Monday, January 28, 2008

Yes We Can

(After one week of owning the Absurd Times)
Today is a strange day. This entire weekend has been a tremendous to my cynicism and pessimisson concerning the contemporary American political scene. First, on Saturday, Obama gave a very inspiring speech on his victory in South Carolina after a week of sleaze from the Clintons. Yesterday, Caroline Kennedy published a piece in the NY Times endorsing him, she who was 3 years old when JFK died, mentioned that Obama had inspired some of the same emotions that people had told her JFK did. She had never experienced that feeling before. Today, Ted's son, JFK's daughter, and Ted Kennedy all gave speeches in support of Obama, and Ted's was one that will be quoted endlessly far into the future. I wondered in Obama could rise to the occassion of following Ted, and he did, and only one sentiment in it had I predicted -- "humbled".
I have to be wrong right now, but I actually feel positive about things political as I listed to a 1958 version of the Diabelli variations.
The best analysis line in the following discussion came from Cris Matthews who invoked the great movie Adadeus. My own twist or version of the analogy is that Hillary Clinton is the Salieri of Presidential Politics.
Well, at least it's interesting

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


    An update:  We can thank Hillary for getting Obama's remarks clarified.  It seems they were edited out of the broadcast tape.  The point he made was that Reagen was able to get democrats to vote for them (against their own interests) and that made his "transformative."  However, Reagen's policies were despicable and Obama, instead of accepting a position with Harvard (at least Larry Tribe mentioned this), he went back to the South Side of Chicago to work "against the effects of those policies."  Obama also pointed out that Hillary was on the Board of WalMart at the time.  (Her supporters say she was working for change that way.  Hey, I just want to be accurate and fair, right?)  
 Bush's moves to "fix" the economy sound remarkably similar to those of Herbert Hoover, another Republican.
     I have for some time been irritated, or at least made uneasy, at the way the term "Genocide" is tossed about.  It seems that any sort of conflict where you don't the the people who are winning are commiting genocide.  Finally, I came across an article that defines the term as it is understood in international law (of course, the U.S. is exempt from any and all provisions of international law simply by virtue of its so stipulating) along with what seems to be a genuine example of it.
    I am reprinting a copy of it below, but allow me to express my relief that in none of the debates has the subject surfaced.  Not only does it lack relevance to the United States, but all candidates would feel constrained to take the wrong side.

Never Against! European Collusion in Israel's Slow Genocide

Jan, 22 2008 By Omar Barghouti

Source: The Electronic Intifada.

The European Union, Israel's largest trade partner in the world, is watching by as Israel tightens its barbaric siege on Gaza, collectively punishing 1.5 million Palestinian civilians, condemning them to devastation, and visiting imminent death upon hundreds of kidney dialysis and heart patients, prematurely born babies, and all others dependent on electric power for their very survival.

By freezing fuel and electric power supplies to Gaza, Israel, the occupying power, is essentially guaranteeing that "clean" water -- only by name, as Gaza's water is perhaps the most polluted in the whole region, after decades of Israeli theft and abuse -- will not be pumped out and properly distributed to homes and institutions; hospitals will not be able to function adequately, leading to the eventual death of many, particularly the most vulnerable; whatever factories that are still working despite the siege will now be forced to close, pushing the already extremely high unemployment rate even higher; sewage treatment will come to a halt, further polluting Gaza's precious little water supply; academic institutions and schools will not be able to provide their usual services; and the lives of all civilians will be severely disrupted, if not irreversibly damaged. And Europe is apathetically watching.

Princeton academic Richard Falk considered Israel's siege a "prelude to genocide," even before this latest crime of altogether cutting off energy supplies. Now, Israel's crimes in Gaza can accurately be categorized as acts of genocide, albeit slow. According to Article II of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the term is defined as:


"[A]ny of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; ..."


Clearly, Israel's hermetic siege of Gaza, designed to kill, cause serious bodily and mental harm, and deliberately inflict conditions of life calculated to bring about partial and gradual physical destruction, qualifies as an act of genocide, if not all-out genocide yet. And the EU is suspiciously silent.

