October 31, 2007

"Can You Stop Ron Paul?"

If you have any doubts there exists an establishment that strives to maintain the status quo, and that the corporate media is a part of the establishment, the following will erode those doubts.

During the October 26, 2007 edition of MSNBC's Tucker Carlson show we witnessed the following exchange with Los Angeles Times columnist Rosa Brooks and The Washington Post's Anne Kornblut.

CARLSON: ... I don't need to tell both of you, who write in public and have public email addresses, Ron Paul is a big deal online, no?

BROOKS: Yeah, I'm hearing from his supporters in my email account.

CARLSON: Can you stop Ron Paul?
Why is media celebrity Tucker Carlson asking print media personalities if Ron Paul can be stopped? Maybe because Carlson is part of the establishment that seeks to maintain the status quo. Says something about MSNBC.

So, how does one respond to that question? "Well Tucker, one way is for you to keep referring to him as a wacko on your show, and we'll keep writing columns that imply he's "well intentioned," but not to be taken seriously, and of course our parent corporations will give large donations to the mainstream ["establishment"] candidates opposing him. That ought to help stop him."

Maybe I'm misreading Carlson's point. He calls Paul "wacky" and his supporters "crazy," but then goes on to say he supports many of Paul's positions. Brooks says people are hungry for someone who isn't managed by consultants and who has "got a conscience, who's got some integrity, who's got some intelligence".

For more of the interview see Is America Burning blog.

October 30, 2007

Obama and Edwards on Trade

We know where the corporatist Hilary Clinton stands on "free" trade; if it promotes more freedom of transnational corporations, and their human quislings, to exploit humans, then that's OK with her. She still buys into "a rising plutocratic tide raises all boats."

But, what about Edwards and Obama, people for whom you might actually consider voting? David Mizner, of MyDD (Direct Democracy) lays it out for us in "Edwards Seizes His Winning Issues." In short, Edwards is true to the "Fair Trade" values and Obama is not.

This should come as no surprise. Clinton and Obama are of the corporate wing of the Democratic Party. That's all you should need to know about those two candidates to make your decision in 2008.

Mizner poses a practical and tangible test on whether Obama is true to his rhetoric about "fair trade." He establishes Edwards' opposition to Peru Trade Pact. Then Mizner suggests we watch Obama's vote on the Pact.

Why not go one step further. Contact Obama and urge him to vote against the Peru Trade deal?

Contact Obama. You can repeat what I told him (cut 'n paste):

Please vote AGAINST the Peru Trade Pact. Why? It's written by and for corporations, not humans. The labor and environmental protections are window dressing.

October 28, 2007

Blackwater Security Personnel: Illegal Combatants

George Bush has opened a can of worms. Although the worms might die, with a future rejection of the phrase "illegal enemy combatant" by the World community, it could now be applied to Blackwater USA personnel. Some might call that a backfire.

I'd be very anxious if I was a Blackwater operative going into a South American country under their new contract to fight drug trade (read "do the bidding of northern corporations".) The Village Voice reports:
In a major new outsourcing deal reported by only a few outlets, including the Army Times, Blackwater will divvy up a $15 billion pot of government gold, along with four huge defense contractors: Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Arinc.

In short, Blackwater personnel aren't covered by military law, and they aren't covered by local law in the nation of operations; they're currently illegal combatants. True, there's a scramble on to get them covered by some type of law, and the Democratic Congress seems all too happy to accommodate them (idiots missing an opportunity to nail this coffin). But for the time being, unless Congress votes them retroactive immunity, they are illegal, i.e., outside of the law.

October 25, 2007

Blackwater Tax Investigation

Guest Writer: L. Vincent Sebastian

Senator Kerry (D-Mass.) has joined Representative Waxman in calling for Blackwater tax investigation. "Blackwater is hiding behind the Bush administration to explain why they bilked the taxpayers out of millions of dollars," said the Massachusetts Democrat in a statement. "I intend to get to the bottom of this."

