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Wednesday, March 31, 2004


 

600? How about 18,000?


The media are now reporting regularly on the American death toll in Iraq, at least Americans in uniform. The total just reached 600. But there's a much bigger number you don't ever hear:
"In the first year of war in Iraq, the military has made 18,004 medical evacuations during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Pentagon's top health official told Congress Tuesday."
That number does include people evacuated for "routine medical treatment," but it's still one heck of a large number.

Interestingly enough, although this story reports on testimony to Congress (and thus is hardly a secret), the only press coverage of this appears to be the not-very-widely-carried UPI story quoted above. At this time, there isn't a single additional link to this information on either Google News or Yahoo News.


 

The best defense is a good offense


Israel accused of anything by anyone? Scream "anti-semitism," as intellectually dishonest an accusation as has ever been made. This time it's the Israeli government accusing Orla Guerin, one of BBC's best reporters, someone who's actually "on the ground" and not just parroting government press releases like so many other people who try to pass themselves off as "reporters." Her crime?
"In her report on Hussam Abdu [the mentally challenged 16-year-old would-be suicide bomber] last week, Guerin noted Israel's desire to gain a public relations advantage from the arrest. She described how the army 'paraded the child in front of the international media', and observed that journalists had been prevented from asking him questions and therefore were left only with the army's account of the arrest."
Well, if that's not "anti-semitism" I don't know what is. Right. Going even further, the Israeli government describes this report as "total identification with the goals and methods of the Palestinian terror groups." By which they mean she actually played the role of a neutral reporter, reporting the news as she saw it, failing to provide the requisite "spin" expected of all Western reporters.

There's even more to this story, none of which has been reported in the U.S.:

"A week earlier, when a 12-year-old boy, Abdullah Quran, was stopped while unwittingly carrying explosives at an army checkpoint, Israeli embassies called news editors to insist they cover the story and warn that failure to do so would be viewed as bias against Israel.

"When several news organisations failed to report it, an Israeli newspaper called for their correspondents to be expelled, including Sky's Emma Hurd and Stephen Farrell of the Times."
And so it goes in Israel - "the only democracy in the Middle East." Oh, and by the way, here in the U.S., every single news organization covered that story. They don't have to be told twice.

 

Another part of the Israeli-Palestinian story you don't hear about in the U.S.


From the Independent:
"Armed Israeli settlers moved into this populous and largely rundown Palestinian neighbourhood of East Jerusalem yesterday as they opened a new front in their co-ordinated - and bitterly contested - effort to establish Jewish footholds in Arab districts of the city.

"Police fired tear gas at stone-throwing residents and arrested nine Palestinians after clashes when the settlers arrived in the early hours with police and security guards to occupy two buildings - one a seven-storey apartment block - previously owned by Arabs below the walls of the Old City. As local Palestinians said that some residents had been beaten, a police spokesman, Shmulik Ben-Ruby, said that six police officers had been hurt.

"A similar group of armed activists broke into and took over the home of a sleeping Palestinian family in nearby King David's City last month."

 

Dead Americans in Iraq


Every news story today reports that "600 Americans have now died in Iraq." Not one has mentiond the 101 additional uniformed personnel from other countries (Britain, Spain, Italy, etc.) who are dead as a result of the American/British invasion of Iraq. But even the 600 is a complete lie, as Left I has written before, and the four "civilian contractors" horrifically killed near Fallujah today are a case in point:
"Four American contractors killed Wednesday in Iraq - whose charred bodies were dragged through the streets of Fallujah - were reportedly employed by a security firm based in Moyock, N.C.

"MSNBC reports that U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said all four worked for Blackwater USA.

"Blackwater USA supplies security guards to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, and has provided protection for Iraq administrator L. Paul Bremer, among other coalition officials."
In other words, these were simply mercenaries in civilian clothes, performing jobs which in wartime, as this is (remember the "wartime President"?), should be done be uniformed members of the military. Yet, after today, the deaths of these four people will be completely forgotten, at least as far as the daily reported total deaths are concerned. They "don't count."

By the way, note how prominent in the coverage of this event was the fact that, at first, the nationality of the four dead contractors was unknown, and it was thought that one was American. Why was that even an issue? Should it be of less concern if they were British, or South African, or Italian? The chauvinism implicit in this kind of coverage, which is so ingrained it isn't even noticed by the mainstream media, makes me sick. And it is part and parcel of why the U.S. government is able to ignore world opinion, and international law, and the world court, with impunity. Because Americans have been completely conditioned by their media to think that "we're number one," and everyone else in the world is number two, in the scatalogical sense of that term.


 

White House lies spread


Literally a day doesn't go by without the White House lying about something. Recently their target has been Richard Clarke, who's been holding his own. Yesterday they turned on David Letterman. Unlike Clarke, he's got his own TV show, but like Clarke, he can hold his own:
"Last night we showed a clip of the President giving a speech. Behind him stood a lad who was obviously bored silly. The 14-year-old or so yawned, scratched, yawned, yawned, checked his watch, bent over, stared at the ceiling, and then fell asleep during the President's speech. It was very funny. So funny, in fact, that CNN replayed the clip Tuesday during their broadcasts. But, but, but, the first time it was shown, CNN anchorwoman Daryn Kagan reported that the White House said the clip was a total fake, it was merely the Late Show having fun with their ability to edit and do TV tricks. Dave says what the CNN reporter said was an out and out 100% lie. A couple hours later, CNN anchor person Kyra Phillips reported that the kid was at the speech but not where the Late Show had him. Dave again makes the claim, 'That's an out and out absolute 100% lie. That kid was exactly where we said he was.' It's true. The speech was at a Florida Rally on March 20th at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. Dave is irked that the White House was trying to make him look like a jerk. But he's glad he got his side of the story out in the open."
(Thanks to Atrios for the spot)

Of course, the White House was not "trying to make Dave Letterman look like a jerk." What they were trying to do was to conceal the fact that the emperor has no clothes. A fact which, amazingly enough, nearly half of Americans still do not perceive.


 

Israel workers...passed over


From Ha'aretz:
"It is the season of Passover, traditionally the time when Jews eat hard, flat matza, or 'lechem oni,' literally, the bread of poverty, the bread of affliction.

"For hundreds of thousands of Israelis, out of work and out of luck, their 10 personal plagues of distress rooted in war and a suddenly gaping socio-economic divide, the lessons of the central symbol of the Passover seder - meant to remind Jews of the hardships of the less fortunate - need little relearning. They are brought home with blunt force anew every day of the year.

"But for the heads of Israel's major banks, the message of the season is a markedly different one. Bank Hapoalim announced Wednesday that its 2003 net profit had rocketed 290 percent above that of the year before, and Bank Leumi said it notched a rise of 171 percent.

"The plight of Israeli workers has been driven home by a series of demonstrations by employees of towns throughout Israel, some of whom have been working for eight months and more without receiving salaries.

"Social workers and gravediggers, garbage workers and religious court officials have all been affected."

 

The "strong" economy


Billmon steers me to this story:
"Tuesday, 87-year-old Radio Flyer Inc. announced it was closing its Chicago plant and moving the production of its metal red wagons loved by generations of American children to China, resulting in the expected layoffs of nearly half of its 90 employees.

"Asked in a newspaper interview whether he thought outsourcing of jobs to other countries made the U.S. economy strong, Snow replied, 'It's one aspect of trade and there can't be any doubt about the fact that trade makes ... America strong.'" (Source)
Of course, by "economy," Snow, and the U.S. media, means "corporate profits" and/or the stock market. But even that is debatable.

Examine the story. 90 people are out of work making wagons in Chicago. We always hear about all the increased jobs from "trade." What jobs? The company is now going to have one or two people liasing with the factory in China; possibly those will be new employees, although since they no longer need people managing their own factory, even that is doubtful. There will be more work for dockworkers unloading the wagons at the ports as they arrive, but it takes a lot less time to unload a crate of wagons from a ship than it does to manufacture them; at most there will be work for 5 more dockworkers (and probably not even that). Teamsters drive the wagons to distribution centers, but the only change here is that they'll be doing so from the docks and not from the factory, so there's no change in the amount of work there. And, last but not least, the 85 (net) newly unemployed workers (-90 in Chicago, +5 in Seattle) might still have enough money to buy their kids a new wagon for Christmas, but they certainly will be buying cars, or refrigerators, or clothes, a lot less frequently than they were before, so that even corporate profits (if not of the Radio Flyer company, than of dozens of other companies) will eventually be lowered.

