May 01, 2005

LNS Oceania Review - May Day 2005 Issue

At least 1,581 US soldiers have died in Iraq. That's 53 more deaths since the April Fool's edition of the LSN Oceania Review. You are not allowed to see photographs of the flag-drapped coffins, and the wholly complicit US mainstream news media will not aggregate the numbers for you in any meaningful way. One US soldier a day is dying in Iraq. 1,581 US soldiers and counting...For what? The neo-con wet dream of a Three Stooges Reich. Nothing more...Meanwhile, here in the USA, the Christo-Fascist brown shirts have been unleashed...Listen, the USA is NOT a "Christian Nation." George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln were NOT Christians. They were Deists. They believed in a Divine Intelligence, they believed that it could be revealed through science and reason, they believed that Jesus was a great man, but NOT that Jesus was "only begotten Son of God," etc. Of course, Ben Franklin, Tom Paine, John Adams and yes, even that darling of true conservatives, James Madison were also Deists. But let's just focus on Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln: i.e., the man who lead the Revolutionary Army, the man who authored the Constitution and the man who saved the Union and abolished slavery -- all three of them were born into Christianity, but rejected it for Deism. These are historical facts. What would Washington, Jefferson or Lincoln say about "Justice Sunday"? What would they say about changing the US Senate rules to end the right to filibuster so that the federal bench can be packed with fundamentalist Christian judges? What would the say about the Bush abomination's ban on stem cell research? And what will the Cristo-Fascists do if the truth of America's origins is ever re-discovered by the populace? Will they do what the Taliban did to those thousand + year old Buddhas in Afghanistan and blow the faces of the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials? Will they topple the Washinton Monument? They would, of course. But they won't have to -- because the US mainstream news media (full partners in the triad of Special Interest with the Bush Cabal, their wholly-owned-subsidiary-formerly-known-as-the-Republican-Party) will make sure the populace never gets this information presented to them in context...Remember, 2+2=4. Remember and resist! Only you can save the Republic! Listen to Air America, participate in MoveOn.Org, subscribe to The Nation, support,, and the other bastions of the Internet-based information rebellion, contribute to Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! Remember and resist...

[NOTE: These are the highlights. To get the full text of the current issue of the LNS Oceania Review, click on the current month in the calendar field. Remember to also avail yourself of the searchable database which reaches back into our archives.]

Death of the Republic?
William Rivers Pitt, When I went to New York City this past summer to cover the GOP convention, I remember being awed by the degree of security surrounding Madison Square Garden…I saw the same thing when I went to DC to cover the Inauguration. The capitol was an armed camp, a sea of Bush supporters surrounded by tens of thousands of protesters…
All those fences. All those guns. All those cops. At first, it seemed like an arguably necessary precaution; these were, after all, the two cities to take the hit on 9/11. But the longer I stayed, the longer I looked around, and the closer I observed the behavior of Bush and his people, I came to a sad conclusion: This security was not about keeping us all safe from terrorists, but was about keeping Bush safe from his own people. The President of the United States is flatly terrified of the citizens he would supposedly lead to some supply-side promised land. He is scared to death of us.

Chalmers Johnson, In These Times: First, the United States faces the imminent danger of bankruptcy, which, if it occurs, will render all further discussion of foreign policy moot. Within the next few months, the mother of all financial crises could ruin us and turn us into a North American version of Argentina, once the richest country in South America…Second, our appalling international citizenship must be addressed. We routinely flout well-established norms upon which the reciprocity of other nations in their relations with us depends. This is a matter not so much of reforming our policies as of reforming attitudes…Third, if we can overcome our imminent financial crisis and our penchant for boorish behavior abroad, we might then be able to reform our foreign policies. Among the issues here are the slow-moving evolutionary changes in the global balance of power that demand new approaches. The most important evidence that our life as the "sole" superpower is going to be exceedingly short is the fact that our monopoly of massive military power is being upstaged by other forms of influence. Chief among these is China's extraordinary growth and our need to adjust to it. Latin America may be equally important.

Robert Parry, If the American people want to prevent another intelligence failure like the one that has sent more than 1,500 U.S. soldiers to die in Iraq, it will take more than just shaking up the CIA. Much of Washington’s political and media elites would need to be sacked as well.
Indeed, it is a sign of how deep the problem goes that neoconservative Republican Laurence Silberman chaired a presidential commission evaluating the CIA’s failures, since he also oversaw the Reagan-Bush intelligence transition team in 1980 that struck one of the first blows against the intellectual integrity of the CIA’s analytical division.
The commission’s co-chairman, former Sen. Charles Robb, represents another part of the problem: the go-along-to-get-along Democrats who did little to stop the Reagan-Bush-era politicization of U.S. intelligence.
But the crisis goes deeper still. The Silberman-Robb report, which faults the CIA for providing “dead wrong” intelligence about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, was delivered to George W. Bush, who has built his presidency on an unprecedented use of pseudo-facts over a wide range of issues, from the federal budget to global warming to the Iraq War…

Counterpunch, MATHABA NET NEWS: As I wrote in an article in CounterPunch two months ago, when I tried to go to one of those Bush "town meetings" that was set up at a community college a couple miles from my house, I found myself turned away by Republican Party goons barring the entrance-something that would never happen at a real town meeting. It turned out that, as with all the president's "public" meetings on this issue, you have to have a ticket to get in, and those tickets are being handed out only by Republican members of Congress…
What I'm really surprised at, though, is how passive the Democrats have been about this road show charade.
The huckster ¬in-chief, after all, is traveling the country not as a candidate for office, but as the President of the United States. He's making this tour at taxpayer expense, and he's holding his meetings in public buildings-in my case at an auditorium belonging to the Montgomery County Community College. But he's only talking to Republicans. Even people with tickets are being turned away if it appears they may have contrarian ideas, like several people who arrived at one such event in Colorado with tickets, but with a bumper sticker on their car saying "No Blood for Oil." The president's GOP goons apparently aren't just blocking the doors; they're spying in the parking lot, too.

