Wednesday, December 31, 2003

An accidental shooting in Israel

The IDF is considering changing its policy on firing at civilians. IDF soldiers fired on and seriously wounded an Israeli Jew during a protest over the Israeli-American Apartheid Wall. Needless to say, it's perfectly acceptable for noble, just, democratic and plucky Israel to fire on and kill protesting Palestinian civilians, but the policy has to be changed because of the new danger of injuring one Israeli Jew, now that the injustice of the Wall has provoked even Israeli Jews to take an active role in the protests. When the Palestinians form the majority population in the area from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, and they take over the government of whole area - the inevitable result of the stupidity and land-greed of Zionism and a result which appears certain within the next ten years or so - they aren't going to be happy with a 'Truth and Reconciliation' approach to dealing with the war crimes committed every day by Israelis. They will want war crimes tribunals, and many relatively young Israelis are going to find themselves either on the run outside Israel Palestine or spending the rest of their lives in jail. P-Day is fast approaching, and some of these Israelis might want to consider that their actions killing and brutalizing Palestinians today will have severe consequences for the remainder of their lives. Those on trial would include more than just the thugs firing on civilians or dropping bombs on Palestinian towns in the illegal targeted assassinations so beloved by Sharon (Sharon himself will be long gone when the evidence that is being gathered now is put before the courts). Every Israeli guarding a checkpoint is a war criminal, and it is impossible not to see that justice is drawing inevitably closer. It might be a good idea for the world community to start to stage mock war crimes trials to give the Israelis some notion of what the future has in store.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Port Authority police transcripts

A transcript has been released of conversations (or here) between the Port Authority police desk and the La Guardia Airport control tower (I haven't found the actual transcripts yet). The transcripts were originally released in August after some hesitation by the Port Authority, but the release of this more recently released set of transcripts was delayed, according to the Port Authority, because the tapes were discovered later (the New York Times apparently forced them to cough it up). Minutes after the second plane struck the WTC, a caller from the Port Authority police desk told Chris McCary, a La Guardia Airport control tower employee, that "they are considering it a criminal act." It would be nice to know who 'they' is, but at the very least it is the opinion of the Port Authority police, who have had years to think about the issue of terrorism. From Walter Burien (there are a few obvious typos which I haven't corrected; my emphasis):

"I was a tenant at WTC1 in 1979-81

The primary concern any of the tenants had 20 years ago was a hijacked plane being flown into the towers.

Here is the 'Key' to unlock the door: The extensive flight logs for 20 years from the 3 military bases in the area, and Port Authority responding to air threats is exemplary.

Thousands of sorties run in response to threats, practice runs, false alarms, done weekly or daily over 20 years. Back in the late seventies the NY Post ran an article about the Port Authority bragging how their manned 24/7 response helicopter would be in the air within 4 minutes of an alert call going out per possible air threats to the WTC towers.

There is one occasion that I am aware of, or in most probabilities that any one else is aware of in this exemplary record of response to air threats covering a period of over twenty years that the intercepts did not launch and were told to stand down, after going on high alert within a minute or two of the threat, not from just one threat but then by two, then three. That date was 9/11/01

This in itself is the most condemning fact of them all when that 20-year record is brought to light. The motive then becomes crystal clear in review of that exemplary response record to threats from the air against the WTC towers.

No, off course or negligent aircraft came close. They were always intercepted and told to change their course or they would be blown out of the sky. It was a no fly zone and this happened to many pilots that intentionally or unintentionally flew to close to the WTC towers over those 20 years."

If this is true it puts the complete failure to do anything about the attacks on the WTC in a timely manner in an entirely new light. It's funny how National 'Security' Advisor Condoleezza Rice couldn't possibly imagine what was completely obvious to tenants in the towers twenty years ago ("I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon; that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile"). Any investigation of the events of 9-11 would have to include testimony from current and retired Port Authority police officers. I suspect there are officers willing to talk whose specific job was to monitor potential attacks against the towers. The history of the daily liaison between the Port Authority police, the FAA, and local (by which I mean closer than Cape Cod) air force bases would no doubt be very enlightening.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Gadaffi GlobalNet

On December 19 it was reported that Libya was going to give up its weapons of mass destruction, and former 'mad dog' Moammar Gaddafi immediately became a nice guy. The neocons congratulated themselves for scaring Gaddafi straight with the capture of Saddam. On December 26, the Houston Business Journal reported:

"GlobalNet Corp. has been awarded an exclusive contract for worldwide termination of voice and data mobile satellite telecommunications traffic originating in Libya."


"The Woodlands-based telecommunications firm said it expects to be one of the first American companies operating in the oil-rich nation after the U.S. government lifts trade sanctions against Libya."

Do you think GlobalNet (which until December 22 was called iDial Networks, and is a trendy VoIP company based in Woodlands, Texas) negotiated this contract in a week? With Libya completely isolated by American sanctions? Or did GlobalNet have a tip off that Libya was going to be opened to American investment, and started the negotiations months before? If there was a tip off, Gaddafi could not have been acting on the basis of Saddam's capture, and somebody in the American government must have known about Gaddafi's 'surprise' announcement in advance. The whole Libyan announcement is clearly Gaddafi's method of having the sanctions lifted, and the reason the Bush Administration so readily played along is that corporate America will make a lot of money in Libya. As usual, the official version of events bears no connection with the reality of the conspiracies behind the news.

Are vegans hard on animals?

Why does PETA hate animals so much?

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Washington Post Venezuela editorial

This is an incredible editorial from the Washington Post on the recall petition in Venezuela. It is one of the most amazing little things I have ever read, and sounds like it was written by Otto 'Third' Reich (who lost his job when he was unable to organize the coup to remove Chavez). A few good quotes (my emphasis):

  1. "The main obstacle, predictably, is Mr. Chavez, a self-styled revolutionary who over the past five years has triggered an implosion of the Venezuelan economy, trampled on the private business sector and the independent media, and alienated nearly all his neighbors save Fidel Castro."

  2. "He accused the petition-gatherers of 'megafraud,' though he produced no evidence; he summoned thousands of his supporters to a demonstration and vowed that no vote would take place; he sent his thugs to attack anti-government protesters in a plaza where the opposition was headquartered. Opposition media report that thousands of Cubans have entered the country in recent months and are busy organizing the president's strongholds. No one doubts that Mr. Chavez is capable of violence. His first political act, after all, was a failed coup, and last year he triggered an ultimately unsuccessful coup against himself by ordering police and the military to attack opposition demonstrations."

  3. "Mr. Chavez will allow a referendum and respect its results only if he is convinced that fraud or violence won't work for him. That's where the Bush administration should come in, along with Venezuelan neighbors such as Brazil. In the coming weeks, as the referendum process proceeds, they must insist to Mr. Chavez that he not disrupt it - and be prepared to respond if he tries."

  4. ". . . he must not be allowed to complete his depredations on Venezuela by destroying the last vestiges of its democracy."

Wow! This is, I remind you, the freaking Washington Post! This editorial is one of the most insane things I've ever read in an American newspaper, and that's really saying something. Some comments:

  1. The Washington Post permanently ruined what little reputation it had when it acted as the stooge for the U. S. State Department and reported that the coup had succeeded when it actually hadn't, an obvious ploy to dishearten the people of Venezuela into giving up and accepting the American-favored dictators (see my comments at 1. here). That coup failed due to the personal courage of Chavez, the pusillanimity of the man who was the nominal leader of the coup plotters, the fact that the army and the people continued to support their democratically elected leader, and the apparent utter incompetence of the American military men who were assisting the coup plotters in ousting Chavez. After the complete embarrassment for the Post in getting involved in American intrigues to topple another Latin American government at a time when the Americans had promised to be on their best behavior in that regard, you'd think the Post would have the decency to keep its opinions on Venezuela to itself.

  2. Chavez is no 'self-styled' revolutionary - he is the real thing. That is why the Post is willing to embarrass itself again in this over-the-top editorial. The American Powers That Be are absolutely terrified of what Chavez is accomplishing in Venezuela, and what a terrible example he sets for all of Latin America and any people in the world suffering under American corporate power.

  3. The people who are so 'democratic' in organizing the recall petition are the same people whose last try at 'democracy' was organizing the unsuccessful coup.

  4. This is in fact the second try at a 'democratic' recall petition. The last try was thrown out as the organizers failed to comply with the rules in the Venezuelan constitution (you could call it 'megafraud'). It is quite arguable that such an extraordinary remedy, the removal of a democratically elected President, should be very strictly construed, and you should only get one try at it. After all, Chavez was elected, so the worst thing that would happen is that he would serve the full term for which he was elected, at which time the 'democratic' opposition could actually try something novel like defeating him at the polls.

