Wednesday, December 31, 2003

A kettle of fish/A walk in the park

Okay, let's see. A group of Turkomen (whoever they are) and arabs gathered yesterday in oil-rich Kirkuk (which once was a Kurdish city (whatever that is), from which Saddam some years ago drove the Kurds) to protest the Kurds' desire to include the city in an independent entity, not controlled by a central Iraqi government. The Iraqi police in Kirkuk (whoever they are) fired on the group, killing two and injuring several. The US Army wasn't directly involved apparently.

Meanwhile, in Baghdad, the Kurdish representatives to the Iraqi Governing Council (whatever it governs) are plumping for an independent Kurdish entity, including Kirkuk, to be recognized right away and to be spelled out in the governing law that is to be promulgated before the constitution is drawn up and voted on in 2005. The other Iraqi representatives don't want the Kurds to become a separate entity. Neither, of course, do the Turks to the north of Iraq, because that would likely cause the Turkish Kurds (whoever they are) to want to join their southern neighbors by severing themselves from Turkey.

The US is an ally of Turkey, and so the US probably doesn't want an independent Kurdish entity in Iraq, either. (Besides, there's all that oil!) But a decision would seem to be the province of the Iraqi Governing Council under the "democracy" that the US is supposedly promoting in Iraq. So do we take sides on this issue? Do we support the Kurds who are seeking autonomy (they were our allies against Saddam, and may have been responsible for his capture, recall)? Do we keep hands off? Do we use our troops to quell disturbances, thereby becoming embroiled in what amounts to a Middle-East civil war?

Compared to the latter, a land war in Asia is a walk in the park.

Boy oh boy, is 2004 going to be fun to watch!

Forex news

I had to emerge from my dialup-driven holiday hiatus to inform loyal readers (you'll learn it on this blog first) that the dollar's slide has become free fall. A telling chart of dollar/euro price over time may be found here, and shows that after hanging at alltime lows (in the $1.24 range) for several days, the dollar tested the $1.25 area for the first time on Monday and by this morning (early, early) had already dropped into the $1.26 range. A decline of a penny less than a day of trading!
I predict that the mainstream news, as well as the experts, will now address the reality of a plummeting dollar, which will in turn weaken the dollar further, which will in short order put the skids on the "recovery" because the fed will have to increase interest rates to maintain the buyers' interest in US debt instruments, which are, as we know, the only means by which the US is able to raise the money needed to feed its imbalance between spending and income.
I don't like to be the bearer of bad economic tidings; but my pain of doing so is balanced by joy watching Bush's buddies in the capital/corporate markets finally reveal that Bush's economic recovery has been a debt-fed fraud.

DKos presents an extended message board on the subject here.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Busting Ben Franklin

The FBI says local cops should be on the lookout for people carrying almanacs. 'Cuz dey got lots uh information, ya know. Like about cities an bridges an stuff. Morons. I swear, the practical intelligence of our Homeland Security folks is inversely proportional to the current terror alert level. Which, by the way is Ernie.

My grandfather liked the World Almanac. He gave me a lot of books, and the last one was a World Almanac. If it had been dangerous, I assure you he would have warned me. He was good at that sort of thing; always reminded me to check my tires.

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.
--Albert Einstein

FBI urges police to watch for people carrying almanacs

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Despair Is Not an Option

A fine short essay by William Sloan Coffin, from The Nation. One of my favorite magazines.

Brutality of US Troops

Don't worry, this NY Times article is about atrocities committed by US troops in Vietnam. I'm sure nothing like this is going on now. War isn't this insane any more, so our young soldiers aren't so afraid, wouldn't be pushed to such stark regions of madness.

Report on Brutal Vietnam Campaign Stirs Memories

Warren Buffet and me

So, I'm not crazy, after all. This article summarizes my previous observations about the sliding dollar and its potential effect on inflation and the welfare of the US economy generally. If Buffet and Soros are snapping up foreign currencies, something's gonna give.

Whoa there, cowboy

SF Chronicle points out it's time for the Bush administration to stop trying to strip defendants of their constitutional rights to due process.
"Even during a national emergency, the executive branch doesn't have the right to a wholesale denial of rights."
Courts draw line on civil liberties

Defenseless Defenders

The Army deliberately decided not to equip Nat'l Guard units with defensive equipment, to save money. Your tax dollars at work, but on a break. [ News ]

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Watching paint dry

I'm spending the holidays in Arizona, and my only connection to the internet is by dialup. The result is that I devote most of my online time watching a blank screen, waiting for the meter on the bottom to creep across before the image of a new page appears.
So, I won't be posting for a week or so, until I can get back to my DSL modem, which is surely no cable hookup, but it beats the hell out of sitting here doing nothing but grinding my teeth.

Meanwhile, I recommend you check out life in the new Baghdad, as told by Riverbend. From what she describes, my travails aren't worthy of complaint, not at all.

Monday, December 22, 2003

"Dishonest Dubya" Lying Action Figure

I'm getting ready to take off for Christmas. ... And by take off, I don't mean to land on the deck of an aircraft carrier. ... See y'all later. Thanks to Pete for this link to the #1 item on my Santa list:

"Dishonest Dubya" Lying Action Figure

"And when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace."
-- George W. Bush

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Beat the clock

No less an authority than the Congressional Budget Office, the official surveyor of federal income and expense, predicts disaster for the nation's purse unless drastic steps are taken to decrease spending and increase revenues to the treasury (read higher taxes). The crunch is not far off, given the imminent growth of demand upon the federal fisc in the form of dramatically higher numbers of social security claimants as boomers begin to retire.

"Failing to act would drive the accumulated federal debt to unsustainable levels, said the study, released Friday. 'Taken to the extreme, such a path could result in an economic crisis,' including the possibilities that foreign investors would pull out, the dollar's value plunge, interest rates and prices soar and stock markets collapse.

"'The longer that lawmakers delay acting to counter an unsustainable budgetary situation, the larger the spending cuts or tax increases will eventually have to be,' the 60-page study warned."

I can just see the White House folks, praying they can put off the catastrophe until the election. For my part, I hope the slide into disaster starts soon, so the blame may be laid at Bush's feet, where it surely belongs, and so we have a chance to elect someone who will take steps to alleviate the inevitable pain of Bush's no-tax-much-spend policies.

Time to place a call to Yap?

About this war – the one in Iraq, you know – it’s worse than I thought it was going to be. I pictured running gun battles in the streets, with the Iraqis having a frustrating home field advantage. But I also thought it would have a beginning, a horrible process, and an end. I figured at some point, before too long, we’d beat them. Superior troops, weapons and tactics. I didn’t think it would linger on like this, so much like Vietnam.

I saw on CNN a day or two ago that the 200 mark had been hit. 200 American dead since the aircraft carrier speech. And I don’t think we’re much closer to neutralizing the insurgency than on that day – a day that will live in stupidity. Pulling Saddam from his lair won't do it, friends. They still hate us, and they're still willing to do violence.

This war has been an exercise in monumental arrogance. The aftermath of “major operations” has been an orgy of hypocrisy. We can start with the fact that Halliburton – and for that matter the U.S. Government – is just as guilty of dealing with Old Shaggy Bunkerbutt than the countries that have been precluded from rebuilding contracts for fraternizing with the dictator. If every country and company that ever dealt with Hussein were locked out of rebuilding deals, Iraq would get rebuilt by the Masai and the Federated States of Micronesia.

I guess it boils down to the obvious. Leadership is needed to end the insanity. And nobody currently in office is up to the job. … Dis-appoint Bush in ’04!

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Democracy in Iraq, but not in US

The irony overwhelms.

A quote from a Shia cleric:

"We don't want a dictatorship of the majority to dominate," said Mr. Hakim. "But we do want to preserve the rights of the majority, which is the Shia, and the simplest right is to have the head of state come from the majority. Isn't that correct?"

Debt forgiveness

Since whiffs of it began to seep into the news, I've wondered what this "debt forgiveness" campaign by the US, lately through envoy James Baker, was about. Now I understand. (Click on the "press releases" link.)

"Creditors" who financed Hussein's regime, including the US, were unlikely to be repaid by the new Iraq, so in the guise of forgiveness, they may see some money through IMF sanction of new, albeit lesser, debt, saddling the new Iraq with the sums.

This, like so many other matters the US is "handling" for Iraq, such as the opening of Iraqi commerce to foreign ownership, is done without legal sanction from a democratically founded Iraqi entity, and is done in furtherance of US commercial and political aims, leaving Iraq's truly-constituted government with nothing to do but design the national flag and compose the national anthem.

my cat

Wanna see my cat?
Make sure your sound is turned on first.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Even if taken with a grain of salt, a grain of truth abides

This ezine may not be unbiased, but if just one-third of its reports approximate the truth, I am ashamed for our military, ashamed to be an American.

Freepers, creepers

I will likely use the word "Freeper" or "Freepers" hereafter in this blog. An exhaustive definition may be found here. Once you read it you'll appreciate how handy the word is in my parlance.


BBC reports that Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, the present President of the Iraqi Governing Council and a leading Shia Muslim who lived for years in exile in Iran (#2 nation of Bush's "axis of evil"), is making cozy with Iran. Much too cozy, I'm certain, for Bush, Rummie and Wolfie, who are stridently demanding that Iraq be scoured for nuclear potentiality.

