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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Remember 9/11

On May 23, 2003, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta testified before the 9/11 Commission. Here is part of his opening statement:
By this time [shortly after the second WTC tower was hit], my office had contacted the White House. A brief moment later, the White House called my chief of staff and asked if I could come to the White House and operate from that location. I decided that, given the nature of the attack and the request, that I should be at the White House directly providing the president and the vice president with information.

When I got to the White House, it was being evacuated. I met briefly with Richard Clark, a National Security Council staff member, who had no new information. Then the Secret Service escorted me down to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, otherwise known as the PEOC. I established contact on two lines, one with my chief of staff at the Department of Transportation, and the second with Monty Belger, the acting deputy administrator of the FAA, and Jane Garvey, both of whom were in the FAA operations center.

And as the minutes passed, the developing picture from air traffic control towers and radar screens became increasingly more alarming. Some aircraft could not be contacted. While on a normal day that may be just a communications snafu, we were faced with trying to quickly sort out minor problems from significant threats. We did not know how many more attacks might be in progress.

The FAA began to restrict air travel in the Northeast United States by a combination of actions which included sterilizing air space in certain regions and at various airports, and ultimately a nationwide ground stop of all aircraft for all locations, regardless of destination.

Within a few minutes, American Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.
A few minutes later in the testimony, Mineta is asked by commission member Lee Hamilton about his time in the PEOC:
MR. HAMILTON: We thank you for that. I wanted to focus just a moment on the Presidential Emergency Operating Center. You were there for a good part of the day. I think you were there with the vice president. And when you had that order given, I think it was by the president, that authorized the shooting down of commercial aircraft that were suspected to be controlled by terrorists, were you there when that order was given?

MR. MINETA: No, I was not. I was made aware of it during the time that the airplane coming into the Pentagon. There was a young man who had come in and said to the vice president, "The plane is 50 miles out. The plane is 30 miles out." And when it got down to, "The plane is 10 miles out," the young man also said to the vice president, "Do the orders still stand?" And the vice president turned and whipped his neck around and said, "Of course the orders still stand. Have you heard anything to the contrary?" Well, at the time I didn't know what all that meant. And --

MR. HAMILTON: The flight you're referring to is the --

MR. MINETA: The flight that came into the Pentagon.
According to the 9/11 Commission Report, Cheney "entered the underground tunnel leading to the shelter at 9:37." According to the report, AA Flight 77 hit the Pentagon at 9:37:36. The report goes on to say:
Once inside, Vice President Cheney and the agents paused in an area of the tunnel that had a secure phone, a bench, and television. The Vice President asked to speak to the President, but it took time for the call to be connected.
at 9:55 the Vice President was still on the phone with the President advising that three planes were missing and one had hit the Pentagon. We believe this is the same call in which the Vice President urged the President not to return to Washington. After the call ended, Mrs. Cheney and the Vice President moved from the tunnel to the shelter conference room.
There is conflicting evidence about when the Vice President arrived in the shelter conference room. We have concluded, from the available evidence, that the Vice President arrived in the room shortly before 10:00, perhaps at 9:58.
The report goes on to describe a similar scenario to the one described by Mineta, of a military aide coming in to tell Cheney that "the aircraft is 80 miles out...the aircraft is 60 miles out." The report says that these updates occurred "probably between 10:12 and 10:18." The report also states that the last of the four hijacked airliners, United Flight 93, crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:15. My mapping software tells me that Shanksville is 120 miles from Washington, and the map in the report shows that the plane had been heading east for some time and hadn't been any closer than 120 miles from DC since shortly after takeoff. The report doesn't mention Mineta at all in its summary of this time period. It mentions Mrs. Cheney as having been in the bunker, but not the transportation secretary.

And while the commissioners in general did an atrocious job in following up on interesting points raised, Hamilton did ask Mineta about United 93:
MR. HAMILTON: With respect to Flight 93, what type of information were you and the vice president receiving about that flight?

MR. MINETA: The only information we had at that point was when it crashed.

MR. HAMILTON: I see. You didn't know beforehand about that airplane.

MR. MINETA: I did not.
Okay, here's the gist. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta gave testimony that was coherent, consistent, and public. Vice President Cheney gave, in private not-under-oath chatting, an account that was apparently at best confused (perhaps because he was concerned that W might spill the beans while they met with the commissioners together). Mineta reports that Cheney was with him at around 9:30 that morning, receiving reports about a plane approaching shortly before the Pentagon was struck. Mineta's testimony strongly suggests that Cheney clearly knew that a plane was approaching Washington before the Pentagon was hit, contrary to the official story. (And for those of us who justifiably believe the worst of our government, his testimony about "Do the orders still stand?" can easily be read to refer to stand-down orders, not the shoot-down orders Mineta later interprets them as.) Mineta denies any similar reports about flight 93. Nevertheless, the 9/11 Commission report denies Cheney's presence in the room with Mineta around 9:30, and moves Mineta's story about the plane approaching the Pentagon to 45 minutes later, and makes it about flight 93 instead.

The Bushies did everything possible to impede, delay and hinder all investigations into the events of 9/11. They benefitted immensely politically and financially from the tragic events of that day. The most ridiculous 9/11 conspiracy theory of all is the official one.

There's lots more about the Mineta testimony and the whole 9/11 coverup in general.

Maybe they'll uncover the truth about 9/11, too

If you haven't seen many Ted Rall cartoons, that's supposed to be Bush and Cheney in the last frame.

In case you were wondering...

I wonder if people were laughing with Scalia or at him.

Friday, December 30, 2005

A time not to reflect

As the new year approaches, it's a good time not to sit back and examine our lives. At least that's the advice that University of Virginia Timothy Wilson gives in a NY Times Op-ed:
Self-reflection is especially problematic when we are feeling down. Research by Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, a clinical psychologist at Yale University, shows that when people are depressed, ruminating on their problems makes things worse.

In one study, mildly depressed college students were asked to spend eight minutes thinking about themselves or to spend the same amount of time thinking about mundane topics like "clouds forming in the sky."

People in the first group focused on the negative things in their lives and sunk into a worse mood. People in the other group actually felt better afterward, possibly because their negative self-focus was "turned off" by the distraction task.
Social psychologist Daniel Batson and colleagues at the University of Kansas found that participants who were given an opportunity to do a favor for another person ended up viewing themselves as kind, considerate people - unless, that is, they were asked to reflect on why they had done the favor. People in that group tended in the end to not view themselves as being especially kind.
So, as another new year approaches, take a few minutes to think about anything but that.

Iraqis should be doing that

From Tony at Workers World.

He said it. (Bottom of page 3 to top of page 4.)

It isn't called "Skull and Bones" for nothing. With Dumbocrats like Kerry, Clinton and Lieberman, who needs Republicans? Then again, who needs Republicans, period?

What a friggin' moron.

Surf's up!

Fifteen- to twenty-foot are pounding Southern California beaches.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

A tradition of supporting both sides in war

Between 1829 and 1846, the US Military Academy at West Point graduated such luminaries as Robert E. Lee, George McLellan, Stonewall Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, P.G.T. Beauregard, and William Tecumseh Sherman. Then, between 1861 and 1865, these esteemed gentlemen and dozens of their fellow alumni proceeded to beat the crap out of each other's soldiers in America's bloodiest war. In the 1980's, the U.S. supplied weapons and other support to both sides of the very bloody Iran-Iraq war. And right now our government is spending billions to build up an Iraqi army which seems destined to break into two or three parts, ready to fight to the death in Iraq's upcoming civil war. Tom Lasseter of Knight Ridder describes how both Kurdish soldiers in the north and Shiite soldiers in the south are ready and waiting for that war to start. All of the training and arming that is a part of W's "Iraqis standing up" will likely just make that war longer and bloodier.

Uzbekistan: Our ally in the war of terror

Greg Saunders at This Modern World writes about the enormous amount of US aid going to the brutal Karimo regime in Uzbekistan, and some new torture memos. Saunders concludes:
[I]t should be repeated again and again that this would all stop if the President wanted it to. With a phonecall to the Uzbek government, he could threaten to eliminate foreign aid until human rights abuses ceased. With a stroke of his pen, he could fire Donald Rumsfeld and replace him with a Defense Secretary serious about curbing detainee abuse. Working with Congressional leaders, he could cooperate with stymied investigations into torture. For the most powerful man in the world, the torture of innocent people could be eliminated tomorrow if he cared enough.

Why he hasn’t done any of these things leads us back to the eternal debate about the presidency of George W. Bush. Is he so isolated from bad news that he has no idea about the abuses that are happening on his watch? Is he a callous monster who thinks the torture of innocents is justified by the “greater good” of whatever the hell he’s trying to accomplish? Or is it a combination of the two? Either way, I don’t know how much longer we can afford to have the reputation of the United States tarnished while we ponder the endless “idiot or asshole?” debate.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble

If MacBeth's weird sisters bought their house on an interest-only mortgage, hoping the value of the house would increase, they may be in for a bad spell, so to speak. Selling their brooms and pointy hats may be insufficient to avoid foreclosure, since the housing bubble has apparently burst. From Mike Whitney:
In 2004 "one-fourth of all home-buyers -- including 42% of first-time buyers -- made no down payment." (New York Times, July 7, 2005)

Equally troubling is the fact that "nearly one third of all new mortgages this year call for interest-only payments (NY Times) This tells us that a large number of new buyers can barely make their payments, but are gambling that their property value will go up enough to justify their investment. This is "equity roulette," a shell game that anticipates that salaries will go up while interest rates stay low.

We can anticipate that many overstretched homeowners will begin to fall from the economic precipice in short order. In fact, many markets are already showing a 40% increase in foreclosures even though the air has just begun hissssssing out of the bubble.

The ridiculously low interest rates coupled with the irresponsible lending practices has precipitated a feeding frenzy for cheap money. Greenspan is expected to raise rates another one-half percent before he leaves in January which should be just enough to collapse the market and put the economy in a permanent coma.
Adding insult to injury, the Federal Reserve announced 2 weeks ago that new steps will be taken to regulate low-interest, high-risk loans. In the third quarter a full 33% of first-time home buyers took advantage of "non-traditional" mortgages. ("No interest" or "ARMS" adjustable rate mortgages) Try to imagine the chilling effect on the housing market when 33% of first-time homeowners are removed from the pool of potential buyers?

Still think you'll be able to sell your house at a profit?

Paul Craig Roberts has been reading

My former Reaganite gives brief reviews on three books and how they relate the aWol's Pretzel Putsch: Jimmy Carter's Our Endangered Values, historian Nikolaus Wachsmann's Hitler's Prisons, and Robert Higgs' Resurgence of the Warfare State.

A couple of selections from Roberts' article:
With ruthless logic Higgs shreds every claim of the Bush administration and its apologists. Reading Higgs leaves no doubt that the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq was an illegal act based in deception. Under the Nuremberg standard established by the US itself, Bush's invasion is a war crime. Widespread slaughter of the civilian Iraqi population and torture of detainees are also war crimes.
American forces in Iraq have killed far more Iraqi civilians than they have insurgents. It is safe to say that Iraqis never experienced such terror from Saddam Hussein as they have experienced from the American invasion and occupation.

Bush claims that his war crimes are justified because they are committed in the name of "freedom and democracy." The entire world rejects this excuse. Sooner or later even Bush's remaining Republican supporters will turn away in shame from the dishonor Bush has brought to America.

From Tim Menees.

From Steve Kelley.

From Rex Babin.

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Devil went down to Fallujah

Two days before Christmas, King Donald came from the west bearing gifts of depleted uranium, white phosporous, and lies, lies, lies.

Rummy in Fallujah, bragging about bringing "democracy." Maybe the tsunami will come back to Aceh and brag about its modernization program. Next, Katrina revisits the Gulf Coast, noting how many billions of dollars in demolition costs it saved the casino developers. The God of Israel explaining his tough love to the Egyptians. From locusts to willy pete--destroying villages to save them for over three millenia.

From Kirk Walters.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Upstream and downstream giving

There are two kinds of giving, but I like to think of it as downstream giving and upstream giving. It's not enough to pull the drowning victims out of the river, you need to walk back upstream and find out who's throwing them in. So there's both downstream-giving that actually takes care of victims of oppression. And then there's upstream-giving -- walking back upstream to do justice and to promote systemic change to find the underlying causes that are causing all this.
-- Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church.

Feliz Navidad

Quagmire continues:
On Saturday, twelve people -- including Iraqi police and soldiers, ministry employees, civilians and a U.S. soldier -- were killed in insurgent attacks in Iraq, police and military officials said.
And from Juan Cole:
[There were] huge demonstrations in Iraq by Sunni Arabs on Friday against what they called election fraud on Dec. 15, and after about 100 prominent Sunni candidates were excluded on the grounds that they had been high officials in the Baath Party-- reinforcing the Sunni Arab conviction that they were targeted for marginalization by the new regime.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

What he said

I'm heading off to holiday festivities in a few minutes, so I don't have time to dig deeper into something I think I blogged about a couple of years ago. Greg Saunders writes at This Modern World about how the main intelligence problems blamed by the Congressional Inquiry and the 9/11 Commission for the failure to detect the 9/11 plot had to do with connecting existing dots--not that there weren't enough dots to connect. Legally intercepted communications remained untranslated, FBI memos went unread or ignored, known al Qaeda types were shacking up with government informants, and so on. Adding more dots, say by listening in on thousands or millions of additional calls, wouldn't have simplified the task.

I know I wrote something about that before--any reader who has more time than I do today and finds it gets a gold star! Because I do get a kick out of being right once in a while.

Friday, December 23, 2005

From Pat Oliphant.

Shorter Charles Krauthammer

Daschle stands up, four years too late

Former Senate majority/minority leader Tom Daschle (his dynamic leadership as majority leader played a major role in his becoming minority leader) writes in a WaPo op-ed today that the Senate never intended to give aWol the dictatorial powers (domestic warrantless wiretaps in particular) he now claims, nor would they have if they had known he would use the "use of force" resolution to make that power grab. He also notes that the Bushies tried to include the words "in the United States and" in the key sentence of the bill, as follows:
[Congress authorizes] "all necessary and appropriate force in the United States and against those nations, organizations or persons [the president] determines planned, authorized, committed or aided" [the attacks of Sept. 11].
Daschle refused to add the wording to the bill. In his op-ed today, he points out that if the Bushies really believed that the power they now claim were included in the wording of the bill, they would never have attempted to add the "in the United States" clause at all.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The meaning of American "justice"

Paul Craig Roberts explains the guilty when charged nature of American "justice":
American prisons are full of wrongfully convicted persons. Many were coerced into admitting to crimes they did not commit by prosecutors' threats to pile on more charges. Others were convicted by false testimony from criminals bribed by prosecutors, who exchanged dropped charges or reduced sentences in exchange for false testimony against defendants.
Until it happens to them or to a member of their family, Americans are clueless to the corruption in the criminal justice (sic) system. Most prosecutors are focused on their conviction rates, and judges are focused on clearing their court dockets. Defendants are processed accordingly, not in terms of guilt or innocence.
Almost all (95-97%) felony indictments are settled by a coerced plea. By withholding exculpatory evidence, suborning perjury, fabricating evidence, and lying to jurors, prosecutors have made the risks of a trial too great even for the innocent. Consequently, the prosecutors' cases and police evidence are almost never tested in court. Defendants are simply intimidated into self-incrimination rather than risk the terrors of trial.
[T]he US has the highest percentage of its population in prison than any country on earth, including dictatorships, tyrannies, and China. The US incarceration rate is up to 12 times higher than that of European countries.

Unless you believe Americans are 12 times more criminally inclined than Europeans, why is one of every 80 Americans (not counting children and the elderly) locked away from family, friends, career, and life? Part of the answer is the private prison industry, which requires inmates to fuel the profits of investors. Another part of the answer is career-driven prosecutors who want convictions at all costs. Yet another is the failure of judges to rein-in prosecutorial abuses. Another part of the answer is the hostility of Americans to defendants and indifference to their innocence or guilt.
In America, defendants are no longer innocent until they are proven guilty. They are guilty the minute they are charged, and the system works to process the guilty, not to determine innocence or guilt.

Americans in their ignorance and gullibility think that only the guilty would enter a guilty plea. This is the uninformed opinion of the naive who have never experienced the terror and psychological torture of the US criminal justice (sic) system.
Roberts doesn't say so here, but to me this is one of the most compelling arguments against the death penalty. Putting that brutal and final punishment on the table coerces many pleas to lesser crimes, whether they were committed or not. Bush's "enemy combatants" BS falls into the same category--cop a plea to 15 years or you may never be seen nor heard from again.