  5. Chavez gets along very well with his neighbors, which is one of the things the Americans are afraid of. The neighbor he doesn't get along with are the American-sponsored extreme right-wing thugs in Colombia. The recent overthrow of the government in Bolivia was partly inspired by the example of Venezuela (speaking of Cuba . . . ).

  6. We keep hearing about how unpopular Chavez is. He had only been elected in two successive elections, but apparently everybody in Venezuela hates him. This opinion is based on polls commissioned by the Venezuelan media, who showed soap operas during the course of the unsuccessful coup in order to hide what was going on from the Venezuelan people in a vain effort to help the coup succeed. The opposition are actually terrified of having to face Chavez in a real election, which is why we have seen a coup attempt and two petition attempts.

  7. "That's where the Bush administration should come in . . . ." The Bush Administration has already been in, and had to leave in a hurry when the Bush-sponsored coup attempt turned into such a debacle. Brazil, by the way, knows exactly what went on, was unhappy with the Americans about it, and the Venezuela-Brazil axis of social democrats that is developing worries the hell out of the thugs in corporate America.

  8. The most amazing thing of all is that not only is Chavez democratic, he has bent over backwards to allow the petition to take place, and has allowed every criticism of him to be made and broadcast throughout the country. Under Chavez, Venezuela has one of the most vibrant public debates going on in the world. He allows debate because he is confident of the validity of what he is doing. He allows all the criticism, he has now allowed not one but two recall petitions, and he had treated the coup plotters with remarkable grace, and yet he is called 'anti-democratic'. The anti-democratic brutes who aim to unseat him will certainly not be anywhere near as democratic.

  9. The opposition's view that the country is being overrun by Cubans is unworthy of comment, and it shows how low the Post has sunk when it stoops to include it in an editorial. The Cubans who are in Venezuela are mainly doctors who have been brought in to treat the poor.

This editorial is exactly what I'd expect to see out of a newspaper in, say, Wichita in, say, 1964. In the last paragraph what they are doing is no less than expressly calling for another American-organized coup in Venezuela. The fact the Washington Post decided to print this in 2003 just shows how important a man Chavez really is.

The Israeli 'lull'

During the 'lull' in Israeli-Palestinian violence between the Haifa suicide attack on October 4 and the Christmas Day suicide attack in Tel Aviv, 117 Palestinians were killed, including 23 children, and the Israelis destroyed almost 500 Palestinian homes. The vast majority of those killed were civilians. The Israelis are imposing their form of 'lull' particularly on the Rafah refugee camp (but they made sure other places got some 'lull' as well). Reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has officially become a joke.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Air France cancellations

The mysteries of the cancelled Air France flights:

  1. From Reuters (my emphasis):

    "A U.S. official said 'credible, reliable' intelligence reports had been relayed to France saying extremist groups were planning 'near-term simultaneous attacks' that could be on a scale of the Sept. 11 attacks by Al Qaeda. The French intelligence service questioned a number of people, but found no evidence of membership in radical Islamist groups among them. The only person named by U.S. intelligence as a suspect, a Tunisian man with a pilot's license, was still in Tunisia and had no apparent plans to leave the country, the French source said."

  2. From the Telegraph (my emphasis):

    "A French judicial official said the name of a Tunisian national with a pilot's licence had appeared on the American list of suspicious people who might attempt to board a flight. But French intelligence officials determined that the man was in Tunisia and had no plans to leave the country.

    The official added that the Tunisian had no criminal record and did not belong to any Islamic radical groups."

  3. From The Herald (my emphasis):

    "FURIOUS CIA sources yesterday accused France of throwing away the chance to capture militants with possible links to al Qaeda by cancelling all flights from Paris to Los Angeles on Christmas Eve.

    They said the public announcement of the cancellations, with a terror warning blamed, alerted the suspect Tunisians. The names of between three and six, understood to have been identified from computer lists, were passed to the DST, the French domestic intelligence agency, by the American embassy in Paris."

  4. From the BBC (my emphasis):

    "The BBC's Matt Frei in Washington said US security sources indicated they had alerted the French authorities after scouring the passenger lists."

  5. From the Los Angeles Times (my emphasis):

    "More information surfaced yesterday about why U.S. officials were so fearful that the three Air France flights might have been targeted for hijacking.

    One U.S. official, quoting electronic intercepts, said terrorist operatives had been overheard discussing specific flight numbers and airlines without mentioning a specific day, while other conversations alluded to attacks on the Christmas holiday and other days."

  6. From the Washington Post (my emphasis):

    "Police in Paris questioned 13 people who had checked in for two Air France flights that were canceled Christmas Eve because of a terrorism warning from U.S. authorities, but no evidence of wrongdoing was found, the French Interior Ministry said. All 13 were released.

    But U.S. officials said they are suspicious about some of the passengers who did not show up at the airport to claim their seats on the ultimately aborted Flight 68 from Paris to Los Angeles. One of those who did not appear for the Christmas Eve flight apparently is a trained pilot, one U.S. official said.

    'We still have an interest in talking to those people who didn't show up," said one U.S. official knowledgeable about the investigation. "There might be more to come on this.'

    Despite French statements suggesting some of the American fears about the Air France flights were unfounded, U.S. government officials said they believe they might have averted a terrorist attack by arranging for the flights' cancellation. Officials said they feared that al Qaeda operatives planned to hijack one of the flights and use the plane as a missile to attack a site on or near its route."


    "The Air France flights in question cross the Hudson Bay and eastern Canada before dipping down to airspace over Minnesota, and then taking a sharp southwestern swing toward Southern California.

    'The only big city near this route is Las Vegas, which they would consider a nice, attractive target,' one informed government official said. But officials said Los Angeles could have been the target, too.

    The al Qaeda network has long considered Las Vegas to be one of its top targets for a strike because it sees the city as a citadel of Western licentiousness, U.S. officials said. Government officials said they have known for some time that al Qaeda is interested in striking at Las Vegas."

  7. From AFP (or here; my emphasis):

    "[a French police source] said the US intelligence given to the French counter-espionage service DST, based on wiretaps and other sources, had focused on one name that US authorities thought might be tied to Al-Qaeda.

    But checks showed that the individual in question, a Tunisian man with a pilot's licence, was still in Tunisia, not France, and that he was not in French anti-terrorist files."


    "In the United States, an American official speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity said the alert had been raised because of intercepted Al-Qaeda e-mails that spoke of an attack being plotted for the Christmas holiday using Air France planes. Other intelligence narrowed that to specific Air France flights, he said."

  8. From the Associated Press (my emphasis):

    "French investigators questioned seven men pointed out by U.S. intelligence but found no evidence they planned to use a Los Angeles-bound jet to launch terror attacks against the United States, French authorities said Thursday."


    "The seven questioned men, who all had tickets for Air France Flight 68 to Los Angeles, were on a watch list provided by U.S. authorities, an Interior Ministry spokesman said."


    "French authorities also investigated a man from Tunisia whose name was supplied by American intelligence. But the judicial official said man was in Tunisia with no plans to leave for the United States. He has no criminal record and does not belong to any radical Islamic groups."

  9. From MSNBC News (my emphasis):

    " U.S. investigators are searching for a small number of people who failed to show up at the Paris airport to board flights to Los Angeles that fell under close scrutiny in a possible terrorist plot, a U.S. official said Friday.

    One of those people was receiving pilot training, but was not yet certified, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity."

  10. From the New York Times (my emphasis):

    ". . . American government officials said the United States was still investigating people who had reserved seats on the planes but never showed up for the flights.

    Administration officials said potential attackers might have been tipped off by news reports earlier in the week that included vague references to American concerns about France.

    But they would not say whether any of the no-shows were on a list of suspected terrorists that Americans supplied the French this week. Agence France-Presse, the French news agency, quoted an antiterrorist investigator as saying that one person on the American list was a Tunisian passenger with a pilot's license and possible links to Al Qaeda. But the news agency said the man was in Tunis, not France, at the time of the flights."


    "Administration officials said the United States had given the French about a dozen names from its terrorist watch list and warned that they might be aboard the flights from Paris.

    After considerable internal debate, the French government decided to cancel six flights between Paris and Los Angeles scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, and the French police briefly detained about a half-dozen passengers.

    On Thursday, French officials said they had released all the passengers, including one French citizen, one American, one German and several Algerians.

    'There was absolutely nothing there,' said a spokesman for the French Interior Ministry.

    Bush administration officials said on Thursday that their concerns were not simply about the people who had checked in for their flights but also about those who had bought tickets and not shown up.

    About 350 passengers were screened for questioning Wednesday afternoon as they prepared to board Air France Flight 68, which had been scheduled to depart at 1:35 p.m. Another 350 passengers who were scheduled to fly out at 7 p.m. were turned away before they checked in. It was unclear if any of those passengers for the second flight were questioned or whether the police had contacted passengers holding tickets for any of the other four flights that were canceled.

