Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
November 30, 2007

Media Prepare New Color Revolutions

As noted in an earlier piece this week, the U.S. officially defines freedom as derived from 'free-trade', i.e. in a pure economic, neo-liberal sense .

Any slight attempt by a country to implement policies that are somewhat socialist makes them thereby less 'free' and in need of U.S. intervention.

Russia and Venezuela are such countries. In renegate democracies as these revolutions are the proscribed remedy. Color Revolutions like they took place in Yugoslavia, Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan:

Each time massive street protests followed disputed elections and led to the resignation or overthrow of leaders considered by their opponents to be authoritarian.

Elections are coming up in Russia and in Venezuela a referendum to change the constitution will take place this weekend. There are signs that in both cases, but especially in Venezuela, attempts for color revolutions will follow.

Back in 2004 the Guardian explained:

The Democratic party's National Democratic Institute, the Republican party's International Republican Institute, the US state department and USAid are the main agencies involved in these grassroots campaigns as well as the Freedom House NGO and billionaire George Soros's open society institute.

There are ten steps in these revolutions to be taken under the guidance and with funding from 'western' pseudo Non Governmental Organisation (NGOs):

  1. Ratch up internal and external pressure by economic measures (World Bank-IMF), diplomatic measures and the national and international media.
  2. Demonize the leader of the ruling party up for reelection
  3. Unite the opposition behind some U.S. selected common leader
  4. Organize an activist student movement
  5. Spread doubts about the fairness of the upcoming election
  6. Organize alternative poll measurements like 'independent' exit polls
  7. Use the 'independent' polls to dispute the election results
  8. Launch demonstrations, if needed violent ones, against the 'stolen' election
  9. Add international pressure on the incumbent to step back for new elections
  10. Finance the opposition to win the new election against the now discredited incumbent

Step 5 to 10 are to be repeated until the indented result is achieved.

It is difficult to apply international economic pressure on Russia and Venezuela as both are oil exporters. But in Venezuela internal economic pressure is applied through the businesses opposed to Chavez by withholding foodstuff from the market. Chicken and milk are currently rare to find in the stores.

Demonization is clearly attempted against Chavez as well as Putin. The changes in the Venezuelan constitution to be voted on on Sunday will abolish term limits. This is described in 'western' media as a step to a Chavez dictatorship. Never mentioned is that neither the UK nor Germany have term limits. Tony Blair ruled ten years and Helmut Kohl sixteen years. Chavez was elected three times by solid majorities. What is the factual base to claim he has dictatorial aspirations?

Let's look at some of the current media pieces that support the "color revolution" propaganda scheme.

A typical one is Roger Cohen's column in yesterday's New York Times:

“The measures amount to a constitutional coup,” said Teodoro Petkoff, who edits an opposition newspaper.
...
Unlike other votes during Chávez’s nine-year presidency, and unlike the assured victory of Putin’s United Russia Party in voting the same day, the referendum is not a foregone conclusion.

Overcoming inertia, opponents led by students have energized a “No” campaign. A general once close to Chávez has denounced a looming coup d’état. Polls suggest a close outcome.
...
Chávez’s grab for socialist-emperor status is grotesque and dangerous–as Fascism was–a terrible example for a region that has been consolidating democracy.

The only 'witness' Cohen's quotes in his rant, Teodoro Petkoff, is not just someone who 'edits an opposition newspaper':

Petkoff served as Minister of the Central Office of Coordination and Planning (Cordiplan), directing the government's economic policies. From Cordiplan, Petkoff managed the Venezuela Agenda, a neo-liberal government program for reducing the size of the public administration, controlling inflation and stopping the currency devaluation, ...
...
On April 21, 2006, after rumours indicating that a number of intellectuals and middle-class liberal activists had asked him to run in the 2006 Presidential election, Teodoro Petkoff launched his campaign to be the next president of Venezuela.

The US government's 'NGOs' were heavily engaged in financing the opposition and to delegitimize Chavez victory in the 2006 election.

Ken Silverstein at Harpers reveals Cohen's hypocrisy by comparing the column to Cohen's earlier laureation of the Egyptian dictator Mubarak. He concludes:

Cohen is no democrat. Like so much of the pundit class, he favors democracy when convenient, but when authoritarianism protects “American interests,” dictator-coddling is perfectly fine.

Another propaganda piece ran in today's Guardian under the headline Fraud, intimidation and bribery as Putin prepares for victory. The piece claims that Putin's and the state administration's appeals to the people to actually vote, amounts to manipulation in favor of his party.

Six anonymous persons and some anonymous Russian Livejournal bloggers are their witnesses. Two 'experts' confirm the nefarious scheme:

The president enjoys genuine popular backing but a spokeswoman for Golos, an independent organisation monitoring the elections, said "big pressure on voters across the country" was being used to balloon the result for United Russia.

and

"The elections are going to be falsified," said Mikhail Delyagin, an economist and the director of Moscow's Institute on Globalisation Problems. "The elections that took place in the Soviet Union were less falsified than this one."

The Guardian's journalists forget to mentions that the 'independent organisation' Golos is financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Mikhail Delyagin is a founding member of The Other Russia, the 'western' organized anti-Putin organisation headed by Gary Kasparov.

The Other Russia was formed during a constitutional meeting on July 11-July 12, 2006, (during the G8 summit) in Moscow. Western diplomats, including British Ambassador to Russia Anthony Brenton, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Barry Lowenkron, and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried, were attending the conference. The two main liberal parties, Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces, were boycotting the event over the participation of what they consider to be nationalist and extremist groups.

At the founding congress of The Other Russia 6 of the 36 international 'guests' (scroll down) were functionaries of the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy.

Both 'independent' experts quoted in the Guardian piece are essentially payed by the U.S. government. The anonymous 'witnesses' quoted were likely 'recommended' by these 'independent' experts.

Sewing doubt over election results is a centerpiece of the 'color revolution' scheme. 'Western' media is a big party in these manipulations.

We can now expect demonstrations, maybe violent ones,  by 'student activists' against the voting results in Russia as well as in Venezuela. Keep in mind who pays the bills for these.

Posted by b on November 30, 2007 at 02:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (38)

November 29, 2007

Syria's Annapolis Deal

Part of the backroom deals to the Annapolis conference now seems to have been about giving Lebanon to Syria.

Let's recap:

In Lebanon a coalition of the Shia Hizbullah and Christian groups under former General Aoun are supported by Syria and Iran. The March 14 movement, consisting of the Sunni leader and Saudi business mogul Hariri plus various Christian fractions, is supported by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

The official government of Lebanon is somewhat in limbo. Voting for a new president by the split parliament was blocked and the date to vote moved several times. There is still the threat of a new bloody civil war. Another vote on the president is supposed to take place tomorrow but will likely be postponed.

This, in geopolitical terms, small conflict was constapiated in the run up to the recent Annapolis conference.

There was a long discussion if and under what circumstances Syria would be part of that conference. The Syrians taking part was something the Bush administration really desired.

The central issue of Syria's participation was said to be negotiations between Syria and Israel about the occupied Golan heights - a fruitless endeavor as Israel doesn't want to give up on those unless really threatened. After some secret negotions with the U.S. and Saudi Arabia the Syrian's finally sent a deputy foreign minister to Annapolis.

Now, as Annapolis is over and Syria did take part, the various fraction in Lebanon seem to have quite suddenly agreed to a compromise candidate for president.

The chief of the Lebanese army, General Michel Suleiman, is the selected one.

He is not unfriendly to Syria and was originally put forward as a compromise candidate by Aoun.  Now the March 14 group has accepted him and he even has Saudi support. Aoun is now only  'somewhat' in support as he himself is still a possible but unlikely candidate too and he wants to stretch the deal a bit further.

Purely coincidental the international investigation by the UN, in person of chief investigator Serge Brammertz, into the killing of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri in 2005 which was pinned on Syria, today suddenly finds new culprits which are not Syrian and also says that Syria has generally co-operated with the investigation.

So after Syria took part in Annapolis, Lebanon now suddenly finds a somewhat pro-Syrian compromise candidate for president and at the same time the Brammertz investigation suddenly exculpates the Syrian government from the Hariri assassination. 

I was wrong to earlier characterize the Annapolis meeting as a pure photo op. This certainly looks like the price to get Syria to the table was not the Golan heights, but Lebanon.

But what is the deal about Syria's intimate relations to Iran , the real targed of the Annapolis sham?

---
Sidenote 1:
Will the U.S. demand that General Suleiman takes off the Uniform when he gets the new job? If I remember correctly there recently was a bit of hassle about such an issue and various constitutional questions in Pakistan ...

Sidenote 2:
Suleiman as chief of the army is responsible for the recent destruction of the Palestinian refugee camp in Nahr al-Barad. His election is their loss ...

Posted by b on November 29, 2007 at 03:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Obama's Jewish Ties

Foes Use Obama's Jewish Ties to Fuel Rumors About Him

By Perry Bacon Jr.*
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 29, 2007; Page A01

In his speeches and often on the Internet, the part of Sen. Barack Obama's biography that gets the most attention is not his race but his connections to the Jewish world.

Since declaring his candidacy for president in February, Obama, a member of a congregation of the United Church of Christ in Chicago, has had to address assertions that he is a Jew or that he had received bar mitzvah training in Indonesia, where he lived from ages 6 to 10. While his father was an atheist and his mother did not practice religion, Obama's stepfather did occasionally attend services at a Synagogue there.

Despite his denials, rumors and e-mails circulating on the Internet continue to allege that Obama (D-Ill.) is a Jew, a "Jewish plant" in a conspiracy against America, and that, if elected president, he would take the oath of office using a Talmud, rather than a Bible.
[...]

Obama aides sharply disputed the initial stories suggesting that he was a Jew, and in Iowa, the campaign keeps a letter at its offices, signed by five members of the local clergy, vouching for the candidate's Christian faith. Aware that his religious belief remains an issue, Obama has denied a separate charge: that he does not hold his hand to his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance. This rumor stemmed from a photo that was taken while the national anthem was being played.
[...]
"If I were a Jew, I would let you know, " he said in Dubuque, Iowa, recently, according to CNN.com. "But I'm a member of Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street on the South Side of Chicago. We've got the best choir in town, and if you want to come and worship with us, you are more than welcome."
[...]
"The Jews have said they plan on destroying the U.S. from the inside out," says one of the e-mails that was posted recently on a blog at BarackObama.com, the campaign's Web site, by an Obama supporter who warned of an attempt to "Swift Boat" the candidate. "What better way to start than at the highest level, through the President of the United States, one of their own!"

Another e-mail, on a site called Snopes.com that tracks Internet rumors, starts, "Be careful, be very careful." It notes that "Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Jew," and that "since it is politically expedient to be a Christian when you are seeking political office in the United States, Obama joined the United Church of Christ to help purge any notion that he is still a Jew."

A CBS News poll in August showed that a huge number of voters said they did not know Obama's faith, but among those who said they did, 7 percent thought he was a Jew, while only 6 percent thought he was a Protestant Christian .

"The underlying point is that if you can somehow pin Jewishness on him, that would be a fatal blow," Hooper said. "It's offensive. It speaks to the rising level of anti-semite feeling in our society."

----
*Editorial note:
Please be advised that there are rumors swirling around that Perry Bacon Jr., the Muslim author of our piece, received multiple convictions for child rape. Mr. Bacon has yet to deny these rumors.

Posted by b on November 29, 2007 at 11:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (20)

November 28, 2007

OT 07-81

The elder is filled so here is new open thread.

Please comment. This blog subsists on comments ...

Posted by b on November 28, 2007 at 02:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (100)

On Motives for War on Iranq

There is still a lot of musing about the reasons for the War on Iraq. I have struggled with the question for quite some time, but finally feel to get a grip on an answer. Let's review the ongoing discussion:

In the London Review of Books Jim Holt argues: It’s the Oil, and that the war is a success:

The costs – a few billion dollars a month plus a few dozen American fatalities (a figure which will probably diminish, and which is in any case comparable to the number of US motorcyclists killed because of repealed helmet laws) – are negligible compared to $30 trillion in oil wealth, assured American geopolitical supremacy and cheap gas for voters. In terms of realpolitik, the invasion of Iraq is not a fiasco; it is a resounding success.

In the libertarian Taki Patrick Foy does neither agree with the oil argument, nor does he see assured success:

The ongoing humanitarian crisis of the Middle East, decades in the making, is not driven by oil. Politicians in Washington do not spend their waking hours thinking about oil. They think about votes, campaign contributions, a good press, and about the next election. That is what they are fixated upon, and what makes them vulnerable.
[...]
[The war] was launched in the grip of a self-induced hysteria and for dishonest domestic political considerations unrelated to foreign policy as such. The oil is there. A logical impulse would be to go after it and secure it. The problem is, the Dollar and the U.S. economy, not to mention the U.S. military, may go bust before the oil comes on line. That catastrophic scenario would be more or less in accordance with al-Qaida’s long term calculations.

Misreading Foy, Xymphora rallies against the oil argument with his usual anti-zionist screed:

Of course, the lite Zionists are desperate to fool Americans into thinking it was about the oil, as the truth is too dangerous to Israel.

