Saturday, October 30, 2004

Burning the other cheek

With the Al Qaqaa weapons depot stripped bare of hundreds of tons of high-grade explosives, the Bush administration should lose any credibility with those who still believe its that it has the lock on the security plank. Read The Last Pillar Falls in Counterpunch today.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Hunter S. Thompson endorses, predicts, Kerry

In Rolling Stone this week, gadfly and columnist Hunter S. Thompson, better known as Gonzo, writes a cheery piece backing John Kerry. The feature also has a good perspective on the political scene and presidential elections in general.

Click here to read the article.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Former GOP Senator shreds Bush's Health Care Plan

"As a Republican, with some experience, I sincerely regret having to say the record over the last four years and the prescription for reform the president is proposing give me little confidence that this most challenging of all domestic priorities will be adequately addressed over the next four years."

So says former Senator David Durenberger, a Republican. In an article in the Minneapolis Star Trbune, Durenberger ripped Bush medical plans, and said that Kerry has the better plan. Read Durenberger's full article below, reproduced for wider dissemination only.

But, as Bill Maher points out, how good he looked on that aircraft carrier!

For health care security, Kerry has the better plan
David Durenberger
October 27, 2004

The presidential candidates are debating whether Iraq or the economy is headed in the right direction, but no one can dispute that the health care trend line is going in the wrong direction.
With 5 million more uninsured Americans, bringing the total to 45 million (including a 12 percent increase in uninsured Minnesotans in the last year), family insurance premiums up more than $3,500 (including a 59 percent jump in Minnesota), prescription drug costs up over 70 percent, and businesses struggling to afford health care and stay competitive, there can be no doubt that we need to change our policy course.
Regardless of how voters view the candidates on all other issues, it is clear that the future of health care costs for Minnesotans has already been determined by President Bush's record of accomplishment. As a Republican, with some experience, I sincerely regret having to say the record over the last four years and the prescription for reform the president is proposing give me little confidence that this most challenging of all domestic priorities will be adequately addressed over the next four years.
His Medicare Modernization Act enhances access to prescription drugs for low-income, high-need seniors. It authorizes demonstrations to identify quality of care and chronic care management. But it all comes at a price neither taxpayers nor Medicare beneficiaries will be able to afford.
Drug companies have inflated prices from which "discounts" are derived and the Republican Congress has protected the drug companies from the price competition that Medicare applies to doctors, hospitals, and home health, dialysis and other care providers. President Bush and the GOP Congress have placed the future of Medicare in the hands of America's big health insurance plans and, again, protected them from the reality of competition with a guarantee of up to 123 percent higher payments than traditional Medicare.
The costs of all this will be borne not by those who profit most from health insurance or services, but by seniors and disabled Minnesotans whose Medicare premiums were increased 14 percent this year and will be 17 percent next year. With a budget deficit of more than $400 billion a year, that Medicare premium can only rise faster in the future. Plus, those of us working past age 64 will pay up to 80 percent of the costs to us of a Medicare program we have funded out of family income for the last 38 years.
President Bush's embrace of Health Savings Accounts would make little dent in the uninsured or in overall cost growth, but they would cut benefits and shift costs to workers. His Association Health Plans -- which are designed to pool certain businesses together and permit them to avoid most state consumer protection insurance laws -- would simply attract businesses with younger, healthier workers at the expense of others. His underfunded individual tax credits to be used in the fatally flawed and discriminatory individual market would -- like his other approaches -- undermine and weaken employer-based coverage and make it even more difficult to find insurance coverage for the least healthy among us.
The president constantly refers to Sen. John Kerry's health reform proposals as "big government." Not true. As one deeply involved in developing alternatives to President Bill Clinton's reform proposals, I must say that what Kerry proposes today for coverage expansion is in line with what mainstream Republican senators like Jack Danforth, John Chafee and I, working with Democrats like Bill Bradley, John Breaux and Kent Conrad, tried to accomplish in 1994.
Indeed, the Kerry plan appears designed to be responsive to those most in need -- people forced out of health care coverage by premium cost increases -- without being disruptive.
By providing employers and health plans with financial relief from catastrophic expenses, it should stabilize and make more affordable the employer-based insurance market. It opens up programs like the Congress' own Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan (FEHBP) and the Children's Health Insurance Program, and provides new private health insurance options -- not mandates -- for the uninsured.
By providing extra tax breaks for vulnerable groups like 55-to-64-year-olds, workers in between jobs, and small businesses, it ensures that health care is made even more affordable.
While far from perfect, it both builds on and learns from the past and takes us in a long-overdue new direction.
In this election people are making decisions on the basis of the candidates' stands on many issues. I have access to all of the health care I need through both FEHBP and Medicare. Like many Republicans, though, I believe our national goal is access for all, not just some.
For people who cannot afford the health insurance they need, for people whose access to care is threatened, the issue of which presidential candidate is most likely to come to their aid is their most important national security issue. It is the national security position on which President Bush and Sen. Kerry differ most and the one on which Kerry has the clearer vision for restoring security to all Americans.

