Monday, August 29, 2005

How big, bullying and stupid can you get...

... and still make billions of dollars annually?

Well, Monsanto's trying to find out. I must extend my hearty thanks to the evil empire o' seeds for calling my attention to a terrific blog, Bitter Greens Journal, and to Monsanto's petty and incredibly stupid (in terms of their own PR) cease-and-desist letter to the owner of same.

Tom Philpott's crime: using Roundup, Ready as the (quite clever) name for his, er, roundup of links detailing Monsanto's crusade against locally based organic agriculture. His reply to the cease-and-desist letter, in part:
Dear Ms. Bunning-Stevens,
Although it's comical for a corporation with upwards of $5 billion in annual revenue to harass an obscure blogger who helps run a 2.5-acre farm, the tone of your letter is earnest; so I will reply earnestly.

Your arguments seem specious to me, and I therefore I must refuse to cease using "Roundup, ready" as the title for an occasional feature on my Web log.

You write that "[t]his use of the term could cause your readers to think that your journal is in some way sponsored by Monsanto or that Monsanto supports the positions set out in your journal." Yet my journal clearly presents itself as a "running critique of industrial agriculture," and from its first post on has made no secret of its distaste for Monsanto and its particular style of industrial agriculture.

I doubt you will be able to dig up a single reader who, after perusing a "Roundup, ready" post, will think to himself, "Now this fellow must be on the Monsanto dole!"

Missiles and magnolias

Don't these people remember Sherman's March?

As a recent Yankee transplant to Dixie, I'm fascinated and appalled by the extent of identification with the U.S. military down here.

Missles and Magnolias, a recently published report from the Institute for Southern Studies spells out the South's war machine entwinement with some revealing facts and figures.
  • From 1996 to 2002 every region in the country had seen an increase in the flow of military contract dollars. But no region grew as fast as the South: the region’s defense contract base mushroomed by 83%, compared to 62% in the West, 31% in the Midwest and Central Plains, and just 9% in the Northeast.
  • 58% of Southerners in the U.S. House and Senate scored in the bottom one-fourth of a scorecard by Peace Action, a yearly roundup detailing the voting record of every Member of Congress on crucial issues of war and peace, such as funding for the occupation of Iraq, arms sales, and support for the United Nations.
  • Of the U.S. troops that have died in Iraq, 38% were based in the South

  • 47% of the troops that have died in Afghanistan were based in the South

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Apocalypse Already

Frank Rich rightly skewers the Democrats for having no alternative to Bush's "stay the course" piffle, but wrongly says they must offer an alternative to bringing the troops home now, which he derides as "Ms. Sheehan's equally apocalyptic retreat."

Apocalyptic? Hello? It's already way past that in Iraq.

And worse, Rich goes on to prove he's missed a crucial point about the Iraq debacle:
The Democrats are hoping that if they do nothing, they might inherit the earth as the Bush administration goes down the tubes. Whatever the dubious merits of this Kerryesque course as a political strategy, as a moral strategy it's unpatriotic. The earth may not be worth inheriting if Iraq continues to sabotage America's ability to take on Iran and North Korea, let alone Al Qaeda.
"The earth may not be worth inheriting," he's saying, if, in a worst-case scenario, a couple of non-aligned nations get nukes, which would add, oh, five or ten weapons to the 20-30,000 already armed and pointed God knows where.

Apparently, undercutting American muscle is a big no-no, even to Frank Rich. By "ability to take on," Iran and North Korea, he might mean diplomatic options, but I doubt it. I'm pretty sure Rich is objecting to the weakening of America's capacity for "power projection" via military means. I would argue that our strongarmed meddling in the Middle East over the past half a century or so is what got us into this mess. It's something we need less of, not more.

For me, if there's a silver lining in the Iraq debacle it's that maybe, just maybe, it will force the U.S. administration to address future difficulties with hostile countries like Iran and N. Korea the way any sane country would, by negotiation. Not that I'm holding my breath.

Of course, Iran hasn't done anything wrong--at least not anything a country that has recently torn up its disarmament committments can get on its high horse about.

And as for the Iraqi "apocalypse," and the idea that taking our troops out will make things really bad, the question remains: can they get any worse than they are?

To be honest, the answer is "who the hell knows?"

But the major damage has been done, by Bush and the Republicans and the Democrats and the media a genuinely stupid and complacent American public. Under Bush, Clinton and Bush Jr. we have trashed a sovereign nation pretty much continuously since 1990, with war, (declared and not), constant bombing, and crippling, murderous sanctions.

Gosh, we can't leave now. We're just getting started helping the poor Iraqis!

I will take the liberty of re-quoting Andrew Bacevich's good sense, which I mentioned in an earlier post:
Will a U.S. withdrawal guarantee a happy outcome for the people of Iraq? Of course not. In sowing the seeds of chaos through his ill-advised invasion, Bush made any such guarantee impossible. If one or more of the Iraqi factions chooses civil war, they will have it. Should the Kurds opt for independence, then modern Iraq will cease to exist. No outside power can prevent such an outcome from occurring anymore than an outside power could have denied Americans their own civil war in 1861.

Dismemberment is by no means to be desired and would surely visit even more suffering on the much-abused people of Iraq. But in the long run, the world would likely find ways to adjust to this seemingly unthinkable prospect just as it learned to accommodate the collapse of the Soviet Union, the division of Czechoslovakia and the disintegration of Yugoslavia.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Muskogee Phoenix scoop

How long until the next Kent State?

From Mary deJuliis, columnist for the Muskogee (Okla.) Phoenix:
The president had to pass the crosses and protestors when he attended a GOP fundraiser Friday afternoon (Aug. 12) at a nearby ranch. We protestors were backed farther away from the road, roped off with police tape for about four hours with Secret Service, state and county law enforcement officers. A helicopter flew overhead lower than others that we were accustomed to. The helicopter had an agent riding outside with a weapon trained on us, but once the motorcade passed he moved on as well. The motorcade went by us twice very fast, and a few of the vehicles had rifles pointed out open windows. I was thankful no one made any sudden moves.
I've been reading quite a bit on the Camp Casey scene, but you'd think someone else besides Eastern Oklahoma's Number One News Source would find the details I've highlighted worthy to report.

Gosh, I wonder why the mainstream press protects Bush so. Could it be the free Shiner Bock? The catfish? Homemade cheese and chocolate-chip cookies? Ah, what the correspondent ate at the prez's bash. THOSE are the important details, not that the President's protectors brandished guns (from a helicopter!) while he sped past a bunch of peaceful protestors.

Elsewhere, Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone dispenses his snarkiness in typically evenhanded ways, but paints a heartrending portrait of Cindy Sheehan few others have matched.

But for all this, Sheehan seemed a very lonely woman. Tall, lanky and clunkily built, with the most common and therefore most tragic of faces -- the forgotten housewife whom life, with all its best joys, has long ago passed by -- Sheehan had begun to move around the compound with a preternatural slowness, like a ghost. She floated, rather than walked, into the trailer. After a week of media madness, she was like a superhero unable to return home after falling into a vat of disfiguring acid. Her past -- the middle-class family life in Vacaville, California, with her four kids and the yellow station wagon they nicknamed the BananaMobile -- all that was gone.

She had been through so much in the past week. In still more proof that red-blue politics often comes before family in this country, her in-laws had released a statement cruelly denouncing her. Her estranged husband, perhaps a coward and perhaps unable to handle the stress, filed for divorce. Revelations about her personal life were spilling into print, and all around the country, heartless creeps like Drudge and Ankarlo were casting themselves as friends and protectors of her fallen son and criticizing her for dishonoring him.

