Thursday, June 27, 2002

Another front in the noble Campaign to Eradicate All Evil Everywhere. Another crusade to protect liberty and to project virtue on the world, whether it wants it or not.

And, as usual, the locals are bitchin' and moanin'...

The wary residents of this sweltering town in Bolivia's remote Chapare jungle have a nickname for the uniformed newcomers: "America's mercenaries."

The Expeditionary Task Force, the official name for an armed unit of 1,500 former Bolivian soldiers, is paid, fed, clothed and trained by the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, the Bolivian capital. Since setting up camp 18 months ago on three bases around this town of 2,000 inhabitants, the troops and their assault rifles have become a common sight on the local highway, putting down protests along the steamy jungle road by peasants combating a sweeping, U.S.-backed campaign to eradicate the area's biggest cash crop -- coca.

The force, which has tripled in size since its inception, has become one of the most contentious signs of Washington's involvement in the drug war.

U.S. and Bolivian military officials say the unit has played a vital role in an aggressive attempt to eradicate coca from the Chapare jungle, a region larger than Connecticut that provided the basic ingredient for almost half the world's cocaine during the 1980s and 1990s. Although the soldiers are directly salaried by the U.S. government, American and Bolivian officials describe the outfit as "a group of reservists" within a regular Bolivian army brigade and commanded by regular Bolivian officers.

But a growing number of critics are calling the force an abusive irregular army whose existence violates Bolivian law. And the unit, described by Latin American scholars as the first of its kind in the drug war, has been accused of using excessive force and committing human rights abuses, including murder and torture.

Why can't those Bolivians understand that this is all in their interest?

On Dec. 6, a typically hot summer's day in the Chapare, one of the most severe of the alleged excesses involving the task force took place. At the coca growers union headquarters in Chimore, a group of protesters lined fruit along the side of the road. In a videotaped account of the event broadcast nationwide, it appeared to be a peaceful demonstration highlighting one of the biggest criticisms of alternative development here: low prices and lack of access to domestic and international markets for legal crops such as bananas and pineapples.

Soon after the protest started, task force soldiers arrived and began seizing fruit from demonstrators. Soldiers are seen on the videotape kicking and punching farmers as they order them back into the marketplace. The forces can also be seen roughing up the mayor, Epifanio Cruz, as he tried to calm the situation. Soon, the security forces began launching tear gas.

After one soldier was apparently hit in the face by a rock, retaliation was swift. The contract soldiers chased coca farmers into the union compound. Four shots went off. When the soldiers emerged, the local union leader, Casimiro Huanca, 55, was fatally wounded. A second victim, farmer Fructuoso Herbas, 34, had to have his right leg amputated below the knee after he was shot once in the leg.

::Anthony Faiola, Washington Post: U.S. Role in Coca War Draws Fire


::Chris Floyd, Moscow Times: Global Eye -- Jungle Fever

::CorpWatch, Bulletin - January 30: Coca Grower Killed in Bolivia

While American icons flounder, we are treated to the spectacle of phoney libertarians and weenie liberals grandstanding about yesterday's court decision barring compulsory Christian affirmation for everybody. (I don't get the fuss. Does anyone doubt that the Supreme Court will eventually overturn this decision by a 5-4 margin?) Meanwhile, there was another ruling that more directly concerns the rights of students:

The Supreme Court approved random drug tests for many public high school students Thursday, ruling that schools' interest in ridding their campuses of drugs outweighs an individual's right to privacy.

The 5-4 decision would allow the broadest drug testing the court has yet permitted for young people whom authorities have no particular reason to suspect of wrongdoing. It applies to students who join competitive after-school activities or teams, a category that includes many if not most middle-school and high-school students.

If they haven't done anything wrong, they've got nothing to worry about, right? Privacy is wasted on the young... and this is a good lesson on the level of respect they will be afforded when they enter the workplace.

::Mark Leibovich, Washington Post: Red, White and Ever More Blue
::Washington Post, Court OKs Random Drug Tests in Schools (Thanks Rob)
::The vaults of Erowid: Drug Testing Information

Lt. Gen. Dan McNeill says that Al Qaeda and Taliban forces are avoiding large formations, moving in small groups that like "to snipe at us from a distance and leave the area as quickly as possible."

In western Pakistan yesterday, US allies found out that Al Qaeda fighters are still active ? and dangerous. A standoff between Pakistani troops and suspected Al Qaeda militants quickly turned into a firefight that took the lives of 10 soldiers and two men believed to be Chechen members of Al Qaeda

::Philip Smucker, CS Monitor: US commander: 'This is still a war, any way you cut it' via Dack

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

The next wave in golf carts

There's an e-mail being forwarded in military and law enforcement circles describing an Al Qaeda training tape, purportedly depicting the group's expertise with commando operations in urban settings. James Ridgeway describes some of the lurid scenarios, including this one, sure to strike fear into America's elite:

... the golf-course assassination, where an RPG-type rocket is lobbed onto a golf green, taking out the security vehicle and leaving the golfers to be mowed down by rifle fire.

If terrorist panic were to empty golf courses of politicians and executives, green fees would decline, and the overall integrity of the game would improve.

A dozen CEOs interviewed by USA Today over the past month say they personally bend the rules sometimes, but they say they witness other CEOs doing it constantly. The other guys improve their lies, hit do-over shots (called mulligans), seem to forget the whiff or the missed 3-foot putt, kick their balls out of the rough or kick their opponent's balls into the sand.

"Do I cheat? No," says Ken Winans, CEO of his own investment-research firm in Mill Valley, Calif., who sometimes breaks 100. But then he recalls intentionally stepping on a friend's ball. "One time a guy poured beer on a ball to make it sticky. It's guerilla warfare with certain people."

