Media Revolution

Monday, August 02, 2004

Friday, July 16, 2004

Thursday, July 15, 2004


Flaws Cited in Powell's U.N. Speech on Iraq
State Department analysts saw errors in early drafts, prompting revisions, report says.


Wednesday, June 09, 2004


How to Justify Torture? Say that the President is a dictator and that his word is law. From the recently leaked memo (warning: 49 page PDF):

In order to respect the President's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign, 18 U.S.C. $ 2340A (the prohibition against torture) must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his Commander-in-Chief authority. Congress lacks authority under Article I to set the terms and conditions under which the President may exercise his authority as Commander-in-Chief to control the conduct of operations durning a war. The President's power to detain and interrogate enemy combatants arises out of his constitutional authorities as Commander-in-Chief. A construction of Section 2340A that applied the provision to regulate the President's authority as Commander-in-Chief to determine the interrogation and treatment of enemy combatants would raise serious constitutional questions. Congress may no more regulate the President's ability to detain and interrogate enemy combatants than it may regulate his ability to direct troop movements on the battlefield. Accordingly, we would construe Section 2340A to avoid this constitutional difficulty, and conclude that it does not apply to the President's detention and interrogation of enemy combatants pursuant to his Commander-in-Chief authority.

This logic is beyond strained. First of all, there is no war going on because Congress never declared one. This raises "serious constitutional questions" going the other way: it appears the president has usurped constitutional authority belonging to Congress. But even with a war on, it's an extreme interpretation to say that the conduct of the war is beyond any checks and balances at all.

The administration does backflips to justify its actions. Here, of course, there is a war on, so he's commander-in-chief, so what he says goes. But al-Qaeda soldiers aren't subject to the Geneva Convention, because that's signed between states and they aren't a state. The Dept. of Justice says that the Convention does apply in the conflict with the Taliban, except that it doesn't really, because Taliban detainees aren't really prisoners of war. There's no war on (see p. 3 of this memo). Also, this document, according to the WSJ (I haven't read the whole thing), says that the Guantanamo Bay facility is US territory. But elsewhere, the Bush administration says that the prisoners there don't have some rights specifically because GitMo isn't US territory.

Anyway, John Marshall points out the most important part of this memo:

MEMO: To protect subordinates should they be charged with torture, the memo advised that Mr. Bush issue a "presidential directive or other writing" that could serve as evidence, since authority to set aside the laws is "inherent in the president."

John Marshall: So the right to set aside law is "inherent in the president". That claim alone should stop everyone in their tracks and prompt a serious consideration of the safety of the American republic under this president. It is the very definition of a constitutional monarchy...



Post 9/11 airlift of Saudis before rest of nation's airtraffic resumed
For three years, the White House, the FBI, and the FAA all insisted: this flight never took place. Oh, wait, it DID take place.


Friday, May 21, 2004

Thursday, April 22, 2004


TomPaine.com: The Fallujah Alamo

"We have the potential to turn this into the Alamo if we get it wrong." Those prophetic words were spoken by a senior U.S. military officer to a reporter for The New York Times. He's right. It's a potential turning point in the entire U.S. war in Iraq. If the United States goes full-force into Fallujah, it will be a Pyrrhic victory: from the ruins of that city, hatred of America will rise all over Iraq. (If the United States attacks Najaf, where Muqtada al-Sadr is holed up, it's curtains for the occupation.)


NOTE: In a "memory hole" type of maneuver, it seems that the NYT editors have removed that quote from the story.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Wednesday, March 31, 2004


We were on hair trigger for attacking Iraq weeks after George Bush came to office

War Launched to Protect Israel - Bush Adviser

”Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us? I'll tell you what I think the real threat (is) and actually has been since 1990 -- it's the threat against Israel,” Zelikow told a crowd at the University of Virginia on Sep. 10, 2002, speaking on a panel of foreign policy experts assessing the impact of 9/11 and the future of the war on the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation.
This was said by Philip Zelikow, executive director of the 9/11 commission! Statement was made 9/10/2002.


Tuesday, March 30, 2004


Death by Medicine

Peer-reviewed research has shown that 100,000 Americans die each year from adverse prescription drug reactions. An equal amount die from medical errors. In the past three years, the number of Americans who died from these two causes outnumbers deaths from terrorism by about 200 to 1. Why aren't we concerned about this? Why is their no presidential commission interviewing people in congress about this?

This issue is compounded by the fact that more and more research is funded by industry these days and less is supported independent government funding. Industry funded research is much more likely to reach favorable conclusions about a particular drug than non-industry research. The FDA doesn't do it's own research, it depends upon other published work, so as the industry co-ops the scientific community, we're actually seeing drugs on the market that have been promoted instead of tested.

The link above is pro "natural" supplements, which I'm not. But this is an exhaustively researched document: check the citations.

82nd Airborne vs. An Elderly Couple: A Case Study of Excessive Force

This guy claims that the petrochemical industry and William Hearst were involved achieving the ban on marijuana, because they wanted to quash competition from industrial hemp paper and other products.

Monday, March 29, 2004


Iraqi defector behind America's WMD claims exposed as 'out-and-out fabricator'


The case for war against Iraq was dealt another embarrassing blow yesterday due to claims by an American newspaper that the first-hand intelligence source on Saddam Hussein's alleged mobile bioweapons labs was a politically motivated Iraqi defector now dismissed as an "out-and-out fabricator".

The mobile labs, since exposed by weapons inspectors as hydrogen production facilities at best and phantoms at worst, were one of the centrepieces of the US Secretary of State Colin Powell's prewar address to the United Nations. As recently as January, Vice President Dick Cheney maintained that discovery of the labs would provide "conclusive" proof that Iraq possessed WMD.

A detailed investigation in the Los Angeles Timesrevealed that the source claiming to have seen mobile bioweapons labs was the brother of one of the senior aides to Ahmed Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress, who recently boasted how the erroneous information provided by his group achieved his long-cherished goal of toppling Saddam.

The source, given the unintentionally appropriate code name Curveball, was an asset of German intelligence and was never directly interviewed by US officials. The Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency do not even know exactly who he is, the LA Times reported.

David Kay, the postwar weapons inspector whose declaration in January that Iraq had no WMD initiated a series of hammer-blows to the credibility of the Bush administration and the British government, described Mr Powell's use of Curveball's information before the UN as "disingenuous".

He told the LA Times: "If Powell had said to the Security Council: 'It's one source, we never actually talked to him, and we don't know his name', I think people would have laughed us out of court."

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Friday, March 12, 2004


Bush Admin Lied over Medicare Costs and Intimidated Government Expert

The government's top expert on Medicare costs was warned that he would be fired if he told key lawmakers about a series of Bush administration cost estimates that could have torpedoed congressional passage of the White House-backed Medicare prescription-drug plan.

[...]

Withholding the higher cost projections was important because the White House was facing a revolt from 13 conservative House Republicans who'd vowed to vote against the Medicare drug bill if it cost more than $400 billion.

[...]

Richard S. Foster, the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which produced the $551 billion estimate, told colleagues last June that he would be fired if he revealed numbers relating to the higher estimate to lawmakers.

"This whole episode which has now gone on for three weeks has been pretty nightmarish," Foster wrote in an e-mail to some of his colleagues June 26, just before the first congressional vote on the drug bill. "I'm perhaps no longer in grave danger of being fired, but there remains a strong likelihood that I will have to resign in protest of the withholding of important technical information from key policy makers for political reasons."

Tuesday, March 09, 2004


The Electoral College Horse Race
National polls are quick and dirty, and don't capture the wierd math of the Electoral College. This guy is trying to deal with that. You can argue with his methodology, but I think it is at least a good adjunct to national polls, and probably is better.

A related note: polls of likely voters are better than polls of registered voters are better than straight polls of the populace. I wonder whether this dude uses the former or not.

Anyway, as this post ages, these electoral college posts might get lost down the page of his diary as he writes on other topics. So here's a link to the most current post as of this time, for posterity's sake.