Not only is Al-Hakim asserting that Iraq should pay Iran $100 billion in reparations for Saddam Hussein's war against Iran (highly embarrassing to Bush, one would think, when he's asking Iraq's creditors and other nations that are owed reparations, such as Kuwait, to forgive indebtedness from Iraq), but the BBC reporter also made this tiny observation:

"The [Iraqi invasion of Iran] claimed the lives of at least one million people, and during the conflict Iraq used nerve gas against the Iranians. The Iranian Government is preparing a comprehensive complaint against Saddam Hussein for 'crimes' against the Islamic republic, calling for the captured former Iraqi leader to be tried before an international court.
"Some Iranian observers say the US should also be in the dock with Saddam Hussein, as Washington supported him at the time of the war."

How long do you think the Bushies are going to allow these "Iranian observers" to remain so observing? For that matter, surviving?

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Let them eat war

The psychologist author of a definitive piece about Nascar Dads is interviewed here. The article also contains a link to her original essay examining the incongruity of the high percentage of white workingstiff voters that Bush is likely to attract in the upcoming election--and the psychological underpinnings their attraction to him--unless the Democratic candidate can recoup them for the party that deserves their allegiance.

Martial Law

Do I like seeing people protest in favor of that asshat Saddam? No. As I said yesterday, I wish Clinton had succeeding in killing him. I think the support he still gets from some morons is revolting. (I continue to be surprised by President Bush's approval ratings too.)

Still it's funny I don't remember martial law being declared in Iraq by the United States. I remember reading in history class that the Nazis posted formal notices of occupation and martial law, at least in the city of Paris. I remember when Baghdad fell, a couple of US flags were seen, then quickly removed. Things are not always what they seem. To borrow a syntax from Forrest Gump, occupation is as occupation does.

"Sometimes we must interfere.
When human lives are endangered,
when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Whenever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe."
-- Elie Wiesel

Accordingly, I question whether American troops have the moral authority or legal right, under international law, to impose a ban on speech and peaceful demonstrations by Iraqi civilians. In a democracy, the military does not fire on peaceful citizens. I realize that not all demonstrations following the capture of the despot Saddam have been peacful, but if Iraqi's are being threatened with death for any demonstrations at all, well dammit, that's not what we're about!

Does this sound like freedom and democracy to you?

Imagine being a Tikriti who happens to believe that Saddam Hussein is worthy of support even after his capture by the US forces. This is what happens if you show that support.

Silly me

In my earlier post, "A Formidable Task," I neglected to mention this obvious hurdle that the Democratic nominee faces from Bush: The public trial of Saddam Hussein next summer (why do you think they're already talking about how long it will take to assemble the evidence?), in which, with full coverage by CNN, Fox, and all other networks (and with US viewers glued to the tube, awaiting and getting daily gore--that's without a capital letter) Bush's "victory" will be incessantly trumpeted. No matter what happens in the real "war on terr'r", that trial will deflect any losses the US or the rest of the world will suffer at the hands of the terrorists. By capturing Saddam alive, Bush has bought himself months of good press, intensely covered and followed by a US citizenry that loves this Springer-Court-Reality TV madness.

God (if you exist and listen to decent humans), help us.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Good Riddance?

Ooops, our president seems confused. From his personal message to Saddam, it appears that someone has lead Mr. Bush to believe that Saddam is dead. As a Texan, he ought to know the buckboard goes behind the horse.

President Bush said when asked if he had a personal message for Saddam: "Good riddance. The world is a better place without you...." [news]

Ain’t Nuthin’ but a Family Thing

On September 26, 2002, President Bush spoke in Houston at a fundraiser for a Republican candidate for the Senate. At that time, his Orwellian rhetoric against anyone skeptical of his foreign policy was just getting warmed up, and he took the Senate – then controlled by the Democrats – to task, impugning their patriotism, for dragging their feet over Homeland Security. Then his speech shifted focus to Saddam Hussein.

The president delivered the usual litany of Saddam’s defiance of the UN, his malice toward the US, his threat to world peace, etc. Then Bush said something very interesting:

"After all, this is the guy who tried to kill my dad."

I’ll pause a moment and let that sink in. Think about it. … Yeah. You see what I mean. Remember when George the Elder went to Kuwait for his victory lap, or whatever, during the Clinton Administration? Iraqis tried to kill him. And Clinton sent them some cruise missiles for an attitude adjustment.

I gotta be honest. If somebody tried to kill my Dad, and I became president and had a chance to kick his ass, his whole country’s ass, and render him to a babbling, matted idiot living in a hovel, you better your Euphrates I’d do it. Probably. I’d make him sorry somehow. I like to think I wouldn’t expend thousands of dead and wounded to do it, but I’d take care of business.

George H.W. Bush was, after all, the duly elected and duly replaced ex-president of the United States. My political differences with him aside, you don’t try to assassinate such a person and get away with it. (Or any of us for that matter.) So I’m glad that Saddam got his ass handed to him. He got what he deserved. I wholeheartedly dissent against the war, but I’m pleased with this particular result of it. I wish Clinton had gotten Saddam with a missile, and made it all moot.

Now if Bush had stood up in front of Congress and the Republic and said, “We’re goin’ to get his bastard ‘cause he done tried ta kill Pa,” I don’t think he would have gotten the misbegotten mandate he got last Spring. I suspect the polls would be a tad more lopsided, and the vote in Congress less partisan. But at least he would have gone into the history books as making a little more sense. And eventually, rationality is going to raise it’s bewildered head and ask, “What in the wide world of sports were people thinking back in ’03? What did all those kids die for anyway?”

It’s nice he’s on ice, but it’s not worth the price. - Bush calls Saddam 'the guy who tried to kill my dad' - Sep. 27, 2002

The dollar continues to tumble

After a brief favorable bump upon the capture of Saddam Hussein, the dollar continued to slip, reaching record low levels (one euro now costs $1.23). According to this Reuters article , a selloff of the dollar will continue, only to abate with possible good economic news. Abate momentarily, but then continue, because the unsoundness of the dollar is based on structural defects in the US economy, in particular the massive trade deficit that is building up at record levels, month after month.
There may come a time when those who are keeping the dollar from free fall by making supportive purchases decide to abandon ship because of the declining value of the dollar. If so, we are in for a rugged adjustment in America and, likely, globally.
All of Bush's positives listed in the previous posts will then come to naught, and he'll be another Bush one-termer.
While I agree that the Democrats must now--immediately--stop stabbing each other in this pre-primary period (Kerry and Lieberman's recent attacks on Dean are disgusting), and must come up with a positive message in order to attract votes, it wouldn't hurt their chances if the economy should tank.
I'll keep you--and myself--posted.

A formidable task

Here's what the Democratic nominee for President must overcome in order to win election over Bush:

1. Bush's incumbency--not its effects, which are discussed below, but the mere fact of incumbency. Although incumbents don't always win (Carter, Ford, Bush I), they usually do (FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton).
2. Bush's campaign chest. Nuff said.
3. Bush's clever handlers. Rove, of course, but also terrific speech writers, who've created for Bush's persona a delivery of brief, simple bursts that carry brief, simple messages. He's become a good public speaker now and will have slick, effective ads, displayed round the clock.
4. A resurgent economy, even if it's not real, and even if it unfairly distributes its largesse. The media and the markets have fallen in love with the rebound and that's all that matters, apparently, even though family income continues to fall.
5. A compliant media, plus a baldly supportive Fox-TV network. Not only do these sources trumpet Bush's achievements, he (and his minions) know how to manipulate them. Did anyone not wince when Tribune Bremer let out, "We Got Him," knowing full well that his announcement was tailored to fit across banner headlines?
6. A favorable Congress, willing and able to bury scandals, to time their deliberations and effect enactments to assist his re-election.
7. Bush's control of events. Not just a huge "October surprise," which I long ago predicted would be his announcement of a major withdrawal of troops from Iraq in the month before the election, but mini-surprises along the way. Because the media and the public are able to carry only a fixed amount of news at a time, Bush (or Rumsfeld, or Condi, etc.) can drop an announcement or create a situational crisis whenever it suits them to override some unfavorable development. Witness, for example, the announcement of domestic "alerts" whenever an untoward event (such as the shooting down of helicopters) arises.
8. The "Nascar dad" syndrome, about which I blogged some weeks ago. This is the notion--borne out, I believe, by the election of Schwarzenegger in California--that white workingstiff males are experiencing an anger fueled by their loss of status and income that translates into support for macho, angry male politicians. (A 1970's version of this syndrome could be seen in the TV series, "All in the Family," with Archie Bunker as its protagonist.) Bush portrays his war on terrorism to feed just such anger, and he's got overwhelming support among this group of voters. An adjunct of the syndrome is, I believe, seen in what I call the "Oakland Raider dad" in California, carried by Latino males.
9. Bush is a "war president." Of course he both declared it to be a war and controls its duration, in in the sense that so long as he decides it's ongoing, it is. But no matter, it engenders the fear and resistance to "change horses" that a real war does.
10. Bush's character myth. This excellent article lays out this concept, frighteningly. It's the product of media, polish, cunning and swagger, cloaked in God-phrasing.
11. Corporate support. In addition to the massive infusion of campaign funds, corporations and the wealthy who've fared so well under Bush are also influential in more subtle ways. They can suggest, through their ads and presence, that all is well with America and that thus the status quo should be maintained. They do this daily, by casting out images of a prosperous, well-functioning America, not calling attention to the gross disparities of wealth and benefits.
13. Voter turnout. Always favors the Republican candidate.
14. Luck. The guy's just blessed, let's face it. He's truly a miserable failure in all his endeavors and yet he always lands on his feet--ten rungs up the ladder from where he fell. It's the story of the "fortunate son," this time as President.

