Bob's Links and Rants

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Friday, December 31, 2004

From Steve Sack.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

From David Horsey.

New Pearl Harbor

As I said earlier, I read the book The New Pearl Harbor, by David Ray Griffin, on the train. Lots of juicy details about 9/11 that never make it into the mainstream media. One of these is the "two-plane theory" for the Pentagon: while some witnesses say they saw a small plane or missile, many others say they did see an American Airlines 757. The physical evidence and the aerobatic maneuver performed by whatever it was that hit the Pentagon strongly suggest that it was a small plane or missile. The "two-plane" theory suggests that a 757 was flown just over the Pentagon at about the same time as the missile struck the building. This one seems pretty far-fetched, but not nearly as much as the official story.

Another theory is that flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania after passengers tried to gain control of the plane, may have been shot down by a military jet BECAUSE the passengers tried to gain control. If "Let's roll" had succeeded, it might have blown the cover for the whole sinister plot. The four planes were all scheduled to take off about the same time--but flight 93 was delayed by 41 minutes. This meant that passengers were able to hear about the WTC attacks before 93 reached its target, and thus were the only passengers who fought with the hijackers (depending on what you want to believe about flight 77 and the Pentagon). The military "stood down" while the other planes hit their targets, but the one which might have landed safely may have been shot down.

Another plot element examined in detail is the highly suspicious collapse of the twin towers and WTC 7, apparently the first three steel buildings in history to collapse completely because of fire. The author points out that the tops of both towers fell to the ground just as quickly as they would have had they been dropped through thin air. If the collapse occurred because of weakened structure, all of the floors below would have put up structural, or at least inertial, resistance, which would have caused the collapses to take much longer (and also probably kept them from being anywhere near as complete as they were). Also, the second tower hit was the first one to collapse, and the collapse occurred just as its fires were dying down! The author asserts that all of this is much more consistent with a controlled demolition using explosives placed throughout the towers than with structures weakened by impact and fire. In the afterward to the second edition of the book, the author adds these tidbits:
Marvin P. Bush, the president’s younger brother, was a principal in a company called Securacom, which provided security for the World Trade Center…[T]his company was in charge of security for the WTC between 1996 until September 11, 2001, and that it installed a new security system between 1996 and 2000.

Wirt D. Walker III, a cousin of Marvin P. and George W. Bush, is also a principal in this company, which in the meantime has been renamed Stratesec.

[S]ome WTC personnel reported that “after the security detail had worked 12-hour shifts for the previous two weeks because of threats, five days before 9/11 the security alert, which had mandated the use of bomb-sniffing dogs, was lifted.” This fact is possibly significant because, if the wiring for controlled demolition had been installed earlier, the explosives could perhaps have been affixed during that period.

In the meantime, I have learned of additional reports that may bear on this question. One of these is by a man named Scott Forbes, who has worked since 1999 for Fiduciary Trust… In a personal letter that has subsequently been published, he says:

In 2001 we occupied floors 90 and 94-97 of the South Tower and lost 87 employees plus many contractors.

On the weekend of [September 8-9, 2001], there was a “power down” condition in WTC tower 2, the south tower. This power down condition meant there was no electrical supply for approximately 36 hours from floor 50 up…The reason given by the WTC for the power down was that cabling in the tower was being upgraded…Of course without power there were no security cameras, no security locks on doors [while] many, many “engineers” [were] coming in and out of the tower.
Many, many other interesting pieces of information which remain totally unexplained by the official story. The book is an easy and fascinating read.

Made it!

I'm here in California! The train arrived in Sacramento about three hours late, but my brother was almost as late because of the nasty rains they've had out here. Lots of amazing scenery between Tahoe and Sacramento, but I think Colorado was even more spectacular. I'll post more photos when I have time. My brother has wireless internet set up here, so I'll be more or less back in the blogging business for the next eight days.

During the 24 hours I was on the train from Grand Junction to Sacramento, I read the entire book The New Pearl Harbor. It spells out pretty clearly why the real conspiracy nuts in this world are the ones who believe the official explanation, such as it is, of what happened on 9/11. Now, I'm returning to reading The Creature From Jekyll Island, which Rick recommended to me. It investigates to fraud that is banking in general, and the Federal Reserve System in particular. It's interesting in many ways--one that intrigues me is that the author seems to be pretty much a free-market capitalist type, but he comes to generally the same conclusions that I do, that the wealthy elite of the world are using a variety of scams to cheat the rest of us out of house and treasure. If you've always thought that money and banking were too complicated to fully understand, well, that's exactly how they want it. It's a huge fraud, and it depends on most of us being ignorant.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Train Pictures!

I took a whole bunch; I will have them on in a couple of days. If you'd like to see them, e-mail me and I'll send you an invitation. Here's a sample:

An apparently failed experiment in low-income housing on the south side of Chicago:

Denver at dawn:

Step aside, M.C. Escher! My version of "Three Worlds:"

The reflected woman is a grandmother who rode the train from Iowa to Denver to babysit her grandkids for a week. The view out the window is of Coors Field, where the Colorado Rockies play. The third world, of course, is the dirty window itself.

There are many questions about America's energy future. This loaded coal train, one of maybe two or three dozen I saw headed for Denver, provides the punctuation:

A huge dam way up in the Rockies above Denver:

The reservoir for that dam (I think--we had gone around several bends and through several tunnels between the pictures). Note how low the water level is.

The train in a canyon of the upper Colorado River:

Step aside, Ansel Adams!

No, that's not quite right. This should make it more Ansel-y:

The Colorado River, the train tracks and I-70 all share a canyon just east of Glenwood Springs, Colorado:


I first learned of the killer Asian earthquake this morning about 7:30 when I bought a paper in Denver. If you're looking for insightful comments and suggestions for charities to donate to, check out Bob Harris.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Grand Junction!

After spending much of the last two days on trains, I have arrived in Grand Junction, Colorado. The last eight hours of the ride, from Denver to Grand Junction, was spectacular. Up mountains, through tunnels, along the walls of canyons--Colorado by train is amazing. I've taken a lot of photos; I'll try to organize and present them soon.

Traveling yesterday, first from Ann Arbor to Chicago, and then from Chicago westward, was more prosaic. Here are some notes that I made as I rode:
Rail Rants
First and most important lesson of train travel: Don’t try to play Minesweeper on a laptop with a touchpad on a train. One little bump, and you’ve clicked on a mine!

Depressing observation: Downtowns in Jackson, Battle Creek and Kalamazoo look bleakly similar—far too much open space, mostly parking lots. No wonder they’re so dead.

10:47 am Saturday

I left my house this morning about 7:25. said it was -3 F; fortunately there was no wind, and most of the sidewalks had been cleared. So my 1.5 mile walk to the train station wasn’t particularly painful. The train seems to be about half full, which is cool. I’ve got two seats to myself, so I can set my backpack next to me and cycle amusements—book, computer, chocolate. Right now we’re probably 20 miles west of Kalamazoo, due to arrive in Chicago in about two hours.

12:10 est
Hammond, Indiana. After going past one gigantic rusty steel mill or power plant after another, I see a parking lot that’s about 2/3 full—on Christmas. Who’s working that hard? Then I see TWO shuttle buses cruising the lot, and they say “Horseshoe” on the side. Then, a big, tacky modern building which says “Horseshoe” at the top. It’s right on Lake Michigan, and there are yachts docked nearby. Then I get it. It’s a casino, and it’s doing pretty good business at 11 am local time on Christmas. Indiana’s a red state, BTW.

12 noon cst
At Union Station, Chicago. Chinese restaurant has two vegetarian offerings: vegetable fried rice and spring roll. I have vegetable fried rice and spring roll. It’s freezing in the dining area. A guy at an adjacent table is talking on the cell phone. He’s apparently a Chicago bus driver—he’s telling the guy on the phone about all the various ways that passengers try to steal rides. Great way to spend the holiday—talking shop in a freezing train station!

1 pm: I go into the grand hall of Union Station; a big open ornate space. Three people sit down near me; they traveled from Johnstown PA the night before—two are going on to Texas, one on to LA. The one guy talking to me tells me about movies that were filmed in that room—The Untouchables and Trading Places, apparently. He pointed at the grand staircase, saying that’s where Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) shot Al Capone, and then ran in slow motion to save the baby in the carriage before it goes crashing down the stairs.

2:20 cst: Pacific Zephyr train leaves on time. Train is quite posh compared to the first one—lots of room! Nobody in the seat next to me, so far (5 pm). Several people got on in Princeton and Galesburg, but still two seats to myself. Camera and laptop both fully recharged!

5 pm: It’s dark outside! Mississippi river coming up in 30 minutes or so.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Heading West

I'm leaving tomorrow (Christmas) morning for California. I'm going on Amtrak, leaving Ann Arbor at 8:23 in the morning. I'll change trains in Chicago. I'll be spending Sunday night in Grand Junction, Colorado--the hotel reportedly has wireless internet, so I should be able to blog from there! Back on the train 24 hours later, arriving in Sacramento about 2 pm on Tuesday. (My ticket goes all the way to Oakland, but my brother said he'd drive out from Palo Alto and pick me up in Sacramento. Maybe we'll see Ahnuld!) Bro Jim just set up wi-fi in his house, so my blogging should continue from there.

If you need a more frequent blog fix, check my blog roll. Lots of great insights there--Michelle seems to have the best links to the most interesting and/or outrageous stories, if that's what you're looking for!

And Happy Holidays to all, especially Bill O'Reilly!

Hu and Hugo Sittin' in Beijing

D-E-A-L-I-N-G. That's right; Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is visiting China:
Visiting Venezuelan President Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias said here Friday that Venezuela and China willhave a bright future for their energy cooperation as the two countries enjoy sound political relations and China's economy is developing rapidly.

The two countries have made significant progress in energy cooperation since the two nations vowed to establish a bilateral strategic partnership of common development in 2001, Chavez told an audience of nearly 50 businessmen attending a China-Venezuela business talk.

"The progress is the result of Chinese and Venezuelan leaders' strong commitment and businessmen's vigorous push," he said.

According to Chavez, his visit witnessed the signing of a package of energy cooperation agreements between Venezuela and China.

The Venezuelan government will grant Chinese companies production permits to explore oil in Venezuela's oil-bearing blocks.

Chavez also pledged to support Chinese companies' involvement in the exploration of the off-shore natural gas fields in Venezuela.

Most experts seem to agree that our number one rival in sucking the earth dry of oil will be China. Well, just this week they've made deals with two of our top four pushers:
Top Petroleum Exporters to the US, Oct 2004
CountryBarrels (millions)% total US Imports
Mexico 53.394 16.7%
Canada 52.311 16.3%
Saudi Arabia 49.011 15.3%
Venezuela 41.229 12.9%
Nigeria 31.889 10.0%
Iraq 20.000 6.2%
(source, via Michelle)

And even number six, that shining beacon of democracy on the Tigris, is talking to the Chinese!

I tell you, the next decade or two may be absolutely horrible, but they won't be dull!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

New low against euro

BERLIN (AP) -- The U.S. dollar hit an all-time low in thin pre-holiday trading Thursday against the euro, which breached the $1.35 mark after a mixed economic report from the U.S. Commerce Department.

After peaking at $1.3506, the euro eased back slightly to $1.3493, up more than a cent from $1.3381 late Wednesday. The previous high of $1.3470 was set Dec. 7.

From David Horsey.

Think your so wise, do ya?

From R.J. Matson.

From Wayne Stayskal. (PS--it looks like one child is more left behind than the other four!)

From Anne Telnaes.

Peak Oil Rant

As mentioned in the Desperado Days article below, the Bushies (if not aWol himself) probably know everything we know, and then some. They know that world oil production will peak, and they may even know when. The biggest difference is in what to do with this information. I basically endorse the Mike Ruppert plan, which involves letting everyone know what peak oil means and immediately making preparations for it--especially through massive conservation. The Bushies pretty clearly endorse a two-part plan--keep people from knowing what's happening while they invent excuse after excuse to start war after war to put a stranglehold on whatever oil production capacity is left in the world. Aside from its obvious immorality, which bothers them not at all, this plan has another big obstacle facing it--the Bushies aren't the only ones doing it.

Chinese leaders seem just as intent at grabbing up resources. Recently, they agreed to do joint military exercises with their long-time foe Russia, and are buying Russian weapons as well. Today, the NY Times has an article about how the Chinese are trying to make deals with Canada to buy up to one-third of Canadian oil exports. Canada, as I'm guessing you may not have known, is currently the number one foreign supplier of oil for the US (that top spot seems to jockey between Canada, Mexico, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia). From the article:
China's attempts to diversify its sources of oil have already led to several foreign exploration projects in places considered on the periphery of the global oil industry like Sudan, Peru and Syria.
"China's gone after the low-hanging fruit so far," said Gal Luft, a Washington-based authority on energy security issues who is writing a book on China's search for oil supplies around the world. "Now they're entering another level of ambition, in places such as Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Canada that are well within the American sphere."
I've read articles suggesting that the US-China war would happen around 2020. If peak oil happens soon and both countries continue to insist on their energy-intensive ways, that war could happen a lot sooner.

