Bob's Links and Rants

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

George says dumb things

Jacob Weisberg is going to be a very busy man keeping his Bushisms up to date. WIIIAI has some of the latest in two posts

A brief sample: “I think the U.S. is better prepared than woefully unprepared.”

Silly internet stuff

Make your own!

I like this guy's message:

Bush: Bin Laden helped me, book says

From Reuters:
President Bush said his 2004 re-election victory over Sen. John Kerry was inadvertently aided by Osama bin Laden, The Washington Examiner newspaper reported Tuesday.
Well, it was only fair, after all the favors W has done Osama.
"I thought it was going to help," Bush said.

"I thought it would help remind people that if bin Laden doesn't want Bush to be the president, something must be right with Bush."
Then again, if Bush wants Bush to be president there must be something wrong with Bush.

Indians should know that white man speaks with forked tongue

AWol is on his way to India. In addition to his usual bubble of armored limousines, helicopters, armored personnel carriers and dozens of secret service agents, he'll likely be carrying a million US jobs in his luggage. The WSWS describes the Bushies' agenda for the trip:
First, it wants to ensure that corporate America plays a major and ever-expanding role in India’s rapidly expanding economy—as exploiter of cheap labor in the offshore-oriented information technology and business-processing sectors, as participant in public-private partnerships (PPPs) aimed at furnishing India with the transport and energy infrastructure needed to more tightly bind it to the world capitalist economy, and as purveyor of weapons and weapon-systems to India’s burgeoning military.

The Bush administration is especially interested in prying open India’s retail trade sector—in which tens of millions are employed in small, unregulated businesses for want of proper, full-time jobs—to companies like Wal-Mart and in gaining greater access to India’s agriculture sector—which continues to provide over 60 percent of Indians with their livelihood—for agri-business giants like Monsanto.
Our economic model doesn't even work here--why do we keep exporting it? Oh right--it's the only way that our model even seems to work, by exploiting cheap labor and resources elsewhere. The WSWS continues:
The second and even more important objective of Bush’s trip is to harness India—through increased military, civilian nuclear, and geo-political collaboration—to Washington’s drive for global supremacy. In short, the US wants to transform a “rising India” into an economic, military and geo-political counter-weight to China.

Last March, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice publicly announced that the US wants to help India become a “world power.” Subsequently, Washington and New Delhi initialed a series of agreements meant to pave the way for enhanced military cooperation, including sales of advanced US military equipment and joint foreign interventions without United Nations sanction.
Which means, of course, that some day our arms merchants will be selling us even more expensive weapons of mass destruction so that we can counter the Indian threat.

No more dough for blood for oil

Today is United for Peace & Justice's national call-in day to ask your representatives to vote against Bush's current $72.4 billion supplemental spending request for Iraq.

You can call toll free at 888-355-3588 or try the direct congressional switchboard line at 202-224-3121.

(via A Tiny Revolution)

[Updated with guilt trip] I did it! Two senators, one congressman, five minutes. Your turn!

From David Horsey.

From Christo Komarnitski (Bulgaria). I'm not sure I agree, or even understand, what Komarnitski is saying with this cartoon. I just like the Liberty in a burka and the look on W's face.

From R.J. Matson.

Mardi Gras

CNN has been making a big deal out of this year's Mardi Gras in New Orleans on their web site, and I assume on TV as well. As long as well-off folks can engage in drunken revelry, the thousands of dead and homeless just don't matter, I guess.

I don't know--I don't believe in eternal mourning, or that it's inappropriate to have a good time while others are suffering and dying (since, unfortunately, others are ALWAYS suffering and dying). I'm just not sold on the idea that parties and gambling are the basis for economic recovery, or especially that Mardi Gras should be used to cover up the government's massive failure to respond to Katrina.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Sell the ports in a storm

Perhaps responding to my whining about my favorite bloggers not writing much lately, one of those bloggers, Michelle from You Will Anyway (which has been on hold now for five months--whine!) e-mailed me with some interesting tidbits about the ports deal. She sent a link to a Cannonfire post which points out that as the Abramoff and DeLay scandals have been drying up Repug funding sources, the Repugs are looking elsewhere for the money it takes to buy elections.

And money is what Dubai (and Dubya) is all about. The "war on terror" was a windfall for the UAE, with Afghanistan having been made safe again for heroin and with al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations (read CIA, ISI, Mossad, etc.) needing advanced money-laundering facilities. The Village Voice links the port deal to a Russian gun runner named Victor Bout. Cannonfire also notes that Pakistani nuke merchant A.Q. Kahn used Dubai to distribute nuclear materials, and that the deal apparently involves 21 US ports, not just six.

Throw in the profits that Treasury Secretary Snow will make from the deal, ties to the Carlyle Group and Halliburton, and of course W's sleazebag brother Neil and we're getting pretty close to the perfect Repug storm.

We'll probably find out someday that hurricane relief funds were laundered through Dubai to buy Israeli weapons for Tehran (the Iran-Katrina scandal), or maybe that the Bushies have been selling pirated copies of popular children's books to fund the Iraqi insurgency (Pottergate).

PS: To honor TREASEC Snow, Dubai now features a Snow Park, even though global climate change brought the UAE its first real snow a little over a year ago.

Al-Sadr calls for Iraqi unity

Against the occupation, of course. Juan Cole has the details. Excerpts:
Sadr said before a big crowd of his supporters in the southern Gulf port, "I call for a united, peaceful demonstration in the capital, Baghdad, which you will organize at a specific time, involving Shiites, Sunnis and others, in which you will demand the withdrawal of the Occupying forces, and call for mutual love among you."
Muqtada also called for holding "joint Friday communal prayers with both Sunnis and Shiites in the mosques," affirming that "there are no Sunni or Shiite mosques; you are a single people." He added, "We want the Occupation forces out, even if on their own timetable, in an objective fashion, as they say." He said, "Our Iraq is passing through a big crisis, insofar as enemies are entering among brethren, and spreading turmoil among you."

Muqtada wondered aloud, "Do you want to give aid to the enemy? Do you want to render the Occupier victorious? Do you wish to make Satan triumphant, or do you wish to help the Truth?" He added, "If you burn down mosques, are you helping falsehood or the truth? Do you wish to help falsehood?" He shouted, "No, no to falsehood!"

Al-Sadr said, "Do not forget the plotting of the Occupation, for if we forget its plots, it will kill us all without exception." He went on, "Sometimes they curse the Messenger of God [Muhammad] and defame him [with their cartoons], and sometimes they blow up our Imams. This series of attacks is not the first and it will not be the last. The attacks will continue. Beware, and be responsible. Religion is your responsibility, mosques are your responsibility, the Muslim people is your responsibility, so do not attack the secure houses of God. Love one another and be brethren of one another so that our Iraq will be secure and stable and independent. We want the expulsion of the Occupier and not the American ambassador."
Okay, I don't know what that last sentence means.

Cole adds that "Many Muslims are convinced that the caricatures of the Prophet and the attack on the Askariyah Shrine in Samarra were both US plots against Islam."


Watching the Olympics and finding other creative ways to waste my time have cut down on my blogging lately. Many of my favorite bloggers seem to have slowed their output as well, providing me with less inspiration. Of course there's plenty to write about, but it's hard coming up with something worthwhile to say on some of these issues. For example:
  • On Iraq's descent into civil war: Saying "I told you so" is pretty crass, as is being either shocked or excited when a dropped egg finally hits the ground. Of course, the right-wing spin machine will insist first off that Humpty Dumpty hasn't fallen, and furthermore that all the king's horses and all the king's men will of course be able to put Humpty back together again.
  • On the ports issue: I find it somewhat humorous, and I hope that it opens a huge window for those who have been supportive of aWol's "war on terror" and all the associated BS, finally making them see what a huge hypocrite he is. Of course, there is plenty of hypocrisy coming from critics, too, much of it racist. I doubt if the UAE company would be substantially worse than the British company in running our ports, and would probably be much better than the most likely American company to take over if the deal gets squashed. (That would be Halliburton.) Shouldn't the ports, like airports, be run by local governments, with perhaps some help from federal security? Are they afraid that this would result in too many American union members being hired? (Of course they are.) But, probably being hypocritical myself, I'll side with the deal's opponents in hope that it will help to sink the Bushtanic.
  • We should be cognizant that these issues, as bad as they already are for Bush, are also distracting from his many other crimes, including the Plame affair and the illegal NSA wiretapping. Basically, every single day since January 20, 2001, Bush and his cronies have woken up and gone about the business of destroying America and the world for the benefit of themselves and their friends. We should also recognize that a huge percentage of the American public has let most of this crap slide (or denied it altogether), and shouldn't be too hopeful that the new scandals will generate any real outrage.

