Saturday, April 29, 2006

Darfurred 'til later

It is certainly a jarring thing to see George Bush rallying activists and protesters, and I'm sure the irony of his words was lost on him:
President Bush met Friday with activists and urged greater involvement by international peacekeeping troops to stop the bloodshed.

"There will be rallies all across the country," Bush said at the White House. "And for those of you who are going out to march for justice, you represent the best of our country. We believe every life is precious, every human being is important. And the signal you send to the world is a strong signal, and I welcome your participation."
He was not speaking about anti-war protesters, of course, or immigration protesters or any of a number of other groups who protest his administration or congressional ineptitude. He was issuing the call to protest arms for the upcoming marches scheduled in Washington tomorrow over the Darfur debacle. This, oddly enough, after five members of Congress were arrested by his very own Secret Service for protesting the Darfur situation in front of the Sudanese Embassy in DC.

Bush's summons for "justice," as he calls it, is also puzzling and one has to wonder just what on earth he is talking about given that the UN World Food Program has just halved the food rations in Darfur because donor countries have generally reneged on pledges of support. Refugees in Darfur will now have to survive on 1,050 calories a day. For young children, this caloric level will lead to malnutrition, which in turn will cause both mentally and physically stunted growth, if not outright starvation. Donor countries had pledged some $745 million dollars in aid while only delivering on less than one third of that. Meanwhile, the Bush administration, sounding as bitchy as ever, hissed that the US already provides 85% of that aid and that other weathy nations must start to kick in. This is not entirely wrongheaded and others should be doing more but considering the relatively paltry sum involved here (recent numbers indicate that the US is now spending close to $10 billion per month in Iraq), it is simply ludicrous that the US alone cannot feed those desperately afflicted people. If the White House really wants to demonstrate American exceptionalism, feeding Darfur refugees would be the arena to do that.

Further demonstrating a disconnect from their own past actions, the Bush administration refuses to support a proposed UN peacekeeping effort to insert 20,000 UN troops into Darfu to try and halt the insane carnage, claiming that such a move -- opposed by Khartoum -- would rightly be viewed as "an invasion." Yes, suddenly the Bush adminstration is balking at the thought of an invasion meant to bring about an end to real strife, while they continue to insist that the invasion of Iraq was meant to bring about an end to real strife. Although, considering how the Iraq experiment has turned out, maybe an invasion isn't the solution. At least, it likely wouldn't be if were Rummy in charge.

If the situation in Darfur demonstrates anything, it is that the world's powers, still cowed by US interests, continue to adopt an utterly feckless repose when it comes to real humanitarian crises in regions of the globe that are not of much geopolitical significance. Like Rwanda ten years ago, the United Nations, led by the US, dither and wring hands while innocents die. Meanwhile, the UN spares no effort thwarting the figment threat of Iran, as drummed up by the White House. The UN position is fixed and dilated: they will do nothing stop the government-sponsored mayhem unless the Sudanese government agrees to let the UN stop the mayhem. Now, how likely does that seem?

But by all means protest the appalling story of Darfur. Though he likely will do nothing much about the behaviour of the Sudanese, George Bush encourages you to raise your voice, while his remains essentially mute.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Is it safe?

By taking the fight to the terrorists and bringing liberty and hope to a troubled region, our courageous troops are making the world a safer place.
-- George Bush, April 22, 2006
I wonder what world that is, exactly?

The number of insurgent attacks on civilians in Iraq skyrocketed last year, resulting in nearly 8,300 deaths....
-- NY Times, April 28, 2006

An American soldier was killed in a roadside bombing north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said Friday, making April the deadliest month for American forces in Iraq this year.
-- AP (Forbes), April 28, 2006

US Military Muscle brought to you by the good people in Dubai

After the grief the White House got for the DPW ports deal and the media frenzy over that politically tone deaf move, how might one expect this news will be received?
President Bush is expected to announce today his approval of a deal under which a Dubai-owned company would take control of nine plants in the United States that manufacture parts for U.S. military vehicles and aircraft, say two administration officials familiar with the deal.
Yeesh. More interesting than the continued cluelessness on the part of the White House on this will be the how the media, especially the conservative crowd, will jump on this, if they actually do. But the White House appears to have tried to line up the ducks before hand, something they failed to do with the DPW deal. One of the big GOP critics of the ports deal, Peter King (R-NY), is expressing his satifaction that, this time, a proper "review" was done.

Other lawmakers are now expressing regretful concerns about Congress's own unhinged reaction to the ports deal, which they are now saying is causing doubts among other countries looking to invest in US interests. Mike Oxely explains his worry about foreign investment:
If Congress makes it too onerous to invest in this country, why would anyone in their right mind do business here?
Clearly, foreign investment in the US is of a bigger concern to Congress than US investment in the US. But this expected announcement doesn't change the fact that it was already a foreign firm, the British Doncasters, doing the manufacture. That the US government would favour foreign companies in military contracts over US firms is, to say the least, a bitter flavour of foreign investment fruit.

But the larger issue here is that, as this country continues to hemorrhage manufacturing jobs in the United States, the White House itself sees no problem with outsourcing manufacturing work for its own military needs. Is it really the case that US companies cannot do this? Or that a Dubai company can do it better? If this is true, what does that say about our ability to maintain a posture on "national security"? I doubt that is the case that US firms can't do this kind of work and I expect that there are any number of American companies that would be happy to get on the military contract gravy boat.

The deal can most likely be viewed as one that is probably meant to assuage Abu Dhabi over the loss of the ports contract. In the climate that the Bush administration has sought to create over the last five years, wherein Homeland Security assumed primacy uber alles, at least as far as it was politically useful for it to do so, I still wonder why they might think such a deal shouldn't give Americans pause. Oh, that's right. Because they don't think. And, once again, this move demonstrates the Bush administration's fealty to Middle East oil interests and the hallowed halls of "foreign investment."

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Driving Agenda

...we will not play politics with the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
-- George Bush, May 19, 2004.
The situation is serious. [Republicans] are in jeopardy of losing the majority we won in 1994. Now is the time to act.
-- Newt Gingrich, April 24, 2006

Amid growing Republican unrest about the politics of $3-plus gasoline, Bush told the Renewable Fuels Association he will take the unusual step of suspending shipments to the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve to boost supply and help hold down oil prices.

Fox in the White House

Well, it's official, Tony Snow is now the White House press secretary. Many had been discounting original speculation of initial White House considerations and believed that the WH would never, ever actually consider a Fox News wonk as WH press secretary. Surely, they opined, that would be just too much, even for this White House. Such opinionating was, apparently, premised on the long discredited notion that the White House cares about how it behaves and what that behaviour looks like to the public at large. Maybe now, the reality this White House really doesn't care what anyone thinks will sink in.
Tony Snow, White House press secretary designate, seen here on his new set in the White House and being greeted by an unknown member of the White House staff. Speculation indicates that, in an effort to remain near the president amid rumours of a possible ouster, the cheerleader/mascot may actually be Harriet Miers.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Sectarian Foundation

We have heard any number of high level moderate Iraqi officials express open disdain for sectarianism in Iraqi politics. This, of course, was the standard position of Ahmed Chalabi and Iyad Allawi and it has been the aim of the Bush administration to keep sectarian wrangling to a minimum, both in government and on the ground. Sectrarianism in Iraq is now generally believed to be the source of most, if not all, of the extant mayhem and violence we see today. The major sects have well established militias -- the Kurdish Peshmerga number some 70,000 -- and are unwilling to disengage them from being the reality on the ground.

But one has to wonder if there is much hope that sectarianism in Iraq will ever dissapate when the political leaders themselves engage in sectarian horse trading for governmental posts [via Juan Cole]:
MP Ali al-Adib of the United Iraqi Alliance (religious Shiite parties) said Monday that his bloc "supports the Sunni Iraqi Accord Front in its nomination of one of its members for the portfolio of minister of defense, rather than having a Kurd. The reason is that Iraq is a member of the Arab League, and as long as the presidency went to the Kurds, it is necessary to achieve balance through having an Arab figure in Defense, so that Iraq will reach out to the Arab World."
A liberal democratic reference frame is a poor grid by which to measure this give-and-take. This kind of negotiation is nothing but the strictest confirmation that Iraq has and will have a government that is built upon sectarianism.