But why accuse Europe, in particular, of collusion in this crime when almost the entire international community is not lifting a finger, and the UN's obsequious Secretary-General, who surpassed all his predecessors in obedience to the US government, is pathetically paying only lip service? In addition, what of the US government itself, Israel's most generous sponsor that is directly implicated in the current siege, especially after President George W. Bush, on his recent visit, gave a hardly subtle green light to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to ravage Gaza? Why not blame the Palestinians' quiet Arab brethren, particularly Egypt -- the only country that can immediately break the siege by reopening the Rafah crossing and supplying through it the necessary fuel, electric power and emergency supplies? And finally, why not blame the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, whose subservient and visionless leader openly boasted in a press conference its "complete agreement" with Bush on all matters of substance?

After Israel, the US is, without a doubt, the guiltiest party in the current crime. Under the influence of a fundamentalist, militaristic, neo-conservative ideology that has taken over its helms of power and an omnipotent Zionist lobby that is unparalleled in its sway, the US is in a category by itself. It goes without saying that the PA, the UN, as well as Arab and international governments maintaining business as usual with Israel should all be held accountable for acquiescing, whether directly or indirectly, to Israel's crimes against humanity in Gaza. It is also true that each one of the above bears the legal and moral responsibility to intervene and apply whatever necessary pressure to stop the crime before thousands perish. But the EU commands a unique position in all this. It is not only silent and apathetic; in most European countries Israel and Israeli institutions are currently welcomed and sought after with unprecedented warmth, generosity and deference in all fields -- economic, cultural, academic, athletic, etc. For instance, Israel was invited as the guest of honor to a major book fair in Turin, Italy. Israeli government-funded films are featuring in film festivals all over the continent. Israeli products, from avocados and oranges to hi-tech security systems, are flooding European markets like never before. Israeli academic institutions are enjoying a special, very lucrative, association agreement with the relevant organs in the EU. Israeli dance groups, singing bands and orchestras are invited to European tours and festivals as if Israel were not only a normal, but in effect a most favored, member of the so-called "civilized" world. Official Europe's once lackluster embrace of Israel has turned into an intense, open and enigmatic love affair.

If Europe thinks it can thus repent for its Holocaust against its own Jewish population, it is in fact shamefully and consciously facilitating the committal of fresh acts of genocide against the people of Palestine. But Palestinians, it appears, do not count for much, as we are viewed not only by Israel, but also by its good old "white" sponsors and allies as lesser, or relative, humans. The continent that invented modern genocide and was responsible for massacring in the last two centuries more human beings, mostly "relative humans," than all other continents put together is covering up crimes that are reminiscent in quality, though certainly not in quantity, of its own heinous crimes against humanity.

In no other international affair, perhaps, can the European establishment be accused of being as detached from and indifferent to its own public opinion. While calls for boycotting Israel as an apartheid state are slowly but consistently spreading among European civil society organizations and trade unions, drawing disturbing parallels to the boycott of South African apartheid, European governments are finding it difficult to distinguish themselves from the overtly complicit US position vis-a-vis Israel. Even European clichés of condemnation and "expressing deep concern" have become rarer than ever nowadays. Moreover, Israel's relentless and defiant violation of Europe's own human rights laws and conditions are ignored whenever anyone questions whether Israel should continue to benefit from its magnanimous association agreement with the EU despite its military occupation, colonization and horrific record of human rights abuse against its Palestinian victims. If this is not complicity, what is?

Morality aside, sinking Gaza into a sea of darkness, poverty, death and despair cannot bode well for Europe. By actively propping up an environment conducive to the rise of fanaticism and desperate violence near its borders, Europe is foolishly inviting havoc to its doorstep. Instead of heeding -- or at least seriously considering -- calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions against apartheid Israel, adopted by virtually the entire spectrum of Palestinian civil society, it may soon have to reckon with uncontainable forces of irrational and indiscriminate violence and its resulting chaos.

It seems European elites are currently determined never to oppose Israel, no matter what crimes it commits. It is as if the bellowing -- and increasingly hypocritical -- slogan upheld by Jewish survivors of European genocide, "Never Again!", is now espoused by European elites with one difference: the two letter, 's' and 't', are added at the end.

