Thursday, March 31, 2005

I can't keep it all straight

Which is why it works, I guess.
It seems overly convenient that Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator is a business partner to Halliburton.
  Think Progress report
....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Kudos to KU

I'm not a sports fan, but I do know that here at the U of MO, Kansas University (KU) is the arch rival (dating back to the days of the civil war and border skirmishes between the states). KU gets my vote for this one, as I feel certain no Missouri Tiger would have had the balls....
'Drudge is reporting that clinically insane whack-job Ann Coulter was interrupted by hecklers during a speaking engagement at KU. But little Mattie is not telling us the whole story. My best friend's daughter is a sophomore at Kansas. She called her dad after the event and he immediately phoned me. Apparently what sent Coulter into a full-bore, spittle-flecked, incoherent rage was being asked, "So, Annie, what's actually larger, your Adam's apple or your dick?" My wife and kids slept through the ringing phone, but my ensuing laughter woke the entire house.'

  Via Maru via Bartcop

Speaking of Iraq...

Despite all the talk of draw-downs and tipping points, the guerrillas are in fact inflicting substantial attrition on our Abrams tanks. The guerrillas in Afghanistan had their biggest successes against the Soviets when they learned out to take out the Soviet tanks, so this news is pretty scarey.

Likewise, that the Americans have had to double the number of arrestees in the Iraqi prisons in the past five months is another bad sign. (Prisoners are now 10,400). It looks as thought he guerrillas are growing in sophistication and are succeeding in recruiting increased numbers of Iraqis.

  Juan Cole post

Starving Iraq

Acute malnutrition among Iraqi children aged under five nearly doubled last year because of chaos caused by the US-led occupation, a United Nations expert said yesterday.


How many did we kill with sanctions prior to the invasion? Half a million? Well, it was worth it. And bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq is surely worth at least another half mil.

Oh for the day the truth comes out

Unfortunately, as my favorite philosopher Mark Twain stated, "Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing wrong with this, except that it ain't so.".
Lincoln, NE -- March 28, 2005 -- -- Recently arrested photographer Russell E. "Rusty" Nelson--who according to U.S. District court testimony [2-5-1999] was impersonated by another photographer at Capitol Hill child sex parties during the Reagan and Bush presidencies, told us last week that in 1988 he refused Hunter Thompson’s offer of $100,000 to film a graphic child sex "snuff movie to be sold to wealthy private clients where a young boy would be murdered as a sacrifice."

"I’ve been homeless, in hiding and staying under the radar screen ever since," said Nelson.

Thompson reportedly committed suicide a few weeks ago on February 10, 2005--six days prior to Nelson’s February 16 arrest, when simultaneous search warrants were served to confiscate Nelson’s photographic equipment, computers, photos and "visual depictions of sexually explicit conduct involving a child," according to copies we obtained. Nelson said authorities were hoping to find evidence of child porn; but he claims to have never been involved. His next public hearing is May 4 in Lincoln.


Questions can also be raised as to whether Hunter Thompson’s death and the James Guckert-Jeff Gannon White House reporter scandal resulted in having Nelson taken out of circulation to intimidate or threaten him while also using the opportunity to search for criminal evidence--the kind which would place sitting and retired members of congress in severe legal jeopardy.

He'll never survive this. Or at least the truth won't. It was covered up in Nebraska and Washington in the 80's, and it will not come out now.

Read the rest of this very interesting article...

(And check here for the rest of the story about Mike Vreeland.)

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Billmon returns

For real. He's actually writing again.

Privatizing presidential appearances


After allowing taxpayers to finance his privatization events (let's call them what they really are after all,) and after using the White House communications apparatus to set them up, Bush is privatizing the ticket distribution and security staffing at his events to the Republican Party. The losers are not just taxpayers, but anyone who values the First Amendment. Under the banner of a "private event" the Republican Party is excluding citizens from seeing their president because of the lone sin of expressing the wrong idea on a bumper sticker or t-shirt. The question for Americans is - will we allow our freedom to be privatized?


Who in Congress will step up and call for an investigation?

  Daily Kos post

I've got yer answer to both those questions right here: Yes, and No One.

You got a problem with that?

Sanchez?! No!! I can't believe it. I won't believe it.

You remember General Sanchez.*
The top U.S. commander in Iraq authorized prisoner interrogation tactics more harsh than accepted Army practice, including using guard dogs to exploit "Arab fear of dogs," a memo made public on Tuesday showed.

The Sept. 14, 2003, memo by Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, then the senior commander in Iraq, was released by the American Civil Liberties Union, which obtained it from the government under court order through the Freedom of Information Act.

"The memo clearly establishes that Gen. Sanchez authorized unlawful interrogation techniques for use in Iraq, and in particular these techniques violate the Geneva Conventions and the Army's own field manual governing interrogations," ACLU lawyer Amrit Singh said in an interview.

  Reuters article

Actually, there is a surprise in this - that the memo has gotten to see the light of day. At any rate, I wouldn't hold my breath looking for anything to come of it.

Not even in light of this...
Just minutes ago at a Pentagon press conference with General Pace, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was asked if the abuse of detainees was a systemic problem:
QUESTION: …I wonder if you would just respond to the suggestion that there is a systemic problem rather than the kinds of individual abuses we’ve heard of before?

RUMSFELD: I don’t believe there’s been a single one of the investigations that have been conducted, which has got to be six, seven, eight or nine…

PACE: Ten major reviews and 300 individual investigations of one kind or another.

RUMSFELD: And have you seen one that characterized it as systematic or systemic?

PACE: No, sir.

RUMSFELD: I haven’t either.

  Think Progress post

Does "systemic" or "systematic" include a direction from the top of the system?


*Sanchez testimony before Congress, May 2004:

With regards to Abu Ghraib, as soon as I learned of the reported abuses, I ensured that a criminal investigation had been initiated and requested my superior appoint an investigating officer to conduct a separate administration investigation under Army Regulation 15-6 into this matter.

Within days of receiving the initial report, I directed suspension of key members of the chain of command of the unit responsible for detainee security at Abu Ghraib.


Well before I received the January 14th report and viewed the shocking photographs later on, I had directed steps be taken to improve the overall condition of detainees at Abu Ghraib.


While horrified at the abusive behavior that took place at Abu Ghraib, I believe that I've taken the proper steps to ensure that such behavior is not repeated.

I further believe that my actions have sent the correct message that such behavior is inconsistent with our values, our standards and our training.


I would like to read the concluding paragraph of my memorandum to the command on proper conduct during combat operations. I believe it is an accurate summary of my standards and expectations.

"Respect for others, humane treatment of all persons, and adherence to the law of war and rules of engagement is a matter of discipline and values. It is what separates us from our enemies. I expect all leaders to reinforce this message."


REED: Thank you.

General Sanchez, today's USA Today, sir, reported that you ordered or approved the use of sleep deprivation, intimidation by guard dogs, excessive noise and inducing fear as an interrogation method for a prisoner in Abu Ghraib prison.

REED: Is that correct?

SANCHEZ: Sir, that may be correct that it's in a news article, but I never approved any of those measures to be used within CJTF-7 at any time in the last year.

  YWA post

U.S. taxpayer-financed incitement to murder

[It] is the use of U.S. taxpayer dollars to fund a TV show that encourages violent, extra-judicial revenge on people who have not been tried or convicted of any crime that stands in sharp contradiction of the Bush administration's claims to have successfully exported "democracy" to Iraq.


P.S. My transatlantic correspondent Richard Seymour pointed out, after reading this, that homophobic overtones increasingly color the discourse and propaganda shoveled out by supporters of the government and the occcupation in Iraq, and so have become a recurrent theme in the British media.

Actually, this is American democracy we're talking about, so the definition changes.

Anyway, have a look at this Direland post.

May I never post about the Schiavo case again...

Now that Robert Schindler--the father of Terri Schiavo--is under the sway of Randall Terry (the anti-abortion terrorist, one of whose acolytes and deputies was the abortion-doc killer James Kopp), his rhetoric has increased in vehemence against letting a human vegetable die in peace.

