American Samizdat Guernica
Saturday, January 17, 2004
by Lynn Landes
 
The Michigan Democratic Party wants to use Internet voting for their primary, and Landes has a few problems with that. On her list is the fact that candidates Dean and Clark have not come out against this (the others have), and that the Internet is "the most insecure voting technology on face of the planet". Well, I have a few problems with what Lynn is saying here, before I demolish what she is saying, I will give her credit for suggesting a return to paper for the upcoming elections. I really don't see any other implementable solution, given the time constraints.

That said, we must remember the "chads" and Florida, 2000. Paper is hardly infallible, and it's fallibility is hardly restricted to hanging chads. I side with those who Lynn has mentioned who want machine produced paper ballots that then become the actual vote itself. This would remove entirely the need for an audit of any voting machines that were actually used by voters. If an error occurred on that paper ballot, it could simply be torn up, and the voter could vote again. If a similar problem occurred on that same voting machine, local offficials would be immediately aware of it, and could simply disable that machine. All of this would be fully observable by poll watches from any party that chose to have one present.

But on to my objections.



Objection #1: The is nothing inherently wrong with Internet voting that is not shared by every other method voting, including paper. The Internet is what you make it, and quite secure technologies exist for relatively safe voting via the Internet. Certainly no worse than other technologies. I don't particuarly agree with this Internet voting proposal (see "Objection #2 below"), not because it cannot be made fairly secure, but rather because they simply do not have time to implement it in that fashion. Above all, computer systems cannot be rushed, and this is exactly what the Michigan Democrats seem to be trying to do.

Objection #2: Primaries do not elect people. They are simply one technique that political parties use to select the candidate that they will put forward on the general election ballot. Given that all parties are essentially private organizations, each of those organizations should be fully free to select whatever method of selection they wish to determine their candidate. While I may not agree with a party's chosen method of selection, it is really none of my business unless I am a member of that party. If the method is agreeable to the members of that party, that is their business. If their method of selecting their candidate is not effective, then they will fail to put forth electable candidates until they change their method. But that is strictly their business, even if Michigan democrats want Internet voting.

Objection #3: Landes starts this article by taking a swipe at George Soros that simply is not justified:
Let's start with billionaire George Soros, the Democrats anointed billionaire savior. They should get to know him better. According to voting rights activists, Soros is a proponent of Internet voting, the most insecure voting technology on face of the planet. He's also a disciple for Direct Democracy (i.e., the initiative process). Think about that. For anyone who wants to control a government, the combination of the Internet voting and Direct Democracy is a fascist's dream-team. Through control of vote-counting technology, not only could "someone" pick our legislators, they could also pass their own legislation. They could be a true Wizard of Oz.
Aside from the condescending tone ("anointed billionaire savior"), the fact that Soros is in no way involved in the Michigan voting decision and therefore irrelevent to this article. Landes is simply wrong in her insinuation that Soros might have some fascist leanings. In fact, I might suggest that it is Landes herself that needs to get to know Soros better. A good way to do this would be to read the speech delivered by Soros (Jan. 12, 2004) at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C., an event that served as the official release of his book, "The Bubble of American Supremacy."

In this speech, Soros skewers the Bush administration for its decision to invade Iraq, and indeed, it may be almost solely for this action that he wishes to see Bush defeated in the coming election:

Underlying the Bush doctrine is the belief that international relations are relations of power not law, and that international law merely serves to ratify what the use of power has wrought.

This dogma can be very appealing especially when you are powerful, but it contradicts the values that have made America great. And the rest of the world cannot possibly accept it.

and
The invasion of Iraq was the first practical application of the Bush doctrine and the rest of the world had an allergic reaction to it. Nobody had a good word to say about Saddam Hussein yet the overwhelming majority of the people and governments of the world opposed the invasion because we did it unilaterally, indulging in pre-emptive military action.
and
If we reelect Bush in 2004 we endorse the Bush doctrine and we will have to live with the consequences. We shall be regarded with widespread hostility and terrorists will be able to count on many sympathizers around the world. We are liable to be trapped in a vicious circle of violence, ... 2004 is not an ordinary election; it is a referendum on the Bush doctrine. The future of the world hangs in the balance.
Powerful words, but perhaps one could have opposed the invasion of Iraq in this fashion and still have anti-democratic leanings. Perhaps one can even oppose the Bush doctrine of power by force in a similar fashion. But Soros goes on to explain why he feels this way:
Perhaps I am more sensitive to the dangers than most Americans because of my background. I was born in Hungary and I am Jewish. The Nazis occupied Hungary and the Jews were deported. I would have perished if my father had not had the foresight to procure false identities for his family. Then Hungary was occupied by the Soviet Union and my life could have been wasted if I had not emigrated. So I learnt at a very early age how important it is what kind of social system prevails. I chose freedom, first in England and then in America.
But it is even more telling that at this point, Soros invokes the name Karl Popper:
As a student I was greatly influenced by Karl Popper, the philosopher. He showed that there was something common to both the Nazis and the Communists. They believed they had the final answers. But the ultimate truth is not within our reach. So the final answers can be imposed only by force or repression. He advocated a different approach: A social system based on the recognition that nobody is in possession of the ultimate truth and might is not necessarily right.
This is critical to understanding George Soros. The fact of the matter is that one cannot be an admirer of Karl Popper without the complete belief that the democratic voting process is not only the best form of government, but indeed the only form of government that actually works.

