Saturday, September 22, 2007

Two Tasteless Comic Book Covers I Must Share

This is not to condone them but unlike the recent editorial cartoons that I refuse to run (just write about), these are just pretty dopey and representative of their time unlike the recent stuff which show a complete lack of judgment or pretty fucked up judgment or....

(Art from here and here.)

The Victor in Iraq

If you can't guess, here it is.

Is Saddam laughing from the grave...?

Mattel Eats... Crow

Mattel... must... make nice to the Chinese.

Here's the full apology. Of course, I missed the part with the correct apology, as it were: For being too cheap and lazy to, you know, bother to give a crap and have any actaul, like, supervision of the Chinese manufacturing sites to make sure that, you know, maybe things were actually manufactured to spec as opposed to Chinese corner-cutting standards. But what do I know; that probably would have cost a few hundred thousand dollars a year, maybe les -- enough to bankrupt a small company like Mattel.

Here's all of the dissembling crap:
Mattel is committed to working with the Chinese Government and manufacturers to promote and improve the safety of toys and other consumer products. Safety of toys is a matter of critical importance to Mattel, whether they are made in China or elsewhere around the world. Mattel has enjoyed a very successful partnership with manufacturers in China for 25 years.

Mattel produces approximately 800 million toys annually. Out of these, less than 0.3% were recalled because of impermissible levels of lead contained in the paint and approximately 0.5% of the toys produced from 2003 to 2006 were recalled as a result of magnets which could become loose. The toys recalled worldwide in relation to magnet issues were 17.4 million pieces, and the toys recalled in connection with impermissible levels of lead in paint were 2.2 million pieces. The magnet related recalls were due to emerging issues concerning design and this has nothing to do with whether the toys were manufactured in China. Mattel does not hold Chinese manufacturers responsible for the design in relation to the recalled magnet toys. Mattel has since changed the relevant design in January this year to effectively lock in the small magnets in the toys so that they cannot be easily detached.

Mattel is committed to applying the highest standards of safety for its products. Consistent with this, Mattel's lead-related recalls were overly inclusive, including toys that may not have had lead in paint in excess of the U.S. standards. Subsequent testing indicated that some of the recalled toys did not fail the U.S. standards. Mattel also applied the same high standards to recalls of its products in the EU and other countries despite the fact that some of these products may have met local safety standards.
(Photo credit.)

Kind of Good News: Big Brother is Weak on Crime

London has 10,000 crime-fighting CCTV cameras which cost £200 million, figures show today.

But an analysis of the publicly funded spy network, which is owned and controlled by local authorities and Transport for London, has cast doubt on its ability to help solve crime.

A comparison of the number of cameras in each London borough with the proportion of crimes solved there found that police are no more likely to catch offenders in areas with hundreds of cameras than in those with hardly any.
In fact, four out of five of the boroughs with the most cameras have a record of solving crime that is below average.
[more -- if need it]

Caught in the Truth: Smoke or Flatulence? You Decide....

Is it me or, as this administration winds down, the lies and, well, bullshit, seems weirder and weirder? Or maybe these are desperate acts as the truth seeps out.

With Iraq, while dwindling support fro, well, everyone, is a problem, particularly that of the voters, it's pretty understandable; four and a half years in and the successes are really meager. Only took the Allies six years to whup the Nazis and Japanese fascists. Then look at Vietnam. Listen, wingnuts: Maybe it isn't a lack of stamina on the part of the voters as the lack of accomplishment makes the operation look like a failure and if we're failing, there's no need to stay. (OTOH, I tend to agree with Colin Powell: We broke it, we fix it -- if it's something we can "fix".)

But I digress.

From the War Room, the dizzying crap of Bobby Gates and his explainers at the Pentagon:
New York Times columnist David Brooks asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates Monday whether, "knowing what we know now," invading Iraq was a "good idea." Brooks said Gates looked at him for a moment and then said, "I don't know."

The press, understandably, has seized on Gates' comment as evidence that the secretary of defense and his boss aren't necessarily on the same page about the war. But now Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell is explaining that Brooks had it all wrong.

See if you can follow Morrell's explanation:

"Let me just -- just because I think there's some confusion what [Gates] actually did say ... Brooks asked him, 'So now do you think in retrospect, knowing what we know about WMDs, it was worth doing?'

"To which the secretary then went on to sort of rephrase the question to a point where he was comfortable with it and he thought it was relevant and he could answer it. And he said, 'If I had known then what I know now, would I have done the same? And I think the answer is, I don't know.'

"And I went up and spoke with him about this just a few moments ago, and he tells me he deliberately rephrased the question to get it to a point where he was comfortable answering it. And what he was basically saying -- if [he] had known then what he knows now, would he have done the same things? Would he have done it the same way? And his answer to 'would I have done the same things or would I have done it the same way' is, 'I don't know.'

"That does not in any way, I think, take away from his belief that he believes ousting Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do. And you saw in his confirmation hearings where he offered a litany of things he thought had not gone well post-invasion. And so I think that's what his reference is to 'Would I have done the same things?'"

A reporter, noting that Morrell seemed to be adding a "parenthetical reference or something else" to the conversation, asked him to clarify what Gates himself had actually said. Morrell's response: "The answer is a lengthy preamble, but the final line in the answer is: 'If I had known then what I know now, would I have done the same? And I think the answer is, I don't know.' Now, what he tells me is that 'would I have done the same' is a reference to: 'Would I have done the same things? Would I have handled it the same way?' He is not referring to the initial decision to invade Iraq."

Here's the problem with Morrell's explanation, or at least one of them: Gates doesn't not know whether he would have "handled" post-invasions the same way they were handled; in his testimony during his confirmation hearing, he made it pretty clear that he wouldn't have. Among other things, he said the United States should have taken steps to keep the Iraqi army together after the invasion and that it should not have imposed such an "extreme Baathification policy" on Iraq.

As for whether Gates, knowing what we know today, would have invaded in the first place? The secretary said at his confirmation hearings pretty much exactly what Brooks quoted him as saying this week:

Sen. Mark Dayton: Given what we know today about the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, given the predicament that we're in today, with that benefit of hindsight would you say that invading Iraq was the right decision or the wrong decision?

Gates: Frankly, Senator, I think that's a judgment that the historians are going to have to make. I certainly supported the decision to go into Iraq in 2003, and not just because Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.

It was clear that the food for peace program -- the Oil-for-Food Program was failing, it was totally corrupted, and the money was being diverted. It was clear that the sanctions were weakening. And I had no doubt in my mind that once the sanctions were removed by the U.N. and it looked like the French and the Russians and others were moving in that direction, that Saddam, if he didn't have weapons of mass destruction, would move quickly to try and obtain them ...

He clearly had [not] changed his spots in the slightest, and so that's the reason that I supported the decision to go in, as well as the fact that I thought he had the weapons of mass destruction, as I like to put it, just like every intelligence service in the world, apparently, including the French.

So was the decision to go in right? I think it's too soon to tell. And I think much depends on the outcome in Iraq.
And also from the War Room, the latest genius from what must be called the addled mind of Rudy Giuliani:
Could the citizens of New York have stopped the attacks of 9/11 if they'd opened fire on those airplanes with handguns and hunting rifles? Should airline passengers be allowed to carry weapons on board? And if that's not what Rudy Giuliani is saying today, can someone please explain to us what he really means?
See him, hear him, via Talking Points Memo viddie.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Two Analyses of the Dishonesty of the Modern, Radical, America-Hating GOP

Via Consortium News:

The Right's Garden of False Narratives
By Phil Rockstroh
September 20, 2007

Editor’s Note: At the core of the rot that is destroying the American Republic are the many false narratives that have replaced the nation's real history. The Right has proved adept at creating these alluring story lines and selling them through a vast and sophisticated media apparatus, while the mainstream press goes silent or plays along.

In this guest essay, poet Phil Rockstroh explores the personal and societal implications of foisting false reality on a nation:

One would think that from the cries of (feigned) indignation and calls for repentance arising from conservatives regarding's ad in the N.Y. Times that the liberal-leaning group had not simply questioned the insights and intentions of a public servant, promoting, in a public forum, the policy of an illegal and immoral occupation of a sovereign nation; rather, the folks of had committed blasphemy against the holy name of some revered saint -- General Mary Petraeus, Mother of God.

The false outrage of perpetually offended conservatives serves as cover for the true outrages of our era, including: truncated civil liberties, rising levels of social and economic inequality and injustice, and foreign wars of aggression waged by an insular and secretive executive branch and fought by a permanent underclass.

The outrages keep arriving, because the collective imagination of the citizen/consumers of the US, arbitrated by a careerist media elite, has been, for decades, in the thrall of false narratives that serve the interests of the elite of the corporate/militarist classes.

Concurrently, a sense of unease and despair, due to a sense of personal and collective powerlessness before exploitive power, has created the tone and tenor of the times, and begot the phenomenon of supine liberalism and Viagra conservatism. (In this way, liberals stand fecklessly by, as the public is, time and time again, screwed by the decrepit schemes of the right.)

In this way, liberal paternalism is insufferable; worse, it is dangerous.

This has been the right's craftiest accomplishment: inducing "reasonable" liberals and "sensible" centrists to enable their crimes, from stolen elections to their present preparation for a massive bombing campaign of Iran, by intimidating them with the fear that any protest on their part will cast them among the ranks of America-hating, lefty moonbats, who wish to see the terrorist win, dumpsters piled high with discarded fetuses and metro-sexuality made the official state religion.

