Sunday, October 31, 2004

Iraqi civilian toll since the invasion is estimated at 100,000: "Iraqis were 2.5 times more likely to die in the 17 months following the invasion than in the 14 months before it. Before the invasion, the most common causes of death in Iraq were heart attacks, strokes and chronic diseases. Afterward, violent death was far ahead of all other causes. "We were shocked at the magnitude but we're quite sure that the estimate of 100,000 is a conservative estimate""

In other words, terrible as the regime and conditions were, Iraq was safer under Saddam's dictatorship than under the US occupation.

Friday, October 29, 2004

For 13th Year, U.N. General Assembly Urges U.S. to End Embargo Against Cuba: "The Cuban-sponsored resolution calling for the embargo to be repealed 'as soon as possible' was approved by a vote of 179-4 with one abstention, very similar to last year's vote of 179-2 with two abstentions. The resolution is not legally binding and Cuba's Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said the U.S. government has ignored it for the last 12 years. But he said "that does not diminish the importance and momentousness" of the vote to the Cuban people and to show the worldwide opposition to the 43-year-old trade embargo."

Micronesia was the sole abstention, with the US, Israel, Micronesia and Palau voting against. This means that the Howard government, normally in lock step with the US on its most extreme actions, such as the invasion of Iraq or Israel's apartheid wall, voted against the embargo and the wishes of the United States. It may be the case that with the entire world opposed to the embargo, even the Howard government could not allow itself to be seen so far out on a limb.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Iraq war rouses terrorists, ASIO says: "ASIO director Dennis Richardson says that on a global level, the conflict in Iraq may have created more terrorists. "The only reasonable assumption is that Iraq has added to the number of militant Islamists and will lead to the development of international linkages between such individuals and groups," he said.

"As a result, he says it is Australian interests overseas that are at greater risk because of Iraq, especially those in the Middle East. Mr Richardson says the coalition campaign in Iraq has helped Al Qaeda recruit potential terrorists. "Iraq has provided Al Qaeda with propaganda in recruitment opportunities and it only stands to reason that they would have some success," he said. "It has provided another justification or rationalisation for acts of terrorism. "It has increased the threat against Australian interests in the Middle East.""

Yet more testimony regarding the obvious about the phony 'war on terror'. It might be more to the point to attempt to collect expert testimony saying that the war on Iraq has reduced the risk and recruitment of terrorists. Is there a single one?

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Uri Avnery: On the Road to Civil War - How the Settlers' Movement Have Infiltrated the IDF: "The seeds of the civil war were sown when the first settlement was put up in the occupied territories. At the time, I told the Prime Minister in the Knesset: "You are laying a land mine. Some day you will have to dismantle it. As a former soldier, let me warn you that the dismantling of land mines is a very unpleasant job." Since then, hundreds of mines have been laid. The minefields are being extended even now.

"The process was led by religious cranks. Their declared aim, as they said then and never tire of repeating, is to drive all the Arabs out of the country that God promised us. And the land God promised us, as one of them reminded us on TV the other day, is not the "Palestine" of the British mandate, but the Promised Land - including Jordan, Lebanon and parts of Syria and Sinai. Quoting the Bible, another one declared that we have come to this country not only to inherit, but also to disinherit the others, to drive them out and take their place."

"When we warned of the danger, we were told to relax. Only a small minority of the settlers, we were comforted, are fanatical freaks. These are indeed crazy and will forcibly resist any attempt to remove them. But that will not be a big problem, because the vast majority of Israeli citizens detest them and consider them a sect of crackpots. Most of the settlers, we were told, are not fanatics. They went there because the government presented them with expensive villas, which they could not even dream about in Israel proper. They were looking for "quality of life". When the government tells them to move, they will take the compensation and move on.

"That is, of course, a dangerous delusion. As Karl Marx observed, people's consciousness is determined by their situation. The good Laborites who were implanted by the Labor government on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip now talk and behave like the worst followers of the late fascist rabbi Meir Kahane.

"Moreover, we were told, even the weirdos recognize Israeli democracy. Nobody will raise his hands against soldiers of the Israeli army. When the government and the Knesset decide to evacuate settlements, they will obey. They may raise a ruckus and put up a show of resistance, as they did during the evacuation of the North Sinai settlements in 1982, but at the end of the day they will give in. After all, even in North Sinai not one single settler refused, in the end, to accept their compensation.

"But this disdain for the settlers is no less dangerous than the disdain for the Arabs. What had been hidden all the time is now becoming clear: the settlers don't give a damn for democracy and the institutions of the state. Their hard core spells it out: when the resolutions of the Knesset contradict the Halakha (Jewish religious law), the Halakha has priority."

"Many settlers do not yet say so openly and pretend to be insulted when such attitudes are attributed to them, but in fact they are dragged along by the hard core that has already thrown off all the masks. They challenge not only the policy of the government, but Israeli democracy as such. They declare openly that their aim is to overthrow the State of Law and put in its place the State of the Halakha."

"The conquest of the army from the inside began long ago. The "arrangement" with the yeshivot (religious schools), that serve in the army as separate units, has allowed the entry of a huge Trojan horse. In any confrontation between their rabbis and their army commanders, the soldiers of the "arrangement yeshivot" will obey the rabbis. Worse: for years now, the settlers have systematically penetrated the ranks of the officers' corps, where they now constitute an even more dangerous Trojan horse.

"The right-wing refusal to obey orders is unlike the left-wing conscientious objection. The leftist refusal is a personal stand, the rightist refusal a collective mutiny. On the left, a few hundred refused to serve the occupation, on the right, many thousands, even tens of thousands, will obey their rabbis' orders to refuse. As the Chief-of-Staff has warned, the army may disintegrate. Altogether, the settlers, together with their close allies in Israel including the yeshivot students, may amount to something like half a million people ­ a mighty phalanx for rebellion."

Monday, October 25, 2004

Letters From the Home Front: "I also feel her frustration, her fear, her all-encompassing anxiety, and most of all her overriding anger. Like Ms. Allison, I can no longer seem to communicate at all with my family's members, all of whom are also right-wing, religious, knee-jerk supporters of Bush.... Living in Mississippi precludes most thoughtful discussion of the war, the President, or any other topic relating to this administration.

"My anger at this president has become so intense that I can no longer watch him on television or listen to him on NPR; I literally become physically ill. I recently e-mailed the White House to ask the President to do a little soul searching late at night away from distraction by advisors, campaign staff, etc. I asked him to then ask himself if he thought this war was worth the sacrifice of his twins, because I sincerely felt that it was not worth the sacrifice of mine."

Sentiments such as these explain why the pretext for the war had to be the 'threat' of Iraq's 'WMDs' and 'terror links'. Had the Administration argued that it needed to 'remove a tyrant' and 'build democracy' in a faraway country most people couldn't spell or locate on a map it would have been scorned and laughed at. You want to spend x amount of dollars at a cost of x number of lives to do what? Forget it!

A Bush pre-election strike on Iran 'imminent': "According to White House and Washington Beltway insiders, the Bush administration, worried that it could lose the presidential election to Senator John F. Kerry, has initiated plans to launch a military strike on Iran's top Islamic leadership, its nuclear reactor at Bushehr on the Persian Gulf, and key nuclear targets throughout the country ... The Iran attack plan was reportedly drawn up after internal polling indicated that if the Bush administration launched a so-called anti-terrorist attack on Iran some two weeks before the election, Bush would be assured of a landslide win against Kerry."

"Morale aboard the USS John F. Kennedy is at an all-time low, something that must be attributable to the knowledge that the ship will be involved in an extension of U.S. military actions in the Persian Gulf region.... The White House leaks about the pre-emptive strike may have been prompted by warnings from the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency that an attack on Iran will escalate out of control. Intelligence circles report that both intelligence agencies are in open revolt against the Bush White House."

