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Sunday, October 31, 2004

Viva America Latina!

From the NY Times:
ONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, Oct. 31 - Tabaré Vázquez, a Socialist doctor running as the candidate of an opposition coalition that includes former guerrillas, narrowly triumphed Sunday in the presidential election, bringing the left to power for the first time in this South American country.

The victory by the coalition, known as the Progressive-Encounter-Broad-FrontNew-Majority, whose largest faction consists of Tupamaro guerrillas turned politicians, strengthens a trend throughout the continent. As in the last presidential votes in Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador and Argentina, the candidate most opposed to American-supported free-market policies has defeated backers of those policies.
(emphasis added)

The people of Latin America have realized that "globalization" norteamericano style means poverty and repression. They know this from over half a century of World Bank, IMF, and WTO policies designed to bankrupt their economies and impoverish the workers. It looks more and more like the Free Trade Area of the Americas, FTAA (or ALCA en Espanol) may be a dead letter. That will be very good for the people of South America, but it will also be a huge benefit for the large majority of US citizens who get most of their income from wages (or used to). The best way to really win in the race to the bottom is to drop out. If our two-sided single party won't bring common sense and fairness to trade, hopefully the world will force it on us.

I saw the movie "The Corporation" last Monday. One of the best parts for me was its coverage of the story of Cochabamba Bolivia's recapturing of its municipal water system, which the globalizers had managed to put into the hands of Bechtel. Hopefully the Zapatistas in Mexico achieve success as well in turning that country's government into an agent for the people and not for gringo corporations like Coca Cola and General Electric. (They've got a ways to go, since President Vicente Fox is a former Coca Cola exec, and Mexico is the only country on the planet to consume more Coca Cola per capita than the US.)

Only in Texas!

Is that the Junior Klan getting ready to do the halftime show at the Lions-Cowboys game in Dallas?

Bring back Janet Jackson.

Peak Oil! Peak Oil! Peak Oil!

Back in June, I went to the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair in Wisconsin. One of the most memorable and enlightening parts of that fair for me was the talk given by Richard Heinberg on the subject of peak oil. I ordered the DVD of that talk, and just got it yesterday. I spent the last hour watching it, and I think it is something every American should see. If you're local, I'll be glad to share my copy with you--otherwise, please order one from the MREA Marketplace for $10. You can also read Heinberg's book The Party's Over for a more thorough discussion of peak oil. Here's one of my previous posts on peak oil. You might want to know about it BEFORE it ruins your life!

Friendly Militias

Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense who in a slightly more honorable world would be in the unemployment line, and in a more honorable world than that would be in prison for the lies he told about Iraqi WMD's, and under a world ruled by a harsh yet just God would have been struck down by lightning long ago, has come up with yet another brilliant scheme: funding a "global anti-terrorist network of friendly militias." Congress, having learned from its previous mistake of being fooled by Wolfowitz, has eagerly agreed to be fooled once again, approving the scheme to the tune of $25 million (I know, Halliburton has swindled us out of more than that in the time it has taken you to read this post, but it still seems like a lot of money to me!). WIIIAI explains the cons and cons of this scheme:
At best, millions in bribes will be put in the hands of unsavory thugs, such as the Afghan warlords who sold their opponents to the CIA to be spirited away to Guantanamo, and the next generation of Chalabis. At worst, the money will build up forces that will destabilize nations, commit atrocities, or otherwise come back to bite us in the ass, like the aid given to mujahaddin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

They lied. They continue to lie. They ALWAYS lie.

Cyndy links to this video reminding us of "flip-flops" of the Bushies on the subject of weapons of mass destruction. To think that there are people out there, including my own sister, who still support this idiot lying bastard makes me want to scream. That my sister's two sons, my nephews (one of whom reads this blog regularly and generally agees with me!), will probably lose their public-school teaching jobs in the next few years because of Bush's policies, or that some of their students, many of whom she knows personally, will probably be drafted, or that her newborn granddaughter's opportunities in life will be seriously restricted, all because of Bush's policies and actions, doesn't seem to faze her. Of course, much of the problem lies with John Kerry, who supported many of Bush's worst policies, and could easily have been included in the above-linked video. ("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?" -- John Kerry, speech in the Senate, October 9, 2002.) My sister, if she hears anything at all, hears only arguments from Kerry suggesting that he could pull off the crime of the century better than Bush has. And she clearly sees it as an either/or situation. For some bizarre reason probably eminating from Rush Limbaugh, she believed that Bush was a decent, intelligent man. I'm not sure she still really believes that, but she sees the issue as only Bush v. Kerry, and Kerry hasn't done anything to convince her that he's a better option. I currently think he is, although not in any way that will avoid most of the catastrophes that Bush has led us into (with lots of Democratic support). Not liking Kerry is easy and very understandable. Still, supporting the worst president in history, who is actually running on a platform consisting of his worst failures (9/11, the war in Iraq, No Child Left Behind), is utterly incomprehensible. Kerry is only a likely failure; Bush is a proven one. Not voting for Kerry is excusable (and I might still vote for Cobb or Nader myself, although I'm helping with GOTV efforts in poor neighborhoods to soothe my angst if I do); voting for Bush isn't. There's an old joke: "Which is worse, ignorance or apathy?" To which the answer is "I don't know, and I don't care." That's the answer you're giving to the children of this country and the people of the world if you vote for Bush.

(I'm really no good at arguing with my sister; I'm sort of hoping my nephew will be able to use these arguments and give it a try! You go, Paul!!!)

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Eight Marines Killed in Iraq

FALLUJA, Iraq (CNN) -- Eight U.S. Marines were killed and nine wounded Saturday in al Anbar province west of Baghdad, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force said.

The casualties came amid heavy air and artillery assaults in the province, where the restive city of Falluja is located.

A Marines spokesman said those casualties were outside Falluja in a single incident. No further details were immediately available.

Friday, October 29, 2004

The endorsement neither candidate wanted

And thank Allah that neither one got it. I've struggled a few times trying to explain my feelings about how to treat the opinions of people who are not respected. Most recently, I complained about the Kerry campaign jumping on the story about the Iranian leadership endorsing Bush. That particular gaffe looks particularly foolish now that the new Osama tape has come out. If OBL had specifically said that Kerry should be elected, whatever the reason, the Bushies would have been all over it, and could have cited the Kerryistas' reaction to the Iran endorsement as justification. If you don't respect terrorists, their opinion shouldn't count one way or the other to you. You act according to your own morals or interests or whatever, without regard to what they say or what you think they want. If "letting the terrorists win" is the best course of action, by all means let them win! The Spanish knew this back in March, voting out their sleazebag government despite the idiotic charges of "letting the terrorists win." You're not doing it to let them win; you're doing it because it's the best course of action. In an honest political system with integrity, all candidates would reject the opinions of those they don't respect not as wrong, necessarily, but irrelevant. Unfortunately, we are light-years away from an honest political system with integrity, and Osama might have derailed the Kerry express with an endorsement. Don't be surprised if Karl Rove stays up late tonight concocting a Zarqawi endorsement for Kerry.

Anyway, I think both Juan Cole and WIIIAI do a better job of reviewing Osama's latest video (due out on DVD in time for Christmas) than I would, so I'll refer you to them.

Harvest Moon

Cyndy points out that Robert Parry, author of the book I reviewed last night, has a Dark Side of Rev. Moon page on his web site.

Bad news, bad news, whatcha gonna do?

I'm scared to think what Rove's October/November surprise might be, now that the media is even doing bad-news metastories, like this one from AP and today's Krugman column. The thing to remember here is that very little of the bad "news" this week is, or should be, news. Al Qaqaa was clearly looted after April 9, 2003, and before June 2003. The administration knew this all along. The report of 100,000 civilian deaths since the war began is new, but those people have been dying all along, not just this week. Osama got away 2 1/2 years ago. The fact that more money would be needed to keep Cheney's "remarkable success" going was obvious, even if not reported until this week. Halliburton has been an ongoing scandal since well before the war. Enlarging the time frame to a month instead of a week, it should have been obvious to everyone a year or more ago that Iraq had no serious WMD's or programs, but that only became common wisdom with the Duelfer report earlier this month. Attempts to disenfranchise voters and steal votes through electronic voting machines have been going on for years, but they've only made the front pages recently.

So far, the October Surprise this year has been the media finally doing their job reporting on the disaster that is the Bush administration, after three years and nine months of neglect or worse. As I've said before, it seems as though the wealthy people who really run the world have decided that the Bush presidency is just too dangerous to continue. And that is why John Kerry will be elected president on Tuesday. Karl Rove may still be planning his own surprise, and it might be awful. Then again, Karl may well have gotten a call from his controller telling him to back off if he ever hopes to get that seat on the board of the Carlyle Group.

Wait a minute...

It just occurred to me, looking over my previous post, what it means when David Kay says this: "Iraq had, and it's a frightening number, two-thirds of the total conventional explosives that the US has in its entire inventory." Just today, I've learned that the al Qaqaa cache was only 0.06 percent of the total munitions in Iraq, or about 1/1600. Earlier this week, we learned that the explosives missing from al Qaqaa are enough to blow up some 8000 federal buildings, or one million jetliners. So that means, roughly, that Iraq had enough conventional munitions to blow up some 12 million federal buildings, or 1.6 billion airliners. And Kay just told us that the US has 50% more than that! (Not to mention, we've got nukes too.)

That's all Cheney'd up.

Friday Pumpkin Blogging

This is the world.

This is the world on Bush. Any questions?

(Editor's note: The sequel to this photo, taken after Kerry had smashed the pumpkin on the sidewalk and captioned "This is the world on Bush," was confiscated by the FBI using one of the many secret provisions of the USA Patriot Act. Photo from WIIIAI.)

[Update] Thanks to WIIIAI and the magic of Google, the missing photo was recovered!

(Alternate photo caption for first photo: Senator John Kerry held up a large pumpkin today. He then challenged President Bush: "President Bush doesn't think I have what it takes to be commander-in-chief. But does the President have what it takes to do this?" Kerry then proceeded to eat the entire pumpkin.)

Fallujacide to Get Much Worse

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- U.S. forces are gearing up for a major operation against the insurgent stronghold Fallujah, a U.S. general said Friday, as hundreds of British troops reached a base near Baghdad to free American forces to join the assault.

"We're gearing up to do an operation and when we're told to go we'll go," Brig. Gen. Dennis Hejlik, deputy commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said at a camp near Fallujah. "When we do go, we'll whack them."
Because that's what liberation's all about, right, General?

BTW, the blog Whatever It Is, I'm Against It has been reminding us that Fallujah has been in our bomb sights for a long time (see the previous posts here). WIIIAI's most recent post quotes Ramsey Clark's eye-opening book about the first Bush war against Iraq, The Fire This Time:
"In mid-February [1991], missiles accounted for at least 200 reported civilian deaths and 500 more injured in the town of Falluja. ...These deaths were the result of two separate attacks, allegedly on bridges. ... However, witnesses disagree, calling the bomb placement intentional." The bridge was 1 1/2 km. from the bridge. "The other attack destroyed a row of modern concrete five- and six-story apartment houses near another bridge, as well as several other houses nearby. As Middle East Watch described it, 'All buildings for 400 meters on both sides of the street, houses and market, were flattened.'"

Bush Kay-oed Again

Josh Marshall has the transcript of CNN's Aaron Brown's interview with David Kay, which seems to pretty conclusively "explode" the administration's meager excuse for the al Qaqaa "bombshell." In addition, Kay reinforces the point from the post below in saying that al Qaqaa was just the tip of the iceberg.
Kay: That was one of the most well-documented explosive sites in all of Iraq. The other 80 or so major ammunition storage points were also well documented. Iraq had, and it's a frightening number, two-thirds of the total conventional explosives that the US has in its entire inventory. The country was an armed camp.
So while Karl Rove tries to find a way to blame that on Kerry, and Rudy Giuliani tries to blame it on the troops, I've got to ask, "Are we just seeing the tip of the quagmire?"

8000 Oklahoma Cities just small potatoes

According to the Washington Post, Kerry's concern over the missing 377 tons of high explosives from al Qaqaa have "struck some defense experts as exaggerated," given that there are some 250,000 more tons of explosives in the country whose whereabouts are unknown.
"There is something truly absurd about focusing on 377 tons of rather ordinary explosives, regardless of what actually happened at al Qaqaa," Anthony H. Cordesman, a senior analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote in an assessment yesterday. "The munitions at al Qaqaa were at most around 0.06 percent of the total."
Okay. I feel better, don't you? Why worry about enough explosives to blow up one million airliners being unaccounted for, when there is 1600 times as much actually out there? Why should I worry about U.S. citizen Jose Padilla being jailed for over two years without rights of any kind, when there are so many other people being held illegally? Why cry over that one poor Iraqi boy who lost both arms and his entire family in the "shock and awe" bombings at the start of the war, when tens of thousands of other Iraqis have been killed or maimed? Why feel sorry for my friend who lost his job when millions of other Americans are losing theirs? Why complain about the Patriot Act's provision allowing the FBI to inspect my library records, when it takes away so many other rights as well?

I can't really tell what the Post's slant is on this article. While at first reading it could be seen as anti-Kerry, accusing him of another one of those "ex-agg-er-AY-shuns," a more thorough reading would be that we're only seeing the tip of the iceberg. While the invasion of Iraq didn't prevent the world's most dangerous "weapons of mass destruction" from ending up in the hands of terrorists (because there were no such weapons there), it seems to have greatly facilitated the wide dispersal of the world's most dangerous "conventional" weapons. These are now likely in the hands of not only people we would have considered "terrorists" before the invasion, but thousands more who now see the US as the enemy. And no matter how much Rudy Giuliani tries to blame the troops for this monstrous Cheney-up, the blame clearly belongs to the idiot-in-chief. Worst president ever.

BTW, Giuliani apparently isn't backing down:
"No matter how you try to blame it on the president, the actual responsibility for it really would be for the troops that were there. Did they search carefully enough? Didn't they search carefully enough?" he said on NBC's "Today" show.

That rankled Eleanor Kjellman of Henniker, an Air Force veteran whose son Kurt is an Army reservist in the Mideast.

"That was such a demoralizing, destructive statement for Rudolph Giuliani to make. Once again they (the troops) are scapegoats for the administration's failures," she said at a Democratic protest before a planned appearance by Giuliani in Bedford.

As Kjellman was speaking out, Giuliani was at a GOP event in Gilford. There, he said that in blaming Bush for the missing explosives, Kerry himself was implicitly blaming the troops.
Well, the wingnuts have been trying for two years to equate supporting the troops with supporting the pResident. Now Giuliani is equating blaming the pResident with blaming the troops, clearly a vile and despicable thing for Kerry to do, when he should know that the honorable thing to do is to criticize the troops directly, like Rudy. What a despicable excuse for a human being Giuliani is.

A Charge to Make

Ghostwriter Mickey Herskowitz was hired by the G.W. Bush campaign to write aWol's campaign autobiography, "A Charge to Keep." When he turned in the manuscript to Karen Hughes, she complained that it was full of stuff that wasn't true. Herskowitz said he got it all from Bush himself. So they fired Herskowitz, and Hughes rewrote the book in pure BS. Well, Herskowitz has decided to let the world know what candidate Bush told him in 1999. I've already seen other blogs and e-mails focusing on the part where Bush says he was already planning to invade Iraq in 1999, but that hardly seems to be news to me (nor does it really differentiate him from his current opponent). But I think that the real eye-openers are what aWol had to say about wars and success as a president. From the article:
"My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it. If I have a chance to invade--if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency."

According to Herskowitz, George W. Bush's beliefs on Iraq were based in part on a notion dating back to the Reagan White House - ascribed in part to now-vice president Dick Cheney, Chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee under Reagan. "Start a small war. Pick a country where there is justification you can jump on, go ahead and invade."

Bush's circle of pre-election advisers had a fixation on the political capital that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher collected from the Falklands War. Said Herskowitz: "They were just absolutely blown away, just enthralled by the scenes of the troops coming back, of the boats, people throwing flowers at [Thatcher] and her getting these standing ovations in Parliament and making these magnificent speeches."

Republicans, Herskowitz said, felt that Jimmy Carter's political downfall could be attributed largely to his failure to wage a war. He noted that President Reagan and President Bush's father himself had (besides the narrowly-focused Gulf War I) successfully waged limited wars against tiny opponents - Grenada and Panama - and gained politically.
Frankly, I think this indicts our political system and the ignorant populace far more than it indicts Bush. He's not a particularly bright man, nor does he learn easily. But it seems that he understood this lesson completely.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Template Change

I decided to try a different Blogger template. I'm not sure I like the restricted text width, but I definitely prefer my blockquotes looking like blockquotes, so you can tell the difference between when I'm quoting and when I'm ranting. The "Previous Posts" feature seems nice, too.

Bad Moon Rising

Connect the dots: Nazi Klaus Barbie, Bolivia's Cocaine Coup, weird sex rituals, George H.W. Bush. Okay, a few more hints: The Washington Times, Korea, mass weddings, Capitol Hill coronations, the title of this post. Now, if you worked for the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, you'd come up with the same answer you always did: Saddam Hussein. Otherwise, you probably guessed, correctly, that the dots are connected by the extremely strange person named Sun Myung Moon.

I just finished reading this book:

The book traces the various Republican scandals of the past 32 years and their intricate relationships with the two George Bushes. The book is full of interesting stuff, including a section on the Bush 2000 campaign's elaborate preparations for attacking the electoral college, since their polls were indicating that they might win the popular vote over Al Gore, but lose in the electoral college (in fact, they lost in both). But the most fascinating sections to me were the parts about Reverend Moon. Since you really should read the whole book, I won't give you large selections that will really inform you, but selected sentences and paragraphs to entice you. Fortunately, there is an article online which has much of the stuff I'm leaving out. As for the stuff I'm putting in:
Sun Myung Moon may have the distinction of being the most unusual person ever to wield substantial influence in the capital of the United States.

Known for crowning himself at lavish ceremonies and ranting for hours in Korean about the proper use of sex organs, Moon demonstrated how almost anyone can secure something akin to respectability in Washington if he's willing to spend enough money. In Moon's case, the ticket to influence in Washington was purchased at the price of hundreds of millions of dollars.
-- p 77
According to Pak's book, Moon taught that Jesus was intended to save mankind by having sex with six already-married women who would then have sex with other men who would pass on the purification to other women until, eventually, all mankind would have pure blood. [or HIV--ed]

Pak contended that Moon took on this personal duty as the second Messiah and began having sex with the "six Marys."
-- p. 78
"Here's a man [Moon] who says he wants to take over the world, where all religions will be abolished except Unificationism, all languages will be abolished except Korean, all governments will be abolished except his one-world theocracy," said Steve Hassan, a former church leader.
-- p. 84
In 1989, published reports disclosed that Moon had declared that one of his sons, Heung Jin Moon who died in a car crash in 1983, had come back to life in the body of a church member from Zimbabwe. The muscular African--known inside the church as the "black Heung Jin"--then compelled church leaders to stand before him and engage in humiliating self-criticism, sometimes making them sing songs.

During one of these rituals in December 1988, the Zimbabwean severely beat longtime Moon lieutenant Bo Hi Pak, who was then publisher of the Washington Times. Pak reportedly suffered brain damage and impaired speech from the assault, which church sources told me had been sanctioned by Moon after Pak had fallen out of favor.
-- p. 240
"History will make the position of Reverend Moon clear, and his enemies, the American population and government will bow down to him," Moon said, speaking of himself in the third person. "That is Father's tactic, the natural subjugation of the American government and population."
Yep. That's the guy who has supported the Bush family for years, the guy who was crowned humanity’s “savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent” in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on March 23 of this year.

How's your Korean?

CARE shuts down Iraq operations

(CNN) -- The relief agency CARE International has shut down all operations in Iraq and urged insurgents to release its director in Bagdhad, Margaret Hassan, who was kidnapped more than a week ago.
Freedom on the march. Right out of Iraq.

Michigan Voter Information

Michigan voters! You can verify that you are registered and see a sample ballot at Print out the ballot, research the candidates and proposals, and take your sample ballot to the polls with you on Tuesday.

BTW, I haven't looked into the details on Michigan Proposal 1 yet. As I understand it, a "yes" vote means that future legislation extending legalized gambling in the state would have to be approved by voter referendum instead of by the legislature. Sort of a referendum on referenda, I guess. I'm not sure that referenda are necessarily preferable to the old representative form of government (and I think a lot of Californians would say that they aren't). But I do think that state-run lotteries are an abomination. Also, I'm so cynical now that I tend to get very nervous about anything that Republicans and Democrats agree on--like wars, Patriot Acts, NAFTA, and so on. So when I saw the ad with Governor Granholm and the Republican Speaker of the House together telling me to vote "no" on 1, my gut reaction was to vote "yes."

If any readers have strong feelings on Prop 1, I'd love to hear them! Here's the Citizens Research Council of Michigan analysis, and a Google search page. I haven't read this stuff yet.

Ted Rall's Ten Reasons Bush Can't Be Allowed to Win

Sometimes I think cartoonist Ted Rall should stick to writing. While some of his cartoons are spot on, they're usually at least a bit confusing, and I think he'd agree that he's not especially gifted with a pencil. But Ted can write. Here are his ten reasons why Bush must go. Rall has explanations for all ten in the article, but I'm only going to include portions I really like. The case against Bush:
  1. He stole the 2000 election.
  2. He politicized 9/11.
  3. He let the terrorists get away while giving them a payraise.
  4. He murdered nearly 100,000 people. ("The world would be safer if Charles Manson, a mere amateur killer by comparison, were released and Bush was sitting in prison.")
  5. He bankrupted the treasury.
  6. He threw thousands of innocent people into concentration camps.
  7. We are more feared than Al Qaeda. ("We are feared, which is why we are hated. Because we are hated, we are in greater danger.")
  8. Bush has done nothing to improve the economy.
  9. Bush will appoint the next Supreme Court justice.
  10. We deserve a president who can speak English and doesn't look like a chimpanzee.

A Safer Place

100,000 excess civilian deaths in Iraq due to war.
Mortality was already high in Iraq before the war because of United Nations (news - web sites) sanctions blocking food and medical imports but the researchers described what they found as shocking.

The new figures are based on surveys done by the researchers in Iraq in September 2004. They compared Iraqi deaths during 14.6 months before the invasion in March 2003 and the 17.8 months after it by conducting household surveys in randomly selected neighborhoods.
I have seen the "ten thousand civilian deaths" cited since about June of 2003, as if civilians hadn't been dying by the hundreds since then. I don't know how accurate the 100,000 number is, but I'll bet it's a lot closer to the truth than 10,000.

So I guess Bush's new line will have to be: "There may not have been any WMD's or WMD programs or ties to 9/11 or relationships with al Qaeda, but Iraq is definitely a more dangerous place without Saddam Hussein in power." And his idiot supporters won't even notice the difference, and cheer the moron anyway.

[Update] Juan Cole discusses the report in greater detail.

From Bruce Plante.

From Rex Babin.

Deja vu all over again?

The last time the Boston Red Sox won the World Series, before last night, was 1918. That winter, the worst known influenza epidemic in history hit the world, killing 20 to 40 million people worldwide, including 675,000 Americans (including probably my grandfather, who died when my father was an infant). Both the world-wide and American tolls from the flu exceeded their relative tolls from the "war to end all wars."

Faith-based Presidency

Thomas Schaller expresses his faith in the pResident. Excerpt:
I believe the president was right to oppose the formation of the 9/11 Commission, to change his mind but then oppose fully funding it, to change his mind but then oppose granting its request for an extension, to change his mind but refuse to testify for more than an hour, to change his mind but then testify alongside Vice President Dick Cheney so long as transcripts and note-taking were prohibited. I believe the investigation into the Abu Ghraib prison scandal shows it was the fault of a handful of misguided underlings who simply misunderstood a memo signed by the Secretary of Defense which authorized the use of dogs to interrogate prisoners.

Domestically, I believe income tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans are the solution to budget surpluses or deficits, high or low inflation, stable or unstable interest rates, expanding or shrinking trade deficits, widening or narrowing wealth gaps, increasing or decreasing poverty rates, rising or falling unemployment, prosperity or recession, wartime or peace. I believe record-setting budget deficits, record-setting trade deficits, and a burgeoning national debt are examples of the president's fiscally-conservative economic leadership.

One eclipse photo that wasn't awful

It doesn't nearly match up to what I saw through the binoculars, but it's the best photo I got!

Eclipse eclipsed by Red Sox win

Lunar eclipses happen every few years; Red Sox World Series' wins are a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Memo to Boston cops: Don't kill anybody tonight.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Totally Cosmic!

I've been out watching the lunar eclipse through binoculars. Probably the coolest celestial event I recall seeing. It's really cool that you can still see the moon and its features even in the eclipsed area. It's got this cool reddish glow, and it looks much more three-dimensional than it does when fully lit by the sun. Instead of just a bright disk on the sky, it looks like a marble you could reach out and grab. If you missed the moon going into the earth's shadow, be sure to catch it on the way out. It will be in full shadow until 11:45 pm EDT, and fully emerge from the shadow at 12:54 am.

I pointed the digital camera at it a couple of times; I'll load those later and see if they're worth looking at.

He said it, not me!

"...A political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander in chief." -- George W. Bush, today.

Saving Energy

I would have been REALLY proud this year if I had played some role in getting Dennis Kucinich elected president. Instead, he got 3% in the Michigan Democratic caucus, and zero planks, give or take, put into the national Democratic platform. So I guess that I'll have to settle for something a bit more personal--that I've cut my electricity usage by over 50%. The chart below shows my usage over the past two-plus years. Note that my October total (actually for Sept. 21 through Oct. 20) is the lowest on the chart, except for January 2004 (which I think was a correction for misreading my meter in December 2003--probably both months should have been around 400 kw-h). I believe this October total reflects three major factors: 1) My general conservation efforts over the past year--compact fluorescent bulbs, putting "phantom loads" on power strips and shutting them off when not in use, switching for a desktop to a laptop computer; 2) Finding out what my biggest energy hog was during the summer and early fall, the dehumidifier, and running it much less often; and 3) my two solar panels. For most of September and much of October, I was able to power most of my TV watching and stereo playing from my solar-charged batteries. I also used a solarpowered 12-volt DC fan instead of a 120-V AC box fan for air circulation. Adding my second, larger solar panel is probably the main reason for the drop from August and September. The next bill may not be quite as good, since we've had a lot of cloudy weather lately, and I've been running the furnace on occasion. Even though it's a gas furnace, it has an electric fan which uses a lot of watts. Anyway, I guess the chart below and this blog are probably the two things I'm proudest of from 2004 so far.

The making of the terror myth

Read this article! Here's the tease:
Since September 11 Britain has been warned of the 'inevitability' of
catastrophic terrorist attack. But has the danger been exaggerated? A major new TV documentary claims that the perceived threat is a politically driven fantasy - and al-Qaida a dark illusion.

Stupid is as stupid does

The "Sensible Liberal" is at it again. I'm sure that Tom Tomorrow and Busy, Busy, Busy and dozens of other bloggers will be all over Nicholas Kristof's latest apology for the worst president ever, but I'm going to get my shot in before I read theirs! Kristof tries to say that Bush is smart, as follows:
My Times colleague John Tierney wrote a few days ago of a new report suggesting, based on their scores on military intelligence tests taken in the 1960's, that Mr. Bush had an I.Q. in the 95th percentile of the population and that John Kerry's was in the 91st percentile. Yet most liberals have not revised their view that Mr. Bush is a nitwit.
Well, Nick, that's probably because most liberals realize that twenty years of acknowledged heavy drinking and who knows how many years of unacknowledged cocaine use can have a detrimental effect on intelligence.[1] I'd suggest that the military tests were correct--both Bush and Kerry were wealthy and connected enough to get out of having to go to Vietnam, but only Bush was smart enough to take advantage.[2] But you'd have to ignore all of the evidence, especially from the three debates, to conclude that Bush is still smarter than Kerry--or a doorknob, for that matter. I think Forrest Gump summed up Bush the best: "Stupid is as stupid does."[3]

Footnotes: 1. Twenty years in the U.S. Senate is probably also detrimental to intelligence, but not as bad as drinking and drugs. 2. Although people of considerably less intelligence than Kerry, like Dan Quayle and John Ashcroft, got out, as did those who were probably smarter, like Bill Clinton and Dick Cheney. Maybe it was only those of high but not exceptional intelligence like Kerry, Al Gore, John McCain and Max Cleland who got stuck going to Vietnam. 3. And Forrest knew several presidents.

8613 Oklahoma City Bombs

[T]he lost material at [al Qaqaa] equals between 2,584 - 8613 OK City-size bombs. That's one hell of a lot of material to be on the street -- enough to fuel a car-bomb and IED-based insurgency for years, if not decades.
If the Army didn't have enough troops to secure this site, why not just call in the Air Force? I guess it might have caused a minor earthquake to bomb al Qaqaa, but wouldn't that have been preferable to 8613 Oklahoma City bombs, or one million Lockerbies, delivered one at a time?

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Puppet Cuts String

Allawi Blames Coalition for Massacre. From Fox News:
Iraq's interim prime minister blamed U.S.-led coalition forces Tuesday for "great negligence" in the ambush that killed about 50 American-trained soldiers..."It was a heinous crime where a group of National Guards were targeted," Allawi said. "There was great negligence on the part of some coalition forces. It seems there was sort of determination on doing Iraq and Iraqi people harm."
I picked the Fox News report to bolster my claim that Bush is toast since pretty much ALL of the media is now reporting his screwups.

Allawi's comments are currently the lead story on MSNBC. They're also prominent at the NY Times and Washington Post. Only CNN has the story hidden deep within another Iraq story.


From yesterday's press GAGgle with presidential spokesliar Scott McClellan:
Q But after Iraqi Freedom, there were those caches all around, wasn't the multinational force -- who was responsible for keeping track --

MR. McCLELLAN: At the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom there were a number of priorities. It was a priority to make sure that the oil fields were secure, so that there wasn't massive destruction of the oil fields, which we thought would occur. It was a priority to get the reconstruction office up and running. It was a priority to secure the various ministries, so that we could get those ministries working on their priorities, whether it was --

Ah, yes. Operation Iraqi Liberation. OIL.
Q Scott, did we just have enough troops in Iraq to guard and protect these kind of caches?

MR. McCLELLAN: See, that's -- now you just hit on what I just said a second ago, that the sites now are really -- my understanding, they're the responsibility of the Iraqi forces.
Brilliant, Scotty. Keeping those 380 tons of high explosives, enough to blow up ONE MILLION airplanes, was the responsibility of the Iraqi army that Americans were in the process of massacring back in April 2003. Blaming the victim is an old Bushie sport--this raises it to new levels.

And General Shinseki could tell those commanders what happens to officers who say they need more troops. I think the Nazi Wehrmacht had a similar policy.

Fallujah has been there a while

The blog Whatever It Is, I'm Against It has been making the very valid point that Fallujah didn't just rise up from the earth to kill and mutilate four contractors back on March 31. Fallujah was the site of one of the earliest reported atrocities of this current Iraq war, back in April, 2003, when US troops who had occupied a school shot up a crowd of Fallujans, killing at least 15 and wounding many more. They shot up a bunch more the next day before withdrawing.

WIIIAI added this update yesterday:
In talking about the historical amnesia over Fallujah, I missed a quote, from British Foreign Minister Jack Straw, who after the 4 contractors were killed said that it "was not the Americans who cast the first Fallujah." My own historical amnesia was pointed out to me (by email) by blogger ManicNetPreacher, who noted that in the 1st Gulf War, the market in Fallujah was bombed twice in separate incidents (by the British).

A Safer Place: The Daily Carnage Report

From Juan Cole:
Guerrillas detonated a roadside bomb in western Baghdad, killing 1 US soldier and wounding five other US troops.

On the outskirts of Baghdad, guerrillas detonated a roadside bomb as an Estonian patrol passed, killing one soldier and wounding 5 others.

Near the Australian embassy in Baghdad, guerrillas used a car bomb to attack Australian military vehicles. They eounded 3 Australian soldiers lightly, but killed 3 Iraqis and wounded 6 others.

In Mosul, one suicide car bomber detonated his payload at provincial government offices, killing 3 Iraqi government employees and wounding one. Another car bomber targeted an Iraqi military convoy in the city, wounding an Iraqi general, Mu`tazz al-Taqah.

AP says that guerrilla attacks are up 25 percent since the beginning of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
Gee, I wonder where all the explosives for all of those bombs came from.

Riverbend Endorses Kerry

From Iraqi blogger Riverbend:
Who am I hoping will win? Definitely Kerry. There’s no question about it. I want Bush out of the White House at all costs. (And yes- who is *in* the White House *is* my business- Americans, you made it my business when you occupied my country last year) I’m too realistic to expect drastic change or anything phenomenal, but I don’t want Bush reelected because his reelection (or shall I call it his ‘reassignment’) will condone the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq. It will say that this catastrophe in Iraq was worth its price in American and Iraqi lives. His reassignment to the White House will sanction all the bloodshed and terror we’ve been living for the last year and a half.