Al Gore: This aggressive new strain of right-wing religious zealotry is actually a throwback to the intolerance that led to the creation of America in the first place.
James Madison warned us in Federalist #10 that sometimes, "A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction."
Unfortunately the virulent faction now committed to changing the basic nature of democracy now wields enough political power within the Republican party to have a major influence over who secures the Republican nomination for president in the 2008 election. It appears painfully obvious that some of those who have their eyes on that nomination are falling all over themselves to curry favor with this faction.
They are the ones demanding the destructive constitutional confrontation now pending in the Senate. They are the ones willfully forcing the Senate leadership to drive democracy to the precipice that now lies before us.
I remember a time not too long ago when Senate leaders in both parties saw it as part of their responsibility to protect the Senate against the destructive designs of demagogues who would subordinate the workings of our democracy to their narrow factional agendas.
Our founders understood that the way you protect and defend people of faith is by preventing any one sect from dominating. Most people of faith I know in both parties have been getting a belly-full of this extremist push to cloak their political agenda in religiosity and mix up their version of religion with their version of right-wing politics and force it on everyone else.
They should learn that religious faith is a precious freedom and not a tool to divide and conquer.
I think it is truly important to expose the fundamental flaw in the arguments of these zealots. The unifying theme now being pushed by this coalition is actually an American heresy -- a highly developed political philosophy that is fundamentally at odds with the founding principles of the United States of America.

Theft of the 2004 Election

Stephen Dyer, Akron Beacon Journal: There's a one-in-959,000 chance that exit polls could have been so wrong in predicting the outcome of the 2004 presidential election, according to a statistical analysis released Thursday.
Exit polls in the November election showed Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., winning by 3 percent, but President George W. Bush won the vote count by 2.5 percent.
The explanation for the discrepancy that was offered by the exit polling firm -- that Kerry voters were more likely to participate in the exit polling -- is an ``implausible theory,'' according to the report issued Thursday by US Count Votes, a group that claims it's made up of about two dozen statisticians.
Twelve -- including a Case Western Reserve University mathematics instructor -- signed the report.
Instead, the data support the idea that ``corruption of the vote count occurred more freely in districts that were overwhelmingly Bush strongholds.''

NOAKI SCHWARTZ AND TERE FIGUERAS NEGRETE, Miami Herald: Miami-Dade Elections Supervisor Constance Kaplan resigned Thursday amid increasing pressure from county officials who had grown frustrated with a succession of problems that included several hundred votes being lost in the most recent election
Erica Werner, Associated Press: The first chairman of a federal voting agency created after the 2000 election dispute is resigning, saying the government has not shown enough commitment to reform. DeForest Soaries said in an interview Friday that his resignation would take effect next week…
"All four of us had to work without staff, without offices, without resources. I don't think our sense of personal obligation has been matched by a corresponding sense of commitment to real reform from the federal government," he said.
Soaries, a Republican former New Jersey secretary of state, was the White House's pick to join the Election Assistance Commission, created by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to help states enact voting reforms.

MIKE WILKINSON and JAMES DREW, Toledo Blade: The federal probe into whether local Republican fund-raiser Tom Noe was illegally funneling money to the Bush campaign had been ongoing for months. It reached a turning point Wednesday night.
FBI agents swept into Mr. Noe’s Maumee condo about 7:30 p.m., spending three hours scouring the home of one of the most prominent Republicans in northwest Ohio. They were looking for evidence of violations of federal campaign contribution laws.
The federal probe is studying Mr. Noe’s campaign contributions to the President, and specifically contributions made by others who may have received money from Mr. Noe, possibly allowing him to exceed the $2,000 spending cap.

Complicity of the Corporatist News Media

Norman Solomon, The first quarter of 2005 brought significant media dividends for the Bush-Cheney limited liability corporation.
Stakeholders received windfalls as mainstream news outlets deferred to consolidation of power from the November election.
A rollout of new "democracy" branding - kicked off by the State of the Union product relaunch - yielded at least temporary gains in psychological market share. For instance, repackaging of images in the Middle East implemented makeovers for several client governments. Actual democratic threats, inimical to Bush-Cheney LLC interests, remain low. CNN political analyst Bill Schneider opined that President Bush's 48 percent approval rating, as measured by a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, "isn't too bad." But Schneider did not mention Gallup's own observation that "Bush's public support is significantly lower than support for all other two-term presidents at similar points in their second terms."
Reporting on the poll on the April 5 edition of CNN's Inside Politics, Schneider asserted: "Despite all the complaints, President Bush's overall job approval rating is 48 percent, which isn't too bad." But in contrast to Schneider's spin, USA Today's report on the poll was headlined "Poll finds Bush suffering from 'second-term-itis,' " based on a comment about Gallup's findings from Andrew Kohut, director of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for People and the Press.

Amy Goodman & David Goodman, AlterNet: Americans believe these lies not because they are stupid but because they are good media consumers. The explosive effect of this propaganda is amplified as a few pro-war, pro-government media moguls consolidate their grip over the majority of news outlets. Media monopoly and militarism go hand in hand.
It's time for the American media to un-embed themselves from the U.S. government. We need media that are fiercely independent, that ask the hard questions and hold those in power accountable. Only then will government propaganda be seen for what it is and citizens be able to make choices informed by reality, not self-serving misinformation. Anything less is a disservice to the servicemen and women of this country and a disservice to a democratic society. Media' tour.

Jeff Chester, Center for Digital Democracy: The ideologically driven majority on the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) now has the perfect apparatchik to run its zealous campaign to promote conservative/GOP-approved public broadcasting programming. Ken Ferree is now its “acting president.” That spells trouble for those who care about the fate of PBS and NPR--with a capital F.
Ferree was the key aide to FCC Chairman Michael Powell on media policy. As head of the FCC’s Media Bureau until March of this year, Ferree delivered to Powell--as he will deliver to his new boss, CPB Chair Kenneth Tomlinson--whatever was required to advance ideological interests. Ferree helped engineer the Commission’s 2003 rules on media ownership that swept away what little was left of restraints on the conglomerates. More importantly, he supported policies that undermined the rights of viewers and listeners--and citizens--to a media system that fosters discourse, creative expression and democracy. It was Ferree’s plan for Powell that ignited unprecedented opposition to the FCC, with millions writing to Congress and the commissioners. Ultimately, the Powell/Ferree plan was undone--for now--by the courts (and in part by Congress).

