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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Poor Nicaragua

The criminals in Washington just won't leave it alone. The outrageously misnamed "National Endowment for Democracy" is trying to steal the upcoming election there.
For the people of Nicaragua there must be a sense of déjà vu, coupled with a deep feeling of foreboding that they are again under the harsh spotlight of a Republican US administration.

More than 20 years after the US illegally intervened to brutally oust a democratically elected government, the US is again being accused of interfering in the Central American nation's domestic politics to ensure the victory of its preferred candidate. And again the US is controversially acting against the left-wing Sandinista party and its candidate, Daniel Ortega.

Good night and good luck

Keith Olberman dismantles Herr Rumsfeld. Video and transcript at This Modern World. You go, Keith!

There are limits to intelligence

But none to stupidity:
A military shell given to a group of children by a neighbor exploded while they played with it, killing two children and injuring five others, police and witnesses said.
Frank Sendejo, who lives near the apartment complex where the explosion occurred, said Wednesday he had given a group of children a 40 mm shell. Police said they have talked with Sendejo.

Sendejo told The Bakersfield Californian that he thought the shell was spent and often used it as a "conversation piece." He said the firing pin and bottom shell casing had been removed, along with the gun powder inside.

"I thought it was harmless," he told the newspaper.
Even if that were true, why would anyone think that a 40 mm shell is an appropriate toy for eight-year-olds?

From Tom Toles.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

No friends to Israel

Paul Craig Roberts:
AIPAC and Bush have allowed, or caused, Israel to do itself so much damage in the eyes of Muslims and the wider world that a peaceful resolution in the MIddle East is no longer in people's thoughts. With the mighty US military checked in Iraq by a handful of Sunnis, and the mighty Israeli army checked in Lebanon by a handful of Hezbollah, violence is unlikely to settle the matter in a way that neocons in the US and Zionists in Israel would like.

The only hope is that Bush and Olmert miraculously turn into grown men, admit their mistakes, apologize, send reparations and commit to winning acceptance of Israel and America based on Israel's and America's good behavior. It would be nice to see in operation some of the superior morality that the two claim.

Considering the extraordinary hubris and self-righteousness of neocons and Zionists, nothing like this can possibly happen. Israel, the US, and the Muslim world will continue to bleed.

Legionnaire's Disease

The American Legion convention has been plagued this week by both Fearmaster Cheney and the most unknowing of unknowns, Donald Rumsfeld. Rummy babbled about appeasing a "new kind of fascism." To which Juan Cole offers the perfect response:

Herr Rumsfeld complains that "the former CNN Baghdad bureau chief admits he concealed reports of Saddam Hussein’s crimes when he was in power so CNN could stay in Iraq," when of course that's exactly what Rummy was doing when that picture was taken, and which the US continued to do for several years, including after the brutal Anfal campaign against the Kurds for which we are trying Saddam Hussein at the moment. I guess the problem for Rummy isn't that CNN concealed Saddam's crimes--it's that they have admitted doing so. Juan Cole also responds to Herr Rumsfeld's old canard about appeasement.

And, of course, Rummy complains about "the old mentality of 'Blame America First.'" Stop starting pointless wars, committing countless war crimes, and being such brutal hypocrites, and we'll stop blaming you for it all. Simple as that.

Rummy concludes with a story dear to his "heart:"
A Soldier who recently volunteered for a second tour in Iraq, captured the feelings of many of his peers. In an e-mail to friends he wrote:

"I ask that you never take advantage of the liberties guaranteed by the shedding of free blood, never take for granted the freedoms granted by our Constitution. For those liberties would be merely ink on paper were it not for the sacrifice of generations of Americans who heard the call of duty and responded heart, mind and soul with 'Yes, I will.'"
"Never take advantage of the liberties." I say, that soldier hates us for our freedom!

I must say I am thoroughly sick of people pretending that America's wars have anything to do with protecting America's freedoms. Generally, it is exactly the opposite, from Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War to Roosevelt's imprisoning of Japanese-Americans during World War II, right up to aWol's Patriot Act.

Quote du jour

I've come back to New Orleans to tell you the words that I spoke on Jackson Square are just as true today as they were then.
-- aWol, yesterday in New Orleans.

As WIIIAI points out, that is precisely the problem. Lies then, lies now. Just as true.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

NY Times loves Big Brother

According to Chris Floyd, residents of the Airstrip One province of Oceania (that is, England), were unable to read yesterday's NY Times article about recent developments in the alleged li Quida airplane bombing plot. The Times censored itself in deference to recent statements by Brit home secretary John Reid. The online article was blocked on British computers, and no copies of the NY Times were delivered to England yesterday. The Times stated that
On advice of legal counsel, this article is unavailable to readers of in Britain. This arises from the requirement in British law that prohibits publication of prejudicial information about the defendants prior to trial.
As Floyd points out, no one has more prejudiced the trial of these defendants than Reid himself.

But the NY Times, out of deference to an ally in the war on sanity, censors itself.

Innovative Emergency Management

Greg Palast reviews the pre-Katrina New Orleans evacuation plan--or would, if one had existed:
Here's what happened. Right after Katrina swamped the city, I called Washington to get a copy of the evacuation plan.

Funny thing about the murderously failed plan for the evacuation of New Orleans: no one can find it. That's right. It's missing. Maybe it got wet and sank in the flood. Whatever: No one can find it.

That's real bad. Here's the key thing about a successful emergency evacuation plan: you have to have copies of it. Lots of copies--in fire houses and in hospitals and in the hands of every first responder. Secret evacuation plans don't work.

I know, I worked on the hurricane evacuation plan for Long Island New York, an elaborate multi-volume dossier.

Specifically, I'm talking about the plan that was written, or supposed to have been written two years ago by a company called, "Innovative Emergency Management."

Weird thing about IEM, their founder Madhu Beriwal, had no known experience in hurricane evacuations. She did, however, have a lot of experience in donating to Republicans.
IEM apparently had started on a plan, which called for Nawliners to just drive out of the city. The hundred-thousand-plus carless were forgotten.

But next time (this week?), things will be better, because
The Bush Administration has hired a consulting firm to fix the failed evacuation plan. The contractor? A Baton Rouge company named "Innovative Emergency Management." IEM.

Heh heh heh!

Some Katrina pix

Amazing he has the gall to show his ugly face anywhere near the Gulf Coast

Hurricane Katrina destroyed or seriously damaged 493,000 structures. From the fourth quarter of 2005 through the second quarter of 2006, 1,207,000 single-family housing units and 255,000 multi-family buildings were started in the United States (census bureau). Many of these buildings were purchased on speculation--the buyers hoping to be able to sell the home later for a much higher price. The $110 billion pledged by Bush for rebuilding is approximately twice as much as should have been required to rebuiild every single home destroyed (houses are cheaper on the Gulf Coast than in most of the country), leaving plenty left over for levees, road repair, etc. In short, the country clearly has the money and the capacity to build half a million new homes in a year, something which would not only have rebuilt the Gulf Coast, but would have rebuilt its economy as well. All that was needed was appropriate and swift channeling of the money to the right places, creating the incentives to lure the housing industry into building on the Gulf Coast, rather than building ever more speculative McMansions in the outskirts of DC and LA. So what happened? A commenter at WIIIAI explains:
I live in Pass Christian, MS. My Mother lives in Pass Christian, MS. My brother lives in Bay St. Louis, MS. My home was completely destroyed (along with my business and most of the town). My mother's and my brother's homes were severely damaged and remain uninhabitable.

The Feds "wrote a check" to HUD for billions. HUD developed CDBG (Community Development Block Grants) programs to be administered by MS Republican Gov. (and former RNC head) Haley Barbour. MS Phase I Katrina Housing Grants have been applied for by (reportedly) 17,000 families. Approximately 65,000 homes in MS were either destroyed or severely damaged by Katrina. Of the 17,000 Phase I applicants, less than 50 have seen a dime of Phase I money. Less than 50.

Phase I only covered homes with insurance outside the designated FEMA flood zones. As you can see, only about one-quarter of the homes destroyed or severely damaged by Katrina in MS even qualified for Phase I money and less than 50 have so far received any money at all.

My brother qualified for Phase I. He has yet to receive a dime. My mother and I did not qualify for Phase I. We applied for Phase II, but Phase II is vapor-there isn't any plan for Phase II yet, just an empty promise.

Homeowner's Insurance has turned out to be a cruel and expensive joke (or a racket run against policyholders). If a drop of floodwater can be documented in one's neighborhood, one is denied any coverage by one's homeowner's insurance carrier.

The reality down here is unless a Katrina damaged MS homeowner had the maximum amount of federal flood insurance (which very few did), then their chances of having any reconstruction or repair underway depends almost entirely upon their being able to self-finance (again very, very few can manage that) or getting lucky (akin to being struck by lightning) and having a volunteer group build or repair their home (a few have been that lucky), they are living in a 8' x 28' FEMA travel trailer which rocks and rolls in every strong breeze.
The gall of the idiot, even showing his face down there.

Heh, heh! Just another way to funnel billions to my pals!

THEN they die

From Ed Stein.

No, that won't work either

From Jeff Parker.

From Mike Lane.

Collecting oil

Here's an interesting paragraph from Juan Cole's daily rundown of the mayhem in Iraq:
The explosion at a leaking oil pipeline near Diwaniyah that killed 16 persons who came to collect petroleum from it would have been bad news enough all on its own. Instead, a mere deadly accident flew under the news radar. The tragedy came because of the severe fuel crisis in Iraq, which drives people to try to collect oil in dangerous ways.
In a larger sense, the tragedy came because of the severe fuel crisis in America, which drives people to try to collect oil anywhere and everywhere in extremely dangerous ways.

Juan Cole's summary of the situation:
Bombings stretched from Istanbul to southern Iraq on Monday, in a new arc of crisis. This isn't going very well.
Which leads to the quote du jour: "Iraq will never be in a civil war." -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki

Just imagine, President Abraham al-Malincolni delivering the Gettysburg Address: "America will never be in a civil war."


From Tom Toles.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Lost in translation

Virginia Tilley summarizes the lost in translation campaign against Iran:
In this frightening mess in the Middle East, let's get one thing straight. Iran is not threatening Israel with destruction. Iran's president has not threatened any action against Israel. Over and over, we hear that Iran is clearly "committed to annihilating Israel" because the "mad" or "reckless" or "hard-line" President Ahmadinejad has repeatedly threatened to destroy Israel But every supposed quote, every supposed instance of his doing so, is wrong.
The media is serving as the anti-Honey for Ahmedinajad here. About 30 years ago, fictional Doonesbury character Uncle Duke was appointed Ambassador to China. Not speaking any Chinese, he was assigned a native Chinese translator, Honey Huan. Duke had a habit of making racist and inflammatory remarks which could easily have started World War III if Honey hadn't translated them into innocuous bureacratese. Honey's goal, aside from love-inspired devotion to Duke, was to prevent World War III. The current media's goal in mis-translating Ahmedinajad is exactly the opposite.

Sorry if you thought this was a review of the Bill Murray/Scarlett Johansson movie "Lost in Translation." Here's a brief review, just in case. Although I think Bill Murray is one of the funniest people alive and Scarlett Johansson one of the most beautiful, that movie sucked big time.

Quote du jour

Because many in the administration and Congress feel strongly that coerced confessions constitute the "best practice" to get truth from people suspected of bad things, then, under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, American citizens should be permitted to use the same method to pry the truth out of their elected representatives.
-- "rob payne," in a comment at A Tiny Revolution

This blog does not endorse the use of torture under any circumstances, but admits to finding the above suggestion intriguing.


Danziger gets it

From Jeff Danziger.

And still don't...
Note: Both quotes are from January. Hillary doesn't seem to have been saying anything at all about Iran recently--a step in the right direction, I guess. Still, the chance that one of these two warmongers will replace our current warmonger in the White House is a much greater threat to the future of the country, and the world, than anything Iran can possibly do.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Not a threat

Our amazingly stupid and/or criminal Congress and media seem to be rushing us to war once again, even though the same criminal misadministration led us into another disastrous war just three and a half years ago based entirely on lies. If you know anyone who at least vaguely remembers what the Iraq war was supposedly about, but thinks that Iran is somehow different, have them read these two posts by Juan Cole.

Inadequate is enough

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Merchant coal

Global warming is accelerating, but speculators like Goldman Sachs are building "merchant coal" power plants in farm fields in Iowa and Texas:
Across the nation, 153 new coal plants are currently proposed, enough to power some 93 million homes. Of those 153 proposals, only 24 have expressed an intent to use gasification technology, which offers a way to handle the large amounts of carbon dioxide produced by coal combustion. A recent report from the National Energy Technology Laboratory anticipates the construction of up to 309 new 500 MW coal plants in the U.S. by 2030. If NETL's projections are correct, U.S. coal-generation capacity will more than triple by 2010, with corresponding air pollution and greenhouse-gas increases.
This isn't just insanely stupid--it's criminal.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Speed up! There's a cliff coming!

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke thinks that the cure for the ills of globalization is more globalization.
Government policymakers should work to make sure the benefits of economic globalization are widely enjoyed to maintain political support for trade growth, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said today.

Political and technological changes are likely to keep spurring global economic integration -- the growing exchange of goods, capital, workers and ideas around the world, he said in a speech to a conference here.

That trend creates the potential for raising living standards and lowering poverty, but also the likelihood of resistance by groups or nations that feel threatened by change, Bernanke told a gathering of central bankers, analysts and academics.

