Post No Bills
Welcome to the Me Show.
Monday, December 29, 2003
  • New coverage of the Travelling Cyanide Bomb Salesman. This article from the Christian Science Monitor. No new news, but good to see another major paper pick it up.

  • Threat Level Whatever:
    Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), who chairs the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, said the current terrorist threat system, which assigns a color to each of five risk levels, may be alarming "an awful lot of people who really can't do much with this information other than hand-wring and hanky-twist." Legislation co-sponsored by Cox would mandate a more regional approach.
    The national threat level indicator is stupid and should be done away with entirely. A 'regional approach' would not solve the problem. What is the threat alert system supposed to do anyway? For now, I just want to point out one major flaw in the alert system concept.

    The government can never reduce the threat level to green because if they did so, and a terrorist attack occurred, they would appear to have negligently reassurred the public. It would look like the height of incompetence. We will never see it happen, and as a result, the US will be at blue ("guarded") or higher until the system is eliminated, or else until 'global terrorism' has become so passe that setting the level at green is simply an indication of its irrelevance.

    I could imagine that a similar system, even a regionalized one, might make sense if it were conceived as a simple way for the top of the intelligence hierarchy (Homeland Security) to communicate with its rank and file. But as a public alert system, it can only do more harm than good.

  • Sunday, December 28, 2003
  • I hope you like the new name, Post No Bills. People tended to think "Why we hate" sounded too nasty.

  • If you feed cows the brains of their fellow cattle, you will eventually get Mad Cows and if people eat those cows, they will get Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease. At least, that's what the best scientists believe. What pisses me off is the fact that this has been the theory for quite some time, but governments in the US and Canada have not forced the beef industries to change their feeding habits. Is it the government's fault, therefore, if people die from CJD or if beef sales plummet because Mad Cow is discovered? Let's put the question another way: Should the public compensate the beef industry for lost sales because some of its cattle are infected and/or some of its customers are dead?

    Some farmers may have changed their feeding habits, others clearly haven't. Only the ones who chose to use safe feed (or one's who didn't but were somehow mislead into believing their feed was safe) deserve compensation. I do not want to foot the bill for irresponsible cattlemen, but neither do I want the responsible cattlemen to lose their homes just because other cattlemen were irresponsible. So, what is my point?
    • The responsibility lies with the cattle farmers at least as much as with governments.
    • Just because one irresponsible farmer got a Mad Cow, doesn't mean that the other irresponsible farmers should be compensated. They ran the same risk. It could have just as easily been one of them. If the government picks up the tab, it sends entirely the wrong message to the market. It says: risk the public's health if it helps the bottom line, when it doesn't the public will pay for it anyway. The government should compensate farmers who can show they tried to protect their costumers from a known danger.
    • Quit your beef-eatin' ways:
      In 2002, the GAO released their report on the weaknesses present in the U.S. defense against mad cow disease. Quoting from that congressional report, "In terms of the public health risk, consumers do not always know when foods and other products they use may contain central nervous system tissue... Many edible products, such as beef stock, beef extract, and beef flavoring, are frequently made by boiling the skeletal remains (including the vertebral column) of the carcass..."[12] According to the consumer advocacy organization Center for Science in the Public Interest, spinal cord contamination may also be found in U.S. hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza toppings, and taco fillings.

  • Monday, December 22, 2003
  • I liked this paragraph from Counterspin:
    But now, when you have thinly-veiled full-scale bureaucratic warfare between the National Security Council, the State Department, the Pentagon and the CIA, Bush's "hands off" management style become not just a liability, but an all-out disaster.

  • Sunday, December 21, 2003
  • My posts are likely to be sparse, or even nonexistent, during the holiday. I recommend you read the fine blogs listed to the right.

  • Friday, December 19, 2003
  • This, I think, says a lot about what Iran's clerical establishment thinks of itself:
    An Iranian man faces a possible lengthy prison term or even the death penalty for attaching a sticker to the rear window of his car proclaiming "The era of arrogant rulers is over," his lawyer said Thursday. ... He said his client had thought up the slogan himself, but that it was not specifically aimed at Iran's clerical establishment.
    Leaders more secure in their position would have assumed the sticker referred only to Saddam and not to themselves.

  • Feel free to ignore this post. It's more for my own benefit than anyone else's.

    I just finished reading the Michelle Goldberg article which Josh Marshall pointed out. It's her take on the panel he sat on with Richard Perle the other day. What particularly caught my attention was the fact that Perle and the neocons think of themselves as realists. This is a term used by international relations theorists and it is a bad one.

    Briefly, if one is a realist, one thinks that states are inherently incapable of trusting one another and that therefore what 'fundamentally' determines the course of history is the relative 'power' states have vis-a-vis each other. I put a couple of those terms in scarequotes because they are hopelessly vague, but I won't go into any kind of discussion of them now - the vagueness of them is only part of the problem with realism. It is a bad term because realism, in its modern form, is just about as totally removed from reality as a social theory can be. 'States' in realist theory are totally abstracted from such details as whether they be democratic or authoritarian, communist or capitalist. It doesn't matter who is running a country, or what culture they belong to, or what ideas their population believes. All that matters is how much 'power' the state has compared to everyone else.

    Thus, when neocon panelist Gary Schmitt, president of the Project for a New American Century, says that it doesn't matter that Bush is the president or that a significant portion of his foreign policy team are neocons, Shmitt is expressing a realist perspective:
    They might try other approaches, he said, but "the logic of the situation, the reality, is going to pull them towards policies that look like the Bush administration's."

    And likewise:
    When Marshall made the innocuous assertion that neoconservatives have had an influence on the Bush administration, Perle retorted: "Reality has had an influence."

    Now, there are two observations that must be made.

    First, everyone thinks their little take on reality is reality. And, partly for this reason, ideologues always think they have a special insight into reality (the "truth") that other people just can't see yet. So we shouldn't be surprised that the neocons think they're just telling it like it is.

    Second, the neocons are contradicting themselves when they make statements like the ones above. Neocons can't consistently believe that the key to fixing the world is by forcing countries to convert to democracy while at the same time arguing that 'reality' rather than 'who is in charge' determines foreign policy.

    The fact of the matter is that the neocons are being disingenuous when they suggest that who is in charge doesn't really matter. The proof of this is in their rabid pursuit of influence over American foreign policy. While telling us that 'anyone else would do exactly the same thing', they want to make sure it's they who decide what gets done.

  • Thursday, December 18, 2003
  • A new article decrying the lack of media and/or government attention (it amounts to the same thing these days) on the Travelling Cyanide Bomb Salesman. This one's from the Austin Chronicle. The problem with this story these days is that it is has become the purview of opinion pieces rather than news pages. Let's see: a potentially very serious threat to American lives (with all kinds of exciting story potential, like WMD and racists, and lucky accidents) plus a silent DOJ, why the hell isn't it news?

  • Wednesday, December 17, 2003
  • Also via Eschaton, go read Liberal Oasis's annotated transcript of Diane Sawyer's interview with W. She presses him hard on WMD in Iraq and he gets very uncomfortable and evasive. Here's the unedited version from ABC - note that it only includes excerpts, not the full interview.

  • EPA statistics game. Via Eschaton. A private analysis says:
    The Bush administration is catching and punishing far fewer polluters than the two previous administrations, according to a Knight Ridder analysis of 15 years of environmental-enforcement records.
    Some current EPA enforcement officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid retaliation from their bosses, say they're getting the signal to slow down enforcement cases.

    "It's very discouraging," said one official. "We're concerned about people's health. We have a job that we're supposed to be doing and we're not doing it. And we should be."

