Belaboring the Obvious

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Just a Prediction...

... from an ol' hippie. If whoever winds up in the Oval Office in 2009 doesn't rescind about 99.4% of George Bush's Executive Orders and twist Congress' collective arm to repeal a decade's worth of useless legislation, and pronto, we're basically fucked, for the immediately foreseeable future and beyond.

Bureacratic inertia being what it is, most law in this country doesn't get repealed when we find that it's worthless, dangerous or just plain stupid. The same goes for Executive Orders. That's one of the reasons why there are EOs declaring a state of emergency still in effect that go back to the FDR administration. Instead, they are endlessly modified, since the raw change of simple repeal or revocation is perceived to be disruptive of government operations, and there's also the matter of politicians not wanting to create precedent (i.e., that their successors won't do the same thing to their legislation or orders).

What's been happening in the last few years, though, are some giant steps toward an authoritarian government that few of us are going to appreciate at all once it's in its more or less final form, thanks to Dubya's interminable "war on terror."

What Bush and Co.
have done to date is find every possible way that they can to ignore the law. Sometimes the rationales are complex and legal and torturously contrived; sometimes they're just bald-faced "fuck you"s to the courts and Congress. One of those "fuck you"s has been their increasing use of what has been known, ever since 1953, as "state secrets privilege." As Glenn Greenwald points out here, this is not law, but an assertion by the government of an inherent right to maintain security, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in United States v. Reynolds.

In this case, the government demanded dismissal of a suit filed by the widows of three people who had been killed in the crash of an Air Force plane. The widows asserted that the plane was badly maintained and that the Air Force was culpable in the deaths. The government said, however, that the suit had to be dismissed as judicial discovery would reveal national security secrets. The Supreme Court said, in essence, that the security of the country was not only a countervailing force against discovery, but a compelling national interest against tort in itself, and upheld dismissal of the case on national security grounds.

With the high court having set that standard, few judges want the hassle of challenging the government's assertion of the privilege, and some have seen invocation of the privilege by the government as virtually automatic grounds for dismissal.

The Bushies are really pushing this envelope, however--in part, because it's just so darned easy to do in the current environment. The government likely intends to invoke the privilege in a current suit that doesn't even involve the government--the Electronic Freedom Foundation v. AT&T. In that case, EFF received documents and other evidence from a phone system worker that showed AT&T had made arrangements with the National Security Agency to tap into AT&T's digital traffic at a routing center in San Francisco, and that the equipment used and the manner of the tap both suggested wholesale interception of data without warrant. Yesterday, the government sent notice to the judge that it would likely invoke state secrets privilege.

In similar fashion, the privilege was invoked recently in the case of Sibel Edmonds, an FBI translator who was fired for blowing the whistle on irregularities within the FBI's translation unit. Even though her standing for filing suit was reinforced by an FBI Inspector General report which substantiated the bulk of her claims, the Justice Department invoked the privilege in her case and the suit was dismissed (by the same judge, Reggie Walton, now hearing the US v. I. Lewis Libby perjury and obstruction of justice case).

The privilege may yet be used in another case, filed in Oregon. In that case, the managers of a now-defunct Islamic charity claim that the government illegally violated client-attorney privilege by intercepting their communications by phone with their lawyers. The apparent proof of that violation was in a classified document supplied by the government during discovery. Once the government realized it had given the plaintiffs the document, they immediately began trying to retrieve it, and failing that, to have the judge in the case deny its introduction on national security grounds and have it permanently sealed. If the judge doesn't go along with this ploy, it seems certain that the government will attempt to invoke privilege and have the case dismissed.

All this depends upon a trust between the Judiciary and the Executive branch that the President's men aren't attempting to hide wrongdoing by invoking the privilege, which sort of flies in the face of common sense, since that determination ought to be made on the evidence. In fact, in the case which set this precedent, the Supreme Court trusted the government to make honest representations of the nature of the facts, even if the government did not provide the facts themselves. That trust was unwarranted, as the facts showed later. Almost fifty years after the 1953 decision, the Air Force declassified the documents which it originally sought to protect. No national security issues could be determined from them, but gross negligence was apparent. The Air Force, had indeed used national security to hide culpability in the deaths. Still, the precedent remained.

The tendency to use Executive Orders beyond original intent is prominent in this administration, as well. The most egregious example is Bush's order EO#13223, regarding the procedures to be followed in administration of the Presidential Records Act. The Act is quite specific and unambiguous about the government's rights to Presidential and Vice-Presidential papers, except in some narrowly-drawn exceptions for "Constitutionally-based" executive privilege and national security matters. Bush's order simply ignored the language and intent of the law, proscribing release of those papers if there were objections by the sitting President, an ex-President or ex-Vice-President. Those rights even extended to the heirs of an ex-President or ex-Vice-President.

This was, in practical terms, an abrogation of law by administrative fiat. Moreover, the Order signed by Bush was transparently to protect his father's interests as an ex-Vice-President (and ultimately his own interests as an ex-President), since the Reagan Library had already received national security clearances for many of Reagan's papers and had requested release of virtually all of the 68,000 pages of Reagan's papers. Bush simply ignored the request, which ultimately was delayed many months. His father's Vice-Presidential papers have yet to be released for public and scholarly inspection, even though the law mandated their release no later than January, 2001.

Let's not leave Congress out of this mess, and first, let's be honest--some of these yokels deserve some suspicion, about their character, their honesty and their intelligence, not to mention their sanity. And, you know it's true, if you saw some of them walking down the sidewalk in front of your house, your first reaction would be to hide your daughters, your sons, your pets and your checkbook, then call for a patrol car, pretty much in that order.

For more than four years, the current bunch of partisan hacks have given a dweeb like George Bush anything he wanted, anytime he wanted it. All he had to do was give an otherwise incomprehensible speech and repeat "terra" about four thousand times. It may take some time for this to sink in, but Bush and the people in Congress who've enabled him are the terrorists. They're the ones who hate your freedom. They're the ones who are telling you they're protecting you while they're ripping you off, spending your money (and your future) on their friends (lobbyists and their clients), and trying to scare the shit out of you every chance they get. Or, if you doubt them--or, heavens forbid, don't like them and say so--want to put you in jail, or put you behind a chain link fence far enough away from them that they can ignore you with a clear conscience. Want a thrill? Read the whole goddamned PATRIOT ACT and ask yourself if some of these mental pygmies in Congress representing Bush and Co.
could write something like that in three weeks? Hell, just ask yourself why virtually no one in Congress read the damned thing before passing it.

Y'know, I'm really hoping that one of these days, some really bright guy figures out time travel. Because I'm gonna book a ride back to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. And then I'm gonna tattle on a bunch of people, including George Bush and his sleazy father, to James Madison.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Code Word Nation...

... the home of the PR flack and the land of the sound bite. I'm not sure that the country's voters have, on the whole, ever been informed by real debate (well, maybe not since the Lincoln-Douglas debates), but the situation is dire today.

