Archive for March, 2006

Friday Garden Blogging

Friday, March 31st, 2006

March out like a lamb


One week earlier than last year


I think these garlic shoots are volunteers


Last year’s fruit shriveling away

We did plant some garlic bulbs in the fall. But I think the ones emerging now are volunteers from last year, and may be from bulbs we forgot to dig up.

Meanwhile, it’s dry–easily the driest spring since we arrived here from Minnesota in March 2002. This is what the weather service says about it:

VERY DRY CONDITIONS CONTINUE ACROSS DOWNEAST MAINE AND SNOW FREE AREAS OF NORTHERN MAINE TODAY…

THE MAINE STATE FOREST SERVICE HAS INDICATED THAT THE GRASS AND WILDLAND FIRE DANGER ACROSS MUCH OF MAINE IS HIGH TO VERY HIGH TODAY. THIS AREA INCLUDES ALL OF DOWNEAST MAINE AND SNOW FREE AREAS OF NORTHERN MAINE…WHERE MINIMUM RELATIVE HUMIDITIES ARE EXPECTED TO FALL BELOW 25 PERCENT THIS AFTERNOON.

YOU SHOULD CHECK WITH YOUR LOCAL FIRE DEPARTMENT OR FORESTRY OFFICE BEFORE DOING ANY BURNING. PLEASE REMEMBER THAT A BURN PERMIT IS REQUIRED FOR ALL BURNING.

The laundry was pretty close to bone dry in an hour, with the temperature at 20°C and low relative humidity. Imagine how explosive the brush is becoming in these conditions…

Propaganda Machine

Friday, March 31st, 2006

Pentagon is scrubbing the image of war, even for American troops themselves

It’s been known since last fall that, “As part of an information offensive in Iraq, the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq.”

Now Andrew Buncombe in the UK Independent yesterday–while declaring “Oh, what a lovely war”–has published an analysis of many of the these stories, laying out a firm refutation of the Pentagon response that their planted psy-ops pieces “did not constitute propaganda because they were factually correct.”

Buncombe quotes a former employee of the Lincoln Group, the Pentagon contractor paid to generate the stories:

A former employee of the Lincoln Group, who spent last summer in Baghdad acting as a link between US troops who were part of the Information Operations Task Force and Iraqis contracted by the company to establish contact with Iraqi journalists, said his job was to ensure “there were no finger-prints”.

“The Iraqis did not know who was writing the stories and the US troops did not know who the Iraqis were,” said the former employee, who declined to be named. It is not known whether the stories included here were ever printed or simply prepared for publication, but he said it was normal for around 10 stories a week to be printed. He said US troops routinely fabricated their quotations.

The effort parallels the false strategy projected by Bush domestically, and even directly to US troops, as the president did on a trip through Korea in November:

Our strategy can be summed up this way: As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down, and when our commanders on the ground tell me that Iraqi forces can defend their freedom, our troops will come home with the honor they have earned.

The troops should be very, very skeptical.

Pro-Bush sycophants who inhabit the halls of pro-war wingnuttery should carefully review the Buncombe article. That is, if they ever bother to wonder how all those strange ideas about the utility of war & death that are in their heads get there in the first place. Buncombe paints a pretty good picture of how it works.

A Cold Warrior dies

Tuesday, March 28th, 2006

Another part of Reagan’s brain is gone


June 2004: Not much challenge from Maine Public Television

Caspar Weinberger died today in Bangor, Maine. I’m already a little late to get ahead of the hagiography. But rest assured, no punches will get pulled here. “Cap the Knife” was a Cold War, Reagan-era figure I truly despised.

Back in June 2004, Maine Public TV ran an interview with Caspar Weinberger at his fine home along Somes Sound on Mount Desert Island. For the most part, the former Secretary of Defense was allowed to rattle off without balance mythological Reaganisms like “we had very little military strength” in the early 1980s as the Republican administration began its reign.

On Saddam Hussein, Weinberger declared in the 2004 interview (hilariously, in my view) that you “can’t deal with people like that, you can’t negotiate with liars.” Of course, one of Weinberger’s major Pentagon foreign policy projects in the 1980s was the vigorous armament of Saddam Hussein. The effort included removal of Iraq from the terror-sponsor list and the offerings of envoy Donald Rumsfeld during more than one friendly visit to the palaces in Baghdad.