Weapons Lost in Iraq - There's more bad news

National security is Bush's strongest argument for being president. That it is an entirely spurious argument is well known, but articles like this remind us again. This is from this morning's Boston Globe, reproduced here for wider dissemination only.

Eyewitness to a failure in Iraq
By Peter W. Galbraith Boston Globe October 27, 2004

IN 2003 I went to tell Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz what I had seen in Baghdad in the days following Saddam Hussein's overthrow. For nearly an hour, I described the catastrophic aftermath of the invasion -- the unchecked looting of every public institution in Baghdad, the devastation of Iraq's cultural heritage, the anger of ordinary Iraqis who couldn't understand why the world's only superpower was letting this happen.

I also described two particularly disturbing incidents -- one I had witnessed and the other I had heard about. On April 16, 2003, a mob attacked and looted the Iraqi equivalent of the Centers for Disease Control, taking live HIV and black fever virus among other potentially lethal materials. US troops were stationed across the street but did not intervene because they didn't know the building was important.

When he found out, the young American lieutenant was devastated. He shook his head and said, "I hope I am not responsible for Armageddon." About the same time, looters entered the warehouses at Iraq's sprawling nuclear facilities at Tuwaitha on Baghdad's outskirts. They took barrels of yellowcake (raw uranium), apparently dumping the uranium and using the barrels to hold water. US troops were at Tuwaitha but did not interfere.

There was nothing secret about the Disease Center or the Tuwaitha warehouses. Inspectors had repeatedly visited the center looking for evidence of a biological weapons program. The Tuwaitha warehouses included materials from Iraq's nuclear program, which had been dismantled after the 1991 Gulf War. The United Nations had sealed the materials, and they remained untouched until the US troops arrived.

The looting that I observed was spontaneous. Quite likely the looters had no idea they were stealing deadly biological agents or radioactive materials or that they were putting themselves in danger. As I pointed out to Wolfowitz, as long as these sites remained unprotected, their deadly materials could end up not with ill-educated slum dwellers but with those who knew exactly what they were doing.

This is apparently what happened. According to an International Atomic Energy Agency report issued earlier this month, there was "widespread and apparently systematic dismantlement that has taken place at sites previously relevant to Iraq's nuclear program." This includes nearly 380 tons of high explosives suitable for detonating nuclear weapons or killing American troops. Some of the looting continued for many months -- possibly into 2004. Using heavy machinery, organized gangs took apart, according to the IAEA, "entire buildings that housed high-precision equipment."

This equipment could be anywhere. But one good bet is Iran, which has had allies and agents in Iraq since shortly after the US-led forces arrived.

This was a preventable disaster. Iraq's nuclear weapons-related materials were stored in only a few locations, and these were known before the war began. As even L. Paul Bremer III, the US administrator in Iraq, now admits, the United States had far too few troops to secure the country following the fall of Saddam Hussein. But even with the troops we had, the United States could have protected the known nuclear sites. It appears that troops did not receive relevant intelligence about Iraq's WMD facilities, nor was there any plan to secure them. Even after my briefing, the Pentagon leaders did nothing to safeguard Iraq's nuclear sites.

