Saturday, July 03, 2004


The discourse of aberration runs through the American media's descriptions of just about everything that goes awry and manages to make it into the papers or onto the airwaves.

If Enron tanks due to rampant corruption, it's an aberration within benevolent corporate capitalism.

If hundreds of thousands of people are unemployed in America, even they are aberrations, however numerous they may be.

And as we all know, if we tortured some people in Iraq, that is a mere aberration within benevolent imperialism.

Or not:

When Veronica de Negri first saw the pictures from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, she happened to be writing her testimony for the Chilean commission investigating human rights abuses during the regime of Augusto Pinochet.

"That kind of abuse was what I lived in Chile under Pinochet," says de Negri, who came to the United States twenty-seven years ago. Even the vocabulary carried an echo. "They told us, too, they were trying to soften us up."

De Negri was detained in 1976. "I was beaten up. I had electroshock," she says. "I was raped not just by the torturers but with a mouse. It's very repulsive. Imagination cannot reach the reality."

She recognizes that "the torturers in my case were Chilean," but she blames Washington for helping to overthrow Salvador Allende in 1973, for supporting Pinochet, and for training Chilean torturers. De Negri left Chile with her family in 1977, but her son Rodrigo Rojas went back almost a decade later. "He was participating in a national strike on July 2, 1986, when he was arrested, badly beaten, and set on fire and burned alive by Pinochet's forces," she says.

Americans are "very naïve," she says. "They don't want to see" the involvement of the United States in torture over the years. The Abu Ghraib scandal "is nothing new," she says. "This has been happening behind your eyes for many years."

The United States likes to see itself with a halo on its head, and whenever a revelation like Abu Ghraib or My Lai surfaces, U.S. citizens tend to shrug it off as an anomaly. When you look at the last fifty years of U.S. history, it is anything but.

From Greece to Iran to Indonesia to Vietnam and throughout Latin America, the U.S. government has been complicit in the torture or murder of hundreds of thousands of people.

"If we had photographs of what our so-called allies in Honduras and El Salvador and Chile were doing, based on training they had received from us in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, the American public would have been even more horrified," says Peter Kornbluh of the National Security Archive in Washington, D.C. This was torture by proxy, but it was at the direction of Washington. "The only difference between this kind of conduct now and in the past is that there wasn't somebody with a digital camera back then keeping track of what was going on," says Kornbluh.

A. J. Langguth was "stunned and repulsed" by the pictures of the abuse at Abu Ghraib. "But it wasn't a big surprise to me," he says. Langguth is the author of Hidden Terrors, which chronicles the U.S. involvement in torture in Brazil and Uruguay in the 1960s and early 1970s. The book focuses on Dan Mitrione, the U.S. officer who professionalized the work of the torturers and ultimately was captured and executed by the Tupamaros in Uruguay.

"I first heard about our policies in torture when I was in Brazil in the '70s," Langguth is the author of Hidden Terrors, which chronicles the U.S. involvement in torture in Brazil and Uruguay in the 1960s and early 1970s. The book focuses on Dan Mitrione, the U.S. officer who professionalized the work of the torturers and ultimately was captured and executed by the Tupamaros in Uruguay.


Screwing the Natives, Again

Anyone who knows much of anything about the history of the United States government in regard to such things knows that it cannot be trusted with anything that is supposedly "held in trust" for the Native Americans.

This discovery should have been revealed to all concerned parties immediately:

Some of Utah's Indian leaders are upset that state and federal officials said nothing to them about a canyon filled with nearly untouched ancient settlements, even though the inhabitants could be their ancestors.

Officials have known about the string of hundreds of sites in a remote canyon southeast of Salt Lake City since 2002, but tribal leaders found out about it through news reports that began to appear last month. Archaeologists showed reporters part of the area in the Book Cliffs region Wednesday.

Patty Timbimboo-Madsen, cultural resources manager for the Northwest Shoshone tribe, characterized the omission as a slight against all American Indians.

"We know our ancestors are out there somewhere. When you find them, out of respect, let the native people go in and do ceremonies because you have disturbed something that we think is sacred," she said Thursday.


"Quick Infusion of Cash" for Reconstruction

The very instant the Bush administration said it, we all should have known it was a lie. I mean, a project of this size will of course encounter problems, but only two percent of allocated funds have been used. And more has gone to administration than to any actual reconstruction project.

The U.S. government has spent 2 percent of an $18.4 billion aid package that Congress approved last year after the Bush administration called for a quick infusion of cash into Iraq to finance reconstruction, according to figures released Friday by the White House.
Thus far, according to the report, nothing from the package has been spent on construction, health care, sanitation and water projects. More money has been spent on administration than all projects related to education, human rights, democracy and governance.

Of $3.2 billion earmarked for security and law enforcement, a key U.S. goal in Iraq, only $194 million has been spent. Another central objective of the aid program was to reduce the 30 percent unemployment rate, but money has been spent to hire only about 15,000 Iraqis, despite U.S. promises that 250,000 jobs would be created by now, U.S. officials familiar with the aid program said.

That the Bush admnistration cannot produce as many jobs as they promised will, of course, come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention the last few years.


Amnesty in Iraq?

The new government in Iraq is already making overtures to the insurgents, in an effort to stop the violence. Of course, this completely contradicts everything that we hear about the attacks being the work of "terrorists." But then, it is a practical, real-world political decision, so of course it will conflict with the neo-conservative dreck produce by the White House and its media organs:

Iraq's prime minister, less than a week after taking power, may offer amnesty to insurgents and could extend it to those who killed American troops in an apparent bid to lure Saddam Hussein loyalists from their campaign of violence.

A spokesman for Iyad Allawi went as far as to suggest attacks on U.S. troops over the past year were legitimate acts of resistance - a sign of the new government's desire to distance itself from the 14-month U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.

"If he (a guerrilla) was in opposition against the Americans, that will be justified because it was an occupation force," the spokesman, Georges Sada, said Saturday. "We will give them freedom."

Of course, sending such signals now, while American troops are still there, and sovereignty has been transferred largely in name only, cannot be good for the soldiers.


Swapping Prisoners

Looks like the U.S. doesn't mind making deals with regimes that use torture; no surprise there, really. As long as they are on "our side," it's all okay:

U.S. officials reluctantly agreed to return five terrorism suspects to Saudi Arabia from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, last year as part of a deal involving Britain, The New York Times reported in Sunday editions.

Citing senior American and British officials, all who spoke on condition of anonymity, the Times reported the arrangement called for Saudi officials to release five Britons and two others convicted of guerrilla attacks in Saudi Arabia. British diplomats believed they were tortured by Saudi security officers into confessing falsely.

What's more, while the Saudis apparently tortured the Britons to extract confessions, the U.S. was not really sure whether they will even keep the five Saudi suspects incarcerated.

The agencies questioned whether some detainees were too dangerous to send back and whether Saudi promises to keep the men imprisoned could be trusted.
The report said Saudi officials had given contradictory accounts of the current whereabouts of the five men, saying at first that one or two had been released, then denying any had been freed. The officials also gave contradictory accounts of their legal status, first saying they had been tried and convicted but later saying prosecutions were pending.


We Need to Learn from Their Mistakes

And we need to do it now, before it's too late--if it's not already:

A mad cow disease epidemic in France went completely undetected and led to almost 50,000 severely infected animals entering the food chain, according to a shocking report by French government researchers.


Imperialism and Homophobia

There is an excellent piece by Jeremy Seabrook in The Guardian about the roots of homophobia in developing nations.

I will not post an excerpt here, because you should read the whole thing.


Iraq Oil Exports Sabotaged


Saboteurs attacked one of two oil pipelines feeding Iraq's southern export terminals on Saturday, halving the country's exports to 960,000 barrels per day, officials and a shipping agent said.

The attack on the pipeline succeeded despite beefed-up security after similar attacks last month and vows by the new government to restore stability to the country.

"It was sabotage," said one oil official, who declined to be named.


Another Republican Schism

Along with that between the ones who don't mind the invasion and those who do, and that between the ones who don't mind skyrocketing defictis and those who do, the Republicans will be facing this schism as the election approaches:

After a recent poll determined that most Republicans support a woman's right to choose, a pro-choice Republican bloc prepares for a turf war at the upcoming convention.

