Monday, July 31, 2006

For The Same Reason You'd Tell Your Best Friend He's Being An Asshole

James Fallows, writing to Ralph Nader in Salon back in April 30, 2002:
Twenty years ago it would have seemed insultingly obvious to say that disagreement with Israeli military policy did not make you an anti-Semite. That is still obvious (as [Richard] Cohen notes) in Israel itself. But in America, a combination of conservative Christians and Likudnik Jews has started waving the anti-Semitism flag as reflexively as Marion Barry once used the "racism" defense to any criticism of his regime. I can't provide a link to Clive Crook's latest column in the National Journal, since it's on a proprietary site, but he makes the same point very well from a European perspective. Yes, there are anti-Semites in Europe, but concentrating on them tells you nothing about a reasonable settlement between the Palestinians and Israel.
Amen. Elementary as it may be, it seems it still needs to be explained: criticizing the US does not mean those who do it love their country any less. In fact it may be argued they love it more, because they risk such opprobrium for it.

The same goes for Israel.

Snow

The West's heat wave is hitting the East Coast. In Philly they're calling for temperatures at or near 100 tomorrow, and worse to come through Thursday. Add to that the high humidity, and heat indexes running from 105 to 112 degrees this week, and you have to ask yourself: why on earth don't we all just take a break from work and not kill ourselves? But mad dogs and Englishmen will carry on. I'm sick of death and hate and misery, so the following is a little gift to myself (and to any of the 1 or 2 readers that may wander by.) I can't understand what it is that turns old people into heat-seeking missiles at retirement. Arizona, Las Vegas, Florida? This is what I dream of when I dream of cashing my last paycheck:
Feb_27 018
And this:
Feb_27 016
And this:
Feb_27 005
And this:
Feb_27 012
With my pussycats on my lap.
Lucyblogging:
Feb_27 001

Now I feel better.

No Wheelchair Left Unturned

7/31/06 Update: The NYTimes has a front page story on Mr. Chaloub (now spelled Shalhoub), and the aunt has become a nephew, the sister a mother. Mr. Shalhoub also uses a wheelchair, whioh no doubt enhanced his attractiveness as a target. Here's how the times described it:
The first missile struck around 1 a.m., throwing Mohamed Shalhoub, one of the relatives who uses a wheelchair, into an open doorway. His five children, ages 12 to 2, were still inside the house, as was his wife, his mother and a 10-year-old nephew. He tried to get to them, but minutes later another missile hit. By morning, when the rescue workers arrived, all eight of his relatives were dead.

“I felt like I was turning around, and the earth was going up and I was going into the earth,” said Mr. Shalhoub, 38, staring blankly ahead in a hospital bed in Tyre.

Israeli military officials said the building did not collapse until the early morning, and that “munitions” stored in the house might have brought it down. But the house appeared to have been hit from above, and residents said the walls and ceiling came down around them immediately after the first bomb.
Does the Knesset feel safer now?

No. They are in a fury that Olmert caved to Rice and is allowing a ceasefire, however truncated, and tossing out Arab members who disagree with them.. Olmert is pledging to expand the festivities on the ground, and thus waste more young Israeli lives in addition to those in Lebanon. Good move. Well, they might as well go ahead and level the entire country with a couple nuclear bombs at this point: they've made so many new enemies in Lebanon, even Christian ones, that it may be the only way to ensure their victims don't revenge themselves.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Yes, This Is All Working Out Just As We Had Hoped

The numbers keep changing, but the anger gets stronger. If you're wondering why the Lebanese have taken to the streets after Qana, and why the Israelis have called a temporary halt to the bombing, this may shed some light:
Qana, Thursday April 18, 1996
babydedIn the bloodiest attack by far on this eighth day of Israeli aggression, over 105 civilians were massacred after Israeli artillery pounded a UNIFIL warehouse packed with refugees.

The hundreds of men, women and children were seeking shelter from Israeli bombardment with the U.N. in the village of Qana. U.N. spokesman Timur Goksel said the U.N. station, manned by Fijian troops, came under fierce attack this afternoon.

Foreign Minister Ehud Barak has said Israel would continue the bombardment despite the massacre.
Lather, rinse, repeat. I don't have the energy to go into the diddling worthlessness of Rice's babblings these last few days, except to say that she displays the same level of competence at her new job that she did at the old, so why should anyone be surprised? I realize she is only carrying out the orders of her master Schicklgruber, but nonetheless, she carries them out, like all the good soldiers before her. Anyone with two neurons to rub together could have seen this coming, what with the US practically cheering Israel on to the tune of "Israel has the right to defend itself." My new nominee for Most Vapidly Evil Political Appointee (God knows it's not easy to choose) has got to be Underbelly Secretary for Political Fuckups R. Nicholas Burns, who, along with Rice, has been repeating this phrase like the callous Borg he is for nigh onto 2 weeks now, and who, like Rice, displays a breathtaking failure to grasp the history and context of the events unfolding in the Middle East. Let's see what Israel has defended itself against:
15 disabled children killed in Qana
July 31, 2006

FIFTEEN physically or mentally handicapped children were among 52 people killed by Israeli raids on the village of Qana in south Lebanon overnight, a Lebanese MP said today.

"There were 15 physically or mentally handicapped children among the children killed in Qana," said Bahia Hariri, who represents south Lebanon.

Mr Hariri, who presides over several charitable organisations, said several families had already been evacuated towards the city of Sidon but some families of the handicapped had wanted to stay.

"The bombardment of the Tyre region was intensifying and we wanted to take them to safety. But these families believed that the shelter and the mosque (in Qana) served as their shelter," she said.
Thank heaven they headed off THAT danger. Olmert can sleep soundly tonight, knowing his people have been spared future attacks by the autistic and wheelchair-bound hellhounds of Grade 4.

As for the adults, I've been searching everywhere to find the story of the young father named Chaloub in Qana who was spared in the bombing but lost all five of his children, including his youngest, a 2-year old, as well as his wife, aunt, and sister. The NYTimes ran his story in one of their earlier versions of the Qana report, but since Israel agreeed to a 48-hr. ceasefire, it seems to have been dropped from the body copy. I guess since Israel is taking a breather, Mr. Chaloub's losses stopped counting for much. I wonder how successful the Israeli/ American game plan was in getting him to hate Hizbollah for the bombing.

I wonder how long it will take him to pick up a gun and aim it southward.

Thus do we move ever closer to that fata morgana, the sustainable peace.

Like Fucking For Virginity

Shorter John Podhoretz: to save civilization, we must destroy it!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Nobel Winner Expresses Love

When something can drive a Nobel Peace Prize recipient to this, you know it's not just you:
Right now, I would love to kill George Bush." Her young audience at the Brisbane City Hall clapped and cheered.
Clapped and cheered. Jesus, this is Australia, probably the single country in the world most like us in national temperment. And it's not just Australia. Take a quick scan of the headlines at Watching America:
Russia: President Chavez Adds Russia to His Anti-U.S. Arsenal

England: U.S. and Britain 'Isolated' for Blocking Ceasefire in Lebanon

Bolivia: Democracy in the U.S.: A Very Dirty Business

Turkey: This is Why America is Losing its Credibility ...

Pakistan: America's Chronic Betrayal of its Birthright and Ideals

Tunisia: 'An Absolute Disaster Ahead!'

Australia: West Has Forgotten that 'Might is Not Right'

Malaysia: On Lebanon War, Malaysia
'Not Seeking U.S. Approval'
Go check it out. Americans don't read much offshore media, but if they did, they'd be stunned by the vitriol and disgust our government is stirring up out there. We still think the world has to love us because we marched into France after WWII with chocolate bars and stockings, but we used up what was left of that bankroll of global gratitude somewhere during Vietnam. People from the halls of Mocteczuma to the shores of Tripoli hate our guts, and many have stopped trying to tell the difference between we the people and the toad and his accomplices in the White House. Frankly, I'm not sure I can tell much difference myself anymore. But policies do come home to roost, and our children will be bearing the brunt of our callow indifference to what we have wreaked in the name of "democracy" around the world.

