Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Yahoo! News - Wall Street

Wall Street is limping toward its first three-year losing streak since 1939-41 while the blue-chip Dow is headed to its worst December performance since 1931.

The dollar was still under pressure, tumbling to a four-year low against the traditional safe haven of the Swiss franc, as geopolitical worries and fresh concerns about the U.S. economy weighed.

MSNBC -- Consumer confidence takes a tumble

A disappointing year for the economy ended on a sour note Tuesday with a report that consumer confidence fell sharply and unexpectedly in December. The weak labor market, rising gasoline prices and the prospect of war in Iraq combined to put consumers in a gloomy mood as 2002 drew to a close, analysts said.

THE CONFERENCE BOARD, a New York-based business research group, said its Consumer Confidence Index fell more than 4 points to 80.3, compared with expectations that it would rise to about 86. Consumers’ assessment of the present economic situation tumbled more sharply to 69.9, its lowest level in nearly nine years.

In November, the unemployment rate rose to 6 percent, matching an eight-year high, and many analysts predict the rate will climb higher.

Reuters - UK - Bush Warns That Iraq Threatens World Economy

Asked by reporters about the potential cost of war against Iraq, Bush countered: "An attack from (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein or a surrogate of Saddam Hussein would cripple our economy.

More than a Republican President?


Even with a slight bump in the rate of church attendance following the September 11 terrorist attacks, surveys now reveal that levels are "back to normal" despite the claims -- and hopes -- of some political and religious leaders.

The Real War -

Gunman Kills 3 U.S. Missionaries At Yemen Hospital (washingtonpost.com)

CNN -- FBI Seeks 5 New Illegals with Ties to Terrorists

The Wrong War with Iraq

Pentagon building up forces in Persian Gulf FT Wayne News-Sentinel

In addition to Rumsfeld's latest decisions, another 50,000 Marines at Camp Pendleton, Calif., are expected to be sent to the region in coming weeks, but so far have received no deployment orders, officials said.

And the Wrong War on American Liberty

About Civil Liberty - Liberty takes a hit in 2002

It was impossible that the terrorist attacks of 2001 would leave the United States unchanged. Unfortunately, the changes sought my too many government officials have involved abandoning the country's commitment to individual liberty, and adopting the authoritarianism traditionally favored by America's opponents.

Whether those officials will prevail is uncertain. But at the close of 2002, champions of personal freedom are reduced to fighting a rearguard action to minimize the damage done to constitutional and traditional protections for liberty and due process.

Why have Libertarians Not Been Showing More Outrage over the Loss of Liberty? Is it because most support tax cuts no matter what kind? Are self-proclaimed libertarians more interested in money in their pocket than liberty? When did Democrats become the only fiscally responsive political party?
Willamette Week| Cover Story| RUBBISH!

Portland's top brass said it was OK to swipe your garbage--so we grabbed theirs.

We chose District Attorney Mike Schrunk because his office is the most vocal defender of the proposition that your garbage is up for grabs. We chose Police Chief Mark Kroeker because he runs the bureau. And we chose Mayor Vera Katz because, as police commissioner, she gives the chief his marching orders.

Each, in his or her own way, has endorsed the notion that you abandon your privacy when you set your trash out on the curb. So we figured they wouldn't mind too much if we took a peek at theirs.

Boy, were we wrong.

If the chief got overheated, the mayor went nuclear. When we confessed that we had swiped her recycling, she summoned us to her chambers.

"She wants you to bring the trash--and bring the name of your attorney," said her press secretary, Sarah Bott.

We told [DA] Schrunk that we intended to report that his garbage contained mementos of his military service. "Don't burn me on that," he implored. "The Marine Corps will shoot me!"

But if three moral, upstanding, public-spirited citizens were each chewing their nails about the secrets we might have stumbled on, how the hell should the rest of us be feeling?

Monday, December 30, 2002

NYTimes -- Freshman Senator Sees the Presidency as His Next Office

If Democrats hungry for a winner in 2004 are hunting for a presidential candidate who has what the last guy lacked, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina stands out as the anti-Gore.

Even to Gore loyalists, Mr. Edwards comes off as a more authentic Southerner who could have far more appeal in states like North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and the mother lode: Florida.

But the most daunting obstacle for Mr. Edwards is that the very qualities that make him stand out from the Democratic field might be the last thing voters want if they are preoccupied with terrorism and war. He may be charming and boyishly attractive. He may be — refreshingly — a political greenhorn. Yet does Mr. Edwards carry sufficient gravitas to protect and comfort Americans who fear that a terrorist bomb could explode in their neighborhood?

The politician Mr. Edwards speaks of most — and seems most to emulate — is a Republican, Senator John McCain. With admiration that can border on adulation, Mr. Edwards said, "He's direct, easy to understand, and he's strong."

Graham may be a better alternative than Edwards.

NYTimes -- Bring Back the Draft

Dem. NY Rep. Rangel's controversial call for a universal draft to slow the rush to war.

SF IMC Interviews Al Giordano on Venezuela, the media, and [fake] anarchism : SF Indymedia makes some comments about the racist reporting in Venezuela:

Al Giordano: There's something very racist in the reporting of simulators like the British journalist Phil Gunson, a freelance mercenary who has published knowingly false stories recently in Newsweek/MSNBC, the Christian Science Monitor and the daily newspaper of coup-plotters everywhere, the Miami Herald. There's something positively sleazy about this guy and his work. I observed him in action down in Venezuela during a presidential press conference - him and this little clique of boy reporters from England and the U.S., and their snobby superiority complex, who would be more comfortable with Chávez as their gardener than as president of an oil-rich nation of 24 million people.

You can see the frustration on their faces of having to report on this dark-skinned hawk-nosed soldier who is smarter and more popular than they are... In fact, if anything, he's very suave and smooth, which is why his five-hour live TV shows every Sunday - "Alo Presidente!" - are the most popular or at least one of the most popular programs in the country. Whole families gather every Sunday to watch the show, on which he takes live phone calls.

And about an anarchist website:

Al Giordano: I think the post by these so-called "anarchists," and their timing, is a cowardly act of aggression against the progress of all Latin American social movements right now. If Venezuela falls to a U.S. coup, it's going to turn the clock back 30 years in the entire hemisphere. We'll be right back in Santiago de Chile, September 11, 1973. Pinochet rounded up and shot all the anarchists, too, you know. Remember that the Chile coup led to Operation Condor and military dictatorship terror in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, and Bolivia among other places. The cancer spread all the way to Mexico. THAT is what is being attempted right now. The people whining about Chávez today are like those who whined about Allende in the early 70s...

The watch had previously blogged on racist opposition to Chavez.

He is Venezuela's first multiracial president and is called "Negro" (nigger) by his detractors because of his African-Indigenous features. Behind the enemies of Venezuela and Hugo Chavez are very large sums of money being spent to destroy the dreams of the people who historically have been discriminated against because of race, economic ideas, etc. ...

Sixty percent of the population of Venezuela are people of African descent. The others are Mestizos of Indigenous and European descent and Indigenous...
Report Says Africans Harbored Al Qaeda (washingtonpost.com)

After vowing to go after countries that help terrorists and failing to find any support for the rediculous charge that Iraq has supported al Qaeda, there is no comment from the administration as proof emerges that Liberia and Burkina Faso were the biggest supporters after 9/11.

Investigators from several countries concluded that President Charles Taylor of Liberia received a $1 million payment for arranging to harbor the operatives, who were in the region for at least two months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon. The terrorists moved between a protected area in Liberia and the presidential compound in neighboring Burkina Faso, investigators say.

Recent reports that the administration will increase attention and support to west Africa because of future oil production may be behind the lack of comment.

In October Peacework Magazine had Africa: The New Oil and Military Frontier writting about the Bush Administration's oil-driven foreign policy objectives as recommended by the newly created African Oil Policy Initiative Group (AOPIG).

In January of this year a symposium sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (a Jerusalem-based think tank) was held in Washington to discuss "African Oil and US National Security Priorities," as Africa is quickly becoming the new oil frontier for the US.

AOPIG recommendations are divided into three categories: Energy Security, Developmental Strategies, and Regional Security--all encompassing the same theme of securing oil and strategic mineral resources.

The December Issue of Socialist Review had this article: The new scramble for Africa.

In the middle of last month a group of oil executives, US government officials and African politicians met in Houston, Texas, to organise a new carve-up of Africa's resources. The background is a scramble for oil that is reshaping western policy towards West Africa.

This meeting confirmed a trend that has been accelerating sharply. In September George W Bush held meetings with the presidents of 11 African states, all of them oil producers or allied closely to oil producers.

Why the focus on West Africa?