"The challenge for policymakers is to ensure that the benefits of global economic integration are sufficiently widely shared," Bernanke said. "The effort is well worth making, as the potential benefits of increased global economic integration are large indeed."

Bernanke did not propose specific policies for countering efforts to restrict trade, but he suggested as one general example the efforts to provide job training to workers who have lost work because of globalization.
Globalization has been going on for decades, and has a practically unbroken record of lowering living standards and increasing poverty--except among the ruling class to which Bernanke belongs. When he wants to ensure that the benefits are "sufficiently widely shared," he means that the leaders of third-world nations are sufficiently bought off with money and weapons that they will keep the cost of their labor and resources low so that Ben and his buddies can continue to make exhorbitant profits from them.

Peak oil will likely thwart many of Ben's grand schemes, as the race to the bottom runs out of fuel. But the whole idea of searching the globe for the cheapest labor and lowest environmental standards, all to increase quarterly profits, is disgusting, as is the idea that jackasses in Washington should be calling the shots for the whole world. It never ceases to amaze me how many people seem to think that so-called globalization is "progress."

Difficult to claim victory without casualties

The WaPo article writes about the Brit bugout from Amarah in southern Iraq:
British troops abandoned a major base in southern Iraq on Thursday and prepared to wage guerrilla warfare along the Iranian border to combat weapons smuggling, a move that anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called the first expulsion of U.S.-led coalition forces from an Iraqi urban center.

"This is the first Iraqi city that has kicked out the occupier!" trumpeted a message from Sadr's office that played on car-mounted speakers in Amarah, capital of the southern province of Maysan. "We have to celebrate this occasion!"

Maj. Charlie Burbridge, a British military spokesman, said the last of 1,200 troops left Camp Abu Naji, just outside Amarah, at noon Thursday, after several days of heavy mortar and rocket fire by a local militia, which local residents identified as the Sadr-controlled Mahdi Army.
Burbridge acknowledged that constant shelling of the base in Amarah by militia forces, including 17 mortar rounds fired in recent days that wounded three people, were part of the reason the camp closed.

"By no longer presenting a static target, we reduce the ability of the militias to strike us," he said. But he rejected Sadr's claim that the British had been defeated and pushed out of Amarah. "It's very difficult to claim a victory without causing significant casualties."
Because war has nothing to do with territory or oil or democracy or freedom--it's all about the killing.

Burbridge's claim reminds me of a historical marker I once saw on a road leading into Eufaula, Alabama. Thanks to the wonder of the Internet, I can quote its text precisely:
This road marks the entrance into Eufaula of Federal troops on April 29, 1865. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia on April 9. General Benjamin H. Grierson was advancing with four thousand cavalry from Mobile and was then about at Louisville. He had not heard of Lee's surrender. Masters Edward Young and Edward Stern, mounted on horses and bearing flags of truce, were at once dispatched out this road, the direct route from Clayton, to meet General Grierson. They met General Grierson at six-mile branch, delivered the message, and returned. Then Dr. C. J. Pope, Mayor, and a committee of City Councilmen rode out to meet the Federal General and cavalry, leading them back into town down Broad Street and across the Chattahoochee to camp at Harrison?s Mill near Georgetown, Georgia.

The town never surrendered. Though Eufaula remained under Federal military restriction about 4 to 5 months, good order prevailed and all private rights were respected.
So, two townspeople came out to the approaching Union cavalry, under a flag of truce, to inform them that they had won the war. The mayor and city council then arrived to escort the Union soldiers into the heart of Eufaula. But, apparently following the same logic that Burbidge used, Eufaula "never surrendered."

"It's just a flesh wound!"

Blood Libel

Chris Floyd comments on Turd Blossom's lies about the NSA program:
So here is where we are. The president's chief adviser is deliberately telling lies about the Administration's clearly criminal peeping-tom program, lies deliberately constructed to sow fear among the American people--and murderous hatred for those who oppose presidential dictatorship.

This isn't politics. This isn't partisanship. This is blood libel, and it will end in blood--sooner, not later.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Nuclear threat

A Middle Eastern country has just added two nuclear-capable submarines to its arsenal, which already includes long-range ballistic missles, state-of-the-art jet fighters and bombers, and hundreds of nuclear weapons. But it's Israel, so they get a pass, and Bush is badgering the UN to go after Iran instead.

Let's compare:
  • Iran has no nuclear weapons. Israel has had nuclear weapons for over thirty years, and is believed to have hundreds in its arsenal.
  • Israel is actively adding to its nuclear arsenal. Iran is attempting to enrich uranium within the limits prescribed by the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).
  • Iran has signed the NPT; Israel has not.
  • Iran has submitted to IAEA inspections, and is willing to submit to more if given simple security guarantees. Israel has never allowed outside inspections of its nuclear program.
  • The last time Iran started a war was, well, never. Israel? Twice so far this summer.
  • Iran allegedly supplies weapons to Hezbollah. Israel has sold weapons to many countries, including China, South Africa, and Iran.

Still, AP finds "experts" who somehow make Iran sound like the threat:
The latest submarines not only would be able to carry out a first strike should Israel choose to do so, but they also would provide Israel with crucial second-strike capabilities, said Paul Beaver, a London-based independent defense analyst.

Israel is already believed to have that ability in the form of the Jericho-1 and Jericho-2 nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, which are buried so far underground they would survive a nuclear strike, he said.

"The Iranians would be very foolish if they attacked Israel," Beaver said.
David Menashri, an Israeli expert on Iran, said Tehran is clearly determined to obtain nuclear weapons and "the purchase of additional Dolphin submarines by Israel is a small footnote in this context."

What also makes Tehran dangerous, Beaver said, is that it may not understand the consequences of carrying out a nuclear strike.

"They (Iran) have a belligerent leadership and that's why Israel is prudent in ensuring that it has that deterrent capability," Beaver said. "What they (the submarines) are is a very good insurance policy."
How anyone can observe the non-stop war rhetoric, and actions, from Bush, Blair and Olmert, and then call Iran's leadership "belligerent" and Israel's "prudent" is beyond my comprehension.

Roving liartaps

Presidential adviser Karl Rove criticized a federal judge's order for an immediate end to the government's warrantless surveillance program, saying Wednesday such a program might have prevented the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Rove said the government should be free to listen if al Qaeda is calling someone within the U.S.

"Imagine if we could have done that before 9/11. It might have been a different outcome," he said.
No need to imagine, Turd Blossom. You could and did do that before 9/11, and legally, through the absurdly lenient FISA process. But you preferred to break the law, apparently just to show that you could get away with it.

One amendment we do need to the Constitution--any administration that attempts to use its own massive screwups to political advantage should be dissolved and replaced immediately. They ignored the warnings, stood down most of the air defense system, reacted slowly and incoherently, and covered up most of the evidence. While you're playing John Lennon, Turd Blossom--imagine if we had a competent, well-intentioned administration. It's easy if you try. You, Turd Blossom, would be out of a job.

A 9/11 every month

From Reuters:
U.S. traffic deaths hit a 15-year high in 2005 with more people killed while riding motorcycles and in larger vehicles, government figures released on Tuesday confirmed.

The total number of traffic deaths rose 1.4 percent over 2004, to 43,443, even though the number of people killed in passenger cars actually declined by 3.9 percent, according to figures issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Total fatalities were slightly higher than a 43,200 estimate released by the agency in April. The 2005 traffic deaths were the most since the 44,599 in 1990.
That's 43,443 dead in 2005, or 3620 per month. Approximately 3000 people died in the 9/11 attacks. But we've got a "global war on terror," but no plans to replace our ridiculous system of having most adults in this country tooling about in lethal weapons. The government's response, of course, is to blame the victims:
"Motorcyclists need to wear their helmets, drivers need to buckle up and all motorists need to stay sober," acting U.S. Secretary of Transportation Maria Cino said in a statement.

Worse than slavery

Based on a recommendation from Chris Floyd's blog, I've started reading Worse than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice, by David Oshinsky, which chronicles how the South, Mississippi in particular, responded to the emancipation of slaves by instituting convict leasing--while finding ways to turn every black in sight into a "convict." As Oshinsky points out, it is bad when human beings treat other human beings as their property--but even worse when they treat them as disposable. A plantation owner who worked a slave to death lost something of value to him, whereas a plantation owner or railroad builder who worked a convict laborer to death just requested another from the state.

As Floyd points out, this system, which has never fully gone away in this country, has made a dramatic resurgence in recent years. And it's not just in the South. Take a look at the blog of Reverend Edward Pinkney, who has been fighting the system in Michigan's very own Mississippi--Benton Harbor. Here are selections from a couple of recent posts there:
How the Government Manipulated the War on Drugs to Create a Slave Prison Market

By Rev. Edward Pinkney

Beware, poor Blacks, Hispanics, whites -- and all the have-nots. Each of you out there better start keeping your mind on your freedom and your freedom on your mind. UNICOR is the proud symbol of a government owned corporation for the prison industry with 100 or more factories operating inside Federal prisons. The CEO of UNICOR and Congress get cheap labor from 23 cents to $1.15 per hour from factory working inmates. Are they from South Africa? No! from Cuba? No! from Mexico? No! The inmates come from poor communities scattered across this nation. When translated, this means that a whole lot of poor Blacks, Hispanics, and whites, the have-nots, are in serious trouble, in life-threatening danger.
Court Appointed Attys: Anybody Can Do Their Job

If you are still using court appointed attorneys, I will be happy to provide you with those same services for nothing. This will include all of the following: ignoring all your phone calls and letters, not defending you against family members badgering you to plead quilty to a crime you never commited, working to collaborate with prosecutors and judges against your best interest and, if you are in jail, postponing your court date over and over again until you plead quilty.

The Berrien county court appointed attorneys should be independent from political influence. However, in Berrien county the court appointed attorneys, prosecutors and judges are on the same team with the very same goal: convicting innocent poor people.
Over and over again we have seen the court appointed attorney not interviewing the client until the actual court appearance and then while actually in the courtroom! They seldom call or supeona witnsses for trial.
Berrien County, MI is in constitutional chaos as the police, prosecutors, politicians and judges are using the machinery of government to execorably grind away at the those rights and liberties gauranteed to all Americans under the constitution and the Bill of Rights. In Berrien County agencies of the state will often arrest without warrant, spy without legal authority, imprison without charge and even kill without just cause or reason.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Voodoo law enforcement

Bob Herbert writes about our system of injustice in the age of the so-called "war on terror:"
Once we had voodoo economics. Now, in the age of terror, we have voodoo law enforcement. ... People have disappeared. People have been sent off to foreign lands to be tortured. People have been condemned to secret dungeons run by the C.I.A. People have been put away at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, with no hope of being allowed to prove their innocence.

For five years now Americans have been chasing ghosts and shadows, and demanding that they confess to terrorizing us. Who's terrorizing whom here?

We need to ask ourselves: Do we want a just society? Or are we willing to trade that revolutionary idea for a repressive government that gives us nothing more than the illusion of safety?


More lie-lights from aWol's press conference:
Q Quick follow-up. A lot of the consequences you mentioned for pulling out seem like maybe they never would have been there if we hadn't gone in. How do you square all of that?

THE PRESIDENT: I square it because, imagine a world in which you had Saddam Hussein who had the capacity to make a weapon of mass destruction, who was paying suiciders to kill innocent life, who would -- who had relations with Zarqawi. [Saddam: I did not have sex with that terrorist!] Imagine what the world would be like with him in power. [Actually, I remember such a world. Better than this one, it was--even in Iraq.] The idea is to try to help change the Middle East.

Now, look, part of the reason we went into Iraq was -- the main reason we went into Iraq at the time was we thought he had weapons of mass destruction. [What you mean "we," kemosabe?] It turns out he didn't, but he had the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction. [No, he didn't.] But I also talked about the human suffering in Iraq, and I also talked the need to advance a freedom agenda. And so my question -- my answer to your question is, is that, imagine a world in which Saddam Hussein was there, stirring up even more trouble in a part of the world that had so much resentment and so much hatred that people came and killed 3,000 of our citizens.

You know, I've heard this theory about everything was just fine until we arrived, and kind of "we're going to stir up the hornet's nest" theory. It just doesn't hold water, as far as I'm concerned. The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East. [According to the State Department, there were 355 terrorist attacks in 2001 and 199 in 2002; in 2005 there were 11,111.]

Q What did Iraq have to do with that?

THE PRESIDENT: What did Iraq have to do with what?

Q The attack on the World Trade Center?

THE PRESIDENT: Nothing, except for it's part of -- and nobody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack.
Of course, W just finished saying that Saddam had stirred up so much hatred in Iraq that a bunch of Saudis and Egyptians decided to retaliate by attacking the US. Oh, my head hurts every time I try to understand Bush logic! And has aWol told Useless Dick that he is not a part of the administration? Here's what he told Tim Russert in September, 2003:
MR. RUSSERT: The Washington Post asked the American people about Saddam Hussein, and this is what they said: 69 percent said he was involved in the September 11 attacks. Are you surprised by that?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: No. I think it's not surprising that people make that connection.

MR. RUSSERT: But is there a connection?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: We don't know. You and I talked about this two years ago. I can remember you asking me this question just a few days after the original attack. At the time I said no, we didn't have any evidence of that. Subsequent to that, we've learned a couple of things. We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the '90s, that it involved training, for example, on BW and CW, that al-Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on the systems that are involved. The Iraqis providing bomb-making expertise and advice to the al-Qaeda organization.

