Bomb maker to raise Iraq from rubble

The retired general tapped by the Bush administration to oversee rebuilding of post-war Iraq was, until just a few weeks ago, an executive at a leading defense contractor working on missile systems that would be used to bomb Baghdad.

Although a Pentagon official said Jay Garner's new role as head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance does not constitute a conflict of interest, ethics experts say the appointment raises troubling questions.

Why, they ask, would the White House pick a man from a company directly concerned with attacking Iraq to spearhead the country's aid and restoration?

"It's very curious," said Ben Hermalin, a professor at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business who studies professional ethics. "You have to wonder what the Iraqis will think of this guy and how much trust they'll place in him."

He added: "If it's not a conflict of interest, it's certainly being tone deaf."

Saving Face

A 16-year old Irish girl who was burned in a car explosion as a child will receive the world's first face transplant!


Early this morning I opened up a book to find this poem. Personally and politically, it seems quite important right now:
Did I believe I had a clear mind?
It was like the water of a river
flowing shallow over the ice. And now
that the rising water has broken
the ice, I see what I thought
was the light is part of the dark.

--Wendell Berry, "Breaking"


30 Antiwar Thinkers on How to Deal With Saddam

From The Guardian:
Julian Barnes
...I decline to buy the sudden idea of a "humanitarian war" when it will be conducted on current American guidelines: keep US casualties below the level of an average supermarket-mall massacre, bomb from high altitude, road-test the latest hardware, and oops, sorry about that wedding party which just went up in smoke. If, on the other hand, we are now announcing a new and truly ethical foreign policy, in which filthy oppressors worldwide are to be removed in order of filth, I would say that this should be done only with a very high majority vote in the UN, and that former - and current - imperial powers should be extremely cautious in their use of hectoring cant. Those who are anti-war have not somehow been cornered by the question, So, peaceniks, what would you do now? It's quite legitimate to answer, well, we wouldn't be here now, because we wouldn't have started from there then. Instead, a question in return. Saddam disarms voluntarily: do we then invade on humanitarian grounds?

Noam Chomsky
...Saddam Hussein is not the only monster supported by the present incumbents in Washington until he did something contrary to their interests. There's a long list that they supported right to the end of their bloody rule - Marcos, Duvalier, and many others, some of them as vicious and brutal as Saddam, and running tyrannies that compare well with his: Ceausescu, for example. They were overthrown internally, despite US support for them. That's been prevented within Iraq by the murderous sanctions regime, which has devastated the population while strengthening Saddam, and forcing the population to become hopelessly reliant on him for survival.

Solution? Give Iraqis a chance to survive, and there's every reason to believe that they'll get rid of him the way that others have. Meanwhile, strengthen measures to ensure that Saddam, or some replacement, doesn't develop significant military capacity. Not a very serious problem right now, since as is well known, Iraq is militarily and economically the weakest country in the region, but it could be down the road, and in his hands, it would be likely, even without the US and UK to supply him.

Kamil Mahdi
...The way out of the present impasse is:

1 Maintain weapons inspections to allay western concerns.

2 Introduce human-rights monitors.

3 Lift the economic blockade and demand professionalism and transparency in economic affairs under UN monitoring.

4 Implement Resolution 688, including an end to repression.

5 Genuinely support Iraqis, not by imposing an agenda and stooges on the opposition.

6 Start a process of truth and reconciliation.

7 Relieve debt and remove reparation to enhance moves toward democracy.

8 Move towards UN-supervised elections after a time.

9 Curb Ariel Sharon and move immediately towards a just Middle East peace under resolution 242, with recognition of Palestinian rights.


Peaceniks jam DC phone lines

Today's Virtual March on Washington was a huge success according to its organizers, the Win Without War coalition and MoveOn.org. More than 400,000 people registered prior to the march, and more than 1,000,000 people faxed, e-mailed or called their senators to express their belief that Bush and Co haven't made a convincing case for war with Iraq. I contacted Minnesota' Democratic Senator Mark Dayton's office and had a nice, but brief talk with a harried phone worker. When I called Republican Senator Norm Coleman's office at 1 pm CST, not only had he forwarded his calls to voicemail, but the mailbox was full.

Bush: Rhetoric vs. Reality

Bush smiles for the cameras, kisses the old ladies, hoists babies, and immediately turns around to cut funding to all of them. A compelling, if incomplete list, produced by the House Appropriations Committee.

Our Polluted Bodies

WHEN MICHAEL LERNER volunteered to give blood and urine samples to medical researchers, he figured they'd only find a few chemicals in his body. After all, Lerner, the president and founder of Commonweal, a health and environmental research institute in Marin County, has lived in Bolinas for 20 years, eaten a healthy diet and avoided exposure to industrial chemicals.

He was wrong. Researchers found his body polluted with 101 industrial toxins and penetrated by elevated levels of arsenic and mercury.

Scientists call such contamination a person's "body burden."

Lerner was one of nine people -- five of whom live and work in the Bay Areas -- who were tested for 210 chemicals commonly found in consumer products and industrial pollution. Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York, the Environmental Working Group of Oakland and Washington, and Commonweal collaborated on this innovative study of the body burden.

At press conferences held in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., last week, researchers revealed these shocking results: On average, each person had 50 or more chemicals linked to cancer in humans and lab animals, considered toxic to the brain and nervous system or known to interfere with the hormone and reproductive systems. (The Environmental Working Group's Web site features biographies and toxic profiles for each person as well as the kind of products that contain such chemicals.)
Read more.

(Thanks, Pete.)

13 Myths about the Case for War in Iraq

MYTH: "'Anti-war' protesters ... are giving, at the very least, comfort to Saddam Hussein." Therefore they can be accused of committing treason according to the Constitution. -- NY Sun Editorial, February 7, 2003
RESPONSE: It is true that original Constitution did not include Freedom of Speech or Freedom of the Press or other rights that we cherish today. These freedoms were added as the Bill of Rights to the Constitution in 1791.

The US Supreme Court explicitly recognized the right to freely criticize the government in 1964. The Court ruled that the New York Times could publish an ad critical of the actions of Montgomery, Alabama police against civil rights protesters. The Court, wrote Jamie Kalvern, "made explicit the principle that seditious libel -- criticism of government -- cannot be made a crime in America and spoke in this connection of `the central meaning of the First Amendment.'"

After John McCain -- the Senator from Arizona -- was released from captivity as a POW in Vietnam, he was asked, 'How did it feel when you heard Americans were protesting the war?' He said, I thought that's what we were fighting for -- the right to protest."

Statements that war protestors, may be, in the words of Article III of the Constitution "adhering to the enemies [of the U.S.] or giving them aid or comfort" ignore the Bill of Rights.

Moreover, the Sun's editors fail to acknowledge that it was Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist group that attacked New York City, not Saddam Hussein. Al Qaeda still supports the overthrow of Hussein because he is not an Islamic fundamentalist. By supporting Hussein's ouster, the Sun is actually giving a large measure of comfort to Bin Laden and his terrorist movement.

Civilian casualties from a second Iraq war would likely have the same effect that they had during the first Iraq war. They will enable Bin Laden to recruit thousands of soldiers in his war against the "occupying armies" of the United States -- soldiers willing to die in a much larger wave of suicide attacks.

Read the other 12 myths.
(Thanks, Alicia)


Lies, Damn Lies. And Milk.

A Florida judge decided recently that it's technically legal for the media to deliberately lie or distort the news on a television broadcast.

The decison reversed a $425,000 jury verdict in favor of TV journalists Jane Akre and Steve Wilson, who sued WTVT-TV, a Fox affiliate in Tampa, for firing them because they refused to air false reports about the presence of synthetic bovine growth hormone (or BGH) in the area milk supply. The husband-and-wife reporting team asserts that Monsanto, maker of BGH, pressured WTVT to edit the story to be less damning to the company (some of the changes would've undermined the credibility of scientists and studies that link BGH in milk to cancer). Akre and Wilson refused, despite repeated attempts by the station to have the story altered and an offer to terminate them with full pay if they never spoke of their BGH findings. Finally, says Akre, when they threatened to report the station to the FCC for falsifying news, they were canned. The lawsuit was settled in August 2000 with the finding that Fox "acted intentionally and deliberately to falsify or distort the plaintiffs' news reporting on BGH" and that Akre's threat to blow the whistle on Fox's misconduct to the FCC was the sole reason for the termination. The station appealed and prevailed, the judge citing that there is no FCC rule or regulation that specifically makes it illegal to mislead, distort, or falsify the news. The FCC's "news distortion policy," says Judge Casaneuva, isn't enough.