War: The road to empire

"If there is no war, my son will never be emperor." -- I can certainly imagine Barbara Bush saying that, but the quote is attributed to Empress Eugenie, wife of French Emperor Napoleon III. The background for that quote is frighteningly similar to what is happening today. From Wikipedia:
France's position in Europe was now in danger of being overshadowed by the emergence of a powerful Prussia, and France looked increasingly flat-footed following Bismarck's successes. In addition, France's ruler Napoleon III was on increasingly shaky ground in domestic politics. Having successfully overthrown the Second Republic and established the Bonapartist Second Empire, Napoleon III was confronted with increasingly virulent demands for democratic reform from leading republicans such as Jules Favre along with constant rumours of impending revolution. In addition, French aspirations in Mexico had suffered a final defeat with the execution of the Austrian born French puppet Emperor of Mexico Maximilian in 1867.

The French imperial government now looked to a diplomatic success to stifle demands for a return to either a republic or a Bourbon monarchy - the Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III, was quoted as saying, "If there is no war, my son will never be emperor." A war with Prussia and resulting territorial gains in the Rhineland and later Luxembourg and Belgium seemed the best hope to unite the French nation behind the Bonapartist dynasty. With the resulting prestige from a successful war, Napoleon III could then safely suppress any lingering republican or revolutionary sentiment behind reactionary nationalism and return France to the center of European politics.

Maybe he'll get that written into the next version

Fascist quote du jour: "No one should be allowed to block the Patriot Act." -- Mad King George. Other babblings from Mad King George from that article:
  • "There is an enemy that lurks."
  • "The senators obstructing the Patriot Act need to understand that the expiration of this vital law will endanger America and will leave us in a weaker position in the fight against brutal killers."
Like those vegans in Indianapolis, I guess.

Mad King George
was a scary old fool
a scary old fool was he

A petulant twit
Who cared not a whit
for "liberty and justice for all."


They broke the law because, well, they wanted to

WaPo, emphasis added:
Bush administration officials believe it is not possible, in a large-scale eavesdropping effort, to provide the kind of evidence the court requires to approve a warrant. Sources knowledgeable about the program said there is no way to secure a FISA warrant when the goal is to listen in on a vast array of communications in the hopes of finding something that sounds suspicious. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said the White House had tried but failed to find a way.

One government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the administration complained bitterly that the FISA process demanded too much: to name a target and give a reason to spy on it.

"For FISA, they had to put down a written justification for the wiretap," said the official. "They couldn't dream one up."
"There is a difference between detecting, so we can prevent, and monitoring. And it's important to note the distinction between the two," Bush said Monday. But he added: "If there is a need based upon evidence, we will take that evidence to a court in order to be able to monitor calls within the United States."
In other words, we'll obey the law when it's convenient. Smart bank robbers don't speed in the getaway car, either.

The administration has claimed the right to listen in on anyone at any time, with no court approval and in violation of the law. It has also claimed and vigorously insisted on the "right" to lock up anyone, at any time, without charges, forever. Combined, I think these are the very definition of a police state.

From the article, most of the FISA judges appear miffed, at least, with being bypassed. One has already resigned, and another suggests they might as well disband the FISA court, since its main purpose is to protect Americans from domestic spying, and Bush's power grab means that they aren't and can't do that.

One thing we've got to do is to get politicians to stop parroting Bush's nonsense that stopping terrorism is the "top priority," as Barbara Boxer did in her petition calling for Senate hearings. Living in fear of the very occasional bombing or hijacking is bad, but having to fear every cop, neighbor, or knock on the door, and wondering if everything you are saying is being recorded and scrutinized--that is far worse. The founding fathers knew this, which is why they wrote the Bill of Rights. The Bushies probably know it too, but they're accruing money and power from the "war on terror," so they don't care. They hate us for our freedoms, and are a far bigger threat to them than Osama ever could be.

"Justice" Department screws up again; Padilla suffers again

From the NY Times:
A federal appeals court delivered a sharp rebuke to the Bush administration Wednesday, refusing to allow the transfer of Jose Padilla from military custody to civilian law enforcement authorities to face terrorism charges.

In denying the administration's request, the three-judge panel unanimously issued a strongly worded opinion that said the Justice Department's effort to transfer Mr. Padilla gave the appearance that the government was trying to manipulate the court system to prevent the Supreme Court from reviewing the case. The judges warned that the administration's behavior in the Padilla case could jeopardize its credibility before the courts in other terrorism cases.

What made the action by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., so startling, lawyers and others said, was that it came from a panel of judges who in September had provided the administration with a sweeping court victory, saying President Bush had the authority to detain Mr. Padilla, an American citizen, indefinitely without trial as an enemy combatant.
Unfortunately, this doesn't sound like it's of any help to Padilla, or anyone else caught in the "enemy combatant" web. So, he goes back to solitary in military prison, no longer has a court date, and has to wait for the Supremes to do something--something which could very well be even worse, especially if Scalito gets confirmed.

Why is it that in all of these cases where courts rebuff the "Justice" department's Orwellian tactics, the poor supposedly innocent-until-proven-guilty hostage has to continue to rot in jail? Given the charges they finally did come up with for Padilla, it seems as though time served might be about the sentence to be expected if he were convicted.

The "sharp rebuke" goes to the criminal "Justice" department; Padilla goes back to the brig. Some lefty bloggers seem to be gloating over this decision; I don't see any victory here at all. The Fourth Circuit Court is basically insisting on having its earlier totalitarian decision confirmed by the Supremes, and there is no real reason to believe they won't do it.

There seems to be some sentiment

Wow. A whopping 12% of respondents to this MSNBC poll believe that W shouldn't be impeached. A mere 87% think he should.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Even Holy Joe and Hillary were on the right side this time

Voting, that is, to block ANWR drilling. Forty-one Democrats, two Republicans and one independent supported the filibuster, blocking including ANWR drilling in the "defense" spending bill.

AP cites Bush lie about wiretaps

The selection from a Bush speech from last year which was making the blogosphere rounds yesterday, in which he claims that he is getting court orders for wiretaps, has now made the mainstream. From AP:
Democrats called attention to a Bush statement in April 2004 that they said conflicts with what the president is saying now.

"Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires _ a wiretap requires a court order," Bush said during a speech on the Patriot Act in Buffalo, N.Y. "Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."

More on Lasswell

A followup on my earlier post. Robin Andersen wrote a couple of years ago about Lasswell's contribution to wartime propaganda:
Harold Lasswell’s 1927 study of WWI delineates key elements of war propaganda. Demonization of the enemy is essential in overcoming the strong “psychological resistances” to war in modern nations, “every war must appear to be a war of defense against a menacing, murderous aggressor (206).” When President Bush called Osama Bin Laden the Evil One, he seemed to have read Lasswell’s account of war rhetoric as a “how to” book. Lasswell states, “All the specific means of conquering the Evil One are, and should be, glorified.”

The category of evil eliminates ambiguity, history and international politics. Lasswell understood propaganda’s needs: “The war must not be due to a world system of conducting international affairs…but to the rapacity of the enemy. Guilt and guilelessness must be assessed geographically, and all the guilt must be on the other side of the frontier.” Political logics and failed diplomacy that lead to war, including competition for economic resources are denied: simple inherent evil must always be the cause. Propaganda always pits our “civilized way of life” against the enemy’s “barbarism.”

Mobilizing a collective sensibility of animosity toward an enemy requires that a variety of social inhibitions that exist in peacetime be dismantled. Society normally discourages crime motivated by visceral hatreds. In promoting state sanctioned violence, actions and qualities ascribed to the enemy must be so outside the bounds of acceptability, that reform and negotiation are not alternatives. The demonized enemy then stands conceptually outside the human family and can be killed with impunity.
Compare this to what aWol said Sunday night:
I see a global terrorist movement that exploits Islam in the service of radical political aims -- a vision in which books are burned, and women are oppressed, and all dissent is crushed. Terrorist operatives conduct their campaign of murder with a set of declared and specific goals -- to de-moralize free nations, to drive us out of the Middle East, to spread an empire of fear across that region, and to wage a perpetual war against America and our friends. These terrorists view the world as a giant battlefield -- and they seek to attack us wherever they can. This has attracted al Qaeda to Iraq, where they are attempting to frighten and intimidate America into a policy of retreat.

The terrorists do not merely object to American actions in Iraq and elsewhere, they object to our deepest values and our way of life. And if we were not fighting them in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Southeast Asia, and in other places, the terrorists would not be peaceful citizens, they would be on the offense, and headed our way.

September the 11th, 2001 required us to take every emerging threat to our country seriously, and it shattered the illusion that terrorists attack us only after we provoke them. On that day, we were not in Iraq, we were not in Afghanistan, but the terrorists attacked us anyway -- and killed nearly 3,000 men, women, and children in our own country. My conviction comes down to this: We do not create terrorism by fighting the terrorists. We invite terrorism by ignoring them. And we will defeat the terrorists by capturing and killing them abroad, removing their safe havens, and strengthening new allies like Iraq and Afghanistan in the fight we share.
The same propaganda that worked for Wilson, Hitler, Johnson and Bush Sr. has worked, so far, for W. In war, many suffer and few prosper. But the few call the shots, and they use propaganda to con the many into supporting them. Again and again and again. People are SO ignorant.

You can order that as a bumper sticker, T-shirt, or other stuff at Tom Tomorrow's gift shop.


Cyndy links to a ten-minute 1946 film called Despotism. You should watch it, maybe before reading the rest of this post. I'll wait...

It's something, isn't it? For one thing, it defines a continuum between democracy and despotism, not the simplistic sort of "with us or against us" nonsense that Bush babbles about. It also spells out four instrumental variables which locate a society on the democracy-despotism continuum: respect, power, economic distribution, and information. According to the film, a democracy is a society in which respect is mutual and widespread, power is shared by all, wealth is widely distributed and not concentrated, and information channels are broadly controlled and can be freely challenged. Despotism is the opposite: respect is restricted to fewer people, power and wealth are concentrated, and information channels are controlled by a few and demand agreement. In other words, the film takes a liberal, even socialist look at democracy and despotism, one with which I largely agree.

But it got me to wondering: Who made the film in 1946, and for what purpose? The opening credits say that the film was produced by Encyclopedia Britannica Films, in collaboration with Harold D. Lasswell, Ph.D. of Yale University. So, I wonder, who was Harold Lasswell? Well, he wrote the book on propaganda, literally. In 1927, he wrote "Propaganda Technique in the World War." During World War II, Laswell was part of FDR's propaganda team. From my limited research, it seems that most of his propaganda was aimed at the home front--getting Americans to support the war and to make sacrifices to further the war effort. So one question leads to another: Was Lasswell a liberal/socialist, making the film to show what he believed, or was he still making propaganda for the government? These are perhaps not entirely inconsistent for 1946, when at least some Americans probably still saw the Soviet Union as an ally rather than a menace and when the memories of the depression were still strong. Nevertheless, I don't think that the broad sharing of power and wealth that this film supports were ever really US government policy. And some of the other things I read about Lasswell suggest that he was much more the realpolitik type than he was a utopian socialist. Some of his propaganda methods are still in use, as you can see from this selection:
A particularly effective strategy for demonizing Germans was the use of atrocity stories. "A handy rule for arousing hate," said Lasswell "is, if at first they do not enrage, use an atrocity. It has been employed with unvarying success in every conflict known to man." Unlike the pacifist, who argues that all wars are brutal, the atrocity story implies that war is only brutal when practiced by the enemy. Certain members of the CPI [Committee on Public Information] were relatively cautious about repeating unsubstantiated allegations, but the committee's publications often relied on dubious material. After the war, Edward Bernays, who directed CPI propaganda efforts in Latin America, openly admitted that his colleagues used alleged atrocities to provoke a public outcry against Germany. Some of the atrocity stories which were circulated during the war, such as the one about a tub full of eyeballs or the story of the seven-year old boy who confronted German soldiers with a wooden gun, were actually recycled from previous conflicts. In his seminal work on wartime propaganda, Lasswell speculated that atrocity stories will always be popular because the audience is able to feel self-righteous indignation toward the enemy, and, at some level, identify with the perpetrators of the crimes. "A young woman, ravished by the enemy," he wrote "yields secret satisfaction to a host of vicarious ravishers on the other side of the border."
Nevertheless, whatever the motives behind the film, I think that it is a fascinating presentation of the actual elements of democracy and despotism, things which far too often go undefined in our miserable political debates.

BTW, you might enjoy the older version of the Pledge of Allegiance that is recited in the film.

From Matt Bors.

From Dwayne Booth.

From David Horsey.

From Pat Bagley.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

They hate us for our freedoms

That notorious terrorist organization Al Republicans, that is. A couple of quotes from two neanderthal senators:
I don't agree with the libertarians. I want my security first. I'll deal with all the details after that.
-- Senator Trent Lott (R-MS)
None of your civil liberties matter much after you're dead.
-- Senator John Cornyn (R-TX).

Senator Feingold (D-WI) replied to Cornyn quoting Patrick Henry: "Give me liberty or give me death." The founding fathers seem to agree with Feingold in general. There is that Bill of Rights thing, for example, and Benjamin Franklin's famous quote: "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."

I know that the Repugs could turn the argument around, but it strikes me as bizarre that they have supported a war in Iraq that has destroyed pretty much all security, claiming that it will lead to liberty in the end. But one hour of shock and awe four years ago and they're ready to let Bush become Saddam to "protect" us. And while he hasn't done so yet, he is certainly claiming the same unfettered authority that Saddam had.

Nothing has changed, by the way

Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires — a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.
-- George W. Bush, April 20, 2004, at least after two years after approving wiretaps without court orders.

(via Past Peak via Atrios)

People are so stupid

Quick quiz: Which one of these photos looks like the Virgin Mary?

Correct answer: Neither. The first one, on a tree in Dallas, is Abu Ghraib Man. The second one, from a freeway underpass in Chicago, is Cousin It. The people who think the Virgin Mary appears in water stains and tree bark are known as "morons."

Torture Nation

Mark Morford on torture:
Oh my God, yes, yes we do torture, America that is, and we do it a lot, and we do it in ways that would make you sick to hear about, and we're doing it right now, all over the world, the CIA and the U.S. military, perhaps more often and more brutally than at any time in recent history and we use the exact same kind of techniques and excuses for it our numb-minded president cited as reasons we should declare war and oust the dictator of a defenseless pip-squeak nation that happened to be sitting on our oil.

This is something we must know, acknowledge, take to heart and not simply file away as some sort of murky, disquieting unknowable that's best left to scummy lords of the government underworld. We must not don the blinders and think America is always, without fail, the land of the perky and the free and the benevolent. Horrific torture is very much a part of who we are, right now. Deny it at your peril. Accept it at your deep discontent.
It is for us to know, to try and comprehend. The United States has the most WMD of anyone in the world. We imprison and kill more of our own citizens than any other civilized nation on the planet. We still employ horrific, napalm-like chemical weapons.

And yes, under the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld regime, we abuse and torture prisoners at least as horrifically as any Islamic fundamentalist, as any terrorist cell, to serve our agenda and meet our goals -- and whether you think those goals are justifiable because they contain the words "freedom" or "democracy" is, in many ways, beside the point.

One member of Congress was right

The Bushies were given a blank check by Congress, or at least think they were, right after September 11. Previously, they have used it as a justification for holding people, including US citizens, indefinitely without charges, lawyers, or rights of any kind. This week they are using it to justify spying on us. Only one member of Congress saw the danger (Emphasis added):
I know that this use-of-force resolution will pass although we all know that the President can wage a war even without this resolution. However difficult this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint. There must be some of us who say, let's step back for a moment and think through the implications of our actions today -- let us more fully understand its consequences.

We are not dealing with a conventional war. We cannot respond in a conventional manner. I do not want to see this spiral out of control. This crisis involves issues of national security, foreign policy, public safety, intelligence gathering, economics, and murder. Our response must be equally multifaceted.

We must not rush to judgment. Far too many innocent people have already died. Our country is in mourning. If we rush to launch a counterattack, we run too great a risk that women, children, and other noncombatants will be caught in the crossfire.

Nor can we let our justified anger over these outrageous acts by vicious murderers inflame prejudice against all Arab Americans, Muslims, Southeast Asians, or any other people because of their race, religion, or ethnicity.

Finally, we must be careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target. We cannot repeat past mistakes.

In 1964, Congress gave President Lyndon Johnson the power to "take all necessary measures" to repel attacks and prevent further aggression. In so doing, this House abandoned its own constitutional responsibilities and launched our country into years of undeclared war in Vietnam.

At that time, Sen. Wayne Morse, one of two lonely votes against the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, declared, "I believe that history will record that we have made a grave mistake in subverting and circumventing the Constitution of the United States ... I believe that within the next century, future generations will look with dismay and great disappointment upon a Congress which is now about to make such a historic mistake."

Sen. Morse was correct, and I fear we make the same mistake today. And I fear the consequences.

I have agonized over this vote. But I came to grips with it in the very painful yet beautiful memorial service today at the National Cathedral. As a member of the clergy so eloquently said, "As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore."
-- Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), September 15, 2001

Go Johnny!

From OpEdNews:
Congressman John Conyers has introduced three new pieces of legislation aimed at censuring President Bush and Vice President Cheney, and at creating a fact-finding committee that could be a first step toward impeachment.