In return for all that, what Sheehan got was this: her own trailer, a couple of weeks' worth of airtime and a bunch of people who called themselves her friends but were really just humping the latest cause. They would probably be moving on soon, and Sheehan would be left with nothing. And meeting her now, I was struck by one more thing: At the end, when it was all over, her son would still be gone. I felt very sorry for her.

"I never knew," she said, sighing. "Not only that I would become the face of the anti-war movement but also that I would become the sacrificial lamb of the anti-war movement."

I asked her if she was referring to all the personal attacks. She nodded.

"But I'd still do it again," she said. "Because it's so important."

... Sheehan believes that no matter what happens, one thing she accomplished was the returning of the Iraq war to its rightful place at the forefront of the national consciousness. She describes an experience earlier in the week when a TV producer offhandedly mentioned to her that her timing was perfect, that Sheehan had been lucky to hold her vigil on what was otherwise a slow news week.

"And I said to her, 'A slow news week? Didn't thirty soldiers die in the war this month?'" She shook her head. "It's crazy. Iraq should be the lead story every day."

... In the Sixties, the anti-war movement was part of a cultural revolution: If you opposed Vietnam, you were also rejecting the whole rigid worldview that said life meant going to war, fighting the Commies, then coming back to work for the man, buying two cars and dying with plenty of insurance. That life blueprint was the inflexible expectation of the time, and so ending the war of that era required a visionary movement.

Iraq isn't like that. Iraq is an insane blunder committed by a bunch of criminal incompetents who have managed so far to avoid the lash and the rack only because the machinery for avoiding reality is so advanced in this country. We don't watch the fighting, we don't see the bodies come home and we don't hear anyone screaming when a house in Baghdad burns down or a child steps on a mine.

The only movement we're going to need to end this fiasco is a more regular exposure to consequence. It needs to feel its own pain. Cindy Sheehan didn't bring us folk songs, but she did put pain on the front pages. And along a lonely Texas road late at night, I saw it spread.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Call it a day

Being a conservative doesn't gives one better antiwar bona fides than an unwashed leftie (like, say, me), but Andrew Bacevich brings a unique insider's authority to his harsh and articulate critique of American militarism and its many enablers.

His book The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War is a must-read. He makes an extremely convincing case that the world's most vibrant nation is being strangled by its military-industrial complex.

I don't find his solutions to the crisis particularly useful—they wouldn't change nearly enough for me and go too far for most—but I admit it: I don't have any better to offer.

Bacevich is a West Point grad, Vietnam vet, and former contributer to the Weekly Standard (!) and National Review (!!). One would hope that his arguments would reach audiences who don't typically read the Nation.

When this guy says it's time to call it a day in Iraq, I'm hoping some people of influence take notice. Maybe even a Democrat!

Will a U.S. withdrawal guarantee a happy outcome for the people of Iraq? Of course not. In sowing the seeds of chaos through his ill-advised invasion, Bush made any such guarantee impossible. If one or more of the Iraqi factions chooses civil war, they will have it. Should the Kurds opt for independence, then modern Iraq will cease to exist. No outside power can prevent such an outcome from occurring anymore than an outside power could have denied Americans their own civil war in 1861.

Dismemberment is by no means to be desired and would surely visit even more suffering on the much-abused people of Iraq. But in the long run, the world would likely find ways to adjust to this seemingly unthinkable prospect just as it learned to accommodate the collapse of the Soviet Union, the division of Czechoslovakia and the disintegration of Yugoslavia.

What will pulling out of Iraq mean for the United States? It will certainly not mean losing access to Iraqi oil, which will inevitably find its way to the market. To be sure, bringing the troops home will preclude the Pentagon from establishing permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq -- but the Bush administration has said all along that we don't covet such bases anyway. In addition, withdrawal will put an end to extravagant expectations of using Iraq as a springboard for democratizing the Islamic world -- but that notion never qualified as more than a pipe dream anyway.

For Bush personally, the consequences of leaving Iraq might be the most painful. The prospect of looking antiwar protester Cindy Sheehan in the eye to explain exactly what her son died for will become even more daunting. But as it is, the president can't dodge that question indefinitely. Postponing the issue simply swells the ranks of those with similar questions to ask.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Shouldn't that be "don't misunderestimate the mullahs"?

OK. On page one of the Post we have a story that says:
Traces of bomb-grade uranium found two years ago in Iran came from contaminated Pakistani equipment and are not evidence of a clandestine nuclear weapons program, a group of U.S. government experts and other international scientists has determined.

"The biggest smoking gun that everyone was waving is now eliminated with these conclusions," said a senior official who discussed the still-confidential findings on the condition of anonymity.

But the NY Times, in its infinite wisdom, decided today to run an op-ed that says exactly the opposite--"Iran is determined to get the bomb -- all the agencies agree on that [eh?] -- and dealing with that threat is not a job that can be left for the next administration." In other words, this is a job only the Dubster is qualified to do (because he's been so masterful in his mideast policy to date). The author of this op-ed, Gary Milhollin, has screamed quite a bit about another nation's nuclear capability. Armscontrolwonk says of him, "To say that Milhollin was a major culprit in whipping up hysteria over Saddam’s bomb is an understatement."

Seems the Times is going through a little bout of amnesia in regard to its dark days as an agent of the Iraq catastrophe. It's also being a little vague about the track record of the dogdy Ahmad Chalabi, a man whose first mention should be accompanied by a few dozen qualifying statements.

So what's up with the Times? To me its editors look like they're not terribly interested in putting distance between the paper of record and the neocon party line. Arianna has a nice quip that doesn't quite answer the question, but is a nice quip all the same:
At least we know it wasn't Judy Miller's fault. The one good thing about prison is that it gives you a great alibi.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Big fucking deal

It's August. It's Friday.

Got no time or energy for bloggin'.

So being lazy I will just say thank you to Arianna Huffington for this:
So Cindy [Sheehan] might have used the "f-word" when talking about the administration that sent her son to die in Iraq. Big fucking deal.
And thanks to Arianna for calling out such resepected "mainstream" voices as Paula Zahn, Edmund Morris, and Dana Milbank for their consdescending, openly contemptous attitudes towards Sheehan. Acts of selflessness and courage bring out the worst in some people, apparently.

And thanks to Arianna for pointing out a Matt Drudge column (which I would never in a million years read on my own), in which Drudge quotes a speech Sheehan made earlier this year. I imagine Matt wants us all to be outraged that Sheehan would say such things. But many millions (billions?) agree with every word:
"We are not waging a war on terror in this country. We?re waging a war of terror. The biggest terrorist in the world is George W. Bush!"[quibble: Dick Cheney might have something to say about that!]

"We are waging a nuclear war in Iraq right now. That country is contaminated. It will be contaminated for practically eternity now." [Oh, OK. She's exagerrating wildly. The half life of depleted uranium is only 4.5 billion years.]

"The whole world is damaged. Our humanity is damaged. If he thinks that it's so important for Iraq to have a U.S.-imposed sense of freedom and democracy, then he needs to sign up his two little party-animal girls. They need to go this war. And you aren't willing to send your own children, or if you're not willing to go die yourself, then you bring there rest of our kids home now."

Well thanks Matt, for pointing that out. Now more than ever I say God* Bless Cindy Sheehan.

* if there is a God.

Sanctions—why, exactly? and what Iran wants

(Angus Reid Global Scan) – Many adults in the United States would support a trade embargo against Iran, according to a poll by Rasmussen Reports. 58 per cent of respondents support the imposition of economic sanctions if the country refuses to stop developing nuclear capabilities.
"Only" 36 percent would support the use of force against Iran????