We know, for example, in connection with the original World Trade Center bombing in '93 that one of the bombers was Iraqi, returned to Iraq after the attack of '93. And we've learned subsequent to that, since we went into Baghdad and got into the intelligence files, that this individual probably also received financing from the Iraqi government as well as safe haven.

Now, is there a connection between the Iraqi government and the original World Trade Center bombing in '93? We know, as I say, that one of the perpetrators of that act did, in fact, receive support from the Iraqi government after the fact. With respect to 9/11, of course, we've had the story that's been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack, but we've never been able to develop anymore of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don't know.

MR. RUSSERT: We could establish a direct link between the hijackers of September 11 and Saudi Arabia.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: We know that many of the attackers were Saudi. There was also an Egyptian in the bunch. It doesn't mean those governments had anything to do with that attack. That's a different proposition than saying the Iraqi government and the Iraqi intelligent service has a relationship with al-Qaeda that developed throughout the decade of the '90s. That was clearly official policy. [No, it wasn't.]

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Is Bush an idiot?

Of course. But now cable "news" pundits like former Repug congresscritter Joe Scarborough, are asking that question--with lengthy video clips and discussion. Scarborough's answer? He doesn't come right out and say it, but I think it can be fairly summarized as "pretty much."

Watch it--it's fun!

Quote du jour

An old one, but very relevant:
What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?
-- Mahatma Gandhi


Not in doubt

Open for discussion among rational people: How much security and surveillance is necessary and reasonable in a so-called free society facing an (overblown) terrorist threat.

Not open for discussion among rational people: Legally, the issue was settled by Congress thirty years ago. Bush's secret NSA wiretapping was a clear violation of the FISA law, making him and much of his misadministration guilty of felonies. He has already confessed to the crime, publicly. He is a crook; he should go to jail.

Glenn Greenwald explains.

Times knew of NSA spying before 2004 election

From the World Socialist Web Site:
A column by New York Times public editor Byron Calame August 13 reveals that the newspaper withheld a story about the Bush administration’s program of illegal domestic spying until after the 2004 election, and then lied about it.

On December 16, 2005, the Times reported that President Bush had authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to monitor thousands of telephone conversations and e-mails in the US without court approval. At the time, the Times acknowledged that it had, at the urging of the Bush administration, withheld publication of the story, saying it held its expose back "for a year." This time frame suggested that the newspaper made the decision to withhold publication of the story after the 2004 presidential election.

Such a delay was, in itself, unpardonable, and provoked angry criticism. Now we learn, from an interview with Executive Editor Bill Keller conducted by Calame, that internal discussions at the Times about drafts of the eventual article had been "dragging on for weeks" before the November 2, 2004, election, which resulted in a victory for Bush.

"The process," the public editor notes, "had included talks with the Bush administration." A fresh draft was the subject of discussion at the newspaper "less than a week" before the election.
The WSWS is a bit silly in suggesting that this would have made any difference:
Aside from the sophistry arising from the fact that Keller admitted to having the basic story in hand for weeks before the election, what is truly astounding is that neither Calame nor Keller shows the slightest concern for "fairness" toward the voters, who went to the polls not knowing, thanks to the Times, that the Republican candidate was tearing up the Constitution.
Anyone who didn't already know, after Patriot Acts and illegal wars and excessive secrecy and 9/11 coverups, that Bush hadn't been tearing up the Constitution since January 2001, wasn't likely to figure it out based on this issue. And how would the scenario have played out if the Times had published before the election?
  • 10/27/2004: NY Times publishes article on NSA spying.
  • 10/27/2004: White House spokesman Scott McLellan refuses to comment on the subject, saying it is a national security issue.
  • 10/27/2004: Cable news channels immediately miss the main point, the pResident breaking the law, and focus on the "necessity" for wiretapping in the face of the "terrorist threat."
  • 10/29/2004: Bush goes on TV to brag about the program, just as he did when the story actually broke last December.
  • 10/31/2004: John Kerry commends Bush for protecting the American people, saying only that he could do it better. Kerry adds a harsh condemnation of the NY Times for revealing national secrets.
  • 11/1/2004: Karl Rove orders the stealing of two more states in the election, just to be sure.
  • 11/2/2004: Bush wins with a bigger margin than he actually did.
Not that I'm cynical or anything.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

From the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders:
1. An exaggerated sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
2. Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
3. Believes he is "special" and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
4. Requires excessive admiration.
5. Has a sense of entitlement.
6. Selfishly takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends.
7. Lacks empathy.
8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him.
9. Shows arrogant, haughty, patronizing, or contemptuous behaviors or attitudes.
Sound like anyone you know? Juan Cole spells it out. (Must-read blogging!) Excerpt, relating to trait number one above:
The reason he has to stay in Iraq until the end of his presidency (it is all about him) is that he cannot admit that he did not succeed in being the great Transformer of the Middle East, that in fact he screwed up the Middle East royally. Because such an admission of any slightest mistake, much less a major series of failures, would fatally threaten his sense of grandiosity.

I've been reading Cervantes' Don Quixote, one of those books frequently mentioned but seldom read. Quite a hoot, actually. After reading far too many books on knights and chivalry, Don Quixote's world view becomes completely distorted. He starts out on a life of knight-errantry, seeking adventures. He sees giants instead of windmills, huge armies when there are only herds of sheep, weapons of mass destruction where there is nothing. (Well, maybe not the last--I haven't finished the book yet.) Much destruction and injury result. Fortunately, the narcissist Don Quixote was not commander-in-chief of the world's largest military, lucky for the world. We're not so lucky.


Monday, August 21, 2006

So much for military discipline

More than 100 young women who expressed interest in joining the military in the past year were preyed upon sexually by their recruiters. Women were raped on recruiting office couches, assaulted in government cars and groped en route to entrance exams.

A six-month Associated Press investigation found that more than 80 military recruiters were disciplined last year for sexual misconduct with potential enlistees. The cases occurred across all branches of the military and in all regions of the country.
At least 35 Army recruiters, 18 Marine Corps recruiters, 18 Navy recruiters and 12 Air Force recruiters were disciplined for sexual misconduct or other inappropriate behavior with potential enlistees in 2005, according to records obtained by the AP under dozens of Freedom of Information Act requests. That's significantly more than the handful of cases disclosed in the past decade.

The AP also found:

-The Army, which accounts for almost half of the military, has had 722 recruiters accused of rape and sexual misconduct since 1996.

-Across all services, one out of 200 frontline recruiters--the ones who deal directly with young people--was disciplined for sexual misconduct last year.
Most recruiters found guilty of sexual misconduct are disciplined administratively, facing a reduction in rank or forfeiture of pay; military and civilian prosecutions are rare.

Bush is the ultimate mission creep

AWol babbled to the press today:
Bush also said he was troubled that so many U.S. House and Senate candidates were calling for withdrawal U.S. forces from Iraq.

"There are a lot of good decent people saying 'get out now. Vote for me, I'll do everything I can to cut off money...' It's a big mistake. It would be wrong, in my judgment, to leave before the mission is completed in Iraq."
This is too easy.

accomplish (vt): 1. To succeed in doing, bring to pass. 2. To reach the end of, complete.

And "in my judgment?" That's all you've got as a reason for the additional hundreds of Americans killed and thousands wounded sure to come by staying the course? Frankly, sir, your judgment sucks.

Runoff voting

BBC headline: DR Congo run-off could be best result
Nationally, neither man managed to gain the 50% needed for victory in the first round and so the two best-placed candidates will face a run-off in October.
BBC writer Joseph Winter gives two reasons why having a runoff may be good:
Some observers thought the delay in announcing the results would serve to cool hot tempers and possibly avoid the feared post-election violence. The same argument is now being used about a second round.

Furthermore, a run-off means the two remaining candidates will have to try to broaden their appeal beyond their core supporters--no bad thing in such a vast, fractured country trying to put an end to years of conflict.
The idea that it is just more fair, that giving those who voted for other candidates a say in chosing between the two frontrunners, never seems to occur to Winter. I'm pretty sure that there is no perfect system of democracy, but systems which fail to have runoff elections when there is no majority winner, like ours, aren't even trying.

American democracy--worse than Congo's!


Reuters headline: Lieberman insists he is "devoted" Democrat

That's right, Joementum--the Democrats of Connecticut de-voted you. Now get lost!

From Matt Bors.

From Mr. Fish.

From Jeff Parker.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

AWol again, naturally

AP looks at how well aWol keeps his promises:
Nearly half of New Orleans was still under water when President Bush stood in the Crescent City's historic Jackson Square and swore he would "do what it takes" to rebuild the communities and lives that had been laid to waste two weeks before by Hurricane Katrina.

"Our goal is to get the work done quickly," the president said.

He promised to spend federal money wisely and accountably. And he vowed to address the poverty exposed by the government's inadequate Katrina response "with bold action."

A year after the storm, the federal government has proven slow and unreliable in keeping the president's promises.
The job of clearing debris left by the storm remains unfinished, and has been plagued by accusations of fraud and price gouging. Tens of thousands of families still live in trailers or mobile homes, with no indication of when or how they will be able to obtain permanent housing. Important decisions about rebuilding and improving flood defenses have been delayed. And little if anything has been done to ensure the welfare of the poor in a rebuilt New Orleans.
CLEANUP: The job still isn't done. More than 100 million cubic yards of debris have been cleared from the region affected by Katrina. So far the government has spent $3.6 billion, a figure that might have been considerably smaller had the contracts for debris removal been subject to competitive bidding.

Working through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA gave each of four companies contracts worth up to $500 million to clear hurricane debris. This spring government inspectors reported that the companies--AshBritt Inc. of Pompano Beach, Fla., Phillips and Jordan Inc. of Knoxville, Tenn., Ceres Environmental Services Inc. of Brooklyn Park, Minn. and ECC Operating Services Inc. of Burlingame, Calif.--charged the government as much as four to six times what they paid their subcontractors who actually did the work.
In other words, the high bidders (actually non-bidding Bush cronies) got the money, while the low bidders did (some of) the work. Ayn Rand would be proud--aWol is the ultimate reverse Robin Hood. He steals from the poor and gives to the rich. That IS the agenda of our "government."

From Jack Ohman.

From Bill Schorr.

From Mike Keefe.

Armed faction within the country

From Juan Cole:
Iran and Turkey both maintain that Iraqi Kurdistan is allowing guerrilla groups to operate freely, and to blow up things in Turkey and Iran then return to Kurdistan.
By the Israeli-American logic for the war on Lebanon, I guess both Iran and Turkey would be justified in undertaking massive bombing campaigns to destroy Iraq's infrastructure. Good luck finding any.

Big surprise--Israel breaks ceasefire

Nobody could have possibly forseen that happening--unless they knew a little history.

Friday, August 18, 2006

All the good snark is taken

Just a few minutes ago, I read aWol's latest stupid quote:
The first reaction, of course, of Hezbollah and its supporters is, declare victory. I guess I would have done the same thing if I were them, but sometimes it takes people a while to come to the sober realization of what forces create stability and which don't. Hezbollah is a force of instability.
My first thought was--and the US military isn't in Iraq? Not really enough to build a blog post around. So I look over at WIIIAI, and see that he jumped all over the "I would have done the same thing," but then noticed that Bob Harris had beaten him to it--both using this photo:

Billmon points out that aWol seems to have forgotten that last year, faced with the growing insurgencies in Iraq (surely, if there are multiple internets, there are multiple insurgencies in Iraq), his girlfriend had declared that democracy was more important than stability.
"For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East -- and we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course."

Condoleezza Rice
Speech at the American University of Cairo
June 20, 2005

Quote du jour

Did you ever think we'd see more wall-to-wall JonBenet Ramsey cable coverage in our lifetimes? I honestly believed that was over, but that's what happens when you think positively.
-- Dennis Perrin


Hereditary kings

WIIIAI summarizes yesterday's court ruling:
Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, ruling the warrantless wiretapping program both illegal and unconstitutional: "There are no hereditary kings in America".

The White House, responding: "We couldn’t disagree more with this ruling".
Chris Floyd declares Judge Anna Diggs Taylor the hero of the hour.

If the opposite of pro is con, what's the opposite of progress?

From Yahoo! News:
Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah is already taking steps to seize the momentum, announcing that Hezbollah will immediately begin repairing homes in southern Lebanon and even pay a year's rent to owners of damaged homes. The move underscores the extent to which Hezbollah is ingrained religiously and culturally in Lebanon, especially in the Shiite-dominated south, where the group runs an array of social services, including hospitals and schools.
Based on their stunning successes rebuilding Iraq and New Orleans, the Bushies think they're just the ones to show that they care for the Lebanese people more than Hezbollah. According to the LA Times, they are "scrambling to assemble a plan to help rebuild Lebanon." Times writer Paul Richter, being sane, notices a contradiction:
A major rebuilding investment would put the United States in the position of subsidizing both the Israeli munitions that caused the damage and the reconstruction work that will repair it. Such a proposal could meet with resistance from Congress, but administration officials said that the need for action was urgent.
Richter must be thinking of some Congress other than the US Congress, which has been funding the destruction and reconstruction of countries, frequently simultaneously, for decades. That infamous $87 billion that John Kerry voted for before he voted against included about $20 billion for the reconstruction of Iraq, and about $67 billion for its continued destruction. I mean, Halliburton and Bechtel stockholders aren't going to get rich on contracts rebuilding power plants and ports that AREN'T in ruins.


