Bob's Links and Rants

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Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Sorry--I couldn't get Blogger to work today until just now. I'll try to remember some of the stuff I wanted to link to:
  • Riverbend's report on the Shiite fundamentalist crackdown on World Cup fever in Iraq.
  • The WSWS report on the corporate takeover and police-state tactics at the World Cup in Germany.
  • The WaPo reports that mining the Canadian oil sands is causing an "unexpectedly high environmental toll." Unexpected only if you never had a clue as to how they are processed. In a sane world, the precious fresh water and virgin forest being destroyed would be valued WAY above the sludgy muck necessary to keep from having to negotiate the American way of life. Did you know that the US imports more oil from Canada than from any other country?
  • Speaking of negotiating, Condiliar offers to talk to the Iranians, on the condition that they concede every point before the talks start.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Shiloh Nouvel Jolie Pitt

I try to stay out of the celebrity gossip, but I left a comment on WIIIAI's blog about Bradgelina's baby girl. I suggested that Shiloh was an appropriate name, since "Antietam" is a boy's name. Then it occurred to me that the other name for the Battle of Shiloh, fought near the Tennessee-Mississippi border in April 1862, was "Pittsburg Landing."

Googling the news, I found only two articles which mentioned this, neither of which suggested that this may have affected the choice of the name. In fact, the Telegraph (UK) suggests that the parents are pretty ignorant:
The couple may not be aware that Shiloh was also the name of a major battle in the American Civil War.

The Battle of Shiloh, also known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing, was fought on April 6 and 7, 1862, in Tennessee. Nearly 24,000 died.
Personally, I prefer to think of Brad and Angelina as being clever and somewhat insensitive to their child's feelings, rather than ignorant.

And, for the record, I think "Suri" is a pretty name.


Robert Parry points out that, in addition to the obvious war crime of aggressive war, aWol's lies and propaganda have contributed to the atmosphere that makes atrocities like Haditha possible--a crime for which others have been tried:
Milosevic's violent rhetoric and deceptive propaganda were two factors cited in his indictment. One count alleged that the fiery Serb leader "controlled, manipulated or otherwise utilized Serbian state-run media to spread exaggerated and false messages of ethnically based attacks by Bosnian Muslims and Croats against Serb people intended to create an atmosphere of fear and hatred among Serbs."

In Bush's Iraq case, his legal responsibility is parallel though the facts are far from identical.
As a result of Bush’s incessant propaganda, a poll of 944 U.S. military personnel in Iraq--taken in January and February 2006--found that 85 percent believed the U.S. mission in Iraq was mainly "to retaliate for Saddam's role in the 9/11 attacks." Seventy-seven percent said a chief war goal was "to stop Saddam from protecting al-Qaeda in Iraq."
Bush's rhetorical excesses, though primarily designed to build and maintain a political consensus behind the war at home, had the predictable effect of turning loose a thoroughly propagandized and heavily armed U.S. military force on the Iraqi population.

Pumped-up by Bush's false claims linking Iraq to 9/11 and his later warnings about al-Qaeda's scheme for a global terrorist empire, U.S. soldiers have charged into Iraqi towns and cities with revenge on their minds.
Of course, massacres and other atrocities ALWAYS happen in wars, which is one of many reasons why wars shouldn't be started. Those who willingly start wars are the worst criminals on earth, guilty of thousands of counts of murder, assault and battery, treason, theft, perjury, wanton destruction of property, and pretty much every other crime on the books.

Killing civilians as policy

From the Independent:
More than half a century after hostilities ended in Korea, a document from the war's chaotic early days has come to light - a letter from the US ambassador to Seoul, informing the State Department that American soldiers would shoot refugees approaching their lines.

The letter, dated the day of the army's mass killing of South Korean refugees at No Gun Ri in 1950, is the strongest indication yet that such a policy existed for all US forces in Korea, and the first evidence that that policy was known to upper ranks of the US government.

"If refugees do appear from north of US lines they will receive warning shots, and if they then persist in advancing they will be shot," wrote the ambassador, John J Muccio, in his message to the Assistant Secretary of State, Dean Rusk.
Estimates vary on the number of dead at No Gun Ri. American soldiers' estimates ranged from under 100 to "hundreds" dead; Korean survivors say about 400, mostly women and children, were killed at the village 100 miles (160km) south-east of Seoul, the South Korean capital. Hundreds more refugees were killed in later, similar episodes, survivors say.
The Pentagon concluded that the No Gun Ri shootings, which lasted three days, were "an unfortunate tragedy", not a deliberate killing. It suggested that panicky soldiers, acting without orders, opened fire because they feared that an approaching line of families, baggage and farm animals was concealing enemy troops.
"With this additional piece of evidence, the Pentagon report's interpretation [of No Gun Ri] becomes difficult to sustain," Mr Conway-Lanz argues in his book, Collateral Damage, published by Routledge.
That was one way to save those 400 Koreans from "godless communism," I guess.

From Emad Hajjaj (Jordan).

From David Horsey.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Dark thoughts for a warm weekend

Paul Craig Roberts is clearly pissed off:
Where does the danger to the world reside? In Iran, a small religious country where the family is intact and the government is constrained by religious authority and ancient traditions, or in the US where propaganda rules and the powerful executive branch has removed itself from accountability by breaking the constitutional restraints on its power?

Why is the US superpower orchestrating fear of puny Iran?

The US government has spent the past half century interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, overthrowing or assassinating their chosen leaders and imposing its puppets on foreign peoples. To what country has Iran done this, or Iraq, or North Korea?
The former terrible tyrant ruler of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, is on trial for killing 150 people. The US government murdered 500,000 Iraqi children prior to Bush's invasion. When the US government murders people, whether Serbs, Branch Davidians at Waco, or Iraqi women and children, it is "collateral damage." But we put Saddam Hussein on trial for putting down rebellions.

Gentle reader, do you believe that the Bush Regime will not shoot you down in the streets if you have a rebellion?
BTW, the killing in Dujail, scene of the crime in Saddam's trial, hasn't ended. From Patrick Cockburn:
Dujail, 40 miles north of Baghdad, is the Shia village where Saddam Hussein [carried] out a judicial massacre, killing 148 people after an attempt to assassinate him in 1982. He is on trial for the killings. The villagers are now paying a terrible price for giving evidence at his trial.

In the past few months Sunni insurgents have been stopping them at an improvised checkpoint on the road to Baghdad. Masked gunmen glance at their identity cards and if under place of birth is written "Dujail" they kill them. So far 20 villagers have been murdered and 20 have disappeared.

Smaller is better

Over 60 years ago, an anthropologist working for the US Department of Agriculture did a study comparing two farming communities: One surrounded by small, independently-owned farms, the other surrounded by large, corporate-owned farms. His conclusion?
The study showed unequivocally that the town surrounded by the small farms was far superior by every measure that I could devise.
How so?
Large scale farm operations was immediately seen to take an important part in the creation of the conditions found in Arvin. Its direct causative effect is to create a community made up of a few persons of high economic position, and a mass of individuals whose economic status and whose security and stability are low, and who are economically dependent directly on the few. In the framework of American culture, more particularly that of industrialized farming, this creates immediately a situation where community participation and leadership, economic well-being, and business activities are relatively impoverished.

The small-farm community of Dinuba was supporting 62 separate businesses with a volume of trade of $4.3 million, while the large-farm community of Arvin had 35 established business establishments; expenditures for household supplies and building equipment were over three times greater in the small-farm community; Dinuba had a larger dollar-volume of agricultural production; over one-half of the breadwinners in the small-farm community were independently employed, while in the large-farm community less than one-fifth were so employed: public services in the small-farm community were far better; the small farm community had two newspapers while the large-farm community had one, and the small-farm community had twice the number of organizations for civic improvement and recreation.
Of course, the big agribusiness firms and their hired Congresscritters deep-sixed the report and ignored its recommendations. The well-being of most Americans was not their concern, and never has been.

Heather Gray, writing about this on Counterpunch, notes that this accumulation of agricultural power into the hands of a tiny number of huge corporations has gone international:
What we have witnessed in the past century, of course, is the Walmartization of the American economy and it is being applied to American foreign policy as well as through trade initiatives and the likes of the World Trade Organization. Under the NAFTA agreement, for example, the U.S. forced Mexico to change its land tenure laws allowing for foreigners to purchase land for the first time and to open up more intensive dumping of industrially produced cheap corn and other products on the Mexican markets. As we expected, the trade policies, resulted in the undercutting of prices and destabilization of small farmers. This has had a devastating impact on Mexico's excellent small farming communities and likely one of the reasons we are seeing larger numbers of Mexican economic refugees attempting to come across the U.S. borders. The "poor" immigrants are unfairly blamed for disruption when the finger needs to be pointed at corporate America and the U.S. trade policies.

Concentrated wealth is not healthy for any community--rural or urban--and is counter-productive to quality of life and democratic principles. The current U.S. paradigm of support for excessive wealth and trickle down economics doesn't work, is not good for anyone. A new paradigm of common wealth and resource distribution is necessary to let human genius have an opportunity to flourish and be sustainable. Americans need to pay attention to this and stop bowing to greed.

Memorial Day

On this day, let us remember the many thousands of Americans who died protecting our freedoms--and the many thousands more who died for lies or oil or empire.

We should also remember the millions who have died worldwide in wars of which Americans know little and seemingly care less. The deadliest current war isn't Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Darfur, or even the so-called "war on terror." As Time reports, some four million people have died in the bloody Congo conflict since 1998. And do you know what the bloodiest war of the 19th Century was? The U.S. Civil War? One of the Napoleonic wars, or even all of them put together? the U.S. wars against Mexico or Spain? The Franco-Prussian War? How about none of the above. The bloodiest conflict in the world in the 19th Century, by far, was the Taiping Rebellion in China from 1851 to 1864. Estimates of the death toll range from 20 million to 50 million--challenging the totals of World War II for the title of worst war ever. And I never heard of it until it was mentioned in passing in a book about the California gold rush.

So let's not spend too much time remembering, when there are so many things we still don't know!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

"Were we kicked out because of the apple?" "No--because we're undocumented."
From Ares (Mexico).

From David Horsey.

From Stephane Peray (Thailand).

So quit already

Torture Gonzales and other "Justice" Department crooks apparently "threatened" to resign if aWol made them give back the documents they stole from Congressman William Jefferson.

So give 'em back! Given the recent occupants of the office, we'd all be a lot better off without any attorney general at all.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Chances are

Floyd Rudmin, a Norwegian professor, calculates the odds of effectively finding terrorists using the NSA's big-net approach as being practically nil. Making the mesh fine enough to catch any reasonable percentage of the tiny number of terrorists who might actually be in this country, by including enough suspicious words or contacts, will catch such a huge number of non-terrorists that they'll still be searching for needles in haystacks. And tens of thousands of us will be the haystacks, hauled off in the middle of the night to be interrogated and held indefinitely (Halliburton has been given a contract to build new detention centers here in the US).

Rudmin explains the probabilities in some detail. As a simple example, suppose the NSA used the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City as their model for terrorists. The bombers bought fertilizers, went to hardware stores, and rented trucks. So did thousands of other people. The 9/11 hijackers, if you buy the official story, flew on planes, stayed in motels, and frequented strip clubs. They were hardly alone in any of that.

