Thursday, February 28, 2002

AP, Study: Afghans Growing Opium Poppy

The opium poppy harvest in Afghanistan this year is likely to return to levels seen before the ousted Taliban banned the crop, the United Nations reported Thursday.

BBC, US drops Afghan drug sanctions

Other states dropped from the US list of drug producers or transit points are Mexico, Colombia, Nigeria, Paraguay, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, India, Jamaica, Laos, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Thailand, Venezuela, Vietnam. In all these countries the war against drugs is a big success. We wouldn't have a drug problem at all if it weren't for Burma.

Monday, February 25, 2002

To those half-dozen or so loyal souls still checking this ever-more infrequently updated page, I offer my apologies. I've been in Montreal the past few days, and likely won't be updating for a little while yet. I offer some recommendations for some great sites a few postings down.

I will resist the urge to gloat about our dual triumphs in the womens and mens Olympic hockey competition. With the exception of that cheap-shot scumbag Gary Suter, I have heaps of admiration for the American hockey clubs, who played very well. It's nice to see Gretzky looking a little less haggard.

Did you notice Smilin' Dick Cheney at the final? It seems the defeat of the American team pushed him right over the edge...

Only Gretzky Can Stop The Carnage

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

Canadians may be lukewarm about attacking Iraq, but now our nation's spiritual leader has called upon us to take up our cudgels in the name of hate:

I don't think we dislike those countries as much as they hate us. That's a fact. They don't like us. They want to see us fail. They love beating us. They may tell you guys something different, but believe me, when you're on the ice with them, that's what they say. They don't like us. We've got to get that same feeling toward them.

Gretzky wants to kill you

If Iraq gets a hot goaltender and two decent scoring lines it's bombs away.

::Globe and Mail: Iraq? Not so fast
::Stephen Brunt, Globe and Mail: Gretzky rallies the troops in echo of the '72 Summit
Maybe I'm flogging a dead horse. But they're still dropping the fucking bombs, aren't they?

The intense air war that smashed the Taliban and still seeks to disable or kill its top leaders has left a string of mistakes across southern Afghanistan. In a succession of villages, precision-guidance munitions from U.S. aircraft sometimes hit precisely the wrong targets as pilots and their allies on the ground tried to distinguish between fleeing or hiding targets and vulnerable, exposed civilians.

. . . The accounts indicate that while being very cautious about hunting Taliban or al Qaeda members on the ground, U.S. forces struck potential targets from the air with less discriminating firepower. As a result, U.S. bombs hit fleeing Taliban convoys, destroyed hidden weapons depots and chased targets who hid in civilian areas. But airstrikes also killed children in their homes, pulverized trucks regardless of their cargo and pounded a Muslim shrine into rubble.

After months of silence, the mainstream American press has suddenly discovered all those bombing mishaps that have been reported overseas from the beginning. Why these stories are appearing now is a puzzle... Could it be that the American involvement in Afghanistan is essentially a fait accompli, and now it is safe to report negative stories? Could the press, tired of gobbling down steaming piles of administration horseshit, be emboldened by the Enron debacle to at last challenge official accounts?

Or could it be that the elite has calculated that so long as it is taking dramatic action in the war against evil, the American public doesn't care how many innocents are bombed, or how it looks to the international community? Thomas Friedman gleefully sums up this mindset in one of his characteristically idiotic aphorisms: "Meet Don Rumsfeld — he's even crazier than you are."

::Susan B. Glasser, Washington Post: Afghans Live and Die With U.S. Mistakes via Dack
::Thomas Friedman, NY Times: Crazier Than Thou

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Some rather strong allegations on the Anthrax attacks from that hotbed of subversion, the New Scientist:

Investigators are virtually certain of one thing, though: it was an inside job. The anthrax attacker is an American scientist-and worse, one from within the US's own biodefence establishment. And only now, four months on from the posting of the first letters, are the frightening implications of that beginning to sink in.

America's experience of bioterrorism was, above all, one of institutional failure and a breakdown in the trust on which those institutions are based. The US had its own bioweapons research turned against it-by one of its own. To add to the embarrassment, advances in the massive investigation so far owe more to the serendipity of a few researchers than to any organised response to bioterrorism.

