Monday, July 31, 2006

Tortures of the Damned

Like most American cities, the outlying regions of Columbus, Ohio, are a ghastly, sprawling morass of strip malls, grease pits, slurpee shops and motel hells, all generously sprinkled with Luxury Living enclaves populated by the now ubiquitous and ubiquitously-derided McMansion. To call it all overwhelming is to lend some measure of awe to the scene when it really is just plain awful. Sadly, much of the inner realm of this city is not unlike its dreadful satellite environment, as a trip down Rt. 23 would grossly inform.

Indeed, it is a very long and unpleasant trip downtown until one finally reaches the Ohio State campus, at which point some measure of a "town" actually begins to emerge. No doubt, there are old, verdant neighbourhoods tucked away and removed from the scrofulous arteries like Rt. 23, but to a visitor, a miserable and moribund crudscape is all one is able to "experience." Enterprising souls might be inclined toward exploration with the hope that, surely, there must be better places than that presented on the main roads, but without diligence toward this end, a numb stupefaction will quickly descend on any Columbus newbie.

One wonders how anyone can proudly, or even possibly, enjoy such an environment. A healthy dose of fundamentalist Endtimes prophesy probably helps, preaching, as it does, that corporeal life on earth is merely God's death row, each of us awaiting execution or reprieve, depending upon one's love, or lack of, for Jesus. And death row is exactly what one is treated to along the infernal stretches of Rt. 23 and, no doubt, many other similarly horrid motoring byways. The extent of effort required to keep the rabble in line so that they don't begin to wonder whether there might not be a better living arrangement than endless driving and shopping at Wal*Mart must surely be vast. And some of that effort, as unconcious as it may be, is made by the likes of fundamentalist Christians, fretting constantly as they do over a rather limited buffet of perceived societal ills; abortion, gays, and most recently, stem cell research.

To that end, there's lots of Christian radio spewing forth from local Columbus stations, which heartily broadcast James Dobson's Focus on the Family weekend radio shows, offering parenting tips to keep your kids and you on the straight and narrow path to righteous living. But cohabitating with Dobson's religious organs in Ohio is another feature in the featureless realm of the terribly built environment: the United Dairy Farmers chain of convenience stores. In common appearance, they share the style of other similar franchises: non-descript cinder block crates housing the very same variety of quickie-mart junk that all the others offer. Except one.

Amongst the Maxim magazines and peek-a-boo tabloid gossip rags, between the rows of chips and soda that help keep Ohioans joyously rotund, a customer of a United Dairy Farmers store will not find condoms. The reason, as an apparently disenchanted employee claimed, was that the owner "doesn't believe in that." Naturally, my interest was piqued.

To the unfamilar, United Dairy Farmers evinces a co-op, feel-good aura, like it might be owned and operated by actual dairy farmers; all hard work and wholesome goodness from the American heartland. This would be wrong. UDF is owned by billionaire Carl Lindner Jr., and was started in Cincinatti in 1938 as a family-owned ice cream shop. As quaint as that may sound, that quaintness has long since vanished and as Lindner's wealth grew, so did his penchant for giving large campaign contributions to Christian conservative Republicans, though he was not opposed to handing out large amounts of cash to Democrats when his business interests were at hand. His family owns a large part of the American Financial Group and Lindner was, until 2002, the CEO of Chiquita Brands International, formerly known as the United Fruit Company, a company with a long and inglorious record of oppression and shady dealings throughout Central America.

Lindner was apparently determined to continue UFC's legacy and, in 1998, The Cincinatti Enquirer published a lengthy expose, "Chiquita Secrets Revealed," of Lindner's company and his stewardship of this vessel of economic repression and illegal daring-do. Charges leveled by the paper included worker abuse, polluting, bribing foreign officials, union busting and cocaine smuggling, but the story was retracted after an elected prosecutor with close ties to Lindner threatened investigation of the newpaper when it was learned that the reporters had gained access to Chiquita's voice mail system. The story, which appeared to be entirely accurate, only garnered infamy for the reporters who broke it and none for the depredations of Lindner's company.

Notwithstanding the deplorable actions of his Chiquita dominion, Lindner's Christian purpose remains intact, strongly supporting his family's own Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, presumably where young fundamentalists learn the fine art of empire building on the backs of the rural poor in foreign lands. Further to the purpose of Christianizing American government, Lindner was and is a strong supporter of Ohio's Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell.

As Sectretary of State and co-chair of the Bush/Cheney campaign in Ohio, Blackwell is the man seen as chiefly responsible for voter suppression efforts in Democratic districts across the state and is currently running for governor by kowtowing to the Christian Reconstructionists, at the Council for National Policy. The CNP exerts great effort to keep its activities under wraps but one of its general aims is to turn America into a Christian Nation, which will employ Holy Scripture as the law of the land. In fact, the CNP was started by Tim LeHaye, Armageddon's bedfellow and author of the Left Behind series of Second Coming books. At least, they wish America to be a Christian theocracy until Endtimes, when this band of lunatics imagines Rapturing once Armageddon begins. Blackwell fits in well with this crowd as he has said,
I don't wear my religion on my sleeve – it is my armor.
And nothing suits Lindner more than giving money to a fellow Christian warrior.

So, the next time you're in Ohio and find yourself in the vast, unpleasant wash of our modern world, some understanding as to how we have made our own environment so damned unpleasant may come to you. No doubt much or most of it derives from pure and unadulterated greed and larceny, but there is another force at work that sees life on this planet as merely a passtime, a waystation, on the way to enternal bliss. Why bother fixing it when the end is nigh? Have an ice cream. But forget the condoms. They don't have herpes in heaven and if you're one of the damned, well, you'll be covered in festering sores anyway.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Tony Blair's new image

After a recent make-over, Tony Blair now has a new look more befitting his role in world affairs, though it has been agreed that this new image will only be on display when in the company of George Bush.


Can't touch this

This morning on NPR, there was a discussion on the Diane Rehm show about the woeful Dems and the ragin' Republicans and their various prospects in Novemeber. Big discussions ensued about the races involving Leiberman and Lamont, DeWine and Brown; races where the incumbent is in serious jeopardy. One things always -- always -- missing in these election horse race discussions, of course, is any talk about the current raft of security issues with voting machines and the push by the establishment to install these easily hackable pieces of crap throughout the electoral system, despite their non-compliance with HAVA. It is a dark cloud that hangs over this country, but it must not ever be mentioned.

Danger of this happening lurks, though, when such talk shows are opened up to the public. I suspect that NPR's call screening process is little less rigourous than that employed by Limbaugh or O'Reilly and one distastefully informed listener managed an interlocution that was, to say least, unappreciated. This caller asked a several part question about some specific issues, one of which regarded Fienstien's war profiteering husband, Richard Blum, and his company's numerous government contracts in Iraq. There was another issue mentioned, but the final thing she mentioned was asking what the likely effect that Dieobld, ES&S, Sequoia and other voting machine vendors will have in "stealing the election, again." Whoa, nelly!

The response of the host, Susan Page, was a remarkably adept display of denial of service, as she immediately cut off the caller and said (in paraphrase), thank you and now let me address the first point raised, which, of course, had nothing to do with voting machine vendors or Fienstien's husband. The discussion seamlessly moved into a typical wonky discussion about campaigning, polls, blah, blah, blah. Of course, no discussion was forthcoming regarding Diebold or the distrustful electoral system, rife as it is with political operatives, made-guy election officials, voter denial services and voting machine vendors deterimined to bring electoral votes to, if not now George Bush, then the next designated go-to corporate-friendly pawn. It was as though the question had never been asked and to acknowledge it would have been impolitic.

"Public" radio, my ass.


This is a bit of a round-up, ala Newshog, as I head out the door this weekend for some diversion from the ghastly machinations extant in the world today.

First up, after Vladimir Putin turned the mike on Bush and Blair and gave the world a grim laugh at that poodle show during the G8, now Putin is telling the US to buzz off and will sell Venezuela about $3 billion in arms to Hugo Chavez. Furthermore, Chavez sought to tweak American officials with talk of nuclear power for his country, with a potential technology deal no doubt coming from Moscow. Moscow, of course, has something to gain from this cozy, arms-dealing relationship as well; Venezuela is an OPEC member and Chavez is pushing to fix the price of oil at $50 bbl, which would allow Venezuela to claim heavy crude as reserves, which in turn would allow the South American country to claim the world's biggest oil reserves. Expect nothing but steam out of Washington about this.

