Bob's Links and Rants

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Monday, February 28, 2005

The right right

Billmon has a selection of recent quotes from old-fashioned conservatives about the dangers of the Bushies and their brownshirt followers. This one hits the nail on the head:
From the first days after 9/11, the Bush administration created a mythology that would spur reverence for both the president and the government. Bush wrapped himself in a flag drenched with the blood of Americans who died due to the failure of the federal government he commanded, and sadly the people bought it — and still continue to buy it.
-- James Bovard, September 17, 2004

Jay Leno is stealing my material!

From Left I on the News:
President Bush is denying reports today that he has plans to invade Iran. Oh we're still going to invade. We just don't have any plans! You know. Like Iraq."

- Jay Leno
I refer the jury to my post of Friday, February 18, which included this:
Bush: No plans to attack Iran (He's not saying he's not going to attack Iran, just that he doesn't have plans. After Iraq, I can believe that.)
Well, that's okay. As long as the message gets out.

The Thing About Venezuela

Estimated Prophet sums it up pretty well, going over the US-backed 2002 coup attempt, the oil, and continued US media efforts to discredit Chavez. He ends with a quote from Woodrow Wilson which pretty succinctly summarizes the American approach to the world:
Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed against him must be battered down. Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused.

Let them eat mud

It's been a year since the US-backed coup in Haiti put democracy on the march right out of that unfortuante country. People are now eating mud there, and that's not the worst of it.

A logical explanation

From Boondocks.

I wonder where the insurgents got that much explosive

To kill 125 in Hilla. Oh, right. And it wasn't the only violence in Iraq, by a longshot. CNN's report describes bombings elsewhere, the deaths of several American soldiers, a shootout between Iraqi soldiers and Sudanese "militants" in Baghdad, and the bombing of an oil pipeline. I assume that "Operation River Blitz," the military's effort to Fallujacize Ramadi, continues unabated (and unreported in that article).

The New York Times continues its service to empire by calling the attack "the deadliest single attack since the fall of Saddam Hussein in April 2003." Of course, nobody counted the dead in Fallujah from the US assault on that poor city back in November, but it seems clear that far more than 125 people were killed there.

And, no surprise here, the dollar is falling and oil is rising ($51.84, up 35 cents for the day).

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Round, round, round, round I get around...

Via Cyndy, a list of where I've been and lived:

bold the states you've been to, underline the states you've lived in and italicize the state you're in now...

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C /

Go HERE to have a form generate the HTML for you.

Just missing two red states and one blue state! I've also been in Canada, Mexico, Belize (airport only), El Salvador (airport only), Costa Rica, Venezuela, Jamaica, Ireland (airport only), England, Spain, West Germany, East Germany (there were two Germanys when I went), and Austria. I was conceived in Japan!

It's peak oil, stupid!

That's my reaction to this headline on CBS Marketwatch: Oil price surge defies forecasters (registration required). The article begins:
As crude-oil futures climbed above $51 a barrel this week, analysts threw up their hands and wondered why.

"None of the historical correlations analysts have used - inventories primarily for oil, storage for natural gas, natural-gas and oil prices for rig counts -- work," said Jim Wicklund, managing director of energy research at Banc of America Securities.

"No one can really explain, with anything but a very broad brush, why crude oil prices are as high as they are."

Pointing to the Energy Department and American Petroleum weekly U.S. inventory reports, James Williams, an energy economist at WTRG Economics, said nothing in the data supports prices at this level.
Actually, just a few paragraphs below this an analyst explains it fairly well (emphasis added):
"But we're still too low [in our forecasts]," said Marshall Adkins, managing director of energy equity research at Raymond James. "There has been a fundamental shift in the oil markets."

One reason for the disparity between forecasts and the current price of crude is a bias on the part of analysts. Most analysts believe that oil will return to normal levels, though he said there's no longer a good way to gauge what is normal.

"This time is different than other times," Adkins said. "We've always had an oil bubble in our existence, where there was more supply capacity than demand, and that's essentially not the case anymore."

Secondly, demand from China has skyrocketed. And thirdly, in some areas of the world, supply growth has hit a wall.

Analysts are biased in another way.

"We're as guilty of this as anyone," Adkins said. "As analysts, you would rather be too conservative on your forecasts than too aggressive because you have to do more explaining on the high side than on the low side."
When Adkins talks about the absence of an oil bubble, he's talking about something very close to peak oil. It's possible that supply could continue growing for a few years, just not as fast as demand, which would mean shortages but not peak oil. But the disappearance of the bubble and peak oil are likely to happen about the same time.

And when he says "in some areas of the world, supply growth has hit a wall," he should really say "in almost all areas of the world." (Stealing from a post I made last July:) Richard Heinberg's The Party's Over has a list of the peak oil years for various countries and groups of countries. The years listed are when that nation's oil production was or will be at its maximum. You'll notice that an awful lot of these years exist in that part of time commonly known as "the past."

  • US 1970, Canada 2006, Mexico 2005, Total North America 1983
  • Argentina 1997, Brazil 2003, Colombia 2004, Ecuador 1997, Peru 1979, Trinidad & Tobago 1977, Venezuela 1970, Total South & Central America 2006
  • Denmark 2004, Italy 1997, Norway 2004, Romania 1976, UK 2000, Total Europe 2006
  • Former Soviet Union 1987
  • Iran 1976, Iraq 2009, Kuwait 2010, Oman 2005, Qatar 2004, Saudi Arabia 2017, Syria 1995, UA Emirates 2009, Yemen 2005, Total Middle East 2009
  • Algeria 2006, Angola 2002, Cameroon 1985, Congo 2004, Egypt 1993, Equatorial Guinea 2003, Gabon 2004, Libya 1969, Nigeria 2007, Tunisia 1981, Total Africa 2006
  • Australia 2005, Brunei 1979, China 2007, India 2004, Indonesia 1977, Malaysia 2003, Papua New Guinea 1993, Thailand 2004, Vietnam 2004, Total Asia-Pacific 2004
  • Total World Peak 2006
(pp 103-104)

So, by the end of the decade the entire world outside of Saudi Arabia is projected to have hit the wall.

Anyway, be wary of headlines, and even opening paragraphs. The author interviewed several "experts" on oil prices, and chose to lead with the ones who had no explanations, rather than with Adkins, who had several. Maybe this was bias on the part of CBS Marketwatch's Lisa Saunders towards lower oil prices, or perhaps just some sort of rough "democracy" where she figured "I've got two guys who are clueless, and one who isn't, so I'll lead with the clueless ones."

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Wi-Fi All Around!

Free wireless Internet access is becoming more common, some of it intentional (I do see a lot of lights blinking on my wi-fi router even when I'm not using the computer, but haven't powered down the router). For students, faculty and staff of the University of Michigan, there are many wi-fi sites on campus. The Ann Arbor District Library currently has wi-fi at three of its four branches. And there are 19 more sites around Ann Arbor listed on this free wi-fi in Michigan page.

The most interesting spots I see on that list? First, the Meijer gas station on Saline Road, which may currently be the only place in the world where you can purchase biodiesel, automotive natural gas (for those Honda Civic GX's), AND check your e-mail on your laptop! The other one that caught my eye? The downtown area of Grand Rapids, near Rosa Parks Circle. Grand Rapids is the center of the red part of this blue state, and it surprises me that there is a "Rosa Parks Circle" in Grand Rapids, since Rosa made a name for herself in Montgomery, Alabama and has since lived in Detroit for many years. That Rosa Parks Circle in Grand Rapids is wi-fi enabled just boggles my mind!

Where "Christian" blowhards come from

There were times that Dad’s pranks bordered on cruelty. One of his oil-company workers, a one-legged man he nicknamed “Crip” Smith, complained about everything. Dad and Crip’s co-workers got tired of the old man’s bellyaching and decided to take revenge. One morning Crip called in sick and Dad volunteered to send by lunch to his grateful but suspicious employee. Dad and his chums caught Crip’s old black tomcat, killed it, skinned it, and cooked it in the kitchen of one of Dad’s little restaurants. They called it squirrel meat and delivered it to Crip on a linen-covered tray. When Crip returned to work the next morning, Dad and his co-conspirators asked him how he liked his meal. They knew he would complain even about a free home-cooked lunch, and when Crip called it “the toughest squirrel meat” he had ever eaten, they were glad to tell him why.
That's from Jerry Falwell's 1987 autobiography, Strength for the Journey, via the New Yorker via A Tiny Revolution.

So Falwell's dad was in the oil business, owned a bunch of little restaurants, and still found time to kill the pet of a disabled man. Explains a lot. "Borders" on cruelty?

Ramadi--the next Fallujah?

RAMADI, 24 February (IRIN) - Residents of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province some 100 km east of Baghdad, have started to flee the city following the latest offensive launched by US Marines and the Iraqi army.

The military have carried out raids in the province over the past few days in an attempt to crack down on insurgents, with the main focus of operations eing Ramadi, a rebel stronghold.

Worried that the offensive could proceed as it did in nearby Fallujah, where he majority of the city's population was forced to flee during a near hree-month long campaign, many Ramadi families are taking personal effects and food supplies and heading to relatives' houses in the capital, or to the same camps where residents from Fallujah fled.

A number of checkpoints have been set up around the city of 400,000 and a curfew has been established. It runs from 2000 to 0600. Vehicles are being inspecting carefully and any suspect is being taken for further interrogation, Marines' spokesman Lt-Col Paul Brathen told IRIN.

This is punishment?

Egypt jails an opposition leader, and instead of punishing Egypt by withholding some of the billions in foreign aid the US sends there, we're rewarding them by withholding Condiliar! There are probably several German politicians who would have volunteered to be arrested if they'd known it would have kept Condi and aWol out.

Friday, February 25, 2005

From Tom Toles.

Wal-Mart Unionization Fails

From Reuters:
Wal-Mart -- which recently shut down a Canadian store that voted in favor of a union -- said tire and lube express associates at its Loveland supercenter voted 17-1 to reject representation by the United Food & Commercial Workers Union.
"Wal-Mart did what it does best. It scares people. They are very good at putting the fear of God in their employees," said Dave Minshall of the UFCW.

He said the union would file several charges with the National Labor Relations Board, officials of which oversaw the balloting.

Minshall said the UFCW would wanted to charge Wal-Mart with interfering with the balloting. He said the retailer had barred the union from sending its own representative to observe the vote.

But Terry Srsen, vice president of labor relations for Wal-Mart, said in a statement: "Many of our associates are former union members -- they know better than anyone that the only guarantee a union can make is that it will cost the members money -- and that is why they continue to reject the UFCW."
I don't get how they could get the union all the way to a vote and have it lose 17-1. Wouldn't there have to have been more that one organizer amongst the workers? And Srsen, whom I'm tempted to buy a vowel for, doesn't hide his/her contempt for unions. I mean there's really only one guarantee that Wal-Mart provides its workers: "Always low wages. Always."

Dollar headed back down, oil headed back up

Bro Jim sent me a link to Bloomberg's energy prices page, the first free online page I've seen with oil futures prices (I've always just gotten the price from news articles before, which aren't always current). Bloomberg still doesn't have the neat graphs for oil prices like you can get on most financial web sites for stocks, but it's an improvement. Thanks, bro!

Currently Nymex Crude is at $51.49. I've noticed local gasoline prices are back over $2. And the euro is climbing against the dollar (meaning the dollar is falling), pushing near its high for the day of $1.3245 after falling as low as $1.3143 earlier today.

W's W I still killing

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) -- Taliban insurgents launched three attacks in southeastern Afghanistan in heavy combat that left 19 dead -- including 10 rebels killed by U.S. troops, officials said Friday. An American soldier was wounded.

At least nine Afghan soldiers were killed when rebels ambushed their vehicle in Helmand province on Thursday, said Haji Wali Mohammed, a spokesman for the governor.

Wal-Mart Watch

Twenty Wal-Mart employees in Loveland, Colorado are voting today on joining the United Food and Commercial Workers union. If the union wins, it would be the first Wal-Mart union in the U.S.--sort of. From the article:
Meatcutters in Texas conducted a union vote in 2000, but shortly afterward, Wal-Mart eliminated the position companywide, insisting the move was not related to the election. Earlier this month, the company said it would close a store in Quebec, Canada, because of what company officials called "unreasonable demands" by workers trying to negotiate the first-ever union contract with the retailer.
Also this week, Wal-Mart was successfully kept out of New York City, and lost a $7.5 million lawsuit. And the battle continues against a new Wal-Mart in Saline, Michigan, Ann Arbor's neighbor to the south.

Three soldiers killed, eight wounded

Perfectly Explained

From AP, I see that aWol got challenged by an actual reporter:
Bush and Putin hoped to keep their joint appearance focused on their agreements and close ties. One curious, rambling query gave them something to unite around — irritation with their questioner.

"The regimes in place in Russia and the U.S. cannot be considered fully democratic, especially when compared to some other countries of Europe, for example — for example, the Netherlands," the Russian reporter said, his preamble taking so long that Bush pursed his lips in apparent impatience.

He then asked Bush how the "great powers that have been assumed by the security services" in the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks square with democratic values.

"We could probably talk at length," the journalist said.

Bush clearly wasn't interested in that. He offered a brisk retort that democracy is doing just fine in America.

"I live in a country where decisions made by government are wide open and people are able to call people to me to account, which many out here do on a regular basis. Our laws and the reasons why we have laws on the books are perfectly explained to people," he said.
Ah, just write your own commentary. I'll be pulling my hair out.
WIIIAI has aWol's visit with Pooty-Poot covered. An excerpt:
Bush: “the sign of a healthy and vibrant society is one where there’s an active press corps”. But enough about Jeff Gannon’s sex life. He added, “democracies have certain things in common: They have a rule of law and protection of minorities, a free press and a viable political opposition.” For example, we’ve got Guantanamo, a ban on gay marriage, Fox News, and the Democratic Party. So we’re set.