Will someone please explain how this is "making America strong"? With Snow (and Bush and their cronies), it's simply an article of faith, like the free market. But when you actually stop to analyze it, it falls apart completely, like so much other nonsense that emanates from that source.


 

Fake news, real results


Last night on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart's guest was Richard Clarke. No remarkable new revelations in the interview, although I did learn that, after he submitted his book to the White House last October, they excised quite a bit of material from it as "confidential." But the most interesting thing occured at the end, when Jon Stewart thanked Clarke for coming on, and Clarke said, "No, thank you for the work you're doing in highlighting this issue." In all the appearances Clarke has made on various other news and talk shows, I've never heard him make a similar remark. Stewart may pride himself on being a "fake news" show, but Richard Clarke (and Left I) recognize he does a lot more to expose people to the truth than any "real" news show going. Sad but true.

 

Religious men with Bible-phobia


For (self-proclaimed) religious men, George Bush and Dick Cheney sure have a phobia about putting their hand on a Bible. The big news today is that Bush caved in ("flip-flopped," to use his terminology describing the changing positions of others) and decided to allow Condo-lie-zza Rice to testify in public, under oath. Of course The New York Times, which admits in its first sentence that "President Bush bowed to growing political pressure," headlines their article "Bush Allows Rice to Testify on 9/11 in a Public Session," as if this was some kind of magnanimous gesture by Bush. But the other part of this story, which has received far less play in the news, is that Bush and Cheney will testify together without putting their hand on a Bible, i.e., without being under oath. I ask again as I did just a few days ago with respect to Condo-lie-zza's testimony, exactly what principle like "separation of powers" allows someone to testify, but not to swear to tell the truth? Of course there is no such principle, and no reason on earth for Bush and Cheney not to be under oath when they testify. Well, just one reason - so that Bush and Cheney won't be legally responsible for what they say.

Another thing that has pretty much slipped under the radar - this testimony by Bush and Cheney will not only be private, but not recorded. The Commission is allowed to take notes. To which "long-standing principle" does this restriction correspond?


Tuesday, March 30, 2004


 

Media notes


Turned on MSNBC for less than a minute while making a cup of tea. During that time, Tim Russert described the administration decision to let Condo-lie-zza Rice testify to the 9-11 commission as "the President moved forcefully [to head off the growing criticism]" "Forcefully"? How about "reluctantly"? Or "belatedly"? Then Lester Holt replied, "Well, obviously they had concerns about the separation of powers." Really? It certainly isn't "obvious" to me. Based on their record of trying to avoid having this commission come into existence at all, then trying to appoint Henry Kissinger as its head, and finally doing their best to assail the credibility of Richard Clarke, I'd say it was rather "obvious" that they have a lot stronger motivation to oppose the work of the commission than "separation of powers."

Lucky thing I don't have time to watch this crap full-time.


 

American tax dollars at work...terrorizing Iraqis


Baghdad blogger Riverbend ("Baghdad Burning") fills her blog with vignettes from her daily life, giving a far more accurate picture (albeit just a small portion of the entire picture) than one could ever get from watching American TV or reading the American press. Today's entry is a must-read, detailing the arrest and detention in Abu Ghraib prison of friends of her family. Will this story, just one of thousands, ever appear in the New York Times, the "paper of record," or be heard on CNN? Don't hold your breath. But do read the story.

 

At long last, have you no shame?


A lot of attention has been focussed on Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's claim that Richard Clarke may have committed perjury in his recent testimony to the 9-11 commission. But only on last night's Daily Show with Jon Stewart have I heard, or read, this piece of absolutely despicable filth that was part of the same speech:
"Mr. Clarke's theatrical apology [to the families of 9-11 victims] on behalf of the nation was not his right, it was not his privelege, it was not his responsibility. In my view, it was not an act of humility, but it was an act of arrogance, of manipulation."
Comments like these are one reason why non-religious people such as myself sincerely hope we are wrong, so that there is a hell.

 

The depths get lower and lower


Are there any depths to which capitalism won't sink in it's drive for the holy dollar? Apparently not:
"One of New Mexico's biggest American Indian-run casinos has pulled a controversial TV ad that promoted gambling as a financial solution to people who are short on cash or deeply in debt.

"The Isleta Casino Resort commercial ran earlier this month featuring a young woman who suggested that the answer to unpaid bills piling up from holiday-season shopping sprees could be found at the casino, which operates just south of Albuquerque.

"One image in the ad showed a smiling woman with an outstretched hand receiving dollar bills.

"'So, the holidays have passed, and those credit card bills just keep piling up?' an announcer intones in the ad, according to a transcript published in local media. 'Well, Isleta Casino Resort comes to your rescue.'"
The days of the "noble savage" are over, I'm afraid. Not that the people running these casino operations have any connection whatsoever with Native American values.

Monday, March 29, 2004


 

The elephant in the room becomes visible


A blockbuster:
"IPS [Inter Press Service] uncovered the remarks by Philip Zelikow, who is now the executive director of the body set up to investigate the terrorist attacks on the United States in September 2001 -- the 9/11 commission -- in which he suggests a prime motive for the invasion just over one year ago was to eliminate a threat to Israel, a staunch U.S. ally in the Middle East.

"Zelikow made his statements about 'the unstated threat' during his tenure on a highly knowledgeable and well-connected body known as the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), which reports directly to the president.

"'Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us? I'll tell you what I think the real threat (is) and actually has been since 1990 -- it's the threat against Israel,' Zelikow told a crowd at the University of Virginia on Sep. 10, 2002."
I call attention to the first sentence which relates directly to the item immediately below this one - this man is the executive director of the 9/11 commission, supposedly charged with uncovering the "truth" about what happened. Should we surprised if the subject of Israel has yet to come up in those hearings?

 

Condo-lie-zza: all lies, all the time


From her 60 Minutes appearance:
"It is a longstanding principle that sitting national security advisers do not testify before the Congress."
Does this woman ever say anything which is true?

 

Quote of the Day

"Ten years out, in terms of actual hardware costs you can almost think of hardware as being free." - Bill Gates
Guess what won't be free? ;-) Well, not if Bill has anything to say about it, anyway.

 

French elections a blowout


Imagine if, after elections, the U.S. state legislatures and Governorships, when colored by party, looked like this:


[For the French-impaired, "gauche" means "left" and "droite" means "right"]

This is a huge deal and, in my cynical opinion, if the "gauche" and "droite" labels were reversed, even though we're talking about a "foreign country" it would have been huge news even in the U.S. But it was a huge victory for the left, and you're lucky to find the story. The Washington Post managed a story on page 18. Interestingly enough, I found this only by using the search tool online; the story not only doesn't make the front page of the Post online, it doesn't even make the front page of the "World" section. The New York Times does manage to get the story on the front page of its website (I can't tell where it is in the print edition). My guess is that my local paper, the San Jose Mercury News, is more typical of what most people in this country will see - a short item in the "News in Brief" section. Local TV news I've been watching hasn't mentioned the story at all; neither have the cable news shows I've seen (CNN etc.).

Both the Post and the Times use words like "crushing defeat" and "strong rebuke," but neither gives their readers a feel for what that means. The Times says the left are going to win a "large majority" of the 26 regional councils, while the Post says they will take control of "at least 21 of 26 regional governments." In fact, as you can see from the map, the number is 24 out of 26, which qualifies as a "landslide"; even 21 (perhaps the stories were written before the final results were known) out of 26, which is 81%, is a lot more than just "a large majority." But neither the Post nor the Times provides the context, which is that before these elections, the right was in control of 14 out of the 26 councils. Without knowing this, an American reader really has no clue about the extent of the electoral shift represented by this election.

Both papers also manage to betray their class bias (yes, newspapers are big business). The Times writes about how Chirac "has fought to strip expensive entitlements from workers," and how workers "have taken to the streets in recent months to protest changes that are meant to make the French work harder and get less in retirement." Those darn greedy French workers - they actually want to have vacations to enjoy life, and have enough when they retire to avoid eating cat food. You know, like the editors (and even the reporters) of the Times. Similarly the Post refers to France's "costly health care, pension and education systems." Who says these are "expensive" (Times) or "costly" (Post)? Everything government does costs money; who says that this particular expenditure costs "too much" and is therefore worthy of being called "expensive" or "costly"? Have the Times or the Post ever referred to the U.S. military budget as "expensive" or "costly"? My money is on "no."

Both the Times and the Post could have easily said that Chirac or the right thinks that France's social programs are "costly" or "too expensive." Instead, they say so, which is their not-so-subtle way of telling their readers what they should think about the situation.