There are doubtless more reasons why Bush is favored in 2004. If you have any additions, please submit them via Comment.

The foregoing makes you wonder why we even bother.
Because, quite simply, we must.

Justice Displayed

Blog-contributor John:

The last thing we need is for Bush to crow about how it was his focused measures that brought about the capture of Saddam. We should instead give thanks that Saddam was stupid enough to be caught.

Saddam should not be tried by a military tribunal or by an Iraqi court. He should be taken immediately before the Hague and tried for crimes against humanity like Milosevic. He should not be executed because that would only make him a martyr and show the world that the state of morality of the world community is no higher than that of fundamentalist religions.

Now, more than ever, we need to turn this criminal over to the international court to show we truly are members of an international community and that there is a structure for judging and providing justice even for a ruthless and bloodthirsty dictator. If we fail to stand up for justice even for Saddam, we fail to support a major principle of democracy (for which we fought a war), namely, that world organizations are the proper institutions to adjudicate and sentence those who commit crimes against humanity.

Happy Day

Happy Day! Not Saddam, I've done enough damage on that topic. But today (Sunday) is my buddy Erik's birthday. Happy birthday, Erik. Hope it was a very nice one indeed. You'll notice that the clouds dissipated just in time after the morning rain to give you a clear and brilliant afternoon. I could take credit for that, but sadly I had no more to do with it than Bush had to do with finding whatshisname. Nevertheless, I hope you'll think of me, and this fine afternoon of birdsinging and untangled sunlight, come election day.

Captured Saddam: street party

Well, I've had a busy day. My bedroom TV comes on automatically on CNN, so I knew before I got up that Saddam had been captured. But I haven't really had time to sit down and enjoy the show. Actually, I could've watched this evening, but I was watching Dinosaur Planet with my Dad. So there.

I've had time now to read some major news reports on the capture and its aftermath, and few things come to mind:

I wonder who gets the reward, and whether they have to pay anybody taxes on it. Do they get it in a lump, and move out of the Middle East for someplace nicer, or in payments, and just buy a nicer place in Iraq?

Are the Fab Five from Queer Eye available to give Saddam a makeover? 'Cause he really needs some help.

Now, I've never claimed that the average American is exactly a high wattage bulb, but just how stupid are the people in Kirkuk? Check this out:

"In northern Kirkuk, eight people were killed and 80 wounded by shots fired in the air during celebrations of the capture, said hospital official Shehab Ahmed."

I'm sorry, I know that's offensive. But give me a friggin break. Lemmings have better odds. That's like fish in a barrel shooting themselves. Maybe we could drop some leaflets out of Rumsfelds's plane, next time he swoops in. A nice, simple, catchy rhyme:

I shot a bullet in the air
And it came down I knew not where.
But something killed my neighbor Fred
By blowing off part of his head.

That's why I get the big bucks folks. I'm here at Erik's Drive-in Supper Club almost nightly. Hold your fire, and don't forget to tip your waitress.

Yahoo! News - Captured Saddam Faces Strict Gravity

Sunday, December 14, 2003

The good news: Saddam was captured. The bad news: Osama's heading to Iraq

Now that Saddam Hussein is in custody, we will learn the extent to which his continued freedom has fueled the ongoing violence in Iraq. There will be daily revelations by the coalition and the Iraqi Governing Council, keeping the fact of his confinement in the news, especially as his pretrial and trial for war crimes proceed.

This is great news for Bush, of course, not only as a public relations coup, but because it may cause the Iraqi resistance to diminish over time. But not entirely, because, apparently, al Qaeda is on the way.

It's better Saddam was captured now, rather than six months from now, since by election time much of the bounce Bush receives will have dissipated as the expected infighting between Iraqi factions escalates and al Qaeda joins the fray. Bush's failure in the war on terr'r will be revealed for the fraudulent warmongering that it is.

I hope.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

The pallor of the press

With the ink not yet dry on the report of the Pentagon's investigation of Halliburton for overcharging the US on gasoline purchases, Bush demands repayment and touts that this development shows how diligently his Defense Department is monitoring the Iraq reconstruction contractors. The WaPo, supposedly a watchdog of the administration, reports the foregoing today as if it's the entire story.

But of course it isn't, and WaPo knows it. California Congressman Henry Waxman has been complaining for months about the gasoline overcharge only to be rebuffed by the Army Corps of Engineers. Reports of Waxman's claims were even published in WaPo, but no mention is made in today's story of the earlier charges and their denial.

The inference, of course, is that Bush and his cronies are dutifully minding the purse, when the opposite is true. They're pulling their hands from the cookie jar only when mommy catches them--and then claiming they were only counting the cookies.

This can be expected. But it's not expected that the press would let them come away from the report looking like auditor-heroes.

There's bad news and there's bad news

The failure of the summit of the European Union to reach a compromise on a constitutional provision dealing with voting power could have disastrous effects on the viability of the EU, particularly as it nears the date when a large bloc of east European nations is about to join. The deadlock pits France and Germany, in particular, against Spain and Poland, the former wanting a voting system that takes into account their greater populations (like our House of Representatives) and the latter wanting to stick with the method that counts each nation's vote equally (like our Senate). (A note: The split parallels those nations' attitude toward the US invasion of Iraq. Coincidence?)

This failure affects the US directly, it seems to me. A robust EU, with a strong economy, a large and vocal population, and political influence could operate as a counterweight to the US in world affairs, could contain the out-of-control pickup truck that Kyle describes below. Without it (witness the recent war in Iraq, where it was split severely on the advisability and propriety of US policy) our nation can blunder on with impunity.

Some say the Cold War was less dangerous than now because the two blocs contained each other. I'm not certain of that, but I am certain that with Bush at the wheel and no cops on patrol, get the hell off the road!

Friday, December 12, 2003

Boomerang Boneheads

I can't agree that this is the most ugly event in American history. I think the Civil War will always hold that title. But Jan 2001 to the end of the Bush fiasco may go down in history as a close second. We are living in a time of insanity. This Administration is a big menacing pickup truck, tearing across the ranch and loosing lug nuts and hubcaps in every direction. How long before we're running on the rims? Are we now?

I don't think George W. Bush is really at the wheel at all. I think he's sittin' on the hood, takin' potshots at trees and hollerin' at the cattle. So who's drivin'? Beats me, but that ol' rattlesnake Rumsfeld has run roughshod long enough. Time for that boy to turn in his spurs.

"It is equal to live in a tragic land to live in a tragic time."
--Wallace Stevens

Bush's "peurile taunts"

WaPo's essay about the substance of my "Bring 'em On Redux" post says it all. The "incoherence" of Bush's handling of "postwar" Iraq (in addition, of course, to his monstrous invasion in the first place) has finally gained some traction.

Maybe the Bush-lovers don't care how many young Americans die in Afghanistan and Iraq, or how many Afghanis and Iraqis are killed by our troops. Maybe they don't care how mad it is to try to impose our version of democracy on a populace that yearns to govern itself, in its own way. Maybe they don't care how many tax dollars are burned up in support of our supposed war on terr'r. But this, by God, they care about: Fraud, corruption and waste of our tax dollars.

Here's what I think. This Halliburton/BKR overcharge issue is going to open up the entire question of the misuse of our money in Iraq, the failure to use Iraqis and their business for rebuilding, the skimming of dollars for unnecessary bureaucracy and paperwork, etc. I think we have a real scandal in the making, which, together with the rebuff Bush gave to France, Germany, Russia and Canada in the rebuilding contracts, could turn the tide against this most ugly event in American history.

Time for a bit of Humor?

Care to end your worried week on a light note? Here are a bunch of signs spotted at the peace march in Washington in January. And if you get to the bottom and go to page 4, there's a handy list of the differences between the US Govt and the Terr'rists. It helps to be able to keep them Humor section

And remember, It takes a worried man to sing a worried song.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

"Bring 'em on" redux

From The Independent:

Bush laughs off critics of 'spoils of war' bidding
George Bush poured fuel on the flames of the Iraq contracts dispute yesterday with a sneering dismissal of a suggestion by the German Chancellor that the decision to bar Germany, France Russia and Canada from bidding might violate international law.

"International law? I'd better call my lawyer," the American President joked in response to a reporter's question at the White House.

The lunatics are running the war on terr'r

We drop bombs on kids in Afghanistan (again). We spend millions of dollars to train Iraqi troops, only to have one-third of them desert before they see duty. We announce that the upcoming contracts for "rebuilding" Iraq will be delayed, after massive complaints about the Pentagon's decision to allow only coalition countries to bid on them; on the next day, we ask the same countries we excluded to forgive Iraq's debt to them. We direct the Iraq ministry to stop tallying the country's war dead.