After the US supported Israel in the Yom Kippur war of 1973, the Arab petroleum exporting companies, including Iraq, instituted an embargo on oil shipments to the US. All of a sudden, Americans were waiting in long lines to pay for gas at much higher prices.

Well, guess who is waiting in lines now?
At gas stations around Baghdad, the line of cars waiting to fill their tanks with increasingly rare petrol now reaches 60 to 80 vehicles.

Some prefer to spend the night in their vehicles on streets to maintain their turn in the long line.

The nationwide fuel shortage is so severe that 20 litres now cost about $20.
That's about $3.78 a gallon--even more than we're paying. And they're waiting in long lines for it, in a country with some of the largest oil reserves in the world. We won!

The problem is being further aggravated because residents need to obtain fuel for power generators amid electricity shortages in the capital and all around Iraq.

You wonder--perhaps the 27-year-old George W. Bush, driving home from the bar at 2:30 in the morning, found his favorite station closed because it was out of gas. He ran out of gas and had to stagger the rest of the way home. Now he finally has his revenge.

Makes more sense than any of the reasons he has actually given.


That's a plaque placed on the King David Hotel in Jerusalem last month during a 60th anniversary celebration (yes, really) of the bombing of that hotel by Jewish terrorists led by then-future Israeli prime minister Menachim Begin. Another former (and possibly future) Israeli PM, Benjamin NetanYAHU, attended the celebration and defended the bombing. From the Times Online:
"It’s very important to make the distinction between terror groups and freedom fighters, and between terror action and legitimate military action," [Netanyahu] said. "Imagine that Hamas or Hezbollah would call the military headquarters in Tel Aviv and say, 'We have placed a bomb and we are asking you to evacuate the area'."
Unfortunately, either Netanyahu didn't conclude that analogy, or the Times didn't bother to report it. I assume NetanYAHU expects everyone to just accept that Hamas and Hezbollah are terrorist organizations (heck, even the US State Dept. says so, so it must be true!), whereas Begin's Irgun people were "freedom fighters." I'm still not clear whether he thinks the Israeli military HQ would be evacuated when it received a bomb threat. Is he implying that the only reason he calls H & H terrorist organizations is because they don't call first?

Israel likes to do warnings. They warn homeowners in Gaza, sometimes, that their homes are about to be bombed. (And I read somewhere recently, can't find it now, that they make many more calls than they actually follow up with bombs.) In Lebanon, they dropped leaflets warning people to flee before demolishing their neighborhoods, or used loudspeakers ordering them out, only to then bomb them on the road.

NetanYAHU is suggesting that warnings should be sufficient to accomplish ethnic cleansing. And while condemning some terrorist attacks, he glorifies others. Like our own "leaders," NetanYAHU is a flaming hypocrite. They can't define what they mean by "terrorists," because any possible definition clearly includes the US and Israeli governments.

From Ted Rall.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

ACLU beats Bush!

A federal judge in Detroit ordered a halt to the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program, ruling for the first time that the controversial effort ordered by President Bush was unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor wrote in a strongly-worded 43-page opinion that the NSA wiretapping program violates privacy and free-speech rights and the constitutional separation of powers between the three branches of government. She also found that it violates a 1978 law set up to oversee clandestine surveillance.
The Injustice Department is, of course, appealing.

Isn't it interesting?

Yesterday, AWol campaigned for former Pittsburgh Steeler Lynn Swann, who is the Repug candidate for governor in Pennsylvania. And guess what! AWol said some stupid things.
You know, one of the issues that hurts people a lot is property taxes. People struggle to own their own home. One of the things we stand for is ownership. We love it when somebody opens the door to the place they live and says, welcome to my home; this is my piece of property. We stand strong for the ownership society. It's harder to own a home when you're property taxes are going up too high. It's good to have somebody running for governor who says, I hear the problems you have when it comes to owning your home, and I'll do everything I can to cut your property taxes, as well. (Applause.)

I used to tell people this: Education is to a state what national defense is to the federal government. Education must be the number one priority of your governor. And it is the number one priority for Lynn Swann. See, one of the reasons he's decided to run is because he's concerned about an education system that's not educating every child. Sure, it educates some children. But we want an education system to educate every child.
Two paragraphs in his speech, one after the other. Any connection? Well, from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 57.3% of Pennsylvania school funding is local, and 93.9% of that comes from property taxes. So Bush (and Swann, apparently) want to cut the source of 53.8% of school funding while pretending to improve education in the state. Let's hope he means it when he compares it to national defense--it's way past time to start cutting THAT budget.

He goes on to babble about standards:
It's amazing what happens when you have low standards. Guess what happens. You get low results. It's what I call the soft bigotry of low expectations. If you don't have high standards, you get lousy results, particularly in some neighborhoods.
Actually, that last sentence isn't the soft bigotry of low expectations--it's just plain old bigotry.
There's a pitiful practice in some schools that say, you're too hard to educate, we're just going to shuffle you through. It may be the color of somebody's skin, or somebody's demographics that says to somebody, we're just going to quit on you. That's not right. It's not good for Pennsylvania. It's not good for the United States.
The poster child for the evils of social promotion is living proof of that last sentence, as he says it.
Veterans of World War II and Korea would tell you we were able to measure progress based upon miles gained, or based upon tanks destroyed, or however people measured war in those days.
"Hi. I'm staff sergeant Joe Smith, veteran of Korea. Let me tell you how we measured progress in that war. We measured progress in that war however we measured it in those days."
And there's some good people in our country who believe we should cut and run. They're not bad people when they say that, they're decent people. I just happen to believe they're wrong.
I believe a system of government that encourages people to participate, and a government that says, we respond to your will, ends up creating a hopeful alternative to resentment and hatred.
Latest CNN poll:"Sixty-one percent, however, said they believed at least some U.S. troops should be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year...Asked about a timetable for withdrawal of troops from Iraq, 57 percent of poll respondents said they supported the setting of such a timetable." So, he praises governments that respond to the will of the people, but to the majority of the American people he says only that "I just happen to believe they're wrong."

It gets worse.
Isn't it interesting today that the most violent parts of the world are where young democracies are trying to take root? Isn't it interesting that Hezbollah would attack Israel, a democracy in the heart of the Middle East, try to destabilize the Middle East so that Lebanon doesn't get to be a strong democracy and starts to try to turn the world against Israel? Isn't it interesting that the young democracy of Iraq is the place where the enemy is trying to stop the progress? That should tell the American people the following things: One, we face an enemy that has an ideology that can't stand freedom; and secondly, as freedom progresses, it changes the world for the better. Otherwise, the enemy wouldn't be trying to stop it.
In other words, the overwhelming failure of his policies is conclusive evidence of their success! Doublethink just doesn't get any better than that.

From David Horsey.

From Lalo Alcaraz.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

IQ borders on zero

AWol talked to the press on Monday:
Q I'm sorry. How can the international force or the United States, if necessary, prevent Iran from resupplying Hezbollah?

THE PRESIDENT: The first step is -- and part of the mandate in the U.N. resolution was to secure Syria's borders. Iran is able to ship weapons to Hezbollah through Syria. Secondly is to deal -- is to help seal off the ports around Lebanon. In other words, there's -- part of the mandate and part of the mission of the troops, the UNIFIL troops will be to seal off the Syrian border.
Maxspeak and Juan Cole explain to clueless leader that the Syrian border and where the UNIFIL troops will be are two completely different places:

And Cole is baffled by "ports around Lebanon." Does he mean sealing Lebanese ports just as that country faces a huge humanitarian crisis which will require shiploads of food, water, bulldozers and other equipment to repair infrastructure to address?

Quote du jour

According to reports, Fidel Castro is alert and being briefed. And I'm thinking, why didn't we get a president like that?
--David Letterman, via Past Peak


Why not despise the leaders BEFORE the wars?

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1/25/2003:
Lyndon Johnson's approval rating jumped to 70 percent following the Gulf of Tonkin incident off Vietnam in 1964 when North Vietnamese gunboats allegedly opened fire on U.S. warships.

But the 1968 Tet offensive across South Vietnam vividly illustrated the failure of U.S. military operations to secure South Vietnam against communist forces, driving Johnson's approval rating down to 41 percent and provoking his withdrawal from the race for re-election less than two months later.
American economic concerns slashed 57 percentage points off the elder Bush's approval rating during the 16 months after the Gulf War, setting the stage for his defeat by then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton in 1992.

George W. Bush approval ratings
April 11-13, 2003 (about three weeks after start of Iraq war): 73%
August 11-13, 2006: 36%

AP, today:
The war began just two months after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, men with little military experience, took office. Surveys in two major Hebrew-language dailies on Wednesday showed low approval ratings for both. A poll of 500 people by TNS-Teleseker showed support for Olmert sinking to 40 percent after soaring to 78 percent in the first two weeks of the offensive.

Why can't people figure this out? Oh right. They're stupid.

Jeffersonian Democracy

From ABC News:
Three-quarters of Americans can correctly identify two of Snow White's seven dwarfs while only a quarter can name two Supreme Court justices, according to a poll on pop culture.
Asked what planet Superman was from, 60 per cent named the fictional planet Krypton, while only 37 per cent knew that Mercury was the planet closest to the sun.

Respondents are far more familiar with the Three Stooges--Larry, Curly and Moe--than the three branches of the US Government--judicial, executive and legislative.

Seventy-four per cent identified the former, while 42 per cent identified the latter.

Twice as many people (23 per cent) were able to identify the most recent winner of the television talent show American Idol, Taylor Hicks, as were able to name the Supreme Court Justice confirmed in January 2006, Samuel Alito (11 per cent).
"I think by far the most important bill in our whole code, is that for the diffusion of knowledge among the people. No other sure foundation can be devised for the preservation of freedom and happiness... The tax which will be paid for this purpose is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance." --Thomas Jefferson to George Wythe, 1786

Four legs good, two legs bad!

I'm re-reading Orwell's Animal Farm, and decided to illustrate a couple of passages:
In spite of the shock that Snowball's expulsion had given them, the animals were dismayed by this announcement. Several of them would have protested if they could have found the right arguments. Even Boxer was vaguely troubled.

He set his ears back, shook his forelock several times, and tried hard to marshal his thoughts; but in the end he could not think of anything to say. Some of the pigs themselves, however, were more articulate. Four young porkers in the front row uttered shrill squeals of disapproval, and all four of them sprang to their feet and began speaking at once.

But suddenly the dogs sitting round Napoleon let out deep, menacing growls,

and the pigs fell silent and sat down again. Then the sheep broke out into a tremendous bleating of "Four legs good, two legs bad!" which went on for nearly a quarter of an hour and put an end to any chance of discussion.

"Bravery is not enough," said Squealer. "Loyalty and obedience are more important. And as to the Battle of the Cowshed, I believe the time will come when we shall find that Snowball's part in it was much exaggerated.

Discipline, comrades, iron discipline! That is the watchword for today. One false step, and our enemies would be upon us. Surely, comrades, you do not want Jones back?"

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Clueless without end

(All emphasis added)
We remain on the offensive in Afghanistan, where a fine President and a National Assembly are fighting terror while building the institutions of a new democracy.
Our work in Iraq is difficult because our enemy is brutal. But that brutality has not stopped the dramatic progress of a new democracy.
-- W, State of the Union Address, January 31, 2006

You can't run a government, you can't have a democracy if you've got an armed faction within your country.
-- W, Monday (via Billmon)

Billmon wonders how that last quote is going to play with the NRA. My question is: Are there any unarmed factions in Afghanistan or Iraq? Certainly the unwelcome invaders from the other side of the earth constitute heavily armed factions in each country.

Maybe the scariest thing is that W probably actually believes what he says in both quotes above. Orwell called the ability to believe contradictory thoughts simultaneously "doublethink": although given W's limited thinking ability we'll just call this "W-think."

Quote du jour

Every day, the Regime makes it abundantly, overwhelmingly, undeniably clear that there is only one thing that sick poor people--and used-up soldiers and chained-up prisoners--can do to play their part in Bush's noble vision for American society: they should all slink off into the dark somewhere and die.

That is the very quintessence of Bushism. That is now the actual, actionable platform of the modern Republican Party. This is the reality they want to create behind the words "the United States of America."
-- Chris Floyd, whose latest post discusses three recent news stories about recent Badministration efforts to 1) Cut funding for the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center even as IED's in Iraq and Afghanistan are swelling the number of brain-damaged servicemen and women; 2) Loosen regulations on using prisoners for drug testing; and 3) Huge cuts in Medicaid funding.


Wonderful--Lebanese spam

From my inbox:
Dear Friend,

May Alah bless you richly as you read this mail, My name is Ali Talib an Labanese citizen I am a businessman with a large orange farm and an orange juice processing Factory in the Southern Port City of Tyre. Business was going on well until the war between my country and Isreal broke out I manage to escape death on a very bloody saturday morning when the Isrealese milliant forces attacked Lebanon and raised my factory down with bomb shells.

Alah on my side I fled to where I am presently which I can not mention for Security reasons. I have the sum of US$6.5M in the safe in my farm which only my trusted assistant knows the unlocking numbers. I have instructed him to seal the funds as valuables and family treasure in a trunk box and have it tanshipped via a Diplomatic courier service, this is where i seek your assistance to help me recieve the funds in your safe hands until I will be able to come over to where you are with my family and have the funds duely invested in a foreign country as I do not which to go back to Lebanon.

For your assistance you will be entitled to 30% of the total funds upon the claims of the funds and I will have my 70% do reach me in the earliest possible time, I still have more details for you upon the reciept of your very possitive response.