To download court documents see New World Communications of Tampa v. Akre or visit Akre's website.


Is Bush whacked?

Is the president nuts? Or is he a "dry drunk"? William Thomas--in a somewhat poorly written screed--ponders what's really going on in George W. Bush's mind.

Duct and Cower

The Department of Homeland Security's new terrorism preparedness website, Ready.gov, with all its dire warnings, duct-tape wisdom, and over-the-top infographics, is begging to be hacked. And the reinterpretations are rolling out, from the crude to the sophisticated. One more, and another. Boing Boing offers a few more. (Thanks, Ben.)


Day-Old Heroes

On November 8, 2001, President Bush addressed a group of firefighters, police officers, and postal workers in Atlanta about the tragedy and aftermath of September 11:
We have gained new heroes, those who ran into burning buildings to save others: our police and our firefighters….Those who voluntarily place themselves in harm's way to defend our freedom: the men and women of the armed forces.
By last November, the shine was already wearing off their hero medals: the new department of Homeland Security was founded, giving the White House the ability to strip most union protections, including collective bargaining. Today, things got worse for public servants. Military personnel will lose federal school aid for their children--and just in time for war. And seriously underfunded firefighters are lobbying for more money so they can purchase protective breathing gear needed to survive chemical or biological attacks. And more:
Their radios still can't connect with those of police and other rescuers. They don't have a day's worth of training in how to handle a terrorist assault of any kind, let alone the "dirty bombs"--homemade radioactve devices - the men at the top say could be sent our way.
The 2004 White House budget calls for additional $3.6 billion in homeland security funding for localities who would have to foot the bill for these improvements. Local governments and many Democrats say at least $7 billion is needed. (A war with Iraq, by contrast, could cost $50 billion in direct military costs and $200 billion with postwar costs added in--or about $1,550 per taxpayer.) Is this any way to treat our nation’s "heroes"?



"E-bombs" can fire "millions of watts of energy in microwaves that are able to knock out electronic equipment and the weapons that rely on them"--without killing anyone. So why is the US expanding its arsenal of nuclear "bunker busters", "mini-nukes," and neutron bombs?
• Respected Greek mathematics professor Eugene Angelopoulos, invited to speak at a conference at New York University, was met by the FBI at John F. Kennedy airport and was detained, shackled, and asked if he is anti-American and whether he opposes the war against Iraq. (Real Audio stream)
• A student at a Dearborn, Michigan, high school was sent home because he wore a t-shirt bearing a picture of George W. Bush and the words "International Terrorist."
• The General Accounting Office dropped its lawsuit against Dick Cheney (who refused to reveal information on who advised his corporate-friendly energy policy) after being "unambiguously" threatened with budget cuts by Republican Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens. An unrelated fact: Enron made $6 million in political contributions from 1989 to 2001, more than two-thirds to Republicans.
• The US slapped sanctions on an Indian firm that supplied chemical and biological agents to Iran and Iraq. Presumably, these firms weren't likewise punished. Nor was Donald Rumsfeld, who in 1983, according to the Washington Post, "traveled to Baghdad at a time when Iraq was using chemical weapons on an 'almost daily' basis in defiance of international conventions."
• Quote of the day, from David O'Reilly, chairman and chief executive of Chevron Texaco: "I am talking about the protests that say 'no blood for oil.' The slogan rests on two assumptions, first that the conflict with Iraq is about nothing but oil and second that energy security is not a legitimate reason--even as one among many--to go to war."
• "An overlooked, one-sentence provision found in the gargantuan spending bill passed in Congress this Thursday would relax the USDA's standards on organic-labeling. According to Andrew Mollison of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the clause, snuck in by Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) would allow organic labels to appear on meat even for livestock raised on non-organic feed."
• In preparation for US attacks on Iraq, Israel's Supreme Court rejected a petition demanding that gas masks be distributed to all Palestinians.
• The Virginia State Senate passed legislation today denying illegal aliens in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities.

We, the Dumb

America's marvelous diversity extends beyond the racial, ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic melting pot. Along with our Noam Chomskys, Grace Paleys, and Cornel Wests, we've got our share of dumb people too. Like the 83% of people who in a recent poll incorrectly answered the question "To the best of your knowledge, how many of the September 11 hijackers were Iraqi citizens?" (The real answer: none were Iraqi.) Like the 19% of Americans who think they're among the "richest 1% of Americans" who'll benefit from Bush's tax plan. (They'd need to make over $330,000 per year to qualify). And the 52% of Americans who, despite our crushed economy, isolation from the developed world, and the looming spectre of an unbudgeted war in the Middle East, still think Bush is doing a great job.

I'm counting Jeff Maas of Plymouth, Minnesota, in the aforementioned category. His letter to the editor in today's Star Tribune--with its know-it-all bluster, adolescent implication of the left's ingratitude, poor spelling, and screwy logic--earns him an elevated position:

Just a couple of reminders to all of the Minnesotans as well as all Americans who were out protesting the potential war threat:

One, Saddam Hussein was sitting back laughing at each one of you for being fooled into defending him against your own country. Two, had you lodged the same protest under his regime, you and your family would have eventually been killed.

Your right to protest is sacred in our great country, but remember: The First Amendment only applies in this country because our fore fathers fought for it.
By Jeff's logic, the truest patriots are the protesters--the ones who are actively participating in American citizenship by fully utilizing the civil rights our ancestors fought and died for. Those who shrink from free expression--out of fear of Saddam's laughter or fear of reprisal from tyrants, governments, and Jeffs alike--might be considered, well, dumb. But in a democracy, the beauty is we all get to have our say.


Our Rogue Nation

US plan for new nuclear arsenal:
Secret talks may lead to breaking treaties

Wednesday February 19, 2003
The Guardian

The Bush administration is planning a secret meeting in August to discuss the construction of a new generation of nuclear weapons, including "mini-nukes", "bunker-busters" and neutron bombs designed to destroy chemical or biological agents, according to a leaked Pentagon document.

The meeting of senior military officials and US nuclear scientists at the Omaha headquarters of the US Strategic Command would also decide whether to restart nuclear testing and how to convince the American public that the new weapons are necessary.

The leaked preparations for the meeting are the clearest sign yet that the administration is determined to overhaul its nuclear arsenal so that it could be used as part of the new "Bush doctrine" of pre-emption, to strike the stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons of rogue states.

Greg Mello, the head of the Los Alamos Study Group, a nuclear watchdog organisation that obtained the Pentagon documents, said the meeting would also prepare the ground for a US breakaway from global arms control treaties, and the moratorium on conducting nuclear tests.

"It is impossible to overstate the challenge these plans pose to the comprehensive test ban treaty, the existing nuclear test moratorium, and US compliance with article six of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty," Mr Mello said.

The documents leaked to Mr Mello are the minutes of a meeting in the Pentagon on January 10 this year called by Dale Klein, the assistant to the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to prepare the secret conference, planned for "the week of August 4 2003"...

..."To me it indicates there are plans proceeding and well under way ... to resume the development, testing and production of new nuclear weapons. It's very serious," said Stephen Schwartz, the publisher of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, who added that it opened the US to charges of hypocrisy when it is demanding the disarmament of Iraq and North Korea.

"How can we possibly go to the international community or to these countries and say 'How dare you develop these weapons', when it's exactly what we're doing?" Mr Schwartz said...

Obstructing Justice

Ari Fleischer blames the "liberal wing" of the Democratic Party for monkeywrenching the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the US Court of Appeals. "Some Democrats view the lesson of the last election as to go out and to run as far to the left as possible," he said. "The reemergence of the liberal wing of the Democratic party is in full swing, which is making many of the moderates of the Democratic party increasingly uncomfortable." He called the Democratic filibuster an "obstructionist tactic." In fact, what the Dems want is some basic information on Estrada's philosophy as a judge. A reasonable request considering an Appeals Court judgeship is seen by many as a stopover on the way to the Supreme Court.

