Sunday, October 31, 2004

Arafat's health

Is it possible that Arafat isn't really sick at all - or at least no sicker than he normally is - and all these dramatic stories about him were simply in aid of getting him to Paris for high-level talks concerning the long-awaited European sanctions against Israel? Like Castro, the guy's probably immortal (and I can't see him allowing himself to die before Sharon). Despite a startling move to a more varied choice in head coverings, he doesn't look sick to me. Greatly inconsistent stories make me very suspicious.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

bin Laden timing

From Osama bin Laden's latest broadcast (my emphasis):

"We agreed with Mohamed Atta, god bless him, to execute the whole operation in 20 minutes. Before Bush and his administration would pay attention and we never thought that the high commander of the US armies would leave 50 thousand of his citizens in both towers to face the horrors by themselves when they most needed him because it seemed to distract his attention from listening to the girl telling him about her goat butting was more important than paying attention to airplanes butting the towers which gave us three times the time to execute the operation thank god."

It is impossible to know whether we should take anything bin Laden says at face value, but this comment on the timing of the attacks is interesting. While the timing of the broadcast makes it clear that Osama is playing right into Bush's election campaign by reminding Americans of why they instinctively look to Bush for security from the likes of bin Laden, the sly attack on Bush's goat book reading leaves enough ambiguity that Bush can argue that bin Laden is actually campaigning for Kerry, thus further increasing the value of bin Laden's words for Bush. Brilliant. Bin Laden continues to earn his pay.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Dictatorship referendum

Someone could do a whole blog just listing Rove's dirty tricks in the current American election, with the worst probably the legal challenges to come after the election. I'm not referring to tricks like misrepresentation in the controlled media, the Sinclair kerfuffle, misleading ads, or the whole swift boat vets fiasco. I mean out and out vote fraud. It's not fair to say that the United States has descended to banana republic status in the crookedness of its election, as there is no banana republic capable of the range and audacity of Rove's schemes (here is just a random varied sampling of some of what is already known, with much of the worst probably still not even reported, and the greatest fraud, inside the fixed computer voting machines, impossible to detect). The fraudulence of the election should become the main substantive issue in the election. The election has essentially turned into a referendum on whether the United States will become a dictatorship, or remain a (shaky) democracy. Recently, in places like Spain and Venezuela, where criminal oligarchs attempted to manipulate democratic results, the voters actually became insulted and angry at the way their democracy was mistreated, and voted to punish the crooks. I would hope that even honest Republicans would hesitate to cast a vote which endorses systematic disenfranchisement on a scale which makes a mockery of the concept of democracy. Sadly, I am not at all comfortable that Americans are capable of realizing what is going on, or are even all that opposed to living under a dictator. Dictators remove the necessity to make choices, and American brains seem to hurt too much to want to think enough to choose. A dictatorship would be so much easier. Countries have fallen into dictatorship before, so the American story would not be without precedent. The problem is that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to regain a lost democracy. Lots and lots of people generally have to die before you get it back.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Republicans versus democracy

One of the things I say to honest Israelis trying to make the case for Israel is how do you support a government which is so obviously controlled by and for the purposes of a tiny group of people who are religious nuts. Clean your own house before you start to blame the Palestinians for your problems. One of the things honest Americans considering voting Republican should ask themselves is how do you support a party which spends so much of its time and effort in systematic suppression of the voting rights of historically oppressed minority groups. How can you be a Republican and claim to support democracy? Or is winning more important than democracy?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Oil, Euros, and the attack on Iran

William Clark feels that the real reason for the upcoming American attack on Iran is Iran's plans to create a euro-denominated market for oil. The Iranians saw quite clearly what happened to Saddam, who was whipsawed by being forced to disarm himself and then attacked on the pretense that he had not disarmed himself. Their continued efforts in producing nuclear arms is an indication that they don't intend to make the same mistake. They know that the neocons are more loyal to Israel than to the United States, and that the threat of a nuclear attack on Israel may be the only defense they have against another illegal unprovoked attack by the Americans. Given the insane neocons in charge in Washington, who can blame the Iranians for wanting a few nuclear arms for self-defense?

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Getting through the hole

If you're only going to read one summary of the state of the evidence on the September 11 attack on the Pentagon, I would recommend this one. Remember, a Boeing 757-200 - wingspan 124 feet wide and 44 feet high from the ground to the top of the tail - is supposed to have gone through this hole without leaving any debris from the wings outside the hole or damaging the windows or wall to the side of the hole or above the hole (you can still see the window frame in the window right beside the hole!). Then the metal parts of the plane are supposed to have completely vaporized in the heat, leaving behind untouched the contents of its luggage hold and enough dna to identify all but one of the passengers. It seems that people will believe anything that their masters tell them!

Monday, October 25, 2004

Cocaine and charity

Meg Laughlin of Knight Ridder has interviewed various associates of John White, the man who ran the inner-city program in Houston where Bush worked in the early 1970's, work which has led to much speculation. It is completely out of character for Bush to volunteer for any kind of charity, and even more bizarre that he has been so circumspect about using his participation in it for political purposes. The witnesses that Meg Laughlin spoke to confirm that he was there because he was in some sort of trouble which required him to put in the time. A new witness, Althia Turner, White's administrative assistant, who was obviously uncomfortable about giving testimony, said:

"George had to sign in and out - I remember his signature was a hurried cursive - but he wasn't an employee. He was not a volunteer either. John said he had to keep track of George's hours because George had to put in a lot of hours because he was in trouble."

The article states:

"Other accounts have suggested his service was involuntary. A book published in 2000, largely discredited, said Bush was there to serve out a community service sentence for a drug arrest. At the time, however, Harris County, Texas, where Houston is located, had no formal community service program. A 1999 book, by a political reporter for The Dallas Morning News, said Bush's father had insisted on the service after Bush was involved in a drunk-driving incident."

Of course, the fact that Harris County had no formal community service program is irrelevant. A judge friendly to George's father could have agreed to suspend sentencing in George's criminal (cocaine?) case pending completion of any task he might require of George, and might very well have relied on George's father to vouch for the fact he performed the task. Father Bush might then have counted on his friend John White to tally up the hours so Bush could honestly inform the court that his son had complied with the court's semi-formal requirements. The theory that this charity work was just an informal requirement of George's father isn't consistent with the fact that it obviously interfered with the proper completion of George's military service. Father Bush would hardly have punished George by making him do something that would affect his military career, especially when the whole purpose of the Guard duty was to keep George out of Vietnam, and George's failure to complete his Guard duty would have led him directly to Vietnam.

Can't you just hear George begging with his father to get him out of his cocaine legal trouble by arranging for some charity work to satisfy the judge? Can't you just hear him telling his father that he would swear off the blow? Can't you just hear him claim he could arrange to do both his Guard duty and complete the charity work at the same time? Can't you just see Bush unable to get off the coke, and being fearful that his addiction would be revealed to the court and to his father by a military physical (the fact that such a physical might not have disclosed the presence of cocaine is irrelevant if George feared the huge consequences if there was the slightest chance that it might)? Can't you just see Bush going AWOL to avoid that physical? Can't you just see his father then having to pull strings with the military brass to keep George out of Vietnam?

Waivers and whistleblowers

Ashcroft's campaign against whistleblowers continues to have remarkable success. From an article by Seth Sutel of the Associated Press:

"Clark Hoyt, the Washington editor of Knight Ridder, the second-largest newspaper company in the country, said that in the past few weeks he has seen two cases of people at first wishing to provide information for stories on a confidential basis, then backing out later for fear that they would be investigated or that their identity might be discovered from a subpoena of the reporter's phone records.

'I think there is no question that there is greater anxiety among sources about talking to journalists,' Hoyt said."