Few outside of those who have studied philosophy have heard of Karl Popper, but that is also true of most philosophers. Great philosophical works are hardly bedtime reading. One must "eat" these works with intensity, much as one approaches a Thanksgiving feast. Popper has written two such works, both direct descendents of Immanuel Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason" (1781), in which Kant demonstrated that for human beings, captive to their own limited senses, absolute knowledge is impossible.

If this was so, thought Popper, what to make of science? Could it be that science does not prove anything, and if this is the case, what good is science? Popper's answer comes in "The Logic of Scientific Discovery" (1935), in which he argued that it is not the role of science to prove anything, but rather to establish theories in such a manner that they can be proven false ("falsifiablity"). When a scientific theory is established in this manner (and all real scientific theories are; "creation science" is a theory, but it is not a scientific theory because it is not stated in a falsifiable manner), they are either proven false or become accepted as "the current state of science". This acceptance is not proof that the theory is correct; merely that no one has yet proven it false. But it remains as "science" until someone can.

In fact, argued Popper, this explains exactly how scientific discoveries gradually replace each other, earlier ones being approximations, and later ones being simply refinements of those approximations. Just as Newtonian physics was "the answer" for hundreds of years until being superceded by the physics of Einstein, so also with all of science. Of course, this was not the work of Popper's to which Soros was referring, but it important to understand, as it is at the core of what becomes Popper's later masterpiece (and the one to which Soros referred), "The Open Society and Its Enemies" (1945).

At the time "The Open Society" was written, many were arguing that democracy was "inefficient"; that the overhead of educating voters created a drag on changes to government (i.e., law) that might be necessary. The American system was successful merely because of the great natural resources they possessed, but, all other things being equal, an aristocratic form of government could certainly implement needed reforms far more quickly and therefore more efficiently. (This coincides with the Platonic philosphy (embraced by Strauss and his heirs, the Neocons) that a "gifted elite" was the best form of government.)

No, argued Popper, in perhaps the most brilliant re-write of a philosophical work ever. Whatever the current form of government, that is merely today's approximation of the best government. But since human beings can never have absolute knowledge of anything, that government must also be falsifiable. It must be open to examination to anyone who can prove it to be "wrong". And the only system of governing that Popper saw that allowed for this is democracy. Popper had simply looked at the "efficiency" of "scientific discovery", and he applied it to governments. The "open society" of science, in which anyone can prove a theory to be wrong, was identical to governments. They are merely a "best approximation" of what a government should be, and only democracy allowed for the successive refinements needed to advance it in the exact same manner in which scientific discovery advances.

And this is what George Soros believes. It is also why Lynn Landes is way of base in this criticism. One cannot be merely "influenced" by Popper. One either "gets it", or one does not. George Soros gets it.

This article previously appeared on Black Box Notes.

 
Welcome to Dick Cheney's World of Endless War.
Cheney devoted the (Los Angeles World Affairs Council) speech to a frightening characterization of the war on terrorism and the new kind of mobilization he said it demanded. He sounded the alarm about the increasing prospects of a major new terrorist attack and the extraordinary responses that are required. While many of his remarks echoed past comments by the president and senior officials, Cheney struck a surprisingly dour note and suggested only an administration of proven ability could manage the dramatic overhaul necessary for the nation's security apparatus. ...

He also said the administration was planning to expand the military into even more overseas bases so the United States could wage war quickly around the globe.



The actual text of Cheney's speech is here. Some significant gems on domestic policy from it:
Strong growth has also begun to bring down the unemployment rate -- and that is a critical objective ...
This is total garbage. The last employment report showed the creation of a mere 1,000 new jobs. The unemployment rate dropped because 300,000 people ran out of the unemployment benefits that the administration refused to extend.
Our administration and Congress have also addressed other urgent needs in domestic policy -- among them ... reforms in the forest management to help prevent the kind of catastrophic wildfires you have seen here in Southern California this past year.
Garbage again. He is referring to the "Healthy Forests" initiative, a boon-doggle for the logging industry. In fact, the logging industry has no interest in the area of the southern California fires, and in fact, widefires are caused by accumulated groundcover, not by the trees that logging companies are interested in cutting.

Starting in on foreign policy:

Then ... came the announcement by Libya's Colonel Muammar Ghadafi that his regime would voluntarily reveal and dismantle its nuclear and chemical weapons programs, as well as its longer range missiles and biological weapons-related efforts ... the welcome commitments from Colonel Ghadafi, will bring greater security to the American people, and to our friends and allies.
Garbage again. Ghadafi's WMD programs were in tatters and he had no hope of ever achieving any military capability from them.