And, BTW, remember Somalia and Ethiopia? They're still out there.

Two Wars, No Waiting

Mitch Prothero, reporting from Lebanon for Salon, says the "Hezbollah hiding among civilians" issue so dear to Alan Dershowitz is a fig leaf:
"Throughout this now 16-day-old war, Israeli planes high above civilian areas make decisions on what to bomb. They send huge bombs capable of killing things for hundreds of meters around their targets, and then blame the inevitable civilian deaths -- the Lebanese government says 600 civilians have been killed so far -- on "terrorists" who callously use the civilian infrastructure for protection.

But this claim is almost always false. My own reporting and that of other journalists reveals that in fact Hezbollah fighters -- as opposed to the much more numerous Hezbollah political members, and the vastly more numerous Hezbollah sympathizers -- avoid civilians. Much smarter and better trained than the PLO and Hamas fighters, they know that if they mingle with civilians, they will sooner or later be betrayed by collaborators -- as so many Palestinian militants have been.

For their part, the Israelis seem to think that if they keep pounding civilians, they'll get some fighters, too. The almost nightly airstrikes on the southern suburbs of Beirut could be seen as making some sense, as the Israelis appear convinced there are command and control bunkers underneath the continually smoldering rubble. There were some civilian casualties the first few nights in places like Haret Hreik, but people quickly left the area to the Hezbollah fighters with their radios and motorbikes.

But other attacks seem gratuitous, fishing expeditions, or simply intended to punish anything and anyone even vaguely connected to Hezbollah. Lighthouses, grain elevators, milk factories, bridges in the north used by refugees, apartment buildings partially occupied by members of Hezbollah's political wing -- all have been reduced to rubble.

In the south, where Shiites dominate, just about everyone supports Hezbollah. Does mere support for Hezbollah, or even participation in Hezbollah activities, mean your house and family are fair game? Do you need to fire rockets from your front yard? Or is it enough to be a political activist?

The Israelis are consistent: They bomb everyone and everything remotely associated with Hezbollah, including noncombatants. In effect, that means punishing Lebanon. The nation is 40 percent Shiite, and of that 40 percent, tens of thousands are employed by Hezbollah's social services, political operations, schools, and other nonmilitary functions. The "terrorist" organization Hezbollah is Lebanon's second-biggest employer. "
Mitch knows what he's talking about; he lives there.

But don't forget that other war, the one with the impending humanitarian crisis the UN and Kofi Annan were warning about way back before Dershowitz became an apologist for war crimes. In Gaza, Israel is ensuring that all those not bombed, starved to death, or dead of disease will supply a steady stream of terrorists-yet-to-be:
"It is a war of containment and control that has turned the besieged Strip into a prison with no way in or out, and no protection from an fearsome battery of drones, precision missiles, tank shells and artillery rounds.

As of last night, 29 people had been killed in the most concentrated 48 hours of violence since an Israeli soldier was abducted by Palestinian militants just more than a month ago.

The operation is codenamed "Samson's Pillars", a collective punishment of the 1.4 million Gazans, subjecting them to a Lebanese-style offensive that has targeted the civilian infrastructure by destroying water mains, the main power station and bridges...

"At first we thought they were bombing the Hamas leaders by targeting Haniyeh and Zahar," a Palestinian official said, referring to the Palestinian Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. "But when they targeted the economy ministry we decided they wanted to completely destroy the entire government."

The only functioning crossing, Erez, is closed to Palestinians who are almost hermetically sealed inside the Strip. As the local economy has been strangled by donor countries, Gaza City's 1,800 municipal employees have not been paid since the beginning of April. Families are borrowing to the hilt, selling their jewellery, ignoring electricity bills and tax demands and throwing themselves on the mercy of shopkeepers."
Read the rest. The vignette about Nabil Shaath's daughter brought me to tears. Then watch this.

Our Manifesto

Sent to friends and family this morning, the following is a letter inspired by a Jerusalem dioscesan Episcopal Bishop's cry for help. The left is tearing itself apart over this. If we can find a way to come together over this, who can say? It might prove a blueprint for peace itself.

To our more devout friends,

We thought you'd find this of value. It's a letter from a Christian Bishop in Jerusalem, on the Lebanese-Palestinian-Israeli crises in the mideast. here's the link:

http://www.j-diocese.com/DiocesanNews/view.asp?selected=234#slbl234

We have been very concerned over these issues, and seen how it is tearing apart the community of friends and colleagues we have, because both Jewish and Arab frineds are angry, and defensive, and full of a desire for revenge. Arabs feel marginalized: Lebanese we know are afraid to express their anger at Israel for fear of reprisals. Jews who disapprove of Israel's tactics are finding themselves branded as traitors by their own families, and non-Jews who criticize what is happening are painted as anti-Semites. There seems no room for empathy or willingness to admit mistakes.

We strongly believe that the laying down of arms and the collaboration of nations toward seeking a peace is absolutely necessary, and that by abdicating its moral responsibility, our own government moves us closer to a world war while countenancing the deaths, maimings, and dislocation of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. These are actions that will only inspire more willingness on the part of the victims to turn to the very behaviors the Israelis and Americans say they want to eliminate. People who feel powerless to make change happen any other way, people who feel that no one listens to them or cares about them, will always find a way to be heard. Those with the power are morally-bound to give them a way, and understand both sides, and be willing to make concessions to pull the tooth of this violence. Otherwise, current policies will take more lives in years to come, just as past policies have sown the murders of today.

Riggsveda and Riggsveda Consort

Thanks to Juan Cole.

Soon We'll All Be Speaking Greenspanish

coolieCoolie America Picks Up New Recruits

You might have known. That plutocrat's brothel of a House of Representatives has consigned the minimum wage bill to public execution by tacking on an Estate Tax cut that will never be approved by the Senate. But just to rub it into the faces of the working poor, they also added a provision that would allow tips to be counted toward minimum wage increases in states where it is currently prohibited.

Now, this is a minimum wage that sat on the shelf at $5.15 hr. for 10 years, while the fat cats in the House and Senate got their repeated raises, with all the percs. Now, when boxed into a corner by shame and public pressure, the best they can come up with is an additional $2.10 hr. Imagine that you had received, in the last 10 years, a mere 21 cent a year raise after tips! And since they know even that miserly amount will fail to pass, yoked as it is to the Estate Tax in an election year, they know their real constinuency, the wealthiest 18 families in America, will continue to keep their campaign troughs full for years to come.


Housing Bubble Picks Up Steam
coolie

Michael Shedlock (Mish), at Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis, reprints an Atlanta realtor's take on 2006 so far, and it isn't pleasant. From exuberant optimism fueled by a seeming continuity of strong sales in early January, "Sonnypage" tracks his business to the end of July, detailing the downward spiral of a market that suddenly just seemed to evaporate. Deals fall through, sellers who can't get their asking prices and can't afford to go low pull their houses off the market. Prices slide. He ends with this:
"What do you do if you owe more on your home than you can sell it for? Apparently, you just decide to sit on it and hope for a better market, at least for now."
My husband, who sold cars for a brief period in the bad old days, called this "being upside-down": owing more on a vehicle than it was worth to re-sell. But seeing this in housing seems a fairly new phenomenon, and more common by the day. This is the heart of the housing problem: that ridiculous over-pricing has led both to pricing many averge-income buyers out of the market, and to a peak that cannot be sustained, that will inevitably fall, and leave behind it many home-owners who can't sell the place for what it cost them. Add to that (as Mish notes below) a house whose value to its owner has been seriously depleted by home equity borrowing, and you've got a recipe for a stagnant market at best, and at worst, a housing crisis of proportions unknown in living memory as rents rise, housing builds drop, and the entire economy dependent on housing and its peripherals crashes. But Mish lays it out best:
" * Home prices have outstripped wages by 4-5 standard deviations from normal
* Home prices have outstripped rents by 4-5 standard deviations from normal

...The "strong economy" was (and still remains) an illusion. What we had was an economy totally propped up by homebuilding and real estate transactions. 40% of all home buying in both 2004 and 2005 was for second homes or for "investments". In addition people were all too quick to spend that increased "wealth" from home price appreciation (and then some), going deeper and deeper in debt.

