February 28, 2006


Here is a transcript from Iranian TV which featured a seminar on how the Jewish Walt Disney company created the cartoon Tom & Jerry as a public relations ploy to erase the European view that Jews were like "dirty mice."


Some say that this creation by Walt Disney will be remembered forever. The Jewish Walt Disney Company gained international fame with this cartoon. It is still shown throughout the world. This cartoon maintains its status because of the cute antics of the cat and mouse, especially the mouse.
Some say that the main reason for making this very appealing cartoon was to erase a certain derogatory term that was prevalent in Europe.
If you study European history, you will see who was the main power to hoard money and wealth, in the 19th century. In most cases, it is the Jews. Perhaps that was one of the reasons which caused Hitler to begin the anti-Semitic trend, and then the extensive propaganda about the crematoria began... Some of this is true. We do not deny all of it.

Watch Schindler's List. Every Jew was forced to wear a yellow star on his clothing. The Jews were degraded and termed "dirty mice." Tom and Jerry was made in order to change the Europeans' perception of mice. One of terms used was "dirty mice."

I'd like to tell you that... It should be noted that mice are very cunning...and dirty.

No ethnic group or people operates in such a clandestine manner as the Jews.
Read the history of the Jews in Europe. This ultimately led to Hitler's hatred and resentment.

As it turns out, Hitler had behind-the-scene connections with the Protocols [of the Elders of Zion].

Tom and Jerry was made in order to display the exact opposite image. If you happen to watch this cartoon tomorrow, bear in mind the points I have just raised, and watch it from this perspective. The mouse is very clever and smart. Everything he does is so cute. He kicks the poor cat's ass. Yet this cruelty does not make you despise the mouse. He looks so nice, and he is so clever... This is exactly why some say it was meant to erase this image of mice from the minds of European children, and to show that the mouse is not dirty and has these traits.

Unfortunately, we have many such cases in Hollywood shows.


The Wall Street Journal reports that just outside Paris, France, Ilan Halimi, a 23-year old Jewish man, was kidnapped, tortured, stabbed, and brutalized for 24 days by Muslim men who invited Muslim neighbors in to torture him while they talked on the phone with the family about a ransom and while his screams could be heard by the family in the background. Although some French authorities tried to classify the crime as simply a case of kidnapping for ransom money, it quickly became apparent that he was targeted precisely because he was Jewish. There have been other attempted kidnappings of Jews in France, and one other Jewish man was murdered because he was Jewish. [Thanks to A.B.]


Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction.

Blaise Pascal, French mathematician, physicist (1623 - 1662)

February 27, 2006

Staring Into the Abyss: Two Perspectives

William F. Buckley, not known as a flame-throwing lefty, pinko, tree-hugging kind of guy, has stated the obvious: "One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed."

Buckley presses on with inexorable logic: "Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. The great human reserves that call for civil life haven't proved strong enough. No doubt they are latently there, but they have not been able to contend against the ice men who move about in the shadows with bombs and grenades and pistols."

On the other hand, we have National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley yesterday expounding on how well everything is going in Iraq. Appearing on many of the Sunday TV talk shows, Hadley delivered the Bush message yet again: "It is a time of testing for Iraqis... They've stared into the abyss a bit, and I think they've all concluded that further violence, further tension between the communities, is not in their interest."

On the same Fox News website page reporting on Hadley's remarks, we have three headlines:

"Baghdad Curfew Continues as Violence Persists"

"Sectarian Attacks Surge Despite Curfew in Iraq"

"14 Commandos Bodies Found"

Hadley's casual rumination that the Iraqis have "stared into the abyss a bit" reminds me of the story of the guy who has jumped off the Empire State building and being asked, as he plummets to the ground, "How are things going?," he answers: "So far, so good." I am surprised Hadley didn't say, "We are moving forward."

In William F. Buckley's eyes, two basic postulates about Iraq, put forward by the Bush government, have gone wrong, and Hadley is perfect example of blind adherence to these. The first failed premise, says Buckley, is that "from the beginning, ... the Iraqi people, whatever their tribal differences, would suspend internal divisions in order to get on with life in a political structure that guaranteed them religious freedom." The second Bush "postulate" says "that the invading American army would succeed in training Iraqi soldiers and policymakers to cope with insurgents bent on violence."

While Buckley is unapologetic about Bush's overall foreign policy, he concludes that Iraq is a "defeat" the President must swallow. He claims that Bush can do so without bringing ruin to the rest of his efforts in the world.

Yet on February 24, at a press briefing at the White House, Hadley said this in response to a question about Iraq:

"Obviously, the destruction of the Golden Mosque, and then the subsequent attacks on Sunni religious sites is very troubling. And the President has been very strong in condemning it. It's a testing time. It's a difficult thing that Iraq is trying to do, to go from 30 to 40 years of tyranny, where sectarian groups were largely repressed and oppressed, to those groups now to try and establish an inclusive democracy, where they all can live comfortably in a unified state."

During those years Hadley talks about, Saddam Hussein killed Kurds and Shiites precisely because of their sectarian identity. And yet, Hadley holds firm to his hope that these sectarian groups, in response to American liberation, would want or be able to create an "inclusive democracy" in a comfortable "unified state." This is the kind of delusional thinking that has formed the basis of the failed Bush policy and which is bankrupting the American people.

Staring into the abyss, Hadley continues to say "so far, so good," while William F. Buckley says it is time to cut our losses.

February 26, 2006

Dear Lee Scott:

My modest advice for Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart.

Dear Lee Scott:

Pay your employees higher wages, give them better benefits, improve their working conditions, permit union organizing, and you will have a more effective workforce and a better company.

Do the smart thing. Make your company an example of the best in America when it comes to worker treatment. Demand from your foreign suppliers that they improve their worker's living and working conditions. Use your huge financial clout for good, not for exploitation and greed.

Talk to Ray Anderson at Interface, the largest carpet manufacturer in the world, about how you can take another path, a path that respects your workers and earth's resources and makes Wal-Mart a sustainable company.

If you continue with your present policies, your company will ultimately fail because it cannot sustain itself based on taking from the earth and humanity and giving nothing in return. Don't be shortsighted. Your place in history can be one of virtue and good, or it will be one of avarice and injustice. I fear your business soul is on the road to iniquity and degradation if you don't do the smart and good things. You may lose your job trying, but you will set and example others will follow.

I have no doubt you will ignore this advice, but you will remember me and everyone else who has given it to you when the time comes for you to be judged by history and, I am sure in your own eyes, by your maker.

Sincerely yours,

Stephen McArthur

Free Speech as Skank, Sleaze and Hate

In line with two of my last blog entries, let's take a look at hate-monger Ann Coulter's exercise of free speech. Here are some of the things she has said:

My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building.

We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. (after 9/11)

We need somebody to put rat poison in Justice [John Paul] Stevens' crème brulée.

Liberals hate America, they hate flag-wavers, they hate abortion opponents, they hate all religions except Islam, post 9/11. Even Islamic terrorists don't hate America like liberals do.

Isn't she advocating the assassination of a Supreme Court Justice?

If I were to declare that someone should blow up the White House, wouldn't I be investigated by the Secret Service? Wouldn't I be guilty of advocating the assassination of the President of the United States? I think that is a crime.

Why is it not a crime for Ann Coulter to suggest that someone kill a Supreme Court Justice?

Or is this free speech, protected by the Constitution?

Where do we draw the line?

February 25, 2006

Congress's Disgraceful Bankruptcy Law Punishing Good Americans

The Congressional do-gooders who passed the punitive and contemptible bankruptcy law last year probably will not care that all signs are now pointing to how the law is actually serving to punish good Americans who are in trouble through no fault of their own.

Somehow those feckless Senators and Representatives thought that millions of ne'er-do-well Americans were jacking up huge debts by running amok with credit cards and then capriciously trying to duck their responsibilities by getting out of paying for their immaturity and immorality. Those Senators and Representatives thought it high time that all those people be punished for their bad behavior. While it is true that there are some people who behave badly with their money and look for the easy way out, they really are in a small minority.

Despite many warnings about how punitive the law would turn out to be, it was passed and now Americans who are in trouble are paying for it. They are being punished because they have lost their jobs or suffered business reversals, had catatastrophic medical events, or had a spouse die. According to a recent study, almost 80% of Americans who are filing for bankruptcy are suffering because of one or more of those adverse developments in their lives. The United States Congress has made the lives of those Americans even more miserable.

Tha National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, which conducted the study by surveying 61,000 potential bankruptcy filers at six national credit counseling agencies, says:

(T)he credit counseling requirement under the new law, designed to steer debtors who could repay their debts into a debt management plan [DMP], simply imposes new costs and time burdens on individuals who can ill afford either – and clearly are not the people for whom a DMP is feasible...

The study found that only 3% of those people who are potential filers actually have the means to pay back even some of their debts.

Will any of those who voted for the banckruptcy law even notice? Does it matter at all to any of them that Americans who lose their jobs, have medical crises, or lose a spouse need our help, not a slap in the face?

Free Speech in Texas

Just this week, in Houston, Texas, we have had a new challenge to our right of free speech.