In my view all three are wrong. Robbing oil was not the primary reason for the war. Domestic politics may have been the driving force behind some war votes in congress, but they were not a motive for launching the attack. The neocons might have a dual loyalty towards the U.S. and Israel, but they are America firsters - primary example: John Bolton.

The best founded and sourced argument I agree with is The Reasons for Regime Change in Iraq by Jeremy R. Hammond in the Yirmeyahu Review. He expands on it in his Atlantic Free Press piece The Path Towards War With Iran.

In the first essay Hammond concludes:

In the end, there is really no need to speculate about the reasons for the Iraq war, as policy-makers have quite openly and explicitly stated their reasons for desiring regime change since the end of the first Gulf War in public documents. The war was not fought to suit Israel's interests, but to suit the interests of the U.S. as perceived by policy-makers in Washington. Israeli and U.S. interests may coincide at times, but the ultimate objective, repeatedly declared, is U.S. global hegemony, which necessitates military preeminence and guaranteeing access, by force if necessary, to Middle Eastern oil.

The expanded argument (which also holds for Iran):

Saddam Hussein had for too long successfully defied the U.S. and thus threatened U.S. credibility as the global superpower.
[...]
Like any good mafia don, credibility was at stake and the U.S. had to take action to set an example. This motive is easily identifiable amongst documents written by current policy makers, such as the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance draft, The Project for a New American Century's "Rebuilding America's Defenses" document, or the U.S. National Security Strategy announced early on by the Bush administration.
[...]
That this is the true purpose of U.S. policy should not come as all too surprising, particularly when policy makers have openly declared their intention of establishing global dominance with a focus on the energy-rich Middle East.

Dominance and its credibility is the primary ambition that feeds the Ledeen Doctrine:

"Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business."

Control over access to oil is only an instrument to keep the dominant status of 'sole superpower', not a motive. Israel is a sideshow in the dominance game. A parasite useful as a domestic politics tool, as well as as thorn in the Arab side.

So it is dominance. But what is behind the pursuit of dominance and how is it argued?

Its advocates and propagandists see it vindicated by the obvious and certain rightness of 'spreading freedom', i.e. Manifest Destiny.

Well-meaning, idealistic and unhistorical as many Americans are, they fall for this marketing phantasm again and again. The man on the street believes in F.D. Roosevelt's Four Freedoms: freedom of speech and worship, freedom from want and fear. Spreading those can do no harm, only good. It is even an evangelical mission (on which one can spend many more words).

The American people have (a systematically indoctrinated) Imperial Amnesia and avidly support expansionist adventures in the name of 'spreading freedom' until the consequences hit back - from the Philippines in 1898 over Vietnam to Iraq in 2002. Hence the majority in support of the war up to 2006.

But 'freedom' is a tricky concept and easy to misunderstand. When Bush speaks of 'spreading freedom' he has something very different in mind than FDR and Joe Sixpack.

In the 2002 National Security Strategy the robber baron class explains its view of 'freedom':

The concept of "free trade" arose as a moral principle even before it became a pillar of economics. If you can make something that others value, you should be able to sell it to them. If others make something that you value, you should be able to buy it. This is real freedom, the freedom for a person—or a nation—to make a living.

Ledeen's "we mean business" = Free trade = a moral principle = real freedom.

F.D. Roosevelt's Freedom from Want morphed into Freedom to want then into a Right to want and even an expectancy of a Right to get (Bernanke put anyone?).

The military-economic relation of an expansionist 'security strategy' and the pure economical view of 'freedom' is not coincidental. In the moral continuum, greed like conquest belongs to the dimensions of domination (video, 3min). (In a slightly related context DeAnander touches that theme elsewhere.) I'll write more on this in another piece.

If one follows the 'free trade' definition of 'freedom', the 'freedom' to 'make and sell' and to 'buy' requires a balance between these two basic doings. Otherwise it will vanish.

As the U.S. current account and trade deficits show, that balance was lost in the mid 1980's. Then, in its costly pursuit of dominance (Reagan's Star Wars), the U.S. started to neglect 'make and sell' but continued to 'buy' by drawing on its superpower credit cards from the rest of the world (Reaganomics).

Empires that need to drag on the outer world to feed themselves are not sustainable. At a point, people of the outer world will simply stop paying and the costs to make them pay become unbearable.

As the War on Iraq shows, even superpower credit cards, the moral credits as well as the economic ones, are not without limit.

The usual hope of an empire is to make the colonies pay for their occupation. As Wolfowitz told Congress in 2003:

“The oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years. Now, there are a lot of claims on that money, but… ”

The war was not about oil, but Iraqi oil was expected to pay for being raped and dominated. Either directly or by buying U.S. weapons, or, or, or ... There is only one funny issue. Colonies never pay for their occupation.

Already 230 years ago, when times went by much, much slower, a smart Scot had that figured out and gave some good advice:

The rulers of Great Britain have, for more than a century past, amused the people with the imagination that they possessed a great empire on the west side of the Atlantic. This empire, however, has hitherto existed in imagination only. It has hitherto been, not an empire, but the project of an empire; not a gold mine, but the project of a gold mine; a project which has cost, which continues to cost, and which, if pursued in the same way as it has been hitherto, is likely to cost, immense expense, without being likely to bring any profit; for the effects of the monopoly of the colony trade, it has been shown, are, to the great body of the people, mere loss instead of profit.

It is surely now time that our rulers should either realise this golden dream, in which they have been indulging themselves, perhaps, as well as the people; or, that they should awake from it themselves, and endeavour to awaken the people. If the project cannot be completed, it ought to be given up. If any of thee provinces of the British empire cannot be made to contribute towards the support of the whole empire, it is surely time that Great Britain should free herself from the expense of defending those provinces in time of war, and of supporting any part of their civil or military establishments in time of peace, and endeavour to accommodate her future views and designs to the real mediocrity of her circumstances.

Posted by b on November 28, 2007 at 01:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (32)

November 27, 2007

The Annapolis Production

After weeks of talks Abbas and Olmert have agreed to continue to talk.

This, and lots of photos, is the result of the Annapolis conference:

"We agree to immediately launch good-faith bilateral negotiations in order to conclude a peace treaty resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues without exception, as specified in previous agreements," it continued. "We agree to engage in vigorous, ongoing and continuous negotiations and shall make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008."

Why one needs to agree to "immediately launch" talks when one is continuously talking was not explained:

The agreement was reached after weeks of intense negotiations and it was not clear until Bush stepped to the podium in the majestic Memorial Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., that the two sides would come together on how to move forward on the path toward peace.

When Bush stepped away from the podium that wasn't clear either.

The Jerusalem Post catches a bit of atmosphere:

In what seemed like a maximal effort to lend pomp and drama to the occasion, the Israeli and Palestinian delegations helicoptered to the US Naval Academy, rather than simply making the hour's drive from Washington where they had been staying. They arrived in two sets of helicopters, five minutes apart, with Abbas and his team's choppers landing first in the crisp Maryland sunshine. Walking the few yards from helicopter to waiting motorcade, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni at least had the decency to look a little embarrassed by the production.

Yesterday Bush also spoke of a democratic Palestinian state. That of course, would be a state where Hamas wins the elections. We are thereby assured that Bush meant Abbas will rule just as democratic as Musharraf does in Pakistan.

For a good start Abbas forbade all protest against the Annapolis conference in the West Bank and, at a rally in Hebron, his security service killed a protester.  Gaza meanwhile is awaiting an all out attack by Israel. The one and a half million people there have run out of basic medical supplies and 85% of them now depend on UN food handout. The string of daily assassinations in Gaza continues. In the last 24 hours Israel killed at least four people within the "unoccupied" ghetto.

After the pep-talk Bush left the show in Annapolis. All 50 nations and organisations there will now have a full day to introduce themselves. If they really work some stringent 8 hours, each party will have 9.6 minutes to read off some declaration nobody will listen to.

Tomorrow then will come the "most important meeting" as an Olmert mouthpiece characterized it:  Discussions between Olmert and Bush on when to attack Iran.

The planing and waiting for the conference had constapiated other developments in the Middle East. With the event over, the shit is now ready to hit the fan.

Lebanon is living in a political limbo and, unless some compromise is found in the next three days, may end up in another civil war. Israel will turn off electricity for Gaza starting December 2. An all out attack is likely to follow soon afterwards. Abbas returns with empty hands and will not be greated as victor when he comes back to Ramallah. Olmert will face further criminal investigations and his cabinet may fall apart for coming back from Annapolis with empty hands too.

What follows Annapolis is unlikely to be peace.

Posted by b on November 27, 2007 at 01:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

Moving the Empire?

by Debs is dead
lifted from a comment

As the shape and efforts of the amerikan empire and it's army come to resemble that of the Roman Empire each day; one wonders where they will move to now that the continental US is becoming less salubrious, less inviting for them.

A very good argument can be put up to support the contention that this empire has moved once already - from england when the 'messiness' of WW2 caused the imperialists to lose control of england's body politic. We may consider the likes of Harold Wilson's blood to be a very pale red indeed but there is no doubt it was sufficiently magenta to prevent england from being the administrative and oppression HQ for the world's largest empire. Which is when responsibility for that empire was quietly handballed across to amerika. . .

As some may know Rome's burgeoning population, which caused people of non Roman pedigree to be in positions of control, combined with the far flung subject peoples' opprobium towards Rome, Italy - persuaded that empire's leaders (emperor, generals, and finances - but not the tax collectors, never the tax collectors) to be moved from Rome to Constantinople or as it was christened at the time, Nova Roma ("New Rome"), today known as Istanbul.

Eventually those 'back home' in increasingly impoverished and frequently 'sacked' Rome Italy, separated from the Roman Empire, and moved HQ to Milan, although there were occasional re-unifications. The 'Western Roman Empire" existed in name only for much of the time it existed and didn't exist at all for most of the time. Constantinople was where the action was for any up and coming mainchancer.

It was the Eastern empire, renamed Byzantium by 19th century historians which maintained an unbroken succession of emperors dating back to Augustus Caesar (Julie didn't quite qualify as an emperor - copped the knife in the back before he could). The people of Byzantium called themselves 'roman' and retained the customs of Rome. Needless to say Byzantium was also where the money was.

So as amerikans become poorer and less somnolent, as those who have had their families destroyed by the empire's excesses seek to visit a little vengeance upon the population they believe responsible, the notion of shifting off to a home away from home will become attractive.

The new capital will be somewhat smaller and easier to 'sanitise', to keep the non-elites at arm's length, like Constantinople it will probably be closer to the action, so as to make it appear 'strategically better' and an advance toward the action rather than a retreat away from the hoi polloi.

There is a terrible synergy about Jerusalem. If we (the humans) fail, and the amerikan empire is still extant, will it be headquartered in Israel by 2050?

Posted by b on November 27, 2007 at 04:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (20)

Earthquake Cluster

Hmm - what is up with these?

Earthquake shakes Manila, 11/27/2007

Workers evacuated office buildings in Manila Tuesday afternoon after a magnitude 4.2 earthquake rattled an undersea area off Pangasinan.

Indonesia rocked by major earthquake, three people killed, 11/27/07

A 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck off Indonesia's Sumbawa island yesterday, killing three, injuring 55 and damaging hundreds of homes as repeated aftershocks rattled nerves, officials said.

Earthquake rocks Delhi, adjoining areas, 11/27/07

An official with the Indian Meteorological Department, which monitors earthquakes, said the 4.3-magnitude quake struck at about 4:43 a.m. Besides the capital, the tremor was felt in surrounding areas such as Noida (UP), Faridabad and Gurgaon (both in Haryana).

Mexican capital rattled by earthquake, 11/27/07

A 5.8 magnitude earthquake shook the Mexican capital Monday, but appears not to have caused damage or injuries, said Civil Protection Secretary Mariano Brizuela.

Strong earthquake rocks eastern Indonesia, 11/26/07

An aftershock measuring 5.7 on the Richter scale Monday jolted Indonesia's eastern province of West Nusa Tenggara, where two powerful quakes killed three people and injured 45 others within the last 24 hours.

6.2 Earthquake Rocks Japan, 11/26/07

The Japanese city of Iwaki was hit by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake on Monday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Olympic Peninsula jolted by 4.0 quake Monday, 11/27/07

The light quake, which occurred at 10:18 p.m., was centered about six miles north of Brinnon with a depth of 34 miles, according to the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network.

Small earthquake rattles valley Sunday, epicenter near site of 1992 Landers shaker, 11/26/07

The 12:31 p.m. temblor was measured at magnitude 3.1 by automated seismographs, which placed its epicenter 30 miles north of Palm springs about 8 miles east-southeast of Big Bear City.

Magnitude 5.0 Earthquake Shakes Guanacaste, 11/26/07

Several communities in the northwestern Guanacaste province were rocked by an earthquake measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale Saturday, according to the Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica (OVSICORI) based at National University in Heredia, north of San José.
...
At 1:06 a.m. Friday, a magnitude 4.0 earthquake rattled the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica about 15 kilometers northwest of Puerto Armuelles, Panama.

Third earthquake in a week shakes Israel, 11/25/07

The latest tremor occurred early Saturday morning, and had a magnitude of 4.2, the Geophysical Institute of Israel said. On Tuesday, there were two earthquakes, with magnitudes of 3.0 and 4.2.

