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Thursday, September 30, 2004

Assault on Samarra

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. and Iraqi forces moved into the Sunni Triangle city of Samarra late Thursday in one of the largest offensives in several months.

Earlier, explosions in Baghdad claimed more than 40 lives, most of them children.

A brigade-size force of U.S. and Iraqi national guard troops had reached the center of Samarra by early Friday morning, according to CNN correspondent Jane Arraf, embedded with a unit of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division.

Supported by tanks and aircraft, troops were going through the city sector by sector, clearing buildings and mosques. Electricity was being cut to some sections.

Gunfire, explosions and rocket-propelled grenades could be heard as Arraf reported from the scene.

Those Iraqis are going to vote for our puppets if we have to kill them.

No winner. Six billion losers.

I just watched the debate. Since I could not have gone into it with any lower expectations than I did, for either candidate, I guess I was relatively impressed. Kerry did about as well as possibly could have given the utter untenability of his "position" on Iraq, and Bush, while as always utterly wrong on everything, demonstrated more knowledge than I thought he possessed. The most impressive and depressing thing, I'd say, was the apparent sincerity of Bush--he certainly comes across as actually believing the nonsense he says. Unfortunately, that is probably enough to convince lots of voters who don't know the facts.

I'll have to review the transcript, but there were several times when I thought Kerry made great points, and actually stated them fairly clearly and concisely. Most of these, I think, were when he was attacking Bush's positions, rather than defending his own. Of course, that's a much easier job.

Still, plenty of gigantic inconsistencies from both candidates, at the very core, which should have eliminated them from contention long ago. Both are certifiably insane if they really think that they can "win" in Iraq. Hearing Bush, once again, talk about how Saddam wouldn't disarm, even though we know that he had disarmed years earlier. Hearing Kerry try to argue that we should have but shouldn't have gone into Iraq, with more troops but without diverting from Afghanistan, because it was or wasn't a mistake for Bush to do what Kerry had been calling for for years...

One promise from each candidate sure to be broken if he wins: Kerry's statement that he would commit to not retaining bases in Iraq long-term, and Bush's promise that the military will remain all volunteer (which, with stop-loss orders and ready reserve callups, it isn't even now). Bush's lie will be readily apparent sometime next year if he wins; Kerry's lie will only gradually become visible over time, as the bases in Iraq become as permanent as the bases in Okinawa and Germany and Italy. Even in the likely event of the ultimate end of most of the occupation, it seems pretty certain that the US will hold on to one or two heavily-defended bases somewhere in Iraq indefinitely.

There wasn't much funny about the debate; I guess the funniest to me from these slim pickings was when they were talking about nuclear proliferation (always a knee-slapper). Bush, of course, said "nukular," while Kerry correctly said "nuclear." Ever the modern journalist, Jim Lehrer in his follow-up seemed to say something like "newcaleer," sort of a compromise between the two.

Colin Powell wants your children; Michael Powell wants your transmitters

The FCC (Fascist Communication Consolidators) is raiding left-wing micro-radio stations, raiding their homes and taking their equipment. I first read about a raid on KFAR "pirate radio" in Knoxville via South Knox Bubba; now it's Free Radio Santa Cruz in California. (BTW, my niece Beth and her boyfriend Jeremy are students at UCSC. Hi, Beth!)
Guns drawn, agents of the U.S. Marshals Service served a warrant on a tiny Santa Cruz pirate radio station early Wednesday, rousting and frisking the pajama-clad residents of the co-op house from which the station had been broadcasting. No one was arrested.

"This is not a criminal action against people," said Supervising Deputy Cheryl Koel.

The target was Free Radio Santa Cruz, an FM micro-station boasting 35 to 40 watts of power and offering round-the-clock music, activism and other local programming, in addition to such national programming as Radio Pacifica's "Democracy Now"-- all in defiance of federal licensing laws.

The blue-jacketed marshals, along with agents of the Federal Communications Commission, dismantled the station's equipment and carried it to a waiting pickup with a camper shell as a crowd of perhaps 60 people yelled "Shame! Shame!" and "Go home!"

Residents, programmers, friends of alternative radio and enemies of corporate media were joined by two city council members, one council candidate and two congressional candidates. They milled around on the sidewalk and in the street, careful to avoid traffic.

Culinary consultant Joseph Schultz, founder of the legendary but now defunct India Joze, brought vegetable soup.
Mmmm...vegetable soup. (Really--that was in the Mercury News article!)

The Shield of Ignorance

Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution explains how Americans are protected from information:
For almost a year and a half now American citizens have been in very grave danger. This danger, so frightening that it's difficult even to speak of it, is that we might hear an interview with Jafar Dhia Jafar, the father of the Iraqi nuclear program. If that had happened, we might have definitively learned that Iraq had had no nuclear program since 1991, and that as Jafar puts it, the US and UK governments "were lying to their people... I knew they knew they were lying." Fortunately, the US media has protected us with a high-tech, billion-dollar, satellite-based Shield of Ignorance.
But it's only now that we're learning of the closest call of all. It turns out the story CBS bumped for the infamous segment on George Bush's National Guard service actually included an interview with Jafar. But the Shield of Ignorance, working just as it was designed, swung into action at the last moment and saved us from knowing something about life on earth.
There's a third paragraph in the middle, but you'll have to go to A Tiny Revolution to read it.


Two days ago, oil over $50 a barrel was news. Now it's old hat. I had to dig to find the latest price.

Occupations Suck

JABALYA, Gaza (Reuters) - Twenty-three Palestinians and three Israelis were killed Thursday, Gaza's bloodiest day for more than two years, as Israel's army struck back after a rocket attack killed two Israeli children in a border town.

In the single deadliest incident in a spiral of violence, an Israeli tank shell killed seven Palestinians near a school in Jabalya, Gaza's largest refugee camp, as Israeli forces thrust deep into the militant stronghold for the first time.

Palestinian witnesses said the dead from the tank shell blast were all teenagers with no involvement in the heavy fighting that raged through the camp. "The explosion was so big it scattered body parts in nearby houses," a medic said.

Welcome to Fallujah

From David Horsey.

No more s'mores, please!

From Rob Rogers.

From Mike Keefe.

Global Warming

The NY Times says global warming is expected to raise hurricane intensity. I guess we'll just wait and see until that happens, eh Jeb? Even Pooty-Poot apparently gets global warming, as Russia will approve the Kyoto protocol.

Another mark of the beast?

Sorry, this rapture index crap has gotten into my head. But this story about a Cleveland Indians pitcher getting shot in the leg on the team bus as it was going from the KC Royals' stadium to the Kansas City airport would seem to be a sign of the approaching apocalypse. The good news is that rookie Kyle Denney's wound appears to have been superficial. Apparently, the bus was shot from outside--sort of a reverse drive-by shooting. Adding to the strangeness, nobody on the bus called the cops until the bus reached the airport, giving the shooter plenty of time to get away. But the strangest part of all is that Indians' trainers believe that Denney was saved from more serious injury by high white boots, which were part of a USC cheerleader's outfit he was wearing. You know, white pleated skirt and tight sweater. Thank God he was prepared!

It's eyebrow deep, and the Debate hasn't even started

I saw Bush's southeast campaign manager Ralph Reed on the Daily Show telling Jon Stewart what a great debater John Kerry is, how he won debate trophies in high school and at Yale, and how he honed his skills in his 20 years in the Senate. To which I have to ask Reed: Who is this John Kerry, and how is he related to the John Kerry I saw lose every Democratic debate last year?

Not to be out bs'ed, Kerry chimes in with this gibberish:
Asked if he thought Bush were smart, Kerry said: "Absolutely. He's a very clever debater. ... He's president. Anybody who doubts that somebody who isn't smart as president doesn't know what it's all about."
If I understand what this great debater is saying here, no easy task that, I have to take offense on behalf of the billions of people worldwide who believe that Bush is a moron. I'm incensed! Outraged, even! I think I'll challenge Zell Miller to a duel.

Frito Lay-offs

From the Detroit Free Press:
PepsiCo Inc. on Thursday announced that it plans to close four of its Frito-Lay division plants, including one in Michigan that employs about 390 people, as part of a streamlining effort.

The 34-year-old manufacturing and warehouse facility in Allen Park will begin phasing out operations through the end of October, Frito-Lay said. Employees will be offered severance packages based on their time with the company, including transition benefits and job placement assistance.
PepsiCo also said it will close Frito-Lay plants in Council Bluffs, Iowa; Beaverton, Ore.; and Visalia, Calif. The announcement came as the beverage and snack-food concern reported net income rose 35 percent in its latest quarter from a year ago, helped by growth in beverage and snack volume, as well as a tax benefit.

PepsiCo said it intends to shift capacity from the four Frito-Lay sites to other locations. It also plans to transfer about 250 of the nearly 780 affected workers to other facilities. The company will continue to employ about 45,000 workers after it completes the plant closures by Dec. 31.
So Pepsi is raking in the cash, but it still is laying off some 530 workers and replacing them with new workers in other locations. I'm guessing the laid off workers were union members making maybe $15 or $20 an hour; their replacements in other states will probably be $5.50 an hour, no union, no benefits. But Pepsi's stockholders are making money--that's all our system cares about.

Liberty and Justice for None

The Bush administration is supporting a provision in the House leadership's intelligence reform bill that would allow U.S. authorities to deport certain foreigners to countries where they are likely to be tortured or abused, an action prohibited by the international laws against torture the United States signed 20 years ago.

The provision, part of the massive bill introduced Friday by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), would apply to non-U.S. citizens who are suspected of having links to terrorist organizations but have not been tried on or convicted of any charges. Democrats tried to strike the provision in a daylong House Judiciary Committee meeting, but it survived on a party-line vote.

The provision, human rights advocates said, contradicts pledges President Bush made after the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal erupted this spring that the United States would stand behind the U.N. Convention Against Torture. Hastert spokesman John Feehery said the Justice Department "really wants and supports" the provision.
Human rights groups and members of Congress opposed to the provision say it could result in the torture of hundreds of people now held in the United States who could be sent to such countries as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan and Pakistan, all of which have dubious human rights records.

Supporters say the measure would provide a much-needed change to U.S. laws.

"Our laws are not up to date with the war we're fighting," Feehery said. In many cases, he said, the Justice Department "can't keep [terror suspects] in detention, they can't convict them, they don't want to try them. . . . If you can't detain them indefinitely, you sure don't want them in America."
Oh, the poor "Justice" department, unable to detain innocent people like they want. Surely we can find "friendly" countries glad to torture these people on our behalf. To Mr. Feehery I say: It is you and Hastert and Ashcroft and Bush that I don't want in this country. I know Hastert, Ashcroft and Bush have taken oaths to uphold the constitution; by supporting this provision they have violated that oath. Traitors.

Rapture Index up 2

The rapture index was 152 last week; it's 154 now, with "oil supply/price" moving from a 4 to the max of 5 (I think the guy keeping score is even more delusional than I already think he is if he thinks $50 a barrel is the max), and climate moving from 3 to 4. Volcanoes held steady at 2, even though Mount St. Helens seems ready to blow again.

IRV in San Francisco

We're trying to get Instant Runoff Voting back in Ann Arbor, which was the first US city to use it back in 1975. You can read about IRV and how you can support us at our web site. The NY Times has an article today about San Francisco's using IRV in its elections this fall.

It's not working, aWol

Fallujahcide continues. From the NY Times:
Meanwhile Thursday, the United States targeted a suspected terrorist safehouse in Fallujah, killing at least four Iraqis. The military said in a statement that intelligence reports indicated the house was being used by followers of Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to plan attacks against U.S.-led forces and Iraqi citizens.

"Significant secondary explosions were observed during the impact indicating a large cache of illegal ordinance was stored in the safe house," the statement said. Explosions continued in the northeastern side of the city for hours.

At least four Iraqis were killed -- including two women and one child -- and eight wounded, said Dr. Ahmed Khalil of the Fallujah General Hospital. Witnesses said two houses were flattened and four others damaged in the strike.

American jets, tanks and artillery units have repeatedly targeted al-Zarqawi's network in Fallujah in recent weeks as U.S.-led forces seek to assert control over insurgent enclaves ahead of elections slated for January. The military says the attacks have inflicted significant damage on the network, which has claimed responsibility for a series of bombings, kidnappings and other attacks.
Well, either the highlighted portion isn't true, or it is. If not true, it is just one further piece of evidence that the Bush administration and their sycophants in the military are lying sacks of Cheney. If it is true, they're still lying sacks of Cheney. Because if they have inflicted significant damage on Zarqawi's network, then that network isn't nearly as big a part of the Iraqi resistance as the Bushies try to claim. If it were, and it were experiencing significant damage, then the attacks on the US military and their quisling Iraqi stooges would be declining, which they clearly are not. The paragraphs above were taken from deep within the Times article, the headline of which was Dozens Killed in Multiple Bombings in Baghdad.

By the way, the Iraqi blogger "Riverbend" said this last week:
Our politicians are outside of the country 90% of the time (by the way, if anyone has any news of our president Ghazi Ajeel Al Yawir, do let us know- where was he last seen or heard?).
Well, he showed up on CNN recently:
In recent weeks, U.S. forces have also launched regular airstrikes on the town of Fallouja, west of Baghdad, which is controlled by Sunni Muslim insurgents. Although U.S. military operations supposedly are coordinated with Iraqi leaders, the Americans' increasing reliance on air attacks drew criticism Tuesday from the U.S.-backed interim Iraqi president.

Drawing a parallel between U.S. tactics in Iraq and Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, President Ghazi Ajil Yawer said the U.S. strikes were viewed by the Iraqi people as "collective punishment" against towns and neighborhoods.

Footage of injured and dead women and children being pulled from bombed buildings "brings to mind Gaza," Yawer said in an interview on CNN.
Sounds like the help is getting uppity, George, just like Noriega and Saddam did. What are you going to do this time, George? Re-invade Iraq?

Juan Cole remarks on Al-Yawir's statement:
Collective punishment was a Nazi tactic during World War II, and was forbidden as a tool to occupying powers in the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. Al-Yawir's condemnation of the US use of the tactic is the strongest to date from a high-level Iraqi politician. The comments seem likely to create a diplomatic crisis, and bode ill for Bush administration plans to pursue a scorched earth campaign against Fallujah and other cities in al-Anbar province in November. Al-Yawir is from a Sunni tribal background.
Let's hope that the sentence that I highlighted is true. I'd say that it's more likely that Al-Yawir will "regrettably" be killed by a car bomb in the near future--that is, if he ever returns to Iraq.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Let's Move On, Guys!

The presidential race was finally leaving Vietnam behind, but now MoveOn decides it's time to release Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry, which MoveOn says "is a beautiful and inspiring portrait of Kerry and Vietnam, but it's bigger than that: it's a gripping, powerful film about how our country wrestles with war." Maybe so, but IRAQ should be the big loser for Bush, not Vietnam. I realize they're stuck with a candidate who finds it very difficult to make Iraq an issue, but sending him back to Vietnam one more time doesn't help.

One amendment is safe

The second amendment, that is. While barricades, cameras, sneak-and-peek searches and other fascist measures have intruded on the already limited rights of the semi-citizens of the District of Columbia over the past few years, they have regained the right to shoot each other:
The House voted Wednesday to end a 28-year ban on handgun ownership in the nation's capital, brushing aside pleas from city officials concerned about a surge in violence and more heavily armed criminals.
The legislation would lift the ban on handgun ownership. It also would allow people to have other weapons, including semiautomatic rifles, that are not illegal under federal law.

The measure would mean an end to requirements that firearms be registered and that rifles and shotguns kept in people's homes be stored unloaded and disassembled or unlocked.
I'll confess that I'm not as anti-gun as I was five years ago, when I thought that gun violence was the greatest threat to my life and liberty. Now, I see the government taking over that role, and start to see some sense in the second amendment.

I saw a picture a month or two ago of British troops dismantling an anti-aircraft gun that was on the roof of a building in Najaf. And I knew they weren't dismantling it because they were concerned about bombing raids from Iran or Syria or Russia or al Qaeda. If Najaf was to be bombed from the air, it would be Brits or Americans doing it. And they wouldn't want any interference with that. I also saw Americans from Bush Sr. through Clinton and on to the current cabal foaming at the mouth with the desire to invade Iraq. But they waited until they were absolutely sure that Iraq was effectively disarmed, after a war, 12 years of sanctions, seven years of inspections, and another four months of inspections, before they went ahead with the invasion. Our government does not insist that other countries disarm in order to protect us--it is to prevent those countries from defending themselves if and when we invade. And I guess if the right to bear arms is the only right the Bushies are going to leave to us, maybe we shouldn't give it away too easily. On the other hand, having weapons didn't keep the government from killing people at Ruby Ridge or Waco. I don't own a gun and probably never will. But it took John Ashcroft's attack on civil liberties for me to finally see some sense in John Ashcroft's defense of gun rights. And frankly, I'm not at all happy about that.


Oil down slightly for first time in 10 sessions.

Worst reason ever for opposing the war

These are the people picking our pResident:
"Kerry doesn't know what the working-class people do; he hasn't done any physical labor all his life," Sharon Alfman, a 51-year-old cook in New Lexington, Ohio, told a New York Times reporter. It's true. Kerry is a rich boy. But then she added: "Bush's values are middle-class family values."
Demonstrating that stupefying ignorance can be bipartisan, another Ohioan interviewed for the same article said she is against the war in Iraq because, like 42 percent of her fellow Americans, she thinks Iraq was behind 9/11: "We shouldn't be over there building them back up because they didn't build our towers back up." She is wrong on so many levels that it makes my brain hurt.
-- From Ted Rall. I met some extremely poor people on the streets of Caracas last spring, who had clearly been drinking, and who were speaking quickly in Spanish, which I barely understand. But I am convinced beyond any doubt that these Venezuelans had a far greater understanding of what is going on in the world than the majority of American voters do.

Delusion Rules

Here's another great column from former Moonie Times writer Paul Craig Roberts (I've figured out why he's "former," the Moonie Times (aka Washington Times) part I don't understand).
The US might be a superpower, but it is not a country that controls its own fate. Delusion does.

Much of the US public is deluded about the invasion and occupation of Iraq and its consequences and about the state of the US economy.

Just as Americans are deceived into believing that Iraq was involved in the September 11 terrorist attack on the US and threatened America with weapons of mass destruction, Americans are deceived into believing that they benefit economically from outsourcing, offshore production, and an unprecedented trade deficit.

The deceivers emphasize the lower prices, not the lost incomes and destroyed careers, that result when American workers are replaced by cheaper foreign labor. The deceivers allege that the trade deficit means that we get to consume more of the world's goods than we produce, with the added benefit that foreigners pay for our excess consumption by investing in America.

The truth of the matter is that "foreign investment" in the US today consists of Asian central banks, mainly Japan and China, using surplus earnings from massive trade surpluses to prop up the US dollar by purchasing US government bonds.

By propping up the dollar, Asians keep their goods and services cheap, thus worsening the US trade deficit. Washington goes along because Asian countries use their export surpluses to finance the US budget deficit.
It is inevitable: America's mounting debts will produce a crisis. The dollar's value will plummet, and US living standards will drop. Everything will become more expensive for Americans.

The perilous condition of the dollar is one of the reasons Bush invaded Iraq. What keeps the overvalued dollar up is the fact that it is the currency in which the Middle East bills its oil. Every country has to purchase dollars in order to pay for its oil, and these purchases keep the dollar afloat.

Just prior to the US invasion, sanctions on Iraqi oil had run their course and were about to be removed. Saddam Hussein intended to bill Iraqi oil in Euros, which could have started the abandonment of the dollar by the oil producing countries. Instead of fixing our economic problems, we started a war.
The REST of the story.

Getting the most from retirement

A funny story, via Polizeros (no other attribution given as to whose story it is):
Working people frequently ask retired people what they do to make their days interesting. So here's a story.

I went to the supermarket the other day. I was only in there for about 5 minutes. When I came out there was a city cop writing out a parking ticket.

I went up to him and said, "come on, buddy, how about giving a senior a break?" He ignored me and continued writing the ticket. I called him a worthless municipal employee. He glared at me and started writing another ticket for worn tires.

I called him a blue suited imbecile. He finished the second ticket and put it on the windshield with the first, then he started writing a third ticket.

This went on for about 20 minutes. The more I abused him the more tickets he wrote. I didn't care. My car was parked around the corner and this one had a "Bush-Cheney" bumper sticker on it. I try to have a little fun each day now that I'm retired. It's important at our age.

Kerry getting there, one very slow, very awkward step at a time

From AP:
"We should not have gone into Iraq knowing today what we know," Kerry told ABC. "Knowing there was no imminent threat to America, knowing there were no weapons of mass destruction, knowing there was no connection between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein, I would not have voted to support war."
Good going, John! Seriously! You have finally realized that being a flip-flopper is preferable to being a stubborn stay-the-course ignoramus, something you have no chance of beating Bush on anyway.

Now John, just because those of us who haven't jumped on your bandwagon have finally gotten you to go this far, don't expect us to jump gleefully on now. First off, we're wondering how we can trust someone who defended his vote last month, already knowing those three things, when the only thing that has changed since then are the poll numbers. Secondly, we still have to wonder about either your intelligence or your integrity if you EVER seriously believed that Iraq was an imminent threat to America or that there was a connection between 9/11 and Saddam. Even the WMD stuff was clearly questionable two years ago, but the "threat" and the 9/11 connection were clearly bogus. You didn't ever really believe that crap, did you John? I guess right now I'm hoping that it's your integrity that's lacking, and not your intelligence. Nobody with integrity gets this far in politics, but brainiacs like Carter and Clinton are somewhat preferable to morons like Reagan and Bush.

Most importantly, John, is what are you going to do about it? Now that you finally say that you would have voted against the war, does that mean that you now recognize it as illegal? And doesn't that mean that you should END IT, not try to drag some accomplices in on it for appearances?

Israel continues to kill in Gaza

While the Guard's away, the 'canes will play

Wayne Madsen wonders why Florida's National Guard is off getting shot at for no apparent reason in Iraq when they're needed back home:
There are clearly not enough professional and trained disaster recovery people in Florida to deal with the current spate of hurricanes. Most of the most critical Guard and Reserve units, particularly medical and civil affairs personnel, have been called up to Iraq. The only thing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has managed to do was cordon off my mother's neighborhood and refuse to allow anyone to retrieve belongings from damaged buildings until FEMA deems them structurally sound. Knowing Jebbie Bush and his billionaire friends, the Gulf front buildings are likely to be condemned to make way for expensive beachfront condos.

I consider the repeated disaster response SNAFUs in Florida to be Jebbie's and Dubya's fault. Neither Jebbie nor his brother cannot [sic] be allowed to claim any credit for adequately responding to this unprecedented series of hurricanes, which are obviously caused by global warming. Moreover, the global warming reason for the unprecedented series of destructive hurricanes in the Atlantic is something the educationally-challenged Dubya has called "silly science."
Last year, California and other western states faced huge fires while many of their trained firefighters were stuck in a quagmire ten thousand miles away.

And who's going to shoot the protesters at Kent State, George??? Have you thought of that? (Unfortunately, I'll bet that's one thing he has thought of.)

It sounds like a joke, but...

Al Gore gives Kerry advice on how to debate Bush. And it's pretty good:
Senator Kerry can also use these debates to speak directly to voters and lay out a hopeful vision for our future. If voters walk away from the debates with a better understanding of where our country is, how we got here and where each candidate will lead us if elected, then America will be the better for it. The debate tomorrow should not seek to discover which candidate would be more fun to have a beer with. As Jon Stewart of the "The Daily Show" nicely put in 2000, "I want my president to be the designated driver."
If Mr. Bush is not willing to concede that things are going from bad to worse in Iraq, can he be trusted to make the decisions necessary to change the situation? If he insists on continuing to pretend it is "mission accomplished," can he accomplish the mission? And if the Bush administration has been so thoroughly wrong on absolutely everything it predicted about Iraq, with the horrible consequences that have followed, should it be trusted with another four years?

The biggest single difference between the debates this year and four years ago is that President Bush cannot simply make promises. He has a record. And I hope that voters will recall the last time Mr. Bush stood on stage for a presidential debate. If elected, he said, he would support allowing Americans to buy prescription drugs from Canada. He promised that his tax cuts would create millions of new jobs. He vowed to end partisan bickering in Washington. Above all, he pledged that if he put American troops into combat: "The force must be strong enough so that the mission can be accomplished. And the exit strategy needs to be well defined."

Comparing these grandiose promises to his failed record, it's enough to make anyone want to, well, sigh.

Fallujacide continues

The WSWS has a good article on the daily terror bombing of Fallujah. Excerpt:
The overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people are deeply hostile to the US subjugation of their country. The daily US abuses and killing of Iraqis are simply adding to the reservoir of anti-US sentiment and providing a fresh stream of recruits and sympathisers to the various armed resistance groups. The methods used by the US in Iraq are no different from the Nazi occupiers during World War II or the colonial powers of the 19th century: their aim is not to win over the Iraqi people, but to cow them into submission.

What's left of Najaf's old city is being demolished

According to two letters Juan Cole received.
Did you realise they are demolishing the old city of Najaf, just like that?! This is an act of unbelievable vandalism and ignorance, and it is in the style of Saddam.

Time to Flip-flop, Mr. President

From Juan Cole:
Many in the CIA have concluded that "There's no obvious way to fix it. The best we can hope for is a semi-failed state hobbling along with terrorists and a succession of weak governments."

When you are deep in a hole, the first rule is to stop digging. Whatever Bush has been doing in Iraq for the past 18 months demonstrably has not worked. He desperately needs a change of mind on these policies. He needs to try something else.

The image of him giggling about Kerry changing his mind on Iraq takes on a chilling aspect when you think of him as Captain Joseph Hazelwood of the Exxon Valdez. Hazelwood told the helsman to steer right and then went to bed. The helsman didn't steer far enough right, and plowed into the Bligh Reef and disaster. Part of the reason was that corporate cost cutting had left the ship without radar. If you think about it, in fact, a wrecked oil tanker is a good image of Bush administration Iraq policy.

Bush should stop slapping his thigh and guffawing about that flipflopper Kerry and being to think seriously about changing his mind on some key policies himself. Otherwise, an Iraq as failed state could pose a supreme danger to the United States, the kind of danger that the Bligh Reef posed to the Exxon Valdez.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Pakistani Khan Jobs

So many scandals, so little time. Two involving our "allies" in Pakistan seem to have dropped off the radar screen: Scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan’s sharing nuclear technology with Iran, Libya, North Korea (and who knows who else?), and the disclosure that Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, an al Qaeda agent who had been turned, had been captured in order to score a few political points just before John Kerry's speech at the Dem convention.

Just in case you've forgotten.

Meet the new boss; same as the old boss

A friend in need

Fifteen Saudis (and four others) gave their lives (and about 3000 others) to rescue Bush's foundering pResidency in September 2001. Three years later, the Saudis still got his back: Saudis to Boost Oil Production Capacity as Price Hits $50. From what I've read, however, the Saudis won't be able to make a huge dent in the oil squeeze this time. They were pumping pretty fast and furious already.

Makes sense to me

The blogger currently known as Whatever it is I'm Against It has a theory:
I have a theory. Colin Powell said Sunday about the Iraqi insurgency: "Yes, it’s getting worse, and the reason it's getting worse is that they’re determined to disrupt the election." My theory: what if the reason the Bushies are insisting on a totally unrealistic deadline for sham elections is to provide just this excuse for their failure to get the insurgency under control?
Why, that would mean that they are totally unscrupulous in addition to being completely incompetent! Since that hypothesis matches all currently available data, I'd suggest that it is far closer to the truth than most current theories.

I don't think you can do anything sincerely, Tony

Blair apologizes for being an idiot, but not for being a criminal:
"And the problem is, I can apologize for the information that turned out to be wrong, but I can't, sincerely at least, apologize for removing Saddam," Mr. Blair said, adding, "The world is a better place with Saddam in prison, not in power."
The same could be said for you, sir, if you were in prison. Lock Blair, Bush, Putin and Saddam all in the same spider hole, and the world would be much better off.

Ordering Pizza

Xymphora is a really good blog! Here are selections from some recent posts.

On Pakistan's contributions to the "war on terror:"
Pakistan, with the assistance of the Bush administration, continues to successfully stage-manage its supposed rounding up of al Qaeda members, all handled perfectly to depict Pakistan as a strong American ally in fighting the war on terror, and ensuring that the American aid money keeps flowing. Do the math: Musharraf talked on the telephone with George Bush on February 24, 2003, and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was allegedly captured on March 1; Musharraf met with Bush on September 22, 2004, and Farooqi was allegedly killed on September 26. It's like ordering pizza.

On the aerial bombardment of Iraqi cities:
The Americans are losing, and losing badly. They are not just losing the battle of hearts and minds, as that part of the war was lost a long time ago. They are also not suffering under the PR problems that you would think would be caused by ever increasing numbers of American casualties, as those statistics are either hidden from the American public or apparently are of no concern to it. They are actually losing in the good old fashioned way that would have been understood by the Ancient Greeks. Each time they have a battle, the Americans suffer more debilitating casualties than the resistance. The Americans are losing for the simple reason that they are running out of troops. This explains the more and more ridiculous stories we see of attempts to deal with the lack of American troops. It also explains the reliance on aerial bombardment of civilians. Aerial bombardment is completely useless against the resistance, who are highly mobile and simply evacuate the area, leaving the women and children and old men to die under American bombs. If these bombs are killing any members of the resistance, it is by sheer luck. The increasing American reliance on the war crime of aerial bombardment reflects the desperation of an army that is out of answers. With every battle it cedes more and more ground to the resistance, and suffers a disproportionate number of casualties. The Americans can no longer even afford to fight the resistance in the mano a mano fights that might lead to American success, as the Americans can no longer afford to take the rates of casualties they would suffer. They can't replace the troops they would lose. Each case of aerial bombardment increases the fury of the Iraqi people, and thus the size and determination of the resistance. It is a vicious cycle the Americans can't hope to win.

The attack on Iraq has turned into one of the main embarrassments in American military history. Bush has based his whole election campaign on fighting the war on terror by fighting the war in Iraq, so he has no possible exit strategy. It will be interesting to see how much permanent damage he does to the American military. Once the neocons have tired of Iraq, it's on to Syria and Iran. Will there be enough of an American army left to fight these new illegal wars? How much will the draft help? Will the draft undermine the success of the completely volunteer army? Will the American Empire be over before it has a chance to begin?

Are you better off than you were four years ago?

Bush fails on Reagan's question when it comes to health care:
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS.MW) -- A new report suggests Americans are worse off than they were four years ago in terms of their ability to afford and maintain medical coverage.
Yeah, but on everything else, he fails even worse! So stop complaining! Four more years!

(Don't worry; that's my freeper parody.)

Welcome to New Europe

Where the train collects damages from the person it runs over:
Railway demands cash from man who was paralyzed after being run over by train
Poland's state railway is claiming compensation from a man who caused delays to its services by being run over by a train -- but said it may forgive the debt after learning his house had burned down. "We are acting in accordance with article 415 of the Civil Code, seeking damages from a person who caused delays in rail traffic," a spokesman said yesterday. Pawel Banaszek, 19, who was paralyzed in the August, 2003, incident, caused $738 worth of losses because of delays. Half the amount was written off and he was paying the rest in $28.70 monthly installments from his $215 disability pension. Gazeta Wyborcza said the man was beaten up in a bar fight and left for dead on the rails, but court officials said there was no conclusive evidence a fight had taken place. Prosecutor Robert Strzeminski said, "We didn't have any evidence of a beating ... so we had to treat it as a simple train accident."
I'd say Banaszek could use a good trial lawyer about now.