Meanwhile, our dead are piling up, killed by "toy cars, Coke cans and animal carcasses."

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

A diversion

Even I, an inveterate Bush-bashing websurfer, need an occasional vacation, and so I surf over here, where all is revealed.

Many of you have already found the site, I'm sure. Those of you that haven't--enjoy. But don't forget to come back here if you can pull yourself away.

Consider the source

It's arch-conservative, Bush-backing William Kristol, in a WaPo column--and he lucidly points the way to a Dean victory over Bush in 2004. He doesn't wish it, of course, but he demonstrates that it could indeed happen.
Read it and rejoice!

I persist in doubting the obvious

The latest madness: The Pentagon (Wolfowitz) has determined to exclude from bidding on Iraq reconstruction contracts any companies from nations that didn't support our invasion, most notably, by name, France, Germany and Russia. Part of the payback that Colin Powell warned them about.
I am amazed, again, again, at the audacity--the unvarnished, arrogant exercise of power--of this Administration.
I am amazed even more that I am amazed. I feel like the Jewish family in prewar Germany who kept saying, "It'll blow over," "They don't really mean it," and "They wouldn't dare." Well, next time I doubt, even for an instant, the utter evil of these madmen, please, somebody, hit me over the head with something--preferably soft, however, like a paperbackcopy of Mein Kampf.

An afterthought: Shouldn't the Iraqis have something to say about this?

Just Another Day of Capitalist Empire

Let's see.
Halliburton just got another $1 billion extension in its Iraq "reconstruction" contract--the third delay, to the dismay of its competitors who are still cut out of bidding.

The US Army is using Israeli special forces to train our troops in counterterroism tactics in Iraq. That's sure to calm Islam's doubts about our intentions.

The US Army is launching a massive assault in Afghanistan to dislodge the re-emerging Taliban forces.

The "Coaltion forces" in Iraq have jailed unfavorable locally-elected officials and are keeping them incommunicado in prison, unavailable for interview even by the network media, such as Sixty Minutes.

The Pentagon is seeking to establish new military bases in India and Pakistan to establish positions closer to "unstable areas."

Meanwhile, the dollar slides to new lows against foreign currencies, so that it now takes almost $1.225 to buy a euro. One effect of this 40% gain in the cost of foreign currencies is, of course, to imprison Americans here. No escape to Europe, the Far East, Australia--anywhere--at these rates.

A strongman with a moustache

A leading Australian newspaper predicts this develpment: The abandonment by the US of the creation of a "democratic" regime in Iraq in favor of rule by a single leader or group of tribal chieftans, a la the British means of imperial dominion. The "realists" in the Administration have taken charge over the Wolfowitzers, and have decided upon a course that will cause us to withdraw our troops "with dignity" to avoid the constant killings and yet maintain control over Iraq's resources.

It'll be amusing to observe Condi and the gang at work, shifting the rhetoric and with it the public's expectations, here and in Iraq.

Monday, December 08, 2003

The War on Terr'r

Okay, although it's cutesy to point out that our Harvard MBA President still can't pronounce his chosen term for his mortal enemy, there's a serious point to be made (many points, actually) about why this concept of a "war on terrorism" or "on terror" is a conceptual/political/intellectual fallacy that is doomed--and may be fatal to the warriors. This site sets forth a thorough and detailed exposition of the danger, indeed the idiocy, of such a concept. I ascribe to its analysis entirely.

Neocon 101

Who are the neoconservatives, anyway? I wanted some names, so I saddled up and went Googlin’.

Enjoy. Then vote ABB – Anybody but Bush.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

The miserable failure

I'm not sure how long it will remain so, but try Googling "miserable failure" (click "I'm feeling lucky") and check out whazzup. And speaking of same, here are the true job figures as analyzed by experts:

The upshot is that Miserable Failure's predictions about job creation due to his tax cuts are--you guessed it--a miserable failure. The specific numbers are found on the "Job Watch" link of the above website.

What's better than Teflon? The Memory Hole.

Reagan, the "Teflon President," managed to remain unblemished through scores of scandals, including Iran-Contra, the S&L collapse, and proven conflict-of-interest charges against members of his cabinet and staff. But at least some of these transgressions were aired in public forums: the Senate Intelligence Committee, the House Finance Committee, the courts; and a few people (Keating, North, Poindexter, Abrahms, others) were made to face the music.

Not so with Bush. To name just this year's litany (so far), not including the items that haven't been inquired into at all, like Halliburton and Bechtel:
(1) The 9/11 investigation? Stonewalled, heading toward oblivion.
(2) The WMD--not their existence in Iraq, which slid below the radar months ago--the prewar intelligence (and its misuse) by the spooks, the neocons and the administration. Gone.
(3) Cheney's Energy Task Force. Disappeared.
(4) The Valerie Plame leak. Who's she?
(5) Kenny Boy. Ditto.

At some point, I believe (because I must believe it in order to retain my sanity) the mainstream press will awaken and inquire and persist, like they did during the Nixon years, the latter Johnson years and--with inordinate ferocity--the Clinton years.

I believe it, but so far see little evidence of it.

Orwell is amused

So, the present administration of the US government is creating its own TV channel to broadcast "the good news" from Iraq. Of course it is. At some point, the similarities to 1984 (as well as to 1939 Germany) will overwhelm. But until then, it's simply fun to watch Bush awash in his own false imagery, complaining that the news contains only blood and gore while he exploits blood and gore to his benefit.

I wonder how many viewers will tune into the new channel to watch paint dry on an Iraqi school?

Has it come to this? Apparently so.

Demolishing homes, holding relatives hostage, issuing ID cards, establishing checkpoints, creating razorwire barriers--Israeli tactics in Gaza and the West Bank--are now our tactics in villages in Iraq. How dumb can we be? We're supposedly trying to win the "hearts and minds" of the Muslim arabs, and yet we're imitating their enemy.

I'm convinced that by a year from now there will be continuing deaths in Iraq, the place will be in political shambles and because of the election Bush will try to cover all this with favorable spin. It's our job not to allow that to happen.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Getting Stuffed

... And in the same article Erik cites in the last post, a White House official diliberately deceived American press into reporting that Bush was still in Crawford, Tx. Prooving not only the intent to insure his security but that the White House is not above spreading disinformation to the American media. Ben Franklin was right; turkey should have been our national bird. Much easier to cook up and serve with the stuffing that's always in such good supply in Washington.

Turkey shoot

According to WaPo, Bush wasn't serving that turkey to the troops in the ubiquitous photo of his stopover at the Baghdad airbase. He grabbed a tray containing a decorative turkey and held it for a photo op.

Words fail....

Thursday, December 04, 2003

US army denies killing sisters | US army denies killing sisters (November 29, 2003)

It takes a worried man to sing a worried song.

I read these two articles, at Al Jazeera and News Interactive, and was firmly tempted to close the browser windows displaying them and go in search of antidotal cartoons. I don’t want to be a party to the spreading of such worrisome disinformation. I don’t believe that US troops would shoot two young girls in a field. Seriously, I don’t believe it’s true.

As ugly as it is to see this kind of death, and to contemplate the accusation that our troops did such a thing, I think we need to look this war in the face and force ourselves not to blink. The cause of peace is not well served by averted eyes or timid hearts. We are confronted with evil, and we must battle it with lucid purpose.

So here it is, sisters aged 15 and 12, dead while gathering wood in a field. Is there anything you can do? Pray for them, pray for peace, vote against Bush. Our people shoudn't even be there, being accused of atrocities.

Who's counting?

A comment from reader Brian Churchill:

I am a retired US Air Force master sergeant who's been opposed to this war since last fall, because I didn't believe that Iraq presented a clear and present danger to the US, and that any military action needed to be approved by the UN Security Council as in the First Gulf War. I also told anyone who would listen in my circle of friends that, based on the history of the region, the occupation would be troubled.

Sadly, I was right. I've found "All That Arises" to be a strong voice for truth in a war that's being spun by cable news in the same way that William Randolph Hearst manipulated the public in the Spanish-American War in the search for profits and sales 105 years ago. I decided to forward my recent research on suspicious US military deaths in Iraq to you, as it may be of interest or assistance to the blog readership.

I've been doing research on the deaths that are being reported as non-combat or accidental, using the CNN database that's updated regularly at this CNN site. I found the number of traffic deaths to be quite high considering the circumstances, i.e., low traffic; large, sturdy vehicles; strictly enforced safety rules; wear of body armor, etc. Also, at least one new widow was reportedly contacted by her dead husband's comrades and told that he died from an attack that caused a crash, not a non-combat vehicle accident as the Army declared.

I also noted that there's a large number of poorly explained deaths--drownings, falls from buildings, troops just not waking up one morning, persons killed working on vehicles or hit by dump trucks, and the most ominous of all - non-hostile gunshot wounds. These can't be firing range or training accidents, because they're described differently. I've counted 47 deaths through Dec 1 classified as accidents that I, as a former military man, consider suspicious, i.e., it's really combat in the case of many traffic accidents. I suspect that many deaths were classified as accidents to try to keep the combat death toll down after May 1, as the Administration was hoping that the occupation would take hold within a few months at most and the numbers wouldn't be too high.