    According to an account in the French newspaper Le Monde, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell first alerted France's foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, of the perceived terrorist threat in a phone call on Dec. 21."

  11. From Fox News (my emphasis):

    "U.S. investigators want to speak with a small number of people in Paris who failed to show up for boarding flights to Los Angeles that fell under close scrutiny in a possible terrorist plot, including one pilot-trainee, a U.S. official said Friday.

    The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said investigators hope to resolve concerns that some passengers aboard those flights might have intended to use them to launch terror attacks against the United States. One of them was receiving pilot training but was not yet certified, the official said."


    "Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., also a member of the Homeland Security panel, said it was too early to tell whether a potential attack was thwarted.

    'Clearly, there was traffic, chatter as they call it, that indicated that a threat was there,' Dreier said."


    "After the Air France cancellations, French investigators questioned seven men pointed out by U.S. intelligence but found no evidence they planned to use a Los Angeles-bound jet to launch terror attacks against the United States, French authorities said.

    Officials in Washington and Nevada disputed a published report Friday that the flight cancellations thwarted a possible terrorist plot to crash an airliner in Las Vegas. Jerry Bussell, Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn's adviser on homeland security, said federal Homeland Security officials told him there was no known threat to Las Vegas."

Utter confusion, n'est-ce pas?:

  • If there really was a terrorist plot, the Tunisian pilot appears to be the patsy whose identity would have been stolen by one of the hijackers (the Tunisian would probably have been killed if the plane had taken off). If the pilot remained in Tunisia he can't be the same guy who was going to board a plane in Paris.

  • Do you think these terrorists are so dumb that they use their real names in telephone conversations and in e-mails?

  • The Americans apparently have a big computerized watch list and are running all passenger lists against it.

  • Is the CIA really furious because the French tipped their hand too soon, or did French action save the day? If the French investigated and cleared the names they were given by the Americans, what further use would it have been to investigate those people who had not shown up because they heard the planes were not flying? Were the French supposed to deceive everyone that all the flights were flying, trick them into a room, and give them to CIA goons to be worked over until they confessed?

  • It's funny to watch the Bushites squirm to protect the mobsters' interests in Las Vegas.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Cheney and North Korea

Dick Cheney personally intervened to stop negotiations concerning talks for a peace agreement with North Korea. Cheney said:

"I have been charged by the President with making sure that none of the tyrannies in the world are negotiated with. We don't negotiate with evil; we defeat it."

Raising the concept of evil evokes the idea of the 'axis of evil', and makes the Korean issue one of Good versus Evil, which presumably can never be concluded with negotiations. This is not just a gratuitous insult to the North Koreans, it also makes light of the efforts being made by China to eliminate the threat posed by a nuclear North Korea. Cheney prevented negotiations from even starting. According to Cheney and the neocons, North Korea is supposed to dismantle its nuclear weapons before the Americans will even begin negotiations, and as the weapons are the sole negotiating chip the Koreans have, they are not going to do that. Cheney's hardass position is so stupid that Bush had to have a conciliatory phone call with Chinese President Hu Jintao (you know the United States is in trouble when Bush has to play the adult role). Just as in Iraq, there appears to be a turf battle between the insane neocons, and the realists in the State Department, with Bush unwilling or unable to rein in the crazies. The context of this is that the United States simply can't afford a war with North Korea, the cost of which would make everyone forget about the mere hundreds of billions spent on Iraq. The number of American troops required has been estimated at 650,000 (and where will they be found?), and the number of American casualties may be as high as 250,000. Unlike Iraq, North Korea actually has weapons of mass destruction and will certainly use them. It also has an army of 1.2 million people (!), one of the most powerful artilleries in the world, and one of the largest special forces operations in the world, tailored specially for fighting in the Korean peninsula. Raising issues of good and evil in order to provide a snooty excuse to avoid negotiating to prevent a war against such an opponent is criminally stupid. USA Today reports the extent of the danger:

"The alternative to an agreement would be nothing like the relatively painless initial combat victory over Iraq. If diplomacy fails, North Korean troops are expected to fight and fight hard. U.S. officers envision North Korea attacking in a sudden, violent lunge across the border. The aim would be a decisive defeat of U.S. and South Korean forces in fewer than 30 days, before reinforcements could arrive and North Korea's economic weakness hampers its military, officials said."

North Korea's desperate economic situation means that they may see themselves as having only one chance if the Americans aren't prepared to negotiate: attack South Korea without warning. While the neocon chickenhawks strut their stuff and get to feel like tough guys, the United States takes a huge, and completely unnecessary, risk of utter disaster. How much longer can the United States afford to keep Dick Cheney around?

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Rush's blackmail

Rush Limbaugh's lawyer is now claiming that Limbaugh was being blackmailed by the maid who obtained the drugs for him, and presumably had to make all those suspicious withdrawals in order to pay the blackmail that she insisted on if she was not to go to the police. Limbaugh allegedly stopped paying, and she then ratted him out. There are a lot of problems with this story:

  1. Limbaugh's first explanation for the withdrawals was that it was just spending money and money for payments to contractors who worked on his house renovations. Did the blackmail somehow slip his mind?

  2. The attorney said that they bled Limbaugh dry, but also said the money involved was "about several hundred thousand dollars". Is that enough to bleed multi-millionaire Rush Limbaugh dry?

  3. Money is fungible, and illegal oxycontin in those quantities is very expensive. Did Limbaugh manage to keep his drug-buying money separate from his blackmail-paying money, so that his suspicious withdrawals were all for money to be used for blackmail payments? Can he prove that his suspicious withdrawals all took place at a time when he was no longer buying drugs but was only paying blackmail? It appears he was buying drugs right up until he went into rehab. Is his attorney alleging that he was paying his maid for drugs and simultaneously paying the same maid blackmail money? That must have been some oxycontin jones he had.

  4. The maid has already admitted that 'a lawyer for Limbaugh' gave her $80,000 that he owed her, plus another $120,000, and asked her to destroy the computer that contained the incriminating e-mail records. That's not blackmail. It's a bribe.

  5. It wouldn't be odd for a drug supplier to try to blackmail someone like Limbaugh by threatening to go to the police, but it would be very odd for her to actually carry out the threat. In order to go to the police she would have to admit involvement in a felony, so if she's a blackmailer, she must be a stupid one. The attorney's story that she went to the authorities to get immunity from prosecution so she and her husband could sell the story to the tabloids makes absolutely no sense. Who ever heard of a drug dealer going to the police, hoping that she would be granted immunity, but taking the huge risk that the police would just throw her in jail? The only time this kind of immunity deal would arise is if she was arrested, and attempted to use her knowledge of Limbaugh to bargain for a lesser charge. But that isn't what Limbaugh's attorney is alleging. On top of that, wouldn't any drug dealer realize how dangerous it would be to assume that the authorities would want to nab as powerful a figure as Limbaugh, when it is much more likely they would try to protect him? The maids of this world never win in these contests, and are fully aware of that fact.

  6. It is not clear to me that using money to pay blackmail gets you off the hook on a money laundering charge.

  7. Limbaugh's attorney's blackmail allegations constitute an implicit admission to the drug buying charge, as why else would Limbaugh be paying blackmail? If he is as innocent as he claims to be, there would be no possible basis for blackmail. He has been trying to emphasize the fact that he became addicted to prescribed medication, so the blackmail charge constitutes a major admission. Limbaugh and his attorney must feel that Limbaugh's real exposure is to the money laundering charge, for admitting to the massive drug purchasing is a big risk to take unless the alternatives are worse. Why are they so terrified of the money laundering charge that they would admit to the fact that Limbaugh had a weakness for which he could be blackmailed?

  8. The fact remains that Limbaugh bought thousands of pills, far, far more than he could possibly have consumed himself (his medical records list prescriptions for more than 2100 pills in a six month period, mostly painkillers, from four separate doctors, but he allegedly bought thousands of additional pills, including 4,350 in one 47-day period). He could not have simply been building a stash, as the maid indicated that he was insistent and panicky about getting his drugs in a hurry, as if he needed them right away. So what did Limbaugh do to dispose of all those drugs? I can't think of an innocent way to get rid of oxycontin.

  9. If Limbaugh had legitimate pain issues, why is he fighting tooth and nail to prevent prosecutors from seeing his medical records? How else are they going to determine if he was doctor shopping? If his doctors weren't properly medicating his pain - and sadistic doctors often don't provide sufficient prescriptions for painkillers (to be fair, a lot of them are very fearful of medical malpractice suits if the patient becomes addicted) - Limbaugh may have a good argument that his doctor shopping was merely his attempts to have his pain properly treated. His medical records would substantiate that argument, so why doesn't he voluntarily allow the prosecutors to see them? Could it be that they will reveal that he was not in sufficient pain to explain his massive purchases of drugs?