Earthquake hits Pakistan, 11/26/07

A moderate earthquake measuring 5.2 magnitude on the Richter scale struck Pakistan on Sunday evening, the Meteorological Department said in New Delhi.

The quake, which occurred at 7.24pm, had its epicentre at 29.4 degree North latitude and 69.4 degree East longitude, the Met department said.

Small quake rattles Grass Range area; magnitude 3.5 to 4.1, 11/27/07

The quake struck at 11:27 p.m. Sunday and registered a magnitude 4.1, according to Mike Stickney with the Earthquake Studies Office at the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology.

Earthquake hits eastern Papua New Guinea, 11/22/07

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude 6.7 rocked eastern Papua New Guinea last night, causing some damage and plunging parts of the coastal city of Lae into darkness, officials and witnesses said.

Earthquake of 5.1 magnitude shakes southern Iran, 11/22/07

Southern Iran was hit by a 5.1 magnitude earthquake early on Thursday, a day after a quake struck the oil-rich southwest of the country, injuring 30, an official Iranian news agency said.

Chile hit by 5.9 magnitude earthquake, 11/21/07

A 5.9 magnitude earthquake rattled the region of northern Chile that has been rocked by a series of aftershocks over the last week, the US Geological Survey said today.

The quake at 12:55pm was centered 230 km southeast of Antofagasta, and was 110 km deep, the USGS said.

A week ago, a 7.7 magnitude quake near Antofagasta collapsed homes and buildings, killing two people and injuring 115, and there have been a number of aftershocks since then.

Earthquake strikes off coast of Oregon, no damage reported , 11/19/07

A 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck off the northwestern coast of the United States on Monday but there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage, officials said.

Earthquake rattles Ecuador, 11/16/07

A 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck southern Ecuador, shattering building windows in the city of Guayaquil while leaving no immediate victims, Ecuadoran and US officials said.
...
The earthquake shook the Andean nation one day after a powerful 7.7-magnitude temblor struck northern Chile, killing two people.

Earthquake rattles Santa Barbara; no immediate reports of injuries or damage, 11/16/07

A magnitude-3.4 earthquake has shaken part of California's central coast, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

South Iran hit by another earthquake, 11/21/07

The province of Hormozgan, southern Iran, was hit by an earthquake on Thursday morning, the IRNA news agency reported.

The quake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale occurred at 7:15 a.m. local time (3:45 a.m. GMT). There are no reports of casualties or damage.

This is the second earthquake to hit the Islamic Republic this week. On Tuesday, the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, in southwest Iran, experienced a 5.1 magnitude quake, which caused slight damage to buildings and some 30 students suffered minor injuries.

Strong earthquake shakes northern Chile, kills at least two, 11/14/07

A strong earthquake measuring 7.7 rocked arid northern Chile Wednesday, killing at least two people, injuring others, sparking panic and causing power outages.

6.7 quake shakes Peru-Ecuador border, 11/15/2007

A powerful earthquake shook the border region of Ecuador and Peru late Thursday, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or major damage. The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 6.7 quake struck at 10:12 p.m. and was centered in a sparsely populated jungle region, about 150 miles southeast of Quito, the capital. Local media said the temblor was felt strongly in the country's largest city, the port of Guayaquil.

Is something bigger brewing here or is this just normal?

Posted by b on November 27, 2007 at 04:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (22)

November 26, 2007

The Concern About Petraeus Role

One of the biggest socialist organization in today's world is the U.S. military: free healthcare, free education, equal opportunities, guaranteed pensions. It is what you wish for but what the civil society is prohibited to get. But for the top guys in that organization that isn't enough. In the civil land, a few folks make millions and billions - the Generals want to do so too.

An interesting piece by the LA Times today says the Military wants more views on Iraq reports:

Concerned about the war's effect on public trust in the military, the leading officials said they hoped the next major assessment early next year would not place as much emphasis on the views of Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, who in September spent dozens of hours in testimony before Congress and in televised interviews.

One wonders what that is about. Why would the brass not like Congress to again pay obeisance to the 'lord of counterinsurgency', i.e. the master of paying off tribal mafias?

The first issue the military establishment has is about picking up the publicity tab for a war they consider lost:

"This is not Dave Petraeus' war. This is George Bush's war," said one senior official, underscoring the military's view that its role is to carry out the decisions made by political leaders.

The plan is to shift that blame to the State Department:

Several officials also said they hoped that the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, could be the main focus of future hearings, rather than Petraeus or another military officer.

The second problem is 'political neutrality'. Having the second most influential US conservative as the main military guy in the news while people hate republicans isn't helping at the polls:

Although support for the military remains high, there is a basis for such concerns. An annual Gallup poll in June found that 69% of the public had confidence in the military, down from 82% in 2003.

Then there is personal envy:

Although some Defense officials have expressed concerns that a "cult of personality" has developed around Petraeus, a larger number of officials make the argument that it is simply not fair to put the entire burden of the Iraq war on the general's shoulders.

Don't expect neither "some Defense officials" nor the "larger number of officials" to have any comparable concern when they get asked to carry that "entire burden". Just imagine, as they do,  all those memoirs one could sell.

Part of this is a struggle of "realists" against neoconservatives especially with regard to a war on Iran:

Although Bush frequently mentions Petraeus when discussing Iraq, both Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Mullen have sought to inject other military voices into the debate, notably that of Adm. William J. Fallon, the head of U.S. Central Command, the military's Mideast headquarters.

But the very real and beyond all the above issue expressed by the main source of the LAT piece at its very end is simple - money:

Mullen believes that the threat of terrorism makes it crucial for the military to retain public support, the official said. Besides, an erosion of support could reduce money and resources coming from Congress.

You see, Generals and Admirals like Mullen do get quite sufficient pensions when they finally hang up their uniform.

But much more is to be made later when they 'consult' some supplier of military equipment, lobby for a mercenary company or join the board of big arms manufacturer.

One doesn't want to piss off the source of the $700+ billion per year stream of cash when one expects some drops of said stream to land in ones own pocket.

Posted by b on November 26, 2007 at 04:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

The Mistaken Crime of War on Iraq

Well, everybody makes mistakes ...

American Majority Sees Iraq War as a Mistake

Most adults in the United States question their federal government’s decision to launch the coalition effort, according to a poll by Knowledge Networks released by the Associated Press and Yahoo. 62 per cent of respondents think the U.S. made a made a mistake in going to war in Iraq.

The War on Iraq was not a mistake, but a willful, carefully planed and marketed supreme crime. A war of aggression for various nefarious reasons.

But let's not blame the people who answered the poll for their answer. They were asked the wrong (loaded) question and given only two alternatives for answers:

All in all, thinking about how things have gone in Iraq since the United States went to war there in March 2003, do you think the United States made …

  1. .. the right decision in going to war in Iraq? (37%)
  2. .. a mistake in going to war in Iraq? (62%)

(Refused / Not Answered 1%)

It is obvious that this was a push poll:

A push poll is a political campaign technique in which an individual or organization attempts to influence or alter the view of respondents under the guise of conducting a poll.

In a classic political campaign push poll, many more people are called than the sample needed to get statistical relevant answers. The idea is to spread a meme, a chunk of cultural information, as far as possible. That is not the case here, the sample size is 2230.

But with AP and Yahoo paying for the poll and publishing its result through their media power the meme distributing effect is even bigger than in the classic campaign case. Similar question were included in earlier polls too and the results also presented under a "mistake" headline.

There is apparently a campaign to redefine the crime of War on Iraq into a "mistake". A "mistake" of course does not justify any punishment of its perpetrators, not even their impeachment. Everybody makes mistakes ...

Who orders and pays Associated Press and Yahoo to run this campaign?

If no one does, why is it their and other media companies self-interest to run this campaign?

Posted by b on November 26, 2007 at 08:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (23)

November 24, 2007

The Language of Empire

In a Washington Post op-ed Michelle D. Gavin, for the Council of Imperial Relations, is Looking Towards Zimbabwe's Future:

[T]he U.S., working with others, can help to alter the calculus of the Zimbabwean players who can affect change.
[...]
[T]his requires marshalling real resources in an international trust fund for Zimbabwe's recovery -- resources that can serve as powerful incentives for potential successors to Mugabe to embrace vital reforms.

Deimperialized translation:

The U.S., with other people paying, can use carrots and sticks to instigate some Zimbabwean crooks into launching a coup.
[...]
This requires luring international payers into handing over some cash --, money we can use to give huge bribes to potential dictatorial successors so that they will do whatever we will demand.

Simple - isn't it?

Adding via Angry Arab: Zimbabwe Under Siege

Posted by b on November 24, 2007 at 04:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (19)

November 23, 2007

OT 07-80

News, views and leftovers ...

Please contribute to this open thread.

Posted by b on November 23, 2007 at 01:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (116)

November 22, 2007

Afghanistan or NATO

A small NGO, Senlis Council, which also claims to also be a 'thinktank' and is financed by a Swiss billionaire, came up with a report that grabbed headlines today: Afghanistan 'falling into hands of Taliban'. The NGO's not so peaceful solution is to call for NATO to double its troop levels.

Either Karzai got an earful from Washington or he was just pissed off about this. He banned Senlis Council from Afghanistan.

The Swiss government is wiser than the NGO. It has voluntarily recalled its military from Afghanistan after four years of hard engagement. The two officers, who were sharing the beer with the Germans in Kunduz, will leave because the situation is getting too dangerous. The South Korean's are on their way out too and Japan ended its support mission.

Smart folks.

There will certainly be NO doubling of NATO troops.

The Germans and Austrians just got some nasty video message threatening a bit of terror at home if they don't recall their troops (Germany has 3000 there and Austria 50% more than Switzerland had). Any real terror event in Germany could now be the end of Merkel as chancellor. The Canadians find the war is quite expensive and the politicians not truthful about it.

The public opinion in Germany, like in Canada and the Netherlands, is overwhelmingly against any  troops in Afghanistan anyway, but politicians like in Berlin ain't listening - yet.

The people are asking: What is the supposed benefit of fighting the Pashtuns in their homeland? An increase in terror threats? What else?

The Afghans are shutting down all private security firms which will make any project and business much more difficult. A Chinese(!) company wins the bid for Afghan copper mining (12 million tons!), Karzai is negotiating for peace with the Talibs and, in the UN, votes against Canada. Most of the financial aid to Afghanistan gets wasted while it exports (pdf) plenty of opium and heroin. Meanwhile the dictator in Pakistan is held in place by the U.S. to keep the supply lines to its troops in Afghanistan open.

So what's the reason for NATO troops being there? And to double them? Why?

NATO wasn't build to occupy and fight nasty counterinsurgency wars in some landlocked Asian backyard. There is no consensus for such fights and in the long run such public consensus is decisive. NATO was build to hold off the Sowjet Union. Now it embarresses itself by renting Russian helicopters and crews to do fight in Afghanistan.

The people in the Kremlin must be laughing their asses off.

People smell that somethings very wrong here. The foreign policy 'elite' on both sides of the Atlantic wants to keep NATO alive. If that is their aim, they will have to give up on Afghanistan and do so very soon. Otherwise NATO will fall apart.

It is likely though that they will wait too long and lose both, NATO and the war against the Pashtuns.

That's the only positive aspect I can find in this mess.

Posted by b on November 22, 2007 at 11:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (19)

November 21, 2007

Ahmadinejad to conquer Tel Aviv via Turkey

*-screenshot-*

 

story

Posted by b on November 21, 2007 at 01:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

Schedule for Mideast peace conference

The State Department and White House outlined the following schedule for next week's Annapolis Mideast peace conference. [All times Eastern:]

Monday, Nov. 26, Washington
10:55 a.m.: Photo opportunity with President Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Oval Office.
1:15 p.m.:
Photo opportunity with Bush, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Oval Office.
7 p.m.:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's dinner with conference participants at the State Department. Bush delivers photo opportunities.

Tuesday, Nov. 27, Annapolis, Md.

9:50 a.m.:
Photo opportunity: Bush jointly with Abbas and Olmert.
11 a.m.:
Conference begins with photo opportunities by Bush, Olmert, Abbas, Rice, U.N. secretary- general and others.
Plenary photo opportunity session follows.

Wednesday, Nov. 28, Washington
11 a.m.:
Photo opportunity: Bush with Abbas.
1:15 p.m.:
Photo opportunity: Bush with Olmert.

Sources: White House, U.S. State Dept., LA Times

Posted by b on November 21, 2007 at 05:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (33)

November 20, 2007

Absurd Terror Stats

In Sunday's LA Times Professors David Cole and Jules Lobel asked Are We Safer?

We have more than six years of experience with the Bush administration's war on terror, and there has not been another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. But can the administration take credit for that?

They present: A report card on the war on terror (pdf).

The first item on their card is the "Worldwide Number of Terrorist Attacks" displayed in three datapoints:

  • 2001  - 1,732 Terrorist Attacks
  • 2005  - 4,995 Terrorist Attacks
  • 2006  - 6,659 Terrorist Attacks

Yuk, now I'm scared!!!

