Bob's Links and Rants

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

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Hail to the Viktors!

I'll confess that most of the past week I haven't paid much attention to the election controversy in the Ukraine. My first reaction was that the Russian-backed declared-victor Viktor Yanukovich was probably the legitimate winner--but that was based solely on the fact that Colin Powell was saying that he wasn't. Next, I was impressed by other bloggers who were impressed by the size and duration of the protests in Kiev. Then, I was a bit frightened by some expert talking on the ABC News on Sunday about how the dispute could lead to civil war. This was backed up by a multi-lingual Hungarian friend of mine, who said this was a real concern, and that Powell might be telling the truth on this one. Then I read Polizero's lengthy and informative post, which suggests that the "protests" in support of Viktor Yushchenko are more along the lines of a combination party and rock concert, well financed by western interests, and that there have been many large rallies in support of Yanukovich that don't get much coverage in the western media. Then, I read Joseph Kay's WSWS article on the subject, which brings me just about back to where I started--Colin Powell and the U.S. government have no standing or credibility in this dispute and should keep their oil-grubbing hands off of it!

So, now I'm a much-better-informed undecided! But one thing I really do want to know is: What happened to Yushchenko's face?

Apparently, things are currently going from bad to worse over there.

Orange Alert!

Tom Ridge is resigning! There is no falsehood to the rumors that he will soon land a cushy job at a duct-tape company.


November has tied and probably broken the record for most members of the U.S. military killed in the Iraq war:
Fueled by fierce fighting in Fallujah and insurgents' counterattacks elsewhere in Iraq, the U.S. military death toll for November equalled the highest for any month of the war, according to casualty reports available Tuesday.

At least 135 U.S. troops died in November. That is the same number as last April, when the insurgence flared in Fallujah and elsewhere in the so-called Sunni Triangle where U.S. forces and their Iraqi allies lost a large measure of control.
Cheney's "remarkable success" is not getting rave reviews from retired military brass:
The nineteen months since the war in Iraq began, some of the most outspoken critics of President Bush's plan of attack have come from a group that should have been the most supportive: retired senior military leaders. We spoke with a group of generals and admirals that included a former supreme Allied commander and a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and they all agreed on one thing: Bush screwed up.
Lt. Gen. William Odom, Director of the National Security Agency, 1985-88:
"It's a huge strategic disaster, and it will only get worse. The sooner we leave, the less the damage. In the months since the invasion, the U.S. forces have become involved in trying to repress a number of insurgency movements. This is the way we were fighting in Vietnam, and if we keep on fighting this way, this one is going to go on a long time too. The idea of creating a constitutional state in a short amount of time is a joke. It will take ten to fifteen years, and that is if we want to kill ten percent of the population."

Blogger Problems

Blogger is being very finicky today. I've been getting back in touch with the news and other blogs and so forth, but many of my pithiest comments have been thwarted by bloggerspace--maybe even this one!

The Emperor Will NOT Be Mocked

From the Globe and Mail:
Mr. Bush will be whisked into downtown Ottawa under heavy guard, kept well-insulated from the protesters expected to gather in the city. An enormous security detail has been laid on to ensure that his visit is safe and smooth.

The visit by Mr. Bush comes at a delicate time for the two countries. There are nagging trade irritants, including a border closed to Canadian beef and disputes over softwood, and Mr. Bush's foreign policies are opposed by many Canadians.

Reportedly worried about being heckled by backbenchers in the House of Commons, Mr. Bush decided not to address Parliament.
Why don't we have any backbenchers in our Congress? I'd love to see the Dems give Bush the respect he really deserves at the next state of the union address.

Shopping Insanity Cartoons!

Dollar Down, Oil Up

NEW YORK (CBS.MW) -- The dollar hit a record low vs. the euro after data showed that consumer confidence dropped unexpectedly in November. The dollar was down 0.3 percent at $1.3309 but hit $1.3335 in intraday trading. The buck was off 0.3 percent against the yen at 102.58, lost 0.6 percent vs. the Swiss franc to 1.1351 and slid 0.9 percent against the British pound to $1.9106.
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS.MW) -- Crude futures climbed above $50 a barrel in New York to trade at their highest level since Nov. 4. OPEC has indicated that it will "either lower production quotas or vow to roll back production to current quotas," said Phil Flynn, a senior analyst at Alaron Trading. "It appears the falling dollar has OPEC wanting the price of oil to go higher as compensation," he said. OPEC is set to meet on Dec. 10 in Cairo. January crude is up 59 cents at $50.35 after trading as high as $50.40 earlier.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Go, Canada!

TORONTO, Ontario (AP) -- Organizers expect up to 15,000 activists to march on the Canadian capital Ottawa on Tuesday to protest the policies of U.S. President George W. Bush during his two-day visit to the country.
You think maybe y'all could arrest him for war crimes or something while he's there? We'd really appreciate it.

Is Wal-Mart good for America?

Short answer: No. The longer, very interesting answer comes from PBS' Frontline. The complete video of the show is available online. I just watched it, and recommend it, even though the video stream got interrupted a bunch of times.

Wal-Mart is trying to build a new stupor store in Pittsfield Township, just east of Saline, about eight miles south of Ann Arbor. My nephew's sister-in-law and her husband are part of the battle against it; if I find out anything we can do to keep the Beast of Bentonville out of Saline, I'll let you know! (I assume you're already not shopping at Wal-Mart.)

Way Hersh!

From an American Reporter article on Seymour Hersh, via Michelle:
Hersh's message is simple and frightening: "(George W.) Bush is an ideologue, a Utopian," Hersh said. "He wants to clean out the Middle East and install democracy. He doesn't care how many body bags come back home. There's nothing more dangerous than an ideologue who is completely bonkers and no one is going to tell him."

President Bush is committed to perpetual war, Hersh said.
We cannot win in Iraq, Hersh said. "We have no intel. We can't find the insurgents. When they bomb something, we only know about it afterward. We can't figure them out. Someone said, 'We play chess, they play Go.' All we can do is lose. All we can do is bomb."

The United States cannot afford this endless war, Hersh said. The dollar is already falling against the Euro, and the Chinese and Japanese hold trillions of dollars of U.S. debt.

"Soon China and Russia will start buying oil in Euros," Hersh said. "They'll stop buying American in Europe because they hate us so much - Disney in Paris is already going down. Large American corporations doing business abroad are going down. We could see more anti-American violence abroad. The dollar will fall. Billionaires are now telling other billionaires to get out of the stock market and buy foreign currency and stocks."

The stage is set for 2032 Election

From a NY Times article on the use of patrol boats in Iraq.

Stan Goff debates a neocon

Army vet Stan Goff debated a neocon recently, and found it surprisingly easy. Goff has a fairly comprehensive explanation for the war in Iraq and the other neocon and neoliberal crimes currently happening. Compared to which, he says, the neocons got nuthin.' Here's an excerpt from his opening remarks at the debate:
I don't believe the war is the exclusive product of the delusional thinking of the islamophobic clique that surrounds our current presidential mediocrity, as many liberals suggest. I don't believe the war ever had anything at all to do with weapons of mass destruction. I don't believe the very people who call this a War on Terrorism believe it for one minute, and moreover I believe they know perfectly well that the term "war on terrorism" is oxymoronic inasmuch as one cannot prosecute a war against a tactic. I don't believe it is a war to steal anyone's oil, though it has everything to do with oil and more. The fact that half the people in the United States believed at some point that a shattered nation like Iraq constituted a threat to the United States does not compel me for a moment to refrain from pointing out that this is a proposition that was and is idiotic on its face and it is not at all unusual for half of a national population to believe something that is patently idiotic. I am not a conservative, and I am not a liberal, and I am not a politician, and I am not a pacifist, and I am not religious, so I am not in the least compelled or constrained to prop up the polemical foundations of any of the agendas that might be associated with these kinds of affiliations.

I believe that the war in Iraq is symptomatic of a much deeper global crisis, and that it foreshadows a period in which that crisis ­ a crisis of global capitalism ­ will manifest itself not only in war but in rapidly widening social destabilization, the further militarization of the world system, and simultaneous economic and environmental collapse.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

From Mousemusings...

From Boondocks.

Batteries--The Weak Link?

WIIIAI sent me a link to this fascinating column by Matthew Parris about the one thing which has kept electricity from dominating world energy--the lack of a decent battery. Excerpt:
As a medium for the transmission of energy and information, electricity is non-pareil.

One thing holds it back. One thing stands between electricity and world domination, keeping alive its only serious competitor: oil. There is but one reason why fossil fuels retain their grip as sources of heat and (via the internal combustion engine) motion. Our failure — Britain’s and the world’s — to invent an adequate electric battery is the sole cause of our dependence upon fossil fuels. Everything else — air pollution, global warming, rising sea-levels — flows from that.
Parris points out that gasoline has about 100 times the energy density of the typical car battery. So, even though electric motors are much more efficient than internal-combustion engines, they lose their advantage quickly for transportation because they have to lug much heavier "gas tanks" around with them.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Daily Peak Oil Rant

I received the DVD of The End of Suburbia today, and watched it this evening. It basically describes how cheap oil made suburbia possible, and how expensive oil will turn suburbs into slums and then ghost towns. The film features some of the usual peak oil suspects: Richard Heinberg, Michael Klare, Colin Campbell, Kenneth Deffeyes. It also features From the Wilderness' Michael Ruppert (whose book and DVD I haven't received yet). Also contributing is James Howard Kunstler, author of The Geography of Nowhere.

Maybe the most intriguing contributor, however, is Matthew Simmons. Simmons is an investment banker, a Republican, and was supposedly a member of Veep from the Deep Cheney's 2001 energy task force. Simmons knows the energy business, and though he's on the other side of the political spectrum from many of the contributors to the film (I get the feeling that Heinberg is pretty much a socialist, for example), he is in complete agreement with all of them as to the imminence of peak oil and the coming of a severe energy crisis within the next ten years. There's a Powerpoint presentation (pdf format) on his web site which outlines his opinions on the subject.

In any case, I recommend The End of Suburbia as an excellent introduction to two issues important to me: curbing sprawl and peak oil.

Buy Nothing Day!

I hope y'all are rejecting the crush of Christmas-crap-crazed consumers today! Today is Adbusters official Buy Nothing Day. I'm still recovering from the Thanksgiving argument with my Bush-supporting sister. She thinks I must be nuts if I can't find a candidate I like among the wide choices of the war-mongering, free-trading, no-universal-health-caring, corporatist Yalie Skull & Boneser Bush and the war-mongering, free-trading, no-universal-health-caring, corporatist Yalie Skull & Boneser Kerry. She's known me all my life, but she values the opinions of Rush and Sean over mine. And no facts will deter her. She thinks my mind has been kidnapped by the evil Ann Arbor brainwashers or something. Something to give thanks for?

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving!

I wasn't dreaming of a white Thanksgiving, but I got one! My peace yard sign has taken quite a beating these past two years, but it still stands tall. My two solar panels are soaking up the rays so I can watch the Daily Show without using any fossil fuels. And my beautiful cat Ragu explores the frozen landscape cautiously.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

International Standards

The lack of self-awareness on the the part of the Bushies--even the lame-duck Bushies, never ceases to amaze me:
"We cannot accept this result as legitimate because it does not meet international standards and because there has not been an investigation of the numerous and credible reports of fraud and abuse," Powell said in a statement read to reporters.
--NY Times

Of course, Colin was talking about the Ukraine, not the U.S.:
The global implications of the U.S. election are undeniable, but international monitors at a polling station in southern Florida said Tuesday that voting procedures being used in the extremely close contest fell short in many ways of the best global practices.

The observers said they had less access to polls than in Kazakhstan, that the electronic voting had fewer fail-safes than in Venezuela, that the ballots were not so simple as in the Republic of Georgia and that no other country had such a complex national election system.

"To be honest, monitoring elections in Serbia a few months ago was much simpler," said Konrad Olszewski, an election observer stationed in Miami by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
--International Herald Tribune

The Bush administration pretending to support democracy is SUCH a sick joke. They are the single biggest threat to democracy on the face of the earth right now.

CIA knew of coup plot against Chavez

From Newsday:
The U.S. government knew of an imminent plot to oust Venezuela's leftist president, Hugo Chávez, in the weeks prior to a 2002 military coup that briefly unseated him, newly released CIA documents show, despite White House claims to the contrary a week after the putsch.

Yet the United States, which depends on Venezuela for nearly one-sixth of its oil, never warned the Chávez government, Venezuelan officials said.

The Bush administration has denied it was involved in the coup or knew one was being planned. At a White House briefing on April 17, 2002, just days after the 47-hour coup, a senior administration official who did not want to be named said, "The United States did not know that there was going to be an attempt of this kind to overthrow - or to get Chávez out of power."

Yet based on the newly released CIA briefs, an analyst said yesterday that did not appear to be the case.
Imagine that--the Bushies lying.

What they said!

Probably like most people, I find that the opinions that I like the best are the ones that most accurately reflect my own. Here's an excerpt from today's WSWS on the stolen election of 2004:
To prove charges of a stolen election in 2004, however, requires more than combining references to 2000 with allegations of undetectable computer manipulation or vote-tampering. There must be a serious and independent investigation of the entire vote. The WSWS will report on whatever findings emerge from ongoing efforts in that direction. But to this point, we find the claims that the election has been stolen unpersuasive. At best, a case can be made that Bush actually lost Ohio—the vote tally there will not be even be finalized until December 6—leaving him an Electoral College loser but a winner of the popular vote, with a majority of over three million. Under those conditions, to declare that John Kerry should rightfully be installed in the White House would be a political travesty.

In our view, those who seek to center their political assessment of the 2004 elections on charges of fraud are clutching at straws. We have no reason to question the sincerity of their opposition to the Bush administration. But they are shying away from the bitter truth: a majority of those Americans who voted in the November 2 election cast ballots for George W. Bush. This included tens of millions of working people. The task of opponents of Bush’s policies of imperialist war and reaction is to conduct a serious political autopsy of this event, which represents, above all, a colossal political failure of the Democratic Party.
Bush won reelection, not because of a charismatic personality or mass support for his party and program, but because the so-called opposition party essentially defaulted. The Democratic Party campaign offered nothing that would rouse the masses of working people against the Bush administration. Kerry, married to a billionaire heiress, declared himself a capitalist and boasted of his opposition to wealth redistribution. His “jobs” program consisted of a few tax breaks to American corporations, and even this was to be subordinated to the preeminent Democratic Party demand: balancing the federal budget.

On the most critical issue in the election campaign, Kerry backed the continued US occupation of Iraq and criticized Bush more from the right—not sending enough troops, backing off from the initial assault on Fallujah last April—than from the left. Far from waging an intransigent struggle against a bankrupt and criminal administration, Kerry even banned most criticism of Bush at the Democratic National Convention which formally nominated him.
In the course of December 2003 and January 2004, the Democratic Party establishment, backed by the media, moved swiftly to derail the Dean campaign and shift the nomination to Kerry, viewed as the safest alternative among the candidates then trailing Dean in the polls. After Kerry’s victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, he became the frontrunner. From that point on, he dropped any flirtation with an antiwar posture—briefly adopted to combat Dean—and reverted to the position he had taken in the runup to the invasion, in which he backed the Bush administration’s drive to war while calling for more efforts to win international support. In other words, Kerry supported the crime, but sought additional accomplices to ensure success.

Those who focus exclusively on the events of November 2 lose sight of the far more important political fact: the presidential election was manipulated by the US ruling elite, not merely on Election Day, but throughout the whole period leading up to it.

Kerry was installed as the Democratic nominee for one principal purpose: to insure that the legitimacy of the Iraq war would not become an issue in the presidential election. This proved largely successful. Kerry tried his best to avoid any discussion of the war, only turning to the question in mid-September, when the Democratic campaign faced a collapse in the polls which would have utterly discredited both the party and the entire electoral process.

The Democratic and Republican parties are not merely collections of like-minded individuals or associations of politicians seeking public office. They are, in a real, practical and not merely rhetorical sense, institutions which serve as instruments of the American ruling class. This class, which comprises less than one percent of the American population, exercises an effective political monopoly.
For some of my previous rants along these lines, look here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.

China and Cuba sign trade deals

Dena sent me the AP story about the meeting yesterday between Chinese President Hu Jintao and Fidel Castro in Havana, where they agreed to a big Chinese investment deal in Cuba's nickel industry, and made other trade deals as well. Surprisingly, I could only find the AP story on the Miami Herald web site; the story was also covered by the BBC, AFP, and UPI. Hu also visited Argentina, Brazil and Chile on his swing through Latin America.

While the U.S. media apparently thinks this is a non-story, I'd guess that some of the Bushies are practically apoplectic over this. Like the previous seven administrations (and like a Kerry administration would have), they have been doing everything possible to undermine Castro and maintain U.S. economic hegemony over Latin America. Now, along comes the number one economic rival to the U.S.--the country that could send ours into a deep depression overnight, our chief opponent in the battle for control of the world's remaining mineral resources--and gives Castro a big lease on life while courting other Latin American countries. I would guess that a subtext for China is that further attempts by the US to overthrow Chavez in Venezuela and turn that country into our own private fuel pump will be met by complete strangulation of the US economy.

PS: I'm reminded of the great "Hu's on first?" joke from a couple of years ago.
President George W. Bush: Condi! Nice to see you. What's happening?

National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice: Sir, I have the report here
about the new leader of China.

Bush: Great. Lay it on me.

Rice: Hu is the new leader of China.

Bush: That's what I want to know.

Rice: That's what I'm telling you.

Bush: That's what I'm asking you. Who is the new leader of China ?

Rice: Yes.
It goes on!

Economic Armageddon

From the Boston Herald:
Stephen Roach, the chief economist at investment banking giant Morgan Stanley, has a public reputation for being bearish.

But you should hear what he's saying in private.

Roach met select groups of fund managers downtown last week, including a group at Fidelity.

His prediction: America has no better than a 10 percent chance of avoiding economic "armageddon."

Press were not allowed into the meetings. But the Herald has obtained a copy of Roach's presentation. A stunned source who was at one meeting said, "it struck me how extreme he was - much more, it seemed to me, than in public."

Roach sees a 30 percent chance of a slump soon and a 60 percent chance that "we'll muddle through for a while and delay the eventual armageddon."

The chance we'll get through OK: one in 10. Maybe.

In a nutshell, Roach's argument is that America's record trade deficit means the dollar will keep falling. To keep foreigners buying T-bills and prevent a resulting rise in inflation, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan will be forced to raise interest rates further and faster than he wants.

The result: U.S. consumers, who are in debt up to their eyeballs, will get pounded.

Less a case of "Armageddon," maybe, than of a "Perfect Storm."
(rest of article)

The dollar hit a new low against the euro overnight. Here's how many euros your buck has been worth for this decade so far:

The chart below shows that over the last six months, while the Dow Jones industrial average (red) has risen some 5%, the dollar has fallen about 8% against the euro. This means that the Dow has actually declined for European investors (and probably for Asian investors as well)--they would have been better off sticking their euros under their mattresses than investing them in the U.S. stock market. But a huge part of the rise of US financial markets since 1993 has come from foreign investment. It seems logical to assume that we're very close to a global run on the bank--the bank being all securities valued in dollars. If you could get 3/4 of a euro for your dollar today, but probably only 1/2 of a euro for it next month, wouldn't you want to make the deal now?

The U.S. economy may the largest house of cards in history, and the wind is picking up just as our "government" is busy removing cards from the foundation. I doubt if there's any way to stop the house from collapsing. We can, however, do our best to survive and see that a much better house gets built in its place.

Buy a human-blood-powered Excursion and we'll make a donation to the Sierra Club!

Okay, I haven't seen an offer quite that bad. But there are plenty of cases out there where progressive organizations are making deals with the corporations which make progressive organizations necessary. Yesterday, I posted a brief rant on this subject at Cyndy's Homeland Absurdity web site, hoping to get a discussion going. I did, sort of. Cyndy replied with a comment, to which I replied with two! That's it, so far. Please go visit and add your 0.0152 euros worth to the discussion!

(Cutting) Taxation without Representation

Readers of this blog who have Republican representatives in the House already know that they have been effectively disenfranchised from the American lawmaking process. Those who, like me, have Democratic representatives, realize that on highly partisan issues they also have lost their say. But WIIIAI points out that we learned this week that we have had our franchise stolen even on issues that don't follow party lines:
[T]his week Hastert killed the intelligence bill (whose worth I’m still agnostic on, by the way), refusing to allow a vote on it because although it would have passed with the support of D’s & R’s, it did not have a majority of Republicans. Commanding the support of a majority of Congress is no longer enough, for Hastert. The corollary of this is that Democratic lawmakers can just stay home, their opinions no longer count. This is a new reading of the constitution, a small but significant revolution.

Did somebody try to Wellstone Bush Senior?

My brother is very suspicious about the fatal crash of a private jet as it was landing in Houston to pick up Poppy and fly him to Ecuador.

I can't find, in a few minutes of googling, any good conspiracy theories out there--yet. I went to to see if they had anything--all I found out was that Nelson DeMille has a new novel based on TWA 800.

E-mail scams--Not just for Nigerians anymore!

From my inbox:
Dear Friend,
Naturally, this letter will come to you as a surprise since we have not met, permit me however to introduce myself to you, I am Mrs.Analiza Thomas-Baker,the wife of Late Mr.Thomas Baker(a British Citizen),who died in the Train Bomb blast in Madrid in March this year.I have just recovered from my injuries and presently in my family house in Madrid.We were living in Puerto-Banus,Marbella-Spain before his death.We both travelled to Madrid to see my parents and it was on our way back that he met his death.

All i just want to diclose to you is that before his untimely death,he had a deposit of €U6.3(Six Million,Three Hundred Thousand Euros)with the Marbella Security Company Ltd with me as the next of kin.I have all the deposit documents in our home in Marbella and i have handed them over to our lawyer.All i want you to do is to assist me in making claims of this fund by contacting our family lawyer and the legal department of Marbella Security on my behalf and acting as a foreign business partner to my family or to me.
Gotta admit, the fortune being in euros makes it more tempting right now!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Daily Peak Oil Rant

Today's topic is relocalization, and comes from the Post Carbon Institute:
Without unprecedented preparation and cooperation, however, oil and natural gas depletion will precipitate massive disruptions to essential systems such as food, energy, transportation, security and health care, and almost certainly, a major decrease in the earth's carrying capacity. If mainstream awareness of energy peak occurs during a crisis, we will find ourselves well along the amoral path of endless war for control of dwindling resources, black hydrogen fueled by coal and a reemerging nuclear industry, further restrictions on citizen and human rights, and increasing concentration of wealth through globalization and the money system. During a period of draconian governance in the midst of a permanent energy crisis, all of the gains garnered by environmental and social justice groups in the past 50 years are subject to roll back at best. At worst, recent history is full of examples of what happens when humans with powerful weapons get desperate – they reach for demagogues, Fascism and war.