A Houston police officer publicly criticized Houston police regulations with regard to police chases which he thinks endanger the public. He was muzzled and assigned to a desk job. A US District Court Judge has ruled in favor of the police department and told the officer he needs to shut up. The judge's ruling is being appealed on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.

Where is the line that a democratic society can draw that would effectively define what this police officer can or cannot say? If he had spoken about the policies privately, would it have gained his criticism any more credibility or acceptance? Does the issue of public safety override in this case? Is this police officer essentially a whistleblower, speaking up against all these wild and dramatic car chases that have become mesmerizing events on television? If we muzzle his speech in this case, are we not muzzling our right to know what government does that may or may not be in the public interest?

Police forces are para-military organizations that run on a chain of command basis, and I know they must have discipline in the ranks. But isn't this a case where the ability to exercise free speech is imperative? If we cannot allow individual police officers to question such a major police practice, one that certainly impinges directly on the public safety, then how will we ever obtain knowledge and information about such practices and their faults? If a woman police officer spoke out about egregious gender discrimination within a police department, would she be guilty of insubordination or should she be allowed her exercise of free speech? Is it any different that a police officer believes these highly publicized chases are endangering the public?

It's not like there is some kind of wild revolt happening within police departments around the country. This is a very specific criticism made by an officer about a very specific practice. If he considers it an illegal order to chase a suspect to the point of threatening the safety of the public, then he should have the right to say so. In the same way, a soldier has the right to refuse an illegal order if he believes it is wrong.

Denying the Holocaust and Satirizing Muhammad

Austria has just convicted a man for denying the Holocaust and sent him to jail for three years. There are now other Austrians objecting, saying the sentence was too lenient, and he should go to jail for ten years.

Using the same logic of justice, the Danish cartoonists who have defamed Muhammed should have their hands cut off or be beheaded.

Yes, there is substantial difference between going to jail for three years and being beheaded, but the end result is the same -- muzzling free speech.

I believe that denying the Holocaust is hideous and trying to inflame anti-Semitism by doing so is reprehensible. But I do not believe that someone who publicly claims the Holocaust did not happen should be prosecuted and jailed.

I remember almost 30 years ago being incensed when the ACLU defended the right of the National Socialist Party (the American Nazi party) to hold a rally in Skokie, Illinois, a community heavily populated by Nazi concentration camp survivors. A national debate swirled around these events, but the courts of the United States all agreed that the American Nazis had a right to march.

It made my stomach turn, but I was faced with the reality that I had to support their right to march or I could, some day, be surrendering my right to march to some tryant just like the Nazis who would prevent me from marching if they were in power.

European silence in the face of this conviction in Austria is shocking, especially while they are defending the right of the cartoonists in Denmark to satirize anyone they please. How is it different for the present-day Austrian government to send someone to jail for saying something the government does not permit, than for the Nazi-ruled Austrian government of 1942 to jail someone for saying something it didn't permit back then?

I don't want to paint the Austrian courts as tryannical; I do understand how Austrian history drives the Austrian law against Holocaust denial. But where do you draw the line? How can Austrians support the Danish cartoonists' rights to publish their cartoons allegedly defaming Muhammed (I assume millions of them do), but at the same time support a law in their own country which denies freedom of speech about the Holocaust? Where does the line get drawn? What about people who proclaim that the Pope is the devil? What about people who promote the idea that the world is flat? How about Muslims who believe that non-Muslims are infidels? How about born-again Christians who believe and proclaim publicly that as a non-born again Christian I am going to burn in hell for an eternity? Do they have that right to say that about me?

I know we have to have some reasonable restrictions on free speech, such as not being able to yell "fire" in a theater when there isn't one, but if we let the tyrants choose whom to jail or execute because they are saying things we oppose, then we have already given up our democratic rights to those who do not support the idea of free speech under any circumstances.

February 24, 2006

NOW Statement on South Dakota Abortion Law

South Dakota Ban on Abortion Signals Pitched Court Battle Over Roe v. Wade

Statement of NOW President Kim Gandy

In passing a law today that bans all abortions except when the life of the woman is at stake, South Dakota legislators gave right-wing zealots what they have been waiting for since the 1992 Casey decision: another shot at Roe v. Wade. That landmark decision recognized a woman's fundamental right to privacy in deciding whether to continue her pregnancy.

By a vote of 50-18 in the House and 23-12 in the Senate, state lawmakers virtually assured a legal battle that will reach the Supreme Court. And given the current breakdown of the High Court, whose two newest justices have a history of opposition to women's rights, the outcome could well be a reversal of Roe.

Every Senator who did not filibuster the Supreme Court nomination of Sam Alito to replace Sandra Day O'Connor will share responsibility for what follows.

The Corporation

At the end of the film The Corporation, Ray Anderson, Founder and Chairman of Interface, the largest carpet manufacturer in the world, tells a group of business people that we need another industrial revolution, that the first industrial revolution got it wrong, and that we need to get it right this time around. He tells these business people that we have created a world in which corporations are all behaving in ways that are unsustainable for the planet and that our very future is at stake.

Anderson is one of the leaders of a small green revolution among corporations, a pioneer with a passion for changing the world's corporate culture away from a merely profit-driven exploitation and waste of earth's resources and toward a corporate sustainability that, at the very least, does no harm, but which, at best, begins to reverse the adverse environmental and social consequences of corporate abuses.

The Interface website describes its motivations this way:

Inspired chiefly by Paul Hawken's treatise, The Ecology of Commerce, Ray heightened the company's awareness and led changes in technology in an effort to move toward being environmentally sustainable. Admittedly, Interface is not there yet; however, the company is developing processes and technologies to get it there. What this means, primarily, is learning to harness solar, wind, biomass and other forms of green energy and providing raw material needs by harvesting and recycling carpet and other petrochemical products, while eliminating waste and harmful emissions from its operations. Ray believes that if Interface, a petro-intensive company, can get it right, it will never have to take another drop of oil from the earth. The philosophy guiding Ray's passion for this cause is simply that it is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing, too.

Corporations have taken over every part of our daily lives and constitute an unelected center of power that impinges on every thing in our lives. From the corporate control of our media -- what we see, hear, and read -- to what we eat -- agribusiness controlling the production, distribution, and quality of our food, what chemicals are used in that production without our knowledge and against our will, we have little choice but to ingest their products. From the pharmaceutical companies that control the quality and prices of medical discoveries paid for in large part through taxpayer subsidies, and which, at the same time, are buying patented control and ownership of the genetic code of human life to the corporations in every industry that have bought and paid for influence in every strata of our national, state and local legislatures and governments.

Using what is perhaps one of the most terrible mistakes of history, namely the Supreme Court decision that established the corporation as a "person," the corporation has aggrandized for itself a series of "rights and privileges" that have helped it avoid citizen oversight and control. It has become a power in and of itself that has acquired rights (such as free speech) that were intended for human citizens of the United States. Like individual citizens, corporations are allowed to own property, pay taxes, exercise certain Constitutional rights like free speech, enter into contracts, and otherwise behave as if they were a person. One of the few things they cannot do is become a citizen and vote. Of course, I would argue that their intensive and overwhelming financial involvement in the electoral process makes this last point irrelevant.

As such, corporations have become immune to the normal controls that would require them to work in the "public interest," the original intent of the laws governing the chartering of corporations over 150 years ago. Today, the "public interest" is so low on the list of priorities for corporations as to make it invisible. In everything corporations do --whether it is inventing new drugs to cure disease, publishing newspapers to provide us information, giving money to candidates for public office, producing a new pesticide, building a new factory, hiring new employees, establishing workplace safety standards, setting new wages for workers -- corporations make decisions based on one overriding thing: profit.

And, moreover, they are required by law to make a profit, first and foremost.

Jeff Milchen of ReclaimDemocracy says:

Because maximizing return to shareholders is legally required of corporate officers, profit must be the ultimate measure of all corporate decisions. Profit necessarily takes precedence over community well-being, worker safety, public health, peace, environmental preservation, and national security.

What Ray Anderson is doing is "the smart thing," but it is also the tiniest of things in comparison to what needs to be done. The vast majority of corporations have yet to experience Ray Anderson's personal revelation and conversion, and the likelihood of their doing it on their own, like Anderson, is pretty slim. It is going to take citizen action unlike any we are seeing now, the overthrow of corporate dominated national and state legislatures, the repeal of old laws and court decisions, the passage of new laws, and a media that is an ally of this kind of citizen action.

How we get to that point is the challenge we face. But it needs to begin this coming November. If you are not involved in any campaign for a candidate that will work toward this end, get involved. If you don't have the time, donate money. If you are broke, write letters to the editor about why these changes need to happen and why new people need to be elected to make these changes.

If you suspect that I have just had the opportunity to watch the film, The Corporation, you would be right. It is a film every American should watch. It will confirm what most Americans feel in their gut, know in their hearts, and understand in their heads about how corporations have become an undemocratic and unacceptable presence in their lives.

Buy the DVD here.

I have also created a list of excellent links on the left side of this blog under the heading Overthrowing Corporate Rule.

February 23, 2006

Quote Contest Answer

Here's the quote again.