    Recently the EPA released its own study which, according to this Arizona paper, shows "EPA enforcement actions nationally are up 131 percent over last year". But the Arizona paper almost certainly based their story on this EPA press release - which doesn't say that at all. What it says is
    [E]nvironmental benefits increased an estimated 131 percent over FY2002. Estimated pollutants reduced, treated or properly managed totaled approximately 600 million pounds, compared to 260 million in the previous year.
    Note the subtle difference. The EPA said "environmental benefits" and "estimated pollutants", not "enforcement actions", meaning fines. Now, I have to admit that calculating successful enforcement by counting the number of fines issued is likely not the best technique - rather like counting speeding tickets to decide whether speed limits are being enforced. The real issue is whether people are polluting more or less, and whether the EPA is responsible for any change. But what I want to know is, are the EPA's estimates and new tools for assessing its own work better or worse than the old ones? Judging the quality of supposedly objective information which this administration puts out, and their history of messing with the data of the EPA and other 'independent' agencies, I'd have to guess not.

    For more information, I highly recommend this article:
    In each of its annual budget requests to Congress, the Bush administration has called for dramatic cuts in money and staffing for EPA enforcement, only to be rebuffed by Capitol Hill.

  • Ask a stupid question, get a really stupid answer.

    More highlights from Bush's press conference of today (or yesterday, whatever - it's late):

  • Asked about his plan for economic growth for next year, the "president" talks about passing an energy bill and various 'class-action' reforms that should make it less risky for corporations to screw the public. Then he drops this line: "We certainly need to send a signal to the capital markets that we're going to maintain spending discipline." I have one comment: "maintain"??? Bush and his congressional singalong have been spending the country's money like its going out of style. Which it is -- the next thing he mentions is his "strong dollar policy" because the US dollar has been going out of style. The thing is, he mentions this as if this were a separate issue. But it's largely because of their profligate spending that the dollar has been driven down... Okay, maybe that was two comments.

  • Asked about this exact issue - the dollar's fall because of Wall Street's being "increasingly worried" about the deficit - Bush mentions his 'deficit reduction' plan (let's not even get into that) and he observes that the deficit is due to, "one, a recession; two, a war", and later he mentions homeland security. But did he leave one or two things out there? Like his ridiculous tax cuts? Or the other war? Or the massive increase in pork-barrel spending by his buddies in Congress? Oh, wait. He mentions the tax cuts. This is what he says:
    And then of course, there was the tax relief -- a stimulus package which was necessary to make sure that we had ample revenues coming into the Treasury in the first place.

    See, without the tax relief package, there would have been a deficit, but there wouldn't have been the commiserate -- not "commiserate" -- the kick to our economy that occurred as a result of the tax relief. And the tax relief is working.
    Right. That makes sense.

  • This last point (I promise) is not a criticism of Bush. A reporter asks:
    Mr. President, it's been nine months now, and still there is relatively little evidence of WMD in Iraq. In retrospect, if you think back over the year, would you have been better to make more of your -- of the argument that you've made in recent times, that democratization in the Middle East was the reason to go to war, rather than WMD?
    Do you see what's wrong with this question? Let's paraphrase: Mr. "President", given that you wanted so badly to attack Iraq, do you think that selling the war to the American people on false - but verifiably false - pretenses was less strategic then selling the war on false and unverifiable pretenses would have been?

  • Okay, I lied. But this is the last point, I double promise. Bush, at his most despicable, responds to that last question with one of the most torrential torrents of crap I've ever seen him spew (not that he hasn't spewn worse crap, it's just that this crap goes on for so long). You can read the whole thing for yourself if you care to (just don't do it unless you've got time to shower afterwards), but I'll quickly draw your attention to just three points. First, the pot calls the kettle black when Bush observes that Hussein was a "unique" threat because he "just treated the U.N. as an empty debating society, as if their resolutions meant nothing." Then there are these two statements:
  • David Kay has reported back that he had weapons programs that would have put him in material breach of 1441. What that means, of course, is that had David Kay been the lead inspector, and had done the work that he did prior to our removal of Saddam, he would have reported back to the U.N. Security Council that Saddam was, in fact, in breach of the Council resolutions that were passed.

  • Secondly, North Korea -- one of the things, David, I think you've seen about our foreign policy is that I'm reluctant to use military power. It's the last choice, it's not our first choice.
  • Well, if that doesn't just take the cake.

  • Tuesday, December 16, 2003
  • Josh Marshall debates Richard Perle. No, he actually debates Perle in person. Here's the realplayer video the panel they sat on with Lawrence Kaplan, asking the question "Is the neoconservative movement over?". There's a fourth person there I think, but I don't have time to watch it just yet, since I'm off to watch The Grinch - the cartoon, not the Jim Carey version. Marshall notes:
    My main antagonist on the panel was none other than Richard Perle, who ended up in person being about as gentlemanly and fair-minded as his view of foreign affairs and America's posture on the world stage would lead you to expect.

  • From IraqToday: "But one woman underscored the deep sense of hatred for Saddam in much of the country. 'They should distribute a piece of his flesh to everyone in the next ration.'"

  • Travelling Cyanid-Bomb Salesman Update. CNN had a short piece on its Newsnight with Aaron Brown program December 11th. I just picked up on it via the Rant. Here's a clip from the transcript:
    BRIT FEATHERSTON, ASST. U.S. ATTORNEY: This was a huge, absolutely a huge arsenal of military-style weapons.

    LAVANDERA: There were hundreds of weapons. The inventory list of what was found is extensive but the most startling discovery was the combination of high grade sodium cyanide, acid and gunpowder.

    Mixed together it becomes a lethal chemical bomb capable of killing everyone inside a 30,000-square-foot building. Authorities suspect Krar might have been part of a criminal scheme to violently attack the U.S. government.

    FEATHERSTON: We have yet to figure out the actual destination of any of the bombs or any of the devices. You know I don't think you possess these weapons for a defensive reason.
    I'm glad to see that CNN has at least mentioned this case, even if just briefly. I'll take my Media Counter down later when I've got the energy. But we should keep looking for news about this issue. Hopefully other stations will pick up on it, or CNN will do more extensive coverage. Maybe if we email them, they'll do something more extensive.

  • From a friend working in Iraq (who is in no way associated with this website and does not necessarily support my views):

    Dec. 14, Suleimaniya, Iraqi Kurdistan -- I first received the news when my former student [...], who I brought with me to conduct research in Iraq, called me on the phone. He said the students at the local university where he is teaching English were celebrating they had just heard rumours that Saddam had been captured in Tikrit. Then I began to hear car horns outside, louder and more insistent than the usual Middle Eastern traffic cacophony. By the time I went outside, the shop owners behind my apartment building had begun firing their automatic rifles in the air, the surest sign of celebrations in the Middle East.

    Although Saddams capture is good news for the vast majority of Iraqis, the event has a special resonance here in the Kurdish north. The Kurds suffered genocide at the hands of his regime, round-ups and massacring of whole villages, the use of chemical weapons on towns like Halabja and Khanequin.

    I headed to nearby hotel with a satellite television connection. They had announced a news conference for 3 p.m., which would hopefully confirm the news. As I sat with some American, French, Canadian, and Kurdish friends, they showed the first images of a bearded, very disheveled Saddam, undergoing a medical examination. The Iraqi Kurds in the room burst into cries of recognition and joy, slapping each other on the back and hardly
    believing their eyes.

    Once I headed outside again, the streets had completely filled up with celebrating people, holding up British, American and Kurdish flags, photos of Bush and Blair, and playing music and dancing. The owner of a photocopy store was distributing copies of the photo of captured Saddam, printed from the Internet. Everyone from old men in their 80s, to children hardly past 5 years old, was dancing and holding up the pitiful photo of what was once the incarnation of dread in the Republic of Fear.

    Mistaken for an American or a Brit, I received handshakes and smiles all around. The pure joy in the streets is palpable, electric. The word on the street is that today has just been declared a national holiday, and the next three days have also been declared holidays, so that the celebrations can continue. Iraqs Kurds have waited a long time for this particular holiday.