... Eighty-two percent of executive golfers say they under-count strokes, improve their lie, or participate in other activities considered cheating. Yet when asked in a separate question if they are honest at golf, 99% said they are. And 82% say they hate it when others cheat. Two additional questions found that while 67% believe that a person who cheats at golf would probably cheat at business, 99% say they are personally honest at business.

::James Ridgeway, The Village Voice: Way of the Gun
::Del Jones, USA Today: Many CEOs bend the rules (of golf) via Cursor

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

The New York Times dutifully publishes its uncomprehending take on the G-8 protesters:

A wide assortment of protest groups have been quiet about their exact plans. But they have organized a few thousand demonstrators from around Canada and the United States to march this week against globalization, free trade and perceived corporate greed, while supporting ratification of the Kyoto treaty as an antidote to global warming.

Excuse me, perceived corporate greed? The rest of their paper is rife with dark tales of malfeasance at Enron (probe is expanding to include its bankers), Arthur Anderson, Global Crossing and Halliburton, among scores of other former luminaries. WorldCom, the nation's second largest long distance company, has admitted to overstating its cash flow by a few billion bucks. Their business section looks like it's being ghost-edited by William Grieder.

Those protesters can't score a break. They've been documenting and fighting this sort of corporate corruption for years, back when the Times was uncritically whooping the stock bubble as a brave new economic paradigm. Yet rather than being vindicated, their positions remain suspect -- solely because of who they are.

Next thing you know, conspiracy-mongers will be claiming that the elite media are mouthpieces for the conglomerates that own them.

::Clifford Krauss, New York Times: Security Tight for G-8 Talks at Idyllic Spot in Canada

Mr Powell declared himself comfortable with the policy yesterday, but he pointedly put off a planned trip to the region to sell it to the Arab world. He may suspect it cannot be sold. The Bush speech is almost as much a defeat for the secretary of state as it is for Mr Arafat.

::Julian Borger, Guardian: Why the president stopped listening to Powell

A shout-out on this item for my sister, who is wrapping up a year working with Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief in Uganda.

On the eve of the G8 summit, where world leaders will discuss a new plan for African development, there is much skepticism. U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill has said he doesn't believe much aid money reaches the poor.

But the citizens of Katera -- so delighted with their good fortune that they dissolve into giddy laughter as they talk about vanilla prices -- tell a different story. The village's boom is due in large part to aid money. Not a multimillion-dollar World Bank project, not a huge multilateral initiative. Just $25,884 of Canadian tax dollars, channelled by the Canadian International Development Agency's Canada Fund for Local Initiatives.

For several years, the Ugandan government has encouraged farmers to get out of the coffee business. The price of coffee beans has fallen to 70 cents a kilogram from $6.50 in 1997. But converting even a small farm from coffee to vanilla requires capital -- the last thing a struggling farmer has in a village without electricity or piped water.

With the $25,884, the Canada Fund helped 30 farming households buy 100 vanilla seedlings, as well as seedlings of the kirowa plant, a succulent which serves as a trellis for the vanilla vine, and seedlings for the shade trees it needs to grow. The grant also paid for trainers to teach the farmers about organic manure, mulching and the pruning of shade trees.

::Stephanie Nolen, Globe and Mail: A little aid goes a long way in Uganda

In a special Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report released today--"Africa Shortchanged: The Global Fund and the G8 Agenda"--economist Marc Lee agrees with the African critics of NEPAD and urges the G8 leaders to channel most of their aid to Africa in the form of increased contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

"The economic cost of preventable diseases in Africa is massive," Lee points out, noting that some 25 million Africans are now infected with HIV/AIDS, with infection rates topping 30% of the population in some countries. More than 12 million African children have been orphaned as a result of AIDS deaths, and a generation of teachers, health care professionals, managers and other workers has been decimated.

"Without measures to address the AIDS pandemic and other killer diseases," he says, "there is little basis for a revival of African economies. Simply put, sick people cannot build strong economies. "

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has appealed to wealthy countries to contribute more generously to the Global Fund, but so far only about $2 billion in total public and private donations has been received. "Saving lives in Africa may pull the heartstrings," says Lee, "but so far it has not loosened the pursestrings."

The target for the Global Fund is $10 billion, which may sound like a lot of money, but, relative to the wealth of the world's richest nations, is merely a drop in the bucket. "The G8 countries alone could easily bankroll the Global Fund," says Lee, "and the expenditures would scarcely be noticeable to their citizens. The main barriers are political, not economic."

::Download Full Report (PDF)

This report via stellar Canadian weblogger wood s lot, who is chock-full of groovy links on the G-8 and much else today...
One battle won, so we thought... so long internet radio. Hello Morning Zoo Crew.

Internet radio being taken away from the public and being given over to the same large media companies who have made over the air radio the wasteland that it is today.

...the above a statement from the now-deceased SomaFM.

Where do all those smug, self-satisfied techno-libertarian weasels stand on this? This issue illustrates the vacuousness, and the subservience to the whims of Big Capital, of their nonsensical positions. Their triumphalist rhetoric is a masochist moan, delighting in submission...

It's worth noting that these stations already pay performance rights to ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC; the money here notionally goes to performers, but in practice it's divvied up in a carefully weighted manner that basically all goes to the rights owners of the top 20 best-selling CD's. (For ambient and alternative stations, this means they have to shell out potloads of money to subsidize the exact same mass-market extruded rubbish that their listeners turned to them for relief from.) To say it's legalised extortion would be a polite way of putting it, but RIAA have gone one better; they've strangled internet radio in its cradle.

Save Internet Radio!

Monday, June 24, 2002

Nestled in the mountains of Kananaskis, cowering from the anarchist hordes, G-8 leaders are staging one of their periodic set pieces -- dramatising their unwavering commitment to retaining power and parading their high-minded munificence.

