Friday, December 28, 2007

Who's on first?

After you read this account of the present situation in Basra, the major port of Iraq through which most of its oil is exported (and which British troops will soon be leaving) you tell me.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sometimes it helps to have a Ph.D.

It allows you to research and write concise, accurate blog-postings like this one on the "Top Ten Myths about Iraq." Must reading, even for those of us who don't believe a word of the telecasters on the subject.

Take a guess

Which is it: The Iraqi parliament is going to grant amnesty (under certain very vague conditions) to all "innocent" resistance fighters that are held in Iraq and US prisons, as is reported by AFP; or does the amnesty apply only to those held in Iraqi prisons, as reported by AP.? Since the US holds 26,000 (probably more) prisoners, the question is more than technical. And since those held by the US no doubt feel no love lost for the occupiers, I wonder how the DOD is going to explain a mass release to the soldiers who gave their lives capturing them.

Your guess as to which report is correct?

Just the facts

Here's a good site, especially during political campaigns.

Latino revenge

It looks like Rodriguez ain't no Gonzales.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Democrat's rule?

This WaPo essay predicts a decade-long (and maybe longer) domination by Democrats in both local and national politics. While I don't argue with the numbers that it cites, I'm troubled by its failure to recognize unforeseen contingencies, including, most notably, another terrorist attack between now and the 2008 elections. We've learned already that we're a nation of sheep, and it certainly wouldn't take much to once again shepherd us by fear into another corral. (Excuse the ugly metaphor.)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Danger, real danger

The politicization of the Judge Advocate General's office, from top to bottom, is looming under the Bush administration. In the past, these military lawyers have stood as an independent impediment to the incumbent administration's effort to shape the legalities of war and warmaking. Keep an eye on this prospect, it's truly alarming.

Women in Basra

This report from The Guardian about the status of women in Basra (click on title, then run the video) saddens me deeply. The film of the Iraqi women, dressed in normal western garb, coming and going about their business in the 1960's, and now, out of fear, draped in those ugly coverings: How has this happened? Indeed, how have we Americans allowed our nation to revert to past injustices and constraints on freedom? Are these times a present-day version of the Dark Ages?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Startling numbers

Check out this essay revealing the astounding shift of American incomes in the last five years, with the top 5% of household incomes gaining income at unprecedented rates, while the bottom 95% has lost an average of $3,600 annually in the shift.

I'd like to see the Democratic-controlled Congress address this issue, for heaven's sake. So far, I don't think it's even on their radar.

Friday, December 14, 2007

It's as simple as ABC--Anybody but Clinton

I'm probably going to change my voter registration from Green to Democrat so I can vote in the upcoming California presidential primary. I'm now in the process of deciding which of the candidates I'll vote for. Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing my thoughts with you on this blog, as much to focus on them myself as to edify you.

My first thought is, of course, that Hillary's not the one. Here's one reason: She's almost as bad as the Republican candidates when it comes to the war in Iraq.

Fasten your seat belts

And put your money in gold. It looks like we're in for a bumpy ride.

(I especially like the reaction of the financial executive to the enormous increase in the producers' price index: "Ugh!")

A word from the wise

Juan Cole on Nancy Pelosi.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I just don't get it

Look, I'm a political science major, and I've stayed abreast of politics since college. I know that in the US Senate (under its rules, not under the Constitution, mind you) it takes 60 votes to invoke closure and therefore to force a floor vote on proposed legislation. I know, therefore, that if a measure--like the energy bill yesterday--receives "only" 59 votes for passage, those 59 votes could not cut off debate if the opponents of the bill demanded to continue. In other words, if those opposing the bill chose to filibuster the bill, they could continue to do so for eternity and thereby tie up the Senate to avoid a floor vote on the bill, which, if allowed, would pass by a simple majority vote.

My question is this: Why don't the Democrats simply keep the bill on the floor and thereby require that the Republicans filibuster the bill? Make them spend Christmas on the Senate floor, make them keep the floor for weeks and months to avoid a closure vote? Particularly in this case, where the Republicans (and one Democrat, Breaux from Louisiana) are opposed to the energy bill as it's written because it increases some taxes on the massively-profiteering oil companies.

Am I crazy here, or are the Democrats simply cowards?

I'm going out on a limb here

because I know only what's in the papers, but this FBI investigation into various affairs of the federal entity that has been reporting massive defalcations and waste and fraud in the Bush administration's Iraq "reconstruction" activities feels and smells like retribution to me. Does it to you?

One tires of asking...

"Where's the outrage?" You'd think, wouldn't you, that somebody--an American leader of the feminine persuasion such as Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi or my Representative, Lois Capps--would cry out for her gender. But no. Let the Iraqi women suffer in silence.

A fundamental question

"Are Americans really 'better than that'?"

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Further to the "Bush plan" to help subprime borrowers

I realize that Paul Krugman is a "liberal" economist/journalist, but in addition to the source I cited in my previous post ("Sweet Spot, 12/07) about the effect of Bush administration's "plan" to deal with the subprime loan debacle (namely, that it's a cruel hoax and a charade) check out Krugman's analysis in yesterday's NYT. His view: That it's an ineffective, industry-driven attempt to preempt a Congressional effort to deal meaningfully with the crisis. In other words, a cruel hoax and a charade.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Iraq according to the American Empire

So this is the Bush administration's version of "success" in Iraq: a series of segregated communities and regions, patrolled by police squads and separated by checkpoints and blast walls.

A perfectly fitting ending to a perfectly horrific war.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Sweet spot

The terms of "Bush's plan" to "bail out" borrowers whose subprime loans are in danger of foreclosure is both a cruel hoax and a charade. Here's a capsule of what it really means to both mortgagors and the lenders (and those who bought the loans), namely, nothing but a worthless news headline that does nothing but create the impression that Bush is helping borrowers, when in fact the administration's position is that it doesn't care at all about those who need help, but only those who read only headlines.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

An illuminating lede

Here's the first sentence of an AP dispatch from Baghdad today:


"A car bomb exploded in a largely Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad on Wednesday and killed at least 14 people, police said, while Defense Secretary Robert Gates said during a visit to the capital that security and stability were within reach, although more work is needed."

(Actually, an update of the story says that 16 were killed in the bombing, and that nine more Iraqis were killed elsewhere in the country by other blasts.)

Any questions?

Old news revisited

Now that the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear proclivities has been made public, it's illuminating to revisit a month-old story about the White House efforts to delay and alter it. If you wondered why they (particularly Cheney) weren't satisfied with its conclusions, now you know.

Monday, December 03, 2007

What next?

Okay, so Hugo Chavez isn't the dictator Bush said he was, and Iran isn't developing nuclear weapons after all. What new monster will this administration create to scare us into voting out of fear? My guess: We'll have a new "terr'r alert" in the next week or so. And a monthly one from now until election day, 2008. Recall--even if Bush doesn't seem to focus on it--the "evil-doers" who caused 9/11 are still at large, and growing larger.

Winning by losing

The (narrow) defeat at the Venezuelan polls of Hugo Chavez's multifaceted constitutional initiative (it contained many provisions, not just the "president-for-life" clause that the US media focused on) must certainly gripe the Bush administration. There goes their claim that Chavez is a dictator. Now what's their counter going to be, when he repeatedly lambasts their imperial acts around the globe? And what's going to happen to all those plans of the CIA to stage a coup against him? Gone off the drawing board? Don't count on it.

Supporting the troops

If these policies, laws--and this prosecution--are indications of the mindset of our military, I'm certainly more supportive than the brass is.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Figures don't lie

The level of violence in Iraq is "leveling off," it is said. And the obesity rate in the US is too.

Could these be caused by similar phenomena: The maximum quotient of suffering has been reached?

I told you so

Here's a capsule, related by Juan Cole, Middle East expert, of the important part of last night's Republican presidential debate. (I couldn't watch the whole thing. It was beyond my tolerance. Way beyond.) It's an exchange between Congressman Ron Paul and Senator John McCain about the war in Iraq, which reveals--as Professor Cole points out--that McCain is a dangerous, demented militaristic nutcase. (My phrase, not quite his.)

During this presidential campaign--even before it began, when it became clear that McCain was going to run and was thought of as a "maverick" and a frontrunner--I've been on my soapbox, yelling about him: that I knew his history, having been in his Arizona constituency for decades, and that for all his charm and affability, he's at heart a mad warmonger. Now do you believe me?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A day in the life

This report about US troops killing four bank employees in Baghdad who were on their way to work is revealing. Apparently our troops fired upon the van they were traveling in because it was driving on a street that our military had designated to be used only by sedans.

Yup, violence is down in Baghdad. Just like it was in the Warsaw ghetto.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I don't get it..or do I?

