Saturday, May 26, 2007

To reiterate - Democrats, you've done a heck of a job

Enjoy your new colony, Iraq, which you own now every bit as much as the Rethugs against whom y'all ran last year (yeah, that blank check ya gave ol' Junior Caligula shall not be forgotten). As for some of the hype that the US might someday remove its military presence, if you believe that I've got a bridge in Brooklyn for sale - trust me, it's a steal. Some fodder for the cannon:
Prairie Weather catches the real news in the story, sourced as it is from leaks by "senior administration officials". The actual plan is to stay in Iraq forever. Here's the key graph of "Judy" Sanger's whole article:
The officials cautioned that no firm plans have emerged from the discussions. But they said the proposals being developed envision a far smaller but long-term American presence, centering on three or four large bases around Iraq. Mr. Bush has told recent visitors to the White House that he was seeking a model similar to the American presence in South Korea.
Let's be clear about that, shall we - Bush's plan is for more than a dozen huge bases and a constant presence numbering in the tens of thousands over more than three decades. Which is what quite a few people have been saying was Bush's real plan all along.
Of course bearing the White Man's Burden will exact a price, primarily in human blood - mostly Iraqi (which the typical American will think nothing of) as well as the 100 or so US troops per month (note that the term "coalition forces" no longer applies these days).

I'm not surprised of course, as the Dems were so easily willing to assist the Boy King's invasion of Iraq in the first place back in late 2002. I am disappointed, of course, but it's a disappointment typically reserved for a recidivist addict who's off the wagon yet again.

Wanker of the day

Fred Thompson. No comment on my part necessary.

Who's to blame?

Eli sez:
Think about the famous Stanford Prison Experiment, which proved that ordinary people can be turned into sadistic monsters almost overnight with very little effort. Now think about the effects on the minds of people who have been subjected to a lifelong barrage of pro-war, imperialist, "we're number 1," "we're fighting for democracy" propaganda, and then combine that with the effects of economic forces which provide a powerful impulse for people to join the armed forces, and then tell me "he really is to blame." Sorry, not buying it. It is imperialism, and its ruling class, which is to blame, and only by getting rid of them, and not by laying a guilt trip on the "universal soldier," are we ever going to put an end to war.

Mystery Flights by Olenka Frenkiel (BBC)

This World pieces together the jigsaw of "extraordinary rendition", the alleged illegal CIA transfer of terror suspects to secret prisons in Europe. [59m16s]

In far Eastern Poland in 2002 and 2003 strange planes landed on an old disused runway in a secluded forest. Nine times.

Was Poland a staging point in the network of secret prisons established by the United States in their "extraordinary rendition" programme? Did these mystery flights bring al-Qaeda suspects to Poland?

Poland is not alone: it is alleged that the CIA flew their planes to 29 different countries; that there were 300 CIA landings in Europe alone, 80 in Britain.

So did European governments know about these mystery flights?

Extraordinary rendition

"It is unlikely" says lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, "that the British, European and American governments will tell us the truth".

This World's Olenka Frenkiel reports on the plane spotters, civilians, judges, lawyers and journalists piecing together the jigsaw of "extraordinary rendition".

The CIA use the term for taking prisoners abroad for interrogation, a policy the US administration defends as a necessary tool in the "War on Terror."

It denies that prisoners are taken to be tortured.

Search for truth

In a BBC exclusive, Olenka interviews the former head of the CIA in Europe, Tyler Drumheller, who believes the truth will soon be revealed. "These things have a way of coming out" he says, "and then I won't look like the gangster I seem today".

Slowly Europe's democracies are cranking into action in a belated attempt to hold their own governments to account.

The former President of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski and the former Polish Defence Minister Radoslaw Sirkorski have denied that Poland and the military airbase in question were involved.