I’ve heard all the arguments. His supporters are a lot like him- they’ll admit no mistakes. They’ll admit no deceit, no idiocy, no manipulation, no squandering. It’s useless. Republicans who *don’t* support him, but feel obliged to vote for him, write long, apologetic emails that are meant, I assume, to salve their own conscience. They write telling me that he should be ‘reelected’ because he is the only man for the job at this point. True, he made some mistakes and he told a few fibs, they tell me- but he really means well and he intends to fix things and, above all, he has a plan.

Let me assure you Americans- he has NO PLAN. There is no plan for the mess we’re living in- unless he is cunningly using the Chaos Theory as a basis for his Iraq plan. Things in Iraq are a mess and there is the sense that the people in Washington don’t know what they’re doing, and their puppets in Iraq know even less. The name of the game now in Iraq is naked aggression- it hasn’t been about hearts and minds since complete areas began to revolt. His Iraq plan may be summarized with the Iraqi colloquial saying, “A’athreh ib dafra”, which can be roughly translated to ‘a stumble and a kick’. In other words, what will happen, will happen and hopefully- with a stumble and a kick- things will move in the right direction.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: Americans, the name of your country which once stood for ‘freedom and justice’ is tarnished worldwide. Your latest president has proved that the great American image of democracy is just that- an image. You can protest, you can demonstrate, you can vote- but it ends there. The reigns were out of your hands the moment Bush stepped into the White House. You were deceived repetitively and duped into two wars. Your sons and daughters are dying, and killing, in foreign lands. Your embassies are in danger all over the world. ‘America’ has become synonymous with ‘empire’, ‘hegemony’, and ‘warfare’. And why? All because you needed to be diverted away from the fact that your current president is a failure.

Some people associate the decision to go to war as a ‘strength’. How strong do you need to be to commit thousands of your countrymen and women to death on foreign soil? Especially while you and your loved ones sit safely watching at home. How strong do you need to be to give orders to bomb cities to rubble and use the most advanced military technology available against a country with a weak army and crumbling infrastructure? You don’t need to be strong- you need to be mad.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Paul Wellstone, two years later

Senator Paul Wellstone's plane crashed two years ago today, killing Wellstone, his wife, his daughter, and five others. I still say they were murdered.

BTW: This was my last post before his plane crashed:
Anti-war vote hasn't hurt Wellstone. This Reuters report says that the Senator's chances for re-election may have improved since he voted against Bush's Iraq war resolution. I'm going to Minnesota next week to volunteer for his campaign, just to make sure. I chewed out another online organization yesterday. A couple of weeks ago I discovered that the supposedly anti-war Council for a Livable World was still collecting donations for several candidates who voted for the Iraq war resolution. And now there's MoveOn. had conducted a major campaign to call and write members of Congress prior to the war resolution votes on October 10, but now that the votes have been cast, MoveOn is still raising funds for several who voted for war, including Senators Harkin, Carnahan and Johnson. I don't see how we can expect these Republicrats to oppose Bush on other wars, or environmental issues, or Supreme Court nominees, if they fail to vote against an unnecessary, unjustified, and just plain evil war. MoveOn brags about Wellstone's vote, but doesn't mention the votes of Harkin, Carnahan and Johnson. You'd think there would be somebody out there you can trust!
(Emphasis added. I didn't go to Minnesota, instead working on local campaigns and a Congressional race in Indiana.)

Ralph Speaks!

Of the zillion depressing things that have happened this year, few have depressed me as much as the non-stop attacks on Ralph Nader. People who whine endlessly about the latest swiftboat ad for its negative campaigning turn around and call Ralph every name in the book. Supporters of a candidate formerly best known for his principled opposition to the Vietnam who supported and continues to support the ongoing war crime in Iraq have unmercifully attacked Nader for "abandoning his principles." And their candidate, rather than make Ralph a non-factor by stealing a few planks from his platform, instead just dares progressives to vote for Ralph by stealing plank after plank from Bush's platform.

Anyway, Ralph has an answer for his critics. Here's an excerpt:
The liberal intellectual and political leadership has shown itself un-willing to fight for its beliefs, hiding behind the claim that George Bush is such a unique threat that courage, reason, and studied belief all must be abandoned this year. Is Bush really more sinister than Nixon? More frightening than Reagan with his missiles and unworkable missile defense? Think of those times when the missile-loaded US and the USSR were less than an hour from mutually assured destruction. Will the intellectual leaders of the left feel more comfortable with the next GOP nominee in 2008 or 2012? If not, is it too soon for them to prepare for their next surrender? Is there any end-point logic to the "least worst" candidate?
Those who have influence over others have a special obligation to consider--and reconsider--their role in terms of the old labor ballad: "Which side are you on?" Are you on the side of the citizens, the workers, the families of America, or the global corporations that have no loyalty to our country? Those who consider themselves on the side of the people, justice and democracy must stop cowering in fear. They need to call the anemic Democratic Party to account for its ten years of losses--local, state and federal --to the worst of the Republicans. If they do not exert open pressure on their Party, progressives can surely expect more of the same.
Frankly, I think that the powers behind the throne have gotten exactly what they wanted. What they wanted wasn't a Bush victory due to Nader "taking" votes from Kerry (sorry, folks, my vote belongs to ME, not Kerry), they wanted to eliminate third-party challenges and the progressive ideas they represent. And they have succeeded beyond their wildest imaginations. With a few Repugs offering insignificant support to Nader, they managed to have DEMOCRATS do the dirty work of denigrating Nader for them. I think the story of Nader's recent removal from the Pennsylvania ballot speaks volumes. "Republicans" helped with his petition drive, but their help apparently consisted of filling out hundreds of petition sheets with names like "Mickey Mouse" and "Ralph Nader." The courts ruled that two-thirds of the signatures were bogus, leaving Nader without enough valid signatures to qualify. Whether he could have qualified without the Repug help is unknown, but by the time of the ruling it was too late to get any more. Kerryistas were practically dancing in the streets at the ruling, laughing at Nader and the "Republicans" who helped him.

Now, Nader supporters are probably hard-headed; quixotic, even. But I'll bet that the vast majority of actual supporters out petitioning for him wouldn't dream of forging signatures. I'd guess that some 90% of the bogus signatures came from the "Republicans" who "helped" him. I don't know if these were actually Republicans or what, but whoever they were, I don't think their goal was to get Nader on the ballot. This was done on purpose to guarantee that he wouldn't be on the ballot, and to discredit him besides. Most Kerryistas probably wouldn't stoop this low, but the powers behind the throne would. And they care more about keeping progressive issues out of the election than they do who wins between Bush and Kerry (actually, as I've said before, I believe they're working for Kerry now).

In any case, their strategy has worked like a charm. They've got most "progressives" in this country badmouthing the best-known progressive candidate at every opportunity.

One more thing for Kerryistas to consider: If Kerry gets Wellstoned, there won't be a viable candidate on enough ballots to defeat Bush--Bush would probably get over 60% of the popular vote and all of the electoral votes. You may not have thought of that, but I'll bet Dick and Karl have.

The view from the north

Linda McQuaig of the Toronto Star writes about her concerns that the issue of international law seems to be completely missing from the presidential campaign, except in the sense that each candidate wants to prove that he would break it more aggressively. The whole article is good; I found this part especially telling:
Michael Mandel, a law professor at York University's Osgoode Hall, notes that the Nuremberg Tribunal following World War II ruled that starting a war of aggression is the supreme international crime, because it's the crime from which all the other war-related crimes flow.

Mandel argues that the invasion of Iraq amounts to the supreme international crime.

The Bush administration has tried to claim the high moral ground, stressing that it puts great effort into avoiding civilian casualties in Iraq.

This is nonsense. If it is engaged in a war of aggression, any casualties it creates — deliberate or accidental — are a violation of international law, not to mention a gross injustice. And countless Iraqis have been killed by U.S. forces in Iraq.

Washington presents its ongoing attacks on insurgents as self-defensive, but Mandel insists that an aggressor has no right to self-defence. "If you break into someone's house and hold them at gunpoint and they try to kill you but you kill them first, they're guilty of nothing and you're guilty of murder."

How Kerry or Bush Might Avoid a Draft

Zeynep at Under the Same Sun suggests that the way they may try to keep Americans out of uniform is the same way they've kept them out of jobs--by getting the impoverished masses of Latin America to do it. According to Zeynep, a US security company is running ads in El Salvador for security guards to work in Iraq at $1700 a month, including life insurance. He and his commenters raise several good points on the subject, and I don't have much to add. But it's cheap, it's immoral, it's piling crime on top of crime--so maybe he's right.

Dollar drops to 8-month low vs. Euro

From CBS Marketwatch:
The dollar tumbled against the euro for a ninth day Monday, hitting eight-month lows against the European currency, as rising oil prices and next week's tightly fought presidential election cloud the outlook for the U.S. economy.
The dollar, which fell below 107 yen for the first time in more than six months, traded at 106.6 yen compared with 107.24 yen in late U.S. trading Friday.

The dollar's decline against the yen was in line with the greenback's fall against the euro, said Masatoshi Nishi, a treasury and securities manager at Saitama Resona Bank in Tokyo. "Absent clear support, the dollar could fall further to the 105 yen level quickly," Nishi said.

"There is hardly any good factor to be found for the dollar and the U.S. economy, accelerating the dollar-selling," said Nishi.
In the long term, this might be good for America, providing through currency exchange rates the types of tariffs needed for job creation that the free-traders generally reject. In the short term, it might be good for America since it might be one more nail in Bush's coffin (although probably the only part of it most Americans will notice or understand is the higher gasoline prices).

Al Qaqaa

With the revelation that the huge al Qaqaa stockpile of high explosives in Iraq went unguarded after last year's invasion, and that some 380 tons are missing, it stands to reason that the main supplier of bomb materiel for the insurgents is probably the US military's own incompetence.

Blindfolds for Bush

Good Tom Tomorrow cartoon today. (Requires viewing ad on Salon)


From CBS Marketwatch:
Crude-oil futures rose 0.8 percent to record intraday levels Monday after a threatened strike by Norwegian shipowners added to the concerns in the oil market over supplies at a time of high demand.

The benchmark New York contract was last up 43 cents at $55.60 a barrel, topping the intraday record for crude for December delivery at $55.50 bbl on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Friday.

Bush is still toast

From Bob Herbert in today's NY Times:
Here's George W. Bush's problem. How does a president win re-election when all the news the voters are seeing is bad?
Herbert goes on to cite all sorts of bad news from the headlines: Multiple disasters in Iraq, high oil prices, shortage of flu vaccine, bad economic numbers. And while I agree with Herbert that the bad news will probably sink Bush next week, I don't think that it's really the bad news in itself--it's the fact that it is finally being reported. What generally makes headlines isn't generally what we need to know; it's what the powerful people who control the world want us to know. For three and a half years, they didn't want us to know that George W. Bush was a total screw-up. Now they do. He's toast. Even if (when) he tries to steal the election again, the media, and possibly even the Democrats, won't let it happen as easily as it did in 2000. But I suspect that on November 3 a lot of people will be wondering why the polls showed that this failed incumbent even had a chance.

Once more, with feeling: Corporations are Criminals

K-Mart, being less adept at extorting money from its suppliers and employees than its monstrous cousin Wal-Mart, makes its CEO's rich on the backs of stockholders and taxpayers.

A story from Thursday's Detroit Free Press: $105 million awaits former Kmart CEO
Julian Day, who helped lift Kmart from the scrap heap of American retailing to become a profitable company, will walk away from the Troy retailer with stock options valued at $105 million as of Wednesday, according to his exit package detailed in a government filing.
The news was met with a series of groans from some analysts as well as former Kmart employees and shareholders, who lost billions in stock when Kmart emerged from bankruptcy last year and declared old shares worthless.

Kmart has amassed nearly $3 billion in cash from operations and selling stores to other retailers since emerging from bankruptcy last year. It has not said how it intends to spend it.

"This is a company with billions of dollars. How they worked this deal is just unbelievable," said Gordon Heilbrunn, a former shareholder from Madison Heights. "My main concern is all these people got taken." Former Kmart executive Gary Ruffing, now a retail consultant at BBK Ltd. in Southfield, said: "I wish it was me. I lost everything. It certainly seems like a lot of money if you consider it was his job to fix the retail business and there are still double-digit declines in sales."
So surely the state of Michigan will step in on behalf of the stockholders who were screwed so this clown could walk away with a cool hundred mil, right? Of course not. From Saturday's Free Press:
The state has offered Kmart Holding Corp. at least $45 million in incentives to keep its headquarters in Michigan, according to documents obtained by the Free Press under the Freedom of Information Act.

The nation's third-largest discount retailer also has asked officials in Michigan and Georgia to sweeten the pot with a $10-million cash payment, the Free Press has learned from people who requested anonymity. Kmart spokeswoman Caryn Klebba said Friday that the company had no comment on the relocation efforts.

"It's not unusual to push cities to do things. Incentives are expected. As far as a lump of cash on top of that, anything is on the table," said a local real estate expert who requested anonymity. "It is a little extreme, given the budgets of states."
So K-Mart gives a CEO who sold off a bunch of its stores (laying off workers in the process) and screwed its stockholders through bankruptcy $105 million, and then turns around and tries to extort the state for $10 million in cold cash on top of $45 million in incentives. Here's my suggestion: K-Mart takes $55 million out of Day's golden parachute instead of the state incentives, and takes the remaining $50 million and shoves it up its flashing blue light.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Aggessive Marketing

From Today's Alternative News via Michelle:
A new report by GRAIN and Focus on the Global South has found that new legislation in Iraq has been carefully put in place by the US that prevents farmers from saving their seeds and effectively hands over the seed market to transnational corporations. This is a disastrous turn of events for Iraqi farmers, biodiversity and the country's food security. While political sovereignty remains an illusion, food sovereignty for the Iraqi people has been made near impossible by these new regulations.

"The US has been imposing patents on life around the world through trade deals. In this case, they invaded the country first, then imposed their patents. This is both immoral and unacceptable", said Shalini Bhutani, one of the report's authors.

The new law in question [2] heralds the entry into Iraqi law of patents on life forms - this first one affecting plants and seeds. This law fits in neatly into the US vision of Iraqi agriculture in the future - that of an industrial agricultural system dependent on large corporations providing inputs and seeds.

In 2002, FAO estimated that 97 percent of Iraqi farmers used saved seed from their own stocks from last year's harvest or purchased from local markets. When the new law - on plant variety protection (PVP) - is put into effect, seed saving will be illegal and the market will only offer proprietary "PVP-protected" planting material "invented" by transnational agribusiness corporations. The new law totally ignores all the contributions Iraqi farmers have made to development of important crops like wheat, barley, date and pulses. Its consequences are the loss of farmers' freedoms and a grave threat to food sovereignty in Iraq. In this way, the US has declared a new war against the Iraqi farmer.
This claiming of the world's food crops as proprietary was accomplished by stealth in this country, with Monsanto being the primary burglar and Repugs and Democruds being the accomplices. In Iraq, this theft of people's right to food was an armed robbery.

You've probably seen the definition of chutzpah: A guy who kills his mother and father and then begs for mercy from the court because he's an orphan. Until recently, I thought that probably the prime example of engineering chutzpah was the story of the Chicago River. The Chicago River originally flowed, like most rivers, downhill. In Chicago, that meant that it flowed into Lake Michigan. But the Chicago River was Chicago's main sewer, so by 1890 Chicagoans found that what they'd flushed during the week was washing up on the beaches of Lake Michigan when they wanted to go swimming on the weekend. So did Chicago's engineers develop a state-of-the-art sewage treatment plant, or figure out a way to safely compost the sewage so it could benefit the abundant agriculture of the area? If that's the way you think, you'll never get far as an American engineer! No, the American way was to TURN AROUND THE RIVER, so that it now flows FROM Lake Michigan back to the Des Plaines and Illinois Rivers. So when Chicagoans flush, they don't have to see it on their beaches--instead, Peoria gets the pleasure.

So, that was my definition of engineering chutzpah--until I started reading about genetically-modified organisms. With hardly any debate, Monsanto and their ilk have quietly taken over America's farms with GM corn, soybeans, canola, and many other crops. Farmers can't use these crops without paying Monsanto. But these crops tend to spread, and Monsanto actually sues farmers who grow their frankenfoods unintentionally.

There is a red herring in this debate--whether GM foods are safe for human consumption. Even though we never got a chance to approve the experiment, the experiment has been performed, and, by and large, GM crops appear to be relatively safe. (If they weren't, I wouldn't be able to write this nor you able to read this, since GM foods dominate in American markets--almost all processed foods have at least some GM content.) So, candidates like Bush and Kerry will try to downplay concerns about GMO's by saying that they're safe for humans--and they probably are--to eat. Where they aren't safe is in their threat to biodiversity and food security.

Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" corn gives it a distinct advantage over natural corn because the R-R corn can be drenched in (Monsanto's) Roundup weed killer without killing the corn. So R-R corn will have higher yields, since it doesn't have to compete with weeds. And so many farmers will end up growing R-R corn, most intentionally, and other strains of corn will disappear. But eventually Roundup resistant weeds will arise (some of them probably even evolved from the R-R corn itself), as will new types of insects who have a special taste for R-R corn. If the old, natural strains of corn are gone, the nation's entire corn crop may be at risk. Biodiversity provides protection against such devastating crop loss; GM crops destroy that biodiversity.

The related concern is food security--if your right to grow food is owned by a (vile evil scumbag) corporation, then it is always prone to having its price raised or being taken away from you entirely. No one should be able to patent food crops, or biological organisms in general. In case you aren't aware, that last sentence is in direct contradiction of official US government policy which is supported by both major-party candidates.

And attacking a country for which your only remaining excuse is the "march of freedom," when you are taking away the people's right to even hold on to their own food seeds? That's chutzpah.

Screw the Strategy--Just Exit!

We're going to train troops, and we are. We'll have 125,000 trained by the end of December.
-- aWol, from the second debate. Notice that he didn't say that the Iraqi army will have 125,000 troops by December; he only claimed that 125,000 would be trained. Desertion rates are reportedly around 50%, and Iraqi troops are dying by the dozen (something which seems to be a bragging point for Cheney and Rumsfeld). In fact, some 50 Iraqi troops were just found dead--executed--on a remote road in eastern Iraq:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- The bodies of about 50 Iraqi soldiers were found on a remote road in eastern Iraq, apparently the victims of an ambush as they were heading home on leave, Iraqi authorities said Sunday.

Interior Ministry spokesman Adnan Abdul-Rahman said the victims were believed to have been killed about sundown Saturday on a road about 95 miles east of Baghdad near the Iranian border.

There were conflicting reports on the exact number of dead, whether they were members of the Iraqi army or the Iraqi National Guard and whether they were all killed execution-style.

Iraqi government spokeswoman Maha Malik quoted witnesses as saying insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades at about two vehicles carrying the unarmed troops.

Gen. Walid al-Azzawi, commander of the Diyala provincial police, said the bodies were laid out in four rows each, with 12 bodies in each row.

"After inspection, we found out that they were shot after being ordered to lay down on the earth," he said.
The allies aren't going to save our butts in Iraq. Iraqi soldiers under coalition command certainly aren't going to save our butts. There is no exit strategy. Hence my new slogan: "Screw the strategy--just exit!"

Saturday, October 23, 2004

How do advertisers sleep at night?

Since I watch most of my TV via TiVo, I fast forward through most commercials. But sometimes I get caught watching one, and I am nearly always aghast at the total depravity of the message.

Today, I see an ad where a youngish mother is driving her kids to the first day of school. She thinks, maybe they don't want to be seen being dropped off by their mom, so she offers to let them out a block away. "No thanks, Mom." So, they pull up in front of the school, and as her kids exit the vehicle, the cool, tough looking kids in front of the school step back and look at her kids in awe. The camera pans back, and you see that Mom drives a Hummer. The kids' message to Mom: "Thanks, Mom, for spending our college money on this monstrosity so we can impress our incredibly shallow classmates for a few seconds while you use up most of the world's remaining resources driving us to school." Hummer's message to the kids at the school: "Respect your betters who arrive in Hummers." Their message to everyone: "Obscene consumption is the only way to go."

What a friggin' sick country.

Dayton's Bugout

Senator Mark Dayton (D-MN) was ridiculed by many for shutting down his offices on Capitol Hill when the Senate recessed a couple of weeks ago. He explained that he had heard top-secret intel about a possible terror attack on the Capitol, and refused to leave his staff to face the risk while he went back to Minnesota. He said that it was "an extreme, but necessary precaution."

Dayton was criticized by Repug colleagues for being "paranoid" or a "coward," and even by many Democrats for overreacting. The WSWS reminds us, however, that Democrats in the Senate WERE attacked three years ago, with antrax letters delivered to Senators Tom Daschle and Pat Leahy, and that two years ago Monday Dayton's fellow Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone was killed in a very mysterious plane crash.

What Repugs are saying, I think, is that only they are allowed to play the fear card. I think they've worn it out already.

Don't fool me once...That's okay, you can always fool me later

Decades ago, John Kerry demonstrated some intelligence about "intelligence:"
The intelligence missions themselves are based on very, very flimsy information... It is not reliable; everybody is feeding each other double intelligence, and I think that is what comes back to this country.

I think that the intelligence which finally reaches the White House does have serious problems with it... I have seen exactly what the response is up the echelon, the chain of command, and how things get distorted and people say to the man above him what is needed to be said, to keep everybody happy, and so I don't -- I think the entire thing is distorted.
--from John Kerry's 1971 Senate testimony.
Decades later, Kerry's intelligence intelligence had atrophied:
In 1991, the world collectively made a judgment that [Saddam Hussein] should not have weapons of mass destruction. And we are here today in the year 2002 with an uninspected 4-year interval during which time we know through intelligence he not only has kept them, but he continues to grow them.
John Kerry's speech explaining his vote for war in Iraq in 2002.

So what changed? I doubt if Kerry has lost IQ points. I don't think he's forgotten Vietnam. His view of the quality of so-called "intelligence" was probably not enhanced when he was investigating US involvement in Central America and the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980's. He must have known that the "intelligence" about Iraq's WMD's was overblown, if not the complete fiction it turned out to be. No, the main thing that happened was that Kerry decided to run for president. And the powers that be, however they send their messages, informed him that he could either run for president or oppose the war. (Joe Lieberman said basically that in one of the debates; maybe he was their messenger.) If he voted for the war, they would support him with their money and their media connections. If he voted against it, they would destroy him politically, at least on a national level. Kerry made his choice, and the powers delivered for him. He betrayed his constituency, a new generation of soldiers, and the people of America and the world in general, and because of that, he'll be our next president.

What could be more depressing than that? How about the fact that this sellout will actually be an improvement!

(Based on a post at A Tiny Revolution.)

Friday, October 22, 2004

Dumbest country in history

Outside of possibly Germany in the 1930's, the US currently has to be just about the stupidest country, on average, in world history. By stupid I mean a huge amount of ignorance coupled in many cases with an even larger ignorance about being ignorant, or in other cases with a huge pride in being ignorant. This article describes a recent poll that shows that 72% of Bush supporters believe that Iraq had WMD's in 2003, and that Saddam supported al Qaeda. 56% even believe that most "experts" believe that Iraq had WMD's, and 57% believe that the Duelfer report confirmed the existence of weapons and/or programs.
Remarkably, asked whether the U.S. should have gone to war with Iraq if U.S. intelligence had concluded that Baghdad did not have a WMD program and was not providing support to al Qaeda, 58 percent of Bush supporters said no, and 61 percent said they assumed that Bush would also not have gone to war under those circumstances.

“To support the president and to accept that he took the U.S. to war based on mistaken assumptions,” said Kull, “likely creates substantial cognitive dissonance and leads Bush supporters to suppress awareness of unsettling information about pre-war Iraq.”

Kull added that this “cognitive dissonance” could also help explain other remarkable findings in the survey, particularly with respect to Bush supporters’ misperceptions about the president’s own positions.
This explains Bush's campaign stops. He and his supporters get together to delude each other. People expressing even the mildest of dissenting views threaten to blow the cover off the whole thing, so they are systematically excluded.

It's not easy pretending to be green

My doubts about Kerry's environmental record have stemmed mostly from what I know about his anti-war history. From the time that he got back from Vietnam through most of his years as a senator from the most liberal state in the Union, John Kerry was strongly, eloquently anti-war. Once he started running for president, that changed. If he sold out on what should have been his most strongly-held convictions, why wouldn't he sell out on the environment as well?

Well, according to Joshua Frank, he already has. He voted against Kyoto! I don't have time for the details, but Frank opened my eyes on some of Kerry's vaunted 92% environmental record. Check out the article if you're interested. (BTW, my title for this post is the title of Frank's article. Sorry, Kermie!)

The conspiracy against conspiracy theories

I've blogged on that topic before: The words "conspiracy theory" are used to insult the intelligence of people who, just because George W. Bush's political and probably financial fortunes benefitted greatly from 9/11, and that his administration has done everything possible to block investigations into the possibility, think that maybe it's worth looking into the possibility that he might have known it was coming or even planned it. Motive, opportunity and suspicious behavior--our prisons are full of people who have been convicted on less. But to even suggest it as a possibility (or even have someone suggest that you suggested it when you didn't, like Cynthia McKinney) makes you a lunatic conspiracy theorist who should probably just live out your days feeding pigeons in the park.

On the other hand, people regularly suggest nonsense such as Saddam Hussein leading the insurgency in Iraq last year when he was the most recognizable, hated and wanted man in the country. I mean, two out of three Iraqis probably would have turned him in to the Americans as soon as they saw him, and the other third would have just shot him on sight. YOU try running an insurgency under those conditions! Actually he probably did have a few friends left, unlike the crippled dead Jordanian Zarqawi, who is now supposed to be leading a much more violent insurgency based out of one of the hundreds of "safe houses" the US air force has flattened in Fallujah. Or how about this commonly accepted wisdom: "The tax cuts have put money in your pocket." Get thee to a park bench, nutcase!

Anyhow, this willingness to denounce ideas that aren't in the idiotic mainstream as "conspiracy theories" seems to be a conspiracy in itself, and those taking part in this conspiracy seem to come as much from the left as from the right. And recognizing "conspiracy theorist" as a meaningless label (like "liberal") intended to isolate those of us who don't accept the standard explanations seems key to our ability to keep going. Fortunately, Michael Zimmer at The Progressive Mind has compiled a comprehensive* list of articles on the subject of conspiracy theories--check it out!

(* For my purposes, "comprehensive" means "far more articles than I'm going to be able to read anytime soon.")

From Tom Toles.


From AP:
Oil prices continued to pressure the market, casting doubt not only on fourth-quarter earnings, but also on the health of the economy as a whole. A barrel of light crude was quoted at $55.38, up 91 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

"These oil prices are really going to bite the consumer at some point. Heating oil is up, it's supposed to be a very cold winter in the Northeast, and lower and middle income people are going to pay," said Russ Koesterich, U.S. equity strategist at State Street Corp.

"Complete Nonsense"

Further evidence that the powers behind the throne believe that it is time to remove the current behind from the throne. The Washington Post, which frequently has functioned as a cheerleader for aWol's marches to war, has a long front-page article which basically supports the arguments that a) the war on Iraq drained resources from the "war on terror," and b) that the US is losing the "war on terror." Personally, I think the "war on terror" was and is a terrible thing and an absolutely inappropriate response to 9/11. But the most that you can get most butt-kissing Democrats to say is that Bush hasn't properly pursued this war. That the Washington Post has now joined them is a clear sign that the wealthy elite of the country and world have decided that four more years of George W. Bush is just too dangerous to their interests for them to let it happen. George and Jeb will have a much harder time stealing Florida this time. Here are some excerpts from the Post's article:
Twenty months after the invasion of Iraq, the question of whether Americans are safer from terrorism because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power hinges on subjective judgment about might-have-beens. What is not in dispute, among scores of career national security officials and political appointees interviewed periodically since 2002, is that Bush's choice had opportunity costs -- first in postwar Afghanistan, then elsewhere. Iraq, they said, became a voracious consumer of time, money, personnel and diplomatic capital -- as well as the scarce tools of covert force on which Bush prefers to rely -- that until then were engaged against al Qaeda and its sources of direct support.

Bush conducts the war on terrorism above all as a global hunt for a cast of evil men he knows by name and photograph. He tracks progress in daily half-hour meetings that Richard A. Falkenrath, who sometimes attended them before departing recently as deputy homeland security adviser, described as "extremely granular, about individual guys." Frances Fragos Townsend, who took the post of White House counterterrorism and homeland security adviser in May, said in an interview that Bush's strategy -- now, as in the war's first days -- is to "decapitate the beast."
Marc Sageman, a psychologist and former CIA case officer who studies the formation of jihadist cells, said the inspirational power of the Sept. 11 attacks -- and rage in the Islamic world against U.S. steps taken since -- has created a new phenomenon. Groups of young men gather in common outrage, he said, and a violent plan takes form without the need for an outside leader to identify, persuade or train those who carry it out.

The brutal challenge for U.S. intelligence, Sageman said, is that "you don't know who's going to be a terrorist" anymore. Citing the 15 men who killed 190 passengers on March 11 in synchronized bombings of the Spanish rail system, he said "if you had gone to those guys in Madrid six months prior, they'd say 'We're not terrorists,' and they weren't. Madrid took like five weeks from inception."

Much the same pattern, officials said, preceded deadly attacks in Indonesia, Turkey, Kenya, Morocco and elsewhere. There is no reason to believe, they said, that the phenomenon will remain overseas.
The president and his most influential advisers, many officials said, do not see those factors -- or U.S. policy overseas -- as primary contributors to the terrorism threat. Bush's explanation, in private and public, is that terrorists hate America for its freedom.

Sageman, who supports some of Bush's approach, said that analysis is "nonsense, complete nonsense. They obviously haven't looked at any surveys." The central findings of polling by the Pew Charitable Trust and others, he said, is that large majorities in much of the world "view us as a hypocritical huge beast throwing our weight around in the Middle East."

Lethal Non-lethal weapons

Boston cops shot a 21-year-old Red Sox fan in the eye with a pepper ball. She had been celebrating the Red Sox' playoff victory of the Yankees Wednesday night. She died in the hospital later in the day. The Boston Police Department accepts full responsibility, whatever that means. While there had been some minor vandalism associated with the celebrations, CNN reports that videos where the shooting occurred showed no violence or vandalism occurring in the vicinity.

I'm surely no expert, and this paragraph is all speculation, but imagine the nightmare for the doctors and nurses in the emergency room. A patient comes in with a severe eye wound. You want to save her life, her eye, and her brain. But not only is the wound messy, it is oozing with pepper spray, probably causing enormous pain and inflamation to the patient, and making it difficult for doctors and nurses to breathe and see as well. I suspect that working under these conditions caused them to work much more slowly than they would have if she had been hit in the eye with a similar but non-toxic projectile, like a golf ball. Not only did it cost her her life, but it may have affected other patients in the ER as well. More personnel were tied up longer because of the chemical weaponry, and pity the unlucky person who came in to the ER with an asthma attack.

Pepper bullets are chemical weapons, they are lethal, and they should be banned. The fascist reaction of police forces around the country following the anti-globalization protests in Seattle in 1999 (in which much of the trouble was apparently caused by agents provacateurs) has manifested itself at the political conventions in 2000 and 2004, at the FTAA protests in Miami last year, and just about anywhere aWol goes this year. Somehow we need to reign in the trigger-happy cops and the fascists in Washington who aid and abet them. A life is worth a lot more than a few Starbucks' windows.

Lie Girls

Via Tom Tomorrow. Just go. As Tom said, it's a JOKE! (I think.)

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Traditional Republicans Trash Bush

A few days ago, Republican William Milliken, Michigan Governor from 1969 through 1982, endorsed John Kerry. While I have no complaint with Milliken, and even met him once when I was a kid (he was nice!), I felt that he put too much faith in John Kerry. But Milliken has now been joined by a former Republican senator from Kentucky, Marlow W. Cook. I think Cook's complaints are more to the point, and focus more directly on the worst aspects of Bush's reign without projecting too much hope on Kerry. Here's an excerpt from Cook's statement:
If you listened to the President confirming the value of our war with Iraq, you heard him say, "If no weapons of mass destruction were found, at least we know we have stopped his future distribution of same to terrorists." If that is his justification, then, if he is re-elected our next war will be against Iran and at the same time North Korea, for indeed they have weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons, which they have readily admitted. Those wars will require a draft of men and women. ...

I am not enamored with John Kerry, but I am frightened to death of George Bush. I fear a secret government. I abhor a government that refuses to supply the Congress with requested information. I am against a government that refuses to tell the country with whom the leaders of our country sat down and determined our energy policy, and to prove how much they want to keep that secret, they took it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Those of you who are fiscal conservatives and abhor our staggering debt, tell your conservative friends, "Vote for Kerry," because without Bush to control the Congress, the first thing lawmakers will demand Kerry do is balance the budget.

