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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Failure is an option

Probably the only one. Billmon had a post with that title (Failure is an option), arguing that no matter how strenuously George Bush or Dick Cheney or John Kerry or Joe Biden may insist that failure is not an option, failure is ALWAYS an option. You row too close to the falls, you're going over. And that's what the Bushies and their Democratic enablers have done in Iraq.

Juan Cole posts a commentary along the same lines from Alan Richards of the University of California Santa Cruz (where my niece goes to school, BTW). Here's an excerpt from what Richards has to say:
My reading of history is that the only way large changes occur is as responses to large crises. I don't like this, but it seems true to me. And, I hasten to add, change in a crisis is hardly guaranteed to be humane, decent, or to have any claim on our ethical allegiance. We might get a new Roosevelt, but we also might get a new Hitler.

Please don't misunderstand me: I am not advocating regional-crisis-cum-oil-price-spike. I simply think that it is probably unavoidable. If we leave, there will be violence, mayhem, slaughter, and instability, and if we stay there will be violence, mayhem, slaughter, and instability. If there is (as I tend to think) a large crisis looming on the horizon, it will certainly be ugly, even hideous. And then-something else will happen. The one thing I don't think is possible is to avoid it.

So let me close where I began: I think it is delusional to imagine that there exists a "solution" to the mess in Iraq. From this perspective, the folly of Bush, Cheney and Company in invading Iraq is even worse than most informed observers of the region already think. Starting an avalanche is certainly criminal. It does not follow, however, that such a phenomenon can be stopped once it has begun.
Pretending that failure is not an option will likely only make the failure more spectacular, and leave us utterly unprepared for it.

Just Desserts?

I'm sure that I don't always succeed, but unlike certain characters in Washington, I try to be somewhat consistent in my opinions. On Tuesday, I wrote about how Flint has decayed since being basically abandoned by GM, and then shortly after that I wrote about the threat to Michigan's water from economic development. I realized that there was a bit of an inconsistency there, so I added these sentences to my Flint post:
I don't know the answer--auto companies have a bleak future which would have depressed Flint eventually anyway. But our corrupt system allows inhuman corporations to come and go as they please, frequently being bribed to move their operations, without regard for the human or environmental damage they leave in their wake.
In reading about the seemingly universally despised Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain, I started to realize that it fit into a larger picture--the public good versus private property rights. Three years ago, I applauded the Supremes for determining that the "public good," in terms of zoning and environmental protection, took precedence over property rights in a case involving Lake Tahoe. The split on that vote was similar to last week's eminent domain ruling: "Liberals" Stevens, Souter, Bader Ginsberg and Breyer joined by swing justices Kennedy and O'Connor voted for "public" over "private" with Scalia, Thomas and Rehnquist taking the private side; in last week's ruling, only O'Connor switched sides--that is, I agreed with her in both decisions.

The whole issue is based on the interpretation of the "taking" clause of the fifth amendment: "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." In the Tahoe case, the six-member majority determined that zoning and environmental restrictions did not constitute "taking," so they allowed the restrictions to stand with requiring the local government to compensate property owners. In last week's ruling, the five-member majority determined that economic development, even by private developers, is a legitimate "public" use. No question about "taking" here--houses and land, not just certain uses, get taken, and forever.

It seems that eight judges see the issue completely in black-and-white terms: Scalia, Thomas and Rehnquist believe that if you own property you should be able to do whatever you want with it, and no government entity should be able to take it, or even restrict your use of it a little, for the "public good." Stevens, Souter, Bader Ginsberg, Breyer and Kennedy seem to believe that the "public good" takes precedence over property rights in all cases. Only Justice Sandra Day O'Connor seems to recognize the absurdity of both positions and to be willing to look for the proper place in the middle to draw the line.

Anyway, that's all preamble to this interesting story out of New Hampshire:
Could a hotel be built on the land owned by Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter? A new ruling by the Supreme Court which was supported by Justice Souter himself itself might allow it. A private developer is seeking to use this very law to build a hotel on Souter's land.

Justice Souter's vote in the "Kelo vs. City of New London" decision allows city governments to take land from one private owner and give it to another if the government will generate greater tax revenue or other economic benefits when the land is developed by the new owner.

On Monday June 27, Logan Darrow Clements, faxed a request to Chip Meany the code enforcement officer of the Towne of Weare, New Hampshire seeking to start the application process to build a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road. This is the present location of Mr. Souter's home.

Clements, CEO of Freestar Media, LLC, points out that the City of Weare will certainly gain greater tax revenue and economic benefits with a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road than allowing Mr. Souter to own the land.

The proposed development, called "The Lost Liberty Hotel" will feature the "Just Desserts Café" and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America.

The occupation is the problem, not the solution.

From A Message From US Labor Against the War About an Historic Statement of Solidarity Between US and Iraqi Trade Unionists:
The principal obstacle to peace, stability, and the reconstruction of Iraq is the occupation. The occupation is the problem, not the solution. Iraqi sovereignty and independence must be restored. The occupation must end in all its forms, including military bases and economic domination.

Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose

From the Times of London via Bob Harris:
Qassem Mohammed recites the Shahada, the Muslim prayer for those about to die, twice a day: once when he leaves home for his first job at a cooking oil factory, and again after lunch when he leaves for his second job in a barber shop.

"I could be killed at any time," said Mr Mohammed, 37, a father of three with sunken eyes and a prematurely grey beard.

We're here all decade...

From David Horsey.

"Say Dick, do you know what 'WMD' stands for?"
"No Rummy. What?"
"We Made Demup!"

"Okay, okay...Bin Laden, Zawahiri and Zarqawi walk into a bar. George Bush shows up with some MP's and arrests everybody in the bar and sends them to Gitmo...EXCEPT for Bin Laden, Zawahiri and Zarqawi!"

"Oh Dick, you're just too much. But seriously folks, we're here until 2009..."

"Say Rummy, tell them about the 'unknown unknowns.' Seriously folks, you're gonna love this one!"

[From the guy in the front row:] "Bring 'em on!"

"So Dick--a lot of people are surprised you're still kickin'. Weren't you supposed to have trouble with your heart?"

"What heart?"

From Thai cartoonist Stephane Peray.

From Mike Keefe.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

From Chris Britt.

Slate has put a collection of cartoons about the eminent domain ruling together. Only one seems to even remotely defend the Supremes' decision, while the rest, from both left- and right-wing cartoonists, are harshly critical. I don't think I've seen ANY columns supporting the decision.

Basically, the Court, mainly the "liberals" on the court, said that any sleazebag local government can take your house from you on behalf of any sleazebag corporation in the name of economic development.

From Jack Ohman.

From Bill Schorr.

From Mike Keefe.

In defense of Tom DeLay

Last week, the Bug Man, aka the Hammer, made the following statement:
You know, if Houston, Texas, was held to the same standard as Iraq is held to, nobody'd go to Houston, because all this reporting coming out of the local press in Houston is violence, murders, robberies, deaths on the highways.
Several bloggers have pointed out several differences between Baghdad and Houston that DeLay seems to have missed, but I'm going to help him out and list some of the many similarities:
  • Oil that used to come from Iraq used to go to Houston
  • Halliburton has a major presence in both places
  • Both places are bloody hot in the summer, although Baghdad is both hotter and bloodier
  • Both places "have a problem"
  • Neither place had anything to do with 9/11, although I'm not so sure about Houston
  • Both places would be far better off if the Navy hadn't gotten to George H. W. Bush in the Pacific before the sharks did, and if DeLay had accidentally poisoned himself back in his exterminator days.

Quote du Jour

"Why don't they find another place to fight terrorism?" -- Abdul Ridha al-Hafadhi, head of an Iraqi humanitarian aid group, in response to Bush's speech, via Juan Cole.


Teflon vs. Velcro

In 1980, President Carter ordered a military operation to rescue the 53 American hostages being held in Iran. Things went wrong at the staging point called Desert One, when a Sea Stallion helicopter collided with a C-130 transport plane, killing eight. The mission was aborted and Carter's popularity plummeted, contributing to his loss to Ronald Reagan in the election that fall.

Meanwhile, today's helicopter crash in Afghanistan may well have killed 17 service members, and was the ninth chopper lost in Afghanistan since that insane war was started by aWol back in 2001. Bush has gotten nearly 2000 US troops killed in his maniacal "global war on terror," plus thousands of others seriously wounded. Yet somehow (mostly due to totally incompetent opposition) he got re-selected, and continues to get away with pretending that things are going well in his two quagmires.

There wasn't even Fox News back in 1980--why Desert One had such a negative effect on Carter's popularity isn't clear. I know he brought a lot of it on himself, turning a serious but minor-compared-to-many incident into a full-blown crisis. Hostages were taken during Reagan's years as well, but he didn't vow not to leave the White House until they were home or in general make it seem like World War III, like Carter did with the hostages in Iran. But that Carter's presidency was doomed by this incident, while Bush's spinners managed to somehow increase his popularity after the massive failures of 9/11, the two wars, and the zillions of other things he has screwed up, is totally amazing--and disgusting.


The Bushies are trying to continue the race to the bottom with the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Tell your Senators to vote against this add-on to the miserable failure called NAFTA. The AFL-CIO has an easy to use form.

So-called "free trade" is a disaster for the vast majority of people in all countries concerned, benefitting only the wealthy elite and the corporations. It is basically the reinstatement of colonialism with a nice-sounding name. Tell Congress to put a stop to it now!

Now we know why he didn't catch Osama

AWol needs the tall bearded one to provide quotes justifying his war in Iraq. From der Fuhrer's speech last night:
Some wonder whether Iraq is a central front in the war on terror. Among the terrorists, there is no debate. Here are the words of Osama bin Laden: This third world war is raging in Iraq. The whole world is watching this war. He says it will end in victory and glory or misery and humiliation.
WIIIAI says that it's the height of chutzpah for Bush to link Iraq and 9/11 repeatedly and then quote the guy whose continued freedom is a sign of the failure to complete job one.

Speaking of job one, Bush seems to be losing in Afghanistan, too. An MH-17 helicopter carrying 17 service members has crashed there, possibly shot down by the Taliban. The fate of the service members is currently unknown.

Billmon points out that Bush is now making a distinction between "terrorists" and "insurgents," apparently because the US military is now negotiating with "insurgents," and he wants to be able to claim that we still don't negotiate with terrorists (although they negotiate with Ariel Sharon all the time).

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Mission vollendete

I'm currently reading Siege: A Novel of the Eastern Front, 1942 by Russ Schneider, written in approximately 1999 (Schneider died in 2000, or year 1 BB--before Bush). In the section I just read, Schneider described conditions in the German homeland in the spring of 1942, while the Wehrmacht was stalled in brutal combat in Russia:
The civilians seemed strangely unconcerned, almost as if there were no war. It was as if war and the fear of war had ended with the conquest of France and the expulsion of the British back to their miserable pigheaded island, two years before, and the feeling of relief and gratitude this had produced seemed still to persist. What was happening in Russia was an enormous and barely comprehensible thing that seemed as far away as the Pacific Ocean, which they read about in newspapers.

Deep down they might have worried, but this was too abstract and their worries were more mundane affairs related to their jobs and families, drinking and eating, going about their daily business.

Hitler--even while consumed with bringing war to distant regions of the earth--paradoxically fostered the notion that the war was essentially over, so that the German people might feel tranquility and also gratitude for his endeavors; and his people tended to believe this because they wanted to believe it, even amidst their own doubts.
("Mission vollendete" is German for "Mission accomplished.")

I was having lunch at my favorite Chinese restaurant today, overhearing snippets of conversations:
  • "How are you surviving without air conditioning?" "Oh, I bought two window units."
  • "'Batman Begins' is the best of all of the Batman movies."
  • "There's this steakhouse downtown--it costs like $70 per person, but man is it worth it!"
Oh well, there were probably people who danced on the Titanic until their feet got wet. And having lunch at my favorite Chinese restaurant may well be an unaffordable luxury in the near future.

Michigan's water threatened

From the Muskegon Chronicle:
The way author Dave Dempsey sees it, "water is the oil of the 21st century" and Michigan may lose control of its most precious natural resource by failing to regulate how it is used.

Michigan is the only Great Lakes state without a law regulating water use and Gov. Jennifer Granholm's proposed Water Legacy Act -- which would require large water users to obtain state permits -- is stalled in the Legislature.

The lack of a water-use law was one reason Nestle North America was able to build its controversial Ice Mountain water bottling plant near Big Rapids with little state oversight, Dempsey said. Nestle is currently bottling about 105 million gallons of groundwater each year from the Muskegon River system; about 15 million gallons of that water is sold in stores outside the Great Lakes basin, company officials have said.

Absent laws regulating how companies use the state's water, Michigan may be unable to block future diversions of Great Lakes water to other states and nations, Dempsey said during a speech Monday at the Spring Lake District Library. He said increased water diversions could pose serious threats to the lakes, which contain 18 percent of all fresh water on the planet.
So why is the bill stalled? It's all about the money, of course:
Granholm's proposed Water Legacy Act, which would regulate water use in Michigan for the first time, has been bottled up in the Legislature for two years. Industry groups contend the proposed regulations would drive up the cost of doing business and stifle economic development.
These slimeballs will promote economic development if it kills us, which it will.

AK-47's in Flint

From the Flint Journal:
Assault rifles favored by Iraqi insurgents are finding their way onto Flint streets in alarming numbers.

A spate of shootings using such 7.62 mm assault rifles as AK-47s has police worried about high-powered weapons better suited for war zones.

Why so much worry?

A 7.62mm round can cut straight through a bullet-resistant vest.

"That powerful of a weapon is a concern for the safety of officers and the public," said Deputy Flint Police Chief Gary Hagler.

On Saturday, Kenneth M. Frohm, 28, of North Branch was killed when rounds from an assault rifle were fired into a pickup on Flint's southeast side.

A few days earlier, a Flint man was killed and another man wounded by a drive-by shooter wielding a 7.62 mm rifle on Kleinpell Street.

On June 10, a Flint man was killed when someone fired an assault rifle into a car at a S. Dort Highway parking lot.

Over the past few weeks, police also have investigated incidents in which drive-by shooters with assault weapons peppered homes with bullets but didn't hit anyone.
In Michael Moore's book Downsize This!, he displays two photos on one page. One shows the Federal Building in Oklahoma City after the 1995 bombing, while the other shows a General Motors factory in Flint being demolished. The two photos looked very similar, and Moore made the point that both demolitions were killers--the Oklahoma City bombing killed quickly, while the abandonment of Flint by GM killed over time. In the 1970's, GM employed more people just in Flint than it will in the entire US after the job cuts recently announced. Apparently the killing in Flint hasn't stopped, and probably won't for a while. I don't know the answer--auto companies have a bleak future which would have depressed Flint eventually anyway. But our corrupt system allows inhuman corporations to come and go as they please, frequently being bribed to move their operations, without regard for the human or environmental damage they leave in their wake.

Panic mode

The WSWS suggests that the ruling elite are in panic now that the public is finally catching on that the war in Iraq is a mess and was based on lies. Both aWol's speech tonight and Kerry's op-ed in the NY Times are signs of that panic--do whatever is necessary to keep the military empire on track. WSWS explains:
The decline in public tolerance for such military adventures has dire implications for the ruling establishment. Under conditions of unprecedented social polarization within the US, war and the threat of war have become the essential glue for holding society together and legitimizing a government that defends the interests of a tiny financial oligarchy against those of the vast majority of working people.

Moreover, a repudiation of the war by the American people represents an indictment of the entire political setup in the US. There is no faction within the ruling elite that can credibly point to the record and claim, “We opposed this war.” The Congress, both big business parties, the media and the corporations are all implicated.

The growth of popular opposition to the war has come entirely from below. It finds no serious reflection in the political deliberations of the US government or in the narrow and reactionary range of opinion that is permitted by the mass media. It therefore has profoundly revolutionary implications and has provoked deep concern within the all sections of the ruling establishment.

The op-ed Kerry should write

Senator John Kerry, who somehow managed to lose to the worst pResident in American history last year, wrote an op-ed in the NY Times today. Ol' Swiftie demonstrated that he learned nothing from his miserable excuse of a campaign. Rather than rip the old one a new one for lying America into war, using the Downing Street Memos as the smoking gun like he promised his constituents, Kerry once again only hints that the crime could be carried out better. He doesn't fault Bush for starting a criminal war, only for not doing it quite right:
Our mission in Iraq is harder because the administration ignored the advice of others, went in largely alone, underestimated the likelihood and power of the insurgency, sent in too few troops to secure the country, destroyed the Iraqi army through de-Baathification, failed to secure ammunition dumps, refused to recognize the urgency of training Iraqi security forces and did no postwar planning. A little humility would go a long way - coupled with a strategy to succeed.
Wrong, oh tall ugly one. Our "mission" in Iraq is a crime, and should be stopped immediately, with a complete withdrawal of all US forces as soon as possible.