But it wasn't always that way. The Guardian reported back in 2003 that Schiavo's father turned off the life support systems on his very own mother


So, Tom Delay agreed to the snuffing of his vegetable father, and Schiavo's father gave his mother release from suffering when (unlike Terri) her brain still worked but her kidneys failed. We, my friends, are awash in religious hypocrisy...

  Direland article

In oh so many more ways.

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

Update :

Ralph Nader has joined the Christers in opposing the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube--and has linked up with a right-winger with unsavory connections to do it.

  Direland post

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who described the court decision to remove Terri Schiavo's feeding tube as "cruel and crude," prayed with the ailing woman's parents Tuesday as she survived without food and water for the 12th day.

  Sun Times article

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Ain't war grand?

CPA senior adviser Franklin Willis (center) in Iraq with two CPA colleagues,
preparing to pay a contractor in 2003
[When] two whistle-blowers sued Custer Battles on behalf of the U.S. government—under a U.S. law intended to punish war profiteering and fraud—the Bush administration declined to take part. "The government has not lifted a finger to get back the $50 million Custer Battles defrauded it of,"


In recent months the judge in the case, T. S. Ellis III of the U.S. District Court in Virginia, has twice invited the Justice Department to join the lawsuit without response. Even an administration ally, Sen. Charles Grassley, demanded to know in a Feb. 17 letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales why the government wasn't backing up the lawsuit. Because this is a "seminal" case—the first to be unsealed against an Iraq contractor—"billions of taxpayer dollars are at stake" based on the precedent it could set, the Iowa Republican said.
  MSNBC article

Yes, the precedent is the problem. War profiteering is a Cheney and Bush staple.
[The Bush administration] has argued privately that the occupation government, known as the Coalition Provisional Authority, was a multinational institution, not an arm of the U.S. government. So the U.S. government was not technically defrauded. Lawyers for the whistle-blowers point out, however, that President George W. Bush signed a 2003 law authorizing $18.7 billion to go to U.S. authorities in Iraq, including the CPA, "as an entity of the United States government." And several contracts with Custer Battles refer to the other party as "the United States of America."


"If urgent steps are not taken, Iraq ... will become the biggest corruption scandal in history," warned the anti-corruption group Transparency International in a recent report. Grassley adds that if the government decides the False Claims Act doesn't apply to Iraq, "any recovery for fraud, waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars ... would be prohibited."

War Profiteers - Old American
This is a case to watch.

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

Arab report on Iraq

US forces abandoned one of their barracks in Ramadi at dawn on Monday after intensive rocket bombardments blasted the facility throughout last week.


The Council of the Mujahideen of Fallujah issued a communiqué on Monday saying that the Mujahideen have succeeded in producing a locally-made rocket dubbed “as-Sijjil” as the American were forced to abandon one of their base in Ramadi after rockets hit the facility.
  Jihad Unspun article

Another typical Bush appointment

Today, The HSUS expressed its strong disappointment that Interior Secretary Gale Norton has named Matthew J. Hogan to be acting director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Norton announced the appointment yesterday, following last week's resignation of Director Steve Williams. Hogan was formerly the chief lobbyist for Safari Club International (SCI), an extreme trophy hunting organization that advocates the killing of rare species around the world.

  Humane Society article

Honestly, I have got to get my list created. The consistent inappropriateness of appointees from this administration is truly an amazing thing.

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

Stopping the journalists - ongoing

Iraqi police have arrested a correspondent of Al-Arabia television network with film tapes shot in the town of Falluja in his possession at Baghdad International Airport. Wael Issam was detained at the airport, Network workers said, but failed to clarify if he was leaving the country or coming in.

  Kuwait News Agency article

Shoot them, ban them, harrass them, arrest them. Whatever it takes to silence the news.

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

What Faux News won't tell you about the UN report

Five points:
The U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, which took over responsibility for Iraqi oil revenues following the invasion, can no longer account for $8.8 billion of Iraqi oil money – twice the amount Saddam Hussein was thought to have gained from oil-for-food kickbacks.


The Bush administration dropped the ball on stopping the corruption (not once, but dozens of times). U.N. Ambassador John Negroponte “had the power to veto all sales of Iraqi oil and all Iraqi purchases of goods financed with oil-for-food revenues,” and failed to do so despite U.N. administrators identifying at least 70 cases for potential over-pricing of oil between 2001 and 2002.

For the other three points, check this Think Progress post.

Oh yeah, and there's this...

October 16, 2004—


[T]he one company that helped Saddam exploit the oil-for-food program in the mid-1990s that wasn't identified in Duelfer's report was Halliburton, and the person at the helm of Halliburton at the time of the scheme was Dick Cheney. Halliburton and its subsidiaries were one of several American and foreign oil supply companies that helped Iraq increase its crude exports from $4 billion in 1997 to nearly $18 billion in 2000 by skirting U.S. laws and selling Iraq spare parts so it could repair its oil fields and pump more oil. [...] Security Council diplomats estimate that Iraq was skimming off as much as 10 percent of the proceeds from the oil-for-food program thanks to companies like Halliburton and former executives such as Cheney.
  Online Journal article

Falluja report

Presented to the 61st session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights For the period of 1ST January to 25th March 2005

Studies Center of Human Rights and Democracy - Bussells Tribunal

The city of Fallujah was subjected to a genocide war by the American forces. The military machinery destroyed almost 70 per cent of the city, from civilian houses to medical center and general services facilities especially water, electricity. This war resulted in killing thousands of innocent civilians and sending almost a half million refugee.

It is well known that the American forces and their puppet government prevented any medical or humanitarian relief agency to enter the city throughout its siege to the city.


In order to give the international community a clear image of what is happening, we present this short report:


  Information Clearinghouse

And from a reporter who was there...
deep sea diver turned documentary filmmaker Mark Manning asked if I had six minutes to spare — a strange request, considering we’d already spent two hours talking about Manning’s recent trip to Falluja, the heart of Iraq’s bloody Sunni triangle. Six minutes more was nothing, so Manning queued up a short video of footage he’s shot in Iraq and hit play.


“There were 500,000 people living in Falluja at the time, not the 250,000 that the media reports. They were given one week to leave home,” Manning said. “After three days, they were told they had to walk out. Then after a week, the U.S. forces sacked the city and killed anyone that was left.” Manning expressed outrage that no provision was made for the mass exodus of refugees. “There were no refugee camps. Families were living in chicken coops, tents, and cars. In Iraq, the winters are very cold and very wet. And these are people who left with pretty much just the clothes on their back.”


“The whole town is radiated,” said Manning. “We are poisoning the whole country.”


Even though his taped interviews were stolen, Manning said he managed to download many video images of Falluja onto his computer, as well as many still photos. With these, he hopes to make first a 10-minute DVD, and then later a full-length documentary.


This 4-year-old spent his time either staring blankly ahead
or jumping at any provocation and shaking.
He was one of seven kids whose family Manning visited almost daily. article
That is a very interesting article. Check it out.

All Falluja posts.

And here's what you get for your generosity...

The parents of Terri Schiavo have authorized a conservative direct-mailing firm to sell a list of their financial supporters, making it likely that thousands of strangers moved by her plight will receive a steady stream of solicitations from anti-abortion and conservative groups.
  New York Times NY Times article
God bless America.

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

And how goes Iraq's new government?

Iraq's parliament erupted in acrimony at only its second sitting on Tuesday and journalists were thrown out after lawmakers berated leaders for failing to agree on a new government, two months after historic elections.


As the meeting grew heated, the interim speaker ordered journalists to leave and Iraqi television abruptly switched to Arab music. Allawi walked out of the session shortly afterwards.

"You can say we are in a crisis," Barham Salih, a leading Kurdish politician, told reporters.
  Reuters article

Get rid of the journalists if things go badly. At least they're forming themselves around American ideals.

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

Monday, March 28, 2005

Think Progress reminds you...