Kucinich calls for hearings BEFORE the election

IraQuagmire is a catastrophic success. You can send faxes to members of the House Subcommittee for National Security following the procedure given here. (Unfortunately, not one of those one-click things!)

Will your kid pay for her own college--before she gets to kindergarten?

Four-year-old Marla Olmstead painted those. I'm no expert, but they certainly wouldn't look out of place at the Ann Arbor Art Fairs. Marla's painting have already sold for more than $40,000.

An open letter to Michael Moore

The Socialist Equality Party candidate for Congress from my district has written Mikey a letter, asking him to reconcile the strongly anti-war, anti-corporate sentiments of Fahrenheit 911 and his other work with his support for John Kerry.

From David Horsey.

While Horsey's sarcasm about this sort of ridiculous attack ad is on target, the question in the last frame makes me think: Was Lincoln really a good choice? Was a war that resulted in the death of 620,000 Americans and wounding of over a million more really the best option for 1861? (And those are just military casualties.) Slavery had been abolished relatively peacefully in the British Empire some three decades earlier, and the economics of southern slavery were already failing. American slavery might well have collapsed after secession, and the southern states might have returned to the Union anyway. There might have been less animosity, much of which has wrongly been directed at the "freed" slaves and their descendants in the last 140 years. In 1860, there were close to four million slaves in the United States. Today, there are somewhere around one million African Americans in prison, and probably three times that many who are on probation or otherwise under the control of the criminal justice system. Like Saddam Hussein, American slavery was a very bad thing. But, also like Saddam, time was not on the side of slavery, and its decline was very likely if not inevitable without a war. Also, some 36,000 African-American soldiers died fighting on the Union side, and I'm sure there were many more on the Confederate side as well (counting personal slaves, cooks and the like, as well as some who actually served as soldiers).

Also, just as ridding Iraq of a tyrant was not the original stated reason for the current war, neither was freeing the slaves Lincoln's stated reason for prosecuting the civil war--preserving the union was. Even the emancipation proclamation didn't actually free any slaves, since it technically only applied to areas that were currently not under federal control. (Sort of like Iraqi "sovereignty," it was a publicity stunt.) I believe that Honest Abe was more honest than Bush as the quagmire of the Civil War dragged on for four years; I think he pretty much stuck to "preserving the union" as the main reason--the emancipation proclamation was much more a tool to help win the war than a reason for it. But Lincoln could have chosen not to challenge secession militarily, and thereby at least postponed America's bloodiest war.

I'm not totally anti-Abe, although I've read articles by people who are. But to suggest that he was for sure the best choice for 1860, or that his policies were best for that time, is certainly highly debateable. Slavery had to go, but it seems pretty likely that there may have been ways to accomplish that which didn't kill hundreds of thousands of people and left smoldering animosities which linger to this day. (And, BTW, slavery still exists in America today, and I'm not just talking about Wal-Mart.)

From Joe Heller.

From John Trever.

From Rob Rogers.

Anyone know if Rob Rogers of Pittsburgh is really Gary Larson? His people really look like Far Side people.

From Kevin Siers.

From Clay Bennett.

From Jeff Parker.

From Mike Keefe.


NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Oil prices remained above the $50 a barrel mark early Tuesday, a day after piercing the milestone for the first time, on fresh threats to Nigerian exports.

In electronic trading, U.S. crude futures climbed 47 cents to $50.11 a barrel, although that was off the record $50.47 it reached earlier in the day.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Blog rolling

A couple of selections from the Bush Wars blog:
On the wild fluctuations in polls:
In other words, the trouble with the polls this time involves a fundamental problem of definition. Electoral polls always depend on a set of assumptions about who is and who isn’t a “likely voter.” But this year--owing to the near-unfathomable combination of a widely despised president who threatens to draw out enormous numbers of people who don’t usually vote, and a challenger who seems intent on convincing them to stay home--no one has any clear idea of who’s going to show up on November 2.
On the Kerry campaign "strategy:"
The question was never whether this election would be a referendum on Bush--that was bound to be the case--but whether John Kerry and the Democrats would be the ones telling that story to the people. Here is a summary of Kerry's line on the Bush scandals:
  • Tax cuts: I am not a tax-and-spend liberal!
  • Economy: Not too good. Everyone can see that, right? But there is this offshore tax break I'd eliminate...
  • Iraq: I would conduct needless and immoral foreign invasions more responsibly.
  • Cronyism: Huh?
It's impossible to see how diehard partisans of the Democrats can endure this campaign without learning a thing or two, but they seem to be holding up thus far. Their collective wailings and gnashings fall along two main lines: Kerry is regrettably timid, or Kerry is hewing to the "middle" to woo those fabled centrist swing voters. Indeed, some true-blue Dems (the clinically delusional ones) still rise to defend Kerry's craven non-strategy of standing back in the weeds while Bush, theoretically, sinks Bush.

There's just one trouble with all three critiques: They assume that the men and women charting the course of the Democratic party are some of the dumbest people on earth. Can they not see that this election offers dramatic and even unprecedented potential for galvanizing anti-Republican reaction and bringing new voters out of the woodwork?

Of course they can see this. They refuse to act on it because new blood would mean new demands of a very old sort on a political machine that has spent the past generation trying to rid itself of public association with "special interests," in this case meaning the people. Who needs the headache of taking them back aboard? Better to keep on flouting them and hope they will vote for you anyway, out of desperation. The voters that Democrats thereby leave on the table are their traditional base. But no more.

But they could win so easily. Yes. So what? Given the choice between winning what might prove an unruly victory and running yet another me-too campaign that will likely lose (but without upsetting their real base, which consists largely of the same funding sources as the Republicans), they take the second path every time. The Democrats are not stupid. They are cynical. They have no interest in changing the rules of the game, and toward that end they are even more loath than Republicans to invite new people into the "process."

World War III may have to wait

From AP:
Israel would not be able to destroy Iran's nuclear installations with a single air strike as it did in Iraq in 1981 because they are scattered or hidden and intelligence is weak, Israeli and foreign analysts say.

Israeli leaders have implied they might use force against Iran if international diplomatic efforts or the threat of sanctions fail to stop Iran from producing nuclear weapons.
Recent Israeli weapons purchases could be crucial in a possible strike.

In February, Israel received the first of 102 American-built F-16I warplanes, the largest weapons deal in its history. Military sources say the planes were specially designed with extra fuel tanks to allow them to reach Iran.

In June, it signed a $319 million deal to acquire nearly 5,000 U.S.-made smart bombs, including 500 "bunker busters" that can destroy six-foot concrete walls, such as those that might be found in Iranian nuclear facilities.

Military and strategic analysts in Israel and abroad say even with the new weaponry, Israel lacks the ability to carry out a successful strike against Iran's nuclear installations.
The article never even hints that, conversely, Iran has no real hope of being able to destroy Israel's long-established nuclear weapons program either.

Catastrophic Sovereignty

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- U.S. jets pounded suspected Shiite militant positions in the Baghdad slum of Sadr City on Monday, killing at least five people and wounding 40. Elsewhere, insurgents detonated two car bombs, killing seven members of the National Guard in the latest attacks targeting Iraq's beleaguered security forces.
It's probably not in the definition, but it seems as though a nation might be said not to possess full sovereignty when it's capital city is being bombed by a foreign power daily and that power has 130,000 troops occupying the country.

Saturday is new billboard day!!!

The Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace has rented two billboards for October:

On I-94 near Belleville Road, visible to westbound traffic.

US-23 near Whitmore Lake Road, visible to southbound traffic.

Loved by all in Iraq

"Riverbend," the Iraqi woman who writes the blog Baghdad Burning, is not a big fan of our pResident, nor his Iraqi stooge:
I prepared myself for several minutes of nausea as Bush began speaking. He irritates me like no one else can. Imagine long nails across a chalk board, Styrofoam being rubbed in hands, shrieking babies, barking dogs, grinding teeth, dripping faucets, honking horns all together, all at once and you will imagine the impact his voice has on my ears.
She's right about the styrofoam. Eeewww! She continues:
You know things are really going downhill in Iraq, when the Bush speech-writers have to recycle his old speeches. Listening to him yesterday, one might think he was simply copying and pasting bits and pieces from the older stuff. My favorite part was when he claimed, "Electricity has been restored above pre-war levels..." Even E. had to laugh at that one. A few days ago, most of Baghdad was in the dark for over 24 hours and lately, on our better days, we get about 12 hours of electricity. Bush got it wrong (or Allawi explained it to incorrectly)- the electricity is drastically less than pre-war levels, but the electricity BILL is way above pre-war levels. Congratulations Iraqis on THAT!! Our electricity bill was painful last month. Before the war, Iraqis might pay an average of around 5,000 Iraqi Dinars a month for electricity (the equivalent back then of $2.50) - summer or winter. Now, it's quite common to get bills above 70,000 Iraqi Dinars... for half-time electricity.
I can't seem to decide what is worse- when Bush speaks in the name of Iraqi people, or when Allawi does. Yesterday's speech was particularly embarrassing. He stood there groveling in front of the congress- thanking them for the war, the occupation and the thousands of Iraqi lives lost... and he did it all on behalf of the Iraqi people.
Allawi actually said "thank you" nine times. Nine times. It really should have been more- at least double that number of Iraqis died yesterday... and about five times that number the day before. Looking back on the last month alone, over 350 Iraqis have been killed either by American air strikes, fighting, or bombs... only 9 thank yous?

The elections are already a standard joke. There's talk of holding elections only in certain places where it will be 'safe' to hold them. One wonders what exactly comprises 'safe' in Iraq today. Does 'safe' mean the provinces that are seeing fewer attacks on American troops? Or does 'safe' mean the areas where the abduction of foreigners isn't occurring? Or could 'safe' mean the areas that *won't* vote for an Islamic republic and *will* vote for Allawi? Who will be allowed to choose these places? Right now, Baghdad is quite unsafe. We see daily abductions, killings, bombings and Al-Sadr City, slums of Baghdad, see air strikes... will they hold elections in Baghdad? Imagine, Bush being allowed to hold elections in 'safe' areas- like Texas and Florida.
Yeah. Imagine.

Why did Jeanne kill 2000 in Haiti?

Kevin Pina has one of the reasons. Excerpt:
One of the first victims of the campaign of political reprisals the population met upon suspected Aristide supporters, under the direction of the "freedom fighters" in Gonaives, was the destruction of the Biwo Pwoteksyon Civil or Civil Protection Office. This politically benign institution had been established in cooperation with the local municipal government by grants provided by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and administered through the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF). PADF's own website confirms this, "PADF's emergency response and reconstruction efforts are complemented by community training in disaster preparedness. Mitigation training promotes the development of civil action plans that enable communities to identify priorities and reinforce key infrastructure. Last year, 23 local civil protection committees were formed and over 5,000 people were trained in disaster awareness, leading to safer communities." Unfortunately, with the first disaster of the destruction of constitutional authority in Haiti, ushered in by Washington, Paris and Ottawa, all of those hard earned tax dollars USAID invested in preparing for the type of calamity that just hit Haiti were wasted as well.

It is exactly this type of disaster in northern Haiti that USAID and PADF's programs were set up to manage. There were components that monitored incoming tropical storms and provided an advanced warning and preparedness network designed to plan a response BEFORE disaster struck. Plans included advising communities in advance of approaching storms and preparing for them by storing large supplies of drinking water, food, medical supplies and portable tents for those displaced from their homes. When Tropical storm Jeanne hit these structures no longer existed and all of the trained and competent participants in the program had long been driven out of the area and their offices pillaged and burned. No where was this more evident than in Gonaives where many associated with the Aristide government and his Lavalas party, were reportedly dragged through the streets and burned alive.

Instead of reasserting control of the State and rebuilding the necessary infrastructure that was destroyed following the coup of February 29th, Latortue followed a policy of benign neglect and accommodation with thugs in the region that has led to needless death and suffering in the wake of Tropical Storm Jeanne. In all fairness, the fault does not lie exclusively with the US-installed government. The Bush administration shoulders much of the blame for the current situation with an ill-conceived regime change that has replaced what they considered a failed state with an even more failed state.

Sprawl Kills

From AP:
A report to be released Monday found that people who live in areas with a high degree of sprawl are more likely to report chronic health problems such as high blood pressure, arthritis, headaches and breathing difficulties compared to residents in less sprawled-out areas.

The differences remained even when researchers accounted for factors such as age, economic status and race.

"People who live in more sprawling areas are more likely to have chronic health problems over time," said Roland Sturm, co-author of the report by Rand Corp., a nonprofit research group. "People drive more in these areas, they walk less."

Researchers said the findings suggest that an adult who lives in a sprawling city such as Atlanta, Georgia, will have health characteristics similar to someone four years older, but otherwise similar, who lives in a more compact city like Seattle, Washington.

Hurricane Jimmy hits Florida

Our best ex-president ever takes on the ongoing scandal of the Florida election system:
The disturbing fact is that a repetition of the problems of 2000 now seems likely, even as many other nations are conducting elections that are internationally certified to be transparent, honest and fair.
some basic international requirements for a fair election are missing in Florida.

The most significant of these requirements are:

• A nonpartisan electoral commission or a trusted and nonpartisan official who will be responsible for organizing and conducting the electoral process before, during and after the actual voting takes place.
• Uniformity in voting procedures, so that all citizens, regardless of their social or financial status, have equal assurance that their votes are cast in the same way and will be tabulated with equal accuracy. Modern technology is already in use that makes electronic voting possible, with accurate and almost immediate tabulation and with paper ballot printouts so all voters can have confidence in the integrity of the process. There is no reason these proven techniques, used overseas and in some U.S. states, could not be used in Florida.

It was obvious that in 2000 these basic standards were not met in Florida, and there are disturbing signs that once again, as we prepare for a presidential election, some of the state's leading officials hold strong political biases that prevent necessary reforms.

Four years ago, the top election official, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, was also the co-chair of the Bush-Cheney state campaign committee. The same strong bias has become evident in her successor, Glenda Hood, who was a highly partisan elector for George W. Bush in 2000. Several thousand ballots of African Americans were thrown out on technicalities in 2000, and a fumbling attempt has been made recently to disqualify 22,000 African Americans (likely Democrats), but only 61 Hispanics (likely Republicans), as alleged felons.
Florida's governor, Jeb Bush, naturally a strong supporter of his brother, has taken no steps to correct these departures from principles of fair and equal treatment or to prevent them in the future.

It is unconscionable to perpetuate fraudulent or biased electoral practices in any nation. It is especially objectionable among us Americans, who have prided ourselves on setting a global example for pure democracy. With reforms unlikely at this late stage of the election, perhaps the only recourse will be to focus maximum public scrutiny on the suspicious process in Florida.
-- Jimmy Carter, in an op-ed from today's Washington Post.

Another great quote

I don't think that Iraq will have a perfect election.

And if I recall looking back at our own election four years ago it wasn't perfect either.
-- General John Abizaid, on NBC's Meet the Press yesterday, via Liberal Oasis.

I never realized how thoughtful we are here in America: Lowering our electoral standards so that Iraq can meet them. Makes you proud, doesn't it?

Meanwhile, on ABC's This Week, Colin Powell said that the U.S. will be overtly supporting certain candidates in the Afghan and Iraqi elections, and refuses to discuss whether we'll be covertly supporting them as well. I wonder if bombing the candidates we don't like will be considered overt or covert.

Good Quote

"How are nations ruled and led into war? Politicians lie to journalists and then believe those lies when they see them in print." -- Karl Wiegand, an Austrian journalist writing after World War I, via A Tiny Revolution.

Carnage Counter

Juan Cole keeps track of the violence in Iraq.


More debate questions

  • Mr. President: You opposed creating a Department of Homeland Security. You supported creating a Department of Homeland Security. You opposed the 9/11 Commission, then you supported the 9/11 Commission. Do you still stand by these positions?
  • Mr. President: As governor of Texas, you arranged for land to be taken away from its rightful owners in Arlington so that a new stadium could be built for the Rangers. The city then raised taxes to pay for the building of the stadium. With this new stadium practically given to them, the Rangers were able to sign Alex Rodriguez to the biggest contract in baseball history: $250 million. A-Rod has now donated $2000 to your campaign, as have many of the owners and executives of the Rangers. Isn't democracy a wonderful thing?
  • Mr. President: Who pays for your family's health care?
  • Mr. President: Over thirty years ago, your opponent asked Congress a poignant question: "How do you ask someone to be the last to die for a mistake?" So, Mr. President, I'd like to know how YOU intend to do that, and, more importantly, WHEN.

So many state crimes, so little time

Some of the outrages that slipped through the cracks here at Bob's Links and Rants:

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Whatever it is, I'm against it writes movingly about how Tony Blair lost almost all of his remaining support in Britain with his callous handling of the hostage situation.

Only in America

From Boondocks. I would add that Kerry himself was the one who tied his hand behind his back and forgot to wear his cup and ear protectors. Also, that he got to fight for the championship over eight better fighters by an arcane boxing technicality known as the Iowa caucuses. Not to mention that his opponent inexplicably got a bye to the finals despite being the most incompetent and dishonest boxer ever.

Organic Taste Fest

Today in Ann Arbor!
Twice as large as last year, this fest features free samples of a wide range of organic food and organic food products. Also, sale of food, clothing, soaps, and more. Live bluegrass by the Ambitious Brothers (10:30 a.m.-noon) and blues piano by Al Hill (noon-2 p.m.). Farmers' Market. Free admission. 769-9841.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Who's killing who in Iraq?

Nancy Youssef of Knight Ridder has the distressing answer:
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Operations by U.S. and multinational forces and Iraqi police are killing twice as many Iraqis - most of them civilians - as attacks by insurgents, according to statistics compiled by the Iraqi Health Ministry and obtained exclusively by Knight Ridder.

According to the ministry, the interim Iraqi government recorded 3,487 Iraqi deaths in 15 of the country's 18 provinces from April 5 - when the ministry began compiling the data - until Sept. 19. Of those, 328 were women and children. Another 13,720 Iraqis were injured, the ministry said.

While most of the dead are believed to be civilians, the data include an unknown number of police and Iraqi national guardsmen. Many Iraqi deaths, especially of insurgents, are never reported, so the actual number of Iraqis killed in fighting could be significantly higher.

During the same period, 432 American soldiers were killed.

Iraqi officials said the statistics proved that U.S. airstrikes intended for insurgents also were killing large numbers of innocent civilians. Some say these casualties are undermining popular acceptance of the American-backed interim government.
"The Americans do not care about the Iraqis. They don't care if they get killed, because they don't care about the citizens," said Abu Mohammed, 50, who was a major general in Saddam Hussein's army in Baghdad. "The Americans keep criticizing Saddam for the mass graves. How many graves are the Americans making in Iraq?"

At his fruit stand in southern Baghdad, Raid Ibraham, 24, theorized: "The Americans keep attacking the cities not to keep the security situation stable, but so they can stay in Iraq and control the oil."

From Matt Davies.

From Don Wright.

From Bruce Plante.

From Mike Lane.

Comical Allawi--the Resume

Ken Layne has it. Excerpts:
Allawi, a secular Shiite from a wealthy merchant family, was a spy and -- maybe! -- assassin for Saddam Hussein. As a high-ranking officer in the dreaded Mukharabat, the Ba'athist secret police, he was Saddam's friend, colleague and eventual rival. His Baghdad medical degree is said to be phony; the Ba'ath Party gave it to him so he could travel Europe on a World Health Organization grant and infiltrate Arab student groups.

Dr Haifa al-Azzawi knew Allawi well in his youth: "No one who studied medicine in Baghdad in the 60s could have forgotten that Ba'athist bully boy. He walked around the campus with a pistol in his belt and chased women students. His medical degree is bogus."
It has long been known that he works every side: MI6, the Ba'ath Party, CIA, UN, Saudi intel, Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, oil companies in the region (where he made his personal fortune), Allawi's own Iraqi National Accord, etc. He was supposed to lead a coup against Saddam in 1995 or 1996 (dates vary), backed by Clinton's White House. It was a $40-million operation, with support from the CIA and several MidEast states. Allawi blabbed to the Washington Post that a coup was on the way. This got back to Saddam very quickly, and Saddam tortured and murdered 800+ army officers believed to have some link to Allawi.

Allawi also headed a CIA-financed terrorist group operating within Iraq.. It was responsible for a number of terror attacks in the mid-1990s, including the bombing of a movie theater full of people, newspaper offices and public buses, as well as the usual car bombings. (Yes, he's a terrorist, but he's our terrorist. For now, at least.)

In 2002, Allawi played his crucial role in the war buildup by delivering a frightening (and fake) report to British Intelligence. The report, allegedly from an Iraqi officer, claimed that Saddam could deploy WMDs within 45 minutes.
Sounds like W's kind of guy!

Friday, September 24, 2004

Wal-Mart was selling "Protocols of the Elders of Zion"

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Bowing to a barrage of complaints from Jewish groups, retail leader Wal-Mart Inc. has stopped selling "The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion," an infamous anti-Semitic tract long exposed as fake.

Jewish leaders had complained that the book, which purports to tell of an international Jewish conspiracy to take over the world, was being sold on with a description that suggested it might be genuine instead of a forgery concocted by the Czarist secret police in the early 20th Century.
Wal-Mart intends to sell an appropriately anti-Islamic book in its place. (Not really! Sorry! I just made that part up!)

As I recall, "Protocols" was widely believed and cited by notorious anti-Semites like Hitler and Henry Ford.

My actual comments on this: Anti-Semitism sucks. Zionism sucks. Banning books sucks. Peddling hate sucks. Wal-Mart sucks. Hitler and Henry Ford used to suck, but now they're dead.

PS: If you really want a copy of the "Protocols," Barnes & Noble sells it. They do state clearly that it is "plainly and simply a plagiarized forgery." Interestingly, people who bought "Protocols" from B & N also bought Rumsfeld: A Personal Portrait. Makes sense to me!

Debate Questions

Via Michelle, I found out that the Rude Pundit is asking people to come up with the one devastating question that will destroy Bush in the upcoming debates. I'm not sure if my ideas would qualify, but they sure are fun to come up with! These are my questions:
  • Mr. President: Was there something Oedipal in your rejection of the sound reasons your father gave for not marching on Baghdad in 1991, when Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, and your proceding to invade in 2003, when he had none?
  • Mr. Bush: We've all heard the touching story about how you gave up drinking. Could you please tell us the story about how you gave up cocaine? If you did give up cocaine, that is.
  • Mr. President: Please explain to the families of the 1050 American war dead and 8000 wounded how they are better off with Saddam out of power.
  • Mr. Bush: Are you really this stupid, or is it all just an act? We've got a bet going back at the office.
  • Mr. President: Your father said that people who disclose the identities of CIA agents are the most insidious of traitors. One of these traitors has been operating in your administration for over a year now. Why haven't you done something about it?
  • Mr. President: You enjoy the power of incumbency, you've raised more money than any candidate in history, and you've got one of the shrewdest and meanest political operatives ever running your campaign. Your opponent, old horseface over there, went to the same school, was a member of the same club, has utterly failed to differentiate himself from you or your policies, and has all the charm of an overripe banana. Still, the polls indicate that the race is a dead heat. Doesn't this suggest to you that you are, as Dick Gephardt would say, a miserable failure?
  • Mr. President: Will you be sneaking into Baghdad for Thanksgiving breakfast again this year? And will you be serving plastic turkey again, or will it be lame duck?
  • Mr. President: Will Jenna and Barbara be exempted from the draft when you reinstate it early next year?
  • Mr. President: Today, the air force bombed a house in Drambuie, claiming that al a Bama terrorists who had crossed the border from Krudekistan were using it as a base of operations. Several women and children were killed, and others injured. Are these attacks really necessary? (Hint: A trick question to see if he has any clue at all. If not, is he so heartless as to kill innocent fictional women and children in a fictional city to help rid it of a fictional terrorist organization based in a fictional country?)
  • Mr. Bush: Your campaign chairman, Marc Racicot, wouldn't tell John Stewart what the October surprise is going to be? Will you tell us?
  • Mr. Bush: Do you intend to try to steal the election again if you lose again? What steps has Jeb taken so far in Florida to guarantee your victory there?
  • Mr. Bush: Do you believe in the rapture, and are your policies deliberately designed to bring on the apocalypse?


Record closing high for crude oil futures. An intraday record of $49.40 was set on August 20, but the close was lower.

Quote du Jour

I saw this on the Daily Show last night, and then again on one of Kerry's new ads ("Right track"). From Bush's Rose Garden press conference with Comical Allawi:

BUSH: I saw a poll that said the right track/wrong track in Iraq was better than here in America.
As John Stewart said, "Mr. President, I don't think that helps you."


What, me worry?

Eli at Left I on the News quotes Mad Magazine's Alfred E. Newman: "When you can keep your head when others about you are losing theirs...maybe you don't understand the gravity of the situation." Which, I think, is the all-too-accurate caption for this photo:


Counterpunch's Quote of the day:
"We know we can't count on the French. We know we can't count on the Russians. We know that Iraq is a danger to the United States, and we reserve the right to take pre-emptive action whenever we feel it's in our national interest."

John Kerry, CNN, 1997

Groundhog Day

As Jeanne heads towards a Sunday collision with Florida, Jeb Bush is understandably getting tired:
"Sometimes it feels like this is a test of resiliency for our state," Bush said. "Other times I feel like I'm Bill Murray in 'Groundhog Day.'"
I'll bet the people of Fallujah feel the same way, as hurricane George and tropical storm Ayad hit them day after day after day.

And, while Ivan hits the Gulf coast again, Karl and Lisa are plotting their devious courses, and inside intelligence indicates that Charley and Frances have rented an apartment together in suburban Virginia, and may be plotting to re-form and hit New York and Boston on election day. Developing...

Homeland Insanity

From the Ann Arbor News:
An 83-year-old Ann Arbor woman carrying a sign was cited by federal authorities Tuesday for sitting on a concrete barrier outside the downtown federal building on Liberty Street during a noontime war protest.

Carolyn Diem was issued a ticket for "not conforming with signs and directions" after she refused orders from federal security agents to stand on the sidewalk with other citizens protesting the war in Iraq. Diem said she often attends the weekly protests on the southwest corner of the Liberty Street and South Fifth Avenue intersection and usually stands on the sidewalk.

However, on Tuesday, she said, she was weary from the heat. Moments after sitting down, two uniformed security agents and two private security guards approached her and told her to move from federal property or face a citation and possible arrest, Diem and witnesses said.

Security officials at the federal building declined comment and referred questions to a spokesperson from the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, who did not return calls from The News Wednesday.
I've known Carolyn for a couple of years from various protests and meetings. If Tom Ridge thinks Carolyn is a security threat, I guess I can understand the Cat Stevens thing. Carolyn works hard for peace and justice. She's also an American citizen; so federal property is her property.

The sign she was holding said "War cripples and kills. Choose Life."

Too bizarre for words

The Bush-Allawi press conference was so surreal I would have thought that everyone's watch would have gone limp and draped itself over a White House balcony. Like Zell Miller at the Repug convention, Bush and Allawi stood there and boldly told lie after lie after lie, proudly proclaiming their failures as successes, calling the people they are supposedly liberating "enemies" and "terrorists," calling increasing violence "improving security," and so on.

Allawi: Our intelligence is getting better every day. You have seen that in the successful resolution of the Najaf crisis and in the targeted attacks against insurgents in Fallujah.
Yeah, successful resolution:

Not to mention the "targeted attacks" against that ambulance in Fallujah which killed the driver, the paramedic, and the five passengers.
Allawi: In 15 out of 18 Iraqi provinces, the security situation is good for elections to be held tomorrow.
Juan Cole answers that ridiculous assertion.
Q Mr. President, you say today that the work in Iraq is tough and will remain tough. And, yet, you travel this country and a central theme of your campaign is that America is safer because of the invasion of Iraq. Can you understand why Americans may not believe you?

PRESIDENT BUSH: No. Anybody who says that we are safer with Saddam Hussein in power is wrong. We went into Iraq because Saddam Hussein defied the demands of the free world. We went into Iraq after diplomacy had failed. And we went into Iraq because I understand after September the 11th we must take threats seriously, before they come to hurt us.
I'd say that Bush is fairly convincing here. I have no doubt that he doesn't understand--I believe his "No." It takes intellect and an open mind to understand such things.

To his credit, NBC's Jim Gregory presses Bush, just to make sure that he doesn't understand:
Q Sir, may I just follow, because I don't think you're really answering the question. I mean, I think you're responding to Senator Kerry, but there are beheadings regularly, the insurgent violence continues, and there are no weapons of mass destruction. My question is, can you understand that Americans may not believe you when you say that America is actually safer today?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Imagine a world in which Saddam Hussein were still in power. This is a man who harbored terrorists -- Abu Abbas, Abu Nidal, Zarqawi. This is a man who was a sworn enemy of the United States of America. This is a man who used weapons of mass destruction. Going from tyranny to democracy is hard work, but I think the argument that says that Saddam Hussein -- if Saddam Hussein were still in power, we'd be better off is wrong.
Look here, numbskull. I've lived the majority of my life in a world in which Saddam Hussein was in power. I don't need to "imagine" it; I can recall it. And while it was certainly no picnic, especially for Iraqis, it is certainly arguable that things were better for a lot of people then than they are now. Certainly your buddy Rumsfeld saw some advantage in not only keeping Saddam in power, but increasing his power, and both your father and vice pResident gave fairly convincing arguments for why they chose to leave Saddam in power in 1991. You, you lame-brained sadistic idiot, have taken a bad situation and made it much worse.

And, when the press gets a little better, Bush gets a lot worse:
Q Sir, I'd like you answer Senator Kerry and other critics who accuse you of hypocrisy or opportunism when, on the one hand, you put so much stock in the CIA when it said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and now say it is just guessing when it paints a pessimistic picture of the political transition.


Q And I like to, if you don't mind, follow on something the Prime Minister just said. If General Abizaid says he needs more troops and the Prime Minister says he does not want more troops, who wins?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me talk to General Abizaid. As I said, he just came in to see me, and I want to make sure -- I'm not suggesting any of the reporters here might be taking something out of context -- that would never happen in America. But, nevertheless, I do want to sit down and talk to him about it. Obviously, we can work this out. It's in the -- if our commanders on the ground feels it's in the interest of the Iraq citizens to provide more troops, we'll talk about it. That's -- that's why -- they're friends; that's what we do about friends.

First part of the question -- oh, yes, yes --

Q They say you've been opportunistic --

PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes, got it. Listen, the other day I was asked about the NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE, which is a National Intelligence Estimate. This is a report that talks about possibilities about what can happen in Iraq, not probabilities. I used an unfortunate word, "guess." I should have used, "estimate." And the CIA came and said, this is a possibility, this is a possibility, and this is a possibility. But what's important for the American people to hear is reality. And the reality is right here in the form of the Prime Minister. And he is explaining what is happening on the ground. That's the best report. And this report was written in July, and now we are here in September, and as I said, "estimate" would have been a better word.
Glad he cleared that up.

I can't do this anymore; if you need a good chuckle or outrage, YOU can read the rest of the transcript.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Lowering the Barr

I'm confused about former Republican Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia. I know that he was one of the Repugs who went after Clinton the hardest. Looking through the ACLU archives, he seems to have pretty consistently had a 0% record of voting with the ACLU. He voted for the Patriot Act in 2001. But after he was voted out of office in 2002, he (along with fellow Repug Dick Armey) immediately went to work for the ACLU. He was featured in the film "Unconstitutional" talking, apparently sanely and coherently, about the abuses of power of John Ashcroft and (I think) about how bad the Patriot Act is.

What's up with that? I mean, I'm glad that the ACLU has members from across the political spectrum, but a 0% record and voted for the Patriot Act? What sort of civil libertarian credentials are those?


That's the total U.S. killed number to date. It didn't stop at 1000, I guess.

