Wednesday, June 29, 2005
The gaggle of goons now holding power in Washington have a decades-long history of over-hyping (or manufacturing) "dire threats to the national existence" as way of justifying their brutal policies of militarism, authoritarianism and cronyism. Year after year, for almost half a century, they have employed the same crude – but effective – methods: exaggeration, obfuscation, outright lies and fearmongering.
They did it with the Soviets – e.g., the infamous "Team B" of crackpot analysts set up by CIA Director George Bush, whose wild-eyed "repudiations" of actual intelligence data were used to justify Reagan's crony-glutting military builup – even though the B's were proven wrong on every single assertion they ever made about "the growing Soviet menace." These same cranks – and their pupils – surfaced again in the Bush II regime to run the same scam about Iraq. This time, the "Team B" was called the "Office of Special Plans." (For more, see Team Spirit: Bush's B-Siders Replay Their Greatest Hits.)
And they are doing it again, this time with China. For years, they've pounded a steady drumbeat about China's "growing" nuclear arsenal, the "great military threat" rising in the East. Over and over, they haul this out to justify their own push for more nuclear weapons, for their "missile defense" boondoggle (or the "Horn of Plenty" as its known around the defense industry), and for weaponizing the global commons of outer space.
But once again – as always – there is little fire behind their billowing clouds of smoke. As The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reports in the latest issue, China's nuclear arsenal has barely grown at all in the last 10 years. Here's an excerpt:
"…. it may come as a shock to learn that China's nuclear arsenal is about the same size it was a decade ago…Perhaps your anxiety about "improvements" to China's missile force would recede as you learned that China's 18 ICBMs, sitting unfueled in their silos, their nuclear warheads in storage, are essentially the same as they were the day China began deploying them in 1981. In fact, contrary to reports you might have recently read that Chinese nukes number in the hundreds--if not the thousands--the true size of the country's operationally deployed arsenal is probably about 80 nuclear weapons."
Ah, but such facts are only relevant in the "reality-based community." In the la-la land of BushWorld, there is no place for truth. Truth butters no parsnips – and, more importantly, stuffs no crony pockets with loot. Nor it does it provide the fear and terror required to keep the people cowed – and the militarists in power. And so, once again – exactly as with the Soviets and Iraq – the militarists have set up their own poison kitchen to cook intelligence data to their liking. Here's the BAS again:
"The true scope of China's nuclear capabilities are hidden in plain sight, among the myriad declassified assessments produced by the U.S. intelligence community. Yet, such analyses have run afoul of conservative legislators, who express dismay when threat assessments don't conform to their perceptions of reality. Congressional Republicans, for instance, in 2000 created the China Futures Panel, chaired by former Gen. John Tilelli, to examine charges of bias in the CIA assessments of China…."
Now of course, the cooks are in the White House itself. The entire intelligence apparatus is run by that eminent fabulist, John Negroponte, who as ambassador to Honduras somehow failed to see the Latin American death squads operating all around him – even as the blood they spilled was practically dripping from his own hands. The CIA itself is led by Bush placeman Porter Goss, who has been blatantly open in his politicizing of intelligence "to serve the president."
So we'll see more -- much more – about the "Yellow Peril" in years to come. However, it probably won't be as straightforward or relentless as the propaganda campaigns against the Soviet Union and Iraq; it will only be pulled out when necessary, to push some war pork bill or perhaps distract from yet another disaster in Bush's maladroit governance. The American elite will continue to have a schizophrenic relationship with China – because there's so much money to made there.
For the moment, China is a golden goose for corporations and the "investment class" (as we must now politely dub those who squeeze the blood out of American workers, then take their profits elsewhere, never looking back – or giving back). In fact, here's a fun game: look at any story about Sino-American relations in any mainstream media outlet and see how often they mention the fact that the point man for corporate America in China – the president of the American-China Chamber of Commerce – is the president's own uncle, Prescott Bush, Jr. You'll never see it. It's one of those many facts that simply don't exist in the media's echo chamber.
So as long as the Bushes and their fellow plutocrats are making oodles of boodle from the non-unionized sweatshops of China, it's not likely they'll try slay that goose with a shootin' war. But it's tricky; at some point – much sooner than later, probably – China's economy will become so powerful that it will inexorably overtake America's already-diminishing economic dominance over the world. And "dominance" is the lodestar, the ultimate value, the all-in-all of the militarists. They have spelled it out clearly: the idea that no nation, friend or foe, will be allowed to pursue even the hope of "surpassing or equalling the power of the United States" has now been enshrined as part of America's official National Security Strategy. And as Bush's published and proclaimed Strategy makes clear, this dominant position is to be enforced by "the path of action," by the doctrine of "pre-emptive" strikes, by "the unparalleled strength of the United States armed forces and their forward presence" around the world. (For more, see: Brothers in Arms: The Osamic Vision of George W. Bush.)
Thus one day, Chinese push will come to American shove. And then the Yellow Peril fearmongering – now being kept warm on a medium simmer – will be turned up to a blazing boil.
In 2003 alone, the G8 countries exported arms worth $12bn (£6.6bn) to the developing world, and six of their number – the US, UK, France, Russia, Germany and Italy – lead the world’s top 10 arms suppliers.....All this comes at a price that is usually born by those countries which can least afford to spend lavish sums of money on arms. According to the report, 20% of the debts owed by the world’s impoverished countries, mostly African, come from past arms sales from G8 countries. However, it is a win-win situation for the firms doing the deals. All the G8 countries operate some form of export credit system – in the UK the Export Credit Guarantee Department underwrites arms sales and pursues defaulters. The result is overarching misery because many of the countries suffer from chronic poverty and disease, and their populations struggle to survive on a dollar a day per person.
“Each year hundreds of thousands of people are killed, tortured, raped and displaced through the misuse of arms,” says Irene Khan, secretary-general of Amnesty International. “How can G8 commitments to end poverty and injustice be taken seriously if some of the very governments are undermining peace and stability by deliberately approving arms transfers to repressive regimes, regions of extreme conflict or countries that can ill afford them?”
The United Nations says it has learned of serious allegations that the US is secretly detaining terrorism suspects, notably on American military ships. The special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak...told the BBC there were a number of allegations from reliable sources that the US was holding terrorist suspects in secret places of detention, including vessels abroad. He said that according to the reports, the ships were believed to be in the Indian Ocean. Mr Nowak said the charges of secret detention camps were very serious, amounting to enforced disappearances.
The United States again leads the world in jailing criminals. The International Centre for Prison Studies at King's College, London, said the US held 714 prisoners per 100,000 people and had topped the list since 2000. "The US has managed in 200 years to reach two million prisoners," said Anton Shelupanov, of the International Centre for Prison Studies. American prisoners account for 22 per cent of the 9 million prisoners worldwide. Russia had 786,900 inmates, or 550 per 100,000, the highest rate in Europe.
"Sometimes I think that this whole world
Is one big prison yard:
Some of us are prisoners,
The rest of us are guards."
-- Bob Dylan, "George Jackson"
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Saturday, June 25, 2005
"Listen: if all must suffer, to buy eternal harmony through suffering, please tell me what have children got to do with it? It's simply incomprehensible why they have to suffer, why they have to buy harmony with their suffering. Why do they get thrown into the muck, to fertilize someone's future harmony with their bodies?" - Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov.
When the public liars sat down together - in Crawford, Texas, in the Pentagon, in the Oval Office, in 10 Downing Street - and very deliberately, very guilefully and very knowingly devised their act of mass murder in Iraq, it is unlikely they gave any thought to the most vulnerable targets of their war crime: the children. So in considering this aspect of the bloodbath, we should give the liars the benefit of the doubt. Let's not make them more monstrous than they are. Let's stick to the facts.