There's a good piece here
by seasoned arms control negotiator Thomas Graham about the consequences of sanctions:
Indeed, sanctions could have the effect of actually further weakening the international non-proliferation regime. This is so because Iran might, under such circumstances, consider withdrawal from the NPT so that it had no more nuclear obligations. A daily newspaper reported as close to the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khameni, said last week in its lead editorial that Iran should withdraw from the NPT if its case was simply sent to the Security Council. There has been one recent withdrawal from the NPT -- North Korea -- another, especially Iran, would be most unfortunate.

But America is sending mixed signals. Reports that India may have obtained a better deal from the United States with respect to cooperation in nuclear technology outside the NPT than Iran could ever obtain inside the treaty could make officials in Tehran wonder what the NPT is doing for Iran. This is not the kind of message that we should be sending.

Another important argument Graham makes is that Iran is doing what it's doing for a reason, and it has a desired goal. It wants something only the United States can give:
The objective of the negotiations has been for the Europeans to develop a package of inducements sufficient to persuade Iran to give up that part of its nuclear program that involves an effort to acquire nuclear fuel cycle technology (uranium enrichment and nuclear waste chemical-reprocessing equipment). All along, Iran has asserted that it has a right as an NPT non-nuclear weapon party to acquire the entire nuclear fuel cycle, as implied by Article IV of the treaty. But it was clear from the beginning of the negotiation that Iran was interested in not only economic and trade concessions and peaceful nuclear technology cooperation, but also security guarantees -- sometimes referred to as non-aggression commitments.

...Last week, the Europeans put their offer on the table and it was promptly rejected by Iran saying that it did not meet minimum expectations. Based on news reports describing the European offer, it appears to have been quite a good deal in the economic area but vague on security guarantees. Yet the talks are structurally flawed. As long as the United States stays out of the negotiations, the security guarantee, obviously, cannot include any commitment by the United States -- the country of greatest concern to Iran. So it should not be a surprise that the offer was rejected. Immediately, Iran recommenced uranium conversion -- but not actual enrichment activities -- with IAEA inspectors present.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The guns of August

It would be nice to think Bush's "all options are on the table" crack is just bluster, and that Cheney's contingency plans for nuking Iran in the case of a terrorist attack on the U.S. (by anyone!) do not really reflect serious intent.

But who knows?

Once again, in the face of all logic, decency and common sense, this administration is beating the drums for war in yet another sovereign nation that happens to be sitting on an ocean of oil.

It's crossed my mind more than a few times that Bush is posturing to please the Israelis and what remains of his political base, but I worry.

I worry because antiwar sentiments are becoming ascendant in the United States, but the leadership of both parties either can't or won't reflect the popular will. Ari Berman has an interesting if discouraging overview of why the hawks run Democrat foreign policy in this week's Nation:
At a time when the American people are turning against the Iraq War and favor a withdrawal of US troops, and British and American leaders are publicly discussing a partial pullback, the leading Democratic presidential candidates for '08 are unapologetic war hawks. Nearly 60 percent of Americans now oppose the war, according to recent polling. Sixty-three percent want US troops brought home within the next year. Yet a recent National Journal "insiders poll" found that a similar margin of Democratic members of Congress reject setting any timetable. The possibility that America's military presence in Iraq may be doing more harm than good is considered beyond the pale of "sophisticated" debate.
I am also worried because some basic facts are completely being overlooked in regard to the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

  • First, as I've said before, Iran has signed the NPT. The NPT allows atomic programs for peaceful ends. You have to read pretty deep into most accounts of the current set-to to learn that simple and crucially important fact.

  • Second, it's questionable that Iran's "secrect" program has anything to do with building nuclear weapons. If Iranian scientists had intentions in that direction, don't you think they would have built ONE by now? They've had a secret program for 17 years!

  • Third, and this is a new development, published today in the Independent: the IAEE is about to publish scientific research that supports Iran's assertions.

  • Fourth, of the four countries refusing to get on board with the NPT, three -- Pakistan, India and Israel -- are strategic allies of the U.S., leading one to ask: has the United States used its considerable leverage with these nations to curb their proliferation? The short answer (and the long answer, for that matter) is no.

  • Fifth, as Gordon Prather points out, the Iranians have been bargaining in good faith, while the EU negotiators have not.

  • Sixth, that the U.S.'s performance at the May Review Conference of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was absolutely contemptible. For an international meeting to discuss the single-most important danger facing the world today, there was no Condi. Not even John Bolton. Some schlub named Stephen Rademaker stood in for the world's largest nuclear power and basically tore up all past U.S. committments, while self-righteously condemning countries not allied to the United States who would dare attempt to join the nuke club.
What to do? It's not a pretty picture so for the moment I will leave the last word to Howard Zinn who, while not mentioning Iran specifically, gets to the heart of the issue:
More Americans are beginning to feel, like the soldiers in Iraq, that something is terribly wrong. More and more every day the lies are being exposed. And then there is the largest lie, that everything the US does is to be pardoned because we are engaged in a "war on terrorism", ignoring the fact that war is itself terrorism, that barging into homes and taking away people and subjecting them to torture is terrorism, that invading and bombing other countries does not give us more security but less.

The Bush administration, unable to capture the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks, invaded Afghanistan, killing thousands of people and driving hundreds of thousands from their homes. Yet it still does not know where the criminals are. Not knowing what weapons Saddam Hussein was hiding, it invaded and bombed Iraq in March 2003, disregarding the UN, killing thousands of civilians and soldiers and terrorising the population; and not knowing who was and was not a terrorist, the US government confined hundreds of people in Guantánamo under such conditions that 18 have tried to commit suicide.

The Amnesty International Report 2005 notes: "Guantánamo Bay has become the gulag of our times ... When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a licence to others to commit abuse with impunity".

The "war on terrorism" is not only a war on innocent people in other countries; it is a war on the people of the US: on our liberties, on our standard of living. The country's wealth is being stolen from the people and handed over to the super-rich. The lives of the young are being stolen.

The Iraq war will undoubtedly claim many more victims, not only abroad but also on US territory. The Bush administration maintains that, unlike the Vietnam war, this conflict is not causing many casualties. True enough, fewer than 2,000 service men and women have lost their lives in the fighting. But when the war finally ends, the number of its indirect victims, through disease or mental disorders, will increase steadily. After the Vietnam war, veterans reported congenital malformations in their children, caused by Agent Orange.

Officially there were only a few hundred losses in the Gulf war of 1991, but the US Gulf War Veterans Association has reported 8,000 deaths in the past 10 years. Some 200,000 veterans, out of 600,000 who took part, have registered a range of complaints due to the weapons and munitions used in combat. We have yet to see the long-term effects of depleted uranium on those currently stationed in Iraq.

Our faith is that human beings only support violence and terror when they have been lied to. And when they learn the truth, as happened in the course of the Vietnam war, they will turn against the government. We have the support of the rest of the world. The US cannot indefinitely ignore the 10 million people who protested around the world on February 15 2003.

There is no act too small, no act too bold. The history of social change is the history of millions of actions, small and large, coming together at points in history and creating a power that governments cannot suppress.

