Monday, October 08, 2007

A Columbus Day Historical Flashback

Thom Hartmann brings us this special Columbus Day message from ol' Christopher himself:

Columbus and his men also used the Taino as sex slaves: it was a common reward for Columbus’ men for him to present them with local women to rape. As he began exporting Taino as slaves to other parts of the world, the sex-slave trade became an important part of the business, as Columbus wrote to a friend in 1500: "A hundred castellanoes (a Spanish coin) are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten (years old) are now in demand.”

Happy Columbus Day!



Friday, October 05, 2007

Conspiracy Theory Rock

This is kind of old but, since I'm seeing it for the first time, it's not old to me.

A little civics lesson for the chirrens, because they are the future.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

More on Spanish "Downing Street"

I've always known that the real, whole truth of the Iraq War, if ever revealed, would be far worse than even I imagine it. That's probably still the case even today. As we fall further into the rabbit hole, Juan Cole brings us more on the Spanish "Downing Street Memo" in a very worthwhile post(via Empire Blurlesque).

For a devastating take on the latest confirmation of Bush's criminal intent to launch a war of aggression against Iraq – the newly released transcript of the talks between Bush and then-Spanish leader Jose Maria Aznar just before the war – see Juan Cole's blistering piece: The War Crime of the Century. One central point of the transcript is Bush's admission that he had turned down Saddam's offer to go into exile – one of several offers Iraq put on the table to avoid war before the invasion, including an offer to hold free, internationally-supervised elections and allow heavily-armed foreign troops to conduct WMD inspections. But Bush wanted war; and the war came. Cole's conclusion is damningly true: "[Bush] had a real offer in the hand, of Saddam's flight. He rejected it. By rejecting it, he will have killed at least a million persons and became one of the more monstrous figures in recent world history."


Chris Floyd:

Now this is the man whom the Democrats are so slavishly eager to support on Iran. This is the man whose minions they so willingly believe about Iran, having already been lied to in precisely the same fashion about Iraq, by precisely the same kind of honorable, patriotic men of unquestionable integrity. (Colin Powell, anyone?) This is beyond cravenness, beyond cowardice, beyond incompetence, beyond even the most bitterly tragic farce. No, something else is at work here. As we have noted before – echoing the powerful arguments of Arthur Silber – the Democrats are doing this because they want to.

Amen again.

If there isn't already a hell waiting for all these people we should make one.



Liz gets hit?

Truncation. It'll get you every time.

This is what happened when the good people at Access Hollywood decided to cover Elizabeth Taylor and her new boyfriend...

Yes, that's right. It's Liz Taylor, a black man and caption that reads, "Liz Taylor: Ready to get hit..."

The actual headline, truncated by the link, reads, "Liz Taylor: Ready to get hitched again?"

I just thought that was funny. Carry on.


The Downing Street Memo: Now Available in Spanish!

I'd actually intended to do a lot less Iraq War blogging going forward, figuring that 1) others had the subject pretty well covered, 2) I'd pretty much summed it up with this post and 3) I don't want my blog to be just another collection of links. But, as will happen from time to time, something comes up that is impossible to ignore. I give you the Spanish "Downing Street" Memo, courtesy Crooks & Liars:

How much money does Bush think a US soldier’s life is worth? How much money does Bush think the lives of our allies’ soldiers or innocent Iraqis are worth?

As we’re finding out, not very much. On March 17, 2003 President Bush issued the warning: “Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict commenced at a time of our choosing ,” yet now thanks to a transcript leaked to the Spanish newspaper El Pais, we learn that more than three weeks prior to that Bush had told former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar that “The Egyptians are speaking to Saddam Hussein. It seems he’s indicated he would be prepared to go into exile if he’s allowed to take $1 billion …” When confronted about the leaked transcript yesterday, Whitehouse spokeswoman Dana Perino did not dispute its accuracy.

Now, I know the idea of giving Hussein a golden parachute is a repugnant concept for a number of reasons, but exiles of equally cruel dictators aren't exactly unprecedented. Baby Doc lives in luxury in the south of France to this day, for example.