Though no panacea exists for dealing with the peaking of energy supply, clearly Global Relocalization is a building block; other important parts of the foundation are peace, equitable distribution of a portion of Earth’s bounty, and social justice. Relocalization is the process by which communities localize their economies and essential systems, such as food and energy production, water, money, culture, governance, media, and ownership. This process will require that we rebuild our cities to severely reduce transport needs and support localization of essential systems - ecological city design provides as framework for this transformation. To effectively address energy scarcity and curtail biosphere destruction, relocalization must occur globally and with some degree of integration. Essentially human civilization needs to prepare itself to do less materially with much less energy and fewer natural resources, with the ultimate goal living within what is left of a reasonable carrying capacity, however reduced that may be. Any other approach can be considered a form of assisted suicide – with nature doing the assisting.
The whole article is here.

A company more evil than Halliburton or Enron

Monsanto. The worst of the worst. Their genetically-modified takeover of world agriculture is maybe the biggest, and certainly the most underreported, crime of the past decade. Mike sends me this link which describes how Monsanto is managing to wring profits out of poor South American farmers.
Behind many big promises of "technology transfer" and "feeding the world" lies a brutal truth: biotechnology corporations like Monsanto only care about profits. They are not offering genetically modified (GM) seeds to the South out of charity. They want to take over seed markets and squeeze farmers for as much as they can get - which, even in poor countries, can be a lot. The formula seems to be this: focus on the major cash crops (cotton, soybeans, maize, etc), find an entry point, contaminate the seed supply and then step in to take control. Argentina, the first country outside of North America to start planting GM crops, is a case in point. But the same pattern is being reproduced around the world, as with GM cotton in India and West Africa. The story of what has happened in Argentina should serve as a stark warning of what occurs when GM agriculture takes root.

Iran is not a nuclear threat! Or a nukular one, either!

Mike forwards me this letter to the editors from Jude Wanniski:
Memo To: Editors and reporters
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Please get off your behinds

Now that most of you have apologized for sitting on your duffs while the neo-cons planned and executed the totally unnecessary war against a toothless regime in Baghdad, I suggest you get off your duffs in regard to the neo-con plot to war against Iran. I've been posting memos here for months pointing out that Iran has not done anything to warrant the propaganda directed at it from the Perle Cabal, i.e., Richard Perle's network that is laced through both political parties, Congress and the White House. Iran is in full compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has a hundred times publicly pledged to permit the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect any gol-durned site inside its borders if someone has reason to believe it has a secret nuclear program underway. Iranian exile groups pop up from time to time with press conferences about some diabolical site they have discovered, but Iran ALWAYS allows the inspectors to go in, and they find nothing.
The rest of the letter is here.

Wal-Mart workers in China can have a union

From AP.
The unionization drive was the latest attempt by the union -- the sole body permitted to organize workers in China -- to penetrate the most dynamic sector of the economy, shore up its declining membership, and boost its lowly political status.

Branches of the Chinese union are usually toothless management-controlled bodies that work mostly to prevent conflict.

Wal-Mart, which operates 39 stores in China employing 20,000 people, didn't say what specifically prompted its announcement. But it did note recent media coverage about the company's relationship with the union and said the statement was intended to "clarify that relationship."

"Wal-Mart is currently in full compliance with China's Trade Union Law, which states that establishing a union is a voluntary action of the associates," the statement said.

Wal-Mart has no unionized stores, although workers at a Wal-Mart in Canada recently had their union accredited by the local labor board. Wal-Mart was expected to fight that ruling.

The retailer has more than 4,300 outlets in nine countries employing more than 1.3 million people.
So the "communists" have more rights than American workers! Still, the concept of 39 Wal-Marts in China terrifies me. Who the Cheney is making the crap they sell there? American sweatshop workers can only afford to shop at Wal-Mart because the crap is made by Chinese sweatshop workers. I'd have to guess that Wal-Mart is a "high-end" department store in China for the new capitalist class. They're probably buying the same crap that the working poor buy here.

Another New Low for the Dollar Against the Euro

Leave Latin America Alone!

Ever since Latin America threw off European colonialism, the U.S. has been trying to recolonize it. For much of the post-World War II era, stopping "communism" was the excuse for intervention. Now, it's "terrorism," something the U.S. has perpetrated in Latin America far more than Latin America (or al Qaeda for that matter) has ever perpetrated here.

From the WSWS:
Washington’s attempt to promote a global “war on terrorism” as the new rationale for its domination of Latin America ran into trouble last week at the meeting of the Defense Ministers of the Americas held in Quito, Ecuador.

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld failed to impose an accord that would have turned the Inter-American Defense Board into the hemisphere-wide coordinator of a US-led counterterrorism crusade.

Rumsfeld’s plan called for the creation of multi-national forces capable of intervening anywhere in the region. It envisaged the reinvigoration of many of the relations and policies that gave rise to brutal military dictatorships throughout most of Latin America from the 1960s until the 1980s.

From Steve Benson.

Who shot JFK? It could be you!

A new video game puts you on the sixth floor of the Texas Schoolbook Repository and lets you take shots at JFK, Jackie, or anyone in the limo. From Slate:
On the surface, the game certainly seems like a loathsome piece of opportunism. The designers, though, claim the game's intent is to educate. The stated goal of JFK Reloaded is to debunk assassination conspiracy theories by buttressing the Warren Commission's conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone and fired only three bullets. So, the game places you in the precise place where Oswald stood—the sixth-floor window of the Texas Schoolbook Depository—and challenges you to re-create his three shots. One shot missed the car entirely; another hit JFK in the neck; and a third hit the president's head, causing what the commission called "a massive and fatal wound." The closer you get to matching those three trajectories, the closer you get to a perfect score of 1,000. (The game designers are also offering a cash prize to the player who gets the highest score.) You can replay the scene as many times as you'd like.
Apparently, however, you can't move around and take a few shots from the grassy knoll. Nor will it give you, as Oswald, a chance to tell your story before you get wasted by Jack Ruby. I wonder if the makers of the game are working on a flight simulator which shows how you can crash a 757 into the Pentagon and make it completely disappear?

Monday, November 22, 2004

Daily Peak Oil Rant

Another web site dealing with peak oil and the aftermath: The Post Carbon Institute.

The Cameraman Speaks

Kevin Sites, the NBC cameraman who filmed the Marine shooting the wounded POW last week, has become an object of intense hatred for the chickenhawk warbloggers of the right. He tells his own story to the Marines.

Who knows where link chasing might lead?

For example, link chasing led me to write this story:
Imagine a college Republican who was too busy campaigning for Bush last month, and has been too busy drinking this month, to finish his term paper for that required humanities class. (Humanities for Republicans--makes your head hurt, doesn't it?) The paper is due tomorrow, so he gets on the web and goes to Wanting to rub the election results in on that liberal prof, he decides to choose an anti-abortion essay to steal. Of course, "discourages" this practice: "Turning in a paper from our web site as your own is plagerism and is illegal!" (Spelling error in the original.) Also, of course, Young Repug doesn't even know that there is an "Acceptable Use Policy," and he cares even less. So he copies this essay on forced abortions in China. Now, unlike Young Repug, I (Bob) haven't paid the $74.95 for a 180-day membership at, so I can't read the entire essay (or any of the other 101,000 term papers, essays and book reports at But the sample paragraph indicates that it has enough grammatical and punctuation errors in it to convince most profs that an inebriated young right-winger might have actually written it. (I would have guessed that these errors were entirely intentional if not for the fact that couldn't properly spell "plagiarism" in their Acceptable Use Policy.)

Okay, so far there's no real dilemma for Young Repug. Just as with his hero, George W. Bush, money gets him out of every mess he gets himself into, and it will get him out of this one. He prints the essay out and turns it in. The dilemma occurs the next week when the paper is returned. He gets a B-, and is mad at the professor's liberal bias for not giving him a good return on his investment in (The prof actually marked the paper down for poor punctuation and grammar, not content, but Young Repug will never believe that.) But then YR sees something at the bottom of the paper which makes his heart skip a beat--the prof has written "See me after class" at the bottom of the paper!

Fearful that his plagerism playjerizm copying of the paper has been caught, he frets through the remainder of the hour. But when he talks to the prof after class, he finds out that not only does she not suspect plagiarism, but she actually AGREES with what the essay says!

"You know, Palmer," she says to him, "I fully support a woman's right to choose. But forced abortion is clearly the exact opposite of that right! I mean, I saw the buttons you were wearing last month, so I suspect that you and I disagree on Roe v. Wade."

Palmer has no idea what she is talking about--"Rovywaid?"--but he does his best to put on what he thinks is his intelligent smile.

The prof continues, "Still, I think you are quite right that the Chinese government should find some other way to deal with the population problem there." YR is thinking to himself "I said what now?"

"Now I'd guess, Palmer," the prof continues, "that you weren't totally pleased with your grade on this essay. The lower grade was based entirely on your numerous spelling and punctuation errors--I thought that both your choice of topic and how you addressed it were first rate. I'd like to give you a chance to raise your grade. If you write me a decent two-page essay on some of the ways that pressure could be brought on the Chinese government to change this policy of forced abortions, and hand it in by next week, I'll change your grade on this paper to an A-. Be sure to run it through spell-check this time--you do have a computer don't you?"

Palmer nearly chokes on this, but then he smiles. Of course he could have a two-page essay ready by next to the rescue! But when he gets back to the frat house and searches, he finds nothing about how to put pressure on China. "Kerry!" he swears (the word is now a common expletive across the political spectrum). He tries a few other term-paper cheat sites--no luck. In desperation, he googles "china economic pressure abortion" and comes up with this web site as the first entry. The first two paragraphs read:
China today is a human rights nightmare: every leading democracy activist is in jail or exile; thousands of Chinese are arrested every month for such "crimes" as criticizing the government or distributing Bibles; vast numbers are unjustly imprisoned in forced labor camps. Torture, forced abortion and other abuses are rampant.

The United States could use economic pressure to curb these atrocities. But influential American corporations oppose any policy that might interfere with their ability to do business with China's rulers.
Now Palmer kind of agrees that criticizing the government should be a crime, but he's totally freaked about people being jailed for distributing bibles! And that forced abortion thing, too. And, since crushing those whiny liberal Kerryistas, he's been looking for somebody new to be mad at. And China sounds good! So, empowered by his google success, he continues to google, and finds out that Wal-Mart is by far the leading importer of Chinese manufactured goods in America. Just as he is finishing his "Boycott Wal-Mart to Stop Forced Abortions" essay, of which he wrote a good half himself, his frat brother knocks on the door and says "Going to Wal-Mart to get beer. Wanna come?"

Palmer replies, "Why don't we go to K-Mart instead?"

Hey, it's a start!

So, you might ask, what links did I chase that inspired me to write THAT story? Well, I went to Cyndy's HomelandAbsurdity site, which has a post called Why You Can't Jam the Culture. If you believe everything that post says, you'll be quickly discouraged from taking any consumer actions like I've been recommending lately. Anyway, that article inspired Cyndy to write this satiric post, which inspired this comment: "Point out to our more conservative co-citizens who oppose abortion that they should boycott goods made in China -- a country where abortions are required -- which naturally requires a boycott of Evilco..oops, I mean WalMart."

As you can see, the story practically wrote itself after that (and no, I didn't copy it from!).

By W's own definitions, Chavez is not a dictator

I got an e-mail from Mateo at the Venezuelan Information Office requesting that I send a letter to the editor of the Washington Post in response to Saturday's anti-Chavez editorial. (See my earlier post as well.) I haven't, yet, but what follows is part of what I told Mateo:

One thing we may be able to point out is what Bush said last week in a
press conference:
Q: What if the Iraqis come up with somebody who's not friendly to the United States, is not a democrat, but it's peaceful, is this something you can live with?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, first of all, if there's an election, the Iraqis will have come up with somebody who is duly-elected. In other words, democracy will have spoken. And that person is going to have to listen to the people, not to the whims of a dictator, not to their own desires -- personal desires. The great thing about democracy is you
actually go out and ask the people for a vote, as you might have noticed recently. And the people get to decide, and they get to decide the course of their future. And so it's a contradiction in terms to say a dictator gets elected. The person who gets elected is chosen by the people. And so I don't -- I'm not --

Q You can be elected and be a tyrant.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, you can be elected and then be a strong man, and then you get voted out, so long as you end up honoring democracy. But if you're true to democracy, you'll listen to the people, not to your own desires. If you're true to democracy, you'll do what the people want you to do. That's the difference between democracy and a tyrant.
Now, as usual, I don't fully agree with Bush--I think
democratically-elected dictators are very possible--Hitler being the prime example. I don't think Chavez is anything like Hitler--I think Bush is much worse than Chavez. From what I saw in Venezuela and have read, Chavez has done some things to solidify his position which were of questionable legality--manipulations of the legislature and supreme court and the like (so have most US presidents, to varying degrees). I
saw little evidence of any crackdowns on civil liberties, especially free speech. Most of the TV stations and newspapers attack Chavez relentlessly, and we witnessed huge opposition rallies in the streets.

I do think that all efforts by governments to use their power in order to extend or solidify it, as the Republicans did in redistricting Texas or in the recent rule change allowing DeLay to stay as majority leader, are wrong, and I think that this is the one valid complaint the opposition has with Chavez. But Bush's statement above basically invalidates any other complaints his administration may have with Chavez--he was elected, elected again, and triumphed in the recall referendum. By Bush's own terms, Chavez most definitely IS NOT a dictator. We should hold onto this particular passage by Bush to use the next time he or his administration accuses Chavez of being a dictator. (And the Bushies agreed with Jimmy Carter and the OAS that the recall result was legit.)

From Steve Breen.

From John Cole.

From Bruce Plante.

Rockin' the vote

From Brian Gable.

Presidential Yacht

Reuters: "The Senate voted 65-30 for the legislation late on Saturday that sets aside funds for a range of priorities including a presidential yacht..."

Rising Hegemon has a naming contest for the yacht. For some reason, I can't comment there, but here are my suggestions:
  • Bringemon
  • Excess of Evil
  • Your Kids' Money

Poncho Dubya

“Onlookers speculated that Mr Bush appeared particularly pleased with his because it is ideal for concealing his radio-controlled prompting device.” -- The London Times, via WIIIAI.

An Unarmy of Billions

Mike Gerber dreams about (Martin Luther King-style dreaming) a Compassion Industrial Complex: "Massive groups of people in the fullness of their vigor, sent off to foreign countries to do good deeds and help other people out."
Back at home, there'd be whole regions whose economies depended on the Compassion Industrial Complex, the influence and scope of which was growing all the time. 'I don't know what we'd do without the free-glasses-for-poor-people factory.' The CEOs of the do-goodingest companies would receive rock-star treatment in the business press, and their shareholders would be endlessly enriched. Innovation would be constant, and while sometimes expensive, always worth it. "We help the Unarmy help you."

There'd be families with generations of members, all serving proudly; soldiers coming home, decorated for acts of brave and conspicuous kindness overseas. 'I'm in the 101st Airborne Coat Delivery--'the Smilin' Kid,' that's our symbol. It's on all our copters. Don't believe the movies, it's nothing like that...Being in an unwar--you can't describe it. My sis drives an unarmored personnel carrier--it's fulla therapists and socialworkers."

There would be highly trained and exotically equipped strike forces, dropped in by paraglider perhaps, to provide marriage counseling or shovel walks for the elderly. 'How'd you do that so fast?' 'Well, ma'am, it's this shovel. It can achieve Mach 4.3. Took a billion dollars to develop, but I think you'll agree, it was worth it." Frogmen in rubber boats would tirelessly sweep the oceans free of choking trash, camoflauged so as not to alarm the fish.
Sort of like the Peace Corps on steroids, I guess, what the Peace Corps might have been if Kennedy's vision for it had been as large as his vision for the Apollo program, or if the expenditures on nuclear missiles and arming the Shah and trying to overthrow Castro and preparing to invade Vietnam hadn't been so much larger than those for the Peace Corps. The Spanish tutor that I hired this past summer, Shayna, is now with the Peace Corps in Togo (a small West-African nation). Not exactly the road to wealth and fame, I'm afraid. Here's an excerpt from her latest e-mail:
Thankfully training will be over in a few weeks... our swear in is December 9th at the Ambassador's house. We will all be glad because technical training (health information) and language training is wearing on everyone. The first girl from our stage left (ET) today... she had an eating disorder and apparently it was getting worse here. There are a few other people here who may or may not leave.. it's kind of like survivor, in a way. Who can take the insects, heat, lack of everything familiar, getting diarrhea and amoebas, getting harrassed by africans who taunt you because you are white, etc., the longest. And you certainly don't win any money... so far the US government has paid me a whopping $270 for my time here. But I do like it here.. I love the people (the ones who get to know you, not the ones who shout profanities) the food, and my village is great.
Dennis Kucinich's Department of Peace proposal is along these lines, although it could probably benefit from some of Gerber's hyperbole to really fire people's imaginations.

Thanks to Jonathan Schwartz at A Tiny Revolution for linking to that Gerber post, and to a fine Bob Harris post as well.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

For some reason, the words "arrogant prick" come to mind

AWol in Chile, that is. From CNN:
Upon arriving for an official dinner with world leaders gathered for the annual APEC summit on Saturday night, the president stopped after hearing commotion at the door of the Estacion Mapocho Cultural Center.

According to a videotape of the incident, Bush turned around and saw that one of his Secret Service agents was being forcefully restrained from entering by Chilean security guards.

The president dove into the crowd, where people were arguing and pushing one another, and pulled the agent through the door of center.

After the successful rescue, Bush turned around, cocked his head proudly at his maneuver and began to greet his hosts.
Then, today, the Secret Service (aka SS) insisted that all 230 guests invited to a dinner go through a metal detector. Showing more Andean spine than they did yesterday, the Chileans decided to call off the dinner rather than humiliate their guests. And imagine some foreign leader dragging an armed bodyguard past the SS at the White House, then smirking with pride. Hmmm. Maybe that's what Saddam did.

Malnutrition Nearly Double What It Was Before Invasion

From the Washington Post:
Acute malnutrition among young children in Iraq has nearly doubled since the United States led an invasion of the country 20 months ago, according to surveys by the United Nations, aid agencies and the interim Iraqi government.

After the rate of acute malnutrition among children younger than 5 steadily declined to 4 percent two years ago, it shot up to 7.7 percent this year, according to a study conducted by Iraq's Health Ministry in cooperation with Norway's Institute for Applied International Studies and the U.N. Development Program. The new figure translates to roughly 400,000 Iraqi children suffering from "wasting," a condition characterized by chronic diarrhea and dangerous deficiencies of protein.
This is what Cheney calls an "amazing success:" malnutrition nearly twice as bad as existed under Saddam and sanctions. (Via Under the Same Sun)

The credit squeeze is on

From the NY Times:
When Ed Schwebel was whittling down his mound of credit card debt at an interest rate of 9.2 percent, the MBNA Corporation had a happy and profitable customer. But this summer, when MBNA suddenly doubled the rate on his account, Mr. Schwebel joined the growing ranks of irate cardholders stunned by lenders' harsh tactics.

Mr. Schwebel, 58, a semiretired software engineer in Gilbert, Ariz., was not pleased that his minimum monthly payment jumped from $502 in June to $895 in July. But what really made him angry, he said, was the sense that he was being punished despite having held up his end of the bargain with MBNA.

"I paid the bills the minute the envelope hit the desk," said Mr. Schwebel, who had accumulated $69,000 in debt over five years before the rate increase. "All of a sudden in July, they swapped it to 18 percent. No warning. No reason. It was like I was blindsided."

Mr. Schwebel had stumbled into the new era of consumer credit, in which thousands of Americans are paying millions of dollars each month in fees that they did not expect and that strike them as unreasonable. Invoking clauses tucked into the fine print of their contract agreements, lenders are doubling or tripling interest rates with little warning or explanation.

This year, credit card companies are changing the terms of their accounts at a historically high rate, said Michael Heller, an industry consultant.
I'd guess that most of my readers are not suffering from acute cases of affluenza, running up huge amounts of credit card debt. But most of you probably know someone who is. If there is one step probably more important than any other that these people could take, both for their own sakes and for the sake of bringing down the evil corporations running (ruining) our lives, it would be to get out of debt ASAP.

I read recently in the book Limits to Growth: A 30 Year Update a quote that struck right to the heart of the matter. It went something like this: The billions of dollars in interest payments constantly being made are a pure gift from the poorer segments of society to the wealthiest. Interest always flows up the wealth ladder.

Iraqi Elections Set for January 30

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Iraq's Electoral Commission on Sunday set national elections for Jan. 30, and a spokesman said ballots would be cast nationwide, including in areas now wracked by violence.
Of course, we all know they'll actually hold "secret" elections on January 28, and declare Comical Allawi the winner. The situation in Iraq will change not at all from January 27.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Watch the Washington Post

Those bastards are trying to take over Venezuela again. Today's editorial, Watch Venezuela, could easily have been written by the looniest of the many loonies which make up a large part of the opposition to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (and it probably was). The Post berates the Bushies for not having paid enough attention to overthrowing Chavez in the past four years--probably because they were too busy overthrowing Saddam in the bloodiest and most incompetent way possible, to the relentless cheerleading of that same Washington Post.

Whatever problems there are with Chavez and his government, and there are many, the Bush administration has the least standing of anyone to complain, except for maybe the Post itself. They say that Chavez "survived" a recent recall referendum--he got 59% of the vote, compared to the meager 51% that Bush got against the totally hapless John Kerry. And listen to the Post's litany of complaints against Chavez, and see if they don't remind you of a smirky idiot from Texas who's always bragging about his man date:
In the past Mr. Chavez has been assailed by independent media who sympathize with his opposition; he has responded with a new media law that will allow his government to suspend the licenses of radio and television stations for content deemed "contrary to the security of the nation." A new penal code will outlaw most forms of public protest and designate some as terrorism. An expansion of the Supreme Court will allow the president to stack the only judicial body that has retained some independence. A campaign has been launched against civil society groups, beginning with the election monitoring group Sumate, whose organizers are threatened with charges of treason. Mr. Chavez is using Venezuela's oil revenue to fund antidemocratic or populist movements in nations such as Bolivia and to subsidize Mr. Castro's bankrupt regime.
"Independent media who sympathize with his opposition?" Almost all of the major media in Venezuela are OWNED by the opposition. Suspending licenses of radio and TV stations? Our government has been shutting down micro FM stations, and fining radio and TV stations for "indecency." And funding antidemocratic movements? That is pretty much a definition of US foreign policy for the past fifty years.

Venezuela and Cuba have their problems, to be sure. Two of the biggest are in Washington--the US government and the Washington Post.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Over 12 million hungry families in aWol's America

WASHINGTON (AP) -- More than 12 million families last year, about the same as in 2002, either didn't have enough food or worried about being able to feed everyone, the government reported Friday.

In about one-third of these 12.6 million families, or about 3.9 million, at least one member experienced hunger because he or she couldn't afford enough food at some time during the last year, said the annual Agriculture Department report.

The other two-thirds of families avoided hunger by reducing the variety of foods they ate, participating in federal food assistance programs or getting supplies from community food banks and emergency kitchens, it said.
I wonder if an extra $20 a day per family would have made a difference. I think so, don't you? Because if you take $20 a day, multiply it by 12 million families, and multiply that by 611 days, you get $146,640,000,000, which is the approximate (monetary) cost to date for the 611 days of the Iraq war.

But our "leaders" thought it was more important to invade a country on bogus pretexts and kill hundreds of thousands of people (i.e. "liberate" them). And our "values" voters thought that was just fine.