From Don Wright.

From Matt Davies.

From Steve Sack.

From John Trever.

It's called the Soviet model, I believe

From Ted Rall.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

A place that makes Gitmo look good

The NY Times writes about Bagram, another shameful island in the Gulag Bushipelago:
Some of the detainees have already been held at Bagram for as long as two or three years. And unlike those at Guantánamo, they have no access to lawyers, no right to hear the allegations against them and only rudimentary reviews of their status as "enemy combatants," military officials said.
From the accounts of former detainees, military officials and soldiers who served there, a picture emerges of a place that is in many ways rougher and more bleak than its counterpart in Cuba. Men are held by the dozen in large wire cages, the detainees and military sources said, sleeping on the floor on foam mats and, until about a year ago, often using plastic buckets for latrines. Before recent renovations, they rarely saw daylight except for brief visits to a small exercise yard.
What a total scumbag of a country we've become.

"Is this some kind of designer's democracy then, Dr. Rice?"

WIIIAI and the Washington Post note that Condiliar spent much of the week lobbying middle-eastern dictatorships, trying to get them to help her overturn the results of democracy. Rest assured, probably 98% of the idiots in the world who actually believe that Bush and Rice have any interest in "democracy" live in this country.

From Steve Sack.

From Mike Lester. I like this one because Lester has been consistently pro-Bush for as long as I've been looking at the cartoons on Slate.

Friday, February 24, 2006

From Tom Toles.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Like Viagra for port deals

Former senator, presidential candidate, and husband of a current senator Bob Dole has been working as a lobbyist for the United Arab Emirates (he may be an emirate himself--who knows?). In a totally unrelated development, the US government recently approved a deal to allow the UAE to run several major US ports.

I've told anyone who would listen lately that one of the things that I like about Mexico is that everybody there KNOWS that their government is corrupt, whereas millions here remain clueless. Is any of this getting through?

What she said

From Jeanne d'Arc writing at This Modern World:

The simplistic denunciation of terrorism was not Bush’s only statement on the bombing:

"I ask all Iraqis to exercise restraint in the wake of this tragedy, and to pursue justice in accordance with the laws and constitution of Iraq. Violence will only contribute to what the terrorists sought to achieve," he said.

Surprisingly wise words coming from a man who could think of nothing but violence and revenge when his own country faced a similar tragedy, and one who continues to have contempt for our laws and constitution. If he had followed his own advice four and a half years ago, it’s unlikely he’d have to be giving it today.

Saddest of all, I doubt that even now he has the slightest comprehension of his own words’ meaning.

Of course, the violence in attacking Afghanistan in 2001 served his purposes then; the start of Iraq's civil war does not serve his purposes now.

Arrogant ignorance

Jonathan at Past Peak has an interesting post about how modern agricultural techniques destroyed a much more productive agricultural system in Bali that had been developed over centuries. Jonathan includes this quote from Wendell Berry:
We identify arrogant ignorance by its willingness to work on too big a scale, and thus to put too much at risk.
This is perhaps my biggest complaint with this country, and it dates back to long before George W. Bush raised arrogant ignorance to heights never before seen. By the time we figure out how damaging superhighways or fatty snack foods or suburban sprawl or genetically-modified foods are, we have already spread them across the nation and are actively trying to force them down the throats of other countries. When we try to introduce democracy somewhere, we don't start with relatively friendly small undemocratic places like Kuwait or Dubai or Florida. No! We have to invade a hostile nation and kill hundreds of thousands to convince them of the benefits of democracy. And utter failure doesn't faze us; it's always on to the next place!

Quote du jour

"This deal wouldn't go forward if we were concerned about the security of the United States of America." -- George W. Bush

He adds: "People don't need to worry about security."

So: Repeal the Patriot Act and stop spying on us!


How puppets are selected

Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution quotes from a review of Paul Bremer's book about Iraq:
Bremer says that Bush "was as vigorous and decisive in person as he appeared on television." But in fact he gives an account of a superficial and weak leader... In Bremer's account, the President was seriously interested in one issue: whether the leaders of the government that followed the CPA would publicly thank the United States. But there is no evidence that he cared about the specific questions that counted: Would the new prime minister have a broad base of support? Would he be able to bridge Iraq's ethnic divisions? What political values should he have? Instead, Bush had only one demand: "It's important to have someone who's willing to stand up and thank the American people for their sacrifice in liberating Iraq." According to Bremer, he came back to this single point three times in the same meeting. Similarly, Ghazi al-Yawar, an obscure Sunni Arab businessman, became Bush's candidate for president of Iraq's interim government because, as Bremer reports, Bush had "been favorably impressed with his open thanks to the Coalition."
Priorities like this have made Iraq the shining example of middle-eastern democracy that it is today.

From Bruce Plante.

From Bruce Beattie.

Why don't people get it? People who are always hiding something clearly have something to hide.

New motto: "The Bush Administration: Making the public private and the private public since 2001"

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Say George...

How are things going in Iraq?

Quote du jour

I don’t consider it a huge security risk that an Emirati multinational corporation rather than a British or an American one will be hiring the illegal immigrants who work in our ports.
-- WIIIAI, who also informs us that "Emerati" refers to people from the United Arab Emirates.


From Tom Toles.

From Boondocks.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


I just got back from the local Sierra Club meeting. The Sierra Club's State Legislative Director, Gayle Miller, discussed concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO's). These factories (it is unfair to farmers to call them "farms") house thousands to hundreds of thousands of cows, pigs or chickens in tightly confined quarters, with grates for floors. The waste from these animals contains not only urine and feces, but also blood, other body fluids, body parts, antibiotics, and more. It is collected in open lagoons for weeks or months, and then is generally sprayed in liquid form on fields. The fumes are not only horrible to smell, but are outright dangerous (far worse than ordinary farm smells). And when the manure is sprayed on snow or frozen fields, it all goes running into local streams and rivers, as it does if it is sprayed shortly before rain. Miller showed a video, "Living a Nightmare," which is available for $10 from the Sierra Club.

CAFO's are a serious threat to public health and the environment, not to mention a humanitarian disaster for the animals. Miller indicated that a lot of Michigan's over 200 CAFO's are owned by Dutch companies (?!), and run as franchises. And while small farmers, especially those close to a CAFO, strongly oppose them, they have the backing of the powerful Farm Bureau, which apparently has most of the Repugs in the state legislature in its pocket. State Repugs are planning on introducing bills tomorrow to make it even easier to run a CAFO in the state, even though the industry is almost totally unregulated already. Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm is expected to veto those bills, but apparently at some political cost. (She's up for re-election this fall.) Meanwhile, our local state senator Liz Brater, who was at the meeting tonight, is going to introduce a slate of bills intended to regulate CAFO's. She says that the votes aren't there to pass these, yet, but that the elections in November might change that.

So--Michigan readers who would like to protect our air, water and health should do the following:
  • Contact your representatives in the state legislature, asking them to oppose the Republican bills which protect CAFO's and to support Brater's bills which protect people;
  • Find out who is running for the legislature in your district, preferably in the primaries as well as in November, and be sure to support the anti-CAFO candidate;
  • Buy the video and share it with friends, or otherwise support the Sierra Club's efforts to regulate CAFO's in Michigan.
Readers elsewhere should know that CAFO's are a problem nationwide, and even in other countries, so there's probably something you can do. And eating less or no meat is always a good idea if you care about the environment.

Oh, a nice personal note: Local Sierra Club chairman Doug Cowherd came up to me after the meeting to say he reads this blog and enjoys it! Thanks, Doug.

