something like this: "My opponent now says that we can't win the war on terror. I say that we have to win the war on terror. And with me as your president, we will."

The "war on terror" was a crock from the start, an excuse to accelerate American imperialism and support brutal regimes which support us against rebels. Bush is the worst president in history. If Kerry sticks to his promises, he may be even worse.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Oh, by the way...

From CNN:
Clashes between U.S. forces and armed insurgents early Sunday near Mosul, northern Iraq, wounded 34 people, two of them seriously. The U.S.-led multinational forces said the 34 were civilians, 26 of them women and children. There were no casualties among U.S. troops. Two attackers were killed, the forces said in a statement.
If 34 civilians, including 26 women and children, were wounded by a suicide bomber in Tel Aviv, it would be the number one story. When it's Iraqis wounded by U.S. troops, it's an afterthought attached to an article.

Tired of my Kerry bashing?

You can always go to Counterpunch and read somebody else's! Here are some recent articles:
  • The Left Takes a Dive for Kerry
  • Zombies for Kerry
  • To the Swift Boats!
    (I especially liked this paragraph: It is, to be sure, a grand way to keep from addressing anything relevant (like today's war on which, coincidentally, both candidates agree) until...oh, mid September or so. Then the "527" ads will delve into other weighty matters like, "Has the Heinz Foundation stopped funding blood-sucking monkeys to do evil things to little kiddies...?" Or, "Why DID John Edwards see that psychiatrist in 1991...?" Then for the Democrats, will tell us to something crucial to the survival of Western Society, such as "The lost files from Bush's Cocaine Anonymous classes: Where WAS he during those two meetings in September 1974?"
  • Voting for Evil: To ABB or Not to ABB?
  • John Kerry, the Warchurian Candidate

Just to be clear

When Republicans support Ralph Nader, it's low, sleazy, underhanded, and suggests that Ralph is lower than dirt. When Republicans support John Kerry, however, we're supposed to rejoice at what a great candidate Kerry is and throw money at MoveOn.

I get the feeling that a lot more people care about preserving the two-party system than they do about peace or justice. I was disgusted two years ago by MoveOn. First, they waged a great campaign to try and get Congress to oppose the Iraq war. Then, after losing that battle, they continued to raise funds for the scumbags, like Kerry, who had voted for it. And not only that. They didn't even mention the candidates' votes on the fundraising pages. They're still up to the same games. MoveOn is a Democratic Party front group, and is only anti-war when it serves the purposes of the Democrats. The Council for a Livable World. They did the same thing as MoveOn in 2002, and then started the appalling "Anybody but Bush" campaign last November, soliciting donations for whichever Dumocrat came out of the primaries.

CLW states on its web page "The Council for a Livable World is among the nation's preeminent arms control organizations and focuses on halting the spread of weapons of mass destruction, opposing a national missile defense system, cutting Pentagon waste and reducing excessive arms exports. The Council is also a political lobby which endorses political candidates." They fail to mention that the two missions are completely unrelated, since they just delivered $112,000 to a candidate (Kerry) who supports national missile defense and wants to increase the Pentagon budget. Also, by endorsing Bush's war on Iraq, Kerry has just strengthened the message to the rest of the world that the only apparent guarantee against a U.S. attack is to have nuclear weapons. (Check the record: Invaded Iraq? Yes. Invaded Russia? No. Invaded Afghanistan? Yes. Invaded Pakistan? No. Invaded Vietnam? Yes. Invaded China? No. Invaded Haiti? Yes. Invaded France? No. Attacked Yugoslavia, Libya, Sudan, Grenada? Yes. Attacked Britain, North Korea, Israel, India? No. Bush-Kerry policies are the driving force behind nuclear proliferation.)

I'm guessing that these MoveOn ads are more of a sign that Kerry has become a Republican than that these Republicans have changed their minds any.

Unilateral Disarmament

California is moving its presidential primary back to June, after having it in March in 1996, 2000, and 2004. Even Michigan's February 7 caucus seemed mostly irrelevant, what with the media, the party machinery, and Iowa and New Hampshire having already decided that Kerry was the most "electable." (Boy, were they wrong!) And the Repugs didn't even bother to run a challenger against the worst president in history. The state with the largest population was already irrelevant by March. Now they want to guarantee irrelevance--just let Iowa and New Hampshire decide who the most powerful person in the world is going to be.

Apparently the bill had bipartisan support, just further evidence that both major parties have no real interest in either republican or democratic forms of government.

Rick Reilly apologizes to Greece

Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly tells the Greeks how wrong Americans and some others were about the Athens Olympics:
Dear Athens,

Well, we feel bad. We really owe you an apology.

So, sygnomi, as you would say. Sorry.

Sorry about the way we acted. We were paranoid and stupid and just flat out wrong. Our bad. If you want, we'll sleep on the couch.

We mocked you, ridiculed you, figured you wouldn't be ready. We envisioned you as a bunch of lazy, swarthy guys in wife-beater T-shirts chugging ouzo instead of finishing the baseball dugouts. We were sure steeplechasers would have to jump over drying cement, pole vaulters over tractors, divers into 3 feet of water.

We were wrong. It was all done and it was beautiful. OK, so the swimming stadium never got a roof. Big freaking deal. Imagine: having to swim in an outdoor pool. Let's all sue. Besides, you know what? It was more fun that way. Michael Phelps was out there so much he ended up with raccoon eyes from his goggles. He looked like a snowboarder. "Cool!" he said.
We were sure every street corner would have three or four terrorists, just kind of killing time, looking for somebody to kidnap. Some bozo said, "The only place worse to hold an Olympics would be Baghdad." Please. I guarantee you, we felt a helluva lot safer these three weeks in Athens than we do in L.A. Or Detroit. Or the Republican National Convention.

We insisted you spend 1.2 billion euros on security. You had to put up blimps and cameras all over the city. You couldn't throw a bucket of grapes anywhere and not hit a soldier with a rifle. And nothing happened. Zero. The only incident was when our Secretary of State said he was coming to visit. In other words, if Colin Powell would've just been happy with his remote, you wouldn't have had a single problem.
Why you had to pay for our paranoia, I'll never know. It's the world's problem, the world should have to pay for it. What small country is going to be able to afford to host the Olympics anymore with these insane security demands? From now on, if a country wants to send a team to the Games, it pays its share of security, based on its share of the gross world product. In other words, it's our war, we should have to pay for it.
Somebody did a poll and found that 97 percent of fans were "satisfied" with safety and security, 95 percent appreciated the job the volunteers did and 98 percent had a favorable impression of Greece. The other two percent were Paul Hamm's family.
And now you're stuck with about $8.5 billion in debt, a bunch of huge, expensive stadiums you'll never use (Hey, kids, who's ready to synchronized dive?!) and a whole lot of "Get Your Butt to Team Handball!" shorts nobody was around to buy. Other than that, Mrs. Kennedy, how did you enjoy Dallas?
As I said on Saturday, there's a lot more we need to apologize to the Greeks for.

Making the world safe for militarism

How does the world's only superpower pay for the weapons of the future, and guarantee the need for them at the same time? By selling the weapons of the present to brutal and corrupt regimes around the planet, of course. From the NY Times:
The United States and Russia continued to dominate the global arms market last year, especially when measured in weapons deals to developing nations, although the total value of arms sales worldwide tumbled for the third consecutive year, according to a new Congressional study.

The United States maintained its lead in worldwide weapons sales in 2003, signing deals worth more than $14.5 billion, or 56.7 percent of all arms agreements, up from $13.6 billion in 2002, the study showed.

Russia ranked second, signing agreements worth $4.3 billion, or 16.8 percent of all global arms sales deals in 2003. That figure was down from nearly $6 billion in 2002.
If you still believed that the NY Times does honest, unbiased reporting, you might expect that the headline would focus attention on US domination of the world's arms market at the same time that it has by far the largest (and most aggressive) military in the world. But of course the Times does nothing of the sort. The headline lumps the US's 56.7% with Russia's 16.8% (less than 1/3 as much): U.S. and Russia Still Dominate Arms Market, but World Total Falls. And the body of the article focuses on North Korea's miniscule contribution to the world arms bazaar. In the arms business, North Korea is a mom-and-pop country store, while the US is Wal-Mart.

Iraq Veterans Against the War

From the WSWS. The story:
Significant numbers of veterans participated in the demonstration, as well as some active-duty soldiers returned from Iraq, who marched in desert fatigues.

One of the latter, Mathias Feurer, said that he had come to the march to demand that his fellow soldiers be brought back from Iraq now. A member of the 1st Armored Division, he participated in the invasion of Iraq and spent four months there. Having completed his military service, he attempted to leave the Army, but had his service involuntarily extended, and was sent back to the US to an assignment with the National Guard.

"At the time the war began, I trusted our president," Mathias, a resident of the Bronx, told the World Socialist Web Site. "I thought it would be justified and that we would really find weapons of mass destruction, but there was nothing there."

He said that he was shocked by the poverty, destruction and suffering that the war had inflicted upon the Iraqi people. "When we first got there, the kids would wave at us and stuff, but by the time I had left, everything had already gone to hell. They just want us out of there. Sooner or later, that is what will happen, but in the meantime a lot of soldiers and a lot of Iraqis are dying."

Mathias said he would advise anyone thinking of going into the Army not to do it. "Today you’ve got young guys going in who don’t want to be in combat, and they choose something else, like being a cook. But what they need is infantry and military police, and once they get in they just send them over there—a bunch of untrained kids—and they’re the first ones to get killed. All anyone over there now wants to do is come home."

Four I's

In the parade of nations at the Olympics opening ceremony two weeks ago, the 61st nation to appear was Iraq, and the 62nd was Iran. Sixty-eighth was Israel, and 69th was Italy. They alphabetized using the Greek alphabet; in English, only Ireland would have separated those four countries (I think).

The Pentagon-Israel spy scandal (it desperately needs to be a scandal), appears to be in large part a conspiracy of the last two of those "I" countries, Israel and Italy, to get the United States to go to war with the first two, Iraq and Iran. Obviously, the Israelis, assisted by the Italians, did not encounter any reluctance among the many pro-Israel neonuts in the administration (or in Congress). Lawrence Franklin was (is?) the Iran expert in the Pentagon who has been accused by the FBI of espionage. But Juan Cole suggests it's much more than that:
The FBI has evidence that Franklin passed a draft presidential directive on Iran to AIPAC, which then passed it to the Israelis. The FBI is construing these actions as espionage or something close to it. But that is like getting Al Capone on tax evasion. Franklin was not giving the directive to AIPAC in order to provide them with information. He was almost certainly seeking feedback from them on elements of it. He was asking, "Do you like this? Should it be changed in any way?" And, he might also have been prepping AIPAC for the lobbying campaign scheduled for early in 2005, when Congress will have to be convinced to authorize military action, or at least covert special operations, against Iran. AIPAC probably passed the directive over to Israel for the same reason--not to inform, but to seek input. That is, AIPAC and Israel were helping write US policy toward Iran, just as they had played a key role in fomenting the Iraq war.

With both Iraq and Iran in flames, the Likud Party could do as it pleased in the Middle East without fear of reprisal. This means it could expel the Palestinians from the West Bank to Jordan, and perhaps just give Gaza back to Egypt to keep Cairo quiet. Annexing southern Lebanon up to the Litani River, the waters of which Israel has long coveted, could also be undertaken with no consequences, they probably think, once Hizbullah in Lebanon could no longer count on Iranian support. The closed character of the economies of Iraq and Iran, moreover, would end, allowing American, Italian and British companies to make a killing after the wars (so they thought).

Franklin's movements reveal the contours of a rightwing conspiracy of warmongering and aggression, an orgy of destruction, for the benefit of the Likud Party, of Silvio Berlusconi's business in the Middle East, and of the Neoconservative Right in the United States. It isn't about spying. It is about conspiring to conscript the US government on behalf of a foreign power or powers.

Scandals? What scandals?

All it takes is the end of the Olympics, some street protests, and the start of a coronation, and the story about one middle-eastern nation (Israel) having a spy in the Pentagon trying to get us to go to war with two other middle-eastern nations (Iraq and Iran) is quickly consigned to the back pages. On the main web pages of the NY Times, the Washington Post, and CNN, only the Times has a small headline about the issue: Officials Say Publicity Derailed Secrets Inquiry.

Of much less importance, and therefore likely to get much more attention, is evidence that former Texas speaker of the house Ben Barnes helped W get into the Air National Guard, and that Bush may have lied about that in one or more of his campaigns.

Why is the Israel spy case such a big deal? Juan Cole explains it here and here. The gist of it is that not only did neocon insiders conspire with Israel and the Israeli politcal front here in the US, AIPAC, to get us into the war with Iraq, they have been and still are actively trying to get us into a war with Iran as well. I found this passage particularly interesting:
Iran is reported to have Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in custody in summer of 2003, and to be entirely willing to hand him over to the US in return for some high-ranking MEK terrorists. [MEK is, or was, an Iraq-based terror group which attacked Iran. US troops have captured some MEK guys over the past year and a half.] But first the neocon network, including Franklin, Harold Rhode and Michael Ledeen, intervenes to stop the trade (see below). Then, mysteriously, everything that goes wrong in Iraq from about January of 2004 begins being blamed on Zarqawi (is it alleged that Iran let him go, to deliberately disrupt Iraq by blowing up Shiites? More likely, when Iran won't accommodate the Neocons because of the latters' ties to MEK, the neocons decide to smear Iran as "harboring" terrorists and "sending" them to Iraq. They know this path might even lead to a US war on Iran, which is what they want. That is one reason they did not want the prisoner exchange to succeed).
This is the type of box that the administration should have no way out of if we had a decent media. Either
  1. Zarqawi is the brutal terrorist we've been led to believe, setting off car bombs all over Iraq, beheading Nick Berg, leading the Fallujah uprisings, and so on. In which case, the administration's unwillingness to trade the MEK terrorists for Zarqawi was an act of criminal negligence undertaken solely in order to cast Iran as a supporter of terrorism rather than an opponent. I'm sure Nick Berg's father would be thrilled with that explanation, along with many others. Alternatively,
  2. Zarqawi wasn't or isn't a threat, and may even be dead. In this case, the endless bombings of "safe houses" in Fallujah to get Zarqawi and all the lies about the Berg beheading and the other crimes and simply acts of imperial genocide.
Oh well, the Repugs are puttin' on a show this week. No time to dwell on their crimes of the past 3 1/2 years.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

The Numbers Game

I didn't go to the big march in New York, but I've been trying to get an idea as to how big it was. The media isn't much help:
  • Hundreds of Thousands Join Protests in N.Y. -- NY Times
  • Tens of thousands protest GOP convention -- CNN
  • Tens of Thousands Protest Bush in New York -- Washington Post
  • Tens of thousands march in peaceful protest -- LA Times
  • Tens of thousands march in New York to oppose Bush -- Globe and Mail (Canada)
  • MSNBC is all over the map: The headline on the main page says "Tens of Thousands Protest." The subheadline on the article itself says "Thousands of protesters march in N.Y." Inside the article, it says "more than 100,000 protesters."
  • Fox News says "tens of thousands," as does the right-wing New York Post.
  • CBS follows MSNBC, saying "thousands" in the headline and "tens of thousands" in the article.
  • ABC's headline says "tens of thousands" while the article says "over 100,000."

C'mon, let the guy run

A lunatic defrocked priest pulled the lead runner off the course in today's Olympic marathon, costing him about 12 seconds directly and probably the gold medal:
The defrocked Irish priest who bolted from the crowd and tackled the marathon leader about three miles from the finish Sunday has been arrested before for disrupting sporting events.

Cornelius Horan, 57, was wearing a green beret, a red kilt and knee-high green socks when he attacked Brazilian runner Vanderlei Lima, knocking him into the crowd. Lima was able to recover and finish, but had to settle for the bronze medal.
To his infinite credit, Lima kept running, even though he had clearly been frightened and possibly even slightly injured. He had obviously planned his race of a lifetime, pulling away from the pack to a lead of over 40 seconds before the incident. Afterwards, he was clearly struggling, and was caught by an Italian and an American. Lima kept chugging, though, and finished.

I know that George Bush destroys people's dreams every day, and in much worse ways than this. But seeing this nut ruin Lima's chance for Olympic gold, something he has surely been training for for years, was very personal and direct. The marathon may be about the purest competition in the Olympics. No slip at the start or dropped baton or bad judging can cost someone the race. Training, preparation, and physical and mental toughness are all required in huge quantities to win a marathon, and it sure looked like Lima had it all. For some end-times nutcase to interfere was disgusting.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

From Ted Rall.

Report from the front lines

One of the men in the group I went to Venezuela with lives in New York, and witnessed some of the critical mass arrests there last night:
Last night about 9:00 I walked out of my 13th street flat and found a stream of bikers coming down Seventh Ave, all at ease, a very happy bunch, some gesturing with V signs and a few waggling upraised fists. They just kept coming for several minutes as a crowd gathered on the corner. We started chanting "Our streets, our streets" Across the
street were two police vans and about a dozen cops, watching, doing nothing. Down the street were a couple of police cars at skew angles to the curbs.

When the stream had diminished considerably, the police deployed across the street, blocking it with a thin line of cops and some kind of flimsy barricade material. They also consulted with a biker who was evidently one of theirs, an infiltrator. Not satisfied with this maneuver, they abandoned their line and drifted around. A few straggling bikers then sought to come through the intersection. These stragglers
were seized and forced off their bikes. They were handcuffed, while I and others stood, retreating to the sidewalk, feeling menaced with arrest ourselves. "Why are they being arrested?" I asked the overweight cop who faced me, holding a nightstick. "I dunno," he replied.

A woman with a video camera shouted across to the distant biker: "I'm from the National Lawyers Guild. What's your name?" She was evidently afraid to venture out in the middle of the street where four cops surrounded a biker. One biker shouted his name and after several tries she got it down. Many of us were then interviewed by someone who seemed to be from an indy new group.

Overhead, several blocks away what appeared to be a flying saucer with dim lights hovered. We made out a blimp. I walked away and across the Village heading for dinner. All the restaurants were jammed with their usual weekend land office business. A helicopter joined the blimp, searching over the street with a light. On Third Avenue there was a crowd several blocks north. I thought I could hear a chant of "Let them go".

An hour later coming back to Third Avenue, cops were lounging next to a line of their shiny new Italian scooters. The helicopter was still overhead.

Wardrobe Malfunction

I'm sure I won't be the only one to use that headline for the US basketball team's uniform mistake--packing their dark-colored jerseys on the Queen Mary II when they still need them for the bronze medal game. But maybe the first? The game is currently being delayed (and the gold medal game afterward) while they bring the jerseys back.

The basketball team has been getting a lot of abuse. A local yahoo was appalled that more famous NBA stars didn't participate, including, as he said, "our fellow Pistons." I checked the roster--the yahoo is not a Piston.

Meanwhile, NBC has a few reporters at the basketball arena babbling about the uni's, while CBC is showing live track and field events.

One other snide Olympic comment: I watched a little of the synchronized swimming competition last night. I think that sport probably takes the gold medal for requiring the most amount of fitness, training and teamwork in exchange for the least excitement and appeal to the viewer. The silver goes to Greco-Roman wrestling, and the bronze to water polo.

Najaf Agreement

It looks like everyone is living up to the terms of the agreement--except the Americans, of course:
The agreement also calls for the Mahdi Army to withdraw from neighboring Kufa, for American forces to pull out of Najaf and for the Iraqi government to compensate Iraqis for losses sustained during the fighting.
By early evening here, aides to the ayatollah were fully in control of the shrine itself. The Iraqi police, backed by American troops and tanks, converged on the area around the shrine, with the Americans moving to within 75 yards and then dropping back.


Secretary of Lies Colin Powell will not go to Athens for the closing ceremonies. The State Department of course denied that massive protests in Athens had anything to do with it.
The State Department said the cancellation was forced in part because of events in Iraq and Sudan.

U.S. and Greek officials denied Powell changed plans because of protests against U.S. foreign policy that were dispersed when police hurled tear gas on Friday at about 1,000 demonstrators headed in the direction of the U.S. Embassy in Athens.

But Greek activists, who said the threat of street protests also forced Powell to cancel a trip in 2003, were crowing with victory.

"Of course, the cancellation was linked to our protests," activist Yiannis Sifakakis told Reuters. "This is a huge victory for the anti-war movement which protested by the thousands in the streets of Athens last night."
Even the talking heads of NBC's Olympic coverage were rolling their eyes at the lame excuses for the cancellation.

I was reading in The Sorrows of Empire about the legacy of American meddling in Greece. Here are some selections:
In the case of Spain there is some plausibility to the argument that the United States had to deal with the leader it found there, even if he happened to be a fascist. But the story was different in Greece. We helped bring the militarists to power there, and the legacy of our complicity still poisons Greek attitudes toward the United States. There is probably no democratic public anywhere on earth with more deeply entrenched anti-American views than the Greeks. The roots of these attitudes go back to the birth of the Cold War itself, to the Greek civil war of 1946-49 and the U.S. decision embodied in the Truman Doctrine to intervene on the neofascist side because the wartime Greek partisan forces had been Communist-dominated. In 1949, the neofascists won and created a brutal right-wing government protected by the Greek secret police, composed of officers trained in the United States by the wartime Office of Strategic Services and its successor, the CIA.
[In 1964] when the Greek ambassador told President Johnson that his proposed solution to the Cyprus dispute was unacceptable to the Greek parliament, Johnson reportedly responded, "F**k your parliament and your constitution. We pay a lot of good American dollars to the Greeks. If your prime minister gives me talk about democracy, parliament, and constitutions, he, his parliament, and his constitution many not last very long." And they did not.

The CIA, under its Athens station chief, John Maury, immediately began plotting with Greek military officers they had trained and cultivated for over twenty years. In order to create a sense of crisis, the Greek intelligence service, the KYP, carried out an extensive program of terrorist attacks and bombings that it blamed on the left. Constantin Costa-Gavra's 1969 film, Z, accurately depicts those days. On April 21, 1967, just before the beginning of an election campaign that would have returned Papandreou as prime minister, the military acted. Claiming they were protecting the country from a Communist coup, a five-man junta, four of whom had close connections with either the CIA or the U.S. military in Greece, established one of the most repressive regimes sponsored by either side during the Cold War.
The leader of the junta, Colonel George Papadopoulos, was an avowed fascist and admirer of Adolf Hitler. He had been trained in the United States during World War II and had been on the CIA payroll for fifteen years preceding the coup. His regime was noted for its brutality. During the colonel's first month in power some 8000 professionals, students, and others disliked by the junta were seized and tortured. Many were executed.
Last night, the NBC talking heads were saying that the protests and other anti-American sentiment that they had seen in Athens all seemed to be directed at our government, not Americans in general. Amazingly, this seems to be widespread. People I met in Mexico and Venezuela who detest our government and pretty much everything it (in reality) stands for were still wonderfully nice and gracious towards me and the other Americans with me. How long this can last is hard to say. Osama bin Laden seems to have turned the corner about 13 years ago, and surely many more have followed, especially in the last two years. Apparently much of the world realizes what most Americans do not--that we are no longer a democracy, so your average American can no more be held accountable for U.S. atrocities than the average Russian could have been blamed for Stalin's. Or maybe it's that they believe that we do still have a democracy, but that most Americans are just totally ignorant about the effects of U.S. policy around the world. Certainly in Venezuela and Mexico there were many people who were desperate to explain to me how U.S. actions had negatively impacted their country, hoping that I'd come back and spread the word. So that's what I'm doing.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Why would Israel need a spy in the Pentagon?

Doesn't the US already do everything Sharon could ask for? Some of the neocons seem to put Israel's interests ahead of America's anyway. Still, any scandal in a storm.
The suspect could have been in a position to influence Bush administration policy toward Iran and Iraq, the senior official said.

However, another government official said the suspect is "not in a level to influence policy."

"He is an analyst in an undersecretary's office," this official said.
Amazing coincidence that this news comes out on Friday night, ready to be quickly shoved to the back pages by protests in New York, Powell's invasion of Athens, the end of the Olympics, and the start of the Repug convention.

You've got to get elected to Congress first, James

Then you can sell your vote! From Elyria, Ohio:
An Elyria man, James Pengov, needed money for medical bills and offered on eBay to sell his vote.

His offer was online just 12 hours before authorities were alerted and yanked it.

Pengov says he didn't know that selling a vote is illegal.
The article doesn't say how high the bidding had gotten. I'm guessing the Bush and Kerry campaigns had already bid it up into the thousands. He's in Ohio, after all. (Via Michelle)

Greeks Protest Powell Visit

From the NY Times:
"Powell is the man who peddled Bush's lies on Iraq," said protest organizer, Yiannis Sifahakis. "He is a murderer and we don't want him here."
Sorry, dude. We don't want him here either.
Among those who joined in before the violence broke out was Andrea Murray, 22, who graduated from Duke University in North Carolina. She said she was looking for Athens' National Museum and instead found the demonstration.

"I found this and I thought, like wow! I am participating because I am American and I want Greeks to know that not all Americans are drones or idiots," Murray said.
Why does the Secretary of Lies have to go ruin the nice party the Greeks have put on for the Olympics? Can't he just go hang out in Fallujah or Sadr City instead?

Final Counts from Venezuela

From La Hora. A "No" vote meant not recalling Hugo Chavez.

Oh Canada!

OTTAWA, Canada (Reuters) -- Canadian Member of Parliament Carolyn Parrish had said she hated "damned Americans" and called them bastards in the run-up to the Iraq war.

She found a new moniker, idiots, on Wednesday in discussing the planned U.S. missile defense system.

"We are not joining the coalition of the idiots. We are joining the coalition of the wise," the Liberal legislator told a small group of demonstrators.
"They tortured people in Iraq, they (the Iraqis) have no weapons of mass destruction. Could somebody explain to me whether you think they're idiots or geniuses?"
That may add a little spice to the upcoming Hockey World Cup. The US team will play Canada Tuesday night in Montreal in the opening game for both teams (and a rematch of the gold-medal match in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, which the Canadians won).

CBC, as usual, is providing the best coverage of these Olympics. Last night, I caught the end of a story they were doing about Greeks organizing massive protests against Colin Powell's planned visit to Athens this weekend. I didn't hear Bob Costas mention it during NBC's coverage. I will give him credit, however, for mentioning the obvious to IOC President Jacques Rogge. Paraphrasing, Costas pointed out that a huge part of the funding for the Olympics came from broadcasting, and that the largest part of that came from Costas' own NBC. Costas asked Rogge if that huge financial stake put pressure on judges and IOC officials to decide controversies in favor of Americans. Rogge denied any favoritism, but it was nice to see Costas mention the 800-pound gorilla in the room, even if it was his own gorilla.

