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This is the archive for March 2008

Monday, March 31, 2008

March 20, 2008: One amazing talk here, three more at peacecast.us (see links below)


Slaughter: "How did we let it happen?"

5 Years After the Invasion And Occupation of Iraq:
What Is To Be Done?

Thursday, March 20th, 2008 7:00 PM
140 Little Hall, University of Maine, Orono

Sponsored by the Maine Peace Action Committee

This podcast is presentation 3 of 4 in the main program. See link (to peacecast.us) for downloadable audio-only file identical to the audio in the video viewable above.

1. ?Iraq: Some Historical Background and Analysis and Some Relations with Iran?, Alex Grab, Professor of History, who teaches courses on the Middle East.

2. ?My Military Experiences in Iraq?, Brian Clement, UMaine student who served in the U.S. military in Iraq.

3. ?The People of Iraq Under Occupation and War: Where Do We Go From Here??, Rick McDowell, who moved to Baghdad in 2003 working for the American Friends Service Committee, returned to the U.S. in 2005, and has maintained close relations with Iraq over the years.

4. ?The Larger Lessons of the Iraq War: Militarism, Imperialism, and Empire?, Doug Allen, Professor of Philosophy, MPAC, and Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Good arm, but watch how fast he gets out of there



This is why President Bush rarely gets in front of an audience he does not hand pick. I recorded it too, but this video is just from the item Think Progress posted.
Feeding frenzy

Cedar Waxwing
With apple mustache

Cedar waxwing feeding frenzy
Hungry

Couldn't resist putting up a couple more from this afternoon...

Update:
Bohemian Waxwings. I should have consulted the Cornell site before posting this... sigh. These guys have the brown shade under the tail and the white & yellow wing stripes of the Bohemian Waxwings.
CedarBohemian Waxwings

Bohemian Waxwing and old apples
Devouring old fruit

There were dozens of 'em around the crabapple tree next door, all traveling together, as is their habit.

Update: I probably had this all wrong. These are Bohemian Waxwings, not Cedar. And they are in the southern part of their winter range, probably because it has been a very much harsher winter even just a hundred kilometers north from here. So it wasn't, as the original title suggested, a "sign of spring" to see these around. They were probably having a hard time finding food farther north.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

"Not authorized to release the information"

They did anyway, as the government police defect to the Mahdi Army.

U.S. warplanes widen bombings of Basra
Two precision-guided bombs dropped on conflict-riddled southern city
BAGHDAD (AP)- U.S. jets widened the bombing of Basra on Saturday, dropping two precision-guided bombs on a suspected militia stronghold north of the city hours after strafing a house and reportedly killing eight civilians, officials said.

Maj. Tom Holloway, a British military spokesman, said U.S. jets dropped the two bombs on a militia position in Qarmat Ali shortly before 12:30 p.m. The southern city of Basra is Iraq's commercial and oil hub, and Shiite militants have been battling Iraqi and coalition forces there for a week.

"My understanding was that this was a building that had people who were shooting back at Iraqi ground forces," Holloway said.

The number of people killed in the latest strikes was not yet known, he said.

Earlier, a U.S. warplane strafed a house in Basra and killed eight civilians, including two women and one child, Iraqi police said on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release the information.

The U.S. military had no immediate comment on the report.
The U.S. also has demonstrated the Israeli-inspired tactic of loosing "Hellfire" missiles into densely-populated areas as rocket attacks come back at the Green Zone:

U.S. Airpower Joins Basra Offensive
Americans Battle Sadr Militia in Baghdad as Green Zone Is Struck Again

By Sholnn Freeman
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, March 29, 2008; Page A10
BAGHDAD, March 29 -- American aircraft struck militia targets in Basra on Friday, the first time that airpower has been called in to aid a faltering ground offensive there against armed groups that operate outside government control.

The U.S. military reported killing 78 "bad guys" in Baghdad in the past three days; American forces backed by combat helicopters continued Friday to battle members of the Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, in Baghdad, while Iraqi forces took them on in the south. ...

At 4 a.m. in Sadr City, a helicopter killed four fighters who were engaging U.S. forces with small-arms fire, officials said. At 7 a.m., a U.S. helicopter's Hellfire missile targeted a vehicle armed with rocket-propelled grenades, killing two fighters in the Adhamiyah district of northern Baghdad.
In general, these news stories are written from the Pentagon point of view. It's a "cowboys and Indians (bad guys)" characterization of the conflict. That's a serious mis-characterization, I think. The people in southern Iraq, for better or worse, actually give majority support to these Mahdi Army militias. The U.S./Iraq government attack is actually an attack on the majority of the Iraqi population in these areas.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Snow on the old bloom

Late-season snowflakes
How much longer until it's new again?

Overall, a nice week. Dry, except for a light coating of wet snowflakes today. Outside is very beautiful now.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Slow this year

Sign of spring 3-26-2008
Bulbs activating along foundation

The weather has been a bit better the last few days. Today had a definite spring-like feel with a little fast-moving afternoon rain. The temperature hit 10C at the house.
Sinan Antoon in Orono Thursday April 3 and Friday April 4


Ali Fadhil and Sinan Antoon on PBS Charlie Rose Show, March 19, 2008; Fadhil: "The Americans are like a virus, a disease"

Sinan Antoon will visit the University of Maine, Orono, Maine next week. He hails from Baghdad, received his Ph.D. from Harvard University, and now is a faculty member at New York University with specialization in premodern Arabo-Islamic culture and contemporary Arab culture and politics. He is a widely published poet and essayist. In 2004, he released his documentary film, About Baghdad.
  • Thursday April 3, 12:30–1:00pm: Sinan Antoon will speak about "The Destruction of the Modern State of Iraq" in the Memorial Union Bangor Room on the Orono campus
  • Thursday, April 3, 7:00pm: Dr. Antoon will deliver a lecture on "Debris and Diaspora: Iraqi Culture Now" in 140 Little Hall on the Orono campus
  • Friday, April 4, 7:00pm: He will show his widely-acclaimed film, About Baghdad, 140 Little Hall on the Orono campus.
This should be a fantastic opportunity to learn about the reality of Iraq and its destruction through American occupation.
Patrick Cockburn's new book on Iraq

New from Patrick Cockburn
From KPFA Flashpoints program

I have highlighted several stories written by UK Independent journalist Patrick Cockburn over the past month or so. Cockburn reports directly from the heart of Iraq with great courage. You'll get a true picture of Iraq from Cockburn's reporting: "One of the Most Disastrous Wars Ever Fought" and "Nothing but misery".

Now we have a chance to hear Patrick Cockburn from London, but who was in Iraq at the same time Republican presidential candidate John McCain and Vice President Dick Cheney were there last week. The 22-minute AUDIO segment below broadcast yesterday as part of KPFA Pacifica Radio's Flashpoints program:



Cockburn fully deconstructs the reality behind the Cheney-McCain PR angle, that as McCain puts it "Americans are more understanding of the success of the surge." This mantra is swallowed whole by American media.

Cockburn suggests some obvious questions they should be asking. For example, why did McCain this time avoid taking another well-protected shopping trip through the open-air Shorja market in Baghdad he touted last spring as a great "success"?? Perhaps it is because, as Patrick Cockburn explains in this interview, that the market today is under the control of al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.

The whole Cheney-McCain program makes Cockburn's "blood run cold" as they pretend not to notice the clashes and bombings erupting all around them. Meanwhile, a deluge of propaganda continuously mis-characterizes the situation, for example in lies told about last month's "Downs syndrome" bombers (they did not have this condition, as the U.S. quietly admitted later).