U.S. Oil Executive Optimistic About Finds in West Africa
Sees Equatorial Guinea as Kuwait of West Africa

In the not too distant future, West Africa will be producing more barrels of oil per day than the world's largest oil producer, Saudi Arabia, predicted Gene Van Dyke, president and chief executive officer of VANCO Energy Corporation.
the watch notes the reports of Trinidad and Brazil and OPEC assisting Venezuela and the difficulty in finding less biased news on Venezuela the last few days.

Powell: U.S. Open To Informal Talks With N. Korea (washingtonpost.com)

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell today sought to defuse a nuclear confrontation in Asia, declaring that the United States is seeking communication with North Korea and that the administration is not contemplating military action in response to that country's move to restart its nuclear weapons program.

Powell, designated as the administration spokesman today while President Bush vacationed on his ranch near here, confirmed that he would dispatch to South Korea the top American diplomat for the region and said that the Bush administration is dropping a Clinton administration policy vowing an attack if Pyongyang resumed nuclear weapon production.

Appearing on all five major Sunday television news talk shows, Powell repeatedly sought to play down a sense of crisis on the Korean peninsula even as he asserted the government's view that North Korea already has two nuclear weapons.

The only reasonable member of this administration. I had a hard time convincing people that North Korea already had two nuclear weapons recently. Nice to be able to quote Powell now.
Civil Rights Groups Renew Drive for Agenda in Congress (washingtonpost.com)

"We are hoping this [the Lott controversy] has created a greater awareness and an opportunity to work with both Republicans and Democrats on human rights and civil liberties," said Nancy Zirkin, public policy director for the Leadership Conference. It "remains to be seen" whether lawmakers' attitudes have changed, she added.

Among the conference's goals, Zirkin said, are nomination and confirmation of judges committed to civil rights; inclusion of gays under laws on hate crimes and employment discrimination; a ban on racial profiling; expanded funding to carry out President Bush's school improvement program and the new election laws approved by Congress last fall; immigration law reforms and protection for laws guaranteeing equal access for women and girls in education and athletics.

The conference is also urging the Bush administration to support affirmative action in the University of Michigan case before the Supreme Court and will fight to prevent any cutback in minority contracting provisions in the huge transportation funding bill that will come before Congress next year.

It will be interesting to see if there is any action by Republicans on civil rights issues.
U.S. Had Key Role in Iraq Buildup (washingtonpost.com)

High on the Bush administration's list of justifications for war against Iraq are President Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons, nuclear and biological programs, and his contacts with international terrorists. What U.S. officials rarely acknowledge is that these offenses date back to a period when Hussein was seen in Washington as a valued ally.

Among the people instrumental in tilting U.S. policy toward Baghdad during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war was Donald H. Rumsfeld, now defense secretary, whose December 1983 meeting with Hussein as a special presidential envoy paved the way for normalization of U.S.-Iraqi relations. Declassified documents show that Rumsfeld traveled to Baghdad at a time when Iraq was using chemical weapons on an "almost daily" basis in defiance of international conventions.

Pak. Daily Times - Lieberman 'Al Qaeda wants regime change in Saudi Arabia’

A regime change in Saudi Arabia is the ultimate goal of groups like Al Qaeda, US Sen Joseph Lieberman said Monday.

“They are clearly not intending to conquer the United States of America, but they all have in mind overthrowing the regime in Saudi Arabia,” Lieberman said at the end of his trip to the Middle East, where he spoke with regional leaders and visited US troops preparing for a possible attack on Iraq.
Chomsky on Human Rights Week, 2002 : SF Indymedia

Human Rights Week is not much of an occasion in the US, with some notable qualifications. But it does receive considerable attention elsewhere. For me personally, Human Rights Week 2002 was memorable and poignant. The week opened on the eve of Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, where thousands of people gathered to celebrate -- though that may not be quite the right word -- the tenth anniversary of the Kurdish Human Rights Project KHRP, which has done outstanding work on some of the most serious human rights issues of the decade: particularly, but not only, the US-backed terrorist campaigns of the Turkish state that rank among the most terrible crimes of the grisly 1990s, leaving tens of thousands dead and millions driven from the devastated countryside, with every imaginable form of barbaric torture.

Uppermost in everyone's minds from London to Diyarbakir and beyond is the feverish determination of the Bush administration to find a pretext for what it believes will be a cheap and politically useful war in Iraq, with Blair trailing loyally behind. In Turkey, popular opposition to the coming war is overwhelming. Much the same is true throughout the region, and in most of Europe and the rest of the world as well. Poll results for the US look different, but that is misleading. It can hardly escape notice that although Saddam Hussein is reviled everywhere, it is only in the US that people are genuinely afraid that if we don't stop him today, he'll kill us tomorrow.

Engendering such fears is second nature to the re-cycled Reaganites at the helm in Washington. Throughout the 1980s they were able to ram through their reactionary agenda, significantly harming the population, by maintaining a constant state of fear. Twenty years ago Libyan hit-men were wandering the streets of Washington to assassinate our leader. Then the Russians were going to bomb us from an air base in Grenada (if they could find it on a map). Meanwhile the awesome Sandinista army was poised only two days marching time from Harlingen Texas, a "dagger pointed at the heart of Texas." And on through the decade. To determine a meaningful measure of domestic support for the coming war, it would be necessary to extricate the fear factor, unique to the US. The results would probably show little difference from the rest of the world.

There is no historical precedent for such enormous popular opposition to a war, and protest against it, before it is even launched (fully launched, to be more accurate).

Mirror.co.uk - GLOBAL WARMER

NEXT year could be the warmest around the world since records began, weather experts said yesterday.

Global warming will force up temperatures in 2003, making them around 0.55C higher than the average for 1961 to 1990.

The Meteorological Office predicts that it could even be hotter than record breaking 1998 when El Nino, a weather phenomenon caused by the the eastern Pacific Ocean heating up, raised temperatures by 0.55C.

Met Office scientists Chris Folland and Andrew Colman, who made the predictions using a successful new method, said: "The best estimate is for a year equal in temperature to the warmest year on record."

Guardian -- Vow to isolate North Korea annoys allies in South

The Bush administration came under fire from one of the US's staunchest allies yesterday when the South Korean president Kim Dae-jung warned that US efforts to isolate North Korea economically were doomed to failure.

Yesterday the secretary of state, Colin Powell, said the US navy was ready to intercept North Korean vessels, raising the prospect of sanctions and a possible blockade to halt the North's lucrative missile trade.

Pyongyang wants a non-aggression pact with Washington, which effectively means the removal of US troops from the Korean peninsula.
Eat the State: 2002 Media Follies : SF Indymedia

The Most Overrated Stories of the Year

1 Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction: Nobody -- except the Bush Administration and Tony Blair -- believes they exist. Seldom have so many words been wasted on weapons that, if they did exist, would be few in number, poorly made, and impossible to deliver more than a couple hundred miles. Instead, Bush's obsession becomes our obsession. Worse, constant repetition of "Iraq = Saddam = Terrorist" has successfully shifted post 9/11 focus -- and blame -- away from the very real threat posed by Islamic terrorists, most of whom seem to come from countries we consider allies.

2 Axis of Evil: News Flash!! Iraq, Iran, and North Korea are three different countries. Iraq and Iran's governments loathe each other, and neither has any connection with North Korea. They are radically different in politics, history, religion, and culture, linked only by the rhetorical flourishes of George Bush's marketers -- er, speechwriters. Apparently that's enough.

The Economic Recovery
John Walker Lindh
Catholic Sex Scandals: media coverage routinely failed to distinguish between the recent priestly crimes and coverups and the ones that happened two or three decades ago.
Code Yellow
9/11 Conspiracies
The Smallpox Threat

The Most Important Underreported Stories of 2002

Majority of Americans Are Not Fooled: Surveys have showed, time and again, that U.S. citizens think that war with Iraq will increase our chances of being attacked by terrorists, yet the U.S. media continues to call it The War on Terrorism. Go figure. And the "broad public support" consistently reported in polls is only under the conditions of international support for war and few American casualties -- both highly unlikely.
Revitalized U.S. and World Peace Movement
Military Corporate Welfare
The Rest of the Corporate Scandals ... and What Happened to Corporate Reform?
White House Power Grab
Incumbents Forever: Why aren't Democrats rocking the boat?
Bush's Foxes, Our Henhouses
Bush Flunks the Economy Test
High Consumer Debt Drags Down the Economy
Environmental Catastrophe
The Rest of The World Goes Ahead with Kyoto
Privatizing Water
The Collapse of the Neoliberal Consensus: Mexico's much-vaunted maquiladoras are shutting their doors, as companies flee for China and other still cheaper labor markets. The rich get richer, the poor get more desperate, and around the world, the free market model now presented as inevitable in this country is anything but.

Guardian -- Rumsfeld 'offered help to Saddam'

The Reagan administration and its special Middle East envoy, Donald Rumsfeld, did little to stop Iraq developing weapons of mass destruction in the 1980s, even though they knew Saddam Hussein was using chemical weapons "almost daily" against Iran, it was reported yesterday.

