Saturday, October 02, 2004

A strident minority: anti-Bush US troops in Iraq

Though military personnel lean conservative, some vocally support Kerry - or at least a strategy for swift withdrawal.

| Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

Inside dusty, barricaded camps around Iraq, groups of American troops in between missions are gathering around screens to view an unlikely choice from the US box office: "Fahrenheit 9-11," Michael Moore's controversial documentary attacking the commander-in-chief.

"Everyone's watching it," says a Marine corporal at an outpost in Ramadi that is mortared by insurgents daily. "It's shaping a lot of people's image of Bush."

The film's prevalence is one sign of a discernible countercurrent among US troops in Iraq - those who blame President Bush for entangling them in what they see as a misguided war. Conventional wisdom holds that the troops are staunchly pro-Bush, and many are. But bitterness over long, dangerous deployments is producing, at a minimum, pockets of support for Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry, in part because he's seen as likely to withdraw American forces from Iraq more quickly.

"[For] 9 out of 10 of the people I talk to, it wouldn't matter who ran against Bush - they'd vote for them," said a US soldier in the southern city of Najaf, seeking out a reporter to make his views known. "People are so fed up with Iraq, and fed up with Bush."

Full Story

Bush: Friend of the Iraqi Citizen

BUSH: "And I'm optimistic. See, I think you can be realistic and optimistic at the same time. I'm optimistic we'll achieve -- I know we won't achieve if we send mixed signals. I know we're not going to achieve our objective if we send mixed signals to our troops, our friends, the Iraqi citizens."

Al-Jazeera pictures of the daily US Bombings of residential areas in Falluja.

All the deaths so far this week have been civilians.
Seven died on Friday including women and children. Thirteen were injured.
Four died on Thursday including a mother and two children. Six were injured.
Four died on Tuesday and ten were injured.
Fifteen died last Saturday and twenty five were injured.

Ninety died on Friday and a hundred and eighty were injured by US tank and bombing raids on Samarra.

Last Monday five were killed and forty six were injured including fifteen women and nine children in US Bombing raids on the Baghdad suburb of Sadr City.

The Persecution of the Bigleys

Whilst hostage Kenneth Bigley and his family plead with Tony Blair to intercede with his captors , Mr Bigley's brother had his home raided by police:

Armed intelligence officers yesterday raided the Amsterdam home of Paul Bigley, the brother of British hostage Ken Bigley, in the hunt for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of the Arab terrorist group which is believed to be holding him.

An intelligence officer from the Foreign Office is alleged to have accompanied the Dutch intelligence officers during the raid. They seized Mr Bigley's computer and interrogated him about his alleged contacts with the Tawhid and Jihad group, which yesterday claimed responsibility for the Baghdad car bombings that claimed the lives of at least 35 children.

Material from Mr Bigley's computer hard-disk was downloaded and sent back for analysis in Britain and he was also forced to make a five-page statement.

AAP reported that:

It later transpired that the officials were simply police family liaison officers.

It is understood they may have looked at emails Bigley said he had received from around the world to see if there was anything that could help in the ongoing efforts to secure his brother's release.

Apparently the officers demands for Mr Bigley's computer data and that he made a 5 page statement about his activities didn't do much to persuade him that they were on his side.

AAP goes on to say:

"No British official of any kind has raided Paul Bigley's home," a Foreign Office spokeswoman stressed.
They do not point out the contradictions between these two statements, nor do they source the information that the officials were simply police liaison officers.

Reuters is even more specific:

Paul Bigley, brother of hostage Kenneth Bigley, said the raid happened two days ago but a spokeswoman for the London Foreign Office said neither British nor Dutch officials had carried out such a raid.

"There was no raid," she said. "No British officials of any kind have raided Paul Bigley's home."

Perhaps Mr Bigley is the first to evince the symptoms of a new syndrome in which vocal critics of Blair start hallucinating policemen.

Meanwhile Tony Blair has been undergoing a heart procedure. Doctors have yet to say whether or not they found one.

Surprise, surprise

In the wake of Bush's embarrassing debate performance comes a 'new al-Qaeda tape'... but of course that's just a coincidence...

'New al-Qaeda' tapes and terror alerts have such a strong correlation with dips in Bush's popularity that (as an Aussie radio show recently suggested) the colour coding of the alerts should probably be based on the colour of Bush's underpants.

Fox gets caught lying

Its one thing to know that 'Fox journalism' is a Foxymoron, another to actually catch them in the act of blatantly making up Kerry quotes as blogger Josh Marshall did yesterday.

Following Bush's incompetent attempt to debate, Fox seems to have found themselves short of anything they could even twist into a pro-Bush story so Fox's so-called "Chief Political Correspondent" Carl Cameron decided to put a few words into Kerry's mouth:

"Women should like me! I do manicures."

"Didn't my nails and cuticles look great? What a good debate!"

"I'm metrosexual — [Bush's] a cowboy."

Marshall phoned Fox and the article was abruptly pulled from their site. It was subsequently reposted minus the fictional quotes. A Fox spokesman told him:

“Carl [Cameron] made a stupid mistake which he regrets. And he has been reprimanded for his lapse in judgment. It was a poor attempt at humor.”

Here is a screen shot of the original Fox page courtesy of Skippy, so you can judge for yourself whether the fictional comments are presented as the lie they are.

Read a blow by blow account at Josh Marshall's blog Talking Points Memo.

Rove Gets Feedback

Courtesy of Needlenose who got it from The New Republic:

The first inkling that the Bushies know their man didn't do so well comes minutes after the debate ends when Karl Rove walks into the press filing center. Like a game of telephone, the conventional wisdom that Kerry won the debate is already seeping out across the sea of journalists in the room.

Into this skeptical ether, Rove tries out a line: "It was one of the president's better debate performances and one of Kerry's worst." Vince Morris of The New York Post stares at Rove and asks, "Can you say that with a straight face?"

The Verdict on the Bush Kerry Debate

Hurdles Remain for American Voters Who Live Overseas

The latest in the long litany of Republican attempts to rig the vote. We can attest to the difficulty of voting from abroad: having repeatedly been referred by the US consulate in Sydney to the Federal Voting Assistance Program Website, Jon had been unable to ever access it. It was revealed earlier this week that the Pentagon has been deliberately blocking the site in over 25 countries.