Lies, lies, lies

From Zeynep at Under the Same Sun:
However, it’s also clear that there are two things Iraq needs desperately in order to get things under control: withdrawal of the occupying troops and the election of a legitimate government. Increasing our troop presence would hurt, not help, matters. And while a crackdown by a hand-picked, CIA-agent led government can appear to pacify things for short periods of time, it’s clear that short of a massive outbreak of state violence the resistance cannot be crushed by military means.

I think it’s become very clear over the summer -- following on the heels of Abu Ghraib, Najaf and Fallujah -- that an accommodating occupation was not going to be possible. The Bush camp probably only wants to delay whatever will be done in terms of “pacifying” the country until after the U.S. election. The Kerry camp had been attempting to run to the right of the Bush White House, a strategy that has failed spectacularly and one they are perhaps reconsidering.

This is not to say things will become all peaches and cream in Iraq as soon as we leave. That country clearly faces a long, tough road ahead. Our presence, however, is a detriment to possibility of democracy and security in Iraq. The real question on the table is when and how we’ll leave. The later we leave, the more problems we’ll leave behind not to mention more dead people on all sides.
Here's a comment to that post:
What is happening in Iraq now is the 'original plan'. There never was a plan to build a democratic Iraq. A strong democracy for the Iraqi people would threaten the interests of American global capital in this strategically important energy producing region.

I would go as far as saying that American policy is a direct copy of the Israeli's racist occupation of the Palestine West Bank and Gaza that has been going on for 37 years - turning Palestine into 'cantons' where a people are seperated from their farms, schools and hospitals and left to rot in poverty. And where their homes are destroyed to create 'free-fire zones'. For Hebron, Ramallah, Nablus read Falluja, Ramadi, Najaf.

What is happen in Iraq is the plan, but can America and Britain sustain the occupation for 37 years?
I'm afraid that's about right. The troops who died before "major combat operations" ended died for the original lie--Iraq's phantom WMD's. Those who have died since, and those who will die between now and our election, are dying for the lie of Iraqi democracy. After Bush steals the election (and probably if Kerry wins as well), the curtain will fall. American troops will move to heavily guarded bases outside of Iraqi cities, protecting only the oil fields and facilities and the borders. The rest of Iraq will revert to 2002--no fly zones, de facto sanctions, occasional terror bombings to keep the Iraqis scared and compliant. Heck, we've got Saddam locked up, ready to take over again if the population gets too uppity (although Allawi seems perfectly capable of assuming Saddam's role). American casualties will drop precipitously, and troop levels may even be reduced. This will be enough to keep most Americans from realizing that in the end it WAS all about the oil.

From Tom Toles.

$49 a barrel

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS.MW) -- Crude-oil futures resumed their climb toward a record high Thursday afternoon, even rising as high as $49 a barrel, with requests from refiners to borrow oil from U.S. reserves expected to do little to calm the market.

Crude for November delivery was up 65 cents at $49 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices neared $49.40, the highest level ever recorded on the exchange. Earlier, the contract fell to a low of $47.50.
It looks like oil may go above the $50 mark at about the same time the Dow drops back below 10,000. Short-term predictions are difficult, but in the longer term of a few months to a few years, I think $50 will seem impossibly low for oil, and 10,000 impossibly high for the Dow. Those rapture index options seem like the best investment right now.

He's Baaack!

Ivan, that is. Hitting the Gulf Coast. Again.

Meanwhile, Jeanne may be heading for Florida after killing thousands in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico, while Karl and Lisa are warming up in the bullpen.

I think I'll invest in rapture index options. Ken Lay said he'd sell me some.

Why is Paris Hilton more famous than Stanley Hilton?

Stanley Hilton is the lawyer suing the Bushies for causing 9/11 and unconstitutionally passing the Patriot Act and taking us to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. I blogged about his case yesterday; here's a lot more about it, via Cyndy. I'd say that what Stanley Hilton says makes a lot more sense than "they hate us for our freedoms." There's a reason that W's administration is the most secretive in history; they've got a lot to hide.

Catastrophic Success Continues

Iraq Violence Kills at Least 24, Wounds over 100; Sistani Criticizes Election Plans. Juan Cole has all the depressing details (or encouraging details, if you're Bush or Allawi).

It wasn't the way W. did it. It was what he did.

I wasn't really a Maureen Dowd fan, but I'm getting there. Today's op-ed is absolutely on target, and without the excessive cuteness that frequently plagues her columns. Here's part of it:
We have, as Mr. Kerry says, a president and vice president who are "in denial" in a fantasy world, and who are guilty of "colossal failures of judgment." W. did "hitch his wagon to the ideologues who surround him, filtering out those who disagreed, including leaders of his own party and the uniformed military."

America's credibility in the world has plummeted, as Mr. Kerry says, just at the time we have to deal with the truly scary spokes in the "axis of evil": the ones who are a real nuclear threat, not an imaginary one.

Yet Mr. Kerry's case has a hollow center. He was asked at his press conference on Tuesday about W.'s snide reminders that his rival gave him authority to go to war (and, playing frat pledge to W.'s rush chairman, inanely agreed that he would still have voted to give that authority even if there were no W.M.D.).

That vote, he replied, was correct "because we needed to hold Saddam Hussein accountable for weapons. That's what America believed."

Not all Americans.

The administration rolled the Democrats on the authorization vote. It was clear at the time that going after Saddam to punish Osama made no sense, that Cheney & Co. were going to use Saddam as a lab rat for all their old neocon agendas. It was clear, as the fleet sailed toward Iraq, that the Bush crew had no interest in diplomacy - that it wanted to castrate the flaccid U.N., the flower child Colin Powell and his pinstriped State Department, snotty Old Europe, and the despised Saddam to show that America is a hyperpower that is not to be messed with.

As I quoted a girlfriend saying in September 2002, a month before Mr. Kerry's authorization vote, "Bush is like the guy who reserves a hotel room and asks you to the prom."

When Mr. Kerry says it was the way the president went about challenging Saddam that was wrong, rather than the fact that he challenged Saddam, he's sidestepping the central moral issue.

It was wrong for the president to take on Saddam as a response to 9/11, to pretend the dictator was a threat to our national security, to drum up a fake case on weapons and a faux link to Al Qaeda, and to divert our energy, emotions and matériel from the real enemy to an old enemy whose address we knew.

It was wrong to take Americans to war without telling them the truth about why we were doing it and what it would cost.

It wasn't the way W. did it. It was what he did.

Cool green events in Ann Arbor!

Sunday, September 26: "Organic Taste Fest": Ann Arbor Artisan Market. Twice as large as last year, this fest features free samples of a wide range of organic food and organic food products. Also, sale of food, clothing, soaps, and more. Live bluegrass by the Ambitious Brothers (10:30 a.m.-noon) and blues piano by Al Hill (noon-2 p.m.). Farmers' Market. Free admission. 769-9841.

Saturday, October 2: Solar Tour 2004. "An all-volunteer effort to educate the public about renewable energy and sustainable building options in Washtenaw County, Michigan. Part of the American Solar Energy Society's 9th Annual National Solar Tour, the main event is an "open-house" style tour of over twenty facilities demonstrating use of renewable energy and/or sustainable building practices." More info.

Yeah, like this will solve global warming

From International Truck and Engine Corporation's press release:
What hauls six tons, can seat a football team’s offensive line and, for kids over 20 who miss playing with trucks in the sandbox, is the ultimate toy for extreme work and play? The International CXT, the world’s biggest production pick-up truck for commercial business owners and the newest truck from International Truck and Engine Corporation.
For people who want to make a statement while driving in luxury, try a customized black International CXT with ghosted green flames that has a leather interior with wood grain trim, reclining captain chairs, a fold-down bench that can be used as a bed, an overhead compartment with drop-down DVD, an XM satellite premium radio system and a rear-mounted camera for increased visibility behind the vehicle.

"The International CXT is a truck for businesses that want to promote themselves as much as perform," said Rob Swim, director, vehicle center marketing strategy, International Truck and Engine Corporation. "While there is nothing tougher or more extreme on the market than the International CXT, it is as much a statement of success as it is performance. If you brought this truck to the playground, you’d be king of the dirt pile."
By the way, "CXT" stands for "Commercial Extreme Truck." Nine feet high, eight feet wide, 21 feet long, 14,500 pounds, $115,000. Made in Texas. Probably eats Hummers for breakfast.

I wonder what this will do to the rapture index? Sure seems like a "mark of the beast" to me.

Every needle stuck in Haiti voodoo doll

At the start of the year, Haiti was one of the poorest nations on earth. Then, because democratically-elected president Aristide was not being sufficiently servile in executing Washington's neo-liberal agenda (give us your wealth, your resources, and your labor, and maybe we'll let you live), murderous "rebels," holdovers from the tyrannical Duvalier days, were encouraged by the US and France to rampage through the country, killing hundreds or thousands of Haitians in the process. Once they had looted the country and surrounded Aristide in Port-au-Prince, US, French and Canadian troops swooped in to "protect" the country. Aristide was kidnapped and whisked off to Africa, and the poor Haitians were left in the hands of the brutal terrorists, both Haitian and foreign. Then in May, massive floods killed hundreds more, and in September, Jeanne comes through and causes flooding which may have killed 2000.

I've been listening to a book-on-CD recording of Noam Chomsky's "Hegemony or Survival," which has lots of details about the various criminal interventions by the U.S. in impoverished countries around the globe. It used to be more common to hear debates about the pros and cons of "globalization" versus "isolation" or "protectionism;" but the Republicrat neo-liberal politician and media machine has mostly drowned that out. Bill Clinton probably deserves most of the blame for that; not only did he benefit from anti-neolib candidates Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan draining votes from his Republican opponents, but he put a persuasive and supposedly liberal face on the neolib policies. He got NAFTA and the WTO passed, something Bush Sr. or Bob Dole might have had trouble doing. But on this issue, I think Perot and Buchanan (and Chomsky and Kucinich) are right. The "benefits" to Americans of globalization are highly debateable. Yes, there's lots of cheap crap for sale at Wal-Mart, but it's also much harder to get a good job. But the real concern, for me, is the unmitigated DISASTER that globalization is for poorer countries around the world. If they more or less meekly submit to being raped, like Mexico, Argentina and Jamaica, they just slowly go broke and lose their freedom. If they decide to try a different path, like Guatemala in the 1950's, Cuba, or Nicaragua in 1979, they face brutal unending state-sponsored terrorism from the U.S. If they try a little of each, like Aristide did, they end up with the worst of both worlds.

So I get pretty furious reading op-eds like Nicholas Kristoff's yesterday, where he blithely chastises Kerry for "demagoguery on trade," which unfortunately has no basis in reality. Kristoff says that Kerry's concern about outsourcing "harms America by undermining support for free trade." I am amazed at how many Americans believe the free-trade crap. I will concede only that there have possibly been some minimal benefits to some Americans (outside the filthy-rich elite) from NAFTA, the WTO, the World Bank, the IMF, and so on. In the long run, I don't think these outweigh the negatives here at home. But when the damage done to the lives of billions around the world by these policies is considered, it is criminal to even think that they could be "worth it." Pat and Ross and Dennis and Noam are right; Bill and Al and George and John and Nicholas are wrong. "Free trade" is three things: Rape, pillage, and murder.

Woman killed by falling cross

ROME, Italy (Reuters) -- A 67-year-old woman was killed when a three-meter (10-foot) tall metal crucifix fell on her head in a small southern Italian town on Wednesday, police said.

The cross, which has been in the main square on Sant'Onofrio for decades, fell on Maddalena Camillo while workers were setting up lights for an annual religious festival.
No word yet as to whether there is any connection between that story and this one:
KALISPELL, Montana (AP) -- Two people who were reported killed in a plane crash on Monday emerged alive from rugged Montana wilderness Wednesday, authorities said.

From Paul Conrad.

From Matt Davies.

From Henry Payne.

Delusional is In!

"War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength." -- Big Brother

"Losing is Winning." -- Comical Allawi, aka Baghdad Ayad:
Iraq's interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, using his robust self-confidence to try to counter growing pessimism over conditions in his country, said in an interview on Wednesday that the rise in the number and ferocity of terror attacks in the country by insurgents was proof that they were getting not stronger, but weaker.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

What a difference a year makes

From Josh Marshall:
"A year from now, I'll be very surprised if there is not some grand square in Baghdad that is named after President Bush."

Richard Perle
AEI Keynote speech
September 22, 2003
Okay, so no Bush Square in Baghdad. Maybe they could name this street in Najaf after him.


I saw Unconstitutional, Robert Greenwald's latest documentary about the continuing crime that is the Bush administration, at a special showing sponsored by the ACLU last night. Quality 16 Theater owner Bob Goodrich donated the theater space for the evening. Greenwald himself was there for the screening, and answered questions afterward. I can't say I learned much new from the film, but it probably wouldn't hurt to share it with friends and relatives currently living in blissful ignorance. You can get a copy from the ACLU here, or, if you're local, you can borrow mine!

Speaking of unconstitutional, the Transportation Security Administration wants to get its hands on all airline passenger records for June:
The data will vary by airline. It will include each passenger's name, address and telephone number and the flight number. It may also include such information as the names of traveling companions, meal preference, whether the reservation was changed at any point, the method of ticket payment and any comment by airline employees, like whether a passenger was drunk or belligerent in encounters with airline personnel.
The scene from "Unconstitutional" that got the biggest applause from the ACLU crowd last night was the one showing the librarian shredding patron records. Apparently, none of the airlines respect their customers that much. Northwest, which dominates flights from Detroit, turned over their records to TSA voluntarily.

Wouldn't want to be impolite

From AP:
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, when asked his reaction to the Bush speech, said: "I think it's very important what Kofi Annan said about the rule of law in the 21st century, so I don't want to go more into the details, because this would be very unpolite."

It's the Oil, Stupid

Jerri forwarded me this interesting article by Canadian writer Linda McQuaig. Excerpt:
Canada plays a greater role in this "keep-the-U.S.-energy-beast-fed" scenario than many Canadians may realize. A three-volume report prepared by a bipartisan Congressional team and CSIS, the Washington think tank, highlights how important Canada is in the U.S. energy picture of the future. The report, The Geopolitics of Energy into the 21st Century, notes that Canada is "the single largest provider of energy to the United States," and that "Canada is poised to expand sharply its exports of oil to the United States in the coming years."

Fine as long as Canada doesn't want to change its mind about this. Well, in fact, Canada can't change its mind about this - a point celebrated in the report. When Canada signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993, we gave up our right to cut back the amount of oil we export to the U.S. (unless we cut our own consumption the same amount). Interestingly, Mexico, also a party to NAFTA, refused to agree to this section, and was granted an exemption.

The U.S. report points out that that, under NAFTA, Canada is not allowed to reduce its exports of oil (or other energy) to the U.S. in order to redirect them to Canadian consumers. Redirecting Canadian oil to Canadians isn't permitted - regardless of how great the Canadian need may be. Some outside observers, like Colin Campbell over in Ireland, find the situation striking. "You poor Canadians are going to be left freezing in the dark while they're running hair dryers in the U.S.," says Campbell. It's a situation that comforts the U.S. senators, congressmen and think-tank analysts who wrote the report. With obvious satisfaction, they conclude: "There can be no more secure supplier to the United States than Canada."

Alas, for the U.S., not every part of the world is as pliant as Canada. Most of the world's oil is in the Middle East. And while different oil regions will reach their production peaks at different times, the Middle East will peak last, underlying Cheney's point that the region is where "the prize ultimately lies." Whoever controls the big oil reserves of the Middle East will then be positioned to, pretty much, control the world.

But we're supposed to believe that, as the Bush administration assessed its options just before invading Iraq in the spring of 2003, the advantages of securing vast, untapped oil fields - in order to guarantee U.S. energy security in a world of dwindling reserves and to enable U.S. oil companies to reap untold riches - were far from mind. What really mattered to those in the White House, we're told, was liberating the people of Iraq.
Clinton, Cheney, Kerry--it's all about keeping us dependent on oil, and keeping the control of the oil in the hands of the wealthy masters.

BTW, the CSIS think tank mentioned in the article, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is the organization that put out Kissinger's statement about not rushing to follow the 9/11 Commission's recommendations. Small world, don't you think?

Why are they listening to this old war criminal?

From the NY Times:
With Congress moving hurriedly to respond to the Sept. 11 commission and shake up the nation's intelligence agencies, a bipartisan group of former secretaries of state and defense led by Henry A. Kissinger urged Congress on Tuesday to slow down and put off any legislation until after the November election.
The old genocider turned down heading the 9/11 Commission himself because he would have had to reveal his current client list of genociders. I don't know if what Kissinger is saying now has any validity, but he should have no standing in Congress or any body with pretenses to civility. Millions died in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Chile, East Timor, Bangladesh, and elsewhere because of this murderous old coot. The Unabomber, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Saddam Hussein should be allowed to testify before Kissinger does.

If you like your conspiracy theories large, this one's for you!

Before you think I'm some tinfoil hat-black helicopter-grassy knoll conspiracy nut, let me say that I'm about 35% convinced that what this guy says may not be true:
Our case is alleging that Bush and his puppets Rice and Cheney and Mueller and Rumsfeld and so forth, Tenet, were all involved not only in aiding and abetting and allowing 9/11 to happen but in actually ordering it to happen. Bush personally ordered it to happen. We have some very incriminating documents as well as eye-witnesses, that Bush personally ordered this event to happen in order to gain political advantage, to pursue a bogus political agenda on behalf of the neocons and their deluded thinking in the Middle East. I also wanted to point out that, just quickly, I went to school with some of these neocons. At the University of Chicago, in the late 60s with Wolfowitz and Feith and several of the others and so I know these people personally. And we used to talk about this stuff all of the time. And I did my senior thesis on this very subject - how to turn the U.S. into a presidential dictatorship by manufacturing a bogus Pearl Harbor event. So, technically this has been in the planning at least 35 years.
So who is this guy?
Stanley Hilton was a senior advisor to Sen Bob Dole (R) and has personally known Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz for decades. This courageous man has risked his professional reputation, and possibly his life, to get this information out to people.
What Hilton says sharply contradicts what Michael Ruppert says in his new book, Crossing the Rubicon:
1. I will name Vice President Richard Cheney as the prime suspect in the mass murders of 9/11 and will establish that, not only was he a planner in the attacks, but also that on the day of the attacks he was running a completely separate Command, Control and Communications system which was superceding any orders being issued by the FAA, the Pentagon, or the White House Situation Room;

2. I will establish conclusively that in May of 2001, by presidential order, Richard Cheney was put in direct command and control of all wargame and field exercise training and scheduling through several agencies, especially FEMA. This also extended to all of the conflicting and overlapping NORAD drills -- some involving hijack simulations -- taking place on that day.
So, I think that we need to change the debate in this country. Instead of discussing whether John Kerry earned all of his medals, or what possible relevance a few forged documents could have about Bush's "service" to the TANG in the '70's, the debate should focus on one and only one question: Who was the mastermind behind 9/11--George W. Bush or Dick Cheney?

Jeez, John, I was almost beginning to tolerate you

After his speech on Monday, which minimally gave him the "antiwar" label he so desperately needs and so obviously doesn't deserve, but which was still a small step in the right direction, John Kerry screwed up by opening his mouth again.
"If you don't have weapons of mass destruction, believe me, Saddam Hussein is a very different person," Kerry said. "That's what kept him in power. And I believe Saddam Hussein would not be in power. This president avoided approaching this in responsible ways, and it's a tragedy."
I guess if Bush is going to be delusional, Kerry has to out-delusional him. From the sources who were right about Iraq not having WMD before the war, the word is that all such weapons were probably destroyed by 1995. So Saddam stayed in power for eight years without the weapons Kerry says kept him in power.
Kerry did not directly answer a question about whether he agrees with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who called the Iraq war illegal. "I don't know what the law or legalities are," Kerry said.
Great. You're running to become the most powerful person in the world, and you don't know what the rules are. Don't they teach these clowns ANYTHING at Yale?

Here it is, numbskull:
All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
--UN Charter, chapter 1, article 2, section 4. An international agreement to which the US is a party to, in fact a charter member of, making it therefore, by the US constitution, the highest law of the land.

So, dimwit, how did you get this far without knowing about the UN Charter and the Constitution which you have sworn several times to uphold?

Bringing it home

Juan Cole responds to aWol's mindless optimism by asking us to imagine America being in Iraq's shoes. An excerpt:
What if the Air Force routinely (I mean daily or weekly) bombed Billings, Montana, Flint, Michigan, Watts in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Anacostia in Washington, DC, and other urban areas, attempting to target "safe houses" of "criminal gangs", but inevitably killing a lot of children and little old ladies?

What if, from time to time, the US Army besieged Virginia Beach, killing hundreds of armed members of the Christian Soldiers? What if entire platoons of the Christian Soldiers militia holed up in Arlington National Cemetery, and were bombarded by US Air Force warplanes daily, destroying thousands of graves and pulverizing the Vietnam Memorial? What if the National Council of Churches had to call for a popular march of thousands of believers to converge on the National Cathedral to stop the US Army from demolishing it to get at a rogue band of the Timothy McVeigh Memorial Brigades?
Spiro Agnew would have called Juan Cole a "nattering nabob of negativism." Yeah, well, Spiro was an idiot--he sort of combined the towering intellectual presence of Dan Quayle with the sunny disposition of Dick Cheney. Plus, he was stupid enough to get caught!

Two Speeches; World Still Screwed

If you've been reading my blog for long, you know that the World Socialist Web Site is one of my favorite sources for news and commentary. Today, they've got a good one-two punch; a critique of Kerry's speech Monday and Bush's speech Tuesday.

From the first:
The publication of editorials in influential newspapers and statements by key Republican senators signified that an official debate of the Bush administration’s conduct of the war is now being sanctioned by the political establishment. Having received this authorization, Kerry proceeded to deliver what amounts to, within the framework of bourgeois politics, a comprehensive condemnation of the policies of the Bush administration.
The essential content of this [Kerry's] indictment is that the president lied to the American people and that support for the decision to launch the invasion of Iraq was based on lies. But Kerry avoided the obvious conclusion that a war justified on the basis of lies lacks all legal foundation and must be opposed. Rather, Kerry developed his argument along very different lines.

Directing himself not to the broad mass of people who oppose the American occupation of Iraq, but to the ruling elite, Kerry developed his criticism of Bush to make the case for change in the political leadership of the war.

"At home," Kerry warned, "the American people are less likely to trust this administration if it needs to summon their support to meet real and pressing threats to our security."

Implied in this statement is that the Bush administration lacks the political credibility to mobilize public support should it become necessary to take more drastic measures to avoid defeat in Iraq or conduct other military operations—measures such as the reintroduction of the draft.

Far from representing the antiwar sentiments of millions of working people, Kerry’s speech is aimed at convincing the ruling class that his candidacy offers a means of avoiding disaster in Iraq.

The Kerry speech does not represent a repudiation of the war by the Democratic Party, but rather a proposal for its more effective prosecution.
From the second article, on Bush's speech:
President Bush’s address to the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday, together with a speech by his Democratic challenger in New York City a day earlier, provide a clear warning that the US policy of global military aggression will continue, no matter which of the two big business parties wins the November election.
The message, however, was essentially unchanged—a warning to the countries of the world that any one of them could be the next target for an unprovoked US "preventive war."

There was something obscene about the unelected US president, responsible for two aggressive wars and an unprecedented attack on civil liberties in the US itself, lecturing the world about "freedom," "democracy," "peace" and the "rule of law."

Bush's abuse of these terms can only be described as Orwellian. "Freedom" means submission to US domination; "democracy," the acceptance of a Washington-imposed puppet state; and the "rule of law," the subordination of all to the strategic interests of American capitalism.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

If you don't think God was mad at Florida for the 2000 election...

Check out this map! (Note that Ivan's path is projected; the actual path was to the west, with landfall at Gulf Shores, Alabama, just west of Escambia County in Florida.)

Greener than you think

Last November, I reviewed a rare old book for you: "Greener Than You Think," by Ward Moore. The sci-fi book describes a mutant strain of grass which grows out of control, resistant to all attempts to poison, burn, bomb, or nuke it. Written in 1947, it was a witty satire of human behavior, but could also be seen as a warning about genetic engineering long before anyone knew how to do that.

Well, the monsters at Monsanto and Scotts are attempting to infect us with "Roundup Ready" lawn grass. Apparently designed for golf courses, this mutant vegetation can withstand barrels full of Roundup weedkiller being dumped on it. The idea, of course, is that Roundup can then be used to kill the weeds while the grass thrives. Amazingly enough (you won't believe this!!!), Roundup is also made and sold by Monsanto and Scotts, the same people making this frankengrass!

So what's the problem? Well, this grass is hard to contain, with very light pollen. It will grow in places where people don't want it, and herbicides like Roundup won't kill it. It may also start sharing genes with dandelions or giant puppy-eating Venus flytraps, and we won't be able to eradicate those either. It also encourages excessive use of Roundup, which can have negative effects on the water supply and animals that come in contact with it. Not to mention ordinary plants unprepared for Monsanto's brave new world of GM insanity.

That these creeps continue to inflict this crap on us without any real controls or even voter approval is one of the many great crimes of recent years. Any one of these mutant plants could end up with just a bit too much of an advantage and run rampant, destroying biodiversity and threatening the food supply. Monsanto should be administered the corporate death penalty; this type of crap should NOT happen.

I think we win this year, Florida!

As far as who has the best weather, that is. We've had two weeks of non-stop gorgeous sunny weather here in Ann Arbor, and here's the forecast for the next ten days:

Great for my solar panels! I'm probably pushing fate here, but we'll have to have some sort of December blizzard to even come close to the mess of Charley, Frances and Ivan. If this continues, what will we call the Florida residents who come north for hurricane season? Blowbirds?


SAN FRANCISCO (CBS.MW) -- Crude futures closed above $47 for the first time in over a month Tuesday with traders expecting this week's U.S. petroleum reports to reveal hefty declines in crude supplies because of hurricane disruptions to output and shipments in the Gulf of Mexico.

Crapture Index

Michelle quotes from a Bill Moyers speech which talks about the multitudes of end-timers who plague this country:
How do we explain the possibility that a close election in November could turn on several million good and decent citizens who believe in the Rapture Index? That’s what I said – the Rapture Index; google it and you will understand why the best-selling books in America today are the twelve volumes of the left-behind series which have earned multi-millions of dollars for their co-authors who earlier this year completed a triumphant tour of the Bible Belt whose buckle holds in place George W. Bush’s armor of the Lord. These true believers subscribe to a fantastical theology concocted in the l9th century by a couple of immigrant preachers who took disparate passages from the Bible and wove them into a narrative millions of people believe to be literally true.

According to this narrative, Jesus will return to earth only when certain conditions are met: when Israel has been established as a state; when Israel then occupies the rest of its “biblical lands;” when the third temple has been rebuilt on the site now occupied by the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosques; and, then, when legions of the Antichrist attack Israel. This will trigger a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon during which all the Jews who have not converted will be burned. Then the Messiah returns to earth. The Rapture occurs once the big battle begins. True believers” will be lifted out of their clothes and transported to heaven where, seated next to the right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts and frogs during the several years of tribulation which follow.

I’m not making this up. We’re reported on these people for our weekly broadcast on PBS, following some of them from Texas to the West Bank. They are sincere, serious, and polite as they tell you that they feel called to help bring the Rapture on as fulfillment of biblical prophecy. That’s why they have declared solidarity with Israel and the Jewish settlements and backed up their support with money and volunteers. It’s why they have staged confrontations at the old temple site in Jerusalem. It’s why the invasion of Iraq for them was a warm-up act, predicted in the 9th chapter of the Book of Revelations where four angels “which are bound in the great river Euphrates will be released “to slay the third part of men.’

...One estimate puts these people at about l5% of the electorate. Most are likely to vote Republican; they are part of the core of George W. Bush’s base support.
So, I took him up on it, and googled "Rapture index." That took me to this page, which rates 45 categories on a scale from one to five. He adds them up to get a "rapture index." His all-time high of 182 was achieved shortly after one of George "Wapture" Bush's lengthy vacations, on September 24, 2001. The all-time low was in that miserable era of peace and prosperity (just kidding, I know better) called the Clinton era: December, 1993.

One of the many things interesting about this trip into the mind of the insane is that what is bad is good (although what they think is bad may differ from what you think is bad), since total chaos is a sign of the rapture, which they devoutly wish for. So, while he calls gay marriage a "scourge," he seems to relish in it since it raises the rapture index.

Anyway, if you want some clues into why the clueless W is as popular as he is, a lot of them are on the Rapture Ready web page.

PS: Here's one comment I thought was interesting. The "Mark of the beast" category was recently upgraded (more chaos, closer to rapture) for the following reason: "The push to replace bar codes product labels with radio tags has upgraded this category." I've been opposing these RFID tags ever since I first heard of them. Go get your rapture on some other planet, nutballs!

Howard Dean asks Bush about the draft

From Common Dreams:
President Bush will be forced to decide whether we can continue the current course in Iraq, which will clearly require the reinstatement of the draft. The Pentagon has objected to a draft but, the President has ignored other Pentagon recommendations in the past.

American families and young people are owed an explanation about the President's plans. Will the President withdraw from some of our military commitments or will he reinstate the draft? We need to know that before we vote, not afterwards.
Good question, Doctor. Have you asked your buddy Kerry the same question? It seems to me that when Bush actually suggested bringing a few troops home from Europe and Asia, Kerry was there to say it was a bad idea. And when old Europe and the rest of the world tell President Kerry to go Cheney himself when he asks them for troops for Iraq, will he withdraw from Iraq, or instead call for a draft? I didn't see an answer in his speech yesterday--maybe you can get one from him, Dr. Dean. We should know that before we vote, as well.

Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb said last week that he understood why some people who agree with the Green agenda were going to hold their noses and vote for Kerry. "All I ask," he said, "is that you don't pretend there isn't a stench." I'm afraid that's exactly what Dean is doing here.

Just to be clear...

Last week, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan declared that the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was illegal. Today, the main perpetrator of that crime goes to the U.N. and tells them a bunch of lies, and is allowed to walk out a free chimp.
They believe that suicide and torture and murder are fully justified to serve any goal they declare. And they act on their beliefs. In the last year alone, terrorists have attacked police stations and banks and commuter trains and synagogues and a school filled with children. This month in Beslan, we saw once again how the terrorists measure their success: in the death of the innocent and in the pain of grieving families. Svetlana Deibesov (ph) was held hostage, along with her son and her nephew. Her nephew did not survive. She recently visited the cemetery and saw what she called the little graves. She said, I understand that there is evil in the world, but what have these little creatures done?
What about Fallujah, you murderous hypocrite?

Clueless Condi

It's really scary that this idiot is the National Security Advisor.
Asked whether the administration was being candid on Iraq, U.S. national security advisor Condoleezza Rice said the assessment was an attempt to look at the big picture.

"That is no evidence that the Iraqis are falling into civil war. Quite the opposite. Kurds and Shia and Sunnis are working together to build a new Iraq," she told NBC's "Today" show.
Well, she's right about that. They're working together to throw us out.
"This insurgency has no political program. This is an anarchist insurgency. They simply either want to take Iraq back to the old days of Saddam Hussein or to turn Iraq into the Taliban," she added.
Hmmm...That sounds like TWO political programs, not no political programs. Pure nonsense, of course. Nobody could possibly imagine that a country would want to be free from oppression, especially foreign oppression, now could they, Condi?

Kosovo: A Slicker Crime

I blogged recently, here and here about how Clinon and Blair's NATO attack on Yugoslavia was a criminal enterprise similar to Iraq, but with a better cover story and neater execution (if you were on the sending rather than receiving end of the bombings, that is). Neil Clark in the Guardian describes the payoff:
The trigger for the US-led bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 was, according to the standard western version of history, the failure of the Serbian delegation to sign up to the Rambouillet peace agreement. But that holds little more water than the tale that has Iraq responsible for last year's invasion by not cooperating with weapons inspectors.

