Monday, July 19, 2004

The Allawi story has broken out of blogland

And even grown. The hand chopping part is new to me.

Since Ayad Allawi became prime minister of Iraq's interim government last month, stories circulating on the streets of Baghdad include reports that he ordered two suspected insurgents shot in front of him, shot seven captive terrorists himself and personally chopped off the hand of a suspect with an ax, report Correspondent Babak Dehghanpisheh and Middle East Regional Editor Christopher Dickey in the July 26 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, July 19).
  MSNBC article

Newsweek: Iraq's new S.O.B.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

The New American Dream

American Leftist (where you can see a larger version) calls this work of art "Perp Walk"

What's the Matter with Kansas?

Earlier today I was discussing the phenomenon of gay Republicans, and remembering a comic's remark that that's like roaches for Raid. I also marveled that so many factory workers would vote Republican.

There's an old article I have linked on my website about why blue collar workers support Bush, and this evening, I see that Empire Notes' Rahul Mahajan has a commentary on a new book by Thomas Franks, What's the Matter with Kansas?, which discusses the question of why poor people vote Republican.

Mahajan has his own conclusion that goes like this...

[F]or the mainstream of the liberal left, it’s no longer about a vision of how things can be different, just about piecemeal changes in a bad world.

The right, on the other hand, hosts a growing mass movement that more and more clearly understands that it has a world to win.

How funny. The right has co-opted the emotion of the hippy movement of the 60s. And the mainstream left is just exactly in the same fruitless position it has been in for decades. I remember years ago Jerry Brown in the primaries against Bill Clinton, et al., saying that every one of his opponents was talking about going into Washington and tweaking things, when what was needed was a crowbar.

He's still right about that.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Take "The Working Class History Test".

And have a look at some more class politics links on my page here.

Slight miscalculation

Downing Street has admitted to The Observer that repeated claims by Tony Blair that '400,000 bodies had been found in Iraqi mass graves' is untrue, and only about 5,000 corpses have so far been uncovered.

...The Baathist regime was responsible for massive human rights abuses and murder on a large scale - not least in well-documented campaigns including the gassing of Halabja, the al-Anfal campaign against Kurdish villages and the brutal repression of the Shia uprising - but serious questions are now emerging about the scale of Saddam Hussein's murders.
  Guardian article

Well, no, not exactly. Halabja.

....but hey, say what you will anyway.

Like only Maru can parse it

Presidential campaign ruins Bush's vacation
Awwwwwww! Presidentin' is hard!

After much debate, grublike svengali Karl Rove has decided that Bunnypants will spend only two weeks at the Lazy W compared to his usual four.

"I don't think any voting decision is going to be made on what the [vacuous little mindsplat] did for three weeks in August, but there are people who believe very strongly that it created the wrong visuals," said some repug close to the WH. "They didn't want those pictures."


Former Coast Guard commander Stephen Flynn says that despite billions spent on homeland security, our ports, chemical plants and cities are barely safer than they were before the 9/11 attacks.

...After giving away all our money to the rich, "Bush told us there's no more money for anything," Gov. Ed Rendell (D-Pa.) said after the millionaires' greatest friend addressed the nation's governors in February. "He said, essentially, 'You're on your own.'"

"Now watch this drive."

Photos also courtesy of Maru the Crankpot

Looks like I missed Oil Slick Dick again

I had a malt delivery to make down by the Lake.

For the second time in three months, Vice President Dick Cheney visited Mid-Missouri today, dropping by Boone County Millwork to speak with employees and supporters.

Before his speech, scheduled for 1 p.m., the vice president spent several minutes in the showroom talking with owners Brad and Greg Eiffert about the history of their business and its operations. The Eifferts have been active nationally promoting pro-business issues such as reduced regulation and elimination of the estate tax.

...As they waited for the vice president’s arrival shortly before 12:30 p.m., invited guests mingled with elected officials including Hulshof and state Senate leader Peter Kinder.

Among the guests was Beulah Alverson of Columbia, who said she thinks Bush and Cheney stand for righteousness and honesty.

"I want to be what God wants me to be," she said, "and I think that’s what they try to do."
  Columbia Tribune article

And the sad thing is, I bet they didn't even have to pay Beulah.

Beulah probably believed Jim Bakker, too.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Protesting the protestors

What's in the GOP water?

They truly are anti-democratic.

La Belle sends this link:

NEW YORK — Groups planning to demonstrate against the upcoming Republican National Convention will have some unfriendly company outside Madison Square Garden.

Members of a new group of young GOP conservatives plan to protest the protesters.

Tom Paladino, who leads the New York chapter of Protest Warriors, a nationwide organization, said members want to show the protesters that “there are Republicans that will protest them right back.”

Added Jason Sager, a member from Brooklyn: “We are the right-wing freedom fighters. We are out there and are just as animated as the protesters can be.

Right-wing freedom fighters, indeed. Freedom from what? Democracy?

I guess it doesn't occur to them that they are protesting free speech and the right to peaceful assembly.

It's all kind of funny if you don't think about it as the demise of your country. It reminds me of a Vincent Bugliosi book about one of his trials in which things got heated between the defense and plaintiff's attorneys. After one especially escalated exchange over an objection, the opposing attorney screamed at him in exasperation: "What I'm objecting to, counselor, is you!"

La Belle wants those "freedom fighters" to get their butts down to the recruiting office. I'll second that.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Blame Greg Palast

It was he who inadvertently got Congresswoman Corinne Brown censured in the House.

From a Palast email:

Two weeks ago, when I was in Chicago, Jesse Jackson asked me to join him for breakfast at the Marriott Hotel. To my surprise, he'd also invited Senator John Edwards. Jackson had made copies of my editorial for the San Francisco Chronicle on the missing one million votes ... and wouldn't let the wannabe Veep touch his bagel until he'd read every word.

Just when Edwards thought he could have a sip of coffee, Jackson required him to watch the segment of our BBC television special, "Bush Family Fortunes," with the latest analysis on the non-count of Black votes in Florida. In the 2000 race, 95,000 African-American votes were dumped in the Florida swamps, marked as spoiled.

Edwards, succumbing to hunger, caffeine deprivation and Reverend Jackson's intense interrogation, caved in and promised to take the message of the missing Black votes to the white side of his party.

Congresswoman Corrine Brown joined us. When she read the story and saw the film, she was ready to spit bullets. She was especially upset that British television covered the story while, in the USA, the Black story was blacked out.

The film clip would get the Congresswoman in hot water. This past Thursday morning, in Washington, she again watched a preview of the BBC film and then marched down to the Capitol and denounced the Republican Party for stealing the election in Florida. For telling this truth she was censured by a straight-up party-line vote in the House of Representatives and her remarks stricken. (I would note that the President's flat-out fibs about weapons of mass destruction remain on the record.)

I am always amazed, but should have gotten beyond that by now as it happens so often, that Congresspeople are so unaware of what is in the news in the rest of the world, and even on the blogosphere.

Watch that Palast video in the link above. And then, if you want more information on the BFEE (as it's known in the blogosphere, which stands for Bush Family Evil Empire), check my webapge here.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Bill O'Reilly is outfoxed

MoveOn has a quick video clip of O'Reilly from their Outfoxed movie:

Click graphic for video clip

And here's an incredible video (a couple seconds of which is in that MoveOn composite). It's O'Reilly completely losing it while interviewing the son of a man who died in the World Trade Center attacks, and telling him (more than once) to shut up, and telling the show's crew to cut the kid's microphone. It's obvious the kid is infinitely more knowledgeable than O'Reilly, and really shows him for the ignorant asshat that he is.

Class act, that O'Reilly.

MoveOn is also providing a page where you can view the O'Reilly composite clip and send comments to the FTC:

You can now ask the FTC to order Fox News to stop misleading consumers. The FTC's job is to protect consumers from deceptive advertising on the part of big media companies. Please enter your name, email address, zip code, and your personal comment below. We'll deliver these messages to the FTC and to other political leaders.
Go there.