I've also counted 49 possible suicides in 7 months, while the military has grudgingly admitted to 14-17 so far. According to the World Almanac, there should be about 27 suicides a year in a group of 145,000 Americans of that age and gender makeup. Clearly the suicide rate is many times normal.

Considering that the military is insisting on unit rotation instead of individual rotation, as in Vietnam, since unit cohesion was deemed to be very important, it's clear that all is not well with the Army of One. I'd also add that many of the one-vehicle accidents, if they're not from hostile action, could be suicides as well, as state troopers will tell you that a certain percentage of one-vehicle rollovers or crashes are really suicides. Also, deaths by means other than self-inflicted gunshot wounds save face for relatives and friends, and eliminate complications with life insurance policies.

Thanks again for your articles, and keep up the good work.

Brian Churchill
USAF Retired (1976-1996)

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Back to Iraq

Christopher Allbritton, a seasoned reporter who blogged from the Middle East on a freelance basis before it was trendy, is contemplating going back to Iraq to give us the straight skinny on life as it is "on the ground." (God, I hate that phrase now that I've heard it from Rummie and Condi and their ilk.)

Anyhoo, give him a click and, if you wish, a dollar or a dime. He's a fine writer and we need to know, with clarity, whazzup over there. There are, of course, other bloggers who are good sources, as well as good coverage from the Middle East press, but Chris is an incisive analyst who's giving up his day job to bring us an upclose view of the reality and effect of our imperial doings. Log on, check him out.

Stop the Looting

I believe that the Bush Administration is riding roughshod over the American economy and civil liberties, with unprecedented cynicism and moral indifference. Do you agree? Oppose the omnibus spending bill, on which Congress is about to vote: Stop the Looting

A dollar and two dimes

For eight months, the cost in American dollars of one euro hovered between $1.10 and $1.18, but two days ago, for the first time, the cost penetrated the $1.20 barrier. As I type this, BBC radio has announced a new high cost of the euro against the dollar: $1.22.

As I've said before, I'm no economist, but it cannot bode well for the US economy that its currency is declining in value, even if it may mean in the short run that Americans may find foreign-produced goods pricier and hence be more likely to buy domestic products. The inevitable inflation, the commensurate rise in interest rates (affecting mortgage payments on adjustable-rate mortgages, affecting monthly minimum payments on credit card debt and so forth), and the lower purchasing power of a dollar will beat back the recent economic "recovery."

This may come to pass quite soon. I can only hope.

Update: "Put simply, the dollar is in dire distress."

This is getting old

Once again, again, the news reportage of the war in Iraq is inaccurately slanted in favor of the invaders/occupiers. Two weeks ago it was the false report that two US soldiers' throats were cut; two days ago it was the onesided account of the "ambush" of the cash-carrying convoy in which the Army reported that 46 (later revised to 54) attackers were killed. Locals and hospital officials disputed the latter story, and the Army later revised the former, but in neither case was the revision given the prominence of the first report, and in some cases no revision was reported at all.

After all of the falsehoods this Administration and the military have spread over the years, it's astounding that reporters--even those of "reputable" papers and wire services--continue to spread it further. Are we talking conspiracy, incompetence, sloth or all three?

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

And still counting...

It's ten p.m., PST, in the USA as I post this. It's already tomorrow (Wednesday morning) in Iraq, so they've begun another day of killing there. The numbers of US military casualties and deaths that I rely on and insert into my protest signs are drawn from this website, and as of this moment show 2 deaths and 24 woundeds, in the first two days of December.

We've now launched into another month of killing American and allied soldiers and civilians, and Iraqi insurgents and bystanders.

Would somebody out there be kind enough to send a comment explaining why?

Update on "Body Counts" post

Yup, as I suggested, according to this account of the attack in which many Iraqis were killed, the Army's strategy is to shoot indiscriminately (to "spray," and to perform "reconaissance by fire") in order to suppress locals' support for the insurgents.

The source of this account (a "combat leader") is unattributed, so its authenticity is unknown, but at least it's an unknown that I know is unknown, not one of Rumsfeld's prize-winning "unknown unknowns."

Monday, December 01, 2003

The Uncompassionate Conservative

A great column. Molly Ivins has President Bush down cold.

What we're dealing with here is a man in such serious denial it would be pathetic if it weren't damaging so many lives.

Everybody spins a little, but this is ridiculous!

Same poll, same figures, but here are the differing headlines (with correlative "spin" on their accompanying stories) announcing the results of an Oxford International poll (which all stories pronounce as definitive and thorough):

79% of Iraqis do not trust US-led coalition--Middle East Online.

Iraqis welcome Saddam's fall--BBC News

Iraqis Do Not Trust US-Led Forces--Reuters UK

Poll: Most Iraqis distrustul of US-Led Coalition--China Daily

Iraqi Public Opinion Poll Finds Overwhelming Support for Democratic Future--Michael Drudge, VOA (Voice of America) News.

Okay, so there's nothing new about "spin." But gosh-all-rootie, when you read these articles, and the score of others that Google News reveals when you insert "Oxford International Poll" in its search engine, you'd think the stories, which reported, merely, a list of numbers next to a list of questions, were of utterly different events.

In this day of quick news, quick everything, we've handed over to ministerial monkeys, paid by huge vested interests, the creation of reality. Don't get me started on this subject, but for God's sake, my buddies, from now on, do at least this: Read the poll, not the report about the poll. Not too much to ask of an informed citizen, right?

Body counts?

Early in our invasion of Iraq, a Pentagon official announced, "We don't do body counts," a reference to the practice during the Vietnam War, where Army officers would report the number of dead enemy soldiers (often an inflated, imaginary figure) as the measure of success of a battle. And indeed, until recently, no such figures have been announced for US operations in Iraq, relating to deaths of either armed resistance or unarmed civilians.
With yesterday's battle, however, we now have a tally, 54, revised upward from 46 .

This bodes poorly for the Iraqis on two counts: First, if body counts now become a practice, any Iraqi in the vicinity of an attack becomes a target, to induce headlines which read, "Two US soldiers die in attack, fifteen Iraqis killed." This, it might be reasoned by the Pentagon, will make more palatable our losses. Second, these escalated attacks against Iraqis may be a means by which the Army seeks to discourage insurgents, by wreaking such havoc on the nearby civilians that the latter turn on the insurgents out of fear of American reprisal. This is another tactic fromt the Vietnam era.

It didn't work then, and it won't work now, but look out for such tactics and announcements in upcoming dispatches from the front. If they occurred to me, they have surely occurred to Rumsfeld.

A Prisoner Of Panic After 9/11

Yahoo! News - A Prisoner Of Panic After 9/11

Hard to believe this could happen in the America I grew up in.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Iraq's oil may not be retrievable? Unbelievable!

Apparently, the damage to the Iraq's oilfields by defective pumping in the past could be exacerbated by our efforts to pull oil out hastily now, leaving the fields watery and hence depleted.
Ouch! Cheney's gotta be freaked!

Maybe now they'll bring our boys home. Nothing to fight about anymore.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

War is a Useful Word

"I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity." - General Dwight D. Eisenhower

The men and women who have waged this atrocity, this defilement of human endeavor and of human life, have done so, not to protect or to safeguard, but to legitimize their own power. War is obsolete. The wholesale slaughter of enemies no longer serves any purpose. But the word War is still useful, as Erik points out. So are other words, such as witch hunt and due process.

What else should we expect? We Americans all stood by, and because we are who we are and we believe that our system of government is essentially fair and benign, we allowed the peaceful ascension to power of a man who was not duly elected or qualified to serve.

President Bush is no statesman. By his arrogance, he has squandered the good will that most of the planet vested in America in the days following our national tragedy. Now because we are essentially, effectively alone, lacking any viable moral mandate, we have no means to defend ourselves from perceived threats but swaggering polemic and staggering violence.

I’m reminded of an old joke. A man working in a candy factory falls unseen into a giant vat of chocolate syrup and can’t get out. Facing death, he cries out desperately, “Fire!” Men come, pull him out, and ask him why he yelled, “Fire!” … “If I’d yelled, ‘Chocolate!’ no one would have come.”

Of course he’s going to keep bellowing “War!” It’s all he has. If he hollered anything else, such as “in God’s name, let us feed the hungry and house the poor,” or “let all the nations peacefully bring terrorists to justice,” the world would know he’s too small a man for such a vision. The curtain would fall away, so OZ would stand there as he is. But war is easy to say, a small word for a small man of small means; an easy word, like blood and ice and fire.

Comment on "Name that War," Kyle's post, two posts below

I find the imaginativeness of NYT readers heartening--and distressing. The suggested names for this latest "war" were illuminating, entertaining, clever, incisive, but I'm troubled by the use of the word "war" in this context, as in so many recent contexts.

I recall that for years the pols wouldn't refer to the Korean War as a war. It was a "conflict" or a "police action," because no one was willing to use the word "war." We'd fought two devasting world wars and weren't able to admit to another, even though hundreds of thousands of lives were lost in the four-year "police action."

Same with Viet Nam. For years, it wasn't called a war, but a "conflict."