The Pentagon has been unable to keep its story straight: Initially it claimed the site was blocked because of concerns about hacking, it now claims the blockade was 'inadvertent'.

As the New York Times reports (below), the Pentagon has set up a voting assistance site for miltary personnel only. Apparently the Bush regime are assuming that they have the military vote. With one third of military reservists failing to show up for duty this is by no means certain.

New York Times

Four years after overseas voting became a battleground in the presidential election in Florida, millions of civilians and soldiers living abroad still face a bewildering and unwieldy system of absentee balloting that could prevent their votes from being counted.

Election officials concede that tens of thousands of Americans overseas might not get ballots in time to cast votes. Late primaries and legal wrangling caused election offices in at least 8 of the 15 swing states to fail to mail absentee ballots by Sept. 19, a cutoff date officials say is necessary to ensure that they can be returned on time, a survey by The New York Times shows. In Florida in 2000, late-arriving ballots became a divisive issue when some were counted and others were disqualified.

The tardy ballots are just one of several setbacks or missteps that have affected the ability of the estimated 4.4 million eligible voters overseas to participate in the presidential election. Some have been unable to send their registrations to a Pentagon contractor's computers, which are clogged by thousands of voter forms. Others were denied access to a Web site designed to help Americans abroad vote. And many voters simply have had trouble navigating the rules and methods that determine how and when to register and vote and that vary by state.

"I found it so convoluted I gave up," says Alex Campos, a management consultant in London who repeatedly tried to register using the Pentagon program, without success.

To help speed the balloting process, federal officials activated a new system last week in which voters can obtain absentee ballots instantly through the Internet. But the Web site,, will be offered only to members of the military and their families, quickly raising concerns about fairness in a program that the Pentagon has been directed to run for civilians as well.

Full Story

You Can't Bomb Beliefs

An excellent article by Naomi Klein at The Nation.

...Muqtada al-Sadr's calls for press freedom may not include the freedom of women journalists to cover him. Yet he still deserves to have his right to publish a political newspaper--not because he believes in freedom but because we supposedly do. Similarly, Sadr's calls for fair elections and an end to occupation demand our unequivocal support--not because we are blind to the threat he would pose if he were actually elected but because believing in self-determination means admitting that the outcome of democracy is not ours to control.

These kinds of nuanced distinctions are commonly made in Iraq: Many people I met in Baghdad strongly condemned the attacks on Sadr as evidence that Washington never intended to bring democracy to their country. They backed the cleric's calls for an end to occupation and for immediate open elections. But when asked if they would vote for him in those elections, most laughed at the prospect.

Full Story

US.Misstates Own Job Creation Figures in Iraq

Published on Friday, October 1, 2004 by Reuters
via Common Dreams

By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration has overstated U.S.-funded job figures in Iraq due to what the government said was an accounting error, but critics say may be a bid to paint a rosier picture on the ground.

Increased employment in Iraq is seen as a measure of progress as the country moves toward January elections.

State Department figures released on Sept. 22 show the U.S. government overstated by more than 30,000 the number of Iraqis working on projects funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, one of Washington's biggest employers in Iraq.

The Iraq Weekly Status report said 45,844 Iraqis were employed in projects funded by USAID, according to Sept. 15 data, compared with 88,436 recorded in the previous week's report, amounting to a 48.2 percent decrease. The 88,436 figure was later adjusted to 55,463 jobs.

"(This) decrease in (USAID) employment numbers reflects correction of a previous accounting error," said a small-type footnote at the bottom of the unclassified Sept. 22 document.

Asked to explain the error, USAID spokesman Jose Fuentes said he was looking into it.

Full Story

'Tortured' Guantánamo Briton could face serious mental health problems

Read the letter (pdf)

The Guardian

George Wright
Friday October 1, 2004

The torture, death threats and long-term solitary confinement that Moazzam Begg describes in his letter could result in serious mental health problems, according to British medical experts who today called for immediate, unfettered access to the detainee.

Mr Begg says he has been held in a small cell, under constant surveillance and repeated interrogation, for almost 600 days, since Feb 13 2003

Full Story

Friday, October 01, 2004

The Global Warming Olympics

Sometimes Australian sports analogies go a little too far for me.

Today Australia's Environment Minister Ian Campbell defended his party's refusal to sign the Kyoto Treaty, framing it in terms of sporting metaphors:

"A Howard government would not bow to pressure to sign the Kyoto Protocol because it was already on the dais for a medal-winning performance in greenhouse gas reduction...

Senator Campbell said the United Nations-sponsored Kyoto Protocol was a flawed document that would discourage leading greenhouse performers like Australia to export energy to developing countries."

Leading greenhouse performers?? Australia remains the single biggest per capita emittor of greenhouse gases in the world bar none. As the driest continent on earth it will also be one of the first countries to suffer the consequences of global warming.

"All serious greenhouse players around the world, including China, look to Australia as the leader in terms of application of greenhouse policy," Senator Campbell said.

"I get very angry when you see Australians putting down Australian's efforts when in fact we're on the international dais, either gold, silver or bronze, in relation to performance on climate change."
The Howard government is hoping its refusal to sign the treaty will give them energy trading advantages over more environmentally responsible countries. If Campbell wants a sporting analogy here's one: In the Energy Olympics Australia would be the player disqualified for being on steroids.

Uranium Mine Poisons it's Workers

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that:

Northern Territory Government regulators had threatened to shut the Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu National Park one month before workers drank water contaminated with uranium, a just-released report reveals.

The mine had a backlog of six months' maintenance work and regulators had become so frustrated with lack of safety and other problems they issued the warning to its operator, Energy Resources Australia Limited in February, the report says.

The report by the Northern Territory Department of Business, Industry and Resource Development into a leak at the mine on March 23 also reveals that 149 workers were exposed to water contaminated with levels of uranium 400 times greater than the maximum Australian safety standard.

Full Story

There have been 120 safety breaches since the mine opened thirteen years ago. Doctors have been unable to tell the workers what the health consequences will be "because nobody had ever before drunk so much uranium."

I think they could make an educated guess.

America's Lost Respect

Paul Krugman
in the New York Times:

"As a result of the American military," President Bush declared last week, "the Taliban is no longer in existence."

