Saturday, October 12, 2002
Green Berets move into Colombia's oil fields:
America has entered Colombia's 38-year civil conflict for the first time, deploying Green Berets to train government troops in a war-torn oil-rich province in the north.
Previous American military aid has been restricted to the war on drugs, but now President George W Bush is spending £60 million to train and equip Colombia's 18th Brigade in Arauca province, one of the most dangerous regions in the country, with both Left-wing guerrillas and Right-wing paramilitaries feeding off its oil wealth.
Friday, October 11, 2002
The Empire is always right.
hey, we're reporters, not mathematicians
you may have seen news of the congressional budget office's letter to congress which estimated the cost of an armed conflict with iraq.
you may also have seen where we previously have said, in a nutshell, "it's gonna be 'spensive!" the cbo offered two different scenarios, one relying heavily on ground troops, and one relying heavily on air attacks, both costing approximately, in round figures, a whole lot of money.
well, the gang over at cnn.com, not to be outdone by skippy and his staff, also posted their version of the same figures from the same letter from the same congressional budget office. now, when we say "their version," we don't mean to imply they made up different numbers than the ones in the letter to congress from the cbo; the did not. but they seemed to play fast and loose certain factors the cbo mentioned, and their story leaves the distinct impression that a war will cost a whole lot less than the figure that anyone who actually knows how to add would come up with.
cnn's opening paragraph: "the congressional budget office said tuesday that a u.s. war against iraq would cost between $9 billion and $13 billion, according to an initial estimate sent to the house and senate."
we're sorry, but no matter how many different ways we read that sentence, the meaning always comes out to be a war would cost between $9-$13 billion. period. not $8.5 billion, not $13.2 billion. pretty simple on the face of it.
however, if we examine the cbo letter to congress, the source of cnn's bold statement, we find these words in the second paragraph: "the incremental costs of deploying a force to the persian gulf...would be between $9 billion and $13 billion." [empahsis ours]. (that's just getting everybody and everything over there, even before we begin!)
the next three sentences in the cbo letter states: "prosecuting a war would cost between $6 billion and $9 billion a month--although cbo cannot estimate how long such a war is likely to last. after hostilities end, the costs to return u.s. forces to their home bases would range between $5 billion and $7 billion. further, the incremental cost of an occupation following combat operations could vary from about $1 billion to $4 billion a month."
so let's cut cnn some slack and assume the war will last less than a month (it very well could). and let's even give their argument more advantage by taking the lowest of the figures the cbo offered. and let's pretend that in some wild scenario, the u.s. doesn't spend one thin dime for occupational forces after the shooting is done. even with all those concessions to bolster cnn's point, anybody who passed third grade math can see that
...........................$9 billion - - - to get the stuff over there
plus....................$6 billion - - - to actually fight the durn thing
plus....................$5 billion - - - to get the survivors home
that's at least $7 billion more than the "$13 billion" ceiling that the opening paragraph announces, more than 50% higher than cnn claims it will cost!
now to be fair to cnn (or perhaps to even make them look stupider, we're not sure which), the article goes on to mention that it would cost extra money actually fight the thing, and to bring people home, and for further occupation of iraq afterwards, and it cites correct figures from the cbo letter.
to wit: the sixth paragraph of the cnn story, in toto (gee, and even toto knows how to add, and dorothy too):
"once u.s. troops, equipment and warplanes were in position to do battle, it would cost about $6 billion to $9 billion a month to run the war."
well, gosh, pardon our websters, but doesn't "running" a war count as the "cost" of war? who's doing these books, arthur andersen? we don't understand how the article can state unequivocally in its headline and opening paragraph that a war would "cost up to $13 billion" and then go on to mention figures that add up to, even with the lowball prices, far more than that number.
do they think flunked arithmetic? are we suppose to sit back and say, "put that calculator away, mildred, i trust these cnn figures implicitly. $13 billion is doable. good thing it's not $19 billion or something like that. let's send in some money now. what's the address of the pentagon again?"
we are sorry that cnn resorts to such blatant propaganda and fact-spinning as to put forth one figure as the cost, and then to set out other figures that, literally, don't add up.
but, what do you expect from a network that uses connie chung and paula zahn as anchors?
US dumping unsold GM food on Africa:
Two leading international environment and development groups accused the US yesterday of manipulating the southern African food crisis to benefit their GM food interests and of using the UN to distribute domestic food surpluses which could not otherwise find a market.
But while the EU and other countries have mostly given money for countries to buy food on the open market, US food aid to southern Africa has been tied to heavily subsidised GM food grown only in the US.
Thursday, October 10, 2002
Did Democratic ad subliminally fag-bash Republican opponent?