The secret annexe B of the Rambouillet accord - which provided for the military occupation of the whole of Yugoslavia - was, as the Foreign Office minister Lord Gilbert later conceded to the defence select committee, deliberately inserted to provoke rejection by Belgrade.

But equally revealing about the west's wider motives is chapter four, which dealt exclusively with the Kosovan economy. Article I (1) called for a "free-market economy", and article II (1) for privatisation of all government-owned assets. At the time, the rump Yugoslavia - then not a member of the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO or European Bank for Reconstruction and Development - was the last economy in central-southern Europe to be uncolonised by western capital. "Socially owned enterprises", the form of worker self-management pioneered under Tito, still predominated.

Yugoslavia had publicly owned petroleum, mining, car and tobacco industries, and 75% of industry was state or socially owned. In 1997, a privatisation law had stipulated that in sell-offs, at least 60% of shares had to be allocated to a company's workers.

The high priests of neo-liberalism were not happy. At the Davos summit early in 1999, Tony Blair berated Belgrade, not for its handling of Kosovo, but for its failure to embark on a programme of "economic reform" - new-world-order speak for selling state assets and running the economy in the interests of multinationals.

In the 1999 Nato bombing campaign, it was state-owned companies - rather than military sites - that were specifically targeted by the world's richest nations. Nato only destroyed 14 tanks, but 372 industrial facilities were hit - including the Zastava car plant at Kragujevac, leaving hundreds of thousands jobless. Not one foreign or privately owned factory was bombed.
Much more.

Welcome to the Windy City. We're watching you

From the NY Times:
Sophisticated new computer programs will immediately alert the police whenever anyone viewed by any of the cameras placed at buildings and other structures considered terrorist targets wanders aimlessly in circles, lingers outside a public building, pulls a car onto the shoulder of a highway, or leaves a package and walks away from it. Images of those people will be highlighted in color at the city's central monitoring station, allowing dispatchers to send police officers to the scene immediately.
Cell phone users wander aimlessly in circles all the time, smokers linger outside public buildings, as do people waiting for buses, taxis, or rides from friends.
This project is a central part of Chicago's response to the threat of terrorism, as well as an effort to reduce the city's crime rate. It also subjects people here to extraordinary levels of surveillance. Anyone walking in public is liable to be almost constantly watched.

"The value we gain in public safety far outweighs any perception by the community that this is Big Brother who's watching," Mr. Huberman said. "The feedback we're getting is that people welcome this. It makes them feel safer."
I guess, if you trust the people on the other end of the camera. I don't. Once they read this blog and determine that I'm a subversive, there will be no getting away. And that's what it's for.

There's money in disaster

I feel sorry for the people who lost their homes to hurricane Ivan, but when I read paragraphs like these, it seems as though a lot of disaster relief money is like going to someone who failed in a suicide attempt and buying him a package of new, sharp razor blades.
Chuck Norwood, the other real estate agent on the tour [of Gulf Shores, Alabama, where Ivan came ashore], pointed to the first sites he sold, battered adjoining wood houses on stilts on the shore.

"I was in seventh heaven in 1992 selling those lots for $235,000 and $238,500,'' Mr. Norwood said. "But that was just the beginning. I think that Ivan will make a lot of people who hesitated eager to sell or rebuild something new."

The post-Ivan construction will likely take the island into a new and sturdier level of construction, said Gregg Kennedy, the City Council member who was driving the truck. Mr. Kennedy is a general contractor.

"Just about every other bulkhead on the beach fell during Hurricane Danny, apart from mine," Mr. Kennedy said. "People will build stronger and bigger because they now know this is the right place."
Frederick, Danny, and Ivan certainly thought so.

The right place.

From Randy Bish.

Okay, someone is crazier than Cheney

From the clearly insane Wayne Stayskal.

From Steve Benson.

From John Trever.

From Jeff Stahler.

From Chris Britt.

From Clay Bennett.

From Tom Toles.

Digging a hole

Juan Cole nails it:
I just heard President Bush taunt John Kerry for suggesting that the US was not safer because Saddam Hussein was deposed, and for saying that the US was in fact less safe because of the chaos in Iraq.

Bush attempted to turn this statement around and suggest that Kerry was preferring dictatorship to democracy.
I have a sinking feeling that the American public may like Bush's cynical misuse of Wilsonian idealism precisely because it covers the embarrassment of their having gone to war, killed perhaps 25,000 people, and made a perfect mess of the Persian Gulf region, all out of a kind of paranoia fed by dirty tricks and bad intelligence. And, maybe they have to vote for Bush to cover the embarrassment of having elected him in the first place.

How deep a hole are they going to dig themselves in order to get out of the bright sunlight of so much embarrassment?

The week of clarity

It's a week of surprises. Yesterday, John Kerry finally made some sense. Today, NY Times columnist David Brooks also makes a lot of sense in his op-ed both praising and attacking Kerry. I agree with Brooks that Kerry's idea of internationalizing the quagmire is a pipedream; I disagree when he says that pulling out would be worse than staying. But I like his conclusion:
Finally, if the whole war is a mistake, shouldn't we stop fighting tomorrow? What do you say to the last man to die for a "profound diversion"?

But that is what the next few weeks are going to be about. This country has long needed to have a straight up-or-down debate on the war. Now that Kerry has positioned himself as the antiwar candidate, it can.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Once again, no mirrors in the White House
[Talking about John Kerry's latest speech,] Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, seemed gleeful at the engagement, saying: "The guy seems to have this belief that every time he speaks it's a blank sheet, and he doesn't have to worry about contradictory things he's said in recent days, weeks and months."

Crude Oil Back Up

$46.35. Russia's Yukos says it will stop shipping to China. The question now, I guess, is whether the Saudis can actually crank up their output one more time, or if prices will go shooting over $50 a barrel, bringing a tiny bit of reality home to the drivers of the SUV's with the Bush-Cheney stickers.

Boycott Baseball!

Tigers' owner Mike Ilitch, Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, Yankee star Alex Rodgriguez, and lots of other baseball execs and players have given large donations to the Bush campaign. Of course, the Texas Rangers were able to sign A-Rod to his $250 million contract (before trading him to the Yankees) in part because aWol, as Texas governor, arranged for the Rangers to steal some land for their stadium, and then get the taxpayers of Arlington to pay for it. Sort of like how recently he stole a bunch of land for oil, and is getting your grandkids to pay for it.

$15 Million Ransom for Urbina's Mother

From ESPN:
Kidnappers of Maura Villarreal, the mother of Detroit Tigers reliever Ugueth Urbina, reportedly are demanding a ransom of $15 million.

A phone call to the family in Venezuela confirmed the kidnappers' demand, according to the Venezuela Electronic News.

Urbina's mother was kidnapped Sept. 1, when men dressed as policemen entered her small Venezuelan farm and spirited her away. Urbina, 30, left the Tigers to go to Venezuela and has not returned to the team.

The men took Maura Villarreal from a house owned by Urbina in suburban Caracas on Wednesday, said Joel Rengifo, director of the country's anti-kidnapping police force.

Biodiesel for Christmas!

I missed this from the Ann Arbor News last month:
Ann Arbor will soon have its first two public biodiesel stations at local Meijer stores, as the city continues to lead the way to creating a more environmentally friendly transportation system.

The city recently received a $24,500 grant from the Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry Services energy office to partner with Meijer and the Michigan Soybean Council to construct two public biodiesel stations. Biodiesel is an environmentally cleaner alternative to diesel fuel.

One station will open before Christmas and the other will open in the spring, said Dave Konkle, the city's energy coordinator. One station will be built at the Meijer store on Carpenter Road and the other at the Meijer store at Ann Arbor-Saline Road.
I believe these will be B20 pumps, that is 20% biodiesel, 80% petrodiesel. I've currently got over half of tank of B100 in my VW which will probably get me into mid or late October, at which point I'll have to switch to B20 for the winter. Unless I take a long trip, one or two tanks of Meijer B20 will probably get me to spring!

For those readers not from the region, Meijers is a Michigan-based huge-box retail/grocery store chain, very similar to Wal-Mart in terms of what you can buy inside (and in their approach to unions). They seem to compete fairly successfully with Wal-Mart locally. I can't say I like them, but I dislike them less than Wal-Mart. I guess it's like Kerry versus Bush. Anyway, putting in the biodiesel pumps is a feather in Meijer's cap, as far as I'm concerned.

Never Forget

September 11… he sat there, reading the paper. As he reached out for the cup in front of him for a sip of tea, he could vaguely hear the sound of an airplane overhead. It was a bright, fresh day and there was much he had to do… but the world suddenly went black- a colossal explosion and then crushed bones under the weight of concrete and iron… screams rose up around him… men, women and children… shards of glass sought out tender, unprotected skin … he thought of his family and tried to rise, but something inside of him was broken… there was a rising heat and the pungent smell of burning flesh mingled sickeningly with the smoke and the dust… and suddenly it was blackness.

9/11/01? New York? World Trade Center?


9/11/04. Falloojeh. An Iraqi home.
From Riverbend.

Jeanne kills 250 in Haiti

Karl, Lisa warming up in the bullpen.

New, improved Kerry

Kerry's speech today, from the transcript at least, was better than I expected. This one sentence seems to put the situation in Iraq into proper perspective:
Raw sewage fills the streets, rising above the hubcaps of our Humvees.
That's right, we're up to our hubcaps in you-know-what. Kerry on...
Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who deserves his own special place in hell. But that was not, in itself, a reason to go to war. The satisfaction we take in his downfall does not hide this fact: we have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure.
By one count, the President offered 23 different rationales for this war. If his purpose was to confuse and mislead the American people, he succeeded.

His two main rationales – weapons of mass destruction and the Al Qaeda/September 11 connection – have been proved false… by the President’s own weapons inspectors… and by the 9/11 Commission. Just last week, Secretary of State Powell acknowledged the facts. Only Vice President Cheney still insists that the earth is flat.
Good line, John, but don't forget William Safire! And the House of Representatives! Cheney's undisclosed location under the flat earth is depressingly well populated. Still, it's good to hear you get Kerry'd away now and then. Go on...
The President now admits to “miscalculations” in Iraq.

That is one of the greatest understatements in recent American history. His were not the equivalent of accounting errors. They were colossal failures of judgment – and judgment is what we look for in a president.

This is all the more stunning because we’re not talking about 20/20 hindsight. Before the war, before he chose to go to war, bi-partisan Congressional hearings… major outside studies… and even some in the administration itself… predicted virtually every problem we now face in Iraq.
Right John, but watch out for the boomerang effect. You knew or should have known all of this stuff, yet you still voted to give Bush the authority to go to war. That, too, was a colossal failure of judgement. Still, Kerry on...
In Iraq, this administration has consistently over-promised and under-performed. This policy has been plagued by a lack of planning, an absence of candor, arrogance and outright incompetence. And the President has held no one accountable, including himself.

In fact, the only officials who lost their jobs over Iraq were the ones who told the truth.

General Shinseki said it would take several hundred thousand troops to secure Iraq. He was retired. Economic adviser Larry Lindsey said that Iraq would cost as much as $200 billion. He was fired.
Can anyone seriously say this President has handled Iraq in a way that makes us stronger in the war on terrorism?

By any measure, the answer is no. Nuclear dangers have mounted across the globe. The international terrorist club has expanded. Radicalism in the Middle East is on the rise. We have divided our friends and united our enemies.
Ahh...a uniter AND a divider. But be careful, John. Don't get Kerry'd away...
After the events of September 11, we had an opportunity to bring our country and the world together in the struggle against the terrorists. On September 12th, headlines in newspapers abroad declared "we are all Americans now." But through his policy in Iraq, the President squandered that moment and rather than isolating the terrorists, left America isolated from the world.

We now know that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and posed no imminent threat to our security.
Yeah, but you were one of those insisted that Iraq had WMD's and did pose a threat. You even thought, like Rummy did, that Bush should have used 9/11 as an immediate springboard to attacking the "better targets" in Iraq. Still, you're making more sense than you have in years, John, so Kerry on...
Yet today, President Bush tells us that he would do everything all over again, the same way. How can he possibly be serious? Is he really saying that if we knew there were no imminent threat, no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to Al Qaeda, the United States should have invaded Iraq? My answer is no – because a Commander-in-Chief’s first responsibility is to make a wise and responsible decision to keep America safe.
The President’s insistence that he would do the same thing all over again in Iraq is a clear warning for the future. And it makes the choice in this election clear: more of the same with President Bush or a new direction that makes our troops and America safer. It is time, at long last, to ask the questions and insist on the answers from the Commander-in-Chief about his serious misjudgments and what they tell us about his administration and the President himself.
All in all, a big improvement in Kerry's standard Iraq stump speech, which can generally be paraphrased as "Maybe I'm a flip-flopper, but then again maybe I'm not." Unfortunately, his proposals, while not as overtly brutal as I expected, seem half-hearted and unlikely to accomplish much, or even happen at all. More help from other countries? Why in the world would they want to get their kids killed in America's mess? More Iraqi cops and troops? Not working so far. And Kerry doesn't address the really pressing issue--what does he do about Fallujah and other no-go zones? I would hope the answer would be "basically nothing--we won't win hearts and minds through bombing." But while he's finally condemning Bush on a host of failures, Kerry says nothing about the criminal aerial bombing of civilian areas.

Anyway, it's good to see the Democrat finally doing a passable immitation of an opposition candidate.


Alexander Cockburn uses the CBS typography debacle as a jumping-off point for an interesting article on evidence:

If proven to have been fooled, CBS will survive, the same way Hersh, Dacre (though he was badly dented) and the London Daily Mail moved on from their debacles. But now consider the juries which listen to forensic experts marshaled by the prosecution solemnly attesting to the undoubted authenticity of finger prints, ballistic data that point overwhelmingly to the guilt of the defendant.

Most of this evidence survives scrutiny because the defense teams can't afford the expert witnesses necessary to challenge the prosecution's team. When a rich defendant like O.J. Simpson comes along, the forensic evidence is usually exposed as improperly collected, inadequately stored and erroneously examined.

"Fingerprint" evidence was regarded as virtually beyond challenge, until replaced in recent years by DNA hits as the very quintessence of certainty. For years I've thought this was nonsense, and that it was the mere reputation of finger print data that carried the day for the prosecutors. After all, the British civil servant in nineteenth century India who retrieved an old Chinese technique did so merely because he wanted to impress his workers with the thought that if he could not tell them apart by facial appearance, he could detect when they were turning up twice in the pay line by checking their fingerprints. He pretended to, but he never did. It was all theater. Down the decades all a prosecutor had to do was claim a "sure match" of prints, and it was all over.

We have a winner!

In response to Dennis Hastert's remark that Osama wants Kerry to win, Juan Cole summarizes al Qaeda's likely take on the election:
  • Bush wins, US withdraws from Iraq: Al Qaeda wins.
  • Bush wins, US stays in Iraq: Al Qaeda wins.
  • Kerry wins, US withdraws from Iraq: Al Qaeda wins.
  • Kerry wins, US stays in Iraq: Al Qaeda wins.
You don't play the bottom half of the ninth if the home team is already ahead. You don't capture the king in chess; just getting him in a position he can't escape from is enough.

So congratulations, Mr. Bush: The terrorists have won.

Flypaper theory returns

Comical Allawi is clearly getting desperate. From CNN:
Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has warned that "terrorists" are flooding into his country from across the Muslim world.

His comments on Monday echoed those of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair who said the day before that Iraq was now the "crucible" in which the future of global terrorism would be determined.

Allawi, who is visiting London, told GMTV at the end of one of the bloodiest weeks since the end of major conflict in Iraq: "It's not a second conflict per se, it's really an international conflict.

"Terrorists are coming and pouring in from various countries into Iraq to try and undermine the situation in Iraq. They're coming from Afghanistan, Pakistan, from Europe, from Morocco, from Syria and so on.

"Iraq is on the front line of fighting these terrorists. And, God forbid, if Iraq is broken or the will of Iraq is broken, then London would be a target, Washington will be a target, Paris will be a target, Cairo will be a target, as we have seen in the past."
Allawi then added, quoting Howard Dean: "Yeeeaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!"

Of course, two years ago, if a suspected terrorist like Zarqawi snuck across one of Iraq's many borders and took up residence, even in one of the areas outside of Saddam's control, it was clear evidence that Saddam was harboring and supporting terrorists. But, in the unlikely case that Comical Allawi is telling the truth, then the new bosses in Iraq, the Americans and their puppet, are completely unable to control Iraq's borders, despite vastly superior military forces to what Saddam had. The Americans and their puppet will, of course, blame this "flood of terrorists" on Iraq's neighbors, or at least those they want to blame it on, namely Syria and Iran.

Don't Trust Colin Powell

The World Socialist Web Site has an article today about Powell's declaration of "genocide" in Darfur and what it really means:
The declaration by United States Secretary of State Colin Powell last week that “genocide has been committed in Darfur and that the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility” signals an escalation in American imperialism’s efforts to establish itself as the controlling power in North Africa and throughout the continent.
The plight of the people of Darfur plays no role in shaping the response of the Bush administration to the criminal activities of the Sudanese government. Like Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the regime in Khartoum is being targeted because of geopolitical and not moral considerations. Once again, it is about who controls vital oil supplies.
The US has now decided to step up pressure on Sudan primarily as a weapon against its international rivals. Washington’s demand at the United Nations is that sanctions be applied to Sudan’s oil output—currently 320,000 barrels of oil per day. This would hit China and Pakistan given that they are two of Sudan’s largest oil customers, both of whom are Security Council members and who have so far opposed the proposal. It must also be stressed that since oil is Sudan’s main income, such sanctions would have a devastating effect on a country that is already desperately poor—just as they did in Iraq.
The whole article is here.

In many ways, it seems as though the apparently inevitable war with China has already begun. China's explosive economic growth in recent decades is tightly tied to the U.S. economy, having been based in large part on selling cheap crap made at slave wages to American consumers. Much of the money China has made this way has been used to purchase US treasury bills--basically loaning the US hundreds of billions of dollars to keep our economy afloat enough so we can still afford to buy the cheap crap. If China attempts to call in this loan by selling back the T-bills, or if Washington actually admits what seems obvious, that we never intend to pay China back, both economies will go completely belly up within months, or maybe weeks. Meanwhile, world supply of oil is at its all time peak and about to start declining precipitously, while demand continues to grow, especially in China and the US. Under cover of WMD snipe hunts or humanitarian concerns, imperial America has managed to establish a strong military presence in most of the world's oil-producing or transporting regions--Iraq and the Persian Gulf, the Caspian and Balkan regions, and Colombia (with an ever-present threat to other Latin American oil producers like Mexico and Venezuela). The plan for Sudan fits right in. Meanwhile, we managed to use 9/11 as an excuse to establish bases in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan near China's western frontier to go with our already huge presence in South Korea and Japan on China's east. Not to mention our 13(?) carrier groups, several of which were just involved in exercises off of China's lengthy coastline.

It's all jockeying for position. The American neocons (including Kerry, I'm afraid) believe that our current overwhelming military superiority will carry the day, putting a stranglehold on world oil supplies and thereby compelling China to yield to our will. China probably sees the U.S. as somewhat similar to the Soviet Union, where excessive military expenditures are contributing to the collapse of an already fatally flawed economic system. It's unclear who will emerge as the "winner" of this global game, but it seems pretty clear that the pawns, the vast majority of the world's population, including probably 90% of Americans, will be losers, no matter who "wins."

As the pawns, it seems as though our only hope is to try to starve both beasts--by not shopping at Wal-Mart (buy less, buy used, buy local), by conserving energy, by exposing the game to our fellow pawns.

Thai'd up

Thai cartoonist Stephane Peray has some pretty vivid cartoons:

Many more here.

From Ted Rall.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

The song and dance

The framing of the debate goes on. Yesterday, Bush says that progress is being made in Iraq, and things are going well. Today, a few prominent and well-respected Republican senators "criticize" Bush for these comments:

John McCain:
McCain, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on "Fox News Sunday" that it was "a serious mistake" not to have had enough troops in place "after the initial successes" and that the mistake had led to "very, very significant" difficulties.

"I think every day that goes by that we don't remove these sanctuaries in Falluja and other places in the Sunni Triangle, the more expensive it's going to be at the time we take this out," McCain said.

He said he "would never have allowed the sanctuaries to start with."

"In the Falluja issue, our general in Baghdad said we were going to go in and capture or kill those who were responsible for the deaths of Americans," McCain said.

"And we went in, and then we pulled out. As Napoleon said, if you say you're going to take Vienna, you take Vienna."
McCain called for an increase in the Army of about 70,000 soldiers and for 20,000 to 25,000 more Marines.
Chuck Hagel:
Appearing on the same program, Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a fellow Republican, disagreed with Kyl that the United States was anywhere near victory.

"I don't think we're winning. In all due respect to my friend Jon Kyl, the term 'hand-wringing' is a little misplaced here," Hagel said.

"The fact is, a crisp, sharp analysis of our policies are required. We didn't do that in Vietnam, and we saw 11 years of casualties mount to the point where we finally lost.

"The fact is, we're in trouble. We're in deep trouble in Iraq," said Hagel, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees.
Lindsey Graham:
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has traveled to Iraq twice and is a member of the Armed Services Committee, said he doesn't "buy that" when told enough troops are in Iraq to do the job.

"There's a rhyme or reason to what's happening here," he said on CNN's "Late Edition." "They're attacking police stations. They're attacking people who want to join the army. They're trying to kill people who want to be part of a democratic government."
Richard Lugar:
Lugar, who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said "the incompetence in the administration" led to only $1 billion spent out of $18 billion appropriated last year for reconstruction efforts.
And the Democrats are chiming in as well. Joe Biden:
"No. 1, on the police training, we've wasted 17 months," Biden said. "We should be using some imagination. Pick out the 500 most likely leaders in the police force, put them on a 747, fly them to Bonn, Germany, or to Berlin, and tell them to train them and train them as leaders, so they're paramilitary police.

"The president's going to the United Nations [Tuesday]," he said. "You know what we list as our priorities for the United Nations General Assembly? Dealing with sex trade, which is important. Dealing with cloning. Dealing with spread of democracy.

"Not one word of Korea. Not one word with regard to Iraq. Not one word with regard to Iran. It's like Wonderland," said Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Carl Levin:
Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan said on CNN's "Late Edition" that he doubted the administration would make any of the tough decisions until after the November election.

"And it's too bad, because it's most important that this administration listen to some of even its Republican critics, which is that we've got a significantly worsening situation in Iraq," said Levin, the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee.
Of course, the gist of all this "criticism" is not that Bush has been too aggressive or brutal in prosecuting his illegal war, but that he hasn't been brutal enough. This framing of the debate is of course a setup for John Kerry, who in his servile little mind will see only two choices: Agree with Bush that things are going well, or with the Senators that we need more troops, more cops, more bombs. Given that his whole campaign is based on trying to prove that he's tougher than Bush, there's little doubt that he will echo comments like McCain's. I believe there is a high probability that this whole "criticism" of Bush by the Republicans was planned specifically for this purpose.

And the string-pullers behind the scenes couldn't be happier. I'd guess that they'd prefer to see Bush win, but their real purpose is to see that American military imperialism continues. As Kerry continues to try to out-hawk one of the most hawkish presidents ever, their goal seems certain to be achieved.

Kerry is making a big speech on Iraq tomorrow. I predict that he'll be clearer than ever before that his solution to the Iraq quagmire will be more force, more troops, more money. The debate will then be framed between the hawk Kerry and the "dove" Bush. God help us all.

The Terminator: Wal-Marts yes, good wages no

SACRAMENTO, California (AP) -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed bills Saturday that would have raised the minimum wage to $7.75 an hour, made Wal-Mart-like megastores more difficult to build and limited schools' ability to give students random drug tests.
Government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations.

Or maybe My Lai?

From Steve Breen.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide

From the Rocky Mountain News:
COLORADO SPRINGS - Soldiers from a Fort Carson combat unit say they have been issued an ultimatum - re-enlist for three more years or be transferred to other units expected to deploy to Iraq.

Hundreds of soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team were presented with that message and a re-enlistment form in a series of assemblies last Thursday, said two soldiers who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Prosecutors use the death penalty as a threat to get defendants to plead guilty to lesser charges--guilty or not. Iraq has now become the death penalty for soldiers. Slavery or death. Quite a choice for those frequently (and incorrectly) said to be "defending our freedom."

The Quagmire Continues

KIRKUK, Iraq (AP) -- A suicide attacker detonated a car bomb near a crowd of people waiting to apply for jobs with the Iraqi National Guard in the northern city of Kirkuk on Saturday, killing at least 20 people and wounding 16, officials said.
The Americans insisted Saturday that the militants' campaign of violence won't succeed.

"The continued targeting of Iraqi Security Forces shows the desperation of anti-Iraqi forces as they recognize the continued improvement and capability of the Iraqi National Guard and Iraqi Police," said Maj. Neal O'Brien of the Army's 1st Infantry Division.
The continued bombing of "safe houses" in Fallujah shows the desperation of anti-human forces as they recognize the continued growth and effectiveness of the Iraqi resistance, says I.

If the most powerful military in the world can't provide enough security to protect one line of guys waiting to apply for a dangerous job, after such lines have already been targeted repeatedly, what possible chance does it have of providing "security" for a nation of 25 million, where 24 million of them hate their guts?

No legal justification. No moral justification. No justification now even on pragmatic grounds. Neither ends nor means justified: GET...OUT...NOW

Friday, September 17, 2004

Why conservation is mandatory

Here's a picture from Home Power magazine, showing a Volkswagen Rabbit which has been converted to run on electricity, and the solar panels which charge its batteries:

Note that that sizeable array of panels, which would cost about $12,000 at today's prices, is enough to give the "Voltsrabbit" a range of about 25 miles per day. Obviously, larger vehicles, like most vehicles currently in use in the US, would require correspondingly larger arrays. And most Americans are driving more than 25 miles per day. Just the amount of land needed to electrically power our current driving habits from solar panels would clearly be enormous, devouring land desperately needed for other purposes. And solar panels require specialized materials for their manufacture, some of which are relatively scarce. Most types of rechargeable batteries also use materials which are dangerous (lead-acid), use fairly exotic materials (cadmium, for example). Fuel cells might eventually compete with batteries for energy storage, but they also use scarce materials.

While the array in the picture is large enough to fully power my household electrical needs, even in a cloudy January, with plenty left over, it would only barely cover my driving needs, and wouldn't even come close if I drove as much as I used to. Pretty clearly, to me anyway, the only way that an automotive society like ours could run on solar power would be for the energy from hundreds or thousands of years to be gathered and stored in a compact, preferably liquid form. This was done for us, but within the course of probably less than 150 years we will have used up all of this stored energy that is accessible (that is, which can be extracted using less energy than it has in it). None of the available or potentially available renewable energy sources are likely to ever provide power fast enough even to fuel our current driving habits, and much less so if China, India, and other parts of the world try to emulate us. Long commutes, frivolous trips, and possibly personal motorized transportation itself are luxuries that the planet cannot afford much longer.

Dead Soldier's Mom Heckles Worst Lady

HAMILTON, New Jersey (CNN) -- The mother of a soldier killed in Iraq was arrested Thursday in Hamilton, New Jersey, after interrupting a campaign speech by first lady Laura Bush. As police hauled her away, she shouted, "Police brutality."

Wearing a T-shirt with the message "President Bush You Killed My Son," Sue Niederer of nearby Hopewell screamed questions at the first lady as the audience tried to drown her out by chanting, "Four more years! Four more years!"

She pressed on, refused to leave and eventually police removed her from the firehouse rally.

The first lady finished her speech, praising the administration's achievements in the war on terror and the economy.

Enough already!

Stop bombing Fallujah!
U.S. jets pounded the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, leaving at least 44 dead.
Blood covered the floors of the Fallujah General Hospital as doctors struggled to cope with the casualties, many brought to the hospital in private cars with ambulances overwhelmed. Relatives pounded their chests in grief and denounced the United States.

Health Ministry spokesman Saad al-Amili said at least 44 people were killed and 27 injured in the Fallujah strikes. He said 17 children and two women were among the wounded. Hospital officials said women and children were also among the dead, but exact figures were not immediately available.
West of Baghdad, an initial wave of U.S. airstrikes late Thursday targeted a compound in Fazat Shnetir, about 12 miles south of Fallujah, where militants loyal to Jordanian-born terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi were meeting to plot attacks on coalition forces, the military said in a statement.

Militants who survived the strikes sought refuge in nearby villages, but U.S. forces said they quickly broke off an offensive to hunt them down in an effort to avoid civilian casualties.

Residents of one village, Fazat Shnetir, could be seen digging communal graves Friday to bury the dead in groups of four.
Not quickly enough, apparently. And I guess the final resting spots for people killed by Milosevic or Saddam are called "mass graves;" for those killed by Bush and Blair, they're called "communal." The first are genocide and ethnic cleansing; the later are "regrettable collateral damage."

The U.S. military in Iraq isn't solving problems; it IS the problem.

Hamdi to be released

[Soon to be former] U.S. citizen will apparently soon be released from US custody and flown to Saudi Arabia, where he has lived much of his life. Captured in late 2001 in Afghanistan, Hamdi was held as an "enemy combatant" without any rights until the Supreme Court finally decided last June that he did have the right to challenge his detention. When he did so, the "Justice" Department, having no case against him, arranged a sleazy deal where he has to give up his U.S. citizenship and not travel to several countries, and report to Saudi authorities when he arrives back in SA.

Frankly, I think a more just outcome would have been to give him total freedom, $1 million, and the deed to his choice of either the Crawford ranch or the Bush family hideaway in Kennebunkport. Because the Bushies should have to PAY for what they did to this guy, and to justice. The Bushies are the real enemy combatants.

Side issues

From the NY Times:
In his interview, Powell disputed U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's assertion that the U.S.-led war in Iraq was illegal, saying it was "not a very useful statement to make at this point."

"What does it gain anyone? We should all be gathering around the idea of helping the Iraqis, not getting into these kinds of side issues."
Hmmm...I guess we can expect to hear similar statements from Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, John Allen Mohammed, and other criminals--"What good does it do to prosecute me? All those people are already dead; we should focus on helping those who aren't."

Well, imagine someone breaks into your house and has already tortured two of your five children and is now moving on to the third. If you call the cops, wouldn't you want them to arrest the intruder and get him out of your house before starting psychoanalysis on the two kids who were already tortured? Allowing the criminal to stay in the house is not a "side issue" when a crime is being committed.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

David Cobb

I just got back from hearing Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb speak. If our "democracy" worked even a little bit, Cobb would be so far ahead of Bush and Kerry in the polls that they would have to drop out. Cobb has a lot of the southern preacher in him--he said his grandfather was a Baptist minister in Texas--but he's very well informed and dedicated to the Green Party agenda, which has basically nothing in common with the Republicrat agenda. He even gave a long and detailed answer to my question about peak oil--he knows the author of the book I read (The Party's Over by Richard Heinberg) and fully understands the implications of peak oil. He said he doesn't expect to be moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in January, but he wants people to vote for him in order to build the Green Party. He gave a long list of reasons why Kerry is such a terrible candidate, including even some I've missed! But then he said "You know what? Bush is even worse." He went on to say that he knew there was at least one person in the room (there were probably 30 people there) who agreed with everything he said but was probably still going to hold his nose and vote for Kerry. He said he's telling that person that he understands and respects his right to decide, but he just hopes that as they're holding their nose, they don't pretend there isn't a stench. As usual when I hear someone say something I completely agree with, I was impressed!

