Friday, October 26, 2007
Headline of the Day
Ecuador wants military base in Miami —Reuters
Reporter Phil Thompson explains the deal—
Ecuador's leftist President1 Rafael Correa said Washington must let him open a military base in Miami if the United States wants to keep using an air base on Ecuador's Pacific coast.
Correa has refused to renew Washington's lease on the Manta air base, set to expire in 2009. U.S. officials say it is vital for counter-narcotics surveillance operations on Pacific drug-running routes.
"We'll renew the base on one condition: that they let us put a base in Miami -- an Ecuadorean base," Correa said in an interview during a trip to Italy.
"If there's no problem having foreign soldiers on a country's soil, surely they'll let us have an Ecuadorean base in the United States."
Correa, a popular leftist economist, had promised to cut off his arm before extending the lease that ends in 2009 and has called U.S. President George W. Bush a "dimwit".
Good for Correa! But don't be shocked if sometime between now and 2009 you see the headline "Ecuadorean President Loses Arm."
But Correa, an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, told Reuters he believed relations with the United States were "excellent" despite the base closing.
He rejected the idea that the episode reflected on U.S. ties at all.
"This is the only North American military base in South America," he said.
"So, then the other South American countries don't have good relations with the United States because they don't have military bases? That doesn't make any sense."
1I'm always fascinated when the mainstream media (MSM) pin an epithet such as "leftist" on a foreign leader. I did a little search for "leftist president" in Google News and turned up 122 hits. In the media the "leftist presidents" are Hugo Chávez (Venezuela), Evo Morales (Bolivia) and now Rafael Correa.
Then I did a search for "rightist president" and "right-wing president." "Rightist president" yielded one hit—and that was in Workers World and referred to Sarkozy of France!
"Right-wing president" produced 9 hits, but only 2 were from US news organizations: an online columnist at About.com referred to Bush as such, and the New Albany Tribune quoted from former Soviet Premier Gorbachev's recent speech in the US in which he used the phrase to refer to Ronald Reagan.
"Right-wing prime minister" produced one hit from the British Guardian that referred to Polish prime minister Kaczynski.
In other words, as I write there is not a single instance of a news story from a major American news organization that characterizes any foreign president or prime minister as "rightest" or "right-wing" despite the plethora of thugs where the characterization might fit.
If it is true, as the Right claims, that the American media are dominated by liberals and leftists, they are certainly doing an excellent job of hiding their tendencies. [back]
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Business news you can dance to
If the news from the financial sector is grim, there's a new channel on cable to explain who's to blame. Rupert Murdoch, fresh from acquiring the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones, saw the inauguration last week of his Fox Business News (FBN).
To gain viewers the plan is to emulate the techniques of Murdoch's flagship vehicle in the War on Reality, Fox News. Fox News purveys its agenda of right-wing disinformation and fear-mongering in a tits-and-ass presentation surrounded by flashing graphics so disco-like that you don't know whether to listen or dance. Emerging from the hypnotic strobe effects, female presenters project their tits while Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity show their ass.
The Reuters reporter Anupreeta Das described the new FBN channel as "perky," an adjective more commonly associated with bulbous portions of the female anatomy than with commerce. But business consultant Julian Delasantellis noticed that FBN's market analysis also set it apart from its rivals—
Call it karma, Karl Jung's synchronicity, serendipity, or just plain old bad dumb luck, but it is interesting that the US stock market chose to throw in a 5% price decline in the week that Rupert Murdoch's Fox Business cable channel, the unabashedly rightwing rah rah towel-snapping boobs over bonds alternative to General Electric's CNBC and Bloomberg TV, debuted in 30 million US homes.
In contrast to the rest of the financial media, which correctly placed the blame for this latest market falloff, culminating in Friday's 367-point, 2.6% fall in the US Dow Jones Industrial Average, on continuing and ever-deepening concern over the credit quality effects of the US subprime crisis, Fox Business rounded up the usual keffiyeh-clad suspects and was alone among the financial media in placing at least part of the blame for the selloff on market nervousness over the terror bombings that greeted former premier Benazir Bhutto's return to Pakistan the previous day.
And to whom or what will FBN attribute responsibility when oil hits $100 a barrel in the near future? The falling value of the dollar? Fears over the safety of the Turkish pipeline carrying oil from Iraq? I'm betting it will be the fault of the régime in Iran, unless of course the Bush administration has selected a new enemy by then.
Quote of the Day
None of the Democrats vying to replace President Bush is doing so with the promise of reviving the system of checks and balances ... The aim of the party out of power is not to cut the presidency down to size but to seize it, not to reduce the prerogatives of the executive branch but to regain them.