Here's the ad. It shows Taylor twenty years ago in a disco-era suit demonstrating how to give a facial as part of a hairdresser school video. The gay angle is implied not stated, and wouldn't even be noticed in an urban area like L.A. where I live. Apparently though, Montanans noticed.
Note: Democrats are responsible for the ad, not Republicans...
Unknown News is back.
I am listening right now to Robert Byrd live on the Senate floor. Tune in, why don't you? This is what the real America--if such a thing exists--is all about.
Away from the war: Over half of Americans say President Bush is more interested in protecting the interests of big corporations than ordinary Americans, according to a new CBS/New York Times poll. Some 56% say the national economy is in bad shape. [CBS].
And, perhaps not surprisingly, following a summer of revelations about corporate sleaze, executives are turning to private security companies and James Bond-style gadgets to keep angry ex-employees and stockholders at bay. [Yahoo].
Former Enron CFO Andrew Fastow did do the corporate 'perp walk' last week, was taken in handcuffs to the courthouse. But, say legal experts, people want more than a simple application of the law; they want justice. [NY Times]; [read more].
War Against Labor
All in time
Bush fires a Taft-Hartley bunker-buster for union-busters out west
So why can't the two sides even sit down at the table together?
The ILWU charges that the reason is much broader: that after decades of having to honor hard-fought union victories, the PMA is out to break the union. Further, union leaders and members have every belief that the Bush Administration intends to help -- in fact, has already done so by invokation of the Taft-Hartley Act, organized labor's single most loathed law.
"The problem isn't the beginning of Taft-Hartley," says Vance Lelli, a spokesman for ILWU Local 23 and president of the Pierce County (Tacoma, Wash.) Central Labor Council. "It's what [the Bush Administration] can invoke at the end of it -- the forced contracts, the concessions." [read more]
Always a fighter, always a terrorist
By Amira Hass
These are the rules of war as laid down over the last two years:
A Palestinian is a terrorist when he attacks Israeli civilians on both sides of the Green Line - in Israel and the territories - and when he attacks Israeli soldiers at the gates of a Palestinian city. A Palestinian is a terrorist when an army unit breaks into his neighborhood with tanks and he shoots at a soldier who gets out of a tank for a moment, and he is a terrorist when he is hit by helicopter fire and is holding a rifle. Palestinians are terrorists whether they kill civilians or soldiers.
The Israeli soldier is a fighter when he shoots a missile from a helicopter or a shell from a tank at a group of people who gather in Khan Yunis, after the fighter or one of his colleagues fires a shell or a missile at a house - from which the army says a Qassam rocket was fired - and kills a man and woman. He is a fighter when he encounters two armed Palestinians in the brush. The Israeli soldier kills armed people and kills civilians. He kills senior commanders of battalions of murderous terrorists and he kills kindergarten-aged children and the elderly in their homes. More accurately, they are killed by IDF fire. Most accurately, they are killed, claim Palestinian sources. [read more]
Wednesday, October 09, 2002
American Hero Robert Byrd Most Likely To Pull A Mr. Smith: "But while it appeared to be clear sailing for the measure in the GOP-led House, Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., served notice on other Democrats at a party luncheon that he intended to use parliamentary tactics to delay a final vote, according to those who attended the session."
Record Demand at Food Banks: "As Washington grapples with one of the nation's highest unemployment rates, a record number of the state's families are relying on food banks to stave off hunger."
From Relton DuPiniot, Blogeur: Cursor.org is always good, but especially today.
To Catch a Killer: "An NYPD detective on the cops' best chance to nab the D.C. sniper." Slate
Settlement tightens the noose on Jerusalem
The document that Abu Mazen's department has been drafting for the past month calls the settlements "colonies" and warns, "If the international community continues to remain unwilling to reign in Israeli colony construction and expansion, irreversible `facts on the ground' and the de facto apartheid system, such facts create will force Palestinian policy makers to re-evaluate the plausibility of a two-state solution."
According to the document, Israeli construction in the West Bank in general and in the area of Jerusalem in particular would leave the Palestinians with chances for a "state" in name only, that would more closely resemble an Indian reservation in the United States, with limited access to water and land. This is the opinion of the document's authors - a team of legal scholars, academics and geographers who have been working in the framework of what is called the "Jerusalem task force" for the past two years. [read more]
Tuesday, October 08, 2002
They're doing their best to calculate the cost (exclusive of the subsequent peace keeping and nation-building efforts - which we're sure to shirk as per our norm) of the promised war against the Iraqis. Will it be $50 billion? In excess of $80 billion? Somewhere between $100 billion and $200 billion? A definite figure, so far as I can tell, has yet to be reckoned.