Sources:

Reuters, "Senator wants probe of Blackwater's tax practices", Kevin DrawbaughThu Oct 25, 2007

October 22, 2007

"US Countries" Around the World

How does Vice President Dick Cheney view the world? Cheney exposes his view during an announcement of US intentions to build several military bases in Lebanon:
The United States will work, with free Lebanon's other friends and allies to preserve Lebanon's hard won independence, and to defeat the forces of extremism and terror, that threaten not only that region, but U.S. countries across the wider region.

Emphasis added. Yes, in Cheney's view, forces of extremism and terror are threatening "US countries" in the Middle East.

Hear for yourself....



Cheney's "US Countries"

Sources:

Democracy Now, citing the al-Safir newspaper, Report: U.S. Wants to Build Military Bases in Lebanon
, October 22, 2007.

October 20, 2007

Runaway Greenhouse Effect

Global climate change could spin out of control, that is, lead to the "runaway greenhouse effect." It's called "runaway" because it runs away from human control to do anything about it.

There are a variety of positive feedback mechanisms that could lead to this outcome. For example, as the earth warms, and permafrost melts. The organic matter in the frozen muck decays and methane gas is released. As more of this greenhouse gas is released, more solar radiation is trapped leading to more warming. This leads to further melting and decay of the frozen tundra in a positive feedback process.[1]

This is what some NASA scientists had to say about the phenomenon:
The phenomenon, called the ‘runaway greenhouse’ effect, occurs when a planet absorbs more energy from the sun than it can radiate back to space. Under these circumstances, the hotter the surface temperature gets, the faster it warms up [that is, it accelerates]... scientists believe Venus did experience a global runaway greenhouse effect about 3 billion to 4 billion years ago.

So, we hear a lot about sea level rise, disease, and other likely impacts of global climate change, but very little is said about the runaway greenhouse effect. Perhaps the popular media should stir people's imagination with a description of Venus, which is where the Earth could end up if we don't take action soon:

Water and water vapor are extremely rare on Venus due to its high surface temperature that can approach 758 K (900 °F). This extreme temperature is caused by the greenhouse effect. As sunlight heats Venus' surface, the surface radiates infrared energy that is kept from escaping the planet by dense carbon dioxide atmosphere.

The Earth is not Venus. The Earth is in a different orbit around the Sun, the planet sizes are different, the atmosphere of Venus is far more dense; however, the severity of outcome of a potential runaway greenhouse event on Earth subordinates all other considerations relative to taking action; even an economic depression like that of 1930s would be a cake walk compared to the alternative.

Notes and Sources:

[1] Another example, Tropical Runaway Greenhouse, is described in the paper below.

NASA, Ames Research Center, TROPICAL ‘RUNAWAY GREENHOUSE’ PROVIDES INSIGHT TO VENUS,
Kendall Powell, John Bluck, Release: 02-60AR, May 15, 2002

October 19, 2007

Bhutto Bombing Links to Al-Qaeda Questioned

I don't buy it. The story that the bombing of Benazir Bhutto's motorcade was the work of al-Qaeda militants on the unstable Afghan border.

How easy would it be for the Pakistani intelligence to plant a newspaper story about a "top militant leader," Baitullah Mehsud, seeking to hit Bhutto? The Pakistanis get a two-fer: First, they create a scapegoat for the hit on Bhutto. Second, they undermine their foe Mehsud.
Musharraf said earlier that he was "deeply shocked" by the attack and condemned it in the strongest possible terms as part of a "conspiracy against democracy," [blah, blah, blah] the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan said.


Update:

Bhutto blamed al-Qaida and Taliban militants for the assassination attempt against her, and vowed she was ready to risk her life to restore democracy to her troubled homeland.

But she also hinted Friday that government or military officials could have been involved in the attack — a charge the government rejected.

She blamed remnants of the government of the former dictator, Gen. Zia.

She also said she had told Musharraf that three officials — whom she would not name — were planning suicide attacks on her.

She said the military thugs of the 1970s who terrorized her family and today's extremists and militants share the same thirst to "to kill and maim innocent people and deny them the right to a representative government."


Sources:

Associated Press, Al-Qaida links cited in Bhutto bomb, October 19, 2007.

Associated Press, Pakistan says it tried to protect Bhutto, October 20, 2007.