Let us say - as the incontrovertible facts compel us to say - that, yes, they were willing to kill tens of thousands of innocent people in an action they knew to be illegal, reckless, ill-planned and unsupported by evidence. Let us say - as the incontrovertible facts compel us to say - that, yes, they knew their public statements about the plans for war were lies. Let us say - as the incontrovertible facts compel us to say - that, yes, they started the war with a vicious bombing campaign months before obtaining even a fig leaf of approval from their respective legislatures, a clear and treasonous violation of their own national laws. Let us say - as the incontrovertible facts compel us to say - that, yes, long before their blitzkrieg rolled across the border, they were already divvying up the loot of conquest: the oil rights, the "privatizations," the crony contracts.
In short, let us say that, yes, they are killers, liars, thieves and incompetent fools. But let's not imagine that as they settled their safe and cosseted backsides into the fine upholstery of their elegantly appointed war rooms, they gleefully regaled each other with visions of the exquisite tortures they would soon inflict upon the children of Iraq.
Let's not imagine George W. Bush nudging Tony Blair in the ribs as they masticated their pork together, saying, "Cholera, eh? Typhoid fever. Malnutrition! By god, we can grind these Iraqi children lower than the slum rats of Haiti!" Let's not picture Dick Cheney chiding Donald Rumsfeld over the steak tartare: "Damn it, Don, if there's a single pregnant Iraqi woman left without hepatitis before we're through, heads are going to roll! I want the wombs of those Arab cows swimming in lethal viruses. Lethal, do you hear me?"
Of course it was not like that. Such suppositions do these honored national leaders a grave injustice. No doubt their discourse was elevated, focused on matters of high state and strategy, on the practicalities of logistics and presentation. If anyone there spoke of the "human factor" - the actual reality of bleeding flesh, of death, wounds, disease and rot - it would only have been as part of the political calculations: what level of casualties would the American people accept, how do we keep the dead and maimed out of the public eye? It was all about numbers, process, abstraction - nothing to disturb the moral imagination, nothing to put them off the hearty meals and tasty snacks laid before them discreetly by the servants.
So when leading international agencies - including the World Bank, now headed by one of the chief liars, Paul Wolfowitz - find that Iraq's children are dwindling and dying twice as fast under the Coalition's benevolent care than under the despotism of Saddam Hussein, we should not conclude that this was the liars' conscious intention. Yes, it's true that Iraq's child malnutrition rate is now worse than the broken nations of Uganda or Haiti, the Japan Times reports. Yes, cholera and typhoid are cutting swathes through the population, and are especially virulent in the "stable" areas of the Shiite south. Yes, epidemics of hepatitis are killing pregnant women. Yes, antibiotics are scarce, leaving children, the old and the weak to die of common infections - when they can get treated at all in a health system ravaged by the liars' war and its atrocious aftermath. (Such as the destruction of Fallujah, for example, when Coalition forces deliberately destroyed the city's health clinics and imprisoned doctors to prevent news of civilian casualties from leaking to the press, as the Pentagon's own "information specialists" told the New York Times.)
And yes, it's true that Iraq - once a modern and prosperous nation - has suffered "one of the most dramatic declines in human welfare in recent history" during the occupation, as the UN says. But again, this was not part of the liars' deliberate design. The torment of children was outside the parameters of their "metrics of success." It was not a factor one way or the other.
In fact, let's go even further and declare forthrightly that if the liars could have established a client regime and a permanent military presence in Iraq without harming the hair of a single child, they would have done so. If they could have transferred more than $300 billion from the public treasury to the pockets of their family members and business partners without having to concoct a brutal and baseless war of aggression, they would have done so. If they could have legitimized their radical, rapacious domestic agenda without engineering the slaughter of innocent people in order to assume the politically expedient role of "wartime leaders," they would have done so.
But they couldn't. So like all murderers, they did whatever they had to do to get what they wanted, regardless of the consequences for others. Like all terrorists, they rationalize their atrocities with noble rhetoric, citing the unassailable righteousness of their cause as justification for the unspeakable evil they unleash. And like all abusers of innocent children, they cover their baser motives with self-serving lies.
Thursday, June 23, 2005
(From Remote Post, via Buzzflash)
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
WATCHING A GOOD GERMAN FUNCTION: In this morning’s Post, Mark Leibovich helps the public process their important first lesson. Here’s the way he describes the matter on which Vile Durbin made comment:
LEIBOVICH (6/22/05): Durbin's saga began June 14 on the Senate floor when he read from an FBI memo that described the ordeal of a prisoner at Guantanamo who was allegedly chained to the floor, forced to listen to loud rap music and subjected to extreme heat and bitter cold, among other unpleasantness. Durbin said: "If I read this to you and did not tell you it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime—Pol Pot or others—that had no concern for human beings."Good boy! The key term there is “among other unpleasantness.” Like all good Germans, Leibovich knew to disappear the conduct which made this report so disturbing. Post readers won’t have to hear how long these prisoners were “allegedly” chained. (Note: Leibovich has gone from the plural to the singular, pretending we’re talking about only one prisoner.) They won’t have to learn that these prisoners were chained so long that they urinated and defecated on themselves. They won’t have to hear about that pile of hair—the pile one prisoner pulled from his head. Good boy! Leibovich knows how “mad regimes” work their will. Here it is: They keep the folks stupid.
Good boy! Mark Leibovich played good German today. He helped that first lesson go down.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
-- Sa'd Hariri, son of the slain ex-prime minister and leader of the "democratic" coalition, is largely a creation of the Saudis, who have now replaced their rivals, the Syrians, as the money and power behind the throne;
-- George Hawi, the Communist Party leader assassinated yesterday in a car bombing widely attributed to the Syrians, was not only "a critic of Syria," as the NYT noted ominously; he was even more opposed to U.S. and Israeli policies in the region. Hawi is already being rigged up as a martyr to Syrian nogoodnikism, one more reason to lay some hot-lead "regime change" on Damascus.
(Strange how the warmongering Right is now championing Arab communists with such fervor; Iraq's communist party was warmly embraced by the Bushists -- as one of the few organized Iraqi factions that supported the invasion. Which was doubly ironic, given the fact that the CIA helped Saddam and Baathists exterminate Communists during the Baathists' American-assisted coups in the 1960s.)
Again, as we noted a couple of weeks ago, the Syrian regime is perfectly capable of murder most foul. (Although it's not likely that Bashir Assad has claimed the right to kill anyone on earth at his own, arbitrary, unreviewable, unchallengeable order, as George W. Bush has done. Story here.) But considering the fact that they are squarely in the cross-hairs of Bush's trigger-happy nest of neo-cons, the Syrians would have to be remarkably stupid to pull off such high-profile provocations at this critical moment. As the Winter Patriot notes, these crimes seem almost too perfect, made to order for anyone looking to foment plausible reasons for military action against Damascus.
The price of building materials has gone up unbelievably, in spite of the fact that major reconstruction has not yet begun. I assumed it was because so much of the concrete and other building materials was going to reinforce the restricted areas. A friend who recently got involved working with an Iraqi subcontractor who takes projects inside of the Green Zone explained that it was more than that. The Green Zone, he told us, is a city in itself. He came back awed, and more than a little bit upset. He talked of designs and plans being made for everything from the future US Embassy and the housing complex that will surround it, to restaurants, shops, fitness centers, gasoline stations, constant electricity and water- a virtual country inside of a country with its own rules, regulations and government. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Republic of the Green Zone, also known as the Green Republic.
“The Americans won’t be out in less than ten years.” Is how the argument often begins with the friend who has entered the Green Republic. “How can you say that?” Is usually my answer- and I begin to throw around numbers- 2007, 2008 maximum… Could they possibly want to be here longer? Can they afford to be here longer? At this, T. shakes his head- if you could see the bases they are planning to build- if you could see what already has been built- you’d know that they are going to be here for quite a while.