Chalmers Johnson, known for the Blowback Trilogy, chronicles the rise of American imperialism. So it is in light of his focus on the imperial aspects of American life that he concludes his review by writing—
There is, I believe, only one solution to the crisis we face. The American people must make the decision to dismantle both the empire that has been created in their name and the huge, still growing military establishment that undergirds it. It is a task at least comparable to that undertaken by the British government when, after World War II, it liquidated the British Empire. By doing so, Britain avoided the fate of the Roman Republic -- becoming a domestic tyranny and losing its democracy, as would have been required if it had continued to try to dominate much of the world by force.
Look. The British did not "decide" to dismantle their empire in preference for liberty and democracy. After the War they were exhausted and broke. And only similar circumstances—or worse—will bring an end to the American empire, certainly not the American people.
Friends have remarked that I do not seem specific in suggesting what may be done in the face of the simply appalling realities described here. That is because, at the macro level, there is little to be done. Some sprucing up of the tatters perhaps—that is the best that can be hoped. This is a chronicle of the collapse.
The work, if we are to call it work, is personal. Try to maintain a sense of humor, your health and a passport.
Reflecting as I just have, I recall a passage from Samuel Beckett's The Unnamable—
What am I to do, what shall I do, what should I do, in my situation, how proceed? By aporia pure and simple? Or by affirmations and negations invalidated as uttered, or sooner or later? Generally speaking. There must be other shifts. Otherwise it would be quite hopeless. But it is quite hopeless. I should mention before going any further, any further on, that I say aporia without knowing what it means. Can one be ephectic otherwise than unawares? I don't know. With the yesses and noes it is different, they will come back to me as I go along and how, like a bird, to shit on them all without exception. The fact would seem to be, if in my situation one may speak of facts, not only that I shall have to speak of things of which I cannot speak, but also, which is even more interesting, but also that I, which is if possible even more interesting, that I shall have to, I forget, no matter. And at the same time I am obliged to speak. I shall never be silent. Never.
In case you were looking to the Democrats for your salvation (8/15/05)
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Headline of the Day
25 percent of S.C. teachers accused of sex offenses
The Independent-Mail apologized for the "inaccurate" headline and explained that the word "disciplined" had been omitted. The corrected headline became "25 percent of disciplined S.C. teachers accused of sex offenses."
If I've said it once, I'll say it a 1000 times: Too much discipline is not good for you! Despite their bad reputations, we now see that the slackers are either too moral or too lazy to commit a sex offense.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Another excuse for the US presence in Iraq is crumbling
The American public has been presented over the four-year course of the failed occupation of Iraq with a menu of excuses for why the U.S. Army and Marines along with Blackwater and other private armies cannot simply pack up their gear and come home.
The most frequently offered in the mainstream media (MSM) have been—
- The "Pottery Barn" excuse: We broke it, therefore we own it.
- The "Pottery Barn" excuse is sometimes turned on its head to become the "moral" excuse: We broke it therefore we have a moral responsibility to own it.
- The "democracy" excuse: We must stay until the Iraqis have established a stable democratic government.
- The "sacrifice" excuse: American soldiers have lost their lives in this mission and we must not let that sacrifice be in vain.
- The "civil war" excuse: We must stay to prevent a civil war among the Sunnis, Shias and Kurds.
- And the "hostile neighbor" excuse: We must stay to prevent interference or invasion from Iraq's neighbors.1
The "Pottery Barn" excuse fails whenever the simple logic of it is baldly stated. Even if the American public is willing to see the acquisition of resources through invasion, the international community is not. Other nations will inevitably take steps (and are taking steps) to prepare a credible resistance to a military conglomerate the likes of which the world has never known.
The "moral" excuse fails for want of a demonstrable benefit to the Iraqi people. And the promise of the creation of a "democracy" is not regarded as serious by anyone who has assessed Iraqi conditions.
The "sacrifice" excuse fails when we realize that however heroic was the gift these soldiers made of their lives for this country, surrendering more lives to a failed enterprise will not enhance the honor of what they did—nor will a withdrawal diminish it.
The "civil war" excuse failed when the MSM eventually was forced to concede that a civil war was in fact taking place already.
And now, as Turkey stands at the point of invasion, the "hostile neighbor" excuse is coming undone.
Yesterday the Financial Times editorialized—
A Turkish attack on northern Iraq to end cross-border raids by the rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is beginning to look politically unstoppable after this weekend’s attack on troops in south-east Turkey, the worst in a decade.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, is under intolerable pressure that will test his skill and judgment to the limit. The PKK attacks have outraged Turks, emboldened the electorally defeated ultranationalists and put Turkey’s powerful army back on the front foot after a string of setbacks in its cold war with Mr Erdogan’s neo-Islamist Justice and Development party.