And can you imagine the NSA trying to make a list of words to identify terrorists? Bomb, Osama, kill... Who knows? How many non-terrorists use those words at least occasionally? Just about all of them, I'd guess.

Anyway, the point is that the big-net approach is useless--for catching terrorists. However, as a means of repression, and for quickly targeting political opponents, it's got a lot going for it.

The genius of Donald Rumsfeld

From CNN:
Rumsfeld said that "history will decide" if the United States went into Iraq with the right troop level. But he defended the number of troops used, saying all the generals in the chain of command -- save one, then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki -- agreed with it.

"If you have too many troops, you run two risks," he said. "You're too heavy-footed, you're too intrusive, you feed the insurgency because you look like an occupying force. The second risk is you create a dependency -- you do all the work for the Iraqis instead of pushing them and having them do all the work.

"If you have too few, then the environment is such that the political process or the economy can't go forward."
Somehow, by his own reasoning, it would seem that Rummy managed to have both too few and too many troops in Iraq at the same time.

Of course, anyone with a lick of sense or any respect for international law knows that the proper number of US troops in Iraq should have been, and should be, zero. And there's one too few defense secretaries on trial for war crimes and treason right now.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Bolivarian University of Venezuela

The Washington Post has an article about the higher end of Hugo Chavez's education plans in Venezuela: The Bolivarian University of Venezuela, free and open to all. The goal is to eventually have one million students enrolled at various campuses around the nation, and to develop local leaders in government, business, health care, and more.

The Post focuses, perhaps appropriately, on the leftist bent of the University and how its courses tend to fit right in with Chavez's plans for the country. Besides stating the basic facts, however, they don't pay any attention to the idea that Venezuela is the one place in the world where $70 a barrel oil is actually improving life for the majority of the population.

Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution notes the serious incongruity in these two sentences from the article:
Most of the buildings, including those on the main Caracas campus, once served as headquarters for the state petroleum company, an institution purged of many anti-Chavez employees after a crippling strike against the government in 2002. Offices once reserved for executives who favored free-market economics are now decorated with posters of the socialist icon Che Guevara.
Jonathan's point is that there is nothing "free-market" about a "state petroleum company." This highlights the main point of Dean Baker's little book "The Conservative Nanny State" (available for free download here): Right-wingers don't believe in keeping the government out of controlling markets--they just want the government to control markets for their benefit.

From Lloyd Dangle.

Sting operation

From Mr. Fish.

From Clay Bennett.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Quotes du jour

I am very concerned about the necessity of a Saturday night raid on Congressman Jefferson’s Capitol Hill Office in pursuit of information that was already under subpoena and at a time when those subpoenas are still pending and all the documents that have been subpoenaed were being preserved.

The Founding Fathers were very careful to establish in the Constitution a Separation of Powers to protect Americans against the tyranny of any one branch of government. They were particularly concerned about limiting the power of the Executive Branch.

Insofar as I am aware, since the founding of our Republic 219 years ago, the Justice Department has never found it necessary to do what it did Saturday night, crossing this Separation of Powers line, in order to successfully prosecute corruption by Members of Congress... Nothing I have learned in the last 48 hours leads me to believe there was any necessity to change the precedent established over those 219 years.
-- Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL)

What happened Saturday night... is the most blatant violation of the Constitutional Separation of Powers in my lifetime... I am shaken by this abuse of power.
-- Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA)

I think this is really outrageous.
-- Rep. David Dreier (R-CA)

The WSWS investigates the raid of Congressman William Jefferson's (D-LA) office by the FBI Saturday night. My question is--now that these Repugs have noticed the unconstitutional behavior of the administration, this "high crime," in other words, are they ready to take the only reasonable action that could stop it: impeachment?

Meanwhile, Torture Gonzales continues to do the seemingly impossible--make us miss John Ashcroft:
Defending the raid in response to the outcry from members of the Senate and House, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Monday would only say, "I admit that these were unusual steps that were taken in response to an unusual set of circumstances." On Tuesday he claimed that his office had decided the search of Jefferson's office was "absolutely essential to move forward with that investigation."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Quotes du jour

"Hey, we've gone through more hardships than the Jews and Charlie Brown put together." -- Homer Simpson

"It's going, going, and, like America's credibility on the world stage, that ball is gone!" -- Baseball announcer on the Simpsons

Car sharing in Ann Arbor

From the Ann Arbor News:
The University of Michigan wants to bring car sharing to campus in time for next fall, hoping to sign a deal with a national company like Zipcar, Inc.

Details are still up in the air, but the idea is to make car sharing, a trend on some campuses and major cities, another transportation option for professors, staff and students 21 and older.

Companies like Zipcar rent cars by the hour to members, who make arrangements over the Internet and use a credit card-like key to pick up the car from a designated parking lot. Gas is covered by the company and drivers don't need their own basic insurance. When they're done, they leave the car in the same spot they found it.
The founder of Zipcar, Robin Chase, was in town last week to give a talk about Zipcar and related ideas. Apparently she was here for another reason as well! The Ann Arbor Community Car Coop has been running a small car-sharing operation for a year or two, but the resources of the University and Zipcar could make it take off.

From Clay Bennett.

From Henry Payne.

From Jen Sorensen.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Bush Quagmire One continues

The airstrikes brought the death toll of militants, Afghan forces, coalition soldiers and civilians to as many as 285 since Wednesday, according to coalition and Afghan figures. The storm of violence that erupted last week in the south was among the deadliest combat in Afghanistan since the ouster of the Taliban regime in 2001.
-- NY Times. The military, of course, claims that most of the people they killed were "Taliban."

Torture Gonzales versus the Constitution

From AP:
But he added that the First Amendment right of a free press should not be absolute when it comes to national security. If the government's probe into the NSA leak turns up criminal activity, prosecutors have an "obligation to enforce the law."

"It can't be the case that that right trumps over the right that Americans would like to see, the ability of the federal government to go after criminal activity," Gonzales told ABC's "This Week."
The "criminal activity" he refers to is reporters reporting on the criminal activity of the government, in this case the NSA wiretaps.

Obviously it can't be done until this bunch of affirmative-action crooks (there seems to be one neofascist from every ethnic group in this administration) is out, but we need to seriously redefine what gets classified, and who classifies it. The fact that the cops are on their way to a particular location to arrest someone would seem to be legitimately classified information--a cop or reporter who calls the suspect to allow him to escape may be guilty of a crime. But informing the public that crimes have been committed and that the police are looking for the criminals can and should happen, as should the details of the arrest after it is completed. And informing a suspect that his phone has been tapped, legally and in accord with the Constitution, could be a crime. But informing the public that phones are tapped, and especially letting them know that phones are being tapped illegally, isn't a crime--it's a patriotic act. And practically speaking, making this knowledge public doesn't help the "terrorists;" it only helps those within the government doing the tapping.

After lying to us for over five years, the chutzpah displayed by the Bushies, still insisting that we just trust them, is amazing.

If there's a more despicable human being than Bush or Cheney, it's Condi

Condiliar did the talk shows yesterday (WIIIAI has more):
MR. RUSSERT: But Madam Secretary, you know the numbers as well as I do: 2,448 dead Americans, 18,088 wounded or injured. [Ed: I'll bet she didn't know the numbers that well.] And look at these numbers in terms of support for the war, the president’s handling of Iraq. When the war began in March of ‘03, it was 70 percent approval. It’s now down to 32. Less than one in three Americans support the president’s handling of the war in Iraq. What happened?

DR. RICE: I understand that Americans see on their screens violence. They continue to see Americans killed, and we mourn every death. These are very hard things to do. But I would ask that people remember why we are there. We are there because we are trying to—having overthrown a brutal dictator who was a destabilizing force in the Middle East, we’re trying to help the Iraqis create a stable foundation for democracy and a stable foundation for peace.
Actually, Dr. Rice is desparately hoping that Americans have completely forgotten why we are there--three lies. From aWol's letter to the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate, March 18, 2003:
I determine that:

(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither (A) adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor (B) likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and

(2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.
Iraq had no WMD's, so (1-A) it was not a threat, and (1-B) it was not violating UN resolutions (at least with regard to WMD's). Iraq also was (2) not involved in 9/11.

What Condiliar is asking, really, is that Americans remember only the latest lie.

And Condi is just totally befuddled as to why the Iranians might ask that we not attack them:
It, it’s certainly strange to talk about security guarantees in that circumstance. And I would say one other thing. I’ve never quite understood it. If this is a civil nuclear program, and supposed to give energy, what’s, what is with security guarantees? I thought this was supposed to be a civil nuclear program.

MR. RUSSERT: But in, in reality if you’re asking someone to stop developing a nuclear bomb, and they in turn say—through other diplomats at the U.N.—guarantee you will not topple their government if they do that, you won’t do that?

DR. RICE: I thought the Iranian position was that they weren’t developing a nuclear bomb? I thought the Iranian position was that they wanted civil nuclear power? So, so...

MR. RUSSERT: Well, you say they are.

DR. RICE: So, well, let’s, let’s pursue the question of do they want civil nuclear power? But Tim, the United States is not, first, being asked about security guarantees, and secondly it makes no sense in a context in which Iran is a central banker of terrorism and a force for instability in a region of, of great interest to us.
Dumbest "smart" woman ever. Geez, why would a country want guarantees that we not attack them, just because we've attacked two of its neighbors on bogus excuses in the past five years? There's some seriously screwed-up wiring in that PhD head of hers.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The president's number one priority is to protect the Constitution

If you liked my rant yesterday about Sen. Roberts' "You have no civil liberties if you are dead" quote, or even if you didn't, you might like Robert Parry's column on the exact same subject, written the day before mine. Parry points out:
As a trade-off for accepting Bush's unlimited powers, the American people have gotten assurances that Bush will make protecting them his top priority. Yet, the presidential oath says nothing about shielding the public from danger; rather it's a vow to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Preserve, protect and defend: Not destroy, shred and ignore.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

End the "war on terror"

As a followup to yesterday's post about how the "war on terror" was just what the terrorists ordered, Chris Floyd explains in detail what I've been suggesting for years--the only way to "win" a "war on terror" is to stop fighting it. Excerpt:
Both sides need the other in this insane global conflict--but ironically, only one side can actually stop the "war." Only the United States can cease to respond with massive military force all over the world to provocations from criminals on the fringe. Only the United States can say, "We are not fighting a war; we are dealing with criminal actions as they arise--while working feverishly on the diplomatic, social, political, cultural and economic fronts to address the conditions in which the particular set of crimes known as 'terrorism' are apt to arise. It is a complicated business, to be sure: hard work, often unrewarding, full of pitfalls and reverses--but we are wise enough and strong enough as a nation to see it through."

But this course--the only sensible, and only genuinely effective response to criminal actions of extremist groups--will never be undertaken by the Bush Faction, no matter who heads it. Nor by anyone else, of whatever political stripe, who buys into the militarist philosophy of an American dominance imposed on the world by force (either directly or through the more subtly implied but ever-present threat of force favored by "liberal" advocates of "soft power").

