Bob's Links and Rants

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Friday, March 31, 2006

Those whacky Republicans!

I decided to see what these anti-immigrant Repugs have been up to.

Rep. Steve King (Iowa) is good friends with right-wing nutjob columnist Michelle Malkin,

and climbed a mountain in Tibet to construct a cross made of boulders (I hope he carried those boulders all the way up the mountain).

Tibet???

Rep. Virgil Goode is goode friends with government-drowner Grover Norquist,

and intends to milk it for all it's worth.


The OC's Dana Rohrabacher congratulated Colin Powell for lying us into war,

and was rewarded with a ride on Air Force One.

This ought to cheer you up

From Chris Floyd:
The war aims of the Babylonian Conquest have always been obvious to anyone who concentrates on the operational reality of the action and ignores the ludicrous cornball about democracy and security that Bush dishes out to gull the rubes back home into giving up their blood and treasure on behalf of his tiny, tyrannical elite. The reality clearly shows that Bush had three primary objectives in launching the invasion. First and foremost was the transfer of large portions of the national wealth of Iraq--and the United States-into the coffers of his political cronies, corporate backers and family members. (Also here.) Second was the frantic acceleration of the long-running, bipartisan militarization of America, which is now almost wholly dependent on war and rumors of war to keep its heavily-mortgaged economy afloat. Third was planting a permanent military presence in Iraq to "project dominance" over the strategic oil lands and serve as staging areas for further operations in regime change and political extortion as needed. ("Nice little country you got there, Abdul; too bad if something, like, happened to it – you savvy? Now howzabout signing that free trade agreement already?")

None of these aims have been harmed in the slightest by Iraq's death spiral into civil war. The Bush Faction's war profiteering and fraud--on a scale surpassing anything ever seen in world history--has fueled a ruthless political machine that despite its growing unpopularity with the American people now controls all three branches of government and has overthrown the Constitution, openly declaring that its leader is beyond the reach of "judicial review, congressional oversight or international law," as the Washington Post reported--rather belatedly--this week. Swollen by the swag of aggressive war, the elite interests represented by the Bush Regime--oil, military-related industries and predatory venture capitalists like the Carlyle Group-have had their already inordinate sway over American society and policy increased by several magnitudes. They will remain ascendant for decades to come, no matter what happens in Iraq, or in any U.S. election.
If you're not sufficiently depressed, try reading the whole article.

"Let the prisoners pick the fruits"

That's what it's all about--reinstituting slavery. The quote above comes from Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Confederacy). The McCain-Kennedy Senate bill, which is pretty much along the lines that W has been pushing for for a couple of years, is horrible enough. It would basically legalize the current system of an underclass of low-wage labor without legal rights at the workplace, beholden to employers who would no longer be breaking the law by hiring them. But Rohrabacher and his neanderthal House colleagues want to go further--slave labor. The good news is that they are threatening to tear the Repug party to shreds over this issue:
"I don't think [Bush is] concerned about alienating voters, he's not running for re-election," said Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado. He said Republicans could lose the House and Senate over the immigration issue, and he said of the president: "I wish he'd think about the party and of course I also wish he'd think about the country."
...
Rep. J.D. Hayworth of Arizona and others said Republicans would pay a price in the midterm elections if they vote for anything like the Senate legislation. "Many of those who have stood for the Republican Party for the last decade are not only angry. They will be absent in November," he said.

Rohrabacher said Americans should be able to "smell the foul odor that's coming out of the U.S. Senate."

Asked a few moments later whether the same odor was emanating from the president, he said, "I have no comment."
Hmmm...should have asked him that question earlier! Rep. Steve King wants to make a class war out of it:
"The elite class in America is becoming a ruling class and they've made enough money by hiring cheap illegal labor that they think they also have some kind of a right to cheap servants to manicure their nails and their lawn, for example.

"So this ruling class, this new ruling class of America, is expanding a servant class in America at the expense of the middle class of America, the blue collar of America that used to be able to punch a time clock, buy a modest house and raise their families. ... Those young people are cut out of this process."
The mind boggles--an Iowa Repug attacking the ruling class. Dude--you ARE the ruling class! Maybe Rep. King should ask Rep. Rohrabacher how having prisoners do the work is going to help the middle class. Of course, these are Repugs talking, so logic is not an issue:
Referring to a wave of demonstrations in recent weeks, Rep. Virgil Goode of Virginia said, "I say if you are here illegally and want to fly the Mexican flag, go to Mexico and wave the American flag."
Oooh! Goode one! These are the people making our laws. We are doomed.

From Doonesbury.

Rice meets the Straw Man


Imagine the irony.

George will be so jealous.


Gee, Condi--ever wonder how "Blackburn" got its name?


Destroying the world is so much fun!


"Ebony...and ivory..."


I'm melting! Melllll...ting.....


Angela--I'll take you on a shopping tour of New York, get you some clothes. Next hurricane!


"George Bush is SO going to hell." "Heaven." "Hell." "Heaven!"



Of course, Jack Straw was the only one in Britain glad to see Condiliar.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Internecine, part deux

Following up on this morning's post, a commenter over at A Tiny Revolution that while Saddam may have played a role, it has been US policy to exacerbate sectarian divisions. Remember the Salvador Option?
...one Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers...
Of course, aWol has at least one ally in his quest to continue the ethnic cleansing begun by Saddam: Globaloney Man!

W is like, ya know, history, dude!

Ours is a society where things are like instant, so therefore, history almost is like so far back it doesn't count.
(Emphasis added.) -- AWol, answering questions after yesterday's speech. Jenna must have been like talking into his like earpiece instead of, like, Karl. Maybe keeping Jenna away from the microphone was one of Andy Card's jobs he like forgot to tell Bolten about.

Later on, George and Jenna demonstrate their comprehensive grasp of economics:
One of the most pure forms of democracy is the marketplace, where demand causes something to happen. Excess demand causes prices to -- the supply causes prices to go up, and vice versa.
For more delightfully snotty comments about the Idiot-in-Chief's latest public embarrassment, go pay a visit to, like, WIIIAI. And vice versa.

From Lloyd Dangle.

From Andy Singer.

From Bruce Plante.

Some posts need to be stolen whole

Although unlike serial plagiarists like Tony Blair, Ben Domenech, or Vladimir Putin, I'll give credit where credit is due. In this case, credit goes to Jonathan Schwarz for this post on his blog:
So in a speech yesterday Bush said this:

Today, some Americans ask whether removing Saddam caused the divisions and instability we're now seeing. In fact, much of the animosity and violence we now see is the legacy of Saddam Hussein. He is a tyrant who exacerbated sectarian divisions to keep himself in power.

I actually have some sympathy for this perspective. But it does contrast starkly with Bush's pre-war views, as recorded in the January 31, 2003 "White House Memo":

The memo indicates the two leaders envisioned a quick victory and a transition to a new Iraqi government that would be complicated, but manageable. Mr. Bush predicted that it was "unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups." Mr. Blair agreed with that assessment.

Again, Bush's speech was yesterday (Wednesday). This memo story was on the front page of the New York Times two days before (Monday). So...would it be too much to ask for some enterprising reporter to repeat both instances of Bush's words back to him, and politely ask when between January 31, 2003 and March 29, 2006 HE MANAGED TO FIGURE THIS OUT?

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess: yes, it is too much to ask.

That's the end of Jonathan's post. Feeling compelled to add value, I'll ask: Does anyone think W actually used the word "internecine," or even knew that there were different religious and ethnic groups in Iraq? According to the NY Times, the memo was written by David Manning, Tony Blair's chief foreign policy adviser at the time. I'm pretty sure he was paraphrasing. Let's imagine what the conversation was really like, perhaps enhancing a bit just for fun:

W: So, let's go to war!
Blair: Now?
W: Well, in March.
Blair: Are you prepared?
W: Yeah. We got tanks and planes and humvees and Predators and tanks and stuff.
Blair: But George, old chap, what if things don't go smoothly?
W: Huh?
Blair: Well, the Iraqis might start fighting amongst themselves. There are different ethnic groups and religious sects there.
W. Huh?
Blair: Quite. Saddam keeps quite a lid on it, but the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds don't really like each other. When we take Saddam out, they may start attacking each other.
W: Huh.
Blair: There could well be internecine fighting; even civil war.
W: There won't be interseen fighting, whatever that is. Very unlikely. Wanna go play fetch in the Rose Garden?
Blair: Woof!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

War

There were dozens of people- mostly men- standing around in a bleak group. Some of them smoked cigarettes, others leaned on cars or pick-up trucks... Their expressions varied- grief, horror, resignation. On some faces, there was an anxious look of combined dread and anticipation. It’s a very specific look, one you will find only outside the Baghdad morgue. The eyes are wide and bloodshot, as if searching for something, the brow is furrowed, the jaw is set and the mouth is a thin frown. It’s a look that tells you they are walking into the morgue, where the bodies lay in rows, and that they pray they do not find what they are looking for.
-- Riverbend

Passing the buck forwards and backwards

Last week, aWol said he was leaving the resolution of the Iraq mess up to future presidents. Today, he blames the mess on a former tyrant. I guess he's got nothing to do with it--which sounds pretty good to me. If a future president is the only way to resolve this insanity, I say we should get one ASAP, not waiting three more years.

It's the Chomsky thing, isn't it?

The Bushies, in particular ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, have been strong-arming the Iraqis to pick someone besides current prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to be PM when (or more accurately, if) a new government is formed. Because democracy means doing exactly what Bush wants.

This is probably because al-Jaafari has expressed admiration for Noam Chomsky. Al-Jaafari should probably consider himself lucky. I mean, look at what happened to fellow Chomsky admirer Pat Tillman.

Repug candidate proves that things are fine in Baghdad

By posting this photo of Istanbul:


Howard Kaloogian is running for the House seat desecrated by Duke Cunningham. He posted that photo on his campaign web site with this caption:
"We took this photo of dowtown Baghdad while we were in Iraq. Iraq (including Baghdad) is much more calm and stable than what many people believe it to be. But, each day the news media finds any violence occurring in the country and screams and shouts about it - in part because many journalists are opposed to the U.S. effort to fight terrorism."
General consensus is that the photo is from Turkey, probably Istanbul. Most of the comments there suggest that Kaloogian is a liar. I suspect, instead, that he was just passing on a lie. He gets off the plane, travels to town escorted by military security, gets shown a few sights, takes a few pictures. How's a Republican from San Diego supposed to know he's in Turkey, not Iraq? This is probably the same "Iraq" that Joe Lieberman saw.

Utter debacle

Must-read interview of the month. The LA Daily News interviews Eric Haney, a founding member of the military's Delta Force and currently adviser for the new CBS TV show "The Unit." I'll try not to quote the whole thing, but...
Q: What's your assessment of the war in Iraq?

A: Utter debacle. But it had to be from the very first. The reasons were wrong. The reasons of this administration for taking this nation to war were not what they stated.
...
We have fomented civil war in Iraq. We have probably fomented internecine war in the Muslim world between the Shias and the Sunnis, and I think Bush may well have started the third world war, all for their own personal policies.

Q: What is the cost to our country?

A: For the first thing, our credibility is utterly zero. So we destroyed whatever credibility we had. ... And I say "we," because the American public went along with this. They voted for a second Bush administration out of fear, so fear is what they're going to have from now on.

Our military is completely consumed, so were there a real threat - thankfully, there is no real threat to the U.S. in the world, but were there one, we couldn't confront it. Right now, that may not be a bad thing, because that keeps Bush from trying something with Iran or with Venezuela.

The harm that has been done is irreparable. There are more than 2,000 American kids that have been killed. Tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis have been killed--which no one in the U.S. really cares about those people, do they?
...
Q: What do you make of the torture debate? Cheney ...

A: (Interrupting) That's Cheney's pursuit. The only reason anyone tortures is because they like to do it. It's about vengeance, it's about revenge, or it's about cover-up. You don't gain intelligence that way. Everyone in the world knows that. It's worse than small-minded, and look what it does.
...
It's worse than ridiculous. It's criminal; it's utterly criminal. This administration has been masters of diverting attention away from real issues and debating the silly. Debating what constitutes torture: Mistreatment of helpless people in your power is torture, period. And (I'm saying this as) a man who has been involved in the most pointed of our activities. I know it, and all of my mates know it. You don't do it. It's an act of cowardice. I hear apologists for torture say, "Well, they do it to us." Which is a ludicrous argument. ... The Saddam Husseins of the world are not our teachers. Christ almighty, we wrote a Constitution saying what's legal and what we believed in. Now we're going to throw it away.
Sorry, I didn't leave much out, but there is a bit more.

Liberation

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, aWol, Rummy, Condiliar and I'm sure other Bushies continue to make the absurd claim that they have "liberated" 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This is not liberation. (Via Juan Cole)

Takin' it to the streets

Huge protests in France, Britain and the US.

I can't claim to have any great solution to offer to the immigration question. The status quo isn't good, and neither are the proposed "solutions." Bush, McCain and Ted Kennedy want to put undocumented aliens into some kind of semi-permanent second-class status; sort of an indentured servitude. This would suit the needs of the corporations wanting to keep labor cheap, plentiful and servile, and allow them to exploit it without breaking any laws. It would probably be a mixed bag for the immigrants themselves--they would pretty much be stuck with an employer, no matter how bad, but at least there would be some rules to play by. Then there's the (non)Sensenbrenner Repugs, who want to deport and/or lock up anyone who is or who has ever known an undocumented alien. This is one of those "What's the matter with Kansas" cases--letting xenophobia rule to the detriment of practically everybody.

The elephant in the room that is being generally ignored is the reason why so many Latin-Americans keep trying to come to this country. So-called "free trade" and US-sponsored neoliberal economic policies have colonized the economies of Latin America, depriving millions of the opportunity to make a living off of the land or in small business. (See these posts for more of my rantings about NAFTA and "free trade.")

BTW, the protests in France are related to those here, in that the government is trying to undercut the rights of labor by providing a large pool of workers beholden to their bosses and without any rights. In France, the law they are opposing allows employers to fire workers without cause or compensation during their first two years on the job.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Caspar's now an unfriendly ghost

Dennis Perrin writes Weinberger's obituary.
Most will remember Weinberger as an Iran/contra co-conspirator who, thanks to the outgoing President George H.W. Bush in 1992, was pardoned for his role in subverting Constitutional government -- or what Constitutional government there was at the time of his criminal activity. He was a tireless exponent of state terror in the Americas, primarily against Nicaragua, helping to slaughter tens of thousands in that country and wrecking whatever social gains had been made there before he really got rolling as Reagan's Secretary of "Defense," a rather euphemistic title, given the aggression Weinberger was associated with.

Pop!

Cannonfire has a long, interesting post on the deficits and the housing bubble and their implications for the near future. My "shorter" version is the title of this post.

Crude oil up nearly $2

The Nymex future closed at $66.07, up 2.98%.