F.A.I.R., A week after she was praised in Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People" issue (4/18/05), the magazine went a step further by making far-right pundit Ann Coulter the subject of a lengthy April 25 cover story. Readers who might have looked for a critical examination of the overexposed, factually challenged hatemonger found something else: a puff piece that gave Coulter a pass on her many errors and vicious, often bigoted rhetoric.
Throughout the article, Time reporter John Cloud gave Coulter every benefit of the doubt. Her clear, amply documented record of inaccuracy was waved away. Coulter's notoriously vitriolic hate speech was alternately dismissed as a put-on or excused as "from her heart," while the worst Cloud could say about her was that she can "occasionally be coarse." Time readers learned that Coulter is an omnivorous reader (one of exactly two examples of her consumption being the Drudge Report website), and that she regards herself "as a public intellectual." Coulter, who writes a syndicated newspaper column and makes frequent cable news appearances, is dubbed "iconic" by Time because she "epitomizes the way politics is now discussed on the airways."
In reality, there are few who "discuss" politics the Coulter way-- by smearing opponents as traitors, calling for a renewal of McCarthyism and endorsing the killing of reporters.

The war in Iraq is worse than illegal or immoral, it is stupid, insanely stupid

Andrew Buncombe, Independent/UK: America's leading civil liberties group has demanded an investigation into the former US military commander Iraq after a formerly classified memo revealed that he personally sanctioned a series of coercive interrogation techniques outlawed by the Geneva Conventions. The group claims that his directives were directly linked to the sort of abuses that took place at Abu Ghraib.
Documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reveal that Lt General Ricardo Sanchez authorised techniques such as the use of dogs to intimidate prisoners, stress positions and disorientation. In the documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Gen Sanchez admits that some of the techniques would not be tolerated by other countries.
When he appeared last year before a Congressional committee, Gen Sanchez denied authorising such techniques. He has now been accused of perjury.

Reuters: Tens of thousands of followers of a rebel Shi'ite cleric marched in Baghdad on Saturday to denounce the U.S. presence in Iraq and demand a speedy trial of Saddam Hussein on the second anniversary of his overthrow.
Chanting "No, no to the occupiers," men loyal to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr streamed from the poor Shi'ite district of Sadr City to Firdos Square in central Baghdad where Saddam's statue was torn down two years ago, in a peaceful show of strength.
The square and side streets were quickly packed with crowds waving Iraqi flags and brandishing effigies of Saddam, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush. "No America! No Saddam! Yes to Islam!" many chanted. One group of demonstrators burned an American flag.
"We want a stable Iraq and this will only happen through independence," said a statement from Sadr's office read out at the rally. "There will be no security and stability unless the occupiers leave... The occupiers must leave my country."

Dr. Ian Rutledge, Financial Times: With US oil consumption in 2001 at an all-time high (19.7m b/d), import penetration at 53 per cent, and dependence on Arabian Gulf oil also at an all-time record (14.1 per cent of total US domestic and foreign supplies), the council stated that it was absolutely imperative that "political factors do not block the development of new oil fields in the Gulf" and that "the Department of State, together with the National Security Council" should "develop a strategic plan to encourage reopening to foreign investment in the important states of the Middle East".
But while the council argued that "there is no question that this investment is vitally important to US interests" it also acknowledged that "there is strong opposition to any such opening among key segments of the Saudi and Kuwaiti populations".
However, there was an alternative. In the words of ESA Inc (Boston), the US's leading energy security analysts: "One of the best things for our supply security would be liberate Iraq"; words echoed by William Kristol, the Republican party ideologist, in testimony to the House Subcommittee on the Middle East on May 22 2002 that as far as oil was concerned, "Iraq is more important than Saudi Arabia".
So when, according to the former head of ExxonMobil's Gulf operations, "Iraqi exiles approached us saying, you can have our oil if we can get back in there", the Bush administration decided to use its overwhelming military might to create a pliant - and dependable - oil protectorate in the Middle East and achieve that essential "opening" of the Gulf oilfields.
But in the words of another US oil company executive, "it all turned out a lot more complicated than anyone had expected". Instead of the anticipated post-invasion rapid expansion of Iraqi production (an expectation of an additional 2m b/d entering the world market by now), the continuing violence of the insurgency has prevented Iraqi exports from even recovering to pre-invasion levels.
In short, the US appears to have fought a war for oil in the Middle East, and lost it. The consequences of that defeat are now plain for all to see.

Kevin Danaher and Medea Benjamin, On Saturday April 16, our colleague and friend, 28-year-old Marla Ruzicka of Lakeport, California, was killed when a car bomb exploded on the streets of Baghdad. We still don’t know the exact details of her death, which makes it all that much harder to deal with the utter shock of losing this bright, shining light whose work focused on trying to bring some compassion into the middle of a war zone.
Marla was working for a humanitarian organization she founded called CIVIC (Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict), which documents cases of innocent civilians hurt by war. Marla and numerous other volunteers would go door-to-door interviewing families who had lost loved ones or had their property destroyed by the fighting. She would then take this information back to Washington and lobby for reparations for these families.
A case in point, taken from Marla’s own journal, as published November 6, 2003 on AlterNet:
“On the 24th of October, former teacher Mohammad Kadhum Mansoor, 59, and his wife, Hamdia Radhi Kadhum, 45, were traveling with their three daughters -- Beraa, 21, Fatima, 8, and Ayat, 5 years old -- when they were tragically run over by an American tank.
“A grenade was thrown at the tank, causing it to loose control and veer onto the highway, over the family’s small Volkswagen. Mohammad and Hamdia were killed instantly, orphaning the three girls in the backseat. The girls survived, but with broken and fractured bodies. We are not sure of Ayat’s fate; her backbone is broken.
“CIVIC staff member Faiz Al Salaam monitors the girls’ condition each day. Nobody in the military or the U.S. Army has visited them, nor has anyone offered to help this very poor family.”