Given that this feeds directly into the stem-cell debate spurred on by Reagan's recent death, I think it may have more impact than one would normally expect.


Very Good News for the Global War on AIDS

A cheap generic performs just as well as a more expensive, three-drug regime:

A cheap three-in-one generic AIDS pill from India is just as good as more expensive branded medicines and should be widely used in developing countries, researchers said on Friday.

Lack of scientific evidence about the clinical effectiveness of such generic fixed-dose combinations has until now caused some international AIDS donors to refuse to fund their use.

But a team from the French national agency for AIDS research and Swiss charity Medecins sans Frontieres said Cipla’s Triomune performed as well as brand drugs in the first open clinical study in a developing country.

They found that 80 percent of HIV-infected patients given the tablet twice a day had undetectable levels of virus in their blood after six months treatment.

Of course, the inevitable hurdle now becomes getting the United States to use the cheaper drug, rather than funneling huge amounts of cash into pharmaceutical companies in the name of fighting AIDS. And that fight will take a lot of work:

Washington has barred groups receiving U.S. government funds from buying them, insisting only drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration be used.

U.S. officials and Western pharmaceutical executives argue health providers are taking a risk by using medicines which have not passed the rigorous standards of the U.S. drugs watchdog.


July 4, 2004

Molly Ivins describes it in a nutshell:

If we ignore Iraq for the weekend, we should be able to celebrate our national heritage without punching each other in the eye.


Brooks Lets the Truth Slip In

In an otherwise absurd column, involving such assertions as:

Iraq now has a popular government with a tough, capable prime minister.

Brooks does include one sentence that actually does make perfect sense:

The U.S. had to transfer sovereignty precisely so it could stay.

In other words, yes, sovereignty truly is "sovereignty."


Friday, July 02, 2004

Blowhard Moron Lies, Displays Utter Ignorance or Deceitfulness

You guessed it: Limbaugh. This time, in an effort to take Kerry down for having the nerve to write the introduction to a new collection of poetry written by a certain famous African-American man, Limbaugh again fails to realize that Red-baiting is decades out of fashion:

On Wednesday, conservative maven Rush Limbaugh blasted John Kerry’s recent announcement that he’d write the preface for a new Langston Hughes poetry collection as well as using Hughes’ classic phrase “Let America be America again” for his campaign, headling his website, “Communism lives in the Democratic Party?”

No evidence has surfaced that Langston Hughes ever was a communist, though he did testify to a Senate subcommittee during the height of McCarthyism, according to one biography.

One thing is certain: You'll never catch manly president Bush writing anything about poetry. He's far too masculine even to read a newspaper, much less a poem.


She's Crashing the Party

Strom Thurmond's daughter by his family's African-American maid is seeking to join The United Daughters of the Confederacy:

Essie Mae Washington-Williams, a biracial woman who stepped forward last year to acknowledge that she was the daughter of the late Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, now wants to join the United Daughters of the Confederacy, an organization of descendants of soldiers who fought for the South in the Civil War.

Evidently she is eligible: Senator Thurmond, once a fierce segregationist, was a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a similar group for men. Ms. Washington-Williams, a 78-year-old retired teacher who lives in Los Angeles, also plans to apply for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Black Patriots Foundation, which honors black Revolutionary War fighters. One of her two sons will apply to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, her lawyer said.
Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil liberties group in Montgomery, Ala., said there was no way to say how many Sons of Confederate Veterans or United Daughters of the Confederacy are black, but, he said, "I think there are precious few."

"This is the kind of thing that's going to come as a rude shock to the present leadership of the S.C.V., to put it mildly," he said.

But the leaders of that group and others said they were indifferent to the race of applicants. "That is not the issue here with us," Ms. Limpus said. "The issue is whether she has a Confederate ancestor."


Just Blowing Off Steam?

Our troops have developed some odd hobbies to pass the time in Iraq:

Three U.S. soldiers have been charged with manslaughter in the drowning of an Iraqi detainee who was forced to jump off a bridge near Baghdad in January, the military said Friday.

A fourth soldier, who like the three others are from Fort Carson, faces charges for allegedly ordering a second Iraqi to jump. That man survived.

The Army said the drowning happened in the Tigris River in the city of Samarra. Both Iraqis were civilians who had been detained for a curfew violation, Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington said.


Saddamists Striking Back

Even as the trial goes on, rockets are landing in the very square where we staged that toppling-the-statue photo:

Saddam Hussein got his day in court, and Iraqi leaders and U.S. troops got back to the task of fighting an insurgency that shows no sign of abating, as rebels fired rockets at two hotels today.

One rocket struck the Sheraton Hotel on Firdous Square in central Baghdad but caused only minor damage. Another veered north and exploded near the Baghdad Hotel, used by Western security contractors. One man was wounded.

"This is the sixth time that the Sheraton hotel has been hit since August," said Hussein Hadi, the night shift manager. "They think we have American troops here, (but) it's a civilian hotel. We have companies who have come to help reconstruct Iraq."

Firdous Square is where a statue of Saddam Hussein was hauled down on April 9, 2003, in what became one of the defining images of the U.S.-led invasion.
In Washington, a former Coalition Provisional Authority official said American officials suspect the insurgency in Iraq is being carried out by about 4,000 to 5,000 Saddam loyalists.


More on F9/11

Yesterday, I contrasted Krugman's accurate review of the film with the disappointing, misguided, anxious review in The Progressive. To sharpen my point, here's a bit of a review by William Norman Grigg of The New American (e-mailed to me, so no link, though it probably is online somewhere):

The film itself very much reflects its creator: It's shaggy, flabby, occasionally witty, and frequently infuriating. It will have a HUGE impact because Moore -- his facile leftist economics notwithstanding -- has nailed his case against the Bush regime flush to the plank. It will be all but impossible for anybody who sits still and watches this film to view Bush the Lesser as anything other than a petty, spiteful, dim-witted, bloody-handed little fool -- and the figurehead of a murderous power elite. This explains why the Bu'ushists are threatening to go Abu Ghraib on Moore: They're busted.
There were no screaming Bolsheviks (one viewer had an anti-animal rights T-shirt) or marijuana-scented bohemians in the crowd. This wasn't the sort of crowd you'd see at a Phish concert, or storming McDonald's at an anti-WTO rally. There were Wal-Mart customers, people who probably listen to country music (even Toby Keith), and even vote Republican. And they were PISSED -- quietly, but palpably. A would-be political prisoner Martha Stewart would say, that's a good thing. And well overdue.

This from a man who describes himself as an "ultraconservative."

More evidence that Rothschild should stop sitting in his office and fantasizing about "normal America" and its reactions, and actually go out and see the reality.


Pray for Cheney

A public service announcement from General JC Christian, patriot:


Saddam's Capture Largely Irrelevant to the Occupation

This has been said many times by many people since we caught Saddam, but it bears repeating. It doesn't make much difference, and the trial will do little beyond providing a bit of theatre, and giving him a chance to denounce America:

In the nearly seven months that he was held captive by American forces, Saddam Hussein revealed little of what his interrogators most wanted to know, about his weapons programs and the insurgency in postwar Iraq, senior officials involved in his custody said in a series of recent interviews.

The "Saddamists" continue to flourish:

More than a year of intensive efforts by the American military and the Central Intelligence Agency to destroy the insurgency in Iraq has failed to reduce the number of ``hard-core Saddamists'' seeking to destroy the interim Iraqi government, a former senior official of the just-dissolved American-led occupation authority said in an interview on Thursday.


Bad News for Europe

The truce may be expiring:

A purported statement from an al Qaeda-linked group vowed to carry out attacks in Europe after the expiry of a three-month truce offered by Osama bin Laden in April, London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper said on Friday.

Al Qaeda leader bin Laden, in an audio tape on April 15, extended a truce to Europeans if they withdrew troops from Muslim nations and said the offer would last three months.

"To the European people ... you only have a few more days to accept bin Laden's truce or you will only have yourselves to blame," said the statement purported to be from Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, which claimed responsibility for the March 11 bombings in Spain.