The Green Zone is a source of consternation and aggravation for the typical Iraqi. It makes us anxious because it symbolises the heart of the occupation and if fortifications and barricades are any indicator- the occupation is going to be here for a long time. It is a provocation because no matter how anyone tries to explain or justify it, it is like a slap in the face. It tells us that while we are citizens in our own country, our comings and goings are restricted because portions of the country no longer belong to its people. They belong to the people living in the Green Republic.
It's real grass-roots stuff -- in fact, it reaches all the way down to the individual blade, a personal form of activism either to supplement collective action or to let each person carve a particular path. It's also a good way of reaching people outside the seething blogosphere or the media/political world in general -- the vast majority of the population, in other words.
So scoot on over to the Whispering Campaign and check it out. Start moving that mountain one grain at a time.
Bards of the powerful:
Far from challenging the G8's role in Africa's poverty, Geldof and Bono are giving legitimacy to those responsible
The two musicians are genuinely committed to the cause of poverty reduction. They have helped secure aid and debt-relief packages worth billions of dollars. They have helped to keep the issue of global poverty on the political agenda. They have mobilised people all over the world. These are astonishing achievements, and it would be stupid to disregard them.
The problem is that they have assumed the role of arbiters: of determining on our behalf whether the leaders of the G8 nations should be congratulated or condemned for the decisions they make. They are not qualified to do so, and I fear that they will sell us down the river.
Take their response to the debt-relief package for the world's poorest countries that the G7 finance ministers announced 10 days ago. Anyone with a grasp of development politics who had read and understood the ministers' statement could see that the conditions it contains - enforced liberalisation and privatisation - are as onerous as the debts it relieves. But Bob Geldof praised it as "a victory for the millions of people in the campaigns around the world" and Bono pronounced it "a little piece of history". Like many of those who have been trying to highlight the harm done by such conditions - especially the African campaigners I know - I feel betrayed by these statements. Bono and Geldof have made our job more difficult.
Sunday, June 19, 2005
How many times must the truth be told before it conquers the lies? Again and again, the brutal realities behind the rape of Iraq – that it was planned years ago, that the aggressors knew full well that their justifications for war were false and that their invasion would lead to chaos, ruin and unbridled terror – have been exposed by the very words and documents of the invaders themselves. Yet the reign of the lie goes on, rolling toward its final entrenchment in November.
Last week, as hundreds of Iraqi civilians were being slaughtered by insurgents and invaders, as more pipelines exploded, more hostages were seized, more families sank into poverty and filth, the cynical machinations of the oh-so-Christian Coalition of Bush and Blair were revealed yet again. This time it was a tranche of leaked documents from March 2002, a full year before the war: reports to Tony Blair from his top advisors, stating plainly that the intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was unsubstantiated, that there was no connection between Saddam and al Qaeda, that there was no legal justification for invading the country, and that any such invasion would lead to years of bloody, chaotic occupation, the Daily Telegraph (an arch-conservative, pro-war paper) reports.
Even more remarkably, Blair was told that the likely end result of the invasion would be – after years of horrific turmoil – the rise of yet another Saddam-like tyrant, who would then try to acquire the very weapons of mass destruction that the Coalition attack was ostensibly designed to destroy. In fact, Blair was told, with Iraq hedged in by a powerful Iran to the east and a nuclear-armed Israel to the west, any Iraqi leader, even a democratic one, will eventually seek WMD to defend the country.
All of this echoed similar warnings given to George W. Bush by the State Department, the CIA, top military brass – even his own father. Most of these alarms were reported – obscurely at times – in the press before the invasion. The Coalition's maniacal drive to war without evidence or provocation was later confirmed – again, often obliquely – by Congressional probes, the 9/11 Commission, the Hutton Report, the Butler Report, Bush's official WMD investigators and a raft of revelations by top insiders on both sides of the Atlantic, such as Robin Cook, Richard Clarke, Bob Graham, John O'Neill and others.
The public record, available to anyone who wants the truth, is undeniable: the war was waged on false pretenses – and the war leaders knew it. They knew it would bring unimaginable death and suffering to multitudes of innocent people in Iraq – and to thousands of their own soldiers and civilians as well. They knew it would lead to more terrorism, more chaos, more insecurity in the world. Yet they plunged ahead anyway, deliberately deceiving their own people with a poison cloud of lies, exaggeration and bluster. Why? Because for the warmongers, the game was worth the candle: the loot, the power, the "dominance" to be won was an irresistible temptation.
The Telegraph exposé centered on papers prepared for Blair's March 2002 summit with the true ruler of the United States: Dick Cheney. As often noted here, Cheney was a key figure in the corporate/militarist faction Project for the New American Century, along with Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and other bloodthirsty elites. In September 2000 – before Bush was installed as the faction's White House frontman – PNAC issued the final version of a plan, years in the making, to ensure American geopolitical and economic "dominance" through military control of key oil regions and strategic pipeline routes, either directly or via client states. This would be accompanied by a "revolutionary" transformation of American society into a more war-like state: a transformation that PNAC said could only be accomplished if the American people were "galvanized" by "a catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor."
The conquest of Iraq was a vital cog in this long-range plan, and the depredations of the Baath Regime – the worst of which occurred with the full support of PNAC's top players during the Reagan-Bush years – had nothing to do with it. The Cheney-Rumsfeld group put it plainly in 2000: the need to establish a military presence in Iraq "transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein." Likewise, 9/11 and "the new threats in a changed world" – evoked so often as a justification by the warmongers – were equally irrelevant to an invasion planned years before the CIA's ex-ally Osama bin Laden obligingly provided that longed-for "new Pearl Harbor."
What's more, the warmakers knew that Saddam's WMD arsenal and weapons development programs had been dismantled at his order in 1991. This was confirmed in 1995 by crateloads of documentary evidence supplied by top defector Hussein Kamel, Saddam's son-in-law and WMD chieftain – as Time Magazine reported years ago. It was confirmed again by UN inspectors, who independently verified the elimination of 95 percent of Iraq's WMD arsenal – before they were summarily pulled out of the country ahead of a US-UK punitive strike in 1998.
Any remaining questions about Iraqi WMD – stoked by false intelligence provided by paid agents of the Pentagon's war clique (Ahmad Chalabi), the CIA's hired terrorist leader (Iyad Allawi), and assorted Iranian and Israeli agents – were carefully hedged with doubts, caveats and qualifications from U.S and UK intelligence officials. But Cheney and his frontman were having none of that sissy caveat stuff. As one CIA officer revealed to investigator James Bamford: "We were told if the president wants a war, it's your job to give him a reason to go to war." As ordered, cooked intelligence was then served up piping hot.
Bush, Blair, Cheney and the rest knew all of this when they made their decision to launch what the Nuremberg Tribunal called "the supreme international crime": aggressive war. Now they are openly planning a new blitzkrieg to crush all resistance to their profit-seeking conquest: an assault on Fallujah – conveniently set after Bush's re-installation as frontman – which they know will churn through countless innocent bodies like a meat grinder.
So when they stand before the world to justify the coming outrage, remember this, and hold to it: everything they say about their war is a lie. And it has been from the beginning.Chris Floyd
Saturday, June 18, 2005
"The Bush administration altered critical portions of a scientific analysis of the environmental impact of cattle grazing on public lands before announcing Thursday that it would relax regulations limiting grazing on those lands, according to scientists involved in the study.
A government biologist and a hydrologist, who both retired this year from the Bureau of Land Management, said their conclusions that the proposed new rules might adversely affect water quality and wildlife, including endangered species, were excised and replaced with language justifying less stringent regulations favored by cattle ranchers...."
