January 31, 2006

A Time To Scream

A question that has to be asked, and a solution which is a lot more clever (and fun!) than you might think.

Jim Oberg, a retired engineer with a wife and two cats, asks the question:
How did it happen that my country has become a torturer, and even a defender publicly of our right to use torture in our 'defense'? Why has my country come to claim it our right to preemptively and illegally invade and occupy other countries, even one that was no imminent threat, killing thousands of innocents in the process? When did my country become unwilling to respond swiftly with our aid and compassion when disaster strikes its own citizens, as we saw in horror when Katrina struck with such fury? What has brought my country to establish a network of secret prisons around the world, where unknown numbers may be held without charge and with no way to monitor their treatment? How is it we can allow our government to unlawfully spy upon any citizen without a warrant, and to then boldly claim their unlimited authority to do anything they deem necessary to 'protect' us. Who authorizes these crimes and who carries them out when I never, ever would provide my assent for these horrific actions to be done in my name?
Fortunately, Jim also has a solution, or at least a good proposal:
This Tuesday, George Bush delivers his State of the Union address, and all across America, a new movement for change, the World Can't Wait: Drive out the Bush Regime, will gather many thousand of citizens to proclaim that we in actual fact face a terrible state of emergency in this country, and loudly demand that they STEP DOWN. We will then, in towns and cities all across the country, drown out his speech with noise of all kinds, music and bells and car horns and our angry voices, calling on everyone to wake up to the danger we all face, and the possibility of creating a new direction for our country. This regime clearly does not represent the majority of Americans. It is time for us all to get out of our homes, out from behind our TV and computer screens, make ourselves visible in our unity, and demand that they stop this madness that has overtaken our country.
I like it. In Argentina, people used to lean out the windows and bang pots and pans as a symbol of protest against the old right-wing military regimes of the 70s and 80s. It worked!

So tell your friends, tell your family, warn your neighbours: then get yer pots and pans out and prepare to make yourself heard!!!

For more information about Jim's proposal, and other actions taking place around the State of the Union address, go to the worldcantwait.org website.
"Palace Revolt" or Coup D'Etat?

Newsweek calls it "one of the most significant and intriguing untold stories of the war on terror":
These Justice Department lawyers, backed by their intrepid boss Comey, had stood up to the hard-liners, centered in the office of the vice president, who wanted to give the president virtually unlimited powers in the war on terror. Demanding that the White House stop using what they saw as farfetched rationales for riding rough-shod over the law and the Constitution, Goldsmith and the others fought to bring government spying and interrogation methods within the law...
The story has some interesting fly-on-the-wall details like this:
When Addington and Flanigan produced a document—signed by Bush—that gave the president near-total authority over the prosecution of suspected terrorists, Bellinger burst into Gonzales's office, clearly upset, according to a source familiar with the episode. But it was too late.

Addington was just getting started....
But basically this article tells us (well, me) nothing that we (I) didn't already know: Bush Cabal insiders ran rough-shod over the law, and wimpy GOP appointees who protested against their illegal antics were either ignored or shown the door.

It sounds like the main source for the article was Jack Goldsmith, and it sounds like he is trying hard to disassociate himself from the illegal shit before it hits the proverbial fan. I mean what is this stuff...?
Stocky, rumpled, genial, though possessing an enormous intellect, Goldsmith is known for his lack of pretense...

Goldsmith was actually the opposite of what his detractors imagined....

Goldsmith, known for putting in long hours, went to new extremes as he reviewed the OLC opinions. Colleagues received e-mails from him at all hours of the night. His family—his wife, 3-year-old son and newborn baby boy—saw him less and less often. Sometimes he would take his older boy down to the Justice Department's Command Center on Saturdays, just to be near him.
Oh well, at least the story is out there. After all, there are still hordes of people who don't even know about this stuff. As the article concludes:
A healthy debate has at last begun.
The Bush Machine Rolls On

After all that last-minute hype, the final cloture vote on Alito was 72-25.

The frenzied effort to block the nomination was impressive, but always much too late. Kos tells online activists to take heart from their efforts:
What you guys accomplished the last week was amazing -- the outpouring of emails, letters, faxes, and phone calls was unprecedented for the netroots and particularly surprising given how weak our issue groups organized against Alito. We should've played a supporting role to strong efforts by NARAL, People for the American Way, and others. Instead, we ended up being pretty much the entire effort.

But say what you will about blogs and the netroots, we are not effective organizers for this type of large-scale effort, with an opposition wielding tens of millions of dollars. That we got this much accomplished in the fact of that is simply incredible.
Sure, well done to all who tried but failed. But the fact is, there is a limit to what can be accomplished online and this episode surely highlights that fact.

So now the US Supreme Court is in the firm grip of the GOP, and with it the US Republic... Sad times indeed.

But no reason to stop fighting. In fact, all the more reason to fight on...

UPDATE: John Kerry:
So let's get this straight. The time to fight is now...
No, you stupid, supercilious, self-serving dick. The time to fight was November 2004, when Bush stole his second election in Ohio.

January 30, 2006

Vote Hamas For World Peace

Everyone is claiming that the landslide election of Hamas by the people of Palestine is a bad thing. Personally, even though I remain a committed pacifist, I disagree. I think it is a good thing: good for the world, good for peace prospects in the Middle East and the only logical choice right now for the Palestinian people.

Let's explore that, shall we?

I refer you to an excellent article by Robert Dreyfuss, End Of The Road Map. Dreyfuss is a left-wing columnist and author of Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam - he's a good man and he knows what he is talking about. But even he calls Hamas' victory "a disaster".

Dreyfuss' main argument lies in the following analysis:
The most obvious effect of the Hamas win will be its aftershock in Israel, which goes to the polls in March. The victory by Hamas will strengthen the Israeli far-right, weaken pro-peace centrists and put the Israeli left and the Labour Party on the defensive. The most likely beneficiary in Israel will be Richard Perle’s favorite Israeli politician, Bibi Netanyahu, whose Likud bloc is likely to gain. The Ariel Sharon-founded centrist bloc will be pulled to the right, and most Israeli voters will react to Hamas’ victory by seeking the protection of strongmen, not peaceniks. So polarization will intensify dramatically between Israel and the PA. The consequences are incalculable. And they will be regional, not confined to Palestine and Israel. Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and beyond will feel the effects of the Hamas earthquake.
Now maybe that is true, maybe it's not. Maybe that horror scenario is how things will play out, or maybe things will somehow change between now and March. But in any case, from a Palestinian point of view, what is the bloody difference?

The bogus US-sponsored "road to peace" is most certainly at an end (thank God: no more fake headlines, please!). Sharon is enjoying a well-deserved coma. Netanyahu is cruising towards power again, with or without Hamas. The Israeli hard-liners are as entrenched as ever, and the Israelis have no-one stepping forward as a serious peace candidate (or if they do, the media sure aren't talking about it).

Meanwhile, as Dreyfuss points out, Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority has "failed to deliver social and economic benefits or to make progress toward peace", is "divided and rudderless" if not "hopelessly corrupt."

So now put yourself in the shoes of the average Palestinian, eking out a living as a second-class citizen in a violence-racked police state, watching your children suffer day after day, listening to your parents' familiar tales of woe, watching people fight and suffer and die all around you while the international community mouths endless platitudes and does absolutely nothing. Who are YOU going to vote for?

The Hamas victory is in fact a true, Democratic reflection of the Palestinian people's sad predicament. Like the frustrated bombers who feel so hopelessly disenfranchised and lacking in alternatives that they actually blow themselves up, Palestinians today cannot see any more constructive and optimistic option than to vote for Hamas. Sad but true.

