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Sunday, February 04, 2007

McCain insane 

I've been off this blog for the past three months, on account of more pressing needs in family, life, career and direct political action. Needless to say, the Dem whitewashing of the Party That Has Lost Its Way was a much-needed ray of hope for the country. Now, if just the Dems would do something.

McCain says about naysayers of the surge "I don't think it's appropriate to say that you disapprove of a mission and you don't want to fund it and you don't want it to go, but yet you don't take the action necessary to prevent it", implying that no reasonable alternatives are proposed.

Here's one. SAY YOU'RE SORRY. We, the US, need to tell the world, "Hey, we're sorry, we screwed up...royally...and we need your help." Forget partisan infights. Forget unilateral macho posing. Say we're sorry, we messed it up big time, we have no exit planned, Mission Accomplished is now Mission Impossible, the Geneva Convention became the Get-Even Convention, and we, the US, lost our way. We became what we professed to hate. And now, even as we as a nation slowly begin to accept what the world has recognized as Global Climate Change for a decade, we come to realize that we, the US, are behind the times, and can learn from the rest of the world. We cannot go it alone, we're only 4.5% of the world's people, and guess what, we're wrong a lot.

SAY YOU'RE SORRY AND ASK FOR HELP. Balkanize Iraq into Shiraq, Sunniraq and Kurdiraq, remember those Dayton peace terms (nothing new here...I've been pressing for Balkanization ever since the bone-headed war started).

How dare McCain and the Republicans chastise the Dems for not having a solution in Iraq. You grabbed us, pulled us out of the plane without parachutes, and now we're halfway to the ground, and you say, "Well, why can't you fix this problem?" Could have, if YOU LET ME TAKE A PARACHUTE. Like our allies and the UN, that's a nice parachute. Ask for help, haploids, you're at terminal velocity.

-Vulf

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Truth out on "Mr. Earth is Flat"... 

Wondered why Thomas Friedman seemed so flat himself in touting globalization? Could it be because he owns a substantial portion of it? Hypocrite alert!

Last week my column was a parody of how Thomas Friedman writes about the global economy. Since then, I've learned that I was in error on a matter that shines some light on the worldview of the syndicated New York Times columnist and best-selling author.

"Let's face it -- at this point I'm a rich guy, and I work for a newspaper run by guys who are even richer than I am," the satirical version of Friedman said in my article. But actually, Friedman is not just "a rich guy."

Days ago I read a long feature story that appeared in the July issue of The Washingtonian magazine. It provides some background on the world of Thomas Friedman -- and the personal finances that have long smoothed his path.

Much of Friedman's emphasis in recent years has revolved around economic relations. He's been a strong supporter of "globalization": the international trade rules and government policies allowing corporations to function with legal prerogatives that routinely trump labor rights, environmental protection and economic justice.

"Globalization" is largely about relations between the rich and the poor -- and often that means the very rich and the very poor.

The lengthy profile of Friedman in The Washingtonian this summer had scant ink to spare for criticisms of Friedman's outlook -- which corporate media outlets frequently hail as brilliant. But the article did include a telling comment about him from the renowned economist Joseph Stiglitz, who said: "Participation in the new world requires resources, computers, education, and access to those is very unequally distributed. He has this high level of optimism that means that anyone can do it if they just have wills."

Stiglitz, a winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, added that Friedman has understated the impacts of "some of the forces of inequality." And Stiglitz pointed out that "globalization inherently increases the inequalities in developing countries."

Friedman's great wealth is a frame for his window on the world. The Washingtonian reports that "his annual income easily reaches seven figures." In the Maryland suburbs near Washington, three years ago, "the Friedmans built a palatial 11,400-square-foot house, now valued at $9.3 million," on a parcel of more than seven acres near Bethesda Country Club and the Beltway.
Throughout his journalistic career, Friedman has been married to Ann Bucksbaum -- heiress to a real-estate and shopping-mall fortune now estimated at $2.7 billion. When the couple wed back in 1978, according to The Washingtonian article, Friedman became part of "one of the 100 richest families in the country."


Does Friedman's astronomical wealth invalidate what he writes? Of course not. But information about the extent of his wealth -- while not disclosed to readers of his columns and books -- provides context for how he is accustomed to moving through the world. And his outsized economic privileges become especially relevant when we consider that he's inclined to be glib and even flip as he advocates policies that give very low priority to reducing economic inequality.
Supposedly rigorous about facts and ideas, Friedman has prostituted his intellect. During a CNBC interview with Tim Russert in late July, the acclaimed savant made a notable confession: "We got this free market, and I admit, I was speaking out in Minnesota -- my hometown, in fact -- and guy stood up in the audience, said, 'Mr. Friedman, is there any free trade agreement you'd oppose?' I said, 'No, absolutely not.' I said, 'You know what, sir? I wrote a column supporting the CAFTA, the Caribbean Free Trade initiative. I didn't even know what was in it. I just knew two words: free trade.'"