What worthless John (can you tell I REALLY hate the guy?) should write is:
  • Bush and Cheney should resign immediately, or be impeached.
  • They should be turned over to the International Criminal Court and be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
  • Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Guantanamo and all other islands in the new American gulag should be closed immediately.
  • And, having been fully complicit in these war crimes as a senator, and utterly failing to properly opposed them as a presidential candidate, I, worthless John Kerry, resign from the United States Senate.
Wimpy, incomprehensible "opposition" is worse than no opposition at all. Kerry is a wimp AND a liar--I have no doubt that he, like Bush and Cheney, knew that Iraq had little in the way of WMD's, had nothing to do with 9/11, and posed no threat to the US whatsoever. He knew it was a criminal war for oil, but he voted for it, supported it, failed to run against it, and continues to support it. And, unlike Bush, he should know better.

Kerry performed a very valuable service for the criminal corporate interests running this country last year, preventing the war in Iraq from becoming a campaign issue. And to think that others like him, like Biden and Hillary Clinton, are considered front-runners for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination--well it's all just too depressing.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Saudi oil going fast

Michael Klare writes about Matthew Simmons' new book: Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy. According to Klare, Simmons meticulously looks at the future of Saudi oil production and finds it coming up massively short of the predictions that have been made about it for years. Klare concludes:
it would be the height of folly to assume that the Saudis are capable of doubling their petroleum output in the years ahead, as projected by the Department of Energy. Indeed, it will be a minor miracle if they raise their output by a million or two barrels per day and sustain that level for more than a year or so. Eventually, in the not-too-distant future, Saudi production will begin a sharp decline from which there is no escape. And when that happens, the world will face an energy crisis of unprecedented scale.

The moment that Saudi production goes into permanent decline, the Petroleum Age as we know it will draw to a close. Oil will still be available on international markets, but not in the abundance to which we have become accustomed and not at a price that many of us will be able to afford. Transportation, and everything it effects -- which is to say, virtually the entire world economy -- will be much, much more costly. The cost of food will also rise, as modern agriculture relies to an extraordinary extent on petroleum products for tilling, harvesting, pest protection, processing, and delivery. Many other products made with petroleum -- paints, plastics, lubricants, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and so forth -- will also prove far more costly. Under these circumstances, a global economic contraction -- with all the individual pain and hardship that would surely produce -- appears nearly inevitable.
That would be the start of Kunstler's Long Emergency, I believe.

Only major stabbings will be investigated

Detroit has a reputation as a dangerous place, one which I generally think is exaggerated. But then you read something like this:
[T]he police at first thought it was a minor stab wound, and didn't start an investigation until they learned he had died. They heard a doctor say it appeared the weapon was a large butcher knife.
Ominously, the victim, Joe Wagner, 21, originally of Ann Arbor, was an activist for BAMN (By Any Means Necessary), working to protect affirmative action in Michigan. The article doesn't suggest that the stabbing was anything other than a random act of violence. But it apparently wasn't a robbery, and the stabbing occurred while Wagner was standing with a crowd of people.
Driver said police told her Sunday that he had been stabbed so quickly no one realized he was hurt until he fell back. She said he was with a group of other young people who had just stopped for sodas and candy apples at a church festival.

Sorry, Teddy!

NY Times headline: Avoid a Kennedy as Next Justice, Right Says

Actually, knowing aWol's record as a "uniter not a divider," I'll bet he nominates Ashcroft when Rehnquist steps down/keels over. Or Rush.

Extended Quote du Jour

During his June 25 Saturday radio message to Americans, Bush gave an upbeat report on victory in Iraq and said: “Americans can be proud of all that we and our coalition partners [he means his poodle, Tony Blair, but likes the plural sound] have accomplished in Iraq.”

Gentle reader, are you proud that American troops are torturing Iraqis?

Are you proud that tens of thousands of Iraqi women and children have been killed and maimed with their deaths and terrible wounds dismissed as “collateral damage”?

Are you proud that you elected and reelected a president who lied you into an illegal war that has killed 1,755 American troops, maimed thousands more, and destroyed your country’s reputation?

If you are proud of this, what kind of person are you?
-- Paul Craig Roberts, of course.


Dow 4000 by the end of the year

That's from one of my favorite pessimists, James Howard Kunstler:
Oil's remorseless up-ratcheting past $60 is as much a symptom of a weak dollar as a strained global energy allocation system, and the dollar is weakening because the way of life it represents is becoming more and more unreal. The harsh truth is that we've reached the limit of our ability to expand our suburban sprawl economy and there is no alternative US economy in the background ready to take its place. The world can't fail to notice this weakness. The inability to generate even fake wealth, in the form of ever more WalMarts, will take its toll on the consensus that the American Dream has enduring value.

The stock market contraction ought to reflect this reality -- apart from desperate attempts by US government proxies to levitate share prices -- and it is hard to imagine a rally in the face of $60 oil. I'm inclined to predict a gruesome journey down for the Dow Jones into the 4000 range by the end of the year. Until now the dollars created by the Federal Reserve's supernaturally loose credit policy have sought shelter in the "hard assets" of houses? A meltdown of the stock markets will translate into vanishing leverage in all other areas of finance, especially in real estate (as well as a swath of destruction through hedge funds, retirement accounts and, eventually, the entire creaking superstructure of the hallucinated mortgage industry). A few Americans are actually going to get the message that this is not a good time to buy an overpriced raised ranch house. A lot of real estate geniuses are going witness their own ruin with wonder and nausea.
And a couple of choice paragraphs from last week's Kunstler:
It was Amercia's hope that by turning Iraqis and other Middle Eastern people into democrats, they would magically become much friendlier and that our military presence would be happily tolerated -- and that eventually all the Middle East would become so democratic, friendly, and stable that our presence there would be regarded as a Godsend. Whoops, wrong God. For starters.

The world may no longer have a swing producer of oil, but this period can probably be viewed as a swing period of history. By that I mean a period when we hoped that there was a quick and easy way to keep the oil flowing westward and found out that it wasn't so. The time is now coming when the American public won't tolerate a dozen US casualties a week, nevermind fifty Iraqis. But Americans won't tolerate $5 a gallon gasoline, either. We'll now see how the public will reconcile these intolerances.

By "demolish," we mean "expand"

A new Iraq will also need a humane, well supervised prison system. Under Saddam Hussein, prisons like Abu Ghraib were symbols of death and torture. That same prison became a symbol of disgraceful conduct by a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values. America will fund the construction of a modern, maximum security prison. When that prison is completed, detainees at Abu Ghraib will be relocated. Then, with the approval of the Iraqi government, we will demolish the Abu Ghraib prison, as a fitting symbol of Iraq's new beginning.
-- White House fact sheet, May 24, 2004.
Faced with a ballooning prison population, U.S. commanders in Iraq are building new detention facilities at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison and Camp Bucca near the Kuwaiti border and are developing a third major prison, in northern Iraq.
-- LA Times, yesterday. More from the Times story:
The number of prisoners held by the U.S. in Iraq reached record levels this month before falling slightly. As of Saturday, the average prisoner total in June stood at 10,783, up from 7,837 in January and 5,435 in June 2004.

The two main U.S. Army-run prisons, Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca, are operating near their maximum or "surge" emergency limits. On Saturday, the two prisons together held 10,178 inmates, with 1,630 detainees awaiting processing in different Army divisional and brigade headquarters.
Of course, Iraq still has a ways to go to match the "liberty" we enjoy in this country, with over two million Americans behind bars.

From Matt Wuerker.

From Jeff Stahler.

From Rob Rogers.

From Jim Morin.

From Mark Cohen.

From Ted Rall.

The world, and the Bushies, keep spinning

Even when I'm too busy to notice or throw my two cents worth in. So what has been happening the last few days?


Do I hear $65?

Saturday, June 25, 2005

U2, Xymphora?

Blogger Xymphora comments on the U2 crash:
Air Force Maj. Duane Dively died on June 22, 2005 in a mysterious U-2 crash in the United Arab Emirates. Although the official story was that he had been on a mission in support of American troops in Afghanistan, it isn't too much of a stretch to conclude that he was really spying on Iran. By far the oddest part of this story is that we're hearing about it. The reason we don't hear too many U-2 stories is because such espionage is supposed to be a secret. I can't help but wonder if this isn't another reflection of the neocon-paleocon battle going on in Washington over whether the United States should start World War III in the Middle East in order to please Israel. Is the crash a signal that somebody doesn't like the secret neocon preparations for war? The one thing that Iran learns from the release of this story is that it is being monitored by U-2 spy planes.

Solar project almost finished!

I was up all night last night doing wiring in the attic, so this may be my only post today! Check out the progress at my solar project blog.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Putting the troops in danger

Let me just put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals.
--"Bush's Brain," Karl Rove, yesterday

So, let's get this straight. Bush had the intelligence and facts fixed around the policy of starting a war of aggression in Iraq, lied to Congress and the UN, ignored that the UN weapons inspectors found nothing, ignored the advice of General Shineseki that an occupation would require hundreds of thousands of troops, failed to provide adequate body armor and armor for vehicles, told the insurgents to "bring 'em on" (which I think also may have been reported on Al Jazeera), has had thousands of Iraqis arrested and thrown into horrible prisons where many are tortured, promoted or gave medals to the architects of this disaster, and continues to defend each and every crime to this very day--and it is Dick Durbin who is putting our troops in danger.

No more needs to be said about the hypocrisy of Karl Rove.

End of story, I guess

A search of Yahoo news and Google news for more information about Wednesday's U2 crash yields no new information, except for a couple of stories about the pilot. Apparently the anonymous Pentagon tipster's assertion that the plane actually crashed in the UAE was enough to passify the already passive media. No reports or photos from the crash site, no explanation for why the Pentagon report just said "southwest Asia." The Air Force updated their report, giving the name of the pilot, but they still only say that the U2 crashed in "southwest Asia."

Nobody bothered to ask Scottie the Liar about the crash in yesterday's White House press briefing.


Chinese oil company CNOOC has made a bid to buy Unocal.
"The deal has got the administration over a barrel," said Michael R. Wessel, a member of the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a group established by Congress. Not only is the administration trying to work out trade issues with China over textiles, currency and a number of other matters, it is also increasingly relying on China to play a more aggressive role in containing North Korea.
Not to mention that they loan us a large portion of the billions of dollars per day needed to keep the wheels from totally coming off of our economy. CNOOC seems to know how the Washington game is played:
In Washington, CNOOC is already laying the groundwork. It has hired Public Strategies, a public relations firm whose vice chairman, Mark McKinnon, led President Bush's media campaign in the 2004 election. The company has also lined up some of the nation's savviest financial advisers - among them Goldman Sachs and J. P. Morgan - as well as such well-connected legal and lobbying firms as Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Davis Polk & Wardell.

Go see for yourself!

Stealing a post from Michelle:
When House Majority Leader Tom DeLay sat down with reporters on Tuesday [6/21/05] on Capitol Hill, he was asked to assess President Bush's campaign in Iraq and to respond to criticism that the military mission is not going well and the White House needs to develop an exit strategy.


"Go to Iraq. And see what's actually happening there.

"Everybody that comes from Iraq is amazed at the difference of what they see on the ground and what they see on the television set."

Houston Chronicle article

America's new ambassador to Iraq expressed horror Tuesday [6/21/05] at the violence wracking the country and said Islamic extremists and Saddam Hussein loyalists are trying to start a civil war.

Guardian article

I guess DeLay was right. It sounds like Khalilzad was amazed, alright.

Wouldn't that be nice?

Following [yesterday]’s Supreme Court ruling that local governments can seize property for the purposes of economic development and purely private profit, I’m sure we will see many Wal-Marts condemned and the land turned over to mom & pop stores.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Supreme Irony

Since the 2000 selection, I've tended to regard the Supreme Court as the five bad ones (Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas, O'Connor, Kennedy) who voted to stop the recounts in Florida, and the four good ones (Stevens, Souter, Bader Ginsberg and Breyer). But in two recent decisions, I've definitely been with the bad guys. On medical marijuana, the four "good ones" plus Scalia and Kennedy voted to say that federal law takes precedent over state law, no matter how many hoops the states, doctors and patients jump through to keep medical pot a local affair. But today, all four "good ones" were joined by Kennedy in deciding that cities can use eminent domain powers for private development. This strongly favors the wealthy, frequently out-of-town developers over the small homeowners, whose houses can now be bulldozed for a shopping mall or office complex.

Who woulda thought that I could agree with William Rehnquist, Clarence Thomas and Sandra Day O'Connor on two Supreme Court decisions, and lose both times? O'Connor wrote the dissent on the eminent domain case. According to AP, "She argued that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers."

I'll stick to my earlier "ruling" that Sandra Day O'Connor regrets her 2000 vote in Bush v. Gore. Rumor had it she wanted Bush to win so she could retire knowing a Repug would name her replacement. But Bush has been pResident for 4 1/2 years now, and she hasn't retired. There may be some very key issue before the Court in the near future (on impeachment or withholding evidence or something). I think O'Connor may end up being one of the "good ones" on that vote. Unfortunately, I'm not sure the "good ones" are still good.

Two years late, $200 billion (and 1750 troops and 100,000 Iraqis) short

Two quotes:
After conducting two brutal wars and enforcing murderous sanctions on Iraq, the US is the last country (except maybe North Korea) that should be running Iraq's affairs. That goes triple while Bush is in charge. This is Vietnam 1964. If we pull out, at worst a bloody civil war erupts, killing tens of thousands of people. If we stay, the brutal occupation continues, eventually killing many more while bankrupting the US. Sending more troops just means more will die, and will solidify the hatred against this country. There is no legitimate basis for believing that it will benefit Iraqis at all.
We may leave a mess behind, but staying will not make it any better, and will likely make it much worse.
-- Me, August 28, 2003

The United States needs to state to Iraqis and the world that ... we will review our position with all options open, including, but not limited to, setting a timetable for withdrawal.
The status quo, we know, is violent. What may happen if we leave is uncertain.
-- Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), yesterday

And uncertain is looking pretty attractive right about now.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
-- Albert Einstein

Your turn, George...

Baghdad Scottie

This cartoon from Bill Schorr ran on May 20, 2003, shortly after Ari Fleischer announced his resignation:

Here's what Scott McClellan said yesterday:
The President will continue to keep the American people informed about the progress that we're making on the ground in Iraq, the difficulties and dangers that remain and that lie ahead, as well as the strategy for succeeding in Iraq. We are making important progress, the Iraqi people are making important progress.
Also in yesterday's briefing, Scottie tried to put a positive spin on the report that Iraq has apparently become a training ground for terrorists:
Q Scott, how concerned is the administration about the potential for Iraq to become a sort of training ground for Islamic extremists who may go back to their home countries and use these techniques to destabilize their governments? There's a new report on that recently.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let me mention a couple things. As the President has said for some time now, Iraq is a central front in the war on terrorism. Wherever you stood before the decision to go into Iraq, I think we can all recognize that the terrorists have made it a central front in the war on terrorism. That's why, as the President said earlier today, we are fighting the terrorists in Iraq so that we don't have to fight them here at home. And that's where things are. And that's why the terrorists understand how high the stakes are. We understand how high the stakes are. And that's why it's so important that we succeed in Iraq, because when we succeed in Iraq and Afghanistan, that will be -- those will be major blows to the terrorists and their ideology that they seek to spread.

Q The report suggested that there's concern that Egyptians, Jordanians and others will go back to their home countries, using the techniques they've learned in Iraq to destabilize those countries.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I don't know what your question is.

Q Are you concerned about that? Do you think there's potential for that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Iraq is a central front in the war on terrorism. In terms of what's your question on it, I think you're making the assumption that these individuals would just be sitting around sipping tea, as Secretary Rice likes to refer to in her previous comments. So I don't know what your question is regarding that.

Q The training and the hosting --

MR. McCLELLAN: These are dangerous individuals that are operating in Iraq, and we're on the offensive, going after them, working with Iraqi security forces to defeat them in Iraq, so that -- we're fighting them there, so that we don't have to fight them here. This is all part of the war on terrorism, and that's why we're going after them and seeking to bring them to justice.