Friday, August 12, 2005

An evil, adult version of Schoolhouse Rock

"Your basic Fat Evil Prick"

You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll start making plans in earnest to emigrate. But you gotta read this: Matt Taibbi takes a tour through Congress, guided by the great and quixotic Vermont rep Bernie Sanders, whose characterization of the esteemed legislative chamber—"Nobody knows how this place is run. If they did, they'd go nuts."—should be chiseled into the Capitol steps. Here are a few of Taibbi's pithier moments:
  • The House Rules Committee is perhaps the free world's outstanding bureaucratic abomination -- a tiny, airless closet deep in the labyrinth of the Capitol where some of the very meanest people on earth spend their days cleaning democracy like a fish.
  • As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sensenbrenner is the majority lawmaker in whose scaly womb the Patriot Act gestated until its recent delivery to Rules. Though he was here as a witness, his obvious purpose was to bare his fangs in the direction of anyone or anything who would threaten his offspring.
    Sensenbrenner is your basic Fat Evil Prick, perfectly cast as a dictatorial committee chairman: He has the requisite moist-with-sweat pink neck, the dour expression, the penchant for pointless bile and vengefulness. Only a month before, on June 10th, Sensenbrenner suddenly decided he'd heard enough during a Judiciary Committee hearing on the Patriot Act and went completely Tasmanian devil on a group of Democratic witnesses who had come to share stories of abuses at places like Guantanamo Bay. Apparently not wanting to hear any of that stuff, Sensenbrenner got up midmeeting and killed the lights, turned off the microphones and shut down the C-Span feed, before marching his fellow Republicans out of the room -- leaving the Democrats and their witnesses in the dark.
  • The Democrats generally occupy a four-seat row on the far left end of the panel table, and during hearings they tend to sit there in mute, impotent rage, looking like the unhappiest four heads of lettuce to ever come out of the ground.
  • While Sanders was facing the Rules Committee, House leaders were openly threatening their fellow members about the upcoming vote on CAFTA. "We will twist their arms until they break" was the Stalin-esque announcement of Arizona Republican Jim Kolbe. The hard-ass, horse-head-in-the-bed threat is a defining characteristic of this current set of House leaders, whose willingness to go to extreme lengths to get their way has become legend.
  • Flake is a sunny-looking sort of guy with a slim build and blow-dried blond hair. He looks like a surfer or maybe the manager of a Guitar Center in Ventura or El Segundo: outwardly cheerful, happy and ill-suited, facially anyway, for the real nut-cutting politics of this sort. When it comes time for him to give his speech, Flake meanders to the podium like a man who has just had his head clanged between a pair of cymbals. The lump in his throat is the size of a casaba melon.
  • Reid's predecessor as minority leader, Tom Daschle, was a marionette of the banking and credit-card industries whose public persona recalled a hopped-up suburban vacuum-cleaner salesman. In the wake of the Daschle experiment, Reid is the perfect inheritor of the Democratic leadership mantle: a dour, pro-life Mormon with a campaign chest full of casino money.
  • Congress isn't the steady assembly line of consensus policy ideas it's sold as, but a kind of permanent emergency in which a majority of members work day and night to burgle the national treasure and burn the Constitution.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

War death destruction environmental catastrophe

Blah blah blah. Enough with the gloom and doom.

Thinking of something positive. Something NICE to say.

OK. At the moment I'm really groovin' on "Thing with a Hook" at WFMU. Talk about wide-ranging taste. Total trashheap in the best possible way. At the moment it's Dr. Hook. Earlier Liz Damon's Orient Express (remember that? "1900 Yesterday"? Cripes.) and the Lovin' Spoonful and the soundtrack from Jesus Christ Superstar.

And inevitably I'm sucked down the rabbit hole that is LCD, the site that "delivers the kind of strange and interesting stuff our radio station does, only in print."

The Big Thaw

The world's largest peat bog is melting for the first time since, oh, 11 thousand years ago. Once it's gone, it's gone.
"When you start messing around with these natural systems you can end up in situations where it's unstoppable. There are no brakes you can apply," said David Viner, a senior scientist at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

"This is a big deal because you can't put the permafrost back once it's gone. The causal effect is human activity and it will ramp up temperatures even more than our emissions are doing."
—from a New Scientist report on an unprecedented melting of the Siberian permafrost that could dramatically increase the rate of global warming.

Guardian story
New Scientist story


One of the great untold stories of the Iraq debacle concerns the DOD's use of Depleted Uranium. I wonder why it has zero traction with the media, mainstream or otherwise.

A few months back Rob Nixon wrote an extensive overview of the subject for the Chronicle of Higher Education (see mirror of article here) and at the time I thought, "Christ, what an appalling story." But then months passed and I heard nothing about it, until yesterday when this story popped up in CommonDreams, written by Leuren Moret, environmental commissioner for the City of Berkeley.

Nixon describes why DU is such a big hit with the DOD:
As a byproduct of nuclear testing and nuclear power, depleted uranium is extremely cheap indeed, better than free. Half a century of nuclear-weapons and nuclear-power production has left the Department of Defense with over a billion pounds of nuclear waste in storage. The department is delighted to offload some of that waste onto arms manufacturers, gratis, in the form of depleted uranium. The result is a seductive kind of alchemy: Weapons manufacturers magically cut their production costs while the Defense Department magically rids itself of a five-alarm waste product that no American wants buried in his backyard. The result is a kind of anti-environmental recycling that converts highly toxic waste into even more deadly explosive forms.
Moret makes a number of provocative points about DU's use:
Since 1991, the U.S. has released the radioactive atomicity equivalent of at least 400,000 Nagasaki bombs into the global atmosphere. That is 10 times the amount released during atmospheric testing which was the equivalent of 40,000 Hiroshima bombs. The U.S. has permanently contaminated the global atmosphere with radioactive pollution having a half-life of 2.5 billion years.

DU on the battlefield has three effects on living systems: it is a heavy metal "chemical" poison, a "radioactive" poison and has a "particulate" effect due to the very tiny size of the particles that are 0.1 microns and smaller.

... DU is the Trojan Horse of nuclear war - it keeps giving and keeps killing. There is no way to clean it up, and no way to turn it off because it continues to decay into other radioactive isotopes in over 20 steps.

Terry Jemison at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs stated in August 2004 that over 518,000 Gulf-era veterans (14-year period) are now on medical disability, and that 7,039 were wounded on the battlefield in that same period. Over 500,000 U.S. veterans are homeless.

In some studies of soldiers who had normal babies before the war, 67 percent of the post-war babies are born with severe birth defects - missing brains, eyes, organs, legs and arms, and blood diseases.

In southern Iraq, scientists are reporting five times higher levels of gamma radiation in the air, which increases the radioactive body burden daily of inhabitants. In fact, Iraq, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan are uninhabitable.
I don't quite know what Moret means by that last sentence, but the gist of what she and Nixon say SHOULD mean that this is the biggest not-reported story out there.

I wouldn't be surpised if there are quibbles over some of the scientific points on DU's effects, but the fact that the VA has put so many vets on disability is a smoking gun, unless I'm not understanding something.

Nixon concludes his piece with an ominous prediction:
Most cancers take 5 to 30 years to incubate. In a classified acknowledgment of depleted uranium's perils, Britain's Atomic Energy Authority warned that in the gulf war's wake, depleted uranium could enter the food chain and cause half a million premature deaths in Iraq and Kuwait. If the gulf war is any measure, we can anticipate an even more disastrous epidemic of belated deaths following the war in Iraq, given the considerably greater volume of depleted-uranium munitions that American and British troops have deployed this time around.
Why isn't this story on page one?

