Saturday, April 08, 2006
Sy Hersh, whose reporting on Iraq and torture in the New Yorker has been unfailingly accurate, writes the ultimate horror story now: Bush is planning to attack Iran with nuclear weapons.
Bush's latest delusion is that an all-out attack on potential nuclear, chemical and other industrial facilities as well as military targets will humiliate the rulers and force regime change in Iran. Once again, the good guys will "rise up" and take over.
Because Iran is believed to have underground "hard" command sites, Bushites are pushing for the use of nuclear weapons. Hersh:
He went on, “Nuclear planners go through extensive training and learn the technical details of damage and fallout—we’re talking about mushroom clouds, radiation, mass casualties, and contamination over years. This is not an underground nuclear test, where all you see is the earth raised a little bit. These politicians don’t have a clue, and whenever anybody tries to get it out”—remove the nuclear option—“they’re shouted down.”
There is no political opposition within Congress so far, he writes:
The House member said that no one in the meetings “is really objecting” to the talk of war. “The people they’re briefing are the same ones who led the charge on Iraq. At most, questions are raised: How are you going to hit all the sites at once? How are you going to get deep enough?” (Iran is building facilities underground.) “There’s no pressure from Congress” not to take military action, the House member added. “The only political pressure is from the guys who want to do it.” Speaking of President Bush, the House member said, “The most worrisome thing is that this guy has a messianic vision.”
He does hold out the hope that there is sufficient resistance within the military--the Joint Chiefs in particular--to forestall the use of nuclear weapons, but the planning for an all-out sustained and devastating bombing attack, as well as the use of U.S. Special Forces troops, is at an advanced stage and proceeding quickly, Hersh writes.
His story mentions some of the political dangers in the region, especially the rise of even more terrorism as chaos ensues. Beyond what he writes, we can imagine the danger to Americans in Iraq of any such attack, and the immediate economic shock of fantastically higher oil prices. If the U.S. uses nukes it will be an outcast in the world. We can expect immediate cessation of any oil from countries like Venezuela. We can expect to be marked throughout the world and throughout history with the highest shame visited on any people, at least since Nazi Germany.
We have madmen with the fingers on the trigger. Let's hope there is enough time and enough will to stop them. If you have never raised your voice before, now is the time.
Friday, April 07, 2006
It's not the smoking gun. But is it a mushroom cloud? Or just some Libby's mushroom soup?
Yesterday was a bizaare news day. I keep telling myself this blog is not a newspaper, and I shouldn't feel I need to try to make it one. Maybe I can highlight a story or an aspect of one that I gleaned on my interblogatory travels, but that's it. Still, I guess as long as I'm trying to sort stuff out for myself, I may as well do it out loud, here.
At first Scooter Libby contended he was way too busy to remember who told who what about secret CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity, or anything to do with her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, and his confirmation that Saddam wasn't buying uraninum to make nukes. But Libby's strained pleas went nowhere. In a court filing yesterday, he came up with a new one: Bush made me do it.
Sorting out the significance or even the meaning of Scooter Libby's allegation that Cheney told him that Bush told him to reveal classified information from CIA asssessments to the press (Judy Miller at the NYTimes) is just getting started. But on its first day it was played in the establishment media as the biggest challenge to the Bush administration so far.
The emphasis is on the selective leaking of only the part of the intelligence analysis that supported the Bushwar in Iraq, not the doubts that would have tempered an executive who hadn't already decided to invade, and was only looking for p.r. to silence actual or potential opposition. We've learned recently that Karl Rove was concerned about it in 2003 and 2004, specifically because it could hurt Bush's re-election.
This information in general has been available for awhile. Anyone who watched Bill Moyers on PBS in 2004 and probably before, for example, would know most of this already: that the most knowledgeable experts within State and Energy didn't believe the Saddam is going nuclear story. What's new recently is the proof that Bush himself was presented with these conflicting views, in a form that even he could be expected to understand: a one page memo. And what's new in this story is that these leaks Judy Miller of the NY Times used to write her stories supporting the Bushite view came to her from Libby as directed by Cheney, who claimed they were authorized by Bush.
Therefore Bush is exposed as not telling the truth about what his government knew and didn't know, believed and didn't believe, about Iraq. While this is hardly news to some of us, it is apparently news to the TV bobbleheads and solid enough for major news media to play it as news.