I supported President Bush's decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein. At Wolfowitz's request, I helped advance the case for war, drawing on my work in previous years in documenting Saddam's atrocities, including the use of chemical weapons on the Kurds. In spite of the chaos that followed the war, I am sure that Iraq is better off without Saddam Hussein.

It is my own country that is worse off -- 1,100 dead soldiers, billions added to the deficit, and the enmity of much of the world. Someone out there has nuclear bomb-making equipment, and they may not be well disposed toward the United States. Much of this could have been avoided with a competent postwar strategy. But without having planned or provided enough troops, we would be a lot safer if we hadn't gone to war.

Peter W. Galbraith, a former US ambassador to Croatia, is a fellow at the Center For Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. In the 1980s, he documented Iraqi atrocities against the Kurds for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Say it ain't so, Pat!

Pat Buchanan has endorsed George W. Bush in an article in the American Cause. Like McCain, he has shown that no matter what happens, Republicans will stick together. See An Open Letter to Pat Buchanan by Niranjan Ramakrishnan in today's Counterpunch.

Not that it matters. Buchanan's noises to the this effect have brought repeated howls of protest from strong conservatives, who feel the best thing for true conservatism is the defeat of this administration.

On a positive note, the New Yorker, for the first time in its history, has endorsed a candidate - John Kerry. Or rather, it has chosen against Bush. See the full editorial, paragraph excerpted below.

September 11, 2001, brought with it one positive gift: a surge of
solidarity, global and national—solidarity with and solidarity within the United
States. This extraordinary outpouring provided Bush with a second opportunity to
create something like a government of national unity. Again, he brushed the
opportunity aside, choosing to use the political capital handed to him by Osama
bin Laden to push through more elements of his unmandated domestic program. A
year after 9/11, in the midterm elections, he increased his majority in the
House and recaptured control of the Senate by portraying selected Democrats as
friends of terrorism. Is it any wonder that the anger felt by many Democrats is
even greater than can be explained by the profound differences in outlook
between the two candidates and their parties?

-- From the New Yorker

Saturday, October 23, 2004

The Political Alchemists

In this article, columnist Michael Kinsley has captured the 1984 scenario in which we find ourselves. Politicians and media combine to make a madhouse. Reproduced in full for wider dissemination.

The Political Alchemists
by Michael Kinsley (LA Times), 10/17/04

The people running the Bush campaign are political alchemists: They can take anything and turn it into dirt.

Still naive, even after Swift boats and everything else, I couldn't believe that Bush's "nuisance" salvo would work. In fact, when I first heard the accusation (on a right-wing radio talk show), I couldn't even understand it. John F. Kerry, quoted in a New York Times Magazine profile a week ago, said he hoped to see the threat of terrorism reduced some day to the level of a minor nuisance. The Bush campaign immediately launched a big offensive on the theme that Kerry thinks terrorism is merely a nuisance.

Huh? Isn't there a difference between hoping that something will happen and thinking that it has happened already? Do you have to be mired in logic to suspect that these two states of mind are pretty much the opposite of each other?

The distinction between how you want things to be and how they really are seems to be a particularly tough one for President Bush himself. But to count on voters to share this confusion is pretty courageous.

The media — with an undiscriminating appetite for issues, and a professional commitment to be fair and balanced to Republicans and Democrats, true and false, good and evil, crunchy or creamy, or any other dichotomy the news confronts them with — were helpless to resist. By Monday, the preposterous and baseless question whether Kerry thinks that terrorism is just a nuisance had become a major campaign issue. Bush brought it up the first time he opened his mouth at Wednesday's presidential debate.

For sophisticates, the Bushies have a grown-up version: Kerry's remark indicates that he is willing to settle for reducing terrorism from an overwhelming threat to a minor nuisance. Deciding what to do next when we've reduced terrorism to a minor nuisance — keep going or visit Disneyland? — would be a nice problem to have. Under Bush's leadership, we do not have it.