If you’re going to go in and try to topple Saddam Hussein, you have to go to Baghdad. Once you’ve got Baghdad, it’s not clear what you do with it. It’s not clear what kind of government you would put in place of the one that’s currently there now. Is it going to be a Shia regime, a Sunni regime or a Kurdish regime? Or one that tilts toward the Baathists, or one that tilts toward the Islamic fundamentalists? How much credibility is that government going to have if it’s set up by the United States military when it’s there? How long does the United States military have to stay to protect the people that sign on for that government, and what happens to it once we leave?”


Dick Cheney, April 13, 1991, New York Times interview, explaining why the Bush I administration did not pursue ‘regime change’ during the Gulf War.

As of today (February 23, 2006), almost three years after the invasion, these questions are as relevant as they were fifteen years ago.

February 22, 2006

Iran's Gasoline Supplies to the Rescue in Iraq

CorpWatch, in an exclusive report from Pratap Chatterjee, reveals that gasoline supply into Iraq is being curtailed by many of its suppliers because of unpaid bills. Trucking companies and supplier countries are simply refusing to deliver gasoline to Iraq. While American and Iraqi officials are trying to blame the problem on terrorism and the insurgents, trucking company personnel say it is actually corruption, mismanagement, and "common criminal activity" that are causing much of the crisis.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which together supply half of Iraq's domestic consumption needs, have cut off supplies of gasoline to Iraq, because of non-payment. The Iraqi government is now negotiating with Iran to supply gasoline.

The report from CorpWatch describes problems with the supply of gas from Kuwait:

The supply from Kuwait is also drying up. Lloyd-Owen International (LOI), a Florida-based company, had arranged to truck in 1.3 billion liters of gasoline from the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation to gas stations throughout Iraq over the last 19 months. On February 2, Alan Waller, chief executive officer of LOI, stopped supplies to Baghdad because of payment arrears. By this weekend, Iraq's imports had plummeted from the previous norm of 12 million liters a day to three million.In a strongly worded letter he emailed to this weekend to Thomas Delare, the economic counselor at the United States embassy in Baghdad, Waller wrote: "The government of Iraq is unwilling to pay what is correctly owed us or even meet to discuss and that we cannot get any assistance from the U.S. administration in order to help. As such, I can only step back and pull all my international staff out of Iraq for their own safety and let the Iraqi people deal with the situation in their own way."

In 2003, LOI replaced Halliburton as a major supplier of gasoline to Iraq because the Halliburton price was judged by the US military as too high. How high was it? Halliburton was charging $2.65 a gallon to purchase and deliver gasoline, while local suppliers in Iraq were charging 96 cents per gallon. LOI, in 2004, offered to deliver gasoline for 18 cents per gallon "compared to the premium that the military had paid Halliburton previously."

The likelihood of LOI getting paid is not good. The likelihood of the corruption and theft that is happening with supplies of gasoline in the country is equally bad. The US government simply is unable to help American companies who are not being paid.

And while gasoline lines get longer and supplies continue to dwindle, Baghdad is looking increasingly to Iran to help bail it out. As CorpWatch concludes:

Indeed this subject was discussed as far back as last July [2005] when Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari visited Tehran, a prospect that mystifies Waller given the ongoing political disputes between Iran and the U.S. government."Due to payment issues and the fuel problems the U.S. backed government of Iraq is now seeking to purchase and import fuel from Iran, and Najaf is the new Iranian capital of Iraq," Alan Waller, chief executive officer LOI, wrote on February 4th [2006], to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

At a time when the United States and Iran are headed for a showdown on the nuclear issue, our client next door is going hat in hand to Tehran looking for a reliable gasoline supplies for the Iraqi economy. One of the great ironies of the American occupation in Iraq continues to be how it has influenced marked improvements in relations between Tehran and Baghdad, once mortal enemies.

Quote Contest

One of my favorite quotes about Iraq:

If you’re going to go in and try to topple Saddam Hussein, you have to go to Baghdad. Once you’ve got Baghdad, it’s not clear what you do with it. It’s not clear what kind of government you would put in place of the one that’s currently there now. Is it going to be a Shia regime, a Sunni regime or a Kurdish regime? Or one that tilts toward the Baathists, or one that tilts toward the Islamic fundamentalists? How much credibility is that government going to have if it’s set up by the United States military when it’s there? How long does the United States military have to stay to protect the people that sign on for that government, and what happens to it once we leave?”

Tell me who said this and when he said it.

February 21, 2006

Bonfires of the Insanities

Iraqi oil is being consumed, but not in ways that make any sense. It is being bombed, exploded, burned, leaked, and wasted in huge amounts because the United States and Iraqi forces cannot and have not been able to protect the pipelines, the refineries, and other installations.

In 2003, before the invasion, we heard how the United States was planning to protect the oil fields from any Saddam Hussein attempt to sabotage them, as he did with Kuwaiti oil fields in 1991. We were somehow able to do that. No oil fields burned. It was widely believed that Iraq's oil reserves, reportedly the second largest behind Saudi Arabia's, would be its salvation, the fuel for its reconstruction after the war.

Last year, we heard about the formation of Iraqi oil battalions, organized to protect the oil infrastructure from the insurgents. A former Sunni Ba'ath leader was put in charge of this task, a ploy some in the American leadership regarded as one good way to obtain Sunni cooperation in the reconstruction of Iraq. As we will learn, that was probably a huge mistake.

Most of the press reports of attacks by insurgents in Iraq focus on the car bombings and roadside bombs that kill American military, Iraqi police, and innocent civilians. What we don't hear much about is that there is, on average, an attack on the Iraqi oil infrastructure every other day. Last year, 186 attacks killed 47 engineers and 91 police and security guards, resulting in as much as $10 billion in lost oil revenues for Iraq. Just this January, insurgents blew up the pipeline supplying oil to Turkey.

Reuters reports
That means another month of exports grinding along near one million barrels per day, robbing Iraq, which sits on the world's third biggest oil reserves, of badly needed revenue to rebuild. "We were hoping to improve the rate (of exports) to 1.3 million bpd this month, but that is out of the question now," a senior Iraqi oil official told Reuters. Poor security has left oil workers and facilities vulnerable to attack. There is little or no strategic planning, investment is scarce and much of Iraq's infrastructure is old and damaged.

The sad fact remains that post-war Iraqi oil production still lags behind the rate of pre-war oil production under Hussein and, last month, hit a post-war low.

Now, we hear on NPR's All Things Considered from the former head of the Iraqi Oil Ministry, Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum, that it is precisely those military battalions assigned to protect the oil resources of Iraq that are probably behind the destruction and sabotage. Sixteen battalions are assigned to protect 5000 miles of Iraqi oil pipeline and infrastructure, and according to NPR correspondent Anne Garrels, they are "useless," at worst, they are linked to the sabotage. Garrels reports that in some places these battalions are "ghosts," basically not where they ought to be. The battalions are also riddled with informers, facilitating attacks and disrupting repairs.

The American and Iraqi military leadership has not dealt adequately with this problem, and the American and Iraqi political leadership seems to be ignoring it. It is the elephant in the room that no one seems to want to confront. Sixteen Iraqi military battalions that are essentially active allies of the insurgency and a bulwark against the successful reconstruction of Iraqi oil resources arfe pretty hard to ignore, but the American and Iraqi leaderships apparently have no idea how to deal with this reality.

As these pipelines burn, and the bonfires are lit at refineries, and as newly repaired sections of the pipeline explode from new sabotage, there seems to be a level of insanity inherent in a policy of looking the other way. Refusal to confront this severe problem could be fatal. How can we expect any semblance of Iraqi recovery if the country's major source of income is repeatedly and permanently crippled?

Saudi Dies With a Smile on His Face

Watching this videotape of an Iraqi preparing to commit a suicide bombing, presented by the Shura Council of the Mujahaddin in Iraq, conveys some sense of the religious and personal fervor of the commitment these men and women have to defending Islam against the infidel.

There seems to be an almost never-ending supply of willing, smiling young men like this, giving up their lives to defend Islam against the infidel.

The translation is by The Middle East Media Research Institute.

February 20, 2006

NBC Puts On 2-Week Commercial for US Power

Reprinted with permission

by Pierre Tristam

About half the readers of this site are from outside the United States, which means that among those of you who chose to watch the Olympics’ opening ceremonies from Turin Friday, about half of you were lucky enough not to be subjected to NBC’s nauseating production. But I’m not so sure you should count your blessings. Watching an American production of a world sporting event these days may be embarrassing. It is simplistic. It is supremacist. It is promotional to the core. But it is also instructive. NBC covers the Olympics the way American neocons do foreign policy: The world is 95 percent America, 3 percent water, and 2 percent everything else.

America’s projection onto the world is mostly as an emblem of force, preferably unrivaled. What world does exist outside its borders is reduced to elementary-school simplicities (“1.3 billion Chinese!” and how to say Turin in Italian). Above all, it’s reduced to the presumption that the rest of the world is either a by-stander, an enabler or a threat to American hegemony—what America’s Republicans, who have more in common with Charles DeGaulle than with Abraham Lincoln, would call American greatness (even as that greatness is right now pulling an Algerian rug from under its booted feet, with Iraqi weaving).