This MSM-drumbeated rap on Obama, that he lacks the "experience" to be President. Oh, really? I'm not an embedded Obama supporter (he's a bit cautious for me, especially on his views about the Iraq occupation and his insurance-based healthcare program), but I wonder whether the lack-of-experience mantra is a disguised racial/youth putdown, not a legitimate objection to nomination. I mean, what about Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton--all sometimes southern governors? They all won the presidency for their parties. What was their experience, particularly in foreign affairs? Absolutely none. Certainly less than that of Obama, who has at least served in national office for a time.

And then there are the presidents who touted their "experience" in national and international affairs: Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush. They won their nominations and the presidency too, and guess what? Ruination.

I say, don't listen to the MSM spin. Don't listen to the pundits. Listen to the candidates.

So... Whaddaya think?

Will it happen, as I've so long predicted, that Cheney will soon resign due to "health problems" and Bush (with Congressional approval) will appoint his replacement, to give the Republicans an incumbent veep to run against the Democrats' nominee?

Do you want to lay odds?

Surprise, surprise

Iraq's "leaders" are inclined to enter a long-term relationship with the U.S., which would include favorable incentives for U.S. investment in their country. Imagine that.

Worst empire ever?

The Archbishop of Canterbury ought to know.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A day in the life

of our new, dramatic democracy in the Middle East.

I ask again: Where are the bread riots?

This quote is from an article about the increasing numbers of outrageously expensive cars that are lately being manufactured and sold throughout the world's markets.

"And more and more people can afford them, as more get rich and the rich get richer. Worldwide, the number of "ultra-high net-worth individuals" grew 11.3% from 2005 to 2006, according to the 2007 World Wealth Report, published in June, 2007, by Cap Gemini and Merrill Lynch.
"The report identifies as "ultra-high net-worth" those individuals with more than $30 million in "financial assets"—that is, public and private stock, bonds, and cash, but not counting "collectibles, consumables, consumer durables, and real estate used for primary residences." "Global wealth is rapidly consolidating among this ultra-wealthy segment," the study said. As fast as the ranks of the ultra-wealthy grow, so grows the number of ways they can spend their money."

Body count

As I've mentioned before, I carry in my car and display regularly around town large sign that, among other things, sets out the number of G.I.'s who've been killed and wounded, the amount of money spent, and the number of civilians deaths caused by our invasion and occupation of Iraq. I change the numbers from time to time (the G.I. deaths daily), based on new information. As of today, my figures are G.I. deaths--3876; G.I. wounded--28,530; dollars spent--546 million dollars; Iraqis killed--650,000. I base the number of G.I. dead and wounded on this site's data, which, it says, is a compilation of reported figures from the Defense Department. The numbers of dollars and Iraqi deaths are my estimations based on varying sources that appear in the media. In both cases, I've adopted conservative figures, not wanting to overstate the case or allow Bush administration supporters to claim I'm inflating the horror of their war.

Problem: I may be understating the numbers, and I wonder if I shouldn't be more aggressive in my various tabulations. For example, I learned today that the G.I. wounded figures don't include approximately 20,000 soldiers who've suffered "brain injury" that hasn't been reported until after the soldier is home from theater. That figure, reported by USA Today, lumps together the injuries from Iraq and Afghanistan, but I could estimate, reasonably, that 4/5 of them originated in Iraq based on the respective numbers of attacks on our troops in each country.

Another example: I've recently read an article that states that the dollars spent on the Iraq adventure now exceeds one trillion, but I've not updated the number on my sign because I have no specific data source for it; and the same is true of the number of Iraqis killed. There are higher estimates, but no hard numbers.

Question: Should I continue displaying only my "conservative numbers"? They're horrific enough, I grant, but am I being too charitable to the monsters who've wrought this mad war? Or should I risk overstating the case, increasing my figures to reflect the recent upward revisions stated in various news items? For example, should I add, say, 16,000 to the wounded total, to estimate the brain-injured cases from Iraq? Should I post "one trillion dollars" as found in a recently-estimated cost of the Iraq war? Should I increase the "Iraqis killed" figure to one million, as some authoritative estimates have stated?

Your thoughts?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I don't get it

France, which opposed Bush's invasion of Iraq, recently elects a conservative president who is now currying favor with the US administration. Australia, which was one of Bush's supporters in the invasion, has just thrown out John Howard's conservative party, replacing it with the Labor Party which vows to withdraw Australian troops from Iraq.

I feel sorry for us humans. We've created a world that's beyond comprehension.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Four dollar gasoline

This article in USA Today gives a quick insight into whaddup with the recent spike in crude oil futures prices, namely, there's no economic/logical reason for it. However, since it's happening (today was a huge jump, to an all-time high above $98.00 per barrel), the result may soon be gasoline at four dollars per gallon, with the cataclysmic result that's described in the last line of the article.

Works for me.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Now, here's some great news

for novelists, poets and short story writers. My advice to them: Get a day job.

World War Five

If the Cold War was number three, and the "War on Terr'r" is number four, here's the start of number five. Trouble is, how do we support an attack on Iran, Venezuela and all the other OPEC nations when they decide to quit taking our "worthless paper" as currency?

The escape artist

These analysts may be right. Bush will manage to wallow through the tragic mess he created in Iraq with sufficiently low, spinable numbers of deaths and attacks to hand off the tragedy to a Democratic president and be able to claim that the eventual cataclysm wasn't his fault. He'll be blamed for starting it, to be sure, but because of the Democrats' timidity in not ending the occupation, they'll share the blame for the wretched aftermath, if ever there is one. And so, ironically, Bush will once again escape responsibility for his awful record of failures, this time because his supposed adversaries have enabled him to do so.

I'm beginning to hope I'm not around to see it.

Sometimes the Internet's not so cool

Just because you have instant access to information, doesn't mean you always enjoy what you learn. A recent example: I was watching "Young Frankenstein" on AMC, and I wondered whatever happened to Teri Garr, who played the role of the alluring "assistant" to the good doctor, and whose many appearances as a sexy comedienne made her a constant presence on the big screen in the eighties and nineties.

Well, I learned that she's suffering from multiple sclerosis and that she recently made an appearance on Doctor Phil in a wheelchair.

Talk about something I wish I hadn't learned.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Our allies in the "war on terr'r"

Pakistan, wonderful democratic Pakistan, has nothing on Saudi Arabia, given this example of its fine and fair judicial system.

At some point, do US citizens come to comprehend why our nation is no longer held in repute in the world? I mean, with allies like this, who needs enemies?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I wish I'd said that

This quote from a reporter in Iraq says it all--about the state of that nation, but even more about the state of our media's reporting of it.

”Iraqi and American officials should be ashamed of talking of 'unidentified bodies',” said Haja Fadhila, from the Ghazaliya area of western Baghdad. ”These are the bodies of Iraqis who had families to support, and names to be proud of. But nobody talks about them, there is no media. It is as if it is all taking place on Mars.” The Iraqi ministries for health and interior have said that they are finding on average five to 10 ”unidentified bodies” on the streets of Baghdad every day. ”Those Americans and their Iraqi collaborators in the Green Zone talk of five or 10 bodies being found every day as if they were talking of insects.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bottoming out

At this rate, by next November, Bush's approval numbers will be in the teens. It can't happen, can it?

Ya gotta love it

It doesn't get any better than this, unless it's the International Spelling Bee, or the World Snowboarding Championships. And even then: Bridge players against Bush? Priceless.

Senator Feinstein ain't fine, no way!

As a Californian in Santa Barbara, I'm (somewhat) blessed by being represented in the House of Representatives by Lois Capps, a relative liberal, and in the Senate by Barbara Boxer (ditto). On many issues, they're decent legislators. Not on all, mind you--especially, of late, on the issue of Bush/Cheney impeachment--but on many.

But (putting aside Nancy Pelosi, who's technically not my representative) who's this Dianne Feinstein creature, who definitely is? Here's the text of an email I just received from Democracy for America, the website for which is here:

http://www.democracyforamerica.com/

Too many times Senator Feinstein has failed to represent the people of
California. Now she has announced that this Thursday she will support
President Bush for the third time in two months. And it all comes down to
Senator Feinstein's role on the Judiciary Committee.
Strike One: A Bush nominee for the federal bench, Leslie Southwick has a long history of rulings in lower courts that violate equality laws. Feinstein cast a
deciding vote to give him a lifetime seat.
Strike Two: Michael Mukasey, nominated for Attorney General, refused to say he would oppose torture. But Feinstein voted to send his confirmation to the Senate floor anyway.
Now she's poised for her third bad vote in a row, on a rework of the FISA Act --
the law that's supposed to protect us all against illegal wiretapping. When the Bush administration didn't want to follow this law, they asked major telephone companies like AT&T and Verizon to help. Several phone companies broke the law to help Dick Cheney read our emails and listen to our phone calls. They knew it was illegal. But they didn't expect to get caught.
Now that they did, the Bush administration is trying to protect AT&T and others from lawsuits by granting retroactive immunity for breaking the law. The Senate Judiciary Committee can kill this bill if all ten Democrats vote against it.
Strike Three: Senator Feinstein is the
only Democrat who says she'll vote for it.