He adds, “I live in a transparent country.” Dude, you’re back on the weed again, aren’t you?
WIIIAI is funny.

All Aboard Amtrak!

You may have heard that Amtrak is one of the many great programs on W's chopping block (why not those stupid robot soldiers or "missile defense" or one of your idiotic wars, moron?). Via Cyndy, I came across this great page which details the reasons this country needs Amtrak and debunks the lies told about it. My recent Amtrak experience wasn't the greatest, but that had a lot to do with it being woefully underfunded--not the opposite. And for the shorter Ann Arbor to Chicago trip, the train may be, even now, the best way to get there.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Final Jeopardy answer is...

Soviet-style single-party politics, state-run media, and repression of opposition voices.

"What is: How do I run my country?" Hey, you both got it right! But Vlad, you only wagered 15 years of corrupt gangsta capitalism, while George bet the last, best hope of mankind, a 240-year experiment in freedom. So George continues as our "Put the world in Jeopardy!" champion! Tune in tomorrow, if there is a tomorrow.

By the way...

People are still being killed and wounded by the dozens daily in Iraq. From the NY Times:
At least 21 people, including two United States soldiers, were killed today as insurgents struck to the north and south of Baghdad, an Interior Ministry official and the American military said today.

A suicide car bomber attacked a police station in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown, at 9 a.m., leaving 10 people dead and 12 wounded. Some of the casualties were civilians passing by the station, the ministry official said.


An hour later, another car bomber targeted a two-vehicle police convoy in Kirkuk, north of Baghdad, leaving two policemen dead and one wounded, the official said.

In Hilla, south of Baghdad, a third suicide bomber exploded his vehicle in front of the headquarters of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, a leading Shiite political party.

Seven people were killed in the blast and another eight wounded, the ministry aide said.

An American soldier was killed and two were wounded in a roadside bomb blast this morning north of Samarra, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, the American military said.

Another soldier died near Tikrit, also as a result of a roadside blast, the military said.

Today's attacks follow the deaths of 22 people on Wednesday across a 200-mile stretch of central and northern Iraq.

Oh, to be a monkey's uncle

From the LA Times via Bob Harris:
The Iraq war helped bring record earnings to St. Louis-based defense contractor Engineered Support Systems Inc., and new financial data show that the firm's war-related profits have trickled down to a familiar family name — Bush.

William H.T. "Bucky" Bush, uncle of the president and youngest brother of former President George H.W. Bush, cashed in ESSI stock options last month with a net value of nearly half a million dollars.

"Uncle Bucky," as he is known to the president, is on the board of the company, which supplies armor and other materials to U.S. troops. The company's stock prices have soared to record heights since before the invasion, benefiting in part from contracts to rapidly refit fleets of military vehicles with extra armor.

From Tim Menees.

From J.D. Crowe.

Exactly how it's done

From Boondocks.


WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- Crude-oil futures scored fresh gains Thursday, rising ahead of key weekly U.S. petroleum inventories data.

In electronic trading, crude for April delivery added 44 cents to stand lately at $51.61 a barrel.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Cretin par excellence

This afternoon's NY Times homepage.

Five-hundred Iranians killed in a devastating earthquake, and all Dumbya can talk about is trying to start a war with them.

If you need security this tight...

Chances are that you're a real jerk. Some photos from a German news web site showing the extraordinary security today in Mainz for the temporary invasion of aWol and his band of goons:

Autobahn closed.

Huge traffic jams, cops everywhere.

Bicyclist has to find a detour.

Schnelle Boot Veterane für Wahrheit.

Of course, there has been some reaction:

Kyoto, not war.

One sign I can't agree with. Bush, stay there.

Several thousand people in the streets of Mainz (the ones not closed down, anyway).

Help Wanted!

I'm hoping to get going on my solar power project soon, and I'm looking for recommendations for contractors. I need, probably, a roofer and an electrician, although an all-around handyperson would probably work, too. The project involves reroofing the south side of my roof with a combination of Unisolar solar shingles and regular shingles, wiring them together in the attic, and running wires to the basement where they would connect with a charge controller, batteries, and inverter, and then to my electrical load center.

If any local readers know of people able and willing to do such work, please e-mail me. I'm looking for people willing to do something a little different, and who will make sure that I have a safe system which will pass inspection. Hopefully they can show me how to do some of the grunt work (like connecting the wires in the attic), but I don't really trust myself to do the whole job properly.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Why Europe Ignores Bush

Tony Karon writes in Time:
Machiavelli's advice to political leaders was that it's more important to be feared than to be loved. That's no help for President Bush on his European tour; in spite of the warm words he's exchanging with European leaders, the reality is that the Bush administration is neither loved nor feared in growing sectors of the international community — increasingly, it is simply being ignored.
The rest of the article explains how the credibility lost with the lies about Iraq and the difficulty the Bushies are having resolving that mess has led the Europeans and others to ignore aWol's ramblings about Iran, Syria, China, wherever.

In the service of empire

The NY Times has a snarky article belittling the efforts of Latin American countries to keep or make public utilities public. They still seem to pretend, after decades of evidence to the contrary, that foreign investment actually offers hope to poor countries.
In Peru, despite major economic growth, foreign investment fell to $1.3 billion last year from $2.1 billion in 2002. Ecuador has also seen investments sag, as oil companies that once saw the country as a rosy destination have faced the increasingly determined opposition of Indian tribes and environmental groups.

Argentina, which has taken a decidedly leftist path in the economic recovery following its 2001 collapse, has recouped only a fraction of the investments it attracted just a few years ago.

Across the region, companies are more than ever weighing political risks when considering expansion plans. Political leaders, meanwhile, are having to weigh the need for foreign investment against the demands of citizens who are increasingly quick to hit the streets.
The "need" for foreign investment is in reality the desire by the wealthy elite in both rich and poor countries to reinstate the colonial system of exploitation. The IMF, World Bank and globalization in general have done incalculable damage to the abilities of people and their countries to be self-sustaining.

Just read everything Paul Craig Roberts writes

He'd probably be one of my favorite columnists even without his conservative biography. He certainly doesn't pull any punches when it comes to the Bushies. From his latest:
Why isn't Bush looking for a way out of the greatest strategic blunder in American history? Why, instead, is Bush and his government doing all they can to spread the conflict into Syria and Iran?

The neoconservatives' goal is the same as Osama bin Laden's--to spread instability in the Middle East. The neocons seek to foment instability in order to justify more US invasions in an insane quest to remake the Middle East in the American image. Bin Laden seeks instability in order to topple the secular rulers and recreate Islamic rule. Bin Laden does not want US troops out. He wants to suck America in deeper in order to create revolutionary insurgency throughout the Middle East.

The Bush administration is moronic enough to oblige bin Laden.
Despite the disaster they have caused, neoconservatives still hold the reins of power in the Bush administration. They have made their agenda clear: war throughout the Middle East. Their orchestrated invasion of Iraq was merely a stepping stone to their wider aim. The neocons seize every opportunity to use provocative accusations, bellicose threats, and propaganda to stir up ever more American enemies in the Middle East. Their goal is to provoke a "Pearl Harbor," as Christopher Manion terms it, that can be used to bring back the military draft.

This policy plays directly into bin Laden's hands. Osama has succeeded in tricking America into spending $300 billion in an unsuccessful act of revenge that has ruined America's reputation while recruiting tens of thousands of recruits for bin Laden.

The neoconservatives are the greatest threat America has ever faced, and they control the Office of the President, the Office of the Vice President, the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the police state apparatus known as "Homeland Security."

The working hungry

Richard Manning writes in Counterpunch about hunger in Missoula, Montana:
It has become increasingly difficult to work at small-town food banks because often one knows the client not as a beggar from beneath the bridge, but as a neighbor or colleague. Food banks today cater increasingly -- and a sociologist's survey of our town bore this out -- to people who are employed, the class we now call the working poor.

These people earn so little they barely get by. Catastrophic medical bills or Missoula's escalating housing costs can chew up their inadequate paychecks so that by the end of the month there is no money left for food.

If we are to really do anything about the shameful matter of hunger in our town, we must address these larger issues. What at first looked like a little hole to plug now appears to be a bottomless chasm, ever widening.

There is something fundamental buried in all of this: where these people work. Many of them, report the food bank people, work full time for minimum wage and no health insurance at the ring of chain stores that has suburbanized this once unique mountain town. The big-box retail business has exploded in Missoula, making us a regional market center, part of the cause of our prosperity. That is, hunger is increasing in our town not in spite of our healthy economy, but because of it.

The Collapse of Empire

I mused about it earlier. Now I find an article by Kirkpatrick Sale on Counterpunch describing the four ways in which empires collapse, and how the American empire appears to be on schedule in at least three of the four:
  1. Environmental degradation
  2. Economic meltdown
  3. Military overstretch
  4. Domestic dissent and upheaval
On the last point, Sale seems to agree with me on the chances for number four leading the way:
It's hard to believe that the great mass of the American public would ever bestir itself to challenge the empire at home until things get much, much worse. It is a public, after all, of which, as a Gallup poll in 2004 found, 61 per cent believe that "religion can answer all or most of today's problems," and according to a Time/CNN poll in 2002 59 per cent believe in the imminent apocalypse foretold in the Book of Revelation and take every threat and disaster as evidence of God's will.
Sale's conclusion?
Those four processes by which empires always eventually fall seem to me to be inescapably operative, in varying degrees, in this latest empire. And I think a combination of several or all of them will bring about its collapse within the next 15 years or so.
As I've said before, the next couple of decades may be horrible, but they won't be boring.


The April light crude futures actually hit $51 before closing at $50.76.

$49.86; Dollar down; Economic collapse as the least-worst option

The April light crude oil contract is flirting with $50. And the dollar is dropping quickly:
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- The U.S. dollar was under siege on Tuesday after reports overnight that South Korea's central bank may sell some of its U.S. currency reserves triggered a wave of dollar selling against the major currencies.

U.S. currency traders returned from a three-day holiday to find the euro more than 1.1 percent higher on the session, trading lately at $1.3206.

The dollar traded at 104.18 yen, off 1.2 percent, marking the large one-day fall for the dollar-yen since October.
I've read and heard many lefties suggesting various ways out of our current dilemma, that being the complete takeover of our government and media by insane militarists intent on destroying this country and the world. Some say we need to abandon the Democratic party, others say we need to reform it, others suggest we should do both. Some say we should write to Congress, write letters to the editor, talk to our neighbors, protest in the streets.

I'd suggest we should probably try all of these things, but I'm not sure any of them will work. The Bushies apparently won't be brought down by our outrage. But I think there are two things that will bring them down. One is for their wars to be brought home on a massive scale, either through a draft and huge numbers of casualties, or huge terror attacks which make September 11 look like February 21 in comparison. The other is a general economic collapse.

Neither possibility is at all appealing, but I consider economic collapse to be far and away the preferable of the two. Here are my reasons:
  • Economic collapse seems inevitable anyway, given the huge budget and trade deficits, the approach of peak oil, and the general trashing of the US economy through outsourcing that has happened in the past twenty years.
  • Our capitalist economy is destroying the world as it is through global warming, resource extraction, pollution in general, and the ever-growing exploitation of cheap labor. While keeping it afloat for the next decade or two might make life more pleasant for many of us during that time, the damage done will make the consequences for the future that much worse.
  • A collapse, while it could easily lead to violence in many ways, offers the possibility of derailing the neocons' imperialist war agenda. Having the war come home in a big way before economic collapse would likely lead to such a collapse anyway. So I think the unsavory possibilities we face are either economic collapse, or total war with economic collapse.
At the moment, I feel fairly powerless to affect the large-scale flow of the world. Whatever happens is likely to happen no matter how much blogging I do, or letters I write, or signs I carry, or causes I support. But, as a cheerleader, I'm kind of pulling for economic collapse as the least-worst possibility, and trying to prepare myself for it as best I can. In the most immediate sense, high oil prices and a falling dollar may be the signs that the surgery needed to rid us of the malignant Bush cancer is coming.

Almost makes our system look good

Juan Cole explains the backroom dealing that will tell the Iraqi people what their will was on January 30. Bottom line? Criminal Chalabi and terrorist Comical Allawi are still in the running.

Update: Chalabi out.

Quoting Bush Quoting Camus

WIIIAI has read aWol's speech in Brussels so we don't have to. Here's a selection from WIIIAI's commentary:
You know the old joke

In heaven:
The English are the police,
The Germans are the mechanics,
The Swiss are the administrators,
The French are the lovers,
The Italians are the cooks.

In hell:
The English are the cooks,
The French are the mechanics,
The Swiss are the lovers,
The Italians are the administrators,
The Germans are the police.

Well, according to Bush, “the Afghan people know the world is with them. After all, Germany is providing vital police training. ... Italy is giving assistance on judicial reform.”
WIIIAI also quotes Bush quoting Camus, badly out of context. He adds in a later post:
More from the Bush speech: “The Palestinian people deserve a government that is representative, honest and peaceful.” So do we, but look what we’re stuck with instead.

From Steve Benson.

That cartoon doesn't strike me as particularly funny, but it's the FIRST one of dozens I've seen about Dean taking over at the DNC that doesn't make fun of him, suggesting that the problem is with the party, not its new chairman. Cartoonists from both the left and right have been lampooning Dr. Dean mercilessly, which I find absurd. I'm not a huge Dean fan, but he's got as much credibility as most Democrats (and much more than losers like Kerry and Hillary). His downfall as a presidential candidate was clearly orchestrated by the media, and they're not going to stop until they've destroyed all chances for the Democratic Party to actually become an opposition party once again.

Correction! I just found another!

From Signe Wilkinson.

That one's better.

From Steve Breen.