The US provided less conventional military equipment than British or German companies but it did allow the export of biological agents, including anthrax; vital ingredients for chemical weapons; and cluster bombs sold by a CIA front organisation in Chile, the report says.

Rick Francona, an ex-army intelligence lieutenant-colonel who served in the US embassy in Baghdad in 1987 and 1988, told the Guardian: "We believed the Iraqis were using mustard gas all through the war, but that was not as sinister as nerve gas.

"They started using tabun [a nerve gas] as early as '83 or '84, but in a very limited way. They were probably figuring out how to use it. And in '88, they developed sarin."

A 1994 congressional inquiry also found that dozens of biological agents, including various strains of anthrax, had been shipped to Iraq by US companies, under licence from the commerce department.

Sunday, December 29, 2002

TAP: Fear Not. by Daniel Franklin

The ACLU is wrong to oppose the creation of a domestic intelligence agency.

Doesn't make his case. That is nicer than saying he is an idiot.
Democracy Now! -- Top-secret Iraq Report Reveals U.S. Corporations, Gov't Agencies and Nuclear Labs Helped Illegally Arm Iraq

“We have 24 major U.S. companies listed in the report who gave very substantial support especially to the biological weapons program but also to the missile and nuclear weapons program,” Zumach said. “Pretty much everything was illegal in the case of nuclear and biological weapons. Every form of cooperation and supplies… was outlawed in the 1970s.”

The list of U.S. corporations listed in Iraq's report include Hewlett Packard, DuPont, Honeywell, Rockwell, Tectronics, Bechtel, International Computer Systems, Unisys, Sperry and TI Coating.

Zumach also said the U.S. Departments of Energy, Defense, Commerce, and Agriculture quietly helped arm Iraq. U.S. government nuclear weapons laboratories Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos and Sandia trained traveling Iraqi nuclear scientists and gave non-fissile material for construction of a nuclear bomb.

“There has never been this kind of comprehensive layout and listing like we have now in the Iraqi report to the Security Council so this is quite new and this is especially new for the U.S. involvement, which has been even more suppressed in the public domain and the U.S. population,” Zumach said.

The names of companies were supposed to be top secret.
Two weeks ago Iraq provided two copies of its full 12,000-page report, one to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Geneva, and one to the United Nations in New York. Zumach said the U.S. broke an agreement of the Security Council and blackmailed Colombia, which at the time was presiding over the Council, to take possession of the UN’s only copy. The U.S. then proceeded to make copies of the report for the other four permanent Security Council nations, Britain, France, Russia and China. Only yesterday did the remaining members of the Security Council receive their copies. By then, all references to foreign companies had been removed.

According to Zumach, only Germany had more business ties to Iraq than the U.S. As many as 80 German companies are also listed in Iraq’s report. The paper reported that some German companies continued to do business with Iraq until last year.

Salon.com News | Study: Texas executed most inmates in 2002

Texas executed 33 people this year, the most of any state in the nation and almost double the number put to death in the state last year, a study showed.

Since resuming executions 20 years ago, 289 Texas inmates have been executed, far more than in any other state. The 17 executions in Texas in 2001 represented a sharp drop for the state, which executed a record 40 people in 2000 and has executed an average of 22 inmates annually since 1992.

"What we are finding is that the use of the death penalty is becoming more and more concentrated in Texas and a few other states in the South," said Richard Dieter, who heads the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-death-penalty group that published the study.

"And increasingly, Texas is finding itself standing alone in its increasing application of the death penalty," Dieter said.

Harris County (Houston) sends more people to death row than nearly all states.


Over the last three months the world has successfully demonstrated that it can delay and obstruct U.S. plans to occupy the oil fields of Iraq and Saudi Arabia. This is both good news and bad news. Today's UN developments regarding Iraq's statement on weapons of mass destruction have served to increase the stakes over U.S. plans to occupy that country. The Empire's feet of clay are rooted in monumental budget deficits, trade deficits, fraudulent financial markets, cheap oil and rigged gold prices. It is on these fronts that the battle for Iraq is now being fought.

The fact that the planned invasion of Iraq did not occur as was originally planned in late September in no way diminishes the accuracy of FTW's prediction that it was planned for that time. In our lead essay for the November issue of FTW -"Wheels Come Off U.S. War Plans for Iraq" - we explained very clearly that resistance on a number of economic and political fronts around the world was having an impact on the Empire's agenda. This is a gratifying and positive development and a sign that there are tactics that are being successfully used to delay United States imperial aggression in violation of international law, basic American values, human rights and common sense.
Scoop Image: Start Wars Poster
Salon.com News | Saudi Arabia assures U.S. of airspace use

Saudi Arabia has privately assured U.S. officials they could launch air support missions from Saudi bases in the event of a war with Iraq and could coordinate the air war from a central command post near the Saudi capital, Pentagon officials said Saturday.

Saudi Arabia is a long-standing American ally, but its willingness to permit U.S. forces to operate from the kingdom's soil for attacks on Iraq has been in serious doubt for many months. Saudi Arabia was the most important staging area for U.S. forces during the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq.
Salon.comm -- Bush most admired American, poll finds

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Laura Bush and J. Lo have something in common: Americans like them.

A Gallup poll found the nation divided in the contest for "most admired" woman. Among men, President Bush remained the clear favorite for the second year in a row.

Among men, the president had a commanding 28 percent for men -- well ahead of the runner-up, former president Jimmy Carter who was in single digits.

Scoop: US Readies Invasion Armada For Jan-Feb 2003

Removing the Iraqi government and installing a US military regime that would control the country's oil fields, is at least as important as eliminating weapons of mass destruction. That makes war with Iraq guaranteed around the end of January to mid-February. Maree Howard writes.

Following the invasion of Iraq the US will establish a military government along the same lines as the US occupation regime established in Japan at the end of World War II under General MacArthur.

If the US military remains in Iraq in numbers nobody can use oil as a weapon. Least of all, OPEC, which turned off the spigots and caused prices to rise which brought about the oil-shock of 1973 onwards.

Establishing US military rule over Iraq will also strengthen Washington's hand in relation to the other top Middle East oil producer, Saudi Arabia, effectively crippling its ability to set an independent oil policy.

China closes 3,300 Internet cafes - Tech News - CNET.com

China has shut more than 3,300 Internet cafes for safety reasons after a fire tore through an underground Beijing cafe in June killing 25 people and injuring 12 others, the official Xinhua news agency reported Friday.
Li Rongrong, minister in charge of China's State Economic and Trade Commission, was quoted as saying officials had inspected about 45,000 Internet cafes in the past six months.

Operations of nearly 12,000 of them had been suspended pending improvements and more than 3,300 were permanently closed, it said.

Security-obsessed China keeps tight controls on Internet cafes, driving many under ground, where they operate behind locked doors to avoid scrutiny.

New Zealand News Gwynne Dyer: Latin America continues to its individual beat

What is wrong with Latin America?

Most Latin Americans at the moment place the blame on neo-liberal economic policies imposed by Washington and the International Monetary Fund, but Latin America's backwardness and political failure long predate the latest economic fashion.

Poverty is so widespread that even if Latin American economies grew by 4 per cent a year for the next decade, according to the World Bank, only half of the region's people would be lifted out of extreme poverty.

That is longer than most people are willing to wait, so there is a region-wide revolt against the neo-liberal orthodoxy, with populist politicians offering vaguely socialist nostrums winning power in one country after another.

So what is the real reason that Latin America doesn't work like the rest of the West? I'm afraid I have no idea. Tell me it's corruption, military coups, poor education, and I'll just ask you why they persisted in Latin America long after they declined elsewhere in the West.

The one consoling thought is that Brazil and Mexico, the countries that seem likeliest to escape from the pattern, make up over half the total population of Latin America.

News of the World -- The Baby Clone Doctor's Sect Joy Of Sex

"Sect members should, at the same time encourage those they love to seek sexual gratification with others. Sect members should also continue to sexually gratify a loved one who does not oppose them having sex with others.

"Sect members should also not reject but have sex with another person if that person wants to gratify them sexually.

"Sect members can have heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual sex in couples, threesomes, foursomes and ‘moresomes'." The sect's HQ in Canada is called UFOland—complete with a replica of the flying saucer Vorhilon insists he saw.

Raelians flock to the site for ‘free love' orgies. In 1992, hundreds more devotees gathered in a field in rural France.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch -- White House hushed up asbestos peril affecting millions

Are you in Danger?

The Environmental Protection Agency was on the verge of warning millions of Americans that their attics and walls might contain asbestos-contaminated insulation. But, at the last minute, the White House intervened, and the warning has never been issued.

The announcement to warn the public had been expected in April.