Amy Goodman interviews Giuliana Sgrena on Democracy Now!: GIULIANA SGRENA: Yes, for the moment we have not an official result of the reports, but we have some rumors about the conclusion of the report, so I am very sad about that because I was – is words that I was waiting. I thought that maybe the Americans will spoke of accident or something like that, but now they say that the US military because they have no responsibility for what happened the 4th of March in Baghdad. They say that they respected all the engagement rules, and that is not true, because I was there and I can testify that they just shoot us without any advertising, any intention, any attempt to stop us before. So I think that it’s very bad this conclusion because they don’t want to assume any responsibility and they don’t mind about our testifying, my one and the one of the Italian intelligence agent that these are quite the same. We were there and we are in a position to testify what happened, so it’s not true that the Americans say, what the commission say. So we are very afraid, we are very worried about that, and also the Italian government for the moment, they doesn’t accept this conclusion, and those of the Italian members that were in the commission, so it is a very bad situation. They wanted to give a strike to the Italian government even if they are allied in the war in Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: Giuliana, the US military says your car was going very fast. GIULIANA SGRENA: That’s not true, because we were slow, and we were slowing down, because we have to turn. And before there was some water, so it’s not true that the car was going fast.
AMY GOODMAN: They say the soldiers used hand and arm signals, flashed white lights and fired warning shots to get the driver to stop.
GIULIANA SGRENA: No, they didn’t. No, no. No light, no air fire, nothing at all. They were beside the road. They were not on the street. They were away ten meters, and they didn’t give us any sign that they were there, so we didn’t saw them before they started to shoot.
AMY GOODMAN: Did they shoot from the front or from the back?
GIULIANA SGRENA: No, on the back, not on the front. They shot on the back, because Calipari was on the back on the right and he was shot dead immediately, and I was injured on my shoulder, but I was shot by the back. So I am a proof that they were shooting on the back and not in front of the car. We can see by my injured where I was shot.
AMY GOODMAN: Did the Italians do this report with the US military?
GIULIANA SGRENA: There were two Italians in the commission, but they don’t accept the conclusion of the commission, so now there is some discussion between the Italian authorities and the American ambassador here in Rome. But the two members of the commission, they don’t accept the conclusion of the commission, so there is a problem.
AMY GOODMAN: Did the Italians -- were they able to inspect the car?
GIULIANA SGRENA: No, we are expecting for the car tonight in Rome. We are supposed, the car will be in Rome tonight, and so the judges that they are doing the normal inquiry they can, they could see the car. I hope to see the car also, but we don’t know in which condition we will receive the car. And the Italian judges, they don’t know also the names of the soldiers that were involved in the shooting.

Bush Abomination’s #1 Failure: National Security

Jonathan S. Landay, Knight Ridder: The State Department decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered…
Last year, the number of incidents in 2003 was undercounted, forcing a revision of the report, "Patterns of Global Terrorism."
"Instead of dealing with the facts and dealing with them in an intelligent fashion, they try to hide their facts from the American public," charged Larry C. Johnson, a former CIA analyst and State Department terrorism expert who first disclosed the decision to eliminate the report in The Counterterrorism Blog, an online journal.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who was among the leading critics of last year's mix-up, reacted angrily to the decision.
"This is the definitive report on the incidence of terrorism around the world. It should be unthinkable that there would be an effort to withhold it - or any of the key data - from the public. The Bush administration should stop playing politics with this critical report."

John Brown, Tom Dispatch: If there's one thing the sad history of recent years has amply demonstrated, it's that the Bush White House is profoundly uninterested in ideas (even the superficial ones promulgated by the neocons). What concerns Dubya and his entourage is not thought, but power. They pick up and drop "ideas" at the tip of a hat, abandoning them when they no longer suit their narrow interests of the moment. (The ever-changing "justifications" for the war in Iraq are a perfect illustration of this attitude). The Bushies are short-term and savvy tacticians par excellence, with essentially one long-term plan, rudimentary but focused: Republican -- as they interpret Lincoln's party -- domination of the United States for years to come. Karl Rove's hero, after all, is William McKinley, the twenty-fifth president of the United States, who, some argue, was responsible for creating GOP control of American politics for decades…
So, after all the administration has done to ruin America's moral standing and image overseas -- "preemptive" military strikes that violate simple morality and the basic rules of war; searching in vain for nonexistent weapons of mass destruction; mindlessly rushing to implement "regime change" in a far-off Third-World country, an ill-planned effort that could result in the establishment of an anti-western theocracy harmful to American interests; brutally incarcerating "terrorists" with little, if any, respect for international law; arrogantly bashing "old Europe" just to show off all-American Manichean machismo; and insulting millions abroad by writing off their opinions -- Americans are now being told by Dubya and his gang what we've really been up to all this time across the oceans: We're democratizing the Middle East, and with great success thus far!
I don't believe a word of it.

Bob Drogin and Greg Miller, LA Times: Tyler Drumheller, former chief of the CIA European Division, said he and other senior officials in his office — the unit that oversees spying in Europe — had issued repeated warnings about Curveball's accounts.
"Everyone in the chain of command knew exactly what was happening," said Drumheller, who retired in November after 25 years at the CIA. He said he never met personally with Tenet, but "did talk to McLaughlin and everybody else." Drumheller scoffed at claims by Tenet and McLauglin that they were unaware of concerns about Curveball's credibility. He said he was disappointed that the two former CIA leaders would resort to a "bureaucratic defense" that they never got a formal memo expressing doubts about the defector.
"They can say whatever they want," Drumheller said. "They know what the truth is …. I did not lie." Drumheller said the CIA had "lots of documentation" to show suspicions about Curveball were disseminated widely within the agency. He said they included warnings to McLaughlin's office and to the Weapons Intelligence Non Proliferation and Arms Control Center, known as WINPAC, the group responsible for many of the flawed prewar assessments on Iraq.
"Believe me, there are literally inches and inches of documentation" including "dozens and dozens of e-mails and memos and things like that detailing meetings" where officials sharply questioned Curveball's credibility, Drumheller said.

