30 August 2004

Whassup with England?

England is back in the news today. It'll be good to see this up-and-coming knocked-up NAZI get her come-uppance, but the streets would be even safer if we could throw Cheney and Rummy in the brig with her. Of course, as soon as we figure what these rogues are up to, they up and run, leaving the small-fry to fry.

P.S. (Sept. 1) The judge has evidently not allowed her to call the general in charge of the guards (General Janis Karpinski) or a group of detainees.

No More Years!

The current protest against Shrub and co. at the Republic Convention are said to be the biggest ever at such an event! Talk Left has some nice pictures of protesters on her/his site.

27 August 2004

Bush and the National Guard

Josh Marshall has a link on his blog (Talking Points Memo) to a tape (said to be from a recent Kerry rally) of Ben Barnes, the former Speaker of the House in Texas, saying the following (click here to see the video):

"Let’s talk a minute about John Kerry and George Bush and I know them both. And I’m not name dropping to say I know ‘em both. I got a young man named George W. Bush in the National Guard when I was Lt. Gov. of Texas and I’m not necessarily proud of that. But I did it. And I got a lot of other people into the National Guard because I thought that was what people should do, when you're in office you helped a lot of rich people. And I walked through the Vietnam Memorial the other day and I looked at the names of the people that died in Vietnam and I became more ashamed of myself than I have ever been because it was the worst thing that I did was that I helped a lot of wealthy supporters and a lot of people who had family names of importance get into the National Guard and I’m very sorry about that and I’m very ashamed and I apologize to you as voters of Texas."


Josh Marshal comments:

Now, I don't know what Ben Barnes looks like. And I do not independently know the provenance of the tape. But I've spoken to two sources who know Barnes. And they tell me that that is Barnes on the tape.

One of those two men is Jim Moore -- co-author of Bush's Brain. Moore told me this afternoon that the clip is from June 8th of this year, at a Kerry rally in Austin. Moore assures me that the tape is legitimate.

I placed a call to Barnes' office and left a message with one of his assistants; but the request for comment has not yet been returned.



Ben Barnes


An LA Weekly News reporter summed up his own article on Bush's National Guard experience with the following:

So this is what we’re supposed to swallow:

A close friend of the Bush family took it upon himself to get G.W. Bush a billet in the Air National Guard. A Democratic House Speaker who had nothing to gain from helping a two-term Republican from Houston did so because it was the right thing to do — while he was, in the Wild West of campaign finance, raising money to run for statewide office. And the younger Bush, after scoring the absolute minimum on his flight test, was moved to the top of the recruiter’s list by Guard officers who recognized his potential as a flyer. If you buy that, then you’ll buy my Enron stock.


The Barnes story and other detailed evidence on Bush's Guard duty can be found at Radio Inside Scoop. Mother Jones offers a nice timeline in one of their issues, while the Veterans for Peace have a number of documents about Bush's period as a deserter.
There is also an April Salon article on Bush's NG service. Those trying to untangle the mountain of evidence against Shrub might look at the nice table provided by Ugga Bugga.



Other sources on this issue include Intervention Magazine, Op-ed News, a 1999 Washington Post article, Thomas McCom, Brad de Long's journal, Daily Times (Pakistan), Buzz Flash, and the Reader Weekly.

P.S. According to Daily Kos and Salon, Barnes is slated to appear on 60 minutes!


And another one bites the dust (hopefully)

According to Pigs in Lipstick, a British MP is now leading an effort to impeach Blair.

The water's still trickling up

Today The Washington Times reports that the U.S. poverty rate rose from 12.1% in 2002 to 12.5% in 2003 while the median household income remained the same. The shrubophilic pundits of the right keep telling us about "recovery" so all I can conclude is that they're looking at a different sector of the population--perhaps that top 1% who made out like bandits from the Shrub tax-cuts.

P.S. Looking at the economy in general, a Reuters article reports that "the U.S. economy grew more slowly in the second quarter than first thought amid shrinking corporate profits and higher imports."

26 August 2004

Anchorman

Last weekend, I watched Anchorman. Unfortunately, it didn't have a single redeeming moment. The only thing dummer than than the movie was yours truly for sitting through the whole damn thing.