During Judiciary Committee hearings last year, Estrada was utterly evasive, offering only this repeated phrase on his judicial philosophy: "My view of the judicial function, Senator, does not allow me to answer that question." And: "I'm very firmly of the view that although we all have views on a number of subjects from A to Z, the job of a judge is to subconsciously put that aside and look at each case . . . with an open mind." Sen. Chuck Schumer says that, "By remaining silent Mr. Estrada only buttressed the fear that he's a far-right stealth nominee, a... candidate who will drive the nation's second most important court out of the mainstream." If you recall, George W. Bush ran for president as a moderate, a "unifier not a divider," but has since showed his true colors by squandering the world's goodwill after September 11, isolating key allies France and Germany, insulting the UN and destabilizing NATO. What he did was unite the world--against him, as 30 million world citizens spoke out against his war on Iraq on Saturday. A wolf in sheep's clothing Estrada, too, might be. But to characterize the Democrats' filibuster as an tantrum by the liberal wing of the party continues the Republicans' so-far-successful campaign of pushing the national dialogue further to the right. They convinced the world the media has a "liberal bias." And now they're saying that seeking full-disclosure in judicial nominations is "liberal"? Of course, in the age of Operation TIPS, Code Orange, and the USA Patriot Act, it most certainly is.

Click here to urge your senator to keep the pressure on Estrada and Bush for full disclosure. Or visit MoveOn.org to learn more.


The Political Price of War

British PM Tony Blair's approval rating tanked after weekend protests by 1.5 million in London. His popularity--down 20 points--is the lowest its been in 2.5 years, mainly because of his "lapdog" relationship with Bush on Iraq. His
Australian counterpart, Prime Minister John Howard (like Blair, an ardent supporter of the Bush war machine), watched his approval slip to an eight-month low of 48% following an amazing turnout of peace activists in rallies across the country. Is Bush next?

And now, the numbers

Antiwar.com is keeping a running tally of protest counts from the weekend. I don't mean to fixate on numbers, but I'm wondering when we'll hit critical mass, when there will be enough minds focused on peace to radically change history (or at least the momentum toward war). I hope 30 million peopleis getting close.

Bush wants to do to Germany's economy what he's done to ours

Because Germany refuses to support Bush's preemptive war, their economy should suffer, say administration insiders. The Observer of London, quoting a White House representative, reports that the US will withdraw its 42,000 troops from Germany "for one reason only: to harm the German economy." "Our troops contribute many millions of dollars. Why should we continue to support a country which has treated Nato and the protection we provided for decades with such incredible contempt?" said one unnamed source. Another, in the Pentagon, said "The aim is to hit German trade and commerce. It is not just about taking out the troops and equipment; it is also about cancelling commercial contracts and defence-related arrangements." Yet another insider, echoing Rumsfeld's assertion of Germany's "treachery and ineptitude" said "This is simply not the way to conduct diplomacy at a moment of international crisis." Indeed it's not. Too bad he wasn't talking about Americandiplomacy.


Wage Peace
by Mary Oliver

Wage peace with your breath.
Breathe in firemen and rubble,
breathe out whole buildings
and flocks of redwing blackbirds.
Breathe in terrorists and breathe out sleeping children
and freshly mown fields.
Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.
Breathe in the fallen
and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.
Wage peace with your listening:
hearing sirens, pray loud.
Remember your tools:
flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.
Make soup.
Play music, learn the word for thank you in three languages.
Learn to knit, and make a hat.
Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,
imagine grief as the outbreath of beauty
or the gesture of fish.
Swim for the other side.
Wage peace.
Never has the world seemed so fresh and precious.
Have a cup of tea and rejoice.
Act as if armistice has already arrived.
Don't wait another minute.

What the GOP is doing for unemployment (in India)

A first for an American political party: the Republicans have outsourced their telemarketing to a firm in a suburb of New Dehli. Seventy-five "eager and young" workers in Noida and Gurgaon will be fundraising for the Grand Old Party. Yay for America!


Someone's Got to Say It

US Senator Robert Byrd's Senate floor speech from Wednesday, in its entirety:
To contemplate war is to think about the most horrible of human experiences. On this February day, as this nation stands at the brink of battle, every American on some level must be contemplating the horrors of war.

Yet, this Chamber is, for the most part, silent -- ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing.

We stand passively mute in the United States Senate, paralyzed by our own uncertainty, seemingly stunned by the sheer turmoil of events. Only on the editorial pages of our newspapers is there much substantive discussion of the prudence or imprudence of engaging in this particular war.

And this is no small conflagration we contemplate. This is no simple attempt to defang a villain. No. This coming battle, if it materializes, represents a turning point in U.S. foreign policy and possibly a turning point in the recent history of the world.

This nation is about to embark upon the first test of a revolutionary doctrine applied in an extraordinary way at an unfortunate time. The doctrine of preemption -- the idea that the United States or any other nation can legitimately attack a nation that is not imminently threatening but may be threatening in the future -- is a radical new twist on the traditional idea of self defense. It appears to be in contravention of international law and the UN Charter. And it is being tested at a time of world-wide terrorism, making many countries around the globe wonder if they will soon be on our -- or some other nation's -- hit list. High level Administration figures recently refused to take nuclear weapons off of the table when discussing a possible attack against Iraq. What could be more destabilizing and unwise than this type of uncertainty, particularly in a world where globalism has tied the vital economic and security interests of many nations so closely together? There are huge cracks emerging in our time-honored alliances, and U.S. intentions are suddenly subject to damaging worldwide speculation. Anti-Americanism based on mistrust, misinformation, suspicion, and alarming rhetoric from U.S. leaders is fracturing the once solid alliance against global terrorism which existed after September 11.

Here at home, people are warned of imminent terrorist attacks with little guidance as to when or where such attacks might occur. Family members are being called to active military duty, with no idea of the duration of their stay or what horrors they may face. Communities are being left with less than adequate police and fire protection. Other essential services are also short-staffed. The mood of the nation is grim. The economy is stumbling. Fuel prices are rising and may soon spike higher.

This Administration, now in power for a little over two years, must be judged on its record. I believe that that record is dismal.

In that scant two years, this Administration has squandered a large projected surplus of some $5.6 trillion over the next decade and taken us to projected deficits as far as the eye can see. This Administration's domestic policy has put many of our states in dire financial condition, under funding scores of essential programs for our people. This Administration has fostered policies which have slowed economic growth. This Administration has ignored urgent matters such as the crisis in health care for our elderly. This Administration has been slow to provide adequate funding for homeland security. This Administration has been reluctant to better protect our long and porous borders.

In foreign policy, this Administration has failed to find Osama bin Laden. In fact, just yesterday we heard from him again marshaling his forces and urging them to kill. This Administration has split traditional alliances, possibly crippling, for all time, International order-keeping entities like the United Nations and NATO. This Administration has called into question the traditional worldwide perception of the United States as well-intentioned, peacekeeper. This Administration has turned the patient art of diplomacy into threats, labeling, and name calling of the sort that reflects quite poorly on the intelligence and sensitivity of our leaders, and which will have consequences for years to come.

Calling heads of state pygmies, labeling whole countries as evil, denigrating powerful European allies as irrelevant -- these types of crude insensitivities can do our great nation no good. We may have massive military might, but we cannot fight a global war on terrorism alone. We need the cooperation and friendship of our time-honored allies as well as the newer found friends whom we can attract with our wealth. Our awesome military machine will do us little good if we suffer another devastating attack on our homeland which severely damages our economy. Our military manpower is already stretched thin and we will need the augmenting support of those nations who can supply troop strength, not just sign letters cheering us on.

The war in Afghanistan has cost us $37 billion so far, yet there is evidence that terrorism may already be starting to regain its hold in that region. We have not found bin Laden, and unless we secure the peace in Afghanistan, the dark dens of terrorism may yet again flourish in that remote and devastated land.

Pakistan as well is at risk of destabilizing forces. This Administration has not finished the first war against terrorism and yet it is eager to embark on another conflict with perils much greater than those in Afghanistan. Is our attention span that short? Have we not learned that after winning the war one must always secure the peace?

And yet we hear little about the aftermath of war in Iraq. In the absence of plans, speculation abroad is rife. Will we seize Iraq's oil fields, becoming an occupying power which controls the price and supply of that nation's oil for the foreseeable future? To whom do we propose to hand the reigns of power after Saddam Hussein?

Will our war inflame the Muslim world resulting in devastating attacks on Israel? Will Israel retaliate with its own nuclear arsenal? Will the Jordanian and Saudi Arabian governments be toppled by radicals, bolstered by Iran which has much closer ties to terrorism than Iraq?

Could a disruption of the world's oil supply lead to a world-wide recession? Has our senselessly bellicose language and our callous disregard of the interests and opinions of other nations increased the global race to join the nuclear club and made proliferation an even more lucrative practice for nations which need the income?

In only the space of two short years this reckless and arrogant Administration has initiated policies which may reap disastrous consequences for years.