    Because a guerrilla wars primary weapon and target always remains psychological, the huge importance of this day for the people of Iraq can not be over emphasized. Because Saddam was captured and not killed, the effect will be even greater. Kurds I spoke with here insisted that they are happy he was taken alive he has a lot to answer for, and they are hoping he will be made to answer at an international court of justice. They want to see a humiliated Saddam interrogated for his crimes. In any case, the few thousand insurgents, the Saddam die-hards and jihadists who have been mounting attacks across the country, have been dealt the most critical of blows.

    But will this end the terrorism in Iraq? Perhaps not in the very short term, since the insurgents may well make a last push to demonstrate their ongoing capacity and relevance. Todays events will, however, help us to determine if the insurgency in Iraq is truly spearheaded by Saddams loyalists. If it is, then today we caught our first glimpse of the light at the end of Iraqs tunnel -- from the grimy basement of a home in Tikrit.

  • Monday, December 15, 2003
  • Saddam's capture mullings:
    My first reaction to the news was that there were two possibilities from here. (1) nothing changes because the insurgents aren't really Saddam loyalists anyway; and (2) whether or not they're Saddam loyalists, this could help cut short the insurgency by either (i) decapitating their leadership, (ii) removing a powerful figurehead of their cause, or (iii) turning the tide of Iraqi public opinion to the US's favour, meaning an end to recruits and maybe more and better help from civilians. I felt pretty good when I got a letter from a friend of mine who's doing work in Iraqi Kurdistan and his interpretation was pretty similiar - basically two possible futures from here: one in which things stay the same; and one in which they get better.

    Browsing through the blogosphere, however, has made it clear to me that there is a third possibility which I hadn't considered. I've seen it mentioned in a few places, but the best (and most expert) analysis of it is from Juan Cole, or rather, from his wife:
    My wife, Shahin Cole, suggested to me an ironic possibility with regard to the Shiites. She said that many Shiites in East Baghdad, Basra, and elsewhere may have been timid about opposing the US presence, because they feared the return of Saddam. Saddam was in their nightmares, and the reprisals of the Fedayee Saddam are still a factor in Iraqi politics. Now that it is perfectly clear that he is finished, she suggested, the Shiites may be emboldened. Those who dislike US policies or who are opposed to the idea of occupation no longer need be apprehensive that the US will suddenly leave and allow Saddam to come back to power. They may therefore now gradually throw off their political timidity, and come out more forcefully into the streets when they disagree with the US. As with many of her insights, this one seems to me likely correct.
    I'll take door number 2, please.

  • Sunday, December 14, 2003
  • See, now, capturing Hussein is a truly great thing. But this is silly: "The capture of Saddam Hussein boosted confidence among Americans polled Sunday, most of whom agreed the Iraqi war was worth fighting and the search for weapons of mass destruction would be successful." I think there is good reason to feel more optimistic about the chances for post-war success now that Saddam is in the bag, but the odds of finding WMD have not changed in the slightest. On the other hand, these numbers give me hope:
    • 45 percent said they were planning to vote to re-elect Bush next year, even before the capture, while 43 said they hadn't planned to vote for him, and still won't.

    • An overwhelming majority -- 82 percent -- believed Saddam's capture was a "major achievement."

    Hopefully this means this (admittedly important) success won't tip too many votes. People know the guy's a crook, even if he just captured a bigger crook. Hopefully.

    UPDATE: This NYT article is also comforting:
    Across the nation, Mr. Hussein's capture seemed to change few peoples' minds about Iraq. Those who supported the war said the capture was crucial proof of strength for President Bush and evidence of the administration's wise handling of the situation. Those opposed to the war said apprehension of the Iraqi leader was positive, but that President Bush's political benefit would be short-lived, and that they would have been more impressed had soldiers found something different in the hole where Mr. Hussein was hiding: chemical or biological weapons.

  • Holy crap. They got him.

  • A Kurdish (PUK) representative in Iran is saying Saddam Hussein has been arrested, according to Reuters. According to this report, '"Saddam Hussein was arrested in his hometown of Tikrit,' the Iranian news agency IRNA quoted top Iraqi leader, Jalal Talabani as saying." ... It adds:
    The US Defence Department refused to confirm the report but in Baghdad, a spokeswoman for the US-led occupation forces said a "very important" announcement will be made at a news conference scheduled for 3pm (1200 GMT) but did not say who would be the speaker.
    AP says:
    In Iraq, a separate rumor that Saddam was captured or killed near Tikrit sent hundreds of exultant people into the streets of this northern Iraqi city Sunday. They fired in the air in celebration and congratulated each other. ... In Tikrit, rumors that the former dictator was in custody were making the rounds, but reporters attached to the 4th Infantry Division, the U.S. unit in charge of security in the area, said there was no unusual activity there overnight or early Sunday.
    ''We are celebrating like it's a wedding,'' said Mustapha Sheriff, a resident of Kirkuk. ''We are finally rid of that criminal.''
    Can't wait for that news conference.

  • Saturday, December 13, 2003
  • The Uranium Bug really is too cool for words, but the BBC has some words for it anyway: "US scientists have decoded and analysed the genome of a bacterium which could help clear up radioactive waste and possibly even generate electricity."

  • Some Movement in the case of the Travelling Cyanide Bomb Salesman, William Krar.

    First, there's an op-ed in the New York Times - so finally we see some major media coverage. Should I take down my counter? I highly recommend the article, which discusses in some detail the threat of crazy ass right-wing militants. Here's a clip:

    Americans should question whether the Justice Department is making America's far-right fanatics a serious priority. And with the F.B.I. still struggling to get up to speed on the threat posed by Islamic extremists abroad, it is questionable whether the agency has the manpower to keep tabs on our distinctly American terror cells. There is no accurate way of analyzing the budgets of the F.B.I., Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security to discern how much attention is being devoted to right-wing extremists. But in light of the F.B.I.'s poor record in keeping tabs on the militia movement before the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, one wonders whether the agency has the will to do so now.

    "Unfortunately, keeping track of right-wing and neo-Nazi hate groups isn't necessarily a path to career advancement in the Bureau," a Justice Department official told me not long after the Oklahoma City attack. "Agents get ahead by solving real crimes, like bank robbery, espionage and murder."

    Next, there's a new article from a local Tyler TV network. The headline says 'new details'. It's not much, but here you go:

    He and his common law wife worked out of Noonday Storage, whose owner thought the couple made money selling odds and ends.

    "They worked here most of the day," said Teresa Staples, "but what we saw them unloading was clothing, swimsuits and garden tools."


    Found in Noonday were hundreds of bombs and machine guns, and 500,000 rounds of ammunition. The inventory list of what was found is extensive. But the most startling discovery was the combination of sodium cyanide, acid and gunpowder. Mixed together it becomes a lethal chemical bomb capable of killing everyone inside a 30,000 square foot building. Authorities believed Krar a threat to national security, suspecting him of being a part of a "criminal scheme" to violently attack the U.S. Government.

    "We have yet to figure out the actual destination of any of these bombs or any of the devices," said [Assistant U.S. Attorney] Featherston, "but I don't think you possess these weapons for defensive reasons." ... Krar remains in the Smith County jail, waiting to be sentenced. His lawyer says part of the agreement in exchange for his guilty plea means he will not be prosecuted for anything else in connection with this arrest.

  • US Military Recruiters targetting Canadian Aboriginal Peoples and Hispanic Non-Citizens. It's a pretty fascinating report, actually. Seems the the Americans were relying on a treaty signed in 1794 between Britain and the US which allowed the US to recruit Canadian 'Indians'. Canada doesn't recognize the treaty. Meanwhile, Bush changed the rules so now if you're a US permanent resident but not a citizen, you can get your citizenship quicker by fighting his war for him. You can just hear the racist Bush-lovers laughing over that one, can't you? Thanks to Marine's Girl for the link.