22 August 2004

Nostalgia for napalm

Listening to right-wing radio (since that's about the only radio being offered these days in my neck of the woods), I notice a palpable nostalgia for the Vietnam War days. People calling in like to rant about Kerry's eventual opposition to the war, implying that the U.S. war effort was some righteous cause. I guess the idea is that the U.S. effort, no matter how ideologically vague or politically mismanaged, was essentially altruistic as the moral U.S. attempted to share democracy with the rest of the world (this, of course, before the evil lefty hippies stepped in and nixed the endeavor). I hate to pop anyone's bucolic fantasy of American flags flying over Vietnamese rice fields, but the fact of the matter is (a fact that is in ALL history books on the Vietnamese War) that America's initial involvement in Vietnam had NOTHING to do with democracy. After all, the U.S., prior to sending large numbers of troops, provided almost all of the funding for the French effort to re-establish themselves as a colonial power. In other words, the U.S. was supporting Western colonialism. The Vietnamese coalition (yes, it was a coalition by the way) opposed to France and later to the U.S. were fighting against colonialism. So all of you right-wing bloggers and talking heads, you need to get it right. Stop talking about the great "democratic effort" of the U.S. in South-east Asia and come out and say what you really believe, i.e., that France (or the U.S. who inherited their fight) had a moral right to murder people in a country half-way across the globe because white people are superior to yellow people. Stop your hemming and hawing about democratic values (it's really sickening) and just admit that you have cast your lot with the racist imperialists. You can go out and cheer the new movie about Alexander the Great and then don your black shirts, stick a little Arian sun-sign in the corner of the ol' red, white, and blue flag, and stand on one side of the line, and the rest of us (who adamantly disagree with you, by the way) can stand on the other and we'll disagree (or oppose you with violence if need be). But stop all of your fucking bullshit talk about "democracy" and the great moral crusades of the past.

My personal take on Kerry and Vietnam is that his opposition to the war and his discarding of his metals afterwards is one of the few really good reasons to vote for him.

On a related note, Dear Free World discusses why he thinks Bush will lose in spite of his wrapping himself around the flag and calling himself a "war president."

Other blogs who have recently discussed the latest accusations about Kerry include: Democracy in California, The Left Coaster, Memeorandum, Simply Appalling, Blog Left, and Arthur Silber.

21 August 2004

Pawn to king 1

There's a story in the Jackson Daily News about Bobby Fischer (the prodigal native son chess champ). In the article, the author calls for the U.S. to just let Fischer renounce his citizenship. Instead, the U.S. seems to be going forward with steps to have Fischer transferred to U.S. custody. My question in all of this is what would happen if Fischer did renounce his citizenship. He would then be a stateless person. So if Japan then wished to deport him, where would they deport him to? Is there any international treaty that clearly delineates the rights and status of stateless persons?

There's a good post on Fischer on the Asia Pages.

17 August 2004

Friday the 13th chopper-crash in Japan

According to Asahi News, BBC News, and the blog Far East, a US transport helicopter crashed on Friday the 13th (!) at the Okinawa International University in Ginowan in Okinawa. Three crew members were injured (one seriously) in the accident. About half of the 48,000 US military personnel in Japan are stationed in Okinawa--a situation that probably won't change much in spite of the newly proposed cutbacks of previous overseas postings. The CH-53 helicopter hit one of the university buildings before crashing and catching fire (The BBC article says it "grazed" the building, but the pictures suggest a more serious accident.)

The recent crash has poured salt into old wounds as locals express their disgust after years of crimes (rapes in particular) by US servicemen. According to Far East, even 3 days after the crash, the U.S. military has refused the local Japanese police access to the crash under the despised "Status of Forces Agreement" (SOFA), which gives the US special rights in Japan. Paradise Factory likewise reports that the Japanese police have been posted to stop traffic only, and that only the U.S. has been allowed to investigate details of the accident.

Far East (a Japanese blog) has an excellent post on the crash. Both the original blog article and the comments are very illuminating. The Japanese sense of outrage at the U.S. handling of the incident has been, in my opinion, under-reported in the Western press.

See also: I love Okinawa and Paradise Factory (Japanese blogs).


And a slim slice for you...