It was to have accompanied a declaration by the EPA of a public health emergency in Libby, Mont. In that town near the Canadian border, ore from a vermiculite mine was contaminated with a lethal asbestos fiber called tremolite that has killed or sickened thousands of miners and their families.

Ore from the Libby mine was shipped around the world, and was in insulation called Zonolite that was used in millions of homes, businesses, and schools.

A public health emergency declaration had never been issued by any agency. It would have authorized the removal of the insulation from homes in Libby and provided long-term care for those made sick. Additionally, it would have triggered notification of property owners elsewhere who might be exposed to the insulation.

Zonolite insulation was sold throughout North America from the 1940s through the 1990s. Almost all of the vermiculite used came from the Libby mine, last owned by W. R. Grace & Co.

Interviews and documents show that days before EPA was set to make the declaration, the plan was thwarted by the White House Office of Management and Budget, which had been told of the proposal months earlier.

Both the OMB and the EPA acknowledge that the White House agency was involved, but neither agency would discuss how or why.

Former EPA administrator William Ruckelshaus, who worked for Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan, called the decision not to notify homeowners of the dangers posed by Zonolite insulation ''the wrong thing to do.''

''When the government comes across this kind of information and doesn't tell people about it, I just think it's wrong, unconscionable, not to do that,'' he said. ''Your first obligation is to tell the people ... of the possible danger.''

It was the White House budget office's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs that derailed the Libby declaration. The regulatory affairs office is headed by John Graham, who formerly ran the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis.

His appointment last year was denounced by environmental, health and public advocacy groups, who claimed his ties to industry were too strong. Graham passes judgment over all major national health, safety and environmental standards.

No one knows precisely how many dwellings are insulated with Zonolite. Memos from the EPA and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry repeatedly cite an estimate of between 15 million and 35 million homes.

In a Feb. 22 memo, the EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics said "the national ramifications are enormous" and estimated that if only 1 million homes have Zonolite "(are) we not put in a position to remove their (insulation) at a national cost of over $10 billion?"

500 people from Libby who are sick and dying from exposure to tremolite.

The EPA's files are filled with studies documenting the toxicity of tremolite, how even minor disruptions of the material by moving boxes, sweeping the floor or doing repairs in attics can generate asbestos fibers.

This also has been confirmed by simulations W.R. Grace ran in Weedsport, N.Y., in July 1977; by 1997 studies by the Canadian Department of National Defense; and by the U.S. Public Health Service, which reported in 2000, that "even minimal handling by workers or residents poses a substantial health risk."

Zonolite insulation has been produced and sold for home and business use for more than half a century. The featherweight, silverish-brown pieces of popcornlike vermiculite are usually the size of a nickel or dime, but some firms have sold pea-size vermiculite.

Here's what government experts say you should do:

If you're a homeowner: Stay away from Zonolite insulation, and leave it alone.
NYTimes --Front Page -- Trickle of Oil Starts Flowing in Venezuela

Nearly a month into Venezuela's devastating national strike, all systems were back up and running close to normal this week at the refinery here that supplies gasoline to the eastern half of this country. Night shift workers were bursting with the pride of war heroes.

"We have made a situation that seemed impossible, possible," said Edgar Ortiz, 46, the leader of a union representing gas truck drivers in the Lake Maracaibo region. "The crisis has not ended. But the government is finding solutions."

The refinery here at balmy Puerto La Cruz has become a showcase of the government's comeback. Almost all high-level executives at the plant joined the strike. But officials said fewer than 20 percent of the operators, mechanics and technicians walked off the job.

Mr. Chávez has agreed to negotiate with the business and labor representatives who lead the opposition. But sources close to the talks said that it had become clear that both sides intended to fight to the political death.

After a meeting with Mr. Chávez last week, the American ambassador to Venezuela, Charles Shapiro, said the risk of violence was rising daily. Meanwhile, the night crew at Puerto La Cruz downed espresso and tried to make light of the tension. The maintenance chief, with 32 years on the job, joked that he was one of the "inexperienced workers" whom foes of Mr. Chávez called a threat to the company's security. Other workers faked Cuban accents to poke fun at charges by opponents that Mr. Chávez had allowed Communist workers to infiltrate oil installations. Then they talked about about their colleagues who had joined the strike.

"To me, this is a political fight," said Willians Arevalo, operations manager at Puerto La Cruz. "I have participated in many strikes, to demand better pay or better conditions. But I don't think I should use my job to try to force out the president."

VOA News - Massive Street Demonstrations Planned in Venezuela

Venezuela's capital, Caracas, is bracing for a series of anti-government demonstrations Sunday, on the 28th day of a crippling general strike that has caused severe fuel shortages in the oil-rich nation.

Opposition leaders have called for nine marches in Caracas, with protesters eventually coming together for what is billed as a "victory" rally.

Saturday, December 28, 2002

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: AP -- Terror War Tops Bush Re-Election Agenda

An internal White House document outlining President Bush's re-election agenda starts with "War on terrorism (Con't)" and homeland security. It's the latest sign, critics say, that presidential advisers are seeking political gain from the Sept. 11 attacks.

The single-page, sparsely worded document titled "Possible '04 Signature Issues" was discussed this month in a White House meeting chaired by chief of staff Andrew Card to fine tune Bush's 2003 legislative agenda, several senior White House officials told The Associated Press.
The Sacramento Bee -- Marjie Lundstrom: Dissenting voices in danger as threat of war increases

"These peaceniks are allowing terrorists to kill us and not fight back," read one e-mail, responding to my Dec. 5 column on anti-war protesters. The piece had been posted on a self-described "conservative news forum" site under the heading, "California very weird alert!"

"Maybe we should jail the peaceniks, before we all die," the writer declared.

Kill the message, silence the voice.

Maybe we're just becoming a talk-radio nation, a place where divergent views are shouted down -- or simply hung up on.

As the old year ends, a new worry deepens about whether Americans know how to listen anymore, and what lengths some will go to to silence dissent. From the left, from the right, from ostensibly the center, disturbing examples abound.
playboy.com -- miss january rebecca ramos

At 35, oldest playmate but not oldest woman to appear in Playboy. Link contains nudity.

NYTimes -- More Schools Rely on Tests, but Study Raises Doubts

Rigorous testing that decides whether students graduate, teachers win bonuses and schools are shuttered, an approach already in place in more than half the nation, does little to improve achievement and may actually worsen academic performance and dropout rates, according to the largest study ever on the issue.

After adopting such exams, twice as many states slipped against the national average on the SAT and the ACT as gained on it. The same held true for elementary-school math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, an exam overseen by the United States Department of Education.

Trends on Advanced Placement tests were also worse than the national average in 57 percent of those states, while movement in elementary-school reading scores was evenly split — better than the national average in half the states, worse in the other half. The only category in which most of the states gained ground was middle-school math, with 63 percent of them bettering the national trend.

"Teachers are focusing so intently on the high-stakes tests that they are neglecting other things that are ultimately more important," said Audrey Amrein, the study's lead author, who says she supported high-stakes tests before conducting her research. "In theory, high-stakes tests should work, because they advance the notions of high standards and accountability. But students are being trained so narrowly because of it, they are having a hard time branching out and understanding general problem-solving."

Perhaps most controversial, the study found that once states tie standardized tests to graduation, fewer students tend to get diplomas. After adopting such mandatory exit exams, twice as many states had a graduation rate that fell faster than the national average as those with a rate that fell slower. Not surprisingly, then, dropout rates worsened in 62 percent of the states, relative to the national average, while enrollment of young people in programs offering equivalency diplomas climbed.

The reason for this is not solely that struggling students grow frustrated and ultimately quit, the study concluded. In an echo of the findings of other researchers, the authors asserted that administrators, held responsible for raising tests scores at a school or in an entire district, occasionally pressure failing students to drop out.

This is obvious if you have been involved in school districts.

The religious/UFO group behind the cloning reports:

Pravda.RU Jordanian “Live Shield” for Saddam

Will Jordanians protect Iraq with their bodies?

A first group of volunteers from Jordan may leave for Baghdad in the nearest days in order to create a “live shield” in case if a war is waged against Iraq. The information was reported by Iraq’s newspaper Al-Jumhuriya with reference to a representative of the Jordan National Committee for Iraq protection.

As is reported, the Committee is ready to send the first group of volunteers in the nearest days. In the course of the campaign it has already launched, the Committee hopes to gather 100 thousand volunteers ready to leave for Iraq to create a “live shield” which will resist the US aggression against Iraq.
Guardian -- 'Human shields' head for Iraq

A convoy of anti-war activists, likely to include dozens of British volunteers, will leave London next month to act as human shields protecting strategic sites in Iraq.

The convoy to Baghdad is being organised by former US marine Kenneth Nichols, who served in the first Gulf war and won a combat medal but has now become a vociferous opponent of another Gulf conflict.

