June 30, 2006


Rise like lions after slumber in invanquishable number -- Shake your chains to earth like dew which in
sleep had fallen on you -- ye are many -- they are few.
- Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.
- Leo Tolstoy

You and I are the problem, and not the world, because the world is a projection of ourselves and to understand the world we must understand ourselves.
- Krishnamurti

Man is free, but not if he does not believe it.
- Giacamo Girlamo Cassanova de Seingalt

The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.
- Tacitus (A.D. 55?-130?)

Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.
- Voltaire (1694-1778)

Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence.
- Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination.
- Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

I want to know God's thoughts. The rest are details.
- Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

If the human mind was simple enough to understand, we'd be too simple to understand it.
- Emerson Pugh

Imagination is more important than knowledge.
- Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.
- Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.
- Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.
- Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961)

My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.
- Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
- Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.
- Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

To love another person is to see the face of God.
- Victor Hugo

Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.
- Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

I am become death, shatterer of worlds.
- Robert J. Oppenheimer (1904-1967) citing from the Bhagavadgita, after witnessing the world's first nuclear explosion

Go away… I'm alright.
- H. G. Wells (1866-1946), Last words






- St Paul, I Corinthians 13:1
Inventing Monsters

Debunking the Myth of Al Qaeda: how Washington helped to build al Quaeda into a global threat.
... most Al Qaeda operatives look more like life's losers, the kind who in a Western culture would join street gangs or become a petty criminals but who in the jihadi world could lose themselves in a "great cause," making some sense of their pinched, useless lives. Like Richard Reid, who tried to set his shoelace on fire. Or Ahmed Ressam, who bolted in a panic from his car at the U.S. border during an alleged mission to bomb the L.A. airport. Or Iyman Faris, who comically believed he could bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch. Or the crazed Zacarias Moussaoui, who was disowned even by bin Laden. Then you've got the hapless Lackawanna Six, and, more recently, the Toronto 17, who were thinking about pulling off an Oklahoma City-style attack with ammonium nitrate—or perhaps just beheading the prime minister—but hadn't quite gotten around to it...

"He does not fit the profile of high-level Al Qaeda terrorists. Neither do any of these supposed Al Qaeda operatives that were trumped up by administration officials in 2002 and 2003. Every single one of these stories, when subjected to the harsh light of public scrutiny, has collapsed." Those of us who have been on the war-on-terror beat since 9/11 have been reluctant to write about Al Qaeda this way, although some of us have suspected for a long time the group was never all that it was cracked up to be. Especially in the immediate wake of the horrific but brilliantly coordinated attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, it seemed absurdly risky—if not downright unpatriotic—to suggest that perhaps Muhammad Atta was the best bin Laden had, his Hail Mary pass, so to speak.

But there was substantial evidence showing that, up to 9/11, Al Qaeda could barely hold its act together, that it was a failing group, hounded from every country it tried to roost in (except for the equally lunatic Taliban-run Afghanistan). That it didn't represent the mainstream view even in the jihadi community, much less the rest of the Muslim world. This is the reality of the group that the Bush administration has said would engage us in a "long war" not unlike the cold war—the group that has led to the transformation of U.S. foreign policy and America's image in the world. The intelligence community generally agrees that the number of true A-list Al Qaeda operatives out there around the time of 9/11 was no more than about 1,000, perhaps as few as 500, most in and around Afghanistan. It is also fairly well established that bin Laden and his No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, were engaged in a fierce pre-9/11 struggle with their own meager band of followers over whether it was wise to take on the "far enemy"—the United States—when many jihadis really wanted to engage the "near enemy," their national regimes, like Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

The ultimate tragedy of the Iraq war was not only that it diverted the U.S. from the knockout blow against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan—the deaths of bin Laden and Zawahiri would likely have persuaded most jihadis it was wiser to focus on the near enemy—but that Iraq also altered the outcome of Al Qaeda's internal debate, tipping it in bin Laden's favor. "Iraq ended that debate because it fused the near and the far enemy," as Arquilla puts it succinctly. America ventured into the lands of jihad and willingly offered itself as a target in place of the local regimes. And as a new cause that revived the flagging Al Qaeda movement. It is, no doubt, bin Laden's greatest victory.

June 29, 2006

Tomorrow's News, Today

From the comments at The Blotter:
OBL has been dead for years now. You see, it's very hard to find dialysis treatment in the mountains and caves of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The myth that this former CIA asset lives and produces these unconfirmed tapes only serves the US government and its endless war on terror and militaristic global policies. Oh, and the FBI has conceded that this most wanted fugitive has not been linked to the 9/11 attacks. Watching the media sell this nonsense to the ignorant and ADD American public is just tragic.
Gitmo Set To Close

A major Breakthrough:
Terrorist suspect David Hicks will serve any jail sentence he is given in Australia.
The USA has admitted they do not want to keep prisoners in Gitmo any longer, but complained that other nations do not want to take prisoners back. This is a sign that Gitmo will be closed down ASAP.

The long legal process for David Hicks will begin all over again in Australia, and by the time he gets justice John Howard will be long gone. For shame.

I do not believe any of this crap:
The Supreme Court's decision is a landmark test case that will have major ramifications for Hicks and other terror accused.

If the US government is victorious and the court rules the military commissions are legal, Hicks's military commission proceedings will likely reopen.

If the Supreme Court rules the military commissions are illegal, Hicks and other Guantanamo inmates would still likely be prosecuted, but in the US civilian court system or a traditional military court martial.

The court is expected to make its ruling within days.
The truth is that the US Spureme Court has held back a damning decision because Bush administration negotiators have came up with a last-minute plea bargain.

For shame.

UPDATE: Well, whaddaya know? 13abc.com: Supreme Court blocks war crimes trials for Guantanamo detainees. I said they were holding back the decision, but obviously they telegraphed the outcome to the White House so they had time to prepare for it. So now it's time to throw those miserable prisoners somewhere else. Don't expect Norway to take them!
Kick The Ball, Charlie Brown!

You have to wonder about headlines like this:
The Federal Reserve this week looks set to lift US interest rates for a 17th straight time in its bid to ward off inflation.
Haditha, My Lai and the Media:
The Massacre at My Lai

In military slang, the village of My Lai 4 was called Pinkville. One of nine My Lai villages in the province of Songmy, it was known by military intelligence to be a stronghold for the Viet Cong.

On March 15, 1968, intelligence reports indicated that the 48th Viet Cong Battalion was holding out in the village. The area had been declared a "free-fire zone," which meant that civilians were urged to leave before the military arrived. Anyone who remained would be considered hostile.

Three platoons of Company C, First Battalion, 20th Infantry, 11th Infantry-Brigade, were to head out on the morning of March 16, 1968 to take My Lai. All three were under the command of Capt. Ernest Medina, a 13-year soldier and recipient of the silver and bronze stars. Sgt. Michael Bernhardt, a member of one of Medina's platoons, later said that a few days before the My Lai mission, his squad hit a landmine, and suffered nearly 20 casualties and one death. As Bernhardt recalled, "the men's general contempt for Vietnamese civilians intensified" because of this.

The 11th Infantry-Brigade went into My Lai at 7 a.m. on March 16. Military intelligence led the company to believe there would be no resistance, but once there the group got reports that their gunships were receiving fire. 1st Lt. William L. Calley Jr., one of the platoon leaders, relayed an order to "clear the area."

Accounts at the time differed widely about what happened, but by the end of the day, My Lai was indeed cleared of its inhabitants.

"I Sent Them a Good Boy and They Made him a Murderer"

On Sept. 6, 1969, the AP ran a small story on Lt. Calley, who was at the Ft. Benning stockades awaiting court-martial on the charges of murdering Vietnamese civilians. The charges were filed only after members of Congress and the Army received disturbing letters from ex-GI Ronald Ridenhour, who described the My Lai incident based on eyewitness accounts from his Army friends, including Sgt. Bernhardt.

But the press didn't give Calley's charges much coverage until November of that year, when a reporter named Seymour Hersh published his stories on My Lai with little-known Dispatch News Service. Hersh's accounts were the first public renderings of what happened at My Lai, and included testimony from Bernhardt, Calley, and Pvt. Paul Meadlo, another member of the 11th Brigade.