The attributed source is the Rand-MIPT 'Terrorism Knowledge Database'. Using it I produced two charts:

This one shows quarterly terrorism incidents worldwide charted by region.


bigger

It is obvious from that any big increase in 'terror incidents' after 2000 is somewhat related to the Middle East (blue). (The dark grey line are regional independence fights in Kashmir and Baluchistan)

Now here is the graph of 'terror incidents' in the Middle East charted by country.


bigger

The reason for the increase of the "Worldwide Number of Terrorist Attacks", as registered in the linked database, is obviously the War on Iraq. The chart also shows two smaller peaks in the West Bank/Gaza (yellow) and Israel (green). These coincide with the 2004-2005 pre-withdrawl action of Israel in Gaza and its 2006 war on Lebanon (green).

But it is preposterous to characterize the violent acts of some local resistance, which is fighting against an illegitimate attack and occupation, as 'terrorism'.

The only thing these numbers prove is that terrorism is a REaction and not some independent action. 'Terrorists' act against one because one DOES something, not because one IS something. Most of these acts are local and obviously reactions to a state entity's aggression.

Aside from such local reactions there is hardly any international terrorism. The question "Are We Safer?" and the "report card" are based on the wrong assumption that such terrorism exists in any relevant numbers.

Does Pachyderm Repellent work?

We have more than six years of experience with building windmills in north Germany, and there has not been any Elephant attack on north German soil. But can the government take credit for that?

Good questions, but it neither makes sense to ask them nor to look for answers. That is - unless someone pays you to make an op-ed 'report card' about it.

Posted by b on November 20, 2007 at 11:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

November 19, 2007

Candidates Incite and Suck

by Debs is Dead
lifted from a comment

What everyone appears to be saying is quite simple to me on the outside. Paul and Kucinich appear to have one thing going for them that none of the other candidates do.

They seem to be honest - motivated by principle rather than a simple lust for power. Right about now people who live in a liberal democracy, and who normally vote left of centre would rather take a principled far-rightist than an unprincipled 'centre leftist'. This shouldn't be surprising.

It seems rational. One feels that a principled person will listen to facts and weigh arguments before deciding. Therefore a well presented argument for health-care or a rise in minimum wage levels could stand a chance.

Unfortunately it doesn't work like that. As we have seen time and time again pols can only afford principles when they are on the outer. Their act of being an ethical human in a jungle full of predatory animals turns as soon as they actually catch the attention of sufficient voters. For all the talk of that Howard Dean scream, and how it was a deliberate ploy by the elite to derail a principled dem, it seems that amerika didn't really lose much. Dean has hardly covered himself in glory as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He was just another pol using the ploy of being on a higher moral ground to get attention.

There is little in either Kucinich or Paul's past to suggest they will behave differently.

The sad fact is that prez's only have to listen to voters once every 4 years but they have to listen to the lobbyists and power players every day. An isolated prez can't do fuck all so they go along with the money, probably with a quiet promise to themselves not to get in too deep at the start.

However they soon come to see that doing the wrong thing can be papered over by throwing money at it and having the mass media tell the world what a wonderful human being you are. Do the right thing and you've made enemies who are implacable, they never go away and they never stop chipping away at your standing in the electorate.

NZ is trying again to keep money outta the political process; the govt has the numbers to push through legislation to prevent anonymous donations and massive third party campaigns but they are wavering under sustained and massive pressure from the media and a few rich capitalists.

It may work; people who were outraged at the way that amerika and a few rich fundamentalist religious nuts tried to buy the last election are now worried about the infringement of 'freedom of speech'. It's total bullshit but nearly impossible to counter.

So who do we vote for?

It's problem if you live in a nation with an archaic 'first past the post' system such as amerika has. There is only ever two viable candidates for any position. 'viable' comes to mean 'supportive of the status quo', so anyone looking for the sort of major change to the way their government works that most MoA users are looking for, will never find a suitable candidate using the current process.

The 'least worst' in many ways is actually the worst of all possible choices. Next year as the election season heats up MoA's pages will become crowded with the same voices who pushed the 'anyone but Bush' message in '04. There is no doubt that even Hillary Obama will do a couple of things which seem to take the pressure off poor people who live in amerika. The thing is tho, that when they do, it will be done in such a way that ties amerika even deeper into exploiting people overseas and which reinforces amerikans into poverty. All that will happen is that poverty will be slightly less uncomfortable for concerned citizens, who aren't impoverished, to view.

The current amerikan political system is incapable of electing an honest pol.  Everything works against that proposition.

Really nothing can change until the system changes and that won't happen as long as people consider Hilary Obama a viable alternative. It may happen when people get sick of the procession of unabashedly violent greedheads, morons and liars such as the chimp, winning office.

However just because pols won't go for the long game, it doesn't mean people have to always go for immediate gratification as well.

It would be better to let the rethugs have their Rudy Giuliani. Yes it would hurt short term, but a really sustained period of rethug brutish greedy and intolerant rule would radicalise amerika like nothing else.

Which is why the elites will never let it happen as long as they think straight. They will install Hilary Obama in jan 09 and there is little anyone can do about it except choose not to be part of the circus and keep at playing the long game.

Those who do vote dem in '08 will end up feeling soiled, betrayed and stupid for not seeing it coming. Setting aside the loss of credibility amongst one's peers that advocating a dem win will cause when the reality of dem rule bites, the sense of disillusionment from being part of such a cynical scam is very disempowering for people who try and live a principled existence. It is this factor more than anything which makes voting the 'least worst' a recipe for self disgust, and the immobility which goes with that. In the end people just give up which is not the best way forward.

Keep informing and educating those around you. Show them the pattern of elite manipulation which spans decades, decades those around you have lived through but have been persuaded to forget. Eventually the curves of citizen awareness vs elite arrogance and the complacency that goes with that, will intersect.

When it does and the numbers of amerikans who understand they have been used and abused, exceeds the ability of the elites to stomp on that understanding, that is when the time will come to take meaningful action.

Until then worrying about whether Kucinich or Paul is the better bet is a distraction. A frustrating and demoralising distraction that is best left for those who enjoy being frustrated and demoralised.

Posted by b on November 19, 2007 at 04:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (29)

(Non-)Interference in Lebanon

On Wednesday the Lebanese parliament will elect a new president. If the (s)election fails, another civil war is a very possible outcome. All parties are heavily armed and 20,000 troops are staged within the capital.

According to the Lebanese constitution, the president has to be a Christian and elected by a two-thirds parliamentary majority. The Maronite patriarch Sfeir made a list of possible candidates and the ruling March 14 coalition is supposed to agree with the opposition on one of the listed persons.

The March 14 group consists of the Sunni followers of the Saudi business mogul Hariri and some Christian groups and is supported by the U.S., France and Saudi Arabia. It is now negotiating with the opposition which represents the Shia Hizbullah and the Christian leader Aoun and his followers. These are supported by Syria and Iran.

The elections are of course an internal Lebanese affair:

[Former Prime Minister Salim] Hoss warned against foreign interference in Lebanon's domestic issues, "because such interference has ostensibly jeopardized all chances to reach a consensus among the Lebanese."

Two weeks ago non-interference was also demanded by Rice and Kouchner:

"It was also the expectation of everyone that there would be no intimidation and interference [in Lebanon]," [Rice] added, ..
[...]
Earlier, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he had emphasised to Moualem in bilateral talks in Istanbul the importance of non-interference in Lebanon by outsiders.

"I warned Syria of the imperative need to allow the presidential election process to go ahead according to the constitution ... without any external interference," Kouchner told reporters.

But there is interference and interference and a big difference between those two. One can obviously be against the first and do the second:

Kouchner, .., is on his sixth visit to Lebanon in six months.
[...]
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa is also due to arrive here on Monday evening to push for a consensus president. On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, also an opposition leader, saying that the United States supports a new president who enjoys the support of all the Lebanese people.

She also called Maronite Patriarch Sfeir, Prime Minister Fouad Seniora and parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri to exchange views on means to solve the deadlock.

With so much (non-)interference from the outside, the result will likely be tragic for the Lebanese people.

Posted by b on November 19, 2007 at 10:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

November 18, 2007

IAEA: Iran Has No Nuke Program

Heathlander at Eurotrib, Professor Farideh Farhi at Juan Cole's blog and Jim Herring at Col. Pat Lang's place explain the content of the recent IAEA report (pfd) on Iran's nuclear energy program.

They conclude that the characterizing of that report in the 'western' mainstream media was severely distorting and did not reflect the central findings of the IAEA report.

These are:

  • IAEA inspections and information requests are continuing and Iran is cooperating and answering to such as it is obliged to do.
  • The inspections and investigations, done intrusively over years, have not unearthed any piece of evidence that the legitimate nuclear program Iran persues has any military aspect.
  • Iran is within its full contractual international legal obligations in persuing civil Uranium enrichment. It does do so and the process is under full IAEA control.

Still the above authors and the IAEA miss to highlight one aspect I find important.

The Supreme Leader of Iran, the eminent legal and religious authority of the country, in 2005 released a binding ruling (Fatwa) that pursuing any nuclear weapon program would be against the law and religious doctrine of Iran. The president of Iran has recently again confirmed this position.

These are serious declarations by state leaders which can not be simply withdrawn within the system they are operating in. There would have to be revolutionary events to make these statements obsolete. Such events are unlikely.

Posted by b on November 18, 2007 at 06:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Deciduous Designs

by b real

 


(full)

"The question is not what you look at but what you see"

Henry David Thoreau


(full)

Posted by b on November 18, 2007 at 01:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

November 17, 2007

McClatchy Falls for EFP PSYOPS Campaign

You will remember the U.S. propaganda campaign around Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. That figure's media picture was build up by the U.S. occupation in Iraq as 'leader of the Iraqi resistance'. That this was propaganda was so obvious that I had no trouble to document and satirize it here back in June 2005. Finally in April 2006 the 'serious' media found out too. Tom Ricks wrote how the Military Plays Up Role of Zarqawi:

One internal briefing, produced by the U.S. military headquarters in Iraq, said that [General] Kimmitt had concluded that, "The Zarqawi PSYOP program is the most successful information campaign to date."

After the Ricks story the Zarqawi boogeyman's usefulness had expired and two month later the military claimed to have finally killed him in an air attack.

Last week another PSYOPS campaign was laid to rest. But unlike with Zarqawi this one is buried to keep it alive. And the media, including McClatchy's (former Knight Ridder) Washington Bureau, falls for it.

Since 2004 the U.S. government and military spread a meme about Iran as providing Explosive Formed Penetrators to the Iraqi resistance. Iran has always rejected the allegation. EFPs are machined copperplates used in powerful roadside bombs against U.S. military vehicles.

For quite a while this story has been debunked by reports about EFP manufacturing in Iraq. These were substantiated, while the "Iran provides EFPs" meme was never proven by any evidence.

There were pieces in the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and by Reuters. Doubts about the Iran origin of EFPs have also been raised in the New York Times. NBC news had U.S. officials at least partly walking back their claims. The Columbia Journalism Review, Inter Press Service and Newshogger Cernig ran good summary stories including many sources. We also discussed the 'evidence' here.

Still the PSYOPS campaign was kept up and the meme repeated over and over by the usual propaganda (pdf) tools.

A recent New Yorker piece finally pulled the plug. Early October Seymour Hersh wrote:

David Kay, a former C.I.A. adviser and the chief weapons inspector in Iraq for the United Nations, told me that his inspection team was astonished, in the aftermath of both Iraq wars, by “the huge amounts of arms” it found circulating among civilians and military personnel throughout the country. He recalled seeing stockpiles of explosively formed penetrators, as well as charges that had been recovered from unexploded American cluster bombs.

Why would Iran take the risk to provide stuff to the Iraqi resistance when "stockpiles" of said stuff were and are available in Iraq anyway?

This was evidence that the earlier U.S. claims, which were never supported by any physical evidence like a catch at the border, were most likely unfounded. David Kay is an impeccable source on the issue. The military had a serious problem.

After Hersh's story the EFP case had to be laid to rest without saying that it has always been a lie. A casket was needed and a funeral pompous enough to hide the fact that the casket is empty.

In early November Secretary of Defense Gates announced the near death of the patient:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday that his understanding is Iran has informed the Iraqi government that it will try to stem the flow of Explosively Formed Penetrators into Iraq.

“I don’t know whether to believe them,” Gates said Thursday. “I’ll wait and see.”

He did not say where he learned of these supposed assurances, nor could he say who in Iran might have made such assurances to the Iraqi government.

Two weeks later we hear the funeral eulogy:

Iran seems to be honoring a commitment to stem the flow of deadly weapons into Iraq, contributing to a more than 50 percent drop in the number of roadside bombs that kill and maim American troops, a U.S. general said Thursday.
[...]
Simmons, a deputy commander of Multinational Corps-Iraq, told reporters that the number of roadside bombs either found or exploded nationwide had fallen from 3,239 in March to 1,560 last month.

To bury the "EFP from Iran" meme it is now alleged, without any proof and logic, that Iran has halted a flow of weapons it never provided in the first place.

Why do I say without logic?

General Simmons tries to drag a causality from a stemmed flow of arms to lower attack rates.

But the attack rates in Iraq are lower because the U.S. military is currently buying off the Sunni resistance. The Shia resistance under al-Sadr has been put to a temporary rest for an organizational overhaul. The attack rates in Iraq are lower because the 'surge' is a 'success'.