Senator Feinstein is an awful legislator for a myriad of other reasons, but I like this message. It's timely and on point, and it's got a nice ring to it. Striking out Feinstein under the same draconian law that California has enacted for career criminals.



Monday, November 12, 2007

Can you believe it?

The United Nations Security Council in the next few weeks will consider renewing its mandate that authorizes the ongoing occupation of Iraq, without including Iraq's parliamentary voice in the deliberations. Apparently, a majority of the Iraqi parliament some months ago lawfully required its inclusion, but the UN is likely to re-authorize the occupation for another year without considering Iraq's demand that it not be allowed without inclusion of a timetable for withdrawal of US troops.

Sovereignty?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Now here's an interesting question

In the wake of Attorney General Mukasey's confirmation by the Senate on a 54-43 vote, whatever happened to the "60-vote requirement" that the media (and the Democrats) cite to explain why liberal legislation fails enactment.

One thing Bush is good at

Adding words to America's lexicon. From the man who gave you "decider," we now have "suicider."

Next up, I suppose, is his word for a person who makes a juice from apple pulp.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

WTF?

From the nation that brought you abu ghraib and waterboarding and preemptive war and shock and awe, now this.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Beach Boys rock!

Check out their new video. Great production values, and timely, too.

Nora Ephron rocks!

Here's how I'd like to write political commentary, instead of the dry, angry outbursts that appear on this blog. Fun to read, incisive too.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Wisdom of the ages

Here's a short Encyclopedia Brittanica movie about democracy and despotism from sixty-one years ago. Couldn't have said (or filmed) it better myself.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Finger in the dike

(No, this post isn't a gender slur.)

For four years, I've been hauling around in my car a big sign that I display on weekly "peace marches" and at street corners in Santa Barbara and beyond whenever the mood strikes me that I've got to do something other than grumble about the state of the nation and type little ditties on this blog. The sign, for the first several months, carried varying messages: "Impeach Cheney First!", "NeoCons? No, same old con." "Wake Up, America, Impeach!" and the like. About two years ago I settled on a single message: On one side of the sign are listed the current figures for dead and wounded G.I.'s and Iraqis, and for the billions of dollars spent on the Iraq war and occupation; and on the other side is the exhortation, "Out of Iraq--Now!" I settled on this display because I believed the issue of the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq was the single most important question of our time.



But my view has been overtaken by events. Now we have to deal with an imminent attack by the crazed US executive on the nation of Iran; a battle between separatist Kurds and Turkey's military, that could expand into a regional conflict involving a NATO ally on one side and the nation we occupy on the other; US threats and Israeli aerial attacks on Syria; the continuing deterioration of Afghanistan's "democracy," now involving a burgeoning poppy trade and the resurgence of the Taliban regime; and most recently the sharp reversal in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed "ally" in the "global war on terror," now despotically ruled by a military dictator whose allegiances and stability are at best questionable. When I add in the ongoing failure of the United States to address climate change, income disparity, health care, corruption in politics, drug addiction, childhood obesity, rampant materialism, loss of meaningful employment, loss of civil liberties, torture and imprisonment without trial--to list a few of the present outrages extant in today's America--I'm beginning to feel that my sign's protest is but pissing in the wind.

On the other hand, I've decided not to change my sign--except to amend it daily to display the latest death toll--because I don't have room on it for the above litany, and it wouldn't make sense to the viewer if it simply said, "Arise and Revolt!" People who saw it would simply think it was an ad for a rock group or a new energy drink.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Diminishing refuge

I regularly check this site for data about the value of the dollar in foreign currencies. In the center of the home page are a series of flag emblems, labeled "charts," which if clicked will pop up with graphs of the various currencies' recent and past history against the dollar.

Of course all the charts show the precipitous decline of the dollar--most notoriously, lately, against the euro--but check out whazzup with the Canadian dollar. If ever I had in mind to split to Vancouver, no way Jose. Not with the Canadian dollar (until a few years ago worth about $.65 US) now worth a nickel than ours.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Heedless,mindless apathy

Here's a copy of a letter to the editor of the Santa Barbara News-Press that I sent today.

About seventy folks gathered at Vera Cruz Park on Saturday (10/27) to protest the ongoing nightmare that is the Iraq war and occupation. After songs and speeches, some of us spread out in small bunches along State Street to display antiwar signs, while a few others paraded along the sidewalk singing John Lennon’s “Imagine.” It was a finely planned—indeed, a refined—demonstration of opposition to the Bush administration’s actions in Iraq. It was met by smiles and thumbs-up from passersby, as well as supportive honks from the stream of cars that filled the boulevard.

The key words in the previous paragraph are “small bunches” and “a few.” This immoral war has been grinding on for almost five years, and despite widespread opposition to it by a majority of Americans—and despite the urgent efforts of the organizers of Saturday’s demonstration—we could muster only handfuls of protesters? Have we become so preoccupied with purchasing, so attached to routine, so conditioned by media and government that we don’t care anymore what is happening in our name around the world? Have we become “the good Germans” of the 1930’s who remained mute while their government took over first them, and then Europe?

The cartoon character Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” His creator, Walt Kelly, meant it to apply to Americans’ silence in the face of McCarthyism in the 1950’s. I fear it applies to Americans now, with equal force and with even greater ignominy.

Update: The letter was published in the News-Press on 11/1/07.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I wonder why

the number of dead and injured American soldiers in Iraq is down lately, while the number of dead and injured innocent Iraqi civilians is up. Could this be why?

Update: Apparently so.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A picture is worth

more than a million words. It's priceless.

All my adult, conscious life

I've waited for this.

A video from the past

Wanna watch something really depresssing? Here's the culture I was raised in, filmed precisely when I was graduating high school.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Battle in Seattle

Admit it: You weren't aware, as I wasn't, of what all those folks who were throwing rocks at the Seattle cops in 1999 were protesting. I mean, "globalization" and the International Monetary Fund and the WTO and such-like? What's the problem? In fact, even after I heard a Ralph Nader speech about the evils of these concepts (harm to American labor, harm to the world's environment, etc.) I was unmoved.

Well, now I'm fascinated, as much about how wrong I was to be ignorant then as about how prescient those protesters were. Fascinated enough to read with attention the entirety of this long piece about the longlasting detrimental impact of globalization upon the US working class and its contribution to the growing income disparity between workers and those who boss them. I'll save you the trouble of reading it. Bottom line: Globalization, for the American working class, means cheaper underwear and DVD-players, but no money to buy them.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Am I crazy or is Bush?

Here's a quote from a Bush news conference today:

"We've got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel," he [Bush] said. "So I've told people that, if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."


This madman in the White House is using language straight out of Dr. Stranglove, not in connection with an imminent attack on the US, not even an imminent attack on a treaty-bound ally, but to threaten world war based on a titular-president's rhetorical attack on foreign nation with which we have no reciprocal-defense treaty obligations. Furthermore, Bush's threat is made solely on the prospect that Iran might obtain the "knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." My God--talk about moving the goalposts, now our nation is going to start a world war because another country has "knowledge"? Because another country's president has made some untoward remarks about another nation? What about our statements about Iraq/Iran/North Korea/Libya/many others? We've been much more threatening to them that Iran is to Israel (and certainly to the US) and our threats aren't mere rhetoric but are backed by demonstrated nuclear weaponry.

Look, I knew before we invaded Iraq that Bush was going to go forward regardless of the protests or that facts "on the ground." But I've so far pooh-poohed the prospect of his attacking Iran. Call me stupid or in denial or just plain Pollyanna-ish, but I've until lately believed that with respect to Iran, Bush was "all hat and no cattle." But I fear I've been wrong. Language like the above demonstrates to me that he's absofuckinglutely nuts, that he's decided already to take out Iran's nuclear reactors/facilities whatever the state of negotiations/evidence/diplomacy. There's no other explanation for such incendiary language by the commander-in-chief of a world power.

Folks, we've got Dr. Strangelove in the Oval Office. Worse, we've got General Jack D. Ripper.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A graphic

is worth a million words.

Letter to the LA Times

In the past, my letters to editors have been to the SB Independent and News-Press.
With the following letter, I've decided to go bigtime. If anyone should see it in print in the Times, please let me know, because I'm only an occasional reader of that fine paper.