Monday, February 21, 2005

John and Hillary Lying in Iraq

Yak yak yak yak yak yak yak.

"We're planning on running against each other in 2008, and we're not about to say anything controversial while we're here in Iraq that might prevent us from getting the hundreds of millions in corporate dollars it's going to take to win."

Phoney Bush "opponents" like these two shills are probably more dangerous than pure buttkissers like DeLay and Frist.

Just Because He Was Absolutely Right Before...

...doesn't mean that the mainstream media will take Scott Ritter seriously this time. The former Marine and UN weapons inspector told anyone who would listen back in 2002 that Iraq had no significant quantities of WMD's, nor did they have programs. Ritter is now saying that the Bushies plan to bomb Iran in June, and that the Iraqi election results were manipulated by the US. Both seem all too plausible (the election results are pretty much a no-brainer).

Michelle links to a couple of related articles--one suggesting that Iran's plans to open a euro-based oil exchange is the immediate motive for attacking Iran, and the other suggesting that Iran is fully prepared to fight back--hard.

No wonder the right hates him

If you want to be secure, if you want to be able to live a human life, in all of its full dimension, if you want to have the security of that to pass along to your children, if you want to be valued, in other words, as a human being, I don't want to get Biblical here, but do unto others as you would expect to have done unto yourself. That's my first proposition. If you want to be secure from that natural and inevitable response to what it is America's putting out on the world, start with stopping the killing of their babies. Afford them the fundamental dignity of being human, not 'collateral damage.' And America's been able to provide the world with an endless stream of glowing rhetoric, but how, on that basis ­ since they've violated all of it, since they've always said one thing but acted precisely the opposite ­ is anyone out there going to believe anyone here if those insurances are made? Here's my real, crushing blow. Here's the real radical finale of the whole thing: let's just try pretending for a moment that the United States of America, like every other entity on the planet, is bound to obey the law.
-- Ward Churchill

From Tom Toles.

Dumbo Goes to Europe

You'd better lock up
You'd better shut down
Better yet get the hell outa town
W is coming to town.

His goons will come too
They'll frisk you all down
All to protect an idiot clown
W is coming to town.

He knows not what you're thinking
He cares not who you are
He just wants your own government to back his wars both near and far

Yes you'd better look out
You'd better duck low
Bush's SS* is runnin' the show
W is coming to town.

*Secret Service

Read some of the security measures being taken for Dumbya's visit to Mainz, Germany this Wednesday:
Four motorways are being completely closed, rail travel restricted, navigation of the rivers Rhine and Main halted, schools and local offices closed down. The historical centre of the city of Mainz will be totally blocked off. Helicopters will fly overhead, while the city is besieged by police units and snipers.

The rerouting of traffic and closure of the main routes between Frankfurt airport and Mainz will force tens of thousands of employees in the region, including workers at the huge Opel auto works at Rüsselsheim, to change shifts or take a day’s holiday.

Air space over Frankfurt airport is to be closed for nearly an hour. All private airplanes within a radius of 60 kilometres from Mainz are to be grounded for the entire day. For the first time ever, fighter planes of the German Air Force will be on standby to take off and attack in the event of any disturbance of air space.

US snipers will be posted on balconies and roofs along the route from the airport to Mainz and its city centre—this in a country that normally forbids foreign security forces, even bodyguards, from carrying weapons in public. Days in advance, US Secret Service agents have been surveying the region, and huge armoured cars, helicopters and hundreds of American “specialists” have been flown in.

A high security wall has been erected in the Mainz city centre around the historic cathedral, the castle, the regional parliament, the state chancellery and the world famous Gutenberg Museum. The city centre has been criss-crossed with barricades and placed under the control of armed policemen. Thousands of residents and those working in the city centre can leave or gain access only on foot, after showing their IDs. The central link over the Rhine to Wiesbaden, the Theodor Heuss bridge, is to be totally closed, even for pedestrians.

Some 1,300 gully and manhole covers have been welded shut, while free-standing mail boxes, garbage cans, electrical connection boxes, and even bicycles have been removed. City residents have been expressly forbidden from going onto their balconies or looking out an open window. They have been banned from parking their cars either in the street or in their own garages. Many garages have been sealed. The police have warned that they will break into and tow away all vehicles found in the restricted area beginning early Tuesday morning.

Garbage disposal and road cleaning will be halted on Wednesday. The university hospital, including its emergency ward, has been vacated and is being kept free for possible emergency use. Other hospitals have organised onsite overnight accommodation to make sure physicians, anaesthetists and nursing staff can be available for work.
I'm at a loss to understand why the Germans would put up with this Nazi crap, especially for this moron. The WSWS quotes several letters to the editor from German papers indicating the widespread anger, but apparently their government doesn't care.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Urbina's Mother Rescued in Venezuela!

Good news for all of you Detroit Tiger fans, and Venezuela fans, and human being fans. The mother of Tiger pitcher Ugueth Urbina, Maura Villarreal, was rescued by Venezuelan police after having been kidnapped 5 1/2 months ago. Apparently it was quite an operation, with the cops sneaking up on an abandoned tourist camp where she was held and engaging in a shootout with the kidnappers. One kidnapper was killed. Sra. Villarreal said that she was treated neither well nor poorly during her 5 1/2 months of captivity.

The Detroit Free Press had lots of the details on the operation, while the Ann Arbor News (at least the online version) just had a few short sentences about Sra. Villarreal being rescued, and spent the rest of the article speculating on how it might affect the Tigers' 2005 season. Gotta keep those priorities straight.

From Pat Oliphant.

The War to Create Terrorism

From the WSWS:
Both CIA Director Goss and Vice Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, conceded that the war in Iraq has strengthened Al Qaeda and associated Islamic terrorist groups by inflaming anti-American sentiment throughout the Middle East.

“Islamic extremists are exploiting the Iraqi conflict to recruit new anti-US jihadists,” Goss told the Senate Intelligence Committee. “These jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced and focused on acts of urban terrorism,” he added. “They represent a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries.”

Goss, a former Republican congressman, tried to draw back from the obvious implications of this statement, declaring, “The Iraq conflict, while not a cause of extremism, has become a cause for extremists.”

But DIA Director Jacoby dispensed with this political spin, admitting that the war in Iraq is fomenting anti-American sentiment. “Overwhelming majorities in Morocco, Jordan and Saudi Arabia believe the US has a negative policy toward the Arab world,” he said.

He added that the Iraq insurgency has grown “in size and complexity over the past year,” and he provided figures to back up this assessment. Iraqis opposed to the US occupation were mounting an average of 60 attacks per day, more than double the rate a year ago. On January 30, Iraq’s election day, more than 300 attacks were carried out, despite the nationwide shutdown of transportation and the all-out mobilization of US troops and Iraqi police.

The statements by Goss and Jacoby constitute a crushing refutation of the claims that the Bush administration invaded and occupied Iraq in order to protect the American people from the threat of terrorism. The invasion, and the accompanying atrocities, murder and torture by American forces, have dramatically increased the hatred of America throughout the Middle East and in Muslim countries generally, boosting the public support and recruitment for reactionary terrorist groups like Al Qaeda.
The WSWS concludes that "the US invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with fighting terrorism." I'd go farther than that. While perhaps not the main reason (cough-oil), increasing the risk of terrorism is most likely seen as a benefit of the war by the Bushies. After all, look at all the political capital they reaped from just one big terror attack. Dick Cheney said the "war on terror" would probably last fifty years. He didn't seem to be at all upset by his prediction. War is the most effective means known to the wealthy elite to consolidate and expand their wealth and power. Endless war means endless misery for most of the world's people, but for the Bushies and their friends it means endless prosperity and power.

Aiding and Abetting the "Enemy"--a Bush Family Tradition

Senator Carl Levin disclosed on Tuesday that the Bush administration "directly abetted Jordan's efforts to build up its strategic reserves with smuggled Iraqi oil in the weeks before the United States invaded Iraq in March 2003."
The illicit oil exports took place outside the Iraq oil-for-food program, which the United Nations administered from 1996 to 2003. While allegations of corruption and mismanagement in that program are under investigation by five congressional committees, the Justice Department and a U.N.-appointed panel, the illicit oil exports outside the program have received less scrutiny. According to investigators, Iraq received more revenue from those exports than from the alleged oil-for-food kickbacks.

"The bulk of [Saddam Hussein's] illicit oil sale revenues actually came from the money he received from unregulated sales of Iraqi oil, entirely outside of the oil-for-food program, primarily to Turkey, Jordan and Syria," Levin said at a hearing Tuesday on the U.N. management of Iraqi oil revenue. "We and the rest of the world looked the other way from those sales even though they were prohibited by the U.N. sanctions regime."
--Washington Post

Of course, we now know (and many of us knew then) that Iraq was NOT our enemy, posing no threat from 8000 miles from either the WMD's it did not have or the conventional weapons it did; nor were they supporting al Qaeda. But that's not what the Bushies said, repeatedly. They thought Iraq was so much an enemy that it justified bombing and invading that country at the cost of tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars. So, on their terms, Iraq was definitely the enemy. And they were definitely aiding and abetting Iraq by allowing them to circumvent the UN sanctions. US soldiers have probably been killed with bullets purchased with that money.

There's a simple word for what the Bushies did: Treason.

It's clear now that the US, both Bush and Clinton administrations, use the UN as a tool to get their way (just like they use the Democrats). They insist on sticking to UN principles and resolutions when it suits them, ignore them when it doesn't, and insult and abuse the UN as an institution as a matter of course. The UN sanctions on Iraq didn't prevent Saddam from selling oil--they only allowed the US to control whom he sold it to.

Amazing how this story of high treason has made front-page news this week, isn't it? I just heard of Levin's disclosures this morning from reading Bob Harris' blog post from Friday.

And remember, Bush's granddad was involved in financing Hitler, and his father was neck-deep in the arming of both sides of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980's (and is probably still involved in all sorts of evil deeds through the Carlyle Group). The Bush's are the most successful crime family in history.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

From Pat Bagley.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Blogging the Headlines

In three years of blogging, I've learned that if you just read the headlines, not only do you not get the whole story--you frequently get the wrong story. But the headlines on CNN's web site tonight are entertaining, in a macabre, we're all gonna die kind of way:

Unemployed Blogger Questions Bush

In his dreams, and mine. I just discovered the blog Love America, Hate Bush, and I really liked this post where he imagined being able to ask aWol questions in a press conference. Excerpt:
Mr. President -- one question and a possible follow-up. You were in New Hampshire on Wednesday promoting your Social Security plan, and you said that your idea is nothing new, that federal employees have long had the kind of investment options you're proposing. You said, and I'm quoting, "I'm the kind of guy who believes if it's good enough for federal employees, it oughtta be good enough for younger workers." My question, sir, is since every federal employee is covered by health insurance of some kind, what about the 45 million Americans who have no coverage at all? Why aren't you pushing for federal-type health insurance to be extended to them?

At least 29 killed by bombs in Iraq

Condiliar Rice immediately recalled the US Ambassador to America, the occupier of Iraq that has clearly destabilized the country.

Michelle is back in action after Blogger screwed up her postings yesterday, and she has an intriguing post on the situation in Lebanon. It turns out, according to a Lebanese newspaper, that Syria may have been about to begin a large-scale withdrawal of troops from Lebanon, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1559. Did Syria need to be framed before this happened?

Ask...what your country can do for you

Fox "News"' Brit Hume has apparently been cutting and pasting sentence fragments from old FDR speeches to suggest that FDR himself supported private accounts over social security. Bob Harris and Jonathan Schwartz have taken Hume's methods and run with them, and I've added a few of my own.

From aWol himself:

"The man and women of our Armed Forces have delivered a United States: ... you will not escape the justice of this nation."

"Thanks to the work of our law enforcement officials and coalition partners...tens of thousands of trained terrorists are still at large."

"...the United States...States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world."

(all above from 2002 SOTU)

And one that needs no editing:

"Bring 'em on."

And a couple of others:

"Ask...what your country can do for you." -- JFK

"I am...a crook." -- Richard Nixon

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Porto Allegre on the Huron

From my e-mail:
on Saturday, February 19th, 1:00 p.m.
at 310 S. Ashley, Ann Arbor, "Hathaway's Hideaway"

Come for an afternoon of learning and sharing ideas for social & economic change in Ann Arbor's First Annual Social Forum. By exploring the root causes of current problems in the world, workshops will show the inter-connections among issues and encourage collaboration among progressive groups.

The forum begins with reports from participants in the World Social Forum, Brazil, followed by workshops on globalization, environmental justice, creating a self-reliant community, US imperialism, intentional communities, local media, and work by Artists for Peace.

The forum is sponsored by a coalition of local progressive and activist groups. Admission is free, tea and snacks provided.

1 p.m. Introduction & report from World Social Forum, Brazil
2:45-3:45 Workshops session I
4:00-5:00 Workshops session II
5:15-6:00 Reports from workshops and discussions for future directions

- What is globalization?
- Creating intentional communities
- Iraq & U.S. imperialism
- Ending the occupation of Palestine
- Ann Arbor: a Living Economy Community
- Natural building
- Environmental Justice
- Zero Waste
- Artists for Peace
- Community radio
- Where does the progressive movement go from here?

This event is being sponsored by Solidarity, the Greens, People's Progressive Network, Students Organizing for Labor Equality, Ann Arbor Coalition Against the War, Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, Women's International League for Peace and Justice, Town Meeting, and Welfare Rights Union.

Crime Pays

That should be the motto of the Bush administration. AWol today appointed master criminal John Negroponte as Director of National Intelligence. "National Intelligence" has surely become an oxymoron when applied to this country. For some background on what Negroponte did in Central America in the 1980's, read this article.

