Thursday, March 31, 2005

 

‘Intelligence’ Report Is Dead Wrong

US intelligence on Iraq was “dead wrong,” finds a new report on American intelligence failures. But in fact it’s this report which is dead wrong.

Just like its sibling, the 9/11 Commission report, this report is another whitewash job that puts the blame for “failures” on a comedy of errors, when in fact everything went according to plan. President Dubya and his ilk had decided from the very outset to invade Iraq; all the hysterical screaming about WMD and mushroom clouds was a pack of lies, which is now clumsily covered up by this report. We are told that Bush “reluctantly appointed the panel,” which is no doubt the opposite of the truth. Predictably, the lapdog media have run stories saying that the document is a blistering criticism of the intelligence community, and Dubya himself has praised it as a “sharp critique.” Of course he is happy because the panel let him off the hook and covered up his lies.

I suppose this report will get a book award and be sold at supermarket checkout counters, where the gullible American public will lap it up.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

 

Overactive Humanity

A new report describes how human activity is degrading the planet. Even if we discount the effects of climate destabilization (or even if we assume it is natural and not anthropogenic), the other impacts of human overactivity are quickly undermining the Earth’s ability to support life, including humanity.

Politicos argue that more and more economic growth is needed to lift the majority of humanity out of poverty, but that is trickle-down nonsense. There is plenty of wealth in the world; the problem is maldistribution. If rich nations stopped ripping off poor nations and if wealth were redistributed fairly around the world, there would be plenty to go around.

A further problem is that human activity has already exceeded planetary scale. We are like a grossly fat person who is eating himself out of house and home, and can’t fit into his clothes any more but has no larger sizes to wear. The world economy must be scaled down, and people must be encouraged to have smaller families (note I say “encouraged,” not “forced”). If the tremendous amount of wealth in the world is redistributed, everyone could at least get out of poverty and live with dignity. Better that everyone have the bare minimum of a dignified life, than a few living in luxury and the rest of humanity in squalor and poverty, which is what we now have.

I live in the midst of mind-boggling waste and extravagance. It’s obscene, but it continues because people in the developed nations have been given a false sense of entitlement by their leaders. “I am not a redistribution Democrat,” intoned John Kerry, one of America’s finest, indicating that he and his Republicrat brethren have no intention of redistributing wealth even within their own country. So you can bet that Third-World slum dwellers and peasants have precious little chance of advancing their station without a new politics.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

 

Where Has All the Money Gone?

As President Dubya and his counterparts in other countries continue to increase the tax burden on ordinary people like us, the corporations and the rich get off with paying less and less, and accumulate vast fortunes in offshore tax havens.

Meanwhile, the rest of us wonder where our next meal is coming from, or if we’ll still have an occupation tomorrow, and this while the tax authorities glad hand us and smile as they tell us we’re doing our part to support the nation by paying our taxes. It has been the same for ages: The poor support the rich.

“In the world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes,” wrote Benjamin Franklin, but thanks to the screw-the-poor world economic system, the rich are getting a leg up on the rest of us: They get out of most taxes, and can put off death longer because they can afford the best medical care.

I’ll give you one guess why politicians don’t change this system.

Monday, March 28, 2005

 

More Taser Action

A Florida newspaper reports that since 2003 police officers providing security at Central Florida schools have zapped 24 students with stun guns.

Officials justify the use of the devices saying they are safe, despite the high number of deaths reported to have been connected to their use. They also cite the need to “meet force with force,” but that is more an indication of the violent nature of American society than a justification for having such devices in schools.

As long as the US government justifies violence, preemptive attacks, and ever greater armaments as a way to solve problems, and as long as American culture glorifies violence, schools will need to have armed guards, and innocent children will be victimized.

This just pushes us farther down the slippery slope of the domestic arms race.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

 

Guns for Venezuela

Rummy has said that he “can’t imagine why Venezuela needs 100,000 AK-47s,” referring to a weapons sale by Russia to Venezuela.

Well, let me imagine: For protection against US aggression?