 

Freedom of the press


From The New York Times:
"American soldiers shut down a popular Baghdad newspaper on Sunday and tightened chains across the doors after the occupation authorities accused it of printing lies that incited violence.

"Thousands of outraged Iraqis protested the closing as an act of American hypocrisy, laying bare the hostility many feel toward the United States a year after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

"'No, no, America!' and 'Where is democracy now?' screamed protesters who hoisted banners and shook clenched fists in a hastily organized rally against the closing of the newspaper, Al Hawza, a radical Shiite weekly."
A newspaper? Printing lies and inciting violence? I have just a few things to say:

The New York Times. Judith Miller. Invasion of Iraq. Tens of thousands of Iraqis and Americans and others dead or permanently injured.


Sunday, March 28, 2004


 

The "free market", a.k.a. crony capitalism


Yesterday in the San Jose Mercury News:
Sweetheart deal for Iraq contract

"A Virginia company that was awarded a $240 million government contract to develop 'a competitive private sector' in Iraq helped write the specifications for the work that knocked its competitors out of the running, a federal investigation found.

"BearingPoint [formerly KPMG Consulting], of McLean, Va., spent five months helping USAID write the job specifications and got permission to spend money to train employees to work in Iraq long before the contract went out for public bid. The firm's competitors had only a week to come up with their own bids for the complicated program after final revisions were made, the inspector general found."
Today in the San Jose Mercury News:
Air Force let Boeing rewrite terms of tanker contract

"The Air Force gave the Boeing Co. five months to rewrite the official specifications for 100 aerial refueling tankers so that the company's 767 aircraft would win a $23.5 billion deal, according to e-mails and documents obtained by Knight Ridder.

"In the process, Boeing eliminated 19 of the 26 capabilities the Air Force originally wanted, and the Air Force acquiesced in order to keep the price down.

"The Air Force then gave Boeing competitor Airbus 12 days to bid on the project and awarded the contract to Boeing even though Airbus met more than 20 of the original 26 specifications and offered a price that was $10 billion less than Boeing's.

"Among the original Air Force requirements Boeing eliminated was that the new tanker be equipped to refuel all the military services' aircraft, refuel multiple aircraft simultaneously, and carry passengers, wounded troops and cargo. Boeing also eliminated an Air Force requirement that the new tankers be at least as effective and efficient as the 40-year-old KC-135 tankers they would replace."
By the way, on the first item, there are schools, firehouses, and hospitals being closed in the United States for lack of a few million dollars. Meanwhile, in Iraq, $240 million (!) U.S. tax dollars are being spent to "develop a competitive private sector." Weapons of mass destruction? Iraqi links to al Qaeda? Even stopping brutality against the Iraqi people by its government or establishing "democracy" in Iraq? All complete and utter crocks as the real motivation for this war and occupation.

Friday, March 26, 2004


 

Pet peeve


A 4-year-old boy was lost in the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains yesterday; after nearly a full day of searching, he was found. Both the TV coverage and the print coverage of his rescue have been filled with the "miraculous" aspect of his rescue, as recounted by the fire captain who found the boy: "I said a prayer -- and I swear it was minutes after I said the prayer that I was quiet, and I listened, and I heard crying."

He prayed, and then he found the boy. How many other searchers, looking for how many other lost people, have prayed and then not found the person they were searching for, only to see that person die? We'll never know, because they never speak up, and the news media never interview them.

It's the same story with people who "dream their father died," and the next day their father died (substitute any other coincidence you like). Of course, when this happens, they tell everybody about it. When someone dreams something happens, and then it doesn't happen, of course they don't tell anybody. So the world is filled with people who believe in miracles and prayer and coincidences, and don't understand the laws of probability.

Since I'm ranting about religion, I'll throw out my second, related, pet peeve - people who, when some tragic event occurs (e.g., 9/11) and their particular loved one is spared, talk about how "the Lord spared" their loved one. Do they realize how insulting that is to all the people whose loved ones did die? How arrogant to think that their particular loved one was better, or more deserving to live, or more "favored by God," then someone else.


 

Questions on the Richard Clarke - Condi Rice situation


The administration says that Condo-lie-zza Rice can't testify publicly before the 9-11 committee because she doesn't want to set a precedent that Presidential advisers can be compelled to testify. Well, why doesn't she volunteer to testify? Then she won't be setting any precedent at all. Furthermore, what does the public or private nature of this testimony have to do with this alleged "precedent"? If she is "forced" to testify, whether it be in public or in private, isn't that being "compelled" to testify and therefore setting a precedent? And, last but not least, if she is going to testify in private, what "precedent" would doing so under oath set? The precedent that Presidential advisors must tell the truth, and be legally responsible for what they say? What a concept!

Bill Frist said today that if Richard Clarke lied under oath it would be much worse than if he had just lied. Wouldn't that also be a reason for him to demand that Condo-lie-zza should testify under oath, so we can believe what she says? [Not that we would anyway] And if they are trying to get Clarke for perjury for saying one thing in classified testimony last year, and another thing in the last few days, why do they need to declassify his testimony? Can't you be charged (and convicted) of perjury even where what you said is classified?

And finally, I do not approve of "backgrounders." Government officials (and that includes Presidential advisers) are being paid a salary by the American people, and if they have something to say they should say it out loud; reporters should simply refuse to talk to them if they aren't willing to be identified. Nonetheless, given that there are "off-the-record" conversations, it is absolutely bizarre that the White House could "gave permission" to Fox News to make Richard Clarke's "background" conversation public (without Clarke's agreement), and that at the same time, other than on various blogs, not a single "mainstream" source (or even Democratic politician) has demanded that the White House similarly release all reporters from their "confidentiality" as to who outed Valerie Plame to them as a CIA agent.


Thursday, March 25, 2004


 

This woman is not happy



And the fact that she's being publicly exposed as a greater liar than even her boss may help explain why:

"Some of Rice's rebuttals of Clarke's broadside against Bush, which she delivered in a flurry of media interviews and statements rather than in testimony, contradicted other administration officials and her own previous statements.

"Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage contradicted Rice's claim that the White House had a strategy before 9/11 for military operations against al Qaeda and the Taliban; the CIA contradicted Rice's earlier assertion that Bush had requested a CIA briefing in the summer of 2001 because of elevated terrorist threats; and Rice's assertion this week that Bush told her on Sept. 16, 2001, that 'Iraq is to the side' appeared to be contradicted by an order signed by Bush on Sept. 17 directing the Pentagon to begin planning military options for an invasion of Iraq.

"Rice, in turn, has contradicted Vice President Cheney's assertion that Clarke was 'out of the loop' and his intimation that Clarke had been demoted. Rice has also given various conflicting accounts. She criticized Clarke for being the architect of failed Clinton administration policies, but also said she retained Clarke so the Bush administration could continue to pursue Clinton's terrorism policies."
Left I doesn't call her Condo-lie-zza for nothing.

 

These Iraqis are happy



...watching an American military vehicle go up in flames after an attack.

They'll be even happier when American troops leave Iraq. But, according to the New York Times article from which the picture comes, that doesn't appear likely to happen any time soon:

"With fewer than 100 days to go before Iraq resumes its sovereignty, American officials say they believe they have found a legal basis for American troops to continue their military control over the security situation in Iraq.

"After months of concern about the legal status of the 110,000 American troops who are expected to remain here after the occupation formally ends on June 30, the officials say they believe an existing United Nations resolution approving the presence of a multinational force in Iraq, approved by the Security Council in October, gives American commanders the authority needed to maintain control after sovereignty is handed back.

"The Americans hope they will not be forced to rely on a legalistic argument. They plan to negotiate with the interim Iraqi government in place after June 30 for the kind of "status of forces" agreement the United States has in dozens of nations where its forces are deployed.

"But if negotiations snag -- many Iraqi political leaders are often hostile to the foreign military presence -- the Americans believe that they will be able to fall back on the United Nations resolution."
In other words, let us stay...or we're staying anyway. Sovereignty is such a wonderfully flexible concept.

 

Fidel Castro challenges the U.S.


Just a few days ago, John Kerry chose to attack Hugo Chavez, and one of the verbal bullets he fired was to question Chavez's relationship to the "undemocratic" Fidel Castro (a man who, need I point out, is the duly elected President of his country). I wonder if Kerry, or Bush, will be taking up Fidel on his latest direct challenge to the U.S. and Europe:
"President Fidel Castro has called on the governments of the United States and Europe to imitate the example of Cuba, which is capable of maintaining more than 16,000 health professionals working in Third World nations.

