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Thursday, March 31, 2005

It's A Bird, It's A Plane!


Are you ready for gasoline prices to go through the roof? Today, MSNBC reported...

New York light crude futures rose $1.61 to $55.60 in midday trading, in part because of a Goldman Sachs research note that said the market is in the early stages of a "super spike" period. Goldman revised its "super spike" range to $50 to $105 per barrel from $50 to $80 per barrel, reported.

Read It:

The conventional wisdom spouted by supply side economic gurus was that the Iraq War would lead to lower oil prices. Let's take a trip down memory lane, shall we? Back to a time of rose-colored glasses...

Roger Kubarych, senior economic adviser for the Americas at Hypo-Vereins Bank, sees the impact from any confrontation as temporary, in part because he thinks Iraq will acquiesce to UN weapons inspections. If there is a war, he said, it could be won quickly. He also said Lindsey's numbers on the potential cost sounded high.

"I don't think it will be a big impact. The stock market will go down and oil prices will go up right at the beginning. ... This will scare people and they will become risk-averse," Kubarych said. " Once the war is clearly won, oil prices will drop like a stone," he added, noting there was already a war premium in oil prices.

Read It:

It's a good thing our man Wolfowitz is the head of the World Bank now. I'm sure his infinite wisdom will avert such a catastrophe. Then again, maybe not.

“There’s a lot of money to pay for this that doesn’t have to be U.S. taxpayer money, and it starts with the assets of the Iraqi people…and on a rough recollection, the oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years…We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.” [Source: House Committee on Appropriations Hearing on a Supplemental War Regulation, 3/27/03]

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

More Good News From Iraq!

What a difference perspective makes. Bob Schieffer, Dan Rather's replacement at CBS, commented last Thursday on the good news from Iraq, noting that "this was another fairly quiet day in Iraq: No American casualties reported again. Since January's elections, the rate of U.S. fatalities has fallen dramatically to half what it was during the previous three months".

Read It:

Juan Cole, on the other hand, quotes a real news source, the AFP:

The guerrilla war in Iraq marched on, on Friday, with four big carbombs and other attacks that left a total of some 23 persons dead, including at least one US soldier in Anbar province. (This conclusion is reached on the basis of the report linked here as well as late news in the Arab press). Two of the car bombs were detonated by suicide bombers in Iskandariyah in Babil province south of Baghdad, and two more in the western city of Ramadi. At a checkpoint in Ramadi, a car bomb killed 11 Iraqi gendarmes. Another convoy was attacked just south of Baghdad with rocket fire.

Of course, while the insurgency limps forward, the Iraqi democracy is finding its legs, right? Yesterday's U.K. Telegraph reported that the Iraqi national assembly degenerated into farce and chaos.

Iraqis caught a rare glimpse of their new parliament in action yesterday but were left surprised and disgusted as legislators failed to make any progress in naming a government almost two months after January's elections.

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Well, at least the oil revenues are continuing to finance the transition to a stable, peaceful, democracy friendly to the west...

Attackers have blown up a pipeline 60km west of Kirkuk, just a day after repairs to the route connecting the lucrative oil field to a major refinery in Baiji.
Northern Oil Company fireman Abd Allah Hamad Ali confirmed the morning attack on Sunday. "The pipeline was only just repaired yesterday, but it has been attacked again." Firemen and police were putting out the blaze, he said.
Oil exports from Kirkuk to Turkey have been shut down by incessant attacks.

Read It:

The myopic talking heads of television news can paint the prettiest pictures, can't they? It's pretty obvious that the tactic of the insurgency is to attack so-called "soft targets" rather than confront the well-armed coalition troops directly. Only a moron can ignore the big picture and infer that half as many soldiers dying in a particular month indicates "good news". No matter who bakes the bread, Bob, it's still a shit sandwich.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Plug Puller!

In his budget for fiscal 2006, starting next October, Mr. Bush proposed to cut Medicaid spending by an estimated $20.2 billion over five years. He also called for new tax breaks for Health Savings Accounts and small businesses providing employees with health coverage, which would cost Uncle Sam $7.4 billion. As a result, the net potential savings come to $12.8 billion over five years.

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This is the real neocon domestic agenda: cut taxes for the wealthy while eviscerating all government programs--other than those that equip us for perpetual war and corporate profits.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Who's Really Pulling The Plug?