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, 3/27/05:
[T]he real problem is that the conflict hasn’t ended…I think people shouldn’t have been surprised that a regime that had burrowed into Iraqi society over 35 years and killed and tortured and intimidated people so effectively didn’t quit just because they were driven out of Baghdad on April 9, 2003.
Vice President Cheney, 3/16/03:
I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators…I think it will go relatively quickly…(in) weeks rather than months.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, 2/7/03:
It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.

  Think Progress article

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Spreading democracy and freedom

President Bush rewarded a key ally in the war on terrorism yesterday by authorizing the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, prompting India to warn that the move would destabilize the volatile region. article
Dateline: 06/12/98

At the end of the Gulf War, India's Chief of Staff was asked what lessons he had learned from observing the conflict. His response ...

"Don't fight the Americans without nuclear weapons."
  US Government Info article
The president's decision reversed 15 years of policy begun during the administration of his father. The United States barred the sale of F-16s to Pakistan in 1990 out of concern over its then-undeclared nuclear arms program, but Bush has forged a close relationship with Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, since Sept. 11, 2001, and considers his help crucial in the campaign against Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist organization. article
Or as some evidence indicates, in making sure bin Laden stays free, including not permitting U.S. forces to hunt for him on the Pakistan side of the border.

Then again, we're not really concerned about bin Laden any what's with the "crucial" help?

You remember our ally Pakistan....the one that had a global nuclear proliferation program selling to Iran and North Korea to name a couple?

Pakistan's government is now trying to portray the sale of nuclear technology to Iran, Libya, and North Korea as the cloak-and-dagger work of a few, isolated rogues.

But that's a lie, says Jane's Defense Weekly, in a report released today. Nuclear sales were so out in the open that underlings of Abdul Qadeer Khan -- the father of the Pakistani Bomb -- were handing out glossy brochures advertising their services at a 2000 arms conference.
  full article at Defense Tech

"A brochure from Dr. Khan's laboratory, advertising technology
used in centrifuges to make nuclear arms, was circulated to
aspiring nuclear states and a network of middlemen." article
The administration tried to balance the sale by announcing simultaneously that it would allow US firms the right to provide India the next generation of sophisticated, multirole combat aircraft, including upgraded F-16 and F-18 warplanes, as well as broaden cooperation in military command and control systems, early warning detection, and missile defense. The sale of planes to India would require congressional approval.

''What we are trying to do is solidify and extend relations with both India and Pakistan at a time when we have good relations with both of them -- something most people didn't think could be done -- and at a time when they have improving relationships with one another," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said. article
The brilliant reasoning is just staggering.

Your Armageddon handbill, courtesy YWA:

Brain-dead administration

President George W. Bush interrupted his vacation to make a special trip at taxpayer expense, flying back to Washington D.C. to sign a law forcing a brain-dead woman to be kept alive. Terri Schiavo’s cerebral cortex has liquefied -- completely atrophied -- leaving her no hope of recovery. But that didn’t stop Bush from ignoring science, state’s rights, a husband’s wishes, and several state court rulings.

This pandering to the “culture of life” movement by Bush and the Republican Congress represents the ultimate in hypocrisy. Why? Because on the very same weekend that these neocons-turned-nursemaids wrung their hands and spouted platitudes about protecting the sanctity of Schiavo’s life, the Bush administration eliminated all funding for the Federal Traumatic Brain Injuries Act!

That’s right. Our president and his sycophants in Congress don’t care about saving brain-injured patients who could actually improve with treatments. They don’t even care that 60% of the wounded soldiers coming back from Iraq have traumatic brain injuries, according to doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Now, brain injured combat veterans are being turned away from federal programs, denied help from the very same government that they fought to serve and protect.

Is there no shame among the Republican leadership?
  Buzzflash article
The short answer?

We'll tell you when it's terrorism

Notice how many of your redneck friends remind you that the PATRIOT act and other civil-liberties-arresting activities of the Bush administration are good and the president is keeping us safe because, "We haven't had another terrorist act since 9/11."
TEXAS CITY, Texas -- FBI agents have ruled out terrorism, but federal regulators estimate it will take them months to determine what caused an oil refinery explosion that killed 15 and injured more than 100.

An FBI spokesman in Houston dismissed a statement on an Islamic Web site claiming responsibility for the Wednesday blast. He said there was no indication of foul play.
It wasn't terrorism. But we don't know what it was. Just that it wasn't terrorism.

Daily Kos updates Guckert-Gannon affair

Fake name. Fake reporter. Fake news agency. And now this ...

Fake Marine.

First, we went to the Military Personnel Records of the National Personnel Records Center at St. Louis, Missouri, the supposed repository of all military records. No record showed, but the official letter hemmed and hawed and scraped its military-booted feet so much, kinda sorta explaining that they're often ... well ... ummm ... screwed up ... and that we should check directly with the United States Marine Corps at Quantico. You know, just to ... ummm ... make sure.

So we did, in this email correspondence:
  Continue reading...

Friday, March 25, 2005

Something has to be done about kids today

He created a system to reprogram bad kids. Delete the bad code in their personalities. Break the will of sullen stoner boys, make bad girls confess to whorish secrets and reverse-engineer the minds of heavy metal kids. And rebuild all of them into an anti-drug army. Such were the works of Melvin Sembler and the feats that STRAIGHT, the ultimate in teen drug rehab programs, attempted during the Totally Awesome Eighties.

Melvin Sembler's clinics might have seemed like a good idea at the time, when teen drug use was high and New Age thinking seemed to offer new and hopeful therapies for pressing the RESET button on human beings.

There were major problems, though. He modeled STRAIGHT after another program, creepily named "The Seed," shut down after the U.S. Congress literally issued a report in 1974 comparing it to "the highly refined 'brainwashing' techniques employed by the North Koreans." Sembler's imitation wasn't shut down until 1993 for illegal child abuse: beatings and sexual humiliation. Kids were thrown against walls. Or forced to sit in their own menstrual blood. Unless, of course, they were ready to cooperate, confess, and chant "I'm at STRAIGHT, feeling great" with the others. In that case they got to be the enforcers. Dozens of lawsuits exposed a similar picture in 12 clinics across America.


[Sembler's STRAIGHT] Web site brags of saving 12,000 kids from drugs. George H.W. Bush awarded it one of the "thousand points of light" awards.

His influence, according to a 1993 audit by the State of Florida, kept STRAIGHT open despite the facts. Phone calls from politicians in 1989 warned health inspectors that it didn't matter what abuse they reported, the clinics would stay open. After all, they were run by a personal friend of the President. "A persistent foul odor," the St. Petersburg Times editorialized.

Then there is the survival of STRAIGHT's ideas. By 1994 the clinics were closed in name, but offshoots continue today - with names like SAFE of Orlando.


Fast forward to 2005. Sembler, 75, is the United States Ambassador to Italy.
  Orkut Media article

I strongly suggest you read this whole article - the Bushes are there in all their stupid and criminal glory, as you might expect. Read it, though. You might still be surprised.

...but hey, do what you will anyway

Big raid

An Iraqi official said Wednesday that 85 insurgents were killed on Tuesday when Iraqi commandos, assisted by U.S. air and ground support, staged a midday attack on a suspected training camp in a rural area northwest of the capital.

The guerrilla death toll was the largest in any battle since the Marines led an assault on the insurgent-held city of Fallujah in November, when more than 1,000 fighters were reported killed.


"An early assessment of the site indicates a facility for training Anti-Iraqi Forces," a statement from the 42nd Infantry Division said, using the U.S. military's term for insurgents. The statement said evidence recovered at the scene indicated that some of the fighters were foreigners.

Kadhim told the Reuters news agency that "among the dead are Arab and foreign fighters, including Sudanese, Algerians and Moroccans, as well as other nationalities."
  WaPo article

UP to 40 fighters were seen today at a Iraq lakeside training camp attacked by US and Iraqi forces a day before and said they had never left, an AFP correspondent who visited the site said.

The correspondent, who went with other journalists to the camp at Lake Tharthar, 200km north of Baghdad, said he saw 30 to 40 fighters there.