As long as the Bush Regime--or some other permutation of "Bushism"--is in power, the "war on terror" will never end. It will go on spawning new wars, real wars, like the horror in Iraq, the continuing conflict in Afghanistan, and the proxy war now raging in Somalia--where Bush-backed warlords (the old downers of Black Hawks; yes, we've changed sides, again) are pitched against Islamic militias. This blood-dimmed tide will keep rising: thousands, perhaps millions (if the hard-Right's dream of nuking Iran comes true) will be struck down by death and grief, and we will all keep falling deeper into the pit of a lamed and brutal life.

From John Deering.

Let's replace the Senate with the New School graduating class

Grads booed Sen. John McCain (R-Phony) when he spoke, against their wishes, at their graduation. One of the students made some caustic remarks about Senator Warmonger, but Jonathan Schwartz has the questions she should have asked.

From Jim Day.

From David Horsey.

From Michael Ramirez.

Ramirez is a disgusting right-wing cartoonist, and there can be no doubt that this cartoon is intended to mock those of us who prefer Patrick Henry ("Give me liberty or give me death!") to Senator Patrick Roberts ("You have no civil liberties if you are dead.") But Ramirez has made a point here that I'm sure he didn't intend: The government was already illegally spying on us before 9/11, while ignoring numerous warnings obtained legally. I read a quote last week, I think from some disgruntled ex-CIA guy, saying that when you're looking for a needle, the last thing you want to do is make the haystack larger. Wiretapping didn't stop 9/11.

And as the right wing is always so fond of reminding us, lots of people died to give us what freedoms we have to day--going back to England, through the Revolution, and in the Civil War. Heck, they'll even pretend that the American soldiers dying in the latest Iraq fiasco are somehow protecting our freedom. But now the wingnuts are willing to let the sacrifices of those two million or so Americans who died in those wars, and the millions more who fought and didn't die, all be for nought because 3000 Americans died on 9/11. "Freedom isn't free," their bumper stickers say. So why are they in such a hurry to give it away?

From Mark Cohen.

Kung Flu Chicken

Actually, CNN-Money's headline is better than mine: Why the chicken crossed the ocean--twice. The USDA has approved the import of canned chicken from China--provided the chicken being canned is American!
In other words, American chicken will travel across the ocean once and return cooked and canned--to be sent on its way to a supermarket shelf near you.

The U.S. is the world's largest poultry producer. Almost all of the chicken consumed by Americans last year, valued at $50 billion, was produced domestically at about 30,000 chicken farms across the country. Total chicken production in 2005 totaled about 35 billion pounds.

If the U.S. is already self-sufficient in meeting its own chicken demand, what's the economic rational behind this China deal?
The article quotes a couple of experts who don't really have an answer to that question; the only thing they can come up with was that it was something the Chinese wanted as part of a trade deal. I've got a few possible explanations:
  • The government believes that the trade deficit just isn't big enough, so we've got to start importing our own stuff.
  • Oil is still way too cheap for anyone to think of using it wisely.
  • Bird flu just isn't spreading fast enough, and Chinese birds haven't had much opportunity to contract American diseases.
  • Some Americans are still employed, and a few even get benefits. Something must be done!
The last one is probably closest to the truth. Paul Craig Roberts and others frequently write about how almost all new jobs in this country are ones that can't be outsourced: cleaning, mowing, flipping. I think our cheap-labor conservatives see this as a challenge. Expect in the future to see proposals for modular motel rooms which can be shipped to China for cleaning, modular lawns that can be sent to El Salvador for mowing, and burgers that can be sent to Bangladesh for flipping. (This chicken deal isn't a lot different from that.) W's "guest workers" will man the forklifts and drive the trucks to get everything to and from the docks.

The article doesn't say how the chicken is sent to China. I would guess that the birds are sent live, which would make the ships one of the worst PETA nightmares imaginable (not to mention how wonderful it must be to work on one of those ships). Otherwise, I guess they would be shipped frozen, meaning that a substantial amount of processing has already occurred, and huge amounts of energy are being wasted in keeping the meat frozen.

In any case, this seems to be about as clear an example as you can get that globalization has little to do with efficiency and everything to do with exploiting cheap labor.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Take away our leader, please!

President Bush seconds before being beamed up into a spaceship for a reverse lobotomy. We'll know in a few days if it did any good.

Quote du Jour

President Bush called for the National Guard to patrol the US/Mexican border. The guards will track down and find illegals. That's not their job. They're trained to defend our country--not track down and find people. Let's be honest, the Guard couldn't even track down and find President Bush when he was in the National Guard.
-- Jay Leno, via Past Peak

In a similar vein, WIIIAI suggests that we're using unmanned aerial drones on the border because pilotin' is work Americans just won't do.


The terrorists have won

Both of them: Bin Laden and Bush. Jonathan Schwartz notes that based on information in the official 9/11 report, Osama had hoped that the attack on the USS Cole in October 2000 would provoke a violent response, but decided to pursue something larger when it didn't:
According to the report, after the Cole attack,

...Bin Ladin anticipated U.S. military retaliation. He ordered the evacuation of the al Qaeda's Kandahar airport compound and fled...

There was no American strike. In February 2001, a source reported that an individual whom he identified as the big instructor (probably a reference to bin Ladin) complained frequently that the United States had not yet attacked. According to the source, Bin Ladin wanted the United States to attack, and if it did not he would launch something bigger.

That's on page 191. It sources this claim to "Intelligence report, Terrorism Activities, Oct. 1, 2001" (Chapter 6, footnote 126).
Bin Laden wanted a war; Bush wanted to start one (well, more than one, actually). I guess 9/11 was win-win for these guys, if not for the 3000 killed that day and the hundreds of thousands who have died since then in the so-called "war on terror."

Jonathan points out that the enemies that Bush and bin Laden are really trying to defeat aren't each other. For bin Laden, it's other Islamic jihadist movements; for Bush it's the Democrats and anyone in this country who might want to stop his imperialist agenda (two quite separate groups).

Headline News

Two headlines from the WaPo:

Thursday, May 18, 2006

W's immigration "plan:" More $ to the military-industrial complex

From Chris Floyd:
The NYT reports that Bush is limbering up the federal checkbook to funnel even more millions to masters of war like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, still feasting sumptuously off the bloated corpse of conquered Iraq. These fine purveyors of contemporary "defense" (who says irony is dead?) will soon string the border with all manner of hugely expensive high-tech gizmonics designed to keep the hemisphere's most desperate and vulnerable people from crossing over to take the slave-wage, no-benefit, no-protection jobs offered to them by, well, Bush's cronies and benefactors in big business and among the wealthy elite (whom he has recently larded with more tax-cut largess). It's a neat scam, really, a win-win situation: your corporate cronies get even more loot from the public treasury – and they still get the cheap Latino labor that keeps them in clover.
No matter what happens – if the border explodes in violent conflict and repression, if American politics is even further degraded and coarsened by hate and fearmongering – or if things just muddle along more or less as they are, with the occasional PR stunt to gull the rubes or stoke the base – the Bush Faction's cronies and ruling class comrades will contine to make out like bandits. It's precisely the same situation, the same scam, now operating in Iraq: hundreds of billions of public dollars are being transferred into the private coffers of the Bush Faction and its allies, a gargantuan windfall that will give them the money and power to dominate American society and politics for generations to come.

Four more Americans die in Bush Quagmire II

BAGHDAD, MAY 18-Four American soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter died today when when a roadside bomb struck their vehicle northwest of the capital, the U.S. military command announced. The names of the dead were not released.

The explosion was one of three deadly attacks launched around the country as Prime Minister-designate Nouri al-Maliki was preparing to unveil his new Cabinet.

The Conservative Nanny State

Economist Dean Baker has written a little book intended to debunk the myth that conservatives oppose government intervention in markets. He points out, rather conclusively I'd say, that for conservatives the whole point of government is to intervene in markets in such a way as to redirect money towards the wealthy (i.e., themselves). From the blurb for the book:
In his new book, economist Dean Baker debunks the myth that conservatives favor the market over government intervention. In fact, conservatives rely on a range of "nanny state" policies that ensure the rich get richer while leaving most Americans worse off. It's time for the rules to change. Sound economic policy should harness the market in ways that produce desirable social outcomes--decent wages, good jobs and affordable health care.
The book is available as a free PDF download! A short, easy, infuriating read, and definitely worth sharing.

From Bruce Plante.

More likely, to keep liberal ones away...

From R.J. Matson.

From Tom Toles.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Mexican War

I recently finished reading the book So Far from God: The U.S. War With Mexico, 1846-1848, written by historian John S. D. Eisenhower, son of the former President. As the immigration debate has heated up, many lefties have pointed out that the US stole most of what is now the American southwest--Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, California--from Mexico. I read the book in an attempt to learn just how true that was.

My basic conclusion--adding those states, or taking them from Mexico, was not a huge crime. The way it was done, however, was. Here are the details, as I understand it:

Mexico did not become independent from Spain until 1821. The war for independence had lasted eleven years, and was at least as much Mexicans fighting Mexicans as it was Mexicans fighting Spaniards. The people living in Mexico at the time were in four major ethic groups: 1) Spanish, born in Spain; 2) Creoles, of pure Spanish blood but born in Mexico; 3)Mestizos, of mixed Spanish and indigenous ("Indian") blood; and 4) the indigenous population. The main push for independence came from the Creoles fighting the Spanish. Both sides attempted to co-opt or simply use the other classes to achieve their ends. Independence was finally gained more because Spain faced other distractions elsewhere than because they were defeated by Mexican revolutionaries.

The end result was a huge, sparsely-populated nation with nasty ethnic divisions. The Catholic Church and various regional warlords generally had as much real power as the government in Mexico City (which changed constantly). Communication (which in the first half of the 19th century was pretty much synonymous with transportation) with the distant parts of the country was practically non-existent. Furthermore, the areas which eventually became parts of the US were sparsely populated, and few of the people living there had any political or emotional attachment to the new nation of Mexico. Soon, settlers from the growing giant to the northeast, the US, started moving into these territories, and there was little that Mexico could do to stop them.

The first area heavily settled was Texas. By the 1830's the American settlers far outnumbered both the indigenous and Mexican populations there. These Texans fought a nasty little war with Mexico, and proclaimed their independence in 1836. As more Americans moved in and fortified Texas, the chance of Mexico ever winning it back grew more remote. While this must have rankled some of the leaders in Mexico City, it became much worse when the Americans in Texas applied to Washington to become a state. Having a rebellious province was one thing; losing a huge chunk of territory to a neighboring country was another. Nevertheless, there was little Mexico could do about it except send some troops up to the border.

And this was a problem, since the border wasn't really well defined. Mexico considered the Nueces River, which runs through Corpus Christi, to be the southern border of Texas, but the Texans and Americans claimed the border was the Rio Grande, some 130 miles farther south. As soon as Texas was admitted to the Union, President Polk sent American troops down to Corpus Christi. Shortly thereafter, they crossed the Nueces and marched on down to the Rio Grande. Eventually the Mexicans killed some of them, and Polk had his causus belli. (Which was basically that Mexicans had killed Americans on "American" soil, that being disputed land which may or may not have been part of a territory very recently admitted to the Union.)