The article, after a concise overview of the stunning incompetence of public health and law enforcement officials, goes on to suggest motives behind the attacks, ones that are somewhat relevant in the current environment:

One more clue points to someone who worked at USAMRIID itself. A US marine base got a letter in late September, after the anthrax letters were posted but before Stevens was diagnosed, calling an Egyptian-born scientist, Ayaad Assaad, a bioterrorist.

Assaad was laid off by USAMRIID in 1997, and was harassed while he worked there. He was cleared of the bioterrorist charge. Barbara Rosenberg, a bioweapons expert for the Federation of American Scientists, suspects the letter was the real attacker's attempt to frame Assaad by capitalising on anti-Muslim feeling after 11 September. It revealed an insider's familiarity with USAMRIID.

The attacker also masqueraded, unconvincingly, as a Muslim in the anthrax letters themselves. This could be a clue to his motivations. If he wished to scale up US military action against Iraq, he almost succeeded-many in Washington tried hard to see Saddam Hussein's hand in the attacks.

If he wished merely to make the US pour billions into biodefence, he did succeed. And as a US bioweapons expert, he might already be reaping the increased funding and prestige that now goes with the job.

Not only are investigators moving slowly, the story has been assiduously avoided by the mainstream press. One New Jersey outlet covers a Rosenberg talk at Princeton University, one in which she gets more specific in her allegations:

"We can draw a likely portrait of the perpetrator as a former Fort Detrick scientist who is now working for a contractor in the Washington, D.C., area," Rosenberg said. "He had reason for travel to Florida, New Jersey and the United Kingdom. . . . There is also the likelihood the perpetrator made the anthrax himself. He grew it, probably on a solid medium and weaponized it at a private location where he had accumulated the equipment and the material.

"We know that the FBI is looking at this person, and it's likely that he participated in the past in secret activities that the government would not like to see disclosed," Rosenberg said. "And this raises the question of whether the FBI may be dragging its feet somewhat and may not be so anxious to bring to public light the person who did this.

"I know that there are insiders, working for the government, who know this person and who are worried that it could happen that some kind of quiet deal is made that he just disappears from view," Rosenberg said.

Of course, the implications of a military scientist unleashing biological weapons on the American public are nowhere near so significant as, say, a screwed-up idiot kid who joined the Taliban. The same voices calling for the Final Solution to be enacted on liberals because the American Taliban was raised by Marin County hot-tubbers are apparently untroubled by genuine terrorism, treason, and mass murder. That the likely perpetrator's aims align perfectly with current administration policy is not worth mentioning.

Of course, we do have a (few more) war(s) to win.

::Debora MacKenzie, New Scientist: The Insider
::Joseph Dee, New Jersey Times: Expert: Anthrax suspect ID'd via American Samizdat
::Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, Federation of American Scientists: Analysis of the Anthrax Attacks

Friday, February 15, 2002

No postings. Been a bad bad weblogger. Will likely continue to be through the weekend too.

As ever, for news on this beat I recommend my fellow harbingers at American Samizdat, the most-groovy Dack (who's hot), the ever-reliable Cursor, and for a change of pace the cut-and-paste mastery of Riley Dog, the enduringly-influential wood s lot.

I hope that's enough destinations, I'm almost out of hyphens. Am enjoying the response to the question posted below, please keep URL's and random bits of abuse coming.

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

An intriguing question posed by Dr. Menlo on American Samizdat:

If, as Unknown News and others have pointed out, the CIA plays an influential role in the doings of the Corporate Media--what if the CIA has caught on to blogs? What blogs, in your estimation, are most likely to be run by spooks?

Any theories?

Washington police are building what will be the nation's biggest network of surveillance cameras to monitor shopping areas, streets, monuments and other public places in the U.S. capital, a move that worries civil liberties groups, The Wall Street Journal said on Wednesday.

The system would eventually include hundreds of cameras, linking existing devices in Metro mass transit stations, public schools and traffic intersections to new digital cameras mounted to watch over neighborhoods and shopping districts, the Journal said.