It's also interesting, I guess, that Negroponte, currently US Ambassador to Iraq, seems more than happy to leave that democratic paradise after only eight months on the job, just as Paul Bremer and Bernard Kerik am-scrayed as soon as they could.

The Gestapo Probably Had Similar Authority

Rick wanted me to make sure that everyone knows that the House of Reprehensibles recently refused to remove a section from the "REAL ID Act of 2005" which empowers the Secretary of Homeland Security to:
Waive any federal laws, without limit, in the course of building barriers along the nation’s borders. If enacted, this bill would grant the Homeland Security Secretary unbridled authority to act however he sees fit, without consequence. His actions also would be exempt from judicial review, making him unaccountable to any authority.

Laws that protect the environment, safeguard public health, ensure consumer and workplace safety, prevent unfair business practices, and ban discrimination – none of these laws, or any others, would apply to the Department of Homeland Security.
From OMB Watch.

Rubbing Our Noses In It

In the category of outrageously unnecessary provocation of already disheartened liberals, the nominee is: Secretary of the Interior Snowmobiling in Yellowstone.

Secretary of the Inferior Gale Norton, endorsing the notion that nature is to be annoyed, not enjoyed.

God, that pisses me off. Read my previous rants about snowmobiles in Yellowstone to see why.

Anniversaries and Milestones

I don't pay too close attention to various anniversaries, but I've passed a few lately:
  • As of December 18, 2004, three years as a vegetarian.
  • As of sometime recently, my longest stretch ever in a single job--over 4 1/2 years in my current job, surpassing the 4 1/2 years that I worked for the Alabama Historical Hysterical Commission.
  • Perhaps the most difficult--as of tomorrow, four weeks without cookies, candy or other sweets.
  • Perhaps the most depressing--yet another birthday, coming up this Sunday.
  • And, as of February 3, three years of blogging! Here's a replay of my first ever blog post:
February 3, 2002

Bin Laden speaks
From that Al Jazeera interview CNN has been airing:

"I tell you, freedom and human rights in America are doomed. The U.S. government will lead the American people and the West in general into an unbearable hell and a choking life." Can it be spelled out any more clearly? This isn't just about bringing down skyscrapers and murdering civilians and wreaking havoc and discord--it's about setting into motion a chain of events through which we end up doing irreperable damage to ourselves, to that part of our society which can only be destroyed from within, to the very ideals which define us.

The trap lies in wait before us, open and beckoning. And I have seen little evidence so far that we are wise enough to avoid it.
(Aargh! A spelling error in my very first post, and I just caught it! It should be "irreparable," not "irreperable.") A bit pompous for a first post, I guess, but the gist of it seems all too accurate in hindsight. Bush and his minions have done damage to our country that Osama could only dream of.

From Mark Cohen.

from Ted Rall.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Oh, By the Way...

Five U.S. soldiers died in Iraq on Wednesday, bring the total Bushtalities Americanos to 1470. All because he told a bunch a bold-faced lies.

I'll say it again...Condi's an idiot

No matter how many degrees she has, or how well she plays the piano or ice skates, or how skilled she is at reading a defense--Condi Rice is an idiot. Here's what she's saying now:
Rice did not accuse Syria of involvement in Hariri's death, but she said Syria's refusal to withdraw its troops was a factor.

"There is no doubt the conditions created by Syria's presence there have created a destabilized situation in Lebanon," she told reporters Tuesday. "That is very clear to everyone."
Well, Condi, it wasn't clear to the CIA (emphasis added):
Lebanon has made progress toward rebuilding its political institutions since 1991 and the end of the devastating 15-year civil war. Under the Ta'if Accord - the blueprint for national reconciliation - the Lebanese have established a more equitable political system, particularly by giving Muslims a greater say in the political process while institutionalizing sectarian divisions in the government. Since the end of the war, the Lebanese have conducted several successful elections, most of the militias have been weakened or disbanded, and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) have extended central government authority over about two-thirds of the country. Hizballah, a radical Shia organization, retains its weapons. Syria maintains about 16,000 troops in Lebanon, based mainly east of Beirut and in the Bekaa Valley. Syria's troop deployment was legitimized by the Arab League during Lebanon's civil war and in the Ta'if Accord. Damascus justifies its continued military presence in Lebanon by citing Beirut's requests and the failure of the Lebanese Government to implement all of the constitutional reforms in the Ta'if Accord. Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000, however, encouraged some Lebanese groups to demand that Syria withdraw its forces as well. The passage of UNSCR 1559 in early October 2004 - a resolution calling for Syria to withdraw from Lebanon and end its interference in Lebanese affairs - further emboldened Lebanese groups opposed to Syria's presence in Lebanon.
-- CIA World Factbook

Perhaps not an ideal situation acceptable to everyone, but I see little in that CIA description of Lebanon to suggest a "destabilized situation." It seems to say pretty much the opposite, in fact. This is why I call her "Condiliar." (And if one bomb killing 15 people is proof positive of a destabilized nation, what is 9/11? Oklahoma City? The anthrax mailings or the beltway snipers or the ongoing carnage on our highways?)

Syrian Ambassador to the US Imad Moustapha was on CNN this morning, responding to all the Washington bluster, pointedly though perhaps not diplomatically pointing out the obvious:
Moustapha dismissed the argument that Syrian troops could have stopped Hariri's assassination by a massive bomb in downtown Beirut."Our troops are not in any major Lebanese city," he said.

"Definitely not in Beirut. They have been out of Beirut for at least two years."You have 150,000 troops in Iraq and you can't stop acts of terrorism. We have 13,000 troops (in Lebanon)."

Moustapha said that if Lebanon's government -- the current one or the one to be elected in May -- asks Syrian forces to leave, "We will leave immediately. We will not blink an eye."
(emphasis added again)

Truly a Nation Gone Mad

Jeff Grossman spoke of the evolving intelligence of robot soldiers. "Now, maybe, we're a mammal," he says. "We're trying to get to the level of a primate, where we are making sensible decisions."
And when they get to the level of humans, they can make truly insane decisions, like making killer robots.
The Pentagon predicts that robots will be a major fighting force in the American military in less than a decade, hunting and killing enemies in combat. Robots are a crucial part of the Army's effort to rebuild itself as a 21st-century fighting force, and a $127 billion project called Future Combat Systems is the biggest military contract in American history.

The military plans to invest tens of billions of dollars in automated armed forces. The costs of that transformation will help drive the Defense Department's budget up almost 20 percent, from a requested $419.3 billion for next year to $502.3 billion in 2010, excluding the costs of war. The annual costs of buying new weapons is scheduled to rise 52 percent, from $78 billion to $118.6 billion.
On the other hand, for $118.6 billion a year the government could give every one of the approximately 4 million people turning 21 each year a start on his or her "private account" of about $30,000, and not have to take the money out of grandma's social security or borrow it from the Chinese. But why do that when you can have endless war for which you don't even need people?
"They don't get hungry," said Gordon Johnson of the Joint Forces Command at the Pentagon. "They're not afraid. They don't forget their orders. They don't care if the guy next to them has just been shot. Will they do a better job than humans? Yes."
The proper response to the ongoing disaster in Iraq is to bring the troops home, not replace them with automatons. Our leaders are truly mad. (And yes, I realize that this isn't really new--high-altitude bombing, cruise missiles and armed Predator pilotless aircraft are already here.)

There is no possible good use for this obscene array of weaponry. Our leaders are intent on world domination and destruction, and need to be impeached before they go any farther.

Bellicosity and Hypocrisy

Two words that describe George W. Bush, even though he probably can't pronounce them. The rapidity with which his team of goons is jumping on the Hariri bombing in Lebanon as an excuse to threaten Syria certainly suggests to me that the prime suspects in the case are probably in Washington or Jerusalem, not Damascus. WIIIAI has a good analysis of the situation:
The Bushies are going after Syria for Rafik Hariri’s assassination, and clearly they’ve learned something from the Iraqi WMD fiasco, because they aren’t even bothering to fabricate evidence this time, and some (speaking anonymously, so far) are saying that Syria can be blamed even if it didn’t do it. It will be awfully hard to accuse them of lying if they refuse to use any facts or arguments. Or irony, since they’re saying that even if it was just the action of one of Lebanon’s many terrorist groups, Syria’s occupation of Lebanon created the instability that made that possible. Do as we say, not as we do. The Bushies’ foreign policy is just like its budget--it pretends the costs of the Iraqi occupation are “off-book” and don’t count. So the State Dept says that the recall of the American ambassador to Syria is to express the US’s “profound outrage” over the assassination, but that we’re not accusing Syria of that assassination. Makes perfect sense.

I don’t know if Syria is responsible. Given Hariri’s extensive protection, some are saying that only a state has the capability of pulling something like this off, but the same thing was said after September 11. Actually, it’s hard to see why Syria would carry out this assassination of a man no longer in office at this particular time when 1) the US is looking for an excuse to go after this particular “outpost of tyranny” and 2) Israel is desperately trying to derail Russian sales of anti-aircraft missiles to Syria.

From Doonesbury.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Peace is not good

That must be what the State Department thinks. From AP:
The United States has recalled its ambassador to Syria amid rising tensions over the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri of Lebanon.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, announcing the move, said it reflected the Bush administration's "profound outrage" over Hariri's assassination.

Boucher did not accuse Syria of being involved in the bombing Monday in Beirut. "I have been careful to say we do not know who committed the murder at this time," he said.

But he said the deadly attack illustrated that Syria's strong military and political presence in Lebanon was a problem and had not provided security in the neighboring country.

"It reminds us even more starkly that the Syrian presence in Lebanon is not good," Boucher said. "It has not brought anything to the Lebanese people."
The Robert Fisk article that I linked to earlier described the 15 years of peace that Lebanon has enjoyed, much (all?) of it with Syrian presence. Fisk went so far as to call Beirut "one of the Middle East's safest cities." Maybe that wasn't the Syrians doing, but it certainly is a better track record than the American record in Baghdad or Kabul. Until yesterday, the Lebanese had enjoyed some 15 years of peace--I'll bet they think that is good, even if they chafe at the Syrian presence. But our State Department doesn't see peace as a worthy objective, apparently. In reality, they're just jumping on this opportunity to put pressure on Syria. Makes you wonder who was REALLY behind the bombing, doesn't it?

Too long to copy, too juicy to edit

The Five Morons

That's Paul Craig Roberts' term for Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice, Cheney and Bush. In yet another scathing article from this (at least formerly) right-wing columnist, he lays into the Bushies as they plan their attack on Iran.

BTW, I found a page linking to all of Paul Craig Roberts' columns. Given his background as a writer for various conservative publications and as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration, he could be a good source for trying to convince Bush supporters of the errors of their ways. I see that the conservative web site Townhall used to regularly carry Roberts' columns, but they don't anymore. Wonder why? (BTW, Townhall features stories with headlines like "One down, two to go: Democracy has come to Iraq. Is there hope for North Korea?")

The Killing of Mr. Lebanon

Robert Fisk witnessed yesterday's bombing in Beirut.

A conservative decries the cheap-labor conservatives

As usual, Paul Craig Roberts is on the money:
As India and China rise to first world status, the US falls to third world status where the only jobs are in domestic services.

This has enormous implications for the US balance of payments. Americans' consumption of manufactured goods is heavily dependent on foreign manufacture, whether that of foreign firms or that of US multinational firms that supply their American customers from offshore. How does an economy in which employment growth is concentrated in nontradable domestic services pay for its imports with exports?

Since 1990 the US has been paying for its imports by giving foreigners ownership of its assets. In the last 15 years foreigners have accumulated $3.6 trillion of America's wealth.

America has been able to pay for its consumption by giving up its wealth because the dollar is the world's reserve currency. As America's high-tech and manufacturing capabilities decline and its red ink rises, the dollar's role as reserve currency must end.

When the dollar loses its reserve currency role, America will not be able to pay for the imports on which it has become dependent. Shopping in Wal-Mart will be like shopping at Neiman Marcus.

Until recent years, US companies employed Americans to produce the goods that Americans consumed. Employment supported sales, and sales supported employment. No more. By their shortsighted policy of moving US jobs abroad, our corporations are destroying their American markets.

Economists give assurances that the dollar's decline and fall will bring jobs and industry back to the US. Once Americans are as poor as Indians and Chinese are today, the process will reverse. Multinational corporations will locate in America to take advantage of cheap labor and unserved markets. By becoming poor, the US can become rich again.

You might want to ask the economists and our "leaders" in Washington why we should put ourselves and our descendants through such a wrenching process.
I recently finished reading T.R. Reid's book The United States Of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy. The book describes the many ways in which the now largely united Europe is kicking American butt. And they're doing it with high taxes, high wages, universal health care, and an extensive welfare state that everyone takes pride in. Asians are currently making stuff they can't afford to buy, and Americans are buying stuff they no longer make. Only in Europe are people able to afford their own products! Henry Ford was onto something back when he introduced the $5 workday at his factories in 1914, much more than most laborers were getting at the time.
Ford also realized that if workers had more leisure time to go with their increased income, they would become more voracious consumers.

