Saturday, August 13, 2005

A Reminder 

As eRobin at Fact-esque says,
"This is the party that the DNC/DCCC/DSCC should have organized to happen on the National Mall and across the country. When people talk about the Dems being dinosaurs, it is partly because of massive, embarrassing failures of imagination like this.
So you know what will get the press on August 14th? This. "
She's right. Don't let "Justice Sunday--The Retread" get all the publicity. Bloggers and citizens! Let us eat cake! It's our solemn duty:

If you live in the Philadelphia area, and you care about what your government is trying to do to Social Security, come out and join with others who are working to save it---meet great people, stuff your face with good eats, and talk with some of your local candidates and representatives to exchange ideas on how to do it.

Join us at an old-fashioned
Sunday picnic in the park to say "Happy 70th Birthday, Social Security!"

Sponsored by
Montco DFA
Philly for Change,
the party will be held at Fort Washington State Park in Flourtown, PA on August 14.

We'll have food, fun, and good company.



• BIRTHDAY CAKE • Grilled Hot Dogs • Corn-on-the-Cob • Soft Drinks •


• Former U.S. Rep. Joe Hoeffel • PA Sen. LeAnna Washington • Billionaires for Bush •
• County Commissioner Ruth Damsker •
• Marty Berger, PA President, Alliance of Retired Americans •
Congressional candidates • Lois Murphy • Pat Murphy • Ginny Schrader Lois Herr • Paul Scoles


• The Ellis Reed Band • Old time country/folk/rock/singer-songwriter 5-piece acoustic band •
• Marti Rogers • Songs from Social Security’s 1935 start: the Depression and union roots •
• Rusty & Jan + Terry • Country meets Rock and Classical Flute, with a dash of renegade Cowboy •
• The Song Sheets Plus • Folk Songs of the 60s and 70s •


• Socially Secure Three-Legged Races • Yer on Yer Own Sack Races • 50/50 Raffle •

• Pin the TALE on the Politician • Lotsa Luck Horseshoe Pitching • Privitization Pig Piñata •

Please RSVP here.

$5 per person suggested donation. Please note that alcoholic beverages are prohibited in Pennsylvania State Parks and that pets must be leashed at all times. Sorry.

Please RSVP here.

The Flourtown Day Use Area is located on West Mill Road between Stenton Ave and Bethlehem Pike in Flourtown. Click here for a map.

A special thank you to Our Host Committee for helping to make this event possible

Sen. Leanna Washington • Josh Shapiro Lee Nelson • Mary Clark Thompson • Frank and Maggie Moya • Ben Burrows • Kevin Shaw • Ruth Damsker • Ginny Schrader • Joe Hoeffel • Patrick Murphy • Lois Herr • Paul Scoles

Thank you!

For those interested in using SEPTA, it's a piece of cake (!) Take the R7 Chestnut Hill East (30 mins.) to the end of the line and pick up the 94 bus. Hop off at Mill Rd (Flourtown Shopping Center, 6 mins on the bus) and walk west on Mill Rd ~0.2 mile (5 mins.) to the picnic area. Both the R7 from Center City stations and buses from Chestnut Hill run hourly on the half-hour (10:30, 11:30, 12:30, etc.) all day Sunday.

The perfect shitstorm 

I sure hope we don't have a spike in oil prices and a collapsed housing bubble at the same time... Of course, I don't drive, let alone drive an SUV, and I don't own a house, let alone a McMansion, but a lot of people would be in a lot of pain...

And you can believe that Bush (when he isn't exercising or on vacation or both) is bending every effort to make sure the perfect shitstorm doens't happen 'til 2009, at which point he'll be safely retired and hiring a ghostwriter for his book deal.

Suggestion for Cindy Sheehan 

From alert reader ck:

How about planting 1800 white crosses across the road from Cindy's ditch -- each one inscribe with a name of dead soldier?

Just so Dear Leader could see them every time he passes -- and the world could see the wing nuts descrating the memorials to the fallen.

It won't affect Bush, of course; he's a sociopath. But it might make the issue very concrete for the people who see it.

UPDATE This looks like good coverage: Crawford's The Lone Star Iconoclast. Apparently the counter-protestors melted in the Hellmouth heat....

UPDATE OTOH, maybe Keep It Simple, Stupid is the right idea. I keep thinking about the event, but isn't the real point Sheehan's questions? And the lack of answers? So, that's the message. Damn, I got seduced by my own giant puppet concept. I have met the Giant Puppet Loons, and they are me!

UPDATE Remember the purported letter from a relative of Cindy Sheehan that The Oxycontin Kid read over the air? Will Bunch did some digging, and it turns out the letter is of dubious provenance. I haven't been over to Attytood in awhile, and it's lookin' good—throwing that red meat!

American Top 50! 

It's always nice to be noticed. Especially by the Inkwire:

Chris Bowers, a progressive local blogger and former political consultant, calls Philadelphia "arguably the lefty blogging capital" of the country. How so? He has just finished a study for NDN, a Democratic group. Based on stats kept by Blogads.com, a site that manages and tracks blog advertising, he found that 10 of the 50 most-popular liberal sites are written here.

The list would start with Eschaton and include Bowers' My DD, Whiskey Bar, the Booman Tribune, Fables of the Reconstruction, Suburban Guerrilla, the All Spin Zone, Corrente, the Rittenhouse Review, and the Tattered Coat, he says. Not all take Blogads; he used other traffic indicators as well.
(via Inquirer)

"As long as they spell the name right...."

Meaning, let's take the mentions we get... Sure, we're from all around the country, not just Philly, and The Mighty Corrente Building is simply too mighty to be confined to a merely terrestrial location, but hey, it's always nice to see the name in print.

There are other interesting facts in the article—like Atrios has 120,000 readers a day, where we get, say, 2000. That's what, three orders of magnitude? Showing what we already know, that the network of internet linkages follows a power curve; a few behemoths, and then the "long tail." Meaning, I think, that we're going to have to display adaptability and learn to develop new forms of linkage. Perhaps more point to point (i.e., local to local) than hub and spoke (where the guys at the top of the power curve are hubs). Since, after all, the traffic is just a means to the end of spreading the message. Kinda like, oh, Committees of Correspondence. Brings me back to the old E.P. Thompson days....

NOTE I'm convinced, though without evidence, that the left blogosphere has been instrumental to the mysterious inability of the malAdministration to get traction after "election" 2004. Slowly but surely we are getting people to think critically. That's done on a very granular level. I don't think it's sufficient for only the top 10 or the top 40 to be sending a message, it has to be pervasive at all scales.

Only connect 

Here's an interesting link from alert reader jack. Emily Gertz writes at WorldChanging:

The internet's been great for helping me make new friends in San Francisco and Toronto... all from my home office chair in Brooklyn.

But it hasn't done much for putting me in touch with the hundreds of people who live within a few blocks of my apartment.

Enter Neighbornode, an intriguing project developed by John Geraci that uses urban density and geographic proximity to faciliate hyperlocal networks.

Neighbornodes are group message boards on local wireless networks. And local here means really local -- the nodes transmit a signal for about 300 feet. When you get online using your nearest Neighbornode, you have access to the node's bulletin board, where you can both read and post. Not on the node? Can't read the board.

Nodes are also extensible -- several Neighbornodes in close proximity can form a "supernode" and transmit community information street by street, while remaining geographically grounded in the local nabe.

From finding out why the nearest laundromat has shut down (big local quality of life issue, trust me!) to why the cops were on the block last night, from where the good yard sale is to changes in local zoning, to simply making a few friends right nearby, there are all sorts of down-to-earth reasons it might be good to shift attention from the cross-continental, trans-oceanic network for a bit, and get better connected with the local neighborhood.
(via WorldChanging)

I think she's right. Note well, that if you or anyone wanted to be a 21st Century block captain (for the good guys, naturally), this technology could help you do that.

