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Sunday, February 29, 2004


 

Quote of the Day


Forbes reports that:
"Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned the U.S. government Sunday that if it tried to invade Venezuela or impose a trade blockade against his country, he would shut off Venezuelan oil supplies to the United States."
But the best part of the article is the introduction, which reads:
"Please note that paragraph 7 contains language that may be offensive to some readers."
And the offending paragraph?
"In his speech, Chavez also called Bush an 'asshole' for, he said, supporting a short-lived coup in 2002 that briefly toppled him."

 

Happy Birthday Frederic!


His 37th.


 

Those wacky British and their respect for law


The way things are going, there just might be a new election in Britain before one occurs in Iraq. From The Guardian comes the report that the British Army actually refused to invade Iraq for fear of being charged with war crimes (nothing the U.S. worries about) until a clear legal opinion was forthcoming that the invasion would be legal:
"Britain's Army chiefs refused to go to war in Iraq amid fears over its legality just days before the British and American bombing campaign was launched, The Observer can today reveal.

"The disclosure came as it also emerged that [Lord] Goldsmith [the Attorney-General] was forced hastily to redraft his legal advice to Tony Blair to give an 'unequivocal' assurance to the armed forces that the conflict would not be illegal.

"It is understood that it was only after seeing Goldsmith's final legal advice, given days before the outbreak of war, that [Chief of Defence Staff Sir Michael] Boyce gave his approval [for British troops to participate in the invasion of Iraq]."
And where did the pressure come from to rewrite Goldsmith's original opinion? According to the Sunday Herald (Scotland), it was not just from Tony Blair:
"The attorney general initially told Tony Blair that an invasion of Iraq would be illegal without a new resolution from the United Nations and only overturned his advice when Washington ordered Downing Street to find legal advice which would justify the war.

"The devastating claim will be made by eminent QC and Labour peer Baroness Helena Kennedy in a television interview today. Her position as a member of the highest echelons of the legal community will add credence to her claims that the British government could find only two senior lawyers in the UK prepared to back the case for the invasion."
And why would the U.S. care? Clearly they didn't really need the British troops to carry out the invasion; they could have "won the war" by themselves with little additional difficulty. But imagine what it would have looked like to the world community, and even to the sheep-like American people and press, if the U.S. had invaded but the British army had sat in Kuwait because their government said the invasion was illegal. There was no way Washington could let that happen.

 

A real pinpoint shooting in Gaza


There are outrages and outrages, but few more outrageous than the one reported this morning by the Toronto Star (and nowhere else in the Western press):
"An Israeli army officer has been suspended after an unarmed Palestinian youth was shot in the back at close range as he waved goodbye to a delegation of visiting United Nations aid workers. Yousef Bashir, 15, remains in serious condition at a hospital. He is partially paralyzed beneath his shoulder blades.

"'The boy was no more than five metres from us, waving goodbye after our visit, with his back to the Israeli observation post,' said one of the U.N. field staff. 'It was absolutely quiet. But then a single shot was fired. The boy fell to his knees and then he collapsed on the ground. It was like slow-motion video. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind the bullet came from the Israeli army position. They were only about 20 metres away. There was nothing else going on. There is no other explanation.'"

"The shooting comes as the most severe incident in the Bashir family's long struggle with the IDF. Nearly three years ago, the army confiscated a large swath of the family property to increase the buffer zone for the Jewish settlers of nearby Kfar Darom. In the process, the family said their greenhouses were demolished, nearly 120 date palms were uprooted and IDF actually moved into the home, establishing military positions on the second and third floors, replete with a closed-circuit television camera and camouflage netting.

"Khalil Bashir, a school principal in the nearby town of Deir Al-Ballah, has refused to vacate the home and has moved the family - elderly mother, wife and five children - to a single room on the ground floor.

"On Feb. 3 - just as the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon unveiled plans for a unilateral withdrawal of the Israeli settlements in Gaza, including Kfar Darom - the Bashir family and other property owners in the neighbourhood were served written orders by the IDF for additional land confiscations."
(The only other article on the shooting, by the renowned Amira Hass in Ha'aretz, has still more details).

Sniper attacks like this one on unarmed Palestinians are, in fact, routine occurances, as are the demolishing of date trees and all the other indignities suffered by the Bashir family. The only thing distinguishing this incident is that the Israeli soldiers had the audacity to carry it out in front of U.N. workers. If they had just waited two minutes until the U.N. workers left, they could have claimed that the boy was "throwing rocks" or "looked like he was pulling a gun out of his pocket" and the incident wouldn't have even been reported.

And still, the evacuation of the illegal Israeli settlements is being "discussed," as if there is anything to discuss.


Saturday, February 28, 2004


 

Another "pinpoint" strike in Gaza


In today's news:
"An Israeli helicopter fired missiles at a car in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, killing three people - including an Islamic Jihad militant - and wounding 15 others, doctors said.
Must have been an awfully big car.

No, of course it wasn't:

"The airstrike was carried out in a densely populated residential area, and three children were among the wounded, said doctors at Gaza's Shifa Hospital. One girl was in critical condition and another boy was seen bleeding from his head."
From the U.S. and the world community? Silence as usual. Note as previously, that it's never Israelis killing Palestinians. It's always inanimate objects, in this case an "Israeli helicopter." Helicopters do not fire missiles. People inside the helicopters pushing buttons or pulling levers fire missiles. On this one I agree fully with the NRA. People kill people. Except in the pages of the U.S. press, when it's Israelis killing Palestinians. [See comments for a clarification of that last sentence]

 

Shooting the messenger


How noble:
"Clare Short is unlikely to be expelled from Labour despite a growing backlash over her UN bugging claims, senior party figures indicated today.

"Labour chairman Ian McCartney said he was not 'going to make her a martyr'."
Claire Short committed the "sin" of revealing that her country was spying on the U.N. (bugging Kofi Annan's conversations) while trying to push the U.N. into endorsing the invasion of Iraq. How about making Tony Blair a "martyr" for taking his country to war illegally and helping bring about the death of tens of thousands of Iraqis and dozens of his countrymen?

There is talk of Short's "claims" and "reckless allegations." I know "the best defense is a good offense," but considering this talk comes from people who made "claims" and "reckless allegations" about the imminent threat from stockpiles of weapons of mass destructions in Iraq, isn't this a bit much?


 

He works hard for his money


Couldn't resist passing this on, from Uggabugga:



Friday, February 27, 2004


 

Elections in Iraq


UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan says that "the earliest date for elections would be the end of this year, provided planning begins immediately." Strangely enough, neither he nor the media who report his statements think to ask why planning didn't begin, say, last May, when "major combat operations ended."

 

The "evil empire"


That's what Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union. Who was really the "evil empire"? Consider this:
"In January 1982, President Ronald Reagan approved a CIA plan to sabotage the economy of the Soviet Union through covert transfers of technology that contained hidden malfunctions, including software that later triggered a huge explosion in a Siberian natural gas pipeline, according to a new memoir by a Reagan White House official.

"Reed writes that the pipeline explosion was just one example of "cold-eyed economic warfare" against the Soviet Union that the CIA carried out under Director William J. Casey during the final years of the Cold War.

"'In order to disrupt the Soviet gas supply, its hard currency earnings from the West, and the internal Russian economy, the pipeline software that was to run the pumps, turbines, and valves was programmed to go haywire, after a decent interval, to reset pump speeds and valve settings to produce pressures far beyond those acceptable to pipeline joints and welds,' Reed writes.

"'The result was the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space,' he recalls, adding that U.S. satellites picked up the explosion. Reed said in an interview that the blast occurred in the summer of 1982."
And, of course, this kind of thing continues to this very day. When it comes to Cuba, one hears a lot about CIA attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro. But the truth is, far greater energy goes into economic warfare, not just the overt warfare like the blockade, but covert warfare as well, like that described above. If "socialism can't work", like they always tell us, why don't they just let it fail? Why do they have to help?

 

Headline of the Day

"U.S. to use land mines timed to self-destruct" (Source)
Boy, that doesn't sound good! I sure hope they mean "timed to de-activate."

 

How deep can Bush pile the slander against Cuba?


Get out the hip boots:
"President Bush gave the federal government new powers to keep American boats out of Cuba...Bush listed a long list of grievances with Cuba, some of them decades old, in explaining his Thursday evening move.