"Referring to persons who slander this type of Cuban aid, especially that dedicated to Venezuela, he stated: 'They are ashamed and protest as if it were a crime or a conspiracy to take care of millions of excluded Venezuelans. If (the doctors) are Cuban agents, why don't they don't send agents from the United States who are capable of living where the poor do, and practicing medicine in order to save so many lives among the marginalized people in those barrios,' Fidel asked."
Does capitalism kill people? [Besides for the obvious ways, that is, like by dropping bombs on thousands of Serbs, Afghans, and Iraqis]. Think about that question as you read Fidel describing the status of health care in a poor third-world socialist country (his own):
"During his speech, the Cuban president listed the health programs put into practice in Cuba over the last few years, and especially noted the program for top-quality treatment of heart attack victims, using preventative methods.

"That health project implies some 20,000 arterial explorations being done per year through cutting-edge technology, as compared to the 6,000 to date by conventional means.

"Another important program is that of the intensive therapy departments, which emerged as a result of the global threat of the SARS syndrome, and in just 10 months, that type of serves was extended to 118 Cuban municipalities.

"Before the end of this year, Cuba's 444 polyclinics will be able to attend to patients with emergency cardiac pathologies, which is the top cause of death in the country, he announced."
"Emergency cardiac pathologies" (I think that means heart attacks) are the top cause of death in Cuba. Is there any other third-world country about which that statement can be made? Without doing any research, I seriously doubt it. This is the result of a country where decisions, and spending priorities, are made to benefit the needs of people, rather than the profits of corporations. This is what socialism is all about.

 

George Bush, funnyman


George Bush was telling jokes yesterday about the failure to find WMD in Iraq.
A recurring joke involved photos of the president in awkward positions -- bent over as if he's looking under a table, leaning to look out a window -- accompanied by remarks such as "Those weapons of mass destruction must be somewhere!" and "Nope, no weapons over there!" and "Maybe under here?"
This guy isn't laughing. Nor is this guy. Nor are any of these guys and gals. I doubt any of their families are either.

While we're on the subject of the so-called President, today here in Northern California I saw not one but two of his ads. The first was an ad attacking John Kerry's past (criticizing him for being "against the troops" for voting against the $87 billion "supplemental" for Iraq), and the second was talking about George Bush's future vision ("I know where I want to take America" - yeah, to hell in a handbasket). Strange how Bush failed to mention anything about his past, specifically the last four years during which he has taken America to new heights - its highest budget deficit in history, record numbers of people having lost their jobs during his administration, the highest ever negative feelings towards America by people around the world, the highest gasoline prices in history, record levels of assault on individual and privacy rights, and lots more. C'mon George, these are your accomplishments. Surely you're going to remind people about them in your campaign ads?


 

Israel and the U.S.


In the wake of the assassination of Sheik Yassin, a minor controversy has erupted over whether the Americans approved or knew about it in advance. To read the papers and hear the comments, you would think that if they didn't, then their hands were clean. The fact that he was killed by a U.S. built and funded missile fired from a U.S. built and funded helicopter gunship? It seems to be of no relevance to those who would deny U.S. complicity.

So I wonder how such people explain stories like this:

"Israel has informed the United States that it is prepared to withdraw from the entire Gaza Strip and six settlements in the West Bank.

"Dov Weisglass, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's bureau chief, has held talks over the past two days in Washington with U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice on U.S. concessions to Israel in return for withdrawing from the territories. Weisglass presented the prime minister's preferred plan: withdrawal from the entire Gaza Strip and six [small] settlements in the West Bank, namely Ganim, Kadim, Homesh, Sa-Nur, Mevo Dotan, and Hermesh.

"The U.S. has asked Israel that disengagement not interfere with the 'Bush vision' for the establishment of a Palestinian state, and not be perceived as a 'prize to terror.'"
"U.S. concessions to Israel in return for withdrawing from the territories." The U.S. keeps Israel afloat both financially and by running interference for it politically in the world, and we're making "concessions" to them in return for them partially obeying international law and dozens of U.N. resolutions?

No further comment needed on the idea of a "Bush vision," which is an oxymoron of the first order.


 

The safer world


Is the world safer now that the U.S. has invaded and overthrown the governments of Afghanistan and Iraq? George Bush says so. Tony Blair doesn't seem to agree:
"Britain is to build a massive concrete wall to surround the Houses of Parliament to ward off possible terror attacks following the Madrid train bombings, a British newspaper said.

"The Daily Mirror tabloid reported that Prime Minister Tony Blair's Government was planning to replace the Westminster Parliament's historic iron railings with a 4.6-metre tall wall topped with razor wire.

"'A terrorist strike is now inevitable and certain changes must be made,' a senior security source was quoted in the tabloid as saying."
I wonder if they'll be revising the postcards?

 

Workers comp


In California, Gov. Schwarzenegger has pledged to "reform" workers compensation. Lowering the cost to business will of course be accomplished not by reducing insurance company profits, but by reducing workers benefits. The San Jose Mercury News reports "There appears to be broad agreement on getting injured employees back to work faster." Really? I wonder if the "injured employees" are part of that "broad agreement"?

Wednesday, March 24, 2004


 

Harmonic convergence


Just out driving, and passed an SUV being towed on a flat-bed truck. The SUV was from the "Inner Pimp Clothing Company (www.innerpimp.com)." The tow truck was from "1-888-DUMPERS" and bore a bumper sticker reading "Bush-Cheney 2004." It all seemed to fit.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004


 

Lesser-evilism


I definitely don't have time for my own contribution on this subject, but anyone reading this blog who is still evaluating their position on the upcoming election owes it to themselves to read two lengthy articles recently published - one, by Phil Gasper, entitled "Bush vs. Bush-lite", and the other, by Stephen Gowans, entitled "Kerry vs. Kerry-lite". Both are, to one extent or another, responding to Noam Chomsky's recent endorsement of John Kerry. Definitely worth reading as you form your own opinions about the "ABB"* position.

*Everyone refers to "ABB - Anybody But Bush." I always liked the formulation I heard from Scott Ritter better - "ABC - Anybody but Bush and Cheney." But that never caught on, evidently. By the way, that doesn't mean I endorse either variant. I don't.


 

Living in a fantasy world


Just found a press release on the CommonDreams Progressive Newswire from Direct Action to Stop the War, with this headline: "San Francisco Action Shuts Down Bechtel Headquarters on Anniversary of Iraq Invasion." The article describes a march in which a number of people sat down in front of Bechtel headquarters in San Francisco and got arrested. As far as I know from reading this article and watching TV, Bechtel workers weren't even late for work. Calling this "shutting down Bechtel Headquarters" or even "direct action" is just plain silly. The Longshore Union in San Francisco took direct action, shutting down San Francisco ports for the day (although if there were no ships delivering military materials in port, then it doesn't exactly qualify as direct action against the war). Brian Wilson took direct action in 1987, sitting down on a train track in Concord, trying to block a train that was carrying weapons to Central America, losing his legs as a result. Rachel Corrie took direct action exactly one year ago, putting her body in front of a bulldozer that was trying to demolish a Palestinian house, and losing her life in the process. Those who think that they were doing "direct action" by sitting in front of Bechtel Headquarters and getting arrested, and who delude themselves into thinking they "shut down" the headquarters, are just fooling themselves. When the movement is strong enough to blockade and shut down the Pentagon, that will be direct action. In the meantime, the "direct action" of talking to young people about the role of the U.S. military in the world and why they shouldn't participate in it (just to name one thing) would be a lot more effective way to stop this, and future, wars.

Monday, March 22, 2004


 

Headline of the Day


From The New York Times: "A Day When the White House Reversed Its Stand on Israel." Really? Wow! That is news! Or, would be if it had even the remotest connection to the truth. Here's what the Times thinks constitutes the U.S. "reversing its stand":
"The administration began the day by avoiding direct criticism of Israel after the killing of Sheik Ahmed Yassin in Gaza City. Instead, Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, said in a morning television interview that Hamas was a terrorist organization, that Sheik Yassin had been involved in terrorist actions.

"Only later in the afternoon did the administration shift tone and criticize Israel's action as harmful to the cause of bringing peace to the region. 'We're deeply troubled by this morning's events in Gaza,' said Richard A. Boucher, the State Department spokesman, adding that all sides, including Israel, should now 'exercise maximum restraint' and 'do everything possible to avoid any further actions that would make more difficult the restoration of calm.'"
Well, with that kind of "reversal of position," I'm expecting any day now they'll be cutting off aid to Israel. Not. Of course, since Yassin has just been assassinated, it's obvious to everyone in the world that "further actions" refers more to the Palestinian response than any further Israeli actions, so rather than this statement being some kind of reversal, the reality is it's just more of the same - a demand for the Palestinians to just relax and enjoy their oppression.

