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Commentary on the present and future of culture, politics, economics, and social values................... "At any given instant/All solids dissolve, no wheels revolve,/And facts have no endurance." W.H. Auden.

Friday, December 31, 2004

Tsunami Deaths

Have you noticed how the media feature the death of Western and US tourists in the tsunami disaster while shuffling off the deaths of indigenous peoples with a few estimates of numbers? Britain's Guardian has a commentary on this point:

The tsunami struck resorts where westerners were on holiday. For
the western media, it was clear that their lives have a different order of
importance from those that have died in thousands, but have no known biography,
and, apparently, no intelligible tongue in which to express their feelings. This
is not to diminish the trauma of loss of life, whether of tourist or fisherman.
But when we distinguish between "locals" who have died and westerners, "locals"
all too easily becomes a euphemism for what were once referred to as natives.
Whatever tourism's merits, it risks reinforcing the imperial
sensibility
.


Here the point is that the media perpetuate imperialist stereotypes by inferring that Western lives are more important the those of Third Worlders. It is a form of the old assumption that Weterners are superior.

Though the media have become global, they persist in being Western in outlook.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Political Purge of CIA Continues

Now Porter Goss, Director of Central Intelligence, has dumped the Deputy Director for Intelligence. Don't be fooled into thinking that the purpose of this move is to improve intelligence gathering and distribution. No, it is to fulfill the aim to politicize intelligence!

Every move that Goss has made - and will make - is designed only for the purpose of seeing to it that all intelligence simply conforms to Administration policy. Anything that does not support the Administration's pre-conceived views will be seen as disloyal or as the work of disgruntled Democrats trying to undermine the Administration.

The idea of disinterested intelligence is dead! Intelligence is becoming only a tool for political manipulation.

The neocon coup d'etat continues. The Defense Department continues its mission of taking over the US government.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Iraq Election Fizzle

Another sign has appeared to warn that the proposed January 30 election in Iraq will not be held. The majority Sunni party has declared that it will not participate in the election:

Iraq's largest mainstream Sunni Muslim party pulled out of the election
race yesterday, saying the violence plaguing areas north and west of Baghdad
made a "free and fair vote" on January 30 impossible.

The Sunnis recognize that the election will produce a victory for the majority Shiites, so they do not want an election held at all. While they are doubtless correct in saying that the civil disorver and violence gripping Iraq are sufficient reason to postpone the election, their real motive is that they know the election, when held, will exclude them from power. Their hope is that the US will impose a settlement on Iraq that will assure the Sunnis a share in the government.

It's called "democracy," folks.


Monday, December 27, 2004

Iraq and Group Democracy

Britain's Guardian reports an interesting change in the strategy of the Bush Administration in the upcomning Iraqi elections:

The Bush administration is considering reserving a few high-level posts in
the next Iraqi government for Sunni Muslims, regardless of how well they fare in
next month's elections, for fear that their exclusion could prolong the
country's military and political turmoil.

If accurate, this story indicates a major shift in US policy. Up until now, the Bush Administration has argued that Iraq must have US-style democracy. That is, an individual democracy, one-person-one-vote style, as it is practiced in the US.

Group democracy is quite different. It assures that an election will produce a distributuion of power that rewards all groups for participation in the election. That is not US practice. If you want to see it in operation, look at Lebanon. There the Maranite Christians are assured the presidency, the Sunni Muslims are assured the prime ministery, and the Shiite Muslims are assured the speakership of parliament. This practice is followed to allow all groups to cooperate in the politcial process with the assurence they will have a guaranteed role and a share of power. No group can be exluded in this system.

it is interesting that the Bush Administration may shift its Iraq goal from a US-style democracy to a style that was perfected in the Middle East, in Lebabon. Is that called a learning curve?

Friday, December 24, 2004

RUMSFELD VISITS IRAQ

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visited Iraq today. The stated purpose of his visit was to look at the military situation and to bring Christmas geetings to the US troops stationed there.