October 17, 2007

General Strike November 6, 2007

Why "strike" against the Iraq war and for upholding the Bill of Rights?

Garret Keizer, who suggests a general strike in the October issue of Harpers magazine puts it this way:

The strikers remind their overlords—and, equally important, themselves—that the seemingly perpetual machinery of daily life has an off switch as well as an on.

Do we have overloards in this day and age? As the former Defense Secretary would say, "you bet." Not only establishment people, but inhuman establishment corporations serve as modern day overlords

Keizer, himself inspired by poet C├ęsar Vallejo, inspires us to break from the norm of our daily lives:

A young man goes to Walter Reed without a face. Shall I make an appointment with my barber? A female prisoner is sodomized at Abu Ghraib. Shall I send a check to the Clinton campaign?

On November 6, 2007 we need to send a message to the establishment: Ordinary people are not stupid. We are getting organized to re-establish power into the hands of the people.

Both Republican and Democratic parties, and their joint corporate backers, need to be put on notice: No more business as usual. The ground swell is building.

Specific Suggestion:
Don't go to work on Tuesday November 6, 2007, or wear a black arm band and be prepared to say it is in support of the Bill of Rights.

Be prepared to give examples:
  • Threats to habeas corpus (Military Commissions Act applies to US citizens)
  • Military databases of peace protesters,
  • Warrant less surveillance (e-mail captured by ATT, phone taps, sneak-and-peek)
  • Torture memos of the US Justice Department
  • Presidential Signing Statements saying Bush will not follow some laws
  • Secrecy through executive privilege
  • Blocking judicial processes via "state secrets" "Privilege"
The list goes on. Memorize some points and be ready to rattle them off on November 6.

Sources:

Garret Keizer, Specific Suggestion: General Strike, Harpers Magazine, October 2007 Issue

October 11, 2007

Tear Down Guantanamo

This just in from a friend.....
Check out Amnesty International's virtual campaign to tear down Guantanamo Bay. By signing their pledge, you get to take down one pixel. Once 500,000 people have signed, the virtual Guantanamo Bay will come down. Join me and get your own pixel.

Tear it Down Here

October 9, 2007

Corporate Globalization and Burma/Myanmar

What does the IMF and World Bank have to do with Burma/Myanmar? Some might say, "Nothing. The two groups have closed off all new loans to the regime since 1987." Perhaps, but that doesn't mean they don't still have influence.

In an article entitled "Invisible Hand / Iron Fist: The Role of the IMF in Burma/Myanmar," by Ryan Harvey, the relationships are discussed. The military junta displays a pattern of behavior that points to preparations for receipt of financing from the IMF. That pattern of cutting public programs looks a lot like an IMF austerity plan. The IMF continues to meet and advise the military government.

According to the article, the military government is actively developing a new "reclusive capitol Naypyidaw," for which major capital funds are needed for infrastructure. But it's not just the corrupted international financial institutions. The transnational corporations are also profiting from the authoritarian dictatorship as well, putting the lie to the establishment storyline about benevolent globalization. Beneviolent is more like it.


Ivanhoe Mines, headquartered in Canada, The China National Petroleum Corporation, China’s largest oil company, Total Oil of France, have all been "looking the other way," as they extract wealth from Burma/Myanmar, while literal slave labor is used in the process. It is worth noting that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sat on the Board of Directors at Chevron throughout the construction of the Yadana pipeline that devastated a number of villages.

Harvey's brief article is a must read for anyone interested in globalization or the situation in Burma/Myanmar.

October 8, 2007

Blackwater: A Growing Absurdity

Oct. 5, 2007

Guest Writer: L. Vincent Sebastian

The latest in the Blackwater brouhaha over the killing of [at least] 13 Iraqi civilians is that Condi Rice is ordering State Department in-house security agents to accompany Blackwater guards as they accompany State Department diplomats. But, if State Department security agents are now in the diplomat's convoy, why is Blackwater needed? Federal agents should not have to baby-sit redundant $500-a-day "cowboy" contractors in a hostile war zone.

The good news is that the House just passed legislation that would place all private government contractors in Iraq under U.S. criminal statutes. However, staunch resistance can be expected as the bill makes its way through the Senate and then a conference committee if it gets that far. We'll see what comes out the other end.