Moreover, these assaults upon both reason and the republic (what's left of it) will persist until progressives begin to effectively counter the narratives of the predatory right. Some call it shameful demagoguery; although, conservatives call it career advancement.

This is not a novel situation. Throughout history, these kinds of pernicious mindsets have always been with us; it is our tragedy that they have been allowed to prevail.

Conservatives are eager to embrace false narratives: The surge is working; the terrorists hate us for our freedom; Fred Thompson is Ronald Reagan incarnate, but with a touch of Jed Clampett "folksiness."

Accordingly, when the times are roiled with uncertainty, when thoughts of the future are tinged with dread, conservatives, like a character in Southern Gothic literature, will fall into a swoon, longing for the return of an imagined, purer past that never was.

One can picture these right-wing sorts wandering the streets, wearing a faded prom dress and a broken, prom queen tiara, twittering and cooing, while repeating over and over again, "the surge is working; Anbar Province is now a beacon of freedom unto the world...") in an imaginary dialog with the ghost of their long lost beau, Ronald Reagan.

Ronald Reagan, an ungifted actor, by means of playing the role of a "resolute" Cold Warrior, was able to gain the approbation and wealth that had alluded him as a contract player in Hollywood. In truth, Reagan's greatest accomplishment was convincing himself of his own sincerity.

To the Exits

Constantin Stanislavsky, who is considered the father of modern acting technique, is reputed to have said that when an actor starts to believe he is the character he's portraying it is time to escort him from the theatre.

Withal, Fred, Rudy, Rush, Hannity, O'Reilly, et al., can you find the exits on your own or will you need to be medicated, strapped to a gurney, and wheeled from the public arena?

Rather than being candidates for President of the United States, most of the Republican field seems to be vying for the title of National Crazy Uncle -- the kind of guy who corners you at a family gathering and rants that the PTA is a terrorist front group and gangs of illegal aliens are engaged in a vast conspiracy to steal single socks from his washer-dryer.

The Republican candidates for president and their fantasy-prone constituents wish to set the Way Back Machine to the golden days of the 1980s when Ronald Reagan was impersonating a man just arrived via the 1940s.

This phenomenon is known as the Law of Republican Special Relativity, which states: When events begin to accelerate forward, the conservative mind will be cast, at an equal rate of speed, backwards in time.

But the paradox is: they arrive in a parallel universe, an alternative past that never existed on this earth -- a low probability dimension, comprised of platitudes and false pieties, where white male privilege is sacrosanct, only for the reason (according to their reality-proof perspective) that it serves to provide all mankind with all things good and holy.

This law can be tested by performing the following simple exercise: Engage a conservative true believer in a dialog regarding the manner by which "state's rights" was misused in the Jim Crow dominated Deep South of the pre-Civil Rights Era in order to propagate and maintain segregation, and your conservative-minded test subject will respond as if those realities transpired long ago and far away on a planet that he has never visited.

Yet, paradoxically, rightists have manage to create a Time Retrieval Device, a device that has summoned from the past wonders, such as the following: a reversal of many of the rights of working people; the return of unsafe and unsanitary practices in the food industry; widening gaps of wealth, health and privilege between social, racial and economic classes; in short, many the excesses of plutocratic rule inherent to unfettered capitalism.

As a result, a generation has inherited power who are devoid of the concept of causation and consequence. Ergo, we have developed a political class who rule by narratives of denial and shallow self-justification.

An example of this is the blaming of the people of Iraq for the blood-drenched debacle that has resulted from the illegal and immoral invasion of their nation. As well as, an enabling cadre of media elitists who served as cheerleaders for the invasion, because they deemed it to be good for business, and, to this day, are unwilling to admit their complicity.

All of the above leads to the question: What are present-day conservatives striving to conserve?

Historically, conservatives gave their utmost to conserve institutions such as slavery, Jim Crow, child labor -- and, of course, the use of leeches for medical purposes. (Perhaps, they simply couldn't stand the thought of a fellow blood-sucker being deemed dangerous, and they feared the start of a trend.)

Central Paradox

At present, the central paradox of contemporary conservatism is this: How does one practice conservatism within an all-encompassing economy based on disposability? This is analogous to establishing a brothel devoted to the goal of abstinence.

When engaged in a dialog with many conservatives, the question becomes: Are their reactions and responses evoked therein simply borne of plain ignorance, willful ignorance, or outright lying? Or are their responses the result of a group hallucination?

All progressives have experienced the following nonsensical encounter of the conservative kind. Present a reasoned argument to a conservative -- and, all at once, completely ignoring the tenet, tone and thrust of the point, they begin hallucinating a creature, only known to exist in the right-wing bestiary, known as a "moonbat" -- a mythological beast that, ironically, seems to appear when a conservative is confronted with reality.

Accordingly, the time has come for a study of political zoology and to posit who are the true moonbats now making their habitat in the United States.

Case study: Unregulated, wish-fulfillment-based conservative economic policy has created those suburban arrays of mold-incubating petri dishes known as products of the housing boom. Moreover, the bursting of the whole bubble-prone Ponzi scheme has sent shock waves throughout international economies and is surging the economy of the U.S. towards recession.

Furthermore, conservative anti-regulatory policies have rendered us babes in a cheap, plastic Toyland.

What has an era of conservatism wrought? Answer: a culture that has all the value, integrity, sustainability and safety as a toy manufactured in China.

Apropos, contemporary life, as conceived and manufactured by conservative "values," is shoddily made, toxic and not a lot of fun.

In addition, it has spawned a culture ridden with public relations fabulists and media-savvy confidence artists who tell us that the taste of corporate ass-suck is the ambrosia of the gods.

The locked-down, stultifying mindset and ideological barbarianism of present day conservatism is directly linked to the steep decline of the quality of life in the United States.

The recent revelations regarding the "I'm-not-gay-I-simply-engage-in-same-sex-encounters-in-public-restrooms" wing of the Republican Party are instructive in understanding the rightist's worldview and its effect on our times.

Covert sex in a public bathroom stall is an apt metaphor for how contemporary conservatism limits and restricts the possibilities of human life. In the same way that a closet-case gay conservative stunts the possibilities of his love life, the conservative mindset limits the scope of a culture's possibilities.

Accordingly, economic life must be ruled by ruthless, unregulated competition, and the nation's meaning can only be found in war. Hence, under the Bush Junta, we are told, as far as international relations go, that the nation has few options other than its present policy of predatory capitalism and "wide-stance" militarism.

Regarding perma-fools such as these, Ernest Becker wrote: "Once you base your whole life striving on a desperate lie, and try to implement that lie, you instrument your own undoing."

Accordingly, the republic is dead; its ghost howls online only in pixelated protests such as this one. This grim reality will remain, until we rise up and repudiate the false narratives that have created and continue to comprise these tragic times.

Phil Rockstroh, a self-described auto-didactic, gasbag monologist, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at
George W. Bush's Thug Nation
By Robert Parry
September 21, 2007

It’s said that over time Presidents – especially two-termers – imbue the nation with their personalities and priorities, for good or ill. If that’s true, it could help explain the small-minded mean-spiritedness that seems to be pervading the behavior of the United States these days, both at home and abroad.

On a global level, the world reads about trigger-happy Blackwater “security contractors” mowing down civilians in Baghdad, the U.S. military killing unarmed people under loose “rules of engagement” in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and the CIA “rendering” suspected Islamists to secret prisons or to third-country dungeons where torture is practiced.

Inside the United States, too, a police-state mentality is taking hold. After more than six years of having dissent against President George W. Bush equated with disloyalty, police from Capitol Hill to college campuses are treating vocal disagreement as grounds for violently “taking down” citizens, while bouncers at campaign rallies hustle away prospective hecklers and police preemptively detain protesters or stick them in faraway “free-speech zones.”

On Sept. 17 at a University of Florida public forum with Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, journalism student Andrew Meyer asked an animated question about Kerry’s hasty concession after Election 2004.

Meyer then was accosted by several campus police officers who dragged him away and wrestled him to the ground. Despite pleading with police “don’t tase me, bro,” Meyer was “tasered” with powerful electric shocks as he screamed in pain. [Watch the YouTube video by clicking here.]

Overseas, it now appears that Bush has authorized “rules of engagement” that have transformed U.S. Special Forces into “death squads,” much like those that roamed Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s identifying “subversives” and murdering them.

According to evidence emerging from a military court hearing at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, U.S. Special Forces are empowered to kill individuals who have been designated “enemy combatants,” even if they are unarmed and present no visible threat.

The hearing involves two Special Forces soldiers who took part in the cold-blooded execution of an Afghani who was suspected of leading an insurgent group. Though the Afghani, identified as Nawab Buntangyar, responded to questions and offered no resistance when encountered on Oct. 13, 2006, he was shot dead by Master Sgt. Troy Anderson on orders from his superior officer, Capt. Dave Staffel.

Classified Mission

As described at the hearing, Staffel and Anderson were leading a team of Afghan soldiers when an informant told them where a suspected insurgent leader was hiding. The U.S.-led contingent found a man believed to be Nawab Buntangyar walking outside his compound near the village of Hasan Kheyl.

While the Americans kept their distance out of fear the suspect might be wearing a suicide vest, the man was questioned about his name and the Americans checked his description against a list from the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Afghanistan, known as “the kill-or-capture list.”

Concluding that the man was insurgent leader Nawab Buntangyar, Staffel gave the order to shoot, and Anderson – from a distance of about 100 yards away – fired a bullet through the man’s head, killing him instantly.