Guinea kids

We can't have stem cell research, and we really want to outlaw abortion. Where will we get our supply of guinea pigs if we don't have a ready supply of unwanted children?

That's when ICC went from being a home for children of impoverished, drug-addicted mothers to a recipient of funds for allowing the NIH to use these HIV-positive orphans as test subjects.
  Break for News article

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Here's what they're grooming for your future

Arnold, who is obviously just as sexist as he ever was.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Another T-Shirt terrorist foiled

Let's see, about the time of the Iraq invasion there was the guy who was arrested in a shopping mall for wearing an anti-war T-shirt.

On Independence Day, there was the couple who were thrown out of a Bush rally for wearing anti-Bush T-shirts.

And now...a Wisconsin county official is tossed from a Bush speech for wearing a Kerry T-shirt underneath a fully buttoned-down shirt.

I'll sleep a little easier tonight, knowing these terrorists are being apprehended.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Seymour Hersh at the ACLU

If you have thirty minutes, Information Clearinghouse has the video clip of Sy Hersh's address to the ACLU, and it's very good.

Seymour Hersh : The US government has videotapes of boys being sodomized at Abu Ghraib prison

Jesus, what a doofus

DoubleDumb campaigned in Amish country. Outside reporters not allowed.

Bush said he had never met any Amish before and was curious about why the men were wearing straw hats rather than black wool hats.
Information Clearinghouse article

Duh. Maybe because it's summertime?

"One of the young girls wanted to give Bush a whoopie pie cookie," Stoltzfus says. “Bush declined it. The Secret Service man took it, as presidents aren’t supposed to eat untested food."

You never know when those Amish are going to poison a president. I bet there are a lot of people who'd like to give Bush a whoopie pie.

At the end of the session, Bush reportedly told the group, "I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn’t do my job."

No comment.

Private jailers - update

The three Americans who were running a private jail in Afghanistan, rounding up men with long beards and torturing them in their own private war on terror, are saying they had a contract with the Pentagon. They are, however, unable to provide any proof, and the allegation is of course denied by the DoD.

Refuseniks and suicides

Chaim Feldman, Israeli reservist, has joined the list of soldiers who refuse to participate in the Palestinian operations.

In a letter to his local recruitment officer explaining his reasons for disobeying orders to join his unit in the West Bank, Chaim Feldman accused the Israeli army of committing manifestly criminal acts against innocent Palestinians.

"My letter to you is short and concise. I have no intention of wearing the uniform of this organisation known as the Israeli Defence Forces which fires artillery shells on civilian crowds, including children and old people. I see no reason why I should join this organisation."

The "conscientious objector" described the IDF as an organisation that defends "fascist settlers breaking the law and uprooting and burning olive trees".

Feldman is likely to be tried and imprisoned for disobeying orders and desertion.
Aljazeera article

I have seen articles on the increasing incidence of suicide amongst U.S. soldiers, and in particular those on active duty in the Middle East, but this is the first article I've come across about Israeli soldiers.

Quoting statistics from Israeli army's rehabilitation division, the Hebrew daily Maariv said, in 2003 the number of Israeli soldiers who committed suicide was significantly higher than those killed during military incursions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

A total of 43 Israeli soldiers took their own lives last year compared to 30 soldiers killed in intifada-related hostilities, said the report.

This represents a 30% increase in the number of suicides over the 2002 figure of 31.

I'm keeping track of the names of these men who refuse to serve in what they see as illegal and/or immoral operations as I come across them, here on my webpage: Foreign soldiers of conscience, together with a list of American soldiers who have stood against the invasion of Iraq: Soldiers of conscience speak out.

9/11 hijackers

Iran, not Iraq, had links -- unwitting or otherwise -- with the 9/11 hijackers, according to new disclosures said to be in the final report of the commission investigating the attacks on the United States.

The report is expected to reveal that 10 of the 16 hijackers involved in the 9/11 attacks were waved through the Afghanistan-Iran border in late 2000 and early 2001 as part of Teheran’s policy of not stamping their passports.

... The Iran angle raised more questions about Washington's war on Iraq. Critics say the Bush administration was so obsessed with nailing Saddam Hussain that it did not scrutinize deeply enough the alleged links to terrorism of countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran.
Times of India article

Keep your pants on. We're getting to them.

Even as the American media was agog with a possible Iran link, the wire service AFP , citing a German magazine, reported that a fugitive allegedly involved in the September 11 attacks has been sending email messages from Pakistan to his wife in Germany.

... Bhaiji hiding in Pakistan is in tune with the pattern of terrorist fugitives finding shelter with Washington's frontline ally. Almost all major terrorist figures, including Ramzi Yousef, Abu Zubaida, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, have been apprehended in Pakistan, not Iraq or Iran.

And I do believe we have been pressing Pakistan to come up with a "high value target" before November. Surely someone who was actually involved in the 9/11 attacks would be quite a prize for the Bushies. Maybe the Kerry team could negotiate a deal with Pakistan to wait until after November, as Reagan is alleged to have done with the Iran hostages to defeat Carter.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Iraq's child detainees

Amnesty International (AI) complained that it had been "refused access" to enter Coalition detention centres, except for a brief visit to one in Mosul, in northern Iraq. A researcher at the international watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) also said workers did not have access to detained children. Clarisa Bencomo, the researcher, wondered if the children were being kept in poor or unsafe conditions.
Occupation Watch article

I think the answer to that is, yes.

More than 150 children ranging in age from nine to 18 are held there on any given day, both those convicted of crimes and those awaiting trial, Wali Jaleel Jabar, the warden at the detention centre, told IRIN. Families can visit the children once a week, Jabar said.

Another 58 children are currently being held as "security detainees" at Abu Ghraib prison and at Camp Bucca, US Lt-Col Barry Johnson, a spokesman for the Office of the Deputy Commanding General for Detainee Operations, told IRIN.

Camp Bucca.

Children are "security" detainees?

"By definition, a security detainee is someone suspected of threatening the security of the state or occupying power."

Pooty-Poot's soul

DoubleDumb says he looked into Pooty-Poot's (Bubbleboy's name for Vlad, not mine) eyes and saw his soul - a kindred soul, which is kind of scary.

It appears Pooty-Poot is negotiating a deal to join the WTO which might involve sending troops to Afghanistan. Are they sure they want to go there again? Rather ironic. First we create a well-armed Taliban to defeat the Russians in Afghanistan, and now we get them to come back over and help us defeat the Taliban.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

The New Iraq®

"There was no orderly transition. Nothing gradual. Just, `Here you go. Here's Iraq. Take it'."

"None of us had any idea sovereignty was going to switch two days early," he continues, speaking on the promise of anonymity. "So we didn't even get the last contracts finished. It was chaos. More than a billion dollars in plans never went through. Huge appropriations were just left on the table, undone."

...If it appears the U.S.-led coalition is easing up on the ambitious, if naïve, theoretical underpinnings of Operation Iraqi Freedom in order to find an exit strategy, the long-term results remain unclear.

"As a new government, we must gain strength by showing strength," is how Adnan Hadi al-Assadi, Iraq's interim deputy interior minister, explains the regime's race to absorb all available power.

"In the months leading up to the handover, there were a lot of frustrations. We stood by without much say, objecting as bad decisions were made," Assadi said in an interview. "At one point, (then U.S. envoy Paul) Bremer committed more than a billion Iraqi dollars to Jordan in a project to train Iraqi troops. Jordan! A country whose forces only fought one war in their history (1967's Six Day War). And they fought it badly. They are supposed to show Iraqis how to fight?

"Now, we are beginning to make our own decisions. Now that we have some authority, we want our ministries to handle everything."

The soft-spoken fear among those letting go is that the new Baghdad may well emerge as every bit the omnipotent, power-wielding monolith it was before the war. However clumsy the effort, the U.S.-led coalition clearly had hoped all these months of idea-farming might gently nudge Iraq toward an almost Canadian model of decentralized democracy.