So far, so bad. Admitting Texas was a provocation, to be sure, but it certainly recognized facts on the ground. It probably would have eventually become accepted fact without any war if Polk hadn't sent the troops in. But the US wasn't satisfied with just Texas, or even Texas extended to the Rio Grande. Many in the government believed that it was the "manifest destiny" of the US to extend from sea to shining sea, and they wanted California and everything in between. While this annexation probably could have been accomplished eventually in the same manner as it was with Texas--with American settlers becoming "facts on the ground"--Polk and his Democratic supporters didn't want to wait. They wanted to beat Mexico up in a war and force them to cede the territories. So that's what they did. General Zachary Taylor marched his troops on the Monterrey, and General Winfield Scott landed troops at Veracruz. They besieged Veracruz, pounding it for days with heavy artillery until it surrendered. The troops then marched on towards Mexico City, leaving death and destruction in their wake. Eventually they forced the Mexican government, such as it was, to the negotiating table, and got them to "sell" half of their territory to the US for $15 million, giving the land grab a thin veneer of legitimacy.

My conclusion, based on reading this one book, is that adding the western states wasn't that much of a crime--chances are they would have become part of the US anyway. But the march from the Nueces to the Rio Grande was an unnecessary and illegal provocation, while the marches to Monterrey and from Veracruz to Mexico City were completely criminal and without any legitimate cause.

It is interesting that the "facts on the ground" argument is now reversing--in most of the states which were added, white Americans are now in the minority. The "facts on the ground" argument may soon argue for these states being rejoined to Mexico.

A couple of other interesting notes. Opponents of the war, including Abraham Lincoln, were accused of aiding the enemy and being traitors. Also, members of the Whig party, who was at first mostly opposed to the war, generally voted for funding it, out of fear that voting against "supporting the troops" would hurt their chances politically. The Whigs basically ceased to exist eight years after the war ended. A lesson for our Democrats, perhaps?

My favorite Reaganite calls Bush a traitor

Paul Craig Roberts, that is:
Are Americans guilty of treason when they turn their backs on the Constitution? Treason is betrayal of country. And what defines country? In the United States the Constitution defines country. The Bush regime's assault on the Constitution is an assault on America. Moreover, it is a far more dangerous and deadly assault than a terrorist assault on buildings.
As a reminder, here's Roberts' brief bio from Counterpunch:
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Sustainable Mobility

Robin Chase, founder of Zipcar, is coming to speak in Ann Arbor on Thursday. From the announcement:
Robin is...founder and former Chairman and CEO of Zipcar, a company whose use of the Internet and wireless technology enables rental cars to emulate personal cars. Zipcar's disruptive technology gives its members on-demand access to cars by-the-hour, revolutionizing people's relationship to their cars. Each Zipcar satisfies the car needs of 30-40 people and replaces 10-20 personal cars. Today, with more than 45,000 members and over 1000 cars, Zipcar has taken 10,000 to 20,000 cars off the streets of Boston, New York, Washington, and San Francisco. Robin is known for the evangelical virtual community she created among the members.
Thursday May 18, 4:00 – 5:30 pm in the Wolverine Room,
Michigan Union -- 530 South State Street, Ann Arbor
Free and open to the public

What part of "lockbox" don't you understand?

President Gore addresses the nation.

Chavez: "The threat of an alternative way"

John Pilger writes about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, "the most popular head of state in the western hemisphere, probably in the world." Rather than follow the Texas/Persian Gulf model of using oil wealth to build huge palaces and buy billions of dollars worth of weapons to protect them, he has been spending the money on health care, education and food for the millions of poor in Venezuela. Illiteracy has been practically eliminated.

You will read bad things about Chavez in Bush house organs like the Washington Post and Miami Herald; obviously he's not perfect, and he has used his power at times to increase his power. And, poor observer that I may be, I will vouch for much of what Pilger says based on my ten days in Venezuela two years ago. From what I saw, Chavez is enormously popular--and most of the 70-80% of the population that supports him does so fervently. In the streets of Caracas, people would grab my shoulder and recite the achievements to me: the constitution, the clinics, the schools, the participatory democracy. The clinics and schools and libraries are real; I saw them in action in Caracas and elsewhere. Political freedom exists in a big way--the opposition-controlled media attacks the government with a fervor we can only dream about here, and both Chavistas and their opponents regularly take to the streets in huge rallies. (You can read my report on my Venezuela trip here.) And the rise in oil prices over the past two years has enabled Chavez to turn many of the dreams into reality.

Pilger concludes:
Chavez is, of course, a threat, especially to the United States. Like the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, who based their revolution on the English co-operative moment, and the moderate Allende in Chile, he offers the threat of an alternative way of developing a decent society: in other words, the threat of a good example in a continent where the majority of humanity has long suffered a Washington-designed peonage. In the US media in the 1980s, the "threat" of tiny Nicaragua was seriously debated until it was crushed. Venezuela is clearly being "softened up" for something similar. A US army publication, Doctrine for Asymmetric War against Venezuela, describes Chavez and the Bolivarian revolution as the "largest threat since the Soviet Union and Communism". When I said to Chavez that the US historically had had its way in Latin America, he replied: "Yes, and my assassination would come as no surprise. But the empire is in trouble, and the people of Venezuela will resist an attack. We ask only for the support of all true democrats."
And on a practical level, whether Chavez is a true champion of the poor or a proto-dictator, he has already served the working poor in the United States well. Not only has he provided low-cost heating oil and gasoline to impoverished areas here--he has effectively blocked the "Free Trade Area of the Americas" (FTAA), NAFTA on steroids, which would have resulted in millions of additional people trying to come to the US because their ability to survive at home would be destroyed. The neo-liberal agenda desperately needs to be opposed, and Chavez is doing it more effectively than anyone in the world (and certainly in the US).

(Technical note: Chavez's name has an accent on the a: "OOgo CHA-vez." But when I put the accented "a" in my text, it looks like a square in IE and a question mark in a diamond in Firefox. Like this: á. So I'm just going to leave the accent out.)

Something for every corporation

The reality is that there are many people on the other side of our border who will do anything to come to America to work and build a better life. They walk across miles of desert in the summer heat, or hide in the back of 18-wheelers to reach our country. This creates enormous pressure on our border that walls and patrols alone will not stop. To secure the border effectively, we must reduce the numbers of people trying to sneak across.
-- W, last night

I don't see "securing the border" as all that important, and what he says here kind of contradicts a few paragraphs earlier about giving the Border Patrol the people and technology to secure the border. But in general I agree with the four sentences above. Immigrants face dire, even life-threatening, economic difficulties, and are willing to risk their lives to get crappy jobs to ensure the survival of their families. Implied, although not exactly said, is that it is absurd to treat people without any real choice as criminals. So far, so good.

But, of course, this is aWol--four sentences is pretty much the maximum amount of sense he is capable of delivering. Rather than question the economic situation that makes it impossible for the immigrants to make a living (AH-AH---NAFTA!!!!), Bush only uses the tragedy of the situation as an excuse to do what he wants to do anyway: a temporary worker program. Because the tragedy of people willing to risk their lives to get crappy jobs because their home economy has been sold out pales in comparison, in W's tiny mind, to the potential tragedy of American corporations having to pay their workers a decent wage.

From Matt Bors.

From Tom Toles.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Quote du jour

Billmon questions whether Friday's WaPo poll showing 63% of Americans supporting the NSA spying on us is accurate. More importantly, he points out that it CAN'T matter in a supposedly free society:
I get a little crazy in the head when I hear people (usually on the authoritarian right) citing the latest poll numbers as a political justification for their own position.

The whole point of having civil liberties is that they are not supposed to be subject to a majority veto. Hobbes may not have believed in natural rights, but our founders did. And their opponents, the anti-Federalists, were even more zealous about restraining the powers of the federal superstate, which is why they forced the Federalists to write the Bill of Rights directly into the Constitution.

It defeats the purpose of having a 4th Amendment if its validiity is entirely dependent on breaking 50% in the latest poll.
The WSWS explains some of the dangers in this program, for those 63% who apparently have never heard of "1984" or "The Gulag Archipelago:"
By these accounts, the computer programs being used by the NSA to analyze the phone call databases it purchased from the big telecommunications companies are a more advanced form of the "social-network analysis" software used by commercial and political marketing firms to profile potential advertising targets. Phone trees are traced to identify nodes and determine common interests and activities among those targeted.

In the case of commercial marketing, the purpose is to identify the best targets to receive a sales pitch. For the intelligence agencies, the purpose is to select targets for more intensive electronic surveillance, or arrest and (perhaps indefinite) detention.

The potential value of this information for purposes of political intimidation is enormous. Every person who has ever telephoned a 900 number, for instance, now has that fact permanently recorded in a government database, making him or her vulnerable to blackmail by federal agents. Likewise those whose phone records suggest problems with gambling, narcotics abuse, or even extramarital affairs.

The FBI regularly used such information for nefarious purposes during the notorious 50-year reign of J. Edgar Hoover, who kept special files on the sexual and other peccadilloes of congressmen and government officials. Now such information will be available on every American citizen.
Now some of the 63% are going to say (and a few even truthfully)--I don't do any of that stuff, so I've got nothing to worry about. Yeah? Got any friends or relatives with these problems, anyone you've called or who has called you. Got any friends or relatives who are politically active or protest in the streets or write blogs?

Remember, we are talking about an administration that clearly told numerous lies to start a war, that has locked up hundreds, including some US citizens, for years without legal protection. They keep a "no-fly" list, but won't tell us who is on it or why. They claim repeatedly to be above the law. Maybe you're thinking, well, if it's that bad, I'll just leave the country. Well, those soldiers they're talking about putting on the borders will be able to control the flow both ways. If these fascist criminals decide to make your life miserable, they can and will. All this data they're collecting just makes it easier. In most cases, they'll just use it as petty harrassment--"Stop calling your Congressman about Iraq or we'll tell everybody at your workplace about your little 'hobby'" or something. "I wouldn't vote today if I were you, if I didn't want my wife to know about that weekend in Atlanta." And so on. Even if the government as a whole weren't engaging in blackmail, the chances that someone with access to the data would be. They shouldn't have this stuff, period.


Saturday, May 13, 2006

Prole Nation: We Love Big Brother

A WaPo/ABC poll says that 63% of Americans approve of being spied upon by the NSA as a way to prevent "terrorism." Billmon explains how government and corporate beauracracies are turning us into the new, improved Soviet Union.
By giving up their privacy and – potentially – their civil liberties in exchange for a degree of protection (real or imaginary) from terrorism, they’ve sacrificed items that apparently are of only marginal value to them for something more important – their belief that the organization is looking out for them.

We can argue all we want that the deal is a sham, that any sense of security is an illusion, and that having gobbled up their privacy and some of their liberty, Leviathan will only come looking for more, because that’s all it knows how to do. But an awfully large number of our fellow citizens have already decided, or have been conditioned to believe, that it’s better to be subjects and let others make the hard decisions for them. After all, the organization must have its reasons.