This is essential material. Interviewer Dennis Bernstein does a terrific job. Go HERE to download whole program from which this segment came.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hold her RESPONSIBLE!


Democracy Now! March 25, clip from new documentary film, "Body of War" (Maine Owl liberties taken in adding emphasis on pro-war vote of Senator Susan Collins)

Today on Democracy Now! there were clips and interviews about the new documentary, "Body of War." It is directed by filmmaker Ellen Spiro and veteran broadcaster Phil Donahue. The film tells the story of Iraq war veteran Tomas Young who was wounded and paralyzed in an attack on April 4, 2004, his fifth day in Iraq.

In all the coverage of the 5th anniversary of the war, I didn't see anyone ask our elusive senator (elusive, that is, until she has a "Santa Claus" or war profiteering "inoculation" PR appearance to make) if she thinks the war has been worth 4000 American sacrifices, 30,000 Americans maimed, a million dead Iraqis, uncounted million injured Iraqis, and at least 4 million Iraqis displaced.

What if she had cared a hoot two years ago this week, when she was reminded of at-the-time 2319 dead Americans?

Collins: Not a good listener

How many deaths could have been avoided? How many deaths could be avoided into the future if she would listen to Tomas Young and all anti-war voices now?

As I wrote back then, Susan Collins was among the most hawkish of the hawks in 2002. She brandished all of the wmd myths in her floor speech:
Collins: there is significant evidence that since 1998, Saddam has expanded his stockpile of chemical and biological weapons; rebuilt and expanded manufacturing sites, including mobile biological production facilities; developed more effective delivery systems, such as unmanned drones; and sought to procure materials for a nuclear bomb.
The only way to hold her responsible for her mad rush to this devastating, untenable war is to vote her out of the U.S. Senate in November 2008. The only hope of managing that rests in a successful campaign by Representative Tom Allen.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Purpose of war dictates who is qualified to comment

Tom Tomorrow is right on about right wing (and Democratic Party) "regrets" about war in This Modern World. For example, a commentator is shown regretting that the Iraqi people are "so thoroughly incapable of living up to" his "expectations of them."

That's all disingenuous stuff. But is there a such a thing as honest warmongering? Try this little bit from an American Enterprise Institute (AEI) session on Iraq today:

Fred Kagan: We're not in Iraq to help the Iraqis establish benchmarks. Our soldiers are in Iraq in pursuit of American interests. And that's the only measure, at the end of the day, that matters to me. ... It is an opportunity that we should seize.
He's saying that holding Iraq with troops is in our "security interests." The only thing he doesn't say is "by controlling the oil." But that's honest, isn't it? The U.S. obviously is not in Iraq for the common mythological reason that it is there to "help" the Iraqis.

These guys, like Kagan and Michael O'Hanlon, (link HERE to another choice bit from the same meeting) get full run of the media commenting sphere. While anti-war voices who have had everything right from the beginning are shut out.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

4000.
Mathematics and the Gospel

I've always had a fascination with the mysticism in the Gospel stories of what happens after the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus appears to various people and they have trouble recognizing him. Look it up, it's interesting how the stories in Matthew, Mark, and Luke vary.

John includes an episode not present in the other books after the resurrection (Luke has it before), the "Catch of 153 fish." Here's the relevant passage from John 21:1–13 (King James version),
1After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself.

2There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.

3Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.

4But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.

5Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.

6And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

7Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.

8And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.

9As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.

10Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.

11Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

12Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.

13Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.
Jesus shows them where to fish, and they land a great many, exactly 153. Why 153? Then they know he is really the guy.

The Wikipedia entry giving theories on this is truly fascinating. The fraction 265/153 was known in the ancient world as "the measure of the fish," a fraction close to the true value of root 3. The diagram above produced this ratio geometrically.

The further surprise is that the number 153 is equal to the sums of the cubes of its digits: 1 + 125 + 27! Fascinating. Read the details at this great wiki entry
HERE.
Christians under attack

Juan Cole posts today about the "especially sad" Easter for Iraq's Chaldean Christians. Their archbishop, Paulus Faraj Rahho, was kidnapped and found dead in a shallow grave on March 13. I guess the "surge" has not entirely worked for Christians in Iraq.

Three months ago around Christmastime, CBS News 60 Minutes carried this story:

Vicar: Dire Times For Iraq's Christians
Tells 60 Minutes Most Of Iraq's Christians Have Fled Or Been Killed - Dec. 2, 2007
(CBS) From the time of Jesus, there have been Christians in what is now Iraq. The Christian community took root there after the Apostle Thomas headed east.

But now, after nearly 2,000 years, Iraqi Christians are being hunted, murdered and forced to flee -- persecuted on a biblical scale in Iraq's religious civil war.
The vicar interviewed for that story drew the inescapable conclusion that "The situation now is clearly worse" than under Saddam. It's well worth viewing this story.

Today I echo the message of Pope Benedict, "Enough with the slaughters. Enough with the violence. Enough with the hatred in Iraq!"

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Stiffed for their pay

The U.S. military last year helped organize 80,000 "concerned local citizen" in Iraq's Diyala Province and elsewhere into "Awakening Councils" with the purpose of fighting off extreme Islamists. The U.S. had eager takers because the so-called "al-Qaida" extremists terrorized, brutalized, and murdered many who resisted their program. This more or less worked to drive out these monsters. But the U.S. also had promised pay, $10 per day.

In this video on "surge collapse" produced by Channel 4 & The Guardian (UK), it emerges that the U.S. is reneging on that promise:


Investigation carried out by GuardianFilms for Channel 4, uncovers how thousands of Iraqis employed at $10 a day by the US to take on al-Qaida are threatening to go on strike because they say they have been used by the 'Americans to do their dirty work' and haven't been paid

I'd say great, enlist 'em to clean out extremists willing to use brutal methods. But pay them! And give their country back to them. [h/t Juan Cole]

Friday, March 21, 2008

Need an antidote for Bushspeak and Cheneyspeak on the Iraq war?

Beyond the Green Zone by Dahr Jamail available now

I spoke with independent journalist DAHR JAMAIL last week and the interview aired Thursday March 20 on Community Radio WERU. You may play the 28-minute audio program using the AUDIO PLAYER below. Visit HERE for download options.



Dahr will be in Maine March 22 & 23 for TWO appearances:

"Beyond the Green Zone"
Book reading/Iraq Lecture

Saturday March 22, 7:00PM
Curtis Memorial Library
23 Pleasant Street, Brunswick (MAP)

and

Sunday March 23, 4?6PM
Belfast Free Library
106 High Street

UPDATED LOCATION: UU Church of Belfast
37 Miller Street (near High Street), downtown Belfast (MAP)

Brrrr

Blue Jay
This blue jay looks cold, doesn't he?

Doesn't look or feel much like spring around here on the first full day after the equinox. The equinox came at 1:30am yesterday. A couple of centimeters of rain followed, leaving a lot of ice now that the temp. is down to ?5C while the wind howls.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

On March 19, the 5th anniversary of the Iraq war, a press conference was held in Bangor at the Peace and Justice Center, featuring statements by members of Veterans for Peace.

A Voters Pledge was delivered to the campaign office of Senator Susan Collins, and to the Congressional Office of Representative Mike Michaud.

Our event supported the Massive Day of Nonviolent Action in Washington, D.C. (more details below).