The soldiers viewed the killing as “a textbook example of a classified mission completed in accordance with the American rules of engagement,” the International Herald Tribune reported. “The men said such rules allowed them to kill Buntangyar, whom the American military had designated a terrorist cell leader, once they positively identified him.”

Staffel’s civilian lawyer Mark Waple said the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command concluded in April that the shooting was “justifiable homicide,” but a two-star general in Afghanistan instigated a murder charge against the two men. That case, however, has floundered over accusations that the charge was improperly filed. [IHT, Sept. 17, 2007]

The major news media has given the case only minor coverage focusing mostly on the legal sparring. The New York Times’ inside-the-paper, below-the-fold headline on Sept. 19 was “Green Beret Hearing Focuses on How Charges Came About.”

However, the greater significance of the case is its confirmation that the U.S. chain of command, presumably up to President Bush, has approved standing orders that allow the U.S. military to assassinate suspected militants on sight.

In effect, these orders have reestablished what was known during the Vietnam War as Operation Phoenix, a program that assassinated Vietcong cadre, including suspected communist political allies.

Through a Pentagon training program known as “Project X,” the lessons of Operation Phoenix from the 1960s were passed on to Third World armies in Latin America and elsewhere, allegedly giving a green light to some of the “dirty wars” that swept the region in the following decades. [For details, see Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush.]

Blackwater Killings

Besides the periodic controversies over U.S. military killings of unarmed Iraqis and Afghanis, the Bush administration also is facing a challenge from the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki over the U.S. Embassy’s reliance on Blackwater security contractors despite their reputation as crude and murderous bullies.

On Sept. 16, Blackwater gunmen accompanying a U.S. diplomatic convoy apparently sensed an ambush and open fire, spraying a busy Baghdad square with bullets. Eyewitness accounts, including from an Iraqi police officer, indicated that Blackwater team apparently overreacted to a car moving into the square and killed at least 11 people.

“Blackwater has no respect for the Iraqi people,” an Iraqi Interior Ministry official told the Washington Post. “They consider Iraqis like animals, although actually I think they may have more respect for animals. We have seen what they do in the streets. When they’re not shooting, they’re throwing water bottles at people and calling them names. If you are terrifying a child or an elderly woman, or you are killing an innocent civilian who is riding in his car, isn’t that terrorism?” [Washington Post, Sept. 20, 2007]

The highhandedness of the Blackwater mercenaries on the streets of Baghdad or the contempt for traditional rules of war in the hills of Afghanistan also resonate back to the marble chambers and well-appointed salons of Washington, where swaggering tough-guyism reigns from the Oval Office to the TV talk shows to Georgetown dinner parties.

Inside the Beltway, it seems there’s little political mileage in standing up for traditional American values, such as the rule of law or even the Founders’ historic concept of inalienable rights for all mankind.

On Sept. 19, Senate Republicans blocked an up-or-down vote on a bill seeking to restore habeas corpus rights against arbitrary imprisonment for people whom Bush unilaterally has designated “unlawful enemy combatants.”
Bush’s supporters portrayed those who favored habeas corpus restoration as impractical coddlers of America’s enemies.

“This is purely a matter of congressional policy and national policy on how we want to conduct warfare now and in the future,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama. “Are we going to do it in a way that allows those we capture to sue us?”

The Republicans also prevented a direct vote on a plan to grant longer home leaves to U.S. troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Those two factors – obedience to Bush’s claim of unlimited power as he wages his “war on terror” and refusal to relieve some of the pressure on American troops facing repeated deployments to the front lines – are almost certain to keep making matters worse.

The mix of tired and desperate soldiers operating in an environment in which every person on the street is viewed as a potential suicide bomber is a formula for continued abuses, endless slaughter and deepening hatreds.

Back home, Americans who ask too many annoying questions or don’t demonstrate the right attitude toward government leaders can expect to encounter the hostility of an incipient police state, a thug nation that reflects the pugnacious arrogance and the contempt for dissent that is the stock and trade of the nation’s current two-term President.

[For more on how Bush rules, see our new book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush.]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to

There's Leadership and Then There's John McCain's Imbicilic Flippy-Floppy

Via Raw Story:
Senator Jim Webb appeared on CNN's American Morning to discuss his proposed amendment that would force the military to allow troops to be home for at least the same amount of time as they are deployed in Iraq.

CNN asked Webb about Senator John McCain's statement that the Constitution doesn't give Congress the right to manage troop rotations and that the Webb amendment "would create chaos." Webb replied, "Senator McCain -- who I've known for 30 years -- needs to read the Constitution. There's a provision in Article 1 Section 8 which clearly gives the Congress the authority to make rules with respect to the governance of ground and naval forces."

"I've been around the military all my life," said Webb. "This is something that can work. This administration can no longer be believed when it is talking about policy in Iraq. ... If we now have an administration that's admitting it want to be in Iraq for the next 50 years, we have to put a safety net under the way that they are using our people."

How Our Beloved Leader is Loved


10 Most Polluted Places on Earth

See them here.

Republicans Show Their Hatred for America

The GOP senators shoot down the restoration of a bedrock principle of America, habeas corpus.

And see who the heroes, the leaders of principle, are.

The Times: The GOP Goose-Steps, it's the Dems' Fault

Why Big Media journalism is loved by fewer and fewer.

A beautiful, objective headline contradicted by the first paragraph:
Effort to Shift Course in Iraq Fails in Senate

A proposal that Democrats put forward as their best chance of changing the course of the Iraq war died on the Senate floor on Wednesday, as Republicans stood firmly with President Bush.
In other words, the Dems are failures because the Republicans refused to break ranks.

The meme is that (razor-thin) Dem majority in Congress is a failure of leadership.

Well, a razor-thin majority isn't ever going to find enough of these GOP goose-steppers to show initiative and leadership and principle -- and, you know, that should be a reflection on the GOP, not the Dems.

And it should be noted, that for this once, the Dems stood united....

Flippy-Floppy Rudy

Yeah, yeah, what else is new. Rudy is the perfect model of the pandering, lying, unprincipled pol....

War Room:
When Rudy Giuliani resigned from the Baker-Hamilton commission last year -- Jim Baker had told him he'd better start showing up to meetings or quit -- he said in a letter that "previous time commitments" prevented him from participating in the group's work on Iraq.

We read that to mean: "I'd rather be giving lucrative motivational speeches."

Now that Giuliani's decision to resign from the commission has become an issue -- Giuliani's critics are using it as a way to undercut his attacks on Hillary Clinton and MoveOn -- America's Mayor is singing a different tune. As Think Progress reports, Giuliani told CNN Wednesday that he left the commission because he was afraid his political aspirations would have "totally politicized" the report.

The catch? Giuliani joined the commission in 2006, long after he started talking publicly about running for president. How is it that he didn't decide until after he started missing meetings that his presidential run might be a problem?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thank God the New York Times has Informed Us that the Nazis had a Good Time at Auschwitz

(Hope they were downwind. Or maybe they enjoyed the smell...?)

Link to article.

And the slideshow is here.

This is news you really need to know... that and that Iraq really, really had WMDs. Thanks, Pinch and Bill!

And if you need a reality check about what these assholes -- killers -- are so happy about, here's just one example.

No Comment Dept.


American Justice

The tree at Jena High School has been cut down, but the furor around it has only grown.

“What did the tree do wrong?” asked Katrina Wallace, a stepsister of one of the Jena Six, when I interviewed her at the Burger Barn in Jena, La. “I planted it 14 years ago as a tree of knowledge.”

It all began at the start of the school year in 2006, at a school assembly, when Justin Purvis asked if he could sit under the schoolyard tree, a privilege unofficially reserved for white students. The next morning, three nooses were hanging from its broad, leafy branches.

African-American students protested, gathering under the tree. Soon after, the district attorney, Reed Walters, came to the school with the police, threatening, “I could end your lives with the stroke of a pen.” Racial tensions mounted in this 85 percent white town of 4,000. In December, a schoolyard fight erupted, and the district attorney charged six African-American high school students, the soon to be dubbed Jena Six, with second-degree attempted murder.

War Casualty

A 20-year-old Bronx soldier admitted yesterday that he had paid a man $500 to shoot him in the knee so that he could avoid returning to the Iraq war.

The Face of... What??

Forget who this is a photo of (and of Time's hatchet job on its cover re the first bigger, better bust). Just look at as the face of someone seriously busted. I mean, I think there's little doubt he did the crime, only questions are whether he'll do time and, if so, how much? (Okay, add: Who cares?)

My question, though: Is how can one who knows he's guilty as Hell have a look like that, that hubris, on his face, short of being drunk or high?

[Link for photo.]

Homeland Security. Or Not

Flying out of NYC's JFK last July, deeply middle-aged, geeky, wussy me got selected for enhanced security and searching. So you know the guys running the check-in points are... well, the job security is a little unnerving....

I've been debating for a while whether I should post this or not. This photo was taken in flight in the washroom of an airplane after passing through security at an international terminal. Yes, that's a box cutter, like what was used in the 9/11 attacks (taken on accidentally). Not only that but they searched the bag that contained it and missed it. Not only that, but they did require pouring out a coffee that had been bought at the entrance to the security line-up. Well, that made me feel safe.