"The president said the passage of American boats into Cuban waters could bring injury or death to anyone on the vessels, 'due to the potential use of excessive force, including deadly force, against them by the Cuban military.'"
The alleged target of this crackdown, American yachts who sail to the Hemingway Marina in Havana, have been doing so for years. Not a single boat or passenger has ever been harmed.
"'Moreover, such boats and ships bring money and commerce into Cuba' Bush said. Castro's government may use such cash to support terrorist activities, he said."
Yes, and they might use that cash to send a man to Mars as well. There isn't the slightest evidence that Cuba is engaged in terrorist activities, as Bush well knows.
"Bush said Castro's government had used sometimes deadly force against American and Cuban citizens over the past decade and might do so again."
Presumably Bush is referring to the shooting down of the "Brothers to the Rescue" pilots who were overflying Havana repeatedly, an overtly hostile act akin to a Cuban plane overflying Washington, and who had been repeatedly warned to cease that activity before being shot down. The people killed in that incident were, as far as I remember, American citizens. The only Cuban citizens I know of who have received "deadly force" from the Cuban government are the literal handful of Cubans who have received the death penalty in that time, fewer than were put to death in a few months by George Bush as Governor of Texas.
"Further, he said top Cuban officials have said repeatedly that the United States intended to invade Cuba, despite explicit denials from the United States."
Well, that clinches it, they must be nuts. I mean, the U.S. "explicitly denied" they had plans to invade Iraq too, didn't they? And...oh wait, they did end up invading, as I recall. The fact of the matter is, of course, that under the "Bush preemptive war doctrine," Cuba would have a thousand times more justification right now for invading the U.S. than the U.S. had for invading Iraq, and they certainly have enough justification to warrant preparing for an attack from the U.S.
"U.S. officials said Cuba has not been cooperating in achieving the goal of safe, orderly and legal immigration."
It is the U.S. which has repeatedly, year after year, underfilled the agreed-upon visa quotas for Cubans.

And last but definitely not least:

"The Bush administration has accused Cuba of meddling in Latin America, sometimes in collaboration with the country's main South American ally, Venezuela."
Talk about the pot calling the porcelain black! It was the United States which more or less overtly supported the aborted military coup in Venezuela, has troops and is sending copious military aid to Columbia, is now almost certainly supporting the ongoing military coup in Haiti, and on and on and on.

I'd say Bush appears to be divorced from reality, but that would imply there was evidence he was ever married.


 

Press cheerleading for U.S. foreign policy is nothing new


Everyone now understands how the American press reported uncritically on U.S. claims of Iraqi WMD before the invasion, playing the role of cheerleader (or perhaps "enabler") for U.S. foreign policy, with the New York Times and it's WMD reporter Judith Miller playing a starring role. In an article on Antiwar.com, Jim Lobe reminds us that that's nothing new:
"In 1920 [Walter Lippmann] and a colleague, Charles Merz, wrote in...an article in The New Republic magazine...that the [New York] Times had reported the imminent or actual end of the Soviet regime 'not once or twice – but 91 times – in the two years from November, 1917 to November 1919.'"

Thursday, February 26, 2004


 

Peaceful protest, violent response


Palestinians are routinely denounced by Western politicians and media because of their willingness to employ violence, including suicide bombings, to end the occupation of their country. So what happens when they employ peaceful, non-violent means of protest? They are gunned down by the mis-named Israeli Defense Forces:
"At least two Palestinians were killed Thursday and dozens were wounded when Israeli security forces clashed with thousands of protestors demonstrating against the separation fence in the West Bank village of Bidu, west of Jerusalem, Palestinian sources said."
(Huwaida Arraf, reporting from Ramallah tonight on Flashpoints radio (not yet online, but will be available for download soon), reports three people killed, plus one old man dead of a heart attack induced by massive amounts of tear gas).

In some articles, the Israelis claim the Palestinians were "throwing stones." No doubt a few were, most likely at the tanks and bulldozers, in an almost symbolic attempt to stop them. Deadly force would hardly be the appropriate response even if they were. As far as I know not a single Israeli soldier has ever been killed by a "stone thrower."

Once again, from David Rovics:

On one side is the fighter jet
On the other side the stone
On one side is the slave
On the other is the throne
For the many there are checkpoints
While foreign soldiers rule the street
For one side there is victory
But the people don't accept defeat

The word you need to know is occupation
The very definition of a land without a nation
And if peace is what you're after then let us not deceive
It will come on the day the tanks return to Tel Aviv

 

Compassionate conservatism


Yesterday it was gays who want to marry receiving some of that famous "compassion." Today it's Haitians:
"With Haiti inching toward civil war, President George W. Bush said yesterday the U.S. Coast Guard would turn back any Haitians fleeing in boats to U.S. shores."

 

And in today's job news...


AT&T announces it will be cutting 4,600 jobs this year.

And here in Santa Clara County, the heart of Silicon Valley, a "very, very ugly" county budget picture will result in 1,200 layoffs in the coming year. Among other consequences, "the county will be forced to turn away 2,000 to 4,000 mentally ill patients," and "severe slashes also are expected in public health programs, including the Prenatal Substance Abuse Program, which helps about 70 pregnant women year-round deliver healthy babies."

All this in the richest, most technologically-advanced country the world has ever known. Something is very wrong. It's called capitalism, the system which puts profits (and the wars which are necessary to keep the profits coming) before people.

Here's how it looks on the other side of the aisle:

"With the creation of new jobs and the implementation of several programs in 2003, Cuba attained a 68% employment rate by the end of last year, representing a five point increase over eight years, as was announced yesterday during the annual meeting of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.

"That indicator is in the range of target figures for the European Union for 2010, while at the same time, unemployment in Cuba stands at 2.3%, one of the lowest rates in the world, noted Minister Alfredo Morales Cartaya.

"Last year, a total of 128,122 new jobs were created, 48% of them in the eastern provinces and mainly benefiting young people and women."

 

Quote of the Day


Richard Perle, a key driving force behind the invasion of Iraq, has resigned from the Defense Policy Board, in a letter sent to Donald Rumsfeld a week ago and only just made public. Here's what he wrote:
"We are now approaching a long presidential election campaign, in the course of which issues on which I have strong views will be widely discussed and debated. I would not wish those views to be attributed to you or the president at any time, and especially not during a presidential campaign."
Gee, you don't suppose he's feeling guilty for having lied to the world, do you? George Bush certainly doesn't seem to be; he's been rather forceful about agreeing with Ahmad Chalabi's recently enunciated position - "it doesn't matter if we lied were wrong about WMD, we got rid of Saddam which is a good thing." So which views that Perle held is he worrying about being "attributed" to Rumsfeld or Bush?

Knight-Ridder suggests this answer:

"Perle's resignation coincides with the publication of a book he co-authored calling for 'bold action' against Iran, North Korea and other 'sponsors of terrorism,' including U.S. ally Saudi Arabia. The book, An End To Evil: How to Win The War on Terrorism, co-authored with David Frum, argues that Iran and North Korea 'present intolerable threats to American security.'

"'We must move boldly against them both and against all the other sponsors of terrorism as well: Syria, Libya and Saudi Arabia. And we don't have much time,' the book argues."
Personally, however, I doubt it's these "views" that Perle thinks are going to get George Bush in trouble. More likely it's the continuing exposure of his role in cherry-picking "intelligence" [sic], i.e., feeding lies from the mouth of Ahmad Chalabi and cohorts to the ear of George Bush Dick Cheney and then on to the American public. So, unlike Chalabi who has only offered to "fall on his sword," Perle is falling on his sword, although I doubt it will prove too painful to him.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004


 

The (Gun) shot that may start an avalanche


The story of the dismissal of the charges against Katherine Gun gets more interesting:
"Dramatic new evidence pointing to serious doubts in the government about the legality of the war in Iraq was passed to government lawyers shortly before they abandoned the prosecution of the GCHQ whistleblower Katharine Gun.

"The Guardian has learned that a key plank of the defence presented to the prosecutors shortly before they decided to abandon the case was new evidence that the legality of the war had been questioned by the Foreign Office.