This video runs 30 minutes and contains the entire event:

Participants included Ilze Petersons, Dud Hendrick, Roger Marshall, and Al Larson.


This is a much shorter video showing delivery of the Peace Voter pledges. The pledge reads: "I will not vote for or support any candidate who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq and preventing any future war of aggression, a public position in his or her campaign."


Josiah Curtis delivers the petitions.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

They lied then and they are lying now

The Terrible Reality of Iraq

A War of Lies
By PATRICK COCKBURN - Counterpunch - March 19, 2008
Baghdad. It has been a war of lies from the start. All governments lie in wartime but American and British propaganda in Iraq over the past five years has been more untruthful than in any conflict since the First World War. ...
And, be sure to listen to WERU Community Radio, 89.9 FM Blue Hill, Maine and 102.9FM Bangor for my interview with Dahr Jamail, Thursday March 20 at 4pm on the Radioactive program.

IRAQ: Five Years, And Counting
Analysis by Dahr Jamail
WASHINGTON, Mar 18 (IPS) - Devastation on the ground and largely held Iraqi opinion contradicts claims by U.S. officials that the situation in Iraq has improved towards the fifth anniversary of the invasion Mar. 20.

U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney, during a surprise visit to Iraq on Monday declared the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq a "successful endeavour".

According to the group Just Foreign Policy, more than a million Iraqis have died as a result of the invasion and occupation, now entering its sixth year. A survey by British polling agency ORB estimates the number of dead at more than 1.2 million.

Nobel laureate and former chief World Bank economist Joseph Stiglitz recently published a book with co-author Linda Bilmes of Harvard University titled 'The Three Trillion Dollar War', a figure it considers a "conservative estimate" of the long-range price tag of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

The authors say the Bush administration has repeatedly "low-balled" the cost of the war, and has kept a set of records hidden from the U.S. public.

According to the U.S. Department of Defence, close to 4,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed. The number of British casualties is 175.

"The war in Iraq has been one of the most disastrous wars ever fought by Britain," journalist Patrick Cockburn of London's Independent Newspaper wrote Mar. 17. "It will stand with Crimea and the Boer War as conflicts which could have been avoided, and were demonstrations of incompetence from start to finish."

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than four million Iraqis are displaced from their homes, with roughly half of them outside of the country.

The Iraqi Red Crescent estimates that one in every four residents of Baghdad, a city of six million, is displaced from home.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said in a report Mar. 17 that millions are still deprived of clean water and medical care.
Article continues below...

Iraq corruption & Susan Collins...

This has been another edition of What Gerald Said.

LINK
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 19, 2003


Presidential Letter
Text of a Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate
March 18, 2003

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

Consistent with section 3(b) of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public Law 107-243), and based on information available to me, including that in the enclosed document, I determine that:

(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither (A) adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor (B) likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and

(2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.

Sincerely,

GEORGE W. BUSH

As Robert Scheer put it in a column yesterday on the failures of George W, Bush, "The Pentagon was forced to release a report conducted over the last five years that concluded, after surveying 600,000 official Iraqi documents captured by U.S. forces, that there is "no smoking gun" establishing any connection whatsoever between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. The report was so embarrassing that we taxpayers were not going to be told of its existence, even though the explosive conclusions were declassified, until ABC News forced the administration to post it on the Joint Forces Command Web site."

Indeed, embarrassing. The causus belli required by Congress in its authorization and embodied in this letter was a complete fabrication.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dying for Nothing
One of the Most Disastrous Wars Ever Fought

By PATRICK COCKBURN - Counterpunch (Original in Independent HERE) - March 18, 2008
Baghdad. The war in Iraq has been one of the most disastrous wars ever fought by Britain. It has been small but we achieved nothing. It will stand with Crimea and the Boer War as conflicts which could have been avoided and were demonstrations of incompetence from start to finish.

The British failure in the Iraq war has been even more gross because it has not ended with a costly military victory but a humiliating scuttle. The victors in Basra and southern Iraq have been the local Shia militias masquerading as government security forces.
It's a "humiliating defeat" for the UK, and just about everyone there sees it as such. While Prime Minister Brown "insists it is not the right time for an immediate investigation", he promises there WILL be an inquiry. "There is a need to learn all possible lessons from the military action in Iraq and its aftermath," he said.

Tony Blair's former chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, "warned it could take 'decades' to bring calm to Iraq. He also admitted the British and US governments had seriously underestimated the scale of the task before them in 2003."

That article concludes with a list of the four UK inquiries into the war and its run-up, saying that "few answers" have resulted.
Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. remarks set off jingoist reaction

That jingoist reaction cuts all the way from the usual haunts of wingnuttia like NewsMax and Townhall to the liberals of Countdown. Obama had no choice other than to "denounce" Wright's remarks captured in a fair amount of video footage as "inflammatory and appalling."

I won't say that my style is the same as Rev. Wright. But, do not the underlying concepts in the "incendiary" remarks merit some consideration? From my point of view, that Obama would take spiritual guidance from Rev. Wright is positive. It shows me that Obama, who must have been familiar with the social and political critiques Wright has preached over the years, did not prior to running for the presidency turn away from criticism of injustice in American society and it's militarism around the world. It's negative that Obama now fails to raise any of the issues of the effect of militarism and imperialism raised by Wright.

Wright (as reported in the same NY Times article linked above) certainly treads on the third rail of American jingoism. To wit:
We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards, America's chickens are coming home to roost.
The Times then ran a graph where Wright explains the remark in an interview:
Asked in an interview last March to explain the sermon, Mr. Wright said he had been questioning the country?s desire for vengeance against the perpetrators, counseling his congregants to look inward instead.

Immediately after the attacks, the country?s response was "to pay back and kill," he said. But before it got "holier than thou," he said, the nation should have considered how its own policies had led to the events of that day. (Last year, Mr. Obama said, "The violence of 9/11 was inexcusable and without justification," and added that he and his wife were at home on the day of the sermon, tending to their new baby.)
This is exactly my own point. America reserves the right to kill and kill and kill and kill and kill for years after the colossal, but only two-hour-long transgression of 9/11. And we can't have discussion of causes?that could be revealed with a long, hard look in the mirror?lest we be accused of thinking that America "deserved" 9/11. This I most clearly and unequivocally do NOT think. (Read my immediate post-9/11 column that ran in the Askov American in Askov, Minnesota in September of 2001. That other piece linked to from the same page, "They can't see why they are hated" is helpful too.)

I do think the Countdown analyst Jonathan Alter (on Friday's show after the Obama interview), although loathe to give the slightest credence to Wright, is correct to say "[Obama] hasn't heard the end of this."

Good, I say. Let's bring out a good, deep discussion of Wright's point of view. At some point we'll have to get beyond gross jingoism and start talking about militarism and imperialism.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Cheney on Iraq walk-through
Veep walks on Iraqi oil
(AP photo)
He thinks U.S. should stay in Iraq

Of course he does. It's not an asset that he's giving up easily, especially after all the trouble he went through to take it.

He says of the surge policy, "That's been a remarkable success."