But make no mistake: the REAL purpose of the visit was that Rumsfeld is trying to save his job. He gave a good speech and seemed to connect with the troops he addressed. But the move was a public relations gambit to build up public support at home for the embattled Defense Secretary.

The public will welcome his visit to Iraq. But the visit will not save his job. The problem is not public relations. It is a losing strategy and faulty implementation. Every terrorist bomb that explodes in Iraq is another nail in the coffin of Rumsfeld's career.

We saw this same kind of scenario played out by Les Aspin, the fumbling Defense Secretary under President Clinton. Aspin did not save his job either.

Rumsfeld is only delaying the inevitable end. It is clear he will not change his strategy for that would admit that he made mistakes. His departure - as soon as possible - is what is needed to improve the US position in Iraq.

Friday, December 17, 2004

RUMSFELD'S DECLINE

The career of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is on the downward trajectory. Like a falling star or an aging Hollywood starlet. Look for him to be gone from the Washington scene soon.

The problem is that no amount of smooth talking and pie-sky lingo can conceal the fact that the war in Iraq is going badly. And the failure is Rumsfeld's. He has led the world's greatest military into a humiliating helplessness in Iraq.

Bush will have to understand that he has to dump Rumsfeld in order to make the fulfillment of the agenda for his second term possible. Iraq stands in the way of everything in Bush's domestic agenda, and Rumsfeld stands in the way of victory in Iraq.

Rumsfeld's departure will come soon. He may last until the elections scheduled for late January in Iraq. But not much longer.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

McCAIN ON RUMSFELD

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has given his verdict on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. It is "no confidence."

This publicly-stated judgment is important because McCain is not just a senator. He is, to many people, currently a parallel president and a likely Republican nominee for president in 2008.

McCain's verdict may be the opening of the movement that will soon dislodge Rumsfeld from his post.

Monday, December 13, 2004

DWINDLING CHANCES FOR IRAQ JANUARY ELECTION

Prsident Bush and the Iraqi interim government insist that everything is nicely on track for Iraq to have elections on January 30. But a story in The Washington Post tells us why this hope is completely unrealistic:

...Six weeks before the historic vote, a U.S. official said, fewer
than 1 percent of eligible Iraqis have responded to a voter-registration drive,
forcing authorities to look for other ways to build up voter lists. But six
weeks before the historic vote, a U.S. official said, fewer than 1 percent of
eligible Iraqis have responded to a voter-registration drive, forcing
authorities to look for other ways to build up voter lists.


If Iraqis are afraid to register to vote, an election is not going to be possible. Registration statistics now say that the election cannot be held in six weeks.

Not holding the election as scheduled will be a major defeat for the US.


Friday, December 10, 2004

NEW RECRUITING SLOGAN FOR THE ARMY

Forget "Be All You Can Be." Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has come up with a new army recruting slogan: "You go to war with the army you have."

That is what he told US troops in Kuwait as they complained about the lack of body armor and vehicle armor for the Iraq war.

Too bad these guys did not know that when they enlisted. Too bad Rumsfeld did not tell President Bush that at the time the decsion was being made to go to war - for then the decision might not have been made.

How much has to happen before Bush fires Rumsfeld?
MR. SNOW AND SELF-RESPECT

President Bush has announced that he wants Secretary of the Treasury John Snow to stay on for the second term. But for ten days Snow was left hanging out on a limb of humiliation as members of the White House publicly dissed him, as it was made clear the President was trying to find someone better for the job, and as the job was actually offered to a Wall Street guy, who refused it.

A bad move by Bush to show his displeasure with Snow and then go ahead to reappoint him. Admitting weakness in Treasury just when Bush wants to undertake major new economic initiatives is simply bad politics.

But for Mr. Snow there is something worse. If he had any intregrity, he would turn the job down. No one should accept that humiliating treatment from anyone!


RED NATIONS AND BLUE NATIONS

The recent elections introduced the red state/blue state dichotomy into US politics. Look now for the development of the red nation/blue nation dichotomy as culture wars become the major issue in international relations, assuring disharmony among nations.