Michael T. Klare, As the United States gears up for an attack on Iran, one thing is certain: the Bush administration will never mention oil as a reason for going to war. As in the case of Iraq, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) will be cited as the principal justification for an American assault. "We will not tolerate the construction of a nuclear weapon [by Iran]," is the way President Bush put it in a much-quoted 2003 statement. But just as the failure to discover illicit weapons in Iraq undermined the administration's use of WMD as the paramount reason for its invasion, so its claim that an attack on Iran would be justified because of its alleged nuclear potential should invite widespread skepticism. More important, any serious assessment of Iran's strategic importance to the United States should focus on its role in the global energy equation…
One further caveat: When talking about oil's importance in American strategic thinking about Iran, it is important to go beyond the obvious question of Iran's potential role in satisfying our country's future energy requirements. Because Iran occupies a strategic location on the north side of the Persian Gulf, it is in a position to threaten oil fields in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates, which together possess more than half of the world's known oil reserves. Iran also sits athwart the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow waterway through which, daily, 40% of the world's oil exports pass. In addition, Iran is becoming a major supplier of oil and natural gas to China, India, and Japan, thereby giving Tehran additional clout in world affairs. It is these geopolitical dimensions of energy, as much as Iran's potential to export significant quantities of oil to the United States, that undoubtedly govern the administration's strategic The one thing that international bankers don't want to hear is that the second Great Depression may be round the corner…
"About 944bn barrels of oil has so far been extracted, some 764bn remains extractable in known fields, or reserves, and a further 142bn of reserves are classed as 'yet-to-find', meaning what oil is expected to be discovered. If this is so, then the overall oil peak arrives next year," he says.
If he is correct, then global oil production can be expected to decline steadily at about 2-3% a year, the cost of everything from travel, heating, agriculture, trade, and anything made of plastic rises. And the scramble to control oil resources intensifies. As one US analyst said this week: "Just kiss your lifestyle goodbye."
…The study of "peak oil" - the point at which half the total oil known to have existed in a field or a country has been consumed, beyond which extraction goes into irreversible decline - used to be back-of-the envelope guesswork. It was not taken seriously by business or governments, mainly because oil has always been cheap and plentiful.
In the wake of the Iraq war, the rapid economic rise of China, global warming and recent record oil prices, the debate has shifted from "if" there is a global peak to "when".
The US government knows that conventional oil is running out fast. According to a report on oil shales and unconventional oil supplies prepared by the US office of petroleum reserves last year, "world oil reserves are being depleted three times as fast as they are being discovered. Oil is being produced from past discoveries, but the re¬serves are not being fully replaced. Remaining oil reserves of individual oil companies must continue to shrink. The disparity between increasing production and declining discoveries can only have one outcome: a practical supply limit will be reached and future supply to meet conventional oil demand will not be available."
It continues: "Although there is no agreement about the date that world oil production will peak, forecasts presented by USGS geologist Les Magoon, the Oil and Gas Journal, and others expect the peak will occur between 2003 and 2020. What is notable ... is that none extend beyond the year 2020, suggesting that the world may be facing shortfalls much sooner than expected."
According to Bill Powers, editor of the Canadian Energy Viewpoint investment journal, there is a growing belief among geologists who study world oil supply that production "is soon headed into an irreversible decline ... The US government does not want to admit the reality of the situation. Dr Campbell's thesis, and those of others like him, are becoming the mainstream." calculations.

Bush Abomination’s #2 Failure: Economic Security

John Vidal, Guardian: The one thing that international bankers don't want to hear is that the second Great Depression may be round the corner. But last week, a group of ultra-conservative Swiss financiers asked a retired English petroleum geologist living in Ireland to tell them about the beginning of the end of the oil age.
They called Colin Campbell, who helped to found the London-based Oil Depletion Analysis Centre because he is an industry man through and through, has no financial agenda and has spent most of a lifetime on the front line of oil exploration on three continents. He was chief geologist for Amoco, a vice-president of Fina, and has worked for BP, Texaco, Shell, ChevronTexaco and Exxon in a dozen different countries.
"Don't worry about oil running out; it won't for very many years," the Oxford PhD told the bankers in a message that he will repeat to businessmen, academics and investment analysts at a conference in Edinburgh next week. "The issue is the long downward slope that opens on the other side of peak production. Oil and gas dominate our lives, and their decline will change the world in radical and unpredictable ways," he says.
Campbell reckons global peak production of conventional oil - the kind associated with gushing oil wells - is approaching fast, perhaps even next year. His calculations are based on historical and present production data, published reserves and discoveries of companies and governments, estimates of reserves lodged with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, speeches by oil chiefs and a deep knowledge of how the industry works.

Paul Krugman, NY Times: Last week fears of a return to stagflation sent stock prices to a five-month low. What few seem to have noticed, however, is that a mild form of stagflation - rising inflation in an economy still well short of full employment - has already arrived...
We shouldn't overstate the case: we're not back to the economic misery of the 1970's. But the fact that we're already experiencing mild stagflation means that there will be no good options if something else goes wrong.
Suppose, for example, that the consumer pullback visible in recent data turns out to be bigger than we now think, and growth stalls. (Not that long ago many economists thought that an oil price in the 50's would cause a recession.) Can the Fed stop raising interest rates and go back to rate cuts without causing the dollar to plunge and inflation to soar?
Or suppose that there's some kind of oil supply disruption - or that warnings about declining production from Saudi oil fields turn out to be right. Suppose that Asian central banks decide that they already have too many dollars. Suppose that the housing bubble bursts. Any of these events could easily turn our mild case of stagflation into something much more serious.