Meanwhile, Israel are now saying that the UN should butt out of southern Lebanon and have further indicated that the UN will not be welcome to participate in any investigation of the recent bombing of a UN observation post there. Israeli ambasssador to the UN, Dan Gellerman, said,
Israel has never agreed to a joint investigation, and I don't think that if anything happened in this country, or in Britain or in Italy or in France, the government of that country would agree to a joint investigation.
Two problems with this argument, though: the incident didn't happen in Israel. It happened in a country you were bombing. And two, Gellerman has no idea whether Italy or France would allow a joint UN investigation: they've never blown up a UN observation post.

But with all this diplomatic mayhem, PNAC signatory and former Deputy Secretary of State under G.W. Bush, Richard Armitage, has said he fears that Israel's lavish application of bombs to Lebanon has done nothing but create a million refugees and empowered Hezbollah. Armitage says that this campaign may introduce an "element into the body politic" that no one has yet anticipated. Armitage should know, since he was Assistant Secretary of Defense under President Reagan when Hezbollah sprouted from the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

John Dean tells us that we have an "imperial presidency." Thanks for the heads up. We hadn't noticed lately, what with all the fucking wars going on.

Bill Clinton echoes Armitage by saying that Israel has gone too far. Not too far for Rice, though, as she found some time during playful banter about the Middle East to sit down at the piano and lay down a few licks on the crazy eighty-eights. Hey, all sitting around resisting cease-fire agreements and no play makes Condi a dull girl.

Cindy Sheehan, who so ingraciously camped outside Bush's Texas ranch while the president was there "clearin' brush" last August, has just purchased a five acre lot in Crawford, apparently with the hope that Bush will be a little more neighbourly now that she is a nearby property owner.

After U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor accused former FEMA director Michael Brown of being an "incompetent fool," Brown responded in a recent interview in the only way he knows how. Of Taylor, Brown said, "he can just bite me" and further insinuated that Taylor was a "little twerp." Pot, kettle.

And finally, news that doesn't seem like news at all: the world doesn't respect George Bush. Which works out well, since George Bush doesn't respect the world.

So, have fun with that.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Diplomacy Inaction

Bolton is really on a US diplomacy tear of late. After first vetoing one UN resolution demanding a halt to disproportionate Israeli aggression and now, after Israel blew up a UN observation post, having been asked repeatedly to please stop shelling the UN observation post, US Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton continues to work his work his special diplomatic juju.
The U.S. blocked the U.N. Security Council from issuing a statement that would have condemned Israel's bombing of a U.N. post on the Lebanon border that killed four military observers.
Bill Kristol must be proud.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Steele Pulse

It is indeed a rarity in these days of modern politicking for a senate candidate to offer a healthy dose of criticism of his own party. But when Michael Steele did that yesterday, he did so anonymously. Under that temporary guise, the GOP candidate for the senate seat being opened by Sarbanes departure spoke quite candidly about the difficulties he will face running on the GOP ticket, a ticket that has been strongly endorsed by the Republican leadership. Karl Rove has even done some fund-raising for Steele. What then, are we to make of these candid remarks:
"Republicans aren't very happy people right now.The base is kind of ticked off."

He spoke of his party affiliation as though it were a congenital defect rather than a choice. "It's an impediment. It's a hurdle I have to overcome," he said. "I've got an 'R' here, a scarlet letter."

That left the candidate in a difficult spot. "For me to pretend I'm not a Republican would be a lie," he reasoned. But to run as a proud Republican? "That's going to be tough, it's going to be tough to do," he said. "If this race is about Republicans and Democrats, I lose."
Let us pass, for the moment, the conceit herein that there might actually be times when Republicans are not "ticked off" -- they always seem ticked off about something or other almost all the time -- the interest here is that Steele sees being a Republican candidate right now as a losing prospect. And he has every right to be considering that the polls are not looking good for the GOP right now. And how does Steele see that his party got to this point? A number of reasons, really, and they are mostly things Bush critics have been saying since day one. But the meme underlying a lot of these reasons is disconnect:
In 2001, we were attacked and the president is on the ground, on a mound with his arm around the fireman, symbol of America. In Katrina, the president is at 30,000 feet in an airplane looking down at people dying, living on a bridge. And that disconnect, I think, sums up, for me at least, the frustration that Americans feel.
Herein is yet another conceit. Bush didn't perform any better in 2001 than he did during Katrina. He still disappeared for three days before ambling his way into New York. But the Bush and the bullhorn myth is now so ingrained, it appears as a high point compared to his equally slow response to the New Orleans disaster. And, of course, at the time of Katrina, Bush was by then well known to be a bumbler, something only mildly and not widely suspected in September of 2001.

But Steele is still correct; Katrina was indeed a turning point for Bush and the GOP. It was dreadful behaviour from which they have not politically recovered. So much so that Steele now says he wants Bush no where near him in the run-up to the election. Asked if he wants Bush to campaign for him, Steele said,
To be honest with you, probably not.
Let's just note that again shall we. Steele offered to be honest and then ... he actually was. This is a special moment, people. A special moment, indeed.

Interestingly, Steele himself seems unaware of just what has been going in Congress. He expressed frustration with the GOP-led Congress:
You don't go to Congress to become the party that you've been fighting for 40 years.... the spending, the finger-pointing, not getting the bills passed," he counseled: "Just shut up and get something done.
Who doesn't agree on "the spending"? Though everyone seems to agree that it is a problem, those who created it and simultaneously criticise it, won't do anything about it either. That's a problem. But Steele's complaint that bills aren't getting passed is simply bizarre. The GOP has passed nearly everything they have introduced: tax cuts, the financial industry bankruptcy bill, the Big Pharma Medicare bill, tax cuts, the oil industry "energy" bill, tax cuts. Of course, like a true realpolitik Republican, the bills not passed that he is lamenting are the ones of which he was strongly in favour: the ones that would address the crucial issues of flag burning and gay marriage. Steele is not quite the fresh and open-eyed GOP radical that some might now think him to be. He was entirely supportive of Bush's veto of the stem cell funding bill.

Now that his campaign has acknowledged that it was Steele who made these "incendiary" remarks, it appears to be more of sign that Steele knows he has a big hump to get over just lifting himself above the disgruntlement threshold. And in the state of Maryland, though it has been trending Republican with an expanding, effite, self-indulgent suburban waste land, it is still blue. Well, blue-ish. In fact, across the country, any GOP candidate in a tough race can do nothing but benefit from criticizing Bush.

Steele knows this, and criticising the administration and a towel-boy Congress that much of the rest of the country is already unhappy with is his only real chance come this November. Hell, I suspect he even got Karl Rove's permission to go on record.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Smart Bombs Away!

[Update below]

Targeted Israeli "smart bombs" killed five Indian soldiers at a UN field post today:
Five Indian soldiers from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in south Lebanon were killed in Israeli shelling on Tuesday evening.

"One aerial bomb directly impacted the building and shelter in the base of the United Nations Observer Group in Lebanon in the area of Khiam," said Milos Strugar, a UNIFIL spokesman.
But the Israeli attacks on UN observers are not limited to today. Yesterday, an Israeli tank round wounded four Ghanian soldiers at another UN post. Al jazeera notes that UN officials said that four Indian soldiers were killed.* No word about the discrepency yet.

With sanctimony dripping off his furry moustache, John Bolton noted,
We're obviously very sorry about that.
It doesn't seem very obvious to me that Yosemite Bolton is at all that sorry about much of anything, not even that embarrassment of a moustache. And one wonders about the hundreds of dead Lebanese civilians and the nearly one million refugees created, in part, by Bolton's veto of a UN resolution that would have demanded cessation of hostilities in Gaza. In fact, Bolten's veto followed shortly on the heels of Hezbollah's abduction of 2 Israeli soldiers on the Lebanese-Israeli border and the dawn air strikes by the IDF on Lebanon's southern territory. It cannot be coincidence that it was only after the veto that Israel intesified the attacks on Lebanon's cities and infrastructure considerably, something which has not subsided to date.

