Thursday, May 31, 2007

Mark Kleiman, champion pithmonger

the always useful Mark Kleiman is on a roll this week; it's enough to make you believe in biorhythms or something:

"McCain is clearly the most unfit of the three leading Republican candidates for President: until you think about the other two. Then it's harder to say."

"more than half of the registered voters[polled] say they haven't heard enough about Mitt Romney to form an opinion. I, on the other hand, have already heard more about Mitt Romney than I ever wanted to, and we're still 16 months from Election Day."

on Lou Dobbs:"A somewhat flexible relationship with reality"
(actually David Leonhardt of the NYT said it, but Dr. K found it.)

on US Foreign policy:
"Not only has the Bush Administration failed to figure out what it can't get away with any more in domestic politics, it's making the same mistake internationally. Now that the Iraq adventure has gone sour, decreasing the leverage we have over other governments and increasing their leverage on us, playing the arrogant hegemon isn't just rude, it's stupid."

less pithy, but important:

Prediction: The infoUSA/Clinton connection, which goes to the heart of the way corporations buy protection from regulation, will be a one-day event, while John Edwards's haircut will live in infamy.

or just go to the homepage and READ EVERYTHING.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Bush Takes World Bank in Exciting New Direction

As Pope Paul Wolfowitz sails off to what ever golden parachute awaits our erstwhile lover-boy George Bush in the last years of his photogenic career as “Mr. President” has nominated a successor to Wolfowitz, one Robert Zoellick to head the World Bank. Now some say Zoellick is not a neocon but evidently Zoellick is not far from it. Here is a quote from a January 2000 essay he wrote for Foreign Affairs according to Wickipedia

"[T]here is still evil in the world — people who hate America and the ideas for which it stands. Today, we face enemies who are hard at work to develop nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, along with the missiles to deliver them. The United States must remain vigilant and have the strength to defeat its enemies. People driven by enmity or by a need to dominate will not respond to reason or goodwill. They will manipulate civilized rules for uncivilized ends."

And here is what Wolfowitz, the arch neo-con said in 2003:

And yet as great as the impact of September 11th was, it would pale in comparison to a major bio or even chemical attack. And we know that it is no longer a question of whether such an attack might conceivably be attempted, but more likely a matter of when. Enemies -- both outlaw states and terrorist groups -- are aggressively pursuing chemical, biological, even radiological and nuclear weapons. And they may have few of the traditional inhibitions that previously deterred people from using those horrible weapons.

Well we can certainly see how this changes everything for the World Bank and what an exciting new direction this will be.

A column by Tom Barry of counterpunch gives an idea of how Zoellick might perform his duties as head of the World Bank.

When it comes to global economic policy, Zoellick is not a free trade ideologue or a committed advocate of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Instead, he regards free trade philosophy and free trade agreements as instruments of U.S. national interests. When the principles of free trade affect U.S. short-term interests or even the interests of political constituencies, Zoellick is more a mercantilist and unilateralist than free trader or multilateralist.

A unilateralist rather than a multilaterlalist is an interesting description for a nominee to head the World Bank whose mission statement is the Following:

The World Bank is a vital source of financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world. We are not a bank in the common sense. We are made up of two unique development institutions owned by 185 member countries—the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA).

Each institution plays a different but supportive role in our mission of global poverty reduction and the improvement of living standards. The IBRD focuses on middle income and creditworthy poor countries, while IDA focuses on the poorest countries in the world. Together we provide low-interest loans, interest-free credit and grants to developing countries for education, health, infrastructure, communications and many other purposes.

Of course as the World Bank is supportive of free trade which has had adverse affects on poorer nations I guess a unilateralist heading the World Bank is no big conflict of interest after all, just another exciting new direction.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

various bits for tuesday

from the Guardian UK, via common dreams:
Deadly Dust: Study Suggests Cancer Risk from Depleted Uranium
by James Randerson

Depleted uranium, which is used in armor-piercing ammunition, causes widespread damage to DNA which could lead to lung cancer, according to a study of the metal’s effects on human lung cells. The study adds to growing evidence that DU causes health problems on battlefields long after hostilities have ceased.0508 05 1DU is a byproduct of uranium refinement for nuclear power. It is much less radioactive than other uranium isotopes, and its high density - twice that of lead - makes it useful for armor and armor piercing shells. It has been used in conflicts including Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq and there have been increasing concerns about the health effects of DU dust left on the battlefield. In November, the Ministry of Defense was forced to counteract claims that apparent increases in cancers and birth defects among Iraqis in southern Iraq were due to DU in weapons.

Now researchers at the University of Southern Maine have shown that DU damages DNA in human lung cells. The team, led by John Pierce Wise, exposed cultures of the cells to uranium compounds at different concentrations.

Cindy Sheehan's Memorial day diary at DKos is here.

also from Kos, "myspace ghosts"

via Avedon Carol:

The Daily Mail, "Revealed: Blair's secret stalker squad - Fears that doctors could be used to lock up terror suspects without trail: The Government has established a shadowy new national anti-terrorist unit to protect VIPs, with the power to detain suspects indefinitely using mental health laws."

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Desert Storm Revisited

On January 16th 1991 America began its assault on Iraq known as Desert Storm. At the time I was working for Space Systems Loral formerly Ford Aerospace in Palo Alto California where I was documenting and designing parts for satellites.

Though California is known as a “blue” state it has more than a fair share of conservatives and as I was to learn even the liberals and moderates could be war hawks as part of the “we are the good guys” phenomenon that saturates American perception. As I watched the coverage of Desert Storm one of the focuses of the news media was the emphasis given to surgical air strikes that were supposedly targeting military installations. Videos showing these precision missiles and bombs were aired regularly with a casualness of a Monday night football game.

On a personal level I was quite disgusted by this pornographic display of murder and destruction visited upon the people of Iraq. At work the vast majority of people seemed quite enthusiastic over the war. People were passing around cartoons of a vividly racist quality and terms like “rag heads” and “towel heads” were quite often heard.

During a conversation with a fellow worker I expressed my doubts about the validity of what we were doing and my friend told me that when you see a bully picking on a little guy wouldn’t you want to stop the fight? Oddly it never occurred to him that America was an elephant stepping on a mouse which in no way could defend itself. Later that week a woman came up to me and asked me “Don’t you think the people in Kuwait are nice?” I in turn asked her if she had ever heard of Kuwait before. Turns out she never had.

Back in the present as I read through various blogs occasionally I come across a liberal blog with pictures such as a U.S. military doctor holding an Iraq baby in his arms. This is quite touching I am sure though one should realize that the only reason that this is an orphaned or injured baby that is in need of medical attention is probably due to our being in Iraq in the first place. And of course there are the half million children who died as direct result of years of sanctions put in place against Iraq largely due to American influence. Madeline Albright when confronted with this plentitude of death famously replied “We think it is worth it.”

Today I came across this documentary made in 2001 which deals with how America first encouraged Saddam Hussein to attack Kuwait and then used said attack in order to indulge in our own attack on Iraq. This is a very good documentary on what the American government did before, during and after Desert Storm. It is only an hour long and I recommend it highly as a reminder of why we here in America are really not such good guys.