A dangerous erosion of freedom of speech is proceeding and is largely being ignored. The most recent manifestation of it concerns the case of Steven J. Hatfill, who is suing the government over the shameful way he was treated in being blamed for the anthrax attacks. Ashcroft's Justice Department has agreed to distribute waivers to federal investigators who may have discussed the case with journalists. Hatfill's lawyers can then use the signed waivers to attempt to convince journalists to disclose who gave them information concerning Hatfill. Notice how completely backasswards and artificial this whole process is. If Ashcroft really wanted to cooperate in disclosing what information the government turned over, he could simply order an internal investigation and give the names to Hatfill's lawyers. Instead, he makes everyone go through this extremely odd dance of the seven veils which will almost certainly lead nowhere. The journalists will presumably only discuss those people who signed the waivers, which list presumably will not include those who disclosed information. Hatfill's lawyers will have to work backwards from those who didn't sign the waivers to try to discover who the leakers were. The whole thing is crazy, and can serve only one purpose. Ashcroft is establishing the precedent of using 'voluntary' waivers in any case where informants in the government are involved. In this case, the informant was almost certainly acting with official sanction (the government was clearly trying to defame Hatfill for political purposes), but the same principle would apply in cases of whistleblowers who were acting without authorization. Now that the precedent has been established, the threat exists in any whistleblower case that a blanket series of 'voluntary' waivers will be distributed to everyone who might have turned over information to journalists. Of course, the waivers aren't really voluntary, as not signing one would presumably affect your job security, and signing one puts you at high risk of being outed by the journalist you talked to. This danger is particularly acute if Ashcroft manages to confirm through the Judith Miller and Matt Cooper cases that he can go on fishing expeditions with journalists to find the names of informants, with failure to turn over the names sanctioned by imprisonment for contempt of court. He can thus pin the whistleblower between the pinchers of the waiver and the threat of putting the stubborn journalist in jail. A whistleblower who wasn't prepared to go to jail wouldn't take the risk.

The key to seeing this is a conspiracy to attack whistleblowers is the extreme artificiality in each stage of Ashcroft's plan. The whole Plame case is ridiculous, as Bush could simply order the name of the informant to be disclosed. The use of waivers is completely unnecessary, and makes you wonder what Ashcroft is really up to. When you couple that with the fact that his prosecutor is attacking Miller, who didn't even write on the Plame matter and just possibly listened to a telephone conversation, and has apparently completely ignored Novak, the real villain of the piece, the story looks even stranger. On top of all that, we have the Hatfill case, where waivers are again being used where they are completely unnecessary. By the time the dust has settled, Ashcroft will have established the pattern of using blanket 'voluntary' waivers in all cases where government informants may be involved, and will be able to threaten journalists with jail if they don't go along with his fishing expeditions. Neither Ashcroft not his boss Bush will ever have to worry about whistleblowers again.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

The Indymedia mystery

The British government has now officially denied that any British law enforcement agencies were involved in the seizure of the Indymedia servers. As Indymedia points out, every agency that has been said to have been involved in the seizure has now denied it. Rackspace claimed that there was a court order involved, but nobody can find the court that might have issued this order. Maybe the two servers got tired of life on the server farm, broke out, took a taxi to the FBI offices, turned themselves in, and made a full confession. Then they spent a few days in electro-magnetic debauchery before staggering back home.

Rackspace may have some 'splainin' to do. Could it be that they voluntarily turned the servers over to the FBI on merely being asked to do so? ISP's have been lawyering up and going to court to protect the privacy rights of their customers under attack from the music industry. Does Rackspace see no reason to fight for the rights of its customers? Why would anyone want to do business with a company that simply asks 'How high?' when the FBI says 'Jump'?

Finally, isn't there some protocol for the operation of a foreign police agency on British soil, or does the FBI roam around London seizing what it wants? Recent British action to shore up the thinning American military presence in Iraq by putting British soldiers in very dangerous situations seems to evidence the fact that Britain is now just a colony of the United States, so maybe the FBI no longer has to worry about British laws or procedures.

May Day Mystery

I can't remember if I've mentioned it before or not, but if you want to follow an incredible esoteric mystery, read this (starting here). It looks like some university investment club that has turned into an in-joke, but who knows.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

The FBI and the Indymedia servers

Around twenty Indymedia web sites were shut down when the FBI seized two servers which were located in London. Although the servers were returned, the mystery remains. There are a number of different reports why this happened, and who instigated it. The initial report was that British authorities cooperated with the FBI to seize the servers because of pictures of Swiss police which appeared on some Indymedia sites, pictures which identified presumably undercover officers. If this was the reason, it backfired, as the otherwise unnoticed pictures were suddenly all over the internet. It seems unlikely that this was the real reason (for what it's worth, the Swiss deny that they requested the seizure of the servers). The instigators were said to be Swiss and Italian authorities, although focus soon shifted entirely to the Italians. Due to Indymedia publication of embarrassing facts about the violent police actions against the Genoa protestors, the Italian authorities are supposed to have an animus for Indymedia, and the seizure was thought to have something to do with this attitude. The seizure occurred one week before the start of a meeting of the European Social Forum, a large gathering of activists scheduled to take place in London, and for some reason Italian or other authorities may have wanted to block Indymedia coverage of this event. The most recent, and most plausible, explanation for the seizure is that it was at the request of an Italian magistrate who was investigating the recent letter bombs sent in Italy which have been blamed on anarchists (in my opinion, a fairly obvious example of a right-wing attack on anarchists by blaming them for bombs sent by government or right-wing agents-provocateurs). The most interesting part of the story is that the Italian magistrate apparently did not request that the servers be seized, and in fact had no interest in the servers. He wanted to find out about what certain posters to an Italian Indymedia forum knew about the matter, and, as he may have thought the posters were American, asked the FBI to try to determine the identities of the posters and interview them. A good guess would be that Ashcroft saw this fairly mundane request as an excuse to seize the Indymedia servers to stop Indymedia from operating during the last weeks of the American election campaign. In particular, as Indymedia has a history of publishing on the Diebold debacle, Ashcroft may have wanted to suppress any embarrassing revelations about the crooked voting machines in the run up to the election. Blaming the Swiss and Italians may just have been a ruse. Due to the decentralized nature of Indymedia, the seizure didn't accomplish anything, so the servers were returned. The whole incident may have also been an experiment to see how various authorities could work together to stifle speech, and to see how much speech could be stopped with the seizure of certain servers. We will probably never know the truth. There is a website for people to voice their complaints about this attack on freedom of speech.

No surprises in October

It appears that the October Surprise will be that there won't be an October Surprise. If you're going to win anyway because you've already fixed the voting machines, why risk it?

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Baker, Carlyle, Kuwait, and Iraqi debt

Naomi Klein reveals (or here) that while James Baker was swanning around the capitals of the world trying to convince governments to take a haircut on the sovereign debt owed to them by Iraq - an effort marked by a notable lack of success - Carlyle, the company of which Baker is a big equity partner and senior counselor, was involved in a consortium which was negotiating with Kuwait to provide a financial structure and PR cover to shield from a similar reduction the war reparations debt owed by Iraq to Kuwait (another member of the consortium is a company owned by Madelaine Albright, famously indifferent in a '60 Minutes' interview to the plight of 500,000 Iraqi children killed by the sanctions, and apparently still thrilled about making a buck off their suffering). In fact, the same day that Baker was officially meeting with Kuwaiti leaders including the Foreign Minister to discuss Kuwait's haircut, Carlyle was delivering its scheme to the same Foreign Minister. Carlyle's services were sold on the crass basis of its ability to peddle influence in Washington, and the timing of Baker's visit must have made Carlyle's abilities abundantly clear to the Kuwaitis. Carlyle was slated to make a huge profit off this scheme, but claimed that somehow Baker wouldn't personally benefit. In the wake of Klein's revelation, and after a few unsuccessful attempts at damage control, Carlyle announced it would play no more part in the consortium.

Even by the mega-sleazy standards of the Bush Crime Family, this has to be one of the sleaziest attempts at double-dealing I have ever heard of. Baker used his 'integrity' and 'reputation' to clear the decks of other competing debt payments, while Carlyle fashioned a way to exclude Kuwait from having to participate in the pain felt by countries foolish enough to listen to Baker. Of course, no one was really fooled, which probably explains why Baker has had such a notable lack of success. The victims of this sleaze are the people of Iraq, who will still be burdened with the huge debt run up by Saddam, and the American taxpayers, who will have to fund the impoverished government of Iraq for the foreseeable future.