One day...

"For example, roof makers will one day be able to create a solar roof that protects you from the elements and, at the same time, powers your house." -- aWol, babbling yesterday about energy in Milwaukee.

Shortly thereafter, he went to Auburn Hills, Michigan to visit the Unisolar factory, where they make shingles that protect you from the element and power your house. Like, for example, my house--since last July.

I don't know--it would be encouraging to hear aWol talk about cutting our dependence on oil. IF, that is, he could be trusted in the least, which we know he can't. For instance, he talks about last year's energy bill as a step in the right direction! And he praises France (hear that, wingnuts? FRANCE!!) for having built a whole bunch of nuke plants since the 1970's, while we haven't built any:
It's interesting when you think about a country like France, however, they have built 58 plants since the 1970s; they get 78 percent of their electricity from nuclear power. It's an interesting contrast, isn't it? We haven't done anything since the '70s; this country has decided to recognize the importance of having renewable sources of energy that protect the environment, and 78 percent of their electricity comes from this form of energy.
The "protect the environment" line is outrageous enough; maybe Mr. Yushchenko can give W a tour of Chernobyl one of these days, preferably without protection. But "renewable?" How in the world is nuclear power renewable??

And, as WIIIAI points out, aWol claims that nuclear power is perfectly safe, but then says that there's new federal risk insurance (in that energy bill) for the next six nuke plants built in this country. So much for entrepreneurs taking risks; it's you and I and the rest of us 'mercans who'll be taking (and paying for) the risks.

Is it the BOMB or the BOURSE the BUSHIES are afraid of?

Cyndy links to this article from Newropeans magazine which suggests that the various crises in the world will come to a head at the end of next month, triggered by two important but (intentionally?) obscure events: The opening of the first oil bourse priced in Euros on March 20th, 2006 in Teheran and the decision of the Federal Reserve to stop publishing M3 figures (the most reliable indicator on the amount of dollars circulating in the world) from March 23, 2006 onward. The article describes how the opening of the oil bourse will have a significant negative effect on the value of the dollar, while not publishing the M3 numbers will be an attempt to disguise the dollar's fall.

The article appears to be poorly translated from French, and I don't know the credibility of the source (they claim to have correctly predicted several recent events). But they present plenty of reasons why things may soon come to a head. The article suggests to me that aWol and Condi's fanning of the war flames against Iran probably has much more to do with preventing Iran from getting the bourse than from them getting the bomb.

From Matt Bors.

From Steve Breen.

From Clay Bennett.

Eminent domain

I brought up eminent domain yesterday mostly because I finally received a book that I had requested from the library eight months ago. Strangely enough, the NY Times has an article today about that very topic. The article describes how pretty much every state in the union has responded to last year's Kelo decision by the Supreme Court by introducing legislation or constitutional amendments to prevent governments from using eminent domain to take private property for private use. The opposition to the taking of private property for private use runs across the political spectrum--not just the "fringes" of libertarians on the right and Naderites on the left; it includes "mainstream" corporate Repugs and Democrats. Even communists who see private property as theft and congresscritters fully in the pocket of the corporations seem to cringe at the thought of city hall kicking old folks out of their homes.

Now I happen to see corporate control of this country as a very serious problem. Corporations own most of the land, most of the resources, pretty much all of the government. But most people don't seem to see it that way--they think weapon systems are purchased and wars fought to protect them, not to enrich the corporations. They see corporations as job creators and engines of progress. They think politicians vote their consciences (!!) and that we live in a democracy. No real improvement in this country seems possible as long as this nonsense prevails as widely accepted belief.

This is where these eminent domain cases can be extremely useful. Nowhere else is the collusion between corporations and government against the people so blatantly obvious and personal. And almost everyone recoils at the spectacle of government power being used to destroy neighborhoods to serve corporations.

Strangely enough, while acceptance of corporate hegemony seems to have increased in the past 25 years, in the area of eminent domain it seems to have gone the other way. In the Poletown case, residents of Detroit, and of Michigan in general, were so convinced of the need to appease GM that there was almost no opposition from the public, public officials, the press, the Catholic church, or anyone besides the residents themselves and Ralph Nader. But the Kelo decision in Connecticut is hugely unpopular--even the Supreme Court Justice who wrote the opinion, John Paul Stevens, indicated in the decision and afterwards that he didn't like it. The developers themselves are apparently reluctant to proceed with the project, even though they won the court case. And politicians across the country and across the political spectrum are taking steps to prevent it from happening again.

This is a "wedge issue" that we should jump all over. As I said before, these eminent domain cases show clearly the collusion between corporations and government officials doing something immensely unpopular. If more people were aware of how often this goes on, they might start to realize that the collusion extends far beyond eminent domain.

One case everyone should be familiar with is how the Texas Rangers, with George W. Bush as one of the owners, used eminent domain to take land from private property owners and then got the city of Arlington to build them a stadium on it. They should also know that aWol, first as drunken son of a pResident and later as governor of Texas, made millions from the deal steal. They should also note that current Texas governor Rick Perry, while supposedly supporting restricting the use of eminent domain for private use, wants an exception for the Dallas Cowboys.

Monday, February 20, 2006

A half-dozen questions about 9/11

Werther asks; no one answers. Here are his six questions:
  1. Who is Osama bin Laden, and where did he come from?
  2. When were Osama's last non-hostile links with the U.S. government?
  3. How did the President of United States React to the August 6 2001 Presidential Daily Brief?
  4. Who wrote the script for the rhetorical response to 9/11?
  5. Why did the mysterious anthrax attacks come and go like a wraith?
  6. Why did Osama bin Laden escape?
Read Werther's thoughts at Counterpunch. Here's an excerpt from question 5:
It was pure coincidence, perhaps, that the anthrax scare was at its height, producing psychosomatic illness symptoms among members of Congress and staffers, just as the USA PATRIOT Act was wending its way through the legislative process. This measure, which originated among the same Justice Department lawyers who legally opined that torture was wholesome, was rammed through the Congress after enactment of the authorization of the use of force in Afghanistan. Why is this sequence significant?

The then-majority leader of the U.S. Senate, Tom Daschle, wrote a curious op-ed in the Washington Post four years after the events just described. [8]. In attempting to refute the administration's allegation that it had been granted plenary wiretap powers in the Afghanistan authorization, he stated that he and his Senatorial confreres explicitly rejected an administration proposal to authorize an effective state of war within the borders of the United States itself.

Given the administration's repeatedly demonstrated refusal to accept any limitation on its powers, it is logical that the rebuff on the war powers authorization was followed by the prompt submittal of the Justice Department's draft of the PATRIOT Act, containing many of the domestic authorities the Bush White House had sought in the use of force legislation. How doubly coincidental that two of the limited number of addressees of the threat letters should have been the offices of Daschle himself, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, then-chairman of the committee of jurisdiction over the PATRIOT Act.


I'm currently reading Poletown: Community Betrayed, by Jeanie Wylie. The book documents the 1981 demolition of "Poletown," a neighborhood in Detroit which was obliterated to make room for a Cadillac factory. General Motors had the full backing of Detroit's city government, especially that of then-mayor Coleman Young. Young and GM used a just-passed "quick-take" eminent domain law to acquire and demolish 1,500 homes, 144 businesses, 16 churches, a school and a hospital. The legality of their action was upheld by the Michigan Supreme Court in 1981, although in 2004 the court reversed the decision (a bit late for the Poletown residents).

Here's what Poletown looked like before 1981:

Here's a TerraServer image of the Cadillac plant (I rotated the picture with north down to match the general orientation of the photo above, which would have been taken approximately from the lower left of this one).

The freeway just above (south) of the factory in I-94, while the freeway near the right of the picture is I-75. Construction of both freeways destroyed numerous Detroit neighborhoods as well, including parts of Poletown.

I requested the book from the library after the Supreme Court's infamous Kelo decision last summer, which upheld the "right" of government to take private property for private use (if it creates jobs or something). Both Poletown and Kelo were very clear examples of who has the power in this country (corporations), and who doesn't (people).

A good retrospective on Poletown is here.