So, no matter how you're planning to vote, I'd definitely suggest going to hear Cobb speak if he comes to your area. His web site, with upcoming events, is here.

Bush is peddling HSA snakeoil again

AWol was in Minnesota campaigning on healthcare, which is sort of like Michael Jackson talking about the importance of being normal. Part of Bush's "health care plan" is the health savings account pay now, get nothing later scam, which I ranted about extensively last month. When Bush said "My opponent wants government to dictate; I want you to decide when it comes to health care," what he really means is "I want to give my wealthy friends yet another way to steal poor people's money."

I don't know. Maybe Bush actually believes that cutting taxes will balance the budget, or that attacking Iraq actually helps to stop terrorism. If so, then he's more stupid than evil on these issues. And while HSA's are a minor issue compared to those, I just don't see any way they could be possibly spun in any way that doesn't make him pure evil. If he really wants to use the tax code to help people with medical expenses, a much simpler way would be to push for making ALL medical expenses deductible (I think currently it's only expenses over 7.5% of income). There would be much better ways of doing it, of course, but this would be a very simple, straightforward way that offered more benefit and less risk to healthcare consumers. It wouldn't affect anyone's ability to decide when it comes to health care; it would just mean that they would only need to pay for what they get. It wouldn't even negatively affect the Fed's tax revenues compared to if HSA's did become widely used; people would still be getting deductions, but for real instead of estimated expenses. So, compared to HSA's, a simple deduction is a win for the patient and a win for the treasury. Only the HSA administering company loses, since they would have been denied the opportunity to take people's money in return for nothing. And THAT is what Bush is pushing for.

I think HSA's may be one of the sleaziest snakeoil schemes any politician has proposed since the state lotteries. I HATE state lotteries! Here's the basic idea--We, your state politicians, need $5 million for school funding. Rather than asking you directly to pay the taxes needed to raise that money, we're instead going to sell you $11 million in lottery tickets. We'll get the $5 million for the schools, a tiny minority of you will get large cash prizes (heavily taxable) totalling $5.5 million, and we'll spend the remaining half a million on advertising to convince you of how fun it all is. We, your craven politicians, love this because we'll get most of this money from lower-income types, whereas a proper tax would require much more money from our wealthy supporters. That you'd get much better odds at any casino or horse track is something we're counting on you not figuring out, because the schools in your neighborhoods won't be getting enough of that funding to teach your kids things like probability. Thank you for supporting YOUR state lottery!

Attempted Puppetcide

Karzai escapes assassination bid:
Afghanistan's interim President Hamid Karzai has escaped what the U.S. military described as an assassination bid when a rocket was fired at his helicopter while he was campaigning for next month's scheduled election.

Kerry Needs the Courage to Walk Away from Iraq

From Howard Zinn:
If John Kerry wants to win, he must recognize that our military intervention in Iraq is a disaster -- for Americans, for Iraqis, for the world. He must stop boasting about his courage in Vietnam and instead start talking about his moral courage in opposing that war. He needs to stop saying, as he did recently in the Midwest, that he defended this country when he was fighting in Vietnam. That is not an honest statement. If it were true, then he would not have turned against the war.

He was not defending this country when he fought in Vietnam. He was defending this country when he said that we were wrong to be in Vietnam and we should get out.

He should not be saying that he will wage the Iraq War better, that he will replace U.S. troops with soldiers from other countries. If it is immoral for our soldiers to be occupying Iraq and killing Iraqis every day, then it is immoral for foreign soldiers to do the same.

He should be clear: We are not defending our country by our war in Iraq, and we should get out.
The rest of the story.

Quote du Jour

Kofi Annan says the Iraq war was illegal under the UN Charter, and not sanctioned by the Security Council. Might have been nice if he’d said something before.
--Whatever It Is, I'm Against It


It's gone now

On Monday, I mentioned the wood-frame building that the Alabama Historical Commission had restored at Fort Morgan for use as a restaurant. After a couple of hours of googling, I was surprisingly still unable to determine if that building had survived in the 16 years since I stopped working for the AHC. None of the official AHC web pages mentioned, nor did tourist guides, online yellow pages, or I didn't see it in any photos posted by the many tourists who visit Fort Morgan each year. So I still don't know if that building was still there last week. However, I'm pretty sure that it's not there now:
Overnight giant waves, measured at 53 feet by automated buoys offshore, were rumbling onto the barrier beaches and islands.
Sitting on a sand spit about half a mile wide separating the Gulf from Mobile Bay, right where the eye hit? It's gone.

I just wish he were as worried about American rights and democracy

Neonut Paul Wolfowitz writes a pretty compelling op-ed today on behalf of a journalist friend of his being tried in Indonesia. It's a very fine article, and I really can't find anything in it to disagree with. I just wonder how Wolfie can possibly reconcile these fine sentiments with the actions of the administration he's a part of and the brutal war and occupation of Iraq for which he bears so much personal responsibility. Here are some excerpts from his op-ed:
The country held a fair presidential election in 1999, parliamentary elections last April and is about to conduct a runoff on Monday to complete its second democratic presidential election. These are no small achievements.
Oh. So both Afghanistan AND Indonesia have runoffs in their presidential elections, a process much more democratic than our own plurality wins system, a system under which Wolfowitz would still be just a crank author at the American Enerprise Institute? Not fair!
While holding two fair presidential elections in a row is a hallmark of democratic progress, the real test of a democracy is how it protects the rights of its citizens.
Whereas holding two stolen elections in a row, and locking up citizens without rights as "enemy combatants" is a hallmark of totalitarianism.
Our own Declaration of Independence doesn't speak of elections but rather about the rights of all human beings to certain "inalienable rights," in particular "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." And it is a fundamental principle of our Constitution that citizens cannot be deprived of those rights except by due process of law. Elections are properly viewed as a mechanism to hold government accountable, particularly in its most fundamental responsibility of protecting the rights of its individual citizens.

Accordingly, the rule of law is one of the essential pillars of a democratic society. There are few powers that a democratic state possesses that are as awesome as the power to prosecute its own citizens lawfully. And few things are more threatening to a true democracy than the abuse of that prosecutorial power.
Hear that, Mr. Ashcroft?
One of the worst possible ways that power can be abused is to take away the freedom of the press and thereby remove one of the most important mechanisms for ensuring that government respects the rights of its citizens. As Mr. Bambang pointed out in his eloquent pleading before the court in August, the collapse of Indonesia's first brief experience with democracy in the 1950's began with "an attempt to undermine freedom of the domestic press through the criminalization of journalists."
Of course, in Wolfie's democracy project in Iraq, the press like Moqtada al-Sadr's newspaper and al Jazeera have been criminalized, while numerous journalists have been killed by American forces, without trial, of course.

I guess when you've gone through the looking glass, it no longer works as a mirror.

But will Allawi live long enough to be overthrown?

From Juan Cole:
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani called on Wednesday for general elections to be held at the scheduled time.
Sistani's quite resonable demand for elections is nevertheless among the greatest dangers facing the Allawi government and the Americans. It will be extremely difficult actually to hold the elections on time. But Sistani believes only such elections can produce a legitimate government, and he already accepted a six-month delay. If the elections are not held, and if Sistani begins to fear they won't be held soon, he may well call the masses into the streets. That could lead to an overthrow of Allawi and an expulsion of the Americans. Keep your eye on February and March of 2005.
I think the Americans have already been expelled. They're just too dense to get it.

From Rex Babin.

From Jim Morin.


From Steve Breen.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Axis of Evil?

Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution has taken Useless Dick's latest ravings (I rant; he raves) and suggested how two other lowlifes with tanker-fulls of blood on their hands would have worded it.

Here's what Cheney said:
I think some have hoped that if they kept their heads down and stayed out of the line of fire, they wouldn't get hit. I think what happened in Russia now demonstrates pretty conclusively that everybody is a target
Here's how Jonathan suggests how Vladimir Putin might have put it on September 12, 2001, if he were as cold-blooded as Dick Cheney (and isn't it frightening to realize that someone more cold-blooded than Putin is a pacemaker beat away from the presidency?):
I think what happened in the US with the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center demonstrates pretty conclusively that everybody is a target. The US did not get involved in sending troops to Chechnya. They've gotten hit anyway.
And how would Osama bin Forgotten put it?
I think some have hoped that if they kept their heads down and stayed out of the line of fire, they wouldn't get hit. I think what happened in Iraq now demonstrates pretty conclusively that everybody is a target. Iraq, of course, did not support us in our martyrdom operations against the Great Satan. They did not get involved in sending mujahadeen there. They've gotten hit anyway.
Jonathan's two posts on the topic are here and here.

Hopeful signs in kidnapping of Urbina's mother

From the Detroit Free Press:
Authorities in Venezuela hope to resolve the kidnapping of Ugueth Urbina's mother within a day or two, according to a report Monday by a Venezuelan Web site.

"A police spokesperson says pieces of (the) puzzle have fallen into place and the kidnappers have been identified," reported

Clinton's Unseen Quagmire

From the WSWS:
A leaked internal United Nations report says the administration in the UN protectorate of Kosovo was on “the point of near collapse” after riots engulfed the province in March.

The wave of communal violence resulted in a level of ethnic cleansing that matched anything seen in the Balkans during the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. The clashes began in the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica and quickly spread across the province—suggesting they were part of a coordinated operation. As a result, 19 people were killed and hundreds injured. More than 4,000 people—mainly Serbs—were forced to flee. Nearly 1,000 houses, mostly Serb-owned, and 36 Orthodox churches, monasteries and monuments were destroyed or damaged.
The situation in Kosovo is a bitter indictment of the western powers’ so-called programme of "nation-building" in "failed states." Rather, poverty, corruption and ethnic separation have become endemic in the Balkan region as a result of the western powers’ attempt to dismantle the former Yugoslavia.
I'm still a babe in the woods when it comes to what happened in the Balkans in the 1990's, so I'll just point you to the WSWS article for more details.

The All-Purpose Terrorist, Part Two

If you believe the mainstream media, which repeats what the US military tells them, you might actually believe that a one-legged, sometimes dead, sometimes al Qaeda Jordanian named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi spends half of his time hiding out in "safe houses" in Fallujah and the other half planting bombs all over Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq, through his shadowy organization, Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad (MAHW, as Juan Cole translates it), and the third half beheading foreign contractors. Juan Cole suspects that Zarqawi's hyperactivity is likely mostly propaganda on the part of either Zarqawi, other Iraqi resistance leaders, or the U.S. military:
Although the shadowy Monotheism and Holy War (MAHW) organization tried to take credit for the Baghdad bombing, it most likely was committed by Iraqi nationalists. It is not clear whether these post-Baath nationalists are using MAHW as a screen, or whether MAHW is grandstanding and just taking credit, or whether American intelligence organizations are using MAHW as plot device that allows the Bush administration to continue to link Iraq and al-Qaeda. (Actually, anyway, Monotheism and Holy War is a rival to al-Qaeda that refuses to share resources with it, so even if it exists it doesn't prove an al-Qaeda link to Iraq).
Of course, a lot of confusion about Zarqawi could have been avoided, and a lot of death and mayhem prevented, if the U.S. had either killed him before the war or traded some anti-Iranian terrorists to Iran in exchange for Zarqawi and other al Qaedans they were holding last year. But either one would have destroyed the all-purpose terrorist the Bushies need: Zarqawi being in Iraq (albeit in the northern part out of Saddam's control) in 2002 was the only tie they had between Iraq and al Qaeda, so they needed him as justification for the invasion they were planning. They wanted to accuse Iran of harboring terrorists (in jail!), so they refused to make the trade. And now that they've captured Saddam, they needed someone to blame all the car bombs and beheadings on, and as an excuse to try and bomb various cities, particularly Fallujah, into submission.

Don't be surprised to hear one of the Bushies claim that Zarqawi was spotted in Syria or the West Bank--or Venezuela, for that matter.

What he said

Once again, Bob Harris, frequent guest blogger on Tom Tomorrow's blog, gets to the heart of the matter. Be sure to read his Our Savage Numbness post about the U.S. killing civilians by the dozen in Iraq.

What are they thinking?

You see photos like this one in New Orleans all the time when places are evacuating ahead of hurricanes--bumper-to-bumper traffic hardly moving away from the storm, practically empty lanes heading in. Why haven't the cops turned most of the inbound lanes to outbound? Traffic regularly gets switched to the opposite side of freeways for construction; why they can't do that in an emergency baffles me. They could even turn the entire freeway into a one-way, requiring any inbound traffic, with a good reason, to use minor highways and surface streets. People leaving could get on the freeway using the exit ramps.

Also, they should be regulating the traffic for maximum throughput, which I think occurs at around 35 miles per hour (at higher speeds, the between-car spacing has to grow quickly for safety, actually reducing the total throughput). Having the cars crawling along at 5 mph means fewer cars will be able to get out in the time remaining, not to mention using large amounts of gasoline at a time when it is likely to be scarce (in this case, I mean just in the short term, during and after the storm), and probably causing a number of the cars in the traffic to run out of gas, making the congestion even worse. They could have done something using license plate numbers or something--numbers ending in 1 could enter the freeway between 1 and 2 pm, and so on. Or better, base it on number of occupants, with those having the highest number allowed on first. This would encourage the SUV drivers to pick up as many people as they could before hitting the road. In ten hours, everyone driving out could probably have evacuated at a reasonable speed. Instead, people are spending ten hours in traffic jams.

Maybe I'm missing something, but it sure seems like the disaster preparedness people should have thought this out a long time ago.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Vertical Evacuation

In New Orleans, Mayor Ray Nagin declared a state of emergency and strongly recommended residents evacuate immediately.

Public and private schools in many of Louisiana's coastal parishes already have closed and some businesses and public offices were closing their doors.

Nagin said that as of Tuesday morning there was a 22 percent chance that New Orleans would take a direct hit.

"The city basically sits like a bowl and most of the city is under sea level ... so if we get a storm like Ivan to hit us directly" there could be 12 to 18 feet of water in the city, Nagin said.

If people can't get out of New Orleans, the mayor said, they should do a "vertical evacuation."

"Basically, go to hotels and high-rise buildings in the city," Nagin explained.
Hmmm...I think I'd be heading out of the Big Easy right now. I don't know how many high-rise buildings there are in New Orleans, how many of them will have their doors open to all comers and for how long, and whether there would be room and facilities for the new arrivals. The storm will cut off electricity, stopping elevators. The highrises probably depend on electric pumps to bring water to the upper floors. Once in the building, there may be no getting out for days. What's for dinner? (The kitchens would be flooded.) And people will be starting fires for light and cooking. If a fire gets out of control, will the sprinklers work without electricity? The fire department won't be able to get there through 12 to 18 feet of water. If I were the mayor of New Orleans, I think I'd be doing everything possible to encourage an orderly and safe evacuation--use buses, mandatory carpooling (no car allowed on the highway that isn't filled to its capacity with people), free Amtrak (get out of the City of New Orleans on the City of New Orleans), river boats and barges heading for Natchez or Memphis, whatever. Because "vertical evacuation" sounds like a real death trap.

Read my post from yesterday to see why a direct hit by Ivan on Nawlins could be catastrophic.

Oil heading back up

With Hurricane Ivan threatening oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, crude futures moved higher for the second straight day. A barrel of light crude was quoted at $44.40, up 53 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
--NY Times


Faced with mounting violence in Iraq, the Bush administration plans on Tuesday to propose shifting $3.46 billion from Iraqi water, power and other reconstruction projects to improve security, increase oil output and prepare for elections scheduled for January.
Of the more than $18 billion approved for Iraq's reconstruction, only about $1 billion has been spent so far.

Such a shift was recommended last month by John D. Negroponte, the American ambassador to Iraq.
Under the plan, the administration will call for shifting $1.804 billion now earmarked for water, sewage and electricity projects to expand Iraqi police and other security forces.
Right. More oil output, more repression, less electricity. Just what you'd expect Negroponte to think that Iraq needs.

Iraq may not be safe or prosperous after the US invaders leave, but it has no chance at all as long as they stay. Just air-drop the $18 billion on Iraq on the way out.

What, no flowers?

The NY Times story on today's bomb in Baghdad that killed 47 ends this way:
Perhaps as disturbing as the attack itself, though, was the reaction of the crowd at the scene. Gripped by an anti-American fervor all too common these days, dozens of men rushed at a Western cameraman and chanted, "Bush is a dog, Bush is a dog!"

They held up bits of the artillery shells and said American warplanes had fired missiles at the police recruits.

This rumor was echoed by wounded police officers.

"I saw American helicopters bomb one of the cars, and then they bombed another car," said Sgt. Kassim Mahmoud, 32, as he sat grimacing in pain in Karkh Hospital, his left leg wrapped in a bloody bandage. "But I don't think this will make us afraid."

Two policemen standing next to him looked on silently in agreement as nearby nurses put white gauze on a man shredded by dozens of pieces of shrapnel. The man bit his teeth in pain and shut his eyes. Tears streamed from their edges.

At the bomb scene, a woman in black robes knelt down by a pool of blood and began wailing, almost collapsing to the ground.

"Where are our sons?" she said. "What have the Americans done to us? What have our sons done to the Americans?"

At Karama Hospital, another woman threw a shoe at a car carrying an American reporter and photographer as it left the area. "Kill the Americans," she said. "Slaughter them one by one."

Najaf a success?

David Brooks in his op-ed in today's NY Times:
The gradualists point to what just happened in Najaf as their model for how the Iraq war should proceed. First, Allawi laid down tough conditions: that Moktada al-Sadr's militia had to go. Then he convinced many of the locals that their lives would be better without lawless thugs in their midst. Then the U.S. attacked and weakened the terrorists. Then Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani brokered an agreement that led to the re-establishment of government control. Now development aid can flow to Najaf again. Aid projects worth roughly $6 million are resuming, and $37 million more is on the way.

Najaf, the gradualists argue, showed it's possible to marginalize the extremists and rally the decent majority. Now the task is to build on that success in other towns, and slowly rob the terrorists of sanctuaries.
...the weight of the argument is on the gradualist side.
This is what Brooks' success looks like:

Photo from Time.

I'd wager that it cost the U.S. military far more than $43 million to do that much damage to Najaf (not to mention the dead and wounded on all sides and the propaganda disaster of bombing, shooting, and stomping through Shiite Islam's holiest cemetery), and that repairing the damage just on this one street might cost $43 million (or way more, if Halliburton or Bechtel do it).

Precision War Crimes

From the WSWS:
The US attacks continued yesterday. For the sixth day running, US warplanes bombarded the city of Fallujah, long a symbol of Iraqi resistance. At the end of the day, a US military spokesman repeated the same mantra—“precision strikes” had been launched against “terrorist safe houses”. These bare-faced lies were denounced by officials at the Fallujah General Hospital who explained that one of their ambulances had been hit, killing the driver, a paramedic and five patients.

Hospital director Rafayi Hayad al-Esawi told the British-based Independent newspaper: “The conditions here are miserable—an ambulance was bombed, three houses destroyed and men and women killed. The American army has no morals.”

What is taking place in Iraq on a daily basis constitutes a terrible war crime. One has to go back to the Vietnam War or to the atrocities carried out by Nazi armies in Europe to find a parallel for such a systematic slaughter of civilians. The Bush administration is resorting the same methods as colonial oppressors down through the ages: punitive raids and massacres aimed at instilling fear and terror in a population that is overwhelmingly hostile to the US occupation and its Iraqi puppet regime.
Whatever It Is, I'm Against It comments:
A word about the latest US bombing of Fallujah: you don’t get to call it “precision bombing” unless you’re admitting that you intended to blow up that ambulance.

Photos from this web site.

From Mark Cohen.

From Ed Stein.

From Rex Babin.

From Jim Morin.

For God's Sake!


The NY Times has an editorial today about that scourge of America (and now the world), Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart, the world's biggest company, says it wants to improve its image both by doing a better job of getting its message out and by being more willing to "compromise." This new approach makes sense, given the charges that have been hurled against the company recently. But if Wal-Mart wants to improve its image, it should focus less on shaping its message and more on changing the way it does business.
As for me, I don't shop at Wal-Mart, I tell people not to shop there--in fact, I hate Wal-Mart. But I don't blame Wal-Mart, as such.

There are anti-trust laws on the books which should have prevented any corporation from becoming so large and dominating so many markets. But these laws haven't been enforced for about 20 years. I think the case of AT&T in the early 1980's was about the last time there was a court-ordered breakup of a large corporation, and the baby Bells have spent the years since recombining: Michigan Bell combined with Illinois Bell to become Ameritech, which then became a part of SBC, which seems to be pretty much the reincarnation of AT&T. The breakup of Standard Oil 100 or so years ago has similarly been undone, since we now have monstrosities like Exxon-Mobil, Chevron-Texaco, and BP-Amoco. The Clinton Justice Department took a swipe at Microsoft, without any noticeable effect that I can see.

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart has grown unfettered out of its base in Arkansas. Even back in the mid-80's, when I was working for the Alabama Hysterical Commission, we were fighting a mostly losing battle against Wal-Mart. We ran a "Main Street" program, designed to help small Alabama towns preserve, restore, and revitalize their downtown areas. The biggest threat to these Mayberry's was Wal-Mart: One yellow smiley face on the highway just outside of town could shut down two general stores, three pharmacies, a couple of clothing stores, an electronics store, and numerous others, while providing lower-paying jobs for maybe half of the people put out of work. And Wal-Mart was far less likely to be selling Alabama- or even U.S.-made merchandise, causing further layoffs and shutdowns at the small factories that employed many Alabamians.

Wal-Mart should have been broken up long ago, before being allowed to dominate so many markets and our trade deficit (I read that 20% of our trade deficit with China is due to Wal-Mart). They now control one of the least expensive but most valuable commodities in America--the politicians.

And, in case you missed it, Wal-Mart is building a new store at the site of ancient Teotihuacan, Mexico. Just what Mexico needs--a cost-cutting megacorporation undercutting local merchants and manufacturers with merchandise made at even sub-Mexican wages. The race to the bottom seems to be nearing the final lap.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Ivan may be heading for New Orleans

And that could be catastrophic beyond imagination. From NOW with Bill Moyers from September 20, 2002:
JOE SUHAYDA: So this indicates the depth of water that would occur above this ground in a category five hurricane.

DANIEL ZWERDLING: It's hard to comprehend, really.

JOE SUHAYDA: It is really, to think that that much water would occur during this catastrophic storm.

DANIEL ZWERDLING: So basically the part of New Orleans that most people in the United States and around the world think of as New Orleans would disappear under water.

JOE SUHAYDA:: That's right. During the worst of the storm, most of this area would be covered by 15 to 20 feet of water.
WALTER MAESTRI: A couple of days ago we actually had an exercise where we brought a fictitious Category Five hurricane--


WALTER MAESTRI: --the absolute worst, into the metropolitan area

DANIEL ZWERDLING: Walter Maestri is basically the czar of public emergencies in Jefferson Parish. It's the biggest suburb in the region.

WALTER MAESTRI: Well, when the exercise was completed it was evident that we were going to lose a lot of people we changed the name of the storm from Delaney to K-Y-A-G-B... kiss your ass goodbye... because anybody who was here as that Category Five storm came across... was gone.

DANIEL ZWERDLING: The American Red Cross lists the worst natural disasters that might strike America. They worry about earthquakes in California, and tropical storms in Florida. But they say the biggest catastrophe could be a hurricane hitting New Orleans.
DANIEL ZWERDLING: And on top of those worries: scientists say that the threat to New Orleans keeps getting bigger.

New Orleans has always had a huge natural shield that helps protect it from storms: there are miles and miles of wetlands, between the city and the Gulf of Mexico. When a hurricane blows over them, it loses some of its power. But as we reported a couple of weeks ago, this shield is breaking apart.

And here's the irony: the wetlands are disappearing because of the levees. The very levees that were supposed to protect New Orleans. They stopped the Mississippi River from flooding, but it turns out that they also triggered an environmental chain reaction, which is starving the wetlands to death.

Scientists say if this shield keeps crumbling over the next few decades, then it won't take a giant storm to cause a disaster. A much weaker, more common kind of hurricane could devastate New Orleans.
DANIEL ZWERDLING: Maestri says, imagine what happens if a hurricane like Andrew comes raging up from the Gulf:

WALTER MAESTRI: The hurricane is spinning counter-clockwise. It's been pushing in front of it water from the Gulf of Mexico for days. It's now got a wall of water in front of it some 30, 40 feet high. As it approaches the levies of the-- the-- that surround the city, it tops those levees. As the storm continues to pass over. Now Lake Ponchetrain, that water from Lake Ponchartrain is now pushed on to that - those population which has been fleeing from the western side and everybody's caught in the middle. The bowl now completely fills. And we've now got the entire community underwater some 20, 30 feet underwater. Everything is lost.

DANIEL ZWERDLING: Remember the levees which the Army built, to hold smaller floods out of the bowl? Maestri says now those levees would doom the city. Because they'd trap the water in.

WALTER MAESTRI: It's going to look like a massive shipwreck. There's going to be-- there's going to be, you know-- everything that that the water has carried in is going to be there. Alligators, moccasins, you know every kind of rodent that you could think of.

All of your sewage treatment plants are under water. And of course the material is flowing free in the community. Disease becomes a distinct possibility now. The petrochemicals that are produced all up and down the Mississippi River --much of that has floated into this bowl. I mean this has become, you know, the biggest toxic waste dump in the world now. Is the city of New Orleans because of what has happened.
DANIEL ZWERDLING: And here's perhaps the most troubling question of all: if a huge hurricane does hit New Orleans, how many people will die?

JAY COMBE: I think of a terrible disaster. I think of 100,000, and that's just my guess.
Western Cuba is getting hit now:
At least 1.5 million Cubans were evacuated to higher ground ahead of the storm, and early Monday, Cuban President Fidel Castro toured parts of western Cuba, which was ravaged by Hurricane Charley a month ago.

Castro reiterated that his island nation would not accept any money from the United States or other countries that "have imposed economic sanctions against Cuba."

"The United States can save itself the hypocrisy of trying to help Cuba out in this situation," he said.

Forecasters said Cuba would continue to get whipped by hurricane-force winds until about 5 a.m. Tuesday.

The storm is expected to dump as much as 8 to 12 inches of rain in its wake and bring storm surge flooding of 20 to 25 feet.

"They're in for a rough 12 hours," said Hector Guerrero, a meteorologist with the hurricane center. "It's hard to imagine what that 20 to 25 feet of storm surge will look like."

A state which harbors terrorists

From an LA Times editorial:
Guillermo Novo once fired a bazooka at the U.N. building; in February 1979, he was convicted and sentenced to 40 years for conspiracy in the 1976 assassination of former Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and his American colleague, Ronni Moffitt, in Washington. (His conviction was subsequently vacated on a legal technicality.) Gaspar Jimenez was convicted and imprisoned in Mexico in 1977 for murdering a Cuban consulate official; he was released by authorities in 1983. Pedro Remon received a 10-year sentence in 1986 for conspiring to kill Cuba's ambassador to the United Nations in 1980. These are violent men. Panamanian prosecutors said they had planned to detonate 33 pounds of explosives while Castro was speaking at a university in Panama. Had they not been intercepted by the authorities, the blast not only would have killed the Cuban president but quite possibly hundreds of others gathered to hear him speak during the inter-American summit.
These three, along with a fourth whom the Times calls the "most notorious member" of the cell, were pardoned recently in Panama. The notorious one went to Honduras on a fake U.S. passport, while the other three flew to Miami, where they were greeted like Rummy thought American troops would be greeted in Fallujah:
After their release, three of the four immediately flew via private jet to Miami, where they were greeted with a cheering fiesta organized by the hard-line anti-Castro community. Federal officials briefly interviewed the pardoned men — all holders of U.S. passports — and then let them go their way.
The Times concludes:
To uphold his oft-stated principle that no nation can be neutral in the war on terrorism, shouldn't President Bush have condemned Moscoso's decision to release these terrorists? To protect the sanctity of U.S. borders and the security of Americans, shouldn't the administration have taken all available steps to keep known terrorists out of the United States?

But Florida is crucial to Bush's reelection strategy. Currying favor with anti-Castro constituents in Miami appears to trump the president's anti-terrorism principles. So far, not a single White House, State Department or Homeland Security official has expressed outrage at Panama's decision to put terrorists back on the world's streets. The FBI appears to have no plans to lead a search for Posada so he can be returned to Venezuela, where he is a wanted fugitive. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which has rounded up and expelled hundreds of foreigners on the mere suspicion of a terrorist link, has indicated no intention to detain and deport Novo, Jimenez and Remon.
"I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world," Bush recently said in an interview.

But the decision to allow members of the Posada gang into this country, and the televised spectacle of Miamians applauding their return, sends a different and dangerous message: In a swing state, some terrorists are not only acceptable but welcome.
Oh well. Maybe Ivan'll get 'em.

Who misled us into Iraq?

(Emphasis added)
With respect to Saddam Hussein and the threat he presents, we must ask ourselves a simple question: Why? Why is Saddam Hussein pursuing weapons that most nations have agreed to limit or give up? Why is Saddam Hussein guilty of breaking his own cease-fire agreement with the international community? Why is Saddam Hussein attempting to develop nuclear weapons when most nations don't even try, and responsible nations that have them attempt to limit their potential for disaster? Why did Saddam Hussein threaten and provoke? Why does he develop missiles that exceed allowable limits? Why did Saddam Hussein lie and deceive the inspection teams previously? Why did Saddam Hussein not account for all of the weapons of mass destruction which UNSCOM identified? Why is he seeking to develop unmanned airborne vehicles for delivery of biological agents?

Does he do all of these things because he wants to live by international standards of behavior? Because he respects international law? Because he is a nice guy underneath it all and the world should trust him?

It would be naive to the point of grave danger not to believe that, left to his own devices, Saddam Hussein will provoke, misjudge, or stumble into a future, more dangerous confrontation with the civilized world. He has as much as promised it. He has already created a stunning track record of miscalculation. He miscalculated an 8-year war with Iran. He miscalculated the invasion of Kuwait. He miscalculated America's responses to it. He miscalculated the result of setting oil rigs on fire. He miscalculated the impact of sending Scuds into Israel. He miscalculated his own military might. He miscalculated the Arab world's response to his plight. He miscalculated in attempting an assassination of a former President of the United States. And he is miscalculating now America's judgments about his miscalculations.

All those miscalculations are compounded by the rest of history. A brutal, oppressive dictator, guilty of personally murdering and condoning murder and torture, grotesque violence against women, execution of political opponents, a war criminal who used chemical weapons against another nation and, of course, as we know, against his own people, the Kurds. He has diverted funds from the Oil-for-Food program, intended by the international community to go to his own people. He has supported and harbored terrorist groups, particularly radical Palestinian groups such as Abu Nidal, and he has given money to families of suicide murderers in Israel.

I mention these not because they are a cause to go to war in and of themselves, as the President previously suggested, but because they tell a lot about the threat of the weapons of mass destruction and the nature of this man. We should not go to war because these things are in his past, but we should be prepared to go to war because of what they tell us about the future. It is the total of all of these acts that provided the foundation for the world's determination in 1991 at the end of the gulf war that Saddam Hussein must: unconditionally accept the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless underinternational supervision of his chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missile delivery systems... [and] unconditionally agree not to acquire or develop nuclear weapons or nuclear weapon-usable material.

I believe the record of Saddam Hussein's ruthless, reckless breach of international values and standards of behavior which is at the core of the cease-fire agreement, with no reach, no stretch, is cause enough for the world community to hold him accountable by use of force, if necessary. The threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real, but as I said, it is not new. It has been with us since the end of that war, and particularly in the last 4 years we know after Operation Desert Fox failed to force him to reaccept them, that he has continued to build those weapons.