Yes, of course this is vile: a blatant, brutal misuse of state power to wage culture war on behalf of a ruthless extremist ideology -- and a petulant, petty attempt to smear a man who, by standing on the law, has embarrassed the little tinpot despot who rules Florida.
But get used to it, folks. Jeb is being readied for the dynastic succession -- he'll be on the ticket somewhere in 2008, either at the top or VP. And believe it or not, Jeb is even worse than George W. He's sharper, he's dirtier, he's meaner, he's greedier and far more energetic. When he gets in, things are going to get even worse.
It's part of the terrible devolution of GOP politics. Everytime you think it can't get any worse -- it does. Nixon once seemed the abyss of political crime and corruption; but my God, his administration seems like a golden age of enlightened government compared to what has come after it. Then we thought it couldn't get worse than Reagan; then it couldn't possibly get any worse than Bush/Quayle; and yet we keep descending deeper and deeper into the pit.
But we've not hit bottom yet, not by a long shot. Keep your eye on Florida. There's a rough beast slouching out of those swamps, raising a tsunami of slime that will sweep away the last few bastions of genuine democracy and human decency left in our gutted, battered, betrayed and broken Republic.
See also: Code Red: Jeb Bush Strikes Back and Miami Vice: The Mobbed-Up, Money-Grubbing Moralist From Florida
Friday, June 17, 2005
As we all know, George W. Bush is the most morally upright individual ever to set foot in the White House: a sober, righteous man of God. Yet this very rectitude obscures the fact that he is also one of the great wits of our time, a subtle and sophisticated ironist who has turned the dull business of governance into a highly refined comedic art.
With Shavian brio, Bush sends up the bourgeois pretension that words have meanings and actions have consequences. His specialty is the ironic reversal – known by old-time vaudeville gagsters as the "Orwell Twist." For example, you take a man who, say, concocts justifications for torture, kidnapping and the exaltation of presidential authority beyond the reach of law – and you make him the chief law enforcement officer of the land! It might look easy – but try doing it with a straight face, the way Bush introduced his criminal accomplice Alberto Gonzales as the new Attorney General of the United States. It takes real talent to pull off that kind of deadpan.
Or how about this gem? You illegally steal hundreds of millions of dollars from the public treasury to secretly prepare for a war you've been planning for many years; you tell your closest ally months in advance that the invasion is on, come hell or high water; you unleash a massive bombing campaign against the target months before the war; you deceitfully manufacture and massage evidence to build a bogus case for launching an unprovoked act of aggression against an opponent who has already met all your demands – then you tell the world that you only wanted peace! Peace! What yocks, eh? Not even Groucho Marx could match such comic subversion.
The list – and the Twist – goes on and on: fostering a "culture of life" through capital punishment, gulag murders and "extrajudicial killings" by presidential fiat; spreading "compassionate conservatism" by gutting aid for the poor, the sick, the weak and the old; naming corporate polluters as environmental guardians; promoting "democracy" by coddling despots; "fighting terrorism" by spawning more terrorists – it's a comedy cornucopia in Washington these days!
But Bush's satiric masterpiece, equal to Annie Hall, The Philadelphia Story or even Herbie Goes Bananas, might well be his appointment of nuclear war advocates to oversee – wait for it – arms control! Ain't that a hoot? Looney-fringe types who oppose arms treaties, want to build more nukes – and use them "pre-emptively," even in "non-nuclear combat scenarios" – are put in charge of all the pacts and programs to control and eliminate nuclear weapons! Har har"! Thus "arms control" becomes "Armageddon" in the wacky inversions of Bush-speak. We haven't seen this kind of witty wordplay since the old "Arbeit Macht Frei" gag that the Bush Family's business partners pulled at Auschwitz back in the day.
But we said Bush was subtle: almost no one has noticed his June 1 appointment of Robert G. Joseph as the new undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs. Joseph takes the place of John Bolton, the warmongering blowhard and serial fabricator whom Bush has chosen to be America's walrus-moustachioed face to the world at the UN. (Yet another masterstroke of wit from the Maestro: Bolton is copiously on record as despising the UN.) Although Joseph is cut from grayer cloth (while still sporting plenty of nasal foliage – obviously a requirement for this baggy-pants role), he is probably even more dangerous than his tempestuous predecessor, as Tom Barry of the International Relations Center reports.
Joseph has been a key player in the "nuke 'em all and let God sort 'em out" school of international diplomacy since his early minioning days in the diseased bowels of the Reagan administration. He came into his own after the Crawford clownmaster seized power in 2000, serving as a "special assistant" to the president, in charge of destroying the ABM treaty, that 30-year bulwark against nuclear conflict. He was also instrumental in fashioning Bush's maniacal "Nuclear Posture Review," which calls for the production of "low-yield, precision-guided nuclear weapons" that can actually be used in combat, or in "pre-emptive" strikes at, well, basically anybody the president decides might pose a vague threat against "American interests" somewhere down the line.
But increasing the risk of global nuclear annihilation is not enough for jolly old Joseph; he also has a fondness for biological and chemical weapons. Along with nukes, they make up a Holy Trinity of WMD that "have substantial utility" in the "international environment," he writes. And he doesn't just want user-friendly WMD to be "a permanent feature" of life on earth; he's keen on militarizing the heavens as well – pre-emptively and unilaterally, natch. And it goes without saying that he opposes any attempts to place limits on American testing and deployment of mass-death weapons.
That's "arms control," Bush-style, for you: a perfect joke. Yet Joseph's merry pranks don't stop there; he was also responsible for pushing one of the many big lies – sorry, funny stories – in Bush's pre-invasion propaganda blitzkrieg: the pure hokum about Saddam's non-existent search for African uranium to fuel his non-existent nuclear program. As with so many others, Joseph's egregious intelligence "failure" has been rewarded with honors and promotion. Because of course it was no failure at all; it was a well-played pantomime, faithfully following the script of Bush's war-crimes comedy.
Lurking behind all this cynical katzenjammer is the grinning skull of the Bush death-cult: a mad but all-too-plausible dream of conquest, loot and unlimited dominion. For this dream, the cultists have already murdered countless thousands, and are gambling with the very life of the world itself. With these comedians, the joke is always on us.
Annotations for "Inside Joke" are here.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Palast for Conyers: The OTHER ' Memos' from Downing Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.
There is only one possible course of action for a decent society to take now: Impeach. Try. Convict. Incarcerate. All of them. The whole sick crew.
(No, we won't torture or execute them as they've had others tortured and killed. We're defending civilization, after all.)
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
NOTE: This is a column I first published in The Moscow Times on October 18, 2002 -- six months before the invasion of Iraq. I'm no prophet -- it didn't take much to see that Bush was goose-stepping into a quagmire. Still, it's eerie to note that so much of the hell we see in Iraq today was already discernible long before. Of course, we've not yet seen the use of nuclear "bunkerbusters" described here; then again, this piece of proleptic fiction is set in 2006.
The Base: Annals of Occupation
NSA Echelon 33, CentComm: Email monitored 10/22/2006. Dispatched DC.
Yo, Ed! I'm looking out the window of Watchtower 19 in Force Zone Seven. They're loading up the dead wagon. Three friendlies, two uncardeds, the usual collateral - and one bug. We zapped the market before the bug got his hard-on - another one of those Czech AK-47 knock-offs that our friendly neighborhood warlord keeps bringing in. He says he doesn't know how the bugs get hold of them - they drop down from heaven, I guess.
Last night Chrome and Dietrich got clipped by two bugged-up pseudo-friendlies outside the Halliburton whorehouse. They'd just finished three weeks on kyptonite duty, guarding the perimeter where those baby-nuke bunkerbusters went in. It's still space-suit city over there, your wang wired up to the piss-bag for ten hours while you watch the Pentagon geek squad calibrating the kill ratio and the Guantanamorons in their plastic chains, suitless and bootless, bagging up body parts.
