Saturday, January 10, 2004

The beat goes on and on and on

Iraqi police kill six protesters in southern Iraq. American troops shoot two Iraqi policemen by mistake. A taxi full of Iraqis is killed when the cab attempts to pass an Army convoy on the highway.

No wonder the Nazis didn't occupy southern France in World War Two. It's a pain in the ass killing all these people.

"There's always something..."

In the ensuing weeks (if not already) we'll understand that Bush's "immigration reform" proposal wasn't meant to ease the plight of immigrants but to massage Latino voters and provide cheap labor to agribusiness. His "moon, then Mars" announcement, already seen as a silly "hid the weenie" ruse (the weenie being all of his other failings), will turn out to be the first step in the use of the moon as a launching pad for weapons.

And now the formal announcement of POW status for Saddam Hussein. To protect his rights? Hardly. The significant protection might have been freedom from interrogation, but they've already had him in their grip, incommunicado, for a month, thereby either getting what they wanted from him or learned that they weren't going to.

No, my hunch is that such status is solely for the US to retain control over his prosecution so that his defense can't raise at his trial those nasty tidbits of US's manipulation of his regime over the last two decades.

Apparently, the Iraqi Governing Council is miffed that the CPA didn't consult with them before making the POW determination, but it plans nevertheless to go forward with its trial of him this summer. I wouldn't be so sure they'll get their way. To be sure, the Bushies would like that ongoing drama during the pre-election period, but without US control? That could be dangerous, feeding out too much information about our cynically corrupt policies in the Middle East. I think, rather, the Iraqi trial will be postponed until after the 2004 election (as will Saddam's POW-War Crimes Trial), or the Iraqi trial will be somehow controlled by the US to avoid embarrassing Bush during the pre-election period.

[Update: The Iraqis react to the US announcement of Saddam's POW status. They're onto Bush.]

Friday, January 09, 2004


Depending on who's spinning him, Saddam may or may not be a POW. Wait! I see a screenplay fermenting here. Saddam could play the Christopher Walken role in a ripoff of the Deer Hunter -- "The Yak Hunter." Soundtrack by Travis Tritt. Think we'd get sued? Bring 'em on.

I'm sold

I've been following, with some diligence, the Democrats' quest for the best candidate to beat Bush. I've now decided. It's Howard Dean.

Because I don't have a TV I haven't seen much of the candidates or their debates. But lately I've been tuning in on them through internet casts and I've gotta tell ya, Dean's smart, eloquent and, most important, direct and forceful in his ideas and his presentation of them. In short, he "tells it like it is" and that, to me, counts for everything.

I was treasurer of Bobby Kennedy's campaign in Southern Arizona in 1968--the campaign was brief, of course, because the vote followed California's by only a few weeks--and felt the same surge of energy then as floods me when I hear Dean speak. Now, Arianna explains why.

Call me irrepressible, I'm now a fan, a Deanfanatic.

Summertime, summertime

It just occured to me that the slumping dollar could mean that Europeans will be attracted to the United States in droves this summer, because of the favorable exchange rate of their currency to ours. Think of it: Compared to last summer, a hundred euros will buy a night at a $130 motel instead of an $80 one. The tourist influx could spark our economy bigtime.

Too bad it will take them all summer just to gain admittance past the sniffing dogs, the fingerprinters and the rectal probers.

I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but...

I'm confused. All I've ever heard from the US press, including dispatches from the Pentagon, was that Saddam was captured as a product of glorious US intelligence--and, I recall, that the $25 million reward wasn't going to be disbursed for some undisclosed reason. I also remember murmurs of a leading role played by the Kurds in the capture. I believe there was a mention that Saddam was, or appeared to be, drugged when he was dug out of his hole.

Now there's this report, muddled as it is. Do we have another Jessica Lynch story/fiasco in the making? Maybe so. Check out these posts.

And then there's this

The briefest, clearest exposition of the Bush Administration's attack on the "lock box" of Social Security to fund its deficit spending. Scary, scary. And the main reason I decided to start taking my social security benefits early.

More about the Labor Department report

Not only did the December report show an anemic gain in jobs (1,000), it also revised downward the previous month's job growth, from 57,000 to 43,000. (Bear in mind that Bush told us in April 2003 that his tax cuts would cause the creation of 306,000 new jobs per month!).