I was talking to a friend recently that works in terrorism prevention and they were expressing some surprise that terrorist attacks weren't common on US and Western soil, both because security is so lax (and incompetent), and because ultimately if someone is willing to do a suicide-style attack, it's very difficult to defend against. Their primary theory was that the people who are "calling the shots" — giving the suicide attack orders and paying the bills — are somehow profiting (a la war profiteering) from sustained war, so they don't want to escalate it to the point where it has to be stopped.

If you want an example of this where both powers want "the wrong thing for their people" that's a bit more obvious, look at opium growing in Afghanistan. US and International corporations make billions waging the war. Al Qaeda and the Taliban make billions of dollars from the sale of poppies for heroin, which also fund the criminal and terrorist operations, while keeping the West at war with them, ensuring a chaotic state of never-ending war so long as the cycle remains unbroken.

However, the world has a morphine shortage, a legitimate product derived from poppies. If the poppy industry was legalized and the product went to the medical industry instead, the farmers would get paid more, the druglords wouldn't be able to funnel money into terrorism any more, and the war would start to end.

However, there is more money in war (for the one "side") and drugs (for the other), so we keep up this insane contract where the legitimate uses for the poppy are kept criminal in order to keep the money flowing to the richest people on the planet. If you're at the top of the class/power pyramid, war is a very good way to stay at the top assuming you can sustain it...

A Life Wasted... Or Not....

I am currently in prison for the rest of my life. When I was 17 years old I was arrested for shooting a man three times. This man died of those gunshot wounds and here I am now 32 years old serving a life sentence. When I was a teenager, I was very angry because my life growing up was rough. I lived in a home where drugs were abused and fighting was normal. My hood was just a larger version of my home and I began to imitate the negative behaviour I saw others do. I was a follower and didn't even peep it. I wanted to get money, but instead of using my skills as an artist, I tried selling heroin, crack, and then sticking up people and places. Like a fool I thought I was doing something "slick," but all I ended up doing is becoming a weedhead, alcoholic, and thug with nothing positive to show for all my stupidity. I do have a life sentence though. I couldn't listen to THE TRUTH when people who were concerned about me spoiled my high. They told me to go back to scholol and get my life together. I was too hard headed. Now, after being stuck with no chance of getting out, I wish I would've listened. People probably try to encourage you, do you listen?
Why did I write this short piece of real talk? I wrote this because this will be the realest thing you ever read. So you can realize that you're not the only young brother or sister who's had it hard. You can still turn your life around. There are things you can start doing to avoid becoming a juvenile lifer. I've had my chance, now its yours. What will you do with your life?

Ryan says: "Juvenile Lifers for Justice is a collective of prisoners who were arrested as juveniles for criminal homicide and are currently serving life sentences without parole in Pennsylvania.
"There are over 330 juvenile lifers both male and female in Pennsylvania serving life sentences without parole. Some children were as young as fourteen when they were arrested and some have been incarcerated for more than 30 years. Many of us have transformed our lives since our imprisonment by continuing our education, completing treatment programs, and renouncing negative behaviors that led to our imprisonment."

The Genius of Alan Greenspan -- Oops!!

Alan Greenspan has come back from the tomb of history to correct the record. He did not make any mistakes in his eighteen-year tenure as Federal Reserve chairman. He did not endorse the regressive Bush tax cuts of 2001 that pumped up the federal deficits and aggravated inequalities. He did not cause the housing bubble that is now in collapse. He did not ignore the stock market bubble that subsequently melted away and cost investors $6 trillion. He did not say the Iraq War is "largely about oil."

Check the record. These are all lies.

Greenspan's testimony endorsing the Bush tax cuts was extremely influential but now he wants to run away from it.

In the instance of Iraq, Greenspan is actually correcting his own memoir, The Age of Turbulence, which just came out. This weekend, newspapers reported provocative snippets from the book, including this: "I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what every everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil."

Wow, talk about your "inconvenient truth." Greenspan was blithely acknowledging what official Washington has always denied and the news media faithfully ignored. "Blood for oil." No, no, no, that's not what he meant, Greenspan corrected in a follow-up interview. [Bob Woodward in Monday's Washington Post] He was only saying that "taking out Saddam was essential" for "oil security" and the global economy.

Are you confused? Welcome to the world of slippery truth Greenspan has always lived in. He was the Maestro, as Bob Woodward's loving portrait dubbed him. Wall Street loved the Chairman best because the traders and bankers knew he was always on their side and would come to their rescue. The major news media treated him like an Old Testament prophet. Whatever the chairman said was carved on stone tablets, even when it didn't make any sense, as it often didn't.

Some of us who followed his tracks more closely, were not so kind. Harry Reid, now the Democratic Senate leader, said Greenspan was "one of the biggest political hacks in Washington." Amen. I called him "the one-eyed chairman" who could always spot reasons to stomp on the real economy of work and production, but was utterly blind to the destructive chaos in the financial system. No matter. The adoration of him was nearly universal.

Until now. The economic consequences of his rule are accumulating and even the dullest financial reporters are stumbling on crumbs of truth about Greenspan's legendary reign. It sowed profound and dangerous imbalances in the US economy. That's what happens when government power tips the balance in favor of capital over labor, favoring super-rich over middle class and poor, then holds it there for nearly a generation.

Things get out of whack and now the country is paying big time. A pity reporters and politicians didn't have the nerve to ask these questions when Greenspan was in power.

He retired only a year ago, but is already trying to revise the history. To explain away blunders that are now a financial crisis facing his successor. To rearrange the facts in exculpatory ways. To deny his right-wing ideological bias and his raw partisanship in behalf of the Bush Republicans.

The man is shrewd. He can see the conservative era he celebrated and helped to impose upon the American economy is in utter ruin. He is trying to get some distance from it before the blood splashes all over his reputation. Of course, he also came back to cash in--an $8 million advance for a book that is sure to be a huge bestseller. I don't want to be unkind, but Greenspan could have avoided all the embarrassing questions if his book was posthumous.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Our Leaders' Latest Lies; This Minute's Edition

What's the point of this theme? To show the deep dishonesty of this administrtion?

No, not really.

Point is to preserve for the record the truths that otherwise would get lost in the fog of lies spewing from Our Leaders and their Big Media water carriers.

So this minute's stuff, from the War Room:
When Gen. David Petraeus was asked last week to explain why his report from Iraq was so much rosier than that of the Government Accountability Office, he said that he had more recent data than the GAO did. Petraeus claimed that the GAO's "data cutoff" came at the end of July while his report to Congress included data running all the way through the end of August.

So how do we explain this? The Pentagon released its quarterly report on Iraq Monday, and it paints a significantly gloomier picture than the one Petraeus offered just last week, particularly with respect to the security situation in southern Iraq, where the Pentagon says "the security environment" took "a notable turn for the worse in August."

Among the seeming contradictions:

Petraeus on Basra: Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee that "the level of violence" in Basra "has come down fairly significantly." He told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that it has "just flat plummeted."

The Pentagon on Basra: "With the expected continued reduction of British forces, insurgent groups are increasingly focusing on Basra and are posturing themselves to control the city, where violence has increased due to the presence of multiple Shi'a militias -- most notably JAM and its splinter groups, the Badr Organization and the Fadilah Organization -- and criminal groups."

Petraeus on Muthanna and Dhi Qar: "Muthanna province, even though the governor was assassinated, we're pretty certain by militia extremists, continues to stay fine. They will have a new governor. They'll work out OK ... In Dhi Qar province, the capital of Nasiriyah, we have a single U.S. special forces team, there's an Australian battalion focused primarily on civil military operations. And, again, that province [is] doing really quite well."

The Pentagon on Muthanna and Dhi Qar: "There may be retaliation [for the assassination of the governors of Qadisiyah and Muthanna] and an increase in intra-Shi'a violence throughout the south, whereas before, this violence was mostly limited to Basra. Violence in Qadisiyah, Dhi Qar and Muthanna in recent months has highlighted JAM's ability to attack Iraqi forces and cause instability in the south."

To be fair, Petraeus and the Pentagon both say that security trends in Iraq are generally positive. "Overall," the Pentagon reports, "there continues to be a downward trend in total attack incidents, with eight of the past 11 weeks since June 15, 2007 showing decreases down to August 2006 levels." On the other hand, Petraeus and the Pentagon also concede -- tacitly, of course -- that the purpose of the "surge" is not being met. As the Pentagon explains, "The counterinsurgency operations associated with Operation Phantom Thunder have started to create the security conditions that will allow the Government of Iraq to implement reforms and pursue reconciliation initiatives. However, little political progress and reconciliation at the national level (as expressed in major legislative advances) occurred during this quarter."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The False Victory in Anbar


Did you see George all choked up? In his surreal TV talk on Thursday, he got all emotional over the killing by Al Qaeda of Sheik Abu Risha, the leader of the new Sunni alliance with the U.S. against the insurgents in Anbar Province, Iraq.

Bush shook Abu Risha's hand two weeks ago for the cameras. Bush can shake his hand again, but not the rest of him: Abu Risha was blown away just hours before Bush was to go on the air to praise his new friend.

Here's what you need to know that NPR won't tell you.

1. Sheik Abu Risha wasn't a sheik.
2. He wasn't killed by Al Qaeda.
3. The new alliance with former insurgents in Anbar is as fake as the sheik -- and a murderous deceit.

How do I know this? You can see the film -- of "Sheik" Abu Risha, of the guys who likely whacked him, and of their other victims.

Just in case you think I've lost my mind and put my butt in insane danger to get this footage, don't worry. I was safe and dry in Budapest. It was my brilliant new cameraman, Rick Rowley, who went to Iraq to get the story on his own.