Some stories are claiming that, if true, what Bush did is not illegal because the President does have the power to declassify. But is this the same thing? One of the statements on this that I did understand was by Rep. Jane Harman, ranking Dem on the House Intelligence Committee:
"The President has the legal authority to declassify information, but there are normal channels for doing so. Telling an aide to leak classified information to the New York Times is not a normal channel. A normal declassification procedure would involve going back to the originating agency, such as the CIA, and then putting out a public, declassified version of the document.
"I am stunned that the President won't tell the full the Intelligence Committee about the NSA program because he's allegedly concerned about leaks, when it turns out that he is the Leaker-in-Chief."
There are all kinds of possibilities opened up by this revelation, and it may yet pit Cheney's people against Bush's people. But apropos of a previous post, the press had not a single question on this topic for the White House in the morning press briefing after the story broke. Not one.
In the meantime, Senator John Kerry has called for the U.S. to withdraw troops beginning next month if the Iraqis don't form a government by then, and by the end of the year even if they do. He had a rhetorical battle on the Senate floor over it.
Iraq continues to disintegrate in violence and chaos. The Bushites claim more and more "authority" for their authoritarian wannabe dictatorship on domestic spying, and reports continue to say that the Bushites are preparing to attack Iran. Why? Because they are going nuclear. Or so the Bushites say. Experts estimate that Iran is from 5 to 10 years away from any nuclear weapons. But then, in the fine print, the experts were saying that about Iraq as well, even if Saddam had the nuclear program they said he did, but which he didn't.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
The Washington Post finds further evidence that the Bushites have systematically interfered with scientists paid by the public from announcing any findings that might contradict their faith-based disbelief in global heating. It extends way past NASA (and climate expert James Hanson) to the weather people---you know, the ones who supposedly believe that the increased ferocity of hurricanes has nothing to do with global heating--at NOAA. As well as other agencies where keeping an eye on climate is part of their job.
Apparently what they couldn't forbid or suppress, they censored. Both happened to this guy:
Christopher Milly, a hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey, said he had problems twice while drafting news releases on scientific papers describing how climate change would affect the nation's water supply.In November 2005, they agreed to issue a release on a different climate-related paper, Milly said, but "purged key words from the releases, including 'global warming,' 'warming climate' and 'climate change.' "
They purged key words all right. But what did they put in their place, I wondered, so the release made some sort of sense, and didn't look like one of those Freedom of Information Act FBI files with every word blacked out except "the" and "a"?
Of course I realized the obvious answer. In place of "global warming" or "climate change," the Bushites would substitute "liberal." As in "Sea level may rise 20 feet, due to liberals." Or "The consensus of scientists now is that liberals are real, the unfortunate byproduct of human activity." Or "If left unchecked, liberals may threaten life as we know it on planet Earth."
The creative Bushite censor might vary the pattern with the occasional "Democrat" or "secular humanist," or take a foreign policy approach and use "evildoers" and "terrorists." In this way, Bushites can show they support science, as long as it is politics-based.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
One of the great triumphs of the Rabid Right has been the dumbing down of the news media. In the guise of rooting out liberal bias, this well-timed campaign converged with other changes in broadcast and print media---mostly to do with consolidation and greed--to intimidate cowering executives into stripping news of actual objectivity, and opinion of any ideas either slightly left of center, or more complex than a slogan.
That the news media has become more stupid and superficial, at the same time as it has become more right wing, is not a coincidence. Does this mean the aggregate Rabid Right is stupid and superficial? Yes, it does. As a generalization (for which you can name your favorite particulars)they are also clever and violent, with a true belief (or a perfect cynicism) that enables them to automatically demonize anyone they don't like. They are incapable of distinctions. In argument, they are generally incapable of proportionality. To say they jump to conclusions is kind: it's more like quantum leaps. Every divergence from dogma is an insult and an attack on their entire system of belief, evidence in itself of persecution and bigotry against them, not to mention the basest infamy, therefore justifying a global nuclear response.
They have turned projection into a fascist art form and a mighty political tool in the age of ignorance. They are the toadies of the very wealthy, whose temporary interests they serve. Media owners are their phantom masters and greatest beneficiaries.
Having pretty much conquered television and radio and a good bit of print journalism, they turn their attention now to schools. The same charges are being met with the same confused, defensive responses from people who are used to rational argument and civilized discussion in which distinctions are made and differences recognized without every statement turning into an occasion for deliberate misunderstanding and total war.