Omar Barghouti is an independent Palestinian political analyst and founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (



Thursday, January 17, 2008

Under New Ownership -- Corno


Corno di Bassetto
Mr. di Bassetto (pictured above) has just taken over this publication. However, he has imposed only one rule on us: "Always tell the truth, it's the funniest joke ever." We have decided to abide by this rule whenever he is watching.
He has an observation to pass on relevant to this year's primaries, especially Huckabee and the Religious Right: "The vilest abortionist is he who tries to mold a child's character."
Personally, I am pained to announce that I just heard Obama praise Ronald Regean for ending the excesses of the 60s and 70s. He might as well throw in Grenada and most of central america as well as IranGate.
This leaves Edwards and Kucinich as the only two worth considering. How could Barak be so stupid??!!! He can not claim a lack of education.
And now and update about Iraq. Remember Iraq? Edwards is now the only one allowed on TV who has said ALL our troops out within a year.
This selection comes from Tomgram:

Tom Dispatch

posted 2008-01-17 10:42:21

Tomgram: CSI Iraq

The Corpse on the Gurney

The "Success" Mantra in Iraq
By Tom Engelhardt

The other day, as we reached the first anniversary of the President's announcement of his "surge" strategy, his "new way forward" in Iraq, I found myself thinking about the earliest paid book-editing work I ever did. An editor at a San Francisco textbook publisher hired me to "doctor" god-awful texts designed for audiences of captive kids. Each of these "books" was not only in a woeful state of disrepair, but essentially D.O.A. I was nonetheless supposed to do a lively rewrite of the mess and add seductive "sidebars"; another technician was then simplified the language to "grade level" and a designer provided a flashy layout and look. Zap! Pow! Kebang!

During the years that I freelanced for that company in the early 1970s, an image of what I was doing formed in my mind -- and it suddenly came back to me this week. I used to describe it this way:

The little group of us -- rewriter, grade-level reducer, designer -- would be summoned to the publisher's office. There, our brave band of technicians would be ushered into a room in which there would be nothing but a gurney with a corpse on it in a state of advanced decomposition. The publisher's representative would then issue a simple request: Make it look like it can get up and walk away.

And the truth was: that corpse of a book would be almost lifelike when we were done with it, but one thing was guaranteed -- it would never actually get up and walk away.

That was in another century and a minor matter of bad books that no one wanted to call by their rightful name. But that image came to mind again more than three decades later because it's hard not to think of America's Iraq in similar terms. Only this week, Abdul Qadir, the Iraqi defense minister, announced that "his nation would not be able to take full responsibility for its internal security until 2012, nor be able on its own to defend Iraq's borders from external threat until at least 2018." Pentagon officials, reported Thom Shanker of the New York Times, expressed no surprise at these dismal post-surge projections, although they were "even less optimistic than those [Qadir] made last year."

According to this guesstimate then, the U.S. military occupation of Iraq won't end for, minimally, another ten years. President Bush confirmed this on his recent Mideast jaunt when, in response to a journalist's question, he said that the U.S. stay in Iraq "could easily be" another decade or more.

Folks, our media may be filled with discussions about just how "successful" the President's surge plan has been, but really, Iraq is the corpse in the room.

"Success" as a Mantra

Last January, after announcing his "surge strategy," the President called in his technicians. As it turned out, Gen. David Petraeus, surge commander in Iraq, has been quite impressive, as has new U.S. ambassador to that country, Ryan Crocker. Think of them as "the undertakers," since they've been the ones who, applying their skills, have managed to give that Iraqi corpse the faint glow of life. The President asked them to make Iraq look like it could get up and walk away -- and the last year of "success," widely trumpeted in the media, has been the result. But just think about what the defense minister and President Bush are promising: By 2018, the country will -- supposedly -- be able to control its own borders, one of the more basic acts of a sovereign state. That, by itself, tells you much of what you need to be know.