Ask your Congress Member to support these efforts!

For more information on these bills, visit

That link will take you to a newly revised After Downing Street site, where you'll find at the top an extensive new report produced by the House Judiciary Committee and titled "The Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Cover-ups in the Iraq War."

You'll also find a link to a new letter from Congressman Conyers to President Bush, which you are invited to sign.

The Censure Bush campaign will provide a new focus for town hall meetings about Iraq, approximately 60 of which are scheduled all over the country on January 7th. See:



Please post this link on your website:

Take action -- click here to contact your local newspaper or congress people:
Support Conyers' Efforts

Big Bother

Probably a typo, but I like it. From a comment by cubist at A Tiny Revolution:
We will need move the very machinery of the law to prevent Bush from reaching his goal: a “christian” corporate despotism while casting himself as Big Bother.
Big Bother is Watching You.
I Love Big Bother.

You can't fire me! I quit!

Governor Gropengrabber's hometown in Austria, Graz, was threatening to remove Ahnuld's name from the local soccer stadium because he approved the execution of Tookie Williams. Reacting like the calm, rational adult we all know him to be, Ahnuld insisted that they take his name off the stadium by the end of the year. Also, he revoked permission to use his name to promote the town. And he sent back a "ring of honor" they gave him in 1999.

So I guess starting in January, the Graz Krips of the Austrian Football League will be playing in Tookie Williams Stadium. It will be an improvement.

A third possible reason

I've already mentioned two possible reasons why the Bushies would avoid the already lenient FISA rules for wiretaps: They were bugging people they shouldn't be, and they just want to establish the point that they can do whatever they want. Jonathan at Past Peak offers a third possibility:
So why didn't they use FISA? One possibility is that they were monitoring people they shouldn't have been and they didn't want anyone to know, not even a special national security judge operating in secret.

Another possibility, though, one that strikes me as more plausible, is that they were monitoring so many people, so many calls, that they didn't want the numbers to show up in FISA statistics. I.e., what they've done is put in place a broad-based, illegal, automatic call-scanning mechanism. FISA stats would have made that clear, so they couldn't go there.

In the context of a broad-based call-scanning operation, their complaint about FISA being "outdated" starts to make sense. FISA protects civil liberties by requiring that monitoring be targeted and specific. Under FISA, the NSA can't legally go fishing by scanning bazillions of calls. With good reason.

Tortured logic, or Gonzo democracy

AG Torture Gonzales makes the exceedingly tortured argument that the Congressional authorization to "use all necessary and appropriate force" in response to the 9/11 attacks justifies holding American citizens as "enemy combatants" and eavesdropping on our phone calls. I'm guessing that both Hitler and Stalin had their Gonzaleses to explain why crime is legal. Here is just a taste of Gonzo's tortured logic:
Now, in terms of legal authorities, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act provides -- requires a court order before engaging in this kind of surveillance that I've just discussed and the President announced on Saturday, unless there is somehow -- there is -- unless otherwise authorized by statute or by Congress. That's what the law requires. Our position is, is that the authorization to use force, which was passed by the Congress in the days following September 11th, constitutes that other authorization, that other statute by Congress, to engage in this kind of signals intelligence.

Now, that -- one might argue, now, wait a minute, there's nothing in the authorization to use force that specifically mentions electronic surveillance. Let me take you back to a case that the Supreme Court reviewed this past -- in 2004, the Hamdi decision. As you remember, in that case, Mr. Hamdi was a U.S. citizen who was contesting his detention by the United States government. What he said was that there is a statute, he said, that specifically prohibits the detention of American citizens without permission, an act by Congress -- and he's right, 18 USC 4001a requires that the United States government cannot detain an American citizen except by an act of Congress.

We took the position -- the United States government took the position that Congress had authorized that detention in the authorization to use force, even though the authorization to use force never mentions the word "detention." And the Supreme Court, a plurality written by Justice O'Connor agreed. She said, it was clear and unmistakable that the Congress had authorized the detention of an American citizen captured on the battlefield as an enemy combatant for the remainder -- the duration of the hostilities. So even though the authorization to use force did not mention the word, "detention," she felt that detention of enemy soldiers captured on the battlefield was a fundamental incident of waging war, and therefore, had been authorized by Congress when they used the words, "authorize the President to use all necessary and appropriate force."

For the same reason, we believe signals intelligence is even more a fundamental incident of war, and we believe has been authorized by the Congress. And even though signals intelligence is not mentioned in the authorization to use force, we believe that the Court would apply the same reasoning to recognize the authorization by Congress to engage in this kind of electronic surveillance.
At this point, I think we should take careful note of some of the other things that the authorization to use force did not mention:
  • Arresting all bloggers who question the attorney general;
  • Nuking Massachusetts and San Francisco;
  • Letting people starve and freeze to death while continuing to cut taxes;
  • Blocking out the sun.
And many, many more things were not mentioned in that authorization, all of which Torture Gonzales could just as easily "justify" with his warped logic. And still, this one affront to logic and the Constitution is not enough. Gonzo goes on to claim that even his absurdly broad interpretation of the use of force resolution isn't really necessary, because the pResident has the right to do whatever the hell he wants anyway:
I might also add that we also believe the President has the inherent authority under the Constitution, as Commander-in-Chief, to engage in this kind of activity. Signals intelligence has been a fundamental aspect of waging war since the Civil War, where we intercepted telegraphs, obviously, during the world wars, as we intercepted telegrams in and out of the United States. Signals intelligence is very important for the United States government to know what the enemy is doing, to know what the enemy is about to do. It is a fundamental incident of war, as Justice O'Connor talked about in the Hamdi decision. We believe that -- and those two authorities exist to allow, permit the United States government to engage in this kind of surveillance.
A few members of the media tried to give Gonzo a hard time:
Q I wanted to ask you a question. Do you think the government has the right to break the law?

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Absolutely not. I don't believe anyone is above the law.

Q You have stretched this resolution for war into giving you carte blanche to do anything you want to do.

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Well, one might make that same argument in connection with detention of American citizens, which is far more intrusive than listening into a conversation. There may be some members of Congress who might say, we never --

Q That's your interpretation. That isn't Congress' interpretation.

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Well, I'm just giving you the analysis --

Q You're never supposed to spy on Americans.

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: I'm just giving the analysis used by Justice O'Connor -- and she said clearly and unmistakenly the Congress authorized the President of the United States to detain an American citizen, even though the authorization to use force never mentions the word "detention" --

Q -- into wiretapping everybody and listening in on --

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: This is not about wiretapping everyone. This is a very concentrated, very limited program focused at gaining information about our enemy.
And, after claiming several times that the surveillance program should have remained secret and that the leak has hurt the country, he still has the balls to come up with this argument:
Q Now that the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, do you expect your legal analysis to be tested in the courts?

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: I'm not going to, you know, try to guess as to what's going to happen about that. We're going to continue to try to educate the American people and the American Congress about what we're doing and the basis -- why we believe that the President has the authority to engage in this kind of conduct.

Q Because there are some very smart legal minds who clearly think a law has been broken here.

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Well, I think that they may be making or offering up those opinions or assumptions based on very limited information. They don't have all the information about the program. I think they probably don't have the information about our legal analysis.
Of course, if he had his way, they wouldn't have any information AT ALL.

And why not just ask Congress for more authority? They rubber-stamp everything anyway. Here's Gonzo's explanation:
Q If FISA didn't work, why didn't you seek a new statute that allowed something like this legally?

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: That question was asked earlier. We've had discussions with members of Congress, certain members of Congress, about whether or not we could get an amendment to FISA, and we were advised that that was not likely to be -- that was not something we could likely get, certainly not without jeopardizing the existence of the program, and therefore, killing the program. And that -- and so a decision was made that because we felt that the authorities were there, that we should continue moving forward with this program.
I NEVER thought I'd say it, but I'm beginning to miss John Ashcroft. Ashcroft was just really, really creepy. Gonzales is super-duper, incredibly, outrageously really really really creepy.

Bury my heart at ANWR

Rep. Dennis Kucinich writes about the despicable way in which the House of Reprehensibles snuck ANWR drilling into the defense authorization bill (talk about piggybacking crime on crime!). He also points out something that I hadn't heard from the Sierra Club or other environmental organizations--the crime is not just against nature, it is against real people who were living in northern Alaska many centuries before oil was discovered at Titusville or Spindletop. Dennis points out that this crime against the Gwich'in people is just a continuation of a long and brutal history:
The history of the United States’ relationship with our native peoples has been one shame-ridden chapter after another of expropriation, humiliation and deception, theft of lands, theft of natural resources, destruction of sacred sites and massacres. The U.S.’ relationship with our native peoples has been an endless cycle of exploitation and contrition. Massacres and apologies.

Who in the future United States will apologize to the descendants of today’s Gwich’in tribe, whose humble, natural way of life, religion and culture is threatened with extinction by the plan to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? The Gwich’in tribe has lived on its ancestral lands for 20,000 years in harmony with the natural world.

Drilling in the coastal plain of the Arctic refuge, called by the Gwich’in “the Sacred Place Where All Life Begins,” will disrupt caribou calving grounds, leading to the long-term decline not only of the herd but of the tribe that depends upon it for survival. This will violate Gwich’in internationally recognized human rights and make a mockery of our founding principle of the inalienable right of each person to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Exxon Chavez

From the BBC:
Venezuela has given the world's biggest oil company, ExxonMobil, until the end of this year to enter a joint venture with the state. Failure to do so will almost certainly result in Exxon losing its oil field concessions in the country.

Venezuela's socialist government has now signed new agreements with almost all foreign petroleum companies.After months of pressure from left- wing leader Hugo Chavez most foreign oil firms working there have caved in. They have agreed to hand over a controlling stake of their oil interests to the Venezuelan state. This means that Venezuela, which has the world's largest petroleum reserves, now calls the shots in what the foreign guests can and cannot do. In addition, the companies which have signed the new contracts - such as Chevron, BP, Shell and Total - will in future be presented with much higher tax bills by the government.

But Venezuela says it is only fair that the foreigners are made to pay up as they have got away lightly in the past. Much of the oil revenue in Venezuela goes into social projects in shanty towns and poor rural areas. But the US oil giant, ExxonMobil, is digging in its heels and is so far refusing to agree to the terms of the new deal. Exxon risks losing Venezuelan operations if it fails to comply.

There is growing unease among foreign energy companies based Latin America that they may be forced to become junior partners by a string of left wing governments. In the case of Bolivia and the apparent shift to the left there following elections on Sunday, it is possible that the new government will decide to follow Venezuela's example and renegotiate oil and gas contracts with foreign investors.

From Tom Toles.

Will the US get fooled again?


The WSWS points out the many lies and idiocies of Bush and Cheney's latest babblings, highlighting the increasingly desperate tone.
Desperate regimes take desperate measures. Facing mass opposition and besieged on all sides by revelations of criminal activities ranging from torture to secret prisons to illegal spying, the Bush administration is responding with a drumbeat of warnings that September 11 could happen again. The question is whether this administration is preparing to either engineer or allow such an attack as a means of suppressing domestic dissent and furthering its policies of militarism abroad and reaction at home.
The so-called "war on terror" is in fact a war of terror. Torture, secret prisons and wiretaps are just as much weapons of terror as are suicide bombers. Of course, F-16's and Abrams tanks and cruise missiles are weapons of terror as well.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Quote du jour

"The only thing more annoying than Bush not doing his job is Bush doing his job." -- WIIIAI

WIIIAI also points out that aWol said this in the press conference: "There’s a lot of work to get rid of the past." Most presidents want to make history; W wants to destroy it.


Fast on our feet, part deux

When his lips are moving. A couple of followups to my Fast on our feet post.

From David Sirota:
Bush might have had a point, except for one tiny little detail he refused to discuss at his press conference: namely, the fact that current law is so lax that he is already permitted to get a search warrant 72 hours after surveillance is conducted. Put another way, the law currently allows Bush to order surveillance as fast as he possibly can, and allows surveillance operations to take place immediately.
I said in that earlier post "The ONLY reason Bush would avoid following the FISA guidelines is because he is bugging people he definitely should not be." The WSWS suggests an even more ominous motive:
Given the fact that the threshold for obtaining warrants from the FISA court is extremely low, and the court has refused only a handful of such requests, generally granting them within a few hours, the decision of the Bush administration to proceed independently indicates that it deliberately sought to establish a precedent for unchecked presidential powers.
And Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair point out the nearly criminal lethargy of the NY Times in withholding this evidence of further Bush crimes for over a year. I would suggest that it might have changed the last election, except John Kerry ca. 2004 probably would have leaped to Bush's defense, and the Repugs would have still had the election stolen anyway.

The fact that aWol insists on continuing his crime, even after it has finally been exposed to the light of day, makes a case for urgency in impeachment, as well as a lack of leniency in sentencing if and when he is finally brought before a court of law.

Fake democracy is so boring

That's why Torture Dick and Lynne-sane took their IPods with them to Kabul.

Fast on our feet

From the NY Times story on aWol's press conference today:
Normally, no wiretapping is permitted in the United States without a court warrant. But Bush said he approved the action without such orders "because it enables us to move faster and quicker. We've got to be fast on our feet."

"America is under attack."

The idea that the Foreign Intelligence Security Act, an Orwellian nightmare in itself, was in any way an obstacle to investigating terrorism is total BS. FISA approval of wiretaps is almost always granted, and quickly (sometimes within minutes, I read somewhere over the weekend). Compared to the hours or days it would generally take to get bugs planted, or even for the suspect to actually make a suspicious phone call, this is insignificant. The ONLY reason Bush would avoid following the FISA guidelines is because he is bugging people he definitely should not be (even stipulating that the FISA guidelines sufficiently protect our liberties, which they don't).

Of course, being Bush, one dose of pure BS is never enough:
"It was a shameful act for someone to disclose this important program in a time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy," he said.
Anyone plotting terror attacks against the US, at least with enough brains to carry it out, already knew that using personal phones and cell phones and carrying on conversations at home had to be risky (unless, of course, it's a false-flag operation), even before FISA and the Patriot Act. Knowing that Bush bypassed FISA didn't change that risk one iota. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping America. It's democracy. Elected officials are supposed to be accountable. W disagrees. W needs to go. To jail.

He also complained about the vote blocking the Patriot Act extension:
"I want senators from New York or Los Angeles or Las Vegas to explain why these cities are safer" without the extension, he said.
I doubt if Harry Reid, Diane Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Hillary Clinton or Charles Schumer will make the following argument, but I'll put it out there for them if they want it! Here it is: Home invasions are inherently dangerous. Homeowners or renters, and their family members as well, may return home at any time. If the FBI or other government agency is busy doing a sneak-and-peak at that time, the possibility of someone getting shot is very real. Also, local cops might see the breakin and try to stop it. Given how secretive the government obviously wants to be about all this, it seems likely that the burglars (which is what they are) will be armed, and probably disguise themselves as "real" burglars. It wouldn't surprise me at all to find out that there have already been several shootings related to these "sneak and peak" searches.

That, and the fact that they're completely unconstitutional. The constitution has been a critical part of security in this country since it was founded. People across the country are less safe the more the constitution gets eroded and ignored.

[Update] See additional comments on this post above.

A president, not a king

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) responds to aWol's pre-emptive attack on the constitution:
The President's shocking admission that he authorized the National Security Agency to spy on American citizens, without going to a court and in violation of the Constitution and laws passed by Congress, further demonstrates the urgent need for these protections. The President believes that he has the power to override the laws that Congress has passed. This is not how our democratic system of government works. The President does not get to pick and choose which laws he wants to follow. He is a president, not a king.

On behalf of all Americans who believe in our constitutional system of government, I call on this Administration to stop this program immediately and to fully cooperate with congressional inquiries and investigations. We have had enough of an Administration that puts itself above the law and the Constitution.

Back in the USSR

Billmon points out how W's assurances that he is protecting civil liberties while destroying them echo the Constitution of the USSR from 1936, during Stalin's reign of terror. I also see that Condiliar predictably spent Sunday morning defending the government's Stalinesque tactics on the talk shows. This inspired me to come up with some new lyrics to the old Beatles song:
Cheney flew in to Baghdad on Air Force Two
To him it's a delightful sight
Death destruction Halliburton everywhere
Loves to watch them Ayrabs fight
We're back in the USSR
Who really lost the cold war, boy
Back in the USSR.

Sneak and peek and infiltrate and read our mail
Wiretaps on every phone
Patriot Acts and detainees in every jail
Constitution dead and gone
We're back in the USSR
You don't know how lucky we were, boys
Back in the USSR.

The war on terror really knocks me out
It leaves the law behind
And torture cells make me scream and shout
And Gitmo's always on my my my my my my my my my mind

Oh take me down to Abu Ghraib or old Bagram
Hook up all the wires and chains
Send me on a tour of the new gulag
I'll soon be just some ugly stains
We're back in the USSR
we really lost the cold war, boy
Back in the USSR.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!

And we've got video!.