If he managed the news and lied about weapons in Iraq in 2003, why does he so easily manage the news in order to tout a false sense of "success" now? The news conveyors never learn, do they?
Audio commentary and op-ed

Mine clearly was a minority position on March 17, 2003. On that day, Maine Public Radio broadcast a 10-second clip of my testimony during the Citizen Summit at Bangor Theological Seminary. So, I dug out a tinny little mike (I had no professional equipment at the time) and recorded a three-minute audio op-ed. Here is the AUDIO FILE, recorded March 17, 2003:



The (never-published) written op-ed upon which this was based is below. It's quite prescient, isn't it? It's the historical perception of the vast majority now. Don't let anyone tell you "everyone" thought Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in March of 2003. I doubt there ever will be another thing in my life about which I will be so sad because I was right.
Front-page, above-the-fold story on five-year Iraq Anti-War Actions

Bangor Daily News front page 3-17-2008
Click above for the full BDN story

I thank them from the bottom of my heart. I'm welling up right now. Please write them and thank them for their complete, prominent, and fair coverage of the area Peace Movement for over a year now.

Previous stories:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Drums bang; a Citizen Summit


Slip slide to war

You'll see in the 10-minute video above two segments. There is a clip from Bangor Ch. 2, 11pm on Saturday March 15, 2003 including reports on protest in D.C., menacing war preparations (and Turkish refusal!), the pathetic Azores war council, and our last pre-war rally in Bangor. The next segment is the Sunday March 16, 2003 11pm report from Ch. 5 in Bangor. Bush calls it his "moment of truth", Blair is teetering politically, and the Azores war council includes Aznar of Spain. John King speaks disingenuously that "diplomacy" is being conducted. Pure horror.

For our part, we hold a Citizen Summit. Fifteen minutes of excerpts are below. If you bear with it for 7:45, The Owl will appear. I give myself three minutes to invoke solid evidence available at the time that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. The notion the war was justified required that it did. Bush and Cheney deserve war crimes trials. Here's the video:


Video contains fifteen minutes of excerpts from a two-hour program of citizen testimony and Congressional response. The full program played many times on public access teevee. The last 30 seconds are not to be missed! (Apologies for the not-the-greatest sound.)

In the video above, freshly sworn-in Congressman Mike Michaud congratulates us and calls for the U.N. inspections to work. Then if you can last to the end, just about the squirrelliest moment in the entire run-up to war when an aide to Senator Olympia Snowe displays thin skin.

Snowe's mostly vacuous statement included profundities like "the President and Congress must be involved in any decision to commit troops abroad" and that the Iraq War Resolution of October 2002 was a "solemn and difficult vote." The joke's on us, but at that time Snowe was in the Cakewalk Coalition. But the melee erupted when the aide couldn't deal with the groans from the audience upon reading Snowe's characterization as "clear, convincing, specific and well-corroborated" the "evidence" Colin Powell gave on February 5, 2003. (Snowe's entire 3-16-2003 statement below.)
Saturday March 15 11pm reports from Bangor Ch. 5 and Ch. 2

Please go HERE:
From Every Village Green Action Site
For a full rundown of Maine statewide Iraq-war-@five events along with more media/photos


Click to play:


Mike Howard is interviewed by Ch. 5, with excellent points on the cost of war.

The Ch. 2 piece is cut a little differently than the 6pm report posted earlier. Ch. 2 manages to mangle news about the Winter Soldier event, but at least they include a bit of the cell phone conversation.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Excellent coverage on Bangor Ch. 2


An amazing two minutes

I think THIS AP release from the Boston Globe probably is accurate in saying we had 250 at Paul Bunyan Park for our From Every Village Green Anti-War Action in Bangor today.

The teevee story above is very good and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for giving peace two minutes, an eternity in television news. It does kill me that the reporter has to finish that Bush says the U.S. is staying in Iraq until the county is "stable." In reality, U.S. policy, military occupation, and brutalization of the Iraqi people has done nothing but destabilize the country for five years.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Starting today and for the next couple of weeks there will be special coverage in Maine Owl for tomorrow's From Every Village Green actions, the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) Winter Soldier Hearings, and a number of events planned over the next couple of weeks. I'm going to try to post as much stuff as I can. Go here for information:

From Every Village Green Action Site
Click above for a full rundown of Maine statewide Iraq-war-@five events

I've been very busy. I am the webmaster for From Every Village Green. That site has everything you need to know to find a protest or a Winter Soldier event for this weekend. (Note: The IVAW site has been sluggish or inaccessible. If you have Dish Network, that's best, Dish ch. 9415.)

So, today is Media Day! There has been excellent newspaper and television coverage, some of which I will post here and at From Every Village Green... .
Excellent television news coverage for From Every Village Green on both Ch. 5 and Ch. 7 in Bangor this evening. Notice that Ch. 7 used some footage from previous protests shot by yours truly. Click to play:

Op-Ed by Mike Howard, Published Saturday, March 08, 2008 - Bangor Daily News

Taking a closer look at supposed progress in Iraq

Pollsters and pundits tell us that voters? attention has shifted from the Iraq war to the economy. What does this mean for voters and for politicians seeking their votes? While there have been very real economic shocks in housing and fuel prices and there are signs of recession, it would be rash to conclude that Iraq no longer matters. It is still among the top two issues in most polls, and more than half the country believes the war is not worth fighting and that troops should be withdrawn.

The media may be helping to create the shift in priorities they are reporting by conveying a questionable image of progress in the war and by ignoring the war?s economic impact. In the Feb. 12 BDN, Mark Brewer, assistant professor of political science at the University of Maine, is reported as saying that "Iraq, if not improving, is at least stabilizing."

Reporters regularly credit the troop surge with a reduction in violence during the last year. But a more detailed analysis yields a more skeptical conclusion. Violence has subsided to 2004-05 levels, but these are still alarmingly high, and it is not obvious how much this is due to the troop surge rather than to ethnic cleansing in Baghdad having been completed (with 4 million now displaced or in exile), to a fragile cease-fire by the Shiite Mahdi army, and to Sunni Awakening Councils turning against al-Qaida and stopping attacks in Anbar province. Still, more than 100 members of these councils have been assassinated recently in this "stabilizing" period, and the political "benchmarks" set by the Bush administration are not being met. A majority of Iraqis want the U.S. to withdraw.

This is stability? People will not lose concern about the war if they are adequately informed about the catastrophe it has been and continues to be, despite the surge.

Preoccupation with the relative priority of the war and the economy neglects the links between them. The war is a likely contributor to rising oil prices, one factor in the recession. Consistent underestimation of the costs of the war has kept the focus away from its economic impact. A Bush advisor was fired for "overestimating" the expected cost at $200 billion. Economist Robert Shapiro wrote in 2002 that "even if the war costs $300 billion that will still be less than one-fifth of the 10-year cost of the president?s tax cut and barely one third of the president?s other defense spending increases."

But six years later, the cost of the war is nearing $500 billion, and projections for the total cost are as high as $2 trillion when factoring in such costs as disability payments and higher oil prices, putting the cost of the war in the same order of magnitude as these other expenses that are more often cited as the main sources for our economic doldrums. Annual requested Iraq war spending ($156 billion) is at about the same level as Bush?s economic stimulus package (and undoubtedly more when the supplemental requests not included in the budget are added later in the year). Think what that amount could do if spent on productive infrastructure investments rather than on destruction. Think of what we have lost and will lose from the costs of the war.

According to David Leonhardt of the New York Times, $1.2 trillion, a conservative estimate of the eventual cost of the war if it continues, could pay for "an unprecedented public health care campaign" against cancer, heart disease, and global immunizable diseases; universal preschool; reconstruction for New Orleans; and genuine national security improvements such as better cargo screening and measures against nuclear proliferation. Or think what this money would mean if put back in the hands of taxpayers, who are now paying $4,100 per household annually for the war.