Dear editor:

I am curious. I wonder if any of your readers could point to a single feature or measure of the Bush administration—just one, in any field (except corporate profits and rising stock prices)—that has proven successful. We know too well the mind-numbing string of failures. The faulty pursuit of Osama bin Laden; the illegal and inept invasion and occupation of Iraq—and (it lately appears) Afghanistan; the worsening Middle East mess; the declining dollar; the loss of decent American jobs and the gigantic gap between rich and poor; the health care debacle; the growing environmental crisis; the upward-spiraling price of oil; the humongous federal deficit and international trade imbalance; the alienation of our allies and the disdain in which the US is held around the globe; the violations of our civil liberties; the corruption and incompetence of government; the decline of our military readiness—to name a few. Even the rise in home ownership that President Bush once touted has proven to be a Potemkin village, as thousands of foreclosures of easy-credit mortgages have reversed the numbers, resulting in a net decline in ownership during Bush’s tenure.

Some will argue that the U.S. hasn’t been attacked again since 9/11, to which the easy answer is this: If the purpose of bin Laden was to wreck America and instill fear and uncertainty in its citizens, he has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, aided and abetted by the abhorrent policies and ruinous actions of his effective accomplice, George W. Bush.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

In a nutshell

here's the situation, the dire situation, in Iraq that explains both the Anbar Province "success" and the future Iraq disaster. Note the author's prediction that the disaster will obtain under candidate Clinton as well as under any Republican candidate.

Pray for us, for our kids, for our grandkids. Bush/Cheney have created an endless nightmare.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Another day in Iraq

Take a look at this list of killings in Baghdad today, Tuesday. (Scroll down to "security incidents.") The total dead from bombings and shootings is, by my count, 38, with 104 wounded. Another 47 dead in other parts of Iraq.

I'm going to keep beating this drum until somebody listens.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

What's new?

Ya know, I'm getting sick and tired of reading stories--"news" accounts, they're called--of events that many sensible students of history and human behavior predicted would occur years earlier. The accounts adopt a breathless, urgent tone, as if the latest development materialized out of thin air, with no warning, no foreknowledge by anyone. The most obvious example is of course the debacle that has become Iraq--even Cheney knew that was going to happen, having warned against invading Iraq a decade earlier when he was SecDef to Bush I.

The Blackwater outrage. How could it not happen that that would finally blow up? A bunch of young, highly-paid former soldiers, armed to the teeth, immunized from legalisms such as the prohibition of murder, driving helter-skelter through the cities of Iraq with supposed urgent duties and God on their side? That they'd run amok? Whoodathunkit?

The collapse of the dollar? The subprime mortgage mess? The rising price of oil and of corn for ethanol? The loss of US manufacturing jobs and the growing income disparity? There are so many of such predictable--predicted--disastrous developments that I've tired of chronicling them, even of observing them. I've taken to reading headlines only, because the body of the stories don't say anything I don't already know, and have known for years.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Revisionism redux

This "stab-in-the-back" story, so common to justify a nation's military defeat, is already in progress with respect to the inevitable sad ending to America's Iraq adventure, as Eric Alterman points out. But I must add that Congressional Democrats have only themselves to blame for its viability. Had they acted promptly to de-fund the war nine months ago, in accord with the mandate they gained from the 2006 elections, Bush would not have been able to pawn the war off onto the next president, whichever Democrat it is, to damn him/her with its eventual horrific conclusion. As it now stands, the Iraq occupation will drag on for another several years, and when it ends the inevitable decline of Iraq into bloody bedlam will be laid at the feet of those then in power, leaving Bush/Cheney and their apologists able to escape blame for the consequences of their egregious misuse of America's military might.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Doubting Thomas

Here's an essay about Clarence Thomas, with a long string of comments pro and con, dealing with his just-released memoir and his Sunday interview on Sixty Minutes. I watched the latter (I'm not going to buy the book for obvious reasons), and my impression was clear, pure, direct: This man is a small-minded, foul-spirited person, as low a form of life as can be found on the planet--with apologies to bacteria. If/when the interview comes online, give it a look and tell me what you see.

A leader of the pack of rats jumps ship

Tom Friedman, an "economic essayist" for the NYT and a staunch supporter of the invasion and occupation of Itaq, finally realizes that the "war on terror" was a mistaken concept and that it's time has come to get out of Iraq and cut our losses. His reason: it's bad for business.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Compassionate conservatism?

I'm not on fire about user fees for our national parks and monuments. It does make some sense to me to charge a fee to the folks to visit them, as opposed to supporting them solely by taxation, even though they're our common, national property. I makes some sense, although of course I understand the contrary argument, and I even understand the vehemence with which opponents of user fees express themselves.

But here's a fee that's nothing but mean-spirited and unfair and outrageous. Charging a $25 fee to recipients of more than $500 a year in child support payments to fund the governmental effort to collect delinquent support payments from others. Part of the Republicans' Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. Now you tell me: Is that fair? Is that governance you recognize? Is that even sane?

Havasu? No, have a headache.

I've recently driven through the towns that have sprung up along the Colorado River: Havasu City, Parker, Bullhead City, Arizona, and Laughlin, Nevada. They are as foul, as purposely ugly and hot and crass as an American town can be. I vowed never to return, to avoid being exposed to such miserable conditions, such a wretched culture. And now, I have another reason to stay away.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Lost in translation

With all the press that Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is getting these days about his remarks at Columbia University and the UN, it would be wise, I think, to test the reportage of his statements in the MSM against the accuracy of the accounts of his now-infamous "Israel-should-be-wiped-off-the-map" speech a few years ago. As this detailed translation of his Farsi words demonstrates, he said no such thing. Given the tenor of the times, we'd better be darned sure what we're being told about his statements is accurate. I'd hate to start another war based on falsities, wouldn't you?

World War III

Is this what it would look like? If so, to what Pacific island would you relocate?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Credit crush

Here's an insider's explanation of (1) why the collapse of the housing/mortgage market isn't all the fault of heedless borrowers; and (2) why it's likely to spiral into a truly disastrous downturn.

Spoiler: It's the moneychangers' fault.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I'm worried

that Bush will invade Venezuela, not to secure its oil, but its soup.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Just a thought

Since it's clear that Bush intends to hand the Iraq mess off to the next president, thereby allowing his base to claim (when the present debacle turns into an outright disaster) that it wasn't Bush's fault, one would think the Democratic presidential candidates--and, of particular relevance, the pro-war Democrats in C0ngress--would be howling to have the war end now, right now. Otherwise the Democrats, who will control both houses of Congress as well as the White House, will be blamed for the mess in Iraq that will undoubtedly result from our withdrawal.

Indeed, by allowing Bush to continue the war until now, Bush has likely snookered the Democrats already. There's no way the Iraq invasion and occupation will end other than badly, but now that bad end will be on the Democrats' watch. And the Democrats now deserve it.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I keep hoping

that Bush and his minions will become human, will tell us something other than their party line. But no. Bush's speech, following the congressional appearances of General BetrayUs, are strictly par for the course. And now, surprise, surprise, it turns out we're in Iraq for the long haul--the eternal haul. Did you ever think otherwise? If so, you're a fool.

Class warfare is here!

It couldn't be any clearer than what happened today in the financial markets. The Dow Jones index of large corporate stocks has gained almost 150 points (the other indexes have gained too) on news that the amount of new unemployment claims rose by "only" 4,000 in the preceding week. (The Yahoo! headline and the content of its financial article keep changing, but at some point this morning it read "Markets gain on jobs report," the report being of the sixth straight week of increasing jobless claims.)

The reason for the stock market's rise in the face of this news, which in some reports is indicative of an impending recession, is that in the short run the Federal Reserve may discern that because higher interest may slow "economic growth" it should lower its benchmark interest rate, thereby making common stocks more attractive to investors than debt instruments. In other words, what's bad for the workers is good for the investment class.

Marx/Engels/Trotsky were right. The argued for "permanent revolution" that pitted the proletariat against the petty bourgeoisie, unrelentingly opposing the tug of capitalism toward materialism and greed-based culture. Well, we see now how strong that tug is, with its new proponents in the Far East, in Russia and its former satellites, where CD players outnumber books, stiletto heels abound and Burger King rules.

For the stock market to rise because the labor market plummets? What could be a clearer indicator that Karl Marx was right?

How do they do it?

This videoclip from The Daily Show reveals (1) the best critique I've seen of Petraeus' Congressional testimony about the Iraq war, and (2) the genius of the writers and crew of that TV show. They put this segment together within just hours of the general's appearance and although they probably had some lead time (given how predictable was Petraeus' testimony), I gotta say, these folks must really love their work.

Lucky them. Lucky us.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I'm curious

Your thoughts on this story? And while you're at it, check out the Comments.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

I'm not crazy after all

A few days ago, see my post on August 31, "I thought I was going crazy," I suggested that the casualty trends I was hearing from Bush and the US military didn't square with other reports of unremitting violence in Iraq. Well, it turns out I'm not alone in questioning those numbers. Indeed, the GAO and the CIA seem to agree with me.