Who is to blame for this situation? Let's go back to Dreyfuss:
Israel has only itself to blame for the emergence of Hamas. After 1967, when Israel occupied Gaza and the West Bank, the Israeli authorities encouraged the growth of Islamism as a counter to Palestinian nationalism and the PLO. In 1967, Israel freed Ahmed Yassin, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who founded Hamas in 1978-88, and they encouraged the Islamic right and the Brotherhood to take control of mosques and student groups. In 1977-78, the Israeli government of Menachem Begin’s Likud officially licensed Yassin’s Islamic movement and gave it official Israeli blessing. Throughout the 1980s, the Muslim Brotherhood fought pitched battles against the PLO. In an interview not long before he died, Arafat said: “Hamas is a creature of Israel,” and he quoted slain Israeli Prime Minister Rabin as having told him that Israeli support for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood was a “fatal error.” Several U.S. diplomats and intelligence officials told me about Israel’s support for Yassin and the Brotherhood, and Chas Freeman, the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told me bluntly: “Israel started Hamas.”
So Hamas is to Israeli hard-liners what Osama bin Laden's Al Quaeda is to the US Conservatives: a "deformed offspring" whose radical ideology provides the perfect counterpoint to the equally radical ideology of its creators. This duality creates what is by now an all-too-familiar feeding frenzy of violence. As the twin monsters of extremism feed off each other, they paradoxically strengthen each other. And always, always, it is the innocent citizens stuck in the middle, most notably the Iraqi and Palestinian children, who must suffer the consequences.

As Dreyfuss admits, the Hamas victory is hardly surprising. It fits a pattern of increased Islamic radicalisation which has been spreading across the Middle East for a long time now. The question is, how do we stop it? Obviously, the Bush administration's bogus "war on terror" is only feeding the fires, while their invasion of Iraq poured kerosene on the problem. We need real solutions, not rhetoric. To quote Dreyfuss one last tine:
President Bush must tread carefully. After initial bluster about never meeting or dealing with Hamas, both the United States and Israel will have to deal with the unsettling new reality on the ground. Just as most Arabs eventually came to grips with the notion that Israel exists, the Israelis (and the United States) have no choice other than to recognize the reality of Hamas. It is in the American interests, the Israeli interest, and the interests of the Palestinians themselves that Hamas be weakened. Yet that can only come not via confrontation but by lowering the political temperature and choosing dialogue over war.
So I rest my case: if the election of Hamas is what it takes for us to realise that further violence will not solve anything, then it is surely not a bad thing.

UPDATE: Damning pre-vote criticism from Bush's Saudi mates:
By failing to strengthen Abbas's position, the U.S. has paved the way for a Hamas victory... Moreover, the U.S administration's faith in the power of elections to transform people makes it oblivious to the possibility that the democratic process is often a double-edged sword which can have unintended consequences... the Palestinians face dire social welfare needs not addressed by the current government... This situation has created an opportunity that Hamas has been able to exploit... almost 75 percent of Palestinians live below the poverty line.
Suggestion: don't wait for Bush to answer, go ask Abramoff.

Suggestion: find out if Oprah really thinks the truth is important.
Calling Bush Out

The New York Times seems to have grown a spine:
A bit over a week ago, President Bush and his men promised to provide the legal, constitutional and moral justifications for the sort of warrantless spying on Americans that has been illegal for nearly 30 years. Instead, we got the familiar mix of political spin, clumsy historical misinformation, contemptuous dismissals of civil liberties concerns, cynical attempts to paint dissents as anti-American and pro-terrorist, and a couple of big, dangerous lies...
More FUBAR Bush Foreign Policy

Meanwhile, back in Haiti:
Today, the capital, Port-au-Prince, is virtually paralyzed by kidnappings, spreading panic among rich and poor alike. Corrupt police officers in uniform have assassinated people on the streets in the light of day. The chaos is so extreme and the interim government so dysfunctional that voting to elect a new one has already been delayed four times. The latest date is Feb. 7.
Lucky the Bush Boyz kidnapped former President Aristide and forced him into exile, isn't it?
Sick Fags Can Rot In Hell

Billions for AIDS ----->>>> Billions for Bush's favourite Religious groups:
For prevention, Bush embraces the "ABC" strategy: abstinence before marriage, being faithful to one partner, and condoms targeted for high-risk activity.
AlterNet: The Real Story of John Walker Lindh
ABC, 123...

On a day when the very recognisable TV face of ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff...

... gets blown to pieces in Iraq, former ABC newsman Ted Koppel writes his first column for the NY Times.

Apparently Woodruff was in Iraq as part of a new ABC company policy of sending anchors on site, a move designed to improve ratings (and you thought it was to improve accountability?!?!):
"Moving away from the studio -- the hermetically sealed, perfectly coiffed theory of anchoring -- there is risk in that," ABC News President David Westin told Kurtz. "In my view, the greater risk is keeping it the way it was." The risk is that network news audiences will continue to shrink as younger viewers, in particular, seek faster, edgier reports elsewhere.
Ironically, Koppel's first column addresses exactly this issue:
In a surprise conclusion, he suggests that perhaps rather than aiming news shows at the disinterested younger segment, the networks should focus on serving older consumers who actually are interested in serious news.
In Koppel's own words:
Most television news programs are therefore designed to satisfy the perceived appetites of our audiences. That may be not only acceptable but unavoidable in entertainment; in news, however, it is the journalists who should be telling their viewers what is important, not the other way around.

Indeed, in television news these days, the programs are being shaped to attract, most particularly, 18-to-34-year-old viewers. They, in turn, are presumed to be partly brain-dead...
I fully agree that journalists should be telling the important stories (some still are), but I cannot agree with Koppel's broader analysis of the problem:
The accusation that television news has a political agenda misses the point. Right now, the main agenda is to give people what they want. It is not partisanship but profitability that shapes what you see.
In this case, it is Koppel who misses the point. If it was just profitability, rather than politics, why wouldn't news companies be blowing the lid on all the Bush cabal's sordid secrets? Honestly, there is enough material there to have the USA glued to the TV screen (or printed page) for years.

Let's start with Bush's grandfather... the Illuminati and Skull & Bones ... Bush Snr's involvement in the Kennedy assassination... Bush family links with the Saudis and bin Ladens ... the Carlyle Group ... that cocaine thing ... that AWOL thing ... that wireless transmitter thing ... that PNAC thing ... the Downing Street Memo ... Valerie Plame ... Abramoff and DeLay ...

I can't help wondering if Woodruff was filming one of those "good news from Iraq" segments when the ambushers hit...? And if he can make it back on air, I can't help but wonder what sort of story he will have to tell?

And then I wonder: would ABC news have the courage to stick with a once-telegenic anchor whose face has been stitched back together? Maybe that would attract the younger viewers? Maybe that would be enough for soporific US TV audiences to understand the horrors they have been unleashing on Iraqis for the past three years???
Australia's "Teflon PM" Turns Toxic

They call John Howard the "Teflon PM" because nothing ever sticks to him. Whenever the shit hits the fan, Howard always claims he didn't know, wasn't informed, wasn't involved.

Now we find out that he was personally involved in by-passing UN sanctions to help the Australian Wheat Board trade with Saddam Hussein before the 2003 invasion. This from SMH today:
Prime Minister John Howard and Trade Minister Mark Vaile asked wheat exporter AWB to keep them informed over its trade with Iraq just before its chief executive negotiated an illicit deal with Saddam Hussein's regime, new documents show.

A letter from Mr Howard to AWB chief executive Andrew Lindberg was released, along with scores of other documents, by the Cole inquiry into the UN food for oil scandal, Fairfax newspapers reported.

In the letter dated July 27, 2002, after Iraq threatened to cut wheat exports from Australia, Mr Howard told Mr Lindberg: "In view of the importance of the matter, I suggest the government and AWB Ltd remain in close contact in order that we can jointly attempt to achieve a satisfactory outcome in the longer term".

Shortly afterwards, Mr Lindberg and other AWB staff, along with Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) officials, visited Iraq.

The inquiry has been told that during that visit, Mr Lindberg agreed to pay $US2 million to the Iraqis that was to be disguised in an inflated wheat contract.

And in November 2000, Mr Vaile wrote to then AWB chairman Trevor Flugge urging him to "maintain a close dialogue" with his office and with DFAT officials.
Ironically, this news breaks just as we learn that teflon - that magic non-stick product with which we have all been so relaxed and comfortable for so long - is now considered toxic.

UPDATE: Howard rejects calls to broaden the terms of the AWB enquiry, claiming that he was never advised how things were being done:
Mr Howard says he wrote to AWB in 2002 because Iraq was a key market for Australian wheat but he says company officials never told him how they achieved the deal with the old Iraqi regime.