That’s how NBC projects its Olympic coverage. All the world’s a spectator to American prowess and dominance. You get the sense that none but American athletes are in these competitions, just as the Bush White House gives the sense that all the world is collateral for American foreign policy. NBC has been trained for the task. The same people who brought us the Iraq war as show business and “The Rescue of Jessica Lynch” as truth, and who keep bringing us coverage of the White House as public relations, now bring us the Olympics as a two-week commercial for American power.

The introduction set the tone. The announcer, speaking in the cadences of a Vietnam War documentary, gave a Travel Channel-synopsis of Turin’s Alpine character, with cinematography spectacular enough to make you wonder why it was so maliciously abbreviated. He swept over Turin’s architecture and summed up its two thousand year history in twelve seconds or so (about the length of any world history lesson in White House briefings). He intoned about this or that athlete from another country, the one whose body was “stitched together after twelve surgeries” or the one who single-handedly convinced his no-snow African nation to endorse a winter Olympic federation so he could compete. He made you feel that, well, maybe there is a world out there after all.

But then the music changed — from conventionally upbeat to Rambo-martial. Instinctively you knew what was up, for having been on the receiving end of similarly ominous soundtracks for the last four years every time a news show substituted nationalistic bombast for reporting: The subject switched exclusively to American athletes. It was no longer sport, but war. It was no longer competition, but defiance, whether it was about the athlete who “has converted his body into a bullet” or the one from New Hampshire who has taken his state motto and, somewhat inexplicably, turned it into his Olympic promise: “Live free or die.” If this weren’t enough, the announcer trumped up a little bit of divine right when he claimed that “the royalty of American figure skating” was making its return, lord knows from what genesis — Tonya Harding? Nancy Kerrigan? The eternally unfulfilled promise of Michelle Kwan? Naturally, Kwan was NBC’s very first Olympic interview, though not word one about the four Olympians who’d already been booted out for doping up, among them Zach Lund, the American sledder who made a gold medal seem like his entitlement.

What’s imperial gold to America sounds tinny to much of the world, and of course even to much of America, judging by the other inescapable parallel in this story: Bush’s anemic approval ratings—and NBC’s: “Friday’s Olympic opening ceremony was the worst-watched in at least a decade,” went one report. There’s a lesson there, but America’s powers that beam, from the presidency down to its media farmhands, aren’t learning it for being too self-absorbed. To the self-deluded, approval doesn’t matter anymore.

In 2001, the whole world called itself American in solidarity with the attacks the country sustained. It didn’t last, because President Bush couldn’t pass up the opportunity to answer fanaticism with fanaticism, alienating the world along the way. That the world’s pronounced tendency to hate America almost as much as it hates Iran seems only to reinforce his conviction that the only country that matters is America. He said as much in an interview with Bob Woodward in early 2002: “At some point,” Bush said of the war on terror, “we may be the only ones left. That’s okay with me. We are America.” NBC’s Olympic coverage revels in that unilateral view. It should be alienating to anyone but the most hardened, modern version of America-Firsters. But we keep watching because we don’t have a choice, or because the instructive element is worth the attention, or because there are always a few surprises, like NBC’s uncharacteristic decision to show the entire parade of nations, cutting not a single one of the eighty participating countries even when it went to commercial. Not bad.

But that was the sort of exception that proved the rule, a bone thrown to Bob Costas, the eminently qualified (and worldly) Olympic anchor since the late 1980s. His talent was ruinously snubbed Friday by NBC’s decision to stick him with a an escort for the evening, the way the Pentagon sticks reporters with escorts in war zones: Costas’ shadow was none other than Brian Williams, the NBC News anchor and recent replacement for Tom Brokaw. It was half publicity stunt half conceit. NBC wants to give Williams exposure in his new role. Williams wants to give himself gravitas. And NBC’s Olympic coverage wants to seem au courant, hip to the sporty and the newsy.

Instead, Williams’ comments — about Italy providing the third-biggest contingent in Iraq (he did not mention that Italy was withdrawing its troops over the next several months), about China having an iffy environmental record, about Iran threatening Israel, about Danish athletes potentially triggering demonstrations over the Muhammad cartoons — had the feel of a mortician distributing his calling card at a wedding. It wasn’t just intrusive. It was obscene for its self-promotion and redundancy, and for what it took away from the athletes while inferring that they somehow reflected their nations’ policies. The Olympics may be all about promotion, politics, profiteering, marketing, drugs and corruption outside the playing fields. But within them, for those brief moments that athletes hold the stage, they remain about sport for sport’s sake. With obvious exceptions — the U.S.-U.S.S.R. hockey match at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics come to mind — they remain exclusively about the athletes and their individual frailties and triumphs. Not their nations’. Leave it to NBC to demolish that one last redeeming illusion. It was bound to, having demolished all others.

For here’s another one of those ironies of American technological supremacy and “freedom”: We were not allowed to watch the opening ceremonies live, the way most of the rest of the world did. We won’t be allowed to watch most of the fortnight’s marquee events live, either. NBC packages them for prime-time viewing, between 8 and 11 p.m., to suit advertisers and best reap its $613 million investment in broadcasting rights to these games alone. So it goes with freedom’s might. When dividends are at stake, freedom is reduced to a pretty slogan (which NBC made much use of in its descriptions of “ Torino” as the birth-place of Italy). We are now treated to news anchors who, like one local specimen for NBC’s WESH-2 in Orlando, said he “can’t wait to see what happens tonight” — a newsman saying this — even though the opening ceremony was several hours old and its glittery pictures and accounts were all over the Internet.

If the Pentagon is always fighting the last war, the television networks are always broadcasting the previous decade’s Olympics. The distortions are nevertheless in perfect alignment with the American presumption that time zones don’t exist outside the United States, that time itself is an exclusively American luxury others abide by. To watch the Olympics on NBC, like watching the news on any American network, is like shopping in a mall or gambling in a casino: It’s a world onto its own where clocks don’t intrude and windows on the world are non-existent, for fear of distracting the consumer from his primordial duty: to buy what’s being dished out efficiently and uncomplainingly. And then to celebrate his luxurious imprisonment with canned patriotism, for let’s not forget the flag-raising ceremonies disproportionately detained by the Star Spangled Banner.

To reword Tacitus’ famous phrase about Roman armies, they created a monopoly and called it free enterprise. And it is this sort of mentality that pretends to be bringing freedom (and free enterprise!) to the world.

Pierre Tristam is an editorial writer and columnist at the Daytona Beach, Florida., News-Journal, and editor of Candide’s Notebooks. Reach him at ptristam@att.net.
© 2006 Pierre Tristam

February 18, 2006

CBS News Discovers Global Warming

A friend of mine who has worked as an editor and writer and activist and naturalist in the world of ornithology and the environment sent me this. He is on the list this was originally sent to. I think it's great that CBS 60 Minutes is taking the time to do a story about global warming. I find it interesting how the "background" to the 60 minutes piece begins with "There's been a debate burning for years on the causes of global warming." While it's true that scientists have been debating the causes, what's been more disturbing about this story is the number of political leaders who deny its very existence. Here's the email from CBS News.

From: Sanders, Robin [mailto:SandersR@cbsnews.com]

Sent: Thursday, February 16, 2006 4:13 PM

To: webmaster@greenhousenet.org; help@greenhousenet.org

Subject: 60 MINUTES' "Global Warning"

Good afternoon. My name is Robin Sanders, and I work at CBS News. I wanted to let you know about a story that "60 Minutes" will be airing this Sunday on climate change and global warming. It's an incredibly interesting piece, and we're trying to get the word out beforehand to as many people aspossible who might have a particular interest in this subject. To that end,we were wondering if you might consider sending out an email to yourlistserve and/or posting something on your website. The story will bebroadcast on CBS stations on at 7:00 ET/PT on Sunday, February 19. Further details will be posted on our website, <http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/1998/07/08/60minutes/main13502.shtml>which you're welcome to link to from your own site. Below, you'll find a short write-up about the piece. Please don't hesitateto call me if you have any questions. My phone number is 212-975-7598;email is sandersr@cbsnews.com. Best,Robin SandersCBS News 60 Minutesphone: 212-975-7598email: sandersr@cbsnews.com


There's been a debate burning for years on the causes of global warming. But according to scientists, the debate is over. New evidence shows man is contributing to the warming of the planet, pumping out greenhouse gases that trap solar heat. And, they say, the North Pole, which has been frozen for 100,000 years, is in the process of melting. Much of this new data was compiled by American scientist Bob Correll, who led a study called the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. According to the study, the seas are rising, hurricanes will be more powerful (like Katrina) and polar bears may be headed toward extinction. So what does the melting Arctic look like? Scott Pelley recently traveled North with Correll to see first hand. His report will air on 60 Minutes, Sunday, Feb. 19, 7PM ET/PT on CBS.

February 16, 2006

Death of an Artist

I haven't been writing because a friend of ours has been dying of pancreatic cancer. She has been a friend and fellow professor with my wife, Rickey, at Vermont College, Union Institute and University. I was lucky to know her.

She passed last night at home with family and friends. Only a little while before she died, Hannah, her ten year old daughter, who has been struggling as only a child can with this kind of unreal thing, came to her and sang.