 

John Kerry, a man of principle


John Kerry is always "right" about the last U.S. invasion or coup, but can't seem to get the next one right. After he voted for the invasion of Iraq, he says he shouldn't have and was misled (but now he would send more troops to Iraq since "what's done is done"). Before the coup in Haiti, when the whole world could see what was happening, he was silent; now he refers to the U.S. "allow[ing] the democratically elected leader to be cast aside in Haiti" (which is, of course, nonsense, the U.S. didn't "allow" Aristide to be cast aside; it did the casting).

And then there's Venezuela. In a totally revolting press release issued a few days ago, Kerry, living in a country with a President who received fewer votes than his opponent and was selected by the Supreme Court after serious, and proven, election irregularities in Florida (and elsewhere), dares to lecture Venezuela about democracy.

Kerry: With the future of the democratic process at a critical juncture in Venezuela, we should work to bring all possible international pressure to bear on President Chavez to allow the referendum to proceed. The Administration should demonstrate its true commitment to democracy in Latin America by showing determined leadership now, while a peaceful resolution can still be achieved.

Left I: This administration doesn't have the slightest "commitment to democracy in Latin America" (or elsewhere), as it demonstrated quite clearly in supporting the brief-lived coup against Chavez, along with the more recent, and so-far successful, coup against Aristide in Haiti. And the implication that Kerry (or Bush) is concerned in the slightest about a "non-peaceful resolution" of the situation in Venezuela is equally fanciful. The U.S. endorsed, and probably helped facilitate, a military coup against Chavez; that would hardly suggest that "peaceful resolutions" are of any concern to them.

Kerry: Throughout his time in office, President Chavez has repeatedly undermined democratic institutions by using extra-legal means, including politically motivated incarcerations, to consolidate power.  In fact, his close relationship with Fidel Castro has raised serious questions about his commitment to leading a truly democratic government.

Left I: Hugo Chavez has used his large, democratically elected support in Parliament to push through his own agenda, just as Bush has in the U.S. He has, at every step of the way, respected democratic institutions, again unlike those who attempted to overthrow him in a military coup (and, I might add, also unlike Bush who has admitted he wouldn't mind being a "dictator," and who illegally took his country to war without a formal, and Constitutionally required, declaration of war by Congress).

Kerry: Moreover, President Chavez’s policies have been detrimental to our interests and those of his neighbors.  He has compromised efforts to eradicate drug cultivation by allowing Venezuela to become a haven for narco-terrorists, and sowed instability in the region by supporting anti-government insurgents in Colombia.

Left I: This is just pure slander. It is the U.S. which has sowed instability the world over, for example in its recent support of anti-government forces in Haiti. And, as is well known, the greatest collaborator with drug trafficers in the entire world is the CIA.

Kerry: The referendum has given the people of Venezuela the opportunity to express their views on his presidency through constitutionally legitimate means.

Left I: The election in which Chavez was elected also did that; Kerry "neglects" to mention that Chavez is the legally, and undisputed, elected President of his country. He also neglects to mention that the referendum procedure was, in fact, put into place by Chavez's government.

Kerry: The international community cannot allow President Chavez to subvert this process, as he has attempted to do thus far. He must be pressured to comply with the agreements he made with the OAS and the Carter Center to allow the referendum to proceed, respect the exercise of free expression, and release political prisoners.

Left I: The internal politics of Venezuela are none of the "international community's" business. Chavez's only legal obligation is to the Venezuelan people and to the Venezuelan constitution, not to the OAS and the Carter Center. He certainly has no obligation to allow the Venezuelan opposition to turn in a million invalid signatures and to consider them valid because the OAS, or the Carter Center, or John Kerry says he should.

Kerry: Too often in the past, this Administration has sent mixed signals by supporting undemocratic processes in our own hemisphere -- including in Venezuela, where they acquiesced to a failed coup attempt against President Chavez. Having just allowed the democratically elected leader to be cast aside in Haiti, they should make a strong statement now by leading the effort to preserve the fragile democracy in Venezuela.

Left I: Again, Kerry criticizing the U.S. past and not succeeding in extrapolating to the future. The U.S., through political and financial means, is attempting to subvert democracy in Venezuela. The implication that it is Chavez who is "threatening Venezuelan democracy" is simply proposterous.


 

Preventing terrorism


Trying to discredit former White House counterterrorism advisor Richard Clarke, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan had this to say today:
"His assertion that there was something we could have done to prevent the Sept. 11th attacks from happening is deeply irresponsible. It's offensive and it's flat-out false."
Well now, that's interesting. If there was "nothing we could have done to prevent" 9/11, then surely there is nothing we can do to prevent other acts of terrorism. Why are we spending hundreds of billions of dollars, overthrowing governments, and making people take off their shoes at airports, if there is "nothing we can do"?

The funny thing is, I actually agree with McClellan, to a point. If your idea of preventing terrorism is bombing Afghanistan and overthrowing its government, or bombing Iraq and overthrowing its government, then not only can you not prevent terrorism that way, you're likely to increase it, just as Israel's assassination yesterday of Sheik Yassin will not prevent Palestinian attacks on Israelis, but only increase them (and, in this case, likely extend attacks to attacks on "Westerners" worldwide). The only way to prevent terrorism is to deal with its root causes, which are not "Palestinians who hate Jews," or "Muslims who hate Christians," but Palestinians who are being oppressed being belief and beyond the ability to bear by Israelis, and, since last year, Iraqis who are similarly under the boot of the American military. Not to mention people around the world who almost literally have nothing to live for, confronted with the excess and seemingly insatiable appetites (for resources, money, and power) of the U.S. and its allies.

Quoting, as I often do, the marvelous songwriter David Rovics [emphasis added]:

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

 

March 20 in Iraq


Some pictures from Indymedia. Shia and Sunni marched together.


Security for the march in Baghdad was a little more serious than we had in San Jose:



 

Dennis Kucinich = Rodney Dangerfield?


He can't get no respect. A "wire services roundup" article in the San Jose Mercury News on antiwar demonstrations around the world on Saturday, mentions that one of speakers in New York was "former Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich." I'm willing to bet that every single one of my readers knows that Dennis Kucinich is still a Democratic presidential candidate, although it appears the wire services and the Mercury News copy editor don't. Ironically enough, if you go to the Mercury News search page and type in "Kucinich" in order to find the above story online, as I did, the "sponsored ad" is for "Kucinich for President Products for Sale."

 

The view from within


As an antidote to the wave of "one year later the Iraqis are all smiling" news on the TV, read Riverbend at Baghdad Burning for an Iraqi view of one year of "liberation." Here's the conclusion:
"But we've learned a lot. We've learned that terrorism isn't actually the act of creating terror. It isn't the act of killing innocent people and frightening others… no, you see, that's called a 'liberation'. It doesn't matter what you burn or who you kill- if you wear khaki, ride a tank or Apache or fighter plane and drop missiles and bombs, then you're not a terrorist- you're a liberator.

"The war on terror is a joke… Madrid was proof of that last week… Iraq is proof of that everyday.

"I hope someone feels safer, because we certainly don't."
Well, I sure don't. And I certainly feel a lot less safe after yesterday's murder of Sheik Yassin, which is virtually certain to reverberate around the world.

 

We can only hope...



I'm sure it's unnecessary to tell my readers that the Economist is hardly a left-wing or progressive or even a liberal publication.

The ruling class is definitely giving serious consideration to withdrawing its support for Bush and Blair (and, I guess, Howard), who are increasingly becoming liabilities. And so in the U.S. we'll move on to President Kerry as the ruling class cons the masses once again with their "good cop, bad cop" routine.

Incidentally, this last paragraph might seem to contradict the headline of this piece. But although I do see John Kerry as the "good cop" to Bush's "bad cop," and wouldn't lift a finger (even in the voting booth) to see him elected, it will still give me a certain satisfaction to see Bush sent packing, and made to pay some small price for his arrogant, criminal behavior.


 

Iraqi soldiers are human beings


Saturday, at the antiwar rally I attended in San Jose, one large banner and at least one speaker reminded people about the 10,000 (estimated) Iraqi civilians who have been killed in the last year as a result of the U.S. invasion of their country. Iraq Body Count has started a more detailed documentation of Iraqi civilian deaths, including names; their estimate ranges from a low of 8,769 to a high of 10,618.