In order to achieve an image of lifelike quiescence in Iraq, involving a radical lowering of "violence" in that country, the general and ambassador did have to give up the ghost on a number of previous Bush administration passions. Rebellious al-Anbar Province was, for instance, essentially turned over to members of the community (many of whom had, even according to the Department of Defense, been fighting Americans until recently). They were then armed and paid by the U.S. not to make too much trouble. In the Iraqi capital, on the other hand, the surging American military looked the other way as, in the first half of 2007, the Shiite "cleansing" of mixed Baghdad neighborhoods reached new heights, transforming it into a largely Shiite city. This may have been the real "surge" in Iraq and, if you look at new maps of the ethnic make-up of the capital, you can see the startling results -- from which a certain quiescence followed. Powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a longtime opponent of the Bush administration, called a "truce" during the surge months and went about purging and reorganizing his powerful militia, the Mahdi Army. In exchange, the U.S. has given up, at least temporarily, its goal of wresting control of some of those neighborhoods from the Sadrists.

Despite hailing the recent passage of what might be called a modest re-Baathification law in the Iraqi Parliament (that may have little effect on actual government employment), the administration has also reportedly given up in large part on pushing its highly touted "benchmarks" for the Iraqis to accomplish. This was to be a crucial part of Iraqi political "reconciliation" (once described as the key to the success of the whole surge strategy). It has now been dumped for so-called Iraqi solutions. All of this, including the lack of U.S. patrolling in al-Anbar province, the heartland of the Sunni insurgency, plus the addition of almost 30,000 troops in Baghdad and environs, has indeed given Iraq a quieter look -- especially in the United States, where Iraqi news has largely disappeared from front pages and slipped deep into prime-time TV news coverage just as the presidential campaign of 2008 heats up.

The surge was always, in a sense, a gamble for time, a pacification program directed at the "home front" in the President's Global War on Terror as well as at Iraq itself. And if this is what you mean by "success" in Iraq, Bush has indeed succeeded admirably. As in the Vietnam era, when President Richard Nixon began "Vietnamizing" that war, a reduction of American casualties has had the effect of turning media attention elsewhere.

So another year has now passed in a country that we plunged into an unimaginable charnel-house state. Whether civilian dead between the invasion of 2003 and mid-2006 (before the worst year of civil-war level violence even hit) was in the range of 600,000 as a study in the British medical journal, The Lancet reported or 150,000 as a recent World Health Organization study suggests, whether two million or 2.5 million Iraqis have fled the country, whether 1.1 million or more than two million have been displaced internally, whether electricity blackouts and water shortages have marginally increased or decreased, whether the country's health-care system is beyond resuscitation or could still be revived, whether Iraqi oil production has nearly crept back to the low point of the Saddam Hussein-era or not, whether fields of opium poppies are, for the first time, spreading across the country's agricultural lands or still relatively localized, Iraq is a continuing disaster zone on a catastrophic scale hard to match in recent memory.

What Bush has done with his surge, however, is buy himself that year-plus of free time, while he negotiates with Iraq's inside-the-Green-Zone government to cement in place an endless American presence there. In the process, he may create a sense of permanency that no future president will prove capable of tampering with -- not without being known as the man (or woman) who "lost" Iraq. Forget the Republican presidential candidates -- Sen. John McCain, for instance, has said that he doesn't care if the U.S. is in Iraq for the next hundred years -- and think about the leading Democratic candidates with their elongated (and partial) "withdrawal" plans. Barack Obama, for instance, is for guaranteeing a 16-month withdrawal schedule, and that's just for U.S. "combat troops," which are only perhaps half of all American forces in the country. Hillary Clinton's plan is no more promising.

The President's gamble, so far "successful," has been that the look of returning life in Iraq will last at least long enough for him to turn a marginally "successful" war over to the next administration. If the Democrats sweep to power, he hopes to stick them with that war. As Michael Hirsh of Newsweek put the matter recently, while discussing the President's trip to the Middle East: "Far away in the Persian Gulf, Bush is creating facts on the ground that the next president may not be able to ignore." (Of course, this assumes that the Iraqis will comply.)

In that case, here would be another piece of potential Bush "success": Nine months into any new presidential term and the Iraq War is yours. (Those of us old enough to remember have already lived through this scenario once with "Lyndon Johnson's war" in Vietnam, so how does "Barack Obama's war" sound?) Then, former Bush administration officials, Republicans of all stripes, neocons, and an array of pundits will turn on those uncelebratory Democrats who, they will claim, managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of "success," if not victory. Wait for it.