Charlotte Hastings was a woman of great strength, independence, and generosity. She was an artist of amazing breadth, a professor and mentor, and a woman of big laughs and unbridled humor. She started and was involved with artist cooperatives in New York City and Vermont, and has had shows all over the country. But her humility never allowed her to brag about such things.

Inquisitive to the end, wondering how she could beat these vicious cells that she could only imagine inside her, metastasized, it was not until five days before she died that she accepted the inevitable, stopped eating, and let go.

So many people were around her through these last days -- family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, fellow artists -- but it wasn't really until this last week that she fully understood how many people would be there to give support and comfort to her husband Brad, and, especially, her beautiful daughter, Hannah. I think that is what finally gave her peace and concession.

As I was looking through some of Charlotte's works of art, I was captured by the one above, her husband and daughter, pointing, reaching out to a beautiful, fanciful bird flying off in the opposite direction. It is such a stark picture of them in this last week, a poignant and prophetic work she completed in 2003, perhaps the year that deep inside her the cancer was laying its seed.

Here is a link to her work and here is a link and here also to some of her words about herself and her art.

Here is Charlotte, in her own words, summing it all up:

Art isn't about talent. It's about loving yourself enough to cultivate your inner sensibilities, your intellectual and political awareness, your visual acumen, until process takes over and begins to make the kind of decisions that determine what will happen in your life.

February 14, 2006

Imagine This Guy as Senator

Mackubin Thomas Owens, contributing editor for the National Review, and a professor at the Naval War College, writes about his friend, Jim Webb, who has just announced that he is running for the Democratic nomination for Senate in Virginia to oppose Republican Senator George Allen in November. Owens warns the Republicans that this guy is one serious contender.

Owens starts with a short history of how, in the 1980s, significant numbers of Democrats, unhappy with the leftward drift of their party, voted Republican and began a political shift that culminated in an "electoral lock" on the House and Senate in 1994. He lays the blame for the Democratic loss, in part, on what he calls "the central idea of the Democrats" wanting to "adjudicate the distribution of resources among competing claimants." He uses the recent Alito hearings to elaborate on the Democratic Party's weaknesses saying: "Democrats have eschewed rhetoric as a means of persuading the electorate, preferring instead to grandstand in an effort to appease the left-wing interest-groups that constitute the base of the Democratic party. The party's only hope for returning to power is to throw off the shackles imposed by Moveon.org, the Daily Kos, People for the American Way, NARAL, and the like."

He believes the candidacy of Jim Webb may be the beginning of this hope.

Owens lists Webb's credentials which are truly impressive:

-- a 1968 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy;
-- a Marine officer in Vietnam, wounded twice, and awarded the Navy Cross and the Silver Star;
-- attended Georgetown Law School and later served as counsel to the House Veterans Committee;
-- author of six novels, including Fields of Fire, arguably the best novel there is about Vietnam;
-- during the Reagan administration, served as an assistant secretary of Defense and secretary of the Navy.

In a fit of propagandistic hyperbole, Owens characterizes Webb as a guy who stood on the front lines defending Vietnam war veterans against those who did not serve in Vietnam, all of whom are painted, by Owens, as slanderers who denigrated the veterans as dopeheads, baby-killers, and war criminals. Owens is perplexed that Webb would choose the Democratic Party as his affiliation since these slanders were most at home there.

His answer is, in part, because of the Iraq war. He believes Webb is angry at the Bush administration for its disregard for military service and its attacks on John Murtha. Owens also believes Webb is running as a Democrat because he believes the Iraq war has weakened us in the long run in our conflict with China.

He quotes a piece Webb wrote in the New York Times in January:

[I]n recent years extremist Republican operatives have inverted a longstanding principle: that our combat veterans be accorded a place of honor in political circles. This trend began with the ugly insinuations leveled at Senator John McCain during the 2000 Republican primaries and continued with the slurs against Senators Max Cleland and John Kerry, and now Mr. Murtha. The political tactic of playing up the soldiers on the battlefield while tearing down the reputations of veterans who oppose them could eventually cost the Republicans dearly. It may be one reason that a preponderance of the Iraq war veterans who have thus far decided to run for office are doing so as Democrats.

Owens basically portrays Webb as a tough guy who won't take any crap from anyone, Democratic or Republican. He quotes Webb after he resigned as secretary of the Navy in 1988 after clashes with Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci: "It's no secret that I'm not a person who wears a bridle well."

Owens worries that Webb is a harbinger of things to come. He worries about losing the Scots-Irish back to the Democrats. He cites Webb's 2005 book, Born Fighting. Webb wrote in his book:

[The Scots-Irish shape our culture] more in the abstract power of emotion than through the argumentative force of law. In their insistent individualism they are not likely to put an ethnic label on themselves when they debate societal issues. Some of them don't even know their ethnic label, and some who do know don't particularly care. They don't go for group-identity politics any more than they like to join a union. Two hundred years ago the mountains built a fierce and uncomplaining self-reliance into an already hardened people. To them, joining a group and putting themselves at the mercy of someone else's collectivist judgment makes about as much sense as letting the government take their guns. And nobody is going to get their guns.

Owens maintains that these are "red state" voters who are "family-oriented, take morality seriously, go to church, join the military, and listen to country music. They strongly believe that no man is obligated to obey the edicts of a government that violates his moral conscience. They once formed the bedrock of the Democratic party — from Andrew Jackson until Vietnam — but have been moving to the GOP ever since"

Owens ends on this note:

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Webb called the Scots-Irish in America the "the secret GOP weapon."

But the Republicans cannot take this group for granted. Commenting on a statement that Howard Dean made during the Democratic primaries, Charles Krauthammer opined that Dean was campaigning for the "white trash vote" by pandering to the "rebel-yelling racist redneck."
In the Wall Street Journal, Webb called this "the most vicious ethnic slur of the presidential campaign," noting dryly that Krauthammer "has never complained about this ethnic group when it has marched off to fight the wars he wishes upon us." Jim and I disagree on a number of topics — the Iraq war being an obvious instance — but the Republicans can't afford to lose such people.


After I read Owens' piece, I decided to visit the Webb for Senate website. I was not prepared at all for what I found there. In fact, I was ready for some kind of Republican in sheep's clothing. Apparently, Mackubin Thomas Owens has not read Jim Webb's website.

Here are the four major things Webb says he is going to concentrate on during his campaign:

1. Refocusing America's foreign and defense policies in a way that truly protects our national interests and seeks harmony where they are not threatened;

2. Repairing the country's basic infrastructure, which has eroded badly over the past decade, and developing more creative ways to assist disaster-stricken areas such as those in New Orleans and along the Gulf coast;

3. Reinstituting notions of true fairness in American society, including issues of race, class, and economic advantage; and

4. Restoring the Constitutional role of the Congress as an equal partner, reining in the unbridled power of the Presidency.

All four of these sound remarkably like the kinds of issues MoveOn.Org focuses on. I read about these issues all the time on progressive and liberal blogs, and on websites like AlterNet, CommonDreams, Buzzflash, People for the American Way, Common Cause, and others.

When was the last time you heard a Republican talk about "race, class, and economic advantage"? How about a Democrat? Race? Didn't we take care of that in the 1960s? We have a classless society, don't we? Economic advantage? What the hell is that? "Reining in the unbridled power of the Presidency?" Who does this guy think he is, the ACLU?

And most astonishingly, he seems to believe that we Americans can do alot better by fighting the real war against terror while we seek (oh my god, I can't believe he actually used the word) "harmony" where our national interests are not threatened.

His website actually uses the word ethnography and he quotes Tom Wolfe.

Here is how his website sums him up, and how I will conclude:

Imagine a Senator who has made a point never to take money for lobbying the government, and who has declined to sit on corporate boards, other than in a pro bono status for non-profit enterprises. Someone who has given thousands of hours pro bono on behalf of America's veterans and those Vietnamese who fled their homeland after the Communist takeover in 1975. Indeed, imagine a Senator who writes his own books.

February 13, 2006

The Big Bang Theory Replaced by Big Bible Smacking You in the Head

The cover of the program at a two-day event in Wayne, NJ where former high school biology teacher and creationist Ken Ham trained, among others, 2300 elementary students to reject everything science teaches in favor of the exclusive word of God as found in what he believes is the inerrant Bible.

If Ham has his way, we will have a nation of deluded idiots drooling over every word of his Bible while Chinese science and technology take over the world.

Read more here.

American Book Publishing No Longer American

Eric Weiner writes about the almost complete takeover by the Europeans of our largest publishing houses. He throws in some sad data about the status of American book reading, and predicts that the last two major American publishers are soon to be gobbled up, perhaps by European conglomerates as well. His conclusion?

"...the U.S. commercial publishing industry is going the way of the Dodo bird."

February 12, 2006

The Vice President That Couldn't Shoot Straight

Dick Cheney shot a man today while hunting. No joke.

Instead of shooting the quail, he shot an attorney hunting with him. I wonder if the guy decides to sue whether Cheney will regard it as frivolous.

Poverty is Common, Press Coverage is Not

Former Senator John Edwards came to Vermont to give a keynote speech at the February 8, 2006 United Against Poverty conference, an all-day event attended by over 300 activists and professionals, held on the University of Vermont campus. The conference was organized by the City of Burlington, Democracy for America, AARP-Vermont, the University of Vermont Political Science Department, and State Senator Matt Dunne. I attended the conference with my wife, Rickey Gard Diamond, who was covering the conference for Vermont Woman magazine.