But the Bush administration has moved from the position that a non-sectarian government was a must to the realisation that a sectarian government in Iraq is now a must, because without a "balance" between the Shia, the Kurds and the Sunnis, the entire country would fall into an even more bloody situation that it is in now. If any sect perceives a slight, as the Sunnis were wont to do shortly after the election and not without reason, the entire enterprise would likely collapse. This was recognised by the White House and is the reason that Khalilzad and Rice were trying to "balance" out the cabinet selections. Khalilzad was excoriated for his actions by Iraqis who claimed that the US was "meddling." (I remember being amused by this at the time: the critics appeared unaware of the fact that US meddling is what had led them to be in the position of being able to criticize US meddling. A vicious circle, really.)

Nonetheless, meddle the US did, and government selections appear to be moving along in the most overt sectarian manner possible. And this is probably the only thing that will keep the Iraq project together. Because without "balanced" sectarianism in the Iraqi government, the situation will only worsen. Of course, this assumes Iraqis actually trust this government to begin with. Given the security situation now, it is entirely unclear that they do. The irony of this is that, at the same time sectarian violence is tearing the country apart, sectarianism will be the only path to a viable government that has any hope of putting a stop to that violence.

To say the least, this will be a delicate balance.

Snow Storm

Like I said, sweeet!
Sources close to the White House said Monday that Fox anchor Tony Snow is likely to accept the job as White House press secretary, succeeding Scott McClellan.
Now, Fox will have its own show that it can call The West Wing.

Pipeline under Pressure

Now, if this earlier discussion is not vindicated by this news, what would it take?
Pakistan Stressed by US Designs on Iran

KARACHI, Apr 24 (IPS) - As the crisis around Iran over its alleged nuclear ambitions assumes an ugly shape, Pakistan finds itself once again, under enormous political pressure because of aggressive United States policy towards a Muslim country in its immediate neighbourhood.


And now the U.S. is pressing both Pakistan and India to forego the economically advantageous Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project and think of other ways of meeting their energy requirements.

Already the U.S. has told the Pakistan government that it can expect funding and other assistance if the alternate Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan oil pipeline project is pursued and the Iran project abandoned.

India is being persuaded by Washington to give up the Iran gas deal, in return for cooperation on civilian nuclear technology. Indian participation in the project would make the pipeline more attractive for Pakistan in terms of an annual 700 million dollars in royalties.
If they have not done so yet, Iran, Pakistan and India are close to inking the $7 billion pipeline deal, a deal the Bush administration sorely does not want to come to fruition. I cannot help but be curious to know if some of those targets being scoped out in Iran might not be a few ... natural gas plants; plants that would help supply gas to this pipeline.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Sweet Sixteen

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched on this date in 1990. To commemorate the anniversary of this day, joint HST partners, NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) just released an image of the galaxy M82, the so-called "cigar galaxy."

Hubble has been truly one of the great scientific instruments and after sixteen years, continues to deliver incredible images of the highest scientific quality. From the most amazing images of the near and far reaches of the universe to astounding discoveries about the very nature of the universe itself, the telescope's value to science will only increase with time, as more people continue to scour the archives and analyse data that, to date, has only been scratched at.

Cheers, HST!

Wouldn't Be Prudent

I never imagined this day. George Bush said something I actually agree with:
Massive deportation of the people here is unrealistic. It's just not going to work. You hear people out there hollering it's going to work. It's just not going to work.
Imagine, Bush actually recognises that it would be unrealistic to try and round up 12 million people, whose whereabouts are not entirely known, and ship them back to their country of origin. This is progress.

Now, I have no idea by what criterion Bush comes to claim that massive deportation of illegal immigrants is "unrealistic," though I suspect it has less to do with humanitarianism than it does with simple logistics, his chummy relations with Vincente Fox and a few American industries which enjoy and encourage the cheap labour supply. But either way, the recognition by Bush that a higly punitive and completely infeasible policy is, indeed, unrealistic is a signal that perhaps Bush is not completely mad. But his motives will always remain suspect.

Further on this topic, I would recommend reading Melhi's post on illegal immigration and exactly who the targets should be in any immigration reform.

Emergency Pork

Seeing no end to their craven need to fortify vulnerable congressional seats, the Senate continues to demonstrate an unfailing resolve to supporting self-servicing missions with taxpayer money.

In the run-up to fall elections this year, the Senate has added some $10 billion in earmarks to an emergency spending bill that had originally been designed for supplemental war funding and hurricane relief. However, with some senators facing a lack of voter confidence and a possible ouster in November, a few of the vulnerables decided to add some slabs of pork fat to the bill with billions in frivolous earmarks to the emergency legislation:
$100,000 for South Carolina's International Center for Automotive Research, $500,000 for the Institute for Orthopedic Biomaterials Research in Fort Wayne, Ind., and millions for several projects in Alaska.

Appropriations includes $4 million for farm subsidies, $20 million for AmeriCorps, and $2 million for the "United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission for projects to study Chinese policies and practices and their impacts on American interests, the American economy and small businesses."
Hardly what one might describe as "emergency" measures. Unless, of course, you're a Senator worried about your seat in November. And with "millions" heading to their state, it certainly looks like the Alaska Familia had quite a hand in the supplemental pie, an effort no doubt led by Senator Ted Stevens, don of the Northwest mafioso.
The Senate added $14 billion for hurricane relief, and another $10 billion in unrelated spending in amendments....
Chairman of the Senate Appropriations homeland security subcommittee, Judd Gregg (R-NH), said he would not back the amendment unless the earmarks are stripped.
The total cost of this supplemental for the war on terror and Katrina costs has ballooned out of control with additional, nonrelated items being added on top of the requests made by the president....

An emergency supplemental should only be used to fund emergency items. We cannot continue to operate two separate accounting books. We must take action to limit the use of emergency funding for nonemergency items.
I expect this will be quite a fight though it certainly cannot be expected that any of this pork will disappear, just as it failed to do when the transportation bill passed last fall, earmarks fully intact, despite the ostensible yowling.

No wonder the Chinese and the Saudis are signing bilateral trade agreements and trying to remove themselves from continuing to fund America's ballooning debts. Since 2001, debt building has been given free reign to explode out of all proportion by these fiscally incompetent, politically self-serving simpletons, a group of wretched hacks more concerned with their election prospects than with doing the "work of the people."

Up, Up and Away

Estimates that a possible U.S. war against Iraq could cost $100 billion to $200 billion are likely to be "very, very high,"
-- Mitch Daniels,
White House budget director,

“There’s a lot of money to pay for this that doesn’t have to be U.S. taxpayer money...."
-- Paul Wolfowitz,
Congressional hearing,

There’s just no reason that this can’t be an affordable endeavor.”
-- Mitch Daniels,

“Costs of any such intervention would be very small.
-- Glen Hubbard,
White House economic advisor,

“We don't anticipate requesting anything additional for the balance of this year.”
-- Josh Bolten,
Congressional testimony,

The cost of the war in U.S. fatalities has declined this year, but the cost in treasure continues to rise, from $48 billion in 2003 to $59 billion in 2004 to $81 billion in 2005 to an anticipated $94 billion in 2006, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The U.S. government is now spending nearly $10 billion a month in Iraq and Afghanistan, up from $8.2 billion a year ago ....

New found friends

It has been said, many times, that 9/11 changed everything. At the behest of the Bush administration, this has been true both for Americans and the world at large. But the excreable PNAC agenda, whether incompetently implemented or not, never imagined that the larger world might resist such an imposed reconfiguration. Resistance, however, has been duly met on multiple fronts.

On the trade and economic front, two threats to American hegemony have arisen; Iran has been engaging neighbours (Pakistan, India) with pipeline agreements, Pakistan is distressing about "US designs on Iran," and China is scouring the globe for new sources of energy, signing bilateral agreements for oil and trade with any number of countries. The Bush administration's militaristic posture toward international affairs and its and Congress's clear, unbridled incompetence regarding fiscally sound domestic policy has forced trading partners to reconsider their relations with the United States. This is demonstrated no more clearly than by the actions of President Hu, subsequent to his visit to the US.