But the new government's first instinct, clearly, has been to revert to the tried-and-true formula of the larger Arab world — aggressively corralling power toward a strong (and strong-armed) central government, with the powers of Baghdad second to none.
Toronto Star article

A serious question for Washington, however, is whether we can control Allawi any better than we did Saddam, and I have my doubts.

....and hey, do what you will anyway.

The reason they got fooled

Britain took up the matter of Allawi's alleged summary execution of Iraqi prisoners.

Downing Street was aware of the report but said it was an issue for the Iraqi government. “This was put to Allawi at a press conference on Thursday and he denied it. As far as we are concerned the matter is dealt with,” an official said.
Iraq Net article

We asked him. He said he didn't do it. We believe him.

They believed him when he said Saddam could launch an attack inside of 45 minutes, too.

And of course, the old addage, seeing is believing is exactly backwards.

Now, if we could get an honorable U.S. Army Special Forces whistleblower from amongst Allawi's bodyguards, but I suppose that's asking for too much.

Not that there is no precedent. Meet Stan Goff.

(And his early view on 9/11.)

Is the euro at risk? Maybe the EU itself?

The credibility of the euro — the currency of only 12 of the 25 EU member states — rests upon both the economic performance of those countries as well as their adherence to the key rules embodied in the Stability and Growth Pact that governs their financial behavior.

...France and Germany have continued to break the deficits rules while other members like Italy appear to letting their borrowing grow fast. The European Court was therefore entirely correct when it decided that EU finance ministers had no right to let France and German escape censure and penalties from the European Commission for breaking rules. Yet it seems most unlikely that the already suffering French and German economies will have to pay big fines. Instead a move is gathering pace to change the rules that underpin the euro.

This is a risky strategy for two reasons. First it will allow countries that are already a mile off their obligations to move a further mile away. This could turn the Euro zone into a financially weak and chaotic economic entity. The debilitating economic ills of one or two countries could bring down the others. However perhaps the more important reason that a rewrite of the much vaunted Stability and Growth Pact is so risky it the message it will give to the rest of the world, not least the new EU members. The EU has just produced its first constitution, designed to protect and balance all interests. Inevitably this document will need amendments, but if those changes arise from political failure and indiscipline, as is happening with the euro, the whole international standing and future of the EU may rightly be questioned.
Al-Jazeerah article

The thug believes in freedom of the press

At least that's what he says, as he removes Bremer's ban on al-Sadr's newspaper.

"The Hawza newspaper was allowed to be published again pursuant to an order by the US appointed Prime Minister [Allawi], who has expressed his absolute belief in free press," according to an official statement.

The closure of the weekly paper by former US administrator Paul Bremer at the end of March and the arrest of one of al-Sadr's key aides were among the catalysts for an uprising by the Shia leader and his Mahdi Army against the occupation forces in central and southern Iraq that lasted nearly two months.
Aljazeera article

Child sexual abuse

In Austria, this time - more pedophile priests.

An official with the Archdiocese of Vienna urged the Vatican on Wednesday to oust a Roman Catholic bishop in charge of a seminary where candidates for the priesthood hoarded child pornography and photos of themselves kissing and fondling each other.

The cleric, Bishop Kurt Krenn, dismissed the photos as part of a "schoolboy prank" and accused critics of exaggerating the case -- the worst church scandal in Austria since allegations of pedophilia brought down a cardinal nearly a decade ago.

Police examined hard drives on computers seized at the seminary in St. Poelten, 50 miles west of Vienna, as part of a child pornography investigation.

Officials said the discs contained some 40,000 photographs and numerous videos, including child pornography and photos of young seminarians kissing and fondling each other and their older instructors and engaging in sex games.

...Krenn, 68, refused to step down and rebuffed his critics.

In a nationally televised interview, he conceded overall responsibility for the seminary, but rebuked the national bishops conference for pressing for his resignation and insisted the furor was overblown.

"Although these things naturally fall into my competence, I had nothing to do with them," he said, calling the uproar "an exaggeration" and "a diocesan matter."

Krenn's spokesman, Michael Dinhobl, told the Austria Press Agency the bishop launched his own investigation Wednesday. The internal probe was an attempt "to examine the allegations ... in the light of church morals and canon law," Dinhobl said.

The Vatican, which condemns homosexuality, has refused to comment.

Many of the photos were taken by an unidentified 33-year-old Polish-born priest at the seminary who used a digital camera, according to authorities in the province of Lower Austria.
Daily Herald article

Maybe the Vatican will ban digital cameras, like Rumsfiend did to solve the Abu Ghraib problem.

And, in Brazil...

More than 250 members of the Brazilian elite - politicians, judges, priests and businessmen among others - have been put on notice by an extraordinary national investigation into child sex rings.

The inquiry accuses 20 serving politicians, including a federal deputy, two state deputies and three city mayors. Thirty businessmen are implicated, as are five priests.

"Sexual exploitation in Brazil is a crime which has reached epidemic proportions," says federal deputy Maria do Rosario, the author of the parliamentary inquiry report.
Aljazeera article

The epidemic is certainly not limited to Brazil. Our own high ranking GOP's got an investigation shut down.

I wonder if they're still at it. Why wouldn't they be?

And the Boy King is speaking in terms of great hypocrisy, as usual:

Trafficking in human beings is high on the Bush administration's priority list, as the president himself emphasized during his speech to the U.N. General Assembly last September. "There's a special evil in the abuse and exploitation of the most innocent and vulnerable," he declared before the delegates.

We are genuinely "seized of the matter," to use the standard diplomatic parlance, and the reason is obvious: The more you learn about how the most innocent and vulnerable among us are savaged by these crimes, the more impossible it becomes to look the other way.
Register Guard article

Unless the scene is Abu Ghraib or a GOP child sex ring.

Razing Falluja

As we continue our air strikes to annihilate the city, I am wondering how that fits into the sovereignty scheme.

A U.S. military spokesman who confirmed the overnight attacks offered no details and referred journalists to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, which said it had no information to share.
CNN article

Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said on Sunday he gave the US military the green light for the attack.
Aljazeera article

Previous Falluja posts.

Bloggers like to blog

Program developers like to develop.

I am not alone in my consternation about Blogger's changes.


I'm still trying to work out the kinks in this new Blogger thingie. It keeps putting in extra html tags that really screw up posting.


Blogger has 'improved' again. All new symbols and stuff, and I have an angry feeling in my stomach. What is it with computer nerds that they can never leave anything alone for even one week? They completely ignore the costs for users who have to keep on learning these 'improvements' while other work piles on.

I did finally stop and read Blogger's information about their new and improved creation, and learned that they geared it to work well with IE and Mozilla browsers, but that it could be problematic with others. Since I was using Netscape, I went to the trouble of installing and configuring Mozilla (I refuse to use IE), which has the great tabbed browsing function of Netscape. I think I'm going to be just as happy with it, and maybe it will even interface more smoothly with Microsoft.

Just in case you were wondering.

Yeah, right.


....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Presbyterians vote to divest of companies invested in Israel

Color me flabbergasted. The 216th annual General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) just approved (by a vote of 431-62) an Israel divestment measure. The Church, which has 3 million members and in 2001 had a total investment portfolio of $7 billion, will divest itself of all holdings in companies that either have $1 million or more invested in Israel or take out $1 million or more per year in profits.

In the news release announcing its decision, the Church drew an explicit parallel to the divestment campaigns over apartheid South Africa.

...On a moral level, there's great similarity -- in fact, in many ways Israeli treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories goes beyond what was done under apartheid. But Israel is far more economically integrated with the United States than South Africa ever was, and U.S. multinationals are far more "globalized" than they were then.