It's not just the failure of the media to report on what government is doing (because there are still some reporters trying to do that diligently, albeit it fewer and fewer of them these days). It's largely a problem of government by focus group and consultancy--and that process has reduced not only the detail and perspicacity of the public debate, but has effectively turned most debate toward the terms that each side has found poll well, or "sound" correct or have emotional resonance with the listener.

Frank Luntz, of course, is the acknowledged master of this process, but, I daresay, no one is granting that Luntz is in any way furthering the debate by what he does. If anything, Luntz and his ilk are trying desperately to obscure the actual issues.

There's been much said recently about what Democrats need to do to regain the House, the Senate, or possibly both. The predominant complaint (echoed often by the right wing) is that the Democrats don't stand for anything. The truth is that they do stand for something--exactly what the pollsters and consultants say will play well with the public. The Democrats do have a core constituency, and the Democrats do speak to their base, but, unfortunately, they often couch their language in the terms that polling says will evoke the greatest response from independents and swing voters.

One example of the phenomenon is the continuing, pervasive attempt by Republicans to extend and amplify tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations. Republicans have been effective in saying to ordinary people, "it's your money," while at the same time intending something entirely different in the legislation they promote. It's a message that Democrats can't counter. Why? Because many of them can't argue with the sentiment as expressed. More importantly, many voted for that legislation, even though voting for it was an absolute renunciation of their party's core principles.

The simplest and most direct means of countering Republican mendacity toward tax breaks for the rich would be a heavy, unrelenting--and unified--application of the truth. But for many Democrats, that would open them to charges of hypocrisy. The genesis of this problem goes back to the early `80s, when a Democratically-controlled House effectively gave up on the modern progressive income tax. While the reasons given were economic stimulation, the real reason, I think, is that Dems knew it would put a lot more money into the hands of the wealthy and corporations, and the Dems expected to benefit from that when it came time to solicit campaign funds. Democrats had traditionally lagged behind Republicans in campaign donations.

Instead, that tactic backfired in three ways: first, a healthy chunk of that new wealth was funneled into right-wing think tanks and PR firms, which used that wealth to utterly change the nature of the public discourse--just as Lewis Powell in 1971 anticipated that it would. Second, all that extra money raised the overall costs of campaigns--advertising became more important and more expensive and much more money was spent on polling and consultants. Last, Republicans continued to receive the bulk of that newfound wealth, and what incremental improvements in campaign funds Democrats saw from their mistake forever tied them to Wall Street and big business, power centers which were the traditional antitheses of their voting base. From that unholy association came the DLC and a pro-business Democratic elite that would consistently vote as Democrats on some social issues and in favor of big business the rest of the time.

After twenty years of continuing tax cuts for the richest in society, the standard of living for the bottom 50% of the country has stagnated or declined. The distribution of wealth has continued to worsen and debt of all kinds has dramatically increased. When some rare soul tries to tell the truth about why, the Republicans shout, "class warfare!" Democrats are generally silent on the subject, hoping not to offend either Wall Street or the swing voter, or to open themselves to those bitter charges of hypocrisy (as if that would bother inside-the-Beltway types, who seem to have evolved into an inordinately thick-skinned breed).

Both parties now represent big business and the wealthy. That might be one reason why roughly 75 million people in this country don't vote at all. It has been class warfare, and, as Molly Ivins has said, "they've won."

They have won, and if the Democrats' consultants are clever enough this election season, Dems may once again control one of the two houses of Congress, but they will do everything in their power not to let the public get a glimpse of who controls them. Listen hard for the code words, the indistinct phrases culled from focus groups, the snappy sound bite. If you listen even more carefully, you'll hear another sound, that of public money being slipped into private pockets. A campaign contribution, to a politician of either major party, has a better return on investment than any other outlay in business today.

One day, when the house of cards collapses, voters will wonder what happened and do something about it. Until that day, they'll listen to the code words and, like ancient magicians divining from the entrails of a goat, find the meaning they want in them.

The Moral Equivalent of WWII...

... or some such nonsense. At the end of last August, George Bush likened the war in Iraq to the moral equivalent of WWII. Bush and Company may wish to liken the two conflicts, if only to convince the American public that he's the moral equivalent of FDR. (Bush's PR flacks have been rummaging around in the trunk containing the reputations of other Presidents in hope of finding some costume which will fit Bush as well as the flight suit he wore on "Mission Accomplished" day, and have found that FDR's suit is entirely too large for Dubya, and Lincoln's entirely too tall and straight. Washington's is entirely too quaint, Jefferson's too tight and confining for a modern-day corporate capitalist, and Truman's just isn't sufficiently Armani for the current occupant of the White House.)

Not long after 9/11, Bush exhorted everyone to buy more junk, visit Disney World (his brother, Jeb, would certainly appreciate the tax receipts from that trade), and, in so many words, echoed his father's failed reelection campaign ("don't worry, be happy"). Pundits slightly off the reservation wondered about outmoded conceits such as "shared sacrifice," and were promptly relegated to the dustbin. This war would be all about not sacrificing.

But, just to enlighten the youngsters (or refresh some memories), WWII was a much bigger deal, especially as regards gasoline. Rationing of that commodity began in 1942, and continued for the rest of the war. Lowly "A" card holders were not essential to the war effort, and therefore had the least juice, and got the least juice. Lucky "C" holders were important people. But, they still had to live within the rationing system.

As Bush and Cronies have jacked up the rhetoric against Iran, and as Iraqi oil production continues to decline, oil prices have once again risen, this time above $70/bbl. And, yet, there's no wartime rationing. Well, c'mon, if it's wartime, according to Bush, why aren't we all getting into the spirit of keeping the economy going by keeping prices under control through limited consumption? We're at war on terror, fer god's sake (even if that war is only by fiat declaration of Bush himself). This war of Bush's imagination will last forever (or until the end of Bush's and/or another good Republican's term in office, whichever comes first). Shouldn't there be some gas rationing in time of strife to ensure the energy security of the country? Shared sacrifice, and all that?

There are no twelve million of friends and family in uniform today. There are no scrap metal and rubber drives, pitching in the broken aluminum pots and pans for the war effort. There are no war bond drives (with Ronald Reagan's practiced lines uttered in newsreels showing in thousands of theaters nationwide). And, there is no gasoline rationing.

There is no foreseeable end to this manic and imaginary war on terrorism and the damage it has promoted, internally and externally. There is only a progressive assumption of rule and right by George W. Bush and his friends, and a coincident diminishment of the basic rule of law. The only desperation evident is of that in the political calculations of the Republicans to retain one-party rule.

Without a clearly-stated military objective and an end to war which is both predictable and definable, Bush and his soulmates cannot expect to wear the mantle of prior presidents who were willing to state those objectives and ends.