Congressman Tom Delay, grandstanding prior to his indictment on corruption charges, took the bold step of referring to the husband of Terry Schaivo as a murderer. There's really no need for me to comment on the hypocrisy and idiocy of this comment, or the fact that President Bush passed the Futile Care Act in congress, that the "Uniter" has once again polarized the nation, or that the constitution is being trampled for political gain, that this whole debacle is deeply insulting to those who have had to deal with the terminal illnesses of friends or family,or that most Americans see through this hollow sham...It's been done so well by others.

Read It:

Of course, the mainstream press is busy portraying Bush as acting decisively on principle, rushing back from Texas to sign an executive order.

It's too bad the president didn't rush back to Washington to take care of business on August 6th, 2001 when he saw the presidential briefing entitled "Bin Laden determined to attack targets within the United States". Why this presidency has any support whatsoever is beyond me. The only conclusion I can reach is that most Bush supporters feel a close kinship with the braindead.

Who really supports a culture of life? Certainly not the government that sent 1,524 soldiers to die in a country that never attacked us, certainly not the government cutting benefits for veterans, certainly not the government that strives to eviscerate social security.

The new Bush Budget proposal would pull the plug on 1.3 billion dollars worth of law enforcement grants to states, would remove the feeding tube from 48 education programs totalling 4.3 billion, it would euthanize $440 million worth of Safe and Drug-Free School grants, 500 million in educational technology grants and 280 million in Upward Bound programs. How many lives will be cut short by these policies?

Eisenhower's warning at the end of his second term has never been more clearly illustrated:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Liberal Islam?

Dr. Amina Wadud apparently created quite a stir by leading a Muslim service in New York on Friday:

...a woman, Dr. Amina Wadud, led the Muslim service after another woman sounded the call to prayer wearing no headscarf. More than a hundred men and women knelt in adjacent rows, with no curtain to divide them. They were surrounded by a bustling group of newspaper reporters, photographers and television cameras. And outside the service, which was held at the Synod House of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, protesters held signs and cried out in disgust.

According to the article, Dr. Wadud first approached several mosques, all of which refused to host the event. Asara Q. Noumani, an organizer of the event, stated their intentions unequivocally: "The voices of women have been silenced by centuries of man-made traditions, and we're saying, 'No more! We're going to move from the back of the mosque to the front of the mosque."

Like the Catholic Church, and Christianity as a whole, the Muslim world struggles to deliniate the boundries between the spiritual and the cultural, and different branches of the faith have arrived at different conclusions. How much is the role of women in Islam a reflection of religion, and how much is it a reflection of culture superimposed upon religion? Can culture and religion be separated? Is it too much of a stretch to assume that many, if not most Muslims would be less dogmatic than their leadership? After all, most of my Catholic friends hold to beliefs at odds with the traditional church doctrine when it comes to many issues such as papal infallibility, birth control, capital punishment, etc...

Referring to the Koran, Andrea Elliot of the NYT reports,

Interpretations of the writings vary widely: some argue that the prophet gave permission to women to lead any kind of prayer, while others say that he meant to restrict the practice to prayer at home. The issue is complicated by the fact that men are required to attend Friday prayer whereas women are not.

Just like Christianity, I'm sure that there are plenty of religious authorities and zealots who claim to know every jot and tittle of God's will and are willing to impose their interpretation on everyone else. I've heard religious scholars, both Christian and Muslim, claim that Islam needs the equivalent of the Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation; that the power of the religious authorities needs to be challenged by individual Muslims listening to their own consciences.

Because of our fear of Islam and our tendency to listen to those who scream loudest, the general western perception of Islam is that it's a monolithic, top-down religion that asks its adherents to slavishly respond to its dictates. Based on my own experiences living in two primarily Muslim countries, I'm sure there is more diversity in Islamic belief and practice as is portrayed in our media. Of course, believing all Muslims are mindless religious zombies makes it easy to kill them and take their oil.

Read It:

News Overshadowed By The Michael Jackson Trial

On March 1, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First filed a historic lawsuit, Ali et al. v. Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense of the United States of America, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (the defendant's home state).