Its hard to tell how far a report such as this is based on good sources or purely speculative. As if the US is not in enough trouble already... At any rate the Bush regime is running out of time to produce an 'October surprise' such as an attack on Iran or the 'capture' of Bin Laden.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

The Bush Budget Deficit Death Spiral: "These “twin deficits”—trade and budget—combine to well over $1 trillion a year of borrowing. Their effect is to bury the world’s economy in dollar debts, dollars that increasingly buy less and less. As mentioned above, no one knows when the world will say, “enough.” Japan holds a reported $1 trillion supply of dollars, China, more than half a trillion. Both have bought dollars—in effect loaning equivalent sums to the U.S.—in order to keep the value of their own currencies low and therefore make their own goods cheaper in American markets.

"The Bush administration claims that both countries will continue to buy dollars so that their own currencies will not rise. But the danger is that once one major player declares it doesn’t want any more dollars there will be a rush for the exits. Demand for dollars, and with it, the dollar’s price, will plummet. The last player holding dollars will be stuck with the bag, a multi-trillion dollar stash of dollar holdings that are worth only a fraction of what they were just a month before."

"The only way the U.S. government can prevent a stampede is to raise interest rates—the return for holding dollars. And Alan Greenspan has begun this process. But this, of course, increases the carrying costs of the national debt. As if a $7 trillion national debt funded at 4% isn’t bad enough, envision a $15 trillion debt at 10%. Instead of $300 billion a year in interest costs, think of $1.5 trillion. Instead of interest amounting to 3% of GDP, imagine the carnage as it approaches 10%."

Friday, October 22, 2004

War on Iraq: The Unknown Soldiers: "The soft-spoken 62-year-old civilian speaks not of politics but of humanity – the terrible toll imposed by all wars, unjust or otherwise, on all involved, soldier or civilian.... At a time when the reality of the suffering in Iraq has been rendered invisible by media hype and partisan battle, Gene Bolles remains a steadfast advocate for the scarred, the maimed, and the tormented – whose numbers are far, far greater than what the Bush administration would like to admit."

"And they were 18, 19, maybe 21. They all seemed very young. Certainly younger than my children. As a neurosurgeon I mostly dealt with injuries to the brain, the spinal cord, or the spine itself. The injuries were all fairly horrific, anywhere from loss of extremities, multiple extremities, to severe burns. It just goes on, and on, and on. There were just a lot of serious injuries. As a doctor myself who has seen trauma throughout his career, I've never seen it to this degree. The numbers, the degree of injuries. It really kinda caught me off-guard."

"Many would break down talking about seeing their buddy get hurt or killed. They would even talk about the Iraqi soldiers – how awful it was, all that carnage. One guy hadn't slept for a long time because of nightmares because of what he saw early in the war, when we were killing high numbers of Iraqis. And he saw some of them got run over by tanks. He just couldn't get those images out of his mind. They talk about hearing screams of comrades or enemies or civilians, or children. To see it and be there creates a lot of reaction.... It's just starting and it's only going to get worse. Those numbers are going to do nothing but increase. You have the physical injuries which speak for themselves.... These are people in a lot of chronic pain.... There's a lot of people suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome – that number is going to go up, and up, and up as time goes on."

"I think about it a lot when I go to bed at night. I can't get it out of my head. It haunted me then and it haunts me now – the horrific, horrific injuries that these young people will now have to deal with for their rest of their lives. And I don't know if I'll ever stop thinking about them. I just feel a tremendous sadness – and that's just the way it is."

Orcinus: Dismantling Democracy: "If you thought Florida in 2000 was a debacle that inflicted a grievous wound on American democracy, just wait. Thanks to Team Bush, the 2004 election is shaping up to make that look like a tea party. Think Florida times 10. And then think about the shambles that will remain of our democratic institutions afterward.... Our only hope, really, is a massive tide of Americans coming out to the polls on Nov. 2 in such numbers that they overpower the Republican strategy. Democracy itself is at stake."

Thursday, October 21, 2004

The world has lost Iraq's oil: "Iraq used to produce close to 3.5 million barrels of oil per day under the rule of Saddam Hussein.... The reason oil prices have been hovering around $50 a barrel now is that most of these Iraqi exports disappeared just as oil consumption began to skyrocket around the world.... The International Energy Agency reported that the global use of oil — about 81 million barrels every 24 hours — rose at least 1.3% and perhaps as much as 3% in the past year. Consumption is being driven by new, voracious appetites in the huge industrial machineries of China and India as well as in various other economies on a fast-growth track.

"Meanwhile, two huge Western oil lakes — the North Sea shared by the United Kingdom and Norway, and Alaska's oil fields — are beginning to run dry. Pipelines and oil terminals from the northern fields near Kirkuk to the southern export terminals near Basra are being blown up daily by various groups of insurgents."

"Iraq, a country that sits on the world's second-largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia, finds itself in the humiliating position of importing oil products such as gasoline, diesel and fuel oil. It is only able to export an average of about 1 million to 1.3 million barrels of crude oil per day. And that is on good days, when something is not ablaze. What's worse is that a large chunk of the oil revenues is not accounted for because of graft, theft, mayhem and the near-total absence of transparency within the transitional government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, according to aid agencies, which say they cannot see where the money is going. Oil traders go further. They say large amounts of oil are being stolen and smuggled onto ships, with Iraqi officials and traders splitting the returns. The Iraqi people and economy see no "trickle down" effect.

"As for the country's oil industry, once a proud mighty machinery of some 55,000 well-trained and highly disciplined technocrats, the situation is catastrophic. Oil fields are deteriorating for lack of maintenance, fires, accidents and lack of funds. Oil refineries that were looted in the first week of the war have yet to be repaired."

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Terrorist nuclear attack more likely than not in next decade: "A nuclear terrorist attack is] more likely than not -- so greater than 51 percent -- in the next decade if we just keep doing what we’re doing today.... The number of ways to get something into San Francisco or Boston or New Orleans is almost unlimited.... [Enriching uranium] is beyond the competence of any terrorist group, and no terrorist is going to be successful in producing highly enriched uranium or plutonium. That’s the good news. On the other hand, if a terrorist gets a hundred pounds of highly enriched uranium, then making a homemade nuclear bomb is relatively straightforward. The design for that bomb is the design that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima, which was very simple -- so simple that it was never tested. That design has been public information now for 30 years, so you can go find it on the Internet in a 10-minute search. If they were successful in getting a hundred pounds of highly enriched uranium, which is smaller than a football, they would buy electronics and industrial material -- all available off the shelf in American stores and in the commercial market -- and use this basic Hiroshima design. That could make a homemade nuclear bomb that would fit in a back of a van."

"The most material and weapons that are stored in conditions vulnerable to theft are in Russia, and in the two years after 9/11, we secured fewer weapons than in the two years before.... For whatever combination of reasons, the Bush administration has not given high priority to this whole set of tasks. The fact is that if you look at their behavior, it’s not behavior that’s consistent with feeling that this an urgent, imminent threat.... after 9/11, when you would have thought that we would see a great acceleration of this activity, fewer potential nuclear weapons in Russia were secured than in the two years before 9/11. That seems just crazy, but that’s a fact."

"We spend $550 billion, approximately, on our whole national security effort: defense, homeland security, intelligence, the war in Iraq. We spend about $10 billion on missile defense this year and we’re spending about $1 billion on this activity. So, if this is, as President Bush says, the greatest threat our country faces, the fact that we’re spending a very small percent of one percent of the total effort would seem out of proportion."