Of course, RDF writes in comments:

I made the startling discovery several years ago that the people I'm trying to organize don't generally read the papers.

The problem is finding the locus and modus to reach the ones who are being well and truly fucked by the Powers That Be. What Oscar Zeta Acosta called the "cockroach people" in his classic "The Revolt of the Cockroach People."

Now, I don't think the cockroach people are any more likely to have WiFi than they are to be reading the papers. How to connect to them?

Incidentally, I think that most people are "well and truly fucked by the Powers That Be." Heck, that's what living in an oligarchy means. There are terrible gradations, it is true. I've only been grindingly poor for a couple years, and now I have what would, I guess, be called a "good job." But you know what? To the Powers That Be, I'm just another cockroach.... FWIW, I think we have to get all the cockroaches to, um, connect... 'Cause otherwise we'll get stomped one by one.

NOTE If Mayor John Street would ever get of his ass and wire Philly, the neighborhood nodes would be very easy to create. I wonder why he doesn't? Montreal has a grass roots effort to wire the island, I wonder why Philly can't?

Toss Me a Bone Over the Fence, Willya? 

So now the governor of NM—Bill Richardson, a “Democrat,” unlike Owens of CO who is unabashedly a right wing loonie—has declared a state of emergency along the border with Mexico. This, he says, will allow them to build new, bigger, more hazardous fences than already exist, along with other goodies designed to draw the line in the sand ever deeper. Ahhh, treaties. (I’m thinking Guadalupe-Hidalgo, here) As any Native American will tell you, treaties ain’t worth spit.

Howard Zinn is right in his recent attacks on nationalism (see The Progressive). Build the fences ever higher and higher, but make sure to suck the profits dry from the poor on the other side. The fences with CAFTA will be more metaphorical but just as real. Speaking of The Progressive and Mexico, in case you missed this in the June issue:

The small town off El Alberto, in central Mexico, has built an obstacle course that mimics crossing the border illegally into the United States. For $13.50, tourists scramble down trails, wade in a river, and try to dodge La Migra. If the mock migrants are caught, their hands are tied behind their backs, and they are loaded onto trucks. “Some get very scared,” says guide Ponciano Alfonso Martinez Flores. “They say they don’t want to play anymore.”

Me, either. I’m tired of playing. We must run these leeches out of office in ’06, me hearties. Viva la gente!

Friday, August 12, 2005

Why does Al Neuharth hate America? 

From the publisher of America's largest daily, left at the hotel door across America:

The best way to support our troops in Iraq is to insist that Bush bring them all home. Alive. Sooner rather than later.
(via USA Today)

And that's the way it is...

NOTE Al. More money for reportage, please? The poor old Times is on the ropes, and at some point the stench from that Judy Miller thing is going to choke them. Even if they beat the rap with Fitzgerald, the newsroom must be hell on earth.

"We don't care! We don't care!" 

Is there a link to the video?

Oh my 

Put down your coffee first.

NOTE Thanks to alert reader Tinfoil Hat Boy.

Drive-by looting 

Great headline—"Bush Motorcade Passes War Protesters." Doesn't it always?

President Bush and his motorcade passed the growing camp of war protesters outside his ranch Friday without incident.

The motorcade didn't stop.

Cindy Sheehan, the California mother who started the vigil along the road leading to Bush's ranch, held a sign that read: "Why do you make time for donors and not for me?"

On Friday, Bush arrived before noon at a neighbor's ranch for a barbecue that was expected to raise at least $2 million for the
Republican National Committee.

About 230 people were attending the fundraiser at Stan and Kathy Hickey's Broken Spoke Ranch, a 478-acre spread next to Bush's ranch. All have contributed at least $25,000 to the RNC, and many are "rangers," an honorary campaign title bestowed on those who raised $200,000 or more for Bush, or "pioneers," those who have raised $100,000 or more.

(via AP)

Sheehan asks a good question, doesn't she: "Why do you make time for donors and not for me..."

And her question pretty much sums up Bush's Reign of Error, doesn't it?

NOTE Via Kos, here's a blog from one of the participants at Crawford, and from another participant. More from TruthOut. Farmer has links,art.

Here's hoping the Giant Puppet Loons stay away—I have the feeling the Right Wing Attack Machine is going to show itself for exactly what it is, on national television, for all to see. As the Clash would say, Give 'Em Enough Rope...

Google is bloggered 

Somehow, even through all the outages and that Chinese government thing, I always thought of Google as a different kind of corporation. Another illusion—shattered. A strong draft of UK-grade irony here.

NOTE Or is it blogger is Googled? I always forget.

UPDATE The blogger's curse (back) I cast on Google doesn't—like, so often, blogger itself—seem to be working (or maybe it is, just more slowly than I wanted). Via alert reader Alice Marshall, Google now has a new Vice President: Scott "Sucker MC" McClellan lacky and Caryle Group Associate Dan "I am the Mouth of Bremer" Senor. Yech.

Of course, hiring Senor doesn't tell us anything we don't already know,really. After all, the news page at Google skews right (I use Yahoo now, anyhow) and we long ago noticed that repugnant little marketing scut Biz, in full blogger triumphalism mode during the Superscript Affair, citing Tech Central Station as an exemplar of "swarm intelligence" (should have taken a screen shot, sorry).

Are you ready for the country? Because it's time to go.

Fishies Gotta Swim, Bushies Gotta Flout Laws 

What a surprise. As was clear from its initial reaction to the third inconvenient ruling in the Canadian softwood lumber dispute, the U.S. has officially declared its intention to blow off NAFTA when it doesn't rule its way:

Canadian anger boiled over yesterday at the U.S. government's refusal to comply with a landmark NAFTA ruling that should have spelled an end to punitive softwood duties on lumber from Canada.

Federal and provincial officials accused the United States of reneging on the 11-year-old North American free-trade agreement, with Ottawa renewing threats to slap billions of dollars of sanctions on American goods if Washington doesn't recant.

One senior Canadian government official called the U.S. dismissal of the NAFTA ruling a "slap in the face."
(via The Globe and Mail)

I hope Canada does retaliate. Force is the only thing these gangsters respect, even if it means pulling down the entire edifice of international relations that the rest of the world has struggled to create since WWII. From Florida to Gitmo to Abu Ghraib to Terry Schiavo to Valerie Plame to steel tariffs to this, I can't think of a single example of the Bush Administration submitting itself to the rule of law, so it's silly to think that further jawboning or appeals to decency will elicit anything other than contempt from them.

In this context, perhaps "Cindy Sheehan is [indeed] our Rosa Parks". What will be our Selma?

St. Jerry & Jesus the Lawn Jockey 

Tony Norman is an oft-overlooked columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Dispatch. Today he takes a calm, dispassionate look at Radical Cleric Jerry Falwell's latest crusade (aka Fundraising Pitch) which Reverend J. calls "Vote Christian in 2008!"

(Not to give away any hints, but the major target of this mailing is a certain New York senator, so powerful in Eeee-vil that merely trying to speak her name caused her prospective Republican opponent to be stricken mute for almost a half a minute on live TV the other day.)

But Tony's larger topic is the Radical Rev's overall take on things: (via PP-G)
The sentimental history of America as imagined by Christian fundamentalists like Falwell has always been an interesting diversion from real life. If it weren't such a proven money-maker for cynical preachers whose talent for fleecing the credulous can never be underestimated, it would be laughable in its heretical audacity.

Jesus as preached from far too many pulpits on Sunday morning is nothing more than the sanctified lawn jockey of a resurgent American empire. He isn't even accorded the dignity of questioning the assumptions of the political and religious operators that have appropriated him as their official mascot.