But then he really starts to kick it:

Yet especially in moments of success, we need to remember the long-term nature of the struggle we are in, and the serious dangers that still exist.
Mind you, we're only two minutes through Cheney's 30 minutes at the podium at this point, and over half of that time and 90% of his actual speech is about all war all of the time. Some selected excerpts:
On the very night this nation was attacked, President Bush declared that the United States would make no distinction between terrorists and those who support them. This principle, it's come to be known as the Bush doctrine ...
Well yeah, Dick, but that's a no-brainer. You forgot to mention that little bit about pre-emptive war. That's the real Bush doctrine. It was also the basis of the Neurenburg trials.
Saddam Hussein had a lengthy history of reckless and sudden aggression. His regime cultivated ties to terror, including the al Qaeda network, ... Year after year, the U.N. Security Council demanded that he account for those weapons and that he comply with all the terms of the 1991 Gulf War cease-fire. Year after year, he refused.
This is over the line of sanity, Dick. He had "a lengthy history" starting in 1959 of being sponsored by the CIA. And that al Qaeda crap? Even your own boss says that isn't true. And are you forgetting Saddam's 8,000 page declaration where he said he had disarmed? Well, where are they, Dick?Where are the WMDs?
We have, today, more than 125,000 Americans serving in Iraq. They are confronting terrorists every day in that country, so that we do not one day meet the same enemies on the streets of our own cities. At the same time, American and coalition forces are treating Iraqi citizens with compassion, ...
Oh, come on, Dick. Attacks against soldiers are not terrorist acts, no matter how much all of us hate them. And that "compassion" bit? Plowing down houses and farms? Killing protesters just wanting jobs? The Halliburton faux-rehabs of schools? Give me a break.
The use of military force is, for the United States, always the last option in defending ourselves and our interests. But sometimes the last resort must be taken.
Yeah, like right after Saddam's people contacted Richard Perle and offered what amounted to a total surrender?
As President Bush has said, America seeks the "global expansion of democracy, and the hope and progress it brings, ..."
Try starting at home, Dick.
And as the world has witnessed in ... Afghanistan, people liberated from dictatorship welcome the arrival of freedom, welcome the chance for a better life, welcome the responsibilities of governing their own country.
Yeah, they're also welcoming the re-birth of their opium industry. Bumper crop next year, from what I hear.

But now we're on to the Q&A:

Illegal immigration: There's no question it's a serious problem. The President last week announced a new initiative ... where they, in effect, come in when they know there is a job there, a job that an American will not fill, to regularize that flow. ... It's also a humane measure, as well, at the same time.
This is the re-legalization of slavery, Dick. I know you don't understand this crap, being what you are, but there's no path from these jobs to citizenship, and that's what they most want. And as for an American not taking a job? All an employer has to do is offer minimum wage for a carpenter and an illegal will gladly agree. Race to the bottom, Dick? So very humane.
Israel/Palestine: The difficulty we have -- and it is a continuing problem -- is that after years of effort, it's become clear that as long as Yasser Arafat is the interlocutor on behalf of the Palestinians, as long as he is in control, we think any serious progress is virtually impossible.
Think Democracy, Dick. Remeber what that is? It's the system that didn't elect you? And Arafat scores 90% of the Palestinian vote? No wonder you don't want to deal with him.
Department of Defense: I think if I had to speculate that we'll see -- one of the legacies of this administration will be some of the most sweeping changes in our military, and our national security strategy as it relates to the military, and force structure, and how we're based, and how we used it in the last 50 or 60 years, probably since World War II. I think the changes are that dramatic.
Speculate, Dick? As if you weren't driving it all? And as for the drama? Spare me.

But remember, these are just small snippets from a 30 minute appearance during which Cheney spent the majority of his time telling us that we would be at war for generations. You could carve out your own set of quotes from this and trash this idiot savant even more.

But the point is: Is this guy serious? If he is, then he is a very sick man, ... and we ain't talkin' pacemakers here.

This post previously appeared on Benedict@Large.

 
I guess you had to be a Shaman to see this coming. Well, Call Me "Shaman", because I was waiting for this, fully knowing that it was coming.

The plan was simple. Rather than spend money on a Madison Ave ad campaign, MoveOn would simply appeal to their many members. Certainly there were a few that would be able to come up with quality 30 second issue ads for them to air. And indeed there were. Quite a few, in fact. The winning ad was "Child's Pay" [about 4Megs, and you need QuickTime], and the plan was to run it during the Super Bowl. Oops!

It seems that CBS, owned by media giant Viacom and the network airing the Super Bowl, has declined MoveOn's request to air that ad during the Super Bowl. A single 30-second ad on the Super Bowl costs a record $2.25 million, but CBS doesn't want it? [Advertisers already signed up include Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo and Philip Morris, the tobacco giant. Several Hollywood studios have also pre-booked slots to promote forthcoming movies. The British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline is using the event to launch Levitra, a rival to anti-impotence drug Viagra. Sex is OK for the Super Bowl, but issues are not.]

In announcing their decision however, CBS went much further; they will never air any MoveOn ad due to their "longstanding policy of not airing issue ads". Oh, really? The anti-national healthcare "issue ads" you ran back in 1993? Come on, CBS. Get real. You are bowing down before the threat of Karl Rove's punishment. After all, you are the network that caved about playing the Reagan docu-drama, aren't you?

Of course, this is just the beginning. Watch for NBC (owned by GE), ABC (owned by Disney), and naturally (the Rupert Murdoch-owned) FOX to quickly fall in line. In other words, MoveOn has $7.5 million to spend on ads, and none of the networks want it. Suddenly, all of these networks have found some "higher morality" as they devote their coverage to helicopters following Michael Jackson's limosine.

Friday, January 16, 2004
A Flash presentation by Eric Blumrich honoring MLK, Jr.'s stance on militarism.