Eliminate hunger in America--or eliminate Fallujah? Some values. Totally CHUBAR (Cheney'd up beyond all recognition).

Venezuelan Prosecutor Assassinated

From AP:
President Hugo Chavez's spokesman on Friday accused "terrorists" training in Florida of being behind the assassination of a top prosecutor who intended to try backers of Venezuela's 2002 coup.

Danilo Anderson was killed by two explosions that tore through his SUV as he was driving in the capital just before midnight Thursday. The killing shook this oil-rich South American nation and raised the specter of further violence.
Obviously, I'm in no position to evaluate who might have killed Anderson. But it is certainly reasonable to suspect that Jeb's thugs in Miami might be behind it. It probably isn't so reasonable to jump to the conclusion that they are behind it before any serious investigation. Maybe Chavez and Bush do have something in common. (Recall that the attack on Afghanistan started almost three years BEFORE the conclusion, and well over a year before the start, of an investigation into the facts of 9/11. Thousands of Afghans died in that ugly little war, even though no Afghans were directly involved in 9/11.)

Daily Peak Oil Rant

Newtopia magazine interviews Michael Ruppert of From the Wilderness. Excerpt:
Newtopia: How long could the US remain at current usage levels if we forcibly seized all of the known oil reserves in the world?

MR: Great question but the answer is uncertain. The question assumes that somehow the US will be able to “take” all the energy it needs, whenever it needs it. The truth is that the global energy supply is a very complex system which as has been recently demonstrated – quite clearly – has no elasticity whatsoever. Not every event or circumstance is answerable with military force. For example: a large Russian tanker just stalled yesterday in the narrowest part of the Suez Canal when its steering gears allegedly failed. Some 130 ships were backed up behind it. That’s a problem that can’t be bombed into submission.

There is massive civil unrest exploding through maybe ten countries in Africa. Strikes are pending in Nigeria and Norway. Sometimes refineries go idle or are damaged by weather as recently happened in the Gulf of Mexico with four hurricanes in a row.

There are other problems such as with refining capacity. Saudi Arabia and other countries have recently boosted production. But they can do so only with heavy-sour oil which cannot be turned into gasoline by most refineries. We do not need asphalt, we need gasoline. No new refineries are being built because (at a cost of around $150 million, with a 2-3 year lag time) the oil companies know that there won’t be enough future oil production to repay for the capital cost of building the new refineries. That’s why no – zero – significant new refinery construction is taking place anywhere that affects the global supply chain.

A better question is: How long will the US have before supply disruptions and production shortfalls hit home? The answer in my opinion is: less than a year.
FTW has lots of stuff on oil and energy.

Markets Sober Up

Oil heading back up, dollar continuing down, Greenspan warns about size of deficit, Bush signs $800 billion debt increase into law.
Democrats said the debt limit increase, the third in as many years, was necessitated by Bush's "irresponsible" fiscal priorities, including what House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California described as tax cuts for the wealthy and corporate handouts.

Republicans say the 2001 recession and the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks are responsible for the fiscal shortfall.
Well, their both right, but isn't it a croque du merde that Pelosi won't blame Bush for the illegal wars' contribution to the deficit, and the Republicans seem to see three of the biggest failures of aWol's first four miserable years as legitimate excuses?

And with Greenspan saying that our deficit is too big just as Bush approves making it bigger, I think this analyst has the proper interpretation of what's going on:
The Fed chairman, "left little imagination to currency traders other than to sell the US currency," said Ashraf Laidi, chief currency analyst at MG Financial Group. He said Greenspan's comments warnings about future declines in the dollar unless the federal budget deficit is reduced were particularly telling to the markets.

"This last comment is crucial, especially when the U.S. Congress last night rejected restrictions on tax cuts and spending, and raised the federal debt limit by $800 billion, to $8.18 trillion," Laidi said.
The stock market went on an appropriately drunken rampage after aWol's "victory," with the Dow rising some 500 points, but even those bozos are sobering up--the Dow is down over 100 points today. It may be that moment on Wall Street where they go from "Woohoo! Bush got re-selected!! More tax cuts! Less regulation! More wars!" to "OH MY GOD; FOUR MORE YEARS of spoiled-child leadership? We're doomed."

More hearts and minds

Raiding mosques and hospitals--brilliant PR moves. From AP:
Iraqi forces, backed by U.S. soldiers, stormed one of the major Sunni Muslim mosques in Baghdad after Friday prayers, opening fire and killing at least three people, witnesses said. Another raid overnight at a hospital allegedly used by insurgents in Mosul led to three arrests, the military said.

About 40 people were arrested at the Abu Hanifa mosque in the capital's northwestern Azamiyah neighborhood, according to the witnesses, who were members of the congregation. Another five people were wounded.
The article also says:
On Thursday, the Iraqi government warned that Islamic clerics who incite violence will be considered as "participating in terrorism."
I almost wish we had that rule here:
  1. "God is pro-war." -- Jerry Falwell
  2. "The government has a 'moral obligation' to stop evil and tyranny. To my knowledge, the U.S. is the first country in history that had the world’s most dominant military power, and yet did not use that hegemony to conquer, enslave, and plunder weaker nations." -- James Dobson, "Focus on the Family" (What planet does he come from, BTW?)
  3. "[Rev. Billy] Graham's finest moment may have been when he appeared at President Bush's side, Bible in hand, as we commenced our war against Iraq in 1991. The great revivalist's presence symbolized that the Gulf crusade was, if not Christian, at least biblical." (from Time)

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Tiger Update

According to the Detroit Free Press, Detroit Tigers' pitcher Ugueth Urbina's mother is alive and her Venezuelan kidnappers are asking $6 million for her release. The Tigers did their part, I guess, by picking up Urbina's $4 million option for 2005 a couple of weeks ago. More recently, they hedged their bets, signing veteran California Angels pitcher Troy Percival to a two-year, $12 million contract. Since Percival and Urbina are both closers, and most teams have only one of those, it seems likely that Urbina will be traded. I hope his mother is released safely, and soon. She was kidnapped in Venezuela on September 2, and Urbina has reportedly been in Caracas ever since trying to negotiate her release.

To bring some perspective, Percival's $12 million could have been used to pay for some 240 college educations. Or they could have paid for less than two hours "worth" of war in Iraq. Thank God the values of this nation aren't all screwed up.

United States of Europe

Salon has an interesting article (ad viewing required) on the rise of Europe as an economic superpower rivaling "Old America," based on two recent books on the topic (which I just requested from the library). Reading the article, I get the feeling that America is likely to be saved, very much against its will, more by the likes of Jacques Chirac and Hugo Chavez than by John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi types. Here are some excerpts from the article:
After adding 10 new Eastern and Central European nations last May, the European Union now has a much larger population than the United States, and a slightly bigger economy. As Jeremy Rifkin argues in his dense and contentious new research-driven tome "The European Dream," the United States remains ahead in per-capita GDP, but the difference is not as significant as it looks.

Much of American "productivity," Rifkin suggests, is accounted for by economic activity that might be better described as wasteful: military spending; the endlessly expanding police and prison bureaucracies; the spiraling cost of healthcare; suburban sprawl; the fast-food industry and its inevitable corollary, the weight-loss craze. Meaningful comparisons of living standards, he says, consistently favor the Europeans. In France, for instance, the work week is 35 hours and most employees take 10 to 12 weeks off every year, factors that clearly depress GDP. Yet it takes a John Locke heart of stone to say that France is worse off as a nation for all that time people spend in the countryside downing du vin rouge et du Camembert with friends and family.
Whatever your intellectual and emotional responses may be to this burgeoning transatlantic conflict, it's difficult for any American to read Rifkin's book and not feel ashamed. The U.S. has fallen significantly behind the EU's Western European nations in infant mortality and life expectancy, despite spending more on healthcare per capita than any of them. (While 40 million Americans are uninsured, no one in Europe -- I repeat, not a single person -- lacks some form of healthcare coverage.)

European children are consistently better educated; the United States would rank ninth in the EU in reading, ninth in scientific literacy, and 13th in math. Twenty-two percent of American children grow up in poverty, which means that our country ranks 22nd out of the 23 industrialized nations, ahead of only Mexico and behind all 15 of the pre-2004 EU countries. What's more horrifying: the statistic itself or the fact that no American politician to the right of Dennis Kucinich would ever address it?
Perhaps more surprisingly, European business has not been strangled by the EU welfare state; in fact, quite the opposite is true. Europe has surpassed the United States in several high-tech and financial sectors, including wireless technology, grid computing and the insurance industry. The EU has a higher proportion of small businesses than the U.S., and their success rate is higher. American capitalists have begun to pay attention to all this. In Reid's book, Ford Motor Co. chairman Bill Ford explains that the company's Volvo subsidiary is more profitable than its U.S. manufacturing operation, even though wages and benefits are significantly higher in Sweden. Government-subsidized healthcare, child care, pensions and other social supports, Ford says, more than make up for the difference.
Where do we sign up?

The Three Stooges of Life

There are three kinds of people -- I call them Larrys, Curlys, and Moes. The Larrys don't even know that there are three types; if they're told, it's an abstraction, because they cannot imagine anything beyond Larry-ness. The Curlys know about it, and recognize the pecking order, but find ways of living with it cheerfully...for they are the imaginative, creative ones. The Moes not only know about it, but exploit and perpetuate it.
Read the rest! Nyuk nyuk nyuk.


The second nugget I've mined from Cyndy's Homelandabsurdity web site. Learn about the 2004 Great Holiday Boycott and participate! All you've got to lose is some debt and a horrible corporate-sponsored government!

It's in the game

Link chasing...Cyndy has created the Orifice of Homelandabsurdity web site, focusing on the anti-consumerist stuff I'm always ranting about. I should, and plan to, join the site and start contributing to it. But the first thing I did was chase a link there to the WORK LESS Institute of Technology, and a particular post there, which had a comment leading me to this story, which led me to a blog entry. For those readers who didn't chase every link in the previous sentence already (presumably all of you), here's what the blog entry is about. A woman writes that her significant other works for Electronic Arts, the "EA Sports: It's in the game" people. EA is one of the few dominant video-game makers. Basically, since her spouse started working for EA, his working hours have been increased repeatedly without any additional compensation. How much does he work now?
Now, it seems, is the "real" crunch, the one that the producers of this title so wisely prepared their team for by running them into the ground ahead of time. The current mandatory hours are 9am to 10pm -- seven days a week -- with the occasional Saturday evening off for good behavior (at 6:30pm). This averages out to an eighty-five hour work week. Complaints that these once more extended hours combined with the team's existing fatigue would result in a greater number of mistakes made and an even greater amount of wasted energy were ignored.
And the kicker: for the honor of this treatment EA salaried employees receive a) no overtime; b) no compensation time! ('comp' time is the equalization of time off for overtime -- any hours spent during a crunch accrue into days off after the product has shipped); c) no additional sick or vacation leave. The time just goes away. Additionally, EA recently announced that, although in the past they have offered essentially a type of comp time in the form of a few weeks off at the end of a project, they no longer wish to do this, and employees shouldn't expect it.
Because, I guess, "Madden 2005" can't wait until 2006, and you can't expect today's easily-bored kids to keep playing "Madden 2004" forever (and where's the money in that?).

My brother out in the silicon valley recently left a job where he frequently worked hours like that. I don't think he was explicitly told he had to (although he did seem to have to go to a lot of meetings Friday at 9 pm or Sunday morning and such), but he felt compelled to work long hours because everyone else at the company did, and people were being laid off into a depressed job market (I guess they could go work for EA). I know there are some people so wrapped up in their work that they have no problem with outrageous hours. But in a country as absurdly wealthy as ours, there's absolutely no reason for anybody to have to work more than probably about 20 hours a week--except that we've got a corrupt and wasteful economic system that emphasizes all of the wrong values.

This is what America re-elected

From the Fallujah in Pictures web site, which I found via the WSWS. The Fallujah in Pictures web site has dozens of gruesome photos you probably haven't seen; the one above isn't the worst by a long shot. And mass graves? That's what we're there for:

The WSWS explains further:
The assault on Fallujah is Nazi-style collective punishment, not liberation. The city has been reduced to rubble because its political, religious and tribal leaders, motivated by Iraqi nationalism and opposition to the presence of foreign troops in their country, organised a guerilla resistance to the US invasion. In April, the city withstood an assault by US marines and became a focus of broader resistance, particularly in the Sunni Muslim regions of central and northern Iraq. In June, Fallujah’s leaders refused to accept the legitimacy of the US-installed puppet interim government headed by prime minister Iyad Allawi.

The aim of the US assault is to make Fallujah an example to the rest of Iraq of what will happen to those who oppose the transformation of their country into a US client state. It is the spearhead of an orgy of killing intended to crush and drive underground every voice of opposition and ensure that elections next year result in a venal, pro-US regime. The American military is planning similar attacks on as many as 21 other cities and towns in Iraq.

Comments by American soldiers testify to the fact they view the entire population of Fallujah as their enemy and their mission as punishing the city. An officer overseeing the collection of Iraqi bodies, Captain P.J. Batty, told Associated Press (AP) following the discovery of two Iraqi men and two women buried in a shallow grave outside a house: “This exemplifies the horrors of war. We don’t wish this upon anyone, but everyone needs to understand there are consequences for not following the Iraqi government.”
An unnamed US special forces officer now working as a security consultant in Baghdad, summed up his assessment in the November 17 Washington Post: “We are without allies among the Iraqi populace, including those who have benefited from the ouster of Saddam. Across Baghdad, Latifiyah, Mahmudiyah, Salman Park, Baqubah, Balad, Taji, Bajii, Ramadi, and just about everywhere else you can name, the people absolutely hate us... The Iraqi people have not bought into what the Americans are selling, and no amount of military activity is going to change this fact.”

The responsibility of opponents of militarism the world-over is to defend the Iraqi masses and demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all occupation forces.

You got poorer overnight

TOKYO (AP) -- The U.S. dollar tumbled to its lowest rate in years against key Asian currencies Thursday after a top U.S. official indicated the government wouldn't intervene to halt the American currency's recent slide worldwide.

The dollar fell to a four-and-a-half-year low against the Japanese yen, and a seven-year low against the South Korean won. The trend continued as European markets opened, and the dollar fell to a new record low against the euro.

The euro surged to US$1.3074, breaking the record set on Wednesday, as concerns about high oil prices and the U.S. trade and budget deficits continued to push the dollar lower.

Analysts attributed Thursday's plunge to comments by U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow in London on Wednesday, that "no one has ever devalued their way to prosperity" but the "only way to get prosperity is to follow the marketplace."

Snow said the United States favors a strong dollar, but his comments were still interpreted as ruling out official intervention in currency markets and renewed the markets' view that U.S. President George W. Bush's administration is happy to watch the dollar fall.

Some Asian officials have been worried the United States will start relying on a weak dollar to fight the ballooning American trade and budget deficits.
The thing, as best as I can understand it, is that allowing the dollar to fall is more likely to be an accelerating, snowballing, positive-feedback (in the negative sense) trend, not a self-correcting one. Foreign governments, banks, and private investors hold trillions of dollars worth of T-bills, stocks, and other dollar-denominated securities which lose their value right along with the dollar. If the US admits it wants the dollar to fall, all of these folks will try to get rid of this stuff as fast as possible--which only means the dollar will fall further. OPEC and other oil exporters will once again talk of switching the oil economy to euros, and the dollar will fall even further. Our import-driven economy will implode (even agriculture, our one major export, is heavily dependent on oil imports).

The good news is that this coming depression will occur on Bush's watch. The other good news is that our current economic system is morally and actually bankrupt and unsustainable, and the sooner it collapses the better off the earth will be in the long run. The bad news is that for those of us who weren't around for the Great Depression, we're about to get our chance.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


A brief passage from Affluenza (p. 36):
Writes columnist Ellen Goodman, "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to the job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car and the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it."

Erich Fromm reminds us about the potential risk of settling for normal: "That millions share the same forms of mental pathology does not make those people sane."
Don't forget! A week from Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is Buy Nothing Day! Celebrate the start of a sane holiday season by NOT going to Wal-Mart or Sears-Kmart or the mall or any other American house of worshop. Think about what you can DO for your family and friends, rather than what you can BUY for them. Chances are they're already buying way more crap than they need--your gifts will only further burden them. Remember, any interest payments you make on your credit cards will likely go to elect even more Repuglicans or fund even more wars. Celebrate the holidays by spending time with, not money on, your family and friends. Get off to a great start by celebrating Buy Nothing Day! (Lots of ideas as to how on the web site)

Toledo Shoppers Excited About Kmart-Sears Merger

That headline from WTOL, TV 11 in Toledo, Ohio, says way too much about the state of America—its humanoid shoppers, its complete unwillingness to enforce anti-trust laws, and the pitiful state of our “news” organizations.

To begin with, when the reporter says “Toledo shoppers,” he means TWO Toledo shoppers:
Shoppers are excited about the merger. "Stuff that Sears doesn't have Kmart offers, and stuff that Kmart doens't have Sears offers. I think it's a good idea," said one shopper Scott Platzke.

The deal means shoppers will be able to get tools and other hard goods at Kmart and more clothing at Sears. "I guess that would be good. I mean, I like Sears and they're really reasonable with their prices and Kmart, I'm here most of the, probably five days out of the week, so I think this is probably a pretty good idea," said another shopper Dionne Meredith.
First off—Dionne, why do you need to go to Kmart five days a week? How much crap can you possibly need? Can’t you think of any better way to waste your life? Second—don’t you morons realize that this means there’s a good chance that your favorite Kmart or Sears store will be closing soon? Mergers like this aren’t done for your benefit—they’re done so that large numbers of stores can be closed and workers laid off so that even more of the money can go towards golden parachutes for the scum of the earth who arranged the merger in the first place. Third—the reporter provides zero evidence to support his claim that Toledo shoppers are excited outside of the brain-dead babbling of Scott and Dionne. He makes no mention of having asked hundreds or even several shoppers about the merger. He doesn’t mention the likely impact in terms of reduced competition, store closures, and layoffs—only the thrilling idea that you’ll now be able to buy Kmart crap at Sears and vice-versa.

Well, as I’ve said before: Auntie Trust is dead, and Uncle Sam has gone nuts.

I have started re-reading Affluenza, the book which got me started on my anti-consumerist kick in the first place. It's a very easy and convincing read, and I think if we could somehow get every American to read the book (or have it read to them), we could bring down this corrupt and destructive world economy and replace it with one that would truly be kinder and gentler. I've heard (and asked) the question "Why did so many Americans act against their own economic interests by voting for Bush?" many times in the past two weeks. "Affluenza" points out that Americans act against their own economic interests almost every time they go shopping. They are taking their power (money) and willingly giving it to corporations (stores, banks, manufacturers) in exchange for stuff they probably don't need. The corporations use some of the money to create advertising used to convince the shoppers to buy even more crap.

Daily Peak Oil Rant

Mike sends me this link to the Oil Depletion Analysis Centre, which features links to recent articles on, you guessed it, oil depletion!

Quote du Jour

Comes from Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution:
We used to be allies with Saddam, now we're allies with Allawi. But our enemy has remained the same: normal Iraqis. They have a terrible flaw, which is they would like to run their own country.



Porter Goss, the man who by his own admission is not qualified to work at the CIA but now heads it, appears intent on destroying it. The NY Times today reports on a CIA memo in which Goss told CIA employees that their job is to "support the administration and its policies in our work." Now this sounds scary--you might think that the CIA's job had something to do with protecting the country. But it doesn't, and never has. Several top officials at the CIA have resigned recently, and more are likely to follow. Goss may very well be destroying the CIA. And, as Chalmers Johnson said recently, the CIA needs to be destroyed for the good of the country and especially the world.

So go ahead. Goss away. Destroy the CIA. In the end, everybody will be better off.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Local Stuff!!!

I just got back from the local Sierra Club meeting, where all sorts of cool things were going on. Before the meeting started I met up with an old high-school classmate of mine, Sonia Schmerl, who is one of the organizers of the Friends of the Ann Arbor Greenway, the project I mentioned in my previous post. Sonia said they'd love to come out and talk to our neighborhood group about the Greenway, and since we're just getting started HAVING a neighborhood group, that sounded really cool.

I also got a brochure from the Ann Arbor Community Car Coop, a group trying to bring car-sharing to Ann Arbor. As an anti-consumerist scheme, car-sharing is a great idea for people who only need cars occasionally for shopping and such. Rather than each person having his own car, they just share a few cars between a group. I'm not sure if I want to get involved (I confess I've already grown attached to my biodiesel VW, even though I only drive it about three times a week), but maybe I'll contact them to find out more.

The main speaker at the Sierra Club meeting was Norm Cox of The Greenway Collaborative (not to be confused with Sonia's group), who talked about the various exciting things happening now and in the next two years or so which will make Ann Arbor a MUCH friendlier town for bicyclists and pedestrians. Bike lanes have already sprouted on many roads that never had them before in just the last year, and apparently this trend is about to really take off. Some roads with four very-narrow bike-killer traffic lanes will be converted to three car lanes plus bike lanes, and more and better crosswalks with pedestrian islands will be placed on some of the busiest streets. While Ann Arbor has a pretty progressive reputation, its treatment of cyclists and pedestrians has generally been abysmal. That's about to change.

Finally, after the meeting, I talked with the local club president Doug Cowherd about instant runoff voting and getting the Sierra Club to endorse it. He was quite encouraging. Hopefully we'll get the endorsement and some SC members to help us gather petitions. I also talked briefly with Suzanne, webmaster of the local SC web site, who said she reads this blog. Hi, Suzanne!

Ann Arbor Greenway

Doug Cowherd of the local Sierra Club group has written up a great proposal for a three-mile-long linear park, or greenway, running through Ann Arbor. This would be a very exciting development for both enhancing our downtown and connecting the various parts of the city. I encourage all Ann Arborites to take action in support of the Greenway ASAP!

We are in grave danger

From Bob Harris, referring to the promotion of the neonuts and the purging of the voices of reason:
Think of 20-year-old Bush after a bender getting behind the wheel, his cronies egging him on, and we're all in the backseat, pinned in between more of his friends, unable to get to the door as he accelerates down the freeway.

Daily Peak Oil Rant

Actually, I'm going to just point you to a blog I just discovered: Oil War.

Get a room!

Yecch! Well, maybe they'd stop screwing the world if they'd just go ahead and screw each other.

First Light

Another Orwellian acronym, this time for an airborne anti-missile laser system.

From Reuters:
A Boeing Co.-led team has successfully fired for the first time a powerful laser meant to fly aboard a modified 747 as part of a U.S. ballistic missile defense shield, officials said on Friday.
Of course they did. They wouldn't have any incentive to lie, now would they?
Demonstrated progress, particularly in achieving "First Light," would be critical to continuation of the project, negotiators from the House of Representatives and Senate armed services committees said in a report last month accompanying the 2005 Defense Authorization Act.

Congress authorized President Bush's request for $474.3 million for the program in fiscal 2005, which began October 1, as part of the $10 billion budgeted for missile defense development and deployment.
And the likelihood that they're lying in order to keep their jobs is the GOOD scenario. If the thing actually works?
Pentagon officials envision several such aircraft flying by turns near North Korea or another potential foe's territory. The goal is to detect, track and destroy a missile when that would be easiest, before it releases a warhead that could be tipped with chemical, nuclear or germ weapons.
Which means it crashes in Japan. And that the North Koreans will just develop enough missiles to overwhelm the system. Or that they'll improve their surface-to-air missile capabilities so they can blow the 747's away before lauch. Mostly, it just means another hugely expensive arms race. And it's all "justified" because the US continues to demonstrate to the world what happens when you DON'T have nuclear capability--you get Fallujahed.