On Fahrenheit 9/11

The critics take it on, with some odd and unexpected responses.

First of all, Krugman nails it:

Since it opened, "Fahrenheit 9/11" has been a hit in both blue and red America, even at theaters close to military bases. Last Saturday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. took his Nascar crew to see it. The film's appeal to working-class Americans, who are the true victims of George Bush's policies, should give pause to its critics, especially the nervous liberals rushing to disassociate themselves from Michael Moore.

There has been much tut-tutting by pundits who complain that the movie, though it has yet to be caught in any major factual errors, uses association and innuendo to create false impressions. Many of these same pundits consider it bad form to make a big fuss about the Bush administration's use of association and innuendo to link the Iraq war to 9/11. Why hold a self-proclaimed polemicist to a higher standard than you hold the president of the United States?

And for all its flaws, "Fahrenheit 9/11" performs an essential service. It would be a better movie if it didn't promote a few unproven conspiracy theories, but those theories aren't the reason why millions of people who aren't die-hard Bush-haters are flocking to see it. These people see the film to learn true stories they should have heard elsewhere, but didn't. Mr. Moore may not be considered respectable, but his film is a hit because the respectable media haven't been doing their job.

Meanwhile, Matthew Rothschild at The Progressive manages to get it dead wrong:

Instead, he intruded, as is his trademark, too much into his own film. He used a sledgehammer approach when a dagger would have done the job, and he tarnished his whole enterprise with a tone that will be off-putting to all but the crowd.

Make no mistake: This was an in-crowd movie.

Moore has said he wants the movie to be a tool to defeat Bush. But if that's the intention, I'm afraid he's failed.

I tried to put myself in the shoes of friends of mine who are open-minded Republicans or middle-of-the-roaders. And I suspect that most of them will be turned off by Moore's cheap shots.

Rothschild is the liberal who is distancing himself from Moore's film because he's afraid of what "normal Americans" will think. And he's projecting all sorts of things onto "normal Americans" that turn out not to be there at all, in reality. As Krugman points out, and as every anecdote I've heard supports, this film is playing very well, all over America. Not just with the so-called " crowd."

The lesson here is clear. The left needs to stop cringing and accepting as truth the representation of America that the right would have us believe. It doesn't exist, and we need to stop acting as though it does.


Thursday, July 01, 2004

The Marijuana Vanguard

As the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case for medical marijuana (and against the wasteful use of the resources of the Department of Justice to bust dispensaries deemed legal by their own states), the city of Oakland is forging ahead:

While the battle to allow marijuana for medical use is still being fought across the nation, the forward edge of the war for acceptance is pushing further: towards ending prohibition altogether. Campaigns to regulate rather than prohibit marijuana are catching fire around the country. The residents of Oakland, California – which already has legal medical marijuana dispensaries, will soon vote on whether to permit marijuana sales to all adults as a way to eliminate street dealing and fund city services.

On June 29, county officials qualified the Oakland Cannabis Initiative for the November election. Supporters of the initiative had turned in over 32,000 signatures. "It would require the City of Oakland to develop a system to tax and regulate adult sale and use of marijuana as soon as possible under state law," says Joe DeVries, a board member of the Oakland Civil Liberties Alliance, which supported the measure. "And until state law makes it possible, it requires that the Oakland police treat adult use and sale of marijuana as the lowest policing priority."


Still No Democracy in Afghanistan

Can anyone really believe that valid elections are going to take place on schedule in Iraq?

Afghanistan's national elections, which had already been postponed for three months until September, have now been put off until mid-October because of continuing violence and political disagreements, foreign and Afghan officials here said Thursday.


Homophobia in Virginia

I'm boycotting the state, which I suppose might be a bit more meaningful if I'd had any plans to go there.

At any rate, this law is absolutely repulsive, and I'd guess unconstitutional in the scope of legal arrangements that it outlaws for same-sex couples:

Activists rallied in cities across the eastern state of Virginia to protest a new law that critics said could nullify legal contracts between same-sex couples.

The state law, which goes into effect Thursday, prohibits civil unions, partnership contracts or other arrangements "purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage."

Critics said it could be used to nullify medical directives, wills, joint bank accounts and other agreements between gay and lesbian couples.

"[The law] clearly states that gay and lesbian people in this state should not feel welcome," said Dyana Mason, executive director of Equality Virginia, the state's largest gay rights organization. "It seeks to strip the only tool that gay and lesbian couples have to protect their families."

At least, unlike Massachusetts, Virginia has a governor who cares about liberty and justice in his state:

But Gov. Mark R. Warner, a Democrat, issued a statement condemning the law, which he refused to sign.

"This law raises serious constitutional issues and it places Virginia outside the mainstream of other states when it comes to respecting individual liberty," he said.

Even if you are against same-sex marriage (and if you are, shame on you), you have to have problems with this law, which is just written very badly, as the ACLU is pointing out:

Kent Willis, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, said his group was working with others to legally challenge the law. He said it was so vaguely worded that it could be used against heterosexuals of the same sex who enter into legal agreements with each other.


Halliburton: As Stupid as They Want to Be

This is the company that we handed the contracts to, the company that's supposed to be rebuilding Iraq into a functional democracy:

DeYoung audited accounts for Halliburton’s subsidiary KBR. She claims there was no effort to hold down costs because all costs were passed on directly to taxpayers. She repeatedly complained to superiors of waste and fraud. The company's response, according to deYoung was: "We can be as dumb and stupid as we want in the first year of a war, nobody’s going to care."

DeYoung produced documents detailing alleged waste even on routine services: $50,000 a month for soda, at $45 a case; $1 million a month to clean clothes — or $100 for each 15-pound bag of laundry.

"That money could have been used to take care of soldiers," she said.

DeYoung also claims people were paid to do nothing. Mike West says he was one of them. Paid $82,000 a year to be a labor foreman in Iraq, West claims he never had any laborers to supervise. "They said just log 12 hours a day and walk around and look busy," he said. "OK, so we did."


Targeting the Churches

Just one more reason I'm glad I'm an atheist:

President Bush, seeking to mobilize religious conservatives for his reelection campaign, has asked church-going volunteers to turn over church membership directories, campaign officials said on Thursday.

In a move sharply criticized both by religious leaders and civil libertarians, the Bush-Cheney campaign has issued a guide listing about two-dozen "duties" and a series of deadlines for organizing support among conservative church congregations.

A copy of the guide obtained by Reuters directs religious volunteers to send church directories to state campaign committees, identify new churches that can be organized by the Bush campaign and talk to clergy about holding voter registration drives.

The document, distributed to campaign coordinators across the country earlier this year, also recommends that volunteers distribute voter guides in church and use Sunday service programs for get-out-the-vote drives.


David Corn: Bush Is, in Fact, a Liar

Responding to Kristof's torturous and inane column, Corn rips the argument against calling Bush a liar to shreds:

"I'm against the 'liar' label for two reasons," Kristof writes. "First it further polarizes the political cesspool, and this polarization is making America increasingly difficult to govern. Second, insults and rage impede understanding."

These are tactical points--which Kristof is certainly free to make. But they are unrelated to the basic issue: is the charge true? More on that below. But even if we accept Kristof's desire for a high-minded political discourse, consider this: if the president of the United States is not telling the truth about critical matters (war, taxes, global warming, stem cell research), isn't he the one poisoning the cesspool and inhibiting effective governance? And if he is being dishonest on these fronts, wouldn't illumination of that enhance rather than detract from the debate? The president of the United States has a bully pulpit; he has the largest megaphone in the room. If he is falsely describing the terms of the discussion, he is rigging the national debate. And if that is his M.O., why should it not be criticized?


Lying to Our Faces While Stabbing Us in the Back

I spent a good bit of yesterday choking with rage over Bush's murderous new CDC requirements, which will ensure that AIDS spread even faster than it normally would.

At the time, I didn't even know about this:

When President Bush gave a speech on AIDS in Philadelphia on June 23, the New York Times got all moist because he mentioned the word "condoms" just once in his speech. "Bush Backs Condom Use to Prevent Spread of AIDS," blared the Times headline on the story, signed by David Sanger and Donald McNeil Jr.