Friday, March 25, 2005

 

Guns for Teachers

To stop school shootings such as the recent Minnesota incident, the NRA claims that teachers should have guns to hold off shooters. Now that makes a lot of sense. And why not further stimulate the domestic arms race? We could use textbook money to issue stun guns and assault rifles to all teachers and school administrators, and post armed guards at strategic locations in and around all schools.

Rampagers might then just stay away from schools, and instead go on rampages in other places like businesses, supermarkets, or factories. Then we would have to arm everyone in those places, too. Not to mention private residences, where rampagers would strike if thwarted elsewhere.

Of course that is stupid, but it’s the logical extension of the NRA’s line of reasoning. Ultimately, everyone would have to pack some heat as insurance against being shot before sundown. Summer camp for children might turn into boot camp to give them firearms practice and to hold war games.

So, what to do? First, strict gun control. While not perfect, Japan’s system has some good points (I think the police have too much power in this regard). If gun owners were required to securely lock away their guns and ammunition when not in use, as Japanese gun owners are, Jeff Weise would not have had such ready access to weapons.

But more than anything else, the violence level in society — both domestic and international — must be reduced. As long as violence is regarded as a legitimate means of addressing grievances and solving problems, people will continue trying to get their hands on weapons and use them for these purposes, and institutionalized violence by states will continue unabated. The NRA is just pushing us farther down a slippery slope.

 

Aichi Expo: Techno-Corporate Wet Dream

I hate to sound too critical, because many of the exhibitors and visitors to the Aichi Expo are no doubt sincere people. And the “nature’s wisdom” theme certainly is attractive. But take a gander at the expo website and tell me you don’t notice something wrong.

Advanced technologies include the “Intelligent Multimode Transit System,” robots, a number of high-tech theaters including a “Laser Dream Theater,” and a maglev train. The “lifestyle of the future” offers “biomass tableware” (made of biodegradable resin so you can just throw it away — no more washing dishes!), a bio-lung, a hybrid communicator (a cross between a cell phone and personal computer), and what have you. Makes you want to jump right into the future.

Of course you’ll want to visit the Corporate Pavilion Zone and marvel at the gadgets and displays. I won’t go into the glitzy details, so look for yourself.

How are you going to get there? Travel just gets more and more convenient, and this exposition is no exception thanks to Chubu Centrair International Airport, which just opened recently.

So, what’s wrong with this picture? You guessed it: Where are they going to get the energy for this wonderful technological (and supposedly eco-friendly) future? Even if we are efficient, will there be enough resources and energy to allow the whole world to live this way?

I don’t want to be critical of the expo in particular, but it’s a handy example of how we are fooling ourselves into thinking that the party can not only go on forever, but get even bigger and better.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

 

Goodbye to the Industrial Lifestyle

I said it before, and I’ll say it again: Plant your garden now. Rolling Stone published an adaptation of The Long Emergency, which is a realistic look at what will happen in the near future.

Things are going to get pretty ugly. How ugly depends on whether cooler heads prevail. The fanatical Bush regime has shown itself willing to go to war for oil, and it will no doubt use nuclear weapons when the time comes. Do you relish war with China? Our transition would be so much easier if that money and effort were used to begin restructuring society. Instead, Bush is just exacerbating the problem, which will make America crash all the harder. Putting the brakes on the Bush program is the best thing that could happen to the US and the world right now.

Belief in abiotic oil, alien technology, free energy, or perpetual motion will not help you now, but changing your lifestyle, planting a big garden, and building mutually supportive local communities will.

 

Kennan’s Advice

James Carroll in the Boston Globe writes that following the advice of George Kennan would have brought us closer to peace and farther from the arms race. If Kennan’s views had prevailed, he writes, lots of bad things, such as the Vietnam War, would not have happened.

But statesmen can be such a mixed bag. Certainly Kennan counseled against the development and use of nuclear weapons, and said a lot of other things that made sense. But for contrast, I refer you to a document entitled “Policy Planning Study 23,” which was written by a team headed by Kennan. A quick read of the paragraph in the middle of page 524 will be enough to show what advice of Kennan has been most taken to heart by the US government.

And that’s why we’re able to live such extravagant lifestyles — unlike most of the rest of the world. Do you thank him or curse him? I’ll bet you have mixed feelings.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

 

Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too?