It is indicative of current international concerns that President Hu's immediate first visit after leaving the US was to Riyadh, where he was entertained by Saudi oil sheiks and where Hu and the Sauds tied up a few trade agreements. I suspect the Saudis didn't fall asleep on the job and it appears that the meeting was a cordial affair on the part of all players.

These developments have not likely thrilled the Bush administration, especially in view of what Prince Walid bin Talal said about the visit and the new agreements: they are signs that the Saudis and China are "opening new channels" and that the Saudis "are heading east" in pursuit of new petroleum customers and trading partners. Unlike the United States, which doesn't make much of anything anymore, using most of its oil consumption in the service of what Kunstler has called the drive-in utopia, China actually does make things and Saudi Arabia has the oil to make that happen:
China is a big consumer of oil. Saudi Arabia needs to open new channels beyond the West. So this is good for both of us.
What may be good for the Chinese and Saudi geese may not be viewed as good for the US gander and I suspect that the White House views such new economic activities as a zero-sum game, especially when it comes to oil. But the White House and Congress have backed themselves into this situation by demonstrating that normative governance in the US is simply not operative in this post-9/11 world. Retired Army colonel and former chief of staff at the State Department, Lawrence Wilkerson, put this more obviously:
In January 2001, with the inauguration of George W. Bush as president, America set on a path to cease being good; America became a revolutionary nation, a radical republic....

Unprecedented interpretations of the Constitution that holds the president as commander in chief to be all-powerful and without checks and balances marks the hubris and unparalleled radicalism of this administration.

Moreover, fiscal profligacy of an order never seen before has brought America trade deficits that boggle the mind and a federal deficit that, when stripped of the gimmickry used to make it appear more tolerable, will leave every child and grandchild in this nation a debt that will weigh upon their generations like a ball and chain around every neck. Imagine owing $150,000 from the cradle. That is radical irresponsibility.
Not only has Congress demonstrated a shameful unwillingness to perform its sworn duties as regards the Bush administration, it has also cast a pall on putative "friends and allies" in the Middle East when it fussed over the DPW ports deal. If they had not done so already, oil producers on the Arabian peninsula looked at all of this and realised, probably sometime ago, that things were seriously amiss in Washington. The current threats of war against Iran is only the latest confirmation of the United States as radical republic. The speed with which DPW withdrew from the ports deal is, I think, indicative of this recognition. It was obvious then that reason was not an element in play for either Congress or the White House. And now, long time US allies, the Saudis, are seeking more stable trading partners in the east. Samuel Blatteis indicates,
Saudi leaders are moving from benign neglect of China to considering it as a long-term partner. China is no longer the only side doing the courting.
The reason for this, again, comes down to 9/11, for that was when the Bush administration professed a more open policy when it came to deciding what would be best for the world. Despite their demonstrated hypocrisy on human rights, freedoms and the rule of law, the White House chose to assert an aggressive stance on regime change in those countries it deemed such action was required. And while the White House rhetoric will speak of regime change as action in the interests of freedom loving people, such a policy has been adopted to serve the interests of the United States. When repressive regimes like China and Saudi Arabia see such behaviour, they recognise that it may be time to shift their economic alliances, though they will do this on the most pleasant of terms. The bonus for the two countries is that they will each do business without casting any moral judgments, unlike an hypocritical White House and Congress:
With the Chinese there are no strings attached. They don't talk to you about democracy or reform. They give money, the Saudis give oil and there are no hidden agendas. The Saudis find those kinds of relationships more appealing.
Unfortunately, the White House's chosen path has done nothing but act against the long term interests of the US, something the Bush administration either refuses to recognise or simply doesn't see. One Latin American country after another is swinging leftward and doing so partly by using the Bush administration as a catalyst. And if glad hand smiles between the Chinese and the Saudis don't show them that their reckless militarised foreign polices and fiscal idiocy are actually working against them, what would?

As blinded by militaristic hubris has this White House is, maybe nothing.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Fibbin' Cheney

Cernig has an ongoing challenge of political fibs. In case you don't know what a fib is, I'll let the IHT fill you in:
The number of syllables in each line must equal the sum of the syllables in the two previous lines. So, start with 0 and 1, add them together to get your next number, which is also 1, 2 comes next, then add 2 and 1 to get 3, and so on. Pincus structured the Fibs to top out at line six, with eight syllables.
I'll leave it to your wikipedia skills to find out the rest.

So, with this little item as a backgrounder, I thought I'd toss in my meager effort:

Then lie.
China pissed.
Cover ass, again
While dreaming of nuking Iran

That was then, this is now

In a report to be released next week, US government figures will show that the number of terrorist attacks in the world jumped sharply in 2005, totalling more than 10,000 for the first time. That is almost triple the number of terrorist attacks in 2004 -- 3,194.

By taking the fight to the terrorists and bringing liberty and hope to a troubled region, our courageous troops are making the world a safer place.
--George Bush, April 22, 2006.

Sleeping Dogs Lie

Vice President Dick Cheney says he was looking at his notes, not sleeping, during a briefing by President Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao in Hu's first Oval Office visit.

Giving Cheney the benefit of the doubt here, regardless of the above photograph (of course, I'm being facetious about that), what notes, exactly, is Condi going to claim she is studying:

Friday, April 21, 2006

Falun Gong Show

Perfectly in keeping with the Bush administration's canoodling of President Hu's government, which, with the help of Yahoo!, has jailed journalists for calling it autocratic, the Secret Service has charged the women who shouted down Hu in front of the White House, Falun Gong reporter Wenyi Wang, with "disorderly conduct" and is further considering charging her with "intimidating or disrupting foreign officials." Such a charge, based on Title 18, Section 112(b) of the US Code, is not known to have ever been used before.

But, of course, everything changed on 9/11 and the Bush administration displays no compunction about jailing someone for protesting the Chinese president, nor does Bush blush at the actions of the Secret Service after having called upon China to embrace freedom and openness. In front of the very White House the Secret Service would arrest a woman protesting the Chinese government's treatment of the Falun Gong, George Bush said,
China can grow even more successful by allowing the Chinese people the freedom to assemble, to speak freely, and to worship.
After this episode, I suspect that the most valuable thing Hu will take away from his trip will be a heightened appreciation for the principles of Newspeak.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Cheney Parade of War

Kevin Drum's post summarising the intentional failure to engage Iran in diplomatic talks back in May of 2003 led to Gareth Porter's article detailing Iran's intial offer for discussion, which would
address U.S. concerns about its nuclear programme
as well as raise
the possibility of cutting off Iran's support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad and converting Hezbollah into a purely socio-political organisation, according to Leverett. That was an explicit response to Powell's demand in late March that Iran "end its support for terrorism".
That certainly sounds like a place to start talking. But according to Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell's chief of staff and the man who has been ratting out Cheney for sometime, the failure to begin negotiations with Tehran on these matters at the time was
the result of obstruction by a "secret cabal" of neoconservatives in the administration, led by Vice Pres. Dick Cheney.

"The secret cabal got what it wanted: no negotiations with Tehran."
As Drum notes, this entire story came and went with nary a fizzle, mostly, I suspect, because Wilkerson kept using the phrase, "secret cabal," which tends to immediately discredit the claimant rather than the actual secret bloodyminded cabal, of which Cheney is high priest.

That any of these proposed negotiations were stuffed in the ash bin by Cheney should not really surprise anyone, though. Cheney has a long and dreadful history of trying drum up war when peace is popping up all around. Thom Hartmann recently recounted that, under Gerald Ford, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his Chief of Staff, Dick Cheney (yes, I know), were utterly aghast at the prospect of detente and openly sought to undermine the peace process by claiming the Soviets had weapons of mass destruction that they did not, in fact, have. During this episode, we even learn where Rumsfeld originated his now infamous posture that just because the UN inspectors hadn't found evidence of WMD in Iraq didn't mean they weren't there:
Rumsfeld and Cheney began a concerted effort - first secretly and then openly - to undermine Nixon's treaty for peace and to rebuild the state of fear.

