October 31, 2006


By now I am sure you have already read this: A Blueprint for Leaving Iraq Now by George S. McGovern and William R. Polk. It's about the most comprehensive look at real solutions for withdrawal from Iraq. At the very least, it should form the basis for future arguments. US out NOW!
R U Ready For A US$ Crash?

Mike Whitney is a passionate writer who has spent a lot of time and energy looking at the role of oil and the US dollar in global politics. His latest article at ICH, The Dollar's Full-System Meltdown, starts with our wannabe PM:
A report in The Sydney Morning Herald stated, “Australia’s Treasurer Peter Costello has called on East Asia’s central bankers to ‘telegraph’ their intentions to diversify out of American investments and ensure an ‘orderly adjustment’….Central banks in China, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and Hong Kong have channeled immense foreign reserves into American government bonds, helping to prop up the US dollar and hold down interest rates,’ said Costello, but ‘the strategy has changed.’”

Indeed, the strategy has changed. The world has come to its senses and is moving away from the green slip of paper that is currently mired in $8.3 trillion of debt...

It’s all part of the madcap scheme to “starve the beast” and transfer the nation’s wealth to a handful of western plutocrats.
If you think that's scary, what about this?
Bush signed into law a provision which, according to Senator Patrick Leahy, will allow the president to unilaterally declare martial law. By changing The Insurrection Act, Bush has essentially overturned the Posse Comitatus Act which bars the president from deploying troops with the United States. The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 (as it is called) also allows Bush to take control of the National Guard which has always been under the purview of the state governors. Bush now has absolute power over all armed troops within the country, a state of affairs which the constitution purposely tried to prevent. The administration’s dream of militarizing the country under the sole authority of the executive has now been achieved although the public still has no idea that a coup that has taken place.
Whitney concludes:
A sluggish consumer market could further weaken the dollar and force Americans to begin saving again but, (and here’s the surprising part) the decision-makers at the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Dept don’t really care if the face-value of the greenback goes down anyway.

What really matters is that the dollar retains its position as the world’s reserve currency. That allows the Federal Reserve to continue to print the money, set the interest rates, and control the global economic system. The dollar presently accounts for 66% of foreign currency reserves in central banks across the globe, an increase of nearly 10% in one decade alone. The dollar has become the international currency, a de-facto monopoly. This is the goal of the globalists and the American ruling elite who dream of one system, the dollar-system; with us running it.

So, how will this cadre of plutocrats coerce the other nations to continue to use the dollar while it plummets from its perch?


As long as oil is denominated in dollars, the central banks will be forced to stockpile American scrip regardless of its value. It’s no different than holding a gun to someone’s head. They will use our debt-plagued greenbacks or their cars and trucks will sputter, their tractors and factories will wheeze, and their economies will grind to a halt. It’s just that simple.

America cannot maintain its superpower status unless it continues to control the global economic system. That means the linkage between the dollar and oil must be preserved. The Bush troupe sees this as an existential issue upon which the future of America’s ruling class depends. By 2020, 60% of the world’s oil will come from the Middle East. Bush will do everything in his power to control the resources of the Caspian Basin, thereby expanding US dollar-hegemony and paving the way for a new American century
What's Going On?
A change gonna come
Lies And The Lying Liars...

THIS could be useful:
The Siemens Magnetom Trio at the University of Pennsylvania is a 10-foot-tall, 14-ton "functional magnetic resonance imaging" machine -- fMRI, for short. It promises to be the most formidable lie detector ever built. By peering directly into our brains, its keepers aim to set a new gold standard for the recognition of honesty in everyone from politicians to criminals to lovers...

In the pipeline are several cheaper, faster, easier-to-use brain-examining technologies, all intended as major improvements on the unreliable chicken-scratching polygraph we use now. Some seem to identify mental preparations for telling a lie even before the liar opens his mouth -- verging on mind-reading. Another is meant to work from across the room, even if you do not wish to cooperate. Think of it as the "mental detector" at your airport screening, and not without good reason. Much of this research is being funded by the military as part of the anti-terror juggernaut.
The problem may be finding customers:
The firm planned to scan for lies the brain of its first customer yesterday. But at the last minute, with NBC and CBS camera crews standing by to record the event, she decided she didn't want to put to the test her assertion that she had not cheated on her husband while he was in alcohol rehab, according to Joel T. Huizenga, the company's founder.
Let's strap Bush in there and ask him if he really believes the shit he says on TV.

Come to think of it, here's an even better idea: take all the detainees from Gitmo and give them a turn. If they are guilty of breaking international laws, charge them. If they are innocent, let them go.
Dick The Talking Head

Cheney links Iraq violence to US poll:
"Whether it's al-Qaeda or the other elements that are active in Iraq, they are betting on the proposition they can break the will of the American people," Cheney told Fox News.

"... They're very sensitive to the fact that we've got an election scheduled." ...

Cheney said America's enemies in Iraq possessed the internet savvy to monitor US developments, helping them to time attacks aimed in part at influencing the elections. But he cited no evidence to back the theory.

"There isn't anything that's on the internet that's not accessible to them. They're on it all the time. They're very sophisticated users of it," he told Fox's Neil Cavuto program.
Of course, this month's high levels of US deaths are on a par with the general increase in violence over the past six months or more, and relate particularly to the failed "Together Forward" effort to suppress Baghdad insurgents. Furthermore, casualties have tended to increase every year during Ramadan.

And let's not forget that many Iraqis are only getting six hours of electricity per day, at best.

Spinning Iraqi suffering for partisan political purposes is just disgraceful. But the War in Iraq has always been a war of domestic propaganda, waged on TV screens and newspaper pages from coast to coast, aimed squarely at the citizens of Bush's USA.

Maybe Cheney should read Frank Rich's latest column, Dying to Save the G.O.P. Congress:
The ultimate chutzpah is that Mr. Bush, the man who sold us Saddam’s imminent mushroom clouds and “Mission Accomplished,” is trivializing the chaos in Iraq as propaganda. The enemy’s “sophisticated” strategy, he said in last weekend’s radio address, is to distribute “images of violence” to television networks, Web sites and journalists to “demoralize our country.”

This is a morally repugnant argument. The “images of violence” from Iraq are not fake — like, say, the fiction our government manufactured about the friendly-fire death of Pat Tillman or the upbeat news stories the Pentagon spends millions of dollars planting in Iraqi newspapers today. These images of violence are real. Americans really are dying at the fastest pace in at least a year, and Iraqis in the greatest numbers to date. To imply that this carnage is magnified by the news media, whether the American press or Al Jazeera, is to belittle the gravity of the escalated bloodshed and to duck accountability for the mismanagement of the war.
Vote the bums out.
Time To Talk War Reparations?

Interesting post from Aussie economist John Quiggin:
Even information on something as directly measurable as electricity supply has become a political football... If data on electricity supply is problematic, analysis of the impact of the war on economic activity as a whole is even more so. The first attempt has recently been made by Colin Rowat, a specialist on the Iraqi economy at the University of Birmingham in Britain. He estimates that the war has reduced Iraq’s national income by 40 per cent, or between $25 billion and $30 billion per year...

The current position of the US Administration is that having spent $18 billion, it has no more to give. Yet, there is a clear moral obligation arising from having chosen to start this war. More relevantly, perhaps, financial reparations for the damage done by the war might improve the chances of an exit strategy.
I can't help wondering if the political timing of Saddam Hussein verdict might backfire - the trial has been such a farce already, it would be no big surprise if they cannot even deliver a verdict properly.
No Rove Surprise?

Josh Marshall says Rove is bluffing:
It's the bandwagon effect. Psyche out the other side. Act like you're winning and you'll charge up your activists/voters and demoralize the folks on the other side. Mainly, get the press to believe your hype and they'll do the charging up and demoralizing for you...

For the Republicans, the difference between a bad night on election night and a catastrophe could well turn on whether or not the party's ground troops really believe all the polls they're seeing. If they do, the demoralization will likely be crippling. And a bunch of them won't even show up. Rove has to create the impression that he knows something the polls don't to keep the Republican GOTV operation from breaking down entirely.

It's that simple.
Bob Herbert says The System’s Broken:
If you pay close attention to the news and then go out and talk to ordinary people, it’s hard not to come away with the feeling that the system of politics and government in the U.S. is broken. I spent the past week talking to residents in Chicago, southern Michigan and Indiana. No one was happy about the direction the country has taken, but not even the most faithful voters were confident that their ballot would make any substantial difference...