Olympics ads

I've been enjoying the Olympics--mostly hockey and curling (!). I've got a digital video recorder, so I can skip most of the commercials. Nevertheless, several have caught my eye as particularly egregious.

First, there's the one showing all the cute kids jumping and playing around, morphing into Olympic athletes. Eventually, the voiceover tells us that one company is "investing more than ever before" on finding new ways to deliver energy: ExxonMobil. He's probably right--they probably spent more on this one commercial than they ever have on alternative energy sources (or Cheney forbid, conservation). Although I can't say that I want them to. ExxonMobil should be broken into tiny little pieces and their ill-gotten oil fields given to the poor or something.

Then there are the ads where people are sitting on a park bench spilling their guts to a statue of Ronald McDonald. Weird.

And, with peak oil approaching rapidly (or perhaps receding in the rearview mirror), GM is advertising the benefits of having vehicles large enough to haul the whole family--like the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban monstrosities. Not to be outdone, the RV industry is running an ad showing a 10-year-old boy riding around in a motor home the size of Delaware, gawking at Amish people and such.

But the one that bothers me the most is the one from Cargill about "Tiendas." It shows a delivery guy on a motorcycle bringing packaged crap to little stores (tiendas) in Latin America. The voiceover claims that Cargill's computerized delivery system is keeping these tiendas in business. In reality, the meddling of giant US-based agribusiness is destroying both production and delivery methods in Latin America. The huge number of small walk-in tiendas in every neighborhood is one of the charms of Latin-American cities. One of my fellow students at the Spanish language school remarked to me that there were four places to buy coffee, pop and snacks within "staggering distance" of his hotel. One of these, unfortunately, was an "OXXO," a cancerous chain infecting Mexico. OXXO's are everywhere in Mexico City and Guanajuato, selling most of the same stuff as the other tiendas, but with uniformed clerks and bargain prices--the Wal-Mart of tiendas. And OXXO is affiliated with Coca Cola, which is also affiliated with Mexican president Vicente Fox. Once I realized how ubiquitous OXXO's were in Guanajuato, I stopped shopping there. But it is clear to me that OXXO, Cargill, Coca Cola (and Wal-Mart, for that matter) threaten to destroy the small neighborhood tiendas which are a vital part of the wonderful character of Mexico. For Cargill to claim that it is helping tiendas is beneath contempt.

Pancho, owner of the tienda just outside the hotel I stayed in in Guanajuato. He was still competing with the OXXO across the street, but you have to wonder how long the independent tiendas can hold out. I guess this country would be a guide--we used to have neighborhood stores, too.

The Bush Veto

From Ted Rall.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

This ought to bring oil prices back up

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has apparently had about enough of idiots like Rummy and Condiliar badmouthing him and trying the old regime change number on him. He says he's prepared to cut off oil exports to the US. You've got to believe he is--Venezuela has been cultivating markets throughout Latin America and around the world.

The Bushies (so far mostly verbal) attacks on Chavez highlight their utter hypocrisy when it comes to oil. Whatever supposedly undemocratic steps Chavez may have taken in recent years, they pale in comparison to those in other US-backed oil suppliers like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Myanmar, Nigeria and Colombia, or taken by the Bushies themselves for that matter. Chavez threatens US economic imperialism in the western hemisphere. This is the only reason the Bushies want him gone. But Chavez can pull the plug on our economy, and just might do it.

Friday, February 17, 2006

They're melting! Meeeelting!

Greenland's glaciers, that is:
The scientists said they do not yet understand the precise mechanism causing glaciers to flow and melt more rapidly, but they said the changes in Greenland were unambiguous -- and accelerating: In 1996, the amount of water produced by melting ice in Greenland was about 90 times the amount consumed by Los Angeles in a year. Last year, the melted ice amounted to 225 times the volume of water that city uses annually.
The wicked witch that is the west has planet earth set on broil. Still, we continue to drive like maniacs and think that coal is a part of a solution. We had a thunderstorm here in Michigan last night. I don't remember ever having thunderstorms in the winter until just the last couple of years. We also had the warmest January on record. Meanwhile, weather-related catastrophes continue, and are likely to just get worse. Hurricane season supposedly starts in the summer, but you have to wonder if it will wait that long.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

More evidence that the "war on terror" should always be mentioned in "quotes"

From AP:
The Bush administration today rebuffed criticism about potential security risks of a $6.8 billion sale that gives a company in the United Arab Emirates control over significant operations at six major American ports.
If the official 9/11 story is to be believed (it isn't), one of the 19 hijackers came from the UAE. The UAE was one of only three countries to recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan's legitimate government, and was (again, according to the official story) an operational and financial base for the 9/11 hijackers. So why would the Treasury Department approve a UAE-based company take over security operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia?

Only two reasons that I can think of:
  1. The "war on terror" is completely bogus, and the Bushies know it, but they've got friends in the UAE who will kick back a lot of the money they make from this deal; or
  2. The lack of recent terror attacks is making the "war on terror" appear bogus, making it (ever so slightly) more difficult for the Bushies to do whatever they want. Letting the fox guard the henhouse may deliver them the mandate for total fascism that they clearly crave.
Opposition to the sale comes from both sides of the aisle, including Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL).

Quote du jour

Fact and analysis no longer play a role. The spun reality in which Americans live is insulated against intelligent perception.
-- Paul Craig Roberts


From Mr. Fish.

From Chris Britt.

From Andy Singer.

From Jack Ohman.

From John Cole.

From Pat Bagley.

From Mark Cohen.

From Boondocks.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Quote du jour

Cheney thought Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Cheney thought Whittington was a small bird.
-- Juan Cole

Actually, I'll take issue with the professor here. Both Iraq and Whittington stood between Cheney and what he wanted; so he "peppered" them both.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

How about some criminal charges?

Cheney's (latest) victim has had a heart attack caused by the birdshot lodged near or in his heart. If he dies, will Cheney be charged with manslaughter or negligent homicide? It happens all the time.

There is no representative government in the US

I complained about it four years ago, when Dick Cheney basically hand-picked Norm Coleman to be a senator from Minnesota. First, he strong-armed Republican Tim Pawlenty into dropping out of the primary race (see my 2002 archives and search for "Pawlenty" for details), basically handing Coleman the nomination without any input from Minnesota voters. Then he made sure that election favorite Paul Wellstone's plane crashed (okay, there is some controversy about that), and then had the Fox News hacks make a big deal out of Wellstone's funeral, saying that the Dems were out of bounds to politicize a funeral. One way or another, Wellstone's ancient replacement on the ticket, Walter Mondale, lost to Coleman on election day. Coleman now "serves" as the senator from Cheney.

Well, the Democrats do the same crap, although they don't have the control of Predator drones to finish the job in November like the Repugs do. The NY Times reports that popular Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett has withdrawn from the Democratic primary for the senate in Ohio under pressure from national Democratic leaders including Senators Charles Schumer (NY) and Harry Reid (NV). Schumer and Reid want Rep. Sherrod Brown to oppose Republican Senator Mike DeWine in November without having to go through a primary battle. What the people of Ohio want apparently has nothing to do with it.
For the last two weeks, he said, state and national Democratic Party leaders have urged him to drop his Senate campaign and again run for Congress.

"This is an extremely disappointing decision that I feel has been forced on me," said Mr. Hackett, whose announcement comes two days before the state's filing deadline for candidates. He said he was outraged to learn that party leaders were calling his donors and asking them to stop giving and said he would not enter the Second District Congressional race.

"For me, this is a second betrayal," Mr. Hackett said. "First, my government misused and mismanaged the military in Iraq, and now my own party is afraid to support candidates like me.
Of course, this is American politics--follow the money:
"It boils down to who we think can pull the most votes in November against DeWine," said Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. "And in Ohio, Brown's name is golden. It's just that simple."

Mr. Fern added that Mr. Brown's fund-raising abilities made him the better Senate candidate. By the end of last year, Mr. Brown had already amassed $2.37 million, 10 times what Mr. Hackett had raised.
So, as almost always happens in American politics, Ohio voters will get to "choose" between a big-money Dem and a big-money Repug in November, and the Senate will likely remain the home of pompous gasbags who vote us into war and approve neanderthals to "serve" in the cabinet and on the Supreme Court.