Stay Blessed.
Ali Talib.

No way out

Perhaps they all voted for Bush. Maybe they still believe in their "mission." Some may use racist terms to describe Iraqis. I don't care; nobody deserves to be treated like this:
About 300 US soldiers who recently returned home to Alaska after a year in Iraq have now been ordered back after their unit's deployment was extended.

A further 300 soldiers--all of whom are with the 172nd Stryker Brigade--were in Kuwait en route home when they were recalled.
They will be used to bolster security in Baghdad in a bid to halt rising sectarian violence in the country.
I'm sure they'll be in a fine mood to be peacekeepers, and that none of them will be angry if they ever return to this country. Aren't you?

From Malcolm Evans (New Zealand).
Following up on my post of a few days ago:

From Ted Rall. (I think he means "@*#! liberal juries," since it appears to be the judge saying it.)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Get a move on, MoveOn

Norman Solomon points out that, which backed marginally anti-war Ned Lamont against the god-awful Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut primary, isn't interested in supporting the far-superior Jonathan Tasini against the Liebermanesque Hillary Clinton in New York. I learned back in 2002 that MoveOn's "anti-war" stance was a crock--they continued to fund the campaigns of several Dumbocrats even after they voted to give aWol authority to attack Iraq based on absolutely nothing. MoveOn is not anti-war; they are just mainstream Democrats--a group which, if you haven't noticed, rarely meets a war it doesn't approve of, at least at the beginning.

The Democrats need a progressive, anti-war presidential candidate, both for a chance to win and especially for the good of the world. Derailing the Hillary express is critical to achieving that. The New York primary is September 12--time to pillory Hillary!

AWol claims victory for Israel; closest supporters disagree

"Hezbollah attacked Israel. Hezbollah started the crisis, and Hezbollah suffered a defeat in this crisis." -- AWol, today. (Time for someone to remind aWol of Abraham Lincoln's riddle: "If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?" "Five?" "No, four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg." Saying Hezbollah started the crisis doesn't make it so.)

Many of his closest supporters--Michelle Malkin, Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, writers at the National Review, think-tankers at the Heritage Foundation--beg to disagree, as Glenn Greenwald documents. Greenwald points out that these are the same vile creatures who have, for the last five years, claimed that criticizing the president in time of "war" is tantamount to treason. Unless they do it, I guess.

Just wondering...

AP: Sharon's Condition Deteriorates Further. I wonder--does our State Department have a Commission for Assistance to a Free Israel, complete with a "Compact with the Israeli People," ready to jump in and rearrange Israel more to our liking after Sharon dies?

"More propaganda than plot"

That's Craig Murray's take on the alleged li Quida plot to blow up airplanes. The former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, has reviewed the press reports on the "plot," and gives us his conclusions. Excerpts:
None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports, which given the efficiency of the UK Passport Agency would mean they couldn't be a plane bomber for quite some time.

In the absence of bombs and airline tickets, and in many cases passports, it could be pretty difficult to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt that individuals intended to go through with suicide bombings, whatever rash stuff they may have bragged in internet chat rooms.

What is more, many of those arrested had been under surveillance for over a year--like thousands of other British Muslims. And not just Muslims. Like me. Nothing from that surveillance had indicated the need for early arrests.

Then an interrogation in Pakistan revealed the details of this amazing plot to blow up multiple planes--which, rather extraordinarily, had not turned up in a year of surveillance. Of course, the interrogators of the Pakistani dictator have their ways of making people sing like canaries. As I witnessed in Uzbekistan, you can get the most extraordinary information this way. Trouble is it always tends to give the interrogators all they might want, and more, in a desperate effort to stop or avert torture. What it doesn't give is the truth.
We then have the extraordinary question of Bush and Blair discussing the possible arrests over the weekend. Why? I think the answer to that is plain. Both in desperate domestic political trouble, they longed for "Another 9/11". The intelligence from Pakistan, however dodgy, gave them a new 9/11 they could sell to the media. The media has bought, wholesale, all the rubbish they have been shovelled.
We will now never know if any of those arrested would have gone on to make a bomb or buy a plane ticket. Most of them do not fit the "Loner" profile you would expect--a tiny percentage of suicide bombers have happy marriages and young children. As they were all under surveillance, and certainly would have been on airport watch lists, there could have been little danger in letting them proceed closer to maturity--that is certainly what we would have done with the IRA.

In all of this, the one thing of which I am certain is that the timing is deeply political. This is more propaganda than plot. Of the over one thousand British Muslims arrested under anti-terrorist legislation, only twelve per cent are ever charged with anything. That is simply harrassment of Muslims on an appalling scale. Of those charged, 80% are acquitted. Most of the very few--just over two per cent of arrests--who are convicted, are not convicted of anything to do terrorism, but of some minor offence the Police happened upon while trawling through the wreck of the lives they had shattered.

Be sceptical. Be very, very sceptical.
Speaking of harrassment of Muslims--you may recall that several years ago, December 14, 2001 to be exact, Muslim cleric Rabih Haddad was arrested by John Ashcroft's goons in his Ann Arbor home. Originally, no charges were made, although eventually the government accused Haddad of a visa violation, something he had taken steps to rectify months earlier (that it wasn't fully rectified by December 14 was due to bureaucratic delay, not due to any fault of Haddad's). The feds moved Haddad around, frequently out of contact with his family, and held him for over a year and a half before finally deciding they had nothing to accuse him of. Nevertheless, in July 2003 they deported him.

To Lebanon.

Initial reports were that Haddad had been joined by his family in Beirut, where they were living happily. That, obviously, has changed. According to Phillis Englebert, director of Michigan Peaceworks, Haddad and his family fled Lebanon for Syria two weeks after the Israeli blitzkrieg started.

Just a few of the millions of lives damaged or destroyed by the neonuts in Washington, London and Jerusalem. So far.

Meanwhile in Bush Quagmire II

From AP:
Car bombs and a rocket barrage struck a predominantly Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least 62 people, a municipal official said. The rockets apparently were fired from a mostly Sunni district targeted by U.S. troops in a crackdown against the sectarian violence roiling the capital.

About 140 were injured in the attack on the Zafraniyah neighborhood in southern Baghdad, which began about 7:15 p.m. with two car bombs and a barrage of an estimated nine rockets, Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Saddoun Abu al-Ula said.

He said the barrage heavily damaged three buildings, including a multi-story apartment house that collapsed. Al-Ula said the rockets appeared to have been fired from the neighborhood of Dora, which has been the focus of thousands of U.S. troops sent to try to restore peace in Baghdad.
The US response--reinvade Baghdad:
U.S. commanders are sending nearly 12,000 U.S. and Iraqi soldiers into the capital to curb the surge of sectarian violence, which was described by the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, on Sunday as "the principal problem here."
No, the principal problem is thousands of foreign invaders who have no right to be there, and who exacerbate rather than quell the violence. Cut, run, swim--whatever. GET OUT!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

They hate us for our freedoms

The Bushies, that is. And they will tell any lie to take them from us.

From CNN today:
Chertoff made clear his belief that wider authority could thwart future attacks at a time when Congress is reviewing the proper scope of the Bush administration's executive powers for its warrantless eavesdropping program and military tribunals for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"What helped the British in this case is the ability to be nimble, to be fast, to be flexible, to operate based on fast-moving information," he said. "We have to make sure our legal system allows us to do that. It's not like the 20th century, where you had time to get warrants."

From the Scotsman:
Sources told The Scotsman British intelligence first became aware a group of British Muslims was planning an attack last year when the service received information from Pakistani authorities following the arrest of senior al-Qaeda figures.
The decision to arrest the group came as they were apparently just two days away from a "dry run", to see if they would be able to smuggle the needed materials aboard the planes.
From the Daily Mail:
Over several months, former Home Secretary Charles Clarke and, more recently, John Reid were given detailed updates on the progress of the investigation to enable them to sign warrants for sophisticated intrusive surveillance against the terrorists.

As MI5 reveals on its website: "The Services does use intrusive investigative methods, such as eavesdropping in a target's home or vehicle.

"However, our use of such methods is subject to a strict control and oversight regime.

"To install an eavesdropping device in a target's home we need to apply to the Secretary of State for a warrant under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) to authorise the intrusion on the privacy of the target."

It adds: "In most cases we must also apply for a 'property warrant' under the Intelligence Services Act 1994 to authorise any interference with the target's property necessary to install the device covertly.

"As with interception, we must convince the Secretary of State that what we are proposing to do is both necessary and proportionate."

From WOOD-TV, Grand Rapids, Michigan:
KALAMAZOO -- A four-count warrant has been issued for a man who police say shot two other men.

Cornelle Mason was shot to death while sitting in his vehicle just after 2 a.m. Sunday in the 600 block of Riverview Drive in Kalamazoo. Mason, 18, was from Chicago. His friend, a 22-year-old Kalamazoo man, was treated and released for gunshots to his wrist and abdomen.

Late Monday afternoon, the Kalamazoo County Prosecutor's Office issued the warrant against Marvin Tawon Allen, charging him with assault with intent to commit murder, felony firearm, felon in possession of a firearm and felony firearm.
From the Hickory Record (North Carolina)
The bodies of Adams Sr. and his girlfriend, Lori Abernethy Chamberlain, were found Tuesday morning at Adams Sr.'s home on Burton Drive in Maiden. Adams Jr. made the 911 call reporting the deaths around 9 a.m.

By 2 p.m. Tuesday, Adams Jr. was charged with two counts of felony murder.

The search warrant reveals deputies seized more than 45 items from Adams Sr.’s home including more than 20 firearms. Ammunition, clothing and bed sheets were also among the items seized.

The Catawba County Sheriff's Office issued the search warrants on Tuesday.

From the US Code, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act:
The attorney general ... may authorize the emergency employment of electronic surveillance if a judge having jurisdiction under section 1803 of this title is informed by the Attorney General or his designee at the time of such authorization that the decision has been made to employ emergency electronic surveillance and if an application in accordance with this subchapter is made to that judge as soon as practicable, but not more than 72 hours after the Attorney General authorizes such surveillance.
So, let's summarize: The British arrest a bunch of guys they claim to have been trailing since last year, supposedly two days before a "dry run." They requested and obtained warrants for their surveillance methods. Arrest and search warrants can be obtained in the US quickly, often on the same day they are requested. For surveillance warrants on foreign suspects, approval doesn't need to be obtained until three days AFTER the surveillance starts. And Secretary Jerkoff has the gall to go on TV and say
"What helped the British in this case is the ability to be nimble, to be fast, to be flexible, to operate based on fast-moving information. We have to make sure our legal system allows us to do that. It's not like the 20th century, where you had time to get warrants."
Besides, Jerkoff, you had your chance to demonstrate how nimble, fast and flexible you were last summer with Katrina, and failed miserably.

This BS has nothing to do with protecting us--it's all about repealing the Bill of Rights.

From Ingrid Rice.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Quote du jour

Gar Lipow, writing at Maxspeak:
We need to break the frenzy of fear and bloodlust that makes people willing to give up any liberty, to commit any atrocity if Daddy will just save them. The sane people of American need take a new pledge--a pledge against cowards and cowardice. A pledge that their fear of terrorism is not so great they will sacrifice their liberties, their judgment, their sacred honor to stop it. A pledge that fear of terrorism will not cause them to support the continued destruction of Iraq or the terror bombing of Lebanon, or new wars on Iran or Syria. A pledge that they understand that 911 did not change everything--that the laws of physics were not repealed, that bluster was not magically transformed into bravery, that our memorial to the murder of 3,000 people was not to say “evil be thou my good”.


Battling stupidities

If, and it's a big if, the story about the alleged terror plot in England is true, then there are two really stupid groups of people competing in the "war on terror." First off, if you were a terrorist wanting to blow up a plane using household liquids before yesterday, apparently the only way you could be stopped would have been to plan it for a year, with e-mails flying about and meetings and such to give the keystone cops a chance to track you down. As the Financial Times points out (via Juan Cole):
British security officials suspected the innovative use of liquid explosives smuggled on board could have evaded airport detection devices. They said the method of attack, if used to blow up an aircraft over the ocean on a flight from the US to the UK, could potentially have been used repeatedly because its detection would have been all but impossible after the event.
So, they could have had their one top-secret meeting in Pakistan where you discuss the use of liquid explosives, then disperse to the far corners of the earth--and sooner or later planes start blowing up. In my opinion, the terror would be even greater with the uncertainty--look at the fear generated by the snipers in the DC area, where "ordinary" multiple killings go practically unnoticed. The only thing that could have stopped them, apparently, was attempting to synchronize their attacks. I realize this is an al Qaeda trademark, but it makes you think that they like their big shows much more than they hate us for our freedoms.

But as dumb as these alleged plotters apparently were, it pales in comparison with the US and British officials fighting the "war on terror." Apparently, there is little secret about how to make liquid explosives out of common household chemicals. Surely many people at the CIA and FBI know how it's done, and are aware that many criminals and terrorists must know it as well. So WHY DO THEY WAIT UNTIL YESTERDAY TO TAKE STEPS TO PREVENT THEIR USAGE ON AIRPLANES??

Bush said yesterday that "This country is safer than it was prior to 9/11. We've taken a lot of measures to protect the American people." Yeah? Like what? You apparently didn't look into many of the easiest ways to blow up airplanes and how to stop them from happening. And haven't you learned anything from Iraq? Having people stand in really long lines does not make them safer (third paragraph).