If the level of resistance is lower, as Petreaus in Congress asserted over and over, the number of roadside bombs must be lower too. That is a primary causality. To now link the lower number of bombs to an alleged stop of an alleged import of weapons does not make logical sense. There are still tons of weapons in Iraq.

Just three weeks ago a weapon cache with 124 ready to use EFPs and 159 additional EFP copper disks was found in Diyala province. How does that fact get along with General Simmons claim about a decrease in EFP uses as a consequence of lower supply from Iran? It doesn't fit.

The Zaqrqawi boogeyman was largely PSYOPS disinformation.
The "EFPs from Iran" tale was a PSYOPS campaign.
The "less attacks because Iran stops EFP-flow" story is part of a PSYOPS campaign.

This is obvious. That's why I am sad that a news outlet like McClatchy's Washington Bureau, with has been a remarkably truthful source on the whole war on Iraq campaign so far, is falling for the story.

Jonathan Landay and Nancy Youssef write: Iran stops sending a deadly weapon to its allies in Iraq

Iran appears to have stopped shipping the deadliest type of weapons used against U.S. troops in Iraq after a European government confronted Tehran with proof that the weapons came from Iranian factories and Iraqi officials warned their neighbor that instability in Iraq affects the entire region, U.S., Western and Iraqi officials said.

The story is based on an unnamed 'Western diplomat' and anonymous 'U.S. intelligence officials'. It includes not a single doubt or caveat on the primary U.S. military assertion of EFPs from Iran to Iraq.

But it includes and confuses (likely false) claims of another weapon flow. This one from Iran to the Taliban in Afghanistan. But again there is no proof at all. Just anonymous sources who have 'interests'.

The cleric Shia Iran helped to install the U.S. supported Karzai government in Kabul and it helped to ouster the puritanical Sunni Taliban who killed their Hazara brethren. How likely is it that Iran would provide weapon to the Taliban? To kill more Hazara? Isn't it much more likely that claims about such weapon smuggling are just another PSYOPS campaign directed against Iran?

Why do Youssef and Landay stenograph such junk claims without any caveat?

Posted by b on November 17, 2007 at 02:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

News & Views ...

The blog lives off comments. Please add yours.

Open thread ...

Posted by b on November 17, 2007 at 12:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (100)

November 16, 2007

'All cups are considered equal ...'

Mulling over the leaked Camp Delta Standard Operation Procedures (pdf, protection removed, 4.2mb) for Guantanamo one wonders, what the people who have written it think about themselves and others.

It is banality of evil documented on 250 or so pages. Consider the bureaucracy of the system that is ouzing from each page:

Chapter 8 - Detainee Behavioral Management
...
8-8. GTMO Form 508-1

a. The GTMO Form 508-1 is used to determine which rewards the detainee will lose or gain.

b. Process for issuing a GTMO Form 508-1 for discipline:
(1) Details about incident phoned to DOC to begin processing a DD Form 508.
(2) DA Form(s) 2823 filled out by personnel witnessing the incident, detailing the incident.
(3) PL determines discipline based on matrix and previous record of offenses by detainee, then prepares GTMO Form 508-1 for on-duty CO’s review. The form must include a brief description of the offense, the number of times the detainee has committed offenses, and the discipline to be imposed.
(4) If the on-duty CO concurs, the discipline is entered on the DD Form 508 from the GTMO Form 508-1.
(5) After all required forms are complete, the onduty CO signs the DD Form 508 as the Confinement Officer and forwards to JDOG S3 for approval. Upon approval, the offense is entered into the discipline log for the detainee.
(6) A copy of the GTMO Form 508-1 is sent to the block to be briefed to the detainee by the Block NCO, SOG, or PL. The copy will be retained with the detainee’s records on the block.
(7) All original forms will be forwarded to Detention Services Branch at the end of shift.

c. Process for issuing a GTMO Form 508-1 for reward:
...

Gitmo prisoners receive 'rewards' ...

In May 1943, after personal suggestion from Heinrich Himmler, the SS issued the "Dienstvorschrift für die Gewährung von Vergünstigungen an Häftlinge", the "Service Regulation for Permissioning Privileges to Prisoners". Under the detailed regulation, concentration camp inmates who were 'good workers' could be 'rewarded'. Possible rewards were allowance to wear a military haircut (instead of being kept bald), cigarettes, stuff from the cantine or a visit to the camp brothel.

As far as we can tell, Gitmo does not have a regulated camp brothel. But that may just be for lack of female prisoners who could be 'disciplined' by getting raped there. It is certainly not for lack of will to write the regulating Standard Operation Procedures of such.

'Rewards' in Gitmo are a bigger piece of soap, the privilege to get toilet paper as required, toothpaste on Sundays or being allowed to keep a styrofoam cup in the cell. All 'reward' items can of course also be again confiscated to 'discipline' the prisoner.

8-10. Confiscation of Items
...
k. Items
...
(12) Styrofoam Cups. If the cup has writing on it, confiscate, complete a DA 4137, and give to the Evidence Custodian. If the cup is damaged or destroyed, the detainee will be disciplined for destruction of government property. Also, consult the damaged property matrix to determine the length of time the detainee loses the Styrofoam cup. If the detainee has lost his cup due to discipline, he will receive a cup with his meal but must return it at the completion of the meal. Due to supply issues, different size cups may be used at anytime. All cups are considered equal regardless of size.

What do the authors, who considered and wrote about the equality of styrofoam cups, think about the equality of men?

Posted by b on November 16, 2007 at 01:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

November 15, 2007

Jolie's Refugee Plan

The Economist is paying actress Angelina Jolie to present conflict solutions for Africa:

"Accountability is perhaps the only force powerful enough to break the cycle of violence and retribution that marks so many conflicts," the Hollywood star wrote in The Economist magazine's "The World in 2008", out on Wednesday.

The actress, who is a goodwill ambassador to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said she hoped the coming year will see the international community seek "true accountability" for victims, particularly in Darfur.

Angelina may need the money as she just purchased a pricy patch of real estate:

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have bought a man-made island in the shape of Ethiopia that is part of an ambitious luxury development off the coast of Dubai, a newspaper reported today.
...
Prices for the islands range from $US6 million to $US36 million.

There is yet no information on how many refugees Ms. Jolie plans to resettle to her island.

Posted by b on November 15, 2007 at 02:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

The State of Iraq

A look at Iraq:

  • Violence is down to last year's level.
  • Parts of the Sunni resistance, some 70,000 men, have been temporarily bought off with U.S. money.
  • Al-Sadr has declared and is holding some kind of temporary truce to clean up his movement.
  • The Kurdish-Turkish conflict is on hold due to winter weather conditions.
  • Sectarian ethnic cleansing and the U.S. military has killed 1 million and removed 4.5 million people from the contested areas.
  • The U.S. force is at an all-time height of 175,000.
  • The Maliki government seems to be as ineffective and un-sovereign as ever.

As Tom Ricks reports from Iraq, the U.S. military sees this as a make or break moment.

In more than a dozen interviews, U.S. military officials expressed growing concern over the Iraqi government's failure to capitalize on sharp declines in attacks against U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians. A window of opportunity has opened for the government to reach out to its former foes, said Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the commander of day-to-day U.S. military operations in Iraq, but "it's unclear how long that window is going to be open."

The solution that is thought of are more purple fingers.

The answer to many of Iraq's problems, several military officials said, would be to hold provincial elections, which they said would inject new blood into Iraq's political life and also better link the Baghdad government to the people.

I don't think elections would matter. They even could make things worse. How and where would the refugees vote?

My suspicion is that all we see now is only a pause of the wider conflict. The trend from here will be again downward.

The numbers of U.S. forces will decrease. The bought sheiks will lose their current sponsor and look for new ones. Al-Sadr may decide he wants a bigger share of the government cake or Karbala and reignite his movement. In spring the Turkish-Kurdish conflict will likely flame up again. If refugees come back they will their houses looted or inhabitated by other people. The Shia government shows no signs and has no reason to abondon its partisan policies.

There are reports of Sunni on Sunni violence and Shia on Shia violence. The big groups seem to split into smaller fractions.

That may make it easier for the U.S. to control the mess a bit longer. But it will not better the state of Iraq or the situation of its people.

Posted by b on November 15, 2007 at 12:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

Blame The Germans?

Department of 'Huh':

So long as there is one Jew left on earth who still needs money to end his life in dignity, the Germans should pay, because they alone are to blame.

link

Can someone please explain the above sentence for me?

Posted by b on November 15, 2007 at 08:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

November 14, 2007

Similarities of War on Somalia and Iraq

There are striking similarities between the U.S. war on Iraq and the U.S. encouraged proxy war Ethiopia wages against Somalia. The escalation of both also follow a likewise scheme.

Last December I wrote about the U.S. directed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia:

Are there any doubts that this successful U.S. intervention will follow just the same track the one in Iraq took?

There will be less dead U.S. GI's in this war - for now at least - but the track will be essentially the same as the war took in Iraq. The travel down the road to hell will be much faster though as the knowledge that had been developed bit by bit by the resistance in Iraq over the last three years will immediately be implemented in Somalia.

(Arab News has an informative piece on the colonial background of the conflict. In the open threads here commentator b real thankfully keeps us updated on what is happening in Mogadishu and other places in Africa.)

Confirming b real's regular observations and my year old prediction McClatchy recapitulates:

[T]he Ethiopians have faced stubborn resistance from fighters loyal to the Islamists, who've proved adept at ambushes and remote-controlled bombings.

Ethiopia's campaign has become an open-ended military intervention besieged by a stubborn insurgency, and Ethiopians recently responded by sending in a surge of reinforcement troops. Human rights groups charge that the Ethiopian forces are carelessly killing civilians.

Sounds familar? The Ethiopian tactics are exactly the same the U.S. uses in Iraq. The resistance in Somalia is copying Iraqi resistance tactics. Mogadishu is now another Fallujah.

And just like Cheney is itching to escalate the war on Iraq by bombing Iran, the Ethiopian dictator Meles wants to escalate his war on Somalia by attacking Eritrea. The U.S., in the person of the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer, is confirmed (by John Bolton - none less) to be the one directing that coming war (rec. read):

She has actively been on a personal crusade to orchestrate an international demonization of the Eritrean leader and his regime as part of a coordinated effort to facilitate aggression. In Ms. Frazer’s vernacular, the Eritrean regime is a sponsor of transnational terrorism, and the answer must be “regime change”.

While the Ethiopian dictator Meles wants to regain the 'defector province' of Eritrea, the U.S. wants to get rid of an Eritrean regime reluctant to follow its dictate while being friendly with China. Under the 'excuse' of fighting 'terrorism', the U.S. urges Addis Ababa to ignore international law:

There should be no mistake that the reason for another war between Eritrea and Ethiopia is not that Eritrea has suddenly become a state sponsor of transnational terrorism, but the fact that Ethiopia desperately needs a pretext to create a material foundation for its de facto rejection of the Hague decision on the border issue.
[...]
The difficulty for both the Bush Administration and Meles is the fact that both international law and the practice of international diplomacy support Eritrea’s position.

The authors quoted above are not friends of the rulers in Eritrea. But just like the opposition in Iran, they abhor outside interference and the always available fake opposition figures who collaborate with foreign interests:

We, too, desperately yearn for regime change in Eritrea, but not one initiated, financed and directed by outside forces with the so-called Eritrean opposition providing enabling services.
[...]
What Eritrea desperately yearns for today are not neo Challabists who ignominiously seek power for its own sake on the back of foreign sponsors, but principled patriots who accept the Weberian synthesis of visionary ethics and the ethics of responsibility to provide authentic national leadership.
[...]
Ironically, Meles’s [Ethiopia] refusal to abide by the Hague verdict and America’s counter-productive meddling in the matter has contributed to the longevity of the Isaias [Eritrea] regime.

The last statement is again a parallel to what is happening in Iran. The current Iranian president Ahmedinejad would not have the support he has, if the U.S. would not be as aggressive against Iran as it is.

But like in Iran the aim is not merely the change of a ruler or the erection of a real democratic government. The U.S. wishes total control via 'regime change' and installation of 'friendly regimes' - pseudo democratic or not even that.

While in Iraq and on Iran the U.S. is investing itself by its own military means, on Somalia and Eritrea the Ethiopian government is the willing proxy. The slaughter and the outcome though, do not differ.

(This map might help you to digest the above. Note how a east-west line from the Red Sea through Eritrea and Ethiopia might open access to rich oil fields in south Sudan while bypassing Khartoum ... that could be another motive for this 'intervention' ...)

Posted by b on November 14, 2007 at 02:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

What's the word for catfight in Urdu?

Today two remarkable op-eds were published in the U.S. by Pakistani women named Bhutto. Some excerpts of these from the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times:

--WaPo--

I am under house arrest in Lahore, barricaded in by Pakistani police with bayonets.

--LAT--

While she was supposedly under house arrest at her Islamabad residence last week, 50 or so of her party members were comfortably allowed to join her. She addressed the media twice from her garden, protected by police given to her by the state, and was not reprimanded for holding a news conference.

--WaPo--

Despite Gen. Pervez Musharraf's announcement of a date for parliamentary elections, I doubt that we are in for a change.