Friedman went on: "Why am I so obsessive about that? Because it is a free, open, flexible economy that means you really gotta compete, but that you really can compete and you can really be quick in responding. That, Tim, is the most important asset we have."


Tim Russert didn't bother to pursue the fact that one of the nation's leading journalists had just said that he fervently advocated for a major trade agreement without knowing what was in it. "But beyond Russert's negligence," David Sirota wrote at the time, "what's truly astonishing is that Tom Friedman, the person who the media most relies on to interpret trade policy, now publicly runs around admitting he actually knows nothing at all about the trade pacts he pushes in his New York Times column."

It's reasonable to ask whether Friedman -- perhaps the richest journalist in the United States -- might be less zealously evangelical for "globalization" if he hadn't been so wealthy for the last quarter of a century. Meanwhile, it's worth noting that the corporate forces avidly promoting his analysis of economic options are reaping massive profits from the systems of trade and commerce that he champions.

"Thomas Friedman is arguably the world's most influential and popular foreign-policy thinker," The Washingtonian reported. If so, he may be a prime example of the unfortunate effects of "globalization."

-Vulf

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Foley's Folly Epitomizes Republican Reprobates... 

As if it could get any worse for any American with a heart, soul or brain watching the country spin toward economic, political and spiritual ruin...

Top House Republicans knew for months about e-mail traffic between Representative Mark Foley and a former teenage page, but kept the matter secret and allowed Mr. Foley to remain head of a Congressional caucus on children’s issues, Republican lawmakers said Saturday.

That's right. Foley heading up a caucus on children's issues. Like putting Cheney in charge of how contracts are awarded to the oil industry. Oh wait, they do that too.

And in case this reminds you of the Catholic Church actively (not passively) trying to hide the pedophilia rife in their priesthood, give yourself an award for being conscious. So many, too many, Americans are unconscious these days. Which may explain why Catholics, long used to being apologists for felons, are strangely approving of Bush.

Bush has rebounded from a low of 31% job approval in early June. Just two weeks ago, 39% gave him positive marks for his job performance. The Reuters/Zogby survey shows that members of the President’s political base are giving him better marks than they did a few months ago, as 44% of men, 44% of Catholics, 46% of married respondents, and 52% of regular WalMart shoppers rated his work well.

Rebounded? By doing what, pray tell? The housing market lost 2% last month, the National Deficit is monstrous, the Debacle in the Desert is worse than ever (800-900 attacks per week, the city of Baghdad on shutdown today), and the President has just pushed through legislation eliminating Habeas Corpus? The "regular WalMart shoppers" item is the best exemplar. We love George as long as he lets us keep buying cheap crap.

If gas prices drop, the Republicans will win in November. And since the Republicans and the oil industry are one and the same, they'll gladly take a few less billion home in October to continue their kleptocracy.

For shame. If you really support Bush because gas prices go down, so be it. But don't claim to be a Christian, when you sponsor a man whose only major piece of legislation since he stole the 2004 election is to absolve himself of past, present and (escalating) future torture.

But here is precisely where I am in error. "Christians" love Bush because he represents the illogical, inevitable ramifications of the confessional, wherein mortal sins can be confessed and absolved. Here is the twisted "logic":

1. Bush is a good Christian.
2. Bush kills innocent people, state-sponsors torture, starts wars for no good reason, changes laws illegally before signing them, steals election, and dishonors his father. Breaks every one of the 10 Commandments, except he probably doesn't covet Cheney's wife.
3. So, if Bush can do all these things, then I can pretty much do whatever the Hell I want and I'm still a good Christian.

The problem is that (1.) is never re-examined. But I have news for "all y'all". Bush is not a good Christian. Christ was a liberal, and he said "an eye for an eye" (Exodus) is now "turn the other cheek" (Matthew). In effect, he smote the Old Testament. Bush does not follow Christ's one law: love others as you love yourself. Well, he clearly loves himself, he even thinks his farts are loveable, but as far as loving others, well, I don't think he's fooling anyone who's truly religious.

As for the new breed of smug faux-religious, hell, you can't even fool Green Day, how the hell are you going to fool your Maker after you leave this planet? Which, with George around, is likely to be sooner than otherwise.

The Jesus of Suburbia is a lie...

-Vulf

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Alternet article...speaks for itself... 