Q Just following up on that question, you said at the outset of that, the terrorists have made it a central front in the war on terrorism. I thought it was a central front in the war on terrorism before we invaded.

MR. McCLELLAN: It is. It's part of the war on terrorism, yes.

Q It was.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, it is.

Q It is now --

Baghdad Bob never really had a chance...

Persistent Automotive State

From Chip Bok.

From Lalo Alcaraz.

Yeah. That's on the front page...

From Dana Summers.

Over her dead body

From Ann Telnaes.
Working to put the whole nation into a persistent vegetative state.

From Steve Sack.

A better response to Dick Durbin than calling him a Dick

Jeanne d'Arc's response to Senator Durbin's apology was a bit more measured than mine. She wrote an open letter to the Senator. Excerpt:
There's an understandable assumption on the left now that your courage failed you, that you caved in to enormous pressure. If that's true, your second speech was not only cowardly, it was astonishingly foolish. Take a look at the response of some of the people who demanded an apology now that they have it. They have nothing but contempt for your "teary-eyed" and "blubbering" apology. You've given the kind of people who celebrate everything you've fought against one more victory. You've made it far easier for them to argue that there is no torture problem, the only problem is Democrats and their overheated rhetoric.

We must end this nightmare. You know that as well as I do. I hope you also know that you've set us back. We can't stand behind your words if you don't.

Reading over your statement, I'm not so sure you were responding to pressure from torture's apologists. I have a feeling you heard from some people who were genuinely hurt by your analogy (as opposed to the vast majority who feigned shock to draw attention away from the points you made) and were speaking mainly out of concern for their feelings. As someone concerned about what the glorification of militarism does to this country, who often risks having her attacks on military sentimentality come across as attacks on soldiers, I understand that desire not to have your words, even your twisted and distorted words, used to hurt innocent people.

But if that was the case, you should have addressed any "apology" directly to those people, not to the Senate, and pointed out that if what you said came across as an insult directed at them, that was not your intention. And then you should have come back all the harder on the main points of your original speech: We love this country, and we will not stand by while it takes up, bit by bit, step by step, the tools of its enemies. I hate to be so blunt, but this is how the game is played.

If you really care about this country, and about human rights -- and I sincerely believe you do -- you have to learn those rules very quickly. And you can't allow yourself the luxury of being afraid of your own words.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

U2 Update

As of 10 pm, the Air Force announcement about the U2 crash hasn't changed--Operation Enduring Freedom, southwest Asia. CNN is sticking to its story about the plane having crashed in the UAE. The biggest change I've found is from AP, where they are now agreeing with CNN about the crash site:
The aircraft crashed in the Emirates while approaching the base to land, said a
Pentagon official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the operation.
Which begs the question--if it is public knowledge that the U2 was based in the UAE, why would they try to cover up that it crashed there? Did the Pentagon sign a "no-crash" basing arrangement with the UAE or something? Surely the UAE government knew they were there.

This just screams "cover up." I wonder why they bothered announcing the crash in the first place?

This is CNN

You'd think, if they don't have a picture to go with a story, they wouldn't use one. But no! Here is the photo they used with a story about the possibilities of a WMD attack somewhere in the world in the next ten years:

The caption? "U.S. troops in full chemical suits check what they thought might have been a WMD site in Baquba, 2003."


Update on the U2 story

Follow-up on my earlier post.

While CNN hasn't updated its flawed story, AP is at least trying to fill in a few gaps. They went so far as to read their e-mail and talk to one Iranian:
"The specific location is not releasable due to host nation sensitivities," U.S. Air Force Capt. David W. Small, a Central Command spokesman, said in an e-mail.

The e-mail indicated the plane went down in a country whose government is friendly to the United States.

"The site of the crash has been secured to ensure the safety of local citizens and the integrity of the site for investigation team members," a military announcement said.

The one potentially hostile nation in the region, Iran, denied that a U-2 had crashed on its territory. A Revolutionary Guards commander, Gen. Ali Reza Afshar, told The Associated Press he "was not aware" of any reports of a U-2 down in Iran.
I think AP reporter Patrick Quinn gets the optimist of the year award for calling Iran "the one potentially hostile nation in the region." Pakistan is one assassination away from being a nuclear-armed anti-American Islamic state, and most of the other countries, including Iraq would be anti-American if they actually had the democracy that aWol keeps pretending to want. And as Eli notes, one unaware general doesn't exactly make for convincing proof that the plane didn't crash in Iran.

Terrible Arithmetic

Dennis Kucinich on the House floor on Monday:
Depending on whom you listen to, the insurgents in Iraq are either in their "last throes" or they are growing in size and strength. But both the administration and critics seem to agree that the U.S. military will be deployed to Iraq for a long time to come. It is our quagmire.

Every day our forces wake up in Iraq, more die and are wounded, and more families on the homefront are strained and suffer losses. Meantime, the vitality of the U.S. army is shriveling, as they are not able to bribe enough young people to join to fight this war in Iraq.

At some terrible point in the future, the nation's leaders will say "enough is enough." Whether the number of casualties at that point is 15,000, or 20,000 or 50,000, I do not know. Whether the cost at that point is $250 billion, $350 billion or $500 billion, I do not know. At some point, the terrible arithmetic of the war will add up to overwhelm everybody.

But this war can end another way. It can end if enough members of Congress consider and cosponsor H.J. Res 55, a bi-partisan bill introduced last week, to require the President to initiate troop withdrawal no later than October 1, 2006. Thank the troops, and bring them home.

Iraq wasn't training terrorists...

But it is now:
A new classified assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency says Iraq may prove to be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was in Al Qaeda's early days, because it is serving as a real-world laboratory for urban combat.

The assessment, completed last month and circulated among government agencies, was described in recent days by several Congressional and intelligence officials. The officials said it made clear that the war was likely to produce a dangerous legacy by dispersing to other countries Iraqi and foreign combatants more adept and better organized than they were before the conflict.
Those who do not care about history are condemning the rest of us to repeat it.

What could be worse than Homer Simpson loose in a nuclear power plant?

AWol wants more "nukular" power plants:
"In the 21st century, our nation will need more electricity -- more safe, clean, reliable electricity," Bush said. "It is time for this country to start building nuclear power plants again."
Hopefully Mr. Yushchenko will give aWol a tour of Chernobyl sometime soon. It is time for this country to start conserving, big time. I'm afraid, however, that only a massive economic collapse will save us from further "nukular" madness. Of course, our idiot pResident is doing what he can to bring that on.

Southwest Asia

From AP:
A U.S. Air Force U-2 spy plane involved in a mission in Afghanistan crashed while returning to its base in the United Arab Emirates, killing the pilot, the military said Wednesday.

U.S. Central Command said the crash occurred in "southwest Asia," a term that can be a substitute for the Middle East.
The location of the crash could not be released "due to host nation sensitivities," U.S. Air Force Capt. David W. Small, a Central Command spokesman, said in an e-mail when asked for more information.

In Washington, Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, said the plane had completed a mission related to Operation Enduring Freedom and crashed while returning to its base.

A U.S. security team was at the site of the crash, he said.
Gee, where could a spy plane supposedly taking part in "Operation Enduring Freedom" (as opposed to "Operation Suffering Liberation" in Iraq) in Afghanistan and heading to base in the UAE possibly have crashed?

The big white place is called Iran. And while it's remotely possible that the U2 was looking for Osama in Pakistan or Afghanistan, it seems more likely that it was looking for bombing targets in Iran. And a U.S. security team is at the crash site? Investigating the evidence or destroying it, I wonder. And did they sneak into Iran after the crash, or were they already there?

Amazing that a U2 might spark another international crisis, 45 years after Gary Powers' plane was shot down over the Soviet Union. The initial American response then was to lie, too, claiming that the spy plane was actually a NASA weather research plane that had lost its way. It turned out, though, that the Russians had captured Powers alive and well and recovered most of his plane, including the spy photos he had taken. (I'm becoming a devotee of Wikipedia--it has very good synopses of events, including recent ones like the Beslan hostage crisis.)

[Update 12:15 pm] CNN reports that the plane crashed in the UAE. They don't mention the "Southwest Asia" and "host nation sensibilities" stuff. Why would the Air Force be worried about that if the plane crashed in the country in which it is based? Most likely this is just incredibly sloppy reporting by CNN, interpreting "crashed while returning to its base in the United Arab Emirates" to mean "crashed in the UAE." Both CNN and AP seem to have turned "a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom" into "a mission over Afghanistan." (The NY Times doesn't make this mistake.) Both the AP and CNN reports seem to be based on the same short statement from the Air Force, with no corroboration whatsoever. CNN just seems to have jumped to some hasty conclusions (something I'd never do!!!).

[Update two: 12:30 PM] Turns out my suspicions (about the media at least) were correct. Here's the text of the Air Force statement:
6/22/2005 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- The pilot of an Air Force U-2 Dragon Lady died when his plane crashed at a forward-deployed location here in the early hours of June 22.

The pilot completed flying a mission supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and was returning to base when the crash occurred. His name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. He was assigned to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing.

The cause of the crash is not known.

“The Airmen of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing mourn the loss of a true American hero in the service of his country,” said Col. Darryl Burke, 380th AEW commander.

Colonel Burke appointed an interim investigation board, and a full investigation board will convene to continue the investigation.

The site of the crash has been secured to ensure the safety of local citizens and the integrity of the site for investigation team members.
Note that it doesn't say that the plane crashed in the UAE, nor does it say that it had been flying a mission over Afghanistan. So not only is the media using the US military as their only source as usual (forgiveable for now given how recent the crash was), but they immediately began interpreting the cryptic statement in exactly the direction that the Pentagon would like them to. The Pentagon no longer has to lie and say that the plane was looking for Osama in Afghanistan and crashed where it was supposed to; the media does it for them.

Lucky Fallujans

FALLUJAH, Iraq – United States Marine Corps’ 5th Civil Affairs Group and the United States Army Corps of Engineers kicked off the Property Lease Program here last week.

Leases were drawn up for local residents whose homes were or are currently occupied by coalition forces.

Lump sum payments were also made to eligible homeowners for the total time their houses were being used. The payment will include the amount of rent owed through Sept. 30, 2005.

The II Marine Expeditionary Force set aside about $125,000 in Operations and Maintenance money to pay for three series of payments with the first June 13.

About 94 leases are expected to be signed and completed during the first phase. On the first day of the program, about 40 were completed.
I'm guessing they're not renting this home:

More photos from Fallujah

I wonder if the militants who killed 344 civilians in Beslan last September paid rent for the three days they occupied the school. How about the Nazis in Holland, or the Japanese in Nanking, or the Visigoths in Rome? See, we're MUCH more civilized. When we lay waste to a country, we at least pay some rent.

Is there anything more repulsive than a young Republican?

The blogger Crooks and Liars attempted to place that ad in the program for the Young Republican National Conference, to be held in Las Vegas in July. He received this reply:
We are sorry but we must regretfully reject this advertisement. We feel that the tone of the message is too negative.

The College Repugs convention is this weekend in Arlington, Virginia. Jesus' General has plans to make both conventions more interesting.

Mike Tidmus has a flashier ad:

As Eli at Left I has pointed out repeatedly, the put up or shut up approach should apply just as much to "stay the course" Dumbocrats as it does to chickenhawk Repugs. Whether or not you supported the original crime of invading Iraq, if you support the continued occupation then you should be willing to enlist yourself or have your children go over there to get killed or maimed. If that thought makes you finally realize that it's a pointless war based on lies, there's only one honorable position--US out of Iraq NOW! (And Afghanistan, Haiti, Colombia, Iran...)

Another Useless Dick

As I'm sure a few temporarily brave Germans and Russians did decades earlier, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Wimp) has apologized for telling the truth.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) yesterday offered a tearful apology on the Senate floor for comparing the alleged abuse of prisoners by American troops to techniques used by the Nazis, the Soviets and the Khmer Rouge, as he sought to quell a frenzy of Republican-led criticism.

Durbin, the Democratic whip, acknowledged that "more than most people, a senator lives by his words" but that "occasionally words will fail us and occasionally we will fail words." Choking up, he said: "Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line. To them, I extend my heartfelt apologies."

He singled out the victims of the Holocaust, which Durbin called "the greatest moral tragedy of our time," as well as U.S. troops.
Durbin's surrender came after a week of full-scale attack from the right-wing BS machine, combined with basically no support from the Democratic party BS machine.
Comments from the White House and other elected officials helped to keep the spotlight on Durbin. Also on June 16 , White House spokesman Scott McClellan called the remarks "reprehensible" and "a real disservice to our men and women in uniform who adhere to high standards and uphold our values and our laws."
He wasn't talking about THOSE men and women in uniform, Scottie. He was talking about the ones who torture people, just like the Nazis and Soviets and Khmer Rouge did. And, of course, their criminal leaders, especially those in the White House.

And then there's John McCain (whom I think may be tied with Colin Powell for most dangerous man in America, since they both are well-spoken and seem reasonable but totally sell out when it comes to war crimes):
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press": "I think that Senator Durbin owes the Senate an apology -- I don't know if censure would be in order -- but an apology, because it does a great disservice to men and women who suffered in the gulag and in Pol Pot's 'killing fields.' "
How, how, HOW does it POSSIBLY do a disservice to them? First off, 99% of them are dead, but I would think that most survivors would believe that the only possible good that could come from their experience would be as a warning to future generations to see that it doesn't happen again. Furthermore, Durbin's original statement was entirely accurate. I read part of Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago many years ago, and the section of the FBI report on Gitmo that Durbin read would fit right in. (As would the story of the murder of Dilawar at Bagram in Afghanistan, or the various stories out of Abu Ghraib.) To be sure, neither the hundreds being held at Gitmo nor the thousands being held in Iraq is anywhere near the scale of the Holocaust or the gulag or the killing fields. Yet. But none of those started out huge. They grew to their genocidal proportions because those who supported them shouted down those who didn't. And that's just what happened with Dick "Dick" Durbin.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Roberts Rules!

Our old buddy, former Reagan administration member Paul Craig Roberts, that is. He concludes his latest wonderful screed, A War Waged by Liars and Morons, with this:
Will President Bush ever tell us the real reason why he committed America's treasure, the lives of American soldiers and the reputation of our country to war in Iraq?

Does he even know?
He makes an excellent case for impeachment based on the various Downing Street memos. I will take issue with Roberts on this paragraph:
Congress gave Bush the go-ahead for the invasion because Congress trusted Bush and believed his word that Iraq had fearsome weapons that would be unleashed on America unless we preempted Saddam Hussein's attack by striking first. Congress did not give Bush the go-ahead for initiating a war in order to spend hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of American lives "building democracy in Iraq."
No. Congress didn't trust Bush. They just work for the same people (Hint--it isn't us).

Michigan Peaceworks calls for new national priorities

The local peace group issued a press release:
Michigan Peaceworks is pleased to announce a statewide campaign calling for new national priorities on the Fourth of July. The post-9/11 peace and justice advocacy organization is coordinating the placement of signature advertisements in newspapers throughout Michigan. The ads highlight the money spent on the Iraq War and contrast that with unmet human needs on national, state, and local levels.
Read the rest!

Illegal immigrants accessed nuclear weapons facility

The Bushies want to continue keeping tabs on what you're reading, but they can't be bothered to make sure that security is tight when it comes to the most dangerous potential source of a terror attack--the WMD's right here in the USA. From CNN:
Sixteen illegal immigrants gained access last year to one of the most sensitive weapons sites in the country, according to a report issued Monday by the Department of Energy's inspector general.

The inspector general's investigation found the illegal immigrants were construction workers on jobs at the Y-12 National Security Complex near Knoxville, Tennessee.

The workers used "false documents" and "gained access to the ... site on multiple occasions," the report said.

The report details how the workers, apparently using fake green cards, were able to obtain access badges.
Several sensitive activities take place at the Y-12 plant, including the warehousing of enriched uranium and the dismantlement and storage of weapons. The site was being tested to see if it could defend against potential security incidents.
Combined with the fact that the security personnel at Oak Ridge have been cheating on their tests since the 1980's, it seems pretty obvious to me that "homeland security" has little to do with actually protecting us from deadly attacks, and a lot to do with keeping us scared and under control.

While it is certainly possible that a bomb could be smuggled into this country, "Sum of All Fears" style, the weaponry already in this country is far deadlier, both that which is intended as weaponry like the nukes at Oak Ridge, and that that isn't, like the numerous nuclear power plants and chemical plants all over the country.