American-style democracy needs to be energized, revitalized. The people currently in charge are not up to the task. It’s time to bring the intelligence, creativity and energy of the broader population into the quest for constructive change.
Oz stats:
Less than a third of Australians believe our troops should be "staying the course" in Iraq, a new poll shows.

The Newspoll, published in The Australian, shows 31 per cent of respondents to the survey were committed to "staying the course" in Iraq, down by almost half, from 45 per cent, in December 2004.

A record low of 22 per cent agreed it was "worth going to war", down 10 percentage points from December 2004.

The figure for those who agreed it was "not worth going" to war climbed to 68 per cent, up from 58 per cent in December 2004.
The price of Oil is still going down... how many days till that US election?
The Thundering Tide Of Reason Turns

Juan Cole bitch-slaps Jonah Goldberg and Jeff Jarvis, citing Alexander Pope:
'Nay, fly to Altars; there they'll talk you dead;
For Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread.
Distrustful Sense with modest Caution speaks;
It still looks home, and short Excursions makes;
But ratling Nonsense in full Vollies breaks;
And never shock'd, and never turn'd aside,
Bursts out, resistless, with a thundering Tyde!

But where's the Man, who Counsel can bestow,
Still pleas'd to teach, and not proud to know?
Unbiass'd, or by Favour or by Spite;
Not dully prepossest, nor blindly right;
Tho' Learn'd well-bred; and tho' well-bred, sincere;
Modestly bold, and Humanly severe?
Who to a Friend his Faults can freely show,
And gladly praise the Merit of a Foe?
Blest with a Taste exact, yet unconfin'd;
A Knowledge both of Books and Humankind;
Gen'rous Converse; a Sound exempt from Pride;
And Love to Praise, with Reason on his Side? '
Worst US death toll in Iraq for nearly two years. Iraqi puppets beg US to stay "otherwise they will be shooting at us." (Nah, just kidding about that last quote).

And here's Bush:
The Democratic goal is to get out of Iraq. The Republican goal is to win in Iraq.
Bush has sent Stephen Hadley to Iraq to keep those uppity brown people in their place for a few more days.
The White House said Hadley's visit had long been planned and called media reporting of the sensitivities in relations between Baghdad and Washington "overblown". Privately, however, top Iraqi officials are expressing profound irritation.

October 30, 2006

The End of the World As We Know It?
Once upon a time, there was a man named Dick Cheney. He was a contemptuous, selfish, snarling, secretive, bullying sort of man who thought he was very smart, and he had a bunch of cronies whom we shall call "Pnackers". Dick and the Pnackers sometimes liked money more than power and sometimes liked power more than money, but most of the time they liked both equally, and, more than that, they thought they were entitled to both power and money because they were white male Americans and because they were corporate capitalists and other people had been sucking up to them for as long as they could remember. Unfortunately, Dick and the Pnackers were themselves so abysmally unattractive that in order to get elected, and thereby get their hands on the biggest military and the biggest cache of weapons in the world, Dick had to find himself a useful but controllable idiot, preferably one who was entirely corrupt, and came from an entirely corrupt family. He didn't have far to seek...
Be afraid:
By 2015, the US Department of Defense plans that one third of its fighting strength will be composed of robots...
Oh, You Mean THOSE Weapons?!

The NYT comes up with a real story:
The American military has not properly tracked hundreds of thousands of weapons intended for Iraqi security forces and has failed to provide spare parts, maintenance personnel or even repair manuals for most of the weapons given to the Iraqis, a federal report released Sunday has concluded.
For the first time since Vietnam, fragging is back in the news:
Sgt. Alberto Martinez of the New York National Guard is accused of killing his two superior officers...
The BBC's answer to Australian/Murkan/whatever Idol - The Next Big Thing.
Oooh yeah. A Bob Dylan musical. 'Nuff said.
Joe Galloway:
This unseemly circus and its clowns in Congress can't go away fast enough and with enough dishonor and disgrace to suit the circumstances. Their place in America's history is secure: They will go down as the worst administration and the worst Congress we've ever had. Period.

They deserve to lose both the House and the Senate on Nov. 7, and the White House in 2008. They bullied their way into a war that they thought would be a slam-dunk and then so bungled things that the only superpower left in the world has been humbled and hobbled in a world that they've made more dangerous for us.

Thanks, guys. You've done a heckuva job. We won't forget it.
Bush's World

I've been to Oaxaca. It used to be a nice little tourist town:
In the city's main square, hundreds of activists carrying metal poles and sticks braced for a showdown with the police, who gathered at the four corners of the plaza holding riot shields and wearing gas masks.
Afghanistan war is 'cuckoo', says Blair's favourite general.
Another Kind Of War Profiteer

Arthur Chrenkoff is back. This time he is flogging his new book. This bit from the blurb is interesting:
He has now closed down his blog to work in politics as well as pursue a writing career.
I still get hits on my previous Chrenkoff post from people Googling "jerk off".

Howard Dean tells Democrat voters not to get their hopes up:
"The president will still be in charge of foreign policy and the military ... I don't imagine we're going to be able to force the president to reverse his course," he told the CBS "Face the Nation" program.

"But we will put some pressure on him to have some benchmarks, some timetables and a real plan other than stay the course," he added.
Obscenely Rich Get Richer
Over the last quarter century, the portion of the national income accruing to the richest 1 percent of Americans has doubled. The share going to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent has tripled, and the share going to the richest one-hundredth of 1 percent has quadrupled.
Via The Washington Monthly.
Saddam's verdict may be delayed till after the US midterms. Media Matters takes a look at the shenanigans.
Gitmo Till You Die

Some detainees may never leave Guantanamo Bay:
"Yes, they could be held for the duration of their lives," said Cully Stimson, the Defence Department's assistant secretary of defence for detainee affairs, on one of his regular trips to the base last week.
One can only wonder if the corpses will be sent back home to loved ones.

October 29, 2006

NYT Hearts Bush: There They Go Again

More nauseating crap from the New York Times in the run-up to an election. Remember last time and the time before that, when they sat on all manner of stories that could have exploded the Bush campaign? Well, ...

Let's start with this crap:
Neither Ms. Rice nor Mr. Zelikow would comment for this article.
Sure they didn't. The article in question is all about what a great, visionary voice of reason Zeliko has been. Only one solitary, stupid para about his work on the 9/11 Commission:
He became the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, from where he pressured Ms. Rice to turn over highly classified intelligence estimates and testify in front of the commission. Officials who worked with him marveled at his industry and precision, but described him as far more opinionated than his gather-the-numbers approach might first suggest. Staffers on the commission said other colleagues were assigned the task of smoothing over the bruised egos of those who had crossed Mr. Zelikow.
HELLO!!?!?! THIS IS THE GUY WHO SMOTHERED ALL REFERENCES TO RICE'S JUNE 2002 MEETING WITH TENET!!!! Then there's another touch-feely profile, this time for Tony Snowjob:
Snow, who is 51, is 6-foot-4, with a genial lectern slouch and a chin that looks as if it were built for contact. But the first thing you notice about him is his facility at managing the fragile balance of a press room, its constant teeter between sincerity, open hostility and absurdity...
Facility? The guy has made historically inept goofs time and again! But the article implies that, after 5 months on the job, it's OK coz Snow is still just learning the ropes. They say his regular lies may not "survive scholarly scrutiny", but they get the job done "like a temporary pontoon bridge built to scurry the troops across the river".
Tony Snow’s tenure is becoming a study in the science — and limits — of political charm.
Puh-lease! Snow's tenure is an excercise in the gullibility of the US public, and the mendacious silence of the corporate-owned press. Here's what Arianna said of his last week:
First he had to explain how President Bush never said "stay the course" despite all those listings on "The Google" that prove he did. Next, he had to explain how Vice President Cheney hadn't really confirmed that detainees were waterboarded despite that interview in which Cheney called the torture technique a "no-brainer." Finally, he was forced to keep a straight face while trying to make the case that those race-baiting RNC ads in Tennessee were "a little bit cute."

TIME's cover story this week: It's Lonely At the Top.
Yes, it's true that Florida Congressman Clay Shaw has been running radio ads to boast of his record working closely with a President, but the one he's talking about is Bill Clinton.

The campaign trail is not the only place where Bush is watching his friends scatter.... Iraq is what has put the President on the eve of a possible rebuke by voters. And if Bush were a different kind of politician—if he loved political jawboning like Lyndon Johnson or could show political elasticity like Bill Clinton—this moment might be less significant. But Bush has perfected the art of governing from inside his razor-thin majority, and is proud above all of his ideological toughness...