"It is contained in a document seen by the Guardian. Sensitive passages are blacked out, but one passage says: 'The defence believes that the advice given by the Foreign Office Legal Adviser expressed serious doubts about the legality (in international law) of committing British troops in the absence of a second [UN] resolution.'

"It is understood that the FO legal team was particularly concerned about the lack of a second UN resolution authorising the use of force and pre-emptive military action."
Of course the British and U.S. governments knew damn well what they were doing was not authorized by international law. The U.S. government barely tried to pretend that it cared, any more than it cares about international law with respect to the prisoners in Guantanamo and many other things. But the British government did. Will that be their undoing? Calling Lord Hutton! More whitewash please!

The Independent has a nice background article on Katherine Gun's life and the events which led to the whistle-blowing incident.

Followup: Normon Solomon details the treatment of this story by the U.S. press, or rather the lack of it, not now, but before the invasion, during the Security Council debate, when Gun actually leaked the memo and when the story was highly relevant.


 

Gun (not) shy



BBC reports that "[Katherine Gun] walked free on Wednesday when the prosecution offered no evidence." Here's the best part of the article:

"The same [government] spokesperson suggested the case might have been dropped as Mrs Gun planned to argue she leaked the e-mail to save lives from being lost in a war, something that could persuade a jury and would lead to the reputation of the Official Secrets Act being damaged.

"Our correspondent said this suggested the government had made a political calculation that a random selection of a dozen jurors would be likely to be so instinctively anti-war than an acquittal would be likely."
Amen to that! Although I think it's a lot more than "instinct" that leads people to be antiwar.

 

Kerry (Heart) Greenspan


Alan Greenspan says that in order to eliminate the huge and mounting deficit, Social Security should be cut. John Kerry says he would "never" cut benefits. John Kerry also says that he supports the reappointment of Alan Greenspan as Federal Reserve Chairman.

Back on the issue of Kerry and gay marriage, AP reports today that "Gay rights groups are going easy on Kerry" because, even though he opposes gay marriage, his position is better than Bush's. No doubt the same thing was said about Bill Clinton back when he was running against Bob Dole. That would, of course, be the Bill Clinton who brought us "Don't ask, don't tell" and signed the "Defense [sic*] of Marriage Act."

* Pronounced "sick"


 

Death in Palestine, then and now


The big controversy these days is over Mel Gibson's new film, The Passion of the Christ. Some people are alarmed because the death of Christ is depicted with excessive violence and lots of blood. Others are up in arms over the question of "Who killed Christ?", because the movie suggests that the correct answer is "the Jews."

In Palestine today, there's no question about who killed Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall, nor about the excessive blood and violence involved in their gruesome deaths. It was the Israelis. Or, as Ariel Sharon (not Left I) describes them: "the Jews." Rachel and Tom didn't die for anyone's sins. But they did die in an attempt to help free an oppressed people. May their deaths not have been in vain.


 

Donsense of the Day


Discussing Haiti on PBS News Hour last week:
"We have no plans to do anything. By that, I don't mean we have no plans. Obviously, we have plans to do everything in the world that we can think of. But we—there's no intention at the present time, or no reason to believe, that any of the thinking that goes into these things year in and year out would have to be utilized." - Donald Rumsfeld
So if anyone says that Cuba or North Korea or any other country is just being paranoid thinking that the U.S. has plans to invade their country, thanks to Don it's now on record - they do.

Link via Cursor.


Tuesday, February 24, 2004


 

What delicious timing


Today, George Bush said "Marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society." Last night the final episode of Fox's latest reality show, My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance, was the most-watched show on TV, with 21.3 million viewers. The premise of this show, which I most assuredly did not watch, was to have two people, one of whom was a "big fat obnoxious man," to go through a charade of getting engaged and married (all the way through to the final "I do") in order to fool the woman's family. In other words, the show made a complete mockery of marriage, even more so than shows like "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" which at least pretend to try to be actual "matchmaking" shows. And, as I said, it was the most watched show on TV.

Fox's owner, Rupert Murdoch, along with his wife and son, have already donated the maximum amount to George Bush's re-election campaign.


 

John Kerry on gay marriage


Some news articles have it that "Both Kerry and Edwards said they oppose gay marriages but would not support a constitutional amendment." But I just heard John Kerry, speaking on TV news, say this: "If the amendment provides for partnership and civil unions, then it would be a good amendment and I would support that."

This is what supporting "Anybody but Bush" gets you.


 

Being a Harvard professor is no guarantee of intelligence


Alan Dershowitz has been advising the Israeli government on current court case against the wall; his advice consisting of telling them to ignore it. His rationale is rather instructive:
"Dershowitz...characterized the 15-judge panel of the ICJ as a 'kangaroo court,' likening it to a southern United States court during an era of heightened racial tension. 'The ICJ is not fit to handle the case because its judges take orders from their governments...This is a lawsuit involving the tyrannies versus the democracies, and since there are more tyrannies than democracies in the world, Israel will lose,' he said."
Here's a list of the countries currently represented by judges on the court: France, Sierra Leone, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Venezuela, Netherlands, Brazil, Jordan, United States of America, Egypt, Japan, Germany, Slovakia. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to divide this list between "tyrannies" and "democracies."

As if that wasn't enough, here's what Dershowitz says about the wall:

"I've examined the fence. A very, very small part of it is wall, most of it is a moveable fence. In fact, yesterday, much of it was moved and it will continue to move all the time."
I don't know what percentage of the barrier is actually a wall, but I've seen an awful lot of pictures which strongly suggest that it is not a "very, very small part." Even the "fence" portion consists of concrete bases, towers, etc.; it's hardly the kind of fence that surrounds most schoolyards that you can climb over, slip your mountain bike under, etc., like the fences most of us are used to seeing. And one thing for sure is that "much of it" was not moved yesterday; rather, a "very, very small" section of the wall was moved. Dershowitz is simply divorced from reality.

Dershowitz makes a powerful argument...against tenure.


 

The other "School of the Americas"


In America, the now-renamed "School of the Americas" is famous for having taught the skills of war, torture, and repression to pupils from other countries. In another part of America (not the United States of America, but definitely America), there's another school which teaches pupils from other countries:
Another 1,600 students from 21 countries begin medical studies

"As of March, more than 8,000 young people from Latin America, the Caribbean, some African countries and the United States will be receiving training as doctors. [60 of them from the United States, including 6 more in the latest group]"
Where is this education taking place? In Cuba, of course, at the Latin American School of Medical Studies.

You say you missed this story? Of course you did. A search of Google News for "Latin American School of Medical Studies" turns up precisely one article, the Granma article from which the above information is taken. Yahoo News turns up nothing at all.


 

Justice in America - Part II


From TalkLeft comes the story of the latest insight into "justice" in America:
"The Supreme Court, acting on a case that has become a cause celebre among capital punishment opponents, overturned the death sentence of a long-serving Texas inmate who claimed prosecutors played dirty and withheld evidence at his trial.

"[Delma] Banks was able to document how prosecutors kept quiet as key witnesses against Banks lied on the stand, and how the state hid those witnesses' links to police through round after round of appeals."
In Pennsylvania, Mumia Abu-Jamal will soon be spending his 50th birthday in prison.

 

The "credenza defense" crumbles further


When George Bush claimed to not have plans for war against Iraq "on his desk," Left I on the News termed that the "credenza defense" (as in, "no, he's got them on his credenza"). Now that defense has crumbled even further:
"George Bush set the US on the path to war in Iraq with a formal order signed in February 2002, more than a year before the invasion, according to a book published yesterday.

"Rumsfeld's War is by Rowan Scarborough, the Pentagon correspondent for the conservative Washington Times newspaper, which is known for its contacts in the defence department's civilian leadership.

"'On February 16 2002, Bush signed a secret national security council directive establishing the goals and objectives for going to war with Iraq, according to classified documents I obtained,' Mr Scarborough wrote, in an account of the 'global war on terrorism' as seen from the office of Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary.

"The next month, he writes, the head of central command, General Tommy Franks, conducted a 'major Iraq war exercise code-named 'Prominent Hammer', and in April he briefed the joint chiefs of staff on the invasion plan."
Credit to Sick of Bush for spotting the story.