By the weekend, other issues — such as Mary Cheney — had been layered on top. Kerry, his stock soaring as polls showed him the big winner in the debates, probably wasn't too badly hurt. Nor was Bush punished for the ridiculous accusation. Now, with the race tightening up, there will be fresh issues emanating from the Bush-Cheney laboratories, all made entirely of artificial ingredients. Pick a sentence — any sentence — and see how it's done.

Bush: "My opponent, you see, wrote — or he helped to write — this document, this so-called Declaration of Independence. And in it, see, he says something about how we hold these truths to be self-evident. Now, self-evident is just a fancy word — or actually it's two words: Of course, I know that! — It's just a fancy way of saying you don't have to say anything because folks already know it.

"In other words, he's saying that you don't have to tell the truth. Well, I just happen to disagree with that. I think the truth is one of the most important things in our great country. The truth is American. And it's good. It's good to tell the truth. But my opponent disagrees with that. He thinks you don't need to tell the truth. And I happen to think that's wrong. It's a difference in philosophy, you see."

Newspaper Headline: "Kerry Opposes Truth, Bush Charges; / Opponent Responds, 'Issue Is Complex' "

Kerry: "First of all, I'd like to thank President Bush for his important remarks about telling the truth. I also think the truth is very important. But so is falsehood. Falsehood is also very important. Truth and falsehood are both very important, and a president has to understand that. And I have a plan to increase both truth and falsehood by 23% over the next seven years by a tax increase on just two people: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

"Now, as to this document, this Declaration of Independence, my position is very clear. I did sign it. But I didn't read it. And I opposed it before I signed it. And again after I signed it. I think it's an important document, with important values for our country. But I also think that it is flatly wrong. I signed it because I disagree with it — because only after it is signed and enacted can it be amended."

Newspaper News Analysis: "Is the Truth Self-Evident?" (excerpt): " … Some experts question Mr. Bush's analysis of the Declaration of Independence. They say it should not necessarily be interpreted as intending to criticize the concept of truth as directly as the president seems to be suggesting. 'The president's interpretation is unique,' said a leading constitutional scholar yesterday.

"But other experts believe that the president has a point. The late philosopher of language Jacques Derrida, reached just seconds before he died last week, said, 'The Declaration of Independence is a text, which ultimately swallows itself and spits itself out. The concept of truth in this context has no meaning. Although I am French, I strongly support President Bush for making absurdity a top priority.'

"Sen. Kerry now concedes that the Declaration of Independence 'should have been more carefully worded.' " But a longtime political strategist outside the Kerry camp yesterday said that Kerry should have pointed out that the Declaration of Independence was written in 1776, which makes it highly unlikely that he was involved in writing it. But several other consultants warned against this strategy.

"It's just too risky," one said, "to call the president of the United States a liar."

Sunday, October 17, 2004

New York Times picks John Kerry

A comprehensive case for Kerry over Bush is made in today's endorsement by the New York Times, reproduced below for wider dissemination only:

Senator John Kerry goes toward the election with a base that is built more on opposition to George W. Bush than loyalty to his own candidacy. But over the last year we have come to know Mr. Kerry as more than just an alternative to the status quo. We like what we've seen. He has qualities that could be the basis for a great chief executive, not just a modest improvement on the incumbent.

We have been impressed with Mr. Kerry's wide knowledge and clear thinking - something that became more apparent once he was reined in by that two-minute debate light. He is blessedly willing to re-evaluate decisions when conditions change. And while Mr. Kerry's service in Vietnam was first over-promoted and then over-pilloried, his entire life has been devoted to public service, from the war to a series of elected offices. He strikes us, above all, as a man with a strong moral core.

There is no denying that this race is mainly about Mr. Bush's disastrous tenure. Nearly four years ago, after the Supreme Court awarded him the presidency, Mr. Bush came into office amid popular expectation that he would acknowledge his lack of a mandate by sticking close to the center. Instead, he turned the government over to the radical right.