British protesters are also heading for the country in advance of any Anglo-American bombing.

One of the protestors: This "War on Terror" is becoming the ultimate "War on Freedom", in the United States and around the world. George Bush has said that "every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make, either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."

But we do not only have two choices, For the record, I am not with George Bush or with the terrorists. And that is why, when this war finally begins, I will be in Iraq - with the people of Iraq. I invite everybody to join me in declaring themselves not citizens of nations but world citizens prepared to act in solidarity with the most wretched on our planet and to join us or to support our efforts in other ways. In doing so I honour the principles and laws of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And if I should die in Iraq, it will be as a man at peace with himself because he saw the truth and acted on it.

Observer Comment Extra

So far unreported in the US. Probably foolish as the people who want this war will see protestor casualties as a bonus.

CNN.com - Army units get Persian Gulf deployment orders

Moving out after Christmas as planned, except naming some specific army units nothing new since yesterday.

Yahoo! News - Hillary Clinton Urges Jobless Benefits Extension

Typical AP slanted report on Democratic weekly radio address.

The Onion | Land Mine Seizes Power In Angola

The war-torn West African nation of Angola, for decades wracked by violent power struggles among rival factions, was cast into further political turmoil Monday when a 40-pound anti-personnel land mine seized power and declared itself president for life.

"Today represents the dawn of a glorious new era for our nation," said the landmine, which rose to power with the backing of Angola's estimated 40 million subterranean explosive devices. "For too many years, we have been ignored by Angola's leaders, denied representation despite the fact that we outnumber the humans by a margin of four to one."

"This land mine will open doors for other large but politically underrepresented African-Angolan groups, such as rocket-propelled grenade launchers and AK-47 assault rifles," Yale University African Studies professor Ralph Langwell said.

Hmmm, is the Onion channeling the future?
Corporate Personhood Is Doomed

Overstated, but a review of Thom Hartmann's
Unequal Protection: the Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights clearify's that corporations as person's was opposed to the founding father intentions and instead was a recent legal invention which crept in the back door.

Mr. Hartmann doesn’t fill in this blank, but his daylighting of the irregularity will be the eventual undoing of corporate personhood. Its alleged source in Santa Clara County is a myth, a lie, a fraud. Corporate personhood simply cannot now survive, after Mr. Hartmann’s book, a rigorous and sustained legal attack.

Sustained it will have to be, for years or decades or even longer: corporations will fight the attack bitterly, but we now know corporate personhood has utterly no basis in law.
Bush Aides Rethink Politics of Tax Cuts (washingtonpost.com)

Even more than past Republican administrations, Bush tax plans are heavily tilted in favor of the rich.

Aides to President Bush had favored a plan to accelerate by a year cuts in income tax rates scheduled to take effect in 2004. But Bush's political advisers, concerned that Democrats will use a class-warfare argument to fight an accelerated reduction in the top rate, have suggested dropping that plan, instead emphasizing a cut in taxes on stock dividends.

When Congress returns next month, the White House is expected to propose a $300 billion economic stimulus package that includes cuts in dividend taxation, the accelerated income tax cuts, and more generous incentives for business investment.

Friday, December 27, 2002

Yahoo! News - AP -- U.S. Orders Thousands of Troops to Gulf

More on military unit movements to Gulf.

Living With Liberals (washingtonpost.com)
The most important electoral fact in the past 40 years has been the conversion of the South from a Democratic to a Republican bastion. Sen. Trent Lott's recent troubles led to a salutary unearthing of the history of that realignment, which was rooted not just in culture and religion but also, and importantly, in the politics of race. That Lott, immediately upon quitting, tried to change the subject back to culture and religion -- he said he always had enemies because he was a Christian from Mississippi -- cannot change history.

But this realignment had the unsurprising effect of Southernizing the Republican Party, both in its leadership and in its policies. The change did not go unnoticed among voters in the Northeast, in the Midwest and on the West Coast. Steadily since 1992, voters of these regions have shifted their allegiances away from the Republican Party. In New York, even formerly Republican strongholds upstate began throwing votes the Democrats' way, allowing Charles E. Schumer and then Hillary Rodham Clinton to win election -- and by large margins -- to the U.S. Senate.

It's worth remembering that Lott was finally forced out not by Democrats (or by non-Christians) but by the leaders of his own party, including the president of the United States. They acted because they are sensitive to Republican weakness in states that voted solidly for Abraham Lincoln in 1860. There were costs to whistling Dixie for so long, and so loudly.

The national Republican Party, of course, will never accommodate the Democrats as much as Michael Bloomberg and George Pataki have. In relative terms, New York is still a pretty liberal place. But Republicans in Washington and elsewhere may learn far more from Bloomberg and Pataki than either conservatives or Democrats would like.

This is the Democratic problem, Republicans win when they mouth the right words, regardless of their actions.
Yahoo! News - AP -- North Koreans are facing a cold, hungry winterThis year, North Koreans face the prospect of their coldest, hungriest winter in years.

The United States and its allies have stopped supplying fuel oil ever since the North revealed that it has been running a secret nuclear program in violation of a 1994 accord with Washington.

And on Friday, the World Food Program said it will not be able to reach 2.9 million vulnerable North Koreans — barring immediate contributions from major donors such as the United States and Japan, which are increasingly unhappy about helping the recalcitrant Pyongyang regime.

North Korea's per capita income amounted to US$706 last year, one-thirteenth of South Korea's US$8,900, the office said. South Korea, a global trading power, reported US$291.5 billion in trade last year, 128 times the estimated trade volume of the North's US$2.27 billion.

"The North's real intention apparently is to bring the United States to a negotiating table," said Choi Wan-kyu, an analyst at Seoul's Institute for Far-Eastern Studies. "The pattern we see is that the direr the situation becomes, the tougher the North Korean rhetoric gets."
SFGate - AP -- Democratic presidential hopefuls to crowd California

Several would-be 2004 Democratic presidential nominees already have trekked to the Golden State to tap its veteran political strategists, abundant campaign dollars and mass of Democratic voters.

Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who is running, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina -- all considering running -- already have visited California.

Sens. Tom Daschle of South Dakota, Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt and Florida Sen. Bob Graham are considering campaigns. One early favorite of Democrats, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, made several trips to California during this year's governor's race but has said she will not run in 2004.

Many of the hopefuls are expected to attend the California Democratic Party's annual convention in March in Sacramento.

Up & Coming Magazine -- Without Candidate Al Gore, Americans Face Dark Times

Years after Bush is gone, we'll be paying off the debts he ran up and the lawsuits brought by those whose rights he violated. Opposing Bush isn't a question of partisan politics. Patriotic people of all political stripes, including lifelong Republicans and war veterans, increasingly understand that this administration's antidemocratic, unconstitutional tactics, thinly disguised as part of a fake "war on terrorism" that has yet to catch a single planner of 9/11, are a cover for dangerous, dictatorial impulses.

As Gore told 60 Minutes host Leslie Stahl, whoever the Dems pick to take on Bush will glikely enjoy the benefit of Bush's dismal handling of the economy. "I think that the policies they're committed to do not work," Gore said.

The 2004 Democratic nominee, whoever he is, may win the presidency. But no Democrat will enjoy the loyalty of those angered by what happened to Gore as much as the man many regard as our President-in-Exile. And no candidate but Gore can give us hope during the dark year about to begin.

Like Europe landing a man on Mars by 2025, Gore running in 2004 ain't going to happen.
Times Online -- Pyongyang may have A-bomb in 30 days

Good article, all the reasons for restarting the reactor have to do with producing atomic weapons which could take place between 30 days and a year.

The UN has never been able to verify how much plutonium the country produced before the reactor was shut down in 1994. Some analysts have speculated that it might have kept enough for two atomic bombs.

In this case North Korea might be restarting the nuclear reactor to produce a “polonium trigger” needed to ignite a nuclear explosion. This would enable it to produce a functioning nuclear weapon within just 30 days.

North Korea’s unstable Stalinist regime has also spent recent years developing a long range missile that would enable it to send bombs as far as Japan. “North Korea has a nuclear weapons development programme on an industrial scale, and the means for delivering them.

Most analysts have assumed they have two bombs - this recent activity may mean they don't have triggers for them or they want more or this is a bargaining chip.
BBC NEWS -- US Muslims' lawsuit suffers setback

The US Justice Department has declared that a massive lawsuit filed after the detention of hundreds of Muslim men in the Los Angeles area can only be heard by the Supreme Court.

Four US-Muslim groups had filed the suit in a Los Angeles district court to protest against a controversial round-up last week of men from Arab and Muslim nations without permanent residency status.

The lawsuit seeks a block on further such detentions by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

But Justice Department lawyers said the federal district court had no jurisdiction to review decisions carried out by the body.