Victory Laps and Other Celebrations

But folks, let's face it, despite the cosmetic acts of the President and his undertakers, America's Iraq is still a corpse. And yet, in this "post-surge" moment, everybody is arguing over just how "successful" the surge has been. All agree it has "lowered violence" in Iraq. The Democrats insist that the plan's "success" is limited indeed, because its main goal, "political reconciliation," has not been reached. On the other hand, Republicans, assorted neocons, and some in the administration are already doing modest victory dances. The newest New York Times columnist, William Kristol, a man previously known for being endlessly wrong on his Iraqi war of choice, just last week chided the Democrats in his typical way: "It's apparently impermissible for leading Democrats to acknowledge -- let alone celebrate -- progress in Iraq."

Let the celebrations begin! In the White House, anyway. After all, whatever Iraq news breaks out of the inside pages of the paper is now often framed by this ongoing dispute about the how much surge and post-surge success has happened, about how much to celebrate, and that is another sign of success for the President. No wonder, as Michael Abramowitz of the Washington Post put it, Bush's recent meeting in Kuwait with Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, as well as his comments to a rally of 3,000 hoo-ahing U.S. troops, "had the air of a victory lap for a president whose decision to raise the troop levels in Iraq last year was questioned not only by Democrats but also by many Republicans and even generals at the Pentagon."

But folks, George W. Bush can lap the Middle East, the planet, the solar system and America's Iraq is still never going to get up and walk away. Not even in 2018 or 2028. Don't forget, it's a corpse. (In fact, unlike the politicians and the media, recent opinion polls show that the American people generally have not forgotten this.)

In the meantime, the military in Iraq is preparing for something other than a simple victory lap, just in case the President's surge luck doesn't quite extend to 2009. Former brigadier general and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle Eastern Affairs Mark Kimmitt, for instance, recently suggested that there was "only a mild chance" that surge security gains would prove permanent: "[I]f I had to put a number to it, maybe it's three in 10, maybe it's 50-50, if we play our cards right."

In fact, General Petraeus and the rest of the U.S. military are faced with a relatively simple calculus for their exhausted, overstretched, overused forces among whom the rate of post-traumatic stress syndrome has tripled. Although the President recently insisted that he would be happy to slow down or halt an expected drawdown of 30,000 surge troops by July, the fact is that present military manpower levels there are literally unsustainable -- especially since 3,200 Marines are now being committed to the ever less successful Afghan War. Drawdowns are a must and "successful" Iraq, already experiencing signs of another uptick in violence and death (including of American troops) in the new year, is likely to need a dose of something else soon, if that faint glow of life is to be sustained.

One candidate for that, as American troop levels drop, is air power, a much underreported subject in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq, according to a recent study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the use of air power took a striking leap forward in 2007. According to the study, the number of Close Air Support/Precision Strikes -- sorties that used a major munition -- in Iraq went up five-fold between 2006 and 2007 (not including December of that year), from 229 to 1,119 or, on average, from 19 per month to 102 per month. 2008 started with a literal bang, 40,000 pounds of explosives were dropped in ten minutes on 38 targets in a Sunni farming area on "the outskirts" of Baghdad. After 10 preceding days of intermittent air attacks, this was probably the largest display of air power since the 2003 invasion. It was also undoubtedly a harbinger of things to come and, of course, guaranteed to drive up the number of civilian dead.

Similarly, between January and October 2007, according to the Associated Press, the U.S. military more than doubled its use of armed and unarmed drone aircraft, which clocked 500,000-plus hours in the air (mainly in Iraq). This is undoubtedly a taste of what "success" means in the year to come.

Dancing on a Corpse

So, here's a simple reality check: The whole discussion of, and argument about, "success" in Iraq is, in fact, obscene. Given what has already happened to that country -- and will continue to happen as long as the U.S. remains an occupying power there -- the very category of "success" is an obscenity. If violence actually does stay down there, that may be a modest godsend for Iraqis, but it can hardly be considered a sign of American "success."