The end of an era

Riverbend, the Baghdad blogger who's kept reporting about the occupation from a few weeks after our invasion until last spring, has finally posted again, describing her family's departure from Iraq. Heartrending.

If he speaks Arabic

he's not necessarily a terrorist.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Say it isn't so!

One can get lung cancer from popcorn fumes? God can be cruel, indeed.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Be on the lookout

for the commencement in earnest of the NeoCons' media blitz to promote an attack on Iran. According to this article (scroll down to the middle) the "usual suspects," including Faux News and the Wall Street Journal, will starting howling about it in the week following Labor Day.

Friday, August 31, 2007

I thought I was going crazy

Over the last few days, I've been reading news articles and seeing TV reports, quoting Bush administration sources and military officers, that US casualties are down from last year and Iraqi civilian deaths are declining. But I follow these numbers diligently on the internet, here and here (and elsewhere) and that's not what I've been seeing, not at all.

Could the administration be fibbing about these numbers to support a continuation of the surge, I wondered? Surely they wouldn't be so bold as to lie about something so obviously, numerically false, I told myself. And surely the media wouldn't let them get away with it, right?

Wrong.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

And now for something completely different

You're allowed to feel awe.

At times like these, reflect

Consider:

"Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale."

And

"When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for."

Friday, August 24, 2007

Doing God's work?

Or was she doing good work? Does it matter?

Wiki-ing the Wiki

For those of us who routinely use Wikipedia for quick reference (it's often the first-listed source for definitions and information on Google), there's a new site, Wikiscanner, that tracks the identities of the persons and entities who are doing the editing and revision of Wikipedia's entries. For example, the CIA regularly edits its own history. It's like watching Big Brother toss things into the memory hole.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wisdoms

Here's a site that contains extended videotaped interviews by a learned man, Robert Wright, with various thinkers of today. I highly recommend Wright's interview of Joseph Goldstein, a Buddhist teacher, about vipassana meditation and Theravada Buddhism, which are the bases for the practice I experienced last week in one-day sitting session at Spirit Rock, a retreat outside of San Anselmo, California.

The other interviews, with physicists, mathematicians, philosophers, etc., are illuminating too. Good stuff, long and interesting and penetrating interviews, much better than Charlie Rose's.

Friday, August 10, 2007

From the mouths of babes...

comes a classic line, at the end of a four-page WaPo article detailing the ineffectiveness and frustrations of American troops' efforts to quell the attacks of the various factions who are feuding in Iraq.

"We haven't done anything here. We'll go for 24 hours and we'll see nothing," said Sgt. Josh Claeson, a radio operator, as he waited with nearly 200 soldiers under the glow of an orange moon for helicopters to Khidr. "Our basic mission here is to drive around and get blown up."

Thursday, August 09, 2007

That sound you hear

is another shoe dropping. Actually, it's the sound of the dollar dropping.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Saturday, August 04, 2007

In case you missed it at your local theater

watch it here. I mean, of course, What to Do In a Zombie Attack.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Beyond spin

Yesterday, news items trumpeted headlines like, "US casualties lowest since November," and "US death toll in Iraq declines," and so forth.

Well, check out the numbers for July here and you'll see that the 80 dead GI's is one less than the numbers for the months of February and March; and if you add in the number of other "coalition deaths" the total coalition troops killed (89) is higher than those two months.

Talk about media whores. Will the MSM print anything the government wants them to?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Explain this to me

How can the US giving 30 billion dollars to Israel in military aid while selling 20 billion dollars worth of arms to Saudi Arabia contribute to world peace?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Wait a minute...

Two posts ago I drew the line. No way I'd support Hillary Clinton. Now, after reading this NYT article about her college-days letters to a friend, I'm having second thoughts. As dry and studied as is much of the quoted language, there does seem to me to be a tiny spark, a blastula of a human being, revealed by her missives.
Maybe by now, in her fifties or sixties, the spark is gone. But it was there once, I think, and it may reappear.

No doubt about it

CNN is the most trusted name in news.

So far, I've decided this about the Democratic candidates for President.

A - B - C.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Tell me something I don't know

This article lays out the reality, namely, that all this talk about "withdrawing from Iraq" masks the fact that the US military is in Iraq to stay. There may be shifts from ground to air, from urban and suburban patrols to huge-base presence, from day-to-day occupation to omnipresent power but make no mistake: When we hear talk about getting out of Iraq from any of the contenders for the White House (except maybe Richardson and definitely Kucinich) it's not really removal of forces, it's realigning of force.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

In case you're wondering

why I haven't been posting as often lately, it's because I've grown war-weary, and weary in general. The killing and dying goes on in Iraq, America's empire grinds on, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, the planet decays, the injustices continue. All while we congratulate ourselves about new technologies for staging presidential candidate debates, debates that don't change anything, except maybe some TV ratings.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Your tax dollars and mine

are funding America's military forces in Iraq so they can protect garbage collectors.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A growing phenomenon

This story about the new craze for oversized houses in suburbia--McMansions--isn't comforting. Its tone seems to be acquiesent in the trend, although there are countermeasures afoot in some communities. My favorite word in the article: "Garage Mahals."

Friday, July 13, 2007

Now I'm getting pissed off

The US military has apparently cut off all electricity to a part of Baghdad to force its residents to turn over insurgents that, says our military, reside in the district. No electricity in the middle of the summer in Baghdad.

This is precisely what the Nazis did to portions of Warsaw and other occupied cities during World War II--except then it was fuel in wintertime--an utterly forbidden act of "collective punishment," an acknowledged war crime.

The last straw...

or the straw that broke the camel's back. Whatever. This may be it.

The air war

Here's a graph that shows that there's more to the surge than additional boots on the ground.

How do you spell, "War crimes"?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

No more Mr. Nice Guy

A few months ago, our little Saturday peace marching group decided to stop chanting "Support the troops, bring them home!" Indeed, a few of us wanted to chant, "Fuck the troops. They're the problem!"

Here's why.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Wizard of Odd

What's next for the wretched citizens of Iraq? Lions and tigers and badgers, oh my!

Will the Right stop at nothing?

I happen to have made the acquaintance with Dr. Carmona, when he was an emergency room doctor at Tucson Medical Center. A straight-shooter if there ever was one. And he still is.

I hate to use this phrase

--"There's a part of me..." but I know no other quick way to identify my reaction to this story about the regular updating of the Merriam-Webster dictionary to include "new" words. Words like "ginormous" and "IED." I certainly don't think it's a bad idea to set forth definitions of words that, from whatever source, creep into our national communications. But, damn, it pains me to watch such a lofty concept as language become reduced, diluted, by this type of expression. I mean, "ginormous," as defined (essentially "huge"--a combination of gigantic and enormous) adds nothing to our dialog and, it seems to me, bastardizes both words; and IED is nothing but military shorthand for a roadside mine.

Okay, so maybe they have a place in our modern culture. But to memorialize them by inclusion in an authoritative dictionary? Could this be less a linguistic effort than a marketing device?

Friday, July 06, 2007

They still don't get it, do they?

Here's a report about a video announcement by an al-Qaeda leader that Iraq is the center of its war against the infidel, and calling on other Arabs in the region to join in the fight, with money, arms and men. This appeal is said to signal desperation by al-Qaeda, that it may be losing support among Sunnis in Iraq.

Don't you see it? Both Bush and al-Qaeda's boss are saying the same thing: Bush, in order to legitimatize his ongoing, surging war; al-Qaeda in order to keep our forces fighting in Iraq. Both sides benefit from such announcements, because both sides want eternal war. As I (and many others) say as often as possible, Bush is bin Laden's best ally in his quest, and bin Laden is Bush's best ally in his.

Maybe, just maybe, I'm doing something right

I daily picket various sites along the coastline here in central California, displaying a sign that shows the numbers of dead and wounded US soldiers and Iraqi civilians in our outrageous war, and calling for our immediate withdrawal. Just as do these folks in the midwest, whose efforts are having a distinct effect. And I've just self-published a novel that got a fine, favorable mention in the Santa Barbara Independent, a plaudit on page 35 by Nick Welsh, the paper's editor no less. Here's what he said, under the caption, "What Writers Read":

Gaviota, by Erik O'Dowd

"A very cool idea: anchor a contemporary political thriller-chiller in the very real shelling of Ellwood Beach by a Japanese submarine back in 1941. The story revolves around political ambition, family secrets, and accusations of treason."

Good for me.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Gordon Brown for president!

Can you imagine Bush--better yet, Cheney--doing this?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Maybe if we wait long enough...

Republicans will just die off.

Be afraid, be very afraid

I've listened to tapes of Nixon and LBJ during their agonies in the White House. Nixon, combative and paranoid about Watergate; Johnson, pained and frustrated about VietNam. Both men had human, comprehensible reactions.