One can understand the anger and shock of any President after the savage attacks of September 11. One can appreciate the frustration of having only a shadow to chase and an amorphous, fleeting enemy on which it is nearly impossible to exact retribution.

But to turn one's frustration and anger into the kind of extremely destabilizing and dangerous foreign policy debacle that the world is currently witnessing is inexcusable from any Administration charged with the awesome power and responsibility of guiding the destiny of the greatest superpower on the planet. Frankly many of the pronouncements made by this Administration are outrageous. There is no other word.

Yet this chamber is hauntingly silent. On what is possibly the eve of horrific infliction of death and destruction on the population of the nation of Iraq -- a population, I might add, of which over 50% is under age 15 -- this chamber is silent. On what is possibly only days before we send thousands of our own citizens to face unimagined horrors of chemical and biological warfare -- this chamber is silent. On the eve of what could possibly be a vicious terrorist attack in retaliation for our attack on Iraq, it is business as usual in the United States Senate.

We are truly "sleepwalking through history." In my heart of hearts I pray that this great nation and its good and trusting citizens are not in for a rudest of awakenings.

To engage in war is always to pick a wild card. And war must always be a last resort, not a first choice. I truly must question the judgment of any President who can say that a massive unprovoked military attack on a nation which is over 50% children is "in the highest moral traditions of our country". This war is not necessary at this time. Pressure appears to be having a good result in Iraq. Our mistake was to put ourselves in a corner so quickly. Our challenge is to now find a graceful way out of a box of our own making. Perhaps there is still a way if we allow more time.

What did French wine ever do to Dennis Hastert?

Because France isn't on the Bush-Blair lovetrain to destroy Iraq, Dennis Hastert suggests we impose strict trade sanctions on French wine. Yet another reason to protest tomorrow.

Who's Next?

The Stop the War Coalition's Andrew Murray in The Guardian:
The "collateral damage" of Bush's war drive is mounting daily - the cohesion of Nato, the chimera of a common EU foreign policy (and Blair's fantasy of being at the heart of Europe) and the post-1945 structure of international law included. All of this seems merely to be whipping the US political class into a still greater frenzy of bellicosity. How long before France is officially designated a "rogue state" and Gerhard Schröder becomes a card-carrying member of the "axis of evil"?

International Peace Rally Tomorrow

Tomorrow, the people of the world will tell George W. Bush what they think of his war on Iraq. From Antarctica to Zagreb, hundreds of thousands will gather in 354 cities across the globe. Find one near you and go make your voice heard! (Twin Citizens: gather at the corner of Hennepin and Lagoon in Minneapolis at 1 pm Saturday for a march that will end with a rally in Loring Park.)


Cairo - Cape Town - Durban - Johannesburg - Kigali - Niamey - Rabat - Reunion Island


Baghdad - Bahawalpur - Bangkok - Beirut - Dili - Faisalabad - Gojranwala - Hong Kong - Hyderabad - Islamabad - Istanbul - Jakarta - Kansai - Karachi - Kharian - Kuala Lumpur - Kumamoto - Lahore - Larkana - Layya Muharraq - Manama - Mandi Bahaudin - Manila - Matsumoto - Multan - Naha - Okara Osaka - Otsu - Peshawar - Qasur - Ramallah - Sahiwal - Sargodha - Seoul - Sheikhupura - Tel Aviv - Tokyo


A Coruna - Aix-en-Provence - Albacete - Alicante - Amsterdam (Hi Mom!) - Andorra - Antwerp - Athens - Barcelona - Belfast - Bergen - Berlin - Berne - Bilbao - Bodoe - Brussels - Budapest - Cadiz - Castellon - Ciudad Real - Cluj-Napoca - Coimbra - Copenhagen - Cordoba - Cuenca - Dublin - Evora - Faro - Girona - Glasgow - Gothenburg - Granada - Guadalajara - Helsinki - Hereford - Huelva - Huesca - Isafjordur - Jaen - Joensuu - Jyvaskyla - Kiev - Kristiansand - Kuopio - Lancaster - Lillehammer - Lisbon - Ljubljana - Lleida - London - Longyearbyen - Luxembourg - Madrid - Malaga - Malmo - Marseille - Moscow - Murcia - Nokia - Oslo - Oulu - Oviedo - Palma de Mallorca - Pamplona - Paris - Patras - Pontevedra - Porto - Poznan - Prague - Puertollano - Reykjavik - Rodos - Rome - Rovaniemi - Salamanca - San Sebastian - Santander - Savolinna - Seinajoki - Sevilla - Shetland - Skopje - Sofia - Stavanger - Stockholm - Talavera de la Reina - Tallinn - Tarragona - Teruel - Thessaloniki - Toledo - Tromsoe - Trondheim - Turku - Valencia - Valetta - Vienna - Vigo - Vilnius - Volos - Warsaw - Wroclaw - Zagreb - Zaragoza


Bahia - Buenos Aires - Havana - Kingston, Jamaica - Lima - Martinique - Mexicali - Mexico City - Montevideo - Quito - Rio de Janiero - Rio Grande do - Sol - San Jose, CR - San Juan - Santiago - Santo Domingo - Sao Paulo


Akron - Asheville - Atlanta - Austin - Bakersfield - Baltimore - Bellingham - Bisbee - Blacksburg - Bloomington - Boise - Brampton - Butler - Calexico - Calgary - Canmore - Cape C od - Cape Girardeau - Carbondale - Charleston - Charlotte - Charlottesville - Chicago - Chico - Coburg - Colorado Springs - Columbia, MO - Columbia, SC - Corpus Christi - Cortez - Cranbrook, BC - Dallas - Detroit - Durango - Edmonton - Encino - Eugene - Fayetteville - Fi llmore - Flagstaff - Fort Wayne - Fresno - Galveston - Grand Junction - Grand Rapids - Halifax - Hamilton - Hilo - Honolulu - Houston -Huntington - Indianapolis - Jefferson City - Juneau - Kamloops - Kelowna - Kingston - Knoxville - Lancaster - Lansing - Las Cruces - Las Vegas - Lawrence, KS - Lethbridge - Lincoln - London - Long Beach - Los Angeles - Louisville - Macomb - Madison - Melbourne - Memphis - Minneapolis - Miami - Milwaukee - Montpelier - Montreal - Mount Vernon, OH - Nanaimo - Naples - New Orleans - New York City - Newark, DE - Norfolk, VA - North Newton - Olympia - Orange - Orangeville - Orlando - Ottawa - Palm Desert - Parry Sound - Pensacola - Philadelphia - Phoenix - Pittsboro - Portland, ME - Portland, OR - Port Perry - Portsmouth - Prince Albert - Raleigh - Regina - Richland Center - Rolla - St. Augustine - St. Louis - Salem - Salt Lake City - Sacramento - San Diego - San Francisco - San Jose - San Luis Obispo - Santa Barbara - Santa Cruz - Santa Fe - Santa Monica - Sarasota - Saskatoon - Savannah - Seattle - Sitka - Sonora - South Bend - South Haven - Spokane - Starkville - St. John's - Sudbury - Tacoma - Tallahassee - Tehachapi - Temple - Thornbury - Toronto - Tulsa - Vallejo - Vancouver, B.C. - Victoria - Wausau - Waterloo - Wilkes-Barre - Williamsburg - Williamsport - Wilmington - Windsor - Winnipeg - Youngstown


Adelaide - Aotearoa - Auckland - Brisbane - Bundaberg - Byron Bay - Canberra - Christchurch - Dunedin - Geelong - Gisborne - Greymouth - Hamilton, NZ - Hastings - Hobart - Kelowna - Launceton - Lismore - Melbourne - Nelson - Newcastle - Opotiki - Palmerston North - Perth - Rockhampton - Rotorua - Sydney - Takaka - Tauranga - Timaru - Wanganui - Wellington - Whakatane - Wollongong


McMurdo Station


Give her a daisy instead

The current issue of Mother Jones offers a reason to reconsider roses on Valentine's Day: laborers who earn $140/month in Ecuador's rose industry are coming down with some scary side-effects:
Insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and soil fumigants used in the greenhouses are causing serious health problems for Ecuador's 60,000 rose workers -- especially the women and children who sort and package the flowers prior to shipping. In recent years, studies by the International Labor Organization and Ecuador's Catholic University have found that as many as 60 percent of postharvest workers complain of pesticide-poisoning symptoms, including headaches, blurred vision, and muscular twitching. Women in the industry, who represent 70 percent of all rose workers, experience significantly elevated rates of miscarriages. Children under 18, who make up more than a fifth of the workforce, display signs of neurological damage at 22 percent above average.
Today's New York Times follows up with another story on the thorns in Ecuador's rose business.