Dude, we're diplomats!

AWol's crooked brother (well, his crooked brother Neil--you have to be specific with this family) peddles educational software. This recently made news because Queen Mother Barbara Bush recently made a donation to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund. Doesn't sound like the evil witch we all know and hate, does it? Well, Babs specified that her donation be used to buy Neil's software for Houston schools that took in large numbers of Katrina evacuees. They probably could have used more desks or portable classrooms or especially teachers, but crappy software is what they got from Babs instead.

There are plenty of scandalous sides to this story; Cannonfire has several. But I decided to check out the web site for Neil's Ignite Learning program. Some of the stuff is just bizarre, like The XYZ Affair ("Dude, we're diplomats!"). But, in the interest of driving a wedge into the confluence of effluence that is the Republican party, I want to point out two of the science topics on that sample page. One is "Solar System: Formation," which presents two competing theories as to how the solar system was formed, neither one of which sounds anything like this:
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years: and let them be for lights in the firmament of heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made the two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
One of Neil's versions states that the solar system was formed "billions of years ago." And then there's "Heredity," which presents natural selection and evolution as facts.

Do W's religious wrong supporters know that his brother, funded by his mother, is boldly (if annoyingly) teaching the next generation that what those supporters believe is nonsense?? Maybe somebody should tell them. The UAE ports issue, the huge deficits and immigration are already starting to tear at the fabric of the GOP. Lets throw this into the mix, too!

Time will tell



From Time Magazine's cover story this week:
No one can say exactly what it looks like when a planet takes ill, but it probably looks a lot like Earth.

Never mind what you've heard about global warming as a slow-motion emergency that would take decades to play out. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the crisis is upon us.

From heat waves to storms to floods to fires to massive glacial melts, the global climate seems to be crashing around us.

The problem -- as scientists suspected but few others appreciated -- is that global climate systems are booby-trapped with tipping points and feedback loops, thresholds past which the slow creep of environmental decay gives way to sudden and self-perpetuating collapse. That's just what's happening now.
Here in Michigan, I've only had to wear boots about three times since Christmas. Here are a few facts gathered from some quick Googling:
  • It's about eight miles north from the bottom of the west arm of Grand Traverse Bay to Marion Island, and for decades that stretch of water froze almost every winter. We know that because a record of the first freeze-up and first ice-out has been kept for 155 years, ever since 1851.

    Then, about 1970, something odd started happening. The number of years when the bay froze began to nose-dive. And, since 2000, said Jim Nugent of the Michigan State University Horticultural Center in Traverse City, the west arm of the big, deep bay has frozen only once.

  • Traffic accidents are way down in Isabella County, apparently due to the unusual lack of snow and ice.
  • From late December through mid-February, Michigan experienced 48 consecutive days where the temperature was above average.
  • January temperatures for most of the state were more than 10 degrees above normal.
  • The entire year, from February to February was the warmest 12-month period in Canada's history.

From Chris Britt.

From Steve Sack.

FRom R.J. Matson.

We should know about Saddam's regime, but not Bush's

The NY Times has an article today about the posting on the web of numerous documents captured in Iraq by invading coalition forces. John Negroponte, director of national intelligence, authorized the release under pressure from Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI).
Mr. Hoekstra said he wanted to "unleash the power of the Net" to do translation and analysis that might take the government decades.

"People today ought to be able to have a closer look inside Saddam's regime," he said.

Mr. Hoekstra said intelligence officials had resisted posting the documents, which he overcame by appealing to President Bush and by proposing legislation to force the release.
Hoekstra and other right-wingers are apparently hoping that the documents will retroactively justify the criminal invasion, somehow negating the findings of the Iraq Survey Group and the 9/11 Commission about Iraq's alleged WMD's and ties to al Qaeda. Whatever. I think it's a good thing; get the information out there.

But Rep. Hoekstra should realize that there's a criminal regime which has a much greater impact on, and is a bigger threat to, the American people than Saddam ever did or could have--the Bush administration. If we need to know what was going on in Iraq, we certainly need to know what is going on here.

Of course the NY Times, a full partner with the Bushies in undertaking the criminal invasion, is busy rewriting history:
The truth about prewar Iraq has proven elusive. The February 2003 presentation Colin L. Powell, the secretary of state at the time, to the United Nations appeared to provide incontrovertible proof of Iraqi weapons, but the claims in the speech have since been discredited.
"Incontrovertible" only to those who were busy studying their own colons from the inside. UN inspectors were in Iraq (despite what Bush says). If Powell had "incontrovertible proof" of weapons, he would have informed the inspectors privately, and Saddam would have been caught red-handed. His presentation to the UN proved precisely nothing, except, in retrospect, that Powell is a baldfaced liar. The Times continues:
Given that track record, some intelligence analysts are horrified at exactly the idea that excites Mr. Hoekstra and the bloggers: that anyone will now be able to interpret the documents.

"There's no quality control," said Michael Scheuer, a former Central Intelligence Agency specialist on terrorism. "You'll have guys out there with a smattering of Arabic drawing all kinds of crazy conclusions. Rush Limbaugh will cherry-pick from the right, and Al Franken will cherry-pick from the left."
That won't be any worse than what Powell did. But the big benefit will be that people like Juan Cole, who know Arabic and the Middle East, will be able to access these documents directly and come to informed conclusions as to what they mean. Not only that. Incredibly, the Times article only discusses that US-based Arabic speakers and various bloggers and pundits will be reviewing these documents. It doesn't even consider the possibility that on the web they will be accessible in the Arab world, including to millions of Iraqis who suffered under Saddam and who now suffer under US occupation. They should be able to learn what was going on in their government before. They should also know who is responsible for what is happening to them now--both Iraqis and Americans have the right to know how the Bush administration decided to go to war. They shouldn't have to wait for enough memos to leak out of Britain--they (we) should have full access to the documents and meeting minutes related to the planning and execution of the invasion.

Get to work on that, won't you, Mr. Hoekstra?

Monday, March 27, 2006

In Justice

I've mentioned the new ABC show In Justice before. Last Friday's episode was particularly good, especially if you're opposed to automatic sentencing and three-strikes laws. The lawyers took the case of a black man sentenced to 30 years for stealing a case of vodka--supposedly his third strike. They investigated both his second and third convictions, eventually finding they were bogus. On the vodka theft, the key witness was his friend, the actual thief, who testified against him because a conviction would have been his (the witness') third strike. One of the lawyers rips three strikes to pieces, and they discuss how crappy fingerprints really are as evidence. They even mentioned the false ID in the Madrid train bombing case! (Sorry, there don't appear to be transcripts or even detailed summaries of the show online; I think I still have the show on my DVR, however, so I may go back and pull a few choice quotes.)

After reading this book a few years ago, I have little faith in our criminal justice system. There's money to be made locking people up, so people get locked up. Most cop shows tend to support the idea that its okay to bend the rules because vicious criminals are getting off scot-free every day. "In Justice" makes a case, every week, that innocent people are being locked up every day because the rules are bent. Which I suspect is closer to the truth.

Word

The FBI is investigating Americans — just for opposing the war. You know, maybe when we're done establishing a democracy in Iraq, we could try it over here. Stop, don't applaud, I don't want to get investigated!
— Jay Leno, via Past Peak.

It's like a fractal

The relatively minor screwups in the Iraq war have an uncanny resemblance to the war as a whole. From Juan Cole, discussing the Shiite-hitting-the-fan happenings yesterday (emphasis added):
Then US forces raided a secret prison of the Ministry of the Interior.

They captured 17 Sudanese inmates. After an investigation, the US finally acknowledged that the assault had made a mistake. The 17 Sudanese really were guerrillas or in any case legitimately held.

In other words, the jail raid was based on poor information and false premises. It is possible that our troops also messed up indirectly.
We'll probably find out, eventually, that the military knew the information was poor and the premises false, but were set on the path to the raid and refused to let facts get in the way.

And who believes the current story? Do YOU think the 17 Sudanese were legitimately held?

It's a secret

I would tell you where this link leads, but it's a secret.

They never stop

Via WIIIAI and CNN, I learn that unfortunately-not-new-NFL-Commissioner Condiliar Rice was getting very creative yesterday:
Saddam Hussein, and we have said this many times, as far as we know, did not order September 11, may not have even known of September 11. But that's a very narrow definition of what caused September 11. If you think that what caused September 11 was that the people who flew airplanes in caused September 11 then, no, Iraq has no relationship. But if you think that this was a broader problem of an ideology of hatred, of terrorism becoming an acceptable means in places where there was a freedom deficit and there was no possibility for legitimate political discourse, then you realize that you have to have a different kind of Middle East. And a different kind of Middle East with Saddam Hussein at the middle of it is unthinkable.
Rube Goldberg would be proud. It would have been simpler and just as accurate to blame the Port Authority for building those giant skyscrapers right in the path of those low-flying airliners.

Also, I hate it when anyone says that any idea is "unthinkable." It's just another one of those rhetorical tricks which means, in effect, "SHUT UP." Condiliar had to think it to say it, meaning it's not "unthinkable," even by the smallest of minds. The intention, of course, is to make the listener feel guilty and ashamed to have actually thought the thought. Similar rhetoric from the right includes charges of "not supporting the troops," of "putting the rights of terrorists ahead of the safety of Americans," of being "unpatriotic," or of wanting to "cut and run." From the left, you'll hear charges of racism or sexism or homophobia or supporting "states' rights," all frequently presented not as legitimate criticism but simply in the attempt to get the other person to shut up.

But "unthinkable" is especially Orwellian (okay, that's one "SHUT UP" I use myself)--anyone who actually thinks the thought is guilty of a "thought crime." I find this particularly threatening, because I can think just about anything. In fact, I can't think of anything I can't think of! When I was in engineering school, I was in a drawing class where we did lettering exercises (this was pre-AutoCad days). In these exercises, the teacher would ask us to list novel uses for some everyday object, like a paperclip. Most students would come up with five or ten, maybe; I regularly had thirty or forty. So I can think about Saddam at the middle of the Middle East. I can think about nuclear war. I can think about fetal rape rooms and aardvark crucifixions and writing bad poetry in bad Russian. I can envision purple rickshaws tunneling under the Alaskan tundra--and I don't even do drugs! Heck, I can even imagine President Condoleeza Rice.

Doesn't mean that I like or approve of everything I think.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


From Pat Bagley.

Friday, March 24, 2006

You're either Willis or you're with the terrorists

Eli at Left I found this quote in the "Celebrities" section of the San Jose Mercury News:
Diplomat-in-training Bruce Willis has defused a potential war with Colombia. The "Armageddon" star recently argued that since Colombia's cocaine trafficking is as evil as terrorism, we should invade the country. A surprisingly irked Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez called Willis "arrogant" and "ignorant."

"I spoke to the Colombians," Bruce now tells the New York Daily News. "It's fine. I get passionate sometimes."
Willis is just Moonlighting as a diplomat; old habits Die Hard. Fortunately, he "talked to the Colombians," so it apparently won't lead to Armageddon (or, God forbid, Armageddon II). Bruce has a Sixth Sense about these things, he talks them through before going the Whole Nine Yards.

I just watched Oceans Twelve yesterday. Willis played himself. I thought he did a crappy job of it. {Julia Roberts did a much better job portraying someone pretending to be someone pretending to be Julia Roberts.}

Also, in his defense--maybe he's at least a little right? The drug trade has probably killed many more people than what generally gets called "terrorism." And we've already pretty much invaded Colombia. I'll reword it for him: "Why such a big deal about 'terrorism'? The Colombian drug trade kills more people. We should pull our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan before we pull them out of Colombia!"

Unfortunately, Mr. Willis couldn't be reached for comment, so I assume my paraphrasing is okay with him.

Hypocrisy is the coin of the realm

From BBC:
"We urge all members of the international community to demand that authorities in Belarus respect the rights of their own citizens to express themselves peacefully and to condemn any and all abuses," Mr McClellan said.
From the NY Times:
Three years after the invasion of Iraq, American troops are no longer simply teaching counterinsurgency techniques; they are trying to school the Iraqis in battling a Sunni-led rebellion without resorting to the tactics of a "dirty war," involving abductions, torture and murder.
...
"The tradition in this country of a law enforcement agency that had absolute power over people, we've got to break them of that," said Maj. Andrew Creel, the departing joint operations officer here. "I think it'll take years. You can't change a cultural mind-set overnight."
Don't be so sure, Major. It seems to have been done in this country, going the other way.

Still not a vegetarian? part whatever

The Bushies' Department of Agriculture is going the extra mile to make sure that a small meatpacking company CAN'T go the extra mile to make sure their beef is safe. Creekstone Farms, of Kansas, wanted to build a mad-cow testing lab at its slaughterhouse capable of testing every cow processed. Unfortunately, the USDA controls the sale of mad-cow testing kits, and wouldn't allow Creekstone Farms to buy enough kits to test every cow. The USDA blocked the sale at the behest of the major meatpacking corporations, who adamantly oppose testing every cow (or any cow, probably).

Jonathan at Past Peak has much more. Remember, just about every burger or steak you eat supports these giant meatpacking corporations, who may be the most dangerous and criminal companies in the country (and that's saying a lot). They brutally slaughter many thousands of animals every day, after having raised them in horrendous conditions. And the way they treat their workers and the general public, or the environment for that matter, isn't much better.

Criminal negligence

Robert Parry writes about the exteme negligence exhibited by aWol prior to 9/11, most recently re-exposed by arguments in the Moussaoui case:
Yet, if President Bush had demanded action from on high, the ripple effect through the FBI might well have jarred loose enough of the pieces to make the overall picture suddenly clear, especially in view of the information already compiled by the CIA.

Ironically, that is almost the same argument that federal prosecutors are making in seeking Moussaoui's execution. It's not that he was directly involved in the Sept. 11 plot, they say; it's that the government might have been able to stop the attacks if he had immediately confessed what he was up to.

To some civil libertarians, the case raises troubling Fifth Amendment issues by creating a precedent for putting someone to death who didn't promptly confess and thus didn't provide clues that might have prevented a separate murder that the defendant didn't specifically know about and wasn't directly involved in.

In effect, the government is basing its demand for Moussaoui's death on the notion that the failure to do something that might have prevented the tragedy of Sept. 11 should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

However, the Bush administration has taken almost the opposite position on its own culpability. Despite a strong case for criminal negligence--beginning with FBI officials and reaching up to the Oval Office--Bush and other senior officials have insisted they have nothing to apologize for.

Redout

According to SurveyUSA, aWol has a positive net approval (more approve than disapprove) in only seven states (Nebraska +1%, Mississippi +2%, Oklahoma +2%, Idaho +3%, Alabama +5%, Wyoming +7%, and Utah +13%), with only the last three giving him an approval rating over 50% (as of 3/15/06). In Florida, a state which allegedly voted for Bush in 2004, 37% approve of W while 59% disapprove. In Ohio, another alleged red state, 34% approve, 64% disapprove.