I have nothing to add...ABC's 9/11 "docudrama" a creepy shill for Bush and his crime family...

http://www.alternet.org/story/41288/

An excerpt:

One astonishing sequence in "The Path to 9/11" shows the CIA and the Northern Alliance surrounding Bin Laden's house in Afghanistan. They're on the verge of capturing Bin Laden, but they need final approval from the Clinton administration in order to go ahead. They phone Clinton, but he and his senior staff refuse to give authorization for the capture of Bin Laden, for fear of political fall-out if the mission should go wrong and civilians are harmed. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger in essence tells the team in Afghanistan that if they want to capture Bin Laden, they'll have to go ahead and do it on their own without any official authorization. The episode is a perfect example of Clinton-era irresponsibility and incompetence.

The only problem with this "perfect example," which Murty praises because it "honestly depicts how the Clinton administration repeatedly bungled the capture of Osama Bin Laden," is that it didn't happen. In reality, it was CIA director George Tenet, not Berger, who called off the operation, which never got anywhere near "surrounding Bin Laden's house in Afghanistan." According to the 9/11 commision report on which the movie is supposedly based, Tenet told us that, given the recommendation of his chief operations officers, he alone had decided to "turn off" the operation. He had simply informed Berger, who had not pushed back. Berger's recollection was similar. He said the plan was never presented to the White House for a decision.

Ick. But remember, it's the stupidity and cupidity-for-money of your fellow "'Merkins" that makes this Midland Mafia possible. This kind of "docudrama" litany of lies is the only Resmuglican response possible anymore (let's blame Clinton), when faced with their abject failure to do anything--notice they haven't even addressed Roe vs. Wade? Serves all you single-issue anti-abortion voters right. Not only are the Resmuglicans allowing US babies to die, but they're killing Iraqi babies, too.

The Resmuglicans hold all the power, and the economy is in tatters, the housing bubble rubbing against a thorn, gas above $70 a barrel, the deficit in territory never previously explored by an earth economy, and oh, the "war" going great (ok, it is going great for Titan, Bechtel, Lockheed, General Dynamics, Halliburton, CACI, Mobil, Exxon, and others...). Better find a way to blame Clinton. If you can't stand on your own merits, look for a scapeBill.

-Vulf

Excellent Recent Reads: 

1. "Collapse" by Jared Diamond. Excellent follow-on on his themes in "Guns, Germs and Steel" with the addition of excellent research and perspectives on why there is still hope and time. The most interesting chapter? Perhaps the comparison of the Greenland Norse, who perished en masse, to the Inuit, who survived. The difference? Willingness to adapt to the world around you, for one. Excellent thoughts for our troubled ecology. A MUST read.

2. "A Great and Noble Scheme" by John Faragher. Indepth, sensitive consideration of the Acadian Expulsion/Genocide at the hands of New Englanders. Finished this just before a long trip to Eastern Canada (part of the reason for my paucity of blogging this summer--it's been damn busy in Vulfworld). An amazing description of the tragedy of the first planned genocide in the New World. Faragher introduces an excellent analytical tool for calculating the true impact of any forced movement of people, by projecting their population growth forward and comparing the survivors to how many would have been alive. Followed up by yours Vulfy, Faolin and the little wolves with a visit to Grand Pre and their modern Acadian museum (one of North America's top ten museums, IMHO).

3. "1776" (and "The Johnstown Flood") by David McCullough. Wow. I already liked Washington a lot (since reading "An Imperfect God", http://www.amazon.com/An-Imperfect-God-Washington-Creation/dp/0374529515/sr=1-1/qid=1157524767/ref=sr_1_1/002-9168815-0000005?ie=UTF8&s=books), but this book really brings out his humanity--his boneheaded decisions and his thickheaded courage. We live in an entirely different country now. (There was an excellent side comment by McCullough on how the British regulars were astonished at the wealth in the then-countryside of Brooklyn--what more can these rebels want?). The Johnstown Flood occurred because some mega-rich folks wanted a summer lake resort, and didn't bother making sure a dam was safe. None of them ever did time, but they killed thousands. An amazing story, and like 9/11, more than 2,000 people were killed due to the conscious neglect of our Conservative rich.

-Vulf

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Iraq news worse still... 

Of course Iraq is in the grips of a Civil War. The problem being, like that in Russia in 1917, that there are currently so many combatants it's hard to even tell what the sides are. The shia and sunni control many of the mesopotamian provinces, the kurds the northeast, and apparently the "resistance" (whatever that means) the west. As CommonDreams.org reports, the west really couldn't be worse.