The UK Government has said it does not know and has no way of finding out who was aboard the 80 CIA flights which landed on British soil.
Nerdified link. Consider the documentary as an attempt to bring to light one of the many stains on the American conscience. The official US government line will likely continue to be that "we don't do torture" although the facts have long betrayed that particular sorry lie. The interviews and film clips of former victims of the US government's program of extraordinary renditioning and of torture as well as interviews with relatives of those who are still being held in gulags such as Guantánamo Bay are one means of understanding the human costs that are being exacted. That thus far the so-called "worst of the worst" have typically had no connection to terrorism only makes what has been done in our names that much worse.

In summary

The Iraq War may be a war with no foreseeable end, but one can be rest assured that it will not be a war with no spin. Don't forget, war is a racket, and someone (no doubt in addition to those troops we're supposed to "support") will be making a killing thanks to all those greenbacks that those lovely congress critters just forked over.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Why Bu$hCo has not been impeached,

and is unlikely to be impeached: It's all about the American Zeitgeist, sez Gary Kamiya. Some choice lines for you consideration:

But there’s a deeper reason why the popular impeachment movement has never taken off — and it has to do not with Bush but with the American people. Bush’s warmongering spoke to something deep in our national psyche. The emotional force behind America’s support for the Iraq war, the molten core of an angry, resentful patriotism, is still too hot for Congress, the media and even many Americans who oppose the war, to confront directly. It’s a national myth. It’s John Wayne. To impeach Bush would force us to directly confront our national core of violent self-righteousness — come to terms with it, understand it and reject it. And we’re not ready to do that.

The truth is that Bush’s high crimes and misdemeanors, far from being too small, are too great. What has saved Bush is the fact that his lies were, literally, a matter of life and death. They were about war. And they were sanctified by 9/11. Bush tapped into a deep American strain of fearful, reflexive bellicosity, which Congress and the media went along with for a long time and which has remained largely unexamined to this day. Congress, the media and most of the American people have yet to turn decisively against Bush because to do so would be to turn against some part of themselves.

[snip]

For those who did not completely succumb to the desire for primitive vengeance but were convinced by Bush’s fraudulent arguments about the threat posed by Saddam, the situation is more ambiguous. Now that his arguments have been exposed and the war has become a disaster, they feel let down, even betrayed — but not enough to motivate them to call for Bush’s impeachment. This is because they cannot exorcise the still-mainstream view that Bush’s lies were justifiable and even noble, Straussian untruths told in support of what Bush believed to be a good cause. According to this line of thinking, since Bush and his neocon brain trust really believed that Saddam Hussein was a dangerous tyrant, the lies they told in whipping up support for war were, while reprehensible, somewhat forgivable.

In Elizabeth de la Vega’s book on impeachment, framed as a fictitious indictment of Bush for conspiring to defraud the United States, she argues that from a legal standpoint it doesn’t matter that Bush may have believed his lies were in the service of a higher good — he’s still guilty of fraud. In a brilliant stroke, de la Vega compares the Bush administration’s lies to those told by Enron executives — who were, of course, rightfully convicted.

The problem is that the American people are not judging Bush by the standards of law. The Bush years have further weakened America’s once-proud status as a nation of laws, not of men. The law, for Bush, is like language for Humpty Dumpty: it means just what he chooses it to mean, neither more nor less. This attitude has become disturbingly widespread — which may explain why Bush’s illegal wiretapping, his approval of torture, and his administration’s partisan purge of U.S. district attorneys have not resulted in wider outrage.

This society-wide diminution of respect for law has helped Bush immeasurably. It is not just the law that America has turned away from, but what the law stands for — accountability, memory, history and logic itself. That anonymous senior Bush advisor who spoke with surreal condescension of “the reality-based community” may have summed up our cultural moment more acutely than anyone else in years. A society without memory, driven by ephemeral emotions, which demands no consistency from its leaders but only gusty patriotism, is a society that is not about to engage in the painful self-examination that impeachment would mean.