Tuesday, March 02, 2004


Venezuela


I just feel compelled to show this picture of a massive pro-Chavez demonstration that happened in Caracas on Sunday. Wow.

Like the situation in Haiti, the Venezuelan mess is complex.

The sides are, however, bluntly discernable. Most people who talk about it are strongly partisan, speaking with almost cold-war rhetoric ("They're evil autocratic socialists!" or "They're evil corporate, capitalist imperialists!")

There was long a piece about Chavez in the Sept 10 2001 New Yorker that showed him to be a complex and imperfect man who truly cared about the people. His vision is greater than his reforms and he alienated the business community rather than trying to work with them.

I side with the Chavez supporters, but not blindly or idealistically.

The US media is clearly biased against him. Check out this rebuttle of many of the 25 editorials the Washington Post has written about Venezuela since 1999, which are strongly titled against Chavez. I found it quite eye-opening. I only buy into about 70% of the examples (I do for example think that Chavez' party has consolidated power to an extent that makes me uncomfortable, although the constitution was changed by a congress that was fairly elected according to monitors, this piece says). But while this rebuttle must be read as an unabashedly partisan document, it is also thorough and shows the Post editorial board contradicting it's papers own news articles, repeatedly making unsubstantiated and inaccurate claims, and sometimes out and out lying. This piece makes lot of the standard charges against Chavez look questionable, and sometimes baseless. Importantly, there's no grounds to say that Chavez has killed the Venezuelan economy. The most damaging thing to the economy in the past years is when Chavez' business opponenents organized strikes and lock-outs to shut-down the oil industry.

As far as the current referendum controversy goes, I'm not taking sides. I think both Chavez and the opposition are playing politics and it reminds me of Florida chad. In my opinion, there probably was a lot of fraud in obtaining the signatures, but is it enough to discount 1 million out of 2.4 million (the totals are something like that)? Shouldn't the opposition be given more than *five days* to have citizens revalidate their signatures. (This is a little bit less crazy than it sounds, because printouts of the rolls are being provided locally... the manpower is supposedly there). And I don't know how well to trust the voting commission.

But on the subject of US intervention, it's documented that the United States has, in the name of "democracy", funded organizations working to oust Chavez. These include an organization involved in obtaining the signatures to remove Chavez, and some of the organizers of the oil shutdown in 2002.


MORE INFO:

Left-leaning coverage
vheadline.com
www.venezuelanalysis.com

For an "opposition" viewpoint which is at least a little bit nuanced, check out caracaschronicles.blogspot.com. It is written by a former New York Times contributer who left the paper after his partisan blog was outed and who said he couldn't be unbiased when his country was in such turmoil.

STUFF I'VE WRITTEN OR BLOGGED ABOUT BEFORE:

Oil Strike that wasn't a strike:
Media Revolution Article
Weisbrot Article

Shoddy Media Coverage of Venezuela:
Brad Carlton articles

Wednesday, February 25, 2004


US military to be in Iraq for "the next few decades"


Retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, the former interim administrator of post-conflict reconstruction efforts in Iraq, said Thursday that a U.S. military presence in Iraq should be in Iraq for "the next few decades"...


Could this be why we're revamping the Draft Board?

(Kudos to Bob Harris for bringing this up.)

Saudi Oil May Soon Decline, Causing Trouble

Saudi Aramco says its dominance in world oil markets will grow because, "if required," it can expand its capacity to 12 million barrels a day or more by "making necessary investments," according to written responses to questions submitted by The New York Times.

But some experts are skeptical. Edward O. Price Jr., a former top Saudi Aramco and Chevron executive and a leading United States government adviser, says he believes that Saudi Arabia can pump up to 12 million barrels a day "for a few years." But "the world should not expect more from the Saudis," he said. He expects global oil markets to be in short supply by 2015.


Wednesday, February 18, 2004


ITEM 1) What Really Happened To Bush in 1972?


For example, what if, rather than being grounded for missing a physical as the terse report we have all seen suggests, George W. was grounded for some other reason, such as an arrest? It would not be unusual for a guardsman to be suspended for being arrested, especially for certain types of offenses. It would also not be terribly unusual for the son of a prominent politician who was grounded verbally for being arrested to be afforded the courtesy of having his record reflect only the somewhat less embarrassing fact that he failed to take a required physical examination.

What if, then, George H. W. Bush used his political clout to convince Dubya's judge that instead of jail time, Little George should be enrolled in a community service program? What if Bush I, seeing the conflict this substantial time commitment would have on Dubya's ability to complete his Guard requirements, saw to it that in addition to being absolved of criminal wrongdoing, Bush II's service would count toward his TANG commitment as well?

And, just for fun, let's imagine what would happen to our picture of this flawed but fundamentally honest man if we found out that Bush had sent his campaign people to Texas in the late 90's to destroy any records that might prove this story to be accurate. How do you think that would go over with the Wyoming, Colorado and Montana families who comprise Dubya's most ardent base?

Soon, and very soon, we'll be able to stop wondering, because the foregoing description isn't hypothetical at all. It's exactly what happened. Three different sources told James Hatfield in 1998 that Dubya was arrested for cocaine possession in 1972. Dubya's 1972 stint at the community service organization, Project PULL, is still advertised in the President's bio on the State Department website in what I can only imagine is a gross oversight by the White House Truth Department.

The reason Bush got retirement credit and pay for service in 1972 despite the fact that his superiors on the military bases to which he was assigned never saw him is because he was not training at an Air Force Base but spending time in a community center with underprivileged children, working off his coke arrrest. And the story of Bill Beckett, who saw the trashed remains of Lieutenant Bush's service record in a military trash can, confirms the purge was the work of Bush staffers, working with the complicity of high-ranking Guard officers.


ITEM 2) About that Community Service?
Very relevant to the above scenario. Whitehouse Press Secretary is repeatedly asked whether President Bush did community service during the time he was supposed to be in the National Guard. And he repeatedly dodges the question with those ridiculous dances that White House Press Secretaries do.



A few days old: J. Edgar Hoover's exhumation cancelled...for now. The troubling subpoenas of Drake University's students and the subpoena of records from the University regarding a peace forum have been cancelled because of protest.


Monday, February 09, 2004

Tuesday, February 03, 2004


Finally,
The mainstream press is looking into George aWol Bush's military service without sneering.

and

Bush Approval ratings hit a new low.

Discussion about how this could be a paradigm shift (one, two).


Friday, January 30, 2004


The Administration Hasn't Been Cleared on WMD


I think it's a joke to say that the Bush administration didn't manipulate the information about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. You have Powell saying Saddam "has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction" in a speech in February 2001. Two months later, Condi Rice said of Saddam, "We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt." But boy did they change their tune less than a year later. If you want more, check out the testimony of Scott Ridder, the former UN chief weapons inspector in Iraq, although the above two statements give lie to the notion that everyone, all along, thought that there were huge WMD stockpiles in Iraq.

Certain members of the CIA have taken the rap for the Bush Administration. In press statements, Kay sucked up to Bush while the search was in process, and he is transferring blame to the CIA now. Tenet took the blame for the "16 words" about Iraq's nuclear program in Bush's state of the union speech last year, but if you looked into it, it was clearly bullshit. The administration had been informed that the Niger story was bogus back in October of 2002. They had been told by the CIA -- by Tenet, even--to take it out of a different speech. When Condi was asked on TV why the claim was still in the state of the union, she said that everyone forgot. She said, "We are trying to put now in place methods so you don?t have to be dependent on people?s memories for something like that."

We forgot? You don't "forget" about things like that. I love Tom Tomorrow's comeback on that one:

Gosh, I guess we all forget things from time to time. What we had for dinner last night, or whether a key piece of evidence supporting a planned unilateral invasion is credible or not. Things like that. At least they're working on methods to supplement fallible human memory. And Condi, if you're reading this, might I suggest Post-It notes? You can just scribble a quick note to yourself -- yellowcake uranium story utterly fictional, say -- and stick it on your computer monitor, so that when you get to work on that State of the Union address, you and everyone else who vets the SOTU speech in the entire goddamned White House don't "forget" anything.