"The more well-paid leisure workmen get, the greater become their wants," Ford said. "These wants soon become needs. A workman would have little use for an automobile if he had to be in the shops from dawn until dusk."
Ford was actually quite a nut, and a bit of a Nazi, and twenty years later he had hired thugs beating up union organizers. But he had an early vision of a successful wealthy society, as opposed to one where workers are ground to dust. Another Michigan business mogul, W.K. Kellogg, introduced the six-hour workday at his cereal factories in 1930:
[Kellogg] was later able to say, "The efficiency and morale of our employees is so increased, the accident and insurance rates are so improved, and the unit cost of production is so lowered that we can afford to pay as much for six hours as we formerly paid for eight."
One of my favorite books, Affluenza, describes how America in the 1920's faced a choice--either go the Ford/Kellogg route of high wages and general wealth, or keep with the cheap-labor conservative ways of near slave labor. From the 1930's through the 1960's, some progress was made in the direction of higher wages and shorter hours, but since then the trend has been largely reversed. "Globalization," "free trade" and outsourcing are all a part of the way this is done. The result, of course, is a huge wealth disparity, with the wealthy few controlling almost all of the wealth of society. Europe has deliberately chosen to pursue the opposite path, and they now work some 400 hours per year less than Americans, on average. And they're succeeding. Ford CEO William Clay Ford, Jr. says that Ford's Volvo division is more profitable than the domestic Ford and Mercury divisions, even though they're paying the high Swedish wages, the high Swedish taxes, and the long Swedish vacations. The reason, Ford says, is that health care is handled by Sweden, not by Ford. But in many other ways, the European model is outperforming ours, at least in terms of the general welfare. (One thing that struck me reading Reid's book--Europeans are almost entirely non-religious, while America is in danger of becoming a theocracy. But European society seems much more "Christian" than American society in terms of taking care of the poor, weak and ill-fortuned.)

To round out this rambling post, I'll send you to Dave Pollard's How to Save the World blog, where he explains the choice between low- and high-wage economies in an article called The Wal-Mart Dilemma. I especially like his diagram comparing the two methods of running an economy:

From Steve Benson.

Which reminds me of the graphic I made a couple of years ago:

From Rob Rogers.

From Chip Bok.

Students Heckle the President

Not here, of course. Protesters aren't let anywhere near Generalisimo El Busho. This protest was in Iran.
Iranian students have interrupted a speech by President Mohammad Khatami to mark Student Day at Tehran university.

Students chanted "Shame on you" and "Where are your promised freedoms?" to express their frustration with the failure of Iran's reform movement.

A visibly-shaken Khatami defended his record and criticised the powerful hardliners who have closed newspapers and jailed dissidents.

He asked students to stop heckling and accused his critics of intolerance.
Remember, in 2002 students at Ohio State University were told not to heckle or even turn their backs on W when he came to lie at their graduation. Last fall, people trying to hear Bush campaign speeches were removed for wearing Kerry shirts, and even for not signing a loyalty oath! Bush thinks he can bring freedom and democracy to Iran, where students are allowed to heckle the president? Let's bring them back here first, moron.

Money is Power

And the overriding goal of all Bush administration (and Clinton administration, for that matter) economic actions is to concentrate both money and power in the hands of the wealthy few. The WSWS has an article about the "American Jobs Creation Act," the most recent tax-cut bill rammed through Congress last October. The bill eliminates most of the taxes on billions of dollars earned overseas by American corporations. Megacorps like ExxonMobil, GE, IBM and Pfizer are making out like bandits (a very appropriate comparison). While it is labelled as a jobs creation bill, it essentially puts the money, and therefore the power, in the hands of the corporate bosses. There are some supposed restrictions on how they use the money, but, as the WSWS points out, using the money for the allowed purposes frees up other revenue to be used for the prohibited purposes. And one of the main uses this windfall is being used for is corporate acquisitions. Proctor & Gamble, for instance, will use their booty to buy Gillette. Mergers typically eliminate jobs, so the bill should have been labelled the "American Jobs Destruction Act."

If the Bushies, and their Democratic accomplices, actually believed in democracy and free markets, they would see that any excess money was placed in the hands of as many people as possible, and let the corporations then compete to earn it. This would put power in the hands of the people. Instead, they consistently give the money to corporations, which are run by a select, unelected few. (They did this after 9/11, giving huge handouts to the airlines, but nothing for their thousands of laid-off employees.) Our government, while still being accused by right-wing nutjobs as a tool for wealth distribution, is in fact a powerful engine of wealth concentration. And while the media and the politicians will tell you how valuable your vote is, they all know that a wad of money carries a lot more power than your vote.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Temporary Lull

Yes, I know that the world continues to crumble around us, with bombs going off in Beirut and Paris and the Philippines; massive fires in Madrid and Tehran, floods killing hundreds in Pakistan, Venezuela and Colombia, a mine disaster in China, neo-Nazis marching in Dresden and Latino-American Nazis being sworn in, another $82 billion being flushed down Bush's war toilet, plus mall shootings, global warming, failed missile tests, North Korean nukes, blather and bluster about Iran, more blather and bluster about Social Security, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. A regular bonanza for the motivated blogger! And I am a motivated blogger, but my current motivations have to do with getting in shape, learning Spanish, and getting solar power in my house. That, combined with a fairly busy time at work, means that my blog output has declined. I feel kind of bad about that, especially since I've apparently gained several new readers lately, probably because Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution added this blog to his blogroll recently.

Still, my current motivations are leaning towards other things, so the output will probably stay on the low side for a while. Then again, almost every time I've read something like this on a blog, the lull lasted a very short time before the blogger came back stronger than ever. So we'll see. And when you come here and see nothing new for a while, remember that there are plenty of good places to go. For lots of info on the evil ways of our government, both those you have and those you haven't heard of, You Will Anyway does a great job of keeping up. For concise, witty commentary, Whatever It Is, I'm Against It is very good, as is A Tiny Revolution (also a good source of info about Social Security). Cyndy at Mousemusings has posts and links about local Ann Arbor stuff, along with all sorts of other interesting topics and some original poetry. If you like the cartoons, I get most of them from Slate. For interesting, provocative articles, I recommend the World Socialist Web Site and Counterpunch. Or just check out anything on my links page.

Anyway, thanks for tuning in--I'll probably be ramping up again shortly. But for now, I'm going to study a little more Spanish! ¡Hasta luego!

Dollar down, oil up--$48.35

The dollar had recovered somewhat in the last month against the euro, with its value in euros going from under 73 eurocents to over 78. But that has turned around a bit today, with the dollar down about one percent against the euro. Oil prices are coming back up, too.

Perpetuating an Insult

If you read my blog back in 2003, you'll know I wasn't a huge fan of Howard Dean's. His anti-war stance was so specific and qualified that it didn't mean much, and beyond that he seemed pretty much like the "mainstream" Dems like Kerry and Gephardt. But he was a serious candidate who attracted some serious support and serious money, and by October 2003 he looked to be a shoe-in for the nomination. Then the media went to work on him, repeatedly suggesting that he was "un-electable" and "out of the mainstream." This resulted in the media's triumph in derailing Dean's candidacy in the largely-opaque Iowa caucuses, which they then topped off by replaying the "Dean scream" a few million times.

And now that Dean has become chairman of the DNC, the common consensus among the media seems to be just to perpetuate the idea that Dean is just a joke. As you know, I like to review the political cartoons frequently, usually through Slate's cartoon page. And I think, without exception, that every cartoon that I have seen about Dean heading the DNC has been to suggest that he's just a big joke, and that elephants are dancing and donkeys are crying because of Dean. That's from right-wing and left-wing cartoonists alike. Dean apparently scared the establishment so much that they are still intent on making everyone think he's crazy. Dean could have beaten Bush in 2004--and that's why they had to destroy him.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Friday, February 11, 2005

It's all there!

Where can you find the following phrases all in one neat little package?
  • call boy prostitution ring
  • Jeff Gannon
  • Reagan White House
  • Eric Sevareid, Ted Koppel and William Safire
  • William Casey, John Mitchell, Phyllis Schlafly and Gen. Alfred M. Gray
  • secret two-way mirror
  • gag order
  • Penthouse magazine
  • Washington’s bisexual wonderland
  • death ruled a suicide
  • Hitler used latent homosexuality to maintain fear-based control
  • George W. Bush and his male sex-mate
  • anthrax
  • blackmail and compromise
Okay, if you don't go read Michelle's post with the details right now, you may not be human!

I wonder if the captain of the Titanic wrote a similar farewell

Just showed up in my inbox:
Dear Bob,

I couldn't let the final days of my four years as Chairman of the Democratic Party go by without offering you one last message of thanks. I have been deeply moved by all the kind words I have heard in recent days about what we have achieved in strengthening our Party.

And I am always aware that the praise for the remarkable progress our Party has made is really aimed at people like you - those who have stood by the Democratic Party through thick and thin.

On Saturday when I turn the role of Party Chairman over to Howard Dean - and every day for the rest of my life - I will proudly count myself among the rank and file Democrats who are the heart of our Party.

Thanks so much for your passion, energy, commitment and support.


Terry McAuliffe
Chairman, DNC
Geez. These guys are just about as Orwellian as the Repugs. "Strenghtening our Party?" "Remarkable progress?" Clearly not a member of the reality-based community. Which explains a lot, including the Kerry nomination.

Ain't that America

This day the answer to “what would Jesus do?” is grab one of the m-16s laying around and start kneecapping.
God and armor come together in a monster fascism-fest in Kentucky.

Quote du Jour

From Bob Herbert:
Any government that commits, condones, promotes or fosters torture is a malignant force in the world. And those who refuse to raise their voices against something as clearly evil as torture are enablers, if not collaborators.

There is a widespread but mistaken notion in the U.S. that everybody seized by the government in its so-called war on terror is in fact somehow connected to terrorist activity. That is just wildly wrong.

Tony Blair knows a little about that sort of thing. Just two days ago the British prime minister formally apologized to 11 people who were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for bombings in England by the Irish Republican Army three decades ago.

Jettisoning the rule of law to permit such acts of evil as kidnapping and torture is not a defensible policy for a civilized nation. It's wrong. And nothing good can come from it.



Bob Harris has even more documentation that our new Secretary of State is such a bold-faced liar she'd even make Bill Clinton blush. And she lied under oath. Repeatedly.

Compassionate Conservatism--It's FAN-tastic!

The moron-in-chief at work during his recent "destroy Social Security tour," via Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution:
MS. MORNIN: Okay, I'm a divorced, single [57 year-old] mother with three grown, adult children. I have one child, Robbie, who is mentally challenged, and I have two daughters.

THE PRESIDENT: Fantastic. First of all, you've got the hardest job in
America, being a single mom...

MS. MORNIN: I work three jobs and I feel like I contribute.

THE PRESIDENT: You work three jobs?

MS. MORNIN: Three jobs, yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that
you're doing that. (Applause.) Get any sleep? (Laughter.)

MS. MORNIN: Not much. Not much.
Jonathan points out:
The amazing thing's that George Bush probably believes this is true—ie, that no one else on Planet Earth works three jobs. All those foreigners are slacking.

And yet all over the world, people do work three jobs. Just not in first world countries. In other first world countries, people working three jobs in order to survive is generally seen as a bad thing... particularly when they have retarded children who might actually need them at home. In other first world countries, Bush's audience would have risen up and stoned him for saying Mornin's situation is "fantastic!" But not in America.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

US Industry Calling for Universal Health Care

Well, almost. GM CEO Rick Wagoner has joined Ford CEO William Clay Ford, Jr. in calling for much broader government coverage. From the Detroit News:
"Clearly, the American industry has a disadvantage in terms of health care cost because in Japan and Europe, those costs are socialized," said Michael Flynn, director of the University of Michigan's Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation.

"Whether it is appropriate for private companies such as GM to be asking for government relief on health care could be a matter for debate," Flynn said.

In the speech, Wagoner will support the establishment of a "consumer driven" health system that encourages people to seek out the most cost-effective care and drugs, and rewards those who do.

He's also likely to advocate a national plan to address catastrophic health expenses.

GM has long employed a wellness approach toward curbing health care costs among its employees by encouraging the use of generic prescription drugs, which are less expensive than name brands, smoking cessation, and fitness programs. But any gains have not been enough to outpace increases in the costs of drugs and medical care.

"Health care costs are not in our control," said GM Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer John Devine last month in discussing the company's 2004 financial results. "We have to get them back to a reasonable level. It's a huge drag from a cash standpoint."

The company's health care burden is one reason it faces a possible downgrade of its credit rating to junk bond status, which would be a costly black eye for the world's largest automaker.
As I understand it (recalling some book I read years ago), the Big Three (Ford, GM, Chrysler) and the UAW were instrumental in making the link between employment and health care in the first place. In the 1950's and 60's, the UAW would target one automaker to negotiate with (and strike against if necessary). Once a contract was reached with that company, its terms were basically adopted by the other two. As long as outside competition was limited, this worked out pretty well for both the workers and the companies--wages and benefits rose equally across the board. It was in this era that health insurance became a standard part of the union contracts, and it was extended to the white-collar employees as well. But "free trade" and "globalization" have been used to reverse the tide, putting workers back where the cheap-labor conservatives want them--destitute. It is good to see that GM and Ford are seeking to get our government to help provide health care, rather than to try and put the squeeze on the European and Japanese workers who already enjoy universal health care. GM seems to realize that there's not a lot of hope in the near term:
While Detroit automakers would like to see reform of the health care system immediately, [director of the University of Michigan's Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation Michael] Flynn said the demand comes at a time when the Bush administration is focused on other issues such as Social Security reform and paying down the deficit.

"It's hard to imagine that anything is going to happen in the next year or two. But at a certain level, this is a problem that's going to continue to plague the Big Three for many years to come," Flynn said.

"They know nothing will be done in the next four years. But Rick Wagoner may still want to push and hope that something will be done in six or eight years."

Record trade deficit

$617 Billion for 2004. The cheap labor conservatives are winning.

From Ed Stein.

From Bruce Plante.

From Boondocks.

They Knew

Among other things, the report says that leaders of the F.A.A. received 52 intelligence reports from their security branch that mentioned Mr. bin Laden or Al Qaeda from April to Sept. 10, 2001.
The Bush administration has blocked the public release of the full, classified version of the report for more than five months, officials said, much to the frustration of former commission members who say it provides a critical understanding of the failures of the civil aviation system. The administration provided both the classified report and a declassified, 120-page version to the National Archives two weeks ago and, even with heavy redactions in some areas, the declassified version provides the firmest evidence to date about the warnings that aviation officials received concerning the threat of an attack on airliners and the failure to take steps to deter it.
-- That's from a NY Times article on a report from the 9/11 Commission, parts of which were just made public. Gee, what was going on five months ago that made it so important that we not know more about 9/11?