The 2004 World Social Forum is currently going on in Mumbai, India. Follow the events over the next few days via the India IMC.
 
FindLaw's John Dean reviews the right-wing's fantasy of an imperial Presidency, last substantially addressed by the Supreme Court during the Nixon administration. At that time, three cases were brought before the court arguing against Nixon's excesses, and each time Nixon's power was clipped. The final case of course involved Nixon trying to prevent the Watergate Special Prosecutor from obtaining tapes of his Oval Office conversations. Losing that case of course cost him his Presidency.

And the right-wing's imperial Presidency fantasy is once again alive and kicking:

Not inaccurately, the Bush presidency has been called imperial ... The evidence? Its "preemptive" and "preventive" military policy, its contentions that it can go to war regardless of whether Congress approves, its policies calling for American world domination, and its unprecedented blending of national security policy and domestic law enforcement. In my view, these policies and positions not only easily establish the Bush presidency as imperial, they also rank it beyond anything in the annals of the modern American presidency. This may be the most imperial Presidency our history has yet seen. ...

The fact that five cases currently before the Supreme Court address the question of presidential powers -- and whether or not the Bush presidency has exceeded them -- speaks for itself. Bush has had almost twice as many such cases before the Court as Nixon had, in half the time.

Indeed, five cases are currently awaiting review by the Court with a sixth that the Court refused to hear. All but one of these cases involve the civil rights (or lack thereof) of people detained by the government, with the other case being Cheney v. Judicial Watch and Sierra Club. This last case involves the "right" of Vice President Dick Cheney to refuse to turn over documents from the Energy Task Force held in March, 2001.

Dean himself offers no analyses on these cases, but clearly, the Cheney case could prove to be the most threatening to the administration itself. The detainee cases, if lost by the administration, would simply invovle the implementation of procedural changes regarding its detention policies. The Cheney case however is more similar to the Watergate tapes case in that if lost it would provide an open window into the secret workings of the administration. The damage of course would then depend on what was then viewed through that window, and this could be disasterous. We would almost certainly see that the vice president was dividing up the spoils of an Iraq war a full six months before 9/11. Worse still, we might see that Cheney was also doing this for Afghanistan, something my research shows to be a high probability. If this were to prove to be the case, the only question left then would be whom to impeach.

 
Paul Krugman does. So do Howard Dean and Wesley Clark.
Most political reporting on the Democratic race, it seems to me, has gotten it wrong. Some journalists do, of course, insist on trivializing the whole thing: what I dread most, in the event of an upset in Iowa, is the return of reporting about the political significance of John Kerry's hair.

But even those who refrain from turning political reporting into gossip have used the wrong categories. Again and again, one reads that it's about the left wing of the Democratic party versus the centrists; but Mr. Dean was a very centrist governor, and his policy proposals are not obviously more liberal than those of his rivals.

The real division in the race for the Democratic nomination is between those who are willing to question not just the policies but also the honesty and the motives of the people running our country, and those who aren't.

Indeed it is.
 
Murder, though it hath no tongue, will speak with most miraculous organ.Chris Floyd:
It's all out in the open now. The fact that the president of the United States and his top advisers deliberately concocted a false case for an illegal and unnecessary war -- in plain terms, that they committed cold-blooded, premeditated mass murder -- was confirmed last week by the most impeccable mainstream sources: George W. Bush's own Cabinet officials, speaking for the record in America's major media.

Remarkably, the "extremist views" and "paranoia" of the "lunatic fringe" -- those "Bush-bashers" who for months proclaimed that the Regime's lust to conquer Iraq was part of a long-planned scheme of looting and dominance that had nothing to do with September 11, 2001 or defending America from terror -- are now issuing from the mouths of the Regime's inner circle.

"Who, then, are the lunatics?"
Thursday, January 15, 2004
 
Jim Kirwan is back! If you are not familiar with Jim, he's a full left-winger and a great graphic artist.

In this, his newest article, he suggests that we got Bush II because we failed to fully prosecute all the crimes of Republican operatives from Nixon on forward. I'm not sure if Jim is right, but he is in at least one sense: we didn't prosecute these bastards when we had them nailed. And look at the crimes they are commiting now, feeling quite sure that they can now do so with impunity.

What I See...


Here's a newer and better pic of the red planet. You know, to you, it might just look like a buncha rocks. But I see direct democracy, absolute civil liberties, and the nan driven economy. We don't even need a basic income guaranteed because we're self sufficient in terms of housing and food and air. Plus, the nan bots kiss our toes and massage our neural pleasure centers. I also see a place where I can get laid and take relatively harmless drugs without getting arrested, although I do understand that you can get the really dangerous alcohols and cigs on the red planet's black market. I see cities named Metropolis and Gotham and Teen Town. I see them thriving 24 hours a day full of bazaars and festivals and mayhem. Everybody who works likes what they do. That's what I see. It's all a matter of perspective.

Then there's the Bush plan. I used to have these arguments with my right wing cousin Todd Jackson about how horrible American exploration would look if it was done under current "American" rules. An outer space where I wouldn't get health care and probably get tossed out of an airlock if I was found defective in any way or hated America. I wrote a story about it called "The Drear and Thoroughly Depressing Jackson Todd Continuum". In that story, I imagine an open sourced solution to gravity propulsion where the United States creates a Microsoft-only, slave labor space station and where the EU takes Mars and makes it a decent place to live.