Impeach Bush!

Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark has drafted articles of impeachment setting forth high crimes and misdemeanors by President Bush and other civil officers of his administration.

Terror, Fear, and Product Placement

When the government raised the terror alert level to "orange" without any credible evidence the other day, I figured it was yet another case of blatant fear-mongering. Announcing the change in "terrorism vulnerability," John Ashcroft said vaguely that apartment buildings, hotels, and other "lightly secured targets" could be at risk. Also in danger are "economic targets, including the transportation and energy sectors, as well as symbolic targets and symbols of American power." As one of the most lightly secured targets in America, an apartment dweller, and a frequent user of America's energy reserves and transportation systems, I am deeply frightened.

Maybe I should run out and buy a terrorism survival kit, a silly (and likely useless) conglomeration of duct tape, plastic wrap, water, tuna fish, and other items. More fear mongering. But my real question is: how much did Campbell’s Chunky Soup, Chicken of the Sea tuna, Rayovac batteries, and Johnson & Johnson have to pay for this primo product placement?


Bookmark This

Electronic Intifada, the excellent website dedicated to presenting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a much-needed Palestinian perspective, has joined forces with veteran peace group Voices in the Wilderness to launch Electronic Iraq.

An Open Letter to Europe

AlterNet and MoveOn.org have teamed up to send a letter to our friends in Europe, urging them to continue their resistance to war in Iraq. The Guardian of London reports tonight that Bush has the backing of the American people to attack Iraq, with 57% of poll respondents agreeing that a war without the UN's support is OK as long as allies like the UK and Australia are on board. Tell Europe these polls are bunk. Click here to sign and send this letter:
Dear friends,

We, the undersigned citizens of the United States of America, are writing to ask for your help.

We are already grateful for your principled opposition to our government's misguided and dangerous policy toward Iraq. Despite the deceptive claims of the Bush Administration and the poor coverage of the crisis by our media, huge numbers of Americans have evaluated the facts for themselves and join with you to oppose our government's drive toward war.

Like many of you, we believe that war will not lead to future peace in the Middle East but to more violence and death -- not just in Iraq but eventually throughout the region, as well as in the United States and across the globe. With you, we believe that war will not bring about the liberation of the Iraqi people but visit upon them even greater catastrophe than in the past.

We are doing everything within our power here in America to change our government's policy. However, we fear this war cannot be stopped without strong opposition from the nations of Europe.

We, and the rest of the world, therefore look to you for support in this daunting task we share.

We ask that you attend the antiwar rallies this Saturday, Feb. 15 in London, Paris, Berlin, Istanbul, Rome, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Warsaw and other cities across Europe. An overwhelming turnout in the streets will show your governments and the world that Europe says no to preemptive war. Before and after the demonstrations, write, speak out and protest in every way possible.

We ask also that you demand that your governments support the French-German initiative for additional inspections. If your government currently backs the Bush Administration, make it clear that they should withdraw this support. If your government is standing against the Bush Administration, make it clear that you support their actions and call upon them to stand firm.

Finally, we ask that, when the threat of war recedes, you join together with us in non-violent efforts to help the long-suffering Iraqi people in their struggle for democracy and freedom.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we were deeply moved by Europe's messages of sympathy and support. Those of us who visited the sites of the attacks in the weeks that followed will always remember the comfort we took in the letters posted nearby sent from your families to ours.

Today, we need your unity more than ever -- or we fear that Sept. 11 will be only the beginning of a terrible spiral of violence that will engulf the Middle East, the United States and the world.

However, we believe this frightening vision of the future need not come to pass. As former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, who was Commander General of the Allied Forces in World War II once said, "I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it."

Let this be the moment when the people of the world, for the first time, truly come together to force our governments to give us peace. Please stand with us on February 15 and in the future, as we stand with you.

Dissent = Treason?

As the courts uphold a ban on antiwar protests in Manhattan this weekend, the conservative New York Sun equates protest with treason:
So long as the protesters are invoking the Constitution, they might have a look at Article III. That says, “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.”

There can be no question at this point that Saddam Hussein is an enemy of America. Iraq was the only Arab-Muslim country that did not condemn the September 11 attacks against the United States. A commentary of the official Iraqi station on September 11 stated that America was “…reaping the fruits of [its] crimes against humanity.” A government employee in Iraq reacted to the loss this month of the space shuttle Columbia by telling Reuters, “God is avenging us.”

And there is no reason to doubt that the “anti-war” protesters — we prefer to call them protesters against freeing Iraq — are giving, at the very least, comfort to Saddam Hussein. In a television interview aired this week, Saddam said, “First of all we admire the development of the peace movement around the world in the last few years. We pray to God to empower all those working against war and for the cause of peace and security based on just peace for all.” After the last big anti-war protest, the one in Washington last month, Saddam hailed the anti-war protests as proof that Americans back Iraq rather than President Bush. “They are supporting you because they know that evildoers target Iraq to silence and dissenting voice to their evil and destructive policies,” Saddam told senior officers, including his son Qusay, commander of the Republican Guard.

So the New York City police could do worse, in the end, than to allow the protest and send two witnesses along for each participant, with an eye toward preserving at least Thus fully respecting not just some, but all of the constitutional principles at stake.

To those concerned about civil liberties, we’d cite the pragmatic argument made last night by, of all people, the New York Times’s three-time Pulitzer-Prize winning foreignaffairs columnist, Thos. Friedman. “I believe we are one more 9/11 away from the end of the open society,” Mr. Friedman told an American Jewish Committee dinner honoring the chief executive of the New York Times Company, Russell Lewis. His point was that if terrorists strike again at America and kill large numbers of Americans, the pressure to curb civil liberties and civil rights will be “enormous and unstoppable.” What we took from that was that the more successful the protesters are in making their case in New York, the less chance they’ll have the precious constitutional freedom to protest here the next time around.
Interesting logic: don't use your civil liberties because by doing so you'll support an enemy that will encourage our government to strip even more of our civil liberties. Hmm. Other commentaries on this editorial here and here.


What's Left?

From The Guardian:
With Republicans in control of the White House and both Houses of Congress, America appears to be in a belligerent, rightwing mood. And while most of the world might complain about the Bush administration or, at most, seek to contain its excesses, only Americans can get rid of it.

Which raises the question: whatever happened to the left in America? What became of the political culture that stopped the Vietnam war, brought about civil rights and very nearly made Jesse Jackson the Democratic presidential candidate? Where are the popular, progressive forces that could challenge the Bush administration from within? Ask leftwingers this - people who have devoted their life to progressive causes - and most of them will laugh. "The left is not a word you mention in polite company here," says Karen Rothmeyer, an editor on the leftwing weekly, the Nation. "We talk about the right, but we never talk about the left."

Wendell Berry: A Citizen's Response to the National Security Strategy of the United States of America

Orion Magazine published this essay by Wendell Berry as a full-page ad in the Sunday New York Times. Read it online, or request a free issue containing the full essay (it's abridged in the ad). An excerpt:
THE NEW NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY published by the White House in September 2002, if carried out, would amount to a radical revision of the political character of our nation. Its central and most significant statement is this:

While the United States will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community, we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self defense by acting preemptively against such terrorists...(p. 6)

A democratic citizen must deal here first of all with the question, Who is this "we"? It is not the "we" of the Declaration of Independence, which referred to a small group of signatories bound by the conviction that "governments [derive] their just powers from the consent of the governed." And it is not the "we" of the Constitution, which refers to "the people [my emphasis] of the United States."

This "we" of the new strategy can refer only to the president. It is a royal "we". A head of state, preparing to act alone in starting a preemptive war, will need to justify his intention by secret information, and will need to plan in secret and execute his plan without forewarning. The idea of a government acting alone in preemptive war is inherently undemocratic, for it does not require or even permit the president to obtain the consent of the governed. As a policy, this new strategy depends on the acquiescence of a public kept fearful and ignorant, subject to manipulation by the executive power, and on the compliance of an intimidated and office dependent legislature. To the extent that a government is secret, it cannot be democratic or its people free. By this new doctrine, the president alone may start a war against any nation at any time, and with no more forewarning than preceded the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Would be participating citizens of a democratic nation, unwilling to have their consent coerced or taken for granted, therefore have no choice but to remove themselves from the illegitimate constraints of this "we" in as immediate and public a way as possible.