Limbaugh's attorney's strategy seems screwy. Alleging blackmail is a tacit admission to the drug purchasing, and doesn't really help with the money laundering charge. It also raises the issue of whether the payment made was actually a bribe (i. e., paying to cover up a crime, which could be construed as conspiracy or obstruction of justice). If Limbaugh's pain story is true, the only evidence that could help him prove it is in his medical records, and he is fighting hard to keep the prosecutors from seeing these records. He is not acting like an innocent man.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

The Kurdish capture of Saddam

The theory that it was the Kurds (or here) who discovered and stored Saddam for the Americans to make the theatrical arrest, while it may be intended to distract us from the real issue of whether the prisoner is actually Saddam, has a lot going for it:

  1. The Kurds have a strong history of finding fugitives in northern Iraq, having discovered and arrested Iraqi vice-president Taha Yassin Ramadan, and they probably identified the house in which Saddam's sons were killed.

  2. The Kurds could probably obtain valuable political concessions concerning the future Kurdish state - I hope they got them in writing - from the Americans in return for allowing the Americans the glory of the capture.

  3. The remarkably fast DNA test, which scientists seemed very surprised to hear had been conducted so quickly (although they grudgingly allowed it might be possible), may have been conducted days before (of course, relying on DNA is problematic because of the many doubles used by Saddam and his family).

  4. Saddam's dazed state, and lack of resistance, may be explained by the fact he had been drugged by the Kurds in order to make his 'capture' easier for the Americans. The pistol, if he had one, may have been an unloaded prop.

  5. If Saddam was being held prisoner, it would explain why he was in such a sorry state, in such a humble hut, and in such an unlikely hole. It would explain why he would put himself in a hole he could not get out of without help. It would explain his access to hair dye which was not in the hut. It would explain why a man who was always noted for his extreme fastidiousness in dress and appearance, was looking like an old beggar. It would also explain why he had no communications equipment, or access to a way of escape. The amount of money he had with him seemed insufficient for the amount he is supposed to have withdrawn, but may be another prop brought by the American troops.

  6. The Kurds explicitly announced they had captured Saddam hours before the news made the mainstream media.

  7. It is extraordinary unlikely that the turf-protecting Pentagon would have let the Kurds have any involvement in the capture, unless they had played a major role in the operation.

  8. There is an elaborate description of the reasons for the betrayal, based on tribal revenge, which makes much more sense than the vague and contradictory explanations given by the Americans.

  9. Rep. Jim McDermott said (my emphasis):

    "I don't know that it was definitely planned on this weekend, but I know they've been in contact with people all along who knew basically where he was. It was just a matter of time till they'd find him."

This heroic capture is probably yet another Karl Rove production, intended for domestic American political consumption, and having no connection with reality. It falls into the same mold as the whole Iraqi campaign, which has essentially been a constant string of lies forming a sort of propaganda war against the American people. Some highlights of this are the early announced discoveries of weapons of mass destruction, each later quietly admitted to be the product of over-enthusiasm, the whole Jessica Lynch story, the implausible story about the tractor trailer of stolen cash, and the recent tall tales about ambushes in Samarra which were used to cover up American attacks on Iraqi civilians. It is notable that the disgusting American media has ignored the story that the Saddam capture story may also be a lie, proving once again that they are just the propaganda arm of the Pentagon. Americans live in this fantasy world of brave American soldiers conducting heroic missions to bring justice and democracy to the world, and simply couldn't handle the real sordid truth of what is going on over there.

Monday, December 22, 2003


The United States has failed in its obligations under international law to provide any kind of security to the Iraqi people, and the violence and anarchy make it increasingly difficult to do business of any kind. At the same time, the American ideologues are attempting to privatize the entire country, and make Iraq into a laboratory to prove the Dickensian effects of pure unbridled neocon ideology let loose upon the world. The problem is that the insecurity makes American businesses in Iraq uninsurable, and thus they cannot go to Iraq do the raping and pillaging that is current American official foreign and domestic policy. The solution to this conundrum is to throw more American taxpayer money at it. An American government agency, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), is going to step into the breech and provide the insurance that private insurance firms are too smart to handle (the Export-Import Bank of the United States provides a similar service). OPIC was delayed in getting into Iraq because it could not operate in a state regarded by the American government as a sponsor of terrorism. Once it starts to insure business ventures in Iraq, the inevitable losses will be cheerfully picked up by the American taxpayers. From an article by Naomi Klein:

"For the non-US firms in the room, OPIC's announcement is anything but reassuring: Since only US companies are eligible for its insurance, and the private insurers are sitting it out, how can they compete? The answer is that they likely cannot. Some countries may decide to match OPIC's Iraq program. But in the short term, not only has the US government barred companies from non-'coalition partners' from competing for contracts against US firms, it has made sure that the foreign firms that are allowed to compete will do so at a serious disadvantage.

The reconstruction of Iraq has emerged as a vast protectionist racket, a neocon New Deal that transfers limitless public funds - in contracts, loans and insurance - to private firms, and even gets rid of the foreign competition to boot, under the guise of 'national security.' Ironically, these firms are being handed this corporate welfare so they can take full advantage of CPA-imposed laws that systematically strip Iraqi industry of all its protections, from import tariffs to limits on foreign ownership. Michael Fleisher, head of private-sector development for the CPA, recently explained to a group of Iraqi businesspeople why these protections had to be removed. 'Protected businesses never, never become competitive,' he said. Quick, somebody tell OPIC and Paul Wolfowitz."

Again we see the odd corporate socialism of neoconservatism. Wealth is taken from the poor and middle classes, and redistributed to large corporations, all in the name of virtuous competition. All the old protections to ordinary people like taxes and labor laws and regulations are removed, but the whole bill for the reconstruction, including now the costs of providing insurance to the uninsurable, is borne by the American taxpayers. So it's pure capitalism for the Iraqis, and pure socialism for the American corporations. In order to understand neoconservatism, you have to take any of the old classic socialist texts - by Marx or Lenin or Trotsky - and replace the term 'proletariat' by 'large corporations'. It will then all make perfect sense.

Baker versus the Paris Club

The disgusting American press continues to report that the visit by Baker to Europe to give the Europeans a haircut on the Iraqi debt was a raging success. By reporting the visit as a success they avoid embarrassing the neocons who attempted to scupper the visit by cutting the Europeans off from Iraqi redevelopment contracts on the eve of Baker's visit. Actually, while everyone was polite, Baker managed to leave Europe without one concrete promise. Everybody deferred to the decision of the Paris Club. The President of the Paris Club, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, said that the Paris Club would not make a decision until Iraq had sovereign leadership, the leadership was internationally recognized (which presumably won't occur until there are elections, something the Bush Administration has been doing everything it can to avoid), and the IMF had assessed the needs of Iraq (setting a precedent for debt relief that would probably choke the American-dominated IMF). As well, the Paris Club would presumably want to consider Iraq's assets before deciding to make a large gift to Halliburton and Bechtel (as the David Letterman joke goes, referring to the $87 billion Bush got out of Congress, when making out the check, remember there are two l's in Halliburton; Americans may be that stupid, but the Europeans certainly aren't). If the Europeans decide to trade debt relief for access to Iraqi reconstruction, that would presumably spell the end of international agreements on fairness in government procurement contracts, agreements which have benefited American corporations more than the corporations of any other country. If they decide not to make that trade-off, American taxpayers get to pay the whole bill at grossly inflated Halliburton-Bechtel prices, with extremely little 'trickle down' back to the States, as most of the money will end up in the hands of international subcontractors or in untaxable offshore accounts. There is simply no good way to spin the stupidity of the Bush Administration.