The economy has not crashed (yet) because homebuilders are still building. That supports jobs. But when those houses don't sell (and they won't - without enormous discounts) all this "paper wealth" of homeowners is going to vanish overnight. As soon as someone drops their price by $100,000 every house in the neighborhood will be repriced. Comps will drop like a rock. Consumers used to seeing nothing but rising prices are in for a rude awakening. Their house will no longer be an ATM. Consumer spending is 75% of the economy and it has only one way to go and that is down. There are going to be a lot of people hurt badly in the recession of 2007.

The Blame Game

It will be interesting to see who the scapegoats will be.

1. Some will blame Realtors
2. Some will blame the Fed for hiking rates too far
3. Some will blame the homebuilders for slashing prices
4. Some will blame their neighbors for selling too low

Where the blame really belongs:

1. On the Fed (not for raising rates) but for cutting them to 1% in the first place and flooding the world with dollars in the biggest liquidity experiment the world has ever seen
2. On banks and Fannie Mae for loose lending standards
3. On government for promoting the "ownership society"
4. On themselves for getting caught up in bubble madness just as they did with stocks in 2000, then taking cash out refis and spending like drunken fools further fueling a runaway economy

...A recession is just around the corner."
Via Calculated Risk.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Baghdad on the Mississippi

Human nature never disappoints he who expects the worst:
"My neighborhood was surrounded today.

By the same Humvees, troops and large-caliber machine guns that surround villages in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Roadblocks were put in position across streets, and men in camouflage helmets and bulletproof vests have started searching house-to-house.

The worst part is, I welcome it.

For the last months, increasingly large gangs of feral animals from across America have begun to congregate here in New Orleans, knowing how easy it is to hide among mile after mile of crushed, abandoned, open homes. The word is out that the New Orleans Police Department is in disarray.

The word is correct."
Jim Gabour, a photojournalist in New Orleans, writes a mournful update on the situation in his town in the piece, "A Letter From New Orleans-So That's a Glock 9"--and it's uglier than you could imagine. Gangs of opportunistic lice have been forming their own death squads and criminal enterprises in the carcass of America's worst natural disaster. So don't be dismayed that the richest, most powerful nation ever to squat astride the world is fumbling incompetently with Iraqi lives. It's not only Iraq that poses a challenge too great for the soporific mind in the Oval Office:
"The rest of the world thinks the crisis in New Orleans is over and that things are getting back to normal. Or, they are sick of hearing stories about what they perceive as a city inhabited by whiners. I guess I am one of those whiners.

But allow me:

Our water is completely cut off every other day. Hot water tanks empty and shudder and boiling fluid spits from open faucets until lines fill again. The rest of the time water pressure is so low that fire hydrants are all but non-functional. Helicopters with bags are now the main source of fire dousing.

EIGHTY-FIVE MILLION GALLONS – the City confirmed the official figure - of water are now lost EVERY DAY through cracked pipes, seeping into the soil. The City is below sea level already, with the water table right at the soil top, so this much additional flow is causing many of the remaining undamaged houses to sink and topple from their foundations and piers.

What water does get through to homes is undrinkable, doctored with so much chlorine to rid it of bacteria that a glass of water is almost literally a glass of bleach.

Bottled water services are understaffed and overwhelmed by demand for drinkable water, so numerous, occasionally dangerous home remedies have been concocted to make tap water palatable.

Electricity is available to only 40 percent of city. I am lucky and have access to power at my own home. But even here the juice pops out three to four times a day, causing multiple fires when it surges back on. An incredible commercial museum of irreplaceable Mexican Day of the Dead artifacts, six blocks away, caught fire in just such a surge night before last."
NOLA has become a free fire zone, where anything goes, while the rest of the country yawns and goes back to its diddling:
"More stoplights have come back, but between lost relief workers crashing into them, and frequent gangster car chases, at least a quarter of the lights have been re-damaged and still do not work. Half the missing street signs, one-way signs and stop signs in the City have not been replaced.

An especially frightening phenomenon: The gangs have been switching one-way signs' directions to confuse both the cops and nearby residents, to keep people out of neighborhoods where they are marshalling their forces and hiding their loot. There is, if you obey the signs, no way to get into certain blocks of empty houses. And there the Bad Guys congregate, invisible.

They use stolen trucks and SUVs for their commerce, and they prowl rebuilding neighborhoods at night, looting the same houses three and four times.

They wait for locals to install new appliances or piping, or doors and windows, in their gutted houses. And then, when the residents go back to their temporary homes at night, the looters run free, taking whatever they find.

In the morning the rebuilders return, of course, to find that, once again, they have lost everything."
Read the rest at The Digital Journalist.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Put Down the Stone

"Revenge... is like a rolling stone, which, when a man hath forced up a hill, will return upon him with a greater violence, and break those bones whose sinews gave it motion."
----Albert Schweitzer


For the psychologist:
Becoming Evil

For the neuroscientist, and all you amygdala fans:
Why We Hate

For the sociologist:
American Mania

For the historian:
Infidels

Now in this online age we see pictures of the dead and dying in Lebanon and Iraq, of babies decapitated and children maimed, and at first we hitch in our breath and make noises of horror. That will soon pass. The human brain has a wonderful capacity to absorb and normalize horror, and eventually consign it to the "unfortunate but necesary" category. When the impact of those pictures fade, those among us determined to make and excuse war will have no qualms. This is how the mind works.

But the people who actually live through those horrors, the ones who saw the bombs destroy their homes and their loved ones, they, too, will have no qualms. They will want revenge. The kids in those pictures did nothing to earn what we and our allies have done to them; it might be they would have grown up to seek solutions to the never-ending death spiral we have all become complicit in. But now, thanks to our policies and our actions, those who survive, as well as their brothers and sisters, are very likely to become the thing we most fear and hate when they get older.

If war was truly a solution, we would have had peace for lo, these many millenia. In fact, it only reproduces itself, thanks to the sperm of vengeance and the egg of memory. Every “defensive attack” in Lebanon that murders civilians and indiscriminately destroys lives makes more enemies for us, for Israel. Every bombing raid in Iraq. and every flattened door and every family cringing before American soldiers searching blindly for weapons and insurgents, makes more hatred that we, sitting back here in our coccon of safe distance, will remain clueless about when those we have taught to hate us attack us next.

No, our ostensible "values" are not those of human rights, despite our leaders attempts to hide behind that phrase to wage war when the excuse of self-defense no longer holds up. Yes, if we truly believed in the Christian values Bush espouses, we would have intervened in Cambodia, the Congo, Darfur, Armenia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe—
we would have cracked down on arms dealers around the world and halted U.S. trade in weapons—
we would have remained engaged in the peace process after Clinton left office rather than hoping Sharon would wipe out the Palestinian people with our funding—
we would have never propped up Saddam with money, weapons, and biological weaponry, and assurances we would not intervene if he invaded Kuwait—
we would have never shaken hands with Islam Karamov and hailed him as our buddy while he boiled men alive—
we would have never removed a democratically elected president and inserted a torturing dictator in Iran—
we would have never propped up a torturing dictator in Egypt—
we would have never propped up a torturing dictator in Pakistan—
we would have maintained a foreign policy grounded in the seeking of peaceful solutions , even-handed and restrained diplomacy, and justice for all parties, rather than goading the American public to excuses for violence by racist appeals to their xenophobia and blatant scare tactics.