So over the last two months of "recovery" we've gained a total of 44,000 jobs, far below the number of new entrants into the labor force by reason of our population growth. We are therefore suffering a steep net loss in the ratio of jobs to workers, not gaining at all. And yet the unemployment rate declined to 5.7%, showing how inaccurate that measurement truly is. The sites I linked to below show this, as does the exlanation that the Whisky Bar provides here.

To add insult to insult, the jobs that are being created aren't in the lucrative fields of high-tech and manufactuing, which are showing net losses each month, but in the service sectors (food delivery and such) and in temporary jobs, both of which are notoriously low paying and insecure.

As a result of this report, the analysts predict that the Fed will leave interest rates at their present record low level, to continue to spur the economy. But of course that will cause a further weakening of the dollar, which will inevitably drive up the price we have to pay for imports, such as Japanese cars and TV sets, so that US consumers will face higher prices with less money. But business will benefit because the weak dollar will open the export market to them since their dollar-priced products will be cheaper abroad. And now Bush, with his "immigration reform" notion, wants to re-institute the Bracero program, the evil system that Congress finally discontinued after years of allegations of enslavement of Latin Americans in back-breaking, physical toil.

If this isn't greed-driven exploitation of the masses in favor of corporate wealth, I don't know what is.

La la land

I've finally got it! The explanation for Bush's behavior. He's nuts! Wacko! 'Round the bend! He's goddam delusional.

Check out this news item:

"President Bush, speaking after [italics mine] a report showing an unexpectedly small gain of 1,000 U.S. non-farm jobs in December, said on Friday all signs pointed to strength in the U.S. economy. 'I'm optimistic,' Bush told a forum on small business. 'All of the signs in our economy are very strong.' Bush's comment was in sharp contrast with the Labor Department's report that said U.S. payrolls outside the farm sector grew a mere 1,000 in December, far less than the 130,000 projected by U.S. economists in a Reuters survey."

The Labor Department is part of Bush's cabinet, for God's sake! Doesn't he read its reports? (Well, we know he rarely reads the news, but don't his minions at least read them to him?)

And check out this article, refering to the same report:

"American employers hardly took on any new workers in December, a disappointing government report Friday said, indicating the economic recovery has yet to translate into sustained jobs growth. The unemployment rate fell to 5.7 percent, the lowest in over a year and down from 5.9 percent in November. But this was mainly because people dropped out of the work force....
"The poor report is a headache for President Bush as he seeks re-election in November with the economy -- specifically job creation -- expected to be a key issue in the campaign. But Bush, speaking to a small business forum, was upbeat, saying all economic signs were 'very strong'. He said the drop in the unemployment rate was a 'positive sign' of an improving economy.
"Economists disagreed. 'It's a shocker. The one ray of sunshine, the decline in the unemployment rate, is ironically a sign of weakness,' said Cary Leahey, senior U.S. economist, Deutsche Bank Securities, New York. 'The only reason it declined is that fewer people were looking for jobs in December.'
"The dollar and stock market fell and U.S. Treasury bond prices rose after the report."

The other explanation is that Bush (and/or his minions) make an announcement--any announcement, regardless of its relationship to reality--to cover up, or cancel out, an unfavorable news item with a headline of their choosing. This makes sense, because Bush no doubt knew of the unfavorable Labor Department report before it was published and chose to make his "upbeat" remarks anyway.

It had the desired effect, too: The two items from AOL News that I refered to above, reporting the same news, carried these two headlines: "December Jobs report worse than expected" and "Bush says US economy 'very strong'." The result, given the level of readership, would be a non-news item, a cancelling out, just as Bush's handlers intended.

And so it goes, all the way to November.

[For accurate analyses of the "job creation" resulting from Bush's tax cut, check out this site.]

Thursday, January 08, 2004

GW, there's bad news...and bad news.

The Carnegie Foundation for International Peace concludes the Bush Administration "systematically misrepresented" the evidence of the presence of WMD in Iraq. The US-dominated International Monetary Fund reports that the "US budget deficits threaten world economy." Thirty-four soldiers are wounded and one killed in a mortar attack, while nine more are killed in the crash of a Blackhawk helicopter. US soldiers scoff at the offered $10,000 re-enlistment bonus, while the Army issues "stop loss" orders to prevent existing troops from ending their enlistment periods.