But Bush? At peace, serene, with his position and decisions? If that's not mentally/emotionally aberrant, I don't know what.

Eighteen months to go and, thank god, counting.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Well, whaddaya know!

A relatively mainstream media outlet, McClatchy News Service (formerly Knight-Ridder) is calling Bush on his bullshit. Finally. Finally. Maybe, just maybe, it'll catch on.

Whazzup wid dat?

At the midway point in the US Women's Open golf tournament, the last names of the top six are Park, Hung, Shin, Kim, Ahn, Granada and Mayorkas. Only one American among them. Wanna guess which one?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Summertime, summertime

I just read an article (can't find it now) about how determined Bush was to get his invasion of Iraq underway in March, 2003, so that US troops wouldn't have to endure the horrible summer heat.

Here's today's weather report for Baghdad.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

What's in a name?

In this one list of the day's horror in Iraq, the US military is reported to have killed some "insurgents," some "al Qaeda operatives," some "al Qaeda militiants" and some "gunmen." I know it's cheeky of me to ask, but what's the basis, precisely, for these different labels? We know they don't wear uniforms, and I doubt they have differing dogtags or business cards. Is the distinction purely literary--a reporter tiring of using the same words throughout the article, or perhaps a worker in the bowels of the printshop who ran out of capital Q's?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Two new blogs from inside Iraq

The first one, "Last-of-Iraqis," has a lengthy story about the situation in Adhamiya (the latest Fallujah--recently walled off from the rest of Baghdad), as well a detailed history of Muqtada al-Sadr's rise to prominence. The second one, "Nabil's blog," also has information about Adhamiya, as well as a long list of blogs from inside Iraq and videos of the newly-created ghetto.

Must reading.

Hang on Ruth and the gang

In view of these recent Supreme Court decisions--all horrible retreats from good jurisprudence--we better pray the four "liberals" (they're not very liberal, really) remain in good health for at least 18 months, so that a Democratic president and Senate will replace them. And then we'd better hope for poor health (death, preferably) of a couple of the five monsters on the Right, to secure a moderate majority on the Court. Otherwise, at the rate the five are rippping away the fabric of our constitution, we'll be left with nothing but a shred of freedoms in a few years.

Monday, June 25, 2007

In a nutshell

Here's a snapshot of the status of an emerging post-surge military "victory" in a Sunni area of Iraq. What a waste, what a nightmare, what a predictable--predicted--outcome.

Even Tony Snow can't explain this development

It turns out that Iraq's oil ministry has agreed to revive a Saddam-era oil deal, to allow a foreign nation to extract its oil from a large field. It's the first deal made by the ministry--and it's with China!

Heckuva job, Bush.

Friday, June 22, 2007

I'm too pissed off to write

about this latest political ploy by Congress--re-convening the Iraq Study Group. I'm dumbfounded, too. So, I'll write about it anyway.

The ISG is supposed to "study" Iraq's conditions and report to Congress a month after Patraeus' report is due in September. Then, it's said, the reports will be melded and something--probably nothing meaningful--will arise from that process.

First, it's politicaly idiocy on the Democrats' part. This process will only delay and eventually legitimatize the Bush madness in Iraq. It will give Bush an "out" in the fall, by allowing him to escape the consequences of his years of misdeeds by following some of the ISG's recommendations, albeit belatedly, and hence to appear reasonable and "bipartisan" as the war enters the final year of his terms. By allowing this, the Democrats are defusing a critical facet of the anti-Republican sentiment that has grown up over the war, and in particular will be handing Republican Congressional candidates a vehicle for arguing that their continued (up to now) support for the war was well-founded.

Second, re-visiting the ISG will gain nothing in terms of saving lives and treasure in Iraq. The eventual report will, again, be a hodgepodge of observations and "approaches," none of them novel, none of them dramatic. It will be a same-old, same-old document that wastes time and effort, and merely allows the pols to delay decision-making and to be able to point to paperwork as justification.

Third, now that the "surge" is well underway, and is going nowhere, to ask the ISG to report again is absurdly naive. The surge has closed options that might have been available ten months ago when its first report was rendered. Now, what can the ISG say except to reiterate what it said originally, except, perhaps, with more urgency.

I am furious at the dumb, cowardly Congress that has chosen this path. It's an insult to me as an American. I deserve better from my representatives.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

If you like Ray Charles...

check this out.

Al Qaeda Unleashed

This article in The Guardian should be required reading for anybody who supports our continuing presence in Iraq. The writer's assertions about the benefits to bin Laden--his dreams fulfilled--by reason of the US occupation of Iraq are succinctly and incisively set forth, as is his description of their recent radical manifestations in Palestine, which the writer identifies in the rise of Hamas and its battles with Fatah.


"When Osama bin Laden and his lieutenant Ayman al-Zawahiri issued their "Jihad against Jews and Crusaders" statement on February 28 1998, responses to their declaration varied from apathy to amusement. They were an obscure group lost in the faraway emirate of the Taliban, a pathetic remnant of the fight against the USSR during the cold war. Their role looked historically defunct and their discourse archaic.
Things could not be more different now. Al-Qaida has become an intensely complex global network, with a decentralised, flexible structure that enables it to spread in all directions, across the Arab world, Africa, Asia and Europe. Whether pursuing active cells or searching for sleeping ones, the security world is haunted by al-Qaida's ghost. Like bubbles, these cells are autonomous, bound together neither by hierarchy nor by a chain of command. It only takes a few individuals who subscribe to its ideology and terrorist methods for al-Qaida to extend its reach to a new part of the globe.
With the Middle East moving from one crisis to another, this small organisation saw itself miraculously transferred from periphery to centre. In its founding statement, al-Qaida defined its mission as a jihad aimed at cleansing the Arabian peninsula of the American "locusts, eating its riches and wiping out its plantations", and liberating Palestinian land from Zionist occupation. With the invasion of Iraq in 2003, al-Qaida was offered a firm foothold in the Middle East and the unique chance to implement its "resistance against Jews and crusaders" project.
The organisation's penetration of Palestinian politics is the climax of a long, still unfolding process. Rapidly expanding from one location to another, al-Qaida currently boasts branches throughout the Arab region."


Heckuva job, Bush/Cheney.





Wednesday, June 20, 2007

No more Mister Nice Guy

I don't get it. Bush's poll numbers are in the tank, his second term is waning (although he still has 17 months as president!) and his power is gone. So why is Henry Waxman's subcommittee not acting with courage, not to mention outrage, at Condi Rice's failure to abide by its subpeona compelling her to testify about the prewar intelligence on Iraq, in particular the inclusion of the infamous "16 words" about "uranium from Africa" in Bush's SOU speech? Why not proceed now to hold her in contempt to at least commence the predicted battle over the White House claim of "executive privilege" or whatever? I mean, why is Waxman, why is entire Congress--except for a few hearty souls--acting so meekly, acting as if Bush has any support anywhere? If the Democrats don't act now, when will they? Never? And if so, tell me, what shall we call our new political party?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Kicking the can

Here's a letter I wrote today to the editor of the SB News-Press.

Come September General Patraeus will report on the progress of Bush’s escalation of force in Iraq, and many mainstream pundits tell us the report will be definitive and will dictate America’s future course in that besieged nation. Don’t be fooled. Patraeus’ report will be similar to the scores official reports from Iraq that have preceded it: ambiguous, equivocal, essentially meaningless. It will contain enough “positives,” “negatives” and “needs improvements,” to give colorable support to the entire spectrum of decisions, from complete withdrawal, to redeployment to fixed bases, to continuing the surge.

As a result, any decision purportedly based on the report will be, as have been all previous decisions on Iraq, political, purely political. Indeed, many Americans recognize the report for what it really is: a cynical tactic that allows Bush to delay facing the reality that his invasion was wrong from inception and that the occupation is being monstrously maintained, and to buy time so he can hand off his disaster to the next president.

Meanwhile, our soldiers are being killed and maimed daily. John Kerry once asked, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” Now we should be asking, “How do you ask a man or woman to be the last soldier to die while a delusional president kicks the can down the road?”