A corollary to the decline of logic is our acceptance of the universality of spin. It no longer seems odd to us that a president should lie to get what he wants. In this regard, Bush, the most sanctimonious of presidents, must be seen as having degraded traditional American values more than the most relativist, Nietzsche-spouting postmodernist.

All of these factors — the sacrosanct status of war, the public’s complicity in an irrational demonstration of raw power, the loss of respect for law, logic and memory, the bland acceptance of spin and lies, the public unconcern about the fraudulence of Bush’s actions — have created a situation in which it is widely accepted that Bush’s lies about Iraq were not impeachable or even that scandalous, but merely a matter of policy. Just as conservatives lamely charged that the Scooter Libby case represented the “criminalization of politics,” so the conventional wisdom holds that distorting evidence to justify a war may be slightly reprehensible, but is not worth making much of a fuss about, and is certainly not impeachable.

To impeach Junior Caligula would open up a veritable Pandora's Box of issues regarding our own cultural assumptions, values and practices which would prove to be enormously uncomfortable: too uncomfortable for far too many Americans. Hence the Boy King may get a free ride yet before all is said and done. Regrettably, that free ride won't be to The Hague (barring of course, some military/economic catastrophe that would leave Washington DC unable to call all the shots).

Tip o' the hat to thoughts on the eve of the apocalypse.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Smelling a rat:

Eli sez:
The bill about to be passed in Congress provides $100 billion for war spending, and is claimed to fund the war "through September." This being the end of May, that's four months, or $25 billion/month. But the average monthly cost of the war in 2006 was just $8.5 billion/month, one-third the amount provided in this bill. Because the war has been escalated since 2006, some increase might be expected, let's say to $10 billion/month. Based on that, the $100 billion will fund the war not for four more months, but for ten more months. The "funding the war through September" would appear to be a cover story being offered by Democrats to make their sell-out appear less craven, and nothing more.
But if nothing else, the Dems did manage to win plenty of pork. In other words, human lives will continue to be lost and shattered, but some Dem congress critters will be trying to buy their constituents' votes come the 2008 elections. Nice.

Also of note: although I've barely so much as paid a single visit to any of the big box blogs in ages (time became of the essence, and my priorities have reflected that), catnip has at least been willing to wade through the muck. Apparently the Waffling Wizard of Kos can't seem to keep straight whether to stick with the old "my party right or wrong" canard or to actually be pissed off at the very party "leaders" who have failed not only Dem partisans but the whole damned nation. Like catnip, I'm guessing that come November 2008, all will be forgiven at the Big Orange place (and blogs of similar persuasion).

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Keith Olbermann sez

The entire government has failed us on Iraq:
Few men or women elected in our history—whether executive or legislative, state or national—have been sent into office with a mandate more obvious, nor instructions more clear:

Get us out of Iraq.

Yet after six months of preparation and execution—half a year gathering the strands of public support; translating into action, the collective will of the nearly 70 percent of Americans who reject this War of Lies, the Democrats have managed only this:

  • The Democratic leadership has surrendered to a president—if not the worst president, then easily the most selfish, in our history—who happily blackmails his own people, and uses his own military personnel as hostages to his asinine demand, that the Democrats “give the troops their money”;
  • The Democratic leadership has agreed to finance the deaths of Americans in a war that has only reduced the security of Americans;
  • The Democratic leadership has given Mr. Bush all that he wanted, with the only caveat being, not merely meaningless symbolism about benchmarks for the Iraqi government, but optional meaningless symbolism about benchmarks for the Iraqi government.
  • The Democratic leadership has, in sum, claimed a compromise with the Administration, in which the only things truly compromised, are the trust of the voters, the ethics of the Democrats, and the lives of our brave, and doomed, friends, and family, in Iraq.

You, the men and women elected with the simplest of directions—Stop The War—have traded your strength, your bargaining position, and the uniform support of those who elected you… for a handful of magic beans.

You may trot out every political cliché from the soft-soap, inside-the-beltway dictionary of boilerplate sound bites, about how this is the “beginning of the end” of Mr. Bush’s “carte blanche” in Iraq, about how this is a “first step.”