Here's what Bush actually said: "We can learn from the experiences of other countries when it comes to a good program to prevent the spread of AIDS, like the nation of Uganda. They've started what they call the ABC approach to prevention of this deadly disease. That stands for Abstain, Be faithful in marriage, and, when appropriate, use Condoms."

Well, if Messrs. Sanger, McNeil, and their editors knew anything about Administration AIDS policy--or had bothered to find out--they might have mentioned the censorious new anti-condom guidelines issued only the week before the speech, on June 16, by Bush's Centers for Disease Control, which reveal as a sham the election-year rhetoric mouthed by Bush in Philadelphia.

It just gets worse and worse. When will the media learn that they need to check on things that Bush says, in order to see if they might be, you know, completely fucking untrue?


The Gore-ing of Kerry

Inevitable, I know, but fascinating in the way that a train wreck is fascinating:

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there was a senator named John who found himself on Al Gore's short list of potential running mates.

The campaign press in the summer of 2000 was entranced with John. It tumbled all over itself to describe John as the perfect match for what it saw as the somewhat wooden, robot-like Gore. One newspaper described John as a man with "an easy manner and good looks," a politician whose "charisma [might] rub off on [Gore]," a person who could "bring some charm to the ticket." John's selection, it opined, would signal that Gore "thinks the election will be decided on personality." A television reporter also regarded this John as "charismatic." Another newspaper saw him as "younger and more telegenic than Dick Cheney." Yet a third newspaper called him "handsome," with "a record tailor-made to undermine the standard Republican attack on liberal Democrats."

This John's surname was Kerry – though if you guessed Edwards, you are more than excused – and the press outlets that offered the above descriptions were the St. Petersburg Times, NBC News, the Boston Globe, and the (New York) Daily News, respectively.

What a difference 1,460 days make.

The "handsome," "charismatic" candidate who four years ago had an "easy manner," "charm," and a record impregnable to Republican attack has undergone a hideous transmogrification, as described by reporters.


Video of Saddam on Trial

RealPlayer or Quicktime.


Homeland Security

And it only took them almost three years to start doing this:

The United States denied entry to a Bolivian-flagged freighter on Thursday as tough new global laws to protect shipping from terrorist attacks took effect with little disruption to global trade.

Washington, fearing an attack or infiltration by al Qaeda from the sea, has vowed to police the new United Nations codes strictly by turning away ships that are not security-certified or delaying ones that have called at "contaminated ports."


Saddam Defiant

He's having his day in court, and he's making good use of it:

When reprimanded for his language by the judge who called it a legal proceeding, Saddam replied, "This is all a theater, the real criminal is Bush."
Upon refusing to sign the documents that laid out the broad outline of charges against him, Saddam also declared that "I object to the entire proceeding."

According to pool reporters in the room, Saddam's demeanor and appearance was generally impressive compared to the figure seen in his December capture. His beard was neatly trimmed and his charcoal-colored suit dapper, but without a necktie.

What I want to know is, can we get Bremer to outlaw the death penalty here, too?

But the interim Iraqi government -- which cannot make major policy changes until elections planned for next year -- faces a huge problem. U.S.-appointed administrator L. Paul Bremer, who left his post Monday, outlawed the death penalty in Iraq, an outcome that is almost mandatory in the eyes of many Iraqis.

"I think the Iraqi people will be satisfied with the death penalty and no less than that," Bayati admitted.


I'm Just Dense, I Suppose

I was under the impression that approaching the "war on terror" as a matter of international policing, rather than balls-out, manly warfare, was a sign of Kerryesque weakness.

But these days, the focus is on the bounty. Did we do this sort of thing with regard to Hitler and Hirohito? I am just curious, because Bush certainly does enjoy invoking that old war as somehow parallel to this new one:

The United States has raised to $25 million a reward offer for the capture of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, its top guerrilla target in Iraq, the State Department said.
"The United States is determined to bring him (Zarqawi) to justice for his crimes," the State Department said in an announcement on its Internet site, dated Wednesday.

Zarqawi is considered the most active operational figure in Iraq of the al Qaeda militant network. He has claimed responsibility for several suicide attacks and the beheadings of an American and South Korean hostage.

Last October, Washington offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Zarqawi, and it doubled that figure to $10 million in February.


Wednesday, June 30, 2004

White House Doesn't Care What You Think

More faith-based governance. The people are irrelevant. Reality is irrelevant:

The White House on Wednesday dismissed opinion polls showing that many Americans feel the war in Iraq has increased the danger of terrorism instead of reducing it.

Several surveys this month have shown growing public concern about the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq and its potential for fueling Muslim anger against the United States.

Asked about polling data, White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters that Americans understood administration policy was "making the world a safer and better place."


9/11 Suspect Arrested

Again underscoring the point that the "war on terror" is more properly conceived as an ongoing international police effort:

A Moroccan terror suspect has been arrested in Britain on suspicion of being linked to both the Sept.11, 2001 attacks on the United States and the Madrid train bombings this year, police confirmed Wednesday.

Scotland Yard said Farid Hilali, 35, was taken to a London court Monday and ordered to be held without bail on a European arrest warrant requested by Spain. He will return to court on July5.

Before his Monday court appearance, Hilali had been held for months in Britain's high security Belmarsh prison for suspected immigration offenses.

Hilali, also known as "Shakur", is thought to have telephoned the alleged head of an al-Qaeda cell in Madrid shortly before the September 11 attacks, according to The Times newspaper published Wednesday.

In a tapped call on August 27, 2001, Hilali allegedly said that he "had entered into the field of aviation" and "cut the throat of the eagle" and promised that he would have something to show to an unnamed Spain-based terrorist leader in about a month, The Times reported.


Mad Cow Among Us

An egregious failure. As the population of the planet grows, and as pollution continues its deleterious effects on our health, the government absolutely HAS to do everything in its power to ensure a safe food supply.

Of course, eliminating grotesquely cruel factory beef farms with their highly toxic slurry runoff would be a very good thing to do. But at the very least, can't they at least enact systematic testing so that we don't acquire a brain-wasting disease from eating cows that are fed cows?

Or is that too much to ask?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported Wednesday a cow that initially tested positive for mad cow disease has come back negative on follow-up testing, but a food industry consultant told United Press International he estimates there could be more than 100 cases of the deadly disorder in the country's herds.

About half of the cases will go undetected and passed on for human consumption, Robert LaBudde, president of Least Cost Formulation Ltd., a food industry consultancy in Virginia Beach, Va., told UPI.


The First Interesting Debate of the Presidential Election

Between, of all people, Nader and Dean:

Among the debate topics: Should Ralph run for president? The participants: Howard Dean and a candidate who always has an opinion on the subject - independent Ralph Nader.

Dean, the former Democratic presidential hopeful who attracted legions of liberal followers before his bid fizzled out, will debate Nader for 90 minutes on July 9 before a studio audience.

National Public Radio's weekly program "Justice Talking" is sponsoring the debate, and correspondent Margot Adler will moderate.

Dean has been urging his supporters not to back Nader, but to stay within the Democratic fold and vote for John Kerry,

"I am anxious to debate Ralph Nader in order to speak about why he wants to run for president," Dean said in a statement. "This is the most important election in my lifetime and a third party candidate could make a difference - this November and for years to come."

Link via BlogJosh.


More Bad News for the IRR

The Bush adventure in Iraq requires far more soldiers than they had anticipated, so the "emergency" is likely to drag in thousands more:

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in January approved an Army request to mobilize up to 6,500 soldiers from this reserve pool -- being used in large numbers for the first time in 13 years -- and the Army initially plans to mobilize 5,674 soldiers, officials said.

But Smiley said perhaps thousands more could be involuntarily mobilized.

"We expect to call some more," Smiley said.

These soldiers could remain on active duty for up to two years "based on mission requirements," Smiley said.


More and More Uninsured

Yet another reason to vote against Bush. At least Kerry has some sort of plan to deal with the health care crisis in this country:

The number of American adults who live without health insurance surpassed 20 percent last year, the second consecutive yearly rise, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday.

The CDC nationwide survey of more than 91,000 people did not say what led to the increase in uninsured adults to 20.1 percent in 2003 from 19.1 percent the previous year.