The Bush Crime Family has always succeeded in its schemes by the sheer enormity and audacity of the crimes it commits. Who would ever believe that someone of Baker's stature would even dream of such a scam? It reminds me of the great comedy series Father Ted, where Father Ted loses a bet and has to kick Bishop Brennan 'up the arse'. Father Ted is terrified of the Bishop, and terrified at what will happen when he kicks the Bishop, but his idiot sidekick Dougal manages to convince him that the conduct is so outrageously unbelievable that the Bishop will never be able to comprehend it actually happened. This is exactly how it transpires, but, it being Father Ted, things soon go terribly awry. Baker attempted to kick the world community, the people of Iraq, and the American taxpayers 'up the arse'. His double dealing was so completely outside the realm of decency and morality that he thought he could get away with it. This time, he got caught.

The irony is that the scheme was to protect reparations payments to Kuwait. The official American theory is that the United States went into Iraq to liberate the Iraqi people from the dictator Saddam. Surely the Iraqi people should no longer be liable for payments to Iraq which were caused entirely by the actions of Saddam. At least with much of the other sovereign debt, the Iraqi people obtained a benefit from it, and presumably still benefit from whatever was bought with it. In the case of the reparations, the debt is a dead weight on the Iraqi people who cannot logically be held responsible for the actions of a dictator from whom they had to be forcibly liberated by the United States. If Kuwait wants to receive payment of the reparations, it should look to Saddam. Kuwait's reparation payments, and the reparation payments claimed by the long line of corporations identified (or here) by Klein, should be the first debt payments to be wiped clean, even before any of the other sovereign debt disappears.

If you ever have the misfortune of shaking James Baker's hand, be sure to immediately count your fingers.

Faith-based presidency, or just psychos?

The Ron Suskind article on Bush is very interesting, but it is possible that it relies on a fundamental misunderstanding of Bush's religiosity. The entire story of Bush's religious beliefs may have been created by Rove to allow Bush to appeal to a core group of religious hard-core fruitcakes. Jeff Sharlet and Ayelish McGarvey each question the nature of Bush's faith. As I have noted, the fact that Bush doesn't even appear to go to church is at the very least extremely odd. Suskind may be wrong in connecting Bush's psychology to faith. He, and the people around him, may simply be psychopaths. Suskind writes:

"In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend - but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality - judiciously, as you will - we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'"

That is exactly how psychopaths think and act. 'Reality' is as much a quibble to them as is morality. Strong people do what they want, and weak people just get to watch. The unfortunate thing is that the United States is powerful enough now that it can act without paying any attention to the opinions of anybody else, or even to the apparent realities which would normally constrain it. The American government seems to be able to borrow an unlimited amount of money, the American military has an apparently unlimited number of troops (at least after the draft is introduced), and no other country appears to have enough military power to challenge the decisions of the Bush Administration. Of course, at some point the 'realities' catch up to the psychopaths. The borrowing can't go on forever, and the American death toll will eventually reach politically unacceptable levels (how many neocon wars will it take to reach 55,000, the number from the Vietnam war?). When the series of Zionist wars are in full throttle, the Middle East will be on fire, and the price of oil will destroy the world economy. By the time the shit hits the fan, the psychopaths will be long gone, and everybody else will have to pick up the pieces, if there are any pieces left to pick up. The strength of the United States means there is no check on the bad decisions of evil people, and the strength of the United States is thus its weakness.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Good news from Canada

Good news from Canada:

  1. The first Walmart in the world to have a union contract will be in Jonquière, Quebec. This will be the first break in the Walmart anti-union stance, with other Canadian stores, and possibly American stores, to follow.

  2. Nova Scotia, the only Canadian province not to allow Sunday shopping at any time of the year (Prince Edward Island also bans it except at Christmas), had a referendum on the subject, and despite the propaganda from the business lobbyists, rejected Sunday shopping fairly decisively. It is almost unheard of these days for anybody to confront the cult of turbo-capitalism that human beings have to live their lives in accordance with the interests of big business. Sunday shopping is currently also an issue in Germany, with the Germans so far holding out for sanity. There are a lot of people who think that Nova Scotia is the perfect place in the world to live, and its failure to concede to the big-business-driven madness is probably a large part of that.

  3. Americans who feel that there is no difference between John Kerry and George Bush should really consider the issue of who will appoint Supreme Court justices (not to mention the issue of the environment, but that's another story). The present Canadian Liberal government beat the Conservatives in a hotly contested election, and promptly appointed two very progressive judges to the Canadian Supreme Court, Rosalie Abella and Louise Charron. There is not a snowball's chance in hell that either of these judges would have been appointed by a Conservative government. Although the government chickened out in sending the gay marriage issue to the Supreme Court, it has now effectively stacked the court by adding two judges from the Ontario Court of Appeal that recently decided that the existing common-law man-woman definition of marriage is unconstitutional. Although neither of these judges were involved in that opinion, it is clear where their sympathies lie. Charron wrote the majority decision in the Ontario Court of Appeal case of M. v. H., which determined that the heterosexual definition of marriage in the Ontario Family Law Act was unconstitutional. Abella must drive conservatives particularly crazy, as she created the concept of employment equity, the more-nuanced Canadian version of affirmative action. Conservative columnist Andrew Coyne of the National Post wrote:

    "But this is the first time I can recall that a judicial appointment has been used as a political weapon, in the most partisan sense of the word. Ms. Abella is so far out of the mainstream, even among liberal jurists, that her appointment can only be seen as a deliberate provocation. Even allowing for the inability of certain Liberals to conceive that their views might in fact be controversial - for that presumes the existence of differences of opinion - the choice of such a polarizing figure, at such a delicate political moment, cannot have been accidental.

    Ms. Abella, for those just joining us, is the author of the 1984 report of the Royal Commission on Equality in Employment, which laid the foundation for legislation imposing racial and sexual hiring quotas on employers under federal jurisdiction and, later, Ontario's aborted attempt to apply this across the entire private sector. Indeed, she invented the term 'employment equity,' the latest in a long line of euphemisms for this disastrous practice. She is, in short, the original quota queen."

    Quota queen! The problem with allowing conservatives to win even one election is that the damage they do in the appointment of judges survives them for decades. Americans ought to bear that in mind, hold their noses, and vote for Kerry.

The price of oil

In the extremely unlikely eventuality that George Bush loses the upcoming American Presidential election, it won't be because he is a moron, or insane, or an alcoholic, or a drug addict, or a deserter, or because he started an illegal and immoral and disastrous war in Iraq based on a series of lies told to the American people, or because he is destroying the environment, or because his policies are impoverishing the American people and devastating the American economy. No. It will be because the soccer moms driving to the polling stations in their SUV's notice that the gasoline prices are too high (not to mention heating oil). This is exactly the kind of symbolic issue which reflects whether Bush is capable of running the country. So why aren't the Republicans, who are connected to those who can manipulate the price of oil, doing anything about it? Actually, Bush dabbled in releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, but appeared to do so only in response to temporary shortages caused by Hurricane Ivan and not for partisan political reasons (actually, the Bush Administration acted more responsibly than John Kerry). Could it be that the reason the Republicans are unconcerned about this obvious key political issue - it's the gas prices, stupid - is that the combination of various forms of cheating and voter intimidation, together with crooked computer voting machines, mean that Rove does not care about how Americans actually vote, or would vote if they could? Could it be that the Republican lack of concern reflects the fact that they know that the official election results will not reflect the actual choice of the voters?

Sunday, October 17, 2004

The dinner party

There has been a lot written about Jon Stewart's appearance on the CNN show 'Crossfire'. In the long history of 'Crossfire', Stewart is the only person to point out to its hosts what an extreme pile of bullshit it is, and how the public interest is not served in wasting such an opportunity to actually challenge the lies told by the politicians who appear on the show. Stewart doesn't mince words:

"STEWART: See, the thing is, we need your help. Right now, you're helping the politicians and the corporations. And we're left out there to mow our lawns.

BEGALA: By beating up on them? You just said we're too rough on them when they make mistakes.

STEWART: No, no, no, you're not too rough on them. You're part of their strategies. You are partisan, what do you call it, hacks."

Why are they such hacks? Here is the most telling part of the show (my emphasis):

"STEWART: You know, the interesting thing I have is, you have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably.

CARLSON: You need to get a job at a journalism school, I think.

STEWART: You need to go to one.