...The Jesus that many Christians want to parade in the American public square like an organ-grinder's monkey will mostly be called upon to bless football games, debutante balls and occasional military incursions into hostile Islamic countries.

...Vote Christian so that the sanctity of life will be absolute and that godly men will always be in place to ensure that our nuclear arsenal is second to none in its destructive capability.
Can ah heer an AYE-men!

The road to golgotha 

GOP Party of Death
Via AP: Aug. Death Toll for Reserves in Iraq Soars
WASHINGTON - The National Guard and Reserve suffered more combat deaths in Iraq during the first 10 days of August — at least 32, according to a Pentagon count — than in any full month of the entire war.

GOP Death Cult's Hideaway Circle 'W' Ranch

"Far out on the desert to the north dustspouts rose wobbling and augered the earth and some said they'd heard of pilgrims borne aloft like dervishes in those mindless coils to be dropped broken and bleeding upon the desert again and there perhaps to watch the thing that had destroyed them lurch onward like some drunken djinn and resolve itself once more into the elements from which it sprang." ~ Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

Camp Casey - Crawford, Texas
What can you do? 1. Go To Crawford [Vets for Peace]
Many of us are heading to Crawford. David Cline, the national President plans to arrive there by the end of the week. Elements of Arlington West are on the road right now. At this time, VFP National is not calling for a mass convergence on Crawford. We do need members to go and act as an advance party to support Cindy and prepare for a mass turnout. But right now we think the best tactical approach is to allow the confrontation between the President and Gold Star Parents For Peace like Cindy, Sue Neiderer, and military families with love ones in Iraq to develop. Too many other people in the mix can distort the story and the opportunity. We are there to lend support. Soon it will be time to bring in the re-enforcements. So in other words if you can’t make it right now, don’t worry, we will need you later. Those who can make it, get there as fast as you can.

Please let us know if you plan to go just to keep us informed of who we have on the ground. You should also visit this link from the Crawford Peace House for more information (lodging etc.).

Camp Casey

> Crawford Peace House
includes: Crawford protest info

> Code Pink; Women for Peace
> One Million Reasons.org
> Military Families Speak Out
> Gold Star Families for Peace
> Veterans for Peace

[AP photo above]:
Thu Aug 11, 6:53 PM ET A plaque with the numbers of soldiers killed and wounded in the Iraq war sits by a mass of crosses honoring those soldiers, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2005, along a road leading to President Bush's Crawford, Texas ranch.


Thursday, August 11, 2005

Say, could Bush be afraid to meet Gold Star Mother Cindy because he's afraid of his own Mother? 

Just asking...

But it's a tenable theory. Heck, Barbara Bush scares me, and I didn't have to grow up with her.

I always knew the Republicans were bad at math, but they can't even count to zero? 

Too busy dealing with the coming indictments to do the math, I guess:

The Republican Party says it still has a zero-tolerance policy for tampering with voters even as it pays the legal bills for a former Bush campaign official charged with conspiring to thwart Democrats from voting in New Hampshire.

James Tobin, the president's 2004 campaign chairman for New England, is charged in New Hampshire federal court with four felonies accusing him of conspiring with a state GOP official and a GOP consultant in Virginia to jam Democratic and labor union get-out-the-vote phone banks in November 2002.

The Republican National Committee already has spent more than $722,000 to provide Tobin, who has pleaded innocent, a team of lawyers from the high-powered Washington law firm of Williams & Connolly. The firm's other clients have included former President Clinton and Sen. Hillary Clinton and former Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros.
(via AP)

It's just like joining the mob, isn't it? The wise guys make sure that you get a lawyer. More from fear of what you might reveal that implicates them, of course.

Maher Arar 

I continue to be amazed at the lack of US media interest in this story. You would think that our government kidnapping the citizen of a neighboring democracy and sending him to be tortured, by an official supporter of terrorism no less, simply because of a signature on a rental lease agreement, would have some newsworthiness. Too bad Arar wasn't a pretty white woman. Still, this Times lede does capture the literally Kafkaesque world that we now inhabit:

Foreign citizens who change planes at airports in the United States can legally be seized, detained without charges, deprived of access to a lawyer or the courts, and even denied basic necessities like food, lawyers for the government said in Brooklyn federal court yesterday.

I guess we shouldn't be surprised that a government that claims the right to imprison suspects without any due process on grounds of national security would claim immunity from legal process on the same ground when the tables are turned. Still, it takes a bit of chutzpah to claim "clear and unequivocal evidence" that the plaintiff, now walking around free, is a terrorist. Sending him to Syria to be tortured is just what you do with obviously guilty people, you see.

Welcome to America. Have a nice trip.

Terrorist/Not Terrorist? 

Is it just me or is there something a little strange about this story? Starting with the fact that you can only find it on (1)very short scrolls on US cable news, with no particular attention drawn to it despite it having happened yesterday morning, (2) The Hindustani Times and (3) Reuters.comUK:
An Oklahoma man was taken into custody after he tried to carry a bomb on board an airplane on Wednesday in Oklahoma City, an FBI spokesman said.

Charles Alfred Dreyling Jr., 24, was detained on Wednesday morning after a security screener using an X-ray machine saw the device in his luggage as he tried to board a flight to Philadelphia at Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City.

"Although the investigation is in its initial stages we have found no apparent connection to any type of terrorist activity or group," FBI spokesman Gary Johnson said.

Johnson said the screener saw an "improvised explosive device" in Dreyling's carry-on luggage.
Oh, and the other slightly puzzling item: Isn't "trying to get on a plane to Philly with an IED in your carryon" sorta "terrorist activity" by default? One suspects if a 24 year old male of slightly darker skin tone, or the name Muhammed rather than Dreyling, were involved, the matter might get a bit more play.

I'm sure it has nothing at all to do with the surprising number of chemical plants that have been catching fire and/or blowing up lately....must be time to replace the tinfoil lining in my headwear.

Threats To National Security 

What is wrong with this picture?
"Cindy Sheehan phoned me from Texas a few minutes ago to say that she's been informed that beginning Thursday, she and her companions will be considered a threat to national security and will be arrested."
Has the whole country gone mad? A woman who parks herself miles out of sight of the White House goons, on a public road, is scaring the bejeesus out of our "wartime president"?

And are we so pitiful now that we can put up with, even defend, the institutionalized torture and murder of prisoners by our military, yet cringe in trembling fear at the thought of an about-to-be-divorced soldier having an affair?
"A four-star general who was relieved of command this week said Wednesday through his lawyer that the Army took the action after an investigation into accusations that he was involved in a consensual relationship with a female civilian.
The lawyer, Lt. Col. David H. Robertson, said the case "involves an adult relationship with a woman who is not in the military, nor is a civilian employee of the military or the federal government."
The general, Kevin P. Byrnes, was relieved Monday by the Army chief of staff, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, just a few months before General Byrnes was scheduled to retire as head of the Army Training and Doctrine Command. "
Evidently, the answer is yes. According to the NYTimes article this is taken from, "...dozens of members of the military are disciplined every year for adultery and related offenses". Amazing, isn't it, the speed with which the Pentagon acts when sex rears its ugly head. And not violent, coerced, brutal sex, but sex between consenting adults.

So little grieving women and men in love now form the vortex of danger against which our president and his military must gather the force and vigilance of the nation.

And speaking of threats to national security, I sure am glad that whole Iraq thing is keeping us safe in the meantime.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

NAFTA 2, US 0: Time to Shoot the Ref? 