But there is another, totally forgotten group - Iraqi soldiers. I have written about this before, but the two events above force me to repeat myself. Iraqi soldiers are just as "innocent" as the "innocent civilians" people talk about, and no more deserving of death. To begin with, most of them were draftees. But whether they were, or whether they joined the army just to get a job, or whether they were simply the kind of people who find a military career a desirable option, all of them were killed in the process of defending their country against an illegal invasion by a foreign power. Not only is this not a crime punishable by death, in every country in the world it is considered an honorable action; indeed, soldiers who don't fight when their country is invaded are almost certainly committing treason or some similar crime.

And last, and certainly not least, the Iraqi soldiers who were killed were just as human as the civilians, with mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, friends and lovers. Left I totally rejects the idea that their deaths are any less important, or any less a part of the price the Iraqi people have had to pay for this invasion, than the deaths of "innocent civilians." Nor are their deaths any less a part of the cost of this war than the deaths of American, or British, or other "coalition" soldiers.


 

Language lesson


The Los Angeles Times headlines an AP story this way: "White House Rebuts Ex-Bush Adviser Claim." Now according to Dictionary.com, "rebut" means "To refute, especially by offering opposing evidence or arguments." The first listed meaning of "refute," the one I believe most people think of when someone uses the word, is "To prove to be false or erroneous" - emphasis on the word "prove." The second listed meaning is "To deny the accuracy or truth of."

Now let's examine the article which follows. The first sentence reads "The White House is disputing assertions by President Bush's former counterterrorism coordinator that the administration failed to recognize the risk of an attack by al-Qaida in the months leading up to Sept. 11, 2001" which is a reasonable statement - "dispute" not implying that they have "proven" those statements to be "false or erroneous," only that they have "denied the accuracy of truth of" them. But have they? Here's an example of this "disputing":

"Rice, appearing Monday on ABC's Good Morning America, said she did not recall a meeting the day after the Sept. 11 attacks in which Clarke maintains that Bush was focused only on Iraq, not al-Qaida.

"'I don't remember this meeting. He said that the president pulled him aside. I don't know, maybe the president pulled him aside,' she said."
That's some "rebuttal"! It barely even qualifies as "disputing"! The rest of the "rebutting" and "disputing" in the article barely rises above this.

Followup: Judy Woodruff on CNN's Inside Politics also claims the White House "rebutted" Clarke's charges, and correspondent Suzanne Malveaux noted how Condoleezza Rice was "taking the lead" in doing so. Pretty funny coming on a day when Rice says she will not testify before the 9/11 commission. Funny how Condo-lie-zza has all the willingness in the world to talk dissemble to the press and attempt to smear the reputation of a previous colleague, but none at all to testify before a government commission which is supposed to be trying to learn things which will help prevent future acts of terrorism. Not that they will, of course, since they won't be asking the right questions.


Sunday, March 21, 2004


 

Death, followed by silence


Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin has been assassinated by the Israelis, employing their usual cowardly method of firing (probably American-made) missiles from (probably American-made and paid for) helicopter gunships. From the U.S., either the Republicans or Democrats? So far, not one word. Not even so much as a "this is not helpful to the 'peace process'".

Naturally, the New York Times downplays the "collateral damage," informing its readers that "at least two of his bodyguards were killed with him." The facts, as reported by Ha'aretz, is that six of his bodyguards were killed and 15 additional people wounded. The Times also says Yassin was "killed" by the Israelis, when even Ha'aretz uses the proper term - "assassinated." Yassin is, or rather was, a wheelchair bound quadriplegic.

Followup: Britain and France have condemned the killing, but Germany "avoided condemnation" and "urged all sides to show restraint." From the U.S.? Still not a word. A remarkably strong statement from British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw:

"[Israel] is not entitled to go for this kind of unlawful killing, and we therefore condemn it. It's unacceptable, it's unjustified, and it's very unlikely to achieve its objective."
A strong statement, and also a nice illustration of the difference between "it's" and "its." :-)

More followup: Silence is broken. The expected nonsense from the U.S.: "In Washington, State Department spokesman Lou Fintor said: 'The United States urges all sides to remain calm and exercise restraint.'" Yes, right, "all sides" should exercise restraint. Imagine if Iraqi forces had assassinated George Bush, and in response the Swedes urged "all sides to remain calm and exercise restraint." Not a perfect analogy, of course, given (as noted above) the total complicity of the United States itself in the action, with military, financial, and political support for Israel, the withdrawal of any one of which would almost certainly cause Israel to finally "exercise restraint."


Friday, March 19, 2004


 

Yee free


Back in September there was major press coverage about Capt. James Yee, charged with "espionage" in conjunction with the prisoners at the Guantanamo prison concentration camp. After Yee spent 76 days in prison, most of them in solitary confinement, shackled, etc., the government dropped the espionage charges, and announced they were going to be charging Yee with adultery and possession of pornography (!).

Today the government dropped all charges against Capt. Yee.

Now you know why they want the ability to simply imprison people as "terrorists" or "enemy combatants" or whatever term they make up, and hold them indefinitely without charges. Because when they actually have to charge somebody with something, it eventually becomes clear their evidence is about as solid as their evidence for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Yee's real "crime," it is almost certain, was showing some kind of sympathy or just plain human kindness towards the men illegally and unjustly imprisoned in Guantanamo, many of whom, rather than being the "worst of the worst" as Donald Rumsfeld calls them, were simply the "unluckiest of the unlucky."


 

Peeping through the keyhole


Richard Clarke, a former White House anti-terrorism advisor, gives us a peep through the White House keyhole:
"Richard Clarke, who headed a cybersecurity board that gleaned intelligence from the Internet, told CBS '60 Minutes' in an interview to be aired on Sunday he was surprised administration officials turned immediately toward Iraq instead of al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

"'They were talking about Iraq on 9/11. They were talking about it on 9/12,' Clarke says. Clarke said he was briefing President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld among other top officials in the aftermath of the devastating attacks.

"'Rumsfeld was saying we needed to bomb Iraq. ... We all said, 'but no, no. Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan,' recounts Clarke, 'and Rumsfeld said, 'There aren't any good targets in Afghanistan and there are lots of good targets in Iraq.''"

 

Quote of the Day

"Those differences [about whether or not to invade Iraq] belong to the past. All of us can now agree that the fall of the Iraqi dictator has removed a source of violence, aggression and instability in the Middle East."

- George Bush
Yes, all of us who have been living on Mars until today. Apparently the daily bombings, mortar attacks, kidnappings, and others manifestations of violence, aggression, and instability in Iraq which were absent before last March 20 have somehow escaped George's attention. Not to mention the daily slaughter of Palestinians by the Israeli army and the occasional suicide bombing by the Palestinians, which have markedly increased in the last year (not the suicide bombings, but the Israeli response). Well, he did say he doesn't read the newspapers. And he did only manage a 3-hour visit to Iraq in the dead of night. But I didn't think he was that ignorant of what's going on in the world.

 

Score one for our side


The BBC reports:
"MP George Galloway has accepted damages and a public apology over an American newspaper article that alleged he accepted money from Saddam Hussein.

"Mr Galloway, expelled by Labour for his stance on the Iraq war, said he had been 'completely vindicated'.

"The Christian Science Monitor admitted a set of documents upon which it based its story were 'almost certainly' fake.

"The MP, who described the settlement as 'substantial', has always denied taking cash from the Iraqi regime."
Now if only the families of the dead Iraqis and American and British (and other) soldiers could sue George Bush and Tony Blair for their lies which were a lot more damaging, and a lot more permanent, than the ones told by the Christian Science Monitor.

Thursday, March 18, 2004


 

Counting the dead


No one seems capable of counting the Iraqis killed during the invasion. No one even seems capable of counting the Iraqis killed by American troops since the fall of Baghdad. No one seems capable of even counting the number of Iraqis who are being held in captivity by the Americans. It's even impossible to get an accurate count of American soldiers injured in Iraq. Ah, but when it comes to the number of Iraqis killed by suicide bombings - no problem, those we can count "AP Tally: Iraq Suicide Bombs Killed 660."

 

Rats deserting the ship


First Spain. Then Honduras. The Netherlands is "wavering." The Polish President says he was misled about WMD in Iraq and in considering pulling out their troops. And now today "South Korea scrubbed plans to send troops to the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, citing U.S. pressure to participate in 'offensive operations,' but it said the promised 3,600 forces will be sent to a different location to help rebuild the country." Next?