A proclamation of neverending war means neverending uncertainty, and all people, including Americans, eventually grow weary of an interminable uncertainty imposed from above. Without a clear cause and a defined end to war, there is no impetus for sacrifice, nor is there a belief that sacrifice will end the war.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Anything Wrong With This Picture?

Quite apart from his expending about 20,000 gallons of jet fuel to celebrate Earth Day by biking in the Napa Valley of California (well, let's give him credit for combining trips--he also spent a little time with the Iran war hawks of the Hoover Institution and raised $2 million for the RNC at Indian Falls), Bush is touting his latest energy plan as the means to energy independence.

Elisabeth Bumiller writes in this Sunday morning's New York Times:

Mr. Bush's energy proposals for the fiscal year that begins in October call for $289 million for hydrogen fuel technology, up from $53 million this year; $54 million for coal plants that would capture the carbon dioxide they produce; $148 million for solar power, up from $65 million this year; $44 million for wind power, up $5 million from this year; and $150 million for ethanol from cellulose, up $59 million from this year.

A little math shows this "renewables" spending package for fiscal year 2007 totals $685 million.

But, is it all for "renewable" energy? Hydrogen is being touted as "the fuel of the future" by Bush, while most people with NGO experience in the field acknowledge its current limitations, namely that of suitable range. Its fuel value is quite low, and the storage requirements of hydrogen are formidable. Compressed hydrogen is explosively flammable, and while this rate of burning can be controlled quite well by tanks filled with lithium hydride (hydrogen is adsorbed in the crystal lattice of that material), this strategy reduces the gas volume stored, making range an even greater problem. The remaining present alternative is to use liquid hydrogen, which would require cryogenic equipment at every stage of the fuel cycle, from production to storage to transport to end user vehicle, and considerable additional energy--and cost--to bring the gas to a liquid state and to keep the gas a liquid.

Most would say that all these things represent technical challenges which can be overcome with sufficient time and research, but, being a believer in Murphy's Law--and O'Toole's Commentary on Murphy--I often wonder about the combination of the average citizen and self-serve cryogenic hydrogen fuel.

But, the Bush administration push for hydrogen fuel has an often unacknowledged component--nuclear energy. The DOE's Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative proposes to use a new generation of high-temperature gas-cooled reactors to supply the high temperatures necessary for thermochemical production of hydrogen. The plan is to build roughly fifty new reactors for this purpose by 2020.

The administration continues to try to include subsidies to the nuclear industry for such a plan, and the Cheney task force proposed that taypayers pick up as much as 50% of the construction costs--a direct subsidy to the large multinationals in that business, such as Bechtel, Babcock & Wilcox, Westinghouse, General Electric and others. These businesses would also likely benefit from ancillary subsidies for increasing the capacity of the nuclear fuel cycle to accommodate an almost fifty percent increase in the number of reactors in the country (which would likely not be able to supply fuel for more than about 15-20% of transportation needs). Eventually, the taxpayer would also be subsidizing the disposal of spent nuclear fuel and the oversight of disposal facilities. There's also some question about what happens to the uranium market when such a sudden increase in demand occurs, and how that will affect overall costs.

Another consequence of such a plan, due to the huge initial costs, is that control of the fuel cycle would likely remain in the hands of just a few large energy companies.

So, is the Bush administration plan for hydrogen genuinely a renewables investment or another boondoggle for big business? Maybe both, but with the expenditures weighted toward the latter through heavy unnecessary costs to the taxpayer as a favor to companies unwilling to invest in new technology. While less efficient, there are much simpler--and safer--ways to make hydrogen (such as through simple electrolysis powered by photovoltaics or other clean energy sources), although those technologies are not yet likely to meet the total demand, either.

How about CO2 capture and sequestration? Probably valuable, but does not address other problems with burning coal (such as mercury contamination of waterways and acid rain). While CO2 capture is now being done in a variety of industries on a small scale, it may turn out that the cost of doing so at large coal-burning power plants may make burning coal an unattractive prospect, as compared with simply buying credits (say, from the nuclear power plants above) when such a plan is implemented. Moreover, all such research would be directed toward the continued use of non-renewable fossil fuels. So, it's not really renewables research.

If one subtracts some of the money for hydrogen fuel research which is likely related to processes tied to the nuclear energy industry, and the money for CO2 sequestration, then the actual amount proposed for renewables is more like $475 million.

If that still sounds like a lot of money, here are some ways to think about that $475 million:

  • Jimmy Carter's last budget for solar energy research alone (FY 1981) was $130 million. That's about $340 million in 2006 dollars.
  • $475 million would pay for roughly 1-1/2 days of the costs of the war in Iraq (based on the anticipated costs of $10.2 billion/month predicted for the next war supplemental request).
  • $475 million is about 0.1 percent of the proposed 2007 Department of Defense budget. (Odd, isn't it, how much we spend to defend the right of our multinationals to oil at the cheapest cost, and how little we spend to avoid oil use.)
  • Interest on the current national debt is approaching $350 billion per year. $475 million would pay that interest for about twelve hours.

It's not hard to see, from this, what the priorities of the Bushies actually are. Real energy independence isn't one of them.

Friday, April 21, 2006

A Poll Here, A Poll There...

... and pretty soon, it adds up to real trouble (apologies to Everett Dirksen, wherever you are). If this keeps up, Bush is going to find himself in a dumpster back of the White House and unable to climb out.

When Fox is reporting a 33% approval rating for Bush in their own poll, you know that it won't be long at all before Sean Hannity starts making pointed suggestions that Cheney come forward and really take charge. With luck, Cheney will refuse to leave his undisclosed location. Or, will go hunting again, instead.

John Dean, with probably more time reflecting on failed presidencies, both in and out of jail, than any living person today, says here that we can expect some sort of "October surprise" because of Bush's political desperation as the elections approach. Bush, thank goodness, isn't running again, but his enablers are, and if they're tossed out by an irascible public, Bush will be positively disposed to develop a strong empathetic relationship with his morning toast.

The question, of course, is what sort of surprise we're going to get. If the past five years are any indication, the choices are limited only by one's imagination. Because of the attacks of 9/11, which continue to attract the attention of all manner of skeptics and rude unbelievers in the official narrative, we've had two wars (both of which, it should be added, are still ongoing), the establishment of a worldwide gulag, institutionalized torture and a domestic spying program that makes J. Edgar Hoover's COINTELPRO look like an eight-year-old trying to get a glimpse of his big sister through the bathroom keyhole.

And that's just the really big stuff. No point in trying to catalogue all the other indignities foisted upon the nation and the Constitution (Plame/Wilson, free speech zones, etc., etc., etc.). They are legion.