Friday, June 15, 2007

This could get ugly

With Bush's ratings in the polls at an all-time low, he keeps plugging away at the immigration bill that alienates his base and, now, with the firing of the Chief of Staff, Peter Pace, he's even being jumped on by Faux News.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I must be a true history buff

because while I'm bedridden, recovering from a stress fracture of my ankle, I've been listening to the Nixon tapes. Fascinating, absolutely fascinating. (If the tapes--which include everything from Nixon's Christmas greetings to Rockefeller to his congratulations to Rehnquist on his confirmation to talks with Kissinger about bombing Hanoi, to, of course, Watergate--make any references I'm not familiar with, I just Google the subject to stay abreast with the conversation. What a world we've created.)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Another country heard from

on the question of a timetable for US withdrawal from Iraq: Iraq.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The final chapter

of Scooter Libby's sad tale will be, of course, that the sentencing judge will deny him bail pending appeal, and the day after Scooter begins to serve his thirty-month sentence, he'll be shot while trying to escape.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Andy, we hardly knew thee

You just gotta watch this video of Amherst's award of an honorary doctorate to Andrew Card, former Chief of Staff to George W. Bush. I wonder--could it be?--that such displays will confront any of the other Bush minions who might someday receive such honorariums? Wouldn't it be terrific, for example, to see Condi "get hers" from the University of Denver? (In case you didn't know, that's where she got her Ph.D. Yeah, no kidding: DU, which is pronounced, duh. I realize the previous makes me a Stanford/Georgetown/Harvard snob, but I really have trouble calling Condi Dr. Rice.)

The waiting game

According to Arianna Huffington (she's not a seasoned reporter, I know, but in this case her story is plausible) Senators Obama and Clinton were playing chicken with their respective votes on the Iraq-funding bill, each waiting until the other voted, but Obama gave in first, voting against the Bush-blank-check authority, followed quickly by Hillary, also voting No.

Arianna chastises the one senator, Clinton, for being a "finger-in-the-wind" politician, but I ask this: Wouldn't it be nice if at least one of the two had marched into the Senate chamber eager--demanding--to cast the first negative vote on the measure?

Just asking.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Saint Sheehan

Cindy, I understand--and I wish you well. And peace.

A week of carnage

During the period of 5/21 to 5/28, a total of 42 US troops have been killed in Iraq, the deadliest week since the occupation began.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Don't bother

to read this report about our new plan to "win" in Iraq. It's a tediously written piece of propaganda, recycled concepts, mushy language, that leads to the same result: nothing but the same old, same old. The report, as well as the plan itself, has one admirable feature: a breathlessness, a childlike whizziness of exposition that makes everything seem new and fresh, when indeed it's old and failed.

And--to add fuel to my fire--nowhere in the piece do the reporters point out how old, how re-hashed, how failed, these suppposedly "new" approaches are. So once again and still, the MSM reports as news that which isn't, and spouts as doctrine that which is but cover.

(A personal aside: Back in the Watergate days, I, along with a huge segment of US youth, aspired to be journalists. Now, I sure don't value that profession much, and neither do many Americans. I wonder why?)

Whither Erik, whither Iraq?

I'm off for about a week, visiting with Stanford alums in the Lake Tahoe area. Meanwhile, check out this lengthy AP article about al Sadr's plans and prospects in Iraq. The result of our costly efforts in that country could well turn out to be the replacement of a secular dictator with a religious fanatic.

Wonderful.

I hate to say I told you so

...but...

Monday, May 21, 2007

Got a minute?

Or maybe an hour? Check out this pdf. item from the Government Accountability Office, a report to Congress about progress in Iraq. (To save you some minutes, I suggest you click to page 39, a chart showing the number of attacks on US troops, Iraqi troops and Iraqi civilians. The "surge" has reduced the number of attacks down to the level they were in the hellish days of last summer.) Good for you, W. You're a real winner.

A date that will live in irony

Congress is presently considering, and may soon pass, a bill to try to stem the tide of illegal aliens coming into our country, after decades of being unable to control our borders. Does anyone see the irony in our repeated demands that Iran and Syria "control their borders," much of which, like our southern border, consists of miles of open desert?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A new low

According to daily pollster Rasmussen Reports, Bush's approval rating today (5/19) has hit a new low for his presidency, 34%. This drop from the high thirties coincides with, and is caused by according to Rasmussen, Bush's plumping for an immigration bill that isn't just punitive. In other words, Bush's support erodes a few points every time he even feints in the direction of some kind of decency. (I think the "compromise" bill is a travesty, but that's fodder for a later post.)

Tells you a lot about the crazies who make up the "somewhat approve" bunch: They're obviously so far right that they drop away the minute Bush deviates one iota from their mean-spirited, ugly view of the world.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Uh oh...

You read it here first. Or maybe second.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Gaviota lives!

At long, long last I have in hand--physcially in my hand (except I've put it down in order to type this post)--Gaviota, the self-published novel that I started writing a decade ago. It has been a long journey, much of it trying to find an agent and bigtime publisher (spent a year with one agent, only to have the single offer of publication we received turn to naught after months of maybe's). So I decided, what the hell, self-publish. Save a tree, get a solid book in hand, worth more than two leafy manuscripts in the box. And so forth.

Sooo--Gaviota may be found at the publisher's website, http://www.iUniverse.com/bookstore, where (if you're so inclined) it may also be purchased in hard-copy trade paperback form or as an ebook. It's also available in hard-copy at www.Amazon.com.

My own website, www.erikodowd.com, which is presently under construction, will soon contain additional information about Gaviota.

This is kinda fun!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

It Just Doesn't Matter

Iraq? Impeachment? The "war on terr'r"? Life, death, taxes? In view of the eventual fate of Earth, the Solar System--even our galaxy, The Milky Way, when it eventually collides with the "nearby" galaxy Andromeda--nothing temporal (by our human standards of time) seems to matter. We'll all be dead, long dead, as will all of our successors, as will every page of every history book, all videos and hard drives, everything. There'll be no trace of our existence.

My reaction? Relief. Yours?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Remember Dr. Strangelove?

In that movie, the civilian US president, played by Peter Sellers, was trying to constrain the crazies--military and intelligent types, played (also) by Sellers, George C. Scott and Sterling Hayden--from war with the USSR. Now, according to this alarming report about Bush/Cheney's war-mongering actions against Iran, it is the military, in the person of an admiral in the US navy, that's trying "to put the crazies back in the box." A must-read, and if verified, a must-impeach.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Heroes

This couple, by their tiny actions, are American heroes. I've lately found myself in positions of imminent arrest because of anti-war activities and I know how dry the mouth gets, how the pulse spikes, how drained is the blood from the limbs. It's scary, truly, to face arrest even for a small crime.

So these two Menonites? Hurrah.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Ouch!

At the end of this video clip (you may have to watch a brief ad first) an impassioned woman parliamentarian pleads with the US not to withdraw and abandon Iraq to its chaos, since, she says, we caused it by drawing al Qaida to Iraq. Her appeal not only has logical consistency, it tugged at my conscience, too. I hate when that happens.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Come September?

We're told that September is a make-or-break deadline for Bush's surge, but I think it may come earlier. If, as scheduled, the Iraqi parliament takes its two-month summer recess starting in July without resolving the "benchmark" legislative logjams over proposed constitutional amendments, power sharing and an "oil law," even US Republicans will jump off Bush's ship of state.

Corporate takeover of everything?

This article describes an emerging phenomenon: privatization of public infrastructure. The reasons for it--providing ready cash for strapped local governments, reducing costs of upkeep and labor and thus lowering local taxes--seem so attractive to governments that the trend feels irrestible. The results, however, are appalling, as detailed in the article. Once all highways and bridges are owned by GM or Burger King or by blind trusts of investors (including, likely, foreigners) can our colleges be far behind? UCLA renamed FedEx U (or UPSU?), the Washington Huskies becoming the Starbucks, the Berkeley campus changed to Nike U?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Just so you know...

I'm not a liberal party-liner on all issues. For example, although I understand that science has by now definitively established that our planet is growing warmer and (to a lesser degree of certainty) that an increase of "greenhouse gasses" contributes to the warming, I remain unconvinced that "human causes," such as emission of pollutants, destruction of forests, asphalting of cities, are significant factors in the process. A documentary that draws these distinctions may be found here. No slap at Al Gore intended: I'd like him to enter the presidential race at all events.

However, nothwithstanding my hesitancy to buy the entire "man-made warming" argument, I still believe we should stop ravaging the Amazon forest, stop driving fossil-fuel vehicles, stop many of the practices we've devoloped that render our planet less habitable and cause global conflict. I do so, however, not (yet, anyway) out of a founded fear of the effects of these actions on the temperature of Earth, but rather because I like the Earth the way it was, with abundant wildlife, clean water, clean air, open space--all that good stuff. Indeed, I believe a major contributor to the degradation of the planet is our exploding populations in the "third world"--which will be exacerbated by the imminent shift of many nations of that world from "third" to "second" or even "first," as countries become more industrialized.

So, I fret for our planet, just like a good liberal. But not for all the "right" (or is it "left"?) reasons.

This is sovereignty?

From the Iraqslogger:

"In other news, Az-Zaman reported that yesterday’s parliamentary session had to be postponed due to the absence of the speaker and the vice-chairs.
According to the newspaper, the deputies who came to attend had to suffer from the lack of air conditioning in the parliament hall, because US troops refused to allow the tankers carrying fuel for the parliament’s generators from entering the Green Zone -– where the parliament is located."