The opening issue in the global culture war will be that of gay marriage. As Toronto's Globe and Mail reports, the Supreme Court of Canada has opened the way to legalizing same-sex marriage in Canada. Prime Minister Paul Martin has decided to push that agenda through parliament, though the move will not be easy:
The Supreme Court of Canada gave its blessing Thursday to the federal
government's proposal to legalize same-sex marriage, prompting Prime Minister
Paul Martin to launch a high-stakes sales job to push the legislation through a
divided Liberal caucus and split Parliament.


If Canada does legalize same-sex marriage, it will join Belgium and the Netherlands as the only three countries in the world that allow it. Is this part of a trend? Will some countries hurry into legalizing it while others hurry into asffirming it as illegal? YES! And this development will open up a culture war between red naions and blue nations, a war that will expand to other issues.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

IT'S ONLY TAXPAYERS' MONEY

Congress has sent a spending bill for $388 billion to President Bush, and he has signed it. That figure covers the cost of all federal agencies except the two big ones, the Pentagon and Homeland Security. So, the actual figure for fiscal year 2005 will be higher! The pigs are oinking!

What ever happened to the promises of smaller government, less federal spending, and a balanced budget? Forget it, stupid! You're paying the bill!

Monday, December 06, 2004

PRESIDENT MUSHARRAF ON IRAQ

Listen to Pakistan's President Musharraf on Iraq. He is a realist who is speaking his mind and telling the US what it needs to hear:

The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was a mistake that has made the world a more
dangerous place, but a swift withdrawal would make matters worse, Pakistan's
president said this weekend."I think it's less safe," Gen. Pervez Musharraf
said on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer." Asked whether he considered
the invasion a mistake, the Pakistani leader said: "With hindsight, yes. We have
landed ourselves in more trouble, yes."


Musharraf is a friend of the US, not a carping critic. His words should carry weight in re-formulating US policy.

The problem is that the US may be in a situation where it cannot withdraw, even from a mistaken invasion. Grab the tiger's tail, and you cannot let go!

New thinking is needed. Maybe Musharraf's words will help prompt it.
VIOLENCE INTENSIFIES IN IRAQ

Britain's Guardian reports on the increasing level of violence in Iraq:

Insurgents in Iraq mounted a third straight day of serious attacks yesterday,
killing 17 people when they opened fire on buses delivering workers to an
ordnance disposal site.
At least 70 Iraqis, many of them members of the
police and security forces, have been killed since Friday in attacks across
central and northern Iraq.
The organised violence underlines the insurgency's continued strength despite last month's US military assault on Falluja and suggests that attacks will intensify in the run- up to next month's general election.


It is clear that the Pentagon has no policy other than to keep on doing what it has been doing, even though that does not work. Since President Bush is not planning to remove Rumsfeld and Company from command, the only thing that will change US policy in Iraq is the escalation of violence to an unacceptable level. The terrorists understand this.

The US public will finally react against this violence and repudiate the Pentagon policy. President Bush should understand that this reaction is coming.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

BUSH AND INTELLIGENCE REFORM BILL

We predicted that a surprise is awaiting President Bush: the oppostion of conservative Republicans to his second-term agenda.

A story in today's New York Times reports on this matter. It describes the opposition that the president is getting from congressional conservative Republicans over the intelligence reform bill. The report actually sees a "near-rebellion" among conservatives on this issue:

President Bush sought to stem a near-rebellion by members of his
own party in Congress yesterday by describing a sweeping intelligence-overhaul
bill they oppose as an effort "to do everything necessary to confront and defeat
the terrorist threat" and calling for its passage during a brief Congressional
session this week.
The president's remarks in his weekly radio address came a
day after a powerful Senate Republican, John W. Warner of Virginia, chairman of
the Armed Services Committee, expressed doubts about the bill....