Another thing... Don't forget the report in the New Yorker that "some senior Administration people [including VP Cheney], soon after coming to power, had bypassed the government?s customary procedures for vetting intelligence." Normally, the CIA processes raw intelligence to corroborate it and make sure it isn't frivolous noise. But Cheney wanted to make sure they didn't miss any dirt to support their desired actions, and he latched on a vague suggestion of an Iraq / Niger link regarding uranium that CIA consultants said lacked credibility.

I'm not disagreeing with the statement that there are problems with the CIA's set-up... both with their setup (too much reliance on satellites and not enough people on the ground) and with constraints against voicing opposing viewpoints. But it that's not grounds for saying that the Bush administration isn't at fault. They spun the information so hard that it broke. As Kenneth Pollack, who made the case for invading Iraq in his book The Threatening Storm, now says

The intelligence community did overestimate the scope and progress of Iraq's WMD programs, although not to the extent that many people believe. The Administration stretched those estimates to make a case not only for going to war but for doing so at once, rather than taking the time to build regional and international support for military action.

On the other side of the Atlantic, you have the Hutton report exonerating the Blair administration from naughtiness in exaggerating the WMD threat and in leaking the identity of David Kelly, the source of the BBC story who later appeared dead in the woods near his house. I was seething when I heard Blair on the radio yesterday saying "we never leaked Kelly's identity." Yet when the controversy was in full steam, you had a reporter saying that it was easy to figure out Kelly's identity with a little poking about on the Web. The government had leaked enough information so that he was clearly identifiable, and when the reporter narrowed it down to two names, they confirmed which one it was. To say that they didn't leak his identity is like quibbling over the definition of "leak".

Furthermore, in reading some of the testimony from the Hutton hearings, it's not justifiable to say that they didn't exaggerate the WMD threats. The whole 45 minute claim was basically out of nowhere and even that nowhere source was exaggerated. It was only Hutton who exonerated Blair. When Hutton was appointed (by Blair) he was identified as having a distinguished career, but was also called "a pair of safe hands", according to an interviewee on NPR yesterday.

Finally, there are still the other reported complaints from intelligence agents that they felt pressured to come up with specific findings. That is what this whole Wilson/Plame case was about. The media always says that it was to punish Wilson for going against the president. But I've only heard one person say what I also think is the real reason: it was to give a signal to other intelligence officers what the price could be for speaking out.

If you don't think this administration pressures people and manipulates information and intelligence for its own purpose, just look at what's happening in the EPA. When it came time to publish a State of the Environment report, they clashed with the administration over the environment. An internal memo was leaked from this period of negotiations in which it was stated that they could not comply with the White House and still publish a credible report on climate change. So they just purged that section from the report completely. At the same time that the Bushies claim there is no greenhouse effect, you have the Pentagon actively strategizing for the changes that may come. As far as the EPA goes, I've read headlines now saying that the administration is trying to change the scientific research process to make the results more controllable.


UPDATE: See this compendium of evidence that the Bush Administration "repeatedly and deliberately refused to listen to intelligence agencies that said its case for war was weak," put together by the Center for American Progress. Also see this Krugman Op-Ed; he also says the Plame leak was partially to intimidate other intel officers from speaking out against the administration.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004


Current Status of Media Consolidation Fight


Here's the dope on where the current Media Consolidation fight stands, last I looked:

(1) The FCC passed a suite of rule changes last June 2 which would allow lots more media consolidation on the local and national levels (one corporation could own (from memory) 3 TV stations, 8 radio stations, the newspaper, and the cable system in one city.

(2) The implementation of these rule changes have been put on hold by an injunction pending a legal challenge. This challenge, brought by the Media Access Project and the Prometheus Radio Project will be heard soon.

(3) There have been a number of efforts in the House and Senate to reverse these rule changes, most of them piecemeal. The opposition to the rule changes has been mostly Democrat, but some Republicans have been vigorous, too (including Trent Lott).

The best effort to support, I think, is a Resolution of Disapproval which would cancel all the rule changes. It passed in the Senate through through a special process which bypassed committee. In the House, it's being held indefinitely by Speaker Hastert even though 205 Reps signed a letter demanding it be brought to the floor. They could force the bill to the floor if 211 Reps supported a measure to(some who signed the letter may not want to do this).

At the Nat'l Conference on Media Reform in November, I spoke to NY Rep. Hinchey. He said he and others would be pushing to force their bill to the floor at the begining of this year. I don't see any mention of it on his website, but I know it hasn't been dropped. WHEN IT GETS CIRCULATED, IT IS THIS EFFORT MUST GET PUBLIC SUPPORT. SOME REPRESENTATIVES WILL NEED PURSUADING. I just emailed Hinchey's office to find out about the status of this bill.

(4) Meanwhile, CBS-Viacom is giving favors to Bush to defeat these rollback efforts. With blatant horse-trading, they cancelled the Reagans and are blocking MoveOn's ad in the Super Bowl. In return, the Omnibus Spending Bill a week ago included a custom rider to allow companies own stations reaching 39% of the market (Fox and I think CBS were already over the old limit).

The power that these corporations wield is stunning. They've got their propaganda and distractions bombarding us at an incredible rate. To think that the airwaves are technically public property...

Always a good place to go on this issue: http://www.mediareform.net


The Political Opinion Complex: Effective of Media Coverage on Democratic Candidate Rankings


Tuesday, January 27, 2004


Three Doctors Dispute How David Kelly Died

David Kelly was at the center of a power struggle between Tony Blair's administration and the BBC, because he was the source of a story which claimed that a WMD report had been "sexed up". In the middle of the controversy, Kelly was found dead near his house. The cause of death was ruled to be a suicide -- a slit wrist.

An inquiry into the circumstances around David Kelly's death ("The Hutton Inquiry") unearthed some dirt on the Blair administration regarding WMD claims. Lord Hutton's final report is due tomorrow.

But today, as London's Evening Standard reports, "Three senior specialists said they could not accept the evidence of how Dr Kelly died presented to the Hutton Inquiry." In a letter to The Guardian, they say that it is "highly improbable" that Kelly died from the wound in his left wrist. The cut would have caused blood loss of about a pint, and a loss of about three liters is necessary for death.


Wednesday, January 21, 2004


Ex-CIA Aides Press Congress for Independent Investigation of Plame Leak

Interesting. By the way, I'm tired of stuff like this:

The officials who identified Ms. Plame as a C.I.A. officer to Mr. Novak were apparently trying to cast doubt on the credibility of Mr. Wilson, who emerged as a prominent critic of the administration after being enlisted by the C.I.A. to investigate a claim related to Iraq's reported nuclear weapons program.

It wasn't so much about casting doubt on Wilson or even about punishing him. It was to make an example of him to other Intel agents who might want to challenge the president.


Omnibus Spending Bill Riders
There's a big spending with seven riders stuck into it that will probably pass tomorrow. Dems and some Repubs have been fighting it but appear ready to give up. NPR is the only source I've found that details the riders. A story was on All Things Considered this evening and I've put their blurb here and then summarized the riders below. (Link -- scroll down to "Congress Returns to Face Big Budget Issues" for the audio for this story.)

Congress returns from its holiday recess this week to face budget issues that were unresolved at the end of 2003. The Senate has yet to approve an immense omnibus spending bill that provides funding for most of the government's operations. It also includes many provisions that had been rejected when considered separately.

The Riders:

** Undo Congressional Block of New Rules on Overtime and denying overtime pay rights to 8 million

** Kill Congressional moves in both houses to block greater media consolidation (just the national tv cap).

** Fund $11 billion in projects for specific states that the congress never authorized. (McCain said it's plain that the New Years parties haven't ended in Congress.)

** Block a bill aleady passed in Congress to label meat's country of origin (In spite of Mad Cow disease).

** Require FBI to destroy documents on gun background checks within 24 hours rather than the current 90 days.


Tuesday, January 20, 2004


Vast Conservative Conspiracy
I was reading an article in In These Times about the origins of the Right Wing movement to control the very underpinings of society's "common sense" by setting up think tanks and disseminating "received wisdom" to journalists, academics, and the rest. This article is an update.