  • Then maybe National Security is not for you:
    "There's nothing I am worse at than long-term planning. I have never run my life that way. I believe that serendipity or fate or divine intervention has led me to a series of wholly implausible steps in my life. And I've been open to those twists and turns because I didn't have a long-term plan."
    -National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice
    (link via Eschaton)

  • Morals is like spelling. There's a standard you've got to live up to. Headline from a press release put out by the Office of the Prime Minister concerning the new legislation to create a truly independent ethics commissioner: ATTAINING THE HIGHTEST ECHICAL STANDARDS. Not off to a good start here, Paul.

  • Friday, December 12, 2003
  • Tacky. I like Kucinich, but you should not do this if you're running for president. Unless you're running for president while competing on 'Survivor'. Meanwhile, they (not anyone in particular, just "they") have discovered a new prime number. This is so exciting. It's 6,320,430 digits long. Shorter new prime number: 2 to the 20,996,011th power minus 1. Only slighltly less exciting, is this late report that Americans don't understand Canadian self-effacing humor. Judging by their coverage, neither does the National Post.

  • Candaian Politics: Well, we have a new Prime Minister. I'll tell you what I see as the main difference between Canadian and American politics. It's this:

    A native cleansing ceremony preceded the swearing in by Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson at Rideau Hall.
    Now, I'm not too optimistic about Martin. I'll grant there are a few reasons for optimism, but my guess is he's going to be a disappointment. The first indication of which is that when I read about his new cabinet, I read that Allan Rock was being appointed Ambassador to the United States. Which would rock. Pardon the pun. But now I see I was mistaken. He'll be Ambassador to the UN. Which is OK, but way less cool.

    Here are more details on our new/old government. I'm a little disappointed to learn that our new Minister of National Defence is a man named Pratt. Also, he supported sending troops to Iraq and is "a proponent of missile defence". Ugh.

  • Another good idea: Inuit threaten to charge U.S., Russia with human rights abuse. They "say the refusal of the United States and Russia to sign the Kyoto Protocol is a violation of their human rights."

  • You find the darndest things if you google 'white supremacist'. Today's find is a billboard in Florida.

    Neatly perched between signs for theme parks and gas stations is the yellow sign. In a field filled with cows of all colors, it poses the question, "Who Rules Amerika?" Note the "k" in America. ... There's a web site listed below the big yellow question. It's a web site for a neo-Nazi hate group that advocates war on non-whites. ... The "club" is for anyone, as long as you're white, but not Jewish, homosexual or interracially married.

    The article quotes Mitch Bloomer of the Orlando Jewish Federation as saying, "Certainly, no one is suggesting any curtailment of freedom of speech. However the public roadways belong to the public in Florida." What an asinine thing to say. Hate groups do not have the right to 'advocate war' against other citizens. That's a crime. (Of course, advocating war against people from another country, that's a-OK!) Oh, nevermind. What a world, what a world.

  • Scientists have done a comparison of human and chimp genomes. The New York Times story is here.

    The project received a lift two years ago when a large London family with barely intelligible speech was found to have mutations in a gene called FOXP2.

    Didn't anyone tell the scientists? That's just how Londoners talk. No chimp genes needed to explain that. Silly scientists.

  • Thursday, December 11, 2003
  • This'll turn your stomach. CNN footage from October of American soldiers executing an Iraqi. The discussion below is somewhat interesting because it raises the question of whether this footage is biased or misrepresentative. You have to skim through some vituperative frothing-at-the-mouth Bushies before you get to the reasoned voice of one sargeant:

    This is not how warriors behave but how thugs operate. If the Iraqi man was indeed laying in ambush or setting an IED, then it is entirely appropriate to shoot him and to shoot him until he is no longer a threat. Once he ceased combat operations however, it became the soldiers' job to treat him and give him the same aid they would have one of our wounded soldiers receive.

    That's how the Law of Land Warfare works.
    (Via Comments at Today in Iraq)

  • Baghdad job fair:

    With degrees from good universities and fluent English, the four Iraqi friends should have their pick of jobs. Instead, they sat in an auditorium in Baghdad on Tuesday to watch a US military instructor show them and more than 200 other well-educated Iraqis how to write a resume during a half-day job fair organised by American troops.

    "We know this already," complained Lara Nabhan, 29, an irrigation engineer who lost her job as an administrative assistant with the United Nations a month ago.

    "It's miserable. It's never been as bad as this. Even the UN has left."

    Eight months after Saddam Hussein's downfall, finding work worries ordinary Iraqis just about more than anything else.
    (Via Today In Iraq)

  • Via Counterspin:

    Because the Justice Department failed to turn over a key piece of evidence to defense attorneys in a high profile, post 9/11 terrorism trial, the CONVICTIONS MAY BE OVERTURNED!

    I'd follow up on this, but I'm bogged down in work at the moment. Go read all about it if you've got the time, though.

  • So much for replacing American troops with Iraqis. About 300 of 700 members of the new Iraqi army have resigned. According to CNN, the US representative who made the announcement said the unhappy soldiers cited unhappiness with terms, conditions, and pay. On the other hand, the BBC includes "threats from insurgents" - or maybe that's what CNN calls 'conditions'. Anyway, "in response to the resignations, the coalition will review the terms and conditions and compare them with other security services in Iraq -- the police and Civil Defense Corps, the representative said" Word of advice, though, to the coalition: take a look, too, at how much the insurgents are getting paid.

  • Totally Unrelated to Anything: Need a clock? Check this out.

  • The press hammer Scott McClellan on the administration's petty vindictiveness... and then they do it some more:

    Q Scott, Mr. Wolfowitz has issued this directive saying that for contracts in Iraq, certain countries will be excluded, only coalition partners will be allowed access to the U.S. money for contracts. And he based that on a national security interest. Why is it in the national security interest of the United States to restrict countries like France and Canada from contracts?

    MR. McCLELLAN: I think you're referring to a specific wording in a memo. You might want to ask the Department of Defense about some of the specific wording in the memo. But I would point out that this was something that has been previously announced. [...] But in that memo, it also talks about the importance of encouraging expansion of international cooperation in Iraq and in future efforts, and it talks about encouraging people that are involved with the United States and others to continue to cooperate.

    But I think that the bigger picture here is that all of us have a shared goal, and that is helping the Iraqi people build a better and brighter future. All of us have the same goal of making the world a safer and better place. And there are a number of ways for countries to participate in the efforts going on in Iraq right now, to help us realize that, help the Iraqi people realize a brighter future.

    This is going to be his message for the whole thing: We're all working together to make the world a safer place. Except some of us sent troops and so get the big monies. And others didn't, so they don't. Nana-na-nana. Oh, and his other message is going to be: this is important for national security, and subcontracts are just as good as prime contracts, so it's irrelevant anyway. (If you think that doesn't make any sense, you're right.) And also, his other message is going to be: I, Scott McClellan, am an ass. Now back to the idiot show:

    Q You're saying if they agree to send troops, they would then qualify for contracts?

    MR. McCLELLAN: I'm saying if countries want to participate with those efforts that are going on in Iraq, that circumstances can change. And we will explain that to them.
    Q So what would qualify as sufficient cooperation?

    MR. McCLELLAN: That's why I said that if countries want to participate in the efforts and join the efforts of the coalition forces in Iraq, then circumstances can change. And we would be glad to discuss those matters with countries.

    Q Scott, one of the reasons for the decision is to ostensibly protect U.S. security. Could you explain what security threat Canada poses, and why would countries like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Colombia be allowed to bid on contracts?