This is the first sign of conservatives rejecting the president's agenda. Opposition will also come on immigration policy, the budget, the burgeoning deficit, and the neocon policy in Iraq. President Bush will have a difficult four years ahead from his own base.

Friday, December 03, 2004

ALICIA MARKOVA, R.I.P.

In a world disfigured by war, conflict, and betrayal, it is right to pause at the death of Alicia Markova and let ourselves be reminded that grace, beauty, and style are present in our midst.

Alicia Markova was the world's best ballerina in the formal and classic style of ballet. She lived to be 94 years old, giving us many years of herself. When she danced, she brought enthusiasm and grace and freshness to the roles she portrayed.

A word of "thank you" now would echo loudly as a protest to the darkness of our present-day world.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

MORE US TROOPS TO IRAQ

Do you remember Ross Perot in the election of 1992 warning us that we will soon be hearing "a giant sucking sound"? Well, we are hearing it, but it is the sound of the US military being sucked deeper and deeper into Iraq.

In its story, "US Troop Level in Iraq to Grow," The Washington Post reports that

The Pentagon said yesterday that it will boost the number of U.S. troops in
Iraq to about 150,000, the highest level since the U.S. occupation began 19
months ago.

The signs continue to pop up revealing that the Pentagon has no idea how to fight the war in Iraq. Except deciding it needs more forces to keep doing what it has been doing, even thought what it has been doing is notably unsuccessful.

Flooding Iraq with more US troops is not going to solve the problem. It just draws us in deeper where we have no plan to prevail.

Does it sound like Vietnam all over again?

Rest assured that this is not the last call by the Pentagon for more troops to be sent into Iraq. The call for more troops now is clearly a repudiation of Secretary Rumsfeld's doctrine of doing more with less, but no one will say so.







STORY OF PLANNED BUSH ASSASSINATION BOGUS

There were reports from the Colombian Minister of Defense that FARC, the guerrilla group, planned to assassinate President Bush during his three-hour stopover in Cartagena, Colombia.

It is now clear that this report was bogus. It may have been the brainstorm of the government of President Uribe to assure continued US interest in aiding Colombia in its struggle with FARC - and pumping more US dollars into the hands of Colombia's ruling elite.

We also have to wonder whether the US government was involved in this deception as a way of shoring up support for Uribe against skeptics at home who complain about his human rights record and who object to giving Uribe military aid and dollars in massive amounts. If a foreign leader can present himself as fighting terrorism, he becomes the darling of the Bush Administration - and gets lots of US -taxpayer dollars.

For the record, here is the statement from FARC rejecting any notion that the group had plans to assissinate Bush (first in an English translation, then in the Spanish original:

The FARC categorically deny the vengeful affirmations of the
intelligence services of the US who have accused us as responsible in a supposed
plan to assassinate Bush and Uribe during their brief interview in Cartagena.
There could not be anything more false or untrue than this affirmation of
delirious minds infected by arrogance.Fortunately, the world public opinion
knows very well the enormous capacity for lies, deceit, and accusations
profusely handed out by the intelligence services of the US every time they
decide to invade or intervene militarily in other countries. The unjust and
bloody invasion of the people of Iraq is incontrovertible evidence of this
abominable gringo conduct. The Colombian people are victims of the intervention
of the US government in our internal conflict. This government invests in Plan
Colombia and Plan Patriota thousands upon thousands of dollars, they send
hundreds of military assassins, and war planes and helicopters armed with
sophisticated communication systems, in their illusory desire to wipe out the
revolutionary guerrillas, humiliate and intimidate the social organizations
affected by the neoliberal politics that have resulted in hunger, poverty,
misery, and repression from the ruling government. Plan Colombia and Plan
Patriota were prepared during the government of Pastrana and carried out during
the present administration of Uribe.We swear once again that our men, women, and
political and social wings continue in the service and defense of the interests
of the poor of our country, and we will for as much time is needed to obtain
peace with social justice, with true independence and respect for our
sovereignty.