They did it by claiming that the Soviets had a new secret weapon of mass destruction that the president didn't know about, that the CIA didn't know about, that nobody knew about but them. It was a nuclear submarine technology that was undetectable by current American technology. And, they said, because of this and related-undetectable-technology weapons, the US must redirect billions of dollars away from domestic programs and instead give the money to defense contractors for whom these two men would one day work or have businesses relationships with.

"They couldn't say that the Soviets had acoustic means of picking up American submarines, because they couldn't find it. So they said, well maybe they have a non-acoustic means of making our submarine fleet vulnerable. But there was no evidence that they had a non-acoustic system. They’re saying, 'we can’t find evidence that they’re doing it the way that everyone thinks they’re doing it, so they must be doing it a different way. We don’t know what that different way is, but they must be doing it.'"
Now, that's vaguely familiar. Two months before the already planned invasion of Iraq and with UN weapons inspectors scouring the land, unable to find anything, Rumsfeld uttered these marvelous words:
The fact that the inspectors have not yet come up with new evidence of Iraq's WMD program could be evidence, in and of itself, of Iraq's noncooperation.
This is classic Rumsfeldian nonsense: no evidence was still evidence. It was an decades old ploy.

But the paranoia didn't end in the seventies, only to re-emerge in the new millenium. No, it was brought out again in the eighties, at which point, Dick Cheney had swapped spots with Rumsfeld, who was off making fistfuls of dollars at G.D. Searle after having greased FDA approval for aspartame, and it was now Cheney who was SecDef to GHW Bush. He would take up the slackening viligence against Soviet terror and, even as the country was collapsing, insisted that Bush reject any overtures of peace and international comity then being made by Gorbachev:
Dismissing detente as moral relativism, Cheney so believed in Cold War bipolarity that when it began to melt in the late 1980s, he tried to refreeze it. As George H.W. Bush's secretary of defense, Cheney was key to America's refusal to accommodate the hopeful new spirit of the age. Violence was in retreat, with peace breaking out across the globe, from the Philippines to South Africa, Ireland, the Middle East, and Central America. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Cheney forged America's response -- which was, little over a month later, to wage an illegal war against Panama.

As Mikhail Gorbachev presided over the nonviolent dismantling of the Soviet Union, Cheney warned Bush not to trust it. When the justification for the huge military machine over which Cheney presided disappeared, he leapt on the next casus belli -- Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. Hussein, a former ally, was now Hitler.

Hussein, of course, never stopped being Hitler for Cheney and as soon as Cheney got back into the White House, he resumed course, full speed ahead. Now, Iran is the next target and it should be clear from this little history that no amount of diplomacy will suffice as long as Cheney and Rumsfeld are in the positions they currently inhabit. Though Rumsfeld is a tad preoccupied these days, Cheney is still free to roam and no one should doubt for one moment his intentions. He has no desire nor intention to engage Iran diplomatically. The man is paranoid war monger, has never stopped being a paranoid war monger and will continue to be so until he mercifully passes from the face of this earth. And the earth shall be blessed for that moment.

Boo Yahoo!

A few months ago, I and many others swore off Yahoo! after it had been reported that Yahoo! had been complicit in aiding the Chinese government in the arrest and imprisonment, first of one and then a second Chinese journalist for revealing "state secrets." In fact, one of the reporter's activities amounted to discussions with other groups on the subversive topic of democracy. Specifically, Shi Tao was found "guilty" and convicted of
having e-mailed a pro-democracy activist in New York details of a government order barring Chinese media from marking the 15th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Is that one sinking in? Despite the fact that every other media outlet in the Asian and Western world noted this anniversary, the Chinese government issued an order barring the Chinese media from marking the anniversary of Tiananmen Square and also expected the media to keep
that order a secret. That is the tippy-top "state secret" we western imperialist dogs are not supposed to know.

With the vast, nearly untapped market of Chinese consumers awaiting the company to sell them shit, Yahoo! promptly coughed up Shi's IP address to Chinese officials. Shi is now serving 10 years for his appalling behaviour.

But now, Reporters Sans Frontieres is stating that there is a third Chinese journalist,
Jiang Lijun, jailed in November of 2004 for his online pro-demcracy articles, who was given up by Yahoo! RSF goes on,
Little by little we are piecing together the evidence for what we have long suspected, that Yahoo ! is implicated in the arrest of most of the people that we have been defending.
In a mother lode of irony, Jiang was convicted of "subversion" for calling the Chinese government autocratic.

We have been watching a number of US internet companies, Google, Cisco, MSN, Yahoo!, bending over backwards, accomodating any number of Chinese government requirements and restricitions. The reason is obvious, of course. The country represents an enormous new market to any number of internet niches -- potentially four times the size of the US -- and these companies want to get in on the ground floor and establish their brand first before the Chinese do what they will inevitably do: steal the precious intellectual property (IP) of these companies and turn it against them. If Google, Yahoo!, etc. get in early and establish a footing, they have a better chance of appearing to be as Chinese as any local company. By sucking up to Chinese officials, they also stand a better chance of getting some stronger IP rights established, something that will only protect them in the cutthroat market place there.

Instead of towing the party line, some had imagined that these companies could band together and impose demands on the Chinese to start acting like they really want to be part of the 21st century. But this is probably unrealistic. For one, companies really don't care about shit like human rights (if you doubt this, you should see The Corporation). Sure, their human corpuslces might spout on about such things once in awhile but, by and large, corporations are sociopathic entities. Also, since
China is not terribly respectful of IP rights and if these companies chose not to do business there, it wouldn't take the Chinese long to come up with somthing on their own, probably by stealing a few things just to speed up development. For the reasons above, I highly doubt Microsoft, Google, etc. have the nuts to even consider taking a stand.

In fact, we know they don't. Recently, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that his company would abide Chinese censorship requirements on its search engine, preventing phrases like "human rights" and "democracy" from working (and, who knows, maybe even reporting the searcher to the Chinese authorities). He even had the unbridled gall to say that Google's decision was "
absolutely the right one." "Absolutely right" seems like a strong position when coming down on the side of state censorship. Then again, to the CEO's of the world, there are absolutes, but they don't include human rights or freedom of expression. Making a big fucking buck. Now, that's an absolute they can all get behind.

But Yahoo! appears to be the worst of the bunch. Censoring a few search words is one thing; knowingly sending people to jail for writing about democracy is something none of us should tolerate. Nor should we expect this to get any better if we do. I consigned my Yahoo! account long ago to being a spam bucket. Consider doing the same or dumping it altogether.

Koo Koo Ka Choo

There have been any number of songs come out over the last few years either criticising Bush (Dear Mr. President, Pink/Indigo Girls) or just calling him names (Idiot Son of an Asshole). Neil Young is devoting an entire album to lambasting Bush policy wherein the song, Impeach the President, is prominantly featured.

But occasionally, a song spoof will come along, based on a recent gaffe or some other unruly mouthing, which is timely, hilarious and extremely well done. Such is the case with I'm the Decider (Koo Koo Ka Choo). Bush will long rue the day he let that petulant, kindergarten pronouncement out of his lipless piehole. Brilliant.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Complete the Connection

Though it has not been officially announced who McClellan's replacement will be, it is some measure of things that Fox News is reporting that Fox News radio yakker, Tony Snow, is on the list of possible candidates for White House press secretary. Frankly, I hope they pick him. He's already on record defending Rumsfeld and blaming rising gas prices on people who are complaining about Rumsfeld, which according to Snow's keen perceptions, makes everyone "jittery." Placing Snow into the PR office would, for once and forever, dispense with the ridiculous pretense that Fox is anything but a White House propaganda tool. Hell, I want ol' Tony to continue to broadcast his show right out of the West Wing. That would be sweet.

Burnt Toast

Intrepid White House press secretary, Scotty McClellan, spurred by the recent advice of new White House chief of staff Josh Bolten, announced his resignation today. As press secretary, McLellan has certainly been strapped to the prow of Bush's skipjack agenda as it cut mercilessly through the sea of normative federal governance and I'm guessing that, after Bush's little performace yesterday, one that was probably going to require yet more explanation, McClellan finally recognized he had taken one too many gulps of the briny froth the USS Unconstitution was churning up.

