the watch
bush lied, people died. escalate nonviolence.

Evict Bush!

Saturday, July 19, 2003  

Mercenaries Tell No Tales?

A while ago I posted a link to a BuzzFlash interview with Dan Briody, who's written a book on the activities of the Carlyle Group. Now that outspoken civil servants have made quite a bit of trouble for Blair's government, check out this part again:

...BUZZFLASH: I recall that reading in the British papers that Tony Blair was considering privatizing a portion of the intelligence apparatus in Britain, and that the Carlyle Group was going to be subcontracted to do some of that.

DAN BRIODY: He did, in fact. The new company is called Qinetiq. It’s spelled Q-I-N-E-T-I-Q. It’s the research arm of the ministry of defense in the U.K., which is essentially equivalent to DARPA [the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] here in the U.S. And the Carlyle Group was part of that transaction, so they own part of Qinetiq. It was a very controversial transaction in the U.K., obviously. I mean, if you could try to imagine a foreign company coming in and buying DARPA from the United States. It’s unimaginable. And particularly a company that’s so stockpiled with very powerful former politicians. ...

Think maybe it's looking like a better idea all the time to have more people working for them who won't feel obliged to speak up out of some perverse sort of loyalty to their country?

posted by Natasha at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK |

Botany Trivia

California's pine species boast the tallest (California Redwood, Sequoia sempervirens), heaviest (Giant Sequoia, Sequoiadendron giganteum), and oldest (Bristlecone Pine, Pinus longaeva) known living organisms.* But they also have another record in their ranks, one for the largest pinecones:

...Native only to California, these cones are carefully harvested and collected over a period of several years. These giant cones have an elegant curve and hawk like talons, beautiful natural or shelaquered (giving them a lovely preserved shine), they can reach weights of up to 5-8 pounds and lengths of a foot and a half! ...

As I can personally attest, handling one of the heavy little buggers is like picking up a porcupine shaped brick, and don't get me started on the sap. These trees, and the cones, positively ooze with thick, sticky, pale yellow goop. When they fall, they have tremendous potential to do damage.#

And what kind of pine is it? Why, a Coulter Pine (Pinus coulteri), of course ;)

#..."We try not to put picnic tables under Coulter pine trees because, if you get hit by a cone in the head, it could be fatal," he said. ...

* With the possible exception of certain fungi, as some mycelial mats may possibly be older and heavier than even these giant trees. But it's so hard to tell with fungi.

posted by Natasha at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK |

Recommended Reading

The farmer posts an excellent set of excerpts on Italian fascism over at Eschaton.

Check out the Bush Lied - People Died memorabilia store, and pick up something special.

Billmon writes about Tony Blair's white man's burden speech to congress, and clarifies (in case anyone were still uncertain about this point) why it's still a bad idea to launch wars with impunity.

Tristero comments on Eric Alterman's analysis of The Smoking Sentence.

Wampum has the good links and commentary on the Cheney Energy Task Force story, pointing out pieces by Tom Tommorrow and a Judicial Watch interview with Bill Moyers. She will be joining the Blogathon on behalf of Cure Autism Now, so go support a good cause.

A Rational Animal on they're not liars, just incompetent. Whew. I was starting to get worried there. Also, sponsor her for the Blogathon and support Relief International.

Go to Pandagon to get the goods on the new and improved tax cut job creation plan. We have increased the quota of bootlaces and the rations of chocolate, ladies and gentlemen. Also, we take a look at the transcript of the exchange that led House Republicans to call the police on a 71 year old representative from California. Finally, sponsor Jesse's blogathon efforts on behalf of Amnesty International.

From PLA, Bill O'Reilly wants you to believe that our government has a Rumplestiltskin department that can spin strawmen into gold. Also, he notes what Jonah Goldberg said about presidential lies back before there was a Republican Liar-in-Chief.

If you read this via Atrios: "Still, he and other Pentagon officials said, they are studying the lessons of Iraq closely — to ensure that the next U.S. takeover of a foreign country goes more smoothly", you might have been wondering (as I was) who exactly we're practicing to invade. Sisyphus has some ideas.