Even the President knows this election has become a national referendum on him and his performance... The President is now being featured in 89 separate TV commercials for Democratic House candidates nationwide.
And how's this for a taste of things to come:
In fact, when it comes to deploying its Executive power, which is dear to Bush's understanding of the presidency, the President's team has been planning for what one strategist describes as "a cataclysmic fight to the death" over the balance between Congress and the White House if confronted with congressional subpoenas it deems inappropriate. The strategist says the Bush team is "going to assert that power, and they're going to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court on every issue, every time, no compromise, no discussion, no negotiation."
The article finishes with an interesting Bush quote:
"They can say what they want about me, but at least I know who I am, and I know who my friends are."
Robert Fisk says Israel appears to have used uranium-based weapons against Lebanese:
Scientific evidence gathered from at least two bomb craters in Khiam and At-Tiri, the scene of fierce fighting between Hizbollah guerrillas and Israeli troops last July and August, suggests that uranium-based munitions may now also be included in Israel's weapons inventory - and were used against targets in Lebanon. According to Dr Chris Busby, the British Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, two soil samples thrown up by Israeli heavy or guided bombs showed "elevated radiation signatures". Both have been forwarded for further examination to the Harwell laboratory in Oxfordshire for mass spectrometry - used by the Ministry of Defence - which has confirmed the concentration of uranium isotopes in the samples.

Dr Busby's initial report states that there are two possible reasons for the contamination. "The first is that the weapon was some novel small experimental nuclear fission device or other experimental weapon (eg, a thermobaric weapon) based on the high temperature of a uranium oxidation flash ... The second is that the weapon was a bunker-busting conventional uranium penetrator weapon employing enriched uranium rather than depleted uranium." A photograph of the explosion of the first bomb shows large clouds of black smoke that might result from burning uranium.
Of course the IDF denies it.
What's Good For The Goose...

What can you say? The US government finally gets interested in the scandalous state of electronic voting machines and launches an investigation into the owners of one particular company ... err... because of their links to left-wing Venezuela.
The inquiry is focusing on the Venezuelan owners of the software company, the Smartmatic Corporation, and is trying to determine whether the government in Caracas has any control or influence over the firm’s operations, government officials and others familiar with the investigation said...

Smartmatic was a little-known firm with no experience in voting technology before it was chosen by the Venezuelan authorities to replace the country’s elections machinery ahead of a contentious referendum that confirmed Mr. Chávez as president in August 2004.

Seven months before that voting contract was awarded, a Venezuelan government financing agency invested more than $200,000 into a smaller technology company, owned by some of the same people as Smartmatic, that joined with Smartmatic as a minor partner in the bid.

In return, the government agency was given a 28 percent stake in the smaller company and a seat on its board, which was occupied by a senior government official who had previously advised Mr. Chávez on elections technology. But Venezuelan officials later insisted that the money was merely a small-business loan and that it was repaid before the referendum.

With a windfall of some $120 million from its first three contracts with Venezuela, Smartmatic then bought the much larger and more established Sequoia Voting Systems, which now has voting equipment installed in 17 states and the District of Columbia.
Read all about it in the New York Times.

October 27, 2006

The Oil War Wages On

Join the dots:

1. Increasing rumours that Team Bush is getting ready to drop support for Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, perhaps replacing him with a "strong man" like Allawi.

2. al-Maliki increasingly outspoken and at odds with US statements: now blaming the United States-led coalition for Iraq's chaos and faulting its military strategy. Says Iraqis can fend for themselves within 6 months.

3. al-Maliki's still has not signed the IMF-imposed oil law, which would turn over Iraq's oil reserves to mainly American oil companies on punitive terms.

I think al-Maliki and his fellow puppets are refusing to sign the Oil Law, either because they fear they will be strung up by angry mobs, or because they think they can manipulate the US out of Iraq and take control of the oil for themselves, or maybe a bit of both.
Press Pack Turns On Rumsfeld

And about bloody time! E&P highlights this exchange:

Q Given the record, Mr. Secretary, can you blame us for the tone, expressing some skepticism? Because --

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, no. That's your job. You can express all the skepticism you want.

Q Every time a benchmark has been laid down in terms of security forces, and the like, the Iraqis have been unable to meet them.

SEC. RUMSFELD: That is just false.

Q And you have no --

SEC. RUMSFELD: Just a minute. Just a minute!

That is false!

Q That is not false.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Every time a security benchmark has been laid down the Iraqis have failed to meet it? Wrong! Just isn't true. And it would be a shame if people walked out thinking it.

Just a minute! Just a minute!

Q Okay.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Now, why do I say it's wrong? Well, first of all, it has the benefit of being true that it's wrong...
Rummy later makes it clear that it is the word "every" which he objects to. He says the Iraqis have been able to meet benchmarks sometimes:
That means your question, your statement, your assertion is flat wrong. You said "every" security benchmark has been missed. That's not true! They've done a darn good job.

Q Perhaps the assertion was too precise --

SEC. RUMSFELD: Too precise? It was inaccurate.

Q But in terms of their ability --

SEC. RUMSFELD: You might want to retract it. Just for the fun of it, just retract it.
Picking at hairs while half a million pie lie dead, and more follow every day...
How Can We Make It Sound Good? Figuring Out A Matrix

How bizarre is this? Bush and the US media working together - thinking out loud, almost - to try to figure out a way to spin what's happening in Iraq as good news:
Q: I want to go on the air –

THE PRESIDENT: You want to say, 12 million people voted, or we killed Zarqawi.

Q: I want to go on the air tonight, I want some good news. I need some good news, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I do, too.

Q: I really do.

THE PRESIDENT: You're talking to Noah about the flood. I do, too.

Q: It's a hard thing.

THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate that, but – go ahead.

Q: You said if we leave Iraq they'll come after us –


Q: – we've heard you say that quite specifically. So maybe that's a sign of victory, is that they haven't come here.

THE PRESIDENT: Look, he's trying – this is so hard. That's what makes this more difficult – I don't know what Harry Truman was feeling like, or Franklin Roosevelt. But I do know – I'm sure there were moments of high frustration for them – but I do know that at Midway, they were eventually able to say two carriers were sunk and one was damaged. We don't get to say that. A thousand of the enemy killed, or whatever the number was. It's happening; you just don't know it. And there's no scorecard. There's not a scoreboard that makes it – great, four more schools – that doesn't score, that doesn't mean anything.

You know, Larry, I've thought long and hard about this, because it is precisely what is frustrating most people. Most people out there – I agree with you – those who say we shouldn't have been there, they're clear. A lot of people – one time I – well, a lot of people are just saying, you're not doing enough to win. We're not winning, you're not doing enough to win, and I'm frustrated, I want it over with, with victory. And I'm trying to figure out a matrix that says things are getting better. I think that one way to measure is less violence than before, I guess...
How crazy is that?

Bush says real progress in Iraq is "happening, you just don't know it". But his own forces are the ones who "don't do body counts" so of course there is no "scorecard" for him to point to.

Would it help him to point to 3,000 US deaths versus 655,000 Iraqi deaths? Would that constitute "good news"? Would that constitute "victory"?

UPDATE: As Greg Sargent reveals, the quote above is not actually from Bush's press conference yesterday, but from a follow-up interview in the Oval Office which he gave to eight conservative columnists.
People want to know, can you win? That's what they want to know. I mean, there's – look, there's some 25 percent or so that want us to get out, shouldn't have been out there in the first place – and that's fine. They're wrong. But you can understand why they feel that way. They just don't believe in war, and – at any cost. I believe when you get attacked and somebody declares war on you, you fight back. And that's what we're doing.
As Atrios says (yet again), "we weren't attacked by Iraq. No wonder they hate us."

UPDATE 2: Dan Froomkin weighs in:
It's becoming increasingly clear that Bush sees the war in Iraq in very simple terms. As he himself said, he believes that the only way to lose is to leave. Therefore anything else is winning -- anything else at all.

Even if no progress is being made -- even if things are getting worse, rather than better -- simply staying is winning.

So we're winning.

Bush expanded on this principle in a fascinating, one-hour Oval Office interview yesterday afternoon with a half-dozen conservative journalists... The result was a slew of disjointed, sometimes not particularly intelligible, but sometimes deeply telling insights into his thinking about the war. It's a heckuva read.
Froomkin cites Bush's opening remarks:
"Abizaid, who I think is one of the really great thinkers, John Abizaid -- I don't know if you've ever had a chance to talk to him, he's a smart guy -- he came up with this construct: If we leave, they will follow us here. That's really different from other wars we've been in. If we leave, okay, so they suffer in other parts of the world, used to be the old mantra. This one is different. This war is, if they leave, they're coming after us. As a matter of fact, they'll be more emboldened to come after us. They will be able to find more recruits to come after us.