To Bush, how distant must seem the refrain of Reagan's re-election slogan, "It's morning in America."

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

35 Personnel

Yahoo! News - Iraq Mortar Attack Wounds 35 U.S. Soldiers:

Well, insurgent personnel on the ground engaged 35 of our personnel with mortars. Translation: Angry people in Iraq hurt 35 of our guys with bombs. This brings two questions to my mind tonight. I'm tired, so I'll be brief.

Why didn't we send anyone along to Iraq who can speak to the media without sounding like a wind-up GI Joe? Personnel means a group of people working in a particular place, such as an office, and the department within a company concerned with them (e.g., Personnel Department). It is not interchangeable with the word people. ... "The building was searched and no weapons or personnel were found. Upon questioning, civilians in the area reported two dead personnel were taken to a nearby hospital." Translation: We searched the building we blew up, but didn't find any weapons or people. But their neighbors said they took two dead people to the hospital.

What in the wide world of sports are our troops doing in Iraq now? Searching for what or whom? Neutralizing what regime or WMD? None of the reasons that Mr. Bush and his flying monkeys cited for this war still exists, except bringing lovely democracy to the forlorn Iraq people. News flash: they don't want it, can't use it, thank you very much but scram.

Time to get out of Dodge, because no matter what reason they think they still have for our people being there, it's not worth human lives.

speak now

Behold! This blog now offers Comments functionality, thanks to an html class I once endured, and a site that offers the code for free. So now all our friends can join us in our intrepid ascent to the icy altitudes of free speech. "Bring 'em on."

Bursting the bubble

This article in the Christian Science Monitor about the myth of the populist stock market says it all: Capitalism is for people with capital. The rest of us are its victims.

Now for something completely different

I usually reserve non-political stuff for my other blog, but I thought the readers of All That Arises could use this. It's one of those stories that tends to restore one's faith in people.
Puppy receives a new home and mobility

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

An indigestible digression

I don't think about war/peace/politics all the time. For example, I found irresistible the list of requested menus of last meals of 301 Texas death-row prisoners, salvaged by The Memory Hole from the Texas Penitentiary website.

Go ahead, fellow ghoul, scroll down the list. What fascinated me: (1) Not a filet mignon to be found; (2) the prisoner who ordered only a jar of dill pickles (#235); (3) the prisoner who asked that his meal be given to a homeless person (#123); (4) the one who wanted the eucharist (#160); and (5) the one who asked for "justice, equality, world peace" (#209).

The list also shows the criminal history, complete with mugshot, of each prisoner. Are we seeing the origin of a new board game here?

Why didn't I think of that?

The Pentagon is contemplating adding another layer of military bureaucracy in Iraq: a four-star general on top of the mere three-star general who's presently in charge.

Never mind that the madness is the product of our warmongering ways. This additional star will fix it, no doubt.

Am I becoming a Libertarian?

I'm finding myself in startling agreement with Libertarian essays and satire. I've always (for four decades, anyway) been distrustful of government, more than most of my liberal friends, I believe. But now that the Farther Right is taking on Bush's monstrous-government mentality, I cannot help but agree with much of what their best pundits are writing. Take this piece on Stupid Vogue. Brilliant. And The Borowitz Report on a Bush plan to "catch-and-release" Saddam Hussein. ROTFLOL.

Krugman quoting Rubin quoting Mankiw

Okay, it's an obscure headline, but the NYT article isn't. Krugman, the Times' financial columnist, details a scholarly piece published over the weekend by Robert Rubin, former Treasury Secretary, which warns of an impending "crisis of confidence" in the American economy if Bush's profligate spending/unfair taxation policies aren't abandoned. Rubin, in turn, quotes a previous article by Gregory Mankiw, who's presently chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, to the same effect.

The synopsis of Krugman's essay is that, like other countries, notably Argentina, the US policies are headed toward such a disastrous climax--with no end in sight as Boomers begin to retire in four years--that other nations, as well as US citizens, will come to doubt the viability of the US economy, and when doubt sets in, look out. The effects of such loss of confidence in an economy as dominant as ours is unknown, but frightening--just as the effects of our present spending/income differential are unknown--and frightening.