Nicholas Riccardi, Los Angeles Times: For the first time in 14 years, the American work force has in effect gotten an across-the-board pay cut.
The growth in wages in 2004 and the first two months of this year trailed the growth in prices, compounding the squeeze from higher housing, energy and other costs.
The effective 0.2-percentage-point erosion in workers' living standards occurred while the economy expanded at a healthy 4 percent, better than the 3 percent historical average. At the same time, corporate profits hit record highs as companies got more productivity out of workers while keeping pay raises down…
The squeeze is especially intense on the 47 percent of the work force whose employers don't directly provide their health insurance. For lower-income workers, who are more likely to be uninsured, the falling value of their wages is even more serious, because they're more likely to live paycheck to paycheck. And rising food and energy prices take a higher toll on the poor than on the rich.

Bush Abomination’s #3 Failure: Environmental Security

Jean-Marcel Bouguereau, Le Nouvel Observateur: These aren't some granolas in Indian tunics and clogs. They are 1360 experts from 95 different countries, among the most highly qualified anthropologists, ecologists, biologists, and economists. They worked for five years to arrive at this frightening observation: forty years from now the planet will no longer be able to assure human well-being. Already, "60% of the ecosystems that support life on earth have been damaged," such as the tropical forests and the oceans. Damage that has become particularly acute during the last fifty years. More land, for example, has been converted to agricultural use since 1945 than in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Even if man succeeds in nourishing

Kelpie Wilson, "I am a geo-green," says New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who has written a series of columns expounding his "geo-green" stance. Geo-greens, he says, combine geopolitics with green strategies - specifically in the context of the Middle East and terrorism…
On March 14th, ultraconservative congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) gave a presentation on the House floor on the topic of Peak Oil. Peak Oil is the theory that all of the significant petroleum reserves have already been located and that we have now used up about half of that 2000 gigabarrel legacy from the Earth's past. Because the last 1000 gigabarrels will be increasingly hard to extract, the era of cheap oil is over, starting now. Bartlett explained the dangers of the intersecting curves of rising demand and falling production. He even advanced the heretical notion that "… transition to sustainability will not happen if left to market forces alone."
So where are the Democratic voices linking energy conservation and national security? With awareness of Peak Oil rising along with prices at the pump, it's time for Democrats to make it clear they are leading the charge for the geo-green strategy. They might even want to call it "energy security."
Energy security is the big tent that the Dems desperately need, because energy security encompasses just about everything. For starters, take the economy, which is starting to bog down under escalating energy prices. Diverting money that would go to ayatollahs and sultans (as well as to oil company CEOs and wealthy investors, by the way) and pumping it into renewable energy programs would create jobs and lower future energy prices.

Steve Connnor, Independent/UK: Slow degradation is one thing but sudden and irreversible decline is another. The report identifies half a dozen potential "tipping points" that could abruptly change things for the worse, with little hope of recovery on a human timescale.
Even if slow and inexorable degradation does not lead to total environmental collapse, the poorest people of the world are still going to suffer the most, according to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, which drew on 22 national science academies from around the world.
Walt Reid, the leader of the report's core authors, warned that unless the international community took decisive action the future looked bleak for the next generation. "The bottom line of this assessment is that we are spending earth's natural capital, putting such strain on the natural functions of earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted," Dr Reid said.
"At the same time, the assessment shows that the future really is in our hands. We can reverse the degradation of many ecosystem services over the next 50 years, but the changes in policy and practice required are substantial and not currently under way," he said.

Illegitimate, Incompetent, Corrupt

Robin Cook, Guardian: There is a breathtaking hypocrisy to the indictment of Kofi Annan over the oil for food programme for Iraq. It was the US and the UK who devised the programme, piloted the UN resolutions that gave it authority, sat on the committee to administer it and ran the blockade to enforce it. I know because I spent a high proportion of my time at the Foreign Office trying to make a success of it. If there were problems with it then Washington and London should be in the dock alongside the luckless Kofi Annan, who happened to be general secretary at the time. But there is a deeper level of perversity to the denigration of Annan by the American right wing. They have long clamoured for reform of the UN. Kofi Annan has just proposed the most comprehensive overhaul of the UN in its history and is the general secretary most likely to deliver support for it. If they persist in undermining him they are likely to derail his reform package. The suspicion must be that they would rather have a creaking, ineffective UN to treat as a coconut shy than a modern, representative forum that would oblige them to respect collective decisions.

BARRY SCHWEID, Associated Press: Challenging the White House, 59 former American diplomats are urging the Senate to reject John R. Bolton's nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
"He is the wrong man for this position," they said in a letter to Sen. Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee…
The ex-diplomats have served in both Democratic and Republican administrations, some for long terms and others briefly. They include Arthur A. Hartman, ambassador to France and the Soviet Union under Presidents Carter and Reagan and assistant secretary of state for European affairs under President Nixon. Three women peace activists interrupted today’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on John Bolton’s nomination as US Ambassador to the UN. They held up banners reading “NO Bolton, YES UN,” “Bolton = Nuclear Proliferation,” and “Diplomat, Not Bully, Please!” and urged Senators to reject Bolton as the worst possible choice for the job and for world peace.
“John Bolton is an inappropriate nominee for UN ambassador. His history shows us that the credibility of the US as a peacekeeping nation will be undermined if he is confirmed,” said Gael Murphy, one of the women who interrupted the hearing.
Murphy was kicked out of the hearing, as were two other CODEPINK women peace activists, Laurie Emrich, and Allison Yorra…
CODEPINK is known for its creative and bold approach to anti-war activism, and for its members’ success in interrupting prime time speeches three nights in a row during the Republican National Convention in New York City.