Iraq "Quagmire": An Intentional Sequence of Steps with No Exit Strategy

Vali Nasr, of Tufts, is not the only one to observe that
The United States is trying to fight on all sides—Sunni and Shia—and be friends with all sides. [1]

The Bush administration recognizes that their earlier steps, including elections, had empowered the Shia majority. At the time, the US military focused on the Sunni insurgency. This shifted the regional balance of power to Shia-oriented Iran. Oops. Can't have that.

The more recent step, the troop surge, generated US alliances with Sunni tribes in Anbar Province. The stated goal was to fight foreign al-Qaeda, which was partly true. This was was mirrored by a sharp increase in establishment media references to al-Qaeda as the primary source and target of violence at the time.

But the shifting US alliance composition also serves to counter balance the earlier imbalance created when the US brought a Shia-dominated government to power; Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malik spent years exiled in Iran. Many analysts and Iraqis believe the Anbar alliances will be ephemeral, and worse, could fuel the Iraqi civil war. Referring to one of the groups with which the US has allied in Anbar, Saad Mutaleibi says:

The Amiriya group, is notorious for beheading people and killing and major atrocities [ethnic cleansing of Shia from Anbar]. And these people are sitting in Amiriya with the American support now. And the Iraqi army or police cannot enter that area. These efforts are tactical moves to resolve today's problem, but in essence you're adding another problem with another layer to the problems of Iraq.

The Bush administration's next likely step has literally become a joke in Iran:

How will the US leave Iraq? Through Iran.

The sad fact is that the US isn't going to leave Iraq, and it's going to hammer Iran via air strikes.

Quagmire? Blunder? No exit strategy? Somehow I think not. The lack-of-security-quagmire justifies continued US occupation of Iraq, which is the Bush administration's intent. This is not a "blunder." No exit strategy is needed if the intent is to stay, which it is and has been. It would be unacceptable to both the Democratic and Republican establishment to leave an Iraqi power vacuum to be filled by Iran. That is why both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are now saying the US will be in Iraq until at least 2013.

These people, while intelligent, are blinded by information overload, harried schedules and being inside the establishment bubble. The US has created war conditions on two sides of Iran; imagine how the US would react if another nation, citing the US as "evil," created violent instability in Mexico and Canada in an effort to control those country's resources and regional power balances. The US would not just sit there, as is the present case with Iran. Imagine further if this other nation initiated air strikes on the US. The US would be justified in striking back, as is the hypothetical case with Iran. We shouldn't be surprised if Iran strikes back in ways, and over time horizons, that make the Iraq war look like a tea party.

Sources:

New Yorker, Shifting Targets: The administration's plan for Iran, Seymour Hersh, September, 2007.

October 6, 2007

McGovern on National Security and the Reason Why we are Occupying Iraq

Thanks to the most crudely partisan decision in the history of the Supreme court, the nation has been given a President of painfully limited wisdom and compassion and lacking any sense of the nation's true greatness.

George McGovern began his essay, "The Reason Why," with these words in April 2003, soon after the start of the Iraq war. McGovern speaks with authority about war, having survived thirty-five combat missions over hostile Germany as the pilot of a B-24 bomber. Others were not so lucky. McGovern reflects on his friend Eddie Kendall:

Eddie was torn in half by a blast of shrapnel during the Battle of the Bulge - dead at age 19, during the opening days of the battle - the best baseball player and pheasant hunter I knew.

McGovern knows there is much more to "national security" than military might, a capacity that is now being questioned when it comes to the United States. James Galbraith notes:

Bush and Cheney have done more than bungle a war and damage the Army. They have destroyed the foundation of the post-Cold War world security system, which was the accepted authority of American military power. That reputation is now gone.

McGovern cites domestic examples of how Bush has undermined our national security, after noting the creation of the "costly and largely useless" Department of Homeland Security:

Meanwhile, such fundamental building blocks of national security as full employment and a strong labor movement are of no concern. The nearly $1.5 trillion tax giveaway, largely for the further enrichment of those already rich, will have to be made up by cutting government services and shifting a larger share of the tax burden to workers and the elderly.

He continues to cite other sources of civil discontent that undermine national security:

The same families who are exploited by a rich man's government find their sons and daughters being called to war... but not the sons of the rich and well connected.

The US debt is becoming insurmountable when you consider that the tax revenue base is diminishing because outsourced jobs are not going to return. Even former Treasury Secretary Robert Ruben has pondered that ideologues like Bush are weakening the US Government's financial capacity on purpose to increase the relative strength of private capital; they want less government, and they are making that a reality.

Unfortunately, in the process, the entire world economy is teetering on the edge as a result. It is sobering to think of the implications of the likely financial debacle that will result from Bush's policies, as old school economist John King has in a general way:

... if you persist in believing that Uncle Sam is going to bail you out, or anyone else out, forget it [Bush's policies of "less government" have made this even more true]. There is no insurance program that will ultimately return your money to your hands. Nor is there any prevention against the domestic social violence that will erupt when financial chaos descends.

It is this level of "national security" with which Bush is flirting, but he and the inside-crowd don't care. They will hide behind the security compounds and Blackwater bodyguards paid for with the largess accumulated over the last two terms of the Bush presidency... or so they think.

McGovern also addresses the role of God in all of this.

The President frequently confides to individuals and friendly audiences that he is guided by God's hand..... I most certainly don't see God at work in the slaughter and destruction now unfolding in Iraq or in the war plans now being developed for additional American invasions of other lands.

Seymour Hersh recently informs us of refined Pentagon plans to attack Iran, justified by unsubstantiated claims of Iranian military interference in Iraq. We teeter on a war that threatens to be spread by President Bush. People should not doubt that Iran can bring the war US shores if it chooses to do so; how difficult would it be to sneak into the vast US and plant bombs somewhere along the countless miles of US roads? If they hit military vehicles on US roads, that's not terrorism, it's war, a war the US started.

As to "The Reason Why" Bush is undermining our national security, McGovern, who was once an insider, sums it up:

Bush's motives have more to do with empire and profit than with liberating Iraq.

George McGovern was the US Senator of South Dakota from 1962 to 1980 and Democratic candidate for President in 1972. If South Dakota was a separate nation, it had enough nuclear missiles to have been ranked the third largest nuclear power during the cold war.


Sources:

The Reason Why, George McGovern, Nation Magazine, April 21, 2003.

Mother Jones Magazine, "Quitting Iraq won't undo the the war’s damage to U.S. security.", James K. Galbraith. March/April 2006.

October 5, 2007

Primary Threat Posed by Hugo Chavez

Has anyone noticed the propaganda campaign to undermine Venezuela's Hugo Chavez? US complicity in the 2002 coup against Chavez? What would drive the US to such ends, other than the fact that Venezuela is a contender as the top oil-bearing land mass.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently provided us the answer.
I think that the principal threat represented by Hugo Chavez is to the freedom and economic prosperity of the people of Venezuela. I think that he has been very generous in offering the resources to people around the world, when perhaps those resources could be better used to alleviate some of the economic problems facing the people of Venezuela. I think that's the principal concern.

Generosity is the principal concern. Tell me we're not living in Orwellian times.

Sources:

DemocracyNow, Headlines, October, 3, 2007.

October 4, 2007

Media Censorship in Iraq

U.S. authorities confiscated an AP Television News videotape that contained scenes of the wounded being evacuated. U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl told the AP the government of Iraq had made it illegal to photograph or videotape the aftermath of bombings or other attacks.


Sources:

Associated Press, Polish ambassador hurt in Iraq bombing, BUSHRA JUHI, October 3, 2007.

October 2, 2007

State of Denial is the State of US Foreign Policy

Today's foreign policy sounds like a bad soap opera:

A diplomat in Vienna, where the International Atomic Energy Agency is based, said, referring to hawks in the Bush Administration, “They don’t like ElBaradei, because they are in a state of denial. And now their negotiating policy has failed, and Iran is still enriching uranium and still making progress.”

Not good... the inept state of denial that is.

Sources:

Shifting Targets, Seymour Hersch, New Yorker.