What is certain is who will be paying for the war. The rich favored by Bush's mammoth $1 trillion+ tax cut won't be bearing any disproportionate share. The Iraqis will obviously bear the highest human costs, with the poor unfortunates comprising the US armed forces picking up the remainder of the tab. Good thing our Fearless Leader's got such a generous entitlement system ready for those returning in poorer order than when they shipped out. What a way to support the troops!
art imitates congress
last wednesday night marked the first appearance of sitting senator fred thompson as the new district attorney, arthur branch, on nbc's plow horse law and order.
senator thompson is no novice thespian. he costarred in a number of major hollywood productions before running for al gore's deserted senate seat in 1996. he replaced the inexplicably boring dianne wiest as the district attorney (she herself had replaced the incomparable steven hill, who is answer to the trivia question "who led the mission impossible force during the first year of that show?" extra points if you know the name of the character mr. hill played on imf).
for some reason, dianne wiest, who is a great actress, really sucked on that show. her character, nora lewin, was very uninvolving, and nothing about her performance really jumped out at the viewers. the most exciting thing she ever did on that show was be introduced, in her first episode, by america's mayor, rudy guiliani (who set the precedent for politicians moonlighting on dick wolf productions, we suppose). she was so uninteresting, we'd rather watch steven hill on his td waterhouse commercials.
but that's not the point of this rant, if there even is one. last night as we watched sen. thompson trade barbs with da jack mccoy and assistant da blondie barbie, or whatever her name is, mrs. skippy remarked "gee, do you think bill clinton will try to get a job on this show too?" (mrs. skippy is just as funny as skippy, and that's why he married her. we have no idea why she married him).
that got us to thinking. sen. thompson is still a sitting senator, working in congress, until the end of this year. we have spoken about sen. thompson's tv duties interfering with his day job here.
now, when rumors about bill clinton negotiating for a talk show were flying around the great echo chamber, there was such an indignant hew and cry coming from the screeching heads that you could fry an egg on your overheated tv set.
as it turns out, those rumors were just that: rumors. of course, that didn't stop anyone from decrying mr. clinton's lack of taste or dignity for contemplating something that it turned out he was never contemplating in the first place.
but mr. clinton was a private citizen when this was supposedly taking place. sen. thompson, if you'll notice our use of the title "senator," is still a senator.
take it from us, many of skippy's staff have worked on television shows (not law and order, but, buffy, fer shure!). it takes a lot of work and focus and energy and time and commitment. to be fair, none of us have ever been a senator. but we bet that takes at least as much work and focus and etc. as being a television actor. we are very unsure how anyone could do both at the same time.
trust us, it's hard enough to hold down a day job typing for insurance companies while trying to be in show biz, we can only imagine how difficult it would be to be a sitting senator (uh, mr. daschle, i can't be here for the vote on the resolution to invade iraq, i've got a...a dentist appointment. yeah, that's it. a dentist appointment. a 2 week dentist appointment. see yah.")
but we were unable to find any article or editorial online even approaching the reprimands that bill clinton got for maybe doing something in the future (which he never even was contemplating). with the exception of a piece that we ourselves first posted on sept. 2, which is no longer available on line. this is an excerpt from james brosnan, writing in the memphis commercial appeal:
"new episodes debut in late september. even though the part would require only two days a week of shooting in new york city, it could mean thompson would miss votes, committee hearings and other work. acting, like writing books, is one of the few exceptions to the senate ethics rules that bar outside earned income. but thompson has a moral obligation to voters to finish the job he hired on for six years ago. if he can't fulfill that role full-time, he should resign and let gov. don sundquist appoint an interim senator. or thompson should at least return a portion of his $150,000-a-year salary to taxpayers." (copyright 2002 the commercial appeal)
that's it. that's the only objection we could find to a sitting republican senator using his time as an actor. now, please don't misunderstand us. we think fred thompson is a fine actor, and we are looking forward to his work on law and order; maybe it will make it interesting again (we can dream, can't we?) he certainly can't be any worse than ms. wiest was.
but we just find it amazing at how the american media holds democrats to a different standard than republicans. oh, what the hell are we saying? we don't find it amazing at all. it's par for the course. what we find it as, is depressing. where's the fairness and balance? who stole america's sense of fair play?
where's goren and eames when you need them?
let's hope they never disappear skippy
we were sailing along with the uss clueless reading his post that refutes a discussion on metafilter about the upcoming war with iraq.