George W. Bush, with the help of his advisor, Karl Rove has mastered the art of portraying himself as a man of great principle, integrity, honesty, caring, compassion, and character.

[...]

[Conservatives] have 1,500 conservative radio talk show hosts. They have a huge, very good operation, and they understand their own moral system. They understand what unites conservatives, and they understand how to talk about it, and they are constantly updating their research on how best to express their ideas.

[...]

[T]hey build infrastructure, they build TV studios, hire intellectuals, set aside money to buy a lot of books to get them on the best-seller lists, hire research assistants for their intellectuals so they do well on TV, and hire agents to put them on TV.


Somebody predicted Kerry's win in Iowa

Friday, January 16, 2004


Interesting Atrios post about the Dollar
And the fact that it's been propped up by Japan and China, who have amassed huge stores of our currency so that their exports to us stay cheap. The question: will this last? Japan appears to be running on a treadmill, buying dollars and more dollars.


They're Killing the Hubble Telescope!
An argument that it's a defensible decision is here.


Wednesday, January 14, 2004


More evidence against Saddam - al Queda link

Saddam Hussein warned his Iraqi supporters to be wary of joining forces
with foreign Arab fighters entering Iraq to battle American troops,
according to a document found with the former Iraqi leader when he was
captured, Bush administration officials said Tuesday.
The document appears to be a directive, written after he lost power, from
Mr. Hussein to leaders of the Iraqi resistance, counseling caution against
getting too close to Islamic jihadists and other foreign Arabs coming into
occupied Iraq, according to American officials.

It provides a second piece of evidence challenging the Bush administration
contention of close cooperation between Mr. Hussein's government and
terrorists from Al Qaeda. C.I.A. interrogators have already elicited from
the top Qaeda officials in custody that, before the American-led invasion,
Osama bin Laden had rejected entreaties from some of his lieutenants to
work jointly with Mr. Hussein.

Officials said Mr. Hussein apparently believed that the foreign Arabs,
eager for a holy war against the West, had a different agenda from the
Baathists, who were eager for their own return to power in Baghdad. As a
result, he wanted his supporters to be careful about becoming close allies
with the jihadists, officials familiar with the document said.


Halliburton is going to Mars

From an old Petroleum News. They'd be drilling for water this time...

If there is life on Mars, it would probably be microorganisms in water deep below the surface of the planet. Dr. Geoffrey Briggs, director, Center for Mars Exploration at the NASA Ames Center, told “Meet Alaska” that NASA is looking at ways to drill on Mars to look for water — and the life it might contain.

Briggs said NASA has been working with Halliburton, Shell, Baker-Hughes and the Los Alamos National Laboratory to identify drilling technologies that might work on Mars.


Thanks to This Modern World and Billmon.


O'Neill Backtracks, but Disingenuously
If you watched the 60 Minutes interview, it was clear that O'Neill is idealistic about the value of truth and is thus politically naive in the face of those who would manipulate the truth. The extent of his naivete is such that he said that he would be suprised if he were attacked by Republicans. Now that he has been attacked, it isn't a surprise that he has back-pedaled. He's now saying that the Iraq regime change agenda was inherited from the Clinton administration. But compare that to this evidence to the contrary.

Hmmm... well, as far as I can tell, this particular change of is only in this one Toronto paper. But he also says he wishes he could take back the statement that Bush was "like a blind man in a room full of deaf people" and that he would probably vote for Bush. Take that as you will--to me it sounds like he's a goody-two-shoes who called things like he saw them, but then was embarrassed by all the furor it caused.


Monday, January 12, 2004


Iranians may have gassed the Kurds

This much about the gassing at Halabja we undoubtedly know: it came about in the course of a battle between Iraqis and Iranians. Iraq used chemical weapons to try to kill Iranians who had seized the town, which is in northern Iraq not far from the Iranian border. The Kurdish civilians who died had the misfortune to be caught up in that exchange. But they were not Iraq's main target.

And the story gets murkier: immediately after the battle the United States Defense Intelligence Agency investigated and produced a classified report, which it circulated within the intelligence community on a need-to-know basis. That study asserted that it was Iranian gas that killed the Kurds, not Iraqi gas.

The agency did find that each side used gas against the other in the battle around Halabja. The condition of the dead Kurds' bodies, however, indicated they had been killed with a blood agent -- that is, a cyanide-based gas -- which Iran was known to use. The Iraqis, who are thought to have used mustard gas in the battle, are not known to have possessed blood agents at the time.


Fed dollar euro iraq oil -- (just a note to myself)

This Counterpunch article on O'Neill says, "In the latest edition of Z Magazine, the details of how Iraqi oil revenues are being illegally diverted from the Central Bank of Iraq into the Federal Reserve...[blah blah blah]."


The Price of Loyalty


The big buzz from Paul O'Neill's interview on 60 Minutes yesterday is that Iraq was in the crosshairs from day one of the administration. But I think that's only one of three major points. The other two are:

2) Just how clueless and disconnected the president is, and how he is being manipulated.
3) This manipulation forced through the second tax break for the rich, against even the president's concerns.

1) Enemy Iraq
And what happened at President Bush's very first National Security Council meeting is one of O'Neill's most startling revelations.

“From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,” says O’Neill, who adds that going after Saddam was topic "A" 10 days after the inauguration - eight months before Sept. 11.

[...]

And that came up at this first meeting, says O’Neill, who adds that the discussion of Iraq continued at the next National Security Council meeting two days later.

He got briefing materials under this cover sheet. “There are memos. One of them marked, secret, says, ‘Plan for post-Saddam Iraq,’" adds Suskind, who says that they discussed an occupation of Iraq in January and February of 2001.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Based on his interviews with O'Neill and several other officials at the meetings, Suskind writes that the planning envisioned peacekeeping troops, war crimes tribunals, and even divvying up Iraq's oil wealth.

He obtained one Pentagon document, dated March 5, 2001, and entitled "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield contracts," which includes a map of potential areas for exploration.

“It talks about contractors around the world from, you know, 30-40 countries. And which ones have what intentions,” says Suskind. “On oil in Iraq.”


2) Clueless George
"At cabinet meetings, he says the president was "like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people. There is no discernible connection."


3) The Second Tax Cut
He says everyone expected Mr. Bush to rubber stamp the plan under discussion: a big new tax cut. But, according to Suskind, the president was perhaps having second thoughts about cutting taxes again, and was uncharacteristically engaged.

“He asks, ‘Haven't we already given money to rich people? This second tax cut's gonna do it again,’” says Suskind.

“He says, ‘Didn’t we already, why are we doing it again?’ Now, his advisers, they say, ‘Well Mr. President, the upper class, they're the entrepreneurs. That's the standard response.’ And the president kind of goes, ‘OK.’ That's their response. And then, he comes back to it again. ‘Well, shouldn't we be giving money to the middle, won't people be able to say, ‘You did it once, and then you did it twice, and what was it good for?’"

But according to the transcript, White House political advisor Karl Rove jumped in.

“Karl Rove is saying to the president, a kind of mantra. ‘Stick to principle. Stick to principle.’ He says it over and over again,” says Suskind. “Don’t waver.”

In the end, the president didn't. And nine days after that meeting in which O'Neill made it clear he could not publicly support another tax cut, the vice president called and asked him to resign.

With the deficit now climbing towards $400 billion, O'Neill maintains he was in the right.




Site of the day: Banksy

Via B3TA
Via MemePool

Thursday, January 08, 2004


Money supply falling
Interesting conversation about the money supply falling and what it could mean. Post is a little dated, but still relevant and the coversation dates until a couple of days ago. Nathan mentions Secrets of the Temple, which I'm currently reading. Compare to this this and this.


Sunday, January 04, 2004

Saturday, January 03, 2004


Another two insightful posts on the Plame affair by John Marshall at Talking Points Memo.