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Avnery: Sharon's Thinking: "What is really important is the Weltanschauung, the world-view of Sharon as it emerges from Weisglass' long interview. When he exposes Sharon's ways of thinking, this sheds light on the basic beliefs and perceptions of his master. Sharon's world is one-dimensional, as limited as the flat world before Galileo. A world where brute force, and only brute force, reigns supreme. This is a world where there is no past and no future, no lessons of history and no foreseeing of things to come. Whatever exists now will exist forever.

"This is a world without moral constraints, where the opinions of mankind do not count. The world of Stalin, who once asked contemptuously: 'How many divisions has the pope?' His world looks like this: The only thing that counts is the interest of Israel and the Jewish people (as seen by Sharon). Their interest is to take possession of all of the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan (at least). The Palestinians are powerless. Hence, they are nothing more than an object to be kicked around as much as one pleases. Europe is a pathetic lot. To hell with Europe. There is only one real power in the world: The United States. They are the 'world management'. All the power of the US is concentrated in the White House. The President and a handful of other people are the managers.

"That's how it is now, and that's how it is going stay in future. Therefore, all we need is to maintain the power of the Israeli army and the alliance with the White House. All the rest is nonsense, fantasies of eggheads. The Israeli army and the White House - that is the winning combination. With it we shall take complete possession of the whole country. There is no need for a peace process, indeed, there is no need for peace. The Palestinians are a negligible factor. Let them vegetate for the time being in their ghettos. In due course, they will disappear from the country.

"This is, in free translation, the world of Sharon according to Weisglass. On the face of it, a realistic picture. Sharon's thoughts are primitive, and perhaps because of this, one might believe, he sees things as they really are.... Really? Is this in truth the real picture? History shows that brute military power is a blunt instrument that cannot solves complex problems. A leader who puts his sole trust in it will discover that it is a broken reed which wounds the hand that grasps it.... The world-view of Sharon, which at first appears so realistic, is the very opposite of realism. It is a view that will lead us to disaster."

Yankees are Blind to Blundering Bush: "Why do so many Americans still support George W. Bush after all those damning revelations about Iraq? That's the question I'm invariably asked when abroad."

""In 2003," [Buchanan] writes, "the U.S. invaded a country that did not threaten us, had not attacked us and did not want war with us, to disarm it of weapons we have since discovered it did not have." White House assurances that U.S. troops would be greeted in Iraq with flowers were as laughable as its pledges Mideast peace and democracy would ensue.

"Chief U.S. arms inspector Charles Duelfer's recent, 960-page report contradicted almost every Bush administration prewar claim about Iraq, which were used to justify an illegal war that has killed 20,000 Iraqis and more than 1,000 Americans, caused 14,000 U.S. casualties and will soon have cost $200 billion US -- when Washington can't even supply flu vaccine. No administration official has accepted blame for this needless conflict, lying to Congress and the public, blundering into a no-win war, condoning torture, and provoking worldwide disgust at the once admired United States.

"Either the self-proclaimed "war president" and his men committed the worst set of blunders overseas since Vietnam, or they lied the nation into an imperial war to grab oil and boost Israel's fortunes. Republicans don't care. Amazingly, a recent CNN/USA Today poll showed 62% of Republicans still believe Iraq was behind 9/11. This is after a flood of contrary evidence and Duelfer's report.

"How can Republicans remain so blinkered? Part of the fault lies with the sycophantic national media, which collaborated with the Bush administration in whipping up war fever. The media still are not telling people the truth about Iraq, Afghanistan, or the so-called war on terrorism."

Australian troops under attack in Iraq: "Australian army trainers in northern Iraq have come under repeated attack, including a deadly suicide bombing at their heavily fortified compound, and there are fears of worse to come.... Mortar and rocket attacks and car bombs were increasingly familiar events for Australians, he said. 'The army trainers have been doing it tough up there in northern Iraq. A number of attacks have occurred on the team. It has got to the stage that, when they go and do some big event, there are rockets and mortars fired in. Thank God the bad guys are bad shots.' Not so inaccurate was a suicide car bomber who rammed into the Australian compound two months ago. No Australians were hurt in the attack but Defence sources said several Iraqi military trainees were killed."

"It was revealed yesterday that the Government rejected a request from the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, in July to send more forces to protect UN workers. Labor criticised the decision, saying it would have sent the troops, but the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, said Australia had discharged its responsibilities."

What a nonsensical position for Labor to adopt. The war was illegal, based on a lie, and is a disaster. The troops should be brought home NOW. How difficult is it to clearly state that position? The waffling, the lack of vigour, principle and consistency must be one reason Labor failed to make any impact on the electorate at the recent federal election. They make Howard and Downer look 'strong' instead of disastrous.

Orwellian Twist on the Campaign: "The Sinclair mouthpiece specializes in scorched-earth attacks on anyone who sees through the distortions of the Bush administration. He refers to members of Congress who criticize the war in Iraq as 'unpatriotic politicians who hate our military.' Whenever mainstream media outlets practice anything akin to journalism, Hyman condemns the offending outlets as the 'hate America crowd.'"

Orcinus has taught us that this is eliminationist rhetoric which is a precursor to fascism and which must be tracked and challenged head-on.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Sydney water: the 25-year plan: "Infrastructure Water Plan" - no link is provided to the 'plan', nor does a google search reveal the 'plan'. How absurd.

The basic principles must be: the water resources of the nation, including the clouds, mists, rainfall, rivers, lakes etc, must remain the common property of the people of Australia, and remain in public ownership along with the infrastructure utilities, to be managed for the welfare of the whole people. Water purity, conservation, allocation, recycling are critical issues. Pumping water from other areas (such as the Shoalhaven) to serve already over populated regions such as Sydney is problematic. Desalination should be investigated but the environmental costs must be considered.

US troops Mutiny against 'Suicide Mission' (ie, road from Baghdad to Kuwait): "'The fuel was contaminated for the helicopters,' said Harold Casey of Louisville, Ky., whose grandson, Justin Rogers, told him yesterday that he and others were detained under guard for several days. 'It would have caused them to crash ... They saved lives,' Casey said his grandson told him."

"When the tired soldiers were ordered to haul the fuel to Taji, north of Baghdad, they learned they would have to go on the convoy with no air support. Their road was a 450-mile stretch that connects Baghdad and Kuwait. Scores of convoys in Iraq have come under attack, hit by homemade roadside bombs. Beverly Dobbs, of Vandiver, Ala., mother of Spec. Joseph Dobbs, 19, told online magazine Salon she got a panicked call from her son Wednesday. "Mama, we're in a lot of trouble," he said.

"We had some contaminated fuel. We went out on this mission, and they turned us back, and our captain got mad and was gonna send us out on another mission," Beverly Dobbs recalled her son saying. "We refused to go because our vehicles were in awful shape. The place they wanted to send us was dangerous. We had to go without guns. All of us refused to go. We're not risking our lives like that.""

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Why We Must Prevent the Re-election of Senators Who Supported the Invasion of Iraq: "In other words, those members of the House and Senate who supported this resolution believed, or claimed to believe, that an impoverished Third World country, which had eliminated its stockpiles of banned weapons, destroyed its medium and long-range missiles, and eliminated its WMD programs more than a decade earlier, and had been suffering under the strictest international sanctions in world history for more than a dozen years, somehow threatened the national security of a superpower located more than 10,000 miles away. Furthermore, these members of Congress believed, or claimed to believe, that this supposed threat was so great that the United States had no choice but to launch an invasion of that country, overthrow its government, and place its people under military occupation in the name of self-defense.

