Friday, July 30, 2004

The Unbearable Costs of Empire: "Then there's the problem of the U.S. –- both the government and the private sector –- borrowing from foreign countries. Most government borrowing is now being financed from overseas -- especially the central banks of China, Japan, and other countries. These institutions are deliberately buying dollars in order to keep their currencies from rising against the greenback. But they won't keep doing this indefinitely. The U.S. is borrowing more than $600 billion a year from the rest of the world, and it can't go on much longer.

"THE BIG BANG. Sometime within a decade, and most likely in the next couple of years, foreign investors will see that a steep decline of the dollar is unavoidable and will begin to unload them and U.S. Treasury securities. As with any bubble, it will be better if this one bursts sooner rather than later, when it would be even bigger. But adjustment and pain will still occur, including higher interest rates and consequently slower growth.

"Slower growth will also mean larger federal budget deficits. And one event that will certainly slow growth and increase federal government borrowing well beyond current projections is the bursting of the housing bubble. Housing prices have seen an unprecedented run-up since 1995 of more than 35 percentage points above the rate of inflation. That has created more than $3 trillion in paper wealth that –- just like the illusory wealth of the stock-market bubble -- is programmed to disappear. This, too, is almost certain to happen in the next few years."

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Paul Krugman: More open speculation about stealing the election: "This isn't a paranoid fantasy. It's a true account of a recent election in Riverside County, Calif., reported by Andrew Gumbel of the British newspaper The Independent. Mr. Gumbel's full-length report, printed in Los Angeles City Beat, makes hair-raising reading not just because it reinforces concerns about touch-screen voting, but also because it shows how easily officials can stonewall after a suspect election."

Kerry in front in polls: "The polls are saying that if Kerry goes over 50% in the next few days, he has every chance of holding and even increasing the lead until November. The Bushites will panic. Since this is a 'war presidency', Democrats fear there would be three options left.
1) An Osama bin Laden October surprise (arrested, not 'smoked out', with the help of Pakistani ally President General Pervez Musharraf).
2) The election is again stolen, this time in California, with the help of Gubernator Arnold Schwarzenegger and Republican-made electronic ballot boxes in a few states.
3) An al-Qaeda attack (Osama, lest we forget, votes Bush) leads to a de facto coup d'etat, with the 'Bush-Cheney junta' (Gore Vidal) postponing the elections indefinitely."

Moore's Plea to John Kerry: Stand Up for the Progressive Agenda that the Majority of America Already Agrees With: "When I was in Cannes with the movie, I showed it to the American students whose were working there. There was about 200 of them. At the end of the movie, I asked them, let me just ask you a question, how many of you are thinking of voting for Ralph Nader? Nearly had a lot of them raised their hand. I invited Kerry's daughter, Alexandra to come and sit in the back. They didn't know she was there. And she witnessed this. And we went out to lunch afterwards and she was shocked. How could they, after watchings this movie, for two hours, with the message of the movie seems to be that Bush must go, that nearly half of them would say they are still considering voting for Ralph Nader. I think I saw one poll recently that said 12% of 18-25-year-olds are planning on voting for Ralph Nader."

Preferential voting (or what the Americans call 'instant runoff voting') is an elementary but essential reform. Practically the only leverage Nader and the Greens have over the Democrats and the corporate two-party system is the ability to deny the Democrats victory by splitting the vote. Not to put too fine a point on it, this leverage ultimately needs to be used. 'Introduce IRV, or else.' Nader makes many worthwhile contributions to the overall debate, but seems to be in denial about the effect of his candidacy, and to fail to place sufficient emphasis on the necessary order of reforms.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The Need for a Network of Low Income Citizen-owned Development Credit Unions: "The hard truth is that banks with few exceptions don't make small consumer loans-of the $200 or $500 or even the $1,000 and $2,000 variety. That always has been the case and today banks substitute fee-ridden credit cards for small consumer loans. Most of the payday borrowers lack the credit standing to obtain credit cards and if they did they would face the tricky world of annual membership fees, the late charges when the monthly payment misses the post date by a few hours and ultimately the 'over the limit' fees when charges exceed some previously ordained limit imposed by the card issuer. And interest charges on credit cards can and are arbitrarily raised and many of these hikes look like first cousins to the rate schedules for the payday merchants."