Gaddafi's diplomacy

Muammar Gaddafi is demonstrating that good public relations equals good diplomacy. Gaddafi was chosen by the Reagan Administration to be one of the main Middle East bogeymen, along with the Ayatollah Khomeini, in anticipation of a need for a new threat against American and Israeli interests should the Soviet Union collapse. Once the Soviet Union did collapse, Israel was able to seamlessly move from being the bulwark against the threat to the oil fields posed by ungodly commies, to the bulwark against the threat to the oil fields posed by crazed Islamic fanatic dictators. Gaddafi was depicted as ruthless, evil, America-hating and insane, and keeping him and others like him down provided an excuse for continued American military and heavy diplomatic presence around Middle-Eastern oil fields, as well as providing an excuse to arm Israel to the teeth. Gaddafi didn't help matters by taking this personally - although having Reagan order a completely unprovoked attack on him killing his child would tend to personalize matters - and he consistently played into the CIA propaganda against him. Along the way he may have even sponsored some terrorism, although how you'd confirm this, given all the disinformation swirling around, is difficult to fathom. I'm not sure what happened, but he has suddenly discovered the power of public relations (it would not surprise me in the least to find he has hired a big American PR outfit to secretly craft his new image as a world statesman). The first step was to sacrifice some patsies for the Lockerbie bombing, and agree to pay two or three billion dollars to remove the taint of being associated with international terrorism (Libya almost certainly had nothing to do with Lockerbie, but CIA drug smugglers, acting either officially or to line their own pockets, probably played a role). The two or three billion dollars, which Libya can easily spare, was a small price to pay for acceptance by most of the world (except France and the United States). He then got France onside by agreeing to their blackmail to pay amounts to settle their claims against Libya for Libya's alleged role in the bombing of a French aircraft over Niger in 1989. Even after all this, the hardhead neocons in the U. S. government still wouldn't lift American sanctions on Libya. Libya has been negotiating for months to completely reenter international acceptance by agreeing to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction. Why Libya would agree to this is a good question, as its main obvious enemies, Israel and the United States, both of which express strong animus against Libya, have weapons of mass destruction. On the other hand, Gaddafi probably knows that his chemical weapons of mass destruction are largely useless on a real battlefield, and are mainly held for psychological reasons. Giving them up is probably worth it if sanctions can be lifted. Both Bush and Blair (especially Blair) are desperate for some evidence that the billions of dollars being spent in Iraq, not to mention the thousands of lives being ruined, has done some good in eliminating the threat of terrorism, and Libya was able to slot its negotiations into this desperation. The capture of 'Saddam' made the timing even better, as it now appears that Gaddafi agreed to give up his weapons to avoid a fate like 'Saddam' (after all, who among us would want to be captured by Kurds, drugged, and put in a hole so the Americans could pretend to make an heroic capture?). Actually the negotiations had been going on for months, but the capture of 'Saddam' made it suddenly easy for Bush and Blair to let Libya back into the international fold in exchange for the propaganda benefit of appearing to connect the Libya negotiations with the capture. With one big gesture Libya has become a 'good' country, eliminated much of the threat from an unprovoked threat from the crazies in Washington (the neocons have been stymied as the United States is now forced to play to the script that the negotiations under the threat posed by the attack on Iraq forced Libya to agree), and opened itself up to international development of much of its oil wealth. The Libyan agreement is being spun as a victory for the insane foreign relations of Bush and Blair (much as the Americans are trying to take credit for it, it was entirely a British diplomatic effort, the Americans having completely lost the knack of diplomacy), but is actually a hint to the rest of the world that the Bush-Blair monster can be manipulated if you have a good PR plan.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Open source code in voting machines is not a solution

It has been suggested that open source coding would be a solution to the problems we have recently seen in the use of computer voting machines. This is a mistake. From an insightful post by Jeremi on a Slashdot thread:

"Looking at the source code would be interesting, but it shouldn't give you any confidence in the system. Even in the (practically unattainable) ideal case, where the code is thoroughly analyzed by all the experts and they all agree the code is correct... there is still no proof that the code everybody looked at is the code that will actually be running on the voting machines. Even if you stand over the Diebold employees and watch them compile the source code and install the resulting binary on the machine, you still don't know if that code is what will be running on the machine during the election [].

The point is, having access to the (alleged) source code is no guarantee of accuracy. The only reliable guarantee of accuracy is having the system print out a paper receipt that the voter hand-verifies and turns in at the poll. Once you have that, the vote can be recounted by hand, if necessary, and any inaccuracies will be detected. Without that, no electronic system will ever be trustworthy."

The only point I would make is that hand counting will always be necessary, unless all the other candidates consent to waive it (for otherwise, how could we ever know that even a landslide victory wasn't fixed?). In fact, open source coding is largely irrelevant to the issue of voting fairness, and as long as the voter-verified ballots produced by the voting machines are kept and hand counted, the voting machine companies can keep their code proprietary and secret (any cheating in the code will be caught by the hand counting). To put it another way, hand counting of ballots is a completely necessary and largely sufficient condition of a fair voting system, while open source coding is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition of a fair voting system. This reality still leaves us with the paradox of voting machines: if we have to hand count anyway, why do we need the machines at all?

Friday, December 19, 2003

WMD - Blair, Bush, Kay

Those pesky missing weapons of mass destruction:

  1. From the Financial Times on Tony Blair:

    "Asked in an interview with the BBC Arabic Service if he was still certain weapons would be found - an assertion he has repeatedly made - the prime minister said he was 'confident that the Iraq Survey Group, when it does its work, will find what has happened to those weapons, because that he had them, there is absolutely no doubt at all'.

    Blair knows Iraq had such weapons in the 1980's and early 1990's because British companies, amongst others, sold them to Iraq. Saddam destroyed the weapons in the mid 1990's because of UN weapons inspections, and even Blair has to acknowledge that now. Therefore, the hunt for weapons has turned into the hunt to find out when Saddam destroyed them. International law unequivocally prohibited the attack on Iraq, but Bush and Blair cobbled together their bogus excuse for the attack based on Saddam's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction, and the supposed inability of the UN weapons inspectors to find them. For their warmongering argument to have any chance of working, the threat had to be imminent and there had to be no other way to remove the threat. Bush and Blair had to be completely certain that Iraq had the weapons they claimed he had. In the absence of weapons of mass destruction, Tony the Poodle is a War Criminal. His statement that the issue is what happened to the weapons amounts to a confession, and when he is out of power he should be immediately turned over to the proper authorities for prosecution.

  2. Diane Sawyer interviewed George Bush and actually pressed him on the issue of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (which makes her the only American 'journalist' to even pretend to do her job). Here is the exchange:

    "DIANE SAWYER: But let me try to ask — this could be a long question. ... ... When you take a look back, Vice President Cheney said there is no doubt, Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, not programs, not intent. There is no doubt he has weapons of mass destruction. Secretary Powell said 100 to 500 tons of chemical weapons and now the inspectors say that there's no evidence of these weapons existing right now. The yellow cake in Niger, in Niger. George Tenet has said that shouldn't have been in your speech. Secretary Powell talked about mobile labs. Again, the intelligence — the inspectors have said they can't confirm this, they can't corroborate.


    DIANE SAWYER: — an active —


    DIANE SAWYER: Is it yet?

    PRESIDENT BUSH: But what David Kay did discover was they had a weapons program, and had that, that — let me finish for a second. Now it's more extensive than, than missiles. Had that knowledge been examined by the United Nations or had David Kay's report been placed in front of the United Nations, he, he, Saddam Hussein, would have been in material breach of 1441, which meant it was a causis belli. And look, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein was a dangerous person, and there's no doubt we had a body of evidence proving that, and there is no doubt that the president must act, after 9/11, to make America a more secure country.

    DIANE SAWYER: Again, I'm just trying to ask, these are supporters, people who believed in the war who have asked the question.

    PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, you can keep asking the question and my answer's gonna be the same. Saddam was a danger and the world is better off cause we got rid of him.

    DIANE SAWYER: But stated as a hard fact, that there were weapons of mass destruction as opposed to the possibility that he could move to acquire those weapons still —

    PRESIDENT BUSH: So what's the difference?

    DIANE SAWYER: Well —

    PRESIDENT BUSH: The possibility that he could acquire weapons. If he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger. That's, that's what I'm trying to explain to you. A gathering threat, after 9/11, is a threat that needed to be de — dealt with, and it was done after 12 long years of the world saying the man's a danger. And so we got rid of him and there's no doubt the world is a safer, freer place as a result of Saddam being gone.

    DIANE SAWYER: But, but, again, some, some of the critics have said this combined with the failure to establish proof of, of elaborate terrorism contacts, has indicated that there's just not precision, at best, and misleading, at worst.

    PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah. Look — what — what we based our evidence on was a very sound National Intelligence Estimate. ...

    DIANE SAWYER: Nothing should have been more precise?

    PRESIDENT BUSH: What — I, I — I made my decision based upon enough intelligence to tell me that this country was threatened with Saddam Hussein in power.

    DIANE SAWYER: What would it take to convince you he didn't have weapons of mass destruction?

    PRESIDENT BUSH: Saddam Hussein was a threat and the fact that he is gone means America is a safer country.

    DIANE SAWYER: And if he doesn't have weapons of mass destruction [inaudible] —

    PRESIDENT BUSH: Diane, you can keep asking the question. I'm telling you — I made the right decision for America —


    PRESIDENT BUSH: — because Saddam Hussein used weapons of mass destruction, invaded Kuwait. ... But the fact that he is not there is, means America's a more secure country."