But lately we've cheapened the word war. We have wars on poverty, drugs, AIDS, and, lately, terror, or as our eloquent president pronounces it, terr'r. We've diluted the terrible consequence of the word "war," making it a Madison Avenue term to be applied to any challenge, of any parameters, against even nameless enemies, such as addiction, unfair distribution of wealth and, lately, terr'r. For those who've lived through real wars, these recent appications must be galling indeed.

Then threre's this: Even though the standard dictionary definition of war doesn't include any reference to the military balance or fairness of the conflict--no factor such as the odds of victory--I've always felt that if a military encounter is to be called a "war" there must be some element of risk, some question about the outcome. Accordingly, our invasion of Grenada couldn't be called a "war," not because we didn't invade a sovereign state (which we assuredly did), but because that state hadn't declared war on us, hadn't done anything to us, in fact, and was a little-bitty place that was manifestly vulnerable. Same with Panama. We invaded Panama, raced through its capital city and killed innocent Panamanians (as well as hundreds of Noriega's soldiers) to "arrest" its ruler. Not a war, though, because there was no doubt about the outcome. We were too powerful to have "made war" on Panama.

Now, however, with Afghanistan and Iraq, suddenly "war." Why do we use this word? Are we hyping here? Are we justifying, or sliding away from what's really happening? Are we electing to use the awful, horrifying word war so that we don't have to admit that we're really just invading powerless foes to act out our aggression on helpless states? Are we willing--are we psychologically compelled--to use the word war to avoid acknowledging that we're really empire-building, defeating hapless foes in order to entrench our forces worldwide, to allow us to dominate the planet?

Just asking.

The power of incumbency

This article, unhappily headlined "President's Iraq Trip Reinforces Role as Leader,", makes the points I make in previous posts, and points up the frustrating impact of incumbency on those who are opposing the officeholder.

I admit it. My posts were reactive, angry that his trip was such a well-presented political ploy: quick, perfectly timed, with super effect. It drives me crazy. I guess my only solace is that Clinton must have driven his opposition nuts too. But it still stings.

Howver, the voters have short memories, and there's almost a year before the election. Meanwhile our troops keep dying, and that doesn't require memory, just conscience.

Name That War

Check out Name That War at the NY Times ... it's pretty interesting, what some folks came up with.

Friday, November 28, 2003

"A long, hard slog"

The words that Ubermensch Rumsfeld used to describe America's occupation of Iraq apply equally to the task that lies ahead to defeat Bush's reelection. He's got the money, the media (see below) and the ability to control events, such as his cutesy Thanksgiving sojourn to Iraq and, as I noted in an earlier post, the likely announcement of some major development about Iraq--probably our "handing over of power"--just before the election.

I happened to watch NBC's Nightly News report of Bush's Thanksgiving fiasco last night. (I don't have a TV and so rarely see television news, and haven't seen a major-network telecast for months.) I was astounded by the coverage. Bush's visit--video of him chowing down with the troops, ladling out gravy in the cafeteria line and so forth--was the lead story, of course. This was followed by a separate piece about how dangerous the trip was and how secret, likening it to Ike's trip to Korea and Johnson's trips to Viet Nam (neither of which was secret; and not mentioning Clinton's trip to Kosovo, which seems more relevant), and how morale-boosting his arrival was for the troops.
The NBC coverage was slatheringly sweet--an advertisement, not a report--and baldly obeisant. Not a critical word: Nothing about how different this security-fraught visit was from what we'd been led to expect about our success in Iraq, nor a whisper about its obvious political purpose.
And that's not all. The Nightly News closed its half-hour "newscast" with yet a third piece about the trip, this with snippets of Bush's speech to the troops, which BTW was greeted with only mild applause, even though Bush waited often for cheers that didn't come.
On top of this, of course, is Google News listings of press accounts of the trip, in the thousands!

So, how can the opposition defeat such a juggernaut? I have ideas, that I will share in later posts. But all of them require a long, hard slog.

(Not all accounts of the trip were uncritical and naive. For reports from newspapers in the Middle East, go here. Tickler: Islam Online labels the trip a "PR stunt.")

Thursday, November 27, 2003

They're onto Bush in Baghdad. Why not in America?

The plans of Tribune Bremer to pass "authority" over to the Iraqis by June 1, 2004, have hit a snag. Seems that a powerful Shiite cleric believes the people who draw up the constitution must be elected--not a series of appointed bodies--and this may delay the process.

Bremer and others are trying to work out some program that will satisfy the cleric, and the Iraqis know why Bush is in such a hurry to complete the power transfer by June 1. According to the NYT, Ahmad Chalabi, a savvy Iraqi Governing Council member, said: "The whole thing was set up so President Bush could come to the airport in October for a ceremony to congratulate the new Iraqi government. When you work backwards from that, you understand the dates the Americans were insisting on." American officials deny that electoral concerns played a role in their planning.

A poll koan

The Globe & Mail conducted an online poll recently, in which the question was: "Do you participate in online polls?"

Results: 81% Yes. 19% no (?!)

Hail, the conquering hero

Seven months after landing in a jet fighter on the deck of the carrier Abraham Lincoln, with (literally) fanfare and banners flying, our fearless leader has visited the troops who fought the mission that he proclaimed was accomplished.

No fanfare, no banners this time. A night-shrouded, secret flight into an airbase outside of Baghdad for a quick meal, and a flight out two hours later. Too dangerous to announce the trip. The mission, it seems, is not quite accomplished after all.

But this much I grant the president. He's consistent. He's still a media-manipulating coward.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Early warning signs

Here's the deal. Certain regional groups (how selected, how administered?) will choose representatives (how will they choose, how many will they choose?) to meet and then choose (how, when?) a body that will have power (how determined, how administered?) to decide (by what vote, by what form of ballot?) to draft a constitution (of what import?) that will then be submitted (by what means, with what amending or reviewing power?) to the public (of what composition?) for ratification (by what percentage, how determined?), which will then (when--and if not ratified, then what?) be the governing instrument in Iraq.

And what if, at the onset of this process, leading forces of the majority Shiites opposes its cant and emphasis?

Ah--Somebody's finally catching on.

Of course it's the French. For those of you who read their language, go here. For the rest of you (including me), here is a translation.

The final paragraphs are too telling to summarize. Read them and weep for us.

"...the [NeoCon's] demonization of al-Qaeda is very practical. A superb media invention, a security haute couture label, a consensual poster for the bounty-hunters of another age, a crude, but effective, propaganda: if al-Qaeda didn't exist, it would have to be invented.

"Since September 11, 2001 the al-Qaeda label has surreptitiously slid from designating a criminal band with Bin Laden at their head, to specifying a high-tech organization, to finally qualifying as a planetary network: al-Qaeda has "CNNized" itself, like the al-Jezira channel which serves its communications. Al-Qaeda is everywhere, therefore, nowhere. Just as the hidden Imam, Bin Laden, simultaneously dead and alive, is behind every unexplained bomb explosion. Fortunately, his organization is there to give sense to all the world's disorders.

"The phantasm of a planetary, pyramidal al-Qaeda, that of a new orchestration or of an International similar in all respects to Comintern's, is in the process of justifying the biggest American military-strategic redeployment effected since the end of the Second World War. The endless war against terror has replaced the war against the Communist monster. Consequently, it's not surprising to see old U.S.S.R. experts redeploying their old scholasticism on the pretext of an Islamist violence about which they know nothing, applying anachronistic Kremlinology schemas to it. These American neo-conservative ideological go-betweens stand guard on the old continent. For the American Empire, it's important that the al-Qaeda mythology persist. To survive, the empire needs an enemy to its measure and to make war on: endless war."

The docile media

I've read hundreds of articles, of which this is representative, haranguing the US media--press and television, but television with particular vitriol--for failing to report items that are unsupportive of the Administration's position on the Iraq invasion and aftermath. From the President's failure to attend funerals of soldiers, to the nonreportage of deaths and woundeds in Iraq, to the failure of the reconstruction efforts--including graft and unfairness in the bidding process, to the complaints by Iraqi police about their inferior equipment, to name just a few recent items that have been given no play by the mainstream media.

Equally mystifying to me is that I haven't heard from the spokespersons of the major media (putting Fox aside, because they are beyond the pale of this discussion) a single word of justification for their miserable reporting, a single defense or rebuttal. Has Brokaw, Rather or Jennings said anything, addressed these complaints at all? If so, I missed it.

If anyone has a citation to such an occasion I'd like to know of it.

Wait a goldarned minute!

We've run out of money to pay Iraqi contractors for their reconstruction efforts?

Where'd it all go?

Does this bother anyone?

This article reciting the US Army's arrest of the wife and daughter of a former Saddam Hussein official, "in an apparent attempt to pressure his surrender" strike me as odd. Not the tactic itself--it comes straight out of the Gestapo handbook--but the blandness with which it is reported.

What are we becoming?

Monday, November 24, 2003


This website presents some great animations, as well as a Real Player recast of Wesley Clark taking on Fox News, head-to-head. Well done, General.

Mass firing of teachers?

This UPI report says that the Provisional Authority, with Bremer's concurrence, has fired 28,000 teachers in Iraq. Seems they were Baathists, which was a condition of gaining public school teaching positions under Saddam Hussein's regime.