Beyond all price is the cost of the war in military and civilian casualties in the hundreds of thousands, refugees in the millions, a country shattered for a generation or more, a tremendous rage at the U.S. in the Arab and Muslim world, and in traditionally friendly countries a widely shared perception of the U.S. as a violent occupying power that will flaunt international law to control oil and other scarce resources.

Politicians and voters alike should reflect and recognize the war in Iraq as a major issue in the coming presidential and senatorial elections. And don?t wait for the elections. Express yourself at the Chain of Concern about the costs of the Iraq war at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 15, at the Paul Bunyan statue in Bass Park. For more information about this and related events, see http://everyvillage-me.us/2008/, or call the Peace and Justice Center at 942-9343.

Note: My friend Mike Howard of Bangor is a member of the Education Committee of the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Iraq corruption kills Iraqis and U.S. troops alike; Maine Senator Collins among the Republicans who dropped the ball


Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) lambastes blind-eye Congress; go HERE to find webcast of complete 2-1/2 hour hearing
DORGAN: I think for five years Congress has done a miserable job of oversight, just a miserable job. We've just shoveled money out the door and it is the greatest example of waste, fraud and abuse in the history of this country, ... . I'm convinced the American taxpayers have just been stolen blind.


Senator Dorgan shows KBR embroidered towel
Embroidered KBR towel reveals arrogance of occupation and contempt for American taxpayers

The U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations held a hearing examining "Waste, Fraud, and Abuse of American Tax Dollars in Iraq" on Tuesday March 11, 2008. Senator Dorgan is a key guy in exposing all this. Dorgan gives David M. Walker, Comptroller General of the United States; Claude M. Kicklighter, Inspector General, Department of Defense; and Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction appropriate praise for finally issuing certain reports exposing the truth about how the U.S. taxpayer (and the Iraqis) have been treated by the U.S. occupation regime.

The big story this week was about Halliburton/KBR negligence in failure to provide safe water for U.S. troops. Of course, the report was kept secret until just recently when Kicklighter brought it to light. Gerald at Turn Maine Blue put up a good post on this three days ago (thanks Gerald).

These facts alone should condemn U.S. Senator Susan Collins to an early retirement at the hands of voters in November. Senator Collins had one of the blindest of the Republican blind eyes during the crucial 2003-5 period when U.S. taxpayer and Iraqi money alike drained into the sea of corruption that was the U.S. occupation. Senator Dorgan has the goods on the whole thing.

When it really counted, Collins was more interested in sending her attack dog, Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota, to paint an overly-hysterical picture of the old U.N. Iraq Oil-for-Food program for the media. In 2004 and 2005, Coleman harassed U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and unsuccessfully tried to spring a phony perjury trap on a high-profile Iraq sanctions and war opponent, U.K. politician George Galloway. Hers was a double standard when it came to her blindness about corruption since the U.S. took over.

Below is the full release on the hearing from the Senate Committee on Appropriations. Shouldn't Collins at least display some remorse for the thousands of U.S.-supplied weapons that have fallen into the hands of "insurgents and militias to use against U.S. troops"??

Update: HERE is a related post from Think Progress, emphasizing that "U.S. tax money is ending up in the hands of sectarian militias in Iraq." GAO Comptroller Walker later "confirmed that a 'significant' amount of what the U.S. spends on Iraqi contracts is being diverted to Sunni and Shiite militias. Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, agreed, adding that 'it is a significant problem.'"

Monday, March 10, 2008

Digby notes forthcoming Bush Administration tell-all

THIS is a pattern?former Bush official spills beans in attempt to save reputation from association with the most toxic, worst failed government in U.S. history. It follows the trail left by former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, fired from his job in late 2003, then author with Ron Suskind of "The Price of Loyalty." As reported four years ago by Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes, "Paul O'Neill says he is going public because he thinks the Bush Administration has been too secretive about how decisions have been made."

Indeed, "secretive." As, Digby noted yesterday, Thomas E. Ricks and Karen DeYoung in the Washington Post discuss the latest insider version of the Bush narrative, this the first from a former Pentagon official. Douglas Feith, who was the hard-right neocon undersecretary of defense for policy, tackles head-on the Bush process of "War and Decision" in a forthcoming book of that title.

Ricks and DeYoung write,
Among the disclosures made by Feith in "War and Decision," scheduled for release next month by HarperCollins, is Bush's declaration, at a Dec. 18, 2002, National Security Council meeting, that "war is inevitable." The statement came weeks before U.N. weapons inspectors reported their initial findings on Iraq and months before Bush delivered an ultimatum to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Feith, who says he took notes at the meeting, registered it as a "momentous comment."
Well, that's interesting, as Digby describes, because "Codpiece" (Bush) repeated publicly a number of times thereafter, literally until right up to the invasion, some version of "I hope this Iraq situation will be resolved peacefully."

The version of this I mentioned recently in Maine Owl was the March 6, 2003 press conference, where President Bush issued three separate phrases suggesting a decision to go to war had not yet been made, BUSH: "I hope we don't have to go to war, but if we go to war," and "I've not made up our mind about military action. Hopefully, this can be done peacefully," and "We hope we don't go to war; but if we should, we will present a supplemental [budget]."

I find these public statements of uncertainty about war revealing lies that are exposed if you understand the secret machinations that were occurring underneath. Mark Danner covered this ground unearthed by the Downing Street Memos in a long piece for the New York Review Books in June 2005. The bottom line?
DANNER: What the Downing Street memo confirms for the first time is that President Bush had decided, no later than July 2002, to "remove Saddam, through military action," that war with Iraq was "inevitable"?and that what remained was simply to establish and develop the modalities of justification; that is, to come up with a means of "justifying" the war and "fixing" the "intelligence and facts...around the policy."
Feith should not have been so taken with a "momentous comment" about inevitable war in December 2002, unless he was not in Cheney's loop to the extent he is believed to have been.

See also, THIS POST on the secret Downing Street memo underneath the January 31, 2003 Bush-Blair meeting.
If you are interested in my Allen-Collins senate race posts (got here from Daily Kos?), the ones so far are HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and, finally, my long piece on Susan Collins and the Iraq Oil-for-Food double standard is HERE.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Guess who made the list

Promises, promises:

President and Mrs. Bush Celebrate Women's History Month and International Women's Day
March 7, 2006 - The East Room
President Bush: In the last four years, we have also seen women make great strides in Afghanistan and Iraq -- countries where just a few years ago women were denied basic rights and were brutalized by tyrants. Today in Afghanistan, girls are attending school. That speaks well for Afghanistan's future. Women hold about 20 percent of the seats in the National Assembly. Nobody could have dreamed that was possible five years ago. In last fall's elections, about 40 percent of the voters were women. In Iraq, women are voting in large numbers, and when the new Iraqi parliament takes office, women will hold about one-quarter of the seats.
Looks like something is sorely lacking in the follow-up to these developments, because, according U.N. Human Development Report data assembled by the Toronto Star, "In spite of real progress around the globe, the bedrock problems that have dogged women for centuries remain."

Ten worst countries for women
Toronto Star - Olivia Ward - Foreign Affairs Reporter - Mar 08, 2008
The image of the 21st century woman is confident, prosperous, glowing with health and beauty.