Furthermore, in some circles I dare say that starting unnecessary disastrous wars to combat mythical, trumped-up "threats" tends to be considered "bad form" in many circles as well. The key differences? One option leads to the death, dismemberment and displacement of millions more people for no good reason at all and the other doesn't while achieving the same goal, the removal of the regime.

[More after the jump]

Besides, he was such a good employee for so long he'd earned his pension from us, didn't he? There's no rule that says you can't pursue war crimes charges against him after his exile begins (Pinochet comes to mind). He could have been tried in a legitimate international court instead of being made into a half-assed martyr in a Shiite militia snuff film.

With that in mind, those who would have objected to this alternative are asked to tell the families of the nearly 4,000 fallen American servicemen, the thousands more who are wounded for life and the millions of killed, maimed and displaced Iraqi citizens that killing Saddam gangland style, rather than exiling and trying him, was worth the sacrifice they have all paid for it.

But the Bush Coup Government was not interesting in legitimate prosecution of this man. This was clear from the start and only confirmed by the trial he actually got -- as well as the controlled coverage of it. So, instead they chose the current illegal course, which is their stock and trade, and we are told with a straight face that it's working out great.

For $1-billion this could have all been over YEARS AGO. Bush took a pass on this opportunity and instead has chosen to spend more than eight times that amount ($8.4-billion) each month in addition to the millions of lives he destroys before 9am (more than most of us destroy all day). He makes this choice because, as I've said before, the limitless occupation of Iraq isn't a problem to these people. It was the goal from the very start. Everything else is pretext.

The war was never necessary. They knew this from the start. They simply want us to be there indefinitely because it makes them and their friends rich.

They don't ever intend to leave.



Monday, September 24, 2007

News Flash! Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Does Not Rule Iran

I know this may come as a shock to people who follow major broadcast and print news in the US but it's true. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian President, is not - I repeat, not - the ruler of Iran.

  • He does not set national policy.
  • He does not command Iran's armed forces.
  • He cannot pursue a nuclear weapons program without explicit permission (which he does not have).
  • He cannot order attacks on Israel, the US or anyone else.
  • He is a figurehead analogous to a hood ornament, put there to give the illusion of democratic rule.
Believe it or not it turns out Iran's form of democracy is a bit of a sham and some are quick to point this out whenever they get a chance. So it's a little difficult understand why those same people behave as if they believe that a popularly-elected position in such a sham of a democracy would actually come with any real power. That would seem to be an untenable position to hold, yet some of our most prominent media figures enunciate exactly these conflicting beliefs with a straight face.

The President of Columbia University, where Ahmadinejad spoke today, called him "a petty and cruel dictator". But given the set of powers listed above that he does not have I have to wonder what kind of "dictator" this is.

Well, it turns out that in addition to the office of President, which Ahmadinejad holds, the Iranian government has another official executive position called the "Supreme Leader".

Multiple choice:

Who holds more power in the Iranian Government?

A) The democratically-elected President, currently Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is subject to term limits.

B) The rarely-mentioned, unelected Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamanei, who practically serves for life.

C) Satan.

D) None of the above.

Sorry, Christian conservatives, if you chose 'C' you are incorrect (but keep trying, I may ask who calls the shots in the White House later).

The correct answer is actually 'B', the Supreme Leader (the title itself is a bit of a hint). Let that be a lesson to you, test takers. Studies have shown that 'B' is the most frequently correct choice for mulitple-choice questions.

You see, the real power in Iran is wielded by a triumverate consisting of the Supreme Leader, an Assembly of Experts which selects the Supreme Leader and an unelected Council of Guardians, selected by the Supreme Leader by the way, which screens the field of Presidential candidates down to an officially-approved list for a popular election.

This is all well known to our news establishment. Still, on a daily basis we are bombarded with reporting focusing obsessively on the temperment, attitudes, idiosyncrasies and statements of Iran's President to the near exclusion of any coverage of that nation's Supreme Leader.