So, who's teaching the kids, Wahhabis?

Sunday, November 23, 2003


So Japan is considering sending some materiel to Iraq, but not troops. Seems there's a snag. As reported by AP, the newly-reelected PM "Koizumi won approval from Parliament in July to send Japanese ground troops to help with reconstruction and other non-combat duties. But the legislation specifies they can only serve in "non-combat areas" — which the prime minister's political opponents say don't exist in Iraq."

Ode to our soldiers

The Favorite Poem Project that Kyle turned me onto includes a poem by Wilfred Owen entitled "Dulce et Decorum Est." It can be found here, and I recommend watching the video of the woman who recites it. (Click on her image.)

I wonder if Bush, Rumsfeld and the NeoCons have read it. Certainly not recently.

"Major combat operations"

Recall the flap some months ago about Bush's announcement from the flight deck of the carrrier Abraham Lincoln that "major combat operations" in Iraq were concluded? The White House, after combat continued, even amended its website to add the word "major" to a headline.

Well, even as amended, Bush's announcement was/is bullshit, because as of today, the number of military deaths during the month of November for both US soldiers (74) and total number of deaths (95) exceeds the death toll during any previous month, including March, April or May, at the height of the war. And November isn't nearly over.

Bring 'em on?

F.B.I. Scrutinizes Antiwar Rallies

Are you feeling in the mood to get out and exercise your First Amendment rights and fulfill the moral imperative of informed dissent and skeptical scrutiny of leadership? Well, you have my support but be forewarned: Big Brother lives. They're making a list at the FBI, checking it twice ... no, sorry, wrong autocrat.

Come to think of it, doesn't Santa know a little more about us than due process should allow? He knows where we live, whether we've been naughty or nice, and what we want for Christmas....

Hey Erik, whataya say we slap a class action suit on that suspiciously jolly guy. Invasion of privacy, trespass, product defect, racketeering, mail fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress. I'm just getting warmed up. Of course, I've got no problems with him, but there must be a billion kids out there who've been royally hosed over the years. Contingency OK?

New York Times article

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Forty years ago

I was in law school at Georgetown when Kennedy was shot. I, like all of you, recall where I was when I learned of the shooting in Dallas, and I recall Cronkite's announcement on the TV like it was yesterday.

I didn't wait in the miles-long line to go through the Capitol rotunda to view the coffin (it was freezing cold that day and I had studies, mucho studies that Sunday), but on Monday Georgetown called off classes and I, and my buddies, lined up early on Constitution Avenue for the funeral procession.

Yeah, I recall that too, like yesterday. I know what coat I wore (still cold, and we waited for two hours), and dead quiet. As the place filled up, we backed away from the curb (we were right across from an old hotel, don't recall the name) and found a higher spot behind.

I recall the clack of the horse's hooves (sp?) and the rattle of the wheels of the caisson along the asphalt. I recall my nose was about to fall off from the cold. I recall that for the first time in my life (I'm a western guy, CA and AZ), the tears actually slowed down after they squeezed out of the corners of my eyes. I recall wiping the tears away, expecting ice, but no.

The caisson clacked away, the few soldiers and automobiles behind it were an aftermath. Stuart (my roomate--we lived in an apartment about a quarter mile away from the route) went home and caught the rest of the funeral on TV: the makeshift eternal flame, the salute of the cannons, the black-garbed family, Jackie, the kids, Bobby and Ethel and Teddy.

Jesus. What has happened to my love of such stuff? What happened to my idealism? What happened to America?

Friday, November 21, 2003

Iraqis Shut Out of Lucrative Rebuilding Deals

There's an old saying, "When your neighbor's house is on fire, you don't haggle over the price of your hose." Right, no need to. You'll make out later, if you're the only builder in town. Halliburton, Bechtel, Bremer ... I wouldn't want to be in their shoes on Judgement Day. Yahoo! News

The Hundred Acre Kill Zone

Baghdad Burning

In her blog Today, Riverbend relates that a Baghdad child thought one of the LPDs (Launch Platform Donkeys) looked just like the donkey in "Winnie Dab-doob." I thought this might need explaining, so I sat down in my Thoughtful Spot, and discovered that Winnie Dab-doob is Winnie the Pooh in Arabic. Making the donkey's alterego noneother than Eeyore.

It begs the question though, will Tribune Bremmer have Eeyore added to the deck of cards?

A rant worth ranting about

This LOL bit by Patrick Sullivan, at the Keep Going website, is worth the extra time it takes to giggle, snort and, maybe, recover.

Of donkey carts and preempted compassion

Boy, Erik's been busy today, hasn't he? Except for a tuna melt I had for lunch, I've been avoiding anything with chips today. But I have two brief remarks:

On the donkeys: Holy AssRams, Batman!

On the statement by Mr. Bell of CARE: Codswallop. As much as I'm willing to decry America's hateful and arrogant foreign policy, there's another side to that coin. The US is all over the world with foreign aid. We're doing a helluva lot to get food to the hungry and resources to the poor. And everywhere we send food, it's diverted by corrupt officials or rotting on the docks. Aid workers are as much targets as soldiers these days. So I don't wanna hear anybody talk about poverty. It's hard to pass out bread when you're under attack.

Somebody tell the poor and disenfranchised of the middle east to think about how their bread is buttered. At least we're trying to do the right thing, pouring in billions for rebuilding. We try to send food and medicine and help where it's needed. But it's damn sure the donkey cart and suicide bomber boys never fed so much as a hungry dog.

Donkeys--finally, the Al Qaida link

Even Riverbend, who lives in Baghdad where the donkey-cart attacks occurred, has gotten into the act, finding humor in the chaos. Donkeys to Gitmo?

Another shoe dropping

The US Congress has dropped one billion dollars from its previous 1.65 billion-dollar international development contribution toward the reduction of world poverty. The billion has been channeled to reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan, giving short-shrift to the other third-world nations, and leading the UN to conclude that it cannot meet its goal to alleviate half of the worst pockets of grave poverty by 2015.

According to the BBC, "the head of the large American aid agency CARE USA, Peter Bell, said the US Government should realise that the safety of Americans depended not only on vanquishing enemies such as al-Qaeda and the Taleban but on limiting the poverty which bred extremism."

Meanwhile, as the Bushes and Blairs crack a cold one...

The two "Other Developments" blurbs at the bottom of CNN's latest dispatch about the war in Iraq are revealing:

"--President Bush ended his state visit to Britain Friday standing side by side with Prime Minister Tony Blair in the British leader's home town. The president and first lady Laura Bush boarded Air Force One Friday after having lunch with the prime minister and his wife at a local pub.

--Two children were killed Thursday in an explosion after a child picked up an explosive device in a school yard in Karbala, Iraq, and took it into a classroom, a coalition spokesman said. The student who brought the device into the classroom was between 10 and 12 years old. An unknown number of children were wounded in what the spokesman termed a 'sad accident.'"

A blog to die for

I agree with Sean-Paul at The Agonist weblog. Billmon at The Whiskey Bar is my favorite libbie blogger (although I haven't checked out all of them, and new blogs arise every minute, literally).

My favorite phrase of the day, lifted from a comment to Billmon's post (which gives due credit to another blogger), commenting on the rocket fussilade that damaged Baghdad buildings and were apparently concealed in donkey carts:

Yeah, you guessed it: "Weapons of ass destruction."

(Feel free to scroll down from Billmon's post to follow the humor displayed in the comments about the donkey cart attack. Who says Liberals are mirthless bombasts? Well, mostly we are, but this Administration give us so much fodder, you can't help laughing sometimes. And for those of you who don't care to scroll, two examples: (1) "This brings new meaning to the phrase, 'Kick ass.'" (2) You watch--the Republicans will now claim the Democrats are behind these attacks. -- Donkey, symbol of the party, get it?)

First manufacturing jobs, now "outsourcing"

Opportunities for meaningful jobs in the US (meaning moderate pay, moderate skills) are shrinking rapidly, not just because of the ongoing loss of manufacturing within our borders, but also by reason of service companys' "outsourcing" of Internet communications systems to foreign countries. For example, when my Compaq (HP, now) laptop went blank some weeks ago and I called the Help telephone line, I was given re-booting directions by a male voice that had a distinctive Indian lilt. I asked the man where he was--that is, where my landline call had reached--and he answered, "Delhi."

I recall that a couple of years ago I called the same 1-800 number for help and my helper was located in Oklahoma. We talked about the Sooners while I waited for his instructions to take effect on my computer. (In both cases, I will editorialize, the telephonic Help was successful).

Upshot: I wonder how much money HP is saving by hiring Help in India?
Upshot no. 2: I wonder what my Sooner-backer buddy is doing for work now?

However, for a bit of perspective...

Check out these photos from the Hubble telescope, set to music.

Quotes from the dark side

#1--From Tommie Franks, Army commander during Iraq invasion, concluding an interview in which he predicted that if America were subjected to a terrorist attack using WMD, the US constitution would be abandoned and replaced with a military dictatorship:

“It’s not in the history of civilization for peace ever to reign. Never has in the history of man. ... I doubt that we’ll ever have a time when the world will actually be at peace.”