Don't get me wrong. I think we should go to Mars, and I agree with my Better Humans editor Simon Smith that self-directed evolution would go a long way toward making the trip more beneficial. Does anyone recall the horror show that was Frederick Pohl's "Man Plus"?...That was just a bionic freakshow left alone on Mars. We could do all that stuff cleaner and smaller with an evolved form of biotech and nan. Another corporate horror show disguised as Solar system exploration would have to be John Barnes' "Orbital Resonance" which I once described as Anne Frank writing from a Brave New World.

But it's important that we get off the planet. Can't keep all of our eggs in one basket.



But, again, there's the Bush plan. By the time he's done it will look like a massive giveaway to the usual suspects. I guess space will be the fourth arm of this century's Iron Triangle. Dean has always had a plan to go to Mars by the way. I'm hoping that he does it the right way, which means turning the Pentagon's spending into peaceful, cooperative space exploration. This is the opposite of using space exploration as a cover for the military dominion of space, which is probably the true meaning of the Bush plan for space.



Wednesday, January 14, 2004
Is Paul O'Neill backpedaling on the information he gave that Mr Bush and company were planning the Iraq invasion from the get-go of the Bush administrations residency in the White House?
On ABC news an unidentified source corraborates the truth of O'Niell's view.
Information Clearing House makes it really easy to see that much of the Bush cabinet, folks like Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush's brother Jeb and his Chief of Staff Lewis Libby were commited to attacking Iraq well before the Supreme Court Justices selected Mr Bush for the Presidency.

Back in 1996 Richard Perle and Douglas Feith were involved in the paper for The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies’ Study Group on a New Israeli Strategy Toward 2000 entitled "A Clean Break:
A New Strategy for Securing the Realm
" advocating the overthrow of Saddam Hussein as a pressing Israeli problem.

The article "Dick Cheney's Song of America" by David Armstrong points out Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell's involvement, Cheney's advocacy is seen going back to 1990. Wolfowitz turns up here too.

A quote from Mr Bush reported in Time Magazine, March 2002 :
“Fuck Saddam,” Bush said. “We’re taking him out.”


Pretty incriminating, don't you think...
Ronald Reagan on the face of the dime? I'm not having it. I mean, the guy's not even dead yet, and you're not supposed to do things like that until after people die. That's kind of like saying you wish the person was dead, and that's not nice.

But that's not why I don't want him on the dime. Look, you know when you pick some change out of your pocket and find one that looks funny and you think, "Oh, that's probably just some small piece of devalued curreny from some third world nation," and then you promptly throw it away? Well, I know what the dime looks like, and if it starts looking different, I'll probably just start throwing it away. Yeah, I know that it's just some small piece of devalued curreny from some first world nation, but putting Ron's bust on it, isn't that kind of like having him saying, "Hey, I'm the guy who devalued this!"

But there's a bigger (or smaller) reason than that. Put it this way: The dime's too damned small. I mean, it's the smallest coin we have and that's hardly befitting of the size of the legend of the man. I mean, we could put him on a new silver dollar, but what with that Susan B. Anthony thing being a flop, I'd hate for a similar fate to befall Ron. Then we'd have to go through this whole argument again over which dollar bill to put him on and who we had to kick off to do so. And I've even thought about that a bit.

Look, the biggest bill we print anymore is the hundred. Come on. Is that really big enough to befit the man's legendary status? And if we start printing something bigger, it's liable to just be Susan B. Anthony redux, and then we'd be right back where we started.

So I was thinking about this, because you know that they're not going to let up until they get something of more significance than an airport or some obscure federal building. And I think I've come up with the perfect answer: Mars. Yup, the Red Planet. Think about it. Isn't he supposed to be the guy that ended the Red Planet on Earth? So what could be more befitting than renaming Mars after him? And you really can't get much bigger than Mars.

Besides, it fits in nicely with Bush's new Mars Mission plans, which apparently have not been very well received in some Republican camps. But if you're going to actually name the planet after Ron, well, what Republican wouldn't support the plan then?

And it does solve the problem of what to do when we get there. I mean, it would be just too corny to try one of those "one small step for man" pronouncements again. So instead we can have the official renaming ceremony as we plant the flag there. It'd be a TV ratings coup.

And then we could all go outside at night and look up in the sky and say, "Ah, there you are Ronald Reagan, bigger than life." And it will be true!

Besides, it would almost be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Back when Ron was still President, someone asked me, "Is that man from Mars?" And even back then I thought he was.

abcnews confirms what most of blogtopia (y!wctp!) has been speculating for the past 6 months: the rate of suicide among soldiers stationed there is higher than normal:

u.s. soldiers in iraq are killing themselves at an unusually high rate, despite the work of special teams sent to help troops deal with combat stress, the pentagon's top doctor said wednesday…

winkenwerder said the military has documented 21 suicides during 2003 among troops involved in the iraq war. eighteen of those were army soldiers, he said.

that's a suicide rate for soldiers in iraq of about 13.5 per 100,000, [assistant secretary of defense for health affairs dr. william] winkenwerder said. in 2002, the army reported an overall suicide rate of 11.1 per 100,000.