The remains of three burnt vehicles were seen on a dusty road leading to the camp in the village of Ain al-Hilwa. A few mud huts were partly destroyed and a few big craters gouged the ground.

One of the fighters, who called himself Mohammed Amer and claimed to belong to the Secret Islamic Army, said they had never left the base.

He also said only 11 of his comrades were killed in airstrikes on the site.


Local hospitals said they had received no casualties from the battle.
  Australian News article


Ah, the hypocrisy. How much money to fight AIDS? And what political maneuvers to prevent AIDS cures and treatments?
INDIA HAS JUST PASSED A LETHAL PATENT LAW that will end its ability to produce generic versions of AIDS-fighting drugs--a global tragedy, because India is the source of those cheap drugs for half of the HIV-positive of the impoverished countries of the world--including half of India's 5 million HIV-positive citizens who depend on them, as do 30% of the HIV-positive in Africa. What the New York Times story today on this development leaves out is why India took this step. It's a combination of blackmail by U.S.-based multinationals and by Washington; and bribery by the U.S. government, which has just designated India as a major recipient of part of the money (subject, of course, to the religious, no-condom restrictions imposed by the Republican Congress) from The Twit's cash-starved global AIDS fund. It's a pity the Times didn't run a story on all this before it happened--because everyone in the global AIDS fight knew it was coming. For example, the French daily l'Humanite, the Communist Party's paper, ran a thorough article outlining the what and the why back on February 26, and global AIDS activists have been organizing an appeal to India not to take this step for months. Too late now--watch the death rate from AIDS among the world's poor soar....
  Direland article

Investigating Ohio's vote fraud

[3/22/05] Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, tasked with running a free and fair election in the Buckeye state last November --even while he was tasked with being the OH Co-Chair for the Bush/Cheney Re-Elect Committee -- finally decided to show up and take some questions yesterday.

As well, a Republican operative by the name of Mark F. (Thor) Hearne was also called as a "Witness" to discuss Election Reform issues despite fronting an organization, the so-called "American Center for Voting Rights" which suddenly appeared out of nowhere on the web just last Thursday.

Last month, Blackwell had succeeding in displeasing even his theoretical Ohio Republican ally, Ney, by refusing to attend the committee's first such hearings in D.C. Even though Blackwell was already in town.

Yesterday, however, he finally showed up...

In the few reports on the hearings that we've so far been able to collect from the media, it seems that their were quite a few testy moments during Blackwell's questioning. It's being reported that debate became particularly heated between some of the Democrats on the panel, like Ohio Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, who had challenged the Ohio Electoral Vote in a joint-session of Congress on Jan. 6th, and Blackwell.
  Brad Blog post
[3/24/05] Monday's testimony to a U.S. House Committee by Mark F. (Thor) Hearne, the leader of the American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR) -- who also happens to be the National Counsel for Bush/Cheney '04, Inc. -- has just been added to the website of the "non-partisan", tax-exempt, one-week old "Voting Rights" group.

In his testimony, Hearne failed to mention to the U.S. House members, either his connection to Bush/Cheney or his long roots in the Republican party going back to the Reagan Administration. The testimony was given last Monday to the U.S. House Administration Committee at hearings held on the Ohio Election problems. The hearings to which Hearne was invited were held just 3 business days after the ACVR suddenly appeared for the first time on the Internet...or anywhere else that we've been able to find.
  Brad Blog post
[3/23/05] Today we attempted to get some more information about the "American Center for Voting Rights" (ACVR), a group who suddenly appeared on the Internet last Thursday. On Monday, they gave testimony to U.S. Congressman Bob Ney's (R-OH) House Administrative Committee during hearings held in Columbus, OH on the 2004 Election mess in the state.


And, oh yes, every single name attached to this group so far seems to also be attached to Bush/Cheney '04 Inc. and/or the Republican National Committee and/or the Ohio Republican party.
  Brad Blog post

Wow. Who would've thought?

Oh, Canada

We've been expecting you.
A U.S. Army paratrooper who fled to Canada to avoid serving in Iraq was denied political asylum Thursday, dealing a blow to other deserters here who argue such duty would force them to commit atrocities against civilians.

An immigration board ruled that Jeremy Hinzman had not convinced its members he would face persecution or cruel and unusual punishment if returned to the United States.

Seven other U.S. military personnel have applied for refugee status, and Hinzman's attorney estimated dozens more are in hiding in Canada, waiting to see how the government will rule. The attorney, Jeffry House, said Hinzman would appeal the ruling.

"He is disappointed," House told CBC TV.

Immigration and Refugee Board member Brian Goodman, who wrote the ruling, said Hinzman might face some employment and social discrimination. But "the treatment does not amount to a violation of a fundamental human right, and the harm is not serious," he wrote.

Canada opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and the decision could help ease strained relations between the two governments.
Yes, Virginia, we are all political pawns.

Of course, the warhawks might suggest that you military dodgers apply for assylum in Iran.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

One of the primary tenets of repressive regimes... that they imprison or drive out the academics and free thinkers. Perhaps it starts this way....
Republicans on the House Choice and Innovation Committee voted along party lines Tuesday to pass a bill that aims to stamp out “leftist totalitarianism” by “dictator professors” in the classrooms of Florida’s universities.

The Academic Freedom Bill of Rights, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, passed 8-to-2 despite strenuous objections from the only two Democrats on the committee.

The bill has two more committees to pass before it can be considered by the full House.

While promoting the bill Tuesday, Baxley said a university education should be more than “one biased view by the professor, who as a dictator controls the classroom,” as part of “a misuse of their platform to indoctrinate the next generation with their own views.”

The bill sets a statewide standard that students cannot be punished for professing beliefs with which their professors disagree. Professors would also be advised to teach alternative “serious academic theories” that may disagree with their personal views.

According to a legislative staff analysis of the bill, the law would give students who think their beliefs are not being respected legal standing to sue professors and universities.

Students who believe their professor is singling them out for “public ridicule” – for instance, when professors use the Socratic method to force students to explain their theories in class – would also be given the right to sue.
  The Independent Florida article
If they pull such a stupid stunt in the Florida legislature, and there isn't a whole lot of reason to think they won't, perhaps this will backfire when "liberal" students decide their conservative professors are picking on them.

"You can't win, you can't break even, and you can't get out of the game."

The Army, straining to maintain troop levels in Iraq, last June said it would summon more than 5,600 people on the IRR [Individual Ready Reserve] in an effort to have about 4,400 soldiers fit for duty in Iraq and Afghanistan after granting exemption requests for medical reasons and other hardships.

Lt. Col. Pamela Hart said on Wednesday the Army has now increased the number of IRR soldiers it needs to about 4,650, which means a total of about 6,100 will get mobilization orders.

The IRR differs from the part-time Army Reserve and Army National Guard, whose soldiers train regularly as part of units. People on the IRR have no such training requirements.

Hart also said 370 IRR soldiers had not reported to the Army by the date ordered and have not requested an exemption from service or a delay in reporting. Hart said none have been declared absent without leave, or AWOL, and the Army was trying to determine whether all of them actually had received their mobilization orders.

"We're giving them all ample opportunity to comply with their orders," Hart said.
  Yahoo article

BP oil refinery blast kills 14, wounds 100

After 9/11, my Texan friend cautioned me to stay away from Houston, and when I asked why, he said, "Chemical plants."

Across a narrow stretch of water from my future home of choice (Galveston), lies Texas City, which is essentially all chemical plants, and...BP oil....

The fiery blast Wednesday at BP's 1,200-acre plant near Houston shot flames high into the sky, forced schoolchildren to cower under their desks and showered plant grounds with ash and chunks of charred metal. Windows rattled more than five miles away.


The plant is BP's largest refinery and the third largest refinery in the U.S.


The cause of the explosion was not immediately known. It happened in a part of the plant used to boost the octane level of gasoline. A thorough investigation is under way, BP America president Ross Pillari said Thursday.


Another explosion forced the evacuation of the plant for several hours last March. Afterward, OSHA fined the refinery $63,000 for 14 safety violations, including problems with its emergency shutdown system and employee training.