Whatever blowback we experience from the Iraq war and our policies (going back more than a century) toward the Mideast was and is easily foretold. We helped make this mess happen. So did Britain. So did Israel. That doesn’t mean Islamic countries are not without sin. It means there is plenty to go around. None of us in this world has the right to throw the first stone, but any of us can be the first to put it down, and help lead the way out of this cavern of hate. And until we recognize our own complicity, acknowledge it, and begin to seek non-violent solutions, we will only see more death and misery.

War is not an answer…it’s the despairing death rattle of the ignorant and helpless.

Monday, July 24, 2006

We Told Us So

Billmon,a busy little bugger yesterday, linked to a Washington Post column that came to the stunning conclusion that when it came to terrorism in Iraq, U.S. policies and actions made it worse! Gosh. Who would have guessed?

Rummy's Pentagon, that's who. And less than a year and a half after we began bombing the shit out of Iraq they knew they'd fucked up and were looking for a fix. Dip a toe in the IMCT archives (some editing done for clarity/updating):

December 6, 2004
Imperial Dumb Ass


On Sunday the Scottish paper The Sunday Herald ran a story on The Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Strategic Communication, released September 2004 by the DSB arm of the Dept. of Defense, whose purpose is to "...provide independent advice to the Secretary of Defense." The report focuses on the abysmal job the U.S. has done in winning world opinion to its side, including the good will of Muslim countries:

“American direct intervention in the Muslim world has paradoxically elevated the stature of, and support for, radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the United States to single digits in some Arab societies.”
Referring to the repeated mantra from the White House that those who oppose the US in the Middle East “hate our freedoms”, the report says: “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedoms’, but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favour of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the long-standing, even increasing support, for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and the Gulf states.
“Thus when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypo crisy. Moreover, saying that ‘freedom is the future of the Middle East’ is seen as patronising … in the eyes of Muslims, the American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering. US actions appear in contrast to be motivated by ulterior motives, and deliberately controlled in order to best serve American national interests at the expense of truly Muslim self-determination.”
The way America has handled itself since September 11 has played straight into the hands of al-Qaeda, the report adds. “American actions have elevated the authority of the jihadi insurgents and tended to ratify their legitimacy among Muslims.” The result is that al-Qaeda has gone from being a marginal movement to having support across the entire Muslim world.
“Muslims see Americans as strangely narcissistic,” the report goes on, adding that to the Arab world the war is “no more than an extension of American domestic politics”. The US has zero credibility among Muslims which means that “whatever Americans do and say only serves … the enemy."


This is not some leftie think tank, mind you, but rumblings from the bowels of Rumsfeld's own ailimentary canal:

"America’s “image problem”, the report authors suggest, is “linked to perceptions of the US as arrogant, hypocritical and self-indulgent”. The White House “has paid little attention” to the problems.
"Rather than supporting tyranny, most Muslims want to overthrow tyrannical regimes like Saudi Arabia. “The US finds itself in the strategically awkward – and potentially dangerous – situation of being the long-standing prop and alliance partner of these authoritarian regimes. Without the US, these regimes could not survive,” the report says.
“Thus the US has strongly taken sides in a desperate struggle … US policies and actions are increasingly seen by the overwhelming majority of Muslims as a threat to the survival of Islam itself … Americans have inserted themselves into this intra-Islamic struggle in ways that have made us an enemy to most Muslims.
“Americans are convinced that the US is a benevolent ‘superpower’ that elevates values emphasising freedom … deep down we assume that everyone should naturally support our policies. Yet the world of Islam – by overwhelming majorities at this time – sees things differently. Muslims see American policies as inimical to their values, American rhetoric about freedom and democracy as hypocritical and American actions as deeply threatening.
“In two years the jihadi message – that strongly attacks American values – is being accepted by more moderate and non-violent Muslims. This in turn implies that negative opinion of the US has not yet bottomed out."


Short version: We went in like a bunch of ham-handed neanderthals, ruined what little we had going for us, and managed to make a dangerous situation damn near inflammable. If you read Imperial Hubris, you'll be amazed at how much of this report mirrors the contentions of that book. It does give one a frisson of the bizarre to read it coming out of the DoD. I can't help wondering if it might be Colin Powell's parting shot, distanced from its source by enough layers to provide plausible deniability. It certainly doesn't sound like the usual neo-con blather.

On the other hand, if you were in the market for a good rumble to fill the conflict void after the Soviet Union took its ball and went home, what better way to get things started than to play the drunken cowboy, walk into the nearest saloon, and shoot the place up.

Pre-emptive, indeed.

You can read the report itself--all 111 pages--word for word here. It's worth your time. (Pay particular attention to Appendix "A", Paul Wolfowitz' memo, which is all about transitioning to a pacified Iraq,

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Another Country Heard From

Meanwhile, as world opinion and the American Left divides like a cancerous cell over events in the mideast, Somalia and Ethiopia square off:
"NAIROBI (Reuters) - Neglected by the world for years, Somalia appears on the verge of a war that could escalate into a major regional conflict and play into the hands of hardline Islamists.

Six weeks after taking Mogadishu and other southern towns, the Islamists are engaged in an increasingly bellicose standoff with a fragile, Ethiopian-backed interim government based in the provincial town of Baidoa.

"The risk of full-scale war increases by the day," said John Prendergast, of the International Crisis Group, citing the government's "foolish" boycott of peace talks in Sudan and what he called provocative Islamist militia movements..."
Not even on the radar, either at the State Department, or at the U.S. embassy in Ethiopia. Even so:
"An armed confrontation between the Islamic Courts Council and Ethiopia would be likely to generate a wave of ultra-nationalism in Somalia that would redound to the advantage of the Courts and might ignite a regional war," said Michael Weinstein, of the U.S.-based Power and Interest think-tank."
Could offer a diversion from Lebanon. One thing you can almost bet the farm on: we'll be sure to blame it on Iran.

Things Are Going Relatively Well---Except For The Stupid Dead

2lg_4lb_final(1)Kevin Drum alerts us to that celebrated humanitarian, Alan Dershowitz, who yesterday extended a gesture of healing reconciliation via the LA Times Op-Ed page:
"The Israeli army has given well-publicized notice to civilians to leave those areas of southern Lebanon that have been turned into war zones. Those who voluntarily remain behind have become complicit. Some — those who cannot leave on their own — should be counted among the innocent victims.

If the media were to adopt this "continuum," it would be informative to learn how many of the "civilian casualties" fall closer to the line of complicity and how many fall closer to the line of innocence.

Every civilian death is a tragedy, but some are more tragic than others."
Where have we heard this before? Where...where...? Oh, yeah...those other stupid dead people:

"(CNN) -- The director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Thursday those New Orleans residents who chose not to heed warnings to evacuate before Hurricane Katrina bear some responsibility for their fates.

Michael Brown also agreed with other public officials that the death toll in the city could reach into the thousands.

"Unfortunately, that's going to be attributable a lot to people who did not heed the advance warnings," Brown told CNN. "I don't make judgments about why people chose not to leave but, you know, there was a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans," he said."
So by Dershowitz' logic, the Jews who failed to flee the Nazis deserved their fates, or at least were culpable and thus not nearly as tragic as those who died trying to escape.

Some are more equal than others. The fact that Israel had planned this attack for over a year and would have hit Lebanon regardless of provocation, AND that some here in the US knew it was going to happen, fails to register in this convenient calculus.

And thus are filthy consciences cleansed.

Bring Back the Draft

Draft William Kristol:

Kristol on Fox

Read the transcript at Think Progress. It reads like a textbook example of pathological projection.

Draft George Bush.

Draft Donald Rumsfeld.

Draft Bill O'Reilly.

Draft Paul Bremer.

Draft Condoleeza Rice.

Draft Dick Cheney.

Draft Jonah Goldberg.

