As commentator Groucho pointed out to me, Richard Sale has a good piece on spreading democracy at Patrick Lang's site.
I would simply like to go on record as having serious objections to the Bush administration's policy of encouraging and supporting the growth of democratic institutions in the Middle East and around the world.
There is little historical evidence that democracy is the natural state, or the foremost form of political association among human beings. Historially, its origin in terms of time and location is very limited. [...] In other words, democracy is hardly a univeral phenomenon.
For a great many of the world's peoples, personal freedom has been far less of a concern than physical and economic security or material prosperity. Often, to secure these, peoples have looked to more authoriitarian forms of government. [...]
The Bush administration's unthinking advocacy of democracy without fully understanding the cultural and political traiditions where democracy is being attempted seems to be another species of the delusion that we know with certainty what other people want, a self conceit that evades any honest evaluation to determine if our own beliefs, values and habits are relevent to people and institutions very different from ourselves.
I agree in principle with this, but there is a deep missunderstanding of the Bush administration's definition of democracy. We can tell that from its appreciation of democratic elected leaders in Venezuela, Palestine and Iraq.
Bush spreading democracy is not about elections or free will of the people, but about free markets.
In a speech at the neo-con "Freedom House" on Wednesday Bush said:
I happen to believe free markets eventually yield free societies. One of the most -- one of the most pure forms of democracy is the marketplace, [...]. That stands in contrast to governments that felt like they could set price and control demand.
The "democratic" label Bush uses, is only a slightly veiled version of robber-baron economics. To the cabal, "democratization" of other countries is a sham of conquering new markets and to gain access to foreign resources. Under Bush's definition, a government that uses price-fixtures and demand control is not democratic (Medicare anyone?).
But I do not doubt that there are many well meaning folks in the U.S. who are altruistic and do wish for other countries to become democracies. Bush is abusing these people when he utters some word-derivative of "democracy" 45 times during his "Freedom House" gig.
To these folks Sale continues:
The idea that every victim of oppression is at heart a liberal democrat is one of the most persistent of American illusions. It simply won't die. It has the persistence of bacteria.
America is, at bottom, only a country, not some glorious cause. Like any other country, we have our shameful episodes like the Mexican War, the Spanish American War, the occupation of the Philippines, etc. In other words, there are times when we are are noble, other times where we are greedy and squalid, some times when we are selfless, and others where our avarice is truly shameful.
We have less to offer than we think, and what we need, it seems to be, is to bring into closer alignment our actual capababilities and the obstacles confronting them, and thus produce a more sober menu of ambitions.
Here I agree, though I caution that this argumentation has been, is and can again be abused to actively support tyrannies and dictatorships.
A good moral position can be found between the extremes. Talk to, but do not sell weapons to dictatorships. Offer scholarships to the youth of tyrannies, but deny full honors to the tyrant. Practice compassionate isolationism.
People's power ...
The memo indicates the two leaders envisioned a quick victory and a transition to a new Iraqi government that would be complicated, but manageable. Mr. Bush predicted that it was "unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups." Mr. Blair agreed with that assessment.
Bush Was Set on Path to War, British Memo Says, NYT, March 27, 2006
Today, some Americans ask whether removing Saddam caused the divisions and instability we're now seeing. In fact, much of the animosity and violence we now see is the legacy of Saddam Hussein.
The argument that Iraq was stable under Saddam and that stability is now in danger because we removed him is wrong.
President Discusses Democracy in Iraq with Freedom House, March 29, 2006
But I would ask people to, to look at the perspective here of what is really going on in Iraq. Under this, the violence—under the specter of this violence, you have Iraqis now—Sunnis, Shia, Kurds and others—determined to form a government of national unity. That’s extraordinary in Iraq’s history where they’ve always settled their differences by violence, not by politics.
Rice on Meet The Press, March 26, 2006
Losing In Afghanistan
There is serious trouble in Afghanistan and the western coalition is not winning:
"Over the last five or six weeks there have been various proven attacks mainly at night by the Taliban on that base, but I think it is fair to say this is the largest we have seen thus far," British spokesman Col. Chris Vernon told reporters in Kandahar.
The battle began hours after Taliban insurgents ambushed an Afghan supply convoy as it returned to the remote forward operating base late Tuesday, killing eight Afghan soldiers, Vernon said.
U.S. and British warplanes and helicopters were called in to provide air support and a Canadian quick reaction force was sent from Kandahar to the base, where a small contingent of American and Canadian soldiers are stationed with Afghan troops in the Sangin district of the volatile Helmand province.
Early Wednesday, the base came under a "significant Taliban attack," during which the Canadian and American soldiers were killed, Vernon said. At least five coalition troops were wounded, including three Canadians and an American, officials said.
Twelve Taliban militants also died in the fighting, while 20 others were killed after coalition aircraft and artillery fire forced them to flee into the desert.
There had been reconaissance probing by the Taliban. Then they shut down the supply lines by attacking a convoy. An attack was launched that killed an American and a Canadian and wounded another four westerners of the "small contingent" while wounding only one Afghan soldier?! The day was saved by emergency reenforcement from Kandahar and really massive air power:
In Afghanistan March 28, an Air Force B-52 Stratofortress, Predator, A-10 Thunderbolt IIs and Royal Air Force Harrier GR7s provided close air support to coalition troops in contact with enemy forces near Gereshk.
The Predator successfully launched two AGM-114 “Hellfire” precision-guided munitions against enemy forces. The GR7s successfully expended two MK-82 500-pound and one MK-83 1000-pound general-purpose bomb, along with one GBU-16 Enhanced Paveway II bomb and 23 rockets against enemy forces. The A-10s successfully fired 460 30mm cannon rounds, and expended one MK-82 500-pound general-purpose bomb and two GBU-12 Paveway II bombs against the target.