"It is important to remember that both John Kerry and John Edwards were among those who voted in support of this resolution. It boggles the mind that the Democratic Party would actually nominate, as their presidential and vice-presidential candidates, two senators who were either stupid enough to actually believe this or dishonest enough to claim it was true anyway."

Saturday, October 16, 2004

The Brownshirting of America: Where did these 'conservatives' come from?: "For starters here are some of the salutations: 'communist bastard,' 'asshole,' 'a piece of trash, scum of the earth.' It goes downhill from there. Bush's supporters demand lock-step consensus that Bush is right. They regard truthful reports that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and was not involved in the September 11 attack on the US--truths now firmly established by the Bush administration's own reports--as treasonous America-bashing.

"As well, Bovard is interpreted as throwing cold water on the feel-good, macho, Muslim butt-kicking that Bush's invasion of Iraq has come to symbolize for his supporters. 'People like you and Michael Moore,' one irate reader wrote, 'is (sic) what brings down our country.' I have received similar responses from conservatives, as, no doubt, have a number of other writers who object to a domestic police state at war with the world. In language reeking with hatred, Heritage Foundtion TownHall readers impolitely informed me that opposing the invasion of Iraq is identical to opposing America, that Bush is the greatest American leader in history and everyone who disagrees with him should be shot before they cause America to lose another war."

"Bush's conservative supporters want no debate. They want no facts, no analysis. They want to denounce and to demonize the enemies that the Hannitys, Limbaughs, and Savages of talk radio assure them are everywhere at work destroying their great and noble country.... Talk radio's "news stories" do not need to be true. Their importance lies in inflaming resentments and confirming that America's implacable enemies are working resolutely to destroy us.... their stock in trade is denunciation, not debate. Conservatives don't assess opponents' arguments, they demonize opponents. Truth and falsity are out of the picture; the criteria are: who's good, who's evil, who's patriotic, who's unpatriotic. These are the traits of brownshirts. Brownshirts know they are right. They know their opponents are wrong and regard them as enemies who must be silenced if not exterminated."

Up to a third of unionists voted for the coalition: "Many unionists deserted Labor at the federal election in favour of the Coalition.... The Herald has learnt that secret Labor and ACTU polling found Labor's pitch to win back working voters failed, with up to a third of union members saying they would vote for the Coalition.... A spokesman for the ACTU confirmed that about a third of 200 union members polled by "ACTU volunteers" last Saturday said they would vote Liberal. While he said it was statistically insignificant, the phone poll by volunteers showed "some union members did vote for the Coalition. What they didn't vote for was an increase in casualisation or an attempt to deregulate the labour market, or wages and conditions to be undermined.""

Up to a third of unionists voted for the coalition: "Many unionists deserted Labor at the federal election in favour of the Coalition.... The Herald has learnt that secret Labor and ACTU polling found Labor's pitch to win back working voters failed, with up to a third of union members saying they would vote for the Coalition.... A spokesman for the ACTU confirmed that about a third of 200 union members polled by "ACTU volunteers" last Saturday said they would vote Liberal. While he said it was statistically insignificant, the phone poll by volunteers showed "some union members did vote for the Coalition. What they didn't vote for was an increase in casualisation or an attempt to deregulate the labour market, or wages and conditions to be undermined.""

Preference call compromises Greens' Tasmania bid: "A decision by Labor and the Democrats to direct preferences to Family First party could cost the Greens a Senate seat in Tasmania, the Greens leader, Bob Brown, said yesterday.

"He said the Greens' candidate in Tasmania, Christine Milne, had gone from a primary vote of 13.4 per cent on election night to 12.7 per cent. She needs a quota of 14.3 per cent to get over the line. By comparison, just over 2 per cent of Tasmanians had given their first vote to Family First. 'On all past form, Christine would be home and hosed with Labor and Democrat preferences. But this time both parties directed preferences to Family First ahead of the Greens,' Senator Brown said. 'They fell prey to a nationally orchestrated pro-Howard blitzkrieg to divert preferences from the Greens and get them across to Family First. This was to assure government control of the Senate.'"

Such a result - which would surely not reflect the views of Labor and Democrat voters - is also a product of the Senate 'above the line' voting system, which grants to the parties the right to direct preferences. 'Above the line' voting should be abolished, or at the very least the voter empowered to number the party boxes. 'Below the line' voting should be made optional-preferential.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Global property, US dollar collapse: When, not If: "As I examine the financial 'realities' and the implications of the US current-account deficit, the word 'ominous' is the only thought that seeps into my mind. And though the timing is anyone's guess, the US dollar is poised to be overwhelmed by the deficit.... From the peak in this cycle, February 2002, through September 2004, the dollar has fallen only 23%. The current account is now approaching twice what it was when it finally bottomed in 1988. So if we use the current-account "adjustment" as a guide, we should multiply the 42% decline by a factor of two to determine just how far the dollar must fall before solving the current-account problem - that's 84%! ... As Treasury bonds soared and US demand rose, stocks revived. "It's the 1990s again," rattled the talking heads on CNBC. But the big winner in this liquidity game was global real estate. "The world is sitting on top one of the biggest property bubbles in history, with the biggest bits in China and the US, in my view," says Xie. There is nothing new in what we are seeing in China. Massive lending funneled into property and commodities speculation: it's the classic boom-bust credit cycle.... Fed tightening is working its way through the global financial system. Soaring crude oil prices are dampening growth prospects. Property prices in Australia and the United Kingdom are already falling. And policymakers are continuing to apply the brakes in China where they can. These are the dynamics that scream for an eventual bust in China. I believe this will be the catalyst for a dollar crisis."

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Pandering to Howard's Whingers: "Today's young people are compelled to save for their superannuation while also paying taxes to cover their parents' and grandparents' pensions and prescriptions. They've been lumbered with HECS debts. And the Howard Government's economic miracle has priced them out of the housing market while delivering a huge, tax-free windfall gain to their home-owning oldies. If the pollies can't control their urge to buy the oldies' votes at every successive election, they're pouring petrol on a generational powder keg that may one day blow up in all our faces."

Secret memo: UK gains information via Uzbek torture: "In the memo, ambassador Craig Murray complained to superiors in London that British officials were 'selling their souls for dross' -- accepting bogus confessions tortured out of detainees and designed to trick Washington and London into supporting Uzbekistan's harsh policies and giving it military aid.

"'We receive intelligence obtained under torture from the Uzbek Security Services, via the U.S. We should stop,' Murray wrote. 'This is morally, legally and practically wrong. The practice 'fatally undermines our moral standing. It obviates my efforts to get the Uzbek government to stop torture; they are fully aware our intelligence community laps up the results.'

"A spokeswoman for the foreign office declined to comment on the memo itself but said: 'Britain never uses torture to get information.' But she added: 'We recognise there is a need for intelligence on counterterrorism to protect the safety of British nationals. It would be irresponsible to rule this information out of hand.'"

""Tortured dupes are forced to sign up to confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the U.S. and the UK to believe: that they and we are fighting the same war against terror. "I repeat that this material is useless -- we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful," he wrote. "The aim is to convince the West that the Uzbeks are a vital cog against a common foe, that they should keep the assistance, especially military assistance, coming, and they should mute the international criticism on human rights and economic reform."

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Seymour Hersh rails against the Iraq disaster: "'How could eight or nine neoconservatives come and take charge of this government?' he asked.... You guys do not begin to understand what you've done, where you have put yourself in the Arab world [as a result of Abu Ghraib] ... "

"[A US lieutenant] had hired 30 or so Iraqis to guard a local granary. A few weeks passed. They got to know the men they hired, and to like them. Then orders came down from Baghdad that the village would be "cleared." Another platoon from the soldier's company came and executed the Iraqi granary guards. All of them.