"In the context of Sept. 11, we have no choice but to accept greater use of this technology," Stephen Gaffigan, the head of the police department project, told the Journal.

How do we know America is a democracy? In a non-democracy Gaffigan would have said 'you' instead of 'we'.

::Reuters: Washington Plans Unprecedented Camera Network
This day in history, one of the Greatest Generation's shining moments, back before America lost her innocence...

At 10:10 p.m. on Feb. 13, 1945, some 1000 British bombers and support craft attacked the German city of Dresden. There were no military targets in Dresden, and the population had nearly doubled over the winter months as a result of the massive influx of refugees fleeing the advancing Soviet troops. British air commander Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris has stated that the object of this particular exercise was to set the city on fire. This purpose was expedited by the dropping of 3000 high explosive and 650,000 incendiary bombs. The absence of any kind of anti-aircraft response mechanism made it easy to fly in low and hit targets such as hospitals and factories with pinpoint accuracy. This first attack created a firestorm unlike anything ever seen before, a firestorm miles high and thousands of acres in area, a veritable tornado of fire that could be seen from hundreds of miles away.

Three hours after the first attack, a second wave of British bombers struck at the center of the city, to keep the firestorm going, and at the edges of the conflagration, to expand it outward. The timing of this second attack strongly suggests that it was intended to target rescue workers, firefighters and surviving civilians as they emerged from the air-raid shelters.

Ash Wednesday saw rescue workers and medical personnel from all over Germany converge on the ruined city just in time for a third assault. This time more than 300 American "Flying Fortresses" and a support contingent of fighters finished the job the British had so effectively begun. The bombers reignited the firestorm, and the little Mustangs strafed civilians wherever they gathered. As many as 135,000 people were killed, nearly all civilians. None of them had cellphones, so their last words are lost to posterity.

::Alan Cabal, New York Press: Remembering Dresden

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

A few days ago the New York Times timidly suggested that, ahem, maybe that Afghan bombing campaign wasn't always that amazingly precise after all. Now the Guardian has published the first of three major stories on the civilian death toll in Afghanistan, Ian Traynor's unsparing assessment of the bombing occasionally tweaking the doves (including Marc Herold) along with the hawks:

There are no official US figures, and nor have the dozens of non-governmental charities now operating in the country done any independent research. "Undoubtedly there have been civilian casualties," says a well-informed Afghan professional working for an NGO mainly funded by the US government.

"No one is doing a real assessment of that. It gets very political. Please don't ask me about that."

"There's collateral damage in every conflict, but I don't feel comfortable talking about it," echoed a UN official in Kabul.

Despite the manipulation of casualty figures for propaganda purposes by both pro-war apologists and anti-war activists, it is already clear that the number of civilian dead from the bombing vastly exceeds the estimated 500 killed by US air strikes during the 78-day Kosovo war, and may also be higher than the 3,200 Iraqi civilians believed killed during the Gulf war.

"A lot of civilians are clearly being killed or injured. It's definitely in the four figures," says a UN source.

The charity Médecins Sans Frontières says: "MSF increasingly sees evidence of an unacceptably high number of Afghan civilian casualties from the military operations."

::Barry Bearak, et al New York Times: Uncertain Toll in the Fog of War: Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan
::Ian Traynor, The Guardian: Afghans are still dying as air strikes go on. But no one is counting

Monday, February 11, 2002

George Monbiot with a cutting appraisal of the new imperialism:

On January 29, the IMF's assistant director for monetary and exchange affairs suggested that the country should abandon its currency and adopt the dollar instead. This would, he explained, be a "temporary" measure, though, he conceded, "when an economy dollarises, it takes a little while to undollarise". The day before, the administrator of the US Agency for International Development revealed that part of its aid package to Afghan farmers would take the form of GM seed.

Both Hamid Karzai, the interim president, and Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy, were formerly employed as consultants to Unocal, the US oil company which spent much of the 1990s seeking to build a pipeline through Afghanistan. Unocal appears to have dropped the scheme, but smaller companies (such as Chase Energy and Caspian Energy Consulting) are now lobbying for its revival. In October the president of Turkmenistan wrote to the United Nations, pressing for the pipeline's construction.