Iranian ironies

It's August, and Beltway-minded people are still going nuts about the Iran "threat." The venerable Georgie Anne Geyer weighs in on the issue with a fairly sophisticated analysis. She is quite frightened that with Bush in Crawford, Cheney's in charge (but the Prez doesn't have to be out of town for that to be the case, does it?) and she properly takes the Bush Administration to task for the idiocy in Iraq. But her piece shares a number of presumptions that, if not just plain wrong, are a little racist and demonizing and frankly creep me out. Her critique and others from Democrat-identified pundits and pols make me realize that "the opposition" would not necessarily stand in the way of a war on Iran.
Thus, the Iranians were able to simply stand back while their archenemy, Saddam, fell at the Americans' hands and at no cost to themselves. Should it be any surprise that they should move, as ruthlessly as always, to achieve their goals?
Geyer identifies the incoming Iranian president as "a rank conservative." (Hm. Which definition of the word "rank" could she mean here? highly fertile? Strong and offensive in odor or flavor? would she use that word to describe an American conservative?) She also repeats the almost certain falsehood that "Ahmadinejad ... was probably one of the American hostages' captors in 1979."

Anyway, this appears to be the best mainstream pundits can offer. Most won't even say, or bury, the most obvious point, expressed in the Herald Tribune by Thomas Fuller. Under tremendous pressure from Cheney/Bush, European leaders are pouring a furious amount of enegy into "trying to stop Tehran from doing something that is technically not illegal."

A terrific piece that puts it all into perspective appeared in yesterday's TomDispatch. Michael Schwartz explores myriad Iranian ironies. This one, I think, takes the prize:

Now, we're back to a potential face-off with a country that at least has an actual nuclear program, if not (unlike the North Koreans) a weapon to go with it. The nuclear world as imagined by the Bush administration is, in fact, a jaggedly uneven place. On the one hand, you have Iran, considered (like Saddam's Iraq) an imminent proliferation threat (even while that proliferator-in-chief of a nation Pakistan remains our bosom buddy); and yet Iran has, for at least 17 years (yes, Virginia, that's years, not months!), had a secret nuclear program (as well as an above-board one) aimed (possibly) at creating the means to create nuclear weapons. A new U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (the first on Iran since 2001) was just leaked to the press .... [The leaked NIEE] evidently claims that Iran may need another ten years or so to create the means to make nuclear weapons (not even to have the weapons in hand). If that's accurate, then we have a 27-year-plus-long effort to create one bomb. That—to my untutored mind—is not exactly an overwhelming stat when it comes to threat deployment.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

List o' war lies: Keep for handy reference

Please refer to this list of lies when the drums for war on Iran and/or Syria (or, for that matter, Venezuela) become unbearably loud. From the preface to Normon Solomon's book War Made Easy.
A lot of people want to believe that the current war on Iraq is some kind of aberration—a radical departure from the previous baseline of U.S. foreign policy. That's a comforting illusion.

Yes, the current administration in Washington is notable for the extreme mendacity and calculated idiocy of its claims. But -- decade after decade—the propaganda fuel for one U.S. war after another has flowed from a standard set of lies.
  • America Is a Fair and Noble Superpower
  • Our Leaders Will Do Everything They Can to Avoid War
  • Our Leaders Would Never Tell Us Outright Lies
  • This Guy Is a Modern-Day Hitler
  • This Is About Human Rights
  • This Is Not at All About Oil or Corporate Profits
  • They Are the Aggressors, Not Us
  • If This War Is Wrong, Congress Will Stop It
  • If This War Is Wrong, the Media Will Tell Us
  • Media Coverage Brings War Into Our Living Rooms
  • Opposing the War Means Siding With the Enemy
  • This Is a Necessary Battle in the War on Terrorism
  • What the U.S. Government Needs Most Is Better PR
  • The Pentagon Fights Wars as Humanely as Possible
  • Our Soldiers Are Heroes, Theirs Are Inhuman
  • America Needs the Resolve to Kick the "Vietnam Syndrome"
  • Withdrawal Would Cripple U.S. Credibility

Monday, August 08, 2005

Iran executions

Writing in The Nation, Richard Kim traces the media reponse to the execution of two teenagers in Iran. It's an excellent, cautious piece, one that raises more questions than it answers.

The execution of minors on any charge is a barbarous practice, and Iran has an abysmal record in that regard—it has the second-worst record in the world in that dubious ranking, behind only the United States.

But were the youths hanged by the "islamofascists" because they were gay? One of the major points Kim makes is that this sad tale "reveals much about the challenge of pursuing gay and human rights in a political climate infused by the US-led global 'war on terror', anxiety over the recent election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of Iran and growing fears about Islamic fundamentalism, particularly in Europe, in the wake of the London bombings last month."

As regards the question of whether the young Iranians' crime was simply being gay rather than rape, Kim quotes Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Project at Human Rights Watch, who says, "There is no evidence that this was a consensual act. The only reason to think this is what appears to be a mistranslation of the ISNA article. A whole tissue of speculation has been woven around mistranslations and omissions and this has been solidified into a narrative that this is a gay rights case."

Kim gets deep into what he calls " thorny evidentiary issues" and connects some of the original sourcing and mistranslation to certain "cultlike" and "discredited" exiled dissident groups with ties to the—you guessed it— neocons. Beyond that he advises skepticism about any charges leveled at "oppressive" Islamic societies these days.
There's no question that the executions of Marhoni and Asgari deserve fierce condemnation. And it remains a possibility that this was, indeed, a violation not just of human rights but of gay rights--though it is highly unlikely that the two self-identified as gay. What's worth exploring is how our perception of the case has been refracted though the prism of ideological debates over the nature and danger of radical Islam, and how assumptions about the "clash of civilizations" that supposedly pits enlightened, secular, humane Western society against backward, theocratic, oppressive Islamic society seem to have impaired our ability to get the facts straight. The story also reveals much about the challenge of pursuing gay and human rights in a political climate infused by the US-led global "war on terror", anxiety over the recent election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of Iran and growing fears about Islamic fundamentalism, particularly in Europe, in the wake of the London bombings last month.
Read the whole story...

For me, this story calls to mind the days immediately following the 911 attacks. I was living in Brooklyn at the time. After sitting stunned through hours of wildly speculative, frankly racist CNN coverage, I had briefly become convinced that all the Muslims in my neighborhood should be suspected of supporting terrorist groups. I remember visiting my local Halal grocery, giving the owners a noncommittal glance in lieu of my customary smile while I gave their donation boxes for Palestinian refugees a long hard look. The proprietors of that store were/are wonderful people. The memory of my suspicion shames me to this day.

Robert Fisk had a comparable memory:
I remember, crossing the Atlantic on 11 September 2001 - my plane turned round off Ireland when the US closed its airspace - how the aircraft purser and I toured the cabins to see if we could identify any suspicious passengers. I found about a dozen, of course, totally innocent men who had brown eyes or long beards or who looked at me with "hostility". And sure enough, in just a few seconds, Osama bin Laden turned nice, liberal, friendly Robert into an anti-Arab racist.
And one further, only tangentially related point: never trust anyone who uses the word "islamofascist."

Crisis? What am I missing?

Why is it a crisis when Iran, a country that signed the NPT, says it plans to resume engaging in activities it is specifically allowed to conduct under the NPT?

I don't want a single nuclear weapon added to the tens of thousands already in place. Having said that, a far bigger story than Iran's pursuit of entry-level nuclear weapons (which has been proven by no one), is that the U.S. is blatantly reneging on its own committments to disarm. That's the deal behind nonproliferation: If new countries don't seek to join the club, the Nuclear Weapons States pledge to get rid of their nukes.