It's unclear whether Mr. Bush misspoke, or whether he really is that clueless. But his claim was in keeping with his re-election strategy, demonstrated once again in last night's debate: a president who has done immense damage to America's position in the world hopes to brazen it out by claiming that failure is success..."

Full article

Irony of the day: Bush raises questions about accountability

Note the freudian slip highlighted in red:

BUSH: I wouldn't join the International Criminal Court. It's a body based in The Hague where unaccountable judges and prosecutors can pull our troops or diplomats up for trial.

And I wouldn't join it. And I understand that in certain capitals around the world that that wasn't a popular move. But it's the right move not to join a foreign court that could -- where our people could be prosecuted.

My opponent is for joining the International Criminal Court. I just think trying to be popular, kind of, in the global sense, if it's not in our best interest makes no sense. I'm interested in working with our nations and do a lot of it. But I'm not going to make decisions that I think are wrong for America...

...I'll never turn over America's national security needs to leaders of other countries, as we continue to build those alliances.

Does this 'we are not accountable to foreigners' style of foreign policy remind you of anyone?

The National Socialist Movement... refuses to allow the members of a foreign race to wield an influence over our political, intellectual, or cultural life.

...Mr. Eden believes that in the future all States should possess only the armament which is necessary for their defence. I do not know whether and how far Mr. Eden has sounded Moscow on the question of carrying that excellent idea into effect, and I do not know what assurances they have given from that quarter. I think however that I ought to put forward one point in this connection. It is quite clear that the measure of a country's defensive armament should be in proportion to the dangers which threaten that country. Each nation has the right to judge this for itself, and it alone has the right. If therefore Great Britain today decides for herself on the extent of her armaments everybody in Germany will understand her action; for we can only think of London alone as being competent to decide on what is necessary for the protection of the British Empire. On the other hand I should like to insist that the estimate of our protective needs, and thus of the armament that is necessary for the defence of our people, is within our own competency and can be decided only in Berlin.
Hitler's speech to the Reichstag 1937

Write your own Bush Speech

Write out multiple copies of the following words and phrases, cut them out, put them in a bag then pull them out at random William Burroughs style and you can make your own Bush speech:

Spread liberty
Never waver
Ideology of hatred
Free Nations
Spread freedom
Fighting freedom
Core Values
Power of Liberty
Hard Work
Mexed Missages


Bush: I work with Director [Robert] Mueller of the FBI; comes in my office when I'm in Washington every morning, talking about how to protect us. There's a lot of really good people working hard to do so.

The problem being that Bush hasn't spent a full day in Washington since August 2nd

Disappointed Guardian Reader

A reader opines on the Guardian's disturbingly uncritical reaction to Blair's speech:

So Tony Blair's speech was "low-key, conversational and reasoned" (Leader, September 29). And his "apology" on Iraq was a "rightly well-received milestone in his fragile rehabilitation with his critics".

No matter that he abused the intelligence on WMD, overrode security warnings about unleashing more terrorist attacks, and deceived the country over the"threat" posed by Iraq. No matter that he then launched an illegal and immoral invasion that has led to tens of thousands of deaths, a further destabilised Middle East, a weakened UN, and increased the threat to Britons everywhere.

Even a kindly, if myopic, critic might conclude that Blair's political judgment on Iraq and in supporting Bush was sufficiently bad to demand his resignation. A more dispassionate critic might well go further: that Blair ought to be tried for war crimes. As for the Guardian? Well, clearly, you'd rather remain part of some agreement between reasonable gentlemen of the establishment. Future historians will note your dishonourable role in propping up Blair.
Dr David Cromwell

Bush Boob

LEHRER: New question, Mr. President. Two minutes.

What about Senator Kerry's point, the comparison he drew between the priorities of going after Osama bin Laden and going after Saddam Hussein?

BUSH: Jim, we've got the capability of doing both.

As a matter of fact, this is a global effort.

We're facing a group of folks who have such hatred in their heart, they'll strike anywhere, with any means.

And that's why it's essential that we have strong alliances, and we do.

That's why it's essential that we make sure that we keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of people like al Qaeda, which we are.

But to say that there's only one focus on the war on terror doesn't really understand the nature of the war on terror.

Of course we're after Saddam Hussein -- I mean bin Laden.

You Call This a Democracy?

Davis Sirota at In These Times:

There is nothing quite as hypocritical as a politician preaching the virtues of democracy while doing everything he can to destroy it. But as Election Day approaches, that is exactly what is happening.

President Bush is traveling the country bragging about supposedly bringing democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan while waging a stealth campaign far different from his rhetoric here at home. Unwilling to wage a fight within legal bounds and undeterred by the odious stench of the 2000 debacle, the president has deployed his operatives to rig the outcome on November 2.

Before you call this conspiracy theory, read on

The Rise of the Christian Right in Australia

Australian Policy Online discusses how and why John Howard is following in Bush's footsteps by pandering to the Christian right.

The increasing political sophistication of the Christian right has seen them shy away from overtly Christian language in favour of more neutral terminology. The Howard administration has adopted this tactic, speaking (ad nauseam) about 'family values' - on the eve of the last Australian budget Costello managed to say 'family values' 14 times in a two minute-ish interview (I was counting).

"Downplaying Christian affiliation has become a tried and true strategy of American conservative evangelical organizations such as Focus on the Family, the Christian Coalition and the Heritage Foundation. During the 1990s, all of those robustly religious organizations began coaching their local leaders and campaign workers to avoid speaking what some strategists called ‘Christianese’ – the kind of overtly religious language, sprinkled with Biblical allusions and evangelical code-words (‘born again’, ‘sin’, ‘salvation’) likely to alienate secular voters. Instead, candidates and recruiters learnt to emphasise terms like ‘family’, ‘common sense’ and ‘decent’.

The result was significant election successes. The 1994 congressional elections, which delivered Republican majorities in both houses for the first time in forty years, enabling the conservative Contract with America, is a case in point. In many cases, voters often only discovered afterwards that the candidates they had supported in fact stood on explicitly religious policy ground. No one was more frank about the technique than early 1990s Christian Coalition executive Ralph Reed: ‘I do guerrilla warfare. I paint my face and travel at night. You don’t know it’s over until you’re in a body bag. You don’t know till election night.’