Wednesday, December 31, 2003


Plame Scandal: Ashcroft recuses self; analysis
TalkingPointsMemo.com comment cites this WaPo piece and this Fox news story


Monday, December 29, 2003

Sunday, December 28, 2003


Despite Mad-Cow Warnings, Industry Resisted Safeguards -- N.Y. Times

Though some scientists had long warned that mad cow disease would eventually appear in the United States, cattle owners and meatpackers repeatedly resisted calls for a more substantial program to test for the disease, and the Agriculture Department went along with them. Congress came close three times to banning the sale of meat from downer cows — ones that are too sick or hurt to amble into slaughterhouses — only to see the industry's allies block each of the bills at the last moment. And proposals for systems to track which farms produced sickened cattle — now required in Europe, Canada and Japan — also languished for years here.

"This is one of these times when unrealistic optimism triumphed over responsibility to the public," said Carol Tucker Foreman, a consumer advocate who ran the Agriculture Department's food-safety programs in the Carter administration.

If a number of countries stick with hastily announced plans to ban American beef, she added, "I think the damage to the American meat industry costs infinitely more than anything U.S. cattlemen would have had to pay to do this thing right."


[...]

But a close look at how the crisis developed also reveals broader problems that could complicate efforts to restore consumer confidence and to ensure that no other tainted meat enters the food supply.

The nation's meat inspection system has undergone sweeping changes, with the government shifting much of the responsibility for safety to meat companies.

Saturday, December 27, 2003


Schwartzenegger wants to reduce the prison population and weaken parole
requirements for non-violent convicts.


I've said time and again to friends that Arnie is just a Pete Wilson
clone. I hereby retract that statement. I still am very suspicious of the
man, but this move makes sense on moral and financial grounds. It's
portrayed as only a fiscal decision and there's no overt challenge to the
fact that the U.S. has some of the highest incarceration rates in the
world. But it's still a wonderful thing.

I'm curious how this will play out with other Republicans and with the
biggest lobby in the state (the prison guards' union). Legislative
approval will be needed for some of these changes... will it be
forthcoming?

In what language do deaf people think?


Friday, December 26, 2003


Update on the Plame scandal
New Leaks. Administration continues to investigate itself.


Thursday, December 25, 2003


MAD COW USA


I've been telling friends for a good while that I've been worried about beef because of Mad Cow. Usually they look at me with uncomprehension. But I've based my growing concern on three things:

1) I met a college aquaintence at a party who works in a lab studying the disease; she said it was unsettling how few animals were tested for the disease.

2) I read reports (maybe from Howard Lyman?) about animals falling down being taken to slaughter without testing. Howard Lyman is the "Mad Cowboy"--a rancher gone vegan--whose appearance on Oprah caused both him and her to be sued by the beef industry. I thought he was loopy until I read his stuff. His website is here, check out the Mad Cow factoids page.

3) Finally, in May when the Canadian case of Mad Cow appeared, scientists said it probably was in the United States, as I noted here.

Anyway, read this New York Times article. Skimming it, it might look like not a big deal, but the more attentive you are, the worse it looks. First, note that it says 30,000 animals (of 300 million slaughtered) were tested in the past nine years, a level which would eventually let them find the disease if it were in 1 in 1 million animals. But later it says that over 20,000 animals were tested in the last year or two and that before then, only hundreds were tested per year. Which means low levels were more or less undetectable before. Second, there is the danger that diseased animals were purposefully hidden from inspectors to either keep the money from selling them and to avoid the big fracas that is now set to challange the whole beef industry. Read the very end of the article about the pressure and challenges that beef inspectors face and you may, like me, have serious doubts about the thoroughness of testing to date.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Wednesday, December 17, 2003


Other Blogs
1) Yuck: Give War A Chance
2) Tolerable and interesting: Expat Egghead and Cathy
3) My cup of tea: Moorish Girl

A comment in #1 lead me to #2, who linked to #3.


Sketchy new bullets used by mercenaries in Baghdad
Army Times story here, video demonstration here

Ben Thomas and three colleagues were driving north out of Baghdad in an SUV on a clear mid-September morning, headed down a dirt road into a rural village, when gunmen in several surrounding buildings opened fire on them.
In a brief but intense firefight, Thomas hit one of the attackers with a single shot from his M4 carbine at a distance he estimates was 100 to 110 yards.

He hit the man in the buttocks, a wound that typically is not fatal. But this round appeared to kill the assailant instantly.

“It entered his butt and completely destroyed everything in the lower left section of his stomach ... everything was torn apart,” Thomas said.

Thomas, a security consultant with a private company contracted by the government, recorded the first known enemy kill using a new — and controversial — bullet.

[...]

The frangible APLP ammo will bore through steel and other hard targets but will not pass through a human torso, an eight-inch-thick block of artist’s clay or even several layers of drywall. Instead of passing through a body, it shatters, creating “untreatable wounds.”



Tuesday, December 16, 2003


Baghdad Blogger
In the looters' market, a DVD singing the praises of the so-called resistance is selling like the hot bread of Bab al-Agha [article here, Salam's homepage here]

Baghdad Residents Polled
Baghdad residents think hardships of invasion are worth it to get rid of Saddam, but feel the city is less safe than it was. They definitely don't trust US and British troops.

Indeed, when asked to rate their confidence in eleven listed organization -- such as the Iraqi Governing Council, the new Iraqi army, and the United Nations -- the U.S.-led coalition garnered the least support out of the eleven.

Thursday, December 11, 2003


Great quote from Kucinich in last debate
Regarding the media's pushing of Dean's inevitability

Even the audience seemed piqued by the moderators. They cheered long and loud for Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich after Koppel asked him, given his poor fundraising and standing in the polls, "When do you pull out?"

"When I take the oath of office, when you're there to cover it," Kucinich retorted. "And I can tell you, Ted, you know, we started at the beginning of this evening, talking about an endorsement. Well, I want the American people to see where the media takes politics in this country."

The audience roared in agreement.

"We start talking about endorsements, now we're talking about polls, and then we're talking about money. Well, you know, when you do that, you don't have to talk about what's important to the American people. . . . I'm the only one up here on the stage that actually voted against the Patriot Act and voted against the war - the only one on this stage. I'm also . . . one of the few candidates up here who's talking about taking our health-care system from this for-profit system to a not-for-profit, single-payer universal health care for all. I'm also the only one who has talked about getting out of NAFTA and the WTO and going back to bilateral trade. . . ."

Tuesday, December 09, 2003


NYTimes: Federal Judges Protest Ashcroft's Tough Sentencing Procedures

Israeli Tactics in Iraq, Commandos coming; U.S. Moving to Unconventional Warfare


One step the Pentagon took was to seek active and secret help in the war against the Iraqi insurgency from Israel, America’s closest ally in the Middle East. According to American and Israeli military and intelligence officials, Israeli commandos and intelligence units have been working closely with their American counterparts at the Special Forces training base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and in Israel to help them prepare for operations in Iraq. Israeli commandos are expected to serve as ad-hoc advisers—again, in secret—when full-field operations begin. [...]

An American who has advised the civilian authority in Baghdad said, “The only way we can win is to go unconventional. We’re going to have to play their game. Guerrilla versus guerrilla. Terrorism versus terrorism." [...]

Former Pentagon Official who served with the Special Forces: "We do need a more unconventional response, but it’s going to be messy."

Compare to this N.Y. Times piece which says U.S. troops are caging in entire villages and adopting Israeli tactics.


What's Driving Dean? Liberal? Conservative? Clintonesque?



I have been interested in Dean for awhile. What almost hooked me was his pamplet, "Common Sense for a New Century." However, I'm no longer starry-eyed: I've dug deeper into his current policy statements and compared them to his past record. He's a strong candidate with some good positions, but he also waffles on things.

First, a quote from Dean's version of "Common Sense." Then some of the other things I've found.
Over two hundred years ago, Thomas Paine wrote a pamphlet that would light the fire that forged our nation. He called it “Common Sense.” Passed from hand to hand, patriot to patriot, it was a call to action for those Americans who believed their government had to change. It spelled out the values of a new republic. And King George III—who had forgotten his own people in favor of special interests—was replaced by a government of, by and for the people. America was born.