Quote du Jour

[T]he national government will maintain and defend the foundations on which the power of the nation rests. It will offer protection to Christianity as the very basis of our collective morality. Today Christians stand at the head of our country. We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit. We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theatre, and in the press . . . in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess during the past few years.
-- Adolf Hitler


Desperado Days

Zbignew Zingh figures that the Bushies know exactly what's going on--global warming, peak oil, economic collapse--and just have their own way of dealing with it.
Occasionally, we need to step back from the facile criticism of the Bush Administration and think deeper about why it does what it does. It is fun to merely label it insane and delusional and idiotic, for Mr. Bush, in particular, deserves most of those labels.

However, many of us believe that Mr. Bush is just the figurehead for a larger Design and Policy, and he, himself, has acknowledged as much. The “others” responsible for the administration's actions could, too, be idiotic and delusional, but they may not be insane.

We must acknowledge that it is very dangerous not to understand what drives our adversary.

Apart from pure avarice and ego, the actions of the Bush Administration have the appearance of incredible desperateness. It is that desperateness – their desperado-like, passionate, furious recklessness – which must cause us to ask, does the Bush Administration know something that we do not know? What do they know that makes them act like desperadoes?

Perhaps the better question is, do we know anything that the Bush Administration does not know?
The whole article.

It's good to see that not all Zbigniew's are bad!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Challenge the Vote!

Tell senators to challenge the "election" "results"! Progressive Democrats of America is asking concerned voters to support a challenge to the election results on January 6. In January 2001, the 2000 election was challenged by several members of the House, but the challenge was denied by Vice President (and President-elect) Gore because not ONE senator would support the challenge! (As seen in Fahrenheit 911.)

Go here to send an e-mail to several leading Democratic senators, and then do the followup to send e-mails to your senators, leading or not.

Post Mortem

The Washington Post, which was cheerleading as aWol took this nation into the brutal and senseless war in Iraq, sees the ever-growing and obvious signs of failure as only a reason to keep committing the crime:
Those who struck yesterday hope a spectacular and bloody attack will drive the United States out of Iraq, as it was driven from Lebanon and Somalia, and doom those Iraqis who now risk their lives for the elections. That's why the only possible answer is that of those brave Virginia soldiers: to pick up the wounded, pray for the dead and return to the mission.
I am so sick of this BS; the war was a crime when it started, and every day it goes on is a brand new crime. If an intruder came into your house and killed one of your children, would you then decide you wanted him to stay if he offered college scholarships for your other kids? NO! You'd want the bastard out ASAP.

Actually, I'm taking the Post too much at face value. These people know what's going on--that the elections, like every other excuse for starting or continuing this war, are a sham. The Post is just a state-run mouthpiece for the criminals running this country.

GM to cut white-collar jobs

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors Corp. plans to offer another round of early retirement offers and buyout packages to U.S. salaried workers early next year, company officials said.

GM declined to say how many employees would receive the offers, but the program is expected to cut the automaker's U.S. salaried ranks — now at 38,000 — by hundreds of employees.
DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group plans to exercise a contract provision to reduce skilled trades workers at some of its plants. Troy-based Delphi Corp., the world's biggest auto parts supplier, has reduced its earnings forecasts and is cutting about 8,500 jobs next year. Visteon Corp. has said it will offer buyouts to salaried employees.
In a sensible world facing peak oil and global warming, cutbacks in automobile production would be a completely positive development. But in the nonsensical world we live in, these cutbacks will mean real hardships for real people--loss of health care, mortgage foreclosures, probably some divorces and domestic violence. In our current world, the well-being of a state blessed with many resources (including perhaps the most important, water) depends on selling unnecessary and destructive products to the rest of the world. And in our nonsensical world, the demands of the wealthy few for greater profits trumps the needs of the many for decent wages. So, like everything else, cars will be made where they can be made the cheapest, no matter how many people get destroyed in the process.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Homeless for the holidays

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a minimum-wage worker in the Ann Arbor area has to work 106 hours a week to be able to afford a one-bedroom apartment. The NLIHC's Out of Reach 2004 report compares typical rents throughout the country with wages, and the ability of low-income workers to be able to afford rent. It could be worse--in San Francisco, it takes 140 minimum-wage hours! But it's bad enough in Ann Arbor that a man nearly got himself compacted the other night because he was sleeping in a dumpster.

I went to a local town meeting last night, organized by some local peace and justice advocates. Some people talked about things I have been thinking about, like the need to develop a diverse local economy as the global economy inevitably crumbles. Others talked more specifically about issues that the community is not adequately addressing, such as child care, racism/sexism/classism, and affordable housing.

I haven't read enough about the housing crisis to know what the real root causes are or what we can do about it. About all I can figure out so far is that Ann Arbor has a reasonably robust economy, with the University and Pfizer and the auto companies and high tech, that keeps real estate prices high. But the economy is not robust enough to employ everyone, and the low minimum wage keeps many working people in poverty and on the brink of homelessness, if not in it. McMansions continue to be built throughout the area, each one typically housing three or four people, while for the same amount of money apartments housing dozens could probably be built. But the profits are greater with the McMansions, so they get built and the apartments don't.

In general, throughout the country, the problem seems to be that most jobs are in high-rent districts, but the wages there can't pay the rent. So the workers live miles away, spending dollars they don't have on older cars or bus passes.

22 dead, 51 wounded at US military base in Mosul

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Multiple rounds hit a dining hall at a U.S. military base near Mosul on Tuesday, killing 22 people, including U.S. troops, members of the Iraqi national guard, and Iraqi civilians, Pentagon officials said.

Fifty-one people were wounded in the incident -- which occurred at noon (4 a.m. ET) as people ate lunch at the Camp Merez base, the officials said.
The attack came shortly after Bush's poodle arrived in Baghdad:
Standing beside interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi at a news conference, Blair -- President George W. Bush's chief ally in launching the war in Iraq two years ago -- acknowledged the dangers and the fact that much of the world opposed the original invasion.

"Whatever people's feelings or beliefs about the removal of Saddam Hussein and the the wisdom of that, there surely is only one side to be on in what is now very clearly a battle between democracy and terror," he said.

"On the one side you have people who desperately want to make the democratic process work and have the same democratic freedoms other parts of the world enjoy. And on the other side people who are killing and intimidating and trying to destroy a better future for Iraq."
What does this nincompoop think US and British troops are doing? They are killing and intimidating and destroying. A car bomb is no worse (or better) than a bomb dropped from an airplane. Insurgents do the first, invaders do the second.
US warplanes have launched air strikes on the Iraqi town of Hiyt, west of the capital, killing six Iraqi civilians and wounding nine others.

Hospital officials said a woman and child were among those wounded in the strikes which began on Monday night on the Jamaiya and al-Sinai districts on the eastern edges of the town, which lies about 170km west of Baghdad.

Aljazeera has learned that houses, shops and vehicles belonging to civilians have been destroyed in the bombing that continued until Tuesday morning.

US marines based in the area had no immediate comment.

Torture directly approved by Bush?

From the ACLU:
A document released for the first time today by the American Civil Liberties Union suggests that President Bush issued an Executive Order authorizing the use of inhumane interrogation methods against detainees in Iraq. Also released by the ACLU today are a slew of other records including a December 2003 FBI e-mail that characterizes methods used by the Defense Department as "torture" and a June 2004 "Urgent Report" to the Director of the FBI that raises concerns that abuse of detainees is being covered up.
I've pretty much given up hope that ANY revelation about the Bushies is going to have any impact on the national unconsciousness. Bob Harris hasn't completely lost hope, however:
The way the public rolled for the "few bad apples" story about Abu Ghraib was one thing. But would middle America really stand for knowing Bush personally authorized torture?

The fact that I don't know the answer is depressing really, since, um, torture ought to be a no-brainer. But so should unnecessary war, billions of dollars for unworkable weapons, and needlessly destroying everyone's Social Security.

But I have a feeling that Bush's name on such an Executive Order, should it exist, would be huge.
He left out outing a CIA agent, stealing two elections, and presiding over the worst terror attack in U.S. history. That W's popularity shot up after that mindboggling debacle says way too much about the collective intelligence of this country. I remember in the summer of 2003, back when I still had some hope, people would ask me why I thought Dennis Kucinich had a chance of getting elected. I would tell them that as time went on, more people would see that the Iraq war was a disaster based on lies, and that they would turn on Bush and any of the Republicrats like Kerry who voted for the war. Unfortunately, H.L. Mencken was right when he said "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." I mistakenly believed that the truth would make a difference. But truth was the first casualty of Bush.

From Kirk Walters.

From David Horsey.

From Jim Morin.

Hopefully this year Christmas will steal the Grinch

From Bruce Plante.

From Slowpoke.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Somebody had a better time in Venezuela than I did!

Douglas Valentine attended a recent "Defense of Humanity Conference" in Caracas, or, judging by his account of it, spent most of his time skipping out on the sessions with beautiful women! It's a long article, probably of less interest if you haven't been to Caracas or to a Venezuelan beach, but his conclusion about Hugo Chavez rings true to me:
The famous referendum was on 16 December 1999, exactly five years ago, Jose says. This was a crucial moment in Venezuelan history, and Chavez's survival depended on a huge turnout in his favor. The rains, Jose says, started on the 14th, and the weather forecasters were predicting a devastating storm. So Chavez got on national TV and gave a speech. He said words that went something like this: "If nature will oppose us, then we will fight and overcome nature."

That's Hugo Chavez Frias, a modern-day Don Quixote. With inexhaustible optimism, he's trying to keep the inexorable forces of Crony Capitalism from sweeping away his policies of government reform and redistribution of wealth. He is fearless and inspirational, and rightly blames the tragedy of December 1999 on the corrupt politicians and businessmen who allowed the shantytowns to be built in the steep valleys in the first place. He is right that the Capitalists don't give a damn about the 50,000 poor people, street vendors mostly, who perished; or the illiterate and malnourished people we saw on our visits to the missions. He is right to appropriate the land of the big companies, which have deforested much of Venezuela, and to give it to poor people to farm. He is right, even heroic, to thumb his nose at the little prick, George W. Bush, who would like nothing better than to dip his blood-soaked hands into Venezuela's oil fields.

Unintentionally funny headline of the day

From the Grand Rapids Press:
What makes a great Santa? It's more than just ho, ho, ho
I'd guess that they meant to put "ho, ho, ho" in quotes, but the rest of the article supports my interpretation--that mall Santas are ho-ing for their corporate masters, making sure that profits and credit-card debts stay high:
Santa for hire is big business. There are dozens of companies around the country that train Santas before they are sent to malls, church fund-raisers, Christmas parties -- even bachelorette parties.

And the pace isn't slowing.

The average arrival date for mall Santas is Nov. 20, according to a survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers. Santa was visited by about 6,000 kids per mall during 2003, it said.
Noerr Programs is a Colorado-based company that trains nearly 250 Santas who work in about 200 malls across the country.

"What a Santa does and says can make a huge difference," President Judy Noerr said. "People will shop Santas. Mothers will talk about them in their neighborhoods. If people find a Santa they like, they'll drive hundreds of miles."
Great. Just what we need as peak oil and global warming approach--parents willing to drive hundreds of miles to have someone lie to their children. Not that they mind:
The reindeer, including an antler-heavy 1 1/2-year-old named Thunder, add credibility.

"My third-grader is asking questions, so having the reindeer here was fabulous," said Julia McGonigal of Rockford, who brought 8-year-old Mikaela to see Santa after a Christmas concert. "When we came out, she said, 'Mom, I've got to do my list,' so I think we're good for another year."
Good job, Julia. Keep your third-grader ignorant for as long as possible. Maybe Mikaela can go straight from Santa to drugs and never have to deal with reality at all!

Disabled Man Freezes to Death Outside Apartment

I'm not sure what, if any, moral can be derived from this story. Somebody tried to help by calling the cops; the cops tried to help by calling the building security guard; the security guard tried to help by checking the two main building entrances--but not the third one where the 52-year-old man was freezing in the 7-degree Grand Rapids weather.

My Pet Goat Explained

From the American Heritage Dictionary:
spectacular: 1. adj. Of the nature of a spectacle; impressive or sensational.

From CNN:
Appearing on ABC's "This Week," Card said, "I support the FDA. They do a spectacular job."
From the Washington Times:
White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. appeared on ABC's "This Week" and said, "Secretary Rumsfeld is doing a spectacular job, and the president has great confidence in him."
I guess if this numbskull whipsered in my ear that the nation was under attack, I might finish what I was doing first too.

It has been asked before, but I'll update it: If Franks, Bremer, Tenet, Rummy and the FDA are success stories, can anything be called a failure?