Texas City is the site of the worst industrial accident in U.S. history. In 1947, a fire aboard a ship at the Texas City docks triggered a huge explosion that killed 576 people and left fires burning in the city for days.

"Welcome to life in Texas City," Marion Taylor, 55, said Wednesday. "I was born here and pretty much, it happens from time to time."
  ABC News article

I like a philosophical approach.

Plus, gas prices expected to rise because of it.

I'm going out on a limb here and suggest that $63,000 in fines for safety violations isn't all that noticeable to a huge oil company.


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The new Iraqi Shi'ite power

The Bush administration and the supporters of the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq keep telling us what a "success" they've been having in creating "democracy" in the country post-invasion. Well, here's a "success" story from today's Times of London that gives a rather different picture:

A group of students having a picnic in a Basra park were violently attacked -- and two of them beaten to death -- by Shia militants for playing music the Islamists considered "immoral," the London Times' Catherine Philp reports in this morning's edition of the paper.

"The picnic had run foul of the Islamist powers that increasingly hold sway in the fly-blown southern city, where religious militias rule the streets, forcing women to don the veil and closing down shops that sell alcohol or music," the British daily reports.

"In the election in January, the battle between secular and religious forces in Basra came down to the ballot box. The main Shia alliance triumphed with 70 per cent of the province’s vote, most of the rest going to a secular rival. That victory has brought to a head the issue of whether Iraq’s new constitution will adopt Islamic law — or Sharia — as most religious Shia leaders desire.

"In Basra, however, Islamic militias already are beginning to apply their own version of that law, without authority from above or any challenge from the police. Students say that there was nothing spontaneous about the attack. Police were guarding the picnic in the park, as is customary at any large public gathering, but allowed the armed men in without any resistance.

"One brought a video camera to record the sinful spectacle of the picnic, footage of which was later released to the public as a warning to others. It showed images of one girl struggling as a gunman ripped her blouse off, leaving her half-naked. 'We will send these pictures to your parents so they can see how you were dancing naked with men,' a gunman told her. Two students who went to her aid were shot — one in the leg, the other twice in the stomach. The latter was said to have died of his injuries. Fellow students say that the girl later committed suicide. Another girl who was severely beaten around the head lost her sight.

“'We beat them because we are authorised by Allah to do so and that is our duty,' Sheik Ahmed al-Basri said after the attack. 'It is we who should deal with such disobedience and not the police.'"
  Direland post

Spreading freedom and democracy around the world.

See also Afghanistan: Self-Immolation Of Women On The Rise In Western Provinces

It may not be so inconsistent with American values as you might think, however....

The I-Max chain has canceled screenings of science films in a dozen of its movie theaters because test screenings showed a majority of viewers judged their portraits of evolution "blasphemous" because they contradicted the Biblical portrayal of Genesis, the New York Times and the BBC report.


While relatively few cinemas were involved, it was feared it could have a profound knock-on effect across the world because of the high cost of producing Imax films."

At the same time, a new poll on religion and American life out today from NBC shows that a significant majority of our fellow citizens -- 57% -- believe in the literal truth of the Biblical explanation for the origin of human life, while only 33% believe in evolution (another 10%, who must have been living in a bubble, said they "didn't know.")


[A] TIME survey says that 68% of Americans believe the entertainment industry has lost touch with viewers’ “moral standards," 53% want stricter F.C.C. censorship of sex and violence on TV, and 49% want to extend F.C.C. "indecency" regs to cover basic cable, including MTV and the E! channel on most cable systems.


After the last 72 hours in the Schiavo affair--which saw Congress subpoena a human vegetable, both Senate and House vote to shred the Constitutional separation of powers, and The Twit flying back from Crawford to make sure Schiavo wouldn't be liberated from her suffering (although he's too busy to visit legless Iraq vets in their hospitals) --well, one can be forgiven if, at times, one wonders if we're not living in a better-furnished, fast-food version of Iran.....
  Direland post

Tom Toles

Army won't let Italian police examine Sgrena auto

The U.S. military command in Iraq has blocked two Italian policemen from examining the car in which an Italian intelligence agent was shot to death in Baghdad, a newspaper said Wednesday.


The car, a Toyota Corolla, is reportedly still in American hands, at Baghdad airport where it was originally rented.


Prosecutors investigating the shooting have received photographs of the car, but they want to analyze bullet holes and other elements, according to Corriere.


Corriere della Sera said that the policemen were about to leave when the Italian Embassy in Baghdad received an order from the U.S. command on Monday to abort the mission for security concerns.
  Army Times article

Whose security would that be?

Once more with Roberts - Re: Syria

The assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri permitted the Bush administration to shift attention from its Iraq failure to Syria’s presence in Lebanon, just as the US invasion of Iraq shifted attention from Bush’s failure to capture bin Laden in Afghanistan.

Bush hasn’t sufficient troops to occupy Iraq and none to spare with which to invade Syria. But the lack of means does not stop Bush from issuing ultimatums. Bush’s tough talk plays well to his supernationalist supporters at home.


Unlike the US in Iraq, the Syrians have managed to perform the role of peacekeeper in Lebanon without leveling entire cities, destroying Lebanon's infrastructure, and killing tens of thousands of civilians. (This is not to say that in 1982 the Syrian government did not brutally put down an Islamic fundamentalist uprising in the Syrian city of Hama.)

Syria has a secular Alawite government. Now that Shi’ites are taking over in Iraq, Shi'ites in Lebanon—and especially the Iranian sponsored and controlled Shi'ite Hizbullah movement—are likely to gain additional political traction as well. Today, we are witnessing the creation of precisely the Shi'ite geopolitical bloc—the “Shi’ite crescent from Iran to Lebanon”—of which King Abdullah of Jordan warned, without effect, a deluded President Bush.


The United States lacks the resources necessary to occupy the Middle East. Bush has failed to occupy Baghdad, much less Iraq. Indeed, US troops could not even occupy Fallujah, a small city of 300,000. Unable to take control of the city, the Americans destroyed it. The US cannot level every city in the Middle East.


Today, Syria has begun to withdraw from Lebanon not because of US and Israeli ultimatums but because of the threat of a new axis of Shi'ite power stretching from Teheran westward through southern Iraq into Lebanon, and then back into Syria itself from both Lebanon and Iraq. The secular Syrian government now sees far more danger from Iran and Islamists supported by Teheran than it does from the US.

It may well be that Syria would like American protection from a rising Islamist and Iranian geostrategic revolution. The Bush administration, however, is too stupid to realize this.


How much longer can American prestige survive the embarrassments inflicted by President Bush?
  VDare article

Speaking of Paul Craig Roberts and the economy...

The February payroll jobs figures released last Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show a continuation of America’s descent into a Third World service economy.

The Bush administration cheered the creation of 229,000 private sector jobs (which still leaves Bush with a net private sector job loss during his reign). However, once we look at the details, the joy vanishes: 174,000 of the jobs, or 76% of the total, are in nontradable services.

Administrative and waste services (largely temporary help and employment services) account for 61,000 or 35% of the new service jobs. The remainder are accounted for by construction (30,000), retail trade (30,000), healthcare and social assistance (27,000), and waitresses and bartenders (27,000).

The US has apparently lost the ability to create high productivity, high value-added jobs in tradable goods and services. The ladders of upward mobility are being dismantled by offshore production for home markets and outsourcing of knowledge jobs.
  Roberts 3/8/05 article

Looking at the economy

The budget deficit has overtaken terrorism as the greatest short-term risk to the U.S. economy, and concern about the current gap is rising, a survey of U.S. businesses shows.
  USA Today: Money article
On March 15th, 2005, (the ides of March) we may have just witnessed the beginning of the death of our financial system as General Motors stock took a nosedive from $34/share down to $30.

It does not seem like much (GM down just over 10% in one day), but as of March 17th, the stock is down to $28.35, and the market cap is down to $16 billion.


What does this mean?

GM's stock price decline is like a dagger right into the heart of the U.S. financial system, and the dollar itself!