This is odd in and of itself. But it's particularly odd because it's not as if our learned and serious news givers are unaware of the structure of Iran's government and the existence of a Supreme Leader there. They were certainly aware of Ayatollah Khomeini when he held the position. So what happened in the interim? How and why did the identity of the actual leader of Iran slip down the memory hole?

What's more, I don't recall similar coverage being focused on Ahmadinejad's perfectly tame and reasonable predecessor, President Mohammad Khatami and his platform of reconciliation with the west. I hear tell that Mr. Khatami's electorial defeat at the hand of Ahmadinejad was made possible by the failure of his reconciliation efforts with the needlessly truculent and belligerent George W. Bush, who responded to Khatami's overtures by naming Iran a member of the mythical "Axis of Evil" in what I still view as the single most idiotic speech given in the history of the American Presidency, his 2002 State of the Union Address.

Despite all this, you never heard much about Khatami from our news media. But today it's all Ahmadinejad all the time.

I wonder why that is.

For whatever the reason the coverage we're getting on Iran these days is absolutely ludicrous to point of being completely unreadable.

Yes, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a nut. Fine.

He denies the Holocaust. Idiotic.

But he did not, and cannot threaten to "wipe Israel from the map", not only because there is no such idiom for saying such a thing in Farsi but because he has no power to attack a mole-hill, let alone another country.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does not run Iran. Lets stop pretending that he does.

Enough already.

UPDATE: As fate would have it, as I was typing this post yesterday this was just published on the pages of the NY Times:

In demonizing Mr. Ahmadinejad, the West has served him well, elevating his status at home and in the region at a time when he is increasingly isolated politically because of his go-it-alone style and ineffective economic policies, according to Iranian politicians, officials and political experts.

Political analysts here say they are surprised at the degree to which the West focuses on their president, saying that it reflects a general misunderstanding of their system.

Unlike in the United States, in Iran the president is not the head of state nor the commander in chief. That status is held by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, whose role combines civil and religious authority. At the moment, this president’s power comes from two sources, they say: the unqualified support of the supreme leader, and the international condemnation he manages to generate when he speaks up.

“The United States pays too much attention to Ahmadinejad,” said an Iranian political scientist who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “He is not that consequential.”

...unless you want to use him as an excuse to start a war.



Monday, September 03, 2007

Blame America First

Among the many contradictions rife in "conservative ideology", such as it is, is their penchant for accusing their critics of wanting to "blame America first". This meme is usually trotted out whenever someone criticizes certain aspects of US foreign policy. The first and most glaring contradiction inherent in this tactic is the fact that it is these very "conservatives" who tell us incessantly that government cannot and should not be trusted for anything, yet they demand absolute, unquestioning deference to that same government in matters of war and peace.

I plan to write about that aspect of the contradiction more extensively later. But for now I'd like to deal with a second aspect. America is more than just its government. America is also its people and it's culture and when it comes to "blaming America first", where the people and the culture are concerned no one does it better than our "conservatives". One need look no further than their reaction to the tragedy caused by Hurricane Katrina for confirmation of this.

In the same vein, when they see economic hardship befalling American citizens their reaction is not to examine what may be wrong with the economy to cause it. Oh, no. Instead they must look at what's wrong with Americans. They want to know what Americans are doing to mess up the perfection inherent of their crackpot theories.

Case in point, George Will, appearing on This Week with Mr. Snuffelupagus believes he has pinpointed the cause of the growing economic inequality in our nation. In a discussion on the "the meat" in John Edwards economic policy ideas Will expresses an opinion that is very typical and sadly instructive of what conservatives really believe about the average American. He says, in effect, that half of Americans are stupid and that in the old agricultural and industrial ages they could get away with it. But today we live on our "intellectual capital" and that's why these stupid people cannot keep up.