The subject of the entire day’s conference was poverty and how the American economy is hurting the middle class, and further crushing low-income and poor Americans in Vermont, and around the country.

Sadly, there was no significant local press coverage of the actual content of the conference and only a few stories about Edwards’ speech. This should concern anyone who cares about the quality of media reporting in this country. Here was a conference that provided exhaustive information about increasing poverty in the state of Vermont and the limited coverage concentrated on Edwards, his life, his wife’s health, his aspirations for the Presidency, along with a piddling amount regarding his concerns about poverty.

I don’t mean to take anything away from Edwards and his tireless work on behalf of the poor in America. He gave fine voice to what he describes as the greatest moral question that America faces. What disheartened was local media’s ignoring the astonishing realities of poverty in its own backyard. It’s as if poverty is something that happens someplace else, perhaps New Orleans. The three main speakers at the conference spent the entire morning telling us that poverty is more common in Vermont and every part of America than we’ve been told.

David A. Murphey, Senior Policy Analyst for the Vermont Agency of Human Services, told the conference the current definition of poverty is "outdated, unrealistic, and misleading," and has been for years. While the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) for a family of four is $20,000, he reported recent state data and research shows the livable wage for Vermont families of four with two wage earners is actually $52,666. His Vermont caseload data suggest that poverty is increasing, that housing costs and demands are reaching a critical stage, and that there is a deepening divide between the haves and have-nots in the state. Most recent food stamp usage among children is up, and food shelf and community kitchen use is also up. Most tellingly, from1980 to the early 2000s, research shows that the top 5th of family incomes in Vermont rose by 72.3%, while the bottom 5th rose only by 27.3%.

Cornelius "Con" Hogan, Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Social Policy and former Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Human Services, reported that the rate of personal debt has increased by 36% in the last four years, that the personal savings rate of all Americans is at the lowest it has been since the Great Depression, that there has been an unrelenting rise in the cost of health care (a 45% increase between 2000 and 2003), and that half of all bankruptcies occur as a result of some family medical catatastrophe. Mr. Hogan made it clear that the increase of people in the poor and low-income categories is coming directly from the middle class. Profits are up, wages and income are down. The time bomb, in his words, is ticking.

Jane Knitzer, of Columbia University’s Center for Children in Poverty, told the conference the worst news – about America’s children. 18% of America’s children live in poverty. Six million live in extreme poverty. Responsible research has shown that it takes an average income at least twice the FPL (that lousy $20,000) to cover basic family expenses – more in urban areas. Ms. Knitzer reports that 40% of American children are growing up in low-income families. Shockingly, the data used to determine the poverty rate does not account for work-related expenses such as child care and transportation.

Our national government continues to refuse the use of reality-based standards for determining the actual poverty and low income levels in America, because it would substantially increase the number of Americans in trouble, and fly in the face of everything George Bush perpetually says about how healthy our economy is. The current numbers are fabrication and obfuscation. When Bush speaks about our "healthy economy," he is not including a huge number of Americans who have already fallen into the abyss, or who are on the edge looking down into yawning economic despair.

When Bush was elected, many conservatives were happy with his fundamentalist Christian views on a number of national issues. Many conservatives also thought that poverty would be, as Bush himself promised, a major focus of his Presidency. Unfortunately, they were wrong.

Working on behalf of the automobile manufacturers, the government uses phony gas mileage standards for automobile gas efficiency, so buyers won’t know how really awful automobile gas mileage rates are. Likewise, our official governmental standards used to judge poverty rates and low income levels help hide from Americans how bad the economy really is for increasing numbers of us.

The more Americans feel the negative effects from the Bush policies of class warfare and corporate welfare, the more we can hope the American people will awaken to America’s economic injustices. We need an active, inquiring, and responsible media to help make that happen.

The Unending List of Bush Administration Perfidy

Peter Daou (hat-tip to The Daily Doubter) has a long list of stories just from last week that enumerates yet more examples of perfidy by the Bush administration.

Read Daou's take on all this. It's enough to make you get even angrier.

Will the Bush & Co. pay the piper come November? Will these unending indictments of their honesty and competence eventually come home to roost? Perhaps not. It will take a press that is unshackled and free to unravel the Gordian knot of lies, deception and misdeeds. It will take an electorate that will not be stampeded by fear-mongering and the threat of terror by administration that hides behind national defense and national security to obfuscate and prevaricate away its sins of commission and omission. It will take a conscious, reasoned program from the Democrats to provide the alternative.

The torrent of stories about the Bush administration's perfidy, almost told by the press as asides on some theater stage, will have no effect unless we continue to shout, ceaselessly, the truth about the emperor having no clothes.

February 11, 2006

How Much Evidence is Enough Against Bush and Cheney?

According to The Washington Post, Paul R. Pillar, the senior CIA intelligence officer, with 28 years service, and who was responsible for coordinating all information on Iraq from 15 intelligence agencies, has written that the Bush administration misused intelligence in its drive to go to war in Iraq.

"Official intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs was flawed, but even with its flaws, it was not what led to the war," Pillar wrote in the upcoming issue of the journal Foreign Affairs. Instead, he asserted, the administration "went to war without requesting -- and evidently without being influenced by -- any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq."

"It has become clear that official intelligence was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions, that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made, that damaging ill will developed between [Bush] policymakers and intelligence officers, and that the intelligence community's own work was politicized," Pillar wrote

If the entire body of official intelligence analysis on Iraq had a policy implication," Pillar wrote, "it was to avoid war -- or, if war was going to be launched, to prepare for a messy aftermath."

How much evidence is necessary to prove that Bush and Cheney lied their way to this war, have burdened America with an entirely unnecessary financial, military and human catastrophe, and have betrayed the American peoples' trust?

South Dakota Lurches Backwards

The South Dakota House of Representatives has voted 57 -- 22 to make abortion illegal in an attempt to force the Supreme Court to revisit Roe v Wade and, hopefully, overturn it. The sponsors of the legislation hope that the two newly appointed justices will sway a court decision.

The bill would make it a class 5 felony, punishable by five years in prison, for anyone to perform an abortion in South Dakota. The legislation specifically exempts pregnant women who have abortions from any criminal charges. In 2000, there were only two abortion providers in the entire state of South Dakota. In that same year, there were 870 women who had abortions in South Dakota.

The anti-abortion sponsors of this bill were very smart targeting just two abortion providers in the state, instead of the 870 women who received abortions.

In effect, the South Dakota legislature is condemning hundreds of women who reside in South Dakota to find abortions elsewhere at significantly increased cost, or to find backroom abortion providers in-state. Poor and low income women will suffer the most if South Dakota is successful in forcing the overturn of Roe v Wade. They are the ones who can least afford to go out of state and who will be forced to find an unsafe and illegal source for an abortion. And what if it is the pregnant women herself who attempts to abort her pregnancy? Will she be exempt from criminal charges?

The South Dakota House of Representatives is attempting to yank hundreds of thousands of American women backwards into the dark ages of unsafe abortion mills, unqualified abortion providers, and unsafe decisions about their own health.

February 10, 2006

From One Boob to Another

I am pleased to offer you a critique of popular culture which first appeared in the Anniversary 2006 issue of Bitch Magazine -- you can also find a permanent link to this highly recommended magazine if you scroll down on the left here at Orwell's Grave. It is a beautifully written and very funny piece by Julie Pecoraro and serves as a real-life example of Orwellian Newspeak, the inversion of customary meaning. In this case, when Dr. Phil says he wants women "to embrace who they are," he really intends something quite different.


"This year, I am really focused on helping women to be at peace with their body, to embrace who they are and not be trying to measure themselves against these ridiculous stick figures that you see on billboards." And so Dr. Phil, America’s alleged favorite celebrity psychologist, began his fourth season last September amid noble promises of empowerment. By the end of the hour, he said, he hoped women across the country would grow into an acceptance of every bony nook or sagging cranny of their selves. And to drive home this ode to the Body God Gave You, Dr. Phil ended his show by giving away three free boob jobs.

He’s gotta compete with his former patron Oprah, after all. And perhaps due to this effort to match the queen of free stuff gift for gift, Phil’s season premiere was an ADD hour of anorexia, free sneakers, cruel mothers, free cell phones, Paula Abdul, free clothing, Bonnie Raitt, and free boobs.

The show could easily have been pointed in the general direction of poignant, nuanced discussion about our national obsession with physical perfection. Guests included an overweight teenage girl verbally abused by her mother, an anorexic woman who had dropped to 68 pounds, Paula Abdul discussing her battle with bulimia, and, yes, women unhappy with their breasts. But given that the show began with a thousand women dressed in t-shirts that declared their bodily flaws, such as "THUNDER THIGHS" and "JELLY BELLY," rah-rah-ing to every word that bounced from Dr. Phil’s mouth, it was evident that poignant and nuanced was not the intention. With no more than 10 minutes devoted to each guest, it’s no wonder that Dr. Phil never got beyond clichés. But even if he hadn’t said anything new, the message of the show would have been mostly positive – if not empowering, at least not harmful. Then came the breasts.