Talk to nearly anyone here in Canada, and #1 on the list of grievances against the United States--higher than Iraq, higher than mad cow--is the imposition of duties on imports of Canadian softwood lumber. Hypocrisy being the U.S.'s greatest export, it should come as no surprise that the taxpayer-subsidized timber industry and its shills in the Bush Administration have been objecting to "unfair" competition from Canadian softoods, flouting the North American Free Trade Agreement to block free trade in it. Negotiations over the issue for years having produced nothing but the usual my-way-or-the-highway instransigence from the Bush Administration, Canada finally took the U.S. to court over the issue. Today it won:
Canada is claiming a major victory in the softwood lumber dispute with the United States following a key ruling by a NAFTA panel and is demanding quick repayment of billions of dollars in penalties collected by Washington.

An extraordinary challenge panel under the North American free-trade agreement has dismissed U.S. arguments that an earlier NAFTA ruling in favour of Canada violated trade rules.

Analysts have previously said such a win could be the final blow to the U.S. industry's claims that Canadian producers are unfairly subsidized.

Trade officials said they hope Wednesday's decision will hasten a negotiated end to the dispute that began more than four years ago and has seriously threatened Canada's $10-billion softwood-export sector.

“We are extremely pleased that the (panel) dismissed the claims of the United States,” Trade Minister Jim Peterson said in a statement. “This is a binding decision that clearly eliminates the basis for U.S.-imposed duties on Canadian softwood lumber.

“We fully expect the United States to abide by this ruling, stop collecting duties and refund the duties collected over the past three years.”
(via The Globe and Mail)

Canadians have such a puckish sense of humor, as the article goes on to make clear:

But Washington is insisting that more negotiations are needed before the long-running dispute can be wrapped up.

“We are, of course, disappointed with the (panel's) decision, but it will have no impact on the antidumping and countervailing duty orders,” said Nenna Moorjani, press secretary for U.S. trade representative Rob Portman.

“We continue to have concerns about Canadian pricing and forestry practices. We believe that a negotiated solution is in the best interests of both the United States and Canada, and that litigation will not resolve the dispute.”

Mr. Peterson and his U.S. counterpart have resumed talks aimed at negotiating a solution to the softwood dispute, which has already seen Canadian producers pay about $5-billion in antidumping and countervailing duties.

A trade official said the battle may not be over, because the Americans still have some options outside NAFTA, including a formal constitutional challenge.

Canada has been fighting the combined countervailing and antidumping duties through legal channels as well as in high-level negotiations since Washington began collecting duties in 2002.

Although Canada has won many of legal battles under the NAFTA, as well as at the World Trade Organization, that has had little real effect in the dispute.

The Bush Family Motto: What's Mine is Mine, What's Yours is Mine, and the Rest is Negotiable. Look for sudden resignations from the NAFTA panel in the weeks to come, followed by a third appeal from the United States. Either that, or Mr. Thompson finds a horsehead in his bed. Nobody messes with Georgie "The Smirk."

When It Just Gets to Be Too Much 

The proudest military tradition this nation has is the fact that the guys with the guns have always, through thick and thin, subordinated themselves to control by the elected representatives of the people. Examples from ancient Rome to more recent events, usually in smaller and warmer countries to the south, suggest that this will not go on forever if the military is abused and misused just too damn far.

(via ChicagoTribune, which is registration but this is most of the story:)
An Air Force Reserve colonel could face criminal charges for allegedly vandalizing cars at Denver International Airport bearing pro-Bush bumper stickers.

Lt. Col. Alexis Fecteau, director of operations for reserve forces at the National Security Space Institute in Colorado Springs, is believed responsible for defacing at least 10 parked vehicles between December and June, police spokesman Sonny Jackson said Tuesday.
[snip] Jackson said Fecteau is suspected of blacking out the Bush bumper stickers and then spray painting an expletive and the president's name on the vehicles.

[snip] The bait vehicle was equipped with a camera that captured an image of the suspect and his car. Then a detective was able to find footage from a camera monitoring cars leaving the parking lot and traced Fecteau using the car's license plate, Jackson said.

Police have referred the case to prosecutors, who are considering filing criminal charges, he said.
Does anybody here really think they are going to let this go to a trial in open court? Naw, I didn't think so either. Military tribunal on the other hand...although I would need to see what part of the UCMJ deals with the subject of Frustration Vandalism.

Sandstorm coup de main 

Dateline Baghdad (via the NYTimes - login not required):
Baghdad Mayor Is Ousted by a Shiite Group and Replaced | By JAMES GLANZ | Published: August 10, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 9 - Armed men entered Baghdad's municipal building during a blinding dust storm on Monday, deposed the city's mayor and installed a member of Iraq's most powerful Shiite militia.

The deposed mayor, Alaa al-Tamimi, who was not in his offices at the time, recounted the events in a telephone interview on Tuesday and called the move a municipal coup d'état. He added that he had gone into hiding for fear of his life.

"This is the new Iraq," said Mr. Tamimi, a secular engineer with no party affiliation. "They use force to achieve their goal."

The group that ousted him insisted that it had the authority to assume control of Iraq's capital city and that Mr. Tamimi was in no danger. The man the group installed, Hussein al-Tahaan, is a member of the Badr Organization, the armed militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, known as Sciri.

The militia has been credited with keeping the peace in heavily Shiite areas in southern Iraq but also accused of abuses like forcing women to wear the veils demanded by conservative Shiite religious law.

"If we wanted to do something bad to him, we would have done that," said Mazen A. Makkia, the elected city council chief who led the ouster on Monday and who had been in a lengthy and unresolved legal feud with Mr. Tamimi.

"We really want to establish the state of law for every citizen, and we did not threaten anyone," Mr. Makkia said. "This is not a coup."

SCIRI (Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution In Iraq)

Flashback Judy Miller's boyfriend and other Sciri recollections:
Several blocs within the alliance are vying for top government positions. The most powerful are SCIRI and the Dawa Party. Also trying to leverage their power are followers of the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr; Mr. Chalabi; and a group of independent candidates who have won the favor of the top Shiite authority in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Over the weekend, SCIRI leader Abdel-Aziz Hakim met with Chalabi and offered to make him the top financial overseer in Iraq, responsible for the oil, trade, and finance ministries in exchange for him withdrawing, according to the SCIRI official. A spokesman for Chalabi confirmed the meeting but would not say what was discussed.


Chalabi's assertiveness, for example, may be rewarded with control of billions of dollars of oil revenue and trading contracts. If Jaafari wins as prime minister, other groups in the alliance may insist that no one else from his party get a top post. SCIRI may also demand control of several ministries, particularly the interior ministry.

Chalabi had only about 15 supporters on the UIA list. But earlier this month he teamed up with the followers of Mr. Sadr, adding about 30 supporters. Chalabi's spokesman says other UIA members also back him, and puts the number at around 80.

The alliance of Sadr and Chalabi couldn't have been between two people of more disparate ideologies.

Chalabi is a secularist and was once the darling of the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency, which used his information to build a case for war in Iraq and envisioned him one day leading the country. He fell out of favor last May over allegations that he was passing intelligence information to Iran. He has also struggled to shake off charges that he embezzled funds from Petra Bank in Jordan, which he founded and which later collapsed. He adamantly denies the allegations.

By contrast, Sadr's Mahdi Army led bloody uprisings against the US last spring and summer, and is avowedly religious, even setting up religious courts based on sharia, or Islamic law, just months after war ended. Sadr boycotted the election but his supporters ran as independents. - [see: "Power plays preoccupy Iraqi leaders", February 22, 2005 edition Christian Science Monitor ]

Chalabi bonhomie and Bu$hCo's fabulous nest of bungling yeggs:
In 1997, Wurmser wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal called "Iraq Needs a Revolution" and the next year co-signed a letter with Perle calling for all-out U.S. support of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an exile group led by Ahmad Chalabi, in promoting an insurgency in Iraq. At AEI, Wurmser wrote Tyranny's Ally: America's Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein, essentially a book-length version of "A Clean Break" that proposed an alliance between Jordan and the INC to redraw the map of the Middle East. Among the mentors cited by Wurmser in the book: Chalabi, Perle, and Feith.