 

The battle is joined - Part II


It's not online anywhere yet, but just moments ago George Bush publicly came out for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages, calling marriage "the most important institution in the history of civilization," and asserting that recent developments in San Francisco required him to call for this amendment to "protect marriage" (and, presumably, civilization as we know it). No word on when he'll call for a constitutional amendment to ban cohabitation and adultery, or poverty for that matter, which is an even bigger "threat" to marriage.

When Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a bus, it was the trigger that started something way bigger than one woman or one bus. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, with the aid of more than 3000 couples who gratefully accepted his invitation to get married, may well have triggered the start of another epic battle. One person by themselves cannot change history - both Parks and Newsom stood on the shoulders of thousands of others. But one person can fire the shot which triggers an avalanche.


 

The battle is joined - Part I


Unions are calling for a boycott of Safeway throughout California starting this Saturday. "If we lose here," said national UFCW President Doug Dority, "it will set off a corporate tidal wave that will sweep away benefits in contracts in all industries." Enough said.

 

Haiti


Many of my readers are no doubt regular readers of the left-wing press, but for those who aren't, events in Haiti form the perfect opportunity to change your reading habits. The mainstream media provides its readers and viewers a good view of the trees - "rebels overtake Northern city" - but fail to provide a view of the forest. Why is this happening? What's the background? Who are the forces involved? What is the real position of the U.S.? If you want to have any hope of understanding these things, you need to be exposed to publications like Worker's World, Socialist Worker, or Counterpunch, and read their coverage of what's going on.

 

Justice in America


Scott Peterson is on trial for the murder of his wife, Laci Peterson. USA Network has now aired, multiple times, the strangely named "Perfect Husband - the Laci Peterson Story" which I haven't seen but the San Jose Mercury News TV reporter claims basically convicts Peterson. A radio station has a billboard near the courtroom asking the question "Scott Peterson - Man or Monster" and asking people to call the station to "vote" on his innocence or guilt, and the same radio station actually had a truck "towing an electronic billboard featuring a toll-free number where people can vote on Scott Peterson's guilt or innocence -- and a digital count of votes already cast -- circl[ing] the Redwood City Hall of Justice." And today, at a time when jury selection has not yet begun, local newspapers like the Mercury News are carrying major "top of the fold" headlines proclaiming "Peterson characterized as liar," with a long article, based on court papers filed by the prosecutor, detailing Peterson's alleged lies; TV stations including KTVU/Oakland and CNN are featuring the same story.

Is Scott Peterson guilty of killing his wife? I have no idea. Will he get a fair trial? It seems highly unlikely.


 

Political humor of the day

"The Democratic primary is down to a two-man race between John Edwards, who's worth 50 to 75 million dollars, and John Kerry, whose wife is worth between 500 and 700 million. So it's a classic battle - between the 'haves' and the 'really haves.'" - Jay Leno

 

Eyewitness reporting from Iraq


The American media is bored with Iraq. Except for the "big" events - the discussion over the elections, the bombings of Iraqi police stations - I can't really remember the last "eyewitness" reports by American reporters in Iraq. Certainly that spate of "good news" reporting which followed the pressure on the media by the Bush administration to report all the "good things" that were happening in Iraq petered out very quickly. But even back when it was more common for American reporters to be doing "eyewitness" reports from Iraq, somehow their eyes never seemed to be looking the same place as Robert Fisk's:
"Repeatedly, in Baghdad, Hillah, Tikrit, Mosul and Fallujah Iraqis have told me that they were robbed by American troops during raids and at checkpoints. Unless there is a monumental conspiracy on a nationwide scale by Iraqis, some of these reports must bear the stamp of truth.

"Travelling back from Fallujah to Baghdad after dark last month, I saw mortar explosions and tracer fire around 13 American bases--not a word of which was later revealed by the occupation authorities. At Baghdad airport last month, five mortar shells fell near the runway as a Jordanian airliner was boarding passengers for Amman. I saw this attack with my own eyes. That same afternoon, General Ricardo Sanchez, the senior US officer in Iraq, claimed he knew nothing about the attack, which--unless his junior officers are slovenly--he must have been well aware of."
Fisk discusses lots more which I won't repeat here since it's been mentioned here many times - the wanton, unapologetic killing of Iraqis by American troops with the slightest of pretexts, the phony occasional promises of "investigations" which never occur, etc. The things which aren't the subject of press releases by the "Coalition Provisional Authority," and which as a result never make your local "Eyewitness" news, which get most of their "eyewitness" reporting from the inside of a press briefing room.

Could there be any bigger contrast between Robert Fisk and the notorious Judith Miller of the "esteemed" New York Times, who recently admitted in a rare moment of candor: "My job isn't to assess the government's information and be an independent intelligence analyst myself. My job is to tell readers of The New York Times what the government thought about Iraq's arsenal"?


Monday, February 23, 2004


 

Understatements 'r' us


The Washington Post states the obvious:
Economic Forecasts Were Off

"President Homer Simpson Bush last week caused a stir when he declined to endorse a projection, made by his own Council of Economic Advisers, that the economy would add 2.6 million jobs this year. But that forecast, derided as wildly optimistic, was one of the more modest predictions the administration has made about the economy over the past three years.

"Two years ago, the administration forecast that there would be 3.4 million more jobs in 2003 than there were in 2000. And it predicted a budget deficit for fiscal 2004 of $14 billion. The economy ended up losing 1.7 million jobs over that period, and the budget deficit for this year is on course to be $521 billion."
D'oh!

 

Those pesky logistics

"In letters last week to Amnesty International, Human Rights First and Human Rights Watch, a senior military official said it was unlikely that they would be allowed to attend any military tribunals at Guantanamo. The official, Brig. Gen. Thomas L. Hemingway, a chief legal adviser in the office of military commissions, wrote that space would be limited if and when tribunals were held at Guantánamo.

"'It is expected that limited courtroom seating and other logistical issues will preclude attendance by many who desire to observe military commission proceedings,' he wrote." (Source)
Not that anyone would have believed Brig. Gen. Hemingway's obvious lies anyway, but this kind of gives the game away:
"More than 80 members of the news media, both from the United States and abroad, are expected to attend any tribunals, officials said."
Human rights organizations? Sorry, full up.

 

Sharon - long on promises, short on action


Back in December, the Israeli government promised to dismantle four outposts, three of them not even occupied. So far as can be determined, that largely symbolic promise has yet to be kept. Given that, today's report should be taken with an entire salt-shaker full of salt:
"Prime Minister Ariel Sharon spoke in private conversations in the last few days of his intention to evacuate all the settlements in the Gaza Strip and 17 others in the West Bank."
Of course, the American taxpayer will be footing the bill:
"Israel will...ask the United States for a 'compensation package' in exchange for evacuating settlements in the Gaza Strip and West Bank."
Sure. I mean, it was the American people who forced the Israelis to establish settlements in Gaza and the West Bank, right? So naturally we should be the ones to pay for their evacuation.

And, the usual reminder that all the settlements are illegal under the Geneva Convention, as well as various U.N. resolutions. Not that either of those things carries much weight in this world. Unless the U.S. wants to use them as a justification for war against Iraq.


 

Remember this quote in August


In an article on the planned protests for the Republican convention at the end of August, NYC Deputy Police Commissioner Paul J. Browne is quoted as saying "We will work with [protest organizers] throughout. We want to give them sight and sound proximity, while allowing R.N.C. participants uninterrupted access to and from the convention. We're looking to save lives, not stifle dissent.''

We shall see. If so, it'll be a first.

Followup: Apparently Boston, where the Democrats will hold their convention, may not be as hospitable:

"Protesters at this summer's Democratic National Convention in Boston may be confined to a cozy triangle of land off Haymarket Square, blocked off from the FleetCenter and convention delegates by a maze of Central Artery service roads, MBTA train tracks, and a temporary parking lot holding scores of buses and media trucks.

"Under a preliminary plan floated by convention organizers, the 'free-speech zone' would be a small plot bounded by Green Line tracks and North Washington Street, in an area that until recently was given over to the elevated artery. The zone would hold as few as 400 of the several thousand protesters who are expected in Boston in late July." [Emphasis added]
Note that this proposal comes not from the Boston police, but from "convention organizers," also known as "Democrats" (but definitely not "democrats").

 

Wiley Miller




 

Stop Nader?