The wonderful thing about this country is its gift of citizenship, then it's freedom to register as one sees fit. For me, as a Republican, I feel that when my party gives me a dangerous leader who flouts the truth, takes the country into an undeclared war and then adds a war on terrorism to it without debate by the Congress, we have a duty to rid ourselves of those who are taking our country on a perilous ride in the wrong direction.
We need to get rid of Bush, and then we need to turn Kerry back into a liberal, or get rid of him too. I think Cook's argument makes a lot more sense than what I hear from most Democrats these days. I especially like that he actually questions the "war on terrorism," because the quote-mark keys on my computers are wearing out. When I hear Democrats argue that Kerry will be better at fighting the "war on terrorism," I just want to scream.

I think Bush had it right for those seven minutes he sat there reading "My Pet Goat." The most effective response to 9/11 would have been to do absolutely nothing. That it might have cost Bush his chance at re-election was a risk I was certainly willing to take! Doing nothing would have denied Osama everything he wanted. It would not only have kept America's respect around the world, it would have enhanced it. The alternative we and the world are suffering through now is so much worse than what would have happened if Bush had done nothing. Saying "It's just a flesh wound" and going on with life would have demonstrated strength and resolve far beyond what bombing poor, defenseless countries has shown. And Osama's popularity would have dwindled to nearly nothing, instead of being one of the most popular figures in the Islamic world like he is now.

Oh well, there goes my last chance to be president!

Indymedia Server Seizures--Update

Xymphora has an update, of sorts, on the FBI seizure of Indymedia servers in England. Shorter Xymphora: The servers have been returned, Indymedia kept running, and no one except John Ashcroft really knows what it was all about.

DeLay Subpoenaed

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has been subpoenaed to testify in a Texas civil lawsuit about his role in using government resources to track down Democratic legislators who fled the state during last year's bitter redistricting dispute.

The subpoena was delivered Wednesday to the Texas Republican's attorneys in Houston after a failed attempt to serve him personally, said Lon Burnam, the Democratic state lawmaker from Fort Worth who filed the lawsuit.

The subpoena calls for DeLay to give a deposition Monday.
A key member of my axis of evil, Tom DeLay has been dragging American down into the gutter behind him for years.


That ought to convince those Ohioans! Way to go Big John!

Of course, if the Canadian Geese in Ohio are anything like the bazillion Canadian Geese waddling and pooping all over Ann Arbor, it probably takes more skill to shoot a shotgun and NOT kill one than it does to kill several.

I thought the gun nuts were already solidly in the Bush camp. Isn't it young women that are supposed to be the key to a Kerry victory? Is killing pretty, defenseless and ubiquitous birds really the way to win over that demographic?

Zeynep at Under The Same Sun has more thoughts about Kerry's spastic activities he's pursuing to target key demographics. Zeynep also posts another lengthy quote from the John Kerry that I respect, the one from the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and wonders whatever happened to that guy. Here's part of the quote from young Kerry:
In our opinion, and from our experience, there is nothing in South Vietnam, nothing which could happen that realistically threatens the United States of America. And to attempt to justify the loss of one American life in Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos by linking such loss to the preservation of freedom, which those misfits supposedly abuse, is to use the height of criminal hypocrisy, and it is that kind of hypocrisy which we feel has torn this country apart.
So what does Kerry say about his Vietnam days now?
I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as President.
For the next four years, President Kerry will lead probably the most brutish and ignorant America in history. And he has played a large part in getting us there. I sure hope the Repugs are right about him being a flip-flopper, because I don't like this new John Kerry at all.

"Tried to kill my dad"

U.S. Navy ships launched 23 Tomahawk missiles against the headquarters of the Iraqi Intelligence Service yesterday in what President Clinton said was a "firm and commensurate" response to Iraq's plan to assassinate former president George Bush in mid-April.

The attack was meant to strike at the building where Iraqi officials had plotted against Bush, organized other unspecified terrorist actions and directed repressive internal security measures, senior U.S. officials said.

Clinton, speaking in a televised address to the nation at 7:40 last night, said he ordered the attack to send three messages to the Iraqi leadership: "We will combat terrorism. We will deter aggression. We will protect our people."

Clinton said he ordered the attack after receiving "compelling evidence" from U.S. intelligence officials that Bush had been the target of an assassination plot and that the plot was "directed and pursued by the Iraqi Intelligence Service."

"It was an elaborate plan devised by the Iraqi government and directed against a former president of the United States because of actions he took as president," Clinton said. Bush led the coalition that drove Iraq from Kuwait in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. "As such, the Iraqi attack against President Bush was an attack against our country and against all Americans," Clinton said.
--Washington Post, June 17, 1993.

After all, this is a guy that tried to kill my dad at one time.
--George W. Bush, September 26, 2002.

Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution responds:
Except... no. Jim Lobe at Inter Press Service asks here a question I've been wondering about too: now that we've captured Saddam's entire regime, has anyone bothered to find out whether they really tried to kill Bush #1?

The answer seems to be: no, no one's bothered. And I doubt anyone will, because we wouldn't like the answer. The assassination attempt was probably just as real as the WMD.
Read the rest of Jonathan's post and you'll find out that the assassination attempt story was created because Clinton, like both Bushes, just needed an excuse to bomb Iraq every now and then. But once a lie about Saddam has been told, it remains common wisdom forever.


"Imagine the most f***ed-up, violent place on earth. Now bomb the s**t out of it."

That's how the Rude Pundit describes Fallujah. (He's not prissy about four-letter words like I am, but then again you'll be able to read my blog at a lot more airports and libraries. I found that out when using Internet kiosks in airports; I couldn't get to some of my favorite blogs because they were blocked for language.) Anyway, Fallujah's the topic. The NY Times reports:
Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon announced today that 850 British troops currently deployed in southern Iraq would advance toward Baghdad to replace American fighting units that are expected to mount an assault on Iraqi insurgents west of the capital near Falluja.
And what does that mean for the most f***ed-up, violent place on earth? Patrick Graham in the Guardian gives us an idea:
As the British government prepares to send its soldiers north to free up the US army to attack Falluja, it is necessary to focus on what this coming onslaught will mean for the city and its people. Falluja is already now being bombed daily, as it is softened up for the long-awaited siege. It has been a gruelling year for its people. First, they were occupied by the US army's 82nd Airborne, an incompetent group of louts whose idea of cultural sensitivity was kicking a door down instead of blowing it up. Within eight months of the invasion, the 82nd had killed about 100 civilians in the area and lost control of Falluja, leaving it to the US marines to try and retake the city last April. After killing about 600 civilians, the marines retreated, leaving the city in the hands of 18 armed groups, including tribesmen, Islamists, Ba'athists, former criminals and an assortment of non-Iraqi Arab fighters said to be led by the Jordanian, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Fallujans have now been offered a choice: hand over the outsiders they dislike (mostly Arabs) who are protecting them from the outsiders they really hate (the Americans), or get blown apart by the world's most lethal killing machine, the US marines. Zarqawi's influence on the resistance has been wildly exaggerated - indeed, many people in Falluja don't even believe he exists, and most find the non-Iraqi Arabs' brand of Salafi fundamentalism at odds with their local Sufi traditions. Today, many Fallujans are tired even of their own mujahideen, but trust the US army even less, and with good reason. Recently, a Bush administration official told the New York Times the bombing was driving a wedge between the citizenry and the non-Iraqi fighters. If, indeed, the civilian population is being bombed for this end, this is a grave war crime.

We have a blueprint for what will happen in the city during the coming attack: Falluja, part one. Like all sequels the next time will be bloodier. Last April I found myself inching across a bridge into Falluja holding an old white T-shirt: in front of me, marines blocking the bridge, screaming at me to go back; behind me, a large group of Iraqis yelling at me to go forward so that they could follow me through the roadblock and rescue their families. After a while, the marines opened the bridge allowing hundreds of women and children to stream out, but stopped the boys older than 16 and men younger than 60 from leaving the city. Preventing civilians from leaving a battle is against the Geneva conventions - although battle doesn't capture what a meat grinder the city had become in that first week of the assault, when the majority of civilian casualties were killed, blown apart by precision, and often inaccurate, airstrikes.
(whole article)

The worst place on earth is about to get much worse, thanks to George W. Bush, Tony Blair, and the criminals in Congress like John Kerry who continue to support this on-going war crime. Don't forget what Kerry said in the debate:
What I want to do is change the dynamics on the ground. And you have to do that by beginning to not back off of Fallujah and other places and send the wrong message to the terrorists.
I guess the "right message" is that we'll kill as many women and children and men and cats and dogs and chickens and cockroaches as it takes to win the "war on terror."

That's probably the sort of message the Internet kiosks should be filtering out.

I don't know if there's a story behind this one...

From Don Wright.
"And Ethel said, 'Well, Maude, we'd better get it before Bush privatizes our Social Security.' So, here we are."

Thank your favorite deity for the CBC

Click on the picture for details of The Unauthorized Biography of Dick Cheney, a Fifth Estate show documentary on Canadian TV.

via Bob Harris.

Iran endorses Bush

From Newsday:
TEHRAN, Iran -- The head of Iran's security council said Tuesday that the re-election of President Bush was in Tehran's best interests, despite the administration's axis of evil label, accusations that Iran harbors al-Qaida terrorists and threats of sanctions over the country's nuclear ambitions.

Historically, Democrats have harmed Iran more than Republicans, said Hasan Rowhani, head of the Supreme National Security Council, Iran's top security decision-making body.

"We haven't seen anything good from Democrats," Rowhani told state-run television in remarks that, for the first time in recent decades, saw Iran openly supporting one U.S. presidential candidate over another.
I haven't checked yet, but I'm sure the Kerryistas are jumping with joy over this. Given the harsh rhetoric against Iran that has come from both campaigns, I think there is only one valid response they can give--that the endorsement means nothing one way or another. Bush doesn't control what the leaders of Iraq say, and clearly doesn't respect their opinions, so I don't see how it can logically be used against him. The Bush campaign's response seems appropriate within the context of their axis-of-evil approach to Iran:
"It's not an endorsement we'll be accepting anytime soon," Bush campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel said. "Iran should stop its pursuit of nuclear weapons and if they continue in the direction they are going, then we will have to look at what additional action may need to be taken including looking to the U.N. Security Council."
But the Kerry campaign sees opportunity, despite there being no logic in giving credence to the opinions of people that both candidates openly disrespect:
"It is telling that this president has received the endorsement of a member of the axis of evil," Kerry campaign spokeswoman Allison Dobson said. "But Americans deserve a president who will have a comprehensive strategy to address the potential threat of Iran's growing nuclear program."
No, it isn't telling. If someone of reasonable integrity endorses a candidate, maybe it means something. But when someone whose integrity is equally questioned (rightly or wrongly) by both candidates endorses one of them, both should agree that it means nothing. If Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer both endorsed Kerry next week, or if the Unabomber and Dick Cheney endorsed Bush, it should mean absolutely nothing either way, since they're all criminals. (Now Cheney being on Bush's ticket is a different story.)

Release CIA 9/11 Report!

Congresscritters are pushing for the CIA's report on pre-9/11 screwups by high-ranking Bushies, which I ranted about yesterday, to be released.

Support Instant Runoff Voting!

We've got a group working here in Ann Arbor trying to get IRV on the 2005 ballot, and Ferndale will be voting on it this year. We're hoping that it spreads like a juicy rumor until everyone in America can vote for the candidates they really like. An even more exciting development would be if Congress would just pass a bill requiring that IRV be used in all elections for federal office. Well, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) has introduced just such a bill, HR 5293. But don't just sit there smiling because real democracy is finally on the march. Call your Congresscritter and tell him or her to support HR 5293! You can reach any Congressional office through the Capitol switchboard: 800-839-5276. Just ask for your own Congresscritter.

More info on IRV can be found here. To get involved in Ann Arbor's effort to restore IRV (we were the first to get IRV back in 1974, and the first to lose it in 1976), go to our web site.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Pull my finger

He's lost it.

900 Jobs Gone

GM is cutting a shift from its truck assembly plant in Pontiac, meaning 900 UAW members will lose their jobs. Now, the last thing this poor planet needs in a time of oil shortages and global warming is any more monstrous GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado pickups storming down the highways. What a screwed up system we've got where the ability of 900 people to pay the rent, get health care, and support families depends on making unnecessary gas guzzlers.

John Kerry--Then and Now

Under the Same Sun compares the John Kerry of the VVAW with the John Kerry of the JDAM (Jingoistic Democrats Against Muslims). The post concludes as follows:
And the Kerry-then, speaking on behalf of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, proclaimed their desire to fight one last battle, a noble one unlike the ignominious one they had been pushed into:

"We wish that a merciful God could wipe away our own memories of that service as easily as this administration has wiped their memories of us. But all that they have done and all that they can do by this denial is to make more clear than ever our own determination to undertake one last mission, to search out and destroy the last vestige of this barbarous war, to pacify our own hearts, to conquer the hate and the fear that have driven this country these last 10 years and more and so when, in 30 years from now, our brothers go down the street without a leg, without an arm or a face, and small boys ask why, we will be able to say 'Vietnam' and not mean a desert, not a filthy obscene memory but mean instead the place where America finally turned and where soldiers like us helped it in the turning."

Sad to say, that battle has been thoroughly and completely lost. Vietnam did not become the place that America finally turned, that burden remains with us today. On that day, that John Kerry confronted the nation with this unforgettable question: how do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? I'd like to ask the current Democratic Party presidential nominee, also named John Kerry, another question. How do you kill your own soul for a shot at power? I would have hoped that it were not possible, that once awakened, a conscience could not be discarded as if it were just another empty campaign promise by just another power-hungry politician.
I left the following as a comment to Under the Same Sun's post:
I got a call from Clean Water Action last night telling me about Kerry's "exemplary" record on the environment. I can't help but question--what makes anyone think that someone who has so completely sold out on his most heartfelt convictions so he can become president won't sell out on everything else he's ever done so he can remain president? People always mention the Supreme Court. I suspect that President Kerry would nominate Ted Olson or John Ashcroft to the Court in a Boston minute if he thought it would win him a couple of swing states in 2008. And most Democrats would still defend him, saying he'd only started one new war, compared to the three that Bush started--It's not the Court, it's the wars!

Still, better than Bush, but what sort of standard is that? Here's the best argument for Kerry I can come up with: "Vote Kerry--he'll be easier to impeach."
It really is depressing for me. I've worked pretty hard and done things I had never done before over the past two-plus years, all with the goals of, first, preventing a war in Iraq, and second, of getting us a government that wouldn't start such wars. And now, I'll have to admit that on November 3 I'll actually be relieved to see John Kerry elected, even though he opposed and opposes my goals.

A lesson in "democracy," I guess.


From CBS Marketwatch:
Crude for November delivery traded as high as $55.20 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The previous intraday record was on Oct. 15 at $55. Prices climbed as high as $55.33 in overnight trading on Oct. 18.

The contract was recently at $54.75 a barrel, up $1.46. December crude, which becomes the lead-month contract after the session's close, climbed $1.46 to $54.10.

Corporations are Criminals

It's in their charters! They can actually be sued by stockholders if they don't steal every penny they can. And they do, regularly. And states and local communities continue to compete with each other for the opportunity to be fleeced.

My first blog post on this topic was back in April, 2002. Since that was in my pre-Blogger blog days, I don't have a good permalink to it, so I'll just copy it here:
This nonsense has got to stop! The state of Ohio has offered Ford an $83 million incentive package to build Mercury SUV's at its Avon Lake Assembly Plant near Cleveland. GM recently threatened to move assembly of its silly Chevrolet SSR (V8 powered two-seat roadster pickup mutant) unless Lansing, Michigan agreed to lower pollution standards. Politicians in Montgomery, Alabama were ecstatic that Hyundai agreed to build a 2000-job assembly plant there for only $133 million in state and local bribe money. That's $66,500 per job! Corporations have pitted city against city, state against state, and with NAFTA and WTO, country against country in a bidding war for jobs. Ralph Nader, in his book "Crashing the Party," describes a recent case where Daimler-Chrysler squeezed millions out of Toledo and Ohio to locate a Jeep plant in Toledo. Entire neighborhoods were destroyed to build the plant, and an economic downturn resulted in far fewer jobs being created than were promised. I don't know all the answers, but it sure seems like corporations should be paying states substantial fees for the privilege of doing business within their borders, not the other way around. There is now more real competition between Michigan, Alabama and Mexico than there is between Ford, GM, and Daimler-Chrysler. This benefits the shareholders and executives of the corporations to the detriment of the citizens of the states and countries. We need to realize that we have more than enough stuff and that economic activity and jobs aren't the necessities--food, clothing and shelter are.
(It had links in it, but they no longer work.)

I ranted about this topic again here, here, here, and here.

I bring this up because the NY Times has an article today about two communities, Galesburg, Illinois and Putnam County, Florida, which offered huge tax incentives to get corporations to locate there, only to leave a few years later. Galesburg lost a Maytag refrigerator plant to Mexico, and Putnam County lost a telemarketing center run by Sykes Enterprises. Galesburg is divided over the issue of whether to fight: District Attorney Paul L. Mangieri wants to sue Maytag to recover some of the excessive tax breaks they were given:
Much of the money, he said, came from a purse that would have gone to schools in this economically fragile community.

"We gave Maytag these incentives, and they accepted them," said Mr. Mangieri, a Navy veteran who grew up in a small town not far from here in western Illinois. "We did it based on faith and trust. If we don't do anything now, it sends a message that we lack the resolve to treat the rich and privileged the same as everybody else."
But some in Galesburg don't want Mangieri ruining their opportunity to be screwed again:
After initially cheering their prosecutor for trying to regain some of the money used to keep Maytag, some people say they are afraid that they may scare off future employers. They question whether suing to reclaim tax breaks will hurt the community even more, adding that they have to pay companies to compete and that it is the cost of doing business in a vulnerable town.

"Maytag's leaving town has devastated our community," said Jeff Klinck, a car dealer and the former chairman of the economic development office here. "But I don't think any good comes from revenge. We want to move forward, not move back."
While it appears that Putnam County won't be suing Sykes, many residents aren't happy:
In Putnam County, Mr. Keyser was so incensed at Sykes's receiving cash and tax breaks that he sent a mock bill to county officials asking for a tax break of $25,000 for the one new employee he hired at his law firm.

"It's universal blackmail out there," Mr. Keyser said, "with corporations all playing the same game."
I think he's almost exactly right, although like many he uses the word "blackmail" when he really means "extortion." (Blackmail involves a secret; there's nothing secret about what these corporations are doing.) Nowhere in the Times article is it really suggested that anything be done on a national or global basis to put an end to this madness. This stuff was going on since way back when I was a kid, with non-union southern states luring auto plants out of Michigan. Then NAFTA made it easy for Mexico to lure factories out of the US entirely, and now Mexico is losing plants to countries with even lower wages. The constitution gives Congress the right to regulate interstate commerce. If Congress were actually working for the majority of the people, they would aggressively use this clause to support higher wages and benefits and to discourage corporations from jumping around the country (or world) searching for low wages. Instead, Congress works for the corporations, and therefore has let this wasteful and destructive nonsense go on for decades. The scariest part is that most Americans, and probably lots of people in other countries as well, seem to believe that the NAFTA-WTO version of "free trade" is actually a good thing. It seems as though this belief may last until the last worker in the last sweatshop on earth, a casket factory in the Sudan, breathes her last breath. I mean, who are you going to believe? The politicians and the pundits, or your own lying eyes?

Obviously, corporate-friendly policies have not brought economic security to communities that have paid through the nose trying to get it. I surely don't know all the answers, but I think the key to real economic security lies in having broad diversity locally. Pretty much all necessities should be produced locally, including a variety of food crops. The advantages of economies of scale and reduced management and marketing costs, all associated with large multi-state and multi-national corporations, accrue almost exclusively to the stockholders. When Maytag moves into your town and hires all of the people who used to work in a wide variety of businesses, that town's economic health is now tied pretty exclusively to the market for refrigerators. Dave Pollard's blog How to Save the World has an excellent article on the advantages of local versus global production. I especially like this chart which compares our current corporate-centered red cycle with the more people-centered green cycle which America was approaching in the middle of the last century and which we should strive for again:

As it says in the blue box, the key is to impose duties and tariffs on importing anything that can be produced or done locally. It then becomes much less of a race to the bottom.

[Update] Rick reminds me of the film The Corporation, which unfortunately I haven't seen yet. It was shown in Ann Arbor for a week back in June, and is supposed to be back here at the Michigan Theater from October 24-27. The DVD is due out next March. People I've talked to say it's a great eye-opener.

October Surprise?

The Bushies outed a CIA agent; will the CIA out some Bushies? Robert Scheer reports that there's a secret CIA report, which was completed in June, which levels specific charges against specific administration officials for not doing their jobs in the months leading up to 9/11:
It is shocking: The Bush administration is suppressing a CIA report on 9/11 until after the election, and this one names names. Although the report by the inspector general's office of the CIA was completed in June, it has not been made available to the Congressional intelligence committees that mandated the study almost two years ago.

"It is infuriating that a report which shows that high-level people were not doing their jobs in a satisfactory manner before 9/11 is being suppressed," an intelligence official who has read the report told me, adding that "the report is potentially very embarrassing for the administration, because it makes it look like they weren't interested in terrorism before 9/11, or in holding people in the government responsible afterward."

When I asked about the report, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, said she and committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) sent a letter 14 days ago asking for it to be delivered. "We believe that the CIA has been told not to distribute the report," she said. "We are very concerned."
The rest of the story.


In a post a few days ago, I referred to Fallujah as being 100 miles from Baghdad. It's only 40 miles from Baghdad. I still don't see how that makes bombing houses, restaurants and schools in Fallujah a reasonable way to stop terrorist attacks in Baghdad. If the attackers are, in fact, based in Fallujah, restricting the flow of people from Fallujah to Baghdad, especially those with large amounts of explosives in their cars, would seem to be a more appropriate solution. The thing is, I think our military is doing that already. In my opinion, the bombings in Baghdad originate in Baghdad, and the US continues to bomb Fallujah in order to "teach them a lesson." It's a war crime, it's despicable, and nothing good will ever come of it.


Posting is slow mostly because blogger is slow. There are lots of outrages out there, and I've read about them, and I want to post them! Maybe later...

Fundamentally Wrong

Speaking of Juan Cole, read what he thinks about the effects of aWol's "war on terror:"
I think it can be fairly argued that the Bush "war on terror" has actually spread Islamic fundamentalism. (Bush coddling of Ariel Sharon's harsh policies in Palestine has also contributed).

Since Bush began acting aggressively in the region, the United Action Council of (often pro-Bin Laden!) fundamentalist parties in Pakistan has come to power by itself in the Northwest Frontier Province, in coalition in Baluchistan, and has 17% of the seats in parliament! Despite Pakistan's unwarranted reputation for "fundamentalism," in fact most Pakistanis are Sufis or traditionalists who dislike fundamentalism, and the latter parties seldom got more than 2-3% of seats in any election in which they ran. Until Bush came along.

In Iraq, a whole series of Muslim fundamentalist parties-- al-Da`wa, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Sadrists, the Salafis, and now al-Qaeda, have been unleashed by Bush. They seem likely to win any election held in Iraq, since the secularists remain disorganized.

In the parliamentary elections in Afghanistan now slated for spring 2005, the Taliban or the cousins of the Taliban are likely to be a major party, benefiting from the Pushtun vote.

Juan Cole Speaks!

Like me, Juan Cole is a blogger who lives in Ann Arbor. Unlike me, Juan is famous and knows what he's talking about! And he'll be talking about it tonight at 7 pm at the Schorling Auditorium in the UM School of Education, 610 E University. His topic will be "The War on Terror and the New Arc of Crisis."

I'll set the TiVo to record the baseball game and head on down to hear what he has to say. If you're local, maybe I'll see you there!

The Lord works in mysterious ways

Like telling one smug idiot born-again Christian one thing while telling another smug idiot born-again Christian another! From CNN:
Pat Robertson, an ardent Bush supporter, said he had that conversation with the president in Nashville, Tennessee, before the March 2003 invasion. He described Bush in the meeting as "the most self-assured man I've ever met in my life."

"You remember Mark Twain said, 'He looks like a contented Christian with four aces.' I mean he was just sitting there like, 'I'm on top of the world,' " Robertson said on the CNN show, "Paula Zahn Now."

"And I warned him about this war. I had deep misgivings about this war, deep misgivings. And I was trying to say, 'Mr. President, you had better prepare the American people for casualties.' "

Robertson said the president then told him, "Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties."

Robertson, the televangelist who sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1988, said he wishes Bush would admit to mistakes made.

"I mean, the Lord told me it was going to be A, a disaster, and B, messy," Robertson said. "I warned him about casualties."
Of course, just like the Oaf of Office, Pat doesn't let facts interfere with his judgment:
Asked why Bush has refused to admit to mistakes on Iraq, Robertson said, "I don't know this politics game. You know, you can never say you were wrong because the opposition grabs onto it: 'See, he admitted he screwed up.' "

Even as Robertson criticized Bush for downplaying the potential dangers of the Iraq war, he heaped praise on Bush, saying he believes the president will win the election and that "the blessing of heaven is on Bush."

"Even if he stumbles and messes up -- and he's had his share of stumbles and gaffes -- I just think God's blessing is on him," Robertson said.
Well gee, Pat, if God's blessing is on him, why didn't He give Bush the same info he gave you? Guess He just didn't want to mess up Bush's self-assurance. Then again, maybe when Bush thinks God is talking to him, it's really Karl Rove.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The downside to high oil prices

As you've probably gathered, I think rising oil prices are a good thing. Since loud idiots on the radio and their pocketbooks are the only things that many Americans pay attention to, I see rising oil prices as about the only way that America will get the necessary message that the party is over. They need to drive smaller vehicles, drive them less, turn out the lights, support mass transit, eat less meat, and a variety of other things if America and the world are going to survive the 21st century. The distortions in our economy caused by cheap oil are enormous and enormously dangerous, and need to be removed as quickly as possible. In addition, there are some short-term advantages to rising oil prices. Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez was able to fight off a determined US-backed opposition trying to remove him from office, in part because rising oil prices helped his country avoid economic catastrophe. While certainly no saint, I think Chavez's survival was a definite plus for the people of Venezuela and of the western hemisphere in general, as a foil to US corporate hegemony if nothing else. High prices may also contribute to our idiot president being dethroned.

But there are certainly some down sides to higher oil prices. When I argue that higher prices are a good thing, many progressives argue that they hit poor people the hardest, since they are least able to pay the higher prices. I think this is questionable even in the short term, and especially in the long term, because the poor are much more dependent on buses and other mass transit than the rich, and higher oil prices should increase demand for mass transit. That should result in more buses on more routes at more times, giving people who don't have cars greater mobility. If the price gets high enough, it might even reverse the plague of sprawl which has pulled wealthier Americans farther and farther away from the cities. If some move back into the cities the tax bases will recover, along with schools, roads, and jobs. I don't mean to be callous; I realize that many poor people are driving 20-year-old low-mileage beaters to work every day and don't currently have a viable alternative, and that there are many people on fixed incomes who will have a hard time making it through the winter as heating oil and natural gas prices rise. Higher prices will hurt some poor people, but they are currently being hurt in other ways, some of them tied to low oil prices. In the end, we're all on the same planet, and stopping the use of fossil fuels ASAP is key to the survival of all of us. Obviously, it's not my call, but it's a shame that our political system has pretty much kept everyone who should be concerned out of the debate while the politicians are doing favors for their friends.

One other obvious and unavoidable drawback to higher prices is that it will spur demands for more exploration in the few remaining wilderness areas in the world. We've seen that for years in the calls for drilling in the ANWR. And, via Michael, I learn that politicians in British Columbia are caving in to oil interests and lifting a ban on oil and gas drilling off B.C.'s north coast.

Here's a photo of the Queen Charlotte Basin, one of the areas threatened:

And here is a photo of residents of the area protesting drilling:

"Oil is a black market." Good line!

A Safer Place

Fearmaster Cheney at work:
Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday evoked the possibility of terrorists bombing U.S. cities with nuclear weapons and questioned whether Sen. John Kerry could combat such a threat, which the vice president called a concept "you've got to get your mind around."

"The biggest threat we face now as a nation is the possibility of terrorists ending up in the middle of one of our cities with deadlier weapons than have ever before been used against us -- biological agents or a nuclear weapon or a chemical weapon of some kind to be able to threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans,'' Cheney said.

"That's the ultimate threat. For us to have a strategy that's capable of defeating that threat, you've got to get your mind around that concept," Cheney said.

Der Fuhrer's Arrival

In the mid 1800s, when Indians invaded Jacksonville [OR], citizens clambered upon the roof of the old library. It was the one building that would not catch fire when flaming arrows were shot. This week it was a different scene. Police armed with high powered rifles perched upon our rooftops as the presidential motorcade approached. Helicopters flew low, overhead. A cadre of motorcycle police zoomed into town. Black SUVs followed, sandwiching several black limousines carrying the president, his wife and their entourage as they sped to the local inn where they would eat and sleep.
The main street was lined with people gathered to witness the event. Many supported the president. Many did not. Some came because they were simply curious. There were men, women, young and old. The mood was somewhat festive. Supporters of John Kerry sported signs, as did supporters of George Bush. Individuals, exercising their rights of free speech began chanting. On one side of the street, shouts of “four more years” echoed in the night air. On the other side of the street, chants of “three more weeks” responded. The chants were loud and apparently could be heard by President Bush. An order was issued that the anti-Bush rhetoric be quieted. The local SWAT team leapt to action.
It happened fast. Clad in full riot gear, at least 50 officers moved in. Shouting indecipherable commands from a bullhorn, they formed a chain and bore down upon the people, only working to clear the side of the street appearing to be occupied by Kerry supporters. People tried to get out of their way. It was very crowded. There was nowhere to move. People were being crushed. They started flowing into the streets. Pleas to the officers, asking, “where to go” fell upon deaf ears. Instead, riot police fired pellets of cayenne pepper spray into the crowd. An old man fell and couldn’t get up. When a young man stopped to help, he was shot in the back with hard pepper spray balls. Children were hit with pepper spray. Deemed “Protesters” people were shoved and herded down the street by the menacing line of armed riot police, until out of the President’s ear-shot.
That's an eyewitness account of aWol's recent visit to Jacksonville, OR, by a retired attorney originally from Texas. She had much more to say on the subject. Thanks to new blogger Michael Zimmer for that link, and this one about the same incident.

Do you think if Bush actually got to see these protesters or hear what they're saying that he might have been able to think of one mistake he's made?

Also, with local communities being stuck with the bill by the campaigns, you wonder if some towns might try to declare themselves "no-go" zones to the brownshirts.

Polizeros calls the election for Kerry

I called the election for Kerry almost two weeks ago, due partly to the debates and mostly due to the media removing Bush's protective shields and teflon coating, evidence that the powers-that-be have decided that Bush is just too dangerous to trust with the American imperial agenda. Well, former Los Angeles Green Party treasurer Bob Morris has also now declared Kerry the winner on his Polizeros blog. He bases his call more on the polls showing a dead heat and the historical record which shows that incumbents in a dead heat are dead meat.


Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States, writes about the insanity known as the "war on terror."
Yes, we can try to guard in every possible way against future attacks, by trying to secure airports, seaports, railroads, other centers of transportation. Yes, we can try to capture known terrorists. But neither of those actions can bring an end to terrorism, which comes from the fact that millions of people in the Middle East and elsewhere are angered by American policies, and out of these millions come those who will carry their anger to fanatic extremes.

The CIA senior terrorism analyst who has written a book signed "Anonymous" has said bluntly that U.S. policies--supporting Sharon, making war on Afghanistan and Iraq--"are completing the radicalization of the Islamic world."

Unless we reexamine our policies--our quartering of soldiers in a hundred countries (the quartering of foreign soldiers, remember, was one of the grievances of the American revolutionaries), our support of the occupation of Palestinian lands, our insistence on controlling the oil of the Middle East--we will always live in fear. If we were to announce that we will reconsider those policies, and began to change them, we might start to dry up the huge reservoir of hatred where terrorists are hatched.

Whoever the next President will be, it is up to the American people to demand that he begin a bold reconsideration of the role our country should play in the world. That is the only possible solution to a future of never-ending, pervasive fear. That would be "our" war on terrorism.

Three walk-offs in a day

As the Detroit Tigers have oscillated between mediocrity and pitiful ineptitude for the past ten years, I've lost much of the interest I used to have in baseball. But the most exciting play in baseball is a walkoff hit, where the home team in the bottom of the ninth or in extra innings gets a hit to drive in the winning run, leaving the visitors to walk off the field with their heads hung low. So yesterday was a banner day for baseball, since there were three walk-off wins in the two league championship series. First, in game four of the Yankees-Red Sox series, Boston's David Ortiz hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the twelfth at sometime around 2 am Monday morning. (I gave up and went to sleep after the tenth inning.) Then, about 21 hours later, Ortiz got a single in the bottom of the 14th inning to drive in Johnny Damon from second base. And about half an hour later Jeff Kent of the Houston Astros hit a three-run homerun in the bottom of the ninth into the architectural silliness that is the stadium formerly known as Enron Field.