Use the "I" word

The NY Times correctly points out today the W's secret spying on us violates the law and the Constitution. Furthermore, they point out that this is a pattern of behavior, and that his assurances that it is necessary and done appropriately are meaningless after five years of lying to the American people:
The mass murders of 9/11 revealed deadly gaps in United States intelligence that needed to be closed. Most of those involved failure of performance, not legal barriers. Nevertheless, Americans expected some reasonable and carefully measured trade-offs between security and civil liberties. They trusted their elected leaders to follow long-established democratic and legal principles and to make any changes in the light of day. But President Bush had other ideas. He secretly and recklessly expanded the government's powers in dangerous and unnecessary ways that eroded civil liberties and may also have violated the law.
Mr. Bush secretly decided that he was going to allow the agency to spy on American citizens without obtaining a warrant - just as he had earlier decided to scrap the Geneva Conventions, American law and Army regulations when it came to handling prisoners in the war on terror. Indeed, the same Justice Department lawyer, John Yoo, who helped write the twisted memo on legalizing torture, wrote briefs supporting the idea that the president could ignore the law once again when it came to the intelligence agency's eavesdropping on telephone calls and e-mail messages.

"The government may be justified in taking measures which in less troubled conditions could be seen as infringements of individual liberties," he wrote.

Let's be clear about this: illegal government spying on Americans is a violation of individual liberties, whether conditions are troubled or not. Nobody with a real regard for the rule of law and the Constitution would have difficulty seeing that. The law governing the National Security Agency was written after the Vietnam War because the government had made lists of people it considered national security threats and spied on them. All the same empty points about effective intelligence gathering were offered then, just as they are now, and the Congress, the courts and the American people rejected them.
President Bush defended the program yesterday, saying it was saving lives, hotly insisting that he was working within the Constitution and the law, and denouncing The Times for disclosing the program's existence. We don't know if he was right on the first count; this White House has cried wolf so many times on the urgency of national security threats that it has lost all credibility. But we have learned the hard way that Mr. Bush's team cannot be trusted to find the boundaries of the law, much less respect them.
So what does the Times suggest be done about a president who has broken the law repeatedly and violated his oath to uphold the Constitution?
Mr. Bush said he would not retract his secret directive or halt the illegal spying, so Congress should find a way to force him to do it.
No. It's simpler than that. Get the criminal off the streets. IMPEACH.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A bit full of yourself, Hillary?

I'm not sure why Hillary Clinton thinks I support her--apparently she's never read my blog. A couple of weeks ago I got a fundraising letter from "Friends of Hillary." I sent all of the contents of the letter back in the business reply envelope, on which I had drawn peace signs and other subtle messages to Hillary and her friends. Today, I got a huge envelope with a bumper sticker and a window sign, which received the same treatment. On the outside of the big envelope it came in, it says "At Republican headquarters, there's a list of Democrats they want out of their way. My name is on top."

Hillary, you sellout, you haven't been IN their way! Patriot Act, three wars (don't forget Haiti), calling for MORE troops in Iraq. Now you're pushing for an anti-flag-burning amendment. My guess is that the Repugs are ecstatic that you might run for president in 2008. They know they can count on their base to despise you, and much of the left besides. You are hurting the country! Step aside.

From Red Meat.

From David Horsey.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Hey Rudy! Shove it up your Ashcroft!

Rudy Giuliani whines about the Senate protecting our civil liberties.

A big surprise

Robert Novak is going to "work" for Fox News.

Presidential prerogative

The Democrats have picked up on what I and other bloggers noted in W's babbling with Brit Hume the other day--his statement that he believed Tom DeLay to be innocent violated the White House's repeated refusal to comment on ongoing investigations. Of course, Scottie the Liar has a non-answer for everything:
"The president was asked a question and he responded to that question in the interview yesterday, and made very clear what his views were," McClellan said. "We don't typically tend to get into discussing legal matters of that nature, but in this instance, the president chose to respond to it. Our policy regarding the Fitzgerald investigation and ongoing legal proceeding is well-known and it remains unchanged."

"Call it a presidential prerogative," he added.
Which surprised me a bit. I figured he would probably say "We don't comment on comments on ongoing investigations."

VICTORY! (For now)

The reauthorization of the worst parts of the Patriot Act went down in flames today:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate on Friday rejected attempts to reauthorize several provisions of the USA Patriot Act as infringing too much on Americans' privacy and liberty, dealing a huge defeat to the Bush administration and Republican leaders.

In a crucial vote early Friday, the bill's Senate supporters were not able to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a threatened filibuster by Sens. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, and Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and their allies. The final vote was 52-47.
For once, Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman were on the right side. The only Democrats voting to block the filibuster (and thereby extend the Patriot Act in its awful form) were Johnson of South Dakota and Nelson of Nebraska.

CNN called the vote a "huge defeat" to the Bush administration and a "blow" to Frist. HAHA!

Meanwhile, Senator McCain met W halfway on the torture issue, as this photo clearly shows:

Four Republicans joined in upholding the filibuster: Craig (ID),Hagel (NB), Murkowski (AK), and Sununu (NH). Majority Leader Catkiller Frist switched sides to join them at the last minute because Senate rules would then allow him to reopen the issue at any time.

Where has all the freedom gone?

They're spying on us. The corrupt Bushie government, that is. According to NBC, the Pentagon has been spying on Quakers and other peace activists:
The DOD database obtained by NBC News includes nearly four dozen anti-war meetings or protests, including some that have taken place far from any military installation, post or recruitment center. One “incident” included in the database is a large anti-war protest at Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles last March that included effigies of President Bush and anti-war protest banners. Another incident mentions a planned protest against military recruiters last December in Boston and a planned protest last April at McDonald’s National Salute to America’s Heroes — a military air and sea show in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The Fort Lauderdale protest was deemed not to be a credible threat and a column in the database concludes: “US group exercising constitutional rights.” Two-hundred and forty-three other incidents in the database were discounted because they had no connection to the Department of Defense — yet they all remained in the database.
Also, in 2002, the idiot-in-chief authorized the NSA to spy on you and me. From the NY Times:
Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval was a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.

"This is really a sea change," said a former senior official who specializes in national security law. "It's almost a mainstay of this country that the N.S.A. only does foreign searches."
Just a reminder, from the Constitution this idiot Texan swore to uphold:
Fourth Amendment – Protection from unreasonable search and seizure.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Impeach the bastard! In the meantime, the American Friends Service Committee has a letter you can send to your Congresscritters to remind them that the Bill of Rights is non-negotiable.


We got yet another big snowstorm yesterday, and we've already had many days of the very cold temperatures usually only seen in January or February. And winter starts next week. I've noticed that a couple of the idiot right-wing cartoonists have jumped on this as an argument that global warming isn't happening, ignoring of course all of the predictions and actual evidence that more extreme weather in general, including extreme cold, is/will be one of the symptoms of global warming, and that some areas, Europe in particular, are predicted to get colder because of global warming.

In any case, the extreme weather of the late summer, aka Katrina, appears to be teaming up with the extreme weather of the late fall to lead the northern parts of the US, and the northeast in particular, into very dire circumstances. US News & World Report (or as a high-school classmate called it, "Useless News & World Distort") has a lengthy report on the crisis looming in the northeast caused by shortages of natural gas and heating oil. Natural gas is used not only to heat houses, heat water, and cook, it is also used by numerous electricity generating plants (especially in the northeast) and by many businesses. Many of the businesses may simply shut down for the winter months, or move operations overseas, as Dow Chemical has already done. Their employees will be added to the already huge list of people for whom heating costs may be out of reach this winter. And the deregulated electricity industry may just shut down many power plants rather than pay high gas and oil costs, causing blackouts and brownouts. These will in turn lead to more layoffs, and still more people without heat. Neither state or local governments nor the oil companies wallowing in windfall profits offer much hope for alleviating the crisis--even the generally right-wing US News admits
The only significant outside aid has come from Citgo Petroleum, controlled by the Venezuelan government and its president, fierce Bush administration adversary Hugo Chavez, who has promised $10 million in discounts to low-income northeastern heating oil customers.
US News reports that seniors, with their thermostats already set to a chilly 62F, are now cutting back on their meds to pay the heating bills.

All northern cities and states appear at risk, but according to US News, New York City seems especially vulnerable:
A winter failure could prove catastrophic, because any extended loss of heat could cause water pipes to burst in residential and commercial buildings alike. Also, the thousands of "traps" where steam escapes (and billows from manhole covers) could freeze and fail, causing distribution pipes to crack or lose pressure. Former Central Intelligence Agency chief Jim Woolsey, now active on energy issues, argues that parts of the city "could resemble a frozen New Orleans."
The theme of a preventable disaster in the making runs throughout the article:
Whether because of cost or cold, officials are bracing for human suffering across America this winter. "Forces can come together that turn crisis for some into disaster--that's really what I think we could be looking at this winter," says Iowa energy assistance director McKim. "I hate to sound like the voice of doom, but somebody has to say this stuff. It's just like Hurricane Katrina. They knew it was coming, but little was done to prepare an effective response. And the same thing is happening here."

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Calvin's snowmen

As the world continues to fall apart and we're getting tons of snow right now, these cartoons cheered me up.

Giving Iraq the purple finger

Riverbend explains the Iraqi election. Excerpt:
It’s a poster war. One day, you see the posters of Allawi, featuring Safiya Suhail, the next day, Allawi’s big face is covered with pictures of Hakim and Sistani. Allawi’s supporters have been complaining that Hakim’s supporters were sabotaging campaign posters.
More people are going to elect this time around- not because Iraqis suddenly believe in American-imposed democracy under occupation, but because the situation this last year has been intolerable. Hakim and Ja’affari and their minions have managed to botch things up so badly, Allawi is actually looking acceptable in the eyes of many. I still can't stand him.

Allawi is still an American puppet. His campaign posters, and the horrors of the last year, haven’t changed that. People haven’t forgotten his culpability in the whole Fallujah debacle. For some Iraqis, however, he’s preferable to Hakim and Ja’affari after a year of detentions, abductions, assassinations and secret torture prisons.

There’s a saying in Iraq which people are using right and left lately, and that I've used before in the blog, “Ili ishuf il mout, yirdha bil iskhuna.” He who sees death, is content with a fever. Allawi et al. seem to be the fever these days…

From Chris Britt.

From Emad Hajjaj (Jordan).

From Rob Rogers.

While they're firing cartoonists...

I'll suggest that Detroit News cartoonist Larry Wright, working in one a region with one of the largest concentrations of Arabs outside of the Middle East, be next on the chopping block, because of this racist cartoon:

From Mike Keefe.


Two morons discussed the fate of the world on Fox News yesterday. Excerpts, emphasis added:
HUME: Secretary Rumsfeld, how does he stand with you?

BUSH: Good. He's done a heck of a job. He's conducted two wars, and at the same time is out to transfer my military
from a military that was constructed for the post-Cold War to one that is going to be constructed to fight terrorism.

HUME: Is he here to stay, as far as you're concerned, until the end of your term?

BUSH: Yes. Well, the end of my term is a long time, but I'll tell you, he's doing a heck of a good job. I have no intention of changing him.
Of course not. Rummy has some Army Major change his Depends for him. Anyway...
HUME: How about Karl Rove, the man you once called the architect.

He went through some trials and tribulations — and they appear largely to be over now. There has been some thought that perhaps your relationship with him is more distant than once it was. What about that?

BUSH: Somebody said that was recent speculation, and we're still as close as we've ever been. We've been through a lot. When I look back at the presidency and my time in politics, uh, no question Karl had a lot to do with me getting here.
Really. You think?
HUME: Turning to politics here, Democrats say that there is a culture of corruption among Republicans in Congress. Now, we've had the DeLay indictment, part of which has since been dismissed. You had — you've got this Abramoff investigation going on up there, and whatever the outcome, it isn't pretty.

And then you have the Duke Cunningham case, with which I know you're familiar, and we've now seen some of the details of that case. They're quite striking: rugs and goodies of all kinds and large sums of money. What about that allegation, that there's a culture of corruption on Capitol Hill among Republicans? How do you feel about that?

BUSH: Well, first of all, I feel Duke Cunningham was wrong and should be punished for what he did. And I think anybody who does what he did should be punished, Republican or Democrat. Secondly, I'm — you know, the Abramoff — I'm frankly, not all that familiar with a lot that's going on up there on Capitol Hill. But it seems like to me that he was an equal money dispenser, that he was giving money to people in both political parties.
BUSH (cont): Yes, I mean, it's really important for all of us in public life to have the highest of ethics. So we can only trust the American people.
What the Cheney does that mean?
HUME: Do you hope and expect that Tom DeLay will return to be majority leader?

BUSH: Yes. At least, I don't know whether I'm expecting it. I hope that he will.

HUME: Why?

BUSH: Well, I like him. When he's over there, we get our votes through the House.
Hey moron! Do you have any idea HOW DeLay gets your votes through the House, and how it represents the LOWEST in ethics, not the highest? Bribes, threats, extortion, subverting the democratic process. That's what DeLay does. That's what DeLay is.
HUME: You know a thing or two about Texas politics. What is your judgment of the prosecutor in the case, Ronnie Earle?

BUSH: I'm not going to go there, simply because I want — I want this trial to be conducted as fairly as possible. And the more politics that are in it, the less likely it's going to be fair.

HUME: Do you just — do you believe he's innocent?

BUSH: Do I? Yes, I do.
Hey stupid--you just "went there." Whatever happened to not commenting on an ongoing investigation?

At the end of all this BS, Hume asks idiot how he thinks he'll be remembered:
BUSH: I hope that first, as a person, I'll be remembered as a fellow who had his priorities straight: his faith, his family and his friends are a central part of his life.

Secondly, I hope to be remembered, from a personal perspective, as a fellow who had lived life to the fullest and gave it his all. And thirdly, I'd like to be remembered as the president who used American influence for the good of the world: bastioning freedom and fighting disease and poverty, by recognizing to whom much is given, much is required and that — that I wasn't afraid to make a decision.
Sorry, moron. You'll be remembered by three little words: "WORST PRESIDENT EVER."

Real imperialists waste their money wisely

That headline is my "shorter" version for today's NY Times editorial, which ought to put to rest any doubts that the "Grey Lady" is not totally a tool of the military-industrial-imperial complex. Excerpts:
After the Pentagon's spending orgy over the past five years, there is plenty of scope for cutting, without weakening America's defenses - but only if the cuts come out of the most costly and least needed Air Force and Navy weapons programs, not from the money required to replenish and re-equip the Army and Marine ground forces that have been worn down by Iraq.

Alleviating the dangerous strain on America's overstretched, underrested and increasingly taxed land-based forces must be the Pentagon's highest priority for the next five years. Even if it becomes possible to draw down some fraction of the troops now in Iraq and Afghanistan, the overall size of America's land forces needs to be increased to reverse the declines in readiness and morale, help recruiting, and reduce the reliance on the Reserves for overseas combat.

America cannot be a global military power without a healthy Army. Without significant new investment to add and train more soldiers, the Army's strength will continue to deteriorate.

Very few critics of the military's spending priorities want the United States to relinquish its current dominance in the skies and on the seas.
The Air Force and the Navy can play only secondary roles in wars like Iraq. Their spending plans are increasingly oriented toward the possibility of future military conflict with China. That is not totally absurd. China's military planning is increasingly oriented toward the possibility of future conflict with the United States, like, for example, a clash over the Taiwan Strait. But war with China is a remote, unlikely and avoidable contingency. It should not dominate current military spending - especially if China is simply being used as an excuse to justify expensive equipment the Pentagon wants to buy. Given the huge lead the United States now holds in air and sea technology, the Navy and Air Force can be re-equipped with everything they really need at a more realistic and affordable pace.

The Air Force should step up the pace of its introduction of unpiloted drones, which can be used for surveillance and for attacks. They are much cheaper than fighter jets and do not risk pilots' lives.
[I]n a world of finite resources, excessive spending on the wrong weapons comes at the expense of real military needs, like building up America's ground forces. Surely $2.3 trillion over the next five years, allocated wisely, ought to be enough to provide for all of America's military needs in all likely combat contingencies. It would be scandalous to spend that kind of money and still come up short in real wars like Iraq.

I'll start at the end. "Real wars like Iraq?" Aren't real wars fought against real enemies for real reasons? What's scandalous is starting wars like Iraq in the first place. If running out of money is what it will take to stop that idiocy, then by all means let's run out of money.

And how about cutting BOTH the piloted fighters and bombers AND the creepy drones? Let's fight the next war with George W. Bush on a mountain bike armed with a bag of pretzels.

And preparing for war with China because China is preparing to defend itself because we are preparing for war with China "is not totally absurd?" I thought they fired Judy Miller.

And count me as one critic who demands that the Pentagon relinquish its dominance in the skies and on the seas. It does almost nothing to protect or promote our security or well-being. Cut it all!!