From Kos, where everything is good (as usual), there's a particularly troubling story guaranteed to bring "the tinfoil hat people from the woodwork" that the suspected BBC source for the allegations of "sexed up" dossiers has been found dead. Reading down in the linked BBC article, it turns out that their conservatives have learned a few tricks of blame misdirection from watching the Bushies:

...Robert Jackson, the Conservative MP in whose constituency Dr Kelly lived, said the "responsibility of the BBC should not go unmentioned" in the case.

"The pressure was significantly increased by the fact the BBC refused to make it clear he was not the source," he said. ...

Anyway, I'm back to the books, right after I stop by my kitchen for a tinfoil hat.

posted by Natasha at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK |

Friday, July 18, 2003  

Why we went to war

Uggabugga has a really exceptional piece reporting on a speech from Joseph Wilson (the Ambassador who debunked the claim that Iraq recently approached Niger to purchase uranium). Wilson has one point that needs to be repeated again and again about the responsibility of the US military (emphasis quiddity's & mine).

The question really comes down to whether it is the job of American soldiers to go over and liberate Iraqi people. And the argument that I would make is that every time we've had this debate - and it happens every four years when we do the Quadrennial Review - we conclude that it is the role of the American military to defend the national security of the United States. We have other organizations. We have other tools. We won the Cold War. We liberated Eastern and Central Europe without killing Rumanians, Bulgarians, Poles, Czechs, Slavs. It takes a little more patience. It takes a little more creativity. People in the intelligence community, people in the diplomatic community, people in the economic sanctions community, people in the political community, have to work a lot harder. It doesn't show up on your television screens as "Shock and Awe," the burning of Baghdad at night. Or the firebombing of Dresden. But it yields results. But this administration could not be patient.

Please read that speech. Wilson is right to be angry. I am too! I want this administration to be held accountable for their lies, for how they have tried to undermine our constitution and our democracy, and the deaths that occurred under their regime without benefit to our safety or our ideals.

Back in March, retired Gen. Merrill A. "Tony" McPeak suggested that we require the Presidential candidates take an IQ test before declaring their candidacy. Yes. please! It would prevent the "cult of bush" syndrome we are fighting today.

posted by Mary at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK |

Questions for Blair

Yesterday, Blair came to the United States to stand proudly with George Bush in his part of conquering Iraq and to lecture the Congress that they had a duty to bring order to the world. Wonderful.

Blair says he believes this war was part of a mission and that destiny requires the US to act. And he believed that history would forgive a mistake in starting this war:

Can we be sure that terrorism and weapons of mass destruction will join together? Let us say one thing: If we are wrong, we will have destroyed a threat that at its least is responsible for inhuman carnage and suffering. That is something I am confident history will forgive.

Question 1: Where are the WMD? If the threat was so imminent, then shouldn't we have found something by now? Why would the world forgive a preemptive war that was started on lies when the result was to make the entire world less safe?

Blair also said that the Niger-Iraq connection was relevant because Niger had sold nuclear material to Iraq in the 1980's.

And one interesting fact, I think, people don't generally know, in case people should think that the whole idea of a link between Iraq and Niger was some invention: In the 1980s we know for sure that Iraq purchased around about 270 tons of uranium from Niger. So I think we should just factor that into our thinking there.

Question 2: Then why isn't the fact that the US and the west also sent Iraq ingredients for MWD relevant?

U.S. Diplomatic and Commercial Relationships with Iraq, 1980 - 2 August 1990: Overview

  • Items sent from the U.S. during the Reagan and Bush Administrations that helped Iraq's non-conventional weapons programs and that were shipped to known military industrial facilities include:
    o Computers to develop ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons;[59] machine tools and lasers to extend ballistic missile range;[60] graphics terminals to design and analyze rockets;[61] West Nile Fever virus, a known potential BW agent, sent by the U.S. government's Centers for Disease Control (CDC);[62] the agents for botulism, tetnus, and anthrax.[63]
  • One study lists 207 firms from 21 countries that contributed to Iraq's non-conventional weapons program during and after the Iran-Iraq war. E.g., West German (86); British (18); Austrian (17); French (16); Italian (12); Swiss (11); and American (18).[64]
  • Throughout the U.S. exports to Iraq, several agencies were supposed to review items relevant to national security or that could be diverted for a nuclear program. The reviewers included the SD, DOD, Energy Department, Subgroup on Nuclear Export Coordination (included representatives from Commerce Dept., Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), the intelligence community, and DOD).[65] Sometimes CD did not send items to reviewers. On other occasions, reviewers objected, and CD still approved the items. Stephen Bryen, Deputy Under Secretary of DOD for Trade Security Policy during the second Reagan Administration, claimed that the DOD objected to 40% of applications that CD actually sent to DOD for review. Compare with a 5% DOD objection rate to dual-use technology applications for export to the U.S.S.R. during that same time period.[66]