""He said they just shot them one by one. And his people, and he, and the villagers of course, went nuts," Hersh said quietly. "He was hysterical, totally hysterical. He went to the company captain, who said, 'No, you don't understand, that's a kill. We got 36 insurgents. Don't you read those stories when the Americans say we had a combat maneuver and 15 insurgents were killed?'

""It's shades of Vietnam again, folks: body counts," Hersh continued. "You know what I told him? I said, 'Fella, you blamed the captain, he knows that you think he committed murder, your troops know that their fellow soldiers committed murder. Shut up. Complete your tour. Just shut up! You're going to get a bullet in the back.' And that's where we are in this war.""

Seymour Hersh rails against the Iraq disaster: "'How could eight or nine neoconservatives come and take charge of this government?' he asked.... You guys do not begin to understand what you've done, where you have put yourself in the Arab world [as a result of Abu Ghraib] ... "

"[A US lieutenant] had hired 30 or so Iraqis to guard a local granary. A few weeks passed. They got to know the men they hired, and to like them. Then orders came down from Baghdad that the village would be "cleared." Another platoon from the soldier's company came and executed the Iraqi granary guards. All of them.

""He said they just shot them one by one. And his people, and he, and the villagers of course, went nuts," Hersh said quietly. "He was hysterical, totally hysterical. He went to the company captain, who said, 'No, you don't understand, that's a kill. We got 36 insurgents. Don't you read those stories when the Americans say we had a combat maneuver and 15 insurgents were killed?'

""It's shades of Vietnam again, folks: body counts," Hersh continued. "You know what I told him? I said, 'Fella, you blamed the captain, he knows that you think he committed murder, your troops know that their fellow soldiers committed murder. Shut up. Complete your tour. Just shut up! You're going to get a bullet in the back.' And that's where we are in this war.""

13yo schoolgirl riddled with bullets: "The army has already admitted that the killing of Iman al-Hams in the town of Rafah a week ago was a mistake and that her bag, which it says soldiers thought carried explosives, contained school books. Soldiers have come forward to explain that her body was riddled with 20 bullets because their immediate commander 'confirmed the killing' by shooting two bullets at her already prone body before withdrawing a short distance and then firing a burst of automatic gunfire at the corpse."

Sharon's Speech: Decoded Version: " He read out the written text of his speech, word for word, without raising his eyes from the page. It was vital for him to stick to the exact wording, since it was an encoded text. It is impossible to decipher it without breaking the code. And it is impossible to break the code without knowing Ariel Sharon very well indeed.... In his speech, Sharon outlined a whole, detailed - and extremely dangerous - plan. Those who did not understand - Israelis, Palestinians and foreign diplomats - will be unable to react effectively."

"But beneath the road to the implementation of the Sharon Plan there lie two big landmines: the settlers and the Palestinians. The inhabitants of the settlements that are supposed to be "relocated" include some of the most extreme elements of the settlement movement. There is no chance that these will go away peacefully. They will have to be removed by force. That will require a huge military effort."

"If Sharon succeeds in executing his plan, a new chapter in the 100-year old Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be opened. The Palestinians will be crowded into territories that will constitute about 10% of the original territory of Palestine before 1948. They will have no chance of enlarging this territory. On the contrary: they will be afraid of Sharon and his successors trying to remove them from what is left, completing the ethnic cleansing of Eretz Israel.

"Therefore, the Palestinians will fight against this plan, and their struggle will intensify the more it progresses. All possible means will be employed: firing missiles and mortar shells over the separation barrier, sending suicide bombers into Israel, and so on. Probably, the violent fight will spill over into many other countries around the world, both on the ground and in the air. There will be no peace, no security. In the end, the basic factors will be decisive: the endurance of the two peoples, their readiness to continue the bloody fight, with all its economic and social implications, as well as the willingness of the world to look on passively.

"The idea of "unilateral peace" is strikingly original. "Peace without the other side" is a contradiction in terms. Learned people will call it an oxymoron, a Greek term meaning, literally, a sharp folly. Eventually, the fate of this plan will be the same as the fate of all the other grandiose plans put forward by Sharon in his long career. One need only think of the Lebanon war and its price."

Sometime ago the remark was made "not to have read Chomsky is to court real ignorance". The same applies to Uri Avnery. To pay the slightest attention to the likes of Shimon Peres, Barak, Peace Now, New York Times and the like is mere foolishness. The key to understanding is simple enough: distinguish between those who are servants of power, and those who are dissidents.

Avnery also makes some withering comments on the military, intelligence and politics: "Did the analysts lie or did they believe what they said? Each possibility is worse than the other. If the experts lied, they did nothing unusual. It can be said that they did what intelligence people do all over the world: supply their bosses with the information they want to hear. Bush wants to attack Iraq? The CIA provides information about Saddam's WMD. Sharon wants to destroy UNRWA? Army intelligence provides photos of Hansen's rocket launchers.

"Fifty years ago, when foreign correspondents asked me about the credibility of official IDF statements, I used to answer that our army does not lie. One should believe its communiques, without a good reason to the contrary. Those days are long past. When I am asked the same question nowadays, I advise not to believe a single word of army announcements, without good reason to the contrary."

Orcinus on the shockingly widespread deployment of 'eliminationist' rhetoric: "We've seen a lot of examples of an openly stated desire to do away with liberalism, particularly by accusing liberals of treason and equating them with 'the enemy,' in the past couple of years.... These all may seem relatively minor when taken individually, until you calculate their widespread effect. The eliminationist message coming from movement conservatives isn't relegated to the fringes, but is broadcast to millions of people. In the arena of mass politics, this can have a profound effect.

"The way this plays out on the ground is an increasingly widespread intolerance, particularly in areas where conservatives dominate, for any vestige of liberalism. Small acts of nastiness and mean-spiritedness become common, and after awhile begin adding up. There's nothing organized, just an environment where politics actually begin to poison our community wells."

Mad Rants From the Right Wing: "Bitter, spiteful and downright bizarre ranting and ravings of the people who now rule America, along with their supporters. Who could forget Barbara Bush on Good Morning America: 'Why should we hear about body bags and deaths and how many...It's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?'

"Or Ann Coulter, opining: 'My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building.' Or George W. Bush to the Palestinian Prime Minister: 'God told me to strike at al Qaeda and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you can help me, I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them.'

"At first you will laugh, but keep in mind what Sidney Blumenthal, who wrote an insightful introduction, noted: 'You may read and laugh, but, remember, they mean it.'"

Project for the OLD American Century: On the internet, discussion of America's frightening slide into fascism is rampant; however, any such discussion has yet to penetrate the corporate media in the slightest. It could therefore come as a huge shock.

Israeli Think Tank: Iraq War Distracted US, 'Created Momentum' for Terrorists: "The war in Iraq did not damage international terror groups, but instead distracted the United States from confronting other hotbeds of Islamic militancy and actually ``created momentum'' for many terrorists, a top Israeli security think tank said in a report released Monday. President Bush has called the war in Iraq an integral part of the war on terrorism, saying that deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein hoped to develop unconventional weapons and could have given them to Islamic militants across the world.

"But the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University said that instead of striking a blow against Islamic extremists, the Iraq war ``has created momentum for many terrorist elements, but chiefly al-Qaida and its affiliates.'' Jaffee Center director Shai Feldman said the vast amount of money and effort the United States has poured into Iraq has deflected attention and assets from other centers of terrorism, such as Afghanistan.