From Tom Toles.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Want to get away for a while?

Don't fly. George Monbiot details how air travel is a disaster in terms of global warming:
It's not just that aviation represents the world's fastest growing source of carbon dioxide emissions. The burning of aircraft fuel has a "radiative forcing ratio" of around 2.7. What this means is that the total warming effect of aircraft emissions is 2.7 times as great as the effect of the carbon dioxide alone. The water vapour they produce forms ice crystals in the upper troposphere (vapour trails and cirrus clouds) which trap the earth's heat. According to calculations by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, if you added the two effects together (it urges some caution as they are not directly comparable), aviation's emissions alone would exceed the [British] government's target for the country's entire output of greenhouse gases in 2050 by around 134%. The government has an effective means of dealing with this. It excludes international aircraft emissions from the target.

It won't engage in honest debate because there is simply no means of reconciling its plans with its claims about sustainability. In researching my book about how we might achieve a 90% cut in carbon emissions by 2030, I have been discovering, greatly to my surprise, that every other source of global warming can be reduced or replaced to that degree without a serious reduction in our freedoms. But there is no means of sustaining long-distance, high-speed travel.

Civil war defined

From Juan Cole:
J. David Singer and his collaborators at the University of Michigan (where I also teach) have studied dozens of such conflicts and have offered a thorough and widely adopted definition of civil war. It is:

"Sustained military combat, primarily internal, resulting in at least 1,000 battle-deaths per year, pitting central government forces against an insurgent force capable of effective resistance, determined by the latter's ability to inflict upon the government forces at least 5 percent of the fatalities that the insurgents sustain." (Errol A. Henderson and J. David Singer, "Civil War in the Post-Colonial World, 1946-92," Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 37, No. 3, May 2000.)
Cole concludes: "Iraq is incontestably in a civil war."

Separation of church and state

AWol is for it in Afghanistan; against it here. Yesterday, he addressed the case of the man in Afghanistan who may face the death penalty for converting to Christianity.
"It is deeply troubling that a country we helped liberate would hold a person to account because they chose a particular religion over another," Bush said on Wednesday.

"We have got influence in Afghanistan and we are going to use it to remind them that there are universal values," he said.
Yeah--like against torture, against preemptive war, and against being such a hypocrite that one can claim to have "liberated" a country while discussing clear evidence that the country is not liberated at all.

And executing someone who has converted to Christianity? That's just plain wrong--at least without mocking her first.

And, speaking of Afghanistan, I saw Russ Feingold's interview on the Daily Show last night. Very disappointing, I thought. Especially when he credited the Bushies for having done "a good job, at first, with Afghanistan and so on." (I'm paraphrasing--the clip doesn't seem to be available at Comedy Central.) Gee, Russ. We killed a whole bunch of people, not including the guy we supposedly went after, and installed a puppet regime which rules one corner of Kabul and uses its sovereignty to persecute Christians. We've put Afghanistan back in the opium business. We've probably killed more Canadians and football players than we have terrorists who had any connection to 9/11. What would a bad job have looked like?

Feingold's probably the best out of 100 senators, but he still sucks.

The fate of puppets

The US put Saddam Hussein in power with two CIA-backed coups, encouraged him to attack Iran and Kuwait, supplied him with weapons (of mass destruction and otherwise), and did him the great honor of sending Donald Rumsfeld to visit him as a personal envoy of President Reagan. Then, in 1990, we pulled the puppet out of his happy play (for him) and started dangling him over the fire. We told him to get out of Kuwait, and then destroyed a lot of his toys when he didn't do so fast enough. We told him to get rid of even more of the toys we gave him, and, being a good puppet, he did. But we still dangled him over the fire for twelve years before dropping him into it in 2003. Chris Floyd recounts transcripts of discussions in Iraq in the 1990's:
"We don't have anything hidden!" the frustrated Iraqi president interjected at one meeting, transcripts show. At another meeting, in 1996, Saddam wondered whether UN inspectors would "roam Iraq for 50 years" in a pointless hunt for weapons of mass destruction. "When is this going to end?" he asked.

In another meeting, deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz (a Christian by the way; when do you think we'll next see a Christian as deputy prime minister of Iraq?), pipes up: "We played by the rules of the game. In 1991, our weapons were destroyed."
They didn't realize that when you play with the US government, every game is Calvinball.

From Lloyd Dangle.

From Matt Davies.

From Pat Bagley.

Still not a vegetarian???


From R.J. Matson.

From Jeff Parker.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Hillary the Hawk



Justin Raimondo writes in The American Conservative, quoting from her recent speeches and the speech she gave when she voted for the Iraq war, a vote she still defends. And there's this:
Hillary's newfound centrism isn’t completely insincere. Her bellicose interventionism has a history: it was Hillary, you’ll recall, who berated her husband for not bombing Belgrade soon enough and hard enough. As Gail Sheehy relates in Hillary's Choice:
Hillary expressed her views by phone to the President: "I urged him to bomb." The Clintons argued the issue over the next few days. [The president expressed] what-ifs: What if bombing promoted more executions? What if it took apart the NATO alliance? Hillary responded, "You cannot let this go on at the end of a century that has seen the major holocaust of our time. What do we have NATO for if not to defend our way of life?" The next day the President declared that force was necessary.
Hillary and her $21 million are currently the biggest obstacle to any chance the Dems have of nominating a good anti-war candidate in 2008. We need to make it clear to her and her fellow Dumbos that she is NOT an acceptable candidate. She probably couldn't win the election, and wouldn't be much of an improvement if she did.

Quote du jour

I'm always amazed by the way we kid ourselves about the influence of the Military-Industrial Complex in our society. We use euphemisms like supply-side economics or the Laffer Curve. We never say: We're artificially making work. If the WPA [Works Progress Administration of the Great Depression] was often called a dig-holes-and-fill-em-up-again project, now we're making things that blow up and we sell them to people.
-- Chalmers Johnson, in an interview at TomDispatch.

More from Johnson:
So what kind of empire is ours? The unit is not the colony, it's the military base. This is not quite as unusual as defenders of the concept of empire often assume. That is to say, we can easily calculate the main military bases of the Roman Empire in the Middle East, and it turns out to be about the same number it takes to garrison the region today. You need about 38 major bases. You can plot them out in Roman times and you can plot them out today.

An empire of bases -- that's the concept that best explains the logic of the 700 or more military bases around the world acknowledged by the Department of Defense. Now, we're just kidding ourselves that this is to provide security for Americans. In most cases, it's true that we first occupied these bases with some strategic purpose in mind in one of our wars. Then the war ends and we never give them up. We discovered that it's part of the game; it's the perk for the people who fought the war. The Marines to this day believe they deserve to be in Okinawa because of the losses they had in the bloodiest and last big battle of World War II.
...
Militarily, we've got an incoherent, not very intelligent budget. It becomes less incoherent only when you realize the ways it's being used to fund our industries or that one of the few things we still manufacture reasonably effectively is weapons. It's a huge export business, run not by the companies but by foreign military sales within the Pentagon.

This is not, of course, free enterprise. Four huge manufacturers with only one major customer. This is state socialism and it's keeping the economy running not in the way it's taught in any economics course in any American university.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Aaargh!

Yes, the moron is still our pResident. Helen Thomas asked him why we attacked Iraq, and he used it as yet another opportunity to demonstrate what a criminal buffoon he really is.
THE PRESIDENT: Helen. After that brilliant performance at the Grid Iron, I am -- (laughter.)

Q You're going to be sorry. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, then, let me take it back. (Laughter.)

Q I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is, why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet -- your Cabinet officers, intelligence people, and so forth -- what was your real reason? You have said it wasn't oil -- quest for oil, it hasn't been Israel, or anything else. What was it?

THE PRESIDENT: I think your premise -- in all due respect to your question and to you as a lifelong journalist -- is that -- I didn't want war. To assume I wanted war is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect --

Q Everything --

THE PRESIDENT: Hold on for a second, please.

Q -- everything I've heard --

THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me, excuse me. No President wants war. Everything you may have heard is that, but it's just simply not true. My attitude about the defense of this country changed on September the 11th. We -- when we got attacked, I vowed then and there to use every asset at my disposal to protect the American people. Our foreign policy changed on that day, Helen. You know, we used to think we were secure because of oceans and previous diplomacy. But we realized on September the 11th, 2001, that killers could destroy innocent life. And I'm never going to forget it. And I'm never going to forget the vow I made to the American people that we will do everything in our power to protect our people.

Part of that meant to make sure that we didn't allow people to provide safe haven to an enemy. And that's why I went into Iraq -- hold on for a second --

Q They didn't do anything to you, or to our country.

THE PRESIDENT: Look -- excuse me for a second, please. Excuse me for a second. They did. The Taliban provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That's where al Qaeda trained --

Q I'm talking about Iraq --

THE PRESIDENT: Helen, excuse me. That's where -- Afghanistan provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That's where they trained. That's where they plotted. That's where they planned the attacks that killed thousands of innocent Americans.

I also saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically. That's why I went to the Security Council; that's why it was important to pass 1441, which was unanimously passed. And the world said, disarm, disclose, or face serious consequences --

Q -- go to war --

THE PRESIDENT: -- and therefore, we worked with the world, we worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did, and the world is safer for it.

Q Thank you, sir. Secretary Rumsfeld -- (laughter.)

Q Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: You're welcome. (Laughter.) I didn't really regret it. I kind of semi-regretted it. (Laughter.)
That is just so wrong I don't know what to say. Reading further in the press conference, the lies just never stop:

"We've got the Patriot Act reauthorized over the objections of the Democrat leadership in the Senate." -- I WISH Russ Feingold was the Democratic leadership in the Senate. Several Republicans supported him more than most Democrats did.

"War creates trauma, particularly when you're fighting an enemy that doesn't fight soldier-to-soldier, they fight by using IEDs to kill innocent people. That's what they use. That's the tool they use." -- Unlike missiles fired from unmanned aircraft at civilian houses.

"I meet with too many families who's lost a loved one to not be able to look them in the eye and say, we're doing the right thing." -- Of course, not that Sheehan woman, or anyone else who disagrees with me.

"This is a country that's walking away from international accords; they're not heading toward the international accords, they're not welcoming the international inspections -- or safeguards -- safeguard measures that they had agreed to." -- Which would have been true, if by "this...country" he meant the US (see for example the International Criminal Court, Kyoto, the Nonproliferation Treaty, and of course the UN charter). But of course he was talking about Iran.

He also "quotes," several times, the bogus statements from the bogus Zarqawi, just as Rummy did a few days ago.

The US won in Vietnam

A few days ago, I linked to an essay entitled The End of Civilization by Dave Eriqat, in which he suggested that the Bushies DO know what they're doing--Making sure that the corporate elite survives and profits from the upcoming collapse of society. I suggest you read it now if you haven't already. After that you should read Chris Floyd's account of how the US actually WON the war in Vietnam. Dirt-cheap labor without rights working for multinational corporations--it was the goal all along. All the profits made during the war were an added bonus to the murderous cretins running this country.

From Don Wright.

From David Horsey.

From Tom Toles.

Just as soon as I finish blogging...


From Boondocks.

Monday, March 20, 2006

We could be ineffective for so much less money

A comment from SandSkeptic on Juan Cole's Top Ten Catastrophes of the Third Year of American Iraq:
Over half a million man-years of US military and intelligence presence in Iraq have not resulted in the capture of one particularly nasty Jordanian, whom most Iraqis apparently can't stand either. That's so sad on so many levels.

The US military isn't going to intervene in any civil war that may eventuate.

So why is the US military there at all, at great cost in lives and treasure?

Couldn't we not catch Zarqawi and not intervene in a civil war, for say $4 billion a year instead of $300 billion? Half the savings could even go in further tax cuts to the super-rich and we'd all still be better off.

Reducing lanes reduces traffic

UM Urban Planning professor Jonathan Levine explains how reducing traffic lanes on major downtown streets can reduce traffic and make downtown a better place. I have met Prof. Levine through work; he has a grad student doing a study on driving patterns using extensive driving data we have gathered from various studies. The goal is to find out how the built environment affects driving patterns, and how changes can be made to reduce the number of miles driven.

Liberation

Afghanistan, aka Bush Quagmire I, may sentence a man to death for converting to Christianity.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

About that civil war...

We are in civil war. We are losing each day as an average 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more. If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is.
-- Former Puppet Prime Minister Ayad "Comical" Allawi.

Iraq's civil war -- which looks more like Spain's in the 1930s -- began months ago.
-- Conservative columnist George Will. (Will doesn't mention that the fascist insurgents won in Spain.)

$#!+head quote du jour

Dick Cheney, today:
I made sure both in 2000 and 2004 that the president had other options. I mean, I didn't ask for this job. I didn't campaign for it. I got drafted.
Yeah, DICKweed, by you. Couldn't get even ONE deferment this time? He was threatening to serve out the remainder of his term on Face the Nation today.

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Phony terrorists and Rummy agree: We're winning in Iraq

Field Marshal von Rumsfeld looked around to find someone who agreed with his assessment that the "coalition" is winning in Iraq, and all he could come up with was the probably dead Abu Musab al-Zarqawi:
Some have described the situation in Iraq as a tightening noose, noting that "time is not on our side"and that "morale is down." Others have described a "very dangerous" turn of events and are "extremely concerned."

Who are they that have expressed these concerns? In fact, these are the exact words of terrorists discussing Iraq -- Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his associates -- who are describing their own situation and must be watching with fear the progress that Iraq has made over the past three years.
Rummy goes on to talk about something he'd better hope his audience knows nothing about--history:
The terrorists seem to recognize that they are losing in Iraq. I believe that history will show that to be the case.

Fortunately, history is not made up of daily headlines, blogs on Web sites or the latest sensational attack. History is a bigger picture, and it takes some time and perspective to measure accurately.
For example, no one should read his next paragraph where he talks about the "brutal dictatorship" without being familiar with this photo and the story behind it.



Rummy puts much more nonsense into his op-ed, including mentioning "a new constitution written by Iraqis," apparently forgetting that U.S. "Ambassador" to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad is actually from Afghanistan by way of Unocal.

The killing and lying continues

Chris Floyd summarizes the evidence about a supposed insurgent-hunting raid last week which killed a bunch of children and others.

Signs

I just got back from our local peace march. My sign had two sides--one intended to be witty (I'm the one on the right):



and the other to be a tad edgy:


It seemed like a pretty good crowd. Nice weather. One of the speakers was a former soldier who had been in Afghanistan. He ripped that criminal war as well as the one in Iraq.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Unfortunately it wasn't the Vice President

Friday, March 17, 2006

Quote du jour

The United States has largely been reduced to a nation of people that sell each other hamburgers, with foreigners paying the checks.
-- From an essay entitled The End of Civilization by Dave Eriqat, in which he trumps the scary idea that the Bushies don't know what they're doing with the much scarier idea that they do.