Why are you doing this?

Kudos to the USA Today reporter for asking the question:
In the USA Today interview, Bush was asked why he is staying in politics.

"There's a lot of my friends who come and bass-fish with me. They don't say it out loud, I know they're thinking it: Why?" Bush said. "And the answer is because the stakes are high. Because there is more work to be done to make the world a freer and more peaceful place. It is essential that America lead in the 21st century in order to defeat the ideologues who use terror as a weapon, in order to secure the homeland, but also in order to spread liberty. I know what needs to be done, I see clearly where we need to go and I want to spend four years leading toward that goal. And I believe the American people will give me that opportunity," he said.
I'll take two tenths of a point deduction on the reporter for not asking the obvious followup question: "No, seriously. Why?"

Bush also said "I am not going to come in second." He failed to add "again."

Juan Cole judges the Najaf agreement

Lots of people dead and wounded, cemeteries and shrines desecrated, passions inflamed. UM Professor Juan Cole has the scorecard:
Winners and losers:

I think the big losers from the Najaf episode (part deux) are the Americans. They have become, if it is possible, even more unpopular in Iraq than they were last spring after Abu Ghuraib, Fallujah and Najaf Part 1. The US is perceived as culturally insensitive for its actions in the holy city of Najaf.

The Allawi government is also a big loser. Instead of looking decisive, as they had hoped, they ended up looking like the lackeys of neo-imperialists.

The big winner is Sistani, whose religious charisma has now been enhanced by solid nationalist credentials. He is a national hero for saving Najaf.

For Muqtada, it is a wash. He did not have Najaf until April, anyway, and cn easily survive not having it. His movement in the slums of the southern cities is intact, even if its paramilitary has been weakened.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

A bigger rant

Yesterday, someone posted this article by John Pilger on our local peace Yahoo group. Pilger argues that Kerry really provides no real alternative to Bush, even suggesting that Bush is the lesser evil. I'm not sure I'm willing to go that far. But the post drew a rather predictable response from a high-school kid in the group who is a die-hard Kerryista. He argued that there is a huge difference between Bush and Kerry, citing stem-cell research, abortion, tax cuts, deficit spending, and judicial appointments.

I decided I'd better burst his bubble. I'm currently reading Chalmers Johnson's The Sorrows of Empire, and am now firmly of the belief that all of our rights, as well as our hopes to keep important social programs and get new ones, are threatened by rampant militarism. Anyway, enough prologue. The rest of this post is the response I put on Yahoo:
I'm afraid you've missed the point. Pilger's view, one that I agree with, is that the true American political agenda has nothing to do with stem cells or abortion or gay rights or gun control or even judges. It is about power and control of the world. The American military-industrial complex saw the opportunity to rule the world after World War II, and has been relentless in pursuing that goal. The endless red scares were used to justify the development of our huge nuclear arsenal, to which the Soviets obligingly responded. The CIA was created in order to maintain or install governments compliant with the US agenda all over the world, starting with Iran and Guatemala in the early 1950's and continuing today in places like Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Colombia, and dozens of others. The military's special forces have basically the same mission.

Pretty much every US military intervention since World War II, whether the stated reason was self-defense, humanitarian, upholding UN resolutions (which we had pushed for), or just for the heck of it (Grenada, Panama, Haiti about five times, Iraq) has resulted in new American military bases projecting power. The negative effects on the freedoms of the six billion non-Americans of this rampant militarism should be obvious. But from James Madison to Smedley Butler to George Orwell to Dwight Eisenhower, and many others, thoughtful people have for centuries recognized that militarism is destructive of freedom at home as well. Not only does it provide abundant enemies for whom we can be arrested as traitors for assisting, it also bankrupts the treasury, keeping it from providing any meaningful funding for
anything else.

There is no need or legitimate excuse for the huge American military. It is currently doing much more which reduces both our freedom and our safety than it is protecting us. Its effect on people all over the world is appalling. None of our liberties are safe as long as the military-industrial-petroleum complex is ruling our country.

This is why I'm so disgusted with Kerry. He wants to take this immense, bloated, wasteful and dangerous military and make it bigger. He's been on board with the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and only complains about the "war on terror" because he thinks Bush isn't doing enough. Bush suggests (a lie, almost for sure) that he might actually scale back our enormous military presence in Europe and Asia, and Kerry is there, right on cue, to say that's a bad idea. Kerry TOTALLY supports American militarism.

And don't forget that Kerry will probably be faced with a Republican Congress. While the president has fairly wide latitude in military matters (thanks to the Bushes and their Democratic supporters), Kerry won't be able to repeal a single tax cut, fund stem cell research, or appoint any federal judges without the support of Congress. And he won't have it.

Our freedoms, both those written into the Bill of Rights and those won by progressive women, minorities, union members, and millions of others over the past 150 years, will continue to deteriorate as long as corporations and the military-industrial complex are calling the shots. That's what needs to be stopped. Kerry's not the person to do it, because he doesn't even want to. I know, Bush is even worse.

But Kerry had a chance to raise these issues, given Bush's total and obvious failures in his illegal wars. But instead of making Iraq the issue, which should be a sure loser for Bush, he decided that he'd make Vietnam his main selling point. The Bushies have predictably slimed him on that, obviously without a boat to stand on, but seriously--why is a 35-year-old war the issue now? People are dying every day in Iraq.

I realize that I'm left with no good choices in this election. It just pains me to see people pretending that Kerry is a good choice.

Details on the Agreement

Not as dramatic as I predicted, but perhaps more realistic:
  1. Allawi steps down Allawi steps back, Moqtada al-Sadr won't be arrested.
  2. US and other coalition forces leave the country US forces leave Najaf, as does Mahdi army.
  3. Iraqis celebrate Iraqis breathe a little easier.
In reality, I guess this could mean any number of things ranging from
  1. Nothing, to
  2. Sistani and al-Sadr team up and lead a popular uprising throughout most of Iraq, effectively taking control.
Of course, if Allawi and his American string-pullers accept this agreement, one has to wonder what the point has been of bombing and shooting up Najaf for the past couple of weeks, apparently killing hundreds. Actually, one has to wonder anyway.

Agreement Reached

From the NY Times:
Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and the rebel cleric Moktada al-Sadr met today and forged an agreement that was aimed at ending the fighting that has engulfed this city for the last three weeks, aides to the clerics said.

The aides, while describing the talks as successful, did not provide details of the agreement.
I'm guessing it's something like:
  1. Allawi steps down.
  2. US and other coalition forces leave the country.
  3. Iraqis celebrate.
I've already sent them a message on behalf of the US agreeing to these terms. (Just kidding, Mr. Attorney General! I'm well aware that only Halliburton and Jack Idema are allowed to engage in private foreign policy.)

Women Win Gold

The US women's soccer team beat Brazil today 2-1 in overtime in the gold-medal match on goals by Lindsay Tarpley and Abby Wambach. Congrats!

Oiling the gears

Pipeline Attack cuts Iraq's oil exports in half, but oil price falls anyway (below $43).

Powerful forces are clearly at work here. World demand continues to grow, supplies are limited and threatened, but something is keeping prices from continuing to skyrocket. I would guess that the main goal of those forces is trying to keep American voters from seeing either gas lines or $3 a gallon prices before November. Arms are being twisted, along with promises that they'll let go after the election. Instead of $3 a gallon by Labor Day, we'll see $5 for Christmas.


You've got US soldiers and marines, supported by all sorts of ungodly firepower from above. You've got Iraqi troops, Iraqi police, the Mahdi army, and now thousands of Iraqis from all over responding to Ayatollah Sistani's call to march on Najaf.

And people are dying by the dozens. The mosque in Kufa was hit by a mortar attack, killing at least 27. Sistani's march apparently contained or was infiltrated by provocateurs of some sort who took a few shots at the Iraqi police in Najaf, who then apparently responded by shooting at everyone in sight.

Obviously, keeping up with all of this from Ann Arbor, Michigan is next to impossible, and I'm certainly not the best one here to do it (that would be Juan Cole). But I will say that it was completely predictable that starting a war in Iraq would lead to chaos--starting a war ALWAYS leads to chaos.

Here's yet another mind-boggling juxtaposition of paragraphs from the NY Times:
Both the interim Iraqi government and the American commanders had welcomed the announcement of his return, seeing in it a possible way out of the bloodshed and the political predicament.

The ayatollah's announcement came as American jets and helicopters on Wednesday pounded the area around the Ali Mosque, with some bombs exploding as close as 30 yards from the shrine.
Now there's a possible way out of the bloodshed and political predicament.

From Gary Varvel.

From Mike Keefe.

Understatement of the year

"My husband did not take the news well." -- Melida Arredondo.

So what happened?
After being informed that his 20-year-old son was killed while serving in Iraq, a Florida man doused a U.S. government van with gasoline and set it on fire while sitting inside.

Carlos Arredondo, 44, was severely burned and rushed to Hollywood Regional Hospital in Florida after learning that Pfc. Alexander Arredondo had died, police said.
I guess any comment here would seem tasteless. I will suggest that there are thousands of Iraqi fathers getting the same news. When they respond similarly they are labelled insurgents or terrorists. Carlos Arredondo isn't a terrorist. The true terrorists are in the White House.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Oil Price Hike Blessing in Disguise

From Gwynne Dyer in the Toronto Star:
Some time this week or next, oil is likely to reach $50 U.S. a barrel for the first time ever. The price is up by a third since the end of June, and U.S. prices have set record peaks in all but one of the past 15 trading sessions.

This is a Good Thing.
The price of oil may never actually fall back that far again, and, even if it does, the long-term trend is clearly up. Why is that a Good Thing?

The main reason is global warming, which is coming on faster and harder than even the pessimists feared. In a system as complex as climate, all sorts of things change in unpredictable ways when you raise the total amount of heat in the system, and the worst changes are those that set up feedback mechanisms.

Some of the changes we are observing now are very worrisome.

It was assumed, for example, that the rise in global temperature would be partly cancelled out by a higher rate of evaporation from the oceans that produced more cloud cover. Instead, the higher temperatures seem to be burning the clouds off.

And recent research suggests the higher level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is stimulating the bacteria that live in peat bogs and greatly increasing the speed with which they dissolve the peat. The peat is almost pure carbon, and when it dissolves it turns into — carbon dioxide.

If that turns out to be a runaway feedback loop, we are in serious trouble, for the peat bogs of the northern hemisphere contain the equivalent of 70 years' worth of global industrial emissions of carbon dioxide.

New calculations suggest we may be facing a global temperature rise over the next century not of 5.8 degrees Celsius (10.6 degrees Fahrenheit), which would be bad enough, but as much as 10 to 12 degrees C (18 to 21 degrees F).
The only short-term hope of slowing the rise in temperature is a steep drop in the use of oil and gas — and the only thing that is going to make that happen is a steep rise in price.

It has happened before.

Alternative energy sources take a long time to build, but energy conservation works relatively quickly: The big oil price rises of the 1970s caused the industrialized countries to bring in energy conservation measures that cut global oil consumption drastically.

Twenty-five years of profligacy in energy use since then means that there is once again huge scope for rapid gains from conservation.

It will only happen, however, if the oil price goes up and stays up.
You've probably noticed my hardly-concealed glee at the rise in oil prices. I'm glad to see that I'm not alone.

Nobody could have possibly forseen...

Juan Cole reminds us of two early critics of the idea of invading Iraq: George H. W. Bush and James Baker. Heck, even evil Repugs can be right some of the time. Too bad neither of our major presidential candidates were listening.

Members of the Club

Here's the explanation for why the Abu Ghraib isn't calling for Rumsfailed's resignation, even though, "in tracing responsibility for what went wrong at Abu Ghraib, it drew a line that extended to the defense secretary's office."
"If the head of a department had to resign every time someone below him did something wrong, it'd be a very empty cabinet table," said Harold Brown, defense secretary under President Jimmy Carter and a panel member.
--NY Times

Half of the panel, Brown and James R. Schlesinger, are former defense secretaries. They will not blame one of their own. And while Brown is right as far as it goes--with over a million people working for him, Rummy is bound to have a few bad apples. But that's not what this was. This was systematic, both encouraged and covered up by Rumsfailed, and even his "superiors." America would be better served right now by a completely empty cabinet table--including the joker supposedly in charge.

Video Taping--The Great American Crime

From the NY Times:
A Virginian implicated in a scheme to raise money for Hamas, the militant group, was in federal custody on Tuesday, and officials analyzed what they regarded as a suspicious videotape of a major Maryland bridge that his wife shot from their vehicle last week.

A lawyer for the man, Ismael Selim Elbarasse of Annandale, said he and his wife were videotaping sights from the bridge on their way back from a beach trip.
An accountant, Mr. Elbarasse was named but not charged as a conspirator in the case in an indictment announced on Friday. Officials said he had helped the defendants launder hundreds of thousands of dollars to Hamas.
"It was the nature of the videotape itself that got everyone's attention," [Police Chief Gary W. McLhinney of the Maryland Transportation Authority] said in an interview. "This went beyond the normal tourist video. They didn't seem to be focusing on what people normally focus on there, the water, the skyline, the facilities on the shore. They were focused on the bridge itself."
Hey Chief! I've got another one for you! He's got detailed pictures of the bridge, and he lives in a country known to harbor terrorists.

I think since the Rodney King thing that cops have a problem with camcorders. In Googling around for info on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, I came across the official web site for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, a much longer bridge farther down the bay from the bridge where the arrest was made. If you look at the map, the bridge where the guy was arrested is the one just north of Annapolis; the Bridge-Tunnel is down near Norfolk.

Near Norfolk, you say? Isn't that where we've got a huge Navy base? Well, aspiring terrorists, no need to ponder that question for long. The Bridge-Tunnel web site provides these helpful photos:

Caption: "Observe Navy and commercial ocean-going ships glide gracefully through one of the world's busiest shipping channels through coin-operated viewing machines. Check out our Shipwatcher's Guide which describes the major types of Naval Ships currently based in Hampton Roads."

That's right, Virginia. Nuclear-powered aircraft carriers pass just above the tunnel portion of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. I've never been on it or videotaped it, but I found that out within five minutes. Of course real terrorists take the wife and kids across less strategic bridges and videotape the trip. That's just how wiley they are.

Maybe this guy was up to something, but it sure seems unlikely. But now he's probably going to be charged with some bogus crime, and then forced into pleading guilty by being threatened with "enemy combatant" status.

Who's that knockin' at the door?

Easy answer

The Supreme Court, of course! Cartoon from Corky Trinidad.

From David Horsey.

This message brought to you by Non-swiftboat non-veterans for enough already about Vietnam.


From Dan Wasserman.

From Joe Heller.

From John Deering.


From John Cole. Having seen many of Cole's right-wing cartoons on Slate's cartoon page (from whence I find many of the cartoons you see here), and the cloth on his head, I'm sure that Cole meant that to be Yassir Arafat. But it sure looks like Bush, and the lyrics definitely fit.

From Bruce Plante.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Gotta Admire Their Spunk

In 2000, the Democrats in this country won the presidential election, but were gracious enough to let the Republicans steal it from them. The opposition in Venezuela isn't about to make that mistake, even though they lost the recent referendum in a landslide, 59 to 41 percent. Gracious they ain't. The same can be said for their imperialist sponsors here in the US. Someone named Mary Anastasia O'Grady wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal a few days ago, chewing out Jimmy Carter, the Organization of American States, and even the Bush administration for not immediately backing the opposition's insane claims of victory. Michelle has Jimmy Carter's response, and much more about the wealthy crybabies of Venezuela.

Obviously, having only been in Venezuela for ten days, and having only minimal Spanish skills, I can't possibly vouch for everything that Chavez has done. He was a part of a coup attempt back in 1992, and he has probably used the tyranny of the majority to arrange Venezuelan politics to his liking. But I can say that it seemed quite apparent that he does have majority support, and his millions of supporters are extremely devoted to him. And the extent of whatever tyranny of majority that he has exercised seems to have been limited to the political sphere, and is probably more benign than what we regularly experience here when power changes from one party to the other--patronage appointments, pork barrel projects, control of congressional committees. It has not extended at all into suppression of people's liberties--even Chavez' most vocal opponents are free to speak out, and they control most of Venezuela's media.

It would be a great surprise to me if there was no cheating in the referendum vote; probably some on both sides. But Chavez' enjoys overwhelming support among the poor people of the country, and the poor people are about 80% of the population. As long as they were counting votes instead of bolivares (the Venezuelan currency), Chavez was not going to lose. And THAT's what the opposition is so upset about.

Al-Sadr not a radical

From Indy News in England:
The standoff in Najaf has cast the spotlight on the rebel Shia cleric Muqtada Sadr. While the Western media cannot resist calling him "radical", it is in fact very difficult to find any basis for this description.

He has been consistent in his staunch opposition to the occupation of Iraq. "There can be no politics under occupation, no freedom under occupation, no democracy under occupation," he said this month. What is so radical about that? If his Mehdi Army were patrolling and bombing London or New York, I would be astonished to find media descriptions of US and British resistance as "radical".

When it says Libby Libby Libby

in the paper paper paper
Cheney's aide aide aide
did the caper caper caper

According to the NY Times, the Veep from the Deep's chief of staff Scooter "Scooter" Libby has released Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper, as well as two other journalists, from confidentiality agreements. This allowed Cooper to testify before the grand jury investigating the Valerie Plame scandal. He was being threatened with 18 months in jail for refusing to disclose his source.

This to me suggests several things. First, Libby was the one who made the leak, at least directly. Second, he was covering for Cheney and Karl Rove. Third, the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, now knows for sure that it was Libby. Fourth, Libby has agreed to take the fall for Cheney, Rove and Bush. Fifth, Libby will deny their complicity in the affair. He may have to serve a few weeks at some country club minimum-security prison, but will be amply rewarded with a pardon after the election and a high-paying job at the Carlyle Group or Halliburton. Sixth, Bush 41 will come up with some lame excuse for why Libby isn't the "most insidious of traitors," as he said a few years ago about those who disclose the names of CIA agents. Seventh, Libby's indictment won't push the swiftboat nonsense off the front page.

(For those younger or with fewer TV hours in their history, many years ago there were ads for Libby brand foods which had a jingle like this: "When it says Libby's Libby's Libby's/On the label label label/Something something something something/On your table table table.")

Swiftboat Socialist

Bill Van Auken is the Socialist Equality Party's presidential candidate. Today he writes about the ridiculous swiftboat battle currently going on in the Mekong of American politics, and correctly puts the blame where it belongs: On Republicans and Democrats.
Kerry’s situation begins to resemble the old slapstick comedy routine in which the hapless hero is hit by the swinging door both coming and going. After first goading him into a defensive position on his military record in Vietnam, Kerry’s attackers now raise the obvious question: “Why is he claiming to be a hero in a war he denounced as a crime?”

For this, the Kerry campaign has no answer, because it is founded on a deliberate and monumental lie. In selling Kerry as a commander-in-chief, the Democrats have sought to rehabilitate the Vietnam War, portraying it as a noble struggle to defend America and democracy.

This war, which claimed the lives of millions of Vietnamese and tens of thousands of American youth, was widely recognized as the criminal colonialist enterprise that Kerry branded it at the time. Millions, both in the US and internationally, took to the streets to demand an end to the US intervention, and anti-war sentiments were widespread within the Democratic Party itself, from the debacle of the 1968 convention through to the final withdrawal from Vietnam nearly seven years later.
The Kerry camp is doubly vulnerable to the present smear campaign because it cannot answer back by stating the obvious: the Bush camp’s lies about the Democratic nominee’s military record are being used as a smokescreen to obscure the ongoing debacle in Iraq.

There are those in the "anybody but Bush" camp who still reassure themselves with the belief that the Democrats' pro-war policy is merely a campaign ploy, a regrettable but necessary tactic to win votes from the Republicans. Once the election is over, according to these self-deluded elements, Kerry will be free to show his true liberal colors.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Kerry’s embrace of the Iraq war, just as his attempt to rehabilitate the intervention in Vietnam, is an accurate barometer of the continuous lurch to the right by the Democrats over a whole historical period.
I wish I could come to some sort of terms with Kerry, find some redeeming social value so I could vote for him instead of just against Bush. He's at a disadvantage, probably, since my initial major impression of Kerry, from last year's first debate, was quite negative. Unlike Edwards, whom I liked immediately, I found Kerry to be pompous and dull. (He is, isn't he?) And I rarely if ever have heard Kerry say something that I could unequivocally agree with--again, unlike Edwards. My feeling now is that Kerry has been running for president since before he volunteered for Vietnam. His service there and his anti-war activities afterwards were both a part of chasing that goal. Doonesbury no longer offers its entire archive online like it did a couple of archives--I'd love to dig up the cartoon(s?) from the early '70's which had Kerry in them. Garry Trudeau certainly recognized then that Kerry was a politician out making a name for himself. Too bad Trudeau now has his main character's daughter engaged in search-and-destroy missions chasing Nader voters. In this one, she's just trying to stop a Nader supporter from voting:

What's with that? Even if you actually believe that a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush (which it most definitely isn't--check the vote counts), doesn't not voting have the same effect?

I realize that what a character does doesn't necessarily reflect the cartoonist's feelings, and there is an element of poking fun at the Nader-haters. But just as Kerry should be focusing on the crimes of Bush in Iraq rather than his own Vietnam experiences, shouldn't Kerry supporters be working on Kerry to find ways to appeal to Naderites, rather than endlessly bashing them and their candidate?

The two-party system: repressing democracy for 200 years.

Freedom's Just Another Word for Nothin' Left to Lose

That must be the freedom Bush is babbling about having brought to Afghanistan and Iraq. Iraqis lost much of their freedom back in the 1960's when the CIA helped the Sunni Baath party take power. They lost a bit more when Saddam Hussein took over in the late 1970's, and when the Carter and Reagan administrations encouraged and supported him in his war against Iran. By the time Saddam was suckered into invading Kuwait they didn't have much left, and those who survived the brutal 1991 Gulf War had even less. Twelve years of murderous sanctions deprived hundreds of thousands more of even the right to life. And now, the deprivations of the previous 25 years continue, many of them much worse (like the availability of electricity), and they've got the tanks of armed occupiers rolling down their streets, and planes and helicopters attacking from above.

If this is what freedom looks like, I hope Bush isn't planning to bring it to America.

points out that while the insane bloody assault on Najaf is grabbing the headlines, the relentless destruction of Fallujah continues:
FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. aircraft and artillery bombarded targets in the Iraqi city of Falluja early on Tuesday, lighting up the night sky with explosions that shook the southwest of the city, residents said.

They said U.S. aircraft mounted several air strikes in the industrial sector of the city, and tanks were then seen going toward the scene of the attack.

A U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad said he had no information on the offensive.
Guess you had to be there.

Pig Gymnastics

Or maybe the "gymnastics skins game." While NBC tries their hardest, and with plenty of success, to add tension and drama to gymnastics, I think there is plenty of room to make it both a much fairer and more exciting sport. One of the screwy parts, to me, is that the competitors do completely different routines, yet get judged on the same scale. Another is that the scores, at least for the top competitors, are all crowded around 9.5 to 9.8. (Diving doesn't seem to have this problem. A gymnast takes a step on the landing and loses a tenth of a point. A diver makes a little splash and drops from an 8 to a 6.)

I watched just a little of the men's highbar apparatus final last night. American Paul Hamm did a fairly spectacular routine, featuring several release moves where he lets go of the bar, flies over it, and grabs back ahold of it on the way down. Well done, and he stuck the landing. The judges gave him a 9.812. Then Italian Igor Cassina gets up there. He looks to be spinning around the bar about 50% faster than Hamm. He also has release moves, but instead of just flying over the bar, he's doing multiple twists and somersaults on each one. At the end, he's just whirling around the bar at an enormous rate, goes flying into the air doing some amazing twisting somersault--and takes a step on the landing. Really, there was no comparision. As good as Hamm was, Cassina just flat out blew him away. A comparison in baseball would be watching Ichiro bat, and he lines a single to centerfield. Very impressive--9.8. Then Barry Bonds steps in, and hits the first pitch 500 feet into San Francisco Bay. He pauses at home plate to admire his home run, and the judges take a tenth of a point deduction--9.8. If Hamm's routine was worth 9.812, Cassina's should have been about a 13, even after the deduction.

So here's my idea. Make gymnastics like "pig," the basketball game where when somebody makes a shot, everybody else has to make the same shot or they get a letter (P-I-G). Once you've spelled the whole word with three misses, you're out of the game. Wouldn't it have been more exciting to see Hamm, Cassina and the other gymnasts challenging each other with ever more difficult maneuvers than to just go out there and do their own thing and leave everything up to the judges? Certainly it would seem more fair, and there would be much less controversy over who won.

That's your sports break; now, back to the news!

Monday, August 23, 2004

Meat-Eaters Soak Up the World's Water

From the Guardian:
Governments may have to persuade people to eat less meat because of increasing demands on water supplies, according to agricultural scientists investigating how the world can best feed itself.
"Western diets, which depend largely on meat, are already putting great pressures on the environment. Meat-eaters consume the equivalent of about 5,000 liters[1,100 gallons] of water a day compared to the 1,000-2,000 liters used by people on vegetarian diets in developing countries. All that water has to come from somewhere."

The consensus emerging among scientists is that it will be almost impossible to feed future generations the typical diet eaten in western Europe and North America without destroying the environment.
So treat your mother right--don't have a cow.

Common sense is always the last option

The fundamental question in Iraq is whether the United States should simply get out, cutting its losses now. There are many Americans who believe that, including this writer. But neither the Bush government nor the Kerry campaign wants to contemplate so enormous and desperate an act of common sense.
-- William Pfaff, writing in the International Herald Tribune.

We are all in Abu Ghraib now

Paul Craig Roberts is supposedly a conservative columnist. I first became aware of him right after the invasion of Iraq began, when he ran a strongly-worded anti-war column in the Washington (Moonie) Times, a paper which almost always supports the Bushies. Well, Roberts is still writing, but no longer for the Moonies.
Where do matters stand? We are all in Abu Ghraib now. If the government declares you "an enemy combatant" or a "material witness" you have no rights. The government can hold you forever without charges or until you admit to some offense in order to escape from isolation and from psychological and perhaps physical torture.