In all forms of media, there has been minimal coverage of the very existence of this legal action, and even less of the precisely documented charges, including the defendant's violations of American and international laws and the consequences of his continuing lawlessness.,hentoff,62266,6.html

War Contracts Probe: Refused, 191-236, to appropriate $5 million in HR 1268 for establishing a special congressional committee to probe how private contractors have spent taxpayer funds in Iraq and Afghanistan. The
$5 million was to have been transferred from Pentagon funds to the congressional budget. A yes vote was to open a congressional probe of war contracts.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Time To Fight

I'm dismayed, disgusted, and depressed by the legislative victories of the Bush Administration in the last few days. ANWAR will be opened up for drilling, we can expect more Mercury in our air, and the passage of an odious bankruptcy bill will blur the line between credit card companies and loan sharks. The future looks bleak on so many levels.

As I see it, we have two choices: We can piss and moan, or we can fight. I fully intend to give the rhetorical equivalent of a Belfast sixpack to anyone who attempts to take away my mother's social security; I pity the poor fool that attempts to weaken the Clean Water Act; my blogging will be tantamount to a pitbull on the pantleg of Bush Toady Norm Coleman's Senate career. I'm all about stickin' it to the man--but not in a Jeff Gannonesque sense.

Holding our leaders and the media accountable starts now, not on election day. Call your senators. Write letters. Organize. Turn your bummed out liberal friends into ornery,crotchety old bastards scrapping for a fight. Raise hell!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Give 'Em Hell, Harry!
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When republicans dethroned Senate minority leader Tom Daschle in 2004, they assumed they had pulled off a political coup second only to the re-election of the president. Now it seems that the defeat of Senator Milquetoast actually worked to our advantage.

Finally, the Democratic Party has a true leader in the Senate.

Majority leader Bill Frist and the Vice President are threatening us with the "nuclear option" of changing the senate rules in order to prohibit filibusters of judicial nominees. Because the Republicans can't get 60 votes for the president's extreme right wing nominees, they're trying to change the rules. True to form, if Democracy doesn't work for the Republican Party, they're more than willing to try something else, like Fascism, for instance. It's time we put a stop to it.

Harry Reid is willing to go toe-to-toe; a tactic which always works against these guys. They're backing down on Social Security, and we need to keep the momentum going. Reed's response deserves our support:

Democrats served notice Tuesday that they will slow or stop most Senate business if Republicans unilaterally change the rules to assure confirmation of President Bush's controversial court appointments.

Any such change would mark "an unprecedented abuse of power," Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, wrote Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee.

Read It:

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Deny, Deny, Deny, Admit, Excuse

For the first four years of the Bush administration, the White House has repeatedly denied sending suspected terrorists abroad to be tortured. White House communications director Dan Bartlett explained a few days ago that " every step of the way, President Bush and his administration has made very clear that we abide by the laws of our land and the treaty obligations we have," Bartlett said. "We will not torture here in America, and we will not export torture. That is unacceptable to this president, and something that we will not tolerate."

Now, faced with the mounting evidence that this standard talking point is a boldfaced lie, the administration is hiding behind a vanguard of lawyers while lying to the American people. We can't trust a single word they say, and instead must rely on the foreign press and governments that actually oppose torture to keep us informed.

Two Egyptians living in Sweden, Mohammad Al-Zery and Ahmed Agiza, were arrested by Swedish police and brought to an airport. An executive jet was waiting with a crew of mysterious masked men.

"America security agents just took over," says Tomas Hammarberg, a former Swedish diplomat who pressed for and got an investigation into how the Egyptians disappeared.

"We know that they were badly treated on the spot, that scissors and knives were used to take off their clothes. And they were shackled. And some tranquilizers were put in the back of them, obviously in order to make them dizzy and fall asleep."

After years of turning a blind eye to the issue, the U.S. media has suddenly become galvanized by the overwhelming proof that the ostensible U.S. position is the exact opposite of what actually occurs. In an interview with a CIA offical, Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes speaks with CIA official Mike Scheuer:

They don't have the same legal system we have. But we know that going into it," says Scheuer. "And so the idea that we're gonna suddenly throw our hands up like Claude Raines in 'Casablanca' and say, 'I'm shocked that justice in Egypt isn't like it is in Milwaukee,' there's a certain disingenuousness to that."

"And one of the things that you know about justice in Egypt is that people get tortured," says Pelley.

"Well, it can be rough. I have to assume that that's the case," says Scheuer.

But doesn't that make the United States complicit in the torture?

"You'll have to ask the lawyers," says Scheuer.

We're a pro-torture country now. Why can't a president who "Says what he means and means what he says" admit it?

Read it:
Self-Censorship: The Coporate Media Way

from Boing Boing:

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A U.N. commercial depicts American girls playing in a soccer match. A girl steps on a landmine and there's a big explosion. Kids get blown apart. CNN and other networks don't want to air the ad.