Article VI:
Each of the Parties to the treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.
How can this committment be reconciled with the December 2001 Nuclear Posture Review? For a nice reading between the lines, see William D. Hartung's From MAD to NUTS? Written in early 2002, it spells out the insanity of Bush's approach to nuclear arms, and issues a still-relevant call for action:
As for the rest of us, we need to raise our voices now to demand real nuclear disarmament, not the bait-and-switch approach offered by the Bush administration. It’s not like we haven’t been through this before. Ronald Reagan came into office in 1981 with guns blazing, pushing for a new generation of nuclear weapons and a Star Wars system. By the end of his second term, however, he had put Star Wars on the shelf and signed on to two major nuclear arms reduction treaties, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). Reagan’s historic reversal came as a direct result of pressure brought to bear by the nuclear freeze campaign, the European Nuclear Disarmament movement (END), and pressures from European allies and our erstwhile adversaries in Moscow, led by Mikhail Gorbachev, who wouldn’t take no for an answer. It will take a similar international outcry to stop Bush’s reckless nuclear doctrine. The sooner we get started, the safer we’ll be.
For a quite thorough discussion on just how close (or far) Iran is away from a bomb, see the excellent Arms Control Wonk site.

"Thanks for putting me there"

Classic Times spin—painting Cindy Sheehan as a "problem" for the president to solve.

Still, I suppose one must take what one gets. Stop the presses. The New York Times acknowledged the existence of a war protester. And once covering the story, can't avoid Sheehan's account of her "disgusting" previous encounter with the president (follow link for details).

By Ms. Sheehan's account, Mr. Bush said to her that he could not imagine losing a loved one like an aunt or uncle or cousin. Ms. Sheehan said she broke in and told Mr. Bush that Casey was her son, and that she thought he could imagine what it would be like since he has two daughters and that he should think about what it would be like sending them off to war.

"I said, 'Trust me, you don't want to go there'," Ms. Sheehan said, recounting her exchange with the president. "He said, 'You're right, I don't.' I said, 'Well, thanks for putting me there.' "

I hesitate to use an often-abused word, but Cindy Sheehan is, quite simply, a hero.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

That awful thing

I walked across this bridge and even five days after the bomb, it was covered in charred bodies. I had to step over them, but there were so many I walked on someone. The river underneath was full of people too, floating like dead fish.
—Yasuhiko Shigemoto, Hiroshima survivor
The Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing.
—Dwight Eisenhower, 1963
Sixty years ago today, the U.S. government committed the most inhuman act in the history of mankind, and followed it up three days later with another atrocity of only slightly lesser barbarity.

The government's efforts to conceal the devastation were considerable, and included what should have been a cautionary early case of "embedded" journalism. William L. Laurence, the "science" reporter for the New York Times, was also on the Pentagon's payroll. He aggressively denied the very concept of radiation sickness. For his service in the cause of disinformation, he was rewarded with a Pulitzer Prize.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki came as the climax of an appalling campaign of "conventional" bombing of civilian targets in Japan. Earlier in 1945, 100,000 human beings were "scorched, boiled and baked to death" in a single night when U.S. bombers dropped half a million incendiary bombs on the sleeping city of Tokyo, constructed in large part out of wood. Curtis Lemay later said, "If we had lost the war, we would have been tried as war criminals."

From 1950 to 1956, Lemay alone was trusted with the codes to America's nuclear arsenal.

Where we stand today:
By refusing even to discuss the commitments it made at past meetings, the United States has turned the world of nuclear proliferation into the Wild West, with a complete disrespect for the rule of law.
—Alice Slater, founder of Abolition 2000 at NPT Review Conference in May

The extremist attitude seems to indicate that no lessons have been learned from the nightmares of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (in Japan). If history is any guide nuclear arms, ladies and gentlemen, are in the most dangerous hands.
—Iranian ambassador Javad Zarif
From Never again? How the war in Iraq spurred a new nuclear arms race:

60 years since the first use of a nuclear weapon in war. 160,000 people died when the bomb was dropped at 8.15am on Hiroshima, with another 77,062 dying later.

$27bn is spent each year by the US on nuclear weapons and related programmes

11, 000 active, deliverable nuclear weapons in the world. The US has 6,390, Russia 3,242 and Britain 200

15,654 sq miles, total land area used by US nuclear weapons bases and facilities

4 other states known or thought to have nuclear weapons: India, Israel, Pakistan, North Korea

5 acknowledged nuclear states: China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States

1 number of islands vaporised by nuclear testing: Elugelab, Micronesia, 1952

16 in length [inches?] of 'Davy Crockett', the smallest nuclear weapon ever produced

40 states with technical ability to make nuclear weapons, including Egypt and South Korea

30,000 Kazakh conscripts served at Semipalatinsk, the Soviet test site. There were 456 tests conducted between 1945 and 1991 at the site

100 maximum number of those Kazakh conscripts still alive today

200 estimated number of nuclear weapons possessed by Israel

0 estimated number of nuclear weapons possessed by all the Arab states

100,000 people were members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in 1984

150 estimated number of nuclear weapons possessed by India

75 estimated number of nuclear weapons possessed by Pakistan

40, 000 people are currently members of CND

900 years is the time it will take for radioactive elements in Pripyat, near Chernobyl, to decay to safe levels following the disaster 19 years ago

Friday, August 05, 2005

Opinions Differ on Shape of the Earth

Global warming. Evolution. Fundamentals of economics. If the facts don't fit, fund a think tank to say otherwise—the press will cover "both sides" of the issue.

Krugman has a good piece on the genesis of this strategy.
The important thing to remember is that like supply-side economics or global-warming skepticism, intelligent design doesn't have to attract significant support from actual researchers to be effective. All it has to do is create confusion, to make it seem as if there really is a controversy about the validity of evolutionary theory. That, together with the political muscle of the religious right, may be enough to start a process that ends with banishing Darwin from the classroom.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

A debate I'd like to see...

James Howard Kuntsler vs. Thomas Friedman.

From Globalisation is an Anomaly and Its Time is Running Out, in the Guardian, reprinted in Common Dreams:

The big yammer these days in the United States is to the effect that globalisation is here to stay: it's wonderful, get used to it. The chief cheerleader for this point of view is Thomas Friedman, columnist for the New York Times and author of The World Is Flat. The seemingly unanimous embrace of this idea in the power circles of America is a marvellous illustration of the madness of crowds, for nothing could be further from the truth than the idea that globalisation is now a permanent fixture of the human condition.

Today's transient global economic relations are a product of very special transient circumstances, namely relative world peace and absolutely reliable supplies of cheap energy. Subtract either of these elements from the equation and you will see globalisation evaporate so quickly it will suck the air out of your lungs. It is significant that none of the cheerleaders for globalisation takes this equation into account. In fact, the American power elite is sleepwalking into a crisis so severe that the blowback may put both major political parties out of business.

Hey, it's only our food...

...why should we care who controls it?

I'm quite certain big biotech corporations have our best interests at heart. That's why they're introducing legislation across the country pre-empting a community's right to restrict genetically modified food.

From Alternet, More than just a food fight:
The debate over genetically modified organisms just got a lot hotter in California. Last month, Democratic State Senator Dean Florez introduced an amendment that would effectively remove a community's control over its food supply.

... In addition to an infringement on civil liberties, the fundamental problem that environmental groups have with SB 1056 is that farmers who plant genetically engineered (GE) seeds can't guarantee that their seeds will not contaminate GE-free farms. According to Laurel Hopwood of the Sierra Club, "What's unfortunate for farmers, especially organic farmers, is that pollen can move from place to place, so the spread of GMO gene traits is inevitable." Hopwood adds, "What's different about this form of pollution from any other form of pollution is that it's alive. These new life forms multiply, spread, and cannot be recalled. ... Not only are organic farmers not allowed to call their crop 'organic' when it becomes contaminated, but also farmers can't sell their crops overseas where GMOs are not accepted."

...But if you think the debate over local control is just going on in California, think again. Britt Bailey, the director of Environmental Commons, explained that fourteen states have already passed provisions limiting local control, and North Carolina is still considering a similar measure. Bailey says, "When I contacted the Georgia and Oklahoma legislatures, specifically the authors of the seed preemption bills, and asked them why the bills were introduced, the authors responded by saying the bills were in response to the three California counties that had passed initiatives restricting genetically modified organisms."