Draft Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, Steven Hadley, Eliot Abrams, Dan Bartlett, and Mitch Daniels.

Draft John Bolton.

Draft Ann Coulter.

Draft John Negroponte.

Bring our kids back and let the big-mouthed cowards instigating and cheering on these conflicts pick up a gun and some MREs and get their draft-dodging, morality-slandering, history-rewriting, intelligence-fixing, diplomacy-gutting, basement-hiding, cowboys-and-indians-playing, gutless-wondering asses out on the front lines in Iran, and Syria, and Afghanistan, and Iraq, and show us how it's done, and maybe we'll send them some body armor when their families cough up the dough. Let's have them demonstrate to us how a show of force can really clarify things.

Because maybe I'm just being obtuse, but I don't think we've had a chance to see it yet. I think we just need our leaders and their minions to show us by example, so we know how it's done. Obviously we're doing it all wrong, because they aren't throwing flowers at us in Iraq, and the girls are being thrown out of school and re-burqa-ized in Afghanistan. Show us, our leaders; show us, mighty scribes. Show us how to to be brave, and die with dignity.

I know you like that when other people do it for you. I know you like to talk a tough game, about the hard, cold realities of life on the ground in worlds you've never set foot in, and you like to sit above it all like God in the sky, gazing down on these poor mortals and pronouncing this or that "good", and you maybe offer your tepid regrets over their sad but necessary fates, but you never let your hearts be swayed from the hard work of sticking it to the faceless millions, because doin' things is what you like to do. But we're all such fuck-ups down here that we can't get it right. They all hate us now, and we can't seem to get them to just shutup and sit down, so you'd better get out there and show us how. Don't worry about the IEDs and the snipers and the random rocket fire. Walter Reed is still there if you get maimed, but hurry up and do it before 2011. And there is still money for medical care, even though the 2007 budget proposed cuts totalling $10.3 billion over the next five years, with the cuts reaching 13 percent in 2011. Don't worry about us: we'll go back to our homes and crowd around the TV and watch you for awhile.

When you've finally gotten it right, let us know. We've got lives to live.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Today's the Day!

That Ritter and McGovern come to Philly. I'm planning on asking them if they have any ideas on Israel and Lebanon, too. If you live in the Philadelphia area or within a few hours drive, get there!

Many people have made up their minds on Iraq, but many more still have nagging questions about how we became embroiled in this contest of atrocities that has become our occupation of Iraq. The conflicting positions taken by various factions inside and outside the US have generated confusion and malaise.

Here is a chance to get those questions answered by two people that have been very close to the situation for years.

/Scott Ritter was the UN’s top weapons inspector in Iraq between 1991 and 1998. Before working for the UN he served as an officer in the US Marines and as a ballistic missile adviser to General Schwarzkopf in the first Gulf War. He is the author of “Iraq Confidential” (www.iraqconfidential.com ), published in October, 2005 by Nation Books. - “The important thing to know about Scott Ritter is that he was right.” - Seymour Hersh

Ray McGovern

RAY McGOVERN works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Savior in Washington, DC. He was an analyst with the CIA for 27 years and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).


Join Scott, Ray and area DFA'ers at:

The Unitarian Universalist Church of the Lehigh Valley
424 Centre Street
Bethlehem, Pa. 18018
Friday, July 21 at 7:00 pm

The Unitarian Society of Germantown
6511 Lincoln Drive (West Mt. Airy)
Philadelphia, PA 19119

Saturday, July 22 at 1:00 pm

BuxMont Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
2040 Street Road
Warrington, PA (just east of Rt 611)

Saturday, July 22 at 7:00 pm


$10 Free Will donation requested. No one will be refused.

RSVP or request more info by clicking here.

(Your RSVP helps us plan a convenient, successful event.)

Sponsored by:

Montgomery County Democracy for America

Upper Bucks for Democracy

Lehigh/Northampton Progressive Alliance

Friday, July 21, 2006

A Strategy For Democrats

"There's a hundred-thousand Frenchmen in New Orleans
In New Orleans there are Frenchmen everywhere
But your house could fall down
Your baby could drown
Wouldn't none of those Frenchmen careclass_war

Everybody gather 'round
Loosen up your suspenders
Hunker down on the ground
I'm a cracker
And you are too
But don't I take good care of you

Who built the highway to Baton Rouge?
Who put up the hospital and built your schools?
Who looks after shit-kickers like you?
The Kingfish do

Who gave a party at the Roosevelt Hotel?
And invited the whole north half of the state down there for free
The people in the city
Had their eyes bugging out
Cause everyone looked just like me

Here comes the Kingfish, the Kingfish
Everybody sing
Here's the Kingfish, the Kingfish
Every man a king

Who took on the Standard Oil men
And whipped their ass
Just like he promised he'd do?
Ain't no Standard Oil men gonna run this state
Gonna be run by little folks like me and you

Here's the Kingfish, the Kingfish
Friend of the working man
The Kingfish, the Kingfish
The Kingfish gonna save this land"
---Randy Newman, Kingfish

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Invisible

The Decider has Decided that your mother, suffering from Alzheimer's, and your brother, the quadraplegic, and your son, suffocating from cystic fibrosis, and you, you godless secularist, with your macular degeneration, should just go fuck yourselves. He doesn't even see you:
"President Bush vetoed a bill for the first time today, using his constitutional power to reject legislation passed by Congress that would expand federal research on embryonic stem cells, a step he said would be crossing a “moral line.”
Yes, we can't have any moral line-crossing, certainly not on the watch of a man who so embodies the moral rectitude of Jesus Christ that, as reported in Ron Suskind's The One Per Cent Doctrine, he asked eagerly about a briefer's torture report, "Do some of these harsh methods really work?"

And of the possiblity of retrieving a terrorist's skull: "So if it turns out to be Zawahiri's head, I hope you'll bring it here."

And upon learning there were Mideastern men cutting transactions in the heartland: "Middle-Easterners in Kansas! We've got to get on this immediately."

Brain damage and spinal injuries? Bring 'em on! It's not his problem.

And what is he telling you you must give up your hope of a cure for?
"Each of these human embryos is a unique human life with inherent dignity and matchless value...These boys and girls are not spare parts."
Here's your boys and girls:
embryo 3

Here's Bush's idea of a life worth preserving:
embryo 2

These lives? Not so much:
iraqis

This one? Not morally equivalent:
lebanon12

"...crossing this line would be a mistake (and) would needlessly encourage a conflict between science and ethics that can only do damage to both, and to our nation as a whole":
embryo 1

But this conflict? Well, sometimes a show of force can really clarify things:
gaza-martyr

But maybe the real difference between all those "Snowflake Babies" Bush had lined up behind him at the veto and the ones whose murders, rapes, and abandonments he has presided over comes down to this: they look like him:
20bush600.1

God's unchosen do not:
iraqi-boy

Monday, July 17, 2006

A Friendly Reminder to Israel, Lebanon, Hezbollah, Hamas, & All Their Partisans

First up: "Convention (III) Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949." I know most of the fools in charge of this sorry excuse for a government are unfamiliar with it, but it sheds some light on how to interpret what's happening in the Mideast---that it, if you prefer the non-knee-jerk approach to geopolitics:

Part I : General provisions

ARTICLE 3
In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

(1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed ' hors de combat ' by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.
To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) taking of hostages;

(c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

(2) The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.
The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.
The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.

Next, see the "Protocol II--Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts":
Part II
HUMANE TREATMENT
Article 4.-Fundamental guarantees

1. All persons who do not take a direct part or who have ceased to take part in hostilities, whether or not their liberty has been restricted, are entitled to respect for their person, honour and convictions and religious practices. They shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction. It is prohibited to order that there shall be no survivors.

2. Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, the following acts against the persons referred to in paragraph I are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever:

( a ) Violence to the life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder as well as cruel treatment such as torture, mutilation or any form of corporal punishment;

( b ) Collective punishments;

( c ) Taking of hostages;

( d ) Acts of terrorism;

( e ) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, rape, enforced prostitution and any form of indecent assault;

( f ) Slavery and the slave trade in all their forms;

( g ) Pillage;

( h ) Threats to commit any of the foregoing acts.

3. Children shall be provided with the care and aid they require, and in particular:

( a ) They shall receive an education, including religious and moral education, in keeping with the wishes of their parents, or in the absence of parents, of those responsible for their care;

( b ) All appropriate steps shall be taken to facilitate the reunion of families temporarily separated;

( c ) Children who have not attained the age of fifteen years shall neither be recruited in the armed forces or groups nor allowed to take part in hostilities;

( d ) The special protection provided by this Article to children who have not attained the age of fifteen years shall remain applicable to them if they take a direct part in hostilities despite the provisions of sub-paragraph ( c ) and are captured;

( e ) Measures shall be taken, if necessary, and whenever possible with the consent of their parents or persons who by law or custom are primarily responsible for their care, to remove children temporarily from the area in which hostilities are taking place to a safer area within the country and ensure that they are accompanied by persons responsible for their safety and well-being.
For some interpretation of these venerable words, see Questions and Answers on Hostilities Between Israel and Hezbollah, Human Right's Watch's contribution to understanding the situation in a clear-headed way.

Excuses don't wash blood away.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Let Them Eat Shit

"Up in San Antonio all the pretty people know
They better stay off of the west side where the black tar flows
They hide in their sheltered enclaves up around Olmos Park
They got their own policeman so they can stay out way past dark

Back down in Piedras Negras, the children play with dirt
We keep our pistols loaded so we don't get hurt
No importa a nadie, it's always been that way
Never gonna get no different, long as we got our say

Stay on the safe side
Stay on the safe side"
---Safe Side, from the album Candyland

Via Crooks and Liars. I used to love James McMurtry. He was always eloquent. Now he's just devastating:



Thanks also to YouTube, for changing the face of communication.

Yes, It Stinks

I love John Amato's Crooks and Liars, but deliberately exposing yourself to videos of Ann Coulter's schoolgirl bullying is like stepping into a latrine at high noon just to see if it smells as bad as you think it might.

For Thomas

Thomas Nephew, whose newsrack blog is an indefatigable source of info and discerning commentary, weighed in at the post below on the problems inherent with constitutional conventions:
"I guess I think a constitutional convention would be more likely to produce a reactionary disaster than a step forward -- too much up for grabs, too vulnerable to the unscrupulous. I think the Philadelphia constitutional convention only worked as well as it did because the participants had a shared revolution behind them; that isn't available for us.

But I don't think this forces a "long march inside the Democratic Party" though. The Constitution hasn't prevented new parties from forming or old ones from redefining themselves. I still favor making the Democrats competitive and representative, but I would not reject a 3rd party out of hand in 2012, or maybe even in 2008, the way I did in 2000."
al_goreGore Vidal, whose ebullient outrageousness seems less gratuitous and more sensible as the decades roll on, had this to say about it in his "State of the Union--1980" (links mine):
"The fact that half of those qualified to vote don't vote in the presidential elections is proof that the third republic is neither credible nor truly legitimate. The fact that the Bank's inspired invention, the so-called two-party system (which is really one single Banksparty), is now collapsing is further proof that the fourth republic will require political parties that actually represent the various groups and classes in the country and do not simply serve the Bank...

The time has come to hold another contitutional convention. Those conservatives known as liberals have always found this notion terrifying, because they are convinced that the powers of darkness will see to it that the Bill of Rights is abolished. This is always a possibility, but sometimes it's best to know the worst all at once rather than to allow those rights to be slowly taken away from us by, let us say, the present majority of the Supreme Court...

In the development of a new Constitution, serious attention should be paid to the Swiss political arrangement. Its cantonal system is something that might work for us. The United States could be divided into autonomous regions: nothern California, Oregon, and Washington would make a fine Social Democratic society, while the combined states of Texas, Arizona, and Oklahoma could bring back slavery and the minstrel show. There ought to be something for everybody to choose from in the United States, rather than the current homogenized overcentralized state that the Bank has saddled us with. The Swiss constitution has another attractive feature: the citizens have the right to hold a referendum and rescind, if they choose, a law. No need for a Howard Jarvis to yodel in the wilderness: The Jarvis Effect would be institutionalized.

Ideally, the fourth republic should abandon the presidential system for a parliamentary one. The leader of a majority in Congress would form the government. Out of respect for the rocks at Mount Rushmore, we would retain the office of president, but the president would be a figurehead and not what he is today---a dictator who is elected by half of half the people from a very short list given to them by the Banksparty."
Vidal's somewhat tongue-in-cheek analysis remains fresh after 26 years. It's a depressing reminder of how little we have changed, except to sink ever deeper into the mire of a governmental system that, while continuing to work in fits and starts, is inexorably grinding to a seize-up.

I admit it: I'm sick of it all. When I hauled out my long-buried optimism about the possibility of reversing the aristocracizing of America during the last election, I was stunned that Bush was returned to office, and what I have seen on my local front as those near to me have involved themselves in politics has made me all but despair of any hope. This was my response to Thomas, in comments:
"But after being sold down the river by even Dems I thought we could trust (locally, Allyson Schwartz voted for the Bankruptcy Bill, and nationally the majority rolled on their backs when the vote to grant unrestrained power to wage war was given to George Bush), I don't believe many of them can be trusted at all anymore. Can the party be saved? Maybe. But to do so would require the kind of wholesale changes to the electoral system that would allow outsiders and poor people to campaign. In my neck of the woods, there is a concerted effort by the Democratic machine to rebuff all attempts to run for any office at all if you haven't been vetted and approved by the county Commission. On a more statewide level, the attempts of Chuck Pinnacchio and Alan Sandals to run for office were deep-sixed by Chuck Schumer and Ed Rendell long before the primary ever got off the ground, so now I've got a Democratic candidate to represent PA in the Senate that was hand-picked by a New Yorker who ran the machine. This is not representative government. This is puppetry."
I'm open to suggestions.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Dems Lack Spine: Sun To Rise In Morning

grave14This why Democrats can't get elected:
"Democrats pulled an Internet ad that showed flag-draped coffins Friday after Republicans and at least two Democrats demanded it be taken down on grounds the image was insensitive and not fit for a political commercial.

The ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee called for a "new direction" and displayed a staccato of images, including war scenes, pollution and breached levees as well as a photograph of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay doctored to look like a police mug shot."
Insensitive!! My stars and garters, well, we don't want to offend the tender sensibilities of the radical right who made this mess, do we? We can stand to look at a thousand dying people in New Orleans as it happens, but we won't put up with having to look at videos of the broken levees after the fact, and the reminders of the criminal Republican negligence that made it all possible. No, that would just be crossing the line. In fact, this promo appears to have been just another sermon to the choir, and no one paid any mind, until some Republican's aide somewhere, no doubt trolling for trouble to make, managed to find it. Then everybody came down with a case of the vapors:
"Democrats had featured the video ad for nearly two weeks on the DCCC Web site where it had gone largely unnoticed until Republicans began objecting to it this week. On Thursday, more than a dozen Republicans, many with military backgrounds, called on DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., to apologize. Democratic Reps. John Spratt of South Carolina and Chet Edwards of Texas asked Emanuel to pull or alter the ad."
And whaddya know? The Dems caved, while the Republicans went back to harrumphing themselves into a self-righteous stupor:
"In South Carolina, Spratt's Republican challenger, state Rep. Ralph Norman, commended the removal. It was "the right thing to do for the state, country and especially the brave men and women who serve in our military," said Norman's spokesman, Nathan Hollifield."
Harrumph.