Why did it happen?

Apparently, someone in power did the equivalent of shouting "the emperor has no clothes" and people woke up, and are beginning to see more clearly!


The implication is clear--that GM is headed towards bankruptcy, and will default on the bondholders, who will then own a company worth less than $16 billion dollars!


The U.S. government itself is propping up this bond market, and there are no buyers even for U.S. bonds, and there haven't been for months now!

So, therefore, GM will soon be a $300 billion dollar blow-up!

How big is that? It's bigger than Enron, Global Crossing, LTCM, K-Mart, and the IRAQ war all put together!


Foreign nations are all sounding the alarm already that they will be selling U.S. bonds to diversify the holdings of their central banks: Russia, India, China, South Korea, Japan... what major foreign nation is left to buy them?

A tsunami of dollar selling is about to begin, and will make the recent dollar decline seem like a small bump in the road.

It may take a few months for this to play out. You may have time to buy silver at under $10/oz. for a few more weeks or months. But after GM declares bankruptcy, which may take between 3 months to a year, get ready for the dollar to crash by more than 90% in the following 6-12 months.

Germany's hyperinflation in the 1930's took about a year and a half. Recently, Argentina's took place nearly overnight. Who knows which way the dollar will die, whether a quick death, or a more slow and painful one?
  Kitco article

Torturous seems to be the US mode du jour.

Take a look some time at Paul Craig Roberts columns. Just the titles, even. And if you're thinking that he must be an America-hating left-wing liberal commie bastard, here's a little snip of his bio:

He is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, The Dictionary of International Biography, Outstanding People of the Twentieth Century, and 1000 Leaders of World Influence.


Hon. Paul Craig Roberts is the John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy, Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. A former editor and columnist for The Wall Street Journal and columnist for Business Week and the Scripps Howard News Service.


He was Distinguished Fellow at the Cato Institute from 1993 to 1996. From 1982 through 1993, he held the William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. During 1981-82 he served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy. President Reagan and Treasury Secretary Regan credited him with a major role in the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, and he was awarded the Treasury Department’s Meritorious Service Award for "his outstanding contributions to the formulation of United States economic policy."

Ronald Reagan's Ass't Treasury Secretary.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

John Pilger asks: Is there no shame?

The other day, the Aboriginal filmmaker Richard Frankland said this: "When you've got a voice, you've got freedom, and when you've got freedom, you've got responsibility. Negotiating with politicians doesn't work. You've got to change attitudes." That's the task for all of us here today. It's not an easy one. In fact, many good people in Australia and other countries believe their voice cannot possibly be heard: that the forces of bigotry and violence are far too powerful.

And yes, they are powerful. John Howard can lie repeatedly to the Australian people and get away with it – it seems. There is no Labor opposition in federal parliament. They've become a bad joke, to the point where Kevin Rudd, the opposition spokesman on foreign affairs, refuses to say anything critical of the government that is not immersed in crude sophistry.

We also know that those who are paid to keep the record straight, who are meant to challenge Howard's lies and uphold our right to freedom of speech, a freedom that is a cornerstone of any true democracy – I refer of course to the media: journalists, broadcasters – we know where they stand. We know that, apart from a few honorable exceptions, they are not merely craven and silent, but occupy a place in this society not dissimilar to the media in the Stalinist regimes of Eastern Europe.


And it's our job to help people understand the great crime committed in their name, and how those who claim to speak for us, such as the media, have normalized the unthinkable: as if no crime has been committed, as if thousands of people have not been murdered, as if it was all merely a respectable adjustment of the "world order." My point is, they are not respectable; they may wear the suits of respectability and travel with their fawning courts, but they are prima facie criminals, be assured.
  Read on...

With a few name changes, he could as easily be talking about the U.S. Where's the mold? It needs to be broken.

News about Falluja for Americans

Knight Ridder headline:

Fallujah: From insurgent stronghold to 'safest city in Iraq'

Here are the opening paragraphs (which is all most Americans read, if they bother to go beyond the headlines - which are apparently written for George Bush to scan - and Knight Ridder knows it)...

Piles of rubble still line the streets here, but a few shops have opened on the main drag, schools are finally in session and a compensation program to help families rebuild made some token initial payments this month.

Four months after the assault on Fallujah, in the center of Iraq's Sunni Muslim heartland, American forces working to rebuild the city say they're seeing some progress, albeit limited, in a city that's still blockaded and under a curfew.

Even a little progress is an important development in a city that's been a major test for the American presence in Iraq.

See? It was a difficult and terrible situation, but through hard work and consideration of the people's sovereign needs, we are rebuilding Falluja.

And if you have any real interest in Falluja, you might actually make it all the way to the bottom of the article where you'll find these paragraphs...

And while Marine units adopt and help rebuild schools such as the Palestine School for Boys and Girls, some students aren't able to get through the checkpoints to make it into the city for class, said gym teacher Sulaiman A. Ali Al-Mohamadi.

The southern half of the city is still without electricity. Water service, though now extended to almost all areas, is limited because residents can't power the pumps that bring the water into their homes, said Navy Lt. Chris Lankford. Only 1,000 of the 13,000 telephone subscribers before the war have had their service restored.

For businesses, the security checkpoints on the perimeter of the city are a particular hardship. Fallujah used to be less than an hour's drive from Baghdad. Now, people wait for hours in line, submitting to searches and fingerprinting. Only Fallujah residents and contractors working on reconstruction projects can enter the city.

"Baghdad is the source of the goods we need," said spice dealer Haji Abbas. "I was going and coming from Baghdad almost daily. Now I can't. The checkpoints and the long lines make transportation costs extremely high and this makes my spice prices relatively high ... and Fallujah residents need money to fix their homes. The last thing they need is a shortage of goods and high prices."


So far, only 40 families have received compensation payments, out of an estimated 25,000 who suffered damages. American officials say the program is being run by the local government, which is still in disarray.

The article doesn't even mention how many Fallujans still reside in tents outside the city because the "damages" were total destruction of their homes. But that 40 out of 25,000 families receiving compensation, and 1,000 of 13,000 who have telephone service, the lack of water and electricity should give you some idea. Here are a great number of links to stories that provide information.

And how about Knight Ridder's summation starter....

Some are happy for a break in the violence, even at the price of their freedom.
How very American of them!
"We can't do business here," said Ali Muhammed Hussein, as he waited with his elderly father to receive a compensation check. "It's the safest city in Iraq because it's a prison."
Now for the Falluja section of 7th Fire's Iraqi Resistance Report from Arab sources:
Three US troops reported killed by Resistance roadside bomb in al-Fallujah Sunday afternoon.

An Iraqi Resistance bomb exploded by a US column in the ash-Shuhada neighborhood of al-Fallujah at 5:30pm Sunday afternoon local time. The correspondent for Mafkarat al-Islam reported that the bomb virtually totally destroyed a Humvee killed three US troops and wounded two more. An official statement by the police said that a roadside bomb on the street leading to the al-Anbiya’ Mosque was responsible for the blast that left five SU troops “killed or wounded.”

Resistance car bomb in al-Fallujah Sunday evening.

An Iraqi Resistance car bomb exploded in the ash-Shukr area of northern al-Fallujah at about 6pm Sunday evening. The correspondent for Mafkarat al-Islam reported that the extent of casualties as a result of the blast was unclear.

Resistance activity in al-Fallujah on Sunday.

Six 120mm mortar rounds into the as-Su’dad school in the al-Jurayfi neighborhood of al-Fallujah but the extent of losses was unclear.

An Iraqi Resistance bomb exploded near the al-Firdaws Mosque, killing three Iraqi puppet troops, Mafkarat al-Islam reported.

An Iraqi Resistance bomb exploded in the al-‘Askari neighborhood of the city by a patrol of the puppet so-called Iraqi national guard. Witnesses told Mafkarat al-Islam that a number of guardsmen were killed or wounded.