Of course, this potentially sets the scene for the next loop in the downward spiral towards a full-fledged police state. If and when the next terrorist attack comes, the natural response of the national security bureaucracy (and its legal camp followers) will be to insist the tragedy never would have happened if it had been given access to all the data it wanted, all the money it needed, and all the investigative powers it demanded. It’ll be the fighting-with-one-hand-tied-behind-our-back argument, re-imported from Iraq. And who’s going to say no when another major American landmark is a smoldering ruin?

From Rex Babin.

Friday, May 12, 2006

What's in your wallet?

From CBS MarketWatch. That's the last year for the dollar against the euro. The failure of the EU constitution and numerous raises in interest rates by the Fed temporarily stopped the Bush slide. But the EU still doesn't have a constitution, rates are up, and the world is remembering that the US still has huge budget and trade deficits, really doesn't make much anymore, and is a huge net importer of oil. So why would the world want our Monopoly money anymore?

Here's the five-year effect of the W pResidency on the greenback:

From Tom Toles.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Impeach. Now. And throw the Democrats out too

We're living in a police state, fully supported by both criminal parties. USA Today reports that the NSA has a huge database of phone records, dating back to 2001, provided secretly by AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth. The White House, of course, defends its destruction of the Constitution, and an "outraged" Congress calls for, you guessed it, investigations.

Chris Floyd reminds us that NSA has been doing far worse than even this for decades--the Echelon program.

If you still hold out any hope that Congress is actually on our side, you can try contacting the swine using FCNL's web form. This may attract NSA attention to you, but you're already reading this blog, so what's the difference?

Another lying cabinet member

HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson, this time. From the WaPo (page A15, of course):
At the April 28 event, Jackson told of a minority contractor who had finally landed an advertising contract with the Department of Housing and Urban Development after trying for 10 years, according to an article in the Dallas Business Journal.

Jackson said that when the man approached him to thank him for the contract, the contractor said he didn't like Bush.

"He didn't get the contract," Jackson told the group, according to the newspaper. "Why should I reward someone who doesn't like the president, so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president? Logic says they don't get the contract. That's the way I believe."
The Post, of course, never mentioned Jackson's little "story" until two days ago, when Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) called for an investigation--probably notified by bloggers who have been paying more attention than I have lately.

I've said several times in the past few years that it is hard to find out the truth--but much easier to find out that someone is lying. In this case, Jackson was either lying when he told the story (which seems unlikely), or he's lying now when he says that it didn't happen:
Jackson said he made up the story. "I deeply regret the anecdotal remarks I made at a recent Texas small-business forum and would like to reassure the public that all HUD contracts are awarded solely on a stringent merit-based process," Jackson said in a statement. "During my tenure, no contract has ever been awarded, rejected, or rescinded due to the personal or political beliefs of the recipient."
Yeah, right. Either way, Jackson's a liar, and the lie is bad enough that he should be immediately fired. Note that he doesn't deny that he said the remarks--only that the remarks weren't true. When someone insists he has told a lie, it's the one time you can believe him.

His "anecdote," which as WIIIAI reminds us is a word which doesn't have any implication of being "not true," sure gives an insight into how the Repugs see the government--solely to be used for their own benefit. As WIIIAI says:
But it really doesn't matter that much whether it was true: the point of telling the "anecdote" wasn't about personal politics but to make clear that prospective HUD contractors are expected to make campaign contributions to the Republican party.

Why satire is difficult these days

Look, by the way, I've got a theory about how to handle these retired generals causing all this trouble, don't let them retire. C'mon, we've got a stop loss program, let's use it on these guys.
-- Stephen Colbert, April 29

Army Using Policy to Deny Reserve Officer Resignations.
-- NY Times headline, today.

Hey New York! Please get rid of Hillary!!!

First, she has Rupert Murdoch organizing fundraisers for her, and now she decides that 31% is a great time to declare her affection for the worst pResident in US history:
In a speech at the National Archives on her political career, Mrs. Clinton said of Bush: "He is someone who has a lot of charm and charisma, and I think in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, I was very grateful to him for his support for New York."

While asserting that she had "many disagreements about many, many issues" with the Republican president, she added, "He's been very willing to talk. He's been affable. He's been good company."

Returning to the issue of Bush's response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City, Clinton claimed that Bush had kept his promise to provide New York City with $20 billion in aid. "He always kept it on track," she said. "He made sure we got the resources that we needed, and I'm very grateful to him for that."
The WSWS looks into that last claim:
As for crediting Bush with playing some exemplary role in relation to the 9/11 attacks, Senator Clinton’s views bear little relationship to reality, and even less to the feelings of many New Yorkers. For millions, the questions start with why the Bush administration failed to stop the attacks, which were then used as the pretext for launching a long-planned war against Iraq and conducting sweeping attacks on democratic rights at home.

A poll conducted by the Zogby firm in August 2004 found that 49 percent of New York City residents believed that top officials in the administration “knew in advance that attacks were planned... and that they consciously failed to act.” Among black New Yorkers, 63 percent held this view, as did 60 percent of Hispanics.

As for the response to the attacks, it started with a deliberate cover-up of air quality in lower Manhattan following the collapse of the twin towers, with the White House censoring reports warning of a threat to public health. It continued with the attempt by the administration to rescind $125 million in federal funding for the treatment of rescue and recovery workers who suffered serious injury or damage to their health in the course of the many weeks spent digging through the rubble of the World Trade Center site.

Most public officials in New York City have accused the Bush administration of shortchanging the city billions of dollars in promised post-9/11 aid. There are also serious questions regarding the disbursement of the aid money that was provided, with much of it apparently going to politically connected firms that suffered no apparent losses from the attacks.

Bush and his administration provoked outrage among New Yorkers with their incessant attempts to exploit the trauma and grief of 9/11, using images of the September 11 attacks to justify right-wing policies and provide the backdrop for campaign commercials.
Just say "NO!!!!" to Clinton Dumbocrats. They are pro-war, pro-business, anti-American, anti-World. Just like the Bush Repuglicans. No wonder they get along so well.

Myth Management

Billmon writes about the Pentagon's latest batch of BS about the alleged Zarqawi, alleged leader of the alleged al Qaeda in Iraq. Here's how they translated one of the supposed AQ in Iraq documents:
The actions of the Iraqi Security Forces are having a significant negative impact on the Mujahideen’s ability to operate in Baghdad. Al Qaida in Iraq attacks Mosques and other public places to draw media attention and is having difficulty recruiting members because the people of Iraq do not support its cause.
That's just like terrorist fanatics, isn't it? Confess to your crimes, admit that no one agrees with you, and that everything the enemy is doing is working.

The "captured" AQ materials included the videotapes of alleged Zarqawi in tenny shoes not knowing how to use a rifle, and other inanities. We already know that the Pentagon has used "selective leaks" to make AQ in Iraq and Zarqawi seem much more important than they really are. Now, they once again use the long-running technique of putting words in the "terrorists'" mouths about how effective US policy has been in making their (the "terrorists") lives difficult.

Billmon points out that even the lapdog media is no longer falling, at least completely, for this crap. The only ones left lapping it up are the right-wingnut bloggers:
For the pro-regime bitter enders (ours) this is a forlorn flash of light in a sky that otherwise seems to be rapidly darkening towards Das Gotterdammerung -- or a Democratic Congress, which is even worse. So of course they're all talking about the story, in much the same way that ultra conservatives of another era and a different country once spoke of miracle weapons.
You'd think that for the money the Pentagon is shelling out for this crap, they could come up with something more believable than Salafist jihadis who praise democracy and refer to themselves (again, according to Centcom, in a direct quote) as: "groups of assassins without any organized military capabilities." I mean, please.

Then again, the stuff's apparently good enough to keep the diehards chattering away about final victory, even though the biggest problem facing Operation Iraqi Fiasco isn't al-Zarqawi and his band of religious lunatics, but the fact that everybody in the freaking country now hates the other modules.

Never let the facts interfere with the demonization process

From Daryl Cagle, who either didn't read the letter or else chose to ignore what he read.

Of course, Cagle wasn't the only one:

From John Deering.

Even the lefty cartoonists get in on the act:

From Mark Cohen.

From Rob Rogers.

And the foreign ones:

From Christo Komarnitski (Bulgaria).

From Simanca Osmani (Brazil).

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

What's up with Watergategate?

You'd think a prostitution scandal at the CIA would get some attention. Gary Condit and Chandra Levy were front-page news for weeks; Bill and Monica were news for months. And, unlike adultery, prostitution and government contract fraud are actually illegal. So why has this story rated at most one or two sentences buried deep in the articles about Goss and Hayden? Molly Ivins wants to know:
I don't care what anyone smoked 20 years ago, I approve of those who boogie till they puke, and I don't care who anyone in politics is screwing in private, as long as they’re not screwing the public.

On other hand, if you expect me to pass up a scandal involving poker, hookers, and the Watergate building with crooked defense contractors and the No. 3 guy at the CIA, named Dusty Foggo (Dusty Foggo?! Be still my heart), you expect too much. Any journalist who claims Hookergate is not a legitimate scandal is dead--has been for some time and needs to be unplugged. In addition to sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, Hookergate is rife with public-interest questions, misfeasance, malfeasance and non-feasance, and many splendid moral points for the children.
Maybe it's just that the media, like me, is just too classy to stoop to reporting on such a sleazy topic.

When did that happen?

How low can he go?

From the NY Times.
Mr. Bush's overall job approval rating hit another new low, 31 percent, tying the low point of his father in July 1992, four months before the elder Mr. Bush lost his bid for a second term to Bill Clinton. That is the third lowest approval rating of any president in 50 years; only Richard M. Nixon and Jimmy Carter were viewed less favorably.
"We should have stayed out of Iraq until we knew more about it," Bernice Davis, a Republican from Lamar, Mo., who said she now disapproved of Mr. Bush's performance, said in a follow-up interview on Tuesday. "The economy is going to pot. Gas prices are escalating. I just voted for Bush because he's a Republican, even though I disapproved of the war. If I could go back, I would not vote for him."

From Tom Toles.

From Boondocks.
Looks like Huey has learned to deal with information at odds with his preconceptions in the same way as the Bush administration does.

Mistranslating for war

You'd think by now we'd understand by now that our government creates enemies, frequently out of whole cloth. Conveniently for the government, these enemies-to-be generally speak in foreign languages: Spanish, Arabic, Farsi, Korean. This makes it relatively simple for the government, with the aid of the lap-dog press, to cherry-pick from the target's speeches to find phrases to be taken out of context and mistranslated in order to make said target seem, of course, to be "worse than Hitler." With very few Americans able to understand the original, the public quickly accepts the misrepresentation as it is repeated countless times by TV and radio pundits, and in articles, opinion pieces and cartoons in the newspapers. Castro, Noriega, Khadafi, Saddam, and now Ahmadinejad--they do it again and again, and the ignorant American public falls for it again and again.

A few days ago, I quoted Juan Cole's translation of the supposed statement by Ahmadinejad that has gotten the most attention--that he allegedly threatened to "wipe Israel off the map." Cole's translation makes it clear that first off Ahmadinejad refers only to the regime in Israel, and that it is expressed more as a hope than a threat. In other words, instead of "Israel should be wiped off the map," Ahmadinejad said basically "We should hope and have faith that one day the government in Israel which is oppressing the Palestinians will fall."