I hope Hackett changes his mind and sticks it to these bastards.

Presidential Veto

It is said that aWol has never used his veto power in five years as pResident. Not true--he hasn't used it to veto bills from Congress (mostly because of his pre-emptive strikes involving bribes and threats), but he has used it to overturn elections in other countries. The Bushies vetoed Haiti's election by kidnapping the elected president in 2004, insisting that the Haitians try again to "choose" a government more to Washington's liking. And now it appears that they'll do whatever it takes to overturn the will of the Palestinian people, despite last year's fine rhetoric.
I am heartened by today's strong turnout in the Palestinian elections. Palestinians throughout the West Bank and Gaza took a key step toward building a democratic future by choosing a new president in elections that observers describe as largely free and fair. This is a historic day for the Palestinian people and for the people of the Middle East.

America and all free nations strongly support the efforts of the Palestinian people to create lasting democratic institutions. These efforts -- including today's presidential elections and the parliamentary elections that will follow in several months -- are essential for the establishment of a sovereign, independent, viable, democratic, and peaceful Palestinian state that can live alongside a safe and secure Israel. These elections are further proof that when given a choice, all peoples seek to live in liberty and to choose their own government.

The United States stands ready to help the Palestinian people realize their aspirations.
-- President Bush's Statement on Palestinian Elections, January 9, 2005.

The United States and Israel are discussing ways to destabilize the Palestinian government so that newly elected Hamas officials will fail and elections will be called again, according to Israeli officials and Western diplomats.

The intention is to starve the Palestinian Authority of money and international connections to the point where, some months from now, its president, Mahmoud Abbas, is compelled to call a new election. The hope is that Palestinians will be so unhappy with life under Hamas that they will return to office a reformed and chastened Fatah movement.
-- NY Times, today.

Looking back on peak oil

Oil expert Kenneth Deffeyes says that world peak oil occurred in December.

Twelve pages!!!!

Slate has 12 pages of Cheney cartoons!!! A sample:

From Drew Sheneman.

From Sandy Huffaker.

From Jeff Stahler.

From Richard Crowson.

From Mike Thompson, who titled the cartoon "Shootin' fish in a barrel." Which, if Cheney were doing it, he'd probably "pepper" somebody else.

I wonder what would have happened if Whittington had been as drunk as Cheney and had "peppered" the Veep from the Deep instead. Do you think Whittington could have fled the scene the next day without being questioned by police or the Secret Service? Would the press have treated Cheney being in intensive care as just a minor incident?

BTW, CBS has a summary of last night's jokes from Letterman, Leno, Jon Stewart and Craig Ferguson.

WIIIAI suggests that the explosions coming from the vice-presidential mansion a few years ago were for installing underground freezers to hold the bodies of Cheney's (direct) victims.

And apparently Cheney didn't have all the required permits for hunting quail--or lawyers.

From Tom Toles.

From Ted Rall.

Monday, February 13, 2006

From R.J. Matson.

From Daryl Cagle.

From Tom Toles.

It's the doublethink, stupid

Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution has the courage to investigate Torture Gonzales' recent senate (non) testimony, and notes that while the AG claims NSA wiretapping to be a valid "wartime" prerogative of the pResident, he adamantly insists that there has been no declaration of war (he's right about that part). It's wartime, but we're not at war, or something. Orwell warned us about this crap, and Jim Marcinkowski points out that the Bushies are turning our country into one that reminds him of the "evil empire" that was widely believed to be Orwell's model for "1984." Doubleplusungood.

Was Cheney's smoking gun a mushroom cloud?

So Useless Dick is finally targeting Repugs now. It always happens in the end. Of course, I'm sure he'd tell you that if he'd waited to be absolutely sure it was a quail, it would have been too late. In the post-9/11 world, you can't afford to take chances like that.

Cheney of course covered it up for a day, and then flew back to Washington. By all accounts it was an accident, but if there's any criminal suspect in the world who should be HELD on his own recognizance, it would be Cheney.

I should have more sympathy for the victim, but he's a friend of Cheney's and a longtime Texas Repug. So I don't.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

John Stossel is an idiot

I've read that before, but I saw a little bit of ABC's 20/20 hack on Friday night, and just looked up the transcript of the show. Clearly a shill for for corporate greedheads, Stossel spent the show "debunking" ten "myths." Here are a few:

Myth #1: Sharing Would Make the World a Better Place: Some public restrooms are gross, and communal agriculture in communist China and the Soviet Union wasn't completely successful. Therefore, everything should be privatized--according to Stossel. Never mind that communal agriculture has worked and continues to work in many places, or that socialism has provided very pleasant lives for millions for decades in Europe. Stossel doesn't approve. End of story.

Myth #2: Urban Sprawl Is Ruining America: 95% of the country is undeveloped, and a lot of people like their backyards--therefore sprawl is good--according to Stossel. Nevermind that the 95% of the country has no water or jobs, or that suburbia depends entirely on cheap energy, which won't exist much longer. No matter--Stossel likes sprawl. End of story.

Myth #4: Outsourcing Is Bad for American Workers. Stossel found a company in California which was able to add workers after outsourcing much of its work to India, and Tennessee is building a community college on the site of the Levi jeans plant which moved to Mexico--creating jobs building and staffing the college! Besides, American workers can only afford stuff made elsewhere, something Stossel thinks is just dandy, without considering WHY they can't afford domestic stuff. Stossel loves "free trade," ignoring the fact that trade isn't "free" if the workers aren't free to pursue the highest wages in the same way capital pursues the lowest costs. Stossel likes corporations--end of story.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Watching the Olympics...

So much for Olympic dignity: They played the "Chicken Dance" in the arena at the US-Switzerland women's hockey game. I think I heard "Are you ready for some hockeeeeeey??!!" at the start of a period as well--in English. After a slow start, the US women made Swiss cheese out of their opponents.

Oops: A Canadian woman won the moguls competition in freestyle skiing, but when they announced her as the winner, the announcer said (in French) that she was from the US. After several seconds of loud boos, he corrected himself.

Anything's an excuse for anything

To reasonable people, the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is evidence that the war in Iraq was/is illegal, and that Bush, Blair and their minions lied us into war. However, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Perle are not reasonable people.

From a debate with David Corn, via A Tiny Revolution:
[Hitchens'] most entertaining remark of the evening came when he asked the audience to contemplate the fact that not a single weapon of mass destruction has yet been found in Iraq. Wasn't that suspicious? Given that Iraq had possessed chemical and biological weapons in the 1990s, shouldn't a few have remained? In fact, he went on, the zero finding was so suspicious that it was not credible. Think for yourself, people, he exhorted the crowd.
From Reuters, also via A Tiny Revolution:
Richard Perle, a key architect of the U.S.-led war against Iraq, said on Saturday the West should not make the mistake of waiting too long to use military force if Iran comes close to getting an atomic weapon.

"If you want to try to wait until the very last minute, you'd better be very confident of your intelligence because if you're not, you won't know when the last minute is," Perle told Reuters on the sidelines of an annual security conference in Munich.

"And so, ironically, one of the lessons of the inadequate intelligence of Iraq is you'd better be careful how long you choose to wait."

There you have it. If overwhelming evidence proves you wrong, you have two choices: Question the evidence, or use it as an excuse to repeat your mistakes. Chances are that our pResident will take the advice of both lunatics.

From Mark Cohen.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Cartoon idea of the week

Not-being-offended-by-something (NBOBS) is a great form of empowerment which obviously the poor Muslim world lacks. The right-wing demagogues of Denmark clearly know this and mobilize their base with the Allah baiting. Instead of counterattacking the right, I think it's our responsibility to help the poor Muslims develop NBOBS. To that end I have designed a cartoon in which an emaciated Mohammed and Jesus -- wearing a yellow star -- fellate one another in a modified 69 behind the barbed wire of Aushwitz as Buddha gorges himself on a stinking pile of Shiva's feces and the Virgin Mary gives birth to a razor-toothed leprechaun beneath a smiling Raisin-Bran sun, and Mother Goose flies over the entire proceedings strafing the inmates with bullets, bibles, etc. Also the whole thing would be painted in stem cells.
-- A comment by Setholonius to this post, linked to by A Tiny Revolution. As a member of several religions unoffended by Seth's cartoon, I am offended to have been left out. Sometimes it seems as though religion was invented to be a convenient way to give and take offense. Patriotism, too.