Rick's "the future of TV news," says BBC. He's also completely out of control. Despite our pleas, Rick and his partner Dave Enders went to Anbar and filmed where no cameraman had dared tread.

Why was "sheik" Abu Risha so important? As The New York Times put it this morning, "Abu Risha had become a charismatic symbol of the security gains in Sunni areas that have become a cornerstone of American plans to keep large numbers of troops in Iraq though much of next year."

In other words, Abu Risha was the PR hook used to sell the "success" of the surge.

The sheik wasn't a sheik. He was a fake. While proclaiming to Rick that he was "the leader of all the Iraqi tribes," Abu lead no one. But for a reported sum in the millions in cash for so-called "reconstruction contracts," Abu Risha was willing to say he was Napoleon and Julius Caesar and do the hand-shakie thing with Bush on camera.

Notably, Rowley and his camera caught up with Abu Risha on his way to a "business trip" to Dubai, money-laundering capital of the Middle East.

There are some real sheiks in Anbar, such as Ali Hathem of the dominant Dulaimi tribe, who told Rick that Abu Risha was a con man. Where was his tribe, this tribal leader? "The Americans like to create characters like Disney cartoon heroes." Then Ali Hathem added, "Abu Risha is no longer welcome" in Anbar.

"Not welcome" from a sheik in Anbar is roughly the same as a kiss on both cheeks from the capo di capi. Within days, when Abu Risha returned from Dubai to Dulaimi turf in Ramadi, Bush's hand-sheik was whacked.

On Thursday, Bush said Abu Risha was killed, "fighting Al Qaeda" -- and the White House issued a statement that the sheik was "killed by al Qaeda."


There ain't no Easter Bunny and "Al Qaeda" ain't in Iraq, Mr. Bush. It was very cute, on the week of the September 11 memorials, to tie the death of your Anbar toy-boy to bin Laden's Saudi hijackers. But it's a lie. Yes, there is a group of berserkers who call themselves "Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia." But they have as much to do with the real Qaeda of bin Laden as a Rolling Stones "tribute" band has to do with Mick Jagger.

Who got Abu Risha? Nothing -- NOTHING -- moves in Ramadi without the approval of the REAL tribal sheiks. They were none-too-happy, as Hathem noted, about the millions the U.S. handed to Risha. The sheiks either ordered the hit -- or simply gave the bomber free passage to do the deed.

So who are these guys, the sheiks who lead the Sunni tribes of Anbar -- the potentates of the Tamimi, Fallaji, Obeidi, Zobal, and Jumaili tribes? Think of them as the Sopranos of Arabia. They are also members of the so-called "Awakening Council" -- getting their slice of the millions handed out -- which they had no interest in sharing with Risha.

But creepy and deadly or not, these capi of the desert were effective in eliminating "Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia." Indeed, as U.S. military so proudly pointed out to Rick, the moment the sheiks declared their opposition to Al Qaeda -- i.e., got the payments from the U.S. taxpayers -- Al Qaeda instantly diappeared.

This miraculous military change, where the enemy just evaporates, has one explanation: the sheiks ARE al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Just like the Sopranos extract "protection" payments from New Jersey businesses, the mobsters of Anbar joined our side when we laid down the loot.

What's wrong with that? After all, I'd rather send a check than send our kids from Columbus to fight them.

But there's something deeply, horribly wrong with dealing with these killers. They still kill. With new U.S. protection, weapons and cash, they have turned on the Shia of Anbar. Fifteen thousand Shia families from a single district were forced at gunpoint to leave Anbar. Those moving too slowly were shot. Kids and moms too.

Do the Americans know about the ethnic cleansing of Anbar by our erstwhile "allies"? Rick's film shows U.S. commanders placing their headquarters in the homes abandoned by terrorized Shia.

Rick's craziest move was to go and find these Shia refugees from Anbar. They were dumped, over a hundred thousand of them, in a cinder block slum with no running water in Baghdad. They are under the "protection" of the Mahdi Army, another group of cutthroats. But at least these are Shia cutthroats.

So the great "success" of the surge is our arming and providing cover for ethnic cleansing in Anbar. Nice, Mr. Bush. And with the U.S. press "embedded," we won't get the real story. Even Democrats are buying into the Anbar "awakening" fairy tale.

An Iraqi government official frets that giving guns and cover to the Anbar gang is like adopting a baby crocodile. "A crocodile is not a pet," he told Rick. It will soon grow to devour you. But what could the puppet do but complain about his strings?

This Iraqi got it right: the surge is a crock.

Our Leaders, Serving Al-Qaida

One of George W. Bush's key arguments for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely is that al-Qaeda wants to "drive us out." But U.S. intelligence has intercepted an internal al-Qaeda communique that says almost the exact opposite.

The letter written by senior al-Qaeda operative Atiyah Abd al-Rahman states that "prolonging the war is in our interest." Yet, President Bush is rarely challenged when he asserts the opposite, and few members of Congress seem aware of the Atiyah letter, which was translated and analyzed by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.
Link and links.

The story is here

Scoop! The Drawdown Has Begun!

Link. More here.

Our Leaders' Flip Flops for the Day

Well, likely there were more, but these will have to do....
1. The disappearing drawdown: As we noted Friday, the size of the Bush-Petraeus troop withdrawal is shrinking even before it begins. Need proof? Last Tuesday, the Washington Post talked of a "conditions based" drawdown of "35,0000 to 50,000 troops." By Sunday, the Post was saying that Petraeus had proposed "withdrawing more than 20,000 troops from Iraq."

2. The backtracking defense secretary: At a press conference Friday, Robert Gates said it would be his "hope" that the troop drawdown to be made in the first half of 2008 would continue at the same pace through the second half of 2008. When a reporter asked Gates if the result of the drawdowns for which he hoped would be 100,000 U.S. troops in Iraq by the end of 2008, Gates said: "That would be the math." But when Fox's Chris Wallace asked Gates about those comments Sunday, the defense secretary got a little wobbly. He stressed that he never uttered the number "100,000" himself, and he suggested that there's doubt about even the initial drawdowns Petreaus has proposed and Bush has endorsed. "What I said was that I hoped the conditions would improve in Iraq to the extent that not only could we complete the drawdowns that Gen. Petraeus has said he would like to make between now and July, but also that they could continue thereafter," Gates explained.

3. The wary defense secretary: Although there may be bipartisan support in Congress for a bill that would guarantee troops more time between deployments to Iraq, Gates said Sunday that he would urge the president to veto any such measure if one gets to his desk. "If it were enacted," Gates said, "we would have force management problems that would be extremely difficult and, in fact, affect combat effectiveness and perhaps pose greater risk to our troops." If that sounds familiar, maybe it's because Petraeus said last week that he'd be "uncomfortable" with the idea of Congress' writing his proposed troop drawdown into law.

4. The undercutting advertisement: If we're having so much "success" in Iraq, the Post's Walter Pincus wonders why Petraeus' commanders have begun advertising for private contractors to take over supply operations that soldiers are too busy to handle. In a request for bids sent out earlier this month, Petraeus' commanders say "increased insurgent activity" -- hello? -- means that the soldiers who would otherwise be staffing combat-supply warehouses in Iraq "must continue to pull force protection along with convoy escort and patrol duties."

Flippy-Floppy Straight Talk from St. John McCain

The Wall Street Journal says John McCain's presidential campaign is making a comeback as it tries to ride "what it perceives to be a sentiment among Republicans that the war in Iraq is turning around."

The Journal acknowledges that McCain's "war pitch is a complex one." "He hammers on how he was among the first Republicans to blast what he calls 'the Rumsfeld strategy' of trying to subdue Iraq with limited means," the Journal explains. "As far back as 2003, Mr. McCain argued that the U.S. needed far more troops in Iraq -- a message, he argues, that the Bush administration didn't hear until the start of this year, pursuing until then a strategy he says was 'doomed to failure.'"

Truth be told, it's all a little more "complex" than that. While McCain may have argued for more troops at the beginning of the war, he seemed pretty solidly in line behind the Rumsfeld strategy as things progressed. Here's McCain on Iraq in 2004: "I'm confident we're on the right course." And here's McCain on Iraq in 2005: "Overall, I think a year from now, we will have made a fair amount of progress if we stay the course."

The Journal doesn't mention McCain's flip-flopping on Iraq. But that's OK, neither does he. In an interview with MSNBC's Joe Scarborough this morning, the senator declared that he broke with Bush and Rumsfeld on Iraq "from the beginning, after traveling over there in 2003. And I said that the strategy would fail."

Defeatist of the Day; The Paper Tiger Makes a Crumply Noise....

Every effort should be made to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, but failing that, the world could live with a nuclear-armed regime in Tehran, a recently retired commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East said Monday.

John Abizaid, the retired Army general who headed Central Command for nearly four years, said he was confident that if Iran gained nuclear arms, the United States could deter it from using them.

"Iran is not a suicide nation," he said. "I mean, they may have some people in charge that don't appear to be rational, but I doubt that the Iranians intend to attack us with a nuclear weapon."
The Iranians are aware, he said, that the United States has a far superior military capability.

"I believe that we have the power to deter Iran, should it become nuclear," he said, referring to the theory that Iran would not risk a catastrophic retaliatory strike by using a nuclear weapon against the United States.

"There are ways to live with a nuclear Iran," Abizaid said in remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank. "Let's face it, we lived with a nuclear Soviet Union, we've lived with a nuclear China, and we're living with (other) nuclear powers as well."