the overall suicide rate nationwide during 2001 was 10.7 per 100,000, according to the federal centers for disease control and prevention.
by contrast, only two u.s. military personnel killed themselves during the 1991 persian gulf war, although that conflict only lasted about a month. the army recorded 102 suicides during 1991 for a rate of about 13.5 per 100,000.
however, nothing was said in the article about the possibility that some of those suicides may have been self-inflicted wounds (for the purposes of going home on medical leave) gone horrible awry...


cross-posted at the usual two places, as well as stand down.
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
We saw the press beat up on Al Gore last election cycle. From what I see of mainstream media Howard Dean is suffering at the same hands. That last link is from Salon, if you are not a member you'll need to get a free day pass to view it. No matter which candidate you favor to unseat the current team in residence that utilizes the "Big Lie" technique of governance you owe it to yourself to read "The Media vs Howard Dean"
Saddam Hussein warned his Iraqi supporters to be wary of joining forces with foreign Arab fighters entering Iraq to battle American troops, according to a document found with the former Iraqi leader when he was captured, Bush administration officials said Tuesday.

The document appears to be a directive, written after he lost power, from Mr. Hussein to leaders of the Iraqi resistance, counseling caution against getting too close to Islamic jihadists and other foreign Arabs coming into occupied Iraq, according to American officials.

It provides a second piece of evidence challenging the Bush administration contention of close cooperation between Mr. Hussein's government and terrorists from Al Qaeda. C.I.A. interrogators have already elicited from the top Qaeda officials in custody that, before the American-led invasion, Osama bin Laden had rejected entreaties from some of his lieutenants to work jointly with Mr. Hussein.
Monday, January 12, 2004
Dispatch from Eastern Blogistan
From Relton, Le Blogeur: Hello friends and associates from around the world! Thank you for the opportunity to post here via AQ. Today I recommend randomWalks, an excellent site run by wonderful people who care about you.
"We the People" are living beyond our means- US consumer debt is at an all time high, to the tune of 2.004 trillion dollars. Consumer debt hit the 1 trillion dollar mark for the first time in US history ten years ago in December of 1994. Add in the nations mortgages and the figure is a wapping 9 trillion dollars Americans owe their creditors.

Personal bankruptcies are at a historic high (.PDF link) as well, with 1,625,813 filed in Fiscal year 2003, reflecting an increase of 98 percent since 1994.

The incidence of business bankruptcy is down, falling 7.4 percent. Non-business bankruptcies account for 97.8 of all filed in Federal Courts.

Could these facts have anything to do with the rosy view the media was putting out over the holidays, the hoopla about consumer spending showing the growing health of the economy? What we didn't know was that during the month of December, a mere 1000 jobs were created. Nationwide. A drop in the bucket considering the number of unemployed in the US. But with it being the holidays and all, the serfs were still spending. The media urged us on.

Remember how many jobs Mr Bush said the tax cuts targeted to America's richest citizens would create?
The President has proposed $726 billion in tax relief to create 510,000 new jobs this year and a total of 1.4 million new jobs by the end of next year.

The next year refered to above is 2004.

Let Job Watch fill you in with the facts and illustrative graphs (bookmark this site). Bottom line, in this period, at a baseline of 3% growth, without the tax cut ,the nation should see the creation of 4.1 million jobs- add in the jobs the tax cut was to create and your looking at 5.5 million jobs created under the present administration.

Where are they?

An article in the Toronto Star touches on the global risk the present administration's policies present to the US and global economies as spelled out in the International Monetary Fund paper "U.S. Fiscal Policies and Priorities for Long-Run Sustainability" I'd urge you to explore the IMF link, lengthy as it is, holding in mind that the IMF is corporate capitol leaning. Also holding in mind that this is the organization that impose "Structural Adjustment Programs" on debtor nations to allow them to get in the black again. As the Whirled Bank Group puts it:
Balancing national budgets can be done by raising taxes, which the IMF frowns upon, or by cutting government spending, which it definitely recommends. As a result, SAPs often result in deep cuts in programmes like education, health and social care, and the removal of subsidies designed to control the price of basics such as food and milk. So SAPs hurt the poor most, because they depend heavily on these services and subsidies.


Sounds a lot like the current regimes view of where they intend to see US Government going under their watch. Are we watching them turn the US into a third world nation?

Thom Harman describes this trend as a return to Feudalism.
"the old contest of feudalism and democracy renews itself here on a new battlefield."
--Ralph Waldow Emerson

The New Feudalism, Part 1 by Doug Kraft is an eye opening piece on the history of this trend in America.
A Fly in the Ointment
 
Pardon me, but does anyone else think that this is all a bit strange? Last Tuesday, it was the Washington Post's major story about the failure to find any sort of evidence of active WMD programs in Iraq after 1991. The following day, the Carnegie Endowment released their own major report saying that the administration "systematically misrepresented" the threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to war, and the New York Times published their story about 400 weapons inspectors getting pulled from the WMD hunt.

This news had hardly cooled off, when news of Paul O'Neill's tell-all book (CBS and Time articles) came out about his days in the White House, not only painting a very unflattering portrait of Bush's leadership (or lack thereof), but also saying that the administration started planning the Iraq invasion from almost day one, and that O'Neill himself never saw any hard intelligence supporting the administration's pre-war claims against Iraq before he left in December of 2002. (The administration's subsequent claim that O'Neill was not in a need-to-know position is laughable. O'Neill was a member of the National Security Council.)