Well, Senator Reid, the only end at its beginning... is our collective hope that you and your colleagues would do what is right, what is essential, what you were each elected and re-elected to do.

Because this “first step”… is a step right off a cliff.

[snip]

The Democratic nomination is likely to be decided... tomorrow.

The talk of practical politics, the buying into of the President’s dishonest construction “fund-the-troops-or-they-will-be-in-jeopardy,” the promise of tougher action in September, is falling not on deaf ears, but rather falling on Americans who already told you what to do, and now perceive your ears as closed to practical politics.

Those who seek the Democratic nomination need to—for their own political futures and, with a thousand times more solemnity and importance, for the individual futures of our troops—denounce this betrayal, vote against it, and, if need be, unseat Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi if they continue down this path of guilty, fatal acquiescence to the tragically misguided will of a monomaniacal president.

For, ultimately, at this hour, the entire government has failed us.

  • Mr. Reid, Mr. Hoyer, and the other Democrats... have failed us.
    They negotiated away that which they did not own, but had only been entrusted by us to protect: our collective will as the citizens of this country, that this brazen War of Lies be ended as rapidly and safely as possible.
  • Mr. Bush and his government... have failed us.
    They have behaved venomously and without dignity—of course.
    That is all at which Mr. Bush is gifted.
    We are the ones providing any element of surprise or shock here.

With the exception of Senator Dodd and Senator Edwards, the Democratic presidential candidates have (so far at least) failed us.

They must now speak, and make plain how they view what has been given away to Mr. Bush, and what is yet to be given away tomorrow, and in the thousand tomorrows to come.

Because for the next fourteen months, the Democratic nominating process—indeed the whole of our political discourse until further notice—has, with the stroke of a cursed pen, become about one thing, and one thing alone.

The electorate figured this out, six months ago.

The President and the Republicans have not—doubtless will not.

The Democrats will figure it out, during the Memorial Day recess, when they go home and many of those who elected them will politely suggest they stay there—and permanently.

Because, on the subject of Iraq...

The people have been ahead of the media....

Ahead of the government...

Ahead of the politicians...

For the last year, or two years, or maybe three.

Our politics... is now about the answer to one briefly-worded question.

Mr. Bush has failed.

Mr. Warner has failed.

Mr. Reid has failed.

So.

Who among us will stop this war—this War of Lies?

To he or she, fall the figurative keys to the nation.

To all the others—presidents and majority leaders and candidates and rank-and-file Congressmen and Senators of either party—there is only blame… for this shameful, and bi-partisan, betrayal.

I suppose I'll simply say that I could see this one coming a mile away. The gumption needed to end the Iraq debacle (and to prevent further escalation of hostilities against nations surrounding Iraq) is sorely lacking in Washington, DC. Too much has been invested into the imperial war machine by the movers and shakers in the two parties currently in charge to abandon that war machine now. There may be a strong consensus among the electorate to end a war that should never have been started, but like most failed or failing states the leaders have no real concern for what the electorate might want. Instead, we will be subjected to the usual dross about how "we" cannot leave now, as those "savages" simply cannot handle their own affairs. The palace-like compound in Baghdad's "Green Zone" called the US Embassy, as well as the permanent bases that have been established in Iraq make it clear that there is no intention by either the Democrat or GOP establishment to end the US occupation of its oil-rich possession any time too soon. Expect continued bloodshed, genocide, misery in Iraq bought and paid for by our tax dollars and of course the good graces of our nation's creditors (e.g., China), and for the deaths of the many to be merely a rhetorical device for use by American politicians hell-bent on occupying the White House.