That power is reserved for the Supreme Court, the lawyers argued.
The Globe and Mail: U.S. orders navy to prepare carriers for Iraq

The Pentagon has ordered the U.S. navy to prepare two aircraft carriers and two amphibious assault vessels for possible action in Iraq, defence officials said Friday.

The ships and the escorts would bring a powerful military force to the region, adding several warships, scores of strike aircraft and roughly 4,400 marines to the forces already within striking distance of Iraq.

If the order to sail is given, the USS George Washington battle group would be sent from the Atlantic fleets, officials said. The George Washington returned to its base in Norfolk, Va., from the region on Dec. 20 and is considered best prepared for action.

Either the USS Abraham Lincoln or the USS Kitty Hawk battle group would be sent from the Pacific fleets. The Abraham Lincoln is in Perth, Australia, having just left the Persian Gulf region. The Kitty Hawk is in port in Japan.
Already in the region is the carrier USS Constellation and the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau, and their escorts, officials said. The Nassau group carries another 2,200 marines.

A fourth carrier group, centred on the USS Harry S. Truman, is in the Mediterranean Sea.

In addition, the U.S. navy hospital ship Comfort is expected to put to sea from its home port in Baltimore next week and prepare for action, military officials said Friday. It will be headed to Diego Garcia, a British island in the Indian Ocean where the United States bases numerous military aircraft, to support any potential conflict with Iraq.

Some Random Chaos

The watch on Christmas Day talked about Martin Luther King and escalating nonviolence. That was serious, the rest of this isn't. Or is.

She also has a nice Principia Discordia quote which I will repeat here:

Malaclypse: "I am filled with fear and tormented with terrible visions of pain. Everywhere people are hurting one another, the planet is rampant with injustices, whole societies plunder groups of their own people, mothers imprison sons, children perish while brothers war. O, woe."

Eris: "What is the matter with that, if it is what you want to do?"

M: "But nobody wants it! Everybody hates it."

E: "Oh. Well then, stop." - The Principia Discordia

Hail Eris! My friend Peter and I also worship at the goddess of confusion. We are both Popes, treat us right good.

Ye have locked yerselves up in cages of fear--and, behold, do ye now complain that ye lack FREEDOM!

I have also just heard from a college friend Tom Top Turkey by way of a Christmas Eve postcard to an old email address I wasn't sure worked.

I think it significant in 5 ways that today I ran across the Turkey Curse.


Revealed by the Apostle Dr. Van Van Mojo as a specific counter to the evil Curse of Greyface, THE TURKEY CURSE is here passed on to Erisians everywhere for their just protection.


Take a foot stance as if you were John L. Sullivan preparing for fisticuffs. Face the particular greyfaced you wish to short-circuit, or towards the direction of the negative aneristic vibration that you wish to neutralize.

Begin waving your arms in any elaborate manner and make motions with your hands as though you were Mandrake feeling up a sexy giantess. Chant, loudly and clearly:


The results will be instantly apparent.

Not that Tom ever needed to perform the Turkey Curse. Or be the subject of a turkey curse that wouldn't work on him. One of his main claims to the top turkey title was the amount of money he was willing to spend to get it. (I would say he was a born politician if he didn't think that was an insult.) I will have to put something in my journal to have him read and catch up. or regress, to what I am doing now.

The Law of Fives states simply that:
All things happen in fives, or are divisible by or are multiples of five, or are somehow directly or indirectly appropriate to 5.

The Law of Fives is never wrong.

In the Erisian Archives is an old memo from Omar to Mal-2: "I find the Law of Fives to more and more manifest the harder I look."

If there be confusion why I am posting this here:

All things are true in some sense, false in some sense, meaningless in some sense, true and false in some sense, true and meaningless in some sense, false and meaningless in some sense, and true, false, and meaningless in some sense.
The Nation -- Venezuela on the Brink

The opposition's militancy dates back not to 1998, when Chávez was elected president, but to 2001, when he radicalized his government by prioritizing economic and social reform. In November of that year he passed agrarian reform and legislation prohibiting private control of joint ventures for oil exploitation. Fedecámaras reacted by calling a one-day general strike. The business organization was joined by the main labor federation, the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV), whose leadership Chávez refused to recognize on the grounds that it had held fraudulent internal elections. Since then the CTV and Fedecámaras have called three more general strikes, including the one in April that led to the abortive military coup.

One unique feature of the general strike that began on December 2 is the absence of any demand other than the removal of President Chávez, either by resignation or immediate elections. All rhetoric is reduced to one simple message: Chávez must go.

The US and Spanish governments were practically alone in welcoming the April coup against Chávez. While Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar continues to support the Venezuelan opposition in its call for immediate elections, Washington has in recent months maintained an officially neutral position, despite the National Endowment for Democracy's generous funding of opposition groups over the past several years. Thus the United States now defers to the Organization of American States, whose secretary general, César Gaviria, has brought both sides to the table in an attempt to work out a solution to the impasse.
LiberalOasis: Dubya's Approval Rating Plummets and Noone Notices

In general, do you approve or disapprove of the way President Bush is handling his job as President?

Approve -- 55%
Disapprove -- 37%

Do you think Bush is a leader you can trust, or do you have doubts and reservations?

Trust -- 50%
Doubts -- 48%

Do you think Vice President Dick Cheney is a leader you can trust, or do you have doubts and reservations?

Trust -- 42%
Doubts -- 51%

Morphizm.com -- ...And Ten Reasons Why American Culture Sucked in 2002

Fox News: "We're not biased!"

"I challenge anybody to show me an example of bias in Fox News Channel", tabloid mogul Rupert Murdoch told Salon back in March of 2001. Many writers and reporters took up that challenge but they couldn't get a word in because loudmouths like the "fair and balanced" Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Geraldo Rivera and the Beltway Boys kept interrupting them. You think I'm joking but I'm not. Although television has -- as the Ginsu-sharp Mark Crispin Miller wrote in his excellent book, The Bush Dyslexicon -- become far from relevant when it comes to substantive political commentary, Fox News is a three-ring circus run by pseudo-journalists with hard-to-ignore ties to the Republican Party. Let's break this down, shall we? Fox News president and founder, Roger Ailes? A longtime Republican strategist that worked for Nixon (!), Reagan and even helped craft George the Former's infamous Willie Horton campaign. That should be enough, don't you think? This guy is a right-wing shark, plain and simple -- he even produced Rush Limbaugh's short-lived TV show -- and if he's running a news network, uh, what was the argument again? But let's continue. Well-regarded Fox News anchor Tony Snow? Speechwriter for George Bush. Bill O'Reilly? Registered Republican and contributor to the conservative WorldNetDaily.com. This guy has his own talk show, people. Recurring "analyst" William Kristol? Chief of Staff to Dan Quayle. The list goes on, and this is just the stuff they're telling us. Now I'm not one for partisan politics -- as a character from the amazing film, Waking Life, put it, "Do you want the puppet on the left or the puppet on the right?" -- but any network that incessantly repeats the mantra, "The only network that America turns to for fair and balanced journalism" (Really Fox? All of America? The entire country?), is trying to sell you something. And once you take a look at the buyers, it's pretty easy to see what's on the menu. Taste this: "If it hadn't been for Fox, I don't know what I'd have done for the news." Guess who said that? Trent Lott.

and 9 more

He also starts 10 Reasons Why it Didn't Suck with Lord of the Rings and Spirited Away.
YellowTimes.org -- "Hugo Chavez and Venezuela's poor versus everybody else"

Of the recent articles published by the New York Times about the situation in Venezuela, one has to read several articles to even find a one sentence mention of the pro-Chavez movement, let alone an entire article about them. Moreover, these people, their movement, and what they represent are half the story, yet are given only 1 percent of the coverage.

Chavez is continually called a dictator or a communist or a leftist: anything to conjure up some good ol' Cold War imagery, or of the Iron Curtain and Marxism, though no one really knows what being a Marxist means. People just know it's bad.

By all reasonable accounts, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) had more than an oblique and unintentional role in the proceedings in Venezuela in April.

Just before the April coup, NED had funded a conference where many of the opposition leaders, and ultimate coup organizers, were set to meet, including hand-picked, two-day dictator Pedro Carmona, president of the business group Fedecamaras, who was to speak at the event.

Thursday, December 26, 2002

NYTimes -- Brazil Sends Gasoline at Venezuelan's Request

In a show of support for Venezuela's embattled president, Hugo Chávez, the Brazilian government has sent an emergency shipment of 520,000 barrels of gasoline to help relieve shortages caused by a nationwide general strike now in its fourth week, government officials here said today.

Commercial and political ties between the two countries have strengthened considerably since Mr. Chávez took office in February 1999, proclaiming his intent to lead a peaceful social revolution. President Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil approved the gasoline shipment, and there are indications that his successor-elect, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, of the left-wing Workers Party, was also involved in the decision.


Jesus Christ
Son of God returns, locked up in Bellevue.

A homeless man claiming to be the son of God threw Christmas Mass into chaos yesterday when he twice stormed into St. Patrick's Cathedral and ran shouting toward the altar.
Judy O'Christian's Baptist Gift Shop!

I've Got A Heart On For Jesus!

Hellbound Liberal!

Jesus Loves You! And if you don't love Him back, He'll torture you forever in Hell!

And other T-shirts and mugs for sale.

From myDD, which also gave the link below. the poll on Democratic Nominees.

Looking at results, note the commanding lead of Dean who hasn't hit the mainstream yet. Note also that Graham and others are not on the list.

The secret to 2004 is going to be who can carry Florida.

Tallahassee Democrat | Beltway pundits shouldn't underestimate Bob Graham
As the outgoing chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Graham has credentials to talk about war and homeland security. Republicans will try to paint him as a liberal, especially since Florida's second-most-popular politician would like to succeed his brother in the White House, but that label has never stuck to Graham in the past.

Assuming California, Pennsylvania and New York remain "blue states," and the Democrats can hold Michigan and Illinois, it's hard to see how George W. Bush can reach 270 electoral votes without Florida. And if there's one thing Bob Graham has proved he can do, it's carry Florida.

You think Jeb Bush made it look easy last month, getting 56 percent of the vote? Well, Graham racked up nearly 65 percent - the easiest re-election since LeRoy Collins - in 1982.

By the time he was leaving the Governor's Mansion, Graham was the favorite to oust Republican Sen. Paula Hawkins of Maitland. He beat her by 325,000 votes in the same election that saw Gov. Bob Martinez usher in the era of GOP dominance in Florida politics.
World Policy Journal - Toward Universal Empire: The Dangerous Quest for Absolute Security by Hendrickson

It may be an exaggeration to say that the American government is taking "hasty and colossal strides to universal empire," as Alexander Hamilton said of the French Republic in 1798, but the line of march is very clear. It is toward a nation and an executive unburdened by traditional legal precepts and normative commitments to multilateral action, a vision that finds the constraints of international society an unwanted and unacceptable burden. It is toward universal empire.

The embrace of a doctrine of preventive war is a highly significant step. It represents a radical departure from the twin pillars of national security policy during the Cold War—containment and deterrence.
DEBKAfile - Turkish Troops Set to Advance on N. Iraqi oil cities – Ahead of US Attack

. The Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s disclosure in a Channel Two TV interview Tuesday night, December 24, of information that Iraq is hiding some of its chemical and biological weapons in Syria to keep them from UN inspectors, is of relevance to this objective. Although he stressed that the information needs verifying, Sharon’s choice of this moment to make the information public will be taken in Damascus as a hands-off warning against interfering with the Turkish advance into Iraq.

Our military sources draw attention to the secret military pact between Syria and Iraq, first revealed by DEBKAfile in 2001, which permits Iraqi military units in the event of war crossing into Syria and using it as a base for striking at Israel.

You can only believe about 50% of what you read in DEBKAfile but a military invasion deal with Turkey and Iraq using Syria expands and complicates the conflict.
Common Dreams -- US, India Score 'Win' Against International Criminal Court

India and the United States signed a pact under which they agreed not to send each other's nationals to a world tribunal, in a victory for Washington's efforts to scuttle the International Criminal Court.

At least 14 other countries have already signed such agreements with the United States, but India is significant as most of the others are small or closely identified as US allies.

Others that have signed non-extradition agreements with Washington are Afghanistan, the Dominican Republic, East Timor, El Salvador, Gambia, Honduras, Israel, the Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Micronesia, Palau, Romania, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

AlterNet: Fighting Fear and Fundamentalism

... consider a fine piece in Al Ahram, the main Egyptian paper, by Usama Ghazali Harb, who says the Muslim world's predicament today is not the result of some external plot but the fact that "while the vast majority of Muslims keep silent, an extremist minority has hijacked the faith and is steering it into a confrontation with the world. . . . These extremists are supported by conservative forces that fear progress and modernity."

So writes a fawning Thomas Friedman in his endless quest to find Jeffersonian Muslims.

But here is a modified version of Harb's thesis: "while the vast majority of Americans keep silent, an extremist minority has hijacked our government, and is steering it into a confrontation with the world...These extremists are supported by conservative forces that fear global equality and environmental moderation."

Isn't this as valid a description of our predicament – those of us caught in the middle as we watch our government convert the simple terrorist crime of Sept. 11 into a vast conflict that asserts American military dominance over the Arabs?

The left should not only stand moral witness against killing civilians overseas, but also stand up for freedom at home. Roosevelt's four freedoms are not a bad place to start: freedom of expression; freedom of worship; freedom from want; freedom from fear.

The current war on terrorism unleashed by the Bush administration undermines each one of these freedoms.

Although most of us may not feel religious freedom is at risk, Muslims are already beginning to feel under pressure, what with FBI agents in mosques secretly recording their words. But in Roosevelt's 1941 Four Freedoms speech, the first and foremost point was freedom of expression. In the U.S. today, the government is using the war on terrorism to purge any idea that the Republicans view as "heresy" – silencing or spying on dissenting citizens in the name of patriotism.

Only fundamentalists can support such an agenda of fear. And remember, fear is our enemy.
CNN.com - Lincoln statue stirs controversy in Virginia

Abraham Lincoln is returning to the capital of the Confederacy, much to the chagrin of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Five days before the Civil War ended in April 1865, the president and his youngest child, Tad, traveled to still-smoldering Richmond soon after Southern forces abandoned the city in flames.

On April 5, 2003, the 138th anniversary of that visit, a bronze statue of the pair commissioned by the United States Historical Society will be unveiled at the Civil War Visitor Center of the National Park Service.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans view the Lincoln statue as "a slap in the face of a lot of brave men and women who went through four years of unbelievable hell fighting an invasion of Virginia led by President Lincoln," Brag Bowling, the SCV Virginia commander, said Thursday. The group had only recently learned of the statue, and had no immediate plans to protest.

The life-size statue by sculptor David Frech will show Lincoln and his son on a bench against a granite wall. The words "To Bind Up The Nation's Wounds" will be etched into a capstone.

MSNBC AP -- Suit filed over arrest of Mideast men

Civil rights groups sued the government Tuesday to stop future detentions of Middle Eastern men under a new anti-terrorism policy that led to hundreds of arrests of visa holders last week.

“We’re not challenging the right of the government to keep track of people who visit the country. We’re critical of the way it’s being done,” said Jason Erb of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, one of the groups that filed the suit. “We’re critical of mass arrests of people who are trying to follow all the rules.”
MSNBC -- Terrorism’s peril undiminished (washingtonpost)

U.S. officials expect catastrophic new attacks

Working-level and senior participants in the conflict, many of them interviewed at length, displayed a striking fatalism even when describing their common belief that the United States will eventually prevail. Nearly all of them, when pressed, said they would measure their success by the frequency, not the absence, of mass-casualty attacks against the American homeland.

There are at least two important disagreements among the officials interviewed for this story, one of fact and one of policy. They have no consensus on whether al Qaeda is replacing its top operatives with competent successors as fast as it loses them, which has important implications for the success of the president’s strategy. And they do not agree on how soon, and with how much priority, U.S. policy should turn to addressing sources of grievance in the Arab and Islamic worlds — a difference that tends them to opposite views on whether the war on al Qaeda will be enhanced or set back by war against Iraq.

Among all the upheavals of war with al Qaeda, the surest indicator of the historic stakes is the ongoing rotation of top U.S. government managers — scores at a time — into a bunker deep underground and far from Washington. No president before Bush considered the “continuity of government” to be in doubt or took the costly step of maintaining a permanent presence under shelter.

At the White House, some officials see a dangerous hole in the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, a subject Bush has yet to address. If the top three constitutional successors are killed — the vice president, speaker of the House, and president pro tem of the Senate — then succession moves down a list of Cabinet secretaries. But once the House elects a new speaker, the law is silent on whether the speaker may reclaim priority and replace the former Cabinet member as president. That sets up a potential struggle at a moment when the nation would need every available resource of unity and calm.

Congress has the gravest problems of survival after a catastrophic attack. The Senate can be replenished swiftly by each state’s governor in temporary appointments. The House requires special elections, which now take an average of four months.
U.S. Decries Abuse but Defends Interrogations (washingtonpost.com)

'Stress and Duress' Tactics Used on Terrorism Suspects Held in Secret Overseas Facilities

Those who refuse to cooperate inside [secret CIA interrogation centers] are sometimes kept standing or kneeling for hours, in black hoods or spray-painted goggles, according to intelligence specialists familiar with CIA interrogation methods. At times they are held in awkward, painful positions and deprived of sleep with a 24-hour bombardment of lights -- subject to what are known as "stress and duress" techniques.