Dumbest Nation on Earth

Michelle has an interesting and scary post on the assault on academic freedom going on in this country, and how it relates to the general dumbing-down of the country, which enables the corporate fascists to proceed with their pillaging of the world not only without hindrance, but with actual encouragement and support from the ignorant masses. While Michelle's whole post is good, I especially appreciated the link to a commentary written by Luciana Bohne shortly before the start of the Iraq war. Here are some excerpts:
"I don't read," says a junior without the slightest self-consciousness. She has not the smallest hint that professing a habitual preference for not reading at a university is like bragging in ordinary life that one chooses not to breathe. She is in my "World Literature" class. She has to read novels by African, Latin American, and Asian authors. She is not there by choice: it's just a "distribution" requirement for graduation, and it's easier than philosophy--she thinks.

The novel she has trouble reading is Isabel Allende's "Of Love and Shadows," set in the post-coup terror of Pinochet's junta's Nazi-style regime in Chile, 1973-1989. No one in the class, including the English majors, can write a focussed essay of analysis, so I have to teach that. No one in the class knows where Chile is, so I make photocopies of general information from world guide surveys. No one knows what socialism or fascism is, so I spend time writing up digestible definitions. No one knows what Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" is, and I supply it because it's impossible to understand the theme of the novel without a basic knowledge of that work--which used to be required reading a few generations ago. And no one in the class has ever heard of 11 September 1973, the CIA-sponsored coup which terminated Chile's mature democracy. There is complete shock when I supply US de-classified documents proving US collusion with the generals' coup and the assassination of elected president, Salvador Allende.
Let me put it succinctly: I don't think serious education is possible in America. Anything you touch in the annals of knowledge is a foe of this system of commerce and profit, run amok. The only education that can be permitted is if it acculturates to the status quo, as happens in the expensive schools, or if it produces people to police and enforce the status quo, as in the state school where I teach. Significantly, at my school, which is a third-tier university, servicing working-class, first-generation college graduates who enter lower-etchelon jobs in the civil service, education, or middle management, the favored academic concentrations are communications, criminal justice, and social work--basically how to mystify, cage, and control the masses.

This education is a vast waste of the resources and potential of the young. It is boring beyond belief and useless--except to the powers and interests that depend on it. When a Ukranian student, a three-week arrival on these shores, writes the best-organized and most profound essay in English of the class, American education has something to answer for--especially to our youth.
Cultural fascism manifests itself in an aversion to thought and cultural refinement. "When I hear the word 'culture,'" Goebbels said, "I reach for my revolver." One of the infamous and telling reforms the Pinochet regime implemented was educational reform. The basic goal was to end the university's role as a source of social criticism and political opposition. The order came to dismantle the departments of philosophy, social and political science, humanities and the arts--areas in which political discussions were likely to occur. The universities were ordered to issue degrees only in business management, computer programming, engineering, medicine and dentistry-- vocational training schools, which in reality is what American education has come to resemble, at least at the level of mass education. Our students can graduate without ever touching a foreign language, philosophy, elements of any science, music or art, history, and political science, or economics. In fact, our students learn to live in an electoral democracy devoid of politics-- a feature the dwindling crowds at the voting booths well illustrate.
Okay, I've quoted about half the article! Still, you should read it all. And then remember, in the face of this abysmal ignorance, there are people out there trying to make it even worse.

Moral Values

Frank Rich points out that the Repugs won't deliver for the "values" voters, whom Rupert Murdoch is making money off of through his Fox News channel, because Murdoch is making even more money off of exactly the type of stuff that the "values" voters deplore: From the superhip comedies like the Simpsons and Arrested Development (I love that show!) to the ultraviolent like 24 (I love that show, too!), to pure trash like Cops and the Simple Life. Basically, probably 95% of American voters got swindled in the election. Neither candidate was going to deliver what they really wanted. Anyway, here's what Frank Rich says:
It's in the G.O.P.'s interest to pander to this far-right constituency - votes are votes - but you can be certain that a party joined at the hip to much of corporate America, Mr. Murdoch included, will take no action to curtail the blue culture these voters deplore. As Marshall Wittman, an independent-minded former associate of both Ralph Reed and John McCain, wrote before the election, "The only things the religious conservatives get are largely symbolic votes on proposals guaranteed to fail, such as the gay marriage constitutional amendment." That amendment has never had a prayer of rounding up the two-thirds majority needed for passage and still doesn't.

Mr. Wittman echoes Thomas Frank, the author of "What's the Matter With Kansas?," by common consent the year's most prescient political book. "Values," Mr. Frank writes, "always take a backseat to the needs of money once the elections are won." Under this perennial "trick," as he calls it, Republican politicians promise to stop abortion and force the culture industry "to clean up its act" - until the votes are counted. Then they return to their higher priorities, like cutting capital gains and estate taxes. Mr. Murdoch and his fellow cultural barons - from Sumner Redstone, the Bush-endorsing C.E.O. of Viacom, to Richard Parsons, the Republican C.E.O. of Time Warner, to Jeffrey Immelt, the Bush-contributing C.E.O. of G.E. (NBC Universal) - are about to be rewarded not just with more tax breaks but also with deregulatory goodies increasing their power to market salacious entertainment. It's they, not Susan Sarandon and Bruce Springsteen, who actually set the cultural agenda Gary Bauer and company say they despise.

Comical Ali: The new Baghdad Bob

From Juan Cole:
US-installed CIA asset Iyad Allawi, the "prime minister," said he was sure there had been no civilian casualties in Fallujah. Allawi is gradually revealing himself as the pro-American twin of Muhammad Said al-Sahhaf, "Baghdad Bob," who used to deny that US troops were in Baghdad even though journalists could see the tanks over his shoulder. Now Allawi wants to deny that residents of a city that has been invaded and crushed managed to escape without a scratch unless they were active guerrillas.

Somebody's thinking Canada

Here's an ad on my credit union's member mart web site:
Looking for a kayak or any kind of boat that works for free or really cheap. Thanks.
Maybe he got an individual ready reserve call-up. The Detroit River is only about a mile wide, and there's no ice on it yet.

Fallujah's Crime

From the WSWS:
Fallujah’s “crime” is that its fighters, backed by the community, have been at the forefront of Iraqi resistance to the US-led invasion and occupation of the country. The US assault is Nazi-style collective punishment of the entire city, aimed at terrorising the Iraqi population as a whole into submission before sham elections are held in January to legitimise a US-vetted puppet government.

Quote du Jour

Iraqis will never forgive this- never. It's outrageous- it's genocide and America, with the help and support of Allawi, is responsible. May whoever contributes to this see the sorrow, terror and misery of the people suffering in Falloojeh.
--Riverbend at Baghdad Burning.


Skip the Primaries in 2008

The Democratic presidential nomination goes to the first senator who asks Condiliar Rice the following question in her confirmation hearings:
"Ms. Rice. You've said on national television that "We" (you, the Bush Administration, the Federal Government) couldn't have imagined anyone would use planes as weapons, YET your own Administration was holding an emergency response exercise on precisely that scenario -- of a plane crashing into a tower -- that VERY morning of Sept. 11 -- at the National Reconnaissance Office, near Dulles Airport. And yet another emergency response exercise, by NORAD, the same agency that didn't scramble interceptors in time to prevent the attacks, was holding its OWN emergency response exercise on the morning of 9-11 on a multiple-hijack scenario. We know this because the lead coordinator of the attack-and-response scenario, pilots, and even General Arnold, NORAD's No. 2 who finally ordered the interceptors scrambled too late, were ALL participating IN the 'wargame' AS THE ATTACKS UNFOLDED and have GONE ON RECORD that they were at first confused as to whether emergency reports coming in from Boston were part of the game, or 'for real'; and they wouldn't, and couldn't, have been confused UNLESS the wargame scenario ITSELF was either of, or had a major component of, AIRLINER HIJACKINGS.
Okay, I stole that question verbatim from this web site, and I'd say it could probably be phrased a bit better. Any reasonable paraphrase of the question locks up the nomination.

For the vice-presidential nomination, we're looking for the senator who asks this question:
Dr. Rice: Secretary Powell provided his ultimate service to this administration with his masterful day of lies to the UN in February, 2003. Now, no offense Dr. Rice, but we've heard you lie. And you're not nearly as convincing as Secretary Powell. What lies can you tell us now to reassure us that you'll be able to lie effectively when called upon as Secretary of State?
Or, more seriously:
Dr. Rice: World oil production is going to peak in the next few years. Will you, as Secretary of State, reassure the rest of the world that the United States will commit to the massive conservation effort and switch to alternative energy sources needed to deal with this, or will you just carry on with the policy of this and all recent administrations that every drop of oil left in the ground belongs to us, and we're going to kill anyone standing in the way of us getting it? I think the rest of the world already knows the answer, but I think many Americans need to hear you say it loud and clear--that this administration is committed to being at war for as long as it takes, not to rid the world of "terrorism" as stated, but to extend the wasteful and unsustainable American way of life for as many years as possible. And how many American lives and trillions of dollars do you predict will be wasted in this effort?

From Jim Morin.

From Steve Benson.

From Bill Schorr.

From Rob Rogers.

From Clay Bennett.

From Boondocks.

Vengeance is mine, sayeth the terrorists--on both sides

A Tiny Revolution has a great post based on this quote from Colin Powell's autobiography:
McFarlane, now in Beirut, persuaded the President to have the battleship U.S.S. New Jersey start hurling 16-inch shells into the mountains above Beirut, in World War II style, as if we were softening up the beaches on some Pacific atoll prior to an invasion. What we tend to overlook in such situations is that other people will react much as we would... And since they could not reach the battleship, they found a more vulnerable target, the exposed Marines at the airport.
You really should read his post. Really.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Like the night follows the day

From the NY Times:
A rebel counteroffensive swept through central and northern Iraq on Monday as American troops struggled to flush the remaining insurgents from the rubble-strewn streets of Falluja.

Guerrillas in Baquba, Mosul, Kirkuk and Suwaira stormed police stations, set oil wells ablaze and struck at American military convoys with suicide car bombs, routing Iraqi security forces in several coordinated assaults and severely damaging parts of the country's petroleum-based economic lifeline.
The wave of attacks across the Sunni Muslim heartland suggested that guerrillas were ready to carry on the war despite the loss of their safe haven in Falluja.
I can't believe the NY Times is still buying the military's BS. There was no way that Fallujah was a "safe haven" for insurgents carrying out bombings and attack across Iraq. We've pissed off the whole country, not just Fallujah, and the whole country will now fight us to the death. It was completely predictable and in fact was predicted that the insurgency would intensify if and when the bloody assault on Fallujah took place. And there's this:
Overnight, insurgents attacked an oil storage tank in the north and set fire to four oil wells.
I'm guessing that the three-week decline in oil prices is about to turn around abruptly. Local gas prices have dropped below $2 a gallon; that won't last long either.

More from the article:
Colonel Regner said that as of Monday afternoon, 1,052 insurgents had been captured, all but one or two dozen of whom were Iraqis. The others were foreign fighters from countries he did not identify.
So much for "anti-Iraqi forces." These "insurgents" were Iraqis defending their country against foreign invaders.
He said 38 American soldiers had been killed in the Falluja operation and 320 wounded. Of the wounded, 134 had returned to duty. He said there had been 6 Iraqi soldiers killed in action and 28 wounded, two of whom had returned to duty.
That means 186 American soldiers were seriously wounded--missing arms, legs, eyes, maybe. All for a miserable pile of poisoned rubble.

Liars only need apply

According to CNN, aWol is likely to nominate Condoleezza "Nobody could have possibly foreseen" Rice to replace Colin "Weapons Weapons Weapons" Powell at the State Department. Millions of honest, intelligent African-Americans, and the Bushies pick slimeballs like Powell, Rice, Rod Paige and Clarence Thomas to run ruin our country. It's almost like they're TRYING to discredit black people!

Ah. I get it now.

PS: Assuming they keep with their affirmative action program, one has to shudder at the thought than Alan Keyes is looking for a job.

PPS: Zeynep reminds us that Powell isn't just a war criminal--he's a multi-war criminal: Vietnam, Panama, Gulf War I, Gulf War II.

He's definitely had too much Republican Kool-Aid

From the NY Times:
Those were themes that Secretary Powell also touched on in his letter of resignation to the president, which he said was tendered on Friday. In that letter, Mr. Powell also expressed satisfaction that he had been part of administration efforts that "brought the attention of the world to the problem of proliferation, reaffirmed our alliances, adjusted to the post-cold war world and undertook major initiatives to deal with the problem of poverty and disease in the developing world."
Oh yeah. You've got the world's attention on proliferation, alright. Proliferate or die seems to have been the clear message of the invasion of Iraq. One of the most shameful careers in US government history comes, hopefully, to an end. Powell used his image to give the Bushies an aura of respect and intelligence far beyond what they deserved. He was trotted out by the unelected bastards well before the election of 2000 was officially stolen, and stayed just long enough to carry them through the 2004 election. If anyone could have spoken out and stopped the rush to an illegal war, it was Powell. Instead, he did precisely the opposite.

Ohio Recount!

The Green Party and the Libertarians are challenging the results in Ohio, and have raised the money required to pay the fee to get a recount in all 11,306 precincts:
With your help and the passionate support of more than 3,000 contributors in the last four days, we have now raised the required fee, estimated at $113,600, for a complete recount in all 11,306 precincts in Ohio.

Now we must ensure that the recount doesn't take place in a vacuum. We need witnesses, volunteers, housing and per diem, etc. to support the participation of thousands of volunteers, as well as funds for travel, communications, and other necessary expenses now being incurred as we press our campaign to see that every vote is counted.

We have set an initial goal of $100,000 for this effort (although we are still researching the full costs of fielding sufficient witnesses and volunteers).

Although the Kerry campaign is sitting on millions of dollars that could fund this effort, he promptly conceded the election, rolled up his tent and went home. It was left to the Cobb and Badnarik campaigns to insist that every vote be counted. As Greens we are organized to promote an accountable small 'd' democracy. And with your continued help we'll be able to do that!
Go to the Cobb-LaMarche web site to make a donation or to volunteer.

Maybe John Kerry doesn't really want to be president. Too bad! If he actually won the election, the Greens and Libertarians are going to kick him INTO office!

Update on the correction

John sent me this e-mail regarding my earlier post about the amount of data on the Internet compared to how much data Wal-Mart has:
For what it's worth, I worked for NCR for ~ five years, and sold their "Teradata Data Warehousing Solutions". I'd agree with you in being dubious of the claim(s) they're making - specifically that there are only 230 TB on the whole web.

However, 460 TB sounds about right as far as the Wal-Mart data warehouse. NCR always loved to puff up Wal-Mart's database accomplishments when trying to sell to other customers. NCR purchased Teradata for that specific reason - their expertise in massive data warehouses.

SO - 460 TB, very likely spot-on. Twice the rest of the web - likely bollocks.

My $0.02.



Private Ryan censored; Rep. Ryan not--yet

Wouldn't it have been great to hear this during one of the debates? I think the Quicktime video probably has more impact (there's a wmv file on Ryan's web site), but here's the text of what Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) said on the House floor on October 5:
Mr. RYAN of Ohio. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me time.

I rise in opposition of this bill, but I would like to clarify something. We are not trying to scare kids. This President's foreign policy is what is scaring the kids of this country. And people have said today, why are people believing this? Why are people believing this big Internet hoax?

It is the same people who told us that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11; the same people who told us Saddam Hussein had something to do with weapons of mass destruction; the same people who told us we would be able to use the oil for reconstruction money; the same people who told us we would be greeted as liberators, not occupiers; the same people, the same President who told us the Taliban is gone; the same President who told us that Poland is our ally 2 days before they pull out; the same President who tells us Iraq is going just great; the same President who tells us the economy is going just great; the same people who told us the tax cuts were going to create millions of jobs; the same people who told us that the Medicare program only cost $400 billion when it really cost $540 billion.

So please forgive us for believing what you are saying. Please forgive the students of this country for not believing what you are saying. Not one thing, not one thing about this war that has been told to the American people or that has been told to these college students has been true. Not one thing. Bremer says we need more troops. The Pentagon says we need more troops, and this President cannot get them from the international community. There is only one option left. Let us be honest with the American people.
Ryan represents the 17th district in northwest Ohio. Isn't it a travesty that Ohio gets one electoral vote for each representative, including Ryan and Kucinich, and they ALL get cast for Bush in the electoral college?

Oh, and checking Ryan's biography, I see that he was born on July 16, 1973. That means he will turn 35 on July 16, 2008, making him constitutionally eligible to run for president!

Let's win Ohio this time!


Saturday, I quoted the NY Times as follows:
Wal-Mart has 460 terabytes of data stored on Teradata mainframes, made by NCR, at its Bentonville headquarters. To put that in perspective, the Internet has less than half as much data, according to experts.
After discussing it with my brother, the idea that the Internet contains less than 230 terabytes of data seems absurd. We've got servers at work that hold a terabyte of
data. You can buy a terabyte (1000 gigabytes) of storage space for your PC for $800. This article says that there are some 550 billion documents on the web. If there were only 230 terabytes of data, that means that each document averages about 418 bytes. The italicized portion of this post (above) is 418 bytes. This blog page currently has about 140,000 bytes of text, not counting the pictures and comics (my October archive is 610,000 bytes). When you consider all of the news, sports, financial, weather, music, video and other sites on the web which have way more data on them than this site, I think you'll agree that the Internet contains way more than 230 terabytes of data. Whether Wal-Mart has twice as much as that, or it has 460 terabytes, I don't know. It just can't have both.

More on Tasers

On Friday, I blogged about Miami cops tasering a six-year-old. Well, they doubled their offense later, tasering a 12-year-old girl.
Miami-Dade County Police are reviewing their policy on using Tasers after officers stunned two children with the weapons in the past few weeks.
The more recent of the two incidents occurred November 5, when a 12-year-old girl who was skipping school was found drinking and smoking in a swimming pool, Miami-Dade police officer William Nelson stated in an incident report. He said he responded to an anonymous call about the activities.

He said he told the girl he was taking her to school. As they walked to the police car, she ran away.

"I advised her to stop several times," he said in the report. She "continued running even to the point of starting to run into lanes of traffic."

Nelson said he used the Taser for his and the girl's safety, striking her in the base of the neck and lower right back.
His safety? A 12-year-old girl is running away from you and you nail her with 50,000 volts for your safety? So much for big macho cops, I guess. And if she was running into lanes of traffic, incapacitating her with a taser made it much more likely that she'd get hit by a car. So much for her safety.

Zeynep has a lengthy post on Tasers. Excerpt:
Records kept by Taser International of Scottsdale show that as of six months ago, two 1-year-olds, one 2-year-old, two 3-year-olds, two 4-year-olds, one 5-year-old, one 6-year-old and one 7-year-old had been hit with Tasers...
[Update] Bob Harris has a poll on the subject of tasering kids:

What should Miami police use on unruly children instead of 50,000-volt tasers?

Escape from Fallujah

AP photographer Bilal Hussein stayed in Fallujah during the assault, barely escaping with his life.
"Destruction was everywhere. I saw people lying dead in the streets, wounded were bleeding and there was no one to come and help them. Even the civilians who stayed in Fallujah were too afraid to go out," he said.

"There was no medicine, water, no electricity nor food for days."

By Tuesday afternoon, as U.S. forces and Iraqi rebels engaged in fierce clashes in the heart of his neighborhood, Hussein snapped.

"U.S. soldiers began to open fire on the houses, so I decided that it was very dangerous to stay in my house," he said.

Hussein said he panicked, seizing on a plan to escape across the Euphrates River, which flows on the western side of the city.

"I wasn't really thinking," he said. "Suddenly, I just had to get out. I didn't think there was any other choice."

In the rush, Hussein left behind his camera lens and a satellite telephone for transmitting his images. His lens, marked with the distinctive AP logo, was discovered two days later by U.S. Marines next to a dead man's body in a house in Jolan.

AP colleagues in the Baghdad bureau, who by then had not heard from Hussein in 48 hours, became even more worried.

Hussein moved from house to house dodging gunfire and reached the river.

"I decided to swim … but I changed my mind after seeing U.S. helicopters firing on and killing people who tried to cross the river."

He watched horrified as a family of five was shot dead as they tried to cross. Then, he "helped bury a man by the river bank, with my own hands."

"I kept walking along the river for two hours and I could still see some U.S. snipers ready to shoot anyone who might swim. I quit the idea of crossing the river and walked for about five hours through orchards."
Fallujah: A massive war crime.

Undercover with the Bush campaign

Matt Taibbi describes his ten weeks undercover with the Bush campaign in Orlando. Excerpts:
Republicans are everywhere, but everywhere is not a good place to look for them. For my purposes I wanted to try to catch them in their ideal habitat. That was why I chose Orlando. For me, it is hell on earth, the worst city on the planet, a place that would make me long for Kinshasa or Volokolamsk. But for Republicans, it is ideal: a scorching-hot paved inland archipelago of garish shopping malls and stadium-size steel-and-glass Baptist churches, a place with no nonhuman life apart from the caged animals at the theme parks, and an entire economy organized around monstrous temples to fake experience.
If you've ever hung out with the Tricia Enrights and Joe Trippis of the world, you know that the operative vibe of the Democratic insider is wisecracking cool. It is not a reach to say that the ideological vision that mainstream Democratic politics has offered America since Clinton has been the supercool high school, the party of the popular kids. For all the talk about the Democrats being the party of inclusion, it really doesn't feel that way from the inside.

That's not true of all Democrats, of course. I thought it was very different, for instance, in the campaign of Dennis Kucinich. For the most part, these people were motivated by something other than ambition, and just being part of that campaign meant you were in a besieged minority, with the whole world out there laughing at you. Kucinich supporters stuck up for one another, because they had to.

You get that same besieged fraternal feeling in a Republican campaign office. There is no M*A*S*H ensemble-cast repartee. Nobody wears T-shirts that mean something, and nobody looks cool. As I would later find out, most Republicans hate "cool" ("They all think they're so cool and artistic," griped one woman as she watched Fox coverage of Democratic delegates arriving in Boston). Many of the parent volunteers I met were especially bitter because they think that cool is what liberals use to lure their children away. Which they might very well be right about, of course.
During my time on the campaign, I noticed an unusual phenomenon. The more involved a person was with the campaign, the more likely he was to be politically moderate. Most of the core group of our office -- Vienna, Rhyan, Ben, Don -- were quietly pro-choice or socially liberal in some other respect. It was the casual volunteers and the people whose only involvement was a bumper sticker who were likely to rant about liberals being traitors and agents of Islamo-Fascism who should be exiled from the country or jailed, etc.

I saw this clearly one weekend at a local gun show, where we were manning a voter-registration booth. I rotated with Rhyan and Vienna that weekend, and all three of us were quietly freaking out at the sight of all these fat weirdos from the sticks buying huge assault rifles and Confederate bumper stickers with messages such as IF I'D KNOWN THIS WOULD HAPPEN, I'D HAVE PICKED MY OWN COTTON.