"America cannot be a global military power without a healthy Army." They say that like being a global military power is a good thing! The military and the wars it fights are the most visible and violent means by which the wealthy continually rob the poor. The military is used to rob other nations of their resources, and to fund the "iron triangle" of corruption--military contractors, the Pentagon, and Congress. (The Duke Cunningham scandal is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg.) The U.S. would be a safer and better and more democratic place if the defense budget were cut by 90 percent or more. Instead, the NY Times is calling for rebuilding the Army and Marines so we'll be prepared to invade somewhere else. Count me out.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

More from Condiliar

In her speech at the Heritage Foundation, Condiliar had this to say:
I'm sad to say that the international community has barely done anything to help Iraq prosecute Saddam Hussein. All who expressed their devotion to human rights and the rule of law have a special obligation to help the Iraqis bring to justice one of the world’s most murderous tyrants. The international community’s effective boycott of Saddam’s trial is only harming the Iraqi people, who are now working to secure the hope of justice and freedom that Saddam long denied them.
Ahem. Condi? Condi? The international community set up something called the International Criminal Court, which your idiot boss steadfastly refused to participate in. Boycotted, even. And the sham trial going on in Iraq is supposedly Iraq trying one of its own criminals. Where exactly is the "international community" supposed to come in on that? Were they even invited? Maybe they'd like to come in and add to the charges against Saddam--like purchasing weapons and means for dispersing chemical weapons from the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations, or using US intelligence to attack his own people. I'm sure the French or the Iranians could add some spice to the trial. Is that what you want?

Condi has got to be the stupidest smart woman ever.

Speaking of unsustainable ways to sustainability

Following up on the Palm oil biodiesel post, here's an idea which should probably be squashed: Space 'spiders' could build solar satellites:
A mission to determine whether spider-like robots could construct complex structures in space is set to launch in January 2006. The spider bots could build large structures by crawling over a "web" released from a larger spacecraft.

The engineers behind the project hope the robots will eventually be used to construct colossal solar panels for satellites that will transmit solar energy back to Earth. The satellites could reflect and concentrate the Sun's rays to a receiving station on Earth or perhaps beam energy down in the form of microwaves.
A satellite capable of beaming one billion watts of solar-generated electricity back to Earth would probably need a solar panel with an area of one square kilometre. But spider robots could also be used to build massive communication antennas or a shield to protect satellites from orbiting space junk.
Yeah--space junk like massive communications antennas or giant solar panels.

More than enough sunlight hits the earth's surface to provide for all of our currently extravagant needs--hundreds of times over. There is no need to effectively extend that surface area for the purpose of beaming yet more energy to an already overheated planet. Also, just launching the solar panels and the spiders into orbit will take huge amounts of energy.

The experiment is being conducted by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, but I'll bet there is some Pentagon money and interest behind it. I don't think that space-based solar panels will have any place in a sustainable future.

From Tom Toles.

Meanwhile, Hitler will check to see if Poland is treating its Jews well

NY Times headline: To Halt Abuses, U.S. Will Inspect Jails Run by Iraq


Have you called your senators yet???

Apparently there is still hope that the Patriot Act will not be renewed, at least with all of its odious police-state provisions intact. Six more senators, including Michigan's Carl Levin, have joined the original bipartisan six to fight against the House-Senate conference report which would renew and even extend the police-state crap. These senators deserve your support, while the others need your prodding.

See the Bill of Rights Defense Committee or the ACLU for more info.

Palm oil biodiesel

Monbiot's concerns about the impact of palm-oil-based biodiesel on the environment appear not to concern business types in Malaysia. From The Star, a Malaysian news website:
IOI Corp Bhd is planning to set up a biodiesel plant, costing around RM100mil, with a capacity of at least 150,000 tonnes a year, said group executive chairman Tan Sri Lee Shin Cheng.

Speaking to reporters after the EGMs of IOI Corp and IOI Oleochemical Industries Bhd in Putrajaya yesterday, Lee said the group was still ironing out the details, such as the plant's location and when it would start operations.

“The plant would either be here or in Holland,” he said.
Just a minor "detail" of some 6000 miles--but I digress. Further on in the article:
On Monday, the country’s pioneer biodiesel players, Golden Hope Plantations Bhd, Kumpulan Fima Bhd and Carotino Sdn Bhd, signed agreements for joint-venture biodiesel plants with Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB).

The plants – two in Klang and one in Pasir Gudang – are estimated to cost about RM40mil each and have a combined annual production capacity of 180,000 tonnes or 60,000 tonnes each.
Biofuel, based on palm oil, can reduce Malaysia's dependence on petroleum and also has good export potential. The Government has in the pipeline a National Biofuel Policy encompassing the formulation of the Biofuel Act and its provisions.
Somehow I'm guessing that the company that can't decide whether to build the plant in Malaysia or Holland is planning on exploiting the "good export potential."

As I implied last week, it's always a tragedy when potentially good technologies become destructive. Obviously, biodiesel isn't a sustainable resource when it comes from genetically-modified palm trees grown on the slashed-and-burned ashes of a rain forest and tended by child slave labor, then shipped 6000 miles away so the Dutch can drive to Starbucks. (Note--I don't have any evidence for the GM or the child slave labor parts of that last sentence; just making a point.) European environmentalists should reject all imports of biodiesel from distant lands, and all enthusiasts of biodiesel and other green technologies, including myself, need to carefully consider all of the effects these technologies may have.

Even worse

I thought nothing could sound more ridiculous than aWol babbling about his "Plan for Victory" and the supposed nature of the enemy. I was wrong. The same BS sounds far more ridiculous when parroted by Condiliar Rice, a woman who by all accounts DIDN'T skip most of her college classes:
The American people want to know who we and the Iraqis are fighting and that we can win. And President Bush has answered, explaining the nature of the enemy that we face and why failure is not an option. The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists and Saddamists and terrorists. The rejectionists miss the unjust status they have lost. But we believe that some of them can be convinced to join a democratic Iraq that is strong enough to protect minority rights. The Saddamists are loyal to the old regime and think that they can regain power by inciting undemocratic sentiment. But as the Iraqi people become more able to defend their democracy, we believe that they will increasingly be marginalized.

The final enemy we face, the terrorists, are a small but deadly group, motivated by the global ideology of hatred that fuels al-Qaida, and they will stop at nothing to make Iraq the heart of a totalitarian empire that encompasses the entire Islamic world. If we quit now, we will give the terrorists exactly what they want. We will desert Iraq’s democrats at their time of greatest need. We will embolden every enemy of liberty across the Middle East. We will destroy any chance that the people of this region have of building a future of hope and decency. And most of all, we will make America more vulnerable.

In abandoning future generations in the Middle East to despair and terror, we also condemn future generations in the United States to insecurity and fear. And President Bush has made clear that on his watch, America will not retreat from a fight that we can and must win.
"They will stop at nothing to make Iraq the heart of a totalitarian empire that encompasses the entire Islamic world." Condi attributes that goal to the "terrorists," but it is really the goal of the Bushies. And, as WIIIAI points out, Condi is not satisfied with this huge stinking pile of BS--she has to add more:
When America leads with principle in the world, freedom’s cause grows stronger. We saw this when Ronald Reagan spurned friendly dictators and supported freedom’s cause in Latin America.
The only person remotely resembling a "friendly dictator" spurned by Reagan (and every other US president) would be Fidel Castro. Meanwhile, Reagan was actively supporting extremely unfriendly dictators in Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Chile, Haiti and Paraguay, while doing everything possible to destroy the democratically-elected government in Nicaragua.

What a pitiful excuse for a Secretary of State.

Ask your doctor for a reason to take it

Are you suffering from cognition, metabolism, or binocular vision? Ask your doctor about Panexa.

Most patients (2%) tolerate treatment with PANEXA well, especially when compared with prisoners of war of comparable size and weight. However, like all drugs, PANEXA can produce some notable side effects, all of which are probably really, really terrific and nothing that anyone should be concerned about, let alone notify any medical regulatory commission about. Most side effects of PANEXA, or their sufferers, are usually short-lived, and are rarely so fatal that the remains can no longer be identified, provided good dental records are available.
(via Bob Harris)

Free Trade Isn't Free

From the Detroit Free Press' lead editorial today:
The federal government has to date shown little interest in addressing any of the critical issues facing the domestic auto industry. Motor vehicle manufacturers don't appear to have the muscles in Washington that other business groups, including steel firms and drugmakers, have been able to flex in recent years.
I'll give the Free Press a hint: Who are the auto industry's most prominent political representatives on the national stage? Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, Representative John Dingell, Governor Jennifer Granholm. All Democrats. Like the Reagan and Bush I administrations used the Contras to make life in Nicaragua a living (and dying) hell for a decade until the country cried uncle and voted the Sandinistas out of office, the current Bushies and other Repugs running this country apparently intend the squeeze the Great Lakes State until we, too, love Big Brother. So far, at least outside of Benton Harbor, the approach hasn't involved death squads, but the suffering and even death caused by the ongoing (and nearly complete) destruction of Michigan industrial cities like Detroit, Flint and Lansing is very real.

Of course, the Free Press still serves the corporate interests, so it refuses to blame the whole corrupt economic framework. Instead, it just uses a Kerry-esque approach, suggesting that only a minor tweak is needed to get the assembly lines and $30-an-hour jobs rolling again--a federal trade prosecutor:
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who is cosponsoring the Senate version of the legislation with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the prosecutor would be charged with making sure America's trading partners are "playing by the rules." The prosecutor would investigate complaints about unfair trade practices, violations of trade agreements and theft of designs or other intellectual property and take cases to the World Trade Organization. Now, that process falls largely to private companies or individual citizens who are often taking on foreign governments, Stabenow said.

"They need a voice, somebody on their side," she said.
The Free Press comments:
This is not a protectionist proposal, nor an attempt to curb free trade.
Well, then it's not good enough. Despite the evidence all around them, the Free Press apparently still believes that "free trade" is a good thing. It isn't. It destroys cities, lives, and the environment. Michigan has everything necessary for a truly healthy economy with almost no need to import or export anything. It would be vastly different from what we have today, or what we had 30 years ago, but there are enough resources and know-how here to do it. We'd have to be more careful with the environment, and learn how to do some new things, and probably put everybody back to work. Anybody got a problem with that?

BTW, right-wing Detroit News cartoonist Henry Payne has drawn not one, but TWO CARTOONS in the past week extolling the wonders of the supposed 4.3% growth in the economy, even as tens of thousands of people in the region are laid off or are having their wages, benefits and pensions cut. Two of the top headlines today in Henry's paper? Ford caps benefits for thousands of retirees, and Detroit will lay off 400, shut history museum. I'm not sure we can stand much more of this "growth," Henry.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

From Matt Wuerker.

From Boondocks.

Easy enough to understand her confusion. As she gets older, she'll be told not to believe in the fat guy with the beard, but still believe in the gaunt guy with the halo. Don't believe in the guy with the flying reindeer, but believe in the guy who walks on water. Realize that nobody can get to every house in just one night, or really know who's naughty and nice, except of course for the guy lurking in every house every night. Believe in the guy she'll never see, but not in the guy she'll probably see a hundred times between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Believe in the guy written up in 2000-year-old books, but not the one who leaves tangible presents under the tree.

Good preparation for believing that an invasion based on non-existent weapons of mass destruction was really about democracy, I guess.

Life in the bubble

"I think we are welcomed. But it was not a peaceful welcome."-- AWol, babbling to Brian Williams.

Wars on reason and English continue

AWol answered some questions after yesterday's stupidfest in Philly (emphasis added):
Q I would like to know why you and others in your administration invoke 9/11 as justification for the invasion of Iraq --


Q -- when no respected journalists or other Middle Eastern experts confirm that such a link existed.

THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate that. 9/11 changed my look on foreign policy. I mean, it said that oceans no longer protect us, that we can't take threats for granted; that if we see a threat, we've got to deal with it. It doesn't have to be militarily, necessarily, but we got to deal with it. We can't -- can't just hope for the best anymore.

And so the first decision I made, as you know, was to -- was to deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan because they were harboring terrorists. This is where the terrorists planned and plotted. And the second decision, -- which was a very difficult decision for me, by the way, and it's one that I -- I didn't take lightly -- was that Saddam Hussein was a threat. He is a declared enemy of the United States; he had used weapons of mass destruction; the entire world thought he had weapons of mass destruction. The United Nations had declared in more than 10 -- I can't remember the exact number of resolutions -- that disclose, or disarm, or face serious consequences. I mean, there was a serious international effort to say to Saddam Hussein, you're a threat. And the 9/11 attacks extenuated that threat, as far as I -- concerned.

And so we gave Saddam Hussein the chance to disclose or disarm, and he refused. And I made a tough decision. And knowing what I know today, I'd make the decision again. Removing Saddam Hussein makes this world a better place and America a safer country. (Applause.)
"This is where the terrorists planned and plotted." Maybe one of the places, a minor one, where the terrorists planned and plotted--along with Germany, Spain, Georgia, Florida and Nevada. Maybe a good thing W doesn't know that.

Extenuate: " To lessen or attempt to lessen the magnitude or seriousness of, especially by providing partial excuses." ( So as far as W was concerned, 9/11 lessened the "threat" from Saddam.

"He refused." Well, Saddam had already disarmed years before the 2002/3 ultimatums, and he put out thousands of pages of disclosure about the destruction of the weapons (something the UN weapons inpectors and the CIA knew about anyway--and I'm sure that the Bushies and most of Congress did too). Oh well, W thinks "extenuate" means "makes worse," so maybe he thinks "refused" means "gave in totally, and, like, kissed our butts besides, the wuss." Of course, it is pretty obvious that he thinks that "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution" means "use it as toilet paper."

Applause. APPLAUSE?????? Holy crap.


No wonder we're the strongest nation on earth.

Where has all the money gone?

The Washington Post tracks scumbag Jack Abramoff's purchase of our politicians. And while $5 million seems like a lot of money to you and me, remember that these bought politicians regularly deal with BILLIONS--a thousand times as much. Most of these billions come back, one way or another, to the lobbyists and the capitalist scum they represent, providing them not only the obscene profits they crave but also endless funds to buy even more politicians. American politicians--the best investment ever.

Of course, Abramoff is just one of dozens, maybe hundreds, of swindling lobbyists investing in the politicians to make sure the wars continue, the tax cuts grow, the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. A guy like Abramoff is pretty much a mutual fund for corporations:
The Abramoff American Politicians Fund. Buy dozens of pols with one simple investment! Returns: Last year 8045%. Five years 92432%. Life of fund--3256566575%. Past performance is an excellent predictor of future earnings. Minimum investment $100,000. (It doesn't cost that much to buy a politician, but we won't do it for you unless you're rich.)

Monday, December 12, 2005

Roberts Rules

I rarely quote Julia Roberts, or Senator Pat Roberts, or Chief Justice John Roberts. But I quote Paul Craig Roberts all the time, and will likely continue to do so. As his old boss Ronald Reagan would say, "Here I go again!" PCR on torture and the Patriot Act:
The reason that the Bush administration and the neocons defend torture is that, having launched an illegal invasion and created an American police state, they are desperate for "evidence" of the terrorist threat in order to justify their illegal and unconstitutional policies.

The only way to obtain this "evidence" is to torture people until they confess to the plots that are invented for them. A steady stream of confessed "terrorists" serves to justify the police state that has been created. Bush revealed the ploy when he asserted on December 10 that terrorist violence will be the result if Congress does not renew the Orwellian-named "Patriot Act" by December 31: "In the war on terror, we cannot afford to be without that vital law for a single moment."

What Bush declares to be a "vital law" is, in fact, the greatest assault on civil liberties in the history of our country.

Do Americans really want to give up the civil liberties granted to them by the US Constitution merely in order that the Bush administration can lord it over the Middle East, establish puppet governments over Muslim peoples, protect Israel from retribution for its crimes against Palestinians, and steal oil from Arabs and Persians?

If Americans do, what remains of their virtue?

It's the money, stupid

The WaPo writes about Hillary Clinton's "centrist" stance on war (good grief--she voted for the damn thing, and keeps calling for more troops--what would a hawk look like if she is "centrist?"). The Post attempts to explain:
Clinton is confronting the Democratic Party's long-standing dilemma on national defense, with those harboring national ambitions caught between the passions of the antiwar left and political concerns that they remain vulnerable to charges of weakness from the Republicans if they embrace the party's base. But some Democrats say, the left not withstanding, her refusal to advocate a speedy exit from Iraq may reflect a more accurate reading of public anxiety about the choices now facing the country.
It's not "charges of weakness" that Hillary and the other DLC'ers fear; it's the loss of campaign money. The Democratic Party's dilemma is simply being the second corporate tool party of the military-industrial complex while pretending that they are not. Hillary and Holy Joe have abandoned the pretense that they are not tools of the complex; hopefully mainstream Democrats, those who oppose the war, will abandon the pretense that Hillary represents them in any meaningful way, and see to it that she in fact doesn't represent them.