I would rather take my chances with terrorists.
I remember, while working on the Kucinich campaign, thinking that the supposedly radical-left Kucinich had more in common with the libertarian right (anti-war, anti-NAFTA, decriminalize pot, protect civil liberties) than he did with Clinton/Kerry Democrats who support the Patriot Act, the "war on terrorism," the war on Iraq, and so on. That's what the two-party system is all about, apparently--suppressing reasonable people by confining them to the fringes.

In any case, just like with Pat Buchanan, I find much of what Roberts says to make more sense than most of what the "mainstream" Democrats are saying, especially on foreign policy.

Formerly a right-wing nut case, Pat Buchanan now seems very reasonable

In comparison with the maniacs in the White House, at least.

I know I'm supposed to hate Pat Buchanan, but I'd gladly take his isolationist foreign policy in a minute over Bush's--or Kerry's for that matter. Here's Buchanan on the confrontation with Iran:
Having seen how America dealt summarily with Iraq, but proceeds gingerly with North Korea, Tehran has likely concluded that when a superpower is threatening preemptive strikes and preventive war, only nuclear weapons can deter it. Those who do not have such deterrents get the Saddam and Taliban treatment.
We could find ourselves in a third war with no allies save Israel. Another consequence could be the disruption of oil shipments from Iran, Iraq and the Gulf, a run-up in prices to $60 or $70 a barrel, and recessions in Japan, Europe and the United States.

Presently, America and her European allies appear to be moving toward Security Council sanctions if Iran does not render hard assurances it is not going nuclear. But if the mullahs have concluded their only defense against U.S. or Israeli preemptive strikes is a deterrent of their own – a not unreasonable assumption given what happened next door – we are headed for a showdown that will change our world forever.
Buchanan doesn't mention the assault on Najaf, but as I've said, the whole point of that would seem to be provoking Iran into giving Bush a reason to bomb the crap out of them.

Insult Bush Contest

While the best that John Kerry can seem to come up with is that Bush doesn't talk to the French or something, others around the world have been coming up with some superb insults of our idiot-in-chief. Here are the nominees:
  • Professor Juan Cole: "What was Bush doing with his youth? He was drinking. He was drinking like a fish, every night, into the wee hours. For decades. He gave no service to anyone, risked nothing, and did not even slack off efficiently."
  • The Iraqi Olympic Soccer Midfielder Ahmed Manajid: "How will he meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women?" Manajid told me. "He has committed so many crimes."
  • Recent entrant North Korea: [Bush is] "an idiot, an ignorant, a tyrant and a man-killer."
  • Lifetime achievement nominees include Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and fellow blogger Michelle.

Working Late? Don't Expect to Get Paid

The Cheap-Labor Conservatives in the Bush administration have been attacking workers' rights for years, including the right to time-and-a-half overtime for hours exceeding 40 per week. Today, the new policy goes into effect. See? The Republicans don't really want to export American jobs to China. They want to import Chinese wages and working conditions here.

Since this will probably lower the taxable income of many Americans substantially, don't be surprised to see Bush claiming it as another tax cut.

Tariq Ali on Chavez' Victory

The Progress Report features this article by Tariq Ali. Excerpts:
Chavez' victory will have repercussions beyond the borders of Venezuela. It is a triumph of the poor against the rich and it is a lesson that Lula in Brazil and Kirchner in Argentina should study closely. It was Fidel Castro, not Carter, whose advice to go ahead with the referendum was crucial. Chavez put his trust in the people by empowering them and they responded generously. The opposition will only discredit itself further by challenging the results.

The Venezuelan oligarchs and their parties, who had opposed this Constitution in a referendum (having earlier failed to topple Chavez via a US-backed coup and an oil-strike led by a corrupt union bureaucracy) now utilised it to try and get rid of the man who had enhanced Venezuelan democracy. They failed.

However loud their cries (and those of their media apologists at home and abroad) of anguish, in reality the whole country knows what happened. Chavez defeated his opponents democratically and for the fourth time in a row.

Democracy in Venezuela, under the banner of the Bolivarian revolutionaries, has broken through the corrupt two-party system favoured by the oligarchy and its friends in the West.
It is ridiculous to suggest that Venezuela is on the brink of a totalitarian tragedy. It is the opposition that has attempted to take the country in that direction. The Bolivarians have been incredibly restrained. When I asked Chavez to explain his own philosophy, he replied:

"I don't believe in the dogmatic postulates of Marxist revolution. I don't accept that we are living in a period of proletarian revolutions. All that must be revised. Reality is telling us that every day. Are we aiming in Venezuela today for the abolition of private property or a classless society?

"I don't think so. But if I'm told that because of that reality you can't do anything to help the poor, the people who have made this country rich through their labour and never forget that some of it was slave labour, then I say 'We part company'. I will never accept that there can be no redistribution of wealth in society. Our upper classes don't even like paying taxes. That's one reason they hate me. We said 'You must pay your taxes'. I believe it's better to die in battle, rather than hold aloft a very revolutionary and very pure banner, and do nothing ... Try and make your revolution, go into combat, advance a little, even if it's only a millimetre, in the right direction, instead of dreaming about utopias."

And that's why he won.

Quote of the day

[President Bush is] "an idiot, an ignorant, a tyrant and a man-killer."

"Bush's assumption of office turned a peaceful world into a pandemonium unprecedented in history as it is plagued with a vicious circle of terrorism and war," the statement continued. The president's aides and allies are "a typical gang of political gangsters."
Is this John Kerry speaking? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Hardly. He's too busy defending his record of killing Oriental people 36 years ago for no apparent reason to point out the real and ongoing crimes of the Bushies. So we'll have to leave that up to the North Koreans:
North Korea called President Bush an "imbecile" and "a tyrant that puts Hitler into the shade" in a vituperative stream of insults today that seemed to rule out any serious progress on nuclear disarmament talks before the American election is decided in November.
Hey. Axis of evil member or not, brutal Stalinist dictatorship or not--when you're right, you're right.


Juan Cole documents how the assault on Najaf is inflaming Islamic opinion worldwide. While the shrine of Ali in Najaf is one of the holiest of holies in Shiite Islam, it is also an important and well-known monument for Sunnis, who are the majority of Muslims worldwide (though not in Iraq).

I guess if Bush doesn't get his second 9/11 out of this attack, he'll have to find some excuse for bombing Mecca and Medina. Provoking terrorist attacks has been an effective method of staying in power for Israel's Likud party, so the Repugs are trying it now.

Five US troops killed over the weekend

In a 24-hour period, according to Juan Cole, and none of them in Najaf (at least reported). Wouldn't it be ironic if the 1000th soldier died just as Bush started his convention speech, and the networks all put it in the crawl at the bottom of the screen as he was "speaking?" At least that would be one soldier who didn't die in vain. (Sorry. My use of bitter irony is getting a bit strong, even for my tastes.)

Pink Supremacist

Adventures in Klan laundry:
I didn’t separate my whites from my coloureds. A Cincinnati Reds tee-shirt must have gotten into the wash, that’s why my robe turned pink.
Unfortunately, my fellow Klansmen judged me solely on the colour of my robe. But I can’t help what colour my robe is, can I? It’s what’s inside that counts.
I'm pretty sure that's satire, but in today's world, who knows? This web site claims it came from something called the Maryland Live Journal in May. I found it via Whatever it is, I'm against it.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

I love the World Socialist Web Site

At the WSWS, they're just as suspicious as I am. From an article about Senator Ted Kennedy's name being on a "no-fly" list:
Given the decade-long history of political conspiracy and provocation carried out by the Republican right against prominent Democrats—from the scandal-mongering and entrapment of Clinton that culminated in the Kenneth Starr witch-hunt, the Monica Lewinsky affair, and Clinton’s impeachment, to the stolen election of 2000, to the still unexplained anthrax attacks against Democratic leaders in Congress—the state harassment of Kennedy and Lewis, both of whom are considered in media and official circles to be “icons” of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, cannot be so casually dismissed.

With the installation of the Bush administration, the most right-wing forces within the US political establishment assumed power, and they have continued to employ the same methods they used to capture the White House. As a result, relations within the political establishment have become increasingly poisoned, even as the Democratic Party has continued to lurch to the right and sought to conciliate its Republican antagonists.

Events of the past few years have demonstrated that extreme right-wing elements in and around the Bush administration are moving toward the criminalization of political opposition.
I guess that explains Kerry's behavior. Doesn't want to get arrested for political opposition, I guess.

Bonehead Quote of the Day

"We can't siphon off one dime to fund some noble experiment in mass transit," said Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, who argues that the $1 billion expansion of I-75 to four lanes from Eight Mile Road to M-59 in Auburn Hills is critical to help the county attract more business.
Wrong, Brooksie. Expanding I-75 will just attract more traffic, burn more gas, create more pollution, and make that area even uglier. Patterson is rejecting a suggestion that mass-transit alternatives be considered to widening yet another freeway. Not a bloody dime.

Hopefully not a metaphor

Women's wrestling is now in the Olympics. No, there's no mud or bikinis; it's just like men's wrestling. I'm not a big wrestling fan, so I usually change Olympic channels when it comes on (same with boxing). But I happened to catch a bit of a women's match between an American and a Venezuelan. The American got her opponent down quickly. The Venezuelan struggled every which way, but was unable to break free. She eventually lost on the "mercy rule" when the American had a ten-point lead.

I'll confess I was really pulling for the Venezuelan to at least break free from the American's grasp.

I'm enjoying the Olympics; they always inspire me to try and get back into shape. I was peddling my bicycle-generator (keep going, little buddy!) while watching the women's marathon this morning. Both NBC and CBC were carrying it live, so I was able to see most of the race by switching channels at the commercials. (I usually rely on TiVo for screwing the corporate pigs.) A very tough, grueling race, nearly 100 degrees F at the start, with lots of hills. World-record holder Paula Radcliff of Great Britain struggled to stay with the lead group, eventually falling back and dropping out at around the 20-mile mark. Her world-record time of two hours, fifteen minutes is faster than any man in Great Britain has done in the past year, and faster than all winners of the Boston Marathon before 1969. But she couldn't deal with the heat and the hills. Ninety-pound Japanese runner Mizuki Noguchi took the gold by 12 seconds over Kenyan Catherine Ndereba and one minute over American Deena Kastor, who had climbed her way back from 18th position in the last six to eight miles. A very exciting race to watch.

NBC's Jim Lampley said between events that pResident aWol might be planning to fly to Athens for the medal ceremony of men's soccer, trying to claim credit for the Iraqi team's incredible performance so far. To his credit, Lampley pointed out several problems with this. First, officials in Athens have more than enough security problems already. Second, polls show that both Greeks who like Bush are vacationing out of the country, so he could probably expect a cool reception. And third, the Iraqi soccer team is on record as hating his cowardly guts. Given all that, I hope he goes!

Exploit, no matter what

I've gotten a big kick out of watching the Iraqi soccer team at the Olympics. I'm a soccer nut anyway, and they play an excellent game, scoring beautiful goals like yesterday's bicycle kick. And while the players' statements in Sports Illustrated seemed to have stopped NBC from joining the Bush campaign in somehow claiming American credit for the team's success, it hasn't stopped them from ignoring reality.

NBC commentator Pat O'Brien just did a piece on the Iraqis living in Greece, and how many of them got together at a cafe in Athens yesterday to watch the game with Australia. He said soccer had drawn them all together--Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites. After showing their celebrations when the goal was scored and when the final whistle blew, O'Brien concluded (paraphrased): "When the Olympics were held in ancient times, all wars were put on hold for the duration of the games. And for one day, at a cafe here in Athens, that same spirit still lives today."

What the bloody Cheney? While surely there have been serious ethnic/religious conflicts in Iraq, due in large part to the American-backed installation of Saddam's Sunni Baathist party decades ago, the current fighting is entirely the fault of the US (and seems to have united the various Iraqi factions, as well). And the Bush administration clearly has no respect for Olympic tradition: US Pounds Militants Outside Mosque in Najaf.

Hopefully the Iraqi soccer team will win the gold medal, and at the medal ceremony, hopefully televised live on NBC, they'll get on the podium and raise a banner saying "Hey Bush! Go Cheney yourself!"

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Be careful!

Iraqis were celebrating the Iraq soccer teams 1-0 victory over Australia today (on a gorgeous bicycle kick, BTW). Please be careful, folks! The US Air Force is lurking up there, and they might mistake your soccer celebration for a wedding celebration and bomb the crap out of you.

Man fired for heckling Bush

October Surprise? World War III

Seeking to alienate the five remaining Muslims in the world who don't already despise him, and further inflame those who do, George WarpResident Bush decides this is a good time to support the further growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank:
The Bush administration, moving to lend political support to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at a time of political turmoil, has modified its policy and signaled approval of growth in at least some Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, American and Israeli officials say.
As far as I can see, the only point of the assault on Najaf is provocation. Bush hasn't gotten his second 9/11 yet. So he'll push the provocation further.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Support Chavez!

The Toronto Star calls on the Venezuelan opposition and the Canadian government to accept and support the repeatedly-elected government of Hugo Chavez.

Neanderthal LA Times cartoonist Michael Ramirez has a different view:

I was so mad when I saw that cartoon I couldn't even write Ramirez a nasty e-mail. But I encouraged the others who went on the Global Exchange tour in April to do so, and I encourage you to also.

$8.8 billion, and what do you get?

Another Bush scandal and deeper in debt
Attacking the axis and he ain't done yet
He threw our money down the quagmire hole...

I think I'll form my own 527 group

Call it "Non-swiftboat non-veterans for enough already about Vietnam." I used to enjoy reading other blogs like Josh Marshall and Atrios, but since they seem to be stuck in the swiftboat firefight lately, I'm finding them tedious. I think if Kerry just makes one more big flipflop and says that the war in Iraq was not only a mistake, but a crime, and that he'll get us out of there as soon as possible, he wins easily. Otherwise, he'll just stay on the defensive against Karl Rove, and Karl can be very creative.

Not Going to Believe Their Own Lying Eyes

From the NY Times:
The situation in and around the holy Imam Ali mosque in Najaf was unsettled today, with sporadic fighting and confusion over early reports by government officials that the Iraqi police were in control of the shrine.

American commanders and military police in Najaf said they could not confirm the reports of the takeover. And a New York Times reporter who entered the mosque today said control was still in the hands of the rebel forces. This assertion was also made by an aide to the rebel cleric Moktada al-Sadr, Al Jazeera television reported.
The New York Times actually has a reporter on the scene (apparently Alex Berenson), but they're not willing to state what he says as fact because the official version from the US military hasn't come out yet. If the Times won't believe the Times, why should we? Their headline just says "Scene at Shrine in Najaf Is Confused." Sounds to me like it's the editors in New York who are confused.

Toyota may make diesel and natural gas hybrids

From the Globe and Mail:
Toyota may release cars powered by an electric motor combined with a diesel or natural gas-fuelled piston engine to suit local market needs, senior managing director Hiroyuki Watanabe said.

Toyota is "developing hybrid systems that can be used for gasoline, diesel, natural gas and fuel cells, which will be the most fuel-efficient," Watanabe said in an interview in Tokyo.
Since you can raise gas mileage from about 30 to 50 mpg by making a small car like a Corolla into a hybrid like the Prius, and you get similar improvement by replacing a gas engine with a diesel one in a car like my VW Golf, I was wondering when someone would get going on diesel hybrids. Don't need to wonder any longer! The diesel models will of course be able to run on biodiesel, and the natural gas models will be extremely clean.

Michigan lost 25,000 jobs in July

From Booth newspapers:
Michigan's unemployment rate jumped to 6.8 percent in July as the state continued to shed jobs, once again in the politically sensitive manufacturing sector.

Payroll employment in July was 4.35 million, down 25,000 from June, when the unemployment rate was 6.5 percent, according to Wednesday's jobs report by the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth. The national unemployment rate in July was 5.5 percent.

Since its historic payroll employment peak of 4.6 million jobs in 2000, Michigan has lost more than 324,000 jobs, 211,000 of them in manufacturing.
Another one of those bad news-good news short-term/long-term stories. Bad news in the short term, obviously, because real people won't be able to pay real bills or see real doctors. Good news in the political sense, because it probably means Michigan won't go for Bush (Juan Cole reports that the assault on Najaf has probably cost Bush thousands of votes in Michigan's large Arab/Muslim communities), although you know how I feel about his "challenger." In the longer term, bad news again, since those jobs probably aren't coming back, and Michigan may be heading back into a 1983- or 1992-style recession. In the longest term, it's kind of how I feel about oil prices and several other things going on. The whole system is going to collapse eventually, and the damage done can only be mitigated by people realizing this as soon as possible. As one of the books I read recently said (paraphrasing): "Exponential growth in a finite world cannot continue indefinitely." Unless you're in the privileged one or two percent at the top for whom the current globalized capitalist system is designed, things will just get worse and worse for you and your family. Only by facing up to the problems and realizing that we need to switch to a no-growth, low-impact, sustainable lifestyle will we avoid a 21st century filled with war, pestilence and death.

Any war you can start, I can start better

The World Socialist Web Site agrees with me on Kerry's response to Bush's "troop withdrawal" proposal:
Two days after Bush’s speech, Democratic candidate Kerry appeared before the same audience to attack the Republican president’s position—largely from the right.

"The President’s vaguely stated plan does not strengthen our hand in the war against terror," declared Kerry. "And in no way relieves the strain on our overextended military personnel. And this hastily announced plan raises more doubts about our intentions and our commitments than it provides real answers."

Kerry focused his criticism on the planned troop reduction in Korea, asking, "Why are we unilaterally withdrawing 12,000 troops from the Korean peninsula at the very time we are negotiating with North Korea—a country that really has nuclear weapons?...This is clearly the wrong signal to send at the wrong time."

Presumably, Kerry wants to send an even more bellicose signal, escalating the protracted confrontation with the Pyongyang regime, which the Bush administration has been compelled to place on the back burner because of the unfolding catastrophe in Iraq.

Kerry used the speech to tout his own proposals for increased US militarism abroad. His "plans to reshape and rebuild our American military so that it is ready to fight tomorrow’s wars," Kerry told his VFW audience, include adding another 40,000 troops and doubling the size of the US Army Special Forces.
A friend keeps sending me messages as to why Kerry is better than Bush, finding new ways to defend his positions, frequently in near-contradiction to what Kerry himself has said. Here's how I concluded my last response:
Making lemonade out of lemons is fine; but trying to make lemonade out of donkey turds won't work.

If you really want me to vote for Kerry, just stick to the "he's not Bush" line. I'll still think Kerry is a donkey turd, but I agree that Bush is worse than that.

A Shot Across the Bow

From the Washington Post:
U.S. Sen. Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy said yesterday that he was stopped and questioned at airports on the East Coast five times in March because his name appeared on the government's secret "no-fly" list.

Federal air security officials said the initial error that led to scrutiny of the Massachusetts Democrat should not have happened even though they recognize that the no-fly list is imperfect. But privately they acknowledged being embarrassed that it took the senator and his staff more than three weeks to get his name removed.
Yeah, right. This is just the Bushies way of saying "we can do it to anyone, and we will." Or maybe W and Cheney connected to the database on a computer in the now-disclosed undisclosed location, with a bag of pretzels and a twelve-pack in the cooler, and started entering names on their own.

$49 a barrel

From CBS Marketwatch:
"Until the fighting comes to a head or stalemates, buyers will remain firmly in control and pries might be headed to $50," said Michael Fitzpatrick, analyst at Fimat USA, in a note to clients. For the moment, the outcome is entirely in the hands of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, he said.
So al-Sadr joins Dick Cheney in the club of hardliners determining America's energy policy. Personally, I think Cheney is way more nuts.

From Jim Morin.

It shouldn't have been a tough call...

From John Deering.

More on "Gouging"

When the media and the government are in complete agreement on an issue, and no dissenting voice is heard, it's probably time to be very suspicious. Think of the entire US Congress standing on the steps of the Capitol singing "God Bless America" after 9/11, ready and willing to give our idiot president the power to bomb a defenseless country and to cut back on our civil liberties, all as a reward for screwing up massively at his job. The media all agreed to pretend that Bush's speeches were inspiring, flags popped up everywhere like dandelions in the spring, and we took our first big leap into the abyss. The mainstream media is always willing to present dissenting views on global warming or evolution, but on this issue they just sang the same song. And here we are, bogged down almost three years later in two stupid and pointless wars, less safe and more broke.

I get the same feeling when I see stories about "price gouging." Bush praises small entrepreneurs in just about every campaign speech, but after a hurricane entrepreneurs suddenly become the scum of the earth. I watched the NBC Nightly News last night. They were trailing uniformed employees of the Florida attorney general's office as they harrassed various roadside entrepreneurs selling generators, chainsaws, and the like. The scorn was dripping out of the reporter's voice for these people who would dare try to make a profit out of Florida's misery. They reported that two South Carolina men (complete with mug shots) had been arrested for quoting a price of $1000 for plastic sheeting to someone with a hole in his roof. Apparently Florida has a law against selling things for more than the "normal" price when a state of emergency has been declared, and unlike laws against vote fraud and harboring terrorists, Florida enforces this law.

NBC didn't try to interview any of the entrepreneurs being targeted, except for one guy selling "I survived Charley" tee shirts for $15. That was legal, I guess, because the shirts aren't necessities or something. They did talk to one of the Attorney General guys, who said "My message to these guys is this. We don't want you here. We don't need you here." Really? You've got tens of thousands of damaged homes, and people bringing needed equipment and labor from other states aren't needed? They should be welcoming every single one of them. If they did, the competition would quickly regulate the price. But I suspect that there are plenty of people in Florida who would gladly pay somebody $1000 to fix a hole in their roof today, if the alternative is to wait three weeks until Home Depot has an adequate supply of the materials that can be bought for $300. It would even benefit the poorer victims, since the limited amount of donated supplies would be more available to them. I don't see how keeping these "gougers" out of the state is protecting hurricane victims. I do see how it's protecting Home Depot, however. (NBC also showed a guy with this HUGE tree across his roof, and he was fuming that some guy had quoted him $10000 for removing it. It sure looked like a huge and dangerous job to me, one that would require special know-how and expensive equipment. I'm guessing that with the AG chasing down "gougers," the guy is going to have that tree on his roof for a long time.)

And while they're at it, shouldn't Jeb have declared the 2000 election a state of emergency, thereby making it illegal for Diebold to come in and make a profit selling the state unverifiable voting machines?

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Iraqi Soccer Team Gives Bush a Red Card

I've watched all three games that the Iraqi soccer team has played so far in the Olympics--victories over Portugal and Costa Rica, and a loss yesterday to Morroco. They have now advanced into the quarterfinals, having won their group with that 2-1 record. They play well, run hard, and have a good knack for goal scoring.

And George W. Bush has been trying to take credit. According to Sports Illustrated, Bush "is using the Iraqi Olympic team in his latest re-election campaign advertisements. "In those spots, the flags of Iraq and Afghanistan appear as a narrator says, 'At this Olympics there will be two more free nations -- and two fewer terrorist regimes.'"

Never mind that Iraq, and I think Afghanistan, have had teams all along. Never mind that the Iraqi team had to train in Jordan because the US invasion made it impossible to train there. Never mind that the soccer stadium in Fallujah is now a mass grave, and the one in Najaf is a battleground. George W. Bush made the Iraqi soccer team possible, right? They should be grateful, right?

Not hardly.
"Iraq as a team does not want Mr. Bush to use us for the presidential campaign," [Iraqi midfielder Salih] Sadir told through a translator, speaking calmly and directly. "He can find another way to advertise himself."

Ahmed Manajid, who played as a midfielder on Wednesday, had an even stronger response when asked about Bush's TV advertisement. "How will he meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women?" Manajid told me. "He has committed so many crimes."
Sadir, Wednesday's goal-scorer, used to be the star player for the professional soccer team in Najaf. In the city in which 20,000 fans used to fill the stadium and chant Sadir's name, U.S. and Iraqi forces have battled loyalists to rebel cleric Moktada al-Sadr for the past two weeks. Najaf lies in ruins.

"I want the violence and the war to go away from the city," says Sadir, 21. "We don't wish for the presence of Americans in our country. We want them to go away."

Manajid, 22, who nearly scored his own goal with a driven header on Wednesday, hails from the city of Fallujah. He says coalition forces killed Manajid's cousin, Omar Jabbar al-Aziz, who was fighting as an insurgent, and several of his friends. In fact, Manajid says, if he were not playing soccer he would "for sure" be fighting as part of the resistance.

"I want to defend my home. If a stranger invades America and the people resist, does that mean they are terrorists?" Manajid says. "Everyone [in Fallujah] has been labeled a terrorist. These are all lies. Fallujah people are some of the best people in Iraq."
Thanks to Michelle for the link.

$48 a barrel

I noticed that gasoline prices were back over $2 a gallon at the local station yesterday. Judging by the headlines, at least, the blame for the latest rise is being blamed on IraQuagmire, not on Venezuela or Russia like last week. While in the short term this is bad news for everyone in Iraq, including coalition troops, in the longer run we can hope that it thoroughly discredits the idiot-in-chief most responsible for the mess and causes him to lose the election, and in the even longer run convinces his sniveling opponent that it's time to change his tune and call for a rapid withdrawal of all US forces immediately following his inauguration, which in the longest run will be in the best interest of everyone, especially the troops and the people of Iraq.

Reports from Venezuela

I got two more responses to my e-mail to the Chavistas I met in Caracas.

From Marcela:
Subject: Uh Eh Chávez no se fue!!!! (Chavez didn't go!)

Thank you very much Bob, I thank you on behalf of the Venezuelan people. You have been so active. This victory belongs to you as much as it belongs to us. This bridge of communication and information many people around the world are building will keep us together with no frontiers.
Enjoy it because it's yours.
(I could't answer before as I didn't open my e-mail until today. We have been working a lot, and celebrating, and getting almost not sleep, excited, worried and happy)

Aw, shucks! I wish I deserved such praise. And this from Alicia:
Hi Bob:
We are really exciting for our succes, but we are in combat because the opossition is making a bad game, but is really importan for us to have friends like you and to now about your solidarity and feellings for our country and our people. Thank you so much. What do you things about the elections in States.
So many kisses

This is Alicia. If you'll excuse me, I think I'll go check on air fares to Caracas!

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Medea Benjamin on Chavez' Victory

From Common Dreams:
Infuriated by their loss of power, the elite have used their control over the media to blast Chavez for destroying the economy, cozying up to Fidel Castro, antagonizing the US government, expropriating private property, and governing through dictatorial rule.