    MR. McCLELLAN: I think you should look at the entire context of the memo. I mean, specific language that you are referencing, I was asked earlier about. This memo was put out by the Pentagon; you should talk to them about this specific language.

    [...] And I think it's only appropriate that those countries that have been involved with the United States from the beginning and the Iraqi people and those who are contributing forces to the efforts in Iraq would be the ones that would be eligible for the prime contracts funded by U.S. taxpayer dollars. But those countries are fully welcome to go to firms in other countries and involve them in subcontracts.

    Q The incoming Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin says he simply cannot understand the decision, given that Canada has already contributed millions of dollars to the rebuilding effort.
    MR. McCLELLAN: And we appreciate the contributions that they have made and we will be glad to discuss this matter with them. Again, some of this is based on some of the media reporting, and we welcome the opportunity to talk to countries about the reason for this decision, and about, if they want to participate in other ways, that circumstances can change, too.

    Q Scott, does that mean you will reconsider the decision?

    MR. McCLELLAN: No, no. This decision has been made. It was made through an interagency process and we fully support it. I'm saying that if countries want to participate in the coalition efforts in Iraq, then circumstances can change. We can discuss that with them if that is the case.

    Q Senator Biden has said that this is a totally gratuitous slap that does nothing to protect our security. He also says, at a time when we're trying to get help from NATO, not only in Iraq, but in Afghanistan, we're sticking a finger in the eye of those whose help we are trying to seek.

    MR. McCLELLAN: That's not at all the way I would look at it. I would look at it for the reasons I described it, and I would point you back to what it says in the memo that was put out essentially implementing this by Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. It talked about every effort must be made to expand international cooperation in Iraq, and that limiting competition for prime contracts will encourage the expansion of international cooperation in Iraq and in future efforts. And then it went on to say that coalition partners share in the U.S. vision of a free and stable Iraq. The limitation of sources to prime contractors from those countries should encourage the continued cooperation of coalition members. These are countries that have been with us from day one. These are countries that are contributing forces, that have been making sacrifices. And that's why this decision was made.
    Q Scott, can I clarify one thing? You're saying it was the people who are with us. You've got Albania, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Honduras on here.
    Q Why not Canada, though?

    MR. McCLELLAN: Again, as I pointed out, there have been a number of countries that have been with us from the beginning and there have been countries that have been contributing forces. There are countries that have been helping and sacrificing to build a free and prosperous Iraq for the Iraqi people to make the world a safer and better place. And I think the American taxpayers appreciate this decision and understand this decision, as well.

    Good job, Scott. Stay on message. You can do it. <William Shatner> Just...keep...repeating the...message</William Shatner>.

    Q In the case of Canada, Canada contributed troops to Afghanistan, lost troops in Afghanistan in an accident by U.S. troops, which politically made it very difficult for them to contribute to Iraq. And they're being punished for not being able to provide --

    MR. McCLELLAN: In the war on terrorism, there are a lot of countries participating in those efforts, and we appreciate that. There is a very large coalition of countries across the world that are fighting the war on terrorism and making sacrifices. There were -- there was a decision made by coalition forces on Iraq and there are a number of countries that have been helping from the beginning. There are a number of countries that have been sacrificing on the ground in defense of freedom and in an effort to build a better and safer world. And we're talking just about the U.S. taxpayer funding here, which is a significant amount of money from the U.S. taxpayers.
    MR. McCLELLAN: We all share the same goals here. That's one point I'm trying to make to you all in this room.

    Q That's clear with regard to, let's say, Russia, Germany and France. But, on the other hand, Canada is actually contributing in Afghanistan. They're actually doing something with the coalition there, and it seems like they're being punished for participating in one country, but not participating in the other.

    MR. McCLELLAN: I would hope that they wouldn't look at it that way. I would hope that they would look at it the way that I described it. And that's why I said we welcome the opportunity to talk with these countries about any concerns they may have. And we will explain to them what I've been trying to explain to you all in this room here.
    Q Can you just explain for us why over a quarter of a billion dollars and leading the NATO forces in Afghanistan is not considered participation for these --

    MR. McCLELLAN: I think I've already addressed this, about how we appreciate the efforts of the large coalition of more than 90 nations that have been participating in the broader war on terrorism. We appreciate all those contributions.

    WHAT??? Hey, Scott, why isn't donating millions of dollars and sending troops to Afghanistan 'participating'? We appreciate those contributions. Yes, but why isn't it considered 'participating'? I just answered that question. No, you didn't, dummy.

    Q What specifically would the White House like to say to Paul Martin, specifically, that he could do to improve U.S.-Canada relations right now?

    MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've worked together on a number of common areas. And we look forward to his assuming his new role. And we look forward to working closely with him on future efforts.

    Q What specifically can he do, especially given this contract issue? What specifically do you want from Canada right now?

    MR. McCLELLAN: Again, as with any country, if they have concerns they want to discuss with us, we look forward to doing that, and we will do that.
    Q One more on Canada, Scott?

    MR. McCLELLAN: Dana hasn't had a question.

    Q The Vice President on Monday shot 70 pheasants and an unspecified number of ducks. And I'm wondering how many of these were Canadian. (Laughter.)

    MR. McCLELLAN: Ask the Vice President's office. Next question.

    A useless human being if ever there was one. Though, you've got to feel a little sorry for the guy, stuck in such an absurd position, trying to defend one stupid decision after another, each one proving how stupid the last one was. One last thing before we're done with this guy:

    Q How concerned is the White House about the rising number of civilians that are dying in Afghanistan, and what is the White House doing about it?

    MR. McCLELLAN: One, our thoughts and prayers are always with the families of any innocent person who loses their life. The United States military goes out of their way to make sure that that doesn't happen. And there's been a couple of unfortunate incidents, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives.

    We care so much about civilian lives, in fact, we've told our puppet government in Iraq to make sure their doctors stop counting civilian deaths. Assholes.

    SNIPS AND EDITS: I keep trying to cut this post down to size, so if you've been here and read it alread and now something you read is gone, it's just me trying to make it more manageable. You can always find it again in the full transcript.

  • Wednesday, December 10, 2003
  • Petty Vindictiveness Update: Jesse calls Paul Martin's response "so...Canadian".

    In Ottawa, incoming Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin said the decision was difficult to understand because Canada had already spent $300 million to support Iraq and also had troops in Afghanistan.
    "I find it really very difficult to fathom," said Martin, who will take the helm of Canada's government Friday from outgoing Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

    UPDATE: Gotta love the coverage this is getting. Here's Hesiod, with a Great White North reference. Meanwhile, Josh Marshall draws our attention to a new report that the Iraqi reconstruction bidding is being delayed... coincidence?

  • I've added the 'Big Media' counter up in the top right of the site. Help us keep track. I'll be watching for any stories about the travelling sodium-cyanide bomb salesman, but I might miss something. If you find anything, let me know.

  • Freedom, but not freedom of information. Via Eschaton:

    Iraq (news - web sites)'s Health Ministry has ordered a halt to a count of civilians killed during the war and told its statistics department not to release figures compiled so far, the official who oversaw the count told The Associated Press on Wednesday. [...]

    "We have stopped the collection of this information because our minister didn't agree with it," she said, adding: "The CPA doesn't want this to be done."

  • Yep, that petty vindictiveness is directed at Canada too:

    The Pentagon yesterday banned Canadian companies from bidding for contracts worth $18.6 billion (U.S.) to help reconstruct Iraq because of Canada's opposition to the U.S.-led war in the Persian Gulf nation. [...] The memo justifies banning Canada and others by saying the move is "necessary for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States to limit competition for the prime contracts of these procurements to companies from the United States, Iraq, coalition partners and force-contributing nations."

    The directive doesn't specify why allowing Canadian companies to bid would hurt American security interests.
    Damage control:

    Canada would still be eligible to work in Iraq as a subcontractor of one of the prime contractors, said Major Joe Yaswa, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Defense.