While this is heartening news, I really wonder whether the Presbyterian Church will be able to implement this measure. It seems to me that it requires at the least divestment from any major U.S. multinational corporation.
Empire Notes post

Just the announcement of such an idea is, I think, a hugely important move which advances the issue, so color me encouraged and surprised as well. As surprised as I was when I read that the Southern Baptists cried foul on the CheneyBush campaign's voter drive aimed at churches.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Macho Wars ad nauseum

Eventually machismo will kill the planet. In the past couple of decades, scientists have been warning of the "feminization" of the planet due to various hormone mimicking substances in the environment (generally blamed on synthetic chemicals). Personally, I think we have been bathed in waaaaaaaay too much testosterone for centuries, and we could use a little hormone balancing.

Kerry's at it again. He's not satisfied with calling for an increase of 40,000 in the number of U.S. troops (presumably some of the extras to be sent to Iraq). Now he wants to double the number of spooks we send abroad as well.

Although he does a bit of caviling about reconstruction contracts, entertaining the bizarre illusion that opening up bidding to the French and Germans will induce them to send their soldiers to die in Iraq, almost the entirety of Kerry's criticism of what's going on in Iraq is of the "I'm tougher than Bush" variety.

...It's hard to judge Kerry's political intelligence. If he thinks this kind of dick-waving is going to make people think he's tougher, more manly, and more warlike than Bush, he's a fool. If he's just trying to cover his ass while events in Iraq continue to torpedo Bush's popularity and while Bush seems unable to come up with a decent campaign ad, he's a political coward, but the results aren't in on whether it's foolish or not.
Empire Notes post

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Abu Ghraib child sodomy media blackout

This story should eventually be forced into the mainstream media through the blogosphere. It was posted yesterday by Juan Cole, a respected and widely read historian and blogger, and at Daily Kos, also widely read.

I first saw mention of the specifics of this particular story a little over a month ago, but I believe it has been alluded to in reports from way back.

I think this one will be the straw that broke the camel's back for BushCo if it gets publicized in the major media before November. But I still am expecting them to pull off something big to try to turn things around.

I guess we don't have long to wait to find out.

Update 7/18/04: Empire Notes also posted on the issue Friday.

Presidential Auction 2004

BeatBushBlog has a post showing results of some electoral vote predictors, for what it's worth at this point in the game.

Electoral Vote Predictor...uses the latest state polls to predict who will win the election. Right now it has Kerry with 312 electoral votes (270 are needed to win), and Bush with 215. Tennessee is rated "Exactly Tied," so its 11 electoral votes aren't allocated to either candidate.

...There are three other sites I know of that try to do the same thing as Electoral Vote Predictor. Compare and contrast:

* State-by-state poll projections has Kerry 327, Bush 200, undecided 11
* has Kerry 292, Bush 246
* Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball has Kerry 274, Bush 264

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Talking Points

They're true because they're said a lot.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Picking a fight with China

What a brilliant idea.

Regardless of what reason is being given for those "summer exercises", they seem guaranteed to stir up trouble.

Needless to say, the Chinese are not amused. They say that their naval and air forces, plus their land-based rockets, are capable of taking on one or two carrier strike groups but that combat with seven would overwhelm them. So even before a carrier reaches the Taiwan Strait, Beijing has announced it will embark on a crash project that will enable it to meet and defeat seven U.S. carrier strike groups within a decade. There's every chance the Chinese will succeed if they are not overtaken by war first.
Information Clearinghouse article

Why not just carry through with WWIII now? Why waste a perfectly good start?

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Besides, China is outstripping us in terms of population increases, and therefore demand for oil, and oil producing countries are starting to get a little too cozy with China, so it's probably a good idea if we preempt their ability to dampen the oil flow in our direction right now. Nip that in the bud.

New Florida TIPS guidelines

Authorities agreed to rewrite training guidelines for a program that would teach firefighters and workers who regularly go into homes to report signs of terrorist activity.

The decision to scrap 5,000 printed brochures came a week after civil rights advocates criticized the plan. The new guidelines will remove references to particular ethnic groups.

The brochure cautioned that "multiple adult males living together, usually of Middle Eastern appearance and between the ages of 18 and 45, with little or no furnishings" could signal international terrorism.

It also called for workers to report signs of drug trafficking and child sex abuse.
ABC article

Gee, I don't know why they got their panties in a bunch over that. We all know that people who sexually abuse children are terrorists. Or prison guards at Abu Ghraib. Or GOP movers and shakers. Okay, okay. I can see the problem - we might expose some important people.

But drug traffickers? Oh yeah, there's the CIA.

All right, the first category, though - Middle Eastern men who live in sparsely furnished apartments in groups - those are surely terrorists. Because they couldn't be students or disadvantaged men trying to make a start on a life in this country. And maybe if they're not terrorists, they're queers. So, hey.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Who killed journalist Richard Wild?

IT HAS been a difficult month for Robin and Daphne Wild. In July last year, their son Richard was murdered in Iraq, shot in the back of the head as he crossed the road in Baghdad.

Since then, the parents of the Cambridge University graduate have tried to piece together the events of that day. Mr and Mrs Wild - who feel they have been hindered, rather than helped, by the Foreign Office at every turn - have come to a startling conclusion; they believe their son’s murder was ordered by the CIA.

..."We are not naive, we know unpalatable things are done," says Mrs Wild. "But when you are drawn into it, it is terrifying."
Scotsman article

More accounts of journalist deaths, many of them looking quite deliberate, are on my web page listing the fall-out in terms of resignations and deaths from the Bush administration.

Congress is not a free speech zone

07/16/04: Representative Brown said, "I come from Florida, where you and others participated in what I call the United States coup d'etat. We need to make sure that it doesn't happen again. Over and over again after the election when you stole the election, you came back here and said get over it. No we're not going to get over it and we want verification from the world."

Those comments drew an immediate objection from Republican members of the House. Leaders moved to strike her comments from the record. The House also censured Brown which kept her from talking on the House floor for the rest of the day.
Information Clearinghouse article with video clip

Congresswoman Brown's response.

Support Representative Brown.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Blogger's new composer/editor sucks

I really don't like what Blogger has done that should have improved the use of their blogging program. It is seriously squirrely, and I hope enough people complain that they change it. Maru was unhappy with it the other day. Maybe more people are.

At any rate, it's still free. But it's making blogging more trouble than I want to take. It may be the death of YWA, but we'll see. It will certainly cut down on the amount of blogging I do.

I apologize for any of you who may actually be getting some good out of this site.

I was trying to tell you about the deal where we have forgiven Pakistan a huge deal of debt, and wondering who else might like to have a little debt forgiven but doesn't have any high vaue targets to hand over. Doing anything in my typical YWA format is about twice the work now, and once it gets screwed up, trying to get it corrected is a nightmare.

Well...I guess that's enough whining. I won't give up completely just yet. I may just have to use different formatting. Perhaps it is that simple. I shall experiment.

Apologies in advance for what may be coming.

Presidential Auction 2004

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said Friday he would be willing to launch a pre-emptive strike against terrorists if he had adequate intelligence of a threat.

Kerry offered some support for one of the most controversial aspects of President Bush's national security policy, even as he criticized the president for not reforming intelligence agencies after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Am I prepared as president to go get them before they get us if we locate them and have the sufficient intelligence? You bet I am,'' he said at a news conference at his Washington headquarters.

Guardian article

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Because once you have money, there's no such thing as enough

Robert Kuttner writes in the Boston Globe that congressional conservatives "are hoping to pass yet another budget-busting tax cut this summer," including an expansion of the child tax credit to include "well-to-do families with incomes of up to $309,000." In a version of law passed by Congress in 2003, "families earning between $10,500 and $26,625 got nothing, including 260,000 children of active-duty servicemen and women. All told, about one child in four was excluded." The proposed expansion of the law would do nothing to include those families excluded from the bill at the lower end of the income scale. Instead, whereas the "preexisting law wisely phased out all child tax credit benefits at family incomes of $149,000." The new proposal "would more than double that income ceiling at a cost to the deficit of $89 billion over 10years."
Source: Progress Report

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

That's our AssKKKroft

Attorney General John Ashcroft has repeatedly rebuffed requests by Congress and public interest groups for basic information about how the Patriot Act is being used. Now – in a cynical public relations ploy – Ashcroft has released a thirty-page piece of propaganda wrapped in the guise of public disclosure. The document does not contain information needed for members of Congress to make an informed decision about whether to extend provisions which expire in 2005. Instead, it avoids key issues, distorts basic law and presents a self-serving selection of Patriot Act "successes." Sign the petition calling for the removal of John Ashcroft.