Chrome was telling us how some bug hacker got into the helmet frequency one day and flooded their gourds with Donny Osmond songs. Four hours of it. What could you do? You couldn't take the helmet off or you'd over-geiger like the morons. Nearly drove them crazy. "And they call it puppy love." Chrome was crooning for us, laughing, riding high. He'd just bagged Laila, the one who used to be on TV here - half a week's pay, but they said get her now because some wheel at CentComm was about to privatize her. Then he stepped outside with Dietrich and was gone.
Four more guys got shipped out this week for going burqa. Bent their knee to the bug god. It's the damnedest thing. Officially, it's not happening and there's no punishment for it either. The Press Office gave us soundbite cards on it for media days: "Faith and freedom go together; each makes the other stronger. The Forces of Liberation welcome all faiths within our ranks." Non-denial denial. But everybody knows it's spreading like the clap, and they'll rotate you back to Homeland or Eurodisney the first time you step inside a mosque.
I guess I can understand it. I mean, personally, I don't see the point of trading one load of lies and fairy tales for another. But we're all wading through a cesspit here, you feel it on your skin all the time. You can't wash it off, you can't buy it off, you can't drink it away. For some guys, the bug-god bull looks new, pure. However hokey it is, it's not the same thing that led them into this stinking mire. So they snap, they turn - they shut off their brains and submit. Hell, isn't that what they teach us to do in basic training? But I feel sorry for the suckers. It's gonna go hard for them when they realize the bug god is just like all the others: one big rotting empty skull, staring down at you with those black holes, those no-eyes that see nothing and give back nothing.
I tried talking about it with Captain Davis the other night; he's about the only officer who doesn't strut around here like a Wal-Mart floor manager among the peons. I'd just come off night patrol in Deep-City Zone, hardcore bugland, backing up some Special Ops doing a Guantanamo run on terrorperp suspects. Banging down doors, barrel in the face of some shrieking bug-woman in her black bag, children scuttling in the dark like rats, the perp calling down an airstrike from Allah on our heads. You know the drill. You know the jangle. Not even the new meds can keep you blanked out completely.
So there's always the overstep somewhere. Woman's cheekbone cracking from a backhand, some kid stomped or booted out of the way. Some perp putting his hand in one of those damned dresses they wear, going for who knows what - Koran? Mosquito bite? Scimitar? Czech special? - and you open up. More shrieking, more screaming - and then the splatter on the wall.
Is this what we're here for? I said to Davis. These bulging eyeballs, these reeking guts, this splatter? And the deals, the grease: the trade in whores, the pipeline siphons, the warlord bribes, CentComm and DefSec and BigVeep cutting their buddies a slice of the pie? Mr. Homeland Headboy talks about Jesus and Jefferson all the time - is this what Jesus really wants us to do? Is this what Jefferson had in mind?
Davis shook his head. Don't go all Gandhi on us, Jim, he says. Ideals are fine, but you've got to make an accomodation with reality. You can't have civilization without power. Nothing will hold together if you can't back it up with force. That splatter - those guts - that dead girl in the ditch over there, with the flies and the dogs - that's what power is. That's the foundation, the base, of civilization. It ain't pretty, but I just have to believe that we're a special nation, and now that we hold this dreadful power, we'll use it wisely, so that one day we'll make those ideals real. I've got to believe that - because otherwise, Jim, it's just nothing but crap. Crap, chaos, murder and noise. And what the hell can you build on that?
So that's the answer then. We're special. Our grease is special. Our bunkerbusters are special. Our pissbags are special. Our splatter is the most special thing of all.
May No-Eyes have mercy on us all.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
We kill them, we starve them, we burn them out, we pen them up, we cheat them and betray them – and we keep on doing it, year after year, century after century. The endless war of America's European invaders against the continent's native peoples is one of the most savage and shameful episodes in world history. Not even the Mongol horde kept up such an unremitting assault on the lives and culture of those they conquered. And of course it's no surprise at all to find George W. Bush and his bagmen at the center of this latest ethnic-warfare outrage.
Reforming the Indonesian Military -- For 40 Years. An excerpt:
On May 25, President Bush stated that it makes sense for the United States to maintain close military ties with Indonesia, despite the objections of human rights activists...Bush made his remarks after meeting with the Indonesian president, who, Bush added, "told me he's in the process of reforming the military, and I believe him."
Indonesian officials saying they're going to reform the military is like officials in Nevada saying they're going to crack down on gambling. For 40 years the Indonesian military has engaged in mass murder and other atrocities, in Jakarta, East Timor, Aceh, Papua, and elsewhere, taking the lives of well over a million people, including several Americans in recent years....For 40 years, American officials have been saying that they have to continue training and arming Indonesia's military because the contact with the American military will have some kind of ennobling effect. For 40 years it has had no such effect at all. As Senator Tom Harkin (D.-Iowa) observed in 1999: "I have seen no evidence in my 24 years in Congress of one instance where because of American military involvement with another military that the Americans have stopped that foreign army from carrying out atrocities against their own people. No evidence, none."
Yet the pretense continues, for what else can an American official say? Something like this? -- "We don't care how brutal the Indonesian military is because they got rid of Sukarno and his irritating nationalism for us, and for 40 years they've been killing people we call communists, killing people we call terrorists, and protecting our oil, natural gas, mining, and other corporate interests against Indonesian protestors. Now if that's not freedom and democracy, I don't know what is."
An excerpt: Gideon is one of the "Lost Boys," a group of more than 400 teenagers — some as young as 13 — who authorities in Utah and Arizona say have fled or been driven out of the polygamous enclaves of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City over the last four years. His stated offenses: wearing short-sleeved shirts, listening to CDs and having a girlfriend. Other boys say they were booted out for going to movies, watching television and staying out past curfew. Some say they were sometimes given as little as two hours' notice before being driven to St. George or nearby Hurricane, Utah, and left like unwanted pets along the road.
Authorities say the teens aren't really being expelled for what they watch or wear, but rather to reduce competition for women in places where men can have dozens of wives...
Everything old is new again -- the press-gangs are back.
When Marine Recruiters Go Way Beyond the Call
Dark as a Dungeon
Bush does so have an exit strategery in Iraq -- it's called "civil war":
Pepe Escobar in The Asia Times.
Freedom's Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose
Bush and Putin do a tag-team to thwart investigation of the massacre by Bush's favorite dissident-boiling despot:
U.S. Opposed Calls at NATO to Block Probe of Uzbek Killings
Saturday, June 11, 2005
Below is "an Administration official" laying the groundwork for a potential armed "regime change" in Syria, using the assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri as one of the pretexts. Follow his argument, and see if, with some slight tweaking, it doesn't remind you powerfully of another act of nation-changing violence.
The Bushist minion was mouthing off to the Hard Right agit-prop funnel, The New York Sun. Prefacing his remarks by declaring that a secret UN report shows "very clearly" that Syria was behind the Hariri bump-off, the minion says: "Could we prove this in a criminal court? Not beyond a reasonable doubt. But there is no other plausible explanation. There were movements of individuals before the assassination who would have been known by Syrian intelligence, the preparations for the attack could not have escaped Syrian intelligence.".
Now substitute the phrase "September 11 terrorist attack" for the word "assassination," and replace "Syrian intelligence" with "American intelligence." Structured this way, the passage describes perfectly the reality of the September 11 attack. The movements of the terrorists before the assassination were known by American intelligence, and the preparations for the attack could not have escaped American intelligence. Does that mean that the Bush faction planned and carried out the September 11 attack? And if not, then how does this same logic "prove" that Syria assassinated Hariri?