"Credit Unions are cooperatives, consumer owned, nonprofit institutions with no outside stockholders. There is no incentive to exploit their "customers" who are the member-owners and there are no outside investors to demand a share of "profits." What is needed to end the plague of predatory lending and payday scams is a crash effort on the part of the National Credit Union Administration to establish a network of low income citizen-owned development credit unions throughout the inner cities. Rest assured, the pay day lenders won't try to compete on the credit union terms."

Richard A. Clarke: 9/11 report is honorable but incomplete: "Americans owe the 9/11 commission a deep debt for its extensive exposition of the facts surrounding the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. Yet, because the commission had a goal of creating a unanimous report from a bipartisan group, it softened the edges and left it to the public to draw many conclusions.... Among the obvious truths that were documented but unarticulated were the facts that the Bush administration did little on terrorism before 9/11, and that by invading Iraq the administration has left us less safe as a nation. (Fortunately, opinion polls show that the majority of Americans have already come to these conclusions on their own.) What the commissioners did clearly state was that Iraq had no collaborative relationship with Al Qaeda and no hand in 9/11."

U.S. Marines under attack in Ramadi, Iraq: "Hunkered down in the turquoise-domed Islamic Law Center, a dozen Marines wait for the enemy to make its inevitable move. Insurgents equipped with Soviet-made sniper rifles keep the building in their cross-hairs. Assailants with AK-47s and grenade launchers regularly peer from nearby alleys and roofs.... On Wednesday, a Marine convoy was attacked here with a roadside bomb and as many as 100 insurgents unleashed a barrage of small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades in rolling firefights that lasted for much of the day."

"The aggressive patrols that marked the Marines' arrival this spring were met with frenzied and bloody insurgent attacks, leading to some of the heaviest U.S. losses of the Iraq war — 31 dead and more than 200 wounded. Since the patrols have given way to the more modulated "outposting" strategy, however, U.S. deaths have dropped dramatically. The insurgents know exactly where the Marines are and regard the posts as prime targets. Four Marines were killed last month when their post was overrun in the early-morning darkness. Stunning images of the sniper team's dead and bloodied bodies sprawled on a rooftop were captured on videotape and broadcast worldwide."

Friday, July 23, 2004

In the face of stubborn insurgency, troops scale back Anbar patrols: "After losing dozens of men to a 'voiceless, faceless mass of people' with no clear leadership or political aim other than killing American soldiers, the U.S. military has had to re-evaluate the situation, said Army Maj. Thomas Neemeyer, the head American intelligence officer for the 1st Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division, the main military force in the Ramadi area and from there to Fallujah. 'They cannot militarily overwhelm us, but we cannot deliver a knockout blow, either,' he said. 'It creates a form of stalemate.'

"In the wreckage of the security situation, Neemeyer said, U.S. officials have all but given up on plans to install a democratic government in the city, and are hoping instead that Islamic extremists and other insurgent groups don't overrun the province in the same way that they've seized the region's most infamous town, Fallujah."

"Pointing to a neighborhood outside the town of Habbaniyah, between Fallujah and Ramadi, [Jasper] said, "We've lost a lot of Marines there and we don't ever go in anymore. If they want it that bad, they can have it." And then to a spot on the western edge of Fallujah: "We find that if we don't go there, they won't shoot us.""

"Between the 1st Brigade's 4,000 soldiers, who arrived in Ramadi last September, and a battalion of 1,000 Marines, who came in February, more than 80 have been killed and more than 450 injured. Since the hand-over of sovereignty June 28, 25 U.S. soldiers have been killed. Fifteen of them were in Anbar. The numbers grow more striking at smaller unit levels. Capt. Mike Taylor, for example, commands a company of men in nearby Khaldiya. Out of his 76 troops, 18 now have purple hearts, awarded for combat wounds. The Marines' Echo company, with 185 members, has had 22 killed.... "The only way to stomp out the insurgency of the mind," [Niemeyer] said, "would be to kill the entire population.""