Meanwhile, the Saudis have amped up the rhetoric with King Abdullah saying,
Saudi Arabia warns everybody that if the peace option fails because of Israeli arrogance, there will be no other option but war.
This hardly sounds like a man willing to do US bidding, as imagined within the dislocated thoughts of Bill Kristol. Though the Saudi king's words sound rather forboding, Prime Minister Olmert has said that Israel fully intends to continue its assault but that
Israel has no intention of harming the Lebanese population and that Israel is fighting against the Hezbollah terrorist organization and not against the Lebanese government or its citizens.
This after attacks on not only the Lebanese government and its citizens but now the UN and the Red Cross. Apparently, Olmert can act with impunity, continue the attacks and kill as many as it takes to bring down Hezbollah simply because Israel didn't "intend" any of it.

Update: It certainly does appear that Al Jazeera got the call wrong about who exactly comprised the doomed UN post. Further reporting confirms that it was four and none of them were Indian at all. They were Chinese, Canadian, Austria and Finland.

But to add another infuriating and highly suspicious element to the tale is that the UN observer post apparently had contacted the Israelis ten times -- ten times -- requesting a halt to the shelling around the post. It was after all these pleas that a "precision guided bomb" took out the station and killed the UN observers, something Israel said it "deeply regrets." What to make of such monumental bullshit? Why take out a UN observation post during a highly controversial military action? If I had to guess -- and it's not much of a guess -- I'd say the Israelis were doing something they didn't want observed.

*Further noted is that UNIFIL was first formed after Israel 1978 invasion of southern Lebanon. Apparently, US Ambassador John Bolten is correct about the UN: they are of no importance, especially to the likes of John Bolten and the IDF.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Newsflash: US Diplomacy "quite good"

Bill Kristol feels the love

Yes, Bill Kristol continues occupy a realm all his own.
I think US diplomacy's actually been quite good.
In fact, Kristol thinks that the Iraq war has been good for the American image in the Arab world. As evidence, he points out that Saudis "have been flying here." Perhaps on Kristol's world there is a parallel "Arab" world that does appreciate the invasion and subsequent destabilisation of the Middle East and the deaths of tens of thousands of civilian Muslims. Occupation of an alternative reality appears to be what it takes to believe that the "Arab" world's perception of the US has improved since the Iraqi invasion.

But it is not just in the Arab world that Kristol should consider. Look at all the love elsewhere in the pan-Asian community.





South Korea:

Well, you get the idea. The love is in the air. Can you feel it? Bill Kristol can.

A conflagration devoutly to be wished

It is difficult to know what to make of the recent observation that Pakistan is upping the nuclear ante. But one thing is sure to result: increased tension in an already fractious part of the world.
Pakistan has begun building what independent analysts say is a powerful new reactor for producing plutonium, a move that, if verified, would signal a major expansion of the country's nuclear weapons capabilities and a potential new escalation in the region's arms race.
There are a lot of "coulds" and "woulds" in here, but if in fact this new reactor is just what is claimed, a weapons-grade facility (Musharraf is a military dictator), I don't think we and the Indians have anyone to blame but Washington and New Dehli. The Bush administration will probably fret about this development and say that they "didn't see it coming" -- quite likely since they seem uniquely gifted with an artless ability to not understand the principle of action/reaction. This is exactly the response that was imagined after Bush visited New Dehli and stroked India's nuclear knob, while refusing to give the reach around to Musharraf, a so-called valuable ally in the War on Terra. Indeed, The Times of India believes that, if China is not already involved in this project -- hardly likely given that China is already helping Pakistan maintain their extant reactors -- they soon will be. And the reason, of course, was the US-India nuclear deal:
If Pakistan is under the scanner for trying to amass nuclear warheads, the world should also look at China's help to Islamabad in setting up a new nuclear reactor at its Khushab nuclear site, sources said.

The Chinese move to assist Islamabad on this issue might stem from repeated requests from Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf and Beijing's own misgivings over the recent Indo-US civil nuclear deal.

Beijing is already involved in actively assisting Pakistan in building and maintaining its existing reactors.
Curiously, WaPo makes no mention that China is involved in any of this. But there is, of course, a much larger context to this potential nightmare scenario and I highly recommend Cernig's in-depth post on the subject, America's Next Big Foreign Policy Disaster.

And just as it dawns on officials that the Iraq "experiment" is over -- an unmitigated disaster -- Afghanistan lurches toward Taliban rule again. And while the Middle East is aflame and the push toward Tehran has begun, Pakistan and India are most certainly going to become bitterly entangled. And there is nary the slightest consideration in main that the Bush administration has been at or near theh center of all these smoldering heaps of conflict, fanning the emergent flames or, in the case of Iraq, completely unable to put them out.

But one thing certain to come of this: US defense contractors are going to make out like bandits.

Gettin' it on

Well, this is a bit of a stunner. Despite my previous item, I really was hoping the collective efforts of Russia, China and the EU could stop this. But if the Bush administration is one thing, it is that they are a determined band of zealous warmongers:
UK Govt Sources Confirm War With Iran Is On

In the last few days, I learned from a credible and informed source that a former senior Labour government Minister, who continues to be well-connected to British military and security officials, confirms that Britain and the United States

"... will go to war with Iran before the end of the year."

As we now know from similar reporting prior to the invasion of Iraq, it's quite possible that the war planning may indeed change repeatedly, and the war may again be postponed. In any case, it's worth noting that the information from a former Labour Minister corroborates expert analyses suggesting that Israel, with US and British support, is deliberately escalating the cycle of retaliation to legitimize the imminent targeting of Iran before year's end. Let us remind ourselves, for instance, of US Vice President Cheney's assertions recorded on MSNBC over a year ago. He described Iran as being "right at the top of the list" of "rogue states". He continued: "One of the concerns people have is that Israel might do it without being asked... Given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards."
Ahh, I see. Cheney is expecting Israel employ the old seek forgiveness not permission ploy. Now don't tell me you aren't a little suspicious about the timing of all this, too.

I'm hoping this is another "Rove Indicted" story. Only this time, it would be a good thing.

Fluxions and Fluents and Fueds, oh my.

I'm dropping a tip here for a friend of mine, Jason Bardi, and his recent book, The Calculus Wars, about the Newton/Leibniz feud over who invented calculus. It looks like a fascinating investigation of the controversy and will likely be a pleasant diversion from the extant horrors in the world today.

I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Information resistance

Normally, Bill Maher is on the mark in his criticisms of the Bush admininstration. Which is why his entry at the Huffington Post is really quite puzzling. At first, one might be inclined to think it a joke:
I surrender my credentials as Bush exposer - from the very beginning - to no man, but on Israel, I love it that a U.S. president doesn't pretend Arab-Israeli conflict is an even-steven proposition....

I really wanted to say that, for all those who accuse the likes of myself and the birthday girl of being unpatriotic, or hating America first, the feeling I've had watching Israel defend herself and a US president defend Israel (a country that is held to a standard for "restraint" that no other country ever is asked to meet, but that's another story) just reminds me how wrong that is. I LOVE being on the side of my president, and mouthing "You go, boy" when he gets it right. He just, outside of this, almost never does.
Hmm. That doesn't sound like a joke, not in the usual Maher kind of way. Is Maher serious about that "restraint" comment. Whatever standard for "restraint" there might be, Israel is clearly not being held to it. Either that, or the "standard for restraint" has suddenly dropped a few -- many -- notches below the already low level previously in place. And the White House, along with Bill Maher, is cheering the Israelis on in their latest offensive maneuver to "defend herself." I get the feeling from the media coverage of this "restraint," that Lebanese civilians must feel somewhat akin to rape victims facing defense attorneys in court: c'mon, you egged him on! admit it!

Maher clearly believes, as the president does, that this latest escalation of aggressions is entirely Hamas and Hezbollah's fault. For someone who is normally a little more astute than most on the depredations of the Bush administration, he has clearly been blinded by US mainstream media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian friction. Which says a lot about the effectiveness of bias of media coverage for it to convince a cynic like Maher that Israel is always the victim of her own deep, deep desire for peace.