Like those early patriots, we face a growing threat to our liberty and justice in America today. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison spoke of the fear that economic power would one day seize political power.

That fear is now being realized—under the Bush administration, pharmaceutical companies draft our Medicare laws. Oil executives sit in the Vice President’s office and write energy bills. A majority of the reconstruction contracts in Iraq goes to corporations headed by campaign contributors to the president.

[...]

In the matter of war and peace, there was virtually no debate by either party before the invasion of Iraq. The Bush administration uses fear to rally people to its causes. Our nation, once looked to as a beacon of hope from around the globe, now is looked at with suspicion and distrust. [More here]



Insight to Howard Dean's position on trade
Because he has waffled on NAFTA and the WTO. Some think he's just plugging for the progessive vote.

Dean's statements rock! on the Media Consolidation issue and Norman Solomon says it's a dangerous course.

Dean: questionable on affirmative action, pro-NRA, and keeping his governor-years records under wraps.

To me, it feels like Dean is balancing some more anti-megacorporation attacks and anti-war attacks with concessions on these hot-button issues. That way, he might win a few white southern guys with those, ahem, flags on their pick-up trucks. So I have mixed feelings.

(The full Confederate flag quote is here, by the way. Here's an earlier version--scroll to May 9. It really doesn't sound that bad, his point is a good one.)

BUT MAYBE WE SHOULD HEED THIS COLLECTION OF ARTICLES WHICH SHOW HIS LIBRALISM, TO THE EXTENT THAT IT'S THERE, IS A RECENT "CONVERSION"

[T]he most traditional strategy for Democrats and Republicans alike is to position oneself to appeal to party regulars in order to win the nomination ("liberals" for Democrats, "conservatives," or "radical right" for Republicans), and then shift to the center (or beyond) to try to win the election. [From here.]

Vermonters think there is considerable evidence that this is what Dean has been doing. His Vermont years also hint at a not-so-amazing record on bringing health care and evidence that Dean will support or expand the Drug War. Furthermore, this article says that, "Dean's approach to criminal justice is regressive and draconian."

Howard Dean the liberal, anti-war candidate?

In regards to war, here's Dean's quote from the last debate for the year: Dr. Dean, noting his own opposition to the war, said the United States was now "stuck" in Iraq and would have to keep its troops there for several years, "until the Iraqis really are able to have a democracy which is strong enough not to allow Al Qaeda to emerge."

And then there's this slam of his environmental record: Dean's not Green
"Dean's attempts to run for president as an environmentalist is nothing but a fraud."

And he support's Israel's hardline military actions.
“I’ve been very clear, I support the targeted assassinations,” he said. “These are enemy combatants in a war; Israel has every right to shoot them before they can shoot Israelis.”


Or is he just being necessarily political? He thinks the US should be even-handed in treating Israel and Palestine, and he drew criticism for this. More on this.

UPDATE: Here is a thoughtful and positive article about Dean. Good material here I hadn't heard before. Isn't fawning (author has his differences w/ Dean). Gives a positive spin to Dean's history before and after politics. It rebukes some of the criticisms that are cited above. Some of the "negatives" that have been leveled at him are just that the "strengths" weren't good enough. He champions universal health care, but only got it for children in Vermont. Well, look at Texas! And I think it's funny that people say he's "not liberal" because he balanced the budget of Vermont! This whole notion that "liberal" means spendy and "conservative" means fiscally responsible should have gone out the window with Reagan and been buried with the deficits of G.W. Bush. The "not anti-war enough" stance people take is actually not one I agree with: I agree with Dean, we can't just bail from Iraq. Anyway, my pendulum is swinging back towards support. I mean, for heaven's sakes, look at Dean's "16 QUESTIONS FOR PRESIDENT BUSH." It's not unqualified support, because of his support of Israel's tactics and his questionable environmental record. But maybe he's the best we've got.
QUOTE FROM ARTICLE: Dean’s big draw is that he’s really a centrist who falls on either side of litmus test issues comfortably and unapologetically. This to me is the mark of an independent-minded person with real scruples. I think his apparent honesty, coupled with his often conservative bent on some issues, should serve to draw many “Reagan Republicans” back to their roots. I may be wrong, but the guy’s either for real, or he’s the best bullshitter in the political history of America. I hope the former is the case.

Dean press conference on Iraq back in Sept '02. One supporter claims "he starts talking about Iraq a couple of minutes into the video. I think it shows a consistency and a clear-headedness which his opponents are trying to muddle by distorting the facts."

Thursday, December 04, 2003


Not news so much, just interesting: an online Body Language Dictionary
Although it does mention a scary, a new tool for the cops: mind reading

Brain-fingerprinting. An experimental technique called MERMER (Memory and Encoding Related Multifaceted Electroencephalographic Responses) for detecting information related to events subjects have experienced (despite efforts to conceal that knowledge) was detailed in the Journal of Forensic Sciences ("Using Brain MERMER Testing to Detect Knowledge Despite Efforts to Conceal," January, 2001, Vol. 46, No. 1, pp. 1-9). Also known as "brain fingerprinting," MERMER is claimed to be 90-99% accurate, with 0 false-positives or false negatives. Subjects need not utter a word in the MERMER test. They are shown photographs of a crime scene, e.g., and those familiar with the scene show different brain-wave patterns than those who are unfamiliar with the scene.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Sunday, November 30, 2003


Iraqi Council Gaming the US, Democracy Unlikely Amidst Jostle of Power Politics
The Washington Post article is here.
As usual, John Marshall of Talking Points Memo has some good insight.

The essence of the story is that the plan for a political handover that we announced just weeks ago is already on the fast-track to dead letterhood.

And it's happening because the plan is being gamed by Iraqi political leaders who've clearly got more power on the ground than we do.

Our lack of effective power, as opposed to main force, of which we've got plenty, is what's pushing us to get out of the country in the first place. But our efforts to get out have further weakened our position, thus diminishing our ability to get out on our own terms. It's a vicious cycle, and as difficult to remedy as it is vicious.

My own thoughts are that the neo-cons and the oil multinationals may not really care that much. There's little attention to the broken promises of a new Afghanistan, but there are still American troops in there protecting "American" interests. However the political games play out in Iraq , you can bet that we're going to have a military presence there for a long, long time. (Only a political sea change in the United States would change that.)

And regardless of the shape and compliance of the new puppet regime, one thing is not negotiable: American oil companies are going to keep control of Iraqi oil.

Friday, November 28, 2003


Ethanol in Gasoline: "Money-wasting government schemes are hardly rare. But how many do you know of that flout the second law of thermodynamics?"


Thursday, November 27, 2003


The Massacre in Miami(Capital Times, Madison WI)

They chased us through Miami. This was not a police free-for-all as was the case with Seattle. This was military precision. Forty police forces - federal, state, local and military - were under a central command. Over three hours they forced us back, block after block, with little resistance, miles from Bayfront Park. They divided us from each other at each intersection, splitting us, and splitting us again, into small groups, each a fraction of the size of the one before it. They had clearly made a decision to suppress the protest, and this they did with the violence necessary to do the job.

[...]

In Seattle, the police ran amok. They lost the battle for legitimacy to the moral force of nonviolence, and they lost control of the streets to the effective use of civil disobedience tactics.

In Miami, the police ran the protests out of town. They not only controlled the streets, but also often the media. Police commanders appeared on local television channels as "on-site commentators," in many cases displacing the channels' own journalists as reporters of the news.

[...]

After congressional authorization of the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq and passage of the Patriot Act, we should have had no illusions that leadership remains within the political establishment to stop the FTAA. Yet our actions in Miami indicated that we were still operating under exactly those kinds of illusions. We looked for leaders to emerge who we could follow, rather than taking leadership ourselves.

However, not all is lost. Because of the leadership of the people of Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, and other nations, the ministerial meeting produced no real movement toward the enactment of the FTAA. We have a reprieve, and it is up to the people of the United States to use it.