Blair also stands by the British has additional evidence that Saddam was trying to get nuclear material from Iraq.

Question 3: Then why in March, did the British tell the IAEA that the only evidence they used to back this charge was the Niger documents?

The IAEA asked the U.S. and Britain if they had any other evidence backing the claim that Iraq tried to buy uranium. The answer was no.

I know I'd like to have some answers to these questions before Blair backs our Beloved Leader for his next war to teach the world the values of peace and freedom.

posted by Mary at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK |

Thursday, July 17, 2003  

Economic News Review

This morning I woke to good news. The group that decides when recessions begin and end have said the recession is officially over and, by gosh, its been over for a while. They determined that the recession actually ended in November, making it one of the shortest recessions ever.

Now all we have to do is to wait for that 4% growth that the White House and Alan Greenspan tells us is just around the corner.

I know that we in Oregon are very happy to know that the economy has been growing. We expect that it will sometime make a dent in the 8.5% unemployment rate we are enjoying under President Bush's watch.

Speaking about other good economic news on the radio. The Bush White House is quite sanguine about the booming deficit. John Bolten, head of the OMB, says that is all "manageable". And you know, it is all that excessive spending on social programs that is causing the problem.

A sharply different perspective comes from Jonathan Collegio, spokesman for Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative group. In his view, Big Government spending programs are the culprit. He cited bloated budgets for the Departments of Education, Transportation and Health and Human Services, increases in spending for such programs as Head Start, and a farm bill that he called a "disgrace."

Collegio said the government could save, over the course of a decade, $13 billion by eliminating food stamp "payment errors," $33 billion by eliminating similar errors in payments from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and $121 billion by stopping Medicare fraud. ("Medicare fraud is huge," he said.)

I can hardly wait for the next tax cut we'll see out of the White House for next year as they stick to their annual tax-cut strategy. Grover Norquist is probably auctioning off who will be the lucky recipients for it right now.

George Bush did promise to do for America what he did for Texas. It's just that we get to enjoy the results of his policies while he is still in the White House rather than having to wait until he moved on.

Now if you really want to learn something about what all of this means, visit MaxSpeak who says that his group measures the economic cycle by when the unemployment numbers start to change. Under their rules, the recession doesn't seem to be over yet.

posted by Mary at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, July 15, 2003  

Odds & Ends

One of the ways the radical right is moving the country to the right is by undermining the public's trust in the institutions that serve the country. The main way they do this is by framing and focusing on wedge issues that for many people seem like common sense positions. They've created a crisis of confidence in our schools, our universities and our government. Other tactics have been to repeat over and over again a particular argument so that it finally becomes perceived as true (ie: only lazy people are on welfare, public schools are failing, government regulations are bad, etc.). They are still talking about the Liberal Media when it is pretty clear that if there is one, it is a pretty marginal part of the media system which is now dominated by big corporations and big money. One area that they have not been quite so successful in converting to the conservative world view is in the realm of the progressive religious organizations. Well, perhaps it would be good not to be too complacent about this. The Right Christians writes today about how an innocuous religious coalition with many progressives on their board is actually getting funded by Scaife, and the president of this coalition fits in very nicely with the religious right. It seems like time to find out more about what is happening with this group and who is setting its agenda.

For a bit of humor, drop in on Ruminate This and check out Bush's careful attention to detail. [BTW: Isn't it nice to have Lisa back again after her move?]

Tristero has an eloquent post about Graham Greene's The Quiet American. What does it mean to be moral? Greene has always been a writer that illuminates this question well. As Tristero says: [This book] is must reading right now.