I've said it before, but the occasion of Ralph Nader announcing his candidacy for President makes me say it again: Every Democrat who chooses to denounce Nader as a "spoiler," and there's no shortage of such people, should be challenged to say why they aren't throwing their party's weight behind Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) which would once and for all put an end to the "spoiler" argument. As far as I'm concerned, it is the Democrats (and the Republicans) who, by opposing IRV, are "spoiling" the election by pressuring people to vote for candidates who they really don't prefer. What their oppositon to IRV shows, of course, is that they put the preservation of their one two-party monopoly ahead of the values of democracy.

 

The greatest healthcare system in the world...


...is not in the U.S.

How many times have you heard American politicians talk about the U.S. as having "the greatest healthcare system in the world"? Perhaps they should read this:

In health, Canada tops U.S.

"Our neighbors to the north live longer and pay less for care. The reasons why are being debated, but some cite the gap between rich and poor in the U.S.

"An impressive array of data shows that Canadians live longer, healthier lives than we do. What's more, they pay roughly half as much per capita as we do ($2,163 versus $4,887 in 2001) for the privilege.

"Exactly why Canadians fare better is the subject of considerable academic debate. Some policy experts say it's Canada's single-payer, universal health coverage system. Some think it's because our neighbors to the north use fewer illegal drugs and shoot each other less often with guns (though they smoke and drink with gusto, albeit somewhat less than Americans).

"Still others think Canadians are healthier because their medical system is tilted more toward primary care doctors and less toward specialists. And some believe it's something more fundamental: a smaller gap between rich and poor.

"'There isn't a single measure in which the U.S. excels in the health arena,' says Dr. Stephen Bezruchka, a senior lecturer in the School of Public Health at the University of Washington in Seattle. 'We spend half of the world's healthcare bill and we are less healthy than all the other rich countries.'

"'Fifty-five years ago, we were one of the healthiest countries in the world,' Bezruchka continues. 'What changed? We have increased the gap between rich and poor. Nothing determines the health of a population [more] than the gap between rich and poor.'"

Sunday, February 22, 2004


 

No Platt Amendment for Iraq?


Looks like the Iraqis may have learned something from history. Left I has reminded our readers about the Platt Amendment, through which the U.S. forced the Cubans (in 1901) to accept U.S. military intervention in their country as part of their Constitution. I was sure we'd see the same thing happen in Iraq, but now it doesn't look that way:
"Iraq's interim leaders said Sunday that they could not negotiate a formal agreement with the American military on maintaining troops in Iraq, and that the task must await the next sovereign Iraqi government.

"Members of the Iraqi Governing Council, appointed by the Americans in July, said they had reached a consensus that the issue was too momentous to handle without a popular mandate."
Of course this doesn't mean that U.S. troops are leaving Iraq any time soon, not without a major escalation in the success of the worldwide antiwar/antioccupation movement. But this still is a potentially significant development.

 

Political humor of the day

"I had a call from George Bush today. He wanted to know if I wanted to form an AWOL club." - Stephen Funk, Iraq war resister, just released after six months in the brig after going AWOL when ordered to go to Iraq

 

Civil rites


Kudos to the San Jose Mercury News headline writer who came up with that headline for their article on gay marriage. Kudos also to the Mercury News for running a full page (not online) of "marriage photos" of gay and lesbian couples, complete with profiles of the couples, putting a human face (or rather a whole series of faces) on something that is easier to oppose in the abstract than in concrete (or in the flesh). Whether that one page will change any minds, I don't know, but it certainly brought a tear to my eye.

Saturday, February 21, 2004


 

The Battle of Algiers redux...in Basra

"The family of an Iraqi headmaster who was seen being beaten with a rifle butt by British soldiers before they took him away, was told he had died in custody of a 'sudden heart attack'.

"But his son, who was also arrested, told The Independent on Sunday yesterday that he heard his father screaming as he was beaten, and the family says that the headmaster's body was bruised and covered in blood." (Source)

 

The end of the world as we know it


Well, the Earth may not be coming to an end for 5 billion years, but it appears that things are gone to change drastically a lot sooner than that. A LOT sooner:
Pentagon tells Bush: climate change will destroy us

"Climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters..

"A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.

"The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents.

"'Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,' concludes the Pentagon analysis. 'Once again, warfare would define human life.'"
Holy shit.

 

Ted Rall




 

The end of the universe is...not so near


Left I's favorite subject, innumeracy, surfaces in the news today. New studies pertaining to one of Einstein's theories, totally uncomprehensible to us average folk, suggest that the universe may come to an end in "perhaps 30 billion years." Fair enough, and numerically appropriate. But the graphic in the San Jose Mercury News (unfortunately not online) shows a lovely diagram which provides such specifics as "13.7 billion years ago - the big bang" (not 13, or 14, or "around 13", but "13.7"), and then we learn that "at least 81.3 billion years from now" the Milky Way is going to spin apart, followed "three months later" (but how will we know what a month is without the sun and moon?) the stars and their planetary systems will spin apart, and then 30 minutes later "only elemental particles will remain" and "time, according to Einstein's theory, ends." Whew! And I was worried it was going to happen 81.2 billion years from now; a whole 'nother 100,000,000 years to play with! (Oops, I forgot to note the fine print, which says the sun will swell up and destroy the Earth 5 billion years from now).

Why do science writers make a mockery of themselves by printing such ridiculously, and impossibly, accurate "estimates" of almost totally unknowable things? The article which accompanies the graphic talks about the end occuring in 30 billion years, vs. "81.3 billion years" in the graphic, suggesting a rather wide margin of error in the data, to put it mildly, and even that is just a theory based on rather tenuous evidence, described in the article as "highly uncertain."

But my absolute favorite part of the article is this:

"The measurements raise new questions about NASA's decision, which is now being reviewed, to let the Hubble Space Telescope die a slow death in space over the next several years rather than trying another maintenance mission with the space shuttle."
Clearly. Because if the Hubble dies, why it might be another ten or hundred or thousand years before we can know whether the universe will end in 30 billion or 80 billion years. I don't know about you, but I can't stand the uncertainty. ;-)

 

The Terminator quakes in fear


California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has sent a letter to state Attorney General Bill Lockyer, asking him to take immediate action to stop the issuing of same-sex marriage licenses in San Francisco because of "an imminent risk to civil order." This is, of course, the same Schwarzenegger who was almost universally described during his campaign as "a social liberal." Of course Barbara Boxer and many other liberals share Schwarzenegger's opposition to gay marriage, although I don't think anyone else has described it as "an imminent risk to civil order." Not just a "risk," mind you, but an "imminent" risk. You know, just like Saddam Hussein. Phyllis Martin and Del Lyon. Saddam Hussein. As George Bush would say, "What's the difference?"

 

The Battle of Algiers - ****


Last night I had the opportunity to see a showing of The Battle of Algiers, the 1965 movie about the struggle against the French occupation of Algeria by the FLN, which is now being re-shown around the country. What a fantastic movie. All the reviews I've read (three of them) gave it four stars, and I couldn't agree more. Even without the obvious relevance and parallels to the ongoing war in Iraq, the film would still be a must-see. It's realism is unparalleled, the cinematography and other "film" aspects equally impressive, all done with just a single professional actor. It's three Academy Award nominations (in 1965) were well-deserved. And, on top of all that, thought-provoking as well, with questions as relevant today as then. Can the killing of innocent civilians be justified in a war for liberation? Is torture an acceptable method of combatting an insurrection? When French troops tortured and "disappeared" members of the FLN, were they guilty of a crime? Were they the ones responsible, or was it the French government who insisted that they defeat the insurgents and didn't want to know about the consequences of that request?

Coincidentally, that very same question came up yesterday when Democracy Now! replayed John Kerry's 1971 testimony before Congress. Evidently Lt. William Calley had recently been indicted for the atrocities at My Lai. Kerry acknowledges Calley's likely guilt, but suggest that the responsibility is far greater, extending to those who created the concept of "free-fire zones," those who train soldiers to shout "kill," and so on. It's a very interesting part of his testimony (which you can listen to at the link above), equally as memorable as the more famous "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam?" line. Too bad Kerry seems to have forgotten it.