They also accuse Chavez of using the social programs that have so improved the lives of the poor as a way to gain voters. In this, the opposition is right: providing people with free health care, education, small business loans and job training is certainly a good way to win the hearts and minds of the people.

Sunday’s overwhelming victory for Chavez has given him an even stronger mandate for his "revolution for the poor." It should also give George Bush and John Kerry reason to rethink their attitude towards Hugo Chavez. Rather than demonizing him as a new Fidel Castro and stoking the opposition, US leaders should embrace Venezuela’s social transformation and the way it is empowering people like Olivia Delfino.
Medea Benjamin was the woman hauled out of the Democratic Convention for breaking up the spirit of the bloodfest by holding up an antiwar sign during Teresa Heinz Ketchup's speech. She is a cofounder of Global Exchange, the wonderful organization which arranged the trips I took to Chiapas and Venezuela.

Mark Weisbrot on Chavez

From Common Dreams:
It is a mistake to try and demonize or isolate Chavez. He is only the most vocal representative of a broad swath of political leaders and social movements with the same view. Indeed, President Lula's Workers Party of Brazil, along with their largest trade union confederation and leading intellectuals and artists, took the unusual step of publicly expressing support for Chavez in the referendum.

And despite the disingenuous efforts of U.S. officials such as Roger Noriega and Otto Reich to paint Venezuela as another Cuba, the country is as free and democratic as any in Latin America -- as the world witnessed once again in this latest vote. Despite political polarization and class conflict, no reputable international human rights organization would argue that political rights or freedoms have deteriorated under the Chavez government, as compared with either previous governments or others in the Americas.

The Bush team supported a military coup against Chavez in 2002 as well as the recall effort -- which also received U.S. taxpayer dollars from the Congressionally-funded National Endowment for Democracy. But they were unusually quiet as the vote drew near. They do not want to promote any instability that might raise the price of gasoline between now and November 2. But whatever happens in our own election, we are going to need a new foreign policy towards Venezuela -- and the rest of Latin America.

Republican Congressman says war wasn't justified

Nebraska Congressman Doug Bereuter says he now believes the U.S. military assault on Iraq was unjustified.
"I've reached the conclusion, retrospectively, now that the inadequate intelligence and faulty conclusions are being revealed, that all things being considered, it was a mistake to launch that military action," Bereuter wrote in a letter to constituents in the final days of his congressional career.

That's especially true in view of the fact that the attack was initiated "without a broad and engaged international coalition," the 1st District congressman said.

"Knowing now what I know about the reliance on the tenuous or insufficiently corroborated intelligence used to conclude that Saddam maintained a substantial WMD (weapons of mass destruction) arsenal, I believe that launching the pre-emptive military action was not justified."

As a result of the war, he said, "our country's reputation around the world has never been lower and our alliances are weakened."
According to the article, Bereuter will depart the House after 26 years to become president of the Asia Foundation on Sept. 1 (if Tom DeLay lets him live that long).

That's America

Another bonehead quote from Kerry:
I want Americans to drive. You want to drive a great big SUV? Terrific. That's America.
Go Cheney yourself, John.

The op-ed from the Boston Globe, where I got that quote, concludes:
The Democrats on the defensive about defense at their recent convention also tried to sound as uncomplicated as possible on supporting troops in combat. The need to appear uncomplicated has prevented politicians from asking a more complicated question: whether the best way to support our troops mean changes at home so we do not have to send them abroad in the first place to protect "our" oil.

That question, of course, is seen as too offensive, even when the current issue of Fortune magazine publishes a 6,300-word article on how the nation needs to stop its "two-decade oil pig-out, gorging like oversized vacationers at a Vegas buffet." We have pigged out to the point where imported oil has gone from 30 percent of our supplies to 60 percent in the last three decades.

One of Fortune's four major prescriptions is -- surprise! -- improved fuel economy. "The real market test will occur in coming months as the frugal efficiency of hybrid technology is married to the profligate embodiment of conspicuous consumption: the SUV," Forbes wrote. Even that is an arrogant American solution. While Europeans long ago simply went to smaller cars, here we are, performing the equivalent of open-heart surgery on an elephant, offering it the engine of a hummingbird. It might work, but it would work better if Americans were simply not so vain.

So Americans want to drive a great big SUV? There's no news there. The news will be if Kerry finds a way to say that this is not a terrific way to be an American.

The right-wing duopoly and the coming darkness

Adrian Kuzminski writes in Counterpunch about how far we've descended, and how Ross Perot may have been our last hope for escape:
The right-wing duopoly is now virtually impervious to challenge, as the careers of figures as diverse as Ralph Nader, Pat Buchanan, Howard Dean, and Denis Kucinich demonstrate. Kerry's right-wing campaign for president, echoing the exploitative domestic and aggressive foreign policies of Bush, confirms the end of meaningful political discourse in the United States. There are simply no remaining effective instruments of political action available to the restless masses, who are probably a majority of the country, and most of whom, as a result, no longer participate in the political process at all.

Voting for Kerry is marginally better than voting for Bush, or wasting a vote for Nader. But it's rather like voting for Marius and Caesar (the Democrats) rather than Sulla and Pompey (the Republicans). A more benevolent despot is always better than a less benevolent one, but despotism it remains all the same. Can we pretend otherwise any longer?

What is likely is the continued consolidation of the right-wing duopoly, most evident in the erosion of civil liberties and the war on terrorism. Somewhere along the line, America lost its political freedom without even realizing it. The last meaningful opposition to the duopoly was perhaps Ross Perot's presidential candidacy in 1992. His presence in the presidential debates and his subsequent garnering of almost twenty percent of the vote -- in spite of dropping out of the race and then reentering it -- may be the most underappreciated event in recent American political history. Perot was no social activist liberal, but he showed what an open political process might achieve. Afterward, the duopoly regrouped and created a rigged, 'bi-partisan,' corporate-sponsored debate commission dedicated to making sure that no third party candidate would ever again enjoy such exposure to the voters.

The coming darkness is the eclipse of American political freedom and the unchecked reign of a venal, arrogant, and ignorant ruling class. Onerous as its depredations at home are likely to be, even more omnious is its immoral, illegal, and criminal policy of preemptive war abroad -- a policy fully endorsed by Kerry. There is no end to the war on terrorism, since a terrorist is increasingly defined as anyone who opposes the duopoly at home or abroad.

It has always been madness to try to remould the world in one's image, as we see most recently in the war in Iraq, but it is a vastly greater madness in a nuclear age. The lesson of 9/11 was that resentments born of decades if not centuries of perceived wrongs will find their target if those wrongs are not addressed. The ultimate equalizer, in our time, is the nuclear bomb and this the terrorists will sooner or later obtain and use if they continue to be provoked. This will be the final, bitter fruit of the loss of our political freedom, and it will be made the ultimate justification for the tyranny now established upon us.
If that's not depressing enough for you, read the whole article.

Kerry: Bolivious to the people of South America

From Counterpunch:
On June 26, speaking to the National Association of Elected and Appointed Latino Officials in Washington, DC, John Kerry laid out a hardline against Latin America's grassroots social movements, telling the assembled officials that "we can't sit by and watch as mob violence drives a president from office, like what happened in Bolivia or Argentina."

Four days later, in an op-ed in the Miami Herald, he reiterated his position that the Bush administration hasn't been foreceful enough in defending U.S. economic interests in Latin America, writing that "In Bolivia, Bush encouraged the election of a pro-market, pro-U.S. president and did nothing to help the country when riots shook the capital and the president was forced to flee."

The "mob violence" that drove Bolivan President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada from power last fall was a largely nonviolent campaign of strikes, road blockades, and street protests organized by labor unions, coca growers, and indigenous people to prevent Sanchez de Lozada from selling off the nation's natural gas reserves to foreign corporations.

Bolivia is the poorest country in Latin America, and sustainable, locally directed development of the country's natural gas fields may be the last, best hope for the country's indigenous majority to lift itself out of poverty. But Sanchez de Lozada, under pressure from the U.S., wanted to sell off the gas rights in order to pay off the country's debts to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank--debts which date back to the military dictatorship of Gen. Hugo Banzer, and which were incurred without the consent of the rural poor who for the most part never saw the benefit of the "development projects" driven by the international fiananciers. Kerry is right that there was violence in Bolivia last fall--but it mostly came from the military and the police who attacked unarmed demonstrators with tear gas, batons, and live ammunition.
The arrogance of Kerry and Bush--Venezuela's oil and Bolivia's gas belong to us!--is appalling. Rather than leave the rest of the world alone and work on solving our abundant problems at home, they'd rather continue to oppress the people of the world so they can steal their labor and resources in order to make our rich folk even richer.


I've been writing posts all morning, but only a minute ago was I able to get them actually posted to the blog. In case you were wondering.

'Three Kings' Director Plans Documentary on Iraq War

From the NY Times:
Warner Brothers is financing the $180,000 project, which involves interviewing Iraqi refugees who acted as extras in "Three Kings," the caper about the 1991 Persian Gulf War (starring George Clooney), and American veterans of the current war in Iraq.

"It will look at both sides of the war, people who feel good about the war, who believe in the mission, people who feel bad," said Mr. Russell, speaking at the Santa Monica editing room where editors are working in 24-hour shifts to complete the film before the November election.

The rerelease of "Three Kings'' is planned as part of a promotion for a new DVD of the film, which will also include a longer version of the documentary. Juan Carlos Zaldivar and Tricia Regan are co-directors of it with Mr. Russell.

Mr. Russell said the documentary had a political purpose, but only in the sense of trying to inform people about a major electoral issue. "I thought I could perhaps make a difference before the election, let people see the situation, how Iraqis wanted to get rid of Saddam, but also show what war does to people," he said. "When I talk to veterans, they have a chance to cry. It's traumatic; it tears you up to see people shot, and then you're supposed to come home and just blend back into the community? The Army doesn't want to acknowledge the human cost of the war machine."

Mr. Russell said he had been pushing Warner Brothers to rerelease "Three Kings," which had only moderate success at the box office in 1999, but which has received belated acclaim for its prescient depiction of the moral dilemmas of the war in Iraq.

"People would keep saying to me, '"Three Kings" is so timely,' so I thought it would be interesting to re-release it, and to check in with the people who pertained to the movie literally, or in some relative way," he said.
It has been a while since I saw "Three Kings," but I remember really liking it and how it countered, in a small way, the silly triumphalism which accompanied the first criminal Gulf War. (If you want to see a really bad movie about the Gulf War, check out Courage Under Fire, starring Meg Ryan and Denzel Washington--sorry Meg!) I expect that this new film will be a very moving documentary.

But of course

I suggested yesterday that John Kerry would probably join the Washington Post and NY Times in attacking Bush's meaningless proposal to withdraw troops from Europe and Asia from the right, and it looks like I was right.
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry on Wednesday criticized President Bush's proposal to recall up to 70,000 foreign troops as a hastily announced plan that raises more doubts about U.S. intentions and commitments than it answers.
Kerry argued that Bush's policy would dangerously reduce forces at a time when the nation is fighting the al-Qaida terrorist network in 60 countries across the globe.

Kerry said the redeployment would undermine relations with U.S. allies needed to help fight in Iraq and in the war on terror. It also would endanger national security as the United States is working to deter North Korea's nuclear program, he said.

"Why are we unilaterally withdrawing 12,000 troops from the Korean Peninsula at the very time we are negotiating with North Korea -- a country that really has nuclear weapons?" he said.
Why isn't Sweden shaking in their parkas over a potential nuclear attack from North Korea? Because there aren't tens of thousands of Swedish troops just waiting to invade North Korea at the slightest provocation. And why would one of the poorest countries in the world, North Korea, be spending billions on nuclear weapons? Because there are tens of thousands of US troops just waiting to invade North Korea at any provocation, real or imagined.

Bush and Rove are doing an admirable job of forcing Kerry to admit that he's just as much an imperialistic, militaristic nut job as they are. Certainly Iran and North Korea can read the writing on the wall--they can't rely on our election to protect them from invasion. Only nuclear weapons offer any promise in that regard, noting that Pakistan, heavily involved in terrorism but having nukes, was not invaded, while Iraq, not seriously involved in terrorism but lacking nukes, was. And both leading presidential candidates say they would have invaded Iraq even knowing they had no weapons. The lesson to Iran and North Korea couldn't be clearer--get nukes or die.

Oil over $47 a barrel

LONDON (Reuters) - Oil prices surged over $47 a barrel on Wednesday on evidence that energy costs are not substantially slowing the economic growth that fuels oil demand and fresh threats by rebel militia against Iraqi oil facilities.
China recorded 21 percent oil demand growth in the first half of the year and crude imports by the world's second-largest oil consumer are up 40 percent year-on-year to the end of July, according to recent data. That indicates Beijing's bid to slow economic growth has yet to make much impact on energy demand.

U.S. oil demand so far this year is up 3.5 percent, preventing inventory builds as rising consumption soaks up extra imports from OPEC suppliers like Saudi Arabia.
We're headed for an energy wall, and the world just pushes the accelerator down farther.

The free market goes, when the hurricane blows

I'm always amazed how quickly people turn into bloody communists when something bad happens. People who have no complaints about Wal-Mart exploiting sweatshop labor in China and abusing their own employees here, and who plan to vote for Bush-Cheney even though they funnel billions of taxpayer dollars to criminal corporations like Halliburton, seem to be the first to scream "price-gouging" after a blackout or hurricane hits. The NY Times has an article about such "gouging" going on in Florida now.
Janet Snyder, a pharmacy technician in Cape Coral, said several men in two pickup trucks spotted her roof damage and offered to lay down a temporary covering of plastic sheeting. They wanted $600, about four times what she figured was the right price, based on 15 rolls of plastic that usually sell for $10 each.
So don't pay it, Janet, and let the rain destroy thousands of dollars worth of carpeting and furnishings in your house. This is called the free market working--try asking them if they'd do it for $400. Or wait for someone else to come along, or do it yourself. Or just say "no," and take your chances. But unless you're willing to support a socialist revolution in this country, quit your bitchin'. When demand exceeds supply, prices go up.

I was appalled during the blackout here last summer that Governor Jennifer Granholm seemed to think that preventing gas stations from "gouging" motorists at $5 a gallon was the most important thing she could be doing. Five dollars a gallon might be enough to discourage unnecessary trips, cut down on the number of accidents at intersections where the lights aren't working, and ensure that there is actually some gasoline available for those who really need it. Forcing stations to keep their prices down in the face of skyrocketing demand only guarantees shortages and the rise of black markets.

The market certainly can't solve all problems, and shouldn't be expected to. But in cases like these, it brings needed goods and services, like those roofers, quickly and efficiently to those who need them. It can also force people to consider alternatives they should have considered anyway. If they aren't calling the state attorney general daily complaining about the high cost of housing and caviar and Cadillacs, I don't think they have much of a case for complaining now. We've got giant monopolies controlling much of our food, water, electricity, and even job markets in many areas, in many cases blatantly violating numerous laws and getting away with it. Two unemployed guys from Georgia with a pickup truck, who took a chance and stocked up on plastic sheeting at Home Depot and headed for Florida this week, are not criminals. Pay 'em what they ask or not, but don't try to have them arrested!

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Pakistan: Who Leaked Agent's Name?

In the two weeks plus since Tom Ridge's latest panic attack, which included the disclosure of the name of an apparent al Qaeda agent who had been turned by Pakistani intelligence, the Bushies have seemed to accept the blame for the leak, if not in so many words. But according to Husain Haqqani, writing in Salon:
But in fact, U.S. officials did not leak Khan's name. The first leak of Khan's name, according to well-informed, reliable sources in the region who spoke on condition of anonymity, came from Pakistani officials in Islamabad -- who perhaps were motivated by eagerness to show off their success in arresting al-Qaida figures or, more ominously, by a desire to sabotage the penetration of al-Qaida that Khan's arrest had made possible. A second Pakistani leak to Reuters, blaming the Americans as the source of the leak, served to absolve the Pakistanis of any responsibility in breaking up new al-Qaida cells -- an important move domestically.
The article is worth reading, even at the cost of viewing an ad for the Wall Street Journal. Digby also has an interesting post on the subject of our terrorist-harboring, nuclear-exporting, dictator-run number one "ally" in the "war on terror."

NY Times "opposes" Bush's troop redeployment

I noted earlier how the Washington Post has no use for any proposals which reduce the American military presence anywhere. While using more nuanced, sensitive even, language, the NY Times is also on board with that.

I haven't seen anything from John Kerry, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him jump once more to the hawkish side of Bush.

Kerry's Iraq stance attacked

By Jon Stewart on the Daily Show: "Dude!!! You want to lose!"

By octagenarian White House correspondent Helen Thomas:
It appears American voters have little choice between the presidential candidates in the November election when it comes to the disastrous war against Iraq.

Both President Bush and his rival, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., seem to think it was worth the 932 American lives (so far) and thousands of U.S. wounded to get one man behind bars-Saddam Hussein.

There also are the untold thousands of Iraqis dead and wounded as well. But, as one Pentagon spokesman told me, "they don't count."

Kerry has made a colossal mistake by continuing to defend his October 2002 vote authorizing President Bush's invasion of Iraq.
By the Capital Times (Madison):
Never mind any of the facts.President Bush, who seems to think that the whole war on terror is some kind of Wild West costume show, declared last week that he would do it all over again.

The president grudgingly acknowledges that most of the pre-war claims he and his aides made about a supposed "need" to attack Iraq were wrong. Yet, he says without a hint of irony, "Knowing what I know today, I would have made the same decision."

Bush's don't-bother-me-with-the-facts approach should close the case against his re-election to the presidency. Any leader who gets things as horribly wrong as Bush did ought to be viewed skeptically when he asks to have his tenure extended. But when that leader says he does not care that he screwed up so miserably, or that thousands of Americans and Iraqis have died as a result, it is time to move beyond skepticism. Common sense argues that the man must be replaced.

Unfortunately, Democratic candidate John Kerry was almost as foolish in his response to the president's know-nothing rant.

When Bush challenged his challenger to say whether he would still vote to give the president the authority to invade Iraq, Kerry responded, "Yes, I would have voted for the authority. I believe it was the right authority for the president to have."

The only difference, Kerry said, was that he would have used that authority "more effectively" than Bush.

Kerry pointedly refuses to say that it was wrong to go to war, or even to admit that he was mistaken to vote to give Bush the authority to do so. That's too bad. The Democratic nominee does himself few favors by suggesting he would be a kinder, gentler George W. Bush.

Kerry should pay attention to a point made by U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis. Feingold says that Democrats make a mistake by assuming that so-called "swing" voters are centrists who support the war. A lot of undecided voters, Feingold suggests, are Americans who believe this war is a terrible mistake and who want a leader who recognizes that fact and will bring it to an end.

In fact, the majority of Americans say the war was a mistake. It is too bad that neither of the major party presidential candidates shares the common sense of the electorate.
Personally, I think it was planned that way all along. The media channelled most of the anti-war sentiment towards Howard Dean, and then crushed him, leaving the Dems with the pro-war dullard Kerry, and Americans with a very poor alternative to the worst president ever.

Najaf? What's Najaf?

Hurricane Charley blew away more than a bunch of mobile homes and shoddy developments in Florida. Along with the Olympics, the New Jersey governor, and even the referendum in Venezuela, it managed to blow the ongoing atrocity in Najaf off of the front pages. Heck, CNN is back to covering the Peterson trial, now entering its third decade (or so it seems, anyway). Kobe and Michael can't be far behind.

Nevertheless, the killing and destruction (aka "desecration" if you happen to be a Shiite Muslim) continues in Najaf. Juan Cole is following the situation closely, and it isn't good:
Dean Yates of Reuters reports that fighting broke out in Najaf again on Monday between US troops and the Mahdi Army militia.

In the heart of Najaf, U.S. forces backed by tanks exchanged fire with militiamen entrenched around the sacred Imam Ali Mosque and an ancient cemetery. Explosions boomed and the crackle of machinegun fire echoed across the city, 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad.

A U.S. military spokesman revealed that Mahdi Army fighters had killed three US troops in fighting on Sunday.

Thousands of civilians have marched to Najaf to surround the shrine of Ali as human shields. Reuters quotes one of them, Fadil Hamed, 30, as saying, "I will lie on the ground in front of the tanks, or I will kill the Americans to defend Sadr and Najaf."
Cole also has an interesting take on Senator Tom Harkin's labelling Dick Cheney a coward. Cole suggests that "hypocrite" is the more appropriate label for the Veep from the Deep.

From Vic Harville.

W not militaristic enough for the Washington Post

Today's lead editorial in the Post berates the moron-in-chief for proposing to eventually, someday, bring some of our military, currently on permanent vacation in Europe and Asia, back home. The Post reminds us of all the bogeymen out there that we should be wetting our beds over--China and North Korea in particular, and suggests that we need to keep our troops closer to "today's battlegrounds."

Insisting on continued and expanded American hegemony over the globe, the Post gives this amazing argument:
Europe is less tense, but a U.S. presence is important nonetheless. The conflicts of the past decade have been in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq; Africa is of increasing concern; none of these is closer to Kansas than to Germany.
Look out, Topeka! Here come Gerhardt Schroeder!

I've just started reading Chalmers Johnson's The Sorrows of Empire. As he did in Blowback, Johnson starts out by describing the enormous extent of the American military empire--some 725 (acknowledged) bases worldwide, including huge installations in Germany, Korea, and Japan. He describes how people in the military, in business (General Dynamics, Boeing, Halliburton, etc., etc., etc.), and in Congress (aka the "Iron triangle") depend on this massive muscle-flexing atrocity. And here Bush makes a fairly meaningless proposal in order to steal a few votes, and the Post is ready to jump on perhaps the most militaristic president ever for not being militaristic enough. Darn that Bush for being so sensitive in such a time of peril! It wouldn't surprise me if Karl Rove wrote the editorial for the Post; it's exactly the type of "criticism" these guys want. It helps to prevent people from seeing Bush as the right-wing nut job that he really is.

Monday, August 16, 2004

In case you haven't noticed...

Our pResident is a total moron. Here he is "speaking" at a campaign stop in New Mexico:
Rudy is an S corp. That means he pays tax at the individual income tax rate. And so when you hear my opponent talking about taxing the rich, that means running up the rate, the high rates, he's really taxing small businesses. See, they put out $2.2 trillion of new spending promises. He hasn't even got to September yet, by the way. (Laughter.) And he says he's going to pay for it -- (applause) -- he says he's going to pay for it by taxing the rich. That means that S corps that are doing okay are going to pay higher taxes. We don't need to be taking money out of the small business coffers as this economy is beginning to grow. If most new jobs are created by small businesses, and most small businesses are sub-chapter S or sole proprietorships, it makes no sense to run up the taxes on these people as this economy is beginning to grow. (Applause.)

You know what else I think? You know what else I think when they say, tax the rich? Most rich people are able to avoid taxes, and if you can't raise enough money from taxing the rich, guess who pays the taxes? Yes, you do. But we're not going to let him. That's what this campaign is about, to make sure we've got good tax policy.
So taxing the rich means taxing small businesses. But they're rich, so they know how to avoid taxes, but somehow that still hurts their small businesses, even though the middle class is paying the taxes. Amazingly though, after the tee shirt screening and the loyalty oath, W isn't the dimmest bulb in these crowds. How did they response to this totally nonsensical blather?
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
Here's a less obvious inanity, but one everyone should know about when trying to converse with Bush supporters:
Bush: I like the idea of health accounts where people own them and manage them so that the principal decision-makers for health care are doctors and patients, not bureaucrats.
There's one very simple word for health savings accounts (HSA's): scam. HSA's do little for low-income people, because they are basically an income-tax deduction. Since the biggest part of the tax burden for low-income people is in the payroll taxes, not the income taxes, and because they're already in a low bracket, the possible savings are very minimal. I don't have the exact numbers, but here is approximately how I think it would work. Suppose that you were making $6.50 an hour, or about $13,000 per year. I think you'd be in a 10% tax bracket, and the standard deduction would be about $4000. So you'd be paying 10% on $9000, or $900 a year in income taxes (plus a bunch in payroll taxes--FICA, medicare). If you somehow could find a way to put $1000 into an HSA, it would drop your taxable income to $8000, and your income taxes to $800. So far, you've given $1000 to an HSA management company (bureaucrats!), and gotten $100 in tax savings. What a deal! Now if you were "lucky" enough to have exactly $1000 in medical expenses for the year (for which you may well have paid more than most people because, well face it, you're poor), the HSA company will probably reimburse you for the $1000 you gave them (without giving you any of the interest they've been earning on your money), and you're $100 better off than without the HSA, in theory. What bank you had to rob to come up with that additional $1000 to pay the bill before you're reimbursed isn't something Bush or the HSA will help you with. (And don't expect any bank to give you a loan--you're poor, remember?) If you make it through the year without medical bills of $1000? The HSA keeps the difference. They may decide to keep the difference even if you do run up $1000 in bills. You might try suing them, if you can find ANOTHER $1000 to retain a lawyer (this ain't malpractice--the lawyer won't take your case on contingency). Of course, if the Bushies have their way, yours would likely be one of those "frivolous" lawsuits they want to eliminate.

Now if you're wealthy, it's a whole different story. Most of your medical expenses are already covered by insurance--the HSA just goes to cover deductibles and copayments. You've also got a good idea of how much you normally spend on health care a year, and you may even have an accountant to keep track of it all for you. In fact, the HSA is just one of the many ways you have to avoid taxes, like all rich people (according to Bush). Your HSA management company is probably more reputable, and they know you can afford a lawyer if they try to screw you.

As far as the principal decision-makers for health care? I don't see how HSA's make much of a difference. For low income people, HSA's are a huge gamble, offering very limited potential gain while risking a large percentage of one's income. For the HSA management company, which most certainly has given large donations to the Bush campaign, there's basically no risk. In the worst case scenario (the patient uses all of the HSA on medical bills), they get the interest on other people's money for the better part of a year. In every other scenario, they get more--sometimes much more.

HSA's have as much to do with providing health care to those who don't already have it as the war in Iraq had to do with protecting us from terrorism. (That is, zip, zilch, nada.)

(BTW--I'm not an expert on this. If I'm wrong in my analysis, please let me know. But I did have an HSA in conjunction with my medical insurance for two years. The first year, I had enough in copayments and other allowable expenses to get fully reimbursed the $180 I put in, so I saved maybe $45 on my income tax. The next year, I had very few medical bills, and lost the receipts for those. The HSA company got to keep my entire set-aside.)