On war, Weinberger spoke gibberish about Vietnam and Iraq, “Vietnam was the only war we ever entered that we did not intend to win. We were quite content with a containment philosophy. We did win [in Iraq]. Now you’ve got the aftermath, which is made up of 1500, maybe 2800 supporters of the old Baathist regime, and they have weapons, and they have ammunition dumps that we’re slowly eliminating.”

And on torture, he parroted the rotten apple theory, “The real problem of course is that there were somewhere between six to a dozen extremely rotten apples and they are poisoning and tarnishing the whole barrel. Bear in mind that this is about that ratio, six to ten people committing terrible acts with 135,000 people who aren’t.”

I managed to get through about half of the analysis of his remarks that I wanted to do in this post from June 2004.

For the larger picture about Weinberger’s relationship to the arming of Saddam and the Iran-Contra affair, the 1992 New Yorker article by Murry Waas and Craig Unger is useful, “`Many of us thought it would be better if Iraq won,’ Weinberger has told the Los Angeles Times in an interview,” said Weinberger in reference to the Iran-Iraq war.

More recently, in the fall of 2003, Weinberger was slated to be the featured speaker at the now-infamous Doing Business in Iraq conference sponsored by the University of Maine. We organized vigorously to draw out the issues of war profiteering the conference represented. It was indefinitely postponed shortly before it was to occur. The conference was a perfect metaphor for Weinberger’s career–an effort by capitalists to divvy up the spoils of war.

Caspar’s Cold War ghost, consisting of the nuclear arsenal he hysterically promoted while alive will haunt the world for decades to come. Rest in peace, Caspar Weinberger.

Solidarity News / Spring 2006

Tuesday, March 28th, 2006

A new issue of Solidarity News is available from Food AND Medicine. It is notable for its thorough examination of the union organizing campaign at Eastern Maine Medical Center.

Peacecast honored

Tuesday, March 28th, 2006

In case you have not seen it yet, peacecast.us was named the Website of the Weekend at Counterpunch for March 25/26. I am very proud to have received this honor. Thank you Alex & Jeffrey. Peacecast is the podcasting companion to Deep Blade Journal.

Also go there to download the most recent podcast, the Keynote from Saturday’s Real Security Hearing in Orono, ME. It’s very worthwhile. See this post at peacecast.us for more information.

Friday garden blogging

Friday, March 24th, 2006

Windy, cool, little rain


Neighbor’s plot, tinder dry

Cautions were up earlier in the week. There is a threat of wildland fires.

Iraq lessons in a podcast

Friday, March 24th, 2006

New panel discussion over at peacecast.us: “The Iraq War: Lessons Three Years after the U.S. Invasion and Occupation”.

Senator Susan Collins: servant to the Masters of War

Friday, March 24th, 2006

She’s allowed to play Republican as long as she promotes the imperial adventure


This is amazing. The Bangor Daily news has a very conservative history.

I want to wildly thank the Bangor Daily News from the bottom of my heart for covering an action yesterday by 100 peace activists that exposed Susan Collins as a perpetrator of fraud in her justification for war against Iraq.

She purported to deliver a speech on “The Ethics of Conscience: Continuing the Legacy of Margaret Chase Smith” Tuesday afternoon. She was not allowed to forget how her utter lack of skepticism, despite strong protest from the peace community at the time in 2002 and 2003 has led us into the disaster of death and destruction that Iraq is today.

On October 9, 2002, she spun this fabric of lies before her colleagues in the US Senate:

The CIA has concluded all key aspects of Iraq’s offensive biological and chemical weapons program, including research and development, production and weaponization, are active and, in some cases, larger and more advanced than before the gulf war.

In addition to the weapons unaccounted for in the post-gulf war inspections, 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 reports demonstrating Iraq’s violation of U.N. resolutions are numerous, compelling, and indisputable. They are based on the findings of U.N. weapons inspectors, credible reports from Iraqi defectors, sophisticated surveillance equipment, and other strong evidence.

Even more troubling is the evidence compiled by the American and British intelligence agencies that Iraq has converted its L-29 jet trainers to allow them to be used as unmanned aerial vehicles, capable of delivering chemical and biological agents over a large area.

While the evidence of Iraq’s pursuit of biological and chemical weapons is overwhelming, it is more difficult to determine the state of Iraq’s development of nuclear weapons. Numerous reports suggest, however, a renewed determination by Saddam Hussein to obtain the materials for a nuclear bomb.

A September report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies paints a chilling picture of Saddam’s quest for nuclear weapons. Had the gulf war not intervened, Iraq “could have accumulated a nuclear stockpile of a dozen or so weapons by the end of the decade,” according to the report.