The thing that I want to say is, when you have people on for just knee-jerk, reactionary talk...

CARLSON: Wait. I thought you were going to be funny. Come on. Be funny.

STEWART: No. No. I'm not going to be your monkey.


BEGALA: Go ahead. Go ahead.

STEWART: I watch your show every day. And it kills me.

CARLSON: I can tell you love it.

STEWART: It's so - oh, it's so painful to watch.


STEWART: You know, because we need what you do. This is such a great opportunity you have here to actually get politicians off of their marketing and strategy.

CARLSON: Is this really Jon Stewart? What is this, anyway?

STEWART: Yes, it's someone who watches your show and cannot take it anymore.


STEWART: I just can't.

CARLSON: What's it like to have dinner with you? It must be excruciating. Do you like lecture people like this or do you come over to their house and sit and lecture them; they're not doing the right thing, that they're missing their opportunities, evading their responsibilities? STEWART: If I think they are.


CARLSON: I wouldn't want to eat with you, man. That's horrible."

Mega-dweeb hack Carlson is obviously caught completely off guard by the fact the only real attack he's ever received in his life is coming from a comedian. Stewart only had a chance to be on the show as they all assumed he would play the game and just tell safe jokes. Carlson's shock at the attack causes him to make an honest response: 'What's it like to have dinner with you?' In a nutshell, that is what's wrong with the disgusting American media. They treat their jobs like some kind of dinner party. Within carefully bounded limits, you are allowed to have civilized conversation at this big media dinner party, but anything that even slightly challenges the social conventions of the elite is completely off limits. The deep corruption of television journalism has been accomplished by inviting the journalist stars to the dinner parties of the plutocrats, and making them feel that they belong. The fact that they shill for the establishment is not necessarily because they are partisan Republicans - in fact, most of them probably aren't - but because they are so grateful to be invited to the right dinner parties that they don't want to embarrass themselves, and perhaps be disinvited, by even coming close to asking the 'wrong' questions. In other words, they don't consistently and slavishly support the status quo because of their own political convictions, but because they actually feel it would be impolite to challenge those who have been so kind to invite them to dinner. Carlson can't understand what Stewart is talking about when he asks that they do their jobs by challenging the people they have on the show. Journalists have become so deeply corrupted they are incapable of seeing what they are doing wrong. Without responsible journalism, you can't have a democracy, and that's where the United States finds itself today.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

The Islamist-Straussian folie á deux

I recently referred to an upcoming BBC documentary "The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear". This article by Andy Beckett on that documentary considers surprisingly deeply and fairly issues which are part of pure conspiracy theory. It refers to the thesis of the program based in the thinking of producer and writer Adam Curtis:

"The Power of Nightmares began as an investigation of something else, the rise of modern American conservatism. Curtis was interested in Leo Strauss, a political philosopher at the university of Chicago in the 50s who rejected the liberalism of postwar America as amoral and who thought that the country could be rescued by a revived belief in America's unique role to battle evil in the world. Strauss's certainty and his emphasis on the use of grand myths as a higher form of political propaganda created a group of influential disciples such as Paul Wolfowitz, now the US deputy defence secretary. They came to prominence by talking up the Russian threat during the cold war and have applied a similar strategy in the war on terror.

As Curtis traced the rise of the 'Straussians', he came to a conclusion that would form the basis for The Power of Nightmares. Straussian conservatism had a previously unsuspected amount in common with Islamism: from origins in the 50s, to a formative belief that liberalism was the enemy, to an actual period of Islamist-Straussian collaboration against the Soviet Union during the war in Afghanistan in the 80s (both movements have proved adept at finding new foes to keep them going). Although the Islamists and the Straussians have fallen out since then, as the attacks on America in 2001 graphically demonstrated, they are in another way, Curtis concludes, collaborating still: in sustaining the 'fantasy' of the war on terror."

Some things I'm really tired of:

  1. the war on terror;

  2. its evil twin, the war on drugs;

  3. constantly harping about terrorism while never even mentioning the significantly more violent state terrorism which precipitated it (all news coverage on Israel falls into this category, and the entire war on terror seems to be part of a planned Israeli propaganda war as reflected most clearly in the writing of Benjamin Netanyahu);

  4. blaming every mysterious act of violence on 'al Qaeda', before any facts could possibly be gathered, to the point where it would make as much sense to blame it on Martians (an example of this is the recent bombings in Egypt which were blamed on 'al Qaeda' before the dust settled);

  5. conversely, the reductionist claim that al Qaeda doesn't exist and never existed (but it is certainly legitimate to question whether any particular attack is the work of al Qaeda or some group attempting to defame Muslims).

We can't stop the disgusting news media from perpetrating these lies, but we should at least learn to recognize the consistent signs of when we're being lied to.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Random Absurdity

Random absurdity:

  1. A quote from Nixon's Attorney General John Mitchell:

    "The conservation movement is a breeding ground of Communists and other subversives. We intend to clean them out, even if it means rounding up every bird watcher in the country."

  2. A reason to explain a return to blogging, by William Gibson:

    "Because the United States currently has, as Jack Womack so succinctly puts it, a president who makes Richard Nixon look like Abraham Lincoln."

  3. Extreme cartoons:

When George Bush is reelected President, will the worse thing for Americans be what he does to the United States and the world, or having to live with the terrible knowledge that at least half the population of the country is capable of voting for such a man?

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Troop levels in Iraq

Back in September, Donald Rumsfeld said in a speech given at Ft. Campbell that U.S. forces in Iraq numbered 137,000, down from 150,000. Robert Novak (from his hospital bed!) refers to Rita Cosby of Fox News who had asked (or here) Rumsfeld before he left on his recent trip to Iraq whether the United States may 'start to pull out' after the Iraqi elections next year. Rumsfeld had replied:

"We've already started. We had 150,000 troops over there originally. We're down to 137,000 right now."

Think about the numbers. 150,000. 137,000. The difference is 13,000. What does that number represent? Of course! It's the American casualty rate (more or less: we can't be sure as the Pentagon keeps the exact number a big secret). The numbers of American troops are dropping because the Pentagon hasn't got the troops to replace the fallen. Rumsfeld has the audacity to boast about his reduced level of troops, not pointing out why they are reduced. I have before never heard the civilian leader of an army boast about his huge number of casualties. On this logic, the United States will have won the war when every American soldier is withdrawn from Iraq, either in a coffin or on a stretcher with missing limbs, eyes, or mind. The shortage of fodder units is why the Americans are trying to get NATO into a combat role in Afghanistan. The non-American members of NATO ought to reject this. If NATO goes into Afghanistan it will free up American troops for use in the next illegal and immoral war planned by the neocons. An over-extended American army is just what the world needs right now.

Free Matthew Cooper (and Judith Miller)!

There is surprisingly little complaint even amongst journalists about the way Judith Miller is being treated. It appears that the authorities have picked on exactly the right person, someone so hated and so tainted by abusive use of unnamed sources that almost everybody is ready to let her go to jail. I still think this is a terrible mistake. Here is a little more context:

  1. To explain why Miller is so justifiably despised, read this article by Joseph Kay on the World Socialist Web Site. Kay describes in meticulous detail the many deceptive tricks employed by Miller and the New York Times to assist the Bush Administration into fooling the American people into war. He writes:

    "Miller functioned as more than a reporter. She was a proxy for elements within the Pentagon - including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his undersecretary, Douglas Feith - as well as Ahmed Chalabi, the former Pentagon favorite among Iraqi exiles."


    "The Times' reporting and editorial comments in the run-up to war were not mistakes, lapses in judgment, or the result of naïveté. The so-called 'newspaper of record' was pursuing a conscious policy: it wanted war in Iraq.

    Whatever differences the Times might have had with the administration over tactics, the newspaper was aiding and abetting the efforts of the government to dupe the public and create a climate of fear and hysteria conducive to launching an unprovoked war. It tailored its reporting to that end and served as a mouthpiece for the administration."


    "One obvious question arises from the Times' October 3 report on the aluminum tubes hoax: why did the newspaper fail to undertake such an investigation of the government's claims in late 2002 and early 2003? The answer clearly emerges from the October 3 exposé itself: the Times was itself complicit in the government's war conspiracy."

