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Monday, January 31, 2005


 

The real payolagate may be coming to a halt


While various people are up in arms about payments from the White House to conservative commentators to push the White House line (as if anyone with any intelligence paid them any mind anyway), the real payolagate, the one which has been affecting the health and well-being of all Americans, may be coming to an end:
"Under a far-reaching reform to be announced Tuesday, all staff scientists at the National Institutes of Health will be banned from accepting any consulting fees or other income from drug companies, and the employees must also divest industry stock holdings, officials said.

"For the past decade, government scientists at NIH have quietly been allowed to consult for biomedical companies under policies that defenders have said helped attract talented personnel to the agency. Hundreds of scientists took millions of dollars in fees and stock from industry. Most of the payments were hidden from public view, raising questions about the scientists' impartiality in overseeing clinical trials and in making recommendations to doctors for treating patients."
No, ya' think?

 

The Washington Post covers up White House gay-bashing


Most of you probably know the story - in what seems to have been her first official act, new Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings wrote a letter to PBS, warning them against showing an episode of a children's show that included some maple-sugaring, children-raising lesbians from Vermont (the horror!). Today's Post carries a reasonably lengthy story about her swearing-in ceremony which completely fails to mention that fact, which, given its recent occurance, would seem to fit well in providing a bit of context to the story. Even more so once you know that, at least as far as can be determined from a search on the Post website, this story has never been covered in a news article in the Post. It was covered, at length, in a "TV Column" by Lisa de Moraes, and was mentioned very briefly in two other columns (Dan Froomkin's "White House Talk" and Howard Kurtz's "Media Notes"), but has never been mentioned in the news pages of the paper.

And, to no one's surprise who reads this blog, the "loyal opposition" proved they've got plenty of loyalty, but not much opposition: "Democrats have welcomed Spellings's appointment, praising her passion and professionalism." They also offered support for her new program, "No spineless creature left behind."

Incidentally, for those who have only read briefly about this controversy, this from de Moraes column should be rather enlightening in light of Spelling's claim that she opposed the show because "many parents would not want their young children exposed to the life-styles portrayed in this episode":

"According to Brigid Sullivan, WGBH's vice president of children's programming, the RFP -- that's government-speak for request for proposals -- on the show said Ready-to-Learn was looking for a program that would 'appeal to all of America's children by providing them with content and or characters with which they can identify. Diversity will be incorporated into the fabric of the series to help children understand and respect differences and learn to live in a multicultural society. The series will avoid stereotypical images of all kinds and show modern multi-ethnic/lingual/cultural families and children.'

"Except, it would seem, children who have two mothers.

"'We have produced 40 episodes,' Sullivan said. 'We have tried to reach across as many cultures, as many religions, as many family structures as we can. We gave it our best-faith effort. We have received hate mail for doing [an episode] about a Muslim girl. We've also received mail from Muslims saying thank you.'

"Buster, Sullivan said, has visited 'Mormons in Utah, the Hmong in Wisconsin, the Gullah culture in South Carolina, Orthodox Jewish families, a Pentecostal Christian family -- we are trying to do a broad reach and we are trying to do it without judgment.'"
Jeez, what are they thinking over at WGBH anyway?

Personally, there are a lot of things I would prefer any children of mine were not exposed to. Most of it originates in Washington, not in Boston. And I'm afraid only being deaf and blind would offer any hope not to be exposed to that kind of nonsense.


 

What a great country


The Nation writes about how, even though abortion is legal, it's barely available in Mississippi (and many other places in the country).

The New York Times writes about how, even though "there is no credible scientific challenge to the idea that all living things evolved from common ancestors, that evolution on earth has been going on for billions of years and that evolution can be and has been tested and confirmed by the methods of science," evolution is being taught less and less rather than more and more, due not so much to the evisceration of textbooks as to the emasculation of science teaching.

There is good news though. "53 percent of Americans agreed with the statement 'human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals.'" Why is that good news? Because it's the first time that a majority of Americans has ever agreed with that statement. Nevermind that in other industrialized countries the number is more like 80 percent, and even in heavily Catholic Poland the number is 75 percent. And, just for the heck of it, in advance of tonight's anticipated hatchet piece on Fidel Castro, I'll venture a guess that in Cuba the number exceeds 95 percent. Heck, the population of that country is educated enough that I'll bet the answer would exceed 50 percent even if the question were asked in English.


 

The Iraqi election - the real story


A 31-paragraph AP story buries the real outcome of the election in the 28th paragraph:
"Once results are in, it could take weeks of backroom deals before a prime minister and government are picked by the new assembly."
Gee, and I wonder who'll be playing a major role in shaping those "deals"?

 

Gotta' love that "fair and balanced" coverage


This not from Fox, but from Reuters:
"Palestinian militants shelled Jewish settlements Monday after witnesses accused Israeli troops of killing a girl at a U.N.-run Gaza school."
So "witnesses accuse" Israeli troops of killing a "girl" (not a "Palestinian girl", wouldn't want to emphasize that, better leave that to the reader to have to infer), but Reuters states as simple fact (no source or witnesses required, evidently) that "Palestinian militants shelled Jewish settlements". Of course later in the article we get the usual Israeli denial: "a military spokeswoman said no Israeli forces were involved in any shooting in the area," although we know from other reports that "UN officials would only confirm the gunshot came from the direction of nearby Israeli military positions," and since it seems rather unlikely that the Israeli military was so quickly able to question every single member of the Israeli forces in the area, I think we know how much credibility to assign to the Israeli denial. By the time they fess up, however, Reuters and the rest of the Western media (the ones that even bothered to pick up the story in the first place, that is) will have dropped it. Condemnations from George Bush, or the Democrats, or anyone else? I shouldn't think so. It was just a Palestinian girl.

 

Quote of the Day

"The only road along which we can smash the hegemony of imperialism and the oligarchies of this earth is the road of Revolution"

- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, speaking at the World Social Forum
Chavez added (this is evidently a paraphrase as it isn't in quotes in the article) "all imperialism is aberrant, bestial and evil."

Can't wait for the reaction from the new American Secretary of State.


 

Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out


Not that the U.S. government plans to listen to the "sovereign" Iraqi government at whose "request" U.S. troops remain in Iraq (Washington Post: "The Bush administration has for now ruled out creating a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq after today's elections"), but if only they did:
"A new Abu Dhabi TV/Zogby International poll finds [that] majorities of both Sunni Arabs (82%) and Shiites (69%) also favor U.S. forces withdrawing either immediately or after an elected government is in place."
69%? 82%? Now that's what I call a "mandate".

Sunday, January 30, 2005


 

The disappearing "coalition"


The New York Times writes about the latest tragedy from Iraq:
"A British Royal Air Force transport plane crashed in central Iraq on Sunday, and news reports here said that up to 15 service members might have died. If that tally were confirmed, the toll would be the biggest loss of British troops in a single day since Britain joined the American-led invasion of Iraq in early 2003."
They "joined the American-led invasion"? That's funny, because the way I remember it being described by George Bush (and dutifully reported by the media), it was "coalition forces" that invaded Iraq. Hmmm.

I guess since the original justification for why the U.S. invaded Iraq has been completely scrapped, there wasn't any reason to keep on pretending about who did the invading.


 

It's Cuba week on PBS


Tomorrow night is the Fidel Castro special which I'll be watching, even if somewhat dreading now that I've read the reviews. Tonight was "Cuba: Wild Island of the Caribbean" on "Nature" which was a typically fascinating nature show. Whoever talks about "intelligent design" needs to watch a show like this and explain how there's anything "intelligent" about the completely random, wierd, crazy turns which nature takes in its development.

Nature photography is truly amazing - the patience it takes to get some of the shots in a show like this must be amazing. And there's always something new to learn. Cuba originated as an island 600 miles into the Pacific! Who knew? Cuba has more caves per square mile than anyplace else on earth. 440-pound Goliath Groupers eat lobsters in one gulp. Crocodiles jump six feet out of the water to nab rodents sitting in trees. Frogs a half-inch long!

The film itself was entirely unobjectionable, with no gratuitous slurs thrown in as they so often are. Would that that could be said for the web site, which is littered with such nonsense as: "In 1959, communist leader Fidel Castro took control of the island [single-handedly!], establishing a socialist dictatorship" [Cuba has always had a completely functioning government composed of thousands of people, and has never been a dictatorship, that is, not since 1959 - before that was a different story], and: "Closed to much of the world for years, Cuba is now welcoming outsiders" [Cuba has never been "closed to much of the world"; it has been closed to Americans for most of the time since 1959, due entirely to the policies of the American government, not the Cuban government]. Gheesh.