So, what manner of political ploy is coming, if one is? If one goes by the intangible evidence, an attack on Iran seems the front-runner at the moment. The greater uncertainty in that possibility is whether or not Bush will order the use of tactical nuclear weapons. I don't think it's any accident that the pundits and the White House have been pushing the notion that Bush resembles Truman. Ostensibly, they're suggesting that Truman rebounded in the analysis of history after exceptionally low approval ratings, but there may be something else at work here, since Truman is the only President to have ordered the use of nuclear weapons. This may be a way of influencing public opinion before the fact.

Yet, since the administration was so wrong in its estimation of the outcome in so many instances (the Iraq invasion being only the most prominent), would the American public, in fact, respond with flag-waving and showering Bush with red, white and blue confetti? The hard-core in Bush's base would, without question, and the media might aid in that effort, for a while, but as news seeped out about the continuing horror resulting from such an attack, one would hope that the public response would be revulsion and repudiation of Bush's actions.

Therefore, timing is important. While the Bush neo-cons have been hard at work trying to complete their agenda of very long standing, the timing of their actions has been largely determined for political effect, whether it be the bullhorn moment, or "Mission Accomplished" (the latter, certainly, being the kick-off of Bush's re-election campaign). If an attack does occur, the most politically effective and expedient time would be just a few days before the November elections--early enough to affect votes, but not so soon as to have TV screens and front pages overflowing with stories of children dying from radiation sickness.

Utterly manipulative? Yes, of course--that's the trademark of this administration. By this time in history, it's not cynical to say that this administration measures and times every action and statement for short-term political effect. It's one of the reasons why they've gotten so many things horribly wrong. But, above all else, it's worth keeping in mind that while Bush is the front man guided politically by Karl Rove, the policy implementation is arranged by Cheney alone, and there's never been such a ruthless character in or around the White House, nor has there been such an inept one.

Whether an attack on Iran, or the manufacture of a brand-new external (or internal) threat, a new revelation of "treason" by the opposition or the seizure of bin Laden, there will be something to help ensure the retention of a Republican majority in Congress. For without that, Bush's term in office will be over, if not in literal fact, then politically. The knowledge that it is coming ought to alert the public to the degree to which it has been manipulated thus far, but as with most things Bush, the public has been slow to reach genuine understanding.

With a little luck, though, Bush may soon be reeling through the White House, unable to contemplate anything for the political noise around him, his hands cupped on his ears like Quasimodo, wailing, "the polls, the polls."

(image from Prof. Pollkatz, who can be found at: )

Bush, Hu Get Gonged...

... or something like that. If anything, the interruption of Hu's Rose Garden speech on Thursday by Wenyi Wang (left, being silenced by uniformed Secret Service), a member of Falun Gong, proved that business is thicker than religion. Bush later apologized to Hu for the sudden outburst of free expression.

What makes this all very complicated are American notions of religious freedom and free expression. The establishment clause of the First Amendment, along with IRS rulings exempting churches from taxation, has turned the U.S. into the world's largest open-air religious zoo. And the American way of life seems to drive people into the arms of religious groups of all stripes--mainstream churches, splinter groups, radical evangelicals, Wiccans and others, along with a thoroughly oddball assortment of both benign and dangerous cults, running the gamut from Aimee Semple McPherson's Foursquare Church operating from her Angelus Temple to Jim Jones' People's Temple Christian Church and Heaven's Gate.

All of which are tolerated in this country--sometimes just barely--until they are found to be destructive of public order, life or property--or are openly and brazenly extortive or fraudulent. This broad expanse of religion in all its extremes is more or less unique to the United States, and has been a part of the country's character at least since the Puritans drowned their first witch.

For that reason, it's difficult for Americans to see that what to them is within normal limits of tolerance is not in other countries. A certain church (which shall remain nameless because they love to sue for unauthorized use of their trademarked name) has official tax status as a religious organization in this country, but, is nevertheless not seen as a church in some other countries (particularly in Europe) and has been the subject of criminal investigations there, and is described as a cult in others.

Wherever Falun Gong fits into that spectrum, its troubles in China are a matter of concern to human rights organizations around the world. There have been reports (all of which have been denied by the Chinese government) of Falun Gong members being imprisoned, sometimes beaten, or sent to labor camps without trial.

On the other hand, some news stories have suggested that the organization does have some attributes of a cult. At its simplest, the belief is quite benign, with a meditative and movement routine similar to tai chi, but its leader, Li Hongzhi, implies that additional study and greater commitment lead to enlightenment of a peculiar sort. In a 2001 interview for TIME's Asia edition, Li said:

TIME: Why does chaos reign now?
Li: Of course there is not just one reason. The biggest cause of society's change today is that people no longer believe in orthodox religion. They go to church, but they no longer believe in God. They feel free to do anything. The second reason is that since the beginning of this century, aliens have begun to invade the human mind and its ideology and culture.

TIME: Where do they come from?
Li: The aliens come from other planets. The names that I use for these planets are different . Some are from dimensions that human beings have not yet discovered. The key is how they have corrupted mankind. Everyone knows that from the beginning until now, there has never been a development of culture like today. Although it has been several thousand years, it has never been like now.

The aliens have introduced modern machinery like computers and airplanes. They started by teaching mankind about modern science, so people believe more and more science, and spiritually, they are controlled. Everyone thinks that scientists invent on their own when in fact their inspiration is manipulated by the aliens. In terms of culture and spirit, they already control man. Mankind cannot live without science.

The ultimate purpose is to replace humans. If cloning human beings succeeds, the aliens can officially replace humans. Why does a corpse lie dead, even though it is the same as a living body? The difference is the soul, which is the life of the body. If people reproduce a human person, the gods in heaven will not give its body a human soul. The aliens will take that opportunity to replace the human soul and by doing so they will enter earth and become earthlings.

When such people grow up, they will help replace humans with aliens. They will produce more and more clones. There will no longer be humans reproduced by humans. They will act like humans, but they will introduce legislation to stop human reproduction.

TIME: Are you a human being?
Li: You can think of me as a human being.

TIME: Are you from earth?
Li: I don't wish to talk about myself at a higher level. People wouldn't understand it.

Benign meditation/exercise regimen, or a cult led by a kook who's seen "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" one too many times? Who knows? If there are pod people out there, as Li contends, it would certainly explain Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney and Pat Robertson. But, most of us would be rightly skeptical of Li's claims.

Li, at other times, has said that racial miscegenation is very wrong, and that heaven itself is segregated. In other interviews, Li "has also told Western reporters... that he is invested with supernatural powers allowing him to move through dimensions. He also criticizes rock 'n'roll, science and homosexuality."

Sometimes it's difficult to separate
the truly warped and dangerous from the benignly goofy or the culturally bigoted. China, without doubt, sees Falun Gong as dangerous. Right now, we do not. Even if it were ultimately dangerous to society at some point in the future, that presupposition would be no justification for the sorts of human rights abuses that Amnesty International, for example, has documented. Nor should Bush apologize, for the sake of business relations with China, for a Constitutionally-protected impassioned outburst by someone protesting those same human rights abuses. Explain, perhaps, but apologize, no.