Monday, September 17, 2007

Greenie: How He Dissembles; We Report, You Decide

He whines:
After nearly two decades as chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan wants to solidify his standing in history.

In an interview timed with the release of his memoir Monday, Mr. Greenspan sought to distance himself from the economic policies of President Bush and refute critics who say his policies at the Fed contributed to the housing bubble and bust that is now roiling the economy.

Mr. Greenspan unleashed bottled-up frustration about President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Republican leaders in Congress who, he contends, put politics ahead of Republican goals like fiscal discipline and lower government spending.

“I’m just very disappointed,” he said glumly, as he sat in his living room. “Smaller government, lower spending, lower taxes, less regulation — they had the resources to do it, they had the knowledge to do it, they had the political majorities to do it. And they didn’t.”

In the end, he said, “political control trumped policy, and they achieved neither political control nor policy.”

Mr. Greenspan, a lifelong Republican who presided over the longest sustained economic expansion in American history, sounded frustrated that neither a Republican White House nor Republican leaders in Congress were heeding his quiet pleas for greater fiscal discipline.

Mr. Greenspan said he met frequently at the White House with President Bush and Vice President Cheney, but his enthusiasm for the new administration cooled as he discovered that Mr. Bush ignored much of his advice.

In his first term, Mr. Bush would rarely let a week go by without visiting a small business or a camera-friendly factory to extol entrepreneurship or the importance of tax cuts. But back at the White House, Mr. Greenspan got virtually no response to his advice that the president veto spending bills. Mr. Greenspan said he was told his recommendations would be “taken under advisement.”

His observations are in line with those of others who engaged Mr. Bush frequently, including the former Treasury secretary, Paul H. O’Neill, who was fired in December 2002. After the Sept. 11 attacks, they said, Mr. Bush would become animated and even passionate about counterterrorism or the war in Iraq. But they said that broader economic discussions bored him, unless he could take them to the factory floor.

Mr. Greenspan has always been acutely aware of the explosive impact that his public comments could have in both political and economic circles. He never criticized specific Republican or Democratic politicians while he was at the Federal Reserve, even when he was under attack from one side or the other.

But in the interview, Mr. Greenspan seemed dismayed that leaders in his own party paid little heed to his pleas for spending restraint and for “pay-as-you-go” rules that would require Congress to offset the cost of new tax cuts with savings elsewhere. He repeated the conclusion about the Republicans’ loss of Congressional control in the 2006 elections: “They deserved to lose.”

Mr. Greenspan also spelled out his own views about the war in Iraq: he supported the invasion, he says, not because Saddam Hussein might have had weapons of mass destruction, but because Saddam had shown a clear desire to capture the Middle East’s oil fields.

“I supported taking out Saddam, because he was moving inexorably toward taking the world’s oil resources,” he said. “Iraq was a far greater threat than Iran to the world scene.”

But Mr. Greenspan also seemed intent on protecting his reputation in history about a debacle that is a focus of his successors at the Federal Reserve: the housing bubble that peaked while he was chairman of the Fed and the bust that now threatens to tip the overall economy into a recession.

Though he says little about the issue in his book, “The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World,” (Penguin Press, $35) Mr. Greenspan sought to staunchly refute charges that he contributed to the housing bubble by cutting interest rates from 2001 until 2004 and by making little effort to regulate the explosion of risky new mortgages.

On Tuesday, after a month of almost unremitting turmoil in financial markets, Ben S. Bernanke, Mr. Greenspan’s successor as Fed chairman, will preside over a crucial Fed policy meeting to decide whether and how much to lower interest rates in order to prevent a broader economic downturn.

Mr. Greenspan, 81, acknowledged that the housing frenzy had been pumped up in part because of very low interest rates and in part because of the growing willingness of mortgage lenders to underwrite dubious and often fraudulent loans that were much bigger than many borrowers could realistically afford.

But he said it was a mistake to blame the Fed, which needed to reduce interest rates in order to fend off the recession of 2001 and what many economists thought was a real risk of the kind of “deflation,” an across-the-board drop in consumer prices, that had plagued Japan.

John B. Taylor, a professor of economics at Stanford University and a former under secretary of the Treasury under President Bush, recently argued that the Fed’s rate cuts after 2001 appeared to have exaggerated both the housing boom and bust.

“There has been a bit of historical revisionism going on,” Mr. Greenspan grumbled. The real force behind soaring real estate prices, he said, was a global one: a drop in worldwide inflation and interest rates, in part because of the end of the Cold War and the rise of China as a manufacturing colossus.

“The housing boom is not an American phenomenon — it’s a worldwide phenomenon,” Mr. Greenspan said. “The evidence is quite overwhelming that what we are going through is a consequence of the fall of the Soviet Union and the shift of a billion workers from central planning in to the labor market.”

The United States was only one of 40 countries that experience a housing boom after 2000, he said, and all of the booms were driven in part by low interest rates.

“If you line up all the major developed countries and all the developing countries, leaving out the Zimbabwes, inflation rates were all in single digits. This is utterly unprecedented, there is no history like this. And the consequence was a fairly dramatic decline in real interest rates, which created dramatic housing price increases around the world.”
He's nailed by Prof. Krugman:
When President Bush first took office, it seemed unlikely that he would succeed in getting his proposed tax cuts enacted. The questionable nature of his installation in the White House seemed to leave him in a weak political position, while the Senate was evenly balanced between the parties. It was hard to see how a huge, controversial tax cut, which delivered most of its benefits to a wealthy elite, could get through Congress.

Then Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, testified before the Senate Budget Committee.

Until then Mr. Greenspan had presented himself as the voice of fiscal responsibility, warning the Clinton administration not to endanger its hard-won budget surpluses. But now Republicans held the White House, and the Greenspan who appeared before the Budget Committee was a very different man.

Suddenly, his greatest concern — the “emerging key fiscal policy need,” he told Congress — was to avert the threat that the federal government might actually pay off all its debt. To avoid this awful outcome, he advocated tax cuts. And the floodgates were opened.

As it turns out, Mr. Greenspan’s fears that the federal government would quickly pay off its debt were, shall we say, exaggerated. And Mr. Greenspan has just published a book in which he castigates the Bush administration for its fiscal irresponsibility.

Well, I’m sorry, but that criticism comes six years late and a trillion dollars short.

Mr. Greenspan now says that he didn’t mean to give the Bush tax cuts a green light, and that he was surprised at the political reaction to his remarks. There were, indeed, rumors at the time — which Mr. Greenspan now says were true — that the Fed chairman was upset about the response to his initial statement.

But the fact is that if Mr. Greenspan wasn’t intending to lend crucial support to the Bush tax cuts, he had ample opportunity to set the record straight when it could have made a difference.

His first big chance to clarify himself came a few weeks after that initial testimony, when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

Here’s what I wrote following that appearance: “Mr. Greenspan’s performance yesterday, in his first official testimony since he let the genie out of the bottle, was a profile in cowardice. Again and again he was offered the opportunity to say something that would help rein in runaway tax-cutting; each time he evaded the question, often replying by reading from his own previous testimony. He declared once again that he was speaking only for himself, thus granting himself leeway to pronounce on subjects far afield of his role as Federal Reserve chairman. But when pressed on the crucial question of whether the huge tax cuts that now seem inevitable are too large, he said it was inappropriate for him to comment on particular proposals.

“In short, Mr. Greenspan defined the rules of the game in a way that allows him to intervene as he likes in the political debate, but to retreat behind the veil of his office whenever anyone tries to hold him accountable for the results of those interventions.”

I received an irate phone call from Mr. Greenspan after that article, in which he demanded to know what he had said that was wrong. In his book, he claims that Robert Rubin, the former Treasury secretary, was stumped by that question. That’s hard to believe, because I certainly wasn’t: Mr. Greenspan’s argument for tax cuts was contorted and in places self-contradictory, not to mention based on budget projections that everyone knew, even then, were wildly overoptimistic.

If anyone had doubts about Mr. Greenspan’s determination not to inconvenience the Bush administration, those doubts were resolved two years later, when the administration proposed another round of tax cuts, even though the budget was now deep in deficit. And guess what? The former high priest of fiscal responsibility did not object.

And in 2004 he expressed support for making the Bush tax cuts permanent — remember, these are the tax cuts he now says he didn’t endorse — and argued that the budget should be balanced with cuts in entitlement spending, including Social Security benefits, instead. Of course, back in 2001 he specifically assured Congress that cutting taxes would not threaten Social Security.

In retrospect, Mr. Greenspan’s moral collapse in 2001 was a portent. It foreshadowed the way many people in the foreign policy community would put their critical faculties on hold and support the invasion of Iraq, despite ample evidence that it was a really bad idea.

And like enthusiastic war supporters who have started describing themselves as war critics now that the Iraq venture has gone wrong, Mr. Greenspan has started portraying himself as a critic of administration fiscal irresponsibility now that President Bush has become deeply unpopular and Democrats control Congress.

Something to be Proud About

Chafee reaalizes GOP not conservative organization anymore, quits party -- quietly....

Indian Innovation

Indians do innovate. It's not just call centers and writing tedious code....
"Five nine, five ten," said the research student, pushing down a laptop button to seal the measurement. "That's your height."

"Spot on," I said.

"OK, we're freezing you now," interjected another student, studying his computer screen. "So we have height and tracking and your gait DNA".