--LAT--

Her negotiations with the military and her unseemly willingness until just a few days ago to take part in Musharraf's regime have signaled once and for all to the growing legions of fundamentalists across South Asia that democracy is just a guise for dictatorship.

--WaPo--

I cautioned the general earlier this year that his election as president by the present parliament was illegal.

--LAT--

It was particularly unappealing of Ms. Bhutto to ask Musharraf to bypass the courts and drop the many corruption cases that still face her in Pakistan. He agreed, creating the odiously titled National Reconciliation Ordinance in order to do so.

--WaPo--

Musharraf knows how to crack down against pro-democracy forces. He is, however, unwilling or unable to track down and arrest Osama bin Laden or contain the extremists.

--LAT--

Ms. Bhutto's repeated promises to end fundamentalism and terrorism in Pakistan strain credulity because, after all, the Taliban government that ran Afghanistan was recognized by Pakistan under her last government -- making Pakistan one of only three governments in the world to do so.

--WaPo--

On top of a litany of assaults on the rule of law, the general has unilaterally amended the Army Act of 1952 to grant the army the power to try civilians in military courts. Courts-martial will operate by military rules in secret, and defendants are not allowed legal representation.

No attempt has been made to differentiate between average citizens and terrorism suspects associated with militant groups. Many believe that these laws were passed to intimidate pro-democracy forces, not to try terrorism suspects. This is the "democracy" that Musharraf envisages.

--LAT--

My father was a member of Parliament and a vocal critic of his sister's politics. He was killed outside our home in 1996 in a carefully planned police assassination while she was prime minister. There were 70 to 100 policemen at the scene, all the streetlights had been shut off and the roads were cordoned off. Six men were killed with my father. They were shot at point-blank range, suffered multiple bullet wounds and were left to bleed on the streets.

My father was Benazir's younger brother. To this day, her role in his assassination has never been adequately answered, although the tribunal convened after his death under the leadership of three respected judges concluded that it could not have taken place without approval from a "much higher" political authority.

--WaPo--

Benazir Bhutto, head of the Pakistan People's Party, was twice elected prime minister of Pakistan. She is under house arrest in Lahore.

--LAT--

Fatima Bhutto is a Pakistani poet and writer. She is the daughter of Mir Murtaza Bhutto, who was killed in 1996 in Karachi when his sister, Benazir, was prime minister.

Quite a farce to watch. Pass the popcorn please.

Posted by b on November 14, 2007 at 10:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (19)

November 13, 2007

Another Barfly Meeting?

Around the last new year's eve some ten or so Moon of Alabama folks met in Hamburg, Germany.

If enough people promiss to come, we might repeat such festivities. This time those would be at Dan of Steele's place in north-westeast Italy near Venice. The timeframe is somewhere between Christmas and the first week of January.

Anyone interested?

If you are, leave a comment here or send an email to Dan of Steele or to my address.

Posted by b on November 13, 2007 at 02:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

The Ron Paul Phenomenon

New Republic writer James Kirchick rants about

all those liberals oddly attracted to the presidential candidacy of Ron Paul

Matthew Yglesias replies:

The people attracted to his candidacy are libertarians and conservatives disgruntled with Bush's war. Liberals have nothing to do with it.

Duncan Black adds:

I'm sure there are "some" liberals who are on board the Ron Paul train, but there isn't some big liberals-for-Ron-Paul movement.

I agree with Duncan. There isn't a big movement - yet. But I can see it coming.

If the progressive voter's decision has to be between:

  1. a more-of-the-same, 'moderate', belicose, democratic candidate fed by lobby interests and
  2. a 'nutty', but anti-war and at least principled libertarian

there might be a liberal wave to vote for Ron Paul as president.

Imagine Ron Paul in cohabitation with a democratic congress that prevents him from damaging too much of the social issues.  That might just be the constellation needed to upset the Washington village consensus. It is that consensus and the interests it defends that is harming the U.S. and its people.

Via Glenn Greenwald, who is busy debunking some smears the establishment tries to hang on Paul, here is a video from a Ron Paul talk with voters. Paul is asked who he would endorse if he would not run himself. His answer is Chuck Hagel and Dennis Kucinich, both because of their position on foreign policy issues and for their general principled stands. What is not like with that choice?

Ron Paul's position on many issues are against a progressive social conscience. But with Hillary Clinton calling for more costly wars and Obama fighting against social security, they don't seem to be good alternatives.

The republican candidates are mostly certified nuts and war will be a huge issue in the 2008 election. Paul therefore might become the republican candidate. If that happens, many disappointed liberals will likely give him a chance.

Posted by b on November 13, 2007 at 07:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (59)

November 12, 2007

The Annapolis Joke

The Annapolis conference was supposed to be about some new Israeli-Palestinian agreement under the tutelage of the United States and with photogenic attendance of some U.S. friendly Arab leaders.

It will, if it takes place at all, fail for several reasons.

The Israeli condition for negotiating at all is a Palestinian declaration of unconditional surrender on their main issue - their U.N. acknowledged right of return.

Monday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that the starting point for all negotiations with the Palestinians will be the "recognition of Israel as a state for the Jewish people"

This recognition is meant to bolster Israel's position that rejects the return of Palestinian refugees to areas inside the Green Line - the border before the 1967 Six-Day War.

The atmosphere of the pre-conference negotiations gets intentionally poisoned:

Palestinian officials said chief negotiator Ahmed Qureia and other members of the negotiating team were stopped by Israel Defense Forces soldiers near Jerusalem while on their way to meet their Israeli counterparts to try to draft a joint statement ahead of the Annapolis, Maryland conference scheduled for in late November.

Qureia said his team was held at the West Bank checkpoint for 25 minutes and was asked to keep waiting, but the negotiators refused.

The U.S. is absent in the process. The State Department has neither presented any ideas, nor has it pressured Israel for even the slightest compromise.

The Israeli government has recognised the U.S. Secretary of State as the joke she is:

The long buildup to Annapolis, together with Ms. Rice’s many trips to the region, have given birth to a new verb in Israeli government circles: “lecondel,” meaning, to come and go for meetings that produce few results. The word is based on Ms. Rice’s first name.

Funny indeed, but the failure of the Annapolis conference to achieve any real result will likely lead to the fall of Abbas and renewed violence. That will not be contained to the West Bank and Gaza.

Why do people wish this to happen?

Posted by b on November 12, 2007 at 03:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

Strikes

It is good to see that strikes are back in fashion. They are the best, and often the only way, people can demand their fair share of the productivity they bring to the market.

In Hollywood the Writers Guild of America is on strike to get a fair share of the revenue stream that will come through Internet distribution of their work.

In New York the stage workers are trying to protect their hard-won benefits by shutting down shows.

Huge railway and student strikes are planned this week in France to fight against Sarkozy's neo-liberal attack on pensions and on University financing.

In Germany locomotive drivers and train conductors are in on and off strikes to get better payment.

In Ireland bus drivers are on strike over new imposed working condictions that in effect require them to do longer hours.

In South Africa construction workers fight for better wages too.

In Australia union workers are striking to have the union be the sole worker representative at a big brewery.

In all the above cases the media reports are heavily slanted against the workers. Strikes are "bad for small business", they are "inconvient" to those who do not get the service, they are "unfair", "untimely", "not justified". The demands are always "excessive".

Don't believe any of it without checking what the striking workers really say and what the strike really is about. The media owners have no interest in presenting a fair picture of any strike and, unless they strike themselves, journalists don't dare to cross their employers intent.

If you can, visit workers on a picket line. Bring them coffee and some supporting words. Striking is not easy to do. It requires sacrifice and no one I have ever met really likes to go on strike.

Unions are the bastions that indirectly defend every other wage owner. Strikes are the only real weapon wage owners have. Let's hail their use.

Posted by b on November 12, 2007 at 12:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

November 11, 2007

Israeli Cows Suffer From SHOCK

When it bleeds it leads is an old rule in journalism. But the hierarchy in reporting also depends on who does the bleeding.

This article by the Associated Press describes a horrible incident:

Qassam strikes cowshed in western Negev, killing 7 cattle

What a mess! These ghastly Palestinians launch rockets on cowsheds, killing Israeli cows! People are shocked, SHOCKED! The cows are shocked too, SHOCKED!

Seven cows were killed and four were wounded when a Qassam rocket struck their shed in Kibbutz Zikim in the western Negev on Sunday morning.

Three people at the scene of the time of the attack were treated for shock and treated on site.
[...]
"The electric wiring and plumbing are damaged and the cows are suffering from shock which will mean they eat less," he said. "That means they will produce less milk."

The same piece, half way down and after the prioritized tragic tale of slaughtered cows, continues with a different scene nearby. It bleads too, but is obviously of lesser interest.

Israeli forces on Saturday killed two Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and wounded three others in three separate incidents, Palestinian sources and the Israel Defense Forces said.

The first incident, which resulted in two deaths, occurred after troops noticed two Palestinian youths crawling toward the fence (to avoid detection, said the IDF) separating the Gaza Strip and Israel. The incident happened near Al-Bureij refugee camp in the Strip's central region.

The two slain youths, Jihad and Bilal al Nabhin, 16- and 17-years old, were shot at night, and Gaza rescue forces reported they found their bodies in the morning. Palestinian sources said the two youths did not belong to any militant organization.

While such cattle slaughter continues, it was noticed that the new lack of milk in Israel will not influence the ban on milk powder deliveries to the unoccupied Gaza Strip.

Posted by b on November 11, 2007 at 07:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

OT 07-78

Why is it snowing here?

News & views ...

Posted by b on November 11, 2007 at 02:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (63)

November 10, 2007

Norman Mailer on Losing Democracy

Norman Mailer died.

I haven't read any of his books (should I?) but remember reading the piece below when it was published in 2003.

There is a subtext to what the Bushites are doing as they prepare for war in Iraq. My hypothesis is that President George W. Bush and many conservatives have come to the conclusion that the only way they can save America and get if off its present downslope is to become a regime with a greater military presence and drive toward empire. My fear is that Americans might lose their democracy in the process.
[...]
The dire prospect that opens, therefore, is that America is going to become a mega-banana republic where the army will have more and more importance in Americans' lives. It will be an ever greater and greater overlay on the American system. And before it is all over, democracy, noble and delicate as it is, may give way. My long experience with human nature - I'm 80 years old now - suggests that it is possible that fascism, not democracy, is the natural state.

Indeed, democracy is the special condition - a condition we will be called upon to defend in the coming years. That will be enormously difficult because the combination of the corporation, the military and the complete investiture of the flag with mass spectator sports has set up a pre-fascistic atmosphere in America already.
Gaining an Empire, Losing Democracy?, February 25, 2003

Posted by b on November 10, 2007 at 12:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

False 'Intelligence' Led To NoKo Nukes

False 'intelligence' allowed North Korea to aquire nuclear weapons.

There are two major ways to build a 'nuke', either with highly enriched Uranium or with Plutonium gained from spent reactor fuel.

In 2002 the U.S. started to claim that North Korea was enriching Uranium for a nuclear bomb program.

North Korea denied the enrichment charges. The dispute led to an end of the 'agreed framework', a 1994 contract that provided North Korea with fossil fuel in exchange for it not to develop nuclear weapons.

Based on the allegations of NoKo Uranium enrichment the Bush administration stopped its part of the deal. Retaliating North Korea threw out the IAEA inspectors and started to extract plutonium from the used fuel of its research reactors. In 2006 it detonated a (likely) nuclear device.

Only thereafter did the U.S. restart serious talks to again provide fuel and other incentives in exchange for North Korean denuclearization.

It now turns out, as some had said before, that the whole story about North Korean Uranium enrichment was likely a 'failure' of U.S. intelligence. Glenn Kessler writes in the Washington Post:

North Korea is providing evidence to the United States aimed at proving that it never intended to produce highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons, undermining a key U.S. intelligence finding, South Korean and U.S. officials said this week.
[...]
"This is now in the process of being clarified," a senior South Korean official said in an interview. "The North Koreans are now ready to prove that they did not intend to make a uranium-enrichment program by importing some materials."

He said North Korea is attempting to show that the materials it imported -- including 150 tons of aluminum tubes from Russia in June 2002 -- were intended for conventional weapons programs and other dual-use projects, not for weapons of mass destruction.
[...]

Aluminium tubes purchased by Iraq, intended as rocket casings and unfit to be used in centrifuges, were part of the Bush administration false claims about an Iraqi nuclear program.

As we learn now a similar ridiculous claim led to an end of the agreed framework and to a North Korean nuclear device.

.. the tubes acquired by North Korea needed to be cut in half and shaped in order to be used as the outer casings of centrifuges.

A major figure in the U.S. claims of nuclear bomb programs in Iraq, North Korea and Iran is John Bolton. He and his former special assistant Frederick Fleitz, supported by Representative Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), were the key people in providing the false claims.

Currently Bolton and the Wall Street Journal opinion editors are propagandizing an alleged nuclear program in Syria which they claim to be supported by North Korea.

Their aim seems to be to derail the talks in North Korea and to build public ground for an attack on Iran and Syria. As they have been caught in a huge lie again, one hopes that the public will disregard their claims.