Rubin's no left-wing nut, Krugman points out. As Clinton's Treasury Secretary he was Mr. Sharp-pencil, whose policies turned the economy around from its woeful state in the early 1990's.

If Rubin's worried, so should we be.

What's the problem?

Syria's president says he won't consider acceding to US demands that he account for and abandon all WMDs, unless Israel does so. They are bordering countries--Israel still occupies the Golan Heights, part of Syrian lands--and Israel is known to possess nuclear-weapon capability. Makes sense to me.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Not just 1984, 1987!

Forex, a foreign exchange reporting site, has this to say about the declining dollar:

"Recall that an orderly decline in the dollar turned ugly was the very backdrop in 1987. Only this time the US is the world's largest debtor nation, not a net creditor, which means the downturn could be worse as it requires $2 billion in foreign financing a day. In the near term US deficits may continue to be funded by Asian central banks, but it may eventually take a sharp rise in bond yields (wanted or not) to stop the dollar's decline."

I was in the stock market, and in real estate, in 1987. What a gross debacle on both counts. You couldn't give away a house or vacant lot, didn't dare put your money in the market or in an S&L. And this decline could spell worse? Ouch.

News - Army Forcing Troops to Stay in Harm's Way

This kind of makes one view those "Army of One" commercials in a different light. And it's a dandy way to boost morale.
Yahoo! News - Army Trying to Keep Troops From Leaving

Dropping dollar

Atrios, blogger of Eschaton, displays an illuminating chart of the daily decline of the value of the dollar against the euro.

Here's what it comes down to: Will the US be spared the effect of its profligate spending (against declining income) by other nations' forebearance from support? Will they fear the debacle the US is approaching sufficiently to keep from acknowledging it?

I'm sure it doesn't occur only to me that while we hold military hegemony over the other nations on the planet, we're handing them economic power over us. A new form of MAD--mutually assured destruction.

The "S" word

This guest editorial in a Seattle paper dares to explore the reason why Bush's popularity remains high, even though a factual investigation of his administration would cause outrage.

More good job news

As we know, "outsourcing" jobs to lesser-paid workers in foreign countries hasn't, for some time, been limited to sneaker-stitching child-labor sweatshops in Southeast Asia. Tech jobs are fleeing to India, factory jobs to China and Korea, all because of low pay and low-cost transport and communication. Now, however, some new twists that take advantage of the lower cost as well as other factors available in foreign lands:

Medical research, pathology and even billing is being outsourced abroad to utilize the time-change differential, thereby allowing constant activity, round-the-clock results without paying overtime. Accountancy too, and similarly time-sensitive occupations may find practitioners in foreign lands flooded with demand from American businesses as we become more dependent on speed in our culture and the communication revolution is able to deliver on a world-wide basis that which one could only obtain from the local business in the old days.

The finest irony? Bush's massive tax cuts, meant to stimulate the economy and create American jobs, will be calculated by a category of newly-outsourced foreign employees. You guessed it: Tax-return preparers.

Journalists Take Flak in Iraq

Media people covering the war are being confronted by American troops, hassled, and their film erased or destroyed, according to this article in The Nation.

"Our journalists in Iraq have been shoved to the ground, pushed out of the way, told to leave the scene of explosions; we've had camera disks and videotapes confiscated, reporters detained," says an official of the Associated Press.

One good thing about Bush

He's given us plenty of delicious fodder for anti-administration ads. You can vote for your choice of the fifteen finalists but the decision is up to the judges, including Michael Moore.

Sinatra's tribute to Saddam

An entertaining collage of fifty years of Iraqi history, set to music. Enjoy.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Rebranding Bush

This article in the Guardian about the new Bush approach that appears to favor international diplomacy over war and multilateralism over cowboyism, contains this incisive (and appropriately cynical) comment:

"With elections 11 months away, Mr Bush does not want to be vulnerable to claims that he has presided over a warmongering strategy that has left Americans little safer than September 11 2001. His shift follows an established pattern in Washington of politicians moving to the centre during an election year."

Recall Bush's first campaign as the "compassionate conservative" and the "consensus builder"? It is the task of the opposition (among other Herculean ones) to make sure he doesn't get away with his rebranding now, because if he does and is reelected we face four years in which he has no incentive to do other than his worst, worse even than in his first four years, unimaginable as that is.