He has had a free hand for 4 years to reconstitute these weapons, allowing the world, during the interval, to lose the focus we had on weapons of mass destruction and the issue of proliferation.

The Senate worked to urge action in early 1998. I joined with Senator McCain, Senator Hagel, and other Senators, in a resolution urging the President to "take all necessary and appropriate actions to respond to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end his weapons of mass destruction program." That was 1998 that we thought we needed a more serious response.

Later in the year, Congress enacted legislation declaring Iraq in material, unacceptable breach of its disarmament obligations and urging the President to take appropriate action to bring Iraq into compliance. In fact, had we done so, President Bush could well have taken his office, backed by our sense of urgency about holding Saddam Hussein accountable and, with an international United Nations, backed a multilateral stamp of approval record on a clear demand for the disarmament of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. We could have had that and we would not be here debating this today. But the administration missed an opportunity 2 years ago and particularly a year ago after September 11. They regrettably, and even clumsily, complicated their own case. The events of September 11 created new understanding of the terrorist threat and the degree to which every nation is vulnerable. That understanding enabled the administration to form a broad and impressive coalition against terrorism. Had the administration tried then to capitalize on this unity of spirit to build a coalition to disarm Iraq, we would not be here in the pressing days before an election, late in this year, debating this now. The administration's decision to engage on this issue now, rather than a year ago or earlier, and the manner in which it has engaged, has politicized and complicated the national debate and raised questions about the credibility of their case.
It is clear that in the 4 years since the UNSCOM inspectors were forced out, Saddam Hussein has continued his quest for weapons of mass destruction. According to intelligence, Iraq has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of the 150 kilometer restriction imposed by the United Nations in the ceasefire resolution. Although Iraq's chemical weapons capability was reduced during the UNSCOM inspections, Iraq has maintained its chemical weapons effort over the last 4 years. Evidence suggests that it has begun renewed production of chemical warfare agents, probably including mustard gas, sarin, cyclosarin, and VX. Intelligence reports show that Iraq has invested more heavily in its biological weapons programs over the 4 years, with the result that all key aspects of this program--R&D, production and weaponization--are active. Most elements of the program are larger and more advanced than they were before the gulf war. Iraq has some lethal and incapacitating agents and is capable of quickly producing and weaponizing a variety of such agents, including anthrax, for delivery on a range of vehicles such as bombs, missiles, aerial sprayers, and covert operatives which could bring them to the United States homeland. Since inspectors left, the Iraqi regime has energized its missile program, probably now consisting of a few dozen Scud-type missiles with ranges of 650 to 900 kilometers that could hit Israel, Saudi Arabia and other U.S. allies in the region. In addition, Iraq is developing unmanned aerial vehicles UAVs, capable of delivering chemical and biological warfare agents, which could threaten Iraq's neighbors as well as American forces in the Persian Gulf.

Prior to the gulf war, Iraq had an advance nuclear weapons development program. Although UNSCOM and IAEA International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors learned much about Iraq's efforts in this area, Iraq has failed to provide complete information on all aspects of its program. Iraq has maintained its nuclear scientists and technicians as well as sufficient dual-use manufacturing capability to support a reconstituted nuclear weapons program. Iraqi defectors who once worked for Iraq's nuclear weapons establishment have reportedly told American officials that acquiring nuclear weapons is a top priority for Saddam Hussein's regime.
If you haven't already figured it out, those are excerpts from John Kerry's speech explaining his vote for the Iraq war from October 9, 2002. So when he says "the wrong war at the wrong time," the right time for him would have been October 2001, I guess.

Maybe Zarqawi just hates Fallujah

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is, or was, a Jordanian who supposedly had links to al Qaeda. He has been rumored to be behind various bombings and other attacks in Iraq, and to have personally beheaded Nick Berg. He has also been rumored to have been dead for quite some time. I tend to believe the dead rumors, or if not dead, that Zarqawi is at most a minor figure who was chosen as our latest bogey man. We always need one of those--Saddam, Noriega, Milosevic, Osama, al Sadr--to justify our bombing the crap out of cities or countries that we feel like bombing the crap out of.

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Zarqawi is very much alive, and has a clear agenda. All the evidence would suggest that his agenda is the destruction of Fallujah. If you were a fugitive militant intent on destroying a city, would you rely on your own meager devices--car bombs and the like--to do the job, when the baddest, most deadly military in the history of the galaxy is just waiting at your disposal? Instigate a few attacks, or just claim credit for them, to get yourself on the most-wanted list. Then show your face in one or two places in the city you want destroyed, which in this case is Fallujah. Hire informants to tell Americans or their puppets about some more "safe houses," and sit back and watch the bombs drop.

There were (and probably still are) stories from Afghanistan about various tribes or clans using the U.S. military to settle old scores by accusing their enemies of being "al Qaeda or Taliban." There's no reason to believe that the same thing isn't happening in Iraq.

Taking a lesson from Bush

Terror attacks aren't tragedies--they're opportunities for totalitarianism! George Bush knew this after 9/11, and Vladimir Putin knows it after Beslan:
Responding to a series of deadly terror attacks, President Vladimir Putin on Monday moved to significantly strengthen the Kremlin's grip on power, with new measures that include the naming of regional governors and an overhaul of the electoral system.

Putin told Cabinet members and security officials convened in special session that the future of Russia was at stake and urged the creation of a central, powerful anti-terror agency.

"The organizers and perpetrators of the terror attack are aiming at the disintegration of the state, the breakup of Russia," he said. "We need a single organization capable of not only dealing with terror attacks but also working to avert them, destroy criminals in their hideouts, and if necessary, abroad."
Great. Now, if you travel abroad, the locals, the Americans, AND the Russians will be arguing over who gets to arrest and/or shoot you. All in the name of the "Global War on Terrorism," of course.

Ivan heads for Fort Morgan

The latest National Weather Service map shows hurricane Ivan hitting the continental US at Gulf Shores, Alabama at 2AM on Thursday. Gulf Shores is a 25-mile-long peninsula dividing the Gulf of Mexico on the south from Mobile Bay on the north. On the Gulf side are beautiful white sand beaches and lots of hotels, condos, and vacation homes on stilts hoping that Ivan washes beneath them and not through them.

At the western tip of the peninsula is Fort Morgan, a star-shaped, earth-sheltered masonry fort built between 1819 and 1834 as part of U.S. coastal defense. A similar fort, Fort Gaines, is on the other side of the mouth of Mobile Bay on Dauphin Island, three miles away. During the Civil War, Fort Morgan was taken over by Confederate troops, who held it until the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864. Union Admiral Farragut ringed his ships around the fort, bombarding it for weeks before it surrendered. The central citadel of the fort was destroyed, along with any auxiliary buildings, but the main external part of the fort survived due to its sand ramparts.

That was the only actual fighting that Fort Morgan ever saw, although it was garrisoned until well into the 20th century. It was used for training, and in the early 1900's a substantial number of wood frame barracks, officer's houses, and other buildings were built just down the beach from the Fort. Most of these had been blown away by one hurricane or another by the time I started working for the Alabama Historical Commission (or Hysterical Commission, as some of us called it) in 1984. That didn't stop my boss, who thought that early 20th century wood buildings were every bit as important to restore as the early 19th century fort, even though there are only a few such forts in the U.S., and fewer still that have actually been in battles, while there are thousands of early 20th century frame houses all over the country. So, by the time I first visited Fort Morgan, one of these houses had been restored and was being used as a restaurant. There was an enlisted barracks building next to it which didn't have any glass in the windows and which was otherwise in pretty bad shape which he intended to spend over $1 million in AHC money to restore.

Impertinent as I was, I suggested to him that maybe spending $1 million on a wood building on the beach in a hurricane zone might not be the best idea, given that most of its neighbors had already been blown away in previous hurricanes. He was aghast that his new preservation architect (me) would suggest that the barracks was not of enough value to be preserved. He was the boss, so he won the argument. But before work began, a hurricane came by and spun off a tornado which completely destroyed the barracks, sparing the restaurant. I don't know if the restaurant still survives (and the web has been amazingly unhelpful--the AHC web site is almost entirely information free, although it is a lot of work discovering that). If it does, it may be in its last week.

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Juan Cole recounts the violence which happened all over "liberated" Iraq yesterday. U.S. forces continue to kill civilians by the dozens, probably convincing many that there's no safety to be had in being a civilian--might as well grab a gun and join the "insurgency."


The heavily populated and occupied island of Okinawa is a major topic in Chalmers Johnson's book Blowback, and is mentioned in The Sorrows of Empire as well. U.S. forces took Okinawa in a lengthy and bloody battle in early 1945, and have never left. There are some 50 U.S. military bases on the island, most of them on the primest of real estate--ocean front, fresh-water access, good agricultural land--leaving over a million natives to get by on what's left. And even that's not done easily, since the Americans have the run of the island, and frequently commit crimes minor and major. These crimes are not handled by Okinawan police and courts, but by the U.S. military. In most cases, the offending soldiers get at most a slap on the wrist and maybe a transfer. The most notorious was the gang-rape of a 12-year-old girl by three Americans in the '90's, but there have been many others.

On August 13, a Marine helicopter flying off base crashed into a University building in Okinawa. Marines quickly cordoned off the area, keeping Okinawan police and reporters away from the crash site. The Marines apparently let a Dominos pizza-delivery car in, though. This reminded Okinawans that the island isn't theirs as long as it is occupied by an enormous American military presence, and sparked the largest anti-American protests in Okinawa in years.

Okinawa, South Korea, parts of Germany, Italy, and many other countries around the globe have been occupied more or usually less benignly by the U.S. military for decades. Iraq, Afghanistan, and many less visible places have been occupied more recently. That the people of the world will continue to bend over and take it seems pretty far fetched. Okinawans haven't had much support, from the Tokyo government or anyone else, in their struggle against American imperialism. But they do, now, have a lot more company.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Arlington Midwest

Our local Veterans for Peace group displayed their "Arlington Midwest" memorial at Veterans Park here in Ann Arbor today. I helped them set up this morning and take it down this evening. The display was to commemorate the death of the 1000th U.S. soldier in Iraq. It most emphatically had nothing to do with 9/11. Here are some pictures:

Sample IRV Ballot

Instant Runoff Voting, IRV, is even cooler than sliced bread. It is how we would vote for candidates if we really cared about democracy in this country. Amazingly, almost nobody knows anything about it! Our local IRV advocacy group has a nice sample IRV poll up on our web site--check it out!

Feed your head!

When the men on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go
And you've just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving low.
Go ask Alice
I think she'll know.
Jefferson Airplane, "White Rabbit."

Well, somebody saw some kind of mushroom in North Korea on Thursday. Ask Alice, I think she'll know; don't ask Condi, I know she won't. And Colin Powell can only see weapons of mass destruction where they don't exist.

Now, public officials shouldn't engage in wild speculation--that's my job! So here goes. Here's a map showing the location of the explosion and "non-nuclear" mushroom cloud:

Note that it appears to be right on the border with China, a known nuclear country. Now China might be even less happy about North Korea having the bomb than we are/would be, since they're right next door. But China is also the biggest economic and potential military threat to U.S. world hegemony, and they know it. They know that the U.S. already has massive military bases to the west of China in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan; to the south of China in Thailand and the surrogates in Taiwan, and to the east of China in South Korea and Japan. China doesn't fancy an American invasion of North Korea any more than I do. So, maybe they know that North Korea's nuke program is all U.S. hype, like Saddam's was, but they want us to think that it isn't. So they sneak a nuke across the border, with NK's permission, and blow it up in some remote mountain area. Now WE think that North Korea actually has the bomb, and we've never attacked a nuclear power. So maybe this is just one example of the men on the neocons' chessboard getting up and telling them where to go.

Hey, it's better than Condi's forest fire explanation! Michelle has a lot more on the nuke that wasn't.

Nut House

The House of Reprehensibles passed a resolution on Thursday commemorating 9/11 and congratulating all of the wonderful things that George Worthless Bush has done using 9/11 as an excuse. The resolution included the following:
"Whereas three years after September 11, 2001, the United States is
fighting a Global War on Terrorism to protect America and her friends and allies;

"Whereas since the United States was attacked, it has led an international military coalition in the destruction of two terrorist regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq while using diplomacy and sanctions in cooperation with Great Britain and the international community to lead a third terrorist regime in Libya away from its weapons of mass
In other words: "Hey 9/11 Commission! Go Cheney yourself! The FUBAR quagmire in Iraq is TOO a part of the 'war on terror!' Nyah-na-nyah-na-nyah-nyah!!"

Of course, the House Republicans had to force this through over intense opposition from the Democrats. Well, 15 Democrats (and one libertarian Republican). The "Revisionist History Resolution of 2004" passed in the People's Chamber of Deputies 406 to 16, with 12 not voting. The honorable few who still believe that night is night and day is day are: Conyers, Frank (MA), Hastings (FL), Hinchey, Honda, Jackson (IL), Kucinich, Lee, Lofgren, Markey, McDermott, Paul, Schakowsky, Stark, Waters, and Woolsey. My own Congressman, John Dingell, voted for this nonsense, and will hear from me about it!

This time, I'm the one who would get screwed!

From the Washington Post:
Kerry suggested to the audience that Bush may try to keep some of them from voting. "What they did in Florida in 2000, some say they may be planning to do this year in battleground states all across this country," Kerry said. "Well, we are here to let them know that we will fight tooth and nail to make sure that, this time, every vote is counted and every vote counts."
This time. Kerry didn't care back in January 2001 when all it would have taken was ONE senator to support the Congressional Black Caucus in challenging the Florida vote due to the illegal disenfranchisement of thousands of black voters. You saw it in "Fahrenheit 911." That one wasn't Bush's fault. It was Kerry's. And Edwards. And Hillary Clinton. And 97 other non-black senators. But Kerry is willing to fight THIS TIME because he's the one who would get to be president. Heck, if he had fought LAST TIME for President Gore, Kerry wouldn't even be running for president this year! Ah, I get it now. What a worthless Cheney he is.

Not to be outdone, the other John made a fool of himself before the same audience:
Earlier in the day, Kerry's running mate, Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), spoke at the CBC's prayer breakfast, delivering an elegiac and subdued speech that recalled the "unity" of the nation after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and referred to the presidential campaign only in passing.
"This season of hope should not and does not have to end tomorrow," Edwards said. "We do not have to wait for yet another anniversary to come and go. We know what we want in this country. We want that one America."
Ah yes. The "unity" after 9/11. That season of hope which let W do whatever the Cheney he wanted, including passing the Patriot Act, bombing the crap out of Afghanistan (home of zero of the 19 hijackers), covering up the massive pollution problems near ground zero (something which may kill more people than the hijackings themselves), do nothing for three years about the anthrax attacks on Democratic senators, and declare a never-ending "war on terror" intended to keep the stock prices up and the people down 'til the end of time, and pass huge tax cuts to pay for it all. Yeah, John-Boy, those were the days. The blog Whatever it is, I'm Against It has more bitter sarcasm along these lines if mine hasn't been enough for you.


U.S. oil puppet Hamid Karzai is attempting to extend his sphere of influence beyond his own bedroom:
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Demonstrators stormed U.N. compounds and stoned U.S. soldiers in a tense western Afghan city, officials said Sunday, a day after the government sacked its warlord governor.

About a dozen people were reported injured -- most with bullet wounds -- as security forces tried to keep order in Herat following the replacement of Gov. Ismail Khan. The office of one international aid group was also ransacked.
As I recall, Herat is in the Shiite Farsi-speaking part of western Afghanistan, and therefore close to Iran religiously, culturally, and geographically. I'll have to check in on Juan Cole and others who actually know what they're talking about, but this seems ominous. As I understand it, Karzai and his American string-pullers have had little authority in that part of Afghanistan. But Ismael Khan has run his own little province there which has not been a major hiding place for al Qaeda and Taliban, or anyone else attacking the "government" in Kabul or a supposed target in the "war on terrorism." Since Karzai and company have had little success in gaining control in those areas of eastern Afghanistan which have been causing them trouble, it seems insane that he would be picking a fight with the western part which probably just wants to be left alone. Unless, of course, this is all a part of the Bushies' plan to tighten the noose on Iran.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

They could slime anybody

Kerry's just a real easy target.

From Michelle via LaBelle via Atrios via "reader j" via Mad Magazine.

Coming next--pick your favorite:
  • Last Supper Diners for Truth
  • Log Cabin Apostles
  • Zell Iscariot
  • "I was coming back to life anyway. Jesus was just an opportunist who saw a chance to get some free publicity." -- Lazarus, who says he's voting for Bush.
  • "Those wounds were superficial, and crucifixion really wasn't a big deal; besides, he brought it on himself, and he was only up there for three days." -- Bob Dole
  • "I supported the crucifixion before I opposed it." -- Apostle John Kerry
  • "Those gospels are forgeries." -- Karl Rove

Happy 9/11 Everyone!!

The New York Times editorial page is trying to make up for the paper's disgraceful parroting of the Bush party line for much of the last three years:
If facts mattered in American politics, the Bush-Cheney ticket would not be basing its re-election campaign on the fear-mongering contention that the surest defense against future terrorist attacks lies in the badly discredited doctrine of preventive war. Vice President Dick Cheney took this argument to a disgraceful low last week when he implied that electing John Kerry and returning to traditional American foreign policy values would invite a devastating new strike.

So far, the preventive war doctrine has had one real test: the invasion of Iraq. Mr. Bush terrified millions of Americans into believing that forcibly changing the regime in Baghdad was the only way to keep Iraq's supposed stockpiles of unconventional weapons out of the hands of Al Qaeda. Then it turned out that there were no stockpiles and no operational links between Saddam Hussein's regime and Al Qaeda's anti-American terrorism. Meanwhile, America's longstanding defensive alliances were weakened and the bulk of America's ground combat troops tied down in Iraq for what now appears to be many years to come. If that is making this country safer, it is hard to see how. The real lesson is that America dangerously erodes its military and diplomatic defenses when it charges off unwisely after hypothetical enemies.

Always Gotta Mess with Venezuela

From AP:
President Bush on Friday ordered a partial cut in U.S. assistance to Venezuela because of its alleged role in the international trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation.

The action means the United States will not support $250 million in Venezuelan loan requests expected to come before international lending institutions during the next fiscal year, a State Department official said.
I don't recall even the ridiculous opposition in Venezuela, who accused Chavez of "recrucifying Jesus" and other crimes, accusing him of sex trafficking. Of course, the Bush family may have inside information, what with brother Neil being an expert on the international sex trade.

If oil stays above $40 a barrel, I don't think Venezuela will give a flying Cheney about any $250 million loan with all the usual Washington strings attached. Chavez is working to lift millions of women and girls out of poverty and illiteracy, which will do much more to stop the sex trade than bluster from George Bush. Just consider the Bushies' various charges against Chavez to be in the same league as their charges against Saddam Hussein--lies, lies, and more lies.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Very low on the hog

Problem, man

Ivan is heading for Jamaica (the small island south of the eastern part of Cuba). I was in Jamaica in 1991 as part of a Methodist mission team building a medical/dental clinic in Falmouth, a small, poor town about 40 miles east of Montego Bay. Very nice people. I highly recommend the documentary film Life and Debt, which I am now rewatching on a library DVD after having seen it at the Michigan Theater two years ago. It documents the catastrophic effects that "globalization" has had on Jamaica, effects just as dramatic and almost certainly more permanent than anything Ivan will dish out. Watching Jamaican dairy farmers dumping milk on the ground and selling their cows off for slaughter, because subsidized American powdered milk has been dumped on the Jamaican market at prices far below what Jamaican farmers can match, is incredibly sad. Globalization is turning a country more than able to feed itself into a dependent basket case. And that was clearly the intent of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Inter-American Development Bank, the WTO, and all other surrogates for the Washington imperialists. Rather than allowing Jamaicans to happily produce what they need for each other, which in paradise doesn't really require that many hours a day, the globocons have undercut local agriculture, leaving thousands of Jamaicans with no choice but to work in near-slavery conditions in the resorts or in the sweatshops of Kingston.

In any case, I hope Ivan isn't too terrible on Jamaica or Cuba, or Florida. I do see the global warming question being raised a lot more often now; how long it will take to move from the American consciousness to American behavior is anyone's guess.

From David Horsey.

Wouldn't doubt it for a second

From Bruce Beattie.

Now those are gougers I'm all in favor of locking up.

From Steve Benson.

From Rob Rogers.

Consider the source

From Matt Davies.

Jeopardy champ harrassed by airport security

Obviously he knows too much. But seriously, folks, this is serious. One of my favorite occasional bloggers, Bob Harris, was given the total harrassment treatment as he tried to board his flight home from his trip to the Olympics, Turkey, and Egypt.
Where did you stay on your trip, sir? What hotels? Do you have receipts to prove it? We'll have to see those.

Where did you purchase your ticket? How did you pay for it? Can you prove that?

Where did you stay in Istanbul, sir? Which hotel? How many days? Can you show us a receipt to prove it? Can you show us all the receipts you have?

Furious, intimidated, embarrassed, unsure. Feigning calm. On my knees in the ticket line, going through my bags, trying to remain cooperative while being forced to produce documentation no one else was asked for, and which I had no way of knowing I might need.
That this Jeopardy champion was the one who introduced the blogoverse to National Preparedness Month a month before Tom Ridge announced it yesterday probably played only a major role in this harrassment. Undeterred, Harris responds by calling Tom Ridge's mother "a giant-assed oat-muncher who drools in her feedbag and hangs out with men wielding whips." (Sorry, but if you're too lazy to click the link then you don't deserve an explanation.)

But seriously again, folks, America is rapidly turning into a police state. If you want to travel, you no longer do so because you're a free American who can go anywhere you want. You travel only with the permission of small-minded fascists like Tom Ridge, John Ashcroft, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush. In other words, you've got the same freedoms as a Soviet citizen of thirty years ago.

I'm currently reading Sinclair Lewis' 1936 book "It Can't Happen Here." It starts out with depression-era New Englanders discussing the fascist takeovers of the governments in Italy and Germany and proclaiming that "it can't happen here." But then a folksy politician, with a shadowy operative planning his moves, and with a loud-mouth radio personality backing him, challenges FDR for the 1936 Democratic nomination and wins it. Promising every white American $5000 a year, he builds up a uniformed gang of thugs (the "Minute Men") who use regimentation and intimidation to win him the election. In his first few days in office, he has much of Congress arrested by the Minute Men, convinces most of the Supreme Court to resign, and eliminates all state governments, replacing them with Minute Men-controlled provinces. The $5000 checks haven't arrived yet, but the Minute Men are being well paid.

That's as far as I've read so far. While the current ongoing coup has taken much longer, starting shortly after Watergate as the Repugs plotted their resurgence, the parallels are unmistakable. And while it may not seem THAT bad yet, it would if you were Yassir Hamdi or Jose Padilla, locked up for years without any rights, or if you were in Iraq as part of the National Guard, knowing you were sent there based on lies from which our system didn't protect you. The overnight passage of the Patriot Act, the outrageous arm-twisting in Congress, the unilateral (not unilateral as a nation, but unilateral as a president) withdrawal from international treaties that were negotiated over years and ratified by Congress, the administrative appointments of judges--it's all fascism. And it's all here, right now.

BTW, I just got a e-mail linking to a recent Jim Hightower article. Hightower says the Bushies are insane.

Coalition of the Shrill

Paul Krugman:
It wasn't always that way. Three years ago, those of us who accused the administration of cooking the budget books were ourselves accused, by moderates as well as by Bush loyalists, of being "shrill." These days the coalition of the shrill has widened to include almost every independent budget expert.
So what's the real plan? Some not usually shrill people think that Mr. Bush will simply refuse to face reality until it comes crashing in: Paul Volcker, the former Federal Reserve chairman, says there's a 75 percent chance of a financial crisis in the next five years.

Nobody knows what Mr. Bush would really do about taxes and spending in a second term. What we do know is that on this, as on many matters, he won't tell the truth.

Bob Herbert

Good column in the NY Times today. Excerpts:
Eventually there'll be a fine memorial to honor the young Americans whose lives were sacrificed for no good reason in Iraq. Yesterday, under the headline "The Roster of the Dead," The New York Times ran photos of the first thousand or so who were killed.

They were sent off by a president who ran and hid when he was a young man and his country was at war. They fought bravely and died honorably. But as in Vietnam, no amount of valor or heroism can conceal the fact that they were sent off under false pretenses to fight a war that is unwinnable.

How many thousands more will have to die before we acknowledge that President Bush's obsession with Iraq and Saddam Hussein has been a catastrophe for the United States?
The insurgency in Iraq will never end as long as the U.S. is occupying the country. And our Iraqi "allies" will never fight their Iraqi brethren with the kind of intensity the U.S. would like, any more than the South Vietnamese would fight their fellow Vietnamese with the fury and effectiveness demanded by the hawks in the Johnson administration.

The Iraqi insurgents - whether one agrees with them or not - believe they are fighting for their homeland, their religion and their families. The Americans are not at all clear what they're fighting for. Saddam is gone. There were no weapons of mass destruction. The link between Saddam and the atrocities of Sept. 11 was always specious and has been proven so.

At some point, as in Vietnam, the American public will balk at the continued carnage, and this tragic misadventure will become politically unsustainable. Meanwhile, the death toll mounts.
We've put our troops in Iraq in an impossible situation. If you are not permitted to win a war, eventually you will lose it. In Vietnam, for a variety of reasons, the U.S. never waged total war, although the enemy did. After several years and more than 58,000 deaths, we quit.

We won't - and shouldn't - wage total war in Iraq, either. But to the insurgents, the Americans epitomize evil. We're the crazed foreigners who invaded their country and killed innocent Iraqi civilians, including women and children, by the thousands. We call that collateral damage. They call it murder. For them, this is total war.
You would think that John McCain and John Kerry would understand this. I think they do. I also think both will continue to put politics ahead of truth, and ahead of the lives of our troops and Iraqis as well.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

I wonder why the House didn't go overtime to defeat overtime

On a couple of very sleazy votes, most notably the Medicare bill last November, Repugs in the House kept the voting open for hours until they had twisted enough arms and promised enough bribes to get the vote to go their way. But today, the House, including 20 Republicans, voted to overturn Bush administration rules which eliminated overtime pay for millions of workers. The battle's not over, though:
The Senate has yet to take up the health and education bill and the provision could still be stripped out of the final bill when the two chambers, both controlled by Republicans, meet to settle on a final version.

Meanwhile, the Germans have entered Warsaw to re-assert Polish government authority there

Irony is dead. From the NY Times:
The American military said today that its forces had entered the city of Samarra to re-assert Iraqi government authority there...
(emphasis added)

The second thousand will die a lot faster than the first, all in a futile and brutal effort to stay a very wrong course. Neither Bush nor Comical Allawi has a shred of legitimacy in Iraq. Get out NOW, and leave that troubled country alone.

Getting the Dodge out of Hell

The Guardian reports that those international aid agencies still in Iraq are pulling out quickly.

Juan Cole comments:
The hostage-takers are trying to force agencies and companies out of Iraq in order to deprive the Americans and the caretaker government of their support. And, company after company and agency after agency has packed up and left. As a result, the Americans and the Allawi government are far more isolated than they had expected. The withdrawal of so many companies from Iraq would slow the reconstruction. Some of the companies did trucking, and their absence means goods aren't moving. They aren't investing in Iraq or hiring Iraqis, so the money that would have come into the economy isn't arriving.


Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution is reading Kenneth Pollack's A Threatening Storm, a book Jonathan says convinced many American liberals of the need to go to war with Iraq. Here is one of Jonathan's favorite paragraphs so far:
The inputs into Saddam's decision making are deeply suspect... What Saddam knew of America came mostly from his spies and diplomats who tailored their reports to his prejudices. Iraq's intelligence services do not provide Saddam with anything like a comprehensive or objective picture of his strategic situation... they have few assets overseas and little ability to gather information. Saddam has often gotten awful intelligence... that has led him to make terrible decisions... [O]peratives tend to write their reports based on what they believe Saddam wants to hear... [B]efore the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq had little information regarding developments in Tehran, the mood of the country, or the operational status of the armed forces and instead relied on the misinformation of former Iranian generals who had fled the Islamic Revolution and desperately wanted Iraq to attack to try to restore them to power.
(emphasis added by Jonathan)

So the main differences between Saddam and Bush are:
  • Bush has WMD's
  • Bush has aircraft carriers to gloat on, not just balconies
  • Bush isn't in jail yet
  • Bush got approvals from his lawyers before torturing Iraqis in Abu Ghraib
  • Bush is hated throughout Iraq, not just in the Shiite and Kurdish areas
  • Saddam attacked Iran in the past; Bush wants to attack Iran in the future


From Chuck Asay.

As I've mentioned before, Chuck Asay is one of the most obnoxious reactionary cartoonists regularly featured on Slate's editorial cartoon page, where I find most of the cartoons you see on this blog. Of course his point with this cartoon is that criticism of Bush's "war on terrorism" is unfounded if the critic can't come up with a better plan. But the woman's statements go unchallenged, including the one about the WOT actually increasing terrorism. So, the obvious answer to the man's challenge is "Nothing, for starters." Doctors swear to "first do no harm," and that should have been principle one in the "war on terror." We'd all be a lot better off, especially those 1000+ dead soldiers, if Bush had just kept reading "My Pet Goat" and then gone on to read every book in the school library, moving on to the Library of Congress when he finished. Not only would the world be a safer and better place if Bush had NOT reacted to 9/11, he might actually have learned something.

Of course, there were probably even better courses of action that he could have pursued than doing nothing. But doing nothing would have been an excellent option, especially compared to what he has actually done. That it might have cost him a chance at re-election is certainly a risk I was willing to take.

Freedom and Democracy

Two concepts being smart-bombed to death by the Bush administration. In a true democracy with freedom, the people should know everything that the government is doing, while the government should know almost nothing about what the people are doing, at least in private. The Bush administration is determined to make sure neither of those things ever happen. While the Patriot Act gave them the authority to break into your house and investigate your reading habits, both without your knowledge or permission, just try to find out what your "public servants" are up to.

Although they're trying to hide it, it seems pretty clear that subverting democracy in Venezuela has been one of their many clandestine projects. From VHeadline via Michelle:
[N]ew documents obtained by have all been censored by the US government despite the use of the FOIA, which is intended to ensure transparency in US government operations.

The Department of State has withheld the names of the organizations receiving financing from USAID by misapplying a FOIA exemption that is intended to protect “personnel and medical files” of individuals.

Such clear censorship indicates that USAID and the US government clearly have something to hide regarding their collaborations with the Venezuelan opposition.

Crime Pays

From Pat Bagley.

I decided I'd better check the actual Halliburton stock charts on this one, and Bagley's pretty accurate.

Ten years.

Three years.

Note that the stock rebounded from its low just as the buildup to the Iraq war began. It appears to have suffered a bit of a setback around the time of the statue falling and "Mission Accomplished"--not much money to be made if the war is too easy. But that illusion didn't last long, and it soon became clear that Halliburtion would be getting paid for not providing services for years to come.

From Jimmy Margulies. Not to mention pushing over 100,000 soldiers trained in the use of such weapons WAY beyond the limits of what anyone should have to endure. Almost all likely won't be violent when they return. But the 100-hour ground battle in the Gulf War gave us Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, and John Allen Mohammed. It seems reasonable to assume that the blowback from this FUBAR Iraq war will be substantially larger.

From Jim Morin.