Peak Oil--The Department of Energy Knows

The DOE recognizes and basically validates the idea that world peak oil production will occur soon (by 2020 at the latest), if it hasn't already. In a March, 2004 report on oil shale, DOE included the following graph:

DOE later quotes or cites several of the leading "depletionists" who have been trying to sound the peak oil alarm for years:
Campbell and Laherrčre, in a 1998 Scientific American paper titled "The End of Cheap Oil," pointed out that:
"About 80 percent of the oil produced today flows from fields that were found before
1973, and the great majority of these are declining." (Ref. 15)
Discoveries did peak before the 1970s as shown in Figure 6. This figure also shows
that no major new field discoveries have been made in decades. Presently, world oil reserves are being depleted three times as fast as they are being discovered. Oil is being produced from past discoveries, but the reserves are not being fully replaced. Remaining oil reserves of individual oil companies must therefore
continue to shrink. For example:

“Royal Dutch/Shell Group, one of the world’s largest oil companies…failed for a third year to find as much oil as it pumped” (Ref. 16).

The disparity between increasing production and declining discoveries can only have one outcome: a practical supply limit will be reached and future supply to meet conventional oil demand will not be available. The question is when peak production will occur and what will be its ramifications. Whether the peak occurs sooner or later is a matter of relative urgency, but does not alter a central conclusion; the United States needs to establish a supply base for its future energy needs using its significant oil shale, coal, and other energy resources.
Now obviously I think that the central conclusion should be that massive and immediate conservation steps need to be taken, not that we should rip up what's left of the American west to squeeze every burnable drop of oil out of the ground. I haven't finished reading the report--I'll have to see what their take is on the potential of oil shales, both in terms of providing energy and in terms of environmental impact.

The key here is that an official report from the Republican administration has validated the peak oil concept and that it is likely to occur soon. Dismissing Richard Heinberg, Michael Ruppert, Kenneth Deffeyes and other peak-oil prophets should be harder for wingnuts to do. Then again, they never let facts get in their way.

Thanks to Cyndy for the link.

Less than delightful, even if apt, imagery

I enjoy reading the blog Xymphora, in part because I usually learn something, but mostly because he makes me feel less out on a limb when I engage in conspiracy theory (something against which there is a vast conspiracy, BTW). Today, Xymphora has a post questioning why the Israelis would risk alienating their biggest supporters (the US) by transferring high-tech secrets and technology to the Chinese. These two paragraphs caught my attention, although the imagery is a little too graphic, even for me:
Problem. The United States is a giant turd circling the toilet bowl, and George Bush is flushing as fast as he can. It's funny how empires at crucial junctures in their histories sometimes find themselves with inspired leaders, and sometimes find themselves with chimps, and the United States has lucked out with a chimp. The combination of religious nuttiness, disdain for the environment, crazy class-warfare tax policy, and ruinous wars would be bad enough, but the real problem is economic, and Bush's complete disinterest in even addressing the debilitating problem of the two massive deficits, budget and trade, which are bound to become progressively worse. He has no ideas for the trade deficit, and his big ideas for the budget deficit, needless to say, involve removing what few benefits poor people now receive in return for their taxes. For all intents and purposes, the United States is bankrupt, by which I mean it will never, ever, be able to pay back what it owes the rest of the world. The only reason the rest of the world continues to fund this disaster is that it needs to keep the American economy on enough life support to maintain the value of the trillions of American dollars held outside the United States, and support the American consumer demand which keeps foreign factories running to create such massive foreign prosperity.

The American economy is just a big Ponzi scheme, with its prosperity an illusion created on its ability to borrow more and more money. Like all Ponzi schemes, this can't go on forever, and eventually the rest of the world will figure a way to get out as painlessly as possible. This will cause problems all over the world, but mostly in the United States, as the drastic decline in the value of the U. S. dollar will cause the cheap Walmart consumer goods made in China - the real opium of the masses - to become expensive consumer goods made in China. When that happens, we may get to see what revolution looks like in the surprisingly passive American poor, and those semi-secret concentration camps set up by the Office of Homeland Security may see some use.

Better watch out...

From David Horsey. BTW, David Horsey drew many fine cartoons that illustrated the book Affluenza.

Supporting the Troops

Chuck Asay of the Colorado Springs Gazette is probably the most consistently obnoxious cartoonist who appears regularly on Slate's cartoon page. But I think Chuck has outdone his idiot self this time:

I've heard rumors that the talk-radio noisemakers have taken this angle, but to their credit I haven't seen this line taken by the Bushies themselves. A legitimate question was asked of the Sec-Deaf by a soldier, and will probably result in many soldiers staying alive and/or whole. But to fascists like Asay, any questioning of authority is verboten.

From John Trever.

Beep Beep!

From Bruce Plante.

From Clay Bennett.

This cartoon is insulting...

To the Three Stooges, that is!
From Sandy Huffaker.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Worst Government Money Has Bought

If I quoted all of the outrages spelled out by the WSWS on the hiring of Louisiana Congressjerk Billy Tauzin by the pharmaceutical industry's lobbying group, I'd quote the whole article. Scum like Billy Tauzin have done more harm to this country than all the terrorists in the world ever have, or ever could.

A Safer Place

Car bombs went off today in Najaf and Karbala, killing dozens in the two Shiite holy cities in southern Iraq. Election officials were dragged from their cars and killed in Baghdad.

I don't doubt that there were plenty of people in Iraq who thought that anything would be better than being ruled by Saddam Hussein. I also don't doubt that most of those people have changed their minds.


Imagine there's no Rummy
It's easy if you try

Or if you read Maureen Dowd.

Two-shot "Suicide"

The Sacramento County Coroner's Office issued a statement Tuesday confirming that former investigative reporter Gary Webb committed suicide with two gunshots to the head.
I'm certainly no expert, and the Sacramento Bee's story is little help, but a two-shot suicide seems pretty suspicious. If it was some sort of automatic weapon I guess it would be possible, but if it's a one-shot gun, who's there to pull the trigger the second time?

Well, the weapon was a .38 caliber pistol; anyone out there know if it's likely that Webb could have reflexively fired a second shot after shooting himself in the head the first time?

The Bee is anxious for us to know that it was a suicide:
Webb's allegations spawned a following, including conspiracy theorists who have worked the Internet feverishly for days with notions that because Webb died from two gunshots he was killed by government agents or the Contras in retribution for the stories written nearly a decade ago.

Webb's ex-wife, Sue Bell, discounted such theories Tuesday, saying the 49-year-old Webb had been distraught for some time over his inability to get a job at another major newspaper.

"The way he was acting it would be hard for me to believe it was anything but suicide," Bell said.

She said that before he died Webb wrote and mailed notes to family members and placed his baby shoes in his mother's shed.

Webb had paid for his own cremation earlier in the year and had named Bell months ago as the beneficiary of his bank account, she said. He had sold his house last week, because he could no longer afford the mortgage, and was upset that his motorcycle had been stolen last week.
Bell may be right. Then again, those actions would also make sense if Webb had received death threats from people he knew would follow through. The stolen motorcycle may have been their indication to him that he couldn't run.

Xymphora has a long list of writers who have committed "suicide." A few years ago, I would have doubted that our government could be so criminal. But it is. The people who believe that the war in Iraq is protecting America and that George W. Bush took all the right steps after 9/11 are the "conspiracy nuts" who are operating without facts. The facts support completely different conclusions.

Friday, December 17, 2004

The enemy of my enemy is my friend

Back in the early 1920's, there were "red scares." They would probably have been called McCarthyism, if Joe McCarthy hadn't been about twelve years old at the time. The Russian Revolution had Americans scared that there was a commie in every closet and under every bed. Similar fears were felt in Britain. But when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Britain quickly became an ally of the USSR, and the US joined in when it was officially invited to join WWII by the Japanese in December. (FDR had apparently been waiting anxiously by the mailbox.) Nazi Germany was the enemy of Britain and the US, and Nazi Germany was the enemy of the USSR. So, red scares or not, the three allied with each other to battle Hitler.

It appears now that, more and more, much of the world sees the U.S. as the enemy. Though both nominally "communist," at least from 1948 until 1991, Russia and China have been antagonistic towards each other, with even a couple of small border wars between them. But the emergence of the U.S. as the sole "superpower" over the past 15 years, heightened by the overtly aggressive actions of the Bush administration, seem to have brought the bear and the dragon closer together.

Former CIA agent Ray McGovern reports that Russia and China will conduct joint military exercises in 2005, and are cooperating in other new ways as well. In Mike Ruppert's video The Truth and Lies of 9-11, he mentions that U.S. policy since the collapse of the Soviet Union has been to trash the Russian economy, making it easier for us to pick off various parts of the former Soviet empire--especially the oil- and gas-rich parts. But a Russian-Chinese alliance would combine the world's biggest economic juggernaut with the only nation with even a semblance of a military competitive with ours (especially in nuclear weapons).

Our country is being run by megalomaniacs, with an idiot as the front man. We're in for quite a ride, those of us who live long enough to see it.

Monsanto! Ugh! What is it good for? Absolutely Nuthin!

From the Organic Consumers Association:
A well-respected and popular professor at the University of California in Berkeley has been fired after publishing a scientific paper regarding the uncontrolled contamination of irreplaceable native Mexican corn varieties by genetically engineered corn. Dr. Ignacio Chapela, whose corn contamination article was published in the science journal "Nature," was denied his tenure due to pressure from the biotech company Monsanto on the University (the UC Berkeley tenure review panel had actually voted almost unanimously to approve his tenure). Professor Chapela has been told to have his office cleaned out by December 31. Sign a petition to demand a review of Dr. Chapela's tenure denial. Sign here.
The genetically-mutant scumbags at Monsanto used a bunch of subterfuge and dirty tricks in waging this campaign. If you're looking for a corporation more criminal than Enron or Halliburton, Monsanto's the one.

Funny Money

Referring to my earlier posts about money, Rick recommended the book The Creature from Jekyll Island by G. Edward Griffin as "an exhaustive description and analysis of our debt-based money system, and how it came to be."

Add it to my list, I guess! I'm currently reading Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (about page 350 out of 600), and Blood and Oil : The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum (page 16 out of 200). Waiting in line are Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil by Michael Ruppert, and The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11 by David Ray Griffin. And several others.

Paying for it all

Wars and tax cuts direct resources in a certain direction; and away from another one. Two articles from the WSWS today, one on Michigan school funding and the other on the growing ranks of hungry and homeless people in our cities, highlight where the resources aren't going.

House of Cards

Time magazine has an article about the falling dollar and the possible implications. They mention the downside, although not as starkly as some:
[O]ver the long haul, a banana-republic dollar could lead to inflation, higher interest rates and a recession likely to spill around the planet. In the past, the strong dollar allowed the U.S. government to borrow cheaply and attract investment in the safest currency on the globe. That helped finance the budget deficit, kept interest rates low and also allowed Americans, as individuals and collectively through their government, to spend way beyond their means. Foreigners are big buyers of mortgage securities, which make purchasing that McMansion more affordable. They hold nearly $2 trillion of Treasury securities, keeping government costs low enough to allow the President to consider his new initiatives. But foreigners may be reaching their saturation point when it comes to funding the U.S.'s profligate lifestyle. The nation sucks up 80% of the world's available savings. If the dollar loses its cachet, foreigners will demand higher interest rates, which, if they rise fast or far enough, could topple the economy.
But, like "good" mainstream media, they end on an upnote:
In this delicate balance, if the Japanese hold their dollars, if the Chinese let the yuan rise even a little and suggest they are willing to go further, if Europe does something to jump-start demand at home, and if the U.S. addresses its budget shortfall — well, we may just escape this jam without a scratch. That's a lot of ifs. But, thankfully, everyone has something at stake.
Frankly, I find explanations like Alex Wallenwein's, that all of the currency and financial manipulations are just one of the ways that the powerful elite uses the labor of the poor to help transfer the wealth of the world into the hands of the few at the top, much more believable than Time's conclusion. What we call "money" seems to be one enormous lie resting on top of a house of cards wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. As long as enough people are willing to believe the lie (mostly because of the obscuring wrapping), the system stays afloat. Actually, for much of the world--Argentina, Iraq, most of Africa, and for poor people everywhere, the system has already collapsed.

The key, as always, is for the wealthy elite to co-opt enough of the population to enable them to completely pillage the rest. This is a major theme of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. In the US, it has generally been the poor and middle-class white people who have been recruited to help the wealthy do their pillaging--against the Native Americans, against the blacks, against the immigrants, against the Mexicans and Haitians and Vietnamese and Nicaraguans and Panamanians and Iraqis. Give these NASCAR dads the dream that they can someday become a part of the elite, and suggest to them that those "other" people are their main obstacle to overcome. It has worked for 300 years; it worked on November 2. Meanwhile, the global monetary system is sucking the remaining wealth out of all these people.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Financial Heroin

I'm a privileged individual. I have two cards in my wallet that I can pull out at various places and people give me stuff. One is a pretty amazing thing called a debit card, which when I present the number on the card combined with the number in my head causes a certain decimal number to be added to the store's account somewhere while subtracting a slightly larger number (I've heard 35 cents) from my account at the credit union. I'm allowed to do this because the University of Michigan once a month performs a similar operation, subtracting a number from their account and adding the same number to my account. They do this because I spend a bunch of hours playing with a bunch of numbers which could mean nothing, but have some meaning if you know the context.