#2--Inscribed on a "collector's item" photo-portrait of Bush, this literary masterpiece from an address to Congress:

"We will not waver; we will not tire; we will not falter; and we will not fail. Peace and freedom will prevail."

#3--From Laura Bush, while touring Buckingham Palace's collection of jeweled Faberge eggs during Bush's trip to England, as thousands of demonstators were kept miles away from the presidential entourage:

"We've seen plenty of American flags. We've seen plenty of people waving to us -- many, many more people in fact than protesters."

Fanning flames, cracking walnuts with sledgehammers, and so forth

From blog-contributor John comes this observation:

Bush's speechifying at Whitehall and consorting with British Royalty, only make him a more pathetic figure; and his use of the Army in Iraq is strikingly similar to the Israelis' use of their military against the Palestinians. In guerilla warfare, the use of tanks and artillery are not effective except to arouse anger and hostility of the population and to indiscriminately kill and maim innocent civilians.

[Ed--To a similar effect, check out this article, comparing our tactics to the Israelis', and to our failed effort in Viet Nam.]

I told ya so

Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Turkey--Wasn't one of the principal reasons not to invade Iraq that doing so would spread the terrorists' attacks throughout the world? Shocking, says Bush. What's shocking is that he's allowed to feign shock while taking delight in the effect these attacks are having on his control over the American unwashed. So long as terr'r attacks are unabated, he can manipulate them and remain in power.

I say again--as frustrating as it is to admit it--Bush has created a no-lose political situation: If terror abates, he claims victory. If it continues, he claims a need to stay in power.

And here's the scary part. The terrorists adore Bush. He's their best ally. So long as he keeps bombing, they keep bombing. He keeps them in power just as they keep him in power. The madmen on both sides are feeding on each other.

Only our side can break this insane spiral of violence. How? By adopting a truly equitable and beneficent foreign (and for that matter, domestic) policy, in which we share our economic largesse with the rest of the world, treat other nations as partners on the planet and reach out even-handedly to address the injustices and inequities that now plague the peoples to the south and east of us. In short, by sharing our wealth and wisdom with the rest of the world instead of hoarding it to feed our greed.

Bush and the neocons are the true evildoers on this planet. Only when they are removed from power is there any hope the US will change the face and the reality that it presents to the world--and only then is there a chance the violence will cease.

This American-language Greek newspaper commentary on the Istanbul bombings takes a more balanced position than I do, but its final three paragraphs, to me, present a founded solution as well as I've seen it laid out.

"For the counterterrorism campaign to be effective, it must be coupled with initiatives that seek to remedy the ideological and political factors that incubate Islamic fundamentalism. Otherwise, the relentless extremists will be seen as heroes in the eyes of angry Muslims, while ideas about the clash of religions and civilizations will increasingly resonate with these populations.

"For hundreds of millions of Muslims, the US is Satan and Bin Laden a hero. The combination of rampant poverty and of the widespread conviction that the Americans are giving Israel support while they seek to humiliate Islam is fueling anti-American sentiment and blind vengeance. The Istanbul explosions may well be the first in a long chain of similar attacks in other European nations whose governments have fallen behind Washington’s policies.

"Much of the responsibility lies with US President George W. Bush. For his war on terrorism to be effective, it must not be used as a pretext for settling broader geopolitical scores. The occupation of Iraq has allowed the US to assert control over the oil fields of the region and to gain a foothold in the heart of the Middle East, but it has done nothing to undermine Islamic terrorism. It has played right into its hands, providing terrorists, if not with political legitimacy, then at least with a new scope of activity."

100,000 March Against Bush in London

Yahoo! News

There was a time when I was offended by protests against American presidents in foreign cities. I considered it a slap in the face to America, by people to whom we are neighborly and generous to a fault. Not tonight. I think they're right to protest against Bush and his indefensible foreign policy. I just wish we could muster this kind of dissent on this side of the pond.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

"What's news?" update

As I was saying in my "What's News?" post yesterday, the news covers the noise and the Bushies must have heard me. Now, with bombs blasting, mortars firing, the US Army is filling the Baghdad/Tikrit sky with sound, light and fury. To no avail as a matter of military strategy, probably, but all those rockets firing into the puke-green lenses of our TV reporters' nightscopes sure makes teriffic copy.
So, Bush once again declares war and has the might to win it. Not to defeat terr'r, of course, but to gain coverage. Which, as we know, is what matters.

Dollar and hi-tech jobs decline

The dollar's value against the euro is at an all-time low (it takes more than $1.19 to buy one euro) and the number of lucrative high-tech jobs is plunging.

Does this sound like an economic recovery to you?

Dow Jones predicts economic chaos in Iraq

The legality of Tribune Bremer's decree some months ago handing Iraqi commerce over to foreign investment was questioned in this blog and elsewhere. Now, this article, written by no Bush-basher, does the same, and furthermore points out the economic disaster that will befall Iraq as a result of the decree.

So far Bremer hasn't done anything right. He spends most of his time flying back to D.C. for new marching orders, then pawning them off on the Governing Council. What a mess!

Riverbend is pissed off

The US Army's new tack--bombing, shelling in Tikrit--drives The Baghdad Blogger crazy. For this and other reactions--well written, potent observations from the front--check her out.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

What's news?

This piece in the Christian Science Monitor about news reporting from Iraq is a concise, definitive exposition of the concept of "news" as US culture has come to expect and define it. News has an "inherent limitation." "It can't give you all of reality. It necessarily focuses on a tiny piece of reality that is making the most noise at the moment."

During the invasion itself, what was making noise were our tanks and troops' forward progress (and of course Western reporters embedded therein were more able to witness same), so that such activities dominated the news, to the dismay of those who protested the invasion and blamed the news for being pro-Administration. Now, as the noise is being made by the guerillas' attacks on US troops (and coverage of same is available) the news has shifted to focus on that.
The effect is, of course, that now the Adminstration is claiming the news is biased against it.

Oh well.

"The Whole World is Watching!"

Recall the chant in Chicago during the "police riot" at the 1968 Democratic convention? In truth, the mass arrests of demonstators was actually seen by few TV viewers, because only one network covered the story live--the other two stuck with their "normal programming"--and there were no other channels.
But Bush's state visit to England is going to be seen by millions, and this fact has already caused Bush to limit his exposure to embarrassment, by canceling a speech to Parliament where he would likely have been heckled, as he was in Australia. There are those (including this writer) who would label Bush chickenshit as well as chickenhawk.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Road map redux

I'm no Israel/Palestine officianado, but I cannot help wondering why Israel and the US are opposed to Russia's suggestion that the UN re-affirm its commitment to the "road map" that the US (and Russia, the EU and the UN) previously proffered. Could it be that such a commitment requires that Israel eventually tear down its apartheid fence/wall? Just asking.

A little slice of heaven

According to a report that won't make the US news, a couple of nameless Iraqis, including an eleven-year old boy, were shot dead by US forces in Baghdad yesterday, when someone fired a gun in the air to test the weapon as our troops passed by in an armored column. I point this out not to disparage our troops, who are young kids frightened of the locals (in Baghdad, not in the "Sunni Triangle" BTW), and armed to the teeth. I am instead making sure it's not forgotten that such acts, however explicable, are those of a force that is more likely to create hatred than peace.
Let's face it, the notion that we can impose "democracy" (whatever that might mean in an arab, Muslim desert, ruled for centuries by nondemocratic tribes), is nonsense. Even more nonsensical is the idea that the US can shed its mantle as occupier simply by the passage of time. We are digging a deeper hole for ourselves and our troops every day, with every killing. And these killings, we now know, go unreported, unacknowledged, unknown, except by those who witnessed them, who survived them and remember.

So many apt slogans, so little space

"Saving face," "window dressing," "too little too late," "just plain bullshit,"--These are among the phrases that come to mind upon the report of Bush's latest maneuver: his announcement that "sovereignty will be passed to the Iraqis" by June 1. Particularly when the announcement is coupled with Bremer's statement that there will be a "side agreement" (with whom? how can that be known in advance?) that the US troops will be "invited" to remain to provide "security."

In the same Independent article, it is suggested (for the first time, I think) that the US may be willing to cede authority for command of its military forces in Iraq to an international authority, but of course that authority is NATO, which the US dominates. In the first place, it's unlikely the US will do so unless, as with the Iraqis, it can have a "side agreement" that NATO members (including naysayers France, Germany, Belgium) will agree to the US military program. In the second place, the bulk of troops, as with the NATO command in Afghanistan, will be American.

Another word, accordingly, springs to mind: "sham." The fact is Bush is getting his ass whipped in Iraq. His "war on terr'r" is a foul, evil design meant to exploit the reaction of grieving, frightened Americans into allowing him and his warmongering, profiteering capitalists to rule the world; and to his dismay, he is being thwarted by stubborn Iraqis (and resilient Taliban in Afghanistan). To avoid admitting failure, he is papering over these realities by announcements that won't change anything. American troops will continue to die, hatred of the United States will continue to grow, and so will "terr'r."

It can't be more clearly seen than in this latest charade, this latest burst of glossed-over retreats from his supposed "policy," that Bush is worse than wrong and wrong-headed. He is--without doubt now--a cunning, callous cynic.