That is a total of 5.000 pounds of bombs, quite a bit of other ammunition and lots of money (one Hellfire missle is about $120,000) for some 20 dead "militants" - and don´t you dare to question that count.
The western coalition will get handed its ass in Afghanistan. For centuries that country has won against any occupation power. It may take a while, but either the drug lords, or the Taliban, not the western coalition, will win this fight.
From the sole interest of the west, a win for the Taliban might even be preferable. If they would come back with their "no drugs" policy, it would cut away some 90% of the world's heroin.
Supply / Demand
Medicare is not allowed to negotiate prescription drug prices. Indeed it would catastrophic if Medicare could do so. Some people have questioned the reasoning for this important statute. But it is quite simple to understand.
If Medicare would negotiate prescription prices, it would lead to changes in supply and demand. Demand causes something to happen and supply would go up. The supply causes prices to go up.
That is democracy by the way. Indeed it is the most pure form of democracy.
You do not get that? Here are the valuable words of a prominent MBA holder explaining it in precise language:
One of the most -- one of the most pure forms of democracy is the marketplace, where demand causes something to happen. Excess demand causes prices to -- the supply causes prices to go up, and vice versa. That stands in contrast to governments that felt like they could set price and control demand.
President Discusses Democracy in Iraq with Freedom House, March 29, 2006
Who handed that guy a diploma?
The Power Of Subtitles?
Number 25 and 26 had "Open Thread ..." and "News & views ..." as subtitle lines. Number 27's subtitle (stolen from Chris Allbritton) is the line:
Now don´t get me wrong!
I am very happy there are so many really, really good comments. I am just wondering IF and/or HOW we, YOU and I, can be induced by a simple subtitle.
If you do not post comments, the terrorists will win!
Find the people on the foredeck.
Bigger view (130kb)
This is the worlds biggest container vessel for now. It is 350 meters (1,150 feet) long and can carry a maximum of 9,500 TEU, i.e. 20" long containers (TEU = Twenty foot Equivalent Units).
There are four more of this type on order and as ship-size always increases, 12,000 TEU ships are already planed. Bigger ships though would not fit through the Suez canal and, due to the wider deck, the loading time might increase too much.
Right now, shipping cost are high with about all available ships worldwide booked. Even though scrap iron prices are up, those nasty scrap-yards have free capacity. Any available rust-bucket (some scary pictures within those PDF-files) is kept afloat.
But worldwide some 2,000 new seagoing ships will be launched this year and with all the new tonnage coming afloat, shipping rates are expected to fall significantly. Stocks for shipping companies are already down.
So maybe those 12,000 TEU monsters will never be build and the COSCO Guangzhou and her sister-ships will be the largest box-carrier to see for some years.
WB: Party of Lincoln
WB: Homeland Security
Iraqi Kids Get Beanie Babies
The Cheney administration is beating up the media for better news out of Iraq - not very successful yet. But MoA yielded.
The effort induced me to search for the real, better news at U.S. Central Command's Iraq website:
But three years into the prolonged war, Central Command does know who they are up to.
Maybe they all do need some further development, but the basic structure is in place.
Hey don´t get cynic.
Soldiers of the 142nd Corps Support Battalion handed out Beanie Babies to about 1,000 school children in Zakho.
Good news, indeed. That project should have made headlines. It does at MoA. So Rummy, please stop the beating now and Mr. Cheney, could you please put that gun away?
Another Open Thread
News & views ...
Sí se puede!
Finally an issue that brings masses onto the streets of U.S. cities. That alone is already good, because it will show people how they do have power if they stand up.
But the issue at hand is problematic. Progressives seem split on it. On one side, immigrants raise the potential workforce and thereby put pressure on wages. On the other side, for a nation based on immigration like the U.S., it is difficult to find a moral justification to stop it.
The mighty industries paying the right want the immigration wage cap and the new market it creates. But conservatives also want security which they see endangered by the inflow.
This will be a defining issue for the 2006 elections. But I fail to see a consistent positions on the issue in either party.
WB: Copy Cat
The corporate suits now opening the journalistic doors to the propagandists of the authoritarian right are powerful and privileged people who hope that appeasing the blogswarm will help them remain powerful and privileged -- or at least avoid the fate of Eason Jordan and Dan Rather. This, as I (and many others) have already noted, bears a striking resemblance to a successful protection racket.
Compared to Marcuse's original schematic, the goals of the corporate media establishment and the conservative blogosphere aren't really in conflict, as both sides are quickly realizing. The authoritarian right doesn't want to overthrow the system; it just wants to purge it. And, as Keith Olbermann recently pointed out, there are plenty of suits in the corporate corner offices who would be more than happy to go along, as long as it is a.) commercially viable and b.) doesn't cause too many embarrassments of the Coretta King-was-a-communist variety.
Tigers Begin to Roam
Tigers Begin to Roam
full size (100kb)
Tigers Begin to Roam [..] comes from one of the 72 seasonal units of the Chinese calendar which would actually be Dec. 5-9 but this is what snow does to me.
by fauxreal (stolen from a comment)
I've been looking through some ephemera related to American politics in 1925-ish. An article excerpts talk about the coming depletion of American oil, and predicts all oil will be gone in the U.S. in twenty years.
Interesting in light of today, but also in view of WWII and the mention of the Japanese not bombing the oil storage at Pearl Harbor those twenty years plus or minus later.
I also saw some things about the fight for Iraq between France, England, Italy, the U.S. and Japan. Germany was not an issue in this fight. Mussolini was already leading the fascists in Italy and claiming he had no designs on invasion of anyone.
In the meantime, there was a campaign in California called EPIC, or "End Poverty in California," because so many people were seriously suffering. Upton Sinclair was the candidate for Governor of CA. in this group and he was a professed socialist.