The injury upon insult may be yet to come. The Associated Press reports that federal charges against Wenyi may be pending for "intimidating" a foreign leader under an obscure Ford-era law, even though that law has a clear exception for First Amendment expression.

The irony here, of course, is that Bush's State Dept. will continue to list China as one of the world's major human rights abusers, but may well prosecute someone for saying so publicly. The further hypocrisy is that the US never puts itself on that same list for its human rights abuses at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, in secret prisons across Eastern Europe and central Asia, and for its wars of opportunity, present and future.

© AP)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

*sigh* Snotty Scotty is leaving...

... trailing scents of flop sweat, despair and defeat. Even his stonewalling had an ennui of hopelessness, and was successful only in that the crack stormtroopers of White House press corps were mostly gazing at the ceiling, wondering what Rove would do to their "access" if any of them asked a pointed follow-up question of the hapless press secretary.

McClellan leaves, and Rove gets a new title in the political office of the White House, maybe the closest thing to truth in advertising that this White House will ever achieve.

And advertising is now all that Bush and Company have left. (In fact, it may be all that they ever had.) In a way, Scotty McPressSecretary has been not just the literal face of the White House, but its Dorian Gray portrait, as well. McClellan channeled the exasperation and irritation and frustrated inarticulateness of his President instead of vaulting above the petty whining just audible from outside the closed door of the Oval Office. The voice of the White House became the voice of the President, and the public went, "ewww."

Now, perhaps, I'm just being way too hard on Scotty and not nearly hard enough on the press corps. Had the press corps actually done its job, Scotty would have been gone so fast that the curtains in his office would still be rippling in the jetwash. By now, most people would be saying, "Scott who?" Yet, McClellan lasted as long as he did because the press never really did gang up on him when he served up whopper after whopper, day after day. His most obvious trait, that of not being able to lie convincingly, never stopped him from lying for his President. The press corps' general toleration of McClellan's mendacity says more about them than it does of the former press secretary.

This White House has an astonishingly bad track record of internal hires, but if they happen to hit it lucky and find an accomplished, convincing and ruthlessly competent liar to fill Scotty's damp socks and shoes, the press corps will be utterly overmatched.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Perfectly Reasonable Deviations...

... from the beaten path are, you know, okay, according to Richard Feynman. The reading assignment for the last couple of days has been the selected letters of Feynman, brought together by Feynman's daughter, Michelle, under the title: Perfectly Reasonable Deviations From the Beaten Track.

For no particular reason, something in one of Feynman's letters caused me to think about the last few years of American government in relation to scientific method. Now, for those not familiar with Feynman, he did work as a theoretical physicist at Los Alamos on the Manhattan Project (largely running a team of technicians whose job it was to verify very long theoretical calculations).

But, he loved direct observation and experimentation. He loved devising ways to test his hypotheses and those of others. As the time approached to assemble the "Little Boy" enriched-uranium bomb, he felt that calculations weren't enough, that experimentation was required to determine if the neutron flux was sufficient to continue the fission as the calculated critical mass was reached. He devised an experiment in which a sub-critical series of rings of enriched uranium, one above another, were mounted near the floor of one of the more remote sheds on the mesa, and another sub-critical plug of uranium that just barely fit through the rings was dropped from the roof of the shed. Neutron counters would measure the neutron flux as the plug passed through each ring. Feynman felt sure from preliminary calculations that when dropped from about forty feet up, the plug would have enough velocity to briefly reach criticality as it passed each ring, but would not have enough residence time for fission to proceed to a fully-fledged chain reaction. This experiment he called, "tickling the tail of the dragon."

It worked, and Feynman and others knew from the empirical evidence that the gun-type uranium bomb would work.

We've had over five years of the Bushies telling us to trust them, and we (read, our supposedly independent and adversarial press) haven't looked very critically at the evidence and tried to devise ways in which to logically test the evidence against the claimed performance of the Bush administration.

We're being told that the economy is great, and as proof of that, the Bushies offer up the unemployment rate. That single datum, though, ignores much other evidence that the effective rate is considerably higher than the nominal rate. It also ignores that the Bushies have jiggered the experimental data by changing the way unemployment is calculated, a couple of times, since taking office. In that way, comparing apples and oranges is a scientific no-no.

We were told a great many things about Iraq that turned out to be more jiggering of the evidence, and that only the evidence that fit the hypothesis was presented in the proof of the war theorem. Any good scientist would say that if there is evidence which does not fit the hypothesis, it can't be ignored, and the hypothesis must either be modified or discarded if there are empirical data which do not confirm the hypothesis.

Then, all the data suggested that if we proceeded to war against Iraq, there would be predictable results which were not the results predicted by the Bushies. Now that the empirical evidence shows that a civil war with inherently complicated sectarian/tribal/political divisions has resulted, as opposed to the rose petals, candy and liberator greetings hypothesis offered by the Bushies, we're told, just ignore that evidence--everything is actually going very well, and the independent and foreign media (perhaps we can call them the neutron counters) are not collecting the data properly.

When Bush began his steadily entropic campaign to "reform" Social Security, independent calculations (as with his tax cuts for the wealthy) showed the opposite of what Bush claimed. Not content with revising the hypothesis to fit the theoretical calculations, the Bushies have sneaked the same faulty plan into their 2007 budget.

Of course, none of this is of much surprise for an administration so accustomed to placing faith and gut hunches above science and rational thought on a plethora of science-driven debates such as the environment, weather and economics.

So, isn't it time for a rational, scientific examination of the evidence to date?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Is Bush the Unitary Executive...

... for the whole goddamned world? One wonders, sometimes, if this "leader of the free world" hype hasn't gone completely to his pointy little head. (Carol Coleman of RTE said that after her interview with Bush in June, 2004, White House staff berated her: "'You were given an opportunity to interview the leader of the free world and you blew it,' she [a White House PR staffer] began.

"I was beginning to feel as if I might be dreaming. I had naively believed the American president was referred to as the 'leader of the free world' only in an unofficial tongue-in-cheek sort of way by outsiders, and not among his closest staff.")

While it may come as a rude shock to citizens of the United States, it's pretty much only in our media that Presidents are referred to in that way. Western Europe has got its own preoccupations and doesn't need Bush's advice--or his demands. A healthy part of Latin America would describe him not as the leader of the free world but more likely as pendejo. The Japanese likely worry most about him inheriting his father's gastric tendencies. The Chinese smile in a slightly amused way and bow slightly and ignore him.

Thus, the uncertain response of the world to Bush's pronouncement that Iran was a "threat to world peace." Most countries now view Bush and his cohorts as the principal threat to world peace.