Rather ludicrously, the Iraqi Foreign Minister has offered assurances to the Turkish Foreign Minister. According to the BBC,
Mr Zebari said his country would actively help Turkey deal with the PKK "menace".
"We agreed that the position we should take is a common position to fight terrorism wherever it is and we will not allow any party or any group, including the PKK to poison our bilateral relations," he said.
A delegation of senior Iraqi government officials is expected to travel to Ankara in the coming days to agree on measures that are being described as practical and concrete.
The talks came after the US urged Iraq to take swift action against the insurgents to forestall the threatened Turkish raids.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki agreed to work with the Turkish government to prevent the PKK from using Iraqi territory to plan or carry out terrorist attacks, a White House statement said.
This is theater at its finest. The notion that the Iraqi government can significantly contribute to the control of any group, least of all the PKK, is absurd. But it does suggest that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is looking for an excuse not to invade and at the very least is buying time.
Aside from U.S. pressure, a possible reason for Erdogan's reluctance (if it is in fact genuine) is suggested by the FT editorial—that an invasion would "put Turkey’s powerful army back on the front foot after a string of setbacks in its cold war with Mr Erdogan’s neo-Islamist Justice and Development party."
For whatever the reasons, we may hope that Turkey will not add to the overwhelming misery of the Iraqis. But in any case, it has become quite evident that the US is in no position to stop it.
A strange little flutter (6/16/04)
If this is true... (Turkey & Rice) (3/4/05)
Headline of the Day (7/6/05)
The denial of impotence (2/24/06)
The Pottery Barn Rule revisited (4/5/06)
Taking sides in a civil war (1/14/07)
Neocons fear the pain of premature withdrawal (1/29/07)
Latest revelations in the "Iranian threat" (2/12/07)
Reality Check of the Day (6/20/07)
Training the Iraqis: A contrary view (7/19/07)
Threat of the Day (10/9/07)
9/26/07 Correction: The lede sentence originally referred to the "six-year course of the failed occupation of Iraq." That has been corrected to "four-year course." It only seemed like six.
1In the more scholarly discussions of foreign affairs there are two others of which I'm aware—
- that an American withdrawal would be seen as a victory by militant Islamists in other countries of the region and would lead to a "domino effect." The supposed "domino effect"—that the Communists would be emboldened to take over all of Southeast Asis—was of course one of the primary justifications for the continuation of the Vietnam War. To my absolute astonishment, the first time I heard this excuse articulated was by none other than Henry Kissinger in an interview with Charlie Rose. It was one of those moments when you feel you've fallen into a time-warp.
We don't hear this rationale in the MSM because it might eventually occur to a reporter to make the comparison with the war in Vietnam.
- that an American withdrawal from Iraq would allow Iran to become the dominant power in the Middle East. It could be argued that this is really only one instance of the more general "hostile neighbor" rationale. But with the removal of Saddam Hussein, Iran can hardly be described as a hostile neighbor to the now-dominant Shias.
Unlike the reasons offered to us in the MSM, this is one of the real US interests that keep us in Iraq. But it is rarely mentioned, since to do so leads to the realization that not only was the decision to invade Iraq not in the US' interest in the first place, but that it in fact strengthened the Iranian position as a result.
Of course, a few people such as Naomi Klein and Naomi Wolf are suggesting that the profitability of the war for some of the folks back home creates a powerful disincentive to withdrawal. But surely no American businessman or politician would think like that, right? .... Right?! [back]
Monday, October 22, 2007
Justification of the Day
Religion has a history of saying intolerant things. That's why they're protected. —John Whitehead, president and founder of The Rutherford Institute, as reported in "State Dept. Urged to Shut Saudi School in Fairfax" by Jacqueline L. Salmon and Valerie Strauss
Gee, I always thought it was because they represented the highest aspirations of all mankind.
No, seriously. Whitehead seems to confuse freedom of religion with freedom of speech. The reason that "religion" is protected under the Constitution is to protect one religion from another. If given free rein (or government support), most religions are willing to do a great deal more than talk.
The religion under discussion is Islam and its two Saudi-funded schools in Fairfax County, Virginia. A federal panel ironically named the "U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom" has "urged the State Department to shut down a Saudi government-supported private school in Northern Virginia unless it can prove it is not teaching religious intolerance."
I'm all for it. Let's close every religious academy in the country "unless it can prove it is not teaching religious intolerance." I wonder how many we'll have left.
Encouraging wassatiya in the schools (6/10/04)
Department of Defense teaches creationism in DoD highschools (4/15/05)
Christo-Republican cadres (6/22/05)