This story in the Guardian is an excellent summary of what's going on directly in attacks on teachers in universities and even high schools by the new McCarthyites, with a hurried overview of alarming goings-on in legislatures. It begins with a suggestion of how these attacks succeed, through the tacit cooperation of people who may not believe in the charges but don't want to be associated with anyone who is accused of anything by anyone. As well as the indifference of associates who don't understand how important it is to support each other, quickly and firmly, in any such attack. I've seen it, and to some extent have felt it before.
As to the accuracy of the charges, is that ever really the point? Any thinking person will concede that there are idiotic and intolerant leftists among teachers, just as there are idiotic and intolerant rightists, and just as there are incompetent teachers with no discernable political point of view at all. But as the author of this article points out about concerning the attacks on specific academics by David Horowitz, the chief instigator, as well as others:
"Evidence to back up his central argument - that these political leanings are at all related to a teacher's ability to be fair, balanced or competent in class - are non-existent. Most of the criticisms of lecturers on both the Dirty 30 list and in Horowitz's book are levelled at comments professors have made outside the classroom and rarely do they provide any evidence of the accused actually criticising or ridiculing students with rightwing ideas. "
But evidence is beside the point for these people. Academics who use evidence and argument, because that's the basis for what and how they teach, as well as for their whole world, are going to be helplessly spinning their wheels. Several lifetimes of commercialized ignorance combined with the fear of losing the privileges of affluence, grafted onto an increasingly desperate and shrill form of pseudo-Christianity, is encouraging the application of viciousness and violence to another former field of knowledge creation and dissemination.
What they truly can't face is that actual objectivity faced with the weight of evidence, along with the moral and operational development of most academic fields---especially the ones having to do with people--themselves lead intelligent people to the conclusion that the Rabid Right is rabidly wrong. They can cry all they want about the dearth of intolerant true believer fundamentalist Rabid Right "conservatives" in academia, but then there aren't many thumb tacks piloting space shuttles.
Will they succeed as easily in the academy as they have in the media? Not all the same economic forces are at work there, but other favorable factors exist. Thanks to the deification of corporate business, the administrative talent left for education is weak. Schools used to be staffed by people who cared first and foremost about education, rather than the bureaucrats who weren't up to corporate competition, and there is still a residual cadre in the mix, though the tendency appears to be towards the clueless and spineless, and therefore easy marks for aggression from the loudest and richest.
Schools also seem to be more dependent on corporate money, as public funds dry up, and so even universities are becoming prey to the same lobbyist forces as dominate the government that no longer is willing to support disinterested education at any level.
Then there is the easy prey of students basically uninterested in learning anything, cynical in the exchange of going into horrendous debt to get the job qualification of a diploma, who turn their anger on their own education. Denouncing professors can be much more fun than studying, and may help the grade point if they suspect they aren't getting an automatic A. In this unnurturing cultural context, there are a surprising number of students who do deeply care about learning, the search for knowledge, the paths of inquiry and the environment of discourse, and who will sacrifice for principle. So far their immediate responses has been the chief defense in many cases, as bewildered adults chase their tails. Of course, these adults may also know how easy it is to be forced into homelessness and illness without a shred of medical care in a more vulnerable zone of the lifecycle, in this great nation of ours.
So in the face of serious problems and alarming prospects, America apparently chooses to go mad. Well, how many times did the world shatter itself in the twentieth century? Why should the twenty-first be any different? It sure can't be because we're smarter, or braver. Let's hope enough of us rise to meet the challenge. There is so much potential here.
Could sanity be breaking out on both coasts? Massachusetts crafts a health care plan that seems to please and cover almost everyone, and now Ahnold and the Dems in CA have agreed on at least talking tough about greenhouse gas emissions, forging a goal of reducing them 25% by 2050, and starting on that road with some corporate reporting requirements. Dems promise more is to come.
Here's the SF Chronicle's story.
Both houses of the Massachusetts legislature have passed an innovative plan for universal health care coverage, and the governor is going to sign it. It isn't a single payer plan. It is untested but looks like it might work, and it certainly is the best any state has passed so far.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
From the New York Times article on the "mobile homeless"--the increasing number of individuals and families living in their cars:
Last year was the first year on record, according to an annual study conducted by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, that a full-time worker at minimum wage could not afford a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in the country at average market rates.