THE ALLEGED JUSTIFICATION for this new strategy is the recent emergence in the United States of international terrorism. But why the events of September 11, 2001, horrifying as they were, should have called for a radical new investiture of power in the executive branch is not clear.

The National Security Strategy defines terrorism as "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against innocents" (p. 5). This is truly a distinct kind of violence, but to imply by the word "terrorism" that this sort of terror is the work exclusively of "terrorists" is misleading. The "legitimate" warfare of technologically advanced nations likewise is premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against innocents. The distinction between the intention to perpetrate violence against innocents, as in "terrorism," and the willingness to do so, as in "war," is not a source of comfort.

Supposedly, if a nation perpetrates violence officially -- whether to bomb an enemy airfield or a hospital it is not guilty of "terrorism." But there is no need to hesitate over the difference between "terrorism" and any violence or threat of violence that is terrifying. The National Security Strategy wishes to cause "terrorism" to be seen "in the same light as slavery, piracy, or genocide" (p. 6) but not in the same light as war. It accepts and affirms the legitimacy of war.

THE WAR AGAINST TERRORISM is not, strictly speaking, a war against nations, even though it has already involved international war in Afghanistan and presidential threats against other nations. This is a war against "the embittered few" "thousands of trained terrorists" -- who are "at large" (p. 5) among many millions of others who are, in the language of this document, "innocents," and thus are deserving of our protection.

Unless we are willing to kill innocents in order to kill the guilty, the need to be lethal will be impeded constantly by the need to be careful. Because we must suppose a new supply of villains to be always in the making, we can expect the war on terrorism to be more or less endless, endlessly costly and endlessly supportive of a thriving bureaucracy.

Unless, that is, we should become willing to ask why, and to do something about the causes. Why do people become terrorists? Such questions arise from the recognition that problems have causes. There is, however, no acknowledgement in The National Security Strategy that terrorism might have a cause that could possibly be discovered and possibly remedied. "The embittered few," it seems, are merely "evil."


Briefly noted:

• German antiwar demonstrator urges "Re-elect Gore!"

• Of 535 members of the U.S. House and Senate, only one has a child or grandchild in military service, Sen. Tim Johnson, Democrat of South Dakota.

• Last week, Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Ron Paul (R-TX) introduced legislation repealing the president's "blank check" for war.

• The royal family of Qatar--home to US Central Command in the event of war with Iraq--allegedly helped a chief al-Qaeda leader escape the FBI.

• Sen. Edward Kennedy asks the president: "We will certainly win the war, but how do we win the peace if there are massive civilian casualties, if factional fighting fractures Iraq, if food, water, and medicine are in short supply and millions of Iraqis are displaced from their homes, or if a new wave of terrorism erupts against America as an occupying power, or because of the war itself?"

• Comedian Al Franken: "I love statistics. For example, 1.7 million jobs were lost in the six total years of the two Bushes. If you extrapolate that, if the Bushes had run this country from its inception to the present day, no one would have ever worked. We'd be the poorest country in the world. Numbers don't lie."

• Bill O'Reilly of Fox's The O'Reilly Factor calls Mexicans "wetbacks."

• In a live interview, O’Reilly called Jeremy M. Glick, a signer of the Not In Our Name “Statement of Conscience” whose father was killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11, “anti-American,” cut the power to Glick's microphone, and later told Glick to “Get out, get out of my studio before I tear you to f**king pieces!

(All links via BuzzFlash).

No comment

The US military admitted for the first time last week that they'll use chemical weapons on Iraq, in probable violation of the same laws they purport to defend.


Celebrate your independents

Shopping at local independent businesses has an enormous impact on the local economy, according to two new reports cited by the New Rules Project of the Minneapolis-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance. And shopping at corporate chain stores, as you'd guess, is a suckerpunch to hometown sustainability. Consider the math:

• When you spend $100 at the chain Borders Books & Music, your purchase creates only $13 worth of local economic activity. Spend $100 at a locally owned book or record store and you'll be putting $45 into local circulation--more than three times as much local economic activity. (From the study, "Economic Impact Analysis: A Case Study" conducted by Civic Economics)

•Big box retailers actually drain public coffers, while independent businesses generate more tax revenue than it costs to service them.

The Wal-Marts of the world generate a net annual deficit of $468 per 1,000 square feet. Shopping centers produce an annual drain of $314 per 1,000 square feet. And, worse still, fast-food restaurants have a net annual cost of $5,168 per 1,000 square feet. To be clear, these chains cost taxpayers more than they produce in revenue.

In contrast, specialty retail, a category that includes small-scale Main Street businesses, has a positive impact on pubic revenue. Specialty retail produces a net annual return of $326 per 1,000 square feet. (From a study by Tischler & Associates)

(Thanks, Pete.)

Mourning in America

Am I inhuman to not mourn the loss of seven human beings who merely went to work one day and ended up dead? I've been having difficulty expressing my thoughts about the space shuttle disaster a week ago, and my own detachment from what is obviously deep suffering for some. I begin with a disclaimer: it's a tragedy; how horrible for the families of the seven astronauts to see their loved ones as an exhaust trail in the sky and know they're gone. While I mourn for those seven intellectually, I don't feel a loss, for I never knew them and I never knew their cause well, except through unscientific cliches (exploration of the unknown void, the final frontier). Watching the endless newscasts on the subject I was reminded of my friend Dave who—callously I thought, at the time--told me of his reaction to September 11: "It's sad, but it doesn't affect me that much. No one I knew died. When they say ‘everything changed on September 11,’ it didn’t for me. Everything changed when my brother died a few years ago." Considering the massive outpouring of emotion for Princess Diana, John F. Kennedy Jr., and the rest, I begin to wonder about America’s mourning, what role it serves and what it prevents us from feeling.

It’s as if we institutionalize our grief, we collectivize it and present it publicly through mass media, sanctifying it through the ritual of broadcast and, yearning to feel deeply, we make it fake. We shed tears for people we never knew, people we can idealize for the values we perceive they had (although you can be certain they were regular folks with the same struggles and shortcomings as you and me), while at the same time we ignore the death of a neighbor or the truly tragic struggles of, say, the local family one paycheck away from homelessness. We burn out our compassion like booster rockets in the stratosphere of high ideals and imagined nobility, when right here, where it's gritty and real, there's real pain to take heed of.

And we seem to be taking our cues from the media. Sometimes it seems they’re not merely reporting news, but suggesting appropriate responses. When the banner headline reads "A Nation Mourns" it's perhaps more an instruction than a documentation of fact. And the instructions are pretty powerful.

Is our grief synched with a news cycle? I consider this even as I write, one week after the disaster, when the press is growing bored with the shuttle story: is there any merit in writing this column now? Will anyone care--i.e. is this newsworthy?--now that we’ve gone through our “grief” and started to forget?

The timeliness of the story was collapsed: the tears mixed with the wrenching biographies of fallen heroes and big questions of policy and politics. In a recent Los Angeles Times article, John Balzar wonders if the Columbia disaster merited all the questions the media felt duty-bound to ask: “Will President Bush have to rethink Iraq? Will he find it easier to bend Congress to his will for the sake of tax cuts? Are critics of the president once again unpatriotic? Has Bush displayed anew his remarkable leadership? Should humankind abandon the quest to explore our universe?” He offers a reality check:
Is it really shocking to learn that something as risky as entering the Earth's atmosphere from space at more than 12,000 mph results in a fatal accident? From long experience, we know that humans and fast-moving machines are a dangerous mix. Extrapolating from annual statistics, we can estimate that about 115 people die each day in the U.S. from traffic accidents--events that are shocking to survivors and families of the victims but not beyond. What is really shocking are the grandiose generalizations, the repetitive hyperbole and the sheer echo-chamber volume and mass that accompany the periodic blow-up of big news accounts these days.
He’s right. The question within hours of the Columbia explosion turned to policy: whether the shuttle program would be scrapped or at least put on hold, how it would affect the president’s budget, etc., and within hours the president was on TV in all his Type-A glory urging us to grieve and then get on with it: the space program must continue, these people didn’t die for nothing. Whatever real grief existed was being spun, and these deaths were being repurposed--instrumentalized--toward political ends.