However, if nothing else, watching this film increases my desire to return to Cuba in purely an eco-tourist capacity, in order to see some of the marvelous things documented in this film firsthand. Sadly, my own government, that bastion of "freedom" and "liberty", doesn't want me to have the freedom and liberty to do so.


Saturday, January 29, 2005


 

How would it be any different?


In her book The Exception to the Rulers, Amy Goodman poses the question: "If we had state media in the United States, how would it be any different?" Tonight, watching CNN (not FOX, CNN) for the hour before polls opened in Iraq and the hour after they opened, the relevance of that question could not have been plainer. Forget "where seldom is heard, a discouraging word," try never. Every single feature was a "happy talk" feature. For example, they interviewed a father whose son had been killed by insurgents, but who was vowing to vote. Fair enough, but where was the story about the parents of this girl? Oh yeah, I forgot, they're dead. How about a story from the Fallujah refugee camps, about all the people from "pacified" Fallujah who won't be voting because they don't actually have a town left to live in, nevertheless vote in? I guess I must have missed that one. We did get to see insurgents - in a "get out the vote" TV ad, in which brave citizens face down a group of masked insurgents pointing guns at them to continue their march to the polls.

When the voting started, CNN actually had cameras in a couple voting places. For all intents and purposes they were deserted; I think I saw five people between two of them. Jane Arraf, eager to make excuses, claimed that perhaps the people were eating breakfast before they went to vote. Perhaps, but I think it's a little more likely they were waiting until later in the day to make sure their polling place was still standing before going to vote. No sense risking your life to vote if the ballot box is going to be blown up. Jane didn't mention that.

Meanwhile, in the "now you see a bit of bad news, now you don't", BBC News had reported that more Iraqi civilians had been killed by coalition forces than by insurgents, but within a day they quickly retracted the story. Here's the absurd bit: BBC (and the Iraqi Health Ministry who provided the statistics) claim that, between July 1, 2004, and January 1, 2005, 3,274 people in Iraq were killed and 12, 657 injured in conflict related violence, and that 2,041 of these deaths were the result of "military operations", in which 8,542 people were injured. What absurd figures. There were more Iraqis killed in Fallujah alone during the month of December than those figures, and, from available evidence, a substantial number of them were non-combatants.

Happy talk, keep talking happy talk...


 

There are values and there are values


From a New York Times article about Christians actually talking about values other than the "famous" ones:
In Chicago last weekend, Dr. Frenchak joined a gathering of 20 Christians, mostly evangelicals, to produce a book defining moral values to include a focus on poverty. At the meeting, one man held up a Bible from which he had cut every verse that addressed poverty. "There was hardly anything left," Dr. Frenchak said. "He said, 'I challenge anyone in the room to take their Bible and cut out every verse about abortion or gay marriage, and we'll compare Bibles.' "
Update: Katha Pollitt, writing in The Nation (Feb. 7, not online), notes the number of references to abortion in the Bible: zero.

 

"You vote, we leave"


[Apologies in advance for the lack of links in this post; blame it on the flu. Hopefully the fact that I've been posting meticulously linked posts for nearly two years will allow you to cut me some slack.]

Most readers probably realize that the very idea of a "free and fair" election in an occupied country is absurd on its face; one in which a significant percentage of the voters will be people who don't even live in the country (and, in some cases, haven't done so for 40 years!) makes it even more so. But that isn't enough for the occupying powers, so they're adding insult to injury by throwing in a standard American campaign tactic - false promises (a.k.a. out-and-out lies). One story I read talked about American soldiers trying to get Iraqis to go register (or to agree to vote), and telling them "You vote, we leave." Then last night I saw a clip from a "get out the vote" TV ad being run in Baghdad (for those who have electricity), which showed U.S. tanks streaming across the desert (presumbly leaving the country based on the rear view) while Iraqis walked beaming toward the polls. I believe the "you vote, we leave" message was not just implicit, but explicit as well.

The fact is that the people who are not voting, but who instead are busy setting off bombs on election day, will have a lot more to do with the Americans leaving than the people who are voting. But I don't think that would go over to well as a PSA on TV.


 

Schwarzenegger's "special interests"


Arnold Schwarzenegger has made quite a habit of denouncing "special interests", by which he almost always means one union or another. Evidently Wall Street investment firms don't qualify as a "special interest" in Arnold's lexicon, as this Los Angeles Times story (via Politics in the Zeros) illustrates:
"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Friday he would enlist donors from across the country to fund a multimillion-dollar fight over California's public pension system and its voting districts -- reforms being watched with keen interest on Wall Street and a bit of panic in Washington, D.C.

"Schwarzenegger's plan would move new state employees into individual 401(k) investment plans by mid-2007. That means Wall Street investment houses would be able to work with tens of thousands of clients instead of just the handful of expert investors at CalPERS and CalSTRS, the two public pension systems. The windfall could be huge.

"'There is national interest here: from the various interest groups, from the unions, from everybody,' Schwarzenegger added. 'So there will be national money coming in to fight us and national money coming in to help us fight the battle.'

"Rather than go back to the same Californians who have funded his various campaigns, Schwarzenegger said he wants to solicit well-heeled businesspeople across the country."
This is, of course, the same privatization scheme about which I've been writing since early this month.

 

Taking fiction seriously


Michael Crichton has written a new novel which people are taking seriously, despite the large warning label on the cover of the book, marked "FICTION". But people with an agenda aren't easily dissuaded:
"A provocative new novel by bestselling author Michael Crichton that says fears of global warming are unjustified and stoked by an environmentalist-media conspiracy is taking Washington by storm.

"'State of Fear,' by Crichton -- who also wrote 'Jurassic Park' and created the TV show 'ER' -- compares scientists who warn of global warming to advocates of eugenics who said mixing the races would ruin the world's genetic stock.

"Sixteen of 18 top U.S. climate scientists interviewed by Knight Ridder, however, said the Harvard-educated author is bending scientific data and distorting research.

"'Wrong, wrong, wrong,' said Martin Hoffert, a professor of physics at New York University. 'The best face I can put on this is that he doesn't know what he's doing. The worst is that he's intentionally deceiving people as he accuses environmentalists' of doing in 'State of Fear.'

"Crichton's book has grabbed the fancy of Washington political conservatives. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chair James Inhofe, R-Okla., in a Senate speech this month, called the novel 'the real story' of climate change. Conservative think tanks and columnists have been promoting the novel."
Professor Hoffert is being charitable, because Crichton knows exactly what he is doing, as I wrote last month when I analyzed a "non-fiction" piece Crichton wrote for Parade Magazine along the identical lines as his novel, only this one masquerading as science.

Friday, January 28, 2005


 

Euphemism, sweet euphemism


The New York Times carries a story today with the headline "Australian's Long Path in the U.S. Antiterrorism Maze." Antiterrorism maze? How about a terrorism maze? This man was terrorized in one country after another, either by U.S. agencies or their foreign surrogates.
"He was subjected to a process called 'rendition,' under which the United States sent him to Egypt. There, he says, he was tortured with beatings and electric shocks, and hung from the walls by hooks.

"One form of torture in Pakistan, Mr. Habib said, involved hanging him on hooks with his feet on the side of a large drum. Wires from the drum ran to what seemed to be a battery. When the interrogators were not satisfied with his answers, they threw a switch and a jolt of electricity shot through the drum, causing it to rotate and leaving him "dancing" on it. When he slipped off, he said, he was left hanging.

"For almost six months, the affidavit says, Mr. Habib was kept in a small, roach-infested, windowless cell, roughly 6 feet by 8, with a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling. He slept on the concrete floor. He was taken out for interrogations, sometimes in the middle of the night. Sometimes he was hung from hooks on the wall, he said. He was 'kicked, punched, beaten with a stick and rammed with what can only be described as a cattle prod,' Mr. Margulies wrote.

"One interrogation room was filled with water until it was up to his chin, Mr. Habib told the lawyer. Then he would be left there, standing on tiptoe, for several hours.