Hersh's profile of Calley emerged on November 13, 1969. Calley's lawyer, George W. Latimer, told Hersh, "This is one case that should never have been brought. Whatever killing there was was in a firefight in connection with the operation." Illustrating the dangers of dealing with an insurgency, Latimer continued, "You can't afford to guess whether a civilian is a Viet Cong or not. Either they shoot you or you shoot them."

In Hersh's following articles, Bernhardt and Meadlo both verified a civilian massacre. "I walked up and saw these guys doing strange things," Bernhardt said to Hersh in a November 20 article. "... You could see piles of people all through the village... all over... .We met no resistance and I only saw three captured weapons. We had no casualties...As a matter of fact, I don't remember seeing one military-age male in the entire place, dead or alive."

About four weeks later, in a profile titled, "The Story of a Soldier Who Refused to Fire at Songmy," which ran in The New York Times on December 14, 1969, reporter Joseph Lelyveld (much later the executive editor of the paper) got Bernhardt to elaborate. According to Bernhardt, Lelyveld wrote, "Captain Medina was explicit and matter-of-fact: The village and its inhabitants would be destroyed."

Lelyveld continued, "[Bernhardt] doesn't remember what ended the shooting or even whether he himself took part in the burning of the village... .What he does remember best are a few gruesome vignettes--one soldier, in particular, who laughed every time he pressed the trigger... and others who used hand grenades and grenade launchers to do the job of small arms... Perhaps a dozen of the men he watched struck him as having gone berserk... "

While Bernhardt had stated to Lelyveld that he refused to take part in the shooting of civilians, Meadlo admitted to killing civilians at My Lai. "There must have been about 40 or 45 civilians standing in one big circle in the middle of the village," Meadlo said to Hersh in a November 25 article. "... Calley came back [and said], 'Get with it ... I want them dead.'"

"I just thought we were supposed to do it," the 22-year-old said. But Meadlo also admitted that the killing "did take a load off my conscience for the buddies we'd lost. It was just revenge, that's all it was."

Meadlo's mother expressed her outrage at the Army to Hersh in the same article: "I sent them a good boy, and they made him a murderer."

The Army and the Press Stand Accused

Soon after Hersh's articles were published, the Army established what was to be known as the Peers Commission. Named after its ranking member, Lt. Gen. William R. Peers, the board's mission was to uncover the exact events of March 16, 1968, and investigate whether these actions had subsequently been ignored or hidden by Army officials. The Army announced it was investigating 26 men.

Soon it was the lawyers who became stars in the press. George W. Latimer, Calley's attorney, accused the press of bias, claiming in a November 29, 1969 article that, "news stories concerning the case definitely have impaired the accused's chances of having a fair trial."

F. Lee Bailey, who was counsel to Capt. Medina, went further, on December 4, 1969 telling the Christian Science Monitor "he may file libel suits against major news publications that have reported eyewitness accounts accusing his client of wanton killing during the incident."

Bailey followed through on his threat two days later when he filed a $110 million libel suit against Time, Inc. The suit focused on the Dec. 5, 1969 issue of Time Magazine, in which an article quoted Richard Pendleton, a former rifleman in Medina's company, as saying that "he had observed Capt. Medina shooting a little boy who was surrounded by dead bodies." The article went on to observe, "The biggest mystery so far is why no charges have been placed against Capt. Medina." The case was later dismissed.

In a separate article in The New York Times on December 5, 1969, Medina himself weighed in on the press: "... I think the news media has been very biased and unfair, not only to myself but to any other soldier in uniform and to the United States Army... It's not fair to the other people that have served their country honorably, the people that are in uniform, and it's not fair to the soldiers that we have in Vietnam right now."

The Peers Commission finished its report in March of 1970, delivering it to the Army Chief of State, Gen. William Westmoreland. The report contained charges not only of murder, but of rape, sodomy, and assault of civilians as well. It concluded that "... certain individuals, either wittingly or unwittingly, by their action suppressed information from the incident from being passed up the chain of command... "

The Army brought charges against 14 men. A March 22, 1970 Los Angeles Times article noted that this was "believed to be the largest collection of high-ranking U.S. officers ever implicated in a single case." The men included two generals, five colonels, three majors, and four captains.

Over the course of the following four years, the American public watched as all but one officer went unpunished for the events that occurred at My Lai. The two highest-ranking men to be charged, Maj. Gen. Samuel W. Koster and Brig. Gen. George H. Young Jr., saw charges dismissed due to lack of evidence. Both were eventually disciplined by the Army; Koster was demoted to brigadier general and both he and Young Jr., were stripped of their Distinguished Service Medals.

Another high profile case was that of Col. Oran K. Henderson, who was one of the ranking officers present in a helicopter that hovered over Medina's units as they unleashed their force upon My Lai. Henderson was court-martialed and faced charges that he "willingly failed to conduct a proper and thorough investigation as it was his duty to do."

Henderson responded by saying to the Los Angeles Times in May 1971 that, "Every unit of brigade size has its My Lai hidden some place." The only reason these atrocities aren't uncovered is that "every unit doesn't have a Ridenhour." Henderson was acquitted of all charges in December of 1971.

Capt. Medina faced charges of causing over 175 deaths, but was acquitted after Bailey was able to refute key witnesses and have photographs of the massacre that were taken by ex-GI photographer Ronald Haeberle excluded from evidence. "If you decide to hold soldiers to this sort of standard," Bailey told the jury, "then you should equip every soldier with an attorney to advise him on every occasion whether he has the right to shoot."

Medina was honorably discharged by the Army in 1971, and accepted a job as an assistant to the president of the R.J. Engstrom Corp., a civilian helicopter producer. The president of the firm was F. Lee Bailey.

In all, only Calley was convicted on charges relating to the massacre at My Lai. On March 29, 1971, after hearing testimony from soldiers such as Meadlo and Medina and seeing Haeberle's photographs of the massacre, the jury convicted Calley of premeditated murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. However, just two days after his trial, President Nixon ordered him released from prison pending his appeal.

Calley served three-and-a-half years of house arrest; eventually his sentence was diminished to ten years, only a third of which he served before being paroled.

In 1972, Seymour Hersh's book "Cover-Up" was published by Random House. Based on the 28,000 pages of documents from the Army investigation, Hersh's book accused the Army not only of "whitewashing" the story of My Lai, but also whitewashing the cover-up.

Further, Hersh added, there was another massacre on March 16, 1968 that was performed by Company C's parent unit, Task Force Baker. These and other details of wrongdoing by the Army were held within the Peers Report, but the information was in sections that were not formally released to the press due to "national security" issues. It was not until Nov. 14, 1974 that all pages were released. On that day, Hersh wrote in an article for The New York Times that "The Peers document showed that knowledge of the atrocity [of My Lai] was widespread throughout" the Army.

One Morning in Haditha

The chronology of what occurred at the Iraqi village of Haditha on Nov. 19, 2005 is eerily similar to that of My Lai.

Though the details of the 2005 event are still being pieced together, this much is known: The village of Haditha, located in the Anbar province, was particularly violent and played host to many Sunni Arab insurgents. On Nov. 19, 2005, the soldiers of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment hit an improvised explosive device (IED) with their Humvee on a road in Haditha. The explosion killed Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, a 20-year-old.

Thereafter, the versions of what happened vary drastically.

According to a Nov. 20, 2005 Marine communiqué, the Marines received fire from insurgents in Haditha, and returned fire themselves. Once the battle ended, 15 civilians were dead. However, this story was soon challenged by allegations that the Marines killed civilians in reprisal for the death of Terrazas. After a preliminary investigation in February 2006 caused Marine officials to doubt the original communiqué, the military announced that the civilians had been shot dead and were not killed by the IED blast as previously stated.

Based on this new information, Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Multi-National Corps Commanding General in Iraq, recommended a formal investigation into whether the Marines violated the rules of engagement at Haditha. The investigation now falls under the jurisdiction of the Navy's Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).

The main impetus behind the new investigation closely resemble those of My Lai.

Just as Ronald Haeberle's photographs of the My Lai massacre at the outset provoked outrage upon appearing in The Cleveland Plain Dealer (and were eventually admitted as evidence), a videotape by an Iraqi journalism student that showed the corpses of the Haditha victims--including a 3-year-old --caused the Marines to open a formal investigation into what occurred that November morning.

Just as Seymour Hersh's articles proved to be the catalyst for action, so too were the shocking eyewitness accounts provided by Tim McGirk in a March 27, 2006 article for Time magazine.