"Man, I'm glad I'm a socially liberal Republican," whispered Rhyan at one point, laughing.

It'll be hard work!

It'll be hard work finding even worse replacements for four more Bush cabinet members who are apparently announcing their resignations today: Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, Education Secretary Rod Paige, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, and the big one, Secretary of State Colin Powell. But I'm sure they'll come up with something. Imagine Education Secretary James Dobson, Energy Secretary Ken Lay, and Secretary of State James Baker. Yes, Virginia, it can get worse.

Peak Oil hits Barrons

Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution has the text of an article from today's Barron's magazine, one of the most influential publications among the financial elite. The article is written by Charles T. Maxwell, called the "dean of energy analysts" in the subtitle.
Few people outside the oil industry understand that 6% to 7% more oil must be found and made available to the market each year in order to meet 2% growth in world consumption. It's a huge job; and it is getting harder to do, as the potential reserve size of prospects we are drilling today is smaller, and the large, prolific fields found in the past are advancing along their decline curves. Currently, some 70% of the oil that is consumed comes from fields discovered 25 or more years ago.

Most of the likely oil-bearing basins of the world have now been prospected, and the odds of vast new reserves suddenly making an appearance are low. Of course, relatively large individual discoveries will occasionally turn up in the years ahead, but not in size and number to suggest these finds can equal the substantially greater amount of supplies that are being burned up. Today, the world is consuming some 30 billion barrels a year, and we are finding less than one-third that amount.
Our country's leaders have three main choices: Taking over someone else's oil fields; carrying on until the lights go out and Americans are freezing in the dark; or changing our life style by deep conservation while heavily investing in alternative energy sources at higher costs.

The first two choices can be only temporary palliatives. Taking over foreign energy fields would be against this country's principles, and, like most violations of principle, it wouldn't work. This strategy wouldn't protect us from war, terrorism and the exhaustion of our military and moral resources. Carrying on as we are until we crash looks more like "surrender" than "adjustment."

By elimination, if not by wisdom, we will eventually turn to a massive national and international conservation effort.
Obviously, Maxwell undercuts his own credibility, in my eyes anyway, with the nonsense that I italicised (taking over someone else's oil fields IS our principle--see "Doctrine, Carter" and "Energy Plan, Cheney"). He also says a bunch of stuff after the section I quoted that I found highly distasteful, so I didn't quote it (it's my blog, after all!). Still, the article is clear evidence that the financial moguls in this country know about peak oil, or will after they read the article. I'm not sure which is scarier--that they didn't really know about it before now and are therefore ignorant and incompetent, or the more likely scenario that they've known about it all along and have consciously decided to plow ahead with their evil schemes KNOWING it means widespread war, famine, pestilence, and so on in the relatively near future. Actually, now that I've written them both out, I know which is scarier.

For a slightly different view of peak oil, "Oldman" at The Blogging of the President 2004 says that rapidly rising oil prices and new technology will likely keep oil from peaking for many years, but that production will increase at between 0% and 1% per year. for the next decade or two. Even so, rapidly rising demand will exacerbate the current crises. And, even if he's right, there's no reason to expect that the downslope won't be just as steep at the end of a plateau as it would be from the peak of a mountain. (Via Michael)

From Boondocks.

31 US troops killed in destruction of Fallujah

According to Slate. So, ignoring the huge negative implications of storming a city and tromping through mosques and such, the Marines are now in charge of a huge chunk of depleted-uranium-soaked rubble, approximate value in bringing peace and freedom to Iraq--$0. So $0 divided by 31 soldiers--approximately $0 per life lost. The benefits per life lost for Iraqis were much lower.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Twice as much data as the Internet

Wal-Mart is constantly collecting data in its never-ending battle to squeeze suppliers, stiff workers, and destroy competition:
By its own count, Wal-Mart has 460 terabytes of data stored on Teradata mainframes, made by NCR, at its Bentonville headquarters. To put that in perspective, the Internet has less than half as much data, according to experts.
They track who buys what when. Shopping at Wal-Mart is like being Jim Carrey in the Truman Show--the whole experience is arranged not to serve you, but to maximize the benefits to the corporation. I thought this part was interesting:
Hurricane Frances was on its way, barreling across the Caribbean, threatening a direct hit on Florida's Atlantic coast. Residents made for higher ground, but far away, in Bentonville, Ark., executives at Wal-Mart Stores decided that the situation offered a great opportunity for one of their newest data-driven weapons, something that the company calls predictive technology.

A week ahead of the storm's landfall, Linda M. Dillman, Wal-Mart's chief information officer, pressed her staff to come up with forecasts based on what had happened when Hurricane Charley struck several weeks earlier. Backed by the trillions of bytes' worth of shopper history that is stored in Wal-Mart's computer network, she felt that the company could "start predicting what's going to happen, instead of waiting for it to happen," as she put it.

The experts mined the data and found that the stores would indeed need certain products - and not just the usual flashlights. "We didn't know in the past that strawberry Pop-Tarts increase in sales, like seven times their normal sales rate, ahead of a hurricane," Ms. Dillman said in a recent interview. "And the pre-hurricane top-selling item was beer."

Thanks to those insights, trucks filled with toaster pastries and six-packs were soon speeding down Interstate 95 toward Wal-Marts in the path of Frances. Most of the products that were stocked for the storm sold quickly, the company said.
So the world's largest corporation, something which by law should never have been allowed to get this big, is bringing junk food and bad beer to Florida ahead of the hurricane. Meanwhile, Florida's attorney general has teams of goons running around looking to arrest any entrepreneurs looking to sell generators, chain saws, or plastic sheeting. With the indignant blessings of both major political parties and the corporate media, insults and criminal charges are thrown at these "gougers." The AG isn't protecting hurricane victims with these actions--he's protecting Wal-Mart (and Home Depot and Lowes and so on).

Of course, Wal-Mart probably has enough dirt on Florida's AG in their two-Internets-worth of data to drive him from office in the time it takes to hang a chad. These un-elected greedheads from Arkansas have immense amounts of power, and have already used it to destroy hundreds of downtowns, tens of thousands (probably more) of American jobs, labor laws, and who knows what else (well, they probably know). Probably no city government or even state government has anywhere near as much power as Wal-Mart.

Thanks to the NY Times for at least occasionally writing about the Beast of Bentonville. Somehow, some way we've got to turn the tide nationwide--convince people that shopping at Wal-Mart or Sam's Club is one of the most destructive things they can ever do. Our "government" has not protected us from this total perversion of the "free market." We'll have to do it ourselves.

Then again, if you hate this planet, hate freedom, hate the idea of the future, hate your children and grandchildren--by all means hop in the SUV and drive to Wal-Mart to buy some bottled water and Pop-Tarts and five pounds of hamburger and a case of Coors. Osama only dreams of doing that much destruction.

From Rob Rogers.

From Matt Davies.

From Steve Sack.

From Steve Kelley.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Question of the day

How did we ever subdue broken-glass-wielding terrorist six-year-olds before Tasers? From CNN:
MIAMI, Florida (AP) -- Police used a stun gun on a 6-year-old boy in his principal's office because he was wielding a piece of glass and threatening to hurt himself, officials said Thursday.

The boy, who was not identified, was shocked with 50,000 volts on October 20 at Kelsey Pharr Elementary School.

Principal Maria Mason called 911 after the child broke a picture frame in her office and waved a piece of glass, holding a security guard back.

When two Miami-Dade County police officers and a school officer arrived, the boy had already cut himself under his eye and on his hand.

The officers talked to the boy without success. When the boy cut his own leg, one officer shocked him with a Taser and another grabbed him to prevent him from falling, police said.
I honestly don't know where to come down on this one. Note that the article was published today, while the incident took place over three weeks ago (back in the good old days of the first W administration). Did it take the cops this long to come up with a consistent story?

Apparently not only the general public was kept in the dark. From a much more thorough Miami Herald article:
Miami-Dade School Board Vice Chairman Robert Ingram, who spent 20 years as a Miami police officer and more than five years as Opa-locka police chief, said board members were not told of the incident. He learned of it from a reporter.
I guess I'd say that there's an outside chance that the cops responded well under the circumstances. Cops carrying Tasers into elementary schools just don't seem to be good circumstances. Especially in Miami.

Have you seen me?

The FBI can't find a gasoline tanker which has been missing since April.
"We're asking the public to be on the lookout for a fuel tanker in a location inconsistent with where you'd typically see an oil or gasoline delivery," FBI spokeswoman Jerri Williams said.

Williams said investigators initially believed the tanker was stolen for parts or to dump toxic waste illegally.

"If that were the case, we would have found the carcass" of the tanker, she said.

"We're very concerned. It's been almost seven months, and we still haven't found it," she said.
Yeah, well you still haven't found the anthrax mailer or the Plame leaker, either. Maybe you could go arrest Richard Jewel again.

Ridiculing the FBI may not be the smartest thing to do, but it sure is fun!

Seriously, the article doesn't say if the tanker was full or empty when it was stolen. I'm guessing empty, or else the motive would seem to be pretty obvious. If it was stolen by people with terror on their minds, I would guess that they would use it more for experimentation than for an actual attack. There are thousands of these trucks rolling down our streets and pulling into our gas stations every day. If a terrorist knew how to quickly release hundreds of gallons of gasoline from one of these, or where the best place would be to locate a cellphone-activated explosive charge, a whole lot of nasty terror could happen very quickly. (It's a good thing for everybody that I'm a peacenik at heart, because if I set my mind to it I could come up with some truly awful schemes! See this post, item 3, for example.)

Fallujacide continues

From Reuters:
"There's no water. People are drinking dirty water. Children are dying. People are eating flour because there's no proper food," he told aid workers in Habbaniya, which has become a refugee camp, with around 2,000 families sheltering there.
Violence in Falluja and elsewhere in Iraq has taken a toll on U.S. forces. Two planes ferried 102 seriously wounded soldiers from Iraq to the main U.S. military hospital in Germany on Thursday, joining 125 who arrived earlier in the week.

Maybe there are chemical weapons in Iraq

And maybe the US military is the one using them:
FALLUJAH, November 10 ( & News Agencies) - US troops are reportedly using chemical weapons and poisonous gas in its large-scale offensive on the Iraqi resistance bastion of Fallujah, a grim reminder of Saddam Hussein’s alleged gassing of the Kurds in 1988.
I have no idea if that is a reliable source. I do know that the US military is not.

Gas chambers in Maryland

In 1955, Felgendreger suffered what his wife Eleanore characterizes as a nervous breakdown. The outgoing chemist was now depressed, sluggish, and reluctant to leave home. There were times when he drank too much. He asked his pastor to care for his wife and three children if something happened to him. He spent two months in a hospital.

"I've always wondered," Eleanore says now, "if those tests could have caused that."

The tests that haunt Eleanore Felgendreger do not appear in her husband's Army records. Like thousands of World War II soldiers and sailors, Felgendreger's work as a human guinea pig was omitted from his file. In the autumn of 1943, he served in the 1st Chemical Casual Company, a unit exposed to mustard agent and other poisons in the gas chambers of Maryland's Edgewood Arsenal -- tests that would stalk some men, physically and psychologically, until their deaths.

Tests they were forbidden to discuss.
That's from a two-part Detroit Free Press investigation into the Edgewood Arsenal. The articles feature the stories of many veterans of the 1st Chemical Casual Company. Many suffered from skin, respiratory, and nervous-system disorders likely related to the chemical tests, but were routinely denied medical care and benefits by the VA.

This reminds me that there's a whole new generation of veterans just ripe for screwing by the Pentagon and the VA. I saw the picture a day or two ago (can't find it now) of Marines lying in body-sized foxholes in Fallujah, all ready for burying (though these Marines were still alive). I recalled that Fallujah has been under basically constant attack from bombs and artillery for weeks now, and many (most? all?) of the shells likely contained depleted uranium. And these guys are lying down in the dust. And, the Pentagon did not provide pre-deployment medical exams for troops sent to Iraq, in violation a 1997 law which required both pre- and post-deployment exams which could be used to verify if future health problems were related to the war. If it's any consolation, Marines, it won't be just deplorable chintziness on the part of "our" government when you are denied benefits two or five or twenty years from now. The government will be really and truly broke, and nobody except congresscritters will be getting health care. Feel better now?

From Dilbert.
(Note the bandages on his hands)

Another cheery thought

To add to my earlier collection (which I've already updated twice):
Perhaps our mission now is like that of the Native Americans at the height of the genocide in the nineteenth century. At that point there was no question of winning the battle. What remained to be done was to keep hold of what it means to be human.
-- Stephanie Mills, Epicurean Simplicity (2002), via Heinberg.


Be sure to read Jonathan Schwarz's post on "generosity" in foreign relations. Here is his Iron Law of Generosity: "Whenever one group of people talks about being "generous" to another, it means they're BEATING THE CRAP OUT OF THEM."

Scary thoughts for the day

...the results of these tests appear to indicate that the buildings should have easily withstood the thermal stress caused by pools of burning jet fuel.
This story just does not add up. If steel from those buildings did soften or melt, I’m sure we can all agree that this was certainly not due to jet fuel fires of any kind, let alone the briefly burning fires in those towers.
-- From a letter written November 11 by Kevin Ryan of Underwriters Laboratories to Frank Gayle of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

[T]he Petro-Administration of Cheney-Rice-Bush is like a psychotic who tries to play chess: indifferent to the rules, he simply steals the opponent's king off the board, claims victory, and burns the whole chess-set in the fireplace.

In the following shocker by Wayne Madsen, we learn that there are people high up in Washington who regard the apocalyptic melting of the polar ice caps as a good thing. Why? It will clear new shipping lanes for the exploitation of Arctic oil and gas.
-- excerpted from Wayne Madsen at From the Wilderness.

A possible scenario for the collapse of our own civilization might go something like this: Energy shortages commence in the second decade of the century, leading to economic turmoil, frequent and lengthening power blackouts, and general chaos. Over the course of several years, food production plummets, resulting in widespread famine, even in formerly wealthy countries. Wars--including civil wars--rage intermittently. Meanwhile ecological crisis also tears at the social fabric, with water shortages, rising sea levels, and severe storms wreaking further havoc. While previous episodic disasters could have been dealt with by disaster management and rescue efforts, by now societies are too disorganized to mount such efforts. One after another, central governments collapse. Societies attempt to shed complexity in stages, thus buying time. Empires devolve into nations; nations into smaller regional or tribal states. But each lower stage--while initially appearing to offer a new beginning and a platform of stability--reaches its own moment of unsustainability and further collapse ensues. Between 2020 and 2100, the global population declines steeply, perhaps to fewer than one billion. By the start of the next century, the survivors' grandchildren are entertained by stories of a great civilization of the recent past in which people flew in metal birds and got everything they wanted by pressing buttons.
-- Richard Heinberg, Powerdown.

Enjoy your weekend!

[Update--I found a fourth one!!!!]
If you make the connection between the people behind the computer voting machine companies, their insane religious desire to see the Apocalypse in the Middle East, and the grim future of the world evidenced by the completely unnecessary attack on Falluja, you have to come to the conclusion that there is no time to wait for another election. It is not morally acceptable for the American left to allow the Apocalypse to happen without even the slightest attempt at a fight. It is insane to save your energy for the next election, when the chances are there won't be one.
-- From Xymphora.

[Update update: A fifth one! Oh rapture!!!] Zeynep at Under the Same Sun posts this photo showing US Marines still wearing their combat boots trampling on prayer rugs in a mosque in Fallujah:

Zeynep's comments:
Somebody please tell Lt. Brandon Turner that he's insane, that the Pentagon is insane, whoever is allowing the marines or any American soldiers "rest" on that "plush red carpet" with their shoes, uniforms and machines guns is insane. Does anyone understand anything about religious feelings in general or about Islam in particular? Have they spent even half a day watching a documentary or two about Islam and noticed that people carefully and respectfully take their shoes off before entering a mosque, where they will kneel and put their head on that carpet? (Those "plush red carpets", by the way, are prayer rugs, or"sajjade." And you don't step on them with your combat boots, especially inside a mosque, and smile for the cameras unless you really want to fight to the death with up to a billion people.)

Seriously, this is either the most arrogant, incompetent, ignorant occupation, ever, or the most clever, insidious, skillful effort towards bringing about an apocalyptic world war. Are they asleep at the awheel, drowning under their own ignorance, or simply want to end life on earth as we know it?

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Blue state blues

Ted Rall explains why blue states are better than red states. His conclusion:
So our guy lost the election. Why shouldn't those of us on the coasts feel superior? We eat better, travel more, dress better, watch cooler movies, earn better salaries, meet more interesting people, listen to better music and know more about what's going on in the world. If you voted for Bush, we accept that we have to share the country with you. We're adjusting to the possibility that there may be more of you than there are of us. But don't demand our respect. You lost it on November 2.

Censoring Private Ryan

According to the Yahoo TV guide, our local ABC affiliate, WXYZ, was not going to wimp out. It was going to show the uncut "Saving Private Ryan," blood and guts and f-word and all. Wrong. We got Matlock and some wussy Thanksgiving special. At least 20 ABC stations did drop the movie out of fear of FCC fines and sanctions. WIIIAI adds:
Now, this isn’t just tv stations running scared and preemptively censoring themselves, post-Janet Jackson: the FCC could easily have stopped this nonsense by giving an advance waiver. Considering that the FCC already ruled in 2002 that Saving Private Ryan is not indecent, in response to a complaint by idiot puritan Donald Wildmon, this should have been a no-brainer, but the FCC instead told the stations to exercise their own judgment and risk the consequences. As far as I’m concerned, that decision to leave the threat of a multi-million-dollar fine hanging over the stations’ heads amounted to an act of state censorship.
During the three-day coup in Venezuela in April 2002, the fascists who briefly took over the government played monkey shows and the like nonstop on the TV networks so that the people would have no idea what was going on. That's pretty much where we are here.

The Catholic Church was repudiating Kerry...

When Kerry should have been repudiating the Catholic Church. Michelle has an infuriating post about how the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane has filed for bankruptcy, putting a halt to an upcoming child-molestation trial against the diocese. It would join the Portland and Tuscon dioceses in hiding behind bankruptcy to avoid facing justice. To top it all off, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops may elect Spokane's bishop as president. Michelle has a lot more information and outrage to add.

I read a few days ago that the Kerry campaign had $45 million left over, from the fund they were supposedly going to use to contest vote fraud and such, but apparently are just going to keep (Good lord, I despise John Kerry!). If he's not going to fight for the rights of voters, at least he could offer this money to the victims of his beloved religion.

Once again: John Kerry, go Cheney yourself

Harvey Wasserman writes in the Columbus, Ohio Free Press:
[T]here was only one thing Kerry could have done to honor the work we all did---not concede. Instead, his campaign has a sacred obligation to consider the election not over until all allegations of electoral abuse are vented, investigated and put to rest. We now hear there is a call for evidence to be brought forward. This isn't enough. Many millions were raised by the Democrats to guard against the widespread fraud that defined this election. Where is it? Why isn't it being aggressively deployed?

During the campaign, the Kerry campaign spent unlimited time, money and effort on denying the public the ability to vote for Ralph Nader. The attacks were political, personal, procedural---and endless.

But after spending all that energy attacking the left, the Kerry campaign lost to the most powerful and dangerous crew of right wing extremists this nation has ever seen---and then had no time at all to make sure the vote count was fair or accurate. Kerry's hurried, feeble plea that George W. Bush heal the wounds of disunity in this country must have been greeted with gales of laughter in Karl Rove's White House.

At the grassroots, among those of us who labored long and hard to unseat that vicious, hateful, anti-democratic regime, Kerry's sorry surrender has evoked utter horror.

This election saw an unprecedented grassroots outpouring. Kerry was not an inspiring candidate. Until the last month, his campaign was a study in ineptitude.

But tens of millions of Americans were (and are) terrified of who and what now controls the federal government. Uncounted thousands came out to make phone calls, canvass door-to-door and drive likely Democrats to the polls.

But when it was so dubiously over, Team Kerry had no such commitment. Not to victory. Not to fair play. Not to the hard work of those who volunteered with such amazing energy and commitment.

Kerry's sad, premature swoon gave the Republicans a totally open field to claim victory for their hateful "moral" values, for infinite deficits, for environmental destruction, for an extremist judiciary, you name it.
If you've followed my blog for the last year, you know that I was suspicious of Kerry's nomination from the start. His ONLY support was from big-money pols, and he sucked miserably in every debate among the Democratic candidates. Still, somehow, with the help of a media blitz about "electability" (how ridiculous that seems now) and who knows what all else that went on behind the scenes, he won Iowa and New Hampshire and rode the absurd "anybody but Bush" vote to the nomination. I suspected then, and suspect even more now, that he was hand-picked by Karl Rove, or whoever it is that Rove answers to. Kerry somehow managed to run against an idiot with an abysmal record and not win. And when push came to shove, he didn't even try. Despite what his ads said, John Kerry did not defend this country as a young man (he said so himself as a young man), and he certainly didn't defend it this year.

Maureen Dowd has a slightly more polite sendoff than my "Go Cheney yourself" to give to Kerry:
Just as there is talk here that John Kerry may want to run again, there is also talk that Donald Rumsfeld wants to stay on to continue his transformation of the military. Rummy's stubborn need to show we could do more with less is what kept us from having the strength to secure Iraq at the start, turning our troops into targets for a ghostly foe armed with the explosives and missiles looted by insurgents from unguarded caches.

The president should say to Rummy what the Democrats should say to Mr. Kerry: "Thanks, you've done quite enough."

Squeezing Jello

Yesterday, former UN weapons inspector and US Marine Scott Ritter wrote the following:
Far from facing off in a decisive battle against the resistance fighters, it seems the more Americans squeeze Falluja, the more the violence explodes elsewhere. It is exercises in futility, akin to squeezing jello. The more you try to get a grasp on the problem, the more it slips through your fingers.
Today, the NY Times' Edward Wong's report confirms what Ritter was saying:
Insurgents pressed attacks in the northern provincial capital of Mosul today, opening a major new front in the fighting, while American troops in Falluja began a push into the city's southern warrens, where an unknown number of guerrillas were believed to have barricaded themselves.

In Baghdad, a powerful suicide car bomb exploded on a busy commercial street this morning, killing at least 17 people and wounding at least 30 others, police and hospital officials said. In the evening, explosions rippled across the capital with an intensity not seen here since August, when American soldiers fought a Shiite uprising in the south.

Violence surged through the so-called Sunni triangle in central Iraq, with ambushes, bombings and mortar attacks jolting Tikrit, Kirkuk, Hawija, Samarra and the provincial capital of Ramadi, 30 miles west of Falluja, which is 35 miles west of Baghdad.
Ritter concluded yesterday as follows:
It is a war the United States cannot win, and which the government of Iyad Allawi cannot survive. Unfortunately, since recent polls show that some 70% of the American people support the war in Iraq, it is a war that will rage until the American domestic political dynamic changes, and the tide of public opinion turns against the war.

Tragically, this means many more years of conflict in Iraq that will result in thousands more killed on both sides, and incomprehensible suffering for the people of Iraq, and unpredictable instability for the entire Middle East.
Since Ritter is one of the few people in the know who have been right about Iraq from the beginning, perhaps it is finally time for our "leaders" to start listening to him.

