Tuesday, October 30, 2007
On the Road to 2008: Looking for a War
Richard McGuire ©The New Yorker, October 29, 2007
Paul Krugman in The NY Times:
- In the wake of 9/11, the Bush administration adopted fear-mongering as a political strategy. Instead of treating the attack as what it was — an atrocity committed by a fundamentally weak, though ruthless adversary — the administration portrayed America as a nation under threat from every direction.
- Most Americans have now regained their balance. But the Republican base, which lapped up the administration’s rhetoric about the axis of evil and the war on terror, remains infected by the fear the Bushies stirred up — perhaps because fear of terrorists maps so easily into the base’s older fears, including fear of dark-skinned people in general.
Democratic front-runners are united in condemning the war. Senator Hillary Clinton, however, had voted in 2002 in support of the Iraq war resolution. Her attempts to justify her action are unconvincing.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Guns, Drugs, and the U.S.A
Wikipedia's web page on "War on Drugs" includes the following:
- ".......the U.S. Government's cost report on drug control to be roughly $12 billion in 2005."
- "Additionally, the U.S. Government reports that the cost of incarcerating drug law offenders was $30 billion -- $9.1 billion for police protection, $4.5 billion for legal adjudication, and $11.0 billion for state and federal corrections (sic).
Richard Davenport-Hines, in his book The Pursuit of Oblivion (W.W. Norton & Company, 2001), criticized the efficacy of the War on Drugs by pointing out:
U.S. Guns Behind Cartel Killings in Mexico
TIJUANA, Mexico -- Assassins blasted Ricardo Rosas Alvarado, a member of an elite state police force, with a blizzard of bullets pumped out of AK-47 assault rifles.
Alvarado crumpled at the wheel of his sedan, yet another victim of the weapons known here as "goat's horns" because of their curved ammunition clips, and which can fire at a rate of 600 rounds per minute. The killing, Mexican authorities said, was a panorama of blood, shattered glass and torn metal that brutally showcased the firepower of Mexico's drug cartels. But that was just the warm-up.
Two hours later, a small army of cartel hit men descended on a federal police office and bunkhouse in this crowded city at one of the world's busiest border crossings. None of the officers, who had recently been sent here to crush the drug gangs terrorizing the city, were killed in the hail of more than 1,200 bullets, authorities said. But police veterans understood the message delivered to the newcomers: "Welcome to Tijuana. Our guns are bigger than your guns."
The high-powered guns used in both incidents on the evening of Sept. 24 undoubtedly came from the United States, say police here, who estimate that 100 percent of drug-related killings are committed with smuggled U.S. weapons.
The guns pass into Mexico through the "ant trail," the nickname for the steady stream of people who each slip two or three weapons across the border every day. The "ants" -- along with larger smuggling operations -- are feeding a rapidly expanding arms race between Mexican drug cartels.
The U.S. weapons -- as many as 2,000 enter Mexico each day, according to a Mexican government study -- are crucial tools in an astoundingly barbaric war between rival cartels that has cost 4,000 lives in the past 18 months and sent law enforcement agencies in Washington and Mexico City into crisis mode.
These drug traffickers, with their steady supply of U.S. weaponry, are the target of President Bush's proposed $500 million U.S. aid package to help Mexico battle cartels. Officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, or ATF, hope that some of the money will be used to give Mexican police chiefs greater access to U.S. databases for gun traces. Currently, the traces can be made only through federal police headquarters in Mexico City. Many police chiefs do not even bother to make requests because of the inevitable bureaucratic delays.
"You're looking at the same firepower here on the border that our soldiers are facing in Iraq and Afghanistan," Thomas Mangan, a spokesman in Phoenix for the ATF, said in an interview.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Sadiyah, Iraq, and 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment
Soldiers talk about the other side of Iraq -- one that the Bush Administration stays away from.
Joshua Partlow reported from Sadiyah, Iraq, about soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division:
- Asked if the American endeavor here was worth their sacrifice -- 20 soldiers from the battalion have been killed in Baghdad -- Alarcon said no: "I don't think this place is worth another soldier's life."
They stop, look around. The streets of Sadiyah are deserted again. To the right, power lines slump down into the dirt. To the left, what was a soccer field is now a pasture of trash, combusting and smoking in the sun. Packs of skinny wild dogs trot past walls painted with slogans of sectarian hate.
A bomb crater blocks one lane, so they cross to the other side, where houses are blackened by fire, shops crumbled into bricks. The remains of a car bomb serve as hideous public art. Sgt. Victor Alarcon's Humvee rolls into a vast pool of knee-high brown sewage water -- the soldiers call it Lake Havasu, after the Arizona spring-break party spot -- that seeps in the doors of the vehicle and wets his boots.
"When we first got here, all the shops were open. There were women and children walking out on the street," Alarcon said this week. "The women were in Western clothing. It was our favorite street to go down because of all the hot chicks."
That was 14 long months ago, when the soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, arrived in southwestern Baghdad. It was before their partners in the Iraqi National Police became their enemies and before Shiite militiamen, aligned with the police, attempted to exterminate a neighborhood of middle-class Sunni families.
Next month, the U.S. soldiers will complete their tour in Iraq. Their experience in Sadiyah has left many of them deeply discouraged, by both the unabated hatred between rival sectarian fighters and the questionable will of the Iraqi government to work toward peaceful solutions.
California Wildfires - FEMA Staged a Press Conference
- "The Federal Emergency Management Agency's No. 2 official apologized yesterday for leading a staged news conference Tuesday in which FEMA employees posed as reporters while real reporters listened on a telephone conference line and were barred from asking questions.
- "We are reviewing our press procedures and will make the changes necessary to ensure that all of our communications are straight forward and transparent," Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson Jr., FEMA's deputy administrator, said in a four-paragraph statement.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
"A Lot of Low-Hanging Fruit"
Today, Rice will finally appear. But Waxman (D-Calif.) has not spent the week on a victory lap. He has found time to produce evidence accusing State Department security contractor Blackwater Worldwide of tax evasion, to fire off a letter to Rice demanding information about alleged mismanagement of a $1 billion contract to train Iraqi police, and to hold a hearing on uranium poisoning on Navajo land.
Waxman has become the Bush administration's worst nightmare: a Democrat in the majority with subpoena power and the inclination to overturn rocks. But in Waxman the White House also faces an indefatigable capital veteran -- with a staff renowned for its depth and experience -- who has been waiting for this for 14 years.
These days, the 16-term congressman is always ready with a hearing, a fresh crop of internal administration e-mails or a new explosive report. And he has more than two dozen investigations underway, on such issues as the politicization of the entire federal government, formaldehyde in Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers, global warming, and safety concerns about the diabetes drug Avandia.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
The Seasons: October 2007
Crisp falling leaves crunch
deliciously as joggers
pound asphalt bike trail
Source: Crisp Autumn Haiku
Dry cheerful cricket
chirping, keeps the autumn gay ...
contemptuous of frost
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
On the Road to 2008: Evangelicals Looking For a Candidate
Interesting word, jonesing. Jacques Berlinerblau wrote in the Post:
- Factor in that more than half a dozen Republicans are all jonesing, hard, for the Evangelical vote and you have the strange specter of a once massively influential constituency that is about to neutralize itself into electoral irrelevance.
- "Jonesing" certainly does exist, but the sense in which you were using "jones" as a verb meaning "to crave, to desire strongly" is a broadening and softening of what was originally a very grim term. When "jones" first appeared in African-American slang in the early 1960s, it was as a noun meaning "a drug addiction, especially to heroin."
Clinton Reassures the Warmongers
Bomb Iran ? Hillary Clinton went on record to prove.....what ? That she has cojones or that she stands ready to cater to the dark side.
The Washington Post Oct.15, 2007
Last month, Clinton was one of 75 senators who voted for a resolution giving the president the authority to call the guards terrorists. She has characterized the vote as a way to gain leverage for U.S. negotiations with Iran, but some of her rivals, including Edwards and Sen. Barack Obama, argue it amounted to giving Bush another blank check to go to war.
Currently, she is at the head of the pack. Too bad.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
The Man Who Was Elected President in 2000
- The man in the white house cannot speak coherently even with assist from teleprompter.
- He is disliked abroad........except in Albania.
- He has involved the nation in an unjustified war that has resulted in deaths of close to four thousand American soldiers and more than a hundred thousand Iraqi civilians.
- He is responsible for the national debt which has reached epic proportions and will fall on the shoulders of our children and grand children.
- His much vaunted tax cuts were designed to make the rich richer at the expense of those at lower rungs.
- He has arrogantly disregarded the Geneva Convention; set up facilities abroad to torture prisoners
- He promotes bigotry by supporting aims and objectives of conservative Christian groups.
The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading - as a last resort - all other justifications having failed to justify themselves - as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.
We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East'.
The sooner he goes on the lecture circuit the better for America.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
On the Road to 2008: The Religious Right or 'Value Voters'
NY Times - October 7, 2007
What unites them right now is their dismay — even panic — at the idea of Rudolph W. Giuliani as the Republican nominee, because of his support for abortion rights and gay rights, as well as what they regard as a troubling history of marital infidelity. But what to do about it is where they again diverge, with some religious conservatives last week threatening to bolt to a third party if Mr. Giuliani gets the nomination, and others arguing that this is the sure road to defeat.
The Religious Right or Value Voters became power drunk; their leaders had easy access to the White House. They began to flex their muscle by sponsoring legislations against abortion rights, teaching of evolution, and for display of religious symbols in public buildings. They not only had the president in their corner, the shifting of balance in the Supreme Court assured them of support from the conservative justices.
With just above twelve months before the 2008 election the situation is quite different, and how! Scandals and changing dynamics, especially the impact of the war in Iraq, resulted in loss of support for them and for their champion in the White House. A good example of "What goes up must come down" (© Karma Lyrics, Alicia Keys). There is panic among the Religious Right. Although its most aggressive followers are evangelical Christians, Catholic clergy, too, joined them in previous elections and urged the faithful not to support candidates who were pro-choice. Now, as positions of 2008 candidates are beginning to be known, there is no one who fully meets the aims and expectations of the Christian groups.
Politicians are adept at doing somersaults and experiencing sudden epiphanies when it comes to election campaigns. While it will not work if one of the campaigning Democrats becomes an Armageddonist, Republican candidates could be thinking about it. If he can pull it off, one of them will. McCain has already shown his flexbility on matters religious. See John McCain, Semi-Baptist. Giuliani, currently at the head of the pack, could wake up one morning and declare himself a Born Again Christian and retreat from his position on women's right to choose. That and an immersion might make him acceptable.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Taking Back the Republic "One ditch at a time"
"Every week one Texan soldier dies in Iraq and 10 are wounded. Gary Younge reports on how war is affecting Bush's home state"
Reading Gary Younge in The Guardian -- A week in the War in Texas, October 6, 2007, I was struck by the following:
- "Over at Camp Casey, less than a mile from the Peace House, Carl Rising-Moore is out of jail and back holding the fort. "So long as George W Bush is coming to Texas, I plan to live either here or in jail," he says. "I don't know whether I'm delusional - that's possible - but my dream is that the American people wake up out of their slumber. And if they wake up in time, they can save the republic."
- And, with that, he headed out, in the searing heat of late afternoon, to "take back" the ditch in the name of peace and the republic.
- "The Iraq adventure is the most flagrant violation to democratic rules and basic human relations. Of course it has to do with oil, and of course it has to do with keeping competitors away from it but that does not justify the loss of our most priced values, that is what make us different from the Mafiosi; when we need milk, we do not breach into the nearest grocery store, kill the owner and its family and take the milk, that is what civilization is all about. Now they want to destroy Iran to preserve some kind of hegemony but they do not see that the world sees what is happening, maybe they will succeed in bombing this time but in the long run the consequences may not be as bright. Blackwater and their abominable actions is just an aberration of democracy, yes, thanks to privatization the administration can commit their crimes without having to report to congress, but the world is watching. No one can stand above justice forever, Stalin could not do it, Hitler could not do it..junior will never make it!"
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Deaths at Nisoor Square, Baghdad
Excerpts: Washington Post 10-4-2007
The victims were as young as 11 and as old as 55, according to hospital records. They were middle class and poor. They included college students, day laborers and professionals vital to rebuilding Iraq. There was a mother and her daughter. The daughter lived. There was a taxi driver, only 25, who was the sole provider for his parents and seven siblings. He died.
Blackwater guards say they were ambushed and shot at by Iraqi policemen and civilians. Ten eyewitnesses and Iraqi police officials insisted in interviews that the guards opened fire in the square, unprovoked, and continued shooting even as civilians fled for their lives. Hospital records show 14 dead and 18 injured, a toll higher than most previous official tallies.
The carnage has sparked outrage and demands to reform the private contractor industry. Almost three weeks later, the collective memory of Iraqis at the scene is raw.
"It was catastrophic. So many innocent people were killed," recalled Zina Fadhil, 21, a pharmacist. That day, she huddled in fear inside her store about 100 yards from the square as Blackwater helicopters hovered above. Like other eyewitnesses, she said she saw Blackwater guards firing down from the helicopters, an allegation the security firm denies.
"I am a peaceful person, but I wished I could have shot those people in the helicopters," Fadhil continued, her soft voice rising.
Not one of the victims or family members interviewed had been aware that Blackwater was immune to prosecution in Iraq under an order by U.S. administrators after the 2003 invasion.
"Why is the blood of Iraqis so free for everyone to spill?" asked Sahib Nasr, the father of one of the victims.