    Bush says there is no difference between Saddam's having weapons of mass destruction and the possibility that he could move to acquire such weapons. Of course, there is all the difference in the world. The Bush/Blair argument for war absolutely depended on an imminent threat, and for that Saddam actually had to have the weapons in hand and be able to use them. Thinking about getting weapons, pondering getting weapons, planning getting weapons, having the capability to attempt to acquire weapons - none of these is good enough. After the Second World War the world community decided on the sanctity of the sovereignty of nations, and prohibited wars waged on the basis of the various excuses used by people like Hitler. To say that the war was fought as Saddam would be a threat if he acquired weapons is ridiculous, as any war could be fought on that basis. There has to at least be either an imminent threat of attack and no other way to avoid war, or the agreement of the United Nations. Otherwise, the war is illegal, and allowing it destroys the understanding carefully created to ensure that another Hitler couldn't hide behind vague claims of security to wage colonialist wars. Bush in fact may not be smart enough to understand this, but the American attack on Iraq was clearly illegal, and sets a terrible precedent for the world.

  3. David Kay is getting tired of looking for something which he knows isn't there, and wants to quit as the man in charge of dragging the search for WMD out long enough so Bush won't be embarrassed. I assume he believes that Bush no longer needs to pretend that there are such weapons now that a Saddam-like figure is in the bag, and so he can give up the charade. Kay, who has spent much of the last fifteen years mongering for the obscene attack on Iraq, has become a rather pathetic figure, dragging his ass around the desert so he and Bush won't look like bloodthirsty fools.

With Saddam in custody all the war criminals seem to feel comfortable about brazenly admitting that the weapons that provided the excuse for the attack didn't exist. Complex diplomacy and the lessons of the Second World War have been laid waste, and the world is a more dangerous place.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Fortune's worst technology

Fortune has given computer voting machines its award for worst technology of 2003. Last year's winner was John Poindexter's Total Information Awareness. Let's hope that Diebold goes the same place that Poindexter did. With cheaper, time-tested, more reliable and more obviously democratic options available, and Diebold's threat to charge 'out the yin-yang' for the paper trail that any moron should see would have to be part of any credible voting system (and remember that the paper trail is not provided because companies like Diebold realize that it would make it obvious that their voting machines are completely unnecessary), it is arguable that these computer voting machines are the worst technology ever.

Jessica Lynch by Stan Goff

Stan Goff has written an outstanding article on the Jessica Lynch story. He covers the fine details of what actually happened, as well as providing a superb analysis of the racism, poverty, patriarchy and propaganda that lie deeply behind the story.

Recent Israeli state terrorism

In the last two weeks, Israeli state terrorism has been responsible for killing 21 Palestinians and injuring 55. The Israelis have also rendered many families homeless through destroying their homes, continue to build illegal settlements, and continue to take Palestinian land by building the apartheid Israeli-American wall. Heard about any of this on the news? Of course not, as the terrorism is directed against Palestinians, and is not suicide bombings against Israelis.

Baker in Paris

In an article entitled "France and Germany Join U.S. in Effort to Reduce Iraq's Debt", the New York Times states:

"France and Germany agreed Tuesday to work with the United States toward a 'substantial reduction' of Iraq's towering foreign debt next year. The accord marked a significant step forward in the United States' effort to rebuild Iraq, as well as progress in mending ties with the two countries most opposed to the American-led war there."

This sounds like a huge victory for Bush and Baker, proving that Wolfowitz's announcement that France and Germany were cut out of reconstruction contracts did not prevent Baker from getting what he asked for (note the gloating). But you have to read the fine print. From later in the same article, referring to the group of countries called the Paris Club, a group of 19 industrialized countries that have worked together to alleviate the financial obligations of over-indebted countries:

"The Bush administration would like to see the group's countries cancel as much as 90 percent of the Iraqi debt due them, treatment that has in the past been reserved for so-called heavily indebted poor countries, mostly aid-dependent nations in Africa. With the world's second-largest proven oil reserves, Iraq is unlikely to qualify for that moniker."

In other words, all they've agreed to is the normal process of Paris Club discussions, which normally involve debt reduction of impoverished third-world countries. Iraq, with all its oil, certainly won't qualify for anything more than a nominal reduction, and will probably just have the debt restructured. From the Financial Times:

"The Paris Club will also have to work out a debt forgiveness arrangement that takes account of the country's potential wealth and does not breach criteria designed exclusively for heavily indebted poor countries."

The Europeans, being nothing if not diplomatic, and not willing to publicly embarrass Bush's envoy, said all the right things but promised absolutely nothing. They know that Bush's sudden interest in debt forgiveness has nothing to do with his concern for the Iraqi people and everything to do with facilitating the looting of Iraq by American corporations. Baker begged but brought back butkus.

Samarra redux

From The Globe and Mail:

"The U.S. military said a convoy came under attack near Samarra on Monday, and 11 people were killed as troops repelled what they called a 'complex' ambush that began with a roadside bomb and was followed up with machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire.

Police and residents were contesting that version last night, however, saying just one Iraqi had been killed, and that the Americans were the only ones shooting, opening fire on a residential area in retaliation for the bombing. Neither side reported U.S. casualties."

The official account has it that the Americans killed 11 Iraqis and did not suffer any casualties (isn't it suspicious to receive no casualties in an ambush?). It appears that there was only one Iraqi fatality, a man selling vegetables on the side of the road. This is exactly the same trick the Americans successfully pulled with respect to their last massacre in Samarra. There has also been a similar incident in Ramadi, where the Americans said that protestors fired repeatedly on U. S. troops, but television pictures showed only bullets headed towards the fleeing Iraqis. The new American model of conduct is to kill some civilians, probably as a result of firing on protestors, and then explain the whole mess as the results of a fight which occurred when the Americans were attacked. They are even getting a little literary in their lying (note the flock of pigeons in the Centcom story). You have to wonder whether the Pentagon has brought some novelists along to Iraq to assist in the story making process. Since the disgusting American press let them get away with it the first time, the fake ambush has apparently become part of the standard set of Pentagon lies. Watch for it in the future.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

WTC construction

The Progressive Review has an excellent collection of material on the real scandal of the collapse of the WTC towers: they were not properly constructed. In fact, the Rockefeller plan to construct the towers involved the participation of the Port Authority partly because it was not subject to New York City building codes. It is also likely that corners were cut in the process of construction which the architects would not have approved. There are workers who worked on the towers still around who could give detailed testimony of what they were instructed to do, and not do, in building the towers, but no one wants to ask the proper questions as the answers might cost rich people money. Here are two thought experiments:

  1. Consider what would have happened if the towers had been properly constructed and not collapsed when hit by the two planes. Only a few hundred people would have died, and the towers would have been repaired and be fully functional by now. The billions of dollars of damage to New York would have been avoided, as would much of the fear which still grips the country. Would the damage have been sufficient for the Bush Administration to spend billions and billions of dollars on two wars, both of which have been disasters for the reputation and financial situation of the United States? Would Ashcroft have been enabled to wipe his ass with the American Constitution? Would the whole life of the United States still turn on what happened on that one day?

  2. Consider what would have happened if two planes had accidentally hit the two towers, causing them to collapse. There would have been no terrorist element in the disaster. Would that not have focused the thoughts of Americans on the real crime, how it was that these buildings could have been allowed to have been constructed as they were?

There were two issues that arose on September 11 - the terrorist issue and the construction issue. The United States has spent an enormous amount of energy and money on the terrorist issue, but completely ignored the construction issue. Since the same shoddy construction standards almost certainly exist in other buildings, it is arguable that the construction issue poses more of a real threat to the safety of Americans than the terrorism issue.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Saddam taken alive