******************************************************

Comunicado de las FARC Las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia Ejército del Pueblo,
FARC-EP desmentimos categóricamente las calumniosas afirmaciones de los
servicios de inteligencia de los Estados Unidos de América al endilgarnos
responsabilidades en un supuesto plan para eliminar a los presidentes George
Bush y Álvaro Uribe, durante su pasada entrevista en Cartagena. Nada más falsa y
temeraria que esta afirmación propia de mentes delirantes de soberbia y
prepotencia. Afortunadamente la opinión pública mundial conoce de sobra la
enorme capacidad de mentiras, engaños y calumnias profusamente difundidas por
los servicio de inteligencia de los Estados Unidos cada que deciden invadir o
intervenir militarmente a otros países. La injusta y sangrienta invasión al
pueblo de Irak es prueba incontrovertible de esta abominable conducta del
imperio gringo.El pueblo colombiano es víctima de la intervención del gobierno
de Estados Unidos en su conflicto interno. Este gobierno invierte en los planes
Colombia y Patriota miles de millones de dólares, participan centenares de
asesores militares, aviones y helicópteros de guerra, dotados de sofisticados
sistemas de comunicaciones, en su iluso empeño de liquidar la guerrillera
revolucionaria, humillar e intimidar a las organizaciones sociales y populares
afectadas por las políticas neoliberales de hambre, pobreza, miseria y represión
del sistema gobernante. Los planes Colombia y Patriota fueron preparados durante
el Gobierno de Andrés Pastrana y desarrollados en la presente administración de
Álvaro Uribe Vélez. Ratificamos una vez más que, nuestros hombres, mujeres,
armas y banderas sociales y políticas, indefectiblemente continúan al servicio y
defensa de los intereses de los pobres de nuestra patria, por el tiempo que sea
necesario hasta conquistar la paz con justicia social, con verdadera
independencia y respeto por nuestra soberanía.
Secretariado del Estado Mayor CentralMontañas de
Colombia, noviembre 30 de 2004.

The assassination story was worthy of CBS News!


ABSENT SENATORS

New Jersey's US Senator Jon Corzine plans to run for the governorship of New Jersey in the upcoming election. Being chief executive in Trenton is a better route to the White House than being a Senator. But that is down the road. The first step is to be become Governor Corzine.

He has indicated that he will not resign his senate seat to run for governor. This decision indicates the current game of senators who take time off from their senate duties to run for another office, but in so doing neglect their senatorial jobs and duties.

John Kerry ran for president for two years, rarely even showing up in the senate. Massachusetts in effect had only one senator for this period, as he missed most votes. John Edwars of South Carolina did the same.

Is there no shame? People elected to do one job fail to do that job as they run for another. Those who undertake an arduous and time-consuming campaign for another office should have the decency to resign from their current one so the citizens they are paid to represent can have full-time representation. Not doing so, means they are paid for doing nothing. Cheats!

If senators will not voluntarily resign their seats to run for another office, they should be compelled to do so. A simple rule might be that if one misses fifty percent of votes - or even roll calls - the seat is declared vacant and an election is held to fill it.

Absentee senators are a national disgrace. And a means of cheating citizens.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

BUSH MIS-READS MANDATE

During his current trip to Canada, President Bush ashowed that he does not understand the mandate of the recent presidential election.

During a speech in Ottawa, he spoke in defense of his foreign policy, and made the following claim:

We just had a poll in our country where people decided that the foreign policy of the
Bush administration ought to stay in place for four more years.


This statement shows he has mis-read the results of the election. The public voted for him in winning numbers for reasons of "moral values." That means, he has earned trust and faith.

In foreign policy terms - specifically the war in Iraq - the public did not say that he should keep doing what he has been doing. What the majority of voters said was that they trusted him to do the right thing. Not the same thing, but the right thing.

Unless he understands this difference, he will find that his second term wil become increasingly troubled.

Read the vote as the public saying Bush should develop and implement an exit strategy for Iraq immediately. He has the trust of the country to do that. That is what the vote for "moral values" says.

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