The appeal of ambiguously Christian rhetoric is not limited to minor parties. On the contrary, it has been central to the Howard government’s shift of the Liberal Party to the socially conservative right. The most prominent example is the Lyons Forum, the recently reconvened ‘family policy’ pressure group whose spokespeople typically deny it is a Christian organisation, while affirming that its members share Christian principles. Its track record includes increasing censorship, the reshaping of tax and family benefits to favour single-income families with a stay-at-home mother (first articulated in the Forum’s 1995 submission to the party executive on tax) and the Sex Discrimination Amendment Bill 2000 (first mooted by the Lyons Forum in 1997)."

In the face of prevailing social trends, recent Howard policies are geared towards people living the 1950's-esque model of the nuclear family, with a stay-at-home mother, working father and obligatory (preferably white - 86 refugee children are still locked up in detention camps) children. Substantial bribes are offered to women for having babies; a $3,000 lump sum.

At the same time Howard is actively undermining the rights of single mothers and gay mothers, framing his policy in terms of 'Children's rights':

"John Howard announced on August 2 that the federal government would move to allow states to outlaw single women's and lesbians' access to in vitro fertilisation (IVF), he was at great pains to emphasise that this was neither discrimination nor an attack on women's right to reproductive choice. Rather, he claimed, it was an assertion of “the fundamental right of a child within our society to have a reasonable expectation ... of the care and affection of both a mother and a father”...

...At the top of Howard's target list are sole mothers. The government's punitive approach to women with dependent children who leave their marriage has become very clear. Over the last 18 months it has undermined the Family Court, encouraged the questioning of no-fault divorce, reduced maintenance payments, cut funding to legal aid, lowered the children's age cut-off point for the sole parent pension, eroded after-school and vacation child-care services, and, just last week, decided to inflict “mutual obligation” conditions on all recipients of sole parent payments."

APO notes:
"Far from random or accidental, these implicit appeals to religious conservatism follow a well-documented American strategy. The most recent instance came when Liberal candidate for Canning Don Randall welcomed Howard to Perth’s Christian Life Centre on 15 September 2004, saying that the country needed a Christian leader, and that Latham, as ‘an atheist or agnostic or whatever he calls himself these days,’ would feel less welcome there.

Howard’s ostensible hosing-down – ‘although I come from a Christian tradition myself, I respect fully the secular nature of our society’ – could have been copied straight from the US religious Right textbook. It falls into a category of techniques which enable political leaders to send different messages to different constituencies at the same time. One observer of Christian Right strategy, Cynthia Burack, sums up: Christian Right leaders, she says, ‘practice small duplicities – such as apologies – in order to be misunderstood by the major population.’

Why would a leader want to be misunderstood? So that the secular majority can reassure themselves that nothing extreme was meant, while the most conservative hearers pay attention to the original message rather than the retraction. Consequently, leaders are able to appear simultaneously moderate and extreme, each kind of message reaching the audience most receptive to it. At the Canning launch, those who needed to be placated could accept the retraction. The conservative Bible-belt target audience, however, could go on believing Randall’s view, rationalising the prime minister’s distancing gesture as a necessary compromise for the sake of the ‘politically correct’ secular ‘elite’. "

America's foes prepare for a monetary jihad

The New Statesman argues that American economic dominance may be about to be sabotaged.

An Extract:

...There has never been a shortage of people willing to lend to the US; after all, as the richest nation on earth, it has to be good for the money, doesn't it? Even when investors have become nervous about its profligacy, there has been plenty of credit because the US economy is a crucial market for the world's producers. In living memory, the United States has been the sole engine powering the world economy: there has been no alternative to continually injecting it with fuel.

But the US has a stick to add to the carrot: since the end of the Second World War, it has had the unique privilege of "owning" the world's reserve currency - the notes and coins used for trade and investment more than any other currency for 60 years. This confers unimaginable advantages. America is able to ignore the discipline of having to balance its books because, if it runs out of money and can't find anyone to bail it out, it can simply print dollars, inflating away the value of its debt and destroying the value of the assets held by its creditors. In other words, it can threaten financial blackmail.

In the 1970s, European and Asian governments started complaining about lending America the money to finance the Vietnam war; the US simply responded by engineering a catastrophic fall in the dollar, which erased its deficit over time but also crucified the economies of its trading partners in the process. Now, with the deficit soaring again to finance foreign wars, the US is repeating the trick. It has encouraged the dollar to fall; exporters to the US such as China and Japan have had no choice but to try to arrest that decline to protect their trade. How? By buying dollars, which they invest in US treasury bonds, thus financing the deficit. How very neat.

But the United States cannot count in perpetuity on winning this game of financial chicken, based on the pre-eminence of the dollar. Its angriest political enemies have worked out the game and have been mulling over their counter-moves. Al-Qaeda has already targeted the soaring symbols of US economic power, from the twin towers to the New York Stock Exchange; now Muslim fundamentalists are trying to topple the dollar. A plan being pushed in particular by Mahathir Mohamed, former prime minister of Malaysia, for a new gold-backed Islamic currency - the dinar - is a rallying point. "Stealth Bomb to Dollar: Islamic gold dinar!" one website proclaims, describing the currency as "the second prong to planned Muslim terrorist attacks on the United States, intended to annihilate US economic power in a world of rising gold prices and a persistently declining dollar". The dinar, it says, is the tool of "monetary jihad".

Rejection of the dollar is increasingly being used as an act of political aggression, and nowhere more acutely than in oil-producing countries. The trailblazer was none other than Saddam Hussein who, in 2000, announced that Iraq would henceforth make all its oil trades in euros, a decision that conspiracy theorists - and not a few eminent Middle Eastern experts - say triggered the US invasion. The United States derives substantial benefits from the dollar being the established currency of the oil industry. Because most countries import oil, they must maintain reserves in dollars to pay for it - two-thirds of the world's currency reserves are kept in dollars. This is a major factor upholding the dollar's position as the world's reserve currency; a switch out of dollars in the oil industry would be a major assault on the currency's pre-eminence.