All that nonsense, and aWol hadn't even gotten to foreign policy. It ain't any better, folks, but it's time for me to get to bed. Read it and weep, if you've got the stomach for it.

BTW: Why are Bush's campaign speeches on Shouldn't they be on his campaign web site, not the web site paid for out of our taxes (not the rich people's taxes, because they don't pay any, unless they run a small business, or something...)?

Buahies not going to accept Venezuela result easily

From the Australian:
THE US today declined to join international monitors in backing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's apparent victory in a recall election and called for a prompt, thorough and transparent probe into opposition claims of massive fraud.

While "noting" and praising the work of observers from former US president Jimmy Carter's Carter Centre and the Organisation of American States (OAS), the State Department said Washington was not yet ready to endorse a finding that Mr Chavez, a longtime US irritant, had prevailed in the vote.

"We note the OAS and Carter Centre announcement that their quick count was consistent with the National Electoral Council's preliminary results," said Tom Casey, a department spokesman.

"We also note their offer to work with the Opposition to conduct a full audit of the results and to examine any concerns that have arisen.

"We encourage the National Electoral Council to allow a transparent audit to address any concerns and assure Venezuelan citizens that the referendum was free and fair."
Just like Florida 2000?

Greg Palast on Chavez

I saw this article on Common Dreams. Excerpt:
Dick Cheney does not like Clinton nor Chavez nor their band. To him, the oil industry's (and Saudi Arabia's) freedom to set oil prices is as sacred as freedom of speech is to the ACLU. I got this info, by the way, from three top oil industry lobbyists.

Why should Chavez worry about what Dick thinks? Because, said one of the oil men, the Veep in his bunker, not the pretzel-chewer in the White House, "runs energy policy in the United States."

And what seems to have gotten our Veep's knickers in a twist is not the price of oil, but who keeps the loot from the current band-busting spurt in prices. Chavez had his Congress pass another oil law, the "Law of Hydrocarbons," which changes the split. Right now, the oil majors - like PhillipsConoco - keep 84% of the proceeds of the sale of Venezuela oil; the nation gets only 16%.

Chavez wanted to double his Treasury's take to 30%. And for good reason. Landless, hungry peasants have, over decades, drifted into Caracas and other cities, building million-person ghettos of cardboard shacks and open sewers. Chavez promised to do something about that.

And he did.

Carter and OAS endorse Chavez win

From CNN:
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and the head of the Organization of American States on Monday endorsed the results of Venezuela's recall referendum that President Hugo Chavez won.

"Our findings coincided with the partial returns announced today by the National Elections Council," Carter, one of the top election observers, told a joint news conference with OAS Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria.

The announcement appeared to deflate opposition claims of widespread fraud in the voting that began Sunday and ended early Monday.

Bush's troop "redeployment" explained

I think I've figured out what's going on with aWol's troop redeployment announcement. Admittedly, I'm probably not the first. From the NY Times:
"Over the coming decade, we'll deploy a more agile and more flexible force, which means that more of our troops will be stationed and deployed from here at home," Mr. Bush told the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in Cincinnati, in a talk that had much to do with domestic politics as well as military strategy.
My guess is that Karl Rove has a team of political scuzbags assigned to come up with proposals which a) don't mean much; b) have no immediate consequences; and c) will look better in the headlines than they are in the details. This proposal easily meets these three tests. It doesn't mean much, and doesn't have immediate consequences, since it is "over the coming decade," which means Bush won't have failed to keep his promise until long after he's either out of office or dictator for life. And the Washington Post headline shows what I mean about looking better: Bush to Shift Troops Home. AP's headline says Bush Plans to Withdraw Troops From Abroad. You have to actually read the articles to find out that they are not coming home from Iraq or Afghanistan.

Bush's hydrogen fuel cell plan was along these lines. Give a bunch of money to the big three, and promise results for about the time W is opening his pResidential Liebrary. Unfortunately, Kerry's energy plan is similar.

I'll help Karl's pie-in-the-sky corps out with some proposals like these that Bush (or Kerry) can make (along with explanations):
  • Healthcare for all Americans by 2030 (all the poor folk will be dead by then because of no health care)
  • No more Alzheimer's disease in America by 2015 (we're renaming it "Gipper's Disease")
  • Balanced budget by 2012 (let Jeb deal with it)
  • Democracy in Iraq by 2010 (heck, people believed the rest of the lies, why not this one?)

Fascroft is at it again

FBI agents have been harrassing anti-war and other protesters prior to the Renazican convention. Meanwhile, Florida cops have been harrassing elderly black get-out-the-voters in Orlando.

I've been kerrying on whether or not to go to New York to protest the convention. Now I'm thinking it seems pretty much necessary. Police states don't show up over night; they evolve as people acquiesce to the increasing levels of repression. We've got to stand up to the petty tyrants now while we still can, or eventually they won't be petty anymore.

Bush's Troop Redeployment

I'm not sure what to make of aWol's announcement about pulling 70,000 troops out of Europe and Asia:
"The new initiative will enhance our ability to respond to threats abroad," a White House official said Sunday on condition of anonymity. "It will strengthen our ability to protect America and its allies and ease some of the burden on the military and military families. We have worked closely with our friends and allies around the world and Congress on this initiative."
If I had to guess, I'd say "Look out Venezuela!" Bush got his announcement in just before the referendum vote, making it less likely that reporters would connect those dots. But I've been thinking all along that maybe the only benefit of the invasion of Iraq has been that Bush didn't have enough Army left to invade Venezuela. But once these troops are back home, maybe he will.

If he were really concerned about the military and military families, he'd be pulling 70,000 troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, not out of cushy bases in Germany and Korea. But of course, he's not concerned about them at all.

Ted Rall Explains John McCain

From Ted Rall.


They call a bunch of Iraqis together in Baghdad alledgedly to discuss what they want for their country, and instead they really discuss what they want for their country:
A conference of more than 1,100 Iraqis chosen to take the country a crucial step further toward constitutional democracy convened in Baghdad on Sunday under siege-like conditions, only to be thrown into disorder by delegates staging angry protests against the American-led military operation in the Shiite holy city of Najaf.
As I was saying last week, I don't think even the Bushies are stupid enough to think that blasting their way through ancient Muslim cemeteries in order to storm the holiest of holies of Shiite Islam could possibly advance their stated goals of bringing stablility and democracy to Iraq. They WANT things out of control, quite possibly intending to draw Iran into the war so they have an excuse to bomb the crap out of that country. I mean, its not as if Barbara and Jenna were on the front lines.

Chavez wins!

From the Washington Post:
Backers of the leftist populist president set off fireworks and began celebrating in the streets of the capital in the pre-dawn darkness upon hearing the news from Francisco Carrasquero, president of the National Elections Council.

Carrasquero stopped short of declaring Chavez the outright winner. But vote counts he released showed the firebrand former army paratrooper had a virtually insurmountable 58-42 percent lead, with 94 percent of the vote counted.

Carrasquero said 4,991,483 votes had been cast against Chavez's recall, with 3,576,517 in favor.
There were, of course, immediate charges of fraud from the opposition. Neither the Carter Center nor the Organization of American States, who were observing the election, have given their verdict on its fairness. Bush and Kerry can both be expected to jump on any rumors of fraud as opportunities to bash Chavez for the benefit of the Cubans in Miami.

In any case, tentative congratulations to the people of Venezuela for retaining Chavez. Hopefully it spells the beginning of the end for the crime syndicate known as the FTAA and the terrorist training camp formerly known as the School of the Americas in Georgia. Let's let Latin Americans work in their own best interests, not in those of American corporations.

Much more on Venezuela can be found here and here.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

How did our oil end up under Venezuela?

Michelle forwarded me a link to this op-ed from the Houston Chronicle. Not wanting to be outdone by the imperialists at the Washington Post, New York Times, and Miami Herald, Douglass MacKinnon puts out one of the most vile anti-Chavez pieces I've seen. Excerpt:
On any given day, Venezuela is the No. 1 to No. 4 supplier of gasoline and oil to the United States. Its internal politics and stability are of great importance and concern to our national security. All in our government who follow this issue are holding their breath, crossing their fingers, and hoping that the opposition in Venezuela succeeds in ousting Chavez.

Why? The reasons are many and simple. Since his election in 1998, Hugo Chavez has become a dictator in all but title. He has: openly courted and visited terrorist leaders around the world; he has aligned himself with Fidel Castro; he has imported thousands of intelligence operatives from Cuba to spy on his own people; he has used the vilest language to attack President Bush and our nation; he has openly tried to destabilize the government of Colombia; he has exported revolution throughout the region; and he has allowed members of al-Qaida to operate within the borders of Venezuela. By any rational definition, this man is a threat to our nation and to the entire Western Hemisphere.
This is all such a load of hooey I'm not even sure Dick Cheney would say as much. Even the ridiculous opposition in Caracas hasn't been playing the al-Qaida card, as far as I know. Given that the 9/11 hijackers operated within our borders for months before 9/11, and that Bush has said that AQ is still here, it's a vacuous charge. MacKinnon ends thusly:
Understandably, Chavez is feeling upbeat regarding his chances for victory. In a direct affront to President Bush and his administration, Chavez has stated that his victory will "be a home run that will fall on the gardens of the White House."

Sunday. A day that means nothing to Americans now, but will if Chavez survives or steals the recall. It will serve as a lasting reminder that part of our national security rests in the hands of a tyrant.
Imagine, an affront to Bush, the only world "leader" who recognized the illegal 2002 coup against Chavez. Heck, I hope his home run breaks a window in the oval office.

Referendum Day in Venezuela

Venezuelans are voting today on the referendum to recall President Hugo Chavez. Most indications are that Chavez will survive the recall easily. The question will then be if the wealthy opposition, which controls most of the media and has the backing of the Bush administration (and the Kerry camp as well), will accept the results. It seems very possible that they could resort to violence, another coup attempt as in 2002, or perhaps another work stoppage aimed at destroying Venezuela's economy as they have done a couple of times in the past few years.

The opposition has money, the media, and the CIA. Chavez has the majority of the people, and they are well aware of what the opposition may try.

Olympic Slowdown

I've been an Olympic junkie for decades, and now that I can switch between NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, and CBC (the best coverage), I'm finding less time to blog.

I went to a birthday party last night for the leader of our local peace group (Happy birthday, Phillis!). I talked with several of the local peaceniks who were there, and the disgust with Kerry seemed to be almost universal. Most will probably vote for him, but nobody was wearing a button, or saying they were volunteering for the campaign. While nobody wants four more years of Bush, neither is anyone excited about somebody who would still have voted for a war knowing that all of the supposed reasons were lies.

As Jon Stewart said after showing Kerry's Grand Canyon "still would have voted for the war" clip: "DUDE!!!! You wanna lose!" By taking the votes of the anti-war activists for granted, Kerry has lost tons of energy and volunteer hours for his campaign. He doesn't stand for what we stand for; how can we go knock on doors and pass out flyers for this clown?

Friday, August 13, 2004

Update: Refinery Fires

Reader Richard, who worked in an oil refinery for five years, says I'm being way too paranoid about refinery fires. He tells me that fires and explosions are not rare, but that they are almost always confined to a small part of the refinery. The damage can generally be repaired quickly and inexpensively, especially compared to the dollar value of the product flowing through the pipes. Most refineries have fairly tight security, and it would be difficult for outside terrorists to get in and do much damage without a lot of inside information. Richard suggests that the giant tank farms adjacent to every refinery would be much more inviting and spectacular targets.

Basically, you don't know how many bugs there are under rocks unless you look under a few. Lately, I've been following the price of oil much more closely than I ever did before, so I've been seeing these reports about refinery fires.

Thanks to Richard, and to anyone else who can set me straight on something I've gotten wrong!

Chavez, the poor, and women

Excellent article from the Guardian about Hugo Chavez' Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela and how it is helping the poor and the women of that country.

Despite oil, 80% of Venezuelan people are poor, and the Women's Development Bank (Banmujer) is needed to move the bottom up. Unlike other micro-credit banks, such as the Grameen in Bangladesh, its interest rates are government-subsidized. Banmujer, "the different bank", is based on developing cooperation among women. Credits can only be obtained if women get together to work out a project which is both viable and what the local community wants and needs.

As Banmujer president Nora Castañeda explains: "We are building an economy at the service of human beings, not human beings at the service of the economy. And since 70% of the world's poor are women, women must be central to economic change to eliminate poverty."

In this oil-producing country 65% of basic food is imported. President Chávez has placed much emphasis on regenerating agriculture and repopulating the countryside, so that Venezuelans can feed themselves and are no longer dependent on imports or vulnerable to blockades which could starve them out. After all, you can't drink oil.

Most importantly, the oil revenue is increasingly used for social programs as well as agriculture: to enable change in the lives of the most who have least. People feel that the oil industry, nationalized decades ago, is finally theirs. The oil workers have created committees to work out how the industry is to be run and for whose benefit, even what to do about the pollution their product causes. The government has turned the referendum, regarded by Venezuelans as an imperialist attempt to oust Chávez, into an even wider expression of the popular will. The small electoral squads, again mainly women who know the community and whom the community knows, are checking identity cards to weed out the names of those who have died or are under age, and register all who are entitled to vote, so that this time there will be little opportunity for electoral fraud. The turnout is expected to be 85%. Some, especially the well-off, see the political engagement of the whole population as a threat to the status quo. Exactly. But since, increasingly, people find representative government doesn't represent them, it may be the wave of the present.

Najaf: A war crime

From the WSWS:
The US assault on Najaf is a war crime. The spectacle of the world’s foremost imperialist power unleashing its overwhelmingly superior military might against poorly armed opponents of foreign occupation recalls the most notorious crimes of the twentieth century, including the fascist bombardment of Guernica in Spain, Mussolini’s rape of Ethiopia, and the Nazi blitzkrieg against Germany’s European neighbors in World War II.

The US military, in the name of Washington’s puppet government under Iyad Allawi, is carrying out the slaughter of supporters of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr who have taken up arms against the attempt to turn Iraq into a de-facto American colony.

The coverage by US television networks and the American press conveys none of the true horror of what is being perpetrated by the 11th Marine Expeditionary Force and First Cavalry Division in Najaf. US bombers, helicopter gunships, field artillery and tanks are being unleashed against Iraqi fighters armed only with small arms and grenade launchers that are next to useless against American armored vehicles.

If the US body counts from Najaf are accurate, at least 500 of the Iraqi fighters have been killed, and thousands more wounded, in a week of bitter fighting to drive Sadr’s Mahdi Army militiamen from their defensive positions in the cemetery to the west of the Imam Ali Mosque—one of the most sacred of Shiite Muslim shrines.

Describing the conduct of the US forces, a Marine spokesman told the Associated Press on August 11 that they had “pretty much just been patrolling and flying helicopters all over the place, and when we see something bad, we blow it up.”

No estimate is being given by the US attackers of civilian casualties, but given the massive firepower being thrown against urban centers—including the Shiite slum of Sadr City in Baghdad and other southern Iraqi cities besides Najaf—they must number in the thousands.

Judith Miller subpoenaed

From the NY Times:
A reporter for The New York Times, Judith Miller, was subpoenaed yesterday by a Washington grand jury investigating the disclosure of the identity of a C.I.A. undercover officer to the syndicated columnist Robert Novak and other journalists.

The subpoena to Ms. Miller was only the most recent of a series issued to journalists in a politically sensitive inquiry that has on several occasions led investigators to question White House officials.
Miller, you may recall, served (figuratively) as Ahmed Chalabi's personal stenographer, making sure that every lie he could possibly make up about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq would make America's "newspaper of record," usually on the front page.

Time magazine correspondent Matt Cooper was held in contempt and threatened with being sent to jail for failing to reveal a source in this case. Others, including NBC's Tim Russert, have been called by the grand jury as well.

An Icily Rational War

This lengthy article by Stan Goff is from February, 2004. It describes in detail why a military draft appears inevitable, and how preparations are already well under way. But I think the three following paragraphs come closer to saying what is really happening than about anything else I've read:
The Energy War, now concentrated on Iraq, is presenting the Bush administration with a formidable dilemma. The United States military is now bogged down in a quagmire where it appears each day more likely that a military victory is impossible, even as it seems politically impossible for the Bush administration to leave (which they have no intention of doing in any case, or they wouldn't have gone in the first place). Among the myriad reasons for this dilemma is the plain fact that 120,000 troops cannot "pacify" a population the size of Iraq that has no apparent intention of consenting to foreign "pacification." Moreover, the guerrilla resistance in Iraq is creating a steady attrition of troops and materiel, an operational tempo that is unsustainable, and a looming recruitment and retention crisis that threatens the long term health of the armed forces as an institution.

I have said before that by all accounts the preservation of U.S. dominance in the world is ultimately dependent on seizing control of this region. This is not an irrational war. It is an icily rational war, given that the alternative is to relinquish control of the world's economic future – which would be disastrous for political elites in the United States, because our entire economy, under their direction, is now a house of cards built on an international treasury-bill standard that forces the rest of the world to give loans to the U.S. that it never intends to pay back. Control of the world's peaking energy supply is absolutely essential for the U.S. state to maintain its economic arm-lock on China and Europe to enforce their continued complicity in this international extortion racket.

The Bush administration has not the slightest intention of ever leaving Iraq.
Farther down in the article, there's this paragraph:
In the end, it's always about oil. Until people figure that out, they'll continue, as Sydney Shanberg said when Bush the Elder was dropping bombs on Iraqis, to be "the ultimate innocents. We are forever desperate to believe that this time the government is telling us the truth."

Thanks to Michelle for the link.

Sun rises in the east; rain wet, say experts

All About the Markets

Note the attitudes of Phil Flynn, and those of the reporter, in this report from CBS Marketwatch:
Crude-oil futures prices climbed near $46 a barrel early Friday as traders focused on the outcome of the U.S. battle against Shiite militants in Iraq and the presidential recall vote in Venezuela this weekend.

Radical Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr Al-Sadr, was injured Friday, and though his wounds were not life-threatening, "oil exports from Iraq were cut in half," according to Phil Flynn, a senior analyst at Alaron Trading.

"If the U.S. and the Iraq government can defeat the terrorists this weekend, which could very well happen, we could see oil prices fall hard on Monday," Flynn warned.

Then again, Sunday's "recall referendum in Venezuela and the uncertainty about the outcome has added to the bullish momentum in crude," he said.

"Polls are too close to call and the fear for the oil market is a close vote that could start a cycle of violence, and violence could hinder oil exports to the U.S.," he said.

On the other hand, a victory by President Hugo Chavez "could also have oil workers going on strike because they are opposed to him and want him out of office," Flynn said.
Al-Sadr is "radical," his supporters are terrorists, Flynn "warns" that oil prices could fall, violence could "hinder oil exports" (um, Phil, it might also kill people), and oil workers want Chavez out of office (actually, it's more oil managers, but it isn't really all of either group).

Basically, as usual, a financial analyst is getting paid for spouting Republican talking points and saying that the market could go either way.

Another refinery fire

There was an explosion and fire, apparently this morning, at BP's Whiting, Indiana refinery. None of the news articles I found by google provided much information, even the approximate time of the explosion. ABC out of Chicago has some video which suggests that it wasn't huge and is well under control.

I think that makes the third or fourth explosion or fire at US refineries in the past few months. I don't know how common they are, but I do expect that within minutes, long before any serious investigation has begun, that some cop or FBI guy will be saying it wasn't terrorism.

Can't he be declared insane based on this?

Bush says America is better off with his leadership.
President Bush said Thursday that America is "absolutely" better off today than it was four years ago -- on both the national security and domestic fronts.

"The world's safer. ... Libya's no longer a threat. Pakistan is an ally in the war on terror," Bush said in an exclusive interview on CNN's "Larry King Live."

"There are 50 million people that once lived in tyranny now living in societies which are heading toward democracies," he said.

Bush also promoted improvements at home.

"The economy is growing. We've overcome a recession and corporate scandals, a stock market decline and an attack," he said. "And yet we've recovered and our economy is getting better. The education system is getting better because of the No Child Left Behind Act. The Medicare law has been strengthened so seniors will have prescription drug coverage starting in 2006."

The president also said he would still choose to go to war in Iraq if he had it to do all over again -- even knowing everything he now knows about the absence of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.
Certifiable, I'd say.

Closing in on $46 a barrel

From CBS Marketwatch:
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS.MW) -- Crude-oil futures prices climbed closer to $46 a barrel as traders mulled the possible outcome of the U.S. battle against Shiite militants in Iraq, and the presidential recall vote in Venezuela this weekend. September crude is up 40 cents at $45.90 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It remains in record territory.

Charley heads for CENTCOM

Maybe using a bit more "precision bombing" to punish humanity than back in Noah's day?
Most of the evacuations were in the counties of Hillsborough, which contains Tampa, and Pinellas, a peninsula that contains St. Petersburg. All residents of MacDill Air Force Base, on another peninsula in Tampa Bay, were ordered out with only essential personnel remaining. MacDill is home to U.S. Central Command, the nerve center of the war in Iraq.

"MacDill Air Force Base will probably be mostly underwater and parts of downtown Tampa could be underwater if we have a Category 3," Nelson said.
--NY Times

Saddam Allawi

Billmon does a great job of juxtaposing news articles about Allawi with articles about Saddam. Meet the new boss, indeed. The part about Najaf is particularly poignant. At the end of the first Gulf War in 1991, Shiites in Najaf, encouraged by statements by President George H.W. Bush, rose up against Saddam's regime. Their rebellion was crushed by Saddam's forces, and some of the holy mosques and shrines were damaged, while Americans stood by and watched.

From Ted Rall.

Another response from Venezuela

Marcela and her husband Roberto were two of our guides on the Global Exchange tour I was on in Venezuela in April. Marcela responded to my e-mail from yesterday:
Thank you very much for your wishes, Bob, and thanks for all the articles and letters you have written about Venezuelan situation.

We have lots of rumours about violence kicking off before the end of the referendum process but I still have hopes that will not happen. Chávez has called to get up at 3 o'clock on Sunday morning. Since most people are very worried for violence and excited about the process, they would probably stay in the streets from today on, as we have seen in the past during difficult situations. Our eyes are wide open.

Hasta la victoria siempre.

Big huggs,

Thursday, August 12, 2004

They'll be dancing in the streets of Baghdad

Once they hear that Iraq upset Portugal 4-2 in men's soccer in the Olympics today. After the power comes on and before the curfew or the firefight, that is.

Men's soccer in this Olympics is for under-23 teams, so Portugal doesn't have the same team that was runner-up in Euro 2004. But how in the world did Iraq put together a winning team of U-23's who were born during the Iran-Iraq war and survived Saddam's repression, two brutal American-led wars, and twelve years of sanctions?

Congrats, I guess, go to the US Women's team after their 3-0 win over host Greece yesterday. I say "I guess" because the Greek team seemed to be mostly American college girls with Greek grandmothers, all of whom (the players, not the grandmothers) would probably have jumped at the opportunity to be on the US team if they were good enough. One has to wonder how Mia and the gang are going to beat Germany, which crushed China (a much better team than Greece) 8-0 yesterday.

Cuba? Who cares about Cuba?

From the NY Times article about hurricanes Bonney (top) and Charley (bottom). According to the article, Charley is the much more dangerous storm. As the map shows, it is just now crossing Cuba. The headline on the Times main web page? "Storms Threaten Florida," of course.

Why Al Gore Invented the Internet

Investigate other possible disguises here!

Young Marines Frustrated by Lack of Progress

From the Boston Globe, via Common Dreams:
"I haven't seen any improvement since I've been here," said Corporal Jaime Duenas, 23, of Nogales, Ariz. He contrasted Ramadi with southern Iraq, where he was stationed last year after the invasion and worked with residents happy to see Hussein toppled.

"Last year . . . kids ran up to us and waved," he said. "Here, kids throw rocks."

Lance Corporal Anthony Robert, 21, of Charlottesville, Va., said: "People are tired of us being here. It's the same as if someone came to the US and started taking over. You'd do what you'd have to do."
"It doesn't matter how much America looks like it's trying to help," said the squad's leader, Corporal Glen Handy, 26, of Las Vegas. "If we stay 10 years or if we stay one year, we're going to leave and there's going to be chaos."

The Marines are surprised at some of their own ugly emotions. The Army troops whom the Marines replaced told them, "You're going to learn to hate these people," Goward recalled. "I thought, 'With that attitude, no wonder you're having a hard time.' But you know what? They're absolutely right."

Toronto Star on Kerry's Iraq position

Editorial excerpt:
Kerry's vote in 2002, while misguided, was defensible. Bush had exaggerated Saddam's threat, and had won over 7 in 10 Americans to the view that the Iraq war was justified.

But since then, the U.N. has been vindicated. Saddam was contained; there were no ties to the 9/11 terrorists; and Iraq had no nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

That leaves most Americans feeling misled, or duped. They can see the damage to U.S. prestige internationally. The loss of more than 1,000 American and allied lives, and 16,000 Iraqi lives . A $200-billion cost.

And they see no easy exit.

All this is baggage Bush should carry to the polls, alone. But Kerry has just re-endorsed his misguided policy, if not its clumsy delivery.

No wonder Kerry is struggling to pull ahead in a race with a president who has not delivered promised jobs and who is seen as a friend of the rich and powerful.

Practical politics undoubtedly prompted Kerry's reply. He is loath to admit he cast a foolish vote in 2002. He does not want to alienate voters who were similarly duped, and who are not keen to be reminded of it. And he must not be seen as "soft" on Saddam.

But Kerry comes off looking like "Bush lite" on Iraq, rather than as a candidate with better values and a sounder program. He seems weak. Muddled. Has he learned nothing from a slew of American investigations that have exposed the sloppiness of U.S. intelligence and the shabbiness of the rationale for war?

This is a letdown for American voters who yearn for a real alternative, and a healthier direction. It is not good news for the world, either.

Funny how this photo isn't on any of the main US news sites

From the Sydney Morning Herald. The caption reads:
Under siege ... US soldiers aim their guns as Iraqi civilians flee their homes during a day of heavy gun battles in the southern holy city of Najaf yesterday. Photo: AP/Hadi Mizban

Solar Powered TV Rooms in Cuba

Home Power magazine has an interesting article about how Cuba is bringing solar-powered television, partly for education and partly for entertainment and community, to rural villages that don't have power grids. The article is on page 58 of the current issue, which can be downloaded for free(!) from the magazine's web site.