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Staying the course


From Tom Toles.

Staying the course


From Tom Toles.

A three week war

On April 16, 2003, right-wing columnist Cal Thomas wrote this:
All of the printed and voiced prophecies should be saved in an archive. When these false prophets again appear, they can be reminded of the error of their previous ways and at least be offered an opportunity to recant and repent. Otherwise, they will return to us in another situation where their expertise will be acknowledged, or taken for granted, but their credibility will be lacking.
Well, Cal, FAIR has given you your chance to "recant and repent," printing a large selection of proclamations of victory and other stupidities from the right-wing punditry. Tom Tomorrow has many more.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Get out and protest this weekend!

ANSWER has a list of local antiwar actions. Here in Ann Arbor there will be a rally and march starting Sunday, March 19, at 1 PM, on the Diag at the University of Michigan. Michigan Peaceworks is organizing the event.

Three years after the criminal invasion of Iraq, the Bushies are not only not facing reality by pulling out--they're planning on compounding their crimes by repeating them in Iran. Get out and show the world that aWol and his minions are NOT America!

Kill! Kill! Kill!

Chris Floyd writes about how slipped a provision into the new-and-depraved "Patriot Act" which puts the fast-tracking of state executions of supposed criminals into the hands of Torture Gonzales.
This remarkably vindictive and bloodthirsty measure – which has absolutely nothing to do with the "war on terrorism" or "homeland security," the ostensible subjects of the Patriot Act – strips the judiciary of its supervision over state-devised "fast track" procedures to speed up the execution process.
...
The backdoor measure in the Patriot Act decrees that responsibility for awarding fast-track death-penalty status to the states will now be the sole prerogative of the U.S. Attorney General – one Alberto Gonzales. Yes, the fawning minion whose perversions of law on behalf of his boss have abetted murderous war, systematic torture, mass corruption, assassination, abduction, rendition, dictatorship – and the slipshod Texas death machinery – will now decide if states are legally scrupulous enough to resume lickety-split executions.
...
God only knows what festering psychic wounds drive these spiritual cripples and their obsession with death. But for them, power isn't real unless it's written on the body of another human being – a prisoner, guilty or not; an "enemy," real or imagined; or the multitude of slaughtered innocents whose only crime was living in a land that the cripples wanted to conquer.

Something goes right

From Venezuela News and Action:
Dear friends of Venezuela,

You Defeated the Mack Resolution!

The Connie Mack Resolution, H. Con. Res. 328 was just pulled from the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs in the House Committee on International Relations. Due for a vote today, Rep. Mack (R-FL) and his supporters were not able to build enough support to win so they pulled the resolution before a vote could take place.

This is thanks to all of your letters, faxes, emails, calls and personal visits to Congress members over the last few weeks. Your continuous support for the people of Venezuela and their elected government shows! This is a moment of victory for all of us who believe, as they do in Venezuela, that the power of the people can make a difference!

Thank you and spread the word!

Turning "suspected terror sites" into terror sites

That's what the US military is doing in Iraq. From CNN:
A U.S.-led raid on a suspected site of terror network al Qaeda in Iraq killed 11 civilians -- including five children -- according to Iraqi police.
The military only admits to killing four.

Either way, it's probably far less "collateral damage" than what they're doing today:
U.S. and Iraqi forces on Thursday launched the largest air assault operation since the invasion of Iraq nearly three years ago, the U.S. military said.

More than 50 aircraft are involved in Operation Swarmer, supporting more than 1,500 Iraqi and U.S. troops near Samarra, about 75 miles (121 kilometers) north of Baghdad.

The aircraft also delivered troops from the Iraq and U.S. Army to "multiple objectives."

The offensive began Thursday morning in southern Salaheddin province "to clear a suspected insurgent operating area northeast of Samarra," the site of the bombing of the Shiite shrine that escalated sectarian tensions and pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war.
The list of war crimes, and aWol is out bragging about his criminal pre-emptive war policy, while telling exactly the same lies about Iran that he told about Iraq three years ago.

The failure of Hugo-bashing

Mark Weisbrot writes in the LA Times about how W and Condi are losing in the battle for Latin American hearts and minds to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez:
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just last month called for "a united front" against Venezuela, continuing a long-term policy of trying to isolate the country. But Washington has been spitting into the wind. Venezuela's influence in the hemisphere has continued to rise while the U.S. has succeeded only in isolating itself more than at any time in at least half a century. It might be worth asking why.
The subtitle for that article, which I presume came from the LA Times and not from Weisbrot, says:
Despite U.S. efforts, the Venezuelan leader is winning friends across Latin America.
In fact, the "efforts" of Bush, Rice and company are helping Chavez to make friends. W and Condiliar rank somewhere between bird flu and kidney stones in popularity among people in Latin America, and with excellent reason. The Bushies continue to pursue the neoliberal agenda, whose main goal is to turn most of the world into economic colonies of our multinational corporations. Weisbrot:
With oil at nearly $60 a barrel, Venezuela has used its windfall proceeds to win friends in the hemisphere, providing low-cost financing for oil to Caribbean nations. When Argentina needed loans so that it could say goodbye to the International Monetary Fund, Venezuela committed $2.4 billion. Venezuela bought $300 million in bonds from Ecuador. Washington has historically had enormous influence over economic policy in Latin America through its control over the major sources of credit, including the IMF, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. Venezuela's role as a new "lender of last resort" has reduced that influence.

Chavez's opposition to the "Washington consensus" on economic policy has fallen on sympathetic ears in a region that — since 1980 — has suffered its worst long-term economic failure in a century. Over the last 25 years, income per person in Latin America has grown by a meager 10%, according to the IMF. This compares with 82% from 1960 to 1980, before most of Washington's economic reforms were adopted. And Venezuela's government has kept its promise to share the oil wealth with the poor. The majority of the country now has access to free healthcare and subsidized food, and education spending has increased substantially.

From Steve Sack.

The upside to wiretapping


From Mike Lane.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Tell Congress to stop meddling in Venezuela

The idiots in Congress continue to try to run (ruin) other countries while they completely fail at running ours. Tell them to keep their hands off of Venezuela.

Okay, I've got to start watching "Boston Legal"

Most of the promos I've ever seen for the ABC show have featured William Shatner in his underwear, causing me to immediately beam up to another channel. Back in November James Spader's character represented a widow suing the military for her husband's death in Iraq, killed while doing something he wasn't trained to do and without adequate armor. And last night, he represented a woman being tried for tax evasion, and points out that other means of protest have been denied her. In his argument, he covers a wide range of Bush crimes--check it out!

BTW, another good ABC show is In Justice, which week after week gets wrongfully-convicted people out of jail, demonstrating the numerous weaknesses in our "justice" system--bad cops, bad evidence, bad lawyers, bad juries.

Remember the good old days of quagmire?

I don't have the time or the stomach to keep track of the multiple disasters occurring in Iraq right now; suffice it to say that expecting a quagmire is optimistic. As always, Juan Cole has the gruesome details.

The Rummy speaks: We can't win in Iraq

Well, that's a paraphrase, but I think that's the gist of it:
Asked how long Americans might be fighting in Iraq, Rumsfeld said: "We know that insurgencies can last five, eight, 10, 12, 15 years and we've said that. We also know that insurgencies ultimately are defeated, not by foreign occupying forces but by the indigenous forces of that particular country."
Such fertile ground for blogging, in just two sentences. First, he hints that US troops may be there for a decade or more. Then he suggests that, being foreign occupiers, they can't defeat the insurgency.

Aside from this is the total nonsense of that second sentence. For one thing, insurgencies frequently win--the colonists' insurgency against the British in the 1770's and the Vietnamese battle against first French and then American occupiers are two with which Rummy should be familiar. Secondly, occupiers are frequently successful in defeating insurgencies, at least for lengthy periods of time. The US government defeated numerous Native American "insurgencies" in the 19th century. It also managed to repress insurgent movements in several territories won in war--some for decades, as with the Philippines and Cuba, and others which continue to this day, such as California and the other states won in the Mexican war, Puerto Rico, Saipan, and others. In several of these cases, the "insurgencies" can be said to have been defeated permanently by the foreign occupiers. Similar cases can be found in the history of British, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Russian and Japanese imperialism. Insurgencies sometimes win, and when they lose, they lose at least as often to the foreign occupiers as they do to indigenous forces. In other words, Rummy's statement is COMPLETELY false.

The problem isn't just that Rummy and Bush are ignorant. It's worse than that. They KNOW things, and what they KNOW is almost always wrong.

BTW: Here's WordNet's definition of insurgency: "n : an organized rebellion aimed at overthrowing a constituted government through the use of subversion and armed conflict."

By this definition, Rummy and the regime-changers in Washington are the real insurgents in Iraq. It appears that they may in fact be defeated by indigenous forces. So maybe Rummy was right after all.

Iranian oil bourse may take awhile

Last month, reports suggested that Iran would open a euro-based oil bourse on March 20, sending the dollar and the American economy in general into terminal decline. According to the Globe and Mail, there won't be any Iranian bourse at all for several months, and it won't begin trading crude oil contracts for a few years.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Pat Buchanan on NAFTA

If the right wing in America were represented by Pat Buchanan, rather than by insane ideologues like Cheney, religious nutjobs like Falwell, and idiot poseurs like Bush and Frist, we'd be a lot better off. Buchanan may start with basic assumptions far different from yours and mine, but he is intelligent, reasonable, and consistent. And when it comes to issues of war and peace and so-called "free trade," he also happens to be right. Here are some excerpts from a recent column:
A year after NAFTA passed, the U.S. trade surplus had vanished. From 1995 through 1998, we ran $20 billion trade deficits with Mexico. From 1999 through 2005, the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico grew every year, from $27 billion in 1999 to last year's $54 billion.
...
When NAFTA passed in 1993, we imported some 225,000 cars and trucks from Mexico, but exported about 500,000 vehicles to the world. In 2005, our exports to the world were still a shade under 500,000 vehicles, but our auto and truck imports from Mexico had tripled to 700,000 vehicles.

As McMillion writes, Mexico now exports more cars and trucks to the United States than the United States exports to the whole world.
...
Mexico's leading exports to the United States in 2005 were autos, oil, electrical machinery, computers, furniture, textiles and apparel. The Made-in-the-USA goods that reaped us the greatest revenue in trade with Mexico were plastics, chemicals, cereals, cotton, meat, paper, oil seed, aluminum, copper and knitted or crocheted fabrics.

U.S.-Mexico trade calls to mind the trade relationship between Betsy Ross' America and the England of the Industrial Revolution, with Mexico in the role of England.
...
The American people were had. NAFTA was never a trade deal. NAFTA was always an enabling act -- to enable U.S. corporations to dump their American workers and move their factories to Mexico.

For U.S. companies, it was one sweet deal. At zero cost, they were allowed to rid themselves of their American workers; get out from under contributing to Social Security and Medicare; and slough off the burden of environmental, health-and-safety, wage-and-hour and civil-rights laws -- and were liberated to go abroad and hire Mexicans who would work for one-fifth to one-tenth of what their unwanted American workers cost.

What NAFTA, GATT, Davos and the WTO have always been about is freeing up transnationals to get rid of First World workers, while assuring them they could hold on, at no cost, to their First World customers.

When one considers who finances the Republican Party, funds its candidates, and hires its former congressmen, senators and Cabinet officers at six- and seven-figure retainers to lobby, it is understandable that the GOP went into the tank.

But why did the liberals, who paid the price of mandating all those benefits for American workers and imposing all those regulations on U.S. corporations, go along? That's the mystery. About NAFTA there is no mystery. There never really was.
As Eli at Left I on the News points out, Jeff Faux answered that question last month. Shorter Jeff Faux: The Clintons and other "New Democrats" aren't liberals at all--they're as much a part of the pro-corporate ruling elite as Bush is. The other thing to note is that the statistics Buchanan quotes make it sound like our loss is Mexico's gain, something Faux and others have pointed out isn't true. Only the corporate elite in both countries (and Canada as well, for that matter) have benefited from NAFTA; everyone else is worse off.

Conservatives like Buchanan and Paul Craig Roberts are not the problem; while they have certain biases which may color their judgment (as do we all), they still USE their judgment. It is those who use religion or patriotism or loyalty to a particular person (especially a particularly awful person like Bush) instead of judgment who are preventing America from adequately dealing with its many problems.

Self-healing minefield

DARPA, the Pentagon's famous Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, brought us the Internet so that I could share its latest creation with you: The Self-Healing Minefield.





"Self-healing." Because, as Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution suggests, when a mine goes off our first concern should be for the health of the minefield.

If Big Brother and Dr. Strangelove had a baby, this would be it.

From John Deering.

From Matt Wuerker.

It's true. Even though global warming seems to be a runaway freight train, it seems hard to complain about here in Michigan. Even though technically still winter, we had a glorious weekend--sunny and with temperatures in the 60's. I was playing soccer in shorts and a t-shirt on Saturday! We had a lot of snow and cold days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but since then I think we've had more thunderstorms than snowstorms! I don't remember ever seeing winter thunderstorms here until a couple of years ago--now we get big booming lighting in January.

Of course, it's hard to reach any definite conclusions from this--Michigan weather has always been strange and unpredictable. But for the last few years, all things considered, I think it would be hard to find anywhere in the continental US with better weather overall. No drought like the west; no hurricanes like the south. All our jobs may have gone south, but in a few years Michigan may be one of the most liveable places in the country.

Of course, in the long run global warming will be bad for just about everybody, including the people of Michigan. But we've got water, fertile soil, are well above sea level, and warmer temperatures will actually make Michigan more liveable, at least for a while.

Maybe the incompetence is on purpose

Right-wing cartoonists, not quite as able to ignore the obvious as aWol himself, are still quite willing to use it for their own agenda. Since the Bush administration can't do anything right, obviously the federal government can't be trusted with health care.

Here's one from yesterday from Detroit News cartoonist Henry Payne:



and one from Omaha cartoonist Jeff Koterba:



I'll agree with them to a point--nothing would destroy the idea of universal health care in this country quicker than having the Bushies run it (although Hillary obviously set it back decades with her convoluted scheme back in 1993). Payne also gets points with me for knocking Hillary--that's definitely common ground I share with the wingnuts. But the overall conclusion is absurd. Should car companies have stopped making cars because of the failure of the Edsel? Should Hollywood have stopped making movies after Catwoman? That this particular horrible version of a federal government is incapable of doing (or unwilling to do) anything right, doesn't mean that a good federal government couldn't do health care properly. In fact, many governments around the world are doing so now. I'm sure they have their problems, but they are far superior to the expensive, inadequate health care system in this country.

An interesting approach for ideologues; use the obvious incompetence of your heroes to advance their agenda instead of calling for their replacement.