The Washington Post Express reports today that during the last two decades:

  • The income gap has steadily grown.
  • Those who own homes and stocks have gotten the most tax breaks.
  • Those at the middle and bottom of the pay scale have less buying power.
  • After the heavy job losses (2.6 million!) under Shrub, a million jobs have been recovered but these tend to be low paying with fewer benefits.


The wealthiest 20% of households in 1973 ate up a healthy 44% of total U.S. income, but then gobbled up 50% in 2002 while everyone else's share fell! The bottom fifth's share fell from 4.2 to 3.5%.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, "For the bottom four quintiles, the effective individual income tax rate turns upward in 2004." The current CBO report also states that, "The differential increase in effective tax rates among quintiles is reflected in a shift down the income distribution in shares of taxes paid. The share of taxes paid by the top quintile falls from 65.3 percent in 2001 to 62.8 percent in 2014, even though that group's share of income does not change. Four-fifths of that decline occurs for the top 1 percent of taxpayers, whose share falls by 2 percentage points, to 20.7 percent of federal taxes in 2014. The share of taxes paid by each of the middle three quintiles climbs by about 0.7 percentage points."

As the cheerleaders for our leader are wont to remind us: Things are getting BETTER! For the top fifth of the population, that is.

One constant meme in the blogosphere (e.g., Vinod's blog) and in less erudite realms is the idea that the standard of living has moved up and this is what really matters. I have a few doubts about this (The quality of life, after all, goes both up and down depending on what area one looks at.) But even if this argument has a kernel of truth, the fact is that money buys people political clout, social acceptance, and allows one to live in a neighborhood with good schools. Some very solid research suggests that we shouldn't be overly complacent about the rich-poor gap. Kevin Phillips, for example, mentions that poverty (even "relative" poverty) is associated with higher mortality rates.

From the Trenches has a related post on how perceptions that fly in the face of rosey economic numbers may in fact be accurate.

Jim Gilliam (see my links) has the following numbers recently released by the Congressional Budget Office concerning the percentage change in the tax burden by average income:

$1,100,000: -2.1%
$182,700: -0.9%
$75,600: +0.8%
$51,500: +0.2%
$34,200: -0.1%
$14,900: -0.1%

Evidently, when the Shrub folk refer to tax-cuts benefitting the middle-class, they're talking about the average Joe who's making a million a year. It makes me feel good. I ain't so average after all!

Also check out:

16 August 2004

Stepford Wives

I saw the Stepford Wives yesterday and was pleasantly surprised. The 1975 movie has been made into a comedy with a number of excellent one-liners delivered in a plausible dead-pan fashion. The plot itself is hilarious, and the acting excellent. I particularly liked Christopher Walken as well as Nichole Kidman--who played the leading role.

Other blogments on the movie include:


  • Sprog Blog: A short comparison of the modern movie with the 1975 version.
  • Rotten Tomatoes gives it 4 out of 10 after giving the movie a fairly positive write up.
  • Jay's Movie blog gives it a thumbs down, citing failures to take the old movie in an exciting new direction.
  • Life in SF (Japanese), on the other hand, recommends the movie, even to those who saw the original.

13 August 2004

I'll just have a piece of cake, thank you...

According to BBC News, "At least three people have been arrested in the Philippines for allegedly killing and eating a man and serving his flesh to wedding guests." Evidently, the father of the bride became angry when another family member touched the bride's derriere.

Thanks to Normal/Abnormal (Japanese) for pointing this story out.

Yikes!



They're out to get me.

9 August 2004

Learnin' the new math

The UK government has admitted to The Observer that repeated claims by British Prime Minister Tony Blair that 400,000 bodies had been found in Iraqi mass graves is untrue, and that only about 5,000 corpses have so far been uncovered. In the publication Iraq's Legacy of Terror: Mass Graves produced by USAid, the US government aid distribution agency, Blair is quoted from November 20 last year saying: "We've already discovered, just so far, the remains of 400 000 people in mass graves."



According to the USAID website, the numbers represent "a crime against humanity surpassed only by the Rwandan genocide of 1994, Pol Pot's Cambodian killing fields in the 1970s, and the Nazi Holocaust of World War II." (Did the writer forget US bombing during the Vietnam War? Anyway, that's another story...)