As OSP got rolling, Luti brought in Colonel Bruner, a former military aide to Gingrich, and, together, Luti and Bruner opened the door to a vast flow of bogus intelligence fed to the Pentagon by Iraqi defectors associated with Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress group of exiles. Chalabi founded the Iraqi National Congress in 1992, with the help of a shadowy CIA-connected public-relations firm called the Rendon Group, ...


In the late 1960s, Chalabi studied mathematics at the University of Chicago with Wohlstetter, who introduced him to Richard Perle more than a decade later. Long associated with the heart of the neoconservative movement, Chalabi founded Petra Bank in Jordan, which grew to be Jordan's third-largest bank by the 1980s. But Chalabi was accused of bank fraud, embezzlement, and currency manipulation, and he barely escaped before Jordanian authorities could arrest him; in 1992, he was convicted and sentenced in absentia to more than 20 years of hard labor. After founding the INC, Chalabi's bungling, unreliability, and penchant for mismanaging funds caused the CIA to sour on him, but he never lost the support of Perle, Feith, Gingrich, and their allies; once, soon after 9/11, Perle invited Chalabi to address the Defense Policy Board. [ more Bu$hCo bubble follies... revisit the LIE FACTORY (page 2), Mother Jones.com, 2004. ]

Way to go Bill Keller, you silly dolt. Judy and her boyfriend(s) sure took your ass for a moonshine ride in the boondocks didn't they? Het, het, snicker, snicker... Way to go Arty Sulzberger you stupid Likudnik jackass. Way to go "New York Times"! Your glorious, prized, winning leaders, have certainly earned you your consignment to the Sukr Brigade!

The New York Times needs a revolution. I demand a clean break.

Meanwhile: this is the way the AP is reporting the ouster: "Five U.S. Soldiers Killed in Attacks In" [in something anyway], By BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press Writer [emphasis added below is mine]:
The mayor of Baghdad, Alaa al-Timimi, was fired and responsibility for managing the city transferred to the provincial governor, government spokesman Laith Kubba said. He refused to say why the provincial council sacked the mayor.

"sacked"... see AP item. (A Karen Hughes "Public Diplomacy" Sack-a-Shit Production)


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Portrait of a Preznit trapped in a quagmire 

How can Bush speak when he keeps gritting his teeth like that?

HELLMOUTH, Texas (AP) - President Bush said Tuesday he was "deeply suspicious" of Iran but was not ready to seek United Nations sanctions against Tehran for its suspected nuclear weapons program.

Speaking to reporters at his Texas ranch, Bush said the newly elected president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had indicated a willingness to continue discussions with European nations.

Haw. Wish He's been talking that way on Saddam's supposed WMDs. Of course, you can hardly blame Bush for wanting the war. After all, there were mid-term elections to win!

"The man said he wanted to negotiate," Bush said following a meeting with his top economic advisers.

Haw. The first part was the gritted teeth part. This part is the grinding-teeth-to-powder part.

He added that if Iran does not cooperate, U.N. sanctions are "a potential consequence."
(via AP)

Haw. That part was the not-with-a-bang-but-a-whimper part.

Honestly, does anyone believe for a minute, a nanosecond, that Inerrant Boy would be even using the word "negotation," let alone threatening "UN sanctions" if He hadn't bogged the troops down in a losing war in Iraq?

Worst of all, Bush has set himself, and the country, up for diplomatic defeat: Nobody will believe any American intelligence, and rightfully so, since Bush set out to politicize the intelligence agencies, and has visibly succeeded. And we're negotiating from a position of weakness, since (absent a nuclear strike, or an Israeli raid) Bush has no military leverage at all.

Yes, the term of art is indeed clusterfuck.

Another question for Stealthy John Roberts 

From alert reader scaramouche (lightly edited):

Judge Roberts, if someone who is a party to an upcoming case on the Supreme Court's calendar invites you to go duck hunting, what will you do?
(via President Boxer)

Aux duckpits, citoyens!

And everyone who says the I.D. guys are lying Creationists should just back off, OK? 

They're not lying.

They're marketing.

So why is Peter Jennings dead, and Robert Novak alive? 

Just asking....

And don't tell me "Intelligent Design," OK?

NOTE Assuming, arguendo, that Novak is, in fact, alive.

Trash-TV: great moments in sports programming 

In case you didn't think the hebrephenic-like entertainment media gentry who conjure up stupid new crap for people to stare at on the boob-toob could get any more inane, imbecilic, loutish, dull-witted, obnoxious, or just generally altogether plain-speakin' stupid - consider this slated idiot box blast off:
Coming Soon: Bob Knight, the Reality Star | By RICHARD SANDOMIR Published: August 9, 2005

Knight is loud, successful, demanding, profane and temperamental - just the type of alpha male who would rile his housemates in "Big Brother." He makes funny faces, is known to have tossed a chair and was seen on videotape choking one of his players, Neil Reed, during practice in 1997. - more via the NYTimes (login not required)

Yes! A "reality star" who is for all utile purposes a certifiable jackass. Hot damn!, what a concept. I can't believe no-one has ever thought of something like this before. What will they think of next... Hey, how about a show about this loud, successful, demanding, profane and tempermental jackass who riles his "housemates" and is appointed UN Ambassador!

mr p-nissSpeaking of loutish, profane and temperamental: Mr P-Niss intends to try out for Mr. Bobby's alpha male bounceball team. Because Mr P-Niss can bounce two balls at once. And, to make matters even more appealing to the target demographic, Mr P-Niss actually enjoys being choked from time to time. Granted Mr. P-Niss would prefer to be throttled by Miss V-Niss rather than subjected to the funny faces of an a-niss from Tex-iss during prac-tiss...but hey, its TV.... it's E-ESS-P-N! And aything Mr P-Niss can do to help TV deliver groundbreaking documentary reality to more Americans is, well, the least Mr P-Niss can do.

After all, we are at war, somewhere, so I'm told, and we each need to make sacrifices.


Monday, August 08, 2005

Scooter and Judy and Steamed Rice - and more... 

Operation Yellow Elephant alert: Pentagon to expand opportunities for Young College Republicans.
Pentagon Plans to Send More Troops to Iraq - By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer

WASHINGTON - Anticipating a new burst of insurgent violence, the Pentagon plans to expand the U.S. force in Iraq to improve security for a planned October referendum and a December election.

Although much public attention has been focused recently on the prospect of reducing U.S. forces next spring and summer, defense officials foresee the likelihood of first increasing troop levels. --- more

Steamed Rice:
Rice: Insurgency Losing Political Steam By DOUGLASS K. DANIEL, Associated Press Writer - Mon Aug 8, 9:44 AM ET

WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the insurgency in Iraq is losing steam as a political force, even as Democratic congressmen warned Sunday that violence jeopardizes plans for withdrawing some troops.

Rice, in an article appearing on Time magazine's Web site, argued against viewing the war solely through the rising death toll. More than 1,820 American troops have died in Iraq, at least 30 of them in the last week.

"It's a lot easier to see the violence and suicide bombing than to see the rather quiet political progress that's going on in parallel," Rice said.

"If you think about how to defeat an insurgency, you defeat it not just militarily but politically," she said, adding that she believes the insurgents are "losing steam" politically. more

Lets just say that the insurgency is bursting at the steams... moving along...