"Abizaid clearly sees this struggle -- he sees the effects of victory in Iraq as having a major impact on other parts of the Middle East. He also sees the reciprocal of that, a defeat -- just leaving -- the only defeat is leaving, is letting things fall into chaos and letting al Qaeda have a safe haven."

As for "stay the course"? Said Bush: "This stuff about 'stay the course' -- stay the course means, we're going to win. Stay the course does not mean that we're not going to constantly change."
So we ARE staying the course, after all. And everybody we are fighting in Iraq is still a terrrrrst. And the world is still flat. UPDATE 3: Another snippet from E&P:
"And they're coming. ... That's why we need to be on the offense all the time. Iraq is the central part of this global war right now." ...

Another columnist asked: "Isn't the problem that the American people were behind -- solidly behind -- this when you went in and you toppled the Taliban, when you go in and you topple Saddam. But when it just seems to be a kind of thankless semi-colonial policing defensive operation with no end -- I mean, where is the offense in this?"

Part of Bush's reply: "I share the same frustration you share." But he didn't answer the question directly.

Another columnist said even conservatives wonder if the U.S. is winning in Iraq, and asked: "How can you measure winning? The last couple of years there just doesn't seem to be any signals or signs that we're winning."

Bush answered: "That is the significant disadvantage we have in this war because the enemy gets to define victory by killing people."
Bush did not say how he defines victory: by seizing control of Iraq's oil on behalf of his Big Oil buddies.
The Jewish Lobby In Australia

A good wrap-up from Antony Loewenstein.
It’s time for Jews to stop blaming everybody else for Israeli failures. Enough with the Holocaust, alleged Palestinian “terror” and victimhood. Take some responsibility for the parlous state of Israel in the international community. For all of us who want a safer Middle East, today’s Israel is currently the problem, not the cure.
A Look at the Numbers: How the Rich Get Richer
IN 1985, THE FORBES 400 were worth $221 billion combined. Today, they’re worth $1.13 trillion—more than the GDP of Canada.

THERE’VE BEEN FEW new additions to the Forbes 400. The median household income has also stagnated—at around $44,000.

AMONG THE FORBES 400 who gave to a 2004 presidential campaign, 72% gave to Bush.

IN 2005, there were 9 million American millionaires, a 62% increase since 2002.

IN 2005, 25.7 million Americans received food stamps, a 49% increase since 2000.

ONLY ESTATES worth more than $1.5 million are taxed. That’s less than 1% of all estates. Still, repealing the estate tax will cost the government at least $55 billion a year.

ONLY 3% OF STUDENTS at the top 146 colleges come from families in the bottom income quartile; only 10% come from the bottom half.

BUSH’S TAX CUTS GIVE a 2-child family earning $1 million an extra $86,722—or Harvard tuition, room, board, and an iMac G5 for both kids.

A 2-CHILD family earning $50,000 gets $2,050—or 1/5 the cost of public college for one kid.

THIS YEAR, Donald Trump will earn $1.5 million an hour to speak at Learning Annex seminars.

ADJUSTED FOR INFLATION, the federal minimum wage has fallen 42% since its peak in 1968.

IF THE $5.15 HOURLY minimum wage had risen at the same rate as CEO compensation since 1990, it would now stand at $23.03.

A MINIMUM WAGE employee who works 40 hours a week for 51 weeks a year goes home with $10,506 before taxes.

SUCH A WORKER would take 7,000 years to earn Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s yearly compensation.

ELLISON RECENTLY posed in Vanity Fair with his $300 million, 454-foot yacht, which he noted is “really only the size of a very large house.”

ONLY THE WEALTHIEST 20% of Americans spend more on entertainment than on health care.

THE $17,530 EARNED by the average Wal-Mart employee last year was $1,820 below the poverty line for a family of 4.

5 OF AMERICA’S 10 richest people are Wal-Mart heirs.

PUBLIC COMPANIES spend 10% of their earnings compensating their top 5 executives.

1,730 BOARD MEMBERS of the nation’s 1,000 leading companies sit on the boards of 4 or more other corporations—including half of Coca-Cola’s 14-person board.

THE BIDDER who won a round of golf with Tiger Woods for $30,100 at a 2004 Buick charity auction could deduct all but about $200.

TIGER MADE $87 million in 2005, all but $12 million from endorsements and appearance fees.

THE 5TH LEADING philanthropist last year was Boone Pickens, in part due to his $165 million gift to Oklahoma State University’s golf program.

WITHIN AN HOUR, OSU invested it in a hedge fund Pickens controls. Thanks to a Katrina relief provision, his “gift” was also 100% deductible.

LAST YEAR 250 COMPANIES gave top execs between $50,000 and $1 million worth of wholly personal flights on corporate jets.

THIS PERK is 66% more costly to companies whose CEO belongs to out-of-state golf clubs.

THE U.S. GOVERNMENT spends $500,000 on 8 security screeners who speed execs from a Wall Street helipad to American’s JFK terminal.

UNITED HAS CUT the pensions and salaries of most employees but promised 400 top executives 8% of the shares it expects to issue upon emerging from bankruptcy.

UNITED’S TOP 8 execs will also get a bonus of between 55% and 100% of their salaries.

IN 2002, “turnaround artist” Robert Miller dumped Bethlehem Steel’s pension obligation, allowing “vulture investor” Wilbur L. Ross to buy steel stock and sell it at a 1,000% profit.

IN 2005, DELPHI HIRED Miller for $4.5 million. After Ross said he might buy Delphi if its labor costs fell, Miller demanded wage cuts of up to 63% and dumped the pension obligation.

10 FORMER ENRON directors agreed to pay shareholders a $13 million settlement—which is 10% of what they made by dumping stock while lying about the company’s health.

POOR AMERICANS spend 1/4 of their income on residential energy costs.

EXXON’S 2005 PROFIT of $36.13 billion is more than the GDP of 2/3 of the world’s nations.

CEO PAY AMONG military contractors has tripled since 2001. For David Brooks, the CEO of bulletproof vest maker DHB, it’s risen 13,233%.
A History Lesson

Via the Prof:
Both the Johnson and Nixon Administrations warned that a US failure to win the war in Vietnam and to withdraw without achieving its objectives would have dire consequences. Our allies would be dismayed and our enemies emboldened. Widespread instability would be certain to follow. In the event, negotiations were undertaken to cover the withdrawal. It was the product of a complex diplomacy, including the establishment of a dialogue with Communist China, and negotiations with North Vietnam--both countries the US vowed it would never talk to.

Exxon Mobil Corp. on Thursday said earnings rose six per cent to $US10.5 billion, the second-largest quarterly operating profit ever by a US company:
"It seems like almost every quarter Exxon Mobil and the other big oil companies are shattering all previous profit records," Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in a statement.

"These companies are doing so not because they're creating any new product or being innovative, but because they control the supply of foreign oil that feeds America's addiction."
Meanwhile, US home prices fell last month by the largest amount in 35 years and owners are being warned to brace for further declines.
A List of Members of 109th Congress Being Investigated by the Dept. of Justice
Simon Jenkins:
Blair speaks of staying until the job is finished. What job? The only job he can mean is his own.

October 26, 2006

Spreading Democracy In the Middle East...

... turns out to be just another neo-con wet dream. From WaPo via Josh:
Horror at the bloodshed accompanying the U.S. effort to bring democracy to Iraq has accomplished what human rights activists, analysts and others say Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had been unable to do by himself: silence public demands for democratic reforms here.

The idea of the government as a bulwark of stability and security has long been the watchword of Syrian bureaucrats and village elders. But since Iraq's descent into sectarian and ethnic war -- and after Israel's war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, on the other side of Syria -- even Syrian activists concede that the country's feeble rights movement is moribund.

Advocates of democracy are equated now with supporters of America, even "traitors," said Maan Abdul Salam, 36, a Damascus publisher who has coordinated conferences on women's rights and similar topics.
Pick A Number, Any Number...