But for many of the 3.3 billion female occupants of our planet, the perks of the cyber age never arrived. As International Women's Day is celebrated today, they continue to feel the age-old lash of violence, repression, isolation, enforced ignorance and discrimination.
Here's how things are going at the two principle U.S. demonstration projects:
  • Afghanistan: The average Afghan girl will live to only 45 ? one year less than an Afghan male. After three decades of war and religion-based repression, an overwhelming number of women are illiterate. More than half of all brides are under 16, and one woman dies in childbirth every half hour. Domestic violence is so common that 87 per cent of women admit to experiencing it. But more than one million widows are on the streets, often forced into prostitution. Afghanistan is the only country in which the female suicide rate is higher than that of males.
  • Iraq: The U.S.-led invasion to "liberate" Iraq from Saddam Hussein has imprisoned women in an inferno of sectarian violence that targets women and girls. The literacy rate, once the highest in the Arab world, is now among the lowest as families fear risking kidnapping and rape by sending girls to school. Women who once went out to work stay home. Meanwhile, more than 1 million women have been displaced from their homes, and millions more are unable to earn enough to eat.
The U.S. itself has a lot of work to do. It's not one of the worst, but neither is it in the top ten.

Update: I realized my headline for this item was ungrammatical. Even though no one seemed bothered, I changed it.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Real version of key Downing Street memo given to Blair the first week of March 2003

This note belongs with the last post. At the same time as U.N. weapons inspection reports of March 7, 2003 were demolishing the U.S.-U.K. case for war given forcefully before the Security Council by Colin Powell four weeks earlier, a secret memo by the U.K. attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, to then Prime Minister Tony Blair communicated ill ease with the legality of attacking Iraq without a specific resolution permitting it.

The whole story of what advice became the basis for action by Parliament authorizing the attack is quite complicated, as is the full, "real" memo. The memo and a news story about it from the period of Blair's 2005 re-election campaign is HERE. I posted THIS at the time.

Below is Lord Goldsmith's final paragraph from the complex 13-page argument.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Mohamed ElBaradei
ElBaradei, not Powell (or Bush), trustworthy to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in 2005
Who deceived?

Friday March 7, 2003 had huge implications for the legality of the Iraq war that reverberate today. On that day, the proverbial nail was put in the coffin of the so-called "second resolution" the U.S. and its war partners attempted to receive from the U.N. Security Council.

There already was much political weight against war in the home countries of Security Council members, even the U.S. but especially "coalition of the willing" members. The U.S. faced three likely vetoes of a war resolution from China, France, and Russia; the Blair government teetered politically in the U.K. as it desperately sought cover for war. So great was the opposition that the U.S. could not even count on pushed-over third-world governments like Pakistan and Cameroon to do the usual thing and ignore their publics.

This is what really nailed it though--the reports head Iraq weapons inspector Hans Blix and IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei gave on March 7. Here is 4-1/2-minute AUDIO CLIP of ElBaradei, containing one of the most famous lines in the history of exposure of official ruses:



?Based on thorough analysis, the IAEA has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documents ? which formed the basis for the reports of these uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger ? are, in fact, not authentic,? he said.

ElBaradei's recitation of how the entire Powell presentation on Iraq and nuclear weapons was unfounded was quite stunning, as he hammered each point with, "There is no indication..."

For his part, Blix hammered away as well:
HANS BLIX (March 7, 2003):Intelligence authorities have claimed that weapons of mass destruction are moved around Iraq by trucks. In particular, that there are mobile production units for biological weapons. The Iraqi side states that such activities do not exist. Several inspections have taken place at declared and undeclared sites in relation to mobile production facilities. Food testing mobile laboratories and mobile workshops have been seen, as well as large containers with seed processing equipment. No evidence of proscribed activities has so far been found.
So Powell's presentation ended up being a diplomatic disaster. This was the most shining, most relevant moment for the U.N. in the entire run-up to war. It stood up to the U.S. for the only time in its history, before or since.

The reaction from a broad swath of U.S. brahmin classes was predictable--they were just shocked by the temerity of these developments, as in this "news analysis" in the New York Times:

NEWS ANALYSIS [March 9, 2003]
Iraq Crisis May Limit Hopes for U.N.
By FELICITY BARRINGER - UNITED NATIONS, March 8
"Relevance" has become the buzzword of the Iraqi crisis. From the president on down, leading Bush administration officials have declared that if the United Nations, as it approaches the age of 58, cannot decide to make its authority felt on Iraq, it may as well resign itself to being a debating society, albeit one with a $1.45 billion annual budget.

Even ardent internationalists worry that the institution finds itself in a lose-lose situation?ridiculed as a puppet if American pressure forces a reluctant Security Council majority to support a war against Saddam Hussein, or reduced once more to a self-absorbed cipher if France, Russia and Germany lead the Security Council to thumb its nose at the world's superpower.

The Security Council's bitter split transfixes a wincing world.

But what has really imploded over the past decade are the hopes of those who believed that the United Nations would emerge from the ashes of the cold war as a mechanism for conflict control.
No doubt many of the other anguished examples given reflect on the effectiveness of the U.N. But the analysis has things ass backwards. The U.N. refusal to hand Bush that resolution saying yes to war revealed for an all-too-brief moment the potential power of the U.N. and the publics backing it. Sadly, the U.S. went ahead with war anyway. But not before its faulty case had been laid bare. That remains important today even as we are mired in the horrible consequences of the war because U.S. power again to cause another war of like scale has been reduced.
Back Cove, Portland, Maine

Back Cove
Last year's crop

Mallard
Mallard

It's about 3 1/2 miles and around an hour to circumnavigate the Cove on foot, as I did with my father-in-law today. The trail had plenty of ice, snow, and mud. I used to live about four blocks from the west side of the Cove.
This is what we heard that evening


Not sure of location where this YouTube of Altan was made; Irish band played in Orono on 3-6-03

While we left behind for a few hours the horrible reality of war closing in, we thoroughly enjoyed this concert at the Maine Center for the Arts on the University of Maine campus. It was one of the few moments of peace we felt during that period.

The Bush press conference
Last year, after a Bill Moyers program on how the sheep known as the U.S. press were herded into war, I posted on the incredible March 6, 2003 press conference. I repost that below. Surely going to see Altan was the better choice that evening.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Back in March 2003, in an important dawn-of-war article, Thomas Powers writing in the New York Times Sunday Week in Review explained that what would follow the then-coming invasion of Iraq would be an occupation of Iraq with U.S. President George W. Bush in charge.

Amazingly, it is now possible to dredge up these archive stories in full, and I happened to have saved the link to that article:

Pre-Occupation; The Man Who Would Be President of Iraq
By THOMAS POWERS - Published: March 16, 2003
IF war comes -- the phrase used so often in recent months -- the fighting may be quick or prolonged, but few experts doubt that the huge American force now concentrating in the Middle East will prevail in the end. When the regime finally changes in Baghdad, and Saddam Hussein is dead, in custody or in exile, 70 years of Iraqi independence will end, political authority will pass into the hands of George W. Bush and Western rule will be planted on Arab soil for the first time since the French and British left the region in the middle of the last century.

What then happens to Iraq's 23 million people, its oil and its relations with its neighbors will remain the personal responsibility of Mr. Bush and his successors in the White House until one of them chooses to surrender it.

This dramatic expansion of President Bush's job description, little discussed during the long months of argument at the United Nations over Iraqi weapons, will be the immediate practical result of an American military victory and the occupation of Iraq by the Army's Central Command.

As the military commander in chief, the president will have virtually unlimited power to change and rebuild Iraq as he sees fit, far greater power, for example, than Queen Victoria's over India in the 19th century.
Wow, explains exactly the U.S. power grab and suggests the responsibilities that entails in a nutshell.