 

Political (sick) humor of the day


Reuters makes the following preposterous claim:
"Growth in U.S. mid-Atlantic manufacturing slowed in March but remained at strong historic levels."
Anyone who lives in the mid-Atlantic region, as I did for the first third of my life, who thinks that the level of manufacturing activity there (or anywhere else for that matter) is at "strong historic levels" can't be a resident of this planet. As usual, the article has no, repeat no, actual data on this alleged "strong level of manufacturing." Instead we are told that "For the prior three months, the Philadelphia survey (the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank's 'gauge of regional industry') had been at its highest levels in 20 years." Heaven only knows what this "survey" is measuring. But it surely isn't actual manufacturing. Or even manufacturing "growth."

Followup: Some details to back up my claims above, from an AP article from Feb. 22:

"When the Ford Motor plant [in Edison, N.J.] closes its assembly line Thursday, it will continue the steady departure of manufacturing jobs from New Jersey, particularly in the auto industry.

"New Jersey's auto industry once included plants in Mahwah and Edgewater and had more than 14,000 workers in 1970.

"After the closing of the Ford plant, that number will drop down to little more than 1,000. General Motors, which operates the state's lone remaining auto plant in Linden, said last week it will lay off 350 of the factory's 1,350 employees.

"In all manufacturing, New Jersey has lost 241,000 jobs, or about 40 percent, since 1990."
Left I had quite a number of friends and relatives employed at Ford/Edison, which was a major employer in central New Jersey. They have all now either gone elsewhere, or taken early retirement. I'm sure they would find it, as I do, a sick joke to claim that manufacturing there is at "strong historic levels."

 

How to drive Left I crazy


Newscaster on the local Fox news channel (KTVU) last night, referring to a large demonstration in Spain by members of the ousted Popular Party - "They lost power after the bombings last week." No, they lost power after an election in which they didn't get as many votes as their opposition, you idiot!

Lead page one headline in today's San Jose Mercury News: "Baghdad car bombing: 'Target is democracy'." Did the bomb speak for itself? Was there a note attached? No, although "target is democracy" is actually a quote, it's a quote from one of the members of the "Iraqi Governing Council," appointed to the office by an "occupying power" who overthrew the legitimate government of his country. A strange person to deliver a lecture on democracy!

Multiple news articles which, when describing the bombed Mount Lebanon Hotel, said it was located "behind Firdaus Square, where Iraqis toppled a bronze statue of Saddam on April 9 with the help of U.S. Marines." Talk about maintaining a fiction! Every single denizen of the Internet knows (and has seen the pictures to prove it), that the Iraqis, who were organized by U.S. P.R. people to be there, could not pull down the statue, and that is was toppled by the U.S. Marines, pure and simple. The fact that they let the Iraqis pull it down the last few inches certainly does not justify the claim of "Iraqis topping the statue."


 

Voted off the island


Gen. Jay Garner barely made it past the first episode of Survivor: Iraq. Now he reveals why (to reporter Greg Palast, working for the BBC, natch):
"Jay Garner, the US general abruptly dismissed as Iraq's first occupation administrator after a month in the job, says he fell out with the Bush circle because he wanted free elections and rejected an imposed programme of privatisation."

 

Kerrywatch


Some liberals are touting this as a good thing; readers can make up their own minds:
"As I said yesterday about the events in Spain, they cannot become the reason to leave. And I call on Prime Minister [Jose Luis Rodriguez] Zapatero to reconsider his decision and to send a message that terrorists cannot win by their acts of terror."
Nevermind that Zapatero was promising to pull troops out before the election. And, continuing on, for those who labor under false misconceptions about Kerry, this from the same speech:
""I will not hesitate to use force when it is needed to wage and to win the war on terror. But at the heart of that force must be a fully prepared, fully equipped, fully staffed, state-of-the-art military, ready to face any adversary anywhere in the world. If I am president of the United States, we will do whatever it takes to ensure that the 21st-century American military is the strongest in the world."
Think we're not spending enough on the military? Evidently John Kerry does. Apparently he isn't aware that the United States spends more on its military than anyone else, by a large margin (I think it's true that it's more than the military spending of the entire rest of the world, but I don't have time to research that at the moment).

Followup: Zapatero is having none of it:

"Zapatero, the Socialist who won Sunday’s general election, noted that he had campaigned on a pledge to withdraw those 1,300 troops unless the United Nations takes charge in Iraq, and did not devise the plan simply because of last week’s terrorist bombings in Madrid.

"'Maybe John Kerry does not know – but I am happy to explain it to him – that my commitment to withdraw the troops goes back before the tragic, dramatic terrorist attack,' Zapatero said."

Wednesday, March 17, 2004


 

Bushit anniversary


Atrios reprints the speech Bush gave one year ago. Bushit at its finest. Or worst.

 

Hear no evil


From that well-known radical source, the Army Times:
"A briefing on the results of a mental health survey of troops in Iraq was abruptly canceled Monday because military officials said they did not want bad news to come out on the eve of the anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom, congressional sources said."
Well, thank God there haven't been any bombs in Baghdad that killed 27 people or any other bad news like that recently.

 

Terrorists for Bush


This is not from "the Onion" or some satirical publication, it is apparently a real story running on the Reuters wires:
"A group claiming to have links with al Qaeda said on Wednesday it was calling a truce in its Spanish operations to see if the new Madrid government would withdraw its troops from Iraq.

"The statement said it supported President Bush in his reelection campaign, and would prefer him to win in November rather than the Democratic candidate John Kerry, as it was not possible to find a leader 'more foolish than you (Bush), who deals with matters by force rather than with wisdom.'

"In comments addressed to Bush, the group said 'Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilization. Because of this we desire you (Bush) to be elected.'"
Who says there's no difference between Republicans and Democrats? Although why this group would prefer a foolish person who deals with matters by force rather than a "cunning" person who intends to "kill them while they sleep" is rather unclear.

Interestingly enough, AP runs a story on the same statement, but omits any reference to the Bush "endorsement."


 

Why gays and lesbians want to marry


TalkLeft brings us a picture of the human face of sexual preference discrimination:
"Marilyn Riedel, 61, a disabled Army veteran, has trouble moving, drinking and eating. It's difficult for her to talk because her worsening Parkinson's disease makes her tongue quiver. But she's so lucky. She's lucky because a woman named Connie Guardino, 58, loves her with her whole heart. Whatever the future may offer, this couple will face it together, and they'd like to do it in a cute little two-bedroom home on Illinois Street. If they were married, they could have it. But because they are a same-sex couple, they've been rejected for a loan by the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs."

 

Nader's support


All over the news is the almost unbelievable claim that Ralph Nader is polling at 7% support. Almost unbelievable, since in the last election he only got 3% of the vote, and the "anybody but Bush" sentiment is enormously higher than it was then. Although I'm happy to see these poll results, I personally will be shocked if Nader gets more than half the votes he got in 2000.

But...there is one very interesting thing hidden in the poll results:

"A recent survey has found that Mr. Nader, who is of Lebanese descent, has substantial support among Arab Americans in key battleground states.

"Polling by the Arab American Institute in Michigan, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - home to more than 1 million Arab Americans - found that 20% supported Mr. Nader."
Some will claim that this support reflects Nader's ethnic heritage, but personally I doubt most people even know what Nader's heritage is. More than anything, I think this is reflective of the fact that Arab-Americans, more than any other Americans, are opposed to both the Iraq war and occupation and the "PATRIOT" act, and appreciate Nader's strong stand against both, in stark contrast not only to Bush but also to Kerry, who supported both (and now thinks we should send more troops to Iraq).

 

The fish rots...from the middle?


Sure, we believe this:
"Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson on Tuesday ordered an investigation into allegations that the Bush administration last year withheld information about the higher cost of the Medicare prescription-drug bill from Congress.

"He predicted the agency would be exonerated. But he also lashed out at a recently departed top assistant, blaming the episode on Thomas Scully, who ran the Medicare program for three years.

"Thompson said he personally had seen little of the cost estimates Foster was preparing at the time."
"Hey! I'm just the boss getting paid the big bucks, like Ken Lay. You don't expect me to know anything about the most significant thing my organization was doing at the time, do you? It was that guy over there!"

And I'm sure the White House knew nothing about this.