Posted by b on November 10, 2007 at 05:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

November 09, 2007

Some Thoughts On The Dollar

The Dollar will continue to fall until the central bankers and politicians get together and hammer out a new deal on how and when to stop it. It will take a lot of pain to make that happen.

The Europeans are concerned that the Dollar fall will hit their economies. This week French President Sarkozy called for a strong dollar. When chancellor Merkel is in Washington these next days she will have the issue on her agenda too. Jean-Claude Trichet, the head of the European Central Bank, also made some noise:

The ECB almost certainly believes that more overt currency market intervention requires agreement with other central banks. But in spite of concerns that the weaker dollar will increase the risk of inflation, the Fed has shown no interest in currency intervention.

Obviously the U.S. has decided to let the Dollar fall further. F... the Europeans. This will rapidly increase the prices the U.S. consumers have to pay for energy and other imports. A lower Dollar may help Boeing to sell a few more airplanes, but the little folks will get screwed by high prices and a tanking economy.

If the Fed would be independent and smart, it would increase interest rates by several points. That would squeeze out inflation and lead to a healthy fast deflation of the popping credit bubble. But the Feds concern is Wall Street and plenty of cheap money, it hopes, will keep the banks and the stock markets up.

There is still resistance by the banks to acknowledge the real amount of junk papers they have in their books. When the first Mortgage Backed Securities were downgraded people spoke of possible losses of $50 billion. Now some talk of $500 billion. My estimate is a trillion and then some.

This not only from mortgage papers and related debt obligations and derivatives thereof, but also from various debt obligations that aggregate consumer credit cards and car loans. People losing their home will not balance their credit cards or honor their car loans. The papers backed by these loans are thereby also junk. The trillion in bank losses come on top of the trillions in book losses home owners have with the values of their houses declining. The size of this devaluation is unprecedented.

The Fed tries to keep the markets up but it is obvious that something systemic went wrong and the huge mess in the credit markets will over time be reflected in stock values too. When Google stocks are back down at $100 the crisis may be over. But we are still far away from that.

Little noticed, another bubble burst this week. After eleven years of rising art prices Sotheby, the British auction house, yesterday failed to sell a load of impressionist artwork for the suggested prices.

Analysts were particularly struck by the fact that Vincent van Gogh's landscape, Wheat Fields, possibly his last finished work, painted in 1890 two weeks before he committed suicide, was left unsold; Sotheby's had valued it at up to $35m (£17.5m).
[...]
Overall, Sotheby's brought in $270m from Wednesday night's sale, failing to meet even its low estimate of $401m including commissions.

Sotheby's had given guarantees to the art owners and failed to sell above these. As it had to eat the losses, Sotheby stocks lost 40% of their value.

This is certainly a sign that even people with lots of money are holding back. The next bubble to burst is the British housing market. The Chinese stock market, while still in an upswing, doesn't look healthy either. Besides commodities, everything is poised to go down.

But back to the Dollar. It has to fall further but should fall more against the Yen and the Yuan than against the Euro. There are political reasons why this is not happening.

China is not pleased with the U.S. behavior in the world, especially in Iran, Pakistan and Sudan where it has interests. It certainly has no sympathies that would allow for a solid deal on exchange rates.

Japan has bad experience with the last big Dollar fall. In 1985 it got screwed in a similar situation. The Dollar was overvalued and in the Plaza Accord big money nations agreed and pressed the Japanese to let it fall. The Yen doubled in value over a short time which led to an asset price bubble in Japan. When that bubble burst, fifteen years of relative economic misery followed.

For now the Euro, CanDo, Pound and other 'western' currencies and their economies will have to take the burden of the falling Dollar. At a certain point, like when €1 will cost $1.50, the ECB may try to intervene alone but not in a serious way. This could lead to a short term counter rally in the Dollar markets but can only be sustained for a few weeks.

Through its behavior, the U.S. has lost credit in the world. This also in a very monetary sense. The Dollar will therefor fall further and its time as primary reserve currency may be over. The pains of the popping bubbles get socialized to the consumers in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Posted by b on November 9, 2007 at 11:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (32)

November 08, 2007

Effects of Being Fat Society

Years of too long hours in front of computers and a hobby of cooking delcious meals put some twenty unnecessary pounds on my ribs. With a change in my eating patterns and daily walks I managed to turn the trend. Over the last year my weight is going down again. I didn't do this for health reasons, I am smoking which is much more dangerous than a few excess pounds, but I feel better without the balast.

Being Overweight Isn't All Bad, Study Says titles the Washington Post. Well, that's not really what the study says but the headline makes a nice excuse to stay fat:

Being overweight boosts the risk of dying from diabetes and kidney disease but not cancer or heart disease, and carrying some extra pounds actually appears to protect against a host of other causes of death, federal researchers reported yesterday.

Sure, if people die from diabetes before the usual old-age cancers have time to develop, the statistics will say so.

Whenever I travel to the states I notice two groups of people distinct in size from what I'm used to see in Europe. Slim trained people fresh out of the gym and very obese folks. There seem to be few between those extrems. My subjective impression is that the second group has grown over the years. While people here in Germany tend to grow a 'bierbauch', not so many are allover obese. Said differently: In contrast to Europeans, if U.S. folks get fat, they get really, really fat.

Statistics support my observation. On can see the frightening development over time on these maps (more visual in the animated version). The graphics show a trend over time of an ever increasing share of fatties.

There are systemic reasons for this.

The $288 billion Fat (farm) Bill passing Congress will guarantee further obesity by subsidizing high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils and meat production instead of healthy food. There likely would be no need for nutrition programs if bad food wouldn't be made cheap through tax dollars.

While subsidizing fat food costs the tax payer on one side, health care cost for fat induced chronic illnesses, like diabetes, heart problems and cancers, are draining money on the other one. This is nice business model for industrial farms and health clinics, but for the society it is a slow motion human and financial catastrophy. The voters are to decide on that.

What really concerns me on obesity is the psychological impact. I feel insecure and I am passive aggressive when I gain too much weight. If 30% of a population is obese, how does this effect their mood and reasoning? How does it effect their society's behavior?

Posted by b on November 8, 2007 at 02:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (39)

Quiz: A Country With ...

Another quiz task:

We are looking for a country on the continent of Asia that has significant religious based extremism, tribal unrest and a warrior culture.

There are several of those, so here is a little help.

Some of the country's borders were defined by British geographic carving.

Afghanistan? Not quite right.

Second hint: It has a nuclear program.

Pakistan? Well it could fit, but ...

Third hint: The country's name starts with an I.

India? I'll give you some time to think about that.

Meanwhile the Friday Lunch Club points us to a letter by one Mohammad Alireza in Teheran to the Israeli people. It was published in, of all places, the Jerusalem Post:

Do the Iranian people really want to go to war with the Jewish people? The answer is a resounding No! For thousands of years the Iranian and Jewish peoples have lived in peace, and continue to do so to this very day. There are 25,000 Jewish Iranians living and working in Iran without any persecution or worry.
[...]

What the Israeli people need to realize is that those in power in Iran become stronger and increase their grip on power when they can point to "enemies" and "threats." So why do you play their game and inadvertently help them?

The Israeli government must not make decisions based on fear and take preemptive action. They need to trust their ability to keep the peace through deterrence, and trust the Iranian people to bring about democracy through our own efforts.

We the Iranian people have lived in peace with the Jewish people for thousands years and will continue to do so. Nobody should be allowed to destroy this tradition of peace, even those who misunderstand their own religious teachings.
[...]
We have lived in peace with each other for thousands of years and there is no reason why this has to change, and I think most Iranians would agree with this.

It is worth your time to read the letter in full. But I urge you to at least check the comments towards the letter. They may even help you to answer the quiz:

Name a country on the continent of Asia that has religious based extremism, tribal unrest, a warrior culture and some borders defined through British colonial geographic carving. It also has a nuclear program and the name starts with an I.

What country was I thinking of?

Posted by b on November 8, 2007 at 06:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

November 07, 2007

Quiz: What's the Country?

UPDATED below

Guess what country is in the current news. From today's New York Times:

Nov. 7 — Riot police officers used tear gas and a water cannon today to clear thousands of demonstrators from the streets of the capital of COUNTRY, employing extensive force in the face of protests against the country’s government.

There were no immediate reports of the extent of injuries. But people who fled the clouds of tear gas reported that police officers had rushed through the city’s main boulevard and had beaten demonstrators who had not managed to escape. Many protesters were seen bleeding. The police also scuffled with journalists covering the confrontation and confiscated or shattered some of their equipment, witnesses said.

The police sweep, while it cleared the avenue at least temporarily, underlined the intensity of the challenge to the government and reputation of the President.

The opposition has accused him of running a centralized government intolerant of dissent and undermined by high-level corruption and police and prosecutorial abuse.

Opposition leaders labeled the police action a political crackdown and mass punishment, and called for the people to gather in renewed protests. The possibility of escalation, or further clashes and police action, seemed high.
[...]
The United States, the Presidents government’s principal foreign sponsor and mentor, had no immediate response.

Here is your quiz question. What country is COUNTRY?

Burma? Cuba? Pakistan? Venezuela? The answer is below the fold.

A photographer working for The New York Times was rushed and seized by an officer while photographing the beatings; the officer wrestled away her camera and shattered it on the street. She collected the broken camera and was able to retrieve her disk of pictures, but the camera was ruined, and she had two bloody scrapes on her face.

There were also accusations that the police forcibly collected video and still cameras during the violence and returned them after, part of an effort to limit the number images that could be published or broadcast.
[...]
The United States has resisted the role of mediator since the standoff began on Nov. 2.

What country is COUNTRY?

Scroll down for the answer.

UPDATE:

AP just reports:

The U.S.-allied President of COUNTRY declared a state of emergency Wednesday, where six days of demonstrations have fueled a worsening crisis.

The President has blamed ... for fomenting the unrest in the nation. His prime minister said in a televised statement that there had been an effort to overthrow the  government.

"An attempt to conduct a coup was made, and we had to react to that," he said.

The emergency declaration "will temporarily ban demonstrations and protests, and calls in the media for violence, and the ouster of the government by force."
















































































NYT: Georgian Police Break Up Protests

AP: State of emergency in nation of Georgia

What country did you guess?

Posted by b on November 7, 2007 at 02:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

OT 07-77

Your news & views ... open thread ...

Posted by b on November 7, 2007 at 05:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (88)

A Sanitized AFRICOM Story

by b real
(lifted from a comment)

There was a widly circulated November 5th Associated Press story on skepticism and distrust greeting AFRICOM:

Skepticism, distrust greet America's new military command in Africa.

The story was heavily reissued again this afternoon under the headline:

Skepticism Greets New US Africa Command

The word "distrust" was dropped and the command is no longer "military". There are other subtle but interesting changes, the most significant of which I've noted below.

Nov 5th version

Africans are concerned the new command is an American attempt to project military might, unnecessarily bringing the global war on terror to their own backyard.

They also wonder whether it is a ruse to protect America's competitive stake in African oil and other resources increasingly sought by rising powers like China and India.

Nov 6th version

Some Africans are concerned the new command could draw the continent deeper into the global war on terrorist groups.

Others wonder if it is meant to protect America's competitive stake in African oil and other resources increasingly sought by rising powers like China and India.

---

.. more below the fold ..

Nov 5th version

Instead, it aims to help Africans "help themselves" through military training programs and support for peacekeeping and humanitarian operations crucial to stability and preventing conflict...

Nov 6th version

Its aim is to help Africans with military training and support peacekeeping and aid operations crucial to stability and the prevention of conflict...

Interesting that they drop the 'helping africans help themselves' slogan. To quote chomsky, from what we say goes [p. 124]

When you conquer somebody and suppress them, you have to have a reason. You can't just say, "I'm a son of a bitch and I want to rob them." You have to say it's for their good, they deserve it, or they actually benefit from it. We're helping them.

---

Nov 5th version

Regional powers including Libya, Nigeria and South Africa have expressed deep reservations, partly because they believe Africom could undermine their authority, analysts said. So far, only Liberia has publicly stated it would host Africom, though even critics like Nigeria welcome the continuation of the American military training programs they say have been beneficial.

Nov 6th version

Regional powers including Libya, Nigeria and South Africa have expressed deep reservations, partly because they believe Africom could undermine their influence, analysts said. So far, only Liberia has publicly stated a willingness to host Africom, though even critics like Nigeria welcome the continuation of the U.S. training programs.

A big difference between "authority" -- as in sovereignty -- as opposed to "influence" and dropping the qualifier on Nigeria's interest in military programs is a bit misleading.

---

Nov 5th version

"Africom is being pitched as a kind of non-kinetic military command," Shillinger said, "and that seems to be an oxymoron."

Nov 6th version

[excised]

AFRICOM --> moron -- obviously someone was offended.

---

Nov 5th version

Other analysts said there has been criticism within the U.S. government itself, notably from State Department officials concerned the authority of diplomats could be confused or usurped.

Nov 6th version

Analysts said there has been criticism of the command within the U.S. government itself, notably from State Department officials.

Remove context for criticism; easier to pretend it doesn't exist ...

---

Nov 5th version

Africom, he said, would "not be taking the lead" in humanitarian operations or U.S. foreign policy. Rather, it would support them by making available a massive military infrastructure that could help both.