the value of metafilter or the points made therein aside, mr. de beste did say something that we felt obligated to respond to:
" i'm afraid our metafilterian friends wouldn't know a police state if it fell on their heads, or repression if it was shoved up their asses." [ed. note: we have no knowledge if this is a true statement or not, nor do we ever wish to personally find out, especially in regards to the later half of the sentence.] "but they might try looking across the pacific, at one of those marvelous socialist people's paradises where there aren't any corporate devils running things, to get some idea what real repression is like. here's a clue: it doesn't mean that people call you names or are contemptuous because of your silly opinions. it doesn't mean that they disagree with you vehemently. it even doesn't mean that you can lose your job because you're a writer who is moonlighting.
it means that you get arrested. it means you get charged with subversion. it means that you get given a brief trial, in secret, with the outcome predetermined. it means that you can go away and never come back."
he then goes on to detail an example of a man in china being arresting for posting subversive text on the internet; which a terrible, truly terrible reprehensible event that no right thinking person would ever condone.
now, for the moment, let's not even bother to point out to mr. de beste that for most rational people on the left (you there, over on the right, stop laughing, there are such people), that for most of us, communism has long since been in disfavor; we all know totalitarianism is not good.
we hate to break this to you, but that's exactly why we are arguing so loudly about mr. bush's current tinkering with the constitution now. and we wonder why mr. de beste has to look all the way across the pacific for an example of someone getting "arrested," "charged with subversion," a trial in "secret," and going "away without ever coming back."
for instance, take mr. bush and mr. ashcroft's liberal (sorry, didn't mean to touch a nerve, there) application of the term "enemy combatant" to various individuals that they have stuck away in little tiny cells somewhere without access to lawyers or charges being levied. we wonder if those people can be called "repressed."
and we aren't the only ones wondering. sens. levin and feingold have written a letter to the justice department asking for specific definitions as to the term "enemy combatant" (among the questions: time limits of detention, recourse available to challenge such designations, what process is involved for designating someone as such, etc etc). to our knowledge, mr. ashcroft has not responded (please, anyone with facts confirming or denying this, let us know).
now, in case mr. de beste doesn't feel that carl levin or russell feingold's questioning of mr. bush and mr. ashcroft's actions holds any water in this discussion, how about the cato institute?
"in the year since the september 11 attacks, civil liberties for some people have fallen into a surreal legal limbo," wrote robert a. levy last august 30. "yaser esam hamdi is an example." hamdi, a u.s. citizen, is "being detained indefinitely, without seeing an attorney, even though he hasn't been charged with any crime. jose padilla, who allegedly plotted to build a radiological 'dirty bomb,' is also a u.s. citizen. he, too, is being detained by the military - indefinitely, without seeing an attorney, even though he hasn't been charged with any crime. meanwhile, zacarias moussaoui, purportedly the 20th hijacker, is not a u.s. citizen. neither is richard reid, the accused shoe bomber. both have attorneys. both are being tried before federal civilian courts."
how about the case of mohammed azmath, who was arrested on a train in texas on 9/12 right after the attacks. he was luckier than the two men mentioned above, because he was eventually charged after three months. the crime the government accused this man of? credit card fraud.
"azmath was in solitary confinement from september 14, 2001, when he arrived at the metropolitan detention center in brooklyn, until he was transferred to the jail's general population sometime this august. he was assigned a lawyer only after he was charged with the credit-card crime, in december."
at least the buffalo six are getting bond hearings. slow as it may be, they are getting their constitutional rights.
there are many many other instances of people "disappearing" in the post 9/11 atmosphere, and many attempts by the judicial system to do what it can to correct this situation.
"secret arrests are 'a concept odious to a democratic society,' and profoundly antithetical to the bedrock values that characterize a free and open one such as ours," wrote us district judge gladys kessler, in a ruling ordering that the government release all names of all detainees being held in post 9/11 investigations (she later stayed that order pending appeal). judge damon j. keith, in a sixth district court of appeals hearing on the case of muslim clergyman rabih haddad, who had overstayed his tourist visa, wrote "democracies die behind closed doors."
so, is there a point to our ranting? maybe, we're not sure, we never are. we do not under any circumstance contend that living in communist china is better than living in mr. bush's america. we also do not maintain that america is anywhere near as repressed as china, or several hundred other governments in the world.
but we do think that the constitution is being slowly, and, we must admit, artfully, dissassembled before our very eyes. and we don't have to go too far afield to find repression. at least, more repression than there was just one administration ago.
(many thanks to talkleft for providing many links to stories to bolster our case.)
McGreevey Could Fire Poet Under Proposed Legislation:
A bipartisan group of legislators said today that they would introduce measures that would give Gov. James E. McGreevey the power to strip Amiri Baraka of his position as New Jersey's poet laureate.