Reproduced in full from Tim Dunlop's excellent blog, Road To Surfdom:
How many chemical weapons does Saddam have, Mr Bush?
U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents.
How many Iraqi police are there in the streets in Iraq, Mr Bush?
Throughout Iraq, there are some 30,000 police patrolling the streets.
How many new businesses have started in Iraq, Mr Bush?
Since April 2003, 30,000 New Businesses Have Started In Iraq.
How many Iraqi teachers have you trained, Mr Bush?
In the space of two-and-a-half years, we have helped Iraqis conduct nearly 3,000 renovation projects at schools, train more than 30,000 teachers, distribute more than 8 million textbooks…
How much territory do Iraqi units patrol, Mr Bush?
Today, Iraqi units have primary responsibility for more than 30,000 square miles of Iraq…
How many Iraqis have been killed, Mr Bush?
How many Iraqi citizens have died in this war? I would say 30,000, more or less, have died as a result of the initial incursion and the ongoing violence against Iraqis.
Did you still stand by that figure, Mr Bush?
Q — the 30,000, Mr. President? Do you stand by your figure, 30,000?

THE PRESIDENT: You know, I stand by the figure. A lot of innocent people have lost their life — 600,000, or whatever they guessed at, is just — it’s not credible. Thank you.
The stats and quotes above were extracted by Tim from this piece by Tom Engelhart.
Torture Inc.

Cheney confirms that detainees were subjected to water-boarding:
Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed that U.S. interrogators subjected captured senior al Qaida suspects to a controversial interrogation technique called "water-boarding," which creates a sensation of drowning.

Cheney indicated that the Bush administration doesn't regard water-boarding as torture and allows the CIA to use it. "It's a no-brainer for me," Cheney said at one point in an interview.

Cheney's comments, in a White House interview on Tuesday with a conservative radio talk show host, appeared to reflect the Bush administration's view that the president has the constitutional power to do whatever he deems necessary to fight terrorism.

The U.S. Army, senior Republican lawmakers, human rights experts and many experts on the laws of war, however, consider water-boarding cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment that's banned by U.S. law and by international treaties that prohibit torture. Some intelligence professionals argue that it often provides false or misleading information because many subjects will tell their interrogators what they think they want to hear to make the water-boarding stop.
Congrats to the McClatchy writer for putting it in context. Maybe the press is waking up at last?
Lee Ann McBride, a spokeswoman for Cheney, denied that Cheney had confirmed that U.S. interrogators used water-boarding or endorsed the technique.
But here's what Cheney actuallyy said in an interview on Tuesday with Scott Hennen of WDAY Radio :
[Hennen] told Cheney that listeners had asked him to "let the vice president know that if it takes dunking a terrorist in water, we're all for it, if it saves American lives."

"Again, this debate seems a little silly given the threat we face, would you agree?" Hennen said.

"I do agree," Cheney replied, according to a transcript of the interview released Wednesday. "And I think the terrorist threat, for example, with respect to our ability to interrogate high-value detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, that's been a very important tool that we've had to be able to secure the nation."
The U.S. Army Field Manual (revised last month) bans water-boarding as "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment." Various GOP Senators (including former POW John McCain) who signed last month's Military Commissions Act claim that it prohibits water-boarding. LEt's hope they have some hard questions for the Big Dick.
So, Err... Who's The Decider?

Bush's angry puppet hits back:
Nouri al-Maliki, anxious to prove he is not a US puppet, criticised a heavy-handed American raid on the Shia militia stronghold in Sadr City, made without his knowledge. He also repudiated the US assertion 24 hours earlier that his Government has 12 months to quell Iraq’s nascent civil war.
To quote from Wikipedia:
Mr. Hat initially appeared to be simply a puppet used by Mr. Garrison as a teaching aide. However, Mr. Hat later appears to perform activities not possible if he was merely a puppet, and it is not entirely clear how much autonomy Mr. Hat and Mr. Garrison have from each other.

George Bush Has NEVER Been Stay The Course!
Israeli Jets Fire On German Ship

Breaking News:
Two Israeli warplanes and a German navy vessel have clashed off the Lebanese coast, the Defence Ministry in Berlin says.

German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel earlier quoted a junior German defence minister as telling a parliamentary committee that two Israeli F-16 fighters flew low over the German ship and fired two shots.
UPDATE: An Israeli military spokeswoman says, "There was no such incident."
The Israeli military spokeswoman said the German statements appeared to refer to an incident that took place on Tuesday.

Jets were scrambled when a helicopter took off from a German aircraft carrier close to Israeli waters without identifying itself. The pilots of the planes realized the mistake, did not engage the helicopter and returned home, the spokeswoman said.

Israel's Channel Two television said that, in a separate incident off the Lebanese coast, Israeli warplanes deployed chaff and this may have been detected by the German navy.
Hmmn, so who you gonna believe? Credibility is a bitch, man…
3.5 Million Votes Not Counted in 2004
Why doesn’t your government tell you this?

Hey, they do. It’s right there in black and white in a U.S. Census Bureau announcement released seven months after the election — in a footnote.
Read more from Greg Palast: Recipe for a Cooked Election.
Be afraid: it looks like Carlyle Group is bidding for the Tribune Co. newspaper group, which includes the LA Times and Chicago Tribune.
Bush's GOP: Changing Course On Midterms

GOP leaders are now telling candidates: don't mention the war!

Meanwhile Bush, who chose to make the war the central issue of the past two months in the belief that it would be a winner, is now desperately trying to run interference:
"If you are asking about accountability, it rests right here --- that's what the 2004 campaign was about ... if people are unhappy about it, look right to the president," Bush said at a White House news conference.
Of coure, if you really want accountability, you won't get it from this administration. So vote for impeachment!
The New York Times apologizes for lying about Liebermann:
But five of Mr. Lieberman’s “stay the course” references were, in fact, included in the database, and should have been mentioned in the article. It is unclear why the phrase did not come up when the database was checked before publication. The same search on Tuesday, after readers complained, yielded the correct results.
Don't Believe the Pullout Hype

What's really going on with this handover/pullout/withdrawal talk is twofold: getting Bush through the mid-term elections and setting the GOP up for some kind of "victory" just before the 2008 elections.

Take a close look at this "explosive" (not) news from SMH:
AUSTRALIAN troops are set to start pulling out of Iraq within 12 to 18 months, Australia's top officer in the Middle East has said.

Brigadier Mick Moon, commander of Australian forces in the Middle East, told the Herald yesterday the situation should have stabilised enough by then to allow coalition troops to withdraw from direct control of Iraq, including its strife-torn capital, Baghdad.

"Twelve to 18 months sounds about right," he said. "Obviously we're all very keen to see that handover of control to Iraqi security forces as soon as possible."

"We are about 75 per cent of the way through … and it's going to take another 12 to 18 months or so until I believe the Iraqi security forces are completely capable of taking over," General Casey said.
Bush has two years left to run. The coded message is that it will all be apples by the time he goes. Yeah, right.
More ironic truths from Bush:
"Reconciliation is difficult in a country that has been tortured and divided by a tyrant."
US troops on active duty call for Iraq withdrawal:
"As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq," states the appeal posted on the campaign's Web site at www.appealforredress.org.

"Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home," it adds.

October 25, 2006

"A Lying, Cheating, Coke-Sniffing, Drunk-Driving, Money-Grubbing Mass Murderer"

Viva Ted Rall! Lets see how many outlets have the balls to publish that!
What About The Wounded?

WaPo looks at Doonesbury's War.
Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

Jeff Jarvis realizes that the Iraq War was a mistake. Just don't expect an apology for his cheer-leading role.
Isreali Fascists
"I would not hesitate to send the Israeli army into all of Area A for 48 hours. Destroy the foundation of all the authority's military infrastructure, all of the police buildings, the arsenals, all the posts of the security forces... not leave one stone on another. Destroy everything."
The man who said that in 2002 has just become vice prime minister and, as "Minister for Strategic Threats," a key member of Israel's "security cabinet" in charge of the Iran portfolio.
When he served as minister of transport in a previous government, Lieberman called for all Palestinian prisoners held by the Israeli occupation authorities to be drowned in the Dead Sea and offered to provide the buses... He also suggested to the Israeli cabinet that the air force systematically bomb all the commercial centers, gas stations and banks in the occupied territories. And, he has proposed bombing Egypt's Aswan Dam, despite that country's peace treaty with Israel since 1979. What will he propose to do to Iran?
Magic Happens

You know, one of the most beautiful moments of my life was when my little girl was born into this world and she recognised me as her father. She was born by C-section. After a quick cuddle from Mummy, she was taken out of the operating theatre for a quick bath and a warm wrapping, then handed into my care for about thirty minutes, while Mummy got stitched up. I had been singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" to her in the womb, and now I started gently singing it to her again. She immediately stopped crying and gave me a surprised look of recognition. That was about the best thirty minutes of my life.