Viewers met three women whose only complaint in otherwise rosy lives was that their breasts were not what they wanted them to be. One woman had too little. One, after losing 60 pounds, had too much. And one would have had just enough, if it weren’t for the breastfed kiddies. We might have expected Dr. Phil to adhere to his own advice – that a person’s confidence should come from what’s inside of, not hanging off of, said person. Instead, he gave each woman 30 seconds to make her case, stating that if he thought their cause a worthy one he’d send them to a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon free of charge. And apparently they gave such good arguments that Dr. Phil, being the crunchy-on-the-outside-gooey-on-the-inside guy that he is, gave them each a new set of hooters, much to the jubilation of the audience. I’m assuming that there were extensive pre-interviews and that Dr. Phil spent more than 30 seconds listening to the women before giving the gift of saline. But all we saw was Phil declaring that there are right reasons and wrong reasons to surgically alter one’s appearance. (The woman would have been wrong, presumably, to claim that new breasts would make them better people, or change their personality.) Missing from this chat was any discussion, or even mention, of the dangers that come with breast implants. Augmentation was taken as an undeniable good that, if done for the "right" reasons, should be done.

Despite the obvious irony inherent in ending a show about self-esteem with a father-knows-best edict and free grab bags of plastic surgery, most depressing was that there was no hint of possibility that the desire for breast implants might not be adequately explained away by a glib "I want to do this for myself." Might this desire be, at bottom, the result of others’ expectations, the very external standards from which Dr. Phil wants to free us?

As Oprah’s talk-show heir, Dr. Phil has the eyes and ears of millions of women and could easily introduce true critical insight and debate into the discussion. Instead, one minute he disapproves of the fact that "we are a nation that is obsessed with being thin and perfect," and the next he plays into that very obsession, playing fairy godfather to the self-proclaimed "mammary-challenged." Instead of offering some enlightenment on body-image issues, this was just another makeover show substituting surgery for critical discussion, promising superficial fixes for a massive systemic problem.

Okay, Dr. Phil, how’s that workin’ for ya?

[Reprinted with permission of the author who reserves all rights]

Greenspan's Fraud

In response to my earlier piece about Alan Greenspan's retirement and the poll ABC News did that resulted in his being the most popular human in the universe, I have been asked what Alan Greenspan did besides set interest rates and how can we blame him for America's economic ills. It's an excellent question.

It is true that the activities of the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank are not well known among Americans. It is in the best interest of the political and economic power brokers of America's ruling class to keep his activities and influence as murky and cloudy as possible. The general public gets its pat on the head every three months when the only really public thing he does (covered religiously and with awe by the press) is set interest rates. If this was the only thing the Fed Chairman does, it would still be a hugely signifant act. But he does so much more, and the impact has been wonderfully rewarding for certain sectors of the American economy, and really destructive to middle-class, low-income and poor Americans. By way of answering the question about Greenspan, what he does and why it's not good for us, here is a short section from the end of an excellent review by Thom Hartmann of the book, Greenspan's Fraud, written by Ravi Batra.

Read the first part of Hartmann's review, it explains even more about how we have evolved economically and to the detriment of the middle class since 1981.


...Greenspan has steadily worked for over two decades to sell out America's sovereignty and economic interests to those of the multinational corporations he so loves, and to sell out the working people of America (and their Social Security Trust Fund) to the super-rich who Greenspan has always represented.
Greenspan manipulated the stock market so his buddies could get rich, then warned them just in time to get out before it blew up. He's kept together tax cuts and pay increases for the CEO class by pumping cheap money into the economy so the Middle Class will go ever deeper into debt, setting up a housing bubble that could crash in a way that would make 1929 look like a mild bump in the economic road. And he's helped engineer and support international "free" trade policies that have disemboweled America's manufacturing and information technology sectors, with the happy result for Republicans that the once-politically-active and heavily unionized middle class is being replaced by a politically impotent mass of the working poor, too busy to worry about politics or challenge corporate news.
Most people, coming across this massive indictment of Greenspan, would probably react with skepticism. Why wasn't any of this in the paper? Why haven't I heard Democrats and liberals attacking Greenspan from the floors of Congress and in the progressive media?
As Batra points out, the truest testament to the power Alan Greenspan holds is that he's been able to do so much of this behind the scenes. He gently encourages and nudges, argues and lectures, leaks and pontificates. He suggests, rather than orders. And, of course, he holds the levers of the nation's money supply in his hands - making him a more fearsome threat to a sitting president or political party than J. Edgar Hoover ever was.
And, Batra documents, Greenspan has not been at all reluctant to use his considerable power to the benefit of those in office.
One example: During the Reagan and Bush presidencies, he was in favor of tax cuts. During Clinton's he was against them. During Bush Junior's he was again in favor of them.
Ravi Batra's book "Greenspan's Fraud" is not only required reading for all Americans because it so clearly lays out the crimes this man - and the Republican Party - have committed against the United States of America, but also because it's such a brilliant primer in macroeconomics overall. If you never were able to figure out, for example, what interest rates had to do with unemployment, or how the rich get richer in America while the poor get poorer, or why when the minimum wage is increased the economy gets better, Batra explains it all with elegance, wit, and comfortable clarity.
"Greenspan's Fraud" is one of the most important books you can read this year. Get two copies, because you're sure to have at least one friend you'll want to read this book, but your own copy will be so marked up and beloved that you'll not want to let go of it.
---> GET YOUR COPY HERE <--- * * * Thom Hartmann (thom at thomhartmann.com) is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show. http://www.thomhartmann.com/commondreams.shtml His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People: A Call To Take Back America," and "What Would Jefferson Do?: A Return To Democracy."

February 09, 2006

The Image of Islam vs the Image of Muhammad

Isn't this is the image of Islam that Islam ought not to tolerate and should be demonstrating against?

Using the Holocaust against the Jewish people (not to mention most anyone else who the Nazis would not tolerate) as a model for reaction and anger, this woman (perhaps it is a man?) warns the West of the coming of the real Holocaust.

Can it be that this sign is born only of reaction to the cartoons? Or was this sign born of something much deeper, much more consequential and deadly?

Ask yourself what kind of belief it takes for someone to write a sign like this.

Soldier Must Pay for His Body Armor After Being Wounded

Here's a story that just makes you scratch your head.

A West Point graduate, wounded in Iraq, upon his discharge back in the USA, is asked where his body armor is and tells the Army that it was destroyed in Iraq when he was wounded. Because he cannot prove what happened to the body armor, he is not allowed to be honorably discharged until he waits for a Report of Survey to be completed (which could have taken a week or a month) or he pays $700 for the missing body armor. Because he wanted to go home and did not want to wait, the soldier was forced to pay the money.

I imagine that soldiers wounded in battle are not thinking about what is happening to their body armor as it is being taken off their bodies (or has been blown off their bodies) so that when the time comes they can tell some pencil pusher what happened to it. I understand each soldier is responsible for his or her gear, but this is ridiculous. That some officer stateside could not simply have signed a waiver in this case is inexcusable.

February 08, 2006

The Next Terrorist Attack a la Dick Cheney

When the next major terrorist attack hits America, either on our shores or abroad, it is going to be our fault.

Whose fault precisely?

Well, it will be John Murtha's fault for giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

It will be the fault of Common Dreams, and Buzzflash, and AmericaBlog, and AlterNet. It will be the fault of Mother Jones, The Progressive, The Nation, and The American Prospect.

Rachel Maddow, Maureen Dowd, and Arianna Huffington will be held up as traitors.

It will also somehow be Hillary Clinton's fault despite her wishy-washy support of the continuing Iraq war.

Certainly John Kerry, and Bill Clinton, Howard Dean, and Jimmy Carter will be held to blame.

It will be the fault of the New York Times and anyone else who supposedly leaked information about the NSA surveillance program.

Literally, anyone who has criticized the Bush administration's war in Iraq and its foreign policy will be held to blame.

Vice President Dick Cheney, just yesterday, reminds us in his television interview with Jim Lehrer on PBS's The News Hour that another major attack along the lines of 9/11 has not come because of this administration's superb work in defending Americans. But Cheney warns, menacingly, that all bets are off now because the administration never intended any information about the NSA's surveillance program to get out and the very fact that it did has been damaging to America's security. Without providing one shred of evidence, he claims that thousands of lives have been saved because of the program. Cheney then says:

This program has been an important part of that intelligence capability. And as I said, the tragedy is, now that it has become the subject of so much discussion in the press and in the public arena that there is a real danger here that we will lose our capabilities in this area and will not have the kind of intelligence going forward that we've had in the past that has made it possible for us to successfully defend the nation against terrorist attacks. It doesn't mean there won't be future attacks. There may well be.

It's a curiously elliptical way of Cheney saying: "we were able to defend you, fellow Americans, but now because these bad people are talking about what we are doing to defend you, which I remind you has been working, it might not work anymore, because we may get attacked anyway because, even while the program was underway and NOT being talked about, we might have been attacked anyway, but now we may well be attacked because it IS being talked about."

The entire thrust of Cheney's position is one of covering his ass while at the same time, a priori, placing the blame for whatever happens squarely on his opponents and critics. Certainly don't expect from him any kind of accountability, responsibility, or self-examination.