Watch it here.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Radio Free Europe

according to the uploader, this REM clip is from a Letterman appearance from October 1983. In this clip from the same show, Letterman talks to Stipe and Buck a bit and they do "South Central Rain"

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Halcyon Days

Earlier today I received an email from Rob Payne's cat with a GIF attachment, telling me about Rob's new blog, Halcyon Days. I know what you're thinking: I didn't know Rob has a cat. Well, he does, and apparently he's pretty talented.(The image above is courtesy said cat.)

I don't know what Rob looks like. And I must admit I'm suspicious that kitty may have made him look a little more, er, cat-like than he actually is, but maybe the cat has a strong artistic vision, and I should allow for that. Have a nice Memorial day weekend.


a possibly prematurely pulled poll

correction-- I still get the Big Brother poll when I use Mozilla, but I'm getting the Iraq funding poll with MS IE, and it doesn't seem to matter if I use the US or International edition. So you can still(1pm CDT)go vote(scroll down a bit, and on the rt. side.). I don't get it, but there it is.

earlier this morning, this poll(above;click on image for slightly bigger screenshot) was running on the front page of CNN's web site. When I read about it at The Sideshow and clicked over, it was already gone. I did some poking around in the bowels of, and found it, but also found I could no longer vote. This puzzled me, because in the past I've seen CNN internet polls allowing votes for 24-48 hours sometimes. The poll that is now on the front page is about the Big Brother teevee show, which is undoubtedly more important.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Alan Johnston

Alan Johnston, BBC reporter

Speaking of petitions, the BBC has one asking for the release of Alan Johnston, above, who has been missing in Gaza since March 12th and whom they believe has been kidnapped.

a Delara update; no. 2

Delara banner via

Indigo wrote to Rob to let us know about Care2, whose URL has recently changed. Care2 is another website discussing Delara Darabi, the young Iranian lady I told you about before(also here), who is scheduled to be executed, and about whom an international effort and online petitions to stop said execution are afoot.

and a reminder, the English-language online petition is here.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

a mid-month miscellany

image: a Denslow illustration from one of the Oz books, 1903
illustration by W.W. Denslow, 1903.

Mark Kleiman on another example of

'why so many of us find the idea of "liberal media bias" risible.'

and, here:
"Make that almost no disclosure"

Dana Gardner, "Microsoft: a law firm pretending to be a software company"

Two longish but worthwhile posts from Helena Cobban:

"Global security after Iraq" and "Global security after Iraq, part 2"

a snippet from part one:
It is worth re-reading the whole of this excellent article that the Guardian's Ian Kershaw published in February 2003. In it, Kershaw compiled the judgments that Avi and eleven other historians offered on the question of whether what Bush (and Blair) were facing in Iraq was another "Munich"-type challenge, or the first act of a Suez-type debacle.
Almost every time I post I feel I'm leaving something out. For example, I sometimes feel regret that I've never written about the situations in Afghanistan, or Darfur or Somalia, or the apparently deteriorating situation in Pakistan.

Earlier this week Rob wrote about the American predisposition towards incuriousness-- I fault the national-level press more than regular people, insofar as I think it's especially damning how the current unrest in Pakistan, the only Islamic country with actual nuclear warheads, is virtually invisible on the nightly news, presumably because their little general is a Bush ally, while the media is happy to carry water for the political forces who want to get people all worked up about war with Iran.

This is mainly, I suspect, because their president is an obnoxious loudmouth whom our president finds irksome. I occasionally wonder if Ahmedinejad is normally mild-mannered, but saw how Hugo Chavez managed to stave off an oil company jiggered recall election and how, seemingly unfathomably, George Bush,jr managed to get re-elected, and made a conscious desicion to be a chest-beating blowhard, having seen it work so well for the other two guys. I also think Chavez carries it off the best of the three, but it may be that I'm just flattered by his parents' choice in names.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

When Defeat Means Victory Or: When Up is Down

Today the major newspapers report on the “defeat” of the “anti-war democrats” due to the vote today in the Senate on the Feingold-Reid bill.

My first thought was, gee I wish I knew what the bill said exactly so I went to the Washington Post, the New York Times, Sfgate,and various other major news outlets. And guess what, not one of them had the actual text of the bill rather these news outlets kindly interpreted the verbiage for us. Not only did they neglect to tell us what said bill actually said they could not even be bothered to list the bill number so that I could look it up in THOMAS, a service provided at the Library of Congress which allows you to actually read the text of bills.

So began this afternoon’s odyssey to find the number of the bill and after quite a bit of frustration I was able to identify the number of the bill which is S.1077. And here is the bill:


A Bill

To safely redeploy United States troops from Iraq.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

(a) Transition of Mission- The President shall promptly transition the mission of United States forces in Iraq to the limited purposes set forth in subsection (d).

(b) Commencement of Safe, Phased Redeployment From Iraq- The President shall commence the safe, phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq that are not essential to the limited purposes set forth in subsection (d). Such redeployment shall begin not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.

(c) Prohibition on Use of Funds- No funds appropriated or otherwise made available under any provision of law may be obligated or expended to continue the deployment in Iraq of members of the United States Armed Forces after March 31, 2008.

(d) Exception for Limited Purposes- The prohibition under subsection (c) shall not apply to the obligation or expenditure of funds for the limited purposes as follows:

(1) To conduct targeted operations, limited in duration and scope, against members of al Qaeda and other international terrorist organizations.

(2) To provide security for United States infrastructure and personnel.

(3) To train and equip Iraqi security services.

Upon reading the bill we need to note the exceptions because the exceptions are more important than the bill itself. And what do we see? Why amazingly enough we see the same exceptions that were in H.R. 1591 which recently was passed by the House and the Senate.

These exceptions have already been discussed by Tom Engelhardt back in April and apply equally well to S.1077. Here is what Engelhardt pointed out and I will go in the same order as the exceptions are listed above in the bill itself.

1) "Engaging in targeted special actions limited in duration and scope to killing or capturing members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations with global reach": This is a loophole of loopholes that could add up to almost anything as, in a pinch, all sorts of Sunni oppositional forces could be labeled "al-Qaeda."

2) "Protecting American diplomatic facilities and American citizens, including members of the United States Armed Forces": This doesn't sound like much, but don't be fooled. As a start, of course, there would have to be forces guarding the new American embassy in Baghdad (known to Iraqis as "George W's Palace"). When completed, it will be the largest embassy in the known universe with untold thousands of employees; then there would need to be forces to protect the heavily fortified citadel of the Green Zone (aka "the International Zone") which protects the embassy and other key U.S. facilities. Add to these troops to guard the network of gigantic, multibillion dollar U.S. bases in Iraq like Balad Air Base (with air traffic volume that rivals Chicago's O'Hare) and whatever smaller outposts might be maintained. We're talking about a sizable force here.