McClellan has lasted longer than most but seemed to admit that trying to explain -- obfuscate -- the behaviours and programs of the Bush White House left him spent:
I have given it my all sir and I have given you my all sir....
Hell, I believed he was toasted months ago, after he found himself "explaining" the US military's Arab media payola program:
Frankly, I just don't know how McCllelan does this anymore. Can't the guy be tired by now? The job certainly seemed to wipe out Fleischer fairly quickly. Sometimes you can see McCllelan standing up there after some story or another breaks -- and they have been breaking -- and he just looks beat up, even before the questions have started. He must know this is taking years off his life. That is, if you can call being White House press secretary a life. I'd rather shovel real shit all day long.
Of all the White House staff, McClellan seemed to be a genuinely decent guy, which is exactly why Bush/Rove picked him for the spot. I say seemed because you have to wonder just how decent anyone can actually be considering the employers. But that's my impression, although such an opinion is borne out of some relativism as well; when your collegues are guys like Rove, Cheney and Bush, who wouldn't look decent?

Bush, of course, attempted to add some of his patented faux folksiness to the scene:
It's going to be hard to replace Scott, but nevertheless he made the decision and I accepted it. One of these days, he and I are going to be rocking in chairs in Texas and talking about the good old days.
Ahh, yes, those good old days. Hey, Scotty, remember when we were fucking over the entire country and working on that whole police state thing and you were up in front of those damn cameras every day having to explain how it all was actually good for the country? Woo hoo, what a blast! God, I miss that shit.

If McClellan is the decent guy I'd like to believe, he assuredly won't be doing this and if this country returns to some semblance of its former self, Bush won't be doing this either. He'll be in prison, still convinced that everyone had misunderstood his glorious and brilliant vision.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Land that Time Forgot

Expecting the weekend "news" to be simply more of the same stories of bombings in Iraq, threats from and against Iran and Donald Rumsfeld, lots of Donald Rumsfeld, I swore off the poisonous brew for a couple of days, unable to stomach anymore of the shit. There was, no doubt, lots of talk about Rumsfeld: more generals talking about Rumsfeld, Rumsfeld talking about Rumsfeld, George Bush talking about Rumsfeld, the Pentagon issuing memoranda about how to talk about Rumsfeld. Gads, I certainly was sorry for those who did pay attention, it must have been near unbearable.

So I was thankful for some small diversion from the Rummy diaries when I stumbled upon an ugly little item, appalling in its own way, but nonetheless, a divestment from Washington blather.

It now seems that, along with South Dakota's recent ban on abortion, the movers and shakers of the crazed band of zealots inhabiting that region of the globe have thought up something altogether mad: The Purity Ball. Apart from the bizarre appearance of what by all rights looks like some farcical aquatic ceremony or actually a paganesque fertility celebration, the Purity Ball seeks to lockdown hormonal desires before they crop up, invoking that age-old Christian tool of guilt. Fertility is certainly nothing these people are celebrating and would probably all prefer it if the youngsters were barren until their wedding day, preferrably with a clamp around their loins. Ok, for get the barrenness. They just want the crotch clamp brought back. Ahh, those hallowed days of yore....

The Purity Ball seeks to enjoin young women -- guilt being much easier to instill at a young age -- to a pledge of sexual abstinence, or as they call it, "commitments to purity." Daddies then reciprocally "pledge commitments to protect their girls."

Oh, how sweet, you must be thinking. At least, you might think that until you actually see what it is these girls say.
I pledge to remain sexually pure...until the day I give myself as a wedding gift to my husband. ... I know that God requires this of me.. that he loves me. and that he will reward me for my faithfulness.
Yes, in the fundementalist world, this is how these girls are taught to view themselves, as nothing more than a gift, a lacy bobble adorning the man's tuxedo, a gift that keeps on giving. And, as always, these blasted Christians expect something in return, some "reward," because they clearly believe that the whole enterprise of faith would be worthless without the promise of some expected payback. I wonder if God tires of these nitwits and their constant demands for reward.

But you really get a sense of what is going on here when you see what Daddy gets to say in return:
I, (daughter’s name)’s father, choose before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity. I will be pure in my own life as a man, husband and father. I will be a man of integrity and accountability as I lead, guide and pray over my daughter and as the high priest in my home. This covering will be used by God to influence generations to come.
These people really do want to return to the land and stricture of the Pharisees. The modern world is simply too much to bear and far too wicked. But really, when hasn't it been?

[via Digby]

The Great Decider

Bush was up in front of the cameras and lights and microphones today, defending, among other things, Donald Rumsfeld, something he's been doing a lot lately. But it looks like the effort is starting to wear on him because he very nearly snapped. Bush wasn't defending Rumsfeld so much as pitching as hissy fit, telling everyone that he's the "decider."
I hear the voices and I read the front page and I know the speculation. But I'm the decider and I decide what's best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense.
Of course, reading these words doesn't do justice to the manner, the tone, with which Bush presented them. I just heard this little rant on the radio and I don't think I've ever heard any government official, least of all the president, sound so pissy. He couldn't have sounded more like the spoiled little rich kid he has routinely acted like and which we all know him to be.

Normally bumbling in these question and answer periods, the manner that presented itself today, as has been so well documented by Mark Crispin Miller in The Bush Dyslexicon, was directed and without the slightest slip. And it was that way for one reason: George Bush was angry. It was a remarkable demonstration of Miller's thesis that when Bush is mad, he becomes concise, articulate and ... frightening, as though his inner ruthless dictator pops out of its cage to rant at the peons.

The good folks at Crooks and Liars have it up already, so check it out. Bush appears on the verge of simply loosing it. Though it has long been known that Bush is not really the one in charge, if he gets pee-oed enough about finally realising how embarrassing that is, then god knows what he'll be capable of.


Bernstein on Bush

The assaults just keep coming.

The new Vanity Fair article by Carl Bernstein is flying around bloggydom, at least on the lefty side of things; right whingers are naturally ignoring Bernstein's importunate demand for a Senate investigation of Bush and instead are bitching about the Pulitzer Prizes. There is now simply so much bad news about Bush and the White House, they find themselves unable to counter the onslaught with anything other than condemnations of "treasonous" reporters. Of course, to the tighty righties, Bernstein is also probably considered a traitor for his (and the now co-opted Woodward) exposure of Nixon's nefarious "two-bit burglery." And unlike his former collegue, who has long since made manifest his preference for spooning White House officials , Bernstein demonstrates that he still "gets it."

Cashing Out

We haven't seen much on the Threat Level front these days. It now comes with the purchase of 5 or more gallons of gas.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Colin Blow

Whatever remained of Colin Powell's public persona as the trusted one just took a slide down the crapper the other day when Robert Sheerer reported that Powell, along with all those freaking generals who couldn't seem to muster up the balls to oppose the White House, knew all along that Iraq was not a threat. Despite now admitting that he knew this, Powell tarnished his and the United States' image in the world with his infamously embarrassing performance in front of the UN. The ghastly irony of it all is that the White House specifically used Powell to make the UN presentation because he was the one thought to carry the most respect and diplomatic gravitas of any official in the administration. He knew he was lying through his teeth to the UN, while further knowing that he was there specifically because he was trusted on the world stage as one who would not do so. What is difficult to understand is why he is telling people this. Surely, he didn't think that such revelations would be met with applause.

Three R's: Retire, Rebuke Rumsfeld

It is getting difficult keeping track of all the retired generals who are coming forth and publicly criticizing the management stylings of Bush's Secretary of Defense, the man otherwise known as the Donald. Former commander of the 1st Infantry in Iraq, Maj. Gen. John Batiste is only the latest in a long line of military retirees to stand up and call for "a fresh start." Of course, one can't have a fresh start without tossing out the trash, and that means tossing Rumsfeld. Previous to Batiste's opinion, we heard from Newbold, Zinni and Riggs, all top level generals of respected status. There will likely be many more as Maj. Gen. John Riggs says,
everyone pretty much thinks Rumsfeld and the bunch around him should be cleared out.
Those of us who have been watching the idiot bumblings of Rumsfeld have had this opinion for quite sometime now and it is nothing if not frustrating to hear from these generals, years later, not only confirm this conviction but to then learn that they failed to speak up at the time (no doubt, these public lashings of Rumsfeld will be good for any future book deals).