He was also endorsed by a group that called itself Progressive Republicans for Democratic Candidates or something like that. In other words, Republicans were willing to endorse Sinclair to try to solve the problems of poverty in light of the robber barons' continued exploitation.
Interesting, at least to me.
We are certainly living in different times.
Another photo dealt with the death of Lenin and showed a clutch of men who were possible successors in an informal photo. Four of five of them were mentioned. A guy in the center was not mentioned. His name was Joseph Stalin. Was the paper so ignorant, or was the omission on purpose?
Of course, we can go back an construct a history based upon events. But in the midst of events, isn't it amazing how wrong people can be, and sometimes for the best of reasons (and sometimes for the worst.)
Open thread ...
Former first lady Barbara Bush donated an undisclosed amount of money to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund with specific instructions that the money be spent with an educational software company owned by her son Neil.
I don´t know about those laws in the U.S. but in some countries this would be seen as hidden tax-free transfer from a parent to a child to avoid some impending estate taxes.
But that aside, the notion of giving money tax-free to a charity with the demand to spend it on a sons's company goods is at least very bad taste.
The son of course is not a bit better, than the mother:
In February 2004, the Houston school board unanimously agreed to accept $115,000 in charitable donations from businesses and individuals who insisted the money be spent on Ignite. The money covered half the bill for the software, which cost $10,000 per school.
The deal raised conflict of interest concerns because Neil Bush and company officials helped solicit the donations for the HISD Foundation, a philanthropic group that raises money for the district.
But somehow the business still is not as successful as Neil would like to have it, so mama had agreed to do the direct sales job:
Barbara Bush is expected to observe both teachers and students using the Ignite Learning program while touring classrooms, according to the Ignite press release.
During a short reception, teachers and students will give testimonials about the program and Bush will "encourage community business leaders to have a stronger presence in supporting schools and education," the press release said.
What a rotton family.
Good And Bad Elections
Georgia's election was jubilated in the "Western" press, Belarus' election is damned. But are both of these results realistic at all?
Good elections: Georgia, 4 January 2004 Mikheil Saakashvili 96.0% Total turnout 82.8%
Bad elections: Belarus, 19 March 2006 Alexander Lukashenko 82.6% Total turnout 92.6%
Two Polls On Racism
One third of French people say they are racist, a French human rights watchdog said on Tuesday, ...
Some 33 percent of 1,011 people surveyed face-to-face by pollsters CSA said they were "somewhat" or "a little" racist, ...
The poll asked the question "When it comes to you personally, would you say you are ..." followed by a list of options: somewhat racist, a bit racist, not racist, not very racist, not racist at all and don't want to say.
One third of French say they are racist, Reuters, 22 March 2006
Sixty-eight percent of Israeli Jews would refuse to live in the same apartment building as an Israeli Arab, according to the results of an annual poll released Wednesday by the Center for the Struggle Against Racism.
Forty-six percent of Jews would refuse to allow an Arab to visit their home while 50 percent would welcome an Arab visitor. Forty-one percent of Jewish support the segregation of Jews and Arabs in places of recreation and 52 percent of such Jews would oppose such a move.
Poll: 68% of Jews would refuse to live in same building as an Arab, Haaretz, 22 March 2006
On the Origins of an Atrocity
If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long.
George W. Bush, speech at West Point in 2002
That seems to be the logic use in defense of the atrocity at Haditha. I am ready to agree with that logic, but do disagree that this logic was actually being followed in Haditha or in Iraq in general. Nor has the government given us reason to expect that this logic is actually driving the so-called national policy of the United States.
In Haditha, Iraq - a Time report:
Dr. Wahid, director of the local hospital in Haditha, who asked that his family name be withheld because, he says, he fears reprisals by U.S. troops, says the Marines brought 24 bodies to his hospital around midnight on Nov. 19. Wahid says the Marines claimed the victims had been killed by shrapnel from the roadside bomb. "But it was obvious to us that there were no organs slashed by shrapnel," Wahid says. "The bullet wounds were very apparent. Most of the victims were shot in the chest and the head--from close range."
A day after the incident, a Haditha journalism student videotaped the scene at the local morgue and at the homes where the killings had occurred. The video was obtained by the Hammurabi Human Rights Group, which cooperates with the internationally respected Human Rights Watch, and has been shared with Time. The tape makes for grisly viewing. It shows that many of the victims, especially the women and children, were still in their nightclothes when they died. The scenes from inside the houses show that the walls and ceilings are pockmarked with shrapnel and bullet holes as well as the telltale spray of blood. But the video does not reveal the presence of any bullet holes on the outside of the houses, which may cast doubt on the Marines' contention that after the ied exploded, the Marines and the insurgents engaged in a fierce gunfight.
The officers that allowed have no solid grounds for explaining to their troops that they have suffered for any good reason, nor that their deaths and soul-crimes have been in true service to the nation or the folks back home. These Marines have been damned by a military policy that is not national, not at the service of the U.S. as a people, or even as a country. Whether or not these Marines have gotten as far as Smedley Butler had figured out that they're working for this era's version of United Fruit and Standard Oil, it is a certainty that these troops have been damned to hell by the same 'national' policy makers when they also damned Iraqis to life in hell.
For democracy?! Tell that to these Marines. Or tell it to the Iraqis in this or any village.
One wonders, who do these 'national' policy makers consider the enemy? They seem to hate and fear most of all anyone serious about serving the nation. Look at whom they smear and spy on the Bill of Rights. Look at how they seem to read it.
We are taking about treachery, or as a former Supreme Court Justice of the U.S. said upon the opening of certain earlier trials against men and women who betrayed their nation by leading it into hell:
Our position is that whatever grievances a nation may have, however objectionable it finds the status quo, aggressive warfare is an illegal means for settling these grievances or for altering these conditions.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson opening the Nuremburg Trials
How does the current President of the United States recommend we defend ourselves were someone to threaten to betray and attack the nation:
We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants, who solemnly sign non-proliferation treaties, and then systemically break them. If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long.