February 07, 2006

Merck: Profits First, Patients Second

Merck is administering a major public relations antidote in the form of a new advertising campaign, just in time for a new lawsuit against Merck claiming that its painkiller, Vioxx, caused someone to die, and that Merck rushed Vioxx to market even though it knew it wasn't safe,

Have you seen the ads? I know they have been around for a few months. But here's the slogan:

"Merck. Where Patients Come First."

In a story in the NY Times entitled "A Drug Maker's Ads, Hold the Disclaimer," here's what one brand and customer-loyalty consultant, Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys in New York, said about the Merck campaign: "a great idea" because "the castle has been under siege for a long, long time..."Merck would be wise to make sure it has more friends than disgruntled patients," Mr. Passikoff said. "Ultimately, you're better off having a tighter emotional bond to your customer base."

What a concept. It's better to have more friends than disguntled patients. I bet this guy gets paid alot of money to come up with these kernels of wisdom.

Here is John Mack, editor and publisher of Pharma Marketing News talking about the Merck Vioxx scandal:

When Merck pulled Vioxx off the market I admired the company's courage to do the "right thing" by putting people's lives before profits. The decision was widely applauded -- except on Wall Street where Merck immediately lost 27% of its market value.
A few days later it was revealed that Merck may have known about Vioxx's cardiovascular side effect problems for years and tried very hard to conceal the evidence and block any action by the FDA. While this was going on an estimated 27,000 people suffered heart attacks and who knows how many strokes possibly due to Vioxx!
If this obstructionism by Merck is true, then someone should pay. While Merck's CEO may get his golden parachute sooner than planned, the small Merck stock and mutual fund investor is really being punished-Merck's stock has lost about 40% of its market value since the withdrawal of Vioxx.

In the final analysis, the Merck ad is basically a lie, because as a corporation, profits always come first. Patients and customers always come second. The purpose of a corporation is to make as much money as possible, to provide the largest return to its shareholders as possible. If, in the process, it brings something its patients or customers want or need, then so be it.

The ad campaign is simply a response to bad press Merck has been receiving because of Vioxx. It has come out with a reality-altering advertising sedative to soothe public opinion.

Can we blame Merck for wanting to improve its image? Of course not. Can we let Merck fool us? I hope not.

The Progress & Freedom Foundation -- The Internet's Worst Enemy

The Progress & Freedom Foundation is not about progress or freedom. If it weren't so insidious an organization, the name would be a funny example of jabberwocky at its best.

It is an organization of corporations that does not have the interests of progress or freedom at its core. What it does have is self-interest, motivated by greed and profit.

One of the primary purposes of the Progress & Freedom Foundation is to take corporate control of the internet. Its first goal is described this way: "Deregulation of communications markets, including immediate deregulation of broadband services, and forbearance from regulation of wireless communications and the Internet."

The other anti-progress and anti-freedom goals are described here.

Supporters of The Progress & Freedom Foundation include -

Apple; AT&T; BellSouth; BMG; Business Software Alliance; Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association; Cisco; Clear Channel Communications; Comcast Corporation; CompTIA; Disney; eBay; EchoStar Communications Corporation; Edison Electric Institute; EMI Group; FirstEnergy; Google; Hewlett-Packard Company; Howrey LLP; Intel; Intellectual Ventures; Intuit; Level 3 Communications; MCI; MGM; Microsoft; Motorola; National Cable & Telecommunications Association; NBC Universal; Nextel Communications; Nortel; Pinnacle West Capital Corporation; Progress Energy; QUALCOMM Incorporated; Qwest Communications; Sony Music Entertainment Inc.; Southern Company; Sprint; Sun Microsystems; Sybase, Inc.; Symantec Corporation; Telecommunications Industry Association; The News Corporation Limited; The SABRE Group; Time Warner; T-Mobile; VeriSign, Inc.; Verizon Communications; VIACOM; Visa USA; Vivendi; Winstar; Xcel Energy; XM Satellite Radio.

These corporations are not the friends of progress and freedom. They certainly are not the friends of a free and unfettered internet. They are voracious capitalist carnivores who see in the internet only one thing -- an enormous profit-center which they are working ceaselessly to own and operate. It would be progress for them if they were able take control freely of this huge potential.

In their own words, "For ten years, from the beginning of the Internet Revolution in 1993, through the high-tech meltdown of 2000-2002 and beyond, PFF has been a consistent voice for a market-oriented approach to capturing the opportunities presented by technological progress."

Reminiscent of many Politburo and KGB front organizations, they make up a name that represents the exact opposite of their strategy and purposes.

What PFF names itself and what it stands for is a classic example of Orwellian doublethink -- namely, holding two contradictory ideas in mind at the same time. In this case, PFF believes that its desire to dominate the internet is progress and will set us all free. Its compulsion, however, to own the internet is the irresistible force against which progress and freedom crash.

For a fuller discussion of the threat to the internet, read "The End of the Internet"
By Jeffrey Chester, The Nation (thanks to AlterNet for the link)

February 06, 2006

Muslim Reaction to the Cartoons

One significant belief of Islam precludes any drawing or image of the prophet Muhammad. When newspapers in Denmark published a series of cartoons caricaturing the prophet Muhammad - including one of the Prophet wearing a turban in the shape of a bomb -- and then were reprinted in other European papers, it set off a bomb of reaction that is continuing to reverberate around the world. The reaction to the cartoons, among most Muslims, has been one of outrage; among some, of actual violence.

Could it be that the highly publicized Muslim reactions to the cartoons are proving the point many are making about Islam, democracy, and freedom? Some might even say they are proving the point of the cartoons themselves.

The point which critics of Islam make is that because there is no separation of church and state anywhere in the Muslim world, there is, therefore, a fatal conflict between the religion of Islam and the adoption of democratic, pluralistic ideals and practices. This may be an arguable point, but it is a troubling one we all grapple with when we witness Islamic governments trying to develop semblances of democratic processes (in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in the Palestinian territories) while being held strictly to Islamic interpretations of law. Holding elections, alone, does not a democracy make.

The violent reactions also reveal a male-dominated response that is a microcosm of one of the largest problems besetting the Moslem world -- tens of millions of unemployed, underemployed, uneducated, and undereducated males in religious societies which define the male's hegemony as complete and unchallenged. These young men (and most of them are young) live in or come from nation-states where Islam is the religion of the state, where government laws and government actions are defined only insofar as they adhere to religious law, and where men dominate in every sphere of society. A poisonous form of Islamist fundamentalism has taken hold in many of these societies, a fundamentalism which is drowning out more moderate Muslims.

In what is, perhaps, one of the most telling pictures of the reaction to the cartoons, a young Muslim man at a London demonstration holds a sign that says: "Freedom Go to Hell." That one sign just might encapsulate the problem. There he is, living in a pluralistic, liberal democracy and he condemns freedom. Is it perhaps that his idea of freedom is different from ours? Another sign says: "Europe You Will Pay, Your 3/11 is On Its Way." Insult our religion, and you will die.

It is good that spokesmen for Islamic organizations are speaking out against these kinds of radical statements, but just how deep do these sentiments actually go among Muslims in general? There is, in fact, a deep well of resentment against the West, reflected clearly in the shallow sympathy for 9/11 and 3/11.

America's so-called war on terror has contributed substantially to this Muslim view. It has hardened opinions in the Muslim world against us. To many of them, the war on terror consists of a war on Muslims, exclusively fought in Muslim countries. Significant portions of the Arab media characterize America's response as a crusade, further contributing to this viewpoint.

It should be noted, however, that the Muslim reaction to secularism and liberalism long pre-dates 9/11 and the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, attacks on secularism and liberalism within the Muslim world itself have been persistent -- Salman Rushdie condemned for his novel The Satanic Verses; Egyptian Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz almost killed for allegedly insulting Islam in one of his novels; and Farag Fouda, another Egyptian writer, assassinated for his warnings about the Taliban and Al-Queda. There are many, many examples of Muslims speaking out against Islamic fundamentalism and being assassinated or repressed.

Muslim fundamentalism in the Middle East is on the rise. The oppression of Islam by Western ideals and armies (and cartoons) is fueling this surge of reaction, in Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Syria, and other parts of the Muslim world. In the New York Times on February 4, Michael Slackman writes: "...with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad bashing the United States and Europe, calling for Israel to be wiped off the map and claiming that the Holocaust is a myth, many people from taxi drivers in Morocco to street sweepers in Cairo are saying that they like the man and his vision."

Maybe the most telling question about this entire controversy was asked by Jihad Momami, the Jordanian editor who was arrested for violating Jordanian law (which is consistent with Islamic law) by publishing one of the cartoons in his weekly paper Shihan:

"Muslims of the world be reasonable...What brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures, or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony in Amman?"

Fundamentalist Islam is framing this battle with the West and, so far, winning. For all the protestations of George Bush to the contrary, our interventions, our "freedom," our democracy, our cartoons -- these are daggers to the heart of fundamentalist Islam.


You can read here a Declaration of the Rights of Women in Islamic Societies.

If you want to read more about secularism among Islamic writers, here's an essay Ghassan F. Abdullah.