A little sanity at the WaPo?

Two years ago, right after returning from Venezuela, I read an obnoxious anti-Chavez column by Marcela Sanchez of the Washington Post, and commented on it (the original column is no longer available on the free WaPo web site). Sanchez basically accused Chavez of being a nutjob for saying things that are both true and obvious (at least outside of wingnut America).

Fortunately, Sanchez seems to have come to her senses a bit. In today's column, she quotes assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs Thomas Shannon, who was recently interviewed by the Spanish paper El Pais. Judging by the quotes, Shannon is a reasonable person, somehow slipping under the ideological radar designed to keep such riff-raff out of the administration. (Or maybe Shannon only said reasonable things because he was talking to a foreign newspaper, unaware that his comments would soon appear in the WaPo.) According to Sanchez,
[Shannon] told the newspaper that the rise of elected populist leaders with socialist inclinations should not be seen as a threat. Instead, he said, Washington ought "to show solidarity with those countries, acknowledge that form of political expression as valid and respectable, and help to create structures that channel it positively."

Shannon, a career diplomat who took office in October, said Chavez's influence in particular is exaggerated, disputing claims that the Venezuelan leader engineered the electoral triumph of Evo Morales in Bolivia. Moreover, he said, "the great challenge we face in the region is not Venezuela or Chavez but rather poverty, marginalization and the inability of some societies to provide the goods and services that people expect."

Sadly, Shannon's words were eclipsed by the more typical hyperbole.

At a Senate hearing on worldwide threats to the United States last week, John Negroponte, director of national intelligence, raised the specter of Chavez aligning himself with parts of President Bush's "axis of evil," warning that Chavez seeks "closer economic, military, and diplomatic ties with Iran and North Korea." That same day, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, speaking at the National Press Club, harked back to the original evil axis, noting that Chavez "was elected legally -- just as Adolf Hitler."

The danger doesn't stop with Chavez. In fact, Rumsfeld said that the elections of other populist leaders in the region such as Morales "clearly are worrisome." Just a day earlier, Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla., warned about the threat of "a global television network for terrorists and other enemies of freedom" created through the new alliance between the Arabic network al-Jazeera and Telesur, a Caracas-based TV network funded by Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba and Uruguay.
Sanchez goes on to say:
The point here is not that Chavez is a poor misunderstood Lula or that his intentions are purely noble. Rather it is that words are important and that the caricature of Chavez and of the left's progress in the region serves no one. The words of Rumsfeld, Negroponte and the like are just as ridiculous as Chavez's own when he calls President Bush "Mr. Danger" -- or, as last weekend, when he said Hitler was "a suckling baby next to Mr. Danger."

The words of Shannon, devoid of passions that make good headlines, are a far better foundation for bolstering U.S. foreign policy in the region. They don't strengthen Chavez's hand by building him up and they don't insult the people who choose Chavez for the hope he continues to represent to them.
I'm glad to see that Sanchez recognizes that the caricatures are stupid and pointless. Too bad she didn't recognize it back when she was one of the caricaturists.

Quote du jour

When the Wall Street Journal editorialists describe Iran's current leaders as "possessed of an apocalyptic vision" they could just as well be describing Bush's evangelical supporters and the neocon Jacobins that are driving America to impose the neocon will on the Middle East. This is the program of lunatics. No conservative could possibly support it.
-- Paul Craig Roberts


Lie of the week

"We reject violence as a way to express discontent with what may be printed in a free press." -- aWol, Wednesday.

Oh really? After bombing Al Jazeera offices in Kabul and Baghdad, aWol discussed bombing Al Jazeera headquarters in Qatar with Tony Blair.

The WSWS recounts how the Bushies have changed their (car)tune this week, from initially condemning the publishing of the offensive Mohammed cartoons to now focusing on the riots in reaction to them. Also, ignoring the fact that the worst violence has occurred in US-occupied Afghanistan and has been largely at the hands of US, Afghan or allied troops, Condiliar was quick to blame Iran and Syria. Give her a day or two and she'll figure out how to blame Castro and Chavez as well.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The long war

The WSWS reviews the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review, which documents how the government intends to waste the half-trillion dollars a year budgeted for "defense." It's very scary. Excerpts:
Envisioned in the document, the Defense Department’s Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), is a vaguely defined “long war” that will involve the use of military power all over the globe to suppress challenges to US interests both from popular insurgencies and geo-strategic rivals. In particular, the document singles out China as a potential military competitor that must be deterred.
With the increase, combined with tens of billions of dollars more for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as funds separately allotted to the Energy Department to maintain America’s nuclear arsenal, US military spending will climb well above the half-trillion-dollar mark in the coming year. This is more than the amount spent by all other countries combined, accounting for more than half of the estimated $1 trillion in worldwide arms expenditures.
This will bring the total cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan thus far to $440 billion, rapidly approaching the cost (when adjusted for inflation) of the 13-year-long war in Vietnam.

The anticipated spending rate of $10 billion a month is 50 percent higher than last year. The Pentagon said the dramatic hike was due, in part, to the inclusion of funding to repair and replace the large amount of military equipment that has been damaged or destroyed in Iraq.

This massive spending proposal is driven ultimately by a policy, supported by the decisive sections of the American ruling elite and both major parties, of utilizing US military superiority as a means of countering the relative decline of American capitalism on the world market. The buildup of the US armed forces is aimed not at countering some ubiquitous terrorist menace, but at defending American economic and political hegemony against challenges from both popular movements and powerful economic rivals.

This strategy is spelled out in the QDR document released in conjunction with the budget request. That the document uses the term “long war,” a phrase that is increasingly replacing the “global war on terrorism” in Washington official-speak, has ominous implications. The term is aimed at accustoming US military personnel and the American public at large to a state of permanent warfare that will continue regardless of the outcome of the current interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the document states: “Currently, the struggle is centered in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we will need to be prepared and arranged to successfully defend our Nation and its interests around the globe for years to come.”

In another significant terminological shift, the Pentagon document defines the main enemy not as terrorists, but rather as “violent extremists” or merely “extremists.” This choice of words is not accidental. The thrust of the strategic conceptions outlined by the Pentagon review is the organization of the US military to violently quell any and all opposition to US domination.

Those who resist Washington’s economic and political hegemony are to be branded “extremists,” no matter what their ideological conceptions, and ruthlessly suppressed. The counterinsurgency methods elaborated in the document are aimed not merely at Islamist terrorist groups, but at any popular movement that emerges against US imperialism and its client regimes.
In case that wasn't clear enough, the QDR spells it out:
In regards to Latin America, the document presents as a growing concern in US military planning the “resurgence of populist authoritarian political movements in some countries, such as Venezuela,” which it says “threaten gains achieved and are a source of economic and political instability.”
Then there's this:
The document likewise spells out Washington’s intentions to increasingly deploy the US military for domestic purposes. The Pentagon, it states, will, on the order of the White House, use military forces to support “civil authorities for designated law enforcement and/or other activities.” It adds that it intends to “provide US NORTHCOM [the military command created in 2002 to oversee the US itself] with authority to stage forces and equipment domestically prior to potential incidents when possible.”
Orwell, like Murphy, was an optimist.

Quote du jour

"Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton." -- aWol, talking to Bob Schieffer of CBS News about the possibility that Hillary may succeed him in the oval office. Just in case you were wondering if there is any real difference between the two parties or the ruling families.


From Chris Britt.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Dena sent me two articles about Cuba and the continued insane approach of the US towards that island nation.

One article (no direct link--subscription only) concerns the "Cuban Five," five Cuban counterterrorism agents (Jack Bauers, if you will) who were operating in Miami several years ago attempting to PREVENT terror attacks in Cuba sponsored by groups of right-wing Cuban expatriates in Miami. They were convicted in 2001 and sentenced to lengthy prison sentences, and have been denied visits from family members. Recently, the 11th Circuit Court ruled that the Cuban Five received an unfair trial, but the "Justice" department is stalling in granting them a new trial. The hypocrisy involved in imprisoning men who should be seen as comrades in the "war on terror," while harboring known terrorists like Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles is appalling.