I quote:

"The meat is actually in Bob's [Robert Reich's] book and it's the problem equality. That is, is the problem of inequality in our economy becoming too wide? The problem with that is two centuries ago the great source of wealth was land and century ago it was fixed capital -- think if Carnegie steel mills. Now it's intellectual capital. The fact is 25 years ago the disparity between the earnings of a college graduate and a high school graduate was 30-percent. Now it's 70-percent. The market is screaming, "Stay in school". The problem is half of America's children are below-average in intelligence, always have been, always will be. And therefore, the more we reward intellectual capital the more these inequalities are built into our modern economy."

This is an interesting departure from the Reaganite style of blaming America first. Where Reagan said the poor want to be poor, Will says the poor should be poor because they're stupid. This theme permeates the "conservative" movement and I certainly don't mean to give the impression that Will is at all unique in this belief. I'll explore this topic more in future future posts.

In the meantime check out the video via Crooks & Liars.



The Hiatus Is Over

I haven't been posting much lately, choosing to spend more time on other things. But there are some topics I've been wanting to write about for some time. I've decided it makes more sense to grit my teeth and once again and wage my existential struggle against the Blogger editor in order to post them here than to continue to flood my friends' and family's e-mail with them. So, enough with this hiatus business. More posts coming soon.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

News & Notes

Miscellaneous items of note:

Empire Burlesque: Seasons in Hell: Voices From the American Gulag

The Independent has a remarkable story on Sami al-Haj, the Sudanese journalist who has been held in George W. Bush's concentration camp in Guantanamo Bay for five years. Haj has not been charged with any crime, but he is undoubtedly guilty of a grave sin in the eyes of the Bush Regime: he is a cameraman for Al Jazeera.

Orcinus: Ron Paul vs The New World Order
I have to admit that when Rep. Ron Paul announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, I didn't raise much of an eyebrow, even though I am a longtime Paul watcher. After all, he's run before; his 1988 Libertarian Party candidacy attracted little attention because he ran mostly from the fringe, and his views haven't changed substantially over the years.

What I didn't expect was that his anti-war advocacy would attract as many evident admirers from the left as it seems to have, particularly those who are dissatisfied with Democrats' apparent fumbling of the Iraq war issue. Certainly, the message boards at liberal outlets like Crooks and Liars who've carried factual counterinformation about Paul have been flooded with raging defenses of the man, as have some of our comments threads.

To what extent this is an illusion created by Paul's legion of True Believers is difficult to ascertain. Paul is very well organized online -- much of his support is derived from this -- and it's entirely likely the flood of "liberals" and "progressives" who are busy arguing that someone like Paul is worth forming an alliance with are, in fact, simply part of Paul's corps and they're doing their part to muddy the waters and ultimately attract new supporters in a "Third Way" kind of strategy.

And to some extent it seems evident that they're succeeding. Mostly, they seem to be taking advantage of a combination of amnesia among those experienced enough to know better, and simple ignorance on the part of progressives who've never heard of, or paid any attention to, Ron Paul previously. They hear Paul's carefully crafted antiwar rhetoric and his critique of the Bush administration -- all of which elide or obscure his underlying beliefs -- and think it sounds pretty good, especially for a Republican.

As Sara has already explained, there's a real problem with that -- namely, for all of Paul's seeming "progressive" positions, he carries with him a whole raft of positions well to the right of even mainstream conservatives.

Does any of the following sound familiar?

Chris Hedges: Looking Back on 40 Years of Occupation
Israel captured and occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank 40 years ago this week. The victory was celebrated as a great triumph, at once tripling the size of the land under Israeli control, including East Jerusalem. It was, however, a Pyrrhic victory. As the occupation stretched over the decades, it transformed and deformed Israeli society. It led Israel to abandon the norms and practices of a democratic society until, in the name of national security, it began to routinely accept the brutal violence of occupation and open discrimination and abuse of Palestinians, including the torture of prisoners and collective reprisals for Palestinians attacks. Palestinian neighborhoods, olive groves and villages were, in the name of national security, bulldozed into the ground.

Lastly, on "Force labor", formerly known as slavery...