Mr. Bush installed John Ashcroft, a favorite of the far right with a history of insensitivity to civil liberties, as attorney general. He sent the Senate one ideological, activist judicial nominee after another. He moved quickly to implement a far-reaching anti-choice agenda including censorship of government Web sites and a clampdown on embryonic stem cell research. He threw the government's weight against efforts by the University of Michigan to give minority students an edge in admission, as it did for students from rural areas or the offspring of alumni.

When the nation fell into recession, the president remained fixated not on generating jobs but rather on fighting the right wing's war against taxing the wealthy. As a result, money that could have been used to strengthen Social Security evaporated, as did the chance to provide adequate funding for programs the president himself had backed. No Child Left Behind, his signature domestic program, imposed higher standards on local school systems without providing enough money to meet them.

If Mr. Bush had wanted to make a mark on an issue on which Republicans and Democrats have long made common cause, he could have picked the environment. Christie Whitman, the former New Jersey governor chosen to run the environmental Protection Agency, came from that bipartisan tradition. Yet she left after three years of futile struggle against the ideologues and industry lobbyists Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney had installed in every other important environmental post. The result has been a systematic weakening of regulatory safeguards across the entire spectrum of environmental issues, from clean air to wilderness protection.

The president who lost the popular vote got a real mandate on Sept. 11, 2001. With the grieving country united behind him, Mr. Bush had an unparalleled opportunity to ask for almost any shared sacrifice. The only limit was his imagination.

He asked for another tax cut and the war against Iraq.

The president's refusal to drop his tax-cutting agenda when the nation was gearing up for war is perhaps the most shocking example of his inability to change his priorities in the face of drastically altered circumstances. Mr. Bush did not just starve the government of the money it needed for his own education initiative or the Medicare drug bill. He also made tax cuts a higher priority than doing what was needed for America's security; 90 percent of the cargo unloaded every day in the nation's ports still goes uninspected.

Along with the invasion of Afghanistan, which had near unanimous international and domestic support, Mr. Bush and his attorney general put in place a strategy for a domestic antiterror war that had all the hallmarks of the administration's normal method of doing business: a Nixonian obsession with secrecy, disrespect for civil liberties and inept management.

American citizens were detained for long periods without access to lawyers or family members. Immigrants were rounded up and forced to languish in what the Justice Department's own inspector general found were often "unduly harsh" conditions. Men captured in the Afghan war were held incommunicado with no right to challenge their confinement. The Justice Department became a cheerleader for skirting decades-old international laws and treaties forbidding the brutal treatment of prisoners taken during wartime.

Mr. Ashcroft appeared on TV time and again to announce sensational arrests of people who turned out to be either innocent, harmless braggarts or extremely low-level sympathizers of Osama bin Laden who, while perhaps wishing to do something terrible, lacked the means. The Justice Department cannot claim one major successful terrorism prosecution, and has squandered much of the trust and patience the American people freely gave in 2001. Other nations, perceiving that the vast bulk of the prisoners held for so long at Guantánamo Bay came from the same line of ineffectual incompetents or unlucky innocents, and seeing the awful photographs from the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, were shocked that the nation that was supposed to be setting the world standard for human rights could behave that way.

Like the tax cuts, Mr. Bush's obsession with Saddam Hussein seemed closer to zealotry than mere policy. He sold the war to the American people, and to Congress, as an antiterrorist campaign even though Iraq had no known working relationship with Al Qaeda. His most frightening allegation was that Saddam Hussein was close to getting nuclear weapons. It was based on two pieces of evidence. One was a story about attempts to purchase critical materials from Niger, and it was the product of rumor and forgery. The other evidence, the purchase of aluminum tubes that the administration said were meant for a nuclear centrifuge, was concocted by one low-level analyst and had been thoroughly debunked by administration investigators and international vetting. Top members of the administration knew this, but the selling went on anyway. None of the president's chief advisers have ever been held accountable for their misrepresentations to the American people or for their mismanagement of the war that followed.