Iraqi Resistance forces battled Iraqi puppet “national guard” troops near the as-Siddiqiyah Bridge in the al-Khalidiyah district on Sunday afternoon. The Resistance forces fired BKC rockets killing two puppet guards and wounding three more, Mafkarat al-Islam reported.
If Falluja is the safest city, you might not want to know what's happening elsewhere. But go ahead and have a scroll through the report.

All Falluja posts.

Overthrow or even kill a democratically elected leader? Pshaw!

When Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez charged last month that the United States was developing plans to assassinate him, the U.S. State Department rejected the accusation as "wild."

Last week, Felix Rodriguez, a former CIA operative and prominent Bush supporter in south Florida, told Channel 22 in Miami that he had information about the administration's plans to "bring about a change" in Venezuela, possibly through "military measures."

A video clip provided by Channel 22 shows host Maria Elvira Salazar pressing Rodriguez to be more specific. He makes clear he thinks the Bush administration will physically eliminate Chavez.


The point is not that Washington is murderous or that Chavez is paranoid. The talk of assassination, whether idle or not, reflects the reality that the stakes are high in the power struggle between Chavez and the Bush administration. Six Latin American countries are now at odds with Washington politically. As The Washington Post's Kevin Sullivan put it earlier this week, Chavez is positioning himself as the "anti-Bush" of the hemisphere.

The international online media is full of signs that both sides are fortifying themselves for a fight.


Rodriguez's remarks cannot be dismissed as bombast. He is well known in Latin America for his role advising a Bolivian military unit that captured and executed Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara in 1967. He is well-connected with the Bush family. The memory of various White House-approved, CIA-sponsored conspiracies to assassinate Fidel Castro in the 1960s may have faded in Washington but they have not been forgotten in Havana or Caracas.
  WaPo article

Previous posts on Venezuela
More information on Venezuela

Monday, March 21, 2005

Another look at the economy - part 2

The US Department of Labor reported in March that 373,000 discouraged college graduates dropped out of the labor force in February, a far higher number than the number of new jobs created.
  Counter Punch article
And from that bastion of liberal hyperbole, Morgan-Stanley...
Tipping points are a great concept, but virtually impossible to identify ahead of time -- let alone when they are occurring. It is only with the great luxury of hindsight that we can look back and know that the proverbial bell has rung. In my view, March 16, 2005 could end up in the running as a possible tipping point for America. Suddenly, the US has taken on a very different aura in an increasingly unbalanced world: The confluence of a record current account deficit, a disaster from General Motors, and yet another new high for oil prices all speak of an increasingly precarious role for the global hegemon. World financial markets have barely begun to sniff that out.


America’s broadest measure of its external shortfall was just reported to have hit an all-time record of 6.3% of GDP in 4Q04 -- an astonishing 1.8 percentage point deterioration from the 4.5% deficit a year-earlier in 4Q03. Not only is this a record current-account deficit for the US, but it is also a record financing burden for the rest of the world.


It may well be that the accelerated erosion of America’s manufacturing base in recent years is the most painful outgrowth of a record US saving shortfall. Washington, of course, wants to pin the blame on unfair foreign competition. Instead, it ought to take a look in the mirror: It is the budget deficit, of course, that has been crucial in pushing national saving to record lows in recent years.


The US Treasury data do not accurately reflect the obvious -- an extraordinary build-up of dollar-denominated official foreign exchange reserves held by the world’s monetary authorities.


But the message from overseas is that this game is just about over.


The standard American response borders on arrogance: “What choice do they have?” The presumption is that the US has externally driven Asian economies over a barrel -- unwilling to accept a deterioration in export competitiveness that currency appreciation might bring. This misses a key cost-benefit tradeoff -- weighing the hit to exports against the fiscal cost of a portfolio loss on holdings of dollar-denominated assets.


In the end, of course, there’s far more to this story than economics. As I noted recently, history is replete with examples of leadership tests that pit a nation’s military prowess against its economic base.


In Paul Kennedy’s historical framework, America is extending its reach at precisely the moment when its economic power base is weakening -- a classic warning sign of the fall of a Great Power.

Was March 16, 2005 America’s tipping point? Only time will tell. The optimist can hope that it was a wake-up call for a saving-short US economy to put its house back in order. For once, call me an optimist. It’s time for America to smell the coffee.
  Morgan Stanley article

Call me a pessimist, a proud Eeyore, because I don't think America will smell the fine aroma of Gevalia anytime soon, if ever. This country is wearing a blindfold, staggering backwards, and slitting its own throat in slow motion. Watch the cable news, listen to our elected leaders: there's no more urgency about the economic decline in living standards dead ahead than there is about addressing global warming or loosening the chokehold of military spending. A country where "evolution" is becoming a bad word is not a country interested in facing reality. Instead, as the passage of the bankruptcy bill shows, corporate-political power is going to grind every last dollar out of the desperate and destitute rather than confront the difficult macro decisions.
  James Wolcott post

Ah, the good old days, new version

The old empire proposal: support us in our conquest, and we'll appoint you administrator of the colony.
It has been almost one year since the nature of this request was made explicit in Canada's Parliamentarian Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs. During one of several meetings which took place about one month after the removal of President Jean Bertrand Aristide, Carlo Dade of the Canadian government funded hemispheric policy think-tank, FOCAL (Canadian Foundation for the Americas), had this to say on April 1, 2004: "The U.S. would welcome Canadian involvement and Canada's taking the lead in Haiti. The administration in Washington has its hands more than full with Afghanistan, Iraq, and the potential in Korea and the Mideast. There is simply not the ability to concentrate... [T]o really succeed in Haiti, you need long-term attention at the highest levels... This is a chance for Canada to step up and provide that sort of focused attention and leadership, and the administration would welcome this."

Dade also made it clear that "this was something of interest" to Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega, and USAID Latin America administrator Adolfo Franco, who had visited Ottawa just days earlier.

Dade's comments were somewhat facetious, given that the Canadian government had already been playing a key role in the pre-coup destabilization of Haiti's Lavalas government.
  Haití Progrés article
Previous posts on Haiti
More information on Haiti

Images from recent anti-war / anti-US marches around the world

San Francisco




Mexico City



Many more photos here.

And here are a couple from Butthead's visit to Bratislava, Slovakia...

Whoops, another lie?

In an effort to increase pressure on North Korea, the Bush administration told its Asian allies in briefings earlier this year that Pyongyang had exported nuclear material to Libya. That was a significant new charge, the first allegation that North Korea was helping to create a new nuclear weapons state.

But that is not what U.S. intelligence reported, according to two officials with detailed knowledge of the transaction. North Korea, according to the intelligence, had supplied uranium hexafluoride -- which can be enriched to weapons-grade uranium -- to Pakistan. It was Pakistan, a key U.S. ally with its own nuclear arsenal, that sold the material to Libya. The U.S. government had no evidence, the officials said, that North Korea knew of the second transaction.
  MSNBC article
I have a feeling the U.S.' "Asian allies" aren't as dumb as the Bush administration would like to think, and already know full well who sold what to whom when it comes to nukes.

Remember A.Q. Khan? They do.
Since Pakistan became a key U.S. ally in the hunt for al Qaeda leaders, the administration has not held President Pervez Musharraf accountable for actions taken by Khan while he was a member of Musharraf's cabinet and in charge of nuclear cooperation for the government.

"The administration is giving Pakistan a free ride when they don't deserve it and hurting U.S. interests at the same time," said Charles L. Pritchard, who was the Bush administration's special envoy for the North Korea talks until August 2003.

"As our allies get the full picture, it doesn't help our credibility with them," he said.
No. Probably not. But do we actually have any credibility left?

My only comment....

...on the Terri Schaivo case is not going to really be a comment; just a copy and paste from WTF:
Bin Laden determined to strike inside U.S.
... Ho hum.
Vegetable about to be allowed to die in accordance with her wishes.

- comment by It's Militia Time



- comment by America

Two years on....

Protests around the world.
In a radio address, US President George W Bush defended the war, saying it took place "to disarm a brutal regime, free its people, and defend the world".
He's defending the world. Let him work.