...The central claim in the Justice Department report is that – presumably with the assistance of the PATRIOT Act – the Department has charged "310 defendants with criminal offenses as a result of terrorism investigations" since 9/11 "and 179 of those defendants have already been convicted." The carefully chosen language deftly avoids the central question, which is not how many people were convicted of routine criminal offenses, but how many were convicted of terrorist crimes. Without that information there is no way for Congress to evaluate whether the Patriot Act is an effective tool against terrorism.

...The report entirely avoids some of the most controversial sections of the Patriot Act. Specifically, there is no mention of Section 213 (which permits "sneak-and-peak" searches and seizures), Section 215 (which allows the government to seize any tangible thing from any person pursuant to a terrorist investigation) and Section 505 (which allows the Justice Department to compel the production of documents). With other controversial provisions, such Section 214 (which eased restrictions on wiretaps for non-terrorists), the report praises the value of the provisions but provides no information as to how or how often they have been used. Likewise, there is no actual information about how Section 206 (which permits vague authorizations for wiretaps) is being used – but the Justice Department does helpfully provide a hypothetical example of how it might be used.

...The report repeatedly implies our choices are to either extend the Patriot Act exactly as it exists now or revert back to the law as it existed before 9/11. But this is a false choice. There are legislative proposals that would preserve the provisions of the Patriot Act that are effective against terrorism while protecting civil liberties. Our favorites: The Civil Liberties Restoration Act and the SAFE Act.
Source: Progress Report

The Progress Report questions AssKKKroft's "sincerity" in testifying before the Worthless Commission. Perhaps he didn't think they were sincere in their concerns about the PATRIOT Act. After all, they didn't read it before they voted to enact it.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Friday, July 16, 2004

"Bin Laden wants John Kerry to win"

Get your bumper sticker at the GOP table in Louisville.

A blog called BlueGrassRoots has a post up saying that the Louisville Kentucky Republican party (specifically, the Jefferson County Republican Party) is handing out signs that read "Kerry is bin Laden's Man/Bush is My Man."

Josh Marshall phoned up and talked to the organizer.

Fahrenheit 9/11 influence?

The House of Representatives last night voted to cut off financial aid to Saudi Arabia – a move symbolizing just how damaged U.S.-Saudi relations have become since 9/11. Congress, unlike the Bush White House which has close ties to the Saudis, is waking up to the idea that the Middle Eastern country has been slow to cooperate in the U.S. war on terror. The 217-191 vote affects military aid and "millions of dollars in discounts on hardware and other military training." Lawmakers described the vote as "critical in reinforcing U.S. demands for more cooperation from Saudi Arabia on terrorism." President Bush will now have to press the Senate to restore money to his friends in the Saudi Arabian government.

...With this track record, many are wary about the one-month amnesty the Saudis have extended to terrorists. Bill sponsors said their concerns about Saudi's commitment to fighting terrorism "were exacerbated yesterday when a suspected al-Qaeda loyalist, Khalid bin Odeh bin Mohammed al-Harbi, surrendered to Saudi authorities under the kingdom's month long amnesty offer to wanted militants and made comments expressing his relief at being under the control of Saudi authorities." Said Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY): "Time and again, the Saudis have shown that they are not our allies in the war on terror."
Source: Progress Report

That's not the first time we've heard about a terrorist being relieved to be in Saudi custody.

He simply hasn't had time

O'REILLY: But put yourself in President Bush's position. He hears this kind of vitriolic rhetoric from Bond, and he says, "You know, I might want to go in and talk to MFUME. He's a reasonable guy. But I don't want to go in there and be embarrassed, because if I am, if I'm booed, or heckled, or something untoward happens, my opponent's going to use this."

"He's going to grab the tape, he's going to play it on all the newscasts, the blacks hate Bush, NAACP hates Bush. And I wouldn't take the chance if I'm the chief executive of this country, based upon Mr. Bonds irresponsible remarks." Now, if Mr. Bond apologized -- because I trust you, I don't think you would put the president in a bad position -- then I might rethink it.

But at this point, after that diatribe, no way I'd go.

NAACP President MFUME: Yes, and you know, it's legitimate, and it's legitimate even from his part. I mean, that's the sum of the conversation that Mr.Gillespie and I had when we talked, and he pretty much put it the way you did. But you know, I guess my real concern is, forget the conventions, whether they've been over the last four years or this one, it would have just helped just to be able to sit down.

I've written the president every year for four straight years just for a meeting, just to say, "Here's our agenda. What do you think about it? Tell us yours." And every letter I got back from the White House said,"The president would love to, but he doesn't have time" for four years.
Fox News article

This is Bush's 33rd visit to his ranch since becoming president. He has spent all or part of 233 days on his Texas ranch since taking office, according to a tally by CBS News. Adding his 78 visits to Camp David and his five visits to Kennebunkport, Maine, Bush has spent all or part of 500 days in office at one of his three retreats, or more than 40 percent of his presidency.
Washington Post article

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

You and True Majority - Stop the Genocide in Sudan

Over the last several months, a government-backed Arab militia in Sudan called the Janjuweed has been attacking black Africans. The Janjuweed tactics are crude but effective. They enter a village and use terror to force everyone to leave their homes and crops. Entire populations have fled to distant camps in the middle of desolate areas. These desert camps are now surrounded and controlled by the Janjuweed, and anyone who tries to leave is raped or killed. Unarmed international aid workers are turned away. A total of 370,000 human beings are already dead or in the late stages of dying from starvation in these extermination camps. The death toll could reach 1 million within the next few months.

Time is our worst enemy. Every day 1,000 people are dying in these camps. Currently, starvation is taking the weakest—70% of the dead are children five and under. As time goes on, the death toll will rise more quickly. The United States needs to ensure that food aid is brought to the people of Darfur with protection from an international military force. Congress has already allocated tens of millions of dollars for this mission and seems willing to allocate millions more if needed. The problem is that the Bush administration is unwilling to take the decisive action needed to make sure the food aid is safely delivered to those who need it most. Instead, they are calling on the corrupt Sudanese government to disarm their allies, the Janjuweed, and allow the food aid in. To pressure the Sudanese government, the Bush administration is talking about using sanctions, a process that will take months—long enough to kill everyone currently starving in the camps.

...The contrast in our government’s response to Sudan and Iraq is striking. Bush was willing to buck the United Nations and spend $200 billion to invade Iraq (most recently for humanitarian reasons).

“The Janjuweed arrived and asked me to leave the place. They beat women and small children. They killed a little girl, Sara Bishara. She was two years old. She was knifed in her back.”

Now, for a few hundred million dollars and little risk to our armed forces, we really can stop a government from slaughtering a million of its own people.

Instead, the Bush administration has ducked the issue by refusing to call it genocide. Why? Because the United States is party to a treaty that would force us to take strong action if they did.

...Now a bipartisan push is taking hold in Congress to call this genocide and get our government to act. The House resolution (H. Con. Res. 467) is moving quickly, and a vote may come as quickly as next week. In the Senate, Sen. Brownback (R-KS) and Sen. Corzine (D-NJ) have just introduced a resolution (S. Con. Res. 124) that would also call this genocide and require strong action.

Go to this site for an easy way to help:

We couldn't simply restore Saddam

So we've done the next best thing.

Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government, according to two people who allege they witnessed the killings.

They say the prisoners - handcuffed and blindfolded - were lined up against a wall in a courtyard adjacent to the maximum-security cell block in which they were held at the Al-Amariyah security centre, in the city's south-western suburbs.