I once had occasion to do a very extensive background investigation into Rafik Hariri – about a year before his death. And I have to say that the corporate media's post-murder portrait of the great selfless martyr for Lebanese liberty bore almost no resemblance to the real person I had encountered in my research – the crafty, ruthless, Saudi-citizen, pro-Syria player who had ridden the sea of blood and corruption that is modern Lebanese history to power and riches.
I'm no expert in Lebanese politics. (Consult the renowned humanist scholar As'ad AbuKhalil, the "Angry Arab," for the real low-down on Lebanon. Although I will note that – oddly and irrelevantly enough – I was actually born in Lebanon. Lebanon, Tennessee, that is.) Perhaps the Syrians did kill Hariri for some unknown reason, although the entirely predictable fall-out from such a deed – international outrage, an immediate presumption of Syrian guilt, and irrestible pressure to withdraw from Lebanon – makes it hard to see what their motive might have been. There are other plausible suspects – including the extremist Islamist group that openly claimed credit for the deed. But whatever the origins, the result has been a disaster for the policies and ambitions of Syria's leaders.
On the other hand, it is overwhelmingly obvious that whatever the origins of the September 11 attack, the result has been a resounding success for the policies and ambitions of the Bush Faction. Here, as always, the eternal question asserts itself: Cui bono? Who benefits? In the Hariri case, certainly not the Syrians. In 9/11, indisputably the Bushists.
Those White House minions need to be careful how they wield their "case-proving" logic; that knife can cut both ways.
[Apologies for the earlier glitches.]
The history of politics is the history of factions jostling for power, by methods seldom peaceful and rarely if ever honest. War is much the preferred means of obtaining and augmenting domination of the political landscape and the enrichment of the ruling faction.
In many times and places, this has meant (and still means) violent civil strife within the state itself. At other times, the political tool of war is directed outwards, at a demonized enemy that poses an "overwhelming threat" – almost always bogus or wildly exaggerated – to national existence. Without fail, the warmaking faction's political opponents are identified with the enemy, either as direct agents or more usually as unpatriotic abettors whose criticisms of the rulers give "aid and comfort" to the foe.
Blood is an excellent sealant for factional unity. Once lives have been taken in pursuit of the faction's interests (which are invariably dressed up in the rhetoric of moral purpose), it becomes much harder for faction members to question or quit the cause. To do so means confessing not just to error but to complicity in murder. Few are those who can face such a stark unmasking. Self-deception is vital coin in the economy of factional partisanship.
Some factions are more venal, more violent and more ambitious than others, of course. Many factions are content with a mere piece of the action, a cut of the spoils. Although occasionally they might win through to the top rank of power, they don't seek to eliminate all rivals and establish permanent rule. But history provides many examples of ruthless factions whose thirst for control are unlimited. They seek and will accept no less than a profound transformation of state and society into the image of the faction itself. They will use any method to achieve this goal, which holds ultimate worth in their eyes. They will begin with peaceful means but will not balk at bloodshed if required. And of course to impose a narrow partisan vision on an entire society always requires mass bloodletting in the end.
Such towering ambitions are by no means always unsucessful. This is one of the great unspeakable truths of history. In many different places and times, empires, caliphates, dynasties and other systems of factional dominion have been established through enormous evil – and then persisted in power and honor for centuries. In time, their domination comes to be seen as a fact of nature, the way things are: there is no other way to think, to operate, to exist, outside the parameters imposed by the ruling worldview.
Western civilization is founded upon this kind of enduring factional triumph. Octavian, the teenage adventurer adopted by his distant kinsman Julius Caesar, parlayed the chaos of partisan strife in Rome into supreme power, using corruption, deceit, betrayal, murder, civil war and foreign conquest. With a bloody singlemindedness and scope that would not be seen in Europe again until the 20th century, he subsumed the entire state into his faction, merging and equating the two, leaving nothing outside the new reality created by his success.
There was no ideological, moral or even genuine political content at the heart of his faction. Its only goal was power: Octavian's personal power, from which his adherents hoped to obtain offices, land, loot and prestige – or protection from the ravages of other factions. Only later, on the razed ground of total victory, was this remorseless, murderous game mythologized into a selfless crusade for national security, for order, liberty, prosperity, and, yes, for "family values." Only then, when the dead lay rotting in their hundreds of thousands, was the young man accorded the lofty title that carried him into history as a beacon of civilization and enlightenment: Augustus. The system he established so brutally was maintained – with equal brutality for all who opposed it – for more than 1,400 years.
It might seem absurd, at first, to compare this world-historical figure to the gang of apish, third-rate poltroons now camped out along the Potomac. But although the faction of Octavian contained a handful of remarkably able figures, for the most part it was a collection of schemers, time-servers, cynical money-men, stunted ideologues, bootlickers, propagandists and thugs. Through bribes, threats and the reflected glory of Caesar's name, Octavian was able to augment his tawdry crew with the fearsome military power of many legions. Armed might – and the willingness to use it without remorse or moral compunction – is always the decisive factor in politics.
The brutal system of torture, corruption, lawlessness and war established in Washington by the faction of President George W. Bush is now backed by the greatest military power in history, able to wipe whole nations from the face of the earth in minutes. With the illegal invasion of Iraq and the illegal imprisonment of thousands of people in its global gulag, this faction has shown its willingness to use military force without remorse or moral compunction in pursuit of its openly-stated totalitarian vision: "full spectrum dominance" over geopolitical affairs, coupled with a radical "transformation" of domestic government into a centralized, militarized "instrument of national power" that breaks down "the old, rigid divisions between war, peace, diplomacy, conflict and reconstruction," as Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld outlined in a speech last month. This "instrument" is designed not for the people's benefit but to provide "maximum flexibility" for the Commander-in-Chief -- whose powers are not subject to U.S. or international law, according to Bush's legal team.
Is such a faction, so steeped in blood and lies, so ravenous for domination, ever likely to resign its power voluntarily through free, unfixed elections? Or will it not seek to extend its rule, by any means necessary, into the years and centuries beyond?
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
What in the name of God's gaping wounds was the point of a "deal" that has allowed Bush to ram through his very worst judicial nominees one right after the other, rolling them out like ingots of pig iron? First the corporate hireling Priscilla Owen, now the raving crank Janice Brown, and next up, the knuckle-dragging errand boy William Pryor: Senate Confirms Another Bush Judicial Nominee (NYT). In the "victory" speeches after the "deal," the Democratic leadership claimed they had "saved" the filibuster for the Supreme Court fights ahead -- even though Bill Frist was proclaiming at the exact same moment that the "nuclear option" was "not off the table," and could be yanked out and dropped on the Democrats' heads whenever he (or rather, his master in the White House) takes a notion. (O Lord, the deep shame of all sentient Tennesseans that this unctuous little meat puppet represents us in the Senate!)
Listen: if Bush wants to appoint Lynndie England to the U.S. Supreme Court, he will do it, and Frist and the Republicans will kill the filibuster and vote her in, and there won't be a damn thing the Democrats can do about it -- except strike huffy poses for the cameras on their way to the corporate jet that's flying them to their next fundraiser.
Or else trot out one of their sad sacks of shinola like Joe Lieberman or Joe Biden to say, "We had some disagreements with the President's choice, but we're not obstructionists. It's time to move on in a spirit of bipartisanship. We wish Justice England all the best, and we're sure she'll be a credit to the bench. And we're looking forward to our next legislative challenge: the president's proposal to appoint his horse to the Senate. Although this innovative idea will certainly require some careful thought and thorough debate, I for one am pleased by Mr. Bush's generous gesture of allowing the Minority Leader to make the final determination of the new senator's unusual toilet arrangements. This is precisely the kind of consultation our Founding Fathers envisioned in the Constitution."