It wan't long before she was poking out her tongue when we poked out our tongues, and you could see how happy she was just to be communicating. There were other magic milestones in communication too, of course, like when she first managed to communicate with her hands, or when she said her first words.

It occurs to me that that - fundamentally - is what we are doing here: communicating. And there is a certain joy you get when you communicate the honest truth. And it's magic.
A U.S. Fortress Rises in Baghdad: Asian Workers Trafficked to Build World's Largest Embassy
"I've never seen a project more fucked up. Every US labor law was broken."
Get Out The Vote... For Impeachment!

Let's March in January!
I propose that the anti-war and impeachment movements combine forces and organize a massive petition campaign to obtain five million signatures calling on the Congress to initiate impeachment hearings on President Bush’s Constitutional high crimes, misdemeanors, treason and bribery, and that this petition be delivered to the future Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the future chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI). Delivery of this document could be made on January 20, 2007, on the sixth anniversary of Bush’s benighted first inauguration. If the grassroots campaign organizations that have mobilized for the election turn to gathering signatures off their same voter lists right after Election Day, it shouldn’t be hard to get at least that many signatures. (There are already a number of groups, like Veterans for Peace, collecting signatures. These efforts can all be coordinated.)

I propose that this petition then be carried by demonstrators in a reverse "Un-Inauguration Impeachment March" that could assemble at the White House and proceed down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol steps (retracing the impeachment march Bush tried to make before his entourage started to face heckling and eggs). There, a set of proposed articles of impeachment could be formally read out, perhaps by members of Congress who would later be submitting them as formal impeachment bills to the House Judiciary Committee.

We are going to need something like this because the Democratic leadership--most notably Pelosi, but including the likes of Democratic House Campaign Committee Chair Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) and many of those in the Democratic Leadership Council--are publicly stating that they will try to block any impeachment bills.
Course? What Course?

10/22/06: “The Bush administration is drafting a timetable for the Iraqi government to address sectarian divisions and assume a larger role in securing the country, senior American officials said.” [New York Times, 10/22/06]

7/25/06: “President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced plans to enhance security forces in Baghdad in an effort to stem the growing violence in the Iraqi capital…The new security plan also calls for coalition forces to provide greater firepower and protection equipment to the Iraqi forces.” [U.S. Department of State, 7/25/06]

6/25/06: “There was also word from the Pentagon on a new plan to cut the number of U.S. troops in Iraq…U.S. military officials confirm that the plan could cut the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq by more than half, perhaps as low as 50,000 troops by the end of next year.” [“NBC Nightly News,” 6/25/06]

6/13/06: Bush and his Cabinet met about the new Iraq Unity government’s plan and “assessed ongoing U.S. efforts in each area of the Iraqi plan and directed adjustments to U.S. plans as necessary to fully align with the plans of the new government.” [White House Fact Sheet, 6/13/06]

11/30/05: Under a “Plan for Victory” banner, Bush “spelled out what he called his strategy for victory in Iraq.” [AP, 11/30/05]

5/24/04: In a speech in Pennsylvania, Bush “laid out a five-point plan to ‘achieve freedom and peace in Iraq.’” [AP, 5/25/04]

11/17/03: Bush said, “In November of 2003, we negotiated a new plan with the Governing Council, with steps for an accelerated transition to Iraqi self-government.” [AP, 11/17/03; White House Remarks, 12/12/05]

9/9/03: “Bush began a delicate drive today to build national and global support for his expensive new plan for controlling Iraq…A day after using a prime-time television address to reveal his $ 87 billion budget for the war on terrorism next year, Bush and his aides said the stakes in Iraq are so grave that they should dwarf any diplomatic disagreements or skepticism about the costs.” [Washington Post, 9/9/03]

7/23/03: Bush “said that his chief administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, has a new plan to accelerate the progress of Iraqi reconstruction.’ The plan sets out ambitious timetables and clear benchmarks to measure progress and practical methods for achieving results,’ said Bush.” [White House Remarks, 7/23/03; Christian Science Monitor, 7/24/03]
Are You Experienced?

Cheney writes off Barak Obama:
"I think at this stage, my initial take on him was he's been two years as a senator. I think people might want a little more experience than that, given the nature of the times we live in."
Now call me biased if you will, but that sounds a lot like veiled criticism of the inexperienced Boy George to me.
Olbermann on how the GOP is shamelessly Advertising Terrorism:
The dictionary definition of the word "terrorize" is simple and not open to misinterpretation:

"To fill or overpower with terror; terrify. To coerce by intimidation or fear."

Note please, that the words "violence" and "death" are missing from that definition.

The key to terror, the key to terrorism, is not the act - but the fear of the act.

That is why bin Laden and his deputies and his imitators are forever putting together videotaped statements and releasing virtual infomercials with dire threats and heart-stopping warnings.

But why is the Republican Party imitating them?

Bin Laden puts out what amounts to a commercial of fear; The Republicans put out what is unmistakable as a commercial of fear.

The Republicans are paying to have the messages of bin Laden and the others broadcast into your home.
Losing In Iraq: The Movie

Greg Mitchell:
Over the years, I have made few requests of readers of this column, beyond hinting that, maybe, you ought to return here from time to time. But now I have to urge you to drop everything, finish reading this come-on, and then link to the video described below. It’s the most revealing little (eight-minute) video I’ve seen yet on our country’s preposterous position in Iraq.

Aptly, it is titled, "Iraq: The Real Story." It won’t turn your stomach, in fact, you may even chuckle in spots (like you might have done in reading much of “Catch-22”). But, hopefully, you will end up screaming at the computer screen.
To watch the video click here.
Always Look On The Bright Side

"I'm in the movie. The only downside I see is if I appear to be a fool."

October 24, 2006

WaPo Hearts Rummy

The only thing wrong with this WaPo piece is that is framed as an excuse not to blame Rumsfeld for screwing up Iraq, on the wierd basis that things are now so screwed up everywhere else as well:
Five years ago, President Bush launched an experiment in tough-talk diplomacy, warning foreign leaders that they must be with us or against us in the war on terrorism. At first this yielded at least one achievement: Pakistan sent troops for the first time into its wild border regions to root out Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters. But that success has now gone into reverse. Pakistan recently withdrew its soldiers, in effect ceding the border territory to the radicals.

It would be nice if this merely proved that tough talk can backfire. But traditional diplomacy is faring no better. In North Korea and Iran, the United States has tried every diplomatic trick to prevent nuclear proliferation, making common cause with Western Europe, Russia, China and Japan, and wielding both sticks and carrots. The result is failure: North Korea has tested a nuke and Iran still presses on with its enrichment program.

A few years ago, the collapse of Russia's currency triggered a furious debate in Washington over who lost Russia. Now Russia's pro-Western voices are being snuffed out, and Americans are so inured to the limits of their power that they don't even pose that question. A crusading journalist has been killed, and on Thursday Vladimir Putin silenced Human Rights, Amnesty International and more than 90 other foreign organizations. Everyone accepts that there's not much the West can do about this.

In Somalia, a Taliban-style group of Islamic militants has seized part of the country. One of its commanders is said to be sheltering terrorists who blew up the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania: A brand-new terrorist haven may be emerging. Again, it is assumed that the world's sole superpower can't do much but watch.

Three long years ago, the Bush administration described the killing in Darfur as genocide. You might think that an impoverished African state that can't control its own territory would be a pushover. But the Bush administration has tried sanctions, peace talks and United Nations resolutions. Sudan's tin-pot dictator thumbs his nose at Uncle Sam and dispatches more death squads.
Curiously, that article links to another WaPo piece painting Rummy as a convenient scapegoat for all Bush's mistakes. It sure sounds like this a concerted effort by Rumsfeld to get his side of the story across before everything goes tits-up:
Don Rumsfeld is the shrewdest person in Washington. He understands better than anyone that somebody has to be in line to take the blame when things go wrong. So far he has been willing to do so. But not much longer...

Until now George W. Bush has resisted all of the pressure to get rid of his defense secretary. But those in the know say that the president may have reached the point where he realizes that Rumsfeld has outlived his usefulness.

Still, the president must be aware on some level that once the pugnacious, outspoken and flak-attracting Rumsfeld leaves the stage, the focus will be on the president. Whether Bush realizes it or not, this is about a scapegoat...