Thursday, July 22, 2004

UN General Assembly condemns apartheid wall: "The General Assembly voted 150 to 6, with 10 abstentions, that Israel obey the ICJ's advisory ruling that it dismantle the separation wall and pay compensation to Palestinians affected by it.

"Aside from the United States and Israel, dissenting votes came from U.S. Pacific protectorates Micronesia, Palau, the Marshall Islands, and Australia. The empire's main outpost in the Atlantic voted with the majority of the world.

"The next step is the Security Council, where the initiative will die. Still, this ruling is bringing closer the day when international law is a weapon that can be used by the weak, not just by the strong."

Howard shames Australia by aligning the country with a blatantly illegal construction. At the same time it is predictable. Howard's policy is simply to align himself unswervingly with the old and discredited policies of imperialism, colonialism, racism and monaarchism.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Iraq is not Improving, it's a Disaster. The Only Sensible Objective now is Orderly Disengagement, and Soon: "The security situation is calamitous. Two recent attacks killed nine US marines; an attack on the Iraqi minister of justice killed five bodyguards; bombings and attacks on Iraqi security forces have caused multiple deaths; targets in Falluja have been bombed by the US air force; foreigners have been kidnapped or executed with the aim of driving foreign troops and foreign companies out of Iraq.

"This, however, is the tip of the iceberg. Attacks on US troops are running at dozens a day, frequently accompanied by looting, burning and stoning. It is generally believed in Baghdad that around 1,000 Iraqis leave the country every day for Jordan and Syria because the security situation is intolerable. According to the Iraqi media, gunmen have killed six Baghdad local councilors in the last two weeks and roughly 750 in the last year. Friends of the Americans such as Ahmad Chalabi are discredited; enemies such as the young Shia firebrand Moqtada al-Sadr have their tails up."

Running scared: "This is an extraordinary moment in American history. Half the country - including all the people I know best - believes it is trembling on the very lip of outright tyranny, while the other half believes that only the Bush administration stands between it and national collapse into atheism, socialism, black helicopters, and gay marriage. November 2 looms as a date of dreadful consequence. A bumper sticker, popular among the sort of people I hang out with, reads: Bush-Cheney '04 - The Last Vote You'll Ever Have To Cast. That's funny, but it belongs to the genre of humour in which the laugh is likely to die in your throat - and none of the people who sport the sticker on their cars are smiling."

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Bush spokesperson struggles with Bush's big lie - that Saddam was a threat to the US with his WMDs; that Saddam was linked to 9/11: "Q Prime Minister Blair took full personal responsibility for taking his nation into war under falsehoods -- under reasons that have been determined now to be false. Is President Bush also willing to take full, personal responsibility --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think Prime Minister Blair said that it was the right thing to do; that Saddam Hussein's regime was a threat.

Q Those were not the reasons he took his country into war. It turned out to be untrue, and the same is true for us. Does the President take full, personal responsibility for this war?

MR. McCLELLAN: The issue here is what do you to with a threat in a post-September 11th world? Either you live with a threat, or you confront the threat.

Q There was no threat.

MR. McCLELLAN: The President made the decision to confront the threat.

Q Saddam Hussein did not threaten this country.

MR. McCLELLAN: The world -- the world, the Congress and the administration all disagree. They all recognized that there was a threat posed by Saddam Hussein. When it came to September 11th, that changed the equation. It taught us, as I said --

Q The Intelligence Committee said there was no threat.

MR. McCLELLAN: As I said, it taught us that we must confront threats before it's too late.

Q So the President doesn't take full responsibility?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President already talked about the responsibility for the decisions he's made. He talked about that with Prime Minister Blair.

Q Personal responsibility?

MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, go ahead."