The 9/11 hijackers (if that's what they were) didn't bring any weapons with them into this country--they just used what was already here. And they could have done far more damage by crashing into a nuclear power plant or Oak Ridge--a don't think that the US military could (or would) have stopped them, if they couldn't even protect their own headquarters. I don't want to be accused of giving terrorists ideas, so I won't go into specifics, but I think I could easily come up with a thousand ways to use what's already here to create a devastating terror attack. Something spectacular like 9/11 might be difficult, but an attack that would kill hundreds or thousands and/or create widespread panic would be frighteningly simple to pull off.

And the focus on Islamic terrorists is not only racist, but misguided. While the 1993 WTC attack and 9/11 were apparently the work of Middle Eastern terrorists, there have been many more acts committed by home-grown terrorists. Think of the black church in Birmingham and countless other Klan crimes--terrorism by any reasonable definition. The Unabomber. Eric Rudolph. The 2001 anthrax attacks. Disgruntled Gulf War veterans Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols and John Allen Muhammed. (And we're currently creating a huge new crop of disgruntled veterans.)

Even the climate of fear itself seems likely to generate more terror. There have already been bombings and attempted bombings of mosques, and the general paranoia caused by Patriot Acts and the like may send a few more people over the edge.

Terrorism is a bad thing. As a killer of Americans, it is a very minor thing--about as many Americans die on our highways each month as have been killed in all terrorist attacks in the last 20 years. I don't think that it's possible to completely prevent terrorist attacks, and the costs of trying to do so aren't worth it. But if I had to come up with a scheme to reduce the likelihood of another attack, this is what I'd do:
  1. Bring the troops home from Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Colombia, Gitmo, and pretty much everywhere else, immediately. Make sure that they get all of the medical and psychological care that they need, and then some.
  2. Stop pissing off the rest of the world generally.
  3. Beef up security at Oak Ridge, other nuclear sites, large chemical plants and other facilities where an explosion could create massive casualties.
  4. Decommission all of these sites, carefully destroying the weapons and other materials that pose a threat.
  5. Chill out about terrorism, and start working on reducing the carnage on the highways.

Missing Links

Stories you shouldn't miss:
And the Bushies seem to think that a little more PR BS will make up for this. Why do they hate us? There's four more reasons.

From Rex Babin.

Monday, June 20, 2005

And they're still lying to us

Tom Tomorrow highlights three current stories linked by a common thread--when power and/or money are at stake, lies often result.


Another new high for oil. August futures have already gone over $60. (July is the "lead-month contract" until tomorrow afternoon.)

They've been lying to us for a very long time

I've been reading the book Twentieth Century Sprawl: Highways and the Reshaping of the American Landscape by Owen Gutfreund. There's lots of interesting stuff in the book, but one thing that caught my attention was how industries which profited from building more roads--auto, oil, rubber companies and others--were involved in starting so-called "consumer" advocacy groups. From page 32:
General Motors president Alfred P. Sloan, mentor of Charles E. Wilson, started the most aggressive new highway lobby in 1932, the National Highway Users' Conference (NHUC), a group that survives to this day. With auto industry funds, Sloan built this organization into a powerful force--again, clothed as a consumer advocacy group--that focused on any state or federal legislation related to gas taxes or auto-related fees.
Basically, these groups have insisted over the decades that governments provide ever more, wider, and better roads, and that the users of those roads pay nothing or next to nothing for the privilege. The result has been the grotesque oil-intensive suburban landscape that is killing us today.

The other two examples of lies going way back deal with the atomic bombing of Japan in 1945.

Mickey Z writes that two common wisdoms about the bombings are false. First, that an invasion of the Japanese homeland would have been necessary and extraordinarily bloody. He points out that there is plenty of evidence that Japan wanted to surrender before the bombs were dropped, and that estimates for the number of expected American casualties from an invasion grew from a June 1945 Joint War Plans Committee report suggesting 40,000 soldiers killed to a series of inflating estimates from Harry Truman himself, culminating in a 1959 claim that dropping the bombs saved millions of lives. The second common wisdom that seems to be false is that Hitler was anywhere close to developing an atomic bomb (probably not even as close as Saddam was in 2003). This lie served to inspire the scientists at Los Alamos, many of whom were Europeans who had escaped as Hitler took over the continent.

The second story concerns the reports from the first western reporter to reach Nagasaki after the bomb dropped--George Weller of the Chicago Daily News. Weller reported on the "wasteland of war" and the hideous effects of radiation poisoning. Weller's reports were completely censored by MacArthur, and have only come to light almost 60 years later because his son found carbon copies of the reports in Weller's apartment after his death three years ago.
[George Weller's son] Anthony Weller told Mainichi he thought wartime officials wanted to hush up stories about radiation sickness and feared that his father's reports would sway American public opinion against building an arsenal of nuclear bombs.

You thought you were going to sleep well tonight

And then you saw Billmon's photoshop morphing of LBJ and GWB:

Billmon updates his post upon reading of recent news that the Taliban is apparently alive and well in Afghanistan, pointing out that even LBJ didn't manage to lose two wars. Not all incompetent Texas slimeballs are created equal, I guess. And while the damage LBJ did was massive, he at least had the sense to realize it and not seek re-election. And LBJ declared war on poverty, while W declares war on the poor.

Sanctuaries in sovereign states

CIA director Porter Goss makes the outlandish claim that the U.S. has any respect for the sovereignty of foreign nations, after forcing regime change in at least three sovereign nations and criminal meddling in several others (Venezuela and the Ukraine, for example).
In an interview with TIME magazine published Sunday, Goss said part of the difficulty in capturing bin Laden was "sanctuaries in sovereign nations."

The magazine asked Goss when bin Laden would be captured.

"That is a question that goes far deeper than you know," he said. "In the chain that you need to successfully wrap up the war on terror, we have some weak links. And I find that until we strengthen all the links, we're probably not going to be able to bring Mr. bin Laden to justice.

"We are making very good progress on it. But when you go to the very difficult question of dealing with sanctuaries in sovereign states, you're dealing with a problem of our sense of international obligation, fair play.

"We have to find a way to work in a conventional world in unconventional ways that are acceptable to the international community.

Asked whether that meant he knew where bin Laden is, Goss responded: "I have an excellent idea where he is."
Of course, the U.S. is one of the weak links in the war on terror, refusing to hand over confessed and convicted terrorist Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela for trial. I'm glad, I guess, that Goss is showing some respect for international law--it just seems so unusual coming from this administration.

The article suggests that Goss war referring to "the rugged mountainous border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan." Ted Rall suggests that Osama is probably in Kashmir, and that the Bushies don't really care about finding him:
Neither the Talibs nor Northern Alliance sources I spoke with while covering the war in Afghanistan in November 2001 put much credence in the Tora Bora story. "Everyone knows Osama went to
Kashmir," an Al Qaeda POW told me. "He took the road north from Rawalpindi. That's where they always go."

Indeed, Pakistani-controlled Kashmir is topographically and politically more hospitable to bin Laden than the Pakistani-Afghan frontier regions targeted by joint U.S.-Pakistani military operations since 2002. Massive, craggy mountains separate bandit-ridden canyons where road signs mark routine ambush points. Tribal authorities allied with exiled Talibs fighting a proxy border war against India operate with so much impunity that recruiting centers for Al Qaeda and other "banned" Islamist parties operate openly out of storefronts. Pakistani troops rarely venture into the "Northern Areas"--not that their pro-Taliban officer corps would order them to do so. For these reasons Islamist militants fleeing eastern Afghanistan traditionally leave via Kashmir.

Of course bin Laden may have chartered a plane from Kashmir to Yemen or elsewhere. But if I were hunting for Osama, I'd start there. If I were serious.

Think we're making progress?

The Downing Street Memo and a few polls are finally going to finish Bush off? Xymphora, writing from the relative sanity of Canada, suggests otherwise:
I've been reading articles for at least four years now that the neocons are on the way out, and I've seen absolutely nothing to support it. They appear to be succeeding in destroying the United Nations and appear to have undermined the moderates in the Iranian elections. Their campaign to break up Iraq by creating a civil war continues as planned. I've been reading that Bush has gone too far over and over again, that he is a lame duck President, or that he has lost this issue or that issue, but I see no evidence for any of these things. In fact, the Republican agenda at he beginning of Bush's first term is, if anything, ahead of schedule. The Wolfowitz doctrine of world domination based on large-scale wars and the creation of Baseworld is coming along swimmingly, huge tax cuts are digging the fiscal hole that will lead to the necessity for further cuts in social welfare, the environment is a plutocrat playground, Bush still has lots of time to deal with social security, and there is absolutely no chance for any sensible health care reforms. The only thing stopping another big war is that the Pentagon is understaffed, but a draft will fix that problem. Another bombing raid on another innocent country is just another faked terrorist attack away (and as long as the Labour Party dithers about removing Tony Blair, British support for the American action is guaranteed). You really have to give the Republicans credit. They never give up, and they are always at least one scam ahead of everyone else.

The Germans could have done many things to stop the rise of Hitler, but they didn't. The Cambodians didn't need to support the killing fields, and the Rwandans didn't have to support their holocaust, but they did. Sometimes people make ridiculous political decisions. Sometimes, no matter what your good intentions may be, things are going to go badly. In the short run, for at least the next ten or twenty years, the United States is f***ed.

Don't bet against it

From Billmon:
I'm just waiting for the White House and the neocons to denounce the Iranian elections as a complete fraud -- no doubt citing a serious discrepancy between the exit polls and the announced results, long voting lines in pro-reform neighborhoods, and the use of paperless ballot machines manufactured by companies with close financial ties to the ruling elite.

Sunday, June 19, 2005


It's been about two months, so it was about time to fill the fuel tank in the Volkswagen. The weather having been plenty warm here lately, I figured that Wacker Oil out in Manchester would have some B100 biodiesel for sale. When I got there, though, they only had B50 and B99--50% and 99% biodiesel, respectively. The reason for this is that the state of Michigan implemented a tax credit for biodiesel blends (the credit goes to the blender, not the end consumer except in the price). The credit is a penny per gallon for each percentage point of biodiesel. So B50 has a 50 cent per gallon credit, and B99 has a 99 cent per gallon credit. They don't sell 100% biodiesel anymore, though, because that's not a "blend."

Quote du jour

Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality. It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq.
-- Senator Chuck Hagel (R - Nebraska)


Support Senator Durbin!

Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) is getting all sorts of flack from the wingnuts for speaking the truth about the horrors of Gitmo and the rest of the American gulag (based on FBI reports, no less). We need to contact Senator Durbin and express our support. Here's what I wrote:
Dear Senator:
I want to express my support for your recent statement regarding the abuse and torture of "detainees" in US custody. Auschwitz, the Soviet Gulag and the killing fields of Cambodia weren't created overnight. They started on much smaller scales, and were only able to grow to their full-blown horror because not enough people had the courage to take a stand and put a stop to it.

You have seen the abyss into which we are sinking and had the courage to speak out. Thank you very much.
We should also contact our own congresscritters telling them to support Durbin's accurate remarks (if she hasn't already, I can imagine Senator Stabenow saying something to "distance" herself from Durbin's remarks--don't let her get away with it!).

Saturday, June 18, 2005


MSNBC online poll:Do you believe President Bush misled the nation in order to go to war with Iraq?

Currently, it's YES 94%, NO 6%.

C'mon people! We can do better than that!

Cyndy thinks Bush is toast. I hope she's right, but I think we've got a lot of hurdles to clear yet--like 100 senators, about 420 out of 435 members of the House, and those nine robed creatures who got this whole mess started.

From Jack Ohman.

From Rob Rogers.

From Steve Benson.

From Clay Bennett.

From Bill Day.

From Anne Telnaes.

Iran has RUNOFF elections?

Bush was complaining about the Iranian elections "ignoring the basic requirements of democracy" while we're stuck here with our two-corporate-party, electoral college, winner-take-all (or loser-take-all in 2000) system. Meanwhile, Iran, like Indonesia and France and even Afghanistan, has runoff elections, a huge and simple improvement that's desperately needed here if there is any real interest in democracy. Of course for aWol there's only one basic requirement for democracy--"My side wins."

Welcome to peak oil

From the NY Times (emphasis added):
The possibility of a terrorist attack in Nigeria was enough to tap the oil market's fear that demand-driven pressure on prices might evolve into a full-blown supply-driven crisis.

A sudden restriction of supplies led to the oil shocks of the 1970's, and the lack of spare production capacity, particularly of the types of crude oil easy to refine into gasoline, has made the markets vulnerable to whispers of any potential disruption.
A lack of spare production capacity means that the world is producing just about as much oil as it can. There's a term for a supply-driven crisis caused by reaching maximum production--peak oil.

It is certainly possible that these higher prices will cause demand to drop off, temporarily causing prices to go back down somewhat. This may make it possible for the current level of production to continue for a year or two. But it seems quite unlikely that a higher level of production will ever be possible. Oil discoveries worldwide peaked over 40 years ago, and we're currently using somewhere around four times as much oil as is being discovered annually.

It's really a shame that the US currently has corrupt, criminal and incompetent leadership, whose response to this crisis will most certainly be more wars for oil and a push to use other environmentally-destructive energy sources like nuclear and coal to keep our insane growth economy running until we literally choke on it.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Bush, al-Qaeda leader agree on methods

From AP:
Al-Qaida's No. 2 leader released a new video, broadcast on Al-Jazeera television Friday, in which he disparaged the U.S. concept of reform in the Middle East and said armed jihad is the only way to bring change in the Arab world.
(emphasis added)

Gee, Mr. al-Zawahri, that's exactly what the U.S. has been doing!

You just can't please some people.

$58.60 -- New record

Crude oil touched a new record of $58.60 today, up 9.2% on the week.

Those who were right will be punished

Billmon points out that Bangalore Tom Friedman ("Mr. Globalony") is helping Ann Coulter and other neonuts in preparing the way towards blaming the anti-war left for ongoing American defeat in Iraq ("the sinking of the U.S.S. Mission Accomplished"):
Having led America to a thoroughly humiliating defeat in Iraq, the neocons and their Texas protégés will soon have an urgent need for scapegoats of their own. So will the journalistic and foreign policy elites who rushed to join Shrub’s march of folly like the children of Hamlin following the pied piper. So will the Israel lobby. So will the pro-war Democrats.

The best scapegoat, of course, is one that is both blameless and weak. Blameless, because it relieves the truly guilty parties of the need to decide who among them must take the fall. Weak, because the guilty themselves have been weakened by defeat, and even a modest defense might enable a truly blameless set of scapegoats to convince the country of their innocence.

The antiwar left would seem to fit the bill quite nicely. It has little money, no power, few friends among the pundit class, and has largely been shunned by the leaders of the supposed opposition party – with the exception of Dr. Dean, and even he knows enough to keep his distance. Unlike the antiwar libertarians, the antiwar left is not useful to the administration on other issues, like Social Security privatization. And, since the antiwar movement has been effectively blacked out in the media and is rarely visible in the streets, it certainly can’t be rationally blamed for failure in Iraq – which means it almost certainly will be blamed, and not just by Tom Friedman.

Hypocritical Oaf

Dr. Frist, your pants are on fire.

From Billmon:
LAUER: But when you stood on the floor and you said, She does respond, are you at all worried that you led some senators . . .

FRIST: I never said, She responded. I said I reviewed the court videotapes – the same ones the other doctors reviewed – and I questioned, Is her diagnosis correct?

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist
Today Show interview
June 16, 2005
"I have looked at the video footage. Based on the footage provided to me, which was part of the facts of the case, she does respond."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist
Senate Floor Remarks
March 17, 2005


Let the oil sooooar!

Just a reminder...

It wasn't just the Repugs who lied us into war:
In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock ... his missile-delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al-Qaeda members. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons.
-- Hillary Clinton

I will be voting to give the president of the United States the authority to use force - if necessary - to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security.
-- John Kerry (both quotes from this article by Joshua Frank)

And if you're wondering why Kerry didn't jump on the Downing Street Memo like he promised his constituents he would do, maybe he went back and read what he'd said when he voted to authorize the criminal war in Iraq:
President Bush could well have taken his office, backed by our sense of urgency about holding Saddam Hussein accountable and, with an international United Nations, backed a multilateral stamp of approval record on a clear demand for the disarmament of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. We could have had that and we would not be here debating this today. But the administration missed an opportunity 2 years ago and particularly a year ago after September 11. They regrettably, and even clumsily, complicated their own case. The events of September 11 created new understanding of the terrorist threat and the degree to which every nation is vulnerable. That understanding enabled the administration to form a broad and impressive coalition against terrorism. Had the administration tried then to capitalize on this unity of spirit to build a coalition to disarm Iraq, we would not be here in the pressing days before an election, late in this year, debating this now.
That is, Kerry can't really complain about Bush having a pre-determined agenda to rush us into war when he had earlier complained that Bush was clumsily slow in getting us into war.