Now, given that Pakistan has today declared (and later denied) Bin Laden is free to live "peacefully" in their country, you have to wonder how in hell the US is going to get its troops, including friends of yours Vulfy, out of Iraq. Here is news on the ground in western Iraq:

According to the group Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, 964 coalition soldiers have been killed in al-Anbar, more than in any other Iraqi province. Baghdad is second, with 665 coalition deaths.

Residents of Ramadi told IPS that the U.S. military has knocked down several buildings near the government centre in the city, the capital of the province. In an apparent move to secure their offices, U.S. Army and Marine engineers have started to level a half-kilometre stretch of low-rise buildings opposite the centre. Abandoned buildings in this area have been used repeatedly to launch attacks on the government complex. "They are trying to create a separation area between the offices of the puppet government and the buildings the resistance are using to attack them," a Ramadi resident said. "But now the Americans are making us all angry because they are destroying our city." U.S. troops have acknowledged their own difficulties in doing this.

"We're used to taking down walls, doors and windows, but eight city blocks is something new to us," Marine 1st Lt. Ben Klay, 24, said in the U.S. Department of Defence newspaper Stars and Stripes. In nearby Fallujah, residents are reporting daily clashes between Iraqi-U.S. security forces and the resistance. "The local police force which used to be out of the conflict are now being attacked," said a resident who gave his name as Abu Mohammed. "Hundreds of local policemen have quit the force after seeing that they are considered a legitimate target by fighters."

The U.S. forces seem to have no clear policy in the face of the sustained resistance. "The U.S. Army seems so confused in handling the security situation in Anbar," said historian Salman. "Attacks are conducted from al-Qa'im on the Syrian border to Abu Ghraib west of Baghdad, all the way through Haditha, Hit, Ramadi and Fallujah on a daily basis." He added: "A contributing factor to the instability of the province is the endless misery of the civilians who live with no services, no infrastructure, random shootings and so many wrongful detentions."

According to the new Pentagon quarterly report on Measuring Security and Stability in Iraq, Iraqi casualties rose 51 percent in recent months. The report says Sunni-based insurgency is "potent and viable." The report says that in a period since the establishment of the new Iraqi government, between May 20 and Aug. 11 this year, the average number of weekly attacks rose to nearly 800, almost double the number of the attacks in early 2004. Casualties among Iraqi civilians and security forces averaged nearly 120 a day during the period, up from 80 a day reported in the previous quarterly report. Two years ago they were averaging roughly 30 a day.

On Aug. 31 the Pentagon announced that it is increasing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to 140,000, which is 13,000 more than the number five weeks ago. At least 65 U.S. soldiers were killed in August, with 36 of the deaths reported in al-Anbar. That brought the total number killed to at least 2,642.

It's starting to sound like what, inevitably happens, to any bully. Can the US (and its 51st state, Israel) run over Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon? Sure, but not all at the same time. And those "little" guys are ganging together now to fight a common menace. By the way, the populations of these five countries? Try 296 million...that's right, 99% as much as the United States. Looks like the US is going to need more allies, or more of its 299 million citizens, half of whom are against the war, to sign up. Did we forget about North Korea, too?

Outmaneuvered, outsmarted, now outnumbered in the Middle East. Let's make it happen in the House and Senate. Get the vote out to get the criminals out. Time for change, time for subpoenas, time for a new day.

-Vulf

Economic News...5 straight years... 

Hmmm, median income is down for the fifth straight year. Wonder what that correlates with?

Check out the bleak (at least for the average--median--American, that is) economic data at:

http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2006/09/02/another_year_another_wage_loss/

The Census Bureau reported that median incomes for working-age families were down again, for the fifth straight year [Every year since the coup d'etat]. Real median income for households under age 65 is down by 5.4 percent since 2000, even though the economy has grown every year. All of that gain has gone to upper-bracket people and corporate profits.

The Pew Research Center released an extensive survey on public attitudes about the economy. Pew reported, ``The public thinks that workers were better off a generation ago on every key dimension of worker life -- be it wages, benefits, retirement plans, on-the-job stress, the loyalty they are shown by employers." And, statistically, the public is right.

The Globe recently reported that chief executives of nonprofit hospitals now routinely make more than $1 million. University presidents are not far behind.

The Economic Policy Institute has released its annual, encyclopedic report, ``The State of Working America." Among its findings: The economy's productivity increased by a remarkable 33.5 percent between 1995 and 2005, but real wages have declined since 2000. Employer-provided health coverage declined from 69 percent in 1979 to 56 percent in 2004. The top 1 percent's share of interest, dividends, and capital gains has risen from 37.8 percent in 1979 to 57.5 percent in 2003.

You read this right--the top 1% is making over half of the extra income...why aren't folks revolting in the streets? Not sure, but we do know the folks are REVOLTING in power.