The Post did answer one of my recent questions, however:
Clinton's support for the war has prompted a challenge from Jonathan Tasini, an antiwar Democrat, in next year's Senate primary in New York. She remains overwhelmingly popular among Democrats in New York, so the challenge may be more an irritant that a real threat.
As you might expect, Tasini has a web site, featuring a no-endorsement endorsement from Cindy Sheehan, and of course a chance to donate to his campaign (hint hint). Tasini also answers the paragraph from today's WaPo article that I quoted above:
So, the national press (as well as the alternative press and blogs) continues to report on the campaign. A week ago, we didn't exist. Today, in the Washington Post's world, we're an irritant. Tomorrow?

That's up to every person at the grassroots level--if people continue to volunteer their ideas, time and energy, we're going to surprise the pundits and the mainstream press. And if we can also develop a huge contingent of small donors, we'll have the money it takes to mobilize a grassroots army.

Are you up for it?
New York's 2006 senate race will be high-profile and may well set the stage in 2008. If Hillary wins the primary, New Yorkers will be choosing between two war hawks. If Hillary loses to an anti-war Dem in the primary, however, the message will be sent throughout the country that pro-war is no longer the way to win.

Stop the Patriot Act!!

Please call you senators now. The ACLU has details.

From Ted Rall.

Iran-Contra was covered up; but was it itself a coverup?

Cannonfire has a bunch of posts about the extended Duke Cunningham scandal. This one includes these intriguing paragraphs:
Reagan's illegal arms sales to Iran resulted in hefty profits being diverted to the contras. That's why they called it the Iran-Contra affair.

I've summarized with an almost criminal brevity a lot of sordid history, and I've done so to emphasize one point: Every time a new scandal popped up during the 1980s and early 1990s, the same refrain appeared: "It's all about funding the contras!" Money from arms sales, cocaine, heroin, gold, S&Ls, crooked banks, gambling, software, bribery, Middle East financiers, "patriotic" donations -- it all went toward regime change in the small country of Nicaragua.


Eventually, a few people started asking the obvious question: How much money did the contras need? Were they firing gold bullets down there?

In fact, fighters within the contra movement always insisted that they were seriously underfunded. Do not dismiss this assessment. The Sandinista army was hardly one of the world's most impressive fighting machines, yet the contras never seemed to make much headway against them. The FDN won only when the Nicaraguan electorate finally -- literally -- cried "uncle."

But if others grabbed much of this "contra" money -- where did it go? Were pockets lined, or was the clandestine cash used for partisan purposes?
There's lots more there--links to the Bushies and Jose Posada Carilles and BCCI and the S&L scandal and the Colombian cocaine cartels. And that's from just one of the posts! I haven't read all the others, yet. I'll bet we'll find Rev. Moon and Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay lurking in there somewhere--maybe Joe Lieberman, too!

Hope for Connecticut; How about New York?

From the NY Times (via Polizeros):
Former Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. on Monday criticized Senator Joseph I. Lieberman's continued support of the war in Iraq and said that if no candidate challenged the senator on the issue in the 2006 election, he would consider running.

"When you've become the president's best friend on the war in Iraq, you should not be in office, especially if you're in the opposing party," Mr. Weicker, 74, said in a phone interview from his home in Essex, Conn. "I'm going to do everything I can to see that Joe Lieberman does not get a free pass."

He said that Mr. Lieberman, a Democrat, currently had no challengers, either from within his party or from Republicans, in his campaign for a fourth term. Mr. Weicker said he believed that no Republican would challenge Mr. Lieberman on the war.
Weicker was a moderate/liberal Republican senator from 1971 to 1989, losing his seat to Holy Joe in the 1988 election. He later ran for governor and won as an independent.

The biggest sellout Dumbocrat in the country and the only politician with the guts to take him on, in a blue state, no less, is a 74-year-old former Republican? Whatever it takes. Go Lowell!!

So--any good anti-war Dems or Republicans next door in New York willing to take on the second biggest sellout Dumbocrat--Hillary Clinton?

Kind of makes me wonder--was Holy Joe a mole in the Gore campaign in 2000? He certainly didn't add any excitement to a campaign that desperately needed some, and he was worse than useless in the recount battle.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Book review

Ten days ago, I quoted author Larry Beinhart. Beinhart wrote the book Wag the Dog (originally titled "American Hero"), on which the movie Wag the Dog was based. Beinhart has written several other good books, one of which I can vouch for, having just finished it: The Librarian.

The Librarian is a thriller, based on the novel idea that in 2004 the Democrats had actually nominated a competent candidate (through no fault of their own, of course) with capable advisors and the many evil ways that the Repugs would have responded (and did anyway, at least most of them). The book is a page-turner, 432 short and exciting pages. I won't give away any more of the plot, but I'll entice you with a couple of paragraphs taken completely out of context:
Endless damn suburbia and a corpse in the back and cops everywhere.
Don't you want to read the book just to find out what that's all about? And to give you a better idea of Beinhart's political perspective, here's how he portrayed the Repug strategy at one point:
It was critical to keep this damn thing moving, moving so fast that no one ever caught up, then close it and shut it down and declare it over and settled and if they did that fast enough and with the proper pomp and ritual, all the questions would go away in the interests of stability and continuity and getting on with things and making money, just like it had after the Kennedy assassination and after the last election.

Sure, people still asked questions, but they were dismissed as conspiracy nuts. Not because they were wrong, but because nothing was going to change if they were right, so they were obsessing themselves with meaningless trivia, because truth upon which you cannot act is what trivia is.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Still here! This hasn't happened...yet

From Cal Grondahl.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Even worse than I recalled

Digging up the archives of my 2002 proto-blog, I came across this little gem:
U.N., Iraq Agree on Inspection Terms The chief U.N. weapons inspector for Iraq said on Tuesday that tentative agreement has been reached with Baghdad on the return of his team to check for the presence of illegal, nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

The Iraqi representatives have said "that they accept all the rights of inspections that are laid down" in previous resolutions authorizing U.N. inspections, said the chief inspector, Hans Blix.
The quote was from the NY Times, October 1, 2002. (I had a link back then, but it's broken now.) October 1 was about ten days BEFORE Congress voted to authorize aWol to go to war with Iraq. Many in Congress said, both before the vote and afterward (and even now,) that they voted for the war hoping to pressure Saddam into letting inspectors back in. But Saddam had already agreed!! So any congresscritter who claims that he voted for the resolution not to go to war, but to pressure Saddam, is a lying SOB. But you knew that already.

Thwarting democracy, one district at a time

Andrew Cockburn writes about Congressman Rahm Emmanuel, chairman of the Democratic National Campaign Committee. It seems that Emmanuel is steering national Dem money away from an anti-war candidate for the seat being vacated by Repug Henry Hyde in Illinois.
In the last election progressive candidate Christine Cegalis actually got 44.2 per cent of the vote against the sixteen-term Hyde, despite being outspent $700,000 to $160,000 in a conservative district with no elected Democrats at all.

Following this commendable showing, Cegalis figured that with Hyde retiring and the Republicans melting down, she stood a better than even chance of garnering the seat in 2006.

However it seems that in Emmanuel's opinion, Cegalis stinks. Never mind that excellent record against the giant Hyde, forget her well-crafted support network in the Chicago district, Cegalis has not yet raised a million dollars and, even more damningly, she is calling for troop withdrawal from Iraq. So Emmanuel set out to recruit a more suitable candidate. Initially, he approached two millionaires and urged them, serially, to run against Cegalis in the primary.

They refused. Now he is pinning his hopes on a double amputee women Iraq veteran, Tammy Duckworth.

Duckworth, who is not from the district, has ignited hopes at DCCC headquarters that she would campaign on a "pro-business/centrist platform". Queried by a Chicago Sun Times columnist for her opinion on the war, she replied, "There's good and bad in everything".
So the people of Illinois' sixth district, like probably most Americans, will be left with a "choice" between a pro-war Repug and a pro-war Dumbo. I ranted about this national influence on Congressional races way back in the pre-historic days of my blog--March 18, 2002. Here's what I said:
It's all so wrong! W and the rest of his administration have been out campaigning for house and senate candidates, using the power of their undeserved positions to strong-arm local politics. Not only are they talking up Republican candidates, they are actually picking them! The NYT article describes how Tim Pawlenty was about to announce his intention to run in the Republican Senate primary in Minnesota when he received a phone call from Dick Cheney urging him not to run. According to the Times,

"The gist of it was that Coleman's more well known and a stronger candidate," said Mr. Pawlenty, the majority leader of the Minnesota House. "I don't take it as a bullying maneuver. It was an appeal to do what's good for the party and for the president. But the implicit suggestion was that they're going to bring the assets they have to help Coleman — and they are pretty formidable."

Mr. Pawlenty immediately pulled out and decided to run for governor.

So our shadow-government Veep from the Deep and his un-elected President sidekick, rather than the people of Minnesota, are deciding who gets to run for Senate. Not satisfied with their stolen thrones, they now intend to handpick their own politburo. I guess we have something in common with Afghanistan--these are the same people who picked their government. And of course there's a backup plan. If their boys somehow fail to get elected, Bush and Cheney will just put them in the cabinet, as they did with John Ashcroft and Spence Abraham.
(I was right about them having a backup plan, but it wasn't to make Coleman Secretary of Commerce or something. Nope--they killed his opponent, Paul Wellstone, a week before the election.)

But Rahm Emmanuel and the DNCC have no more right to screen candidates for congressional races than Dick Cheney or Tom DeLay do. The representative from Illinois' sixth district is supposed to represent the sixth district--not the national Repug or Dumbo party.

From Tom Toles.

Standing up for his constituents

The WSWS comments on the shooting of an unarmed man at Miami Airport on Wednesday.
The most enthusiastic response, however came from Congressman John Mica, a Florida Republican whose district office is located in Maitland, the same town where Rigoberto Alpizar lived.

“This shows that the program has worked beyond our expectations,” the Congressman said of the slaying. Mica is chairman of the House transportation subcommittee on aviation.

Asked on CNN television news whether the marshals shouldn’t be able to distinguish someone suffering from mental illness from a terrorist—as many of Alpizar’s fellow passengers did— Mica replied contemptuously, “Air marshals don’t have time for counseling.”

Mica is typical of the right-wing element that dominates in Washington. Earlier this year, he delivered a speech declaring the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo “too good for the bastards” and dismissing the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib by declaring, “I saw worse things at fraternity houses in college than what our troops were involved in.”

Summing up his attitude to the gunning down of a mentally ill airplane passenger—one of his own constituents—Mica declared, “This should send a message to a terrorist or anyone else who is considering disrupting an aircraft with a threat.”
Message sent, alright. "We can kill any one of you at any time. Love, your government." In case you doubt whether that is actually government policy, Scottie McLiar will set you straight:
Asked about the shooting at a White House press conference Thursday, Bush spokesman Scott McClellan declared (emphasis added): “...the air marshals that were on this flight appear to have acted consistent with the extensive training that they have received, and that’s important to note. And so we are appreciative of all that our air marshals do day in and day out in terms of trying to protect the American people.”
Protect them by killing them, of course.

The WSWS covers other aspects of the story, including that none of the other passengers heard Alpizar say anything about a bomb or make any threats, and the Gestapo treatment given all of the other passengers on the plane. The WSWS concludes:
Official Washington’s celebration of the fatal shooting of an innocent man fleeing a commercial airliner, however, sends another message entirely. It is a message of a brutal society, increasingly indifferent to human life, and prepared to inflict the methods of Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo and Fallujah on its own citizens.
[Update] Time has an article on the shooting featuring an interview with a passenger who saw or heard most of what happened.
He thinks the whole thing was a mistake: "I don't believe he should be dead right now."

Rendition and torture work

W took office (and I mean TOOK) dreaming of and planning a war in Iraq, and the use of extraordinary rendition and torture apparently helped him achieve his goal. From the NY Times:
The Bush administration based a crucial prewar assertion about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda on detailed statements made by a prisoner while in Egyptian custody who later said he had fabricated them to escape harsh treatment, according to current and former government officials.

The officials said the captive, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, provided his most specific and elaborate accounts about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda only after he was secretly handed over to Egypt by the United States in January 2002, in a process known as rendition.

The new disclosure provides the first public evidence that bad intelligence on Iraq may have resulted partly from the administration's heavy reliance on third countries to carry out interrogations of Qaeda members and others detained as part of American counterterrorism efforts. The Bush administration used Mr. Libi's accounts as the basis for its prewar claims, now discredited, that ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda included training in explosives and chemical weapons.
As a method of obtaining accurate information, torture sucks, likely working only in the realms of movies and TV. But as a means of hearing what you want to hear, and especially as a method of spreading terror, it works all too well.

This story also fits in with my post yesterday about the al Qaeda member fingering his former professor because of a bad grade. If there was anyone in the world who had as big a beef with Saddam as aWol did, it was al Qaeda. When it came to Iraq, Bush and Osama were allies. Implicating Saddam likely not only got some of the torture to stop, but served AQ's goals as well. It was win-win! Only Iraq, the US, and the rest of the world outside of al Qaeda and the Bush administration (or do I repeat myself?) suffered because of it.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis

Nobel Literature Prize winner Harold Pinter has a few things to say about the US:
The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It's a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, 'the American people', as in the sentence, 'I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.'

It's a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words 'the American people' provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US.
Plenty more where that came from.

Natural gas at record high

From Bloomberg:
Natural gas for January delivery jumped $1.294, or 9.5 percent, to close at a record $14.994 per million British thermal units in New York. Futures touched $15.10, an all-time intraday high. Prices have more than doubled in the past year.

Heating oil for January delivery jumped 4.66 cents, or 2.7 percent, to close at $1.7832 a gallon in New York. Heating oil reached a record $2.21 on Sept. 1. Futures have gained 42 percent in the past year.
It was below zero (F) here in Ann Arbor last night. Very cold for December.

Oil's back over $60 a barrel, as well. I've also noticed huge rises in electricity spot prices lately on the Bloomberg site, but I can't find any news stories or charts to back that up. But I'm pretty sure the prices for a megawatt-hour were down around $85 just a couple of weeks ago, and now they're up around $135. That may be related somewhat to the rise in oil and natural gas, although I think coal is still the main source for electricity in this country, with nuclear and hydro being as significant as oil or gas. So the impact of those price rises shouldn't be that drastic. But if electicity has gone up over 50% in the past few weeks, why no news stories?

Strangely, I've searched all over for info on the electricity spot prices that Bloomberg tracks, and I can't find them listed anywhere else. No quotes, no charts, no stories--NY Times, CBS Marketwatch, E-Trade, Yahoo, etc. Googling. Nothing.

Quote du jour

"Three hots and a cot is more than I got." -- Biloxi, Mississippi resident Elaine Parker, whose house and neighborhood are threatened by plans to build casinos and other touristy crap in the wake of Katrina. The context for the quote, from the NY Times:
Ms. Harris's fears are resounding through Point Cadet's shattered streets as wholesale land clearing by the government rolls slowly westward from the point's eastern tip. Three blocks from the water on Oak Street, Martha Bryant, 44, a licensed contractor, said she is rebuilding her house with her friend, Richard Fredrickson, despite what she sees as resistance from the city.

"They've made my life a living hell since they found out I'm going to move back there," Ms. Bryant said, requiring permits that she found excessive.

She noted that plans for a $400 million Golden Nugget resort with a 60,000-square-foot casino near her home were announced in late November.

"They want to put up an amusement park, a golf course," she said. "I'm east of Oak Street. They're saying everything east of Oak is going to go."

Ms. Bryant, who owns a painting business, erected a multicolored plywood sign on the front of her house that reads: "Hell No I Won't Go."

Her neighbor Elaine Parker, 61, with whom Ms. Bryant made a pact not to sell their houses, hung a protest sign as well. It read: "Now Recruiting Point Cadet Militia People vs. City."

Soon after she hung the sign behind her front fence, a city code enforcement officer came and took it down, she said, for being on city property.

"Of course, you had to be born and raised on Point Cadet to understand the humor in it," Ms. Parker said. Point Cadet has historically been a tough part of town. "We've lost everything, and now are you going to take my sense of humor away from me?"

Ms. Parker asked the enforcement officer whether she could hang the sign on her house, well within her property line. "He said a citation will be issued and you will be put in jail for up to two days," she recalled.

"Can I get 30 days?" she said she asked him. "Because three hots and a cot is more than I got."
It's depressing to read that the "New Urbanists" seem to have teamed up with MS governor Haley Barbour and other Repug developer types in the vegas-ification of the Gulf Coast. I've admired New Urbanism's plans for walkable communities, but I don't think Myrtle Beach should be the model, and it shouldn't be built over the homes and objections of long-time residents. If the only future the Gulf region has is gambling and golf, well, it has no future.


It was 25 years ago today

John Lennon was shot in New York on December 8, 1980. I remember hearing about it on the radio in my architecture studio at the University of Illinois.
Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one
I don't know what to think about supreme beings and such anymore. None of the evidence for or against seems completely conclusive, although I'm pretty sure that all of the major religions are way off. In addition to Lennon's imaginings, I've come across a couple of pretty interesting arguments for atheism lately. First was magician Penn Jillette's There Is No God. Excerpt:
Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.