This time the Great Powers direct their enlightened gaze toward Africa. As if the Africans haven't suffered enough from this sort of attention...

Even the World Bank now admits that not a single African country which implemented a structurally adjusted program was rewarded as expected. In fact, average per capita income in sub-Saharan Africa is lower now than 30 years ago. Hard as it is to believe, SAPs actually forced African governments to slash their already puny health and education budgets and introduce user fees for both schooling and health care. The results have been completely and tragically predictable.

Take a deeper look at the carrot of greater private investment in return for higher governance standards that's dangled before Africa.

The derisory 1 per cent of private capital that Africa now attracts has nothing whatever to do with governance standards. One of the very few magnets in Africa for such investment is Angola, with as callous and corrupt a government as can be imagined - and an abundance of offshore oil. Private investment invariably follows the money, whatever the nature of the government.

::Gerald Caplan, Toronto Star: Kananaskis: What leaders in the West don't tell us
A while back I noted the release of Massacre in Mazar, a documentary by Irish director Jamie Doran, which asserts that US troops at the least acquiesced to the torture and killings of thousands of Taliban prisoners near Mazar-i-Sharif. The film received wide press attention in Europe, and prompted calls for an international commission of inquiry on war crimes in Afghanistan. At the time it was obvious that it would be ignored over here...

... which leaves this posting hanging in limbo, self-referring, dangling pixels and dipping into the depths of nothingness... washed along in a maelstrom of ellipses and headed for the inescapable vortex of the blockquote...

A search for news about the documentary in the major dailies—including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe and the Miami Herald —turned up empty. Web sites for ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News and CNN have likewise carried nothing on the film.

... ... ...
... ...

::Kate Randall, World Socialist: Why is the US media blacking out documentary on war crimes in Afghanistan?
Gordon Gekko, the symbolic apotheosis of 80's Wall Street corruption, was candid about his motive: "Greed is good." Today's Gekkos cloak their greed in pieties or pious causes, like finding a cure for cancer. Samuel Waksal, the former ImClone chief executive now indicted for insider trading, is also the chairman of the beneficent New York Council for the Humanities (which, under his leadership, honored the literary icon Martha Stewart in 1999). John Rigas, the founder of Adelphia, a cable TV company gutted by his family's alleged plundering of corporate funds, was famous in the entertainment industry for banning adult movies that conflicted with his family values.

Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic chairman, calls Enron "a metaphor for the Bush administration" after making some $18 million on a $100,000 insider's stake in the now-bankrupt Global Crossing. Dennis Kozlowski, the indicted Tyco C.E.O., actually gave a commencement speech last month instructing the graduates at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire to "do the right thing, not the easy thing" when "confronted with questions . . . that test your morals." Let's not even revisit Linda Lay's flaunting of her family's association with Houston's Holocaust museum during her infamous "Today" show appearance.

::Frank Rich, New York Times: Sacrifice Is for Losers

Thursday, June 20, 2002

Former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter, an implacable critic of America's Iraq policy, weighs in...

The leaked CIA covert operations plan effectively kills any chance of inspectors returning to Iraq, and it closes the door on the last opportunity for shedding light on the true state of affairs regarding any threat in the form of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Absent any return of weapons inspectors, no one seems willing to challenge the Bush administration's assertions of an Iraqi threat. If Bush has a factual case against Iraq concerning weapons of mass destruction, he hasn't made it yet.

Can the Bush administration substantiate any of its claims that Iraq continues to pursue efforts to reacquire its capability to produce chemical and biological weapons, which was dismantled and destroyed by U.N. weapons inspectors from 1991 to 1998? The same question applies to nuclear weapons. What facts show that Iraq continues to pursue nuclear weapons aspirations?

Bush spoke ominously of an Iraqi ballistic missile threat to Europe. What missile threat is the president talking about? These questions are valid, and if the case for war is to be made, they must be answered with more than speculative rhetoric.

Scott Ritter, LA Times via Common Dreams: Behind 'Plot' on Hussein, a Secret Agenda
American Gulag:

President Bush is seeking unfettered authority to lock up U.S. citizens with no external review.

"This is really an astounding assertion of authority," said David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor. "It's not just that you have no right to a lawyer, it's that you have no right to even have a hearing. . . . If that is true, then there is really no limit to the president's power to label U.S. citizens as bad people and then have them held in military custody indefinitely."

[Federal Public Defender Frank] Dunham, who has until tomorrow to respond, agreed. "It is scarier than the dirty bomb," he said. "Now the government can label somebody something and then throw the key away forever. . . . The idea that a court can't inquire into these detention situations, to determine whether they are reasonable or not, is downright scary to me."

::Tom Jackman and Dan Eggen, Washington Post: 'Combatants' Lack Rights, U.S. Argues

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Some follow-up reporting on Operation Anaconda, which General Tommy Franks had said was “an unqualified and absolute success”, an assessment which went unchallenged at the time.

Operation Anaconda was supposed to take two days - it went on for 12.

Six hours after this battle a US Chinook helicopter was shot down and Australian troops helped save 36 US soldiers.

The US force was made up of a lot of 18 and 19-year-olds, all eager but inexperienced.

Planning was thorough, but the grim experience of the US company and its SAS liaison staff showed intelligence was fundamentally flawed.

A couple of hours before Warrant Officer P and his 81 comrades were dropped at the southern end of the valley to act as a blocking force they were told enemy numbers might be higher than expected.

"The general said 'you will have a busy time'," Warrant Officer P revealed.

Enemy numbers jumped from 100 to 500, but turned out to be many, many more.

Some estimates put the true figure at 1000 hardened al-Qaeda fighters dug in on the high ridges waiting for their prey.

Warrant Officer P learned later that Afghan and Russian forces had landed a large force in a similar spot nearby during the Afghan War in the 1980s and had been wiped out. A 1992 book called The Bear Trap details the operation and the landing zone.