Or as the Emperor Tiberius once put it, after a session with the sycophantic jellyfish posing as Roman senators: "Men fit to be slaves."
"What if poverty in some of the worst affected areas of the globe is not simply the result of mismanagement, incompetence, corruption, and indifference? What if it's the result of deliberate economic engineering? A terrible thing to contemplate indeed, since no amount of public protest, like the impending Live 8 rally in Edinburgh, could possibly have an effect if the people responsible were not only devoid of shame for the plight of the poor, but were actually rather pleased with themselves at how effectively they block wealth creation in the countries of interest to their financial plans...
"....Bush is not remotely scared of our righteous ire. Bush's remit to those who put him in power - that's the multinationals and not the American people - is to keep the third world poor and his paymasters rich. Indeed, the reality is that all the G8 leaders' jobs are to keep their own people wealthy and make sure those big-eyed, fly-blown starving children don't grow up to compete with them on a level playing field and damage their economies.
"It's true that evil flourishes when the good do nothing, and for that reason alone Live 8 is an important event. But it's only the moral, the responsible and the altruistic that respond to civilised peaceful persuasion. Bush, contrary to Geldof's enthusiasm for him, not only falls very far outside those qualifications but is demonstrably one of the most thoroughly corrupt, greedy, dishonest, murderous, wicked and disgusting individuals ever to hang his hat in the White House.
"How pop stars singing and fresh- faced youngsters waving placards at such a creature can hope to affect his slimy, coal-black soul is anybody's guess...."
(From the Glasgow Sunday Herald, via Smirking Chimp.)
OK, let's recap: Bush rounds up innocent children, tortures and cages them for years. That's what the story is about. So what's the headline?
"Gitmo Teens Say Taliban Stole Youth."
That's right. Not a whiff, not a hint of criticism of our Dear Leader and his GULAG system. (What is it again? A GULAG! Can't hear you. GULAG! Say what? GULAG! But gosh, isn't that an "unfortunate exaggeration" or an "inapt turn of phrase," as so many furrowed-browed "progressives" are telling us? Er, no; it's a highly accurate and highly effective way to convey the moral horror of a system where people are "disappeared" without charges, tortured, beaten and killed. Say it loud and say it proud -- or rather, say it with a sense of overwhelming bitterness and shame that such a monstrosity would be constructed in our name: GULAG!)
Instead of alluding to these unpleasantries, the headline-writer plucks out the fact that these youths were press-ganged into the Taliban's service -- which of course only underscores their innocence, and heightens the horror of their treatment at Bush's hands. But anyone skimming the headlines would simply register it as one more story of Taliban dastardry, and probably move on without reading it. Or else read it through the prism provided by the headline: "God, weren't those Taliban so terrible! These poor boys, to suffer so at the hands of those devilish foreigners." And yes, of course, the Taliban were (and are) terrible, as are all extremist groups who seek to impose their vision on the world through violence and repression. But what the facts of this particular story tell us is that this terrible suffering was compounded, extended and magnified by the moral insanity of Bush's gulag system of violence and repression.
The reporter, Paisley Dodds, does a fine job. But someone at AP has undermined this important story – either wittingly or more likely unwittingly, in an unthinking regurgitation of "conventional wisdom" (Muslim swarthies bad; Dear Leader good), a reflexive flinching in the face of unpalatable truths.
AP: "The Justice Department has decided that most health care employees can't be prosecuted for stealing personal data under a privacy law intended to protect medical information. The ruling could jeopardize the lone conviction obtained under medical privacy rules that took effect in 2003 and could stop federal prosecutors from pursuing some of the more than 13,000 complaints that have been filed alleging violations of those rules."
Why are they doing this? Because some of their corporate paymasters told them to:
"'It looks like they decided on the outcome for political reasons, namely the health care industry's desire to get out under from criminal prosecution,' said Peter Swire, a law professor at Ohio State University...."
It will take a generation -- at the very least -- to clean out all the rot being spread through ever level of the federal government by the Bush faction. And that's assuming that this election-fixing den of thieves can ever be dislodged from power in the first place.
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Thus we have yet another perfect example of Crony Socialism, Bush style: the risks are socialized, the profits are privatized -- and the suckers get it in the neck.
Here's the story, from Public Citizen, via Buzzflash.
As the Guardian reports today, some firms in Britain have begun "electronically tagging" their workers, snapping tiny computers to their wrists, arms and fingers, or else outfitting them with computerized vests -- called "wearables" in the cutesy patios beloved by corporate PR. These sinister gizmos issue instructions to the workers on where to go, what to do -- and can also keep track of the serfs' movements, making sure they're not taking any "unauthorized breaks" or doing anything the machines don't want them to do.
At least 10,000 workers are already wired up to these electronic taskmasters, mostly in the warehouses that supply major supermarkets, department stores and discount barns. But never fear: the Holy Heartland Homeland is not far behind the Brits with these thrilling innovation in techno-whipcrackery, says the Guardian:
"Other monitoring devices are being developed in the US, including ones that can check on the productivity of secretaries by measuring the number of key strokes on their word processors; satellite technology is also being developed to monitor productivity in manufacturing jobs. Two London firms are considering using satellites to direct sandwich board holders, making sure they are not shirking and moving them to areas with more people."
And right on cue, the bosses claim that, hey, the little drones love this stuff! They just can't enough of that hands-on, all-body supervision. The Guardian:
"One firm, Peacock Retail Group, claims workers like the system. The company, which has a modern centre in Nantgarw, south Wales, where employees have 28 wearable computers and six mounted on trucks, says the system has a positive impact on team morale. "Everybody likes the wearables because they are comfortable and easy to use. The result is the team finds it easier to do the job," it says on the company website."
Just think what fun Guantanamo George and his corporate oligarchs will have with these toys! All in the name of "national security" and "customer service" of course. Gosh, it's a good thing they've spent 25 years systematically destroying the unions, dismantling worker protections, and debunking the very idea of human rights and human dignity for all those suckers out there without trust funds, tax shelters or capital gains income! That way they can impose all this neat-o gear on the hired help without any of that bleeding-heart boo-hoo-hoo. Brave new world, here we come!
The curtain goes up on the grim comedy:
Invisible Republic: America's Owners Cash in Their Chips (December 2000)
How our statesmen went to war:
Ground Zero: The Anatomy of an Honest Mistake (January 2004)
It didn't start with Abu Ghraib:
The Pentagon Archipelago: Trapped in a Net of State Terror (March 2004)
Goodness hides behind its gates:
Unnatural Acts: No Place for Mercy in Bush's Babylon (April 2004)
Past Imperfect I
Past Imperfect II
Past Imperfect III
Past Imperfect IV
Past Imperfect V
Monday, June 06, 2005
I covered this firing -- and the real reasons for it -- in a Moscow Times column on April 26, 2002. (See Pack Men: Bush Thugs Go Global.) It's good to see that the corporate media have finally got a whiff of the story -- which was hardly a secret at the time. I took all the relevant facts from a story in The Guardian (a publication not unknown to American reporters, I believe) and drew the obvious conclusions based on all the other known facts in the public realm at that time about the Bush-lust for Iraq.
It's true that the name of John Bolton didn't come up in the original stories. That's because he was -- and is -- just a waterboy, a minion, a blustering nobody sent hither and yon to do the bidding of the Bush Faction's masters. What's important is the actual policy this scuttling blowhard carried out on behalf of the White House. That was the real story -- but the mainstream media didn't care anything about it when it might have meant something, when revealing it might have helped derail the ruthless push toward a war of aggression.
But now they're interested! Now that it can be slotted into the meaningless, personality-driven "horse-race" template they love so well -- "Who's ahead? Who's behind? Who's 'winning' on this issue, the GOP or the Dems? Does this help Harry Reid or Bill Frist?" -- they've condescended to notice this perversion of American diplomacy.