Gee, does the WaPo even read its paper before writing its editorials? In tomorrow's paper is an incredible story by Walter Pincus about how by March 8th, every piece of evidence that the Bushies used to claim that Saddam had a nuclear program to worry about had been debunked. So what does the lead editorial say?

Wait for the facts
A COUPLE OF questions have crystallized about the Bush administration's handling of intelligence information on Iraq. First, were U.S. and allied intelligence agencies wrong when they reported that Saddam Hussein continued to possess weapons of mass destruction and the means to produce them? Second, did the Bush administration deliberately distort the intelligence reports to convince Americans that war was necessary? A yes to the first of those questions would confirm a major failure by U.S. intelligence, one that would cause serious damage to U.S. foreign policy and demand a strict accounting of what went wrong. If the second supposition proved true, those war opponents and Democratic presidential candidates who claim a major presidential scandal is unfolding might find some traction. For the moment, however, the answer to the first question is not yet known, though the failure of U.S. forces to find banned weapons is disturbing. And so far there is no hard evidence that President Bush or his top aides knowingly falsified the case for war.

My question is, how many facts do you have to wait for before we have a formal investigation?

Update: One more classic piece of humor that I couldn't resist sharing is from Josh Marshall who posted this letter from a reader:


I would like you and your readers to keep open the possibility that the moon may in fact be made of cheese, or at least parts of it. The Apollo missions to the moon only covered a small fraction of the surface area of the moon, excluding large, unexamined areas that may in the future turn out to be made of cheese. Remember, absense of evidence doesn't mean absense of possibility.

-Paul S. [named omitted by editor]

As Josh says, "Good point..."

posted by Mary at 11:17 PM | PERMALINK |

Monday, July 14, 2003  

Essential Reading

Wampum wonders if Howard Dean really is electable outside the somewhat narrow slice of society constituted by liberal netizens.

Emma at Notes on the Atrocities highlights an article stating that the CIA had already pulled the Niger uranium story from a speech. One that was delivered a few months before the SOTU. Also, it seems that even amateur doomsayers have been unfortunately vindicated.

From the Left Coaster, the multiple sources story the British coughed up on pain of humiliation has begun to unravel with a wicked quickness.

There's loads of good stuff up at Kos, but here's a sampler: Tony Blair now seeks to grant a coalition of western nations the pwer to pre-emptively invade any country for their own good, because it worked so great this last time. Bush lied, they died. Fight the lies, give through ePatriot.

Talk Left indicates that the LAPD has finally started to wonder what they were gaining from behaving like an occupying army, and about time. Also, Howard Dean had a pretty poor record as governor for defendants' rights, and would probably not be a reform candidate in this area. (Note to wingnuts: A defendant is someone who has been accused of a crime, and the term is by no means to be construed as interchangeable with the word 'criminal.')

Billmon takes us on another wonderful newspeak lesson, and added his view of the recent Greider pronouncement.

Magpie on the trend of musicians to bail on the major record labels and sell directly to the listener.

A little while ago, I asked Al-Muhajabah to clarify something about the Islamic position on the study of nature and science, and she responded with a wealth of interesting references. Also, as she points out, Kucinich will be in Seattle.

The Guardian: The UK Parliament is having a blogger's summit. Jack Straw says, 'they believed us at the time'. A sixth of British homes could be wind powered by 2010. The America that idolizes immigration isn't too keen on immigrants. A columnist speaks about how war and the curtailment of civil liberties was sold to the US in an advertising fueled climate of fear, and indicates that yes, unfortunately, people outside the US do indeed read Ann Coulter's writing:

...Of course, Coulter's column does not reflect the mainstream of US opinion. But it offers a telling illustration of the way that fear can drive people to say and do things that make them feel brave and powerful while actually making them less safe by fanning the flames of intolerance and violence.