Bob Harris has more

Loose Gannon

AKA Bush gets Slaughtered. Here's a letter from Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY) to aWol himself:
The Honorable George W. Bush

President of the United States

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

In light of the mounting evidence that your Administration has, on several occasions, paid members of the media to advocate in favor of Administration policies, I feel compelled to ask you to address a matter brought to my attention by the Niagara Falls Reporter (article attached), a local newspaper in my district, regarding James "JD" Guckert (AKA Jeff Gannon) of Talon News.

According to several credible reports, "Mr. Gannon" has been repeatedly credentialed as a member of the White House press corps by your office and has been regularly called upon in White House press briefings by your Press Secretary Scott McClellan, despite the fact evidence shows that "Mr. Gannon" is a Republican political operative, uses a false name, has phony or questionable journalistic credentials, is known for plagiarizing much of the "news" he reports, and according to several web reports, may have ties to the promotion of the prostitution of military personnel.

Several weeks ago when it was revealed that radio/TV host Armstrong Williams had received payment from your Administration in exchange for his vocal support of the 'No Child Left Behind' initiative, I was stunned. For years now I have been leading the fight in Congress for fairness and accountability in the media; the Williams revelation only underscored the need for a media that has integrity, is balanced and expresses the local interests and concerns of its consumers.

Since that time, two more members of the media have been found to have received money from your Administration in exchange for their vocal, yet undisclosed support of Administration policies.

And just this morning we have learned that "Mr. Gannon" has resigned his post at the, so called, Talon News amid growing concerns over his controversial background and falsified qualifications. In fact, it appears that "Mr. Gannon's" presence in the White House press corps was merely as a tool of propaganda for your Administration.

Mr. President, I am sure we both agree the White House Press Corps is an honored institution in America that should be beyond the scope of partisan meddling, and that a free and independent media is the cornerstone of our success as a democracy. Likewise, I am sure we can both agree the American people have the right to expect that journalists who question their President everyday are experienced, independent, and perhaps most importantly, unbiased in their approach.

I was already concerned about what appears to be an organized campaign to mask partisan propaganda as legitimate news by your Administration. That we have now learned this same type of deception is occurring inside the White House briefing room itself is even more disturbing.

That is why I am asking you to please explain to the Congress and to the American people how and why the individual known as "Mr. Gannon" was repeatedly cleared by your staff to join the legitimate White House press corps?

Mr. President, your Administration has driven the so-called "values" debate in this country. But the most important value for those of us in public service should always be honesty and integrity, particularly when considering the manner in which we conduct our affairs of state.

I would appreciate your prompt response on this matter.


Louise M. Slaughter

Ranking Member, House Committee on Rules
If you've missed it, a Republican operative from Texas with very bizarre connections has been posing under a false name (Jeff Gannon) as a journalist at White House press briefings, repeatedly asking press secretary Scott McLellan "softball" or topic-changing questions whenever the going started to get rough. For much more on this story, read the posts by Michelle and Tom Tomorrow.

Remember, the reason we didn't like Saddam Hussein was that he tortured people, started wars, rigged elections, had WMD's (although he didn't) and controlled the media. The Bush administration does all this and more, and on a larger scale. And it's bad enough that we have people from other continents (Rupert Murdoch and his Fox News) and other planets (Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter) telling Americans what to think. But to use our own tax money to subvert the free press--there certainly have to be several high crimes and misdemeanors lurking in there somewhere.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Culture Update

I just got back from seeing Hotel Rwanda, a true story about the Rwandan genocide of 1994. For locals, the film will be showing at the Michigan Theater through February 17--I highly recommend it. The movie was similar in many ways to one I watched on DVD just a week ago--The Killing Fields. That 1984 film followed the story of two people, a NY Times writer and his Cambodian assistant as they tried to survive the genocide in Cambodia in the mid to late 1970's. In both films an enclave of foreigners and hunted natives is able to survive rampaging mobs in a compound with minimal physical protection. In "The Killing Fields" it was the US and then the French embassy in Phnom Penh; in "Hotel Rwanda" it was the Belgian Hotel Mille Collines in Kigali, protected only by a small squad of UN troops and some timely bribes.

In the written culture department, I recently read Nelson DeMille's novel Night Fall. The book is based on the explosion of TWA 800 on July 17, 1996, when some 200 eyewitnesses claimed that they saw something that looked more or less like a missile headed towards the plane before it blew up. These accounts were not taken into account in the "official" report on the crash, which blamed a spark in the center fuel tank as the only culprit. DeMille's book works pretty closely with the actual facts of the case, adding only an adulterous couple filming themselves on the beach and accidentally capturing the missile on videotape, and a cop who keeps digging. Since I'm pretty much a believer in the TWA 800 conspiracy theories, I found the book to be fascinating. And it has an ending you won't forget.

Super Bowl War Criminals

From Reuters

I guess Americans are supposed to marvel at the "bipartisanship" demonstrated by Bush Sr. and Clinton in teaming up for tsunami relief efforts and appearing at the Super Bowl together. But these mass murderers have been on the same team all along.

Bush Sr.'s crimes go back a long way, including the "October Surprise" of 1980, the Iran-Contra affair of the mid-80's and its associated genocidal violence in Nicaragua and drug-running to the U.S., similar crimes in El Salvador, the brutal and pointless invasion of Panama, the encouraging of Saddam to invade Kuwait, and then the "worse than Hitler" rhetoric about Saddam (of course, maybe Bush Sr. met Hitler as a boy back when his father was dealing with der Fuhrer). Then, the lies about Saddam (babies thrown from incubators and 250,000 troops massed on the Saudi border) so he could get his Gulf War, allowing Saddam to kill off rebel Shiites and Kurds that Bush himself had called to rise up and overthrow Saddam, and imposing the brutal sanctions based on weapons and weapons programs that Iraq mostly didn't have anymore. All this, plus his abysmal record as a father--frankly, the Navy should have left him in the ocean after his plane crashed.

And the Duelfer report on Iraq's WMD's was just as much an indictment of William Jefferson Clinton as it was of George W. Bush. No weapons programs since 1991, no stockpiles since 1995 at the latest--yet Clinton (and his ghoulish Secretary of State Madeleine Albright) continued to push the murderous sanctions and regular bombings of Iraq (while of course violating the sanctions in the oil-for-food program on the side). When it was becoming all too clear to the UN inspectors that Iraq had no WMD's in 1998, Clinton ordered them out of the country and started bombing, just like W did on a larger scale in 2003.

But after the PR disaster of the initial pittance offered for tsunami relief, Karl Rove came up with this Bush-Clinton PR magic. Get these two old war criminals, whom most Americans still think of as being on different teams (actually, the "teams" are more comparable to the Patriots' offense and defense than they are to the Patriots and Eagles), to demonstrate "bipartisanship" and thereby protect the empire from criticism. In reality, 41 and 42 are on the same team, and always have been.

How do you tell when the Bushies are lying?

They're lying when the Earth is spinning. Condiliar is off threatening Iran based on the same sorts of lies they said about Iraq, while an administration official now says that the Medicare "prescription drug benefit," actually one of the biggest corporate welfare bills in history, will cost $720 billion over ten years, not the $400 billion that had been advertised when the bill was rammed down the throat of Congress in November 2003. Their excuse? The original estimate included the years of 2004 and 2005, when the "benefit" isn't available yet, and not the years 2014 and 2015. That's sort of like telling someone they can rent an apartment for a whole year for $5000, except the "whole year" is really just April through December.

Given their track record, perhaps THE single most depressing thing is that these bozos are still listened to at all. They have a proven, practically unbroken record of deceit that would make any con man jealous, yet every ridiculous allegation about Iran or Social Security or whatever is still treated seriously by Congress and the press, and the brain-dead 51% too.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Mr. Bush and the Federal Budget

Local activist Bill Thompson, a faculty member at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and a clinical psychologist, wrote the following as an e-mail to our local listserv, and said that I could share it here:
Although George W. Bush might not believe in evolution, there is ample evidence that he believes in one of evolution's major corollaries--"survival of the fittest"--at least as defined by Mr. Bush. At the risk of oversimplification, to a professional psychologist like myself, Mr. Bush is alarmingly easy to understand. As I pointed out in a recent psychological evaluation of Mr. Bush which I sent to this list, one of his primary psychological diagnoses is Antisocial Personality Disorder, and two of the major characteristics of APD individuals is a lack of compassion and a lack of remorse for previous behavior. This is amply seen in his budget proposals below.

Secondly, Mr. Bush believes in a world in which there are "rulers" and "those who are ruled." (He would have been right at home in pre-Magna Carta England.) In current American society, as in any in which there is a small upper class and a massive lower class (with perhaps a struggling middle class as well), the existence of the upper class absolutely depends on the lower class to provide it with the labor required to maintain its privileges. Politically, this means taking from the "have-nots" and giving to the "haves", which is the absolute hallmark of this administration. In order to be politically feasible however, this "taking away" comes from the expenditure of huge funds by the government on adventures that are not required (e.g., the Iraq war), thus severely limiting the potential of any government initiative to lift its citizens out of poverty.

This is a despicable ruse, but one that has been politically successful to such a degree that its major effects won't be felt until long after Bush has left office. For Bush, the incomprehensible budget deficits that he has created are a major success in his attempt to prevent any possibility of major changes in the relations between the privileged and those who are not.

One final note--the primary way that Mr. Bush creates the budget deficit is through military expenditures, which are politically palatable to the American public. What the public does not realize, however, is the very real trade-off between military cost and virtually everything else. Today in my relatively affluent hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan, we are facing what our mayor calls a "budget crisis". Once again I repeat my mantra, "...the residents and businesses [of Ann Arbor] through income tax payments contribute over $380,000,000 annually to the cost of present and past military-related activities (over $3500 per capita), an amount 25% GREATER THAN THE ANNUAL CITY AND SCHOOL BUDGETS COMBINED. There are priorities at work here, and I would submit, a powerful political argument to be made. It cannot be the case that Ann Arbor is unique in this respect. This argument must be made, and made at the local level!"

Please consider making this "butter vs. bullets" argument in your hometown. Even before Mr. Bush, we were spending almost half of our income tax money on military expenditures (see the War Resisters League for details). How much longer can we continue to behave in this irresponsible fashion before we have a revolution on our hands?

Solar Seminar

The Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association is holding a seminar this Saturday at the Ann Arbor Public Library from 9:30 to 11 am:
Explore the most cost-effective and hassle-free way to put solar power to work at your home or small business, by attending this free informational seminar! Go Solar Ann Arbor is a new Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association (GLREA) program that aims to help ten residential or business owners in the Greater Ann Arbor area to make a collaborative purchase of solar electric and/or hot water systems. At this free seminar, John Wakeman of S.U.R. Energy Systems will explain the costs and benefits of purchasing a renewable energy system, and Jennifer Alvarado of GLREA will discuss how to benefit from price reductions, waived fees and standardized plans through the program.
More details and online registration here.

Paul Craig Roberts on the Bush Economy

If you've read this blog for awhile, you know that I like to quote columnist Paul Craig Roberts. Not only does he write good, passionate articles about the evils of the Bush administration, he also has impeccable conservative credentials--worked in the Reagan administration, and wrote for the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, and the National Review. Most of his columns that I have quoted have been about the insane war in Iraq, but his latest concerns the economy. Some excerpts:
One likely result of this realization is that foreigners will cease to use their trade surpluses to mop up American red ink. It makes no sense to purchase dollar assets such as Treasury bonds when they are falling in value. As foreigners continue to move out of dollars, US interest rates will rise, terminating the housing boom and wrecking family finances.

America's growing dependence on imports reflects the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs and knowledge services. Every time a US firm outsources goods or services, it turns domestic production into imports. Half of the US trade deficit with China represents US offshore production for US markets.
Average weekly pay in the US is declining in real terms. Obviously, if outsourcing is creating jobs, they are less good jobs than the ones being outsourced. Trading better jobs for worse ones is the road to poverty, not the road to wealth.

The dismal US performance in job and pay growth is despite the most stimulative monetary and fiscal policy in my lifetime. If the lowest US interest rates in memory, tax cuts and the biggest budget deficits in US history cannot create jobs and boost pay, what can?

Charles McMillion of MBG Information Services notes that normally a 38-month old economic recovery would have raised hours paid by 11% to 14%. The 38-month old Bush recovery has raised hours paid by less than one percent!

The clowns in Washington DC imagine that they sit astride a Superpower. Absorbed in fantasies of invading countries and remaking the world in America's image, little do our deluded leaders realize that America is in the hands of our Chinese and Japanese creditors. Should either of these Asian powerhouses decide to stop mopping up America's red ink, the dollar would collapse to such an extent that it would lose its reserve currency status.

When the dollar ceases to be the reserve currency, America will cease to be a superpower.
Which, in my opinion, wouldn't be a bad thing. Superpower governments think they can do no wrong. A government which knew it could do wrong would probably do less of it.

Take that, W!

"Not only is Social Security nowhere near exhaustion, [...] the projections of bankruptcy do not reflect the many ways in which we can strengthen the system for the future without using aggressive and risky reforms. If Congress would seriously address Medicare reform, balance the budget, and make pension reform a real priority, then the solvency of Social Security would be assured indefinitely."

Later she writes, "I cannot support any plan to allow workers to place any portion of their Social Security taxes in risky investments, especially those that depend upon the stock market to appreciate in value."
-- Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), via Michelle.

From Mike Lane.