"They didn't go into any detail," he said.
How many times are Australians willing to fall for the same lie? And we think the Bush-voting Americans are dumb...

It's basically the same question, isn't it? Either ignorance due to stupidity or ignorance due to incompetence. Either way, unforgiveable. Remember: Iraqi children died for these lies.
The Real Terror Awaits

Slate has a good rundown on the latest climate change stories:
The NYT reports that James Hansen, NASA's "top climate scientist," says the Bush administration has tried to silence him ever since he gave a lecture last month calling for "prompt reductions" of greenhouse gases linked to global warming. (The administration's policy: Voluntary measures should be used to slow emissions.) Hansen, who directs NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, claims that after the speech, the NASA public affairs staff was ordered to review his lectures, papers, web postings and requests for interviews. NASA higher-ups deny the muzzling, but one public affairs officer claims that another officer rejected an NPR request to interview Hansen because NPR's "liberal" slant would interfere with the officer's job "to make the president look good." The WP explains that now that scientists agree that global warming is caused by "human activity," they are free to debate how much the climate is changing and whether or not the change is dangerous. President Bush's chief science advisor suggests the danger may not be so grave: "There's no agreement on what it is that constitutes a dangerous climate change." The WP also reports that NASA officials tried to discourage a reporter from interviewing Hansen for the article and gave him the go ahead to talk only if an agency spokeswoman listened in on the conversation.
Apologies to Slate for "stealing" this wrap-up, but it's Monday morning and I am tired. Baby is still not sleeping well. Maybe she's worried about her future...?
Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Just remember: the USA does not negotiate with terrorists.

Unless they do.

And have done before.

And they don't take women as hostages either. Unless they do.

January 27, 2006

The Bush "Road To Peace" Is An Illusion

... so why do the press report it as fact?

Let's look at a couple of recent, typical headlines:

From the Christian Broadcasting Network, on the Hamas election victory:

Hamas Victory May be Large Bump on Road to Peace

And from the Miami Herald, on Sharon's coma:

A rougher road to peace

They make it sound like Middle East peace was almost within reach before these two tragedies occured, right? As if....!

Bush is now blaming the outgoing Palestinian government of Mahmoud Abbas for failing to curtail violence, rather than admitting that all his talk about "spreading Democracy in the Middle East" is just a pile of shit:
The Hamas victory was the fifth case recently of militants' winning significant gains through elections. They included the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hezbollah in Lebanon, a radical president in Iran, and Shiites backed by militias in Iraq...

Diplomats involved in the Middle East peace process known as the road map, the document that calls for reciprocal steps between Israelis and Palestinians toward creation of a Palestinian state, say that any immediate chances of reviving the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue are daunting if not impossible
As Gandhi once said: "there is no road to peace - peace is the road".
Watching The Tide Turn

But why does it take so damn long?

Most Americans now think Bush is a failure and they will not vote for candidates associated with him. From Bloomberg:
Fifty-two percent of adults said Bush's administration since 2001 has been a failure, down from 55 percent in October. Fifty- eight percent described his second term as a failure. At the same point in former President Bill Clinton's presidency, 70 percent of those surveyed by Gallup said they considered it a success and 20 percent a failure.

In a poll conducted in January of 2002, after Bush was president for one year, 83 percent of those surveyed said his presidency was a success.

In the new poll, conducted Jan. 20-22, fifty-one percent of those surveyed said they would be more likely to vote for congressional candidates who do not support Bush's policies.
Meanwhile, Aaron Brown, a former CNN news anchor says:
Truth no longer matters in the context of politics and, sadly, in the context of cable news.
Laughing All The Way To Fascist Dicatorship

El Busho Loco deflected questions on his illegal wire-tapping today with alleged "humour". I though this was the funniest bit:
I am upholding my duty and at the same time doing so under the law and with the Constitution behind me. The FISA law was written in 1978. We're having the discussion in 2006. It's a different world...

I said, 'Look, is it possible to conduct this program under the old law?' And people said it doesn't work in order to be able do the job we expect us to do.
"We" expect "us" to do? I think that says it all, really. Hilarious. In other words, this damn law is blocking "us" from doing what "we" want to do - so let's ignore it!

God, that law was so-o-o-o 1970's... And the world is so-o-o-o different now, right? When was that stupid Constitution written, anyway? A long time before the Geneva Convention, which has already been dispensed with! And let's all try to ignore the embarrassing fact that Bush's own Justice Department declared in 2002 that the FISA law was working just fine!!! Dammit, that's three whole years ago! The world is different today!

What's even funnier is that, after admitting he circumvented this antiquated law, Bush still claims his wire-tapping program is legal:
"There's no doubt in my mind it is legal."
Choose the answer that suits your own personal mind-warp.

Listen, America, and listen carefully: the joke is on you.

Meanwhile, back at the White House, Scott McClellan avoided a very serious question, then attacked his questioner and finally elicited a laugh from the press corpse:
Q. You mentioned General Hayden -- well, General Hayden made it clear that this kind of surveillance has been going on under his authority, because he had the authority to do that. The difference is that on the domestic side, whoever was on, say, that telephone call was identified as person one or person two, and the information about that individual domestically was never shared throughout the government. With the President's authorization after 9/11, that changed, and then you began more specifically monitoring people domestically who were in contact with somebody overseas. So how can you say that that's not domestic?

MR. McCLELLAN: It's an early warning system. It's not aimed at long-term monitoring, like the FISA court was set up to do for a different enemy in a different time period when we were in the Cold War, remember. This was set up as an early warning system to detect and prevent attacks. So you're talking about for a shorter period of time. Its one purpose is to detect and prevent attacks.

Q That's totally off point. You're challenging the notion of domestic spying, when the truth of the matter is that heretofore the person domestically that was being surveilled was never identified, was never tracked in any real fashion. That changed when the President --

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me ask you this. Is an international communication overseas by an al Qaeda member coming into the United States, that is monitored overseas, is that a domestic communication?

Q Well, first of all, I ask the questions, I don't answer them. Number two --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sure you don't want to answer that question.

Q No, because I'm not in the business of setting the rules on this.

MR. McCLELLAN: That's a very simple question. I can put it right back to you.

Q I'm a reporter, I'm not responsible for authorizing these things. You speak for the President --

MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, okay.

Q -- so that's why I ask the questions.

MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, you don't want to answer that question. Got it. (Laughter.)
Who are the idiots responsible for all this "(laughter)" that turns up in Bush Co. news reports? And is it really (funny-ha-ha laughter) or just (nervously-watching-the-USA-disintegrate laughter)?
Time For An Update On Iraq

So what sort of country does $226 billion buy you these days?

Not much, it seems. 20% of the country is still living in dire poverty. The US says funding has dried up, while the Iraqis say they still need another $60 billion to get their primary industries back on their feet. Oil production in 2005 was less than half what it was in the final years of Saddam's rule.

Violence continues to escalate: there were 34,000 guerrilla attacks in 2005, up 30% from 2004. And let's not even talk about the political situation, which still threatens to collapse into all-out civil war.

Little wonder the US private sector is already pocketing their massive profits, packing up shop and heading back home. Iraqi professionals are leaving in droves. Even the journalists are leaving. Shit, even the bloggers have gone!

What a cock-up.

Thanks to Juan Cole for the links.
This World Is Broken

God bless you, Cindy Sheehan:
A new world is necessary but not possible until we Americans get over the arrogant idea that we can solve the Iraq issue and the human rights violations problems alone. We have to reach out to fellow members of the human race all over the world to forge the bonds that are crucial to protecting innocent members of humankind who are impoverished or killed by our government and corporatism that has gone wild and is largely unchecked.
Bush = Hitler

I don't know who the hell Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. is, but I already like him:
These are grim times. We have presently going on, in the Senate, a hearing of a man who lies: Sam Alito. The man's a liar. He's a member of the Federalist Society, which is a society assembled around the ideas and influence of a man, Carl Schmitt, who crafted the Adolf Hitler administration. Carl Schmitt, who lived in this country for some time, and influenced the formation of a Federalist Society, which now controls four of the nine Justices of the Supreme Court. And a fifth member of the Federalist Society, who, lying his head off up there on Capitol Hill, is about to be confirmed! And you would have five, out of nine Supreme Court Justices prepared to endorse a fascist government in the United States! And you have Senators who should have more guts, who are waffling, or being weak, in dealing with this fact. There is no honest debate about bringing Adolf Hitler and his tradition into the government of the United States!
UPDATE: If John Kerry really wanted a filibuster on Alito, he probably shouldn't have left it this late.
Everything Is Just Great, I Tell Ya!