  2. From Tom Scocca in the New York Observer:

    " Ms. Miller is not going to the mat for some helpless whistleblower; she's defending the right of high officials to try to anonymously sic The New York Times on a subordinate who bucked them. Mr. Wilson signed his own name to his criticisms, and it was the confidential sources who allegedly sought reprisal.

    'For some group of people, that would be called whistleblowing,' Mr. Sulzberger said on the phone Tuesday evening - for instance, he said, people who thought Mr. Wilson's complaints about the administration (aired in a Times op-ed) hadn't shared all the relevant facts.

    'I'm not suggesting that you have to agree every time with whether that person should have given out that information,' Mr. Sulzberger said.

    Floyd Abrams, Ms. Miller's lawyer, offered a similar view. 'The law can't distinguish between good leaks and bad,' Mr. Abrams said."

    Mr. Adams is exactly correct. A court can't and won't inquire into the motives of the leaker. It is charged with simply obtaining the name from the journalist. Indeed, in the real world, a court is going to be much more sympathetic to the motives of a senior administration official than it would to a whistleblower like Daniel Ellsberg.

  3. Tim Rutten in the Los Angeles Times considers the law involved in this case, and points out that it is a real stretch to fit Miller under any of the three component tests involved in determining whether a journalist can be compelled to divulge a source (Rutten is also not thrilled about the new prosecutorial technique of obtaining waivers from sources). If Miller is so far from fitting any of the tests, you have to wonder why the prosecutors are so interested in going after her.

  4. A Boston Phoenix editorial says:

    "SPECIAL PROSECUTOR Patrick Fitzgerald is out of control. Appointed by Attorney General John Ashcroft to find out which 'senior administration officials' revealed the identity of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame to syndicated columnist Robert Novak in July 2003, Fitzgerald has instead embarked on a witch-hunt against the media - and, by extension, against the First Amendment . . . ."


    "Journalists do not have an absolute right to keep their sources confidential. Over the years the courts have made it clear that reporters have the same civic responsibility as any member of the public to provide relevant information in an ongoing criminal investigation. But in its landmark Branzburg v. Hayes decision, the US Supreme Court in 1972 suggested that certain standards must be met before prosecutors can start dragging journalists to the witness stand. As interpreted by the courts, the Branzburg ruling has come to mean that journalists may not be forced to reveal their sources unless the information they have is crucial to an ongoing criminal investigation, and unless there are no alternative means of obtaining that information from non-journalists. Above all, Branzburg makes it clear that prosecutors may not use their power to harass reporters. Yet that is precisely what Ashcroft, through Fitzgerald, is up to in the case of Judith Miller."

    and (and consider the conspiracy theory I raised before):

    "If he wished, George W. Bush could find out tomorrow which of his underlings outed Valerie Plame. Instead, his administration, in the person of Fitzgerald, is harassing and intimidating the journalists who were the recipients of White House leaks. It's a characteristic tactic for these thugs - and it sends a chilling message to any reporter who promises confidentiality to a source while attempting to ferret out the truth. This is just one more reason that Bush and his administration need to be turned out of office."

    The supporters of the Democrats for some unknown reason seem to have assumed that Fitzgerald, although working for Ashcroft, is somehow a good guy just interested in finding out the name of the horrible man who outed Plame (note that, besides Miller, Fitzgerald is also going after Time reporter Matthew Cooper). This is beginning to look like a fairy tale. If Bush really wanted the justice system to have control of the culprit, he could have turned him over long ago. This whole investigation is beginning to look more and more like a conspiracy centered around Ashcroft and Fitzgerald to fatally attack the ability of journalists to discover the truth using whistleblowers as sources.

Destroying the ability of journalists to conduct investigative reporting using anonymous sources benefits only the one group threatened by investigative reporting, the plutocrats. The attack on the responsible exercise of journalism through this full frontal attack on the First Amendment is so obvious that the inability of people to see it is starting to worry me. Maybe the answer to American politics is that Republicans are simply smarter than the stupid and gullible Democrats. Why do the Democrats always look like Charlie Brown, and the Republicans like Lucy with the football?

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Good news from Venezuela

You can see why the United States has worked so hard to have Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias removed from power:

  1. Venezuela is increasing the royalties paid by foreign oil companies involved in joint ventures in the Orinoco heavy crude belt from 1% to 16.6%. Chavez said:

    "The days of giving oil away for free belong to the past . . ."

    No warning was given to the oil companies of this increase, although I imagine they could see it coming. David Voght, managing director of energy consulting company IPD Latin America, which has offices in Caracas and Mexico City, said:

    "Investors are going to think twice about putting their money in Venezuela. If Venezuela wants to attract investments to its oil sector, it will need to be more consistent."

    Yeah, right! Chavez has them over a (oil) barrel, and they know it. This is part of Chavez's plan to start "the second phase of the true nationalization of PDVSA and of Venezuela's oil, aiming for full petroleum sovereignty."

  2. Chavez has recently stated that world oil markets are "oversupplied", and that Venezuela did not plan to raise its oil production. He blamed current high oil prices on political factors connected to the attack on Iraq. I note that one of the major factors in current oil pricing - and one never mentioned by the 'experts' - is the enormous amount of the highest grades of fuel that has been used and is currently being consumed by the U. S. military in Iraq. Not only does the military require the most expensive fuel, it is not too fussy about what it pays for it, especially when it is being supplied on a 'cost-plus' basis by military contractors like Halliburton. It is ironic that the price of oil has increased due to a war waged in part to steal Iraq's oil, and doubly ironic that the war has led to resistance which has actually reduced the amount of Iraqi oil available on the market. Venezuela isn't going to bail out the United States for its own stupid choices.

  3. Chavez is in a fight with Venezuela's Central Bank to force it to release some of Venezuela's oil reserves to fund social programs. The long-term plan, which must drive the neocons crazy, is to take a more equitable share of oil revenues and direct an increasing proportion of these revenues to social programs to help the poor.

  4. One of Chavez's ideas, the PetroCaribe initiative, is intended to offer Caribbean countries petroleum products at significantly reduced costs. This is exactly the kind of cooperation by poorer countries that the neocons fear the most. How are American oil companies going to take their obscene profits in the face of Third World cooperation?

  5. Kevin Pina has an excellent article on the background to the illegal removal of President Aristide from Haiti by the Americans, Canadians and French. It turns out that the timing of the attack on Aristide may have been precipitated by an offer from Venezuela to offer him assistance. Aristide was under continuing assault by the rebels, usually in the form of attacks against local police stations (the fact that the local police were removed by these attacks led to much of the humanitarian catastrophe which recently took place in Haiti as a result of the hurricane, as no local emergency help was available). The plan of the Americans was to have the rebels force Aristide out of office without obvious foreign intervention, but Aristide's resilience, coupled with the threat of help from Venezuela, led to the three countries having to embarrass themselves by kidnapping Aristide.

  6. Inspired by the toppling of the statue of Saddam in Baghdad, Chavez supporters celebrated 'Indian Resistance Day', the new name for the holiday formerly known as Columbus Day, by toppling a statue of Columbus in Caracas. And finally, Chavez is the 2004 winner of the International Gaddafi Award for Human Rights!

Jimmy Carter has recently written (or here) criticizing the crooked election situation in Florida. Despite court orders and pious promises to clean up his act, Jeb Bush has spent most of the last four years developing his old ways of disenfranchising non-Republican voters (i. e., black voters), and has even developed new methods of ensuring that there is no democracy in Florida. At the last minute, and at a time when it is too late to do anything about it, Jimmy Carter is suddenly concerned about Florida. What has Carter been up to that he hasn't had time to pay attention to his neighboring state of Florida? He has been monitoring election fairness in Venezuela. Under Chavez, Venezuela has no history of election fraud, and Carter's interference in Venezuelan politics was a rather transparent effort to weaken Chavez's government so the opposition could attempt another coup (they never really wanted the recall referendum as they knew they would lose, and they indeed lost in a landslide). All observers found the recent Venezuelan recall vote to be completely fair. If Carter had even the slightest interest in democracy, he wouldn't have been carrying the can for the neocons in yet another American attempt to subvert democracy in a foreign country, and would have been paying attention to democracy in his own country. The crazed desire of Americans to get rid of Chavez blinds people like Carter to real problems in the United States.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Free Judith Miller!