"The Judy Line" is apparently ringing off the hook:
Speaking of the Times' Washington bureau, according to another source within the Times, the DC office has put in a dedicated phone line specifically for the purpose of receiving Judy's collect calls from prison -- which are then forwarded to whoever it is she wants to talk to. It's been dubbed "the Judy Line." No word on whether the number is 1-800-4-MARTYR. -- more, Arianna Huffington

Scooter and Judy, two thousand & three, k.i.s.s.i.n.g.:
WHERE'S THE WAIVER? The DCCC's Jesse Lee has the text of a new letter sent by representatives John Conyers, Louise Slaughter, and Rush Holt to I. Lewis Libby. Citing Murray Waas' Prospect report of a meeting between Libby and Judith Miller on July 8, 2003, the Democrats call on Libby to cooperate fully with the Plame investigators by granting Miller a personal waiver to talk about their discussions. Everyone is waiting with baited breath for Libby's response, I'm sure. Meanwhile, the question remains: Will The New York Times' editorialists issue a demand for Libby to hold a press conference to disclose all he knows, as they had earlier demanded of Karl Rove? --- more via TAP

Grassroots turf:
Real Cost of Living [by Hank Kalet]
I have a friend who has been looking for an apartment. She's in her early 30s, has a young son and works in the service industry at a job that relies on tips to make ends meet. She lives with her parents -- but not out of choice. It's because the cost of housing in our area is well beyond her reach.

And she's not alone.

According to a recent study by the Legal Services of New Jersey's Poverty Research Institute titled "The Real Cost of Living in 2005: The Self-Sufficiency Standard for New Jersey," the average adult with two kids has to earn $17.70 per hour or $37,374 a year to be considered self-sufficient in the state.

According to PRI, the self-sufficiency standard is a better model -- which would be $16,090 -- by which to gauge the actual cost of living in a given area. Unlike the federal poverty line, which is calculated nationally based on the cost of food and takes into account nothing else, the self-sufficiency standard attempts to calculate what families need to earn to pay for food, housing, healthcare, childcare, transportation, clothing and the normal incidentals that most of us take for granted.

The figures vary from region to region, depending on the cost of various services. In Indianapolis, for instance, a family of three would need to earn $16.25 an hour -- or $33,800 a year -- to be self-sufficient, while in Milwaukee the cost balloons to $20.08 an hour or $41,766 a year.

In Middlesex County, N.J., where I live, the PRI calculates self-sufficiency for a family of three at $45,309, while a family of four would need to earn a little more than $50,000, with the figures rising for larger families with older children.

Let's put this in perspective: That is less than $1,000 a week to cover rent and utilities, food, clothing, transportation and child care.

And, yet, it is almost three times the poverty threshold set by the federal government and, more importantly, more than four times what someone working 40 hours a week at a minimum wage job would earn, meaning that there is no way the federal minimum wage can keep a family afloat economically. --- more

meanwhile... Bu$hCo's Plunder Dome extols latest oily gifting swindle:
Bush Signs Massive Energy Bill Into Law
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - President Bush on Monday signed sweeping legislation that provides billions of dollars in tax subsidies to energy companies, yet does little quickly to ease gas prices or lower America's reliance on foreign oil. -- Associated Press

Truckstop economics:
Fred Stembottom: This Is Angry. I Am Yelling. But I Am a White, Male Truckdriver... Fred Stembottom

I have been reading pages and pages about the DNC and the DLC and I want to tell you why I am so opposed to the direction the DLC has taken the Party in the last 20 years.

I have been advocating, writing letters, talking locally within the Democratic Party for 25 frickin' years now. To no avail.

My message is simple: talk about workers' rights. Unionizing, outsourcing (especially outsourcing!), management cheating (we have ALL been cheated out of portions of our wages by innumerable statistical tricks). SPEAK OF THEM and blue-collar men go absolutely NUTS with recognition of the problems! Followed 5 minutes later with the most intense hunger to do something about it all that you have ever witnessed.

I speak of them to my blue-collar friends all the time! All. By. Myself.

Millions of white, male blue-collar workers go around in right-wing talk radio induced ignorance. Each and every one of them thinks that the problems they have with their employer is unique, puzzling and sure to get better after a change of management ...or something.

What I do: I simply point up how these "puzzling anomalies" are actually well-known and ancient un-fair labor practices. With NAMES!

Speed-ups. Wage stagnation policies. Two-tiered wage systems. Worker isolation. These are some of the names of the classic Unfair Labor Practices that my friends experience everyday. But they don't even know that there are such things as Unfair Labor Practices! --- more via Huffington Post


Ominous exhortations from the Wahabi Kingdom... 

Via AP/Yahoo News
U.S. Embassy Will Close Saudi Offices By DONNA ABU-NASR, Associated Press Writer

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - The U.S. Embassy and consulates in Saudi Arabia will close Monday and Tuesday because of a threat against U.S. government buildings, the embassy said Sunday.

In a statement, the embassy said mission personnel will limit nonofficial travel during the next two days and urged Americans to keep "a high level of vigilance." The statement did not elaborate on the nature of the threat.

"The American Embassy in Riyadh advises all American citizens living in Saudi Arabia that, in response to a threat against U.S. government buildings in the kingdom, the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh and the U.S. consulate generals in Jiddah and Dhahran will be closed on Aug. 8 and 9," the statement said.

It reminded Americans that, in the past, terrorist groups have targeted housing compounds and other establishments where Westerners may be located.

I'm guessing this is little more than some call to prayer: all aboard Prince Turki's ambassador airways party plane bound for The Prairie Chapel Ranch in Craw-ferd! - perhaps another tiptoe though the bluebonnets - another summer 'Saudi Night', Lone Star, revel yell, Elvis White Panty Party? Woo-hoo! -- het, het, het...snicker snicker...

Like I said, I'm just guessing... I hope I'm right...

Meanwhile ... in other thrilling "total war" news (as if a very bad Little Boy wasn't enough):
Nagasaki Prepares for A-Bomb Anniversary By ERIC TALMADGE, Associated Press Writer:

NAGASAKI, Japan - On the eve of the anniversary Tuesday of Nagasaki's devastation 60 years ago by the "Fat Man" atomic bomb,... Nagasaki Prepares for A-Bomb Anniversary


Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Lesser Evil 

"The first casualty, when war comes, is truth."
---Senator Hiram Johnson, 1917

Hiroshima My father fought in the Pacific Theatre of World War II as an Army sergeant in the Philippines, and then beyond. He was not far from Japan when the atomic bombs were dropped, and right after the peace treaty was signed, he was stationed in Japan itself for a brief period. He never spoke about it, never volunteered information, but if pressed he would tell me something fairly innocuous, like how a Zero suddenly appeared above their camp and sent everyone flying for cover, including the driver of a jeep, whose sudden abandonment of the vehicle sent it careening over him. Thereafter he always carried a scar on his shin from where the tires ran over his leg, and the scar, like the jungle rot in his feet that never quite went away, or his revulsion toward seafood, which had come from a steady diet of fish heads and rice, remained a constant reminder of where he'd been and what he'd done. But when he and his friends got together, or the other veterans in my family, none of them ever exchanged war stories. None of them could even be coaxed into talking about it.