I bring this up, in part, because it's not out of the question that baseball may end up affecting the election. Aside from the excitement and inevitable doom of another run by the cursed Red Sox and the inevitable superstitious linking of their fate with Kerry's (and there will be a much stronger link if the World Series is Houston-Boston), the fact is that the World Series will be played during the week before the election. If it goes to seven games, the seventh and deciding game will be scheduled in Boston or more likely New York on Halloween night, Sunday, October 31, two days before the election. Since weather in the northeast in late October isn't always ideal for baseball, there is a distinct possibility that the game could be rained or snowed out (like Friday's NY-Boston game was). If that happened, game seven would be played Monday night, the night before the election. If that game goes until two or three in the morning, it might well have a significant impact on voter turnout.

A Safer Place

208 Iraqis killed last week. The NY Times has tallied up reports from various sources in Iraq to come up with that number, which they admit is imprecise. Twenty-three members of the US military were also killed last week.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Right to remain silent

The only right they intend to leave us with.

Photo via Mousemusings. And, via Michelle, excerpts from an article on
President Bush taught three Oregon schoolteachers a new lesson in irony – or tragedy – Thursday night when his campaign removed them from a Bush speech and threatened them with arrest simply for wearing t-shirts that said “Protect Our Civil Liberties,” the Democratic Party of Oregon reported.

The women were ticketed to the event, admitted into the event, and were then approached by event officials before the president’s speech. They were asked to leave and to turn over their tickets – two of the three tickets were seized, but the third was saved when one of the teachers put it underneath an article of clothing.
Three Medford school teachers were threatened with arrest and escorted from the event after they showed up wearing T-shirts with the slogan "Protect our civil liberties." All three said they applied for and received valid tickets from Republican headquarters in Medford.

The women said they did not intend to protest. "I wanted to see if I would be able to make a statement that I feel is important, but not offensive, in a rally for my president," said Janet Voorhies, 48, a teacher in training.

“We chose this phrase specifically because we didn't think it would be offensive or degrading or obscene," said Tania Tong, 34, a special education teacher.

Soldiers Refusing Order

More on the case of the 19 Army Reserve soldiers who refused to make a fuel delivery to northern Iraq last week, citing the poor condition of their vehicles and the extreme danger of the route.

From the NY Times:
The Army has begun an inquiry, and the soldiers could face disciplinary measures, including possible courts-martial. But Jackie Butler, Sergeant Butler's wife, and her family in Jackson say he would not have jeopardized his career and his freedom for something impulsive or unimportant.

The soldiers, many of whom have called home this weekend, said their trucks were unsafe and lacked a proper armed escort, problems that have plagued them since they went to Iraq nine months ago, their relatives said. The time had come for them, for her husband, to act, Ms. Butler said.

"I'm proud that he said 'no,'" Ms. Butler said. "They had complained and complained for months to the chain of command about the equipment and trucks. But nothing was done, so I think he felt he had to take a stand."

Other soldiers completed the mission the platoon turned down, the military kept functioning, and the Army has cast the incident as isolated.

But as the soldiers involved in the refusal in Tallil and others begin to speak out, it is growing more apparent that the military has yet to solve the lack of training, parts and equipment that has riddled the military operation in Iraq from the outset, especially among National Guard and Reserve units.
From the WSWS:
Far from bringing “liberation” and “democracy”, the occupation has turned Iraq into a living hell, in which the function of American soldiers is to intimidate and repress the population. While soldiers in units like the 343rd are risking their lives in unarmoured trucks, companies like Bechtel and KBR are profiteering from multi-billion dollar contracts and are preparing to loot the country’s oil resources.

The mutiny in Tallil will have sent shockwaves through the US political establishment and military command. The turn from a draft army to today’s volunteer army was made following the experience of the Vietnam War, where the growing opposition among American soldiers to being forced to fight a criminal colonial war led to the disintegration of morale and discipline. The rebellious sentiment within the military was a contributing factor in the defeat of US imperialism.

Now, less than 18 months into the occupation of Iraq, a similar process is beginning in the ranks of volunteer units. Every day they face the reality of policing an unpopular occupation. Soldiers are aware that the majority of the American people do not support the war and want the troops brought home.

New Blog!

Regular reader Mike from Victoria, British Columbia, has started his own blog. Welcome to the blogosphere, Mike!


From CBS Marketwatch:
November crude traded as high as $55.33 a barrel overnight, then OPEC announced in a monthly report that it pumped 30.1 million barrels of oil a day in September -- the most since the 1970s, according to Phil Flynn, a senior analyst at Alaron Trading in Chicago.
Against this backdrop, crude for November delivery stood at $54.60 after falling 33 cents on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Create our own reality

Scary Quote of the Week:
That's not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.
That's from an unnamed "senior advisor to Bush," quoted in Ron Suskind's article in the New York Times Magazine about the faith-based presidency. I'll join with plenty of other bloggers like Tom Tomorrow, Bob Harris, Juan Cole, Whatever It Is I'm Against It and I'm sure dozens of others in recommending that you read Suskind's article. I'm not sure there's much to add that Suskind and all those other bloggers have said, but I will offer some speculation of my own. Suskind doesn't name the "senior advisor to Bush" quoted above, but I will hazard a guess that it is Michael Ledeen. Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and his name is connected, in this book at least, with Repug scandals going back to the October Surprise of 1980 and Iran-Contra. I'm guessing Ledeen because the quote above seems to be from the same type of zealotry Ledeen expounded in an AEI conference shortly in October 2001. The final sentence below was the one most widely quoted in late 2001 and early 2002, although it was frequently mis-attributed to Richard Perle, who moderated the conference. See if you don't agree with me that the quote above and the quote below could very easily have come from the same person:

Now, in this war, I just have two basic points. The first is what Jim Woolsey and Newt said earlier which is we can't be bound by legalisms. Churchill said in WWII that it was preposterous to expect the allies in WWII to observe every jot and tiddle of the law, every legal and moral principle, when we were fighting against enemies who would destroy all law and morality if they triumphed.
Because, if you lose, there will be no discussion of these things, whatsoever. The first thing is to win.
If we just let our own vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don't try to be clever and piece together clever diplomatic solutions to this thing, but just wage a total war against these tyrants, I think we will do very well and our children will sing great songs about us years from now.
Again, that quote was from Michael Ledeen at an AEI conference in October, 2001.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Shut up! Just shut up!

The Repugs treat the country like Bill O'Reilly treats his "guests." From Josh Marshall:
Now, the youth voter participation group Rock The Vote has been pushing this issue [the possibility of a draft] recently, calling for an election-year debate on the topic in ways you can see if you do a quick google search with their name in it.

And what has the response been from the president?

This week RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie sent the group a 'cease and desist' letter threatening legal action against the group and raising the possibility of seeking the revocation of the group's status as a tax-exempt 501c3 organization if the group did not cease discussing the draft issue.

Claims that a draft is possible, Gillespie argued, are so ridiculous on their face that the the group could only be acting from 'malicious intent and a reckless disregard for the truth.' (Those, of course, are catchphrases laying the groundwork for legal action.)

Gillespie's rationale for arguing that there is no basis for discussing the possibility of a draft is the say-so of the president. Gillespie quotes him saying, "We don't need the draft. Look, the all-volunteer force is working ..."

That, to Gillespie, is -- quite literally -- the end of the debate.
Two years ago, claims that Iraq didn't have weapons of mass destruction were said to be ridiculous as well. If the phrase "malicious intent and a reckless disregard for the truth" ever applied to anyone, it applies to Bush and the Repugs.


FALLUJA, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. tanks pounded insurgent positions in eastern Falluja Sunday morning following airstrikes on a northern neighborhood where the military said "terrorists" were operating a checkpoint.
On Saturday evening, U.S. warplanes dropped bombs on targets in northern Falluja, including the Jolan neighborhood.

In a written statement, the coalition said an illegal checkpoint in Jolan was being used to "disrupt traffic, intimidate and harass local citizens, and interrogate and detain local civilians."
That's EXACTLY what U.S. troops do all the time!

And who gave Bush the green light to carry out this massacre in Fallujah? Try John Kerry. From the first debate:
Kerry: What I want to do is change the dynamics on the ground. And you have to do that by beginning to not back off of Fallujah and other places and send the wrong message to the terrorists.
President Kerry offers the same kind of hope for getting out of Iraq that Presidents Johnson and Nixon did for getting out of Vietnam: None.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Secrecy and Privilege

Another file contained a summary of all "secret" and "top secret" State Department records on arms sales to iran in the 1980s. One "top secret/sensitive" document recounted private meetings that Secretary of State Alexander Haig had with Middle Eastern leaders during a trip in May 1981. Haig wrote that Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Saudi Prince Fahd told him that "Iran is receiving military spares for U.S. equipment from Israel." Haig added that, "It was also interesting to confirm that President Carter gave the Iraqis a green light to launch the war against Iran through Fahd."
That's just one of thousands of scandalous paragraphs from this book:

The paragraph above is from pages 180 and 181 of the book, which happens to be exactly how far I've gotten in reading it. Click on the picture of the cover above to find out more about the book or to order it. So far, I've learned about George H.W. Bush's work in helping the Repugs to put Watergate behind them, his ties to the CIA, and plenty about the October Surprise scandal from the 1980 election. I've learned how "Democrat" Lee Hamilton was heavily involved in "investigating" both the October Surprise allegations and Iran-Contra, and did his best to be "bipartisan" and extremely accomodating to the Repugs in keeping those scandals from having any serious impact on the Repugs or how they do business. Really warms my heart to think that this sleazebag was co-chair of the 9/11 commission.

I think about the Haig quote above, where he says that he confirmed that Jimmy Carter gave Saddam a green light to attack Iran. Combine that with the message that Bush Sr. and James Baker sent Saddam about Iraq's quarrel with Kuwait being of no concern to the U.S. a week before he invaded Kuwait, and you'll see that yet another excuse for the latest war gets much weaker. How many times have you heard one of the Bushies say "He attacked his neighbors." Well, he did. Twice. Iran in 1979 and Kuwait in 1990. Both times with a "green light" from the U.S.

From the book, I've learned that not only did the U.S. try to trade arms for hostages in 1980, but the two major parties were basically in a bidding war to see who could promise Iran the most weaponry. Jimmy Carter wanted a deal so he could get the hostages being held in Iran released before the election--the "October surprise" that might have enabled him to beat Reagan. The Repugs were apparently, at least according to this book and several other accounts I've read, trying to outbid Carter, promising the Iranians even more weaponry if they delayed the release of the hostages until after the election. Carter's attempt was sleazy, since it was covert and Iran was on the list of terror-supporting nations that we weren't supposed to be selling arms to. It was also sleazy because the only reason that Iran was listening to offers from the "Great Satan" was on account of the war with Iraq that Carter had encouraged Saddam to launch (Iran desperately needed spare parts and ammunition for its large arsenal of American fighter planes and other weaponry). But the Reagan campaign's offers, apparently spearheaded by campaign manager and future CIA director Bill Casey and VP candidate George H.W. Bush, were treason, since only the official U.S. government is supposed to conduct foreign policy, and because it led to the hostages being held for another four months.

And, of course, Carter's October Surprise was thwarted, with the hostages released minutes after Reagan's inauguration. The illegal and secret flow of American weapons and parts to Iran, laundered through Israel, followed shortly, and continued throughout the 1980's. Its later stages were known by the name "Iran-Contra." (American weaponry and assistance were going to the other side of that war, Iraq, at the same time.) And of course the treason of the Reagan-Bush campaign led to their victory in 1980, cursing us with the slide towards the fascist right that started then and continues today.

Six soldiers killed in Iraq

From the NY Times:
Scattered violence erupted across Iraq on the first weekend of the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, as six United States servicemen were killed in car bombings and helicopter crashes.

Five Christian churches in Baghdad were firebombed early on Saturday morning in what appeared to be coordinated attacks, the latest effort by insurgents to terrorize the relatively small population of Christians in Iraq.

Jon Stewart tells CNN's hacks to "stop hurting America"

Read it, or watch it, here. I don't watch Crossfire, but I'll bet Stewart is right. A guy known for being hilarious goes on a TV "news" program and, without trying to be funny, tells them they suck.

Promoting Incompetence, Promoting Torture, Promoting Sanchez

According to the LA Times:
The Pentagon plans to promote Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, former head of military operations in Iraq, risking a confrontation with members of Congress because of the prisoner abuses that occurred during his tenure.
Senior Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have privately told colleagues they are determined to pin a fourth star on Sanchez, two senior defense officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said this week.
Rumsfeld and others recognize that Sanchez remains politically "radioactive," in the words of a third senior defense official, and would wait until after the Nov. 2 presidential election and investigations of the Abu Ghraib scandal have faded before putting his name forward.
Via A Tiny Revolution, which has more to say on the matter.

Quote du Jour

September 11, 2001, already a day of immeasurable tragedy, cannot be the day liberty perished in this country.
--Judge Gerald Tjoflat, 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. From CNN:
Fears of a terrorist attack are not sufficient reason for authorities to search people at a protest, a federal appeals court has ruled, saying September 11, 2001, "cannot be the day liberty perished."

A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously Friday that protesters may not be required to pass through metal detectors when they gather next month for a rally against a U.S. training academy for Latin American soldiers.

Authorities began using the metal detectors at the annual School of the Americas protest after the terrorist attacks, but the court found that practice to be unconstitutional.

"We cannot simply suspend or restrict civil liberties until the War of Terror is over, because the War on Terror is unlikely ever to be truly over," Judge Gerald Tjoflat wrote for the three-member court. "September 11, 2001, already a day of immeasurable tragedy, cannot be the day liberty perished in this country."

City officials in Columbus, Georgia, contended the searches were needed because of the elevated risk of terrorism, but the court threw out that argument, saying it would "eviscerate the Fourth Amendment."


David Brooks summarizes the debates

In the past three years, I've read a lot of columns written by the NY Times stable of pundits. Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert are always good. Nicholas Kristoff is what Tom Tomorrow calls the "sensible liberal," finding the good points in Bush plans which have none. William Safire writes a good column about three times a year; the rest of the time he's busy defending the indefensible (usually the war in Iraq). When it finally becomes at least slightly obvious to him that all of Bush's reasons for war were bogus, he resorts to "But look at the French! And the UN! They've done some sleazy things!" The other two columnists are liberal Maureen Dowd and conservative David Brooks. Dowd is at her most readible on the rare occasions when she's not trying to be funny; Brooks is definitely at his best when he is trying to be funny.

Like today. While most pundits were grading the candidates on their style, or on the few facts mentioned which could be checked, Brooks gets to the fundamental nonsense that was at the core of the debates.(If you're a big Kerry fan, be sure to read past the first paragraph--Brooks ridicules Bush, too.)

Some excerpts:
KERRY: Bob, when I'm president, we're going to have a president as gloomy as this country should be. But the difference is that I have a plan to balance the budget. In fact I have seven plans. Seven and a half if you count the one I was working on in the limo, not even counting subclauses. When I'm president, our country is going to marry a really rich country, which will pay for everything. Thank you.
BUSH: You need a plan. I know that. I'm president. I wake up every day looking for a plan. In fact, I supported Mitch McConnell's plan. But my opponent voted to raise taxes 1,500 gazillion bazillion times. He even voted for some of my budgets, which have created deficits as far as the eye can see! He's a liberal!
SCHIEFFER: As I was driving in tonight one thing occurred to me: All three of us are surrounded by strong women. What the hell are we doing up here? Why aren't they running the country?
The whole column.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Hell no! We won't go!

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Army is investigating reports that several members of a reservist supply unit in Iraq refused to go on a convoy mission, the military said Friday. Relatives of the soldiers said the troops considered the mission too dangerous.

The reservists are from the 343rd Quartermaster Company, which is based in Rock Hill, S.C. The unit delivers food and water in combat zones.

According to The Clarion-Ledger newspaper in Jackson, Miss., a platoon of 17 soldiers refused to go on a fuel supply mission Wednesday because their vehicles were in poor shape and they did not have a capable armed escort.

The paper cited interviews with family members of some of the soldiers, who said the soldiers had been confined after their refusals. The mission was carried out by other soldiers from the 343rd, which has at least 120 soldiers, the military said.
This was on the NBC Nightly News tonight. As Michelle suggests, "What if they gave a war and nobody came?"

From another article about this:
A 17-member Army Reserve platoon with troops from Jackson and around the Southeast deployed to Iraq is under arrest for refusing a "suicide mission" to deliver fuel, the troops' relatives said Thursday.

The soldiers refused an order on Wednesday to go to Taji, Iraq — north of Baghdad — because their vehicles were considered "deadlined" or extremely unsafe, said Patricia McCook of Jackson, wife of Sgt. Larry O. McCook.

Sgt. McCook, a deputy at the Hinds County Detention Center, and the 16 other members of the 343rd Quartermaster Company from Rock Hill, S.C., were read their rights and moved from the military barracks into tents, Patricia McCook said her husband told her during a panicked phone call about 5 a.m. Thursday.

The platoon could be charged with the willful disobeying of orders, punishable by dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pay and up to five years confinement, said military law expert Mark Stevens, an associate professor of justice studies at Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount, N.C.


Absolutely Disgusting

I turned on the TV (that's disgusting enough), and a guy says "My brother-in-law is always inviting me over to watch the game on his BIG TV..."

A Circuit City sales guy says "And you hate him for it."

The guy nods, and slowly says "Yeah."

Sales guy says, "So what you want is something a lot bigger for a lot less money."

The guy says "Yeah!"

So in 15 seconds of a TV ad, we've got Circuit City encouraging a guy to hate his brother-in-law and get revenge by spending a lot of money on a big imported TV. So that, I guess, his brother-in-law can hate him back. And so he can be deeper in debt. And watch the game alone. And not be able to pay for the TV because he can't find a job at the local factory which used to make TV's. And use up more of the world's resources in making and shipping his big TV. And get him used to the idea that sharing is for losers. Mission accomplished.


From CBS Marketwatch:
November crude closed at $54.93, up 17 cents for the session after briefly tapping an intraday high of $55 for the first time ever.

Signs of our times

From the Freeway Blogger's Free Speech Day.

Wal-Marting the World

Wal-Mart: Bringing crap from the East to the West at the only prices the people of the West can afford now that the people of the East have their jobs. But not only that--Wal-Mart continues to run roughshod over the cultural differences that make the world an interesting place. Getting its start turning the quaint Mayberry's of the South into abandoned cores with a big-box wart on the highway out of town, the evil smiley face then turned its wicked grin on the rest of America. Eventually Birmingham, Alabama and Birmingham, Michigan became much more alike. And if smiley gets his way, Birmingham, England will soon follow.

And it's not just blind corporate expansion; Wal-Mart actively seeks to destroy local culture. In Mexico, they're building a new store just several thousand meters from the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, the crowning structures of the ancient city of Teotihuacan. And in Honolulu, a new store just opened on the site of an ancient burial ground. And hundreds of eager shoppers rushed past the handful of protesters.

They're destroying the world, and the inhabitants seem thrilled to just let them do it.

Whence have all the brownshirts come?

From Paul Craig Roberts:
Bush's conservative supporters want no debate. They want no facts, no analysis. They want to denounce and to demonize the enemies that the Hannitys, Limbaughs, and Savages of talk radio assure them are everywhere at work destroying their great and noble country.

I remember when conservatives favored restraint in foreign policy and wished to limit government power in order to protect civil liberties. Today's young conservatives are Jacobins determined to use government power to impose their will at home and abroad.

Where did such "conservatives" come from?

Claes Ryn in his important book, America the Virtuous, explains the intellectual evolution of the neoconservatives who lead the Bush administration. For all their defects, however, neocons are thoughtful compared to the world of talk radio, whose inhabitants are trained to shout down everyone else. From whence came the brownshirt movement that slavishly adheres to the neocons' agenda?

Sleaze Baker

I probably sound like some conspiracy theorist when I rant on about the "powers that be" who chose aWol to be our pResident and now have apparently decided that his time is up. Well, I guess I am a conspiracy theorist, but the conspiracies I suspect make a lot more sense than the ones we're expected to accept as common knowledge (that some guy hiding in a cave in the most technologically backward country in the world was able to mastermind a high-tech hijacking 8000 miles away, for instance, or that a dead amputee named Zarqawi is plotting and directing hundreds of bombings in Baghdad from a "safe house" in Fallujah). Compared to that nonsense, the idea that it was a cruise missile and not an airliner that hit the Pentagon, or that Dick Cheney planned 9/11, or that Laura Bush was on the grassy knoll on that fateful day in Dallas, all seem very plausible. (Okay, I made that last one up.)

Anyway, I refer to the "powers that be" because I'm not sure exactly who they are. Bush is clearly working for someone (not us). First level theory would have it that he's working for Dick Cheney and/or Karl Rove. And I'm sure he is. But Dick and Karl are working for someone else. I guess the next level would be the big-money Repugs who have funded the think tanks and the right-wing takeover of the media: Richard Mellon Scaife, the Coors family, Sun Yung Moon. But I suspect that they have been more enablers than planners; their money made it possible for the people really calling the shots to pursue their goals. As I see it, the closest I can get to who is really calling the shots is the investment firm known as the Carlyle Group. Founders of the Carlyle Group included George H.W. Bush and Osama bin Laden's father. Current members of the Carlyle Group team include numerous members of the cabinets of Ronald Reagan, Bush Sr., and Bill Clinton, as well as former British PM John Major and assorted elites from business and government from around the world.

The person who may be the real heart-and-soul of the Carlyle Group, although it probably has no heart or soul, is James Baker III. Baker was Reagan's Chief of Staff from 1981 to '85 and Secretary of the Treasury from '85 through '89. He was Secretary of State for Bush Sr., and was the one who sent the message to Saddam Hussein that the U.S. had no interest in his dispute with Kuwait. More recently, Baker headed W's team which finalized the theft of the 2000 election in Florida. His law firm, Baker Botts, is defending the kingdom of Saudi Arabia against a lawsuit charging it with complicity in the 9/11 attacks. In addition to this, Baker is Senior Council for the Carlyle Group, and is W's envoy, supposedly on behalf of the U.S. government, trying to get other countries to forgive Iraq's massive foreign debt (so Bush can go ahead and give more money to Halliburton).

But, in a career filled with conflicts of interest, Baker's last two roles listed above conflict with each other. Because, according to Naomi Klein, the Carlyle Group is part of a consortium working under contract with Kuwait to make sure that Iraq's debts to Kuwait ARE repaid. In other words, as a government representative Baker is asking the French, Germans, Russians and others to give up their claims to Iraqi money, but as a representative of the Carlyle Group he is helping Kuwait to get their money.

For more details on the Carlyle Group, this page seems to have links about all of the scandals I've heard of so far.

Bob's Brief Guide to Good and Evil in Iraq

Car bombs: bad. Bombing cars: good.
Source: Pentagon.

This car was destroyed in Fallujah, probably by American bombs or artillery.

From CNN:
[C]ombined forces launched a major air and ground operation late Thursday, aimed at disrupting future attacks by insurgents who currently control the city.

Officials from Falluja's general hospital said two people were killed and eight others wounded after a tank shell hit the Haye al-Jolan neighborhood about 11 p.m. (4 p.m. EDT) Thursday.

U.S. warplanes pounded targets in the Sunni Triangle city, lighting up the nighttime sky and jolting a city that has been a hotbed for the insurgency.
No word better describes this assault than "terrorism."

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The times they are a changin'

Kerry from last night's debate:
This president has taken a $5.6 trillion surplus and turned it into deficits as far as the eye can see. Health-care costs for the average American have gone up 64 percent; tuitions have gone up 35 percent; gasoline prices up 30 percent; Medicare premiums went up 17 percent a few days ago; prescription drugs are up 12 percent a year.
Now Kerry was making a valid point about how costs have gone up while wages have gone down; successfully suggesting that Bush fails on Reagan's question: "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

I'm glad that Kerry doesn't seem to be making gasoline prices an issue, because gasoline prices are still WAY too low, believe it or not. A web site that Cyndy linked to provides some of the scary details, much of which you've read here before. Here's an excerpt:
The problem with these alternatives is not one of technical feasibility. They do work. The problem is they do not work anywhere near as well as oil. Even in the best of circumstances, they cannot produce anywhere near enough net energy to fuel even a fraction of our current oil-powered economy.

The world currently uses 30 billion barrels of oil per year. To keep the economy moving along, we need about an additional one billion barrels per year.

If we get tremendous political will, unprecedented bipartisan and international cooperation, massive financial investment, and a dozen or so major technological breakthroughts, we might be able to get the energy equivalent of three to five billion barrels per year from alternative sources by 2025-2050.

Three to five billion barrels of oil is a tremendous amount of energy - about the amount the entire world used per year during the early years of World War II.

Unfortunately, because of our massive and constantly increasing demand for the stuff, the energy equivalent of three to five billion barrels of oil is just a "drop in the bucket."

Fallujacide for real

The assault on Fallujah has begun.
American troops and Iraqi special forces launched a major operation in Falluja late Thursday aimed at disrupting future attacks by insurgents who control the volatile city, the U.S. military said.

U.S. warplanes pounded targets in the Sunni Triangle city that has been a hotbed for the insurgency for months, lighting the night sky and producing plumes of smoke.

The operation, on the eve of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, marked the first time U.S. forces have gone into Falluja since April, when a tenuous cease-fire was reached to try to restore calm.

Since then, U.S. forces have operated in the region but not the city itself, and the insurgency has gotten bolder around Iraq.

"We've been looking forward to this for a long time," said 1st Lt. Lyle Gilbert, a spokesman for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

"This operation is going to set the stage for Fallujans and for the Iraqi people to go out and elect their government and live in freedom and security as they deserve," Gilbert said.
Freedom is on the march. Thousands are getting stomped on in the process.

On the eve of Ramadan. Another brilliant hearts-and-minds operation.

And a reminder. In the VP debate, Fearmaster Cheney said this:
We know he’s still in Baghdad today. He is responsible for most of the major car bombings that have killed or maimed thousands of people.
Now, I suspect that the Veep from the Deep mis-spoke, meaning to say "Iraq" when he said "Baghdad." If not, this raiding of Fallujah to get Zarqawi when he's not there would be as crazy as invading Iraq to eliminate non-existent weapons of mass destruction. I mean, seriously insane!

But, even if he meant to say that Zarqawi is in Fallujah, it makes no sense. How does this mythical super-terrorist control car-bombings in Baghdad, some 100 miles away? As I understand it, US forces have been stationed outside Fallujah for months, and I would guess that the road between Fallujah and Baghdad is one of the most heavily-guarded in Iraq. I just don't see daily truckloads of bombs and terrorists heading east towards Baghdad as being possible. Angry young Iraqis working in the shadows in Sadr City makes a lot more sense.

The Zarqawi story is just a cover for another brutal assault on an Iraqi city, like Moqtada al-Sadr was in Najaf. Just one more chapter in a future Chomsky book on the horrors of American imperialism.


From CBS Marketwatch:
Crude oil futures prices were last up 91 cents at $54.55. They spiked as high as $54.60 after the latest energy industry data heightened concerns about heating oil supplies heading into winter.
The Dow's now pretty solidly under 10,000. The Saudis are blaming the US for the rise in terror. Trade deficit surges; jobless claims up. Nader removed from Pennsylvania ballot.

The powers that be have awarded Kerry the win in last night's debate, and are going to continue to clear his path to victory. While Michael Powell hasn't gotten the memo yet, I'd say that the overwhelming preponderance of the news, and more importantly how it is being reported, suggests a solid Kerry victory. Bush will get only his base.

I mention Michael Powell because I'm getting pressure from readers to make more of an issue of the Sinclair Kerry mockumentary case. As I said before, I don't think it's that big a deal; if the Dems weren't raising a stink about it, the mockumentary would get crushed by "My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss" or some such silliness, or if Kerry is really lucky it would be shown opposite game seven of the World Series (on Fox, irony of ironies). But the stink has worked for Sinclair as it did for Michael Moore, and it may end up being their highest rated show ever.

And Cyndy, one of those encouraging me to push the issue, was fair enough to forward a message from an e-mail list she's on which describes how Kerry supported Clinton in passing the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which made massive media conglomerates like Sinclair possible. As I told Cyndy, the problem here isn't that some guy with a TV station is running an anti-Kerry show, it's that some guy with 62 stations is showing it. And that wouldn't have been possible without DLC support.

And the Saudi complaint is very interesting. As with the CIA, who has seemed to have had W in its crosshairs lately, the Saudi connection to the Bush family is a lot stronger with 41 than with 43. I don't know if Bush Sr. is protecting his own interests, those of his corporate buddies, those of his son who is in way over his head, or (though it seems very unlikely) those of the country, but I get the feeling he may not like being the only one-term president in the family. Or maybe he just wants someone to golf with.

New blogs on the blog roll

I've added Baghdad burning, Bob Harris, Xymphora and Under the Same Sun to my blog roll.

I'm especially excited about Bob Harris' blog, since I usually go to Tom Tomorrow's blog hoping to find a Bob Harris post. I'll still drop in on Tom, but if having a blog means Bob H. will be posting more regularly, that's a big plus.

I dropped Billmon because the Whiskey Bar appears to be permanently closed. Let me know if he opens up again; he was one of the best.

Operation Truth

Robert Acosta is in for a LOT of crap if he ever decides to run for president. Just because he gave his right arm for a bunch of lies won't keep the Repugs of 2040 from attacking his patriotism.

Robert is a wounded veteran of the "Not There" war, and stars in a moving ad put together by a group called Operation Truth. You can donate to get their ads on the air.

From Clay Bennett.

From Mike Keefe.

From Boondocks.

Catastrophic Success Continues

Is the Green Zone becoming a "no-go" zone? Explosions rock green zone, killing seven.
Two powerful nearly simultaneous explosions in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone killed at least seven people and wounded five others Thursday morning, according to early reports. The U.S. military said the attackers were suicide bombers.

Separately, a roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad killed a U.S. soldier, bringing the number of soldiers killed to 15 over the past eight days.

It takes two hands...

My lies are small. MINE ARE HUGE!

CNN fact checks the debate.

Shorter CNN: Bush did say he was "not that concerned" about Osama. [Update: the video!] Kerry's claim that 5 million Americans have lost health care isn't accurate (the correct way to say it is that there are 5 million more Americans without health care--some may be new Americans). Bush did meet with the Congressional Black Caucus twice (must have been while Cheney was meeting Edwards).

What CNN left out of the fact check: The answers to the questions that Bush didn't answer. A hint to the audience: A bad education program is not a jobs program, it is not a health care program--heck, it's hardly even an education program!

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

One scandal I can't ignore

A Republican-linked company has been doing a variety of voter registration activities around the country that range from the highly sleazy to the completely illegal. The worst that I've seen so far is that they've been getting people to fill out voter registration forms, then destroying those forms if the voter seems to be a Democrat. The voter shows up to vote, only to find out she isn't registered.

There's too much on this for me to rant about right now, but plenty of good bloggers are all over it: DailyKos, You Will Anyway, Josh Marshall, and I'm sure many, many more. If you want the minute-by-minute blow-by-blow, DailyKos will probably be the best.

In any case, this is a huge story, with the possibility that thousands or tens of thousands of voters may be disenfranchised.

Shorter George W. Bush

Mr. President: What do you say to the guy who just lost his job to outsourcing?

Bush: Go back to school!

Or, the slightly longer version: After you've sold your house because you can't pay the mortgage, head over to your local community college along with the thousands of others who have lost their jobs. Stay there a couple of years, flipping burgers at night to pay for it as well as the rent. If you're lucky, you'll be one of the 10% of your classmates lucky enough to get one of the jobs of the 21st century sometime before the 22nd century arrives.

As you well know, I'm not a fan of John Kerry's. But any "jounalist" who tries to spin tonight's debate as a draw or a Bush win has his Cheney so far up his Ashcroft that his Rumsfeld is sticking out of his Powell. Bush just plain isn't credible--on ANYTHING.

The real meaning of the Hamdi case

Mike Whitney at Counterpunch explains the implications of the deportation of Yasir Hamdi. His conclusion:
The Bush Administration is offering the pitiable excuse that Hamdi was given a choice in renouncing his citizenship. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hamdi forfeited his citizenship in exchange for his freedom. He had no other option. He could either comply with the demands of the government or subject himself to indefinite incarceration. It was a clear case of coercion.

The fact that Hamdi posed no serious threat to national security should be a red flag for Americans. It's an admission that the case has a deeper meaning than what appears on the surface. The real significance of Hamdi's case is to establish the precedents for revoking citizenship and forcing exile; two more repressive tools for the Bush work chest.

FBI shuts down Indymedia web sites

I got e-mails and saw blog entries about this a few days ago. The FBI grabbed servers in England hosting 20 Indymedia web sites. I didn't fully understand the story, nor do I now, but it looks like W may intend to shut down the Internets one by one. As usual, the World Socialist Web Site provides a good summary of what happened and explains the seriously threatening issues involved.