Monday, July 19, 2004

Secret film shows Iraq prisoners sodomised: "[Hersh] said: 'The boys were sodomised with the cameras rolling, and the worst part is the soundtrack, of the boys shrieking. And this is your government at war.'" Meanwhile, back home Bush's 'Christian Conservatives' struggle to introduce a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Allawi shot prisoners in cold blood: witnesses: "Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government, according to two people who allege they witnessed the killings."

A credible Herald report which illustrates the real nature of 'democracy, sovereignty and liberation' in Iraq. Allawi is a CIA astset and thug who has been installed by the US to control the country in their interests. It is the familiar model of the Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussein, Soeharto, Pinochet and countless others.

David Kay: Bush, Blair should have known intelligence didn't show Iraqi threat: "He told Britain's ITV network that Bush and Blair ''should have been able to tell before the war that the evidence did not exist for drawing the conclusion that Iraq presented a clear, present and imminent threat on the basis of existing weapons of mass destruction. That was not something that required a war,'' he said.

"He said the leaders may not have been sufficiently critical of intelligence on Saddam's alleged weapons of mass destruction. ''WMD was only one and I think in their mind, not really the most important one,'' he said. ''And so the doubts about the evidence on weapons of mass destruction was not as serious to them as it seemed to be to the rest of the world.''"

"Kay said two recent reports on intelligence failures in Iraq showed that American and British information-gathering and analyzing systems were ''broken.'' ''I think they are a scathing indictment,'' he said of the reports from the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee and a British commission headed by former senior civil servant Lord Butler." ... Kay said analysts were facing pressure to support the belief that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. ''Anything that showed Iraq didn't have weapons of mass destruction had a much higher gate to pass because if it were true, all of U.S. policy towards Iraq would have fallen asunder,'' he said in the interview.

Quite simply, this is yet another example of high level confirmation of what was well known even before the war started: that it was started for other reasons but WMDs were the pretext presented to the public.

Spying: The biggest con-trick: "Spies, whichever country they work for, have always been useless. By Phillip Knightley. We should face the only important truth in the Iraq fiasco: most intelligence is useless, and spies who promise to provide reliable information are guilty of the biggest confidence trick of our age.

"Most political leaders know this but ignore it because they find intelligence a handy tool. Tony Blair wanted intelligence material about weapons of mass destruction to justify the invasion of Iraq. The intelligence services did not have it. So Downing Street took what little vague intelligence there was and used all of its presentational skills to convince sufficient MPs of the need to attack Saddam Hussein before he attacked us."

Juan Cole interview on Iraq debacle: "my argument was that the post-war handling of Iraq has been a huge catastrophe. I have to say that I can think of few attempts by one country to administer another in modern history that have been so plagued by incompetence and a lack of understanding of the local society. Administering another country is always a very tricky proposition.... When the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who is a very major figure and has enormous power in Iraq, issued a ruling, or fatwa, on June 28, 2003, that any delegates to a constituent assembly that wrote the new constitution would have to be popularly elected, Paul Bremer the US civil administrator of Iraq, refused to take Sistani's ruling seriously and is said to have asked someone to get another cleric to issue another fatwa that would rebuke Sistani. Well, Shiite Islam is hierarchical. Sistani is a grand ayatollah. There aren't other persons who can overrule him in that system.... I believe that the American administration of Iraq has been arrogant, has pursued policies that are illegal in international law and has been ignorant and incompetent."

"I believe that there were people in the current administration who would very much have liked to take care of Iraq quickly, stabilize it, reduce forces there to about a division - that's 20,000 people - and then go on to Syria and Iran and pursue an objective of American conquest, reshaping the region by force. I think those voices have been marginalized. It's inconceivable to me that Congress would authorize such a thing. And the military, particularly the officer corps, would not go along with the idea of trying to conquer and occupy Syria or Iran at this point. The United States simply doesn't have an army large enough to make that possible to begin with. But it is also very clear what would happen if we tried. Iran is three times bigger than Iraq. I think that the super-hawks in the administration have lost. Iraq has turned into a nightmare for them. I don't see a good exit strategy, and I am worried about that because, whereas when things got extremely bad, the United States could simply leave Vietnam, get on helicopters and fly away, Iraq is a major petroleum producer at the head of the Persian Gulf and could not be allowed to fall into chaos. I think it's very unlikely that the US administration would allow that to happen or remain in power for very long if it did. So even if there is a change in November, I don't see what way the US can get out of Iraq now."