The media in general has portrayed the current assault on Lebanon as having been sparked by Hezbollah's kidnapping of Israeli soldiers. Despite the recent infrastructural blitzkrieg on Gaza by Israeli forces after militants kidnapped one soldier there, to the media, George Bush and, apparently a not so informed Bill Maher, the two incidents are unrelated. The two incidents are most assuredly not unrelated. According to the Financial Times:
The timing and scale of its attacks suggest it was partly intended to reduce the pressure on Palestinians by forcing Israel to fight on two fronts simultaneously.
This is minor gloss compared to news about kidnappings in Gaza that the mainstream either completely ignored or barely mentioned. Certainly, it was ignored by the US mainstream media. Just the day before Corporal Shalit was kidnapped, on June 24 Israeli forces entered Gaza and "arrested" two Palestinians whom the IDF said were members of Hamas. We'll probably never know if this is true because the two arrested will likely never get a trial.

But even where this was reported, the kidnapping was portrayed not as that, but as "being detained." Palestinians kidnap, Israelis arrest. And it comes off this way because the institutional mindset is completely invested in the belief that anything and everything Israel does is justifed, while anything the Palestinians do, by definition, is not. Hence, Israelis "arrest" and Palestinians "kidnap." The implied social order is redolent in the juxtaposition of the words describing almost exactly the same act, one official and warranted, the other lowly and criminal. Where the mainstream also fails to inform us is in just what happens to those arrested Palestinians; there are now 10,000 in jail, many of whom have never had a trial and comprise a good number of woman and children.

This operation was the first time the IDF had entered Gaza since the withdrawal, violating Palestinian territory. But in the mainstream, the current conflagration began with Shalit's kidnapping a day later, a story which was then supplanted by the Hezbollah action a week after that, which was finally supplanted by Hezbollah rocket attacks that Israel "responded to." All the while, it is written that Israel was merely "responding," despite the known sequences of events: the IDF "arrested" two Palestinians on Palestinian soil the day before Shalit was grabbed, that Hezbollah rocket attacks did not ensue until after Israel launched its massive air and artillery campaign.

But in the months and then days leading up to the Shalit kidnapping, Hamas had maintained its side of the then 18-month long cease-fire agreement (Qassam rockets were being launched, ineffectively, by other rabble forces in the strip). Though no deaths resulted from the piddling rockets, Israel's "response" was quite deadly. As medialens reports:

June 8 - the Israeli army assassinated the recently appointed Palestinian head of the security forces of the Interior Ministry, Jamal Abu Samhadana, and three others.

June 9 - Israeli shells killed seven members of the same family picnicking on Beit Lahiya beach. Some 32 others were wounded, including 13 children.

June 13 - an Israeli plane fired a missile into a busy Gaza City street, killing 11 people, including two children and two medics.

June 20 - the Israeli army killed three Palestinian children and injured 15 others in Gaza with a missile attack.

June 21 - the Israelis killed a 35-year old pregnant woman, her brother, and injured 11 others, including 6 children.
At no point during this period of carnage were any Israeli citizens killed.

Sadly, the lack of knowledge in this country about the actual goings-on between Israel and the Palestinians remains firmly entrenched. And when a well-informed fellow like Maher has no idea about any of this, it has to be an indication that the system is working fairly well. Either that, or Bill Maher chooses not to know any of this.

Amblin' along

I see dead people. No big whup.

Condoleezza Rice is not in a hurry. Given that she has more or less professed that Israel will be allowed -- for another week -- to produce more dead people, her "measured" response to the growing conflict appears designed to do just that. And, emulating Rice's sit back and laugh attitude, the international community has now decided that their broad consensus recognises that, in order to put a halt to the carnage, a cease-fire must have "political underpinnings." It took them a week to come up with that one.

Or it took them 300+ lives, a half million Lebanese refugees and a nearly annihilated Beirut to come up with that one, depending on the units of measure.

Enrichment program

Quite apart from the international fiascos Bush administration foreign policy has wrought, domestic "policy" continues to exhibit a breathtaking quality. Literally.

There is now pratically no feature of Bush domestic policy that evokes surprise anymore. While newly exposed manuevering still can cause shock and dismay, surprise is no longer on the table. And so it was with this little item, a small yet telling example of just whom, apart from blastocysts, the White House feels deserve "protection under the Constitution." About all I could muster at reading this was a sour cackle:
The federal government is moving to eliminate the jobs of nearly half of the lawyers at the Internal Revenue Service who audit tax returns of some of the wealthiest Americans, specifically those who are subject to gift and estate taxes when they transfer parts of their fortunes to their children and others.

The administration plans to cut the jobs of 157 of the agency’s 345 estate tax lawyers, plus 17 support personnel, in less than 70 days. Kevin Brown, an I.R.S. deputy commissioner, confirmed the cuts after The New York Times was given internal documents by people inside the I.R.S. who oppose them.

But six I.R.S. estate tax lawyers whose jobs are likely to be eliminated said in interviews that the cuts were just the latest moves behind the scenes at the I.R.S. to shield people with political connections and complex tax-avoidance devices from thorough audits.

Sharyn Phillips, a veteran I.R.S. estate tax lawyer in Manhattan, called the cuts a “back-door way for the Bush administration to achieve what it cannot get from Congress, which is repeal of the estate tax.”
Can't get Congress to fully repeal the estate tax? Well, just fire everyone who audits estate taxes; simple, quick, efficient. And it carries the added bonus that, despite Congress having marched 99% of Bush's agenda through anyway, there will be not the slightest hiccup from a few mildly meddlesome congress people mucking up the project for the increasing enrichment of the American aristocracy.

Suicide was painless for Blair Cabinet

Shortly after making the claim that Blair's cabinet had "sexed up" intelligence about Iraq WMD, former UN weapons inspector David Kelly mysteriously wound up dead. The official Hutton investigation proclaimed that Kelly had conveniently commited suicide, a claim that almost no one believed. But it did have one effect, even if it was only temporary: it relieved Blair's cabinet of having to deal with a knowledgeble critic at the time. Much more evidence came out later, such as the Downing Street Memos, that merely confirmed what Kelly had been saying until he suddenly and mysteriously couldn't.

Now, Liberal MP Norman Baker is claiming Kelly may have been killed; the facts of Kelly's death simply don't add up to suicide.
What my investigations to date have demonstrated is that there are significant medical doubts from professional medical people about the alleged cause of death.

Indeed there are a number of specialist medical experts who tell me that it is clinically impossible for Dr David Kelly to have died the way that was described.

I am suggesting the explanation for suicide simply doesn't add up.More suspicious still is that Baker claims that files on Kelly's computer appear to have been expunged.
One thing is certain, David Kelly will not have been the only person critical of government behaviour to have wound up suddenly dead. And he won't be the last.

Britain breaks rank

Tony Blair's Foreign Office has broken ranks with the White House with Foreign Minister Howell denouncing Israel's escalating military actions now that the IDF has moved forces into Lebanon. And with rhetoric sounding much like Bush's own, IDF chief of staff, Dan Halutz, claimed that the "military incursion" will be limited in nature -- hard to believe given the rather unlimited nature of the attacks so far -- but that this is being done for the usual reason: they're bad, we're good. Of course, the rhetoric is careful to announce that it is "terror" they fight, not actual people:
We will fight terror wherever it is, because if we do not fight it, it will fight us. If we don't reach it, it will reach us. We will also conduct limited ground operations as much as needed in order to harm the terror that harms us.
Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Peretz says that Israel will not hold territory. They are just going in to clean up the mess:
We have no intention of conquering and holding territory. We plan to clean a strip a mile from our border of Hizbollah bunkers and rocket-launching sites ... We will go in and then we will go out.
Which is a tad hard to believe considering that holding territory after military assaults is standard operating procedure for Israel.

It is hard to judge just how important Britain's discordant position will be regarded by the White House but knowing this White House, it probably won't be very much important at all. For the Bush administration, allies are only allies as long as they're doing what they're told.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Iraq is not enough

Over at The Osterley Times, Kel says he's worried about how the Israeli/Hezbollah conflict is now being used as political capital to reinvigorate the drive against Iran:
Suddenly one worries if the madness that is being spouted by Kristol and Co is actually being listened to....
I've got bad news for Kel: the direction of the message is not from Kristol to the White House. Kristol is one of their messengers.