Politically, it's evident what is occurring. Those in a position to capture astronomical incomes are awarding themselves an ever-larger share of the national economic pie. Meanwhile, ordinary incomes, job security, health security, and retirement security are eroding.

The political mystery is why everyone else is not kicking up a fuss. After all, as the Pew report suggests, it's not as if people are unaware of what's happening. Here's a clue to some of the puzzle: Polls show that people do want more reliable wages, pensions, and health insurance. But too many people have given up on the idea that the political process can be used to restore the American dream.

If the political process cannot restore the American dream, then what will? It's starting to look more like pitchforks and ropes.

-Vulf

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Losing the war on drugs, the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq...ALL AT ONCE 

The triumverate of evil?

Cheney, Bush, Rove.

The triumverate of evils dropped on the world?

1. Afghanistan is out of control, the "war" lost and only a tiny portion of the country under US control...but no better off for it.

2. The war on drugs? 90% of the world's heroine is coming from Afghanistan. The US has created the world'd hard drug factory...it has to be on purpose. You simply can't screw up this badly by accident. Even 20,000 more troops there would have put paid to this...

The United Nations reported last year that Afghanistan produced an estimated 4,500 tons of opium -- enough to make 450 tons of heroin -- nearly 90 percent of world supply....The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that opium accounted for 52 percent of Afghanistan's gross domestic product in 2005. "Now what they have is a narco-economy. If they do not get corruption sorted, they can slip into being a narco-state," the U.S. official warned.

Slip into? When 52% of your economy is due to something, you aren't slipping into it. You ARE it. That's like saying the US is slipping into a shopping-frenzied nation. HELLO.

3. As for the obviously awry "war" in Iraq, well, Bush thinks the Iraqi people he's torturing, killing and displacing aren't kissing his ass enough. Despite the fact he's spent enough to fly every single Iraqi to the US and give them $17,000 to start a new life...the place is a hellhole. But this shows what planet he's living on...

More generally, the participants said, the president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq, and was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah in Baghdad could draw such a large crowd. “I do think he was frustrated about why 10,000 Shiites would go into the streets and demonstrate against the United States,” said another person who attended.

You know why they have "not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq"? Because you're sacrificing their friends and family, you evil cretin...

One way to estimate the actual number of Iraqi enemy combatants killed is to consider the results of anonymous surveys of U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq done in 2003 as part of a study on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) published in the New England Journal of Medicine [6]. In this study, 48% of the Army soldiers who had served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and 65% of the Marines said that they were responsible for the death of at least one enemy combatant.

Since at least 180,000 Army soldiers and 58,000 Marines served in Iraq in 2003, this means that a minimum of about 124,000 U.S. troops who returned from Iraq by the end of 2003 each believed they had caused the death of one or more enemy combatants. This would not include any deaths caused by Navy or Air Force personnel, such as those that resulted from the bombing missions during the invasion, nor would it include those killed since the beginning of 2004. However, this could reflect either more or less than 124,000 enemy combatants killed, as there are likely cases where one soldier felt responsible for the deaths of multiple Iraqis, where several soldiers each felt responsible for the death of the same person, and where soldiers were incorrect in their belief that anyone had died.

These are just deaths due to direct causes. We know from the news reports alone 50,000 are dead, and likely 5-10 times as many, counting lowered live birth rates, increased spontaneous and other abortions, starvation and disease deaths, etc. Again, this translates into an equivalent (proportionate to the population) of from half a million to five million dead in the United States. Think we'd be happy if some God-fearin' marble-mouthed miscreant put his army in the US with this many Americans "sacrificed"?

WE HAVE MET THE TRIUMVERATE OF EVIL AND IT IS US.

-Vulf

Friday, August 04, 2006

Iraqi violence...in perspective... 

Tucked way down in this article is a nasty little fact:

Sectarian killings in Iraq have escalated since the February 22 bombing of the Shiite Askariya Mosque in Samarra. Nearly 6,000 people died in Iraqi violence in May and June alone, according to a recent U.N. report.

This rate? 36,000 a year due to violence. Imagine the number dying of deprivation, cholera, miscarriage, etc. The 36,000 a year? That translates into 420,000 a year for a country the size of the US. Imagine. 420,000 a year. 8,400 per state. 1.4 per thousand people. If you live in a city of 100,000, 140 people will be killed by violence.

Sounds like New Orleans? No, sorry, it's two and a half times the rate of the US's most dangerous city.

Ah, democracy. We did it for freedom. And, now, Iraq can match the homicide rate of any city in the land of the free. And your tax dollars are paying for it.

-Vulf

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