Let's fast forward to Wednesday, just short of five years since the Powers article. President Bush is asserting what appears to be permanent U.S. sovereignty over Iraq! It's buried on page A18. And the Washington Post story focuses on the hurt feelings in Congress that they're being told they ceded Bush these powers long ago. But I think it also reveals the truth of how the sovereign thinks about its imperial subjects, if you read deep enough:

No Need for Lawmakers' Approval of Iraq Pact, U.S. Reasserts
By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 6, 2008; Page A18
The Bush administration yesterday advanced a new argument for why it does not require congressional approval to strike a long-term security agreement with Iraq, stating that Congress had already endorsed such an initiative through its 2002 resolution authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein.

The 2002 measure, along with the congressional resolution passed one week after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks authorizing military action "to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States," permits indefinite combat operations in Iraq, according to a statement by the State Department's Bureau of Legislative Affairs.

The statement came in response to lawmakers' demands that the administration submit to Congress for approval any agreement with Iraq. U.S. officials are traveling to Baghdad this week with drafts of two documents -- a status-of-forces agreement and a separate "strategic framework" -- that they expect to sign with the Iraqi government by the end of July. It is to go into effect when the current U.N. mandate expires Dec. 31.

...

According to yesterday's statement, the administration's interpretation of the 2002 resolution is that "Congress expressly authorized the use of force to 'defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq.' "

In a letter to [Rep. Gary L. Ackerman (D-N.Y.)], Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey T. Bergner said that authority exists with or without a U.N. mandate. In addition to the resolutions, he wrote, "Congress has repeatedly provided funding for the Iraq war." Democrats have failed in several attempts to curtail funding for the Iraq war. [emphasis added]
Say what? The administration without further approval of Congress wants to sign an agreement with leaders of a country, who are supposed to be our allies, that we're at war with that country just to say we're staying at war?

It's insane. Any decent Iraqi should be outraged that quislings should sell out their country in this manner.

Also, consider that Congress did hand Bush these sweeping authorizations to use force, so it is hard to sympathize with arguments that members who voted in such resolutions are not getting just what they should have expected from Bush & Cheney.

The thing that's lost, however, is Bush's responsibilities for the welfare of the Iraqi people. That is a tragedy in many acts, perhaps on a world-history scale of displacement and, yes, genocide, with 500,000 to 1 million excess deaths, and 4 or 5 million refugees.
What they've been up to: non-denial denial

Rice in Rome, summer 2006
July 28, 2006 in Rome: Not enough Lebanese were dead; Killing & Rice come together in Gaza this year too while she can't say "ceasefire"

Vanity Fair has really stung 'em. The U.S. policy of propping up Fatah thugs against an enemy, yet democratically-elected Hamas government in Palestine has been exposed in a way it hasn't been until now. I like the way Angry Arab has been posting lines from the piece as he reads them. (Scroll through March 4 and March 3 from HERE.)

Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman - Washington, DC -March 4, 2008
The story alleges that there was some kind of secret plot on the part of the U.S. Government to create a internal conflict within the Palestinians, specifically an armed conflict. That?s absurd. That?s ridiculous. I said this morning that I think Vanity Fair should stick to arty photos of celebrities since clearly, at least in this instance, their efforts at serious journalism leave something lacking.
The official reaction is that something is "absurd," "ridiculous," or, as Secretary Rice herself put it (below the fold), "ludicrous." No, it wasn't exactly "secret," or even a "plot." The Contra-style armament plan was done. It was a straightforward policy to arm favored thugs and run a divide-and-conquer playbook. And sure, we can accept it was ludicrous.

It's hard to even imagine that Condoleezza Rice can wield any credibility. Her biggest stock in trade is to go around pointing at the terrorists Israeli hardliners want her to name. It's all one-way. Just as in July 2006, while she is "pressing for an end to the violence" she simply cannot utter the words that instantly would stop the most powerful purveyor of violence, which is Israel, and the very-much-less-destructive rocket attacks as well: "The United States declares that there must be a CEASEFIRE on BOTH sides." But while she "presses," the violence continues so Israel can accomplish its threats to "wipe out" Gaza neighborhoods, because, you know, Hamas are just dirt without the Israeli "right to self-defense."

Rice, below in full bloom:

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Squirrel
Cute!

The bigger squirrels are starting to bug me. They're just too hungry and eat too much. But this little guy is too cute not to feed.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Yikes

I don't like the sound of this at all and it makes me wonder what the hell I'm doing supporting Obama:

Obama's Sub-Prime Conflict
consortiumnews.com - By Dennis Bernstein - February 28, 2008
... [1,406 people] lost much of their life savings when Superior Bank of Chicago went belly up in 2001 with over $1 billion in insured and uninsured deposits. This collapse came amid harsh criticism of how Superior's owners promoted sub-prime home mortgages. As part of a settlement, the owners paid $100 million and agreed to pay another $335 million over 15 years at no interest.

The uninsured depositors were dealt another blow recently when the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower court decision to put any recovered money toward the debt that the bank owners owe the federal government before the depositors get anything.

But this seven-year-old bank failure has relevance in another way today, since the chair of Superior?s board for five years was Penny Pritzker, a member of one of America?s richest families and the current Finance Chair for the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, the same candidate who has lashed out against predatory lending.

During a recent campaign stop in south Texas, Obama met with San Antonio-area residents who had been particularly hard hit by the sub-prime meltdown. He expressed dismay over how lobbyists for the sub-prime lending industry had spent more than $185 million in the last several years for their cause.
Does this portend something about how a potential Obama Administration will deal with issues of financial regulation? If so, it's going to be nothing good. Clinton signed the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999. This opened up lots of the practices that we're seeing come home to roost today. So far, I don't see any Democrats clamoring for a return to New Deal measures like the Glass-Steagall Act regulations that forbade depository/lending banking functions get mixed up with investment banking functions. There was good reason for these regulations. But the public's head is so far out of the game that it doesn't even know how it's being hosed. Another Democratic administration that flies in on "hope" and then furtively keeps turning down the screws is something we don't need.

Obama (or any Democrat) will not be a magic wand

I didn't really intend to post on Nader again just now but, while researching the Democratic-president-signed Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 (a key stimulus of the current financial crisis), I ran across THIS debate from last year (on Truth Dig, a very interesting site) between Ralph and Truth Dig editor Robert Scheer, a writer I respect a lot.

Scheer wants to argue that it's counterproductive to run 3rd-party campaigns. Okay, I think bad things have followed 3rd-party campaigns, but not because of the 3rd parties! It's the failure of the first two parties that follows the campaign where the 3rd party is buried (even Perot was shut out of the Electoral College).