This article by Lester Brown sounds very encouraging because he’s telling us that we can have our cake and eat it, too. But when you think carefully about it, you realize that the chances of this happening are pretty darn slim.

In many cases, I would of course defer to Lester Brown. But just let me make a few remarks on this article.

First of all, the political obstacles alone reduce the chances of getting very far with renewables. President Dubya says we need an energy bill that encourages consumption, and the rest of Washington either agrees or is browbeaten into not pointing out that Dubya is off his rocker. They want to spend money on weapons, not on windmills. But for the sake of argument, let’s say this political obstacle does not exist.

If Americans would use hybrid automobiles, that would indeed save a lot of fuel. But we’re going to need a lot of energy to make the cars that people are going to buy and replace, and to make and install the windmills. Is Brown really factoring in all the fossil-fuel energy needed to build and maintain these cars and infrastructure?

Brown talks about the “need for modernizing our antiquated set of regional grids, and replacing them with a strong national grid,” but that is the opposite of what is needed. A national grid would act as a huge power drain because pumping electricity long distances entails considerable loss. It is also much more vulnerable. America needs small, localized grids. Trying to solve the problem of a power shortage in one area by bringing power in from another area is the old-school approach. The right way to eliminate the problem of localized power shortages is a combination of conservation and diversification. Conservation means that lifestyles and social systems change so as to use as little energy as possible, and diversification means installing a number of different renewable sources (backed up by storage) to even out the power flow.

Those who (correctly, of course) advocate renewables have to be careful that renewable energy just doesn’t end up being a supplement for fossil fuels, which would increase consumption. Renewables must be sold as a replacement. But since they cannot support a system built on hydrocarbons, the pitch for renewables has to be coupled with the exhortation to consume less. If you try to run an oil-based economy on renewables, you will of course have constant energy shortages and blackouts.

The word “conservation” doesn’t show up anywhere in Brown’s article. Conservation — lots of it — is needed to ensure that the world has any kind of decent future. By telling us that more efficient automobiles can make us independent even with “no change in the number of vehicles, no change in miles driven,” I assume that Brown is trying to show us what amazing things better efficiency can do, but most Americans are going to assume it means they don’t have to mend their profligate ways — and that is sending the wrong message: You can have your cake and eat it, too.

What always comes to mind when I consider energy issues is American profligacy. Our leaders have done us a singular disservice by building a wasteful system and telling us that it’s our God-given right to consume extravagantly.

“The American way of life” has to be redefined, and fast. What we need more than anything else right now is some serious belt-tightening.

Friday, March 18, 2005

 

Rejoice, for Robo-Soldier Is Here

Your tax dollars at work. Doing what? Perhaps you thought you were paying taxes to feed the poor, create and upgrade infrastructure, fund public education, and otherwise provide for the general welfare.

Actually, you are mainly funding the war machine, and now you are buying a new way to kill people: the Robo-Soldier.

The rationale seems to be that using robots will save the lives of American soldiers. But we could save a lot more lives and a lot more money — apparently each robot costs you $230,000 — by stopping the war machine.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

 

The Protean Rationale

Bush regime reasons for doing things seem to change faster than the weather. Just look at how the rationale for invading Iraq has changed. First it was WMD. When no WMD were found (surprise!), it was something else. Now the US is supposedly bringing democracy to Iraq. If they mean American-style democracy with fixed elections, bought votes, whole groups of voters disenfranchised, and front-runner candidates who stand for the same rip-off warmongering system, then Allah help the Iraqis.

So what’s the latest excuse for running on a rampage around the world? It’s “tyranny.” Yes, you read that correctly. I know you must be doubting your eyes. America’s new mission is a war on tyranny. So expect to hear less about the “war on terror” and more about the new “war on tyranny.” Of course anyone with half a brain never thought Bush was out to get terrorists, anyway, but that’s another story.

Meanwhile, Dubya’s war on the American people continues unabated.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

 

Raising a Stink

You’ll recall I mentioned the island of Takeshima (known as “Tokto” to the Koreans) a while ago. Takeshima consists of two islands and some rocky reefs, and has long been a simmering territorial issue between Japan and South Korea. But lately, along with other disquieting statements and actions, Japan has suddenly started making vociferous claims on this real estate. The latest move is the passage of an ordinance (this page in Japanese) by Shimane Prefecture, the Japanese state closest to Takeshima, declaring February 22 to be “Takeshima Day.”