We're there folks.
A Gulfstream jet owned by a part owner of the Boston Red Sox is also used by the US government for missions around the world.

Team vice chairman Phillip H. Morse, a businessman who made a fortune developing cardiac catheters, leases the Gulfstream IV jet with a Hudson, N.Y., charter agent when he is not using it. The jet sometimes has a small Red Sox logo on the fuselage near the door.


When the plane flies for Morse, it sports the Red Sox logo on the tail, but the logo is masked for most government missions, Richards said. ''He loves the team and he loves to advertise them," Richards said. ''When the plane goes out of the country, we cover it up." article

This particular jet seems to be being used to transport people to Guantanamo.
Mahlon Richards, a co-owner of Richmor Aviation in Hudson, N.Y., which leases the plane on Morse's behalf, said there is no evidence that the plane was ever used to transport Abu Omar or any other prisoner. Richards said he thinks the plane transports only US government workers.


Richards, who said he has leased the plane to do government work for years under a subcontract with a larger government defense contractor, said he does not know where the plane goes and neither does Morse. ''That wouldn't be any of our business," he said.


"As far as I know, those are just government people going back to work," he said, noting the plane's many journeys from Washington to the US base at Guantanamo Bay, where Al Qaeda suspects are held. "We don't know what they do. We pick them up. We drop them off, and we do what they tell us. We're just driving the bus."

We're just driving the trains.

New - er, Old - recruits

Battling recruiting and retention shortfalls among its part-time soldiers, the Army is launching a new experimental policy approving the acceptance of not-so-young recruits into the ranks of the Army National Guard and Reserve.

Dubbed a three-year “test,” the new policy will bump up the maximum age for new enlistments from 34 years to 39 years, according to an Army announcement.
  Stars & Stripes article
Somehow, I don't think that's going to entice more volunteers.

WTF? Maybe if they lowered the age to 12. But perhaps it's merely a step in the movement toward drafting, so that the maximum age for the draft will be higher.

Iraqi orphans

Because one child's picture made it to the front page, people are interested. All the others, well, too bad. Newsweek follows up on the little girl at the checkpoint.


For whatever peace of mind it may offer anyone, a Seattle businessman and evangelical Christian named Malcolm Mead has set up a Web site in the name of relief for the Hassan family. If the money reaches the right hands, Rakan might someday walk again.


Night was falling on Jan. 18, and Apache's men had almost finished their day in Tall Afar, a rundown city of 200,000 near the Syrian border. Insurgents practically own the town after dark. Even in the daytime, U.S. soldiers routinely travel in convoys of at least three Strykers. That evening, Apache's armored vehicles had pulled over near the town's main traffic circle while the men patrolled on foot. As they stood by the road, a set of headlights swung into the boulevard and accelerated in their direction. "We have a car coming!" shouted one of the men. Away from their Strykers and on foot, they were perfect targets for a suicide bomber. They gestured frantically at the driver to stop. He didn't. Someone else yelled, "Stop that car!"


Hussein Hassan was hurrying to get home. His wife, Kamila, sat beside him in the family Opel; their five youngest children, 2 to 14, were squeezed in the back seat with a 6-year-old cousin. They had been at his brother's house, but now curfew was 15 minutes away, and Tall Afar's streets are no place for a family after dark. Hussein turned off Tall Afar's main traffic circle onto Mansour Boulevard. Rakan was first to spot the soldiers in the deepening dusk. They were waving their arms and raising their assault rifles. The boy jumped up in the back seat. Before he could open his mouth to warn his father, a storm of gunfire struck the car, killing both parents and covering the children with their blood.


The soldiers headed back to base. Partway there, they pulled over for a huddle. "This is bad," said the unit's commander, Capt. Thomas Seibold. "But I will protect you. There's going to be an investigation. The only thing we can do is to be honest. We did nothing wrong." He asked who had fired. Six men spoke up. He asked who had shot first, and he got no response. A couple of men said they fired the second shot. They climbed back into their Strykers and drove on.

Back on base, the men filled out sworn statements. Apache's officers and NCOs hurried to reassure them. "Put yourself there," says Maj. Dylan Moxness. "You're an 18-year-old kid from Tennessee. You don't even understand why these people don't speak English anyway, you're shouting 'Stop!' and the car's still coming at you—you've got to fire."

Excuse me? You're a fucking moron, did you say? You don't understand why they don't speak English?
"The mentality of the cavalry is, 'Put it in a box and go back to battle'," says Capt. John Montalto, 34, a psychologist from Manhattan's Upper East Side. "The repercussions happen later." The Reserves called Montalto up last June to treat combat stress-cases in Tall Afar. He says the 2-14's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Mark Davis, has spoken to him just once, with a warning: "Don't ruin my combat power." None of Apache's members went to him after the shooting.

The men can only shake their heads over the incident. "The car seemed to be speeding up," says one. "Ask them why they were coming on so fast. They should have stopped." The unit's chaplain, Capt. Ed Willis, says there's no reason to feel guilty: "If you kill someone on the battlefield, whether it's another soldier or collateral damage, that doesn't fit under 'Thou shalt not kill'."

At last, an explanation. I wonder where that's written in the Bible. I don't recall seeing it.

No more free gasoline

Not you. You already know that your prices are approaching $3/gallon. But that's here.
The days when a U.S. Army truck could fill up for free at a gas station in this oil-rich state are ending. Kuwait's energy minister said yesterday U.S. troops are going to have to start paying for fuel.

In a gift that must have saved the Pentagon a fortune, Kuwait has not charged the U.S. military for fuel since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Tens of thousands of American Humvees, trucks and armored vehicles have rolled through the country and across the desert border into Iraq during the past two years.

"But now after the Iraqi elections ... we have to create a mechanism for payment," the energy minister, Sheik Ahmed Fahd Al Ahmed Al Sabah, told reporters.
  Tucson Citizen article
Speaking of fuel...
A former employee of a Halliburton subsidiary has been indicted on charges of defrauding the US military of more than $3.5m for fuel in Iraq.

Jeff Alex Mazon, 36, an ex-procurement manager for Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), is due to appear in a federal court in Atlanta on 10 counts of fraud.
  BBC article
Speaking of fuel...
DaimlerChrysler's first hydrogen-powered car using fuel cell technology will be on sale from 2012, a company executive said on Wednesday.

The firm has sent 60 Mercedes-Benz A-Class cars to Japan, Germany, Singapore and the United States for tests. Many car companies are developing hydrogen-powered cars to help wean the globe off diminishing oil supplies.
  Reuters article
Oh sure. That's why they're doing it. Yeah. Right.


More info on the World Bank

There are almost no success stories to point to -- the World Bank and IMF can hardly take credit for the Chinese growth spurt since 1980. But where these institutions have been heavily involved, the economic failure is striking: In Latin America, income per person has grown about 12 percent in the last 25 years, as compared with 80 percent in just the previous two decades (1960-1979). Africa has fared much worse, and the World Bank and IMF have been slow and stingy in providing even debt cancellation for the poorest countries -- something that can be done with the stroke of a pen.

Wolfowitz will therefore be taking over an institution that, by any standard economic measure, has failed. But the Bank has refused to even consider this possibility. Much of its economic research is politically driven. For example, on the eve of a key Congressional vote on trade last year, the Bank published a study showing that NAFTA had increased growth in Mexico. Their main result stems from an economic modeling error; yet the report remains uncorrected, on their web site.

In short, despite liberal sentiments among many of its staff, the World Bank is not a liberal institution. In fact it is so illiberal in practice that some of the United States' most prominent socially responsible investment funds (e.g., the Calvert group), largest unions (Service Employees International Union), and ten city governments have all pledged to boycott the World Bank's bonds -- which are commonly held by institutional investors -- until it reforms some of its most abusive polices toward developing countries.

Paul Wolfowitz is unlikely to advance these needed reforms. But until the other 183 countries that are members of this institution have a voice in its decisions, the World Bank is unlikely to live up to its mission of reducing poverty and improving living standards for developing countries -- no matter which American is formally in charge.
  Counter Punch article