In April 2003, Indonesia's state oil company, Pertamina, said it was considering using the euro for its oil and gas trades. Even more significantly, in October last year President Vladimir Putin hinted that Russia, the world's second-largest oil exporter, might switch to euros. A Russian move would be enough to tip the balance for other major oil producers. As Arab disapproval of the US war in Iraq has mounted, so a consensus for switching out of dollars has been building; Opec has openly discussed the option and even Saudi Arabia, once America's staunchest Middle Eastern ally, is reported to be considering rejecting the dollar. For now, the euro is the most viable alternative; in future, it could be the Islamic dinar or, far more likely, a new Asian currency.

Western storytellers would relate the tale of the emperor, his new clothes and the little boy who saw his nakedness; perhaps Arab fablers might talk about desert mirages. America's economic dominance was once real; it is now a receding reality, a confidence trick. Washington might ponder that before scattering its dollars and daisy-cutters next time around.

Full Story

Thursday, September 30, 2004

There's nothing like Freedom of Speech...

CBS, NBC and ABC have all refused to run adverts for the DVD of Farenheit 9/11 during news show advertising breaks, citing 'the closeness of the election' as their reason.

Conversely 62 Sinclair owned TV stations, a CBS affiliate and a Fox affiliate have no compunctions about inserting heavily biased 'commentaries' into news program The Point.

Since the demise of the Fairness Doctrine there has been little legislative ammunition left to prevent the media's inexorable slide to the right:

"The Point" is within the law, according to officials with the Federal Election Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.

Federal law prohibits corporations from spending money to influence a federal election, but there's an exemption for news stories and commentary, said George Smaragdis, a spokesman for the election commission.

There is no obligation for equal air time in this case, according to the FCC. The law that required broadcast stations that promote a political candidate to give opposing candidates a chance to reply was repealed.

No positive developments regarding fairness and accuracy in the media are likely to happen in the near future since Bush appointed Colin Powell's son Michael to the position of Chairman of the FCC in 2001:

In addition to his normal duties, Mr. Powell serves as the FCC's Defense Chairman and is responsible for overseeing all National Security Emergency Preparedness functions for the Commission."

Interpret that how you will.

The media is the battleground of democracy, as the Czech Experience demonstrated. When Ceaucescu was overthrown in Romania, one of the first acts of the Insurgents was to take control of the TV station and broadcast the revolution:

...What followed is well known: the angry population forced its way into the Central Committee headquarters while Ceausescu and his wife took off in a helicopter that was stationed on the roof of the same building. From this moment on, TVR became, through the famous Studio 4, the “heart of the new Romania”, as it had proclaimed itself. “The radio television had become a real center of the revolution and its shows did not only reflect the progress of the revolution, a very important factor in itself, but also urged the people to finish the started revolutionary process. During these shows, together with the condemnation of the old regime, a lot of ideas and suggestions were formed, actual programs on how Romania should evolve to become a free and democratic state. Many of these programs turned into realities in the following days and were strengthened by the normative acts adopted later”.

In Russia in 2001 NTV journalists occupied the studios and thousands of sympathisers took to the streets to protest against government interference with the station.

A politically independent media is the measure of the health of a democracy. Eastern Europe recognised this. Unfortunately the majority of the US population doesn't seem to realise what they have lost. Roger Ailes must be pretty happy about that.

Love Is...

An obsessive compulsive coke head in a sweaty T-shirt, new scientific studies reveal.

Republicans see big trouble in Little Havana

According to The Age, Bush may not be able to depend on the Hispanic vote in Florida:

...the new immigrants and children of the exiles, are changing the voting patterns of the nearly one million strong community.

"Cuba is still an issue but it is less important to them," Mr Hernandez said. "Their sympathies are more with the Democrats than the Republicans." Just this month, Mr Hernandez and his foundation lost their executive director, 39-year-old Joe Garcia, when he went to work for the New Democrat Network. This new Hispanic lobby group has launched a tough anti-Bush advertisement on Spanish radio and television in Miami...

...Recently, the White House brought down new measures against Cuba. The most controversial one allowed Cuban Americans to visit their families back home only once every three years instead of once a year. The idea was to stop the flow of US dollars from the family travellers.

But the measure has been unpopular with newer Cuban Americans and led to ugly splits among Los Historicos. "In my opinion they made a mistake," said Mr Hernandez. "Because, largely, the Cuban people continue to place the family in front of everything else. That is going to have some effect on the way Cubans vote in November."

Full Story

Ashcroft & Hopkins: Witch-Finder Generals

What does John Ashcroft have in common with Matthew Hopkins, the original Witch-finder General? The similarities are actually quite spooky. Here is a list which includes some quotes from this bio of Hopkins:

History Heads gives a brief history of Hopkins, and how the inclination to witch hunt was exported to America along with the very villagers that participated in the English witch hunts:

The East Anglian witch hunt
In the spring of 1645, during the agony and anxiety of the English Civil Wars, fears about the malevolence of witches boiled over in Essex and soon spread into Suffolk. Mass trials in these two counties the same year resulted in nearly 40 executions, and there were more to come in Norfolk and in other counties further to the west. In all, perhaps 250 women and men were accused, imprisoned and interrogated, of whom it is safe to say over 100 were hanged – five times as many as would perish at Salem.

Like Salem in the American experience, the East Anglian witch hunt of 1645-7 was a unique event in English history. There had been regular witch trials after the passing of the Witchcraft Acts of 1563 and 1604, many of them in Essex. But in the first half of the 17th century, several well-publicised frauds, growing legal scepticism and the changing policies of crown and Church had all contributed to a general decline.

That the East Anglian trials happened at all was due mostly to the self-appointed minor gentlemen Matthew Hopkins and John Stearne, who travelled around the eastern counties, exploiting pre-existing tensions and suspicions among villagers by initiating interrogations and setting the wheels of justice in motion.

Disquiet about Hopkins' and Stearne's methods (they used torture, contrary to common law) numbered their days as witchfinders even before Hopkins' death in 1647. And yet the godly zeal of the next 12 years – with the execution of the king and the establishment of the Puritan Commonwealth – meant that trials continued to occur, albeit conducted in a more regulated manner.

After 1660, with the fall of the English republic, witch-beliefs and village conflicts continued to find expression through the Witchcraft Act, although 'religious enthusiasm' was scorned as politically dangerous. Impassioned theocracy continued to thrive in Massachusetts, however, as did a legal system according to which witchcraft was formally tried as an offence against the peace of the English crown.