But my lack of feeling here isn’t mine along. The Wall Street Journal’s science writer, Sharon Begley, wrote yesterday about habituation, how repeated exposure to disaster wears down not only our unquantifiable reserves of compassion but our actual neurological ability to be shocked by tragedy. She quotes Northwestern psychology professor Susan Mineka: "In the last five or ten years, we as a society have been getting increasingly accustomed to violence, and unless it reaches the proportions of 9/11, most of us do respond with less intensity than we did in the 1980s. And of course, this is all happening in the context of a probable war with Iraq." Scientifically, what happens is this:
… after an electrical impulse zipping down a neuron triggers the release of neurotransmitters often enough, subsequent electrical impulses are less likely to have that effect. Without the release of neurotransmitters, the message the neuron was carrying ("this event has just happened") comes to a screeching halt just before the synapse. It's as if the string in an old-fashioned game of telephone has been snipped. The information encoded in the electrical signal never reaches the next neuron in the circuit. As a result, downstream neurons, including those that attach emotional significance to the event, remain quiet.
Begley ends up her article with this musing: “Science can explain pretty well why America and the world have reacted as they did to the tragedy of last Saturday morning. But it can't explain whether this muted response reflects a hard-won emotional maturity -- or, instead, a hardening of the heart that speaks ill of us as human beings.” What am I saying here? I’m not sure. Maybe simply that we should take the time to grieve. To make sure we feel something first.


Kiss Your Rights Goodbye (Again)

The Center for Public Integrity has published a leaked draft of what is termed by Washington insiders as "Patriot Act II." The White House has denied that such legislation was in the works, and it's effects will be wide-sweeping. NOW with Bill Moyers addresses the issue on tonight's show (log onto the site for pdfs of key documents and transcripts of the show). This is huge. And horrifying. An excerpt from CPI:

Justice Dept. Drafts Sweeping Expansion of Anti-Terrorism Act
Center Publishes Secret Draft of ‘Patriot II’ Legislation

By Charles Lewis and Adam Mayle

(WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2003) -- The Bush Administration is preparing a bold, comprehensive sequel to the USA Patriot Act passed in the wake of September 11, 2001, which will give the government broad, sweeping new powers to increase domestic intelligence-gathering, surveillance and law enforcement prerogatives, and simultaneously decrease judicial review and public access to information.

The Center for Public Integrity has obtained a draft, dated January 9, 2003, of this previously undisclosed legislation and is making it available in full text. The bill, drafted by the staff of Attorney General John Ashcroft and entitled the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, has not been officially released by the Department of Justice, although rumors of its development have circulated around the Capitol for the last few months under the name of “the Patriot Act II” in legislative parlance...

...Dr. David Cole, Georgetown University Law professor and author of Terrorism and the Constitution, reviewed the draft legislation at the request of the Center, and said that the legislation “raises a lot of serious concerns. It’s troubling that they have gotten this far along and they’ve been telling people there is nothing in the works.” This proposed law, he added, “would radically expand law enforcement and intelligence gathering authorities, reduce or eliminate judicial oversight over surveillance, authorize secret arrests, create a DNA database based on unchecked executive ‘suspicion,’ create new death penalties, and even seek to take American citizenship away from persons who belong to or support disfavored political groups.”

The Sport of War

My two favorite antiwar posters: the president as a runningback with a missile cradled against his chest and his right hand extended in a Heismanesque stiffarm, and as a cowboy riding a bucking missile a la "Dr. Strangelove." Given Bush's macho (yet sporty!) posturing with the UN yesterday--"The game is over" for Iraq, he said--the imagery seems apt. A new website takes the sports-as-war metaphor a step further, elegantly subverting the team logos of three NFL teams in a clever critique of Bush's war motivations.

Jim Lasser, the logos' (re)designer, e-mailed his rationale:
I believe Americans' choices about war are made with little regard to the true pain that is involved. Our 20th Century war experiences have left us quite insulated to the true face of war: what it means to see your home burned, your factories bombed, or your children slaughtered. Though I am not flatly opposed to the use of force, I wish there was a truer national context on which our opinions are made. Sometimes I feel, while watching the excitement with which the media "reports" on the coming war, that we are witnessing the countdown to the big game, rather than the coming tragedies of millions of human lives. Thus, war = sport; another means to entertain ourselves in front of the safety of the television. (And we thought 9-11 changed everything.)
(Thanks Ben.)


UK war dossier a sham, say experts

British 'intelligence' lifted from academic articles

Michael White and Brian Whitaker
Friday February 7, 2003
The Guardian

Downing Street was last night plunged into acute international embarrassment after it emerged that large parts of the British government's latest dossier on Iraq - allegedly based on "intelligence material" - were taken from published academic articles, some of them several years old.

Amid charges of "scandalous" plagiarism on the night when Tony Blair attempted to rally support for the US-led campaign against Saddam Hussein, Whitehall's dismay was compounded by the knowledge that the disputed document was singled out for praise by the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, in his speech to the UN security council on Wednesday.

Citing the British dossier, entitled Iraq - its infrastructure of concealment, deception and intimidation in front of a worldwide television audience Mr Powell said: "I would call my colleagues' attention to the fine paper that the United Kingdom distributed... which describes in exquisite detail Iraqi deception activities."

But on Channel 4 News last night it was revealed that four of the report's 19 pages had been copied - with only minor editing and a few insertions - from the internet version of an article by Ibrahim al-Marashi which appeared in the Middle East Review of International Affairs last September.

King on Vietnam/King Today?

Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.
—Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City

Masked Men

Check out this photo of plastic masks of George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein rolling off an assembly line in Brazil. Eerily poetic, eh?

(Via BoingBoing.)

Stand for sustainability. Sit for dinner.

Minneapolis friends:

Elsie's Farm invites you to stand for sustainable agriculture at a special fundraising evening. Join guest MC Jay Walljasper, editor of Utne, for a gourmet meal prepared by French Meadow chef John Grumbles, then join in a conversation with area chefs, farmers, and friends of Elsie’s about community-supported agriculture.

February 17, 7–10 pm
French Meadow Bakery and Café, 2610 Lyndale Avenue South, Minneapolis
$15 Donation

For reservations or information, call 612.822.6395.

ALSO: Elsie's is welcoming new members for its CSA (community supported agriculture). As a CSA member, you get a full season's worth--approximagely 18 weeks--of fresh, organic vegetables, flowers, and herbs for $400. Click here for information. (They also offer a $100 "community membership," good for discounts on your farm purchases at the Market, a subscription to the Elsie's newsletter, invitations to Elsie's events, and more.)

Environment in a world of hurt

With so much attention focused on George Bush's war on logic, I mean Iraq, and his record-setting, defecit-spending, tax-cuts-for-the-rich, $2.2 trillion federal budget, it's easy to overlook the quiet and comprehensive dismantling of environmental protections by his administration. From revived plans to open the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve to oil drilling to Bush's proposal to exempt the US military from key environmental regulations like the Clean Water and Endangered Species acts, the earth is in a world of hurt. And a little cash for hydrogen-cell research won't be enough to undo the damage.

Mark Hertsgaard, author of Earth Odyssey: Around the World in Search of Our Environmental Future and a recent guest on NOW with Bill Moyers (transcript here), writes in the Santa Fe New Mexican that the Bush administration has no environmental policy. It's not even an afterthought. But the real damage the president has done to the environment has come through his "bold" changes to economic, military, and energy policy, and through the interests of his friends:
It's easy enough to say that Bush's approach reflects his and his top aides' pasts in the oil, mining, timber, chemical and electric utility industries. It's likewise easy to understand Bush's actions as thanks for the $44 million in contributions those industries showered on him and the Republican National Committee in 2000.
The question for environmentalists is how to defeat Bush in 2004:

So, will Bush end up paying a price in 2004 for his betrayal of environmental values? His supporters within corporate America and the far right are apparently so blinded by their ideological biases that they perceive little political risk. Paul Weyrich, the president of the Free Congress Foundation, told the Washington Post in March 2001 that things would be fine as long as the body count didn't get too high: "There's a risk with some of the swing voters, but unless something happens where lots of people turn up dead before the election, these issues are not going to resonate with lots of voters." An unnamed senior Republican agreed, asserting that "unless there's a catastrophe, these decisions aren't going to affect a mom in Fairfax."
Read Hertsgaard's article.

Get Up, Stand Up
by Robert Jensen

Last week at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, I talked with dozens of people from around the world. I learned a lot about the struggles for justice in their countries, but the most important lesson I brought home was about my own country.

The question I thought people at the Forum would ask me is, "Why does the U.S. government follow such brutal policies of economic and military domination around the world?" I thought they would want me to explain the United States to them. But they didn't -- because, I came to realize, they already knew the answer to the question.