Now, make no mistake, an Iran with nuclear weapons is not a good thing--just as it's not a good thing for any country to go down that road--be that country Iran or France or the UK or Israel or Russia, or the United States. What the rest of the world is thinking now is that Bush's recent actions with regard to non-proliferation have stunk mightily of hypocritical self-interest. Because the Bush administration entered into a highly suspect deal with India (a deal enabling that country's weapons proliferation), has been treating Pakistan as a grand ally in Bush's "war on terror," and has steadfastly refused to acknowledge that one of the factors for Iran's interest in nuclear weapons is to counter Israel's clear regional advantage in that regard, it's no wonder that much of the rest of the world is looking askance at the seeming urgency in Bush's current saber-rattlings.

Let's for a moment disregard the tit-for-tat saber-rattling of Iran's president. Iran does not have nuclear weapons, and estimates vary on a date of attainment of even one--between 2010 and 2020 (with many estimates tending toward the latter date). Much can be done in that period of time in terms of diplomacy, but not if the US will neither encourage regional talks or talk to Iran directly. Europe, by and large, is backing international institutions, such as the IAEA, to come to workable agreements with Iran, and to keep the country within the framework of the NNPT--precisely because there is plenty of time to do so. The only urgency in this matter is the one being promoted--for purely political purposes--by the Bushies.

What the rest of the world understands, and Americans do not, is that this is still a regional disagreement. Iran does not have the capability to threaten US territory in any meaningful military way with such weapons, and for that reason, Iran's neighbors, including Israel, should be the ones most concerned by this potential development and should be the countries most willing to engage Iran in talks, with the US in the background, offering negotiating assistance toward rational non-proliferation.

But, what about nuclear terrorism?, asks the careful reader. First, the Iranians would actually be spending (on a full nuclear fuel cycle) far more time, effort and money than necessary, if using a nuclear weapon in terrorist fashion were the primary objective. Buying one (or the necessary parts) would be far simpler and cheaper--especially in the days when A.Q. Khan was running his nuclear supermarket and when adequate controls on nuclear bomb fuel were largely absent in the former Soviet Union. Second, every country hoping to become a nuclear power understands one thing--mutually assured destruction. Hence, the need in the past few years for the Bushies to market to US news consumers the belief that countries such as North Korea, Iraq and Iran are controlled by madmen who, collectively, would not be rational enough to acknowledge that reality and that those countries are direct and immediate threats to the United States itself.

Last, what would be the Iranian motivation for such a brand of terrorism? Iran's previous efforts in that regard--Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad--have been principally specific to one task--removing Israeli troops from areas which they have occupied, in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. Any nuclear weapon (between blast effects and radiation) used as a terrorist weapon against the state of Israel would likely kill as many Arabs/Muslims as Israelis, and would certainly provoke a massive response from Israel, as that country's nuclear capability is now one of the largest in the world. As for a nuclear terror attack on the United States, the same would be true, to an even greater degree. What possible motivation might lead Iran to do such a thing? I can think of only one--that the United States would attack them first, either economically or militarily or both.

There are some simple facts which have been lost in the blustering and fear-mongering in which the Bushies are currently engaging. First, the United States did not openly threaten with attack other countries which have participated in bomb development, both inside and outside the framework of the NNPT--not South Africa, nor Brazil nor India nor Israel nor Pakistan. That should alert all observers that the Bushies have other motives in doing so in the case of Iran. Second, Iran does not have nuclear weapons, and as a signatory to the NNPT, has the right to engage in a peaceful nuclear power program, regardless of how the US currently wishes to describe the situation. The only concern that the IAEA has had is that Iran has withheld information on an experimental enrichment facility. That enrichment facility is not currently capable of producing fuel for either bombs or reactors in any meaningful time frame. The fact that Iran has done so is cause for reasonable suspicion, but, in itself, does not rise even close to the level of proof sufficient for military action by any entity. Third, Iran does not have a record of military aggression in modern history. Its only war was one forced upon it by Iraq.

Finally, the point with which I began--that Bush is tending, as with Iraq, to the view that he, under the auspices of the Presidency, is entitled to act militarily anywhere in world that he chooses, with an authority vested in him only by himself and his advisors. That Bush feels that Iran requires harsh treatment (I'll use that euphemism for the moment) out of all proportion to the actual context should be cause for warning flags to be thrown up everywhere--in the national press, in Congress, and amongst the public. If I were a psychologist, I'd call that a manifestation of megalomania.

If Bush decides, in the comfort and safety of that bubble which the White House has become, that he can justify an attack on Iran, let alone a nuclear one, it seems certain that his bubble will burst. With that rude rupture will come a further diminishment in the relative security of not just American citizens, but of many people around the world. The chickenhawks on the right can complain, in defense of megalomania, that to continue to negotiate with Iran would be tantamount to Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler (the current meme being spread by them like shit on the walls of their asylums), but, the facts are still the facts. If there's agression against Iran, as with Iraq, it will not be because the facts warrant it. It will be because George W. Bush wants it, and because he thinks no one can stop him from doing as he desires. It will happen because he believes, contrary to fact and worldwide opinion, that he's the unitary executive of the world.

(image © AFP)

Saturday, April 15, 2006


... meet the National Security State of America. Harvard School of Law professor William Stuntz sort of suggests that the nation should go off the deep end with an anvil tied to its leg regarding individual privacy rights and government transparency.

Some of us are inclined to say, "now just wait a minute, bub." As Dan Solove says, the motivation for this sentiment may be 9/11. For those who claim that 9/11 changed everything, no, it didn't. But, it did make a lot of otherwise ordinarily sensible people stupid, fearful and begging for their authoritarian daddy to protect them.

At a time when secrecy in government--for political purposes--has become the norm, when Executive Branch overreach has compromised the privacy of potentially millions of citizens, Stuntz proposes that we have even more of the same in order to avoid even greater abuses.

The system, as practiced, is already fraught with Constitutional hazards, and has been for decades. Government dirty-dealing and underhandedness have been regularly hidden from public view by a security system we're told, paradoxically, is there to protect our rights and freedoms.

The security arrangements between the government, its employees and its citizens which have evolved over the last sixty years have only marginally aided national security but have gone a long way toward preventing citizens--the "owners" of the government--from knowing what their government is doing in their name. Scott Armstrong, one of the founders of the National Security Archives at George Washington University, has said that all administrations spend the greatest portion of their energy, with regard to secrecy, in keeping information from the public and the press. Its next-largest outlay of effort is in denying information to Congress. The next largest is in keeping other government agencies in the bureaucracy from knowing what it is doing, while the least amount of effort is directed toward preventing foreign powers from finding out state secrets (the latter being the ostensible reason for such a security apparatus).

All governments are artificial constructs of one sort or another. Our particular government, as delineated by the Constitution, places the rights of the citizen over those of the government itself. The Bill of Rights proscribe the rights of government with regard to those of citizens. There are some things, we decided almost 220 years ago, that government may not do at all, and that in its powers to detain citizens, it must adhere to rules protecting citizens' rights.