Listen, you bunch of hypocritical twats, you were all gung ho to send those brave men and women to their deaths and maimings back in 2003 when anyone who spoke a word against the war was tarred a traitor and given the old knife in the back. You didn't have any problems sending billions upon billions of dollars to that great, gaping black hole in Iraq and losing track of it all while the people in NOLA died because your president couldn't work up the cojones to do anything about it, after ensuring that FEMA would be so eviscerated as to be useless for the purpose. You had no issues with sensitivity as you helped Bush destroy the Office of Mine Safety for the industry's sake, then watched men die senselessly and repeatedly because of it, and you had no problem with handing over the natural resources of the people to any crony who could buy them. You let Tom Delay castrate every one of your own to maintain an indominatible wall against the Dems, wresting legitimate representation from over half the citizens of the country and holding us hostage to your plutocrats' agenda, but now you want to distance yourself from the corrupt carcass he left in his wake as if you had nothing to do with it? And you were jake with the underfunding of the VA just at a time when we were seeing more and worse permanent injuries to our vets than ever before, and you were fine with underfunding and undersupporting their procurement of body armor and armored vehicles and basic logistical needs as you signed off on no-bid contracts for Halliburton. And you rubber-stamped Bush's incompetent and illegal invasion into Iraq, then sat by and gave him everything he asked for as he and Paul Bremer ensured that the entire infrastructure of the country would be crippled and a Shiite culture of death squads arose from directly inside the puppet government.

Now you say you don't want to be reminded of all this, and that it's insensitive of the Democrats to put some paltry ad on their own website where only a few million people will see it and only the converted, at that?

And you Dems, you say you don't want to offend, so you'll take the high road and just focus on the minimum wage?

Oh, people! What world do you live in? Refusing to acknowledge the dead and dying doesn't do them honor...it only ensures we'll have more of them. No one ever won a political war by failing to engage the enemy. But that's what Dems have been doing for decades now, as the Republicans have given away the store. Dems, have some guts, have some character, and tell these assholes to go fuck themselves. And Republicans? You don't want to have to look at the mess you made? Well, maybe you should have listened to those of us who were crying in the wilderness about it years ago. Maybe you need to face the pictures, harsh as they may be, and say you're sorry. But you sure as hell have no standing to get up on the bodies of the dead and croak out your old hoary moans about how it's not patriotic (whine), when your selling our nation down the river for a few pieces of corporate gold has caused all the misery in the first place.

Fuck you all.


UPDATE: Just in case I'm accused of being all bitch and no solutions, these are my suggestions:

There are two choices, one of which is to take over the Party and ensure that it not only reflects our own ideals but fairly represents all citizens, whether they are in the minority or not. We may have never truly had this, but at least we came close in times past. We certainly don’t have it now, as those of us who have been turned away from the table know all too well. This means a takeover of the Party from the grassroots up, which is what Democracy for America is trying to do. You start with positions like Dogcatcher and get your feet in the door.

The other option is to actually jettison the whole venerable two-party-that-isn’t system, which has become so corrupted that it really only reflects the values and agendas of the plutocracy, costs so much to enter as a candidate that no truly working class person can even think about running, and is for sale to anyone with the swag to make his voice heard. This means a constitutional convention, and dumping the current graft-fest for a parlimentary government that would accept representatives of every faction, and ensure that everyone’s needs would matter. It would also mean adopting the ability to vote a government out of office mid-term with a “no confidence” vote. Had we taken this road, Bush and his cronies would have never been able to wreak the destruction they have, and they would have been long gone before 2004.

Frankly, my preference is for the latter.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

For Abir

14 years old14 years old.

Remember that next time you hear some reporter or anchor refer to her as a “young woman”. The soft-pedalling of her age by American media is a reflection of the sense that it’s somehow better when an adult is raped, which is itself motivated by the desire to take the blame off the rapist. But pay attention the next time they throw an 18 year old kid in jail as a sexual predator for having consensual sex with a 14 year old, and ask yourself why it is that we find the line between childhood and adulthood so elastic?

Thanks to Raed’s blog for the link.

In a Nutshell

Oil prices break the record: $75.89

Cue the domino effect on Wall Street.

And the world hunkers down to wait for the other shoe to drop:
"Geopolitical risk is out of control," said Tony Nunan, a risk manager at Mitsubishi Corp. In addition to Nigeria, he said, "Israel is taking a strong stance and that's adding fuel to the fire, but more than anything it's U.S. gasoline demand holding up and the Iran situation."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Yoi, e yoi dobro!!

And here I am in Portuguese.
portugal_big
Você seria surpreendido; são tudo países diferentes!

That's A Joke, Son...I Say, That's A Joke

foghorn leghornIs there anything more insufferable than watching Bush parade around with his little banty rooster chest puffed just because he thinks he’s scored a point in the War on Truth? Here he is, crowing over the “shrinking” of the deficit:

“Tax relief is working, the economy is growing, revenues are up, the deficits are down,” Mr. Bush said, “and all across this great land, Americans are realizing their dreams and building better futures for their families.”
Famed social analyst Dan Bartlett, who I’ll bet the farm has never had to worry about whether to pay utility bills or go to the doctor, is all aglow with Greenspanishness:

“People are personally pleased with their economic position but are anxious about the future,” said Dan Bartlett, counselor to the president, calling the shoe factory visit “a real-life example that our economy is growing and prospering.”
Yet ordinary people (read, the bottom 4/5ths of the economic stratum) stubbornly continue to defy Our Leader’s orders to put on a happy face. Could be they’ve finally hit that financial wall of zero equity after all those loans taken out in the febrile days of skyrocketing real estate values. Could be they’ve finally noticed, especially after maxing out the credit avenues, that they haven’t gotten a decent raise in years and their ability to continue buying crap has been severely cramped, not to mention their ability to purchase necessities like gas, utilities, health care, and food, whose rising costs have had the Fed raising interest rates like crazy. Could be they’ve looked around at housing and realized that they can’t afford to buy a house, or move into a nicer one, or rent in the neighborhood they want, anymore. Could even be they actually remember the House and Senate selling them out to the captains of the finance industry with the passage of the Bankruptcy Bill, because they have found themselves skating dangerously close to insolvency. Despite all this, the plutocrats scratch their well-coiffed heads:

“In addition to Mr. Bush’s appearances, other administration officials, including Rob Portman, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Al Hubbard, director of the National Economic Council, were also giving interviews and making public appearances.

“Obviously, it’s frustrating to us that the American people don’t recognize how well the economy is doing,” Mr. Hubbard said.”
Just as it’s frustrating to them that the American people don’t recognize how well the adventure in Iraq is going. How many times do we have to tell you, people??

Calculated Risk comes to the rescue with his own analysis and links to reports by others. As he notes:

“The Bush Administration routinely overestimates the deficit and then touts their "improvement".”
Keep an eye on this, because it’s going to be used to segue into more talk about axing Social Security. The administration is readily admitting the future is bleak:

“While this is good news today, the greatest threat continues to come from unsustainable spending on entitlement programs," Rob Portman, the White House budget director, said at a briefing for reporters. "Left unchecked, they would take over the entire federal budget in 30 years. This is a problem that is not being resolved by the good news I'm reporting today."

To document his point, the Office of Management and Budget distributed a chart showing that spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are projected to increase from about 10 percent of GDP in 2005 to 20 percent of GDP by 2070 -- and those estimates assume a slackening in the cost of health care. Fixing the problem, Portman said, will require making a choice between "dramatically" increasing taxes or curtailing future benefits.”
That creature isn’t dead yet; it’s going to rise again, whether before the election on the advice of Rove to “attack opponents where they are strongest”, or afterward, when the possible negative fallout won’t harm the hegemony, I don’t know. But it’s coming, and this will be its battering ram.