Venezuela Floridated

Greg Palast, tells how ChoicePoint, the company that produced the felonious felons list for Florida that allowed the Bush family to steal the 200 election, is providing similar services to the wealthy opposition to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. (I couldn't find a permalink to the article on Palast's blog; just go there and scroll down to August 10.)

Word from Caracas

I sent a "best wishes" e-mail to the people I met in Venezuela about this Sunday's referendum. Here's the first reply:
Thank you very much Bob, we appreciate it!!! Indeed we are expecting some problems with the opposition either saturday or sunday. Our friends at the Barrios had told us that they are in "Orange Alert", waiting for some extremist to act. Their plan is to create some civil unrest in order to force Chavez to suspend the referendum thus giving the States and other countries the necessary excuse to say that Chavez government is not legal.
Hope the government can control the situation, we also know that the arm forces had been instructed to act immediatly if something weird arise.

I will keep you posted


Oil hits $45.50

As of 12:26 PM, it was at $45.30.

Why haven't these prices shown up at the pump yet? Back in June, crude rose to $38-$39 a barrel, and the price for unleaded at the local gas station was $2.19. Today, crude is over $45, but as of this morning the local station's unleaded price was $1.97.

I'm guessing that won't last for long. Three dollars a gallon by the time of the Repug convention would be nice.

WSWS on Kerry's Saying He Would Still Have Voted for the War

I've ranted about as much as I care to about Kerry, and probably more than you want to read. But the Socialist Equity Party's presidential candidate Bill Van Auken has written an excellent article on the World Socialist Web Site on the subject, if you want to read more.

The Porter Principle

The Peter principle says that people rise to the level of their incompetence. The Porter principle (aka the Bush principle), says that the truly incompetent go immediately to the top:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Congressman Porter Goss, President Bush's nominee for CIA director, could be his own worst enemy when it comes to making the case that he deserves to lead the U.S. intelligence agency.

"I couldn't get a job with CIA today. I am not qualified," the Florida Republican told documentary-maker Michael Moore's production company during the filming of the anti-Bush movie "Fahrenheit 9/11."
"I don't have the language skills. I, you know, my language skills were romance languages and stuff. We're looking for Arabists today. I don't have the cultural background probably," Goss is quoted in an interview transcript.

"And I certainly don't have the technical skills, uh, as my children remind me every day: 'Dad you got to get better on your computer.' Uh, so, the things that you need to have, I don't have."
Moore told Reuters that Goss, who until Tuesday was chairman of the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, granted an interview to two of his producers without first checking to see who they worked for.

"You'd think the person who was the head of the intelligence committee would ask a few more questions," said Moore.

"The reality is that Porter Goss was in charge of the oversight of the CIA during a time when the CIA didn't do its job, which in part resulted in the loss of lives of 3,000 people," he said via telephone from New York.

A White House spokesman declined to comment specifically on the Goss interview but described the lawmaker as "the most qualified man for the job."

Gossing over the shortcomings

The word "porter" means, according to Encarta, "somebody who is employed to carry people’s luggage." And Porter Goss, the clown appointed to be the new CIA chief, has been a luggage-carrier for aWol for quite a while. Fred Kaplan at Slate tells us more about the luggage-carrier, and wonders why a former agent has been so unconcerned about the outing of a CIA agent for political purposes:
Goss also came to Bush's aid a few months earlier, during the Joseph Wilson-Valerie Plame scandal. One would think that a former CIA spy might be appalled by reports that a White House official had publicly exposed the identity of an undercover agent, especially as an act of political retaliation against the agent's spouse. The blatant politicization of intelligence is, or should be, anathema to any professional spy—or prospective CIA director.

But Goss waved off the whole business. In an interview with his hometown paper, the Herald-Tribune of southwestern Florida, Goss said the uproar was the result of "wild and unsubstantiated allegations, which are being obviously piled on by partisan politicians during an election year." There was no need to mount an investigation, he said, because there was no evidence of "willful disclosure" (though how he reached that conclusion without an investigation, he didn't say). Then, in a jab against Bush's favorite target, Bill Clinton, Goss cracked, "Somebody sends me a blue dress and some DNA, I'll have an investigation."

Hamdi may be released

From the Washington Post:
The U.S. government, which has held Yaser Esam Hamdi incommunicado in a Navy brig for two years without charges, much of the time without a lawyer, indicated yesterday that it is nearing a deal that would free him altogether.
Hamdi was captured in Afghanistan in 2001, charged with nothing, moved to Gitmo and then to the Navy brig. The Supreme Court finally overruled the fascists in the Justice Department and said that Hamdi actually has rights. Now that he's got a lawyer, it looks like he has a deal. Even though he hasn't been convicted of anything, the deal calls for him to go back to Saudi Arabia and submit to some supervision there. A lot better than he's had for 2 1/2 years, but Eli explains why it's still a crock.

Speech-free zones

Good op-ed by Dahlia Lithwick in the NY Times today about protesters being treated like terrorists.

Three Days

Until the recall referendum in Venezuela. Much to the disappointment of our two atrocious major-party presidential candidates, popular (and populist) President Hugo Chavez will apparently survive the recall attempt easily, according to most recent polls. Whether the wealthy US-backed opposition will accept the outcome is another issue.

Ironically, the mess in Iraq is probably helping Chavez in a couple of ways. First, with US troops bogged down in Najaf and aWol making warlike noises against Iran, the possibility of an American invasion of Venezuela seem remote for now. Secondly, the continuing rise in oil prices is manna from Heaven for Chavez, since the health of the Venezuelan economy is so directly tied to the price of oil. At $45 a barrel, both the wealthy elite and the government treasury get richer, softening the opposition and allowing Chavez to deliver on more of his promises to the poor.

For people like me, who see US hegemony over all of the Americas as a nightmare, not only for the people in Latin America but for US citizens as well (where have all the good jobs gone, long time passing?), Chavez represents hope. By standing up to US attempts to control his country and to push the FTAA (the whole hemisphere version of NAFTA) down his throat, Chavez encourages others in Latin America to do the same. Which is, of course, why Bush and Kerry want to crush him.

By best wishes go out to Marcela, Roberto, Alicia, Antonio, Carlos, and all of the other fine Venezuelans I might on my Global Exchange trip in April. Ooh! Ah! Chavez no se va! (Chavez won't go)

Kerry Unveils One-Point Plan For Better America

From the Onion:
WICHITA, KS—Delivering the central speech of his 10-day "Solution For America" bus campaign tour Monday, Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry outlined his one-point plan for a better America: the removal of George W. Bush from the White House.

"If I am elected in November, no inner-city child will have to live in an America where George Bush is president," Kerry said, addressing a packed Maize High School auditorium. "No senior citizen will lie awake at night, worrying about whether George Bush is still the chief executive of this country. And no American—regardless of gender, regardless of class, regardless of race—will be represented by George Bush in the world community."

Operation: Harm our country and our people

A little satire from Sojourners:
An apparent misstatement by the president has been taken all too seriously by overzealous military planners. Bush told high-ranking military officials while signing a $417 billion defense bill: "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.*" In immediate and unquestioning response to his remarks, $23 billion were earmarked for the hastily conceived "Operation: Harm our country and our people."
Initial plans of curtailing civil liberties, despoiling the environment, and launching pre-emptive wars to swell anti-American terrorist ranks were quickly rejected. "Been there. Done that," said one official. "As the president said, we need to be innovative - Dr. Evil innovative.
Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry, whose running mate is the son of a millworker, responded to the news: "It's important to stand with our president in this time of crisis, so I support this plan. But if later it turns out badly, I will criticize its implementation."

While polls indicate the public's overwhelming opposition to being harmed, a determined Kerry strongly asserted his determination and strength: "Bush would know a lot more about harming people if he had fought in Vietnam like I did." He underscored that claim by appearing with a "Band of Mothers" from Vietnam, who praised him for his bravery and skill in combat. Said Nike sweatshop worker Phuong Dinh Tran: "The way he fought our husbands and sons, then later threw away some of the medals he got for fighting them, and then later took credit for those medals brings honor to us and to him."

Another New High for Oil

From Mark Cohen.

Allawi's probably next

From Bill Schorr.

At least someone gives him the answer he wants

From Clay Bennett.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

It has to be what the Bushies are trying to do...

Draw Iran into war, that is, by waging brutal war in one of Shiite Islam's holiest cities. The battle in Najaf certainly has their attention:
As discussions continued, the supreme leader of neighboring Iran warned that American combat operations in Najaf constitute "one of the darkest crimes of humanity."

"The United States is slaughtering the people of one of the holiest Islamic cities and the Muslim world and the Iraqi nation will not stand by," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in an address broadcast on Iranian state television, according to the official government news agency.

Najaf is home to the shrine of Imam Ali, which the militias have turned into a firing base off limits to U.S. forces. The site holds the remains of the most revered figure to Shiite Muslims, who constitute a majority in both Iraq and Iran, a theocracy where Khamenei holds ultimate power.

"These crimes are a dark blemish which will never be wiped from the face of America. They commit these crimes and shamelessly talk of democracy," the ayatollah said. "Shame has no place in their vocabulary."
As I suggested yesterday, starting a war with Iran seems to be the most likely explanation for this assault on Najaf. Possibly it's just macho won't-back-downism, although US forces have backed down repeatedly in Fallujah and elsewhere. And while I've never believed that the Bushies ever had a real interest in a democratic Iraq, or even in just improving the general welfare of Iraqis compared to the Saddam era, this assault is a clear sign to anyone who is following what's happening in Iraq that the Bushies are abandoning even the pretension of bringing peace, stability and democracy to Iraq. Because that can't happen without the support of the Shiite majority. Many Shiites apparently supported the original invasion because it was ridding them of the hated Saddam. But with this assault on Najaf, there can be almost no Shiites left in Iraq who have anything but contempt and hatred for the American occupiers.

And the Bushies are dumb, but I don't think they're so dumb as not to realize all this. They know that whatever chance they may ever have had for a democratic Iraq (at least American-imposed) is now dead and buried in the cemetery-turned-battleground in Najaf. They want to provoke Iran into coming to the support of Najaf, and Iraqi Shiites generally, so they can then start their war on Iran.

I can even see how it's going to play out, and it will be much like the 1991 Gulf War. If the Bushies get what they really hope for, Iranian troops will cross the border and head for Najaf, maybe committing a few atrocities against American troops along the way (that's where Karl Rove gets really excited). More likely, lots of Iranian guerilla forces will sneak in and carry out hit and run attacks. In either case, Bush will demand that Iran withdraw from Iraq, and then bomb the crap out of Iran's infrastructure, especially their nuclear facilities (back to the stone ages). The Bushies won't invade Iran, because they have no answer to the old taunt "Oh yeah? You and what army?" But the Navy will take over the Persian Gulf, bombarding Iranian ports and blockading all commerce. Bush will of course claim that Iran's "attack" against the "sovereign" nation of Iraq was completely unprovoked, and therefore anything and everything he does to Iran is justified. And John Kerry will support him, not wanting to lose those swing voters.


Lots of stuff to do at work today; won't be much blogging until later.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Oh. My. God.

I posted a comment on Kerry's "You bet we might have!" line over at Left I on the News. It did seem to be vaguely familiar phraseology, but I hadn't quite placed it. Eli figured it out, though: "Boy, that "Donsense-speak" is really taking hold!"

He's right. Kerry talks like Rumsfeld. This is now a known known, I'm afraid.

Groups Scuffle to Take Responsibility, While Newspapers Leap to Irresponsibility

The NY Times headline says Kurds Say They Bombed Turkish Hotels. But here's what the article says:
A previously unknown Kurdish group said it carried out the attack. The Germany-based Mezopotamya News Agency, which often reports rebel statements, said it received a telephone call from an individual claiming responsibility for the attacks in the name of the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons Organization.
But this individual, calling from a pay phone or stolen cell phone from, probably, somewhere on the planet Earth, wasn't the only one claiming responsibility:
The Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, named for an al-Qaida commander killed in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility earlier, saying the attacks were the first of a "wave of operations" in European countries and that worse was to come.

"Istanbul is the opening for the bloody war we promised the Europeans," the statement said. The group is named for an al-Qaida commander killed in Afghanistan.

It was not possible to check the authenticity of the al-Qaida claim. Western experts have questioned the credibility of the group, noting it has previously claimed to be behind events for which it clearly didn't play a role, such as power failures in North America and Britain.
Here's how former CIA analyst (don't worry, he's already been outed) Ray McGovern described the The Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades:
Sinister sounding though the name may be, this "group" is thought to consist of no more than one person with a fax machine, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official. That fax is notorious for claiming credit for all manner of death and destruction.
So the newspaper of record is at least smart enough to question the authenticity of a notoriously inaccurate fax machine, although they still refer to it as "al-Qaida" because it is named after some AQ muckety-muck. But demonstrating a relentless ability to ignore the obvious, the Times takes one unauthenticated call to a German news agency as sufficient evidence to say that Kurds have claimed responsibility for blowing up two hotels, killing two and injuring 11. Headline readers around the world will assume that the Kurds are now adopting al Qaeda tactics.

So much for the newpaper of record. How's the rest of the media doing? CNN is buying the fax machine's story: Al Qaeda linked group says it was behind blasts (yes, they mean the Abu Hafs Al Masri Brigades). Reuters mentions both claims of responsibility in its article, but the Washington Post gives the headline to "Qaeda group" (Abu Hafs, again). (I'm assuming that the Post put the headline on the Reuters story; otherwise, blame Reuters. The bombings were not big news for the Post--didn't make the main web page.) The LA Times only mentions the bombings, not the claims of responsibility. USA Today's story comes from AP--the headline says "Militants claim Turkey bomb responsibility," while the article gives credence to the "Kurd" claim while rejecting the Abu Hafs claim. FoxNews uses the same AP report, but doesn't mention the responsibility claims in the headline.

Obviously I could go on, but hopefully I've made my points, those being:
  • News articles can't be trusted.
  • Headlines are orders of magnitude worse than the articles.
  • Anyone with a cell phone, fax machine or computer can claim responsibility for a terrorist attack; and
  • They won't necessarily be claiming responsibility for themselves, because
  • Pointing the finger at someone else can be used to achieve your goals when there are trigger-happy "anti-terrorist warriors" like George W. Bush out there.
This just in: The Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades have just claimed responsibility for the sorry state of American journalism. Administration officials are considering bombing a fax-machine factory in China in retaliation.

Crude Oil tops $45

For the first time ever. It then dropped back to $44.43.

More on Najaf

From Juan Cole:
[Governor Ali] Al-Zurufi and PM Iyad Allawi appear to have given the US Marines permission to fight in the shrine of Imam Ali if it became necessary in order to flush out the Mahdi Army militiamen holed up there. The outrage among Iraqi Shiites and Shiites throughout the world should the Marines pursue such a plan would likely cost the US the war, even if it won the battle.
As I said below, the Bushies likely know this. But they may be willing to lose the war (big loss, that) to win the election.

Terror Choppers

By voting for jerks like W?

Bush also said high taxes on the rich are a failed strategy because "the really rich people figure out how to dodge taxes anyway."

BTW, There's a war going on...

From AP:
NAJAF, Iraq - U.S. tanks pushed into Najaf's vast cemetery-turned-battlefield Tuesday as helicopter gunships fired on Shiite militiamen hiding there. American patrols with loudspeakers went through the city, warning militants to leave or face death.

Explosions shook the streets and black smoke rose over parts of Najaf, but the fighting with Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia appeared more sporadic than in recent days.

A large fire broke out at a hotel about 300 yards from the Imam Ali Shrine, Najaf's holiest site, which fighters have reportedly been using as a base. Witnesses said insurgents were firing from inside the hotel and U.S. forces returned fire.
We'll probably find out Friday at about 6 PM that some 20 or 30 U.S. soldiers have been killed in this mess.

As I understand it, the Imam Ali Shrine is not only Najaf's holiest site, but one of the holiest sites in all of Shiite Islam. And turning a cemetery into a battlefield--good hearts and minds stuff there. This action against al-Sadr certainly isn't calming the situation in the rest of Iraq, nor is it protecting oil pipelines or other infrastructure. It isn't bringing the power back on, and it certainly isn't providing any break for the already-way-overextended coalition forces.

While it's always dangerous to try to find sense in anything the Bushies do, this Najaf crap really makes me wonder. Could it be a provocation intended to draw Iran, the world's largest Shiite nation, just across the border, into the war? Are they that crazy, or that sure that the stupid voters will rally around the flag and the pResident if they provoke Iran into killing a few hundred GI's? They have been upping the rhetoric on Iran lately. And the Bushies have frequently shown a tendency, when the dice won't give them what they want, to just roll bigger dice (think tax cuts, for example). Perhaps World War III will be the October surprise in 2004.

Bold, Decisive Leadership

"Now, might we have wound up going to war with Saddam Hussein? You bet we might have." -- John Kerry, speaking to the 2004 UNITY convention.

Every time I reconcile myself to John Kerry being our next president, he goes and says something like that to suggest that he won't be much of an improvement. I saw the "you bet we might have" line quoted in the comments on a blog, but figured I'd better try to track down the original in context. I didn't find a transcript, but there is a recording online. And while the remark is part of the answer to a question, it is a lengthy answer, and that line is in the middle of it. Listening to more of it, it seems to me that Kerry very much is trying to have it both ways. He continues to talk about the way that Bush went to war, not that he did. He suggests that the $200 billion spent on the war could have been put to better use, but still "you bet we might have" gone to war under President Kerry anyway.

My question for Kerry is: What more do you need to know to answer the question? We know now from David Kay that Iraq had no WMD's or even active programs. We know from the 9/11 Commission that Iraq had no ties to 9/11 or a "collaborative relationship" with al Qaeda. If you had known then what you know now (and you should have, Senator), would you have still invaded a sovereign nation that had never attacked us and posed no realistic threat to us? Because we've already got a president like that, and I don't ever want another one.

"You bet we might have" is not good enough; in fact it's not good at all.

[Update 11:46 AM] It gets worse. While not explicitly answering my question above ("would you still have invaded...?"), Kerry yesterday answered a similar question about his vote, and not in a good way:
GRAND CANYON, Ariz. (Reuters) - Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry said on Monday he would have voted for the congressional resolution authorizing force against Iraq even if he had known then no weapons of mass destruction would be found.

Taking up a challenge from President Bush, whom he will face in the Nov. 2 election, the Massachusetts senator said: "I'll answer it directly. Yes, I would have voted for the authority. I believe it is the right authority for a president to have but I would have used that authority effectively."
But Senator? Suppose that the president was a ne'er-do-well dry drunk who had already shown abundant contempt for the international community and the constitution, as well as a willingness to go to war without anything resembling evidence (recall, if you will, Afghanistan, October 2001, and 9/11 report, July 2004)? Do you still think it is right to give authority for even such a president to start a war?

Never mind. You've already answered the question. We know we can't trust Bush. But how can we trust this weasel?

From Steve Benson.

From Bruce Plante.

Monday, August 09, 2004

San Francisco to use Instant Runoff Voting in November

From the LA Times:
SAN FRANCISCO — The city that brought the nation beat poetry, free love and sourdough bread now is taking on election reform. With a quiet nod from the secretary of state, San Francisco will soon let voters rank multiple candidates in citywide elections, a system that proponents say would eliminate the "spoiler" problem if used nationwide.

In November, San Francisco will become the first U.S. city to adopt the voting method since a short-lived experiment three decades ago in Michigan.
The method of voting is used in Australia, Ireland and London. Its history in the United States, however, is limited to the 1975 mayoral contest in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Though the Republican candidate had beaten his Democratic rival in the first round with 49% of the vote to her 40%, she squeaked to victory in a re-tally after the left-leaning Human Rights Party candidate was eliminated. Those voters had chosen the Democrat second. Shortly after that election, Republicans placed a successful measure on the ballot to repeal the system.
%$#@&!! Repugs! We had a great voting system here, and they killed it! (A funny aside: My father was not a fan of the Human Rights Party--HRP--but his 1976 Michigan license plate number was "HRP 476.")

I was out getting signatures to get IRV back on the ballot here in Ann Arbor a couple of weeks ago. I'm just amazed at how few people have ever heard of it. Almost as amazing is that so many people haven't even thought about it. Rather than blame our corrupt two-party winner-take-all system for the abysmal quality of our candidates, they'd rather trash Ralph Nader. It's a bit tricky explaining the system to people, but once you get through, the light bulb goes on. It just plain makes sense. Why should your right to declare a preference evaporate because you actually vote for a candidate you really like? Wait, I know the answer to that one--it's because the Republicans and the Democrats want it that way. Progressives, socialists, libertarians and others who think Bush and Kerry are strichnine and arsenic must be punished, according to the corrupt leaders of the two major parties.

Fortunately, there are a few maverick politicians within the major parties who support IRV--John McCain, Dennis Kucinich, and Howard Dean being the three I'm aware of. If you want to do your part to improve American democracy to the point where it might once again be worthy of the name, please learn about IRV and then tell others about it. Here's a place to start.

Why are our two idiot candidates the last two people in America who will admit that the war was a mistake?

Skull and Bones were trading inanities today regarding the total disaster in Iraq:
"Everybody thought they would be there. We haven't found them yet," Bush said. "But he did have the capability of making weapons. Knowing what I know today, I would have made the same decision."
Which, of course, is why he has to go.

Unfortunately, the challenger still stands by his asinine vote for the war:
The U.S. senator from Massachusetts said the congressional resolution gave Bush "the right authority for the president to have."
Not THIS president, botox face.

I mean, can we really trust this man with the power of the presidency when he was willing to trust the idiot Bush with the power to start a war? Of course not. We elect him out of desperation, but we obviously can't trust him. Don't expect things to improve in a Kerry presidency. They'll just get worse at a slower rate.

"Human" Shields

From Bartcop:
"I want to thank people for coming to work. I'm really glad to be here today."--Laura Bush, with the twins, at Citigroup in Manhattan despite the terrorist threats.

The terrorist threat was so real, Bush sent his wife and kids to act as human shields.
Just guessing here, but while Laura may have been glad to be there, I'd imagine that most of the people in the building were wishing she were anywhere else. I mean, if Citigroup is a prime target, what about Citigroup and three members of the royal family?

Ringing Endorsement

Quote du jour:
You know, we were down — we needed to find somebody to run, somebody who wanted to run. And, you know, Alan Keyes wants to run, and I hope he's a good candidate.
- Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert

I suspect that a similarly brilliant procedure got aWol the nomination in 2000.


Local soldier killed in Iraq

Spec. Donald R. McCune II lived in Ypsilanti, went to Ann Arbor Huron High. He was mortally wounded by an IED in Balad, Iraq, and died in Germany.

American Dream=American Nightmare

In my opinion, the misuse of one of our most precious resources, land, is one of the greatest crimes in American history. The combination of rampant largely unregulated capitalism with fragmented, overlapping, competing and usually-bought-off governments has given us the atrocious mess that is the modern American landscape. Those with enough money can afford to get what they've been conditioned to want: a big house on a big lot and a four-car garage which protects the beasts which connect their owner to civilization. They may have to drive an hour each way to work, and drive their kids everywhere, and they'll have to sell the McMansion when they get too old to drive, but hey, they're living the American dream! Those without the money for this nonsense still have to live with the effects: Lots of traffic, noise and pollution, and a lack of affordable housing close to work.

The Washington Post ran the second of a three-part series on DC-area sprawl today. The first article, yesterday, described how some communities, like Montgomery County in Maryland, are explicitly trying to add jobs without adding housing, because the county makes money off of commercial real estate taxes, but loses revenue on housing.From the article:
[A]s a Montgomery County booklet puts it: Creating workplaces faster than homes is "the economic development strategy yielding the greatest long-term net fiscal benefits."
The debate in Montgomery County highlights the political problems. One politician sees his job in broader terms, reflecting not just the interests of current constituents but future ones as well:
Montgomery County Council member Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg), who voted against the strategy, called the new policy "indefensible."

"It exacerbates two of the most serious problems in Montgomery County: traffic congestion and housing affordability," he said.
But another pol sees no obligation to the rest of the area or the future:
County Council President Steven A. Silverman (D-At Large), who supports the policy, acknowledged that "we have a regional housing shortage because of hurdles put up by local governments."

But, he said: "I get elected to represent the people of Montgomery County, not the region. I support broadening the tax base."
The result of all this stupidity, of course, is sprawl.

The graphic shows in red the parts of the greater DC area which were developed between 1986 and 2000. (A zoomable version of the map is available here.) In the upper left is West Virginia, parts of which are now being developed for American Dreamers willing to drive an hour and a half each way to work. From today's Post article:
According to statistics provided by the developer on the first 100 home buyers, only one will work in West Virginia. Of the others, 72 will work in suburban Virginia, 13 in Maryland and five in Washington. The rest identified themselves as self-employed or retired.
A social conscience doesn't seem to enter into the equation for American Dreamers:
"I'm going to be refreshing my Italian with some CDs during the drive," said Eugene Marino, an archaeologist who gets on the road at 5 most weekday mornings for a voyage from Charles Town to Arlington that takes an hour and 15 minutes each way. "It's not that bad. We wanted to have a nice place that we could afford -- so here we are."
Amy Schmitt, a Huntfield resident, gestures from a lawn chair on the wooden deck of her home. "It's nice out here -- look," she said.

The drawback is that her husband must commute to Reston and Sterling.

"People say, 'You moved where?' But when they come, they're pretty impressed," she said. "Why would I pay more when I can drive 30 minutes more and get something like this?"
Well, Amy, when oil hits $100 a barrel, maybe you'll find out. Your West Virginia dreamhouse will be an anchor on your finances for years to come. And Eugene's Italian may come in handy when he decides to start commuting from Naples in a few years. ("It's not that bad. We wanted to have a nice place that we could afford -- so here we are.") Sorry if my anticipatory schadenfreude isn't adequately concealed here!

Oil Hits New Record

Although obviously this new high, $44.75 per barrel, is higher and therefore seemingly more newsworthy than the previous highs set in the six previous trading sessions, apparently it no longer qualifies as news. While it made headlines last week, I had to go to a financial web site today, since I saw nothing about it on the NY Times or CNN web sites. Maybe, given what's coming, the new record isn't making much of an impression (my emphasis):
"Yukos is throwing everyone for a loop and now the reality is setting in that this market, at least for the next three months, is heading into much higher territory," said Kevin Kerr, a senior trader at Kwest International.