I never thought I'd ever write anything in support of that bitch Judith Miller, but here goes. She finds herself in a spot of bother with the courts. Apparently the still unnamed Bush Administration official who illegally leaked the name of Valerie Plame also talked to Judith Miller. Miller didn't write about it, but has been hauled before the court to disclose the name. She has refused, claiming that her informant is a confidential source, and thus she as a journalist does not have to reveal the name, and will continue to protect her sources. The court disagrees that she has the right to conceal the name of the source, and has found her in contempt. The issue will no doubt be determined on appeal. Miller is a totally disgreeable character, having just provided much of the incorrect propaganda basis that the Bush Administration used to wage the illegal and immoral attack on Iraq, and all decent people would bring marshmallows if Miller were burned at the stake. It is also highly enjoyable to see Miller hoist on her own petard, the use of anonymous government sources being her main technique at spreading the disinformation that led to war. However, seeing Miller punished for not revealing her source is very troubling (her co-conspirators at deceiving the American people into war are also troubled). There are a number of arguments you could make for why Miller should be forced to reveal her source, but I have problems with all of them:

  1. You could argue that the right not to reveal the source doesn't apply because she didn't actually write about the matter. That won't work because journalists usually don't write about matters that they hear about from confidential sources. Most such sources are cranks, or have information that is credible but cannot be verified. The fact that Miller didn't write about this matter is irrelevant to the main issue, which is ensuring that people whose position means they cannot speak publicly, because they would lose their jobs or would break a secrecy statute that ought to be broken, still have a possible voice if they have important information.

  2. You could argue that the right not to reveal the source doesn't apply because the leaker was breaking a specific statutory provision in even talking to her, so that she was simply a witness to a crime. The problem with that argument is that it would essentially stop whistleblowing. Especially these days, in the world of the 'war on terror' and the Patriot Act, revealing just about any information is probably illegal in some way. Secrecy freaks like the Bush Administration are trying to plug every possible hole. The precedent set by Miller's jailing would apply not just to this particular provision, but to the general right of journalists to protect their sources.

  3. You could argue that the right not to reveal the source doesn't apply as the source in this case was attempting to stifle critics of the Bush Administration by punishing Joseph Wilson by punishing his wife. In other words, the intent of the leaker was to stop whistleblowing. This is certainly true, but a court isn't going to be able to make that finding of fact, or make that fine a distinction. In fact, the motive of the whistleblower is irrelevant to the issue of whether the publication of the information he or she has is for the greater good.

I detect a set-up here. As Miller is so thoroughly disliked, no one is going to run to her defense. Those who might be inclined to defend her are also interested in the partisan political matter of obtaining the name of the leaker. On the other hand, the Powers That Be will not hesitate to throw even their most cravenly loyal retainers to the wolves if it should serve some purpose (just ask Dan Rather). This is thus the perfect test case to make some bad law. The Bush Administration is notoriously interested in secrecy, and a precedent that would mean a journalist could be jailed for not revealing a source is just the kind of stifling of whistleblowing that they would be love to see. What whistleblower would even dare contact a journalist if he or she knew that the journalist could be compelled under penalty of jail to reveal the whistleblower's name? American democracy is hanging by a slim thread, and that thread is the First Amendment. Despite all the mangling of the Constitution performed by the Bush Administration, the First Amendment has held up remarkably well, which is why we know so much about what they have been up to (although we'd all still like to hear from some whistleblowers at NORAD and the FAA about just what was happening on September 11). Almost all leaking is probably in breach of some law or other (in these post-Patriot Act days practically everything is in breach of some law or other). If Miller goes to jail, the precedent will be set to finish off the possibility of whistleblowing, unless the whistleblower is prepared to lose his or her career and go to jail. Under such circumstances, would Seymour Hersh have heard about Abu Gharaib? My Lai? Would the Pentagon Papers have been published? Actually, they probably would have been, but only because Daniel Ellsberg was prepared to risk the consequences, something most whistleblowers are naturally not prepared to do. This is dangerous territory to be setting such a precedent. The United States now needs the full force of the First Amendment more than ever.

The statute in question appears to have been specifically drafted to protect the right of journalists to write about what they discover. By using a court demand to turn over the name of the informant backed up with a jail term for contempt of court for failure to comply, the courts would be effectively removing this protection for journalism. The intent of the statute is undermined by this roundabout way of getting at the whistleblower. There has been much pious handwringing from the Democrats about the fate of poor Valerie Plame, but we have to put this into non-partisan perspective. The 'cult of intelligence' tends to make us think of the rights of the CIA as paramount. Especially in these days of the 'war on terror', there is even suggestions that Plame's naming made the country less safe. Get a grip! Has the CIA ever made anyone safer? Even if the names of these people are actually worth protecting - and I don't believe they are - there are other values at stake. Is protecting these names by a convoluted attack at journalists worth sacrificing the protections of the First Amendment? Michael Kinsley thinks that protecting the name of CIA agents is more (or here) important. I don't. Which makes Americans safer, the CIA or the First Amendment?

There is an odd subtext here which I don't really understand. The prosecutors have been receiving information about sources from journalists by having the sources sign waivers. By the process of elimination, the prosecutors must know who the leaker is. He's the guy who hasn't signed a waiver! So why are they making such a big deal of forcing Miller to reveal a name they already know? Here is where we start to enter the strange world of conspiracy theory.

Robert Novak, the guy who actually wrote the article that outed Plame, and the guy you would think the prosecutors would be after, has been strangely absent from this whole story. This is where I get very suspicious. Not only is he absent, he is in Florida where the story goes that he broke his hip. Thus he is very conveniently incommunicado. Despite this, he is still able to write columns. For a septuagenarian, for whom a broken hip is very serious business, this is a miraculous recovery. It reminds me of septuagenarian Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who allegedly had heart surgery in London, and almost immediately made the plane trip back to Iraq, hopped in a convoy of trucks, and drove across the desert to negotiate the salvation of Najaf. I'd be very surprised if Sistani had heart surgery, and very surprised if Novak broke his hip. In the good old days, the way you avoided a politically unhelpful subpoena was to buy the witness a train ticket and send him out of town for a while. For an excellent movie where this forms a small part of the plot, watch The Glass Key (1942, starring Brian Donlevy, Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, with a very memorable performance by William Bendix), about back-room political operators where the operators are actually the good guys! It appears that Novak has been sent out of town to keep him away while Miller takes the heat. Why is Miller on the spot rather than Novak? She makes a far more dangerous precedent. All she did was pick up the phone and listen to an informant. Novak actually created the story. If Novak is in contempt of court, the precedent set could be limited by the specific facts of his very extensive involvement. If it is Miller, the precedent could arguably extend to any journalist receiving an unsolicited communication from an informant who wishes to remain anonymous. The fact that Miller, almost an innocent bystander, is the victim of this legal attack, while Novak, the obvious culprit, is not only not under attack but is out of town with a strange excuse for his continued absence, makes me believe this is a set up to create a precedent to chop away at the First Amendment and the ability of whistleblowers to whistleblow. As Miller is so hated, the hope of the conspirators is that people will give up the First Amendment in order to see Miller in jail. This is a dumb trade-off.

Free Judith Miller!

Saturday, October 09, 2004

The Promised Land

An unnamed Israeli citizen was arrested and detained for seven hours after it was noticed that he was driving around rural Oklahoma with what appeared to be a pipe bomb on the roof of his car. An investigation revealed that the odd pipe was actually a method of concealing a video camera, and he was apparently furtively videotaping this unremarkable area of Oklahoma. Delaware County undersheriff Dale Eberle said:

"Delaware County deputies inquired about the suspicious items on top of the subject's car. The subject told deputies that they would have to talk to the CIA and FBI about it and refused to answer further questions."

An interesting response. The FBI showed up, went through the motions of an investigation, and the spy was released (Israeli spies found in the U. S. are like a fishing show: it's always 'catch and release'). Four points:

  1. Given that the American authorities are catching a remarkable number of these Israeli spies doing various mysterious things, and given that the authorities must be catching only a small percentage of the total at work, there must be an enormous amount of spying by Israel going on in the U. S.