In one session I listened to a man who works with the MST, the landless movement in Brazil that is widely considered to be the biggest and most important social movement in the world today. He told us that the people he works with often are lucky if they get a fourth-grade education; many are illiterate. "But I don't have to tell them about imperialism," he said. That they understand. They live with it.

The question that people in Porto Alegre did ask me was simple: What are people of conscience in the United States -- what am I -- doing to stop the U.S. government, especially in its mad drive to war in Iraq?

Those of us organizing in the United States are in a strange situation. Our task is to work to educate the people of our own privileged and affluent culture about what the rest of the world already knows: The United States is an empire, and -- as has been the case throughout history -- empires are a threat to peace and life and justice in the world. There is no such thing as a benevolent empire.

It is crucial that we in the United States who have so much unearned privilege that comes with living in the empire face their question: What are we willing to do to stop our government? What are those of us in the heart of the beast doing to tame that beast?

The United States is preparing for a war in Iraq that virtually the entire world opposes. No matter how brutal the regime of Saddam Hussein, the world understands that even more threatening is the empire unleashed and unrestrained.

The cynical among us say that it is clear that Bush and his boys want this war, and that the war will come. That may be true; there's no way to see the future. But I know that no matter what will come, our task is clear:

We are the first citizens of the empire. In the past, empires had subjects. But we are truly citizens, with freedom of expression and rights of political participation that aren't perfect but are real. With those freedoms comes a responsibility, to use them to stop our government from pursuing a war that will kill and destroy innocents while further entrenching U.S. power in the Middle East and U.S. control over the strategically crucial oil resources there.

We have a choice. We can hide from our responsibility. Or we can stand up, speak up, organize, and join the people of the world in movements to challenge the powerful, to resist the empire.

It may seem safer to avoid that choice, to hide from that responsibility. But I learned one other thing in Porto Alegre: The people of the world do not accept the American empire. All over the world there are movements for social justice that are strengthening, gathering support and challenging power. They are the future. History is not on the side of the empire.

To take the side of the empire is to give into our fear, to cast our lot with the past. To resist the empire is to grab onto hope, to cast our lot with the future. It is literally a choice of empire and death, or resistance and life. This is not about liberals v. conservatives or Republicans and Democrats; both parties are on the wrong side of this struggle right now. This is about a far more fundamental choice.

There is much work to be done on many fronts. One thing we can all do is come out on Saturday, Feb. 15, when people in New York City, Austin and around the world will rally to oppose the U.S. drive to war. Information is available at United for Peace.

If you doubt the importance of this, think back to September 11, 2001. On that day, we got a glimpse of what it will look like if the empire is dismantled from the outside, if the empire continues to ignore the world. But we have a choice. We, the first citizens of the empire, can commit to dismantling the empire from within, peacefully and non-violently, in solidarity with those around the world struggling for justice.

Let me leave you with one image from Porto Alegre, from the floor of the arena in which the closing ceremonies took place. As the conveners of the World Social Forum delivered a final declaration and stood on stage, the sounds of John Lennon's "Imagine" came over the loudspeakers, and the 15,000 people in the arena stood, held hands, moved with the music and sang of a world with no countries, a world living life in peace, a world without possessions and greed.

When the song was over, I turned to an older man sitting next to me. I had told him I was from the United States and we had exchanged nods and smiles throughout the event, but he spoke little English and I spoke even less Portuguese. At that moment, language mattered little. I extended my hand to him. But he rejected it.

Instead, he reached out, grabbed me and enveloped me in a hug as big as that song, as big as Brazil, as big as the world.

"Peace," he said. "Paz," I replied.

We are Americans, but if we choose to resist we are not the American empire. And if we do resist, there is a world we can join, a world that is waiting for us.

Perhaps I am investing too much symbolism in one simple hug. But that moment with that man, that hug in Porto Alegre, was for me the promise of life outside the empire. It was the feel of a future that we can all imagine. It is easy, if we try.

Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin, a member of the Nowar Collective www.nowarcollective.com and author of "Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream." He can be reached at rjensen@uts.cc.utexas.edu.
From ZNet.


Friends and Foes

The Saudi embassy helped smuggle a terror suspect’s wife out of the country after she was subpoenaed, providing her with transit and a passport. Let me get this straight: Saudi Arabia is helping suspects avoid prosecution; the 9-11 attacks were heavily financed by Saudis, and Osama bin Laden as well as 15 of the 19 September 11th hijackers were Saudi. And we’re gunning for Iraq?

From an e-mail making the rounds:

Early this morning a devastating fire burned down the personal library of President George W. Bush. Tragically, both books were lost in the conflagration. More poignantly, the President, due to his hectic schedule, had not found time to colour in the second one.

From BuzzFlash:

For your consideration, here are 10 non-leftist, non-peacenik complaints against the war in Iraq.


A Metaphor Too Powerful?

A tapestry featuring imagery from Picasso's 1937 painting "Guernica" has hung outside the UN Security Council at UN headquarters since 1985. Commemorating the death of 1,600 Basque villagers at Franco's hands during the Spanish Civil War, it's become a powerful antiwar symbol. When Colin Powell enters the Council chambers on Wednesday to present "evidence" for war with Iraq, the tapestry won't be seen: it's been covered up by a baby-blue banner bearing the UN logo, and no one will say why.

NASA Engineer Predicted Shuttle Disaster

Last August, Don Nelson, a NASA engineer for 36 years, wrote President Bush a letter that began like this:
Mr. President,
I am a recently retired NASA aerospace engineer and it is my duty to inform you that our space shuttle astronauts are in eminent danger. Your intervention is required to prevent another catastrophic space shuttle accident. NASA management and the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel have failed to respond to the growing warning signs of another shuttle accident.
After enumerating serious problems with the space shuttle, he requested the president place a moratorium on space shuttle operations until safety measures could be implemented. In December, the White House sent this reply:
I do not think that it is appropriate for the President to issue a moratorium on Space Shuttle launches at this time.
View Nelson's website, nasaproblems.com.

Not Your Father's Gulf War

Forget Shock and Awe, the military tactic the Pentagon planned to use on Iraq in which up to 800 warheads would be dropped two days (the same amount the US dropped over 40 days in the first Gulf War). Now the Pentagon is upping that figure to 3,000 precision-guided bombs and missiles within the first 48 hours alone. That's TEN TIMES the number used in the first two days of the 1991 attacks. This would pave the way for ground strikes called "vertical envelopment" in which troops would parachute into 12 or more sites simultaneously.

Consider the numbers: 6,700 satellite-guided bombs and 3,000 laser-guided bombs are already stockpiled by the Air Force, as many as 50,000 US marines are expected to fight and 25,000 British troops are en route to the Gulf. And there are currently 100,000 US troops on standby in the Middle East, a figure that should swell to 175,000 by the end of the month. As one Pentagon official said, "This is not going to be your father's Persian Gulf war."

Well, Jesus, we're not talking about Oldsmobiles here. Let's consider a few more numbers: According to the CIA, 41.1% of the Iraqi population is under the age of 14. According to Physicians for Human Rights, more than 50% of Iraqis are under age 17. Right now there are 18 million people living Iraq. Not your father's war, eh? Well, it's not the fathers I'm worried about.

Putting the Arms in Armageddon

The US weapons industry gets $10 billion in government subsidies, and in 1999 it supplied arms that were used in more than 92 percent of the world's active conflicts. According to a report by the Federation of American Scientists:
In Fiscal Year 1999, the United States delivered roughly $6.8 billion in armaments to nations which violate the basic standards of human rights... In the period from 1998-2001, over 68% of world arms deliveries were sold or given to developing nations, where lingering conflicts or societal violence [rages...].The United States military has had to face troops previously trained by its own military or supplied with US weaponry in Panama, Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, and now in Afghanistan. Due to the advanced capabilities these militaries have acquired from past US training and sales, the US had to invest much more money and manpower in these conflicts than would have otherwise been needed."


Our Orphan Vets

Col. David Hackworth writes:
Despite George Washington's wise warning, "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation," American vets from our Civil War to Desert Storm have been consistently treated like orphans.

Most recently, more than 161,000 Desert Storm vets have been disabled, and almost 10,000 have died from Gulf War Illness. During the near-decade they spent pleading for help, in pain and dying, their ingrate government kept insisting that their wounds – now proven to be caused by U.S.-destroyed Iraqi chemical munitions and an assortment of other killer cocktails such as oil-fire fumes, untested inoculations and local bugs that they weren't protected against – were "all in their heads."
(Thanks, Mike)