Transatlantic connections
Many of the men and women who began new lives in America hailed from Essex and Suffolk where the English witch hunt was most intense in the 1640s – indeed, Salem was situated in a region christened 'Essex County' by its settlers. There were other geographical echoes, principally in the town of Lynn. Home to seven of the suspects at Salem, its name was taken from King's Lynn, the Norfolk port where, in 1646, the witchfinder Hopkins had been drummed into town as a liberating hero. Another Salem suspect came from Chelmsford, its English namesake having been the town where the first of Hopkins' executions had taken place in the summer of 1645.

Transatlantic connections can be traced even more precisely. Hopkins' father, a clergyman, knew John Winthrop, later governor of Massachusetts, as their families lived just a few miles apart. Similarly, village feuds that had simmered for years in England were exported and took root as witchcraft accusations.

Key Part of Patriot Act Ruled Unconstitutional

From the Washington Post
A victory for civil liberties, at least until the Witchfinder General gets the appeal in.

A federal judge in New York ruled yesterday that a key component of the USA Patriot Act is unconstitutional because it allows the FBI to demand information from Internet service providers without judicial oversight or public review.

The ruling is one of several judicial blows to the Bush administration's anti-terrorism policies in recent months.

In a sharply worded 120-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero found in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit on behalf of an unidentified Internet service provider challenging the FBI's use of a type of administrative subpoena known as a national security letter. Such letters do not require court approval and prohibit targeted companies from revealing that the demands were ever made.

Full Story

If the Whole World could vote on November 2nd...

Cast your vote at

Results so far confirm recent polls - the world would vote overwhelmingly for Kerry, even the countries that comprise the axis of stupid white men:

USA: 70% for Kerry
UK: 90% for Kerry
Australia: 88% Kerry

Overall, 86% of the world would vote for Kerry.

Eisenhower: Why I will vote for John Kerry for President

From The Union Leader via The American Street who got it from Atrios


As son of a Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, it is automatically expected by many that I am a Republican. For 50 years, through the election of 2000, I was. With the current administration’s decision to invade Iraq unilaterally, however, I changed my voter registration to independent, and barring some utterly unforeseen development, I intend to vote for the Democratic Presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry.

The fact is that today’s “Republican” Party is one with which I am totally unfamiliar. To me, the word “Republican” has always been synonymous with the word “responsibility,” which has meant limiting our governmental obligations to those we can afford in human and financial terms. Today’s whopping budget deficit of some $440 billion does not meet that criterion.

Responsibility used to be observed in foreign affairs. That has meant respect for others. America, though recognized as the leader of the community of nations, has always acted as a part of it, not as a maverick separate from that community and at times insulting towards it. Leadership involves setting a direction and building consensus, not viewing other countries as practically devoid of significance. Recent developments indicate that the current Republican Party leadership has confused confident leadership with hubris and arrogance.

So I wasn't paranoid! U.S. Government Blocks Federal Voting Site from Expat American's

O.K. For the past year. I've been told to go to for information on my absentee ballot. I could never get the site to come up. Today I find out why. I was right. Is there nothing these sick creatures won't do? Jon
P.S. I can get on today.....

From: Mother Jones
September 23, 2004
(Dis)Counting Overseas Votes
Full Story
We're continually being told that every vote counts, but if you're an American overseas, don't count on the U.S. government to protect your right to vote. On Monday, the International Herald Tribune reported that the Defense Department, citing hacking concerns, has been blocking its Federal Voting Assistance Program website -- the site that both overseas civilian and military voters use to register -- to users of, among other major Internet Service Providers (ISPs), British Telecom and France's Wanadoo.

Following an uproar among Democrats, the Pentagon issued a rapid reversal of the Internet blockade on Wednesday. This was remarkable, not least because the block seems to have been in place for months, if not years. However, the Pentagon continues to refuse to explain why the blockade was in place in to begin with, and now claims it had been left in effect "inadvertently."

Given that the civilian overseas vote is predicted to go in Senator John Kerry's favor, Democrats were quick to cry foul, questioning the Defense Department's motives. It is estimated that there are around 6 million American civilians and 500,000 military troops overseas. According to a recent Zogby poll, Americans who hold a passport favor Kerry 58 percent compared to 35 percent who favor Bush, and requests for overseas ballot are way up this election. The military vote is considered to be overwhelmingly Republican and it is military, as well as civilian, overseas ballots that have been credited for Bush's narrow victory in Florida in 2000. With the memories of that voting debacle still fresh and an equally close election this year, overseas voters are receiving much more attention than usual. (See "Every (Offshore) Vote Counts")

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The Poison is the Antidote

A form of the deadly poison arsenic that is used as a weedkiller could be used as an alternative to chemotherapy for cancer patients, according to research published today.

Arsenic trioxide is already used on patients who suffer a relapse after initial treatment for a rare type of leukaemia.

But Iranian scientists said that the compound should be considered as a first-line treatment for patients with acute promyeloctytic leukaemia (APL) instead of putting them through chemotherapy.

The researchers added that arsenic trioxide could also be used to treat other cancers such as multiple myeloma, which affects the bone marrow.

The researchers, from Tehran University of Medical Sciences, have been running trials on patients newly diagnosed with APL who had received no previous therapy.

After two courses of arsenic trioxide, more than 90% of the 63 patients were in complete remission.

Full Story

Workers in Full Monty protest

Rupert Jones
Wednesday September 29, 2004
The Guardian

Hundreds of workers who have lost some or all of their company pensions will stage a demo outside the Labour conference in Brighton today to draw attention to their plight. They plan a march and a "Full Monty" striptease on the beach.

Full Story

I would expect no less from my beloved, eccentric, old home town. I always said if I left Brighton I would leave England and I did. I hope they're giving Tony a hard time.

Something Bad Has Begun

From the LA Times, an extract:
By Yusuf Islam

Yusuf Islam, the singer formerly known as Cat Stevens, was deported to Britain last week after being refused entry into the United States.

The most upsetting thing was being separated from my daughter for 33 hours — not knowing how she was or when and where we might be united. Because my phone was confiscated, I couldn't contact my family.