Attending the protests of the FTAA ministerial meeting was delegate Leonardo Alvarez, a Green member of the Mexican Congress. As we said goodbye, Leonardo took hold of my arm and did not let go. He told me, "We are counting on you. You must be aggressive. You are leaders. You will succeed, I know you will."

After Miami, we had better.


Union: Police Broke Protest Promise (Miami Herald)
Miami police reneged on their promise to give safe passage to 25 busloads of seniors who attempted to attend Thursday's AFL-CIO rally against the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the leader of a retired union workers group charged Tuesday.

[...]

Tony Fansetta, president of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans Tony Fansetta, president of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, said 13 of the busloads were turned away and many of the others were diverted...

''It is despicable when in good faith you have what is referred to as the greatest generation -- and I'm a Korean War veteran myself -- come down here in good faith and jump through every hoop the city of Miami asked us to jump through,'' Fansetta said.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003


Bill of Rights Suspended in Miami
I have gotten numerous reports from the Miami Free Trade Area of the
Americas (FTAA) protests about gross abuses of police power. Searches
occured without just cause, journalists were arrested who had chosen not
to be "embedded" with the police, and peaceful protesters were greeted
with police violence.

There are two elements to the story.

First is the repression of protest and of constitutional rights. There
are allegations of police brutality and even sexual assault in prisons.

Second is that the protester's message isn't being heard. There are
numerous strong reasons to be opposed to the FTAA and similar "Free Trade"
agreements, even if you support free trade. For example, under NAFTA,
corporate immunity from expropriation has been pushed to ridiculous and
dangerous levels: the Canadian corporation Methanex sued the United
States for close to a billion dollars when California decided to ban MTBE,
a gasoline additive that is poisoning groundwater. A group of
academics at Rutgers University said that the US could face $30
billion dollars of similar lawsuits annually under the FTAA and
related expansions to NAFTA.

See this press release. The number of "at least thirty" injured by projectile weapons is probably low.


Friday, November 21, 2003


Changing Tides: U.S. Nationalism vs. Globalization

It is clear, however, that the Bush administration's attitude toward globalization differs substantially from former President Bill Clinton's. In contrast to Clinton's support of multilateral negotiations, Bush's stance is as a nationalist. This idea should surprise no one after the preemptive war in Iraq.

However, our global justice movement has not widely acknowledged that the administration's fervent unilateral approach extends even into the realm of economic relations.

Meanwhile, the echelon of the elite across the globe has watched Bush's military aggression with uneasiness, fearing that his reckless pursuit of U.S. dominance will endanger the global economic system they constructed in past decades.


The Onion on Media Bias


Members of the national media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting released a 255-page report Monday criticizing the American media for severely biased local sports coverage.

"Coverage was heavily, sometimes brazenly, weighted toward the teams from a media source's own area. To look at the data, you would almost think that sports journalists aren't held to the same standards as other reporters."

"Let's face it, sports news is the only news most people read," Wilborough said. "That's reason enough to clean it up. Otherwise, the media may start seeing bias and sensationalism as a formula for success. I don't think anyone wants to live in a country where that happens."


Media Protest Harrassment by U.S. in Iraq --Boston Globe


The Associated Press says soldiers in Iraq detained one of its photographers and a driver in late September near the site of the Abu Ghraib prison. Knight Ridder says its photographer at the scene of the Nov. 2 downing of a Chinook helicopter had photographs destroyed by the US military. Reuters, which had a cameraman killed in August in what the US military called an accident, says another photographer was detained last month by Iraqi police alleging to be acting on orders from US forces.

Amid growing reports of journalists being harassed and intimidated by troops policing postwar Iraq, representatives of 30 media organizations, ranging from CNN and ABC to the Newhouse News Service and The Boston Globe, have signed a letter to the Pentagon raising concerns about what they view as an increasingly hostile reporting environment.

Some of the signers say the relationship between the press and the US military in Iraq has worsened since the major combat ended.

The letter, addressed to Larry Di Rita, acting assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, says the news organizations have "documented numerous examples of US troops physically harassing journalists and, in some cases, confiscating or ruining equipment, digital camera disks, and videotapes."


Tommy Franks: Terror Attack Could Mean Martial Law for U.S.



Gen. Tommy Franks says that if the United States is hit with a weapon of mass destruction that inflicts large casualties, the Constitution will likely be discarded in favor of a military form of government.
Franks, who successfully led the U.S. military operation to liberate Iraq, expressed his worries in an extensive interview he gave to the men’s lifestyle magazine Cigar Aficionado.

In the magazine’s December edition, the former commander of the military’s Central Command warned that if terrorists succeeded in using a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) against the U.S. or one of our allies, it would likely have catastrophic consequences for our cherished republican form of government.

Discussing the hypothetical dangers posed to the U.S. in the wake of Sept. 11, Franks said that “the worst thing that could happen” is if terrorists acquire and then use a biological, chemical or nuclear weapon that inflicts heavy casualties.

If that happens, Franks said, “... the Western world, the free world, loses what it cherishes most, and that is freedom and liberty we’ve seen for a couple of hundred years in this grand experiment that we call democracy.”

Franks then offered “in a practical sense” what he thinks would happen in the aftermath of such an attack.

“It means the potential of a weapon of mass destruction and a terrorist, massive, casualty-producing event somewhere in the Western world – it may be in the United States of America – that causes our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass, casualty-producing event. Which in fact, then begins to unravel the fabric of our Constitution. Two steps, very, very important.”

Franks didn’t speculate about how soon such an event might take place.

Already, critics of the U.S. Patriot Act, rushed through Congress in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, have argued that the law aims to curtail civil liberties and sets a dangerous precedent.

But Franks’ scenario goes much further. He is the first high-ranking official to openly speculate that the Constitution could be scrapped in favor of a military form of government.


Great Audio from the National Conference on Media Reform that I attended in Madison, WI. Check out especially Bill Moyer's Keynote Speech at the bottom.


Wednesday, October 01, 2003


More on Krugman
"The first three pages of Kissinger's book sent chills down my spine," Krugman writes of A World Restored, the 1957 tome by the man who would later become the unacceptable face of cynical realpolitik. Kissinger, using Napoleon as a case study - but also, Krugman believes, implicitly addressing the rise of fascism in the 1930s - describes what happens when a stable political system is confronted with a "revolutionary power": a radical group that rejects the legitimacy of the system itself.

This, Krugman believes, is precisely the situation in the U.S. today (though he is at pains to point out that he isn't comparing Bush to Hitler in moral terms). The "revolutionary power", in Kissinger's theory, rejects fundamental elements of the system it seeks to control, arguing that they are wrong in principle. For the Bush administration, according to Krugman, that includes social security; the idea of pursuing foreign policy through international institutions; and perhaps even the basic notion that political legitimacy comes from democratic elections - as opposed to, say, from God.

But worse still, Kissinger continued, nobody can quite bring themselves to believe that the revolutionary power really means to do what it claims. "Lulled by a period of stability which had seemed permanent," he wrote, "they find it nearly impossible to take at face value the assertion of the revolutionary power that it means to smash the existing framework." Exactly, says Krugman, who recallss the response to his column about Tom DeLay, the anti-evolutionist Republican leader of the House of Representatives, who claimed, bafflingly, that "nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes".

"My liberal friends said, 'I'm not interested in what some crazy guy in Congress has to say'," Krugman recalls. "But this is not some crazy guy! This guy runs Congress! There's this fundamental unwillingness to acknowledge the radicalism of the threat we're facing." But those who point out what is happening, Kissinger had already noted long ago, "are considered alarmists; those who counsel adaptation to circumstance are considered balanced and sane." ("Those who take the hard-line rightists now in power at their word are usually accused of being 'shrill', of going over the top," Krugman writes, and he has become well used to such accusations.)