Monday, March 13, 2006

God is pissed

Terry Jones has a source inside Almighty Headquarters:
The archangel reported that the Almighty has become increasingly irritated with the vogue for politicians to claim that He is behind their policies - especially if these involve killing large numbers of humans. According to Gabriel, God spake these words: "That George W Bush once had the nerve to say: 'God told me to go end the tyranny in Iraq, and I did.' Well, let me tell you I did no such thing! If I'd wanted to get rid of Saddam Hussein, I could have given him pneumonia. I didn't need the president of the United States to send in hundreds of heavy bombers and thousands of missiles to destroy Iraq - even though I appreciate that Halliburton needed to fill its order books."

"How do Bush and Blair think it makes me look to all those parents who have lost sons and daughters in this grubby business? Don't they know that the Muslims they're taking out worship the same Me that they do? It's a public relations disaster that ought to set Christianity back hundreds of years. Though knowing the fundamentalists, it'll probably have the reverse effect."

Clooney for President

George Clooney brags about being a liberal, and adds his voice to the many criticizing the worthless Democratic "opposition" to the criminals running this country.
I am a liberal. And I make no apologies for it. Hell, I'm proud of it.

Too many people run away from the label. They whisper it like you'd whisper "I'm a Nazi." Like it's dirty word. But turn away from saying "I'm a liberal" and it's like you're turning away from saying that blacks should be allowed to sit in the front of the bus, that women should be able to vote and get paid the same as a man, that McCarthy was wrong, that Vietnam was a mistake. And that Saddam Hussein had no ties to al-Qaeda and had nothing to do with 9/11.

This is an incredibly polarized time (wonder how that happened?). But I find that, more and more, people are trying to find things we can agree on. And, for me, one of the things we absolutely need to agree on is the idea that we're all allowed to question authority. We have to agree that it's not unpatriotic to hold our leaders accountable and to speak out.

That's one of the things that drew me to making a film about Murrow. When you hear Murrow say, "We mustn't confuse dissent with disloyalty" and "We can't defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home," it's like he's commenting on today's headlines.
I can't wait for the first Repug to suggest that a movie actor isn't qualified to be president.

Solar Update

It's been a good winter for the sun here in Michigan, and my solar shingles have been soaking it up! For the latest on how my solar-electric system is doing, check my solar blog.



Also, I may have a chance to switch my system to net-metering!

From Daryl Cagle.

Milosevic

I don't know nearly enough about Milosevic and the various wars and crimes involved in the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990's to write anything meaningful about his death. After five years of Bush, however, my kneejerk reaction to the news is that he was about to say something that somebody didn't want him to say. I'll refer you to the WSWS for much more:
It is also clear that the trial—universally promoted by Western governments and media as “the most important since Nuremberg”—had turned into a political embarrassment, producing no real proof of Milosevic’s direct responsibility for the terrible crimes carried out during the civil wars that erupted in Yugoslavia in the 1990s. It had threatened to become even more of a problem for those who organized it after Milosevic, at the end of February, asked the tribunal to issue a subpoena ordering former US President Bill Clinton to testify, apparently with the aim of showing that Washington itself was responsible for crimes against humanity in waging an illegal war against Yugoslavia and conducting a sustained bombing campaign against civilian targets.

Not a hint of the central role played by US imperialism and other Western powers in the breakup of Yugoslavia and the resulting carnage is to be found in the media’s reaction to Milosevic’s death. Instead, most of what has been written and stated on broadcast news consists in vilifying the former Yugoslav president as a latter-day Hitler and lamenting the fact that he will not get the punishment he deserves.
...
What is entirely absent from this potted—“bad Milosevic”—version of recent Yugoslav history is the decisive role played by major imperialist powers. The US and Germany, in particular, deliberately engineered the country’s breakup, with a thorough indifference to the inevitable tragic consequences of their intervention.

It should be recalled that, like that other arch villain, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Milosevic was at one time viewed with favor by Washington, which, in the 1980s, supported him as he championed IMF-dictated “market reforms” and privatizations of nationalized industries.
...
There is no question that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and others in the current US administration are responsible for far greater war crimes and a far greater loss of innocent human life in waging an unprovoked and illegal war against Iraq than anything perpetrated by Milosevic.

The strongest charge that can be made against Milosevic—presented in Cohen’s commentary in the Times—is that he resorted to war as a means of achieving political ends. How immensely greater the guilt, then, of the current US president?

Oily history

Alexander Cockburn explains the history of how the oil on government lands has been practically given to the big oil companies since the 1970's. He also mentions why you should think at least twice before donating to some of those "environmental" groups:
By the mid-90s the oil industry no longer had any effective foes arguing for public control. Senators like Abourezk and Howard Metzenbaum of Ohio had gone. The public interest groups were successfully unplugged during Clinton time and the credibility of proposals for public control of the nation's energy resources undermined by years of neo-liberal derision coming from groups like the NRDC (National Resources Defense Council) and the Environmental Defense Fund which saw higher prices as the key to conservation, and which thus helped launch Enron on the world.

(NRDC went to bat for Enron during its takeover of Oregon's Portland General Electric in the mid to late 90s. NRDC's Ralph Cavanagh testified to Oregon's Public Utilities Commission, saying he was in favor of the Enron take-over, that he had worked with Enron for ten years and trusted the company. Cavanagh also went to bat for Enron in California. His testimony was decisive in undercutting the protests against Enron by local citizen groups. For its part, EDF was the first major environmental group to endorse "market approaches" and deregulation.)

Discrediting patriotism may be the only good to come out of the Iraq war

Paul Craig Roberts:
The brutal truth is that America's responsibility is extreme. We have destroyed a country and created political chaos for no reason whatsoever.

Seldom in history has a government miscalculated as badly as Bush has in Iraq. More disturbingly, Bush shows no ability to recover from his mistake. All we get from our leader is pig-headed promises of victory that none of our military commanders believe.

Our entire government is lost in confusion. One day Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld tell us that we are having great success in training an Iraqi military and will be able to begin withdrawing our troops in a year. The next day they tell us that we will be fighting the war for decades.

Bush's invasion of Iraq was a mistake. Bush's attempt to cover up his mistake with patriotism will ultimately discredit patriotism.

America has to be big enough to admit a mistake and to bring it to an end.

That dastardly enemy!

"We face an enemy that will use explosive devices in order to shake our will." -- George W. Bush, 3/11/06

The battle plan is based on a concept developed at the National Defense University. It's called "Shock and Awe" and it focuses on the psychological destruction of the enemy's will to fight rather than the physical destruction of his military forces.

"We want them to quit. We want them not to fight," says Harlan Ullman, one of the authors of the Shock and Awe concept which relies on large numbers of precision guided weapons.
-- from CBS News, 1/24/03

From Boondocks.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A lame response


From Jim Day.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Democrats are so bad even Democrats are noticing

I've seen many articles recently about the worthlessness of the Clinton-Kerry democrats--and not just on my blog! Here's Molly Ivins:
Every Democrat I talk to is appalled at the sheer gutlessness and spinelessness of the Democratic performance. The party is still cringing at the thought of being called, ooh-ooh, “unpatriotic” by a bunch of rightwingers.

Take “unpatriotic” and shove it. How dare they do this to our country? “Unpatriotic”? These people have ruined the American military! Not to mention the economy, the middle class, and our reputation in the world. Everything they touch turns to dirt, including Medicare prescription drugs and hurricane relief.

This is not a time for a candidate who will offend no one; it is time for a candidate who takes clear stands and kicks ass.

Who are these idiots talking about Warner of Virginia? Being anodyne is not sufficient qualification for being President. And if there’s nobody in Washington and we can’t find a Democratic governor, let’s run Bill Moyers, or Oprah, or some university president with ethics and charisma.
Or Molly Ivins?

Similar articles from Rosa Brooks, Ari Berman, Tom Hayden, Bob Burnett, and I'm sure many more.

Globalize this

An outstanding article by Jeff Faux on globalization and the elite scumbags behind it (who happen to include leaders of both major political parties in this country). Excerpts:
That the global economy is developing a global ruling class should come as no shock. All markets generate economic class differences. In stable, self-contained national economies, where capital and labor need each other, political bargaining produces a social contract that allows enough wealth to trickle down from the top to keep the majority loyal. "What's good for General Motors is good for America," Dwight Eisenhower's Defense Secretary famously said in the 1950s. The United Auto Workers agreed, which at the time seemed to toss the notion of class warfare into the dustbin of history.

But as domestic markets become global, investors increasingly find workers, customers and business partners almost anywhere. Not surprisingly, they have come to share more economic interests with their peers in other countries than with people who simply have the same nationality. They also share a common interest in escaping the restrictions of their domestic social contracts.

The class politics of this new world economic order is obscured by the confused language that filters the globalization debate from talk radio to Congressional hearings to university seminars. On the one hand, we are told that the flow of money and goods across borders is making nation-states obsolete. On the other, global economic competition is almost always defined as conflict among national interests. Thus, for example, the US press warns us of a dire economic threat from China. Yet much of the "Chinese" menace is a business partnership between China's commissars, who supply the cheap labor, and America's (and Japan's and Europe's) capitalists, who supply the technology and capital. "World poverty" is likewise framed as an issue of the distribution of wealth between rich and poor countries, ignoring the existence of rich people in poor countries and poor people in rich countries.
...
Given the influence of American elites, the model for this constitution [of a single global economy] is the North American Free Trade Agreement, conceived under Ronald Reagan, nurtured by George H.W. Bush and delivered by Bill Clinton. Among other things, NAFTA's 1,000-plus pages give international investors extraordinary rights to override government protections of workers and the environment. It sets up secret panels, rife with conflicts of interest, to judge disputes from which there is no appeal. It makes virtually all nonmilitary government services subject to privatization and systematically undercuts the public sector's ability to regulate business. Jorge Castañeda, later Mexico's foreign secretary, observed that NAFTA was "an agreement for the rich and powerful in the United States, Mexico and Canada, an agreement effectively excluding ordinary people in all three societies."
...
It's impossible to understand why Democratic Party leaders collaborated with Republicans to establish NAFTA unless reference is made to cross-border class interests. There was no compelling economic or political reason for Bill Clinton to make NAFTA a priority in his first year as President. In economic terms, nothing was broken that needed fixing. Politically, NAFTA and the WTO that followed traded away the interests of the Democratic Party's blue-collar electoral base while creating a bonanza for Republican constituencies on Wall Street and in red-state agribusiness.

But Clinton was more Davos than Democrat. Tutored by financier Robert Rubin, a prodigious fundraiser who became his Treasury Secretary, Clinton embraced a reactionary, pre-New Deal vision of a global future in which corporate investors were unregulated and the social contract was history. Indeed, in all three countries it was the leaders of the political parties that had historically claimed to represent ordinary people--the Democrats' Clinton, the Liberal Party's Jean Chrétien and the Institutional Revolutionary Party's Salinas--who delivered NAFTA to their global corporate clients, undercutting their own constituencies. "NAFTA happened," said the then-chairman of American Express, "because of the drive Bill Clinton gave it. He stood up against his two prime constituents, labor and environment, to drive it home over their dead bodies."

A year later, in November 1994, enough angry Democratic voters stayed away from the polls to give the Republicans control of the House. Since then, many working-class Americans, feeling abandoned by the Democrats, have responded to the Republican definition of class struggle as a fight over gun control, school prayer and abortion. The Democrats have still not recovered.

Consistent with a deal among the rich and powerful, NAFTA made the distribution of income, wealth and political power more unequal throughout the continent. In all three countries, wages in manufacturing fell behind productivity increases, shifting income from labor to capital. Ordinary Mexicans especially went through the economic wringer--to which the willingness of hundreds of thousands of them to risk their lives each year crossing the border continues to be tragic testimony.
A lot more there. Well written and a nearly perfect argument against the idiot Tom Friedmans of the world.

They hate us for our safe food

Yesterday, the House of Reprehensibles passed the "National Uniformity for Food Act," which I wrote about last week. The bill is intended to override laws in numerous state which provide additional safety and labelling requirements to the minimal ones currently required by the feds. The vote was 283 to 139, with 212 Repugs and 71 Dumbos supporting it. Interestingly, Walter Jones of North Carolina was one of the 13 Republicans to vote against it. He wants to know what is in his freedom fries, I guess. I wonder if this is another case of once somebody realizes that the Republican leadership is lying, as Jones did with the war in Iraq, that they start to recognize that it may not be the only time.

Pretty much all of the comments I have seen on this monstrous bill have mentioned only the food-safety issue, Congress favoring big business over consumers. Another thing to consider is that it also favors big business over small business. State food safety and labelling laws provide niche markets for local producers; this bill will enable the agribusiness giants like Conagra, ADM, IBP, and Cargill to sell the same crap in the same package everywhere at prices the local producers can't hope to match. As has been happening for decades, these local companies will be forced to either sell out or get out of the business, and any local entrepreneurs (whom Bush claims to love so much) will be discouraged because they will have no niche markets in which to grow their businesses.

Repugs frequently use small businesses as a reason for opposing government regulations, saying that minimum wages, equal opportunity, paperwork for social security and other government programs, OSHA workplace standards, and so on all present formidable obstacles to someone just starting a business. To some degree, I'd say they have a point. But their actions, like this bill and countless others (including especially their refusal to enforce antitrust laws and their support for outsourcing), continually tilt the playing field in favor of big business over small business. In most cases, facing this subsidized competition from huge corporations is a much higher hurdle for new businesses to clear than any amount of paperwork. And these supposedly pro-small-business Repugs side with the big corporations every time.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The story behind the picture


Chris Floyd provides an extensive caption to go with this graphic. An excerpt:
How worried was [George H.W.] Bush about the situation? Let's look at the historical record. In the two weeks before the [1990] invasion of Kuwait, Bush approved the sale of an additional $4.8 million in "dual-use" technology to factories identified by the CIA as linchpins of Hussein's illicit nuclear and biochemical programs, the Los Angeles Times reports. The day before Saddam sent his tanks across the border, Bush obligingly sold him more than $600 million worth of advanced communications technology. Yet a week later, he was declaring that his long-time ally was "worse than Hitler."

Yes, the Kuwaitis had called in their marker. Like a warlord of old, Bush used the US military as a private army to help his business partners. After an extensive bombing campaign that openly--even gleefully--mocked international law in its targeting of civilian infrastructure (a tactic repeated in Serbia by Bill Clinton--now regarded as an "adopted son" by Bush), the brief 100-hour ground war slaughtered fleeing Iraqi conscripts by the thousands--while, curiously, allowing Saddam's crack troops, the aptly-named Republican Guard, to escape unharmed. Later, these troops were used to kill tens of thousands of Shiites who had risen in rebellion against Saddam--at the specific instigation of George Bush, who not only abandoned them to their fate, but specifically allowed Saddam to use his attack helicopters against the rebels, and also ordered US troops to block Shiites from gaining access to arms caches. It was one of the worst, most murderous betrayals in modern history--and has been almost entirely expunged from the American memory.
One place it still exists in memory is in the 1999 movie Three Kings, starring George Clooney. Another is in Ramsey Clark's book The Fire This Time.