"The concentration of U.S. intelligence assets in Iraq ``has to be at the expense of being able to follow strategic dangers in other parts of the world,'' he said. Shlomo Brom, a retired Israeli army general, said the U.S.-led effort was strategically misdirected. If the goal in the war against terrorism is ``not just to kill the mosquitos but to dry the swamp,'' he said, ``now it's quite clear'' that Iraq ``is not the swamp.''"

Yet another report to add to the seemingly endless list of expert testimony regarding the obvious, that the war on Iraq has nothing to do with the 'war on terror' (anymore than it has to do with WMDs) but is instead a colonial/imperialist exercise which obviously increases the risk of international terrorism. But the Anglo-Saxon governments of UKUSA continue the relentless, massive lying on this score and basically get away with it. What a strange world we live in.

Climate Fear as Carbon Levels Soar: "An unexplained and unprecedented rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere two years running has raised fears that the world may be on the brink of runaway global warming.... where the planet's soaring temperature becomes impossible to contain. As the icecaps melt, less sunlight is reflected back into space from ice and snow, and bare rocks begin to absorb more heat. This is already happening."

Howard returned with increased majority; close to winning majority in Senate: Howard's unexpectedly large victory combined with near control of the senate could see him implement the corporate/conservative neoliberal agenda: privatisation (Telstra, education, health, welfare); regressive tax changes; deregulation (environmental, social and labor legislation); de-unionisation (corporate profits to be enhanced at expense of wages, conditions, and rights); media monopoly (enhanced corporate media combined with erosion of public broadcasting); authoritarianism (increased police powers and erosion of civil liberties, scapegoating of minorities including asylum seekers); and electoral changes (ie, abolition of proportional representation in the senate, compulsory voting and public funding) designed to entrench the conservative agenda and make it difficult to reverse. Efforts to address the global envionmental crisis will be suppressed or ignored. And of course a renewed commitment to pre-1914 colonialism, imperialism, and lawlessness in international affairs. Needless to say none of this is in the interests of the public, but neither did the official Labor opposition make any effective or thoroughgoing attempt to expose this agenda or develop a democratic alternative.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Howard's conservative narrative: In his final major speech to the National Press Club before the election, Howard does a workmanlike job in constructing the conservative narrative. Much of this narrative has gone unchallenged by the official opposition, which (as in the question of the Iraq war and International law) makes only a token effort to rebut it. On issues such as the waterfront clash and industrial relations reform (ie, systematic de-unionisation), Labor has had nothing to say, as far as I am aware. The conservative narrative needs to be taken head on in every point, and systematically deconstructed. This is what would demolish the political persona of the government, which is in reality hardly anything more than a house of cards.

Limited News: Inside look at News Limited: "If ever a prize is awarded for unanimity over the Iraq war, News Corporation will win easily — outdistancing all Western political parties, and even the American military. No organisation can quite eliminate dissent while operating under democracy. But Newscorp keeps it down to homeopathic dosage: here an isolated columnist; there a liberal TV pundit, coming on in the apologetic way of a Good German in traditional war movies.

"How is it done, given that any representative bunch of English-speaking humans will exhibit passionate differences about Iraq? Some evidence is available in the American documentary Outfoxed (distributed via CD at and now there is a specifically Australian dimension, available on the website"

Family First: 'lunatic Right': "Police confirmed they were investigating an incident in which supporters of Family First allegedly hurled eggs at Greens party members after screaming obscenities at them and declaring that lesbians were 'witches who should be burned at the stake'.

"Mr Joyce said he was deeply disturbed by a leaflet published by a Family First Victorian Senate candidate, Danny Nalliah, of the Catch the Fire Ministries. 'Spot Satan's strongholds in the areas you are living - brothels, gambling places, bottleshops, mosque, temples - Freemasons/Buddhist/Hindu etc, witchcraft,' the leaflet says. 'If you are ready to pray against it, do so. If not, bring it to your church and ask your intercessors, through the pastor, to pull these strongholds down.'

"Mr Joyce said he believed no party should be swapping preferences with Family First. 'This is the lunatic Right, this is crazy, ill-informed stuff,' he said. 'They seem to be saying we should be tearing down mosques and tearing down bottleshops."

"Greens Queensland Senate candidate Drew Hutton said the "ugly" incident demonstrated why John Howard should not be swapping preferences with Family First. "These really are thuggish, intolerant people," Mr Hutton said."

The Final Judgment: Bush and Blair's (and Howard's) Case for War is Demolished: "Now we finally know what we had long suspected. When US and British forces invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein had no chemical weapons; he had no biological weapons; he had no nuclear weapons. In fact, he had no banned weapons at all. That is the considered judgment of the Iraq Survey Group, set up by President Bush to prove his case for removing the Iraqi dictator, and released in Washington last night."

The total absence of weapons may come as a surprise - some remnants of biological and chemical weapons was reasonably expected to be there. But no serious observer believed for a moment that WMDs were ever the real reason for the war. They were the pretext - that was very obvious from the beginning.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Blair's war in his own words: Numerous excerpts of Blair's speeches on Iraq from 2001 to 2004. The notion that Iraq was invaded because of its 'WMDs' was and is a ludicrous one - its hard to see how anyone (including Blair) could ever have taken it seriously. The decision to invade and occupy Iraq was made by the US Administration for other reasons and 'WMDs' was the pretext. Blair is nothing but a high class conman - just grin and perk up and keep on lying and lying. Get caught out, get questioned by the police, get arrested, get jailed - just keep on grinning and lying. People forget what was said and done yesterday, and there is always someone new coming along who can be tricked all over again.

Neocons to push on undeterred, according to Anonymous: "Powell's early 2005 departure is the subject of intense jockeying among the neocons. A Perle neocon protégé, Michael Rubin, has been given the task of destroying the only competition -- L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer, the former Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority chief, not a neocon insider and the favorite of traditional Republican conservatives. The neocon plan is to make Bremer the scapegoat... Given the implosion of Iraq, Wolfowitz and his coterie have doubts that Wolfowitz can be confirmed as secretary (of either DOD or State) without a debilitating confirmation process, though State remains choice No. 1. A more complicated plan is to again play behind Condoleezza Rice. With Rice as secretary of state and Wolfowitz in as national security advisor, neocons would put David Wurmser or John Bolton in as Rice's deputy, replacing Armitage.... Neocons are not dissuaded by the problems in Iraq; on the contrary, they are arguing that the problem is "Bremerism" -- the U.S. has not gone far enough. In their view, we need to take out the Palestinians, Syria and Iran now."

"Working with direct input from Israeli intelligence, Feith's Pentagon office coordinated with Libby and Wurmser in the vice president's office to spread the story that the missing WMD are to be found hidden in Syria. Israeli agents have worked overtime to neutralize and undo Syrian cooperation with the CIA against al-Qaida. This comes on the heels of a similar highly successful destruction of CIA inroads with the Palestinian Authority. We are now light-years beyond the two-state solution focus of Middle East policy. Instead of chasing Laden, the neocons plan to put the U.S. on the road to Damascus -- and Tehran. The groundwork is laid.... Powell is leaving. We need to repeat that. When this reality sinks in, we will finally understand what we are getting ourselves into in a second Bush term. A handful of conservative columnists, Republican senators and a few other GOP luminaries are trying to reclaim a traditional conservative Republican foreign policy approach. But it is clearly too late.... George W. Bush has signed on to the neocon agenda with the unshakeable faith of the born again."