The War--On Drugs

Quote of the year, from Iraqi blogger Riverbend at Baghdad Burning: "You have two choices: take a valium, or start a blog."
Here's the context--excerpts from her latest post:

Valium is a staple during wars. I remember when we were preparing for the war, we would make list after list of 'necessities'. One list was for pharmaceutical necessities. It included such basics as cotton, band-aids, alcohol, gauze and an ordinary painkiller. It also included medicines such as ampicloxine, codeine and valium. No one in the family takes valium, but it was one of those 'just in case' medications- the kind you buy and hope you never have to use.

We had to use it during the first week of April, as the tanks started rolling into Baghdad. We had an older aunt staying at our house (she had been evacuated from her area) and along with my cousin, his wife, his two daughters, and an uncle, the house was crowded and- at bizarre moments- almost festive.
Now, during the more lively hours of a shock and awe bombing storm, there's no way you can have a normal conversation. You might be able to blurt out a few hasty sentences, but eventually, there's bound to be an explosion that makes you stop, duck your head and wonder how the house didn't fall down around you.
So where does the valium fit in? Imagine through all of this commotion, an elderly aunt who is terrified of bombing. She was so afraid, she couldn't, and wouldn't, sit still. She stood pacing the hallway, cursing Bush, Blair and anyone involved with the war- and that was during her calmer moments. When she was feeling especially terrified, the curses and rampage would turn into a storm of weeping and desolation (during which she imagines she can't breathe)- we were all going to die. They would have to remove us from the rubble of our home. We'd burn alive. And so on. And so forth.

During those fits of hysteria, my cousin would quietly, but firmly, hand her a valium and a glass of water. The aunt would accept both and in a matter of minutes, she'd grow calmer and a little bit more sane. This aunt wasn't addicted to valium, but it certainly came in handy during the more hectic moments of the war.

I guess it's happening a lot now after the war too. When the load gets too heavy, people turn to something to comfort them. Abroad, under normal circumstances, if you have a burden- you don't have to bear it alone. You can talk to a friend or relative or psychiatrist or SOMEONE. Here, everyone has their own set of problems- a death in the family, a detainee, a robbery, a kidnapping, an explosion, etc. So you have two choices- take a valium, or start a blog.
The other 'drug' problem we're having is much more serious. Before the war and occupation, drugs (you know- cocaine, marijuana, etc.) weren't that big a problem in Iraq. Sure, we all heard of a certain person or certain area where you could get hashish or marijuana or something… but it wasn't that common. A big reason was because selling drugs was punishable by death. Now, you can find drugs in several areas in Baghdad and all sorts of pills have become quite common in the south. People living in Basrah and Najaf and other areas in the south complain that Iranians are smuggling them into the country and selling them. Iran has a large drug trade and now, we're getting some of their exports in Iraq.
During my more thoughtful moments, I do think about the growing drug problem. I know that it is going to get bigger and there's nothing immediate that we can do to stop it. There seem to be such bigger problems out there, that drugs seem to be the least of our worries. Schools have started again and parents worry that their kids will be abducted or blown to pieces. I think our growing drug problem hasn't gotten that much attention with the media because, while it's going to wreak havoc in the long run, drugs don't suddenly blow off an arm or a leg, and they don't explode inside of your car and they don’t come falling out of a plane to burn homes and families… in other words, people don't perceive them as a very immediate threat.

It's like discovering you have cancer while you're fighting off a hungry alligator- you'll worry about the disease later.
Bush brags about 50 million people now enjoying freedom. That's 25 million Afghanis free to export drugs again, and 25 million Iraqis free to use them.


The "election" in Afghanistan last Saturday made George W. Bush proud. It probably made his brother proud too! From the NY Times:
"It was systematic rigging," said Dr. Yassa, an aide to one candidate, Muhammad Mohaqeq, an ethnic Hazara and a Shiite Muslim.

"There are 15 candidates against Karzai and every one has dozens of complaints," said Abdul Bashir Bezhan, a party deputy to another candidate, Latif Pedram. He said there were numerous accounts of multiple voting, with some reports of people who had voted up to 15 times, and who were ready to admit it and show their multiple cards.

Other complaints involved ballot-box fraud. Dr. Yassa said two boxes from a Hazara district of Kabul had been found to be missing ballots - one lacked 300 and one 200 - at the counting center during the first checking procedure. He said he suspected foul play because the district was known for its support for Mr. Mohaqeq and the missing ballots would have almost certainly been in his favor.

Another candidate, Homayoun Shah Assefi, a former Afghan diplomat, told of a case he learned of on Saturday from a police official in Ghazni, some 100 miles south of Kabul, in which the manager of a polling station took home two ballot boxes and returned them on election morning stuffed with ballots. The police official, he said, gave the names of those involved and also had the numbers of the boxes.
And many more.

Ahnuld gets tough on balancing the budget

CNN headline: California lottery winner shot to death by police.

Sorry. That title was in extremely poor taste. The shooting took place in Seattle, developed out of a bar fight, the victim had a gun, the cops clearly didn't know he was a California lottery winner, and the Gropenator clearly wasn't involved.

Sound like anyone you know?

"He thought the real threats from the West were the kind of hyperbole that one often hears in the Arab world," Post said. "And he was surrounded by sycophants who told him what he wanted to hear, not what he needed to know."

An interrogation of Ali Hassan Majid, the senior aide known as "Chemical Ali" for his alleged role in using poison gas to slaughter Iraqi Kurds in 1988, illustrated the point. Asked how Hussein responded to bad news, Majid indicated he "has never known any instance of anybody bringing bad news to Saddam," according to Duelfer's report.
-- From a fascinating LA Times article on what the Duelfer report tells us about Saddam Hussein. Ring a bell? Try this:
DIANE SAWYER: First of all, I just want to ask about reading. Mr. President, you know that there was a great deal of reporting about the fact that you said, first of all, that you let Condoleezza Rice and Andrew Card give you a flavor of what's in the news.


DIANE SAWYER: That you don't read the stories yourself.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes. I get my news from people who don't editorialize. They give me the actual news, and it makes it easier to digest, on a daily basis, the facts.

DIANE SAWYER: Is it just harder to read constant criticism or to read --

PRESIDENT BUSH: Why even put up with it when you can get the facts elsewhere? I'm a lucky man. I've got, it's not just Condi and Andy, it's all kinds of people in my administration who are charged with different responsibilities, and they come in and say this is what's happening, this isn't what's happening.
The article says that Saddam believed all along that the CIA knew he'd destroyed his weapons, but was intent on deceiving Iran into thinking he still had them. It quotes a psychiatrist as saying that Saddam was "not psychotic," which was also the impression I got when I watched Dan Rather's interview with Saddam in February, 2003.

Both Bush and Saddam knew Saddam didn't have WMD's. Saddam knew that Bush knew. Saddam's mistake was thinking that that mattered.

Catastrophic Success Continues

From the NY Times:
A total of four American soldiers were killed in bomb blasts in the past 24 hours in Baghdad as insurgents continued their attacks.

At about 4:50 this morning in the western part of the capital a soldier was killed by an improvised explosive device, the military said. No other casualties were reported.

On Tuesday at 10 p.m., in eastern Baghdad, three Americans soldiers were killed when an improvised explosive device detonated on their convoy.
The continuing fatalities followed a series of aggressive strikes on Tuesday by American forces in insurgent strongholds west of Baghdad, including firing missiles into the streets of Falluja and conducting raids alongside Iraqi commandos in seven mosques in Ramadi.

The wave of assaults inflamed Sunni Muslim leaders and residents of the cities, who said innocent civilians were killed or arrested in the operations.

Warplanes attacked twice in Falluja in the early hours, with the first strike demolishing one of Iraq's most celebrated kabob restaurants, Haji Hussein, named after the owner. Mr. Hussein's son and his nephew, both working as night watchmen, were killed in the attack, residents said. The second attack took place about four hours later in another neighborhood, hitting an empty house and injuring two neighbors, nearby residents said.

Still some media working for Bush

CNN gives Bush a talking point for tonight's debate: Mass grave unearthed in Iraq.

Compared to some of the mass grave articles I've seen, this one actually provides details. It offers fairly detailed descriptions of who the victims were (Kurds) and when and how they were killed (1987 or 1988, gunshot wounds in the back of the head). It gives the approximate number killed (100 at each of two sites), and otherwise provides details which suggest that this is evidence that Saddam Hussein was a brutal tyrant. The article also offers a plausible number for the number of people killed by Saddam:
Human rights groups believe about 300,000 people were killed during Saddam's 24-year rule, which ended when U.S.-led forces toppled his regime in 2003.
I call that plausible, because the numbers frequently given by freepers of one to two million generally include anyone who died a violent death during Saddam's reign: All fatalties of the Iran-Iraq war on both sides, all fatalties of the Gulf War on all sides, and probably a couple of hundred thousand they just made up.

So, as I said, this seems to be a mass-grave story that is fair and balanced. The real question is, why is it a major CNN headline TODAY? The article states that the killings occurred in 1987 or '88 (when Saddam was our ally, BTW), that the site was discovered by US troops a year ago, and that excavation of the site began on September 1 of this year. But the headline "Mass grave unearthed in Iraq" would seem to suggest something which I'm sure Bush will say tonight--"We've just discovered two more huge mass graves of people Saddam killed." We've known these people were killed for 17 years, we've known where they were buried for a year, and we started learning the details six weeks ago. Evidence in Saddam's trial? Sure. News today? No.

I will add that I think it is important to discount any mass-grave story which doesn't provide some details about who the people were, how they died, and when. By themselves, mass graves are evidence of tragedy but not necessarily treachery. In times of natural disaster or epidemic, people die faster than can be given proper burials. I'm sure many victims of plague, earthquakes, and so forth were buried in mass graves, even in recent times. Furthermore, while Saddam certainly filled many mass graves with people killed on his orders, there are many mass graves in Iraq for which Saddam clearly wasn't to blame. I've been reading The Burning Tigris by Peter Balakian, a history of the genocide of the Armenian people in the Ottoman Empire, most of which occurred in the years 1915 and 1916. While many Armenians were killed in their homes or nearby, hundreds of thousands were deported hundreds of miles, by rail, boat and foot, to far reaches of the Ottoman Empire. The end of the line for many was in what is now northern Iraq, near Mosul and Kirkuk. Thousands of Armenians died in concentration camps there.

And the Gulf War also resulted in many Iraqi soldiers being buried in mass graves. Many were killed in the brutal carpet bombing, others were killed during the 100-hour ground war itself, and still more were killed as they retreated from Kuwait.

And tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed in the current war. The soccer stadium in Fallujah is reportedly a mass grave now. Those thirty or so Iraqi guards killed by US troops that Sy Hersh reported on probably were not given decent individual burials either.

So Iraq, like most countries, has lots of mass graves. Three men in particular have been responsible for filling those mass graves in the past 25 years. And these Butchers of Baghdad should all rot in hell.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

From Dwane Powell.

Two scandals I just can't get into...

The Bush was wired for the debate scandal and the Sinclair Group's going to show an anti-Kerry mockumentary before the election scandal.

The second one seems more legit as a scandal, since Sinclair is licensed by the FCC to use OUR public airwaves. I have complete faith that Michael Powell will do absolutely nothing about this. The first scandal, if true, just shows that Bush is a lying, cheating scumbag who can't put together a decent sentence without help. We already knew that!

The partisan blogs like Atrios, DailyKos, and Talking Points Memo are keeping up with the by-the-minute twists and turns of these scandals. I consider this blog to be anti-partisan, so I'm not.

Voices from the trailer park

The Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace went door-to-door in a local trailer park a couple of weeks ago. In addition to registering voters, they asked people "What issues are most important to you and what concerns do you have for the future?"

Here are some of the answers they got:
  • Economy, retirement, health care.
  • Stupid war, don't need to fight.
  • Sure isn't for Bush - he got us into the worst shape. "I am a strong Democrat."
  • Jobs, pumping money, war in Kuwait taking money.
  • Mine is work. Jobs.
  • Right now health care.
  • I keep hoping Kerry doesn't get it, because I don't like how he goes about his military record. He has a medal. I don't like his outlook on a lot of things. Like he knows so much about Iraq.
  • I don't think either one of them. Don't know who to vote for.
  • Honesty in politicians.
  • I want the bars to stay open till 4 am.
  • Politicians should tell truth.
  • Quit taking us backwards.
  • Kerry should win.
  • More jobs in the USA.
  • (96-year-old) I'm not leaving until things get better.
  • I don't like politics. Politics turns me off.
  • I don't have time.
  • Health care - I have no insurance.
  • Mental health.
  • Worst election year, not happy with either.
  • Better explanation for Iraq.
  • I feel like I was lied to as a citizen.
  • Gambling in Michigan.
  • Not voting for either one. Bush cooked his goose; Kerry can't do much better.
  • I've had it up to here.
  • Don't want Bush because of the war; he acts like the economy is good; it is not.
  • Health care. That's my big concern. Where I work we used to have a choice of three plans. Now all we have is M-CARE. It will cost $400 a month. We can't afford it. I don't know what we're going to do. We need national health care.
  • President Bush keeps saying our economy is going so strong. I don't see that at all. My husband is losing his job. He works for the auto industry. Cars aren't selling. So they're going to sell the plant.
  • What's going on in Iraq. I wish everyone would come home.
  • The candidates keep fighting each other. I just want to hear what they're for.
  • Just keep us free.
  • The economy and the continuing loss of life overseas. I'm hoping we get a new administration. I don't think he'll be so impulsive going against the United Nations.
  • Iraq: I don't like it. I can see going over to get people riled up so they know we won't take any nonsense. But I don't know why we're still there.
  • I don't believe in the government. I don't like what they're doing. I don't like what they did. I don't like the people who blew up Iraq. They blew up their schools and their weddings. Go Bush.
  • Seeing that I have two teenagers; housing and employment. What concerns me are the terrorist acts. I worry about our food being safe and our water being safe. Education. We need to go into the third world countries to learn Arabic and Chinese. There needs to be a corner in the classroom with multicultural topics.
  • The big one is Iraq. Get us out as soon as possible. We never should have gone in.
  • Biggest thing for me is that the Anti-Christ is in office.
  • Middle class is shrinking - need to keep it viable, not just rich and poor. Too much single-issue politics playing on emotions.
  • Anything with school funding/education. They keep taking funds away from those who need it. Not all are mainstream kids.
  • Get out and leave them alone in Iraq. I don't know why it is our business
  • Jobs, jobs, jobs. Ain't no factories left to get a job. Eight are closed and the three that are left won't stay long.
  • It don't matter to me. What happens, happens. I don't vote.
  • The war and stuff going on. It's been busy, but I try to keep up. I've got a lot of friends over there. I had a friend, haven't seen him in a few months ... he says it's rough.
  • I think I keep up pretty well about what's going on in the world, but newspaper and even TV are not always very accurate. I always have kept up on things. And the hurricanes are going on.
  • I'm fed up with them both and I'm not voting. I gave it up years ago. They're all talk and they do nothing.
  • I'm going to get my absentee ballot. I wouldn't miss this election for the world.
  • I have an absentee ballot but don't know who I'll vote for. This mess in Iraq - I don't think they have a plan to get out. It's like they're feeding our boys into a furnace. That Ralph Nader - he has some good ideas; of course he'll never get in.
  • I know who I want to vote for, but I can't because of my religion. It's abortion…
  • We're a house divided. Kerry has the glitz of Hollywood behind him, but I don't know. These Californians like him, but they have a muscleman for governor.

Massacre in Iraq

From A Tiny Revolution:
Seymour Hersh spoke at Berkeley on Friday, October 8th. He told a story about recently receiving a call from an American lieutenant in Iraq who'd just witnessed other American soldiers massacring Iraqis.

I typed up what he said from the Real Video file here. The story begins at about 41:45.
Read or listen to the story about American soldiers killing some 30 Iraqis who had been hired to guard a granary, and chalking them all up as "insurgents."

Bush Bandits, Kerry Commandos

Sunday morning I noticed that the few Bush-Cheney signs in my neighborhood had been stolen and replaced with Kerry-Edwards signs. Apparently that's going on all over the area--both ways.

Also, the owner of Adams Outdoor Advertising has responded to the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace's two billboards along local highways by putting up several pro-Bush billboards. The company claims that owner Stephen Adams of Ventura, CA, paid for the billboards out of his own money. The AAACP and the Michigan Democratic Party have complained to the Federal Elections Commission.

How to save the world--Not this way!

Canadian blogger Dave Pollard (How to Save the World) has an interesting and frightening post on the decline of the Consumer Products Safety Commission under the Bushies, and what it means for the safety of people, especially children, both in the US and around the world. He also charts the miserable US job picture and the decline of the US dollar against the Euro and the Canadian dollar. In the latter post, he concludes:
You have to wonder how long other countries will be willing to lend money to the US in US dollars to finance the unprecedented US trade deficit, when these countries are suffering such huge foreign exchange losses in the process. And you have to wonder if, as the recent 20% increase in energy costs works its way through the economy and pushes inflation, and hence interest rates, up to double digit levels, which in turn will make the US debt catastrophically more expensive to repay, it will drive the whole economy into collapse. When it happens, we will have Bush and his economic advisors alone to blame for it. It is not inconceivable that John Kerry will have to guide the US through the next global great depression.

What Juan Cole said!

Dr. Cole has a great post which explains exactly why I always put quotes around the phrase "war on terror." Excerpts:
I have to confess that I have never understood what Bush and Cheney mean by the "war on terror," either. It is because they use the term in alarmingly vague and comprehensive ways.

It is clear that they do not mean a war on "terror." They are completely uninterested in "terror" in general. What has the United States done about Basque terrorism in Spain? About Israeli settler terror against Palestinians? Or for that matter about Hamas terror against Israel? As I argued Friday, Bush hasn't even bothered to do anything serious to Ayman al-Zawahiri and al-Jihad al-Islami, which was part of the 9/11 attack and hit Taba.
Bush and Cheney are cynically using the trauma of September 11 as a pretext to fight a series of elective wars against weak governments that are inconvenient for hawkish goals and some US corporate interests. Iraq was a poster child of this policy. It had no weapons of mass destruction, was ramshackle, and had no significant ties to terrorism. It was invented as a dire threat to Peoria by Karl Rove and Rupert Murdoch, the latter-day Wizards of Oz.
Bush and Cheney would like to overthrow the government of Iran. This is not because poor, weak Iran is a threat to the US. It is not because Iran may want a nuclear capacity, like that of its neighbors - Israel, Russia, Pakistan, India, etc. It is because it is a major petroleum producer and they want to get their hands on its resources and install a pliant puppet regime there.

The scenario of Cheney, whereby "terrorist groups" get nuclear weapons, is at the moment ridiculous. Terrorist groups do not have the capability to build football-arena size facilities to enrich uranium. And contrary to what Cheney keeps alleging, no government is going to give a terrorist group an atomic bomb. Governments with atomic bombs don't like to share with civilians, for fear of their own safety.

The "war on terror" of Bush-Cheney is a smokescreen for naked American imperial aggression. The sad story of how Iraq posed no threat either to the US or to any of its neighbors, despite high-decibel claims to the contrary for two years by Bush, Cheney and their acolytes, will be repeated in the case of Syria and Iran if Bush and Cheney are reelected. They hope that their project of overthrowing governments in the region will go smoothly, but they do not really care, since even an Iran and a Syria in chaos is a net gain from their point of view. Chaos creates "terror" and justifies further US involvement, aggression and control. It is inconvenient for the rest of us, but then they insist, unlike John Kerry, that we live with the nuisances they are creating.
Bush and Cheney keep shouting that Kerry doesn't understand the war on terror. They mean he doesn't want to overthrow the governments of Syria and Iran. As for themselves, if the war on terror is so important to them, why are Bin Laden and Zawahiri at large? Why can al-Qaeda still strike at will? We now have the worst of both worlds, with a quagmire in Iraq and Palestine, and more quagmires planned, while al-Qaeda morphs and grows and continues to form a threat.
Actually, I disagree with Dr. Cole on the two sentences that I italicized. All Bush and Cheney mean when they say that Kerry doesn't understand the "war on terror" is that they, Bush and Cheney, want to win the election. Kerry knows what the "war on terror" is about--that is, he understands it to be exactly as Cole described it. The scary thing is that he has aided and abetted B & C in selling the cover story about scary terrorists with nukes, and continues to do so. His rhetoric about Iran and supporting Israel are every bit as hawkish as the Bushies, and he uses the same "war on terror" rhetoric (albeit in longer sentences made up of longer words).

Otherwise, I agree with Dr. Cole entirely. I'm intrigued to see him use the word "smokescreen," a word I've used a lot lately. The smokescreen changes with administrations: Monica Lewinsky for Clinton and the "war on terror" for Bush. But the American imperial aggression being screened from view remains the same.

A Safer Place: Pakistan Test Fires Nuclear-Capable Missile

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan successfully test-fired Tuesday an intermediate-range ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads as parts of its efforts to boost its defenses, a military statement said.
Michelle has a long post about Pakistan and A.Q. Kahn, who was "brought to justice," as Bush claimed, by being dismissed from his government job.

Let's hope W gets "brought to justice" next month, even though his tall tan frat brother won't be much better.

The Iraqi version of tax cuts

Money for weapons.

The blog Whatever It Is, I'm Against It reports the following:
The Iraqi “government” has been buying up weapons in Sadr City. They may come from members of the Mahdi Army, or not, since the prices are higher than those on the black market. Just in case you’ve got a few RPGs or machine guns you’ve been wanting to get rid of, I am providing the buy-back price list as a public service:
  • Heavy machinegun, $1,000
  • Heavy machinegun ammunition, 440 rounds, $200
  • 60mm mortar, $225
  • 120mm mortar, $275
  • Rocket-propelled grenade, $160
  • Kalashnikov, $150
  • Romanian sniper rifle, $630
  • Roadside bombs, $50
  • Katyusha rocket-launcher $50
  • Empty Kalashnikov magazine, $4
  • Grenade, $5
  • 350 Kalashnikov rounds, $320
Getting out of Iraq in one piece and not under a flag, priceless.

CNN has a similar report (in the right sidebar). Now, if WIIIAI is correct that these are higher than black-market prices, who is to say that "insurgents" aren't selling these weapons to the "government" and then turning around and buy more weapons from the black market? Or maybe the black marketeers are just selling direct to the government? Theoretically, I can see how eventually this might put a dent in the vast amount of weaponry on the streets of Baghdad. More likely, I can see the "government" issuing these newly-acquired weapons to new recruits in the Iraqi army, vast numbers of whom will then desert and join the insurgency, or maybe just desert and sell the weapons to the government!

You know the Bushies and Allawi-ies are desperate when they try to buy their way out of their troubles. Still, as far as shear stupidity goes, the weapons buyback pales in comparison to the $2500 reward they were offering last year "for information leading to the arrest of anyone who kills a coalition soldier or Iraqi policeman." I don't know if they're still doing this, but as I pointed out last year
You've got a country filled with angry people without any money, and you start offering $2500 rewards. And what has to happen before anyone gets a reward? A soldier or cop has to get killed. If more soldiers get killed, more reward money gets paid. Maybe some of it will go to innocent witnesses who actually saw it happen, but most of it will probably go to people who framed their enemies, or in some other way be a reward for getting the soldier killed. The only way to prevent abuse of such a system would be through careful, detailed police work to verify that the accused was actually the killer and that the witness was not involved in any way. How are US soldiers, most of whom are not even trained as MP's, much less homicide detectives, supposed to do this in a hostile city where they don't speak the language and no one likes them?
Of course, that was last year. Things are much worse this year.

Puppet elections

From the WSWS:
The Human Rights Watch briefing paper noted: "Remarkably, the [mission’s] report recommended that the OSCE [Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe] should avoid observing the election because it was likely that the monitoring process would uncover substantial flaws and ‘challenge public and international confidence in the process’." In other words, the problem was that the election process in Afghanistan was so tainted that the OSCE feared its attempts to whitewash the poll would be rapidly exposed.

US National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice had no doubt about the findings of the UN panel. She confidently predicted yesterday that "this election is going to be judged legitimate. I’m certain of it." Rice’s comments simply underscore the Bush administration’s contempt for democratic rights in Afghanistan, just as in Iraq and the US itself. As far as Washington is concerned, the purpose of the Afghan election is to legitimise the continuing US military occupation of the country and its handpicked puppet in Kabul, Karzai.

The poll has been timed to hand Bush a desperately needed “success” in the lead-up to the US presidential election. Keen to deflect attention from the deepening disaster in Iraq, Bush seized on the Afghan election, declaring: “Just three years ago, women were being executed in the sports stadium. Today they’re voting for a leader of a free country.”

It is absurd to describe Afghanistan as a “free country”. The nation remains under effective US occupation, with 20,000 US and allied troops and a NATO-led International Security Assistance Force of 7,000 troops based in Kabul. Over the last three years, US soldiers have roamed the country at will and openly flouted basic democratic rights, arbitrarily detaining and torturing thousands of Afghans. Under such conditions, it is impossible to hold any genuinely democratic election in Afghanistan.

A Safer Place

From Doonesbury.

If you haven't read the letter from Wall Street Journal reporter Farnaz Fassihi, I highly suggest that you do so! Here are some excerpts:
Despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under Saddam it was a 'potential' threat, under the Americans it has been transformed to 'imminent and active threat,' a
foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come.
A friend drove thru the Shiite slum of Sadr City yesterday. He said young men were openly placing improvised explosive devices into the ground. They melt a shallow hole into the asphalt, dig the explosive, cover it with dirt and put an old tire or plastic can over it to signal to the locals this is booby-trapped. He said on the main roads of Sadr City, there
were a dozen landmines per every ten yards. His car snaked and swirled to avoid driving over them. Behind the walls sits an angry Iraqi ready to detonate them as soon as an American convoy gets near. This is in Shiite land, the population that was supposed to love America for liberating Iraq.
America's last hope for a quick exit? The Iraqi police and National Guard
units we are spending billions of dollars to train. The cops are being
murdered by the dozens every day-over 700 to date -- and the insurgents are infiltrating their ranks. The problem is so serious that the U.S. military has allocated $6 million dollars to buy out 30,000 cops they just trained to get rid of them quietly.

As for reconstruction: firstly it's so unsafe for foreigners to operate that
almost all projects have come to a halt. After two years, of the $18
billion Congress appropriated for Iraq reconstruction only about $1 billion or so has been spent and a chuck has now been reallocated for improving security, a sign of just how bad things are going here.

Oil dreams? Insurgents disrupt oil flow routinely as a result of sabotage
and oil prices have hit record high of $49 a barrel. Who did this war exactly benefit? Was it worth it? Are we safer because Saddam is holed up and Al Qaeda is running around in Iraq?

Iraqis say that thanks to America they got freedom in exchange for
insecurity. Guess what? They say they'd take security over freedom any day, even if it means having a dictator ruler.

I heard an educated Iraqi say today that if Saddam Hussein were allowed to run for elections he would get the majority of the vote. This is truly sad.

A Safer Place

Residents examine a destroyed building after a U.S. airstrike today in Falluja.

Iraqi security forces, backed by U.S. Marines and troops, today launched a series of raids on seven mosques in Ramadi, the U.S. military said. The Combined Press Information Center said the mosques were suspected of "harboring known terrorists" and storing illegal weapons. U.S. airstrikes today also targeted a meeting center and a "terrorist safe house" in Falluja.
-- CNN

Also from CNN: Nuclear materials "vanish" in Iraq:
Equipment and materials that could be used to make nuclear weapons have disappeared from Iraq, the chief of the U.N.'s atomic watchdog agency has warned.

Satellite imagery shows entire buildings that once housed high-precision equipment that could be used to make nuclear bombs have been dismantled, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a letter to the Security Council.

In the letter, IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei said that though some radioactive equipment taken from Iraq after the war began has shown up in other countries, none of the high-quality, dual-use equipment or materials that is missing has been found.

The U.S. government prevented U.N. weapons inspectors from returning to Iraq -- thereby blocking the IAEA from monitoring the high-tech equipment and materials -- after the U.S.-led war was launched in March 2003.


From the NY Times:
Crude for November delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange reached a new high of $54.45, after settling overnight at $53.64. Brent crude for November broke through the $51 mark for the first time to reach $51.10.

Monday's close was the fifth straight day of record settlements on the Nymex for November crude.

While oil prices are about 80 percent higher than a year ago, they are more than $26 below the peak inflation-adjusted price reached in 1981. Underlying daily jitters is that excess available output is scant, with global production capacity only about 1 percent above the daily supply of 82 million barrels.

"It would be imprudent for the public to expect that all this would be resolved anytime soon. We have to adopt a mentality that we have to live with these prices," said John Vautrain, vice president of Texas-headquartered energy consultants Purvin & Gertz in Singapore.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Let's remember what they told us

The type of rhetoric that led to the war in Iraq:
But for all our promise, all our opportunity, people in this room know very well that this is not a time free from peril, especially as a result of reckless acts of outlaw nations and an unholy axis of terrorists, drug traffickers and organized international criminals.

We have to defend our future from these predators of the 21st century. They feed on the free flow of information and technology. They actually take advantage of the freer movement of people, information and ideas.

And they will be all the more lethal if we allow them to build arsenals of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them. We simply cannot allow that to happen.

There is no more clear example of this threat than Saddam Hussein's Iraq. His regime threatens the safety of his people, the stability of his region and the security of all the rest of us.

I want the American people to understand first the past how did this crisis come about?

And I want them to understand what we must do to protect the national interest, and indeed the interest of all freedom-loving people in the world.

Remember, as a condition of the cease-fire after the Gulf War, the United Nations demanded not the United States the United Nations demanded, and Saddam Hussein agreed to declare within 15 days this is way back in 1991 within 15 days his nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them, to make a total declaration. That's what he promised to do.
In 1995, Hussein Kamal, Saddam's son-in-law, and the chief organizer of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program, defected to Jordan. He revealed that Iraq was continuing to conceal weapons and missiles and the capacity to build many more.

Then and only then did Iraq admit to developing numbers of weapons in significant quantities and weapon stocks. Previously, it had vehemently denied the very thing it just simply admitted once Saddam Hussein's son-in-law defected to Jordan and told the truth. Now listen to this, what did it admit?

It admitted, among other things, an offensive biological warfare capability notably 5,000 gallons of botulinum, which causes botulism; 2,000 gallons of anthrax; 25 biological-filled Scud warheads; and 157 aerial bombs.

And I might say UNSCOM inspectors believe that Iraq has actually greatly understated its production.
Now, let's imagine the future. What if he fails to comply, and we fail to act, or we take some ambiguous third route which gives him yet more opportunities to develop this program of weapons of mass destruction and continue to press for the release of the sanctions and continue to ignore the solemn commitments that he made?

Well, he will conclude that the international community has lost its will. He will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction.

And some day, some way, I guarantee you, he'll use the arsenal. And I think every one of you who's really worked on this for any length of time believes that, too.
We now know that most of this was lies. The Duefler report concludes that Iraq's WMD's were destroyed by 1991, and its capabilities for making them were destroyed by 1995. And Hussein Kamal had told that to the CIA. And while he "might say" that "UNSCOM inspectors believe that Iraq has actually greatly understated its production," we "might say" that he was lying. Just like when he said he didn't have sex with "that woman." Because all of the above is from a speech given by President Bill Clinton on February 17, 1998.

In February, 2004, after David Kay's report came out, Seth Ackerman wrote in Mother Jones about how Clinton, just as much as Bush, deceived and flat-out lied about what he knew about Iraq's non-existent weapons. Bush let the cat out of the bag the other night in the debate when he said that sanctions had failed because they hadn't removed Saddam Hussein. That was the real but hidden goal of the brutal sanctions from 1991 until 2003, and it was the goal for Clinton just as much as Bush. And I have little doubt that John Kerry knew it was all lies as well.

Still think we have a two-party system?

Thanks to Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution for the link to the Ackerman article. The Scott Ritter article that I linked to earlier today fits right in with this post as well.

American imperialists, Republican and Democratic, demanded a compliant puppet regime in Baghdad. They waited impatiently while sanctions killed some one million Iraqis, hoping they'd get regime change on the cheap. In 2002, they decided that the waiting was over. Two bloody years later, they've got their compliant puppet regime.

I stand by my frequent observation that Bill Clinton has to be the favorite president ever among the real powers of the Republican party, no matter how hated he may be among the ignorant base. All the nonsense about Monica and the attacks on Hillary and the rumors about Vince Foster--all smokescreen for carrying out brutal policies: the attacks on Iraq, Sudan, and Yugoslavia; the sanctions; welfare reform; NAFTA; hundreds of thousands added to the US prison population. Clinton even provided the rhetoric his more linguistically-challenged successor would use to promote the illegal invasion of a defenseless nation. And the Repugs in power enjoyed the delicious satisfaction of watching Clinton do their every bidding while they picked on him the whole time. Maybe that's why they seem to be turning on W now. Not only will Kerry carry out their agenda more competently, but they'll have much more fun attacking him than they're having now trying to defend the current idiot-in-chief. They've got to keep the election close so their base won't figure out what's happening (yeah, like that's going to happen!).