Following Ford's massive layoff's last week, General Motors USA today reports a $6.4b loss:
It was the fifth straight quarterly loss for the world's largest automaker - amid high labour and raw materials costs, shrinking market share and sluggish sales of sport utility vehicles - and brought its losses for all of 2005 to $US8.6 billion ($A11.4 billion).

It was GM's first annual loss since 1992.
And here's the story behind the story:
The earnings report came a day after news that billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian had raised his stake in GM to 9.9 per cent.

Kerkorian, the largest individual investor at GM, has called for sweeping changes at the auto giant, and a key adviser has suggested he might be prepared to organise a fight for control of the GM board.

Earlier this month, a Kerkorian aide called on GM to halve its $US1.1 billion annual dividend expense, cut executive pay and sell Saab, GM's European luxury brand.
And on the other side of the South Pacific:
In just 15 years the average yearly income of some of Australia's most powerful chief executives has risen 564 per cent to $3.4 million, new research shows.

Between 1990 and 2005 the average annual regular cash earnings of company chief executives, who were also members of the Business Council of Australia (BCA), went from $514,000 to $3.4 million.

Their incomes now outweigh the average full-time wage earner by a ratio of 63 to 1.
Those are Australian stats, but I cannot imagine that US stats would be very different.
Funny Business

Josh Marshall has been doing some clever detective work (while I've been playing with the kids on the beach and getting sunburnt).

Seems the President of Reflections Photography deliberately scrubbed a picture of Bush and Abramoff from their archives.
Seems the President of Reflections Photography is a Bush supporter who has donated thousands to the cause.

But it's a funny way to do business, isn't it? You give wads of money to a political party then sit tight on a hot photo (or more likely photos) which must be worth a fortune to somebody right now. You have to wonder what sort of political favours Reflections Photography gets in return...?

And did someone from the White House ask her to scrub the photo? Scotty McLellan's not saying. But it is interesting that the president of Reflections Photography is using exactly the same talking point as the PResident of the USA, which is that the pictures are "not relevant".

It's a well-oiled machine that Karl Rove runs, isn't it? In more ways than one, too.

UPDATE: The whole meeting(s) with Bush and Abramoff is now being scrubbed from the Reflections Photography database. Who was it accused their opponents of "trying to re-write history"?
"We Will Be Creating New Realities..."

Ted Rall exposes the limits of Presidential Powers.

January 25, 2006

One Step Beyond

And so it begins...
"This is not just another nomination to the Supreme Court," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. "It is truly going to tip the scales of justice."
If Alito is confirmed, the Bush cabal will have no hesitation escalating even the tiniest misdemeanor to the Supreme Court. Wire-tapping? Rigged elections? Political opponents sent to prison on fake evidence? No problemo...

If Alito is confirmed, Gitmo will blossom. More pre-emptive wars will ensue. The criminals who destroyed the republic will never be held to account.

WARNING: Within a few years, the alleged "Democracy" of the USA will be an utter farce. The only obstacle to this is the Fitzgerald enquiry, which may just be able to garner enough public outrage to throw these bastards out before they sieze complete control.

And on that subject, it's interesting to note that Scooter Libby's legal team want to be allowed to use classified evidence at his trial, allegedly relating to the kind of work that Ms Plame was doing for the CIA. It's probably just a delaying tactic: how long till Bush pardons him, after all?

America, the stakes are high. Please pay attention.
Wagging The Dog

When it comes to the NSA wire-tapping scandal, RJ Eskow says Bush is winning the 'Headline War'. Eskow provides a long list of misleading headlines like "Bush Says Battling Terrorism Requires New Tactics" and pleads:
Somebody needs to play District Attorney and make the case for the Constitution. It can't defend itself.
But Eskow's article itself is kinda wimpy, given that the USA's pro-Bush media barons are not going to change their ways any time soon.

And of course the person who SHOULD be "playing District Attorney" is Senor Alberto Gonzales, who is even more securely in the pocket of Bush Co than John Ashcroft, his predecessor. It's enough to make you think that old Bush hands like Cheney and Rumsfeld successfully identified the AG position as a potential weakness in the US Republic...

What Bush & Co are doing - successfully as usual - is playing a lazy, complicit media. The Bush team's PR blitz provides lazy journos with ready-packaged stories day after day. Sure, Bush & Co are drawing attention to their own weakness, but they are also sticking with Karl Rove's tried-and-true winning strategy: the best form of defence is attack. Spin, spin, spin...

The best way to combat this is to provide an alternative story with an alternative headline. Here are a few suggestions:
Millions March On White House

Democrats Walk Out Of Senate, Congress

Protestors Jam Talk Show Phone Lines

Skull and Bones: John Kerry Reveals All

NY Police: We'll Strike If Bush Is Not Arrested

George Soros Buys Knight Ridder

"War Crimes" Everywhere - A Graffitti Phenomenon

Phone Companies Refuse To Co-operate With Bush Wiretaps

US Soldiers Lay Down Weapons
UPDATE: Molly Ivins calls on US journalists to "get over reporting the Bush administration as though it were a credible source.".
"I Don't Support Our Troops"

When the LA Times controversially dumped excellent anti-war columnist Robert Sheer, he was replaced by a hip kid with a more marketable "attitude", Joel Stein. Today, Stein sets off an important debate by opening his column with the shocking words "I don't support our troops":
I'm not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken — and they're wussy by definition. It's as if the one lesson they took away from Vietnam wasn't to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest but to remember to throw a parade afterward.

Blindly lending support to our soldiers, I fear, will keep them overseas longer by giving soft acquiescence to the hawks who sent them there — and who might one day want to send them somewhere else...

Besides, those little yellow ribbons aren't really for the troops... The real purpose of those ribbons is to ease some of the guilt we feel for voting to send them to war...
Fair enough. So who's to blame for this debacle?
After we've decided that we made a mistake, we don't want to blame the soldiers who were ordered to fight. Or even our representatives, who were deceived by false intelligence. And certainly not ourselves, who failed to object to a war we barely understood.

But blaming the president is a little too easy. The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they're following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying.
I agree that the soldiers on the ground should be held personally responsible for their actions. To say "I was only following orders" is an unforgiveable cop-out. If you are going to kill somebody on somebody else's orders, you better make damn sure you understand exactly what you are doing and why. If you are in Iraq, you should know exactly why you are there (and there are plenty of blogs like this to give you an education if you need it). Soldiers tend to strut their manhood all over the place, but if you haven't got the balls to take responsibility for your own actions, what sort of man are you?

So, yes, soldiers should bear personal responsibility for their actions. But you can hardly blame them for mis-leading the USA into war. And it's here that Stein reveals he is no Robert Sheer.

Stein says we can't blame Bush ("too easy"), Congress or the Senate ("deceived by false intelligence") or even the ignorant fools (including Stein, I assume) who voted for a war "we barely understood." So he blames the soldiers. But that, really, is the "too easy" solution.

The harsh truth is that all of these people are to blame: Bush, Congress, the Senate, the voters, the soldiers, all of them. All must bear some burden of guilt for the tens of thousands of murdered Iraqis, the maimed and the homeless, the chaos and corruption. But the real architects of the war are the ideologues (Rumsfeld, Cheney, Ledeen, Feith, Wolfowitz, and more) who knew the intelligence was wrong because they themselves manipulated it.

If Stein doesn't know about the Downing Street Memo and the Office Of Special Plans and the PNAC, he'd better inform himself before he writes another column.

And if Stein doesn't want to blame Bush for mis-leading the USA into war, he should certainly blame him for covering up the truth and failing to hold these lying warmongers to account.

UPDATE: This related story just in:
Stretched by frequent troop rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has become a "thin green line" that could snap unless relief comes soon, according to a study for the Pentagon.

Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer who wrote the report under a Pentagon contract, concluded that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency. He also suggested that the Pentagon's decision, announced in December, to begin reducing the force in Iraq this year was driven in part by a realization that the Army was overextended.

January 24, 2006

Reckless, Criminal Stupidity On Display

Is he really this stupid? Or is it just cunning disguised as incompetence?
"You know, it's amazing that people say to me, 'Well, he was just breaking the law'.

"If I wanted to break the law, why was I briefing Congress?" Bush said.
Oh, really? But members of Congress said they were not informed, or informed in a way that left them unable to raise doubts or demand further information (hush hush, it's all top secret).

George W. Bush has a personal history of reckless law-breaking, followed by zero accountability, so it is no surprise that he treats his current dilemma so lightly. But the spectre of impeachment might soon wipe that nasty smirk off his stupid face. Insight quotes this source, seemingly a Bush administration official:
A coalition in Congress is being formed to support impeachment... Our arithmetic shows that a majority of the committee could vote against the president.
GOP Worms Turning?

This is pretty funny, and maybe even significant.

Ralph Reed, a top GOP sleaze-ball, offers to pay supporters who show up to a church rally - even offering overnight accomodation - and still cannot generate a crowd.
Gitmo: The Forgotten Story

The Sunday Times says hunger strikers in Gitmo may be close to death.
Reprieve claims Camp Echo, which is comprised of isolation cells, has been turned into a “force feeding institution” away from other prisoners and its gravel path paved with concrete so the hunger strikers can be moved around in wheelchairs.

The military said last week the number of hunger strikers had declined to 22 after a peak at Christmas and that 17 were being fed by “tube”...

The prisoners being force fed have a permanent tube in the nose, which descends to the stomach and is attached to another tube for feeding. If they do not rip it out, the US military say they are consenting to be fed even if the tube was inserted under duress.
The GOP Goss

At HuffPo, A.L. Bardach has a good look at Ken Mehlman, with some juicy insider coffee talk, like this:
"The family can smell disloyalty from down the road," says a cousin of George W. Bush, who asks that her name not be mentioned so that she can continue attending family events at Kennebunkport and in Texas. "The slightest whiff of criticism, and you're out. Even in the family." On the other hand, she pointed out, loyalty is generously repaid.
Or this:
I ask the big question: What if Fitzgerald's leak investigation implicates the Vice President? For example, what if Cheney turns out to be Bob Woodward's source? Norquist's eyes widen but betray nothing. Quickly, he counters, sotto voce. "I heard it was [Richard] Armitage," he says, referring to Colin Powell's former deputy at the State Department.
Or this:
Asked if Alito will flip Roe v. Wade if he joins the Supreme Court, Norquist nods affirmatively.
The War On Journalists

From E & P:
The last of three Reuters journalists detained by the U.S. military in Iraq was freed after nearly eight months without being charged, the military confirmed Sunday.
Bush Hits Record Low: 36%

And only 34% on the economy. Stats at American Research Group.
Digby Goes Down

Digby gets the Blogger Blues:
I'm feeling down right now. I know I shouldn't... I'm down in the dumps, mostly because I am watching George W. Bush repeat his patented mantra for the 514,346th time. It's filled with lies, mischaracterizations and simple-minded gibberish, as always, and I'm watching it go out unfiltered, in its entirety, unchallenged by the media, no Democrats in sight, on every cable channel. I think they are personally trying to drive me crazy.

I don't know if it will work again. But I also don't know if I can take this campaign one more time. Five years of hearing the same thing over and over again and watching American sheeple fall for it over and over again is just too depressing. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to January 20, 2009 (and I'm of an age where rushing the future is no longer wise.) The day I no longer have to listen to one more word from this immoral, dishonest, incompetent, delusional prick will be the best day of my life.
I know it's wrong of me, but I can't help checking out my site stats from time to time. I love it when I get hits from searches like "Why do so many people hate George Bush?", particularly coming from MSN.

January 23, 2006

Bush Is Dead!!!!

Nah, just kidding...

When was the last time you did a Google Image Search for "Bush"? The results tell you a lot about the high esteem in which the US Resident is held... Pages and pages and pages of ridicule.
What If There Was No Internet?

What if there was no Gandhi, no antiwar.com, no Josh Marhsall?

Personally, I cannot imagine where I would get my news from. I might even give up.

What is Big Business decides who and where to put the squeeze on? What if they try to push traffic for their own profits, cutting off the alternatives?

WaPo reports on The Coming Tug of War Over the Internet

PS: What if this story is just a distraction?

This is the kind of story that begs to be broadcast on the evening news, in its entirety, but never is...

This is the kind of story that makes me sick to my stomach to be a blogger.

This is the kind of story that should make all readers call their political representatives and protest, write letters to the media and organize demonstrations to enforce media coverage.

Sure, it's just one more dead Iraqi. Maybe he was a bad guy - we will never know. He never got his day in court...

A senior Iraqi general stuffed head-first into a sleeping bag, bound with electrical cord and suffocated. A US Army officer who was sitting on his chest when he died. A court room drama with a top secret witness testifying behind a green tarpaulin suspended from the courtroom roof. A defence lawyer who has to apologize to the judge after accidentally saying the word "CIA".

It's all right here: CIA Role a Mystery at Army Court-Martial.

UPDATE: The US Army officer guilty, but only of "negligent homocide" with a maximum 3 years in jail.
The defence argued that Welshofer was interpreting an email from superiors sent in August 2003, three months before Mowhoush died. The email, from Captain William Ponce, said: "The gloves are coming off, gentlemen ... we want these individuals broken. Casualties are mounting."

A subsequent memo from Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the commanding officer in Iraq, authorised new interrogation techniques including, Welshofer claimed, the sleeping bag method.
General Mowhoush was beaten black and blue with rubber hoses two days before he was murdered. Welshofer was there at the time. The SF Chronicle says every American should be forced to see the pictures:
Welshofer deserves punishment for killing Mowhoush. But the presidential administration and Army chain of command that lets military prisoners be stuffed in sleeping bags or wall lockers or held down to have water poured down their mouths and noses won't get their due. The "nonmilitary" folks (read CIA) whom a witness said beat Mowhoush two days before he died have not even been charged.
Bend Over And Support Bush's Big Money Buddies

More in-depth economic analysis from David Sirota: The Dishonest Economic Fantasies Screwing Over Ordinary Americans.
When you look at the discourse between politicians or the news coverage of these economic issues, you barely ever see a debate at all, and when you do, the side arguing against the free market fundamentalism and for the positions supported by the majority of ordinary Americans is automatically portrayed by the Establishment as marginal.

What's really going on is obvious: the political/media Establishment is trying to dishonestly create the perception that it is just a fact that the Big Money position on key economic issues (ie. corporate-written trade deals and neoliberal economics) has resulted and always will result in major benefits to society.
Are We Having A Constitutional Crisis Yet?

Even though it's Doonesbury who asks the question, the results are surprising.
More US Scepticism On Bin Laden

Chris Floyd calls it a Goon Show:
Let's see now: President dropping in the polls; impeachment talk over illegal wiretaps gaining traction; majority of Americans now supporting withdrawal from Iraq; Abramoff scandal reaching into the White House; big push starting for war with Iran; the Bush gang reduced to defending their crime, deception and despotism with a last, threadbare card, the "terrorist threat".....

Why, yes, I think it's about time for a guest shot from Osama!

And so the deadly symbiosis between that dynamic, death-peddling duo, Bush and bin Laden, goes on. And as usual, the timing - even the wording - of the terrorist's bloviation falls, with eerie perfection, into lock-step with Bush's political needs...
Floyd says the only way Bush & Co can fully take control of the USA, as they are already doing, is by using threats like Bin Laden to generate a climate of fear.

Not one to be intimidated, Charles Sullivan tells his fellow Americans they are wasting precious time and resources "chasing down ghosts while the real terrorists continue to operate safely out of sight":
Like Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden is the smoke screen behind which the real terrorists operate. We must be wise enough to see beyond the mists of illusion that have been created to deceive us. We must be prepared to look in some dark places and to be shocked by the truth we find...