It may not be entirely true that the regime change in Iran message is a message that came from the White House to Kristol directly. In fact, there need not have been a message at all. We're seeing in Kristol more of a "groupthink" condition rather than any directed talking points, though those surely were worked out somewhere in the veep's office for the benefit of the media campaign. Kristol may have even helped "tighten them up."

Kristol was (is?) the Chairman of PNAC, whose plan for global domination was seen by other "crazies" like Cheney and Rumsfeld as the one true path to a gentle and peaceful world; America would be a the helm of the good ship Leviathan. The entire, ridiculous ideology's cover is revealed for the sham it is by the advocacy for it by Cheney and Rumsfeld, two meager souls who have worked diligently for decades ensuring that mushy-headed efforts toward peace would never be brooked on their watch, a watch that has now spanned 35 years and has been spent ginning up fear and loathing in halls of the White House while dry-humping the Constitution.

No, Bill Kristol need not be listened to by anyone in the White House for them to already know the call. Kristol may have adopted some legitimate airs recently, which came from his criticisms of Bush's operation in Iraq, and some might see this as a sign that Kristol is in some way "objective" in his latest more-war pronouncements. But Kristol is hardly obejctive and his criticisms simply came from being pissed that Rumsfeld had hopelessly screwed up "the plan." He didn't have any qualms about the quality of the idea behind what has turned into an abject failure and a horrifying reality for the Iraqis who daily suffer death and destitution. But despite the atrocious failure of a giant misstep, Kristol, Krauthammer and other of the war mongers are now calling for the start of the next big, smart-bomb stride of the great experiment in "benovolent global hegemony." But what is most pronounced about the execution of "the plan" is its certain lack of benevolence. And hegemony appears to be nowhere in sight.

I have been rather suspicious about this latest escalation of the aggressions with Israel; the timing of the conflagration is amazingly opportune, Israel's response utterly inexplicable on its face. But the face is just that, a facade. Within minutes of the Israeli response and Hezbollah's counterattacks, Iran was being labelled as the true instigator of this latest outburst, despite the obvious fact that Iran has no actual reason to desire such conflict. It may be entirely the case that, as Chomsky has pointed out, Hezbollah had simply acted to draw down Israel's attention on the Gaza strip, if only temporarily. This is hardly a complicated tactic and one which Iran need not necessarily have approved. Indeed, it seems likely that Tehran would fully understand just what would result from any Israeli-Hezbollah conflict: another neo-con assault, this time with rhetoric that the conflict was not even about Israel or Hezbollah, but one that was to be seen as a proxy war between the US and Iran, the first step on the road to military strikes on Iranian infrastructure.

Indeed, it is known that Cheney was not happy with Condi Rice's heavy push for diplomacy with Iran, a push that was actually looking like it might produce some positive, i.e. non-military, outcome. This, of course, was nothing Cheney wanted, he and Rumsfeld having already decided that a bombing campaign was the only viable "solution." Rice's diplomatic effort thwarted a months-long disinformation campaign that comprised not only phoney intelligence about Iranian "nuclear weapons," but also a short effort that was trying to claim Tehran was supplying insurgents in Iraq with IED materials. No actual evidence of an Iranian weapons program has ever been found and the Tehran/IED claims quickly faded when Chair of the Joint Chiefs, General Pace, had to admit that there was no evidence for this either. Nonetheless, a diplomatic solution would not be acceptable to the likes of Cheney, Kristol, et al., and now fresher, more violent and visceral evidence of Iranian bad faith -- Hezbollah rockets landing on Israel -- is being used as the latest catalyst by which the next phase of the PNAC plan might be realised.

The failed conditions of Iraq apparently matter not to advocates of Middle East regime change. Failure there simply means, this time we'll do it right. As many had predicted, Iraq's now clear and close ties with Tehran demonstrate that, if there is a "winner" in the horrifying debacle, it is Iran. And the Iranians know it. In fact, so much has control of Iraq been lost by the White House, Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki and the Iraqi parliament are now publicly denouncing the actions of Israel. This reality fails to attach itself to regime-changers like Bill Kristol. But then reality has never been part of the equation for the neo-con global hegemonists and they demonstrate themselves to be, on some level, simpletons of the highest order. Even if it is very bad, they have a plan and they're sticking to it. The plan demands a message that the White House hardly needs to get from Bill Kristol.

Of course, further suspicion regarding the provenance of this conflict, or rather, the overwhelming Israeli response to what has not historically been such a grave crime, is evinced by another front, this one domestic and political. It was voiced by Newt Gingrich, among others, who saw the newest Middle East conflict as a shot in the arm for poll-droping Republicans come this November. As ugly as that politciking is and will no doubt become, the GOP once again revels in the prospect of stumping about yet more war and how those mealy-mouthed Democrats don't seem to like it very much; the only plank they see as their ticket to preserving majorities in the House and Senate. Certainly, Republicans do not see good governance as something worth campaigning for, their record adequately demonstrating no such ability or desire.

There has been one notable feature during this intense period of conflict: Dick Cheney's absence during all of it. Apparently, Cheney has been off humping for campaign cash and employing the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict in just the way Gingrich had been advocating. Indeed, Cheney is once again telling America that, as far as he's concerned, this is going to be one damn long war. And there is nothing anyone can do about it, so keep on voting Republican:
Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday pointed to the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah as fresh evidence of the ongoing battle against terrorism that underscores the need to keep President Bush's Republican allies in control of Congress.

"This conflict is a long way from over," Cheney said at a fundraising appearance for a GOP congressional candidate. "It's going to be a battle that will last for a very long time. It is absolutely essential that we stay the course."
The GOP electoral strategy, writ large.

I would very much like to believe that the American public have grown tired of the endless fear-mongering of Republicans, but I am not at all sure that that has happened, despite the objectively worsening conditions in many regions of the globe. Five years of the Bush administration tossing kerosene on global hot spots is being used to reinforce GOP domestic campaign strategies; that they are the ones who must handle these dangerously aroused hot spots, ones either created or abetted by them. Certainly fear is easier to conjure when there is actual fighting going on somewhere, especially when it involves Israel and it's Arab and Persian foes. But the American public must wake up to the obvious fact that, under Bush and Cheney's tutelage, war has been foisted upon world at the behest of this adminstration. The attack on Iraq has done nothing but bring things to a boil, yet now we see the likes of Bill Kristol and other public, pro-war PNAC figures telling America that Iraq is not enough, that Iran now must yield to the military might of the United States and the demands of the Bush adminstration.

I've often wonder what the neo-cons would have done, what new campaign might have been launched against Tehran had the Iranians actually said, ok, we'll stop the nuclear enrichment. With the Israeli conflict pushing the escalation potential off the scale, and claims that Iran is ultimately responsible, it would seem that question has now been answered.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The future is now

The inimitable Tom Tomorrow nailed things pretty well three years ago.

(click for larger image)

It's Sharia Time

While the world sits back, content in allowing Israel to pound Lebanon for another week because, apparently, that is the agreed amount of time that the pounding should go on, news from elsewhere has scarcely populated the headlines. In no way, however, should that be an indication that things aren't spiralling out of control elsewhere in other of George Bush's experiments with "freedom land."

As the Taliban continues to reassert its de facto control of Afghanistan, word comes that installed President Hamid Karzai, in a complete reversal of the policy objectives of the Bush administration, is now asking the Afghan parliament to reinstate a former Taliban government bureau, the Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. In less florid terms, this department would essentially be religious police. Horror stories had emanted from Afghanistan about the Taliban's brutal treatment of women under Sharia: imprisonment, public beatings and, in some cases, executions for transgression of onerous Sharia laws restricting, indeed, banning the movement of unchaperoned women in public.
Under the Taliban, the virtue and vice department enforced restrictions on women and men through public beatings and imprisonment.