Debt-based money

Food for thought: In Richard Heinberg's latest book, Powerdown, he explains how an economy based on borrowing money requires constant growth to survive, and why this trap is hard to escape:
Many environmentalists have argued that the constant push for economic growth within industrial societies is one of the engines continually straining global resource limits (this point is brilliantly discussed by Richard Douthwaite in his The Growth Illusion). However, it would be difficult to remove the growth imperative from modern economies without also changing national monetary systems. That is because currently most money is loaned into existence by banks and is thus based on debt, and implies a commitment on someone's part to pay interest on that debt. If the economy does not grow, new money will not be created to pay interest on existing loans; many of those loans will thus be defaulted upon, and a crash will occur. Thus it is essentially impossible to achieve a static or controllably contracting economy with a debt-based currency.

Therefore, if we are to achieve a reduced-scale, steady-state society, we will need to change our monetary system to one that is not based on debt and interest. In principle, this would be quite easy: nations or locales could issue their own interest- and debt-free money instead of giving banking cartels (such as the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, Deutsche Bank, etc.) legal monopolies on money creation. This is what the framers of the US Constitution envisioned, and debt-free national currencies have existed at various points in American history (e.g., Lincoln's "greenbacks" and Kennedy's "United States Notes"). But in the US (and the situation is similar in most other countries), a permanent shift to debt-free money will require action by Congress, which will itself be problematic as long as senators and representatives are dependent upon campaign contributions for re-election. The banks will likely seek to destroy the career of any politician who attempts to change the monetary system in this way. Thus, the needed reform of our monetary system will first require reform of the political system--itself no easy task.
(pp. 100-101)

Could Allawi have any more shame on him?

From Juan Cole:
Guerrillas threatened to assassinate Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and Minister of Defense Hazem Shaalan in retaliation for the attack. Allawi's aged cousin and the man's wife and daughter-in-law were abducted and guerrillas threaten to behead them if the Fallujah compaign is not stopped. In Iraqi society, PM Allawi is responsible for protecting his clan, including especially his first cousins, so this kidnapping makes him look week and brings substantial shame on him.

Fallujacide continues

The WSWS on Fallujacide:
The US assault on Fallujah is a criminal and barbaric operation. The descriptions of the thrust through Fallujah’s northern suburbs make clear the city is being destroyed, and its poorly-armed defenders slaughtered, by 10,000 American soldiers over whom all moral constraints have been lifted.

A Christian Science Monitor journalist embedded with a marine unit wrote Wednesday: “Every vehicle is treated as a potential car bomb and every person as a possible enemy. Approval even came over the radio to shoot dogs with shotguns, to prevent them carrying explosives.”
The rest of the article is here.

From Kevin Siers.

From Ted Rall.

The polls are still open!

You can still vote in this CNN poll!

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The numbers are moving

The trade deficit dropped a bit in September, but oil prices are heading back up after dropping for the past couple of weeks, and the dollar hit a new low against the Euro. However, the Fed has raised overnight interest rates to 2%, which caused the dollar to bounce back somewhat.

I wish I had a better understanding of what all the numbers mean, but I suspect that they are short-term adjustments by people attempting to sustain a totally unsustainable situation--a global economy reliant on constant growth and very finite resources.


Some morons at the Army Reserve Center in Westwood, California decided to drive armored personnel carriers past an anti-war demonstration:

From Polizeros:
What dimbulb at the Army Reserve Center up the street from the Federal Building determined this would be a swell time to send armored personnel carriers driving around Westwood and into an antiwar demo?

When two APCs got stuck at a traffic light, protestors swarmed around them. Those with the ANSWER Coalition chanted "Bring the troops home now" while regrettably those with another group yelled "baby killers." Sharp thinking there, bozos. Y'see, if you are actually serious about antiwar organizing and not just jerking off, then you want to convince soldiers to join you. Chanting 'bring the troops home now' might well resonate with a reservist nervous about being shipped to Iraq.
Even the police looked nervous when this was happening. Not so much at the protestors but at the APCs. Probably wondering how anyone could be dumb enough to send them into an antiwar demo.
There's a QuickTime Video of the incident.

The advantages of the Bush win

The folks at Counterpunch didn't, and don't, like John Kerry much. With good reason. Joshua Frank points out some of the "positives" from the Kerry loss. Excerpt:
The environment? Sure Bush has been awful, but Bush's forest plan was actually re-written with the help of two Democratic senators, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Dianne Feinstein of California. As veteran forest activist Michael Donnelly wrote in CounterPunch in December 2003, "Perhaps the greatest irony is that the forests have fared far better under Bush than they did under his Democrat predecessor. Under Clinton's [Salvage Rider] plan, some 1.1 billion board feet of Ancient Forest stumps were authorized annually. Much to industry's chagrin, under Bush, around 200 million per year has been cut. Already, that means that 2.7 billion board feet LESS has been cut under Bush than would have been under a Gore administration with the Big Greens usual silence regarding Democrat stump-creation."

Yes, you read that correctly. Clinton's plan was actually worse for our national forests.
Bush has perhaps proven to be the left's best organizer. His policies brought record numbers into the streets prior to the Iraq invasion. Even though more Iraqis perished during Clinton's first four years in office than on Bush's watch thus far, and Clinton didn't inspire even a fraction of the uproar, global or otherwise.

Depressing, yes, but all too true.

As historian Gabriel Kolko argues in Dimes Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils, Bush may well be the better man to destroy the reaches of the U.S. Empire. He believed that keeping Bush in office could make old alliances such as NATO obsolete, humbling American foreign policy by forcing us to deal with our own arrogance. We cannot pursue a go-it-alone strategy forever. Kerry, as he's admitted, would have done his best to stop this trend of U.S. isolation in foreign hostilities -- and reestablish America as the unequivocal global menace. Bush's go-it-alone policy is unsustainable. Kerry planed to make the war sustainable by leaning on allies.

Now that Bush is reelected, Kolko explicates, America's allies and friends will have to confront such stark choices, a process that will redefine and probably shatter existing alliances. Many nations, including the larger, powerful ones, will embark on independent, realistic foreign policies, and the dramatic events in Spain have reinforced this likelihood. This, he says, will force the U.S. to become a more tolerant member of the global community.

Had Kerry been elected, postulates Kolko, the Senator would have done his best to bring back the global alliance that has caused insurmountable problems for so many around the world. A Kerry victory, then, would have stifled our unified anti-capitalist resistance to empire while four more years of Bush could inadvertently strengthen our cause by broadening the anger of resentment towards the U.S.'s global supremacy.

Just a reminder

For Fallujans, insurgents and American invaders alike: Tons and tons of heavy ordnance--bombs and artillery shells--have rained down on Fallujah in recent months, and continue to do so. The US military uses depleted uranium (DU) in much of this ordnance. If you are lucky enough to walk out of Fallujah alive, you may still not survive it.

Do the words "evil empire" come to mind about now?

Could anyone be worse than Ashcroft?

Maybe. From AP:
Gonzales publicly defended the administration's policy -- essentially repudiated by the Supreme Court and now being fought out in the lower courts -- of detaining certain terrorism suspects for extended periods without access to lawyers or courts.

He also wrote a controversial February 2002 memo in which Bush claimed the right to waive anti-torture law and international treaties providing protections to prisoners of war. That position drew fire from human rights groups, which said it helped led to the type of abuses uncovered in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

Some conservatives also have quietly questioned Gonzales' credentials on core social issues. And he once was a partner in a Houston law firm which represented the scandal-ridden energy giant Enron.
It didn't seem possible that Bush could find someone worse to be attorney general than John Ashcroft, but it looks like he may have succeeded. I doubt if the 44 Democrats in the Senate can stop the nomination, but maybe the Republicans like John McCain and Lindsey Graham who expressed disgust at the Abu Ghraib revelations can.

C'mon, people! Gonzales belongs in prison, not in the cabinet! (Actually, the whole cabinet belongs in prison.)

Shorter Juan Cole

From today's Juan Cole post:
23 US Troops Killed in 2 Days.
Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawir is bitterly opposed to the Fallujah operation, and likened it to "shooting horses to kill horseflies."
Juan has much more on the mayhem in Fallujah and the divisions it is causing in the "interim government." Given that reports indicate that insurgent leaders in Falluja probably fled before the American-led offensive, one wonders if anyone can come up with any reason for fighting for that next street in Fallujah. It has become a microcosm of the Iraq war itself: pointless, based on lies, "allies" fleeing like rats from a sinking ship.

Let the Eagle Soar..Away

Goodbye, John. We hated you. Now get lost and DON'T COME BACK!

Mother Jones' Jeff Fleischer comments on the Ashcrotch resignation:
[I]n his resignation letter, Ashcroft bizarrely wrote that "The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved."


As the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency argued just yesterday, nuclear terrorism remains a very real threat, with U.S. and international action needed to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons and causing a catastrophe. Osama bin Laden is still making videos instead of sitting in prison. Ashcroft’s DOJ even famously refused to close loopholes to prevent terrorists from acquiring guns in the U.S.

Ashcroft has his reasons for resigning, and that's fine. But his "mission accomplished" phrasing reeks of self-congratulatory revisionism.

Intelligence Test

Dumb states are red
Smart states are blue
There's more of the first
We've got W.

Just check this out. (via Tom Tomorrow)

Furnace Troubles

Okay, this probably isn't why you read this blog. But my gas furnace conked out again yesterday, something it does at least once every winter. I'm thinking that maybe now's the time to look at alternatives. Natural gas is currently cheap and burns very cleanly, and is a much better alternative than electric heat. But I've been reading recently that natural gas, especially in North America, is well past its peak. And the damage being done to the environment out west, especially in extracting coal-bed methane (=natural gas) is horrendous. (Guess what? Halliburton developed the "fracing" technology which made this land-rape possilbe!)

Anyway, I'm thinking of looking at alternatives. Solar would be nice, but given the design and location of my house will likely be at best an auxiliary source for heating, and of little use on the coldest days. Ground-source heat pumps are intriguing, but I suspect that their claims of rapid payback are based on savings from both heating and cooling. Since I don't use air conditioning, and my fans are now solar powered, I'm guessing that the payback might be a lot longer for me. In addition, it is probably the most expensive option on initial cost.

One idea that intrigues me is external wood furnaces, like these. I've e-mailed the city to see if they're allowed here.

Anyway, the main reason for this post is I'm looking for advice. If anyone out there knows someone, preferably local to Ann Arbor, who can advise me on making a good selection (from a sustainable, environment point of view), I would appreciate it! E-mail me!

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Turn the Tide!

The Center for a New American Dream has a list of nine simple actions that you can take which will help to protect the planet AND put the screws to those evil Bush-supporting corporations I've been ranting about! Sign up and take the steps they recommend--then keep going! Nothing to lose except some debt, some pollution--maybe even some weight!

I hate Bush

From Reuters:
U.S. Marines carry an injured colleague after an offensive in Sunni Muslim city of Falluja, November 9, 2004.

Why'd he die, George?

From AP:
Army Nurse supervisor Patrick McAndrew tries to save the life of an American soldier by giving him CPR upon arrival to a military hospital in Baghdad, Iraq Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2004. The soldier was later pronounced dead from his wounds suffered in a Baghdad firefight with insurgents Tuesday. (AP Photo/John Moore)

Sustainable Transportation

A couple of upcoming events here in Ann Arbor if you're interested in alternative, sustainable transportation:
Sierra Club, Tuesday, November 16. "Beyond Four Wheels: The Future of Biking and Walking in Ann Arbor." 7:30 p.m. UM Matthaei Botanical Gardens, 1800 N. Dixboro Road, Ann Arbor. Presented by Norm Cox, The Greenway Collaborative. Free and open to the public.
From Mobility to Accessibility: a symposium on sustainable transportation

Friday, December 3, 2004
8:45 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Auditorium (Rm 2104)
Art and Architecture Building
North Campus
Neither the poster I saw nor the web page mentions anything about registration required or fees for that conference, so I'm guessing that it's free. I'll try to let you know if I find out otherwise.

Somebody has had enough of red-state arrogance


How convenient

An excuse to flatten another city!
Military officials have said 3,000 to 5,000 insurgents may have been inside the city, but they acknowledge many may have slipped away amid widespread reports that an offensive was coming.

"We believe most of the al-Zarqawi senior leadership has departed," one military source said.
-- From CNN

So, even if the lies they've been telling about every car bomb in Iraq being directed by a one-legged dead Jordanian hiding in some "safe house" in Fallujah had been true, the military is saying it isn't any longer. That means the "insurgents" are just trying to defend their homes and families from the invaders, who have absolutely no business being there. But apparently the US military intends to flatten every block and kill everyone left in the city.

This is a truly horrible war crime. You have to hope that somehow George W. Bush will someday be brought to justice. But Henry Kissinger is still free, continuing to spout his brutal nonsense to anyone who will listen. The truth seems to be that there is no justice.


Michelle has a collection of quotes from various news articles on the ongoing atrocity in Fallujah. If you've ever wondered how the German people felt during Nazi days, well, how do you feel now?

Abolish the CIA!

Chalmers Johnson looks at the history of the CIA's muddling meddling in the Middle East and concludes that it serves no useful purpose--for the people of the United States, at least.

Election Fraud Update

Bob Harris, five-time Jeopardy champ who knows everything, says the election was stolen. He's probably right.

Lots of other good stuff from Bob Harris:
Um... hasn't it always pretty obvious that Bush was holding off on Fallujah until the election was over? Now we have the most spot-on confirmation we could ask for...

So doesn't that mean, by definition, that the prosecution of the war is secondary to domestic political concerns (something we've already seen time and again)?

So Bush is willing to sacrifice at least some safety for our troops and the mission's potential for success on the altar of his own continuing power.

That's um... awful. And it couldn't be more screamingly obvious.

America's wakeup call

From Bob Harris:
The clock radio goes off a few minutes ago, and this is the very first sentence I hear, verbatim:

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has won the George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service.

And that's when it hits me: I am in HELL.

After the massacre in Fallujah, what?

Slate's Fred Kaplan reports the obvious--that there is much more to be lost than won in this massive war crime. His conclusion:
Bush may well see the Fallujah offensive as a last gamble to turn things around. My guess is that, if it goes "well," by any stretch of a definition—and if the elections proceed with the slightest semblance of order—he might make preparations to declare victory and pull out. Such a move would almost certainly trigger chaos, but could this chaos be much more rampant than the state of life there now?
I agree with Kaplan, and have said so for a year and a half, that the chaos caused by pulling out would likely be no worse for Iraqis than the chaos caused by staying. I mean, in recent months Iraqis have been killed by car bombs, IED's, snipers, artillery, aerial bombardment, AC130 gunships, and tanks. US withdrawal removes the last four causes of death from the equation. But I disagree that Bush will pull out in any meaningful way. He may get smarter and decide to get the troops out of the cities and put them instead in fortresses near the oil pipelines and facilities that were the real reason for the invasion. Or not. But until Jenna and Barbara are on the front lines, he's not pulling out.

From Steve Benson.

From Rob Rogers (whom I still think might be Gary Larson!).

From Doonesbury.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Peak Oil--Again

I've started reading Richard Heinberg's newest book, Powerdown : Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World.* He recaps his previous book, The Party's Over about the imminent approach of world peak oil, the time when global oil extraction reaches its all-time high and begins its inevitable decline, and then goes on to describe the choices that the world as a whole and communities and individuals face as cheap, abundant energy disappears. I haven't read those parts yet, but I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, you can learn a lot about peak oil from the experts at

As you've probably noticed, I've changed my emphasis on this blog somewhat. Chasing every Bush scandal at the moment seems futile; it didn't work before the election, and it sure doesn't seem like it will work now. Bush will fall when the multiple catastrophes he has unleashed come home to directly and severely impact the lives of millions of Americans. He won't fall because of Halliburton or Valerie Plame or because he stole yet another election.

No, my goal now is more to get the word out about the nature of the upcoming catastrophes and to help us prepare for them in such a way that they won't be completely catastrophic. In a weird sort of way, there's a bit of a benefit in Bush's "victory," since our goals can be more in alignment with each other. Withdrawing much of our money from the global corporate economy and investing it instead in our local communities will be 1) better for the environment; 2) better for our own personal and community economic security, by developing and sustaining local agriculture and businesses; 3) starve the beast which funds the politicians who start the wars; and 4) hasten the fall of Bush. It seems quite likely that the global economy will collapse in a fairly grand fashion fairly soon. How badly that affects our communities will depend directly on how tied we are to the global economy. If your food mostly comes from thousands of miles away, look out! If it comes from tens of miles away, you're probably much less likely to go hungry.

* I link to book descriptions at Amazon so you can learn more about the books I'm describing. PLEASE don't order the books from Amazon! Get them at the library if you can (I checked "Powerdown" out from the UM library), or a local bookstore. If you buy a book, share it with friends or give it to the library after you've read it!

China in the bull shop

Via Cyndy, I see that Seeing the Forest has a post on rumors that China will begin selling dollars. The dollar is at an all-time low against the Euro, and may now drop against other currencies as well. While a lower value theoretically makes American-made manufactured goods (whatever's still left, that is) more competitive, it also means our "government" will have to pay more to borrow money, which means higher interest rates, which means layoffs and mortgage foreclosures and panic and depression and despair and hunger and death. At least, that all seems to be a distinct possibility. I think Dave at Seeing the Forest and the people commenting on his post explain it a bit more rationally than I just did, but that's the gist.

Having a moron as pResident for four years has resulted in several major calamities. Four more years promise almost certain global catastrophe. (Tomorrow, the pessimistic view.)

Making progress

Cyndy charged us with two tasks for the week: Join a credit union, and read Dave Pollard's article The Two Income Trap: Why Lenders Want you to Live Beyond Your Means. I just finished reading the article, which I highly recommend. Well, I joined the University of Michigan Credit Union almost three years ago, but I kept accounts in two online banks as well. This morning I transferred all of the money out of one of those banks to my credit union account, and I'll close that account at the end of the month (after they've paid me the interest!). The other account has an outstanding check, but I'll close it this month, too! A few tenths of a percentage point on interest aren't worth it if these banks are using my money to fund the destruction of the world, one Republican at a time.

I'd like to know if anyone is acting on these suggestions. Please e-mail me with progress reports (and let me know if you mind my sharing your e-mail on the blog).

Tom Toles!

From Tom Toles.

The heat is on

OSLO, Norway (Reuters) -- Global warming is heating the Arctic almost twice as fast as the rest of the planet in a thaw that threatens millions of livelihoods and could wipe out polar bears by 2100, an eight-nation report said on Monday.

The biggest survey to date of the Arctic climate, by 250 scientists, said the accelerating melt could be a foretaste of wider disruptions from a build-up of human emissions of heat-trapping gases in the earth's atmosphere.

The "Arctic climate is now warming rapidly and much larger changes are projected," according to the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), funded by the United States, Canada, Russia, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Norway and Finland.

Arctic temperatures are rising at almost twice the global average and could leap 4-7 Celsius (7-13 Fahrenheit) by 2100, roughly twice the global average projected by U.N. reports. Siberia and Alaska have already warmed by 2-3 C since the 1950s.
I wonder if they'll be able to steal the Florida vote in 2008 if the entire state is under water.

We're 59 million Americans...

And we approved this message:

The caption from AP:
A boy recovers in a Fallujah hospital after a U.S. airstrike in Fallujah, Iraq Saturday, Nov. 6, 2004, which killed his father, according to hospital officials. U.S. jets pounded Fallujah early Saturday in the heaviest airstrikes in six months, including five 500-pound bombs dropped on insurgent targets.(AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Seriously, folks, we 55 million can't wait two or four years to try and use our votes to change this. We need to vote with our dollars, withholding them from the corporations that have taken control of our government. Read this post from yesterday, and follow the links, if you don't know how to get started. This is serious, people are being killed, and we're paying for it (in more ways than one). Don't feed the beast!

Power Outage

If you're wondering what happened to my blog yesterday--a power outage knocked out several University servers, including the one hosting this blog. Things are back running now, as you can see!

From Jen Sorensen.

Feces. Fan. Fallujah.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Selling out completely--the key to victory!

Nicholas Kristof still thinks so, even though I think that's just what John Kerry tried. Here's the "sensible liberal" line that's gotten the attention from most lefty bloggers:
I wish that winning were just a matter of presentation. But it's not. It involves compromising on principles. Bill Clinton won his credibility in the heartland partly by going home to Little Rock during the 1992 campaign to preside over the execution of a mentally disabled convict named Ricky Ray Rector.

There was a moral ambiguity about Mr. Clinton's clambering to power over Mr. Rector's corpse. But unless Democrats compromise, they'll be proud and true and losers.
As opposed to what they are now, which is ashamed and compromised losers. Since the DLC started running the Democratic party back in 1992, they've compromised their prinicples on labor (NAFTA, the WTO), poverty (welfare "reform"), and opposition to costly stupid pointless illegal wars (well, I'm not sure the Dems ever were opposed to those). Frankly, they're running out of principles to abandon and constituencies to betray. If they really want to steal a page or two from some people who were or are popular in the heartland, I'd suggest they start with these two quotes:
Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.
-- Barry Goldwater
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?
-- Jesus Christ (Mark 8:36)

BTW, There are some other Goldwater quotes on that page that are intriguing:
I wouldn't trust Nixon from here to that phone.
If everybody in this town connected with politics had to leave town because of chasing women and drinking, you would have no government.
You don't have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight.
But his appeal vanishes with this one:
I could have ended the war in a month. I could have made North Vietnam look like a mud puddle.
And this one:
You've got to forget about this civilian. Whenever you drop bombs, you're going to hit civilians.

Bottled water: About as ungreen as you can get

Less yuppie, more hippie! That's how we'll get our country back. And one of the most disturbing and inexplicable yuppie trends is bottled water. For some bizarre reason, Americans by the millions are paying hundreds or thousands times as much to buy water in a plastic bottle as it costs them to get water from the tap. Most bottled water is no cleaner than most tap water, and many people can't taste a difference either: this article says that "Good Morning America" audience members preferred the taste of New York City tap water over 02, Poland Spring and Evian. From the same article:

CRI (the Container Recycling Institute) estimates that supplying thirsty Americans with water bottles for one year consumes more than 1.5 million barrels of oil, which is enough to generate electricity for more than 250,000 homes for a year, or enough to fuel 100,000 cars for a year.
The article stresses the bottled water is less tested and regulated than tap water. The article doesn't discuss what I think may be the most important issue regarding bottled water, the privatization of what should be a basic human right, but it does conclude by giving it a mention:
The WWF argues that governments should focus their limited energies on repairing current tap water infrastructures and on protecting watersheds from harmful farm, industry and urban pollutants. Many public water supply advocates feel that tax dollars should be paying to deal with tap water’s challenges. We certainly need to think twice before handing off the public water trust to private companies that put it in attractive bottles at a high price.
So, if you regularly buy bottled water, there's one easy step that you can take to save the planet AND stick it to those evil Bush-supporting corporations: STOP!!!

Do the words "state of emergency" and "liberation" go together?

From CNN:
Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has declared a state of emergency for 60 days, his spokesman said on Sunday.