Either US intelligence hadn't read the book or they didn't believe al-Qaeda fighters would use the same tactics as the mujahideen had used to devastate the Russians.

It's an uncannily familiar pattern. A big Allied campaign, claims of success and huzzahs from the American media. In the following days, dribs and drabs of contradictory information emerge in the international press, and eventually the initial story is discredited altogether.

Some new operation begins, the same claims are made, and are reported yet again as wholly credible.

Lather, rinse, repeat...

::Ian McPhedran, Sydney Daily Telegraph, June 17: Brave Hearts


::Roger Maynard, Sydney Times: Australians say Afghan attack was botched via Dack

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Pasted on phone booth, Commercial Drive, Vancouver

That's when it dawns on you: The market is a god that sucks. Yes, it cashed a few out at the tippy top, piled up the loot of the world at their feet, delivered shiny Lexuses into the driveways of their ten-bedroom suburban chateaux. But for the rest of us the very principles that make the market the object of D'Souza's worship, of Gilder's awestruck piety, are the forces that conspire to make life shitty in a million ways great and small. The market is the reason our housing is so expensive. It is the reason our public transportation is lousy. It is the reason our cities sprawl idiotically all across the map. It is the reason our word processing programs stink and our prescription drugs cost more than anywhere else. In order that a fortunate few might enjoy a kind of prosperity unequaled in human history, the rest of us have had to abandon ourselves to a lifetime of casual employment, to unquestioning obedience within an ever-more arbitrary and despotic corporate regime, to medical care available on a maybe/maybe-not basis, to a housing market interested in catering only to the fortunate. In order for the libertarians of Orange County to enjoy the smug sleep of the true believer, the thirty millions among whom they live must join them in the dark.

Thomas Frank, The Baffler: The God That Sucked

The White House proposed a rules change that would allow utilities to upgrade their facilities without improving pollution control. Scientists estimated that air pollution costs Europe's farmers more than six billion Euros a year. Australian scientists concluded that pollution caused by North American and European power plants and factories may be responsible for severe droughts and famines in Africa. The United Nations World Food Summit convened in Rome; delegates dined on lobster, goose stuffed with olives, and foie gras on toast with kiwifruit.

::Roger D. Hodge, Harpers: Weekly Review - Jun 18, 2002
Promises, promises...

Aid groups are cancelling refugee programs, slashing food rations and warning of serious crises in the months ahead, as new President Hamid Karzai vows to go after the promised aid "in a very strong and demanding way."

At a Tokyo conference in January, the international community promised this country $4.5-billion (U.S.) in aid over the next five years, including $1.8-billion this year. So far, $800-million has arrived, but experts say more is needed to help the fledgling government and its impoverished citizens.

The World Food Program, a United Nations agency responsible for hunger relief, put out an urgent call in April for $285-million, but so far has received less than half that: $121-million. As a result, it has cut the rations it gives to returning refugee families to 50 kilograms of wheat, from 150. The food is supposed to last families for three months.

Sorry folks. But concern for your hungry bellies is sooo 2001.

::Mark MacKinnon, Globe and Mail: Afghanistan in need of promised donations
This is what Andrew Sullivan meant by a "Fifth Column", right?

"We look at them as allies, not necessarily as friends," said Austin Ruse, founder and president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, a New York-based organization that promotes conservative values at U.N. social conferences. "We have realized that without countries like Sudan, abortion would have been recognized as a universal human right in a U.N. document."

The alliance of conservative Islamic states and Christian organizations has placed the Bush administration in the awkward position of siding with some of its most reviled adversaries -- including Iraq and Iran -- in a cultural skirmish against its closest European allies, which broadly support expanding sexual and political rights.

U.S. and Iranian officials even huddled during coffee breaks at the U.N. summit on children in New York last month, according to U.N. diplomats.

...[Ruse] also boasted that his tactics were beginning to seize the initiative from advocates for the rights of children, women and gays. "Our team was in a tiny conference room leaning over the backs of diplomats, assisting with the drafting of the conference document," he said.

"We broke all the rules of U.N. lobbying, which forbids leafleting on the floor of a U.N. conference. We had our people fan out across the floor of the conference and we placed this letter in the hand of every delegate."

::Colum Lynch, Washington Post: Islamic Bloc, Christian Right Team Up to Lobby U.N.

CIA and military officials are under pressure from President Bush to draw up plans for using clandestine and conventional forces to overthrow Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Their disputes in Afghanistan suggest the job of working in concert will be hard.

CIA officials say the military has too often been slow to react, as on the spring border raid. The CIA officials say the agency provided strong intelligence, but by the time troops arrived, the prey had escaped.

Pentagon officials counter that CIA operatives have too often sent U.S troops on wild goose chases or raids on innocent targets.

..."When no one is having a great deal of success, there is always a lot of moaning and pointing fingers," says Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism chief. "Right now, none of them is exactly covered with glory."

::Jonathan Weisman, USA Today: CIA, Pentagon feuding complicates war effort via Cursor

Monday, June 17, 2002

Buried in an account of some completely irrelevant history of CIA and FBI abuses, a revealing nugget concerning Saint Ronald and the FBI background check performed on him when he became Governor of California:

That process began when Reagan filled out a federal form required to get a security clearance, and stated that he never belonged to any group deemed officially subversive, a copy of the form shows.

According to FBI records, the bureau knew Reagan had been in two such groups in the 1940s - the Committee for a Democratic Far East Policy and the American Veterans Committee - but the FBI background report failed to note that Reagan's denial was untrue. Hundreds of people in the 1940s and 1950s had faced hearings and sometimes dismissals from federal employment for failing to disclose membership in groups deemed subversive.

Of course, Reagan was due some payback. He had more than cooperated with the McCarthy-ites. He named every name he could think of. Such was his loyalty to friends and his commitment to liberty.