The international outrage over the American invasion is now joined by a sense of disdain for the incompetence of the effort. Moderate Arab leaders who have attempted to introduce a modicum of democracy are tainted by their connection to an administration that is now radioactive in the Muslim world. Heads of rogue states, including Iran and North Korea, have been taught decisively that the best protection against a pre-emptive American strike is to acquire nuclear weapons themselves.

We have specific fears about what would happen in a second Bush term, particularly regarding the Supreme Court. The record so far gives us plenty of cause for worry. Thanks to Mr. Bush, Jay Bybee, the author of an infamous Justice Department memo justifying the use of torture as an interrogation technique, is now a federal appeals court judge. Another Bush selection, J. Leon Holmes, a federal judge in Arkansas, has written that wives must be subordinate to their husbands and compared abortion rights activists to Nazis.

Mr. Bush remains enamored of tax cuts but he has never stopped Republican lawmakers from passing massive spending, even for projects he dislikes, like increased farm aid. If he wins re-election, domestic and foreign financial markets will know the fiscal recklessness will continue. Along with record trade imbalances, that increases the chances of a financial crisis, like an uncontrolled decline of the dollar, and higher long-term interest rates. The Bush White House has always given us the worst aspects of the American right without any of the advantages. We get the radical goals but not the efficient management. The Department of Education's handling of the No Child Left Behind Act has been heavily politicized and inept. The Department of Homeland Security is famous for its useless alerts and its inability to distribute antiterrorism aid according to actual threats. Without providing enough troops to properly secure Iraq, the administration has managed to so strain the resources of our armed forces that the nation is unprepared to respond to a crisis anywhere else in the world.

Mr. Kerry has the capacity to do far, far better. He has a willingness - sorely missing in Washington these days - to reach across the aisle. We are relieved that he is a strong defender of civil rights, that he would remove unnecessary restrictions on stem cell research and that he understands the concept of separation of church and state. We appreciate his sensible plan to provide health coverage for most of the people who currently do without.

Mr. Kerry has an aggressive and in some cases innovative package of ideas about energy, aimed at addressing global warming and oil dependency. He is a longtime advocate of deficit reduction. In the Senate, he worked with John McCain in restoring relations between the United States and Vietnam, and led investigations of the way the international financial system has been gamed to permit the laundering of drug and terror money. He has always understood that America's appropriate role in world affairs is as leader of a willing community of nations, not in my-way-or-the-highway domination.

We look back on the past four years with hearts nearly breaking, both for the lives unnecessarily lost and for the opportunities so casually wasted. Time and again, history invited George W. Bush to play a heroic role, and time and again he chose the wrong course. We believe that with John Kerry as president, the nation will do better.

Voting for president is a leap of faith. A candidate can explain his positions in minute detail and wind up governing with a hostile Congress that refuses to let him deliver. A disaster can upend the best-laid plans. All citizens can do is mix guesswork and hope, examining what the candidates have done in the past, their apparent priorities and their general character. It's on those three grounds that we enthusiastically endorse John Kerry for president.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Third Debate

Watching the debate, I thought Bush was tentative in the beginning, but much more confident as the debate progressed. The turning point came when he was asked about homosexuality, etc., and got an opportunity to speak about religion and faith, matters obviously close to his heart.

Kerry did well, although I felt there were many points at which he could delivered a knockout blow, and he passed up. I think there is some kink which causes him to mention John McCain at every turn, as though this is going to fetch him some benediction from Republicans. It does not at all serve him well. One would think his unseemly overtures to McCain for the VP slot, and the latter's deliberate, public, snubbing should have taught Kerry something. Bush neatly turned his McCain chant into a plus by saying briefly that McCain had endorsed and was working for him.

Clearly, Bush was quite wobbly on most matters, and reverted to his mantras of 'liberal', 'Ted Kennedy', 'Senate Record', etc. I think the public is now on to this coverup.