"Gait DNA?" I interrupted, raising my head, so inadvertently my full face was caught on a video camera.

"Have we got that?" asked their teacher Professor Rama Challapa. "We rely on just 30 frames - about one second - to get a picture we can work with," he explained.

Tracking individuals

I was at Maryland University just outside Washington DC, where Professor Challapa and his team are inventing the next generation of citizen surveillance.

They had pushed back furniture in the conference room for me to walk back and forth and set up cameras to feed my individual data back to their laptops.

Gait DNA, for example, is creating an individual code for the way I walk. Their goal is to invent a system whereby a facial image can be matched to your gait, your height, your weight and other elements, so a computer will be able to identify instantly who you are.

"As you walk through a crowd, we'll be able to track you," said Professor Challapa. "These are all things that don't need the cooperation of the individual."
Since 9/11, some of the best scientific minds in the defence industry have switched their concentration from tracking nuclear missiles to tracking individuals such as suicide bombers.

Surveillance society

My next stop was a Pentagon agency whose headquarters is a drab suburban building in Virginia. The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) had one specific mission - to ensure that when it comes to technology America is always ahead of the game.

Its track record is impressive. Back in the 70s, while we were working with typewriters and carbon paper, Darpa was developing the internet. In the 90s, while we pored over maps, Darpa invented satellite navigation that many of us now have in our cars.

"We ask the top people what keeps them awake at night," said its enthusiastic and forthright director Dr Tony Tether, "what problems they see long after they have left their posts."

"And what are they?" I asked.

He paused, hand on chin. "I'd prefer not to say. It's classified."

"All right then, can you say what you're actually working on now."

"Oh, language," he answered enthusiastically, clasping his fingers together. "Unless we're going to train every American citizen and soldier in 16 different languages we have to develop a technology that allows them to understand - whatever country they are in - what's going on around them.

"I hope in the future we'll be able to have conversations, if say you're speaking in French and I'm speaking in English, and it will be natural."

"And the computer will do the translation?"

"Yep. All by computer," he said.

"And this idea about a total surveillance society," I asked. "Is that science fiction?"

"No, that's not science fiction. We're developing an unmanned airplane - a UAV - which may be able to stay up five years with cameras on it, constantly being cued to look here and there. This is done today to a limited amount in Baghdad. But it's the way to go."

Smarter technology

Interestingly, we, the public, don't seem to mind. Opinion polls, both in the US and Britain, say that about 75% of us want more, not less, surveillance. Some American cities like New York and Chicago are thinking of taking a lead from Britain where our movements are monitored round the clock by four million CCTV cameras.

So far there is no gadget that can actually see inside our houses, but even that's about to change.

Ian Kitajima flew to Washington from his laboratories in Hawaii to show me sense-through-the-wall technology.

"Each individual has a characteristic profile," explained Ian, holding a green rectangular box that looked like a TV remote control.

Using radio waves, you point it a wall and it tells you if anyone is on the other side. His company, Oceanit, is due to test it with the Hawaiian National Guard in Iraq next year, and it turns out that the human body gives off such sensitive radio signals, that it can even pick up breathing and heart rates.

"First, you can tell whether someone is dead or alive on the battlefield," said Ian.

"But it will also show whether someone inside a house is looking to harm you, because if they are, their heart rate will be raised. And 10 years from now, the technology will be much smarter. We'll scan a person with one of these things and tell what they're actually thinking."

He glanced at me quizzically, noticing my apprehension.

"Yeah, I know," he said. "It sounds very Star Trekkish, but that's what's ahead."

What a Surprise! Walter Reed is Still a Mess!!

Almost Home, But Facing More Delays at Walter Reed
By Dana Priest and Anne Hull
The Washington Post
Saturday 15 September 2007

Soldier is told paperwork errors will slow retirement.
After nearly three years as an outpatient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Staff Sgt. John Daniel Shannon had begun the wrenching process of turning himself into a civilian.

He no longer wore the uniform he loved so much. He sported a short beard and traded his black beret for a baseball cap. Granted a 30-day leave to prepare for retirement as his disability case finally made it through the system, he moved his family to Suffolk, Va., and began to babysit his two kids, clean the house and grow vegetables. Given what had happened to him in Iraq - the traumatic brain injury from an AK-47 round that shattered one eye and half his skull - and the chronic post-traumatic stress disorder that followed, that was about all he could handle.

Last week, Shannon, 43, was back at Walter Reed, but not to say goodbye. The doctors' signatures on two time-sensitive forms in his disability file had expired. He would have to be reexamined by his doctors, he was told, and his medical summaries would have to be written all over again. Unfortunately, the sergeant in charge of his disability paperwork had not stayed on top of his case.

"There was a failure of paying attention to the currency of his paperwork," a Walter Reed spokesman, Charles Dasey, said last night.

The bottom line: No one could tell Shannon when he might go back to his family, transfer into the Veterans Affairs medical system and move on with his life.

After a Washington Post story in February described the conditions that Shannon and other wounded soldiers at Walter Reed endured after returning from Iraq, Shannon became something of a spokesman for his fellow patients.

He testified before a congressional hearing about the Army's obligation to care for its wounded. Members of Congress and generals shook Shannon's hand and thanked him for his courage, while President Bush and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates promised swift changes. Three panels were set up to study not only Walter Reed's failures, but the entire overburdened military medical-care system for returning soldiers and Marines five years into war.

But none of that kept Shannon from getting caught up again in military bureaucracy.

"It's like being kicked in the teeth by a horse," Shannon said this week in a phone interview, alone in his room at Walter Reed. "I've been sitting here for three years. I don't even know what 'going on with my life' means. I want to scream at the top of my lungs. I'm at the end of my rope."

While Shannon, a senior sniper in Iraq, began speaking at public events and counseling other soldiers about the cumbersome Army disability process, he was quietly fighting his own battles.

The case manager assigned to shepherd him through the system was hard to reach. He couldn't get straight answers about his future. Appointments were still difficult to make. Finally, as his discharge seemed imminent, a cascading set of errors and inattention ensured the delay of his release. "It's been 33 months," he said. "What kind of beer are they drinking?"

After The Post's stories in February, the Army moved swiftly to fix the outpatient system. It created a new brigade structure to oversee the wounded and brought in combat infantry officers to run it. More platoon sergeants and case managers were added to give more individual service. Building 18, the moldy and mouse-ridden barracks for wounded outpatients, was closed, and soldiers moved into new living quarters with flat-panel TVs and computers.

But some soldiers still complain of lost paperwork and delays in appointments. In June, one dorm was without air conditioning. Up and down a sweltering hallway, soldiers used fans and kept their doorways open to ease the summer heat.

At a town hall meeting in July, soldiers vented their frustration over a variety of issues to Maj. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker, Walter Reed's commander. One mother said that her son had been given discharge papers to sign with no explanation of his options. Other soldiers complained about an orthopedic surgeon, saying the doctor had been repeatedly "abusive and demeaning to patients" during the medical disability process and should be fired.

This week Shannon praised the new brigade; his company commander, Capt. Steven Gventer; and the medical and psychological care he has received. For Shannon and others, including some commanders, the disability process remains the largest source of anger. A presidential commission suggested doing away with the Army's long evaluation process - which must essentially be redone by the Department of Veterans Affairs before any VA benefits can be calculated. But that has not happened.

In his time at Walter Reed, Shannon has had six different disability case managers assigned to him.

His latest round of bad news involved his current disability case manager. In August, the manager called Shannon in Suffolk to say that one important document was missing Shannon's signature. This would delay his retirement date.

Shannon was livid. It had been two months since his final surgery, and the process should have been close to completion.

"The files just sat there," he said. "When it got ready to go to the [evaluation] board, he noticed they weren't signed. Why was it so hard for him to do this job?"

The case manager informed Shannon that he himself was in the process of retiring and would be hard to reach, but he said he would fax Shannon the Army Form 3947 for his signature. The fax never arrived. Shannon said he could not reach the counselor, Sgt. 1st Class Allen Domingo, the next dozen times he tried.

Shannon and his wife were plunged into despair. Torry Shannon, who had spent two years caring for her husband and children at Walter Reed, had just started a house-cleaning business in Suffolk.

The delay and sense of neglect seemed an echo of their early days at Walter Reed, when Shannon, with a bandaged head from surgery and on heavy pain medications, was released from the hospital with nothing more than a map and told to find his room across post by himself. He had sat for weeks without appointments and without anyone to check on him. The family had almost gone broke. At one point they lived five to a tiny room.

Shannon, struggling with post-traumatic stress, was so angry that he broke things around the house, including his new Bluetooth earphone, which he smashed just thinking about all the new obstacles. His PTSD had been triggered, as it had been before, by the thought of soldiers treated disrespectfully. "It's about whether we're important enough," he said.

Last Friday, Domingo phoned Shannon with even worse news. Some of the doctors' signatures on some key paperwork - narrative medical evaluations of his disabilities - had expired. Shannon would have to make new appointments, get new signatures and be reevaluated.

Shannon checked back into a room at Walter Reed.

"I'm going to lose it. He's going to lose it," Torry Shannon said Tuesday morning. "He's cycling up again, and I've become a single parent in a 24-hour period. I just opened up a business. There's no one to watch the kids. . . . I want my husband home."

When Shannon tried to reach Domingo again for some explanation, the voice mail message told him what Domingo had not: "I will be out of the office from 10 to 14 September. I will be involved in transitional, retirement . . . training . . . please leave number and message. . . . Have a fine Army day."