    "We have very tight relations with Canada," Yaswa said. "Canada is actively participating in Afghanistan, which is all of one country over."
    And the world responds:

    The EU's executive arm said it would examine if the ban was in line with US obligations under world trade rules. [...]

    And in Canada, Deputy Prime Minister John Manley suggested that such a ban would make it difficult for his country to give any more money for rebuilding Iraq.

    "To exclude Canadians just because they are Canadians would be unacceptable if they accept funds from Canadian taxpayers for the reconstruction of Iraq," he said.

    Canada has to date contributed more than $190m to the reconstruction effort.

    Apparently reacting to the US ban, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said Moscow did not intend to write off Iraq's $8bn debt - despite earlier statements by Russian officials that they might consider restructuring it.
    (source) (other source)

  • I just discovered (via AirBeagle) that The Memory Hole has a file devoted to the travelling cyanide-bomb salesman. It's got copies of several of the stories we've discussed here, as well as screen shots from the CBS11 TV item. Good job, Memory Hole. Also, google "cyanide bomb" and you get me. Somehow, I find that... disturbing and gratifying all at once.

  • "They said they had been forced to lie to their friends, family and colleagues to serve their country." Maybe this explains W, too. Via Eschaton: Big Gay Generals.

  • Tuesday, December 09, 2003
  • Add this to your 'US elections need OSCE monitors' heap. Via Counterspin, this article explaining how Republicans are effectively blocking Democrats and independents from voting in a race for a seat in the Florida State House of Representatives. The tactic it describes takes advantage of a 1998 Florida constitutional amendment (I assume Florida isn't the only state with such a system) which says that if only one political party is contesting a seat, then all voters - not just party members - should get a vote in the primary contest to determine that party's candidacy, since whoever wins the primary will be running uncontested in the public election. Good idea, good system... except for the loop hole. Get someone (anyone) from another political party to add their name to the list of candidates, and bang! the primary is closed to non-party voters. All it takes is finding that someone and convincing (paying) them to enter the race. They don't have to do anything but file some papers.

    So, the Democratic Party isn't really losing anything - it wasn't going to run a candidate anyway. But 52,298 Democrats and independents have been disenfranchised, so it hurts the chances of the moderate Republicans contesting the primary. Quite a scam.

  • Silly dumb-dumbs can't get anything right. Josh Marshall points out how the latest bit of petty vindictiveness from the administration is likely to bite it in the ass.

  • Okay, the RSS feed looks to be working now. Thanks to David Janes at BlogMatrix for his attention.

  • This usenet post transcribes the Nov 15 article from the Tyler Telegraph with details on the travelling cyanide-bomb salesman's guilty plea. I wonder if the salesman had been linked to Al-Qaeda, rather than Christian terrorists, if the Judge would have been so sympathetic:

    "You understand, you will probably go to prison for around 10 years,"
    U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith Guthrie told Krar, as he nodded in

    "I hope after you serve your time and are back in society, you'll find
    peace to be here," Judge Guthrie said.

    UPDATE: here's a link to the article as it appeared in the paper.

  • The latest on the travelling cyanide-bomb salesman. This is quite a good article which, like the Amy Goodman radio show I refferred to on Sunday, puts this case into a broader context. And, like Sunday's update, today's piece is from a source which will never be given any credence by mainstream readers: the World Socialist Web Site. Once again, here is the original local news story of domestic terrorists and anti-government white-supremacists William J. Krar, Judith Bruey, and Edward Feltus.

  • The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

    1. Canadians wear Canadian flags when they travel because (a) they're patriotic, and (b) they often get treated better because of it.
    2. Americans wear American flags all the time for all kinds of reasons, to the point of absurdity.
    3. Americans wear Canadian flags when they travel because they know they also get treated better that way.
    4. Meanwhile, people all over the world wear American flag T-shirts and stuff because... well, nobody knows why.
    Now, this:

    In focus groups held this fall in four U.S. cities where the [Canadian]government is opening consulates, Americans acknowledged they don't know much about Canadians.

    "Some participants expressed a certain amount of annoyance at what is perceived as a systematic attempt by Canadians to make the statement that they are not Americans by sporting the maple leaf," said the recently released report. "This underscores the American sensitivity at feeling rejected by the rest of the world ...."
    For instance, an American from San Diego is quoted saying: "What bugs me about Canadians, if I may, is that they wear that damn patch on their bags, the Canadian flag patch. That way, they differentiate themselves from us."

    I don't believe in any secret American agenda to (actually) rule the world. But this comes pretty close. Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated...

  • Best bits of a discussion at Eschaton:

    Bechtel: Under a contract awarded by USAID in April, Bechtel is managing the reconstruction of Iraq’s vital infrastructure, including primary and secondary schools. By the first day of the new school year, a Bechtel-led team of some 65 Iraqi subcontractors had rehabilitated 1,153 schools, providing classrooms for about 1 million children. Altogether, the schools program will refurbish a total of some 1,200 schools in 14 major cities throughout Iraq.

    The Army: "In almost every case, the paint jobs were done in a hurry, causing more damage to the appearance of the school than in terms of providing a finish that will protect the structure," a recent Army investigation into Bechtel's work found. "In one case, the paint job actually damaged critical lab equipment, making it unusable."

    Marine's Girl: Personally, I did not have high hopes for Bechtel at all. See back in the late 70's-early 80's they contracted to build a Nuclear plant in Midland, MI. The plant never did get finished despite numerous cost over runs and delays. Eventually what work Bechtel did do had to be demolished and what was saved turned into a CO-Generation Plant. One of the half-completed towers can still be seen from an overlook across the river on M-20 by the big complex that is part of Dow Chemical.

    Bechtel cost the Michigan taxpayers lots of money so why would they be any different this time around? This deal was even sweeter as no-bid with no anti-war profiteering clause.

    Denis Slater in an e-mail to Bechtel: I read with concern about the substandard work being done on some Iraqi schools by Bechtel and/or its subcontractors. We, the American people, are spending a huge amount of money to refurbish Iraqi schools. It is disappointing to learn that an American company is not either providing proper supervision to get the work done properly or is failing to the work properly themselves by taking construction shortcuts. Your website post concerning one school is heartwarming and I hope that it is repeated in every school that your company rebuilds. I hope that the substandard work is corrected quickly.
    [. . .]
    I am sending a copy of this email to my congressmen and the White House for their action. Thank you.

    Paul: There is a 1-hour protest at Bechtel headquarters in downtown Los Angeles TOMORROW, Tues 9 Dec 03, at 5 (?, I'm pretty sure) PM.

    Several large groups are involved, so possibly 500+ people will be there.

    56k: would it be possible for the Iraqis in question to sue Bechtel for the damage to their schools?

  • Monday, December 08, 2003
  • Postmodern media criticism and the NRA. Here's the thing: a free, independent, active, and plural press is vital to the well-functioning of a democracy. Truth is a tricky subject, and the goal of the press should be to discover and uncover it. Given it's trickiness, however, there are bound to be plenty of disagreements in a free society over what the truth is. That does not mean there is no such thing as truth; it does mean the news media must be plural. Additionally, there needs to be a clear distinction between the press - who have both a social responsibility to disover and uncover the truth, and special rights which go along with that responsiblity - and the rest of us, who (while we are reasonably obligated not to lie) are not and should not be held to the same standard.

    We've seen a lot of attacks on the concepts and institutions that underlie this basic pillar of democracy. Truth, it has been argued, is in the eye of the beholder. That is a dangerous, but dangerously common, misconception. Massive corporate media ownership, the rise of FOX and AOL/Time Warner as news organizations, the concepts and ideas that inform the advertising industry, the ethics of egoism, and (let's be fair) the explosion of online 'news' outlets like this one (which blur the press/non-press distinction) are all undermining our hopes for collective decisionmaking by a clearly informed body politic. The latest attack on the ability of US citizens to think and choose together comes from the NRA:

    Hoping to spend as much as it wants on next year's elections, the National Rifle Association is looking to buy a television or radio station and declare that it should be treated as a news organization, exempt from spending limits in the campaign finance law. ... The nation's gun lobby is talking with potential investors about an NRA broadcast outlet and is considering all possible funding sources, including gun manufacturers, LaPierre said.

    If the NRA were to be considered a media organization, it would be free to say what it wanted about candidates at any time and spend corporate money to do so, such as for commercials.

    The group, financed in part with corporate money, is now banned under the campaign finance law from running ads, just before elections, that mention federal candidates who are on states' ballots. ... The finance law, which took effect in November 2002, bars interest groups financed with corporate or union money from airing television and radio ads the month before a primary and two months before a general election if the ads identify federal candidates, are paid for with corporate or union money and target candidates' districts.

    News organizations are exempt from the restrictions. That allows them to cover the news, write editorials endorsing or opposing candidates, and air interviews.

  • Cutting and Running: In Iraq, as in the Pentagon? Via Eschaton, rumors that "Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz may bow out as soon as February." This might be the biggest sign yet that the neocon's hold on foreign policy is collapsing. Or else, it might be a strategic retreat. And then again, it's just a rumor. Not unlike the Colin Powell rumor of a couple months back. Wolfowitz et al. would love to see Powell go; no doubt the feeling is mutual. Certainly, Powell is in the ascendant for now.

  • Blog news: My new RSS feed is up and running. You should see it if you click the 'blogRSS' button in the top right-hand corner of the page. I know it's not pretty and when I have some time in a few days, I'll try and do a bit of a cosmetic upgrade. Now, in case you don't know what RSS is, you can google it and find out. Additionally, you can find software for viewing RSS feeds here. I'm still playing with this and trying to figure it out, so maybe I'll post more info sometime in the coming week or two.
    CORRECTION: The feed is not yet working. This may take a day or two.

  • This is a very good idea: countries should apply trade sanctions against countries which refuse to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Ha-ha. Miserable failure' links to Bush: "George W Bush has been Google bombed. "

  • The latest on the cyanide-bomb salesman. This is from the 'Libertarian Socialist News' - not the most well-circulated of news sources - and it was reposted at the increasingly informative Pravda Forum. There's not really any new information - I mention it only because this is the only new coverage... If it weren't for the original local news story, I'd think this was a load of crap, given the sources. But it isn't. I just emailed a bunch of the big media types to try to bring it to their attention. Here are more links:

  • Here's the original video story. The link is to Information Clearing House, "News you won't find on CNN". No kidding.
  • Information Clearing House also has a copy of the radio show Democracy Now's coverage. Apart from the original CBS11 story, this is the most important coverage; check it out. It's an interview with, notably, an assistant US attorney in Texas who was involved with the investigation and the CBS11 reporter who broke the story. There's a good discussion of why the major networks aren't covering the story. Amy Goodman says she hopes to change that fact. From what I can see, she has, sadly, failed. The attorney says two really important things at the end of the interview: 1. the case is still open; 2. we can blame only the media (not, say, John Ashcroft) for failing to pick up the story. [Update: here's a link to KPFA, which has both the audio and a transcription of the show.]
  • There is a discussion of this going on here.
  • Also, here's the FBI/DOJ press release about Krar from November 13th.
  • And here's a story from the Anti-Defamation League which adds a little information about Krar's reading habits.
  • Orcinus has a very good post about the story, including the observation that it is the second such case this year.

  • My current research focusses on Moldova and the breakaway Transdniester region, which is why this story of missing dirty bombs - dirty rockets, actually (rockets with radioactive material in the warhead) - really caught my attention. Transdniester really ought to get more US attention than it does.

  • Friday, December 05, 2003
  • It's like alternate-reality socialism:

    But the Medicare legislation comes on top of a federal spending increase of 23.7 percent since Bush took office. 'In the last three years we've had the biggest farm bill, the biggest education bill, the biggest foreign aid bill and now the biggest health care bill in 30 years,' said Moore of the free-market Club for Growth. 'There's now not any pretense that Bush is committed to smaller government.'

    All these bills sound good to naive left-of-center folks, although the crazy-high debts sound bad to anyone. Of course, liberal types who actually know a thing or two about these bills know they are simply huge giveaways to bloated and socially irresponsible corporations. But they sure sound good, eh? The quote is from a Washington Post article about conservatives who are upset with Bush. Again, that sounds like a good thing to left-of-center ears ('the enemy of my enemy is my friend,' and all that) - but it isn't.

  • Still Nothing. PRAVDA - that ex-Soviet paper has in its forums a discussion of the Texan travelling sodium-cyanide salesman, the one with the anti-government plots and the as-yet undiscovered mystery friends in white supremicist hate groups around the country . The forum poster notes: "But strangely the story is mostly unknown to almost anyone outside of Texas because the national media has all but ignored the story." What in the hell is wrong with the US media? The guy with the sodium cyanide bomb is more important than Reagan's Sleeping Habits, a Disingenuous Wal-Mart Shopper, or even the New York Mom who Wants Her Child's Art Included in the School Display. It's not like the major news media isn't also covering some important stuff, but Christ... Not even CBS (whose Texan affiliate broke the story) has picked it up. Hesiod made a similar complaint about a new American report on Global Warming which is being ignored by the US media. Later, I'm going to start posting this story to US news forums (if I can find any), or else emailing it to them, if nobody beats me to it.

  • Thursday, December 04, 2003
  • Dirty Money: A group of Republican congressmen is campaigning to replace Franklin Delano Roosevelt's image on the dime with that of Ronald Reagan. Via uggabugga, here's the Washington Times story.

  • Old Russian Joke:

    -I've caught a bear.
    -Then bring it here.
    -It won't come.
    -Then come here yourself.
    -It won't let me.

  • Who needs Al-Qaida? We've got these guys:

    Three people linked to white supremacist and anti-government groups are in custody. At least one weapon of mass destruction - a sodium cyanide bomb capable of delivering a deadly gas cloud - has been seized in the Tyler area.

    Investigators have seized at least 100 other bombs, bomb components, machine guns, 500,000 rounds of ammunition and chemical agents. But the government also found some chilling personal documents indicating that unknown co-conspirators may still be free to carry out what appeared to be an advanced plot. And, authorities familiar with the case say more potentially deadly cyanide bombs may be in circulation.

    Since arresting the three people in May, federal agents have served hundreds of subpoenas across the country in a domestic terror investigation that made it onto President Bush’s daily intelligence briefings and set off national security alarms among the country’s most senior counter-terror officials.
    The guy with the sodium cyanide bomb has been sentenced to ten years in prison, the same as that kid got for having consensual sex. Here's more:

    Terrorism investigators suspect that Krar, who has paid no federal income taxes since 1988, made his living as a traveling arms salesman who pedaled illicit bomb components and other weapons to violent underground anti-government groups across the country.

    Sources familiar with the investigation say authorities especially fear that Krar may have manufactured more than one sodium cyanide bomb and sold them. After a traffic stop earlier this year while Krar was traveling through Tennessee, state troopers seized sodium cyanide among other weapons, one government source confirmed.
    I'll join Ezra in wondering why this isn't getting more coverage. WorldNetDaily, which is a bad and generally stupid news source, has about the only coverage so far. It reported last week that US authorities have been worried that Al-Qaida may be planning a cyanide gas attack. In fact, according to the same CBS piece, they basically caught this guy by accident.

    Federal investigators were not looking for white supremacist groups when they stumbled across Krar by accident.