It is ironic that the two most notorious American parasite corporations engaged in the looting of Iraq, Halliburton and Bechtel, each have connections to both the Bush Administration and to Saddam Hussein's regime. Donald Rumsfeld was sent by Reagan to Iraq in order to facilitate the building of an oil pipeline from Iraq through Jordan by Bechtel. While Reagan Administration officials publicly complained about Saddam's use of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq war, officials including Rumsfeld were trying to lobby with Saddam to aid Bechtel in getting the contact to build the pipeline (Saddam eventually rejected the Bechtel plan as they were grossly overcharging him, proving that some things never change). Dick Cheney's story is even better. While Cheney was running Halliburton, he used European subsidiaries of Halliburton to enter into contracts with Saddam, thus getting around the stated American policy of not dealing with Iraq (a policy largely developed by Cheney when he was in government). When asked about the issue, Cheney outright lied (or here), and claimed that he had imposed a 'firm policy' against trading with Iraq. Human rights abuses and weapons of mass destruction which caused no concern for either Rumsfeld or Cheney in the 1980's and 1990's suddenly became important in 2002 and 2003, when the Bush Administration was fishing for excuses for a war. Of course, while Rumsfeld and Cheney have the most obvious questions to answer about American dealings with Saddam, there is a huge mostly undocumented history of American corporate dealings with Iraq to supply the equipment to make weapons of mass destruction. We now know, from the evidence of Iraqi scientists, that Saddam destroyed most or all of this stuff in the 1990's in fear of being discovered by UN arms inspectors, but it is not a joke to suggest that American assertions of Saddam's possession of such weapons was based in part on the fact that the American government was aware that American corporations had supplied such equipment to the Iraqis ('we know he has WMD's because we still have the receipts'). On top of Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the weapons of mass destruction, other American sensitive points on recent Iraqi history concern the way Saddam was tricked into the Gulf War by April Glaspie, and the whole sordid history of the CIA's role in installing and supporting Saddam over the years. Saddam can give very interesting testimony about all of this (he has already denied he had weapons of mass destruction), which raises the obvious question: why was Saddam taken alive? The American military spent a considerable amount of time firing tank shells into the house in which Saddam's sons were holed up, making it absolutely certain that no one in the house was intended to be able to give embarrassing testimony. Saddam has presumably even more interesting things to say, and is motivated by anger at what he sees as the hypocrisy and bad faith of the Americans who supported him over the years and then turned on him so they could loot his country and support Sharon's policies in Israel. It would have been easy to say he resisted capture and was killed in a gun fight. I wonder whether Saddam was taken alive as part of the battle that is playing out in Washington between the neocons and the 'old school' Republicans around Bush's father. Saddam's testimony would destroy Cheney, Rumsfeld and the neocons. With Saddam alive in control of army officers sympathetic to the old-schoolers, the neocons can be forced into retreat. In particular, they can be forced to concede that the United States has to get out of Iraq for Bush to be reelected. Cheney may discover that his alleged heart isn't up to another election campaign, Rumsfeld is already a dead man walking after Rice redefined his role in Iraq without telling him and could be eased out, and the Wolfowitz-Feith-Cambone-Bolton crowd may suddenly find the private sector beckoning. It is possible that Saddam will never be allowed to testify, but as long as he is alive he represents a lever over Cheney and the neocons.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

The good news of Saddams' capture

The capture of Saddam Hussein is excellent news for a number of reasons:

  1. The capture took long enough that it proved that the Americans really have no control over Iraq, but happened soon enough that Bush won't be able to use it as an 'October surprise' to win his next election campaign. By the time next summer rolls around, there will be enough dead Americans that everyone will have forgotten about the small victory of the capture of an old man.

  2. The fact that they found a disheveled old man hiding in a tiny cellar puts the lie to American claims that the resistance was being directed by this mad Baathist villain. The resistance can now clearly be seen for what it is: the spontaneous desire of Iraqis from all sorts of factions to be free of the evils of oppression.

  3. With Saddam gone, the resistance can now redouble its efforts to rid Iraq of the occupying army without the baggage of being identified with the old hated Baathist regime.

  4. Saddams' testimony, if the Americans let him live long enough to present it, will destroy American claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or any relationship with al-Qaeda. He will also be able to shed light on the relationship between Iraq and the United States, including current members of the Bush Administration. All this news should come out just when Bush is trying to get reelected.

Saddam knows what he has to do to get his revenge, and I hope he gets to live long enough to deliver it.

The Zionist model of terrorism

I think a proper understanding of the motivations of terrorists is important if we want to reduce terrorism. It suits the Zionists to depict Palestinian terrorists as irrational and hate-filled, coming from an inferior race of people easily swayed by crazed religious leaders whose only interest is the destruction of the State of Israel. The Palestinians are depicted as less than completely human (perhaps just 'relative humans', the term used by Omar Barghouti in an excellent article on the contradictions in Zionist thought). This makes it easier to brutalize them in order to steal their land, and allows the Israelis to find excuses not to negotiate peace, as the Palestinians are said to be merely using the negotiations as a trick to achieve their real evil goal of destroying the Jewish state. The obvious reason for the terrorism - that it is the self-defense of the weak against the destruction of their families, their faith, their culture, their society, and their lives - is never mentioned, as it would disprove the Zionist idea that the Palestinians are motivated solely by irrational hate. The Manichaean view of the conflict, with the Jews representing the essence of pure Goodness under assault by the Palestinians representing the essence of pure Evil, serves the short-term goals of Zionism, but is hardly a sensible model for understanding the roots of terrorism. This view of the world has been so successfully incorporated into reporting on the Middle East that we no longer even notice it. Consider the recent bombing in Tel Aviv, in which a number of Israelis were killed. I saw a mention of this and wondered how it could be that another bombing wasn't headline news. It turns out that it was not ascribed to Palestinian suicide bombers, but was part of some Russian mafiya mob war, and therefore wasn't regarded as important news. Just as many Jews died as in many Palestinian suicide bomb attacks, and the danger to Israelis was just as great, but it wasn't part of the battle of Good and Evil, and served no political purpose for the Zionists, so it was hardly mentioned by the press. Unfortunately, this way of looking at the world is very attractive to Americans, who tend to see themselves in the role of the only good people in the world, and so America has completely adopted the Zionist model of terrorism (with the great encouragement of Israel and its American agents, who want to use this model to continue to justify the Israeli brutalization of the Palestinians, and to lead the United States to fight even more wars for Israel all based on the idea of fighting terrorism). This Weltgeist is particularly attractive to the Christian Zionists, who see Americans as God's people, and any enemies of America by definition as satanic. As it became clear that many suicide bombers in many societies were educated middle-class people, Americans became even more convinced that they were faced with sheer irrational evil. 'Why do they hate us?' was the big question, and the answers had to do with envy at the American way of life, or hated of freedom and democracy, or the essential hatred that evil has for good. This analysis allows Americans to conveniently ignore the role that American geopolitics has in ruining the lives of people around the world. These young men and women who take up terrorism tend to live relatively privileged lives in societies that have been ravaged by American policies. People living in countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, and the Palestine see their governments oppressing and brutalizing the people, all in the interests of enriching and empowering Americans and their proxies. The proper model to understand terrorism isn't Good versus Evil, but the urge of people to want to defend themselves, their families and their societies against unjust oppression. They don't hate the American way of life, or even Americans, but want to get the American government off the backs of their people enough to be able to share in part of that way of life. Middle-class people have the wealth to obtain education to appreciate the oppression in an intellectual context, and the status in society to want to take a leadership role in ending the injustice. Local writers and thinkers reading Marx and Fanon and the Koran have created an intellectual basis for Islamic self-defense, and oil money has made more complex operations technically possible. Globalization has both increased the amount of oppression and also provided the opportunities for counter-attack, and the extreme reliance on centralized technology has made richer countries more vulnerable to system-wide damage if small nodes are hit in the proper ways. Finally, a combination of democracy and the 'softness' of living the American way of life has made politicians acutely sensitive to even the smallest disruptions to that way of life, rendering terrorist attacks more successful than ever before in history. The best analogy for Americans to understand terrorism is the average American defending his homestead against attack from those who wish to do harm to himself and his family (the view from the Westerns was that it was a man defending his homestead from the 'Injuns', another myth, but one that Americans should be able to understand, and of course there is the whole mythology surrounding the American Revolution). Americans have been willing to make the supreme sacrifice to defend their families, their religion, their society, and their country. Why wouldn't other people do the same to defend themselves against what they perceive as an attack? The big problem with the Zionist/Christian Zionist model of terrorism completely adopted by the Bush Administration is that it is 100 per cent counter-productive. Terrorism, being Evil and nothing more, is regarded as something that can only be exterminated with violence and warfare. We see this in the Occupied Territories and now in Iraq. But it was violence against people that was the original cause of the terrorism. It is the Israeli state terrorism against the Palestinians that started the intifada and the suicide bombings, and it is the violence of various governments supported and propped up by America against various peoples in the world that engendered the self-defense reaction which we see as terrorism. The current resistance in Iraq is largely individuals defending themselves against violence directed at them by Americans. More violence against the same people isn't going to eliminate terrorism - it will make terrorism even worse. The American adoption of the Zionist model of terrorism will have a direct causal effect leading to the deaths of more Americans.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Krugman and Kaplan on Baker's ruined mission

Both Paul Krugman and Fred Kaplan think that the announcement by Wolfowitz that certain countries would not be able to participate in the Iraqi reconstruction is an attempt by the neocons to subvert the mission by James Baker, representing the sane Republicans in Bush's father's crowd, to save Bush's reelection hopes by negotiating with the Europeans for a face-saving way for the Americans to get out of Iraq before the next American Presidential election. This withdrawal would completely ruin the new American empire so fervently desired by the PNAC-ers, and so they are working to undermine their own President. I think the Zionists amongst the neocons are also reflecting the Likudnik desire to separate Europe from America so the sensible views of the Europeans on the Middle East conflict will not influence American government thinking. Bush is too stupid to realize what is going on around him (Bush should probably have one of those telephone conversations with his father that Harry Shearer does so well on Le Show). It would be funny if the PNAC-ers decided that they actually preferred Dean, who has strong connections with Israeli lobbyists and no immediate political imperative to leave Iraq.