Glenn Greenwald contra Michelle Malkin

There are many days when I am convinced that the book How to Lie With Statistics should be required reading. Opinion poll data can be used or misused in many ways. Malkin (and others of similar fascist persuasion) is among those who enjoys abusing opinion poll data. Much was made of the apparent 13% of Muslim Americans who believe attacks against civilians is justified at least under some circumstances, with Malkin et al. screeching about this being a wake-up call. However, truth be told, the general American Zeitgeist has been at least open to the use of violent attacks against civilians. To wit, as the above figure shows (found over at Greenwald's blog), less than half of Americans are against the use of violence against civilians under any circumstances. Almost 1/4 of those surveyed felt it to be often or sometimes justified. Add those who believe violent attacks against civilians are "rarely" justifiable, and we have a whopping 51% who could potentially be persuaded that a military attack that ends up killing and maiming a bunch of moms and kids is perfectly fine and dandy. Personally, I'm not too worried about my Muslim neighbors waging jihad. It's my white-bread "good American" neighbors I'd be a bit more concerned about.

By the way, compare the American polling data in the above figure with that of a comparable sample of Iranians. I'd suggest not being too worried about Iranians as a threat either (though they have damned good reason to be concerned about Americans).

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

From the "Debunking American Exceptionalism" department:

In the event readers need a summary of the case for divine intervention on behalf of humanity against the detestable monstrosity we have become, here it is:
  1. We are a gluttonous herd of swine devouring resources at a rate well beyond the Earth's capacity to renew them. Metaphorically speaking, we are one of twenty people populating the globe. Yet we greedily gobble a quarter of the pie, leaving our nineteen neighbors to divvy up the remaining 75%.
  2. Our socioeconomic system, in which our de facto aristocracy, myriad "think tanks", textbook authors, and mainstream media whores have inculcated us to place an unwavering faith of cult-like proportions, is only several generations removed from feudalism, mercantilism, chattel slavery, and the early industrial capitalism which fostered the abject human misery about which Dickens wrote. Concentration of wealth into the hands of a few, exploitation of the working class and the poor, various forms of servitude, profits and property over people, unbridled consumption of resources, and an insatiable need for growth and expansion are inherent malignant aspects of our much vaunted "American Capitalism". Encouraging and rewarding greed, narcissism, hyper-competitiveness, selfishness, and ruthlessness, the "best system there is" has propelled shamelessly decadent pigs to obscene opulence while leaving over half of the world's population to wallow in extreme poverty.
  3. Rather than dismantling the military leviathan we created to facilitate our involvement in World War II, we chose to embrace a perpetual Military Keynesianism under which a mere 5% of the world's population spends more on war than the rest of the world combined. We have no problem "tainting" our capitalism with a little socialism as long as it enables the continued existence of the parasitic "defense" industry, allows us to maintain over 700 military bases in at least 130 different countries, and empowers us to wage the covert and overt imperialist wars necessary to advance the interests of capital.
  4. We have a long history of spouting off about our devotion to "freedom and democracy," decrying (and sometimes lynching) authoritarian rulers who refuse to surrender their nation's sovereignty to our empire, and installing and supporting brutal tyrants who serve the needs of our beloved plutocrats. Iran, bad. Saudi Arabia, good. Venezuela, evil. Colombia, righteous. You get the picture.
  5. In the course of our "infinitely benevolent" quest to democratize and free the world, we have left a bloody wake of annihilated human beings euphemistically labeled as "collateral damage." Millions of Native Americans "sacrificed their lives" so that we could found and expand the United States. At least 600,000 Filipinos were felled as we toiled under the crushing responsibility of our "white man's burden." A half million Japanese died so we could display our power to Russia, a significant threat to capitalism's hegemony. Factor in the 135,000 at Dresden, over two million Koreans, three million Vietnamese, the aforementioned million plus in Iraq, and millions more (counting those murdered via covert operations, smaller military interventions, and by proxies like the Shah, Pinochet, and Israel...not to mention the blacks who died as a result of the slave trade and Jim Crow lynchings), and the malevolence of the Third Reich pales in comparison to the criminal enterprise known as the United States of America.
  6. Aside from having developed and deployed nuclear weapons (in spite of the rest of the world being years away from attaining them and Japan's loss of will to continue the war), we possess and continue to develop the largest nuclear arsenal on the planet. Friendly regional hegemons, like India and Israel, receive our blessing and assistance in nurturing their nuclear capabilities, sans signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Meanwhile, we relentlessly beat the drums of war against Iran for exercising their right (as a signatory of the NNPT) to develop a program to produce nuclear energy. How much longer can the chicken-hawks in DC refrain from unleashing atomic hell, again? How much blatant hypocrisy can the world endure?
  7. Given our love affair, no scratch that, our obsession, with shopping, acquiring, owning, and consuming, we keep the Once-ler's fat, happy, and running at full throttle. As the Truffula trees, Humming-fish, Bar-ba-loots, and Swomee- Swans disappear at an alarming rate, we're too busy "lovin' it" at McDonald's and cashing in on Wal-Mart's "always low prices" to notice or care. Global temperatures rise, ice shelves plunge into the sea, glaciers recede at alarming rates, violent storms rage, species become extinct, and bees disappear en masse as we intrepidly continue filling our two lives per gallon Hummers with inane consumer goods that we don't need. "Keeping the economy strong" is indeed a noble calling.
  8. As crafty as we are, we are not solely reliant upon military means to impose our cultural imperialism. As Milton Friedman and "the Chicago Boys" demonstrated with their experiment in Chile, neoliberalism is a powerful economic tool with which we can integrate weaker nations into our empire. Astoundingly, nation after developing nation accepted our Trojan horse of "generous" loan packages which in turn forced them to crush organized labor, privatize, deregulate, and cut or eliminate humanitarian expenditures. For many years, Fidel Castro was one of the few hold-outs in the face of our economic tyranny. With the recent emergence of leaders like Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales, hope looms on the horizon. Yet predictably, we continue to rain misery upon the people of Cuba and are desperately attempting to sell the world on the idea of pouring our food supply into our gas tanks so we can eliminate our dependence on Chavez's oil and give him the "Fidel treatment."
To spare ourselves the guilt of our undeniable abetment in crimes against the Earth and nearly all its sentient inhabitants, we desperately cling to the Disneyesque illusion that the United States is a benevolent "policeman to the world" that preserves and advances noble ideals like human rights and freedom.
Sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but the analyses of Hannah Arendt and Ward Churchill define our reality much more accurately. No matter how closely an individual US American might adhere to humane principles, we are all "Little Eichmanns." We can minimize our roles, but there is no escaping participation in our nation's virtuoso performance of "The Banality of Evil."
Nerdified link. My emphasis added.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Music Video Interlude: Shakira