Every now and then, history comes in handy. In a previous moment, when the neocons and their allied pundits were feeling particularly triumphant, they began touting Bush's America as the planet's new Rome (only more so). That talk evaporated once Iraq went into full-scale insurgency mode (and Afghanistan followed). But perhaps Rome does remain a touchstone of a sort for administration Iraqi policies.

What comes to mind is the Roman historian Tacitus' description of the Roman way of war. He put his version of it into the mouth of Calgacus, a British chieftain who opposed the Romans, and it went, in part, like this:

"They have plundered the world, stripping naked the land in their hunger, they loot even the ocean: they are driven by greed, if their enemy be rich; by ambition, if poor; neither the wealth of the east nor the west can satisfy them: they are the only people who behold wealth and indigence with equal passion to dominate. They ravage, they slaughter, they seize by false pretenses, and all of this they hail as the construction of empire. And when in their wake nothing remains but a desert, they call that peace."

Folks, it's obscene. We're doing victory laps around, and dancing upon, a corpse.

Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's, is the co-founder of the American Empire Project. His book, The End of Victory Culture (University of Massachusetts Press), has been thoroughly updated in a newly issued edition that deals with victory culture's crash-and-burn sequel in Iraq.

[Note: I'd like to offer one of my periodic bows to the invaluable sites that give me special help in collecting information on Iraq, especially Juan Cole's Informed Comment, Paul Woodward's The War in Context, the daily Media Patrol summaries at, and the enormous range of pieces posted every day at In addition, thanks to Yasmin Madadi for research help and Michael Schwartz for advice. If you want to check out that CSIS airpower study yourself, click here (PDF file).]

Copyright 2008 Tom Engelhardt

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Cocaine Crap or Just a Freakin Minute

    One of Hillary's surrogates, the owner of BET (a network for Blacks just as inane and worthless as the others but starring black people) spoke glowingly of Hillary and Bill as being in the forefront of caring for blacks while Obama was on the streets of Chicago using cocaine, as he mentioned in his book.  Well, Obama DID talk about his drug use and how it almost destroyed his life and how he overcame it.  More importantly, such a past makes him MORE believable than the man who didn't inhale or Tammy Wynette Clinton.
    In treating recovering addicts and alcoholics, it is very important to establish some trust and rapport with your client.  Many, perhaps most, come with the idea that if you haven't been hooked, you can't possibly relate to what they are going through.  It is not true, of course, but it is essential that you know all the drugs, what effect they have, what withdrawal is like, and be familiar with emotional pain of some sort.  If you confess yourself as a "recovering addict," you establish yourself as trustworthy and understanding and also offer hope for recovery.  If you deny it, you have quite a few extra steps to go through before you gain their trust.
    Obama, by admitting his use of cocaine, and his recovery and subsequent success, becomes a very positive role-model for millions and gainst trust. 
    Let me give another example.  When Nancy Reagen tried to "fight" drugs, she came up with her solution -- "Just say NO."  In drug circles, she was laughable, absurd, as unhip as a Lawernce Welk hip hop marathon.  Meanwhile, Ronald spent money bombing Central America.  On the other hand, Betty Ford went into rehab, talked about her downers and alcohol, and established a clinic that is recognized throught the world as very effective.  The difference is that the patients kenw that Betty Ford had "been there."
    Let me tell you some more.  When I used to drive these people to AA meetings as part of my job, they could easily point out crack houses from the windows of the vans whereas I still haven't developed that talent.  (Fortunately, I don't want it.) 
    Yes, I've treated addicts and I can tell you that less than 3% of them fit the stereotype you see on TV.  I had a few that did, but I also had Medical Doctors, Psychiatrists, and Attorneys as clients.  With some of them, it is just as important to speak to them about their profession as their addiction, but you still have to gain their respect.  I had a father whom I wished to visit his son, but he called to argue about his medication (he was well-known in that field, not addiction related).  I finally had to tell him that I have never enjoyed any discussion relating to the Carbon element.  He then agree to come and visit his son and the son is still recovered today and the father much relieved.
    AA: remember that there is no ONE AA, even though they all use certain rituals.  Rather, there are thousands as each one is different.  The only thing in common is addiction.  (Oh yes, and humanity.)
    So, anyway, I wish Hillary would stop that crap, give Obama credit for courage and hope, and move one.  Then they could both vote for Edwards or Kucinich (who is suing MSNBC for excluding him from tonight's debate even though they invited him two days earlier).
Grant me the serentiy to accept those things I can not change,
The courage to change those I can,
And the wisdon to know the difference.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Primaries and Iran -- update