The other card is even more bizarre--the "credit" card. When I use it, the issuing bank moves a number, slightly smaller than the purchase price (although generally more than the 35 cents of the debit card) into the store's account, pulling this number largely out of thin air. In return, they assign a debt to me in the amount of the purchase price, expecting me at some later date to see that some other numbers are directed their way. I usually do this through their web site, having the numbers transferred automatically from my credit union account to the credit card bank.

These phantom electronic transfers seem like so much nothing--except they keep me fed and clothed and housed and amused. They still don't seem real, not as real as a paper check, say, which in turn seems less real than paper money. But even paper money is just so much ephemera.

Alex Wallenwein argues that that's exactly what it is, as are the checks and debit and credit cards and the numbers in the accounts. He says that our money isn't value; instead it's debt:

This currency we call "the dollar" today is nothing but irredeemable debt. It is a sad testimony to how low our republic has sunk to see that it lends its lawmaking power to such an obvious ruse as to call something that is nothing but evidence of a debt itself a "payment" for all debts, public and private!

Americans - like citizens and subjects of any other country in the world - are forced to use this totally denuded currency for utter lack of a viable alternative. They are forced to work for this debt, or acquire it by conducting a business in order to feed themselves and their families. In effect therefore, legal tender laws effectively force you and me to work for nothing - in return for the questionable privilege of being able to "pay" others with the exact same thing!
The rest of the story.

Abusing the term "abuse"

Michelle is keeping track of the many stories of abuse torture being committed by US troops, starting soon after the March 2003 invasion and continuing well past the Abu Ghraib revelations. She notes that the press continues to refer to torture as "abuse," I guess so Americans can pretend to believe that we're so much better than Saddam, or the other brutal dictators we support currently and haven't overthrown...yet. (Mubarek, the Saudi Royals, Musharref, Karimov, etc.) I don't really blame the troops--throughout history, people placed in impossible situations have tended to turn psycho. The fault lies with the criminals in Washington who sent them there on completely false pretexts.

From M.e. Cohen.

From Rex Babin.

Peak Oil Rant

A bunch of scientists gathered Tuesday in San Francisco to discuss world oil supplies. They ranged from Princeton Professor Emeritus Kenneth Deffeyes (whose book I just finished reading), who predicts that world peak oil will occur around Thanksgiving of next year, to political scientist and energy consultant Michael Lynch, who wants to pretend that there isn't a problem:
"This is not science," said Michael Lynch, a political scientist and energy consultant. "This is forecasting."

Lynch agrees there are problems with relying so heavily on oil, and he sees more price volatility ahead. But he argues that many smaller deposits will be found and they will add up to "a lot of oil" over time. He also faults the running-dry-soon predictions as being based not on geology, but on politics and economics: Oil production in various countries has flattened or fell at certain times for reasons having nothing to do with how much they could produce, Lynch says.

Further, Lynch contends, it is not possible to predict the discovery of new oil fields or the true size of existing in-ground reserves. He likens current oil forecasts to stock market prediction. Charts fit history well, he says, "but they're not predictive."
I find the arguments from Deffeyes and other people who know oil to be much more compelling. World oil discoveries peaked many years ago, even though the techniques available now for prospecting are much more advanced than in the path. More places are being searched, and searched harder, than ever before, with fewer results. Discoveries seem to have clearly peaked forever, and are well into the long slide into insignificance. While that slide will have a bump or two in it, Deffeyes and the others make it pretty clear that it's impossible that there's enough oil out there to be found to turn the slide around much or for long. And production decline will inevitably follow discovery decline--quite possibly more rapidly as higher prices cause the last remaining fields to be tapped quickly. Lynch is one of a huge team of fairy-tale tellers paid to keep the U.S. economy chugging along in blissful ignorance for as long as possible. They are trying to steal a few extra years before the unavoidable collapse, at the cost of making the collapse that much more disastrous.

George H. W. Bush spoke at an energy conference in Rio in 1992, and said "The American way of life is non-negotiable." (I've seen this quote also attributed to Cheney and Junior, but Poppy apparently said it first.) This would seem to be the guiding principle behind U.S. foreign policy--we won't negotiate our wasteful and destructive way of life, we'll just fight to maintain it for as long as possible.

PS: In trying to find the origin of that quote, I came across this recent Kathy Kelly article, which included this passage:
I recently read reflections from a reporter embedded with Marines who invaded Baghdad, who referred to many of those Marines as a group of people who were “socially maladjusted — an international liability.” That charge should be held up for consideration to every adult in the United States, not simply to those who have been sent to Iraq in an unprovoked war against innocent people.

If we’ve adjusted to possessing an arsenal of weapons that could destroy the planet, if we’ve adjusted to a lifestyle that pillages the Earth’s resources while we spend trillions of dollars on weapons that aren’t necessary to defend the United States, if we’ve acquiesced to a foreign policy based on the doctrine of “preventive war,” then we are ourselves a maladjusted, international liability.
I'm sure most of the world sees us that way.

From Steve Sack.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

From Daryl Cagle.

Dick and Nick

Dick Morris and Nicholas Kristof; two "sensible liberals" who buy the whole good guy-bad guy crap.

I would generally prefer to go to the dentist than listen to talk radio--even NPR or Air America. Having to listen to Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity for any length of time is something I would consider torture (aka as "abuse" by the US government). Because of this, I do miss some things, like this from Tom Tomorrow:
Dick Morris was on Hannity's radio show yesterday afternoon, claiming that he is working as a paid political consultant to Ukraine opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko. Which illustrates once again why any politician hires Morris at their own peril--he may or may not be a good strategist, but his ego just won't let him keep quiet about his own role in things. Among other things, Morris claims to have orchestrated the revelation that Yushchenko was poisoned.

One very odd note: Morris also claims--and I'd really emphasize the word "claims" here--that he was approached by "a Republican congressman who shall remain nameless," who passed along an offer from Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych--if Morris was willing to switch sides, he'd get a million dollars cash, "and that was only a down payment." (Morris says he declined.) Now the whole story may be bollocks, I have no idea--but if there's any truth to it, one question immediately occurred to me (but apparently not to Hannity): what Republican congressman is passing along messages from Yanukovych? What American congressman is working behind the scenes for the anti-democratic, dirty tricks, poison-the-opposition candidate preferred by former KGB officers everywhere? What's up with that?
Now, I think Tom is being somewhat sarcastic in his description of Yanukovich; I doubt if many American progressives are fully buying the Bush-Powell line that Yushchenko is George Washington and Martin Luther King rolled into one, while Yanukovich combines the worst features of Stalin and Saddam Hussein. On the other hand, Nicholas Kristof apparently does:
It was good to see that Colin Powell didn't let Mr. Putin push us around over Ukraine. We need to stop letting him bully us on other issues - and help him find his head again. If the Baltic citizens and those brave Ukrainians can stand up to Mr. Putin, so can we.
Kristof's whole column is bizarre, especially this part:
In effect, Mr. Putin has steered Russia from a dictatorship of the left to a dictatorship of the right (Chinese leaders have done much the same thing). Mussolini, Franco, Pinochet, Park Chung Hee and Putin all emerged in societies suffering from economic and political chaos. All consolidated power in part because they established order and made the trains - or planes - run on time.

That's why Mr. Putin still has 70 percent approval ratings in Russia: he has done well economically, presiding over growth rates of 5 to 10 percent. Polls by the Pew Research Center suggest that Russia is fertile soil for such a Putinocracy: Russians say, by a margin of 70 to 21, that a strong leader can solve their problems better than a democratic form of government.

Still, a fascist Russia is a much better thing than a Communist Russia. Communism was a failed economic system, while Franco's Spain, General Pinochet's Chile and the others generated solid economic growth, a middle class and international contacts - ultimately laying the groundwork for democracy. Eventually we'll see pro-democracy demonstrations in Moscow like those in Kiev.
I'm sure the families of the thousands of people killed and disappeared by Franco and Pinochet are thrilled to see Kristof praising those monsters for "solid economic growth." I don't know enough of the history to thoroughly refute Kristof right now, but I imagine some other blogger does--and I'll link to it when I find it.

Oooh! I thought of one killer put-down for Kristof! When he says "a fascist Russia is a much better thing than a Communist Russia," he is basically saying that the world would be better off if Hitler had won World War II (because, based on the amount of fighting and casualties, WWII was more a war between Germany and the USSR than anything else).

Take that, Greatest Generation! Take that, Band of Brothers! Your efforts were wasted. If you hadn't helped Uncle Joe out by opening up a western front, Russia could be enjoying the benefits of fascism to this day! Love, Nick Kristof.


A combination of a fair amount of work at work and a balky Blogger is restricting my posting today.

Just Don't Believe Anything

Mike sent me a link to a Justin Raimondo article questioning the Yushchenko dioxin-poisoning story:
I knew there was something fishy about the whole "Yushchenko-was-poisoned-by-the-bad-guys" narrative, even as I blindly accepted the pronouncement of Dr. Michael Zimpfer, of the Rudolfinerhaus clinic in Vienna, that tests had "proved" the poisoning hypothesis, and he now considers the "case closed." To begin with, dioxin as a tool of would-be assassins just doesn't make a whole lot of sense: the victim would take far too long to die, and, besides that, not a single case of death-by-dioxin poisoning has ever been recorded. Another suspicious adjunct to this story: Yushchenko declared that he wants to delay the investigation into who poisoned him until after the December 26 election.
Raimondo links to a doctor's blog--the doctor says that based on the evidence he has seen and heard, it is much more likely that Yushchenko has alcoholic pancreatitis than that he has dioxin poisoning.

I will say that if this is an election ploy, the swift-boat crap seems pretty minor by comparison!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Truth-tellers will be punished

Reporter Gary Webb wrote a series of articles for the San Jose Mercury-News in 1996 which described the connection between the CIA, the Nicaraguan Contras, and drug smuggling. Although his work was ridiculed by several major newspapers, his claims were largely vindicated by two CIA Inspector General reports in 1998. Still, Webb lost his job, and his career went downhill.

Last Friday Webb died of an apparent suicide, a gunshot wound to the head.

I'm just starting to read the details--links to which can be found in Cyndy's post. Suffice it to say that critics of the CIA have a phenomenally high propensity towards suicide. It's also disgusting to find out that most of Webb's obituaries refer to his investigations having been discredited by major newspapers like the NY Times, Washington Post, and LA Times, even though his reports were later largely substantiated by the CIA itself.

Donald Rumsfeld is a senile, lying buffoon, and he's still got his job. Gary Webb tried to tell the truth and lost his life.

My bi-weekly daily peak oil rant

(Okay, I've fallen behind on my p-o rants. But with this one, I'm one-for-one for today!)

I've read a couple of books about peak oil (or "Peak Oil" as Michael Ruppert capitalizes it), both of them by Richard Heinberg. Lately, I've been reading Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage, by Kenneth Deffeyes. Deffeyes is a long-time petroleum geologist, both for Shell and in academia. He doesn't write nearly as well as Heinberg, but he clearly knows the oil biz. Early in his career, he worked with M. King Hubbert, the Shell engineer who accurately predicted that peak US oil production would occur in the early 1970's, and less accurately predicted that world production would peak in the mid 1990's. Deffeyes explains in some detail why there's little hope that huge new oil fields will be found, or that large amounts of additional oil can be squeezed from existing fields. I'll review the book more thoroughly when I've finished it.

In any case, I was struck by one of Deffeyes' asides (one of about a billion of them, mostly silly, in the book):
As I read about the Iraq-Iran war at the time, I had a ghastly fantasy that the United States was helping whichever side was behind, the purpose being to trash both countries.
I don't think there's any "fantasy" to it, Ken; there's abundant evidence that that was precisely the goal. (I think Henry Kissinger stated it more or less explicitly.) Trash them so that, first, they can't threaten Israel, and second, we can invade both and take their oil.

Jonathan writes about one Iranian family that has lived in the U.S. for 18 years, and is now being trashed, again, by the U.S. government:
Wow, we've really done right by the Afsharis! First we give Saddam Hussein a green light to invade their country (talking point #5 here), later on we fire them, and in between we help Saddam kill Aliakbar's brother. Hopefully we can draft the Afshari children soon, then make them invade Iran and kill their own grandparents.
Read his whole post for the sordid details.

Ford Extinction!

DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co. will kill off the Ford Excursion, its largest sport utility vehicle and a lightning rod for criticism from environmental groups, next year, a source familiar with the plan said on Monday.
I'm sure I saw a similar story a year or more ago; I hope it's true this time. I hate those monsters!

Ford Excursion, shown 1/1,000,000,000,000th actual size.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Paul Craig Roberts--again

My favorite conservative columnist is at it again:
The neocons have destroyed Iraq's infrastructure, alienated the entire Muslim world and made the US the most hated country on the planet.