The other article concerns the recent action of the US Treasury Department in demanding that an American-owned hotel in Mexico City expel a Cuban oil industry delegation that was meeting there with US oil execs. The Mexican government, including representatives of all three major political parties, have protested this violation of Mexican sovereignty. They are threatening to shut down the Sheraton hotel involved for violating anti-discrimination laws.

Thanks, Dena!

From Mr. Fish. Check out his cartoons from 2/7 and 2/3 as well.

From Bruce Plante.

Bruce is right. The Dems are the local bus to hell. The Repugs are the express. (Notice he didn't mention Felix having to cross the street to catch the Dem bus.)

From Jack Ohman.

From Etta Hulme.

They stood up and cheered

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) ripped aWol and many of his Congressional colleagues in a speech yesterday. Excerpts:
The President was blunt. He said that he had authorized the NSA's domestic spying program, and he made a number of misleading arguments to defend himself. His words got rousing applause from Republicans, and even some Democrats.

The President was blunt, so I will be blunt: This program is breaking the law, and this President is breaking the law. Not only that, he is misleading the American people in his efforts to justify this program.

How is that worthy of applause? Since when do we celebrate our commander in chief for violating our most basic freedoms, and misleading the American people in the process? When did we start to stand up and cheer for breaking the law? In that moment at the State of the Union, I felt ashamed.
And what's particularly disturbing is how many members of Congress have responded. They stood up and cheered. They stood up and cheered.
Just like the Politburo and the Reichstag used to do.


W will eventually be recognized as the worst president in history, with his insane militarism combined with tax cuts having bankrupted the country into third-world status. But his far more intelligent and articulate predecessor, Bill Clinton, may well deserve second place, if only for one thing--trade policy. NAFTA and the WTO have been and continue to be disasters for working people in all countries involved.

Harold Meyerson writes in today's WaPo about the devastating effects NAFTA has had in Mexico, while mentioning the more obvious effects here in the US (particularly here in Michigan). Excerpts:
With the number of immigrants illegally in the United States estimated at 11 million, the tensions between Americans and Mexicans -- chiefly, working-class Americans and working-class Mexicans -- are rising. And those are tensions that congressional Republicans, who don't look to have a lot of other issues they can run on this fall, are eager to stoke.

In December the House approved a bill by Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin that would turn all those undocumented immigrants into felons. It would supersede local ordinances that keep police from inquiring into the status of people coming forth to report crimes or help in investigations. It would help create a permanent underground population in our midst, with no hope of ever attaining legal status.

But the most striking aspect of the assault on undocumented immigrants is that it has no theory of causality. Over 40 percent of the Mexicans who have come, legally and illegally, to the United States have done so in the past 15 years. The boom in undocumenteds is even more concentrated than that: There were just 2.5 million such immigrants in the United States in 1995; fully 8 million have arrived since then.
The North American Free Trade Agreement was sold, of course, as a boon to the citizens of the United States, Canada and Mexico -- guaranteed both to raise incomes and lower prices, however improbably, throughout the continent. Bipartisan elites promised that it would stanch the flow of illegal immigrants, too. "There will be less illegal immigration because more Mexicans will be able to support their children by staying home," said President Bill Clinton as he was building support for the measure in the spring of 1993.

But NAFTA, which took effect in 1994, could not have been more precisely crafted to increase immigration -- chiefly because of its devastating effect on Mexican agriculture. As liberal economist Jeff Faux points out in "The Global Class War," his just-published indictment of the actual workings of the new economy, Mexico had been home to a poor agrarian sector for generations, which the government helped sustain through price supports on corn and beans. NAFTA, though, put those farmers in direct competition with incomparably more efficient U.S. agribusinesses. It proved to be no contest: From 1993 through 2002, at least 2 million Mexican farmers were driven off their land.
I'll take issue with Meyerson on one point--US agribusiness is only "incomparably more efficient" as long as oil remains absurdly underpriced. It is also only more efficient in terms of bushels per acre or bushels per dollar. When other metrics are considered--providing jobs, guaranteeing food independence, protecting the environment and preventing soil erosion--US agribusiness isn't necessarily "efficient" at all. But I understand what Meyerson means: US agribusiness can produce farm goods at prices far lower than can the labor-intensive agriculture practiced in Mexico and other poorer countries. (Especially when the labor comes from "illegal" Mexican aliens!) Once Mexican markets were opened to US agricultural products, the ability of Mexican farmers to survive was compromised.

Meyerson goes on to point out that NAFTA hasn't even improved the lot of Mexican industrial workers, and that the overall poverty rate in Mexico has risen under NAFTA. He concludes:
Walls on the border won't fix this problem, nor will forcing cops to arrest entire barrios. So long as the global economy is designed, as NAFTA was, to keep workers powerless, Mexican desperation and American anger will only grow. Forget the fence. We need a new rulebook for the world.
I am constantly amazed at how many Americans, including seemingly most Democrats and "liberals," think that "free trade" is a good thing. It is not. It is one of the main tools being used by the ruling class to keep workers chained and poor. That NAFTA was championed by a Democratic president should not be seen as a reason to support NAFTA; it should be recognized as evidence of the total corruption of the Democratic Party.

Three years ago today

The World's Largest Human Peace Sign!

Click on picture for larger version.

On February 8, 2003 at 8 AM, three friends and I used food color and chalk to mark the outlines of our giant (240-foot diameter) peace sign on the snow and the sidewalks of the diag at the University of Michigan. Four hours later, some 2500 peace marchers arrived to fill in the "World's Largest Human Peace Sign." We hired a pilot/photographer to take pictures from his plane, and the one above is the best. Two weeks before I had been in a huge anti-war march in Washington, and one week after there were big marches all over the world (I was in Lansing).

We were organized, we were committed, we were loud, we were right.

We were ignored.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The president is not a lawyer

It's enough to make you miss John Ashcroft (emphasis added):
FEINSTEIN: We know nothing about the program other than what we’ve read in the newspapers. And so it comes with huge shock as Senator Leahy said that the President of the United States in Buffalo, New York in 2004 would say, and I quote, “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.” Mr. Attorney General, in light of what you and the president have said in the past month, this statement appears to be false. Do you agree?

GONZALES: No, I don’t senator. In fact, I take great issue with your suggestion that somehow the President of the United States was not being totally forthcoming with the American people. I have his statement, and, in the sentence immediately before what you’re talking about he said he was referring to roving wiretaps, and so, I think anyone who — I think –

FEINSTEIN: So you’re saying that statement only relates to roving wiretaps?

GONZALES: That discussion was about the Patriot Act. And right before he uttered those words that you’re referring to he said, “Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. You know, now, by the way any time you hear the United States talk about wiretaps, it requires — a wiretap requires a court order.” As you know, the president is not a lawyer.
He's not human, either, Gonzo. What's your point?

Torture Gonzales is a liar, a traitor, and a war criminal. And those are his good points. That the senators don't rake him over the coals and call for his immediate impeachment tells you all you need to know about the US Senate.

Gonzo testimony

Left I compares the news reports of Torture Gonzales' testimony yesterday (is it testimony if not under oath?) with what he actually said. What he actually said suggests that the illegal NSA spying is NOT restricted to international calls--only that the domestic spying is a different "program."

"Ill-omened trinity"

Via Juan Cole, I learn that Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr
accused "the common enemy, Israel, Britain and America" of being "the ill-omened trinity that sows turmoil among us."
Seems more literate, somehow, than "axis of evil." So which country is father, son, or holy ghost?

Sadr has recently traveled to Iran and Syria. Sadr controls a sizeable block in the new Iraqi parliament. If they had even one little toe based in reality, the Bushies might soon be admitting that at least we were better off with Saddam Hussein in power.