He had been back from the war for almost 8 years by the time I came along. I was still a very young child when I first remember poring over the old photos he brought back, of himself and his friends posing in front of some monument with a nameless Japanese woman who smiled pleasantly for the camera. I remember thinking, even as a child, how unlikely that smile seemed. I remember running my hands over the hilt of the samurai sword he brought back as a souvenir, fascinated by that tangible link to an impossibly alien place, and how, despite all entreaties, he refused to tell me how he'd come by it. He once showed me the helmet he wore in the jungle, with the bullet hole through the gap above the webbing that had held the helmet away from his head, and I thought more than once on how close he had been to never coming home.

destroy-brute The popular take on those days, the post-war 50's and the early 60's, is that they were ones of halcyon innocence and peace, and endless prosperity and opportunity, and in many ways, for many people, they were. But they were also days of incredible paranoia, of enemies under every rock, and if it wasn't the Communists it was the fallout in the icicles dangling from your house, or the Conelrad alerts and Civil Defense drills. My uncle, a classic sailor with fascinating tattoos on his muscular forearms, had by then become a career Navy man, and went from World War II to Korea hardly missing a beat, while Joe McCarthy was hard at work creating the seige mentality that would enable our governments to justify sending us to war for decades to come. By then the phrase used so hopefully during the First World War, that "war to end all wars", was beginning to look a little threadbare. Still, after being fed a steady diet of nationalist propaganda, cover-ups, and re-written history, we were psyched to shrug our collective shoulders with a sigh, accept that this was just the way it would have to be, and ready to embark on the brave new world of industrial slaughter those in power had in mind for us.

Never have a nation's demurs against war rung so blatantly false or for so long. Even now we delude ourselves into thinking that we are never aggressive, never looking for a fight, always being pushed into situations where war is our only option and therefore justified. woman_bomb Here we are, always just minding our own business, and along comes some pushy country just spoiling for a fight. The fact that for the last 60 years those pushy countries have happened to be small, powerless, backward, irrelevant, or all four, has somehow failed to make an impression on a people whose national myth includes standing up for the underdog and playing the part of the hero. That was the story we told ourselves in World War II, and that is the story we continue to tell throughout the subsequent years of evidence to the contrary.
It was in 1975 that in "Home to Roost", her speech on the state of the union immediately after Watergate, Hannah Arendt lamented the desperate lengths to which we went to make ourselves feel good after the humiliation of Vietnam:

"What comes home to roost now is this long education in imagery (i.e., the retreat from uncomfortable truths and quest for lies from which to create positive images), which seems no less habit-forming than drugs. Nothing in my opinion told us more about this addiction than the public reaction, on the street as well as in Congress, to our 'victory' in Cambodia, in the opinion of many 'just what the doctor ordered' (Sulzberger) to heal the wounds of the Vietnam defeat. Indeed, 'Twas a famous victory!' as James Reston aptly quoted in the New York Times, and let us hope that this was finally the nadir of the erosion of self-confidence when victory over one of the tiniest and most helpless countries could cheer the inhabitants of what only a few decades ago really was the 'mightiest power on earth."
Mushroom%20_Cloud So the anniversary of the use of the atomic bomb against human beings is being noted this weekend, and as it inevitably will, the discussion has arisen as to whether it was justified. The usual arguments are made for it: that a million servicemen's lives were saved, that Japan would have never surrendered otherwise, that an example had to be made to ensure their will was broken and they never became a threat again, that Truman warned them and they wouldn't listen. That something good came out of it after all. That like the war itself, it was a moral action justified in the cause of eradicating evil. That it was a lesser evil chosen for a greater good.

My head, much like Hiroshima, wants to explode.

There are plenty of sites on the internet and at the library where you can immerse yourself in the facts and fantasies that surrounded the event, and although I believe the bombings were the greatest atrocities my nation ever committed (and I do not believe they saved my father's life), I'm more interested in the idea of a "moral" war. Chris Hedges, in his wonderful book, Losing Moses on the Freeway, calls on his many years as a war reporter, and interview with a Vietnam vet who went on to become a Bishop in the Episcopal church, to answer those who posit the existence of a moral war. After recounting incidents from the war in which the bishop committed acts he would have never thought himself capable, Hedges says this:

"Bishop Packard discovered in the war the capacity we all have for evil. He discovered the darkness that allows us, when the restraints are cut, to commit acts of brutality against the weak and the defenseless, including children. He discovered the ghoulish delight soldiers can take in killing"
And to answer the suggestion that war can be moral, he says this:

amp5 "Wars come wrapped in patriotic slogans, call for self-sacrifice and glory. They come wrapped in the claims of divine providence... It is what is right and just. War is always waged...to make the nation and the world a better place, to cleanse evil...
But up close war is a soulless void. War quickly descends to raw barbarity, perversion, pain and an unchecked orgy of death. It is a state where human decency and tenderness are crushed, where those who make war work overtime to destroy love, where all human beings become objects to use or kill. The noise, the stench, the fear, the eviscerated bodies and bloated corpses, the crying wounded spin us into another universe. In this moral void, blessed by institutions at home, the hypocrisy of our social conventions are laid bare. We call for strict adherence to some commandments and laud the purposeful violation of others. Hypocrisy rules. War, for all its horror, has the power to strip away the trivial and the banal, the empty chatter and foolish obsessions. It lets us see."
War is evil. It is the industrial slaughter of human beings we do not know, and when our weapons hit their marks, we can't possibly know whether one of them lays low a deserving victim or not. We cannot help but kill non-combatants, many of whom are children, old people, pregnant women, mothers, fathers, sisters, people who were loved as much as we ourselves are loved, and whose claim to the right to life is as strong and legitimate as any of our own. When we engage in it, for whatever reason, we do evil, and commit sin. bushg1 Yet, with few exceptions, you seldom hear the institutionalized religions speak out against government when war is waged. How often did you hear the voices of the churches of the land raised in protest and condemnation as Bush pushed the country inexorably toward Iraq? How often do your hear churches, so eager to shut off communion for politicians in favor of choice, threaten the same for those who support and fight the war? The most self-righteous and judgmental of them actually praise it as a just retribution, and support those who engineered and maintain it. Their religion is actually a civic one, and as Hedges states:

"These institutions have little or nothing to say in wartime because the god they worship is often a false god, one that promises victory to those who obey the law and believe in the manifest destiny of the nation. The god of war takes over the pulpits and airwaves. Religious leaders line up to bless the enterprise of war."
When religion and the state become one, they enable one another, and the combined force of their authority can push a nation into committing any conceivable horror.

Robert Jay Lifton told Hedges:

"Ordinary men can all too readily be socialized to atrocity. These killing projects are never described as such. They are put in terms of the necessity of improving the world, of political and spiritual renewal. You cannot kill large numbers of people without a claim to virtue. Our own campaign to rid the world of terror is expressed this way, as if once we destroy all terrorists we destroy evil."
This is the lesson of Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo, and Bagram: when we choose torture because we are "forced to by desperate circumstances", when we drop a nuclear bomb because we must "eliminate the danger posed by Japan for all time", we bargain with demons. The bargain says: "We know we do evil but it's a lesser evil, and we hope we won't have to do this again, but if we do, we hope you forget that we promised you our soul". Hannah Arendt said this about lesser evils:

"Politically, the weakness of the argument has always been that those who choose the lesser evil forget very quickly that they choose evil... Acceptance of lesser evils is consciously used in conditioning the government officials and the population at large to the acceptance of evil as such."
We have already chosen far too much of the lesser evil, and have been doing so for decades. How much more can we choose before it becomes indistinguishable from the very evil we thought we were running away from?

Glad We're Both Fine, Dimitri 

I spent the last quite a few days catching up on shit that had accumulated, both literally and figuratively, during my previous absence. Wiping the shit off my hands finally today after attending the LANL protests in LA (yesterday was Hiroshima Day, you’ll recall) to sit in front of the computer, what do I discover? Well, according to AP, the good people of California are getting another proposition to vote on. Only this time, it has legs that walk upright. No link, but the AP article says:

Proposition 79, backed by a coalition of consumer groups and unions, would offer prescription drug discounts to uninsured individuals and families making up to four times the federal poverty level — up to $37,000 for an individual and $75,000 for a family of four. It would discourage any companies that refuse to provide discounts from participating in the state's $4 billion Medicaid program, and would allow residents to sue drug companies for "illegal profiteering."