So what are we to make of this? Undoubtedly, Saddam was evil. Which makes sense really. He was, after all, from early-on the CIA's man in Iraq (to prevent the Iraqi communists from getting power), Rumsfeld's buddy, and the happy recipient of American anthrax and weapons. And this, after he had attacked a sovereign country (i.e., Iran). So the hypocrisy of the Shrub administration astounds me--to say that they opposed Saddam because he mercilessly killed opponents (the initial killings of leftist were based on a list created by the CIA itself!), or that they attacked Iraq because it had attacked Iran. Come on now! And meanwhile, irrigation pipes somehow transform into missile launchers, forged African documents transmogrify into a "nukyalr" program, stadium bleachers into a missile test site, and 5,000 corpses into a holocaust on par with Hitler and Pol Pot. In the end, there's only one sane, rational conclusion: Saddam is evil, and Bush is eviler (the latter is unfortunately powerful to boot). I say we throw the two weasels in the same cell in Abu Ghraib and then toss the key to some bereaved family who has been the victim of US (and Iraqi flunkey) machinations.



Credit to A'changin' Times and The Mail and Guardian Online for pointing me to this story. For Iraqi history, see also Center for Cooperative Research and Roger Morris's March 14, 2003 article (A Tyrant 40 Years in the Making) in the New York Times. See also the Moscow Times article Memory Lane.

On another note, John Quiggin offers some reflections on the morality of the current war in relation to body counts. Last but not least, an apropos quote from Bush, who uncharacteristically speaks with great candor:

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we," Bush said. "They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." August 5, 2004 in USA Today (via Net Politik)

Swerve left

Scalzi consulting has the following advice, attesting to this blog's sky-rocketing popularity:

Libra (Sept 23 - Oct 22): Swerve left. You'll know what we're talking about when it happens.

Aquarius (Jan 20 - Feb 18): You should swerve left, too. The Libra's in the other car.

Alan Keyes

Ted Rall has an interesting post on Alan Keyes run for the Senate. In short, Rall points out Keyes' intolerance when it comes to freedom of speech.

7 August 2004

Migrant workers in Korea

Base 21 reports that students and migrants workers have set up a cultural festival. It's good to see a growing concern by student activists for the rights of foreign workers, who have often been neglected in the past.

6 August 2004

The promise-crammed air smells foul.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports up to 300 deaths in recent fighting in Iraq. Is this the gradual path to "democracy" that we heard of in the promise-crammed speeches of Shrub and his fellow plutocrats? In actual fact, true democracy has become unattainable at this point now that the CIA's tentacles have thoroughly permeated every walk of Iraqi society (not that the octopus's arms weren't there before). Now, inevitably, talk of democracy will give way to "realistic" hopes for stability as part of the downward race of lower expectations; and as we hit bottom, the quagmire will somehow be rewritten as a success story in the tortuous logic of the Shrub administration.

Troy vs. Chronicles of Riddick

Bad Subjects has an interesting essay comparing the movies Troy and The Chronicles of Riddick. The writer(s) point out right-wing messages in the former and a left-wing sentiment in the latter.

P.S. I recently saw The Chronicle of Riddick and found it entertaining. I especially liked the movement of location and the complexity of the plot, which involved other worlds (which unlike those of most sci-fi stories, really seemed like other worlds) and different types of beings. The idea that future civilizations might be strongly religious was also a refreshing twist. As for the comments by Bad Subjects, I would agree that the movie has a more leftist (or at least "individualist") premise. Personally, I would consider Riddick (and his race) to be a staunch anarchist. Anyway, I recommend the movie as a nice Saturday matinee, but a bit violent for many kids.

P.P.S. Takahashi Akira has a Japanese-language review of the film which is fairly negative, saying that the film is reminiscent of gang-related films or even The Fast and the Furious.

5 August 2004

Body bags and Kuwaiti Scotch

Iraq Watch (an excellent fisking site, by the way) claims that the war in Iraq is heating up at this point with increased attacks on U.S. personnel (see also the recent LA Times article). It looks like the U.S. military will soon fill its 1000th body bag.

In a related vein, has anyone noticed the recent news blitz urging us proles to feel proper gratitude for those Halliburton employees who have died "for the righteous cause?" I don't feel gratitude but ire when I consider the wealthy schmucks who have manipulated events to get the poor classes to fight their wars and drive their trucks. But wars are exceedingly profitable so there will always be some daring souls who are willing to fly to Kuwait and sit in a $10,000-a-day hotel room sipping Scotch in order to spread the American way. But after stealing millions of our tax dollars do they really expect us to feel gratitude?