It further concludes that the scientific and technical expertise of Iraq’s nuclear program remains intact, and the British Government has revealed that Iraqi nuclear personnel were ordered to resume work on nuclear projects in 1998.

According to British intelligence, Iraq has also attempted to obtain uranium from Africa. This is extraordinarily troubling. Since Iraq has no active civil nuclear power program or nuclear powerplants, it simply has no peaceful reason to attempt to secure uranium.

In addition, the Iraqi Government has attempted to procure tens of thousands of high-strength aluminum tubes that could be used in centrifuges designed to enrich uranium to produce the fissile material necessary for a nuclear bomb.

How soon could Iraq acquire nuclear weapons? The International Institute for Strategic Studies estimates that Iraq is probably years away from producing nuclear weapons if it has to rely on indigenously produced material. It points out if Iraq were to acquire nuclear material from a foreign source, the timeframe could be reduced to a matter of months….

Her weak defense is that this is what “everyone thought.” Wrong. She misstates what the UN inspectors said then, and what they later reported was a picture of Iraq pretty much disarmed, even before the war. And we know how fraudulent the “defectors” turned out to be, with severe doubts on record at the time.

Her ongoing cheering for the destruction of Falluja and her failure to stand against torture (preferring it to be viewed through a “blurry” lens) piles on to an already despicable record.

Thank you, Scott, for pulling this off. You are a true peacemaker.

NPR/Fox Republican wanker

Thursday, March 23rd, 2006

Mara Liasson bats from the right

Last Sunday I let go of my urge to post after I heard Liasson talk on Fox about how overjoyed her Republican sources were that Senator Russ Feingold had presented a censure resolution. A “gift” to the Republicans, I believe was the astute Fox analysis. Of course, this is bullshit.

Now Media Matters has this:

On the March 21 edition of Fox News’ Special Report with Brit Hume, Mara Liasson, the national political correspondent for National Public Radio and a member of Special Report’s “All-Star Panel,” again asserted, in defiance of NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin, that “whenever there’s any kind of a contest or a contrast between the person at the podium in the White House briefing room and the press corps, the press corps generally loses. … I think that happened in this case, too.” Liasson was referring to the testy exchange between President Bush and Hearst Newspapers columnist Helen Thomas at Bush’s March 21 news conference. Liasson offered this opinion despite repeated criticism by Dvorkin, who recently admonished NPR reporters for going on programs “that are looking to appear fair and balanced” and expressing their opinions rather than simply recounting what their reporting shows.

Translation: Liasson is too much a cheerleader for Bush’s team than even her National Pentagon Radio in-house watcher can stand.

More on the softball press conference
I’m beginning to really appreciate Media Matters. This is just some terrific analysis of how the press corps “gave Bush a pass” at the Tuesday press conference.

Here’s just a sample of the questions they should have been asking to back up the lonely voice of Helen Thomas:

  • Earlier you said that you decided to take military action against Iraq only after Saddam “chose to deny inspectors.” But Saddam accepted U.N. inspectors in November 2002, and on March 7, U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix requested more time for inspections, describing Iraq’s cooperation as “proactive.” In light of Blix’s assessment, the U.N. Security Council refused to authorize an invasion. Is it not true that by threatening to launch war, you forced the inspectors to leave Iraq in March 2003?
  • You have repeatedly said that you made the decision to invade Iraq only after exhausting diplomatic efforts. Earlier in the press conference, you said that you didn’t want war and that you “worked with world” to “solve this problem diplomatically.” But did you not make clear to British Prime Minister Tony Blair in a January 31, 2003, meeting that the United States intended to invade Iraq even if the U.N. inspections turned up no banned weapons and you failed to get a U.N. resolution authorizing war?
  • The Long War

    Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

    Airman in MSNBC story: “I think we’ll be here forever”


    Balad air base, 44 miles north of Baghdad, Iraq: 2 million cubic feet of concrete in “a mile-long slab that’s now the home of up to 120 U.S. helicopters”.

    Now the president confirms at the Tuesday press conference:

    REPORTER: Will there come a day, and I’m not asking you when — I’m not asking for a timetable — will there come a day when there will be no more American forces in Iraq?

    BUSH: That, of course, is an objective, and that will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq.

    According to the cited story, the US base-building budget for Iraq is $1 billion. At Balad, the two 12,000-ft runways already installed have become “the logistics hub for all U.S. military operations in Iraq, and major upgrades began last year.”

    Strange, the frenetic base-building in which the US is engaged is not given by the president as “a concrete example of progress in Iraq.”