Anyway, go see The Battle of Algiers as soon as you can. You can watch a trailer which will give you a nice flavor of the movie here and visit the "official movie site" with links to a variety of reviews (the New York Times one was quite interesting) here. And while you're at it, re-read the lyrics of David Rovics' Occupation, written about Palestine but just as relevant to Algeria, Iraq, and many other places and times. Or his equally relevant Resistance:

You can say that it's about the savages
You can say you have a better way to live
You can call it Manifest Destiny
You can talk of all your civilization will give
You can say that we're a thing of history
And progress is the future you will bring
You can send your armies to these mountains
You can say we'll prosper beneath your king

(Chorus)
But there will always be resistance
The next battle will always be near
As long as you have everything
There will be those who have nothing to fear
And little by little, or maybe all at once you will lose
Because our future is not yours to choose
(Read the full lyrics and listen to the song, and David Rovics' other songs, here.)

La lucha continua.


 

British war crimes in Iraq


The Guardian reports on the cases of at least six Iraqis who have died in British custody in Iraq. Here's one of them:
"It was dawn when the squad of British soldiers raided the Ibn Al Haitham hotel. Baha Mousa's night shift on the reception desk was coming to an end and his father had just arrived to drive him home.

"The soldiers ordered Baha, 26, to lie on the black tiled floor of the lobby with six other hotel employees, their hands on their heads.

"Troops searched the building and arrested the staff, driving them off to a British military base in Basra, southern Iraq. It was only a formality and the men would be released shortly, they said.

"Four days later Baha was dead.

"When his father, Daoud Mousa, a stout colonel in the Basra police force, arrived at the British military morgue to identify his son's body he was confronted with a bruised, bloodied and badly beaten corpse.

"'When they took the cover off his body I could see his nose was broken badly,' he said. 'There was blood coming from his nose and his mouth. The skin on his wrists had been torn off. The skin on his forehead was torn away and beneath his eyes there was no skin either. On the left side of his chest there were clear blue bruises and also on his abdomen. On his legs I saw bruising from kicking. I couldn't stand it.'

"Two other hotel staff, who have been questioned by investigators, described in interviews with the Guardian how they were repeatedly punched, kicked and forced to crouch in stress positions for two days and two nights.

"One of the survivors was so badly beaten he suffered kidney failure, according to British military medical records. None was ever found to have committed a crime.

"To date no British soldier has been arrested or charged in connection with Baha's death, or the beating of the six others.

"The death of Baha Mousa is not an isolated case. Military investigators are studying the cases of seven Iraqis who died between April and September. Six are thought to have died in British custody and one was shot.

"Families have been promised inquiries, condolences have been offered, witnesses have given filmed testimony but no British soldier has been charged with any crime in connection with the deaths."
At least the British are investigating. Nazem Baji died in American custody, shot in the head with his hands tied in plastic bands. Left I on the News periodically reminds its readers about this case; as far as can be determined, no investigation ever took place into his death, and his name hasn't been mentioned in the American press since the day he died. His blood, and the blood of the thousands of other Iraqis who have died, remains on George Bush's hands.

 

Still more lies by the Bush administration uncovered


From The New York Times:
"The Central Intelligence Agency has acknowledged that it did not provide the United Nations with information about 21 of the 105 sites in Iraq singled out by American intelligence before the war as the most highly suspected of housing illicit weapons.

"Both George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, and Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, said the United States had briefed United Nations inspectors on all of the sites identified as 'high value and moderate value' in the weapons hunt."
Condi, as you might expect, passed the buck:
"Senior administration officials said Friday night that Ms. Rice had relied on information provided by intelligence agencies when she assured Senator Levin, in a letter on March 6, 2003, that 'United Nations inspectors have been briefed on every high or medium priority weapons of mass destruction, missile and U.A.V.-related site the U.S. intelligence community has identified.'"
Does anyone in the White House ever take responsibility for anything? Certainly not Condi, that's for sure. Oh yes, I forgot, George Bush proudly takes credit for the "improving jobs situation."

Of course, we know how much "value" was contained in those "high and moderate value" targets. Exactly as much as was contained in the low value targets. Bupkis. But the U.S. government did think there was a possibility that Iraq had weapons, and it appears that they wanted to ensure that Hans Blix & Co. did not find them, so that the U.S. could claim justification for the invasion once it happened and they did find the stockpiles. That would not only have justified the invasion itself, but also their public distrust in the ability of Blix to find the weapons and thus the "urgency" to rush to war. Didn't work out that way, as we all know. Those stubborn things called "facts" got in the way.


Friday, February 20, 2004


 

New use for the Hubble telescope uncovered


Now that it will no longer be supported in space, it seems that the Federal Reserve Board is using it:
Fed Officials Say Jobs on Way Eventually

"A chorus of Federal Reserve officials tried on Friday to reassure Americans that new jobs will emerge to replace the millions of jobs lost in recent years, but warned workers must add skills to stay competitive."
Something about the words "light at the end of the tunnel" keeps coming to mind.

As noted here before, this whole notion that "workers must add skills to stay competitive" is complete and utter nonsense. What skills could the call-center employee whose job has been outsourced to India have learned to "stay competitive" with that lower-wage Indian worker? And even if they, or a garment worker, or a steelworker, could somehow become trained to become a Ph.D. microbiologist to get a job working in the biotech industry, it is utter fantasy to think that there are, or will ever be, as many of those highly skilled jobs as there were of the ones which have been lost.


 

Political humor of the day

"President Bush said today the only time two men should ever be in bed together is when one is a lobbyist and the other is a politician" - Jay Leno

 

More flagrant lies from Colin Powell


Speaking in Princeton today, Colin Powell asserted that "the conclusion that Iraq had weapons stockpiled was the 'considered judgment of the entire intelligence community.'" Of course this is an out-and-out lie, the "entire intelligence community" thought that it was possible or even likely that Iraq had weapons stockpiled, but not that they "had" weapons stockpiled. But Powell's most outrageous lie was this one:
"We have to keep in mind that in the larger scheme of things, the question of stockpiles isn't the main question we should focus on. He had the intention, the capability and the delivery system."
This is at least a double lie. First, if there were no stockpiles (we'll overlook the fact that even if there were, there was no "imminent threat" to the U.S. which would have justified an attack anyway), then there is no possible justification for an invasion either under international law, or under "just war" theory. And second, while Iraq may have had long-range "intentions," and even long-range "capability," the one thing they most certainly did not have was a "delivery system." Why does Powell include this obvious lie? Because if Iraq didn't have a delivery system, then all the intentions, capabilities, and even stockpiles in the world wouldn't have been a threat to the U.S. even if Iraq wanted to be a threat to the U.S., which there isn't the slightest evidence of.

As I've written before, if this man had an ounce of integrity, he'd still be fifteen ounces short of a pound.


 

By the company they keep ye shall know them


Billmon has the story of the former henchmen of the apartheid regime in South Africa who now form the core of the private security company hired by the Coalition Provisional Authority to protect the oil industry in Iraq.

 

Another portrait of one of the "worst of the worst"*


Here's the story of one of the to-be-released British "guests" at Guantanamo:
"Jamal al-Harith, also known as Jamal Udeen, a 35-year-old website designer from Manchester of Jamaican descent, claimed that he was on a backpacking holiday trekking from Pakistan to Iran when he was captured by the Taliban and imprisoned. Instead of freeing him, the Americans, when they came, sent him off to Cuba."
More than two years later, Jamal still rots in prison, albeit with the promise of being released "within the next few weeks" (wouldn't want to rush these things).

*According to Donald Rumsfeld


 

Job creation?


It has been widely reported that "The economy has lost 2.2 million payroll jobs since January 2001, giving Bush the worst job creation record of any president since Herbert Hoover." My question is this - how exactly do 2.2 million lost jobs qualify as "job creation"? Shouldn't we be giving credit where credit is due, and say that "Bush has the best job destruction record of any president since Herbert Hoover"?

 

Mankiw does it again


Fresh from telling us that "the movement of American factory jobs and white-collar work to other countries is part of a positive transformation [of the U.S. economy]", Gregory Mankiw, chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisors, hits the news today with another remarkable revelation:
"The latest edition [of the just-released Economic Report of the President] questions whether fast-food restaurants should continue to be counted as part of the service sector or should be reclassified as manufacturers.