  2. Many of the spies, but apparently not this one, get into trouble over a chemical residue found on their bodies or in the white vans they seem to favor. The immediate assumption is that this residue is evidence of bomb making, but I suspect the reality is more pedestrian. It is probably usually the residue of precursor chemicals to synthetic illegal drugs like ecstasy (the vans are for transporting the chemicals to the factories). Russian mafiya members claiming to be Jews sought refuge in Israel from the Russian justice system, and are protected by Israeli refusal to extradite its own nationals. They control most of the world trade in such drugs (as an example of the activity, note this story from NYC). The famous Florida spy ring associated with 9-11 was caught by the DEA because it was infiltrating DEA offices, no doubt doing a little espionage on DEA efforts against the illegal synthetic drug trade. The fact that these Israeli nationals are always released proves extremely high level American government complicity in the drug trade and the role of Israel in it. The 'war on drugs' is a scam.

  3. All of these spies are complete amateurs, and are always caught because they draw unnecessary attention to themselves. The Oklahoma spy ate at a local diner, but he refused to use a metal fork or a glass because he didn't want to leave his fingerprints. Then he drove around with a thing that looked like a bomb on the roof of his car. Even Okies are going to be suspicious.

  4. This spy was an Israeli, but married to an American. This raises the uncomfortable issue of the dual loyalties of the Jewish population in countries outside Israel. The reason Israel is so successful in its spying is that it has a fifth column in almost every country in the world of people who are more loyal to Israel than they are to their own country. The United States is in its current difficulties because these traitors have infiltrated the highest levels of the American government, and are running the United States for the sole benefit of Israel. I'm certain that much of the real spying is never caught because it is conducted by what seem to be ordinary American citizens.

So what was this guy up to? Here's a wild, if somewhat troubling, guess. Israel is rapidly going up shit creek without a paddle. The country is completely terrified, its stupid proportional voting system has left its politics under the control of a tiny minority of religious nuts with no obvious way to sanity, the economy is a basket case, and the continued viability of the whole Zionist project is completely dependent on the continued goodwill - not to mention billions and billions of dollars - of the United States. The increasingly unbalanced efforts of Zionists to scare Jews into moving to Israel through the use of faked anti-Semitic attacks are starting to backfire as Jews in places like France begin to see that they are much better off wherever they are than they would be in Israel. Young people are leaving Israel in droves, going to such unlikely but happening places as supposedly anti-Semitic Moscow or - you guessed it! - Berlin. The country is increasingly dominated by extremely old American retirees and the religiously unhinged settlers. It holds no future for any young person who wants a decent normal life. It is quite likely that the great demographic bombshell, the time when Arabs form the majority population, has already been reached, but it will be certainly reached in the next decade. When the world demands one person, one vote, Israel will be controlled by Palestinian politicians. You won't be able to buy a postage stamp that doesn't have Yasser Arafat's smiling face on it. While the Zionist nuts continue to strive for the disaster of Greater Israel, sensible Israeli thinkers have to plan for the next diaspora. Where will the wandering Jews of Israel live next? How about an almost deserted and impoverished part of rural Oklahoma? The spy was just house, er, country shopping. I imagine similar efforts all over the United States are collecting information on the new Promised Land. The weather of Oklahoma will seem reasonably familiar, and there is lots of water. The Indians will just have to move (again).

Are the CBS documents legit after all?

It turns out that the first careful analysis of the CBS/Killian documents by a real documents expert - as opposed to a partisan Republican operative - shows that the documents are consistent with being typed on the appropriate kind of typewriter in use in the military at the time the documents were purportedly created. All the pseudo-erudition displayed from the mob of warbloggers - expertise on fonts, typewriters, computers, etc. - was just a load of crap intended to destroy the credibility of the CBS story about their beloved chimp's problems in the military. The author of the analysis, David E. Hailey, Jr., was himself the subject of a mob attack by the warbloggers, no doubt also orchestrated by the same Republican operatives, starting with 'Buckhead', who organized the initial attack on CBS and Dan Rather (an attack which continues, and has expanded to include Dr. Hailey).

My initial supposition that this whole incident was a dirty trick by Karl Rove to head off valid attacks on Bush's highly questionable service record is not altered by the fact that the documents appear to have been created on the appropriate typewriter. Indeed, the organization behind the response to Hailey's legitimate attempts to get at the truth prove that the same dirty tricks department is still in full operation.

The trick would have been orchestrated by having copies of the actual Bush documents, or at least retyped versions of them typed on the right kind of typewriter, directed to CBS through Bill Burkett. At the same time, a completely bogus set of arguments purporting to refute the integrity of the documents was prepared and placed on the internet by the Republican operative known as 'Buckhead', amplified by the cacophony of warblogger voices adding their two cents worth. The disgusting American media picked up the story and made it into a personal attack on the credibility of Dan Rather and CBS News. CBS News tried to withstand the pressure, but was scared off by the fact that Burkett apparently misled them about the provenance of the documents. Without that provenance, and in the face of the wall of vicious personal attacks, CBS couldn't afford to wait for the facts to emerge, and caved in.

The beauty of the trick was that it used the actual damning documents from Bush's file, or possibly a very close facsimile of them altering some words to provide a fall-back position should the arguments of the warbloggers not work. As the documents were consistent with everything else CBS producers were able to discover about the service record of George Bush, CBS was easily fooled. Had Rove or his minions attempted to get cute and use significantly altered documents that were less damaging to Bush, either Burkett or the CBS producers might have smelled a rat.

The audacity of the trick is that it could very well have backfired if CBS has stood its guns and waited for all the information to emerge. Rove would have then shot himself in the foot by releasing documents that he otherwise could have kept locked away in the very compliant Pentagon. The large risk that was taken proves how important this issue is, and how dangerous the Republicans feel the truth would be to Bush. As it is, the scheme worked perfectly, and Bush's dodgy military record is no longer an election issue. People like Dr. Hailey need to be smacked down lest anyone start asking embarrassing questions about how this dirty trick worked.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Cartoon unease

The most apolitical of American daily cartoons are beginning to reflect a growing unease.

More truth serum, please

They have apparently started to administer truth serum in the asylum, with interesting results:

  1. Bremer of Baghdad claimed that the United States had insufficient troops to stop the lawlessness in Iraq, that he fruitlessly requested more troops from the Bush Administration, and that the Americans should have stopped the looting which took place after the American occupation began.

  2. Donald Rumsfeld said he knew of no "strong, hard evidence" linking Saddam Hussein with al Qaeda.

  3. Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group, reported that he found no evidence that Iraq produced weapons of mass destruction after 1991 and had no active programs to produce them, that Saddam Hussein's ability to develop such weapons had diminished during the years of sanctions, that Saddam intentionally stayed away from such weapons in order to get out from under the sanctions (i. e., the sanctions and UN inspections were working, just as critics of the attack have always maintained), and that there is no evidence that Saddam was passing weapons of mass destruction material to terrorist groups.

  4. Three quotes from the Poodle:

    • from BBC Radio 4 Today program on June 6, 2004:

      "Now let the survey group complete its work and give us the report ... They will not report that there was no threat from Saddam, I don't believe."

    • on July 14, 2004:

      "I have to accept, as the months have passed, it seems increasingly clear that at the time of invasion, Saddam did not have stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons ready to deploy."

    • on October 6, 2004 (note, pace Blair, that the report definitively shows that the sanctions were working to stop Saddam from having weapons of mass destruction):

      "Just as I accept that the evidence now is that there were no stockpiles of actual weapons ready to be deployed, others can be honest and accept that the report shows that sanctions were not working."

  5. A CIA report has found no conclusive evidence that Saddam Hussein harbored Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and there is no clear cut evidence that Saddam even knew Zarqawi was in Baghdad.

  6. From Israel, Dov Weisglass, a top Israeli official and advisor to Sharon, has admitted that Sharon's Gaza withdrawal plan was deliberately formulated to block peace negotiations with Yasser Arafat, and that Israel never intended to comply with the 'road map' or engage in any steps that could lead to the creation of a Palestinian state (my emphasis):

    "You know, the term 'peace process' is a bundle of concepts and commitments. The peace process is the establishment of a Palestinian state with all the security risks that entails. The peace process is the evacuation of settlements, it's the return of refugees, it's the partition of Jerusalem. And all that has now been frozen . . . . [W]hat I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns. That is the significance of what we did."