Paul Craig Roberts explains himself

I've wondered off and on how former Reaganite and right-wing columnist Paul Craig Roberts somehow became my favorite Bush-basher. Yesterday, he explained himself. Well worth reading. Lengthy excerpts:
Americans have forgotten what it takes to remain free. Instead, every ideology, every group is determined to use government to advance its agenda. As the government's power grows, the people are eclipsed.

We have reached a point where the Bush administration is determined to totally eclipse the people. Bewitched by neoconservatives and lustful for power, the Bush administration and the Republican Party are aligning themselves firmly against the American people. Their first victims, of course, were the true conservatives. Having eliminated internal opposition, the Bush administration is now using blackmail obtained through illegal spying on American citizens to silence the media and the opposition party.

Before flinching at my assertion of blackmail, ask yourself why President Bush refuses to obey the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The purpose of the FISA court is to ensure that administrations do not spy for partisan political reasons. The warrant requirement is to ensure that a panel of independent federal judges hears a legitimate reason for the spying, thus protecting a president from the temptation to abuse the powers of government. The only reason for the Bush administration to evade the court is that the Bush administration had no legitimate reasons for its spying. This should be obvious even to a naif.
The years of illegal spying have given the Bush administration power over the media and the opposition. Journalists and Democratic politicians don't want to have their adulterous affairs broadcast over television or to see their favorite online porn sites revealed in headlines in the local press with their names attached. Only people willing to risk such disclosures can stand up for the country.

Homeland Security and the Patriot Act are not our protectors. They undermine our protection by trashing the Constitution and the civil liberties it guarantees. Those with a tyrannical turn of mind have always used fear and hysteria to overcome obstacles to their power and to gain new means of silencing opposition.

Consider the no-fly list. This list has no purpose whatsoever but to harass and disrupt the livelihoods of Bush's critics. If a known terrorist were to show up at check-in, he would be arrested and taken into custody, not told that he could not fly. What sense does it make to tell someone who is not subject to arrest and who has cleared screening that he or she cannot fly? How is this person any more dangerous than any other passenger?

If Senator Ted Kennedy, a famous senator with two martyred brothers, can be put on a no-fly list, as he was for several weeks, anyone can be put on the list. The list has no accountability. People on the list cannot even find out why they are on the list. There is no recourse, no procedure for correcting mistakes.

I am certain that there are more Bush critics on the list than there are terrorists. According to reports, the list now comprises 80,000 names! This number must greatly dwarf the total number of terrorists in the world and certainly the number of known terrorists.

How long before members of the opposition party, should there be one, find that they cannot return to Washington for important votes, because they have been placed on the no-fly list? What oversight does Congress or a panel of federal judges exercise over the list to make sure there are valid reasons for placing people on the list?

If the government can have a no-fly list, it can have a no-drive list. The Iraqi resistance has demonstrated the destructive potential of car bombs. If we are to believe the government's story about the Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City, Timothy McVeigh showed that a rental truck bomb could destroy a large office building. Indeed, what is to prevent the government from having a list of people who are not allowed to leave their homes? If the Bush administration can continue its policy of picking up people anywhere in the world and detaining them indefinitely without having to show any evidence for their detention, it can do whatever it wishes.
Many patriotic readers have written to me expressing their frustration that fact and common sense cannot gain a toehold in a debate guided by hysteria and disinformation. Other readers write that 9/11 shields Bush from accountability, They challenge me to explain why three World Trade Center buildings on one day collapsed into their own footprints at free fall speed, an event outside the laws of physics except under conditions of controlled demolition. They insist that there is no stopping war and a police state as long as the government's story on 9/11 remains unchallenged.

They could be right. There are not many editors eager for writers to explore the glaring defects of the 9/11 Commission Report. One would think that if the report could stand analysis, there would not be a taboo against calling attention to the inadequacy of its explanations. We know the government lied about Iraqi WMD, but we believe the government told the truth about 9/11.
Congress and the media have no fight in them, and neither, apparently, do the American people. Considering the feebleness of the opposition, perhaps the best strategy is for the opposition to shut up, not merely for our own safety but, more importantly, to remove any impediments to Bush administration self-destruction. The sooner the Bush administration realizes its goals of attacking Iran, Syria, and the Shia militias in Lebanon, the more likely the administration will collapse in the maelstrom before it achieves a viable police state. Hamas' victory in the recent Palestinian elections indicates that Muslim outrage over further US aggression in the Middle East has the potential to produce uprisings in Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Not even Karl Rove and Fox "News" could spin Bush out of the catastrophe.

Perhaps we should go further and join the neocon chorus, urging on invasions of Iran and Syria and sending in the Marines to disarm Hizbullah in Lebanon. Not even plots of the German High Command could get rid of Hitler, but when Hitler marched German armies into Russia he destroyed himself. If Iraq hasn't beat the hubris out of what Gordon Prather aptly terms the "neo-crazies," US military adventures against Iran and Hizbullah will teach humility to the neo-crazies.

Monday, February 06, 2006

From Andy Singer.

From Matt Wuerker.

From Clay Bennett.

130,000 hostages

From Andrew Cockburn:
Jimmy Carter presented Iran with 52 hostages. George Bush has done a lot better, sending 130,000 Americans across the ocean as guarantees of his administration's good behavior toward the Islamic Republic. Last week, Tehran reminded us of its ability to make life unpleasant for US forces in Iraq by hosting Moqtada al Sadr for a high profile visit, in the course of which he obligingly pledged that his militia, the Mahdi army, would retaliate for any American attack on Iran. His spokesman quoted him as telling his hosts "If any Islamic state, especially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is attacked, the Mahdi Army would fight inside and outside Iraq."

Back in the saddle

I arrived back in Michigan Saturday evening. It hadn't snowed during the two weeks I was gone, but it was snowing when I got back! Yesterday I spent recovering and watching the Super Bowl with family. I'm still catching up on the news and the blogs (the REAL news).

Mexico, and Guanajuato were wonderful. Can't wait to go back. If you'd like to see my photos, send me an e-mail (bob AT aapeace DOT org) and I'll send you an invite to my Kodak Gallery album.

Three years ago when I went to Chiapas, I came back thinking that there was one main difference between the US and Mexico politically: The vast majority of Mexicans know that their government is corrupt, while here in the US we are faced with a huge segment of the population that thinks that corruption is only an infrequent abberation--the occasional Traficant, Cunningham or Abramoff--not the totally pervasive one-dollar one-vote system you and I know it to be. I mentioned this theory of mine to several Mexicans in the past two weeks, and they agreed. You find very few supporters of President Vicente Fox in Mexico, and basically NOBODY who likes George Bush (except maybe Fox himself).

One of the many things I like about Mexico!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Hey Rummy! Take a look around the table at the next cabinet meeting

I mean, we've got Chavez in Venezuela with a lot of oil money. He's a person who was elected legally -- just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally -- and then consolidated power and now is, of course, working closely with Fidel Castro and Mr. Morales and others.
-- Donald Rumsfeld

Michelle, who wrote the blog You Will Anyway before heading to Mexico for a year e-mailed me to say that Chavez is one up on Bush, who consolidated power without being elected legally.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Heading home!

My two weeks in Guanajuato are nearing an end. It´s almost 10 PM now, and at 1 AM I'll be on a first class bus for Mexico City. My plane leaves there for Washington-Dulles at 10 AM, and I will hopefully arrive in Detroit at about 6:30 PM. A long day.

Guanajuato is a about the finest place I´ve ever been. The town is gorgeous, but the people are so friendly it's almost embarrassing. Mexicans are absolutely wonderful. I think I've learned quite a bit of Spanish here, and look forward to coming back soon.

Once I'm home I'll post some pictures and some other thoughts.

As far as politics go, my general impression is that there is one big difference between the US and Mexico. The governments in both countries are totally corrupt--the difference is that the Mexicans know it.

Cyndy links to a great cartoon explaining the differences between the two criminal parties in the US:

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

From Slowpoke.

Bush is such a wuss

Having Cindy Sheehan arrested for wearing a T-shirt. WIIIAI recounts aWol's ignorant ramblings and today's follow foul up.

Just in case you didn´t know, pretty much everybody here in Mexico and the rest of the world thinks Bush is a total moron. Even the conservative Canadians who were my housemates last week agree on that.