"The reports asks 'When a fast-food restaurant sells a hamburger, for example, is it providing a 'service' or is it combining inputs to 'manufacture' a product?'"
Well, look, I don't much care what they call it, just as long as they don't start "manufacturing" my hamburger in China and shipping it to the counter at my local McDonalds by slow boat or even DHL. Somehow, however, I suspect that someone who used to be employed manufacturing steel, or even sewing clothing, and is now employed "manufacturing" hamburgers, will notice a bit of a difference in their paycheck, which is really what this is all about.

Ludicrously, the report says the following:

"Sometimes, seemingly subtle differences can determine whether an industry is classified as manufacturing. For example, mixing water and concentrate to produce soft drinks is classified as manufacturing. However, if that activity is performed at a snack bar, it is considered a service."
One would hope that a trained economist being paid a six-figure salary, or a government department filled with such people, could understand that when you mix water and concentrate on an assembly line using a machine, put it in a bottle, ship it to stores around the country, and someone else sells it, that's the very definition of "manufacturing", and when someone at a snack bar mixes syrup and selzer and serves it to you, that's the very definition of "service."

The key thing about "service" is this - an economy cannot sustain itself on service. Imagine a small town which gets no tourism. These days, an awful lot of people can be employed in the town at Starbucks, McDonalds, Wal-Mart, etc., selling things to each other. But sooner or later, the shelves are bare, and someone's got to restock them. If the town isn't growing food to put back on the shelves of the Starbucks and McDonalds, and if it isn't manufacturing goods to put back on the shelves of Wal-Mart, the town is in big, big trouble. Somewhere, somehow, people actually have to grow things and make things. And if all that happens "somewhere else," the situation is simply not sustainable. Going back to the CEA's soda example, if there were actually a soda manufacturing plant in the town, they could sell those finished bottles of soda to neighboring towns, money would come back in, and everything would be in balance. But if the only soda being "manufactured" in the town is at McDonalds, the town is on a one-way street headed downhill.


Thursday, February 19, 2004


 

Israel and the U.S.


Does the U.S. share responsibility for the war crimes of the Israeli military? You bet they do.
"The Israeli air force took delivery Thursday of the first two of more than 100 US-built F-16I jets, a new generation of warplane which will soon make up the backbone of Israel's fleet.

"Experts say the ultra-sophisticated development of the battle-tested F16 Fighting Falcon, to be named Sufa (Storm in Hebrew), sports a much-increased range of 1,500 kilometres (around 930 miles) without needing in-flight refuelling, allowing them to reach anywhere in the Middle East.

"Media reports said this new capability could allow the Israeli Air Force (IAF) to hit suspected nuclear targets in Iran, as it did in Iraq in June 1981 when it bombed the Osirak reactor near Baghdad.

"Funding for the contract comes from US military aid to Israel which totals around two billion dollars per year."
In other words, these 100 fighter jets are a gift from U.S. taxpayers to the Israeli air force.

 

US military vs. Iraqi civilians - the war crimes (and the lies) continue


The US military says that on Tuesday, their forces attempted to "kill or capture" two men who were "believed to be anti-Coalition cell leaders." [Emphasis added] In pursuit of this "belief," the 82nd Airborne fired a barrage of missiles on two farmhouses where they "suspected" that their target had taken refuge. In one of the two, the nearly blind 70-year old owner and his wife tell how the U.S. forces nearly destroyed their house, blew up one of their trucks, rendered the other three family vehicles (it was a very large extended family) unusable, took the families jewelry and life savings, and took four of their children prisoner. They were the lucky ones. Their neighbors, another 70-year-old man and his wife, were both killed by the missile barrage which destroyed their house as well.

And the U.S. military? They claim that "one 'guerilla' was killed and nine others were captured." The "collateral damage"? Not even worth mentioning.


 

Political humor of the day

"Today President Bush said he was troubled by gay people getting married in San Francisco. He said on important issues like this, the people should make the decision, not judges. Unless, of course, we're choosing a President. Then he prefers judges." - Jay Leno
Incidentally, why is it that Bush thinks that, when it comes to gay marriage, "people need to be involved in this decision," but he doesn't feel the same way when it comes to taking the country to war?

 

Second outrageous headline in one day


And this one from the liberal Guardian (UK):
"Case set to be dropped against GCHQ mole who blew whistle on US bugging"
This headline refers to Katharine Gun, the whistleblowing British intelligence agent who broke the story of British spying on other Security Council members during the debate on the invasion of Iraq. A "mole," as I'm sure all my readers know, is a double-agent, someone working for another country, not an honest person exposing the illegal activities of her own government.

 

Bush family values


George Bush is "troubled" and Laura Bush finds it "shocking" that two people who love each other want to get married. Neither finds it "troubling" or "shocking" that tens of thousands of human beings are now dead and permanently injured as a result of the illegal invasion of Iraq. Real "pro-life" people, those Bushes.

 

Just when you thought the media couldn't get more sycophantic...


An actual headline from CBS News:
"5 Gitmo Guests Released To Brits"
Are they kidding me? "Guests"? The only person I can think of who treated their guests worse than the prisoners at Guantanamo have been treated was Kathy Bates in Misery.

 

Quote of the Day

"Give my regards to your tribes and to the Sunna clergy and tell them that Sistani 'kisses their hands' and begs them to unite with all Iraqis -- Shia, Kurds, Christian and Turkmen. You just unite, and count on me to stand up to the Americans!" - Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani (Source)
Shorter Sistani: "The people, united, will never be defeated."

 

Democratic liberals speak out on gay marriage


California Sen. Barbara Boxer, one of the leading liberals in the Senate, opposing gay marraiage, says "My opinion is that state law is fair and appropriate because it gives equal rights to all citizens." And pioneering gay Congressman Barney Frank, who supports gay marriage, "criticized San Francisco officials for poor timing." I agree. They're at least ten years too late.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has an excellent idea: "I ask the President to meet Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin and discuss with them why they simply want the same rights as a couple of 51 years that my wife and I enjoy today.'' (Lyon and Martin, the pioneering lesbian couple who founded the very first lesbian organization Daughters of Bilitis in 1955, were the first couple to receive a same-sex marriage license issued by San Francisco) And while the President is discussing that with them, perhaps he can explain to them why his marriage is "threatened" by theirs.


 

Ricin goes the way of Iraqi WMD?


A "ricin attack" closed down the Senate office building for several days recently, raising the anxiety level in the country yet another notch. Now it appears that is was yet another false positive:
"NBC News has learned investigators are looking into the possibility that there never was any ricin attack in the first place.

Since ricin comes from the castor bean, and some nontoxic parts of the plant are used to make paper, it might be possible that the tests found traces of the plant [i.e., part of the paper], but not ricin."
Needless to say, this new revelation will get one-tenth (or less) of the press coverage of the original scare stories, just like all the "false positive" reports of discoveries of Iraqi WMD got ten times the press that the subsequent retractions did, which is why substantial numbers of Americans still believe that WMD were found in Iraq.

 

John Edwards


Directly related to two of the posts immediately below, one about John Kerry, the other about the Pentagon official who claims that "Saddam chose war," Politics in the Zeros today discusses John Edwards' statements (or, mostly, the lack thereof) on Iraq, featuring this one from last March: "Make no mistake. Saddam Hussein alone has chosen war over peace." Yes, George Bush & Co. (along with camp follower Tony Blair), not to mention John Kerry, John Edwards, and a host of others in Congress who voted for this voluntary war, had nothing to do with it. Right.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004


 

The other shoe drops - or is it the tenth shoe? I've lost count.

"The United States justified the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia with false claims of genocide being committed in Kosovo, an OSCE official and participant in peace talks during the war in the province said in comments published today.

"Bo Pellnas, a member of the OSCE mission in Belgrade, said there were some 1,200 OSCE observers in Kosovo who could confirm genocide did not take place, reports Sofia daily Monitor.

"Pellnas said he was certain the US had assisted secessionist guerrillas in the province since 1998, and saw them as a future ally in a ground assault on Belgrade." (Source)
Of course, this was reported in the left press at the time it was most relevant, in March 1999, and the BBC reported in Sept., 2001 that a UN court "ruled that Serbian troops did not carry out genocide against ethnic Albanians during Slobodan Milosevic's campaign of aggression in Kosovo from 1998 to 1999." I can find no evidence, however, that any of these developments has ever been reported in the mainstream U.S. media.