"Then the beatings stopped, his wounds began to heal, he was given meat, sweets and cigarettes. He was put in a room with a bed and allowed to sleep. Later, Mr. Habib realized this was in preparation for his being taken out of Egypt. He was first taken to the American base at Bagram, Afghanistan, and then to Guantanamo."
It probably won't surprise you to learn that Mr. Habib has now been set free, and not charged with any crime.

 

More Koufax Awards, and missing in action


Sorry I've been missing in action today; got hit by a ton of bricks late last night called the flu. Not pleasant. I'm finally slightly more functional, just in time to discover that the Koufax awards for "Best Post" are up. I nominated (hey, somebody's got to do it!) a half-dozen of what I considered some of my better posts, so you can go review them here and vote for them if you like. Or not. I'm too sick to care at the moment.

There are actually two posts because there are so many nominees. In Part I, which is here, there are two other posts you might want to consider voting for: "War President", by American Leftist, and "Just Go", by Riverbend at Baghdad Burning.


Thursday, January 27, 2005


 

"Me" vs. "we"


A few weeks ago I wrote about Gov. Schwarzenegger's attempts to dissolve Calpers (the public employees retirement fund) and privatize the pension system, in a similar though not identical move to what George Bush wants to do with Social Security:
"Don't underestimate the significance of this development. Atomization of the working class, and the destruction of the ability of people to work together for their common benefit, and encouraging everyone to think of themselves as an "individual" responsible for their own destiny (financial and otherwise) is an absolutely critical component of today's class struggle. And whether it's limiting the ability of citizens to sue corporations for malfeasance, or eliminating the ability of public employees to have a common pension system fighting for their joint interests, the struggle is the same, and the consequences are potentially enormous."
Today's Los Angeles Times carries a very interesting commentary by Prof. Benjamin Barber, discussing Social Security along much the same lines. Here are some excerpts, but I highly recommend the entire article:
"The most profound cost of privatization has been wholly ignored: the systemic cost to our public way of life. By turning a public social insurance and pension policy into a private bet in which personal and private decisions determine who does well and who does badly, we do irreparable harm to our democratic 'common ground.

"Privatization -- whether of education, housing or Social Security -- makes us less of a public. It diminishes the republic --the res publica, or public things that define our commonweal. It turns the common 'we' into a collection of private 'me's.' It opts for market Darwinism, in which smart investors prosper but others lose, rather than social justice as its organizing principle. It demeans the 'us' by turning 'us' into 'it' -- the big, bad, faceless government bureaucracy. And it privileges the private and individual by appealing to market liberty, as if people could really be free one by one or as consumers alone.

"Private market liberty is not political liberty; it is only personal choice. It may generate private benefits ('I want an SUV!' or 'Give me 100 shares of EBay!') but offers nothing for the common good (a fuel conservation policy, for instance).

"Privatization is a kind of reverse social contract: It dissolves the bonds that tie us together. The social contract takes us out of the state of nature; it asks us to give up a part of our private liberty to do whatever we want in order to secure common liberty for all. Privatization puts us back in the state of nature where we possess the natural power to get whatever we can but lose the common power to secure everything to which we have a natural right."


Wednesday, January 26, 2005


 

300 billion reasons to say: "Not one cent more!"


In San Francisco right now, the city Board of Supervisors is debating making a $1 million donation for tsunami relief. Opponents note that San Francisco has a $400 million budget shortfall for 2005, and is already enacting layoffs and program cuts as a result. The Bush administration has now requested an addition $80 billion to continue its wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, which will bring the total spent to right around 300 billion dollars. With a U.S. population of 295 million, that is $1000 for every single person in the United States. With a population of 728,000, that means that San Francisco will have paid 728 million dollars for this war, compared to which $1 million for tsunami relief is quite literally a drop in the bucket. California, with its 35 million people, has contributed (roughly) 35 billion dollars to the war, a figure which would wipe out the entire state deficit.

All across the country, cities and states are laying people off, closing schools, hospitals, libraries, cutting other social services, and in some cases actually going bankrupt. Want a reason to say "stop the war now!"? How about 300 billion of them?

In this spirit, here's a chant I made up today while I was out enjoying a run. Feel free to use it in your next antiwar march. It's an "open-source" chant, so you're welcome to improve it. :-)

Chant leader: Not one dollar more, for occupation and war!
Crowd response: Not one dollar more, for occupation and war!
Not one quarter more, for occupation and war!
Not one dime more, for occupation and war!
Not one nickel more, for occupation and war!
Not one cent more, for occupation and war!
And you can follow that one with this one, also newly invented today:
End the occupation,
Stop the war!
Troops out now,
Not one cent more!
The only thing wrong with this chant is that it only rhymes in the singular, not in the plural, but the U.S. is currently occupied with two wars and occupations (Iraq and Afghanistan), and is providing funding and arms for a third (the Israeli occupation of Palestine and its war against the Palestinians).

While I'm in my activist mode, here's my action thought for the day, following up on what I wrote two days ago. Then, I encouraged readers to write their Congresspeople and demand that they vote against the latest $80 billion war appropriation. Today, I propose we should all go a bit further. Get a group together from your city, go testify at your next city council meeting, and get your city council to write a letter to your Congresspeople urging them to vote against the $80 billion and reflect the will of the people. Many city council people will say "foreign affairs are not our business." If they do, and if, say, the population of your city is 50,000, just tell them that there are 50 million reasons why it is their business.


 

Support the troops - bring them home!


Pacifica station KPFA, no less, reports this morning that "President Bush offered his condolences to the families of the 31 soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq this morning." He did no such thing, not publicly, anyway. Bush held a press conference this morning, and didn't even mention the crash in his opening statement. He did say generically: "We continue to offer our condolences and prayers for those who do suffer," but the cynicism of that remark is indicated by the subsequent sentence: "We'll honor the memories of their loved ones by completing our missions." His only use for the dead is in providing a continuing justification for an unjustified, and unjustifiable, war. During the question period, when asked about the event which resulted in the largest death toll since the war began, he muttered a perfunctory: "And, obviously, any time we lose life it is a sad moment."

Support the troops? This President doesn't give a toss about the troops, who are just so much cannon fodder in his cynical calculations. In his inaugural address, he couldn't even mention the fact that 1360 of them (now more than 1400) had given their lives, but instead offered a generic (and perfunctory) "Some have shown their devotion to our country in deaths that honored their whole lives - and we will always honor their names and their sacrifice." 25 words in a 2064-word speech.


 

Thought for the Day


From a letter writer to the San Jose Mercury News:
"If President Bush's war on terrorists [sic] has made America safer, why did his inauguration require the largest security precautions in our country's history?"

 

Iraqi politicians are learning from American ones...


...but not too well. Knight-Ridder's Hannah Allam reports this morning that "politicians from the two leading tickets backed away Tuesday from earlier campaign promises to set a deadline for the withdrawal of American forces." Clearly, if they had been paying more attention in class, they would have waited until next Tuesday to do so.

So it looks like the ball's back in the court of antiwar Americans. Remember - Not one damn dime for war! NO to the $80 billion request!


Tuesday, January 25, 2005


 

Fool me once, shame on you...


...fool me twice, I must be the corporate media.

A few days ago, Dick Cheney made the claim that Iran is building a "fairly robust new nuclear program." Considering that this is the same man who is famous for having said "We believe Saddam has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons," one might expect that any article carrying his latest claim might make reference to his earlier, totally discredited, claim, by way of providing context to the reader. If so, one would be wrong. I cannot find a single article which does so. By comparison, when Cheney mentioned that "Israel might decide to do something about it" in the same interview, almost every article provided context for that remark by noting that "In 1981, Israel sent warplanes to destroy Iraq's nuclear reactor."


 

Fidel goes public


On January 31, PBS is airing a new film entitled Fidel Castro on their "American Experience" series. I have no idea what to expect, other than to expect I'll be watching. A description of the film and even the transcript is here, but I prefer to watch it before reading the transcript. Don't want to spoil the ending. :-)

My opinion, which won't be changed by the film since I already know an awful lot about the subject: Fidel Castro is without any question the most principled person leading any government in the world today, or for many a year. I am unaware of a single instance in which he has lied to, or even misled, the world or the people of his country. He speaks the truth. He embodies what a real political leader is -- someone who has worked tirelessly for the betterment of the people of his country. And, unlike in the United States, where corporations qualify as "people", I am referring to the real people, all of the people, and not the elite few. Google search doesn't work all that well on blogs, but here are some of the things I've posted which demonstrate the results of his leadership.