The president of the State Senate, Richard J. Codey, Democrat of Essex, calling the message of the poem "outrageous, anti-Semitic, anti-American," said he would introduce a bill that would "provide for the removal of a poet laureate who fails to represent the best interests of the state."
The ADL Smear Campaign Against Me
I Will Not Resign, I Will Not Apologize
by AMIRI BARAKA
The recent dishonest, consciously distorted and insulting non-interpretation of my poem, "Somebody Blew Up America" by the "Anti-Defamation" League, is fundamentally an attempt to defame me. And with that, an attempt to repress and stigmatize independent thinkers everywhere. [read more]
Monday, October 07, 2002
The violence continues but there is a court case that is important to follow. Marwan Barghouti is being prosecuted by the Israelis. Barghouti is an interesting case. He used to be a Palestinian peace activist but has become more militant in recent years. He is also one of the front runners to replace Arafat. The Israelis are using this case to prosecute the entire Intifada, while Barghouti is trying to turn it back against the Israelis. The Israelis are putting on a show trial but they may end up with more then they bargained for.
What a Show!
by Uri Avnery
Who doesn't remember the picture: a Jew is put on trial in Moscow as a Zionist spy. Family members and friends come to observe the trial but are turned away. No place left, they are told, all the seats have already been taken. And indeed, KGB agents have filled the hall early, and with the entrance of the accused start to shout: "Traitor!" "Spy!" "Kill him!"
The day before yesterday I witnessed something frighteningly similar in Tel-Aviv. [read more]
Now that the Barghouti trial has begun
The disturbances in the courtroom and the disorder last week that accompanied the prosecution's request to extend Barghouti's remand until the proceedings against him are completed made it clear to everyone that what had been intended as a fair trial is being presented to the world as a political trial, and this is having reverberations. Thus any judiciary decision, such as the one that will determine the question of whether the Israeli court indeed has the judiciary authority to try him, will be received only as a decision in which the dominant motive is not necessarily a legal one. What has been achieved thus far has been the granting of a convenient stage from which Barghouti can have his say. [read more]
Court to Review Copyright Law
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments this week over the constitutionality of a 1998 law that extended copyright protection by 20 years. Experts on both sides of the closely watched case say that its outcome could reshape the way cultural products are consumed and how their profits are divided.
The court's decision will determine whether a host of material — including early Mickey Mouse movies, Cole Porter songs and Robert Frost poems — will become available for free to the public or remain in the control of their copyright holders. [read more]
Music Industry in Global Fight on Web Copies
Having vanquished the music swapping service Napster in court, the entertainment industry is facing a formidable obstacle in pursuing its major successor, KaZaA: geography.
Sharman Networks, the distributor of the program, is incorporated in the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu and managed from Australia. Its computer servers are in Denmark and the source code for its software was last seen in Estonia. [read more]
Issei Sagawa... Ringo Hana Mikan (Apples, Flowers and Oranges. 1986). "...This Still Life was painted by Issei Sagawa, who has been studying art since the age of five, and was studying art on the Sorbonne in Paris when he was convicted of killing and dining upon the flesh of Renee Hartevelt, a fellow student from Holland." From The Gentleman Ghoul of Japan: Issei Sagawa.
15 Palestinians Die Over the Weekend, Media Yawns
The dead included teenagers, children, the elderly and at least one man killed by Jewish settlers as he picked olives. 10 more were cut down outside a mosque as Israeli missles slammed into a crowd of people who had emerged from their homes as the word went through town that the Israelis were leaving. Despite the high body count, the US media paid little attention to the dead in sharp contrast to the front-page images and stories that follow each and every suicide bomb attack.
Austin Against War: Cooler heads will prevail
What began as a march through the capital of Texas, closing the streets to all thoroughfare, spreading a beam of democracy through the heart of Texas, would end in a debate, that in my mind validates the whole reason for showing up.
The stage: 1500 to 2500 Austinites not willing to submit to the new world order from such varied political affiliation, it's as if the whole pig/wing experiment was a success.
Mike Hanson (candidate for Travis County Commissioner) was there in the crowd championing the "Ron Paul" mentality, standing shoulder to shoulder to the green, anarchist and socialist communities. Not a word of indifference; united against a common enemy.
Enter stage left: The bushbots...
Sunday, October 06, 2002
Though the warbloggers and their ideological brethren prefer to get their appraisals of Iraqi might from Judith Miller (read: The Administration), the know-nothings at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists charge that Iraq is much further from nuclear weapons capability than our Fearless Leader says. A current Bulletin editorial states "that Iraq is not as close as it was before the Gulf War," which they believe wasn't all that close.