Tuesday, September 30, 2003


The Wilson Scandal


Good news at the Daily Kos and Talking Points Memo.
Here's Wilson's Op-Ed to the New York Times from July: What I Didn't Find in Africa

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Tuesday, September 23, 2003


Powell and Rice in 2001: Iraq was contained, no significant WMD



Pilger uncovered video footage of Powell in Cairo on February 24, 2001 saying, "He (Saddam Hussein) has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours."

Two months later, Rice reportedly said, "We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt."


See also this.
UPDATE: The transcript of Powell's Egyptian press conference where he made the statement.


Financial Times: No10 'prompting' led to hardening up of dossier

Prompting by Downing Street led to a significant hardening up of the Iraq dossier to remove wording that implied Saddam Hussein would use chemical and biological weapons only if attacked, the intelligence chief in charge of the document admitted on Tuesday.

The last-minute change was triggered by an e-mail sent by Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's chief-of-staff, at 3.45pm on September 19, 2002 - 45 minutes after the deadline for comments on the final draft of the dossier.

The message highlighted a "bit of a problem" with the claim - approved by the full joint intelligence committee in earlier dossier drafts - that "Saddam is prepared to use chemical and biological weapons if he believes his regime is under threat".

Mr Powell warned this "backs up the . . . argument that there is no CBW threat and we will only create one if we attack him. I think you should redraft the para".


Poll Says Iraqis Believe Hussein's Ouster Was Worth Trouble

Interesting article. Worth reading the whole thing. It's not long, and the content goes beyond the headline. For instance, the two main Arab satellite networks, Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, have been banned from
"covering the activities of the Governing Council" and other official events on the grounds that these networks "incite violence".

As to the point of whether or not Iraqis will be better off in 5 years because of this war... Well, given the realpolitick of the world, they probably will be (I said as much before the war started). But remember that the United States and the United Nations bear a great deal of responsibility for the Iraqi's misery under 12 years of repressive sanctions which killed hundreds of thousands of people [if you question this contention, ask me, I've done my homework (fightbigmedia at yahoo d0t com]. The Iraqis will be better off because they will no longer be targets of the U.S. Empire, but its subjects. And I contend that they will not be "well off". Not when, prior to any democratization, all of the Iraqi assets and services are being sold to internationals. What I expect to see in the future Iraq is the same thing we are getting everywhere else in the world: an aristocracy that is well off, some degree of middle-class that acts as a political buffer, and lots of people that are poor, marginalized, and exploited.

The last words may sound like Marxist rhetoric, but I am not a Marxist. He was a great thinker and story teller, but ideas (including my own) have progressed since his day.


Thursday, September 18, 2003


The Burdens of Empire and Militarism makes the Republic Collapse

"During his childhood and youth Cicero had watched with horror as Rome set about dismantling itself. If he had a mission as an adult, it was to recall the republic to order. . . . [He] noticed that the uninhibited freedom of speech which marked political life in the republic was giving way to caution at social gatherings and across dinner tables. . . . The Senate had no answer to Rome's problems and indeed sought none. Its aim was simply to maintain the constitution and resist the continual attacks on its authority. . . . The populares had lost decisively with the defeat of Catilina, but the snake was only stunned. Caesar, who had been plotting against Senatorial interests behind the scenes, was rising up the political ladder and, barring accidents, would be consul in a few year's time."

[...]

My reasons for going over this ancient history are not to suggest that our own Boy Emperor is a second Octavian but rather what might happen after he is gone. The history of the Roman republic from the time of Julius Caesar on suggests that it was imperialism and militarism, poorly understood by all conservative political leaders at the time, that brought it down. Militarism and the professionalization of a large standing army create invincible new sources of power within a polity. The government must mobilize the masses in order to exploit them as cannon fodder and this leads to the rise of populist generals who understand the grievances of their troops and veterans.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003


Blix: Iraq's WMD probably destroyed a decade ago

Top Bush officials amend war claims: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz admit previous statements in error


In the past week, three top Bush administration officials have backed off charges they made against Iraq, explaining they misspoke or overstated the facts.

CHENEY:
"Meet the Press" host Tim Russert gave Cheney a chance to clarify his prewar statement in a return appearance on his show Sunday.

"'Reconstituted nuclear weapons.' You misspoke?" Russert asked.

"Yeah, I did misspeak .... We never had any evidence that he had acquired a nuclear weapon," said Cheney, known for his careful choice of words.

WOLFOWITZ:
The Pentagon's No. 2 official also backtracked from a recent nationally televised claim that "a great many of [Osama] bin Laden's key lieutenants are now trying to organize in cooperation with old loyalists from the Saddam regime to attack in Iraq." Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz made the remark Thursday on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Challenged the next day by a news wire to provide evidence to back the shocking revelation, Wolfowitz said he had misspoken.

RUMSFELD:
Eleven days after the U.S. invasion, Rumsfeld claimed to know exactly where Saddam was hiding alleged banned weapons.

"We know where they are," he flatly asserted in a March 30 interview with ABC's "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos.

But with still no discovery of weapons more than five months since then, National Press Club president Tammy Lytle quizzed Rumsfeld about his unequivocal claim at a luncheon here last Wednesday.

Lytle: "On March 30th you said, referring to Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, quote, 'We know where they are.' Do you know where they are now? Will they be found?"

Rumsfeld: "In that instance, we had been in the country for about 15 seconds; sometimes I overstate for emphasis .... I should have said, 'I believe they're in that area'" around Tikrit and Baghdad.


ONE REACTION:
Even some Republicans on Capitol Hill are not amused by the postwar revisionism.

"'Overstated for emphasis'? That sounds like something out of [former President] Clinton's mouth -- 'I didn't actually lie, I overstated for effect,'" said a senior GOP staffer.

AND RUMSFELD LIED TO CONGRESS...
It's not the first time the defense secretary has had to revise previous statements about prewar evidence against Iraq.

In congressional testimony in July, Rumsfeld swore repeatedly that he'd just "days" earlier learned that the uranium charge Bush made against Iraq six months earlier was based at least in part on fabricated reports.

A few days later, however, he had to correct the record twice, finally admitting he knew the allegation was false as early as March -- less than two months after Bush trumpeted it in his State of the Union speech and just before the Iraq war started.


GREAT SITE: Florida Fair Trade Coalition


See their page on the Miami FTAA ministerial.

They also have pages of articles on how the Free Trade Area of the Americas would effect Labor, Agriculture, Democracy, and more.

From the Democracy page:

The inconspicuous provision: Chapter 11 clause in NAFTA written in the ambiguous, innocuous-sounding prose that makes clever attorneys rich, the chapter spells out terms under which investors (i.e., multinational corporations) can be compensated for losses incurred by expropriation — government action.

Chapter 11 was included NAFTA as "investor-to-state" protections out of a fear of political or economic instability in the Third World. Their intent was to ensure that "U.S. investors abroad receive the same type of protection that foreign investors get in the United States with or without a treaty." The concern with Chapter 11 — and what has engendered protest from state and federal legislators and environmental activists aike — is the danger the clause poses to basic democracy and state sovengentry. In an April 19, 2001, letter sent to Trade Representative Zoellick, signed by 29 business heavyweights, including General Motors, Honeywell, and Texaco, the group asserted its support "for the inclusion of effective investment

Under Chapter 11 the signatory nations are prevented from "directly or indirectly nationaliz[ing] an investment" or taking measures "tantamount to nationalization or expropriation" (emphasis added), and therein lay the distinction. By expanding government responsibility for compensation beyond direct takings, the architects of Chapter 11 have enabled foreign corporations doing business in Mexico, Canada, or the United States to seek reimbursement for any government law, rule, or regulation that impinges upon the company's profits. Chapter 11 will be part of the FTAA should FTAA continue, and will expand transnational governance over 34 countries. The Hemispheric Social Alliance concluded, "Although virtually the entire draft is enclosed in brackets (indicating areas where there is not yet official consensus), the draft text closely mirrors NAFTA Chapter 11."

An illustration of the implications of this seemingly minor alteration of language is a feud between the Methanex Corporation and the state of California. The FTAA abd NAFTA are just two examples of how transnational corporations are using “trade policies” to circumvent and override national, state and local laws.


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