I'll close with two of my favorite quotes. First this one:

"Enough of the illusion that the problems of the world can be solved by nuclear weapons. Bombs may kill the hungry, the sick, and the ignorant, but they cannot kill hunger, disease, and ignorance. Nor can they kill the righteous rebellion of the peoples.

"Let us say farewell to arms, and let us in a civilized manner dedicate ourselves to the most pressing problems of our times. This is the responsibility and the most sacred duty all the world's statesmen. This, moreover, is the basic premise for human survival."
And the second, which is part of the reason I put so much effort into this blog:
"It is not enough for the truth to be the truth; the truth must also be told."
Update: Well, I wasn't expecting much from PBS, and it looks like I won't be disappointed. Someone has called my attention to a review of the film from The Chronicle of Higher Education, which makes it clear that this will be an "unflattering" portrait.

 

Cry, the beloved "opposition"


Item: "While Republicans listed changes in Social Security as their No. 1 objective, Democrats made enlarging the armed forces and providing new military benefits as their top goal."

Item: "As members of Congress...we have pledged to give our armed forces the support they need in these difficult and dangerous days -- both to win this war and to win the peace,'' said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi." [speaking about the latest request for $80 billion for the war]

Item: "Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Monday that the opposing sides in the divisive debate over abortion should find 'common ground' to prevent unwanted pregnancies and ultimately reduce abortions, which she called a 'sad, even tragic choice to many, many women.' In a speech to about 1,000 abortion rights supporters near the New York State Capitol, Mrs. Clinton firmly restated her support for the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. But then she quickly shifted gears, offering warm words to opponents of legalized abortion and praising the influence of 'religious and moral values' on delaying teenage girls from becoming sexually active." In conjunction with Clinton's first remark, it should be noted that the centerpiece of yesterday's march against choice were women carrying signs reading "I regret my abortion," which Clinton's remark reinforces nicely. [Incidentally, what's with that "Mrs." Clinton from the New York Times? Shouldn't that be "Senator" Clinton? And why in this article do they refer to "Ms. Rice" rather than "Dr. Rice"? What's up with that?]

I'm not even including Joe Lieberman's words of lavish praise for Condo-lie-zza Rice in this list. Lieberman is on the far right of his party (although he was amusing on the Daily Show the other night, I have to admit). Hillary Clinton is a central figure, and potential Presidential candidate, of the Democratic Party, while Nancy Pelosi is its elected leader in the House of Representatives.

More on Nancy Pelosi and her support for war can be found here in a CommonDreams piece by Stephens Zunes.


 

Missing in action: military credibility (plus a movie recommendation)


The military is in a neck-and-neck race with Condo-lie-zza Rice to see whose credibility can reach zero first. Today the military put in a strong surge.

Item: "The US Army has failed to aggressively probe claims of detainee abuse in Iraq, including forced sodomy and severe physical beatings, a top US free speech group charged, citing newly released government files."

Item: "Twenty-three terror suspects tried to hang or strangle themselves at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay during a mass protest in 2003, the military confirmed Monday. Those incidents were mentioned casually during a visit earlier this month by three journalists, but officials then immediately denied there had been a mass suicide attempt."

A couple nights ago I watched The Winslow Boy, a David Mamet film (adapted from a play by Terence Rattigan) about a young boy who is expelled from military school for allegedly having stolen a 5 shilling postal note. When his father first confronts the boy, he asks him if he stole the note. "No father, I didn't," says the boy. The father pauses, then repeats the same question. "No father, I didn't," says the boy. Given the same answer twice, the father believes him (and proceeds to stake his entire family fortune on clearing the boy's reputation). Clearly, this is the approach that the press needs to take with the military (not to mention Bush, Rice, and the rest of the congenital liars). Ask a question. Get an answer. Then ask the same question again.

The movie, by the way, is excellent, with some great acting by Nigel Hawthorne as the father, Rebecca Pidgeon (Mamet's wife) as the boy's sister, and the very Cary Grant-ish Jeremy Northam as the lawyer. It does, however, illustrate a classic problem with movies which are based on real events, as this one is. In the movie, the sister is a strong feminist and activist in the suffrage movement (the events take place in early 20th-century England), which sets up a conflict with the right-wing lawyer which is one of the key elements of the movie (and play). But in real life (as I learned from the DVD extras), the sister was (according to the DVD) "to the right of Attila the Hun," so that part of the movie is entirely invented. But movies which are based on real events tend to strongly shape the minds of viewers about those events, just like one tends to remember the parts of vacations that one took pictures of, and remember other parts less well if at all, especially as time passes. I have a friend who refuses to see movies like Hurricane and Mississippi Burning for precisely this reason, because she doesn't want to have her mind clouded by inaccurate information. I don't share the opinion (if I did I'd have to stop reading and watching the corporate media, given all the inaccurate and incomplete information I get from those sources). See the movie. :-)


Monday, January 24, 2005


 

Out now? Not according to the U.S. Army


In today's news about how quickly those Iraqi troops will be "trained" and ready to replace American troops:
"The U.S. Army expects to keep its troop strength in Iraq at the current level of about 120,000 for at least two more years, according to the Army's top operations officer.

"While allowing for the possibility that the levels could decrease or increase depending on security conditions and other factors, Lt. Gen. James J. Lovelace Jr. told reporters yesterday that the assumption of little change through 2006 represents 'the most probable case.'"
The Bush administration is about to ask for another $80 billion for the war. How many hundreds of billions of dollars will have been spent before it's over? Some people were promoting a "not one dime" concept for Inauguration day. Here's a better idea - not one more dime for the war! While you're sitting there at your computer, take a minute to write your Congresspeople and tell them - Not one more dime for the war.

Find your Representative and their contact page here.

Find your Senators and their contact pages here.

Not American? Heck, just make up an address and pretend you are. Your dishonesty will pale in comparison to George Bush's. And you'll be lying to save people's lives.


 

"Take your olive branch and shove it": Parts II and III


Continuing their efforts to cut off any peace overtures from Abu Mazen at the knees, the Israelis flash two upraised middle fingers at the Palestinians:

Item: "Israel resumed building one of the most controversial parts of its West Bank barrier, deep in occupied land."

Item: "Gov't decision strips Palestinians of Jerusalem lands - The Sharon government implemented the Absentee Property Law in East Jerusalem last July...The law means that thousands of Palestinians who live in the West Bank will lose ownership of their property in East Jerusalem. Government officials estimate the assets total thousands of dunam, while other estimates say they could add up to half of all East Jerusalem property."

Once again quoting songwriter David Rovics:

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 settlers return to Tel Aviv

 

Thurston Howell III meets comes too close to the rabble


Scenes from the inauguration, from on high:
"'Yes, there were some waits -- and in our section there were two cruddy-looking people,' [John Jernigan] said, referring to two protesters who found their way to the prime blue section B, right in front of the Capitol. 'You would've just thought they were trash that had blown in is all, but I thought it was great.'"
Another upper-crust reveler was even less charitable towards the rabble:
"'They need a new law for these protesters: 'You cross the line, you do the time,'' said Kenneth E. Boring, 80 [a member of the Republican Eagles, the elite GOP fundraising group]. 'It's time to put a stop to all this nonsense, protesting and causing confusion,' Boring said."
Hey Ken - if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen! America, love it or leave it!

 

More thoughts on the Iraqi elections


I've written about the absurd nature of letting overseas Iraqis vote, as well as about the wealth bias involved in that. One thing I was going to write, but didn't, was to ask how on earth such people could cast an intelligent vote, given that out of 111 (the number seems to vary) different parties contesting the election, they could probably only name two or three of the prominent parties or candidates based on what's been covered in the press. Yesterday it dawned on me - that's the same thing that Americans are used to! OK, we don't have 111 parties, just a dozen or so, but the concept is the same. If you haven't been "anointed" by the establishment, via its media, you can forget it - it's a one-time appearance on late-night CSPAN for you, if you're lucky.

Today I heard again something I had mentioned before - the actual polling places will only be announced "at the last minute". There's just one little problem with that - you actually have to be able to tell people where they are! With only a couple hours of electricity each day in Baghdad and elsewhere, how exactly is that going to happen? Send election workers, who are fearful enough for their lives as it is, to knock on every door to let people know? And what will happen if someone shows up at the wrong polling place? Will their vote be thrown out, as in Ohio? Just askin'.