The level of uninsured adults in 2003 was also 6.3 percent above that of 1997, the height of the U.S. economic boom and the first year for which such data became available.
Overall, 43.6 million Americans of all ages, or 15.2 percent of the population, went without health insurance in 2003, up from 14.7 percent in 2002 and down slightly from 15.4 percent in 1997, according to the CDC survey. Hispanics were three times more likely than whites and about twice as likely as blacks not to have insurance.



Absolutely predictable. Just another reminder that this misguided war is going to be with us for a long, long time after the soldiers come home:

Nearly a fifth of U.S. troops returning from the war in Iraq may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health problems, but many are not seeking treatment, according to a study released on Wednesday.


Hey Bush, See the Movie!


President Bush and everyone in Washington should screen Michael Moore's controversial anti-Bush film "Fahrenheit 9/11," a group of military and 9/11 families said Wednesday.

"What we want to say is how important Michael Moore's movie is ... in bringing back the ability to have a dialogue" about the issues surrounding the war," said Nancy Lessin of the group Military Families Speak Out, whose stepson is a Marine.

"What we're trying to do here is to tell the administration ... not only see it but then come out ... and explain why this happened, why we went to Iraq and why 9/11 happened," said Ivan Medina, a former Marine from Middletown, N.Y., who served in Iraq and whose twin brother Irving was killed there.


Bush Administration Working to Spread AIDS

Just appalling. Another crucial government agency subverted. Literally murderous.

Lethal new regulations from President Bush’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, quietly issued with no fanfare last week, complete the right-wing Republicans’ goal of gutting HIV-prevention education in the United States. In place of effective, disease-preventing safe-sex education, little will soon remain except failed programs that denounce condom use, while teaching abstinence as the only way to prevent the spread of AIDS. And those abstinence-only programs, researchers say, actually increase the risk of contracting AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Published on June 16 in the Federal Register, the censorious new CDC guidelines will be mandatory for any organization that does HIV-prevention work and also receives federal funds — whether or not any federal money is directly spent on their programs designed to fight the spread of the epidemic. (The CDC is the principal federal funder of prevention education about HIV and AIDS, and its head a Bush appointee). It’s all couched in arcane bureaucratese, but this is the Bush administration’s Big Stick — do exactly as we say, or lose your federal funding. And nearly all of the some 3,800 AIDS service organizations (ASOs) that do the bulk of HIV-prevention education receive at least part of their budget from federal dollars. Without that money, they’d have to slash programs or even close their doors.

These new regs require the censoring of any “content” — including “pamphlets, brochures, fliers, curricula,” “audiovisual materials” and “pictorials (for example, posters and similar educational materials using photographs, slides, drawings or paintings),” as well as “advertising” and Web-based info. They require all such “content” to eliminate anything even vaguely “sexually suggestive” or “obscene” — like teaching how to use a condom correctly by putting it on a dildo, or even a cucumber. And they demand that all such materials include information on the “lack of effectiveness of condom use” in preventing the spread of HIV and other STDs — in other words, the Bush administration wants AIDS fighters to tell people: Condoms don’t work. This demented exigency flies in the face of every competent medical body’s judgment that, in the absence of an HIV-preventing vaccine, the condom is the single most effective tool available to protect someone from getting or spreading the AIDS virus.

Moreover, the CDC will now take the decisions on which AIDS-fighting educational materials actually work away from those on the frontlines of the combat against the epidemic, and hand them over to political appointees.

I am livid. And if you've been reading this blog for a while, you have some idea as to why.


Finally, a Compelling Argument Against Gay Marriage

Rebecca Hagelin has the last word. Gay marriage is wrong because gay couples with Alzheimer's wouldn't love each other.

I stand in awe of her logic.

Link, appropriately enough, via World o' Crap.


Soccer for Peace

Here's an idea I never would have come up with:

Brazil's soccer team will kick off an attempt to disarm Haiti's warring factions by playing a match where spectators will have to swap their guns for entry tickets.

The Brazilian stars Ronaldo and Ronaldinho are among those who may play Haiti's national side at home in August to help Brazilian United Nations peacekeeping troops rebuild the poverty-stricken nation as it recovers from a bloody revolt.


Culture Jamming

I don't know if this is the work of the Billboard Liberation Front, or some other group, but I have to say, "Well done."



The very definition of "clusterf*ck":

American military police yesterday raided a building belonging to the Iraqi ministry of the interior where prisoners were allegedly being physically abused by Iraqi interrogators.
The raid appeared to be a violation of the country's new sovereignty, leading to angry scenes inside the ministry between Iraqi policemen and US soldiers.

The military police, who had been told of abuse, seized an area known as the Guesthouse just outside the ministry's main building. They disarmed the Iraqi policemen and at one stage threatened to set free prisoners whose handcuffs they removed, according to Iraqi officials.

The arrival of a second group of US military police and a more senior officer led to an argument between the two groups of military policemen over who had command authority for the raid.


Everything's Bigger in Texas

For example, the high school dropout rate!

“For the second straight year, Texas has the lowest percentage of high school graduates in the nation, according to a U.S. Census Bureau study released Tuesday.

Seventy-seven percent of Texans age 25 and older had a high school degree in 2003, the same percentage as a decade earlier, when Texas ranked 39th in the country. So while other states have seen their graduation rates improve – a record 85 percent of Americans have high school degrees – Texas is treading water

When I used to live in Arkansas, we often had occasion to say, "Thank God for Mississippi" whenever these national rankings came out. Can't even do that, this time.


Give It a Rest, Already

This decades-old embargo of Cuba needs to end, for a multitude of reasons, not least of which is that it prevents us from having easy access to very, very good rum.

Instead, Bush is tightening the screws again, punishing the people of Cuba for the acts of their leader:

New rules go into effect Wednesday further restricting travel to Cuba and financial assistance to its residents. The tightened sanctions against Fidel Castro's 45-year-old communist regime are a cynical attempt to curry favor with Castro-hating Cuban-American voters in Florida.

The regulations will have a devastating effect on Cuban families. Cubans in the United States will be allowed to visit relatives in Cuba just once every three years instead of once a year, as is allowed now. That will make it difficult for Cuban refugees to deal with family issues and difficulties, including illness or death.


Once again, a cynical Bush ploy is backfiring:

Hundreds of Cuban émigrés found themselves stranded in Miami today, 24 hours before the latest measures drawn up by the Bush administration against Cuba officially come into effect, in a political game that has not brought the results desired by those leading the reelection campaign, EFE comments.

The source states that two airlines were unable to take any passengers to Cuba today as the State Department had only authorized them to fly to the island empty to pick up persons who wished to avoid being fined ($7,500) under the new measures or, simply, those who were scheduled to return in line with the end of their stay in the country.

Those stranded threatened to withdraw their vote for Bush in November due to his “separating the Cuban family,” and acting against the liberties that he claims to defend.

“This is an attack on freedoms and it is only Cubans that face restrictions on returning to their country,” Ana del Valle, who had traveled from Idaho to Miami to visit her parents in Santa Clara, informed EFE.

“They are using us for political ends. We came here for economic and not political reasons,” said Reinaldo Rodríguez, a native of Holguín, while the woman beside him affirmed: “We want to go to Cuba. This is not democracy.”

Another frustrated traveler who preferred not to identify himself declared that no way would he vote for “George Bush Jr, who wouldn’t even get to be batboy for the minor leagues” in baseball, EFE notes.


Medicare Scam

It comes as no surprise that the changes to Medicare (you know, the ones that the White House illegally advocated) are hurting the elderly already:

Prices for medicines most used by older Americans rose steadily after the Bush administration enacted the new Medicare law late last year, the nation's largest group representing the elderly said on Wednesday.

AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, said brand-name drug prices have climbed 3.4 percent -- or three times the rate of inflation -- since December.
At a campaign event earlier this month, Bush said prescription drug cards mandated by the new Medicare law will save the elderly at least 15 to 30 percent.

His expected Democratic rival, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, has blasted the privately run drug card program, turning prescription and other health care costs into a major election issue.