I'll bet it's Halliburton

From CNN:
United Arab Emirates-owned DP World said Thursday it would transfer its operations of American ports to a U.S. "entity" after congressional leaders reportedly told President Bush that the firm's takeover deal was essentially dead on Capitol Hill.

"Because of the strong relationship between the United Arab Emirates and the United States and to preserve that relationship ... DP World will transfer fully the U.S. operations of P&O Operations North America to a United States entity," Edward H. Bilkey, DP World's chief operating officer, said in a statement.

The announcement did not specify which U.S. company would be involved.
It's gotta be Halliburton, Bechtel or the Carlyle Group.

Goodbye Howard

Via Cyndy, I found John L. Mann's farewell letter to Howard Dean and the Dumbocrats. Excerpt:
How could you possibly let this happen, Howard? How can there possibly be a debate on whether or not the president has power to conduct warrantless clandestine NSA surveillance on American citizens? Common Americans held in thrall by fear intentionally propagated by administration officials and corporate media may have some doubts, but Howard, you and I know full well that the American Revolution was fought in very large part to remove this misuse of power from the hands of our nation's original "unitary executive," formerly known as "king."

And Howard, it's not just warrantless surveillance. It's outrageous, paranoid intrusiveness joined with secretiveness and an utter dearth of accountability. It's Capitol Hill lobbyists composing the actual verbiage of critical legislation directly and positively impacting their clients. It's teetering health care stretched to its limits by insatiable dollar demands put on it by the insurance industry- a parasite intermediary that now dominates medical practice and altogether too often dictates life or death dispensation of treatment. It's corporate welfare and destruction of the middle class and the environment. It's the weaponization of space and the spurning of viable international treaties. It's the deterioration of domestic infrastructure and a failing educational system. It's an incessant pursuit of war and human exploitation.

You see what I'm getting at Howard? Simply put, it's evident that way too many Democrats care more about their political status and sinecures than they do the their personal honor-when it's called into play for upholding and defending the Constitution, genuinely serving the people of the United States and securing our freedoms.

Virtually all the serious Democratic presidential pretenders are in favor of the Bush Doctrine of Preemptive Warfare. That's just great. Among other things, it clearly indicates that just because Democrats don't have a current poster boy for corruption in the same league as Jack Abramoff, they've consciously opted to continue their dependence on the oceans of easy special interest money to which political survival holds them equally hostage.
Maybe somebody can put that letter to the tune of the Dixie Chicks' "Goodbye Earl." Maybe I will:


Maryann went out lookin'
For a party without cowards
Wanda looked all around this town
And all she found was Howard
...
It didn't take long to decide...
That Howard had to go
Goodbye Howard
That anti-war talk
sounded good to me, Howard
Now you're acting weak
Why do you lay down
Like sheep, Howard?
Don't it stink
Being trounced by that twirp, Howard?

From Lloyd Dangle.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Chutzpah

(All emphasis added)
Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom.
...
States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.

We will work closely with our coalition to deny terrorists and their state sponsors the materials, technology, and expertise to make and deliver weapons of mass destruction. We will develop and deploy effective missile defenses to protect America and our allies from sudden attack. (Applause.) And all nations should know: America will do what is necessary to ensure our nation's security.

We'll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons.
-- George W. Bush, State of the Union address, January 29, 2002
The longer we wait to confront the threat Iran poses, the harder and more intractable it will become to solve... we must be prepared to rely on comprehensive solutions and use all the tools at our disposal to stop the threat that the Iranian regime poses.
-- U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, March 5, 2006
The regime in Tehran also continues to defy the world with its nuclear ambitions. Of course, this matter may soon go before the U.N. Security Council. The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose meaningful consequences. For our part, the United States is keeping all options on the table in addressing the irresponsible conduct of the regime. (Applause.) And we join other nations in sending that regime a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. (Applause.)
-- Dick Cheney, March 7, 2006
The US has the power to cause harm and pain. But the US is also susceptible to harm and pain. So if that is the path that the US wishes to choose, let the ball roll.
-- Ali-Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, March 8, 2006
I think that provocative statements and actions only further isolate Iran from the rest of the world.
-- White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, March 8, 2006

You know what really bugs me, aside from all of the crap above? CNN (and many other media outlets) attribute Scottie's inane and insane babblings to the "U.S." (CNN headline: " U.S.: Iran remarks 'provocative'") There are a lot of things wrong with this country, and a lot of people way off the deep end, but Bush, Cheney, Bolton and McClellan are the worst of the worst, and do NOT speak for most of us. And aside from their fellow deep-enders and a few dozen sellout world leaders like Blair and Musharref, the Bushies are the ones who are isolated from most of the world. Probably 95% of the world's population knows that Bush is the biggest threat to world peace.

Mulch ado about nothing?

Yesterday's post about Formosan termites being spread through mulch appears to have been a hoax. Thanks to Richard in Missouri for letting me know.

The 2008 presidential election is being decided now

And you don't really have anything to say about it, unless you have lots of money. From the NY Times:
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is locking up some of the Democratic Party's top fund-raisers, in a move that party officials and strategists say seems intended to complicate the efforts of any potential rivals in the 2008 presidential contest.

The effort comes as Mrs. Clinton has embarked on a nationwide fund-raising spree herself, enabling her to collect cash while appearing before audiences outside New York. Democrats say her goal is to raise at least $40 million for her Senate race, money that could be used for a national run after this year's Senate re-election bid, for which she faces minor opposition.

Already, the Clinton finance team has amassed more cash than any other potential Democratic presidential candidate, $17.1 million, underscoring what many Democrats say is the tactical edge that Mrs. Clinton has going into 2008, with an experienced and well-financed campaign.

But as important, Mrs. Clinton's finance team appears determined to build such a big bank account and to develop relationships with many of the party's top fund-raisers in an effort to make it harder for potential rivals to compete in 2008, Democrats closely monitoring the Clinton camp's efforts say.
Isn't it encouraging to know that neither major political party is likely to nominate a candidate who opposed the war in Iraq, opposed the Patriot Act, or (obviously) opposes the involvment of big money in politics? Hillary has been an AWFUL senator, a shill for the Bushies. Her picture could illustrate "sellout" in the dictionary.

I have no idea what to do. I worked for a great candidate in 2003, and he was ignored and even ridiculed. The grass-roots favorite, Howard Dean, was duly dealt with by the media and the powers that be in the Democratic party. We were left with a choice between two god-awful Skull & Bones Yalies who supported the war in Iraq. The system is completely rigged against third parties, and even against the wishes of the majority of the people.

I've said it before, and Ralph Nader said it before I did: Even now, things are going to have to get much worse before they get better. Only an economic collapse complete enough to bring most of the powers that be to their knees or lower will offer the opportunity for real democracy to happen in this country. Unfortunately, it will also open the door for many much less appealing scenarios as well. Nevertheless, the collapse seems to be almost a certainty, so make your plans accordingly.

Quote du jour

"Good Americans are among some of the worst people you'll ever meet." -- Dennis Perrin

In fuller context:
It was liberal Hollywood that pointed me in this direction and made me aware of real American history, and it continues to offer alternative, vital counterpoints to the larger mainstream discussion. That's a major reason why cultural reactionaries hate Hollywood so. In their fevered minds, the less you know about what's happened in America, the better American you are, which is why Good Americans are among some of the worst people you'll ever meet.

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This moron is in charge of the world's largest military

In the same Pentagon news conference I cited yesterday, a reporter asked Gin Rummy what an Iraqi civil war might look like:
Why don’t you ask the other question: what would it look like if there’s not chaos and civil war? And that’s kind of -- kind of what people have been describing. If you have on the one hand the Iraqi security forces succeeding, that’s good. The back side of that would be they wouldn’t be. They would disappear, or they would fall apart, or they would engage in sectarian violence themselves, or they’d refuse to obey, or something like that. ... the political leaders and the government figures [would] do exactly the opposite of what they’re doing, and that is to stand up and say, “By golly, we’re not going to take this. They bombed one of our mosques; let’s go bomb their mosque.” And they said just the opposite.
There's one of your unknown unknowns--what the hell does Rummy mean? I think he managed to say just the opposite of what he was saying AS HE SAID IT!

(Thanks to WIIIAI for reading Rummy's news conferences so we don't have to.)

Just another layer of obfuscation

The supposedly moderate Repugs in the Senate, led by Chuck Hagel (NE) and Olympia Snowe (ME), have reached an agreement with the White House to provide a facade of oversight on domestic wiretapping. That the White House has conceded nothing and still claims dictatorial powers is clear from this:
A spokeswoman for the White House, Dana Perino, called the Republican senators' proposal "a generally sound approach."

"We're eager to work with Congress on legislation that would further codify the president's authority," Ms. Perino said. "We remain committed to our principle, that we will not do anything that undermines the program's capabilities or the president's authority."
The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written largely in response to the autocratic powers claimed by an incompetent leader named George. Another George is taking them back, and the worthless Congress is unwilling to stop him.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Quote du jour

“I’m not aware. I wasn’t aware then. I’m not knowledgeable today.” -- Donald Rumsfeld

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Ma Bell's Big Brother

From the WSWS:
In many respects, the corporate colossus resulting from the merger will have greater sway over communications and the dissemination of information than the government-regulated telephone monopoly that existed before the breakup of the Bell system in 1984. The new AT&T will control, for large parts of the US, not only telephone service, but also a major share of wireless communications, cable and Internet service, and the merged company will seek to utilize the technological advances of recent years to enter the broadcasting market.

This process of reintegration and re-monopolization of telecommunications in the US takes place under far different conditions than those which existed in the days of the government-regulated telephone monopoly. Today there is no serious government regulation, the telecommunications unions—the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers—have long since abandoned any genuine defense of the workers’ interests, and wages, benefits and working conditions have been eroded. As a result, the new AT&T and its rival corporate giants will profit from a more intensively exploited work force.
...
The telecom giants today control much more than the traditional local and long-distance phone service provided by the old AT&T. These companies are now vertically integrated, including wireless phone networks, as well as cable and Internet services.
...
[T]hese corporate giants are solidifying their control over the Internet by dominating broadband internet access. BellSouth has a massive wire network reaching over 1 million homes in the United States.

Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), reacted to the merger by stating, “AT&T wishes to be lord of the digital domain, able to impose a raft of tolls, fees and what they term ‘monetization’ strategies for the Internet—whether it comes to us via wires or wireless devices.”

The CDD warned, “Instead of the Internet reflecting what the federal courts not long ago called ‘the most participatory form of mass speech yet developed,’ it’s now threatened to be reduced to what AT&T called its private ‘pipes.’”

Most analysts are agreed that government approval of the deal is assured. The Bush administration has already allowed a number of major mergers, and openly favors the further monopolization of economic life.

AT&T has already played a role in facilitating the Bush administration’s attacks on democratic rights. According to press reports, it is one of the companies that has allowed the National Security Agency access to its telecommunications switches, as part of the Bush administration’s illegal domestic spying program that was disclosed late last year.

Mulch much?

[Update] This appears to be a hoax. My apologies.

From an e-mail:
If you use mulch around your house be very careful about buying mulch this year. After the Hurricane in New Orleans many trees were blown over. These trees were then turned into mulch and the state is trying to get rid of tons and tons of this mulch to any state or company who will come and haul it away. So it will be showing up in Home Depot and Lowes at dirt cheap prices with one huge problem; Formosan Termites will be the bonus in many of those bags. New Orleans is one of the few areas in the country where the Formosan Termites has gotten a strong hold and most of the trees blown down were already badly infested with those termites. Now we may have the worst case of transporting a problem to all parts of the country that we have ever had. These termites can eat a house in no time at all and we have no good control against them, so tell your friends that own homes to avoid cheap mulch and know were it came from.

Info on Formosan termites from LSU.

From Chan Lowe.

Can you find the error in that cartoon?

I knew BOTH!


From Matt Bors.

Do you know the five rights protected by the first amendment? How about five people who work at the Springfield nuclear power plant?

From Chip Bok.

From Kevin Siers.

from Matt Wuerker.

From Clay Bennett.

From Steve Kelley.

Monday, March 06, 2006

I'll bet that's right

Congresscritter Bill Thomas, (Repug-CA) is retiring:
"I haven't finished my work and I have nine months to go. I'm not walking away into the sunset," Thomas said Monday. "Just because I won't be in office doesn't mean I won't have any influence."
A K-street lobbyist for the drug companies for whom he pushed the crappy Medicare bill? Indian casinos? The Carlyle Group? The United Arab Emirates? All of the above? Being a Repug scumbag means never having to say you're poor.

Bridge to the 19th century


From the NY Times

Of course the merger will cost 10,000 jobs, of course it violates anti-trust law, and of course it will be approved.

Thomas Edison and solar power

Cyndy posted this great quote on her blog:
"I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait till oil and coal run out before we tackle that." - Thomas Edison
Of course, four years of blogging during the aWol administration have made me a diehard cynic; I look every gift horse in the mouth. Here is the comment I left on Cyndy's blog:
Great quote! I googled it and found it quoted many times, but I never found out WHEN he said it. He lived until 1931. If he said it in his prime, I wonder why he didn't put his money and his genius to work on it. Was the stock ticker really more important?

Getting technical, his battle to use direct current (DC) for power distribution would have been greatly enhanced by photovoltaics, since they naturally generate DC and are a distributed power source (compared to a coal-fired power plant, which is fairly concentrated and most naturally generates AC power). Line losses are less of a problem for distributed sources, and line losses were the main reason AC won out in the end.

According to Wikipedia, Edison went to great lengths in his attempts to prove DC's superiority:

"Despite Edison's contempt for capital punishment, the war against AC led Edison to become involved in the development and promotion of the electric chair as a demonstration of AC's greater lethal potential versus the "safer" DC. Edison went on to carry out a brief but intense campaign to ban the use of AC or limit the allowable voltage for safety purposes. As part of this campaign, Edison publicly electrocuted dogs, cats, and in one case, an elephant to demonstrate the dangers of AC."

Too bad that effort wasn't devoted to developing solar power instead.