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Bat-eared monkey-faced boy king OKs ID in schools

Hardly surprising, but there it is.

"The politics of ignorance" is a sharp but calmly reasoned piece by Sam Harris on the subject:
According to several recent polls, 22 percent of Americans are certain that Jesus will return to earth sometime in the next fifty years. Another 22 percent believe that he will probably do so. This is likely the same 44 percent who go to church once a week or more, who believe that God literally promised the land of Israel to the Jews, and who want to stop teaching our children about the biological fact of evolution. As the President is well aware, believers of this sort constitute the most cohesive and motivated segment of the American electorate. Consequently, their views and prejudices now influence almost every decision of national importance.
And then there is the infinitely more satisfying take on the subject, from a much more enlightened time (the 1920s), by the immortal misanthrope H.L. Mencken, courtesy of
The so-called religious organizations which now lead the war against the teaching of evolution are nothing more, at bottom, than conspiracies of the inferior man against his betters. They mirror very accurately his congenital hatred of knowledge, his bitter enmity to the man who knows more than he does, and so gets more out of life . . .

Such organizations, of course, must have leaders; there must be men in them whose ignorance and imbecility are measurably less abject than the ignorance and imbecility of the average. These super-Chandala often attain to a considerable power, especially in democratic states. Their followers trust them and look up to them; sometimes, when the pack is on the loose, it is necessary to conciliate them. But their puissance cannot conceal their incurable inferiority. They belong to the mob as surely as their dupes, and the thing that animates them is precisely the mob's hatred of superiority. Whatever lies above the level of their comprehension is of the devil.

The quote above is taken from Homo Neaderthalensis, which if you can believe it, ran in a daily newspaper in Baltimore in 1925. (Yes, an infinitely more enlightened time). The first paragraph of that dispatch is also as appropriate as ever:

Such obscenities as the forthcoming trial of the Tennessee evolutionist, if they serve no other purpose, at least call attention dramatically to the fact that enlightenment, among mankind, is very narrowly dispersed. It is common to assume that human progress affects everyone -- that even the dullest man, in these bright days, knows more than any man of, say, the Eighteenth Century, and is far more civilized. This assumption is quite erroneous. The men of the educated minority, no doubt, know more than their predecessors, and of some of them, perhaps, it may be said that they are more civilized -- though I should not like to be put to giving names -- but the great masses of men, even in this inspired republic, are precisely where the mob was at the dawn of history. They are ignorant, they are dishonest, they are cowardly, they are ignoble. They know little if anything that is worth knowing, and there is not the slightest sign of a natural desire among them to increase their knowledge.

And just to share one more nice Mencken aperçu, on the subject of religious freedom (which these days excludes the all important freedom FROM religion):

The meaning of religious freedom, I fear, is sometimes greatly misapprehended. It is taken to be a sort of immunity, not merely from governmental control but also from public opinion. A dunderhead gets himself a long-tailed coat, rises behind the sacred desk, and emits such bilge as would gag a Hottentot. Is it to pass unchallenged? If so, then what we have is not religious freedom at all, but the most intolerable and outrageous variety of religious despotism. Any fool, once he is admitted to holy orders, becomes infallible. Any half-wit, by the simple device of ascribing his delusions to revelation, takes on an authority that is denied to all the rest of us.

Neocons: where did these creatures come from?

If you're like me, you're a little uncomfortable with the notion that John Bolton, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle qualify in any way as "intellectuals." And yet many accounts of the rise of neoconservatism describe them as products of an intellectual lineage tracing back to University of Chicago politial theorist Leo Strauss.

In "Midnight Ride: Origins of the Species Neo-Con," Roger Morris makes a much more convincing case that the neocon all-stars should really be seen as no more than garden-variety thugs, opportunists, hatchet-men and profiteers. Morris' article also provides a good deal of background on "hawk's hawk" Scoop Jackson, a hugely important figure in the Senate for many years and someone who shoulders a good deal of the blame for the current insane militaristic state of affairs in our government.
A middle-of-the-road, pro-labor Democrat on domestic issues and an early champion of environmental causes, Jackson was chairman for nearly two decades of the Interior Committee (later Energy and Natural Resources) and sat on the Government Operations Committee and Joint Committee on Atomic Energy -- all major fiefdoms in dispensing federal money and wielding influence in politics and policy. One of Capitol Hill's more vigorous legislators, he was a main author and driving force of the legislation creating the Environmental Protection Agency, major wilderness preservation and other landmark acts. With another local prosecutor raised to Senate power, Seattle's Warren Magnuson, Jackson also saw to it that generous appropriations and contracts were sluiced to his home state. "Scoop" especially would be known scathingly in congressional corridors as the "Senator from Boeing" for being on-call to the increasingly powerful, increasingly corrupt corporate giant.

Haven't we seen this show before?

From AP:
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi legislators accused Kuwait of stealing their oil as well as chipping away at their national territory on the border — allegations similar to those used by Saddam Hussein to justify his invasion of Kuwait that began 15 years ago Tuesday.

Kuwaitis digging horizontal wells? Hmm. That DOES ring a bell.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The mighty Juan...

... connects the dots.

The story begins "Once upon a time, a dangerous radical gained control of the US Republican Party..."

Must reading.

Undercover NASCAR?

I just love headlines with FEAR in them. Editors do too, apparently.

The first paragraph of the L.A. Times story titled "Fear over U.S.-born extremists" follows through with the de rigeur adjectives "deadly" and "chilling" and the resurrected "sleeper" concept (which one might have thought had been disproven, with something like 70,000 extrajudicial detentions and almost no significant convictions).
When security cameras captured four young Britons sauntering into the London Underground before detonating their deadly backpacks last month, the chilling images raised questions about whether such homegrown sleeper terrorists could be plotting attacks in the United States.
The first question that struck me: Home-grown terrorists in America—this is a new thing?

In this story, from early June a former FBI undercover agent discusses a wonderfully American double-standard: where swarthy Islamists are involved, the conspiracy is massive, and there are sleeper cells operating out of every mosque or halal grocery.

When it's a native-born American, he's a "lone wolf" and a bad apple, in spite of ample evidence of many extensive networks of domestic violence-espousing groups. (See the Southen Poverty Law Center's Map of 762 active hate groups here.)

Below, a detail from my home state:

It's true. Terrorism perpetrated by White Christian Men (racial profiling anyone? How about undercover at NASCAR?) has been around for quite some time in America, and is doing quite well today, thank you very much.

Interested parties might want to have a look at the SPLC's latest report, which states that there have been no fewer than 60 rightist terrorist plots since 1995 (not that you'd know that from the Department of Homeland Security—their biggest domestic terror threats are animal rights and environmental groups!):
These [plots] have included plans to bomb or burn government buildings, banks, refineries, utilities, clinics, synagogues, mosques, memorials and bridges; to assassinate police officers, judges, politicians, civil rights figures and others; to rob banks, armored cars and other criminals; and to amass illegal machine guns, missiles, explosives, and biological and chemical weapons.
It only sorta/kinda fits with this post, but I don't know how to wind it up and I HAVE to get back to work, so herewith I take the liberty of reproducing my favorite-ever example of post-911 awful writing, the Peggy Noonan WSJ column of October 19, 2001:
Tourists? It was a funny time of day for tourists to be videotaping a landmark – especially when the tourists looked like the guys who'd just a few days before blown up a landmark.