Believing there's no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don't travel in circles where people say, "I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith." That's just a long-winded religious way to say, "shut up," or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, "How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do." So, believing there is no God lets me be proven wrong and that's always fun. It means I'm learning something.

Believing there is no God means the suffering I've seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn't caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn't bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future.

Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-O and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have.
And then there's Sam Harris' An Atheist Manifesto. Excerpts:
It is worth noting that no one ever needs to identify himself as a non-astrologer or a non-alchemist. Consequently, we do not have words for people who deny the validity of these pseudo-disciplines. Likewise, atheism is a term that should not even exist. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make when in the presence of religious dogma. The atheist is merely a person who believes that the 260 million Americans (87% of the population) who claim to “never doubt the existence of God” should be obliged to present evidence for his existence—and, indeed, for his benevolence, given the relentless destruction of innocent human beings we witness in the world each day. Only the atheist appreciates just how uncanny our situation is: Most of us believe in a God that is every bit as specious as the gods of Mount Olympus; no person, whatever his or her qualifications, can seek public office in the United States without pretending to be certain that such a God exists; and much of what passes for public policy in our country conforms to religious taboos and superstitions appropriate to a medieval theocracy. Our circumstance is abject, indefensible and terrifying. It would be hilarious if the stakes were not so high.
There is no society in recorded history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.

While most Americans believe that getting rid of religion is an impossible goal, much of the developed world has already accomplished it. Any account of a “god gene” that causes the majority of Americans to helplessly organize their lives around ancient works of religious fiction must explain why so many inhabitants of other First World societies apparently lack such a gene. The level of atheism throughout the rest of the developed world refutes any argument that religion is somehow a moral necessity. Countries like Norway, Iceland, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, the Netherlands, Denmark and the United Kingdom are among the least religious societies on Earth. According to the United Nations’ Human Development Report (2005) they are also the healthiest, as indicated by measures of life expectancy, adult literacy, per capita income, educational attainment, gender equality, homicide rate and infant mortality. Conversely, the 50 nations now ranked lowest in terms of human development are unwaveringly religious. Other analyses paint the same picture: The United States is unique among wealthy democracies in its level of religious literalism and opposition to evolutionary theory; it is also uniquely beleaguered by high rates of homicide, abortion, teen pregnancy, STD infection and infant mortality. The same comparison holds true within the United States itself: Southern and Midwestern states, characterized by the highest levels of religious superstition and hostility to evolutionary theory, are especially plagued by the above indicators of societal dysfunction, while the comparatively secular states of the Northeast conform to European norms. Of course, correlational data of this sort do not resolve questions of causality—belief in God may lead to societal dysfunction; societal dysfunction may foster a belief in God; each factor may enable the other; or both may spring from some deeper source of mischief. Leaving aside the issue of cause and effect, these facts prove that atheism is perfectly compatible with the basic aspirations of a civil society; they also prove, conclusively, that religious faith does nothing to ensure a society’s health.
Then again, this doesn't prove that God doesn't exist, any more than the bible proves that she does. Pretty good arguments against "faith," though.

There are many more interesting arguments in that four page Atheist Manifesto.

One more thing: Jell-O???

Turning the power of the military and the CIA over to terrorists

Jonathan Schwartz quotes the following from Sunday's WaPo article on "erroneous renditions:"
The CIA inspector general is investigating a growing number of what it calls "erroneous renditions," according to several former and current intelligence officials.

One official said about three dozen names fall in that category; others believe it is fewer. The list includes several people whose identities were offered by al Qaeda figures during CIA interrogations, officials said. One turned out to be an innocent college professor who had given the al Qaeda member a bad grade, one official said.
Jonathan then goes on with a little skit of an imagined CIA interrogation, where Khalid Sheikh Mohammad fingers everybody who ever pissed him off, from his old girlfriend to jihadists in the Visa collections department.

It would be hilarious except that it is so true. The "war on terror," and its unrelated sidekick the war in Iraq, have put the immense power of the CIA and the US military at the beck and call of any suspected terrorist with a grudge. He can't do anything to secure his own release, but the terrorist can make sure he's got plenty of company in his secret prison. Rival clans in Afghanistan have been targeting each other with US airstrikes for four years now, and plenty of that goes on in Iraq as well.

From Lloyd Dangle.

From Nate Beeler.

Cartoon of the year

From Thomas Boldt.

From J.D. Crowe.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Bird-dogging Hillary

Joshua Frank writes that antiwar activists (besides yours truly) are finally willing to take on sellout Hillary Clinton. I hope it translates into a serious challenge to NEO-ClintON in the Democratic primary in New York. Let's not wait until '08 to show Hillary the gate. As Frank says:
Focusing all of the antiwar movement's energy on the Republicans is shortsighted, and perhaps worst of all, completely naïve. The Democrats not only authorized this war, they still by and large defend the ongoing occupation.

Taking on the leaders of both parties is paramount if we are ever to end this bloody conflict.

Paul Craig Roberts takes on Condiliar

Condi to Europe: Trust Me. Excerpt:
Gentle reader, who could possibly believe Rice's reassurances that the US respects the sovereignty of other countries when it is established fact that the US kidnaps other countries' citizens abroad and flies them off to torture prisons?

To comprehend the importance of due process, a process that the Bush administration has destroyed for "suspects" be they American citizens or foreigners, entertain that on the way to work one morning you are forcefully intercepted and spirited away to Afghanistan or to Egypt or any of the other locations of US torture prisons. Why are you there, you wonder. Did a personal enemy or envious colleague report you on a false charge? Did a tortured suspect somewhere utter a name that resembled yours?

Nonsense, it can't happen, you say? Alas, it happened to Masri and perhaps 3,000 others who are estimated to have been "renditioned." According to the Washington Post, a CIA official said that Masri was kidnapped and held secretly for five months because the woman in charge of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center's al Qaeda unit "believed he was someone else. She didn't really know. She just had a hunch."
Just a reminder--Paul Craig Roberts worked in the Reagan administration, and used to write for the Washington Times and the Wall Street Journal. Now he writes for Counterpunch.

Merry Happy Christmas Holidays

The latest numbers also show the economy grew at 4.3 percent last quarter. (Applause.) And it has been growing at near that average for more than two years. This economy of ours is on the move. People are being able to find work, and that's what's important to me. I want Americans working. I want anybody who wants a job to be able to find work -- good paying, steady work -- and that's what's happening in America. (Applause.)
-- AWol, Monday

Today, from the Detroit News:
Ford Motor Co. executives will present a restructuring plan to the company's board of directors today that calls for closing at least 10 assembly and component plants and eliminating 25,000 to 30,000 hourly jobs in North America within five years, according to people familiar with the plan.
Bush was right about one thing--"This economy of ours is on the move." Down the toilet, out of the country--on the move.

Venezuelan elections

The WSWS comments on Sunday's legislative elections in Venezuela:
With predictable brazenness, the US State Department on Monday questioned, on grounds of a low turnout, the legitimacy of Sunday’s legislative elections in Venezuela. But, as the US government is well aware, the low vote total was caused in large part by a boycott and sabotage campaign mounted by right-wing opposition parties that Washington supports, both politically and financially.

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli, noting that “the abstention rate was very high,” declared, “given that rate of abstention, plus expressions of concern by prominent Venezuelans, we would see that this reflects a broad lack of confidence in the impartiality and transparency of the electoral process.”
Our government by Diebold has no business commenting on the impartiality and transparency of anyone's electoral process.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

We have met the enema

From the WaPo's article Sunday on "rendition:"
After the September 2001 attacks, pressure to locate and nab potential terrorists, even in the most obscure parts of the world, bore down hard on one CIA office in particular, the Counterterrorist Center, or CTC, located until recently in the basement of one of the older buildings on the agency's sprawling headquarters compound. With operations officers and analysts sitting side by side, the idea was to act on tips and leads with dramatic speed.

The possibility of missing another attack loomed large. "Their logic was: If one of them gets loose and someone dies, we'll be held responsible," said one CIA officer, who, like others interviewed for this article, would speak only anonymously because of the secretive nature of the subject.

To carry out its mission, the CTC relies on its Rendition Group, made up of case officers, paramilitaries, analysts and psychologists. Their job is to figure out how to snatch someone off a city street, or a remote hillside, or a secluded corner of an airport where local authorities wait.

Members of the Rendition Group follow a simple but standard procedure: Dressed head to toe in black, including masks, they blindfold and cut the clothes off their new captives, then administer an enema and sleeping drugs. They outfit detainees in a diaper and jumpsuit for what can be a day-long trip. Their destinations: either a detention facility operated by cooperative countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, including Afghanistan, or one of the CIA's own covert prisons -- referred to in classified documents as "black sites," which at various times have been operated in eight countries, including several in Eastern Europe.

In the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the CTC was the place to be for CIA officers wanting in on the fight. The staff ballooned from 300 to 1,200 nearly overnight.

"It was the Camelot of counterterrorism," a former counterterrorism official said. "We didn't have to mess with others -- and it was fun."
Basically, they are turning the entire world into the Soviet Union at its worst, and enjoying it.

From Matt Wuerker.

From Christo Komarnitski (Bulgaria).

From Clay Bennett.

Useless Dick at Fort Drum

Some have suggested by liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein we simply stirred up a hornet's nest. They overlook a fundamental fact: We were not in Iraq in September 2001 and the terrorists hit us anyway.
-- Fearmaster Cheney, lying to the troops at Fort Drum today. AWol used the same stupid argument back in October, and I gave a quick response: "Yeah. We weren't in Portugal either. What's your point?" But since they apparently intend to repeat this BS frequently, a more thorough response seems called for.

First off, Osama bin Laden's number one complaint with the US was the presence of a large number of troops in Saudi Arabia, left over from the Defense Secretary Cheney's brutal 1991 Gulf War against Iraq. He said at the time that the troops wouldn't stay a minute longer than necessary, which turned into twelve years. Most US forces were removed from Saudi Arabia shortly after the 2003 Iraq war began. That is, Bush and Cheney cut and ran, and the terrorists won (not that I have a problem with that). So while they stirred up a nasty hornet's nest, they stopped messing with another one at the same time.

Secondly, as aWol and Useless Dick are always fond of mentioning, there have been plenty of terror attacks around the world since 2003, including attacks against military allies and attacks which killed Americans (plus, of course, all of those attacks in Iraq). So, UD, go to Madrid or London and tell the people in the street that the Iraq war hasn't stirred up a hornet's nest. Oh--and don't come back.

Third, Bush and Cheney have no right to use 9/11 as an excuse for anything. It was their fault! At the very least they were lazy and incompetent in ignoring numerous warnings. At most, they planned the thing start to finish. Whichever it was, they continue to overstate the threat and use it as cover for any and all crimes (something Condiliar is doing in Europe right now).

Read my lips, you Cheneying Cheney: The fundamental fact that the invasion of Iraq could and has led to terrorist attacks doesn't mean that terror attacks weren't inspired in the past by other reasons. Your idiotic "logic" probably works on Rush's dittoheads, but people who can actually THINK recognize you for the sleazy lying liar that you are.

Biodiesel creating environmental havoc?

WIIIAI links to a George Monbiot article on how increased demand for biodiesel in Europe is destroying huge amounts of rainforest in Indonesia. WIIIAI summarizes it as "George Monbiot on why biodiesel sucks." Now WIIIAI is one of my favorite bloggers, but I think he hasn't exactly got Monbiot right, and I don't think Monbiot is entirely correct either. Here's a lengthy excerpt from Monbiot's article:
When I wrote about it last year, I thought that the biggest problem caused by biodiesel was that it set up a competition for land use. Arable land that would otherwise have been used to grow food would instead be used to grow fuel. But now I find that something even worse is happening. The biodiesel industry has accidentally invented the world's most carbon-intensive fuel.

In promoting biodiesel - as the EU, the British and US governments and thousands of environmental campaigners do - you might imagine that you are creating a market for old chip fat, or rapeseed oil, or oil from algae grown in desert ponds. In reality you are creating a market for the most destructive crop on earth.

Last week, the chairman of Malaysia's federal land development authority announced that he was about to build a new biodiesel plant. His was the ninth such decision in four months. Four new refineries are being built in Peninsula Malaysia, one in Sarawak and two in Rotterdam. Two foreign consortiums - one German, one American - are setting up rival plants in Singapore. All of them will be making biodiesel from the same source: oil from palm trees.

"The demand for biodiesel," the Malaysian Star reports, "will come from the European Community ... This fresh demand ... would, at the very least, take up most of Malaysia's crude palm oil inventories." Why? Because it is cheaper than biodiesel made from any other crop.

In September, Friends of the Earth published a report about the impact of palm oil production. "Between 1985 and 2000," it found, "the development of oil-palm plantations was responsible for an estimated 87 per cent of deforestation in Malaysia". In Sumatra and Borneo, some 4 million hectares of forest have been converted to palm farms. Now a further 6 million hectares are scheduled for clearance in Malaysia, and 16.5 million in Indonesia.

Almost all the remaining forest is at risk. Even the famous Tanjung Puting national park in Kalimantan is being ripped apart by oil planters. The orangutan is likely to become extinct in the wild. Sumatran rhinos, tigers, gibbons, tapirs, proboscis monkeys and thousands of other species could go the same way. Thousands of indigenous people have been evicted from their lands, and some 500 Indonesians have been tortured when they tried to resist. The forest fires which every so often smother the region in smog are mostly started by the palm growers. The entire region is being turned into a gigantic vegetable oil field.

Before oil palms, which are small and scrubby, are planted, vast forest trees, containing a much greater store of carbon, must be felled and burnt. Having used up the drier lands, the plantations are moving into the swamp forests, which grow on peat. When they've cut the trees, the planters drain the ground. As the peat dries it oxidises, releasing even more carbon dioxide than the trees. In terms of its impact on both the local and global environments, palm biodiesel is more destructive than crude oil from Nigeria.
Of course, as a biodiesel user and advocate, I take this personally. I can't really argue with Monbiot's facts. He goes on to say that the supposedly eco-conscious British and EU governments have considered blocking the importing of palm oil or palm-oil biodiesel. But they use the WTO's "free trade" rules as an excuse for not doing so. Monbiot points out that the real reason is, of course, that the EU way of life, like the American way of life is non-negotiable. They may drive higher mileage cars fewer miles than we do, but they still drive a lot. And imported biodiesel allows them to postpone the long emergency a little longer (even though it will likely make it worse through global warming).

Anyway, I left WIIIAI a comment about his "biodiesel sucks" conclusion:
I think Monbiot also is saying that globalization sucks, the British government sucks, the Indonesian government sucks, and driving sucks. That biodiesel is being used to avoid negotiating the American way of life and to destroy the Indonesian rainforest really sucks. But biodiesel doesn't inherently suck any more than computers do despite spam or elections do despite Bush. Of course it is wrong to believe that biofuels can support our current excesses or that they are by definition sustainable. It is also wrong to believe that they can't be produced sustainably or that they have no role to play in a sustainable future.

Hopefully European environmentalists (and Europeans in general) will realize that importing biodiesel isn't green at all. But I hope they don't just give up on biodiesel entirely.

Headline spin

CNN: One charge against DeLay dismissed
NY Times: Texas Judge Lets Stand 2 of 3 Charges Against DeLay

Same story, different spin. Here's the first paragraph from AP:
A judge dismissed a conspiracy charge Monday against Rep. Tom DeLay but refused to throw out the far more serious allegations of money-laundering, dashing the congressman's hopes for now of reclaiming his post as House majority leader.


Following up on my previous post. The WSWS has an article today about Condiliar's trip to Europe. Condi is basically blackmailing European governments because of their complicity in the illegal tactics used in the "war on terror"--rendition, secret prisons, torture. "You complain about us and we'll tell your people how much you've helped us" is basically how the Bad Witch of the West is threatening the German, French and other governments.

I disagree with just about everything done in the name of the "war on terror," but I can vaguely sort of comprehend some of the arguments. Arbitrary detention? If you've got intelligence indicating something bad is going to be done tomorrow, and you've got ten suspects, detaining them all for two days is arguably prudent, if not just. (And it doesn't have to be a dingy torture chamber--a nice apartment with secure locks would do.) The "ticking bomb" scenario convinces a lot of people that torture is justified in some circumstances, although I don't think it is. Even flying people to other countries, if done to prevent communication with accomplices or for their own protection--maybe an argument can be made.