In conclusion, the debates have been great, even if they have not served to answer (or have answered) the basic question of an Iraq solution. Kerry also passed up a great opportunity during the debate to nail the administration's negligence in allowing 9-11 to happen. Bush has been shown up for a president with lots of strong opinions (beliefs?) but with a rather tenuous grip on facts. A lifetime of short-cuts and disdain for learning were clearly manifest in his answers. The delightful Dick CHeney momen t of this debate ("I don't recall saying I wasn't concerned about Osama Bin Laden", similar to "I never said Saddam Husain had anything to do with Al Qaeda or 9-11") came early in the debate. Perhaps they are so used to thinking the media will let everything pass. Or to the months of handpicked audiences who will cheer everything they say.

Kerry may not be the best candidate in the world, but there is no doubt he is better suited to be president than Bush. A long list, that.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

2nd Debate Perspectives

Two articles in Counterpunch on the second debate -- a brilliant piece yesterday by Paul Craig Roberts, called To Escape from Blunder, First Admit Reality, and a view of the debate from a broader perspective, "Act blurs with Audience".

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Letter from Baghdad

Here's an excerpt from an email fromFarnaz Fassihi, the Wall Street Journal's man in Baghdad. The full message can be found at

...Forget about the reasons that lured me to this job: a chance to see the world, explore the exotic, meet new people in far away lands, discover their ways and tell stories that could make a difference.

Little by little, day-by-day, being based in Iraq has defied all those reasons. I am house bound. I leave when I have a very good reason to and a scheduled interview. I avoid going to people's homes and never walk in the streets. I can't go grocery shopping any more, can't eat in restaurants, can't strike a conversation with strangers, can't look for stories, can't drive in any thing but a full armored car, can't go to scenes of breaking news stories, can't be stuck in traffic, can't speak English outside, can't take a road trip, can't say I'm an American, can't linger at checkpoints, can't be curious about what people are saying, doing, feeling. And can't and can't. There has been one too many close calls, including a car bomb so near our house that it blew out all the windows. So now my most pressing concern every day is not to write a kick-ass story but to stay alive and make sure our Iraqi employees stay alive. In Baghdad I am a security personnel first, a reporter second.

Insurgents now attack Americans 87 times a day.

As for reconstruction: firstly it's so unsafe for foreigners to operate that almost all projects have come to a halt. After two years, of the $18 billion Congress appropriated for Iraq reconstruction only about $1 billion or so has been spent and a chuck has now been reallocated for improving security, a sign of just how bad things are going here.

I heard an educated Iraqi say today that if Saddam Hussein were allowed to run for elections he would get the majority of the vote. This is truly sad.

For those of us on the ground it's hard to imagine what if any thing could salvage it from its violent downward spiral. The genie of terrorism, chaos and mayhem has been unleashed onto this country as a result of American mistakes and it can't be put back into a bottle.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Faith Based Economics

Whether Bush wins or Kerry, American problems remain. Here's a persuasive article by a prominent economist, focusing on American jobs. The article is taken from (Oct 9/10, 2004), and reprinted here for wider dissemination.

September Jobs Report
Faith-Based Economics


The US economy has ceased to create jobs in tradable goods and services. The disastrous September payroll jobs data are a repeat of the monthly trend that has held for the nearly four years of the Bush administration.

Of September's 96,000 new jobs, 73% are accounted for by two categories: government jobs and temporary help! There were only 59,000 private sector jobs created in September, and 33,000 of those--56%--are temps! Manufacturing lost another 18,000 jobs. More Americans are employed in accommodations and food services than as production workers.

It is easy to blame the Bush administration, but the real blame lies with outsourcing and offshore production. By locating production for US markets offshore, US firms can substitute much cheaper foreign labor for US labor to make the goods and services sold to Americans. The high speed Internet makes it possible for US firms to hire foreigners residing abroad, where living costs are low, to do knowledge-based jobs formerly performed by US university graduates. The US is losing the ability to manufacture a range of advanced technology products and is now dependent on imports of advanced technology goods from China and Japan. Entire high tech occupations are beginning to disappear in America, with computer engineering enrollments in topflight schools such as M.I.T., Georgia Tech, and UC, Berkeley shrinking by 45%. Last week economist Joseph Stiglitz reported that median US income has fallen by over $1,500 in real terms over the past three and one-half years.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, "free market," "free-trade" economists continue to give assurances that Americans are prospering from outsourcing. This delusion is equivalent to the Bush administration's delusion that the US is winning in Iraq.