God almighty! Is this the same planet I'd taken off from? I was devastated. The unbelievable thing is that only two months earlier, I had been having meetings in Washington with top officials from the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to talk about my charity work. Even further back, one month after the attack on the World Trade Center, I was in New York meeting Peter Gabriel and Hillary Rodham Clinton at the World Economic Forum!

Had I changed that much? No. Actually, it's the indiscriminate procedure of profiling that's changed. I am a victim of an unjust and arbitrary system, hastily imposed, that serves only to belittle America's image as a defender of the civil liberties that so many dearly struggled and died for over the centuries. ....

Full Story

Leunig: Political Campaigning

Australia's Gulags

Which are run by Wackenhut

Lest we forget:

There are still 86 children in Australia's detention centres. They are suffering.

During this federal election campaign, refugee and human rights issues appear to be off the political agenda. Yet they remain urgent concerns. These are some of the reasons.

On May 13 this year, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's report on children held in immigration detention was tabled in Federal Parliament. The abuses documented in the 900-page report are shocking. The report found children in prolonged detention suffered from anxiety, bed-wetting and self-destructive behaviour, including attempted suicide, self-mutilation and swallowing shampoos and detergents. Some have been diagnosed with psychiatric illnesses such as clinical depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Many had been caught in the middle of riots, fires and hunger strikes.

Full Story

Fingerprints needed to enter US

No, I said I was a tourist:

Every Australian who enters the United States from tomorrow will have their fingerprints scanned, a digital photograph taken and their details stored and checked on American databases.

Australians will have no choice but to surrender their fingerprints and submit to a photo if they want to enter the US.

The information will be available to American law enforcement agencies and government authorities.

Full Story from The Age

Name the October Surprise

Entries for Name the October Surprise need to be in by tomorrow, so this is your last chance to submit your prediction.

There is a prize:

Winners will appear live on Air America to bask in the gratitude of a skeptical nation...and will receive a signed copy of The Book on Bush and cool Air America gear.

My guess is that the Bushies will announce that they have captured and killed bin Laden. Dead rather than alive because he has been dead for ages and has merely been serving as the administration's Emmanuel Goldstein, hence Bush's 'wanted dead or alive' speech.

After October Al-Zakarwi will inherit the Emmanuel Goldstein mantle.

Whilst I am making wild predictions, does anyone want to place any bets on when they will start drafting the prison population?

Operation American Repression?

Following on from the post before last, Salon has this:

Sept. 29, 2004 |
An Army Reserve staff sergeant who last week wrote a critical analysis of the United States' prospects in Iraq now faces possible disciplinary action for disloyalty and insubordination. If charges are bought and the officer is found guilty, he could face 20 years in prison. It would be the first such disloyalty prosecution since the Vietnam War.

The essay that sparked the military investigation is titled "Why We Cannot Win" and was posted Sept. 20 on the conservative antiwar Web site Written by Al Lorentz, a non-commissioned officer from Texas with nearly 20 years in the Army who is serving in Iraq, the essay offers a bleak assessment of America's chances for success in Iraq.


And there I was labouring under the misapprehension that the military's loyalty was meant to be to the country not to an unelected regime.
After all what do they have to complain about, except for:

but apart from that. they've got nothing to complain about.

Father threatens suicide in protest at soldier's death

The Telegraph reports:

The father of a soldier killed in Iraq threatened to hang himself on the West Pier in Brighton yesterday, moments before Tony Blair's speech at the Labour Party conference.

Reginald Keys climbed a pylon at the front of the pier with a noose tied around his neck and told police he would jump.

He called the Prime Minister a war criminal and demanded an apology for the death of his son, Lance-Corporal Thomas Richard Keys, 20, who was killed near Basra in June last year.

Mr Keys, 52, from Bala, north Wales, was persuaded to climb down after an hour and, clearly distraught, was comforted by police officers.

Full Story

Yee Ha Ha!

Sept. 28, 2004 — CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - The newspaper in President Bush's adopted hometown of Crawford threw its support on Tuesday behind Bush's Democratic rival, Sen. John Kerry.

The weekly Lone Star Iconoclast criticized Bush's handling of the war in Iraq and for turning budget surpluses into record deficits. The editorial also criticized Bush's proposals on Social Security and Medicare.

Former soldiers slow to report

WASHINGTON — Fewer than two-thirds of the former soldiers being reactivated for duty in Iraq and elsewhere have reported on time, prompting the Army to threaten some with punishment for desertion.

The former soldiers, part of what is known as the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), are being recalled to fill shortages in skills needed for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Of the 1,662 ready reservists ordered to report to Fort Jackson, S.C., by Sept. 22, only 1,038 had done so, the Army said Monday. About 500 of those who failed to report have requested exemptions on health or personal grounds.

Full Story

CIA planned to Rig Iraq Election

Lets call a spade a spade - RIG is the right word.

President Bush and interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi insisted last week that Iraq would go ahead with elections scheduled for January, despite continuing violence. But U.S. officials tell TIME that the Bush team ran into trouble with another plan involving those elections — a secret "finding" written several months ago proposing a covert CIA operation to aid candidates favored by Washington. A source says the idea was to help such candidates — whose opponents might be receiving covert backing from other countries, like Iran — but not necessarily to go so far as to rig the elections. But lawmakers from both parties raised questions about the idea when it was sent to Capitol Hill. In particular, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi "came unglued" when she learned about what a source described as a plan for "the CIA to put an operation in place to affect the outcome of the elections." Pelosi had strong words with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in a phone call about the issue.


Juan Cole has an excellent analysis of this article.

Soros Speaks

...Immediately after 9/11 there was a spontaneous outpouring of sympathy for us worldwide. It has given way to an equally widespread resentment. There are many more people willing to risk their lives to kill Americans than there were on September 11 and our security, far from improving as President Bush claims, is deteriorating. I am afraid that we have entered a vicious circle of escalating violence where our fears and their rage feed on each other. It is not a process that is likely to end any time soon. If we re-elect President Bush we are telling the world that we approve his policies - and we shall be at war for a long time to come.