Dasey, the Walter Reed spokesman, said Domingo was kept on the case for the sake of continuity. "Sergeant Domingo already has established a relationship with Sergeant Shannon," he said.

Domingo could not be reached for comment.

Dasey said Army officials determined last night that Shannon's paperwork is still valid and they would send his case on to the medical evaluation board, the last step in determining Army disability pay and benefits, on Monday. He said additional appointments with doctors would not be necessary. He could not explain how Domingo had made such a mistake.

Shannon said he would like to take over his case manager's job. He wants to make sure that other soldiers at Walter Reed, all younger and less outspoken, get the treatment they deserve. "I wish I could take his job so I could kick some doors in and say, 'Hey! What's going on here!' "


And Something Greenie Got Right, Sort of....

Greenspan's true genius is that he was often kind of right, just not as infallible and omniscient as the pigs on Wall Street wanted to believe. His great accomplishments were to fuel bubbles, which is to say he was too good at pumping the economy (which, at the right level, is of course a good thing).

So here's Greenie -- five years too late -- on Iraq:
AMERICA’s elder statesman of finance, Alan Greenspan, has shaken the White House by declaring that the prime motive for the war in Iraq was oil.

In his long-awaited memoir, to be published tomorrow, Greenspan, a Republican whose 18-year tenure as head of the US Federal Reserve was widely admired, will also deliver a stinging critique of President George W Bush’s economic policies.

However, it is his view on the motive for the 2003 Iraq invasion that is likely to provoke the most controversy. “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil,” he says.

Greenspan, 81, is understood to believe that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to the security of oil supplies in the Middle East.

Britain and America have always insisted the war had nothing to do with oil. Bush said the aim was to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and end Saddam’s support for terrorism.
Of course, we shouldn't forget the desire for bases -- maybe even as back-up for when Saudi Arabia goes all Iran....

And more on Greenie's foreign policy acuity:
Greenspan Spills the Beans on Oil

By Ray McGovern
September 16, 2007

For those still wondering why President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney sent our young men and women into Iraq, the secret is now “largely” out.

No, not from the lips of former Secretary of State Colin Powell. It appears we shall have to wait until the disgraced general/diplomat draws nearer to meeting his maker before he gets concerned over anything more than the “blot” that Iraq has put on his reputation.

Rather, the uncommon candor comes from a highly respected Republican doyen, economist Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006, whom the president has praised for his “wise policies and prudent judgment.”

Sadly for Bush and Cheney, Greenspan decided to put prudence aside in his new book, The Age of Turbulence, and answer the most neuralgic issue of our times—why the United States invaded Iraq.

Greenspan writes:

“I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.”

Everyone knows? Would that it were so. But it’s hardly everyone.

There are so many, still, who “can’t handle the truth,” and that is understandable. I have found it a wrenching experience to conclude that the America I love would deliberately launch what the Nuremburg Tribunal called the “supreme international crime”—a war of aggression—largely for oil.

For those who are able to overcome the very common, instinctive denial, for those who can handle the truth, it really helps to turn off the Sunday football games early enough to catch up on what’s going on.

There they could have seen another of Bush’s senior economic advisers, former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill on Jan. 11, 2004, discussing The Price of Loyalty, his memoir about his two years inside the Bush administration.

O’Neill, a plain speaker, likened the president’s behavior at cabinet meetings to that of “a blind man in a roomful of deaf people.” Cheney and “a praetorian guard that encircled the president” would help Bush make decisions off-line, blocking contrary views.

Cheney has a Rumsfeldian knack for aphorisms that don’t parse in the real world— like “deficits don’t matter.” To his credit, O’Neill picked a fight with that and ended up being fired personally by Cheney. In his book, Greenspan heaps scorn on the same Cheneyesque insight.

O’Neill made no bones about his befuddlement over the president’s diffident disengagement from discussions on policy, except, that is, for Bush’s remarks betraying a pep-rally-cheerleader fixation with removing Saddam Hussein and occupying Iraq.

Why Iraq? 'Largely Oil'

O’Neill began to understand right after Bush’s inauguration when the discussion among his top advisers abruptly moved to how to divvy up Iraq’s oil wealth.

Just days into the job, President Bush created the Cheney energy task force with the stated aim of developing “a national energy policy designed to help the private sector.” Typically, Cheney has been able to keep secret its deliberations and even the names of its members.

But a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit forced the Commerce Department to turn over task force documents, including a map of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries, terminals, and potential areas for exploration; a Pentagon chart “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts”; and another chart detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects—all dated March 2001.

On the 60 Minutes program on Dec. 15, 2002, Steve Croft asked then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, “What do you say to people who think this [the coming invasion of Iraq] is about oil?” Rumsfeld replied:

“Nonsense. It just isn’t. There—there—there are certain............. things like that, myths that are floating around. I’m glad you asked. I—it has nothing to do with oil, literally nothing to do with oil.”

Au Contraire

Greenspan’s indiscreet remark adds to the abundant evidence that Iraq oil, and not weapons of mass destruction, was the priority target long before the Bush administration invoked WMD as a pretext to invade Iraq.

In the heady days of “Mission Accomplished,” a week after the president landed on the aircraft carrier, then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz virtually bragged about the deceit during an interview.

On May 9, 2003, Wolfowitz told Vanity Fair:

“The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy, we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on, which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason...”

During a relaxed moment in Singapore later that same month, Wolfowitz reminded the press that Iraq “floats on a sea of oil,” and thus added to the migraine he had already given folks in the White House PR shop.

But wait. For those of us absorbing more than Fox channel news, the primacy of the oil factor was a no-brainer.

The limited number of invading troops were ordered to give priority to securing the oil wells and oil industry infrastructure immediately and let looters have their way with just about everything else (including the ammunition storage depots!).

Barely three weeks into the war, Rumsfeld famously answered criticism for not stopping the looting: “Stuff happens.” No stuff happened to the Oil Ministry.

Small wonder that, according to O’Neill, Rumsfeld tried hard to dissuade him from writing his book and has avoided all comment on it. As for Greenspan’s book, Rumsfeld will find it easier to dodge questions from the Washington press corps from his sinecure at the Hoover Institute at Stanford.

Eminence Grise...or Oily

But the other half of what Col. Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff at the State Department, calls the “Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal” is still lurking in the shadows.

What changed Cheney’s attitude toward Iraq from his sensible remark in 1992 when then-Defense Secretary Cheney defended President George H.W. Bush's decision in 1991 not to follow up the expulsion of Iraqi troops from Kuwait with the ouster of Saddam Hussein and the conquest of Iraq.

“How many additional American casualties is Saddam worth?” Cheney asked in August 1992. “Not that damned many. So I think we got it right...when the president made the decision that we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq.”

Then, there were Cheney’s revealing, damning remarks as Halliburton's CEO?

“Oil companies are expected to keep developing enough oil to offset oil depletion and also to meet new demand,” Cheney said in autumn 1999. “So where is the oil going to come from? Governments and the national oil companies are obviously in control of 90 percent of the assets. Oil remains fundamentally a government business. The Middle East with two-thirds of the world’s oil and the lowest cost is still where the prize ultimately lies.”

Not only Cheney, but also many of the captains of the oil industry were looking on Iraq with covetous eyes before the war.

Most forget that the Bush/Cheney administration came in on the heels of severe shortages of oil and natural gas in the U.S., and the passing of a milestone at which the United States had just begun importing more than half of the oil it consumes.

One oil executive confided to a New York Times reporter a month before the war: “For any oil company, being in Iraq is like being a kid in F.A.O. Schwarz.”

There were, to be sure, other factors behind the ill-starred attack on Iraq—the determination to acquire permanent military bases in the area, for one. But that factor can be viewed as a subset of the energy motivation.

In other words, the felt need for what the Pentagon prefers to call “enduring” military bases in the Middle East is a function of its strategic importance which is a function—you guessed it, a function of its natural resources. Not only oil, but natural gas and water as well.

In my opinion, the other major factor in the Bush/Cheney decision to make war on Iraq was the misguided notion that this would make that part of the world safer for Israel.

Indeed, the so-called “neo-conservatives” still running U.S. policy toward the Middle East continue to have great difficulty distinguishing between what they perceive to be the strategic interests of Israel and those of the United States.

Why Are Americans Silent?

Could it be that many Americans remain silent because we are unwilling to recognize the Iraq war as the first of the resource wars of the 21st century; because we continue to be comfortable hogging far more than our share of the world’s resources and will look the other way if our leaders tell us that aggressive war is necessary to protect that siren-call, “our way of life,” from attack by those who are just plain jealous?

Perhaps a clue can be found in the remarkable reaction I received after a lecture I gave two and a half years ago in a very affluent suburb of Milwaukee. I had devoted much of my talk to what I consider the most important factoid of this century: the world is running out of oil.

Afterwards some 20 folks lingered in a small circle to ask follow-up questions. A persistent, handsomely dressed man, who just would not let go, dominated the questioning:

"Surely you agree that we need the oil. Then what's your problem? Some 1,450 killed thus far are far fewer than the toll in Vietnam where we lost 58,000; it's a small price to pay... a sustainable rate to bear. What IS your problem?"

I asked the man if he would feel differently if one of those (then) 1,450 killed were his own son. Judging from his abrupt, incredulous reaction, the suggestion struck him as so farfetched as to be beyond his ken. “It wouldn’t be my son,” he said.

And that, I believe, is a HUGE part of the problem.