Big Pharma? Illegal profiteering? B-but they make medicines to help people, right? They plow their obscene profits right back into research for new cures, right?

Sheeee-it. I got my hospital bill the other day and—even with some insurance—it’ll take me months to pay it off. And all they did was stitch me up a little and “observe” me for a concussion, which they concluded was light enough to discharge me after a day and night.

It’s a nice start, California, but let’s focus on candidates in ’06 who’ll really talk about the state of health care in this glorious land of greed and profiteering, and then DO something about it. Let’s talk about how to get rid of nukes once and for all, not “strategic nukes” and “increasing nuclear energy resources.”

Now, I’m for another tot or 3 of this bottle of Maker’s Mark you Correntians talked me into trying (good call, btw), and a nap, perchance to dream of the kind of America people like Emma G., and Eugene V. Debs, and RFK and MLK described, not this one where poor people have no options for health care, and our leaders actually discuss “nuclear options” with a straight face.

Of course, then I recall my recent trips to Old Mexico, and tangles with uranium mining and coal power protests and realize that direct action feels good, and maybe tomorrow I might just get back into it. I was going to write about nukes and WMD’s, but after the peaceful actions yesterday, I said the hell with it. Everybody knows who the real threats are... right?

Or am I just getting tangled up in so many issues that my aging brain is blowing neurons faster every day?

A Sudden Unexpected Loss 

Robin Cook has died. He was only 59. It appears to have been a heart attack, suffered while on a mountain walk. He is already being missed.

Mr. Cook was Tony Blair's Foriegn Minister, and then served as Leader of the Labour party in the House of Commons, until his rejection of the Bush administration's determination to invade Iraq lead Cook to resign entirely from the Blair government. Cook was a valiant supporter of the Nato intervention in Kosovo, so the issue wasn't some leftwing fear of using military force.

Th Labour Party can ill afford to lose someone of the intelligence and the integrity of a Robin Cook, and our Democratic Party could afford to develop a few of its own.

Here's some of what Cook had to say at the time of his resignation in a speech to the House he made when he was once again, simply a Member of Parliament.
The present Prime Minister is the most successful leader of the Labour party in my lifetime.

I hope that he will continue to be the leader of our party, and I hope that he will continue to be successful. I have no sympathy with, and I will give no comfort to, those who want to use this crisis to displace him.

I applaud the heroic efforts that the prime minister has made in trying to secure a second resolution.

I do not think that anybody could have done better than the foreign secretary in working to get support for a second resolution within the Security Council.

But the very intensity of those attempts underlines how important it was to succeed.

Now that those attempts have failed, we cannot pretend that getting a second resolution was of no importance.


The reality is that Britain is being asked to embark on a war without agreement in any of the international bodies of which we are a leading partner - not NATO, not the European Union and, now, not the Security Council.

To end up in such diplomatic weakness is a serious reverse.

Only a year ago, we and the United States were part of a coalition against terrorism that was wider and more diverse than I would ever have imagined possible.

History will be astonished at the diplomatic miscalculations that led so quickly to the disintegration of that powerful coalition.

The US can afford to go it alone, but Britain is not a superpower.

Our interests are best protected not by unilateral action but by multilateral agreement and a world order governed by rules.

Yet tonight the international partnerships most important to us are weakened: the European Union is divided; the Security Council is in stalemate.

Those are heavy casualties of a war in which a shot has yet to be fired.

I have heard some parallels between military action in these circumstances and the military action that we took in Kosovo. There was no doubt about the multilateral support that we had for the action that we took in Kosovo.

It was supported by NATO; it was supported by the European Union; it was supported by every single one of the seven neighbours in the region. France and Germany were our active allies.

It is precisely because we have none of that support in this case that it was all the more important to get agreement in the Security Council as the last hope of demonstrating international agreement.

The legal basis for our action in Kosovo was the need to respond to an urgent and compelling humanitarian crisis.

Our difficulty in getting support this time is that neither the international community nor the British public is persuaded that there is an urgent and compelling reason for this military action in Iraq.

The threshold for war should always be high.

None of us can predict the death toll of civilians from the forthcoming bombardment of Iraq, but the US warning of a bombing campaign that will "shock and awe" makes it likely that casualties will be numbered at least in the thousands.

I am confident that British servicemen and women will acquit themselves with professionalism and with courage. I hope that they all come back.

I hope that Saddam, even now, will quit Baghdad and avert war, but it is false to argue that only those who support war support our troops.

It is entirely legitimate to support our troops while seeking an alternative to the conflict that will put those troops at risk.

Nor is it fair to accuse those of us who want longer for inspections of not having an alternative strategy.

For four years as foreign secretary I was partly responsible for the western strategy of containment.

Over the past decade that strategy destroyed more weapons than in the Gulf war, dismantled Iraq's nuclear weapons programme and halted Saddam's medium and long-range missiles programmes.

Iraq's military strength is now less than half its size than at the time of the last Gulf war.

Ironically, it is only because Iraq's military forces are so weak that we can even contemplate its invasion. Some advocates of conflict claim that Saddam's forces are so weak, so demoralised and so badly equipped that the war will be over in a few days.

We cannot base our military strategy on the assumption that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a threat.

Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term - namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target.

It probably still has biological toxins and battlefield chemical munitions, but it has had them since the 1980s when US companies sold Saddam anthrax agents and the then British Government approved chemical and munitions factories.

Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20 years, and which we helped to create?

Why is it necessary to resort to war this week, while Saddam's ambition to complete his weapons programme is blocked by the presence of UN inspectors?

Only a couple of weeks ago, Hans Blix told the Security Council that the key remaining disarmament tasks could be completed within months.

I have heard it said that Iraq has had not months but 12 years in which to complete disarmament, and that our patience is exhausted.

Yet it is more than 30 years since resolution 242 called on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.

We do not express the same impatience with the persistent refusal of Israel to comply.

I welcome the strong personal commitment that the prime minister has given to middle east peace, but Britain's positive role in the middle east does not redress the strong sense of injustice throughout the Muslim world at what it sees as one rule for the allies of the US and another rule for the rest.

Nor is our credibility helped by the appearance that our partners in Washington are less interested in disarmament than they are in regime change in Iraq.

That explains why any evidence that inspections may be showing progress is greeted in Washington not with satisfaction but with consternation: it reduces the case for war.

What has come to trouble me most over past weeks is the suspicion that if the hanging chads in Florida had gone the other way and Al Gore had been elected, we would not now be about to commit British troops.

The longer that I have served in this place, the greater the respect I have for the good sense and collective wisdom of the British people.

On Iraq, I believe that the prevailing mood of the British people is sound. They do not doubt that Saddam is a brutal dictator, but they are not persuaded that he is a clear and present danger to Britain.

They want inspections to be given a chance, and they suspect that they are being pushed too quickly into conflict by a US Administration with an agenda of its own.

Above all, they are uneasy at Britain going out on a limb on a military adventure without a broader international coalition and against the hostility of many of our traditional allies.

From the start of the present crisis, I have insisted, as Leader of the House, on the right of this place to vote on whether Britain should go to war.

It has been a favourite theme of commentators that this House no longer occupies a central role in British politics.

Nothing could better demonstrate that they are wrong than for this House to stop the commitment of troops in a war that has neither international agreement nor domestic support.

I intend to join those tomorrow night who will vote against military action now. It is for that reason, and for that reason alone, and with a heavy heart, that I resign from the government.

I will miss that voice sufficiently to make it hard, though necessary to say, with an intense sense of loss...

Goodbye Mr. Cook. R.I.P

corrente SBL - New Location
~ Since April 2010 ~

~ Since 2003 ~

The Washington Chestnut
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