::Seth Rosenfeld, SF Gate: Secret FBI files reveal covert activities at UC / Bureau's campus operations involved Reagan, CIA

Sunday, June 16, 2002

In Alaska, rising temperatures, whether caused by greenhouse gas emissions or nature in a prolonged mood swing, are not a topic of debate or an abstraction. Mean temperatures have risen by 5 degrees in summer and 10 degrees in winter since the 1970's, federal officials say.

While President Bush was dismissive of a report the government recently released on how global warming will affect the nation, the leading Republican in this state, Senator Ted Stevens, says that no place is experiencing more startling change from rising temperatures than Alaska.

Among the consequences, Senator Stevens says, are sagging roads, crumbling villages, dead forests, catastrophic fires and possible disruption of marine wildlife.

::Timothy Egan, New York Times: Alaska, No Longer So Frigid, Starts to Crack, Burn and Sag
::Image from Tom Tomorrow
OK. Maybe that incredibly effective bombing campaign killed a few thousand innocents. And the rest of the world offered an unprecedented level of support for America's defense and was rewarded with stubbornness, bullying and unilateralism -- transforming genuine sympathy into GlobalHyperAntiAmericanism in a matter of months. And maybe the defense of civilization was carried out with little regard for democratic or diplomatic niceties. But at least Al-Queda was vanquished, and America is safer, right?

Well... umm...

Classified investigations of the Qaeda threat now under way at the F.B.I. and C.I.A. have concluded that the war in Afghanistan failed to diminish the threat to the United States, the officials said. Instead, the war might have complicated counterterrorism efforts by dispersing potential attackers across a wider geographic area.

::David Johnston, et al., New York Times: Qaeda's New Links Increase Threats From Global Sites

Friday, June 14, 2002

Chunky ole boy thinks bombing civilians is the 4th of July

Now this nation that I love is fallin' under attack.
A mighty sucker-punch came flying in from somewhere in the back.
Soon as we could see clearly through our big black eye,
Man, we lit up your world like the fourth of July.

Hey, Uncle Sam put your name at the top of his list,
And the Statue of Liberty started shaking her fist.
And the eagle will fly and it's gonna be hell,
When you hear Mother Freedom start ringing her bell.
And it'll feel like the whole wide world is raining down on you.
Ah, brought to you, courtesy of the red, white and blue.

Oh, justice will be served and the battle will rage:
This big dog will fight when you rattle his cage.
An' you'll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A.
'Cos we'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way.

At this moment people are singing it in pick-up trucks and Wal-Mart parking lots, all across the land. If you are absolutely still, and pure of heart, you might be able to make out traces of their angelic jingo chorus, carried through the aether on deep-fried buffalo wings...

::Brian Mansfield. USA Today: Singer Toby Keith speaks out on ABC censorship via Cursor
Multimedia funhouse

By golly! It's Dack's entry in the 5K contest.

Donald Rumsfeld Presents: Operation Enduring Freedom's Best Bloopers, Outtakes, and Practical Jokes


An MP3 of George Bush's Thanksgiving with the troops...

"We are especially thankful for the terrorists."

::More sounds at The People's War on War on Terror Headquarters
A kind soul recently wrote that I should occasionally present the views of the more, umm, enthusiastic warbloggers out there; arguing that "by citing a few right of center blogs you might give a wiser audience a notion that you have at least encountered the arguments that a different group might present to the general public."

To which I replied: "People know where to look for right-of-center political opinion... I don't post on the right-wing bloggers because I don't like reading them. That may be because I am ideologically rigid, though it may also be that they are a snarling pack of onanistic blogrolling jingos."

Thankfully, the job of countering the desktop warrior brigade is ably managed by the combative and articulate folk at Warblogger Watch. Even if you are like me, and have only a vague notion of what the foaming-mouth set are up to, the quality of the writing makes WBW worth a read.

Most of the collaborators embark on a civil, methodical tack... with a couple of deliriously vicious exceptions. One notable example:

HEY JIMMY, today is your lucky day. It’s not every day a man your age gets to go to school.

What will you learn today, Jimmy?
You will learn to watch your mouth.

If you want to leap to unfounded conclusions, if you want to slander the good names of my copatriots. Because I will call you on it, Jimmy.


Dr. Menlo

Now you listen good ole boy, ‘cuz I’m going to tell you how it’s going to be: I am the voice of the future, and you are the voice of the past. When it comes to war, and peace, the peacemongers will not lessen your fall.

You think that loudly calling for war makes you a man? It makes you a pea. Your boosters are peas. Real men know the value of peace. Real men know the horror of war.

[Note to the fine Canadian weblogger Flit: the Doctor may well be deranged, but personally I'm thankful the madness is channeled for the forces of good...]

Warblogger Watch: They read the warbloggers so I don't have to...
This story, if true, has the potential to be completely ignored on this side of the Atlantic...

American soldiers have been involved in the torture and murder of captured Taliban prisoners, and may have aided in the "disappearance" of up to 3 000 men in the region of Mazar-i-Sharif, according to Jamie Doran, an Irish documentary film-maker.

Doran's latest film, Massacre At Mazar, was shown on Wednesday in in the Reichstag, the German parliament building in Berlin, and there were immediate calls for an international commission to be set up to investigate charges made in the documentary.

Andrew McEntee, a leading international human rights lawyer, who has viewed the film footage and read full transcripts, believes there is prima facie evidence of serious war crimes having been committed by American soldiers in Afghanistan.

I think we've heard the last of this one.

::Clive Freeman, Independent Online: Documentary of US 'war crimes' shocks Europe (Thanks James)
William Grieder surveys the carnage...