A deep understanding of US history reveals that nothing about America is what it seems. Behind the words recorded in our history books there are hidden histories that must be brought into the light for all to see. Only when this is accomplished will we know who is really running the government and committing acts of terror against innocent people everywhere.

There is considerable evidence that implicates the CIA, the FBI, as well as secret police forces in the murders of John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, among others. Malcolm X and Dr. King were silenced by an assassins’ bullet when they were on the threshold of changing the nation’s power structure. It is a familiar story. Whenever anyone rises to threaten the status quo, they are assassinated, and always the work of a lone gunman...
Representative Government???

Molly Ivins declares I will not support Hillary Clinton for president and urges the Democrats to show a bit more spine:
What kind of courage does it take, for mercy's sake? The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it. The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage. The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush's tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich. The majority (66 percent) wants to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes.

The majority (77 percent) thinks we should do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That is the center, you fools. WHO ARE YOU AFRAID OF?
Bush Spying On Political Opponents

The problem with Bush's defence of his NSA wire-tapping program (still going on, by the way) is that he has never explained why it was necessary to bypass the FISA court.

Bush & Co claim they are only using the illegal spying to monitor potential terrorists and deny suggestions that they are spying on political opponents including peace groups. Because it's all top-secret confidential, they cannot supply any proof that they are not syping on innocents. But there is plenty of proof that they are.
The Untold Story In Pakistan

A good write-up from New York Times:
Two years after the Pakistani Army began operations in border tribal areas to root out members of Al Qaeda and other foreign militants, Pakistani officials who know the area say the military campaign is bogged down, the local political administration is powerless and the militants are stronger than ever.
This story helps explain why Bin Laden has not been captured, and why the US is resorting to increasingly barbarous acts like predator drone attacks on vague targets.
My Bad

WaPo's ombusdwoman backs down:
I wrote that [Abramoff] gave campaign money to both parties and their members of Congress. He didn't. I should have said he directed his client Indian tribes to make campaign contributions to members of Congress from both parties.

My mistake set off a firestorm. I heard that I was lying, that Democrats never got a penny of Abramoff-tainted money, that I was trying to say it was a bipartisan scandal, as some Republicans claim. I didn't say that. It's not a bipartisan scandal; it's a Republican scandal, and that's why the Republicans are scurrying around trying to enact lobbying reforms.

Why are these Bush GOP women so damned ugly? That's Katherine Harris, who somehow keeps wriggling her way up the slippery ladder of GOP power politics. Never mind that she is hugely unpopular in Florida, even among Republicans - it's not like actual votes matter all that much in Florida any more.

My Google search on "GOP candidate" +"sleeps her way to the top" turned up nothing, but it might give the US Justice Department something to think about if they ever get the records off Google. Arianna's search for "cheney waterboarding porn" also turns up nada.

January 21, 2006

Bush And Abramoff, Sitting In A Tree...

From the Washingtonian:
The Washingtonian has seen five photos of the President with Abramoff or his family. One photo shows the President and Abramoff shaking hands at a meeting in the Old Executive Office Building, where a bearded-Abramoff introduced Bush to several of the lobbyist’s native-American clients...

Sources say the photographs are being kept safe. Abramoff would tell prosecutors, if asked, that not only did he know the President, but the President knew the names of Abramoff’s children and asked about them during their meetings. At one such photo session, Bush discussed the fact that both he and Abramoff were fathers of twins.
Not good, Karl...

Even if close personal links between the two cannot be proved, they shared the same culture of corruption. Problem is, only one of them has been charged (to date).
All You Need To Know About Iran

Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the UN’s nuclear monitor, and winner of last year's Nobel Prize for Peace, refuses to condemn Iran and asks the UN members to observe due process and be patient.
Team Bush: Who Cares If It's Illegal?

The Bush cabal is preparing a massive PR drive to sell their illegal NSA wire-tapping (and block out the "noise" of their critics):
White House officials said on Friday that Bush will visit the National Security Agency on Wednesday as part of the effort. Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, former head of the NSA, will make a speech at the National Press Club on Monday and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will speak on Tuesday.
The problem is, no amount of spin can obsure the fact that Bush broke the law. That's a fact, Jack. And no amount of spin can change that - or can it????

Comments by senior staff are themselves very revealing:
"The American people want us to do everything in our power to prevent attacks," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
But that's just the point: by-passing the FISA court was NOT in Bush's power!
"Let me be as clear as I can be: President Bush believes if al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interests to know who they're calling and why," Rove told the Republican National Committee's winter meeting.
Damn right, Karl. And FISA gives him the power to do just that. So why does Bush have to bypass the court, when he can monitor the calls and get court clearance up to 3 days later? Why?
Gonzales sent a report to the Senate on Thursday outlining the legal basis for the the eavesdropping program. He said the program "is also fully protective of the civil liberties guaranteed" by the Constitution protecting against unreasonable searches and seizes of evidence.
No it's not. It's un-Constitutional and it's a crime, and no amount of spin and lies - even from the President and the Attorney General - can change that.
Polls show a split among the public. A Washington Post-ABC News poll last week found 51 percent favored the program as a way to fight terrorism, while 47 percent did not. A Pew Research Center poll found 48 percent of respondents thought Bush's actions were generally right and 47 percent thought they were generally wrong.
So what? Even if 99 percent of the USA approved, that would not make it legal. Rather than throwing themselves at the mercy of public opinion, Bush & Co should be throwing themselves at the mercy of the courts.

And that means 'fessing up to everything they have been doing, for starters...
A Jan. 5 study by the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan research arm of Congress, questioned the administration's legal defense of the program. But it reached no firm conclusion about its legality because so many underlying facts are classified.
Let's put it another way, shall we?
Yes, your honour, I killed that woman, but nobody liked her anyway and besides, she was an evil person, and she was going to do something bad one day, trust me I just know it. And no, your honour, I am not going to tell you where the body is. Or even the weapon. And by the way, your honour, those screaming mobs at the courthouse door are all baying for my release. Yes, your honour, I am paying them good money and supplying them with pitchforks. But listen, your honour, let's be reasonable. The bitch is dead, your honour. So let's move on... OK? Where do you play golf, anyway? What are your career goals?

January 20, 2006

Et Tu, Jacques?

From ABC News Online:
President Jacques Chirac has for the first time raised the threat of a nuclear strike on any state that launches 'terrorist' attacks against France.

He also said France's doctrine of nuclear deterrence has been extended to protect the country's 'strategic supplies', taken to mean oil.
The problem with this sort of aggressive language is that, almost by definition, the hysteria immediately overwhelms any possibility of reasonable debate.

By contrast, the Annual Amnesty International Lecture by Noam Chomsky, also focussed on this strange war on "terror", seems far more civilised...
Since facts matter, it matters that the War was not declared by George W. Bush on 9/11, but by the Reagan administration 20 years earlier. They came into office declaring that their foreign policy would confront what the President called “the evil scourge of terrorism,” a plague spread by “depraved opponents of civilization itself” in “a return to barbarism in the modern age" (Secretary of State George Shultz). The campaign was directed to a particularly virulent form of the plague: state-directed international terrorism. The main focus was Central America and the Middle East, but it reached to southern Africa and Southeast Asia and beyond.

A second fact is that the war was declared and implemented by pretty much the same people who are conducting the re-declared war on terrorism. The civilian component of the re-declared War on Terror is led by John Negroponte, appointed last year to supervise all counterterror operations. As Ambassador in Honduras, he was the hands-on director of the major operation of the first War on Terror, the contra war against Nicaragua launched mainly from US bases in Honduras. I’ll return to some of his tasks. The military component of the re-declared War led by Donald Rumsfeld. During the first phase of the War on Terror, Rumsfeld was Reagan’s special representative to the Middle East. There, his main task was to establish close relations with Saddam Hussein...
Some good weekend reading right there, folks.
The Oil Wars Have Already Begun

I am no economist. To be honest, it all sounds like horse-trading and big-stakes gambling to me, while the idea that whole economies somehow depend on the endless shennanigans of the world's stock exchanges is frankly alarming.

But it seems worth being aware that the Iranian government is planning to open an Iranian Oil Bourse in March, 2006. As a PhD economist at ICH explains:
It will be based on a euro-oil-trading mechanism that naturally implies payment for oil in Euro.
Now is that the reason why the USA is agitating for war against Iran?