Hyped nothing, more likely

After seeing how quickly the warmongering politicians and pundits have jumped on the alleged terror plot in England, I'm now more likely to believe that is was a lot more "alleged" than "terror plot." From the WaPo, whose main web page could be shortened to "Be Afraid!", comes this:
Campaigning in Connecticut, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, who lost Tuesday's Democratic primary and is now running as an independent, said the antiwar views of primary winner Ned Lamont would be "taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England."
Because maybe with slightly less crazy people in the Senate, these alleged terrorists may no longer see the need to blow themselves up?
Rep. Mark Kennedy, the Republican Senate candidate in Minnesota, used the alleged plot as a campaign wedge only hours after it was disclosed.

"The arrests this morning in Great Britain make it clear that now, more than ever, this is an ongoing battle and we need leaders in Washington who remain committed to doing what is right instead of what may be seen as politically advantageous," he said. To amplify the point, Kennedy endorsed Lieberman over the GOP candidate in the race, Alan Schlesinger.
I'm sure the voters of Connecticut care more about what some jackass Repug from Minnesota thinks than what they think themselves.
"This country is safer than it was prior to 9/11," Bush said with Air Force One behind him. "We've taken a lot of measures to protect the American people. But obviously we're still not completely safe, because there are people that still plot and people who want to harm us for what we believe in."

In what was an apparent reference to this year's controversies over the administration's surveillance programs, Bush told reporters: "It is a mistake to believe there is no threat to the United States of America. And that is why we have given our officials the tools they need to protect our people."
You go, George. The Brits arrest a bunch of guys for some alleged terror plot, and you use it as an excuse for destroying the Constitution.

"It brings all those realities home and brings back some of the memories of 9/11 that got us into the war on terrorism in the first place," said Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (N.Y.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Peter H. Wehner, the White House director of strategic initiatives, distributed an e-mail to allies and reporters calling the alleged London plot a "clarifying moment" that should be, as he put it in the subject line, "a reminder of the stakes in this struggle." He argued that it underscores the fallacy of Democratic attacks on Bush's leadership in the fight against terrorism.
In addition to the usual lunatic ravings from Charles Krauthammer, the Post also has an op-ed from Newt Gingrich.

Shorter World Socialist Web Site

What Bob said that Billmon said.

Shorter everybody: "Show us the evidence."

Or two...

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Shorter Billmon

On the alleged terror plot: There is substantial reason to believe that people are plotting terror attacks against the US and its few allies, but there is also substantial reason to disbelieve anything the US or British governments have to say on the subject.

Super typhoon

So far this summer, the US hasn't been hit by a killer hurricane--just record flooding and record heat. Elsewhere, global warming is having its way:

Super typhoon slams into China
A super typhoon, the strongest to threaten China in half a century, slammed into the southeast coast on Thursday killing at least two people, injuring more than 80 and forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes.
Storm tracker Tropical Storm Risk ( had graded Saomai a category 5 "super" typhoon--its highest category--but reduced that to category 4 once it came ashore. It landed with a wind velocity of 216 km (135 mph) per hour.
Indian floods worsen, 4.5 mln people homeless
Swollen rivers swamped thousands of villages and towns across India's south and west on Wednesday, forcing 4.5 million from their homes as rescuers struggled to bring them food and drinking water, officials said.

India's annual monsoon rains--vital for the country's agriculture-driven economy--have triggered floods across at least five states since the weekend, killing at least 311 people, submerging villages and causing widespread damage to crops.


Fascism: A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.
President Bush said the arrests are a "stark reminder" that the U.S. is "at war with Islamic fascists."
No, this time I'm not going to say this is a simple the pot calling the kettle black, no matter how black the pot might be. This is a case of the pot, of whatever color, calling the kettle black when the kettle is in fact chartreuse or aquamarine or something. Whoever the terrorists, real and imagined, are, they are not fascists. Centralization of authority? Not a chance. Bin Laden or Zawahiri as dictators? Over whom? Socioeconomic controls? Yeah, right. Terrorism is their defining characteristic, but they are in no position to suppress their opposition; in fact, their chief "opposition," the idiot who called them fascists, is empowered by their actions. Belligerent nationalism? That is the pot calling the kettle black, when the kettle has no nation to be nationalistic about.

And arrests as a "stark reminder," when both the US and Britain have arrested hundreds of people on bogus charges, or none at all, and can do so any time they please (such as when they need to wipe other stories off of the front pages). Show us the evidence; convince us. I don't trust either government to tell the truth about anything.


Will Bunch writes about the bombing of Nagasaki, 61 years ago yesterday. Whatever arguments are made for using the atomic bomb on Hiroshima (and there are some I wasn't aware of), using another one just three days later on Nagasaki was totally inexcusable. Another 75,000 people dead, just for the hell of it.

From Bill Schorr.

From Lalo Alcaraz.

From Ted Rall.

Joementum in cartoons

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


More photos from the genocide in Lebanon. Olmert, Bush, Rice et al are such sick bastards.

Lieberman really is a twit, isn't he?

I worry that this victory by Ned Lamont . . . will send a message across our state and our country that the Democratic Party has been taken over by people who are not from the mainstream of America. And they are going to make this not Bill Clinton's party anymore.
-- Joe Lieberman, via Billmon

Siniora's plea

Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora writes in today's Washington Post:
A military solution to Israel's savage war on Lebanon and the Lebanese people is both morally unacceptable and totally unrealistic. We in Lebanon call upon the international community and citizens everywhere to support my country's sovereignty and end this folly now. We also insist that Israel be made to respect international humanitarian law, including the provisions of the Geneva Conventions, which it has repeatedly and willfully violated.

As the world watches, Israel has besieged and ravaged our country, created a humanitarian and environmental disaster, and shattered our infrastructure and economy, putting an intolerable strain on our social and economic systems. Fuel, food and medical equipment are in short supply; homes, factories and warehouses have been destroyed; roads severed, bridges smashed and airports disabled.
For all this carnage and death, and on behalf of all Lebanese, we demand an international inquiry into Israel's criminal actions in Lebanon and insist that Israel pay compensation for its wanton destruction.

Israel seems to think that its attacks will sow discord among the Lebanese. This will never happen. Israel should know that the Lebanese people will remain steadfast and united in the face of this latest Israeli aggression -- its seventh invasion -- just as they were during nearly two decades of brutal occupation. The people's will to resist grows ever stronger with each village demolished and each massacre committed.
The resolution to this war must respect international law and U.N. resolutions, not just those selected by Israel, a state that deserves its reputation as a pariah because of its consistent disdain for and rejection of international law and the wishes of the international community for over half a century.

Lebanon calls, once again, on the United Nations to bring about an immediate cease-fire to relieve the beleaguered people of Lebanon. Only then can the root causes of this war--Israeli occupation of Lebanese territories and its perennial threat to Lebanon's security, as well as Lebanon's struggle to regain full sovereignty over all its territory--be addressed.
Enough destruction, dispossession, desperation, displacement and death! Lebanon must be allowed to reclaim its position in this troubled region as a beacon of freedom and democracy where justice and the rule of law prevail, and as a refuge for the oppressed where moderation, tolerance and enlightenment triumph.
Siniora has a seven-point plan spelled out in the article. Perhaps the US and France should be listening to the country being destroyed instead of the one doing the destroying, the one that just declared it will begin a wider offensive in Lebanon?

Wider?? Rearrange the rubble?

Juan Cole:
So the Israelis warned the southern Shiites that they should flee north, otherwise these ordinary civilians would be considered fair game. So thousands flee north to Beirut and go to schools and other shelters in Shiite districts like Shiyah. So then the Israelis bomb Shiyah. If they were going to be bombed anyway, they may as well have stayed home.

When the criminals write the laws

From the WaPo:
The Bush administration has drafted amendments to a war crimes law that would eliminate the risk of prosecution for political appointees, CIA officers and former military personnel for humiliating or degrading war prisoners, according to U.S. officials and a copy of the amendments.

Officials say the amendments would alter a U.S. law passed in the mid-1990s that criminalized violations of the Geneva Conventions, a set of international treaties governing military conduct in wartime. The conventions generally bar the cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment of wartime prisoners without spelling out what all those terms mean.
These crooks don't want to have to rely on presidential pardons, like Daddy Bush did.

PS: Reading that article about Daddy Bush's Christmas Eve 1992 pardons of five accused or already-convicted Iran-Contra crooks reminds me that W inherited his belief that he and his minions are above the law.
Explaining those pardons, Bush said the "common denominator of their motivation--whether their actions were right or wrong--was patriotism." They did not profit or seek to profit from their conduct, Bush said, adding that all five "have already paid a price--in depleted savings, lost careers, anguished families--grossly disproportionate to any misdeeds or errors of judgment they may have committed."
Let's see: They sold weapons to Iran to help them battle the weapons we were selling to Iraq at the time, used the proceeds to fund brutal anti-government terrorism in Nicaragua, causing tens of thousands of deaths in both places, and then lied about it to Congress. I'm not sure any punishment could be disproportionate to this level of crime. And "lost careers?" Elliot Abrams is now aWol's deputy national security adviser. Robert McFarlane went on to be CEO of Global Energy Investors. Duane Clarridge went on to work for General Dynamics and was a booster of Ahmed Chalabi in pushing for the Iraq war. Alan Fiers went on to become Vice President of Sequa Corporation. Most appropriately, Clair George went on to work for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, spying on journalists.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Americans are rotting in jail for minor drug violations, having killed no one. Small-time crooks make license plates; big-time crooks make national policy. The American way.

From Pat Oliphant.

This time he actually lost

Blackhawk Down

Two crew members are missing after a U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter went down in Anbar province in Iraq on Tuesday, the U.S. military said.
American military dead now total 2585 from Bush Quagmire II. Sixty percent of Americans now oppose the war in Iraq. The rest are apparently incurable.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

From Mr. Fish.

From Emad Hajjaj (Jordan).

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned?

Let's hope it's true in this case:

Here's what I really want to see:

Monday, August 07, 2006

Armageddonists for Bush

Monty Python's Terry Jones leads the way.
Those of us who have long been supporters of Armageddon have naturally been greatly cheered by way the president of the United States has been embracing our cause. Our desire to bring chaos, death and destruction to a greater swathe of humanity has, in the past, often been frustrated by peacemakers and do-gooders of all shades of the political spectrum.

For too long, our aspirations have been derided and criticised. In fact, to be blunt, for more than two millennia we have had to put up with opprobrium and vilification, but now all that will be a thing of the past, for in George Bush we have found an ally--indeed, we have found a leader. A man who is prepared to place himself at the head of the forces of destruction and misery, and who is unafraid of the opinion of the rest of the world.

Pipeline closing could last months

BP said Monday it discovered corrosion so severe that it will have to replace 16 miles of pipeline at the huge Prudhoe Bay oil field--work that could shut down the nation's single biggest source of domestic crude for months and drive gasoline prices even higher.

Ethnic cleansing of Christians

In Iraq, that is, where there has been a flourishing Christian community for as long as there have been Christians. Perhaps no longer. From the Catholic News Service, via Chris Floyd:
Half of all Iraqi Christians have fled their country since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, said the auxiliary bishop of Baghdad.

Chaldean Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Andreos Abouna of Baghdad said that before the invasion there were about 1.2 million Christians in the predominantly Shiite Muslim state. Since then the overall number has dropped to about 600,000, he said.

"What we are hearing now is the alarm bell for Christianity in Iraq," the bishop said. "When so many are leaving from a small community like ours, you know that it is dangerous -- dangerous for the future of the church in Iraq."

The bishop said 75 percent of Christians from Baghdad had fled the capital to escape the almost daily outbreaks of sectarian violence.
They survived through some twelve centuries of Muslim rule, Mongol invasion, British colonization, 25 years of Saddam Hussein, the Iran-Iraq war, the Gulf War, and brutal sanctions. Only George W. Bush's "liberation" of Iraq will apparently succeed in completely de-Christianizing the country. Do his supporters know about this?

Lebanon a cover for Gaza?

The brutal, relentless assault on the people of Gaza continues:
The Israeli military actions in Gaza and the West Bank demonstrate that its offensive has nothing to do with recovering the captured soldier, or with preventing "terrorism." The government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has rejected repeated Hamas offers of a ceasefire, and has refused to accept proposals by Palestinian militants for a prisoner exchange. Every Palestinian offer is met with renewed Israeli bombardment.

Countless war crimes have been committed in Gaza. An investigation by the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem found that half of all those killed in the territory last month—178 people—were civilians. Hundreds of others have suffered terrible injuries. At one Gaza hospital, surgeons told the BBC that of 100 operations, one-third were amputations caused by Israeli attacks.
In a new tactic, the Israeli army now telephones Palestinian residents and warns them to flee their home just moments before it is bombed. While the military claims that this practice is designed to reduce civilian casualties, it is in fact intended to instil fear into the thousands of families who receive such calls.

"Some families, convinced by such calls, have left their homes at two o’clock in the morning only to see them bombed directly by Israeli F-16 fighters," Al-Ahram Weekly reported. "Others have abandoned their homes and seen them stand untouched. So fearful are they that they refuse to return in case bombings are merely delayed."

The IDF has also dropped leaflets in many areas of Gaza demanding that people flee their homes. With every border sealed off, however, there is nowhere for people to go. That there is not an exodus from the Palestinian territory equivalent to that in Lebanon is due to the fact that Gazan residents are hemmed in on all sides by Israel.