Does the U.S. ever start a war without lying about it?


 

Have they tried Google?

"CIA agents have resorted to offering cash rewards on the world wide web in the increasingly desperate hunt for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

"The web page says cash will be paid for details of the 'location of stocks of recently made chemical or biological weapons, munitions, missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, or their component parts.'" (Source)
Hey CIA! Using the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button on Google when searching for "Weapons of Mass Destruction" still gets you as close to WMD in Iraq as you're going to get, and it doesn't cost anything. :-)

 

Quote of the Day

"The responsibility for every death in Iraq, be it soldier or civilian, Iraqi, American, British, or others, lies with Saddam Hussein, who chose war over complying with UN resolutions." - unidentified "Pentagon official," responding to a report by the Project on Defense Alternatives which estimates 6,000 civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq and takes the Pentagon to task for refusing to count or even estimate those numbers.
Evidently this unidentified official has forgotten that it was the US which "chose" to invade Iraq over the objections of millions of people worldwide and despite its failure to get the UN to endorse its invasion, and has also forgotten that the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq proves that Iraq was "complying with UN resolutions," despite the stubborn refusal of the US to admit that was the case.

 

John Kerry - who is he?


Two interesting articles on Counterpunch today offer insight into John Kerry's ideas, particularly on foreign policy - this one by Mark Hand and this one by Greg Weiher. Both worth reading in their entirety, especially by anyone harboring illusions in Kerry's "antiwar" position. One interesting point in the latter article, however, is worth summarizing here. Weiher notes that although Kerry claims he was "misled" by George Bush about the nature of the Iraqi threat (or rather the existence of one), millions of people around the world, including even Ted Kennedy, weren't taken in by that misleading. But the press isn't exposing this aspect of Kerry's past. Why? Because the press played a critical role in that process of misleading the American people, and exposing the fact that Kerry was "misled," when he shouldn't have been, would simultaneously expose their own role. Food for thought.

Followup: A new article in Editor & Publisher takes up the question of the culpability of the press (specifically the New York Times and it's star WMD reporter Judith Miller) in hyping the alleged existence of WMD in Iraq. The "press" may not yet be examining its own role, but at least the "meta-press" is.


 

Where some of the lost jobs went

"Prosecutors on Wednesday suggested former Tyco International Ltd. finance chief Mark Swartz was responsible for tens of thousands of lost jobs.

"Assistant District Attorney Marc Scholl accused Swartz of slashed expenses by cutting jobs and closing factories as Tyco made hundreds of company acquisitions while giving himself salary increases and buying lavish homes using company loans.

"Swartz is expected to be the only defense witness against charges he and former Tyco chairman Dennis Kozlowski looted Tyco of $600 million.

"During the last six years Kozlowski and Swartz ran the Bermuda-based conglomerate and initiated plans to cut more than 70,000 jobs."
In fairness, $600 million divided by 70,000 jobs is only $8500, so looting $600 million isn't the only explanation for cutting 70,000 jobs, but it's a heck of a good start.

 

The death toll soars in Palestine


In Iraq, the death toll of Iraqis has been mounting, but as far as I can tell there is literally no one keeping track. In Palestine, however, the Palestinian Health Ministry has just released a report detailing the carnage:
"27 Palestinians have been killed and 147 others wounded by Israeli troops over the past week. The Palestinian death toll since September 2000, until February 13, reached 2,968 while the number of wounded was 38,727."
As a point of reference, here are 3.7 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. A comparable casualty rate for Americans (just under 300 million people) would be 234,472 people killed and 3,059,433 wounded.

One more thing continues along with the slaughter. The deafening silence of the American press and politicians.


Tuesday, February 17, 2004


 

That didn't take long


Oct. 21, 2003: "Treasury Secretary John W. Snow has predicted that the American economy will add two million new jobs before next year's elections."

Feb. 17, 2004: "Treasury Secretary John W. Snow distanced himself on Tuesday from the Bush administration's official prediction that the nation would add 2.6 million jobs by the end of this year."

We also learn that:

"Still stinging from criticism by Democrats about comments by a top White House aide in support of 'outsourcing,' or shifting jobs to low-wage countries, Mr. Snow said those remarks had been 'misinterpreted' and were not meant to condone the loss of American jobs."
Well, let's see what Mr. Mankiw said:
"The movement of American factory jobs and white-collar work to other countries is part of a positive transformation that will enrich the U.S. economy over time, even if it causes short-term pain and dislocation."
Misinterpreted? "Positive transformation" and "enriching the U.S. economy" sure sound like he thinks it's a good thing to me.

More of the same in today's news, as Siemens announces they "will relocate most of the 15,000 programming jobs in US and Western Europe to low-cost countries." Not to worry, though, there might be jobs for 45 of them if they can learn to make windows and doors. All part of that "positive transformation."


 

Economic "rebound"


If you drop a basketball from a second-floor window, it will "rebound." If you were hoping to catch it, however, you'll be disappointed, since the rebound won't bring it all the way back to the second floor. The economic "rebound" is something like that, although that doesn't stop the media, and the Bush administration, from talking about it as if it were Flubber (and ignoring the fact that with respect to jobs, the "rebound" has been more like dropping a dead ping-pong ball).

But why is there any "rebound" at all? USA Today wants us to believe that "Most economists credit Bush's tax cuts in rebound." Unfortunately, the article from which this headline is taken quotes exactly one economist (from the investment firm Goldman Sachs) as making this claim, and then follows it with a list of four other reasons for the "rebound" (cuts in interest rates by the Federal Reserve, government spending, the sinking dollar, and the business cycle), and concludes with an accurate statement from a Harvard economics professor: "Economics is not a laboratory science like chemistry. We usually can't run controlled experiments and isolate the effect of any particular factor." However that doesn't stop Bush, or USA Today, from claiming that tax cuts are a "big reason" for the "rebound."


 

Political humor of the day


Jay Leno:
"The White House finally found one guy who says he kinda' remembers serving with President Bush on National Guard duty in Alabama. Amazing! Now if they can find someone who remember Bush working on an economic plan!"

"The White House is starting to backtrack a little bit on the whole National Guard thing. Like today they said that President Bush may not have actually attended the National Guard, but he did attend National Guard related program activities."

Monday, February 16, 2004


 

More on Wal-Mart


Several weeks ago, Left I wrote about Wal-Mart and it's business practices. A friend writes to call my attention to this article from Fast Company magazine (not in my regular reading list!) which is a very interesting study of the aspect of Wal-Mart which I wrote about but which is probably less familiar to most readers. Not the way they treat (and pay) their own employees, which has been much in the news, but the way they treat their suppliers, with company after company going out of business, or having to resort to importing 100% of their product from lower-wage countries, because of the way they were being "squeezed" by Wal-Mart for lower and lower prices.

 

40 + 5 - 4800 = 1 Job-loss "recovery"


George Bush is in Florida today, touting the "'undeniable' sense of economic optimism sweeping the country." Speaking at a manufacturing plant, "Bush seized on NuAir's hopes to hire 40 more workers this year. 'Forty workers here, five workers there, begin to add up,' he said." Why yes, it adds up to 45, if it were reality and not just "hopes." Unfortunately, another story in the news today adds just a bit of a sour note to Bush's imaginary mathematics:
"Nearly seven months after textile giant Pillowtex shut down, wiping out 4,800 jobs in the largest mass layoff in North Carolina history, the hunt for work is growing more pressing.

"Of the 4,300 Pillowtex workers in Cabarrus and Rowan counties who lost their jobs, ESC officials estimate that 400 have found work. Perdue Farms' chicken-processing plant in Concord took about 50, and NorthEast Medical Center has hired about 25, ESC officials said.

"At least 1,500 have flooded local colleges, particularly Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, where many are wrestling with fractions or algebra after decades away from the classroom.

"Others have retired, or moved away.

"But perhaps as many as 1,800 people are like Eddie Cruey - still hunting for work."
Of course Bush didn't speak at the Pillowtex plant. The fact that it doesn't exist any more was a bit of an obstacle.

Followup: For the mathematically challenged, let me note that 400 workers out of 4800 having found jobs is 8%. The remainder, 92%, are not working, seven months after being laid off. If you think this isn't typical, you're either delusional or your name is George Bush. Or both.


Why stop here? There's more...

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