From Kevin Siers.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Better, but not good

Finally, John Kerry is attacking Bush on the war in Iraq. This is good; Bush should be attacked, constantly, on one of the great war crimes in history. But Kerry's attack is way too nuanced, even sensitive. He's pointing out the $200 billion cost, but not really explaining why the war would have cost less if he'd been leading it. Something about getting our allies to go along, but they got suckered into that in the first Gulf War, and weren't about to this time, especially since the reasons for war were even flimsier than the one's Poppy used. (I read somewhere that the U.S. actually made a profit on the first Gulf War--not just the corporations, but the actual U.S. treasury--because countries like Japan and Saudi Arabia paid so much of the bill.) No, if Kerry had been president, and had actually talked and listened to allies as he seems to promise, they would have convinced him, correctly, not to go to war at all. This idea that we could have pulled off a second rape of Iraq (or third, counting the sanctions, or fourth or fifth or sixth, if you dig deeper into history, like how Saddam came into power in the first place) on the cheap is reprehensible. It was our idiot president's idea to start this war, and our servile People's Chamber of Deputies, including Senators Kerry and Edwards, who gave him the go-ahead.

Maybe Kerry will finally get around to saying what he needs to say:
  1. Bush lied to us in order to mislead us into war;
  2. Senator Edwards and I were wrong to have trusted Bush and give him the go-ahead for war;
  3. None of the reasons, either those given before the war or since, were close to being enough to justify the brutal invasion which has killed tens of thousands of Iraqis, wounded many more, and caused untold suffering to millions. Neither do they justify the loss of American lives, the grievous wounds suffered by thousands of coalition forces, or the huge expense of funds which could have been put to so much better use.
  4. The evidence is clear that the current occupation is causing far more problems than it could ever hope to solve. Yes, the future of Iraq is uncertain if we pull out. But there appears to be no hope for a good future for as long as we stay. Therefore;
  5. When I'm elected, I will withdraw all U.S. forces as quickly as can be done while protecting their safety.

This book is probably why they put that library/bookstore stuff into the Patriot Act

Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil
by Michael C. Ruppert

This is a detective story that gets to the innermost core of the 9/11 attacks. It places 9/11 at the center of a desperate new America, created by specific, named individuals in preparation for Peak Oil: an economic crisis like nothing the world has ever seen.
"In my new book I will be making several key points:

1. I will name Vice President Richard Cheney as the prime suspect in the mass murders of 9/11 and will establish that, not only was he a planner in the attacks, but also that on the day of the attacks he was running a completely separate Command, Control and Communications system which was superceding any orders being issued by the FAA, the Pentagon, or the White House Situation Room;

2. I will establish conclusively that in May of 2001, by presidential order, Richard Cheney was put in direct command and control of all wargame and field exercise training and scheduling through several agencies, especially FEMA. This also extended to all of the conflicting and overlapping NORAD drills -- some involving hijack simulations -- taking place on that day.
Read more about it, and order it (if you dare) here.

Hitting close to home

I just found out that a colleague of mine, three offices down, was laid off. I've been running out of charge numbers lately, and you can probably tell by my blogging volume how busy I usually am. I'm pretty well prepared if I lose my job, but my friend has a three-year-old daughter and may not have it easy. I'm pretty sure that automotive research money will mostly dry up in the relatively near future (maybe at the end of our current project), and that's not even a bad thing. But the way our economy is set up, good people like my friend will be really hurt as the crunch comes. Moving in the right direction, towards a more sustainable, humane economy, will definitely involve some painful adjustments. The "genius" of our current system under its current atrocious management is that it is causing lots of pain while moving us in the wrong direction.

Global Warming

Seems to be here. We've seen what the one-two punch of Charley and Frances have done to Florida, while Ivan goes all Reagan on Grenada before it heads for Jamaica, Cuba, and maybe Florida. Cyndy links to an article about the extraordinary heat wave going on in the Yukon. And then there's China (emphasis added):
Floods unleashed by torrential rains have killed at least 161 people and left dozens more missing in southwestern China, prompting authorities to put the massive Three Gorges hydroelectric project on alert.
The halt to navigation on the Three Gorges Dam, the world's biggest hydroelectric project, was the first since the dam was reopened to river traffic in June 2003, the reports said.

The project, which required 1.3 million people to relocate, has been touted by authorities as a means of stemming flooding along the Yangtze.

Seasonal rains wreak havoc across much of China every summer, and with the amount of rainfall increasing each year the problems are only likely to grow worse, Sparrow said.

"You cannot build defenses in concrete and steel against flash floods and a changing climate," he said. "We must invest in community level disaster preparedness."
One of the most interesting books that I've read in the past three years was Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water. Written back in the 1980's, it focused on the incredible wastefulness of bringing scarce water into the desert. It also described how destructive and pointless most dam projects were. They generally cost huge amounts of money, far beyond any reasonable payback received on electricity generated or irrigation water. They have often been sold as flood control, but often lead to less frequent but far more catastrophic flooding. Their damage to the environment is incalculable. But far from learning from America's mistakes, China seems determined to repeat them on an even larger scale. That the gigantic Three Gorges Dam is already failing to deliver on some of its promises is a bad sign. I don't know the details, but I'm guessing that if the rains continue leading to a catastrophic failure of the dam, there might well be millions of casualties.

I hate it when I see hydroelectric listed as "renewable" energy. It requires incredible amounts of energy to build a large dam, it alters ecosystems forever, and there is a limited lifespan as the dam inevitably silts up.

Even as the evidence for global warming becomes completely incontrovertible, I'm sure we'll still hear arguments that it is more a part of the natural cycle of the planet than it is man-made. They may even be right. But that is no excuse for not doing everything possible to keep it from being worse--because it's going to be very bad. And that means conservation, conservation, conservation. If most of the world's population is to survive, it will have to be at a much lower energy-use level. And Americans are by far the biggest energy pigs of all.


Genesis crashes in Utah. Scientists were so concerned about the fragile cargo that they had Hollywood stunt helicopter pilots ready to snag the spacecraft's parachute so it would have a zero-impact landing. Unfortunately, the parachute never opened.

Juan Cole explains Cheney

Juan Cole explains the Veep from the Deep, Halliburton, and the war in Iraq (three sides of the same coin, if you ask me):
What was in it for Cheney? I don't think it was a matter of money. At least I hope it wasn't. Cheney sold half his Halliburton stock options in 2000 for $5 million, and it is hard to imagine a man taking his country to war to increase the other half in value by a few million.

I suspect it is political. Not all corporations make money on war. Some actually lose money. But Halliburton, Bechtel and a few other components of the Military Industrial Complex do benefit from war. Strengthening that sector of the American economy strengthens the political Right. Turning the Republic into a praetorian state would permanently yield profits for the military industrial complex in such a way as to create a permanent Republican dominance of all the branches of the US government.

From John Branch.

From Jim Morin.

From Rob Rogers.

From Mike Keefe.

How Convenient

Right in the middle of the NY Times story about Senator Bob Graham's new book and his accusations that the Bushies have been covering up Saudi ties to al Qaeda and 9/11, there's a big ad for Saudi Arabia, linking to a page which tries to deny the charges.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Quote of the Week

I would rather live unprotected from terrorist attacks than in a society that resembled New York City during convention week.
That's from Steven Greenhut, writing in the Orange County Register.
At the GOP convention podium, Republican speakers urged delegates and TV viewers to re-elect President George W. Bush because he is best able to protect us from the terrorists who are bound and determined to kill our families and destroy our freedoms.

In and around Midtown Manhattan, convention-goers got a taste of life in a society where the overriding goal is to stop attacks at all costs. It was the bitter taste of losing one's freedoms, albeit in this case for the short duration of this national convention.

It was Fortress New York. For those of us with the proper papers - a neck-load of colored and numbered badges and IDs granting entry to Madison Square Garden and surrounding sites - the anti-terror lockdown meant endless annoyances, hassles and humiliations. For those who tried to protest the convention goings-on, things were worse.

Look! Over here! Pay no attention to the war behind the curtain!

Josh Marshall notes an amazing coincidence:

AP: 'U.S. death toll in Iraq passes 1,000 mark' ... 4:27 PM, Sept. 7th, 2004

AP: 'Ridge: Terrorists hope to disrupt election' ... 4:40 PM, Sept. 7th, 2004

Isn't it about time that the press realized that there are people feeding pigeons in the park making pronouncements more important and accurate than anything Tom Ridge has ever said? Let me rephrase that. They already know it. It's about time they started ignoring him like he so richly deserves.

I do believe Zell Miller is going to challenge Jimmy Carter to a duel

Josh Marshall has Carter's letter to Miller. Excerpts:
You seem to have forgotten that loyal Democrats elected you as mayor and as state senator.
By your historically unprecedented disloyalty, you have betrayed our trust.
Everyone knows that you were chosen to speak at the Republican Convention because of your being a “Democrat,” and it’s quite possible that your rabid and mean-spirited speech damaged our party and paid the Republicans some transient dividends.

Perhaps more troublesome of all is seeing you adopt an established and very effective Republican campaign technique of destroying the character of opponents by wild and false allegations.
Zell, I have known you for forty-two years and have, in the past, respected you as a trustworthy political leader and a personal friend. But now, there are many of us loyal Democrats who feel uncomfortable in seeing that you have chosen the rich over the poor, unilateral preemptive war over a strong nation united with others for peace, lies and obfuscation over the truth, and the political technique of personal character assassination as a way to win elections or to garner a few moments of applause.


The criminal invasion of Iraq claimed its 1000th American military victim today, and didn't stop there. Condolences to the families, friends and comrades-in-arms of all of the dead, and recriminations to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Myers, Franks, Sanchez, Kerry, Edwards, Blair, Howard, the propagandists at the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox News, and everyone else who made this crime a reality.

Guantanamo on the Huron?

Okay, it's not that bad--yet. But it sounds like the feds got fired up by all the fascism going on in New York last week, and decided to take part. I just got this e-mail from Phil, a gentleman who organizes anti-war demonstrations at noon every Tuesday and Saturday in front of the Federal building in downtown Ann Arbor:
At our weekly noon-time anti-war demonstration today (Tuesday), our banner was cut down by a federal agent. As usual for the past two years or more, it was tied to a tree and a post, both about a foot or so outside the sidewalk edge. This is the first time we've been told that we shouldn't do it. The two agents involved acted and spoke in a very hostile way, quite different from the friendly one we have seen many times before. Also, the feds called the Ann Arbor police, who arrived after the banner was cut down.


That's what the Detroit Free Press is calling what's happening in Michigan.
"We understand that economic changes have come," Standifer said. "But all we're asking is not to take what we've already earned. We've already said we will take a pay freeze, no problem. A freeze on benefits, a freeze on pension. But with the company, it's all or nothing."

Just steps away from the picket line, inside the Deco plant, Jim Connor, the president of Newcor Inc., Deco's parent company, expresses sympathy for what the workers are going through.

"I feel bad for these people," he said. "It's certainly not their fault. They're hard workers. We've got a good facility here. But we've just got to keep costs under control and be competitive."

It's not that business is all that bad. Diesel engines are selling well, so the parts Deco produces -- like pressure plates and rocker arms -- are in demand. It's that those parts can be made almost anywhere, and competitors are always pushing prices down.
And the two political parties and the media have people so brainwashed that no one, not the workers, the executives or the "experts" quoted in the article, dares suggest that allowing unbridled worldwide competition isn't a good thing. The workers "understand." The bosses have "just got to keep costs under control and be competitive." And the "experts" suggest giving up manufacturing entirely and going to knowledge-based employment, as if that isn't even easier to send overseas.

Sometimes I think Americans are like the frog in the saucepan as the water is heated to boiling. The "globalization" of the economy is slowly cooking them, but they'll just sit back and enjoy the hot bath until it's too late. Globalization is cooking people all over the world. A lot of people overseas are probably much more aware of what's going on, but they have much less power to stop it than we do here. But we continue to do nothing (good) about it.

No word on Urbina's mother

Detroit Tigers' pitcher Ugueth Urbina is in Venezuela trying to secure the release of his mother from kidnappers who abducted her last week. The Detroit Free Press had two articles over the weekend on the topic: here and here. Urbina is one of four Tigers from Venezuela. In the first of those articles, the other three tried to defend their homeland from suggestions that it is especially dangerous. The headline didn't leave much doubt where the paper stands on the issue: Venezuela: Dangerous homeland. I don't recall headlines like that about America after Michael Jordan's father was killed or Nicole Brown Simpson was butchered. While other Venezuelan players mention the danger from kidnapping, the articles don't mention any other sports stars having been targeted, and there are some 70 or so Venezuelans in the major leagues. I don't know enough about the situation to say for sure that it is or isn't especially dangerous, but I don't think the Free Press does either, not enough to blame an entire country for one crime.

$422 Billion Deficit

The Bushies are claiming this highest-ever deficit as a success because somebody suggested a few months ago that it would be even higher. When do you think the Chinese and Japanese will catch on that our government never intends to pay them back all this money it's borrowing? When do you think the world economy will collapse? I don't know the answer to either question, but I suspect that it's the same answer for both.

Very Reassuring...Not

An e-mail reply from Senator Stabenow:
Thank you . . .

. . for contacting me about reauthorizing the Patriot Act. I appreciate you taking the time to share your concerns with me.

In October of 2001, Congress passed the USA Patriot Act (P.L. 107-056) in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11th. This law gives federal officials broader power to investigate and track communications for both law enforcement and intelligence gathering. Many of these provisions are set to expire in 2005. The reason that Congress set limits on these provisions is to allow time to take a look at the consequences of this new law before deciding whether to make them permanent. I share your concern for protecting our civil liberties and agree with you that Congress must not rush to a decision on this critical matter. In the war on terrorism, we need to be careful that we do not sacrifice the very freedoms we are fighting to protect. I agree that we need thorough debate and examination of this law before Congress makes any decision on whether or not to make these provisions permanent.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me. Please do not hesitate to do so again whenever I may be of assistance to you or your family.

Debbie Stabenow
United States Senator
I don't remember exactly what I wrote; I probably just used a form letter from FCNL or MoveOn. But I'm pretty sure that I didn't say "Congress must not rush to a decision on this critical matter." I would have said to repeal the whole thing, and the sooner the better. Like almost all Democrats, Stabenow easily validates the "war on terrorism," which will continue to threaten our liberties until some president in the distant future has the guts to say that the whole idea was a crass imperial sham that will, by then, probably have killed millions.

However, in my 2 1/2 years or so of activism, I do tentatively claim Stabenow's vote against the Iraq war as one of the few successes. Lots of us here in Michigan worked hard on Levin and Stabenow to vote against the war, and they did, making Michigan one of only four states to have both senators vote no (the others were Vermont, Minnesota, and Hawaii). And Stabenow is a DLC Democrat!

Here are a couple of posts from my blog from October 2002, with some added emphasis:

October 11
The Joint Resolution to Authorize the use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq, passed by the House and Senate yesterday and early this morning, mentions September 11 three times, even though no links between Iraq and 9/11 have been made. As far as I can tell, in mathematical terms, the intersection of the stated reasons for war with Iraq and the real reasons is the empty set, which is congruous with the contents of George W. Bush's smirky little head. Most wars are criminal, and this one will be no exception. My hopes for living in a more peaceful and just world are giving way to the meager anticipation that someday soon I may still be alive and able to poke my head above the rubble and say "I told you so." Ain't worth it!

I called the offices of Senators Levin and Stabenow and Representative Rivers this morning to thank them for voting against the resolution. I am extremely disappointed in Senator Harkin of Iowa, who voted for the resolution. I gave some money to his re-election campaign through the Council for a Livable World website, and he votes for war! Scum!

October 14
...An e-mail I just sent to Senators Lieberman, Daschle, Kerry, Clinton and Edwards, and Representative Gephardt:

Senator/Congressman ___:
You are frequently mentioned as a candidate for the presidency in 2004. I just want you to know that your vote giving our current President the authority to start a pre-emptive war has convinced me that you are not fit to be president, and I will never vote for you. Last week's vote was probably the most important vote of your Senate career, and you could not have gotten it more wrong. The blood of thousands from the upcoming war will be on your hands.

We've got two years. We've either got to take the Democratic Party away from the Republicrats listed above or get a viable third party going. I haven't researched it thoroughly, but it seems as though Senators Feingold and Wellstone and Representatives Lee and Kucinich could form a core on which to build. We'll be fighting the Republicrat control of government and media, but the declining economy and rising body counts may contribute to a Peace party, or at least a peace takeover of the Democratic party.
Well, I told you so. And I was right--it ain't worth it. Wellstone is dead, Kucinich is supporting Kerry, and Kerry and Edwards are promising to do a better job of fighting the various wars than Bush and Cheney are currently doing. And Stabenow and the rest of Congress think renewing the Patriot Act deserves serious consideration, when in reality it should be shreaded into tiny little pieces and dropped on Russ Feingold's victory parade as confetti (Feingold was the only senator to vote against it, and he's running for re-election this fall).

AIPAC, Iran, Chalabi, Franklin, Alabama

Juan Cole has a longish post about the FBI investigation into the Pentagon-Israel-Iran spy story. He focuses on the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, "America's Pro-Israel Lobby," as it says on their web site, and their influence on Congress. He describes how five-term Alabama Congressman Earl Hilliard was removed from Congress with the help of enormous AIPAC-encouraged out-of-state money funnelled to his fellow-Democratic opponent, Artur Davis, in 2002. I believe AIPAC was instrumental in defeating Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney in a Democratic primary in Georgia in 2002 as well.

Juan Cole points out something I totally agree with:
It ought to be illegal for congressional contests to be interfered with to this extent by money from another state. The technique of targeting congressmen for un-election has given enormous power to all single-issue lobbies, and not just AIPAC.
Tom DeLay (R-Hades) has gathered enormous power through his control of Republican PAC's, funneling enormous amounts of campaign funding only to Republicans across the nation who agree to toe the DeLay-Bush line. Combined with agressive jerrymandering, this has resulted in an almost monolithic Republican voting block in the House, as well as the ability to pick off Democratic seats one by one.

Blogger Overload!!

Aargh! So much to blog about, and not enough time.

Mike sent me this link to From the Wilderness articles on one of my favorite subjects, peak oil. He also sent a link to what appears to be a very interesting article on the American propaganda machine from Canadian Edward S. Herman. I hope to read all of this when I get a chance.

Dick Cheney is apparently blaming St. Ronald of Reagan for 9/11.

Putin says that the Bush administration is supporting Chechen terrorists.
Fourteen Palestinians killed in Israeli attack on Gaza.

And there's this:
Incumbent President Hamid Karzai, who has the strong backing of the United States and the West, is seen as favorite to win the October 9 poll, but rivals may force him into a run-off.
Afghanistan gets to have runoff elections? Why are they getting better democracy than we've got?

And fellow blogger Michelle is back from her vacation, and is blogging up a storm with all sorts of stuff I'd be linking to if I had more time. Check it out!

Battles raging in Baghdad

From CNN:
Fierce fighting in Baghdad's Sadr city has claimed a number of lives following the bloodiest day for American forces in four months.

Battles between U.S. troops and militants loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr killed at least 18 Iraqis in the slum district and wounded another 136, according to Iraq's Ministry of Health.

The fighting in Sadr City erupted when militants attacked U.S. forces carrying out routine patrols, said U.S. Army Capt. Brian O'Malley.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Is Kerry finally getting it?

From the NY Times:
Asked his timetable for pulling troops out of Iraq, Mr. Kerry told a few hundred people in Canonsburg, Pa.: "My goal would be to get them home in my first term. And I believe that can be done." He said he would make it clear that "we do not have longterm designs to maintain bases and troops in Iraq."
"It's the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said.
"George Bush's wrongheaded, go-it-alone Iraq policy has cost you - cost you - already, over $200 billion," Mr. Kerry said in Cleveland. "That's $200 billion we're not investing in Cleveland. That's $200 billion we're not investing in our schools and in No Child Left Behind, that's $200 billion we're not investing in health care for all Americans and prescription drugs that are affordable."
Kerry is finally talking about the right war, the one for which George Bush is more to blame than he is. And he got Bush to say this in defense:
"No matter how many times Senator Kerry changes his mind, it was right for America then and it's right for America now that Saddam Hussein is no longer in power."
A pretty tacky, dare I say insensitive, thing to say on a day when 11 US soldiers were killed in Iraq and we learned that over 1000 soldiers were wounded last month. It certainly wasn't right for them.

This is, as Bush points out, another Kerry flip-flop. But it was one he had to make, and while it is pretty hard to see how he can reconcile it with his recent statements, it is his only real hope for not only winning the presidency, but for returning some sanity to our politics. The war on Iraq was and is a gross crime against humanity, and even though John Kerry was a willing accomplice, George W. Bush was the main perpetrator. Bush MUST be attacked on his criminal war in this campaign, even if it takes an accomplice to do it. The public has quickly forgotten most of what Bush said over the past three years; they'll probably forget what Kerry said too. If he's against the war from now through November, he might just win.

Caught between Iraq and and a hard place

John Kerry, that is. An interesting observation from the World Socialist Web Site:
There is the sharpest contrast between the ruthlessness of the Bush campaign and the impotence and half-heartedness of Kerry and the Democrats. Kerry himself made no explicit response to Zell Miller’s vicious speech, and his running mate John Edwards contented himself with a limp comment that the Republican convention had offered “hate” while the Democrats were offering “hope.”

Kerry’s spinelessness is bound up with the fact that there are many potential Zell Millers in the Democratic Party establishment. Another prominent Democrat, former New York mayor Ed Koch, also spoke from the Republican convention platform on Wednesday to urge a vote for Bush.

Kerry has solidarized himself with the invasion and occupation of Iraq because, whatever tactical differences might exist, the consensus within the American ruling elite is fully in favor of a strategy of US global hegemony, and the Democratic Party is, no less than the Republican Party, an instrument of American imperialism. But were Kerry, as an electoral maneuver, to veer significantly from his pro-war stance, he would face defections to the Bush camp by pro-war Democratic officeholders like Joseph Lieberman, and public attack by the likes of Joseph Biden and Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Islamists, Commies and Baaths--Oh my!

From Juan Cole:
Ash-Sharq al-Awsat says that the council first voted by a strong majority to alter the original plan of having two vice-chairs, increasing the number to four. 92 of the 100 members were present, and 12 persons put themselves forward for the offices. The winners (with vote tallies) were:

Jawad al-Maliki, Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Shiite) - 56
Hamid Majid Moussa, Communist Party, - 55
Rasim al-Awadi, Iraqi National Accord (Allawi's Party) - 53
Nasir A`if al-Ani, Iraqi Islamic Party (Sunni) - 48

Al-Maliki at least used to be a Khomeinist radical. The Iraqi Islamic Party is a Sunni fundamentalist outfit, the leader of which has denied that there is a Shiite majority in Iraq. The INA groups mainly ex-Baath officers and officials.

So, this list is further evidence that the US invaded Iraq to install in power a coalition of Communists, Islamists and ex-Baathist nationalists. If you had said such a thing 3 years ago you would have been laughed at.
Mission accomplished.

1100 US Troops Wounded in August

From the Washington Post:
About 1,100 U.S. soldiers and Marines were wounded in Iraq during August, by far the highest combat injury toll for any month since the war began and an indication of the intensity of battles flaring in urban areas.

U.S. medical commanders say the sharp rise in battlefield injuries reflects more than three weeks of fighting by two Army and one Marine battalion in the southern city of Najaf. At the same time, U.S. units frequently faced combat in a sprawling Shiite Muslim slum in Baghdad and in the Sunni cities of Fallujah, Ramadi and Samarra, all of which remain under the control of insurgents two months after the transfer of political authority.

"They were doing battlefield urban operations in four places at one time," said Lt. Col. Albert Maas, operations officer for the 2nd Medical Brigade, which oversees U.S. combat hospitals in Iraq. "It's like working in downtown Detroit. You're going literally building to building."

Labor Day

From Boondocks.

Guantanamo on the Hudson

Tom Tomorrow has another story from a person arrested in New York last week--for being on the street. The whole thing is completely outrageous. Mayor Bloomberg should be impeached, or whatever you do with a scumbag mayor, and every cop involved in any violence should be arrested and tried. Some people think that Nazi/Soviet style repression can't happen here. Not so. It IS happening here. And all this repression so a bunch of idiots from out of town could get together and discuss how to further destroy the world.


From CNN:
Hurricane Ivan, a Category 3 storm reported at 485 miles east-southeast of Barbados could hit Florida in another four days.
I'd guess maybe Jeb is starting to believe in global warming now. I wonder if, after all of these hurricanes, the land area of Florida will have permanently shrunk. Will old lakes stay longer, a few new ponds remain as the ground stays saturated, and some of the beaches have shrunk? Florida, with its average elevation of something like four feet above sea level, is high on the list of places likely to disappear under the ocean as the earth heats up. Maybe this is how it starts.

One thing we can be sure of--with the people in charge of that state and the country, any lessons likely to be learned will be the wrong ones.

Seven Marines Killed Near Fallujah

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A massive car bomb exploded on the outskirts of Fallujah on Monday, killing seven U.S. Marines and wounding several others, a U.S. military official said.
With Monday's deaths and those of two U.S. soldiers in a mortar barrage outside Baghdad a day earlier, 985 U.S. service members have died since the beginning of military operations in Iraq in March 2003, according to the Defense Department.
They died defending our country--from charges of sanity.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Rabih Haddad

Long-time blog readers and/or Ann Arborites will remember the case of Rabih Haddad. He was a local Islamic leader and a co-founder of the Global Relief Foundation. He was arrested on December 14, 2001 at his home in Ann Arbor, and held without charges for a year and a half before being deported to Lebanon last summer. The Detroit Free Press has an article about some new information which came out of the 9/11 Commission. Their conclusions seem mixed, but in the end they seem to exonerate Haddad and suggest that his arrest and deportation were unnecessary parts of a witchhunt. (The article isn't that clear, and probably isn't telling the whole story. If someone finds better info, please send it to me!)

Here are a few paragraphs from the artice:
Nevertheless, the 9/11 commission concluded that the government was justified in going after Global Relief.

"There may not have been a smoking gun proving that these entities funded terrorism," the report says, "but the evidence of their links to terrorist and jihadists is significant."

But the report also says, "the government's treatment of BIF and GRF raises substantial civil liberty concerns."

In "criticizing them," the report says, "we should remember that in BIF and GRF, the total political will, prosecutorial and investigative talent and resources of the U.S. government have so far failed to secure a single terrorist-related conviction."

The World Socialist Web Site followed the Haddad story pretty closely--you can find their stories here.

I had a bunch of posts about Haddad in my 2002 archive; search for "Haddad." Posts since then are here and here and here and here and here and here .

From Boondocks.

Guantanamo on the Hudson

Tom Tomorrow has an eyewitness account of the horrible treatment that some protesters received in New York, while the real criminals are back on the campaign trail trying to convince people what a great job they're doing in the "war on terror." Unfortunately, they're having trouble getting their message into the headlines ahead of massacres in Russia and Iraq.

No-Go Zones

Iraqis are retaking control of their country, one city at a time. From the NY Times:
The city under discussion was Samarra, a small metropolis north of Baghdad known for a dazzling ninth-century minaret that winds 164 feet into the air. In the heart of the area called the Sunni Triangle, Samarra is the most recent place where the American military has decided that pulling out and standing back may be the better part of valor, even if insurgents take over.

In Iraq, the list of places from which American soldiers have either withdrawn or decided to visit only rarely is growing: Falluja, where a Taliban-like regime has imposed a rigid theocracy; Ramadi, where the Sunni insurgents appear to have the run of the city; and the holy Shiite cities of Karbala and Najaf to the south, where the Americans agreed last month to keep their distance from the sacred shrines of Ali and Hussein.

The calls are rising for the Americans to pull out of even more areas, notably Sadr City, the sprawling neighborhood in eastern Baghdad that is the main base for the rebel cleric Moktada al-Sadr. There, leaders of his Mahdi Army are demanding that American soldiers, except those sent in to do reconstruction work, get out.
It sure would have been a lot easier to just declare Iraq a no-go zone, saving 1000 American lives, 20,000 Iraqi lives, $200 billion, and John Kerry's credibility (Bush never had any to lose).

It's football season

RALEIGH, North Carolina (AP) -- Two young men -- one a Marine Corps officer -- were shot to death Saturday at a tailgate party before a college football game, and authorities were searching for two suspects.

Witnesses said a fistfight preceded the shootings. One victim was dead at the scene; the other died at a hospital. Neither was a student at the university.

The victims, identified as Kevin M. McCann, 23, of Chicago, and 2nd Lt. Brett Johnson Harman, 23, of Park Ridge, Illinois, were tailgating before North Carolina State University's season-opening football game against Richmond.

A witness, Brian Smith, 31, said the men had been tossing a football when a car drove recklessly in a parking lot packed with football fans. He said the men pulled the blond-haired driver from his car and beat him, pushing his head into the dirt.

The blond man left in his car, shouting curses and threatening revenge, Smith said. He returned later and asked Smith where to find the men who had beaten him, saying he had "a .38 Smith & Wesson for them."

Smith, who said the man appeared intoxicated, pointed in the direction of the victims and heard gunshots a short time later.

Smith ran to the shooting scene and found one victim wounded in the face, the other in the upper torso.

"My reaction is that I got two guys killed," Smith said.
Gee, ya think?

I'm not a big fan of having lots of cops around, nor of citizen cops being suspicious of everyone, but what were these guys thinking, and where were the cops? Guy drives wrecklessly through the parking lot--instead of reporting him, they beat the crap out of him. Instead of reporting the beating, witnesses just walk. Beating victim comes back saying he's going to shoot his assailants. Does the witness call 911? Of course not. He just waits for the sound of gunshots.

As happens seven times every fall, Ann Arbor was invaded by 110,000 football fans yesterday. Rich, obnoxiously loyal, flag-waving, SUV-driving fans. Fortunately, nobody shot anybody, and it would be crazy to stereotype football fans as especially violent. But I do think that they serve as a sort of training for the kind of mindless patriotism we've seen in the past three years. No big deal to take the yellow-and-blue "M" flag off the SUV and attach the stars and stripes. Exactly why it's good to "be true to your school" has never been exactly clear to me. The 18 to 22-year-old giants recruited from all over the country to play for Michigan have little in common with the tailgating marketing grads cheering them on; for the most part, they're not even taking the same classes. But for some reason they think that it reflects well on them when Michigan's huge kids beat Ohio State's huge kids. Or when America's kids beat Iraq's kids. Same concept, larger scale.

I will say that certainly not all football fans are like that. Many, like me, enjoy watching a good game. I don't like the excessive violence, but a good football game can be very exciting to watch. I just don't see any great reason to be blindly loyal to a school or a team. Loyalty is way overrated, is easily abused and misguided, and can be extremely dangerous.

Solar Mission Expanded!

Pictures of my new, expanded solar-energy system:

That's my new Evergreen 102-watt photovoltaic panel, soaking up the rays!
The orange wire from the panel connects to a "maximum power-point tracking" charge controller (not shown), which is then connected to the batteries. In this setup, I have four 12-volt batteries plus my Xantrex power pack, which contains three 12-volt batteries in parallel and an inverter, all being charged by the panel. I can then run 120-volt devices using either the Xantrex's inverter or the 300-watt Radio Shack inverter.

One way to make solar energy go farther is to use direct-current devices when possible, thereby skipping the use of an inverter, which lowers the efficiency. I bought the 12-volt car fan (below) at the local Kiwanis sale for $8--it moves an incredible amount of air, and can run for close to twenty hours on one of my batteries (although I try not to run them that long, since it shortens their life).

A friend at work suggested a great way to save money on a solar-electric system. Universal power supplies, or UPS's, are commonly used to protect computers from power outages. A UPS is basically a combination of a battery and an inverter. When the battery dies, most people get a new UPS. But the inverter probably still works, and it may well be a better inverter than my $100 Radio Shack model. The Radio Shack inverter has a maximum output of 300 watts, and delivers modified-sine-wave AC power. This is approximately, but not exactly, like the sine-wave AC delivered by the utility. Some AC devices don't run well on modified-sine-wave. UPS's, though, generally have "true" sine-wave inverters which deliver AC as good as or better than the utility. Even new UPS's aren't terribly expensive, and if you can get one being tossed for free, you've got an important part of a PV system without paying a dime!