George W. Bush, speech at West Point in 2002
Words to live by.
News & views ...
There are a lot of emotions in the Thanks And Fare Well! thread - yours and mine. Some want to keep the site, some are happy to say good-bye.
I've been around and ran online communities since 1993, tiny and huge ones. This is the site I cherish most so far. But it is missing a future. To be a valid, stable community the threshold for an MoA like venture is about some 80 comments and some 1.000 visitors a day. More will change the site, but for the better. Some of the comments can be those very valuable link-drops, but there is a real need for those substantial comments offered by some.
Such comments can only be induced with equally substantial, or at least provocative, offerings on the main-page. As acknowledged, that is hard to do on a continuous schedule and I, for now, lack the power and time to do so.
To those who offered to do some of those writings, please do so. For now, send your pieces to MoonofA _at _ aol.com and please allow for a 24h turnover. I will try to find some usable multi-poster software to make that process less clumsy. (Just one editorial tip: keep it short. I usually shrink my pieces by some 40% before posting and they do benefit from it.).
Also please send some pictures of your art or what ever visual you think should be shared. There is really no need for another "Friday cat blogging" site. Anna missed and beq have contributed tremendously.
For folks who don't want the frontpage, please, please comment. Every one of you regular lurkers has ideas on the issues discussed here. You don´t need to have something "superior" in mind. Just to know there are confirming, opposite or variant takes is helpful to everybody. So please take the minute to scribble your thoughts here. There are some 15 first-time commentators on that thread. That was really devastating to me.
Juannie Jeanne for the supportive email and to annie for that physical-mediation inducing picture :-).
Concluding: If you, personally, propagate and contribute to this site, it will live.
WB: Trusting the MarketplaceBillmon:
If had the scummy old bastard's track record, I guess I'd trust the marketplace, too.
WB: Groundhog DayBillmon:
After three-and-a-half years and three elections, this is what "democracy" has achieved in Iraq: a chronic case of deju vu. And, of course, approximately 100,000 to 150,000 casualties. And the death squads. Shouldn't forget about them.
WB: Torture RoomsBillmon:
It looks like he's just one atrocity away from hitting the trifecta.
[T]o the Bush administration hawks who are guiding American foreign policy, this isn't the nightmare scenario. It's everything going as anticipated.
In their view, invasion of Iraq was not merely, or even primarily, about getting rid of Saddam Hussein. Nor was it really about weapons of mass destruction, though their elimination was an important benefit. Rather, the administration sees the invasion as only the first move in a wider effort to reorder the power structure of the entire Middle East. Prior to the war, the president himself never quite said this openly. But hawkish neoconservatives within his administration gave strong hints. In February, Undersecretary of State John Bolton told Israeli officials that after defeating Iraq, the United States would "deal with" Iran, Syria, and North Korea. Meanwhile, neoconservative journalists have been channeling the administration's thinking. Late last month, The Weekly Standard's Jeffrey Bell reported that the administration has in mind a "world war between the United States and a political wing of Islamic fundamentalism ... a war of such reach and magnitude [that] the invasion of Iraq, or the capture of top al Qaeda commanders, should be seen as tactical events in a series of moves and countermoves stretching well into the future."
Practice to Deceive, Joshua Micah Marshall, April 2003
full size (170kb)
Sorry for the bad quality - it's a lowres scan from paper
Shot this during a demonstration against a new commercial musical theatre in a mostly residential quarter. People there and from all over Hamburg fought the authorities over it. Despite clashes and setbacks, the people did win. The "Red Flora" is now a self ruled culture center. That's where you can meet the guy in the picture.
This weekend there will be huge demos in France against the abolition of dismissal protection. All over the world there will be rallies against the War of Terror and War on Iraq. There is a database for local events in the U.S.
Please join. Don't let anything deter you. We will win.
A bottle af fairly bad red wine and me meditated last night about this question. We came up with the only possible answer.
The Air Force folks shall fly. All others shall drive.
Open thread ...
Thanks And Fare Well!
OK - that's about it.
It's my birthday and a good day to reflect on the things I have done and/or not done the last years.
Some 21 month of MoA, doing about one piece a day, dropping a uncounted number of newslinks, did become a large part of my life.
I learned a lot through all the incredible good comments you have written and through the bloggers need of staying informed.
But, just like you, this German IT manager is getting tired of pointing out why the borderline fascist U.S. empire is a losing concept or why today's scandal is the worst we have ever seen.
The readers numbers have not dropped significantly, but the comment numbers have. I guess we have argued about anything we could reasonable argue about. We also managed to chase anybody away who didn´t fit 95%.
Now, as we have digested each others opinion several times, there is not that much left to say. Calls for guest posts have, therefore(?), not been answered.
This blog was started for the sole purpose of continuing the Whiskey Bar community. It did serve that purpose for some time.
By now, everybody will have found other waterholes to drink from.
I may continue to post here once a while, but in different style, on different themes, like maybe telescope cranes and Lego, and not on a daily schedule. It will not be the MoA you know anymore.
Open threads and Billmon references may be launched but will depend much more on my mood and "real" life than on schedule.
Thanks and fare well!
Short version: There is no real strategic interest for the U.S. in supporting Israel at this level. The support is only given, because the Israeli lobby (i.e. AIPAC) has a stronghold on Congress. This is neither in the interest of the U.S. nor in the Interest of Israel.
I wholeheartedly agree with the study and its conclusion. Many ills of the U.S. behavior in this world could be healed if the U.S. support for Israel would be based on facts and sane policy instead of lobby money and interest of a foreign country.