::George Monbiot, The Guardian: America's imperial war
Harper's publisher John A, MacArthur was deemed estimable enough to be invited as a 'media fellow' for the World Economic Forum:

after five days of wandering around on the inside of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, I can't help but feel that I've been misled about this so-called world elite, and so have all its critics. Above all, Davos is about the hollowness of public relations, the hot air of advertising and the monotony of mutual congratulation -- more so, at any rate, than the exercise of raw power. And if, as I concluded, empty phrases and fatuous rhetoric are the real stuff of Davos, then Davos and its elitists are ripe for overthrow -- all we have to do is blow, and it will all come tumbling down.

Believe me, I tried to take the 31st World Economic Forum seriously. From the moment I passed through the metal detector, strapped on my super high-tech identification badge and got in line for my "Davos Companion," the hand-held computer given to all confreres, the needle on my self-importance meter was solidly in the red zone.

::John A. MacArthur, Globe and Mail via Commondreams: Through the Looking-Glass

Saturday, February 09, 2002

Bush said that he spoke to athletes earlier in the day, ending his remarks to them "by saying 'Let's roll,' " another attempt to popularize the would-be catch phrase he introduced, to little effect, in his otherwise notable State of the Union speech.

You mean 'Let's Roll' hasn't supplanted 'Where's the Beef?' or 'Whazzup?' yet? Come on America! I thought the pride was back.

Neil Young has done his part, so have America's formidable legions of patriotic t-shirt and novelty vendors. Myself, I use the phrase at every opportunity: in person, on the phone and online; at home, at work, in restaurants, movie theaters, and pre-natal classes; before and frequently after sexual intercourse; during toking sessions and drinking binges; to panhandlers, police officers and prostitutes.

The rest is up to you. We roll, or we get rolled.

::Tom Shales, Washington Post: NBC's Opening Night Coverage Is More Limp Than Olympic
::William S. Repsher, New York Press, 10 December 2001: Roll Over
::Michael Rubinkam, AP: `Let's Roll' Trademark Battle Is On

Friday, February 08, 2002

A short, elegant hatchet job on a Canadian neo-con weasel whose wife bragged in a weaselly email that he came up with 'the Axis of Evil'...

::Dean Allen, Textism: Axis of Weasels via wood s lot
::Timothy Noah, Slate: David Frum's "Axis of Evil" Authorial vanity strikes the Bush White House
America next trains its military sights on a kidnapping ring, reports the NY Times Nicholas Kristof...

Muslim fighters are sending their wives away, out of respect for American military prowess. Philippine soldiers are angling for new laser targeting gear, out of respect for American technology. And bars are busy recruiting teenage girls as "entertainers," out of respect for American libido.

But we've been had. This new deployment of troops isn't really about fighting international terrorism, as the Bush administration insists (and perhaps believes, which may be worse).

Anyone who comes here to the jungles of Basilan, home to the Abu Sayyaf movement that we're supposed to destroy, discovers pretty quickly that Abu Sayyaf isn't a militant Islamic terror group. It's simply a gang of about 60 brutal thugs.

::Nicholas D. Kristof, NY Times: A Safe Place for a War

To go as far left as the Journal editors are to the right, CNBC would have to convene a roundtable featuring Noam Chomsky, Alexander Cockburn, Vanessa Redgrave and Fidel Castro.

::Eric Alterman, The Nation: Axis Me No Questions...

Thursday, February 07, 2002

Triumphalists need not bother with this particular item. The defeatist who wrote it isn't even an American.

Not since the early 1980s have I seen America’s business elite so lacking in confidence, not just about their immediate economic prospects, but about the long-term outlook for capitalism and the world. The arrogance of American politicians on the world stage is a natural reaction to this fundamental lack of economic and social self-confidence, as it was in the early Reagan years.

Whether the wider American public shares this manic-depressive paranoia is uncertain, but opinion polls suggest that it does. How else can one explain the record approval ratings of a President who tells them that — far from celebrating their Afghanistan victory — they should prepare for a third world war that will last for decades and expose them to unprecedented dangers?