Possible Terrorist Sent on His Way

I do not know what to make of this:

Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike are demanding to know why the Bush administration chose to release to Syria a terror suspect when several prosecutors and FBI agents had collected evidence for a possible criminal case.

The circumstances surrounding Nabil al-Marabh's release, detailed in a recent Associated Press story, are "of deep concern and appear to be a departure from an aggressive, proactive approach to the war on terrorism," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote Tuesday in a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft.

"Al-Marabh was at one time No. 27 on the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) list of Most Wanted Terrorists," wrote Grassley, who leads the committee that controls federal spending and also is a member of the Judiciary Committee that oversees the Justice Department. "He appears to have links to a number of terrorists and suspected terrorists in several U.S. cities."

The Iowa Republican repeatedly cited the AP story and demanded that Ashcroft answer 19 questions about al-Marabh's case, including why the Justice Department didn't prosecute the man they had in custody for nearly two years either in a military tribunal or through a secret court proceeding that could protect intelligence information.

Grassley also asked Justice to detail what has happened to other terror suspects that appeared on the same post-Sept. 11 terrorism list as al-Marabh.
"The odd handling of this case raises questions that deserve answers from the Justice Department," Leahy, of Vermont, said Tuesday. "Why was a suspected terrorist returned to a country that sponsors terrorism? We need to know that the safety of the American people and our strategic goals in countering terrorism are paramount factors when decisions like this are made."

Honestly, how can sending him back to Syria improve our national security? It flies in the face of reason.


Get This Man a Copy Editor

It's bad enough that Kristof's column today is largely vapid and misleading, claiming that Bush is not a flat-out liar while saying such things as:

In fact, of course, Mr. Bush did stretch the truth. The run-up to Iraq was all about exaggerations, but not flat-out lies. Indeed, there's some evidence that Mr. Bush carefully avoids the most blatant lies — witness his meticulous descriptions of the periods in which he did not use illegal drugs.

True, Mr. Bush boasted that he doesn't normally read newspaper articles, when his wife said he does. And Mr. Bush wrongly claimed that he was watching on television on the morning of 9/11 as the first airplane hit the World Trade Center. But considering the odd things the president often says ("I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family"), Mr. Bush always has available a prima facie defense of confusion.

I mean, how does saying stupid things mean that claiming to see the plane hit the World Trade Center--when we all know he didn't--is anything other than a flat-out lie?

Anyway. In addition to this vapid argument, Kristof apparently doesn't even proofread; he attacks Michael Moore's film repeatedly, misspelling the word "fahrenheit" three times as "farenheit."

He gets paid for this?


Tuesday, June 29, 2004

The Friendly Skies

I am very much in favor of making the imaginary line separating the US from Mexico more and more permeable to workers (rather than just to capital, as is now the case). Of course, attaining the well-nigh utopian levels of freedom of movement that would suit me will require a long and arduous struggle.

In the meantime, the United States is initiating a repatriation program that strikes me as wildly, uncharacteristically generous and humane for this administration:

The US Department of Homeland Security announced on Tuesday that it will start a program in July to fly illegal Mexican migrants to their hometowns in Mexico in an effort to reduce illegal border crossings.

"The goal of this program is to save lives by safely returning Mexican nationals to their homes, away from the dangers of the Arizona-Sonora desert where smugglers and the harsh summer climate contribute to the deaths and injuries of illegal border crossers," said Asa Hutchinson, under secretary of the Homeland Security Department for border and transportation security.

Beginning in July, illegal Mexican migrants may volunteer for the program to return home via charter aircraft from Tucson, Arizona, to either Mexico City or Guadalajara, and then to be transported by bus to their hometowns.

The United States and Mexico have reached an agreement on a voluntary repatriation program, under which Mexican nationals will be given the option of returning to their place of origin when apprehended for illegal entry, the department said in statement.


Another Defeat for the Rabid Heteros

There's just no stoppin' those same-sex marriages!

A federal appeals court has rejected an attempt by conservative groups and state lawmakers to block gay marriages, which began in Massachusetts in May.


Right-Wing Nader

His immigration policies are simply appalling; thus, Buchanan likes them:

"It is in our interest," the politician said last week, "to bring the eight to 12 undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and become citizens of this great nation."

"We have to control our immigration," said the other politician. "We have to limit the number of people who come to this country illegally … . I don't like the idea of legalization because then the question is how do you prevent the next wave and the next?"

The first quote is from Republican Senator John McCain, speaking before La Raza, the Latino civil-rights group. Even as McCain spoke, conservatives in his home state are out gathering signatures to place a measure on the November ballot called "Protect Arizona Now," which, needless to say, envisions something rather different from naturalizing millions of people who sneaked into the country. McCain has a history of speaking against right-wing ballot initiatives in his state -- he opposed a conservative campaign-finance initiative a few years ago -- and we can presume that he knows his words are bound to carry a charge in the current Arizona context.

And the second quote? That was from Mr. Progressive himself, Ralph Nader, speaking to Pat Buchanan in an interview for Buchanan's magazine, The American Conservative. The June 21 issue plasters Nader on the cover with the headline "Ralph Nader Makes a Play for the Right" -- and while editors, and not their subjects, package stories and write headlines, Nader has been around the game long enough to know pretty much exactly how an exclusive sit-down with America's leading paleocon would be packaged and headlined.


Texan Terrorists

Even in red, white, and blue Texas, green still wins:

Attorney General John Ashcroft announced today that a federal grand jury in Dallas has returned an indictment against a senior leader of Hamas, Mousa Abu Marzook, for conspiring to violate U.S. laws that prohibit dealings in terrorist funds.

The indictment, returned yesterday, alleges that Marzook conspired with the Richardson, Texas-based INFOCOM Corporation and five of its employees to hide his financial transactions with the computer company. In 1995, Marzook was designated as a terrorist whose actions threatened the Middle East peace process - a designation that made it illegal for any U.S. person or entity to conduct any transaction with Marzook. The indictment alleges that INFOCOM continued to engage in financial transactions with Marzook after his designation as a terrorist, in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).

I have to say, though, that seeing Ashcroft doing something that I actually think helps prevent terrorism against the United States confuses me a bit.


Supremes Rule Against Unconstitutional Filters

At least, I think that is what they did. All the information I have is this:

A divided U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday barred enforcement of a 1998 federal law designed to keep Internet pornography away from minors because it likely violates constitutional free-speech rights.

By a 5-4 vote, the high court handed a defeat to the U.S. Justice Department in a case that has pitted free-speech rights against efforts by Congress to protect minors from online pornography.

But I believe the law in question has to do with filters on public library internet connections. If you read the actual decision which judged these things to be constitutional back in 1998, then you know that the "reasoning" behind the judgment hardly merits the name. First of all, they place undue burden on the library patron (would you want to go to your librarian and ask that the "porn filter" be disabled?); second of all, they don't work. They block things they shouldn't and let through things that many would deem inappropriate.

Good for the Supremes.



In terms very reminiscent of the "domestic dependent nations" described by Miriam at No Aura, Adam Hochschild reflects upon the "new Iraq."

Some fifteen years ago, while writing about apartheid-era South Africa, I visited one of its nominally independent black "homelands." This crazy quilt of territories was a control mechanism the white regime had come up with in a country where whites were vastly outnumbered by South Africans of other colors. For the most part rural slums, the homelands, also known as Bantustans, made up about 13 percent of the nation's land. I was driving across miles of veldt where blacks were trying to scratch a living from eroded or unyielding patches of earth that white farmers didn't want, interspersed with shantytowns of shacks constructed out of corrugated metal, discarded plasterboard, and old automobile doors. Suddenly, looming out of this desolate landscape like an ocean liner in a swamp, was a huge office building, perhaps 4 or 5 stories high and 150 yards long, with a large sign saying, in English and Afrikaans, "South African Embassy."

I remembered that building the other day when reading about the new U.S. Embassy that will open in Baghdad this week. With a staff of more than 1,700 -- and that may be only the beginning -- it will be the largest diplomatic mission in the world. Just as our embassy will be considerably more than an embassy, so the Iraqi state that will officially come into being in its shadow next Wednesday, after the speechmaking and flag-raising are over, will be considerably less than a state.