We not only need to get rid of the Bushies--we need to get rid of their scumbag Democratic enablers. Democrats, liberals, progressives--any members of the reality-based community--should support the removal from public office of anyone who supported the criminal invasion of Iraq or currently supports the criminal occupation. We question how Bush could give the Medal of Freedom to someone who lied us into war like George Tenet, all while trying to promote John Friggin' Kerry to the White House. Bush lied; Kerry lied. Thousands died.

Compare and contrast

Condi Rice, on Egyptian elections, June 2005: “Democracy isn’t a single-day event.”

George Bush, on American elections, January 2005: “We had an accountability moment, and that’s called the 2004 elections.”
-- From WIIIAI


Crude oil, that is. Black gold. Texas tea.

The all-time high of $58.28 is threatened.

Solar shingles installed!

I took yesterday off (from working AND blogging) to help and watch as three guys stripped my old roof and installed a new one, including the 84 Unisolar photovoltaic shingles I had had sitting in my garage for two months. I've documented the whole process on my solar project blog.

There's still some wiring left to be done, but hopefully within a couple of weeks I will have a house that makes its own electricity. Better than Cheney's energy plan, I think.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Ahnuld booed at graduation

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's return to his alma mater turned into an exercise in perseverance when virtually his every word was accompanied by catcalls, howls and piercing whistles from the crowd.

Schwarzenegger's face appeared to redden during his 15-minute commencement address Tuesday to 600 graduates at Santa Monica College, but he ignored the shouting as he recalled his days as a student and, later, his work as a bodybuilder and actor.

Microbiologists continue to die mysterious deaths

Michelle found another one to add to her lengthy list.
Last week the body of Dr Leonid Strachunsky, described as "World Health Organization expert and head of the anti-microbe Therapy Research Institute," was found in his Moscow hotel room. He had arrived from Smolensk, en route to the United States, and died of blunt-force trauma to the head. (Some stories identify the murder weapon as a champagne bottle.) His laptop and mobile phone were missing.

According to MosNews, "some sources link Wednesday’s murder of...Strachunsky, who specialized in creating microbes resistant to biological weapons, to [a] hepatitis outbreak" which, according to the latest report, has afflicted more than 500 people in Russia's Tver region. However, a Moscow police source tells Interfax that the murder was "probably domestic violence."

Lying Headlines

Current headline on the NY Times web site: OPEC Increases Oil Output by 500,000 Barrels a Day

The Times immediately points out that its own headline is a lie in the first two paragraphs of the article:
OPEC said today that it had agreed to lift its oil production quotas by 500,000 barrels a day in a move reflecting the organization's unease with soaring worldwide energy demand.

The increase, which officially puts the output quotas of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries at 28 million barrels a day, was considered mostly symbolic since its 11 member nations are already producing about that amount of oil each day in a rush to cash in on high prices.
I saw an article a day or two ago which said that OPEC is currently producing about 30 million barrels a day, probably just about the maximum that they are capable of producing. Raising the quotas from 27.5 million to 28 million therefore basically means nothing. The spot markets know this--Nymex crude is up $1.13 a barrel today to $56.13.

Don't believe headlines!

[Update, 5 pm: I see that the NY Times has now corrected the headline: "OPEC Increases Oil Output Quotas by 500,000 Barrels a Day"]

The Bushies' solution to imported oil

Imported natural gas, of course. The NY Times looks at plans to build more liquified natural gas ports around the country.
International energy companies, the Bush administration and governments in gas-rich countries are aggressively championing the creation of a global market for natural gas, with the United States at its center as the largest importer. They are promoting the fuel as more plentiful and less polluting than oil and needed to sustain economic growth.
Ah, economic growth. The cancer that will end up killing us all.

One planet, with a very limited supply of fossil fuels, and perhaps an even more limited ability to absorb the burning of them. Economic growth cannot and will not continue forever. The question is will people be smart enough to stop it before the planet is destroyed? Probably not.

Robert Greenwald is making a movie about the evil amongst us known as Wal-Mart.
WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price takes the viewer on a deeply personal journey into the everyday lives of families struggling to fight goliath. From a small business owner in the Midwest to a preacher in California, from workers in Florida to a poet in Mexico, dozens of film crews on three continents bring the intensely personal stories of an assault on families and American values.

Finishing off the hit man

In my review of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man yesterday, I forgot to mention one of the main reasons I didn't like the book: Perkins failed to do even the most cursory fact-checking, getting basic time sequences wrong. He describes a January 2003 newspaper article about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, followed by a paragraph describing the failed coup attempt against Chavez--clearly implying that the coup occurred after the article, when in fact it was eight months before. Similarly, he describes the tide of US support for Panamanian President Manuel Noriega turning with the publishing of a news article in 1986. He then says that President Bush (41) was trying to overcome the "wimp factor" at about the same time, ignoring the fact that Bush 41 didn't become president until 1989, and didn't brutally invade Panama until December of that year.

These were cases where I was familiar with the actual timelines and knew for sure that Perkins was wrong. This of course makes me doubt the other "facts" in the book, although fortunately there were very few facts in the book to doubt (unless you really care about the exact details of his numerous moments of angst about his crimes, spread over three decades, all while continuing to commit those crimes).

Some books are simply bad--boring and/or poorly written. Others are infuriatingly bad, pissing me off in multiple ways that stick with me for days. This book falls in that category. I read the book hoping to learn more about globalization and how it destroys countries, and maybe find some juicy quotes for the blog. Instead, all I learned is that John Perkins is a self-centered whiner, and a bad writer to boot. What a waste of time.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Military action won't end insurgency

According to many U.S. officers, that is.
A growing number of senior American military officers in Iraq have concluded that there is no long-term military solution to an insurgency that has killed thousands of Iraqis and more than 1,300 U.S. troops during the past two years.

Instead, officers say, the only way to end the guerilla war is through Iraqi politics - an arena that so far has been crippled by divisions between Shiite Muslims, whose coalition dominated the January elections, and Sunni Muslims, who are a minority in Iraq but form the base of support for the insurgency.

"I think the more accurate way to approach this right now is to concede that ... this insurgency is not going to be settled, the terrorists and the terrorism in Iraq is not going to be settled, through military options or military operations," Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said last week, in a comment that echoes what other senior officers say. "It's going to be settled in the political process."
Lt. Col. Frederick P. Wellman, who works with the task force overseeing the training of Iraqi security troops, said the insurgency doesn't seem to be running out of new recruits, a dynamic fueled by tribal members seeking revenge for relatives killed in fighting.

"We can't kill them all," Wellman said. "When I kill one I create three."
Billmon has more on this.

WTC collapse official story is "bogus"

That's according to Morgan Reynolds, economist for the Department of Labor during aWol's first term:
A former Bush team member during his first administration is now voicing serious doubts about the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9-11. Former chief economist for the Department of Labor during President George W. Bush's first term Morgan Reynolds comments that the official story about the collapse of the WTC is "bogus" and that it is more likely that a controlled demolition destroyed the Twin Towers and adjacent Building No. 7. Reynolds, who also served as director of the Criminal Justice Center at the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas and is now professor emeritus at Texas A&M University said, "If demolition destroyed three steel skyscrapers at the World Trade Center on 9/11, then the case for an 'inside job' and a government attack on America would be compelling." Reynolds commented from his Texas A&M office, "It is hard to exaggerate the importance of a scientific debate over the cause of the collapse of the twin towers and building 7. If the official wisdom on the collapses is wrong, as I believe it is, then policy based on such erroneous engineering analysis is not likely to be correct either. The government's collapse theory is highly vulnerable on its own terms. Only professional demolition appears to account for the full range of facts associated with the collapse of the three buildings."
Like I said earlier today, all 9/11 conspiracy theories are improbable, but the official story is the most improbable of all. Hopefully, if former Bushies from Texas are saying that, and the Moonie Times is reporting it, maybe we're finally getting somewhere. Or maybe Rev. Moon has something even more evil in store for us!

Thanks to Michael for the link.

In the stunning documentary 9/11, one of the firefighters who saw one of the towers collapse said it looked just like a demolition.

Of all the discrepancies about what really happened on 9/11, I'd say that the suspicious nature of the collapse of the WTC buildings is the second most convincing. That the headquarters building of the world's largest-ever military could be attacked without even a pretense of defense over half an hour after it was clear to everyone that some sort of attack was happening is the most convincing. No way in the world would the Pentagon have been left undefended without inside help.

Stupid front-page headline of the day

Jackson cleared, music tainted

From the Detroit Free Press.

Tell us what you really think, Paul!

Former Reagan administration official Paul Craig Roberts compares the Bushies to the Nazis so we don't have to:
By continuing to defend Bush's lies, right-wing talk radio, Fox "News", the Weekly Standard, National Review, the Wall St Journal editorial page, the NY Post, the NY Sun and the rest of the neocon establishment are Bush's willing executioners. The neocon media differs not at all from the Nazi propaganda machine. The neocon media fosters the same hatred and blood lust: kill the Iraqis, invade Syria, bomb the Iranians, devise "useable nukes" to subdue the Muslims, kill the American traitors who criticize our fuhrer, bend the world to our exceptional will.

How much more shame and complicity will Americans allow Bush and his neocon brownshirts to shovel onto their shoulders before Americans say "enough!" and remove from office the war criminal who has sullied America's good name?

WMD plant finally opens for inspection

OAK RIDGE, Tennessee (AP) -- The government is offering a rare glimpse of the massive machines used to enrich uranium for the "Little Boy" bomb -- the first atomic weapon used in war, dropped 60 years ago in August on Hiroshima, Japan.

Inside the high-security Y-12 nuclear weapons plant remain the last of 1,152 calutrons that once filled nine buildings. The machinery was part of the top-secret bomb-building Manhattan Project, which turned this rural countryside about 30 miles west of Knoxville into a "secret city" of 75,000 people between 1942 and 1945.


My apologies for posting nothing about the amazing happenings in Bolivia. I don't think I can add much to what other bloggers and "authentic journalists" have written, so I'll just point you to a few:

All 9/11 conspiracy theories are implausible...

ESPECIALLY the official one. Xymphora links to a CNN transcript from September 14, 2001. Kelli Arena reads from a list she just received from a Justice Department source of the 18 (not 19) suspected 9/11 hijackers. Included among the five on American Airlines flight 77, which is alleged to have hit the Pentagon, was Mosear Caned (phonetic spelling). Missing from that list is Hani Hanjour, who according to the official story was the hijacking pilot on flight 77. None of the five on Arena's list had apparently had any pilot training whatsoever. Xymphora suggests that Caned's name was removed and Hanjour's inserted because Hanjour had been to flight school. Unfortunately for the official story, Hanjour was an incompetent pilot by all reports, and the manuevers made by flight 77 or whatever hit the Pentagon suggested a highly-skilled, experienced pilot.

Xymphora concludes:
Nothing linked any of the names to terrorism except for the fact they were Arab-sounding names on the manifest. The addition of "Mosear Caned"/Hani Hanjour shows us how crudely this was done. They needed a pilot on Flight 77, so they just picked another Arab-sounding name off the list, and then likely substituted the name of semi-plausible pilot Hani Hanjour when someone pointed out that "Mosear Caned" was a dangerous name to have on the list. The FBI simply backtracked from the names to determine the identities. Since most, if not all, of the September 11 hijacker identities were stolen, we remain in the dark as to who really was behind September 11. Given the fact that the United States has completely shredded its Constitution and fought two disastrous wars on the basis of a theory of who was behind September 11, this is rather amazing.
Actually, I would replace the phrase "on the basis of a theory of who was behind September 11" with "using September 11 as an excuse." The wars were already planned, awaiting only a New Pearl Harbor. The links to Afghanistan were flimsy (there was a guy there who certainly would have liked to pull off something like 9/11), while the links to Iraq existed only in William Safire's fevered mind. But we don't know who the hijackers actually were or who actually supported them. As Xymphora points out (and I have before), FBI director admitted as much in April of 2002:
The hijackers also left no paper trail. In our investigation, we have not uncovered a single piece of paper – in the U.S. or in Afghanistan – that mentioned any aspect of the September 11th plot.

From John Cole.

From Matt Wuerker.

From Bill Schorr.

From David Horsey.

From Clay Bennett.

Contortions of an Economic Hit Man

I just finished reading Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins. I read the first 120 or so pages because I had gotten several recommendations through e-mail or on other blogs. I read the last 100 pages only because I wanted to write a scathing review, and didn't want to do it on incomplete information. Now that I've finished it, I can write the scathing review without qualms.

Shorter scathing review: This book sucks. The only useful information comes in the first couple of chapters, where he describes the globalist agenda and his role in it. I can summarize it much more concisely than he did. Here goes:

Private consulting firms go into third-world countries like Indonesia and make outlandish growth estimates. They develop huge plans for "development," which mainly means building dams, power plants, roads, airports, and other infrastructure. They work with corrupt political leaders (or make them corrupt or replace them with someone who is), who agree to take on huge loans from the World Bank or IMF to build these projects. The money actually goes to large American corporations (Bechtel, GE, Enron, Halliburton, etc.), providing little real economic development in the target country. Instead, the main impact on the country is to be saddled with huge debt that it will be unable to pay, allowing the IMF to impose "structural adjustment" measures which make it even easier for corporations to exploit the labor and resources of the country. The corrupt leaders get fabulously rich, while the vast majority of the population gets even poorer. This outcome was intended from the start, and it was the job of "economic hit men" like Perkins to get the ball rolling.

That's really it. The rest of the book could easily be titled "I've been a scumbag all my life, but at least I've known it." It's really all about John Perkins. The chapter titles give it away:

1. An Economic Hit Man Is Born
2. "In for Life"
5. Selling My Soul
6. My Role as Inquisitor
9. Opportunity of a Lifetime
25. I Quit
29. I Take a Bribe

and my favorite,
32. September 11 and its Aftermath for Me, Personally
(he was in Ecuador at the time)

He gets these personal insights (which greatly traumatize him but don't cause him to alter his behavior for decades) while yachting in the Virgin Islands with beautiful women or while sharing a drink with novelist Graham Greene in a seedy Panamanian bar. Things which could be interesting, but aren't the way he tells them.

Perkins concludes the book with a bunch of suggestions that I certainly support--drive less, shop less, pay more attention to world and local affairs, get involved, etc. Unfortunately, he has failed completely to make any connection between his economic hit man activities and why we should take these suggestions.

It is unfortunate, because Perkins seems to have been involved in enough projects in enough countries to have written a much better book. He could have focused on those countries--Indonesia, Ecuador, Panama, Iran--where he was personally involved. Instead of dealing almost exclusively with himself, he could have discussed what the impacts of all of the global imperial efforts over the years have been. His personal stories could certainly have been used to reinforce his points, but they shouldn't have been his points. Perkins writes many times throughout the book about how he's been planning to write a book exposing the imperial corporatocracy for 25 years. By the time I got to the end of this book, all I could ask him would be, "Why don't you?"

It has been a few years since I read it, but I think that David Korten's When Corporations Rule the World does a much better job of accomplishing what Perkins claims to be doing. For a very effective one-country look at the negative impacts of the global corporate agenda, I recommend the film Life and Debt. The scene where Jamaican dairy farmers are dumping their milk, because they can't afford to sell it at a price matching that of subsidized powdered milk imported from the U.S., is a much more powerful image than anything Perkins came up with in 225 pages.

I see in the Amazon reviews that right-wingers are attacking Perkins' conclusions (which are correct IMHO) because he utterly fails to support them (which is also correct). It often seems that making a bad case is worse than making no case at all.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Getting drugs into schools

Evelyn Pringle writes about how Big Pharma has convinced (conned, bribed) many states into widespread screening of public-school students for "mental illnesses," resulting in--surprise!--many of Big Pharma's products being prescribed to these children.
On Oct 21, 2004 Bush authorized $82 million for suicide prevention programs like TeenScreen and a report in Psychiatric Times said the administration had proposed an increase in the budget for the Center for Mental Health Service from $862 million in 2004 to $912 million in fiscal 2005. TeenScreen is sure to get a cut of those tax dollars.