Amidst all the questions, there's one thing we know for sure. On Jan. 31, George Bush and the American corporate press will pronounce them a resounding success for democracy, unless the turnout is less than 33%, in which case they'll pronounce them a resounding "step forward" for democracy.


 

Political Humor of the Day

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the Corporate States of America...and to the Republicans, for which it stands, one nation, under debt, easily divisible, with liberty and justice for oil."

- Danae, a character in Wiley Miller's Non Sequitur strip



Sunday, January 23, 2005


 

Fallujah - the City of Rubble


Within the last two weeks, a 15-minute film shot by an Iraqi doctor in Fallujah and the surrounding villages and refugee camps was broadcast on British television. It's not the greatest film, but it's 15 minutes more information about what is really happening to Fallujah and Fallujans than anything you'll see on American television, and definitely well worth watching for that. A brief intro to the film, as well as the transcript, can be found here, and the film itself, in Real Player format, can be watched by clicking here.

 

There are "crises" and there are crises


George Bush and the Republicans (and their compliant media) have been talking a lot lately about the Social Security "crisis"; the projection (which depends on various assumptions about the rate of growth of the U.S. economy over the next 40 years) that by 2042, or perhaps 2052, the Social Security system will have used up its accumulated surplus and will be taking in less than it needs to pay out, and hence will need (nothing else having been changed in the interim) to reduce benefits by 25%. A Google News search for "Social Security crisis" turns up 3850 hits.

And exactly how many times have the same people (or anyone) talked about a crisis which will culminate just a few years later, although it has actually already begun?

"Global warning has already hit the danger point that international attempts to curb it are designed to avoid, according to the world's top climate watchdog.

"Dr Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the official Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Dr Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the official Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told an international conference attended by 114 governments in Mauritius this month that he personally believes that the world has 'already reached the level of dangerous concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere' and called for immediate and 'very deep' cuts in the pollution if humanity is to 'survive'.

"He told delegates: 'Climate change is for real. We have just a small window of opportunity and it is closing rather rapidly. There is not a moment to lose.'

"In November, a multi-year study by 300 scientists concluded that the Arctic was warming twice as fast as the rest of the world and that its ice-cap had shrunk by up to 20 per cent in the past three decades.

"The ice is also 40 per cent thinner than it was in the 1970s and is expected to disappear altogether by 2070."
"Global warming crisis"? 188 hits on Google News.

But after all, what's a bigger crisis? The possibility of a 25% reduction in Social Security benefits 40 years from now, or the survival of humanity? Gosh, let me think.


 

$10 billion in reparations for Iraq?


This headline caught my eye: "Bill would pay $100,000 to families of war dead." Wow. With something like 100,000 dead Iraqis and another 5000 dead Afghans, not to mention 1900 or so dead Americans, British, Italians, and assorted others (note that that figure includes Americans killed in Afghanistan and contractors killed in Iraq, so it's a much higher number than you're used to seeing), that's more than $10 billion dollars. It won't pay for all the damage the U.S. has done to Iraq and to Iraqi families, but it's a start.

Oops. Sen. Bill Frist's bill isn't quite what I thought (oh-so-briefly) from the headline:

"Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist unveiled a plan Friday that would boost the one-time, tax-free payments to survivors of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan to $100,000 from the current $12,400.

"'We need to do right by these families,' said Ohio Republican Sen. Mike DeWine."
"Iraqi and Afghan families? Screw 'em," he added. Yes, I made that part up. Frankly, I doubt if Sen. DeWine or Sen. Frist gave two seconds worth of thought to Iraqi and Afghan families.

 

Why "Out Now!" should have been "Out Then!"


Or, more to the point, "Never In!" I wrote a few days ago about the latest horrific incident in which two Iraqis were slaughtered in front of their six children, now orphans and no doubt traumatized for life. But, of course, this kind of senseless slaughter of innocent Iraqis has been going on since day one. In an article about Iraq veterans, the New York Times brings us this anecdote from one of the leaders of Iraq Veterans Against the War. also probably traumatized for life:
"In March 2003, reports of suicide-bombing attacks on American soldiers had reached Sgt. Rob Sarra's Marine Corps unit in an Iraqi town called al-Shatra. A short time later, soldiers saw an older woman walking toward them with a small bundle. The marines, fearing that she might be a bomber, called to her to stop, but she kept walking.

"'I was looking at her, and I thought 'I have to stop this woman,' ' Mr. Sarra said. 'So I fired on her, and then the other marines fired on her.'

"'When we got to her, we saw that she was pulling out a white flag,' he said. 'She had tea and bread in her bag. I kept thinking, 'Was she a grandmother? Was she a mother?''"

 

The rich and the Iraqi election

"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges."

- Anatole France
The law, or at least Iraqi election rules, also permits both rich and poor Iraqis living overseas to vote, even if they haven't lived in Iraq for decades, or, indeed, have never lived in Iraq. However it turns out there's a catch, which was brought home to me watching two different items on two different news broadcasts last night. Because there are only five cities in the United States where Iraqis can register and vote, Iraqis living elsewhere have a difficult challenge. One channel interviewed an Iraqi doctor who had lived outside of Iraq for 40 years, and in Houston for 35, who had to fly to Los Angeles last week to register, and then again next week to vote. Another channel featured a similar story of someone in San Francisco. Rich Iraqi doctor - no problem. Think that a poor Iraqi cabdriver living in Houston or San Francisco will be able to indulge a similar luxury?

Is this a minor factor in the election? Who knows how close it will be. I do know that it's likely that those rich Americans are likely to cast more votes in this election, and have more influence over the government of Iraq, than all the people of Fallujah, which, as I'm sure you'll recall, was "pacified" so that the people there could vote. "Pacified". That's synonomous with "flattened".


Saturday, January 22, 2005


 

News guaranteed to make you smile


[First posted 1/21/05, 10:17 p.m.; updated]
"US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld cancelled a planned visit to Germany after a US human rights organisation asked German authorities to prosecute him for war crimes, Deutsche Presse-Agentur has learned.

"The New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights filed a complaint in December with the Federal German Prosecutor's Office against Rumsfeld accusing him of war crimes and torture in connection with detainee abuses at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

"Rumsfeld made it known immediately after the complaint was filed that he would not attend the Munich conference unless Germany quashed the legal action.

"The organisation alleges violations of German legislation, which outlaws war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide independent of the place of crime or origin of the accused.

"The prosecutor's office in Karlsruhe reportedly is examining the roughly 170-page complaint to see whether an investigation is warranted." (Source)
Update: You can read the lawsuit filed by the CCR here as well as find out how to write the German prosecutors to urge them to move forward with the case. CCR's President Michael Ratner was interviewed on Flashpoints! on Dec. 29 discussing the Gonzalez hearings, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, the lawsuit, and more. You can download the show here; the discussion about the lawsuit begins just past 27 minutes into the show.

 

Quote of the Day

"Water is like peace -- you never really know just how valuable it is until someone takes it away.

"It's amazing how as things get worse, you begin to require less and less. We have a saying for that in Iraq, 'Ili yishoof il mawt, yirdha bil iskhooneh.' Which means, 'If you see death, you settle for a fever.' We've given up on democracy, security and even electricity. Just bring back the water."


- Baghdad Burning blogger (and soon to be published author) Riverbend, who has now (along with most other Baghdad resisdents according to her informal survey) been without running water for six days

 

Overthrow the Iranian government? We already did that


With the Bush administration starting to more loudly beat the war drums against Iran, Democrats are quickly jumping on the bandwagon. Rising star Barack Obama urges economic warfare (politely called sanctions) against Iran and talks about the possibility of "surgical" strikes (when will the AMA object to this slander of the honorable, life-saving profession of surgery?). John Kerry and Howard Dean both think we have to get "tougher" with Iran. Oliver Willis, a popular blogger who describes himself (inaccurately, by my standards, but not by the standards of the American media) as "center-left", says he supports limited military strikes against Iran, and I'm sure he represents millions more Democratic Party supporters (Republicans and their supporters support unlimited military strikes against anyone).