Better late than never? No. As with so much else surround this godforsaken, misbegotten war crime, being late with news that you could have easily reported before the invasion is tantamount to complicity in Bush's mass murder.
Aleksander Solzhenitsyn's TV interview garnered a few headlines in the Western press, which focused entirely on the writer's stringing critique of Putin's regime: "If they are going to take away our democracy, they can take away only what we have. But if we have nothing, then nothing can be taken away. We have already taken everything from the people...We have nothing that resembles democracy," Solzhenitsyn said, in AP's brief story.
He then went on to outline concrete steps that could be taken to build up genuinely democratic civic structures that would give ordinary people a true voice in ordering the affairs of state. Naturally, none of this was picked up by the Western media, which confined their coverage to a few moments of Putin-bashing -- artfully arranged with the usual ellipses to boil down a comprehensive argument into a few soundbites reflecting whatever might be the prevailing "conventional wisdom" of the day.
(That CW used to be: Putin good, we like him. Now it's: Putin bad, we don't like him. Of course, Putin today is what he's always been: a grim, remorseless apparatchik pushing his vision of an authoritarian state with capitalist elements, a well-muzzled opposition and a reliance on the unchecked power of the "security organs" to maintain order. No doubt this is what Bush saw -- and loved -- when he famously looked into Putin's soul and gushingly embraced him as a "good man" in one of their early meetings. Nowadays, Putin's recalcitrance about Iraq and his prosecution of a rich oil man has put a crimp in the Crawford coziness -- hence the change in tone by those supreme air-sniffers in the corporate media. But there is absolutely no difference in Putin's philosophy, approach and policies from the time he first took office to today.)
Also left out of Western coverage of Solzhenitsyn's talk was his equally stinging critique of American foreign policy -- a bipartisan blast aimed at both Bush and Clinton, as ITAR-TASS reports. For good or ill (or rather, for good and ill), Solzhenitsyn is a man of moral absolutes: not for him the dainty parsing that somehow differentiates the undeclared, unsanctioned-by-the-UN air war against Serbia from the undeclared, unsanctioned-by-the-UN invasion of Iraq. In neither case was the voice of the people heard through their elected representatives taking a formal vote on the declaration of war. “A stupid project of compelling democracy throughout the world originated in the United States more than a decade ago, and they started bombing Yugoslavia and Iraq," Solzhenitsyn said. "Who is next? The United States must realize that one cannot compel or enforce democracy.”
Solzhenitsyn fought in the front lines of the most vicious war in history. He survived a long sojourn in one of the most brutal prison systems in history. He faced down the leaders of one of the most powerful and repressive governments in history. You don't have to agree with all, or any, of his particular viewpoints on life and politics (and I disagree with quite a few) to recognize his moral authority to speak of war, repression and democracy. It's a shame to see this powerful voice traduced and submerged in the witless blather that passes for political discourse in America today.
(*Many apologies for the misspelled name in the title, which was glaring out at the world for a week before I noticed. *)
Friday, June 03, 2005
Papers, Please: I Smell the Long-Forgotten Rot of Fascism.
The Real Lessons of Watergate
Thursday, June 02, 2005
Last month, we reported here about Jeb Bush's courtroom efforts to crush the life of an abused, poverty-stricken six-year-old girl in his gubernatorial satrapy of Florida. Later, against all odds, a jury of ordinary citizens thwarted the dynast's brutal will. But as befits a scion of the ruling family, Bush is now brushing aside this interference from the rabble and pressing ahead with his plans to strip the little girl of all public assistance.
Bush's minions went to court earlier this year in a bid to cut off medical aid to Marissa Amora, who, at the age of 2, had been abandoned by Jeb's "Department of Children and Families" despite overwhelming evidence of horrific past abuse – and the imminent danger of more to come. More came: within weeks she was beaten almost to death – and then Jeb's agents tried to stop her medical treatment and let her die. She survived their malign intervention and is now thriving with a new family – but still suffers from permanent, catastrophic damage caused by the entirely predictable beating she received after the DCF cast her aside.
But late last month, the jury in the case issued a stern rebuke to these perverted Bush Family values: they awarded Marissa $35 million in damages for institutional neglect and for her future medical care, with the DCF ordered to pay the bulk of the costs. So, a happy ending, right?
Don't be silly: we're dealing with the Bush-Walker gang here. And for almost 100 years, from their ammo-dealing days in World War I to their heavy investments in Nazi Germany to their profitable hook-ups with Arab oil tyrants to their back-door buttressing of Saddam Hussein to their present-day bonanza of blood money gushing from the slaughter in Iraq, this clan of wing-tipped thugs has always built its fortune on the backs – and the bones – of the poor. And no self-respecting Bush clansman would ever let some uppity little black girl and her foster mother make him look bad, no matter how egregious his failures.
Jeb had three choices after the verdict. He could have simply accepted responsibility for his agency's horrible neglect and paid the full amount. Or he could have accepted responsibility but asked that the large award be reduced, as often happens in such cases, which would still leave Marissa with enough money to afford the extensive and costly health care she will need for the rest of her life. The first course would have been just and honorable; the second, pragmatic yet not inherently cruel. But honor, justice and responsibility have no place in the Bush clan's ruthless operations. So Jeb picked the third choice, the "nuclear option": he has asked an appeals court to throw out the entire award – even the damages levied against other, non-state parties in the case – leaving Marissa with absolutely nothing, the Palm Beach Post reports.
Filing for dismissal, Bush's lawyers blasted the jury for being too stupid to process the complex documentation of the case and acting instead on "prejudice and sympathy." While any "prejudice" in the case would seem to lie with the lily-white governor's attempt to grind a black child under his heel, it's true that the jury probably did have some measure of sympathy for a six-year-old girl who will have to be kept alive through a feeding tube for the rest of her days because Bush's bureaucrats failed to protect her from well-documented abuse. But sympathy is for "girlie-men" in the demented moral universe of the Bushist faction. Or as one of the Bush Family's old business partners once said, just before he launched an unprovoked war of aggression against Poland based on lies, propaganda and manipulated intelligence about a bogus threat to the nation: "Close your hearts to pity. The stronger man is right. Be steeled against all signs of compassion." Power is everything; people are nothing; the weakest go to the wall: that's the Kennebunkport Code.
But of course you have to dress up your blood-and-iron philosophy with the prevailing pieties of the day if you want to snow the hoi polloi and weasel your way into power. And Jeb is one of the great whited sepulchres of our time, a master of the hypocritical arts, ever eager to hog the nearest camera and blubber teary platitudes about the "culture of life" – even as he feverishly signs death warrants in an apparent bid to surpass his older brother's record as the most bloodthirsty executioner in modern American history. If Marissa were, say, a nice white woman in a vegetative state whose case had been taken up by powerful financial and political interests then ballyhooed into a national media carnival, then doubtless Jeb would even now be dabbing his eyes as he knelt for a photo-op at her bedside.
But because Marissa is "nobody" – one of the poor, the powerless, the "insulted and injured," in Dostoevsky's phrase – she can be flushed down the toilet and no one will notice. For the aim of Bush's legal maneuvering is clear: he wants to "run out the clock" on Marissa, litigating the case quite literally to death, until her family sinks beneath the overwhelming financial and physical burden of keeping her alive and at some point her makeshift, overstrained support system suffers the inevitable breakdown.
It's a despicable strategy, a wicked strategy, but entirely in keeping with the Ruling Family's ethos, which has given the world a terror-spawning quagmire of murder and atrocity in Iraq – 10,000 Marissa Amoras, dead, mangled, orphaned, abandoned, abused, forgotten. And for what? For power. For money. For the Code.