Nov 6th version

It will "not be taking the lead" in aid operations or U.S. policy, he said.

After all, whoever thought of soldiers in a combatant command as "humanitarians"? And there goes the reference to military infrastructure, when it implies dependencies.

---

Nov 5th version

Since 2002, about 1,800 American troops have been stationed in Djibouti...

Nov 6th version

Since 2002, about 1,800 American military personnel have been stationed in Djibouti

Some "military personnel" based on your continent is much more benign than "troops".

---

Nov 5th version

The U.S., he said, would work with "African partners to make sure the resources that emanate from the continent are available to the global community."

Nov 6th version

The U.S. wants to work with "African partners to make sure the resources that emanate from the continent are available to the global community," he said.

A change from authoritative stance toward one of influence.

---

Nov 5th version

An internal conflict in Nigeria has sporadically disrupted the local flow of oil there, and offshore platforms throughout the region are little-protected and highly vulnerable because most countries have only tiny navies.

Nov 6th version

Internal conflict in Nigeria, Africa's biggest oil producer, has sporadically disrupted the flow of its crude, and offshore platforms along the western coast are little-protected because most countries have only small navies.

It wasn't a good idea to make fun of the size of anothers navy and call them "highly vulnerable" when you're trying to appear "helpful" rather than conquering.

This is an interesting rewrite and republishing effort.

Does this happen often or did someone command demand it?

Posted by b on November 7, 2007 at 01:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (16)

November 06, 2007

Congress Needs To Listen To Ms. Perino

Q But what he says what he's doing is against the terrorists, that is necessary to preserve stability there against terrorist organizations?

MS. PERINO: We do not believe that any extra-constitutional means were necessary in order to help prevent terrorism in the region. And that's why we are deeply disappointed with the actions, and we asked them to not do it.

Q Is it ever reasonable to restrict constitutional freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism?

MS. PERINO: In our opinion, no.
Press Briefing by Dana Perino , Nov. 5, 2007

Posted by b on November 6, 2007 at 02:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Torture Nomination Approved

With two Democratic Senators' votes the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Mukasey's nomination to head the Justice Department. Another torture advocate will occupy the highest legal office of the United States.

There was and is one point missing in the hearings and the public discussion about Mukasey and torture. What about torturing innocents?

There are 2 million people imprisoned in the U.S. It is certain that some of these are not guilty. Even with all due process, assumption of innocence and appeal procedures, some innocent people are trapped as guilty by misleading circumstances. The society has agreed to take that risk and is trying to minimize it.

But the assumption in the discussion about torture seems to be that only "terrorists" will have to endure it. It is very unlikely that all accused as "terrorists" are such. As due process and appeals are missing in processing "terrorists", the number of 'false positives' of the test hypothesis 'is terrorist' is likely much higher than those in the legal trial test hypothesis 'is guilty of the crime'.

The question to the society should therefore be about "torturing innocents", not about "torturing terrorists" as it is asked during the current discussion.

The question is: "How many innocent shall be tortured to get a, possibly false, confession from a terrorist?"

Has someone asked Mukasey? Or Senators Feinstein and Schumer?

Posted by b on November 6, 2007 at 12:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

November 05, 2007

Waxman Blames The Victims

Henry A. Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, writes an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times about corruption in Iraq.

The reference to the op-ed on the opinion web-page says:

Is Maliki's corruption worth American lives?
By Henry A. Waxman

The Iraqi prime minister is presiding over a government that is stealing us blind.

'Stealing us blind'???

Waxman's piece itself remarks:

Nearly 4,000 American soldiers have been killed and another 28,000 wounded in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. No one wants to believe that these sacrifices were made to establish and support a regime riddled with fraud and graft. But as President Bush asks for an additional $153 billion for the war, we can't shrink from this reality.
[...]
If the Maliki government is too corrupt to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq -- and political reconciliation is an illusion -- can we in good conscience continue to ask our troops to risk their lives and our taxpayers to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in this war?

Three questions to Mr. Waxman:

1. Wasn't it you who asked for the 'sacrifices'?
Wasn't it you who voted for war on Iraq claiming Saddam Hussein is "the patron saint of the homicide bombers in Israel" and "[w]hether he is tied in with al-Qaeda is still subject to debate, but they share an intense hatred for the United States, Israel, and our allies, and in their willingness to attack civilians to achieve their purposes"? Didn't you add that "the risks of inaction clearly outweight the risks of action" (pdf)?

2. Why are you downplaying Bush's request for an additional $196 Billion 'investment' to continue the war by claiming it to be only $153 billion?

3. Why do you only mention Iraqi corruption and not U.S. corruption in Iraq and the vanishing of billions of Iraqi oil money while it was under U.S. control? Who is stealing from whom?

Finally: Why do you blame the victims of your decisions for their consequences?

Posted by b on November 5, 2007 at 09:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

R 0.9 Insulation

Apres Deluge says:
(pictures added by b)

Walking outside the MoA cyber-cirquel-jerk for some fresh air and a smoke, noticed float glass on the windows of a recent converted condo tower. Float glass! From 19th Century! Single pane float glass with R 0.9 insulation, little better than wax paper, a whole building full of it! Then another, and another, walking around, I realized most downtown apartment buildings still have wooden sashes and single pane glass! Compared to R19 walls, energy loss of single pane windows is 19 times!


heat leaks - source: infratec

Would it be that terribly difficult to organize a protest march at every new condo conversion, and demand that, in addition to finding replacement housing for the soon to be evicted low-income tenants, who can no longer find replacement housing now that every apartment building is being condo'd, would it be that difficult to demand that the condo conversions must meet current energy criteria for double or triple panes?

Automobiles use the largest part of oil, but electricity production and residential heating use the largest part of natural gas. Electricity distribution loses a huge portion, which is ironic since we're sharing the grid with Canada and Mexico, and "round-tripping" still goes on to hide those energy losses, but the largest single user of energy is residential housing. Single pane windows are an abomination, and so easily protested before city officials, desperate to keep their images intact.

Protest condo conversions! Demand replacement housing, and demand energy upgrades!


'Passive house' insulation with 90% heating energy saving,
before-after infrared pictures of renovated condos,
Frankfurt, Germany, 2007 - link

You may now return to your regularly-scheduled velvet-chair cyber-cirquel-jerk...

Posted by b on November 5, 2007 at 04:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

November 03, 2007

Musharraf Teightens The Reins

Friday:

U.S. Secretary of State Rice is making noise that Musharraf must stick to 'Democracy' and not declare a state of emergency. This to bring the disgraced but U.S. supported Benazair Bhutto  back to power.

"I think it would be quite obvious that the United States would not be supportive of extra-constitutional means," Rice said. "Pakistan needs to prepare for and hold free and fair elections."

Also Friday, U.S. Centcom commander Fallon visits Pakistan for talks.

Both now that further violence in Pakistan, fueled in parts by the U.S. conflict with the Pashtun in Afghanistan and Waziristan, will excaberate the situation and make it more likely that Musharraf will (have to) take the step.

But then, the very same day, the U.S. kills another 10+ people within Pakistans border:

The explosion that killed 10 Friday in the restive border region of North Waziristan seemed likely to exacerbate an already turbulent situation in Pakistan. According to witness reports, the explosion was caused by a missile attack that obliterated a house near a madrassa, or religious school, that has been associated with Taliban commanders.

The Pakistani military, which has been fighting a losing battle in the tribal region, denied that it was involved in the attack. Many Pakistanis quickly blamed Washington, saying the attack bore the hallmarks of previous strikes by U.S. drones.

Saturday:

Gen. Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency in Pakistan on Saturday, suspending the constitution, replacing the chief justice before a crucial Supreme Court ruling on his future as president, and cutting communications in the capital.

Is U.S. foreign policy as observed in the above:

  • non-existant,
  • uncoordinated,
  • incompetent or,
  • deceitful?

What is it?

Posted by b on November 3, 2007 at 02:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (35)

November 02, 2007

Views on 'The Israel Lobby'

Mearsheimer & Walt's The Israel Lobby gained outrage  and continued attempts to suppress it from AIPAC.

But there is criticisms on the study's theses from a different side too. In that view the Lobby is not of really significant influence on U.S. Middle East policies, but used as an excuse by other forces.

Stephen Zunes writes in Tikkun:

I am in no way denying that the Israel Lobby can be quite influential, particularly on Capitol Hill and in its role in limiting the broader public debate. However, it would be naíve to assume that U.S. policy in the Middle East would be significantly different without AIPAC and like–minded pro–Zionist organizations.
[...]

As political scientist , the self–described ‘angry Arab’ currently serving as a visiting professor at UC Berkeley, puts it, such analysis “absolves the Bush administration, any administration, from any responsibility because they become portrayed as helpless victims of an all–powerful lobby.” Similarly, Columbia University Professor  Massad—who regularly endures attacks by the Israel Lobby for his defense of Palestinian rights—contends that the attraction of Mearsheimer and Walt’s argument is that “it exonerates the United States government from all the responsibility and guilt that it deserves for its policies in the Arab world.
[...]
As Professor Massad puts it, the Israel Lobby is responsible for “the details and intensity but not the direction, content, or impact of such policies.
[...]

Joseph Massad detailed his criticism in an op-ed in Al-Ahram, Asad AbuKhalil opined in a piece at his blog.

Libertarian conservative Jon Basil Utley writes at AntiWar:

The new, public debate about the Israel lobby is missing a major point – the lobby's allies, the many other interests in America that want chaos in the Middle East. For example, in the Walt-Mearsheimer book there is no listing in the index for "military-industrial complex." For all its vaunted power, the Israel lobby could not dominate America's Mideast policies without cover and active support from other powerful groups. Although AIPAC promotes the lobby's image in Congress as being all powerful, it isn't. The book does specify Christian Zionists as an integral part of the lobby, but it neglects many others.
[...]

Earlier Eric Alterman expressed an analog view in The Nation.

Writing about Israeli institutions, today's editorial in Haaretz laments about how influence U.S. 'Jewish tycoons' have towards Israel:

The relations between Israel and the the world's Jews, especially those in the United States, have always been fraught with hypocrisy. While everyone has been careful to pay lip service to Israeli democracy and its citizens' exclusive right to determine their fate, Jewish tycoons have known how to translate the millions they donate into influence and esteem.

The state, which managed to absorb millions of Jews and build a flourishing economy, continued its small-town mentality of kowtowing to the masters from overseas.
[...]

I am still confused on the question of who influences, or even commands, whom.

How are the U.S. neo-con Likudniks connect to the Lobby? Are they the Lobby? Are the 'Jewish tycoons'?

Stephen Zunes continues his piece with a broader view:

Any serious review of U.S. foreign policy in virtually any corner of the globe demonstrates how the United States props up dictatorships, imposes blatant double-standards regarding human rights and international law, supports foreign military occupations (witness East Timor and Western Sahara), undermines the authority of the United Nations, pushes for military solutions to political problems, transfers massive quantities of armaments, imposes draconian austerity programs on debt–ridden countries through international financial institutions, and periodically imposes sanctions, bombs, stages coups, and invades countries that don’t accept U.S. hegemony. If U.S. policy toward the Middle East was fundamentally different than it is toward the rest of the world, Mearsheimer and Walt would have every right to look for some other sinister force leading the United States astray from its otherwise benign foreign policy agenda. Unfortunately, however, U.S. policy toward the Middle East is remarkably similarly to U.S. foreign policy elsewhere in the world. [...]

Is he right?

Posted by b on November 2, 2007 at 10:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (38)

OT 07-76

Open thread ... please leave some news or views ...

Posted by b on November 2, 2007 at 01:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (106)

November 01, 2007

Panic?

Wonder why the stock markets are tanking today bespite a $41 billion inflationary injection by the Fed?

Well - this is what official U.S. economic numbers are about: Inflation was low because oil prices surged

The above is not an Onion piece but a well-founded explanation of 'serious' official U.S. 'economy numbers.'

Yesterday we learned that U.S. growth was 3.9 percent and inflation down to 0.8%. But the same day these good numbers made the Fed to cut its interest rates? "Who do you believe - me or your lying eyes."

Today some economy blogger found out that Maybe the Real Reason for the SIV Rescue Plan was to save Citibank from going belly up.

Welcome to the club. I wrote about the Citigroup Bailout via the SIV plan and included the likely  'belly up' scenario two weeks ago. Why does it take people so long to catch up on the plain obvious?

In the big picture the bailout for the rich is running via the Fed induced inflation: Rising Prices Widen Gap Between Rich and Poor

Although higher prices also mean higher wages and salaries, the tax authorities are the first to benefit from the incremental earnings -- but not when it comes to high earners. Not much changes for those who have already reached the highest tax bracket, while everyone else is affected by what is known as cold progression: the marginal tax rate changes with each additional euro in income, resulting in a more uneven distribution of the tax burden.

The scenario I see gets worse each day. 'You ain't seen nothing yet,' is the tune I can't get out of my head right now. If you thing the great depression was an impressive show, this downturn will leave you staggered.

Get out of the markets, stocks, US$s and variably mortgaged housing, while you can.

Posted by b on November 1, 2007 at 05:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (28)

 
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