If there is a major event that prompts the loss of a significant amount of oil, prices "could see the back of $100," he said.

What sovereignty means to W

International Observers for U.S. Election?

CNN wants to know--online poll in lower right of main page.

Insidious Traitors

Even though I'm a tranquil guy now at this stage of my life, I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious, of traitors.
- George H.W. Poppy Read My Lips 41 Bush, in a speech at the CIA in 1999.

Well, Poppy, your idiot son's White House is crawling with insidious traitors. Not only have they failed to out the scumbag who outed Valerie Plame last year. In their attempt to steal the thunder, such as it was, from the Democratic Convention, by screaming orange wolf all over the place, they disclosed the name of a Pakistani double agent who had moled his way into al Qaeda.

I've been reading blog reports on this for several days. The story is finally hitting the mainstream media, being currently the lead story on the CNN web site.

Some, I'm sure, will say that it was just a mistake. Many others are already saying that this was crass politics, that the Bushies are willing to sabotage any part of their beloved "war on terror" in order to win the election. Certainly there's plenty of truth in that. But I go even farther. Al Qaeda serves Bush's purposes. Anything which might actually threaten the very existence of al Qaeda also threatens the Bushies' excuse for supporting and installing repressive governments around the world which aid in their quest to control the world's resources. Bush has nothing to run on if al Qaeda is actually destroyed. And Osama loses his best recruiter if Bush is defeated. These guys need each other.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

My fifteen minutes

Two years ago today, I was quoted in the Wall Street Journal. Here's what they said about what I said:
Bringing beliefs to life: Computer programmer Bob Goodsell of Ann Arbor, Mich., was long a political naysayer, voting for fringe candidates but doing little else. For him, Sept. 11 ignited a new passion to live his beliefs. He read up on world affairs and concluded the U.S. response was colored by its dependence on foreign oil. He changed his lifestyle, parking his car to ride his bike or a bus. He stopped eating meat and cut energy use and shopping trips.

"I hope in a small way, I can demonstrate that a low-energy, low-stuff lifestyle can be more fun and rewarding than the typical American waste-fest," he says. And he began working actively for political candidates.

At first, he missed his buying sprees for electronic gear. But his vegetarian regimen has helped trim some unwanted pounds. His old e-gear is holding up fine. After buying only what he needs, "I find I still have most of my paycheck left."

And he talks passionately and with deep knowledge about political issues. He worked hard on the campaign of Lynn Rivers, a Democratic candidate for Congress, who just this week lost a hard-fought primary campaign for re-election. After 11 months, Mr. Goodsell is more committed to his new path than ever.
Based on that article, I was shown on the local ABC affiliate TV news riding my bike, cutting up vegetables, and saying "No war in Iraq."

The Wall Street Journal contacted me because I had joined the Center for a New American Dream shortly after 9/11, and they gave my name to the Journal. The article was on the bottom of page D-1, August 8, 2002.

Shelby the Leaker

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) has always been adamant about prosecuting people in government who leak classified information. He remains so, even though he himself leaked classified information two years ago.

I haven't read much about this, but Digby has. See his blog for the details.

Why I am not Barack Obama's campaign manager

You know the song in "Jesus Christ Superstar" that goes
Hosanna, heysanna, sanna sanna ho, sanna hey, sanna ho-sannahhh, hey J.C., J.C., you're alright by me, sanna hey, sanna ho, superstar!
So why not redo that song for the campaign?
Obama, hey bama, bama bama ho, bama hey, bama obamahhhhh, hey B.O., B.O., you're our guy we know....
Oh, I see why. Well, how about this slogan: Only Obama can stop Osama!

I'll stick to blogging, I guess.

National Preparedness Month

Bob Harris tells us that September will be proclaimed "National Preparedness Month." They've got a calendar of events, including promotions by Parade magazine, Starbucks, NASCAR, and the Red Cross. Young minds will be targeted with the "Ready Deputy" program.

It's bad enough that McCain-Feingold and the other wimpy election laws are so easily circumvented by official soft-money PACs like MoveOn and Swift Boat Veterans for Deserters, and that we have other manipulations by informal groups such as Republicans for Nader tying to get Ralph on the ballot and Anti-war Progressives Against Anti-War Progressives trying to keep him off. But it looks like "National Preparedness Month," hyping the only issue that Bush still leads Kerry on, will be paid for by the U.S. government, that is by borrowing money from Japan and China and sending the payment coupon booklet to your grandkids. (But hey, they get to be "ready deputies," so stop complaining!)

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Good call, George

AWol actually said something I can agree with, and apparently he knew what he was saying this time.
President Bush told a convention of 5,000 minority journalists on Friday that colleges should not give preferences for admission to the children of alumni, a position that put him at odds with his own history at Yale University.

Mr. Bush made his remarks at the Washington Convention Center in response to a question from Roland S. Martin, a syndicated columnist and a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, about whether colleges should give preferences to applicants, commonly called legacies, whose parents or grandparents attended the same institution.

"So the colleges should get rid of legacy?" Mr. Martin asked Mr. Bush at a question-and-answer session that followed the president's address to the convention.

"Well, I think so," said Mr. Bush, who is a son, grandson and also a father of Yale graduates. "Yeah. I think it ought to be based on merit."
Good call, aWol, now that one of your daughters has just graduated from Yale.

One more question, George. Don't you think we should do away with legacy presidents as well?

Iraq Veterans Against the War

They've got a website, and they could use some dollars to make their presence felt at the Repug convention at the end of the month.

From Pat Bagley.

From Jim Morin.

Welcome to America

From Bruce Plante.

So it would appear

From Anne Telnaes.

Billionaires for Kerry

Socialist Equality Party candidate Bill Van Auken writes about the many multi-millionaire financiers and corporate executives who have endorsed Kerry, and what it means for the next four years. These scions, like Lee Iaccoca (Ford, Chrysler) and August Busch (Budwiser) tout "their support for [Kerry's] campaign as proof that he is a 'responsible' candidate who will protect the interests of American capitalism."

Here's some more from Van Auken:
Also on the list was David Bonderman, a founding partner of the buyout firm Texas Pacific Group. The Fort Worth-based financier made his fortune off the bankruptcies of Continental and American West airlines, and is presently involved in a leveraged buyout bid against Enron. He was a prominent backer of the incumbent both in Bush’s campaign to become Texas governor and in his first run for the presidency.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal from a chartered yacht off the coast of Italy, Bonderman said: “George is really a good guy personally. But his policies are really terrible... He’s turning out to be the worst president since Millard Fillmore—and that’s probably an insult to Millard Fillmore.”

Another former Bush supporter at Kerry’s summit was Owsley Brown, the head of Brown-Forman, the maker of Jack Daniels whisky. He told the Journal: “It’s of course not something done lightly and certainly not for someone like me—a registered Republican all my life.” He added that he was “looking for the kind of leadership that Senator Kerry will bring, certainly in fiscal matters.”
In many cases, those on the list are well known for carrying out precisely the practices—particularly the shifting of operations overseas to capitalize on low wages—that Kerry has denounced on the campaign trail. Understandably, Kerry did not reprise the protectionist demagogy about “Benedict Arnold corporations” that he employed during the primaries.
Over and over again, the platform’s section on the economy vows that a Kerry administration will confront the challenge of capitalist globalization with a drive to renew “American competitiveness” in world markets. It says a Kerry administration will be committed to “strengthening our workers’ ability to compete” and states the Democrats’ belief that “our companies can keep and create jobs in America without sacrificing competitiveness.”

The thrust of this argument is that American workers must subordinate themselves to the drive to make American capitalism more globally competitive. Under conditions in which the economy is dominated by transnational corporations capable of moving production from continent to continent almost at will, this can only mean submitting to cuts in wages, benefits and working conditions in order to narrow the gap between the conditions of American workers and those who face the most brutal forms of exploitation—from Mexico to Eastern Europe to India.

There is doubtless sentiment among some within the financial elite that Bush and his administration have become too discredited among working people to impose further sacrifice and austerity without provoking social unrest.
Most economic analysts have concluded that the pledge to reduce the deficit is incompatible with Kerry’s modest plans for expanding health care programs. There is also widespread skepticism about the ability of a Kerry administration to reverse tax cuts in the face of stiff opposition from the Republicans.

Kerry has repeatedly stated that the Pentagon’s swollen budget—$416 billion this year—will be untouchable. Every program already on the books—including the “Star Wars” missile defense scheme—will go through. Meanwhile, the Democratic candidate has said he is prepared to keep US troops in Iraq for at least another four years, guaranteeing hundreds of billions of dollars more in military expenditures.

Given this commitment to militarism and the inevitable stonewalling of any attempt at a significant reversal of tax cuts, a Kerry administration would rapidly confront a severe fiscal crisis. It would inevitably jettison its health care proposals and respond with budget-cutting measures that would effectively demolish what remains of the social programs and benefits implemented from the 1930s to the 1960s.
The extreme right-wing leadership in the Republican administration and Congress has deliberately stoked the US fiscal crisis, calculating that federal insolvency will compel the next government to gut social welfare programs—in particular Social Security—no matter who occupies the White House in 2005.

Putting a Democrat, backed by the union bureaucracy, in the White House to carry out a scorched earth policy of social cuts has a definite appeal to more far-sighted elements within the financial elite. They believe that a Democratic administration would be better able to stave off, at least temporarily, a wave of social unrest against both the war in Iraq and the deteriorating economic situation at home.

The embrace of Kerry by significant sections of big business must serve as a warning: no matter which party controls the White House, 2005 will see an escalating attack on jobs, living standards and basic democratic and social rights. If Kerry is elected, the Democrats’ limited campaign promises will soon evaporate, and his administration’s policies will be driven by the crisis of American capitalism and the demands of the financial oligarchy.
Not even Van Aucken, who is himself running for president, suggests that there is really a better alternative available to us at this point than voting for Kerry. What he's doing, and what I'm trying to do, is to dispel any illusions people may have about what we're facing. Kerry will be better than Bush. But will he be any good? Let's do what we can to push him in that direction.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Chatter: Bad. No chatter: Bad.

Slowdown in 'chatter' worries officials
Oil way up. Dow way down. Iraq nearing full-scale war.

Crank up the fear.

Kerry's Energy Independence Proposal

Cyndy is pretty excited about Kerry's energy proposal; I'm not so sure. I left a way-too-long comment over at her MouseMusings blog, and you know that I rarely write anything that long without posting it here too! Since it's me talking, I'll post it "unquoted."

I hate to be negative all the time, and I wouldn't say there's no difference, and I'm gonna hold my nose and vote for him, but Kerry's energy plan is nothing to get excited about. Since we currently import well over half of our oil, going to 20% alternative fuels by 2020 still leaves us needing lots of imported oil. As far as I can tell, the only part of the plan that could truly be called "conservation" is the higher-mileage cars. But replacing the entire fleet of cars with new ones will use immense amounts of energy, and the newer cars will be unaffordable for the ever-growing majority of people for whom a $5000 tax credit is a sick joke (How do you take a $5000 credit on a $9000 income--will it apply to payroll taxes?). Notice too that it puts huge amounts of cash in the hands of the people who got us in this mess in the first place--the Big Three. First they make billions ignoring CAFE standards and building SUVs, and then Kerry's going to pay them to switch to hybrids. No wonder they haven't already! Also, oil companies like BP and Shell are already starting to dominate the solar energy market. It's win-win for these guys.

This really isn't all that different from Bush's hydrogen plans--give some money to corporations, and promise results years after my term is over. And while Kerry may mean it while Bush doesn't, Kerry won't be able to get his passed any time soon.

Also, note that Kerry is careful to call for "an end to our dependence on Middle East oil." (from his web site: Not "foreign oil," but "Middle East oil." So look out Venezuela, Colombia, Cuba...

If he's really serious about energy independence, his first mission as president is to give up any hope of being re-elected (the Dems would probably be thrilled to be able to run Obama or Edwards in 2008 anyway), because then he could do what is really necessary. IMHO, that is: 1) Get out of Iraq ASAP. Wars use immense amounts of energy and cause enormous amounts of pollution. 2) Raise the gas tax substantially. 3) Put the financial power in people's hands, not corporations--something like "transit stamps" that would provide free rides on buses, subways, trains, ferries, or any other mode of public transportation that substantially improves energy efficiency. The feds would pay a profitable fee per ride, encouraging the growth of mass transit, both public and private. Perhaps something similar for electricity and heating--subsidize solar panels, ground-source heat pumps, and so on for poor people, rather than offering tax credits that only the wealthy can benefit from. And certainly better than giving the money to BP and Shell so they can buy out the competition and keep the prices high enough so they can still sell their oil.

A good energy plan would focus on conservation first and foremost. Improved gas mileage won't cut our usage of oil if we keep increasing the number of miles driven. Stopping sprawl, subsidizing mass transit at the expense of personal transit, seeing that the simplest and most effective conservation methods (compact fluorescent light bulbs, for example) are immediately implemented on a massive scale, and so on.

Kerry-Edwards '04. woohoo.

Stayin' Alive

From Billmon:
High unemployment, high energy prices, inflation-driven wage gains that still fail to keep up with inflation. Gee, where have we seen that picture before? Jimmy Carter shakes his head sadly and says, "Don't ask."

Heck, at this rate, they'll be bringing back disco and the polyester leisure suit.

Things that make you go "hmmm..."

Amid the mess over the weekend for travelers flying from Boston to Washington (lost luggage, delayed flights, etc.), those aboard Saturday's 7 p.m. US Airways shuttle from Logan International Airport -- which had been held up for 20 minutes because of luggage problems -- were surprised when the pilot announced that the plane would make a quick hop to Albany on its way to Reagan National.

"We land in Albany, and the doors open and in come Jenna and Barbara [Bush] and several Secret Service agents," our spy, who declined to be named "for fear of going to Gitmo," told us. "I kept thinking, I haven't heard of anybody diverting planes for all these other people being inconvenienced. This doesn't fit in the norm of airline travel."

Two leaders of a mosque in Albany have been arrested in a government sting operation on charges that they took part in what they thought was a plot to import a shoulder-fired missile and assassinate a Pakistani diplomat in New York City, law enforcement officials said on Thursday.

Connect the dots, people!! The Bush twins are top-secret CIA agents, foiling terrorist plots from coast to coast!

I'm calling Bob Novak RIGHT NOW!!

The sewer's clogged

The figurative sewer, that is. The Bushies are trying to flush so much crap down the memory hole right now that it's difficult to keep track of it all. So I'm going to pass you on to Michelle if you're interested in the following:

Total Eclipse of the Moon

Bob Harris tries to light a fire under the media about the connections between America-hating freakoid Sun Yung Moon and our first family of crime:
So how big of a news topic would it be if a self-proclaimed enemy of the United States had the president's father on his payroll? Apparently, none.

And how big of a scandal would it be if Jane's Defense Weekly reported this week that the nuclear missile technology this bug-brained maniac sold to North Korea potentially poses a grave security risk to the United States -- all while the White House seems to have simply looked the other way?

Our friends over at FAIR think it's a big deal. In an email just now, one of their higher-ups compared it to Iran-Contra. But if you think about it, that didn't result in the creation of a direct menace to the United States. This is arguably much, much bigger.

In short: convicted felon with a declared hatred of the United States buys widespread influence, then sells nuclear technology to another avowed enemy, endangering the United States, while the president acts like there's no problem.

In a sane world, the impending scandal would discredit the entire Bush crime family for good.
No matter how they cut the cake, you ain't gettin' any.

Supply, demand, what's the diff?

This doesn't quite make sense:
LONDON (Reuters) - Oil prices hit record highs Friday, climbing close to $45, after a renewed threat to Russian oil major Yukos and a big refinery fire in the United States added to the strain on world supplies.
Imagine, if you will, if there were fires at every oil refinery in the world. (I'm sure both Osama and the Bush administration have thought about it, as they never stop thinking of ways to harm our country.) If you were a multi-billionaire oil speculator, would you rush out and buy all the oil you could, driving the price up? Of course not! Nobody would buy it from you until their refineries were repaired or rebuilt. The refinery fire may well drive up gasoline prices in the US, but by itself it would cause oil prices to go down.

On further reading: While Reuters calls it a "big" fire, it has rated surprisingly few news articles of its own. The one I did find says that it was a minor incident, the fire was quickly extinguished and that production was not affected.

On still further reading and thinking: There was a fire at this same BP refinery back in March, and the FBI was in a huge hurry to conclusively state that it was "not terrorism" after an exhaustive 45-minute investigation. And earlier this week there was another Texas City fire at a Marathon Ashland refinery. As far as I can tell, no one has bothered to claim that either that fire or the latest BP one were "not terrorism," but I wouldn't be surprised to hear someone in the Bush administration make that claim soon. Whether one or all of these fires were "terrorist" acts, I don't know. I'm just pretty sure that whatever the "authorities" conclude will be based much more on economics and politics than on high-quality investigative police work.

Goodbye, George

Some of the headlines from the NY Times:
Krugman and Herbert have good columns today as well, but they write for us, not them. The stock market is what will do Bush in.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Save the planet--Don't eat meat!

That's a flyer available from PETA. The back side has details, as does this web page.

Some of the facts:
  • Raising animals for food consumes more than half of all water used in the U.S. A totally vegetarian diet requires 300 gallons of water per day, while a meat-eating diet requires more than 4,200 gallons of water per day.
  • In December 1997, the Senate Agricultural Committee released a report that stated that animals raised for food produce 130 times as much excrement as the entire human population, roughly 68,000 pounds per second, all without the benefit of waste treatment systems. (Holy crap, Batman!)
  • Of all agricultural land in the U.S., 87 percent is used to raise animals for food. That’s 45 percent of the total land mass in the U.S. More than 260 million acres of U.S. forest have been cleared to create cropland in order to produce our meat-centered diet.
  • The world's cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people—more than the entire human population on Earth.
Go here for more info.

I've been a vegetarian for over 2 1/2 years now. There's lots of good stuff to eat, and my ecological footprint is way smaller. Here's a place to get started.

You owe a lot of money because of me!

Yes you do! Yes you do! Vice President Dick and I thank you for making us even richer, little fella! It's people like you who make people like me possible!

It's on the official White House web site

For now at least--aWol's statement that his administration never starts thinking of ways to harm our country. I just saved a copy of the web page so we can compare when the record gets changed.

Son of 40 rips son of 41

Ron Reagan rips aWol bigtime. Selection:
George W. Bush and his administration have taken "normal" mendacity to a startling new level far beyond lies of convenience. On top of the usual massaging of public perception, they traffic in big lies, indulge in any number of symptomatic small lies, and, ultimately, have come to embody dishonesty itself. They are a lie. And people, finally, have started catching on.

None of this, needless to say, guarantees Bush a one-term presidency. The far-right wing of the country—nearly one third of us by some estimates—continues to regard all who refuse to drink the Kool-Aid (liberals, rationalists, Europeans, et cetera) as agents of Satan. Bush could show up on video canoodling with Paris Hilton and still bank their vote. Right-wing talking heads continue painting anyone who fails to genuflect deeply enough as a "hater," and therefore a nut job, probably a crypto-Islamist car bomber. But these protestations have taken on a hysterical, almost comically desperate tone. It's one thing to get trashed by Michael Moore. But when Nobel laureates, a vast majority of the scientific community, and a host of current and former diplomats, intelligence operatives, and military officials line up against you, it becomes increasingly difficult to characterize the opposition as fringe wackos.

Does anyone really favor an administration that so shamelessly lies? One that so tenaciously clings to secrecy, not to protect the American people, but to protect itself? That so willfully misrepresents its true aims and so knowingly misleads the people from whom it derives its power? I simply cannot think so. And to come to the same conclusion does not make you guilty of swallowing some liberal critique of the Bush presidency, because that's not what this is. This is the critique of a person who thinks that lying at the top levels of his government is abhorrent. Call it the honest guy's critique of George W. Bush.

The last 3 1/2 years explained

Quote du jour:
"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we," Bush said. "They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

No one in Bush's audience of military brass or Pentagon chiefs reacted.


Another new high for oil

LONDON (Reuters) - World oil prices soared to new record highs on Thursday after the a decision by the Russian government to revoke oil major YUKOS' permit to use its bank accounts to finance operations put the company's crude exports under fresh threat.

U.S. crude jumped to an all-time high of $44.40 a barrel, standing $1.37 higher by 1630 GMT to $44.20. London Brent futures rose $1.52 to $41.22 a barrel -- also another record high.
Win-lose-win as far as I'm concerned. A win in the short term, because even though there are plenty of legitimate, intelligent reasons not to vote for Bush in November, a lot of Americans will decide based on the stupid reason of high gasoline costs. As oil prices go up, Bushes chances go down. Lose in the medium term, since my job at the U of M Transportation Research Institute is pretty closely tied to the auto industry. If we can't adjust our focus from safety to efficiency and alternative fuels quickly, we may not have many contracts to work on. But I'm flexible, and I don't need much--I'll get by. Win in the long term, since excessive oil use is killing us in many ways. The crisis is coming no matter what--the sooner its impact is recognized the less deadly that impact is likely to be.


A few months after the war started in March 2003, there were stories saying that reports indicated approximately 10,000 civilian deaths from the war. And even though the killing has continued pretty much non-stop, and picked up substantially since April, it has still been common to see 10,000 as the number of civilian deaths in press reports. Finally, someone has updated these stories, although they're still obviously chasing the story. From the WSWS:
An Iraqi political organization, the People’s Kifah or Struggle Against Hegemony, told the Arab network Al Jazeera on the weekend that it had documented more than 37,000 civilian deaths in Iraq in the seven months from the start of the US war on March 20, 2003, through October 2003.
With hundreds or thousands having been killed in Falloujah, Najaf and all over Iraq, the number may be approaching 100,000 by now. And that still doesn't count Iraqi soldiers, who committed the crime of defending their country against foreign invaders:
The estimates of Iraqi military deaths during the invasion range from approximately 10,000 to as many as 45,000.
I would hazard to guess that many of these casualties, especially the soldiers, have been buried in mass graves. (In the first Gulf War, Iraqi soldiers were bulldozed under in their trenches, and not all of them were dead when it happened.)

Things can always get worse...

The radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr called for a national uprising against American and coalition forces today as a two-month truce between Mr. Sadr and the United States military collapsed.
Maybe I'm overreacting, but I'm thinking this marks the end of any hope that the coalition can turn things around and move Iraq to some semblance of normalcy under the puppet regime. Either the coalition backs off in the face of the uprising, which will eventually lead to local control of almost all of Iraq, or more likely they'll respond with obscene firepower, killing hundreds or thousands and convincing just about every Iraqi that resistance is the only thing that isn't futile.

In the short term, this is bad news for Iraq, since the already high casualty rate is almost certain to increase. In the longer term, this may just be getting on with what is bound to happen at some point. If they succeed in getting the coalition to back off, they may start to carve out a better future.

Similarly, for America it is bad news in the short term. Casualties are almost certain to increase, as is anti-American sentiment around the world and the threat of terrorism. Then again, eventually someone besides George W. Bush will be president, and eventually that someone will understand that withdrawal is not only an option, but the only one. Having the Iraq version of the Tet offensive before the election may convince Americans that we need regime change here, and may convince Kerry that a change in policy is needed as well. Unfortunately, W doesn't have the common sense of his predecessor LBJ to step aside, and Americans seem to be substantially stupider now than they were in 1968. They've shown remarkable resilience to the onslaught of evidence demonstrating the stupidity and criminality of the Bush administration--will they be able to ignore the apocalypse about to happen in Iraq?

From Rex Babin.

From Vic Harville.

Another surprise from a right-wing cartoonist!

From John Trever. Actually, looking at many of his recent cartoons, it seems as though Trever has actually changed his viewpoint quite a bit as the various Bush enterprises have unraveled.

Land of Lincoln?

From Chris Britt. Interesting, I guess, that the Democrats in the Illinois legislature made it possible for the worst president in history to be on the ballot there, but the Illinois Repugs can't find anybody to run for Senate against Barack Obama.

Maybe It's a Skull & Bones Thing...

From Steve Sack.

Orange Roughy?

From Anne Telnaes.

From Mike Lester.

It probably wouldn't make the news anyway

Bob Harris at This Modern World
While Dick Cheney was in charge, Halliburton wildly misreported its income, issued "materially misleading" financial statements, and led police on a nationally-televised ten-hour chase through nine states, culminating in a boozed-up Cheney running out of gas near Galveston, dashing in his underwear through a series of back allies, and finally, surrounded by SWAT units and helicopters, sprawling on the pavement, inexplicably shouting "I am the eggman! Executive privilege! I am the eggman!" before being placed on 24-hour blown-stent watch in the Huntsville supermax.
Harris reluctantly admits that the parts in red aren't true, although given that Cheney is neither black nor a Democrat, it seems that it could have happened, but is still considered "not news" after the networks received "friendly" calls from FCC Chairman Michael Powell.

For the details on Cheney's Enronic swindles, read Billmon's article from yesterday. And remember--our pResident is only a small-time, seven-figure kind of corporate crook. The Veep from the Deep is a major nine-figure robber barron.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Does Anyone Ever Know?

The blogger at Whatever It Is, I'm Against It writes this:
While both Bush and Kerry were campaigning in Davenport, Iowa, three banks were robbed. Does anyone know where Dick Cheney was at the time?
C'mon, no one ever knows where he is! And even if he were caught robbing a bank on live TV in front of a thousand nuns, he'd still say it wasn't his vault.

Corporate Malfeaser

Billmon describes the ongoing crime that is our vice president.

Dead Zone Spreads Across Gulf of Mexico

HOUSTON, Texas (Reuters) -- A huge "dead zone" of water so devoid of oxygen that sea life cannot live in it has spread across 5,800 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico this summer in what has become an annual occurrence caused by pollution.
In the last 30 years, the dead zone has become an annual summer phenomenon, fed by rising use of nitrate-based fertilizers by farmers in the Mississippi watershed, Rabalais told Reuters.

The nitrates, carried into the gulf's warm summer waters by the river, feed algae blooms that use up oxygen and make the water uninhabitable.
Virtually nothing is being done to stop the flow of nitrates into the river, meaning the dead zone will reappear every year, Rabalais said.
Virtually nothing! Those fertilizers go in large part to grow grain which is then fed to cows, pigs and chickens, who then crap all over the place fouling even more water before being brutally slaughtered and fed to humans who could have been adequately nourished from about 5% of the land if the animals weren't involved. Rather than taking the obvious step of eating less or no meat, people have preferred to believe the propaganda about the Adkins diet so they can keep eating pigs like pigs.