They stared at us staring at them for a few seconds, and then they began to videotape Rockefeller Center. We continued watching, and I surveyed the street for a policeman or patrol car. I looked over at the men again. They were watching me. The one with the camera puts it down for a moment. We stared, they stared. And then they left. They walked away and disappeared down a side street. Let me tell you what I thought. I thought: Those guys are terrorists.
The title of Noonan's piece: Profiles Encouraged. Oh, I get it now!


In spite of the constant drumming up of the Iran nuclear "threat", especially in the wake of a "hardliner's" election in the Islamic Republic, it now turns out that the threat was ... exagerrated.


From the Washington Post: Iran Is Judged 10 Years From Nuclear Bomb
U.S. Intelligence Review Contrasts With Administration Statements.

Such a shame, and the brave opposition party was already on board for another war. Back to the drawing board. Time to commission another "regime change" plan, though Cheney, in his inimitably blunt way, sez nuke Iran if there's another terrorist attack on the U.S.—regardless of who dun it! (I am not making this up.)

Saudis did it? Nuke Iran.
Egyptians? Nuke Iran.
Crazed zealots from that hotbed of fundamentalism, the American south? Nuke Iran.

Life is simple in Cheney world.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Let's drop the big one and see what happens

Randy Newman's biting tribute to nuclear madness Political Science has never seemed more apt. Might I suggest it be retitled "Talkin' John Bolton Blues"?
No one likes us
I don't know why
We may not be perfect
But heaven knows we try
But all around even our old friends put us down
Let's drop the big one and see what happens

We give them money
But are they grateful?
No they're spiteful
And they're hateful
They don't respect us, so let's surprise them
We'll drop the big one and pulverize them

Now Asia's crowded
And Europe's too old
Africa's far too hot
And Canada's too cold
South America stole our name
Let's drop the big one
There'll be no one left to blame us

We'll save Australia
Don't wanna hurt no kangaroo
We'll build an All American amusement park there
They've got surfing, too!

Well, boom goes London
And boom Paree
More room for you
And more room for me

And every city the whole world round
Will just be another American town
Oh, how peaceful it'll be
We'll set everybody free
You'll have Japanese kimonos, baby
There'll be Italian shoes for me

They all hate us anyhow
So let's drop the big one now

Let's drop the big one now
You wouldn't know it by* watching TV news or reading the Post or Times, but the past few months have been eventful in terms of nuclear arms. While a shocking amount of ink has been spilled over proliferation in the form of Iran's iffy nuclear desires, not much has been said about the behavior of the U.S. in recent months.

* dang—I do say that a lot, don't I?

George Monbiot, writing in the Guardian, has this cheerful report:
Saturday is the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. The nuclear powers are commemorating it in their own special way: by seeking to ensure that the experiment is repeated.

... It is because nuclear weapons confer power and status on the states that possess them that the non-proliferation treaty, of which the UK was a founding signatory, determines two things: that the non-nuclear powers should not acquire nuclear weapons, and that the nuclear powers should "pursue negotiations in good faith on ... general and complete disarmament". Blair has unilaterally decided to rip it up.

But in helping to wreck the treaty we are only keeping up with our friends across the water. In May the US government launched a systematic assault on the agreement. The summit in New York was supposed to strengthen it, but the US, led by John Bolton - the undersecretary for arms control (someone had a good laugh over that one) - refused even to allow the other nations to draw up an agenda for discussion. The talks collapsed, and the treaty may now be all but dead. Needless to say, Bolton has been promoted: to the post of US ambassador to the UN.

...Thanks to Bush and Blair, we might not go out with a whimper after all.
Read the whole article...

Order 81 and the Fertile Crescent

Heather Gray's Home grown axis of evil in CounterPunch looks at big agriculture's malign intentions with regard to Iraq's farmers:
Most of the world has resisted, in some way, the wholesale invasion of GMO crops. No country in their right mind would turn over their food sovereignty to US corporate agribusiness. Not to be defeated, corporate agribusiness has sought loopholes in vulnerable areas in the world. They seek regions where the implementation of their insidious schemes is virtually a given and from which they can force the world to accept their devastating and destabilizing agricultural model. Currently, the US military occupied Iraq is a prime area and the continent of Africa is another.
I first got wind of the insane, unbelievably arrogant rapacity behind the "liberation" of Iraq's economy from Naomi Klein's excellent "Baghdad Year Zero" article in Harper's. I've since taken an obsessive interest in the agricultural aspects of the radical neocon takeover, in particular in how large agribusiness interests were hot on using Iraqis as lab rats for their GMO crops, and especially with the idea of introducing patented seed strains, making farmers pay to use them, and to forbid the saving and reuse of seeds. It really doesn't get any more contemptible than that.

Honestly, I haven't been able to find news reports on the current status on Bremer's CPA orders, and whether they're even being discussed by the committee drafting the Iraqi constitution.

If anyone has any new news, I'd be happy to hear it. For now, I assume the incredibly odious Order 81, “Patent, Industrial Design, Undisclosed Information, Integrated Circuits and Plant Variety” is in effect and will remain so when (if!) the new constitution miraculously emerges.

To backtrack briefly, this, according to Christopher Findlay for ISN Security Watch, is what Order 81 is all about:
"enacted shortly before the formal handover of sovereignty last year, the Iraqi Patent and Industrial Designs Laws and Regulations (No. 65 of 1970) were amended. As a result, it is now illegal for Iraqi farmers to save up seeds from their latest harvest and use them for planting or crossbreeding in the next year’s crop – a practice that has been honored by farmers in the region since time immemorial. The preamble to Bremer’s Order 81 states that one of its goals is to ensure “that economic change as necessary to benefit the people of Iraq occurs in a manner acceptable to the people of Iraq”. But in paragraph 66 of the order, Iraqi wheat growers are expressly prohibited from saving their seeds for the next season: “Farmers shall be prohibited from re-using seeds of protected varieties,” the order says. These “protected” seeds include an increasing number of varieties that have been developed by indigenous farmers through manual selection over centuries, but have since been patented by international companies. Seeds that are distinguished from other known, registered varieties can be claimed as intellectual property by anyone, worldwide. Such seeds are by default considered to be “protected varieties”, and Iraqi farmers using them are required to destroy their entire seed stock at the end of a harvest.
Read the whole article...

There's a wealth of information on the subject of seed laws at the web site for Grain, a Barcelona-based NGO dedicated to "sustainable management and use of agricultural biodiversity based on people's control over genetic resources and local knowledge."

Also, a group of agricultural organizations from all around the world is demanding that the WTO get out of agriculture altogether. Read about their proposals here:

The governments of both developed and developing countries face the choice of sacrificing the rights of the majority of their populations to food sovereignty and decent employment in return for increased corporate access to international markets. As agriculture negotiations in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) continue , government negotiators are being pressured to cede the ability of local and national governments to democratically establish their own policies to feed their people and support their farmers in return for increased access to international markets for their main exporters.

Scandals great and small

Alexander Cockburn in CounterPunch:

At the level of substance the Bush administration should be reeling in the face of savage attack for the ghastly failure of its mission in Iraq. Yet in the American media [the] scale of that failure is muffled by prudent reporters and editors.

The fact that America faces as big a national humiliation as it endured in Vietnam is not one much discussed. The antiwar movement is limping along, and the Democratic Party is desperate to be seen as a "loyal" opposition. Many of its leaders call not for an end to the war, but a war fought with more troops, with greater efficiency.

So the Plame scandal becomes the focus of attack, because the real reasons are deemed too contentious to be raised in public. In the same way, thirty years ago, Nixon was never impeached for a secret, illegal war on Cambodia, but because it turned out he had not been truthful about a cover-up of political mischief at home.