Its agents "beat women publicly for wearing socks that were not sufficiently opaque; showing their wrists, hands or ankles; and not being accompanied by a close male relative."
Education for woman was, of course, banned. Such medieval behaviour was hardly appreciated in much of the modern world and when Karzai came to power, the department was pitched. Karzai's government insists that the religious police will focus on drugs, alchohol and crime; violations of Islamic law, though they fail to explain why the current criminal justice system, such as it is, cannot address such violations.

Of course, such a claim appears at odds with the earlier attempted prosecution of Abdul Rahman, who had converted to Christianity while living and working abroad with an Christian humanitarian group. Thinking Afganistan would be great now that a supposedly moderate government was in place, Rahman returned only to be with chargeed with apostasy, a charge that carried the death penalty. International outrage forced Karzai to back off while external forces spirited Rahman out of the country.

Well, it appears that that incident was just a teaser. Now that fundamentalist "Northern Alliance" warlords pepper Karzai's government, religious crime-stoppers are expected to be back on the Sharia war path. Perhaps the effort is designed to fool the outside world into not noticing the moment when the Taliban are back in charge.

As bin Laden still wanders the hills there, somewhere, and the Taliban moves slowly back into a position of control, having just seized two towns recently, we are presented with the surreal slide back into the very kind of inquisitional society George Bush said he was delivering Aghans from. Now tell me, five years later, what was this all about again? All those billions, all those lives and what has resulted? Nothing. Another classic Republican performance for American taxpayers, brought to them by George W. Bush.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Ray of Pain

In March of 2005, the Bonehead Compendium brought to my attention the alarming fact that the Department of Defense was developing a "pain ray":
As a final item in our troop support round-up this week, the BHC thought we'd inform our readers of something positive in which the US military is engaged. Despite their seeming inability to treat their own soldiers properly, if there is one thing the military is good at, it is coming up with new and ever more ingenious was of killing and maiming people.

Yes, it seems that the US military is developing a "pain ray", otherwise describe as the Pulsed Energy Projectile (PEP) weapon. This marvelous device generates a burst of an highly charged plasma, which, on contact, generates a pulse of electromagnetic energy that should render any living thing incapacitated. As an added feature, it cause extreme pain as this EM pulse tortures every nerve in the body. Happily, the DoD can call this new weapon "non-lethal", though no one, of course, has any idea what the long term effects of such a weapon on the human nervous system could possibly be. Developers of the device likely describe this as "value-added."
Rather alarming, ideed.

Well, recent news informs us that the "pain ray" maybe very well be employed in Iraq right now, along with some other unpleasant weapons. Italian news service, Inchiesta has a fascinating report on the possible deployment of laser guns and microwave "pain ray" in Iraq.

If this was supposed to quell the the violence in that country, it doesn't seem to working. But it is having a marvelous effect on that "hearts and minds" plan.

* There is an Italian and English version of this report. Warning: you may not like what you see.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The meaning of life

A pain percolated in the right side of my head, just up and behind the ocular cavity. This gurgling discomfort developed shortly after watching Rick Santorum speak in the US Senate during floor debate on the stem cell research funding bill. As aggravating as watching or hearing Santorum say anything, growling head pain has not been a usual symptom and I am hoping that this was mere coincidence. If it is not, there currently remains the hopeful prospect that, by November, Santorum's political career will go swirling down the drain of electoral reprisal, sparing us all the ignominy and skull-wracking anguish of Santorum public policy statements.

Indeed, after the indiscriminate killing of what is now hundreds of Lebanese civilians by the Israeli Defense Force -- with US blessing -- and as Iraq becomes further mired in sectarian warfare, with reprisal massacres now a daily feature of the Middle East's "newest democracy," Rick Santorum stood on the floor of the US Senate and sincerely explained his position on the stem cell research funding bill. You see, it's all about saving lives:
This is an important moment for us in this country. This is about the value of human life....All I can suggest is, that every life, whether it's in a suspended state in an IVF clinic or they're standing on the floor of the United States Senate, attempting to protect those ... suspended lives, every life has meaning. Every life deserves protection under our Constitution.
As debatable as it may be, let us ignore the self-aggrandizing and gratuitous conceit evinced herein, that his life -- Rick Santorum's life -- is a life with meaning (frankly, I have my suspicions that, on the ladder of "meaning," frozen embroyos probably sit a rung or two higher than Santorum's ghastly presence on this earth, but no matter). Despite little evidence for an appreciation of the "value of human life" in the policies of the current administration and this Republican-led Congress, I still find it amazing that anyone in Congress can actually utter such specious bullshit, especially at the same time White House-sanctioned civilian slaughter is underway:
More civilians were killed in Israeli airstrikes today — at least 19,according to The Associated Press, while the BBC put the total at 40, and Reuters at 49. Israeli ground troops briefly crossed the Lebanese border and clashed with Hezbollah forces, news services said, while a cruise liner with 1,059 American fleeing the violence left Beirut to Cyprus.

Reuters reported that 12 Lebanese civilians, including several children, were killed and 30 people were wounded when Israeli jets bombed several houses in Srifa, a village in the country’s south. “There was a massacre in Srifa,’’ said Afif Najdi, the village’s mayor.

On Tuesday, 11 members of the Lebanese Army died when bombs hit their barracks east of Beirut, while in southern Lebanon, nine members of a single family were killed and four were wounded in an Israeli airstrike on their house in the village of Aitaroun, near the Israeli border.

Some 500,000 Lebanese have fled their homes to escape the violence.
And what is the Bush administration's position on this god-awful mayhem, where American forces are evacuating Americans while American bombs fall all around?
The outlines of an American-Israeli consensus began to emerge on Tuesday,in which Israel would continue to bombard Lebanon for another week or so...
Oh well, if it's only another week, hell, have at it.

Of course, Iraq was brought to us or, rather, we were brought to Iraqis, with promises of freedom, democracy, Burger King and all manner of marvelous western "philosophy" about free markets. What did Iraqis actually get?
In the last ten days, while the world has been absorbed by the war in Lebanon, sectarian massacres have started to take place on an almost daily basis leading observers to fear a level of killing approaching that of Rwanda immediately before the genocide of 1994. On one single spot on the west bank of the Tigris river in north Baghdad between 10 and 12 bodies have been drifting ashore every day.
But staying the course -- this course -- is Bush's only response and a Republican-led Congress, with Rick Santorum in the number 3 spot, is happy to allow this to continue (a few will, and undoubtedly already have, raised the "genetic" argument: it's those violent, swarthy desert folk. They just don't know a good thing when it's handed to them). When Rick Santorum said "every life has meaning," he didn't really say what that "meaning" actually is. With extant violence and death, sanctioned as it is by Congress, perhaps Santorum thinks that some meanings are simply to die young and horrribly in acts of civil war and state terrorism. Santorum should be made to clarify his remark about "meaning."

Of course, I'm joking about that. Santorum has no more ability to clarify what he means than we do. And we know exactly why Santorum has taken the position on stem cell funding that he has. It is the same reason the like-minded idiot in the Oval Office has vetoed the bill, a veto that the House has failed to override. Which means that the president and Republicans in Congress must really value life. Their political life that is, not anyone else's.

Hopefully, sense will prevail in November and voters -- huge numbers if they are to avoid another Diebold fiasco -- will repudiate this wretched band of self-interested na'er-do-wells who have managed to passively allow the wholesale slaughter now playing out across the Middle East while further rejecting the prospects of future medical research for the sake of playing to their base. I am not at all convinced that Republicans will loose either House right now but, at the very least, please Pennsylvania, get rid of Santorum. We could all use fewer headaches.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Embarrassinger and Embarrassinger

The headline at German's cheesy tabloid, Bild regarding Bush's latest international faux pas is simply great: Liebes-Attacke auf Merkel! Like Mars Attacks only a way creepier. Most people have at least seen the final image of Merkel throwing up her arms in obvious horror, but there is a prior series of images which are the stuff of textbook office sexual harrassment. Check it out:

First, the Nonchalant Approach.
Merkel, somewhat engaged, has caught something in her peripheral vision.
Oh, it's ... the boob.

Next up: The Lunge.
Merkel, caught unawares and still unsure of what is happening, partially turns for further investigation. Something untoward is clearly in the immediate offing, but there is too much to process and no clear exit strategy.