I tell you, once you abandon the notion that the leaders of either major party have any good intentions whatsoever, things make much more sense!

Columbus and George W. Bush

Plenty of similarities. Both undertook foolish adventures with the support of the leader of Spain. Both invaded the island of Hispanola and changed the power structure there--Columbus in 1492, Bush in Haiti in 2004. Both were looking for things in the wrong place: Columbus was looking for Asia in the Caribbean, Bush was looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Neither one found what he was looking for, but neither one admitted he'd made a mistake. Neither one could properly pronounce the word "nuclear." Both served to expand empires. Both were responsible for thousands of unnecessary deaths. Neither one deserved the lavish praise he received.

Scott Ritter answers Bush

The world is not better with Saddam out of power:
If Saddam were in power today, it would only have been because the US and Britain had altered course and joined the global community in recognising the pre-eminence of international law, and the necessity of all nations to operate in accordance with that law. The irony is that had the US and Britain taken this path, and an unrepentant Saddam chosen to defy the international community by acting on the intent he is alleged to have harboured, then he would have been removed from power by a true international coalition united in its legitimate defence of international law. But this is not the case. Saddam is gone, and the world is far worse for it - not because his regime posed no threat, perceived or otherwise, but because the threat to international peace and security resulting from the decisions made by Bush and Blair to invade Iraq in violation of international law make any threat emanating from an Iraq ruled by Saddam pale in comparison.

Columbus Day

Given how many Americans Columbus killed, you have to wonder why we don't have Hirohito and Osama days as well.

From Lalo Alcarez. (Actually, I doubt if the people Columbus killed lived in teepees, but that's one of the best cartoons I've seen, even if it's more appropriate for 9/11 than Columbus Day.)

Professor Warren Goldstein explains why he loves Columbus Day:
The point is not to make students feel guilty, but rather to help them think about their history -- and their present -- in a different light. They ask about other heroes. They realize that the history they've learned might not be adequate for an adult (or a child, for that matter). Those training to be teachers vow not to let Columbus become simply an occasion for cut-out hats and pretty pictures of the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria.

Others worry about how to broach the subject in their families. "My father's from Italy," said one young man, "and there's no way I can tell him this. Just no way." To get this point across, and many want to, they have to think like teachers, which is never a bad exercise.

Months later I ask students to write down the most significant things they've learned in the course. Most come back to Columbus. It's rare that a teacher happens onto a single story that teaches so much, and engages students so thoroughly. I suspect the Knights of Columbus wouldn't approve, but I love Columbus Day.
If you're not familiar with the crimes of Christopher Columbus, here's a brief introduction.

Would at least one candidate tell the truth about Iraq in the debates?

From Paul Craig Roberts:
Kerry has missed opportunity after opportunity to be candid with the American people. By speaking frankly, Kerry can deliver a knockout blow that would tear the debate wide open.

When Bush chides Kerry that "you saw the same intelligence that I did," why doesn't Kerry reply:

"Yes, Mr. President, the same people who misled you, misled me, the House and the Senate and sent Colin Powell to New York to mislead the UN. So, Mr. President, why haven't you fired them? Is there no accountability in your administration? How can you lead when you don't hold people responsible for grievous errors that have led to the death and maiming of thousands of our troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis, shattered our alliances, and recruited thousands to the banners of terrorism?"
Paul Craig Roberts is a former Moonie Times columnist. He goes on to discuss what "staying the course" would actually mean in Iraq, and why Kerry needs to get off that dead horse, now:
According to the October 9 International Herald Tribune, the US has plans to escalate by attacking twenty to thirty Iraqi towns and cities in hopes of regaining control:

"Pentagon planners and military commanders have identified roughly 20 to 30 towns and cities in Iraq that must be brought under control before elections can be held there in January."

Think about that. Twenty to thirty more Najafs and Fallujahs?! The US doesn't even control Baghdad 400 yards beyond the heavily fortified "Green Zone" where the "Iraqi government" and its US overlords are forced to take refuge.

Imagine the numbers of women and children who will be blown to bits by US "precision attacks" on 20 to 30 Iraqi towns and cities.

It is a war crime to attack civilians. The already low ratio of killed insurgents to killed Iraqi civilians means that it is the insurgents, not the civilians, who are the "collateral damage."

If Bush goes through with this madness, the US military will become known as the reincarnation of the SS.

No American politician can talk sense when ensnared by the big lie that the war with Iraq was necessary. It was not necessary. It was a strategic blunder. It has started something that may already be out of anyone's control.

In military matters, pretense and delusion lead to disaster. A deluded superpower is most dangerous to itself.

Please candidate Kerry, in the final debate do come to the point, speak the truth, and show the leadership required if America is to recover from the strategic blunder of invading Iraq.
Amen to that.

The proof is in the grave

From Whatever it is, I'm Against It:
Rumsfeld is upset that the media are ignoring the Iraqi security forces: "They do exist. Over 700 of them have been killed." There’s something wrong with that logic, I just can’t put my finger on it...
Very similar to the "logic" Cheney's answer in the VP debate to Edwards' claim that 90% of the coalition casualties are American:
Mr. Cheney: Well, Gwen, the 90 percent figure is just dead wrong. When you include the Iraqi security forces that have suffered casualties, as well as the allies, they’ve taken almost 50 percent of the casualties in operations in Iraq, which leaves the U.S. with 50 percent, not 90 percent.
Now, we know it's hard to prove a negative, but I was unable to find any administration statements which claimed that Iraq was a part of the coalition to disarm Iraq. And while casualties include wounded and captured as well as killed, it's hard to see how 700 equates to 50% of a total which includes some 1070 US and 100 or so other coalition fatalities. Because the ratio of wounded to dead among US casualties is one of the highest in history, due to effective body armor which protects vital organs while sacrificing limbs. I'm guessing the Iraqi security forces' armor isn't as good, so the total casualties (dead and wounded) would be an even smaller percentage of the total.

So Cheney is a liar. But you already knew that.


I know I'm getting carried away with oil prices, but I needed a headline for this quote from CBS Marketwatch:
"The bottom line remains that world oil demand continues to strain the world's productive abilities," said Todd Hultman, president of, a commodity information provider.

And "demand should be ... much tougher to meet when cold weather hits the northern hemisphere this winter," he said, so "prepare for $60."
"Strain the world's productive abilities." In other words, the world may have reached it's maximum oil production, also known as peak oil. Remember, the U.S. reached peak oil in 1970, and domestic production has been declining ever since. Here's a graph showing U.S. oil production since 1973 (best I could find with a quick google):

And the world's chart will probably look similar to this one, with a phase shift of about 35 years. The oil shocks of the 1970's were warnings which were almost completely ignored after a few years. We'll be paying for this big time in the next decade--wars (already), depression, civil unrest throughout the world. As the rapturists say, buckle your seat belts!

The Airline Squeeze and the Socialists

Joseph Kay and Samuel Davidson of the World Socialist Web Site write about how the Carter-era deregulation of the airlines has led to the bankruptcy of most major carriers, and how that has been used as a tool to separate workers from their hard-earned wages, benefits, and pensions.

Joseph Kay lives in Ann Arbor (at least as far as I can tell). I first met him, on the bus to the ANSWER anti-war march in Washington in January, 2003. I've seen him regularly at various protests and events around Ann Arbor since then. Joe and Socialist Equality Party candidate for Congress Jerry White were at the farmers' market on Saturday. While Joe is generally easy to talk with, Jerry was pretty strong in pushing the socialist agenda. And I'll confess that I'm unaccustomed to having my opinions attacked from the left!

I've been reading the WSWS since, I think, late 2001. They generally provide a lot of background that you don't get from other news sources, and they had me soured on the war in Afghanistan long before most people (Actually most people still haven't soured on that particular criminal enterprise, thanks to the complicity of almost all Democrats). Usually, WSWS articles do an excellent job of presenting the facts and destroying the arguments given by the Republicrats. At the end, frequently with little segue, they almost always conclude that the only answer is a broad international movement of the workers that rejects criminal capitalism. I generally just take this with a grain of salt, and appreciate the article as a whole.

But at the farmers' market, candidate Jerry asked me for my opinion on the socialist agenda. I said that I agree with much of what they say, but that I thought there was still a place for Adam Smith-style capitalism--competition between small enterprises. I also said I preferred going to more local economies than global. Jerry said, rather derisively, that that was Nader's position, and that it wouldn't work. He said the global economy is a good thing, but it needs to be wrested out of the hands of the warmonger capitalists. (I'm paraphrasing pretty heavily, and may have gotten some of this wrong.) As I said earlier, I wasn't really prepared for this type of argument! But, in retrospect, I think that the socialist hope for a giant global uprising of workers is extremely unrealistic, and would be highly vulnerable to totalitarian hijacking, as it was decades ago by Stalin and Mao. I think that our chances for curtailing the imperialist exploitation of the world and its workers, thereby allowing other nations to determine their own direction, while slim, are much greater than the chances of a successful glorious workers' socialist revolution. Global communication is probably a good thing, but I don't think that global markets are. And if there is ever going to be a socialist utopia, I think it will start small and grow.

(Sorry, I'm arguing with paper tigers you may not have met!)

A View from Belgium

Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution solicited reader input from around the world, and got an interesting response from someone in Belgium. Here's an excerpt:
A few weeks ago, on September 4th the end of WWII was commemorated in the very small and calm town where I was born. That day in ’44 German soldiers tried to flee to Germany through smaller country roads. It was Sunday and a family stood on the front door to see the Germans passing by. Those scary Germans gunned the whole family down and drove further. Two hours later a huge British tank appeared in the street of my parents and everybody was urged to stay inside. The next column of Germans was attacked by the British flame-thrower and all their ammunition exploded. After a few moment my father couldn’t hold it, opened the door and saw the British soldiers standing there while Germans were rolling over the street completely in flames, crying and dying; about ten houses were burning down. Our house was the last untouched. That was a very small event in this war. You have to multiply this ‘small’ event by a million as you talk about the deaths and destroyed buildings of the whole war, and then you know what WWII means in Europe. Here soldiers are not heroes; soldiers are killers; war is not a solution, war is complete destruction with only losers; the cause of a war is always stupid because it needs generations to come again to normal. That’s the opinion of the overwhelming majority in Belgium and I am sure in whole Europe.

Madeleine Albright repeats here on TV, where she is interviewed about her new book, that Europeans don’t understand what 9/11 changed in the psyche of the Americans. I think she is right, and in fact we don’t even try to decipher this subtleties. We really understand the horror of men and women, jumping down from the WTC, believe me. But while commemorating, 50 years after, the killing of millions of people and the devastation of thousandths of cities, small towns or neighborhoods, we do not understand that a normal homo sapiens starts a war machine of 60 to 100 billion dollars for two buildings and less than 3000 victims – certainly when we know that more people were killed in the US during the same year by guns and cars.
Some 30,000 by guns and 40,000 by cars, if I remember my statistics correctly. This gets close to my real gut reason for opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In my opinion, wars ALWAYS make things worse. Some of the worst cases of genocide occurred during war--the killing of one to two million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during WWI, the holocaust during WWII. Of course there's no clear evidence that the wars didn't prevent these genocides from being worse (although from what I've read about Armenia, it would have been almost impossible for it to have been any worse). The worst and most believable charges of mass murder against Saddam Hussein are for the killing of Shiites and Kurds at the end of the first Gulf War. Wars put people in impossible situations; imagine living in Baghdad now. You can support the US invasion and new puppet government and face attacks from insurgents, or you can support the insurgents and risk being Abu-Ghraibed by the Americans. You can try to stay in the middle of the road, where you've got a good chance of getting run over from either direction. World War II put tens of millions of people into these impossible situations: Poles, Hungarians, Italians, Ukrainians, North Africans, French, Danish, Norwegians, Dutch, Belgians, Chinese, Vietnamese, Koreans, Filipinos, and many, many more.

Clearly, if you're under direct attack, you can fight back. But to use one criminal attack as the reason to start one of these horrible atrocities called a war, just because someone you don't like might give weapons he doesn't have to someone he doesn't know, is the highest of high crimes.

Two years ago today

The Senate passed the "Joint Resolution to Authorize the use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq." The resolution, supported by Senators Edwards and Kerry and 74 others, included the following whereases:
Whereas the United States is determined to prosecute the war on terrorism and Iraq's ongoing support for international terrorist groups combined with its development of weapons of mass destruction in direct violation of its obligations under the 1991 cease-fire and other United Nations Security Council resolutions make clear that it is in the national security interests of the United States and in furtherance of the war on terrorism that all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions be enforced, including through the use of force if necessary;

Whereas Congress has taken steps to pursue vigorously the war on terrorism through the provision of authorities and funding requested by the President to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such persons or organizations;

Whereas the President and Congress are determined to continue to take all appropriate actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such persons or organizations;

Whereas the President has authority under the Constitution to take action in order to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States, as Congress recognized in the joint resolution on Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40); and

Whereas it is in the national security of the United States to restore international peace and security to the Persian Gulf region.
I'm sorry. I just can't respect senators who would vote for this malarkey, knowing full well that it would be used by the current pResident to go to war. It may be the only thing Bush is right about: We can't trust John Kerry with our national security. Then again, we can't trust the other Skull & Bones candidate either.

Hamdi "free"

From AP:
Yaser Esam Hamdi, a Saudi-American citizen who was captured on the Afghanistan battlefield and held without charges for nearly three years, has been freed and returned Monday to Saudi Arabia.
Besides surrendering his American citizenship, Hamdi was required to renounce terrorism, agree to live in Saudi Arabia for five years and not sue the U.S. government over his captivity. He is not allowed to ever travel to Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Pakistan or Syria.

The U.S. Justice Department agreed not to ask the Saudi government to detain Hamdi, who U.S. officials have said no longer poses a threat to the United States or has intelligence value.
Chances are about 99% that he NEVER posed a threat or had intelligence value. Still, the Bushies insisted on thumbing their noses at the Supreme Court by putting these petty and stupid conditions on his release (do they really want to thumb their noses at the Supremes right now?).

Then again, I'll bet there are a lot of Americans in uniform right now who wish they weren't allowed to travel to Afghanistan or Iraq.

The "War on Terror" Index

Via Juan Cole, Professor John Walbridge of Indiana University uses the value of the Pakistani rupee as a barometer for the state of the "war on terror." Since 9/11/01, the rupee has dropped 20% in value against the Euro, which Walbridge sees as a lack of confidence in Pakistan's stability, which is closely linked to the "success" of the "war on terror."

On the "bright" side, however, the rupee has gained 8% versus the dollar. That is, Pakistan's economy appears more stable than ours.

Who really lost the debate

From Jim Morin.

From Rob Rogers.


LONDON (CBS.MW) -- Crude futures were holding above $53 per barrel in electronic trade on Monday, with further labor unrest cited as behind the strength.

November-dated light crude contracts were up 30 cents at $53.61 per barrel, and hit a new intraday high of $53.63 per barrel in electronic trade.

Crude prices rose more than 6 percent last week, as strikes in Nigeria and Norway, plus a halt to tanker unloadings in a key Gulf of Mexico port fueling the rise.


John Kerry in the debate Friday:
Chris Reeves is a friend of mine. Chris Reeves exercises every single day to keep those muscles alive for the day when he believes he can walk again. And I want him to walk again.
Today's NY Times headline:
Christopher Reeve, 'Superman' Star, Dies at 52

Sunday, October 10, 2004

I'm Bob, and I didn't approve this message

I paid for it, though, like every American taxpayer. From the White House web site:
President George W. Bush’s first term has been among the most consequential and successful in modern times. Under his leadership, the United States is waging and winning the war against global terrorism. The United States and its coalition partners liberated more than 50 million people from two regimes of extraordinary brutality that had provided safe haven to terrorists. And we are promoting democracy in regions of the world that have never known it.
A link to this Rovian BS is prominently displayed on the main White House web page.

Consequential, absolutely. Successful? Only if you're insane.

From Boondocks.

PS: Don't miss today's Doonesbury.

A Safer Place, Part Whatever

From the LA Times:
Insurgent networks across Iraq are increasingly trying to acquire and use toxic nerve gases, blister agents and germ weapons against U.S. and coalition forces, according to a CIA report. Investigators said one group recruited scientists and sought to prepare poisons over seven months before it was dismantled in June.

U.S. officials say the threat is especially worrisome because leaders of the previously unknown group, which investigators dubbed the "Al Abud network," were based in the city of Fallouja near insurgents aligned with fugitive militant Abu Musab Zarqawi. The CIA says Zarqawi, who is blamed for numerous attacks on U.S. forces and beheadings of hostages, has long sought to use chemical and biological weapons against targets in Europe as well as Iraq.

An exhaustive report released last week by Charles A. Duelfer, the CIA's chief weapons investigator in Iraq, concluded that Saddam Hussein destroyed his stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons in the early 1990s and never tried to rebuild them. But a little-noticed section of the 960-page report says the risk of a "devastating" attack with unconventional weapons has grown since the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq last year.
Which of course makes aerial bombardment of "safe houses" not only an incredibly immoral terrorist war crime, but obscenely stupid as well.

Car bomb kills at least 11 in Baghdad

Washington Post article.
Two car bombs shook the capital in quick succession Sunday, killing at least 11 people, including an American soldier, and wounding 16, U.S. and Iraqi officials said, as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld made a surprise visit to troops in the field. A Marine was reported killed in action west of the capital.

Rumsfeld met with American troops in Iraq's western desert, telling them it was unlikely the United States would pull out any troops before next year's elections. He said the violence was expected to increase in the run-up to the elections.

It ain't that bad

[Marine Pfc. Kyle] Maio said that when he arrived in Iraq, "I didn't think I was going to live this long, in all honesty." He added, "it ain't that bad. It's just part of the job, I guess."

As a reporter began to ask Maio another question, the interview was interrupted by the scream of an incoming rocket and then a deafening explosion outside the platoon's barracks. Pandemonium ensued.

"Get down! Get down!" yelled the platoon's radio operator, Cpl. Brandon Autin, 21, of New Iberia, La., his orders laced with profanity. "Get in the bunker! Get in the bunker now!"
That's from an article in today's Washington Post, interviewing several Marines stationed in Iskandariyah, 30 miles southwest of Baghdad. Some more excerpts:
"I feel we're going to be here for years and years and years," said Lance Cpl. Edward Elston, 22, of Hackettstown, N.J. "I don't think anything is going to get better; I think it's going to get a lot worse. It's going to be like a Palestinian-type deal. We're going to stop being a policing presence and then start being an occupying presence. . . . We're always going to be here. We're never going to leave."

"The reality right now is that the most dangerous opinion in the world is the opinion of a U.S. serviceman," said Lance Cpl. Devin Kelly, 20, of Fairbanks, Alaska.

Lance Cpl. Alexander Jones, 20, of Ball Ground, Ga., agreed: "We're basically proving out that the government is wrong," he said. "We're catching them in a lie."
The frustration of the Marines was evident one afternoon last week as members of the platoon traveled from Forward Operating Base Kalsu back to Camp Iskandariyah. An attack had reportedly taken place in the area, and members of the platoon were asked to leave their Humvees and walk up a road to look for suspicious activity.

Traffic quickly began to pile up: cars packed with families, trucks loaded with animals and vegetables. The line of vehicles would have taken hours to search. An order was suddenly passed for the Marines to search all buses for insurgents or weapons.

"This is what we call a dog-and-pony show," said Kelly, the heavyset, sharp-tongued lance corporal from Fairbanks. He said the operation was essentially a performance for American reporters who were traveling with the Marines. "This is so you can write in your paper how great our response is," he said.

Combs and another Marine boarded a small bus packed mostly with women and children. He walked up the center aisle carrying his M-16 assault rifle, then got off, disgusted.

"We just scared the living [expletive] out of a bunch of people," he said. "That's all we did."
Asked if he was concerned that the Marines would be punished for speaking out, Autin responded: "We don't give a crap. What are they going to do, send us to Iraq?"

Getting Nasty--Kerry Commandos

I went out this morning to point my solar panel at the sun. I looked down the street. Yesterday, my next door neighbor had a Kerry sign up, and the next house had a Bush-Cheney sign. This morning, both had Kerry signs. The new Kerry sign wasn't placed very well, close to the house and leaning at a weak angle. When I went back outside five minutes later, it was gone. I know the people who live in that house--a nice old couple, probably in their 80's. The man is very active in the neighborhood, always organizing picnics and charity food drives. He generally has one or two boarders living there who seem to be down on their luck. But he's a single-issue voter, with a big "Stop All Abortion" sign on his front door and pro-life bumper stickers on his car. I'm pretty sure that Kerry didn't change this guy's mind in Friday's debate.

So I figured some Kerry vandals had hit the neighborhood. I think the tally of yard signs yesterday in the approximately 100 houses here was about 15 for Kerry, 4 for Bush. (I'm sticking with my simple blue-and-white "PEACE" sign.) I walked around the block this morning, and all of the Bush signs were gone. I saw one of the Bush houses with a hastily-placed Kerry sign. This isn't cool. Cyndy at Mousemusings had some Bush nut plaster Bush-Cheney stickers over the Kerry-Edwards sticker on her car a few weeks ago, but two wrongs don't make a right, even when directed against people who believe they do. It looks like things are getting nasty.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Overdue Wal-Mart Bashing

I've been remiss; it has been almost two weeks since I've bashed Wal-Mart. Well, Slate has a nice collection of anti-Wal-Mart cartoons; here are my favorites.

From David Horsey.

From Jim McCloskey.

From Mike Smith.

From David Horsey.

From Ted Rall.

Something nice

Outside of our pResident, is there anyone stupider than sideline football commentators? ESPN's Holly Rowe had this report today from Minnesota's sideline during the Minnesota-Michigan game (emphasis added):
Well guys, Lawrence Moroni has a Chinese tattoo, a symbol, right below his left ear, like many college football players have those Chinese symbols. But his doesn’t mean something nice like "warrior" or "strength." His means "beast." He said "I got beast, because that’s how I have to play on the football field."

Demystifying a Supervillain

The media continues its full-court press to finally ridicule the ridiculous nonsense that Bush and Cheney peddle. Today, it's the NY Times pulling back the curtain on the all-purpose terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. I'd say they still are buying into way too much of the crap, like here:
There is no dispute that Mr. Zarqawi has brazenly led a campaign of car bombings, mortar attacks, kidnappings and beheadings in Iraq, asserting his responsibility for the devastating attack in August 2003 on the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad.
Actually, there is some dispute as to whether Mr. Zarqawi is, you know, alive. Also, they quote extensively from a letter allegedly from Zarqawi to Osama bin Laden which was conveniently "captured" last January, without even a hint about questioning the letter's authenticity. Still, the Times quotes some European intelligence officials who think it's absurd to believe that this one Jordanian could possibly be causing this much trouble:
"I do not think that anyone in Europe or the Middle East honestly believes that he is responsible for everything that the United States says he has done in Iraq," said a senior European intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The guy is on the run. He is hiding from the U.S. forces, and he is probably changing houses every night. It would be almost impossible for him to calmly plan and execute the operations all over Iraq that some people believe he has done."

In fact, in the months following the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Zarqawi was virtually unknown to anyone other than Jordanian intelligence officials, who saw him as a dangerous militant with a strong desire to turn Jordan into an Islamic state.
When the press actually questions the super-villainy of the current president's arch-evildoer, you know that pResident is in trouble.

Trouble in Democratic Paradise

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Afghanistan's first direct presidential election was thrust into turmoil hours after it started Saturday when all 15 candidates challenging interim leader Hamid Karzai alleged fraud over the ink meant to ensure people voted only once and vowed to boycott the results.
Karzai said the fate of the vote was in the hands of the electoral body, but he added that in his view "the election was free and fair ... it is very legitimate."

"Who is more important, these 15 candidates, or the millions of people who turned out today to vote?" Karzai said.
Dubya couldn't have worded it any better himself. Really.

I saw last night's debate in an auditorium on the UM campus. The viewing was arranged by the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace. After the debate ended, several local academics and other experts talked about the debate. The first speaker was a native of Pakistan and very knowledgeable about Afghanistan. He said that his contacts there all said that the Afghan election was scheduled based solely on the U.S. election schedule. Afghanistan was far from ready for truly democratic elections; I think most sober analysts would say somewhere between one and two thousand years, or even longer than in the U.S. Bush was saying last night that Iraq would have elections for the first time. This wasn't true--Saddam was "elected," usually with some 99.44% of the vote. Those elections were rightly called shams, as will be today's election in Afghanistan and the election in Iraq in January, if it happens.

Three Mistakes

Chance for a killer follow-up question missed. By the rules of the debate, I guess only Kerry had the opportunity. Maybe someone can ask my follow-up later. Here's the context.

From the debate:
Q. President Bush, during the last four years, you have made thousands of decisions that have affected millions of lives. Please give three instances in which you came to realize you had made a wrong decision and what you did to correct it. Thank you.

Bush: Mr. Bush I - I have made a lot of decisions and some of them little, like appointments to boards you've never heard of, and some of them big.
[Lots of inarticulate BS removed for clarity]
Now you ask what mistakes. I've made some mistakes in appointing people, but I'm not going to name them. I don't want to hurt their feelings on national TV.
My follow-up question: "Well surely, Mr. President, you hurt their feelings when you fired them, as of course you had to if appointing them was a mistake. I'm sure they're big boys and girls who have been criticized before. I'll bet that many of them would love to hear you explain to the American people exactly why they were fired. And surely the right of the American people to know why their president hires and fires people trumps a few hurt feelings. So, Mr. President, tell us which appointments were mistakes, how long it took you to discover that they were mistakes and fire these people, and why you think they were mistakes."

Good Debate Reviews

Whatever it is, I'm Against It
World Socialist Web Site

Great new Bushisms:
I hear there's rumors on the Internets that we're going to have a draft.
My God! How many are there? This is a man who has clearly never googled anything--and it shows.

When a drug comes in from Canada I want to make sure it cures you and doesn't kill you. And that's why the F.D.A. and that's why the surgeon general are looking very carefully to make sure it can be done in a safe way. I've got an obligation to make sure our government does everything we can to protect you. And my worry is, is that, you know, it looks like it's from Canada and it might be from a Third World.
First, idiot, is that any way to respect a neighbor and ally in the "war on terror?" Second, I hadn't heard about Canada's space program being so advanced that they're now importing Vioxx from Venus.

Clearest knockout punch from Kerry (as long as you don't try to reconcile it with the rest of what he says):
Bush: Saddam Hussein was a threat because he could have given weapons of mass destruction to terrorists enemies. Sanctions were not working. The United Nations was not effective at removing Saddam Hussein.

Gibson: Senator?

Kerry: The goal of the sanctions was not to remove Saddam Hussein. It was to remove the weapons of mass destruction. And Mr. president, just yesterday the Duelfer report told you and the whole world, they worked. He didn't have weapons of mass destruction, Mr. president. That was the objective. And if we had used smart diplomacy, we could have saved $200 billion and an invasion of Iraq.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Quote of the night

George W. Bush:
The truth of the matter is, if you listen carefully, Saddam would still be in power, if he were the president of the United States, and the world would be a lot better off.
Full debate transcript.

Presidential Debate: A Community Response

If you're local, come join us! From the AAACP:

Friday October 8
8:45 pm
Angell Hall Auditorum B on the University of Michigan Campus.
Co-sponsored by AAACP and U-M Residential College.

The public and press are invited to watch the second presidential debate on large-screen TVs (debate begins at 9 pm) and listen to responses by a panel of local experts. Desserts provided.

The panelists:
  • Javed Nazir, U-M Visiting Professor of Journalism, on foreign policy & the Iraq War.
  • Bob King, Vice President of United Auto Workers, on health care policy.
  • Linda Carter, President of Ann Arbor Education Association, on education.
  • Ronald Woods, EMU Professor of African American Studies, on domestic social policy issues.
  • Tom Weisskopf, Director of U-M Residential College and Professor of Economics, on the economy.

If he can't win the debate tonight...

If he can't win the debate tonight, Kerry should just give up. George the Rapturist's head has been delivered to him on a silver platter: Oil closes at $53.31, stocks down sharply, jobs report weak, Bremer, Rummy, Duelfer, and the CIA all finding fault with King George, and the press actually suggesting that Bush is a liar. Bombs are exploding all over the world, mocking Bush's last pitiful excuse for the war, that the world is safer with Saddam in jail. Of course, none of this says anything positive about Kerry, and the stuff about Iraq actually reflects negatively on him as well as on Bush (especially since both are intent on "staying the course").

But the ball is on the tee, the fairway is 200 yards wide, there's no sand or trees or water, the green is 100 yards away, and the hole is at the lowest point on the green. Even I could golf under these conditions. Kerry is all set to deliver the coup-de-grace (although I suggest he not use French tonight), and he probably will. As our soon-to-be-former pResident would say, "Watch this drive."

Even if Kerry manages to botch it tonight, expect the deluge against Bush to continue next week. Only Castro in Cuba and Chavez in Venezuela (so far) have successfully escaped CIA-sponsored regime-change efforts. The spooks finished off Jimmy Carter; they'll finish off W, with or without Kerry's help.


From CBS Marketwatch:
Crude for November delivery climbed as high as $53.25 a barrel, the latest record peak for the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract was last at $53.05, up 38 cents, and it's poised to end the week with a gain of nearly $3 a barrel.

#$@*&!! Liberal CIA!!!

The editors of the Wall Street Journal are not happy about the recent behavior of those whacky lefties at Langley. The Journal thinks the spooks should stay out of politics by sticking with their usual ways of lying for the incumbent president rather than telling the truth to get him out.

I'd suggest that Karl Rove should have thought of that before he outed Valerie Plame.

It is rather deliciously funny, in an appalling sort of way, to see the political right trashing the CIA for a change. Read the article; it's a prime example of the "Bush is right no matter what" school of thought.

Thanks to reader Michael for the link!

Congress trashes Boeing boondoggle

One of the most egregious cases of post-911 corporate welfare was a huge $23 billion scam which would have had the air force lease a bunch of 767's from Boeing. A House-Senate conference committee apparently just killed the deal.

Israeli Alchemy

Turning Palestinians into Finns. A revealing quote from Dov Weissglas, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's senior adviser:
"That is exactly what happened," he said. "You know, the term 'peace process' is a bundle of concepts and commitments. The peace process is the establishment of a Palestinian state with all the security risks that entails. The peace process is the evacuation of settlements, it's the return of refugees, it's the partition of Jerusalem. And all that has now been frozen.... [W]hat I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns. That is the significance of what we did."

A Safer Place, Part Four

Dennis Kucinich was right

Cyndy links back to an extensive Kucinich was right page that she compiled back in January.

When Cyndy and I and many others were passing out Kucinich leaflets at the Ann Arbor Farmers' Market and Art Fair in the summer of 2003, people would frequently ask us why we thought Kucinich had a chance when he was barely registering in the polls. I knew it was a long shot, but I would reply along these lines:
The war in Iraq is a mess, and it was based on lies. Over the next few months, that will become clear to many more people. Candidates like Lieberman, Gephardt, Kerry and Edwards who voted for the war will lose support, opening the door for people to look at the real anti-war candidates. Kucinich was more right on Iraq than any of them. Also, I think his message of abolishing NAFTA and instituting universal health care will resonate strongly with the millions who have lost jobs and/or benefits.
Unfortunately, the so-called liberal media was far worse than I thought. They managed, with the aid of useful-idiot Democrats like Kerry and Nancy Pelosi, to keep the non-existent WMD's a non-issue until David Kay's report, which came out after Kerry had already won Iowa and New Hampshire. At that point, they knew they could rely on Democrats to supress Ralph Nader and any other anti-war third-party candidates. Only now, with even those of us who swore we'd never vote for a pro-war candidate desperately admitting that Kerry is ever-so-slightly less awful than Bush and that we'd be ever-so-slightly less appalled to see him win, is the media finally allowing the American public to see what Kucinich and most of the world saw back in 2002, and what should have been obvious to everyone by May 2003--that Iraq had no WMD's, was no threat, and the war was one big huge expensive fatal lie.

Kucinich was right; Bush and Kerry were wrong. In America, that just doesn't matter.


Via Polizeros.

Sworn Enemy

Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution is reading the final Iraq Survey Group Report. He has found some sections which pretty much directly contradict the Bushies' repeated claims that Saddam was a "sworn enemy" of the US:
Throughout the 1990s [Saddam Hussein] tested Washington's willingness to open a dialogue. On multiple occasions very senior Iraq's close to the President made proposals through intermediaries (the author among others) for dialogue with Washington. Baghdad offered flexibility on many issues, including offers to assist in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Moreover, in informal discussions, senior officials allowed that, if Iraq had a security relationship with the United States, it might be inclined to dispense with WMD programs and/or ambitions.
-- page 4 of the "Transmittal Message" section of Volume I of the final Iraq Survey Group Report

In a custodial debriefing, Saddam said he wanted to develop better relations with the US over the latter part of the 1990s. He said, however, that he was not given a chance because the US refused to listen to anything Iraq had to say.
-- page 31 of the "Regime Strategic Intent" section of Volume I of the final Iraq Survey Group Report

From Boondocks.