Shortly after Coulter's column appeared, it resurfaced on the website of the Mujahideen Lashkar-e-Taiba - one of the largest militant Islamist groups in Pakistan - which works closely with al-Qaida. At the time, the Lashkar-e-Taiba site was decorated with an image that depicted a hairy, monstrous hand with claws in place of fingernails, from which blood dripped on to a burning globe of planet earth. A star of David decorated the wrist of the hairy hand, and behind it stood an American flag. The reproduction of Coulter's column used bold, red letters to highlight the sentence that said to "invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity". To make the point even stronger, the webmaster added a comment: "We told you so. Is anyone listening out there? The noose is already around our necks. The preparation for genocide of ALL Muslims has begun ... The media is now doing its groundwork to create more hostility towards Islam and Muslims to the point that no one will oppose this mass murder which is about to take place. Mosques will be shut down, schools will be closed, Muslims will be arrested, and executed. There may even be special awards set up to kill Muslims. Millions and millions will be slaughtered like sheep. Remember these words because it is coming. The only safe refuge you have is Allah."...

Feel safer yet? Well, go read the rest of the article.

BTW: If you live outside the US, and are reading this, I renounce Ann Coulter and all her works. Her writing is a trick and a trap devis-ed by Satan to lead us astray. [The previous sentence is meant to be read quickly, with the word 'devised' uttered as though it had three syllables.] Our only excuse for her is that it is not, in fact, a crime to merely be a lying, vicious, hypocritical partisan hack. Because as you probably know, we have enough people in prison in this country already. Anyway, how else would Republicans find press lackeys if all the suitable candidates were enjoying the hospitality of the state?

posted by Natasha at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK |

Sunday, July 13, 2003  

Bill Gates: Doing Good

Today's NY Times has a very interesting article about Bill Gates and his philanthropy. The transformation of yesterday's Bill Gates, the man who would conquer the world by selling software, to today's Bill Gates, the man who now spends considerable time trying to do something about the world's worst diseases has been fascinating to follow. Bill Gates has found a cause and this cause is improve the health of the world, one child at a time. Some highlights from the article:

  • The Gates Foundation has pledged $3.2 billion to improving health in the developing world. (This constitutes half of the grants given by the foundation and 10% of the overall assets of the foundation.)
  • Over 180 million vaccations have been delivered since 2000 through the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization which results in over 100,000 lives saved.
  • The approach the Gates Foundation uses is "innovative, ambitious, and bold".
  • 80% of the contributions are made through public-private partnerships and are designed to bring all the players needed for success on board.

Probably the most interesting program Gates has proposed is an international contest that provides grants to underwrite research to find ways to fight malaria and scourges of mankind. Putting together an international challenge to excite the top researchers throughout the world is a great idea and should result in some very interesting results.

If you missed the NOW program on Bill Gates in May, then checkout that extraordinary interview here. I love the story about what caused Gates to realize that perhaps computers were not the answer to all the world's problems.

MOYERS: There was a trip you took to Soweto in South Africa that was decisive in your thinking. Tell me about that.

GATES: Well we took a computer and we took it to this community center in Soweto. And generally there wasn't power in that community center. But they'd rigged up this thing where the-- the cord went 200 yards to this place where there was a generator. You know powered by diesel. So this computer got turned on. And when the press was there it was all working just fine.

And it-- it-- it was ludicrous, you know. It was clear to me that the priority issues for the people who lived there in that particular community were more related to health than they were to having that computer. And so there's certainly a role for getting computers out there. But when you look at the, say, the 2 billion of the 6 billion the planet who are living on the least income. You know they deserve a chance. And that chance can only be given by improving the health conditions.

When I get down thinking about the unfairness of the world and the policies that seem to promote selfishness rather than compassion, it helps to find stories like this that restore my faith in people. Bill Gates is following the tradition of David Packard in finding ways to spend his money so that it can make a real difference to the world and we are all richer for it.

posted by Mary at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK |

BuzzFlash Headlines

Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown, and Root is raking in the Iraqi reconstruction dough, and their main qualification seems to be that like a certain famous mountain, they were there.

Fishy GOP group may be fined by Florida election commission for actions taken during the 2000 recount.

Wolf Blitzer takes on Scott Ritter in a failed bid to apologize for Bush's lies to the American public.

Tom 'I am the government' DeLay used the FAA to track down a Democratic lawmaker.

The minimum wage hasn't risen in seven years, but the GOP controlled legislature thought that $1.50 over two years was a little extreme.

BuzzFlash interview on the machinations of the Carlyle Group.

20 lies about the war.

posted by Natasha at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK |