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Tom Coburn is a Big Fat Jerk


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Home of the Barking Moonbat


 

Saturday, December 11, 2004

House Cleaning and Poetry

I should be grading, but I'm still cleaning. Since yesterday, I've moved some ancient library shelves from an interior wall to an exterior one (better energy efficiency that way), and have tossed a number of books in the process --- rather, taken them to the car to take to the thrift store.

I also moved the computer to a back corner of the living room. I no longer have an office, as I turned what was my bedroom into the plant room (don't ask) and then turned what was my office into my bedroom. Which means the computer has been in the combo kitchen-dining room-living room for months now.

And occupying center stage. Which I didn't like. So I moved it into the corner. The problem now is I have no chairs because I gave away the chair that was in my back seat of my car (subject of a previous post here) because when I went to the thrift store, a fairly impoverished looking woman in the parking lot said oh my, how I love that chair! So ... I gave it to her.

In any case, now I have to find a chair for the computer in the corner because somehow I've ended up with no chairs.

I've also thrown out four 33 gallon trashbags of old papers. I've been throwing out old papers for months now. Months. And I still have an entire closet full of old papers.

This time, while going through papers, i found a number of gems, including a poem my mother wrote. It's a really nice one, too. My mother was a wondeful writer. I wish that she would have written more. But she didn't.

I have come to rest on an alien shore
Where the flowers are fair
And the wind murmurs low and low
I have held in my hands the flowers fair
And smelt of their fragrance pure
And placed them in my hair
But I stand on an alien shore
Where the wind murmurs low and low
And is hushed in the night
And the flowers are growing
And blocking my path ...

The Silence of the Economists

A peculiar silence has fallen over the economic pundits in the last week or so. Whether this is in response to the sacking of virtually the entire Bush economic team, including John Snow and Greg Mankiw or the manic depressive wafflings of Stephen Roach, I can't say.

The only sage advice to be found this week is scattered throughout the econosphere, and that is to repeat as often as possible and to anyone who dares suggest otherwise:

There is no Social Security Crisis; there is only a crisis of the General Fund.

And two guesses who is at fault for that.

Kerik Roundup and the Importance of Blogging

Progressive Blog Digest has a number of links to the story on Kerik's withdrawal, including links to both mainstream media and some blog analysis. He offers some of his own analysis, as well, AND links to relevant stories, including a tasty link to some archived stories at Talking Points Memo ... these same stories having been erased from the website of the "ousted Inspector General of the Homeland Security Dept, fired for doing his job" {words lifted from PBD).

Which brings me to the reasons why I think blogging is so very important.

I'm not doing this because I have any desire whatsoever to be a journalist or to be discovered.

I'm doing this because I think everyone should --- and I think everyone should because it's about time we all started getting ourselves informed on what's really going on. And for the most part, the mainstream media is thoroughly coopted by this administration. So they're now completely untrustworthy.

Now, I'm glad to see Progressive Blog Digest has pointed the way to archives of information carefully erased from said website. But the most troubling issue for me is this is not the first time I've seen that happen in the past couple of years. For example, some months ago, Agonist, I believe, was keeping a running tally of news stories and websites which had been carefully changed, in order to make it appear Bush, etc., had not said what they had said or had not offered what they had offered ... or that events we all knew had happened hadn't really happened, at least not according to the journalistic record.

IOW, we're in the midst of a massive propaganda campaign no different from that of Orwell's 1984.

This is an intentional effort to brainwash us and rewrite history, both past and present.

And this is why everyone should be blogging and collecting these stories and keeping a very careful eye on what's really going on these days.

Friday, December 10, 2004

We all know it's a really bad idea ...

... but Kevin Drum backs it up with the evidence. The evidence on the privatization of social security, that is. The comments are good, too, thanks to a couple of mindless trolls getting slapped down by the economic brainiacs.

The Best Bread and Granola in the Universe

Continuing the theme of house cleaning, I'm tossing my James Beard bread book because it's an allergy attack waiting to happen.

Unfortunately, the Beard book has one of the best (if not the best) recipes for bread in the universe. And my friend Finley Fryer some years ago wrote his recipe for granola in the back cover.

So ... I'm putting both of them here, not simply for your enjoyment and possible use, but also so that I can keep track of them. Click "More here ... " to read the recipes for Jane Grigson's Walnut Bread from Southern Burgundy and Finley Fryer's Granola. Otherwise, move on to the juicier topics.

Jane Grigson's Walnut Bread from Southern Burgundy
Recipe makes four loaves

5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 packages active dry yeast
2 cups warm milk
1/2 cup walnut oil, or one stick butter, melted but cooled
1/2 cup walnuts
3/4 onions, finely chopped

Sift flour, salt and sugar into warm bowl. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm milk, and pour into middle of flour, together with walnut oil (or butter) and the rest of the milk. Knead until dough is firm and blended into a smooth, springy ball (about ten minutes). Leave in warm place to rise for 2 hours. Punch down dough, mix in walnuts and onions. Shape into four rounds and leave on greased baking sheet to rise for 45 minutes. Bake at 400 for 45 minutes, or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped underneath.

Finley Fryer's Granola

Mix in a dry bowl:
4 cups oats
2 cups bran
1 1/2 cups wheat germ
1 cup unsweetened coconut
Nuts: recommended cashews, unsalted pistachios, pecans, sunflower, hazelnuts

Cook dry mix in oven at 275-300 for 45 mins to an hour, or until golden brown. Be sure to stir every 10-15 minutes. While cooking in oven ...

Cook over low flame:
2 cups honey
3/4 cups maple syrup
3/4 cups molasses
1 tsp almond extract
2 tsp vanilla extract
Big dash salt
2 big dashes cinammon
2 1/2 cups safflower oil

Pull dry mix from oven a few minutes before done and add currants or raisins --- cook a couple more minutes. When done, pull dry mix out and mix with the stuff you cooked over the stove.



Parents Television Council

Via Wonkette, two guesses who's filing 99.9 percent of indecency complaints.

Activists Dominate Content Complaints December 06, 2004
By Todd Shields

In an appearance before Congress in February, when the controversy over Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl moment was at its height, Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell laid some startling statistics on U.S. senators.

The number of indecency complaints had soared dramatically to more than 240,000 in the previous year, Powell said. The figure was up from roughly 14,000 in 2002, and from fewer than 350 in each of the two previous years. There was, Powell said, “a dramatic rise in public concern and outrage about what is being broadcast into their homes.”

What Powell did not reveal—apparently because he was unaware—was the source of the complaints. According to a new FCC estimate obtained by Mediaweek, nearly all indecency complaints in 2003—99.8 percent—were filed by the Parents Television Council, an activist group.

This year, the trend has continued, and perhaps intensified.

Through early October, 99.9 percent of indecency complaints—aside from those concerning the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl halftime show broadcast on CBS— were brought by the PTC, according to the FCC analysis dated Oct. 1. (The agency last week estimated it had received 1,068,767 complaints about broadcast indecency so far this year; the Super Bowl broadcast accounted for over 540,000, according to commissioners’ statements.)

The prominent role played by the PTC has raised concerns among critics of the FCC’s crackdown on indecency. “It means that really a tiny minority with a very focused political agenda is trying to censor American television and radio,” said Jonathan Rintels, president and executive director of the Center for Creative Voices in Media, an artists’ advocacy group.

PTC officials disagree.

“I wish we had that much power,” said Lara Mahaney, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles-based group. Mahaney said the issue should not be the source of complaints, but whether programming violates federal law prohibiting the broadcast of indecent matter when children are likely to be watching. “Why does it matter how the complaints come?” Mahaney said. “If the networks haven’t done anything illegal, if they haven’t done anything indecent, why do they care what we say?”

Powell, who said during the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas in April that he was unsure how many complaints come from organized groups, addressed the question in an op-ed piece in The New York Times last Friday.

“Advocacy groups do generate many complaints, as our critics note, but that’s not unusual in today’s Internet world…that fact does not minimize the merits of the groups’ concerns,” Powell wrote.

Powell’s fellow Republican commissioner, Kathleen Abernathy, last week said that the agency does not let the number or the sources of complaints determine its indecency findings. “As long as you’re following precedents and the law, it shouldn’t matter,” Abernathy told Mediaweek.

At issue is a process that once relied upon aggrieved listeners and viewers contacting the FCC, but that increasingly is driven by organized groups with a focus on programming content. The FCC does not monitor programming for fear of assuming a role as national censor; it relies on complaints to initiate its indecency proceedings.

So far this year, the system has resulted in millions of dollars in settlements and proposed fines against broadcasters.

In such a system, even the number of complaints becomes an object of contention. For example, the agency on Oct. 12, in proposing fines of nearly $1.2 million against Fox Broadcasting and its affiliates, said it received 159 complaints against Married by America, which featured strippers partly obscured by pixilation.

But when asked, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau said it could find only 90 complaints from 23 individuals. (The smaller total was first reported by Internet-based TV writer Jeff Jarvis; Mediaweek independently obtained the Enforcement Bureau’s calculation.)

And Fox, in a filing last Friday, told the FCC that it should rescind the proposed fines, in part because the low number of complaints fell far short of indicating that community standards had been violated.

“All but four of the complaints were identical…and only one complainant professed even to have watched the program,” Fox said. It said the network and its stations had received 34 comments, “a miniscule total for a show that had a national audience of 5.1 million households.”

Even as some question whether the FCC should let the views of 23 people lead to fines, others take the agency to task for routinely failing to account for many of the complaints it receives. “Over 4,000 people filed a complaint against Married by America. Where do the complaints go?” asked the PTC’s Mahaney.

The PTC has worked hard to achieve its influence over broadcast content. Founded in 1995 by longtime conservative activist L. Brent Bozell III, it set out to make an impact in 2003, including what it called “a massive, coordinated and determined campaign” for more action by the FCC against broadcast indecency. “We delivered on that promise,” Bozell said in the group’s annual report.

The document listed tools developed by the PTC, including continual monitoring and archiving of broadcast network programs and “cutting-edge technology to make it easier for members to contact program sponsors, the FCC, or the networks directly with a simple click of the button.”

The result, the group said, was “a more than 2,400 percent increase in online activism.”


Bush Backs 10 Commandments in Courthouses

From Bloomberg --- here we go.

Ten Commandments Backed by Bush Administration in Court Fight

Dec. 8 (Bloomberg) -- The Bush administration, saying that religion ``has played a defining role'' in the nation's history, urged the U.S. Supreme Court to permit Ten Commandments displays in courthouses.

The Justice Department today filed a brief supporting two Kentucky counties accused of violating the constitutional ban on ...

... government establishment of religion by posting framed copies of the Ten Commandments.

``Official acknowledgement and recognition of the Ten Commandments' influence on American legal history comport with the Establishment Clause,'' the administration argued in a brief filed with the court in Washington.

The filing came in one of two Ten Commandments cases the high court will review early next year. Hundreds of state and local governments sponsor such displays. The justices are also considering the constitutionality of a monument on the Texas State Capitol grounds.

In the Kentucky case, McCreary and Pulaski County officials modified the displays after the American Civil Liberties Union sued. The counties added other documents, including an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence, the national motto of ``In God We Trust'' and a proclamation from President Ronald Reagan marking 1983 as the Year of the Bible.

The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the displays likely violated the Constitution because government officials had a predominantly religious purpose in putting them up. The appeals court upheld a preliminary injunction issued by a trial judge.

But we saved them from Saddam and that's all that matters

The right's justifications for the war were never particularly seaworthy. In the face of stories like this, however, their excuses are absurd.

"But there's gonna be elections in January! And we did that for them!"

"War is brutal! Get over it!"

"Propaganda, it's all propaganda, our country always acts in the best interests of others and maintains the highest moral standards because we're a Christian country!"

And when all else fails ...

"You Saddam lover! You America hater!"

Yea, right. In any case, full story below, after the fold ...

Disease risk stops Falluja return

"Sewage and rabid animals pose a significant health threat in Falluja, US military officials have warned.

An army spokesman said the estimated 250,000 people that fled the assault cannot return until the risk posed by stray animals and sewage is eliminated.

US forces retook the insurgent bastion amid heavy fighting last month.

The Red Cross is waiting for US forces to give it the go-ahead to restore the city's water supply and help identify the hundreds of gathered corpses.

'Warehouse of bodies'

"Many streets are flooded with sewage water," Red Cross spokesman Ahmad Rawi, who has just returned from Falluja, told the BBC News website.

He said the city's water treatment plant has to itself be drained before an assessment can be made of how badly it has been damaged.

Another priority for the agency, Mr Rawi said, is the identification of "hundreds of bodies" collected and stored by US-led forces in a former potato warehouse.

Photographs of the corpses have to be taken and circulated among refugees from the city so that they could be identified and buried as soon as possible.

The Red Cross could not confirm whether the warehouse had refrigeration facilities to prevent the bodies from decaying.

Rabies danger

As well as water-borne diseases, US forces say dogs that have fed on corpses pose a risk to returning refugees.

US soldiers have been killing the stray animals to prevent the spread of rabies, the BBC's Caroline Hawley reports.

Marines interviewed by AFP news agency said orders had been given to "thin out" the city's animal population.

Rabies is spread by the saliva of infected animals, who often behave aggressively because of the disease.

Once transmitted to humans, it is usually fatal.

The US military has not said when it will allow refugees back into Falluja.

Officers are planning to use iris scans and fingerprints to screen males of a fighting age who try to re-enter the city, our correspondent reports."

Two great new blogs

Two great new blogs. One, Evolving Thoughts, by John Wilkins, has a heavily scientific tilt and some good discussion over my current fave topic, which is the radical right's determination to return us to a pre-Enlightenment way of life.

The second, Left2Right, is suggested by Majikthise, who enjoins all of us to support it. Left2Right is inhabited by an array of academics and professionals. Their purpose is to develop intelligent and meaningful discourse, with a stated "aim of increasing the overall ratio of dialog to diatribe in the American political forum."

I agree with Majikthise. Left2Right has a number of people posting articles, but the overall tone is thoughtful and deliberate. And, although I'm a fan of Kos, sometimes it's a bit too much like an insane Turkish bazaar over there --- besides, half their posters are trapped in 'framing' and voter fraud. I mean, I love Lakoff but enough is enough. And I'm not saying there was no voter fraud --- but the Dems lost this one, plain and simple.

So visit these two blogs and bookmark them.

Black Eyed Peas

From Craig Claiborne, black eyed peas --- I like a little more vinegar in mine and I use balsamic, not red wine --- also use a heap more onion, and only sweet yellows --- and the recipe doesn't mind a touch of thyme, but not too much --- otherwise, this is the best black eyed pea recipe I've ever seen:

2 pounds dried black eyed peas
1/2 pound slab bacon, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 sweet green or red pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup finly chopped onion ...
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 teas. red wine vinegar
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
Salt and black pepper, to taste
2 dried hot peppers, crumbled
5-6-7 cups water (approx.)

Rinse and drain peas. Cook bacon til fat is rendered and bacon browned. Add sweet pepper, onion and celery, and cook til wilted. Add black eyed peas, vinegar, stock, salt and pepper, and dried hot peppers. Simmer 1 hour. Add 5-6 cups water and return to the boil. Simmer an hour, stirring occasionally from the bottom. If necessary, add more water. Cook another 30 minutes.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Princess Pamela's Soul Food

Okay, well, I taught my last classes of the semester yesterday and am now on the final sprint --- actually, resting up for it because I will be getting a small mountain of essays and exams to grade, come Monday.

For now, though, house cleaning has me sidetracked. In particular, trying to get as many books out of here as possible and clearing out old papers. Boxes and boxes of old papers. Piles of them. Papers which become more irrelevant by the day --- and more troublesome.

I'm allergic to dust, you see. So the papers are going in the trash. As for the books, what is sellable is going up on Amazon. What only brings a dollar or two on Amazon, however, goes to the local thrift store.

And what is unsalvagable is going in the trash. Including my ancient copy of Princess Pamela's Soul Food, autographed no less. I have no idea where this book came from, but it's been on my shelves for years. I used to use it but, truth is, I was pretty much raised on soul food :=D and we don't use cookbooks. Or measure, for that matter. :=D

I tried everything to keep from tossing it. But the cover fell off who knows when and the pages are literally swollen with dust and humidity and age. So - I tossed it.

And immediately ran up the road to get a bowl of gumbo made by the Cajun lady who works at the store.

Now I kept my copy of Craig Claiborne's Southern Cooking because it has absolutely the best blackeyed pea recipe I've ever made. And it's in great shape.

But I'll miss seeing Princess Pamela on my shelf.

Monday, December 06, 2004

"We're never more than a generation away from savagery"

What a great site Panda's Thumb is for scientific wannabes, like me. I just found yet another thoughtful post over there about evolution deniers, the very real dangers they present to all of us, with those dangers including the fundamental flaws in their logic.

At first, I was put off by the title of the post, Evolution Deniers and Holocaust Deniers in a locked step because it appeared to be nothing more than yet another sensationalist lumping together of diverse, unrelated 'wrongs' in an attempt to discredit the opposition.

A more careful reading, however, revealed that Dr. GH is right, and the comparison is accurate.

More troubling is that the threat isn't limited to those of us who teach, nor to the future of science in America. It affects all of us, if only because of the nature of the underlying logic and what it means to the survival of 'modernity' (or our very way of life, as it emerges almost entirely from the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution).

I'm in the final sprint on grading but, as soon as I'm done, I want to dive headlong into some of these issues --- and related ones, including how the Radical Right is engaging in revisionist history concerning the Crusades and Inquisition --- and how all of it ties right back into their push to demolish life and society as we know it, and plunge us back into Medievalism.

For now, I am grading --- but you need to go read Evolution Deniers and Holocaust Deniers in a locked step. Expect further discussion in a week or two. Go. Read!

Unembedded, Independent

From Newtopia, Charles Shaw interviews independent journalist Dahr Jamail on what is really going on in Iraq. I've only posted snippets from the article, but the entire thing is well worth reading.

It is really quite unbelievable to me what is going on not only in Iraq, but in our own country --- I doubt the truth of the situation would have any effect on anyone in the Far Right, but the rest of us deserve to know.

"Newtopia: The US Corporate media consistently characterizes the Iraqi resistance as "foreign terrorists and former Ba’athist insurgents". In your experience, is this an accurate portrayal? If not, why?

Dahr Jamail: This is propaganda of the worst kind. Most Iraqis refer to the Iraqi Resistance as “patriots.” Which of course most of them are-they are, especially in Fallujah, primarily composed of people who simply are resisting the occupation of their country by a foreign power. They are people who have had family members killed, detained, tortured and humiliated by the illegal occupiers of their shattered country. Calling them “foreign terrorists” and “Ba’athist insurgents” is simply a lie."

DJ: I have spent 6 of the last 12 months in Iraq. As I mentioned, what brought me here was the nearly total failure of the US ‘mainstream’ media to show the truth of this illegal invasion and occupation. How it affected the Iraqis, as well as US soldiers. Overall, they just weren’t doing their job, and this has grown even worse.

I had done all the usual actions of attempting to speak up and effect change at home-calling and writing Senators/Congresspeople, attending teach-ins, spreading information. After watching the worldwide demonstrations on February 15, 2003 be brushed aside as a “focus group,” I knew then that the minds of the American public had been misled by the corporate media who mindlessly supported the objectives of the Bush regime, and reporting the true effects of the invasion/occupation on the Iraqi people and US soldiers was what I needed to do ...

[edit]

DJ: It’s tough. Working in this environment of media repression and danger is always an uphill battle. Blinking electricity, car bombs, kidnappings are the playing field. I constantly monitor my safety factor and those who work with me. I grew a beard, dress like locals, and only travel around covertly with one interpreter in a beat up car. I minimize my time on the street, while at the same time spending enough there to get the Iraqis reactions to what unfolds here each day.

My greatest concern is the reaction of my own government. I’m reporting information that the Bush regime wants kept under wraps. I fear reprisal from both the government and military far, far more than being kidnapped or blown up by a car bomb.

Iraqis are of course shocked and outraged by the beheadings and kidnappings of people like Margaret Hassan. So many also believe it was a CIA/Mossad plot to keep aid organizations and journalists out of Iraq in order to give the military and corporations here a free hand to continue to dis-assemble and sell of the country.

Newtopia: On Nov 18 in one of your dispatches you wrote, "Journalists are increasingly being detained and threatened by the U.S.-installed interim government in Iraq. Media have been stopped particularly from covering recent horrific events in Fallujah." What are the predominant differences between your reporting and that of the corporate media and embedded reporters, or that of Iraqi and Muslim journalists? In other words, what does each group do with the same pieces of information? Do you feel you have a freer hand by being "unembedded"? Have you or anyone you know been intimidated or harassed in any way?

DJ: Myself and most Arab and western independent journalists here show the costs of war. Report the massacres, the slaughter, the dead and wounded kids, disaster that this occupation truly is for the Iraqi people. Report on the low morale of most soldiers here, report on how doctors now state openly that due to lack of funds and help from the US-backed Ministry of Health, they feel it is worse now than during the sanctions.

I do feel I have more freedom because I am “unembedded.” I’m flying under the mainstream radar of censorship.

I have been attacked from some mainstream sources and pundits. Fox propaganda channel invited me on after I accurately reported the sniping of ambulances, medical workers and civilians in Fallujah last April…I declined the set up because I didn’t have a desire to have my character assassinated.

[edit]

DJ: This is propaganda of the worst kind. Most Iraqis refer to the Iraqi Resistance as “patriots.” Which of course most of them are-they are, especially in Fallujah, primarily composed of people who simply are resisting the occupation of their country by a foreign power. They are people who have had family members killed, detained, tortured and humiliated by the illegal occupiers of their shattered country.

Calling them “foreign terrorists” and “Ba’athist insurgents” is simply a lie. While there are small elements of these, they are distinctly different from the Iraqi Resistance, who are now supported by, very conservatively at least 80% of the population here.

There are terrorist elements here, but that is because the borders of Iraq have been left wide open since the invasion. These did not exist in Iraq before.

The Bush regime like to refer to anyone who does not support their ideology and plans for global domination as a “terrorist.”

Here, these fighters in the Iraqi Resistance are referred to as freedom fighters, holy warriors and patriots.

Newtopia: We rarely see any substantial imagery coming out of Iraq in the US corporate media. What does Iraq look like now? What aren't the people in the United States seeing, and what do you feel they should be seeing?

DJ: The devastation. The massive suffering and devastation of the people and their country. Baghdad remains in shambles 19 months into this illegal occupation. Bombed buildings sit as insulting reminders of unbroken promises of reconstruction.

Bullet ridden mosques with blood stained carpets inside where worshippers, unarmed, have been slaughtered by soldiers.

Entire families living on the street. 70% unemployment with no hope of this changing. Chaotic, clogged streets of Baghdad and 5 mile long petrol lines in this oil rich country.

Engineers and doctors, unemployed, driving their cars as a taxi to try to feed their families.

The seething anger in the eyes of people on the streets as US patrols rumble past.

Iraqis now cheering when another US patrol or base is attacked. Dancing on the burning US military hardware.

Dead and maimed US soldiers. The wounded screaming and writhing in agony. Their shattered families.

The mass graves of innocent Fallujans after the utter destruction of their city.

Children deformed by Depleted Uranium exposure lying in shattered hospitals, suffering from lack of treatment, or even pain medications.

Dead, rotting bodies in the streets of Fallujah of women and children being eaten by dogs and cats because the military did not allow relief teams into the city for nearly two weeks.

Newtopia: What are the sentiments of the Iraqis you have spoken with towards the Americans? Is there any good will left? Was there any to begin with? What do they think of Alawi, the pending "elections", the continued occupation, the American-trained Iraqi security forces? Do they have any hope or belief that the Americans will leave, or are they thinking this will be a generation-long occupation?

DJ: There was support by most Iraqis for the removal of Saddam Hussein. But that started to ebb quickly on in the occupation as people watched family members killed, detained, tortured and humiliated by the occupation forces.

Then there was Abu Ghraib. I cannot stress enough how devastating this was to US credibility in Iraq, and the entire Middle East.

Throw on top of that the April siege of Fallujah, nearly complete lack of reconstruction, importation of foreign workers to do jobs Iraqis are far more qualified for, the installation of an illegal interim government, and you have a complete PR disaster for the US here.

Any credibility for the occupiers, and I doubt there was much to speak of, after the destruction of Fallujah has been lost. Iraqis I speak with are infuriated at the US government. While they are well aware that what is most likely the majority of people in the US being in opposition to the Bush regime, they believe the US government and those who support it are guilty of war crimes of the worst kind. I see rage, grief, and the desire for revenge on a daily basis here.

They hate Allawi. They have no respect for him or any other of the puppets in the US-installed interim government, because they don’t see how any self-respecting person would allow themselves to be a puppet of the US in this illegal, brutal endeavor.

They are well aware that he is an exile who has been linked with the CIA and British intel for a long, long time. He and the rest of the interim government are views as thieves, rapists and US pawns. They are utterly loathed, as everyone here knows these people do not have the interests of the Iraqi people in mind.

The elections are viewed as a joke. Most here now believe there is no way they can be held in an honest, transparent and truly democratic way. Most are also too afraid to vote. I’ve heard people say things like, “The Americans won’t even allow a legitimate election in their own country, so why would they want to have one here!”

The Iraqi “security” forces, being the police and national guard, are viewed by most as surrogates of the US military. They are viewed as collaborators and traitors by most. While people understand many of these forces join out of desperation because there are no jobs, they remain loathed, along with the foreign occupation forces. It doesn’t help when many of the police are actively involved in organized crime.

Lastly, the occupation is viewed as endless. Iraqis know there are already 4 permanent military bases here, and more soldiers coming. There is little hope amongst those I talk with about this topic that the occupation will end.

[edit]

DJ: I think this report has understated the death toll. From what I’ve seen during my six months here, it is increasingly difficult to find a family here who has not had at least one member killed by either the military or criminal activity. Entire neighborhoods in Fallujah have been bombed into rubble. Houses with entire families have been incinerated and blown to pieces.

The random gunfire of soldiers nearly every time a patrol or convoy is attacked almost always results in civilian deaths. Keep in mind there are now over 100 attacks per day on US forces in occupied Iraq.

Then we have the infrastructure-people dying from lack of food, water borne diseases, inadequate health care…the list is longer than any of us know.

I think the military is killing so many civilians for several reasons. Primarily, because they have been put in an untenable situation by their Commander in Chief-that is, a no-win guerilla war against an enemy who now has the massive support of the populace. Thus, anyone, anytime could be an attacker. So they are shooting first and asking questions later because they are scared to death.

They are using a conventional military to fight a guerilla war-and just as in Vietnam, it is a disaster and utter failure.

Then there are the soldiers who have completely dehumanized Iraqis, and I’ve spoken with some who seem to actually enjoy killing them.

Of course it doesn’t help that this is sanctioned and encouraged by the US government, and that blinding religious ideology appears to have filtered down into many of the soldiers here. “You are either with us, or you are against us.” Iraq is now full of fields of death. There is carnage in the streets everyday in Baghdad, as well as other cities throughout much of the country.

[edit]

The Shia/Sunni rift is largely a CIA generated myth. There are countless tribes and marriages alike that are both Shia/Sunni. There are mosques here where they pray together.

There is the possibility of war if the Kurds go independent, but the more likely possibility of that war would be Turkey invading Kurdistan before any Shia/Sunni action would occur regarding this.

Remember the Arab proverb; “Me against my brother. Me and my brother against my cousin. Me, my brother and cousin against the stranger.”

The Iraqis are in a situation where they are damned as long as the US continues to occupy and subvert their country, as they have been doing.

[edit]

I have yet to see any evidence or meet any Iraqi who has seen evidence of Al-Qaeda here. There are certainly other fighters entering Iraq from different countries, but they are a relatively small number. When we say “foreign fighters” here, we must recall that every Iraqi I’ve spoken with views the occupiers as the foreign fighters, and not any other Arab who is coming here to fight in the resistance. Most Iraqis I speak with view these Arab fighters as brothers, and the occupiers as the “foreign fighters.”

[edit]

DJ: I see more bloodshed and chaos. Sending more troops will only speed up the spiral here; increase the fighting. I see a continuing degradation of the infrastructure and failing of the occupation. It has already failed. It had failed even before the April siege of Fallujah and the Abu Ghraib scandal (which is ongoing). The real question is, how many more Iraqis and soldiers die before the US admits to its colossal failure, makes reparations for the countless war crimes that have been committed and pulls out.

The long term-that depends on how long the US stays here. It is rare when I speak with an Iraqi who wants the US to stay-they say, “Civil war? It can’t possibly be worse than this-so the US should leave. Then we’d at least have the chance to run our own country.” Another man pointed out that if there were a civil war, no Shia or Kurdish attack on Fallujah could ever possibly compare to the devastation the US military has caused there. I think he makes a good point.

[edit]

In the end, people know the truth when they see it. I taste this by mail I get from my readers-those who read many sources and thank me for reporting the truth, as well as those who support the occupation who send hate mail and try to tell me I’m reporting from Idaho and making everything up. Their ugly reactions indicate that they prefer not to know the truth-that their government has deceived a large percentage of the American people into supporting an illegal invasion that has cost at least 100,000 Iraqi lives, as well as those of over 1,200 US soldiers. Many people would rather lash out to protect their denial rather than accepting responsibility for supporting such atrocities.

In the end, the truth will come out, no matter how intense the repression becomes. And in the end, those in America who support this occupation will eventually see that virtually the majority of people in every other country on the planet oppose the American agenda in Iraq.

It is only a matter of time."


Sunday, December 05, 2004

Aethern on Understanding the South

Aethern at Lion's Den has been writing a series over on Kos about the South and what Dems will have to do to win it back. Unfortunately, there's so much traffic at Kos that her work keeps dropping off the front page.

Which has bothered me quite a bit, as what she has to say is right on target. Especially on the issue of racism, the inability of *outsiders* (so to speak) to understand the South outside of conventional stereotypes and the true values of Southerners.

In any case, I watched her post at Kos drop off the front page and was pretty disappointed, as she really nailed it today.

And then ... entirely by accident --- I happened to click on a link on the blogroll over at Rob's Place, and there it was.

Go. Read it. As the descendant of generations upon generations of Southerners and hillbillies, and a current resident of Arklahoma :=D [that is, I live in the Ozarks right on the Oklahoma/Arkansas border], I can tell you she has absolutely nailed it. Nicely done, Aethern!

Weekend Economic Roundup

People are coming out of the woodwork screaming The sky is falling, the sky is falling! Very Y2Kish, granted, and I'm not a fan of conspiracy theories or end of the world scenarios. But I think we all need to be listening this time.

The best advice I read this week --- and of course, I've forgotten where --- was a comparison of our current situation with that of Japan some years back. In essence, when Japan's housing bubble burst, values on properties dropped as much as 80%. Which completely invalidated the commonsense dictum that real estate doesn't devalue because they're not making any more land.

Yes, real estate values can drop through the floor.

The difference between our situation and that of Japan, however, is that the average Japanese person had sizeable personal savings --- cash stashed for emergencies and the future. And most Americans don't. And most Americans don't because their *cash* is stashed in assets --- specifically real estate. Their homes. And those homes are overvalued. So when the housing bubble bursts, there goes all their money. Stephen Roach, I believe, likens the consequences to the crash of 2001, when the dot.coms sank and the stock market went down with the ship.

Except this time, it's going to be worse. Much worse.

I will post links to relevant articles on this post throughout the day, Click the 'More here ... ' link to read them.

The New York Times has a mixed review of our dilemma, stating:

"The answer is not quite as simple as "less imports, more exports." Depending on how investors behave, the dollar's downward drift could cast anything from a benign breeze to a hurricane.

If the dollar loses value slowly, giving businesses and investors plenty of time to adjust their spending and portfolios, the main effect may be to make the American economy more competitive. That would be a happy conclusion.

But if the dollar takes an abrupt dive, the consequences may be dire. Companies and consumers alike may find themselves stripped of purchasing power and ground down by sky-high interest rates."

Bloomberg has a couple of articles on the situation. Neither is particularly optimistic, although their commentators are not yet preaching doom.

New Yorker via Progressive Blog Digest:
"Bush’s bankrupt economy:
"The dollar’s fall, along with the trade and budget deficits, is a classic symptom of a country living beyond its means. Twenty years ago, American households saved about nine cents of every dollar they earned; today, they save less than a penny. The federal government is spending about four hundred billion dollars a year more than it raises in taxes, which means that the Treasury has to sell about thirty-four billion dollars’ worth of bonds every month to remain solvent. . . The system worked for a while, but, at some point, all countries have to pay their own way, which means restoring the trade balance and paying down debts. One way to do this is to cut back on imports by reducing consumer spending, but this would probably require a recession. The only other option is to devalue the currency, which makes imports more expensive and exports cheaper.

"In recent weeks, John Snow, the Treasury Secretary, and Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve Board chairman, have made statements that can be interpreted as attempts to devalue the dollar. Not surprisingly, their comments prompted more selling on the foreign-exchange markets. But debasing the dollar is a high-risk strategy. Currency movements tend to be self-reinforcing. If traders come to see the dollar as a one-way bet, its slide could turn into a rout. During the past decade, record trade deficits, soaring foreign debts, and prolonged fiscal irresponsibility presaged full-blown currency crises in Mexico, Russia, Brazil, and many other countries. The crises eventually erupted when foreign investors rushed to get their money out of the stricken countries. If that were to occur here, the Federal Reserve would be forced to raise interest rates in order to stop the panic selling, which, in turn, would torpedo the stock and the real-estate markets. The economy would be plunged into a deep recession.

"Given the dollar’s unique status as an internationally accepted means of exchange, many economists doubted that such a catastrophe could befall the United States. Now they are not so sure. Russia just announced that its central bank might change some of its dollar reserves into euros, and rumors persist that Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern oil producers will soon begin to set oil prices in euros, a move that would undermine the dollar’s privileged status. Most ominously, the Bush Administration has alienated some of the dollar’s biggest supporters by trying to deflect responsibility for America’s growing financial dependency onto China and other low-cost producers. Last week, Li Ruogu, the deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, told the Financial Times, “China’s custom is that we never blame others for our own problem. The United States has the reverse attitude. Whenever they have a problem they blame others.”

"Ultimately, the value of a currency is an international verdict on the honesty and competence of the government that issued it. President Bush may have recovered in the domestic polls, but in the currency markets his ratings are still falling. And, with his Administration determined to pursue further tax cuts and costly Social Security privatization, his numbers don’t seem likely to turn around soon."