The Absurd Times
(Our newest editor, Jean)

That really is about the only word for it. The first bit of sabotage was Colin Powell's, Bush's liar for hire, endorsing Obama and pointing out that "he is black enough." Who needs that kind of endorsement in racist Amerika?
Then what's with the polls? Well, I personally know no one without an answering machine to answer the phone for them and I haven't answered one in years. These people are bound to have certain other things in common and, besides, it eliminates the maxim that any person in the population has an equal chance of being questioned and that is what a representative sample is. Furthermore, even with this measurement error, those who do answer the phone and answer the questions are unlikely to admit that they would not vote for anyone who is black -- or female. Yet they will vote their predjudice. In addition, they do mention a plus or minus 4 percentage points "margin of error," meaning they could be as far as eight points off, (assuming a representative sample), and some networks were so inane as to report AVERAGE PERCENTAGES of polls! And yet, they usually are accurate enough. Did you know that, mathematically, the larger the polulation being measured, the smaller the sample needed for accuracy? I don't believe it, but I can prove it mathematically. In fact, I have.
Kucinich did us all a great favor in NH by calling for a recount. Some of the votes were hand counted and some computer counted. Fortunately, they used the scanner method which relies on a paper record and thus the recount is possible. In many other states, no paper record is kept. All that is needed is a taser, or a Blackberry, to change an election result.
Hillary's tears probably swung that election for her. The polls probably shut Edwards pretty much out as his debate performance was exceptional. In fact, winning a debate, that is by presenting your point and supporting it and refuting your opponents with facts is almost a certain way to loose the election.
Finally,the whole bit in the straits of Hormuz was faked with flase splicing, video mixed with audio from a different time period, etc. Even the Pentagon is backing off on that.
Well, at least I got to play with a few fonts.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Pakistan's Future