I know. I know. So what's a jazz head doing digging on either Shakira or old AC/DC tunes? Long story. Let's just say I'm eclectic. I can credit my five-year-old daughter for turning me on to Shakira. AC/DC was one of those bands I liked back in the late 1970s/early 1980s.

There are a number of songs in the rock cannon that are considered sacred - especially by purists. "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen is one. "Back in Black" by AC/DC is another. If you're going to cover one of these tunes, you damned well better do it right. I've seen one too many bad covers of "Bohemian Rhapsody" (the only good cover I ever saw was by a female vocalist who had incredible range as rockers go).

I'd never seen anyone cover "Back in Black" and this could have been a disaster, especially given that Shakira isn't exactly considered a hard rock vocalist. She and her touring band however prove to be up to the challenge, making the song theirs in the process. The intro is sultry - much different from AC/DC, but it works for Shakira. As the tune progresses, she and her band also prove quite capable of rocking out every bit as much as AC/DC while adding a few of their own touches (the percussion works well with this tune as it turns out, and the band has a guitarist who seems to hold his own when it comes time to solo).

It's cool to see recording artists go out of their comfort zones a bit. This won't please the purists (just check the comments to the Youtube video, which could make for a sociological or psychological study in their own right). It might satisfy open-mind fans of either Shakira or AC/DC, though.