With nearly 140,000 American troops on Iraq's soil, plus tens of thousands of additional foreign soldiers and civilian security guards armed with everything from submachine guns to helicopters, most military power will not be in Iraqi hands, nor will the power of the budget, largely set and paid for in Washington.


The Face of Terrorism

How can she be stopped?

From a red camper van parked on a roadside, a British grandmother and veteran peace campaigner has launched her latest attack on America's military presence in Britain.

Helen John, 66, who set up camp beside a road near a huge U.S.-run listening post at the end of May, admits she plans to cause damage and says she won't be deterred.

From her vantage point near the base in northern England, John is surrounded by stunning rural landscape. Rising on the horizon are rolling hills, dry stone walls, flocks of sheep and what appear to be 20 giant white golf balls, part of the high-tech U.S. surveillance system.

"They want to brand me a terrorist because they don't like how I behave. I set out to damage property, never people, but I intend to cause damage," she said.

RAF Menwith Hill is the site of the world's largest surveillance base. From here, the United States' National Security Agency operates a listening system capable of tracking communications as far away as the Middle East.

Armed with wire cutters and banners, John and a group of fellow local campaigners have been trying to damage the base for more than 10 years, arguing that it represents American imperialism and is furthering U.S. efforts to take nuclear weapons into space.

"There is not a single person in the United States that would allow a foreign base on its soil, acting against the interests of the people of that country," said John. "These Americans are not monsters, but they are involved in something monstrous."


In Case You Don't Have Enough to Worry About

The bird flu is coming for you:

A frightening strain of bird flu that can kill people is mutating into an ever more deadly form in ducks and needs to be controlled quickly, U.S. and Chinese researchers reported on Monday.

They found steady changes in the so-called H5N1 virus infecting flocks of apparently healthy ducks that made the virus more likely to kill mammals such as mice -- and perhaps people, too.

"Our findings suggest that immediate action is needed to prevent the transmission of highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses from the apparently healthy ducks into chickens or mammalian hosts," the researchers write in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Stomping Across the Globe

The Bush administration truly is the bull in the china shop of global diplomacy.

I mean, there is just no reason for Bush to get involved in this issue, and doing so can only harm his hopes of generating goodwill amongst Europeans so they will lend a hand in Iraq:

Turkey's bid to join the European Union was at the heart of a new transatlantic rift yesterday (Monday), as the French President, Jacques Chirac, accused George Bush of meddling by supporting Turkey's membership push.

With a decision due in December on whether the EU will start negotiations with Ankara over its efforts to join, Turkey's application is at a highly delicate stage.

Yesterday M Chirac warned the US President to mind his own business and said that Mr Bush had gone too far when he said over the weekend that the US believes Turkey is ready to take up membership of the EU.

"If President Bush really said that the way I read it, well, not only did he go too far but he went into territory which is not his own," M Chirac said at a Nato summit in Istanbul.

He added: "It is like me trying to tell the United States how it should manage its relations with Mexico," he added.


Quick Update

Americans don't like Bush all that much.

The Supreme Court doesn't like Guantanamo Bay.

But we are rather fond of assassin Moammar Gadhafi.

And we love Fahrenheit 9/11.


Monday, June 28, 2004

Another Challenge to Unlawful Detention

The past two years have been much safer, thanks to this:

An Australian held in a U.S. military prison for more than two years without trial is likely to challenge his detention in an American court.

Former farmhand David Hicks, 28, has won the right to an independent assessment of his imprisonment following a decision Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court allowing inmates in the Guantanamo Bay facility at Cuba can challenge their detention.


Bad News for the Reserves

It was only a matter of time before these people came for you:

The U.S. Army is planning an involuntary mobilization of thousands of reserve troops to maintain adequate force levels in Iraq and Afghanistan, defense officials said on Monday.

The move -- involving the seldom-tapped Individual Ready Reserve -- represents the latest evidence of the strain being placed on the U.S. military, particularly the Army, by operations in those two countries.

Roughly 5,600 soldiers from the ready reserve will be notified of possible deployment this year, including some soldiers who will be notified within a month, said an Army official speaking on condition of anonymity.


Elevating Our Political Discourse

From Hamster, via The Left End of the Dial:

COLMES: Are all the American people that don't support him [President George W. Bush] dumb?

COULTER: No. I think, as I indicated in my last book, they're traitors.

The right is just looking more and more sad these days.


Afghanistan Elections Ominous

NATO is not going to be putting its troops on the line in the "democratic" Afghanistan:

NATO leaders look set to disappoint Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday by offering far fewer extra troops than he wants and only for the relatively stable north during September elections.

Karzai will address the 26-nation alliance on the second day of its summit in the Turkish city of Istanbul, but his plea that NATO troops should be allowed to deploy where they are most needed in Afghanistan will go unheeded.

And especially after the recent slaughter of registered voters, Afghanistan is hardly looking likely a rosy success story.


Mother of KIA Soldier Opposes Bush See-No-Evil Policy

From TalkLeft:

The mother of a soldier killed last week in Iraq planned to openly challenge the Pentagon on Sunday night by not only allowing the media to take pictures and video as her son's coffin arrived at Sacramento International Airport, but by encouraging outlets to publish and distribute the images.

"I don't care what [President Bush] wants," Nadia McCaffrey said of the administration's policy that bans on-base photographing of coffins returning from Iraq and Afghanistan


Romney Is a Scab

Although Kerry would not cross a police officers' picket line to speak at a meeting of the nation's mayors, Massachusetts Governor and Republican Mitch Romney didn't mind taking time off from his busy schedule opposing same-sex marriage to do so:

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney replaced Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry as a speaker for the nation's mayors on Monday after Kerry canceled a speech rather than cross a police union picket line.

Romney, a Republican, met nearly 100 picketing police officers before entering the front door of the hotel where the U.S. Conference of Mayors convened. A few of the protesters shouted taunts at the governor. The Boston Police Patrolmen's Association has been working without a contract for two years.


"Great Speakers on the Freedom of Speech"

Bob Harris, sitting in over at This Modern World, sums it up nicely:

"I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies another this right makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it."

-- Thomas Paine, 1783

"Free speech exercised both individually and through a free press, is a necessity in any country where people are themselves free."

-- Theodore Roosevelt, 1918

"The truth is found when men are free to pursue it."

-- Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936

"If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."

-- George Orwell, 1945

"Any time we deny any citizen the full exercise of his constitutional rights, we are weakening our own claim to them."

-- Dwight David Eisenhower, 1963

"What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant."

-- Robert F. Kennedy, 1964

"Go fuck yourself."

-- Dick Cheney, 2004



What's a little assassination plot among friends?

The United States resumed direct diplomatic ties with Libya on Monday after a 24-year break, even as the Bush administration pursued reports that Moammar Gadhafi had taken part in a plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia's crown prince.

I guess they don't matter, unless the target is W's daddy.


Still Can't Get Their Story Straight

Just five days ago, we were sending warnings to the Iraqi interim government not to get too big for their britches:

The US-led occupation authority in Baghdad has warned Iraq's interim government not to carry out its threat of declaring martial law, insisting that only the US-led coalition has the right to adopt emergency powers after the June 30 handover of sovereignty.

Now, as Bremer scuttles for the door, Bush apparently has changed his mind. Or something.

President Bush said today that coalition forces in Iraq would support a possible decision by the new Iraqi leadership to declare martial law to deal with escalating violence and terror attacks.

"Iraqis know what we know, that the best way to defend yourself is to go on the offensive," he said, speaking at a news conference with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain.

Is it to much to ask that they at least pretend to know what they are about?


There's Sovereignty, Then There's "Sovereignty"

And Miriam at No Aura spells it out for us.

The parallels between the "liberated" Iraqis and the "sovereign" Native Americans are striking and appalling.


The System Is Broken

How clear does it have to be? We have to try another model for providing health care. I'm all for nationalizing it, myself, but we have to do something.

Because the situation is grim:

"The fact is that the U.S. population does not have anywhere near the best health in the world," she wrote. "Of 13 countries in a recent comparison, the United States ranks an average of 12th (second from the bottom) for 16 available health indicators."