All of these people need a little history lesson. Because the United States overthrew a democratically-elected Iranian government once before, in 1953. Here's a nice summary of those events from an article in Worker's World, reviewing not just the U.S./CIA role in the coup which overthrew Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh after he had led the Iranian parliament in nationalizing the Iranian oil industry (what a concept - Iranian oil to benefit first and foremost Iranians, and not American and British oil companies), but also the subsequent 26 years of absolute tyranny (hey, George Bush doesn't have a trademark on that word) under the U.S.-installed Shah, Reza Pahlevi. Of course this in turn led to such things as the seizing of American hostages after the Shah had been overthrown, the "arms for hostages" deal, arguably the election of Ronald Reagan, the Iran-Contra scandal, Oliver North having his own show on TV, and lots more.

And now the Republicans and the Democrats, the conservatives and the liberals, want to toy with the idea of doing it again. If you're even thinking this might be a good idea, go read the history. "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it" (George Santayana). Unfortunately the ones who will really be condemned, as in Iraq, won't be the Bushes and the Cheneys and the Rices of this world, they will be the Iranian people and the poor Americans who are sent off to kill them and be killed.

Hands off Iran!


 

The "quality" of "intelligence"


Splashed all over the media in the days before the inauguration was the "news" that a group of Chinese and Iraqis had crossed the Mexican border into the U.S. and were headed to Boston to explode a "dirty bomb". The story, along with pictures of four of the Chinese, were on every single newscast I watched (and that covers multiple national, cable, and local news broadcasts) as well as in all the papers. When the story first appeared, it was simply a fact - "FBI agents are searching for this group who are planning to explode a dirty bomb in Boston." Of course if you observed closely, and if you were reading the news instead of watching it on TV, you would have observed certain key words, like these: "potential terror suspects who may be heading for Boston." Still, the Mayor of Boston and the Governor of Massachusetts left the inauguration to go home in case of trouble. It's a safe bet that the vast majority of Americans who heard this story figured there must be something to it. A day or so later, I heard on one news report something that hadn't been in the initial reports - that this "tip" was based on the uncorroborated word of one, possibly unreliable source. Not that that keeps things out of the news these days (Iraqi WMD, anyone?).

But today, we learn it was even worse. Much worse. Not only was there only a single source for this "information", but that source was anonymous. Here are some more of the amusing details on which this national scare was based:

"The Homeland Security Department official said the tipster has refused to meet with agents. 'He won't meet, so we can't polygraph him or anything like that.' That official said the names of the Chinese immigrants were contained in documents the tipster had hurled over a border fence."
Too bad the FBI is now deciding the story is probably a hoax, because George Bush was looking for another excuse for why he invaded Iraq. Oh well. China, anyone?

Friday, January 21, 2005


 

George and Condi call this 'tyranny'

"[Cuba's] endeavors in terms of health protection for the population have attained a new triumph for 2004: not one case of tetanus! At the same time, another six illnesses remain eradicated: poliomyelitis, diphtheria, measles, whooping cough, rubella and mumps; as well as two serious complaints: tuberculous meningitis in infants under 12 months, and neonatal or new born tetanus, the latter having been eliminated for 33 years.

"This is another of the positive results of widespread and systematic immunization campaigns: the eradication of tetanus, an infectious disease that affects the nervous system and is fatal if it reaches the respiratory muscles. At the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, there was a high infant and adult mortality rate.

"The Revolution's systematic healthcare efforts began to be reflected in statistics. Whilst in 1962, there were 645 cases and 410 deaths from tetanus, by 1970 this had dropped to 223 cases with 81 deaths; in 1980, 26 cases and 12 deaths; in 1990, 4 cases and 2 deaths; in 2000, one case who died; 2001, 2 cases and no deaths; 2002, 2 cases and one death; 2003, 3 cases and one death; 2004, not one case.

"Tetanus causes approximately five deaths per year in the United States and on an international level, reports show that there are around one million cases annually, the majority of them in developing countries." (Source)
Is a functioning public health system possible under capitalism? Of course, but it reaches its pinnacle under a socialist system like Cuba. Why? Because in a socialist system, no crazy-quilt system of insurers and insurees and uninsured gets in the way; it is in the interest of the government (financial as well as moral) to see that everyone is immunized and that no one gets sick. And, since no one has to worry about whether their insurance will cover one expense or another, the government can actively carry out public education campaigns (George and Condi would call it propaganda) to encourage people in the strongest possible terms to get immunized (and Cuba's system of large numbers of neighborhood clinics ensures that they can actually do so proactively, and not just sit around hoping that everyone will get the message). And it is in everyone's interest to do so, not just for their own personal health, but because the less the government spends on treating sick people, the more it has to spend on education or culture or other social needs.

Cuba is one of those countries singled out recently by Condo-lie-zza Rice, and over the years repeatedly by George Bush as well. Both would very much like to see a change of government there so Cubans will no longer suffer under "tyranny". The fact that they'll start dying of tetanus, or diptheria, or whooping cough, or just plain dehydration like millions of people in the third world? For George and Condi, it will just be a demonstration of their new-found "freedom".


 

CBS and NBC: "Tolerance is 'too controversial'"


I saw this story when it happened, but the most recent issue of the indispensible magazine Extra! (the magazine of FAIR to which everyone should subscribe) provides some additional details which border on the unbelievable (but, as I'm forced to say so often, so little is really unbelievable these days). It's not online, so I'll transcribe it here verbatim (Subscribe to the magazine! You're missing a lot more than this!):
"At first it sounded like a bad joke, but it turned out to be true: CBS and NBC both rejected an ad from the United Church of Christ because they deemed the ad's message of tolerance 'too controversial.' The ad emphasized that the church welcomes everyone, regardless of ability, age, race, economic circumstance, or sexual orientation. According to a statement from CBS, the network regarded that as unacceptable because it 'touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations.' If that makes you scratch your head, another reason cited by CBS for rejecting the ad was because 'the executive branch has recently proposed a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.'"
I wonder if George Bush was talking to CBS and NBC and those "other individuals and organizations" CBS is so concerned about when he said yesterday: "And our country must abandon all the habits of racism because we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time." No, I guess not, since he thinks anti-gay bigotry is just fine, and his supporters (and his Vice-President's family) think that to even mention the fact the Dick Cheney's daughter is a lesbian (an open one employed professionally in that capacity!) is an insult to her parents, a "cheap and tawdry political trick", "offensive", "shameless", an "outrage", and cause for her father to get "pretty angry".

Incidentally, the latest issue of Extra! also includes a long, interesting article (not online) comparing press coverage of Kerry's "gaffe" (mentioning that Mary Cheney was a lesbian) with George Bush's statement in the same debate (arguably not a "gaffe" but instead a serious attempt at lying and covering up the past) of claiming that he didn't think that he had ever said he wasn't "worried about Osama bin laden."


 

Remember the Bay of Pigs


George Bush talked a lot yesterday about tyranny, and "democratic reformers", and "freedom" being "chosen by its citizens", etc., and also said this: "This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary." In this context, it is essential to harken back to the Bay of Pigs. What happened there? U.S.-trained and supported Cuban exiles invaded Cuba (and were quickly crushed by the Cuban people led personally by Fidel Castro). But what was their plan? It was not to take over the country and overthrow the government; there were far too few people for that. No, it was to establish a "beachhead" in Cuba, declare a rival Cuban government, and then immediately be recognized by the U.S. government and appeal to the U.S. for military aid. The Bay of Pigs, like the "stockpiles of WMD" in Iraq, was meant to be the excuse for a full-on U.S. invasion of Cuba, overthrowing its government and re-establishing a compliant client state in its place (Batista was even still available).

Will the U.S. government be looking to implement this model again in other countries? It's a safe bet the answer is "yes".


 

The march of "freedom" at the inauguration


Medea Benjamin, bless her feisty little heart, has just been released from jail (jail!), following this attempt to exercise a bit of freedom yesterday:
"The most effective -- and disruptive -- protest may have come from the anti-war group Code Pink, which obtained 16 tickets to the inauguration from their members of Congress. Eight female activists, including Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin of San Francisco, obtained seats in the VIP section.

"They took their cue during Bush's speech -- when he spoke about the rights of people living under dictatorships to 'free dissent' -- and unfurled banners reading 'No War' and 'Bush Mandate: Bring the Troops Home.' Police confiscated the banners but did not remove the women.

"A few moments later, the women stood up again, but this time they shouted, 'Champagne is flying while soldiers are dying' and 'Out of Iraq now.' The pro-Bush crowd began chanting, and Bush momentarily paused. Police pulled the women off their chairs and escorted them out of area.