In fact, it's failure of the best of the "second" party, the one that's supposed to mount an opposition, that really screws the public. Here's Ralph:
NADER: Now let?s take the progressives. There?s a Progressive Caucus that?s now up to 72 or so members. But when it was around 50 or 55, and this was before 2000, we tried to get it activated. You know, a real hard minority in the House can achieve quite a bit. Look what the Southerners did blocking the civil rights laws, for example?just a handful of them in strategic places. So we had, we drafted 10 statutes virtually costing taxpayers nothing, but they shifted power from the few to the many. They made it easier for labor, for consumers to organize, they changed some campaign rules, etc. And we gave it, every one of them, one at a time, and weeks went by. We never heard. We called them up. Bernie, Bernie Sanders? Why don?t you at least put an amendment in the hoppers? So people around the country can say, ?It was HR 28? and rally around it. It never had a chance. It won?t have a chance. Dennis [Kucinich], even you, why don?t you put these in the hopper so we can have an agenda, a progressive agenda that will get us some visibility and you can go on talk shows. Well, even he didn?t put them in. So I had a meeting with the chair of the Democratic National Committee. I had a nice lunch and proceeded to go through these one after another. I call them a pro-democracy agenda. And he took notes, and it was really great. And at the end of the lunch, I gave him a little paperback just for a joke; it was called ?Dogs Are More Intelligent Than Republicans.? It was a humorous little piece properly pictured and so on. It was just a fun book. So a week went by, two weeks, he said he would give it to the research committee at the DNC. Well, that?s fine, three or four weeks go by, didn?t hear about all these proposals. Finally get a call from the Democratic National Committee research unit. They said, ?By the way, you know that book ?Dogs Are More Intelligent Than Republicans?? Can we have more copies?? So I sent them a couple boxes worth. Well, this continued again after 2000. They still didn?t put anything in. So what is this progressive all about? So I wrote an article for The Nation about two years ago: ?Ten Ways to Reform Corporations.? 1, 2, 3, 4. And I get copies and I send it to everyone in the Progressive Caucus. And not a single reply. This is a dead-in-the-water operation. And this is the cream of the crop.
The bottom line is that a true progressive agenda is moribund in today's fully debased politics. People want good things to happen, but they are going to have to wake up and force whoever they elect to do them.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

In 60 Minutes report, look who the enemy is!

Pain for the dangerous rogues
Weaponized short microwaves: Dangerous people deserve pain

When I worked with wave guides in my junior-level e-m courses, we were always cautioned to stay out of the beam, and for God sakes, not to look at it! This Pentagon contraption is a nasty weaponized version of a wave guide manufactured by Raytheon. It's not exactly rocket science, just a way to generate and direct microwaves (about 1/40 the wavelength of the oven kind) at rouges who might challenge Pentagon objectives.

It's billed as non-destructive, but if you follow through the links HERE, you'll see that rapid burning of soft tissue will occur if a body, or an eye, intercepts the full power of the machine.

Here's the video, care of Raw Story:



Glad to know the military has a branch for the purpose of making carefully stenciled peace signs for weapons test subjects. Maybe they could bring 'em on for the 5th anniversary of the war. I feel so much safer now that I know these guys at least can conceive phrases like "Love for All."

(Update below: The full 60 Minutes video that shows the attack on the peace sign holders.)
Over 100 Gaza residents reported dead in days of Israeli aerial bombardment

The NY Times plays it like it's some kind of battlefield face-off, Israeli "defenses" versus Palestinian "positions" where "advanced Iranian rockets" are being fired. But if you read far enough, even the Times reports the civilian carnage, "as 19 Palestinian civilians also died in the heavily populated area, including 4 children."

Following threats last month to "wipe out Gaza neighborhoods," the Israelis have made good on that and are, according to the Times, taking the "Gaza fight to a new level." The latest news just in is that Israel has "attacked Palestinian positions in northern Gaza on Saturday, killing at least 54 people and wounding more than 100 in the deadliest day of fighting in more than a year."

Some Israeli officials are showing little restraint in describing what their program is about. Ali Abunimah of The Electronic Intifada posted Friday that "Israeli minister threatens "holocaust" as public demand ceasefire talks."

On Israeli army radio deputy defense minister Matan Vilnai said, "The more Qassam [rocket] fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, [the Palestinians] will bring upon themselves a bigger shoah because we will use all our might to defend ourselves."

That's pretty amazing language being applied to the Palestinians given the place of the word shoah in Jewish historical consciousness.

Oh, and according to Secretary of State Rice, it's all the fault of Hamas:

Press Availability in Tokyo
Secretary Condoleezza Rice - February 28, 2008
QUESTION: (Inaudible). There?s been collateral damage in Gaza, including the death of the six-month-old baby, according to our reports and five other civilians. Did you raise any concerns about that?

SECRETARY RICE: As I said, I?m concerned about the humanitarian condition there and innocent people in the Gaza who are being hurt. We have to remember that the Hamas activities there are responsible for what has happened in Gaza, the illegal coup that they led against the Palestinian Authority institutions, the legitimate institutions of the Palestinian Authority. And so it?s very clear where this started. But of course, we are concerned about the innocent people and we are concerned about the humanitarian situation.
She seems to have forgotten that Hamas won a parliamentary majority in free and fair elections two years ago and has been under attack from nearly every Western government since. So what she's really saying is the attack is justified because the Palestinian people chose the wrong representatives. And for all her concern about "the humanitarian condition," she can't bring herself to call for a ceasefire.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Big snow today

Snow Mar. 1, 2008
In like a lion

This may be the biggest snowstorm during a snowy season. NWS says:
URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE CARIBOU ME
1020 AM EST SAT MAR 1 2008

...ANOTHER SIGNIFICANT WINTER STORM WILL AFFECT THE AREA TODAY INTO EARLY SUNDAY MORNING...

.LOW PRESSURE WILL APPROACH FROM THE GREAT LAKES AND REDEVELOP ALONG THE MAINE COAST THIS AFTERNOON. THIS SYSTEM WILL INTENSIFY AS IT MOVES SLOWLY NORTHEAST THROUGH THE BAY OF FUNDY TONIGHT AND INTO THE MARITIMES ON SUNDAY.

CENTRAL PISCATAQUIS-CENTRAL PENOBSCOT-SOUTHERN PENOBSCOT-INTERIOR HANCOCK-CENTRAL WASHINGTON-SOUTHERN PISCATAQUIS-NORTHERN WASHINGTON-INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...GREENVILLE...MONSON...BLANCHARD... LINCOLN... HOWLAND... SPRINGFIELD... BANGOR... BREWER... ORONO... OLD TOWN... AMHERST... AURORA... DEDHAM... EASTBROOK... GREAT POND... ORLAND... DEBLOIS... GRAND LAKE STREAM... MEDDYBEMPS... PEMBROKE... PERRY... PRINCETON... DOVER-FOXCROFT... MILO... GUILFORD... DANFORTH... VANCEBORO... TOPSFIELD

...HEAVY SNOW WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 4 AM EST SUNDAY...

SNOW WILL BECOME HEAVY BY AFTERNOON AND CONTINUE INTO THE EVENING BEFORE TAPERING OFF TO LIGHT SNOW LATE TONIGHT. SNOWFALL RATES OF UP TO 2 INCHES AN HOUR CAN BE EXPECTED LATER THIS MORNING INTO THE AFTERNOON HOURS. TOTAL SNOWFALL ACCUMULATIONS OF 9 TO 16 INCHES CAN BE EXPECTED.

THIS STORM WILL HAVE A HIGH IMPACT ON THE WARNING AREA. HEAVY SNOW WILL COVER ROADS AND REDUCE VISIBILITIES MAKING TRAVEL DIFFICULT. WINDS WILL INCREASE TO SPEEDS OF 15 TO 25 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO 35 MPH LATER THIS AFTERNOON INTO THE EVENING. THIS
WILL LEAD TO CONSIDERABLE BLOWING AND DRIFTING OF THE SNOW LEADING HAZARDOUS DRIVING CONDITIONS. ...
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow ...
Tree sparrow 2
Yesterday

I couldn't resist posting another Tree Sparrow. That's what I'm calling him until someone tells me otherwise.