Since the October War in 1973, Washington has provided Israel with a level of support dwarfing that given to any other state. It has been the largest annual recipient of direct economic and military assistance since 1976, and is the largest recipient in total since World War Two, to the tune of well over $140 billion (in 2004 dollars). Israel receives about $3 billion in direct assistance each year, roughly one-fifth of the foreign aid budget, and worth about $500 a year for every Israeli. This largesse is especially striking since Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income roughly equal to that of South Korea or Spain.
The authors explain the strategic position Israel is in and find no good reason why the U.S. shoulds support it at this level.
So if neither strategic nor moral arguments can account for America’s support for Israel, how are we to explain it?
The explanation is the unmatched power of the Israel Lobby.
A key pillar of the Lobby’s effectiveness is its influence in Congress, where Israel is virtually immune from criticism. This in itself is remarkable, because Congress rarely shies away from contentious issues. Where Israel is concerned, however, potential critics fall silent. One reason is that some key members are Christian Zionists like Dick Armey, who said in September 2002: ‘My No. 1 priority in foreign policy is to protect Israel.’ One might think that the No. 1 priority for any congressman would be to protect America.
Thanks to the Lobby, the United States has become the de facto enabler of Israeli expansion in the Occupied Territories, making it complicit in the crimes perpetrated against the Palestinians. This situation undercuts Washington’s efforts to promote democracy abroad and makes it look hypocritical when it presses other states to respect human rights. US efforts to limit nuclear proliferation appear equally hypocritical given its willingness to accept Israel’s nuclear arsenal, which only encourages Iran and others to seek a similar capability.
Besides, the Lobby’s campaign to quash debate about Israel is unhealthy for democracy. Silencing sceptics by organising blacklists and boycotts – or by suggesting that critics are anti-semites – violates the principle of open debate on which democracy depends. The inability of Congress to conduct a genuine debate on these important issues paralyses the entire process of democratic deliberation. Israel’s backers should be free to make their case and to challenge those who disagree with them, but efforts to stifle debate by intimidation must be roundly condemned.
Finally, the Lobby’s influence has been bad for Israel. Its ability to persuade Washington to support an expansionist agenda has discouraged Israel from seizing opportunities – including a peace treaty with Syria and a prompt and full implementation of the Oslo Accords – that would have saved Israeli lives and shrunk the ranks of Palestinian extremists. Denying the Palestinians their legitimate political rights certainly has not made Israel more secure, and the long campaign to kill or marginalise a generation of Palestinian leaders has empowered extremist groups like Hamas, and reduced the number of Palestinian leaders who would be willing to accept a fair settlement and able to make it work. Israel itself would probably be better off if the Lobby were less powerful and US policy more even-handed.
OT 06-22News & views ...
No Hoofs On The Ground
With so much dead weight, it will impossible for the donkey to get the cart moving in 2006, 2008 and beyond.
Democratic leaders shy away from censure plan, Houston Chronicle
Feingold Draws Little Support for Censure, Forbes
Forget Censure, Dems Say the Debt Is the Threat, ABC News
The Feingold Resolution and the Sound of Silence, Washington Post
"I’m amazed at Democrats, cowering with this president’s numbers so low. The administration just has to raise the specter of the war and the Democrats run and hide ... too many Democrats are going to do the same thing they did in 2000 and 2004. In the face of this, they’ll say we’d better just focus on domestic issues ... [Democrats shouldn’t] cower to the argument, that whatever you do, if you question administration, you’re helping the terrorists."
WB: Mass GravesBillmon:
"Decades of Hostility"
Nir Rosen, who did some decent reporting from Iraq, is interviewed by Foreign Policy. I recommend to read it all - it`s short. The major point is that in some years, when the rising and already bloody civil war has exhausted itself, Al Sadr may be the only one to put the pieces back together.
Then there this:
FP: How will the Iraq war impact geopolitics in the long term?
NR: I think we are going to see decades of hostility between the West and the Middle East now. Very well-trained fighters who have gained experience in Iraq can now go to Europe and elsewhere in the Middle East. [...]
Throughout the Muslim world, people actually believe that America is the enemy of Islam and even if this might not be true, they have Abu Ghraib and the destruction of Iraq to point to. We’ve also given reform and democracy a bad name. Suddenly, the dictatorships in the Arab world don’t look so bad, in comparison to Iraq, and people are more suspicious of change.
The best way to solve this is stay out. What has the West to struggle with the Middle East? They want to sell their oil, we want to buy it. They want to buy our goods and we want to sell them. Why do we need weapons for that?
Some of the most powerful IEDs we're seeing in Iraq today includes components that came from Iran. Our Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, told the Congress, "Tehran has been responsible for at least some of the increasing lethality of anti-coalition attacks by providing Shia militia with the capability to build improvised explosive devises" in Iraq. Coalition forces have seized IEDs and components that were clearly produced in Iran. Such actions -- along with Iran's support for terrorism and its pursuit of nuclear weapons -- are increasingly isolating Iran, and America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats.
IEDs used in Iraq are usually from old military equipment: artillery shells, tank mines and general explosives. Some time ago the Brits made some hassle about shaped charge IEDs supposed to have been made in Iran and this is what Bush is referring to.
But shaped charge technology is more than 100 years old. Such charges have been used since WWI and in any conflict since. Any civil or military demolition professional knows how to make these without much documentation. Others will have to surf the web.
For some more refined version, Amazon has some books to sell, that do explain how to do it. Fundamentals of Shaped Charges and Evaluation of Improvised Shaped Charges are good starters. Some US Army research lab reports, like A Shaped Charge with Dual Confinement can also be purchased online.
To make the explosives yourself, start here. But compared to the chemicals, the tools one needs to make the actual "shape" from copper or other metals are even less sophisticated. As these pictures of such devices show, these things are made in a car repair shops rather than in Iranian ammunition factories.