What Stuntz and others, post-9/11, have forgotten is that the President, as with all government officials, takes an oath to defend and protect the Constitution. It is implicit in that oath that defending the Constitution is a defense of the citizens--and a defense of their rights. Using the security system to cloak a wholesale violation of citizens' rights in an effort to "protect" them is an oxymoron, yet that is precisely what is happening at the moment with regard to the NSA spying program. The Catch-22 in the system is that those wholesale violations would go largely undetected were it not for government workers in the system revealing the existence of illegality, and yet, for them to do so presents grave risks to their own continued employment and freedom. Just ask Daniel Ellsberg.

We are told that government workers bound by their security agreements have recourse within their agencies to report wrongdoing. However, as we have seen with the illegal program authorized by the President, reporting those illegalities did not stop the program (if the President authorized it, it's okay, regardless if it violates law). Going public with their concerns has generated one of the most intensive investigations in recent years to identify the whistleblowers. The truth of the efficacy of that internal system of self-correction is best laid bare by the case of Sibel Edmonds. Even though the FBI's Inspector General verified most of her claims about shoddy work and security lapses inside the FBI's translation department, she is effectively unable to either make her case in public or receive fair treatment in the courts because the government has invoked state secrets privilege. There is no assurance, therefore, that the institutional problems she identified will ever be corrected, or that violators of law will be punished--or that the public will ever know what is being done by its government in its name.

Most security law, and the FOIA, says that the government cannot use the classification or security systems to evade detection of law-breaking, and yet, the government has lately gone to great pains to find and prosecute the very people who bring attention to law-breaking inside the government, because, by doing so, they have violated their security agreement with the government. That Catch-22 ought to be resolved, once and for all, with a whistleblower protection act that genuinely protects government employees who act in the best interests of their employers, the citizens of the country.

Friday, April 14, 2006

A cross-discipline musing...

... on monoculture.

In agricultural science, monoculture is the exclusive growing of one crop to the exclusion of all others, and has, in the last decade or two, meant, as well, the production of genetically modified crops to the exclusion of all others.

Some writers, such as Paul Dean, have sought to make connections between agricultural monoculture and cultural thought, but, to my knowledge, none have chosen to see monoculture in terms of political science, particularly as relates to the current political climate.

We are living in an age of political monoculture, where one party and one ideological genetic strain dominates the political discourse to the exclusion of all others. When this sort of monoculture dominated agriculturally, in Ireland in the 1850s, more than a million died of starvation in a matter of a few years when a potato blight ruined the agricultural landscape.

Politically, the current attempt of Republicans to dominate the landscape presents a similar problem. Republicans have sought to seed the political process with a single ideological message--support for a President, regardless of Constitutional constraint--and many on the right have decided to sow such a single strain of seed, with the expectation of increased yield--a greater number of votes in each election cycle. In the last few years, that strategy has worked.

In agricultural monoculture, the greatest danger is in the evolution of a pestilent organism attacking that single crop. Politically, this pest could be described, generally, as corruption.

Are Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay the political equivalent of corn blight in the Republican corn field?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The War President...

... is annoyed.

The BBC reports today new veiled threats by Condoleezza Rice over Iran's nuclear program, and although not real news, the BBC story simply shows that the Bushies aren't slowing down or giving up in their quest to ratchet up the rhetoric, to prompt Iran to do the same, thus generating a context for war. All this talk may eventually devolve to the following flawed and fractured syllogism: "Since the war President has said that Iran must do as the United States says or face consequences, and because Iran has not, the United States must preemptively strike Iran."

Otherwise, the President who, to date, has been completely unable to admit a mistake or change his mind might be forced to do one of those two things, which, in the logic of this bubble-enclosed White House, would be an unacceptable outcome.

It was for precisely this reason that the writers of the Constitution specifically gave the decision to go to war to Congress, not a President. Over the preceding sixty years, Congress has progressively pared down their own power in this regard in order to avoid responsibility for war and to minimize the political damage which might accrue in defying a President intent on war. Blurring that line has enabled presidents to act in ways contrary to the mandate of the Constitution.

Even so, as Glenn Greenwald has made clear here, this President doesn't care for any restrictions, Constitutional or otherwise, and whatever may evolve in Congress regarding a resolution for war against Iran or against such a war, Bush will proceed as he determines, regardless.

I suspect that much of the belligerance toward Iran is the neo-con equivalent of sour grapes. The CIA and MI6 had wrenched Iran from the hands of budding democracy advocates there in 1953, and successfully created a puppet state benefitting the oil companies of the US and the UK. Neither country gave a second thought at the time to the generational consequences of their actions. The Shah's divergence of the country's oil wealth into his pop-star existence, family cronyism and internal security to prevent his deposition helped fuel the poverty which was, ultimately, his downfall. The Ayatollah Khomeini's messages from his exile suggested to the poor of Iran that Sharia law, and an Islamic republic, would right those economic wrongs they endured under the Shah.

While that has not been the case (protracted war with Iraq and US-led sanctions have depleted Iranian coffers), enough Iranian people continue to believe it to be true that any present-day scolding from the US is always going to be seen in Iran as motivated by the self-interest of US oil companies, with the continued impoverishment of the Iranian people the result.

The irony, of course, is that the US and the CIA gave no thought to those generational consequences--they had installed a monarchical ruler who placed his own wealth and security foremost, and his hated SAVAK had tried its best to destroy all threats to his throne--including the democratic movement which neo-cons now say is so necessary in Iran today.

It is this thoroughly short-sighted lack of awareness of unintended consequences which moves the White House neo-cons to demand Iran effectively give up their sovereignty to the US. It's a hopeless ambition, and is fraught with future difficulties, domestically and internationally. The prospect of an Iranian oil bourse and its effect on US currency reserves held around the world may be one of a number of underlying reasons for US bellicosity, but it will not be the bottom-line reason for an attack on Iran. The root reason for an attack on Iran will be that the war President cannot tolerate having his will challenged and his judgment examined.

If Congress embarks on such an examination, he will ignore that body if it fails to agree with him. Congress has, in fact, studiously avoided acknowledging that Bush and his cohorts have already engaged, technically, in acts of war against Iran (if Seymour Hersh's reporting is accurate) by violating Iran's air space and sending military units into Iran surreptitiously.

The Constitution provides the means to remove a President deliberately exceeding his Constitutional authority. The current Congress simply won't take that action, out of partisan considerations, even though there's an immense body of evidence showing that Bush has usurped power largely by fiat.

We will have to live with the results of one-party rule for a while longer. One of those results will likely be a large-scale air attack on Iran, with attendant unforeseen consequences.

(image © The Estate of Diane Arbus)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

It's always a good thing to know the other team's plays...

... even better than they know them themselves.

Bloomberg News
cites Stephen Rademaker in this inordinately deceptive headline: "Iran Could Make Nuclear Bomb in 16 Days"

Josh Marshall notes here that Rademaker works for Robert Joseph, who's the ideological soulmate of and successor to John Bolton in the State Dept.'s arms control shop.