Unable yet to fully grasp what is happening, Merkel appears on the verge of wincing. Egads! What is the buffoon doing?!

The Wince.
No longer on the verge, Merkel is now wincing; the classic reaction to the uninvited fondler. The gut-churning realisation has finally struck. Merkel, appearing nauseated, issues a wince borne of unmitigated disgust and puzzled shock. How on earth did this wretched peasant get in here?!

Finally, The Reaction. Merkel appears to have just walked through a spider web and tries to cast off the foul matter. Notice Bush, who, for all intents and purposes, has the look of a frat boy whose panty-raid hijinks have gone completely awry.

Now, I have made some light of this disgraceful behaviour but it really is more stunning than funny. In fact, for the President of the United States to be acting like this is more than alarming. While the Middle East is ablaze, while Pakistan and India -- two countries to which Bush just promised shiploads of new weapons -- are entertaining frictions, while North Korea are shooting missiles into the air and Russia is testing new missiles, George Bush looks and acts as if he ought to have a propeller beeny on top his idiot head. Bush now has all the appearances of the drunk uncle most families would be ashamed to acknowledge and try to keep away from the children. What an utter embarrassment. And a deadly one at that. I've have never seen anyone more clearly out of his depth than this piker. I'd like to see Merkel sue his ass.

And how about that video of Bush munching away while Blair hung over top of him. Is this really how discussions are conducted between the United Kingdom and the United States about war in the Middle East? The leaders of the free world discussing the crisis in the Middle East and it looks like they're at the score table of a bowling alley, yakking about the last spare. Except that it is a special bowling alley: one that allows pink neckties.

Meanwhile, in between dangling pink neckties talks, Israel continues on its course of self-defense by routing out more suspect terrorists:

While George Bush might look like some cruel joke to critics, to others, he's just plain cruel. People are dying while he's busy copping a feel. Is any of this real?

Finally. An Answer

I have to post a quick citation to Simbaud's post at King of Zembla (via Crooks and Liars). It is a small piece of brilliance.

Hulk Stomp

It finally captures the essence of reason for what has been so far a mystery to most.

The plan

I've been wondering when news of this kind would pop up. Out of Covert History comes word of the existence of a DHS document that suddenly gives some more context to that $385 million Halliburton/KBR contract for a nation-wide network of detention centers.
DRO’s success as a core element of the immigration enforcement mission will be realized when the synchronization of its resources and infrastructure result in the immediate and effective removal of each removable alien. With this strategic plan,DRO strives toward that goal while ensuring that its services will be provided consistently and professionally. The result will be enhanced homeland security through the successful accomplishment of DRO’s mission.

Over the next ten years, through execution of this plan, DRO will build the capacity to remove all removable aliens. DRO’s short-term focus until that capacity is built will be on the identification, location, apprehension, processing, and removal of the criminal element of the illegal alien population.
Such soothing, bureacratic lingo: "removable aliens," indeed. And I am very confused about this endgame because I recall Bush having said rounding up 11 million immigrants and shipping them back home was "not realistic." There seems to some disagreement with the president's assessment within the Department of Homeland Security. They clearly think they can do it. And they have a plan.

Remember this?
Pacific News Service has just detailed a nation-wide network of detention camps, all to be built courtesy of a Homeland Security contract to none other than Halliburton subsidiary, Kellog, Brown and Root (KBR). For all intents and purposes, the plan looks to be the wet dream of Michelle Malkin.

The $385 million contract was awarded to KBR to provide "temporary detention and processing capabilities." Though the conditions of use appear to be open-ended, any such facilities that may come out of this effort could be used for "an emergency influx of immigrants," or other emergencies like "a natural disaster." For anyone familiar with how some of the Katrina victims were shunted off to FEMA razor-wire zones, chances are this is not a place anyone will want to be detained.
Like much of the post-911 Bush administration "planning," this is something that was in works back in 2002 or earlier, along with NSA warrantless wiretaps, phone monitoring, the invasion of Iraq, etc.. I think the DHS missed out on a golden opportunity here, though. The title of the document detailing this plan should clearly have been Endtimes.

War as a mill of irony

Surely there are many who must recognise the irony that the United States Marine Corps is leading an evacuation effort in Lebanon and trying to secure American citizens' safety, while US-made bombs rain down upon those same said American citizens (among many others, of course). Does it bother Canadians that US weaponry killed their compatriots? Maybe not. After all, it has happened before.

That, though, was what is pleasantly called "friendly fire." The American-made bombs dropping on Americans who have, on some level, bought and paid for those bombs, are not friendly so much as purely indiscriminate. Or maybe Israel has discovered a passle of home-grown American-haters. Could be. Why else would they be in Lebanon gettin' all friendly with those swarthy Middle Easterners?

Or maybe that just the price one pays for being "strong on national security," supporting the attendant weapons industry and shipping armaments around the world. Eventually, they come back to bite you on the ass -- or blow off a leg -- one way or another.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Hot hot heat

Olbermann had a blurb on tonight that I found astounding. All but one of the 48 contiguous states saw temperatures in the '90s today. This heat index map is of the current time (10pm EDT), which is why the east coast is "cooler" than the west. Stay tuned for more tomorrow.

But wait, global warming naysayers tell us that even if global warming is happening, it's all good. Things getting warming will only help us by keeping down our heating bills. Things will grow, grow, grow! They say this apparently oblivious to the fact that the air conditioning bills will be equally impossible, brownouts inevitable, death likely. And, of course, drought is never considered either in the global warming is actually a good thing argument. Hey, they have said, who doesn't like it warm instead of cold? Well, quite a lot of things, actually. But not cold-blooded, pro-global-warming dolts (usually Republicans), who apparently are relishing the idea of being able to warm themselves on the top-side of a rock or a sidewalk.

And tell that to the 3 year old who died today.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Defending the Indefensible

This Bush's idea of Israel "defending" itself.

Cajones in Mexico

Would it were that Americans could stand up to their befouled electoral system the way Mexicans obviously can:
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The leftist candidate claiming fraud in Mexico's presidential election two weeks ago led tens of thousands of supporters through the capital on Sunday to pressure a court to order a recount.
Now, AP is reporting not tens, but hundreds of thousands:
Claiming fraud robbed him of the presidency, leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador led hundreds of thousands of marchers through Mexico's capital Sunday, demanding a full recount in the disputed election apparently won by his conservative opponent.

Where the killing is easy

via Kel at The Osterley Times comes a detailed report at The Observer about an incident I briefly mentioned yesterday:
Israel steeply escalated its military campaign against Hizbollah in Lebanon yesterday with a series of air strikes that left more than 35 civilians dead, including a single strike on a convoy of families fleeing the fighting in a village near Tyre in the south of the country that killed more than 20 people, most of them children.
As more details have emerged, it became clear that this refugee convoy was actually heeding IDF advice to evacuate before soon-to-be-launched attacks ensued.
According to witnesses and photographs from the scene of the worst incident, an Israeli missile incinerated a car and a small truck full of families leaving their Lebanese border village of Marwaheen near Tyre after the Israeli army used loudhailers to tell residents they had just hours to go. Pictures showed charred bodies of children strewn across the road.
How's that for efficiency. No need mucking about blowing up people one at a time; tell them to leave, have them gather themselves into a tight group and then attack them with one fell missile. Further details inform us that this attack was not the result of some far-off missile launch but, in fact, the direct action by an IDF gunship:
Eighteen civilians, including nine children, were burnt alive when missiles from an Israeli helicopter gunship slammed into a convoy of residents fleeing border villages in south Lebanon....
This is just some of the action the liberal New York Times called "morally justified."

Predictably, Hezbollah ratched up their rocket launches and Haifa has now suffered civilian casualties when a rocket hit a government rail yard. Meanwhile, Israeli attacks on Beirut, Tripoli and elsewhere, continue to intensify and George Bush demanded that Syria tell Hezbollah to stop their retaliatory attacks, since Israel is simply a reactive, thoughtless entity, which only reacts -- violently -- to external stimuli. George Bush doesn't seem to realise that the Israeli offensive began as the result of a kidnapping, the Hezbollah rocket attacks only coming after the Israeli shelling, bombing and air strikes. Since the Hezbollah attacks did not incite the Israelis initially, ceasing them won't stop Israeli actions at all. I think it might actually be better if Bush just kept stuffing his face with butterball biscuits.