This had the predictable effect on the Koreans: loud objections and a notification by Kyongsangbuk-do Province, Shimane’s sister state, that it is cutting off exchanges. Originally the islands were uninhabited, but the Koreans have had people there since 1954.

So, why suddenly raise a stink over Takeshima? Combined with Japan’s other nationalistic noises, the work on rewriting the constitution to legalize Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, and even further integrating itself into the US global strategy, my guess is that it is part of a program to increase friction with certain Asian neighbors, and thereby create a boogeyman to scare the populace and facilitate changes including a political shift to the right, a bigger military, and more repressive legislation.

Time will tell how right I am.

Monday, March 14, 2005

 

Telling It Like It Is

This ZNET article lays out the case against Bush’s nominee for EPA administrator, Stephen Johnson. Apparently, Johnson supports human testing of chemicals. So, do you have to read any further to know that he is unfit for the job? And yet the article goes on to offer a whole litany of horrible stuff about this guy. It’s sickening to read.

So what gets me about this article? It’s the beginning of the second paragraph, which reads, “Yet his record as the Assistant Administrator for Toxic Substances casts serious doubt on whether he is suited to lead the E.P.A.”

“Serious doubt”? Obviously, Johnson is totally unfit for the position. I wouldn’t trust him to be dog catcher, for fear of what he would do to the dogs. I expect punch-pulling and waffling expressions from the lapdog media, but not from ZNET or other publications like it.

I don’t want to sound too critical. After all, I couldn’t put out a publication like Z Magazine even if I were paid full-time to do it. But I do wish for a little more candor. Obviously, someone with this record is totally unfit for a position that requires the public’s trust, and is financed with taxes.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

 

Minister of Propaganda Returns

The Washington Post reports that Karen Hughes will return to her job as Dubya’s minister of propaganda. I suspected this would happen. Instead of doing good in the world, the US government hires “public relations” flacks to make it look as though the US is a force for good. And they do it with our tax money, just as with Arnie and his propaganda videos.

If governments truly did good things, they would not need propaganda, right? As any businessperson will tell you, the best “advertising” of all is a satisfied customer, but businesses who betray their customers’ trust must launch PR offensives to burnish their images. The same holds for governments. Do good, and people around the world will sing your praises; do bad, and you must resort to constant propaganda.

But there’s something else even more telling. The Washington Post article writes matter-of-factly: “Through exchange programs, foreign language media and other initiatives, the public diplomacy campaign aims to promote American values of democracy, tolerance and pluralism abroad while combating negative images propagated in many parts of the world.”

Why call it a “public diplomacy campaign”? Why say it aims to promote “democracy, tolerance and pluralism”? IMHO, the campaign aims to spread Bush regime propaganda, and has nothing to do with democracy or reality. What looks like “news” here is actually nothing more than regurgitated government propaganda. It’s no wonder so many people are disgusted by the lapdog media.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

 

Plant Your Crops Now

Spring is coming to the northern hemisphere, and higher fuel prices are going to be coming to the whole world. But don’t expect this to be the result of mere petronoia; more and more people are coming to believe in peak oil. So take this opportunity to start your kitchen garden and get into organic gardening in a big way. Raising your self-sufficiency rate is the best thing you can do now.

Of course, there are those who claim that peak oil is a scam meant to drive up oil prices so that elites can make a killing, and that actually there will always be plenty of oil because it’s produced abiotically in the Earth’s mantle. While I grant there is a small possibility they are right, that is just a feel-good scenario that does not change the reality of what is happening: fossil fuels are going to be harder and harder to come by, and the oil-based global economy is going to grind down. If you depend on food that is transported from hundreds or thousands of miles away, you can start expecting that flow of food to slow, if not stop.

People who belong to the “abiotic oil” and “peak oil scam” schools of thought can tap away at their computers all day arguing their positions, but that’s not going to induce the world’s major nations to stop the mad scramble for energy and industrial resources that has begun in earnest.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

 

Giving the Finger to the UN

Why on earth would Bush nominate the UN-bashing, treaty-hating scofflaw and uber-hawk John Bolton as US ambassador to the United Nations?