If this analysis is believed to be true then it sharpens the difference between Bush and Kerry, and the Nader approach must again be questioned as frankly irresponsible. This analysis is also remarkable as a dissection of ruthless and Machiavellian Washington policy and politics which is of course totally at odds with the 'official' version retailed by the corporate media.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Traumatised marine commits suicide back home: "Jeff wrote to Julianne Proulx, his girlfriend since 1997, that he had done 'immoral things.'" ... While drunk, Lucey took two handmade Iraqi dog tags from around his neck, threw them at his younger sister, and told her that he felt like a murderer.... He spoke of elderly people killed as they tried to run from Marines rolling into Nasariya. He spoke of a small Iraqi boy, bloody and prone in the dusty street, shot in the head and the chest and still holding a small, bloodstained American flag in his hands.... He spoke of how he had been ordered to shoot two Iraqi prisoners. He remembered how he had looked into their eyes and hesitated, watching as they shook in terror, and thinking of their families.... On June 22, he chose the last of these three methods, hanging himself with a hose in the basement of his parents' home."

How Bush Did in the first debate: A stuttering idiot of a President once described as a 'moron' by a Canadian minister. Perhaps the editing is unfair. Perhaps not. See also this edited summary of the Republican National Convention and try to rebut the contention it does not capture Republican re-election strategy.

PM releases letter of thanks from Iraqi Govt.: "The Prime Minister has made public a letter he received last week from the acting Prime Minister of Iraq. The letter thanks John Howard for Australia's contribution to securing peace and safety for the people of Iraq. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has used the letter to criticise Labor's plan to withdraw Australian troops by Christmas.

"'I think he makes the very serious point that a draw down of Australian forces in the near term could have serious consequences for Iraq and the international community,' he said. 'It would indicate that important Coalition partners are not willing to stay the course with us until Iraqi security forces are able to provide the security of this nation. 'It would embolden terrorists and insurgents.'"

The quisling Iraqi 'Prime Minister' Allawi is a CIA asset and puppet of the US with a reputation as a thug and a murderer and practically zero support or legitimacy within Iraq itself. (Saddam, anyone?) Australia should end the practice of lending support to dictatorial, undemocratic governments merely because they are prepared to align themselves with US interests. Australian forces in Iraq are small and their presence or absence is unlikely to have any impact on the insurgency. They should be withdrawn for symbolic reasons, and of course as a guarantee of their own safety. Their continued presence in Iraq just like Australia's involvement in the illegal invasion of Iraq can only lead to increased resentment among muslims the world over.

Mother of soldier killed in Iraq collapses, dies - Oct 5, 2004: "A 45-year-old woman collapsed and died days after learning her son had been killed in Iraq, and just hours after seeing his body. Results of an autopsy were not immediately released, but friends of Karen Unruh-Wahrer said she couldn't stop crying over losing her 25-year-old son, Army Spc. Robert Oliver Unruh, who was killed by enemy fire near Baghdad on September 25. 'Her grief was so intense -- it seemed it could have harmed her, could have caused a heart attack. Her husband described it as a broken heart'"

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Windpower for China: "The new wind power plant, located 60 miles outside Beijing in Guangting, will generate 400 megawatts per day, nearly doubling the electrical energy China currently obtains from wind. But that's just the beginning. Last summer at a climate change conference in Bonn, Germany, China surprised many by announcing it will generate 12 percent of its energy from renewable sources such as wind by 2020. Pollution is part of the driving force behind China's newfound passion for green energy.... Another reason China is looking to wind is because it is now as cheap as coal.... Although China has little interest in nuclear power because of its high cost and security concerns, a few more nuclear plants will also be built."

Chavez Announces that Venezuelan State Will Switch to “Free Software”: "President Chavez announced yesterday that “we are working on a decree to establish in Venezuela, in an official and obligatory manner, the support and adoption of free software in the public administration.” Chavez made this announcement during an event at which he opened numerous “info centers,” public internet access points, throughout the country.

"The objective of this decree is for Venezuela to achieve technological and informational independence. Free software is software that is distributed free of charge. The best known example of this is the Linux operating system, which has become the world’s most important challenger to the Microsoft Windows operating system.... Chavez added that the decision follows the principle of “national scientific independence, so that we do not depend on privately owned software. If knowledge does not have owners, then intellectual property is a trap set by neo-liberalism.”"

The concept of 'free software' is virtually self-explanatory. Why anyone would want to call it 'open source' I do not understand. There is a product called Open Office. What is that? Something that opens an Office document? Is it a Microsoft product? Surely it would be more accurate and effective to name it Free Office?

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Orcinus: What is fascism?: "Put simply, fascism is maybe best understood as an extreme reaction against socialism and communism. It was explicitly anti-democratic, anti-liberal, and corporatist, and it endorsed violence as a chief means to its ends. It was also, obviously, authoritarian, but claiming that it was oriented toward 'socialism' is just crudely ahistorical, if not outrageously revisionist. Socialists, let's not forget, were among the first people imprisoned and 'liquidated' by the Nazi regime."

In an otherwise excellent series of articles on fascism, it seems to me that Orcinus misses the nature of the connection between fascism and socialism. It is not a coincidence that Mussolini came out of the Italian socialist movement and that the Nazi party was the 'National Socialist' party. Socialism needs to be understood as a democratic and popular movement, which sought to use the state to provide economic and social justice to the masses. Fascism attempts to provide the same appeal, except that it is a deception. Its real purpose is to protect the corporate and oligarchic elements and block democratic reform. In other words fascism (at least of the mid 20th Century kind) is a type of 'wedge' politics, which seeks to detach the masses from their support for socialism or social democracy. Modern conservatism is of course also 'wedge' politics, which attempts to divert the masses from their real economic and social interests to effectively serve the interests of the the oligarchs (or corporations). Racism, militarism, authoritarianism, leader cultism, heirarchalism, homogenism, nationalism, fundamentalism, homophobia, intolerance, hatespeech, scapegoating are all tools to this end. In fact all conservative politics could be described as wedge politics; and all democratic politics could be described as solidarity politics. Anarchists for example have long and correctly understood racism and nationalism as tools to divide the working class.

This is where social democrats and centre left parties have made an inevitable but fatal error. When faced with wedge politics, they have tended in the short term interest of winning power to decline to contest the issue. The effect is betrayal and abandonment and a relentless drift to the right of both major political groupings. Genuine progressive forces must make a committed effort to combat wedge politics and to build solidarity.

'Liberal' media 'criticises' Blair: "Tony Blair's speech yesterday to the Labour Party Conference in Brighton was "low-key, conversational and reasoned" the Guardian informs us (Leader, September 29, 2004). And his "long-awaited apology on Iraq, as far as it went, was a rightly well-received milestone in his fragile rehabilitation with his critics".

"How nice. No matter that Blair lied about intelligence on WMD, ignored security warnings about unleashing more terrorist attacks, and deceived Parliament and the country over the nonsensical "serious and current threat" posed by a strangled Third World nation. No matter that he launched an illegal and immoral invasion and occupation that has led to tens of thousands of violent and cruel deaths, untold misery, further destabilised the Middle East, weakened the UN, and increased the threat to Britons everywhere. Even a neutral, albeit myopic, critic might conclude that Blair's political judgement on Iraq - resulting in disaster heaped on failure heaped on disaster - was an appalling blunder, sufficient to demand his resignation. A more rational and humane critic must go further: Blair ought to be tried for war crimes.

"As for The Guardian? Well, clearly, it would rather remain part of some grotesque agreement between reasonable gentlemen of the establishment. It wouldn't do for the paper to be +too+ critical. Tens of thousands of dead, hundreds of thousands of injured and grieving - a vast illegal act of mass murder. But for our 'liberal' press a vague gesture in the direction of an apology is a "milestone" in Blair's rehabilitation. This is, itself, a milestone in moral depravity - urbane, well-heeled and well-spoken - of the most lethal kind."