Information Clearing House supports this interpretation, using several translations of Ahmadinejad's speech from last October (which is where the mis-translations originated). I've already given you the gist in terms of the "wipe off the map" BS, but they've got lots of additional detail if you have the time to read the whole article. Beyond that, they examine the other supposed statement by Ahmadinejad frequently used to characterize him as a nutcase--that the Holocaust never happened. Here is how the Iranian press agency translated one of Ahmadinejad's statements concerning the Holocaust:
If the Europeans are telling the truth in their claim that they have killed six million Jews in the Holocaust during the World War II--which seems they are right in their claim because they insist on it and arrest and imprison those who oppose it, why the Palestinian nation should pay for the crime. Why have they come to the very heart of the Islamic world and are committing crimes against the dear Palestine using their bombs, rockets, missiles and sanctions. [...] If you have committed the crimes so give a piece of your land somewhere in Europe or America and Canada or Alaska to them to set up their own state there.
This translation seems to be in general agreement with what Ahmadinejad said in his letter to Bush. While perhaps not saying that he believes every detail of the official Holocaust story, he is simply stipulating it as true in order to make an argument.

I'll be curious to read what Juan Cole has to say about this. While he has been actively attacking the mistranslation about "wiping Israel off the map," Cole seems to have accepted the "Holocaust denial" report completely. (He said yesterday that "Ahmadinejad's hostility to Israel and his Holocaust denial and bigotry are beneath contempt.") I have posted a comment on his blog, hoping for an explanation. (I trust him more than I do ICH, but I wonder if he has examined the Holocaust statements in the same detail as he has those about "wiping Israel off the map.")

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Dear Mr. President

I just read Le Monde's translation of Ahmadinejad's letter to Bush. The English is a bit garbled, whether from bad translation or bad writing in the original Farsi. In other words, quite a bit more coherent than what we usually hear from Bush. For the most part, it comes across as a plaintive cry, appealing to the common sense and belief in Christian principles on the part of the reader, trying to reach W's inner soul and intelligence. In other words, wasted effort. Ahmadinejad says he too is glad that Saddam is no longer in power, but that that in no way justifies the brutal invasion or its continuation as brutal occupation. He seems actually befuddled that a man who professes to believe in democracy and Christian principles can really do what Bush is doing, and hopes that maybe one rambling letter translated into bad English (i.e., speaking Bush's language) might actually make a difference.

Of course, our Decider in Chief doesn't read--he was apparently only "briefed" on the letter.

Now, I'm not nearly as familiar with the hypocrisy of Mr. Ahmadinejad as I am with that of, say, Mr. Cheney. So I'm unable to pick apart every fine sentiment of his and point out the contradictions, as I did a few days ago with Cheney. But Juan Cole knows a lot about Iran, so I'll pick a few paragraphs out of his blog:
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wrote a letter to W., in which he insisted on Iran's right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to conduct scientific research on uranium enrichment. The NPT does in fact allow such research, but it is Bush administration policy to abrogate that right and stop even civilian research programs that might lead to the closing of the fuel cycle. It is another big leap from such an ability to making a bomb.

Ahmadinejad is a crank, and some of what he says is either badly translated or makes no sense in the original. Both are possible. Le Monde has a translation (pdf). Persian text here.

In any case, his letter to Bush holds no prospect of reducing tensions. It should be remembered that then Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh angered Washington in the early 1950s by nationalizing Iranian petroleum. Eisenhower slapped sanctions on Iran and destroyed its economy. Washington at that time thought Mosaddegh was a pinko, though in fact he was a relatively conservative aristocrat. At the height of the crisis, Mosaddegh wrote a letter to Eisenhower, which was ignored. Ike had the CIA overthrow the elected, parliamentary government of Iran and install the Shah as a megalomaniacal dictator. So the tradition of letter-writing by Iranian leaders at times of tensions with Washington isn't replete with successes. Of course, the Iranians took revenge for the heavy-handed US interference with their form of government. They made an Islamic Revolution in 1978-79, and more recently elected Ahmadinejad. What Washington wouldn't do to have that nice Mr. Mosaddegh back.

Shimon Peres says he wants to remind Iran that it, too, can be wiped off the face of the earth, implying that Israel is capable of obliterating it with its nuclear arsenal. Peres also had the gall to blame Iran for provoking a nuclear arms race in the area!
There is no evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, as opposed to a still backward civilian energy research program. But if you were Iran's security establishment, what would you conclude you had to do after Peres's remarks?

The misquotation of Ahmadinejad, who actually quoted Khomeini as saying, "This occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time," now seems all by itself to be producing visions of nuclear war!

Ahmadinejad, however, has condemned mass killing of any sort and was not threatening military action (he is in any case not in command of the Iranian military). He compares his hope for an end to any Zionist regime in geographical Palestine to Khomeini's prediction that the Soviet Union would one day vanish. It wasn't a hope to kill Soviet citizens, but a desire for regime change. Ahmadinejad's hostility to Israel and his Holocaust denial and bigotry are beneath contempt. But he has not threatened military action, and has no unconventional weapons, and his words, however hurtful, do not constitute a legitimate basis for a war of aggression on Iran.
Of course, our Decider in Chief hasn't needed a legitimate basis for a war yet.


Quote du jour

(Emphasis added)
A female Iraqi filmmaker has gone undercover – literally so, for there are now vast quadrants of Iraq where women who go unveiled are at grave risk of attack – to show the reality of women's lives under the Bush-imposed regime. As in so many other cases, a despairing consensus emerges: "It's worse than under Saddam." Think about that: worse than life under one of the worst regimes in modern history. That's what Bush has accomplished in Iraq. That is his true legacy.

Bush's father once famously declared that Saddam was "worse than Hitler." Now the judgment of history is already clear: his son is "worse than Saddam."
From Chris Floyd.

And "worse than" is generally considered to be a transitive relation, so you mathematicians out there can connect the dots.


From Mike Lane.
You're all dysfunctional and disgusting, as well.

From R.J. Matson.

From Steve Sack.

From Jimmy Margulies.

From Matt Davies.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Science fiction

James Howard Kunstler:
Riding the van out of the airport Friday night to the Park-and-Fly lot, with the planes floating down in the distant violet gloaming, an eerie recognition came over me that life today is as much like science fiction as it will ever get--at least as far ahead as I can see. Some of my friends' kids may never fly in airplanes. They may never own cars. At some point twenty, thirty years ahead, they may not take for granted throwing a light switch in a dark room.
Strangely enough, I had a very similar thought yesterday. Enjoying a picture-perfect May day in Michigan, I stepped outside. I heard the loud roar of jet engines and looked up. I saw a couple of airliner contrails way up there; that couldn't be it. Then I saw a single-engine prop plane chugging along--disconcerting. Finally, coming up behind the prop plane I saw the two military jets buzzing along at great speed. Fortunately, they were actually well above the prop plane and had no evil intentions towards it. And I thought, wow, this is like science fiction--not really much different from those levitating trains in the Star Wars movies. I was thinking, too, that in a few years, if I heard a plane in the sky, there wouldn't likely be any confusion as to which plane it was. Furthermore, I thought how lucky I was that I'm not in one of those places where the sound of military jets doesn't mean imminent death and destruction--places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Gaza. Unfortunately, I am in the place where those planes come from.

Bush confirms Colbert Report

I'm with the president, let history decide what did or did not happen. The greatest thing about this man is he's steady. You know where he stands. He believes the same thing Wednesday, that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday. Events can change, this man's beliefs never will.
-- Stephen Colbert, White House Correspondent Dinner, April 29.

The interesting thing about Washington is that they want me to change--they being the--and I'm not changing, you know. You can't make decisions if you don't know who you are, and you flip around with the politics. You've got to stay strong in what you believe and optimistic about that you'll get good results. And so--the other thing I want you to know about me is that no matter how pressurized it may seem, I'm not changing what I believe.
-- George W. Bush, Interview with Kai Diekmann of Bild, May 5.

From high-school German, I know that "Bild" means "picture." But reading the interview, you'd have to believe it actually means "Fox News." The Bild reporter says about his newspaper:
BILD has 12 million readers. It's the largest newspaper in Germany. And there's one thing which is really special about our newspaper--every German who wants to work for the newspaper, he has to sign in his working contrasts some beliefs--and there's the belief you have to be for reunification, you have to be against totalitarianism from riots on the right side and the left side, and you have to be for the peace and for the understanding with Israel, and, since September 11th, we have a new belief--you have to be for partnership with America. Otherwise, you can't work for us, you can't come--you have to sign it in your contract.
I'm not sure even Fox News goes that far. Germany's largest paper requires its reporters to be Bush toadies! And Herr Diekmann is in no danger of breaching his contract. He could easily pass for one of the plants at one of aWol's Repug-only town meetings. Here are some of his questions:
Mr. President, the fifth anniversary of the terrible 9/11 attack is nearing. Has the Western world really learned the right lessons from 9/11?
Do you really believe we have a chance to win the war against terrorism?
How important is the partnership between the United States and Europe when it comes to the war on terror?
Is the war against Iraq really a success?
Iran is on the way to a nuclear program. How are we going to prevent them from making true what they threaten us, for example, in destroying Israel?
The German Chancellor and the new head of state, Olmert of Israel, they said the Iranian President is as dangerous as Adolf Hitler. Do you share their view?
Playing teeball in the oval office. Nevertheless, aWol manages to swing and miss several times, and to be his usual bizarre self:
I spent some time with her [German chancellor Merkel] upstairs in the private dining quarters here in the White House complex, listening to her. I asked her what it was like to grow up as a child.
WIIIAI comments on the rest, including aWol's recognition that the Germans "just don't like war," strange as that must seem to him. Maybe if he'd grown up as a child he'd understand.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Hillary loses Daily Kos

Hillary Clinton has a few problems if she wants to secure the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. She is a leader who fails to lead. She does not appear "electable." But most of all, Hillary has a Bill Clinton problem. (And no, it's not about that.)
-- Markos Moulitsas, aka Daily Kos, in an op-ed in today's WaPo. Kos points out what I've been saying for years--Hillary is a big-money, big-corporation "Democrat" who doesn't represent the vast majority of Democrats, or Americans, for that matter. And even if she manages to but the 2008 nomination, she's likely to lose the election.

Plus, she's SUCH a wimp. Kos:
Afraid to offend, she has limited her policy proposals to minor, symbolic issues -- such as co-sponsoring legislation to ban flag burning. She doesn't have a single memorable policy or legislative accomplishment to her name. Meanwhile, she remains behind the curve or downright incoherent on pressing issues such as the war in Iraq.