"Two of the women were still being held late Thursday -- Benjamin and Diane Wilson of Texas -- but the others were released after the speech was over."

 

Political humor of the day

"I'm looking forward to working as hard as I possibly can for the next four years."

- George Bush, speaking to attendees at one of his inaugural balls
I can't find any recent data, but in August 2003, the Washington Post reported that Bush had spent 27 percent of his time in office on vacation. So "as hard as I possibly can" isn't as hard as you might think.

 

The Bush "doctrine"


George Bush spoke a lot yesterday about "tyranny", another one of those words like "values" which means whatever he wants it to mean. Every country you want to invade is called a "tyranny". It might be for their oil, or their independent foreign policy, or their setting an example for the rest of the world in health care and having a government which actually cares about its people, but whatever the real reason, Bush will call it a "tyranny", and the media will do their best to provide a convenient excuse like WMD or "suspected WMD" or "thinking about WMD" or terrorists or "might become terrorists" or "once read a book about terrorism". It really doesn't matter.

But all of this wouldn't mean anything without something else. Because the President has no Constitutional authority to launch a war against another country merely because he claims that the people of that country are "willing" to "adopt our system of government" and are living under a "tyranny". So the whole essence of the Bush "doctrine" is summarized instead by this enabling assertion:

"The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands."
And the fact of the matter is that this assertion is complete and utter nonsense. The survival of liberty in the United States is threatened by only one force on Earth, and that is the U.S. government and its PATRIOT Act, its Department of Homeland Security, etc. Osama bin Laden and his commercial-airline borne troops did threaten (and take) the lives of several thousand Americans, but they certainly didn't threaten the "liberty" of Americans (and no, "life" and "liberty" are not the same thing; if you think they are, talk to Thomas Jefferson about his redundancy problem).

Thanks above all to geography, America has not been invaded since 1812, nearly 200 years. The most famous attack on the U.S., Pearl Harbor, far from an attempt to conquer America and threaten our "liberty", wasn't even an attempt to conquer the then American-possession Hawaii. It was an attempt (and a rather successful one, if temporarily so) to destroy the Pacific fleet so that it couldn't be used to attack Japan. The idea that a loosely affiliated group like al Qaeda, who couldn't even hold state power in a weak country like Afghanistan and doesn't own a single warplane, ship, or tank, could somehow threaten the "liberty" of the United States is simply laughable. Only people like George Bush have that power.

This doctrine has to be seen in the context of one of Condoliezza Rice's new appointments, as described here:

Rice taps Stanford expert for post
Professor proposes methods to make failed states stable

"Rice soon will name Stephen Krasner, one of the country's foremost experts on international relations, as the director of policy planning, the State Department's influential in-house think tank.

"Krasner's work has not been without controversy. Some critics see him offering intellectual justification for widespread intervention by the United States into other countries.

"Krasner argues forcefully that bad governance in weak states threatens not only their citizens but also more powerful countries. They can generate conflicts that spill across their borders, harbor terrorist networks, or aid the spread of weapons of mass destruction -- Iraq and Afghanistan are examples he cites.

"'Left to their own devices, collapsed and badly governed states will not fix themselves,' Krasner writes in a recently published paper on this subject. He challenges conventional ideas about sovereignty of nations, arguing that in some cases it would be better to 'share' sovereignty with outside institutions."
So Bush and his sidekick Rice now have their house academic ready to justify their actions, although really, it's a redundant position. Haven't Bush and Cheney and everyone else in the administration being talking about exactly these things (harboring terrorist networks, spreading WMD) for years now? The only difference I perceive is that Krasner's theory is that, even if they aren't harboring terrorists or spreading WMD, their status as an ill-defined "collapsed [or] badly governed state" means that that such countries might do such things in the future, so that the U.S. is justified in acting against them. Which is, of course, no small difference, because with this theory, the U.S. doesn't even have to pretend that there are WMD or terrorist connections.

 

Bush v. reality, part MCXXXIV


Bush: "America will not pretend...that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies."

Reality:

"Minister of State Adnan al-Janabi, an intimate of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, tells NEWSWEEK that he was so incensed by his treatment by American soldiers as he tried to enter the Green Zone to go to a cabinet meeting that he resigned in protest.

"An angry Al-Janabi not only resigned from the government, but is now denouncing the American military as an anti-Iraqi occupation army. He is hardly a raving anti-American. An insider since the days of the former Coalition Provisional Authority and one of the country's most prominent Sunnis as leader of the huge Janabi tribe, he was given the minister of state portfolio in Allawi's government. For a while he served as justice minister. And he remains the campaign chairman for Allawi's slate in the elections, the Iraqi List."

 

Quote of the Day

"America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling."

- George Bush, demonstrating severe short-term memory loss while giving his inaugural address
Over and above launching two wars and removing two governments without, as best I can recall, being invited to do so by the "willing" inhabitants of those countries, George is also forgetting this little matter:
"As of June 14, [Paul] Bremer had issued 97 legal orders, which are defined by the U.S. occupation authority as "binding instructions or directives to the Iraqi people" that will remain in force even after the transfer of political authority.

"The orders include rules that cap tax rates at 15 percent, prohibit piracy of intellectual property, ban children younger than 15 from working, and a new traffic code that stipulates the use of a car horn in 'emergency conditions only' and requires a driver to 'hold the steering wheel with both hands.'

"Other regulations promulgated by Bremer prevent former members of the Iraqi army from holding public office for 18 months after their retirement or resignation, stipulate a 30-year minimum sentence for people caught selling weapons such as grenades and ban former militiamen integrated into the Iraqi armed forces from endorsing and campaigning for political candidates. He has also enacted a 76-page law regulating private corporations and amended an industrial-design law to protect microchip designs. Those changes were intended to facilitate the entry of Iraq into the World Trade Organization."
Of course some of these, like the 15 percent maximum tax rate, are just laws which Bush wishes were part of "our own style of government".

In reality, on a serious note, Bush's quote above is meant to provide total flexibility in implementing this "doctrine". When it comes to his friends, like Saudi Arabia, he'll define them as "unwilling" to adopt "our own style of government", so they will be one of the countries to whom Bush was referring when he says he'll kindly "help others find their own voice" (i.e., call them up once a year and say "Hey, what about that democracy thing?"). In other cases, though, he'll magically detect that the Iranian people are eager and "willing" to receive outside "help" to adopt "our own style of government", and George will graciously be there to provide it. OK, he won't actually be there, that would go against his principles; just a bunch of mostly working-class youth will be there, having "volunteered" to go be killed to advance Bush's "vision".


 

The Washington Post gets testy


...and saves me and dozens of other bloggers the necessity of noting the obvious:
Bush's Words On Liberty Don't Mesh With Policies

"President Bush's soaring rhetoric yesterday that the United States will promote the growth of democratic movements and institutions worldwide is at odds with the administration's increasingly close relations with repressive governments in every corner of the world.

"Some of the administration's allies in the war against terrorism -- including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Uzbekistan -- are ranked by the State Department as among the worst human rights abusers. The president has proudly proclaimed his friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin while remaining largely silent about Putin's dismantling of democratic institutions in the past four years. The administration, eager to enlist China as an ally in the effort to restrain North Korea's nuclear ambitions, has played down human rights concerns there, as well."


Thursday, January 20, 2005


 

'Quote' of the Day


Today's Doonesbury, featuring a CIA teacher instructing young CIA recruits:
"Okay, so here are the key interrogation protocols we'll be covering...stress positions, sleep and sensory deprivation, temperature control, dog handling, cigarette burns, hooding, and beating. But remember, there is one thing that leadership -- from the President on down -- will never again tolerate at our detention centers...digital cameras."

 

Self-perpetuating employment


The lead editorial in the San Jose Mercury News today carries this staggering headline:
Unleash the 'old' Condi

Her war role harmed U.S. ties with Allies;
At State Department, she can undo damage
Head...exploding...

 

The ANSWER to Bush


There's at least one channel that you can watch today without getting sick to your stomach - CSPAN-2, which as I write this is broadcasting the ANSWER rally live. Bravo CSPAN-2. And double-bravo to ANSWER, who struggled mightily to achieve this victory, and to have the opportunity to put opposition voices before the American people. If history is a guide, the rally will be rebroadcast at various times, so if you're unable to watch during the day today but get CSPAN-2, be sure to check it out later.