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Global Warming Causing Hurricanes?

From CNN:
"Over the past few years, we've seen an increasing trend toward greater activity in the Atlantic Basin and increased strength in storms," said Marshall Shepherd, a research meteorologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "[That] has been leading us to believe that we are going to start seeing more intense hurricanes. That may be bearing itself out right now."

A combination of natural cycles and warming ocean temperatures from global warming may be fueling the destructive storms. Scientists like Shepherd employ an array of satellites, aircraft and computer models to answer those questions in their mission to comprehend the Earth's climate.

Not Winning the War on Terror

The insane "war on terror," in the insane method that it has been pursued by the Bushies, is a self-perpetuating war. The more they stomp on the world's downtrodden, the more those downtrodden will fight back. It's scary to think that Bush, Sharon, and Putin don't know this. It's even scarier to suspect that they do. Most of us would like a safe and friendly world. They want a subjugated world.

Ann Arbor shooting

A gunman held up a gas station/convenience store early Friday morning, and then chased the clerk into an intersection, where he shot and killed him. A driver trying to flee the gunman caused an accident, seriously injuring another driver. Police are looking for a dark-skinned man, about 6 feet tall, 180-200 pounds. He took the clerk's Lincoln Town Car, which the clerk intended to use as a taxi, as the getaway car. Neither the gunman nor the car have been seen since they left the scene early Friday morning. Ann Arbor News report.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Miller Insanity vs. Dean Scream

Back in January, late at night and after days of relentless non-stop campaigning and a disheartening third place in the Iowa caucuses, Howard Dean gave a speech to his supporters, which when viewed from the right camera angles and with directional microphones picking Dean up but not his audience, had one small portion in it which made Dean seem, to some, to be a little unbalanced. This was reinforced when the cable news channels, having nothing better to show, decided to play the tape a few hundred times. The Dean scream may not have been the final nail in the coffin of the only vaguely anti-war campaign that the media gave a chance to, but it was certainly high in the top two.

Jump to September 1. A retiring supposedly Democratic Senator, Zell Miller of Georgia, gives the keynote address at the Republican National Convention. He has prepared for it for months, had few pressing demands on him in the days leading up to it. The camera angles and microphones were all arranged, presumably, to make him appear in the best possible light. Yet, practically from the start of his speech, just about any fifteen-second segment makes him look and sound like far more of a raving lunatic than Dean would have even if his "scream" had carried on for as long as a Mexican soccer announcer's "gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooal!" Even though the ground of insanity and mendacity had already been built up for him by the likes of Arnold Schwarzeneggar and the Bush twins, and he was followed by Satan himself, Dick Cheney, Miller came across as exceptionally creepy and crazy. He then topped it off by challenging MSNBC's Chris Matthews to a duel for questioning one of his statements.

But aside from a few mentions in general articles on the convention and some longer articles on the progressive sites I frequent, the "Miller scream" seems to have disappeared.

I wrote last night that Miller was wrong about Eisenhower leading troops in Korea. After WWII, Ike was president of Columbia University for a while, and then became the first commander of NATO forces before running for president. His main involvement in the Korean war was to end it. UN forces, which were mostly US, were under the commands of generals MacArthur, Ridgeway, Clark, and Taylor.

Also, Miller had this line: "It was Democratic President Harry Truman who pushed the Red Army out of Iran, who came to the aid of Greece when Communists threatened to overthrow it." Here's what says about post-war Iran:
At the Tehran Conference in 1943 the Tehran Declaration, signed by the United States, Great Britain, and the USSR, guaranteed the independence and territorial integrity of Iran. However, the USSR, dissatisfied with the refusal of the Iranian government to grant it oil concessions, fomented a revolt in the north which led to the establishment (Dec., 1945) of the People's Republic of Azerbaijan and the Kurdish People's Republic, headed by Soviet-controlled leaders. When Soviet troops remained in Iran following the expiration (Jan., 1946) of a wartime treaty that also allowed the presence of American and British troops, Iran protested to the United Nations. The Soviets finally withdrew (May, 1946) after receiving a promise of oil concessions from Iran subject to approval by the parliament. The Soviet-established governments in the north, lacking popular support, were deposed by Iranian troops late in 1946, and the parliament subsequently rejected the oil concessions.
So basically, the UN did what it is supposed to do, resolving international conflicts. I'm sure Truman played a role, but basically the Soviets were given what they wanted and left.

And then there's Greece. I quoted from Chalmers Johnson last week:
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.
So basically Miller is congratulating Truman for helping the Nazis come back into power, after the communist-led Greek resistance had spent years forcing them out.

All of the speakers at the Repug Convention did lots of historical revising for their own purposes. Most Americans probably don't know or care about the history of Iran or Greece or even Korea. But most know about September 11. And how the Bush crowd is able to spin that atrocity, on their watch, and for which they were ill-prepared even after Bush's Texas vacation, into a plus for their campaign, is beyond amazing. Did Hirohito's poll numbers jump after Hiroshima? What the Cheney is wrong with this country?

More on the Kidnapping of Tiger's Mother

The Detroit Free Press has a longer story about the kidnapping of the mother of Detroit Tiger pitcher Ugueth Urbina in Venezuela.

More on the Kidnapping of Tiger's Mother

The Detroit Free Press has a longer story about the kidnapping of the mother of Detroit Tiger pitcher Ugueth Urbina in Venezuela.

From Kevin Siers.

This Ancient World

Bob Harris is back traveling the world again, and posting his observations on Tom Tomorrow's blog. After attending the Olympics, he headed up the coast to Turkey. The whole post is excellent, but I was impressed with his conclusion:
Someday there will be people speaking languages vaguely resembling our own but indecipherable if we could eavesdrop. Their maps will not be our maps. And they will look at our wars over half-forgotten gods the same way you and I look at the struggles between the tribes of Ur, very possibly while killing each other in the name of gods which do not yet exist.

They will dig and puzzle and speak of the Oil Age and how its brevity stunned humankind toward the end.

If we make good choices, perhaps they will remember us fondly for they way we handled the first truly global period in human history, and they will carry our wisdom forward to our children's far descendants.

If we don't, they will more likely make small figurines of oxen and bury them in mud brick dwellings with their infant dead. With luck, maybe someday they'll develop bronze.

I wonder how we'll ever learn.

Mother of Tiger Kidnapped in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- The mother of Detroit Tigers pitcher Ugueth Urbina was kidnapped by four unidentified men disguised as police officers, police said Thursday.

The men took Maura Villareal from a house owned by Urbina in suburban Caracas on Wednesday, said Joel Rengifo, director of the country's anti-kidnapping police force. The men have not contacted family members, he said.

The Tigers said Urbina had left the club to go to Venezuela, and the team is working with major league baseball and its Venezuelan contacts to assist the pitcher.
I don't have any idea what this means, but I'll try to find out. I do know that baseball is the most popular sport in Venezuela (whereas soccer is king in the rest of South America), and that Venezuelans are proud of their players who have made it to the major leagues. At one of the dance clubs we went to in Caracas, a guy pulled me over to a wall and showed me photos of big-league stars from Venezuela, past and present. Urbina is one of three currently with the Tigers, and was the closer for last year's World Series champion Florida Marlins.

Thursday, September 02, 2004


I haven't been watching the Repug convention, but I just watched the Daily Show from last night and tonight. I hadn't seen any of Zell Miller's speech, but YIKES!!! The guy is seriously nuts. John Kerry wants to take the world's largest military, by far, and make it bigger, and Miller is asking "What is John Kerry going to defend America with? Spitballs?" MSNBC's Chris Matthews asked Miller if he really thought Kerry would defend America with spitballs. Miller said "That's a metaphor. Don't you know what a metaphor is?" Then he basically challenged Matthews to a duel. A total nutcase, and a disgrace to both parties.

Miller's tyrade is available online, as a transcript, or for those with really strong stomachs, a video. The Daily Show picked up on this line: "Nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators," and quickly played two clips of Bush calling American troops occupiers. Miller got at least one fact wrong--he says "Tell that to the lower half of the Korean Peninsula that is free because Dwight Eisenhower commanded an army of liberators, not occupiers." Zell seems to have forgotten that MacArthur was commanding the troops in Korea, and that Eisenhower worked for a cease fire in Korea as quickly as he could after becoming president. I thought that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were the worst America had to offer, but I'm not sure anymore after having been through Zell.

Jon Stewart had John McCain on as his guest right after the Miller segment. McCain just shook his head and diplomatically said things like "it was interesting," obviously deploring the rhetoric that Miller and Cheney had used.

I've heard people say that the Daily Show is the best news on TV, and now that I've started TiVo'ing it, I'd have to agree (although I hardly ever watch any TV news). All the stuff that you wish the press would do, especially pointing out contradictions and hypocrisy, the Daily Show does, well, daily.

The Sorrows of Empire

I have been quoting at length from Chalmers Johnson's book, The Sorrows of Empire. I need to return it to the library soon, so I thought I'd give you one final selection from the last chapter, where Johnson spells out the four sorrows of empire that he feels certain will happen to the U.S.
First, there will be a state of perpetual war, leading to more terrorism against Americans wherever they may be and a growing reliance on weapons of mass destruction among smaller nations as they try to ward off the imperial juggernaut. Second, there will be a loss of democracy and constitutional rights as the presidency fully eclipses Congress and is itself transformed from an "executive branch" of government into something more like a Pentagonized presidency. Third, an already well-shredded principle of truthfulness will increasingly be replaced by a system of propaganda, disinformation, and glorification of war, power, and the military legions. Lastly, there will be bankruptcy, as we pour our economic resources into ever more grandiose military projects and short-change the education, health, and safety of our fellow citizens.
I'd say that all four are already here, although most people haven't caught on yet. Johnson points out the difference and importance of the fourth one, bankruptcy, because that's the one that will be impossible to hide from the brain-dead public.

Like father, like son

From Josh Marshall:
"The whole week was double-ply, wall-to-wall ugly. The tone was set early on ... Allowances should be made for rhetorical excess ... But, even so, the Republican Party reached an unimaginably slouchy, and brazen, and constant, level of mendacity last week ... [President Bush] is in "campaign mode" now, which means mendacity doesn't matter, aggression is all and wall-to-wall ugly is the order of battle for the duration."
Joe Klein
August 31st, 1992

Connecting some dots

Some interesting tidbits about the Israel-spying-on-the-US case, which as you've surely noticed continues to dominate the news despite the Repug convention, the hostage standoff in Russia, and the wrath of God descending once again on Florida for mocking democracy. From the Washington Post:
For more than two years, the FBI has been investigating whether classified intelligence has been passed to Israel by the American Israel Political Action Committee, an influential U.S. lobbying group, in a probe that extends beyond the case of Pentagon employee Lawrence A. Franklin, according to senior U.S. officials and other sources.

The counterintelligence probe, which is different from a criminal investigation, focuses on a possible transfer of intelligence more extensive than whether Franklin passed on a draft presidential directive on U.S. policy toward Iran, the sources said. The FBI is examining whether highly classified material from the National Security Agency, which conducts electronic intercepts of communications, was also forwarded to Israel, they said.
The investigation of Franklin is coincidental to the broader FBI counterintelligence probe, which was already long underway when Franklin came to the attention of investigators, U.S. officials and sources said. Franklin, a career analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency who specializes in Iran, is suspected of passing the proposed directive on Iran to AIPAC, officials said, which may have forwarded it to Israel.
Reports on the investigation have baffled foreign policy analysts and U.S. officials because the Bush administration and the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon already cooperate on intelligence matters and share policy views.
The FBI's counterintelligence investigation was underway for some time before the Franklin case was brought to the U.S. attorney's office, which happened fairly recently, according to a source knowledgeable about the case.

FBI counterintelligence investigations often involve wiretapping and other forms of surveillance and can last years. They differ from criminal investigations because the goal is to obtain information about foreign agents or terrorists without necessarily seeking criminal charges. Counterintelligence agents previously were limited in sharing information with the FBI's criminal division, but they now do so more routinely as a result of a decision two years ago by a secret intelligence court and the 2001 passage of the USA Patriot Act.
I was just reading about this in Chalmers Johnson's The Sorrows of Empire. After the Cointelpro abuses of the FBI and other agencies in spying on Americans during the 1960's and '70's, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was signed into law by Jimmy Carter in 1978. It restricted the FBI and NSA (the superspooks who are probably reading your e-mails) to spying on Americans only with the approval of a secret federal court. Unfortunately, the court almost always gives its approval, and it did so even before the Patriot Act gave it more leeway to do so. Johnson describes the change:
In the past, FISA warrants were issued only to gather raw intelligence data. Under no circumstances was this information ever to be divulged to federal prosecutors, who might then use it to bring a criminal indictment, since this is precisely what the Fourth Amendment [of that quaint old document, the Constitution--ed] forbids. Under the Patriot Act, however, information gathered under a FISA warrant is routinely passed on to prosecutors.
In other words, before Kerry, Edwards, and 97 other senators voted for the Patriot Act, the government could legally spy on you (with the rubber stamp of the FISA court), but they couldn't then arrest and try you based on what they found by doing so. Now they can.

And this is where I connect the dots. Somebody at the FBI has been spying on Lawrence Franklin and the Americans working for AIPAC for two years, and has turned some of his info to a prosecutor, which is why Franklin may be in trouble. The Patriot Act made this possible. This is a big surprise to even government officials--not that there were ties between the Pentagon, AIPAC, and Israel, but that anyone in the Justice Department would dare investigate them, given that the prime minister of Israel is practically a U.S. cabinet post.

This all suggests to me one thing: A vendetta. Somebody pretty high up in the Justice Department respects the Constitution and deplores both the Patriot Act and his/her boss, John Ashcroft, yet has still managed to keep his/her job. He/she figured that, given the excessive levels of secrecy at Justice these days, he/she could probably get a good investigation going that would discredit the Patriot Act, the slimey US-Israeli connections, Ashcroft, and maybe even the whole administration. Having powerful connections on the FISA court and at the FBI (if he/she isn't in the FBI), this person got this probe rolling.

An even more intriguing possibility would be that the fundamentalist Christian Ashcroft actually despises Jews, and decided to use his new toy, the Patriot Act, to try and root them out of the Pentagon. It will be very interesting to find out what is actually going on, if we ever get the chance. More likely, we'll get an obscure announcement that all charges against Franklin have been dropped and a couple of FBI agents have been transferred to the Nome office. Nothing to see here, folks.

Guantanamo on the Hudson

From the WSWS:
The New York City Police Department (NYPD) has launched a harsh crackdown against anti-Bush protesters, arresting between 1,500 and 2,000 since demonstrations against the Republican National Convention began last Friday.

Cops carried out arbitrary mass arrests in different parts of the city on Tuesday, corralling hundreds in orange plastic netting—the latest police tool for suppressing the right to assembly—before handcuffing and loading them into jail buses.

Massed ranks of helmeted riot police swept down on various protests Monday. While nearby at Madison Square Garden the Republicans praised each other for their “compassionate conservatism,” in separate instances of police brutality, cops beat teenagers, threw an elderly man to the ground and tackled women on concrete sidewalks.
The conditions under which the thousands of arrestees are being held sparked another protest on Tuesday morning outside Pier 57 at 15th Street on the West Side Highway. The facility has been turned into a mass detention center that protesters have dubbed “Guantánamo on the Hudson.”

Lawyers for the jailed protesters have reported that their clients were brought to court covered with grime after being forced to sleep on the concrete floors covered with oil and chemicals from the buses that are normally parked in the three-story structure. One woman had to be rushed to a hospital after the chemicals caused her to break out in rashes all over her body.

Transit union officials have confirmed reports that the facility was contaminated with asbestos as well as dangerous chemicals.

Those arrested are housed 100 each in separate pens, with just two portable toilets in each of these cages. They have reportedly been subjected to verbal abuse by guards and denied food.
Not a peep have I heard out of either Republicans, who take the votes of libertarians for granted, nor Democrats, who take the votes of the anti-war crowd for granted, about New York's assault on civil liberties. How is it, when push comes to shove, whether it's Bush visiting Europe which hates him or the right-wing Republican freak show coming to the most liberal city in the U.S., that the fascists always seem to win? Why did New Yorkers elect two horrible Repug mayors in a row?

Not usually a Maureen Dowd fan

But she's got some good lines today:
Ms. Shipman asked the vice president "his greatest guilty pleasure."

His wife quickly interjected that it was fishing. But we all know, of course, it's global domination.
Despite the fact that the economy is cratering, Iraq is teetering, Afghanistan is reverting to warlords, Dick Cheney is glowering at the world, the war on terror has created more acts of terror, Ahmad Chalabi is an accused spy for Iran and the Pentagon has an accused spy for Israel, Republicans felt so good about themselves that when Arnold Schwarzenegger said he was inspired to become a Republican by Richard Nixon, they exploded. When Tricky Dick is a hot applause line, they're feeling cocky.
Republicans know that plunging ahead with a course of action, even if it becomes obvious it's wrong, is an easier political sell than flip-flopping, even if it's right.

When the president slipped, admitting that the war on terror is unwinnable - perhaps recognizing that terror's a tactic, not an enemy - he had to be saved later by Laura Bush, who fixed his stumble into nuance. Then Mr. Kerry made the mistake of responding in Bush black-and-white, calling the war on terror winnable.

Oil back up to $44.50

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS.MW) -- Tense developments in Russia regarding oil giant Yukos and a hostage situation at a school in the south combined with a drop in last week's U.S. oil inventories to pull crude futures well above $44 a barrel Thursday.

Crude for October delivery climbed as high as $44.62 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, a level not seen since Aug. 25. The contract was last at $44.50, up 50 cents, even after climbing almost 5 percent on Wednesday.

I know some wicked people are making lots of money off of it, but for the sake of the planet, I'm an oil bull.

Go oil! Soar higher than you've ever soared before!
There're other sources, which won't be explored,
until you're high enough to drain rich purses!
Let the crude oil soar!

(Maybe I can get John Ashcroft to sing it.)

From Kirk Walters.

Why Bush rarely says anything that makes sense

Besides being an idiot, that is:

From Dan Wasserman.

The poor get poorer

Fortune magazine has a sad article about how Greyhound is dropping bus service to 268 locations in 17 western states, leaving many people who can't drive, or can't afford to, stranded. They'll be forced to choose between abandoning visits to family, friends, and even doctors, or moving to a bigger city, probably leaving behind a house that's paid for and moving into a smaller, expensive apartment. Greyhound will benefit, because the routes weren't paying. Car companies will benefit, since some Greyhound riders will have to get a car now. Big agribusinesses will benefit, since some family farms will probably go up for sale for a song. Big oil and the Saudis will benefit. The rich will get richer, and the poor poorer.

The NY Times had an article last December about the poorest counties in the nation. Surpisingly, to me anyway, seven of the twelve poorest counties are in Nebraska. And things just got worse. The picture below of York, Nebraska, one of the towns losing Greyhound service, is from Fortune's moving slide show that accompanies the article.

French forces arrest Mayor Bloomberg and NY City Council

No, that's not true. We're a sovereign nation, and we wouldn't let the French or anyone else (except maybe the Israelis) do that. Here's what actually happened (at least according to the NY Times):
West of the capital, U.S. forces detained the mayor of Qaim, near the Syrian border, along with some two dozen councilmen during a raid on City Hall offices, said police Capt. Ahmed al-Ugaili.

Aerial Bombing is Terrorism

U.S. Airstrike Kills 17 in Fallujah:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A U.S. airstrike targeting an alleged militant safehouse in Fallujah killed some 17 people including three children, according to doctors and accounts from the scene of the blast, and angry crowds gathered to mourn the victims and denounce the United States.

"There is only one God, Allah!" crowds chanted at the Fallujah General Hospital, where the bombing casualties were brought before dawn Thursday. A blanket filled with body parts could be seen lying on the ground, while relatives loaded corpses into the back of a pickup truck for burial.

"It is because of the Americans," one man shouted.

The U.S. military said it had carried out a precision strike late Wednesday on a safehouse in Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, used by followers of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He is a Jordanian militant believed responsible for bombings, kidnappings and other violence in Iraq.
That's the same Zarqawi that the Iranians allegedly had in custody and offered to trade to the Americans for some Iraq-based anti-Iranian terrorists that we had in custody. Of course, Zarqawi may still be dead.

So, just to summarize: As part of its "winnable" "war on terrorism" (just ask any leading presidential candidate), the US attacked a nation which wasn't involved in terrorism. Another country offers to trade us some terrorists they have in custody for some we have that they want. We turn them down, and they supposedly release theirs, thereby providing us with dozens of excuses for committing terrorist acts ourselves. Which will, of course, only add to the ranks of anti-American terrorists.

Can you imagine how easy life would be for John Kerry if he just opposed the war in Iraq? The Bushies continue to defend the indefensible, and Kerry's providing them cover. The whole world is going to pay for his fourth Purple Heart, the one that he gets from this campaign.

From Anne Telnaes.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

CNN Poll

CNN asks: "Did Dick Cheney make the case for a second Bush term?" (Bottom right of main page)

I agree with the Veep from the Deep on something

"Time and again Senator Kerry has made the wrong call on national security." -- Useless Dick "Dick" Cheney, tonight at the Repug convention.

Very true. He voted for the Patriot Act. He voted for the war of aggression in Iraq, and says he still would. And he voted for the $87 billion, although he made up for that one by voting against it. (As I recall, Kerry's main objections, like most in Congress who expressed reservations, were with the $20 billion or so earmarked for rebuilding Iraq, not the $67 billion to keep our troops there killing and being killed.) Of course, none of that makes any point about why the Repugs think they're better than Kerry.

Then again, it is just mind-boggling that these Repugs can get up there and pretend that they've done anything right. These are things they should be struggling to find excuses for in an impeachment trial or a war-crimes trial, not friggin' successes. I generally recoil from the Repugs righteous babbling about good and evil, but when I see Dick Cheney, that's about as close to pure evil as I think I'll ever see.

Not a lot you can say good about suicide bombers

But they do save on court costs. Or at least they should, and would if the "Justice" Department weren't run by a fundamentalist lunatic.
DETROIT, Sept. 1 - The Justice Department on Wednesday assailed its own legal strategy in the case that had brought its first courtroom victory in the war on terror.

In a 60-page filing released Wednesday, prosecutors asked a federal judge to end the terror case against what they once called a "sleeper operational combat cell" based here.
Basically Ashcroft's Kidneystone Cops got a conviction of three Arab guys through the gross mishandling of evidence. When this was pointed out, they then blamed it on the one "bad apple" prosecutor, Richard G. Convertino.

Couple this with the recent case in Germany where our government withheld evidence in a case against someone supposedly involved in 9/11. When the Germans said they'd have to drop the case without the evidence, we finally gave it to them. Turns out that it supported the innocence of the defendant, leading to his release. The case of Zacarias Moussaoui here in the U.S. is similar. And then there's Yassir Hamdi, the U.S. citizen captured in Afghanistan and held without any rights for over two years. When the Supreme Court finally insisted that he did have rights, we found out that the administration didn't have any case against Hamdi, and apparently he'll be released soon.

There is a technical term for what our government has been doing in these cases: "kidnapping."

Somebody at the State Department is Busily Not Counting This Right Now

Hostage Crisis Unfolds in Russia as Guerrillas Seize School. First day of school.
Russia's military campaign in Chechnya has faced fierce international criticism because its forces have been accused of killings and other abuses in their pursuit of separatist rebels. But the wake of the last week's attacks, political leaders from NATO, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe expressed common cause today with Russia, if not all of Mr. Putin's policies, in its struggle against terrorism.
The hypocrisy just drips from paragraphs like that. Either the Chechyn rebels have a case, or they do not. If they do, then Putin's brutal attacks are every bit as unjustified as the attacks on the planes, the subway, and now the school. But Putin has other choices for fighting; the rebels really don't. Terrorism is the tactic of last resort. If the Chechyns could call in tanks, helicopters, and jet bombers, I'm sure they would.

I can't find the link, but I think the most accurate definition I've seen this year may be: "A terrorist is a person with a bomb but lacking an air force."

Instant Runoff Voting

We're trying to get Instant Runoff Voting reinstated here in Ann Arbor, which was the first city in the country to use it back in 1975 (the Repugs took it away from us after one election). If you don't know how IRV works, try this demo.

They're Republicans, Dave. It's not supposed to make sense.

Dave Barry on the Repug convention:
You may be wondering why the Republicans decided to hold their convention in New York.

According to an explanation issued by the GOP site-selection committee: "We considered such factors as hotel space, meeting facilities, transportation and the financial incentives offered by the city. Then we smoked crack."

That's the only way it makes sense. Because if you're looking for cities that would be appropriate hosts for a large national gathering of Republicans, New York is going to be pretty far down your list, somewhere below Havana.

Oil prices headed back up

NEW YORK (AP) -- Crude oil futures jumped more than $1 to top $43 a barrel Wednesday after data showed a steep decline in inventories.

The Energy Information Administration reported that U.S. commercial inventories of crude oil declined by a 4.2 million barrels to 287.1 million barrels last week. The decline came amid a drop in imports the Department of Energy said in its weekly report.
I gave up trying to play the markets a few years ago, but I will suggest that oil being under $50 a barrel and the Dow being over 10,000 are both just whistling in the dark. Bush's oil grabs are taking much longer and costing much more than he had counted on, and they're being paid for with borrowed money (and stolen political capital). We appear to be at or close to peak oil, so the price will continue to climb overall, even with occasional dips like the past two weeks. And that will severely damage or destroy the American economy, exacerbated by the Chinese and Japanese calling in their loans. We won't pay them, of course, but it will dry up the capital which has kept us afloat for years, and send the world economy into depression. Here's my corny (corniest?) analogy for the day: The American economy is a swiftboat floating on a Mekong of oil, running on borrowed fuel. And it's bound to run aground as the Mekong is drained.

Bush, or Kerry, will probably continue to do everything possible to fight their way out of this crisis for as long as they can, which will only make it worse in the long run. The only sane thing to do now is immediately implement drastic conservation methods. But sanity has no role in American politics, unfortunately--for everybody on this overstressed planet.

Unmitigated Gall

Here's what Rudy Giuliani said in his speech Monday:
John Kerry's claim that certain foreign leaders who opposed our removal of Saddam Hussein prefer him, raises the risk that he would accommodate his position to their viewpoint.
This just three days after finding out that there's an Israeli spy working at the Pentagon, giving drafts of policy statements to AIPAC and Israel, not for their information, but for their approval and editing.

First your city gets invaded by a bunch of Repugs; Now this!

Sorry. I don't really hate the Yankees or like the Indians, and this post is nowhere near as important as the next one down, but for baseball fans, this picture is pretty funny:

I don't think even last year's Tigers, with their 43-119 record, came close to getting beaten THAT badly in one game.

Peak Oil--Again

Australian Earl Mardle has a very interesting post which suggests that the incredibly aggressive and risky behaviors of the Bush administration have been based on very rational thinking. Mardle suggests that Cheney and the other oil people in the adminstration were and are well aware that the year of world "peak oil," the year when the earth coughs up more oil than it ever has before or ever will again, is rapidly approaching, or may already be here. He quotes George Monbiot:
Never again," the Texas oil baron and corporate raider T Boone Pickens announced this month, "will we pump more than 82m barrels."

As we are pumping 82m barrels of oil a day at the moment, what Pickens is saying is that global production has peaked. If he is right, then the oil geologist Kenneth Deffeyes, who announced to general ridicule last year that he was "99% confident" it would happen in 2004, has been vindicated. Rather more importantly, industrial civilisation is over.

Not immediately, of course. But unless another source of energy, just as cheap, with just as high a ratio of "energy return on energy invested" (Eroei) is discovered or developed, there will be a gradual decline in our ability to generate the growth required to keep the debt-based financial system from collapsing.
Mardle suggests that Cheney's energy task force discussed this very fact, and that is why they have insisted on keeping it secret (once the arrival of peak oil is widely known and understood, widespread financial panic is likely to follow). Mardle sees peak oil as the reason behind many other otherwise incomprehensible behaviors by the Bushies and others, from the war on Iraq, including the scorning of the UN, to Mark (son of Margaret) Thatcher's recent arrest for involvment in a coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea. He suggests that for those who believe that the American way of life can and must go on for as long as possible, George W. Bush may well be the best possible president we could have.

For those like me who believe that the other six billion people on the planet have a right to live, however, Bush is a total disaster. Not because he is stupid--if Mardle is right and Bush knows that we're at peak oil and believes in extending our way of life into the future, his actions begin to appear quite logical. But decisions have been made that will affect every person on the planet for years to come, and they were made in secret by a few right-wing oil jocks. Even most of those most likely to "benefit" from these decisions, Americans, were left out of the process.

Day Six

Day six of the Israeli spies in the Pentagon getting us into Middle-East wars scandal. It's just amazing the way this is just dominating the news--a foreign government, to which we give more financial and military aid than anyone, turns around and repays the favor by subverting our government into just a department of theirs. You'd hardly even know that the Republicans were having a convention!

I guess there may be some people out there who get their news from propaganda sources like the New York Times, CNN, ABC, and Fox News who aren't aware that our government has been hijacked. But for those of us in the mainstream who read Juan Cole daily, the momentum this scandal has built is just incredible!!!!!

Okay, enough sarcasm--for now. Here's Juan's depressing conclusion as to where this story is headed:
By the way, I personally do not expect any dramatic developments from all these investigations. AIPAC has powerful protectors on Capitol Hill, and past charges that it was involved in espionage for Israel have always been buried. As for the Neocon cult in the Pentagon, even if they did something illegal, they will not suffer much because of it. Look at where the Iran-Contra criminals are, who subverted the US Constitution and stole arms from the Pentagon to sell illegally to Khomeini. One Iran-Contra figure, who lied to Congress, now serves in the National Security Council as the person in charge of the Israeli-Palestine issue. That is Elliot Abrams, who was pardoned by Bush the elder and now sets White House policy on among the more important issues affecting US relations with the Muslim world. Bush may as well have just appointed Ariel Sharon to advise him on how to deal with Ariel Sharon (though to be fair, Sharon is probably more pragmatic than and to the left of Abrams).

Moreover, if Sharon and AIPAC decide that they need to US government to take military action against Iran, it is likely that the US government will do so. They can mobilize the US evangelicals in favor of this step, putting enormous pressure on Congress and the executive. Many Iranian expatriates are extremely wealthy and well connected, and they want such military action. And, firms like Halliburton, which find work-arounds allowing them to make money in Iran (and did so when Dick Cheney was CEO), would love to get rid of the mullas so they could make the big bucks, and more straightforwardly. So it isn't that AIPAC can snap its fingers and make something happen in Washington. But it can put together powerful coalitions and leverage its influence through policy allies, which does tend to make things happen.

I don't personally believe that the Iraq war has been good for Israel in reality, since there is now a great deal of instability on Israel's front porch, and the Fallujans have already declared solidarity with Hamas. I don't think US military action against Iran would be good for anyone, since it would further destabilize the Persian Gulf (the high oil prices, by the way, can't be good for the Israeli economy).

But American politics has become so dominated by single-issue lobbies that they far outweigh the concerns of a mere voter.

The Truth About Comical Allawi

"Allawi is a Baathist at heart, and he inherited all of his thoughts and behavior from them," said a senior leader of an Iraqi political party. "He is like Saddam; he has a smile on his face, but a gun in his hand to shoot you with - and he will use it."
--NY Times

Apparently, some sort of agreement had been reached with al-Sadr loyalists in the Sadr City part of Baghdad, but Allawi backed out at the last minute.