. . . By identifying America primarily as a military power, by asserting that it will pursue its perceived national interests regardless of international laws, coalitions or treaties, by emphasising its unchallengeable superiority over every other nation and global institution, by claiming an unconditional moral hegemony over any adversary he cares to identify, and by acting so blatantly in the interests of the US business establishment, Mr Bush is weakening America and playing into the hands of its opponents.

He is fostering the belief that America’s wealth and power are illegitimate and coercive when, in reality, America is powerful because people all over the world volunteer to buy its products and absorb its values. But that is not how the world perceives things. And the more America brandishes its military power, the more it will be met with antagonism, revulsion and misunderstanding.

::Anatole Kaletsky, Times of London: Arrogance and fear: an American paradox via Cursor
I just made my first posting to American Samizdat. Since my previous rave on this collaborative weblog, Dr. Menlo has added contributors from daily reads such as Riley Dog, Booknotes, randomWalks and Abuddhas Memes, among other most worthies.

Cheers to the good Dr. Menlo (who informs me that 'for the record, I first used the phrase 'American Samizdat' in a piece I contributed to the Corpse published in 2000') for making this happen, and to the rest of the harbingers.

Wednesday, February 06, 2002

The message a beat-up flag sends is, "Last year I really loved my country, but lately I've been losing interest in the relationship, and we've drifted apart."

:: lightningfield's flag photo gallery
Dack has done some digging, and presents an estimate of the type, quantity, and value of munitions dropped on Afghanistan (October 7 - December 10, 2001).

If anything, the totals are conservative. It only includes figures that the Defense Department has made public, and they have not released any information on bombs dropped after December 10th.

Our host is considerate enough to set it all to a groovy soundtrack.

::Dack, You Dropped a Bomb on Me

Tuesday, February 05, 2002

It will all seem normal. President George W. Bush signed an executive order last week overturning a law requiring the release of presidential papers 12 years after the end of an administration, The Associated Press reports. Bush officials say the president has "reinterpreted" the law -- ordinarily the job of the Supreme Court under the old republic -- to mean that no papers can be released unless both the current president and the former president in question agree to it.

Historians, journalists or ordinary citizens seeking information about the actions of past administrations will have to file suit to show a "demonstrated, specific" need for access to the blocked material. The mere assertion of a "right to know" about governmental affairs will not be sufficient. Such a right no longer exists.

. . . Normal. Armed with the sweeping new powers of the "U.S.A. Patriot Act" passed late last month, the Bush administration is acting to "shift the primary mission of the FBI from solving crimes to gathering domestic intelligence," The Washington Post reports.

In other words, the feds will move from protecting the people to spying on them. The CIA has also been given authority to take part in domestic surveillance and investigation for the first time. These domestic "black ops" will be overseen by a secret court appointed by the chief justice -- William "Top Quint" Rehnquist.

Like the chill of autumn. This week President Bush demanded that Congress pass his "economic stimulus" bill by the end of the month, The New York Times reports. The bill would give $25 billion in federal money directly to the nation's wealthiest corporations, including IBM, GM and GE, refunding taxes they paid over the last 15 years. In all, the bill will give $112 billion in tax breaks to the wealthiest individuals and corporations over the next two years.

It won't come like a storm. It will all seem normal. Like a break in the weather, a shift in the wind.

::Chris Floyd, Moscow Times: Weather Report via American Samizdat
Reuters newswire, 02:52 AM...

Lay's whereabouts a mystery

"We made contact with Mr. Lay's attorney this afternoon ... He tells us he does not know of Lay's whereabouts, which we find quite puzzling to say the least," said Peggy Peterson, spokeswoman for the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee.

Earl Silbert, Lay's attorney, was unavailable for comment. A woman answering the phone at his home said he was ill.

If I watched CNN, I'd be expecting some white Bronco freeway action any minute now...

::Kevin Drawbaugh, Reuters: Lay's whereabouts a mystery

Monday, February 04, 2002

This reads like an item from the Ironic Times, but was initially reported by one of the Emperor's most obsequious lapdogs...