Heroes, role models, mentors and leaders all have major roles. Heroes can pave the way to changing hearts and minds relatively quickly. Admiring someone for something you love or at least understand, can lead to loosening up on something you think you don't like, or learning more about something you don't understand.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, Most Valuable Player of this year's Super Bowl, is the son of a Korean mother and a black father. He was born in South Korea, although he left 30 years ago. This week he and his mother have returned for a visit, and although American football is not a well-known sport in Korea, the whole world saw the Super Bowl. He was greeted as a hero, his arrival covered on live TV, and will receive state honors.
And this note from the report in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Ward, whose father is black, will also be meeting with children of mixed-race backgrounds. Ward's fame here has prompted introspection about the treatment of such children, who have typically faced prejudice in conservative Korean society where pure blood ties are emphasized.
Monday, April 03, 2006
Amidst all the rapidly changing "missions" and excuses, three real and deeply related reasons the Bushites are in Iraq are emerging from the pile. The obvious one is oil, and the enriching of Bushite crony corporations, now and for the immediate future. The second reason is highlighted in the Washington Post essay by Kevin Phillips Sunday:
Now that the GOP has been transformed by the rise of the South, the trauma of terrorism and George W. Bush's conviction that God wanted him to be president, a deeper conclusion can be drawn: The Republican Party has become the first religious party in U.S. history.
The United States has organized much of its military posture since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks around the protection of oil fields, pipelines and sea lanes. But U.S. preoccupation with the Middle East has another dimension. In addition to its concerns with oil and terrorism, the White House is courting end-times theologians and electorates for whom the Holy Lands are a battleground of Christian destiny. Both pursuits -- oil and biblical expectations -- require a dissimulation in Washington that undercuts the U.S. tradition of commitment to the role of an informed electorate.
The final reason---the most concrete reason (in all senses of the word)--is the one that is in a sense the result of the first two, though it also has its own rationale: it is the establishment of permanent military bases in Iraq.
This is clearly well underway. In one of several recent stories, the British paper the Independent says: More than $280m (£160m) has already been spent on building up Al Asad air base, Balad air base, Camp Taji and Tallil air base, and the Bush administration has this year requested another $175m to enlarge them. These bases, which currently house more than 55,000 troops, have their own bus routes, pizza restaurants and supermarkets.I
I speculated that this was a primary reason two or three years ago, based in part on the news that the Pentagon was closing its big bases in a nervous Saudi Arabia---the presence of those bases desecrating holy lands was cited by Osama as a injury leading to terrorist attacks like 9-11.
Now several other better placed observers (including former Senator Gary Hart) are charging that these vast bases in Iraq are there for the long term. They are there to establish U.S. military presence in the region, to launch attacks against Iran and perhaps other "evil" nations thwarting Bushite corporate hegemony.
They are there to support the last U.S. domestic industry: the machinery of death and destruction. They are there and always were intended to be there to enforce an Empire built on lies and the deaths and broken lives resulting from this monstrous deceit.
If you wonder why billions have been poured into Iraq with no visible result in reconstruction or effect (the latest result being that the $200 million contract given for 142 medical clinics has resulted in only 20 clinics instead), one reason is that a great deal of that money has gone to create U.S. military bases, in order to ensure Middle East oil for the profit of crony corporations (aside from enriching crony corporations directly with the arms and construction contracts), and to enact the Rabid Fundamentalist Right vision of the Holy Land unto the Apocalypse, and to continue the last autonomous American industry, the military-industrial-political complex.
This is why the taxes we pay are being squandered and stolen, leaving us with nothing for our real needs, now and in the future.
This is why the infrastructure of Iraq was destroyed, and why the people of Iraq are living in an increasingly barbaric hell. This is why the U.S. will attack Iran, and the nation will rally around a discredited president when the missiles fly in the Middle East and the first terrorist strikes kill Americans within U.S. borders (which the Bushites are doing little to prevent)---or at least, I am almost convinced, this is the plan.
UPDATE: More on crony corporation abuse in Iraq and the missing nine billions.
1. Rain. March was a rainy month, and so far April is starting out that way. We were getting Alaska weather in early March, now we seem to be getting the Northwest's. But with slightly more variety than Portland (with its afternoon Sun Breaks), or Seattle (the constant drizzle punctuated by steady rain) or Vancouver ( a sensible gray but with a peculiar luminosity.) We get sunshine with rain, wind with rain, thunder with rain, hail with rain, and of course the ever-popular rain with rain.