Carrot or Stick?

Paul Bremer's name is on an op-ed in this morning's NY Times. It seems pretty clear to me that Karl Rove wrote it, as should be obvious from these paragraphs:
The press has been curiously reluctant to report my constant public support for the president's strategy in Iraq and his policies to fight terrorism. I have been involved in the war on terrorism for two decades, and in my view no world leader has better understood the stakes in this global war than President Bush.
President Bush has said that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. He is right. Mr. Zarqawi's stated goal is to kill Americans, set off a sectarian war in Iraq and defeat democracy there. He is our enemy.

Our victory also depends on devoting the resources necessary to win this war. So last year, President Bush asked the American people to make available $87 billion for military and reconstruction operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The military commanders and I strongly agreed on the importance of these funds, which is why we stood together before Congress to make the case for their approval. The overwhelming majority of Congress understood and provided the funds needed to fight the war and win the peace in Iraq and Afghanistan. These were vital resources that Senator John Kerry voted to deny our troops.

Mr. Kerry is free to quote my comments about Iraq. But for the sake of honesty he should also point out that I have repeatedly said, including in all my speeches in recent weeks, that President Bush made a correct and courageous decision to liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussein's brutality, and that the president is correct to see the war in Iraq as a central front in the war on terrorism.

A year and a half ago, President Bush asked me to come to the Oval Office to discuss my going to Iraq to head the coalition authority. He asked me bluntly, "Why would you want to leave private life and take on such a difficult, dangerous and probably thankless job?" Without hesitation, I answered, "Because I believe in your vision for Iraq and would be honored to help you make it a reality." Today America and the coalition are making steady progress toward that vision.
Which is why, of course, the vaunted handover of "sovereignty" had to be done on the sly two days early, and Bremer was out of Baghdad faster than you can say "car bomb."

So, I'm pretty sure these weren't Bremer's own words. The question is, why did he allow his name to be put to them? Was it the carrot or the stick? The carrot, most likely, would be a lucrative spot on the board of the Carlyle Group, which is poised to continue raking in profits from the wars that the sons of two of its founders did so much to start. (Those sons being George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden.) Or maybe it was the stick, which could have been "We have your daughter," or "More voltage, Mr. Bremer?", or simply "We're sending you back to Baghdad."

The truth never goes unpunished in Karl Rove's Washington.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Spencer Abraham tells many lies

Michelle is always apologizing for Missouri's loser ex-senator who is now the Attorney General of the United States. But Michigan also had a senator who lost his bid for re-election in 2000 and was rewarded with a cabinet post--Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham (aka the Yellowcake Doughboy). According to Josh Marshall via Michelle, ol' Spence appointed an unqualified buddy to a job where he determined that those aluminum tubes were for ultra-scary Saddam nukes, was given a big bonus, and then moved on to another job.

Back when I lived in Alabama, I played piano for a first-grade Sunday School class for a few months. One of the kids' favorite songs was "Father Abraham." Everybody sing along to my new words:

Spencer Abraham told many lies
Many lies told Spencer Abraham
He has lied to me, he's lied to you
So let's all go to war!

A Safer Place, Part Three

"I believe we were right to take action, and America is safer today with Saddam Hussein in prison. He retained the knowledge, the materials, the means, and the intent to produce weapons of mass destruction. And he could have passed that knowledge on to our terrorist enemies. Saddam Hussein was a unique threat, a sworn enemy of our country, a state sponsor of terror, operating in the world's most volatile region. In a world after September the 11th, he was a threat we had to confront. And America and the world are safer for our actions."
-- pResident George W. Bush, today.

Egyptian resort hotel blast kills 36.
Three explosions late Thursday rocked Egyptian resort areas where Israelis were vacationing, celebrating the weeklong Jewish holiday Sukkot.

Israeli media report a massive explosion killed at least 36 people and wounded dozens at the Hilton Hotel in Taba, a Red Sea resort just across the border with Israel.

Some witnesses described the scene as "the gates of hell."

"The whole front of the hotel has collapsed. There are dozens of people on the floor, lots of blood. It is very tense," witness Yigal Vakni told Israel's Army Radio, according to The Associated Press. "I am standing outside of the hotel, the whole thing is burning and they have nothing to put it out with."

"We know of other people trapped under the ruins of the hotel," rescue worker spokesman Yerucham Mendola told the AP.

At least 80 of the wounded were taken to Joseftal Hospital in Eilat, said hospital spokeswoman Naomi Itchak-Halevi.

House Dems Call for DeLay's Ouster

Top House Democrats today condemned Representative Tom DeLay, the leader of the Republican majority, declaring that the latest ethics case against him proved that he had been corrupted by power and was unfit to lead.

"The ethical cloud that has been hanging over the Capitol has burst," Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader, said at a news briefing. "Mr. DeLay has proven himself to be ethically unfit to lead the party."
Aw, c'mon, Nancy! This is the REPUBLICAN party we're talking about. Accusing them of unethical behavior is like accusing NASCAR drivers of speeding. It's what they do!

But seriously, folks, in a town filled with scumbags, Tom DeLay is the scummiest and baggiest of them all. He hates us for our freedoms.

A River in Egypt

The Liar-in-Chief today:
Based on all the information we have to date, I believe we were right to take action, and America is safer today with Saddam Hussein in prison. He retained the knowledge, the materials, the means and the intent to produce weapons of mass destruction, and he could have passed that knowledge on to our terrorist enemies.

Saddam Hussein was a unique threat: a sworn enemy of our country, a state sponsor of terror, operating in the world's most volatile region.

In the world after September the 11th, he was a threat we had to confront. And America and the world are safer for our actions.
Tell it to them, George.

I'm liking the new media

From CNN's article on the "terror fighting" bill which passed in the Senate and is headed for the House:
House GOP leaders say their proposal, which includes creation of a national intelligence director as well as additional anti-terrorism and illegal immigration powers, is the best bill. "It's real simple. The House bill -- every single word of it -- will make the American people safer," said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas. (House Ethics Committee admonishes DeLay again)
In other words, it's real simple: this bill is supported by a lying scumbag.

This is a new trend this week, where somebody in the media, aside from the Daily Show, points out contradictions between what some administration official says and what he/she said before, or, as in this case, immediately reminds readers that the source isn't credible. This is my main reason for saying that Bush is toast--when even fluffy mainstream media like CNN is fact-checking, Bush no longer has the support of the powers that be. They have the ability to remove him from office, and they will.

Department of Injustice

The New York Times has a lengthy article on the absurdity and incompetence better known as John Ashcroft's Justice Department:
"We can charge this case with the hope that the case might get better," Barry Sabin, the department's counterterrorism chief, wrote in the memorandum, "and the certainty that it will not get much worse."

But the case did get worse. After winning highly publicized convictions of two suspects on terrorism charges in June 2003, the Justice Department took the extraordinary step five weeks ago of repudiating its own case and successfully moving to throw out the terrorism charges. In a long court filing, the government discredited its own witnesses and found fault with virtually every part of its prosecution.

The blame, the department suggested in its filing, lay mainly at the feet of the lead prosecutor in Detroit, Richard G. Convertino, whom it portrayed as a rogue lawyer. But documents and interviews with people knowledgeable about the case show that top officials at the Justice Department were involved in almost every step of the prosecution, from formulating strategy to editing the draft indictments to planning how the suspects would be incarcerated.

President Bush himself said the Detroit case was one of several critical investigations around the country that had "thwarted terrorists." But the wreckage of the case reveals that it was built on evidence that has since been undermined. A series of missteps and in-fighting weakened the case further, documents and interviews show. The first line of the government's indictment now appears to have been copied without attribution from a scholarly article on Islamic fundamentalism. Government documents that cast doubt on a critical piece of evidence - what was described as a surveillance sketch of an American air base overseas - were not turned over to the defense. And tensions between prosecutors in Detroit and Justice Department officials in Washington escalated into open hostility.
Still, though their case is in shambles and they've already held three men in custody for three years, there's no relief for the vindicated:
With the terrorism charges dropped, Mr. Hannan, Mr. Koubriti and Mr. Elmardoudi remain in custody, facing a new trial on document fraud and deportation proceedings.

A Safer Place, Part Deux

Of course he does

The top headline on the NY Times website: Cheney Says Report Finding No Illicit Arms in Iraq Justifies War. Okay, I'll read the article to see how he tries to spin it.
The report shows that "delay, defer, wait wasn't an option," Cheney told a town hall-style meeting.
That was obvious. If they'd waited and deferred any longer, the whole world, including the idiots in Congress who voted for the war, would have learned the truth about Saddam's non-existent weapons and programs. And that would have meant a slight possibility that aWol and the Veep from the Deep wouldn't have gotten their war, which was never an option for them.
While Democrats pointed to the new report by Charles Duelfer to bolster their case that invading Iraq was a mistake, Cheney focused on portions that were more favorable to the administration's case.

"The headlines all say no weapons of mass destruction stockpiled in Baghdad. We already knew that," Cheney said.
Flashback! Donald Rumsfeld, ABC's "This Week," March 30, 2003.
We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.
Back to today's story:
[Cheney] said other parts of the report were "more intriguing."
Like this part, Fearmaster?
Duelfer's report said what ambitions Saddam harbored for such weapons were secondary to his goal of evading the sanctions, and he wanted weapons primarily not to attack the United States or to provide them to terrorists but to oppose his older enemies, Iran and Israel.
Imagine paranoid old Saddam thinking foreign countries might attack or invade Iraq. What a nut!

I have no doubt that the only surprise in the report to Dick Cheney is that the report ever saw the light of day. I'm convinced that he and Bush and Wolfowitz, and Clinton and Kerry as well, knew full well years ago that Iraq was functionally disarmed of so-called WMD's, and largely disarmed of conventional weapons as well. Not since Vietnam has the US attacked or invaded a country that had any reasonable chance of defending itself. The years of sanctions, inspections and bombings preceding Gulf War II were precisely intended to insure that Iraq was defenseless before the long-planned invasion. Colin Powell and Condi Rice both acknowledged that Iraq was effectively disarmed back in 2001, before they had consumed enough neo-con Kool Aid.

Fortunately, the media seems finally to be calling the liars on their bluffs. Like I said yesterday, Bush and Cheney are toast.

Losing the base?

From Freeway Blogger via Polizeros. I don't know if the church staff put up the sign or if it was the work of genius vandals. According to Freeway Blogger, the church is in New York.

Bush does something good

Really. MSNBC reports:
President Bush today distanced himself from his administration’s quiet effort to push through a law that would make it easier to send captured terror suspects to countries where torture is used. The proposed law, recently tacked onto a much larger bill despite the fallout from last spring’s interrogation scandal, is seen as an attempt to counter a recent Supreme Court decision that would free some terror detainees being held without trial.

In a letter published in The Washington Post, White House legal counsel Alberto Gonzales said the president "did not propose and does not support" a provision to the House bill that removes legal protections from suspects preventing their "rendering" to foreign governments known to torture prisoners. Gonzales said Bush "has made clear that the United States stands against and will not tolerate torture."
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was pushing the measure, and his spokesperson is basically accusing Bush of flip-flopping.


From CBS Marketwatch:
November crude climbed as high as $53 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It's since eased back a bit to $52.65, up 65 cents.

A Safer Place

But Porter Goss is so much more Republican!

Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution is reading the Iraq Survey Group's report which was released yesterday. He declares that Scott Ritter was so right it's almost rude:
If we were a better country, Ritter would be head of the CIA. From the standpoint of justice, it's a tragedy America is so flawed that will never happen. But more than that, from the standpoint of our own safety, it's extremely dangerous that someone with the analytical skills of Ritter has no official influence. It leads to things like 3,000 of my neighbors being crushed and cremated in one morning.

From R.J. Matson.

From Jim Morin.

From Joe Heller.

From Bob Gorrell.

From Matt Davies.

We're against Republicans, not war

From Kirk Anderson.

I heard a little bit of Air America radio last night. Randi Rhodes was vigorously defending Kerry's credentials as a warmonger, like Edwards did the night before. She quoted Edwards:
John Kerry has voted for the biggest military appropriations bill in the country’s history. John Kerry has voted for the biggest intelligence appropriations in the country’s history.
Yes, it's sleazy and false for Cheney to "accuse" Kerry of being weak on defense. But those votes are nothing to be proud of. Like MoveOn and Michael Moore, Air America was apparently only anti-war until it clashed with the Democratic platform. Hypocrisy rules in America.

A True Patriot

From Boondocks.

Two brutal presidents

One with weapons of mass destruction, the other not. One insane, the other not. Juan Cole summarizes Saddam's motives for pretending to still have WMD's based on the Iraq Survey Group's report:
Saddam was fighting several Shiite revolutions, being mounted by the Sadrists, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the al-Da`wa Party, and the Marsh Arab Hizbullah. He was barely able to keep a lid on them, using secret police and brutal repression. They were being backed by Iran (or at least all but the Sadrists were), and he was admitting that he feared that if the Iranians and the Iraqi Shiites thought he would not be able to gas them, he might be open to another invasion or a popular Shiite uprising. The group report says Saddam used chemical weapons on the Shiites to put down the rebellion of spring, 1991. (What it does not say is that the United States, which was in a position to stop this use of WMD on civilians, as well as the use of conventional weapons to massacre thousands, declined to so much as fire a missile at a helicopter gunship).

Ironically, the Sadrists and Marsh Arabs have gone on to pose a dire threat to order in post-Saddam Iraq, and the US has also treated them harshly as a result.

Saddam also was appears to have been convinced that the US would not attack his regime after September 11, because of its secular character. Saddam is often caricatured as a madman (and it is true that there is something wrong with the man), but in this remark he shows himself thinking rationally and expecting Bush to do the same.
BIG mistake there, Saddam. NEVER underestimate the insanity of George W. Bush.


From CBS Marketwatch:
In electronic trading, crude for November delivery added 33 cents to lately stand at $52.35 a barrel. Overnight, the benchmark contract hit an all-time high of $52.53.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Watch this!

Extra Crispy

Bush as toast, that is. If the powers behind the throne wanted aWol to continue, this report would have been supressed until after the election:
Iraq had essentially destroyed its illicit weapons capability within months after the Persian Gulf War ended in 1991, and its capacity to produce such weapons had eroded even further by the time of the American invasion in 2003, the top American inspector in Iraq said in a report made public today.

The report, by Charles A. Duelfer, said the last Iraqi factory capable of producing militarily significant quantities of unconventional weapons was destroyed in 1996. The findings amounted to the starkest portrayal yet of a vast gap between the Bush administration's prewar assertions about Iraqi weapons and what a 15-month postinvasion inquiry by American investigators concluded were the facts on the ground.

At the time of the American invasion, Mr. Duelfer concluded, Iraq had not possessed military-scale stockpiles of illicit weapons for a dozen years and was not actively seeking to produce them.

The White House portrayed the war as a bid to disarm Iraq of unconventional weapons, and had invoked images of mushroom clouds, deadly gases and fearsome poisons. But Mr. Duelfer concluded that even if Iraq had sought to restart its weapons programs in 2003, it could not have produced militarily significant quantities of chemical weapons for at least a year, and would have required years to produce a nuclear weapon.

"Saddam Hussein ended the nuclear program in 1991 following the gulf war," Mr. Duelfer said in his report, which added that American inspectors in Iraq had "found no evidence to suggest concerted efforts to restart the program."
Note not only did the report come out today, in the middle of debate season, but that the NY Times feels free to compare the reality of the report with the fantasy the Bushies were peddling. Two years ago, the Times was part of that peddling. Now, all the news that's fit to print includes a bit of truth. The powers that be are, as your mother would say, "through with you," George W. Bush.

From Adam at Home.

It's Ours; Get Out

The appalling story of Diego Garcia, once a pleasant paradise, now a stationary base for bombing. Excerpts from a John Pilger article:
Diego Garcia was first settled in the late 18th century. At least 2,000 people lived there: a gentle creole nation with thriving villages, a school, a hospital, a church, a prison, a railway, docks, a copra plantation. Watching a film shot by missionaries in the 1960s, I can understand why every Chagos islander I have met calls it paradise; there is a grainy sequence where the islanders' beloved dogs are swimming in the sheltered, palm-fringed lagoon, catching fish.

All this began to end when an American rear-admiral stepped ashore in 1961 and Diego Garcia was marked as the site of what is today one of the biggest American bases in the world. There are now more than 2,000 troops, anchorage for 30 warships, a nuclear dump, a satellite spy station, shopping malls, bars and a golf course. "Camp Justice" the Americans call it.

During the 1960s, in high secrecy, the Labour government of Harold Wilson conspired with two American administrations to "sweep" and "sanitise" the islands: the words used in American documents. Files found in the National Archives in Washington and the Public Record Office in London provide an astonishing narrative of official lying all too familiar to those who have chronicled the lies over Iraq.

To get rid of the population, the Foreign Office invented the fiction that the islanders were merely transient contract workers who could be "returned" to Mauritius, 1,000 miles away. In fact, many islanders traced their ancestry back five generations, as their cemeteries bore witness. The aim, wrote a Foreign Office official in January 1966, "is to convert all the existing residents ... into short-term, temporary residents."
At first, the islanders were tricked and intimidated into leaving; those who had gone to Mauritius for urgent medical treatment were prevented from returning. As the Americans began to arrive and build the base, Sir Bruce Greatbatch, the governor of the Seychelles, who had been put in charge of the "sanitising", ordered all the pet dogs on Diego Garcia to be killed. Almost 1,000 pets were rounded up and gassed, using the exhaust fumes from American military vehicles. "They put the dogs in a furnace where the people worked," says Lizette Tallatte, now in her 60s," ... and when their dogs were taken away in front of them, our children screamed and cried."

The islanders took this as a warning; and the remaining population were loaded on to ships, allowed to take only one suitcase. They left behind their homes and furniture, and their lives. On one journey in rough seas, the copra company's horses occupied the deck, while women and children were forced to sleep on a cargo of bird fertiliser. Arriving in the Seychelles, they were marched up the hill to a prison where they were held until they were transported to Mauritius. There, they were dumped on the docks.

In the first months of their exile, as they fought to survive, suicides and child deaths were common. Lizette lost two children. "The doctor said he cannot treat sadness," she recalls. Rita Bancoult, now 79, lost two daughters and a son; she told me that when her husband was told the family could never return home, he suffered a stroke and died. Unemployment, drugs and prostitution, all of which had been alien to their society, ravaged them. Only after more than a decade did they receive any compensation from the British government: less than £3,000 each, which did not cover their debts.

Capturing Samarra--Again

There's an old joke about quitting smoking: "It's easy! I've done it 100 times!" Well, the U.S. military is stuck in Groundhog Day in Iraq, reconquering the country time and time again. Except that each time it gets harder, and, unlike Phil Connors (Bill Murray) in the movie, they never seem to learn anything from the experience. Patrick Cockburn at Counterpunch gives us some insight into what's really going on in Iraq:
American generals in Iraq triumphantly announced at the weekend that they had successfully taken over Samarra and killed 125 insurgents. They failed to mention that this is the third time they have captured this particular city on the Tigris river north of Baghdad in the past 18 months.

The campaign to eliminate the no-go areas under rebel control in Iraq is getting into full swing. Fallujah is being bombed every night and may soon be subjected to ground assault. Najaf was recaptured from Shia militiamen in August and much of the city is in ruins.

The current US military campaign is very much geared to getting President George Bush reelected to the White House in November. The aim of the bombing is to prove to American voters that their army is on the offensive, but without substantially increasing US casualties.

The situation on the ground in Iraq is far worse than what is portrayed by the media. Ironically, this is because it is now so dangerous for journalists and television crews to leave their heavily guarded hotels in Baghdad that they cannot refute claims by the American and British governments that much of Iraq is safe.

Nothing could be more untrue. I have spent most of the past year-and-a-half travelling in Iraq, and I have never known it so bad. The roads all around Baghdad are cut by insurgents. At Mahmoudiyah, just south of the capital, rebels in black masks felt confident enough last week to establish a checkpoint on the main road to Najaf.
Here's the rest of the article.


From CBS Marketwatch:
Crude for November delivery rose as high as $52.02 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange -- an intraday high on the exchange. It was recently at $51.90, up 81 cents.

Dude! Where's my bomb?

From the Independent via reader Michael:
The Pentagon said yesterday it was investigating cockpit video footage that shows American pilots attacking and killing a group of apparently unarmed Iraqi civilians.

The 30-second clip shows the pilot targeting the group of people in a street in the city of Fallujah and asking his mission controllers whether he should "take them out". He is told to do so and, shortly afterwards, the footage shows a huge explosion where the people were. A second voice can be heard on the clip saying: "Oh, dude."

The existence of the video, taken last April inside the cockpit of a US F-16 fighter has been known for some time, though last night's broadcast by Channel 4 News is believed to be the first time a mainstream broadcaster has shown the footage.

At no point during the exchange between the pilot and controllers does anyone ask whether the Iraqis are armed or posing a threat. Critics say it proves war crimes are being committed.
Invading a country on false pretenses is a war crime. Aerial bombardment is a war crime. George W. Bush is a war crime.

Fringe Candidates

There are seven candidates for president on the Michigan ballot. Five of them support withdrawing US forces from Iraq as fast as possible. Only two fringe candidates support maintaining a military presence in Iraq for years. Here are statements from the candidates web sites (Note: For some reason, Peroutka's Constitution Party is called "US Taxpayers" on the ballot, and Brown's Socialist Party is called "Natural Law.")

Michael Peroutka, US Taxpayers (Constitution) Party:
As President, I would move immediately to withdraw all our troops from Iraq in a way that would provide for the safety of those Iraqis who worked with us during this illegal, wrong-headed war.

"I, like President Bush, hope that the Iraqi people, and all people, will be free from tyranny. But, unlike President Bush, I realize that, Constitutionally, as President, it would not be my job to use our military to spread 'freedom' everywhere in the world. Unlike President Bush, I, as President, would realize that I had been elected President of the United States, not President of the World.

Michael Badnarik, Libertarian Party:
The War in Iraq is a failure, and the U.S. government should never have waged it. As your president, one of my first tasks will be to begin the orderly process of bringing our troops home as quickly as can safely be accomplished.

More and more Americans are coming to oppose the war, the war hawks and high government officials are beginning to distance themselves from the president, and the U.S. seems more willing than ever to pull out of Iraq.

But this is not enough. We need to learn how this disaster happened, so we can prevent future disasters from happening.

First, allow me to dispel a myth. People in the Middle East do not hate us for our freedom. They do not hate us for our lifestyle. They hate us because we have spent many years attempting to force them to emulate our lifestyle.

Walter Brown, Natural Law (Socialist) Party:
We stand in total opposition to U.S. imperialism. We call for an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. military and paramilitary forces stationed outside the borders of the United States. In particular we call for the United States to immediately and unconditionally withdraw its forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

David Cobb, Green Party:
The unjust, illegal and immoral war in Iraq must be brought to an end now. David Cobb and Pat LaMarche call for an immediate withdrawal of US military from Iraq and will work towards the eradication of the military-industrial complex which necessitates war as a corporate profit-making scheme. We oppose the very real prospect of a military draft under the guise of adding more troops for the so-called "war on terror."

Ralph Nader, No Party Affiliation:
Independent Presidential candidate Ralph Nader put forward a three-step approach to rapidly remove US military forces, civilian military contractors and US corporate interests from Iraq. "Every day the US military remains in Iraq we imperil US security, drain our economy, ignore our nation's domestic needs and prevent democratic self-rule from developing in Iraq, nor does the belligerent rhetoric of the Bush regime help the cause of moderates in Iraq." Nader said.

George W. Bush, Republican Party:
Supported by coalition allies, the men and women of our Armed Forces have brought Saddam Hussein – a declared enemy of America and supporter of terrorism who had the capability and a proven willingness to produce and use weapons of mass destruction – to justice. The brutal regime of Saddam Hussein is gone. An interim government is leading the Iraqi people to freedom.

John Kerry, Democratic Party:
We must change course in Iraq. Having gone to war, we cannot afford to fail at peace. The United States must take immediate measures to prevent Iraq from becoming a failed state that inevitably would become a haven for terrorists and a destabilizing force in the Middle East.

John Kerry and John Edwards will make the creation of a stable and secure environment in Iraq our immediate priority in order to lay the foundations for sustainable democracy.
By the way, Green candidate David Cobb and Libertarian Michael Badnarik had a debate last week; I haven't watched it yet, but I'm guessing that it was a much more informative and hopeful debate than the Bush-Kerry strongest-man contest. Two candidates who agree on following the constitution and staying out of wars--that's a great starting point.

More Harrassment

From Gloria, a regular at the Tuesday and Saturday protests in downtown Ann Arbor:
Another one of our protesters was issued a citation yesterday at the Ann Arbor Federal Bldg.

Up to last week, the feds said it was okay to stand on the red-brick plaza or sit on the concrete berm only if we were not carrying signs. Bernie Klein was standing on the red bricks not holding a sign. Two federal cops approached him and told him he had to get back on the sidewalk. Bernie said he wasn't carrying a sign. Cops said it didn't make any difference - he was part of the protest group and, sign or no sign, he had to stay on the sidewalk. Bernie stood his ground and refused to move. The cops then got out their ticketbook and wrote him up for a $50 fine. He has 21 days to pay or else appear at the U.S. District Court in Detroit.

The charge on the ticket was (non?) "conformity with signs and directions." There are no "signs" and Bernie thought the "directions" may be the cop's verbal directions.

Shirley Zempel has filed a complaint with the ACLU over Carolyn Diem's citation. She will add Bernie's to the complaint.
After 83-year-old Carolyn was ticketed for sitting down, I sent an e-mail to my two city council members and the mayor. I haven't heard from either council member (although one said he is out of the office until October 11); The mayor responded immediately:
I too have been disturbed by some of the things I am hearing regarding enforcement on the Federal Building site. I have inquired as to the role of AAPD officers in this. I have also been told that the Federal officers are "cracking down" and I am investigating this as well and I will
issue a protest if after the facts are known it is warranted. I know it was Federal Officers who ticketed Ms. Diem and we of course have no authority over them other than to issue a protest ourselves.

Thank you for writing.

John Hieftje
Ann Arbor was the first city in the nation to pass an anti-Patriot Act resolution, and later passed a more comprehensive one. It sounds like it's time for the city to step up and protect the rights of its citizens against the Washington fascists.

Bush is Toast

I say that not because I think that Kerry and Edwards have done a good job convincing voters that they will be a huge improvement. I say it because the powers that be seem to have decided to finally put Bush in the toaster. The NY Times reports today on yet another report which will say that Iraq posed "little immediate threat." And not only does the Times report the story, they actually compare the hyperexaggerations made by Bush and Cheney with the few pitiful remnants of decades-old chemical weaponry that was actually found.

This on top of another Times article last Sunday about how the White House embraced faulty intelligence, focussing on the aluminum tubes issue. And the critical comments made by Republican senators McCain, Lugar, and Hagel. And the comments of Paul Bremer. And that the media seems to have concluded the spin debate about last Thursday's debate, saying it was a Kerry win. And the polls showing Kerry has bounced back. (I don't believe that the polls represent the opinions of the American voters--they reflect the desires of the power elite. The elite now wants Kerry, from whom it has nothing to fear.)

Most of these criticisms could have been made two years ago, and might well have kept us out of this disastrous war. The criticisms were made then, by the likes of Scott Ritter and Dennis Kucinich, but they didn't make it to the mainstream media like they have now. Or the criticisms could have been made one year ago, thereby discrediting not only Bush, but also Kerry, Edwards, and the other pro-war Democrats. This might have allowed us to run a candidate who actually opposed Bush's foreign policy. But the powers that be definitely didn't want that. They are now convinced that Kerry will more competently carry out the demands of American empire. I think we'll see more and more pro-Kerry reporting over the next four weeks, and if Bush tries to steal the election again, the powers won't let him--every shenanigan attempted will be reported this time.

And over the next four years we'll all be slightly less bad off than we would have been if Bush had been re-selected. We'll still be much worse off than we are now, however, as all of the crises that Republicans and Democrats have led us into over the past 25 years come to a head--peak oil, global warming, wars wars wars, and the probable collapse of the global economy.

I realize these are pretty bold predictions, and I'm usually not this confident. I haven't been right on everything, for sure, but if you browse through the archives of this blog I think you'll find a lot of cases where I either quoted members of the lunatic fringe of the time (or was that fringe myself), when what they/I said then is now pretty much accepted fact (except by Cheney, of course). So forgive me for being a bit cocky on these predictions. I do realize "pride goeth before the fall." But I'm calling the election for Kerry, and I consider that a slightly less bad thing than a Bush victory.


WASHINGTON (CBS.MW) -- Crude-oil futures added to their lofty gains as the energy market's attention fixes on weekly updates on U.S. petroleum supplies due out later Wednesday morning.

In electronic trading, crude for November delivery rose 23 cents to $51.32 a barrel, after touching a fresh all-time record high of $51.48.

Cheney met Edwards

Cheney from the debate:
Now, in my capacity as Vice President, I am the president of the Senate and the presiding officer. I’m up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they’re in session. The first time I ever met you [Edwards] was when you walked on the stage tonight.
The Official Kerry-Edwards blog refutes this. Apparently, Elizabeth Edwards put Cheney in his place (dark reaches of hell) after the debate:
"The vice president said that the first time I met Senator Edawrds was tonight when we walked on the stage. I guess he forgot the time we sat next to each other for a couple hours about three years ago. I guess he forgot the time we met at the swearing in of another senator. So, my wife Elizabeth reminded him on the stage," Edwards said as the crowd roared.

According to Edwards staff, Cheney replied, "Oh, yeah."

Fearmaster Cheney and Zarqawi the Super-Terrorist

From last night's debate:
Mr. Cheney: Gwen, the story that appeared today about this report is one I asked for. I asked an awful lot of questions. That’s part of my job as vice president. A C.I.A. spokesman was quoted in that story as saying they’d not yet reached the bottom line and there’s still debate over this question of the relationship between Zarqawi and Saddam Hussein. The report also points out that at one point some of Zarqawi’s people were arrested, Saddam personally intervened to have them released and supposedly at the request of Zarqawi.

But let’s look at what we know about Mr. Zarqawi. We know he was running a terrorist camp, training terrorists in Afghanistan prior to 9/11. We know that when we went into Afghanistan that he then migrated to Baghdad. He set up shop in Baghdad where he oversaw the poisons facility up at Khurmal, where the terrorists were developing ricin and other deadly substances to use. We know he’s still in Baghdad today. He is responsible for most of the major car bombings that have killed or maimed thousands of people. He’s the one you will see on the evening news beheading hostages. He is without question a bad guy. He is without question a terrorist. He was in fact in Baghdad before the war and he’s in Baghdad now after the war.
So, Mr. Vice President, Useless Dick, Veep from the Deep--I have a followup. If Zarqawi is in Baghdad, why do you continue to bomb his "safe houses" in Fallujah?

Granted, Fearmaster Cheney probably meant to say "Iraq" instead of "Baghdad" at least four of the five times he said "Baghdad" in that paragraph. He probably also knows that Khurmal is in the far northern part of Iraq, which was under the control of the Kurds and the "no-fly" zone imposed by US and British air forces, and not under the control of Saddam Hussein. To be fair, Colin Powell did claim, in his infamous talk to the UN, that "Baghdad has an agent in the most senior levels of the radical organization Ansar al Islam (Partisans of Islam) that controls this corner of Iraq." However, the February 9, 2003 article in which I found that quote also says:
A remote site in the mountains of northern Iraq identified by U.S. officials as a crude laboratory where al-Qaida terrorists concoct poisons is a muddy, decrepit, refuse-strewn compound devoid of any signs of deadly substances.

Ansar al Islam, a Kurdish militant group accused by U.S. and Kurdish officials of harboring al-Qaida fugitives from Afghanistan, on Saturday took foreign journalists on a tour of the site and denied it had a poison-making facility. Ansar controls a rugged sanctuary within the independent Kurdish zone of northern Iraq and imposes harsh Taliban-style Islamic rule.
The article also provides this possible explanation for there being no signs of "deadly substances:"
The journalists' tour of the compound came three days after Powell's presentation, ample time for incriminating evidence to be cleared away. Ansar gunmen also prevented the visitors from approaching parts of the heavily fortified site, which is ringed by barbed wire hung with red signs warning of mines.
Again, maybe so, but that of course begs the question as to why Colin Powell would publicly inform the UN General Assembly in New York about this camp before privately informing the UN inspectors in Iraq. To which there is, of course, one simple answer: UN inspectors could have completely destroyed the last feeble thread of the tenuous (actually non-existent) link which supposedly existed between Saddam and al Qaeda if they had arrived at Khurmal before Powell's speech. The US refrained from bombing Khurmal before the war for the same reason.