To undermine and subvert the UN, of course.

 

Bankruptcy

It appears Bush will get his new bankruptcy law, which the credit card and financial industry has wanted for a long time.

Bush and his rich finance industry friends claim that it’s too easy for Americans to walk away from their debts, but let’s look at the root of the debt problem.

First, the whole American socioeconomic system is structured to encourage lots of debt. Americans are exhorted to buy and consume with abandon, and credit companies practically shove credit cards down your throat. The combination of easy credit, the constant high-pressure exhortation to consume, and high interest rates (averaging about 18.9%) is bound to put many Americans in precarious financial straits, and indeed, the average American has $8,562 of credit card debt.

Second, the poor economic situation has created great financial insecurity for many Americans, and under Bush it’s just getting worse. Add to that declining health insurance coverage and other problems. Mix in the exhortation to increase personal debt for heavy consumption, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster — or a sweet deal, depending on your point of view.

What’s happened is that elites have forced many Americans into a situation where they are saddled with heavy debts, have low income, enjoy little job security, have no health insurance, and hardly any savings. Even Social Security is in danger. And now the elites are going to deny the “little people” one exit they have from this financial hell. We are seeing the creation of what Warren Buffett calls the “sharecropper society” and what Paul Krugman calls the “debt-peonage society.” In other words, it’s the next step in the elite program to make America into a new feudal society with a super-rich aristocracy and a vast population of serfs.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

 

How to Help the Terrorists

Thanks to the NRA and gun nuts, anyone is able to get weapons — including assault rifles — and go on shooting sprees. And thanks to these same people — who claim that when guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns — even terrorist suspects can buy weapons legally.

The Bush regime’s logic has me stumped in many areas, and this is another. Law enforcement agencies can secretly spy on just about the whole gamut of American citizens’ personal lives, but Bush’s boogeyman terrorists can legally walk into a gun shop, plunk down the money, and walk out with assault weapons. Incredibly, the record of such a purchase is destroyed after only 24 hours. Hello! Anybody home?

A couple of points come to mind. First, it’s another indication of how a right-wing lobby has control of this government. But you knew that already.

Second, it’s yet another indication casting doubt on just how serious BushCo is about getting the “terrorists.” Bush attacks Afghanistan, ostensibly to get the Taliban out of power and nab Osama. After a big show, Osama flies the coop and after a while Bush admits he doesn’t care where he is, and doesn’t even care. Meanwhile, poppies are back in production, big time. It makes you think that one of the reasons for attacking Afghanistan was to get the dope flowing again.

Then Bush attacks Iraq, turning that country into one of the biggest terrorist recruiting and training areas in the history of the world. Nice job. Indeed, the most ineffective way to fight terrorism — on the battlefield — is the method chosen by BushCo, and into which America’s treasury has been drained, along with billions borrowed from other countries and future generations of Americans.

We know that FBI agents have been stymied in their efforts to investigate terrorist suspects. Remember Kathleen Rowley? Remember all the stonewalling into investigating 9/11? And now we find that steps have not been taken to keep assault weapons out of the hands of “terrorist suspects.” Indeed, it almost seems as if the government is actually trying to increase the number of terrorists and facilitate their efforts. Is there really a “war on terrorism”?

Monday, March 07, 2005

 

Oily Mess

Previously this blog questioned whether cheap oil is a good thing. Today I find on TruthOut a good essay on the ramifications of the oil economy. In fact, I was surprised to find such a good essay on a site that still exhibits a kind of childish faith in the Democratic Party (which is fully behind the rotten system that Pitt rails against). In fact, the essay is much better than the drivel from the New York Times and Washington Post that is the staple at TruthOut.

 

Nukes Are for Joking

Remember Representative Sam Johnson of Texas? The guy who said he wanted to nuke Syria? Well, apparently there is no need to get worried about him taking any rash action, because the latest report is that he was just “kind of joking.”

What a relief!