"Early on, I said, 'I'm a baseball fan. I want a scorecard'," Mr Bush explained in an interview with Bob Woodward of the Washington Post.

"And I understood that when you're fighting an enemy like al-Qa'eda, people - including me - didn't have a sense of who we're fighting. And I have actually got a chart."

Pointing to a photograph of Muhammad Atef, Osama bin Laden's military chief and planner of the September 11 attacks, who was killed in November, he said: "There's an X right there."

Across the photo of Ayman Zawahiri, another al-Qa'eda leader, an X had been rubbed out, but was still just visible.

There were reports of Zawahiri being dead, but these later proved to be wrong. "We thought we had Zawahiri," Mr Bush explained.

::Toby Harnden, The Telegraph: Bush keeps photo hit-list of enemies via Cursor

Saturday, February 02, 2002

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 - Vice President Dick Cheney said today that the White House was prepared to go to court to fight the release of documents demanded by Congress as part of the investigation into any influence the Enron Corporation (news/quote) had in formulating the Bush administration's energy policy.  Sources close to Mr. Cheney say he is especially furious with Internet based web sites suggesting that the Administration is complicit in any wrongdoing by Enron officials.  "I will personally lure the blogging bastards to New York City," said the Vice President, "and cut off their fucking hands."

::environy daily
Bill Moyers has been sounding awful pissed off the past few months, and it appears that this new series will be reflecting that...

In the interview by journalist Lowell Bergman to be broadcast on NOW WITH BILL MOYERS . . . Lay claims that he was unaware that he was the only CEO of a major electric energy company to confer privately with the Vice President as he formulated his national energy strategy.

KENNETH LAY: "I'm flattered that he decided to meet with me and hear me out as to some of the things that I thought were pretty important that should be considered for his report."

Lay also confirms that Enron submitted to the White House a list of nominees that the company wanted considered for a key federal agency overseeing the energy industry.

KENNETH LAY: "I brought a list, we certainly presented a list, and I think that was by way of letter, I mean as I recall I signed a letter which in fact had some recommendations as to people that we thought would be good FERC commissioners."

::NOW: What Enron Wants
::Bill Moyers, The Nation, 19 November 2001: Which America Will We Be Now?

Friday, February 01, 2002

Political warfare conceptualised as competing narratives...

Two huge commercial jetliners smash into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Soon after, the buildings collapse. Fires rage for days; eyewitnesses tell of the horrors they saw or experienced. Thousands die as the public learns that terrorists willing to commit suicide hijacked four planes and turned them into weapons of mass destruction in the name of their political/religious beliefs. This is an evil act and an act of war—a sneak attack like Pearl Harbor. It is perhaps a new kind of war, but a war nonetheless and the only response to being attacked is to attack back both to punish those responsible for the carnage and to prevent future attacks. Defending civilization against terrorism requires hunting down the supporters and perpetrators of terror and the regimes that support them.

For many the truth of this narrative is self-evident. Anyone denying or even questioning it is either an enemy or delusional (or both). The link between the events themselves and the conclusions is seamless to those who accept it. But a different narrative also exists:

Two huge commercial jetliners smash into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Soon after, the buildings collapse. Fires rage for days; eyewitnesses tell of the horrors they saw or experienced. Thousands die as the public learns that terrorists willing to commit suicide hijacked four planes and turned them into weapons of mass destruction in the name of their political/religious beliefs. This may have been an evil act, but now the suffering Americans know what it is like to live in physical terror. It is an experience Palestinians and Iraqis and others in the Middle East have known for years. This will lead, once again, to attacks on Muslims, this time in Afghanistan, and perhaps in other countries. Once again, innocent civilians will bear the brunt of the suffering from the attacks from the western powers while corrupt regimes give tacit support to the US. As bombs fall from 30,000 feet and civilians die, new refugees will be created in a land that has already suffered from more than 20 years of on-going war.

::Mark Howard Ross, Social Science Research Council: The Political Psychology of Competing Narratives: September 11 and Beyond via wood s lot