A Load of Manure

Livestock farmer and environmental lawyer Nicolette Hahn Niman writes in the NY Times about the false promise of using manure as a power source.
The idea sounds appealing, but power from manure turns out to be a poor source of energy. Unlike solar or wind, it can create more environmental problems than it solves. And it ends up subsidizing large agribusiness. That's why energy from manure should really be considered a form of "brown power."
Niman points out that methane digesters and other ways of getting energy from manure approach efficiency only in places where huge amounts of manure are available--CAFO's (or maybe the White House press room). And even in these cases, the process only becomes profitable when government subsidies are introduced--which is what aWol has been babbling about lately. Hahn Himan continues:
And those subsidies tend to help factory farms. Traditional farms, which usually both grow plants and raise animals, recycle manure as organic fertilizer and thus bear the full cost of handling their waste. But large livestock operations can't do that. They put their manure — and there is a great deal of it — in huge piles or storage pools that often leak into nearby streams and ground water and exude stenches that make life miserable for neighbors. For them, manure isn't valuable fertilizer but a vexing disposal problem.

The stampede for power from manure gives these huge livestock operations a subsidized way to deal with this problem — and even gives them an incentive to expand. An article about methane digesters in The Des Moines Register quoted a farmer saying that doubling his dairy herd allowed him to justify the expense of a digester. This could well be a typical response, with manure power projects everywhere resulting in still larger herds and flocks.

But as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization noted last month, concentrated livestock operations threaten the environment and human health in a way that traditional farms do not. It is increasingly clear that traditional, smaller-scale farming is better than factory farms for people, animals and the environment.

Even manure power projects' immediate environmental benefits are dubious. Digesters, for example, don't make the manure disappear; instead, a manure slurry (which is sometimes larger than the original volume of manure) is left over and still has to be stored somewhere. Moreover, the slurry contains most of manure's original pollutants, researchers note. In other words, what comes out of a digester may be a bigger problem than what went in.

Methane digesters also fail to abate most environmental damage caused by concentrated animal operations, according to the Sierra Club. Farms with digesters still generally use large manure storage ponds, the main source of pollution problems. Incinerators, meanwhile, destroy the valuable components of manure and raise the specter of air emissions. While it's a nuisance on factory farms, manure as it is used on traditional farms greatly benefits soil fertility and tilth, increasing water-holding capacity, reducing wind erosion, improving aeration and promoting beneficial organisms. But many of these benefits are lost in burning. "Incineration destroys the nitrogen and organic material content of manure," reports the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. The institute has calculated that "an electricity plant that burns 500,000 tons of manure in effect destroys $3 million in nitrogen."
...
Using manure as power sounds like a good idea, but it's not. The energy that can be generated from manure is not worth the expense. And by lowering industrial animal operations' cost of production, subsidizing manure power pushes family farms further toward the brink of extinction. Our money would be better spent investing in truly sustainable, sensible ways of producing energy and food.

Trouble in Puppet-dise

From CNN:
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf ripped the president of neighboring Afghanistan on Sunday, telling CNN that Hamid Karzai is "totally oblivious of what is happening in his own country."
Hmmm...why does that sound familiar?





Anyway...
Musharraf was furious over an Associated Press report that Karzai had given Pakistan intelligence suggesting that former Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and his associates are hiding in Pakistan.

The report also said Afghanistan gave Pakistan information about locations of alleged terrorist training camps along the border between the two nations.

"I am really surprised and shocked why they have disclosed this to the media," Musharraf told CNN.

"We've already gone through it, this list. Two-thirds of it is months old, and it is outdated, and there is nothing," he said. "What there was, the telephone numbers that they are talking of, two-thirds of them are dead numbers, and even the CIA knows about it, because we are sharing all this information with them.
"Even the CIA knows?" That's a low blow, Mushie.
Both Pakistan and Afghanistan have said they are committed to tracking down the wanted individuals and assisting the United States in what the Bush administration has called the war on terrorism.
I love that CNN is now treating the "war on terror" as the sham that it is.
Musharraf told CNN he helped in Afghanistan's election process, and "if it was not for Pakistan, maybe [Karzai] and his election would not have taken place smoothly."
So Karzai owes his election to the dictator Musharraf, Bush owes his to Osama, and Ahmadinejad and Hamas probably owe their electoral success to Bush. Ain't democracy grand?
Musharraf, an army general who assumed power during a bloodless coup in 1999, gave a staunch defense of democratic reforms during Bush's visit Saturday, saying "sustainable democracy" has been introduced.
He makes "sustainable" sound so dirty. I think he means democracy which sustains him in power.
Bush said part of his visit's purpose was to determine whether Musharraf "is as committed as he has been in the past to bringing these terrorists to justice -- and he is."
That is, pretending to do something while actually doing nothing--something W can certainly relate to.
Bush said Pakistan won't receive U.S. help for its civilian nuclear power program as India did, saying that he had explained to Musharraf "that Pakistan and India are different countries with different needs and different histories."
Thanks for explaining that to him, George. W is likely oblivious to the fact that India and Pakistan have a lot of history in common, having both been part of Britain's Indian colony before 1947.

Karzai will probably just let this all slide. Musharraf didn't say anything that would really hurt him--like insulting his fashion sense.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Four years late, the media starts to catch on

The lead-story tease on the main CNN web page as of 8 AM (emphasis added):
U.S. President George W. Bush gains reassurances from Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf that Pakistan is doing everything it can to help in the so-called war on terror -- and that both sides will remain in close coordination in the hunt for al Qaeda terrorists.
I have questioned the motives and methods of the "war on terror" since W's first blustering statements after 9/11. I usually just put the phrase "war on terror" in quotes, but I've seen other bloggers use "so-called war on terror" frequently. But it's very encouraging to see one of the most prominent mainstream media organizations use "so-called war on terror." There have been so many clues to the essential phonyness of the SCWOT, including:
  • Attacking Afghanistan while ignoring or even allying with countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt and the UAE which clearly were implicated in 9/11 as much as Afghanistan was.
  • Letting Osama get away, followed by W's statement that he really didn't care about Osama.
  • Not only attacking Iraq using resources that could have been used to hunt al Qaeda, but then claiming that the Iraq war was part of the SCWOT with no proof whatsoever.
  • Stalling and blocking all attempts to investigate what actually happened on 9/11.
  • A decided lack of vigor in actually taking steps to protect this country--not protecting the ports, nuclear and chemical facilities, and so forth, and not firing incompetents in critical positions.
  • Continually pursuing actions guaranteed to increase the threat of terrorism, including mindless support of Israel, the war in Iraq, and of course the endless use of torture, all complicated by defense of all of this nonsense by the administration and its wingnut supporters.
  • More recently, the UAE ports deal, and the statement by the Pentagon's deputy director for the war on terrorism that "thirty new terrorist organizations have emerged" since 9/11.
  • And perhaps today's visit to Pakistan, a country heavily involved in the creation of both al Qaeda and the Taliban, and the place where many think Osama is hiding today.
All together, a package even the most groveling mainstream media is finding hard to ignore. A real war on terror would involve defining the problem, identifying the enemy, actually protecting the homeland, and taking only those actions which reasonably address the problem--not ones guaranteed to make it worse. SCWOT is nothing like that, and hopefully the media is finally starting to admit it.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Quote du jour

It is fair to say that there has never before been an administration so committed to producing hot air, so organized just to say stuff to the American people, so committed to the principle of selling rather than doing. It is government by hypnotism.
-- Tom Burka, part of an excellent commentary on the New Orleans levee story.

Labels:

You've got to be more specific than that

CNN headline: Crooked congressman jailed.
Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham has been sentenced to eight years and four months in prison, the longest term ever given to a congressman. Cunningham -- a California Republican who resigned in disgrace last year -- pleaded guilty to accepting $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors. Cunningham's lawyers wrote in a sentencing submission: "His own misconduct has already left him penniless, homeless, estranged from those he loves and disgraced in the eyes of his countrymen."
About 400 more to go, then the Senate.

Lowest common denominator

The House of Reprehensibles is scheduled to vote March 8 "on a bill that would gut state food safety and labeling laws. H.R. 4167, the "National Uniformity for Food Act," lowers the bar on food safety by overturning state food safety laws that are not "identical" to federal law. Hundreds of state laws and regulations are at risk, including those governing the safety of milk, fish, and shellfish. The bill is being pushed by large supermarket chains and food manufacturers, spearheaded by the powerful Grocery Manufacturers of America."

Go to the Organic Consumers Association web site for more info and a simple way to tell your congresscritters that you like safe food.

Umm...stop digging, maybe??

From the Washington Times:
Thirty new terrorist organizations have emerged since the September 11, 2001, attacks, outpacing U.S. efforts to crush the threat, said Brig. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, the Pentagon's deputy director for the war on terrorism.

"We are not killing them faster than they are being created," Gen. Caslen told a gathering at the Woodrow Wilson Center yesterday, warning that the war could take decades to resolve.
Gen. Caslen blames this on the terrorists' better communications capabilities! Yeah, right, General. Poor old Pentagon doesn't have any communications capabilities to match guys hanging out in caves in Afghanistan.

Of course, Caslen ignores the obvious--the "war on terror" is the best recruiting tool al Qaeda ever had. The "war on terror" could be over tomorrow--just stop fighting it. We'd all be a lot better off.

Also from the article:
The takfir (infidel) view of the world that falls under the Salafist teachings of the Sunni sect -- such as al Qaeda in Iraq -- is an example of the extremist view that condones violence to accomplish ideological ends, [Caslen] said.
Sounds like neoconservatism to me.

Why are we letting Wal-Mart destroy the country?

The NY Times has an article about how Wal-Mart is dictating product development and availability to suppliers like Coke and Pepsi. When you read the article, you read about the "demands" Wal-Mart makes of its suppliers. It can only make these demands because of its huge size, which also gives it the power to use its predatory pricing to drive competitors out of business. This isn't the "free market"--it is unrestrained power based mostly on the size of Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart controls what products get made (and are therefore available to consumers), which towns get to keep their downtowns and which don't, which American factories have to move to China, and so on. They weren't elected to have this much power, and anti-trust laws were written specifically to prevent any company from dominating markets to this degree. I don't believe Wal-Mart got to be this big on shear brilliance and hard work--it violated any number of laws and ethical norms to get where it is. But even if it hadn't, principles of freedom and free markets, as well as US law, requires that it be broken up. That it not only isn't being dismantled, but continues to grow, is one of the most obvious indications of who is running this country (hint: it's not you and me).

Me gusta Mexico

Michelle, author of the You Will Anyway blog, sent me her latest photos from Tepoztlán, the town where she has been teaching English. Here's a sample:


Have a great time, Michelle, but do what you want--you will anyway!

Ahmadinejad isn't Iran any more than Bush is the US

Maybe less so, according to Chris Floyd:
First of all, Ahmadinejad's malevolent blather does not represent the entirety of the Iranian people--or even the entirety of the Iranian government, as even a cursory examination of current Tehran politics shows--any more than George W. Bush and his rapacious gang of cronies and cranks represents the entirety of the American people. (Although at the moment, Bush has far greater control over the American government than Ahmadinejad has in Iran.)

Second, and perhaps most importantly, it is highly unlikely that Ahmadinejad would have ever been elected president if Bush and his crony-cranks had not relentlessly and ruthlessly undercut every attempt by the moderate government of Khatami to forge a new relationship between Iran and the United States. The greatest opportunity came after September 11, of course, when Iran sought to help the US break al Qaeda, a common enemy that threatened both nations. But Bush and his circle, as we now know, were not interested in breaking al Qaeda or fighting terrorism; they were interested in "establishing a military footprint" in Iraq, as part of a wide-ranging plan to "project dominance" over the energy resources of the Middle East and Central Asia, while fomenting "creative destruction" throughout the region, in the belief that when the resultant rivers of blood had at last subsided, there would be a series of obedient client regimes installed in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere--including, in the dreams of some of the crankiest cronies, new, even more obedient American satraps in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Floyd's excellent article includes quotes from Khatami and the Iranian press refuting Ahmadinejad's more outrageous statements. A sample:
"The persecution of Jews, just like Nazism, is a Western phenomenon. In the east, we have always lived side by side with them. And we follow a religion that states that the death of an innocent person is the death of all of humanity," Khatami said

Ahmadinejad also came under attack from the prominent and centrist Shargh newspaper, which complained that "the Holocaust has, as wished for by the president, become a topic of our foreign policy. The Jewish question was never a problem for Iran or Islam, and is a Christian-European problem," the paper argued. "Don't we have enough with the nuclear question, human rights, free elections and political in-fighting, so do we need to add another problem to that?" it said, saying Iran would be better off "thinking of the creation of a Palestinian state rather than the destruction of Israel."
Not to brag (much), but I saw this coming almost three years ago:
Iran poses a dilemma for the Bushies: no single autocratic leader to demonize. The country is run by a combination of democratically-elected secular leaders and Islamic clerics. I get the feeling that Bush is hoping for a revolution to overthrow the existing government not because it is so bad, but because it isn't bad enough. Another Iranian revolution might generate a Saddam-type figure on whom the Bushies could focus hatred, eventually leading to Bush's next fix for his war addiction.
Why does this no-good simpleton rich boy get everything he wants?

Some reward

NY Times/AP headline: Bush Rewards Ally Pakistan With Visit.
Bush arrived amid extraordinary security for an overnight stay, following a surprise visit to Afghanistan and three days in Pakistan's neighbor and formal rival, India. Air Force One landed after dark with its lights off and window shades pulled down to conceal the plane.
A surprise party, I guess. And "former" rival? All differences and potential conflicts between India and Pakistan have been resolved? Who (besides AP) knew???

Of course, aWol put his foot in his mouth before he even got there:
"I will meet with President Musharraf to discuss Pakistan's vital cooperation in the war on terror and our efforts to foster economic and political development so that we can reduce the appeal of radical Islam," Bush said shortly before taking off for Pakistan. "I believe that a prosperous, democratic Pakistan will be a steadfast partner for America, a peaceful neighbor for India and a force for freedom and moderation in the Arab world."

Later, White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters that Bush meant to say Pakistan would be a force for freedom and moderation in the Muslim world. Pakistan is not an Arab country.
Perhaps that was intentional, intended to distract from the basic preposterousness of the idea that a nuclear dictatorship like Pakistan has any chance of being a force for freedom and moderation.

Hey George: Why don't you reward US by staying in Pakistan? Just stroll down the streets of Karachi or Lahore or Damadola, soaking up the love.

Teacher suspended for remarks about W

AURORA, Colorado (AP) -- About 150 high school students walked out of class to protest a decision to put a teacher on leave while they investigate remarks he made about President Bush in class, including that some people compare Bush to Adolf Hitler.
It's true! I do it all the time. Heck, I'm going to do it now! I'll bet teacher's in Nazi Germany got suspended for comparing Hitler to Genghis Khan.

Here's a sample of the wingnut right's reaction. The Brownshirts are out in force over this one.