Of course, the biggest reason for this condition of silence is that the White House brooked no contention about how it would conduct the war and the first victim of this policy was then Army chief of staff, General Eric Shinseki, who was infamously forced into retirement after he openly disagreed with the administration -- specifically deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz -- about the required size of US force deployment in Iraq. Such public disputation and the fact that the flagrantly empty-headed opinionating of Wolfowitz, a man with no known military service, prevailed over expert military advice and created a climate that, in no uncertain terms, served to quell dissent from military leaders.

Naturally, the White House's favourite military man and resident Pentagon lapdog, chair of the Joint Chiefs, Peter Pace, claims that things were open for free and lively discussion:
We had then and have now every opportunity to speak our minds, and if we do not, shame on us. The articles that are out there about folks not speaking up are just flat wrong.
Is Pace really saying what I think he is saying? Because it sure looks like Pace is saying that the generals who have said that they didn't speak up are "flat wrong" and that they did speak up, even though they have all said that they didn't. Pace is not above such pinheaded mewlings and it is his well within his purview to defend the White House by saying that all those generals are wrong, even about what the generals are saying about themselves.

Adding some arsenic to the Pace lace, DoD counselor, Lawrence Di Rita, chocked up a backtick to chairman's nonsense when he claimed that,
The assertions about inadequate exposure to military judgment are just fundamentally incorrect.
Dear Lawrence, none of these generals has claimed that Rumsfeld had "inadequate exposure" to military advice. They have simply called him "incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically," and that he doesn't listen to military advice. There is a difference.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Iranian Uranium

When we talk about war, we're really talking about peace.
- George Bush, June, 2002.
But we will continue to talk with our -- with the people concerned about peace and how to secure the peace....
- George Bush, August, 2002.

And just how do you think George Bush will try to "secure the peace"? What George Bush should rightly have said those years ago is that when he is talking about peace, he is really talking about war. But that would have been just too much of a give away, even for this White House. Nonetheless, to the Bush administration, the words are interchangeable as necessary. It is now abundantly obvious, and has been for sometime, that the Bush administration was gunning for an attack on Iraq since the first moments after 9/11. Their rhetoric then is being matched nearly exactly by their rhetoric now: speak of bringing in the allies, tell of how there is a pursuit of diplomacy to the fullest extent while assuring the world -- expecially Iran -- that a "military option" is "on the table," talk up peace, peace, peace and threat, threat, threat. All this takes place during a long flurry of accusations that are not supported by evidence but, nonetheless, drives everyone to the near baseless conclusion that, after so much repitition, the "threat" is real. It is a well-worn pattern.
There is no weapons program. There is nothing that could threaten the U.S. The main fear is that Iran would want to drop a nuclear bomb on Tel Aviv. That is so far beyond possibility as to make the whole scenario ludicrous.
-- William Beeman, Iran Expert,
Professor of Middle East Studies,
Brown University.
Unfortunately for Iran, what is really helping the White House are the unhinged cries and cackles of the very man who should be trying to dissaude the world from the belief that Iran is a threat: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The press conference that saw him defiantly announce that Iran had successfully began to enrich uranium does not help the cause of moderate Iranians, who have grown increasingly distressed by the maniacal yowlings of their country's president. He seems only to enjoy his role in drawing the ire of the world over the nuclear issue. With his demented Holocaust denial schtick and pledges to destroy Israel, his latest announcement now makes him, and by extension, Iran, appear to be exactly the agent of Islamist extremism the White House tells the world it needs to quell, by force if necessary. Though I have never considered Ahmadinejad crazy and always thought that he was simply a politician appealing to his Islamist fundamentalist base in Iran -- just as Bush appeals to his Christian fundamentalist base here in the US -- it doesn't really matter. What matters is that he has promoted this image publicly and the world now thinks he actually is as overcome by zealotry as he appears to be. What matters is that, just as in Bush's case, if you're a poltician willing to enact the extremist agenda of your "base," it doesn't matter at all whether you believe in it or not. The Bush administration couldn't have asked for a better stooge if they had planted one themselves.

I fear that with this latest announcement, and however inadvisable a military airstrike might be, Ahmadinejad may very well have sealed the fate of his country. Ironically, Iran's president may very well have sealed the fate of the United States, so determined is Bush to pursue his military "option." We certainly can't expect the Bush administration to suddenly adopt reasoned compromise; they have probably already made the decision to attack, just as they had with Iraq. Evidence or not of any nuclear weapons program is now irrelevant. The world expects such a program to occur and views it as inevitable. And the crazed president of Iran has done everything he can to promote this opinion.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Foul Ball

I don't think I've seen or heard something like this before. I guess this is what you can expect when your approval rating as Vice President is only slightly higher than the number of people who would eat rats on reality television. Hopefully, this will be the last bad pitch.

Declining Loss

It is some measure of the jobs situation in the United States that less than stellar news on the employment front is greeted with resounding applause by the mainstream media. CNN, today, proudly displayed this headline, trumpeting the jobs situation lately seen in the high-tech sector:
Higher demand for high tech workers.
That certainly sounds great, doesn't it? The lede continues the happy news:
Tech workers are back in hot demand, according to a report released Monday.
Hot demand? Did I miss something? Maybe all those dismal tales of high tech job loss will finally be coming to end. At least, that is what one might think until a reader sees the first line of the story. What do we actually see?
Tech-sector job cuts in the first quarter of 2006 were 40 percent lower than the same quarter last year....
This is what CNN thinks is hot demand, a reduction in the rate of job loss? Then the numbers start coming out:
The tech sector, which includes computer, telecommunications, electronics and e-commerce, announced 39,379 job cuts in the first three months of 2006, down from 59,537 in the first quarter of 2005.

But the
first-quarter figure was 16 percent higher than the 21-month low of 34,048 tech cuts announced during the final three months of 2005.
These numbers don't sound all that reassuring. Not at all. And notice the legerdemain: the job cuts this quarter are less than the first quarter of 2005, but they are also higher than the fourth quarter of last year. Which means the job loss rate increased since then. But CNN blares a headline so misleading, it is barely meaningful in the context of the actual jobs report.

While I found it mostly curious that CNN Money was triumphantly celebrating the fact that the US wasn't hemorrhaging as many high tech jobs as it had been, this hardly struck as the boastable news CNN clearly thought it was. And when one sees that there was an increase in job loss rate since last quarter, well, the whole headline is just completely off kilter. It is hardly true that a reduction in the job loss rate represents increased demand. What this really represents is a slowing of decreasing demand. By no stretch would anyone call this "hot demand." Except CNN, that is.

This latest report hardly appears to be the glowing good news CNN would have headline scanners believe. All it really indicates in the current climate is that the rate companies are shipping jobs overseas is lower than it was last year at this time. But it is higher than just three months ago. This is news that CNN Money wonks are high-fiving over. I wonder if Lou Dobbs is palpitating over this.

The kernel of the information is that the US economy continues to dump high tech jobs at an unpleasantly high rate. Whether it is 40,000 jobs or 60,000 jobs per quarter, that is a lot of high tech jobs evaporating from the US economy. How many more years can the economy bleed 100,000+ jobs a year before there is nothing left? Well, here are some sample numbers: a Ford Foundation study found that between March, 2001 and April, 2004, the information tech sector lost 403,300 jobs, which shrank the market by 18.8%. At that time, 1.74 million people were employed as high tech workers and that number has dropped by another 200,000+ since then. Which means the US economy has roughly 1.5 million jobs left in the high tech sector. At the slowest loss rate seen in the last five years, these jobs would last fifteen years.

Of course, such an linear extrapolation is entirely meaningless; economies just don't behave that way and job loss rates are simply not linear functions, despite the near linear loss rate over the last five years. It is more likely that jobs market would cross some industry threshold and either resurrect itself or collapse completely.