What does Douglas Feith think the effect would be on Shi'ite Iraq of a US attack on Shi'ite Iran? The only reason the US army in Iraq has not been totally destroyed is the wait-and-see attitude of the majority Shi'ites, who expect to take control of Iraq once there is an election. If the US attacks Iran, the Iraqi Shi'ite clerics will not be able to maintain their neutrality toward the US occupation of Iraq.
Iran covers almost four times the area of Iraq and has more than 2.5 times the population. If Bush attacks Iran, he will create an insurgency there as well, one that could spill over into Pakistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.

Bush's war is achieving a Shi'ite unity that will redraw Middle Eastern boundaries and eliminate secular Muslim governments. Shi'ite unity will merge with the anti-American terrorists and drive all Western expatriates out of the Middle East. Indeed, the departures are already underway. Israel will be isolated, exposed to the consequences of its aggression against the Palestinians.

Fox "News" and right-wing talk radio crazies misinform us that we are kicking terrorist butt, but in non-delusional reality, we are unifying Islam and ending forever Western influence in the Middle East.

Unrealistic Expectations

I went to the gym yesterday. There are several elliptical trainers by the entrance--a young woman with bare midriff was working away on one. I went to another part of the building and ran on the treadmill for about 35 minutes. When I came back and started pedalling on an adjacent elliptical myself, she was still there. Every few minutes she would pause and reach down to squeeze a "love handle." Apparently not satisfied, she'd shake her head and start pedalling again with renewed vigor. I moved on to the weight room for a while. When I left the gym over an hour after arriving, she was still there, pumping away on the elliptical trainer, pinch-testing her love handle. I think she intended to stay there until it was gone!

I'll confess that I tend to get on the scale after every workout, but even I've never been so optimistic that I thought I'd see measurable results from each five minutes of exercise!

Multiple Incompetencies

After one glorious year of not protecting the environment as head of the EPA, Michael Leavitt will move on to not protecting health and denying human services as the new Secretary of Health and Human Services.

It was one year ago today

That Saddam was captured in his spidey hole. Sure has brought an end to the fighting, eh? When things didn't quiet down, our clueless leaders had to scramble for new bad guys to demonize: al Sadr, Zarqawi. Those two seem to be losing traction--I wonder who the next demon might be?

Rearranging the rubble

From AP:
U.S. planes pounded the western Iraqi city Fallujah with missiles Sunday as insurgents fought running battles with coalition forces in the volatile city.

Did they finally find someone TOO corrupt to be in the Bush administration?

Bernard Kerik's nannygate seems to have been just the tip of the iceberg.
[O]ther questions surfaced after his nomination was announced: his ties to Interstate [Industrial Corporation], his huge profits from companies doing business with the Homeland Security Department, accusations that he abused his authority in an investigation of employees working for a Saudi Arabian hospital 20 years ago, the effectiveness of his effort to improve the Iraqi police force.
Sounds to me like he'd fit right in.

A Safer Place

9 Iraqis and 7 Marines Killed in Latest Round of Violence. The total US military dead is now 1296. In other news, the Pentagon is once again considering making lying its official policy, instead of just standard operating procedure as it is currently. From the "that plane has already taken off" department:
Critics of the proposals say such deceptive missions could shatter the Pentagon's credibility, leaving the American public and a world audience skeptical of anything the Defense Department and military say - a repeat of the credibility gap that roiled America during the Vietnam War.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

And what is democracy, Marine?

Un-friggin'-believable! From WIIIAI:
The Sunday Times (London) has an article on the know-your-enemy training given to some US Marines etc. They get to be pretend Muslims for a week, wearing Arab garb, praying to Mecca, eating with their hands, play-acting kidnapping and executing westerners, planting car bombs, etc. One student said, “It’s helped me to know how the enemy thinks and appreciate how sophisticated they are.” And the lesson he draws from this? “I’d kill them all. They don’t know what democracy is.”
Oh well. A lot of insurgents would probably feel the same way about us if they went through the Marines' boot camp.

Quote du Jour

An extended one, actually almost half of an article by Paul Campos, which I found via Mousemusings:
To the owner of the Ford Excursion who implores us to "Support Our Troops" I say this:

You, sir (or madam), are a monumental jackass. At this moment, American troops are risking their lives to protect your inalienable right to live your life in an impenetrable fog of selfishness and stupidity.

If not for the need to service this grotesque monstrosity on which you squander your money and that of the taxpayers who subsidize your comfortably numb life, those troops you support would not be getting killed and maimed in a country I doubt you could find on a map.

I sometimes wonder if anything short of dynamite can shatter your complacent fantasy that the Iraq war is about bringing democracy to the Middle East. The truth is that every Arab from Casablanca to Khartoum could be cutting his brother's throat, and yet this would remain a matter of indifference to our government if not for the need to ensure that you will be able to fill your Excursion with cheap gasoline.

To expect others to sacrifice everything for you, while advertising by your own behavior that you will sacrifice exactly nothing for them, is the height of political and social immorality. And to do so while claiming your political views are an expression of "moral values" is an obscene joke.

Drive off, Ford Excursion. Head back to your gated community, to patiently await the Rapture, or the next Nordstrom's sale. You've driven me past the limits of pundit endurance, and I long to return to the world of thoughtful observation.
When I walk down the sidewalk, muttering under my breath at the obscene amount of traffic--people who didn't consider a half-hour drive to work to be too much, who can't be bothered to check the bus schedules or oil up the bicycle--I wonder if I'm losing my mind. Articles like this one remind me that it's the rest of the country that's insane; not me.



I saw a picture of this billboard in the latest Huron River Report, published by the Huron River Watershed Council. The caption from the Central Michigan Life web site is perhaps more honest than they intended (typo included):
This billboard can be seenm on I -94 and I - 96. Citizens for Michigan's Future put up the billboards to discourage Michigan senators from allowing Texas, New Mexico, California and Utah.
They probably meant to say "allowing Texas, New Mexico, California and Utah to take Michigan's water." But the result might be the same--without water, much of America's west would be like that huge uninhabited part of Saudi Arabia known as "The Empty Quarter."

It's also interesting that one of the main supporters of the group "Citizens for Michigan's Future," which put up the billboard in Grand Rapids in 2001, is Republican state Senator Ken Sikkema. I mean, doesn't "Texas" look just like ol' Chimpy?

The Huron River Report's article (sorry, not online yet) discusses a recent proposal concerning Great Lakes water, which attempts to set guidelines somewhat different from the generally bipartisan position of Michigan politicians--no diversion of Great Lakes water. The new policy suggests that a simple ban on diversion won't withstand legal challenges (partly because of the autonomy-destroying "free-trade" agreements), and that a more nuanced approach might better protect the 95% of the US freshwater supply (and 20% of the world's supply) that is in the Great Lakes basin. One indication of the fantasy world our politicians still live in is that they still consider promoting economic growth a valid priority to be traded off against water and the environment. Without water, we all die, folks!

In a less-important and more local water issue, the Huron River Report discusses the possibility of removing Ann Arbor's Argo Dam. The dam no longer serves an hydroelectric or flood-control purpose, but Argo Pond is used by some for recreation, particularly kayakers and the rowing teams from the U of M and local high schools. Skilled kayakers could probably still use the freed river, but the rowers would definitely have to go elsewhere. I kind of like the way it is now, but would probably like it better if the dam were removed and the river allowed to heal a little (it would still be trapped between the Barton and Dixboro dams). Hopefully the dam removal would include building a bridge to replace the recently-improved walkway on top of the dam, which makes the two-plus-mile loop around Argo Pond very popular with walkers, joggers, and cyclists.

Ukrainian election fixers haven't discovered the simple small-plane crash

No--for them, it's dioxin poisoning.
Tests done at a hospital in Vienna confirmed that Viktor A. Yushchenko, the Ukrainian opposition candidate, had been poisoned with dioxin, doctors there said Saturday, providing an explanation for a broad array of painful and disfiguring conditions that plagued him during the last three months of the presidential campaign.

I had mistakenly assumed based on the above photos that his condition had gradually developed over the past four years, when actually it just started in September. Yushchenko has faced a series of horrible ailments, including severe abdominal pains, nausea, and back pain. And with dioxin poisoning, he faces longer-term prospects of cancer and other ailments.

And we sprayed tons and tons of this crap, in Agent Orange, on Vietnam.

This web page explains how you can shop to protect the world from dioxins (no chlorine-based products), and how you can eat to protect yourself (vegan). Also, don't run for political office.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

They could have killed a million people...

Depending on the wind, I might have been one of them. Still, two years later, it's only "likely" that they'll be indicted on criminal charges. From the Toledo Blade via Cyndy:
FirstEnergy Corp. yesterday said its nuclear subsidiary likely will be indicted on criminal charges, accused of misleading federal regulators about the condition of Davis-Besse's reactor head prior to the plant's 2002 shutdown.

In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, FirstEnergy indicated that it received a letter yesterday from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Cleveland stating that prosecutors assigned to the case believe "it is likely that federal charges will be returned against FENOC" by a federal grand jury in Cleveland that has been reviewing evidence for more than a year.
The shutdown revealed a much bigger problem than potential nozzle-head cracks: Davis-Besse's reactor head itself was so corroded that it was a mere two-tenths of an inch from blowing open. It was the worst corrosion in U.S. nuclear history.

NRC officials eventually labeled it the nation's biggest safety lapse since the Three Mile Island Unit 2 meltdown in Pennsylvania in 1979, in part because of doubts over whether emergency safety systems would have worked once radioactive steam had formed.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D., Cleveland), whose district is downwind from Davis-Besse, became so incensed that he tried to get FirstEnergy's operating license revoked.

The congressman told The Blade last night that he was pleased by the possibility of FENOC being charged criminally. "They haven't been telling the truth," he said.

He said the utility's history of mismanagement is one of the nation's most underrated stories. "It's all about money in the end. It's not about public safety," Mr. Kucinich said.
So while Cheney and Rice were babbling about mushroom clouds over US cities because of a country 8000 miles away which had no nuclear capability, we were only 2/10ths of an inch from a major nuclear disaster less than fifty miles from Detroit, Ann Arbor, Toledo, and numerous other cities.

From Boondocks.

That is what it's all about, isn't it?

Friday, December 10, 2004

Kerik Out!

CNN is reporting that aWol's choice to replace Color-chart Ridge as Gestapo commander, Bernard Kerik, has withdrawn his name from consideration. It will be hard work for W to come up with somebody worse, but he probably will.

Lying is always the first option

SEC. RUMSFELD: I talked to the General coming out here about the pace at which the vehicles are being armored. They have been brought from all over the world, wherever they’re not needed, to a place here where they are needed. I’m told that they are being – the Army is – I think it’s something like 400 a month are being done. And it’s essentially a matter of physics. It isn’t a matter of money. It isn’t a matter on the part of the Army of desire. It’s a matter of production and capability of doing it.
The U.S. Army is renegotiating with a Florida company to increase production of uparmored Humvees from 450 a month up to 550 a month, a senior Pentagon official said Friday.
According to The Associated Press, Armor Holdings Inc., a company that refits U.S. military vehicles, said Thursday it could increase production by 50 to 100 trucks per month.

The Army said that until the issue this week, it was unaware that Armor Holdings could refit more vehicles. The Army said it thought that the company had commitments to other customers.
So, Mr. Rumsfeld--which other customers have a higher priority than the U.S. military when soldiers are dying? Especially when it isn't a matter of money or desire. Not enough desire, apparently, to call up Armor Holdings and ask them--until today.

Why does this senile moron still have his job?

Muslims do not “hate our freedom,” they hate our policies

That's not me talking, or Paul Krugman or Ted Rall or (yeah, right) John Kerry. It's the Pentagon's own Defense Science Board! The good folks at the WSWS call attention to a recently released Pentagon report on strategic communication, readily available on the web. Here are some of the many choice excerpts:
We call it a war on terrorism ? but Muslims in contrast see a history-shaking movement of Islamic restoration. This is not simply a religious revival, however, but also a renewal of the Muslim World itself. And it has taken form through many variant movements, both moderate and militant, with many millions of adherents ? of which radical fighters are only a small part. Moreover, these movements for restoration also represent, in their variant visions, the reality of multiple identities within Islam.

If there is one overarching goal they share, it is the overthrow of what Islamists call the “apostate” regimes: the tyrannies of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Jordan, and the Gulf states. They are the main target of the broader Islamist movement, as well as the actual fighter groups. The United States finds itself in the strategically awkward — and potentially dangerous — situation of being the longstanding prop and alliance partner of these authoritarian regimes. Without the U.S. these regimes could not survive. Thus the U.S. has strongly taken sides in a desperate struggle that is both broadly cast for all Muslims and country-specific.