[I]f Rumsfeld goes, the attention and criticism can be directed only to Cheney, or to Bush.
What the author fails to mention is that you don't need to sacrifice a scapegoat if you haven't made a big mistake. And ... er... isn't Rummy in charge of some department called the Pentagon? And hasn't he consistently (and loudly) spouted a line of argument which turns out to have been completely wrong? That's not scape-goating: that's accountability, baby.

Meanwhile, Rummy is busy with a little scape-goating of his own:
"The biggest mistake would be to not pass things over to the Iraqis, create a dependency on their part, instead of developing strength and capacity and competence," said Rumsfeld. "It's their country, they're going to have to govern it, they're going to have to provide security for it, and they're going to have to do it sooner rather than later. And that means they've got to take pieces of it as we go along."

All these years I have been waiting and hoping that one fine day, George W. Bush would read my blog and learn the horrible truth about himself. Now I learn that the man is not just computer illiterate, he is a technophobe to boot!
In a CNBC interview with Maria Bartiromo, Bush was asked a question on many of our minds: “I’m curious, have you ever Googled anybody? Do you use Google?”

According to CNBC’s unofficial transcript, he replied: “Occasionally. One of the things I’ve used on the Google is to pull up maps. It’s very interesting to see that. I forgot the name of the program, but you get the satellite and you can — like, I kind of like to look at the ranch on Google, reminds me of where I want to be sometimes. Yeah, I do it some.” He added: “I tend not to email or — not only tend not to email, I don’t email, because of the different record requests that can happen to a president. I don’t want to receive emails because, you know, there’s no telling what somebody’s email may — it would show up as, you know, a part of some kind of a story, and I wouldn’t be able to say, `Well, I didn’t read the email.’ `But I sent it to your address, how can you say you didn’t?’ So, in other words, I’m very cautious about emailing.”
Or maybe he is just afraid of doing jail time.

Actually, what has just said there explains a lot about this Presidency. Bush DOESN'T WANT TO KNOW because then he would be held responsible if things go wrong. So where exactly does the buck stop? An administration that rules by fear is itself paralysed by fear.
Charting A New Course

Bush now says, "We've never been stay the course." Ironically, there is some truth in that: despite Bush's "steely" public bravado, his administration has shifted rationales for their invasion of Iraq over and over again. Their goal of seizing Iraq oil and establising US bases may never have changed, but the strategies for achieving it were always open to suggestion.

It now looks like Bush will be forced to change tack, if not chart a whole new course (whether or not his ultimate goal is still achieveable remains to be seen). But it is also clear that we, the people of his crazy coalition, need to take a good look at where we are now, how we got here, and then make sure that our governments know exactly where we want them to go next.

Come with me on a little trip through the anti-war press, such as it exists. We start with the UK Times, and Matthew Parris:
It is no small thing to find oneself on the wrong side of an argument when the debate is about the biggest disaster in British foreign policy since Suez; no small thing to have handed Iran a final, undreamt-of victory in an Iran-Iraq war that we thought had ended in the 1980s; no small thing to have lost Britain her credit in half the world; no small thing — in the name of Atlanticism — to have shackled our own good name to a doomed US presidency and crazed foreign-policy adventure that the next political generation in America will remember only with an embarrassed shudder.

It is no small thing to have embellished the philosophy, found the prose and made the case for the most almighty cock-up in politics that we are ever likely to witness.
As the USA increasingly blames the Iraqis for their self-made mess, Parris thinks UK neo-cons will blame the USA:
“The principle was good but the Americans screwed up the execution.”
Justin Raimondo picks up the argument:
There's more to neoconservatism than a callous disregard for facts and a persistence that borders on mania.

The complete disregard for American interests – which can be measured in the rising U.S. casualty rate and the worldwide diplomatic and political "blowback" emanating from the decision to invade – goes beyond mere recklessness. It's not as if they made an honest mistake: American interests did not enter into the calculations of key policymakers. Other interests were paramount in the decision to go to war, and since we're talking about the neoconservatives, Israel was surely a major factor, if not the determining factor, pushing us into Iraq...

The AIPAC spy scandal – in which the top official at AIPAC, former pro-Israel spark plug Steve Rosen, and foreign policy analyst Keith Weissman were indicted for violating the Espionage Act – is the signal that the tide is turning against the [pro-Israel] Lobby. If AIPAC survives the trial of Rosen and Weissman, I'd be very surprised...

[And yet] the AIPAC case is the dorsal fin of something much larger lurking just below the surface. This was indicated by hints of Israeli involvement in the faux "intelligence" that was funneled to the White House, Congress, and the American people by the secretive Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon. According to former Pentagon analyst Karen Kwiatkowski, Israelis enjoyed rights of unrestricted access and didn't bother to go through the process of signing in at high-level Pentagon meetings with U.S. officials...

Before the AIPAC investigation is through, it could cut a wide swath through the world of Washington politics, ensnaring members of both parties and exposing the true extent of Israel's fifth column in America.
Now let's turn to Scott McConnell in the American Conservative:
The cat is now out of the bag, and despite the lobby’s best effort to suppress it, there will be a more freewheeling debate about whether America’s Mideast policy should be so completely Israel-centric. The subject has simply become too important to ignore.

... with the Mideast now on the front burner, as even Bush administration officials acknowledge, America will have no allies whatsoever in the war against terrorists unless progress is made towards a fair settlement of the Palestine question; it is shameful to remain silent. Walt and Mearsheimer have opened the door, and others of great eminence have joined them. The Iraq War highlights the price of continued indifference or silence, and the price can only grow steeper.
People the world over just want to live out their lives in peace. These mad wars concocted by political and business elites are never in the people's interests.

Those of us who live in countries which have been dragged into such wars by our governments now need to reach deep and force our fellow countrymen to chart a new course, one based on the very values which the war-mongers have hypocritically espoused for so long: equality, altruism, peace, respect, and stability.
Bush As Failed Entrepeneur of America Inc.

From Josh Marshall:
Think of the president as a failed or deadbeat entrepreneur (again, not such a stretch) who's already lost his investors a ton of money. He goes back to them and says, 'Okay, fine. You think I'm a moron and a screw-up who lost you guys a ton of money. Fine. But do you really want to finally, totally, conclusively kiss that $300 billion goodbye. You wanna just totally call it quits? Admit it's a total loss? What about giving me just another $10 billion and maybe somehow I'll actually pull this off?..."

In this way, paradoxically, the very magnitude of the president's failure has become his tacit ally. It's just such a big thing to come to grips with. And reinvesting in the president's folly, even after any hope of recouping the money is gone, carries the critical fringe benefit of sustaining our own collective and increasing threadbare denial.

But President Bush's interests are not the same as the country's. He's maxed out, in for 100%. If Iraq is a failure, a mistake, then the same words will be written right after his name in the history books. A country, though, can take missteps and mistakes, course corrections and dead ends, and move on. We've done it before and we'll do it again.

But President Bush can't and won't withdraw from Iraq because when he does, under the current conditions, he'll sign the epitaph, the historical death warrant for his presidency. Unlike in the past there are no family friends to pawn the failure off on and let them take the loss. It's all his. So he'll keep kicking the can down the road forever.
So OPEC will cut production and gas prices will rise just before the mid-terms, right? So much for that idea:
Oil fell below $59 a barrel on Monday as traders doubted all OPEC members would follow Saudi Arabia's lead to curb output under an agreement reached last week...

"The market is highly skeptical that OPEC will deliver the promised cuts in crude oil production," said Tobin Gorey of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. "OPEC's discipline in sticking to output targets has been lax, at best, in the past."

October 23, 2006

Molly Ivins:
We always look good going into the last two weeks, until we get hit with that wall of Republican money.

Gold Star Families for Peace is calling for an action in front of the White House on the days of November 6th to November 9th (due to the urgency of our situation, we are beginning the sit-in on Saturday, Nov. 4) to perform a Gandhi-like sit down for peace and justice.
Bush's AsiaPac Deputy Imperialist

Here's what Australian Prime Minister John Howard has to say about an Australian Federal Police officer conducting a raid on the office of the Solomon Islands PM:
"That's not a matter for me to comment on. That was conducted by a police officer employed by the Solomon Islands," he said.

"He happens to be an Australian but it doesn't alter the fact that he's answerable to the Solomon Islands Government.

"He had a good reputation in Australia and people tell me he's done a very good job."
Oh, goody. Now Australia (US Puppet Govt #2) gets to install it's own little mini-puppet governments. That will encourage the locals to love us even more, I am sure.