Those who cooperate are rewarded with creature comforts, interrogators whose methods include feigned friendship, respect, cultural sensitivity and, in some cases, money. Some who do not cooperate are turned over -- "rendered," in official parlance -- to foreign intelligence services whose practice of torture has been documented by the U.S. government and human rights organizations.

"Based largely on the Central American human rights experience," said Fred Hitz, former CIA inspector general, "we don't do torture, and we can't countenance torture in terms of we can't know of it." But if a country offers information gleaned from interrogations, "we can use the fruits of it."

Bush administration officials said the CIA, in practice, is using a narrow definition of what counts as "knowing" that a suspect has been tortured. "If we're not there in the room, who is to say?" said one official conversant with recent reports of renditions.

Using other more "barbaric" countries to torture suspects for the US has a long history in American intelligence.
LATimes -- S. Koreans Shrug Off Nuclear Threat

When Lee Jin Ju pauses to think about the nuclear crisis brewing over the Korean peninsula, she knows exactly whom she fears.

"George Bush," replies the 22-year-old accounting student without missing a beat. "He's a war maniac."

Lee doesn't like North Korea's Kim Jong Il much, either. "But we're not afraid of him. He's a Korean like us. Even if he does get the bomb, he's not going to use it against us."

This is a sentiment echoed by many Koreans -- even some conservatives -- and it is complicating U.S. efforts to forge a consensus on North Korea among its allies. There is a tendency, particularly among the young, to shrug off the current situation as the creation of a hysterical White House. Many South Koreans see their estranged brethren to the north more as objects of pity than of fear, and the Americans less as saviors who defended them against communism than as potential troublemakers.

President's Compassionate Agenda Lags (washingtonpost.com)

Two years after winning the White House on a platform of "compassionate conservatism," President Bush so far has achieved few of the items on his legislative agenda to help the disadvantaged, even as he has notched a string of victories on foreign, security and fiscal policy.

Earlier this month, as Bush announced that the AmeriCorps volunteer program was "expanding mightily," the program disclosed that it had halted enrollment; his proposed expansion of national service has not cleared Congress.

Meanwhile, action on major welfare, prescription drug and disabilities legislation was postponed. Proposals to liberalize immigration were dropped, a plan for health-care tax credits was not pursued, and efforts to expand low-income housing are yet to see the funding Bush sought.

The one major success on the compassion list -- education legislation -- has become the subject of a budget fight, with Bush proposing only $22 billion of the $28 billion the new law authorized for the current year.

Last year's terrorist attacks put on hold much of the domestic agenda, and Senate Democrats have blocked pieces of Bush's compassion agenda. But several lawmakers and current and former advisers say the Bush White House has not pushed its compassion agenda with the energy and determination that it put behind tax cuts, defense spending and other priorities.

"He has always been rhetorically on the right side of the issue," said Harvard University's Robert Putnam, who has been consulted often by Bush aides. "They have not yet done nearly enough in practical terms to match the rhetoric." Putnam said right-wing conservatives trumped compassion-minded aides. "The compassionates win a lot of rhetorical battles," he said, "but when you look where the budget is, it shows hardly a hint of the compassionate."

Milbank is the one consistent main stream reporter in looking beyond this administration's rhetoric.

BuzzFlash alert me to this - Pioneer Press -- Talk radio needs some balance which urges the FCC to reinstate the fairness doctrine to eliminate the corporate and right wing dominated airwaves. That won't happen. The secret is moderate and liberal programs finding sponsers and ratings. It is interesting that the broader and more popular media have more moderate programs. As an example, West Wing gets high ratings. It is finding a niche in narrow casting that has proven difficult for avowed liberals.

Public Eye - Has A Partial List of American Groups and Individuals Promoting Oppression or Right-Wing Agendas

They also have a list of Groups Defending Democracy and Diversity from Right-Wing Attack.


Arab News : ‘Moral duty’

Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have, says its secretary-general, a “moral duty” to support the United States in its diplomatic and, if needs be, military offensive against Iraq. This odd pronouncement will not have gone down well with many NATO states.

Crimes against children More than 300 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli solders in the past few months. More than 500 have been injured and suffer from disorientation; and more than half-a-million suffer from malnutrition. Their tragedy is not the result of any natural calamity or the actions of any criminal gang. They are the direct results of the actions of Israel, hailed by the most powerful voice in the international community as the "only democracy" in the Middle East."

Vatican News -- Pope marks Christmas with call to avoid war in Middle East

Evoking the Christmas message of peace on earth, Pope John Paul II urged the world to avoid a new war in the Middle East and to quell the "spiral of blind violence" in the land of Christ's birth.
"From the cave of Bethlehem there rises today an urgent appeal to the world not to yield to mistrust, suspicion and discouragement, even though the tragic reality of terrorism feeds uncertainties and fears," he said.

The pope said believers of all religions are called upon to build harmony by outlawing intolerance and discrimination. He said peacemaking today presents the world with two particular challenges: "In the Holy Land, above all, to put an end once and for all to the senseless spiral of blind violence, and in the Middle East, to extinguish the ominous smoldering of a conflict which, with the joint efforts of all, can be avoided."
Reuters -- No Christmas Miracle -- Doom, Gloom and No Sale on Main Street

Armed with gift certificates and unwanted presents on the day after Christmas, consumers hit shopping centers as early as 7 a.m. to pick up half-priced holiday decorations, winter coats and even cashmere sweaters.

But discount retailer Wal-Mart lowered its sales forecast for December, saying a last-minute surge in demand was too little and too late to make up for a slow start. The announcement sounded another grim note for a sector already braced for what is forecast to be the weakest sales season in more than 30 years.

A forecast on Tuesday from the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and UBS Warburg estimated sales at U.S. chain stores would be up an anemic 1.5 percent in November and December, the smallest gain since the survey of weekly sales began in 1970.

New data released on Thursday showed this year's U.S. holiday sales dropped 11 percent from last year. Sales in the 26 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas totaled $113.1 billion, down from $127.3 billion last year, according to ShopperTrak RCT, which tracks retail sales.

Standing in the men's clothing department of Filene's in downtown Boston, John Forman weighed the purchase of a $75 cashmere sweater discounted from $150.

"I can't do it," Forman concluded with a sigh. "My last hurrah for shopping was for Christmas. I have to pay the man now."

Forman said he would not buy the sweater or anything else.

"I'm only returning some things and I'll gladly walk away with some cash," he said.

Those shoppers who do venture out can expect plenty of bargains. A monthly survey of retail executives released on Thursday by the National Retail Federation and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi found widespread discounting.

"This suggests that retailers are beginning to use unplanned markdowns to attract last-minute shoppers, clear excess inventories and pad their holiday sales numbers," said Michael Niemira, senior retail analyst at the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi.

No one wants to be the first to admit how bad this season was - big profit declines expected when figures are released in January and February.
Toronto Sun Columnist: Eric Margolis -- Reports of U.S. victory in Afghanistan are premature

America's Afghan adventure has gotten off to as poor a start as that of the Soviet Union. The U.S.-installed ruler of Kabul, veteran CIA asset Hamid Karzai, must be protected from his own people by up to 200 U.S. bodyguards. Much of Afghanistan is in chaos, fought over by feuding warlords and drug barons.

There are almost daily attacks on U.S. occupation forces. My old mujahedin sources say U.S. casualties and equipment losses in Afghanistan are far higher than Washington is reporting - and are rising.

American troops are operating from the old Soviet bases at Bagram and Shindand, retaliating, like the Soviets, against mujahedin attacks on U.S. forces by heavily bombing nearby villages. The CIA is trying to assassinate Afghan nationalist leaders opposed to the Karzai regime in Kabul.

The Taliban, according to the United Nations drug agency, had almost shut down opium-morphine-heroin production. America's ally, the Northern Alliance, has revived the illicit trade. Since the U.S. overthrew the Taliban, opium cultivation has soared from 185 tons a year to 2,700. The Northern Alliance, which dominates the Kabul regime, finances its arms-buying and field operations with drug money. President George Bush's war on drugs collided with his war on terrorism - and lost. The U.S. is now, in effect, colluding in the heroin trade.

The ongoing cost of Afghan operations is a closely guarded secret. Earlier this year, the cost of stationing 8,000 American troops, backed by warplanes and naval units, was estimated at $5 billion US monthly!

The CIA spends millions every month to bribe Pushtun warlords.

Costs will rise as the U.S. expands bases in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan - all placed along the planned U.S.-owned pipeline that will bring Central Asian oil south through Afghanistan.

The UN reports the Taliban and al-Qaida on the offensive, Afghan women remain veiled and the country is in a dangerous mess. Declaring victory in Afghanistan may have been premature.

Afghanistan has totally faded from US media as we may be losing the country.