This is the larger strategic context, and it is acutely uncomfortable: U.S. policies and actions are increasingly seen by the overwhelming majority of Muslims as a threat to the survival of Islam itself. Three recent polls of Muslims show an overwhelming conviction that the U.S. seeks to “dominate” and “weaken” the Muslim World.24 Not only is every American initiative and commitment in the Muslim World enmeshed in the larger dynamic of intra-Islamic hostilities — but Americans have inserted themselves into this intra-Islamic struggle in ways that have made us an enemy to most Muslims.
Therefore, in stark contrast to the Cold War, the United States today is not seeking to contain a threatening state/empire, but rather seeking to convert a broad movement within Islamic civilization to accept the value structure of Western Modernity — an agenda hidden within the official rubric of a “War on Terrorism.”
There is no yearning-to-be-liberated-by-the-U.S. groundswell among Muslim societies — except to be liberated perhaps from what they see as apostate tyrannies that the U.S. so determinedly promotes and defends.
The information campaign — or as some still would have it, “the war of ideas,” or the struggle for “hearts and minds” — is important to every war effort. In this war it is an essential objective, because the larger goals of U.S. strategy depend on separating the vast majority of non-violent Muslims from the radical-militant Islamist-Jihadists. But American efforts have not only failed in this respect: they may also have achieved the opposite of what they intended.

American direct intervention in the Muslim World has paradoxically elevated the stature of and support for radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the United States to single-digits in some Arab societies.
  • Muslims do not “hate our freedom,” but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf states.
  • Thus when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy. Moreover, saying that “freedom is the future of the Middle East” is seen as patronizing, suggesting that Arabs are like the enslaved peoples of the old Communist World — but Muslims do not feel this way: they feel oppressed, but not enslaved.
  • Furthermore, in the eyes of Muslims, American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering. U.S. actions appear in contrast to be motivated by ulterior motives, and deliberately controlled in order to best serve American national interests at the expense of truly Muslim selfdetermination.
  • Therefore, the dramatic narrative since 9/11 has essentially borne out the entire radical Islamist bill of particulars. American actions and the flow of events have elevated the authority of the Jihadi insurgents and tended to ratify their legitimacy among Muslims. Fighting groups portray themselves as the true defenders of an Ummah (the entire Muslim community) invaded and under attack — to broad public support.
  • What was a marginal network is now an Ummah-wide movement of fighting groups. Not only has there been a proliferation of “terrorist” groups: the unifying context of a shared cause creates a sense of affiliation across the many cultural and sectarian boundaries that divide Islam.
  • Finally, Muslims see Americans as strangely narcissistic — namely, that the war is all about us. As the Muslims see it, everything about the war is — for Americans — really no more than an extension of American domestic politics and its great game. This perception is of course necessarily heightened by election-year atmospherics, but nonetheless sustains their impression that when Americans talk to Muslims they are really just talking to themselves.

The WSWS adds:
Though it was completed by September 23, the report was not made public until late November, that is, after the US presidential elections. Since its release, it has been largely ignored by the US media and the entire political establishment. (See: “US media ignores damning Pentagon report”).

He broke into the home of a 63-year-old invalid...

stormed into his bedroom, and shot him dead. The cops know exactly who did it, and they know where he is. So why isn't this murderer being prosecuted?

Because he's a cop himself:
The Denver police officer who shot and killed an unarmed 63-year-old bedridden man will not be charged, Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter announced Wednesday morning.

After a three-month investigation, nine of the 12 members of the grand jury could not come to an agreement on whether there was enough evidence to indict Officer Ranjan Ford Jr. Ford had mistaken a soda pop can for a weapon and shot and killed Frank Lobato on July 11.

"If the citizens, who have every good intention, sit and listen to the evidence and can't get to a place where nine of them can agree that he should be indicted, using a probable cause standard, then I can't ethically go forward believing that I can convince 12 people beyond a reasonable doubt that he's committed the elements of the crime charged," Ritter said.
Officers had gone to the west Denver home on July 11 looking for Lobato's nephew, Vincent Martinez, who was wanted on suspicion of beating his wife and holding her hostage. When no one answered knocks on the front door, officers climbed in through a window, using a ladder borrowed from the fire department. By that time, Martinez had escaped by jumping out of that same second-story window and Lobato was the only person in the home.

Lobato was apparently laying in bed watching TV when police officers climbed through and opened his closed bedroom door. He was shot once in the left side of his chest and died at the hospital. Relatives said Lobato was an invalid who needed crutches to move around.

Ford, 34, said he saw Lobato pick up a shiny object that he thought was a gun. That object turned out to be a soda can.
Apparently, Ritter NEVER prosecutes cops:
Ford's case marked the 38th consecutive time Ritter has declined to prosecute a Denver officer after a fatal shooting since taking office a decade ago, a record that has drawn criticism from some residents.
So last week the "Justice" department was arguing that the military could arrest anyone, anywhere, at anytime; this week, a Denver prosecutor decides that cops can kill anyone, anywhere, at anytime. Don't you feel safer?

(Via Bob Harris)

The Oil for Genocide Program

Jonathan Schwarz at A Tiny Revolution points out that the controversy over the UN "Oil for food" program is misplaced:
[T]he sanctions on Iraq were not supposed to be there in perpetuity. According to the relevant UN resolutions, the sanctions would be lifted when Iraq was disarmed of WMD. We now know Iraq met these requirements in 1991, or arguably 1995 at the latest...

This is not some minor point. The sanctions -- as the US government intended -- killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. This includes, at a rough estimate, 350,000 children.

120 World Trade Centers full of children...

And I don't make the World Trade Center comparison lightly. Because -- as even the Bush administration believes -- the 9/11 attacks were in retaliation for the sanctions (plus our troops in Saudi Arabia). A "senior administration official" even argues that without our nineties policy toward Iraq, Osama bin Laden would just be hanging out, telling boring stories about his days in the Khyber Pass.

To make the story even more gruesome, we also know the Clinton administration ignored numerous peace feelers from Iraq. But that shouldn't be surprising -- as the US government has repeatedly said, our only interest was in ousting Saddam. The sanctions helped, in our minds. So we had to bloviate constantly about the WMD as a pretext.

Thus, hand in hand with Saddam, we spent almost thirteen years strangling the people of Iraq. Leading us right to the terrifying world we live in today.
A couple of days ago, Jonathan posted the following:
[I]f you listed the people responsible for killing the most Iraqis, Saddam Hussein would be in SECOND place. Due to the relentless sanctions the US insisted on during the nineties, the honor of Most Iraqis Killed goes to Bill Clinton.
I think most of us would view that as appalling. George W. Bush and Ayad Allawi view it as a challenge.

From Rex Babin.

BTW, Paul Krugman has made a reappearance on the NY Times op-ed page, writing two good columns on the Social Security privatizing swindle. He concludes the second thusly:
If Mr. Bush were to say in plain English that his plan to solve our fiscal problems is to borrow trillions, put the money into stocks and hope for the best, everyone would denounce that plan as the height of irresponsibility. The fact that this plan has an elaborate disguise, one that would add considerably to its costs, makes it worse.

And maybe the fact that serious financial experts, the sort qualified to be Treasury secretary, understand all this is the reason why John Snow has just been reappointed.

From Jim Morin.

From Bruce Plante.

And his boss is the scarecrow

From Kevin Siers.

From Anne Telnaes.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Ukraine--Caught in the middle, again

Until recently, I knew very little about the Ukraine. I knew that it was one of the R's making up the USSR; that it was heavily fought over in WWII, with Nazis overrunning Soviets who then ran back over the Nazis, causing thousands of Ukrainians to be executed as either resistance or collaborators by one side or the other; that it was where thousands and thousands, maybe millions, were killed during Stalin's purges of the late 1930's; and that it was the unlucky home of the Chernobyl nuclear plant.

In other words, I knew way more than probably 99% of Americans. The blogger Xymphora, however, is in the one percent. He points out that Ukranians may have been the victims of the largest genocide in the 20th century, when Stalin drastically increased the grain quota from Ukrainian farmers, which he required that they meet before they could eat--some seven to ten million people are reported to have died. (Eclipsing the Holocost's 6 million, the Armenian genocide of 1915-17 which killed one to two million, Pol Pot's brutal Cambodian genocide which also killed some two million, and unfortunately many others like East Timor, Rwanda, Guatemala, and more--although probably not eclipsing the American genocide of Native Americans in the 19th century, estimated at 10 million dead. Actually, I think I've heard numbers of some 20 million having been killed in China's cultural revolution, so maybe Xymphora isn't right about the 1932-33 Ukrainian genocide being the largest of the 20th century.)

Xymphora also suggests that the "western-backed" Ukrainian candidate Viktor Yuschenko would be more appropriately called the "pro-globalization" candidate. Xymphora suggests that there's no way that Ukrainians are going to win here--if the Russian-backed candidate wins, the Ukraine gets screwed over by the Russians for the umpteenth time. If Yuschenko wins, they'll get screwed by the multinational corporations (backed by the US military) like so many countries before them. Xymphora's conclusion:
Democracy was the worst possible tragedy for the right-wingers, until they discovered that the way to deal with it is to create a series of alternatives all of whom support the same right-wing 'consensus' of stripping the assets of the people and turning them over to big corporations. The recent American election is another example of how the two alternatives supported the same policies of the corporadoes. The mass media is typically used to brand one as the populist, the 'man of the people', who then goes on to win, probably, like Bush, with the aid of massive vote fraud. If you are a Ukrainian voter, where is your real choice? The next step in rendering democracy completely unthreatening is to attack those countries which are still lucky enough to have a first-past-the-post electoral system, a system detested by elites of all persuasions as it is too difficult to control, and replace it with various fancy new systems of voting most of which involve back-room supplied lists of those candidates acceptable to the oligarchy. Eventually, we might as well do away with human politicans entirely, and just vote for the corporations we'd prefer to be raped by.
By the way, isn't it just totally reassuring to know that major genocides have been perpetrated by right-wing totalitarian regimes (the Nazis), left-wing totalitarian regimes (the Soviets and Red Chinese), Islamic regimes (the Ottoman Empire killed the Armenians), more-or-less Christian democratic regimes (us), and other (Rwanda)?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

From John Branch.

From David Horsey.

From Rick McKee.

From Joe Heller.

From Steve Sack.

War Crime

Conservative columnist Paul Craig Roberts is my hero. The former Wall Street Journal, National Review and Moonie Times columnist, and Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration, Roberts has been steadfast in his opposition to the criminal war in Iraq since before it began. He seems especially pissed off in his latest column, which concludes:
Did the Americans who reelected Bush know that the president who will admit to no mistake is locked on a course that will squander a half trillion dollars for no purpose other than to kill and wound between 36,290 and 73,205 US troops, with "collateral damage" to Iraqi civilians ranging from 443,941 to 2,825,710 dead and wounded?

If Saddam Hussein is a "mass murderer," what does that make President Bush and those who reelected him?

Go Ahnuld!

Governor Gropengrabber is taking on the girlie men of the auto industry, promising to defend California's new law regulating greenhouse gas emissions (effectively requiring higher fuel efficiency). Nine automakers have filed suit to block the new regulation.

Even Toyota, which would have a near-monopoly in California while the other manufacturers get their acts together, joined the suit:
"This regulation would limit consumer choice and increase vehicle prices," said Jim Press, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Toyota's United States sales operation. He added that among Toyota's current models, only the Prius hybrid car and the manual transmission version of the Echo compact car would be able to comply with the regulation.

"The rest of our cars and trucks would have to be completely re-engineered or eliminated," he added, in a statement.
And what's wrong with that? The federal government has abdicated its responsibility to protect the environment--it's up to state and local governments to fill the void.

Lefty LA blogger Bob Morris, aka Polizeros, compares Ahnuld favorably to his miserable predecessor, Gray Davis. Besides, he could kick aWol's butt--and I wish he would!

"You go to war with the Army you have"

That's Donald Rumsfeld, lying to the troops who were grilling him in Iraq.
Army Spc. Thomas Wilson, for example, of the 278th Regimental Combat Team that is comprised mainly of citizen soldiers of the Tennessee Army National Guard, asked Rumsfeld in a question-and-answer session why vehicle armor is still in short supply, nearly two years after the start of the war that ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?" Wilson asked. A big cheer arose from the approximately 2,300 soldiers in the cavernous hangar who assembled to see and hear the secretary of defense.

Rumsfeld hesitated and asked Wilson to repeat his question.

"We do not have proper armored vehicles to carry with us north," Wilson said after asking again.

Rumsfeld replied that troops should make the best of the conditions they face and said the Army was pushing manufacturers of vehicle armor to produce it as fast as humanly possible.
In World War II, Roosevelt wanted an atomic bomb, something no one had ever made before, or even knew how to make. Three years later he had two completely different types of atomic bombs, both of which worked the first time. Here we are, nearly four years after Rummy and company decided to start this war, and nearly two years after actually starting it, and they still can't get enough vehicle armor, something they've known how to make for a long time. As fast as humanly possible? Go Cheney yourself, Rummy.

Another one from Imad Khadduri.

From Imad Khadduri, whose blog comes highly recommended by A Tiny Revolution.