They say Dr Allawi told onlookers the victims had each killed as many as 50 Iraqis and they "deserved worse than death".

The Prime Minister's office has denied the entirety of the witness accounts in a written statement to the Herald, saying Dr Allawi had never visited the centre and he did not carry a gun.

But the informants told the Herald that Dr Allawi shot each young man in the head as about a dozen Iraqi policemen and four Americans from the Prime Minister's personal security team watched in stunned silence.

Iraq's Interior Minister, Falah al-Naqib, is said to have looked on and congratulated him when the job was done. Mr al-Naqib's office has issued a verbal denial.

The names of three of the alleged victims have been obtained by the Herald.

One of the witnesses claimed that before killing the prisoners Dr Allawi had told those around him that he wanted to send a clear message to the police on how to deal with insurgents.

...The Herald has established that as many as 30 people, including the victims, may have been in the courtyard. One of the witnesses said there were five or six civilian-clad American security men in a convoy of five or six late model four-wheel-drive vehicles that was shepherding Dr Allawi's entourage on the day. The US military and Dr Allawi's office refused to respond to questions about the composition of his security team. It is understood that the core of his protection unit is drawn from the US Special Forces units.

...Before the shootings, the 58-year-old Prime Minister is said to have told the policemen they must have courage in their work and that he would shield them from any repercussions if they killed insurgents in the course of their duty.

The witnesses said the Iraqi police observers were "shocked and surprised". But asked what message they might take from such an act, one said: "Any terrorists in Iraq should have the same destiny. This is the new Iraq.

...One witness justified the shootings as an unintended act of mercy: "They were happy to die because they had already been beaten by the police for two to eight hours a day to make them talk."

...There is much debate and rumour in Baghdad about the Prime Minister's capacity for brutality, but this is the first time eyewitness accounts have been obtained.

A former CIA officer, Vincent Cannisatraro, recently told The New Yorker: "If you're asking me if Allawi has blood on his hands from his days in London, the answer is yes, he does. He was a paid Mukhabarat [intelligence] agent for the Iraqis, and he was involved in dirty stuff."

...Given Dr Allawi's role as the leader of the US experiment in planting a model democracy in the Middle East, allegations of a return to the cold-blooded tactics of his predecessor are likely to stir a simmering debate on how well Washington knows its man in Baghdad, and precisely what he envisages for the new Iraq.
  Sidney Morning Hearld article via Truthout

I think he has made that somewhat clear in earlier statements. And in current ones that involve the term "annihilate" when talking about militants. And laws.

But I think that Washington knows its man in Baghdad quite well, and is counting on him being a Saddam replacement without being Saddam. He's our friend now. If he becomes a problem, we'll deal with him when it happens. He was personally the source of the claim that Saddam could have his WMD program operational within 45 minutes.

Of course these claims are unproven, unless you accept several witness' reports.

The three names [of alleged victims] were provided to the Interior Ministry, where senior adviser Sabah Khadum undertook to provide a status report on each. He was asked if they were prisoners, were they alive or had they died in custody.

But the next day he cut short an interview by hanging up the phone, saying only: "I have no information - I don't want to comment on that specific matter."

...The two witnesses were independently and separately found by the Herald. Neither approached the newspaper. They were interviewed on different days in a private home in Baghdad, without being told the other had spoken. A condition of the co-operation of each man was that no personal information would be published.

Both interviews lasted more than 90 minutes and were conducted through an interpreter, with another journalist present for one of the meetings. The witnesses were not paid for the interviews.

...But in a sharp reminder of the Iraqi hunger for security above all else, the witnesses did not perceive themselves as whistle-blowers. In interviews with the Herald they were enthusiastic about such killings, with one of them arguing: "These criminals were terrorists. They are the ones who plant the bombs."

...US officials in Iraq have not made an outright denial of the allegations. An emailed response to questions from the Herald to the US ambassador, John Negroponte, said: "If we attempted to refute each [rumour], we would have no time for other business. As far as this embassy's press office is concerned, this case is closed."

Move along.

An Australian online article at gives an enlightening look at Allawi. Read the whole thing, but here's a little clip:

Juan Cole, a Middle East historian at the University of Michigan, wrote of a stinging assessment of the Prime Minister's leanings: "He is infatuated with reviving the Baath secret police, bringing back Saddam's domestic spies. Unlike the regular [Iraqi] army, which had dirty and clean elements, all of the secret police are dirty. If they are restored, civil liberties are a dead letter."

It is hardly surprising that they are pacing in Washington. "He's our kind of bully," was one of the first backroom endorsements of the 58-year-old neurologist.

...The first unvarnished look at Allawi's past since he was named leader of post-Saddam Iraq was by Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker, in which he quoted an unnamed US intelligence officer on the ties between Allawi and Saddam in the 1960s: "Allawi helped Saddam get to power."

Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA case officer who served in the Middle East, elaborated further: "He was a very effective operator and a true believer. Two facts stand out about Allawi. One, he likes to think of himself as a man of ideas; and, two, his strongest virtue is that he's a thug."

Saddam the Second.

Vote to Impeach is running a full page ad today in the NY Times

And they used a great photo.

Click here for full page ad (pdf).

If you haven't visited an impeachment support site, here's a link (Click graphic):

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Black hole theory amended

Black Holes are regions in space where matter is compressed to such an extent that not even light can escape from their immense gravitational pull.

The space bodies have mystified scientists for decades now, and in 1976, [astrophysicist Stephen] Hawking had caused ripples by his theory of "Hawking Radiation," which suggested that in black holes, the rules of quantum physics work differently and that they radiate energy.

According to the report, Hawking has now said that once black holes form, they effectively start to "evaporate" away, losing mass in the process, due to which they eventually break open and release the information that fell inside it.
  Web India article

Just what you would expect if you subscribe to "as above, so below", or you even think about what the patterns in the world of physics indicate.

....but hey, believe what you will anyway.

Blogger woes

This is going to be interesting.

Blogger is a great program (and it's free!). In fact, they continually tweak it to improve it. Sometimes, however, the tweaking causes it's own problems. Like now.

The editing page has suddenly lost its preview function and all its nice little html helps. The fact that I'm having to type in all the html codes isn't as bad as the inability to preview the post as it will appear to YWA readers. It's really difficult to proofread a page full of html code, and even more difficult to envision the layout. Not impossible, just a pain in the ass.

So....I'll post, but you may be treated to some even worse layout and typos than usual. I'll look at each post after I publish it to try to catch and correct the worst of it ASAP. Hang in there. Blogger usually gets the quirks fixed within a day.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Taxpayer bailout time

OPIC (Overseas Private Investment Corporation) supposedly monitors overseas business contracts for political repercussions. I'd say they're doing a swell job of it, considering the case of Coca Cola and Shell, to name only two.

At any rate, SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation), a San Diego IT research and engineering company run by former CIA, NSA, Pentagon employees, has accused Venezuela's oil company, PDVSA, of "expropriating" its assets, and OPIC has ruled that the U.S. will have to reimburse SAIC in some yet to be determined amount of dollars (SAIC's claim is around $6 million). Go figger. At any rate, here's the background on the deal....

In 1996, before Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took office, under PDVSA's slow path towards privatization led by company president Luis Giusti, SAIC and PDVSA formed a joint venture called Informatica, Negocios y Tecnologia S.A. (INTESA) to manage the oil company's outsourced IT operations. The two companies signed a five-year contract that could be renewed upon agreement by both parties. SAIC invested $1200 (twelve hundred dollars) while PDVSA provided all financing for the venture as well as all equipment, office space, personnel and $800.

The president of Venezuela's state oil firm PDVSA, Ali Rodriguez Araque, said Monday that the Venezuelan oil company had decided not to renew the contract with SAIC after an audit by IT consulting firm Gartner Group determined that PDVSA was not benefiting from the venture. The Gartner Group recommended changes but according to Rodriguez SAIC refused to change the operating terms of the contract.