 

Compassionate Conservatives

More money for war and killing, less for those in need. Republican budget proposals call for getting more money for war by taking funds originally earmarked for reconstruction in Afghanistan and even debt relief for countries hit by the tsunami. Remember all that bragging about how generous America is?

Interestingly, White House budget office spokesman Noam Neusner is quoted as saying, “We are going to continue to work with Congress to ensure support for the president's proposal, which will help our troops fight and win the war on terror.” But how will it ever be “won”? Right from the outset Bush administration officials have been telling us that the “war on terror” won’t even end in our lifetimes. At the same time, this open-ended war has already broken the bank in just two years. But they’re telling us we can keep this up for the indefinite future. I fail to see the logic here, unless it’s the logic of making a fast buck while running the country into the ground.

Speaking of compassion, check out this report on the treatment of veterans after they get back home.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

 

Warren Warns

Warren Buffett warns that the US$ is in for another tumble and says Americans are “spending junkies” who might turn into a nation of “sharecroppers.”

 

Big Brother Expands Reach

NPR reports that the Department of Homeland Security is running an experiment in eight cities using ankle bracelets that track aliens applying to stay in the US. What’s next?

It was only a short time ago that a California school was embroiled in controversy over a system used to track students. Fortunately, that program has since been dismantled because of a public outcry.

But these and other efforts to track every movement of each citizen will continue to challenge privacy and freedom.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

 

Wage Peace

Watch this video. What an incredible waste of life. Those who make war must certainly insulate themselves from the horror and insanity of it all. Or perhaps they have hearts of stone. Or both. I can’t look at images like this without being overcome with not just grief, but with a vast emptiness.

War brings such unspeakable suffering and destruction to so many, and all for the greed of a mere handful. When will it all end?

Friday, March 04, 2005

 

America’s Double Standard, Again

In response to the US State Department’s annual human rights report, the US itself has received a barrage of criticism, most notably from China. While China of course can’t cackle too loudly on this subject, it and other countries are totally justified in pointing out what is a common theme in this blog: America’s double standard.

A survey of US history shows that the land of the free and home of the brave does not have a particularly boastful record when it comes to observing human rights. And the situation is getting worse by the day.

China’s Human Rights Record of the US in 2004 is indeed a sobering look at America’s shabby treatment of people, even its own citizens. It certainly makes a mockery of the pious and self-righteous pronouncements of US leaders. The State Department evidently has no sense of shame, and the Bush administration clearly has not noticed the giant log sticking out of its eye.

Why can’t America live up to its ideals? The world would be a far better place if it did.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

 

Another Hi-Tech Torture Device?

Speaking of hi-tech torture with stun devices, the US military is reportedly developing a weapon that can cause insufferable pain from 2 km away. Although it will supposedly be used to control rioters, the potential for abuse is very great. It’s easy to guess that this will be used to fell crowds of demonstrators (who will be called “rioters” or “terrorists”) and for torture.

As long as it doesn’t leave marks...

 

Christian Compassion

Republican Representative Sam Johnson of Texas has apparently called for nuking Syria. What’s more, he said this in a church, after which it is reported that the crowd “roared with applause.” Wow. Now that’s what I call being really Christian.

The curious thing is, the more “Christian” these right-wing hate-mongers claim to be, the less they are. I challenge any of them — starting with President Dubya — to live their lives as Jesus commanded.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

 

Arming for Self-Defense

The news that police Tasered a man twice in a salad bar dispute has again raised serious questions about the use of stun guns. Reports that Taser is considering the sale of “consumer” models is even more alarming.

The potential for abuse is huge, and you know it’s going to happen. Even law enforcement personnel will tend to overuse such equipment in confidence that victims will not be harmed. And of course such equipment is readily pressed into service for unquestionably evil purposes: Amnesty International reports that stun equipment of various kinds is used for torture and abuse.

There is also huge potential for ordinary street crime. Armed with stun weapons, muggers and liquor store robbers won’t hesitate to subdue their victims as they will not be charged with homicide even if caught.

Ultimately, this comes down to the issue of arming oneself for protection against people who are already armed. If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns, right? Although on a much smaller scale, it is the arms race all over again. Both international and human society should be trying to reduce weapons and violence instead of sliding farther down the slippery slope of “arming for self-defense.”

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