Titled "One Morning in Haditha," McGirk's article took the reader through the tragedy of Haditha, one that "has become numbingly routine amid the daily reports of violence in Iraq." A nine-year-old girl named Eman Waleed told McGirk that she "watched [the soldiers] shoot [her] grandfather, first in the chest and then in the head. And then they killed [her] granny." Another witness, Yousif Ayed, told the reporter of how his four brothers were killed by U.S. troops: "We could tell from the blood tracks across the floor what happened ... The Americans gathered my four brothers and took them inside my father's bedroom, to a closet. They killed them inside the closet."

In the same article, Marines spokespeople stated that after the death of Terrazas, the Marines came under fire from the direction of the Waleed household.

The Pursuit of Justice

By April 2006, the Marines had publicly relieved three leaders of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment of duty. However, they denied that the disciplinary actions were related to Haditha. Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski, the commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, insisted instead that it was because he "lost confidence in the officers."

The following month saw Rep. John Murtha (D-Penn.), himself a former Marine, saying in a May 18, 2006 Wall Street Journal article that the military inquiry would show that the Haditha killings were "much worse than reported," and that Marines had "killed innocent civilians in cold blood." A House Armed Services Committee (HASC) was set up to oversee the Haditha investigations in order to avoid any "whitewashing" of the type that occurred in the My Lai investigations.

As June 2006 arrived, further evidence surfaced in the press. The original inquiry that set into motion Lt. Gen. Chiarelli's request for a NCIS investigation was revealed to the public in a May 31 New York Times article. Col. Gregory Watt, an Army officer in Baghdad, led the three-week investigation that occurred in February and March of 2006. Watt's findings included several inconsistencies in the Marines' official story.

Currently, the press coverage has focused on the lawyers involved with the case -- much like the coverage of My Lai. Attorney Neal Puckett has taken the most forceful role; a former military judge himself, Puckett is representing Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, who was the leader of one of the platoons on Nov. 19, 2005.

Puckett dismissed the ongoing investigations against his client in a June 12 article in the Los Angeles Times, saying that, "There will be no proof that these Marines intentionally killed civilians. To call this a massacre is completely groundless." He continued in a defense that almost directly matched George W. Latimer's defense of Lt. Calley: "That innocent people were killed is regrettable, but now to have people, in hindsight, say, 'Well, I would have done things differently,' is wrong. Unless you were on the ground that day, you can't judge."

He also has said: "My client did nothing contrary to his training on that day."

Much as Bailey and others did before him, Puckett brought accusations against the press, claiming that "an erroneous explanation given to the media" had caused much of the Haditha controversy, the whole story had not come out, and the media's wide coverage of Rep. Murtha's remarks had tainted the case.

As this article is written, the investigation into the alleged cover-up of the Haditha killings, is the most recent news. The Los Angeles Times on June 21, 2006 quoted an unnamed Defense Department official who said that this report concluded, "Virtually no inquiry at any level of command was conducted into the circumstances surrounding the deaths," even though "there were ... a number of red flags and opportunities to do so."

If history is any guide, it will serve the press well not to be cowed by claims of bias or lack of objectivity when dealing with such serious cases as Haditha -- especially since in today's overtly partisan atmosphere most readers will likely flock to positions without close attention to the evidence.
It's not right, it's not right, it's not right!

How can I keep from blogging?

Israeli tanks and bulldozers entered northern Gaza before daybreak Thursday...

The Israeli military denied it moved into northern Gaza.

June 28, 2006

Bush Goes Nuclear

From Dan Froomkin's Nuke the Messenger column:
In accusing the press -- and specifically, the New York Times -- of putting American lives at risk, President Bush and his allies have escalated their ongoing battle with the media to nuclear proportions...

How does it possibly matter to a terrorist whether the government got a court order or not? Or whether Congress was able to exercise any oversight? The White House won't say. In fact, it can't say.

By contrast, it does matter to us.

June 27, 2006

The destruction of Australian journalism:
Almost every major Australian media organisation is engaged in the reduction of editorial staff and budgets.

These are the dog days for Australian journalism as the creative destruction of "old media" is extracting a price. But it's a price which won't just be measured in dollars – it will be measured by the permanent decline in the quality of the editorial content of this country's fourth estate...

Meanwhile, the federal government's determination to abolish the cross-media rules will only accelerate the cannibalisation of journalism. That absurd policy will result in a grotesque rationalisation of the media industry with an inevitable result: few owners, fewer journalists, less diversity, more commoditised journalism.

And a debased democracy.
Oz media:
All the Australian hacks and commentators had to do was ask the obvious follow up questions: Was Australia consulted about this, Mr Howard? Has Australia complained about the use of torture? Did Australia approve of the "minimal troops on the ground" strategy? Would it be better for the war effort if Rumsfeld was sacked?

The unspoken reason for the lack of question may be that everyone knows the answer: Australia is the lackey along for the ride...
Easing The Passage

Murdoch gets out the lube, John Howard bends over:
Prime Minister John Howard has backed the easing of cross-media and foreign ownership restrictions on the media.

But Mr Howard warned he will not be spending too much time or political capital on pursuing changes to the way Australian media is owned.

It follows comments by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose company News Ltd has lodged a formal protest with the government over its planned media reforms.
David Addington: A Yes Man Par Excellence

Via War and Piece, an interview with the New Yorker's Jane Mayer, who has a profile on David Addington out now:
[A]: Some constitutional scholars have questioned whether Addington, in his eagerness to expand the powers of the Presidency, which he and Cheney see as having been unduly diminished since Watergate, gives enough weight to the legislative and judicial branches of the federal government. Some have suggested that he has aggrandized the powers of the President in such a way that the executive branch ignores the system of checks and balances set up by the Founding Fathers, so that its actions are unchecked and unaccountable. Bruce Fein, a Republican legal activist, told me that he regards Addington as an adequate lawyer but an inadequate student of American history, because he believes that Addington has failed to understand that the Founders designed the U.S. government specifically to insure that the executive would not have unlimited power. Fein suggests that the Founders, unlike Addington, understood the perils of concentrated power. They had seen in George III, among others, what tyranny meant. [...]

[Q]: David Addington doesn’t speak to reporters, and he refused your interview requests. After speaking to many people about Addington, what would you like to ask him now?

[A]: I’d like to ask him whether, in his view, there is anything that the President cannot legally do in the service of national security. Bruce Fein, the Republican legal activist, suggests that, in Addington’s view, the President could kill someone in a public park if he deemed the person to be an enemy combatant. I’d like to hear Addington’s thinking about why such an extreme view might be justified, and also why it is that, according to colleagues, he sees no political downside to these extreme views.
Switching Off

FOX News and CNN are losing viewers:
So far during the second quarter, the No. 1 cable news channel’s primetime schedule has dropped 22% in its core 25-54 demo and 8% in total viewers. The first quarter was even worse.

Chief rival CNN has also dipped in recent weeks, but less dramatically, off 18% in the demo and 2% in total viewers.
Where Is "The Decider"?

We really, really do WANT to shut Gitmo, but we just cannot - Feel sorry for us!
Many of these countries do not want their nationals back...
Hello-o-o, David Hicks.
Iraq Body Count DoubleSpeak

The people who think they are "winning" in Iraq try to re-write history - but the history of this war is still no more decided than the "winner".

Responsible journalists should not be using the War Criminals' official stats.
What a strange headline: US billionaires try to explain giveaway. The article says "it was an event without much sense of celebration or pizazz", as if glitzy pizzazz were a necessary ingedient to legitimize such benevolent behaviour in the media's eye.
Nothing to do with Bush:
The mother of a journalist slain nearly six years ago still doubts that a body in the morgue is that of her son, and she will continue to refuse burial, a newspaper reported Monday.

Heorhiy Gongadze, who wrote about high-level corruption on an Internet news site, was abducted in 2000. A decapitated body — identified by government authorities as Gongadze after numerous forensic tests — was later found in a forest outside Kiev.

The killing triggered months of protests against then-President Leonid Kuchma after a key witness later released tape recordings in which voices resembling those of Kuchma and others were heard conspiring against Gongadze.

Three former policemen went on trial for the killing earlier this year, while the investigation to find the mastermind is said to be continuing. Kuchma has denied any involvement.