On the war, Clinton's recent "I disagree with those who believe we should pull out, and I disagree with those who believe we should stay without end" seems little different from Kerry's famous "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it" line. The last thing we need is yet another Democrat afraid to stand on principle.
Or one who, when she takes a stand (and a crappy one at that), make it clear that she disagrees with the vast majority of the population. Right now, I'd guess that probably 70% of Americans believe we should pull out, and 15% believe we should stay indefinitely. That leaves Hillary representing the remaining indecisive 15%, who probably won't vote anyway. The corporations giving Hillary her millions now know what they are doing--paying the Washington Generals to lose to the Harlem Globetrotters. They helped the Democrats sink themselves in '04 by funding the hapless Kerry in the primaries, and they know the much-hated Hillary is even more of a sure thing--for the Republicans. Because if the Globetrotters had to get on the floor with the Pistons, all the fancy dribbling in the world wouldn't put the ball in the basket.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

From Bruce Plante.

Time to leave this child behind

From Bill Schorr.

From Larry Wright.

From Ted Rall.

Nevertheless, whoever you are, and whatever it was that convinced you, welcome! Now let's get the Disaster in Chief impeached!

It's Desert One and Blackhawk Down all in one day

A Chinook helicopter crashed in Afghanistan (aka Bush Quagmire I), killing 10 US soldiers. Meanwhile, in Basra, Iraq (BQII), a British chopper crashed and was then attacked by Iraqis.

Failures of this magnitude, although not a part of much larger failures as these two crashes are, significantly reduced the popularity of two Democratic presidents--Jimmy Carter, when the attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran went down in flames at Desert One in 1980, and Bill Clinton, with the "Blackhawk Down" fiasco in Somalia in 1993 (never mind that Bush Sr. put the troops into Somalia in the first place). Let's hope today's events have a similar effect on what's left of aWol's popularity.

Because there certainly won't be anything else positive to come out of these two brutal and illegal wars, or today's tragedies.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Going, going, Goss!

I'm sure that the rumors of being involved with a prostitution ring at the Watergate Hotel, which I was too classy to report, had nothing to do with CIA Director Porter Goss' sudden resignation.

Aren't you?

BTW, neither CNN, the NY Times, nor the WaPo mention Watergategate. Because, as Stephen Colbert pointed out, their job isn't to find out what's going on, it's to take dictation from the White House. And it's a job they take very seriously.

They do the hocus-pocus 'bout them WMD's, but oil's what it's all about!

Those of you who always follow my advice have already read this from the latest Chris Floyd gem:
Military force is essential because the American economy is in an advanced state of decadence and cannot win its way to continued dominance by peaceful means. The American elite is now given over almost entirely to the manipulation of financial instruments to produce vast private profits, disconnected from the surrounding community. The actual production of actual goods is in steep decline, bringing with it a corresponding decay in the quality of American life below the elite level. Without cheap oil--and despite the panicky sticker-shock at the pump today, Americans still pay far less than most people for fuel--the whole fragile house of cards could fall. Thus dominance and survival have become intertwined; and both depend on mastery of the Middle East's resources.

Saddam Hussein became a target not because he oppressed his people or warred with his neighbors or threatened Israel or once developed WMD--all of which he did during his years as an American ally. He had to be removed because he would not allow American and British oil firms to exploit Iraqi resources, but was instead signing deals with Chinese, French and Russian companies. This was intolerable. It put the preservation of the American way of life--and the global dominance on which it now depends--in the hands of foreign interests. With global reserves dwindling, Iraq's oil was simply too important to be entrusted to others any longer; direct intervention was required.
Floyd also recommends this book by Canadian journalist Paul William Roberts.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

If a senator speaks but the WaPo doesn't report it, does he exist?

An excerpt from Eric Boehlert's new book "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush."
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, looking back on the press's failings with regards to Iraq, suggested, "The media were victims of their own professionalism. Because there was little criticism of the war from prominent Democrats and foreign policy analysts, journalistic rules meant we shouldn't create a debate on our own."

Little criticism of the war from prominent Democrats? In a sense, Ignatius was right and for Post readers that statement may have had a ring of truth to it simply because the Post seemed to do such a masterful job of ignoring prewar criticism from prominent Democrats, like party stalwart Senator Ted Kennedy. In September 2002 he made a passionate, provocative, and newsworthy speech raising all sorts of doubts about the war. It garnered exactly one sentence--thirty-six words total--of coverage from the Post, which in 2002 printed more than a thousand articles and columns, totaling perhaps 1 million words about Iraq, but only set aside thirty-six words for Kennedy's antiwar cry.
Ted Kennedy. Robert Byrd, dean of the Senate. Bob Graham. Barbara Boxer. Dennis Kucinich. Barbara Lee. Jimmy Carter. According to Ignatius, not prominent Democrats. Noam Chomsky. Pat Buchanan. Scott Ritter. Nelson Mandela. Brent Scowcroft. Most of the UN Security Council. The friggin' Pope, for Christ's sake! Not qualified foreign policy analysts, apparently, by Ignatius' standards. By ignoring everyone who disagreed with him, Ignatius couldn't find a debate about the Iraq war--and felt honor-bound not to create one! "Victims of their own professionalism?" I'll bet Pravda was never this servile.

More money for war

The Senate today approved a $109 billion emergency spending bill. From the WaPo:
The Senate bill includes $65.7 billion in war-related funding, $28.8 billion to aid hurricane recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana and $3.9 billion for levees and flood control projects in Louisiana.
There you have it--twice as much to continue destroying another country as they're willing to spend rebuilding ours. BTW, every Democrat who voted supported the bill. Thus is the level of opposition. W is threatening to veto the bill because it has additional money in it for port security and highway and transit projects.
"Congress is considering a piece of legislation that will test its commitment to spending restraint," Bush said yesterday in an address to the American Council of Engineering Companies in Washington. "I've requested a bill that would provide emergency funds for the war on terror and hurricane relief. Unfortunately, there are some here in Washington trying to load that bill up with unnecessary spending."
It's got $65.7 billion in unnecessary spending on the so-called "war on terror." What a screwed-up set of priorities the two wings of the ruling party have.

And in case you were wondering, the WaPo DOES tally Senate vote totals by astrological sign.

Quote du jour

Regimes that repress and tyrannize their own people also threaten the peace and the stability of other lands. They feed rivalries and hatreds to obscure their own failings. They seek to impose their will by force, and they make our world more dangerous. We support democracy and reform, because governments accountable to their citizens are peaceful. Free peoples do not live in endless deprivation, tending old grievances, growing in their resentments, and posing threats to others. Free peoples do not dwell on every disagreement and conflict of the past; rather, they see the possibilities of the future, and turn their creative gifts to building a better tomorrow.
-- Dick Cheney, today in Lithuania.

Let's try that again.

Regimes that repress and tyrannize their own people

U.S. Prison Population Tops 2 Million

Bush says he signed NSA wiretap order

also threaten the peace and the stability of other lands.

Regime change in Iran now in Bush’s sights

New Plans Foresee Fighting Terrorism Beyond War Zones

They feed rivalries and hatreds to obscure their own failings.

Keep national anthem English: Bush

Religious Freedom Panel Raises Alarms on Islamic Extremism

They seek to impose their will by force,

All options 'on the table' with Iran: Bush

and they make our world more dangerous.

US says world terrorism attacks kill 14,600 in '05

We support democracy and reform,


Marines Re-Take Haiti, the US-Backed Coup Continues

because governments accountable to their citizens are peaceful.

Iraq Faces Massive U.S. Missile Barrage

Collateral Damage or Civilian Massacre in Haditha?

Free peoples do not live in endless deprivation,

tending old grievances,

growing in their resentments,

Arab-Americans and Muslims attacked in the US

and posing threats to others.

Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century

Free peoples do not dwell on every disagreement and conflict of the past;

rather, they see the possibilities of the future, and turn their creative gifts to building a better tomorrow.

Pentagon Preps for War in Space


What he said

I'm Tired of Bushes and Clintons, by Jeff Cohen. Cohen points out how the Clinton years were as much a continuation of the Reagan-Bush agenda as they were any break from it, and how Hillary promises only more of the same. He concludes:
Among mainstream pundits, it's conventional wisdom that Bill Clinton and his centrist realpolitik saved the Democrats. But simple math tells us the opposite: Triangulation may have worked for Clinton personally (and for corporate backers seeking media consolidation and corporate-friendly trade deals like NAFTA), but far from saving the Democrats, the Clinton years represented a free fall for the party. When Clinton entered the White House, Democrats dominated the Senate, 57-43; the House, 258-176; the country's governorships, 30-18, and a large majority of state legislatures. By 2000, Republicans controlled the Senate, 55-45; the House, 222-211; governorships, 30-18, and almost half of state legislatures.

For Americans who want to turn our nation toward health, driving Bush-style extremism from the White House is essential. But it won't be enough to replace it with Clinton-style vacillation and triangulation.

Bloody chaos was required

After quoting from Dahr Jamail writing about the dozens of dead brought daily to Baghdad hospitals and morgues, Chris Floyd comments:
Day after day this horror goes on, this madness that we have created. Our presence there unleashed it; our removal will not stop it. In his madness, his hubris and his putrid criminality, Bush has engineered a nightmare from which there is no escape, for which there is no good solution, no outcome at all that won't produce more mass death and unbearable suffering.
Of course, Dick Cheney has no regrets.
Asked whether in his "darkest nights" he ever doubted the decision to go to war, he said: "I think what we've done has been what needed to be done."

Mr Cheney was unmoved by postwar disclosures about the use of hyped and faulty intelligence to make the case for the invasion - some of which has been tied directly to his office.

He said: "In the end, you can argue about the quality of the intelligence and so forth, but ... I look at that whole spectrum of possibilities and options, and I think we did the right thing."

From Chan Lowe.

From Ed Stein.

Pretty appealing--let the wingnuts drown in their own stupidity. The only problem is that within five years Redistan would be trying to "liberate" Bluetopia.

From Gary Varvel.

From Christo Komarnitski (Bulgaria).

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Gotta love the headline: An Ugly Side of Free Trade: Sweatshops in Jordan. Maybe the NY Times is afraid that their flat-earth columnist Tom Friedman will say bad things about them if they suggest that exploitation of garment workers in Jordan is the norm, not the exception, when it comes to so-called "free trade."

There is no side of "free trade" which isn't ugly--it brings poverty to every nation it touches. Without slick-talking salesmen like Friedman and Bill Clinton, this pillage of the world's workers and resources would have been rejected long ago.

I have a friend from Mexico. She was telling me about some of the poor villages in Mexico--no cars, no TV's. But for real poverty, she couldn't get over what she saw when she spent two weeks in Flint, Michigan, devastated by its abandonment by GM for lower-wage labor to the south, which was facilitated by NAFTA and other so-called "free trade" agreements. And she and I both know that the GM factories and other maquiladoras have hardly been a boon to Mexico, either--even the ones that haven't already moved on to even cheaper labor elsewhere.

Shorter George W. Bush

He babbled on today about the economy and Social Security. Here's my shorter version:

Putting money in the hands of Americans through tax cuts is important to the economy. Keeping money out of the hands of Americans from Social Security is important to avoid future deficits.

There you have it! Letting rich people have money: good. Letting poor people have money: bad. Republicanism in a nutshell.

I also wonder if the Labor Department and the other government agencies reporting on the economy are just flat-out lying at this point--the statistics W cites don't seem to have any link to reality that I can see.