This just in: Israeli airstrikes have just killed eight Canadians in southern Lebanon, which is either collateral damage or part of Israel's larger operation to simply defend itself.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Bad Times Had by All

[Ed. These images are side by side. widen your browser window for the full and glorious effect. Whatever that was, it blowed up real gud.]

One needn't hunt around too much to see the glee with which US media oulets view the latest insane escalation of violence in the Middle East. And while these two admitted rags are thrilled with the sight of explosions, especially when those bombs are reigning down on Lebanese, Palastinians and other swarthy Arabs, the horror show is clearly enjoyed by the likes of CNN, which last night broadcast continuous coverage of the naked and outsized Israeli aggression and had all the appearances of the latest blockbuster Hollywood offering: sure to be this summer's big hit!

Far from needing to offer an opinion about the obvious and outrageously asymmetrical response of Israel to the second kidnapping of Israeli troops (there are already plenty of those abounding), objectively, actions in the Middle East now appear to be verging on complete madness. But US media coverage once again sides with Israel, pronouncing that country's action as entirely justified. The world sat back and watched as Israel stormed through Gaza, punishing the Palestinian civilian population with any number of violations of international law and treaty, but now that Israel is bombing civilians of a sovereign nation in retaliation for the pissant behaviour of Hezbollah, the handwringing in American mainstream media has been amped up considerably. It needs to be, otherwise America's Middle East love child might come out looking rather shameful in all of this. Hezbollah's and Hamas' actions were designed to provoke exactly the kind of excessive response that Israel unleashed, something that Israel probably understood but chose untempered retaliation anyway.

While CNN was having a grand time last night with all of this, the frenzy really kicked in when Hezbollah leaders cooperatively declared that Israel's attack now meant "open war." There, on the screen, was the bold declaration "Hezbollah vows 'Open War.' " Paradoxically, this simple graphic overlayed scenes of Israeli forces bombing and blowing up various "targets" in Beirut and elsewhere. War had clearly been declared and launched but the juxtaposition of the words of Hezbollah over top the actions of Israel seemed clearly designed to do at least one or, possibly, two things: confuse the viewer about what those explosions were and who was causing them and create an impression that Hezbollah's "war" would look like what the Israelis were already in the process of actually doing.

But today's New York Times offered an excellent example of a far more subtle American media bias regarding Israel. When you're the self-proclaimed "paper of record," sometimes subtlety is a must, at least as regards the news articles. Concurrent with this effort, we continue to be treated to further coddling of the president as the US media downplays Bush's disgraceful lack of engagement in this issue, as though his joksy, folksy European vacation is just what the US president should be doing while the Middle East hovers on the brink of all out war. Indeed, Bush appears utterly removed from world affairs at the moment, a bit player still confined to the task of appeasing his Christian fundamentalist base with threats of a veto on the potential passage of a stem cell funding bill. Irrelevancy, thy name is Bush.

But let's take a stroll through the NY Times and see what passes for "objective" coverage on the subject of Israel's tortured relationship with its Arab neighbours. It should be noted up front that readers will not gain much, if any, understanding of the situation there but that is not what the NYT is trying to impart. In fact, the biggest stories today read like a simple litany of events: this was blown up, that went kaboom! Bombs fell here, there and everywhere. Oh, and dozens of Lebanese civilian refugees were killed but we'll skip quickly past that.

What is presented in the NY Times is a far more subtle bias than that which is proudly displayed by the New York Post and the Daily News. At least those cage liners are honest about their positions, which is more than can be said for the Times.

Observe, for instance, a story on page A7 that informs readers of one of the terrible collateral effects of the violence, attending the overall theme of the day that this is all Hezbollah's fault:
2 More Israelis Are Killed as Rain of Rockets From Lebanon Pushes Thousands South
The lede continues the dispiriting news:
More than 100 rockets rained down on northern Israel on Friday in a third straight day of attacks....
The effect of this, or at least its intended effect, should be obvious: not just 2 but 2 more Israeli citizens are dead. Not until the last sentence of the story does a reader learn that a total of 4 Israeli civilians have been killed since Israel began its bombing campaign and Hezbollah responded, but the inference a reader is to draw from this is that there must be lots of Israeli dead; those vile Muslims are raining death upon innocent Israelis. While technically true, the article's apparent implication that this is something that has happened without a larger context is a striking example of bias through omission, the purpose of which is to inititate a reaction of shock and misery. There certainly is no mention of the horror raining down upon Lebanese civilians, 60 or more of whom have been killed with hundreds now wounded. A reader is biased against Lebanon before the story even begins. No article appears with an in-kind headline for Lebanese victims of Israeli bombing and shelling. None.

But the blame game is most overtly layed out by the Times' lead editorial, which begins:
With the circle of violence in the Middle East expanding alarmingly, it is important to be clear about not only who is responsible for the latest outbreak, but who stands to gain most from its continued escalation.

Both questions have the same answer: Hamas and Hezbollah. And Israel needs to be careful that its far-reaching military responses, however legally and morally justified, do not end up advancing the political agenda that Hamas and Hezbollah hard-liners had in mind when they conceived and executed the kidnappings of Israeli soldiers that detonated the fighting.
I might more expect this sort of drivel from Bill O'Reilly and it seems a stretch, by any measure, to claim that dozens of dead civilians and attacks on civilian infrastructure -- violations of international law -- are "morally" justified for the kidnapping of two soldiers. And the Times is quite wrong here: this action by Israel is most assuredly not legal.

Furthermore, this statement clearly ignores the decades of conflict and illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and further disregards Israel's previous violations of international law and past incursions into Lebanon, including orchestrating the of shameful slaughter of hundreds of Palestinian refugees at Sabra and Shatila. This region of the globe, comprising Israel, the Occupied Territories, Lebanon, Syria and, hovering in the background fueling the tinderbox with more arms, Iran and the United States, has been intwined in conflict for decades and each party and their proxies have promoted violence as a first response to any and every slight. But to Times editors, no such context exists; there is only the here and now. This willfully myopic perspective permits Times editors the simple idiot's luxury of pronouncing that the current trouble is all Hamas' and Hezbollah's fault.

One rather astonishing feature of the Times' reporting and, indeed, most discussions of this current dilemma, is the passive role assigned Israel. In much of the media and in White House discussions of behaviour, the onus is all on Hezbollah, as though Israel's actions are those of some inanimate object thoughtlessly reacting as if guiding by the natural laws of physics. Take, for example, this small snippet, a warning from the Pentagon that sounds like a weather alert:
a senior Pentagon source warned that should the Arab world and international community fail in the efforts to convince Syria to pressure Hizbullah into releasing the soldiers and halt the current escalation Israel may attack targets in the country.
Arabs, a twister's coming. Better wise up because there's nothing anyone can do.

But perhaps most telling of all is that the Times now find themselves in frightening ideological proximity to that most simple of world leaders, George Bush, who managed to find some time between pork roasts to let the world in on his understanding of the problem with the Middle East:
In my judgment, the best way to stop the violence is to understand why the violence occurred in the first place. And that’s because Hezbollah has been launching rocket attacks out of Lebanon into Israel, and because Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers. That’s why we have violence.
Ignoring the laughable notion that George Bush actually has an "understanding" of the situation, which he clearly does not, the parallel positions of the White House and the NY Times are hardly even faintly dissimilar: See? Who said this whole thing was complicated? In the Middle East seen by Bush and NY Times editors, there are no decades of strife, no violations of international law, no violations of UN resolutions, no illegal settlements, no occupation, no thousands of Palestinian dead. It's all Hezbollah's fault. Simple.

Like Bush's clueless disregard for the horrible history of the region, The Times' position is, ultimately, shabby and simpleminded and one that is a disgrace for a newspaper that thinks itself the "paper of record."*

* For a thorough and scathing review of the New York Times editorial history and its blatant diregard of international law and by corollary, the US Constitution, I highly recommend Friel and Falk's, The Record of the Paper.