The flip side of globalization

You sometimes hear the argument that the global economy benefits the urban poor of the world by providing jobs for them. Many, like NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, argue that sweatshops are necessary for economic growth and offer a possible escape from poverty.

The part that's missing in that argument concerns land and power. People who own a small plot of land can grow their own food, putting control over their lives in their own hands. The lives of people who work in sweatshops are completely in the hands of the owners of the sweatshops, and by connection to the global economy. Globalization has resulted in concentrated wealth--particularly in terms of land ownership. Big money for development or mineral exploration or large-scale corporate agriculture can generally buy or swindle peasants out of their land, which causes them to become urban poor, making Kristof's sweatshops so "necessary." It happened in this country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries--a nation of farmers became a nation of laborers. It has been happening in Mexico--we saw in Chiapas how transnational corporations like Coca Cola and GE are endeavoring to buy or take the land which has historically been farmed communally by Mayan farmers. (Chiapas has 30% of Mexico's fresh water--Coke wants to bottle it; GE wants to dam the rivers and sell the electricity.) People who were self-sustaining now work at the mercy of maquiladora bosses in Juarez or as "illegal" migrant labor in the US.

And this is happening big time in China, right now. The NY Times has a lengthy article today about how rural farmers are being run off their communally-farmed land by developers. In one village, the residents staged a protest. The government response indicates how much "globalization" is really benefiting the Chinese masses:
By April 27, Yulin officials had lost patience. The protests were causing work delays on the development zone. So, villagers say, police officers and more than 300 construction workers surrounded the women as a district official harangued them through a megaphone.

"You're crazy!" shouted the official, Ji Shengrong, according to an account later drafted by villagers. "Your heads are filled with sand."

One woman threatened to complain to higher authorities in Beijing.

"So you dirt-poor trash think you can oppose the city government?" Mr. Ji scoffed. "You don't have a chance in hell."

The police then began dragging protesters to jail. When relatives from Sanchawan tried to come to their aid, the police blocked roads and bridges leading to the site.
Globalization doesn't spread the wealth--it concentrates it. And, contrary to what Kristof and other apologists for sweatshops say, the only people who benefit from your buying sweatshop goods are the wealthiest people of the world. Money is power, and almost all of the money you spend on sweatshop goods goes to the bosses.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Republican Family Values

Bear with me for a second--I'm going to take you back two months, to one of those horrible Bush campaign idiot-fests--this one in Iowa:
Bush: Overall, 94 million Americans will have a lower tax bill next year, including 70 million women and 38 million families with children. The money they keep will make it easier to save for their retirement, or their children's education, invest in a home or a small business, or pay off credit card debts. One of those families is the Hintz family, from Clive, Iowa. Thank you all for coming. (Applause.)

It's a special day for Mike and Sharla, not because they're with the President or with Chairman Grassley, but because it's their 13th wedding anniversary. (Applause.) Theirs is a typical story. See, last year they received a child tax credit check for $1,600 for their four children. And under all the tax relief we've passed, they saved about $2,800 last year. With this extra money they bought a wood-burning stove to reduce their home heating costs. They made a decision for their family.

They also made home repairs and improvements. They took the family on a vacation to Minnesota. Next year when you get your check, you may want to come to Texas. (Laughter.) Without the tax bill I'm signing today, the Hintzes would have paid $1,200 more in federal taxes next year. Think about that. Here's a family of four, working hard to raise their kids, the money would have been going out of their pocket. I believe they can spend that $1,200 better than the federal government can. (Applause.)
AP interviewed Mike Hintz after Bush's speech:
Mike Hintz, a First Assembly of God youth pastor, said the tax cuts also gave him additional money to use for health care.

He said he supports Bush's values.

"The American people are starting to see what kind of leader President Bush is. People know where he stands," he said.

"Where we are in this world, with not just the war on terror, but with the war with our culture that's going on, I think we need a man that is going to be in the White House like President Bush, that's going to stand by what he believes.

"Everybody that I've talked to are saying that things are going to start going his way," Hintz said.
Now, Bush and Hintz failed to mention a few things. First off, a Texas vacation, as horrible as that sounds, is probably all they can afford--the falling dollar means that Europe and Asia are out of the question, even if the people there could possibly stand Bush voters like the Hintzes. More importantly, the Hintzes probably wouldn't have paid $1,200 more in taxes next year, because Mike just lost his job. Furthermore, their 13th anniversary was probably their last. Whatever money they may have saved from tax cuts is likely to go to lawyers now. You see, Mike, father of four, has been charged with sexual exploitation of a minor for shagging a 17-year-old girl in his church youth group:
A Des Moines youth pastor is charged with sexual exploitation by a counselor.

KCCI learned that the married father of four recently turned himself in to Johnston police.

Rev. Mike Hintz was fired from the First Assembly of God Church, located at 2725 Merle Hay Road, on Oct. 30. Hintz was the youth pastor there for three years.

Police said he started an affair with a 17-year-old woman in the church youth group this spring.

Church officials fired Hintz immediately after hearing the allegations.

"They did acknowledge with their congregation that Mr. Hintz had made apparently some admissions to his inappropriate activity, and they took a proactive approach and immediately terminated him from his position," Johnston police Sgt. Lynn Aswegan said.
From Atrios via Michelle.

Assault with a deadly weapon

A woman ran over two teenage brothers after they accidentally hit her sport utility vehicle with a golf ball they were bouncing in a parking lot, officials said. One of the boys suffered life-threatening injuries.

The 14- and 16-year-old boys were bouncing the golf ball in a shopping center parking lot Sunday afternoon when it went astray and struck the SUV driven by 47-year-old Kathy Feaganes Allen, sheriff's Deputy Greg Suchy said.

No damage was done, and the boys apologized and began to walk away, Suchy said. Allen started to drive away, but suddenly made a U-turn, ran over a median and struck the teens before knocking over a light pole, Suchy said.
A witness said that after the SUV came to rest, Allen got out of the car and smoked a cigarette with the boys lying on the ground in pain.

"She charged them. This was the most deliberate act," witness Russell McPhee said. "After she ran them down, she got out of the car and lit a cigarette like a movie star."

Isiah Grayer, 14, was in critical condition Monday. Justin Marshman, his stepbrother, was treated for non-life threatening injuries.
As much as I'd like to blame this on Jeb Bush and SUV's in general, this is probably just one crazy lady gone bonkers--like the 86-year-old man who drove through the Santa Monica Farmers' Market last year, killing eight. Crazy people do crazy things. The scariest thing is that there are a whole bunch of crazy people running our country right now.

Does this look good to you?

Dollar vs. Euro, one year chart:

Dollar vs. Euro, five year chart:

Theoretically, this is supposed to have some benefit to our economy, since a cheap dollar makes U.S. exports more competitive. But our major exports now are mostly raw materials and food: cotton, leather, soybeans, wheat. Our agriculture is heavily mechanized and employs very few people anymore, so this "benefit," if there is one, is showing up in the pockets of only a very few (generally, the same ones who got the most benefit from the tax cuts). For the rest of us, it just means that imports cost more right at the time when we are least able to afford them.

And, of course, the falling dollar is putting pressure on foreign dollar holders, especially Japanese and Chinese banks, to stop financing our deficit. When they do, the dollar will fall even faster, interest rates will shoot up, and 1980-style stagflation (or probably worse) will take hold.

My approach, which I can only hope is a good one, is to carefully spend the dollars I have soon in ways that will make lower-cost living more possible. Solar panels, insulation, maybe even minor modifications to my house so I can take on a boarder if necessary. If inflation takes hold, which will be the case when not just euros and yen but everything costs more dollars, having a wad of money in the credit union or under the mattress could be very risky. Better to become less money dependent, I think.

Hijo de Puta

That's what the new Homeland Insanity director is, figuratively AND literally (translation--son of a whore). Bernard Kerik, high-school dropout, rose to the top of the NYPD by kissing Giuliani's butt. Since 9/11, Kerik has been kissing W's butt. And while he appears to be relatively unqualified (although how many qualifications do you need to play with colors?), the Bushies are excited because he "brings 9/11 symbolism into the cabinet."

The WSWS has more, and Michelle has much more on Kerik.

I'm to the point where I think trying to bring down the Bushies politically or legally is pointless. Not only are we unlikely to succeed with recounts or impeachments, but we would be wasting time that could be better spent. The Bushies are going to collapse from their own incompetence--the question is how much of the world will they drag down with them? It seems certain that the global economy will collapse with them--our goal is to prepare as best we can for that eventuality.

A Day that will Live in Infamy

After reading Michelle's Pearl Harbor post, you have to wonder if the United States has EVER been surprise-attacked.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Clueless in Skidaddle

Tom Tomorrow and others have commented on this little tidbit:
Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, announced Friday that he was resigning, and he expressed grave concern about the threat of a global flu epidemic and the possibility of a terrorist attack on the nation's food supply.

"For the life of me," he said, "I cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply because it is so easy to do."
Now Tom Tomorrow thinks this was stupid because terrorists may not have already thought of it. Now, I respect Tom Tomorrow. I've read his books. He even posted a link to my blog once! But I've got to disagree with him here. The real insight to be gained here is that Thompson has believed the Bushies' own propaganda--that al Qaeda numbers in the millions and has infiltrated every food processing plant and grocery store in America. The war on terror is a CROCK, Tommy! Science News estimates that 1809 Americans die from food poisoning each year--meaning that more than twice as many Americans have died from food poisoning during W's (mis)administration than have died from terrorism. Both numbers pale in comparison with gun fatalities and auto crashes.

Of the big problems facing America, "terrorism" is NOT one of them. The "war on terror" is, however, having killed some 1400 Americans so far, along with tens of thousands of mostly innocent Afghans and Iraqis. Yes, I remember 9/11. I also remember every month since then when over 3000 people have died on our highways. Even now, with the thousands of potential terrorists created by the illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Americans are way more likely to die on a road or of a heart attack than they are at the hands of some terrorist.

You'd think a guy who'd been Secretary of Health and Human Services for nearly four years would have some perspective--but you'd be wrong.

PS--If poisoning our food supply is terrorism, then major meat producers in this country like IBP and Tyson, and the government which allows their unsanitary slaughterhouses to operate unimpeded, are all terrorists.

Democracy is only for countries we don't like

Brian Cloughley writes in Counterpunch about the Bushies very selective interest in democracy--a requirement for Iraq, Syria and Iran, but not even a consideration for Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, the UAE, and others:
You know that the Bush democracy campaign is a cynical swindle, and that all that Bush and his military-industrial empire care for is domination. And you are aware that if a country's undemocratic ruler is happy to provide the US with oil and buy F-16s and host enormous military bases, it doesn't matter a tinker's curse if women have no rights and if there isn't a hope of one person one vote.

"It's time for Iraqi citizens to go to the polls," Bush pronounced in the Oval Office on December 2.

If you addressed your demand about elections to the citizens of your autocratic friends in the Gulf, little Bush, then we might believe you have a commitment to world democracy. But you are just indulging yourself in a pathetic charade.

Car-sharing taking off!

From Business 2.0:
Owning a car in a big city can be a major hassle. Which is why car-sharing services are taking off as a cheap, easy alternative. For as little as $50 a month, members get 24-hour access to vehicles parked around a city and borrow them by the hour or the day without paying for gas or insurance. Until recently, that has been a mostly local and often nonprofit venture. But Zipcar and Flexcar, the biggest car-share companies in the United States, are expanding into multiple cities and making money in the process. They're vying to dominate the $15 million U.S. car-share business, which ABI Research says could grow more than 10-fold by 2009.

Bah, Humbug!

Michelle links to this story about a guy, Tom Gates, in Santa Fe, Texas, who is selling his house and 6.5 acre lot because his property taxes have been raised to $2000 a month. Commercial pressures have apparently raised property values. But Gates is well known in Santa Fe for his elaborate Christmas decorations:
For the past eight years, Gates created what many consider Santa Fe’s unofficial holiday display. With more than 300,000 lights, Gates turns his 6.5-acre property into a winter wonderland, complete with Santa, reindeer, toy soldiers and a sleigh.
My first thought, of course, was that Gates probably could have afforded the property taxes if he hadn't been spending all his money on lights and plastic sculptures and the electricity to run them all. But he apparently had some good intentions:
It’s ironic, said Gates, adding that he started his Christmas display as a way to offer an alternative to what he considers to be the commercialism of the holiday.

“You go to the mall and pay $10 just to have your kid’s picture taken with Santa,” said Gates, who hires his own Santa each weekend for his display. “It’s supposed to be the season honoring giving, and all these people are just taking.”

Gates doesn’t charge anyone to come see the display or have a picture taken with Santa. In fact, any money offered is given to HIS Ministries in Santa Fe to assist that organization in its efforts to feed the needy.
Now, I don't want to pick on Mr. Gates too much. He is trying to share Christmas joy and feed the hungry. But a 300,000-light display is an "alternative" to commercialism? A free Santa is better than a $10 Santa--how nice for poor kids to have the opportunity to beg for stuff they won't be getting, and then feel guilty because they must have been "naughty."