And just when you'd think the administration couldn't have had a worse week, out comes a 56-page report published by Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute claiming that the Iraq not only was an unnecessary and ill-advised distraction to the war on terror, but that it had significantly damaged the American military by severely over-stretching its resourses. The report, called "Bounding the Global War on Terrorism" [373 KB PDF] was written by visiting professor Dr. Jeffrey Record, who believes "that the war on terrorism--as opposed to the campaign against al-Qaeda--lacks strategic clarity, embraces unrealistic objectives, and may not be sustainable over the long haul," and "calls for downsizing the scope of the war on terrorism to reflect concrete U.S. security interests and the limits of American military power."

Had enough yet? Hold on. The American Conservative's January 19th issue will feature the third and final installment of former Pentagon insider Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski's exposé on the Neocon's disinformation campaign there, "Open Door Policy: A strange thing happened on the way to the war":

Soon after, I was out-processed for retirement and couldn’t have been more relieved to be away from daily exposure to practices I had come to believe were unconstitutional. War is generally crafted and pursued for political reasons, but the reasons given to Congress and the American people for this one were so inaccurate and misleading as to be false. Certainly, the neoconservatives never bothered to sell the rest of the country on the real reasons for occupation of Iraq—more bases from which to flex U.S. muscle with Syria and Iran, better positioning for the inevitable fall of the regional sheikdoms, maintaining OPEC on a dollar track, and fulfilling a half-baked imperial vision. These more accurate reasons could have been argued on their merits, and the American people might indeed have supported the war. But we never got a chance to debate it.
And all of this in just seven days?

Now, I don't know about you, but this all strikes me as a bit odd. This is far too much and far too fast for an administration so practiced in the black art of press control. Maybe it is all coincidence, maybe some of it is, or maybe none of it is, but with the President's State of the Union address right around the corner, I'm suspecting a fly in the ointment. There are simply too many insiders doing too much talking all at once and too many others letting them. My guess is that Daddy's CIA is lurking somewhere around the edges here, with the Plame Affair probably being the straw that broke that camel's back. Payback's are a bitch.

One thing is certain however. The President's speechwriters will be working a lot of overtime in the coming days. Too bad they don't get paid time-and-a-half, huh?

 
Or so they say. The Washington Post provides a four-page look at Grover Norquist. Know the enemy.

And when you're done reading about Grover, try Bush's Conspiracy to Riot. While it's over a year old, it's good to remind ourselvesjust how far the New Right is willing to go to place their people in office. Nothing must be considered beneath them.


Stung by strong opposition in nearly every corner of the country where it proposes a large-scale development, Wal-Mart is taking a new tack here: bypassing local regulators and going straight to voters for permission to build a mega-store.


By introducing the ballot measure, which goes to voters April 6, Wal-Mart hopes to avoid several major obstacles to building its so-called supercenter: environmental reviews, traffic studies, public hearings and especially obstinate municipal officials who until now had the final say.


The Wal-Mart ballot proposal is a byproduct of California's quirky initiative process, which over the years has resulted in controversial laws that slashed property taxes, abolished affirmative action and bilingual education and, in October, ousted Gov. Gray Davis less than a year after he was elected to his second term.

Frist: "Gimme shelter."
Look who's buried at the end of this long article about tax shelters for the "superrich." Senate Majority Leader Bill "Pussycat" Frist's taxes are looking a bit dodgy (Houston Chronicle):
Rich Americans are stealing billions of dollars from average wage earners through creative tax-dodging scams involving idyllic Caribbean islands, Byzantine accounting ploys and the rarefied world of high art, experts claim.

[...]

The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, estimates tax cheats cost the federal government an estimated $11 billion to $15 billion a year.

If the cheats paid up for just one year, it would nearly cover the $18.3 billion Congress recently devoted to rebuild Iraq.

Instead, the rest of the taxpayers will carry that burden.

[...]

"The IRS always seems to be catching yesterday's hot new fraud, and today there are five or six to take its place," said Bill Allison of the Center for Public Integrity and co-author of The Cheating of America, a study of tax evasion by "the superrich."

[...]

The Senate subcommittee on investigations recently found that KPMG ignored warnings from its own staff that the shelters were bogus and concocted legal opinions to the contrary.

"I think everybody here knew what they were doing was wrong," said Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., the subcommittee's chairman.

The committee reported that KPMG, one of the Big Four accounting firms, collected fees of $124 million from 1997 through 2001 on shelter plans — saving clients $1.4 billion in taxes.

The clients included Maurice Marciano, co-chairman of Guess; Dale Earnhardt, the late race car driver; and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., according to documents filed an IRS lawsuit against KPMG.
Of course, somewhere it must be noted that "saving" KPMG clients $1.4 billion in taxes is also known as "cheating" honest taxpayers of $1.4 billion in taxes.