Update: CSPAN-2 will be re-broadcasting the ANSWER rally at 8 p.m. Eastern tonight.

Further update: Hysterical and oh-so-telling moment of the day. The motorcade proceeds down Pennsylvania Avenue at a stately pace. Secret service types are walking slowly beside the President's limosine. The President approaches 4th and Pennsylvania where the ANSWER protest is located. Suddenly the motorcade speeds up and all the Secret Service men are jogging to keep up. A block later, they're back to walking slowly, as the "crisis" (Bush having to confront actual protestors) is past (and passed). "George Bush, you can't hide, we charge you with genocide." No, but he can try! What an effing coward.

Checking coverage on channels other than CSPAN, I hear Wolf Blitzer claiming that the overwhelming majority of people are there to support Bush. Switching to NBC a moment later, Brian Williams claims the crowd is divided 50-50 between supporters and opponents. It's hard to tell from TV coverage, but I've seen an awful lot of antiwar, anti-Bush signs everywhere along the route, and quite a few empty seats in the "Bush bleachers" that the RNC was selling.

In keeping with his status as a Bush tool, a little later Blitzer covers for the Bushies by claiming that the reason that the motorcade sped up is because a Secret Service agent was hit by a piece of thrown fruit, and "out of an abundance of caution" they sped up. I'm sure. As someone at the ANSWER rally said about politicians, but I'll paraphrase: "A diaper and Wolf Blitzer are both full of the same thing."

More: First Draft has pictures of Bush's minions "spreading freedom" - with a pepper spray hose.


Wednesday, January 19, 2005


 

"Out NOW!"


Courtesy of Antiwar.com comes this picture and link to a story from the Independent which illustrates in all its graphic horror why those of us who say "Out Now!" don't mean in two years, or six months, or three months, or even one week, We mean NOW. Because every week, every day that goes by, means one more horror story like this one of a car which was shot up by a U.S. army patrol as they approached a checkpoint, trying to do that "freedom" thing of actually driving around their own country.

"From the pavement I could see into the bullet-mottled windshield more clearly, the driver of the car, a man, was penetrated by so many bullets that his skull had collapsed, leaving his body grotesquely disfigured. A woman also lay dead in the front, still covered in her Muslim clothing and harder to see.

"Meanwhile, the children continued to wail and scream, huddled against a wall, sandwiched between soldiers either binding their wounds or trying to comfort them. The Army's translator later told me that this was a Turkoman family and that the teenaged girl kept shouting, 'Why did they shoot us? We have no weapons! We were just going home!'"
Two new fatalities, six new orphans, for a total of eight new victims of American aggression. When will enough be enough? When will the U.N., or the Pope, or anyone other than antiwar activists speak out forcefully against these abominations?

 

The greatest f**king what?


All over the news is the claim that the lead singer of the group Fuel started out last night's "America's Future Rocks Today" concert with this: "Welcome to the greatest f**king country in the world!" Well, after a bit of searching I have been totally unable to find this clip online, but I did see it on the news this morning on KTVU. And I swear he said "Welcome to the greatest f**king concert in the world!" Which, if I'm right, would not only be pretty funny (that lame event probably wasn't even the greatest f**king concert in Washington, D.C. yesterday), but would also be rather telling about the way someone managed to spin this story into a moment of jingoism to at least get some benefit out of it for the Bush administration, and also about how not a single reporter thought to challenge that "wisdom" and listen to the tape. Now I only heard it very briefly, and I certainly could have heard wrong, but I'd be curious to know if anyone else heard what I did (or heard what is reported), or has it on tape or TiVO, or knows where the clip can be found online.

The greatest f**king country in the world indeed. A lot closer to the most f**ked-up country in the world, I'd say. A country that spends $50+ million dollars on something they call "A Celebration of Freedom" and then walls off the people behind 7-foot barbed wire fences.

Update: I finally found the video online here and he does say "country" (although with the word before it bleeped, it comes out a bit distorted, which is why I misheard it on my first quick hearing). Oh well. The paragraph immediately above this one certainly still stands.


 

"Free speech" update


Bob from Politics in the Zeros updates us on the state of "free speech" in Washington:
"A DC judge yesterday in DC ruled that ANSWER protestors can not use sign holders because they might contain razor blades and thus could be a Horrible Hideous Menace. Republicans of course will be allowed to carry umbrellas. Further, the linear footage on the parade route in the ANSWER area was lowered to 120 feet while the Inauguration Committee gets over 5280 feet, more than one mile. Barricades and 7 foot barbed wire fences sprouted around the ANSWER area Monday night. The forces of repression are doing their best to scare people off and make things difficult."
My information was that umbrellas had been banned, but will I be surprised to see them at the inauguration, and exclusively in the hands of Republicans? Not on your life.

Update/Irony Alert: CNN is currently running special coverage on the inauguration. The "title" of their coverage (which I believe they are taking, as they often do, directly from the Bush administration), prominently displayed on the bottom of the screen, is "A Celebration of Freedom".


 

You know you live in Northern California when...


...you can't figure out why your key isn't opening your car, when you suddenly realize your identical car is two spots away...and you drive a Prius.

...you're pulling out of a parking lot a few minutes later, and the car in front of you has a bumper sticker reading: "I eat tofu...and I vote!"


 

Meaningless language


During my allotted 30 seconds of listening to the Rice hearings this morning, Joe Biden and she were having the same meaningless discussion they were having yesterday about how many Iraqi soldiers are "trained". A word which has about as much meaning as asking voters if they voted on "values". Yesterday Rice had told him 120,000 (I think), he claimed the number was 4,000. Today at least he then tried to pin it down by saying he meant "how many Iraqi soldiers could 'replace American soldiers'", still a pretty vague description but better than the completely meaningless "trained".

In response to him (I think, although maybe to Boxer, who I caught during a different 30 seconds of channel flipping), Rice said, "I'd be the first to admit there have been problems." No, Condi, you're the last to admit there have been problems, not the "first". I know it's an expression. It's a dumb one.

In a more serious, but still similarly meaningless use of language, Rice said yesterday "Nobody condones torture. Nobody condones what was done at Abu Ghraib." Nobody? Are you sure about that, Condi? Because I've read an awful lot of right-wing pundits and heard an awful lot of talking heads on TV, including quite likely Rice herself, who not only have "condoned" torture and what was done at Abu Ghraib, put postively extolled it as necessary for dealing with "bad guys". Why, the name Alberto Gonzalez even comes to mind.

I do want to add here something on a completely different subject than "meaningless language", but still on the subject of the Rice hearing. I've taken some shots at Barbara Boxer (see below), and she deserved them. However, I am willing to give her points for at least trying to shake things up and confront Rice with her lies (and expose them to the public). The problem lies, at least in part, with the American political system. If Boxer were a more confrontational type person, even with the same politics, she never would have received the kind of donations you need to become a Senator (or even a Representative or most other governmental positions) in the first place. The "establishment", the corporations and other big money donors, simply don't cotton to that kind of person. "Shaking things up" is not in their interest, to put it mildly.


Tuesday, January 18, 2005


 

Another Quote of the Day

"I don't want the families of those 1,366 [US soldiers killed in Iraq] to believe for a minute that their lives were given in vain."

- Sen. Barbara Boxer, questioning Condoleezza Rice
Barbara, their lives were given in vain, no matter what you may "want". And giving any credence to the idea that they weren't just supports the decision to invade and occupy Iraq.

 

Faith vs. science


I didn't expect to hear this on BBC, but I'm afraid I did. Showing us a picture of a tsunami-devastated region (probably from Banda Aceh), the anchor (Katy Kay) teased an upcoming story thusly: "A miracle, or an act of God?" Neither, you British twit! Later, during the actual story, the fact that many mosques were still standing was described as a "very strange phenomenon". Here are buildings that were clearly constructed of concrete, surrounded by the wreckage of buildings which were all built of wood, and BBC wants us to consider for a microsecond that the survival of such a building in the midst of wreckage was an "act of God". Jesus Christ. I expect better from BBC. The story itself did feature a structural engineer explaining that not just the material of the mosques, but the design of them with arches, allowed water to pass through, and counterposed that to a series of imams and other religious people claiming that this was an act of God. The imams can believe whatever they want. But for BBC to spread such nonsense and give it the slightest credibility is simply inexcusable. What's next on BBC? Horoscopes?

Why stop here? There's more...

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