Now we know what we know, why is Blair still in office?
I believe we need to know exactly what happened in 2002 in order to decide what we are going to do now. The collapse of allied purpose is clear, Iraq is in free fall, yet we still have not found out exactly how a small group of politicians and officials hijacked policy and took us to war against the clear wishes of the nation.
43 To 41: Shut Up, Dad

Bush chides father for election remarks:
"He shouldn't be speculating like this, because -- he should have called me ahead of time and I'd tell him they're not going to (win)," a smiling Bush told ABC "This Week" in an interview broadcast on Sunday.
That's after Bush Snr was quoted as saying, "I would hate to think ... what my son's life would be like" if their Republican Party lost its majorities.
We Are Ruled By Idiots

As words go, they don't come much more Orwellian than "mis-spoke":
Fernandez said he realised after reading the interview transcript that he "seriously misspoke" in using the phrase, "there has been arrogance and stupidity" by the United States in Iraq.
How do you mis-speak "seriously"? Was this word even in existence a decade ago?
Bush: ‘We’ve Never Been Stay The Course’

Un. B. Leave. A. Bull. From Think Progress:
STEPHANOPOULOS: James Baker says that he’s looking for something between “cut and run” and “stay the course.”

BUSH: Well, hey, listen, we’ve never been “stay the course,” George. We have been — we will complete the mission, we will do our job, and help achieve the goal, but we’re constantly adjusting to tactics. Constantly.
Via Aussie Bob.
Does The USA Control The Iraqi Blogosphere?

Iraqi Konfused Kid has a good roundup of Iraqi blogger's response to the shit-fight from his previous post about Iraq The Model and the Lancet study (655,000 deaths).

ITM's reaction was telling:
While knowning that this debate was taking place, IRAQ THE MODEL moderators have not responded in any direct way, they simply removed Konfused Kid's name from their blog-index and they posted something that may be an implicit reply that supplemented their Lancet post. They followed that by removing names of some other bloggers who participated in the debate.
And from the comments, where Tom Villars is still actively trying to shape the debate:
I am glad to see the emergence of an Iraqi blogosphere, as Jeff Jarvis predicted years ago.
Heh. Lest we forget, Villars and Jarvis helped set up ITM and lots of other Iraqi blogs.

The USA does not control the Iraqi blogsphere, but certain people do their best to control how US voters experience it.
Zionists Hand-pick US Politicians

Here's one Democrat scandal the GOP might NOT want to sink its teeth into, from TIME:
Did a Democratic member of Congress improperly enlist the support of a major pro-Israel lobbying group to try to win a top committee assignment? That's the question at the heart of an ongoing investigation by the FBI and Justice Department prosecutors, who are examining whether Rep. Jane Harman of California and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) may have violated the law in a scheme to get Harman reappointed as the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, according to knowledgeable sources in and out of the U.S. government.
The Los Angeles Times on Bush's family profits from 'No Child' act. Explosive stuff focussing on Neil Bush's no-bid contracts for crappy educational software.
So is Bush a lying bastard who deserves impeachment before he kills us all? It's interesting to compare the polite headlines on the wires with reflections of what the people think. Not long ago, Bush would have had many more vocal defenders in an online forum like this.

October 21, 2006

The Beginning Of The End

Keith Olbermann says it's the beginning of the end for America:
We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who may now, if he so decides, declare not merely any non-American citizens “unlawful enemy combatants” and ship them somewhere—anywhere -- but may now, if he so decides, declare you an “unlawful enemy combatant” and ship you somewhere - anywhere.

And if you think this hyperbole or hysteria, ask the newspaper editors when John Adams was president or the pacifists when Woodrow Wilson was president or the Japanese at Manzanar when Franklin Roosevelt was president.

And if you somehow think habeas corpus has not been suspended for American citizens but only for everybody else, ask yourself this: If you are pulled off the street tomorrow, and they call you an alien or an undocumented immigrant or an “unlawful enemy combatant”—exactly how are you going to convince them to give you a court hearing to prove you are not? Do you think this attorney general is going to help you? ...

Your words are lies, Sir.

They are lies that imperil us all.

“One of the terrorists believed to have planned the 9/11 attacks,” you told us yesterday, “said he hoped the attacks would be the beginning of the end of America.”

That terrorist, sir, could only hope.

Not his actions, nor the actions of a ceaseless line of terrorists (real or imagined), could measure up to what you have wrought.

Habeas corpus? Gone.

The Geneva Conventions? Optional.

The moral force we shined outwards to the world as an eternal beacon, and inwards at ourselves as an eternal protection? Snuffed out.

These things you have done, Mr. Bush, they would be “the beginning of the end of America.”
Or... is it the beginning of the end for the Bush Cabal? All sorts of nuts are popping loose right now...

Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says Rumsfeld is inspired by God:
He leads in a way that the good Lord tells him is best for our country.
Makes you wonder what the good Lord has in store for the USA, doesn't it?

Meanwhile, Tony Snow Bangs Head Against Podium While Trying To Define "Strategy". Seriously.

October 20, 2006

Friends Like These

Having done what they can to help Bush's GOP in the coming elections, the Saudis are getting ready to push the price back up:
Ministers are aware their failure to speak with one voice in the two weeks leading up to the hastily convened [OPEC] talks has contributed to oil's slide to $US58 a barrel, 26 per cent off its mid-July peak and near its lowest level this year.

The silence in public of OPEC's most influential member, leading exporter Saudi Arabia, had led some analysts and investors to speculate the kingdom opposed a plan to cut one million barrels per day, or 3.6 per cent, of group output.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi laid those doubts to rest when he arrived in Doha on Thursday, saying he stood fully behind the planned reduction and suggesting a further cut of 500,000 bpd could follow when OPEC meets in Nigeria in December.
The Innocent Die Too

Texan justice at work:
Michael Johnson, 29, was found dead at 2.45am lying in a pool of blood after he used a makeshift metal blade to cut his jugular vein and an artery in his right arm, Texas prison spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said.

She confirmed that a message written in blood was found on Johnson's cell wall, but would not disclose its contents, pending an investigation into the death.

Texas prison system sources said Johnson wrote, "I didn't do it."
Remember, George W. Bush set new records for Death Row as Governor of Texas. His legacy lives on:
Texas leads the nation in capital punishment with 376 executions since 1982, six years after the US Supreme Court lifted a national death penalty ban.

Johnson would have been the 22nd person executed by the state this year.

There are 390 people on the state's death row.
Reality Bites

Simon Jenkins in the UK Guardian:
Whether the figure of civilian deaths is 50,000 or ten times that number is immaterial; either is a horrific comment on the impotence of the occupation. The UNHCR estimates 365,000 internal refuges in Iraq this year alone. More are seeking asylum abroad than from any other nation.

A third of Iraq's professional class is reported to have fled to Jordan, a flight of skills worse than under Saddam. UN monitors now report 2,000 people a day are crossing the Syrian border. Over a hundred lecturers at Baghdad university alone have been murdered, mostly for teaching women. There are few places in Iraq where women can go about unattended or unveiled. Gunmen arrived earlier this month at a Baghdad television station and massacred a dozen of the staff, an incident barely thought worth reporting. The national museum is walled up. Electricity supply is down to four hours a day. No police uniform can be trusted. The arrival anywhere of an army unit can be prelude to a mass killing and makes a mockery of the American policy of "security transfer". All intelligence out of Iraq suggests this is no longer a functioning state...

Three years ago America went to war on a lie, a wing and a prayer. That war has clearly failed and consensus is disintegrating... America's debate on Iraq is now a grim, grinding encounter with reality.
But enough about the USA, what about Britain?
What is humiliating for Britons is that not a whisper of such lateral thinking can be heard from the government. Downing Street is intellectually numb, like a forgotten outpost of a crumbling Roman empire. It can see the barbarians at the gates yet it dare not respond as it knows it should because no new instructions have arrived from Rome. As for parliament, the opposition, academics, thinktanks and most of the media, a zombie-like inertia is all. Last week's row over controversial remarks by the army chief, Sir Richard Dannatt, was concerned not with what he said but whether he should have said it. Every one is waiting for the US to move.

Blair's last comment on Iraq was that any withdrawal would be "craven surrender" and would endanger British security. This is mad. Even Bush can admit to be "open to new ideas on Iraq". Blair has clearly not heard of Baker's report. Perhaps he should hurry to Washington for new instructions from the boss.
Substitute Howard and Australia into the above equation and you get the same thing: supine, mute inertia.


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