    He drew the FBI’s attention when he sent a package of counterfeit ID’s for the United Nations and Defense Intelligence Agency to Feltus’ New Jersey home earlier this year. The package was mistakenly delivered to a Staten Island man, who opened it and called police.

    A note found inside and signed by Krar stated, “Hope this package gets to you O.K. We would hate to have this fall into the wrong hands.”
    The whole article is worth reading for some insight into how these guys operate and portents of things to come.

    UPDATE: Check out the SPL Center's map of US hate groups.

  • Jesse is peeved (understandably) over the sentencing of an 18-year-old to 10 years in prison for having consensual sex with a 15-year-old attending the same high school. Stupid laws, stupid courts, stupid, stupid, stupid.

  • Via Eschaton and The Right Christians, we hear of history teacher Gary Cole suing his school board, because they have barred teaching "about non-Christian civilizations", violating his First Amendment rights, not to mention totally failing to to do their jobs.

    "He can't even teach the history of anti-Semitism (or the) history of ancient Greece," said Cole's lawyer, A.J. Greif of Bangor [Maine].

    "How can you explain the evolution of democracy in the Western world without talking about ancient Greece? He can't talk about all the influences of the Indian, Japanese or Chinese cultures."
    Also via Eschaton, this Texan letter-to-the-editor from an idiot. Make that, idiot doctor. The paper put this under the headline Executions would halt killings:

    We can stop the murders of American soldiers in Iraq by those who seek revenge or to regain their power. Whenever there is an assassination or another atrocity we should proceed to the closest mosque and execute five of the first Muslims we encounter.

    After all this is a "Holy War" and although such a procedure is not fair or just, it might end the horror.

    Machiavelli was correct. In war it is more effective to be feared than loved and the end result would be a more equitable solution for both giving us a chance to build a better Iraq for the Iraqis.



  • Wednesday, December 03, 2003
  • Okay, I really, really hate FOX news. I hate most of the American media. I hate almost all corporate media, really. But, to be fair, none of the propaganda-spouting organs of the right-wing establishment are quite as bad as these two guys, Rwandan media barons who "helped set up a private radio station that told ethnic Hutus to 'exterminate the cockroaches,' referring to Tutsis." They have just been sentenced to life imprisonment by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

  • The mercurial EPA: White House, EPA Move To Ease Mercury Rules.

    Until recently, the EPA was on track to issue new rules this month requiring the nation's 1,100 coal- and oil-fired power plants to install equipment to achieve the maximum possible reductions in mercury and nickel emissions, which can cause severe neurological and developmental damage in humans. ... "At a time when 41 states have fish-consumption advisories due to mercury poisoning, it is unconscionable that EPA is proposing to postpone and weaken regulatory protection," Becker [executive director of two bipartisan associations of state environmental officials] said.

  • Talking Points Memo has posted a letter from DNC Chairman Terence McAuliffe to John Ashcroft requesting an investigation into the attempted bribery of Rep. Nick Smith. The link is to a pdf file.

  • It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Bibleman!!

  • It's a bird, it's a plane, it's JESUS, The Hot Air Balloon.

  • Via Atrios, the Bush Background Generator. Enjoy.

  • What's it going to be? Russian economic elites are getting their signals crossed on the Kyoto protocol. As far as I understand it, the Kyoto regime vastly overfavours Russia and will be a big boon to the Russian economy, but I'm no expert. If that's right, though, this looks like a ploy to extract even more concessions from the EU/Japan.

  • I'm not going to try to explain this. Just go and play at The Ultimate Build Your Own Cow Page!

  • Tuesday, December 02, 2003
  • Do these two men not look remarkaby alike? The first time I saw Anderson Cooper on CNN I thought for sure he was related to Bill Maher. A google search of their names produces this quote from a discussion board on
    I think self-confidence in a man is the hottest. My latest fantasy men are Anderson Cooper and Bill Maher who both are very comfortable in their own skin. In some ways they kind of look alike. Plus while full of self-confidence they are not threatening.

  • Via Eschaton, this interesting Slate article about bribery in the House of Representatives. Bob Novak's column has more details about the aggressive tactics used by the Republican leadership to armtwist a yes vote on the Medicare bill. Bribery of this sort probably goes on all the time, of course, but no one sees it. I'll happily join Atrios, Slate, and others in support of an FBI investigation.

    Update: Via Counterspin, here's Rep. Nick Smith, the one who was offered a bribe, describing the Medicare vote:
    Votes in the House usually last 15 minutes plus a traditional two-minute cushion, but because the leadership did not have the votes to prevail, this vote was held open for a record two hours and 51 minutes as bribes and special deals were offered to convince members to vote yes.

    I was targeted by lobbyists and the congressional leadership to change my vote, being a fiscal conservative and being on record as a "no" vote.

    Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert talked to me for a long time about the bill and about why I should vote yes.

    Other members and groups made offers of extensive financial campaign support and endorsements for my son, Brad, who is running for my seat. They also made threats of working against Brad if I voted no.
    His commentary continues with a good account of why the Medicare bill is bad.

  • Jesse at Pandagon expresses his contempt for the 'liberal media':
    A Republican fundraiser is a Chinese spy! Sink into that! It's got all the elements of the bogus Clinton stories, and the best part is, there's something to investigate.

    No? Well, could you at least cover the Republican Congressman who killed a guy the same way you covered the Democratic Congressman who was romantically linked with the dead staffer? No? Could you cover holiday toys and the funnest, bestest ones?

    I knew you could.

  • More good reading on the 'ambush' in Samarra, including a purported letter from a US combat leader which completely contradicts the official story.

  • An Arab-Canadian who admits having received Al-Qaeda weapons training (as a teenager in Afghanistan) has been released from Guantanamo Bay.

  • Now this is hilarious. Go Google "miserable failure" (or else click the link). (Via Eschaton and Armchair Punditry.)

    Update: Here's the blog where the above hilarity originated.
    Correction: Here's the blog where the above hilarity orginated.

  • Headlines: Peace moves in Israel and Kashmir. Diebold, maker of a dangerously unsecure electronic voting system, has dropped its legal case against 'netizens who had leaked memos obtained from the company's private computer system. Iraqi residents are disputing the US military's claim that it killed 46 insurgents in yesterday's massive attack - the locals say the Americans killed only 9 people, mostly noncombatants. The size of the ambush suggests to some observers that the insurgency may be well organized. Of course, even if this attack was well organized (who knows, maybe even by Saddam loyalists), that does not mean there are not plenty of other smaller groups attacking the Americans and the Iraqis who work with them; this one bit of order may be an isolated bit of a much larger chaos. Only time will tell. Furthermore, if the Iraqi population believes that it is a popular uprising, i.e. that Saddamites are not behind it, the people are more likely to support the insurgents. Capturing Saddam would go a long way towards proving who is responsible. An interesting point in this story is that the American convoys that were ambushed were carrying large amounts of new Iraqi money to local banks, leading me to wonder if the goal of the attacks wasn't just an old fashioned bank truck heist... Finally, here are some of the latest links on the shameful story of Guantanamo Bay. It looks like the shit may be about to hit the fan, with quite a few prisoners soon to be released and mroe details coming out about how the prisoners were captured. The Guantanamo story is looking more and more like the disgrace that was Japanese internment camps.

  • Monday, December 01, 2003
  • Go watch this very funny animation.

  • It's a little old now, but go read this post on Neil Bush and Gay Marriage by Roger Ailes. And while you're at it, take a look also at this Salon article on the Moonie cult, a deranged anti-semitic organization that alledgedly funds the Washtington Times and has recently qualified for federal monies under Bush's hate-based initiative program. I mean faith-based.

    Update: If you follow the link I provided above re: the Moonies, you may read that the magazine "Our Canada" is alledgedly a Moonie front organization. The magazine's website is here. Their address is 1125 Stanley Street, Montreal, QC. Should I check them out?

  • moon phases



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