Iran stupidity overload

Some things to read and share:

Chris Floyd writes about the push for a UN resolution so we can get our war on quickly, facts be damned:
"The Security Council has no option now but to proceed under Chapter 7," [State Department official Nicholas] Burns said today, referring not to the U.S. bankruptcy laws (wonder what chapter covers moral bankruptcy?), but to the UN article that makes resolutions compulsory and "opens the way to sanctions or even military action," as the NYT reports. So we are practically at DEFCON 1 already, despite the recent assurance from Bush's own intelligence googily-moogily, John Negroponte, that Iran is many years away from developing a nuclear weapon – that is, if they are trying to develop a nuclear weapon in the first place, an assumption for which there is no hard evidence whatsoever, and which would fly in the face of the very public fatwa against developing a nuclear weapon promulgated by Iran's supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khamanei, who actually controls the nation's nuclear program and its armed forces – not the useful idiot, President Ahmadinejad, whose bellicose comments, bad enough on their own, are wildly distorted and mistranslated in the Western press for maximum scaremongering effect.
Justin Raimondo reminds us of the consequences of war with Iran:
Concerns that Iran's dispute with the West could lead to disruption of its oil output pushed oil prices above $74 a barrel, close to the record of $75.35 touched last month."

If that seems like a dizzying hike, wait until the Iranians blockade the Gulf of Hormuz, through which two-fifths of the world's oil passes. Let's assume that when the supreme commander of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safa, suggested such a strategy, he wasn't kidding. In that case, good luck driving to work: you may have to mortgage your house in order to afford the gas.

Juan Cole had his private e-mail discussions hacked by Christopher Hitchens, who took issue with Cole's translating the statement of Iran's President Ahmadinejad that has been given the most attention in the media, the one which has been translated as having "threatened to wipe Israel off the map." Cole points out that Ahmadinejad was quoting the late Ayatollah Khomeini, not making a direct statement of his own, and that what he did say was actually more like a call for regime change than a call for genocide or anything like it. Here's what Cole said (emphasis added):
[Ahmadinejad] made an analogy to Khomeini's determination and success in getting rid of the Shah's government, which Khomeini had said "must go" (az bain bayad berad). Then Ahmadinejad defined Zionism not as an Arabi-Israeli national struggle but as a Western plot to divide the world of Islam with Israel as the pivot of this plan.

The phrase he then used as I read it is "The Imam said that this regime occupying Jerusalem (een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods) must [vanish from] from the page of time (bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad)."

Ahmadinejad was not making a threat, he was quoting a saying of Khomeini and urging that pro-Palestinian activists in Iran not give up hope--that the occupation of Jerusalem was no more a continued inevitability than had been the hegemony of the Shah's government.
Who knows, if we continue our alphabetical destruction of the Middle Eastern countries beginning with "I," we may eventually find one with nukes. Like the one we've known about for 40 years.

Unfortunately, lots of Americans will once again believe the BuSh, because lots of Americans are really stupid.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Obviously the obvious explanation is obviously wrong

The U.S. spends more than twice as much on health care per capita than England, but the Brits are substantially healthier, according to a new study. Researchers looked only at white folks ages 55-64 to eliminate any racial disparities. They even showed that if Brits were as fat as Americans they would STILL be healthier. In fact, the researchers managed to rule out pretty much every factor--except that England has universal health care, and the US doesn't.

But that can't be it, according to the two guys AP asked--one who worked on the study (Marmot) and one who didn't:
However, Britain's universal health-care system shouldn't get credit for better health, Marmot and Blendon agreed.

Both said it might explain better health for low-income citizens, but can't account for better health of England's more affluent residents.

Marmot cautioned against looking for explanations in the two countries' health-care systems.
Because it is written in the Constitution, or maybe it's in the bible, that universal health care doesn't work. Never mind that it works everywhere else; this is America. If we say it doesn't work, it doesn't work. And we're willing to waste over $5000 a year per capita on for-profit medical care, and tens of thousands of lives, to prove our point, even if (when) it kills us.

Fun with graphs

Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution points out that while aWol's approval ratings haven't quite reached Nixonian levels, his DISapproval ratings have.

From Jen Sorensen.

Monday, May 01, 2006

No choice for migrants

John Gibler writes about the economic forces which have driven millions of immigrants into the US. Excerpt:
After spending over three months traveling through 18 of Mexico’s 31 states on the trail of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation’s Other Campaign, I have documented a very different view of the forces behind mass migration to the United States—the view of Mexicans who have migrated and returned, of those whose families left and did not come back, of those who have resisted migration, and those who are readying their day packs for the long walk north.

In their experience, there is no real choice, no search for something better. There is only the option of playing their lives against the coyotes and the desert, or betting on the slow but certain destitution of sweatshop labor, dispossession, and the political violence of the government and local mafia groups. This is the cruel gamble that the neoliberal political model in Mexico and the United States calls free choice.

How bad things have gotten

According to Robert Parry, Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte is actually one of the good guys opposing a rush to war with Iran--and the neocons want him out. When a bad guy like this starts to look like a good guy, things are very bad indeed.

Here's a boycott for you...

MIDAS MUFFLER. They just gave a $10,000 prize to a guy for having "America's Longest Commute." From Mariposa to San Jose, California and back, 372 miles, five days a week. He gets a reward for being the biggest jerk in America (non-governmental category). I may be being a bit harsh on the guy, but nowhere near as harsh as Midas is being nice to him. And he finds destroying the planet at this brisk pace "exhilarating." So screw him.

So, next time your car sounds like an F-16 taking off, or needs new brakes, go somewhere besides Midas. Better yet, just sell the car for scrap and take the bus.

Colbert quotes: Rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg

According to Chris Floyd, a media blackout is already underway concerning Stephen Colbert's little talk to aWol and his pet media Saturday night. So it's up to Chris and Billmon and Jonathan and Jonathan and Tom and me and I'm sure many other bloggers to get the word out. (It wouldn't surprise me if a few wingnut bloggers also took notice.) Here are some choice quotes from Colbert's performance, via the comments on Floyd's site:
I believe that everyone has the right to their own religion, be it Hindu, Jewish or Muslim. I believe there are infinite paths to accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior.
So don't pay attention to the approval ratings that say 68% of Americans disapprove of the job this man is doing. I ask you this, does that not also logically mean that 68% approve of the job he's not doing? Think about it. I haven’t. I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message, that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world.
Fox News gives you both sides of every story, the President's side and the Vice President's side.
Over the last five years you people were so good over tax cuts, W.M.D. intelligence, the affect of global warming. We Americans didn't want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out. Those were good times, as far as we knew. But, listen, let's review the rules. Here's how it works. The President makes decisions, he's the decider. The Press Secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Put them through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know, fiction.
Everybody asks for personnel changes. So the White House has personnel changes. Then you write they're just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. First of all, that is a terrible metaphor. This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg.
I've got a theory about how to handle these retired generals causing all this trouble, don't let them retire. C'mon, we've got a stop loss program, let's use it on these guys. If you're strong enough to go on one of those pundit shows, you can stand on a bank of computers and order men into battle.

Quote du jour

[T]he real utility of the polygraph machine, or "lie detector," is that many of the tens of thousands of people who are subjected to it each year believe that it works--and thus will frequently admit to things they might not otherwise acknowledge during an interview or interrogation.
From a WaPo article: Polygraph Results Often in Question. The subtitle to the article: "CIA, FBI Defend Test's Use in Probes." Well, of course they do. As a way to find the truth, polygraphs suck. As intimidation, however, they rock.
But even critics of the polygraph concede that it can help managers learn things about employees that would otherwise remain hidden. That aspect of polygraph testing lies at the heart of its continuing appeal, said Alan Zelicoff, a former scientist at Sandia National Laboratories who quit because he believed that polygraphs are unethical.

Although polygraph tests involving national security are supposed to be about a handful of questions involving espionage, Zelicoff said the tests take hours: "In each and every test, what happens is after question two or three the questioner will pause and very deliberately take a long hard look at the chart and take a deep breath and sigh and say, 'You did really well on question one, but on the second question, about whether you released classified information, I am getting a strange reading. Tell you what--I am going to turn the machine off and I am going to ask whether there is something you want to get off your chest.'"

"That is what the polygraph is about," said Zelicoff, who has testimony from several employees who are angry about the tests. "It is about an excuse to conduct a wide-ranging inquisition."
I would go one step further. As with torture, the point of the polygraph is not really to discover the truth--it is simply a method of intimidation. The real target isn't the person tied to the machine; it's all the others who might be tempted by their consciences to blow the whistle on some nasty thing the government is doing."

Former NY Times columnist William Safire, who could be a total idiot about some things (such as the alleged tie between Iraq and 9/11), was spot on when it came to polygraphs. Along with fingerprints and I'm sure many other tools, they rely on unwarranted public confidence to increase both the control and the apparent credibility of the police state.


Looking to get pissed off?

Read the Boston Globe's article on presidential signing statements--the 750 bills that W has signed into law and then immmediately asserted don't apply to him. Excerpt:
Bush is the first president in modern history who has never vetoed a bill, giving Congress no chance to override his judgments. Instead, he has signed every bill that reached his desk, often inviting the legislation's sponsors to signing ceremonies at which he lavishes praise upon their work.

Then, after the media and the lawmakers have left the White House, Bush quietly files ''signing statements"--official documents in which a president lays out his legal interpretation of a bill for the federal bureaucracy to follow when implementing the new law. The statements are recorded in the federal register.

In his signing statements, Bush has repeatedly asserted that the Constitution gives him the right to ignore numerous sections of the bills--sometimes including provisions that were the subject of negotiations with Congress in order to get lawmakers to pass the bill. He has appended such statements to more than one of every 10 bills he has signed.

"He agrees to a compromise with members of Congress, and all of them are there for a public bill-signing ceremony, but then he takes back those compromises--and more often than not, without the Congress or the press or the public knowing what has happened," said Christopher Kelley, a Miami University of Ohio political science professor who studies executive power.
David Golove, a New York University law professor who specializes in executive-power issues, said Bush has cast a cloud over "the whole idea that there is a rule of law," because no one can be certain of which laws Bush thinks are valid and which he thinks he can ignore.
"Where you have a president who is willing to declare vast quantities of the legislation that is passed during his term unconstitutional, it implies that he also thinks a very significant amount of the other laws that were already on the books before he became president are also unconstitutional," Golove said.
A president who ignores the court, backed by a Congress that is unwilling to challenge him, Golove said, can make the Constitution simply "disappear."
I haven't seen evidence of it lately. Have you?

Even Reaganistas are concerned (and not just Paul Craig Roberts):
Bruce Fein, a deputy attorney general in the Reagan administration, said the American system of government relies upon the leaders of each branch ''to exercise some self-restraint." But Bush has declared himself the sole judge of his own powers, he said, and then ruled for himself every time.

"This is an attempt by the president to have the final word on his own constitutional powers, which eliminates the checks and balances that keep the country a democracy," Fein said. "There is no way for an independent judiciary to check his assertions of power, and Congress isn't doing it, either. So this is moving us toward an unlimited executive power."

Just in case this is the only blog you read...

Stephen Colbert roasted aWol and the AWOL media on Saturday night, and we've got video.

From Tom Toles.

From Ted Rall.