I've spent enough continuous time in the three above-named cities to gauge the moods they inspire in me. For one thing, I began to understand why they are cities of readers. There is something about their gray skies and the sound-muffling qualities of drizzle, its foggy but insistent rhythm that is a kind of natural white noise, that encourages the concentration on the page. It's a little more complicated here at the moment.
Others have far more serious problems due to the rain, which has been unusually frequent and heavy as far east and south as Sacramento and San Francisco. As the climate crisis effects become obvious not all that far north of us, we anxiously wonder what new climate patterns we are likely to inherit down here. So far it's just been crazy: a succession of unusual sunny days, this extra dollop of rain, plus hail, lightning, etc. that has been rare in my experience here, before this year.
Margaret is a weekend gardener during the school year spring, and the rain has been hard on her. She's made it a priority for every possible occasion, even to the point of missing Quaker Meeting on a sunny (or non-rainy) Sunday morning. She has become, she says, a foul weather Friend.
2. Gas prices. You think you have it bad? At last look, regular unleaded was $2.80 to $2.90 a gallon, with premium at $3.05 to $3.10. The newspapers are reporting gasoline theft---siphoning from parked cars, near or in trailer parks so far.
I don't need to drive much, but for people who drive from the most scenic countrysides to work in Arcata and Eureka in their trucks and SUVs and newer quality cars, gasoline is a major expense. As it is for almost all working people and many small businesses.
3. Salmon. It seems that the crisis in local Pacific salmon everyone has feared for years may become very obvious and real this year, as officials are contemplating a total ban on salmon takes from California waters this year. The culprits are multiple, from poor timber practices polluting waters and otherwise making the salmon lifecycle difficult, to dams on the rivers that are now nearly worthless for anything but killing salmon, to Bushite decisions to favor water from key rivers--the Klamath in particular--diverted to agribusiness elsewhere. Some solutions can be effected immediately (for next year) while others will take years to implement and have any effect. There's a good summary of the situation in the SF Chronicle here.
Out at sea, Climate Crisis effects on ocean temperature etc. are also likely to combine with decades of chemical pollution and industrialized overfishing that are already crashing one marine species after another. So local problems, which affect the local economy and the deepest cultural convergences in the various Native and non-Native (including generations of native-born) populations, are going to be repeated elsewhere. But for here, the loss of salmon is a loss of an identity that goes back many centuries. The solutions to this one may be on the way, but it's a teachable moment, for sure.
Sunday, April 02, 2006
Even though I speculated on the possibility that we wouldn't have a winner with two episodes to go I have to say I am really irritated that the Santos-Vinick race goes on another week. And that it will still be election day---a violation of the "real time" they've followed in the past few eps. Oh well.
The teaser showed a tote board with Vinick ahead by 6 electoral with 12 votes outstanding, or so some other eagle-eyed freeze-framing blogger says. They also showed the Vermont board going for Vinick. What I didn't anticipate but should have is Leo's death on election day, before polls close in the West. And now the speculation on who Santos will name as a v.p. candidate, or if, and when. All that's certain is that Leo's death ended the episode and will lead the next one.
So what does it all mean? It means even after being cancelled, the West Wingers are going after the biggest audience they can muster, regardless of how casually they put devoted viewers through the wringer with their evil ways.
What would make this all worth it would be a contested state, and Santos demanding a recount. And winning it. Justice in the alternate universe for both 2000 and 2004. That would make stringing it out for yet another week really worth it.
She would be just another nameless victim, a true elder who inspired everyone who met her, but reduced to homelessness through no fault of her own. She has a name, of course--it's Rosie Kreidler, age 62. And she had a past. An Olympic athlete. A nurse, who had applied to join Doctors Without Borders and go to the Congo. Until an automobile accident started her on a journey that many Americans have taken, particularly older Americans. And many more will take in the coming decade, as baby boomers age into vulnerability
.No one outside of the people she met might ever have known her story. Except that somehow, someone found out that her nephew is Barry Bonds, one of the most famous men in America. Not even he knew of her plight.
MORE at the new blog, 60's Now
The Big Smirk trying to make friends with the Mexican Fox while U.S. cities burst with Latino protests against Republican racist immigration strategies reminded me of an essay in last Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle Insight I neglected to note here then. It's an entertaining piece about how Smirk has done what Castro and Che could only dream of---in one Latin American nation after another, leftist governments have been elected, thanks to the unifying symbol of what they are against: the only smirk they have to fear is Smirk himself.
And Mexico may be next.