The Israeli blockade has greatly exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Territories. Nine UN humanitarian organisations working in Gaza last week issued a joint statement expressing their "deep alarm" at the impact of the ongoing violence. "We are concerned that with international attention focusing on Lebanon, the tragedy in Gaza is being forgotten," the statement read.

No power to the peepers

From the Baltimore Sun:
The National Security Agency is running out of juice.

The demand for electricity to operate its expanding intelligence systems has left the high-tech eavesdropping agency on the verge of exceeding its power supply, the lifeblood of its sprawling 350-acre Fort Meade headquarters, according to current and former intelligence officials.
At minimum, the problem could produce disruptions leading to outages and power surges at the Fort Meade headquarters, hampering the work of intelligence analysts and damaging equipment, they said. At worst, it could force a virtual shutdown of the agency, paralyzing the intelligence operation, erasing crucial intelligence data and causing irreparable damage to computer systems.
Heavens to Mergatroid! Freedom might break out!

Where the oil comes from

This web page shows where we import oil from--Canada being clearly number one, especially in the bottom chart (total petroleum imports, which I think means crude oil plus refined gasoline and diesel), with only one Middle Eastern country in the top five. In May, imports comprised more than two-thirds of the oil used in this country, a figure which is bound to grow with Alaska's Prudhoe Bay oilfield being shut down.
Oil analyst Peter Beutel, president of Cameron Hanover, said shutting down an oil field is an expensive and risky step that is only taken in extreme circumstances. He said that suggests the 400,000 barrels a day produced in Prudhoe Bay could be shut off for some time to come.

"They wouldn't be shutting down Prudhoe Bay if this wasn't absolutely necessary," said Beutel. "Once you shut it down, you don't know what will happen when you come back. It could cause all types of problems."

Beutel said he expects about a 5 cent a gallon rise in gasoline futures due to the pipeline problems.

The outage will cut global daily oil output by about half a percent, putting more strain on an already tight market. Beutel said he believed the news in Alaska was outweighing even new threats out of Iran to shut production there if that country is hit with United Nations sanctions over its nuclear program.

"This is almost all Alaska," he said about Monday's price hikes. "It doesn't look like something that will have a quick fix or can be ignored by the markets. I think it's going to be measured in weeks, not days, and it could drag on for months."

Beutel said the shutdown is significant for markets because it was the one supply of oil that traders did not believe to be at risk from either geopolitical events, such as fighting in the Middle East, or hurricanes that threaten U.S. production in the Gulf of Mexico.
As of 1:30 EDT, oil is at $77.00 a barrel, close to the all-time high.

From Rex Babin.

From Matt Wuerker.

From Steve Sack.

Quote du jour

"If these horrific actions are not state terrorism then what is state terrorism?" -- Lebanon's prime minister Fouad Siniora, referring to Israel's latest massacre of 40 Lebanese in Houla.


You probably haven't seen these pictures from Lebanon

That's because they're from Fallujah, taken last November, one year after aWol's brutal destruction of that Iraqi city.

And then there are these from the first Gulf War, started by the first George Bush:

Come for the hospitality; stay for the duration

Via Bob Harris: The problem with automatic web ads:

It reminds me of an LA Law episode from 1994. A couple was suing their travel agent (played by Martin Mull) for booking them an adventure tour that was a little too adventurous--Azerbaijan, Sarajevo.

Anyway, despite Beirut's reputation as the Paris of the Middle East, you might want to consider stays in Kabul or Baghdad, where prices are very reasonable.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Just in time for hurricane season--5%+ of US oil production going offline

From AP:
BP Exploration Alaska, Inc. began shutting down the Prudhoe Bay oil field Sunday after discovering unexpectedly severe corrosion and a small spill from a transit pipeline.

Company officials said it would take days to shut down the oil field. Once completed, it's expected to reduce oil field production by 400,000 barrels a day.
I'm pretty sure that won't be lowering the price at the pump.

[Update--make that eight percent. I was relying on something I recently read which place US oil production at seven million barrels a day, which would make 400,000 barrels equal 5.7%. Apparently our daily output is down to five million bpd.]

Nuclear war started 61 years ago today

Hopefully, it ended 60 years, 362 days ago, most likely only because the world was temporarily out of nukes. But I get the scary feeling that it has just been a long cease-fire. Sixty-one years ago, only Harry Truman had these weapons in his arsenal. Today, they're in the hands of lunatics like Kim Jong Il, Ehud Olmert, and, most scary of all, George W. Bush.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Versailles Two?

I don't know for sure, but that's what the truce pact agreed upon by the U.S. and France sounds like to me. Lebanon loses the southernmost eighteen miles, Hezbollah disarmed, Israel still armed to the teeth and ready to redestroy Lebanon at the slightest provocation, real or imagined. I'm guessing that AP's interpretation below is correct:
The resolution asks that Israel and Lebanon agree to a set of principles to achieve a long-term peace. One crucial element is an arms embargo that would block any entity except the Lebanese government from buying weapons.

That is presumably meant to block the sale of arms to Hezbollah from Iran and Syria, believed to be the militia's main suppliers.
It couldn't possibly mean that ISRAEL would be banned from buying US weapons, now could it? And what happens when Hezbollah, whose popularity has skyrocketed (sorry, bad choice of words) in the past few weeks, becomes the majority government in Beirut? I'm afraid we all know the answer to that--just look at Gaza.

Quote du jour

The difference between Ahmadinejad and Olmert is that the Iranian president is a blowhard. The one who had practical plans to wipe a country off the map was Olmert.
-- Juan Cole, who illustrates his point with these before-and-after satellite photos of a portion of Beirut:


Friday, August 04, 2006

Shameless, I know

But sometimes it seems to be the only thing that gets through to people. They're more concerned about Barbaro than barbers, about Fluffy than Fallujah. So, here's some shameless tugging on the heartstrings. Israel's bombing of Lebanon, and Hezbollah's bombing of Israel to a lesser degree, has been murder on animals.

A Lebanese cat, apparently Hezbollah. (via Angry Arab)

Why Bush hates Chavez

Chavez is thwarting our government's efforts to starve the Cuban people into submission.
As Raul Castro takes up the task of leading Cuba in place of his brother Fidel, there is, surprisingly, one less thing he may have to worry about: the state of Cuba's economy.

The credit goes, in large part, to the economic lifeline thrown to Cuba by the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, who is using his country's tremendous oil reserves to prop up the Castro government and counter Bush administration policy in Latin America.

To the exasperation of American officials, long determined to force a change of government by choking off the Cuban economy with an embargo, Venezuela's patronage may take some pressure off Raul Castro at what is otherwise a time of great uncertainty.
Wayne Smith, a former American diplomat in Havana, said that in recent years the Bush administration has shifted policy from openly working to undermine Fidel Castro's government to trying to ensure that he is not replaced by his brother Raul or another Communist figure.

"Getting in the way is Chavez and Venezuela, giving assistance to Cuba--and not only giving assistance but forming an alliance with Cuba," said Mr. Smith, who is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy in Washington. "It just drives the Bush people crazy."
Don't worry, Mr. Smith: They're already crazy.

Your tax dollars at work

Via Past Peak, satellite photos of a Beirut neighborhood before and after Israeli jets dropped US-made and paid-for bombs:

Man with a plan

Elon Musk, a serial entrepreneur (Zip2, PayPal, SpaceX), is now going after the electric car market--starting at the high end:
[T]he Tesla Roadster is designed to beat a gasoline sports car like a Porsche or Ferrari in a head to head showdown. Then, over and above that fact, it has twice the energy efficiency of a Prius. Even so, some may question whether this actually does any good for the world. Are we really in need of another high performance sports car? Will it actually make a difference to global carbon emissions?

Well, the answers are no and not much. However, that misses the point, unless you understand the secret master plan alluded to above. Almost any new technology initially has high unit cost before it can be optimized and this is no less true for electric cars. The strategy of Tesla is to enter at the high end of the market, where customers are prepared to pay a premium, and then drive down market as fast as possible to higher unit volume and lower prices with each successive model.

Without giving away too much, I can say that the second model will be a sporty four door family car at roughly half the $89k price point of the Tesla Roadster and the third model will be even more affordable. In keeping with a fast growing technology company, all free cash flow is plowed back into R&D to drive down the costs and bring the follow on products to market as fast as possible. When someone buys the Tesla Roadster sports car, they are actually helping pay for development of the low cost family car.
Read more here. I'd prefer to see sustainability efforts directed towards community reorganization (i.e. no sprawl) and mass transit, but those steps unfortunately require the assistance of government, which despite the propaganda does not work for the good of the people in general. Musk's plan starts out providing playthings for the rich, so it may have a chance.

At least the heat wave has passed

And the Tigers are still comfortably in first place. Everything else still sucks. If you don't want to know why, don't read Billmon's latest post (or pretend that Billmon isn't usually right). Here's a selection to help convince you not to read it:
The truth is that on the most important issue of our time -- the cliff that drops into total darkness -- the only real opposition left in this country is in the Pentagon, where, according to Sy Hersh, at least some of the generals are trying to stall the march to war. Plus whatever scattered resistance is left in the intelligence agencies following the purges of the past couple of years.

It is a stunning testament to the political devolution of this country that the most effective anti-war movement in America is inside the walls of the Pentagon or buried deep in the bowels of the CIA! But that is the reality, thanks in no small part to the Dems and the Israel lobby.

I had hopes once that the Democratic Party could be reformed, that progressives could burrow back in or build their own parallel organizations (like or even Left Blogistan) and eventually gain control of the party and its agenda -- much as the conservatives took over the GOP in the 1980s and '90s.

But I think we've run out of time. Events -- from 9/11 on -- have moved too fast and pushed us too far towards the clash of civilizations that most sane people dread but the neocons desperately want. The Dems are now just the cadet branch of the War Party. While the party nomenklatura is finally, after three blood years, making dovish noises about the Iraq fiasco, I think their loyalty to Israel will almost certainly snap them back into line during the coming "debate" over war with Iran.

I hope like hell I'm wrong about this, but I don't think I am. So I guess I'll just have to accept being labeled a traitor to the cause -- or whatever the hardcore partisans are calling it. Sure, why not. They're certainly free to follow their party over the cliff (we're all going over it anyway) but I'd at least prefer to do it with my eyes open.

If you prefer to remain unconvinced that World War III is just around the corner, and that the Dumbocrats will be supporting it all the way, be sure not to read Billmon's whole post.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

From Lloyd Dangle.

From Matt Bors.

Pay no attention to the facts

Right-wing cartoonists, especially Chuck Asay of Colorado, live in a fantasy world all their own:

I haven't seen a single report of Hezbollah ordering civilians out into the open--but I've seen plenty of reports of Israel ordering civilians to leave their homes, and then bombing the roads they take. And as much as the wingnuts love the "human shields" excuse, it has little basis in fact and no basis in international law. According to Human Rights Watch:
"The pattern of attacks shows the Israeli military's disturbing disregard for the lives of Lebanese civilians," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "Our research shows that Israel's claim that Hezbollah fighters are hiding among civilians does not explain, let alone justify, Israel’s indiscriminate warfare."

Don't worry--you're screwed anyway

From R.J. Matson.

Solar tower

Ideas come from the land down under:

"The tower will be over there," Davey says, pointing to a spot a mile distant where a 1,600-foot structure will rise from the ocher-colored earth. Picture a 260-foot-diameter cylinder taller than the Sears Tower encircled by a two-mile-diameter transparent canopy at ground level. About 8 feet tall at the perimeter, where Davey has his feet planted, the solar collector will gradually slope up to a height of 50 to 60 feet at the tower's base.

Acting as a giant greenhouse, the solar collector will superheat the air with radiation from the sun. Hot air rises, naturally, and the tower will operate as a giant vacuum. As the air is sucked into the tower, it will produce wind to power an array of turbine generators clustered around the structure.

The result: enough clean, green electricity to power some 100,000 homes without producing a particle of pollution or a wisp of planet-warming gases.
While photovoltaic solar power has its place (including on my roof), I've often thought that there must be more efficient ways to turn solar power into electricity (most PV panels or shingles are in the 8 to 20% range). I have read about solar steam power plants; this is the first I've seen of a solar-wind power plant--basically using solar to provide the wind for your windmill. Combine these developments with some serious conservation, and a better battery, and, dare I say it, no more energy crisis? Of course, we would probably immediately proceed to develop wasteful new ways to use our new sustainable sources (I think I wrote this before, but I can't find it): SUV's the size of the places they're named for (Yukon, Dakota, Denali, etc.), outdoor air conditioning, political swiftboat ads projected onto the clouds, etc., until the whole surface of the earth was covered with solar collectors and we'd find ourselves with nothing to eat.

It would seem, even with all the waste that has gone on and the huge world population, that it is still possible to reach a comfortable, sustainable future for everyone. Unfortunately, our "leaders" prefer to fight to the death over the last remaining drops of oil, turning up the heat as they go.

Pro-AMLO spam

Yesterday, I wrote about the spam I was getting opposing Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's (AMLO) challenge to the results of the July 2 election. Today, I received a couple of identical e-mails apparently supporting AMLO, from "PRD Radical" (PRD is AMLO's party). They say:



Which I translate as: "The stock exchange (Bolsa Mexicana de Valores)? Take the airport, don't be (male) whores...Or are you afraid of [current president Vicente] Fox? Vote by vote."