Another way of looking at it: For every $1 KPMG collected for its "bogus" shelters for Frist and Co., an extra $11 was taken from your pocket in the form of taxes deflected to the middle class.
WallaceShawnThis is kind of wierd, but I'm in a glum mood tonight and I ran across this. I don't even know who Wallace Shawn is, but here is the New York Times interview with him:
Well, there is a reason my brother and I are taking care of our own mother first, before we worry about your mother. It's great to love your own mother, but I sincerely believe that if Bush and Cheney recognized the full humanity of other people's mothers around the world, they wouldn't commit the crimes they commit.
Not very long, but it fit my tastes tonite.
Sunday, January 11, 2004
2nd Annual Dubya Quote Quiz
It's time for my Second Annual Dubya Quote Quiz. Each question consists of four quotes -- three of which George Dubya really said last year and one of which is a fictitious quote straight out of my satirical Dubya's Dayly Diary. Do you think you can tell which is which? Here are two a sample questions:

1 (a) "I recently met with the finance minister of the Palestinian Authority, was very impressed by his grasp of finances."

(b) "First, let me make it very clear, poor people aren't necessarily killers. Just because you happen to be not rich doesn't mean you're willing to kill."

(c) "Next time the liberal press'll think twice before pesterin me fer a press conference. Cause I sprung one on em Wednesday, and I was fabulous! Those reporters were on the hunt, but they sure as hell didn't have me on the run!"

(d) "There's what they call 'actionable intelligence,' to which our military has responded on a quick basis is improving."

4 (a) "All up and down the different aspects of our society, we had meaningful discussions. Not only in the Cabinet Room, but prior to this and after this day, our secretaries, respective secretaries, will continue to interact to create the conditions necessary for prosperity to reign."

(b) "It's money that -- that will recognize that power is best when it's disbursed to the people we're trying to help."

(c) "We've got hundreds of sites to exploit, looking for the chemical and biological weapons that we know Saddam Hussein had prior to our entrance into Iraq."

(d) "I really like honorin our Vets, especially the dead ones. Just so long as nobody makes me hug their relatives!"

The entire quiz is here.
Paul Harris in New York, Sunday January 11, 2004, The Observer
 
He survived one of America's most infamous military nightmares that became the basis of the film Black Hawk Down. He went on to beat a more personal battle, this time with cancer.

But Aaron Weaver's life finally ended in tragedy last week when the 32-year-old US soldier died in a helicopter - another Black Hawk - shot down by a rocket attack near Falluja by Iraqi resistance fighters.

In a grim reminder of another movie, the Second World War epic, Saving Private Ryan, Weaver's family are now trying to save his two brothers from a similar fate and are asking the military to change the men's deployment away from the frontlines. One brother, Ryan, 30, is a helicopter pilot in Baghdad and the other, Steve, 39, is also a pilot, weeks away from being posted to Afghanistan.

As the steady trickle of body bags returning from Afghanistan and Iraq increasingly unsettles military families across the US, Weaver's family have taken up the mantle of Private Jessica Lynch in becoming the latest ordinary Americans to attract national media attention that has made them figureheads for the conflict in Iraq.

'We're not trying to get the other two out of the service. We're just trying to get them from suffering the same fate,' said Mike Weaver, the men's father, who has asked the Pentagon to make the deployment shift.

Army regulations allow for deployments to be changed for emergency reasons, such as bereavement or illness. A military spokesman said the situation would be looked at, but pointed out that the two surviving brothers might not want to be redeployed. Any formal request to change their mission would also have to come from the soldiers themselves.

He pointed out that redeployment was only possible for active service personnel and that Steve Weaver, who is only one year away from retirement and is normally based in Hawaii, had not yet been sent to Afghanistan.

Aaron Weaver's death has a particular resonance as he had won a medal for saving a fellow soldier's life during the ill-fated 1993 US intervention in Somalia.

His efforts were featured in Black Hawk Down, which portrayed the Battle of Mogadishu when 18 US Rangers died in a fight with Somali militiamen. During the fight, Weaver volunteered to head into combat as a reinforce ment after two helicopters had been shot down, leaving their wounded crews surrounded by hostile forces.

He also survived a long struggle with testicular cancer and continued his service in the military despite his illness. He signed a medical waiver specifically so that he could be sent to Iraq.

His last journey, in a medical helicopter that was clearly marked with red crosses, was to have a cancer check-up to see if the disease was still in remission. But now flags in his home town of Clearwater, Florida, are flying at half mast.

'It was the life he chose,' Mike Weaver told a local TV station. 'He went willingly and even pulled strings to get himself there when he really didn't have to go.'

Ryan Weaver was on duty just 60 miles away when his brother's helicopter went down. The Weaver family is steeped in military life and tradition. As well as the three brothers, all of whom are helicopter pilots, a sister is also in the air force, though not posted overseas. Mike Weaver himself is a former US marine.

Aaron left behind a wife, a stepson and a young daughter. 'I still don't believe it. I can see his face,' said his mother, Kelly. 'He's just a beautiful boy, so strong and so smart. I just hope he didn't suffer. I'm so proud of him.'

His father echoed that sen timent, saying that his son had survived so much only to die while a passenger in an air ambulance. 'Having survived that [Somalia] and having survived cancer, I didn't dream that something like this would have happened to him,' he said.

In all, nine US soldiers died in the Falluja helicopter, including troops who were based across America, from Fort Carson, Colorado, to Fort Bragg in North Carolina. US investigators said yesterday that an initial examination of the incident had shown that the plane was shot down by guerrillas.

'The investigation has not concluded, but preliminary reports are that the helicopter was shot down by ground fire,' said US Army spokesman Brigadier-General Mark Kimmitt.

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