The explosion appears to kill and injure some girls, sparking panic and chaos among parents and other children. Shrieks of horror are heard through much of the spot, and a father is shown cradling his daughter's lifeless body, moments after celebrating a goal she had scored.

It closes with a tag line reading: "If there were landmines here, would you stand for them anywhere? Help the U.N. eradicate landmines everywhere."

Why won't you see this commercial on U.S. networks? It isn't because they're trying to play with monopoly money, but rather because the United States has 11 million APLs stockpiled--the third largest mine arsenal in the world. We're also one of only 14 countries that refuses to halt production of landmines.

To call into question any aspect of U.S. foreign policy is anethema to the corporate-controlled media. If we were really living in a democratic, capitalist nation, anyone who could afford to pay for an ad would be able to buy the airtime. How is it possible to air ads by the Swiftboat liars and not those of the United Nations? The only answer is corporate self-censorship.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

That's A Christ I Would Not Worship

One of the issues that I often find myself disagreeing with my fellow liberals about is religion. Bill Maher, for example, recently, and famously, commented:

"We are a nation that is unenlightened because of religion. I do believe that. I think that religion stops people from thinking. I think it justifies crazies. I think flying planes into a building was a faith-based initiative. I think religion is a neurological disorder."

While religion has often been used as a justification for such things as flying planes into the World Trade Center, starting crusades or jihads, or engaging in genocide, In my own life, I've witnessed religion motivating people to love one another, show compassion, and seek social justice. It's impossible to deny, for example, that the civil rights movement was deeply rooted in the gospels, as was the fight for abolition before it.

South Africa's anti-apartheid hero, Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Anti-Falwell, presents a more accurate portrait of the role of religion:

I keep having to remind people that religion in and of itself is morally neutral. Religion is like a knife. When you use a knife for cutting up bread to prepare sandwiches, a knife is good. If you use the same knife to stick into somebody's guts, a knife is bad. Religion in and of itself is not good or bad-it is what it makes you do...

Frequently, fundamentalists will say this person is the annointed of God if the particular person is supporting their own positions on for instance, homosexuality or abortion. I feel so deeply saddened about it. Do you really believe that the Jesus who was depicted in the Scriptures as being on the side of those who were vilified, those who were marginalized, that this Jesus would actually be supporting groups that clobber a group that is already persecuted? That's a Christ I would not worship. I'm glad that I believe very fervently that Jesus would not be on the side of gay bashers. To think that people say, as they used to say, that AIDS was God's punishment for homosexuality. Abominable. Abominable.

Read It:

Bill, we can agree to disagree on religion, but if liberals are going to regain their political clout, they must develop a political vision that appeals to the religious in American society rather than alienates them. On Jon Stewart's Daily Show, Jim Wallis began to articulate such a vision; one that can't help but appeal to both the religious and non-religous. Here's what he had to say about his experience on The Daily Show:

Well, it was really kind of funny. Jon and I made a nice connection on the show-I just liked him a lot. He said, "So, Jim, you like, want to apply religion, like the teachings of Jesus, like, to politics?" And I could feel like millions of his audience saying, "Oh no- Jon's got some wacky right-wing Evangelical. It's going to ruin my favorite show." And I said, "Well, Jon, I hardly think that Jesus' two first priorities would have been a capital gains tax cut and the occupation of Iraq." And the audience started to relax and think, "Yeah!" and cheered.

At one point, my favorite- I cited the 25th chapter of Matthew, where Jesus says, "I was hungry. I was thirsty. I was naked. I was sick. I was a stranger. I was in prison, and you didn't come to see me. You didn't minister to me". And they say, we didn't know- "When did we see you hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, a stranger, in prison?", And he (Jesus) says, "As you've done it to the least of these, you've done it to Me." And so the audience-this young audience-cheered for Matthew 25. I thought it was great.

Read The Whole Thing Here

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Quote of The Day

We were told Bush's invasion would be a cakewalk. We were told our troops would be greeted as liberators.
We were told that killing Uday and Qusay would change everything, that capturing Saddam would be the turning point.
We were told that the handover of sovereignty was the key, and we were told that elections last month were the light
at the end of the tunnel. Through it all, we were told everything but the truth. I just don't know how much more Bush's
kind of progress our troops can stand.

--Paul Begala,
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