This issue it is just another talking point of the rising propaganda campaign to justify war on Iran. Unfortunately, we will hear much more of these in coming weeks.
How long until the bombs drop?
A Socialist Editorial
The editorial staff of an openly socialist U.S. newspaper is using the top Sunday spot to delve into the myth of the American dream:
This nation [...] is held together by an appealing faith: that anyone who works hard and plays by the rules can attain the American dream [...]. But the trends of the past quarter-century compel a reexamination of this creed. When President Kennedy promised that "a rising tide lifts all boats," he was correct. Today that claim could be disputed.
They present and thoroughly debunk some theories which try to dispute the widening gap between rich and poor.
[B]ut after a quarter-century of disappointment, the struggles of Americans in the bottom half of the income distribution cannot be viewed as temporary.
The difference between rich and poor has serious consequences in areas like education.
Tuitions at four-year colleges have more than doubled since 1980, with the result that gaps in enrollment by class and race, which declined in the 1960s and 1970s, are as wide now as 30 years ago.
They editors put the blame where it belongs, on the rich. Their preferred models are Sweden and Germany, where taxes are much higher and social redistribution a major part of government definition.
[I]t's not quite true that the rich can enjoy their riches without harming anyone; their money changes life for people lower down. This might not matter if inequality brought compensating gains: if the growth of relative disadvantage were offset by absolute wage rises or by social mobility. But increases in wages have been small or negative, and the United States has become less socially mobile than nations such as Sweden and Germany.
It is heartening to see a U.S. paper argue and embrace social-democratic to socialist policy and laud Old European nations for their achievement. But then, we know of those liberal media and some may wish for a new McCarthy to suppress such communist tendencies.
But what is stated above is obviously correct and easy to understand.
It should be equally easy to get most of the electorate behind politicians that stand to correct the situation. But party politics in the U.S. being what they are, expect nobody to pick this up an run with it.
What Republican or Democrat would risk to demand higher taxes from the rich and threaten distribution to the poor? Looking at their campaign trough and the hands who feed them, expect none of them to do so.
Not even with the support of the Washington Post.
While bashing Iran over non-exiting nuclear weapons, the "Western" nuclear powers are starting a new nuclear arms race.
Today's Sunday Times reveals:
BRITAIN has been secretly designing a new nuclear warhead in conjunction with the Americans, provoking a legal row over the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
The government has been pushing ahead with the programme while claiming that no decision has been made on a successor to Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent. Work on a new weapon by scientists at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston in Berkshire has been under way since Tony Blair was re-elected last May, and is now said to be ahead of similar US research.
Before, French President Chirac had French nukes reconfigured to:
launch a nuclear strike against any country that sponsors a terrorist attack against French interests.
The U.S., like the U.K is working on Reliable Replacement Warheads, which are new designed nuclear weapons, not refurbishments of really unreliable weapons. Will the old ones really get dismantled if these new ones come into service. The U.S. nuke lobby is planing a Modern Pit Facility able to produce as many new nuclear bomb kernels as at the high of the Cold War. Is that refurbishment?
By delivering know-how and nuclear fuel to India for civilian purpose, the U.S. will free Indian nuclear production capacity for military purpose. This will likely trigger a new arms race between India and Pakistan and also concerns the Chinese.
Japan has five tons of plutonium ready and could be a nuclear power in less than a year. As North Korea might have some nukes, a justification to build a Japanese nuclear force is easily available, though looking at some history one has to ask who is more right to fear whom.
All of the above will lower the threshold for others to join the "nuclear club". What is open here is the rational behind all these acts. I personally can understand North Korea and I could understand the rational of Iran, if it would decide to get nukes. As Iraq shows, both "axis-of-evil" countries are under threat.
But why are the U.K., France, the U.S. and India interested in more or better nukes at all? Sure a lot of companies will make a lot of money from the new weapons. But what is the real strategic rational?
Is there one?
News & Views Thread
Off topics ...
Winter Is Back
Some 10 inch of fresh snow. Quite unusual for this sea-climate city and this time of the year. The cats have not seen anything like this before.
How is your weather?
Olmert Declares War
When Israel built the "security" barrier in the West Bank, Israeli and U.S. officials claimed it would not be seen as the future border between Israel and a sovereign Palestine.
[He said] that he intended to set the country's permanent borders by 2010 and that they were likely to run near the West Bank separation barrier.
Mr. Olmert also said he planned further development in Israel's largest settlement, Maale Adumim, which would eventually link up with nearby East Jerusalem.
This would rob the most valuable parts of the West Bank. East Jerusalem would be effectively shut off from the West Bank and travel between East Jerusalem and a future Palestine State, if possible at all, would be forever under Israeli control.
For "security reasons" Olmert would also keep the Jordan valley. The rest of the West Bank would thereby be squeezed between an expanded Israel in the west, the occupied Jordan valley in the east and cut in the middle by exclusive roads connecting those regions. The Israel Defense Forces would have freedom of action in the West Bank just like in Gaza.
Declaring this unilateral move a few days before winning the election, Olmert will later claim to have a mandate to put these plans into reality.
This is huge land robbery and an eternal denial of sovereignty for the Palestinians. As this can never ever be a base of a peaceful solution, the Palestinians rightly see this as some kind of declaration of war.
Olmert does not expect any serious resistance to his plans from the "West". Skimming today's papers I sadly have to agree. Despite these plans being in the face of international law, the roadmap and dozens of U.N. resolution, the issue does not even make page one in the main stream papers.
This will intensify conflicts between the "West" and the Islamic world. The immediate casualties here are the Palestinians. But be assured, we all will be made to pay for supporting the creation of a racist, religion based, aggressive apartheid state on colonized land.