"The OPIC simply accepted SAIC's allegations without examining the actual facts," said Rodriguez in a press release issued today. Rodriguez said that PDVSA consulted with outside legal counsel in the United States, and with a noted U.S. academic expert in international law, both of which said that the OPIC decision "is entirely without merit".
  Venezuelanalysis article

But I imagine we'll be paying them anyway.

The decision not to renew SAIC's contract is officially because PDVSA isn't benefiting. But there's a little political issue behind it as well. Chávez and Washington are at odds (links), and Venezuelan officials, along with PDVSA, claim to have evidence that SAIC participated in the sabotage of PDVSA in late 2002 in which Opposition to the Chávez government tried to destroy Venezuela's oil based economy in an effort to drive him from office.

Venezuelan government officials believe SAIC was using INTESA for espionage purposes in Venezuela due to its strong ties to the Pentagon, the CIA and the NSA. Its current and past board of directors include former NSA president Bobby Inman, former Defense Secretary Melvin Laird, former head of the research and development division of the Pentagon Donald Hicks, ex-Secretary of Defense William Perry, ex-CIA Director John Deutsch, and ex-CIA director Robert Gates. William B. Black Jr. served at Assistant Vice President at SAIC for three years after retiring from the NSA in 1997. Black later returned to the NSA as deputy director in 2000.

I don't know what would give anybody the idea that SAIC might be channeling poitical information to Washington.

"I personally find it astonishing that a government agency such as OPIC would pay out millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars based purely on the self-serving allegations of the company making a claim and in the absence of any certified financial information," Rodriguez said.

Astonishing though it may be, that's pretty much SOP around here.

Rodriguez said that PDVSA has offered to pay SAIC its share of the value of the company as determined by an independent audit, but "SAIC has refused even to meet, and has consistently refused to allow any independent audit of INTESA's books."

"We have every reason to believe that OPIC's decision was based on prevailing politics in Washington, D.C., and the desire to satisfy a politically powerful U.S. company, rather than on the facts." Rodriguez said.

Oh, that would be a first.

The Miami Herald (highly anti-Chávez) is claiming that PDVSA is refusing to pay or even discuss the judgment. Forbes has a pretty straightforward report.

OPIC provides U.S. businesses with risk insurance and financing for projects in developing countries, and is threatening to withhold it from companies wanting to do business in Venezuela. I guess that could be the first step toward Cuban-type sanctions. But it doesn't seem likely to be anything more than threatening gestures, since other U.S. businesses already have about $25 billion invested in Venezuelan oil ventures.

PDVSA has submitted the issue to the International Chamber of Commerce. (Like we are subject to some international influence or laws. Pfffh.)

Venezuelan officials have expressed concerns about the possible motives and consequences of the OPIC ruling. "We think they may be something big here. Accusing Venezuela of expropriating U.S. assets is a serious matter," said a government official. "This may be the beginning of a new type of attack on Chavez. They [the US government] and the [Venezuelan] opposition know we are leading the polls by a wide margin, and they will need new ammunition to throw against Chavez after he wins the referendum," said the official who asked not to be named.

Well, one thing is certain. Washington is not simply going to go away quietly if he does.

It seems to me, in considering the situation, the fact that the U.S. taxpayers are going to compensate a private company for business losses loads the dice. At any rate, the losers are going to be us. Again. I wonder how many such business deals gone bad we pay for each year.

Previous posts on Venezuela

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Presidential Auction 2004

Seen at Bob's...

Virginia, educate your senator

Date: Wed, 14 Jul 2004 19:25:23 +0000
From: senator_allen@allen.senategov
To: Elio Cequea
Subject: A response from Senator George Allen

Dear Mr. Cequea: Thank you for contacting me regarding the political situation in Venezuela. I appreciate your concerns and value the opportunity to respond.

Since the election of President Hugo Chavez in 1998, Venezuela has undergone enormous political changes, with a new constitution and revamped political institutions. President Chavez has seen his popularity slowly erode due to his ineffectiveness in improving the living conditions of 80% of its 23 million citizens that live in poverty.

As you may know, President Chavez resigned on April 12, 2002, under pressure from the military, but was ultimately restored to power two days later.

Mr. Allen is even further from reality than Lord Liar or Klueless Kerry. Only the very hard core opposition members in Venezuela itself are still saying that Chávez resigned (and some of them are obviously embarrassed when they do), knowing full well that dog won't hunt. One of the standard large screen images projected at Chávez speeches is his letter to the people smuggled from the location where he was being held captive assuring his supporters he did not resign. There's an independent Irish documentary which captured the whole incident filmed by a crew who just happened to be on the spot when he was taken away by the army.

And where has Mr. Allen been for the past six months? Check this out...

Moreover, Chavez continues to throw caution to the wind with his close ties to Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein.

Maybe I'm crazy, but I thought Saddam Hussein was in prison. Are they letting Chávez visit him? Someone should tell Saddam's lawyers who have to date been denied that privilege.

It is important that we continue to put pressure on Chavez to hold a referendum on his rule through international observers to safeguard political and civil liberties.

Look at the date of this letter: July 14, 2004. The referendum was held last month. Mr. Allen really ought to update his files before he sends out his form letters.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me. If you would like to receive an e-mail newsletter about my initiatives to improve America, please sign up on my website . It is an honor to serve you in the United States Senate, and I look forward to working with you to make Virginia and America a better place to live, learn, work and raise a family.

Well, Elio isn't a Virgnia resident. Perhaps that wasn't obvious. But this line in Elio's letter to several American officials, including Senator Allen, which prompted Allen's reply, looks pretty clearly to me to indicate his Venezuelan citizenship: "Venezuela is a developing country. Just give us a fair opportunity to develop."

No, I don't think Elio is going to be working with Mr. Allen, although Mr. Allen's work might improve considerably if he did. I can only hope Mr. Allen's "initiatives to improve America" come with better research to back them than this letter did.

Elio responds painstakingly at length to Senator Allen, but it doesn't appear as though Elio is familiar with the U.S. Congress persons' despicable and wasteful practice of sending standard form letter responses (and in this case one that hasn't even been updated to reflect current events). He seems to be under the impression he actually got a letter from a Senator who actually read the letter sent to him.

And I haven't the heart to tell him otherwise.

Or maybe I should.

Jerk Allen R-GA

Previous Venezuela posts
More on Venezuela

Update 7/16/04: Bob has challenged my assertion that the referendum occurred last month. So, I'll have to clarify. I may be using the term incorrectly, as I have been calling the part of the process whereby people signed petitions to bring a recall vote on the president, the referendum. The actual vote which is scheduled for August 15, I have been calling the recall vote.

At any rate, I don't think this means that Senator Allen's letter isn't an outdated form letter. And as I read it, it seems to imply that it was written before the petition portion of the recall referendum was concluded last month, and nothing has been done to update the letter to reflect current events. You may read it otherwise. But since Mr. Allen wants to "continue to put pressure on Chavez to hold a referendum on his rule", I'd say he's behind the times, as the process is already underway.

Update 7/16/04 12:30 pm: Bob educates me:

What happened at the end of May was called the "repair process," which was used to address the validity of petition signatures. The National Election Committee determined that there were enough valid petitions for the referendum to proceed.

FWIW--Encarta's definition of 'referendum': vote by whole population on issue: a vote by the whole of an electorate on a specific question or questions put to it by a government or similar body.

Gracias, Bob.

This land will surely vote

Thanks to Bob for this link. Another great video animation. Don't miss it.

Click graphic

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

The real George Bush

Cartoonist Garry Trudeau, who has skewered politicians for decades in his comic strip "Doonesbury," tells Rolling Stone magazine he remembers Yale classmate George W. Bush as "just another sarcastic preppy who gave people nicknames and arranged for keg deliveries."

Trudeau attended Yale University with Bush in the late 1960s and served with him on a dormitory social committee.