3) "Training and equipping members of the Iraqi Security Forces": By later this year, U.S. advisors and trainers for the Iraqi military, part of a program the Pentagon is now ramping up, should reach the 10,000-20,000 range (many of whom -- see above -- would undoubtedly need "guarding").

It is interesting indeed that these two pieces of legislation have the exact same exceptions almost to a word. This is nothing but another hollow gesture by the donkeys who are not about to end the occupation of Iraq. And though the news media touts it as a defeat for the donkeys it is really a victory because though they really did not attempt to stop the occupation with this bill they appear to have done so only to be defeated by the evil Senate.

Just. How. Stupid. Are. We. Supposed. To. Be.

The donkeys have no intention of ending the occupation, A donkey president will not end the occupation, the donkeys are of an imperial mindset and will not hesitate to attack Iran much less end the occupation of Iraq.

If you believe the donkeys are “Anti-war” let me just remind you of these quotes from Clinton, Edwards and Barack from a Norman Solomon column.

The Pentagon’s most likely next target is Iran. Hillary Clinton says “no option can be taken off the table.”

Barack Obama says that the Iranian government is “a threat to all of us” and “we should take no option, including military action, off the table.”

John Edwards says, “Under no circumstances can Iran be allowed to have nuclear weapons.” And: “We need to keep all options on the table.”

And you know what?

I believe that they mean exactly what they say.


graphic courtesy Ravenmn

from Democracy Now: "Howard Zinn on The Uses of History and the War on Terrorism"

via Rob, from Realitique, who says "what's sad is that everyone doesn't already know this."

Joe Bageant: "Redneck Liberation Theology:Why are leftists so damn afraid of God?"

Robert Shetterly, in Common Dreams: "The Moral Obligation to Lose The War"

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Slate and the debates, pt 2

John Dickerson's follow-up article(5.14) regarding his call to Slate's readers on how to improve the debates is here.

Dickerson writes:"No one likes the idea of a stage with six or eight or 10 candidates. Some readers wanted to bounce the likes of Mike Gravel and Ron Paul by limiting the debates to only the front-runners."

Two thoughts:
1. Having 6 or 8 or 10 candidates on stage doesn't bother me, and I doubt I'm the only person who feels that way. (And I note that Ron Paul has been the no. 1 search item on technorati for most of the past week.)

2. Front runners? FRONT-RUNNERS? Nobody has cast a single vote yet. If these readers who only want the "front runners" to have a chance to speak really exist, they fully deserve the crappy government that all of us have(and are likely to continue to get).

see "part one", here.

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Why I don't like "BSG"

image of a 3 wheeled car and actor James Callis
left: c. 1956 Shelter, courtesy, right: James Callis, freaking out in an episode of Battlestar Galactica, courtesy the SciFi channel. And don't tell me to say it's James Callis's character who's freaking out. I know it's his character, for Pete's sake. But isn't is wearisome to always say, "James Callis's character, who is the only one who can see Tricia Helfer's character, blah blah blah..." Well, isn't it? Do you know how monotonous it is when people do that? I could go on, but this is only a caption... Yes, I'm fond of elipses. If you don't like elipses, frag off, as the characters on BSG might say...

1.There's something about the show, something a little hard to define-- whether it's the dialogue, or the acting, or the pacing-- that tells me the people doing it are constantly preoccupied with the darkness and supposed significance of the whole endeavor, like it's Alain Resnais in space or something. If anything, their hi-falutin' portentousness actually makes me miss Lorne Greene.

2. That guy with the British accent, lovesick over the tall outer-space chick only he can see. The actor may well a likeable person, and capable of real acting and range and all that, but I only know him on this show, and here all he ever does is mope about with that look of perpetual consternation. It's really tiresome.

2b. On the other hand, if they had an episode in which he was accidentally sucked out an airlock or something and we saw him drift out into space and explode, maybe I'd start watching. And they could even bring him back as his (non-moping) Evil Twin, so that the actor could keep up his condo payments. That would be ok with me too.

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regarding Jerry Falwell

Misfit Slacker:
I began the day with a friend calling me that Jerry Falwell had died. Apparently it's heart failure. Who knew he had a heart?
Avedon Carol:
I'm not going to pretend I share anyone's feelings of loss. He was a hateful man who did evil things.
Alan Wolfe, in Salon,"The stone is cast":

Jerry Falwell spent a career demonizing others. Upon his death, what else could he expect in return?

Xymphora discusses Falwell's role in fostering the odd relationship between right-wing Christian evangelicals and right wing Israelis in "On a Learjet to Hell".

And finally, from Atrios:
Obviously sympathies to those who cared for him. Many undeserving people have good people around them. It's hard to have sympathies for those who fault other victims for their tragedies.

E.G.:"AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals."

He lived a decent-length, if not long, life. One hopes he finds that his God is a more forgiving being than he believed.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

notes on censure

this is possibly the most pointedly amusing story I've heard in many a moon.

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Monday, May 14, 2007


image: William Blake's Cerebrus
William Blake's Cerebrus, the mythological hound of hell.

from channel 8 in Grand Rapids:
"Chrysler workers skeptical of Cerberus' motives in Chrysler deal"

DETROIT -- Billy Boyd, a Chrysler worker for almost 34 years, is so skeptical about Monday's sale announcement that he might not stick around much longer.

Like many of Chrysler's roughly 80,000 employees, Boyd, 51, a machine operator at the automaker's Kenosha, Wis., engine plant, isn't sure what to make of the unusual deal. Parent company DaimlerChrysler AG is paying as much as $650 million to walk away from Chrysler by turning over the keys to his company to Cerberus Capital Management LP, a New York private equity firm.

"It sounds good," he said before work Monday afternoon. "Are they buying us to help us out or to suck the blood? It's kind of scary."

At many Chrysler plants, workers also worried about what it will cost them as word spread about the $7.4 billion sale. Many are fearful of private equity buyers, which in the past have sold off companies in pieces to make a fast buck.

As well they should be. I note that the UAW guy quoted in the Channel 8 story sounded upbeat, so we probably don't need to worry overmuch about his future. On the other hand-- while the democrats are carefully calibrating their response to GWB so that they seem to care about ending the war without seeming "vindictive" or "mean" or any of the other countless things they might be accused of by the millionaire anchormen whose approval they tremble before, couldn't they have thrown in an extra seven billion to protect a few thousand American jobs?

For much, much less than the cost of the damned Iraq war, the US gov't could have bought Chrysler outright, and federalized American healthcare, therebye making each of the big three more globally competitive. But, no, we can't do that, that's what crazy European leftists do. So much better to run our country into the ground proving we're macho.

also:Andrew Leonard, "Chrysler at the gates of hell"

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Farmers branch

image:Farmers Branch story-AP photo

Occasionally I regret not discussing local happenings more often. Well, Saturday we had a pretty big local happening, when Farmers Branch passed prop 2903, designed to fine landlords that rent to undocumented immigrants, of whom I guess there are quite a few in FrB.(According to WFAA, the Dallas ABC affiliate, Farmers Branch has a population of around 30 thousand, and is somewhere around 60-65 percent white and 30 percent Hispanic, whereas they were closer to 97 per cent caucasian in 1970.)