How will the Palestinians answer to this? Short term, they do have little options. But medium term they will find ways to inflict serious damage to Israel. Having learned the lectures from the war on Iraq, they will increasingly attack strategic infrastructure like powerplants, water and oil installations within Israel.
Short of genocide, Israel will hardly have any options to retaliate.
That situation then could bring a push to a solution.
In an column about Putin and Bush Jim Hoagland has this quote:
"The powers of the presidency have been eroded and usurped to the breaking point. We are engaged in a new kind of war that cannot be fought by old methods. It can only be directed by a strong executive who alone is not subject to the conflicting pressures that legislators or judges face. The public understands and supports that unpleasant reality, whatever the media and intellectuals say."
Russian or American source? (Don´t cheat, guess.)
OT 06-20News & views ...
- A law says the President has to get a court order to do secret surveillance.
- The President asserts the law impedes his constitutional authority and violates that law.
- Congress issues a new law that says the President has to get a court order to do secret surveillance.
- A law says the President has to brief a congress committee on secret programs.
- The President asserts the law impedes his constitutional authority and violates that law.
- Congress issues a new law that says the President has to brief a congress committee on secret programs.
Why is Congress bothering here at all?
We, who convene here, you, like me, are of course pro abortion penalties. Like me you will be astound why the baby murder law adopted in South Dakota and signed by Governor Michael Rounds is so utterly inconsequential.
I have often criticized hypocrisy in American politics. But seldom have I come up to such a fraud like South Dakota State Senator Ben Napoli.
Mr. Napoli suggests a women, brutally raped, savaged, religious, planning on saving her virginity until she was married, brutalized and sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and, thanks to God's will, impregnated, should be allowed to kill God's child.
Mr. Napoli: "You are either with us, or against us." How often will the President (PBOH) have to repeat that sura before apostas like you get it?
After God has chosen her, be it for her sins or her holiness, it is HIS will for her to have a child. For our healing or condemnation. But then, exactly in the above case, where God's will is expressed with the uttermost holy rage, Mr. Napoli retracts to his liberal roots.
He would allow that women to murder a becoming angel, a new prophet, to kill a baby directly from the testicles of the Almighty. He would legally allow her to sneak away from the Almighty's will and does not even propose to penalize her to the uttermost degree.
But the South Dakota legislators do not even demand a penalty for the women committing the murder. They let the airline that ferries her to the satanic place of her dead get away for free. Even Mrs. Ph. D. Devil, celebrating in her joy of murder, would only get a wrist slap of some five years in prison. What a cruel, cruel, utter cruel joke!
Mr. Napoli should be put to court for supporting such outrageous behavior.
Let us look at another issues in this debate that confuse people like Mr. Napoli.
Some put forward this "burning lab" test. They ask you to imagine a burning lab where you can rescue a two year old baby or a petri dish holding fertilized eggs, babies. "What would you choose?" they ask.
To you, like me, that question is of course only rhetorical. No matter whether you can save ten lives or one life, HIS will will decide. There is of course no need to intervene at all. Who are we to intervene in HIS deliberation.
You, like me, will stay back in awestruck prayer and submit to HIS will. You, like me, will condemn any attempt to save the minority over the majority. You, like me, will protect The Mandate.
This, again, like it is taught to us by our Leader (PBOH). He who lets God's hand guide the forces of God's chosen country to free millions of yet unborn from the evil influence of the kaafirs.
But how much long will this country stay under God's special protection if we allow elected representatives like Mr. Napoli to pervert HIS will expressed through our Presidents (PBOH) guidance.
Let us now convene in prayer and collection to bolster the will of the South Dakota legislature, Mr. Napoli, the President (PBOH) and my bank account.
Though I still need to read and understand more about this, here is a thought.
Nation state power is lost in two directions. First to international institutions like the U.N., IMF, Worldbank, WTO (this may not be of so much relevance for the U.S. yet, but it is important for all other countries) and second to multinational corporations. While there are lot of international laws and frameworks on big and small issues, there is nothing to really regulate capital flow and multinationals.
With the loss of nation state power, the states institutions lose their legitimation. Smaller entities, tribes, religious or racial defined subgroups, gangs etc gain legitimacy and some control.
But unlike nation states, these groups do have even less power to challenge large corporations. If they get into the way of business, they will either get bribed or are fought down.
While the nation states fail, the multinationals or supranationals take over and may even form some kind of states themselves.
This has repeatedly happened throughout history. Though at some point, these corporations do fall apart and the nation states gain again. It will be interesting to find out when and why this happened.
Thoughts, literature on this issue?
Kafka in Gitmo
After a judge stepped in, the Department of Defense has answered an Associated Press FOIA request for the names of Guantanamo detainees with a document dump of some 5,000 pages in 60 scanned PDF files up to 34 megabytes each.
The documents contain testimony of detainees before some tribunals in Guantanamo. It will take weeks to make some systematic sense of these. So I only did some random picks.
Short conclusion: If you like Kafka tales, these documents will need an honor board in your library.
The general accusation in many cases seems to be: "The Detainee is associated with Al Qeada."
There is never offered proof for this. Only unclassified information is provided and the detainees are not told about, nor able to respond to any classified evidence. Thereby the detainees can only reject the statements. They can not even try to make an argument.
The tribunals staff, throughout these reviews, seem to have a bit of constricted cultural horizon.
Like, what might be a "desaster"?
Consider this exchange in "Testimony of Detainees Before the Administrative Review Board", ARB_Transcript_Set_3_769-943_FINAL.pdf. The man is accused to be AWOL from the Saudi military to go to work for a Taliban related organization. He claims to have been a civil employee and to have worked in Afghanistan for charity.