"Question: We're also seeing inroads into academia of groups like Campus Watch, which has singled out you and a few other academics for being "too political" in the classroom....

"I reject the argument that balance is achieved by making sure that you have both sides of the story. This is very common in journalism, especially television journalism, and it appeals to politicians and the public. There are not "sides to a story" when doing research. There is evidence, and there are explanations that the evidence reveals. One would not want a cancer institute at a major university to be forced by the government to make sure that they had a balanced view of the causes of cancer and to be forced to hire some researchers who insisted that smoking does not cause cancer. I don't accept the argument of people like David Horowitz that the government should impose some sort of predetermined political balance on academic research. We would end up with a lot of academics in that kind of situation who would maintain that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons, which was what was being maintained by think tanks and talking heads on television and government officials, precisely because they did have this flawed idea of "balance" that they were trying to pursue. If actual research had been done, then this error could have easily been exposed."

Friday, July 02, 2004

The Resistance Campaign is Iraq's Real War of Liberation: "The Sham of this Week's Handover will do Nothing to End the Uprising by Seumas Milne"

Dissing the Republic To Save It: A Conversation with Chalmers Johnson: "I think we made a disastrous error in the classic strategic sense when in 1991 we concluded that we “had won the Cold War.” No. We simply didn’t lose it as badly as the Soviets did. We were both caught up in imperial overreach, in weapons industries that came to dominate our societies. We allowed ideologues to capture our Department of Defense and lead us off — in a phrase they like — into a New Rome. We are no longer a status quo power respectful of international law. We became a revisionist power, one fundamentally opposed to the world as it is organized, much like Nazi Germany, imperial Japan, Bolshevik Russia or Maoist China.... It’s an extremely open question if we have crossed our Rubicon and there is no going back.... Bush dropped the mask. He comes out and says we are a New Rome, we don’t need the U.N. or any friends. We now put countries on hit lists. Certainly, if there were some steering committee for an American imperial project, it would consider Bill Clinton a much better imperial president than George W. Bush. It’s always better strategy to not show your hand, to take an indirect approach but to know exactly where you are going.... undoubtedly they bungled things in Iraq, from not using enough troops to misreading the intelligence, and there is more evidence of it every day. But there was never a plan to leave Iraq because there is no intention of leaving Iraq. We are currently building 14 bases there. Dick Cheney can’t imagine giving up that oil. And the military can’t imagine giving up those bases. That’s why they can’t come up with a plan to leave.... The political system alone can no longer save the republic."

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Afghanistan: Unraveling of a Nation 'Liberated' by the West: Facts and figures indicate the disastrous failure of the Afghanistan invasion.

Iraq is worse off than before the war began, GAO reports: "-In 13 of Iraq's 18 provinces, electricity was available fewer hours per day on average last month than before the war. Nearly 20 million of Iraq's 26 million people live in those provinces.

-Only $13.7 billion of the $58 billion pledged and allocated worldwide to rebuild Iraq has been spent, with another $10 billion about to be spent. The biggest chunk of that money has been used to run Iraq's ministry operations.

-The country's court system is more clogged than before the war, and judges are frequent targets of assassination attempts.

-The new Iraqi civil defense, police and overall security units are suffering from mass desertions, are poorly trained and ill-equipped.

-The number of what the now-disbanded Coalition Provisional Authority called significant insurgent attacks skyrocketed from 411 in February to 1,169 in May."

These damaging admissions from an official Washington agency do not include an estimate of the number of Iraqis killed or wounded. And yet this epic crime is shamelessly described as 'democracy' or 'liberation'.