Some of the fertilizer goes to grow (mostly genetically-modified) soybeans, a tiny fraction of which are processed into biodiesel fuel. While this has at least one step going in the right direction to go with the steps in the wrong direction, why isn't anyone making this connection: One of the best potential sources for biodiesel is algae! We could be reducing dependence on foreign oil and cleaning up the Gulf by harvesting the algae, or better yet finding some integrated and efficient way to turn two or more problems into solutions. I'd like to think that President Kerry would take bold steps in this direction, but I'm not sure he's even got the guts to call for a modest increase in the gasoline tax. Fortunately, reality make overtake him on that one relatively soon.

Who supplies the axis of evil with weapons?

George H.W. Bush and his Reagan-administration cronies (Rumsfeld, North, Powell, etc.) made sure that Saddam Hussein got what he needed to start his biological weapons program, and they provided him with satellite photos and other intel so he could use his WMD's more effectively. At the same time, they were supplying his enemy, Iran, with a variety of weapons and spare parts. And 41's good buddy, the Rev. Sun Yung Moon (right rear in the photo), has apparently bought 12 Russian submarines for North Korea, bringing whatever threat that country may pose to us about 11,000 miles closer to our shores.

Rev. Moon owns the Washington Times newspaper and UPI, not to mention any number of politicians, some of whom participated in his coronation in a Senate office building a few months ago.

No matter how sick and warped you may think this country is, just remember this: it's MUCH worse than that.

Bullied in, bullied out

From Jim Morin. Morin is generally a good cartoonist, fairly liberal. I sent him an e-mail in response to this cartoon:
A good counterpoint to that cartoon would be one showing Bush and Cheney in early 2003 building up the "coalition of the willing" through threats and bribes. As all moral justifications for being in Iraq have evaporated (WMD's, al Qaeda ties, new boss Allawi seems to be just another Saddam), most of these countries were probably looking to get out anyway. While it's unfortunate that it appears they are leaving in response to bullying, we should remember that that's why they were there in the first place.
[Update] The cartoonist responds! Here's the e-mail I got back:

I agree. Good points, all.

Jim Morin
See? I told you he was cool!

Deja Vu All Over Again

Mission Accomplished

From Mike Keefe.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Channelling his inner Nixon again

Even though Henry Kissinger is still inexplicably not behind bars and could serve as the medium, New York Times columnist William Safire regularly channels Richard Nixon in his op-ed pieces. Safire apparently has some new competition--John Kerry. From Reuters:
"We are going to build our relations all around this planet," said Kerry, who has accused Bush of alienating allies in the U.S.-led war in Iraq. "We are going to get those troops home with honor."

The line echoed Richard Nixon's 1968 "peace with honor" campaign pledge to end the Vietnam War, which Kerry served in and later opposed. The pledge helped Nixon win the presidency, but a peace deal was not reached until 1973 and U.S.-backed South Vietnam fell to the communist North in 1975.
I mentioned yesterday that I was seeing parallels between Kerry and Nixon, and I think I've seen it suggested on other blogs as well. This is the first time I've seen the comparison made in the mainstream media. Surely Kerry remembers the "peace with honor" phrase. Is he really stupid enough to think that comparisons with Nixon will help his campaign? While Democrats and some Republicans have tried to compare themselves to Truman or JFK the first, I can't recall even the lamest of Republican candidates trying to compare themselves to Tricky Dick since Watergate.

And all this before I even begin to address the question of whether there is any honor to be had from an illegal invasion.

I try not to be one who jumps on some unfortunate phrase to crucify a politician, at least until a pattern develops. ("States' rights," for example, is a concept badly in need of discussion, but one which no candidate dare mention. But why not allow states the right to decide on euthanasia or medicinal marijuana or gay marriage?) But this "with honor" crap would seem to be a very deliberate choice of words on Kerry's part, and all I can say is: What the Cheney is he thinking? Does he want to lose? Are Kerry's advisers, or his focus groups, or Kerry himself simply Karl Rovian moles? I almost suggested that he might say "peace with honor" in my post last night, but I thought there was no way he could be that stupid. I guess next he'll be claiming to have invented the Internet while starring in Love Story*, telling southern voters that we wouldn't have had all these problems if Strom Thurmond had won back in '48, that trees cause pollution, and that a Kerry victory will lead to a thousand-year reich, following the mother of all battles. Then maybe he can invite Willie Horton (the ex-con, not the ex-Detroit Tiger) to go for a tank ride with him.

As I recall, well more than half of the names on the Vietnam memorial earned their spot there after Nixon was elected promising "peace with honor." He never delivered on the honor, nor could he have, and peace was tried only after everything else had failed.

(*Yes, I know both of those Gorey stories were Repug lies. So was "peace with honor.")

Six soldiers dead

I think that total includes the two I mentioned earlier; at least I hope so.

Meanwhile, in the first Bush Quagmire

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Afghan and U.S. troops backed by warplanes killed as many as 50 militants in a daylong battle near the Pakistani border, the U.S. military said Tuesday, one of the bloodiest clashes since American forces entered Afghanistan.

At least one Afghan soldier also was killed and three others wounded in Monday's fighting in Khost province, a former al Qaeda stronghold about 120 miles south of the capital, Kabul.

"Allied forces staved off rockets, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and machine gun fire throughout the day and into the night," a U.S. military statement said. "The exact number of enemy casualties is unknown, but pilots flying overhead estimated that approximately 40-50 insurgents were killed."
I'm sure, in some pathetic veterans hospital in Russia, the patients are having a long, bitter laugh at the foolish Americans getting caught in the same mess they were caught in 20 years ago.

CNN's headline for the story is "U.S.: Afghan battle leaves 50 dead." Even though that's the upper range of estimates from pilots flying overhead. Of course, everyone they killed is an "insurgent" by definition. Two years ago they would have said "al Qaeda or Taliban," but how can you claim victory in the war for opium if you keep killing the same people over and over? Why do I bother asking--they'll say whatever they want whenever they want, secure in the knowledge that 99% of the country can't remember two weeks ago, much less two years.

Noam Chomsky on Peak Oil

"Peak oil" is the phrase used to describe the year when more oil is pumped out of the ground than any other. The oil "optimists" think it may happen in fifteen or twenty years; the "pessimists" say next year, or this, or even last year (we won't know for sure until the stats are in). Noam Chomsky writes on his blog something I can totally agree with:
The basic theory is incontrovertible. The only questions have to do with timing and cost. ...

The date can be pushed back much farther if more costly (or maybe some to-be-discovered improved) technology is used. As for the estimates of cost, by reasonable standards one could argue that oil is far under-priced. In real terms, it's not particularly high now as compared with other commodities, from some reasonable base line. And low-priced oil leads to heavier use and less effort to create sustainable alternatives.

That I think is a far more serious problem than production peaking. In fact, one could argue that the earlier production peaks, the better off the human species (and a lot more) is, because of the effects of unconstrained use of hydrocarbons on the environment.

Talk about "shrinking our economies" is pretty meaningless. Our economies would shrink substantially if we got rid of huge expenditures for the military, for incarceration, and other highly destructive activities. Sustainable economies might lead to highly improved quality of life.

Skull & Bones Brothers

And cousins.

Two pods in the pee's it feel to be the world's most famous liar?
You should know.

Stealing a Post

From Xymphora:
One of the mysteries of the American occupation of Iraq is why the Americans have not spent more of the over $18 billion Congress has approved for Iraqi reconstruction. Only $458 million, less than three per cent of the total, has been spent. One reason for the reticence to spend the money may be that the Bush Administration plans (or, partly, here) to use part of the $18 billion to cover Iraq's sovereign debts to the U. S. It is a complete mystery of how much debt there is, but it may amount to $5 billion or even more (see chart here). Since they don't know how much they'll need or even if this repayment scheme will fly, the Americans are probably in no hurry to disburse money to the benefit of the Iraqis. Since this money was earmarked to help pay for some of the damage caused to the Iraqi economy by the American attack, and since it is part of the American propaganda effort to prove that American motives in attacking Iraq were pure, it is ridiculous to use bookkeeping to make a large part of it disappear. It is even more absurd to do this while the American government insists that other countries simply write off their sovereign debt (a process that isn't going very well, possibly in part due to foreign knowledge that the Americans don't expect to have to do the same thing themselves). To add to the absurdity, the Bush Administration is actually paying all the massive amounts to military contractors like Halliburton out of Iraqi oil moneys. So the oil is stolen from the Iraqi people to enrich Bush's military-industrial complex friends, a large chunk of the reconstruction money is simply turned around back into the U. S. treasury, and all the other countries of the world who were owed money from Iraq are expected to write it off so even more oil money can be diverted to American carpetbaggers. Ain't accounting grand?

The Democrats' Silence on the War

As you know, I think that Kerry's vote for the war and refusal to renounce it were/are both wrong morally and a denial of everything Kerry claimed to stand for when he protested the war in Vietnam. I also suspect that the silence on the war from Kerry and the Dems is a tactical political error, although I don't know enough about politics and the polls to be sure. I have, however, found a few articles which make the point:
And Norman Solomon says what I've been feeling: "Just because you think people should hold their nose and vote for Kerry, don't act like there isn't a stench."

Just a Reminder...

When the administration says that it is acting on the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, it means that it is NOT acting on the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Josh Marshall has the details.

Two more US soldiers killed, two wounded

In Baghdad last night. If the lies coming from Bush and the media have you thinking that things may be improving in Iraq, read this Robert Fisk article as a corrective.

Which is a bigger waste of time--answering a bumper sticker or commenting on a blog?

No need to decide--I did both! Eli at Left I on the News has a post about a bumper sticker he saw which said "War has never solved anything - except for ending slavery, Fascism, Nazism, and Communism." You can read his reaction on his blog; my reaction is here:
I know I'm probably wasting my time arguing with a stupid bumper sticker, but here goes. First, none of those four things have truly ended. True slavery still exists in many places around the world, and much sweatshop and field labor is little different from slavery. I've seen fascism defined as a corporate state, and that seems to be largely what we have in the US now, as well as in other forms in Japan, China, and elsewhere. Nazism would seem to combine fascism with racism and militarism, and certainly neither racism nor militarism have disappeared. And Marxist communism has rarely been tried, having generally been the professed ideology of totalitarian regimes. If the sticker refers to countries that call themselves communist, then the largest by population, China, is still going strong.

If by communism the sticker refers to the Soviet Union, the Mujahadeen war in Afghanistan might get the most credit. That's right, bumper-sticker guy--Osama beat communism! Of course, it's beginning to look like, in conjunction with his soulmate George W. Bush, he may defeat capitalism the same way.

And, of course, the wars only "solved" things for millions of people by removing them from this mortal coil for ever. Plus, most wars, whatever successes may be claimed for them, only provided the seeds for the next war: World War I led to Nazism and World War II; World War II increased the scope of Soviet communism and American capitalism, leading to the cold war; and the end of the cold war led to the "war on terror."

I'll confess to having lived a sheltered life, never having experienced slavery, fascism, nazism, communism, or war up close and personal. I'm guessing that bumper-sticker boy hasn't either. But from books I've read and people I've talked to, almost nothing is worse than war. People have given power to the Nazis, the Taliban, and the Republicans in order to protect them from the ravages and chaos of war.

A complete Joe-ron

The choice for president in 2000 was pretty bad. The choice for vice president was abysmal. Joe Lieberman is a Chenying Cheney who's so complete full of Cheney that it's Cheneying insane.
In an interview on CNN's "Late Edition," Dean said he was "concerned that every time something happens that's not good for President Bush, he plays this trump card, which is terrorism."

"His whole campaign is based on the notion that 'I can keep you safe, therefore, in times of difficulty in America, stick with me,' " Dean said.

"It's just impossible to know how much of this is real and how much of this is politics, and I suspect there's some of both."

Dean's comments generated sharp rebukes on the same program from Lieberman, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and from Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate majority whip.

"I think that's the most cynical view," McConnell said. "The president, after all, is the president, even if he's running for re-election.

"And I don't think the American people believe that George W. Bush, the man who's led us so effectively on the war on terror, would politicize something like this."

Lieberman said he thought McConnell was "absolutely right."

"I don't think anybody who has any fairness or is in their right mind would think the president or the secretary of homeland security would raise an alert level and scare people for political reasons," Lieberman said. "That's outrageous."
What planet have you been living on for the past three years, Joe? Fear is the only thing Bush has, and he has used it again and again. Remember the smoking gun is a mushroom cloud, Joe? That was all about fear, it was all lies, and it was all for political reasons. It is why the Democrats are now the minority party in the Senate.

Of course, the Kerry campaign takes Lieberman's side over Dean's. Cheney.

From Tom Toles.

Worst President Ever

Bob Harris over at This Modern World rips on aWol for his endless manipulation of terror alerts to distract and befuddle the public.
So... Bush and company have manipulated the war on terror. Again.

Not for our safety. For their own political gain, using fear to manipulate the vote, at an untold cost in law-enforcement response, productivity in the affected cities, and the actual defense of this nation, which seems frighteningly incidental to the enormous dumbshow we're being served.

Of course, this same crew sold us the Iraq war on the basis of wild exaggerations, instead of fighting Al-Qaeda full-force. We can't pretend to be surprised.

Bush does not deserve one more minute in the White House.

He deserves scorn. Shame. Contempt. And with any luck, impending unemployment.
Harris also cites a recent poll showing that only 32 percent of undecided voters approve of Bush’s job in office. Hey Senator Kerry! Doesn't that suggest that maybe you should take positions that are actually different from Bush's?

Monday, August 02, 2004

While Skull and Bones Argue Over Who's the Toughest on Terror

Aljazeera reports that U.S. troops have surrounded the home of Shia Muslim leader Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf.
US armoured vehicles, backed by Iraqi security forces, cordoned off the Al-Zahra neighbourhood, where Sadr's home is located in the eastern part of the city.

Smoke was seen rising from the area amid the sound of heavy gunfire, mortar fire and rocket-propelled grenade explosions.

No further details of the US occupation military action are immediately available and it's not clear if al-Sadr is at home.

The AFP correspondent also reports that clashes broke out on Monday between militia loyal to al-Sadr, and US troops and Iraqi security forces in Najaf.
The cynical me (is there another?) thinks that they'll eventually storm the house. This time they'll capture Uday and Qusay alive. The realist me suggests that if they capture, or worse kill, Muqtada al-Sadr, then the feces will really hit the fan. What happens after that is unclear, since there's probably no electricity to run the fan. Most likely, however, would be that what few Iraqi cops and soldiers have been recruited so far would quickly desert and join the "insurgents," and Vietnam II ("This time we shoulda known better") will be fully underway. As I said earlier, it will then be up to John Kerry to decide whether he'd rather be like Eisenhower and call an end to the madness as soon as he takes office, or be like Nixon and keep it going for four more years. Every indication so far is that Kerry's a Nixon man.

Aljazeera also reports on the American commitment to freedom of the press in Iraq, most recently expressed by the arrest of an Iraqi newspaper editor.

Update from Caracas

Antonio, one of our guides in Caracas in April, sent an e-mail to Dena, one of the women on the tour. She forwarded it to me:
Sorry to write you back so late. I´d been dealing with several things at a time and unfortunately, those which I am in touch trough the internet are suffering the consecuences.

Things are quite interesting lately. Looks like, according to most polls, the opposition will loose the referendum. What really concerns most of us is that opposition leaders not only keep denying those polls (including a few firms from the US) but also that they refuse to say publicly that they will respect the referendum results. If you put this together with the fact that tons of illegal explosives were found in a ranch close to Caracas, plus the larceny of C4 and war weapons from military facilities, then the scenario turns a bit scaring.

In terms of people´s mood I would say that chavez supporters are willing to "defend" what they consider a secure victory...which is not the same feeling I can observe in opposition members. Looks like they don´t really know what would happen if their leaders decide not to recognice the results provided by the National electoral council.

Whatever happens on 15 August, the whole country is waiting for the results in order to restart normal life. So far almost everything have been put on hold.

Sorry I can´t write you a bit more. I will write you a few lines after the referendum


The real question, I fear, is whether the Bushies will accept a Chavez victory. I think the Chavistas can handle the opposition, just like they did in 2002. Handling the CIA and the NED and the bipartisan support in Washington for overthrowing Chavez' legitimately-elected government would be the real problem. Hopefully aWol will decide that Kerry and the messes he's made in Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti and the budget are enough to try and deal with for now. Unfortunately, no one ever went broke misunderestimating the sanity of George W. Bush.

Good luck to Antonio and Alicia and Marcela and Roberto and all of the other fine people in Venezuela who deserve a much better future than our imperial government wants to allow them.

Dems blame Iraqis for stealing our health care and fire stations

Blogger Zeynep at Under the Same Sun was appalled by the hypocrisy and callousness of the Democrats concerning the plight of Iraqis:
Even the great liberal hope Barack Obama expressed no concern about the fate of Iraqis. I suppose when he said my brother's and my sister's keeper, he meant my American brothers and sisters only. (In fact he sounded very much like Clinton to me.) Worse, a shameful swipe came from Rep. Tammy Baldwin who said "If our leaders can promise 'health care for all' to Iraq, why can't we do the same here at home?"

I don't know what else to say but to call it shameful. We crippled the place with economic sanctions for 10 years, bombed its infrastructure, occupied it and spent their money on profits for American companies -- and they don't even have reliable potable water because that wasn't our priority as to how we spent their money! Their kids are dying of cholera and we're pretending that we have promised health care to all Iraqis, and that's done in the name of progressive values?

This false pretense, that somehow our spending of money on Iraq is what's cause decline of services in America is a great victory of imperialist ideology. It's sad to see it repeated, and even embraced, by progressives.

This country is more than rich enough to provide health care to its citizens and help reconstruct a country it has wrecked. Its leaders are doing neither, by choice. The sooner American progressives stop implying money spent on Iraqis are robbing them of anything, the sooner they will be able to actually fight for their rights by focusing on the accurate targets.

Good Line

From the blog Whatever It Is, I'm Against It:
Chimpy is now attacking Kerry with the line "Results matter," although Shrub’s entire resumé and indeed his entire life constitute a definitive refutation of that idea.

Scary Coincidence

According to this article, Kerry's senior advisor on National Security is a woman named Dr. Rice.
Rather than have the senator backtrack or appear to equivocate on his criticism of Bush, the Democratic campaign released a statement by Kerry's senior adviser for national security, Dr. Susan Rice, vowing to be as tough on terrorists as the Bush administration.

"This is a very serious development and underscores the need to move aggressively to implement the 9/11 commission's crucial recommendations," Rice said.
Vowing to be as tough on terrorists as the Bush administration. Does that mean ignoring Osama for another three years while doing his recruiting for him? What Dr. (Susan) Rice means is that Kerry vows to be as stupid on terrorism as Bush. Great.

Sudan: Genocide or Oil?

Mint forwards a link to an op-ed from the Guardian. Are we going to take the word of the same people--Tony Blair, Colin Powell, Nicholas Kristoff--who got us into our current messes to get us into yet another one?
The absence of anti-war scepticism about the prospect of sending troops into Sudan is especially odd in view of the fact that Darfur has oil. For two years, campaigners have chanted that there should be "no blood for oil" in Iraq, yet they seem not to have noticed that there are huge untapped reserves in both southern Sudan and southern Darfur. As oil pipelines continue to be blown up in Iraq, the west not only has a clear motive for establishing control over alternative sources of energy, it has also officially adopted the policy that our armies should be used to do precisely this. Oddly enough, the oil concession in southern Darfur is currently in the hands of the China National Petroleum Company. China is Sudan's biggest foreign investor.

We ought, therefore, to treat with scepticism the US Congress declaration of genocide in the region. No one, not even the government of Sudan, questions that there is a civil war in Darfur, or that it has caused an immense number of refugees. Even the government admits that nearly a million people have left for camps outside Darfur's main towns to escape marauding paramilitary groups. The country is awash with guns, thanks to the various wars going on in Sudan's neighbouring countries. Tensions have risen between nomads and herders, as the former are forced south in search of new pastures by the expansion of the Sahara desert. Paramilitary groups have practised widespread highway robbery, and each tribe has its own private army. That is why the government of Sudan imposed a state of emergency in 1999.
Fool me once...

Martino Shaken, Not Stirred

Juan Cole reports that the source for supposed attempts by Iraq to buy yellowcake from Niger may have been "an Italian businessman and fraudster named Rocco Martino."

Juan Cole on Libi

A couple of days ago I ranted about the al Qaeda detainee who told the Bushies what they wanted to hear about collaboration between Iraq and al Qaeda. Juan Cole, who knows a lot more about the Middle East than I do, has more on the subject.
Libi's story about Iraq training al-Qaeda, delivered after 9/11, is of a piece with the rest of this strategy. It was aimed at instigating a war by the US on Iraq.

All of these wars were intended to stir hatred of the US invader throughout the Muslim world, to weaken the "puppet" governments of the Middle East that were allied with the US and make them ripe for overthrow, and to mire the US in a series of Islamic quagmires that would sap its will and strength and ultimately force its withdrawal from the region.
Even though Libi recanted his earlier disinformation, Vice President Dick Cheney has continued to rely on his allegations. Note that it should no longer be necessary for the US to depend on a single unreliable source such as Libi, since it has captured the Baath intelligence files and should by now know pretty much exactly what the Baath government was up to with regard to terrorism. If the US does not know, it would be because it irresponsibly gave those intelligence files to Ahmad Chalabi.
Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz allowed themselves to be manipulated by Libi and Chalabi because it suited them.

South Africa-al Qaeda-Pakistan-Texas-Orange Alert?

Connect the dots between all that and more by reading Digby's post.

Shorter Digby: The AQ guy Pakistan announced it had arrested was captured in a firefight involving lots of real and phoney South Africans. A woman with a South African passport and a lot of money was recently arrested in Texas trying to fly to New York. Tom Ridge is an idiot.

Perspective on Kidnappings

The blogger at Baghdad Burning has returned with an update on the "hell that is now Iraq." After describing the continuing problems with the heat and lack of electricity, she tells about the problems encountered in trying to bury a dead aunt when so many others are dying in Baghdad. Then she talks about the abductions that have been making headlines here:
I get emails by the dozen from people crying out against the abduction of foreigners. Endlessly I read the lines, “But these people are there to help you- they are aide workers…” or “But the press is there for a good cause…”, etc. What people abroad don’t seem to realize is the fact that everything is mixed up right now. Seeing a foreigner, there’s often no way to tell who is who. The blonde guy in the sunglasses and beige vest walking down the street could be a reporter or someone who works with a humanitarian group- but he could just as likely be ‘security’ from one of those private mercenary companies we’re hearing so much about.

Is there sympathy with all these abductees? There is. We hate seeing them looking frightened on television. We hate thinking of the fact that they have families and friends who worry about them in distant countries and wonder how in the world they managed to end up in the hell that is now Iraq… but for every foreigner abducted, there are probably 10 Iraqis being abducted and while we have to be here because it is home, truck drivers, security personnel for foreign companies and contractors do not. Sympathy has its limits in the Iraqi summer heat. Dozens of Iraqis are dying on a daily basis in places like Falloojeh and Najaf and everyone is mysteriously silent- one Brit, American or Pakistani dies and the world is in an uproar- it is getting tiresome.

A Four-Year Tour (Four-Year Tour)

Eli noted this quote from a Kerry rally: "I think it's time we had a Skipper in charge, instead of a Gilligan."

Betraying both my age and my former TV viewing habits, I left this comment:
The Skipper left way too many important jobs up to Gilligan, and they were all stuck on the island for way too many episodes because of it. Go ahead, little buddy--start a war if you want!

We know things are bad when Gilligan's Island holds lessons for American politics. Maybe I'll just ignore what's going on and go hit on Mary Ann. Because we all know the Howells control everything anyway.
(Warning: I feel a take-off on the Gilligan's Island theme song brewing in my head. You may want to approach this blog carefully for the next day or two.)

A river in Egypt

Bob Herbert says that Americans don't want to hear the truth--but not to worry, because neither Bush nor Kerry will mention it:
The facts facing the United States as George W. Bush and John Kerry joust for the presidency are too grim to be honestly discussed on the stump. No one wants to tell cheering potential voters that the nation has sunk so deep into a hole that it will take decades to extricate it. So the candidates are trying to outdo one another in expressions of sunny optimism.
Consider Iraq. Neither the president nor Mr. Kerry knows what to do about this terrible misadventure that has cost more than 900 American and thousands of innocent Iraqi lives. The war is draining the U.S. Treasury and has made the Middle East more, not less, unstable. Dreams of democracy taking root in the garden of Baghdad and then spreading like the flowers of spring throughout the Middle East have given way to the awful reality of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings.
Unfortunately, we've become a society addicted to the fantasy of a quick fix. We want our solutions encompassed in a sound bite. We want our leaders to manipulate reality to our liking.

So there was President Bush in a hard-hit industrial region of Ohio over the weekend telling voters, "The economy is strong and it's getting stronger." And the Kerry-Edwards team is assuring one and all that "help is on the way."

The voters may deserve better, but there's a real question about whether they want better. It may well be that candidates can't tell voters the truth and still win. If that's so, then democracy American-style may be a lot more dysfunctional than even the last four years has indicated.

Oil hits new high

Almost $44 a barrel. Lots of room to go higher, little room to fall. Good for Chavez. Bad for Bush.

Giant SUV's--the solution to the housing crisis.

Sentence fragments--great for lazy bloggers!

Read this, Kerry

This op-ed from the Guardian shows how Iraq now is very much like Vietnam in the early 1960's: A US-backed puppet regime is maintained in power by massive military strength, opposed by the overwhelming majority of the population. Bloody and lengthy civil war is the only possibility until the "coalition" faces the facts and gets the Cheney out:
It is the US-led presence itself which is dividing Iraqis now. The US is deepening a split between a minority for and an overwhelming majority against the US-led forces. The immediate withdrawal of the US-led forces from Iraq is the only way to stop the impending "civil" war, in which the US will back a "sovereign" Iraqi government to crush the people and their aspirations for liberation and democracy.
John Kerry has a choice when he takes office: He can be like Eisenhower and immediately take steps to stop a senseless war, or he can be like Nixon and extend his predecessor's criminal enterprise for years, at the cost of tens of thousands or even millions of lives. Everything Kerry has said so far suggests that he's a Nixon man.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

The Big Tent

The world's two worst enemies

From Daryl Cagle.

Bushman of the Calimari

From Ted Rall.