However, doesn't this "sixteen days" nonsense sound suspiciously like the repetitious claims in Septermber, 2002, that Iraq was ready to deploy its WMDs in "45 minutes?"

Knowing that the propaganda then is approximately the same as now is like knowing the other team's plays (and, for once and for all, for those who are still uncertain of the fact, we are being propagandized).

Knowing the plays, knowing the style and content of the propaganda is one of the ways to slow this march to a war that no one wants but a few of the clinically insane in the White House.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Sy Hersh and the Iran Plans...

... While George Bush says it's all "wild speculation," Hersh's current story in the New Yorker is saying a couple of important things. One, Bush is on a messianic tear again, asserting, according to Hersh's sources, that he's the only person capable of "saving Iran" and that doing so will be his "legacy" and that plans to attack Iran, to that end, are in progress and are past the contingency phase.

Two, someone in the White House wants the use of nuclear weapons kept in the operational plans.

After the invasion of Iraq, and the bald-faced lies that preceded that invasion, including the red herring from El Presidente that war was a last resort, someone would have to whack me on the head with a 3 lb. ball peen hammer for a couple of weeks straight before I'd believe him now.

A number of Hersh's sources make it clear that the real purpose of any plan to attack Iran is regime change, rather than to simply inhibit their uranium enrichment program. This is consistent with the Bushes, père et fils, and their approach to international diplomacy. In 1989, Bush the Elder bombed and invaded Panama, a country in which we already had military bases (Johnson AFB was, at the time, the headquarters for Southern Command, and the Canal Zone was a virtual Army and Marine base). Bush bombed Panama with the intention of effecting Noriega's assassination from the air (had Noriega not sought refuge in the Vatican embassy building, that attempt might have eventually succeeded). In 1991, at the beginning of the Gulf War (even though the UN mandate was to remove Iraqi troops from Kuwait and restore the Kuwaiti government), the most intensive bombing occurred in the Baghdad area--a mere 550 kilometers away from Kuwait City--and involved several (six, possibly eight) attempts to assassinate Hussein from the air. In 2003, in the initial "shock and awe" phase of the invasion, the very first bombing strike (along with several others) was intended to kill Hussein from the air.

Given that track record, it seems likely that any large-scale attack on Iran (one Hersh source suggests 400 targets or more) would be used as a smokescreen to mask attempts to assassinate the Iranian leadership, rather than to halt or debilitate Iran's uranium enrichment program.

Which brings me to the second matter, that of nuclear weapons in the operational plan. The pilot program at Natanz is reportedly being pursued in a facility buried under many dozens of feet of dirt and solid rock. Conventional weapons will not destroy that facility and other buried facilities. If these facilities can only be destroyed by nuclear weapons and the intention of a US attack would be to halt Iran's enrichment program, then, first, a conventional attack of any dimension is irrelevant, and would unnecessarily endanger many pilots and aircraft. Second, for a nuclear attack to be justified, ethically and in accordance to international law, Iran would have to be an imminent threat, and have shown clear intention to attack the United States and/or its allies with nuclear weapons and made obvious preparations to launch such an attack. And yet, Iran has no nuclear weapons. By most reasonable estimates, Iran is, at best, years away from having them. That negates the imminent threat argument for the use of nuclear weapons (and is likely the reason why some in the Pentagon are very antsy about nuclear weapons remaining in the plans).

That assessment inevitably leads to the conclusion that retaining nuclear weapons in the plan is also part of an ultimate intention to effect regime change in Iran, perhaps by convincing the Iranian populace to do as one of Hersh's sources suggested the White House believes: "a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government."

The current Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was elected by the Iranians because George W. Bush singled out Iran, Iraq and North Korea as the "axis of evil" in his 2002 state of the union address. Open threats to Iranian sovereignty have prompted a hardening of the official line of Iran. US demands will only produce a further entrenchment by Iranian leaders and lead to an escalation which can only convince the Bush administration that war with Iran is necessary.

A final point: as with Iraq, the Bush administration has refused any direct contact with Iran. They will not negotiate with any country they deem lessers of the US (witness John Bolton's intentional irritations of North Korean negotiators), or any country which demands its rights to sovereignty if those rights are seen to interfere with Bush's aims. Continued cheap oil for US multinationals is part of this equation (unfettered access to the Cheney energy task force papers would likely prove that statement to be true), but it is not the only part. Looming large in any US action against Iran is the belief on the part of George W. Bush that he alone is the arbiter of Iran's future, not Iran's leaders.

If Sy Hersh is right about plans for Iran (and he has been mostly right about the Bushies in past years--about revelations regarding Abu Ghraib and about increased US reliance on air bombardment in Iraq, for example), America's Caesar is about to pronounce judgment on Iran, that US client state which escaped the grip of the empire twenty-seven years ago.

My new phone book was delivered recently...

... and given the latest brouhaha about immigration, it's quite an amazing document. Between "Torres" and "Torrez," about fifty households. There are, maybe, 250 names beginning with "Mc" and at least 150 Smiths. There are Randalls, and Ramirezes, and Randeaus. Selecting at random in the middle of the book, a page begins with Jimenez and a couple of pages later, one ends with Kunkel. There are Chans, and Verhoevens, Goluskas and Cambones.

In this rather "red" part of the country, there are Pakistanis, Chinese, Russians, Poles, you name `em, they're probably here, including Mexicans and Canadians.

It's that way in much of the country. That is the country, and it's been that way throughout our history. Maybe this sudden interest in immigration is a manufactured issue, with the most draconian and punitive proposals meant to appeal to that part of the population who still believe, erroneously, that they were here first.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Just a little about the blog title, okay?

Posts here will probably just speak to what should be obvious to everyone (except for those of the right wing who desperately seek to deny reality, and therefore, to deny the obvious).

There will be occasional drifts into the past, when life was closer to normal than in the Bush years (nostalgia for better times is not the sole province of the right--old hippies yearn for simpler times, too).

There will be ads, even though I hate them, generally, but that's a consequence of using someone else's servers at low cost. When I figure out how to get rid of the deodorant stuff and sign up for more progressive ad services, I'll do it. For now, just click through or ignore them. I do.

But, the emphasis here is on politics and our future... and maybe a bit of snark about what the Bushies are up to.

We're in critical times and every voice opposing the right wing is necessary. If we don't get pissed about what these people are doing now, we won't have a chance to get pissed about what they do later.

We're all in this together, and talking about where we're going is a good thing. Period. Whining for the days when racism was normal doesn't count, nor does hoping for fascism in this country, even if that fascism is clothed in abject love for George W. Bush. Fascism didn't go over very well in Europe in the `40s, and it won't play well here now--even if Dubya thinks otherwise.

More later, and, hopefully, more focused on events of the day. Welcome everyone.