Federal tax dollars are also being funneled through state governments to fund TeenScreen. On Nov 17, 2004, Officials at the University of South Florida Department of Child & Family Studies said $98,641 was awarded to expand the TeenScreen program in the Tampa Bay area.

In Ohio, under the governor's Executive Budget for 2006 and 2007, the Department of Mental Health has specifically earmarked $70,000 for TeenScreen for each of those years, reports investigator Sue Weibert.
On June, 2002 the Update Newsletter published by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health, reported that 170 Nashville students had completed a TeenScreen survey. The Newsletter said the survey was funded by grants from AdvoCare and Eli Lilly. Last I knew, Eli Lilly was a pharmaceutical company.

The great news for Pharma was that 96 of the 170 students who took the survey ended up speaking to a therapist which no doubt resulted in the recruitment of 96 new pill-popping teens.
In Texas, Pfizer awarded $232,000 in grants to the Texas department of mental health to "educate" mental health providers about TMAP, and in return, the Texas Medicaid program spent $233 million tax dollars on Pfizer drugs like Zoloft.

Johnson & Johnson (Janssen Pharmaceutica) gave grants of $224,000 to Texas and Medicaid spent $272 million on J & J antipsychotic drug, Risperdal.

Eli Lilly awarded $109,000 in grants to "educate" state mental health providers and as a result, Texas Medicaid spent $328 million for Lilly's antipsychotic drug Zyprexa.

The TMAP was approved in Texas in 1995, and by February 9, 2001, an article in the Dallas Morning News, titled State Spending More on Mental Illness Drugs reported: "Texas now spends more money on medication to treat mental illness for low-income residents than on any other type of prescription drug.

They're at it again

I don't know what army they're planning on wasting this time, but the neo-nuts are working hard behind the scenes to drum up a war with Iran. Instead of Chalabi and "Curveball," it seems to be Manucher Ghorbanifar of Iran-Contra shame generating the lies this time. They are being fed into the US lack-of-intelligence community by neoconman extraordinaire Michael Ledeen. Here's a sampling of Ledeen's fevered mind from October, 2001:
Now, in this war, I just have two basic points. The first is what Jim Woolsey and Newt said earlier which is we can't be bound by legalisms. Churchill said in WWII that it was preposterous to expect the allies in WWII to observe every jot and tiddle of the law, every legal and moral principle, when we were fighting against enemies who would destroy all law and morality if they triumphed.
Because, if you lose, there will be no discussion of these things, whatsoever. The first thing is to win.

Second thing is--and this concerns me a lot--no stages. This is a total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there. And all this talk about, well, first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq, then we will take a look around and see how thing stand, that is entirely the wrong way to go about it. Because these guys all talk to each other and are all working with one another.
If we just let our own vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don't try to be clever and piece together clever diplomatic solutions to this thing, but just wage a total war against these tyrants, I think we will do very well and our children will sing great songs about us years from now.
So basically, this imperial nutcase and his criminal Iranian exile buddy Ghorbanifar are doing whatever they can to get the US sucked into an even messier quagmire, and don't intend to let little things like the law get in their way.

Cannonfire, Xymphora, Laura Rozen, and I'm sure others by now have much more on these criminal efforts.

Cannonfire notes that Italy's military intelligence agency has been involved in the Ledeen Ghorbanifar discussions, and suggests the following chilling scenario:
When the United States suffers the next terror attack...the public will feel desperate to learn the identity of the perpetrators. I predict that Italian intelligence will provide the "smoking gun" evidence which will allow the Bush administration to blame, and attack, Iran. Whether the evidence takes the form of intercepted communications or a document does not matter; the "proof" will surely be as phony as those "yellowcake" papers. Alas, an enraged public will not demand verification.

Short tight Islamic gear

Iran is holding elections this Friday, but of course they won't count as democracy because they're not being run by the US military.

WIIIAI found this picture

to go with this article:
Leading the election field so far, according to local polls, is Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, 70, the former President and de facto number two in the complex Iranian power structure.Though critics accuse him of corruption and point to the murder of numerous dissidents during his tenure, Mr Rafsanjani has reinvented himself, attracting the high-society set of north Tehran with beautiful girls on rollerblades handing out posters wearing short tight Islamic gear, and securing the working-class vote with the promise of economic growth. Though he has, in the past, called President Bush a “bird-brained dinosaur”, Mr Rafsanjani also hints of a rapprochement with America.
Hopefully, Mr. Rafsanjani, calling Bush a "bird-brained dinosaur" will eventually be the key to rapproachment. More people here finally seem to be catching on.

Sleazy does it

Reading Billmon's latest post, you get the definite impression that the Repugs only wanted to win (or steal) the elections so they could start wars, and they only wanted to start wars so they could hand out gigantic contracts to their friends, and they only handed out gigantic contracts to their friends so they'd be able to win (or steal) the next election.

From Ted Rall.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Sign, sign, everybody sign

You too can sign on to Rep. John Conyers' letter to pResident Bu**sh** demanding answers to questions about the Downing Street Memo.

BTW, the DSM now has a sequel:
MINISTERS were warned in July 2002 that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal.

The warning, in a leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper, said Tony Blair had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W Bush three months earlier.

The briefing paper, for participants at a meeting of Blair’s inner circle on July 23, 2002, said that since regime change was illegal it was “necessary to create the conditions” which would make it legal.

This was required because, even if ministers decided Britain should not take part in an invasion, the American military would be using British bases. This would automatically make Britain complicit in any illegal US action.
I'm not sure why this stuff might work when the facts have been clear for three years, but I hope it does. The case for impeachment was absolutely clear on March 20, 2003. Bush, Cheney, Powell and other criminals in the administration had stated for months, frequently unequivocally, that Iraq had WMD's. They twisted arms in the spineless congress and at the UN to get a resolution demanding that inspectors go back into Iraq. The inspectors spent the next four months proving that everything the criminals said was wrong. Despite this, the criminals went ahead and started a war--unprovoked, unnecessary, in violation of the UN charter and therefore in violation of the US constitution as well (treaties are the "highest law of the land"). Whether they had been planning the war for years, as the memos and statements by Paul O'Neill and others would indicate, or for two minutes, as the handling of the occupation would suggest, is irrelevant to the main issue--they started an unprovoked war of aggression. That's exactly what German and Japanese generals were hanged for after World War II.

Case closed. All these memos prove is that the Bushies were lying when they said that war was the last resort, a step to be taken after every other option had been exhausted. Only the most diehard Bushies with their heads miles up their Cheneys ever believed that.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Google searching here?

From the Business Review:
Google Inc. is quietly searching for about 250,000 square feet of office space in Ann Arbor for two separate projects that could bring more than 1,000 jobs into Washtenaw County if the $1 billion search engine giant signs leases for both.

One search reportedly focuses on up to 200,000 square feet for a "Googleplex," described as a technology/call center that could land either in Ann Arbor or a handful of other cities.

The second seeks about 40,000 square feet for work related to the company's work at the University of Michigan as Google digitizes the entire library collection. Google [NASDAQ: GOOG] representatives would not comment, saying that company policy prohibits public discussion of operations.

Solar Project Progress!

My solar energy project is nearing completion. Hopefully, in two weeks I will have a house that makes its own electricity!

Another hurricane season begins

And Florida still hasn't recovered from last year:
For thousands of Floridians, though, the 2004 hurricanes still linger. In Pensacola, so many homes were destroyed or damaged that Rebuild Northwest Florida, a non-profit public-private partnership helping those in need, is considering buying a home manufacturing plant. "We believe we will be in the recovery process for another four years," Fogg says.

Across the state, about 9,800 people are still living in temporary trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, says spokeswoman Nicol Andrews.

In Punta Gorda, devastated by Hurricane Charley, city employees recently got stress management training to prepare for the new storm season, city manager Howard Kunik says. Neither of the town's two major hotels have reopened yet and children at three of the four schools are still attending classes in trailers. "There's a lot of rebuilding to be done," Kunik says.

That's also true in Lake Wales in part of central Florida struck by Charley, Frances and Jeanne. Insurance agent Joe Webb finally got his office up and running three weeks ago. At home, he got a new roof in January, but contractors just started doing interior work last week.

"The contractors are all exhausted," he says. "We're all exhausted."
McMansions being built all over the friggin' place, and there aren't enough builders to repair hurricane-damaged buildings? Maybe if Florida hadn't chased all of the out-of-state "gougers" out last year the repairs could have been finished by now. Florida even has a law against selling things for more than the "normal" price during a state of emergency, and unlike laws against vote fraud and harboring terrorists, Florida enforces this law.

I'm the only pro-gouging blogger I know of. Here are my two posts from last year which explain why.

So how's that Halliburton stock doing, Dick?

Mission accomplished.

Righting the right

Driftglass says that the very wrong right is so invested, heart and soul, in their belief in Dear Leader that it will be very difficult to get them to see the light, and very ugly when they finally do:
Most of these people are not Nazis, but they are the perfect raw material for our own, homegrown American Rightwing Demagogues; obedient, stupid, bigoted and easily frightened.

And because everything – their very souls – rest on the foundation of the infallibility of Dear Leader, they’ll happily kill anyone in any numbers who might force them to face up to the fact that Dear Leader is a duplicitous, lying sleazebag who has played on their fear and ignorance and patriotism to turn them out like $2 crack whores.
Built in to the Right Wing DNA is the same congenital defect, and since they will happily burn the world to the ground before they admit they might actually have been wrong about Bush, it falls to us to keep them backed into a corner as best we can, because once events out here in Realityland begin to pound through the perimeter denial defenses, what comes after ain’t gonna be pretty.

Pot tries kettle

From Ted Rall.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Baby Bombers

I don't know if this is how aWol said it, or how it looked after Fox News "edited for clarity." From the transcript of Bush's interview with Neil Cavuto:
Bush: Social Security has been used as a political club for years. My attitude is this: Once the people realize there is a problem — and there is a huge problem. And the problem exists because Baby Bombers like me are getting ready to retire...
(Emphasis added)

Michelle and WIIIAI were both, uh, impressed by this Bush quote from the same interview:
You know, I’ve always tried to lower expectations, and I feel like if people say, well, you know, maybe, you know, I don’t think you handle the tough job, and when you do, it impresses people even more.
Well, Mr. President, I don't think I could possibly have lower expectations of you than I do. Mission accomplished, Mr. Baby Bomber. (Note that this quote is in the transcript which Fox claims to have "edited for clarity.")

Oh, oh!! And then there's this one!
CAVUTO: On a more serious note, Mr. President, this morning we got word of an Al Qaeda-linked cell potentially broken up in California. One of the participants in that cell supposedly was taking target practice off a picture of you. What did you think when you heard it?

BUSH: I think that our FBI and Homeland Security people are working hand-in-glove to protect America on a daily basis. I was briefed on some of the particulars about the matter you just described. I can assure the America people that we're following every lead, that we're doing everything we can to keep us protected.

The best way to protect America is to keep on the offense and bust up these terrorist networks overseas by doing two things: one, committing our troops and intelligence services to the task, and also spreading freedom.
Does he know where California is?

Kunstler again

There were parts of James Howard Kunstler's book The Long Emergency that made me question whether he actually knows what he's talking about. But as far as turning out a couple of great doom-and-gloom paragraphs about where we're headed, I'm not sure anyone can match him (although you know I've tried!):
The Times's star columnist Thomas Friedman is making hay this season with his new book, The World is Flat, about the global economy. His book asserts that current trends will continue indefinitely -- China will continue to manufacture ever more of America's household products, Americans will continue to enjoy cash-out home equity loans to buy plastic patio chairs made in China, WalMart will keep running its warehouse-on-wheels at a thumping great profit, and all impediments to global trade will be vanquished by telemarketing, computer technology, and confident corporate can-do spirits. I am tempted to ask how Friedman manages to type on a laptop with his head so far up his ass, but this blog is dedicated, above all, to a high-minded brand of politeness so we'll just say that he is not paying attention to a gathering global energy s***storm that is going to change absolutely everything -- including global economic relations which pundits foolishly maintain to be permanent conditions of life.

Here in the States, the price of a barrel of oil is back over $55 and we are only one week into the summer vacation driving season. President Bush is running a scam on the public by pretending to push Congress to act on an energy bill that offers nothing to realistically address the nation's oil addiction and, especially, its car dependency. He doesn't dare, I suppose, because he must know that the American economy is about little more than car dependency. But just watch: as the price for a barrel of oil heads north past $60, Bush's abject leadership failure will become self-evident and the public mood will appear to shift overnight. The oval office will become a very lonely place indeed by this coming fall, and its occupant will have three long and terrible years left to suffer there.
Gee, I hope he's right about that!!

Unfortunately, more people are currently buying Friedman's BS than they are Kunstler's warnings. Literally--Friedman's The World is Flat is currently ranked 6th on the Amazon bestseller list, while The Long Emergency is number 233.

Bush Quagmire I: Afghanization right on course

From the Telegraph:
Since the 205th Afghan National Army corps became the first unit of the new national army to be deployed outside Kabul, joining US forces fighting the Taliban in the south of the country, half of its strength has deserted.
Morale has also been hit by rows over money. Afghanistan has no banking system so soldiers' families must wait for them to return from duty with their wages, which start at £40 a month.

It is a decent wage in Afghanistan but for many soldiers the delay is putting their families at risk of starvation. "Everybody wants to run away," said one sergeant. "We cannot tolerate this."

From Kevin Kallaugher.

From Dan Wasserman.

I didn't realize it when I first heard about the medical marijuana decision, but the three judges who dissented in the 6-3 vote were William Rehnquist, Sandra Day O'Connor, and Clarence Thomas. Go figure.

The most impressive slimeball

Colin Powell is still shilling for the Bushies. When Dick Cheney talks about the reasons for going to war, he sounds like a Bond villain. When Scott McClellan talks about them, he sounds like a fifth-grader trying to lie his way out of punishment. When Bush talks, he sounds like a smug idiot who hasn't a clue what he's talking about. (Gee, I wonder why?) But Powell sounds reasonable, intelligent and even pleasant when he tells the most evil lies, like he told to Jon Stewart last night.

[Update] BTW, Crooks and Liars has the video of the interview for those of you lucky enough to have missed it.

Flattening the world, one idiot at a time

Matt Taibi on NY Times columnist (and author of "The World is Flat") Thomas Friedman:
Friedman is an important American. He is the perfect symbol of our culture of emboldened stupidity. Like George Bush, he's in the reality-making business. In the new flat world, argument is no longer a two-way street for people like the president and the country's most important columnist. You no longer have to worry about actually convincing anyone; the process ends when you make the case.
Taibi read Friedman's book so you don't have to, and after reading Taibi's review, you certainly won't want to.

This cartoon brought to you by the ad it mocks

Monday, I noticed the interesting juxtaposition of a Boondocks cartoon with a banner ad. Today, it got even better:

500 children die each hour in Africa due to poverty

Under the Same Sun asks: What Did You Do During The Great African Holocaust?
Bush made a sham announcement, announcing money that was already announced, without agreeing to anything else substantive -- in spite of growing demand everywhere in the world to stop this cruel march of death, now. On every major issue on the table, U.S. blocking progress. This is beyond shameful.

This is the greatest crime of our generation.


Photos from Fallujah:

Can you say "War crime?"


To the University of Michigan softball team, who won the national championship game against defending champ UCLA on a 10th-inning three-run home run by freshman Samantha Findlay. I watched the game on ESPN from about the fifth inning, when Michigan trailed 1-0. They tied the game in the sixth, when they would have had more runs if not for a spectacular unassisted double play turned by the UCLA third baseman. (Women's sports seems to have universally kept the masculine terms--soccer players yell "man on!" when their teammate is being approached by an opponent, and basketball teams play "man-to-man" defense.) And UCLA had a leadoff double to start the bottom on the ninth inning and eventually loaded the bases, but Michigan pitcher Jennie Ritter got out of the jam, making Findlay's tenth-inning heroics possible.

My general impression of women's big-time softball in the past has been of pticher-dominated games won 1-0 in the bottom of the twelfth on a walk, an error, and two bunts. But the UM team hit over 100 home runs this season. I guess I should have gone over and watched a few games in person!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Do as we do and we'll sue

Making the world safe for hypocrisy:

Billmon points out that the U.S. is bringing a trade case to the WTO claiming that the EU is illegally subsidizing Airbus with $1.7 billion in "launch aid," all while the U.S. government provides over 50% of Boeing's revenue, much of it in shady or worse deals like the $30 billion military refueling tanker fiasco.