John Nichols, Capital Times: "I'm with the Bush-Cheney team, and I'm here to stop the count." Those were the words John Bolton yelled as he burst into a Tallahassee library on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2000, where local election workers were recounting ballots cast in Florida's disputed presidential race between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
Bolton was one of the pack of lawyers for the Republican presidential ticket who repeatedly sought to shut down recounts of the ballots from Florida counties before those counts revealed that Gore had actually won the state's electoral votes and the presidency.
The Dec. 9 intervention was Bolton's last and most significant blow against the democratic process.
The Florida Supreme Court had ordered a broad recount of ballots in order to finally resolve the question of who won the state. But Bolton and the Bush-Cheney team got their Republican allies on the U.S. Supreme Court to block the review. Fearing that each minute of additional counting would reveal the reality of voter sentiments in Florida, Bolton personally rushed into the library to stop the count.
Reuters: Democrats on the House of Representatives intelligence panel have asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to explain why no government officials have been charged in a federal probe into the 2003 disclosure of a CIA operative's identity.
A letter, dated April 14 and signed by the committee's nine Democratic members, expressed "grave concern" that no charges have resulted from the grand jury investigation into whether the Bush administration illegally leaked the CIA officer's name to the media.
Disclosing the identity of a clandestine intelligence officer is a crime.
The case is being handled by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, who took over the investigation in December 2003.

Ray McGovern, Thankfully, integrity is a virtue not altogether lost. The bright light of the past week came when, to everyone’s surprise, Senate Foreign Relations Committee member George Voinovich (R-Ohio) decided he simply could not follow his Republican colleagues who had decided to hold their noses and give Bolton a pass. That blocked the nomination from going forward to the Senate until additional information on Bolton can be assessed.
Cheney reacted quickly and forcefully against a suggestion by Senator Lincoln Chafee (R- R.I.) that the Republican committee members might consider whether to recommend that the nomination be withdrawn, and it appears the White House will use the coming weeks to pull out all the stops in harnessing the faithful. Already, well-financed hit squads are running radio spots in Ohio saying Voinovich has “stabbed the president and the Republicans right in the back.”
Asked why he wanted more time to weigh the charges against Bolton, Voinovich answered with a sentence not often heard in Washington political circles, “My conscience got me.”
Can conscience prevail over politics? Voinovich has proved it is still possible. Let us hope that he and his committee colleagues will approach the decision on Bolton with an open mind. For integrity in intelligence is now on life support. Approving the nomination of quintessential politicizer Bolton would pull the plug and ensure amateurish, cooked-to-taste intelligence analysis for decades to come.

John P. O’Neill Wall of Heroes

Jennifer McKee, Gazette State Bureau: - Montana lawmakers overwhelmingly passed what its sponsor called the nation's most strongly worded criticism of the federal Patriot Act on Friday, uniting politicians of all stripes.
The resolution, which already galloped through the Senate and passed the House 88-12 Friday, must survive a final vote before it officially passes.
Senate Joint Resolution 19, sponsored by Sen. Jim Elliott, D-Trout Creek, says that while the 2005 Legislature supports the federal government's fight against terrorism, the so-called Patriot Act of 2001 granted authorities sweeping powers that violate citizens' rights enshrined in both the U.S. and Montanan constitutions.
The resolution, which does not carry the weight of a law but expresses the Legislature's opinion, encourages Montana law enforcement agencies not to participate in investigations authorized under the Patriot Act that violate Montanans' constitutional rights.

James Ridgeway, Village Voice: The unsettling story of whistleblower Sibel Edmonds took another twist on Thursday, as the government continued its seemingly endless machinations to shut her up. The US Court of Appeals here denied pleas to open the former FBI translator's First Amendment case to the public, a day after taking the extraordinary step of ordering a secret hearing.
Edmonds was hired after 9-11 to help the woefully staffed FBI's translation department with documents and wiretaps in such languages as Farsi and Turkish. She soon cried foul, saying the agency's was far from acceptable and perhaps even dangerous to national security. She was fired in 2002.
Ever since, the government has been trying to silence her, even classifying an interview she did with 60 Minutes.
Oral arguments in her suit against the federal government were scheduled for this morning, but yesterday the clerk of the appeals court unexpectedly and suddenly announced the hearing would be closed. Only attorneys and Edmonds were allowed in.

Gloria R. Lalumia, Seymour Hersh visited New Mexico State University (Las Cruces) on Tuesday, March 29 as part of his speaking tour for his newest book, “Chain of Command: the Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib.” He opened his presentation by announcing that he intended to discuss “what’s on my mind” and “where we think we are.” The first thing on his mind was a chilling assessment of George W. Bush…. “Nothing I write” is likely to influence Bush, he said. “He is unreachable. I can’t reach him. He’s got his own world. This is really unusual and frankly, it scares the hell out of me.”
…How have we as a nation gotten to where we are today? Since the ‘80’s Wolfowitz, Feith, Gingrich and others have been pushing the neo-con idea that by spreading democracy, we can make the world safer for US interests. “It’s as if we’ve been taken over by a cult of 8 or 9 people who decided the road to stop international terrorism led to Baghdad,” according to Hersh. Hersh recalled how General Shinseki, who testified in February 2003 that we would need upwards of 250,000 troops to control Iraq, was denounced by Wolfowitz, because Shinseki’s answers didn’t conform to the neo-con mantra.
“That 8 or 9 people can change so much...Where was the military, the Congress, the press? What has happened raises the question about the thinness of the fabric of democracy.”
A couple of questions touched on opinions in the military/government toward Bush’s policies: According to Hersh, elite intel groups are troubled by the missions they are being ordered to carry out and they are questioning what they are doing. Hersh said that he is not a “pacifist” because there are people want to hurt us and we need to be able to protect ourselves. But, in Afghanistan, things could have been done differently. Hersh said he wants us to know that those who know the Constitution are very concerned. In particular, Navy Seals are suffering “massive resignations over disillusionment” over Bush’s policies. “Our President chose not to do things in ways that could have avoided this...he had other options available.” Hersh concluded by reiterating that “vast parts of government didn’t believe there were WMD’s” and that Bush’s neo-con policies are “a product of paranoid thinking and the Cold War.”