Nonetheless, to those at CNN Money, apparently smoothered in that soothing White House balm that things are grand, a (sort of) reduced job loss rate appears out of the mist as some signal that all is well.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Theocratic Future of America

I managed to slog through Jack Hitt's article in the NY Times Magazine about the conditions, uh, prosecutions, now extant as a result of El Salvador's anti-abortion law. It was not a slog because of Hitt's writing, which is fine, but because it was simply agonizing to read the tales of these women who have been criminalized by an unrepentant penal system in that country. The anti-abortion law in El Salvador is an absolute. No exceptions. None. If one is looking for a vision of the future of the United States should the extremists of the Christian Right get their much-desired way, one need look no further than Central America. And just has been argued here, what the anti-abortion extremists ultimately intend to do is turn the female body into a potential crime scene:
As they do in any investigation, the police collect evidence by interviewing everyone who knows the accused and by seizing her medical records. But they must also visit the scene of the crime, which, following the logic of the law, often means the woman's vagina.

"Yes, we sometimes call doctors from the Forensic Institute to do a pelvic exam," Tópez said, referring to the nation's main forensic lab, "and we ask them to document lacerations or any evidence such as cuts or a perforated uterus." In other words, if the suspicions of the patient's doctor are not conclusive enough, then in that initial 72-hour period, a forensic doctor can legally conduct a separate search of the crime scene....

In the event that the woman's illegal abortion went badly and the doctors have to perform a hysterectomy, then the uterus is sent to the Forensic Institute, where the government's doctors analyze it and retain custody of her uterus as evidence against her.
In case that last passage didn't quite sink in, I'll rephrase it; if the back-alley abortion a woman may have had caused serious injury, the doctors will remove the uterus and use the "evidence" to convict them.

But things really take a turn when the topic of ecotopic pregnancy comes to the fore. As Hitt explains:
ectopic pregnancy, a condition that occurs when a microscopic fertilized egg moves down the fallopian tube — which is no bigger around than a pencil — and gets stuck there (or sometimes in the abdomen). Unattended, the stuck fetus grows until the organ containing it ruptures. A simple operation can remove the fetus before the organ bursts. After a rupture, though, the situation can turn into a medical emergency.
According to Salvadoran anti-abortion law, an ectopian pregnancy cannot be terminated until either the fetus dies -- though there is no hope that it will live -- or the organ ruptures. So, instead of a preventive surgery that would save the woman agonizing pain and end the certainly doomed pregnancy, El Salvadoran doctors are forced to stand-by until the fallopian tube bursts and perform an emergency surgery to save the woman's life.

Given these horrific scenarios, it goes without saying that anyone aiding and abetting an abortion also risks imprisonment. If the Christian Right has more of its way, this could very well be the future of America. How can this happen here, one might ask?

Despite South Dakota overstepping the Samuel Alito judical model of incremental subversion of Roe v. Wade, the strategy is very clear and Jim DeMint inadvertantly offered up just how abortion law like the one in El Salvador could very well become the law of the land here. When Tim Russert asked DeMint if he would prosecute a woman who had had an abortion, DeMint hemmed and hawed and then blubbered some telling words:
RUSSERT: You would ban all abortion, period. If that was the law, who would you prosecute, the woman, the doctor, the father, who?

DeMINT: We've got to make laws first that protect life. How those laws are shaped are going to be a long debate.

[... respect ... life ... babies ... blah, blah blah, a lot of blubbering for awhile ...]

RUSSERT: Who would you prosecute?

DeMINT: We'll just have to decide that. I mean...

RUSSERT: What is your view?

DeMINT: You know, I can't come up with all the laws as we're sitting right here, but the question is are we going to protect human life with our laws?
That's how. Pass the law first because no one can be against killing babies, right? Then, once the non-specific law is on the books, figure out what it actually means and what the penalties are and who is liable under the law afterwards. The voting public won't care about all those niggling details, like who goes to jail and for how long. I mean, boooorrrrinnng.

The resurgence of the Christian Right demonstrates clearly that they are relentless and their newly emboldened agenda, somewhat dormant during the Clinton years, has taken on an unseemly vigour that is beginning to cast doubt upon the age of this country. Of course, this has not happened by accident but has been conjured forth over the course of many years by the unholy incantations of GOP flaks who went begging the "moral values" base throughout the south and midwest. And now, by the marriage of cunning and simplicity, between bible-thumping ignorami attacking science as "dogma" and claiming the Devil buried all 'dem dinosaur bones jussa test us, and lumpen moralists like DeMint spouting off about law and babies, the assault on secular, civil society by these clotpolls is at a crest not seen these same philistines were turning water cannons on black people marching for civil rights back in the sixties.

South Dakota is only the beginning.

Dear Mr. President

Indigo Girls lay down the track.

Truth Handler

You hurt the ones that I love best and cover up the truth with lies.
One day you'll be in the ditch, flies buzzin' around your eyes
-B. Dylan, Idiot Wind

Is it possible George Bush thinks he'll ever wind up in a ditch with flies buzzing around his eyes? In a word, no. In fact, despite the man's numerous lies and deceits, I doubt that much, if anything, bad will ever happen to him, other than what his own conscience delivers upon his rank soul. And there is very little evidence that Bush's conscience is capable of anything other than rationalization and repression.

Three days after Scooty Libby's testimony was released and showed that George Bush had authorised the selective declassification of the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq WMD capability, something that has since been confirmed by the White House itself, George Bush finally stepped to the plate and took a swing at the charges that he had manipulated intelligence sources:
President George W. Bush acknowledged on Monday he ordered the declassification of parts of a prewar intelligence report on Iraq to respond to critics who alleged he manipulated intelligence to justify the war.
In other words, Bush responded to accusations that he was manipulating intelligence by ... manipulating more intelligence. Seems like the obvious thing to do.

Bush is nothing if not consistent and just like his fondly-recalled statement, when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace, he offered up another desicated wad of sun-baked horseshit:
I wanted people to see what some of those statements were based on. I wanted people to see the truth. I thought it made sense for people to see the truth. That's why I declassified the document.
This comes after it is well known that what his declassification did was something diametrically opposed to letting anyone "see the truth." Laugh or cry, you decide.

London Calling?

It is difficult to imagine how much one would have to talk on the telephone, and to where the calls would have to be placed, in order for one to ring up a $218 trillion phone bill in two months, but this what Telekom Malaysia is now charging Yahaya Wahab. I know I'd be curious:
A Malaysian man said he nearly fainted when he recieved a $218 trillion phone bill and was ordered to pay up within 10 days or face prosecution, a newspaper reported Monday. Yahaya Wahab said he disconnected his late father's phone line in January after he died and settled the 84 ringgit ($23) bill.
Telekom Malaysia says that these are the outstanding charges rung up on that line since January, though there has been no statement as to where on earth -- or elsewhere -- any number of phone calls would result in such a charge. Wahab seems to be taking this in good stride, though, and appears rather enthusiastic about a possible court date with his avowed debtors:
If the company wants to seek legal action as mentioned in the letter, I'm ready to face it. In fact, I can't wait to face it.
While expectedly this will be put off as some sort of "computer glitch," who wouldn't want to hear Telekom defend this bill in court?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The March to Coercive Diplomacy

We believe it is almost impossible that the United States would want to repeat the experience of Iraq. We hope the United States is not so stupid.
-- Gholamali Haddad-Adel, Speaker, Iranian parliament
Feb. 16, 2006
This, of course, is a statement made by an apparently rational human being. But Haddad-Adel's "hope" is appearing more and more quixotic with each passing day:
The Bush Administration, while publicly advocating diplomacy in order to stop Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack. Current and former American military and intelligence officials said that Air Force planning groups are drawing up lists of targets, and teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups.
The Pentagon has long embraced a sweaty compulsion to employ their most cherished of toys in a theatre of war, even where none currently exists. Hersh's New Yorker article, already being dismissed as the yowlings of an unconnected harpy bent on undermining the Bush administration, doesn't add much big news to the tale of "coercive diplomacy," except by offering some strong detail, as evidenced above, of just what is going on in Iran right now. But none of this should surprise. The developments of the Iranian saga, and the conception of tactical nuclear strikes, is very much of a piece with 2002 Nuclear Posture Review (oddly enough known as the NPR). Yes, the Bush administration was very busy in 2002, what with the development of NSA suveillance schemes, new interrogation protocols, the establishment of a secret prisons network and "small scale" nuclear holocausts, all having their details "worked out" during this exciting period in history. No doubt, 2002 will be fondly viewed as their salad days.