A bit of background may be in order:
As long as the dollar was the only acceptable payment for oil, its dominance in the world was assured... oil reserves were spread around various sovereign states that weren't strong enough, politically or militarily, to demand payment for oil in something else. If someone demanded a different payment, he had to be convinced, either by political pressure or military means, to change his mind.

The man that actually did demand Euro for his oil was Saddam Hussein in 2000. At first, his demand was met with ridicule, later with neglect, but as it became clearer that he meant business, political pressure was exerted to change his mind. When other countries, like Iran, wanted payment in other currencies, most notably Euro and Yen, the danger to the dollar was clear and present, and a punitive action was in order. Bush's Shock-and-Awe in Iraq was not about Saddam's nuclear capabilities, about defending human rights, about spreading democracy, or even about seizing oil fields; it was about defending the dollar, ergo the American Empire. It was about setting an example that anyone who demanded payment in currencies other than U.S. Dollars would be likewise punished.

... two months after the United States invaded Iraq, the Oil for Food Program was terminated, the Iraqi Euro accounts were switched back to dollars, and oil was sold once again only for U.S. dollars. No longer could the world buy oil from Iraq with Euro. Global dollar supremacy was once again restored. Bush descended victoriously from a fighter jet and declared the mission accomplished...
But what about the rest of the world? Why would they prefer to trade in Euros rather than dollars? The arguments are complex for anyone not familiar with international finance:
The Chinese and the Japanese will be especially eager to adopt the new exchange, because it will allow them to drastically lower their enormous dollar reserves and diversify with Euros, thus protecting themselves against the depreciation of the dollar. One portion of their dollars they will still want to hold onto; a second portion of their dollar holdings they may decide to dump outright; a third portion of their dollars they will decide to use up for future payments without replenishing those dollar holdings, but building up instead their euro reserves.

The Russians have inherent economic interest in adopting the Euro - the bulk of their trade is with European countries, with oil-exporting countries, with China, and with Japan. Adoption of the Euro will immediately take care of the first two blocs, and will over time facilitate trade with China and Japan. Also, the Russians seemingly detest holding depreciating dollars, for they have recently found a new religion with gold. Russians have also revived their nationalism, and if embracing the Euro will stab the Americans, they will gladly do it and smugly watch the Americans bleed.

The Arab oil-exporting countries will eagerly adopt the Euro as a means of diversifying against rising mountains of depreciating dollars. Just like the Russians, their trade is mostly with European countries, and therefore will prefer the European currency both for its stability and for avoiding currency risk, not to mention their jihad against the Infidel Enemy.

Only the British will find themselves between a rock and a hard place...
The author of this piece, Krassimir Petrov, lays out a number of options the USA may use, including military force, to block the Iranian Euro Bourse.
Get Informed, Stay Informed On Iraq

Anyone who still thinks (like Scott "White Is Black" McLellan) that the USA is ever going to "win" anything in Iraq has not been reading Informed Comment. There is much more bad news than just massive casualty figures day after day (which Western TV hardly bothers to mention any more).
The guerrilla movement has used terrorist tactics to bring Iraqi oil production to a standstill, according to Oil Ministry public relations manager Mohammed Ali Mustafa. He admitted, "There is no doubt that the US toppled the former regime for its own interests, ..."

Guerrilla threats and sabotage have denied electricity to Baghdad for all but about 6 hours a day in recent weeks. These reports on poor living conditions in Iraq most often neglect to mention that you can't run factories or workshops without electricity, so the shortages are holding back the economy and producing unemployment and economic hardship.
Talking To A Wall

Well at least the Bin Laden tapes gave the increasingly irrelevant Scotty McClellan something to talk about.

Any off-topic questions from the Press Gaggle met with the usual wall of silence:
I don't tend to get into discussing operational matters or alleged operational matters in the war on terrorism from this podium...

I'm not going to get into talking about any security matters...

I've already addressed this....
That last one was on the White House's links to the Abramoff scandal, which he most assuredly has NOT addressed! It would be interesting to compile a full list of the subjects which McLellan now refuses to discuss and then see what else was left besides pure propaganda.

Meanwhile, one of the reporters probably just lost his press pass with this exchange:
Q Why do you keep linking Iraq and 9/11 and so forth? Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, and you keep -- we started the war in Iraq. We brought the terrorists in, so-called.

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that's a misunderstanding of --

Q -- and 20 to 50 people are dying every day in Iraq.

MR. McCLELLAN: I think, one, that's a misunderstanding of the global war on terrorism that we are engaged in --

Q We invaded.

MR. McCLELLAN: Some people take a narrow view of the war on terrorism. The President recognizes --

Q Innocent Iraqis are paying the price.

MR. McCLELLAN: The President -- well, first of all, the Iraqi people, we have heard from many of them who have expressed their appreciation for the removal of a brutal and oppressive regime --

Q Many are dead. Thousands are dead.
Nice try, mate.
Bin Laden Comes Back From The Dead

I wonder if Bin Laden just issued another tape to make Michael Ledeen (and all the others who have been prematurely declaring his demise) looks stupid: if so, it wasn't necessary.

Once again, strangely enough, Bin Laden's tape seems (from a Westerner's viewpoint) to do nothing to support his cause.

The key issue in this tape is Bin Laden's offer of a truce to the people of the USA. He proudly cites US polls showing a majority support withdrawal from Iraq. I suggest you read the tape yourself. Despite it's importance, you are unlikely to get the full spiel on TV tonight: full text here.

Those of us who work hard (so hard...) to get rid of Bush & Co can only groan whenever tapes like this come out. Does Bin Laden really think that viewers in the USA will dump Bush and come embrace his bloody jihad? It sure didn't work in the days before the 2004 election, when Bin Laden's tape swung crucial votes to the Bush camp, it didn't work when he urged Iraqis not to vote, so why would it work now? Is he stupid?

Or is he really appealing (again) to a Muslim audience, hoping they will be impressed by his highly visible anti-US profile? Islamic moderates have been having some success in painting Bin Laden's violence as "un-Islamic", so maybe he thinks an offer of truce will garner some support from those whose sympathies are wavering in the balance?

Or maybe he is dead, and the CIA is creating it's own photoshopped propaganda. Or maybe he has been working hand-in-glove with the Bush neo-con team all along? Who knows? I sure don't! But this latest tape will do nothing to quiet the conspiracy theories: What Really Happened has a useful index if you are interested.
The WaPo's Civil War: Stifling Dissent

Kos covers this so I don't have to:

Readers Tell Ombudsman To Do Her Job, Washington Post Responds By Shutting Down Blog Comments
Then They Came For The Bloggers...

The Bush administration wants to know what you are doing on Google:
In court papers filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Justice Department lawyers revealed that Google has refused to comply with a subpoena issued last year for the records, which include a request for 1 million random Web addresses and records of all Google searches from any one-week period.

January 19, 2006

Fred Barnes Works For FOX

That's really about all you need to know about Fred Barnes' new book, Rebel in Chief, a sickening portrayal of Bush as an heroic cowboy visionary. Or, as the reviewer at Slate notes:
It's telling that in the fifth year of Bush's presidency, his defenders are still trying to persuade us that he's not disengaged or controlled by his advisers.
Damn Right I've Got The Blues

Another victim. Eric Alterman gets those anti-Bush Blogger Blues:
I’m getting more than a little tired of writing this, as I’m sure you are of reading it. But I persist, boring even myself, because I feel strongly that deliberately misleading a democratic nation into war is not just wrong, but a crime—an act of evil that taints everyone whom it touches...

The story by itself is only one piece of the puzzle, but really, when you add it all up: the various memos that have since been revealed, the reliance on Chalabi and “Curveball,” that drunk, lying Czech spy who made up the “Prague” meeting, the blackballing and smearing of all internal critics who raised questions, the Downing Street Memo and the deliberate BS-ing of Powell and his people, the illegal wiretaps, the refusal to release the content of the transcripts demanded by Bolton, etc., the refusal to acknowledge the many, many ambiguities in the intelligence on WMDs, the refusal to plan for an insurgency or even the maintenance of law and order, the decision not to go after Zarqawri, I could go on and on and on, and I do, all the go-__am time, as I said, earlier, boring even myself...
Neo-cons Keep On Neo-conning

The New York Sun gives some column space to these air-heads.