UPDATE: Like I said.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

'It's gone!' sighed the Rat, sinking back in his seat again. 'So
beautiful and strange and new. Since it was to end so soon, I almost
wish I had never heard it. For it has roused a longing in me that is
pain, and nothing seems worth while but just to hear that sound once more and go on listening to it for ever.
---The Wind in the Willows


Sydbarrettscar
"LONDON (Reuters) - Syd Barrett, the troubled founding member of Pink Floyd, has died aged 60, after living the life of a recluse for the last 30 years."

He died on Friday, but the information is just being released. The rest is here. I’d like to think the life he lived after leaving music brought him some peace.

Look at the sky, look at the river
Isn't it good?
Look at the sky, look at the river
Isn't it good?
Winding, finding places to go.
And then one day - hooray!


----The Gnome (Syd Barrett)

As Citrus Rots, So Rots The Nation

citrusThe Guardian reports that Florida citrus may rot in the fields for lack of workers to pick it:
“Growers have reported difficulty finding enough workers. Industry officials say labour problems got worse in the middle of May, when a large segment of the Hispanic labour force seemed to leave the state.

They said reports of an immigration crackdown made it difficult to find Hispanic workers, who make up much of Florida's farm workforce.

"Really, the labour shortage is what held us up this year," said Dave Crumbly, the vice-president of fruit control at Florida's Natural Growers in Lake Wales, the nation's third-largest citrus processor. He said word had spread through the Hispanic community that they should return home if they wanted jobs in the US in future. The workers were told they could get deported if they remained in the country, he said. But if they returned home, they would become eligible for a guest-worker programme that is part of the immigration reform bill.

"In reality, the current guest-worker programme bars anybody who has been in this country illegally," Mr Carlton said. There are still tens of millions of oranges on Florida's trees, according to the US department of agriculture, one of the highest totals on record, he added.”
Maybe if they paid a living wage for the work, they could find someone. According to the Florida Farm Bureau:
“Florida Farm Bureau is concerned that the current public focus on immigration and immigration reform may lack accurate information about farming and farm worker pay. “There appears to be a perception that agricultural producers are paying less than minimum wage to foreign workers,” said Kevin Morgan, FFB director of agricultural policy. “In fact, the average wage paid to farm workers by Florida growers is far higher than the state or federal minimum wage.” Florida farm workers are paid, on average, more than $9 an hour, according to farm labor statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture. These statistics show that, contrary to popular notions, farm workers are being paid a fair wage. Field harvesters are paid at least the state minimum wage of $6.40, which is above the federal minimum wage of $5.15.”
As a teenager I worked for awhile picking strawberries, and I can tell you that field work is exhausting, back-breaking labor, and certainly not worth working for Florida’s princely sum of $6.40 an hour. If they paid a decent wage, they might be able to find people to work for them, foreign or not. “Then the cost of citrus would be too high”, I hear America whining. Well, wait till you see the shortage-induced cost of your oranges this winter (when you can find them), especially after the high cost of hauling it in gasoline-powered trucks gets added in. At least if they paid a living wage to the people who pick our food we could have the moral satisfaction of knowing that there was for a good reason for paying the higher price.

This also belies the cri de coeur of the anti-immigration Right that Americans go without jobs because those damned Mexicans (Ronald Reagan: "You'd be surprised; they're all different countries!") take them all. Right now, famed human rights activist James Sensenbrenner is hard at work pushing this xenophobic crack in the chamber of the House, and the gullible American masses buy this racist horseshit, especially the poor, who have been so screwed by the Bush economic policy of eliminating labor outright when it can't be forced into a sweatshop. They not only buy it, it makes them feel all warm and righteous inside, the way that only hate with a clear conscience combined with sheer ignorance can induce. Oh, yes, they're just dying to get their hands on jobs like these:
"Farm work is considered to be second only to mining in the rating of most hazardous occupations. There is a high exposure to pesticides through topical exposure, inhalation, and ingestion, resulting in the highest rate of toxic chemical injuries of any group in the United States. Farm injuries, exposure to heat and sun, and poor sanitation in the fields are other factors that contribute to the dangers of this work. Every year nearly three hundred children die and twenty-four thousand are injured in farm work.

Housing regulations attempt to provide decent living conditions for migrant workers, but housing is often overcrowded, poorly maintained, and lacking in ventilation, bathing facilities, and safe drinking water. These conditions contribute to an increased risk of accidents, sanitation-related diseases, and infectious diseases...

Unstable living and working conditions, conflicts arising from the process of acculturation, perceptions of mental illness, isolation, and discrimination all contribute to a high incidence of metal-health problems among migrant farmworkers. A 2000 study documented a 26.7 percent incidence of psychiatric disorders among a sample of male Mexican farmworkers in California. A national survey of migrant women showed that approximately 20 percent had experienced physical or sexual abuse during the previous year."
There's your American Dream. Why, it's a wonder there aren't overflow crowds beating down the unemployment office doors to get at these opportunities. At $6.40 an hour you can't go wrong!

Oh, hell...what's the use. The Republicans will use this to mitigate their damages and hang on to their incumbencies by the skins of their teeth, and then everything will go back to normal. In the meantime, as the Voting Rights Act dies a tortured death, we will continue our devolution back to a blatantly racist social construct. Maybe Hate Radio will eventually rid us of the Tutsis in our midst.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A Declaration of Impeachment

As anyone who has read this blog over the last couple years knows, I used to be fairly prolific, then came back from NOLA and pretty much bowed out. Sometimes I'd hit the keyboard again on the occasion of this or that outrage, but I was in a car accident, lost it for awhile, and since then have been pretty overwhelmed with anger and misery everytime I turn on the radio, or read a mag or newspaper, so much so that I usually find myself muffled with unmanageable, untranslateable feelings hopelessly beyond my capacities to tell. Then something comes along that puts it in a nutshell so nicely it's a simple matter of just copying and pasting it whole cloth, then enjoying it.
liberte
As above, so below. On the occasion of our nation's birthday, everyone likes to talk about freedom, but we know freedom these days doesn't have anything to do with freedom from tyranny, unless you're an investment banker or other capitalistic moneybags. It's feedom to make a buck on the backs of any poor schmoe you can exploit, and the devil (and the IRS) take the hindmost. It's certainly not freedom to enjoy private conversations and access to your bank account while out of the country, not freedom to live without your demographics and buying habits and bedroom manners and social networks and reading materials being subject to government analysis.

Even as the gates open and oceanic opportunity is granted to plutocrats and aristocrats, they slam down tight on the little guy and gal, and all we get in return is a lot of cant about "freedom", while they steal it away. So here's to the Untited States of America, this rather unperfect union, rather shaky right now, but here's to its ideals and its dreams and to the hope that one day its people will awaken from this horrific dream, from their opiated consumerism, to see things with clear eyes and unshaken determination: the determination to put an end to tyrants as our ancestors did.

uncle_samVOTE4-IMPEACH-1smallThanks to afterdowningstreet.com and David Swanson for pointing me to this updated Declaration of Impeachment on the Veterans for Peace website, taken nearly verbatim from the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. Swanson gives it some eloquent context. But it holds its own alone:
"Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are instituted to secure the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But

…whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

…all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are
sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are
accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations…design(s) to reduce
them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such
Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

…The history of the present King (George) of Great Britain is a history of repeated
injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absoluteTyranny.

To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

§ He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to
harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

§ He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

§ He has…deprive(ed) us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury…transport(ed)
us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

§ He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging
War against us…

§ He is at this time transporting large Armies…to compleat the works of death,
desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely
paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

§ He has constrained our fellow Citizens…to become the executioners of their friends
and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

A (President) whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant,
is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

We, therefore…do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People…solemnly
publish and declare, That these…Free and Independent (People)…are Absolved from
all Allegiance to the (Bush Administration), and that all political connection between them and (this Administration), is and ought to be totally dissolved…And for the support of this Declaration…we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."
24_Sept_DC 067
Read it at your picnic. Then ask yourself whether one more patriot life is worth allowing these cowardly half men to remain in their stolen offices.