Anyone who had heard or read that the Pentagon, no doubt driven by the subtle hand of Dick Cheney, had tactical nuclear strikes on the "all options" table was generally appalled by the very idea. Though such rumblings are not new and details first appeared in the Pentagon's Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations, many seem aghast at this latest story, perhaps simply because Hersh offers up such a bevy of unpalatable details of current activity. But as the Doctrine assures us,
US nuclear forces provide the means to apply overwhelming force to a broad range of targets in a time and manner chosen by the President.
This is something that is meant to "assure allies and friends of the US steadfastness of purpose." If there has been a controlling meme for George Bush's actions it has been "steadfastness." He loves steadfast. But it is left unsaid just who these allies and friends will be if Bush starts lobbing nukes into Tehran, but that will be something to be determined at a later date.

While this latest tale of US activity in Iran has been roundly cited by many, Bush supporters have remained notably silent on these latest revelations. No doubt the thinking must be that such plans are perfectly fine, noble even, and barely noteworthy. But while they will cite articles skeptical of recent Iranian claims of new high-tech weaponry, they all have succumbed to the White House trope that Iran is developing the most high-tech of all weapons, nuclear bombs. This, despite that fact that the most recent IAEA report found no evidence of any such developments. Such wayward logic relies exclusively upon an ill-founded trust that what the White House says is true, even though such has rarely, if ever, been the case.

The entire scenario playing out on the Middle East stage has a surreal quality. It has a quality of fanciful, Clancyesque fiction. This quality has proven, time and again, to be just why the Bush administration has conducted itself the way it has over the last five years. They have spun their fictions into reality, as they have admitted they do, and it appears now that they are insistant on sparking the next world war. Will anyone put a stop to the machinations of these maniacs?

Bedknobs and Broomsticks

The son of Arizona state Senate President Ken Bennett has pleaded guilty to 18 counts of aggravated assault after being indicted for "brooming" young boys at a camp for the Arizona Association of Junior High Student Councils last year. Clifton Bennet admitted to assaulting the boys with a "broomstick in their buttocks." An accomplice in these assaults was a one Kyle Matthew Wheeler. While the facts of the assaults are undispuuted, it appears that the Yavapai County prosecutor is laying down some covering flak for Mr. Bennet and his son by saying that the media is "grossly misrepresenting" the details of the assaults. According to County Attorney Sheila S. Polk, these assaults were simply "hazing gone wrong," as though the brooms were meant to prod some other possible orifice and accidently wound up in the rectums of these boys, eighteen seperate times. This would be what is known as a repeated mistake. Polk dismisses the criticism but admits that the behaviour was "inappropriate."

More hilarious that Polk's bizarre cover story is that the Bennet's lawyer is arguing that his client, who is now eighteen, should be spared the possibility of anal rape in prison because Bennet strongly desires to go on a mission with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, presumably to some remote region where the Word of the Lord is desperately needed, where brooms and children are plentiful and child molestation laws, police, courts and prisons are not.

At this point, will it be much of a surprise to learn that the president of the Arizona State Senate is a Republican?

Friday, April 07, 2006

A New, New Low

The new AP-Ipsos poll shows that the GOP-led Congress has a 30% approval rating on their job performance. GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio declares,
These numbers are scary. We've lost every advantage we've ever had.
I can't help but ask, does Tony wonder why this is? While the reasons for this abysmal approval rating seem fairly obvious to anyone not steeped in the warm, rhetorical broth constantly being laddled out by the White House, GOP hardliners are probably scratching heads. You mean, Americans aren't fond of enormous deficits, manufacturing job loss, and ever more tax cuts, they will ask? Of course, they will say, that can't be it!

Republican hardliners will continue to fail to realise that a large majority of this country, people clearly not steeped in George Bush's less-than-nourishing fustian, are utterly dissatisfied with the mean-spirited Republican agenda, an agenda that cuts healthcare for the elderly, awards massive tax cuts to the wealthy, runs huge deficits and bungles their own manufactured war. No, Americans are not pleased with these developments nor the agenda that has led to them.

Which leads one to another concern that Bush and his lads in Congress will see that perhaps another war, this time with Iran, will be just the ticket to pull them out of the approval doldrums. When things look grim at the polls, cry War! That'll stir up the patriots, they will think. It always seems to work. Let's hope Americans are smarter than this now, so much smarter that even Diebold won't be able to mess with their decision.

Jobs: Bush's Rhetoric and Reality

Bush is currently threatening to veto spending bills if Congress does not sufficiently reign in the federal deficit. This move appears more of a concern for Bush's promise to cut the deficit in half before the end of his second term. We have already been offered a taste of what kind of programs will be targeted by spending cuts the GOP-led Congress will consider: health care for the elderly and education. Don't expect any new thinking and look for even more budget cuts in these areas should Congress heed the President's demand.

But just as Bush insists that spending must be cut, he refuses to allow his tax cuts for capital gains and dividends to expire, telling us that they are crucial to continue the asserted booming job growth:
To keep our economy creating jobs and opportunity, Congress needs to show its trust in the American people and make the tax relief permanent.
Bush claims that some 5.1 million new jobs have been created in last five years. This number, apparently, does not reflect the 3 million jobs that have been lost during his presidency but only the total gross number of jobs created. Despite the rosy rhetoric, the White House continues to tout the make-believe notion that the jobs picture in American is grand. But as Paul Craig Roberts details, the five million jobs figure is a standard White House fiction: this number does represent the net jobs gain, which is far less:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics payroll jobs data, from January 2001 - January 2006 the US economy created 1,054,000 net new private sector jobs and 1,039,000 net new government jobs for a total five-year figure of 2,093,000.
A net 2 million jobs have been created during Bush's cited time period, half of which were new government positions under his bloating federal bureaucracy. But the numbers don't begin to tell the real story, which is far, far bleaker than one simple number can convey. While Bush insists on continued tax cuts to keep things "moving forward," the reality is that his presidency has one of the worst job creation records in history.
During Bush's presidency the US has experienced the slowest job creation on record (going back to 1939). During the past five years private business has added only 958,000 net new jobs to the economy, while the government sector has added 1.1 million jobs. Moreover, as many of the jobs are not for a full work week, "the country ended 2005 with fewer private sector hours worked than it had in January 2001."

[Ed: the discrepency between the number immediately above, 958,000, and the previous cited jobs number was due to Labour Department readjustment of figures. Either number still represents historically poor job growth.]
But things get far worse as we drill down:
McMillion reports that during the past five years of Bush's presidency the US has lost 16.5% of its manufacturing jobs. The hardest hit are clothes manufacturers, textile mills, communications equipment, and semiconductors. Workforces in these industries shrunk by 37 to 46 percent. These are amazing job losses. Major industries have shriveled to insignificance in half a decade.

During Bush's presidency, the US has lost its trade surplus in manufactured Advanced Technology Products (ATP). The US trade deficit in ATP now exceeds the US surplus in Intellectual Property licenses and fees. The US no longer earns enough from high tech to cover any part of its import bill for oil, autos, or clothing.

This is an astonishing development. The US "superpower" is dependent on China for advanced technology products and is dependent on Asia to finance its massive deficits and foreign wars.
Should some doubt the claim that advanced technology is now coming from China, it is given support by the story of Magnequench, an Indiana company that specializes in sintered magnetics and whose devices are used, among other applications, in guidance systems for cruise missiles and JDAM bombs. In September, 2004, Magnequench shuttered its doors, fired its 450 employees and shipped its tools to China. More amazing is that Magnequench has been owned and controlled by Chinese firms closely tied to the Chinese government. And the Pentagon has been, and is, Magnequech's biggest customer.

This is what is happening to the high tech sector of the American economy, the one so proudly cited by the administration as the one area indicative of the future capacity of the American economy. Will Bush ever tell Americans what is really going? This is an entirely rhetorical question, to be sure, and it is based on a reality with which Bush would prefer not to deal.