The emergency declaration excludes Iraqi regions run by Kurdish peoples in northern Iraq, and comes as U.S. and Iraqi forces prepare for an assault on insurgents in Falluja.
Just like he does with every other type of capital, Bush seems intent on spending his "political capital" as fast as possible. I'm sure the "state of emergency" means martial law, curfews, shoot on sight, etc. Exactly how this differs from what they've already got going in Iraq now I'm not sure. But it can't be good.

Hit 'em where it hurts!

Their wallets! As I suggested on Friday, one way that many liberals/progressives can fight back against the red-staters is in how we spend our money. As I suggested then, Cyndy at Mousemusings has started a campaign of sorts to help us figure out how we can best direct our money in ways that will get us our country back. On Friday she provided a list of the 25 top corporate contributors to the Republican party from 1999 to 2003. Boycotting these swine is obviously a place to start.

Today Cyndy links to a Michael Ruppert article on the subject of reshaping the economy in OUR image. Here's a brief excerpt:
Perhaps now disillusioned Kerry supporters will take a second look at what FTW has been teaching for years.

* Get out of debt.
* Spend your money and time on things that give you energy and provide you with useful information.
* Stop spending a penny with major banks, news media and corporations that feed you lies and leave you exhausted.
* Learn how money works and use it like a weapon.

It is already becoming clear that as Peak Oil becomes a stark reality, survival will become a place-based, local phenomenon. Local economies, to the degree that they exist and are flourishing will provide strength to resist what is coming. Everyone who sees this essay should compare the return on investment they got with the election against something that offers more payoffs, an opportunity to become real, independent actors on the fields of their own lives.
And, in what I'm guessing will become a regular feature at Mousemusings: concrete steps that you can take every week to focus YOUR money on the forces of good and not the forces of evil (#%$@&*! Bush--he's got me talking like him--except I mean him when I say "evil"). This week's steps:
To Do: Join a local Credit Union this week. Close and move your other accounts to the credit union. Why? Credit Unions are member owned, not for profit and support the local community.
To Read: The Two Income Trap: Why Lenders Want you to Live Beyond Your Means by Dave Pollard
I've got lots more to add, and I will be doing so a lot from now on on this blog.

PS: The key to success of these strategies is in getting lots of people involved. Both Cyndy and I have easy e-mail links on our blogs--the little envelope at the bottom of every post. Just click on the envelope, and an e-mail will be prepared for sending to whomever you want to receive it!

Maureen Dowd's back to her old self

When I first started reading the NY Times onlie about three years ago, I think I was impressed with the first one or two Maureen Dowd columns that I read. Then she ran off a string of too-cute columns, where all meaning and information in the column was subordinated to cutesy little phrases. Lately, however, MoDo has written some really pithy, to-the-point columns. Until today. Here's the paragraph that destroys today's column for me:
W. and Karl played up western movie stereotypes. After 9/11, the rugged frontier myth, the hunter/Indian-fighter hero in a war of civilization against savagery worked better than ever. But this White House's frontier is not a place of infinite progress and expansion, stretching society's boundaries. It doesn't battle primitivism; it courts primitivism.
Granted, she uses the word "myth," but I don't think that is nearly enough to shield her from a justifiable charge of racism. Native American civilization was not savagery, and it was not primitivism. Us white folks were the primitives who invaded their beautiful country and stole it from them, treating the land with a disrespect they would never have dreamed of. Many Native American societies had highly-developed forms of government (it is said that the drafters of our Constitution based parts of it on the Iroquois' governing system).

Anyway, I'm sure that Native American groups will be all over Dowd for this BS, and they should be. Her next column will likely be an apology. It's too bad, because what she was saying in today's column was very important. She just killed the message on the way.

What happened to the missing explosives?

I'll bet we'll learn where a lot of the explosives went when the final assault on Fallujah begins.
Rebels shot dead 21 Iraqi policemen in cold blood on Sunday, a day after killing 34 people in attacks on security forces, in a clear show of force ahead of an imminent U.S. offensive on insurgents in Falluja and Ramadi.
Police said gunmen killed 23 policemen in three attacks in Iraq. The bloodiest assault was in Haditha, 125 miles northwest of Baghdad, where insurgents with rocket-propelled grenades and mortars attacked a police station at dawn.

After a 90-minute battle in which six policemen were wounded, the attackers took 21 captured policemen to the K-3 oil pumping station area and shot them dead execution-style.
Whether Tories or Nazi sympathizers or John Walker Lindh, collaborators are, rightly or wrongly, usually the most despised people in an occupation. One of the most horrible aspects of a war, especially an illegal, unnecessary one, is how it puts people into impossible dilemmas. Through sanctions and curfews and destruction of infrastructure and a host of other reasons, many Iraqis have been placed in the situation of either collaborating or starving (or worse). By collaborating, they maybe get a paycheck and can buy food for their families. But they earn the undying hatred of their countrymen, who will kill them later if they can't kill them now. All of this blood is on the hands of George W. Bush (and the 59 million who voted for him, our very own collaborators), because none of this had to happen.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

A massive war crime

From Reuters:
U.S. troops sealed all roads to Falluja and urged women, children and non-fighting age men to flee, but said they would arrest any man under 45 trying to enter or leave the city.
It's Guernica, it's Wounded Knee, it's Nanking, it's Coventry and Dresden and My Lai. We attacked their country on false pretenses, in complete violation of international law, and now we're going to massacre anyone who dares defend his country against the invaders. Whether he won or stole an election, no president has a mandate to do this.

From Matt Davies.

From Don Wright.

From J.D. Crowe.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Oh Canada

Just another lie

The Bushies spent much of last week trying to claim that al Qaqaa's 380 tons of explosives were removed before coalition forces had fully invaded Iraq. The Bushies lie--again.
In the weeks after the fall of Baghdad, Iraqi looters loaded powerful explosives into pickup trucks and drove the material away from the Al Qaqaa ammunition site, according to a group of U.S. Army reservists and National Guardsmen who said they witnessed the looting.

The soldiers said about a dozen U.S. troops guarding the sprawling facility could not prevent the theft because they were outnumbered by looters. Soldiers with one unit — the 317th Support Center based in Wiesbaden, Germany — said they sent a message to commanders in Baghdad requesting help to secure the site but received no reply.

Thanks again, John Kerry

Mark Crispin Miller tried to warn Kerry about electronic voting machines:
I actually got invited to a Kerry fundraiser so I could talk to him about it. I raised the issue directly with him and with Teresa. Teresa was really indignant and really concerned, but Kerry just looked down at me -- he's about 9 feet tall -- and I could tell it just didn't register. It set off all his conspiracy-theory alarms and he just wasn't listening.
If he thought electronic voting scams are a conspiracy theory and Bush's lies about Iraq's WMD's weren't, maybe Kerry is dumber than Bush.

Your dollars are becoming worth less

Or is that worthless? From AP:
The U.S. dollar hit an all-time low against the euro Friday, shrugging off positive U.S. employment data amid worries about oil prices and concern over the U.S. budget deficit.

Faith trumps reality

Via Polizeros, here's a column by Steve Lopez, writing in the LA Times:
Sure, John Kerry ran a disastrous campaign. But if Bush could screw things up as badly as he did the last four years and still win a second term, he truly must have God on his side.
A far greater percentage of Americans believe in creationism than in evolution, and I had to stop thinking of them as rubes. A July poll revealed that more than half of America still believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and I had to stop thinking of them as blockheads.

Faith. That's what drives this country, and that's exactly what was missing in my life. I jerked the Sentra to the curb, took a deep breath and repudiated all the lies I've been telling myself.

For starters, I never liked the Sentra. I hate it, even if it does get great mileage, and I feel like a big wuss for driving a Japanese car the size of a walnut. What I need — what I deserve as a God-fearing American — is a vehicle that burns enough gas to turn Alaska into a beach resort, or at least win me a tax credit.

By an act of divinity, the Sentra had come to a stop at Star Ford. I marched onto the lot and asked to see an SUV, and a salesman led me to the Explorer.

"Not big enough," I said.

He took me to the Ford Expedition.

"Not big enough," I said. "If our soldiers are going to keep dying in Iraq, I might as well get the most out of their sacrifice."

He took me to the Ford Excursion, which is approximately 40 feet tall. I managed to climb up without a stepladder, slid into the cab and felt as if I was behind the wheel of my old parish hall.

"Not big enough," I said. "Don't you have a bigger one called the Ford Extinction?"

Turns out there is no Ford Extinction yet.
Faith, as defined in the year 2004 in America, is freedom from doubt, freedom from science, freedom from reality. I wish I had been saved much sooner.

Well, you morons keep electing Tony Blair!

No student left behind

From the Federal Register, November 4, 2004:
In accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. 522a), as amended by the Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act of 1988 (Pub. L. 100-503), and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Guidelines on the Conduct of Matching Programs (54 FR 25818 (June 19, 1989)), and OMB Bulletin 89-22, the following information is provided:
1. Name of participating agencies: The Selective Service System (SSS) and the Department of Education (ED).
2. Purpose of the match: The purpose of this matching program is to ensure that the requirements of Section 12(f) of the Military Selective Service System Act [50 U.S.C. App. 462 (f)] are met.
3. Authority for conducting the matching: Computerized access to the Selective Service Registrant Registration Records (SSS 10) enables ED to confirm the registration status of applicants for assistance under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA), as amended (20 U.S.C. 1070 et seq.). Section 12(f) of the Military Selective Service Act, as amended [50 U.S.C. App. 462(f)], denies eligibility for any form of assistance or benefit under Title IV of the HEA to any
person required to present himself for and submit to registration under Section 3 of the Military Selective Service System Act [50 U.S.C. App. 453] who fails to do so in accordance with that section and any rules and regulations issued under that section. In addition, Section 12(f)(2) of the Military Selective Service System Act specifies that any person required to present himself for and submit to registration under Section 3 of the Military Selective Service System Act must file a statement with the institution of higher education where the person intends to attend or is attending that he is in compliance with the Military Selective Service System Act. Furthermore, Section 12(f)(3) of the Military Selective Service System Act authorizes the Secretary of Education, in agreement with the Director of the Selective Service, to
prescribe methods for verifying the statements of compliance filed by students.

Section 484(n) of the HEA [20 U.S.C. 1091(n)], requires the Secretary to conduct data base matches with SSS, using common demographic data elements, to enforce the Selective Service registration provisions of the Military Selective Service Act [50
U.S.C. App. 462(f)], and further states that appropriate confirmation of a person's shall fulfill the requirement to file a separate statement of compliance.

4. Categories of records and individuals covered:
1. Federal Student Aid Application File (18-11-01). Individuals covered are men born after December 31, 1959, but at least 18 years old by June 30 of the applicable award year.
2. Selective Service Registration Records (SSS 10).
Shorter Federal Register: If you're in school, thinking about going to school, or between 18 and 30 and breathing, Bush is going to draft you. Amazing that he didn't bother to tell you that before Tuesday, isn't it? (Via Polizeros)

A gentlemen's agreement without the gentlemen

Xymphora asks:
Isn't it funny that the one thing Kerry expressly promised his supporters he wouldn't do - make an Al Gore-style premature concession speech - is exactly what he did? Had he waited as little as twenty-four hours, information would have been available that would make his decision to concede much more difficult. It is almost as if he was in a hurry to concede before such information came out.
Is this premature concession by Kerry some kind of Skull and Bones thing, a 'gentleman's' agreement between the two Bonesman that they wouldn't engage in unseemly quibbling over who won, but just let the first guy to steal the election have it?

Protest Saturday!

From the Ann Arbor Coalition Against War:
Join the AACAW on Saturday at noon, at the Federal Building, to protest the U.S. attack on Fallujah. Bring all the troops home now! End the occupations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. Following our demonstration there is a big gathering planned on the UM campus, at State and William Streets, at 1 PM, intended to unite all the local energy created to defeat Bush.

What did "Anybody but Bush" achieve? Bush

From Sharon Smith at Counterpunch:
Because of Kerry's campaign strategy, the Bush agenda determined the political parameters of the campaign. That is, Bush's right-wing agenda faced no coherent opposition--instead, it received a fainter echo from pro-war neo-liberal John Kerry.

If the ABB left is looking for anyone to blame for Bush's victory, it should take a long hard look at itself--and its own unconditional surrender to a candidate as right wing as Kerry. Instead of pressuring Kerry from the left, the ABB left devoted most of its energy attacking Ralph Nader and those who tried to build a genuine left alternative to the Democrats.

In addition, campaigning for Kerry required the antiwar, women's, gay and labor movements to abandon any meaningful struggle. This was not only because they devoted their time, money and energy to campaigning for Kerry, but because struggle would have required criticism of Kerry's own pro-war and other backward positions. The torture at Abu Ghraib, which should have led to angry mass demonstrations of antiwar activists, barely elicited a peep from the antiwar movement--or John Kerry.

Thus, this election was conducted without an opposition to the Republican status quo, allowing the mainstream political debate to continue on Bush's terms--that is, on a right-wing basis. For example, the debate over gay marriage was not between two sides, one supporting it and one opposed, but between two candidates who both opposed it. And these parameters framed the gay marriage debate for the mass of the U.S. population.
I was appalled the first time I heard the "anybody but Bush" argument, and remain so. It gave a green light to the DLC "democrats" like Al From and Terry McAuliffe, channelling their corporate bosses, to choose whichever candidate they felt was least threatening to the corporate-imperial agenda. They proceeded to label Kucinich and Sharpton as "no chance" and Dean as "unelectable," funneling the choice down to pro-war corporatists Kerry and Edwards. Edwards' charm and "two Americas" rhetoric sounded like it might be a little too threatening to Bush, so they let Kerry head the ticket. If by some chance the candidate who made Al Gore seem exciting by contrast managed to defeat the worst president in history, the corporate agenda was still safe. We were going to lose on Tuesday no matter what. We just lost badly. And not only did America not get a better president, it didn't even learn anything. The war is a crime, Guantanamo is a crime, the Patriot Act and No Child Left Behind are crimes, NAFTA is a crime. By choosing a candidate who was on board with most of these crimes, America never heard the facts. They don't like gay marriage, and they voted for the candidate they thought actually meant it when he said he didn't either.

Let's get serious--economic warfare

If the 55 million Kerry voters really want to do something to help turn around the result of the election AND save the planet at the same time, I think some substantial economic warfare is called for. I'm not talking about the type of work stoppages that the wealthy elite employed in Venezuela to try and sabotage the Chavez government. I'm talking about a significant withdrawal from the global consumerist economy. Drive less. Eat less (or no) meat. Buy less, buy used, buy local. If the 55 million Kerry voters each cut their consumption of new, corporate-produced products by 10%, the impact would be noticed bigtime on Wall Street. If they cut consumption by 50%, the impact would be catastrophic to the corporations. And 50% really isn't that hard. Just buying a used car instead of a new one (even a hybrid) gets you a long way there.

Now, if our current economic system were in any way sustainable and not doomed to ultimate collapse in the next decade or two, I wouldn't suggest taking drastic economic action for the sole purpose of bringing down the current administration. Lots of us blue-staters and lots of them red-staters would lose their jobs, and we'd be to blame. But our current system IS unsustainable, and blue-staters and red-staters ARE losing their jobs. Higher and higher percentages of the money spent on consumer goods is going into the pockets of the CEO's and the wealthy shareholders, who then are using it to bring us the worst government money can buy. So, instead of just continuing to buy and drive and eat meat, thereby continuing the funneling of the world's wealth into the hands of the very few, we need to substantially withdraw from the game. By doing so, we can not only bring down the current corrupt system, but start constructing a better one at the same time, a system which can immediately start addressing the difficulties caused by the collapse of the current one.

I'm starting to realize that I won't have time this week to finish this book I started in the paragraphs above. But it has already been written several times over--one of the key books in changing my perspective over the past few years was Affluenza. The web site How to Save the World has lots of great ideas on getting us to a more sustainable future, as does the Center for a New American Dream.

If you don't have time to explore these books and web sites, just remember this: Money is power (more or less), and when you buy Nikes at Wal-Mart or a new Chevrolet or a Big Mac or a tankful of gas, you are taking some of your power and giving it to one or more evil corporations who helped get Bush re-elected. You are also helping to destroy the environment, and are undercutting decent wages for people everywhere. In our current society, some of these purchases are unavoidable. But we should strive to avoid all unnecessary purchases that we can. I'll probably be blogging on this subject a lot for a while, and I think Cyndy at Mousemusings is planning to do the same. Don't feed the beast that gave us Bush!

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The attack on public education intensifies

From the NY Times:
The Air National Guard warplane, flying a night training mission out of Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, fired a burst of 27 rounds from its 20-millimeter cannon shortly before 10:15 p.m. as it streaked over Little Egg Harbor Township, 20 miles north of Atlantic City, New Jersey military officials said last night.
The pilot was to have fired the half-second burst of shells well into the dive, at about 5,000 feet, the colonel said, but instead the cannon went off at an altitude of 7,000 feet, and at least eight of the bullets - non-explosive lead slugs more than 2 inches long - crashed through the roof of Little Egg Harbor Intermediate School, three miles south of the target range. No one was hurt, and the damage was minor.
The National Guard colonel said "Jersey's a blue state, so who cares?" (Not really)

One good thing

Many people predicted that there would be a major terror attack on the US before the election. That didn't happen. That is good. And right now, aWol is swaggering around with his black-box mandate and political capital and 55-Repug Senate, with few impediments to his carrying out his evil agenda. Unless going immediately to total fascist repression is at the top of the list, another terror attack any time soon is probably not in his best interest. So if, and its a big if, these clowns are actually capable of doing something to protect the US from terrorist attacks, chances are that they actually will do that for a while. Of course, the upcoming flattening of Fallujah will greatly increase the risk.

Capital Punishment

"I earned capital in this election, and I'm going to spend it." -- aWol, today.

A mandate for Fallujacide

From AP:
BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. forces pounded parts of Fallujah from the air and ground Thursday, targeting insurgents in a city where American forces were said to be gearing up for a major offensive. Three British soldiers were killed in a suicide attack at a checkpoint in central Iraq.

Al-Jazeera television broadcast a threat by an unspecified armed group to strike oil installations and government buildings if Americans launch an all-out assault on Fallujah. The report was accompanied by a videotape showing about 20 armed men brandishing various weapons, including a truck-mounted machine gun.
Very sorry, Fallujah. Our country has been taken over by fanatics. I'm sure you understand that better than we do.

A Safer Place

Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) is pulling out of Iraq, just as they did a few months ago from Afghanistan.
Underlining a rapid deterioration in security in Iraq, one of the few remaining international aid groups said it was quitting the country because of "extreme risk" to aid workers.

"It has become impossible ... to guarantee an acceptable level of security for our staff, be they foreign or Iraqi," Medecins sans Frontieres general director Gorik Ooms said in Belgium.

Coalition of the Smart

Hungary's leaving:
Hungary announced Wednesday that it would withdraw its 300 troops from Iraq, becoming the latest country in United States-led coalition to bow to public pressure and prepare to bring its soldiers home.

Speaking at a ceremony for the end of military conscription, the newly appointed prime minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany, said Hungary was obliged to stay until the Iraqi elections scheduled for January, but would withdraw the troops by March.

They're still working on Fiji

From Maureen Dowd's column today:
While Mr. Bush was making his little speech about reaching out, Republicans said they had "the green light" to pursue their conservative agenda, like drilling in Alaska's wilderness and rewriting the tax code.

"He'll be a lot more aggressive in Iraq now," one Bush insider predicts. "He'll raze Falluja if he has to. He feels that the election results endorsed his version of the war." Never mind that the more insurgents American troops kill, the more they create.

Just listen to Dick (Oh, lordy, is this cuckoo clock still vice president?) Cheney, introducing the Man for his victory speech: "This has been a consequential presidency which has revitalized our economy and reasserted a confident American role in the world." Well, it has revitalized the Halliburton segment of the economy, anyhow. And "confident" is not the first word that comes to mind for the foreign policy of a country that has alienated everyone except Fiji.

Vice continued, "Now we move forward to serve and to guard the country we love." Only Dick Cheney can make "to serve and to guard" sound like "to rape and to pillage."

From Rob Rogers.

From Chris Britt.

Was the election stolen?

Since the "candidate" has folded his tent and gone home to his billionaire wife, I don't know if it's worth pursuing. But there are lots of reasons to suspect that the outcomes in Florida and Ohio were fraudulent. Cyndy has more.

Thank You, John Kerry

Thank you, John Kerry, for voting for the war in Iraq in 2002, defying your liberal constituency in Massachusetts to pander to the yahoos you thought would vote for you as president. Without the support of a supposed liberal and former anti-war activist, many more people would have questioned the legitimacy of Bush's reasons for wanting to attack Iraq. Others who might have believed the reasons but still thought that a pre-emptive war was illegal and unconstitutional, or that Congress shouldn't forfeit its constitutional prerogative to declare war to the president, probably had their doubts lessened by your vote. So thanks for that.

Thank you, John Kerry, for not saying anything during the four months that the UN inspectors were in Iraq finding huge stockpiles of jacksquat. A ruckus being raised by the sub-octogenarian crowd in the Senate might have had some effect in slowing the rush to war. But you said nothing. So thanks a lot.

Thank you, John Kerry, for seeking the Democratic nomination for president, for reasons still unclear to everybody. You took up ponderous minutes in the debates that the better candidates could have used to state real positions on real issues, including this absurd war that you helped Bush get us into. Your every word suggested to viewers that there isn't anything seriously wrong with how our country is being run, that Dean and Sharpton and Kucinich were just radical alarmists who don't understand how the world works.

Thank you, John Kerry, for accepting the media's building you up as "electable" while they ridiculed Dean and ignored Kucinich. Your soon to be running mate John Edwards showed some class in the debates by insisting that all of the candidates have a chance to be heard, something I never saw you do. Oh, and thank you for picking Edwards as your running mate. Heaven forbid that you pick someone anti-war like Bob Graham or Dennis Kucinich. Besides, North Carolina was clearly more important than Florida or Ohio, right?

Thank you, John Kerry, for all of your carefully-worded speeches telling the corporate elite in this country that there is nothing wrong with how they dominate life in this country, and that they had nothing to worry about from you. They appreciated that with lavish donations to your campaign and favorable media coverage. Amazingly, even though I never met anyone who thought you were the best candidate, you romped through the caucuses and primaries because people believed the media lies about you being the only Democrat who could beat Bush.

Thank you, John Kerry, for continuing to defend your vote on the Iraq war.

Thank you, John Kerry, for continually validating Bush's "war on terror" by suggesting that the only thing wrong with it was that he wasn't running it as well as you could.

Thank you, John Kerry, for hardly raising a peep about Bush's incompetence, or worse, which allowed 9/11 to happen.

Thank you very much, John Kerry, for running a campaign so inept that you could never open up a clear lead over the worst, most-failed president in history. I never wanted to vote for you, but you did such a lousy job that in the end I panicked and did anyway. And I spent hours on election day encouraging others to do the same. We got Michigan to vote for you. But you still couldn't win--or could you?

Thank you, John Kerry, for conceding the election to a fascist war criminal less than 24 hours after the polls closed, even though millions of votes were cast on non-traceable electronic voting machines and there were widespread attempts, many probably successful, to supress the vote. You may still have won the election, but still stuck to your class roots and chose to protect the ruling class from the possible effects of true democracy.