Oil for Doctors

The Globe and Mail had an article Saturday about the Cuban doctors working in Venezuela, part of an arrangement between Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. In exchange for 15,000 Cuban doctors working in poor areas in Venezuela, Cuba gets lots of cheap Venezuelan oil. The opposition in Caracas claims the Cubans are more political propagandists than they are doctors, but the clinics I saw in Caracas seemed real enough, and there were certainly many, many people in Caracas willing to vouch for the program (and many to put it down, as well).

Monday, February 07, 2005

Two more regime changes

So far, I haven't seen anything connecting the coups last week in Togo
and Nepal to Dick Cheney. My former Spanish tutor is in Togo; I hope she's okay. It sounds like it was a non-violent affair, with the new "president" illegally taking over for the old "president," his father. The takeover is illegal because the constitutions states that the parliament speaker is next in line when the president dies.

Busy Busy Busy

Some good stuff I've read but don't have time to rant about:

There IS a Social Security Crisis!

I know that many of my fellow lefty bloggers are saying that there isn't a crisis in social security, but they're wrong. The crisis is this:

We've got a maniac president who is trying to destroy Social Security.

Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution has written lots of good posts about Social Security, including a good Q & A summary. And now that even W has dropped his claim that private accounts will help solve Social Security's fiscal problems, Jonathan has an entertaining analogy to the debate, plus a followup when the "sensible liberal" Nicholas Kristof weighs in.

Somebody else made the "Groundhog Day" connection

From R.J. Matson.

From Ted Rall.

New England wins John Ashcroft Memorial Super Bowl

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Steroid Scandal on Steroids

Dena sent me this article from the New York Daily News about former baseball slugger Jose Canseco's tell-all book. Some interesting parts:
Canseco claims he personally injected some of the biggest names in baseball - including All-Stars Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez and Ivan Rodriguez, among others - with performance-enhancing drugs.
Canseco claims he began counseling Rodriguez, Palmeiro and Gonzalez on steroid use in 1992, after he was traded by the A's to Texas. He says he eventually injected his three teammates with the illegal substances.
[According to Canseco,] President Bush, who was the Rangers' general managing partner in the early '90s, must have known that some of his players were using steroids but chose not to address the issue. White House spokesman Ken Lisaius declined to comment on Canseco's book, but noted that Bush had urged players, coaches and owners to work together to rid sports of steroids during the 2004 State of the Union address.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Nine beheadings this year

I'll bet you missed that, what with all the election hype and all. Well, that and the fact that the beheadees weren't American. And that the beheaders were our oil-rich terror-sponsoring allies, the Saudis.

Just in case you still don't think the Iraq war was about oil, consider that, instead of spending $280 billion to destroy Iraq once again, we could have instead SAVED billions by withholding aid to the criminal Saudi government and boycotting their oil, both which would have done far more to promote democracy and freedom in the Middle East than this bloody atrocity of a war.

Friday, February 04, 2005

A view from Iraq

From the blog Raed in the Middle:
I remember the "elections" that used to happen in the time of the Iraqi national dictator government, people were going in millions at those times too. Pre-elections rumors used to terrify people as much as the pre-elections rumors are terrifying Iraqis now. They used to tell us that anyone who doesn't go to vote will be punished, and that the voting ballots have secret numbers that the governmnet can read and discover who said NO. People believed those things at that time, and those rumors were an important reason why Iraqis went in millions to say YES to their national dictator. I am sure that some people went to vote because they believe in voting, or for other reasons. Yet, I am sure that people were not "crying out of joy" after they voted.

This should be a new quote from the 21st century, a similar quote to that of Marie Antoinette.

allow(ie): SIR, tens of thousands of people are dying, the rest have no water or electricity, and there is a lack of oil products. Life is tragic, and millions are leaving the country...
little bush: let them eat elections.

If bush, allow(ie), and the other monkeys want to jump and party for their fake victories, let them think more about the next step where no one will be celebrating.

I really feel surprised about the way the elections are being romanticized, as if Iraqis are another kind of creatures who don't give a damn for all the tragedies in their lives, and just care about voting. As if Iraqis are one-track programmed machines that the bush administration created to vote, vote, vote, and cry out of joy.

If anyone thinks that the current elections are fundamentally different from the ones that used to happen before the war, you are wrong. Maybe at that time Iraqis had one fake option, and now they have 100 fake options.

The current elections will open the doors of hell. They'll open the doors for internal conflicts, and they'll increase the attacks on the occupation forces, when everyone sees how the bush administration has no intention of pulling out from Iraq and paying compensation for the illegal war they started.
I'm guessing Raed didn't get invited to the State of the Union address. Might have raised the wrong finger.

Can you say "dictatorship?"

From Bob Herbert:
In her decision, Judge Green wrote, "Although this nation unquestionably must take strong action under the leadership of the commander in chief to protect itself against enormous and unprecedented threats, that necessity cannot negate the existence of the most basic fundamental rights for which the people of this country have fought and died for well over 200 years."

The fundamental right in the case of the Guantánamo detainees is the right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law. A government with the power to spirit people away and declare that's the end of the matter is exactly the kind of government the United States has always claimed to oppose, and has sometimes fought. For the United States itself to become that kind of government is spectacularly scary.

In seeking the stay of Judge Green's ruling, the administration showed yesterday that it is committed to being that kind of government.

It's melting...melting...

Antarctica's ice, that is.
Rapley presented measurements of the ice sheet at a major climate conference in Exeter, UK. Glaciers on the Antarctic peninsula, which protrudes from the continent to the north, were already known to be retreating. But the data Rapley presented show that glaciers within the much larger west Antarctic Ice sheet are also starting to disappear.

If the ice on the peninsula melts entirely it will raise global sea levels by 0.3 metres, and the west Antarctic ice sheet contains enough water to contribute metres more. The last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published in 2001, said that collapse of this ice sheet was unlikely during the 21st century. That may now need to be reassessed, Rapley warned.

Lies, Damn Lies, and the State of the Union

Bob Harris sampled the lies from Wednesday's SOTU address. His conclusion:
Bush absolutely, positively lied. Repeatedly.

Lying to Congress is an impeachable offense.

It is also, very sadly, now a standard part of how this country is run.

Bush War I--refugees dying in the cold

Thousands of homeless families are freezing in camps near Kabul, Afghanistan. From the NY Times:
While the cold will lose its grip eventually, the desperate poverty of many Afghans will not, a fact that has focused attention on the failure of the government and the aid agencies to find a long-term solution for the homeless. Refugees are still being encouraged to return to Afghanistan for political reasons even though the country cannot look after them, critics say.

An estimated 10,000 homeless people are in Kabul, about 4,000 of them in two squatter camps. In addition, groups of displaced people are living in public buildings and abandoned ruins in as many as 25 locations throughout the city. Most are refugees who have returned from camps in Pakistan in the three years since the fall of the Taliban. Some families have been living all that time in tents, with the men scraping up a little work as porters in nearby fruit markets.

Meanwhile, scores of expensive private villas are going up around Kabul, some of them built by commanders and government officials on former government land, a sign of growing inequities.

Like a said--a criminal organization

Elliott Abrams, who pleaded guilty in 1991 to withholding information from Congress in the Iran-contra affair, was promoted to deputy national security adviser to President Bush.

Abrams, who previously was in charge of Middle East affairs, will be responsible for pushing Bush's strategy for advancing democracy.
-- Washington Post

A crook who lied to Congress, promoting "democracy." That's the Bush administration in a NUTshell.

Accomplices talk about their favorite emperor

Blair: I just ADORE that little smirk...
Rice: And the way he says "nukyular?" Makes my cold, hard heart go pitter-patter!

Subway followup

The WSWS takes a detailed look at why the New York subway system is in such desperate shape. And Tom Tomorrow uses one of his occasional blog posts to say that bloggers shouldn't post more than occasionally, using the subway case as an example.

Whatever. I've enjoyed Tom's blog for three years, and it was the main inspiration for starting my own. But one of the greatest things about the blogosphere is that there are all kinds of blogs. Tom himself frequently gets his stories from more prolific bloggers like Atrios. (I prefer You Will Anyway, myself.) And there are plenty of bloggers who do the longer, more thoughtful posts, Billmon probably being about the best, when he's blogging at all. For me, the blog is an educational tool, sort of a reason for learning about what's happening. Whether it's five or five thousand people who read it, it's basically my way of reading the news. You can read news endlessly, but I'm not sure you can understand it until you try to reach some conclusions or form some opinions on it. So that's kind of what I'm doing here. Hopefully you readers are learning along with me, and frequently you set me straight on something (thanks!). But I'll continue to blog as much as I can and/or feel like, and you can continue reading or not as you can or feel like.

And the subway thing? I think it's a big issue. We need LOTS of mass transit in this country, and a working system in our largest city should not be allowed to crumble. Priorities need to be rearranged to see that that doesn't happen.

WSWS responds to complaints about Iraqtion coverage

Somewhat surprisingly, I haven't gotten any hate e-mails regarding my negative attitude towards last Sunday's sham election in Iraq (the Iraqtion). Probably just means that no freepers are checking on this site anymore. But the World Socialist Web Site, which I have quoted at length about the Iraqtion, has gotten some negative comments, if not exactly hate mail. They have posted some of these e-mails along with a thoughtful response, followed by the usual "workers of the world unite" rhetoric. Here's the core of their argument:
Numerous polls have shown 80 percent or more of Iraqis favoring the withdrawal of all US occupation forces from their country—which is why this question was not on the January 30 ballot. However, a number of parties—including the Shiite-backed United Iraqi Alliance, which is expected to poll a plurality, if not a majority of the vote—did demand an end to the US military presence in the run-up to the election. As a consequence, many of those who turned out at the polls did so in the belief that the election of an Iraqi assembly would lead rapidly to an end to the American occupation.

Yet the Bush administration touts the election as a vindication of that very occupation, and will undoubtedly use the vote as the justification for an even bloodier counterinsurgency campaign.

To hold elections under military occupation represents, in the final analysis, the continuation and deepening of a war crime. It is a blatant violation of international law. The 1907 Hague Convention, the basic law governing the conduct of occupying powers, expressly prohibits the occupiers from imposing any permanent changes in the form of government and laws of the occupied territory. The government that emerges from the January 30 election will be no more “sovereign” than the Quisling regimes established by the Nazis in occupied Europe during World War Two.

The US occupation dictated the rules of the election, and has already imposed a state structure that leaves key levers of power in US hands. US “advisors,” who take their orders from the fortified US embassy complex in Baghdad, have been installed in every government ministry, exercising effective control over all aspects of policy. The Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) imposed under Washington’s former colonial proconsul in Iraq, Paul Bremer, remains the law of the land, and can be changed only by a two-thirds vote of the new national assembly, together with the unanimous support of the three-member presidency that this assembly will choose.

This setup, requiring a two-thirds majority for any significant decision, is designed to allow Washington the greatest possible leverage in exerting its control. It means that a minority—such as the forces around US puppets like Iyad Allawi—will be in a position to block any legislation not to the liking of their American patrons.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

The King's English

Though disapproved of by many, [the pronunciation "nuke-u-lar" has] been found in widespread use among educated speakers including scientists, lawyers, professors, congressmen, U.S. cabinet members, and at least one U.S. president and one vice president.
That's from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary via Left I on the News.

A news story I can believe

Apparently both the Clinton and Bush administrations were completely complicit in the so-called "oil for food" scandal. From CNN:
Documents obtained by CNN reveal the United States knew about, and even condoned, embargo-breaking oil sales by Saddam Hussein's regime, and did so to shore up alliances with Iraq's neighbors.

The oil trade with countries such as Turkey and Jordan appears to have been an open secret inside the U.S. government and the United Nations for years.

The unclassified State Department documents sent to congressional committees with oversight of U.S. foreign policy divulge that the United States deemed such sales to be in the "national interest," even though they generated billions of dollars in unmonitored revenue for Saddam's regime.

The trade also generated a needed source of oil and commerce for Iraq's major trading partners, Turkey and Jordan.
The memos obtained by CNN explain why both administrations waived restrictions on U.S. economic aid to those countries for engaging in otherwise prohibited trade with Iraq.

The justifications came at a time when the United States was a staunch backer of U.N. sanctions on Iraq imposed after it invaded Kuwait in 1990.

"Despite United Nations Security Council Resolutions," a 1998 memo signed by President Clinton's deputy secretary of state, Strobe Talbott, said, "Jordan continues to import oil from Iraq."

But Jordan had a "lack of economically viable alternatives" to Iraqi oil, Talbott's memo said.

Talbott's memo lauded Jordan's commitment to the Middle East peace process, citing the late King Hussein's personal efforts to broker a resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

"Timely, reliable assistance from the United States fosters the political stability and economic well-being critical to Jordan's continuing role as a regional leader for peace," Talbott said.

Identical language was used four years later in a 2002 memo by Richard Armitage, undersecretary of state under President George W. Bush.

"Jordan has made clear its choice for peace and normalization with Israel," Armitage said, calling Jordan "an important U.S. friend" and citing its 2001 free trade treaty with the United States.

"U.S. assistance provides the Jordanian government needed flexibility to pursue policies that are of critical importance to U.S. national security and to foreign policy objectives in the Middle East," Armitage said.
So, even while both administrations were blathering away about Iraq's non-existent WMD's and supposed violations of UN resolutions (and bombing Iraq every now and then, too), they were condoning and even encouraging the violation of UN resolutions that they themselves (or the previous Bush administration) had forced on Iraq.

My "aha!" moment in life came shortly after 9/11, with W's "with us or with the terrorists" nonsense. I realized that our government did not have good intentions. At first, I confined this to W's pack of crazies, but over three years of study have led me to conclude that all recent administrations have been major league criminal organizations (and a Kerry administration certainly would have been as well). They lie, lie, and when they get caught, they lie some more.

Anyway, since my "aha!" moment, everything has made much more sense--and seemed much scarier as well.