Lest Bhutto becomes more romanticized than she already is, I give you Tarik Ali on the
recent news: 
   *ZNet | Asia*
    *My Heart Bleeds For Pakistan *
    *by Tariq Ali; The Independent; January 01, 2007*
        Six hours before she was executed, Mary, Queen of Scots wrote to
        her brother-in-law, Henry III of France: "...As for my son, I
        commend him to you in so far as he deserves, for I cannot answer
        for him." The year was 1587.
        On 30 December 2007, a conclave of feudal potentates gathered in
        the home of the slain Benazir Bhutto to hear her last will and
        testament being read out and its contents subsequently announced
        to the world media. Where Mary was tentative, her modern-day
        equivalent left no room for doubt. She could certainly answer
        for her son.
        A triumvirate consisting of her husband, Asif Zardari (one of
        the most venal and discredited politicians in the country and
        still facing corruption charges in three European courts) and
        two ciphers will run the party till Benazir's 19-year-old son,
        Bilawal, comes of age. He will then become chairperson-for-life
        and, no doubt, pass it on to his children. The fact that this is
        now official does not make it any less grotesque. The Pakistan
        People's Party is being treated as a family heirloom, a property
        to be disposed of at the will of its leader.
        Nothing more, nothing less. Poor Pakistan. Poor People's Party
        supporters. Both deserve better than this disgusting, medieval
        Benazir's last decision was in the same autocratic mode as its
        predecessors, an approach that would cost her – tragically – her
        own life. Had she heeded the advice of some party leaders and
        not agreed to the Washington-brokered deal with Pervez Musharraf
        or, even later, decided to boycott his parliamentary election
        she might still have been alive. Her last gift to the country
        does not augur well for its future.
        How can Western-backed politicians be taken seriously if they
        treat their party as a fiefdom and their supporters as serfs,
        while their courtiers abroad mouth sycophantic niceties
        concerning the young prince and his future.
        That most of the PPP inner circle consists of spineless
        timeservers leading frustrated and melancholy lives is no
        excuse. All this could be transformed if inner-party democracy
        was implemented. There is a tiny layer of incorruptible and
        principled politicians inside the party, but they have been
        sidelined. Dynastic politics is a sign of weakness, not
        strength. Benazir was fond of comparing her family to the
        Kennedys, but chose to ignore that the Democratic Party, despite
        an addiction to big money, was not the instrument of any one family.
        The issue of democracy is enormously important in a country that
        has been governed by the military for over half of its life.
        Pakistan is not a "failed state" in the sense of the Congo or
        Rwanda. It is a dysfunctional state and has been in this
        situation for almost four decades.
        At the heart of this dysfunctionality is the domination by the
        army and each period of military rule has made things worse. It
        is this that has prevented political stability and the emergence
        of stable institutions. Here the US bears direct responsibility,
        since it has always regarded the military as the only
        institution it can do business with and, unfortunately, still
        does so. This is the rock that has focused choppy waters into a
        headlong torrent.
        The military's weaknesses are well known and have been amply
        documented. But the politicians are not in a position to cast
        stones. After all, Mr Musharraf did not pioneer the assault on
        the judiciary so conveniently overlooked by the US Deputy
        Secretary of State, John Negroponte, and the Foreign Secretary,
        David Miliband. The first attack on the Supreme Court was
        mounted by Nawaz Sharif's goons who physically assaulted judges
        because they were angered by a decision that ran counter to
        their master's interests when he was prime minister.
        Some of us had hoped that, with her death, the People's Party
        might start a new chapter. After all, one of its main leaders,
        Aitzaz Ahsan, president of the Bar Association, played a heroic
        role in the popular movement against the dismissal of the chief
        justice. Mr Ahsan was arrested during the emergency and kept in
        solitary confinement. He is still under house arrest in Lahore.
        Had Benazir been capable of thinking beyond family and faction
        she should have appointed him chairperson pending elections
        within the party. No such luck.
        The result almost certainly will be a split in the party sooner
        rather than later. Mr Zardari was loathed by many activists and
        held responsible for his wife's downfall. Once emotions have
        subsided, the horror of the succession will hit the many
        traditional PPP followers except for its most reactionary
        segment: bandwagon careerists desperate to make a fortune.
        All this could have been avoided, but the deadly angel who
        guided her when she was alive was, alas, not too concerned with
        democracy. And now he is in effect leader of the party.
        Meanwhile there is a country in crisis. Having succeeded in
        saving his own political skin by imposing a state of emergency,
        Mr Musharraf still lacks legitimacy. Even a rigged election is
        no longer possible on 8 January despite the stern admonitions of
        President George Bush and his unconvincing Downing Street
        adjutant. What is clear is that the official consensus on who
        killed Benazir is breaking down, except on BBC television. It
        has now been made public that, when Benazir asked the US for a
        Karzai-style phalanx of privately contracted former US Marine
        bodyguards, the suggestion was contemptuously rejected by the
        Pakistan government, which saw it as a breach of sovereignty.
        Now both Hillary Clinton and Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of
        the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, are pinning the
        convict's badge on Mr Musharraf and not al-Qa'ida for the
        murder, a sure sign that sections of the US establishment are
        thinking of dumping the President.
        Their problem is that, with Benazir dead, the only other
        alternative for them is General Ashraf Kiyani, head of the army.
        Nawaz Sharif is seen as a Saudi poodle and hence unreliable,
        though, given the US-Saudi alliance, poor Mr Sharif is puzzled
        as to why this should be the case. For his part, he is ready to
        do Washiongton's bidding but would prefer the Saudi King rather
        than Mr Musharraf to be the imperial message-boy.
        A solution to the crisis is available. This would require Mr
        Musharraf's replacement by a less contentious figure, an
        all-party government of unity to prepare the basis for genuine
        elections within six months, and the reinstatement of the sacked
        Supreme Court judges to investigate Benazir's murder without
        fear or favour. It would be a start.