  7. Wall Street Journal reporter Farnaz Fassihi's 'leaked' email describes what things are really like in Iraq (i. e., what the disgusting American press won't let her officially write). For the horrible indiscretion of writing the truth, it appears likely that the War Street Journal will bar her from future reporting on Iraq.

To summarize, insufficient American troops in Iraq; no connection between Saddam and al Qaeda or Saddam and Zarqawi; no weapons of mass destruction or even programs for such weapons in Iraq under Saddam, all due to the sanctions and UN inspections; Israel, with American approval, is using the Gaza withdrawal plan to thwart any chance for peace negotiations with the Palestinians (and yet all the problems are apparently entirely the fault of the Palestinians); and the real situation in Iraq is not being reported in the disgusting American media (and you'll probably lose your job if you attempt to write anything close to the truth). More truth serum, please.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

E. Howard Hunt interview

The end of an interview by Ann Louise Bardach in Slate with E. Howard Hunt (Laura Hunt is Hunt's second wife, Hunt having lost his first wife to conspiracy theory):

"Slate:I know there is a conspiracy theory saying that David Atlee Phillips - the Miami CIA station chief - was involved with the assassination of JFK.

Hunt: [Visibly uncomfortable] I have no comment.

Slate: I know you hired him early on, to work with you in Mexico, to help with Guatemala propaganda.

Hunt: He was one of the best briefers I ever saw.

Slate: And there were even conspiracy theories about you being in Dallas the day JFK was killed.

Hunt: No comment.

Laura Hunt: Howard says he wasn't, and I believe him.

Slate: Any regrets?

Hunt: No, none. [Long pause] Well, it would have been nice to do Bay of Pigs differently."

Hunt, who no doubt considers himself a great American patriot, could prove it by telling what he knows. He's old and sick. Is he afraid they'll kill him if he talks?

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Bush's earpiece

Here is a website devoted entirely to the question of whether Bush is prompted by a voice transmitted to a hidden earpiece (note the comments at the end). They'll never admit to it - besides being cheating, it makes Bush look dumb, an issue the Republicans are presumably wary of - but if enough attention is paid to this issue it may be enough to scare them off from trying it again. If Bush is that incoherent and lame with help, just imagine what he'd be like on his own! I assume they will at least have the dosage of his meds adjusted for the next debate.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Serbia's revenge

Is this a picture of the hole in the Pentagon caused when Flight 77 crashed into it on September 11, 2001? How about this? No, but notice the damage caused to the building and the size of the hole and compare it to this picture of the damage to the Pentagon before the Pentagon wall collapsed. The two mystery pictures are from a series of pictures of the 'accidental' attack by NATO on the Chinese embassy in Belgrade on May 8, 1999 (see also this picture from this set). That attack was by three Tomahawk Cruise Missiles, all of which hit the same corner of the building just above ground level. As was the case with the Pentagon, most of the extensive damage to the building was caused by the subsequent fire. Note also the size and neatness of the hole left by a cruise missile attack on Milosevic's official residence (from a series of photos here). I have already made the same point with respect to the 'accidental' cruise missile attack on the Al Rashid Hotel in Baghdad. Anyone who is really interested might want to try to compare the oddly small (in diameter) debris in pictures of the Pentagon with pictures of pieces of cruise missiles found in Serbia (in the Pentagon pictures, click on 'Download high-resolution image' to obtain more detail).

Did Rove create 'George Bush'?

You read some things that are so unbelievable that you could never even imagine them to be true. Like the fact that George Bush never goes to church. Amy Sullivan writes:

"Around Washington, D.C., it's considered bad form to point out that Bush doesn't regularly attend church."


"If time and security aren't the reasons, what excuse does that leave? The very fact that the president doesn't attend church, some leading conservatives insist, is proof of what a good Christian he is. Unlike certain past presidents they could name but won't - ahem, cough, Bill Clinton - Bush doesn't feel the need to prove his religiosity. 'This president has not made an issue of where he goes to church,' says Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. 'I find it refreshing that we don't have a president coming out of church with a large Bible under his arm.' Conservatives relish this opportunity for a little gratuitous Clinton-bashing. In private, however, they admit the explanation doesn't hold up. 'I really don't get it,' one prominent Bush partisan told me. 'There's no reason why the president couldn't find a church around here if he wanted to.'"

We know that the whole 'ranch' in Crawford was built as a stage set so New England yuppie ex-cheerleader George Bush could be photographed as a manly man clearing brush with a chain saw. There is reason to believe, despite all the stories about how his born-again religion saved him from the horrors of alcohol, that Bush is still drinking. Is it just possible that all the many stories about Bush's profound religiosity are just another lie from the Rove lie machine? Who is George Bush, really? There are now allegations that he was being fed his lines in the latest debate through a hidden earpiece (not the first time this has been noticed: see here and here and scroll down to Bob White's posting of April 16, 2004 here). Excessive blinking, which some people have noticed in the debate, is a symptom of the use of certain kinds of stimulants, including Ritalin. I'm starting to wonder whether everything about George Bush - his background, his personality, his beliefs, and even what he says in public - is actually the creation of a public relations team turning an AWOL effete God-and-Jesus-hating alcoholic moron into someone an American might consider voting for.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

NYT aluminum tubes, yet again

The - ahem - New York Times manages to cough up a sixteen page article on the lies told by the Bush Administration on the Iraqi nuclear program centered around the infamous aluminum tubes without once mentioning the name of the main instigator of the whole aluminum tubes story, their own reporter, Judith Miller. They do, however, mention her article:

"A few days later, on Sept. 8., the lead article on Page 1 of The New York Times gave the first detailed account of the aluminum tubes. The article cited unidentified senior administration officials who insisted that the dimensions, specifications and numbers of tubes sought showed that they were intended for a nuclear weapons program.

'The closer he gets to a nuclear capability, the more credible is his threat to use chemical and biological weapons,' a senior administration official was quoted as saying. 'Nuclear weapons are his hole card.'

The article gave no hint of a debate over the tubes.

The White House did much to increase the impact of The Times' article. The morning it was published, Mr. Cheney went on the NBC News program 'Meet the Press' and confirmed when asked that the tubes were the most alarming evidence behind the administration's view that Iraq had resumed its nuclear weapons program. The tubes, he said, had 'raised our level of concern.' Ms. Rice, the national security adviser, went on CNN and said the tubes 'are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs.'

Neither official mentioned that the nation's top nuclear design experts believed overwhelmingly that the tubes were poorly suited for centrifuges."

Of course, a more cynical and realistic person would add some nuance to this report. Referring to Cheney's interview, here is Bob Simon of CBS News as quoted by Charles Layton in an article in the American Journalism Review:

"When Bob Simon heard about this interview, he told me, he smelled a rat. 'You leak a story to the New York Times,' he says, 'and the New York Times prints it, and then you go on the Sunday shows quoting the New York Times and corroborating your own information. You've got to hand it to them. That takes, as we say here in New York, chutzpah.'"

Given the fact that this whole mess was part of a larger Israeli intelligence operation, 'chutzpah' is probably a good word for it (and I wonder if CBS was the victim of the Texas document deception as a pay back for Simon's remarks). The ongoing inability of the New York Times to admit that its star reporter Judith Miller was working hand-in-hand with the Bush White House to create a basis of lies to fool the American people into an immoral and illegal war that has turned into a complete disaster for the United States is not just embarrassing for the Times. It also proves that Miller has support up to the highest levels of the Times, meaning that this deception was part of a deliberate plan approved by the paper. Who benefited? The American military-industrial complex and Israeli Likudniks. That's who the Times lies for. Since they can't admit the truth, we get to read sixteen page articles in which they makes fools of themselves trying to write around the simple fact that they didn't just report on this story, they made it up, and were an integral part in tricking the American people into war. Speaking of fools, the White House is still writing about 'Saddam Hussein's Development of Weapons of Mass Destruction' using the same words as appear in the first two paragraphs of Miller's article (someone should save the page before it falls into the memory hole).