...How could President Bush convince people that he is good for our security, better than John Kerry? By building on the fears generated by the collapse of the twin towers and fostering a sense of danger. At a time of peril, people rally around the flag and President Bush has exploited this. His campaign is based on the assumption that people do not really care about the truth and they will believe practically anything if it is repeated often enough, particularly by a President at a time of war. There must be something wrong with us if we fall for it. For instance, some 40% of the people still believe that Saddam Hussein was connected with 9/11 - although it is now definitely established by the 9/11 Commission, set up by the President and chaired by a Republican, that there was no connection. I want to shout from the roof tops: "Wake up America. Don't you realize that we are being misled?"

Read the Full Speech
George welcomes emails:
George will be starting a blog here very soon


Jamie Wilson
Wednesday September 29, 2004
The Guardian

In the long and undistinguished history of the ill-judged handshake, Jack Straw's clasping palms with Robert Mugabe probably ranks below Neville Chamberlain's greeting of Adolf Hitler, especially since the latter followed it with a "Sieg heil".

But the foreign secretary's political faux pas, at a party at the UN last week, came back to haunt him yesterday.

The Conservatives called the handshake a "scandalous betrayal", but of equal embarrassment was Mr Straw's excuse that he had not recognised the president of Zimbabwe because of the dark.

...Mr Mugabe replies, "Nice to see you," before asking an adviser, "Who was that?" When told the president, fresh from delivering a scathing attack on Britain during the UN general assembly, is seen creasing up with laughter.

Full Story

Ha Mc Ha Ha

By Jonathan Brown
The Independent

29 September 2004

The fast-food giant McDonald's is used to serving up super- size profits for its shareholders as well as bulging cartons of burgers and fries to a hungry public. But yesterday it was explaining away a significant decline in reported profits as it revealed its restaurants had been hit by a big drop in turnover last year.

Full Story

Coke Kills

Blog redecorating

We are modifying our style because the old one was very narrow and thus wasn't very graphics friendly. We kind of liked the colours so we have reproduced them - closely enough anyway. Theres so much more space here! Its like moving from a bedsit to a warehouse (taking your wallpaper with you).

Just the header to sort out and it will be complete. I think I feel an outbreak of picture posting coming on...

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Mother Nature is a Lefty - or possibly a Green

Carlyle's role in the military-industrial complex

Guerrilla News Network interview business reporter and Carlyle expert Dan Briody on Carlyle’s part in the growth of the American military-industrial complex, and the large sums of money they have made as a result of 9/11.

The Interview is definitely worth reading in full. Here are a few extracts:

GNN: What direct benefit has been accrued by Carlyle since the war and more specifically talk about what they own and what they are all about?

Briody: The Carlyle Group is a private equity firm, which essentially means that they invest in private companies - they take money from private investors and then invest that money into private companies. They essentially work like a mutual fund would, only instead of buying and selling stocks, they buy and sell companies. So they have different funds and among those funds are industries that are heavily government regulated. So health care, telecommunications and two of the biggies are defense and aerospace. Those are the industries that Carlyle got their start on back in the early 90s. It is what they have built their practice on.

The way that Carlyle is able to succeed at investing in these heavily government regulated industries is they hire ex-politicians - George H. W. Bush, John Major, Frank Carlucci, former secretary of defense under Reagan, James Baker III. These are guys that have access to former heads of state, foreign business leaders, and they enable Carlyle to really get its tentacles out all over the world and do some very serious investing with heavy-hitter investors from all around the world. And it also gains them access to investment opportunities.

After 9/11, Carlyle was set up in a number of defense properties. They owned a company called United Defense - this was probably the biggest boon after 9/11 that Carlyle experienced. United Defense was a company that makes the Bradley fighting vehicles, the Crusader gun system - these are things we have seen on TV a lot since the Iraq war started, and United Defense was able to go public months after September 11 because of the huge increase in defense spending. Carlyle made $270 million on one day in that IPO and then went on to make close to a billion dollars on paper from that transaction over time as the stock price continued to go up. This was an enormous investment for them and it was a huge win.

Their other aerospace companies, their other defense properties, their security companies, their biological cleanup companies - all of them scored major contracts after September 11, which improved the fund - the defense and aerospace funds invested in, which are billion dollar funds - $1-2 billion funds - huge private equity funds. The list of benefits is long, but we will never know exactly how much Carlyle made from 9/11 because they are not under any obligation to disclose that information.

They are never going to tell.

GNN: What is its reputation globally and how are they perceived in the business community?

Briody: They are called the ex-presidents club by a lot of folks in the international business community. When the head of a foreign business gets a call from George H. W. Bush or John Major it's very difficult to distinguish with whom he is doing business. Am I doing business with the American government or am I doing business with Carlyle or both? And in some cases they don't really care because they are sitting across the table from the president's father, who himself is a former president, and that's enough credibility for them. It makes it very easy to do business with these guys.

GNN: The names associated with the Carlyle Group - you can't really stop and not give pause - was this something you were aware of before you started your research and how has the American public responded to it? Do you think they are very savvy about these types of inter-relationships between government and business or do you think they would be surprised?

Briody: I actually think that the American people, to some extent, have come to accept relationships like this between high-level ex-politicians and very profitable businesses. At the same time, the story of the Carlyle Group was something that was very much underneath the radar prior to 9/11. There had been a couple of stories that had come out by some enterprising journalists that had been good at scratching the surface of what this company was about, but overall they didn't really delve into just how enmeshed this company is, particularly in the current administration and with the political situation in Washington DC. After September 11, it became clear that the Carlyle Group was in bed with the bin Laden family.

The bin Laden family was an investor in the Carlyle Group. The fact that the bin Ladens were investing in a company that was largely a defense aerospace company at a time when George W. Bush was going to war against Osama bin Laden, left the company open to some serious criticism. At that time we started investigating a little bit further. I was working for a magazine called Red Herring, which no longer exists. We wanted to look at business stories coming out of 9/11. What kind of financial impact is the disaster of September 11 having on the financial industry? And we wanted to find companies that were actually doing well after 9/11 and Carlyle Group was actually one of those companies. They had investments spread out in all kinds of areas that set them up to profit from 9/11 including aerospace and defense obviously, and also biological cleanup. One of their companies scored the contract to clean up the Senate building after the anthrax scare. They had companies that do security background checks for government employees and airline employees, which obviously skyrocketed. So they had investments spread around a lot of different areas that benefited greatly from September 11.

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