We're number one!

In mental illness, that is.
One-quarter of all Americans met the criteria for having a mental illness within the past year, and fully a quarter of those had a "serious" disorder that significantly disrupted their ability to function day-to-day, according to the largest and most-detailed survey of the nation's mental health, published yesterday.

Although parallel studies in 27 other countries are not yet complete, the new numbers suggest that the United States is poised to rank No. 1 for mental illness globally, researchers said.
Cosmic Iguana comments:
The study suggests a number of factors, but I'll wager the biggest are two: lack of health insurance and lack of residential treatment. Visit any American city and see the mentally [ill] wandering the streets homeless. The LA county jail is the nation's largest "mental health" facility even though it offers no treatment besides sedation.

I guess it boils down to this: if you are mentally ill and poor, you are homeless or jailed. If [you're] mentally ill and rich, you get to run the country.

Finally catching on...

From a Washington Post-ABC News poll of 1002 adults nationwide, via Juan Cole:
  • Proportion who said the rate of US casualties in Iraq is unacceptable: almost 75%
  • Proportion who said US military is bogged down in Iraq: 66 percent
  • Proportion who say Iraq war was not worth fighting: almost 60 percent
  • Proportion who say Iraq is becoming a new Vietnam: more than 40 percent
  • Proportion who say Iraq war has not made US safer: 52 percent.
  • Proportion who say that Bush is handling his job poorly: 52 percent

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Who committed the crime here?

W. Mark Felt and his COINTELPRO colleagues would be proud. For two years, the FBI dissembled to two Muslim American citizens. One, a doctor, was asked to treat wounded jihadists in Saudi Arabia. The other, a jazz musician, was asked to give training in the martial arts. After two years of badgering, these guys supposedly agreed, and the handcuffs came out. Both face $250,000 fines and 15 years in prison.

Paul Craig Roberts explains:
Note that the two latest victims, Sabir and Tarik, could not have offered their services to jihadists, because no jihadists were present. Note also that Sabir and Tarik are not accused of actually performing an act of service. Sabir and Tarik had no contact with real jihadists, and they committed no act of service to jihadists. Yet, both face $250,000 fines and 15 years in prison.

All that happened was that two productive American citizens were deceived by government agents for no other purpose than those agents having to show "results" in the "war on terror."

How does it make us safer to put a medical doctor and a jazz musician in prison? Why did the FBI spend two years entrapping these two American citizens?

Both men have wives and children. Suppose both men agreed to provide some service to jihadists. (We don't know that they did. We only have the FBI's word for it, a word that is not worth much.) The reason could easily be fear of reprisals.

Suppose you are a Muslim-American and FBI agents misrepresenting themselves as dangerous jihadists demanded services of you? Neither of the accused agreed to participate in a terrorist act: no bombs, no shootings, no hijackings. A doctor agreed to keep his Hippocratic oath if presented with wounded people in Saudi Arabia. A jazz musician agreed to teach martial arts. When was the last time a terrorist attacked with judo or karate?

Economic Genius

On "Arrested Development," one of my favorite TV shows, George Michael Bluth and his cousin Maybe were working in the family banana stand. They needed some money, so Maybe took a dollar out of the cash register. George Michael said "You can't do that! It has to add up!" So Maybe took a banana out of stock and threw it in the trash. "There. Now it adds up." George Michael nodded his head.

You don't have to be much smarter, apparently, to be an "oil analyst." An AP today says that the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve is almost to its capacity of 700 million barrels of oil. The Energy Department has been filling it with roughly 75,000 barrels of oil per day.

Now here's an oil analyst doing his best Maybe impression:
Tim Evans, an oil analyst with IFR Energy Services in New York, argues that the net impact would be a swing of 150,000 barrels a day because demand essentially would fall by 75,000 while the available supply would rise by that amount. "You get double the impact here," he said.
And, of course, AP does its best George Michael Bluth impression:
Even if he's right, that amounts to less than 0.2 percent of the average worldwide demand of about 84 million barrels a day.
Sorry, Tim--you can properly count it as a decline in demand, or by stretching your definitions (actually redefining your point of view), you can see it as an increase in supply. But, unless you work for Enron, you can't do both.

For AP to even quote this moron is absurd; to suggest that he might be right is completely off the charts.

(In case you're experiencing confusion like George Michael did, consider a simpler model: You live in a small town with a corner fruit stand. Ten oranges are delivered to the stand each day, and an old lady down the block always buys two of them. Then she dies. This reduces the demand by two oranges per day, but doesn't directly affect the supply of ten. If it has any effect, it will be indirectly through the interaction of supply and demand, and that will be to reduce the supply.)

Theoretically, I think the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is an excellent idea. It also seems like just about the only area where the Bushies have shown any evidence of planning for the future. Unfortunately, I think they still see themselves in charge during that future, and that 700 million barrels of oil is much more likely to be used for war or some other nefarious purpose than it will be to keep the trains, trucks and ambulances running when the real oil emergency hits. They must have known the fix was in for the 2004 election, because they continued to fill the reserve even as gas prices rose last fall. In October 2000, Al Gore shamefully called for tapping the reserve because of a slight rise in gas prices. That was enough to convince me that his environmentalism wasn't real.

GM cutting 25,000 jobs

From CNN:
General Motors Corp. is cutting 25,000 jobs and closing an unspecified number of plants over the next 3-1/2 years, CEO Rick Wagoner told shareholders Tuesday, as the world's largest automaker struggles to stem huge losses.
The 25,000 jobs represent about 17 percent of GM's U.S. work force, which includes 111,000 unionized employees and another 39,000 salaried staff.

Kunstler on suburbs

I recently finished James Howard Kunstler's book The Long Emergency, and must soon return it to the library. I previous excerpted several paragraphs from the book about globalization; before I return it, I thought I'd share a couple of paragraphs on one of Kunstler's favorite obsessions (and mine), suburbia:
What one also saw in the America of the 1980s and 1990s was commoditization and conversion of public goods into private luxuries, the impoverishment of the civic realm, and, to put it bluntly, the rape of the landscape--a vast entropic enterprise that was the culminating phase of suburbia. The dirty secret of the American economy in the 1990s was that it was no longer about anything except the creation of suburban sprawl and the furnishing, accessorizing, and financing of it. It resembled the efficiency of cancer. Nothing else really mattered except building suburban houses, trading away the mortgages, selling the multiple cars needed by the inhabitants, upgrading the roads into commercial strip highways with all the necessary shopping infrastructure, and moving vast supplies of merchandise made in China for next to nothing to fill up those houses.

The economy of suburban sprawl was a systemic self-organizing response to the availability of inordinately cheap oil with ever-increasing entropy expressed in an ever-increasing variety of manifestations from the destruction of farmland to the decay of the cities, to widespread psychological depression, to the rash of school shooting sprees, to epidemic obesity. Americans didn't question the validity of the suburban sprawl economy. They accepted it at face value as the obvious logical outcome of their hopes and dreams and defended it viciously against criticism. They steadfastly ignored its salient characteristic: that it had no future either as an economy or as a living arrangement. Each further elaboration of the suburban system made it less likely to survive any change in conditions, most particularly any change in the equations of cheap oil.
(pp 222-3)

When I was in graduate architecture school at Illinois, I took an Illinois history class. My term paper was called, I think, "Interstate Highways and the Destruction of Chicago." I looked at census data which showed that the population of Chicago grew rapidly until the 1950s, when the major freeways were built in the city, and had been declining ever since. Even the inner ring of suburbs--Oak Park, Cicero, etc.--had been declining since 1960. Only the distant outer rings--Des Plaines, Schaumberg, Rosemont--were growing rapidly. I learned that the interstate highways destroyed more built-up area in Chicago than had the fire of 1871. There was an interesting photo from the mid 1950s showing the 400-foot wide path that had been cleared for the building of the Eisenhower Expressway. The destruction was more thorough and complete than anything you'll see from a tornado or hurricane. America had a vibrant, if far from perfect, urban environment in 1950, and consciously chose to abandon it in favor of the excessive-energy sprawl wasteland we have now.

There's a two-part documentary called The Sprawling of America which I watched a few years ago. It no longer seems to be available at the library, but it is online! Part one, Inner City Blues, focuses on the forces, including the Interstate Highway System, which aided and abetted sprawl. It features a fascinating and infuriating history of Detroit's "Black Bottom," a thriving African-American community which was obliterated to make way for I-75. Part two, Fat of the Land, studies sprawl in its modern context and shows how several regions are dealing with it. Both parts cover nationwide trends but are more focused on Michigan, since the documentary was made here. Highly recommended!

Felt-tip marker?

From Jeff Parker.

Bolton and Bustani and Kerry and Downing

Under the Same Sun reminds us that the US, and John Bolton in particular, was instrumental in forcing the removal of Brazilian Jose Bustani out as head of The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons back in April 2002. Bustani was trying to get Iraq to join the Chemical Weapons Convention, which would have enabled OPCW inspectors to go in and verify what the Bushies already knew but very much did not want verified--that Sadaam Hussein had few if any chemical weapons. No weapons, no excuse for war. No Bustani, no proof of no weapons.

Under the Same Sun links to a George Monbiot article describing the coup against Bustani. I linked to the same article in my protoblog (scroll down to April 17, near the bottom). Monbiot points out that Bustani was doing an excellent job as head of the OPCW--far too excellent for our government, not only threatening to blow the lid off their Iraq WMD scam, but even suggesting that US chemical weapons sites be inspected.

In 2002, I was pretty new at the blogging game, having fewer favorite sources and knowing a lot less history than I do now. But I knew, even in April 2002, that the "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" by the Bushies. I don't doubt that our Congresscritters, with their years of experience, huge staffs, and access to secret information, could see it as well. That they didn't call "BS" on Bush and stop the nonsense, and instead voted for the mayhem we continue to experience, makes them fully complicit.

Speaking of fully complicit, whatever happened to Kerry's big speech about the Downing Street Memo he said he was going to make yesterday? The only links I find from a Google news search are to articles asking the same question--why did Kerry wimp out?

Wimp is as wimp does, I guess.

Condiliar and the OAS

Latin America appears to be getting close to having a critical mass of non-puppet regimes willing to tell Condiliar and her boss to go Cheney themselves. While the Bushies continue to push the neo-liberal "free trade" agenda which has ravaged Latin America for decades, much of the region is no longer listening.

Michelle has a great post about the troubles Condiliar is having with these southern upstarts at the OAS meeting in Fort Lauderdale.

Stepford wife visits Stepford school

From Al-Hayat of London, via Counterpunch, via WIIIAI:
Egyptian Parliament member Hamdi Hassan demanded an immediate investigation into a report that the Education Department, in preparing for a visit by US First Lady Laura Bush to a school in Alexandria last week, replaced the administration and students of the entire school in order to present a better image to the visiting dignitary.
[Hamdi said] "It seems that the appearance of the school's original administrators and students would not have been appreciated by the US First Lady, as she would have seen poor faces obviously suffering malnutrition. Thus, Egyptian officials wanted her to see, instead, an administrators and children who looked better to prove that they have benefited from the traces of the generous US aid aimed at developing schools and the education system."
Laura was also impressed by the pyramids: "They looked so shiny and new!" Her recent visit to "Afghanistan" was probably just a stopover at some closed air base in Montana.

Bubble Boy and Bubble Girl really DON'T know what's going on in the world. It's just one big Truman Show for them.

CNN Headline: "Paper: Mugabe denies he is dead"

Now, if Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe definitely said he wasn't dead, I'd probably believe him. But CNN got its report from Reuters, which seems to have gotten the story entirely from the "official" Herald newspaper in Harare. They quote Mugabe's spokesman, but again strictly from the paper, not from even having attended a press conference.

It seems to me that, on the issue of the life or death of the leader of an important African nation, that both Reuters and CNN are offering nothing more than I am--reading the news and commenting on it. Nowhere in the article is there the slightest suggestion that either news organization attempted to verify the Herald's story independently.

Monday, June 06, 2005

You heard it here first!

Power went out in several parts of Ann Arbor today, probably due to the heat, while storms knocked out power in several parts of southeast Michigan last night. My power is still on, but my water is out at the moment.

More on Deep Throat

Xymphora lists seven reasons why W. Mark Felt isn't the real "Deep Throat." The most convincing: "It's absurd that the number two guy in the FBI had to meet in underground parking garages with an completely unknown junior reporter for the Washington Post." I mean, wouldn't indicting Nixon have been far more appropriate?

Or, you could just take Felt's word for it:
I don't want to say that I ever claimed to you or anyone that I was Deep Throat. All I know is that he was just a small-time criminal. Well, I was not Deep Throat. There were a lot of other sources involved, but I was not Deep Throat.

The most infuriating reason, given that Felt is being treated as a hero by many, is this:
Kurt Nimmo and Larry Chin point out that Felt was the ringleader of the FBI's COINTELPRO program. Rather than the smiling old man you see on TV, you should regard Felt as easily one of the worst villains in American history. You can't possibly overstate how deeply evil this man is, and how much harm he did to his country.

Secession or Canada?

If you're terminally ill, or think you might be at some time in the future, things just got worse for you here in the USA:High Court Allows Prosecution of Medical Marijuana Users
Federal authorities may prosecute sick people who smoke pot on doctors' orders, the Supreme Court ruled Monday, concluding that state medical marijuana laws don't protect users from a federal ban on the drug.

The decision is a stinging defeat for marijuana advocates who had successfully pushed 10 states to allow the drug's use to treat various illnesses.
Didn't the "high" court inflict enough pain in the 2000 election?

Amcap, Amerigood and Marketspeak

Edward S. Herman compares Orwell's 1984 to today's America, and finds that the "catapulting" of the propaganda under today's Amcap (American capitalism) is both more sophisticated and effective than those of Ingsoc (English socialism, which Orwell modelled largely on Stalin's USSR):
[A] good case can be made that propaganda is a more important means of social control in open societies like the United States than in closed societies like the late Soviet Union. In the former, the protection of inequalities of wealth and power, which frequently exceed those in totalitarian societies, cannot rest on the use of force, and as political scientist Harold Lasswell explained back in 1933, this compels the dominant elite to manage the ignorant multitude "largely through propaganda." Similarly, in his 1922 classic, Public Opinion, Walter Lippmann argued that "the common interests [sometimes called the "national interest"] very largely elude public opinion entirely, and can be managed only by a specialized class whose personal interests reach beyond the locality," "responsible" men who must "manufacture consent" among the thoughtless masses.
The second strand of Amcap thought and ideology is the belief in the "miracle of the market" and the view that the market can do it all. In this system of thought, and in its Newspeak counterpart, Marketspeak, the market is virtually a sacred totem, "reform" means a move toward a freer market irrespective of conditions or effects, and accolades to and proofs of the market's efficiency crowd the intellectual marketplace. This system corresponds closely to Orwell's "goodthink," a body of orthodox thought immune to evidence, and it approximates Orwell's view of the outlook of "the ancient Hebrew who knew, without knowing much else, that all nations other than his worshipped 'false gods'".
If I were to list the two most important priorities for American education, they would be 1) teach children to read; and 2) have them read "1984." Americans desperately need a BS filter, an ability to disassemble the dissembling of their "leaders," and "1984" is one of the best BS filters available.

Interesting juxtaposition

Splat the co-worker??

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Grid Test

I may be really wishing that my solar project was already finished before this week is over. It's 91 degrees outside now, and the forecast is for highs in the mid- to upper-eighties all week long. Once those office, store and school air conditioners get cranking, we could easily face a grid-busting surge in electical demand about 4 in the afternoon, just like August 2003.

I celebrated today's heat by running the 10K version of the Dexter-Ann Arbor Run, which actually works out to be the Delhi-Ann Arbor Run. Even at 9 in the morning, which with Michigan's misplacement in the eastern time zone and daylight savings time is actually only about 7:20, it was already brutally hot. I finished in a time I could be happy about if I could forget how much faster I used to run these things.

Anyway, you might want to make some extra ice (overnight, not at 4 pm!), charge those batteries, and otherwise get ready for a blackout. If it happens, remember you heard it here first! If it doesn't, please disregard and forget I ever said anything.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

From Ted Rall. Sadly, the only thing non-factual about this cartoon is the suggestion that there's a press willing to question ridiculous answers.