She said the U.S. came in 13th, dead last, in terms of low birth weight percentages; 13th for neonatal mortality and infant mortality over all; 13th for years of potential life lost (excluding external causes); 11th for life expectancy at the age of 1 for females and 12th for males; and 10th for life expectancy at the age of 15 for females and 12th for males.

She noted in the article that more than 40 million Americans lacked health insurance (the figure is about 43 million now) and she described the state of Americans' health as "relatively poor."

"U.S. children are particularly disadvantaged," [Dr. Barbara Starfield] said, adding, "But even the relatively advantaged position of elderly persons in the United States is slipping. The U.S. relative position for life expectancy in the oldest age group was better in the 1980's than in the 1990's."
The U.S. has the most expensive health care system on the planet, but millions of Americans without access to care die from illnesses that could have been successfully treated if diagnosed in time. Poor people line up at emergency rooms for care that should be provided in a doctor's office or clinic. Each year tens of thousands of men, women and children die from medical errors and many more are maimed.
"We don't have any national health policy at all in this country," said Dr. Starfield.

We rank at or near the bottom, life expectancy is actually going down, millions are uninsured, and tens of thousands are killed or maimed due to errors.

Why is this not at the top of the national agenda? Why is the only health-care news I've seen in the headlines lately the decision to prevent patients from suing HMOs in state courts for injury sustained when the HMOs refuse to pay for doctor-recommended treatments?


Handover Is Sign of Success!

Americans aren't buying that line:

By a 2-1 margin, Americans say the turnover of political control to Iraqis now is not a sign of success, but a sign of failure because the nation's stability remains in question, a poll out Monday found.

The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq transferred sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government Monday - two days early.

Six in 10, or 60 percent, said the handover of authority at such an unstable point is a sign of failure, while three in 10, 32 percent, said the handover of authority on schedule is a sign of success, according to the CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll. The poll was taken last week.

Six in 10 said they think it is unlikely internal security will be established in Iraq in the next five years and slightly more, 63 percent, said they think U.S. troops will be in Iraq for another three years or more.

It would seem that Bush has done a good job torching his credibility in the eyes of America, at long last.


Iraq as Corporate Utopia

The West has projected its dreams and nightmares onto the supposedly "blank spaces" of the mysterious East for centuries. And now, we have the actual fulfillment of the deepest capitalist dream right there in Iraq: a land where corporate activities are completely outside the reach of the government:

On Saturday, Bremer signed an edict that gave U.S. and other Western civilian contractors immunity from Iraqi law while performing their jobs in Iraq. The idea outrages many Iraqis who said the law allows foreigners to act with impunity even after the occupation.


Ralph Nader, the Candidate of Ideas

Just embarrassing and pathetic, really:

Dana Milbank, of the Washington Post, reports that Ralph Nader has parted ways with Michael Moore after the filmmaker held a premiere showing of “Fahrenheit 9/11″ for Washington Democrats.
Nader fired off an angry letter poking fun at Moore’s “girth.”

“Miffed that he was not invited to the Washington premiere of “Fahrenheit 9/11,” Nader, whose 6-foot-4 frame is a lean 190 pounds, said Moore’s former Naderite friends are ‘trim and take care of themselves. Girth they avoid. The more you let them see you, the less they will see of you.’”

“We are more saddened than angered by this,” a Moore associate told the Post. “It is just sad.”

But the advice continues to flow to Moore from candidate Nader. “I’ve been at him for years, saying ‘you’ve got to lose weight,’ ” Nader said in the phone interview. “Now, he’s doubled. Private exhortations aren’t working. It’s extremely serious. He’s over 300 pounds. He’s like a giant beach ball.”


Supreme Court: Detainees Have Rights!

Rumsfeld loses.

In a rebuke to the Bush Administration, the Supreme Court ruled today in Hamdi vs. Rumsfeld that enemy combatants may challenge their detention, and that they have the right to counsel.

The New York Times is reporting here that the Court, in an opinion by Justice O'Connor, has "partially" sided with the Bush administration in the Hamdi case, ruling that Hamdi can be held without charges or trial, but can challenge his detention in court, and that he can "unquestionably" have access to counsel. This sounds as if it is a significant loss for the Government. (Hamdi, unlike Padilla, had not seriously challenged the Government's right to detain him if he is an enemy combatant.)

Associated Press story here. From Reuters:

Four of the nine justices concluded that constitutional due process rights demand that a citizen held in the United States as an enemy combatant must be given "a meaningful opportunity" to contest case for his detention before a neutral party. Two more justices agreed that the detention of American citizen Yaser Hamdi was unauthorized and that the terror suspect should have a real chance to offer evidence he is not an enemy combatant.

One quote from O'Connor's opinion:

the court has "made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens."


Kerry's No Scab

A wise decision. And of course, this is a decision Bush would never have to make, since the picketing police officers would have been corralled off a mile away in a "free-speech zone."

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry canceled plans on Sunday to address a U.S. mayors conference this week at a hotel that is likely to be ringed by picketing police officers.

"I don't cross picket lines. I never have," Kerry said at Our Lady of Good Voyage church in South Boston, where he attended Mass on Sunday evening.


Clever, Tricksy Americans

On the theory that the violence will subside once "sovereignty" is "transferred" to the Iraqi interim government, the coalition opts for premature installation.

I hope it has the effect they are going for, but I somehow doubt that any big plans for violence will suddenly be aborted as a result of a piece of paper and a handshake.

The U.S.-led coalition transferred sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government two days early Monday in a surprise move that apparently caught insurgents off guard, averting a feared campaign of attacks to sabotage the historic step toward self-rule.

Legal documents transferring sovereignty were handed over by U.S. governor L. Paul Bremer to chief justice Midhat al-Mahmood in a small ceremony in the heavily guarded Green Zone. Bremer took charge in Iraq about a year ago

I feel that I must note that the first sentence is utterly unsubstantiated in its claims that the move "apparently caught insurgents off guard, averting a feared campaign of attacks." No such planned attacks that were averted are named anywhere in the article. This is what the coalition hopes. That does not necessarily mean that it is so.


Sunday, June 27, 2004

How Does He Keep a Straight Face

While saying such things?

"The real task of security is not to flood a country with more troops and become a foreign occupier," Rumsfeld told the "Breakfast with Frost" TV program on BBC.


Proving Moore's Point

One segment of Moore's movie is devoted to the Bush administration's shameless and cynical use of fear tactics. That they are doing it again, as Independence Day approaches, is no surprise. Nor, in the wake of the Duct Tape Admonitions, is the ridiculousness of it all:

As the July 4 holiday approaches, Bush Administration officials are bombarding the nation's police, fire, emergency and corporate-security offices with another round of terrorism warnings. Although there are no plans to raise the threat level from yellow to orange, a senior Justice Department official says, "there's very serious intelligence that's corroborated, that's multiple sourced, that indicates that al-Qaeda is intent on hitting us and hitting us hard this year." The official concedes, however, that "we don't have specific information."

Along with this now familiar general warning, the FBI has introduced the specter of a new terrorism threat: booby-trapped beer coolers. A lightly classified bulletin sent to 18,000 state and local agencies last week advised local authorities to look out for plastic-foam containers, inner tubes and other waterborne flotsam commonly seen around marinas that could be rigged to blow up on contact. Also, the bulletin warned, terrorists might attach bombs to buoys. FBI and Department of Homeland Security officials say no such devices have actually been discovered, nor is there any current intelligence that terrorists are hatching plots involving floating bombs.


United Soviet America

Maureen Dowd poses, in passing, an interesting analogy in her description of Cheney's recent behavior:

By playing on the insecurities of an inexperienced leader, Mr. Cheney has managed to change W. from a sunny, open, bipartisan, uniter-not-a-divider, non-nation-builder into a crabby, secretive, partisan, divider-not-a-uniter, inept imperialist. Vice is bounding around the country, talking to his usual circumscribed audiences of conservatives, right-wing think tanks and Fox News anchors. No need to burrow in the bunker when you've turned America into one.

As they used to say about the Soviet Union, the defensive Bush imperialists have to keep expanding because they're encircled. Mr. Cheney's gloomy, scary, contentious world view has fueled a more gloomy, scary, contentious world.