The systematic deceit and imaginative greed--the sheer chintziness of personal finagling for more loot--go well beyond the darkest hunches harbored by resident skeptics like myself. Indeed, the Wall Street system is now being flayed in the media almost daily by its own leading tribunes.

...The potential downside of this moment is also palpable and quite ominous: Nothing will happen, nothing will change--nobody goes to jail, no significant reforms are enacted. If so, the main result will be confirmation of an already endemic public cynicism and the further poisoning of American values. The revelations, instead of provoking a sea change in political thinking, may be smothered by the alignments of corporate-financial power, diverted into false reforms and complexified to the point that media attention and public anger are exhausted. In that event, the consequences for the country will be less obvious but profoundly corrosive. The system would go forward in roughly the same fashion (perhaps tarted up with public-relations rouge), and everyone would understand that corruption is the system.

::William Grieder, The Nation:Bad for Business

Thursday, June 13, 2002

An activist U.S. government is working hard to make the weather warmer. Now, via the ever-industrious folks at Cursor, Mark Fiore offers an animated demo of what the well-dressed adapter to climate change is wearing.

::John Heilprin, Washington Post: EPA Proposes Relaxing Utility Pollution Rules

On Monday, Ashcroft announced the detention via video hookup from Moscow, emphasizing that it demonstrated better cooperation among the FBI, the CIA, and other agencies. Tuesday morning, Bush told reporters, "This guy Padilla is one of many who we've arrested. … The coalition we put together has hauled in over 2,400 people. And you can call it 2,401 now." Tuesday afternoon, Bush repeated to applause, "We've rounded up and detained over 2,400 terrorists. … We're making progress. You probably read in the newspaper, the number's now 2,401." Tuesday evening at a fund-raiser, Bush said, to more applause, "We and our friends have arrested and detained over 2,400 terrorists. As you read in the newspaper, we now need to make that 2,401."

Now comes Wednesday's front-page New York Times story, in which "American officials" divulge additional details gleaned from interrogations of one of al-Qaida's top planners, Abu Zubaydah. The explanations given by U.S. officials for telling us what they've learned from Padilla don't apply to Zubaydah. The only thing the two orgies of disclosure seem to have in common is chest-thumping. Scorekeeper, please turn the dial from 2,401 to 2,402, so that everyone will know we're winning the war.

::William Saletan, Slate: Loose Lips - The government blows the "dirty bomber" bust by bragging about it.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

New American "security" rules will force hundreds of thousands of Arabs and Muslims from certain countries to be fingerprinted, photographed and interrogated when they enter the US. This will apply, according to the US Attorney General, John Ashcroft, to nearly all visitors from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Sudan, most of whom will not get visas at all. The list is not surprising. Iran and Iraq are part of Mr Bush's infantile "axis of evil". Syria is on the list, presumably because it supports Hamas' war against Israel.

It is a political list, constructed around the Bush policy of good-versus-evil. But not a single citizen from Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan has been accused of plotting the atrocities of 11 September. The suicide-hijackers came principally from Saudi Arabia, with one from Egypt and another from Lebanon. The men whom the Moroccans have arrested ? all supposedly linked to al-Qa'ida ? are all Saudis.

Yet Saudis ? who comprised the vast majority of the September killers ? are going to have no problems entering the US under the new security rules.

...Thus America's new security rules are already being framed around Mr Bush's political fantasies rather than the reality of international crime. If this is a war between "the innocent and the guilty" – another Bush bon mot last week – then the land that bred the guilty will have no problems with the lads from the Department of Homeland Security or the US Department of Immigration.

::Robert Fisk, Independent: Mr Bush's titanic war on terror will eventually sink beneath the waves

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Fun with bumper stickers, from the fine folk at Changing the Climate

via American Samizdat

The Communist Manifesto has been both challenged and vindicated. It was right to predict that poverty and wealth would polarise sharply on a global scale; and it was right, too, that the dispossessed would rise up against their rulers as a result; it was just thinking more of mills than the World Trade Centre, trade unions rather than typhoid. But if Marx really was wrong about the working class, then this is bad news for the transnational corporations, since what one might see as having stepped into their shoes then has the savagery of despair, not the confidence of collective strength. Those who announce that Marx's industrial proletariat has sunk without trace should be reaching for the anti-radiation tablets, not for the champagne.

Terry Eagleton, Guardian: History gets the last laugh via kill your tv
Even corporate America is starting to recognise how the unchallenged reign of corruption is in nobody's long-term interests.

...the drive for post-Enron legislative reforms is stalled, victim of Presidential indifference, Republican hostility, fierce business lobbying, and disorganization among reform-minded Democrats.

...Orchestrating the counter-reformation is Texas GOP Senator Phil Gramm, whose wife, Wendy, sits on Enron's board. On May 16, Gramm met with 30 corporate and accounting lobbyists to plot strategy and get their members to contact lawmakers. Later that day, Sarbanes began receiving faxes from Maryland-based CPAs. Clifton Gunderson LLP, a Timonium (Md.) CPA firm, fired off a fax saying: "Congress should consider proposals that will promote economic recovery, not enact legislation that inhibits it." That language comes directly from the AICPA call to action.

So far, the business lobby has overpowered proinvestor voices. Consumer groups, the AARP, and Common Cause support reforms. But they either lack muscle or are unwilling to devote resources to fight business. The vacuum has prompted Vanguard Group founder John C. Bogle to start the Federation of Long-Term Investors, a shareholder-rights group that includes Warren E. Buffett and other prominent investors. A strong accounting oversight board is a top priority. "Our capitalistic system is in peril," says Bogle.

BusinessWeek Online: What Corporate Cleanup?

Monday, June 10, 2002

Hamid Karzai, the head of the present interim government, has only one popular mandate in Afghanistan. It doesn't come from the thugs of the Northern Alliance who "liberated" Kabul from the Taliban last November.