Detainee: The first point, I think is A.1. Yes, I am a clerk of Saudi Air Defense Force. The U.S. Force, they have my passport and it's written on my passport that I am an employee for the government. I took leave for one month from my job. I mentioned this many times to the interrogators, the U.S. interrogators. The fatwa, it's not the main reason for [me] leaving Afghanistan, there were some [other] influences. The media and what was happening in Afghanistan, from seeing the disaster by the TV and the newspaper, influencing me. I was ...
Presiding Officer: The disaster you are referencing is September 11th, the Towers?
Detainee: No...no...not the [referring to the Towers]... the disaster in Afghanistan....
Presiding Officer: Afghanistan...OK!
Detainee: ...the refugees and the poor people in Afghanistan. They [referring to the media] said [the] Islamic country it's in danger to be invaded by Northern Alliance.
In Set_1_0001-0097.pdf there is a detainee accused of having been a cook for the Taliban and of having "family ties to known terrorists in Pakistan".
The guy says he does not know how to cook, but he grew vegetables. He came with his family from Kazakhstan to Afghanistan to find a job. He does not have any relatives in Pakistan.
Try to digest this bit under some "presumption of innocence":
Q: What can you tell us about other accusations you said were false? When it says you have "family ties" to known terrorists in Pakistan and Uzbekistan, what is the government talking about when it says these things?
A: You mean how the Taliban government..how they feel about the terrorists groups in Pakistan and Uzbekistan, right?
Q: No. What does the United States government mean when it says you have "family ties" to terrorists?
A: They are just blaming me. It's false.
Q: Do you think this is about someone else in your family?
A: We came to Afghanistan because we are all Muslim. They provide all the food and housing because of the Muslim religion.
Q: We are trying to figure out why you're here. The United States wouldn´t detain someone for more than 2 years for simply growing vegetables. Can you help us understand?
A: The Detainee did not respond to that question.
Q: Do you want to tell us why you think you're here?
A: I'm here because I went to Afghanistan with my family for a better life. They captured me at that house. That's the reason I'm here.
"The United States wouldn´t detain someone for more than 2 years for simply growing vegetables." - why not?
The tribunals sure make for some funny moments too, when a detainee outsmarts the court. Consider this exchange from Set_14_1292-1317H.pdf:
After all allegations were read, the Detainee had a question.
Detainee: Are these evidence or accusations?
Tribunal President: They are in the form of both. They are considered unclassified evidence. But yes, you can also consider them allegations that you will have an opportunity to address.
Detainee: I'm sorry. I just don't understand. How does it fit the two pictures of definitions? For example, if I say this table is a chair and the chair is the table and they are the same thing, does that make sense?
Tribunal President: No, that doesn't make sense. But this process makes sense to me and hopefully it will make sense to you, because you're the one that´s going to have to provide us with evidence and tell us that you did or did not do these things listed on the summary of evidence.
So if the tribunal president can not distinguish between allegation and evidence, how should a detainee respond? To the tribunal, the detainee is "the one that´s going to have to provide us with evidence". That of course without knowledge of the classified allegations and evidence.
Another very weird point: The tribunals obviously do interrogate the detainees without having read their files. How do they know what to ask? How do they know the context of any answers?
As is clear from reading those transcripts, they do not know either of these.
Can you imagine a judge or a jury asking questions without knowing the case at all?
An additonal point on the ridicules setup: Set_49_3298-3380.pdf:
Tribunal President: Do you want to present information to this Tribunal and would you like to make your statement under oath?
Detainee: For sure. Are you going to believe in my oath?
Tribunal President: Certainly. If you take an oath, we will consider what you say to be true.
She will "consider". What would she have done with the detainees words without an oath? Not consider them?
A part of the documents are "Administrative Review Board Summaries of Detention/Release Factors".
For a detainee Sen, Mesut "primary factors [to] favor continued detention" include:
The detainee was in possession of a Casio watch. The same model number of Casio watch found in possession of the detainee has been frequently used in bombings that have been linked to al Qaeda and other radical Islamic terrorist groups.
How many millions of these clocks did Casio make?
I recommend to skim through a few of these documents. It is quite a lecture in witch trials and witch trial judgments. The detainees are in inescapable "catch 22" situations.
Kafka could not have thought out a more disturbing setting.
News and views ...
You really have to wonder when Morgan Stanley will fire its chief economist Stephen Roach for communist subversion. McCarthy would have had a field day with this statement alone:
Billed as the great equalizer between the rich and the poor, globalization has been anything but. An increasingly integrated global economy is facing the strains of widening income disparities -- within countries and across countries. This has given rise to a new and rapidly expanding underclass that is redefining the political landscape.
The piece is actually just a lament about rising protectionism, especially in the U.S. versus China, but also it includes some interesting numbers.
The Gini coefficient is measurement of inequality in income. A Gini value of 100 is the maximum of inequality, 0 describes equal income for all.
Roach gives some values: Japan (25), Europe (32), India (33), U.S. (41) and China (45). In the U.S. the coefficient has risen from 35 in 1970 to today's value. As he recognizes, such a development, and high inequality in general, leads to pressure for political responses.
The political response in the U.S. is protectionism, often disguised as security issues (see the Dubai port deal). The same error was made in 1930 with the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act which stifled world trade and at least exaggerated the great depression.
But Roach fails to point out any measures that easily could lead to lower inequality, lower the Gini coefficient and take away the political pressure for protectionism.
Steep progressive taxing could do a lot lower high income and take away the incentive for ridicules high CEO compensation. Raising the income and capital gain taxes for any dollar above $1,000,000 per year to some 50% would pay for a lot of decent schools. A small tax on big assets could lessen their progressive growth and finance universal health-care. A Tobin tax would restrict international capital speculation and could pay for global development.
Of course economists like Roach know these tools would be the right recipe.
But then, they are sticking to their jobs too.