From his ivory tower of academia, Michael Rubin blames the fools on the ground:
The Bush Doctrine is correct, but the implementation is lousy.
Ron Dermer, co-author of Sharansky's "The Case for Democracy", says elections are the problem:
I think if I have any criticism, it's that the whole doctrine has come to mean having elections as soon as possible, and that's not what this is all about.
Got that? Democracy without elections, that's what it's all about!

Michael Ledeen wants more war:
What I've always said is that you cannot win a regional war by conducting it in just one place. With regard to Iraq, our failure to deal with Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iran, and just focus on Iraq by itself was doomed from the beginning. And I said that before we went into Iraq.
In his latest article, Ledeen calls the current state of affairs in the MidEast an "embarrassment", says Jack Straw is "pathetic" and anyone else who thinks things will change without lots more bloody US-sponsored violence is guilty of "wishful thinking":
You want sanctions? When have sanctions ever "worked" against hostile countries? Did they bring Saddam to heel?
Well, sanctions did stop Saddam getting WMDs, didn't they? And sanctions might have even helped get him over-thrown by his own people, if our own corrupt governments were not so busy subverting their own UN program with back-door payments to the dictator.
We should want to help the Iranian people, who are overwhelmingly pro-American, and bring down the mullahcracy, which is our outspoken, fanatical, and bloodthirsty enemy.
Sure, those "overwhelmingly pro-American" Iranians are probably stock-piling rose petals right now, in blissful expectation of a US invasion! Haven't we heard all this before? Sure enough...
For the central problem represented by the Islamic republic of Iran is terror, not technology. Iran is, and has been for decades, the driving engine of the terror war against us.
Dammit, George! We invaded the wrong country!

To back up his arguments, Ledeen quotes no less of an authority than (wait for it...) Mohammed Fadhil!

And if that's not enough to convince you, here's Ledeen's pitch for a bloody attack on Iran, which would surely result in millions of deaths:
So why not start now? The Iranian people may be ready. We won't know until we try... How about it?
Sorry, scumbag. We do know the outcome, because your crazed ideology of violence has already been tried, and found wanting.
Stupid Is As Stupid Does

A good point from Robert Parry:
Many Americans believe George W. Bush is uninformed, simpleminded and, in a single word, stupid. But there is a different way to look at the evidence and conclude that while Bush may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, it is he who thinks the American people are the real dullards.

After all, Bush is the one who explains the "facts" about current events as if he's speaking to people with the mental capacity of a five-year-old. He also assumes - with some justification - that his listeners don't mind being misled and lied to, as long as he gives them some bromides that make them feel good...
I haven't been reading enough Cartoons lately...
"Seize The Time"

It's nearly three years old but this speech by Arundhati Roy remains captivatingly relevant:
I speak as a slave who presumes to criticize her king...
Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil

Hilarious (not):
QUESTION: There are allegations that we sent people to Syria to be tortured…


QUESTION: Yes. You’ve never heard of any allegations like that?

MCCLELLAN: No, I’ve never heard that one. That’s a new one.

QUESTION: Syria? You haven’t heard that?

MCCLELLAN: That’s a new one.

QUESTION: Well, I can assure you it’s been well publicized. My question is…

MCCLELLAN: By what, bloggers?
From Think Progress, who point out that the story was on page one of the WaPo two years ago, plus just about every other newspaper thereafter.
Ledeen! Ledeen! Ledeen!

From The Raw Story:
A controversial neoconservative who occasionally consulted for the Bush Defense Department has confirmed that he was a contributor to the Italian magazine Panorama, whose reporter first came across forged documents which purported that Iraq was seeking to obtain uranium from Niger...

Panorama has been in the crosshairs since late 2002, when one of its journalists, Elisabetta Burba, was handed a set of documents -- including contracts -- purporting to show that Saddam Hussein had purchased 500 tons of yellowcake uranium from the African nation of Niger...

While Ledeen admits to writing for Panorama, he explained that the work had been in the past, saying, "That would be a couple of years ago."

But "a couple of years ago" would be right around the time when the forgeries were delivered to Burba or sent from the U.S. embassy in Rome via backchannels to the U.S. State Department, bypassing the CIA and other intelligence agencies...

Questions also surround Burba's attempts to authenticate the documents.

Speaking to RAW STORY, foreign intelligence sources say they wonder why she delivered documents she felt to be bogus to the U.S. embassy. These sources say there are two questions surrounding Burba's account: If she did indeed find the documents to be forgeries, why did she take them to an embassy as opposed to her own authorities -- and why did she deliver them to the U.S. embassy specifically?

It was Burba's editor at Panorama, Carlo Rossella, who allegedly told her to take the documents to the U.S. embassy, despite her own requests to travel to Niger to further investigate the claims.

It was also Rosella who intervened when Burba requested to contact the White House after hearing the infamous "16 words" in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address, dissuading her from contacting U.S. officials.

Rosella, intelligence sources say, could have been acting on the orders of Panorama's owner, Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's equivalent of Rupert Murdoch. Berlusconi - who also happens to be the current Prime Minister - was a supporter of President Bush leading up to the war.
Burning Bush

more fuel for the fire:
...it would have required Niger to send "25 hard-to-conceal 10-ton tractor-trailers" filled with uranium across 1,000 miles and at least one international border.
Stifling Dissent: The Entrepreneurial Approach

What if someone hired the most brilliant, outspoken liberal journalists in the USA, then put them in a pen and threw away the key?
Since the Times put the words of its eight Op-Ed columnists behind a paid wall last September, it has also decided that only TimesSelect subscribers should be allowed to e-mail Paul Krugman, Maureen Dowd, David Brooks, et al.
Reminds me of the Kos story about CNN and other channels getting advertising revenue in exchange for not running negative stories.
Bush's USA

something is happening but you don't know what it is.

so u stick yer head out the window and shout: gimme some truth!

outside the wind is whistling

nobody ain't saying nothing

then the smell hits you

and still, in the distance, someone just keeps on screaming and screaming and screaming
God It's Funny

Saddam's new trial judge takes a Baath but still smells bad:
The Iraqi court trying Saddam Hussein was thrown into fresh confusion when a senior official denounced the new chief judge as a member of Saddam's banned Baath party who should be barred from office.

January 18, 2006

Murderous, Criminal Hypocrites

How ridiculous... how criminally hypocritical! What has become of us? How have we come to tolerate such greedy, lying swine???

Turns out that the Australian Wheat Board (government-owned at the time) was probably the single biggest transgressor of UN sanctions against Saddam Hussein (and then we invaded Iraq because "sanctions were not working", remember?).

Now the Wheat Board officials under investigation are lying through their teeth. And when evidence comes out to reveal their lies, they just change their story! Shouldn't there be some sort of penalty for misleading the share market?

Of course there should be! But who is going to enforce such a penalty? Not the morally-bankrupt Australian government who helped advise the AWB on how best to circumvent the UN sanctions!!!

Let's be clear here...

The Howard government has a history of antagonism towards the UN. Shrugging off UN criticism of its treatment of Aborigines and refugees (among other disgraces), they have consistently complained (like the Bush regime) that the UN is corrupt and incompetent.

Now it turns out that THEY were the ones who were undermining the UN!

And then they claimed that we had to invade Iraq because UN inspectors were not doing their job on WMDs, and sanctions were not working!!!

Thousands of innocent Iraqi children died slow, lingering deaths from malnutrition and hunger because our greedy government was chasing political capital and a fast buck.

If we do not hurl these fools out of office on their asses, more shame on us!

Meanwhile, in Bush's USA, politicians who queued up to receive kick-backs from the likes of Abramoff and DeLay are now shamelessly debating how best to clean up their own pig-sty! The issue of reform has become a political football before the much-needed reforms have even been debated, much less instigated! And the public nod in somnolescent condescension...

Let no one be in doubt about this: we are nations under the rule of criminals.

War crimes have been committed in our name. If we do nothing about it, we stand accused by our own governments' hypocritical logic.

Enough is enough is enough is enough is enough!!!!!


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