Nor does it come from his own Pashtun people, with whom his prestige has rested only upon his personal integrity. It comes from his friends in the West, those who advised him, dressed him in his stunning green robes and paid for his advancement. It comes from those Western nations ? stand up, all of us ? who have promised to fund, through him, the regeneration of Afghanistan.

The gang leaders of Afghanistan have agreed to let Mr Karzai remain leader of the next interim government. But at present, those same mafia bosses are running many of the major cities of Afghanistan. Humanitarian organizations and charities are, in many cases, still forced to funnel their aid through these ruthless men, in Mazar-i-Sharif, in Nangahar province, in Khost. Voters in the forthcoming elections know that their humanitarian aid comes via the warlords.

::Robert Fisk, Independent via Common Dreams: Afghanistan: Gangsters, Murderers and Stooges Used to Endorse Bush's Vision of 'Democracy'
We know how an adminstration of oil men responds to global warming. What's their approach to military strategy?

What the Pentagon is most focused on, the official said, is a method of "advanced conventional strike."

Inside the Pentagon, some officials suspect that the new doctrine may be acted upon sooner rather than later.

"I think the president is trying to get the American people ready for some kind of preemptive move" against Iraq, said a Pentagon consultant. He said it would not necessarily be against Iraqi weapons sites but might instead involve a seizure of Iraqi oil fields.

It's gratifying to see they understand the critical threat posed to Freedom by oil...

::Thomas E. Ricks and Vernon Loeb, Washington Post: Bush Developing Military Policy Of Striking First

On the model of the intellectuals who created the international brigades to fight in the Spanish Civil War, our 200 most illustrious war pundits should be formed into a special assault company to take on the tasks the U.S. military is too chicken to perform. Is there a Navy P-3 sitting shanghaied on Hainan Island? The 1st Pundit Assault Company (Special Operations Capable) should be parachuted into the island to blow it up and raise general mayhem among the perfidious Red hordes. Has the CIA overcome its incompetence and located Saddam Hussein in one of his numerous palaces? Send in the 1st Pundit Assault Company to storm the palace, overcome the Republican Guard, and slay the beast in his lair.

::George Sunderland, Counterpunch: Send in the Pundits!

Thursday, June 06, 2002

Sometimes I read something that convinces me that I really am a hopeless pinko...

* The complaint: Consolidation has made radio even more cookie-cutter bland, with narrow, unimaginative playlists. Demographic targeting and audience testing eliminate variety, stifle regionalism and foist the least objectionable music on the public.

Failing to recognize that an individual's tastes are broader than a narrow format, stations avoid adventurous artists and diversity. Music's presence is being eroded by gabby DJs and juvenile morning shows.

..."More and more, radio is programmed literally by machine, hurting the limitless potential that makes radio special," Light says. "All the great things about radio, including identity and community, are being devalued. In places that kind of station still exits, people hold onto it with religious fervor."

* The defense: As quirky outposts merged into titanic corporations, radio became a big business beholden to Wall Street's profit standards.

"The stakes are higher," Light says. "One genre is now bigger than the whole industry used to be. It's absurd to think that corporations are going to value artistic merit and innovation. That's not what the game is."

I suppose only a rigid ideologue such as myself can't distinguish between the indictment and the defense...

::USA Today: Hey, Mr. DJ, open the request line via Mediageek
More from the liberal media...

a clip from "60 Minutes", which aired on May 12, 2002. Correspondent Steve Kroft interviews President Chavez of Venezuela.

KROFT: Do you like the United States? There are many things that you don't like about the United States, I think.

CHAVEZ: No. Me gustan los Estado Unidos. Disfruto las poemas de Walt Whitman. New York, New York, la cancion....Frank Sinatra. Me gusta beisbol, Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium, el hot dog, la libertad.

VOICE OF TRANSLATOR: No. I do like the United States... I enjoy the poems of Walt Whitman, "New York, New York" the song, Frank Sinatra. I love baseball, Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium, hot dogs.

[edited out: la libertad / "the freedom"]

::CounterPunch Bulletin: President Chavez's Censored F-Word

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

Thoughtful analysis by Curtis White, building on Paul Virilio's Pure War. Long, but worth a read. Some excerpts:

The idea that CNN is right and 90% of the populace believes this palaver is perhaps more frightening than the threat of receiving a suspicious piece of mail postmarked New Jersey. The odds of receiving anthrax in the mail are statistically minute, but the yahoos with Old Glory rippling from the roofs of their suburban assault vehicles are everywhere and with who knows what malice for those lacking proper patriotic fervor.

...Perhaps the most frightening aspect of this situation is the near dead certainty that not only are our middleclass flag wavers living in utter misrecognition, but it is likely that the leaders of our country (from George II to Teddy K) are every bit as deluded and, moreover, impotent. Randy Hayes of the Rainforest Action Network once told me of a talk he had with the uber-CEO of the Mitsubishi Company. Hayes said he was able to convince this CEO that Mitsubishi's program of global devastation for short-term profit was not in the long-term interest of either the planet or the company. Hayes achieved this moment of clarity only to have it followed by a far larger and more monstrous clarity for both himself and the Mitsubishi head: Mr. Mitsubishi had no idea how to change the practices of the company because the logic that drove the company was both systemic and autonomous. This system at which even CEOs must look with apocalyptic horror is part of the ecology of Pure War and is not available for political discussion, let alone democratic debate. In short, it is not responsive to the will or the interests of the human beings living within it.