Too many outrages

Sometimes I think I need to focus; other times it seems as if there is any purpose to this blog, it is to help make you aware of just how many outrageous things are happening on every front. Of course, that requires way more time than I have. The best I can do sometimes is just a quick summary of some of these things, even though each is worth thousands of pages. Here are some of today's outrages:
  • Predictably, the Bushies are arguing that McCain's anti-torture bill doesn't apply to the people we're actually torturing.
  • As water, a resource far more precious than oil, slowly disappears into the west, a former lobbyist for heavily-subsidized California farmers is making sure that his old employers get all the water they need and much more.
  • AWol, as predicted, is hyping outsourcing in India. Here's an idea--let's outsource the presidency! I'm sure there are a billion Indians who could run this country better than he does, and for a lot less money.
  • Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution points out that American outrage (government and media) about the Dujail executions for which Saddam Hussein is being tried was non-existent when he was our ally.
  • The Senate approved the renewal of the Patriot Act yesterday, with only cosmetic changes. Only ten senators stood up for our rights: Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Carl Levin (D-MI), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Ron Wyden (D-OR), James Jeffords (I-VT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Russ Feingold (D-WI), and Robert Byrd (D-WV). Daniel Inouye (D-HI) didn't vote. Why does the US Senate hate us?
  • Of course, the Bush quagmires in Iraq, Afghanistan and New Orleans are just as bad or worse than ever.

From Tom Toles.

From Boondocks.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign...


From the Freewayblogger. Read his story about the Gulf War, a reminder for anyone who thinks Bush Sr. was any better than his idiot son. A little smarter, perhaps, and constrained slightly by a Democratic congress and a four-year term, but still a genocidal maniac just like junior.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

About that nuke deal with India

Bush really had no right to make it.
First, the United States has no authority to grant such an exemption on its own. The NPT is a treaty signed by 187 nations; it is enforced by the International Atomic Energy Agency; and it is, in effect, administered by the five nations that the treaty recognizes as nuclear powers (the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France). This point is not a legal nicety. If the United States can cut a separate deal with India, what is to prevent China or Russia from doing the same with Pakistan or Iran? If India demands special treatment on the grounds that it's a stable democracy, what is to keep Japan, Brazil, or Germany from picking up on the precedent?

Second, the India deal would violate not just international agreements but also several U.S. laws regulating the export of nuclear materials.

In other words, an American president who sought to make this deal would, or should, detect a myriad of political actors that might protest or block it—mainly the U.N. Security Council, the Nuclear Suppliers' Group, and the U.S. Congress. Not just as a legal principle but also as a practical consideration, these actors must be notified, cajoled, mollified, or otherwise bargained with if the deal has a chance of coming to life.

The amazing thing is, President Bush just went ahead and made the pledge, without so much as the pretense of consultation—as if all these actors, with their prerogatives over treaties and laws (to say nothing of their concerns for very real dilemmas), didn't exist.

Peak oil

Stuart at The Oil Drum presents a plethora of reasons why world peak oil is happening right now, plus or minus a year or two.

Shooting blind

Trying to drive his 18 percent popularity even lower, Useless Dick told us today that we need to save more.
"The American dream begins with saving money and that should begin on the very first day of work," Cheney told a conference here exploring how to encourage people to boost savings and be better prepared for retirement.
Spoken like a guy who spends most of his time in an undisclosed location, where he wouldn't know that most jobs, if you can find one, don't pay you a penny for at least two weeks.

The genocide road show continues

Pakistani physicist Faheem Hussain writes in Counterpunch about aWol's impending visit to his country:
As I left my office this evening I saw with apprehension three sinister dark helicopter gunships patrolling low over Islamabad. I wondered who they were protecting. Then I realised that a murderer, in fact a mass murderer, will be in town tomorrow. But the helicopters were not there to protect the people of Islamabad from this murderer but they were there to protect the murderer from the wrath of the people of the world.

Tomorrow the most hated man in the world will be in town and will be welcomed by our President.
...
Tomorrow there will be in Islamabad a man whose hands are covered in the blood of the innocents massacred in Afghanistan, in Rafah, Jenin, Jabaliya, Gaza, Najaf, Fallujah, Samarrah, etc. The killing in Iraq continues. Not content with creating chaos in Iraq with a daily death toll of more than a hundred, Bush is now intent on attacking Iran. He is not only a murderer but a pyrotechnician. Nero does not hold a candle to him Nero was content to see Rome burn but this madman wants to see the whole of the Middle East burn.

Arundhati Roy in an excellent article in the Guardian today (1 March) said that Bush is not welcome in India. Equally he is not welcome in Pakistan. If it wasn't for the complete security blockade of Islamabad and if there was democracy (that so much abused concept) and freedom of assembly in Pakistan, Bush would be welcomed by demonstrations against his policies in the US and worldwide. There is no country in the world, outside the United States, where he can move freely and where he will not face demonstrations. However much his security detail and his ever-obliging hosts try to shield him, he knows that he is an unwelcome guest wherever he goes.
Hussain can be forgiven for thinking that aWol can actually move freely here. He needs his bubble here too.

Roberts trumps Stossel

A few weeks ago, I impugned the intelligence of ABC's grandstander John Stossel. Today, Paul Craig Roberts backs me up:
In debunking Lou Dobbs' concern with US jobs lost to offshore outsourcing, Stossel invokes the California-based company, Collabnet. He quotes the CEO's claim that outsourcing saves his company money and lets him hire more Americans. Turning to Collabnet's web page, it is very interesting to see the employment opportunities that the company posts for the US and for India.

In India, Collabnet has openings for 8 engineers, a sales engineer, a technical writer, and a tele-marketing representative. In the US, Collabnet has openings for one engineer, a receptionist/office assistant, and positions in marketing, sales, services, and operations. Collabnet is a perfect example of what Lou Dobbs and I report: the engineering and design jobs move abroad, and Americans are employed to sell and market the foreign made products.
...
Stossel simply does not know enough economics to be aware that he is being used. The bought-and-paid-for-economists are simply earning their living and their grants by serving the interests of corporate outsourcers.

From Ares.

From Ingrid Rice.

From Mike Keefe.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Disassembling yet again

In Bushspeak, "disassemble" means to lie. And while he's no expert on English, he certainly is on "disassembling." AP has proof that he lied his smirk off about Katrina preparations:
In dramatic and sometimes agonizing terms, federal disaster officials warned
President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees, put lives at risk in New Orleans' Superdome and overwhelm rescuers, according to confidential video footage.

Bush didn't ask a single question during the final briefing before Katrina struck on Aug. 29, but he assured soon-to-be-battered state officials: "We are fully prepared."

The footage — along with seven days of transcripts of briefings obtained by The Associated Press — show in excruciating detail that while federal officials anticipated the tragedy that unfolded in New Orleans and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, they were fatally slow to realize they had not mustered enough resources to deal with the unprecedented disaster.

Linked by secure video, Bush's confidence on Aug. 28 starkly contrasts with the dire warnings his disaster chief and a cacophony of federal, state and local officials provided during the four days before the storm.
...
Bush declared four days after the storm, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees" that gushed deadly flood waters into New Orleans. But the transcripts and video show there was plenty of talk about that possibility — and Bush was worried too.
Imagine how much better off we'd be if our government were only at its historical average levels of incompetence and corruption, rather than the record-shattering levels we're seeing now.

Gulag

Searching my blog archives, I see that three times in my four years of blogging I have compared the American Gulag, Gitmo, Bagram, Abu Graib and the rest of the sordid mess, to what I read about the Soviet gulag in the books of Alexander Solzhenitsyn (here, here, and here).

Yesterday, Chris Floyd did a more thorough job of making that comparison. Here's an excerpt:
When I read the passage below from Moazzam Begg's account of his years in Bush's Terror War prisons, I had a strange feeling of dislocation: it was as if 30 years had suddenly fallen away and I was back in high school, reading Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago in stunned disbelief at the hideous cruelty inflicted on the prisoners -- deliberately, as a carefully calculated instrument of state policy. And all of it done in the name of national security, of course, to protect the nation against "terrorists" and "traitors."

Solzhenitsyn's books -- not just the factual Gulag but also the deep-delving fiction of his middle years, the powerful First Circle and Cancer Ward -- were enormous influences on my own understanding of politics, power and morality. Years later, I was in Moscow when he returned to Russia from his long exile, having outlasted the system of state terror that had consumed so many of his compatriots. However much I had come to disagree with some of his political positions on certain issues, it was a still a moment of triumph for the deeper truths and moral courage that he continued -- and continues -- to represent.

How sickening, then, to find myself last Saturday reading of the precisely the same kind of state terror that Solzhenitsyn described (and survived) once again being inflicted on innocent people -- and this time in my name, under the flag of my country, at the express order of the leaders of my government. Bush is trying to turn us all into the kind of quiet collaborationists and cowed enablers of atrocity that we habitually decry when speaking of the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany: "Oh, how could they have let such awful things go on? Why did they stand silently by? How could they swallow all those monstrous lies? I would never have stood for that kind of thing!"
Actually, I think Floyd is giving a lot of Americans too much credit. They don't habitually decry the Soviets--those who do only do so because they were "communists," something they don't understand at all--just something they've been conditioned to hate. I doubt if most Americans are aware of the works of Solzhenitsyn, or that the vast majority of the victims of the gulag were neither criminals nor enemies of the state. They don't know that torture isn't a way to get information; it is a means of social control, and eventually becomes an end in itself. Even worse, they don't know that they don't know this stuff.

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A picture says more words than Bush knows



Laura to Condi: Ha ha! I get to sleep with him tonight!
Karzai to Laura: That's what you think.

Bunning refutes Patrick Henry

"Civil liberties do not mean much when you are dead." -- Sen. Jim Bunning (Repug-Kentucky). Millions of prisoners in gulags past and present would agree that it is quite possible to have neither liberty nor life. But this country was based, in its founding documents, on the principle that life and liberty are equally inalienable rights. Senator Bunning took an oath to uphold the Constitution, of which the fourth amendment is an integral part. His quote, above, indicates that he doesn't take that oath seriously. As far as I'm concerned, this shows greater disrespect for this country than if he were to take a crap on the flag in the capitol rotunda.

The Senate just approved cosmetic "improvements" to the Patriot Act, with only real patriots Russ Feingold, Robert Byrd, Tom Harkin and James Jeffords insisting that real changes to Bush's version of Hitler's Enabling Act are needed. Like the Patriot Act, the Enabling Act had a euphemistic title (Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and the Reich). But Bush outdid Hitler by having the name of the bill be an acronym ("Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism" -- USA PATRIOT).

WKRP in Iraq

I used to enjoy watching the sitcom "WKRP in Cincinnati." One of the most memorable episodes was the one about Thanksgiving. Mr. Carlson, the bumbling station owner, decides to try running a promotion himself, without the help of his more competent station manager Andy Travis. He tells the station staff to go on location in downtown Cincinnati on Thanksgiving for a live report. They all watch and report as a plane flies overhead towing a WKRP banner. They see objects falling out of the plane, too small and fast to be skydivers. Suddenly, one hits the ground. Newsman Les Nessman says "Oh my god, they're turkeys!" Soon dead turkeys are littered all over downtown Cincinnati, courtesy of and covered live by station WKRP. Carlson thought that turkeys could fly and figured he was providing free Thanksgiving turkeys to the people of Cincinnati.

Somehow I see that as a metaphor for the war in Iraq. I don't mean to imply that Iraqis are turkeys in the frequently-used pejorative sense. It's just that, like the turkeys, they've been removed from the relative (if temporary) security they had (on the farm or in Saddam's Iraq) and been tossed to the winds and asked to do the impossible. Today, the NY Times is blaming the turkeys:
If Iraq can still be saved from its consuming hatreds, at least some of these major Shiite leaders will have to rise to the moment and abruptly change their ways. Kurdish leaders can help by pledging to withhold their support for Mr. Jaafari's renomination unless he agrees to a broadly representative national government. And Sunni leaders will have to embrace and take part in such a government, accepting the fact that they are a minority in the population and must get used to playing a secondary, though still significant, role.

If civil war broke out, innocent Shiite and Sunni civilians would suffer first, but the repercussions could spread far beyond Iraq's borders. The Shiite south would be further propelled into the political orbit of Iran, and Kurds in the north would claim independence, probably drawing in Turkey. The oil-free western and central Sunni area would be left impoverished, a potential no man's land that could become a home base for terrorists operating around the globe.

Iraq's elected leaders can still save their country. They must now prove that they want to. Time is rapidly running out.
Considering the role that the NY Times played in helping Carlson push the turkeys out of the plane, it seems pretty crass for the paper to be telling them to fly now. They can't fly. And flying above them telling them to until the plane's fuel runs out isn't going to help. (That's my metaphorical way of saying that we still should bring the troops home. Their presence in Iraq never has been and never could be part of the solution to Iraq's problems, because for three years it has been Iraq's biggest problem. The part about the plane's fuel running out is less metaphorical and more literal.)

Maybe they should get the education first...

Support the troops; bring them home. A poll of U.S. troops in Iraq shows that 29 percent favor immediate withdrawal, 22 percent favor withdrawal within six months, and 21 percent call for withdrawal between six months and a year from now. All told, over half favor getting out within six months, and 72 percent want out within a year. Too bad Congress doesn't support the troops.

Why the troops feel this way is strange:
Asked to assess the relative importance of the different justifications for the war articulated by Bush over the last several years, three in four soldiers said "establish(ing) a democracy that could be a model for the Arab world" -- the justification most recently cited by Bush -- was neither the "main" nor even a "major reason" for the U.S. intervention.

More than 90 percent also did not accept the justification most cited by the administration before the war -- to enforce U.N. resolutions requiring the destruction or removal of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) from Iraq. Less than five percent of respondents cited that as the "main" or a "major reason."
So far, so good. But then there's this:
Remarkably, the two justifications most frequently mentioned by the troops were those that were discredited after the invasion. Forty-one percent said stopping "Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq" was the "main reason," while another 36 percent said it was a "major reason." At the same time, 35 percent said "retaliat(ing) for Saddam's role in the 9/11 attacks" was the "main reason", and 50 percent called it a "major reason."
And I thought that William Safire was the last person on earth who believed that nonsense.

In other poll news, W's job-approval rating is now at 34 percent, down 8 points from January. Nevertheless, he's still the most popular selected official in the administration by a wide margin: Dick Cheney comes in at 18 percent approval.

(via Bob Harris)

He doesn't call himself Tom Tomorrow for nothing...

The master of the verbose cartoon reprises one from the spring of 2003, two weeks after the start of the Iraq war:


BTW, TT has a new book coming out:

Thrilled and enthralled

AWol in Kabul: "It’s such a thrill to come to a country which is dedicating itself to the dignity of every person who lives here."

As opposed to the hellhole he left behind, I guess.


Looks like they've got plans for later. George always was a sucker for a man in a cool hat.

[Bush] added that "we like stories of young girls going to school for the first time, so they can realize their potential. We appreciate a free press. We are enthralled when we see an entrepreneurial class grow up."
Yeah, George likes stories, alright. "My Pet Goat," for one. I suggest he have Condi read him the stories I linked to in that quote.