"Even then he had clearly awesome social skills," Trudeau said. "He could also make you feel extremely uncomfortable ... He was extremely skilled at controlling people and outcomes in that way. Little bits of perfectly placed humiliation."

...Trudeau said he penned his very first cartoon to illustrate an article in the Yale Daily News on Bush and allegations that his fraternity, DKE, had hazed incoming pledges by branding them with an iron.

The article in the campus paper prompted The New York Times to interview Bush, who was a senior that year. Trudeau recalled that Bush told the Times "it was just a coat hanger, and ... it didn't hurt any more than a cigarette burn."

"It does put one in mind of what his views on torture might be today," Trudeau said.
  Monterey Herald article

I wonder what Trudeau (that's French!) will get as punishment.

Well, Mr. Romney won't have to worry about another term

Massachusetts Republican Gov. Mitt Romney criticized the Bush administration on Wednesday, saying the government engages in wasteful spending and often gives money to ensure Republican votes.

The government doles out money "based on who will vote for us or for our party: in effect, we buy votes," Romney said in remarks prepared for delivery. "We fund programs that don't work. We tolerate abuse and cheating in the multiples of billions of dollars."

The GOP governor is a former businessman who was CEO and president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the Olympic games.
  AOL article

He also went on to criticize Kerry rather soundly.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Media blackout

Regarding the previous post, if you do a Google search with "Abu Ghraib Hersh ACLU", this is your return: two articles.

An apology and Hersh on torture videos Blog, CA - 3 hours ago
... sodomized at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. "The worst is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking," the reporter told an ACLU convention last week. Hersh says there ...

Seymour Hersh: Administration Committed War Crimes
Infoshop News - Jul 8, 2004
... the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, said some ... Mr. Hersh's comments followed a keynote address by the ... mayor, Gavin Newsom, during the ACLU conference, which ...

It's worse

That's what all the Congress people said who watched the videos and saw the pictures that the public hasn't seen from Abu Ghraib.

And Sy Hersh has made similar remarks. He's said it again in a speech last week in front of the ACLU. Where was the major media coverage?

Daily Kos had a post yesterday.

From today's Daily Mislead:

President Bush has claimed that the prison abuse scandal in Iraq was just "conduct by a few American troops." But with Congress investigating the scandal, a series of explosive new reports provides evidence that the tactics may have been approved at the highest levels of government. Even worse, one leading investigative journalist says the Administration is holding videotapes of soldiers sodomizing Iraqi children.

...Making matters worse, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker told the American Civil Liberties Union this week that videotapes were made of young boys being sodomized at Abu Ghraib. "The worst is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking," the reporter told the group's convention. Hersh reports there was "a massive amount of criminal wrongdoing that was covered up at the highest command out there, and higher." See the video of Hersh's ACLU speech[7] - the information about the prison comes at about 1 hour and 30 minutes in.

"America at a Crossroads," 2004 ACLU Members Conference

This is what they will be desperately attempting to keep a lid on.

Thanks to Eli at Left I for links and comments on the Not in Our Name ad Wednesday, July 7 on the back page of the Baghdad daily newspaper Al-Sabah Al-Jadeed declaring "No to torture and occupation.” Be sure and read the comments from ordinary Iraqis who were interviewed for their reactions to the ad.

And more on why apologies are in order...
  AntiWar Blog post

Ed Cone has transcribed some of Hersh's speech:

Hersh describes a Pentagon in crisis. The defense department budget is “in incredible chaos,” he says, with large sums of cash missing, including something like $1 billion that was supposed to be in Iraq.

"The disaffection inside the Pentagon is extremely accute," Hersh says. He tells the story of an officer telling Rumsfeld how bad things are, and Rummy turning to a ranking general yes-man who reassured him that things are just fine. Says Hersh, "The Secretary of Defense is simply incapable of hearing what he doesn’t want to hear."

Not just the Secretary of Defense.

The Iraqi insurgency, he says,was operating in 1-to-3 man cells a year ago, now in 10-15 man cells, and despite the harsh questioning, "we still know nothing about them...we have no tactical information.”

He says the foreign element among insurgents is overstated, and that bogeyman Zarqawi is "a composite figure" hyped by our government.

Seymour Hersh has repeatedly proven to be one of (if not the) the best investigative reporters alive. If he's saying these things publicly, I am inclined to believe them even more strongly than I did before him saying them.

Hersh described the folks in charge of US policy as "neoconservative cultists" who have taken the government over, and show "how fragile our democracy is."

He ripped the supine US press, pledged to bring home all the facts he could, said he was not sure he could deliver all the damning info he suspects about Bush administration responsibility for Abu Ghraib.

We owe Hersh a huge debt for even trying.


My correspondence with Jack Dalton reminded me of an Albert Einstein quote, and now today, suddenly I am coming across several others that all seem to be talking about our current administration and its supporters.

So, I'll share. You might be able to use them.

He who joyfully marches in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice.
-- Albert Einstein

"Most people, sometime in their lives, stumble across truth. And most jump up, brush themselves off, and hurry on about their business as if nothing had happened."
-- Sir Winston Churchill

You can't wake a person who is pretending to sleep. -- Navajo proverb

Our rulers will become corrupt, our people careless. A single zealot may commence persecutor, and better men be his victims....From the conclusion of this war we shall be going down hill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves, but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of this war, will remain on us long, will be made heavier and heavier, till our rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion. -- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia - 1784

When you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. -- Dakota proverb

They just forgot

It happens.

Guidelines published by a government panel earlier this week, calling for aggressive use of statin medications to lower cholesterol in people at high risk of heart attacks, failed to list panelists' links to pharmaceutical companies, many of which manufacture statin drugs.

Of the nine panelists, six had received grants or consulting or speakers' fees from companies that produce some of the most popular statin medications on the market.
  Newsday article

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Okay, now he'll name a new director

The acting director of the CIA is speaking up in defense after the Pointless Commission's slam on intelligence. I'm surprised. He doesn't look like someone who would take on the White House. In fact, I believe he's the one who signed off on the "16 word" fiasco when Tenet wouldn't.

The country's new acting intelligence chief said Wednesday that American intelligence agencies should not be blamed if there was inadequate debate about the decision to go to war against Iraq.

... The Senate panel dissected the intelligence behind a National Intelligence Estimate of October 2002. That document included flat assertions that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons and was reconstituting its nuclear program, statements that the Senate committee called unfounded and unreasonable.

But to treat the document as a pivotal element in the march to war would be "an oversimplification of the situation,'' Mr. McLaughlin said on CNN, in one of a series of interviews intended to counter the sharp criticism of the agency, adding, "If there wasn't sufficient debate about these issues, it wasn't the fault of the people who prepared this estimate.''
  NY Times article

This could get interesting. On the other hand, I think it's more likely that Mr. McLaughlin is just trying to cover his butt for having signed off on that faulty yellowcake information. He'll be replaced, and maybe write a book, huh?

And then there's Pat Roberts....

But in an hourlong interview on Wednesday morning in his office, Mr. Roberts said he was "not too sure" that the administration would have invaded if it had known how flimsy the intelligence was on Iraq and illicit weapons. Instead, the senator said, Mr. Bush might well have advocated efforts to maintain sanctions against Iraq and to continue to try to unearth the truth through the work of United Nations inspectors. "I don't think the president would have said that military action is justified right now," Mr. Roberts said. If the administration had been given "accurate intelligence," he said, Mr. Bush "might have said, 'Saddam's a bad guy, and we've got to continue with the no-fly zones and with inspections.' "

Oh sure, Pat. What about that little phrase, "Fuck Saddam, we're takin' him out." Hmmmm?

Come back to the real world Pat.

Take a vote, Pat. Senator Bond would still have voted to invade. Well, that's what he said. Maybe he's just too stupid to lie.

Senator Rockefeller said last week that he believed a war resolution would have failed in Congress had the flimsiness of the intelligence been known; Senator Roberts has said he was "not sure.''

That's more like it.

....but hey, say what you will anyway.