Vermont News, For starters, Jeffords, who opposes the war in Iraq, predicted the Bush administration would start a war in Iran to help elect a third member of the Bush clan to the White House.
“I think it was all done to get oil,” Jeffords said of invading Iraq. “And the loss of life that we had, and the cost of it, was to me just a re-election move, and they're going to try to live off it. Probably start another war, wouldn't be surprised, next year. Probably in Iran.”
“Do you think that's likely?” VPR host Bob Kinzel asked.
“I probably shouldn't even talk on it, I just feel so bitter about the thinking that's gone on behind them, and the reasons they go to war and went to war,” Jeffords replied. “But I feel very strongly that they are looking ahead, and that there will be an opportunity to go into Iran and try to get their son elected president. I don't know, but you do it each time they (are) going to have a new president. I’m very, very (Jeffords chuckles). Oh, well, I better be quiet.”
In an interview this week, Jeffords spokesman Erik Smulson didn't back away from his boss's comments (which can be heard at and noted that Florida Gov. Jeb Bush -- the brother of the sitting president and son of former President George H.W. Bush -- is considered a possible 2008 GOP candidate for president.
“Certainly, this is a theory that has been pretty well discussed in numerous circles, that Iran potentially will be the next battleground, and that Jeb Bush is certainly considered a possibility in '08,” Smulson said.

Mark Egan, Reuters: The Bush administration helps the cause of Islamic terrorism by failing to engage in serious dialogue with the international community, author Salman Rushdie said on Tuesday.
Rushdie -- who lived for years under threat of death after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's 1989 pronouncement that his novel "The Satanic Verses" was blasphemous -- said he believes U.S. isolationism has turned not just its enemies against America, but its allies too.
"What I think plays into Islamic terrorism is ... the curious ability of the current administration to unite people against it," Rushdie told Reuters in an interview.
Rushdie said he found it striking how the "colossal sympathy" the world felt for the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has been squandered so quickly.
"It seems really remarkable that the moment you leave America ... you find not just America's natural enemies, but America's natural allies talking in language more critical than I, in my life, have ever heard about the United States," he said.

Robert Scheer, LA Times: It hardly honors the man to ignore his impassioned statements on what he considered to be a great moral crisis. And whether through divine inspiration or his own formidable instincts honed through a long life in a troubled and violent century, the pope got it right on Iraq when he said, "No to war!" President Bush has sloughed off the issue of the pope's anti-war stance as what you'd expect from a religious leader: "Of course he was a man of peace and he didn't like war," he said after the pope's death. But John Paul's assertion that the peaceful alternatives to a U.S.-British invasion of Iraq had not been exhausted went far beyond bland denunciations of violence. Like the millions of anti-war protesters around the world, he knew what the U.S. media and Congress refused to see: that Bush was rushing to war based on convenient distortions about weapons of mass destruction and the war on terrorism.

Kulchur War, Defense of Science, Separation of Church & State

Gene Lyons, Arkansas Democrat Gazette: Does it strike you as odd that persons calling themselves Christians are furious that the U.S. Supreme Court found executing juveniles unconstitutional? Do you find even odder that such individuals describe themselves, straight-faced, as adherents of the "culture of life"? Are you surprised to learn that people called conservatives would quote Joseph Stalin? Yes, that Joseph Stalin, the former Soviet dictator and mass murderer. And no, I am not making this up. It happened recently at a Washington conclave held by something called the Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration…the real headline-maker was Edwin Vieira, allegedly an expert in constitutional law.
Vieira attacked the theological right’s latest whipping boy, Ronald Reagan-appointed Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy…
In so doing, Vieira insisted, Kennedy upheld "Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law."
And the solution? If not impeachment, Vieira said that his "bottom-line" solution for renegade judges was Stalin’s: "He had a slogan, and it worked very well for him, whenever he ran into difficulty: ‘ No man, no problem. ’"
The audience reportedly didn’t gasp. They laughed. "‘ No man, no problem, ’" he repeated for emphasis. "This is not a structural problem we have. This is a problem of personnel."
The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank supplied the full Stalin quote, which is quite famous: "Death solves all problems: No man, no problem." He speculated that Vieira couldn’t possibly be urging the killing of Supreme Court justices. But he put the remark in the context of recent threats by DeLay, who said that "the time will come for the men responsible for [Terri Schiavo’s death] to answer for their behavior," and Texas Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who mused that unpopular judicial decisions could lead people to "engage in violence." reserved.

Sidney Blumenthal, President Bush treated his final visit with Pope John Paul II in Vatican City on June 4, 2004, as a campaign stop. After enduring a public rebuke from the pope about the Iraq war, Bush lobbied Vatican officials to help him win the election. "Not all the American bishops are with me," he complained, according to the National Catholic Reporter. He pleaded with the Vatican to pressure the bishops to step up their activism against abortion and gay marriage in the states during the campaign season.
About a week later, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger sent a letter to the U.S. bishops, pronouncing that those Catholics who were pro-choice on abortion were committing a "grave sin" and must be denied Communion. He pointedly mentioned "the case of a Catholic politician consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws" -- an obvious reference to John Kerry, the Democratic candidate and a Roman Catholic. If such a Catholic politician sought Communion, Ratzinger wrote, priests must be ordered to "refuse to distribute it." Any Catholic who voted for this "Catholic politician," he continued, "would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion." During the closing weeks of the campaign, a pastoral letter was read from pulpits in Catholic churches repeating the ominous suggestion of excommunication. Voting for the Democrat was nothing less than consorting with the forces of Satan, collaboration with "evil."
In 2004 Bush increased his margin of Catholic support by 6 points from the 2000 election, rising from 46 to 52 percent. Without this shift, Kerry would have had a popular majority of a million votes. Three states -- Ohio, Iowa and New Mexico -- moved into Bush's column on the votes of the Catholic "faithful." Even with his atmospherics of terrorism and Sept. 11, Bush required the benediction of the Holy See as his saving grace. The key to his kingdom was turned by Cardinal Ratzinger.
With the College of Cardinals' election of Ratzinger to the papacy, his political alliances with conservative politicians can be expected to deepen and broaden. Under Benedict XVI, the church will assume a consistent reactionary activism it has not had for two centuries. And the new pope's crusade against modernity has already joined forces with the right-wing culture war in the United States, prefigured by his interference in the 2004 election…

Posted by richard at May 1, 2005 11:25 AM