Gongadze's mother, Lesya Gongadze, has repeatedly rebuffed official efforts to persuade her to claim the remains, which continue to be held in a morgue in the outskirts of Kiev. Her refusal has helped, in part, to pressure authorities to solve a case that sparked public outrage against Kuchma, and remains a major test for President Viktor Yushchenko, who pledged to bring the journalist's killers to justice.

"I do not want to bury a stranger's remains," Lesya Gongadze was quoted as telling Gazeta Po-Kievsky. "Maybe the Prosecutor General's Office believes that if they give me the body, it will remove them of any responsibility for this dragged out case."

Lesya Gongadze added that to claim the body, she would be forced to get a certificate "that wouldn't list the reason for death, the time or the place."
But perhaps instructive nevertheless.
The Earth, Flattened

A massive storm in DC brings a century-old elm tree crashing down across the White House driveway... but Bush still insists that man-made global warming is not real.
"I have said consistently," answered Bush, "that global warming is a serious problem. There's a debate over whether it's manmade or naturally caused. We ought to get beyond that debate and start implementing the technologies necessary … to be good stewards of the environment, become less dependent on foreign sources of oil…"

The President — as far as the extensive and repeated researches of this and many other professional journalists, as well as all scientists credible on this subject, can find — is wrong on one crucial and no doubt explosive issue. When he said — as he also did a few weeks ago — that "There's a debate over whether it's manmade or naturally caused" … well, there really is no such debate.

At least none above what is proverbially called "the flat earth society level."
NYT = Terrorist Organisation

Bush, Cheney, Snow and others line up to attack the New York Times for disclosing their illegal surveillance programs:
President Bush said Monday it was "disgraceful" that the news media had disclosed a secret CIA-Treasury program to track millions of financial records in search of terrorist suspects. The White House accused The New York Times of breaking a long tradition of keeping wartime secrets.

"The fact that a newspaper disclosed it makes it harder to win this war on terror," Bush said, leaning forward and jabbing his finger during a brief question-and-answer session with reporters in the Roosevelt Room...

Bush said Congress had been briefed on the program and "what we did was fully authorized under the law. And the disclosure of this program is disgraceful."
A fictional President fighting a fictional war using fictional powers from a fictional Attorney General. It's all legal, folks, even the bits that are illegal. Trust us. The ends justify the means. Whoo hoo.

June 26, 2006

Road To Guantanamo: the movie.
Mere Symantics?

Akatiri has just resigned. Here's a closer look at what's going on in East Timor: Timor-Leste: Behind The Demonisation Of Mari Alkatiri.
Wierd scenes at Sydney's Machiavelli restaurant:
Mr Murdoch, now an American citizen, said it was a great honour to be named the most influential Australian of all time.

"When I look at the list ... (there are people) who have done a great deal more to improve the whole world," he told the gathering.
Of course, being "influential" does not necessarily have anything to do with "improving the whole world".
Good news for a change: Philippines bans the death penalty, thanks largely to pressure from the Roman Catholic church.
Tell your friends and family not to buy Cadbury chocolates!
If The Iraqis Ask Us To Leave...

The allegedly sovereign Iraq Government tells Newsweek what they want:
A timetable for withdrawal of occupation troops from Iraq. Amnesty for all insurgents who attacked U.S. and Iraqi military targets. Release of all security detainees from U.S. and Iraqi prisons. Compensation for victims of coalition military operations.
As the Guardian reports, the details are vague and there is lots of opposition from all sides.

The BBC puts it very nicely indeed, saying Maliki's plan is "part of a grand strategy by the Bush administration to stabilise Iraq - or to stabilise the perception of Iraq - in advance of the mid-term elections for Congress in November."
So when push comes to shove and the North Koreans are actually talking about launching a missile that can hit the USA, and the Bush-lovers in the USA all say, "Well, no problemo - we'll just shoot that missile out of the sky with our Star Wars defence system," it turns out that the Star Wars defence system really is (as the critics have long maintained) a load of crap.
Saddam's WMDs were made in the USA:
I can honestly say that I was having a hard time comprehending what I was seeing. Unless my senses were deceiving me, Weichert and I had actually found the mother load of Operation Iraqi Freedom – actual Iraqi WMD. I walked over to one of the crates and saw a plastic sheath containing what appeared to be a bill of laden. I cut it open with my Leatherman and pulled the documents out.

At this point I want to say that loud and clear that I very much regret not having either shoved that document in my pocket or made a copy of it and sent it home for safe keeping. At the time I actually thought that a report would be written and normal Army and intelligence protocol would be followed, so there would be no need for me to have to prove anything. But I digress…

I opened the folded off-white paper form and noticed several interesting things right away. The bombs had been purchased in the United States in 1988 from what appeared to be a government contractor called The Carlyle Group. I am almost embarrassed now to say that I had not heard of The Carlyle Group at that time so the name meant nothing to me. The only reason I remember it at all is that I was amazed that the bill was in English and I was stunned to see that a bomb that was used by Iraq in delivering chemical WMD – the only WMD found during the entire Iraq war – was in fact supplied to Saddam Hussein by the United States. Un-blanking believable.

June 25, 2006

Curveball again:
On the eve of the U.N. speech, Drumheller received a late-night phone call from Tenet, who said he was checking final details of the speech. Drumheller said he brought up the mobile labs.

"I said: 'Hey, boss, you're not going to use that stuff in the speech . . . ? There are real problems with that,' " Drumheller said, recalling the conversation.

Drumheller recalled that Tenet seemed distracted and tired and told him not to worry.

The following day, Tenet was seated directly behind Powell at the U.N. Security Council as the secretary of state presented a detailed lecture and slide show about an Iraqi mobile biological weapons program.

Tenet, responding to questions about Drumheller's accounts, provided to The Post a statement he had given in response to the Silberman-Robb Commission report in which he said he didn't learn of the problems with Curveball until much later. He did not recall talking to Drumheller about Curveball, and said it was "simply wrong" for anyone to imply that he knew about the problems with Curveball's credibility.

"Nobody came forward to say there is a serious problem with Curveball or that we have been told by the foreign representative of the service handling him that there are worries that he is a 'fabricator,' " Tenet said in his statement.

June 23, 2006

I Would Sell My Soul For Total Control

How America is rapidly becoming a police state:
Bush's line of thinking on this is that the ends justify the means, no matter who has to be tortured; no matter who has to die. No matter who has to be invaded, bombed, killed or have their property taken from them, or their houses raided by federal agents. No matter what has to happen, in George Bush's mind, it's worth it to "get the terrorists." He can invoke the terror scare to insist on just about any transgression against the civil liberties of the American people. That is the most frightening thing of all.

The actions of President Bush and his administration are far more terrifying to me -- as someone who understands American history and world history -- than any actions taken by the terrorists, because a group of terrorists can destroy one building, but a group of power-hungry national leaders -- who are willing to do anything to justify their personal political agenda -- can destroy an entire nation, and that's what I see this administration doing right now.
Karl Rove's stated for the GOP is to hold power forever: to become unchallenge-able politically. Now add to that their myopic vision of right-wing Republicans (or more specifically their own inner circle) as "the good guys", their interpretation of the President's powers, and their "ends justify the means" attitude to problems. You can see where they are headed, can't you?
I have a question for you: If president Bush would secretly sign off on top-secret surveillance programs that would violate laws -- to spy on Americans citizens in their own homes and in their own jobs -- and if this administration would actively engage in the torture of political prisoners, and would even refuse to outlaw torture, then what would this administration not do? Is there anything it would not do to achieve its political agendas?

Where does this end?
But now assume they gain such unassailable control of the USA on a long-term basis, as they evidently believe they can (if not, they would be cutting and running by now). And then think about what that means for the world at large.

It is not only US citizens who should be afraid of the Bush regime.
Bush Has Your Banking Details

Well, whaddaya know? Looks like I was right about the US government looking into your bank records. From The New York Times:
Counterterrorism officials have examined banking transactions involving thousands of Americans without warrants or subpoenas, officials say.
"Thousands"? I bet that turns out to be the understatement of the year!

Stick with me, folks. Gandhi may be down, disgusted, disturbed and close to quitting, but he is not done yet!

PS: Funny how this story comes out on a Friday, isn't it...?

UPDATE: Bush is also censoring journalists Internet access.
Bush's World Cup

As you know, the rules of football are terribly quaint and old-fashioned...
Viva Timor L'Este!

John Pilger watches as Australia builds its empire:
Arriving with a force of 2,000, an Australian brigadier flew by helicopter straight to the headquarters of the rebel leader, Major Alfredo Reinado - not to arrest him for attempting to overthrow a democratically elected prime minister but to greet him warmly. Like other rebels, Reinado had been trained in Canberra.

John Howard is said to be pleased with his title of George W Bush's "deputy sheriff" in the South Pacific. He recently sent troops to a rebellion in the Solomon Islands, and imperial opportunities beckon in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and other small island nations. The sheriff will approve.
I am concerned that Pilger paints an overly sympathetic portrait of Alkatiri, who needs to answer serious questions about "Hit squads". Two wrongs do not make a right: Australia's shameful policies do not automatically make Alkatiri's Fretilin Party into angels.

Rebels who come to power through violence tend to have difficulty transforming into peaceful and democratic political parties.

I think the people of East Timor, like those in Iraq, need some new options: unfortunately, those in control (including Australia) have no real stake in providing credible alternatives.

This story highlights the problems we ordinary people face when we cannot believe our government or our media. The truth is out there, but you sure need to dig hard for it!
Bush's Folly

William Blum counts the cost to Iraqis.
Bush Meets Camus

How simply exquisite. Annoyed Bush calls his European critics "absurd":
An animated President George Bush has termed "absurd" the feeling among some Europeans that the US is more of a threat to stability than North Korea and Iran...
Where to start? How about this:
The United States has found 500 chemical weapons in Iraq since 2003, and more weapons of mass destruction are likely to be uncovered, two Republican lawmakers said Wednesday.

"We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, chemical weapons," Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., said in a quickly called press conference late Wednesday afternoon.
Yeah, that breathless account is from FOX News. It took only one phone call to de-bunk the hoax:
... these were pre-1991 weapons that could not have been fired as designed because they already been degraded. And... these are not the WMD's this country and the rest of the world believed Iraq had-and not the WMD's for which this country went to war.
Aussies Kill Iraqi Minister's Bodyguard

* * * UPDATE 2: More details emerge (see diagram here):
The botched security operation happened on Wednesday afternoon, Baghdad time, when an Australian military convoy was conducting a reconnaissance mission of the route between the minister's office and the Australian embassy in Baghdad in preparation for a meeting with an Australian trade delegation...

According to a senior defence spokesman, Gus Gilmore, a convoy of Australian troops from the security detachment travelling in three light armoured vehicles were checking the route...

The security detachment was conducting precinct security duty in association with a regular visit to Baghdad by Australia's senior trade commissioner to Iraq, who is based in Amman. The senior trade commissioner was not with the unit at the time.
The fact that the Aussie Defence Force "deeply regrets" the incident is a pretty clear sign that they are accepting the blame. But this "explanation" is just too wierd for words:
The forces are from Security Detachment 9, the unit to which Private Jake Kovco belonged before he died in a bizarre shooting incident in April...

An Australian military officer had warned on Monday that the forces at the Australian headquarters in Baghdad were under intense pressure because of the demands of the inquiry into Private Kovco's death.
So there is a big cover-up going on about the accidental death of Private Kovco, whose body was lost en route home to Australia, and that is putting so much stress on our poor diggers in Iraq that they feel the need to let off steam by killing a few Iraqis. Is that the government argument?
The commanding officer of the soldiers who shot at the vehicle was tied up most of Monday in the Kovco inquiry giving evidence by video link from Baghdad along with three other members of the unit, including two of Kovco's room-mates.
Sounds like that is the Aussies defence: temporary insanity due to the stress of involvement in a cover-up. Either that, or you can take the far too familiar official line:
"It would be wrong to speculate on the circumstances of the incident until that investigation is complete."
As Paul McGeogh writes in the SMH today, Australian forces in Iraq are Headlong on the road to nowhere:
[D]espite the extraordinary language of Bush's praise for Howard, the US President's diplomatic staff must work hard to keep the smirk from their faces when the Australians call.

* * *

A delegation from the Australian Embassy was visiting the Iraqi Minister For Trade, Abdel Falah al-Sudani, in his Baghdad office. The Australian delegation had armed escorts, apparently from the Australian defence forces in Iraq. As they left the trade ministers office, the Aussies encountered some armed men dressed in plain clothes and shot one of them dead. Turns out these were actually al-Sudani's plain-clothes bodyguards.

Details are still sketchy at the moment, though Reuters footage showed "the Iraqi bodyguards' sports utility vehicle crashed into a pole, its windscreen peppered with bullet holes." That certainly does not sound like a minor incident.

Focus here must necessarily be on exactly WHO was taking part in the Australian trade delegation at the time, and why: was this visit connected to the ongoing AWB scandal? Were the Aussies trying to pressure the Iraqis into a new deal (it has been an off-again, on-again deal for months)? If so, did the Iraqis try to intimidate or attack the Aussies involved?

It's interesting that al-Sudani, a leading Shi'ite, is calling the dead man a "martyr" and calling for compensation to be paid to his family. He also wants "an explanation from the Australian government for this intentional and unwarranted criminal aggression".

Fair enough. A clear explantion is certainly needed (prepare for yet another Australian government cover-up). But al-Sudani surely has some questions of his own to answer as well. This certainly sounds like a major stuff-up: did the Iraqi bodyguards not know that an armed delegation of government officials was visiting? Was there no co-ordination between the two groups?

This incident sounds a bit like George W. Bush's recent visit to Baghdad, where the Iraqi PM admitted he had only 5 minutes notice of Bush's presence in the country. How much notice did al-Sudani's men have of the Australian visit?

Were these plainclothes bodyguards part of al-Sudani's official staff, or were they unofficial religious or tribal protectors? Is it possible they could have been one of the many "death squads" that now roam Baghdad's streets, albeit in al-Sudani's employ? Did they perhaps have a secret mission to attack the Aussie delegation?

And why is al-Sudani not calling for a murder conviction in an Iraqi court? Isn't that how "sovereign" governments are supposed to work? Were private security contractors involved? IF so, was it a private contractor who pulled the trigger? (NB: ALL foreign soldiers and private contractors in Iraq still have diplomatic immunity, under rules laid down by the former US head of Iraq, Mr. Paul Bremer).

Just what sort of cowboys are running Iraq these days? Who is really in charge - the Iraqis or the US Coalition? What sort of trigger-happy hoons are minding the Australian government's stooges in Iraq, and what does an incident like this tell us about the much-vaunted "improvements" in security there?

What a farce.

UPDATE 1: Meanwhile, more than 100 employees of Iraq's Ministry of Industry have been kidnapped by gunmen north of Baghdad as they left work. Things are going great, obviously.

June 22, 2006

Thinking Beyond Bush

We talk about the need to improve the US electoral process, but we also need to break up the media's monopoly on information:
Dismantling America’s media monopoly should be a central part of any progressive political platform. Democracy is impossible where information can be controlled by a few powerful corporations that shape the narrative to suit their own self-serving objectives.
Child Molesters For Bush

The truth will out:
In 2000, Cramer produced an anti-Al Gore television ad accusing the Clinton-Gore administration of giving nuclear technology to China in return for campaign contributions.

Cramer’s commercial showed a young girl picking daisy petals and ends with a nuclear blast... Cramer’s ad made national news, though he refused to identify who financed the commercial. One of the girls in the ad stands as his accuser now.
Rupert's Jobs For The Neocons

Jose Maria Aznar, the former Spanish PM who lost power after dragging his unwilling country to war in Iraq at George W. Bush's bidding, has been made a director on the board of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

The former Spanish tax inspector has been friends for several years with Rupert Murdoch, the man who controls News Corp...

Aznar has led the right-leaning FAES foundation thinktank and lectured at Georgetown University in Washington since he left office after eight years.
Wikipedia suggests FAES is "closely linked" to the US neocons.

You have to wonder if this appointment is a good business decision on Rupert's part. One assumes the board members (Murdoch's son and heir-apparent Lachlan is also on the board) are all just well-connected, highly-paid lackies whose job is to say "Yes" to whatever the Chairman decides, in which case Aznar should fit in just perfectly.

Mind you, Aznar's grandfather, Manuel Aznar Zubigaray, was editor of the El Sol newspaper and a firm Franco supporter who helped create Fascist propaganda. So maybe he is more suited than he first seems.

Plus ca change, eh?
Spotlight On Cheney

Cheney supposedly had nothing to do with a $7 billion Halliburton KBR contract in Iraq, so why did the VP have to sign off on it?
The request was approved "contingent on informing (the White House) tomorrow. We anticipate no issue since action has been coordinated with (the vice president's) office," the March 5, 2003 email said.
Details via MichaelMoore.com
What Bush Means When He Says "Freedom"

Charles Sullivan defines it:
By freedom Bush and company mean corporate freedom. They are speaking about the freedom of corporations to operate with impunity in all parts of the world without regulation of any kind.

Simply stated, they are talking about corporations ruling the world backed by the strong arm of the U.S. military. They are covertly advocating the oppression of the world's people's, the plunder of the earth, the destruction of culture and language, the exportation of jobs to the cheapest, least regulated and most exploitable pools of labor. That is what they mean by freedom--the freedom for Plutocrats to rule the world; Poppy Bush's New World Order; the global domination of the working class by the ruling Plutocrats.

They go about their grim business with religious fervor, like the Puritans who set about methodically destroying the American wilderness and slaughtering the Indians. I call it predatory capitalism and it is not limited to just the Bush clan. It is equally championed by Congress and the major presidential candidates, all of whom are in the pockets of their corporate funders; and it is preached in our educational institutions as economic gospel.
A Few (More) Bad Apples

Actually quite a bloody lot of bad apples:
The incident took place in the town of Hamdania in central Iraq, and is a separate case from the November 19 killing of 24 civilians in Haditha in which other Marines are suspected.

Military criminal investigators examined whether the servicemen fatally shot a 52-year-old disabled Iraqi man, Hashim Ibrahim Awad, in the face, then planted an AK-47 assault rifle and a shovel next to his body to make it appear he was an insurgent placing a roadside bomb...

In a development in a separate case, the military said a fourth Army soldier, Spc Juston Graber, had been charged with premeditated murder in connection with the shooting deaths of three detainees in Iraq on May 9.

The military said on Monday three other soldiers were charged in the same killings and with threatening to kill a fellow soldier if he told authorities the truth about the case.

June 21, 2006

Killing Iraqi Children is morally repugnant:
In a short editorial, the Detroit News asked an interesting question:

“Some war critics are suggesting Iraq terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi should have been arrested and prosecuted rather than bombed into oblivion. Why expose American troops to the danger of an arrest, when bombs work so well?”
Here’s one possible answer: In order not to send a five-year-old Iraqi girl into oblivion with the same 500-pound bombs that sent al-Zarqawi into oblivion...

Suppose it was the Soviet Union that had done everything to Iraq that the U.S. government has done: imposed brutal sanctions that contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children, invaded Iraq, and then had Soviet troops occupying the country while organizing elections, killing insurgents and resisters, censoring the press, confiscating guns, conducting warrantless searches, detaining people without trials, and torturing and sexually abusing detainees.

Is there any doubt that a large segment of the American people, especially conservatives and neo-conservatives, would be railing like banshees against the Soviet communist forces in Iraq?

...all too many Americans have yet to confront the moral implications of invading and occupying Iraq. U.S. officials continue to exhort the American people to judge the war and occupation on whether it proves to be “successful” in establishing “stability” and “democracy” in Iraq. If so, the idea will be that the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis, including countless Iraqi children, will have been worth it. It would be difficult to find a more morally repugnant position than that.
Remember The Old Days?

Who can take a blog post
Sprinkle it with joos?
Cover it in bullshit
And a homonim or two
The Ghandi Man
The Ghandi Man can
The Ghandi Man can
Cause he mixes it with hate
And makes the kool aid taste good

Who can take tomorrow
Dip it in a scream?
Multiply the sorrows
And collect up all the cream
The Ghandi Man
The Ghandi Man can
The Ghandi Man can
The Ghandi Man can
Cause he mixes it with hate
And makes the kool aid taste good
And the kool aid tastes good

Cause the Ghandi Man thinks it should
Cause the Ghandi Man thinks
Cause the Ghandi Man thinks it should
Good idea: Bush should retire to Baghdad.
Ex-Aide To Bush Found Guilty:
"This is the type of conviction that tends to loosen tongues."
La Fiasco Finmeccanica

AlterNet has more on the CIA's Italian Kidnapping Plot:
During the years of the Berlusconi administration, Finmeccanica became a defense giant, in no small part because the Italian government gave the company some $4 billion in interest-free loans that the European Commission says were actually illegal subsidies. In 2003, in a joint venture with the Carlyle Group, Finmeccanica acquired Fiat Avio, another prominent Italian defense contactor. According to sources close to the company, Finmeccanica has also joined forces with other, undisclosed partners.

Could there already be a Berlusconi investment? Although Senator Martone doesn't discount such a hypothesis, he suspects Berlusconi's end game may be more sophisticated. Martone wonders aloud: "With this country's finances in such a shamble, it wouldn't be surprising if Finmeccanica at some points ends on the selling block. And once there, who knows who will come up to buy it?"
Sift Through The Grit

There are some excellent points buried in this article, Christ was not a dictator:
Whereas American theology was born out of a hope for democracy, much of it is wedded to a picture of Christ as a benevolent dictator. Should we be surprised that a hierarchical cosmology would produce hierarchical churches and nations? Should we be surprised that religious nations that picture Christ as a loving dictator have produced conquistadors, inquisitors and crusaders?

What else could they produce? As the tree is, so shall be the fruit.

The word “Lord” was not in the original Bible. It is an English word from feudal times. Whereas the Greek word "kurios" had a range of meanings, from a title of respect, to a title of leadership, to a name for the sacred, the English translation "Lord" refers specifically to a male European land baron. Many people have softened that interpretation in their own minds, but in times of great stress, such nuance falls away and many Christians seek a white male king. He may be called "Pope," he may be called "the decider President," he may be called "televangelist," but the title only masks what he is, a benevolent (or not so benevolent) dictator.

Neither Calvin nor Luther spoke English, but they helped the Popes lay the groundwork for the view of God as a cosmic dictator. From Popes, Luther and Calvin we have some of the ugliest slurs ever recorded against women, intellectuals, and those who refused the church's message. How did Christians hold slaves, oppress women and slaughter nonbelievers? Perhaps they could not see Christ in non-male, non-European, and non-Christian people because they were limited by their theology. Their "Christ" was merely a glorification of the most powerful member of their own culture.

To picture God in terms of power is also one of the great bait and switch gimmicks of all time. People within the power hierarchy proclaim that God is the ultimate authority, and then appoint themselves as God's interpreters and enforcers. They are God's humble bullies. It has been one of the most successful con games of all time.

The real Jesus was born illegitimately. He called himself "the human one." Just like Buddha, his authority came from truth, not power. He taught whoever has love has God. He said those who work for the common good are his church.

The real Jesus was an anarchist. He spent his life refusing to claim power over anyone. He said that God is understood in terms of love not power. We add nothing to the majesty of "the human one" by adding a throne or a crown. If he did not want to rule over others in life, why should he want it in death? That is why Jesus is called "lamb of God," he spoke not as the king of the universe, but from its heart.

If you want to know why Americans are so frightened and why we are attacking anything that would challenge our dominance over others, read the Bible. Like Cain we have murdered members of our human family. Even when we silence our victims, the ground beneath our feet cries out against us.

Today's church lifts its arms to praise Christ wearing liturgical garments woven in sweatshops. So called "Christian America" is still a nation built on the work of slaves. We do not see them because they toil invisibly in other countries. Today's church doles out bits of charity from booty stolen from God's powerless people the world over. Anyone who claims to believe in a just God, or even in justice itself, has to know at some level that the prayers for liberation coming from third world countries will be heard and answered. At some level, people of faith have to know that unless America repents of the sin of empire we are a doomed nation.

Whatever prophetic voices survive in the church must take a message to the mainstream denominations. "We are guilty of our leaders' crimes. Just because we are silent and passive does not mean that we are innocent. If we have any status in the power hierarchy, we are partially responsible for its misdeeds."

I realize that most of the church consists of wonderful and compassionate people, but that does not matter if we turn over our power to those less charitable. The moderate mainstream church is helpless against fundamentalism because it is built on a nuanced version of the same cracked foundation of a theology of power.

Whether or not we can change America in time to avoid a political and ecological apocalypse, it is never too late to do the right thing. All of us can begin to plant seeds of a better future for our children's children. For Christians today, that means suffering the consequences of refusing to bow to the dictator Christ of this culture.
Interesting to take a quick look back at Bush's first 100 days in office. Day One, he blocked last-minute executive orders from Clinton. Day Two, a Sunday, he declared a day of Thanksgiving (thanks for giving me the White House, God). By Day Three, he is further appeasing the religious right with a ban on abortion counselling groups. By the end of his first week he is paying off his military-industrial supporters with revived plans for the national missile defense plan, aka Star Wars...
Japanese bid sayonara, Iraq:
Japan deployed about 600 troops to Iraq in January 2004, but because of the country's pacifist constitution they were prevented from taking a combat role. As a result, the contingent was stationed in an isolated camp on the outskirts of the southern city of Samawah where, protected first by Dutch and then Australian troops, they rebuilt roads and schools.

Even though there were no casualties involving Japanese soldiers, the deployment was unpopular in Japan, where support for the US-led war has not been strong. The deployment, authorised by a special act of parliament, was also the first time since World War II that Japanese troops had been deployed in roles other than as peacekeepers.
By sheer bloody coincidence, the Japanese have simultaneously agreed to lift their ban on American beef.
MUST READ: The Shadow War, In a Surprising New Light

June 20, 2006

The Economist looks at Inequality in America: The rich, the poor and the growing gap between them.
“If things carry on like this for long enough,” muses one insider, “we are going to end up like Brazil”.

The one truly continuous trend over the past 25 years has been towards greater concentration of income at the very top. The scale of this shift is not visible from most popular measures of income or wages, as they do not break the distribution down finely enough. But several recent studies have dissected tax records to investigate what goes on at the very top.

The figures are startling. According to Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley, and Thomas Piketty of the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, the share of aggregate income going to the highest-earning 1% of Americans has doubled from 8% in 1980 to over 16% in 2004. That going to the top tenth of 1% has tripled from 2% in 1980 to 7% today. And that going to the top one-hundredth of 1%—the 14,000 taxpayers at the very top of the income ladder—has quadrupled from 0.65% in 1980 to 2.87% in 2004.
Joshua Micah Marshall flags a pardon for Libby:
Presidents do sometimes pardon people who they believe have taken legal hits on their behalf. But this case would be of a different order since the president's pardon would be mainly to prevent a trial which would certainly lead to the airing of highly embarrassing and morally incriminating evidence about senior members of his administration, perhaps including himself.

Make no mistake, this is a trial balloon, an effort to test the waters and prepare the public for Libby's eventual pardon. And you should expect that the president will pardon Libby, perhaps as soon as six months from now, because signals of Libby's impending pardon will raise little concern or controversy in Washington or among name pundits.
Momentous Change Is Coming

In a positive, forward-thinking and refreshingly idealistic Alternet article, The Coming Political Revolution, William Greider says momentous change is approaching in American politics. He says it is time for new ideas:
These ideas must be grounded in a determination to give people back their future. The strange paradox of our times is that despite America's fabulous wealth, most people's lives are shadowed by economic anxieties and real confinements, the wounds that market ideology has imposed. They fear that much worse is ahead for their children. Reform must re-establish this fundamental principle: The economy exists to support society and people, not the other way around. Only government can liberate them from the harsh rule of the marketplace, the demands imposed by capital and corporations that stunt or stymie the full pursuit of life and liberty in this complex industrial society. This very wealthy country has the capacity to insure that all citizens, regardless of status or skills, have the essential needs to pursue secure, self-directed lives. This starts with the right to health, work, livable incomes and open-ended education, and to participate meaningfully in the decisions that govern their lives. The marketplace has no interest in providing these. It is actively destroying them...

You wouldn't know it from reading the newspapers, but substantial and often overwhelming majorities of Americans have repeatedly endorsed governing concepts that conventional politicians dismiss as radical or unrealistic: Universal healthcare. A job for everyone who wants to work, guaranteed by the government. Secure retirements. Stronger enforcement of environmental laws. Stronger defenses against encroaching corporate power. Union protection for workers against exploitative employers. The list goes on. These widely endorsed goals assume an activist government that nurtures people and society first, ahead of corporations and capital. Imagine a political agenda that sets out to give the people what they say they want...
Greider then sets out a list of "provicative" ideas for change, including repairing wages, deregulating labour, taxing corporate behaviour and developing "an industrial policy for essential needs". Good stuff.

June 19, 2006


Super-rich set sights on a really gross profit:
No one goes to jail for this stuff. Buy companies, merge companies, flip companies, reduce staffing, curtail employee pensions and other benefits - it's the American story of the last 20 years...

Exxon Mobil's former CEO Lee Raymond got a $357 million retirement package that included a payment of $98.4 million and stock and stock options. This comes for Raymond after several years of making more than $20 million, according to Forbes, and at a time of record profits for the company and record-high gasoline prices for consumers.

Do you think the people at Exxon Mobil Corp. are at all concerned about how this looks to the average schlemiel citizen?


As The Sun reported last week, the shareholders at the company's annual meeting in Texas overwhelmingly rejected resolutions to rein in compensation. (They also rejected two environmental initiatives and a proposal to add sexual orientation to the employee anti-discrimination policy.)

Hey, it's all part of American grotesque.

On some level, it still bothers me. But I don't get excited about it anymore because, other than a few prosecutions here and there, not much seems to be done about it. We've been pounded by decades of company downsizing for the sake of wider and wider profit margins, with corporations and the executives who control them more interested in the quick hit than long-term investment, with a political class that appears co-opted by the corporate class, and an utter disregard by both for public perceptions.

It was wholly remarkable to learn from a recent story by Sun reporter Laura Smitherman that Mercantile Bankshares Corp. chief Edward J. "Ned" Kelly III had turned down a $9 million windfall should the Baltimore bank be sold. He felt he'd been compensated enough already and would hardly be left empty-handed.

"People are frankly irritated at the big payouts people are getting," Kelly said. "I know this may sound silly coming from a corporate CEO, but I thought it was the right thing to do." Admirable.

But, in this crazy culture of ours, almost alien.

If there's a change in attitude about all this stuff, I certainly don't sense it coming. Most people I know are just resigned to it. And millionaires don't seem to be shy about piling up all the cash they can get while they can get it.
Arianna Huffington: The Cocktail That Saved Karl Rove's Ass. Readers' comments are a good example of steaming indignation soaked in five years of helplessness. EG:
Why single out poor Turd Blossom? And why worry about this piece of minutia at this point? If illegally lying to the public and Congress to launch a pre-emptive war on another country, wiretapping tens of millions of Americans illegally, ad nauseum, is entirely acceptable, why bother trying to zap an underling for a relatively minor infraction? Face it--Bush's handlers have shit all over our democracy and they laugh in our faces as they continue their predations unchecked. "Merry Fitzmas"--what a joke.
So what went wrong with the investigation? This sounds about right to me:
Rove lied, and got caught. Luskin did what any good lawyer does, get his client off. Luskin had to dance fast in order to get Rove back before the grand jury, so he could change his story, since it was plain he was about to get caught. Luskin created the chance, using Ms Novak as a foil, to set up a believable story. Made up, plain lies, nobody will know for sure, since this all came out of Mr Luskin's head. He will make extra money for this.
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I'm Tired, You Bastards

You know, I came back to my computer today after a week off - a blissful week of doing manual labour, not even watching (much) the evening news on TV - and I thought to myself, "Who needs it? I am sick of this crap. It's time to turn a new page and do something different. Maybe I should quit the blog...?".

Then I read David Sirota's article saying that every peace activist should have a picture of an Iraqi child on their desk. That made me think. And now I read that PM John Howard welcomes the idea of US bases in Australia. For fuck's sake...

Just look at the language employed here:
"We made an announcement some time ago ... to the effect that we were going to expand the capacity for training and operations exercises ... in northern Australia for Americans..."
You see, this is old news that was announced "some time ago". And it's clearly nothing new, just an "expansion" of existing "capacities".
"Whether you describe that as bases or not, I don't know."
It's up to YOU to be a responsible journalist, got that son?!?
"As far as I'm concerned, ...
Hey, I'm just the PM, you know? Just an ordinary bloke. It's not like I decide everything...
... subject always to the proper arrangements to fully respect and maintain and continue to observe Australian sovereignty...
Hey, who really CARES what goes on at Pine Gap?
...the notion of bases or operational facilities or training facilities by Americans is something I would warmly welcome."
Why don't we call them Day Care Centres? Or Interrogation Rooms? Get the PR Dept onto it, would you?
"My understanding is that all the Americans want at the present time is to have a capacity to train. I don't have any difficulty with that and I imagine it would be quite warmly supported by the Australian public."
Like I said, I am just an ordinary bloke so "my understanding" could be wrong (nobody ever tells me anything important, as you know). But come on! It's just training, OK? Anyone who opposes that is bloody un-Australian, in my book.

Show Me The Real Money

Michael Parenti says The Super Rich Are Out of Sight:
All such reports about income distribution are based on U.S. Census Bureau surveys that regularly leave Big Money out of the picture. A few phone calls to the Census Bureau in Washington D.C. revealed that for years the bureau never interviewed anyone who had an income higher than $300,000. Or if interviewed, they were never recorded as above the "reportable upper limit" of $300,000, the top figure allowed by the bureau's computer program. In 1994, the bureau lifted the upper limit to $1 million. This still excludes the very richest who own the lion's share of the wealth, the hundreds of billionaires and thousands of multimillionaires who make many times more than $1 million a year. The super rich simply have been computerized out of the picture.

When asked why this procedure was used, an official said that the Census Bureau's computers could not handle higher amounts. A most improbable excuse, since once the bureau decided to raise the upper limit from $300,000 to $1 million it did so without any difficulty, and it could do so again. Another reason the official gave was "confidentiality." Given place coordinates, someone with a very high income might be identified. Furthermore, he said, high-income respondents usually understate their investment returns by about 40 to 50 percent. Finally, the official argued that since the super rich are so few, they are not likely to show up in a national sample.
Rand economist James P. Smith says the super-rich are "an extremely difficult part of the population to survey." Fair enough, but given the huge wealth these people possess, doesn't leaving it out of economical statistics render them unreliable?
Economist Paul Krugman notes that not only have the top 20 percent grown more affluent compared with everyone below, the top 5 percent have grown richer compared with the next 15 percent. The top one percent have become richer compared with the next 4 percent. And the top 0.25 percent have grown richer than the next 0.75 percent. That top 0.25 owns more wealth than the other 99¾ percent combined. It has been estimated that if children's play blocks represented $1000 each, over 98 percent of us would have incomes represented by piles of blocks that went not more than a few yards off the ground, while the top one percent would stack many times higher than the Eiffel Tower.
Tomgram introduces David Swanson on the pornography of war:
From the moment the wooden sailing ship mounted with canons took to the high seas and Europeans began to seize the coasts of the planet, technological advantage lay with them. When others resisted, as they regularly did, the result was almost invariably an unbalanced slaughter that passed for war...

With the one-sided slaughter their technological advantage in arms (and in the industrial organization of warfare) offered came the presumption by the Europeans, the Americans when they joined the imperial game, and the Japanese when they too leaped in, that there was some deeper kind of superiority -- racial, religious, or civilizational -- at work determining events. And so, above the repetitious fact of slaughter was invariably unfurled a banner with glorious slogans about delivering the benefits of "civilization" (in the French case, literally, the mission civilatrice; in the American case, "democracy") to the ignorant or benighted heathen and barbarians of the backward parts of the planet.

When against such obvious superiority and the benefits that went with it, native peoples "irrationally" resisted their own subjugation, when, against great odds and suffering terrible casualties, they refused to give in and were not wiped away, this naturally confounded expectations. It engendered an incomprehension, sometimes a fury in the troops sent to subject them, who had been assured that their task was an expression of manifest destiny itself. Then, of course, came frustration, resentment, rage, the urge for revenge, in short, the atrocity -- and against such inferior, irrational, inhuman types, it was increasingly something not just to be committed, but to be recorded.

How convenient that the camera was there and ever easier for any common marauding soldier to use...
Bush's Un-American Base

National boundaries disappear in the nomadic world of super-rich:
"These days, the super-rich - that exclusive group - like to see themselves as citizens of the world. They flit from one continent to the next, wheeling and dealing at 30,000 feet, always a few hundred kilometres ahead of the tax man but only a couple of clicks away from their personal assistants, solicitors, financial advisers, accountants, wives, mistresses and children.

'I was at an amazingly swanky wedding in Paris recently,' says Stephen Bayley, the style guru and art historian. 'With my pitiable suburban reflexes, I asked another guest where he was from. He said: 'I've just flown in from Ibiza. I have a flat here in Paris, but my real home is Rio. Anyway, tomorrow I'm going to my apartment in New York.' Then he added, and this is the interesting bit, 'In this milieu, we don't commit adultery, we travel.''

Once upon a time, the rich put down roots. They had big country estates. They were chairmen of local charities; they hosted the summer fete. Now they are nomads forever in search of fertile ground in which to sow the seeds of another bumper financial harvest...

And never has the gap between the super-rich and the middle-classes been so wide. According to figures by HM Revenues and Customs, the number of people in Britain with annual incomes in excess of £1 million rose eightfold between 1995 to 2005. Between 2002 and 2004, Britons with more than £5 million in liquid assets (money in cash, bank and building society deposits, shares, bonds and unit trusts) had increased by more than 60 per cent from 1997. Since 1990, the number of billionaires in Britain has more than tripled, while those worth in excess £100 million have increased fivefold.

"Many of the new rich don't consider that they belong anywhere in particular," says Stephen Haseler, the author of The Super Rich: The Unjust New World of Global Capitalism. "And the great new borderless world has made it easier than ever to move wealth around. In the old days, social responsibility came with money, and the rich had a genuine identification with the country where they lived."
While that is a UK-oriented story from the Telegaph (via SMH), it applies to all the mega-rich in the world.

My question: if these people can be liberated from the confines of national boundaries, laws and financial conventions, why can't the rest of us as well? Sure, a world without boundaries would be chaotic for a time, but it would have to be far more equitable in the long run. And it would go a long way to removing the most oft-cited reasons for war.

Am I the only one who can see the link between this story...
After nine days of sport that convinced some of us the beautiful game had a chance to breathe again at this World Cup, the Italians and the Americans bludgeoned the theory by fighting out, too often literally, a drawn contest.

There were 34 fouls, some of them disgraceful. There were three red cards, all of them justified, and three more yellow cards that might have turned the deeper colour. There were two goals, two memorable saves from either goalkeeper, and a match of shame petered out
...and this story?
The most distressing aspect of this story is the apparent attitude of our current rulers that the Constitution is an obstacle to be overcome -- by conducting dirty business abroad or by wildly disingenuous interpretations of laws and the Constitution.

Just look at what these supposed worshipers at the shrine of "strict constructionism" and "original meaning" have done to the 2001 anti-terrorism resolution.
I remember as a kid watching Jimmy Connors win a tennis match while suffering from diahorrhea. I was transfixed by the spectacle of this grown man pushing himself through game after game, while racing off court at every opportunity. I could not understand, then, why anyone would do such a thing to themselves (least of all on global TV). I still cannot.

That is not to say that such attitudes to sport are peculiar to the USA. But these are the values which the USA presumes to export to the rest of the world, not without some success. Win at any costs.

Why? What do you actually "win"?

So likewise we have wannabe star lawyers joining the CIA to massage the Constitition into some deformed parody of its original meaning. Why? Really, what is the point?

June 18, 2006

FBI says, it has “No hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11”.

FBI says, it has “No hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11”.

FBI says, it has “No hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11”.

No, that's not a Blogger problem: I pasted it three times so you would give it a second thought - or two!

Multiple Failures:
Three separate groups of U.S. military personnel visited the scene of a shooting that killed 24 apparently innocent Iraqi civilians never reported it up the chain of command, according to an Army general's new report.

A Navy bomb squad, a Marine intelligence team, and a Marine foot patrol failed to properly report the killing of civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha on Nov. 19, 2005, according to the findings of Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell, which he has submitted to the U.S. commander in Iraq.
Poindexter's fantasy of Total Information Awareness lives on.


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