US multinational firms, whose top executives and shareholders benefit from outsourcing, hire think-tanks to produce "studies" that conclude Americans benefit from the loss of jobs and careers to foreigners. All the while the American labor force is being redirected into domestic nontradable services, an influx that depresses wages in domestic services. At the same time, illegal aliens are flooding into US construction jobs. Local governments and hospitals, claiming "shortages," import foreign teachers and nurses who will work for less. It is not clear
how many of the jobs created in September went to Americans.

Faced with hard facts, economists take refuge in deceitful nonsense equivalent to the Bush administration's claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was involved in the September 11 terrorist attacks.

As high-tech US jobs move offshore, economists chant a lemming-like chorus: the answer is more high-tech education. Bill Gates responds to shrinking job opportunities for American engineers by beating the drums for more engineering majors. Other economists claim that we need more tax cuts to help US firms acquire more capital with which to make US workers more productive and, thus, more competitive. This is a pointless exercise when the capital (and technology) is being used to employ foreigners in place of Americans. Other economists claim that outsourcing can only be a small problem, because 90% of US output produced offshore is sold in foreign markets. This claim overlooks the inherited foreign investment America
built up during its half century dominance of world trade and manufacturing. These foreign investments by US firms were made in order to sell in foreign markets, not as offshore platforms to serve domestic US markets.

Outsourcing and offshore production are new phenomena. They have not been around long enough to comprise a large share of US production abroad. But they have been around long enough to erode American employment and wages in tradable goods and services. When a US multinational ceases to produce in Ohio for its domestic markets, and moves the production abroad, the Ohio jobs disappear. Wages fall or stagnate in similar lines of work that still remain the the US.

When Intel, Microsoft and all the rest hire Asian software engineers, the US engineers are out of work. US careers are sent abroad and given to foreigners, and with them go the incomes that comprise America's ladders of upward mobility. American students are becoming aware of the facts, but economists hold firmly to their fantasy that other new and even better jobs are taking the place of those that have been outsourced. There is no evidence whatsoever in behalf of this claim. Economics has ceased to be an empirical science and has become a religious

Paul Craig Roberts is John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy and Research fellow at the Independent Institute. He is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.

Friday, October 08, 2004

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Imperialists

A brilliant article by James Pinkerton in the America Conservative..

Imperialism needs a different mindset and appetite. The article makes this point with beautiful examples from imperialist history, and ends on a dismal note. Even full-throttle imperialism eventually leads to reverse colonization (my words). Part-time imperialism has even more disastrous consequences.

A must read!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

The new October Surprise?

A friend writes,

"While everyone is looking for BinLadin to be trotted out, a subtle choice for Oct surprise is...


...given that he has been singled him out consistently as THE bad guy in most of the recent attacks, beheadings, videos ( I mean every little thing in Iraq happeninig is
acscribed to him)

.....and in most of these he is supposedly there (either a voice or seen behind a mask) is easy to think that they already have him now and want to make the biggest legend of him before
triumphantly announcing his capture this month."

Monday, October 04, 2004

Friday, October 01, 2004

When Bush debated himself -- and lost!

Before the first presidential debate of 2004, President Bush told a rally that Kerry could just as soon debate himself for 90 minutes. As it turned out, it was Bush who debated himself -- and lost.

Kerry seemed fresh and relaxed, whereas Bush seemed flurried, agitated and piqued. Even assuming you had not seen or heard Kerry at all. Just listening to Bush alone, you would conclude this was some fledgling politician lost in boots too large for him.

Add to that Kerry's performance, at all times confident, composed, and steely. You didn't have to agree with him to feel that if Bush could be president, this guy surely could!

As one looked at Bush, one wondered if this was a man who had actually held the job for four years. He seemed to be having new epiphanies even during the course of the debate. In a moment reminiscent of Richard Nixon's "I am not a Crook", Bush declared, "I know Osama bin Laden attacked us. I know that".