The proposition passed pretty overwhelmingly, by a 68 to 32 percent margin, with approximately 3,000 out of about 14,100 eligible voters participating in the vote. That's about 10 percent of the population, maybe 22 percent of the eligible voters-- which is high for a municipal election.

(On a side note, I've always marveled at the strange consistency with which many people seem to avoid voting in municipal elections and are more likely to vote in national elections-- sometimes even only when it's a presidential election, and not in the "off-year" congressional elections-- even though it's precisely in the "smaller" elections in which they're more likely to have a meaningful impact on the outcome and on their day-to-day lives-- well, at least theoretically! )

But what will 2903 accomplish? Some people who've never heard of FrB will regard the little Dallas bedroom community as a hickish outpost full of mean people, while others will admire them and decide to stir similar trouble in their own communities. Presumably they don't care about the former; on the face of it, that lop-sided vote suggests that even though only about 20-22 percent of the eligible voters participated, it's probably a fairly accurate reflection of the local disposition. The Houston Chronicle ran the standard AP story with the title

"Farmers Branch voters back immigration limits", while the Washington Post ran the story as

"Anti-Illegal-Immigrant Law OK'd in Texas", which strikes me as slightly more accurate. (I would've specified "Texas suburb", as opposed to suggesting it was a state-wide referendum. Nevertheless it looks like pretty much the same story.)

But aside from the reputation of Farmers Branch, I really don't see what it will do besides make the lives of the affected individuals more difficult. Landlords will understandably resent having to enforce it, especially as several lawsuits questioning the proposition's legality are looming. A group called "Let the Voters Decide" commissioned a study about the economic impact of illegal immigrants on FrB whose results suggest that the ordinance would have an adverse economic impact on FrB. Tim O'Hare( the FrB councilman who started this whole thing late last year when he proposed the ordinance) discounted the study, citing another study by the state comptroller, which I'd like very much to see. From the WFAA story:

City Council candidate David Koch took issue with several points – chief among them was the carefully edited use of an economic study on illegal immigration by the state comptroller last December.

The Farmers Branch study noted that "labor and spending of undocumented immigrants is having a huge positive effect on the state's economy, adding nearly $18 billion annually to gross state product."

The comptroller's report, the study noted, also said that "undocumented immigrants paid $425 million more in state taxes in fiscal 2005 than the cost of providing them education, healthcare and incarceration services."

But Mr. Koch said that the original comptroller's report also pointed out that local governments take a financial hit from illegal immigration. Counties take in $513 million in local taxes and revenues – but spend $1.44 billion in indigent care and law enforcement costs, according to the comptroller's report. Cities and school districts suffer as well, the report said.

"The only thing they really look at is the financial benefit that the state incurs," Mr. Koch said. "They completely ignore all the costs shoved down the throats, at the local level, of school districts, hospitals, counties and cities."

I don't know how to evaluate the financial arguments. I poked around the internets a bit, looking for some authority-- the closest I could find was this from the Economic Policy Institute:

"Immigration and poverty: Disappointing income growth in the 1990s not solely the result of growing immigrant population"(PDF here)

But I'm suspicious of the anti-immigrationists. On the national level, I think that people like Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo are beating the anti-immigrant drum mainly as a tactic: getting the GOP rank-and-file riled up, especially now that

A. abortion appears to be tanking, and
B. The Iraq War has lost some of its conservo luster,

requiring another wedge issue to get people hot and bothered so republicans can rally their base.

Maybe I'm oversimpliying. At the national level, both the dems and the republicans favor unfettered free trade and exporting our industrial jobs overseas. They don't say so, naturally, but they both do. The argument that illegal immigrants take jobs away from Americans I have difficulty accepting. The affiliated argument, that their presence in the workforce acts to depress wages, strikes me as a more serious one. The EPI study above suggests there is a correlation, but it's far less than critics suggest.

Nevertheless, blaming immigrants for the contraction of the American workforce is easier than blaming ourselves. [via] As states deliberately underfund education and allow tuition at state-supported colleges to spiral out of control on the one hand, and politicians keep resisting federalized, single-payer health insurance that would make American industry more competitive on the other, ordinary people have a hard time identifying a simple bogeyman who can be blamed for all our troubles. But the guy who washes your dishes at the Mexican restaurant is pretty handy.(Farmers Branch and the immediate area has a lot of restarants, and I'm guessing the people who voted for 2903 just want the help to live elsewhere and keep coming to town to wait on them and clean up after them.)

Even though I don't claim to know how the actual economic equation vis-a-vis immigrants plays out, I don't doubt the utility of immigrants as scapegoats for the overwhelmed and angry. While I don't want to automatically denounce immigrant-bashers as hate-mongers, my instincts tell me this is precisely what's going on. I also note that even though a Google News search for "Farmers Branch" will yield hundreds of results from all over, at least right now, this Dallas Morning News story below is the only one that I've found that mentions the mayor of Farmers Branch and his experiences this past week:

"Mayor: No real winners in this vote"

12:00 AM CDT on Sunday, May 13, 2007, Jacquielynn Floyd:

FARMERS BRANCH – Election night used to be a lot of fun for Bob Phelps.
As a popular, longtime mayor who ran unopposed for the last three of his four terms, he would spend the evening at City Hall announcing the returns.

If there were any hot races, this was the night for gracious gestures and all-is-forgiven displays of community solidarity. Mr. Phelps hasn't missed election night since 1986, when he was appointed to the town zoning board.

Until this year.This year, Mr. Phelps and his wife, Dee, left town.With what seemed like the whole nation watching and the town seething with tension, city leaders decided to let the results come directly from the county.

Besides, federal agents, sent to investigate the second act of vandalism at the mayor's house since the furor over illegal immigrants erupted, candidly told the Phelpses that out of town was perhaps the best place for them to be."These last few months have been the worst time – I don't know, maybe of my life," Mr. Phelps said a few nights ago as we sat around the kitchen table. "I've tried to do what's right. It's so disappointing."
After campaigning and leading for two decades as a fiscal conservative, he was appalled at the risk.The town has long prided itself on a "pay-as-you-go" policy. New building projects are paid for in full – Farmers Branch hasn't had to float a bond proposal in 20 years."We're already spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on attorney's fees," he said, defending against two lawsuits filed since the council first adopted anti-illegal immigrant measures a few months ago.

A few more years of vigorous litigation – after Saturday's vote, a virtual guarantee – will eat through the city's financial reserves like cows through a cornfield, he said. So, four days before the election, Mr. Phelps went public with what he had been saying privately for months: 2903 would be terrible for Farmers Branch.

"I'm getting hate mail," he said unhappily, as Mrs. Phelps leafed through a pile of printouts, reading from a few e-mails:
"You are an embarrassment to your city – please resign." "You are a pathetic excuse for a leader." "You are a traitor."

"I worry about him," Mrs. Phelps confided. "He's been under so much stress. People turned on him so fast."With a year left on his term, Mr. Phelps says he's not planning to quit, and he's certainly not considering relocation."We've been in Farmers Branch since 1955," he said. "Our friends are here."

With infinite sadness, he added: "I guess our enemies are here, too."

see also

Dallas Morning News:Farmers Branch election spending tops $57,000:
Opponents of the immigration ordinance are paying out the most

MSNBC:Texas town upholds immigration crackdown

from 2006:

Michelle Goldberg, in Salon: The Left splits over immigration

Dave Neiwert, Orcinus:"It's the Racism, Stupid"

By Susan Page,USA TODAY:"Nation splits 4 ways about illegals"

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Slate and the debates

photos: Pasadena City College,ImdB

Earlier this week, Slate ran an article by John Dickerson entitled "Help! Democracy Needs You: Offer ideas to fix the lousy presidential debates".

The political parties and networks that host the debates don't want to alienate activists who tend to support the long-shot candidates. (And it's not certain that they should eject candidates with nothing to lose—in the Democratic debate, Dennis Kucinich helped push Barack Obama out of his sluggish performance to talk about his views on the use of military force.)
What are your ideas for sharpening and strengthening the debates?
We'll put together the best responses and feature them in a future piece. Since we're co-hosting a series of debates in the fall with the Huffington Post and Yahoo!, perhaps we'll even end up using a few of your ideas ourselves.

Now, I'd like to parse some of Dickerson's verbiage regarding how they'll "put together the best responses and feature them..." and respond to that, insofar as it occurs to me that Slate, aka the Washington Post will most likely put together the most ostensibly clever but fundamentally nonthreatening responses that don't challenge some of the basic assumptions behind the presidential debates as they're offered on mainstream teevee, such as that the supposedly marginal, i.e. less monied, candidates should be treated patronizingly as part of a dog-and-pony show designed to pay lip service to democracy and diversity, etc...

But I won't, at least not today. Partly because I know that although the above-referenced article is offered as being authored by Dickerson, in all likelihood he has to represent the consensus view as opposed to his own, whatever that may be. And partly, because even though I'm awfully suspicious of Slate/WaPo/yes-even-the-Huffington-post and the ideological filter they are likely to wield, I know that occasionally unfiltered views will seep out of exercises like this. So here's my letter:

First, thank you for asking, because the debates do indeed suck in the most massively imaginable way possible.

this is what you do:
1.remove the dems and the gop's "bipartisan comission" from being in charge and put the league of women voters back in charge, as they were for so long.

2.once party nominees are made, invite the democratic and republican nominees, of course, but also the Green party and Libertarian party nominees. Needless to say, the nominees for parties 3 and 4 still wouldn't have a meaningful shot at winning the presidency-- but that really isn't the point. Their presence and their responses will force the major candidates and the major media to deal with issues and perspectives they raise. And yes, I know there are still more political parties, like the Constitution and Natural Law parties, but I'd say the "top four" are sufficient. Thing number 2 occurring depends on thing number 1 occurring first, or so I very strongly suspect. (Also the 5th and 6th parties I cite are nutballs.)

3.Enough with the essay questions requiring a "simple" yes-or-no response-- and requiring the candidates to effectively buy in to the assumptions of the questioner. (Brian Williams is particularly bad about this.)

4.No more phoney questions from phoney real people. I'm not really sure how you'd accomplish this. How would YOU do this, mistah Dickerson?

5. Force Frank Luntz to shave his goofy-ass sideburns. It wont improve democracy, but it will make the images that we see on tv when election season is on somewhat less off-putting. I'd say just remove him and his statistically questionable snake-oil show from the airwaves entirely, but I imagine that's expecting too much.
thanks again,
Jonathan Versen

PS: I am a very good blogger. You should come visit, and, once you agree with me, take it upon yourself to tell everybody you know about how awesome I am. Hell, tell total strangers at the grocery store. If you don't go grocery shopping, tell your butler. Have a wonderful day.

Now, I probably should've checked to see if the Natural Law party was still around before I dashed off my missive to John Dickerson, especially after asserting what a wonderful blogger I was(am). And maybe my attempt at jocularity in the postscript, which I already wince at, just served to make me seem like a loony. If so, c'est la vie.

Likewise, I'm beginning to feel bad that I maligned Frank Luntz's sideburns. I still think they're off-putting, and I seriously doubt he would care what I think in the highly unlikely event he found out, but I feel I shouldn't have written that. And yes, maybe I shouldn't have said that the NLP and Constitution parties are nutballs, with the implicit assumption that the Greens and the Libertarians aren't nutballs-- even though this aligns, albeit imperfectly and with certain caveats-- with how I view them.

Anyway, if you want to write to Dickerson, there's an email link at the Slate article, above.

A brief follow up, here: "Slate and the debates, pt 2"

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Jean Charles de Menezes

photos:reuters, daily mail(UK) of Charles de Menezes, and his mother Maria.

July 2005,from Wikipedia's entry:

Initially, police falsely claimed that he was wearing bulky clothing, had vaulted the ticket barriers and run from police. The government also issued information that he was staying in the UK illegally. It soon become clear that de Menezes did not vault and run from the police, but police did not correct the misinformation until the correct information was leaked to the press. They later issued an apology, saying that they had mistaken him for a suspect in the previous day's failed bombings and acknowledging that Menezes in fact had no explosives and was unconnected with the attempted bombings.

August 21, 2005, from The Sunday Times,
Executed: "Anatomy of a police killing"

The real story of how an innocent man was shot by police is only now beginning to emerge. Jonathan Ungoed-Thomas investigates the accusations of incompetence and cover-up The day after Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead by police at Stockwell Underground station, his grieving relatives and one of his closest friends filed into a mortuary to identify his body. They found him covered in a thin sheet and his face, unmarked, was ghostly white.

Gesio de Avila, a friend and fellow worker, looked carefully over the body, confused by de Menezes’s peaceful repose. Where were the wounds from the seven bullets to the head that killed him?

“Every bit of colour had left his face, but apart from that it was normal,” de Avila said last week. “There was a bandage on his head behind his ear and when I looked closer, I realised what had happened. He had been shot several times in the back of the head. It was like he had been killed by bandits.”

wikipedia, cont'd:
...Later, a security agency source said: “This take-out is the signature of a special forces operation. It is not the way the police usually do things. We know members of SO19 have been receiving training from the SAS, but even so, this has special forces written all over it.” [1]
[1] Cusick, James. "A COVER-UP? AND IF SO ... WHY?", Sunday Herald, 21 August 2005. (expired link)

December 2005 – Rigoberto Alpizar was fatally shot at Miami International Airport by two United States of America Federal Air Marshals in similar circumstances.

BBC:"Probe after Miami airport killing"

Investigations have begun after US air marshals on board an American Airlines flight on Wednesday shot and killed a man who started acting suspiciously.

May 11th, 2007, CNN: LONDON, England (AP) --

No disciplinary action will be taken against 11 officers involved in a surveillance operation that ended in the death of a Brazilian man who was mistaken for a terrorist and gunned down in the subway days after the 2005 London transit bombings, a police commission said Friday.

Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, was shot seven times in the head by Scotland Yard anti-terror officers as he sat on a London subway train July 22, 2005 -- two weeks after four suicide bombers killed themselves and 52 commuters on three subway trains and a bus, and a day after a failed set of attacks.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

a Delara update

(the banner above is supposed to take you here. I'll fix it later.)

from myspace's Help Delara bulletin:
Subject: Delara's final appeal is filed
According to Etemaad newspaper, the final appeal to Iran's head of judiciary was filed by Delara Darabi's attorney. Abdolsamad Khoramshahi told the newspaper " In murder cases, confessions alone are unacceptable and only serve as a supporting cause to help the judge verify the facts. Delara only once in the beginning after her arrest- with a specific intention- accepted the responsibility of murder but for the past three years she has been screaming that her confession was false and she is innocent. Obviously reenactment of the crime scene which was promised by the judge who issued the death sentence would easily help discover the facts

Khoramshahi is hopeful that Ayatollah Shahrudi, head of Iran's judiciary would stop the death sentence.
where credit is due: earlier I said there was a dearth of discussion of Delara's situation in the blogosphere. First, let me praise Jonathan Schwarz and Avedon Carol for mentioning Delara's plight. I wrote to roughly a dozen bigshot lefty bloggers regarding ms. Delara, and Jon n' Avedon responded. You other guys, well, no X-mas cards for you. Coincidentally, I note that conservo majordomo Glenn Reynolds, whom I didn't contact, posted about Delara, here.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Alvis TE-21

image:Alvis TE-21
photo: the "mousehole"

Alvis was a British auto manufacturer(1919-1967). The TE-21 was one of their last models, built from 1963-66. Only 348 or 349 TE-21s were made.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Iraq and the Endless Occupation

Despite the overwhelming fact that a majority of Americans want out of Iraq, some sooner than others, we simply will not be leaving Iraq. Not this year, not next year nor the year after that unless of course the people of Iraq find a method of making us leave.

But what about the democrat leadership now in the majority of congress, aren’t they going to force Bush to pull the troops out? Actually no, they are not going to force Bush to pull the troops out because they are merely another iteration of Bush mentality. Let us set aside the issue of what the democrats really are up to for a moment and look at some hard clear-cut facts. What I am referring to are the permanent military bases we have built or are building in Iraq.

Here is an interactive map of what are called “Enduring military bases.”

But other reports suggest the U.S. military has plans for even more bases: In April 2003 report in The New York Times reported that "the U.S. is planning a long-term military relationship with the emerging government of Iraq, one that would grant the Pentagon access to military bases and project American influence into the heart of the unsettled region."According to the Chicago Tribune, U.S. engineers are focusing on constructing 14 "enduring bases," to serve as long-term encampments for thousands of American troops.

As of mid-2005, the U.S. military had 106 forward operating bases in Iraq, including what the Pentagon calls 14 "enduring" bases (twelve of which are located on the map) – all of which are to be consolidated into four mega-bases.

From Alternet:

If the topic of permanent bases in Iraq seems unfamiliar, it's because, as Hart noted, there's been barely a whisper about them in the mainstream media. While the deteriorating situation in Iraq is making headlines daily, it's been two months since any reports on the presence or construction of bases have emerged from major press outlets. Yet, the issue of permanent bases is one that cuts to the heart of not only how long we intend to stay in Iraq, but why we got there in the first place.

"If the goal of ... the Bush administration, was to overthrow Saddam Hussein, install a friendly government in Baghdad, set up a permanent political and military presence in Iraq, and dominate the behavior of the region (including securing oil supplies)," Hart wrote in May, "then you build permanent bases for some kind of permanent American military presence. If the goal was to spread democracy and freedom, then you don't."

From Tomdispatch:

Assuming, then, a near year to come of withdrawal buzz, speculation, and even a media blitz of withdrawal announcements, the question is: How can anybody tell if the Bush administration is actually withdrawing from Iraq or not? Sometimes, when trying to cut through a veritable fog of misinformation and disinformation, it helps to focus on something concrete. In the case of Iraq, nothing could be more concrete -- though less generally discussed in our media -- than the set of enormous bases the Pentagon has long been building in that country. Quite literally multi-billions of dollars have gone into them. In a prestigious engineering magazine in late 2003, Lt. Col. David Holt, the Army engineer "tasked with facilities development" in Iraq, was already speaking proudly of several billion dollars being sunk into base construction ("the numbers are staggering"). Since then, the base-building has been massive and ongoing.

Read it and weep, read it and weep. Does anyone seriously believe that our federal government is sinking multi-billions of dollars in permanent military bases only to turn around and end the American occupation in Iraq?

Let’s return to the topic of democrat hopefuls and in particular the favored favorite Hillary Clinton. Recently Hillary again has come into the lime-light with a new proposal to end the occupation. Yet again, just as in the case of the recently vetoed bill this is nothing but pure showmanship. Hillary has no intention of stopping the occupation. To illustrate my point read this New York Times article and in particular this following paragraph.

From the New York Times:

Later, however, her aides said Mrs. Clinton was not seeking a total withdrawal of troops from Iraq, or a quick pullout that could put troops at risk. They said she had called for a phased pullout that would leave a reduced American force to pursue terrorist cells in Iraq, support the Kurds and conduct other missions — a position she continued to support, her aides said.

Yes indeedy, “A postion she continued to support, her aids said.” And it is a position that every single candidate republican and democrat alike supports and will continue to support.

Let us look at Obama and his nuanced position on ending the war. If you believe half of what you read in the newspapers you might well think Obama is a peace candidate rather than a piece of the action candidate however when you look closely at his position on troop withdrawal it is as phony as a plug nickel.

From the DesMoines Register:

WATERLOO, IA — Presidential candidate Barack Obama called for Iowans to lobby their U.S. senators to end the war in Iraq during a campaign stop here Sunday.

At issue is a proposal vetoed last week by President Bush that called for the United States to withdraw its troops from Iraq, which is similar to a plan proposed by Obama, a U.S. Senator from Illinois, earlier this year.

Troops would have started coming home from Iraq last week under Obama’s plan, with the majority home by March 31 of next year. The plan vetoed by the president would have had some troops coming home Oct. 1.

Democrats need 16 state senators to vote with them to override the president’s veto, Obama, a Democrat, said to a crowd of about 200 people at Walter Cunningham Center for Excellence, a school in Waterloo.

What we need to remember here is that the bill that was vetoed was so full of loopholes that it was completely worthless as far as ending the occupation rather it fully funded a continuation of the war.

From Tomdispatch:

Let's be clear about what it is -- when it comes to "withdrawal" from Iraq -- that the President will veto this Wednesday. Section 1904(b) of the supplemental appropriations bill for the Pentagon, H.R. 1591, passed by the House and Senate, mandates that the Secretary of Defense "commence the redeployment of the Armed Forces from Iraq not later than October 1, 2007, with a goal of completing such redeployment within 180 days." If you've been listening to network TV news shows or reading your local newspaper with less than an eagle eye, you might well be under the impression that -- just as the phrasing above seems to indicate -- a Democratic-controlled Congress has just passed a bill that mandates a full-scale American withdrawal from Iraq. (Reporters and commentators regularly speak of the Democrats' insistence that "American troops be withdrawn from Iraq.") But that's only until you start reading the exceptions embedded in the bill.

And if you read the whole post from Tomdispatch you will see that this was not a serious effort to end the occupation of Iraq it is merely another empty gesture by the democrats, and one fully supported and sold as troop withdrawal by Obama.

So if two plus two still equals four and we add up two known and documented facts which are we are building permanent military bases in Iraq and that the democrat led congress has absolutely no intention of ending the occupation it becomes eminently clear that we will not be leaving Iraq no matter who will be taking up the mantle of imperialism when George Walker Bush is replaced be they democrat or republican.

This is also indicative of a deeper problem which is we have lost control of our democracy, our national leaders no longer respond to our wishes. Our leaders will say what ever they wish to in order to confuse the issues at hand with meaningless phrases such as troop redeployment a particularly odorous phrase that I have come to abhor. Then there is the phrase of supporting the troops and let us be perfectly clear about this. When some politician, any politician, uses the phrase “supporting the troops” what they are really saying is they wish to leave the troops in Iraq which is a rather odd way of supporting them if you ask me. And then the all-time favorite phrase of “phased” redeployment which merely means that at some point we may bring a few troops home but the vast majority will remain in Iraq residing in their permanent bases.

These meaningless and confusing phrases should be enough to raise the red flags of warning because our leaders simply cannot bring themselves to say simply we will end the occupation.

the river of freedom

the narrator is Orson Welles,unmistakable to people my age and older. Ok, it's a little corny and late-M*A*S*H preachy, but it's also poignant and strangely relevant.

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

the limbo presidency


While George Bush, the bad boy president and the darling of homo-phobic American males everywhere, sends another aircraft carrier to the Middle East the intrepid Condi Rice pretends to conduct more of her dilapidated diplomacy and produces another failure. Such a surprise but then who ever said Condi was interested in success when it comes to diplomacy with Iran. Of course Condi will go where ever Bush sends her and she will perform her murderous act with her chubby little cheeks set in determination and her venomous dark eyes flashing.

And as this all too familiar scenario plays out into the inevitable “They forced us to bomb them, we had no choice” things in Iraq seem to just continue to collapse into a meltdown. Despite the aid of an estimated 126,000 mercenaries, all of whom are apparently above the law of any land, American troops and Marines are being stretched beyond the modulas of elasticity point of no return as their continued tour of duty is extended to 15 months and the results of a Pentagon study on their mental health bodes ill for the future.

So as this transpires and America marches to its doom our congress continues to play pattie cake, pattie cake with Bush vowing to end the war while funding it on into infinity. Republican presidential hopefuls gnash their teeth as they see themselves tied to a failed war while democrat presidential hopefuls posture by unzipping their pants and showing us the size of their penises swearing to take nothing off the table while chewing broken glass and eating nails for breakfast.

Fear not for Obama will swing into another rousing rendition of “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” regaling the huge audiences he is known to pack in while liberal pundits will utter wise thoughts such as it is about time we had a black president. John Edwards will get down on his knees and beg forgiveness for his sins while flailing his bare back with a cat-o-nine tails. Hillary will roll up her sleeves flexing her muscled arms challenging any male to an arm wrestling contest for she has much to prove and if that means bombing the be-Jesus out of the Middle East well…

As for the republican hopefuls it is time for fairy tales and morality plays, just like the ones mommy used to write for little Ronnie Reagan when he was just knee high to a grass hopper.

MR. MATTHEWS: In the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, just 22 percent believe this country is on the right track. Mayor Giuliani, how do we get back to Ronald Reagan’s "morning in America"?

MR. GIULIANI: You get back to it with an optimism. The same situation that I faced in New York City. When I became mayor of New York City, 65-70 percent thought New York City was going on the wrong track. And what I did was I set policies and programs of growth, of moving people toward prosperity, security, safety.

And what we can borrow from Ronald Reagan, since we are in his library, is that great sense of optimism that he had. He led by building on the strengths of America, not running America down. And we’re a country that people love to come to. They want to come to this country. We’re the shining city on the hill.

Oh goodie goodie, mommy, mommy can I please have a shining city on a hill? It certainly is hard to imagine anything more specific than a shining city on a hill. Okay folks the first step to any shining city on a hill is to get those brushes out and start cleaning your toilet bowls!

Ah me, but fear not there is the good Senator McCinsane who has his copy of Grimms Fairy Tales with which to entrance us.

MR. MATTHEWS: Senator McCain, most of the public pessimism today has to do with Iraq. How -- what would you need, as commander in chief, to win the war in Iraq?

SEN. MCCAIN: I would need the support of the American people. I would need to be able to show them some success in Iraq, both on the battlefield as well as with the Maliki government.

We have a new general, we have a new strategy. That strategy can succeed. The young men and women who are serving are the best of America. I believe that if we could bring around -- about stability in the neighborhoods in Iraq and have the Maliki government govern, you are going to succeed.

My friends, when the majority leader of the United States Senate says we’ve lost the war, the men and women that are serving in Iraq reject that notion. And if we lost, then who won? Did al Qaeda win? When on the floor of House of Representatives -- they cheer. They cheer when they passed a withdrawal motion -- that is, a certain date for surrender, what were they cheering? Surrender? Defeat?

We must win in Iraq. If we withdraw, there will be chaos, there will be genocide, and they will follow us home.

Of course since what we are now involved in is purely an occupation it is difficult to know just what we are supposed to win. But don’t worry as I believe some far sighted soul equipped McCinsane with a bib so that his drooling spittle did not damage his pretty new suit.

Well I can’t go on with this post any further because I am ready for the rubber room myself. This is the leadership we have and if it is no kind of leadership at all well, all I can say is happy trails America.

But be sure to tune in next week when we report on Bush’s plan to skydive from the orbiting Hubble telescope onto the Lincoln which should keep most of the three year olds happy till the next lunatic becomes leader of the most powerful nation on earth.

1971 Matador ad

Friday, May 04, 2007

What They Don't Tell You

Some astute individual once coined the phrase that it is what they don’t tell you that gets you. This can be applied to our ever vigilant news media with a vengeance.

Tom Engelhardt provides us with some examples over at Tomdispatch and some very good pieces by Michael T. Klare and Renato Redentor Constantino who has an interesting opening:

Hallowed Homeland, great Fatherland,
Bless the star-spangled armada massing today in the Persian Gulf.
Bless the gallant, nuclear-powered cavalry.
They have come once more near the place of the malefactors called Iranians to punish purveyors of fell deeds.

Glorious, indispensable nation,
Bless your cruisers, destroyers, and submarines.
Part the sea for the steel raiment of the USS Nimitz, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier battle groups.
Purify your soldiers so they may do the bidding of the red, white and Bush.
Bring them to temptation but lead them away from the epiphany of remembrance.
The men do not care to remember,
And the women would rather forget,
And the innocent bombs, they know not what they do.

Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Delara Derabi


Delara Derabi is a 20 year old woman who is scheduled to be executed in Iran, possibly as soon as next month. She initially confessed to a murder comitted by her then-boyfriend at his insistence, because at the time she was 17 and he was over 18, and they believed she would not receive a harsh sentence, whereas he would. She's recanted her confession since, but has still been found guilty and is scheduled to be executed by hanging.

In January of this year another Iranian girl, Nazanin Mahabad Fatehi(below left) was given clemency from the hangman's noose via a retrial and exoneration after her government received some 350,000 signatures petitioning for her to be freed(she had killed a would-be rapist in self-defense.). If she had been raped and not tried to prevent it, it's likely she would have been found guilty of having unchaste sexual relations(i.e., because she was not married to the attacker), and received a corporal punishment of several lashes instead.

Nazanin and Ateqeh

However, Nazanin may have had the case of Ateqeh Rajabi (b&w inset, above) on her mind when she acted. Ateqeh, who was hanged at the age of 16 for having sexual relations with an older man-- and apparently for talking back to the judge and taking her hijab off in court.[1]

Note that hanging in Iran is a particularly brutish affair, as they don't use the traditional sudden drop designed to snap the victim's neck and kill her nearly instantaneously. Instead the Iranian justice system uses suspension hanging, in which the victim is gradually hoisted off her feet and dies from asphixiation and neck trauma leading to gradual breaking, a process that generally takes 20-30 minutes.

Initially I hesitated to post the "glamour" photo of Delara, because I considered it possibly counter-productive, as her being dolled up and encouraged to pose in a soulful, contemplative manner, undoubtedly at her attorney's behest, might seem like phoniness to some people visiting here. But-- so what? She sure as hell needs sympathy, and if the "glamour" photo better engenders it, so be it. She's nowhere near 350 thousand signatures presently, and she could use some international attention. (There's also a "help delara" myspace page.)

Normally I'd take this moment to chide conservatives for not banging the drum on her behalf, but I've seen very little discussion of her story, whether on the left or the right. I heard about her via Ali Eteraz,here, whose web site I used to visit more frequently.

Delara also paints, mainly in charcoal. has a link to some of her illustrations, like the one below.

Info on the petition is here.


[1]see BBC:"Execution of a teenaged girl"

Nazanin and Ateqeh collage by me, from images from Kristian Hvesser's Save Nazanin page.
Update, above, May 9th.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Subjective Universe

I have been thinking a lot concerning Jonathan’s point that both republican and democrat voters view Clinton as a liberal and I completely agree that she is anything but a liberal. Sometimes it is helpful to take a wider view to get some perspective on things. There is one common binding factor that groups most republicans and democrats together. That factor is, as I have stated many times, is the assumption of American supremacy, something that transcends party lines, and is completely bipartisan in nature. These assumptions include: America is the best place to live, stands for good because it is perceived to be a liberal democracy, and that we have the right to extend our influence over the rest of the world based on these assumptions which also is amplified by the often unspoken other assumption that might makes right no matter how often that we see that military endeavors are complete failures as in the Vietnam, Korean and now the Iraq War. So what strikes me is that the terms liberal and conservative are completely subjective terms and people who identify themselves as such do so using their own opinion on what these highly subjective terms mean to them.

Recently I have had to reassess my own highly subjective views on what a liberal is. This has led me to consider anyone who supports the assumption of American superiority and our right to pursue imperial expansionism in what ever form it takes, usually expressed in committing violent acts against other nations, as conservative no matter how these people view themselves. However I doubt that a majority of Americans would take my view on this seriously based on what I have already said concerning gross assumptions on the nature of American imperialism.

Another way to view the conundrum of a conservative Hillary Clinton that is perceived as a liberal is the general ignorance of the majority of Americans on the actual state of the democrat leadership. We need to understand that the majority of people get their news from broadcast news and newspapers though the latter is in decline. It could be argued that the worst possible source for news is broadcast news most especially local broadcast news. People who read or write blogs may be under the assumption that since they read or participate in blogging that everyone else is doing the same. And while blogs are probably becoming more popular do the majority of political blogs offer us a different view on the state of politics? I would say the vast majority of them do not. Indeed I believe that they only add to the general misconception that America has the natural and God given right to impose their will upon the rest of the world. I might even say without hesitation that the majority of so-called liberal blogs do nothing but facilitate the democratic leadership without ever questioning their perceptions of the reality of the democrat party.

Taking another look at the role played by the news media we should consider the recent veto of the legislation passed by the democrat majority in congress. Yesterday I read several articles reporting on the veto. And NONE of these articles ever broached the topic that the legislation did nothing what-so-ever to end the American occupation of Iraq rather they focused on a completely bogus issue that the democrats purposefully timed the signing of the legislation to coincide with anniversary of President Bush’s mission accomplished fiasco on the Lincoln. What do you as a reader of the news consider to be the most important factor? The timing of the signing or the fact that though the bill is touted by the democrats as a strategy to force the issue of troop withdrawal when it actually facilitates president Bush’s ability to continue with the war. With this kind of reporting coupled with the assumption that America has the right to impose its will perhaps it becomes more understandable how Clinton, though a true conservative, is viewed as a liberal.

The fact is that all of the democrat front runners including Obama, Clinton AND Edwards not only fully support American Imperialism but believe in it as a matter of course and is something that is never to be questioned or analyzed in a logical manner. Kerry and Al Gore are no better. On domestic issues the democrats may be somewhat of an improvement over the republican party yet I am adamant in my conviction that the pursuit of imperial designs and specifically the Iraq War is doing more damage to domestic issues than any other single factor I can think of. How can America possibly move forward with any kind of progressive program when the vast majority of spending is consumed by this war?

And none of what I have said, if you agree or disagree, even approaches the moral issues of mass murder and the outright thievery that is occurring this very second in the Middle East.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

a Pew poll, more on Gravel, etc

to people(like me) who find in-depth, meaningful polling interesting, this Pew Center poll is fascinating. It mainly concerns perceptions of ideological identity of various political figures, as well as 2008 "electability." It discomfits me a bit that fairly large numbers of people regard Hillary as "an inspiring leader", but it puzzles the hell out of me that majorities on both the left and the right think she's a liberal.(!?!) She voted for the Patriot Act, supported the war in 2002 and has never conceded she was wrong to do so, has hinted that she wants to keep military bases in Iraq, and came out in favor of an anti-flag burning amendment. What would disqualify her as a liberal in voters' eyes? Favoring a return to segregation?(via kevin drum)

I've looked for a poll of democrats' response to the South Carolina debate, but I haven't seen anything.(I find myself wondering if this is reflective of a big media reluctance to suggest that Mike Gravel might have gained any traction, in much the same way that we hardly ever see polls regarding Americans' views of war with Iran-- possibly because we don't favor it strongly enough.)

However, Mike Gravel sent a bulletin to his myspace friends saying he's back in the June CNN debate in New Hampshire that he was initially bumped from. Also, he's appearing on the Colbert Report tomorrow, May 2nd(via Jack Wood).

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