Along these lines, Howard Zinn wrote an excellent article in the June 2003 edition of The Progressive on how the soldiers are fighting for the government but not their country. The articles as timely now as it was a year ago.

P.S. Riverbend has an excellent post on these events (with the added advantage that she's there.)

Ghost detainees

The Boston Globe's online paper has an article on the "ghost detainees"--detainees hidden from the Red Cross. According to the paper, Lynndie England's testimony supports other reports that specific detainees were hidden from Red Cross inspectors (a crime under international law). It strikes me as highly hypocritical that Shrub and his fellow felons constantly claim to be making the world safe for democracy and the rule of law while openly flouting all laws.

4 August 2004

Lynndie England

According to a May article on CNN, Lynndie England originally faced four charges:


  • Committing an indecent act
  • Assaulting Iraqi detainees on multiple occasions
  • Conspiring with Spc. Charles Graner to "maltreat Iraqi detainees"
  • Committing acts prejudicial to good order and discipline that were of the nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces through her mistreatment of Iraqi detainees


The charges against her have evidently piled up. According to KDKA Radio:

"United States Marine Lynndie England, the soldier at the center of the prison abuse scandal, is going to appear in court next month. England will face an Article 32 hearing on allegations of abusing prisoners at the Abu Ghraid prison in Iraq. She was originally charged with 13 counts of abuse, but is now facing 19 charges as six more counts were added against her; facing a possible 38 years in prison. Today's 5-minute hearing at Fort Bragg in North Carolina was held because the Army reservist from West Virginia wanted a specific military attorney added to her defense team. The case date is set for August 3."

Has anyone heard how the case came out?

Other links on England include: Democratic Underground, House 8, Center for American Progress, and of course Hersh's excellent article in the New Yorker.
Strike the Root complains that the torture probes haven't gone far enough up the chain of command. And then for those of you who think fascism is as American as apple pie, there's the "Official Lynndie England Fansite."

1 August 2004

Fascism and apple pie

Recently, an art gallery owner in North Beach was forced to shut down her gallery after being attacked by right-wing thugs angry over a controversial painting. The painting, titled "The Abuse" (by East Bay artist Guy Colwell), shows Lynndie England and another soldier smiling as they torture Iraqi detainees.




The owner, Lori Haigh (a single mother of two) reluctantly gave up her dream of owning an art gallery after she was spat on by one man and then punched in the nose by another, in addition to receiving several death threats.




While this incident might seem to be a minor case of thuggery, I think it demonstrates a growing tendency towards violence by those on the right. On the radio last night, I listened to the belligerati of some mainstream thinktank (a right-wing media-watch organization) bemoan the fact that Michael Moore isn't being arrested for "treason" for his documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. Evidently, it isn't enough anymore for the right to simply buy up all the media outlets and smother dissent with right-wing propaganda. Those on the right are evidently concluding that the sword is, in fact, mightier than the pen.

Thanks to Democracy for California and Zekes Gallery for pointing out this tragic story. The SF Bay Indymedia, while calling for citizen action, also discuss this crime and its aftermath.

Democracy for California also mentions the World Press Photo award winner for 2003. I really like this photo since it shows the humanity of those who are being oppressed in the name of democracy. By labelling all those non-Europeans who oppose the US anywhere in the world "terrorists," the mainstream media brainwashes Joe five-pack into thinking that dem damn brown people out there are all in that subhuman class of undertoads recently vacated by the "nips" and "gooks." Looking at the picture, I can imagine a poor child in mental hell watching his father hooded and bound, and the poor man doing all he can do in the situation to comfort the innocent child.

One unfortunate meme transversing the current zeitgeist is the idea that American lives are somehow worth so much more than the lives of any other nationality. We hear this nonsense spouted from both the Republican neocons and their democratic imitators. Frequently, speeches begin with lines like "while a single American life is being lost..." Well i got some news for ya all--the number of innocent NON-american lives isn't in the single digits on any given day. And personally, I simpathize more with the little four-year-old boy sitting with his hooded father in the desert than with some right-wing soldier foolish enough to go fight for Halliburton.