Iraqi union leaders arrested

On December 6, American troops arrested (or here) eight members of the executive of the Iraqi Workers Federation of Trade Unions, and took them into detention. They also took some files. No reason was given for the arrests. The union leaders were released the following day. The Americans had previously detained and released two other trade union leaders. Trade unions are inconsistent with the American goal of turning Iraq into a paradise for corporate looting. The Americans continue to treat Iraq as if it they won it in a poker game, and have no right under international law to interfere with Iraqi labor unions. The Nazis used arrest and detention of union leaders in April and May of 1933 in order to destroy the independent union movement in Germany.

Friday, December 12, 2003

James Brooks

Here is a really heavy-duty intelligent article on the messed-up American attitudes towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its effect on the definition of terrorism. A few quotes, starting Chomsky-esque:

"Following 9/11, we heard that Americans finally knew what terror meant to places like Israel. It was not acceptable to suggest that we finally knew what terror meant to places like Guatemala, or Iran, or Vietnam, or Chile, or Palestine, or dozens of other places where civilians have been terrorized by our military and intelligence, or by US-backed regimes using our training and equipment."

and (very important, as the racist Zionist definition of terrorism, which has been accepted without any thought or debate, makes it impossible to properly fight it, and thus will lead to American deaths which could have been prevented):

"Our response to the events of 9/11, led by an administration deeply linked to Israel’s right-wing, nudged us into agreement with the popular Israeli excuse: Terrorism is an evil act by other people of inferior blood and/or religion and/or minds driven by an irrational desire to completely destroy us."

and (the most evil people - think of the Nazis - are always full of moral self-confidence):

"Fed into our relentless pursuit of political simplification ('the mainstream'), our intelligentsia's world-famous pro-Israel bias has created an America that sees the conflict in Palestine as a fight over a scrap of land between two roughly matched peoples with competing claims. One is imagined as a white democratic ally of the United States, the other as people of color practicing dictatorship, strange religion, and terrorism.
There is no inkling that Israel is the world's last 19th century colony, or that the history of the conflict is one long colonial conquest. Neither the schoolbooks nor the New York Times will divulge this home truth. Nor will they mention what generations of Zionist leaders have made clear to their followers: The Arab inhabitants of greater Palestine must be expelled to make way for the Jewish Homeland.
Having long ago established ethnic cleansing as a moral imperative for the achievement of their Holy goals, the Zionists imagine themselves leading the world in 'purity of arms', frequently declaring that Israel’s is 'the most moral army in the world.' . . .
It has probably been stated as a general rule: When nations begin to make exceptional claims for the 'morality' of their armed forces, they will be found upon examination to be engaged in the most abjectly immoral crimes."

and (the dirty work of the disgusting American press):

"We are blinded to the daily grind of Israeli violence and the extent of Israeli army control. We aren't told that seven in ten Palestinians make less than two dollars a day, that many villages now suffer alarming rates of malnutrition and disease. Fed denials compounding denial, many of us don't understand why Palestinians resist Israel with a guerilla war of opportunity, sacrifice, and revenge.
Why do they fight with rocks, slingshots, pipe bombs, rifles, and suicide bombs against a nuclear-tipped Israel deploying the latest missiles, depleted uranium munitions and anti-personnel flechettes spewing from tanks, helicopter gunships, F-16s, APCs, hummers, and M-16s, almost all made in the US and custom-fitted for Israel's line of 'rough work'? (9,10)
Why are there Palestinian terrorists? More than half a century of humiliating, covered-up, racist occupation and thievery. It's that simple."

and, needless to say:

"If Israel were required to obey the law and abandoned its illegal occupations, the position of Palestinian terrorists would be instantly undercut. Funding for Palestinian terrorism, such as it is, would dry up. And it is very clear that Palestinian support for violent resistance would plummet in the advent of an Israeli withdrawal.
The prescription is inevitable. To end the Palestinian terror, and begin to solve our own terror problem, cut it off at its source: Get Israel out of the Palestinian territories and enforce a just peace."

The unthinking acceptance by Americans of the racist definition of terrorism proposed by the Zionists is going to eventually lead the United States into a terrorist disaster. People will look back at 9-11 as 'the good old days' compared to what is coming if Americans don't grow some brains and see that the real problem starts with American-sponsored violence against a group which has decided not to put up with it any longer. We can see the disaster building in Iraq as the same attitudes inspire the American army to increasing acts of counterproductive stupidity. Sadly, I doubt that the political intelligence exists in the United States to crawl out of the 'war on terror' rut, and Americans are doomed to die in large numbers as a result of being stupider than the Zionists.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

US hypocrisy and stupidity

Even by the nutty standards of the Bush Administration, the hypocrisy and sheer muddle-headedness of recent days stands out:

  1. Bush recently gave his big speech on democracy, with the implication that the reason for the American illegal presence in Iraq was to instal American concepts of democracy and freedom there and throughout the Middle East. Since that speech, the Americans have done everything possible to ensure that elections not take place in Iraq. Bush has now cautioned Taiwan against holding a referendum on whether the Taiwanese people want to demand that China withdraw the hundreds of missiles aimed at Taiwan and renounce the use of force against it. There is not even a hint of realization from the Bush Administration that there might be some form of contradiction here, or that Bush's Taiwan policies might put the lie to his position that America is the provider of democracy.

  2. Countries that opposed the war in Iraq will not be allowed to bid on reconstruction contracts in Iraq. Of course, the United States has no right under international law to dictate the details of the reconstruction of Iraq, and is also party to international trade agreements which make this prohibition a breach of these agreements. The Agreement on Government Procurement, to which the United States, Canada, France and Germany are parties, prohibits discrimination on the basis of national origin in government procurement contracts (the Americans are probably trying to fit under the national security exemption in Article XXIII, which seems to be a stretch). The non-binding but influential and American-supported OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (see also here) also support 'National Treatment', which is the commitment by a country to treat enterprises operating on its territory, but controlled by the nationals of another country, no less favorably than domestic enterprises in similar situations. It is in the interests of American business to encourage non-discrimination in tendering, and against American interests to set a precedent of discrimination on the basis of national origin. The announcement of this odd and unnecessarily edict concerning Iraqi procurement, a gratuitous slap at long-standing American allies in Europe (not to mention Canada), was made by Wolfowitz, and it probably represents part of the Zionist plan to drive a permanent wedge between Europe and the United States. It was unnecessary as it is not likely that most corporations could begin reconstruction work in Iraq given the state of security there, and in any event it will not prevent European participation in subcontacts and supply contracts. Any effect it does have will just raise the cost of reconstruction to American taxpayers. It was a pure insult to America's closest allies. The extra insanity of it is that Bush has just sent James Baker to negotiate with these same European countries over forgiveness of the sovereign loans owed by Iraq. It was going to be difficult for Baker to convince the Europeans to take a haircut on these loans, especially as we do not see the United States agreeing to allow other poor countries off the hook, and everyone knows that the sole reason for the reduction of the loans is simply to allow American corporations to steal more money from Iraq. Baker's job will now be impossible. Americans can also probably kiss goodbye any more financial contributions from any of these countries, putting more of the onus on American taxpayers. There is nothing in Wolfowitz's crazy plan that benefits the United States.

  3. Americans attacked an Afghan house from the air, killing nine children. They apologized. What did they then do? They killed six more children and two adults in a combined air and ground assault on a house. Killing children in air attacks that can't possibly discriminate between enemies and children is the best way to create hatred in the Afghan people.

  4. Israeli commandos and intelligence units are training American Special Forces units in what amounts to the Israeli specialty of targeted assassinations against those Iraqis who are identified as resistance leaders. The Israeli assassinations have been a disastrous failure in Israel, and will prove to be no less disastrous in Iraq. Assassinated leaders are immediately replaced, and the resistance grows with each death. The crazy part is the fact that the Americans are admitting that they are taking assistance from the Israelis on this. Do they not have any idea how this will be received in Iraq? It is like waiving a red flag in front of a bull. This is the influence of Christian Zionist General Jerry Boykin, who considers the Arabs to be some form of vermin, and no doubt likes the fact his men are being trained by the experts in Arab killing. Along with forced Iraqi recognition of Israel, and the gleeful way American and Israeli officials are discussing opening an oil pipeline from Iraq to Haifa, the Israeli targeted assassinations are the best kind of Iraqi resistance recruitment, not to mention al-Qaeda anti-American terrorist recruitment, that I can imagine.

One of the things that we tend to forget about the Bush Administration - something that is lost amongst all the various forms of venality - is that these people are incredibly stupid.