Shut Up! Just Shut Up!

As far as the Iraqtion goes, the entire media has become Bill O'Reilly:

From DICK Wright.
A perfect demonstration, I'd say, of what the WSWS said yesterday:
A central purpose of the mind-numbing media barrage is to overwhelm, confuse and intimidate public opinion, especially in the US. Even though, according to opinion polls, a majority of Americans oppose the war, those who are repelled by the destruction inflicted on Iraq and appalled by the lawless doctrine of preventive war are made to feel isolated and out of touch with reality. That, at any rate, is the aim of the media extravaganza.


From Mike Lester, right-wing nutjob cartoonist.

VICTORY??? A sham election is VICTORY????

I won't steal another post, but...

The post previous to the one I just stole from Xymphora's blog, which quotes from Seeing the Forest extensively, is important and depressing. I'll only steal the conclusion this time:
Americans find themselves in the odd position that their only hope is that their economy tanks sufficiently quickly to save them from the warmongering stupidities of their own government. Unfortunately, they'll probably get both the wars and the ruined economy.

On Sunday, "Desperate Housewives" was less staged

Xymphora sums up my feelings about the Iraqtion (sorry for stealing the whole post--couldn't decide what to cut):
If you find yourself in the uncomfortable situation of having to disguise your imperialist warmongering by claiming that you are actually bringing 'freedom' to the oppressed - or at least to those of the oppressed who happen to live on top of a pool of oil - but find that some of the oppressed are impolite enough to request that their freedom be accompanied by elections, there is an easy way to have your imperialism and be seen to grant your phony phreedom too. Like sausage making, the process of creating phreedom is quite simple but not very pretty, and you don't necessarily want to be aware of all the ingredients. You begin with 'shock and awe' bombing, followed by a violent military occupation. You install your own stooge government of opportunists ready to do what they are told, including setting up something which could, on a dark desert night, pass for an election. Then you bring in some UN election wizards, technicians so skilled they could stage what looks to be a fair election in a morgue (a useful skill in Iraq).

You pick a few photo-op polling stations in relatively safe areas, and surround them with enough of the US Army to make it safe enough for an Iraqi to consider voting there, and, much more importantly, safe enough for American 'journalists' and camera crews to venture intrepidly out from under their Baghdad hotel beds to video the photo-ops. Add a few photogenic voters - local go-getters who have a nose for power, bribe recipients, those threatened with the loss of their only source of food if they don't vote, and a few people who just want to be on TV - and a completely credulous 'journalist' to stand in front of the camera, all to create the illusion of a representative polling station. Slip a few dollars to a 'representative voter' - either a ringer from your stooge government or a local opportunist/exhibitionist - to tearfully thank America for restoring his freedom, have a few worthies line up to provide local color by performing some folk dances, badly, and you have all the makings of an Emmy Award for news coverage. Repeat in a few different places and you've recreated the whole election for American television. The inky finger becomes the logo now required for Americans to be able to process any new information.

Now, have your stooge government certify some enormous, and completely fictitious, turnout rate. The real international monitors are hiding under their hotel beds in Jordan, having correctly concluded that Iraqi pollinq places were too dangerous to get near, so no one will ever really know what the real turnout was, or even whether the results were in any way fair.

Finally, have the commentators in the disgusting American media - to a man - describe this charade as the story of the little people of Iraq fighting off the evil terrorists - oh, yes! - to courageously make their way to the polling stations to claim the freedom and dignity granted to them by America, personified by the saintly George Bush. This fits right in with the usual mythology that America only does good, and provides cover for that part of the population still capable of feeling guilty for an illegal attack on a sovereign country based on a rationale consisting of a series of lies, the bombing of civilians (wedding parties!), the cluster bombs, the depleted uranium, the torture, the children spattered with the blood of their parents, and so on. Any American member of the media who demurred on the celebration of American goodness - and, don't worry, there weren't any - would have been immediately met with the question of who they hated more, the courageous Iraqi people, freedom, or America.
One thing I saw during Condi's confirmation hearings that really bothered me was when someone, I think it was Senator Chaffee (R-RI) asked her about Haiti. She responded by saying, in part, that progress was being made in Haiti towards having elections. The US government assisted in the overthrow of a democratically-elected government, including kidnapping the president, and then talks about working towards elections. Any Iraqis who think their purple fingers mean anything should consider what happened in Haiti.


The Patriotic BS is just that--pure BS. Here's a sample, via Michelle and Sheldon Rampton:

That bit of propaganda was used by the website The photograph had been heavily doctored from the original, shown here:

The picture was taken by Bosnian photographer Damir Sagolj, who was (is?) working for Reuters in Iraq. Here's Sagolj's translated caption:
An Iraqi family happened to come to a checkpoint. Shooting began–no one knows who started it. It was a war zone. The family's car was caught in the crossfire, and the Americans raked it with gunfire for about ten minutes, using every weapon they had. In the process the mother was killed, several daughters were wounded or killed, and the father sustained multiple wounds. It's possible that the shooting began from the car behind this family's. There were a number of moving, shocking photos in the series that I took–for example, the father looking at his dead wife and embracing his wounded daughter, whose eye had been shot out.

This photograph of the child was taken out of context and published on the covers and front pages of American national and local media, as if to say, see how our soldier tenderly holds an Iraqi child in his arms. I got a phone call from People, the largest American magazine, with a circulation of 22 million. They wanted to know whether this American soldier had any children of his own, what he was feeling at the time, and so on. They weren't interested in what had happened to the child in the picture, whose mother had been killed and whose father had been riddled with bullets by American soldiers.
Note that not only has the background been removed, but the face of the child has been replaced! (One of the comments at Rampton's site suggests that the child is actually a boy.) In any case, to the extent that the child was conscious or alive when the photo was taken, if he or she knew what had just happened, there's no possible way that he/she could be glad that he's there. But Republicans will lie about ANYTHING. (So will most Democrats, but that's another post.)

Glad I didn't watch

I would probably be vacuuming my TV out of my carpet about now if I'd seen this live:

They put on a one-day show under a brutal occupation, won't let anyone look behind the curtain, "only" fifty people get killed (that we know of), and they pretend that it's democracy. Purple-fingered butt-kissers.

WIIIAI watched last night's State of the BS address and live-blogged it.

Our local peace group organized a group viewing at the Arbor Brewing Company last night. It sounded like fun, except for the main attraction. I stayed home and finished one book, started another, rode the exercise bike, learned some Spanish, and watched some English Premier League soccer. A wise choice, I think, for personal mental health.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Gag me with a spoon

The triumphalism about the Iraqi "elections" is insane. Even Jon Stewart was doing it. The Sunnis boycotted, over 50 people were killed, the ballots were confusing and unpublicized. Several of those purple fingers that the cartoonists are having so much triumphal glee with have been cut off. The ballots were put into the custody of US soldiers, who also arrested thousands before the vote and stood guard at the polling places. Expectations had been lowered so far that the fact that Sunday wasn't another Hiroshima is being touted as a glorious day for democracy. What I think was Iraqi desperation is being proclaimed as courage--those who voted were hoping that just maybe it would be a way to get the occupiers out. Of course it was courageous to go to the polls. But the whole thing was an American-run sham, done with little direct press coverage or international observers. The results will be whatever Bush and Allawi want them to be, meaning however many people voted actually risked their lives for nothing.

The WSWS has more on the triumphalism in the media. Excerpts:
A central purpose of the mind-numbing media barrage is to overwhelm, confuse and intimidate public opinion, especially in the US. Even though, according to opinion polls, a majority of Americans oppose the war, those who are repelled by the destruction inflicted on Iraq and appalled by the lawless doctrine of preventive war are made to feel isolated and out of touch with reality. That, at any rate, is the aim of the media extravaganza.

At the very least, one is obliged to acknowledge that something good can come of an aggressive war, even one based on lies, and only those who harbor sympathy for the “terrorist” enemies of democracy can think otherwise. So we are told—by the “liberal” no less than the right-wing press.
The dishonesty of the Times is underscored by the flagrant contradiction between its post-election position and what it wrote just three weeks ago. On January 12, the newspaper published an editorial calling for a postponement of the election because it feared the vote would be largely boycotted by the Sunni population. This would, the Times argued, undermine the election’s legitimacy and possibly provoke “a civil war between Sunni and Shiite Muslims,” an outcome that “everyone agreed had to be avoided at all costs.”

“The coming elections—long touted as the beginning of a new, democratic Iraq—are looking more and more like the beginning of that worst-case scenario,” the newspaper wrote.

The Times’s “worst-case” scenario of January 12 is essentially what transpired on January 30. The turnout in the largely Sunni areas of central Iraq was negligible. That, however, did not prevent the Times from hailing it on January 31 as a “heartening advance by the Iraqi people.”

What accounts for this about-face (which the Times does not bother either to acknowledge or explain)? There is really no mystery here. The election has happened, and the requirements of American imperialism in Iraq call for a corresponding adjustment in the line of the “newspaper of record.” All doubts have to be pushed aside for the greater good of sanctioning the election travesty and stupefying the American people.

This example of boundless hypocrisy serves to illustrate, once again, that the Times and the forces for which it speaks in the Democratic Party and liberal establishment fully support the war in Iraq. Whatever their differences with the Bush administration, they are of a tactical character. When it comes to crushing the Iraqi resistance and consolidating American control over Iraq and its oil wealth, there is virtual unanimity within and between the two parties, and within the ruling elite whose interests they jointly defend.
When it suits the purposes of US foreign policy, the American media is capable of voicing indignation over the violation of democratic principles. For example, Russia held a referendum at gunpoint in Chechnya in the spring of 2003, organized to rubber-stamp a constitution written by Moscow. The Russian military maintained its massive military presence throughout the process. The New York Times published an editorial in anticipation of the vote on January 14, 2003, entitled “A Sham Referendum.”

“The idea that a fair test of Chechen opinion can be carried out in the present climate of intimidation is ludicrous,” the newspaper declared. “Any government emerging from this flawed process is likely to be seen by Chechens as a band of Russian collaborators, not their own independently chosen representatives.... [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s aim seems not to offer a real political opening, but a stage-managed show aimed at convincing the outside world that the Chechen war is over and no longer warrants international concern.”

How true such words ring, with the appropriate name changes, to describe the grotesque farce in Iraq!

From Steve Sack.

Actually, President Bush IS a joke.

It's Groundhog Day!

One of our stupidest traditions, and one of my favorite movies. Perhaps a little repetitive day syndrome could strike W like it struck Phil Connors (Bill Murray) in the movie. Like Phil at the beginning of the movie, W is vain, conceited and egotistical. Unlike Phil, W is stupid and thinks he has both political capital and a mandate. So while it took Phil a couple of thousand repetitions to get it right, it would probably take W many times that. Heck, it would probably take him about 100 reps before he noticed that something was wrong! With Stepford Laura and his staff of sycophants, every day is probably pretty much like the next already. It would similarly take him many more times through to reach fear, opportunism (which is a way of life for him anyway), despair and suicide, and finally acceptance and personal growth. But wouldn't it be wonderful if all that happened this morning at 6, and that the person who delivers the State of the Union address tonight would have just spent 20,000 days reviewing his mistakes, reading the books and newspapers he never reads, walking down the streets of Fallujah and seeing what he'd done? Maybe actually review all the top-secret data about 9/11? And after 20,000 practices, he gets up there and delivers a speech which will actually change the world in a good way?

I don't know. Phil Connors had a kernel of decency under his shallow outer shell which the thousands of days were finally able to act on in a positive way. I'm not sure there's any decency in Bush at all. Besides, "Groundhog Day" was just a movie (and a stupid tradition).


Special Ops Cody Taken Hostage

From CNN:
A photograph posted on an Islamist Web site appears to be that of an action figure and not a U.S. soldier being held hostage.

Liam Cusack, the marketing coordinator for Dragon Models USA, said the figure pictured on the Web site is believed to be "Special Ops Cody," a military action figure the company manufactured in late 2003.

"It pretty much looks exactly like the same person," he said.

Cusack said he was contacted Tuesday morning by one of his retailers, who informed him that the alleged hostage appeared to be one of the company's action figures.

"I thought it was a joke at first," he said.

But after reading a report on a news Web site about a U.S. soldier allegedly being captured, "I looked at it and said, 'It does look like one of our action figures.'"
Michelle followed this story from the beginning.

Five Years? Did He Say Five Years?

He meant nine days. Silly him. Most service on the A and C subway lines in New York was restored today. NYC Transit President Lawrence G. Reuter had initially estimated it would take three to five years to restore service, and then quickly changed that to six to nine months after bitter ridicule from journalists (and bloggers like me). I said last week that he was probably pulling both numbers out of his butt, and that turns out to have been the case. In fairness, making conservative estimates is probably wise. But estimating that it will take as much time to repair one small portion of the subway line as it took originally to build the whole line makes you look foolish and incompetent, which they apparently aren't. I hope that not too many people moved or bought cars based on the earlier estimate--I know I'd be pissed!

Another thing: the fire was originally blamed on a homeless person burning stuff in a shopping cart to keep warm. Apparently they have backed off that assessment:
On Monday, fire investigators said they had all but ended their investigation into the blaze, concluding only that the cause was "not ascertained."

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Rights for Gitmo "Detainees"

I thought the Supremes had settled this last summer, but then some yahoo judge decided he could overrule the Supremes. Now, a different judge has ruled that the "detainees" do in fact have rights. The Bushies pretty much ignored the Supremes, although Hamdi was finally "freed" (deported and deprived of his citizenship without due process). I'm pretty sure that they'll ignore this ruling as well. What scares me is how many people seem to think that the Constitution gives the president the unilateral right to decide these issues, when it was clearly the intention of the authors that no one person would have dictatorial power over anyone.

For "24" fans only!

Who does Jack trust? My online poll is here!