Tuesday, March 16, 2004


 

U.N. Security Council


Before the invasion of Iraq, at least for a while while the U.S. thought they could get a vote of support out of them, we heard a lot about the U.N. Security Council. We also heard a lot about "Resolution 1441," which at various times has been offered as the authorization for the invasion of Iraq. How valuable are U.N. Security Council resolutions? This should be an indication:
"The Security Council March 11 unanimously condemned the bomb attacks in Madrid and urged all states to cooperate actively in efforts to find and bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers, and sponsors of the terrorist attack.

"In a resolution the 15-member Security Council condemned 'in the strongest terms the bomb attacks in Madrid, Spain, perpetrated by the terrorist group ETA . . . in which many lives were claimed and people injured, and regards such act, like any act of terrorism, as a threat to peace and security.'

"The vote at a public, formal session came just hours after a series of explosions killed at least 190 people and injured more than 1,200 on Madrid commuter trains. Spanish diplomats at the U.N. asked the council to include the mention of ETA as the group responsible.
Those who think that a U.S. invasion of Iraq would have been any more acceptable because the U.S. had managed to extract a positive vote from the Security Council endorsing the invasion (which includes almost every one of the small number of Democrats who voiced opposition to the invasion) should keep this latest vote in mind.

 

What am I missing?


Headline from the New York Times: "Spain Grapples With Notion That Terrorism Trumped Democracy." Isn't it "democracy" when a majority of the public comes out to the voting booth and expresses their preference? Is there anything less "democratic" about them voting based on one or another piece of input which influences their vote? Surely the Spanish election was one hell of a lot more democratic than the vote in the U.S. Congress, when members of Congress voted to support an invasion of Iraq based on completely fabricated and exaggerated evidence.

And here's the funny thing. If I've seen one talking head, and read one columnist, I've seen and read a dozen, all saying that "the terrorists won in the Spanish election." Of course this is based on the idea that al Qaeda 1) carried out the bombings, and 2) actually wanted for some reason to influence the Spanish election, rather than simply to punish Spain for having supported the invasion of Iraq. But it was also widely said that if this was not an al Qaeda action, but an ETA action, then that would have resulted in the re-election of the party in power. So what if the current "evidence," which is far from conclusive, turns out to be wrong? What if it really was ETA who carried out the bombings? Does that mean "the terrorists have lost"? And what if it wasn't al Qaeda or ETA at all, but Spanish fascists attempt to scare the public into electing a "strong" (right-wing) government because of the threat of terrorism? I guess in that case "the terrorists have lost" as well.

Of course it's all nonsense. The people running around saying "the terrorists have won" are attempting to exploit this tragedy for their own political purposes, every bit as much as the Spanish government was attempting to employ the "ETA did it" story for their own political purposes.


 

Time to up the ante for the "coalition of the bribed"


Breaking news:
"Honduras plans to follow Spain's lead and withdraw 370 troops from a Spanish-led humanitarian and peacekeeping brigade in June, Defense Secretary Federico Breve said Tuesday.

"The decision marked an about-face from the day before, when President Ricardo Maduro said he would not pull his soldiers from Iraq.

"Nicaragua sent about 115 soldiers, mostly sappers and medical personnel, to Iraq last September to join the brigade. Those troops have since returned, and the government announced last month that it lacked sufficient funding for a second contingent."
And, in news of another American regime change operation:
"Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez offered refuge to Haiti's former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, saying his government won't recognize the new, U.S.- backed regime in Haiti."
Followup: On CNN tonight, John King talked about how the Spanish decision to pull its troops out of Iraq hasn't caused any other countries to follow suit, and mentioned Britain, Poland, and Italy. Honduras? That wouldn't fit in his thesis, so he didn't mention it.

 

The battle for Iraqi souls


Four Americans were killed in Iraq yesterday. Some press reports refer to them simply as "U.S. workers." Others call them "aid workers." A few refer to them as "missionaries." All of them leave the impression that working on a water purification project was the only thing the four were doing in Iraq. Billmon disabuses us of that notion. Here's a sample, a quote from the director of Middle East operations for the Southern Baptists (of which the four dead missionaries were a part):
"'Southern Baptists must understand that there is a war for souls underway in Iraq', Brady said. 'Even as Islamic leaders try to tighten their grip on the country and its people, cult groups like the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are sending hundreds of their missionaries into Iraq to spread their pseudo-Christianity.'

"'God will have his way in Iraq,' Brady said. 'Christian workers from South Korea, Brazil and many other lands are coming to Iraq to share the gospel.'

"'(But) I am jealous to see Southern Baptists be a part of God’s plan for Iraq,' Brady added. 'I am praying (they) will respond to this opportunity, because they are about seeing God’s kingdom grow. I am jealous for Southern Baptists, not to be the only ones working but not to be left out.'"

 

There are more than 1,300 Spanish-speaking soldiers in Iraq


And not just the American ones, as Fidel Castro reminds newly-elected Spanish President Zapatero in this letter:
"The Spanish people, decidedly opposed to the cruel and unjust war of conquest in Iraq, likewise opposed by yourself, and outraged by the crude electoral manipulation of the unjustifiable terrorist aggression suffered on March 11, has decided to entrust you with the leadership of the Spanish government. On the occasion of this important event, which will have repercussions in the international sphere, we express to you our recognition.

"I would also like to extend, and in a special way, our most profound admiration and a tribute of respect to the people of Spain for their nobility and heroism, demonstrated so many times throughout history.

"I congratulate you on your decision to withdraw the Spanish troops from Iraq by June 30.

"Bearing in mind this decision, I beg you not to forget that, by virtue of actions and pressures on the part of Mr. Aznar as president of the government of Spain, more than 1,000 young men from small and impoverished Latin American nations were sent as cannon fodder to Iraq under the command of the Spanish Legion. Thus, the possible death of any of those young people is the responsibility of the Spanish state.

"The peoples of Latin America thus have the right to expect the immediate return of those young people. They do not have a duty to wait until June 30. The death of any one of those young Salvadorans, Hondurans, Dominicans and Nicaraguans would be doubly sad if, being immediately preventable, it is not prevented, given that the political responsibility of the principal author of that measure has been swept away by the Spanish people. The world, and particularly the peoples of our hemisphere, would greatly appreciate anything that you are able to do before assuming the presidency in order to avoid any more Latin American lives being added to those lost in the unjustifiable holocaust that took place in Madrid on March 11.

"I hope that you understand the spirit of this message and transmit to you my most sincere sentiments of respect and consideration."

 

Today is National Day of Action for Rachel Corrie



Details and resources here.

Another specific action to take here.

Listen to David Rovics' moving song about the events of that day here.


Monday, March 15, 2004


 

Shocking editorial headline of the day


From USA Today: "Workers see few benefits from pro-business policies." No, really?

After a devastating analysis of "pro-business politicies", USA Today boldly concludes that "in light of business' failure to deliver on earlier promises of job and wage growth, worker-friendly ways to stimulate the economy are worth exploring first." Yes, let's "explore" them. Wouldn't want to rush into anything, even though the existing policies have been a miserable failure at supporting the economy.

The most interesting thing in the editorial isn't their milquetoast conclusion, but this fact:

"[Consider] extending unemployment benefits for 760,000 people who have exhausted benefits. According to Economy.com, a consulting firm, every $1 invested in extended benefits generates $1.70 of increased economic activity because the money is spent quickly. By contrast, each $1 spent cutting dividend taxes pumps just 9 cents into the economy, the firm says."
$1.70 vs. 9 cents. Which one would you choose? We know which one George Bush prefers (not to mention most of his Democratic "opponents").

 

Drink up!


From the Washington Post:
"Federal authorities responsible for ensuring the safety of Washington's water knew about the toxic levels of lead and the likely solution more than a year ago but took no action, according to records and interviews.

"On Nov. 21, 2002, a staff member in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's regional office in Philadelphia told his supervisors in writing that 'fast action' might be needed to solve the lead contamination problem in the water.

"Local officials and experts on lead say the EPA's decisions have had broad consequences. More than 1 million residents relied on a water supply that for at least two years showed unsafe levels of lead. By the summer of 2002, lead levels in the city's water had reached 75 parts per billion, as measured by the EPA, five times the level considered safe."
Meanwhile, from the other coast, the Los Angeles Times reports:
"Political appointees in the Environmental Protection Agency bypassed agency professional staff and a federal advisory panel last year to craft a rule on mercury emissions preferred by the industry and the White House, several longtime EPA officials say.

"The EPA staffers say they were told not to undertake the normal scientific and economic studies called for under a standing executive order. At the same time, the proposal to regulate mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants was written using key language provided by utility lobbyists."

Why stop here? There's more...

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