So thanks, John Kerry. Now go Cheney yourself.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Why Kerry Lost

Doug Ireland has an explanation. Here's an excerpt:
History will record that John Kerry lost the election on the day he voted the Constitution-shredding blank check for Bush’s war on Iraq. He was hobbled throughout the campaign by this vote, which shackled him to a me-too posture that included endlessly repeated pledges to “stay the course” in Iraq and “win” the occupation. Kerry could not, therefore, develop and present a full-blown critique of Bush on Iraq, nor offer a genuine alternative to him on it. The non-existent Kerry “plan” (based on the hubris that he could con foreign allies into sending their troops to bleed and die for the U.S. crimes at Abu Ghraib) wasn’t bought by the voters. Bush won by making the link between Iraq and the war on terrorism--the Big Lie which Kerry could not effectively counter, because he’d bought into it at the beginning. And it was on that endlessly hammered lie that Bush won the country on the Iraq issue--the exit polls Tuesday night showed that voters thought the Iraq war was part of the war on terror by 52-44%.

There was a missed moment (one of many) in the campaign, right after the devastating Senate report on the U.S. intelligence failure leading up to the war, when Kerry could have done what his Senate colleague (and Intelligence Committee ranking Democrat) Jay Rockefeller did then--say, “If I’d known then what I know now, I’d never had voted for the war.” But the cautious and spineless Kerry didn’t have the intestinal fortitude or the inner conviction necessary to break with his vote for war. It would probably have worked--Americans like someone who can admit a mistake. But Kerry listened to his overpriced, condohead campaign consultants, and instead hid behind his medals.

55 to 44

That's the new R to D ratio in the Senate now that CNN has called the Alaska race for Murkowski. That's dangerously close to the 60% needed to force just about any crap through the Senate. We've had precious few checks and balances in the past four years. We'll have even fewer in the next four.

Memo to Iowa Democrats

Back in January, you folks picked John Kerry over several better candidates because you felt that he was more "electable." If he was so electable, why couldn't he even win in your stupid state? Even Gore did that. (PS: Don't think your state is stupid? See Exhibit B.)

If there ever is another election, I don't think Iowa should get the first caucus or primary again.

No wonder Howard Dean was screaming after spending two weeks in your state.

Canada: "Get in line"

From Reuters:
Disgruntled Democrats seeking a safe Canadian haven after U.S. President George W. Bush won Tuesday's election should not pack their bags just yet.

Canadian officials made clear on Wednesday that any U.S. citizens so fed up with Bush that they want to make a fresh start up north would have to stand in line like any other would-be immigrants -- a wait that can take up to a year.

"Let me tell you -- if they're hard-working honest people, there's a process, and let them apply," Immigration Minister Judy Sgro told Reuters.

Asked whether American applicants would get special treatment, she replied: "No, they'll join the crowd like all the other people who want to come to Canada."
When I think about leaving this stupid country, which is often, I tend to think more about heading south. I've heard several people suggest Canada, but I know that in Canada I'd have to get a good, high-paying job, and I doubt if my skills in computer programming would stand out particularly compared to thousands of qualified Canadians. Rent and heating costs would be high. And without the good job, I probably couldn't get in at all.

In Mexico or Venezuela, I could probably live for years on the proceeds from selling my house and cashing in my retirement. I could probably find meaningful if not high-paying work in computers or teaching math or English.

I realize that Latin American governments are usually even more screwed up than ours, and if they aren't then ours will intervene and screw it up for them. But my impression from my visits down south is that the general population KNOWS that the government can't be trusted, and that the people are, somehow, generally much better informed than the American public in general. (If you think people here are well-informed, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I point you to exhibit A.) Peasants living in the Lacondon jungle in Chiapas were able to discuss NAFTA and FTAA with us knowledgeably, something probably less than 10% of Americans can do.

Right now, I'm at a loss. I think I'll probably take a 2-3 week vacation this winter and go to Mexico, Guatemala or Venezuela for some intensive Spanish lessons. I'll then be better able to travel and comprehend the vast stretches of the American continents which may not yet be completely under the control of corporate fascists. Or at least maybe I won't be home when Ashcroft comes knockin'.

PS: Isn't it amazing that CNN ran that Reuters article with the headline "No Canada safe haven for Democrats?"

Well, Crapo

Senator Mike Crapo, (R, Idaho) has a 0% rating from the Sierra Club, a 0% rating from NARAL, a 15% rating from the AFL-CIO, a 40% rating from the ACLU, and an "A" rating from the NRA. He voted for both the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq, he voted for the Patriot Act, and he voted for all of Bush's tax cuts.

What's more, his last name is "Crapo."

He got 99.5% of the vote in Idaho yesterday.

Thoughts on the dawn of the apocalypse

Michelle has compiled an impressive selection of blogger wisdom (including my own).

Kerry's Concession Speech

The media says it's coming up at about 1 pm. I say it was back on August 9 at the Grand Canyon when he said he would have voted for the war even knowing there were no WMD's.

That's the beauty of our system

When an officeholder lies repeatedly to us and screws up worse than any of his predecessors, we have the opportunity to go out and re-elect him.

I mean, why bother?

I wonder if Greg Palast and the others who looked into the widespread fraud and corruption of the Florida 2000 debacle will even bother this time, since America apparently didn't give a flying Cheney about fixing it.

Well, crap

Kerry concedes. Let the apocalypse begin.

A Flower Grows Amidst the Wreckage

Voters in Ferndale, Michigan voted overwhelmingly to approve instant runoff voting yesterday.

Alzheimers Nation

For some reason, what I thought of first this morning was Ronald Reagan's farewell letter to the nation from 1994. He knew the lights were going out and the descent into darkness was underway. And that's where our country is now.

My brother-in-law's mother recently died after a 17-year losing battle with Alzheimers. My mother died last year after a decade of progressive memory loss caused by a series of microstrokes. One of the first really noticeable manifestations of her illness was when she started being swindled by dozens of mail and phone scams. She wrote check after check to con artists, eventually adding up to probably ten thousand dollars. I tried calling some of these crooks and telling them to stop, and I called the state attorney general's office as well. But I think the only way we really stopped it was when it got to the point where she couldn't remember how to write checks, at which point she turned over her finances to me. Over ten years the disease got worse and worse, to where eventually she could only recognize my younger brother and me who saw her frequently, and then after a while she couldn't even recognize us.

I say all that because I don't want you to think that I'm joking when I suggest that the United States of America appears to be a nation with Alzheimers. That Bush could get a clear victory in the popular vote, and most likely in the electoral vote as well, suggests that the majority of voters wake up every day with a clean slate for a memory. "Oh, what a nice man he seems to be" could only be the conclusion of a nation without a functioning memory. A nation that allows a group of thugs to start multiple wars while cutting taxes and stealing constitutional rights at will, and then votes to keep the thugs in office, is very much like my mother writing a check for the same crap she wrote a check for a month earlier, even though the crap was never delivered.

The only bright side I can see isn't really bright at all. The national devotion to unreality can't and won't continue for long. We're headed for disaster after disaster in the next few years--wars, terror attacks, bankruptcy, widespread shortages, probably civil unrest. This probably would have happened even with a Kerry victory. Four years from now Republican policies will have destroyed so many lives that they'll likely be thrown out for good. I think what we probably need to do right now is to abandon the Democratic party en masse, as they have shown themselves to be completely incompetent as an opposition party. If you can't beat this idiot failed president on his record, you really can't win anything (and they haven't).

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


I'm gettin' out the vote today, so don't expect much bloggin'. Turnout here in Ann Arbor looks to be huge. I did door hangers from 7 to 9 this morning, then voted from 9 to 10, then knocked on doors from 10 to 11. I'm taking a lunch break before going back to door knocking. We've been targeting a low-income housing cooperative which is very close to my house. Our door hangers remind people to vote, and offer them a ride to the polls if they need it. We're doing this with the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace, a non-partisan 501(c)-3 group, so our message is simply "Vote!" The AAACP has lots of volunteers doing the same thing in low-income housing throughout the city.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Al Jazeera didn't give aWol much time to spin this!

The Arab TV network al Jazeera just released the rest of the transcript from Osama's latest video. OBL says the goal of his terror tactics is to bleed the US into bankruptcy, as he claims the mujahadeen of Afghanistan, of which he was a part, did to the Soviet Union.
He also said al Qaeda has found it "easy for us to provoke and bait this administration."

"All that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their private corporations," bin Laden said.
As part of the "bleed-until-bankruptcy plan," bin Laden cited a British estimate that it cost al Qaeda about $500,000 to carry out the attacks of September 11, 2001, an amount that he said paled in comparison with the costs incurred by the United States.

"Every dollar of al Qaeda defeated a million dollars, by the permission of Allah, besides the loss of a huge number of jobs," he said. "As for the economic deficit, it has reached record astronomical numbers estimated to total more than a trillion dollars.
"It is true that this shows that al Qaeda has gained, but on the other hand it shows that the Bush administration has also gained, something that anyone who looks at the size of the contracts acquired by the shady Bush administration-linked mega-corporations, like Halliburton and its kind, will be convinced.

"And it all shows that the real loser is you," he said. "It is the American people and their economy."
As I said before, it is completely inappropriate for either campaign to use what OBL says as a reason to vote for their candidate. And these statements have been withheld, for some reason, for three days. Apparently a decision by al Jazeera, although reading the article it sounds as though anyone who saw the original video and could read Arabic would have gotten the whole story on Friday. A November surprise?

And despite my protestations that using the tape for political gain would be inappropriate, I have little doubt that both candidates will try it. Kerry would seem to have the better opportunity, since OBL seems to be saying that Bush has played right into his hands (which is pretty much what I think). The Bushies could only then respond that yes, the terrorist madman is saying this because he wants Americans to vote for Kerry--so vote for Bush. In a better world, both candidates would agree that OBL is an enemy of this country who has probably carefully calculated what he said to get a particular reaction. It's too bad that no one in the debates thought to ask this question of the candidates: "What if, in the week before the election, Osama bin Laden releases a tape saying or implying that he endorses your opponent. Would you see that as a positive or a negative for your campaign, and would you attempt to take advantage of it? Since bin Laden is a terrorist and a sworn enemy of this country, should we give any credence at all to anything he says?" If Kerry had the first chance to answer, I think he would have flat-out rejected the notion of using an Osama tape for political gain, and Bush would have had to agree. If Bush had answered first, anything might have happened, but Kerry might still have been able to corner him into agreeing that an OBL tape wouldn't be used politically (at least on content; I don't think either candidate would have given up using the tape as evidence of OBL's continued existence--Bush to scare us, Kerry to highlight Bush's incompetence). I guess I can't complain--that wasn't one of the questions that I suggested.

Michael Moore should stick to movies

Someone on our local listserv posted Michael Moore's latest message, which included the following:
Okay, Kerry isn’t everything you wished he would be. You’re right. He’s not you! Or me. But we’re not on the ballot – Kerry is. Yes, Kerry was wrong to vote for authorization for war in Iraq but he was in step with 70% of the American public who was being lied to by Bush & Co. And once everyone learned the truth, the majority turned against the war. Kerry has had only one position on the war – he believed his president.

President Kerry had better bring the troops home right away. My prediction: Kerry’s roots are anti-war. He has seen the horrors of war and because of that he will avoid war unless it is absolutely necessary. Ask most vets. But don’t ask someone whose only horror was when he arrived too late for a kegger in Alabama.

There’s a reason Bush calls Kerry the Number One Liberal in the Senate – THAT’S BECAUSE HE IS THE NUMBER ONE LIBERAL IN THE SENATE! What more do you want? My friends, this is about as good as it gets when voting for the Democrat. We don’t have the #29 Liberal running or the #14 Liberal or even the #2 Liberal – we got #1! When has that ever happened?

Those of us who may be to the left of the #1 liberal Democrat should remember that this year conservative Democrats have had to make a far greater shift in their position to back Kerry than we have. We’re the ones always being asked to make the huge compromises and to always vote holding our noses. No nose holding this time. This #1 liberal is not the tweedledee to Bush’s tweedledum.
My reaction follows:

Boy, Michael Moore should really stick to making movies. I'm just about reconciled to voting for Kerry when I read this load of tripe. "In step with 70% of the American public." That's Moore's excuse for Kerry's war vote? An impassioned speech, like the ones he gave back in 1971, could have put a serious dent in that 70%. He believed the
president? Please let me continue to believe that Kerry's vote was for political reasons--if he's stupid enough to believe this president, he may be as stupid as this president. (And Moore seems to be suggesting that "believing your president" is by definition something good and honorable and patriotic, when in fact it is precisely the opposite--especially for an opposition senator.) And while many reasonable people believed that Iraq had WMD's after years of being lied to about it, the idea that Iraq was a threat to the US was simply ludicrous. And Kerry knew that. I'm pretty sure he knew about the WMD's being a myth, too. He knew that Bush was going to war if he got the approval of Congress, no matter what, and he still voted for it. Michael Moore is insulting our intelligence by suggesting otherwise. We get enough of that from the Bushies.

And Moore's saying Kerry's the "number one liberal in the senate" sounds just as stupid as when Bush says it. If you carefully pick a few social and environmental votes (leaving Kyoto out, for example) and tally the score, maybe that's what you get. But I saw a great movie this past summer which focused on several shameful episodes in our county's recent history. One was the stolen election, where the number one liberal in the senate joined his 99 white colleagues in ignoring the pleas of disenfranchised black voters in Florida. Another was the Patriot Act, in which the number one liberal in the senate voted with all but one of the rest to take away key parts of our civil liberties, without having even read the bill. And the third was the war in Iraq, to which the number one liberal in the senate gave not only his vote but his endorsement. If you can't count on the number one liberal in the senate to take a stand on these issues, who can you count on?

And whatever happened to the guy who made that great movie?

Bush supporters have been pretending for four years that Bush is a good president. If Kerry supporters are going to do the same thing for President Kerry, we'll be in even sorrier shape four years from now (yes, we'll be better off than we would have been if Bush won, but probably not better off than we are now--and we'll be facing Jeb '08
in the face).

Yes, Kerry looks very good compared to Bush. That's not the proper standard for a president. Vote for Kerry, but hold his feet to the fire, and don't pretend he's a compassionate liberal when he's bombing Fallujah or overthrowing some Latin American government, or lying us into another rotten "free trade" agreement. Our good choices were systematically taken away from us by the two parties (how criminal is it that the Repugs didn't even consider running someone else?), and we're left with the two Skull & Bones candidates: Very bad and much worse. Please, Michael, stop pretending that very bad is good.

The ultimate teachable moment--wasted

Whatever it is, I'm against it discusses the now almost-over campaign season:
Presidential campaigns are black holes, dragging lesser election fights, money, energy and real political discussion into themselves, while giving off neither light nor energy. I wouldn’t mind half so much if these campaigns functioned as national civics lessons, if they clarified our political philosophies and priorities, if this had been a national dialogue about the role of America in the world, the limits of our power abroad, the future of Social Security, how best to insure every American, etc etc. Needless to say, that hasn’t happened. We’ve spent less time debating the environment than we have whether Laura Bush is nicer than Teresa Heinz-Kerry (probably, but can you imagine someone you’re less likely to have an interesting conversation with?) So literally billions of dollars have been spent that could have gone to the Sierra Club, the ACLU or even Bush’s “faith-based” groups and done some actual good.
Most Americans went into this campaign thinking that terrorism is the greatest threat to our country, that "free trade" benefits us all, that lawyers do more harm than do corporations, and a host of other fallacies. The campaign has only reinforced the ignorance, as both candidates start from common ground on many issues which is totally bogus. Rather than learning that the "war on terror" is an endless and idiotic boondoggle intended to separate Americans from their rights, their money, and their children, they learned only that John Kerry intends to fight a more competent "war on terror." Most Americans are probably still unaware that our sensible neighbor to the north has universal, single-payer healthcare, and that it works pretty well (well, at least better than our totally-FUBAR'ed system). Ralph Nader or Dennis Kucinich or maybe even Howard Dean could have informed them on many of these issues, and brought this country a little closer to sanity. Instead, we got Kerry, who relentlessly endorses all of Bush's insane goals and values, questioning only his methods.

Well, I think Kerry's going to win. We'd sure better hope that he really is a flip-flopper. As WIIIAI says, America has lost an incredible opportunity in this campaign--the ultimate teachable moment.

Why do Republicans Disrespect the Flag?

"The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise." -- Flag Rules and Regulations

Photo from after a rally in Wilmington, Ohio, via the NY Times. I'll bet Wilmington got stuck with the cleanup bill, too. Of course, what Repugs are going to do tomorrow is a lot more unpatriotic than dropping a flag on the ground.

More good news from Uruguay

In addition to electing an anti-"free trade" socialist as president,
Uruguayan voters gave another loud rebuke to Batlle's polices Sunday when they voted 2 to 1 for a constitutional referendum prohibiting the privatization of water utilities.
-- LA Times

Hold them in contempt--at Gitmo

The Justice Department responded to demands by the detainees' lawyers with language remarkably similar to that it used almost two years ago in the case it has already lost.
That's from an article in the NY Times about how cases filed on behalf of "detainees" at Guantanamo Bay have returned to lower courts, and the "Justice" Department is pretending that the Supreme Court's ruling in June never happened.
Thomas Wilner, a lawyer for several detainees who were involved in the original lawsuit, said in his brief that the government's motion was "simply outrageous."

"It is filed in direct violation of the federal rules and it simply rehashes the same arguments that were made before, and rejected by the Supreme Court," Mr. Wilner said.

He compared the government's behavior to the "massive resistance" urged by some Southerners in response to the court's landmark desegregation ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.

A senior Justice Department official said in response, "It's easy for our adversaries to say, 'My gosh, when the Supreme Court said that there is habeas jurisdiction, that must mean there are real rights at stake, that the detainees are protected by the Constitution.'" But the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the litigation was continuing, said the court's ruling that prisoners may challenge their detentions in lawsuits called habeas corpus actions left open that question for lower courts.
Real rights at stake! How quaint! And how delightful that a "senior Justice Department official" sees lawyers arguing for the most basic of human rights as "our adversaries." Perhaps President Kerry's first act in office should be to declare all "senior Justice Department officials" to be enemy combatants and send them to Gitmo, telling them that they're only getting out after everyone else there has either been released or duly convicted in a proper court of law (not some military kangaroo court). That might inspire them to put their legal training to use in the pursuit of liberty rather than in pursuit of its destruction.

Judges bar Repug vote-challengers in Ohio

From the NY Times:
In a double blow to the Republicans on the final day of campaigning in the presidential race, two federal judges today barred challengers representing any political party from polling places in Ohio during Tuesday's election.


The "Justice" department claims that only the "Justice" department has the right to sue for enforcement of the "Help America Vote Act." From the LA Times:
Bush administration lawyers argued in three closely contested states last week that only the Justice Department, and not voters themselves, may sue to enforce the voting rights set out in the Help America Vote Act, which was passed in the aftermath of the disputed 2000 election.

Veteran voting-rights lawyers expressed surprise at the government's action, saying that closing the courthouse door to aspiring voters would reverse decades of precedent.

Since the civil rights era of the 1960s, individuals have gone to federal court to enforce their right to vote, often with the support of groups such as the NAACP, the AFL-CIO, the League of Women Voters or the state parties. And until now, the Justice Department and the Supreme Court had taken the view that individual voters could sue to enforce federal election law.

But in legal briefs filed in connection with cases in Ohio, Michigan and Florida, the administration's lawyers argue that the new law gives Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft the exclusive power to bring lawsuits to enforce its provisions. These include a requirement that states provide "uniform and nondiscriminatory" voting systems, and give provisional ballots to those who say they have registered but whose names do not appear on the rolls.

"Congress clearly did not intend to create a right enforceable" in court by individual voters, the Justice Department briefs said.
These guys don't even PRETEND to be interested in democracy and fair elections--in this country, anyway.

I may have to take Wal-Mart's side on this

States across the nation are concerned that Wal-Mart's miserly health-care benefits package results in too many Wal-Mart employees and/or their dependents being enrolled in state-supported healthcare programs or making them rely on charity care by hospitals. California has an initiative on tomorrow's ballot which would require Wal-Mart to either provide affordable health care or contribute to a state insurance pool, and Washington state may follow suit. This might result in a modest improvement in healthcare for Wal-Mart workers, it might ease the burden on already depleted state budgets, and it might even eat into Wal-Mart's profits and its ability to undercut competitors and monopolize markets, all of which are good things. But fundamentally the proposals are steps in the wrong direction, towards further tying access to healthcare to employment. The two issues are and should be completely unrelated. The NY Times article quotes the CEO of one of Wal-Mart's competitors:
"Socially, we're engaged in a race to the bottom," said Craig Cole, the chief executive of Brown & Cole Stores, a supermarket chain that employs about 2,000 workers in Washington and adjoining states and pays for insurance coverage for about 95 percent of its employees. "Do we want to allow competition based on exploitation of the work force?" he asked.
It sounds like Craig's heart is in the right place, but his brain has apparently been on sabbatical for the last 200 years or so. Exploitation of the work force has been the primary element of much of world capitalism, and certainly is at the core of Wal-Mart's success.

Last week, the Times ran an op-ed on why a for-profit healthcare system just doesn't, and can't work to provide adequate care for all. What is needed is a single-payer, universal health care system like Canada's. And to make that viable, the obscene income gap in this country has been closed. I've heard from Canadians that a problem with their system arises because wealthy Candadians aren't fully on board with it, and will cross the border and pay for expensive US doctors and hospitals to get care more quickly, an option not available to most Canadians. The huge wealth disparity is truly tearing our country apart, as support for public schools, municipal water systems, and just about anything intended for the public good wanes among the wealthy who can afford private alternatives. Getting the wealthy people who have fled the cities for the suburbs in the past half-century to care about education or clean water for those less wealthy who were left behind has been a losing battle. Convincing them to care for their health problems seems to be an equally daunting task. At times in America, it was widely believed that "we're all in the same boat." Now, the majority of us may be in the same leaky old boat, but it gets continually swamped by the wake of the rich folks' yacht.

And I'd suggest that there will eventually be a solution to this, but it won't be in a form that will make a lot of people happy. The rich folks won't be helping the poor to fix their boat. The poor will give it a decent effort, but won't have the resources to overcome the constant wakes swamping them. But what will happen is that the yacht will eventually start having troubles of its own. It's already running out of fuel. The foreign mortgage-holders may decide to repossess any day now. The stocks paying the caviar bills may collapse to nothing in the inevitable economic meltdown. So, eventually, the yacht will be taking on water and lying leaky and low just like the big boat. Whether the people on the two boats decide then to try and work together, or just decide to try and make sure the other boat sinks first even if it causes their own to sink, remains to be seen.

Patriotism: The last refuge of a scoundrel

Voter fraud: The last refuge of a Republican. Repugs in swing states are using every trick from the Karl Rove playbook trying to steal the election. Josh Marshall has way more on it than I can possibly catch up on.

Billmon's back and Bush is gonna be in trouble!

One of the finest and most-quoted bloggers in the long and storied history of bloggerdom is back! Billmon disappeared from our radar screens back on August 15, and returned on Friday--same as Osama bin Laden. His first post upon returning looked at the fascist nature of the Bush cult.

From Ted Rall.