Which still doesn't make sense. I know that AMLO supporters have been staging sit-ins in the Zocalo in Mexico City and other public places, but I see nothing in Google News about sit-ins at either the stock exchange (BMV) or the airport. "Voto por voto" is the battle cry for the AMLO supporters, meaning "count every vote."

Oh well--it's more exciting than the spam I'm constantly getting from Howard Dean.

Going after "gougers" again

Michigan's governor, Jennifer Granholm, is running for re-election. I will almost certainly vote for her. But it dismays me to see she is running, once again, on her record of fighting "gas gougers." From her campaign web site:
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, then Attorney General Granholm took action against 48 gas stations for gas gouging. The stations were required to refund more than $100,000 in overcharges to consumers and pay civil fines to the state.
I've ranted about this before, but, well, here I go again! Gasoline is, and generally has been, ridiculously underpriced in this country. This has, as you know, resulted in huge distortions in our landscape and our economy, as well as our aggressive and extremely expensive military policy. The American public has shown itself to be remarkably immune to responding to the many good reasons for driving less--reducing the 40,000-a-year death toll on the highways, reducing pollution, curbing global warming, stopping sprawl. The only thing that seems to ever put a dent in our absurd driving habits is higher gas prices. And in times of crisis, prices SHOULD go up.

Elsewhere on that web page, Granholm explains:
Every day people are struggling to make ends meet when they have to spend $50 to fill their gas tanks. Meanwhile, big oil companies like Exxon Mobil are making the largest corporate profits in history. Exxon just approved a $400 million retirement package for its outgoing CEO, paid for by everyday people at the pump. That's just wrong.
It's wrong, but not because of "high" prices at the pump. Change corporate law to forbid golden parachutes. Send the Pentagon's $500 billion a year bill to the oil companies, not the [future] taxpayers. Enforce the anti-trust laws by breaking the oil companies up into tiny little pieces, none of which has the power to control prices. RAISE the friggin' gas tax so the government gets more of the windfalls. I realize that, even as governor, Granholm can't do most of these things by herself. But her attacks on gas stations are pretty much like trying a few privates for the crimes at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, which were clearly sanctioned from much higher up. I would also suggest that Granholm is relying on the public's innumeracy. She hopes that we won't notice that the $100,000 she got back from the gas stations is 1/40th of one percent of the Exxon golden parachute. Way to take a bite out of "crime," Jenny!

It is also strange that she would go after gas prices. There are few commodities available in which pricing is more open and, at least apparently, competitive. Gas prices are posted on big signs for all to see--If they are too high, there is usually another station close by. Also, much, probably most, driving is at least somewhat optional. And you really shouldn't attack "gougers" unless you are willing to go after hoarders as well. And yes, I consider anyone driving a large SUV to be a hoarder.

An argument frequently made is that high gas prices affect the poor most--the SUV drivers can afford the higher prices, but minimum-wage workers can't. True to some degree, but the bigger problems are that minimum-wage workers can't afford to live near where the jobs are, and that there are few alternatives to driving. (Read Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed for some insight into the affordable-housing problem.) I would hazard a guess that there is at least as much "gouging" going on in apartments, where one or two landlords tend to dominate local markets, as in the gasoline. And housing is even more expensive, and less optional, than driving.

The real crime isn't how much the oil companies charge for gasoline--it is how little they pay for oil: an extremely valuable non-renewable resource that should belong to all of humanity. Going after the gas stations for "high" prices is absurd, and I'm disgusted that this pandering is what Granholm has decided to run on.

Guilty until...well, just guilty

The misadministration's new plans for kangaroo courts make a mockery of kangaroo courts everywhere.
Under the proposed procedures, defendants would lack rights to confront accusers, exclude hearsay accusations, or bar evidence obtained through rough or coercive interrogations. They would not be guaranteed a public or speedy trial and would lack the right to choose their military counsel, who in turn would not be guaranteed equal access to evidence held by prosecutors.

Detainees would also not be guaranteed the right to be present at their own trials, if their absence is deemed necessary to protect national security or individuals.
John D. Hutson, the Navy's top uniformed lawyer from 1997 to 2000, said the rules would evidently allow the government to tell a prisoner: "We know you're guilty. We can't tell you why, but there's a guy, we can't tell you who, who told us something. We can't tell you what, but you're guilty."
And anyone could be thrown into this legal hell:
U.S. citizens suspected of terror ties might be detained indefinitely and barred from access to civilian courts under legislation proposed by the Bush administration, say legal experts reviewing an early version of the bill.
Comrade Stalin would be proud. It appears he may have won the Cold War at long last. And Bubble Boy still has the gall to accuse ANYONE of "undermining democracy." Have I mentioned that I hate him?

Final Jeopardy?

From Tom Toles.
From Pat Oliphant.

Future White House press secretary

From Boondocks.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Update from Mexico

John Ross writes about the protests and sit-ins surrounding AMLO's challenge to the alleged election of Felipe Calderon as Mexico's president.

Strangely, I've been getting some bizarre anti-AMLO e-mails. One, which I received three times, two from "" and one from "," says simply: "PRD--Perdedores!!! AMLO, Un peligro para Mexico." Which I translate as "PRD--Losers! AMLO, a danger for Mexico." Another, lengthier one says about AMLO "He is using us" and "He lost." Both messages are obviously widely broadcast spam--I'm not sure if I got them because of the occasional AMLO posts on this blog or because I sometimes e-mail people in Mexico. Or maybe they're spamming everybody. Has anybody else gotten e-mails like these?

The basic gist of these e-mails and other anti-AMLO messages I have seen is similar to what we heard from Florida in 2000--proving that elections are fair isn't worth rocking the boat. "Stability" before democracy.

Cole mining again

Juan Cole:
For all the cheerleading in the Western press about a "daring" raid into Baalbak, the evidence is that the Israelis failed to nab their real target, had to content themselves with very low-level captives, rampaged around damaging a hospital and killing 7 civilians, along with 10 civilians in a nearby village, and left with no accomplishment worth mentioning.

In other words, it wasn't exactly Entebbe.

Fog of war

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz gives a much more damning account of the latest IDF action than does AP.

From Haaretz:
Witnesses in Baalbek said they saw dozens of IAF helicopters hovering over the city. They said the hospital in Baalbek, filled with patients and wounded people, was bombed by IAF helicopters late Tuesday. Plumes of burning smoke billowed from the hospital after it was directly hit, they said.
From AP:
Witnesses said Israeli forces partially destroyed the Dar al-Hikma hospital in Baalbek, where chief Hezbollah spokesman Hussein Rahal said fighting raged for more than one hour. The hospital, which residents said is financed by an Iranian charity that is close to Hezbollah, was empty of patients at the time of the raid, the guerrilla group said.

"It was empty last night, there was no one there," a spokesman said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give official statements to the media.

Olmert denied claims the forces attacked a hospital, saying "there are no patients there and there is no hospital, this is a base of the Hezbollah in disguise."
Haaretz describes Baalbek as "an ancient city with spectacular Roman ruins." I guess those Roman ruins will have plenty of company now.

Quote du jour

Anyone who has even a smidgeon of knowledge about, or experience in, the Middle East, and who says he is absolutely, 100% certain he has the right answers, is either a liar, a fanatic, or Tom Friedman -- which is to say, a world-class educated fool.

Blair, unfortunately, is all three.
Wait--Blair is Tom Friedman? Well, Friedman claims the world is flat; Blair is helping W to make it true.


From Tom Toles.

Second in a series. Good thing Toles knows how to draw small.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Clueless in the saddle

AWol "talked" to Fox News propaganda minister Neil Cavuto yesterday. He'll have to veto that English-as-official-language bill if he doesn't want to find himself deported. He spoke nonsense about a wide variety of subjects, including this masterpiece about Venezuela, with my comments interspersed.
CAVUTO: Let me ask you, sir--I would be remiss--speaking of Iran, Hugo Chavez was meeting with President Ahmadinejad.

BUSH: Yes.

CAVUTO: What did you make of that, and what did you make of his travels to countries and leaders who are no fans of yours and the U.S.?

BUSH: You know, what I care about is the Venezuelan people. And you, know, we have good relations with Venezuela for years. And I'm deeply concerned about a government that would undermine the basic fundamentals of democracy. [You mean like making sure elections are fair, all rights are scrupulously respected, laws passed by the legislature are enforced as written, etc., etc., etc.?] And I would hope that the president of Venezuela invests in his people, that--there's a problem...


CAVUTO: But what do you think he is doing with all these weapons he's buying?

BUSH: I have no idea. [About the weapons, or just in general?]

But, you know, the biggest threat he faces is under--the biggest face we threat--the biggest threat we face in the neighborhood is undermining democratic values and institutions. And it's just--we will continue to speak out on behalf of--of democracy. People deserve...


CAVUTO: Well, is he a military threat to the United States? Is Hugo Chavez a threat?

BUSH: No. He's not a military threat. We have got a--a very strong military. And if--we can deal with any threat that--to the homeland there is, and will, if we have to. But, no, I don't view him as a threat.

I view--I view him as a threat of undermining democracy. And I view him as a threat. [He's not a threat, but he's a threat--doublethink!!] You know, I--I--I would--wish he would invest his petrodollars with the people of Venezuela, and give them a chance to, you know, get out of poverty, and give them a chance to realize hopes and dreams. [Like literacy programs, free medical care, the most progressive constitution in the world, and a role for everyone in government? You wish he would do exactly what he's doing, and you're not?]
WIIIAI has some more choice quotes from the interview, if you don't have the stomach to read the whole thing. WIIIAI also adds:
Today Bush had his annual physical and was pronounced fit for duty, which is a case of medical malpractice if I ever heard of one.

From Don Wright.

A very low standard

From Pat Bagley.

From Mark Cohen.

Chris heading for the Gulf of Mexico

It's not much yet, but the big storms last year developed quickly in the Gulf.

Another stunning success for Condiliar

After her latest chucklehead visit, Israel has now launched a full-scale invasion of southern Lebanon. Meanwhile, the destruction of Gaza continues. This photo accompanies the article:

Caption: "A Gaza home destroyed by Israel Monday. The Israeli Army called the homeowner to warn him about the attack, and his family was evacuated."

The Israeli version of eminent domain, I guess.

How to handle the heat

With temperatures soaring once again, everybody is looking for ways to beat the heat. Here's my suggestion: Find a nice air-conditioned theater, buy a ticket, and watch Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" until they kick you out.

You're welcome.

Meta-quote du jour

Condoleezza Rice, Bush's official idiot-savant, gave us a memorable quote last week concerning Israeli barbarism in Lebanon: "We are witnessing the birth pangs of a new Middle East." I wonder what would have been press reaction in America to some high official saying, as the World Trade Center toppled in flames, "We are witnessing the birth pangs of a new America?"
-- John Chuckman

On a similar note, Billmon points out that Rush Limbaugh is sounding a lot like Osama bin Laden these days when it comes to the killing of civilians.


Please don't kill me!

Will Karla Faye Tucker get the last laugh? From Chris Floyd:
[The Bushies] went back to the bagmen on Capitol Hill this week, ordering their minions to provide retroactive legal cover for the rank offenses committed by the big boys at the top when they devised their torture regimen--in knowing, deliberate violation of the U.S. War Crimes Act, which was passed by acclamation in the Republican-led Congress in 1996, and toughened up the following year with the support of the Pentagon, the Washington Post reports.
[L]ast month, the Supreme Court's decision in the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case effectively overturned the Bushists' "unitary executive" fantasies by ruling that the Geneva Conventions--which have been incorporated into U.S. law and are the basis of the War Crimes Act--applied to Bush's Terror War.

This was the nightmare scenario that Attorney General Alberto "The Fixer" Gonzales and Dick Cheney's capo, David "The Enforcer" Addington laid out in legal memos for George W. Bush in early 2002, when Bush, Cheney and Pentagon warlord Don Rumseld were signing off on the various tortures they would inflict on their captives. The legal minions told Bush that they could all be prosecuted, even executed, under the War Crimes Act for what they were doing--if the Geneva Conventions were upheld. Gonzales thus advised Bush to issue a presidential order stripping Terror War captives of the Geneva protections, the Post reports. Only this bit of weasel-wording could provide a "defense against future prosecution," Gonzales wrote.

What he forgot to say was that this defense would only work in a presidential dictatorship under the legally baseless "unitary executive;" otherwise, the president would still be bound by America's strict laws against torture. Thus any president who ordered interrogation techniques that violated those laws could be prosecuted; and if those techniques resulted in the murder of prisoners, then that president, and his minions, could be executed. So far, at least 35 Terror War captives have been killed in military or CIA custody, Human Rights Watch reports.
I don't see much chance that Bush and his fellow war criminals will be prosecuted, much less executed. But Floyd suggests that they're at least worried about it, which is why they're pursuing these after-the-fact bills in Congress. Of course, actually changing their behavior is out of the question for aWol and Torture Gonzales. Committing war crimes is what war criminals do.

Everything I need to know I learned from the Simpsons

Following WIIIAI's lead, I've been freaked out by Condiliar's fit of smiling while discussing the slaughter of hundreds of people. It seemed vaguely familiar, somehow. Then I remembered Dr. Hibbert from the Simpsons, who laughs at the most inappropriate moments:

Dr. Hibbert: You have twenty-four hours to live. Hee, hee!
Homer: Twenty-four hours!
Dr. Hibbert: Well, twenty-two. I'm sorry I kept you waiting so long. Hah, hah, hah!
(Something went wrong with the first picture I put here, which better fit the dialogue. In any case, that is Dr. Hibbert.)

From John Deering.