But the one thing that I think is absolutely completely indefensible is the secrecy. If the government is going to pretend that it has right on its side, it should be willing to let the world know exactly what it is doing. Every arrest, detention, rendition, and interrogation technique should be done in the full light of day, held up to scrutiny. The type of "terrorists" the Bushies claim to be fighting--a shadowy network of trained operatives planning major attacks--would be best foiled by shining light into the dark corners. Consider, for example, if the "President's Daily Brief" of August 6, 2001 hadn't been concealed from the public for 2 1/2 years, and instead been released to the Washington Post on 8/6/01. The curious behavior of flight students in Arizona, Minnesota and Florida might well have been linked, appropriate securiy measures might have been put in place, and 9/11 might never have happened. And in these cases where they've held the wrong guy secretly for months or years? If his detention had been made public, friends or relatives could have proven the guy's innocence, and the CIA would have known that the real suspect was still on the loose. Both justice and the needs of protecting against terror attacks would have been served by openness. Secrecy isn't a weapon against terror--it's a weapon of terror. I don't think the Bushies care in the least that a huge percentage of the people they've detained and tortured weren't and aren't guilty of anything. Holding them is a threat to the world--we're badasses, and we'll lock you up if we feel like it--and nobody can stop us. The Bushies are bullies; they're terrorists.

Department of Pre-crime

Condiliar talks about the so-called "war on terror":
"This is essentially a war in which intelligence is absolutely key to success," Rice said. "If you are going to uncover plots, if you are going to get to people before they commit their crimes, that is largely an intelligence function."
First off, no one is less capable of using "intelligence" than Condiliar and her bosses. More importantly, arresting, detaining and torturing people "before they commit their crimes," that is, non-criminals, is a gross violation of the most fundamental human rights and a crime against humanity. And certainly doing all of this in shadowy secret prisons without public hearings or trials means that all we have to go on is the word of proven liars like Condi, Cheney and W. Furthermore, their threats against Iran and Syria (and previously against Iraq) are far greater evidence of intent to commit crimes than anything they could have on anyone they are holding. The Bushies have threatened publicly and repeatedly to commit further war crimes, yet they are still allowed to roam the world spreading hate and injustice with impunity.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Scams galore

Joe Cannon writes about how the Duke Cunningham story is just the tip on an iceberg: Phony companies getting Pentagon and other government contracts and putting the money directly into campaign contributions and bribes.

John McCain says to expect "lots" of indictments from the Abramoff scandal; there may be plenty linked to the Cunningham scandal as well. McCain says "This town has become very corrupt, there's no doubt about it."

I doubt if Johnny is willing to confront the ultimate reality--the "war on terror" and the war in Iraq are in large part simply tools to facilitate this looting of America's (and the world's) wealth. Our government is a crime syndicate (I don't think it quite qualifies for the term "organized crime").

Chavistas sweep Venezuelan elections

From the BBC:
Parties allied to President Hugo Chavez say they have won all 167 seats in the country's parliament, after elections boycotted by the opposition.

Alito: Sick and warped

From the LA Times:
Alito wrote that he saw no constitutional problem with a police officer shooting and killing an unarmed teenager who was fleeing after a $10 home burglary.

"I think the shooting [in this case] can be justified as reasonable," Alito wrote in a 1984 memo to Justice Department officials.

Because the officer could not know for sure why a suspect was fleeing, the courts should not set a rule forbidding the use of deadly force, he said.

"I do not think the Constitution provides an answer to the officer's dilemma," Alito advised.

A year later, however, the Supreme Court used the same case to set a firm national rule against the routine use of "deadly force" against fleeing suspects who pose no danger.

"It is not better that all felony suspects die than that they escape," wrote Justice Byron White for a 6-3 majority in Tennessee vs. Garner. "Where the suspect poses no immediate threat to the officer and no threat to others, the harm resulting from failing to apprehend him does not justify the use of deadly force to do so."

The 4th Amendment forbids "unreasonable searches and seizures" by the government, and the high court said that killing an unarmed suspect who was subject to arrest amounted to an "unreasonable seizure."

Said White: "A police officer may not seize an unarmed, nondangerous suspect by shooting him dead."
BTW, of the six Supremes who voted White in Tennessee vs. Garner, only J.P. Stevens is still on the Court. The three who supported shooting the kid? Then Chief Justice Warren Burger, William Rehnquist, and Sandra Day O'Connor. I'd suggest that Byron White, although dead now for three years, would still be a better justice than Scalito. When aWol talks about the "meaning of American justice," he means Scalito's version, not the Constitution's.

From Slowpoke.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Worst President Ever

From Richard Reeves:
The History News Network at George Mason University has just polled historians informally on the Bush record. Four hundred and fifteen, about a third of those contacted, answered -- maybe they were all crazed liberals -- making the project as unofficial as it was interesting. These were the results: 338 said they believed Bush was failing, while 77 said he was succeeding. Fifty said they thought he was the worst president ever. Worse than Buchanan.

This is what those historians said -- and it should be noted that some of the criticism about deficit spending and misuse of the military came from self-identified conservatives -- about the Bush record:

  • He has taken the country into an unwinnable war and alienated friend and foe alike in the process;

  • He is bankrupting the country with a combination of aggressive military spending and reduced taxation of the rich;

  • He has deliberately and dangerously attacked separation of church and state;

  • He has repeatedly "misled," to use a kind word, the American people on affairs domestic and foreign;

  • He has proved to be incompetent in affairs domestic (New Orleans) and foreign (Iraq and the battle against al-Qaida);

  • He has sacrificed American employment (including the toleration of pension and benefit elimination) to increase overall productivity;

  • He is ignorantly hostile to science and technological progress;

  • He has tolerated or ignored one of the republic's oldest problems, corporate cheating in supplying the military in wartime.
  • Living a lie

    Via Mousemusings, Rev. Bill McGinnis says that W is drinking his own Kool-Aid, believing his own Bush**t, if you will. He sees Iraq as a bizarre mix of High Noon and Exodus, and is incapable of seeing it any other way.

    From Clay Jones.

    From Cam Cardow.

    From Mike Keefe.

    Friday, December 02, 2005

    Inside Chavez's Venezuela

    Robert Scheer interviews an Indian journalist turned Chavez advisor. (Unfortunately strictly in audio, not a transcript. I've been listening to it for half an hour so far, and I don't think it's half done.)

    The supreme international crime

    Larry Beinhart, author of "Wag the Dog," investigates the (il)legalities of the Iraq war. Excerpt:
    In the aftermath of the war, Iraq devolved into chaos. It is a particularly violent chaos, in which private armies, murder, car bombings, suicide bombings, assault, kidnapping, rape, looting and robbery are all more normal than normality.

    If the invasion of Iraq was a preemptive war or a preventive war, it achieved its objectives the day the inspectors began to inspect “without conditions.”

    If “self defense” was effected, then what is an action beyond that?

    Is it a “war of aggression?”

    If civilians are killed in the course of a legitimate military operation, it is regrettable, but an unfortunate necessity. But if it is not a war of self-defense, if it is a war of aggression, then those deaths are among the multitude of evils that make aggressive war “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

    Looks like the insurgents illegitimate gripers have an exit strategy for us

    The Grinch is coming

    Robert Reich explains that while consumer spending is now a record-high percentage of our economy (over 75%), pretty much all of the ways that consumers have of continuing to spend are completely maxed out. Layoffs are big and wages are small. Spouses are already working, hours are already long, home equity is plateauing and interest rates are rising, and credit cards are already topped out at high rates. Reich concludes:
    Put it all together and you see why we’re running on empty. We’re busted. We’ve exhausted all the coping mechanisms for spending more. Our buying binge has to come to an end.

    The only question is whether the binge stops before Christmas shopping season, or whether American consumers make one big, final, irresponsible splurge over the next three weeks, and then call it quits.
    They're Americans--what do you think they'll do? As Betty and Wilma used to say on the Flintstones: "Doo-do-do-doo-do-doooo, CHARGE....IT!"

    And what's the deal with the stock market lately? A sizeable portion of the nation's economy was washed away by hurricanes, huge corporations are declaring bankruptcy, and workers are being laid off by the tens of thousands--yet the Dow is approaching a five-year high. I guess the idea that what is good for Wall Street is good for Main Street can be completely laid to rest at this point.

    From Steve Bell. Thanks to Jean for sending me the link! On that topic, Rob Corddry explained on the Daily Show last night that the "plan" seems to be turn Iraq into an enormous superpower run by Islamists with a grudge against the US. (Go here, then click on "De-weakening Iraq.")

    I guess I need to add Steve Bell to my cartoon list. Here are a couple of other recent cartoons:

    Thursday, December 01, 2005

    Terrorist spotted

    Bob Harris has used the Air Force's Eagle Eyes website's guide to spotting terrorists, and seems to have found one.

    Christmas song

    All the streets are filled with laughter and light
    And the music of the season
    And the merchants’ windows are all bright
    With the faces of the children
    And the families hurrying to their homes
    As the sky darkens and freezes
    We’ll be gathering around the hearths and tales
    Giving thanks for all God’s graces
    And the birth of the rebel Jesus

    Well they call him by the prince of peace
    And they call him by the savior
    And they pray to him upon the seas
    And in every bold endeavor
    As they fill his churches with their pride and gold
    And their faith in him increases
    But they’ve turned the nature that I worship in
    From a temple to a robber’s den
    In the words of the rebel Jesus

    We guard our world with locks and guns
    And we guard our fine possessions
    And once a year when Christmas comes
    We give to our relations
    And perhaps we give a little to the poor
    If the generosity should seize us
    But if any one of us should interfere
    In the business of why they are poor
    They get the same as the rebel Jesus

    But please forgive me if I seem
    To take the tone of judgement
    For I’ve no wish to come between
    This day and your enjoyment
    In this life of hardship and of earthly toil
    We have need for anything that frees us
    So I bid you pleasure
    And I bid you cheer
    From a heathen and a pagan
    On the side of the rebel Jesus.
    -- Jackson Browne, via Left I on the News (emphasis added)

    So what's Saddam on trial for?

    Compare and contrast.

    From Karen Spector at Truthdig:
    The first charge for which Hussein is to stand trial concerns the execution of 143 people from the town of Dujail, Iraq, a mixed Shiite and Sunni town, which was the site of an assassination attempt on Hussein on July 8, 1982. The roundup and execution of 143 Dujail villagers occurred as part of a full-scale military operation and wholesale reprisal for the attempt on Hussein’s life.
    From Seymour Hersh, 9/27/02:
    On Saturday, June 26, 1993, twenty-three Tomahawk guided missiles, each loaded with a thousand pounds of high explosives, were fired from American Navy warships in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea at the headquarters complex of the Mukhabarat, the Iraqi intelligence service, in downtown Baghdad. The attack was in response to an American determination that Iraqi intelligence, under the command of President Saddam Hussein, had plotted to assassinate former President George Bush during Bush's ceremonial visit to Kuwait in mid-April. It was President Bill Clinton's first act of war.

    Three of the million-dollar missiles missed their target and landed on nearby homes, killing eight civilians, including Layla al-Attar, one of Iraq's most gifted artists. The death toll was considered acceptable by the White House; after all, scores of civilians had been killed in the Reagan Administration's F-111 bombing attack on Muammar Qaddafi's housing-and-office complex in Tripoli, Libya, in 1986. Clinton Administration officials acknowledged that they had been "lucky," as one national-security aide put it, in that only three of the computer-guided missiles went off course. Nearly three hundred Tomahawks had been fired during the Gulf War, with a higher rate of inaccuracy.
    And despite this and other acts of retribution against Iraq for the alleged assassination plot (see Hersh for more on whether there actually was one, or a connection to Iraq if so), including lots of other cruise missile and bombing raids and years of brutal anctions killing hundreds of thousands, Clinton's successor-in-crime still felt the need for retribution ("he tried to kill my dad") and started a brutal and criminal war ten years later. Saddam deserves to be on trial as the "Butcher of Baghdad," but so do Clinton and both Bushes. Sorry, Bill, that I left you out of my earlier graphic:

    You deserve a place.

    Scheer brilliance

    Recently canned LA Times columnist Robert Scheer now has his own news/blog/web site.

    It's already gained some Joementum

    You've probably already seen this. From the LA Times:
    As part of an information offensive in Iraq, the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq.

    The articles, written by U.S. military "information operations" troops, are translated into Arabic and placed in Baghdad newspapers with the help of a defense contractor, according to U.S. military officials and documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

    Many of the articles are presented in the Iraqi press as unbiased news accounts written and reported by independent journalists. The stories trumpet the work of U.S. and Iraqi troops, denounce insurgents and tout U.S.-led efforts to rebuild the country.

    Though the articles are basically factual, they present only one side of events and omit information that might reflect poorly on the U.S. or Iraqi governments, officials said. Records and interviews indicate that the U.S. has paid Iraqi newspapers to run dozens of such articles, with headlines such as "Iraqis Insist on Living Despite Terrorism," since the effort began this year.

    The operation is designed to mask any connection with the U.S. military. The Pentagon has a contract with a small Washington-based firm called Lincoln Group, which helps translate and place the stories. The Lincoln Group's Iraqi staff, or its subcontractors, sometimes pose as freelance reporters or advertising executives when they deliver the stories to Baghdad media outlets.
    Jeanne d'Arc, blogging at This Modern World, notes:
    The LAT article also points out that the military is forbidden to plant propoganda in the American media, but they know perfectly well that the information will "bleed" into our press, and influence coverage.

    Is it obvious enough that that’s the point? There is no chance whatsoever that Iraqis are going to be fooled by happy talk when they can see for themselves what’s going on. But if that happy talk happens to find itself on Fox or CNN….?
    Or maybe in Wall Street Journal op-eds by Joe Lieberman (Idiot-CT)?
    Progress is visible and practical. In the Kurdish North, there is continuing security and growing prosperity. The primarily Shiite South remains largely free of terrorism, receives much more electric power and other public services than it did under Saddam, and is experiencing greater economic activity. The Sunni triangle, geographically defined by Baghdad to the east, Tikrit to the north and Ramadi to the west, is where most of the terrorist enemy attacks occur. And yet here, too, there is progress.

    There are many more cars on the streets, satellite television dishes on the roofs, and literally millions more cell phones in Iraqi hands than before. All of that says the Iraqi economy is growing. And Sunni candidates are actively campaigning for seats in the National Assembly. People are working their way toward a functioning society and economy in the midst of a very brutal, inhumane, sustained terrorist war against the civilian population and the Iraqi and American military there to protect it.
    Pushers always get in trouble when they start using their own stuff. Please, Connecticut--get rid of this shill.

    From Chan Lowe.

    From Thomas Boldt.

    From Steve Sack.

    From Mark Cohen.

    From Mike Keefe.

    From Rob Rogers. Slate has an entire collection of cartoons about the Veep from the Deep.

    Throw the bums out!

    Thirty-three senate seats will be voted on in 2006. It's time for the anti-war movement (that is, the majority of the American people) to take charge and make sure that anti-war candidates win as many of those races as possible. That means opposing those who voted for the criminal war in Iraq--INCLUDING Democrats. Preferably, this will be done in the primaries. Here are the senators who voted for the war who are running for reelection:

    Maria Cantwell, Washington
    Thomas Carper, Delaware
    Hillary Clinton, NY
    Dianne Feinstein, California
    Herb Kohl, Wisconsin
    Joe Lieberman, Connecticut
    Bill Nelson, Florida
    Ben Nelson, Nebraska

    George Allen, Virginia
    Conrad Burns, Montana
    Mike DeWine, Ohio
    John Ensign, Nevada
    Orrin Hatch, Utah
    Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas
    Jon Kyl, Arizona
    Trent Lott, Mississippi
    Richard Lugar, Indiana
    Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania
    Olympia Snowe, Maine
    James Talent, Missouri
    Craig Thomas, Wyoming

    If no serious primary challenge is made to sellouts like Clinton, Lieberman and Feinstein, I'll be sorely disappointed. (I know, I'll probably be sorely disappointed.) It's all happening again, isn't it? Given the "choice" between scumbag Repugs and Dumbos, we liberals will be encouraged, indeed threatened, into voting for the Dumbo scumbag. Can't we break this cycle? Every senator listed above voted for giving an incompetent and deceitful pResident the authority to start an illegal war because he wanted to. Not one of them deserves reelection. Can't we do something about this?

    Quotes from the blogosphere

    From Bob Harris:
    To those who repeat the current GOP spin that opponents of the war are motivated by a hatred of Bush or a desire to see America disgraced, I would like to respond.

    I can speak for no one else, but it seems obvious to me that it is the war which disgraces America. It is the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people which disgraces America. It is torture which disgraces America. It is imprisonment without trial which disgraces America. It is the use of chemical weapons which disgraces America. It is disdain for international law, the use of military power as a first resort, the intentional confusion of the Iraqi people with terrorists thousands of miles away in Afghanistan, and the corruption of the very word “democracy” which all disgrace America.

    As an opponent of the war, I am trying to stop my country from being disgraced any further.
    And on a somewhat lower level, Joseph Cannon writes about Ann Coulter:
    That's always been the sad thing about Coulter: She dresses like someone who desperately longs for bombshell status, as though wrapping that hideous skeletal frame in black leather micro-minis will somehow make those prominent bones as jumpable as they are countable.
    Joseph wasn't just in attack mode--he was defending the honor and privacy of a blonde much nicer and smarter than Coulter--actress Lydia Cornell, who has been guest-blogging from a Christian-left perspective over at Brad Blog.