John Kerry for President - Speech at New York University: At last Kerry makes an impressive speech. A bit short on a plan to withdraw from Iraq, in fact there is no plan to withdraw from Iraq, but Kerry makes many trenchant criticisms of Bush and Bush's war.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Plan to get out of Iraq?: "What is needed is a policy that takes deadly seriously what Iraqis believe about why the war began and what the United States intends. These beliefs -- that the United States came only to get its hands on Iraq's oil, to benefit Israel's security, and to establish a puppet government and a permanent military presence through which it could control Iraq and the rest of the region -- are wrong. But beliefs passionately held are as important as facts, because they powerfully affect behavior. What we see as a tragic series of American missteps, Iraqis interpret -- with reason when seen through their eyes -- as evidence of evil intent."

These are odd remarks in this Washington Post article. Of course the writer has simply described accurately the objectives of the war. But then added the comment 'this is not true.'

"To succeed, the United States needs to do what it can to undermine each of these convictions. The president -- no one less -- needs to state formally and unequivocally that the United States will not maintain a permanent military presence in Iraq, and to repeat it at every opportunity. The phrase "enduring bases" should be erased and the construction of permanent facilities halted. A transparent mechanism that makes clear that no Iraqi oil revenue will touch American fingers should be created, and questions about what happened to that revenue over the past year should be quickly and forthrightly answered. The U.S. Embassy should be drastically cut in size and moved outside the Green Zone (to Camp Victory, for instance) to emphasize that the United States is no longer running the country and that it and the Iraqi government are not one and the same. A statement signed jointly by Iraq's neighbors should pledge the United States and each of them to respect Iraq's territorial integrity within its present borders. And the president needs to address many Iraqis' conviction that elections held under the occupation will be fixed, by saying loudly and often that the United States favors no candidate or party and will accept whatever government Iraqis elect."

Now we see where the thinking is going. What the writer is saying in Washington newspeak is simply that the the war is a failure and a disaster, and that the US must therefore retreat. The plan for the retreat as outlined offers the best chance for the actual achievement of the stated goals of sovereignty and democracy and for a stable situation following the withdrawal, but equally represents a recognition of total defeat for the US. For this reason it will be hard for any President to swallow. It would take real statesmanship to do so.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Orcinus: Lynching: "These were ritualistic mob scenes in which prisoners or even men merely suspected of crimes were often torn from the hands of authorities (if not captured beforehand) by large crowds and treated to beatings and torture before being put to death, frequently in the most horrifying fashion possible: people were flayed alive, had their eyes gouged out with corkscrews, and had their bodies mutilated before being doused in oil and burned at the stake. Black men were sometimes forced to eat their own hacked-off genitals. No atrocity was considered too horrible to visit on a black person, and no pain too unimaginable to inflict in the killing.... A lynching postcard from Florida in 1935, of a migrant worker named Rubin Stacy who had allegedly "threatened and frightened a white woman," shows a cluster of young girls gathered round the tree trunk, the oldest of them about 12, with a beatific expression as she gazes on his distorted features and limp body, a few feet away.... Afterwards, memento-seekers would take home parts of the corpse or the rope with which the victim was hung. Sometimes body parts -- knuckles, or genitals, or the like -- would be preserved and put on public display as a warning to would-be black criminals."

In reading of these events, one is of course struck by the utter savagery, barbarism and cruelty of these kinds of tortures, murders and mutilations. 'No beast so fierce, that no knows no touch of pity. But I know none, and therefore am no beast.'

Suicide of soldier recalled to Iraq: "A 20-year-old Milford Haven soldier, who broke down as his father was driving him back to his unit for further service in Iraq, was later found hanged from the swings at a village play area. Gary John Boswell, of 34 Woodbine Way, Hakin, had served with the Royal Welch Fusiliers in Iraq, Germany and Canada since joining up in 2002, the Pembrokeshire Coroner, Mr Michael Howells, was told at a Milford Haven inquest on Thursday.

"Before recording a suicide verdict, the coroner heard from Mr John Moses Boswell how his popular young son had suddenly banged his head on the car door and asked him to take him back home. He had previously attempted to cut his wrists and had also taken an overdose of tablets, but he had seemed happy at the start of the car journey back to camp. Mr Boswell said his son had never cried in front of him before, but he would not open up about what had happened out in Iraq."

20 years old - hardly more than a boy. The father suggested 'bullying' was a cause of the suicide. Bullying or 'discipline' (brutalisation - essential to form an army) has of course taken the lives of countless soldiers. We don't know for sure at this stage. What we do know (or ought to know) is that 'War is Hell' in the famous statement of General Sherman. Or the 'Supreme Crime', according to the Nuremburg trials. If that's unclear, barbarism and savagery. If anyone still doesnt understand what that means, see the nausea. The public needs to beware that just below the surface of this generation, the previous one (and doubtless the next one) is savagery of the worst kind possible. All of those (and that is nearly all of us, not only those who actually commit the atrocities) who lower the bar to war and violence share the responsibility. The alarming fact that we have to come to terms with is that in spite all our knowledge and experience and civilisation and democracy, the elected leaders of the Anglo-Saxon countries are war criminals. Such is the rate at which humanity makes progress - or affects to make progress while it skirts closely by the ultimate horror. Aaaiii! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulu R'lyeh wagn'nagl fhtagn! Aaaiii!

Orcinus: Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: Another in an important series of essays by Orcinus on the depth of the crisis in the US. He draws attention to an important fact: US extremism does not only consist in Bush and the neoconservatives. Christian fundamentalists form a huge minority in the US (Chomsky: 'there is nothing like it in any other industrialised country'); the right-wing 'Patriot' movement is an active and violent terroristic force; and finally right wing propagandists of the Limbaugh and Coulter variety articulate a vehement, even violent ('eliminationist'), series of attacks on their enemies ('liberals'). Draw this all together and you have the voting masses, stromtroopers and propagandists for a fascist takeover. One almost gets a sense that awareness has come too late. The election is a crucial moment because if it is close or contested there is a recipe for an acute political crisis.

Orcinus: The cost of media failure: "In one of his recent pieces, Somerby pointed with a kind of savage finality to the bottom line of the media's flagrant frivolousness and demeaning of the national discourse: It puts us all at serious risk.... We still treat our national politics like a combination sporting event and gossipfest. We're still demeaning the national discourse with a steady diet of propaganda/spin souffle served up on a platter of triviality, with a side of slander."

"[Somerby:] And now, as [the media] clown about peanut butter, Osama's men are still at work. And what will happen to your country because Wilgoren and Dowd set the tone? Let us finally tell you your future: Osama's men will come with a bomb (see below), and they'll destroy an American city. American society will end on that day. And when it does, you can think of Wilgoren and Dowd -- and you can think of the "letters editor" who laughed in your face with that letter today. They've made a joke of your discourse for years -- while your enemies hunt for a bomb. There is little chance those enemies won't succeed, because screaming idiots -- screaming idiots -- have long been in charge of your discourse."

"[The] media have instead defaulted to Position A: Whatever course of action George W. Bush takes is a priori good, and done for sound reasons. Neither, for that matter, is his competence ever seriously questioned. The reality, as I've been discussing, is that Bush's "war on terror" is an incomprehensible exercise in increasing the likelihood that high radicalized, highly motivated terrorists will again strike on American soil. A serious war on terror would begin from a recognition of the nature of the threat, with a considered response that's both flexible and comprehensive. Bush's Iraq war is none of these."

This angry critique is no doubt justified, but the nature of the corporate media, as has been exhaustively demonstrated, precludes responsible or truthful or democratic journalism. The answers must be found outside that system. Orcinus emphasises the role blogs can play in this.