...What bin Laden seems to understand is that Pure War, understood as the technological totalization of the human world, can be pushed where it has been headed all along but where perhaps it would rather not go on someone else's command: techno-military apocalypse. In this sense, his destination is not all that different from the anticipation of our own fundamentalist Baptists: the End of Days. Revelation. The Second Coming. This is the conclusion of the confrontation between the Holy Warrior and the Global State Technician. Unlike the gruesome Cold War relationship between the nuclear couple, the United States and the Soviet Union, in which deterrence provided the Peace of Pure War (the peace of the "balance of terror," or "mutually assured mass destruction") our new antagonist has no illusions about that grim dance. Muslims of bin Laden's stripe will have the life they want (however cruel and medieval) or they will have death, about which they have no fear or illusions because the religious thinking at the heart of their activities makes death irrelevant.

::Curtis White, Context: Our Pure War with Islam
Flying the fucked-up skies...

the week before Canadian soldiers were shelled by American bombs in Afghanistan, at least one F-16 pilot complained that requirements for crew rest were not being observed and that many of the pilots were overtired. The pilot was told, however, that further questions about crew rest would not be looked on favourably by the wing command.

Instead, pilots were advised to speak to a flight surgeon about so-called "go/no pills" -- amphetamines used to help stay awake on long missions, and sedatives to help sleep.

Then, on April 17, a fighter from the 183rd flying a patrol mission accidentally bombed Canadian troops conducting a live-fire exercise south of Kandahar. Four soldiers from the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry were killed and eight injured.

Hmmm, what are the effects of speed again?

In addition to the physical effects of amphetamines, users report feeling restless, anxious and moody. Increased doses intensify the effects, and users may become exited or talkative and experience a false sense of self-confidence or superiority. They may behave in a bizarre manner; some become aggressive and hostile.

But let's not indulge irresponsible speculation. We don't know that the pilot in question was a paranoiac speed freak. In any event -- buy the ticket, take the ride, man...

::Glen McGregor, Vancouver Sun: Crews urged to use amphetamines days before Canadian troops killed

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

As I understand it, either the CIA didn't cooperate with the FBI or the FBI is lying. Probably both. In any event you gotta admit that we did right by giving them each more money and greatly expanded powers with less oversight.

::Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman, Newsweek: The Hijackers We Let Escape
::Walter Pincus and Dan Eggen, Washington Post: CIA Gave FBI Warning On Hijacker
::American Civil Liberties Union: Safe and free in times of crisis
Forgive the nationalistic emphasis...

...the nuclear weapons programmes in both India and Pakistan were initiated with the help of the west. As the Nuclear Control Institute has documented, both programmes emerged from the civilian industry, which was kickstarted with the help of the US "Atoms for Peace" scheme. India's first nuclear device used plutonium produced by a Canadian research reactor and extracted in a reprocessing plant built with the help of the US. Germany supplied tritium, beryllium, heavy water plants and reprocessing components; France delivered uranium and fast-breeder technology; Norway sold heavy water; the US provided enriched uranium and several commercial reactors; and the UK distributed fuel, furnaces and the country's first research reactor.

Pakistan's heavy water plants came from Canada and Belgium; its uranium enrichment technology, beryllium, tritium, furnaces and milling machines from Germany; its research reactor from the US; and its reprocessing technology from France and the UK. All of these components have potential uses in nuclear weapons programmes; most appear to have been deployed for this purpose by India and Pakistan.

It's time we Canucks got over our national reticence, and started shouting out loud and proud that we are high-tech pioneers and ready to compete as a world-class power!

:: George Monbiot, The Guardian: Wage peace, not war

Monday, June 03, 2002

Dack posts:

On yesterday's Meet the Press, Robert Mueller boasted it took the Bureau just six weeks to determine those responsible for 9-11 "were Al-Qaeda, leading back to Osama bin Laden." That's two weeks after the start of the bombing campaign in Afghanistan.

::Shoot First, Find Out Who Did It Later

From Denial Unto Acceptance, or "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Effects of Global Warming..."

In a stark shift for the Bush administration, the United States has sent a climate report to the United Nations detailing specific and far-reaching effects that it says global warming will inflict on the American environment.

. . . But while the report says the United States will be substantially changed in the next few decades — "very likely" seeing the disruption of snow-fed water supplies, more stifling heat waves and the permanent disappearance of Rocky Mountain meadows and coastal marshes, for example — it does not propose any major shift in the administration's policy on greenhouse gases.

It recommends adapting to inevitable changes . . . that no matter what is done to cut emissions in the future, nothing can be done about the environmental consequences of several decades' worth of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases already in the atmosphere.

Another "inevitable change" we all "adapt to" is Death.

::Friends of the Earth climate change campaign
::Andrew C. Revkin, Climate Changing, U.S. Says in Report

Sunday, June 02, 2002

Tonight, in the forests of Kashmir, figures will be moving in the darkness. They are fighters using terrorism to overthrow Indian rule in the disputed state.

New Delhi says these militants take their orders directly from Islamabad. The Pakistanis say they are independent. Neither claim, according to inquiries by The Observer, is accurate. And it is through the gap between these stories that 1.25 billion people could fall into a nuclear nightmare.

::Jason Burke and Peter Beaumont, The Guardian: Nuclear neighbours teeter on brink of Armageddon

Saturday, June 01, 2002

U.S. troops killed three of their Afghan allies Friday in a firefight that broke out when both sides moved in separately on a compound mistakenly thought to be a hide-out of Taliban and al-Qaida leaders, a U.S. army spokesman said.

Not a setback. No Americans were hurt.

::AP via Toronto Star: U.S. troops kill Afghan allies

That nasty death rattle you just heard was my faith in humanity. It hasn't been feeling well for a while, and I'm probably better off without it.

::uppity negro via wood s lot

NOAM CHOMSKY: I choose to live in what I think is the greatest country in the world, which is committing horrendous terrorist acts and should stop.

BILL BENNETT: I think you should say greatest -- I think you should say greatest a little more often.

CHOMSKY: If you want to be a hypocrite...

::CNN Crossfire transcript via Counterpunch: CNN Debate on "Terrorism": Chomsky v. Bennett