No, I don't hate Christmas. But I do hate Santa Claus. I remember as a little kid I figured out pretty early on that it was all a lie (the Santas I encountered looked suspiciously like my father or a neighbor). And rather than pick on other kids for still believing a lie, I would argue with my parents that no kid should be set up like that. How are kids supposed to trust their parents when they catch them early on in such an obvious lie? I mean, any reasonably intelligent three-year-old can see that there are more Santas in just one mall than there are in the story. And all this stuff about toys being rewards for being "nice?" Just training for consumerism--"I 'deserve' this G.I. Joe or Barbie or DVD player or Porsche."

Let's summarize the Santa story:
  • It's a lie you are expected to believe. The perfect preparation for living in 21st-century America!
  • You are being watched constantly. Also, perfect preparation for living in 21st-century America.
  • If you have lots of stuff, you are "nice." If you don't, you are "naughty."
  • Santa is part of the celebration of the birth of a supreme anti-materialist. Much of the Christian message is that God will provide, naughty or nice. Santa's message is about as anti-Christian as could be imagined.
I remember what Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb said when he was here a few months ago (paraphrased):
The most important developmental steps in childhood are learning to walk and learning to talk. And what's the first thing children are told when they get to school? "Sit down and shut up!"
Our system, from Santa to schools, is not designed to develop good people. It is designed to develop obedient people, consumers, Bush voters. And it's working.

And Mr. Gates, with his good intentions and all, is willing to spend thousands of dollars on his Christmas schlock and "free" Santa to help feed the hungry, but balks at supporting a local government which could and should be able to do a much better job of it. It's more important to him that those poor kids have a Santa to beg to than a decent school to attend. Ain't that America?

Soldiers suing to come home

From the NY Times:
The eight soldiers come from places scattered across the country, from this small town an hour northwest of Little Rock to cities in Arizona, New Jersey and New York. In Iraq and Kuwait, where they all work now, most of them hold different jobs in different units, miles apart. Most have never met.

But the eight share a bond of anger: each says he has been prevented from coming home for good by an Army policy that has barred thousands of soldiers from leaving Iraq this year even though the terms of enlistment they signed up for have run out. And each of these eight soldiers has separately taken the extraordinary step of seeking legal help, through late-night Internet searches and e-mail inquiries from their camps in the conflict zone, or through rounds of phone calls by an equally frustrated wife or mother back home.

With legal support from the Center for Constitutional Rights, a liberal-leaning public interest group, lawyers for the eight men say they will file a lawsuit on Monday in federal court in Washington challenging the Army policy known as stop-loss.
Clearly it is no longer an "all volunteer army."

A Safer Place

Sunday, December 05, 2004

From Chris Britt.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Boyle's Law

Not the law of physics which states that the product of pressure times volume in a gas is a constant at constant temperature. No, I mean the one where George W. Bush can arrest anyone, anywhere, at any time, for any (or no) reason, bring them to Guantanamo Bay, torture them, and use what they say under torture against them (or anyone else, for that matter). Because that's what Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Brian Boyle (quite a title you've got there, a**hole) has been arguing in court this week.

Knowing how totalitarian governments typically eat their own, it wouldn't surprise me (or particularly dismay me) to read, in a year or two, that Boyle had been executed at Gitmo after confessing under torture to killing Laci Peterson. What is truly dismaying is that the "Justice" department is basically saying that centuries of common, constitutional, case and international law are now null and void--George W. Bush is the law. He's Louis XIV--"L'etat, c'est moi." The only solace I can find is that the smirky idiot probably doesn't know what that means.

Anyway--peak oil, global warming, currency collapse: Bring 'em on, I say! Anything to stop the fascist takeover of this country and the world. I think Patrick Henry expressed similar sentiments a couple of centuries ago.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Out of Office!

I'm attending a symposium on sustainable transportation today at the UM School of Architecture and Urban Planning. It's the lunch break now, and I'm using my wireless networking capabilities away from home for the first time! Probably not much blogging for the the rest of the day, although I may get a seat at the back of the auditorium and see if the Wi-Fi is working there--if I get bored.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Your Fascist Government at Work

Ashcroft may be going, but his spirit will live on. Your "Justice" Department believes that your "government" has the right to arrest anyone, anywhere in the world on suspicion of whatever, and whisk them off to Guantanamo Bay and hold them forever without rights of any kind. From AP:
Under detailed questioning by a federal judge, government lawyers asserted Wednesday that the U.S. military could hold foreigners indefinitely as enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, even if they aided terrorists unintentionally and never fought the United States.

Could a "little old lady in Switzerland" who sent a check to an orphanage in Afghanistan be taken into custody if, unbeknownst to her, some of her donation was passed to Al Qaeda terrorists? asked U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green.

"She could," replied Deputy Associate Atty. Gen. Brian Boyle. "Someone's intention is clearly not a factor that would disable detention." It would be up to a newly established military review panel to decide whether to believe her and release her.

Boyle said the military could pick any foreigner who provided support to terrorists or might know of their plans. And the foreigners held on the U.S. naval base in Cuba "have no constitutional rights enforceable in this court," Boyle told the judge.
Green asked how the government defined an enemy combatant who aided terrorists or Afghanistan's now-toppled Taliban regime.

"It is not limited to individuals who carried a weapon and shot at American troops," Boyle replied.

They don't have to be on the front lines; they can be strategic advisors, intelligence informants, or supply workers, including cooks, he said.

Green asked if a hypothetical resident of England who taught English to the son of an Al Qaeda leader could be detained. Boyle said he could because "Al Qaeda could be trying to learn English to stage attacks there," and he compared that aid to "those shipping bullets to the front." Some detainees have been picked up in Bosnia and others in Africa.

Noting the Supreme Court said detention was to keep combatants from returning to the battlefield, Green asked: "What and where is the battlefield the U.S. military is trying to detain the prisoners from returning to? Africa? London?"

Boyle: "The conflict with Al Qaeda has a global reach."
We hate them for their freedoms, I guess.

Rockin' for the Hungry!

I and several other AAIRV (Ann Arbor Instant Runoff Voting) supporters will be helping Food Gatherers gather food and money today from 12 until 2 at Busch's Supermarket at the corner of South Main and Saline Road. Come out and make a donation and/or join us!

What is "Cheney if I know?"

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

It was very clandestine

I'm currently reading Steve Coll's Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. Here are some choice quotes that should reassure you, I guess, that our screwed-up government isn't just a recent Bush innovation:

Page 89:
In January 1984, CIA director William Casey briefed President Reagan and his national security cabinet about the progress of their covert Afghan war. It had been four years since the first Lee Enfield rifles arrived in Karachi. Mujahedin warriors had killed or wounded about seventeen thousand Soviet soldiers to date, by the CIA's classified estimate. They controlled 62 percent of the countryside and had become so effective that the Soviets would have to triple or quadruple their deployments in Afghanistan to put the rebellion down. Soviet forces had so far lost about 350 to 400 aircraft in combat, the CIA estimated. The mujahedin had also destroyed about 2,750 Soviet tanks and armored carriers and just under 8,000 trucks, jeeps, and other vehicles. The war had already cost the Soviet government about $12 billion in direct expenses. All this mayhem had been purchased by U.S. taxpayers for $200 million so far, plus another $200 million contributed by [Saudi] Prince Turki's GID, Casey reported. Islamabad station chief Howard Hart's argument that covert action in Afghanistan was proving cost effective had never been laid out so starkly for the White House.
Of course, the current White House realizes that there's much more profit to be had for arms merchants to be on the Soviet side of the equation--and why just one quagmire when you can have two?

Page 91:
The [Afghan covert action] program's maniacal champion was Representative Charlie Wilson, a tall, boisterous Texas Democrat in polished cowboy boots who was in the midst of what he later called "the longest midlife crisis in history." An alcoholic, Wilson abused government privileges to travel the world first class with former beauty queens who had earned such titles as Miss Sea and Ski and Miss Humble Oil.
The former Miss Northern Hemisphere, also known as Snowflake, recalled a trip to Peshawar: It was "just very, very exciting to be in that room with those men with their huge white teeth," and "it was very clandestine."

From pages 96-97:
Casey mumbled...He had taken a blow to the throat while boxing as a boy and he had a thick palate...Even President Reagan couldn't understand him. During an early briefing Casey delivered to the national security cabinet, Reagan slipped Vice President Bush a note: "Did you understand a word he said?" Reagan later told William F. Buckley, "My problem with Bill was that I didn't understand him at meetings. Now, you can ask a person to repeat himself once. You can ask him twice. But you can't ask him a third time. You start to sound rude. So I'd just nod my head, but I didn't know what he was actually saying." Such was the dialogue for six years between the president and his intelligence chief in a nuclear-armed nation running secret wars on four continents.

Why Al Gore invented the Internet

So we could read Lynne Cheney's lesbian novel!

Why do conservatives hate America?

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review.
Obviously a hippie commie peacenik Kerryista, right? I mean, if he weren't such a liberal, Reagan would have made him Secretary of the Treasury, not Assistant Secretary, right? Because only some America-hating surrender monkey would write stuff like this:
Bush's invasion of Iraq is one of the greatest strategic blunders in history. The Bush administration assumed that the invasion and occupation of Iraq would be a "cakewalk," because the indigenous population would welcome and support Americans as liberators.
Bush's invasion has turned not only Iraqis but all of the Middle East against the US. Where there were no terrorists and no support for terrorists, there are now tens of thousands of terrorists. America's puppet regimes in Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are endangered by the anti-Americanism that is engulfing the Middle East.

Like Hitler at Stalingrad, Bush cannot recognize the danger. Unable to occupy Iraq, Bush plans to expand the war to Iran and Syria. The identical Bush officials who lied about Iraq having nuclear weapons or weapons programs now lie about Iran having nuclear weapons or weapons programs.

Immune to evidence, the Bush administration is delusional and capable of horrendous miscalculation. The flowers with which the US Department of Defense said our troops would be greeted in Iraq turned out to be bullets, rocket-propelled grenades, and roadside bombs.
Not content to cause turmoil in the Middle East, the Bush administration is arrogantly and foolishly stirring the pot in Ukraine, interfering in an election in Russia's sphere of influence. In just four years, Bush has created a new image of America as a reckless hypocrite that lectures others about democracy, while engaging in electoral fraud in Ohio and Florida and imposing a puppet government on Iraq at the point of bayonets.
On the other hand, maybe Roberts is what a truly patriotic conservative American should be.

Why the Shiites are supporting the Iraqi election

Liz Sly of the Chicago Tribune reports from Baghdad:
"This election, for me, will be the happiest moment in my life, because it means we will end the occupation," said Ahmad al-Asadi, who sells mobile phones from a little store alongside the Kadhimiya mosque, a Shiite shrine.

That's how Shiite leaders are pitching the vote: as a chance to end America's military presence in Iraq peacefully, through the ballot box.
Sly doesn't mention the probable U.S. reaction to being asked to leave (look at how quickly we pulled back after handing over "sovereignty!"). She does note, however, that even the Shiites know that the election won't be the end to all of their troubles:
In Kadhimiya, Shiites say they won't countenance any delay, though Ahmad, the hotelier, says he understands Sunni concerns.

"One hundred percent, the Shiites will win," he said. "And for sure there will be trouble, because the Kurds don't want the Shiites, and the Sunnis don't want the Shiites. Nobody wants the Shiites."
Well, there you go! There's aWol's excuse! We have to support the democratically-elected Shiite government of Iraq by continuing to kill Iraqis! (Note to the Shiites: Pay close attention to how much respect the Bushies have paid to the democratically-elected governments in Venezuela and Haiti.)

Who's going to control Ukrainian Gangster Capitalism?

That seems to be the main question in the ongoing electoral crisis in the Ukraine, according to the WSWS. Yanukovich has ties to wealthy and powerful Russian interests, and would likely keep the Ukraine tightly linked to the robber barons who have dominated Russia for the past 15 years. Yushchenko has ties to even wealthier and more powerful westerners, like George Soros, Madeleine Albright, and former Carter national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski (and doesn't his name keep popping up all over the place?). Both sides hope to exploit the Ukraine's resources and labor for profit--the main question being who gets the profits (hint: it won't be Josef or Irina Sixpackchenko in Kiev).

Quote du Jour

So, more than a little humiliated, I asked the next guy who walked by if he could help. I don't know what I said, exactly, but it was something like: Excuse me, sir? Can you tell me how to make a car go backwards in your country? Because I have beached my Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and I am facing a brick wall.
That's from Bob Harris, describing his latest adventure in Merry Olde England--trying to back up in his rental car.

I haven't read many travelogues in my lengthy history of reading, mostly because the few I have read were so mind-numbingly boring. Bob Harris, on the other hand, writes travelogues that are both stranger than fiction and much more entertaining. He has started a web page featuring these stories. Unfortunately, it only has one posted so far. Fortunately, some of his earlier travelogues are still available on Tom Tomorrow's web site--here and here.