And Cheney doesn't pack just one outrageous lie into a paragraph--his statements are multi-deceptive. He has made Zarqawi, who again is variously reported to be maimed and/or dead, into the super-terrorist of the millenium. While Osama takes years to patiently plan operations like 9/11 and the African embassy bombings, Zarqawi is busily planning "most of the major car bombings," and still has time for a few beheadings on the side. This, of course, means that Zarqawi can't be captured any time soon, since that would leave Cheney without an explanation when the car bombings continue unabated (although they did manage to dig up Zarqawi after Saddam was captured, and would certainly find some other demon to blame).

You would hope that after decades of using one demon after another as an excuse for our brutal foreign policy that the American people would start to catch on. Castro, Khaddafi, Noriega, Khomeini, Osama, Saddam, Uday and Qusay, Zarqawi. Dick Cheney is counting on the American people never catching on, and the depressing truth is that he's probably right.

[Update] It turns out that Cheney can't even keep his lies straight. According to Kevin McKiernan, the supposed poisons lab was located in a town called Sergat, not Khurmal. McKiernan says that Colin Powell corrected his mistake shortly after his UN lie-fest, but word never got to Fearmaster Cheney.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Slam Dunk

If it weren't for the horrible pro-Israel stuff that Edwards said, without even a hint of suggesting that the Palestinians have suffered or have rights, I'd say he was the 100% winner. I've always thought Dick Cheney was scary, but I was guessing that he might make some effort to be less scary for this debate. WRONG. He's a nasty, bitter, very scary old man, and that's exactly how he came across.

Edwards seemed to successfully defend all of the charges Cheney made against him and Kerry (although unfortunately not most of the charges I make against them). He did a better job of selling Kerry than Kerry does.

I'm guessing that there are a lot of people wondering why Kerry is on top of the ticket instead of Edwards; I think Edwards-Kerry would have a 10-15% lead in the polls right now.

These are just my immediate reactions after watching the debate; I may flip-flop on them after reading the transcript and other comments. But Edwards is smart, optimistic, and pleasant; Cheney is scary, scary, scary. Slam dunk.

Well said

This is from Zeynep at Under the Same Sun from last month, but it hasn't gotten any less accurate since then:
It's obvious to everyone that U.S. forces are not contributing to the security situation in the country, to say the least. While I'm well aware that there are internal forces that might continue killing Iraqis even after a withdrawal, I don't see how that would justify the continued presence of a force that is constantly bombing and shooting and is utterly unwilling, unable or uninterested in carrying out any kind of policing activity -- which is what Iraq needs right now.

The longer we stay, the worse shape that country is going to be when we do leave. And the longer we stay, the more dead there will be, on all sides.
Between the events of last spring and summer, the door on the possibility that the people of Iraq would consent to a U.S. occupation has closed. Only two related questions remain: what will we make them pay in order to stay and what will they try to make us pay to get us to leave. Every passing day adds to the tally of both answers.

The Latest from "Baghdad Burning"

Blogger Riverbend discusses the all-purpose terrorist:
One wonders who is behind the explosions and the car bombs. Bin Laden? Zarqawi? Possibly... but it's just too easy. It's too perfect. Bin Laden hit the WTC and Afghanistan was attacked. Iraq was occupied. At first, any explosion or attack on troops was quickly blamed on "loyalists" and "Baathists" and EVERYTHING was being coordinated by Saddam. As soon as he was caught, it became the work of "Islamic extremists" and Al-Qaida and Zarqawi suddenly made his debut. One wonders who it will be after it is discovered that Zarqawi has been dead for several months or that he never even existed. Whoever it is, you can bet his name will three syllables or less because that is Bush's limit.

A week ago, four men were caught by Iraqi security in the area of A'adhamiya in Baghdad. No one covered this on television or on the internet, as far as I know- we heard it from a friend involved in the whole thing. The four men were caught trying to set up some explosives in a residential area by some of the residents themselves. One of the four men got away, one of them was killed on the spot and two were detained and interrogated. They turned out to be a part of Badir's Brigade (Faylaq Badir), the militia belonging to the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Should the culprits never have been caught, and should the explosives have gone off, would Zarqawi have been blamed? Of course.

I'm very relieved the Italian hostages have been set free... and I hope the other innocent people are also freed. Thousands of Iraqis are being abducted and some are killed, while others are returned... but it is distressing to see so many foreigners being abducted. It's like having a guest attacked in your own home by the neighbor's pit bull- you feel a sense of responsibility even though you know there was no way you could have prevented it.

I wasn't very sympathetic though, when that Islamic group came down from London to negotiate releasing Kenneth Bigley. I do hope he is returned alive, but where are all these Islamic groups while Falluja, Samarra, Sadir City and other places are being bombed? Why are they so concerned with a single British citizen when hundreds of Iraqis are dying by the month? Why is it 'terrorism' when foreigners set off bombs in London or Washington or New York and it's a 'liberation' or 'operation' when foreigners bomb whole cities in Iraq? Are we that much less important?
I'm afraid she already knows how Bush and Blair answer that question. Not to mention the many American columnists and political cartoonists who berate the Muslim world for not loudly condemning every beheading or suicide bombing, while saying nothing about the hundreds of people killed in the occupied territories of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine with American weapons.

Hard work

It's hard work being pResident! (Just click the link!)

Tonight's Debate: A Preview

From the Geek Girl by way of Michelle via a bunch of others.

Our pResident is an idiot

But you knew that already. From a campaign speech he gave today in Iowa:
"In 1991, when my dad was president, he saw a threat, and that was that Saddam Hussein was going to overrun Kuwait," said Mr. Bush, who appeared relaxed and in good spirits at an Ask President Bush forum despite the generally negative reviews of his debate performance.

If Mr. Kerry's vote had carried the day, the president said, "Saddam would not only have been in his palaces, that means he would have been in Kuwait, as well."
So Clueless Leader knows even less about the first Gulf War than he does about the current one. And the NY Times doesn't bother to set the record straight, either. The fact is that by the time of the Senate vote on the first Gulf War, Saddam's army had already overrun Kuwait, due in large part to mexed missages delivered to him from Bush Sr. and Secretary of State James Baker via ambassador April Glaspie. While invading a sovereign nation is a clear and contemptible violation of international law, there was no way that Saddam could have predicted Bush 41's apoplectic reaction. Saddam had actually been encouraged by the U.S. government to attack Iran ten years earlier, and was supported by the U.S. during that war (although we were also supporting his enemy at the same time). In 1991, Saddam's troops were ensconced in Kuwait busily not throwing babies out of incubators and not massing on the Saudi border, despite what Poppy told us.

But apparently aWol has forgotten that one of his oft-repeated reasons for regime change in Iraq was that Saddam had attacked his neighbors, and had succeeded in occupying Kuwait. His dad didn't "see a threat" when Glaspie was instructed to say this:
U.S. Ambassador Glaspie - We have no opinion on your Arab - Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary (of State James) Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960's, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America. (Saddam smiles)
AWol added today, "The policies of my opponent are dangerous for world peace," something with which I completely agree, but only inasmuch as they are practically the same as Bush's. Kerry's vote against the 1991 Gulf War was much better policy than anything he's offering now. And don't forget some of the people we seriously pissed off in that war, not the least of whom were Timothy McVeigh and Osama bin Laden. And that war ended with Saddam brutally repressing Shiite and Kurdish uprisings while the US military watched, doing nothing.


From CBS Marketwatch:
Crude for November delivery climbed as high as $51.25 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, eclipsing the previous record intraday mark of $50.47 set on Sept. 28. The contract was last at $51.10, up $1.19, or 2.4 percent.
I noticed that local gas prices are back over $2--$2.09 at the local Speedway station.

George's Saudi friends have been trying to come to the rescue, but it's not working. According to the NY Times:
Only Saudi Arabia is able to pump more, maybe up to 500,000 barrels extra a day, but because of its high sulfur content, "it's the wrong kind of oil," he said. "Nobody wants it."
Riyadh and weep, George. Frankly, I'm willing to have the SUV drivers pay whatever it takes to get Bush out of office so we can then get down to the serious work of getting Kerry out of office!

New Documentary

I just got this from the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace:
AAACP brings you...
"Hijacking Catastrophe"
to air on Community Television Network, Cable Channel 17, seven times in October!

"Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire" examines how a radical fringe of the Republican Party used the trauma of the 9/11 terror attacks to advance a pre-existing agenda to radically transform American foreign policy while rolling back civil liberties and social programs at home. The documentary places the Bush Administration's false justifications for war in Iraq within the larger context of a two-decade struggle by neoconservatives to dramatically increase military spending in the wake of the Cold War, and to expand American power globally by means of military force.


The documentary premieres on Thursday, 10/7/04 at 11:00pm.

Additional replay times, all on Channel 17, include:
  • Sunday, 10/10 at 10:00pm
  • Tuesday, 10/12 at 10:30pm
  • Thursday, 10/14 at 9:00pm
  • Sunday, 10/17 at 10:00pm
  • Thursday, 10/21 at 11:00pm
  • Wednesday, 10/27 at 11:00pm
So, if you're local and have Comcast cable, you can watch it this week! If not, the DVD is available from the web site, and it will be showing in theaters as well.

Bush's Third Quagmire

Beheadings are now a part of the disaster in Haiti.
Machete-wielding supporters of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide are turning their wrath on Haiti's demoralized police force, beheading some of their victims in a campaign imitative of the insurgency in Iraq.

Seven of at least 18 people killed in the turmoil in Port-au-Prince have been police officers, judicial police chief Michael Lucius said Monday. He said an eighth officer remains hospitalized in serious condition with a gunshot wound to the head.

Three of the slain policemen were decapitated after being shot during clashes with pro-Aristide demonstrators last week.

Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, who is leading a U.S.-backed transitional government installed after Aristide's ouster in February, has said the police killings were part of an offensive by pro-Aristide gangs dubbed "Operation Baghdad."


From CBS Marketwatch:
Crude for November delivery climbed as high as $50.99 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, eclipsing the previous record intraday mark of $50.47 set on Sept. 28. The contract was last at $50.85, up 94 cents.

Another good debate critique

From the WSWS. They point out that the real issue in last Thursday's debate was John Kerry's hawkishness. Bush tried to convince viewers that Kerry wants to pull out of Iraq. Kerry, meanwhile, was tied in knots, trying to convince his corporate supporters who got him this far that he won't pull out, while trying to convince the many voters who think pulling out is a good idea that he doesn't really mean it. From the article:
This contradiction—a pro-war candidate seeking to win an election based on the support of antiwar voters—ran throughout the September 30 debate. Kerry continually sought, through a harsh tone and accusing demeanor, to imply greater opposition to Bush’s policies in Iraq than he actually articulated. He employed double-talk, describing the Iraq war as a “mistake” and an “error in judgment,” while declaring he had a plan to “succeed” in Iraq. His words were carefully chosen to leave open whether he was criticizing Bush from the left or from the right, and calling for less or more military violence.

Kerry had to walk a fine line as he simultaneously addressed two very different audiences: the masses of working people and young people who are looking for a way to reverse and repudiate Bush’s war policies, and the American ruling elite, which regards continued possession of Iraq and its vast oil reserves as a vital national interest. But when compelled to declare a firm position, in his closing statement, he came down decisively on the side of US imperialism, pledging military victory: "I believe we can be successful. I’m not talking about leaving. I’m talking about winning."
Like me, of course, the WSWS doesn't like either candidate. Kerry's position on Iraq is ridiculous; Bush's is more so:
For his part, Bush is attempting to retain the White House by running as a successful war president, under conditions in which the war is widely opposed by the masses of working people and regarded as a disaster by significant sections of the ruling class itself. At every step, Bush’s statements are in conflict with the reality made visible on television screens every night. Iraq is a country of car bombs, blackouts, 50 percent unemployment and a hated and isolated US-imposed puppet regime. Bush portrays it as a thriving democracy whose people rejoice at their "liberation" by the American tanks and warplanes that are slaughtering them.

Bush was unable to press an attack on the contradiction at the center of Kerry’s position on the war, not merely because of his intellectual deficiencies, but because of fundamental political contradictions of his own.

Kerry’s antiwar posture is false, while his pro-war stance represents the real viewpoint of the Democratic Party establishment, many of them veterans of the Clinton administration. But the Republican Party needs to whip up its far-right base with the insinuation that Kerry’s position represents quasi-treasonous opposition to US troops in wartime.

The Bush campaign has therefore turned reality upside down, asserting that it is Kerry’s pro-war statements that are false, and that his real, but concealed, position is for retreat and surrender in Iraq.

Rapture Index Up 1

Volcanoes up 2 (Mount St. Helens); Beast Government down 1 (EU may not be able to ratify constitution). The current "rapture index" is 155. According to the Rapture Ready web site, here's what the scores mean:
Rapture Index of 85 and Below: Slow prophetic activity
Rapture Index of 85 to 110: Moderate prophetic activity
Rapture Index of 110 to 145: Heavy prophetic activity
Rapture Index above 145: Fasten your seat belts
I can't really disagree with these nut jobs when they say that the end of the world is near. What worries me is that they seem to be in favor of it, and that George W. Bush seems to be promoting it.


VIENNA, Austria (AP) -- Crude oil prices briefly hit an all-time high of $50.69 on Tuesday as worries persisted over supply and unrest in key producers.

From Jim Morin.

From Bill Day.

From Bruce Plante.

The Bush Healthcare Plan

From Mike Keefe.

From Mike Thompson.

It's actually one out of ten, at least, since he left out Iraq bombin', capital punishin', welfare reformin', corporate shillin' free traitor. Of course, the right never complained about those aspects of Clinton's presidency.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Can't Gitmo Information

From the Guardian:
Prisoner interrogations at Guantánamo Bay, the controversial US military detention centre where guards have been accused of brutality and torture, have not prevented a single terrorist attack, according to a senior Pentagon intelligence officer who worked at the heart of the US war on terror.

Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Christino, who retired last June after 20 years in military intelligence, says that President George W Bush and US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have 'wildly exaggerated' their intelligence value.

Christino's revelations, to be published this week in Guantánamo: America's War on Human Rights, by British journalist David Rose, are supported by three further intelligence officials. Christino also disclosed that the 'screening' process in Afghanistan which determined whether detainees were sent to Guantánamo was 'hopelessly flawed from the get-go'.

It was performed by new recruits who had almost no training, and were forced to rely on incompetent interpreters. They were 'far too poorly trained to identify real terrorists from the ordinary Taliban militia'.

According to Christino, most of the approximately 600 detainees at Guantánamo - including four Britons - at worst had supported the Taliban in the civil war it had been fighting against the Northern Alliance before the 11 September attacks, but had had no contact with Osama bin Laden or al-Qaeda.
The plus side, if you're a Bushie, is that this random grabbing of people and holding and torturing them for 2 1/2 years for no reason has earned the U.S. the undying hatred of thousands if not millions more people in the Islamic world. This increases the chances of another 9/11, making your continued crackdown on civil liberties and economic justice that much easier. Of course, if you're a human being and not a Bushie, this isn't so good.

Kudos to Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Christino for blowing the whistle on this ongoing crime.

[Update] Gitmo hostage and British citizen Moazzam Begg states his case in the LA Times (via Common Dreams). Excerpt:
I state here, unequivocally and for the record, that any documents presented to me by U.S. law enforcement agents were signed and initialed under duress, thus rendered legally contested in validity. During several interviews, particularly — though unexclusively — in Afghanistan, I was subjected to pernicious threats of torture and death threats — amongst other coercively employed interrogation techniques. Neither was the presence of legal counsel ever produced or made available.

The said interviews were conducted in an environment of generated fear, resonant with terrifying screams of fellow detainees facing similar methods. In this atmosphere of severe antipathy toward detainees was the compounded use of racially and religiously prejudiced taunts. This culminated, in my opinion, with the deaths of two fellow detainees, at the hands of U.S. military personnel, to which I myself was partially witness.

In spite of all the aforementioned cruel and unusual treatment meted out, I have maintained a compliant and amicable manner with my captors and a cooperative attitude. My behavioral record is impeccable, yet contrasts immensely to what I have experienced, as stated.

I am a law-abiding citizen of the U.K. and attest vehemently to my innocence, before God and the law, of any crime — though none has even been alleged. I have neither ever met Usama bin Laden, nor been a member of Al Qaidah — or any synonymous paramilitary organization, party or group. Neither have I engaged in hostile acts against the U.S.A., nor assisted such groups in the same — though the opportunity has availed itself many a time, and motive.

Troubled Water

A new book about the world water crisis. I haven't read it. Here's a little quote for thought from the web site:
Once a year in Stigomta, Sweden, citizens observe "Pee Outside Day" during which they save 50% of the muncipal water used on a typical day.
One thing I've thought about doing in my house, and a capability which should be built in to new houses, is using "gray" water for flushing toilets. The water that goes down the drain from the bathtub or the dishwasher could easily serve this purpose. In cold, dry Michigan winters, the ideal solution would be for heated gray water to sit around in the house, sharing its heat and humidity with the air, until it reaches room temperature, at which point it gets used to flush toilets. I recall reading that standard toilet tank parts can be damaged or clogged by gray water, but this can be avoided by pouring the gray water directly into the bowl (and I'm sure someone could design a dependable gray-water toilet--probably already has). Using gas or electricity to heat water, running it over our bodies or dishes briefly and dumping it, still hot, immediately out of the house, and then using precious potable water to flush human waste away is so frivolous, so American.

The Myth of the All-Purpose Terrorist

Australia's The Age newspaper has an article about that scourge of Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who recovered from death and amputation to lead an insurgency of car bombings, RPG's and beheadings, all while limping from "safe house" to "safe house" in Fallujah just ahead of American "smart bombs." Well, The Age has tugged on Superman's cape and discovered what many of us already suspected: the intelligence about Zarqawi and his safe houses may be slightly better than the "darned good intelligence" that Bush and Kerry saw about Iraq's WMD's, but it is clearly not up to the quality of Dan Rather's TANG documents or the Hitler diaries. The Age article requires registration, which I went through so you don't have to. But I'll give you some fairly extensive quotes from the article here:
American intelligence obtained through bribery may have seriously overstated the insurgency role of the most wanted fugitive in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

US agents in Baghdad and Fallujah have revealed a series of botched and often tawdry dealings with unreliable sources who, in the words of one, "told us what we wanted to hear".

"We were basically paying up to $US10,000 ($A13,700) a time to opportunists, criminals and chancers who passed off fiction and supposition about Zarqawi as cast-iron fact, making him out as the linchpin of just about every attack in Iraq," one agent said.

"Back home this stuff was gratefully received and formed the basis of policy decisions. We needed a villain, someone identifiable for the public to latch on to, and we got one."

Officials in Washington have linked Zarqawi to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda, casting the Jordanian extremist as leader of the insurgency, mastermind of suicide bombings and the man behind the abduction of foreign hostages.

But some critics of the war say the Bush Administration has deliberately skewed the level of Zarqawi's involvement in an attempt to portray the insurgency as a war waged by foreign Islamic terrorists.
"From the information we have gathered, we have to conclude Zarqawi is more myth than man. At some stage, and perhaps even now, he was almost certainly behind some of the kidnappings. But if there is a main leader of the insurgency, he would be an Iraqi. But the insurgency is not nearly so centralised to talk of a structured leadership."

Military intelligence officials complain that their reports to Washington are largely being ignored and accuse the Pentagon of over-reliance on electronic surveillance and aerial and satellite reconnaissance by the CIA.

In recent weeks America has claimed a series of precision air strikes on targets in Fallujah identified by the CIA as housing known Zarqawi associates.

It has denied that there were any civilian casualties, despite television pictures showing dead and wounded women and children being pulled from the rubble of flattened homes.
(Via Left I on the News)

Baseball in DC

A gift from the poor and disenfranchised residents of the capital city to the billionaire owners and players of major league baseball. Dave Zirin explains.

BTW, RFK Stadium, where the pitiful Senators played until 1970 when they moved to Texas (where aWol eventually gave them a new stadium courtesy of the taxpayers of Arlington), is still sitting there in east Washington a few miles from the Capitol. It is still used by the DC United soccer team. It could easily be used to house baseball once again, except that it doesn't have all of the luxury boxes and other amenities that the filthy rich demand for their stadiums. So major league baseball, with the help of its cheerleaders at the Washington Post and the mayor, has extorted DC into paying $440 million for a new stadium.

In Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged," there is a shadowy "reverse Robinhood" character who steals from the poor and gives to the rich. Rand, of course, thought this was a good thing, but I think most of us have some serious difficulties with that. But that's basically what our world "leaders" are: reverse Robinhoods. The interlocking "free-trade" globalization and military-industrial complexes are their two grandest and most profitable (and destructive) schemes. But professional sports seems to be a profitable hobby for these crooks as well, with the same effects. Billionaires connive to get the poor to build stadiums where millionaires get paid for playing kids' games.

Fact-checking the debate

Time magazine did an excellent job of tracking down the lies and misleading statements made by both Bush and Kerry in last Thursday's debate. They do it with a refreshingly anti-war viewpoint. For example, here's one of their checks on Kerry:
The Claim: The U.S. is suffering 90 percent of the casualties in Iraq.

Reality Check:
The U.S. may be recording upward of 90 percent of coalition casualties, but the overwhelming majority of the people killed in Iraq over the past 18 months have been Iraqis.
And one on Bush:
The Claim:
President Bush says he tried diplomacy in Iraq, and went to war only when it failed.

Reality Check:
Numerous accounts from within the U.S. and allied governments suggest the Bush Administration had decided to invade Iraq even before it went to the UN in the fall of 2002, and had gone back to the international body only under pressure from moderates in its own ranks and from Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair. The termination of the UN inspection process had nothing to do with its progress; it was based primarily on the window of opportunity for an invasion presented by the seasonal calendar.

Reader check: Comments are back!

I recently discovered that I now have one gigabyte of web space available, so I have turned on post pages and comments for this blog!

Update: Reader Rick informs me that comments aren't working, something I just confirmed for myself. So the reader survey will have to wait. I may have to follow Michelle in leaving Blogger for tBlog, where the comments seem to work.

Let's put them to use and find out how many people are reading this blog. Please leave a simple comment with your first name and city (and state and country if it isn't obvious), and we'll see who's out there.

Shorter William Safire: "What Bob Said"

From William Safire's column in today's NY Times:
As the Democratic Whoopee Brigade hailed Senator Kerry's edge in debating technique, nobody noticed his foreign policy sea change. On both military tactics and grand strategy, the newest neoconservative announced doctrines more hawkish than President Bush.
Unfortunately, I think Safire is right to call Kerry a "neocon" and to say that his doctrines are "more hawkish than Bush." He's wrong to call this a sea change, however, since Kerry was calling for forcible regime change in Iraq back in the mid 1990's.

He's also wrong to say that nobody noticed. I was talking with an old friend of mine yesterday. He is usually a one-issue voter, being strongly anti-abortion, so his natural inclination is to support Bush. But he realizes that the wars are all nonsense and criminal and based on lies and so on. He didn't really know that much about Kerry's positions until the debate, but he was struck, as Safire was, by what Kerry said:
"What I want to do is change the dynamics on the ground," Kerry volunteered. "And you have to do that by beginning to not back off of Falluja and other places and send the wrong message to terrorists. ... You've got to show you're serious."
My friend also noticed this line from Kerry, which Safire didn't mention: "I believe in being strong and resolute and determined. And I will hunt down and kill the terrorists wherever they are."

So my friend, who might consider voting against his anti-abortion preference for once because of how insanely Bush pursues wars, was discouraged to see that Bush's "opponent" seemed to be even more hawkish. Kerry's hawkishness pleases William Safire, but Safire is a bloodthirsty old nut who regularly talks to Richard Nixon, who died in 1994.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Sharon still plans to withdraw from Gaza

After he expands the "buffer zone" and kills all the inhabitants, that is:
GAZA (Reuters) - Israeli leader Ariel Sharon vowed on Sunday to widen an offensive into Gaza which has killed at least 50 Palestinians until militants stop firing rockets that have fueled criticism of his plan to abandon the occupied strip.

Sharon needs to show he can stop rocket strikes like one that killed two Israeli toddlers last Wednesday to counter rightists who say that evacuating troops and Jewish settlers from Gaza will encourage more attacks.

In one of the biggest and bloodiest Israeli raids in four years of conflict, nearly 200 tanks and armored vehicles seized 9 square km (3 square miles) of the northern strip and pushed deep into teeming Jabalya refugee camp, a militant hotbed.

Sharon told Army Radio the army would expand the "buffer zone" in northern Gaza to spare Israeli towns from rocket attacks and ensure there was no withdrawal under fire next year.
-- NY Times.

In summary, no one in Gaza can be the least bit safe until everyone in Israel is 100% aafe. That is, never. I'm sure that our two presidential candidates agree.

From Steve Sack.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Kidnap Veterans for Truth

This one is legit, though:
ROME (Reuters) - An Italian aid worker held hostage last month in Iraq said guerrillas there were right to fight U.S.-led forces and their Iraqi "puppet government."

In comments that were bound to annoy Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government, Simona Torretta also called on Rome to withdraw the troops it sent to Iraq to support its U.S. ally.

"I said it before the kidnapping and I repeat it today," she told Corriere della Sera newspaper in an interview published Friday.

"You have to distinguish between terrorism and resistance. The guerrilla war is justified, but I am against the kidnapping of civilians."
Alternate headline: Stuff you won't hear in any of the debates. The candidates calling the resistance "terrorists" and the military call them "anti-Iraqi" forces. Orwell lives.

The post I might have made if I'd been here

Michelle does an excellent job of tying together today's stories, including this picture:

Schoolchildren make their way through stagnating sewage water to attend the opening day of the new school year, in the poor neighborhood of Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday Oct. 2, 2004. Weeks of fighting between supporters of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and U.S. forces has led to a breakdown of the already stretched infrastructure in this impoverished part of Baghdad.

Solar Tour!

I spent several hours today on the Solar Tour 2004. The sites I visited were the Leslie Science Center's Nature House, the Dorogi House, the UM Architecture building, featuring the Solar Car Team, the Michigan Solar House project, this house featuring a 48-volt solar system running a Sunfrost refrigerator, and this one featuring a solar hot-water system. Lots of nice people excited to share their experiences with conservation and renewable energy!

Solar Tour

I spent several hours today on the Solar Tour 2004. The sites I visited were the Leslie Science Center's Nature House, the Dorogi House, the UM Architecture building, featuring the Solar Car Team, the Michigan Solar House project, this house featuring a 48-volt solar system running a Sunfrost refrigerator, and this one featuring a solar hot-water system. Lots of nice people excited to share their experiences with conservation and renewable energy!

Friday, October 01, 2004

DeLay Admonished

You may remember this from last November. There was a marathon arm-twisting session in the House of Reprehensibles which gave us Bush's horrible Medicare bill, which in any normal presidential term would rank as the worst abomination of all, but in Bush's barely makes the top ten. One of the arms twisted was that of Nick Smith, the Republican congressman representing much of central lower Michigan west of Ann Arbor, including where my sister and nephews live. Smith later said that he was offered bribes in the form of promises of campaign contributions for his son, who was running to take his place in Congress. He also said that some Republicans promised him that his son would never make it to Congress if Smith voted against the bill. Smith did vote against the bill (and surprise! His son lost in the Republican primary in August).

Well, the House ethics committee has determined that it was Tom DeLay (R-Hell) who offered the bribe (which the committee called a "favor"), and admonished the slimeball. They also admonished Nick Smith for "speculation and exaggeration" and for "making public statements that risked impugning the reputation of the House." In other words, for making the ethics committee have to work. Impugning the reputation of the House is something he should get a medal for, IMHO. The committee also admonished Congresswoman Candice Miller (R-MI), whom Michigan voters may recall was elected as Michigan's Secretary of State several years ago. She defeated long-time SecState Richard Austin, in part because she said that it was improper for Austin to plaster his name in large type on the signs of every drivers' license office in the state, which it was. Miller fixed that! After Austin was defeated, his name came down quickly--and Miller's went up even quicker! I would hazard a guess that during both Austin's and Miller's tenures as SecState, far more people in Michigan would have been able to name the Secretary of State than could have named the governor. According to the NY Times:
Ms. Miller was also rebuked for promising not to support Mr. Smith's son because of the vote, an action that the panel called an "unprovoked threat of retaliation." The ethics panel said her action was significant since she is an influential figure in Michigan politics.

In a statement, Ms. Miller said she accepted the panel's "findings that I may have committed a 'discreet violation of the rules.' I also agree with the committee's finding that there was no evidence adduced of a pattern of misconduct."
What swine. Selling the nation down the toilet to enforce party loyalty.


The first time oil has closed a day of trading over $50 a barrel, although it hit its all-time high of $50.47 in intraday trading on Tuesday.

Kerry on with the mayhem

As usual, the WSWS has a great critique of last night's debate between the Skull & Bones warmongers:
Asked whether US soldiers were currently "dying in Iraq for a mistake," Kerry replied: "No, and they don't have to, providing we have the leadership that I'm offering. I believe that we have to win this. The president and I have always agreed on that."
So the war in Iraq is only a mistake if we don't "win," whatever that means. I'm sure that LBJ and Nixon would have agreed.
In one of his more chilling remarks, the Democratic candidate denounced the Bush administration for failing to prosecute the war with sufficient ruthlessness. "What I want to do is change the dynamics on the ground," he said. "And you have to do that by beginning to not back off from the Fallujahs and other places, and send the wrong message to the terrorists."
In other words, just like Bush, Kerry says that Iraqis who recognize the illegitimate puppet regime of Allawi as an illegitimate puppet regime are "terrorists." And the bloodshed is going to increase drastically after the election, no matter who wins.

Quote du Jour

From A Tiny Revolution:
Reading over the transcript I'm pleased to see George Bush stated "Saddam Hussein had no intention of disarming." Excellent! Yes, Saddam had no intention of disarming, just like he had no intention of getting divorced from Madonna.
I'll confess. I, too, have no intention of doing several things that I could not possibly do.


Checks and balances?

From the debate transcript:
Mr. Lehrer All right. Mr. President, this is the last question and two minutes. It's a new subject, new question and it has to do with President Putin and Russia. Did you misjudge him or are you - do you feel that what he is doing in the name of anti-terrorism by changing some democratic processes is O.K.?

Mr. Bush No, I don't think it's O.K. and said so publicly. I think that there needs to be checks and balances in a democracy. And made that very clear, that by consolidating power in a central government, he's sending a signal to the Western world and United States that perhaps he doesn't believe in checks and balances. And I've told him that.
Even more than most of what he says, this part baffled me. Through the Patriot Act, through his buddy Tom DeLay's dictatorial power over the House and relentless jerrymandering of districts and willingness to crush any Republicans who won't toe the strict party line, through Ashcroft's insistance on federal law trumping state law on medical marijuana and euthenasia, through conning Congress into abdicating its authority to declare war and giving it to Bush, through fast-track trade negotiation powers, through "No Child Left Behind," and on and on and on, Bush has engaged in all-out war on the checks and balances in our system. So what in the world is he talking about?

Then I got it. CAMPAIGN checks and BANK ACCOUNT balances! That makes sense. No need to worry, though, Mr. President. I'm sure Vladdy understands that those checks and balances are key elements of American-style "democracy."

Freedom on the March

Sort of like it was in Poland in September 1939. While Bush was telling lies about "freedom" and "liberty" in the debate last night, his Wehrmacht was flattening Samarra:
Residents cowered in their homes as tanks and warplanes pounded Samarra. The sound of shelling mixed with the crackle of automatic gunfire continued into the morning. At least three houses were flattened and dozens of cars charred, residents said.

"We are terrified by the violent approach used by the Americans to subdue the city," said Mahmoud Saleh, a 33-year-old civil servant. "My wife and children are scared to death and they have not being able to sleep since last night. I hope that the fighting ends as soon as possible."

At least 80 bodies and more than 100 wounded were brought to Samarra General Hospital, said Dr. Khalid Ahmed. The hospital was running out of bandages, oxygen and other supplies, he said.

Most painful part of the debate

Was when Bush was taunting Kerry for actually saying something that's obviously true. "Wrong war, wrong place, wrong time." "Allawi is a puppet." And Kerry didn't defend himself, because he accepts that the one thing you can't get away with in our political system is telling the truth. Bush almost never tries it, and Kerry hardly ever. But when he does, there's Bush there to mock him for it. "You can't say that about our allies!" (It worked the other way, of course, when Bush accidently told the truth about not being able to win the "war on terror." Kerry jumped right in and said "Yes we can.")

When you finally realize that both major political parties are working for the same thing, and that they almost never tell you the truth, several things happen. You get depressed. People get mad at you for not supporting Gore or Kerry or whoever the evil of two lessers is that year. You rant and rave about the BS, but don't have any real idea what to do about it.

On the other hand, things make a lot more sense. If all that people knew about the war in Iraq was what they heard from the two candidates tonight, no understanding would be possible. Even assuming one or the other candidate was telling only the truth and the other only lies wouldn't help, because neither one made sense. Only by realizing that reality is on a totally different plane from where these jokers are offers any chance at clarity and understanding.