You've got to be kidding

Rummy is in Singapore complaining about China's arms buildup:
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, in an unusually blunt public critique of China, said Saturday that Beijing's military spending threatened the delicate security balance in Asia and called for an emphasis instead on political freedom and open markets.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld at an Asian security conference dinner Friday night in Singapore with Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's prime minister from 1965 to 1990, who now serves as "minister mentor."

In a keynote address at an Asian security conference here, Mr. Rumsfeld argued that China's investment in missiles and up-to-date military technology posed a risk not only to Taiwan and to American interests, but also to nations across Asia that view themselves as China's trading partners, not rivals.

He said no "candid discussion of China" could neglect to address these military concerns directly, and criticized China for not admitting the full extent of what he described as its worrisome military expansion.

"Since no nation threatens China, one wonders: why this growing investment?" Mr. Rumsfeld asked.
The mind boggles. The lack of self-awareness on the part of the Bushies is already legendary, but this would seem to be scaling new heights. The man who presides over the most gigantic death machine in history, who keeps demanding more, like space-based weapons and robot soldiers, wonders why another country would want to increase its relatively modest military spending.

China is in close proximity to several potential enemies--nuclear powers Russia, India, Pakistan and North Korea, Japan, Taiwan, American-occupied Afghanistan, and Vietnam and other nations bordering the South China Sea which are all interested in the oil that may be lurking under their disputed borders. And of course China no doubt sees Rummy's death machine, with its carrier battle groups which show up off the coasts of China from time to time, as the biggest threat to them--just like everyone else in the world.

It's hard to imagine that even Rummy is this delusional. More likely, this is just typical bullying behavior, daring China to object so that the belligerence can be ratcheted up a few notches.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Movie List

USC has a list of movies considered prerequisites for their incoming Film/TV grad students. Out of 149 movies, I've seen 26, I think:

African Queen
American Grafitti
Apocalype Now
Battle of Algiers
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Citizen Kane
Dog Day Afternoon
Dr. Strangelove
Godfather, The (I & II)
Gone With the Wind
Graduate, The
Lawrence of Arabia
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Silence of the Lambs
Star Wars
Thelma and Louise
Wizard of Oz, The

Out of 26 listed documentaries, I've seen three: Roger and Me, Supersize Me, and Control Room.

Out of 15 TV shows, I've watched four regularly (religiously, insanely, too much, whatever): MASH, All in the Family, 24, and Arrested Development. Of the others on the TV list, I've only seen one or two episodes of the Sopranos, Sex and the City, Seinfeld, Good Times, and the Wonder Years.

Better off with Saddam in his underwear than in his palaces?

Juan Cole says no:
Bayan Jabr's figures suggest that in US-dominated Iraq, people are dying so far at about the same rate as they did under Baath rule. (If he is underestimating the civilian casualties, then it is possible that many more are dying per year than under Saddam!) In any case, Saddam's killing sprees were largely over with by the late 1990s, so the rate of death in Iraq now is enormously greater than it was in, say, 2001.

Wolfowitz should give up on the propaganda technique of just demonizing his opponents and then asking how anyone could want them in power. The real question is, are Iraqis better off under US auspices? So far, the answer with regard to the death rate is a resounding "No!"
Ever since I put my cynical "July 4" post at the top of the blog, I have yet to see a single day where it didn't apply.

Tom Friedman's temporary sanity is cured

The old flat-earther is back with a vengeance, blaming French workers for defeating the pro-globalist EU constitution:
It is interesting because French voters are trying to preserve a 35-hour work week in a world where Indian engineers are ready to work a 35-hour day. Good luck.

Voters in "old Europe" - France, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy - seem to be saying to their leaders: stop the world, we want to get off; while voters in India have been telling their leaders: stop the world and build us a stepstool, we want to get on. I feel sorry for Western European blue collar workers. A world of benefits they have known for 50 years is coming apart, and their governments don't seem to have a strategy for coping.

One reason French voters turned down the E.U. constitution was rampant fears of "Polish plumbers." Rumors that low-cost immigrant plumbers from Poland were taking over the French plumbing trade became a rallying symbol for anti-E.U. constitution forces. A few weeks ago Franz Müntefering, chairman of Germany's Social Democratic Party, compared private equity firms - which buy up failing businesses, downsize them and then sell them - to a "swarm of locusts."

The fact that a top German politician has resorted to attacking capitalism to win votes tells you just how explosive the next decade in Western Europe could be, as some of these aging, inflexible economies - which have grown used to six-week vacations and unemployment insurance that is almost as good as having a job - become more intimately integrated with Eastern Europe, India and China in a flattening world.
Friedman later makes the ridiculous claim that low-wage Indian workers aren't "racing us to the bottom. They are racing us to the top."

Sorry, jerkface, 35-hour days are not a part of any top I want to race to. And not only does having everything made at the lowest possible cost make the world as a whole poorer, it makes it far more boring. Guess what! You can either work 12 hours a day at the local toilet factory or starve to death! Ain't this flat world great?

I'm currently reading James Howard Kunstler's book The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-first Century. The book has some rather infuriating passages where Kunstler doesn't bother to check his facts, and a ridiculous defense of the war on Iraq, but it also has some of the best arguments against the gigantic crimes known as suburbanization and globalization. Here is part of his argument against Friedman-style globalization:
The idea of comparative advantage works when there is a complex local economy intact in the background of each trading partner's specialized item of production, with a variety of social roles and occupational niches to support the long-term project of community. But a locality geared to doing only one thing for export is ultimately a slave system based on the extractive economics of mining. In the extreme version of comparative advantage, under the regime of hyper-turbo late-oil-age industrialism, with its ultracheap transport and instant communications that defeated the advantages of geography, the only comparative advantages left were cheap labor and free capital. One group had all the cheap labor and another group had all the capital, and for a while one group made all the things the other group "consumed." Thus, comparative advantage became, for a time, a con game strictly for the benefit of large corporations, which ended up enjoying all the advantages while the localities sucked up the costs.

The corporations benefiting from this regime often had no physical home of their own, even in their country of origin--and not a few American corporations had moved their official address to Caribbean pseudonations, where the banking and tax laws were more agreeable. The corporations had no allegiance to any particular place or the people of that place, so the destruction they wreaked was as manifest in the ravaged towns of Ohio and upstate New York as in the environmental degradation of China. America was hardly immune to the consequences of free-market globalism. In effect, the American heartland was overtaken by a new kind of corporate colonialism, emanating from our own culture, but no less destructive than the imposition of foreign rule.

Americans failed to recognize the essential fraudulence of the idea that this destruction was "creative" and would lead to a higher good--in other words, that the end justified the means, even as they watched their towns die around them. Corporations such as Wal-Mart and its imitators used their wealth and muscle to set up "superstores" on the cheap land frontier outside small towns and put every other retail merchant out of business, often destroying most of the town's middle class. They also, incidentally, destroyed the local capacity to produce goods. And the American public went along with it for the greater good of paying a few dollars less for a hair dryer. Bargain shopping justified the extermination of the middle class and all its relations with the locality. The American people were gulled into the fantasy that every day of the year would be like Christmas, Wal-Mart style. The public enjoyed this bonanza of supercheap manufactured goods without reckoning any of the collateral costs, which were astronomical.
Of course, the whole point of Kunstler's book is that, like it or not, the global economy is doomed because of the imminent massive energy shortage. The whole point of Friedman, I guess, is that the world is flat, with limitless resources, and that capitalist economic growth can go on forever. I have no doubt that Kunstler is right. It's just a shame that there are still idiots like Friedman pushing the globalization lie, because every additional step in his wrong direction will only make the collapse that much more painful.

Steal Everything Commission

A California congresscritter who was eyebrow deep in Enron, a pensions scam, and all sorts of nefarious ventures on behalf of the criminal financial class in this country, has been appointed as chairman of the SEC:
Mr. Cox - a devoted student of Ayn Rand, the high priestess of unfettered capitalism - has a long record in the House of promoting the agenda of business interests that are a cornerstone of the Republican Party's political and financial support.

A major recipient of contributions from business groups, the accounting profession and Silicon Valley, he has fought against accounting rules that would give less favorable treatment to corporate mergers and executive stock options. He opposes taxes on dividends and capital gains. And he helped to steer through the House a bill making investor lawsuits more difficult.
Billmon has lots of history on this particular scumbag.

Plenty of Deep Throats; even more Shallow People

Billmon follows up on Bob Harris' post about the dozens of Deep Throats we've already had from the Bush crime syndicate
[T]he American people have had, generally speaking, plenty of opportunities to learn the filthy truth about this administration and this war -- that is, if they were actually interested in the truth, which many of them (up to 51%, judging from the last election) apparently are not.

What the health of the Republic requires, in other words, may not be a new crop of leakers and whistleblowers, or a fresh young generation of Woodwards and Bernsteins -- or even a more independent, aggressive media. What it may need is a new population (or half of a population, anyway), one that hasn't been stupified or brainwashed into blind submission, that won't look upon sadistic corruption and call it patriotism, and that will refuse to trade the Bill of Rights for a plastic Jesus and a wholly false sense of security.

That's a much taller order than asking the Gods to send us another Deep Throat -- or even a Luke Skywalker. It's also not an easy thing for liberals, with their old-fashioned faith in democracy, to face: That the Evil Emperor might have a majority (a narrow one, but still a majority) on his side. But a truth isn't any less true for being politically unpalatable.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

John Kerry--SOOOO worthless

The guy who couldn't beat the worst president in history was talking to constituents in New Bedford, MA, yesterday:
Sen. Kerry puzzled over the apparent lack of interest by Americans in the Iraq war and the near silence in the U.S. mass media about the so-called Downing Street Memo.

That leaked secret document, the minutes of a 2002 cabinet meeting of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, says bluntly that Mr. Bush had decided to attack Iraq long before going to Congress with the matter, and that "intelligence was being fixed around the policy."

It caused an uproar in Great Britain and badly hurt Mr. Blair in national elections but went almost unnoticed in the United States.

"When I go back (to Washington) on Monday, I am going to raise the issue," he said of the memo, which has not been disputed by either the British or American governments. "I think it's a stunning, unbelievably simple and understandable statement of the truth and a profoundly important document that raises stunning issues here at home. And it's amazing to me the way it escaped major media discussion. It's not being missed on the Internet, I can tell you that."
When he goes back to Washington on Monday. I guess that would be Monday, June 6. Over one month after the Downing Street memo was published in the Sunday Times in London. And one of the supposed "leaders" of the supposed "opposition" waits over a month to bring it up, and is amazed that it escaped major media discussion. Geez, John, if you'd given a big speech, filled with words like "lies" and "impeachment," back on May 2, it would have been all over the media.

Kerry's a pompous, worthless blowhard. When Orrin Hatch and Mitch McConnell and Bill Frist and Tom DeLay are calling for Bush's impeachment, he might join in--but not before.

From that article:
[Kerry] questioned Americans' understanding of the war and the sense that criticism equals disloyalty, saying, "Do you think that Americans if they really understood it would feel that way knowing that on Election Day, 77 percent of Americans who voted for Bush believed that weapons of mass destruction had been found and 77 percent believe Saddam did 9/11? Is there a way for this to break through, ever?" about a presidential candidate who actually told people about it, who didn't say he would still have voted for the war even knowing WMD's wouldn't be found (which I'm pretty sure he knew anyway), who didn't run saying he would INCREASE the number of troops? That would have been one way to start to break through.

The Downing Street memo is just one more piece of evidence. People like Kerry who were in positions to know better and didn't stand up and shout that Bush was lying us into war back in 2002 have no credibility and never will.

Kerry aligned his positions so closely with Bush's that a lot of people just saw the election as a choice between Lurch and Gilligan, and they liked Gilligan better.

Newsweek--not the first time!

From a satire of right-wingnuttery by the Poor Man:
The scandal deepens: on page 34 of the August 26, 1939 issue of Newsweek, Secretary of Labor “Francis Perkins” is quoted as favoring a more aggressive job training campaign in Western Tennessee. Small problem: there is no “Francis Perkins” - the Labor Sec. was Frances Perkins! Less than a week later, German tanks rumbled into Poland, plunging Europe and the world into the bloodiest war in history. Was Hitler encouraged to attack because Newsweek gave the false impression that Roosevelt’s cabinet had quit en masse and that the American government was about to fall? Seems hard to come to any other conclusion. Press treason is nothing new, I’m afraid, although don’t expect anyone else to cover this story, since it doesn’t reflect badly on the Bush administration.
It is also rumored that Newsweek was the first magazine to mention Ronald Reagan's "teflon" coating, something that John Hinckley, Jr. took literally and decided to test.

Deep Throats all around

Bob Harris points out that there's no need to wait for a "Deep Throat" to blow, so to speak, the lid off of the Bush house of lies--we've already got dozens:
Galling, how all the talk about Deep Throat inspired so little reflection about the long list of recent equivalents, insiders telling anyone who will listen, on the record, that Bush and his cronies are a gang of incompetents, liars, and criminals.

And these folks aren't lurking in garages and manipulating potted plants in order to drop hints of darker realms to reporters who have to do all the legwork themselves. These people are well-known experts, practically screaming from the rooftops.
Harris has an online poll for you to choose your favorite whistle-blower, and links to this article which lists plenty of modern-day Deep Throats. And it was written before the Downing Street memo was made public or before the latest reports out of Gitmo came out.

What's missing isn't insiders with integrity willing to tell the truth. What's missing is an independent media and a Congress willing to do its job.

The pimp

From Pat Bagley.

It's funny, even though I don't get it

From Emad Hajjaj.

I'm not sure who our superheroes are supposed to represent here, nor why Zarqawi has made them so depressed. Any ideas?

From Ted Rall.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

It's the least I could do; it just is

I just sent $100 to Amnesty International. You can too! You certainly can't expect the Democrats to take Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld to task for their war crimes. But AI will.

US Media's Anti-Chavez Bias

Justin Delacour writes a good analysis of the media's relentless bias against Venezuela's democratically-elected president, and he does so without even mentioning the Washington Post's obnoxious Marcela Sanchez.


Oil is up $2.68 a barrel just today; wholesale gasoline is up 7.2 cents per gallon today as well ($1.53.9 as of 3 PM). Here again are those great charts from WTRG Economics:

The charts are updated daily, so what you see there probably won't match what I wrote above.

Several of the books I've read on peak oil have suggested that sustained oil prices above $40 a barrel will have major effects on the economy. Well, they've been above $40 for almost a year now, with no signs of going below any time soon (or ever, probably).

The real Deep Throat?

Joe Cannon suggests that the real Deep Throat may have been Robert Bennett, shown here with Catkiller Frist and Comical Allawi in Iraq last year. Bennett is currently a U.S. Senator from Utah.

The plot thickens.

From Tom Toles.

Even Deeper Throat

If you like your conspiracy theories writ large, Xymphora is the blog for you. Today, Xymphora suggests that the supposed "Deep Throat" Mark Felt might not actually be the guy, and that Woodward and Bernstein are "disassembling" in confirming his identity. Here's Xymphora's explanation of what actually went down with Watergate:
We know the Joint Chiefs of Staff were spying on Nixon, and that Nixon caught them and let them get away with it. The American Powers That Be were apparently terrified that Nixon, who up to the end of the 1960's was a reliable, crooked, mob-connected political hack, was intelligent enough to realize that his place in the history books would be determined by the substantial good he did. China whet his appetite, and there was a very real danger that the old fool would succeed in approaching the Soviets and ending the Cold War fifteen years early (and billions and billions of dollars in weapons sales early), all in a bid to take his place in history. He had to be stopped, so the barely-literate Woodward mysteriously appeared at the Washington Post, was hooked up with a real, if spectacularly unsuccessful, journalist in Bernstein, and suddenly received all kinds of unexpected help from the Very Establishment Ben Bradlee. A newspaper that you would never expect to even consider challenging the status quo, and very connected to the CIA, was suddenly lauded as the king of investigative journalism, and the savior of the Republic. All nonsense, of course. Nixon's big character flaws, instinctive dishonesty and paranoia, were manipulated to slide him into a completely unnecessary cover-up of a completely unnecessary burglary conducted by a bunch of CIA agents (a burglary Nixon wasn't even aware of until after the fact, with the burglars conveniently getting caught through extreme bungling and conveniently having documented ties to Nixon's crooked political financing system), and Nixon was safely pushed out of office before he could do any real harm. Rather than being a victory for journalism, Watergate was the start of the systematic corruption of the disgusting American media, which continues to do its job in hiding the fact that the United States has been a military dictatorship since November 22, 1963.
Now THAT's how I like it! Certainly as likely as many conspiracy theories, and far more plausible than the official story.