Interpreting the violence

In today's post, Professor Juan Cole attempts to explain the bases for the various acts of violence in Iraq: a carbombing in a Shiite city, another in a Sunni area, a third in Fallujah, plus the "smaller" attacks throughout the nation. He's an expert on the region but is the first to concede that his explanations are speculative. But even so, the varying reasons for the various attacks demonstrates how out of control the situation is throughout Iraq, and why leaving our troops there to umpire this madness is nuts.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Scary numbers

For a long time Bush's approval ratings in national polls have hovered in the mid-30's. This is lately being mirrored in the Rasmussen polls, which does a daily sampling and usually tracks a bit higher, in terms of Bush's approval, because it asks people if they "somewhat approve" as well as whether they "strongly approve" and then the poll combines the two percentages for the overall approval rating.

Rasmussen also asks respondents if they "somewhat disapprove" and if they "strongly disapprove," and here's where the numbers are shocking. While the "somewhat" level has remained relatively constant at about 15%, the "strongly disapprove" has lately soared, as of yesterday (5/7) reaching 46%. Now that's freaky. Almost a majority who find themselves urgently opposed to the nation's leader. Doesn't this mean that an attack on Iran is inevitable?

Dennis on YouTube

Here's Kucinich's spot on YouTube, apparently to appeal to young, hip voters. And you wonder why he's going nowhere? (And who's that lady behind him, towering over him, mugging at the camera? It's apparently his new wife, Elizabeth. So, why not introduce her and then move her a foot or two to the right?) And his quick, geeky speech: For christsakes, is this the best candidate the Left can put up?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Which adage applies?

This story about American troops' concern about Iraqi's army wholesale arresting and imprisoning of innocent Iraqis. Is it, "Pot calling the kettle black," or "Do as I say, not as I do"? Or is it simply, "Shut the fuck up, gringos, and get out of my country!"

Finally, Bush and al Qaida agree on something

Both are opposed to the Democrats' plan to withdraw US forces from Iraq.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Condi sucks

I need to vent. I'm tired of hearing about how Condi Rice is a "realist" in foreign policy, whose counsel to Bush (presumably like Colin Powell's) is akin to that of the advisers to Bush I, as opposed to the "hardliners" like Rumsfeld, Feith, Wolfie, and of course, Cheney. Here is a typical such reference in an article which raises the long-lingering and unanswered question of "whatever happened to those five Iranian officials that the U.S. grabbed in Iraq five months ago?" (As to which question, I ask: Can you imagine the uproar in our country if Iran grabbed five U.S. officials in Iraq and held them incommunicado for months?)

Anyhoo--About this notion that Condi is the moderating voice in foreign policy, whispering common-sense solutions to Bush but being overridden by Cheney. What's the evidence of that, other than White House pundits' assertions? I mean, Condi was the first to use the "mushroom cloud" metaphor. (Bush's speech to that effect came days later.) She's in the forefront of the push to further sanction Iran; to condemn the results of the Palestinian election of Hamas representatives; to call Iraqi insurgents "terrorists" at every press conference. She, in her public utterances, appears to be as much a hardliner as the rest of Bush's advisers. At best, she's like Colin Powell, or, as lately revealed, George Tenet: A Bush enabler, unwilling to do other than nudge him and mumble him toward sanity, but at all events to stay onboard the ship.

And yet, Condi seems to get a free pass. Check out these figures from Rasmussen about her "favorability rating" (57%) as compared to the much lower ratings of others in Bush's cabal, except of course Colin Powell. Certainly those ratings can't be based on her performance as, initally, National Security Adviser (whom both Richard Clarke and Tenet assert was deaf to their alarms about imminent al Qaida attacks in the U.S.), and lately as Secretary of State. I mean--pardon me for asking--what exactly has Condi done to warrant "favorability"? The answer: Absolutely nothing.

Now, it seems, Condi is about to force a showdown with the Congress, in the person of Representative Henry Waxman, over her testimony about the insertion of the infamous "16 words" in Bush's 2003 State of the Union address. Waxman has subpoenaed her and she's apparently resisting and, just yesterday, has apparently refused to allow her staff to testify about the Niger-yellowcake assertion. Let's hope we learn from this confrontation where she stands: Is she a moderating voice in this administration, or is she, like Powell and Tenet, just window-dressing for the evil forces within it?

Check out these numbers

of Americans who, according to a Rasmussen poll, believe Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance. Okay, so the 22% who apparently so believe can be accounted for as the usual "lunatic fringe" set, what about the 22% who say they're not sure (and almost half of the Democrats polled are uncertain).

That such high percentages of people can believe their leader is capable of such a monstrously barbarian act as to allow the attacks to take place is alarming, isn't it?

Friday, May 04, 2007

As a service to my readers

I'm linking to this article describing the top twenty-five online skams and pranks. (My doing so may keep my email inbox free of some of the forwards of such items, too.)

P.S. Among the best on the list is number 14, a link to a website that purports to track the location of your, or anyone's, cellphone via satellite links by simply typing in its area code and number. Try it--it's clever. (Please note that I've not forwarded it to you by email.)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Who's in charge here?

Okay, so now, as predicted, the Democrats have backed down on their "withdrawal-timeline" funding bill after Bush's veto and, after a meeting with Bush, will offer some half-baked voluntary "benchmark" version. Bush will counter with some even weaker version, and in the next few weeks there will be news stories about the two sides trying to resolve differences, ending--just as Karl Rove had scripted--with some form of funding bill that both sides "can live with."

Guess what, you dumb fucking idiot Democrats: You've just made Bush's war your war too. Congratulations for removing the single most devastating issue Republicans face in 2008.

Update: Here's what's going on during the day following various meetings between members of Congress and White House representatives. Posturing and talking, with little accommodation by either side; all of which feels to me like the Democrats are trying to find a way to give in without appearing to, while Bush is allowed to play the role of stubbornly straighforward troop supporter.

A note, however: As much as I dislike her--and her candidacy--I do like Hillary's idea of a bill de-authorizing the Iraq war. It feels right, as a matter of legality and principle as well as tactics. If Bush/Cheney lied us into war, their authority to conduct it should be withdrawn. The bill won't pass, of course, but it's a sharp statement of disapproval of the invasion without being subject to the complaint that it restricts funds for our troops; and (wouldn't it be wonderful?) it would serve as a vehicle for hearings on the administration's prewar lies, since that question would be directly relevant to the subject of the pending legislation.

One exception to my iron-clad resistance to capital punishment

is for this judge.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

In case you missed it

here's the video, in its entirety, of Bill Moyers' PBS show, "Buying the War," about the media's failure to report objectively in the run-up to the Iraq invasion.

Watch it and weep.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Odd man out

Over the last six years, since the 9/11 attacks, I've heard commentators use the words "everybody" and "all Americans" to describe the mass of us who supported George Bush in the wake of the attacks. Well, I didn't, and neither did a small percentage of Americans, about ten percent according to this chart.

My reaction to Bush's bullhorn speech and its sequels as he marched us to "war" in Afghanistan (not to mention Iraq) was at the time and has remained that the attacks were the work of a small bunch of crazies whom we should capture and punish, to be sure, but most importantly that we should react to their attacks with calm resolve to deal with the issues that underlay the fanatics's actions. I know that sounds wussy, but that's what I felt.

And now, six years later, as we've done precisely the opposite, it turns out I, and the small percent of decent folks who believed as I did, were right. Bush and his followers have succeeded, instead, in increasing the acts of terrorism around the world.

Now, wouldn't you think they'd listen to us about ending the madness in Iraq? Well, you'd be wrong.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

MoDo Rocks!

Maureen Dowd's piece about Tenet's soon-to-be-published "tell-all" is as fun to read as Molly Ivins' columns were. Like Molly, she's taken to labeling her subjects--Tenet is "Slam-Dunk," Cheney is "Darth"--but does, probably out of deference for Molly--avoid "Shrub," using the more generic "Junior" instead.

Enjoy.

Weekend warriors

If there be any doubt about whether the "surge" is working, this report of Saturday's carnage in Iraq should provide the answer.

Friday, April 27, 2007

It's all my fault

If I hadn't made that offhand remark yesterday about Riverbend's failure to post to her blog of late, she wouldn't have decided to leave Iraq.

You want pathos, tragedy, outrage? Try reading her post.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Body counting

It now turns out that the Bush-touted "decline in sectarian violence in Baghdad" is based on skewed numbers. Not skewed, actually: fabricated. The number of bodies that are included in Bush's calculations don't take into account the major killer, namely, bombs carried by cars or suicides.

What won't this administration do to manipulate the public's perception of this awful war?

(I'll keep track to any MSM publication of this new outrage.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Must see TV

Now that Riverbend has quit posting to her blog (at least lately), check out this video blog (vlog) by some Iraqi young folks. Often sad, always moving.