Inter Press Service: IRAQ: Blood, Sweat and Tears at New U.S. Embassy
The U.S. Justice Department is actively investigating allegations of forced labour and other abuses by the Kuwaiti contractor now rushing to complete the sprawling 592-million-dollar U.S. embassy project in Baghdad, numerous sources have revealed.


Friday, June 08, 2007

Child Abductions for Freedom

I just saw this on Glenn Greenwald's blog:

I see that Hilzoy this morning is discussing an amazing new report (.pdf) issued jointly by six human rights groups concerning 39 individuals whose whereabouts are unknown and at least some of whom, it seems quite likely, the U.S. has simply "disappeared," secretly holding in detention. Among the disappeared, Hilzoy highlights, are likely children as young as 7-9 years old. I have a lot to say about this issue -- as I hope everyone would -- but am unable to write anything now, but Hilzoy's post is superb and ought to be read widely.

We will undoubtedly hear at the next GOP debate from Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and company as they explain -- in the face of wild cheers from the "base" -- that they not only favor the disappearance of the children of Terrorists, but think the minimum age of detention ought to be halved from 8 to 4, and the number of secretly detained children doubled at least.

So, naturally, I went over to Hilzoy's post on Obsidian Wings and found more...

This report has gotten a fair amount of play, but in all the coverage I've read, only the Philadelphia Inquirer has mentioned what is, to me, the most awful allegation: that we disappeared young children. The report (pp. 24-26) lists five groups of family members; those who are discussed at greatest length are the sons of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

"In September 2002, Yusuf al-Khalid (then nine years old) and Abed al-Khalid (then seven years old) were reportedly apprehended by Pakistani security forces during an attempted capture of their father, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was successfully apprehended several months later, and the U.S. government has acknowledged that he was in the U.S. Secret Detention Program. He is presently held at Guant√°namo Bay.


After Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s arrest in March 2003, Yusuf and Abed Al Khalid were reportedly transferred out of Pakistan in U.S. custody. The children were allegedly being sent for questioning about their father’s activities and to be used by the United States as leverage to force their father to co-operate with the United States. A press report on March 10, 2003 confirmed that CIA interrogators had detained the children and that one official explained that:

“We are handling them with kid gloves. After all, they are only little children...but we need to know as much about their father's recent activities as possible. We have child psychologists on hand at all times and they are given the best of care.”

In the transcript of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s Combatant Status Review Tribunal, he indicates knowledge that his children were apprehended and abused:

“They arrested my kids intentionally. They are kids. They been arrested for four months they had been abused.”"

Now, thinking back to that widely-reported confession by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed a few months ago -- you know, the one where he confessed his responsibility for everything but the kidnapping of the Lindberg baby -- is there any chance that maybe, just maybe, some of that was coerced? I'm just speculating that, perhaps, 4 years of torture in Guantanamo Bay, combined the with the knowledge that his torturers had his children holed up in some similar undisclosed hell-hole, might have had the effect of coloring his testimony a bit. I'm just saying, I know KSM is a confirmed bad-guy and all, but this has to call his already-fantastical testimony into even more doubt.

Who needs evidence when we can threaten your kids?

I saw an episode of The Shield where the Russian mob acted the same way. But that was the Russian mob in a fictional TV show. This is the US government in real life.

See also:

  • The full report reference above (Adobe PDF file)
  • Treaties banning the "disappearing" of civilians
  • KSM: Read the long list of acts claimed by KSM in his secret military tribunal.

Wow, he makes Carlos the Jackal look like a Quaker.

This all further confirms for me what many have already suspected for a while. This whole torture program is designed, not to uncover intelligence on existing terror plots, but instead to create intelligence from whole cloth regardless of the existence of any plot. This manufactured intel is then used to incite fear and promote policies that have already been decided upon. The Iraq invasion, for example.


The Official Restart of the Cold War (Continued)

Per this AP story, our counterproductive Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice was at it again today:

Rice: US pursues own missile plan

By MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Writer 16 minutes ago

NEW YORK - The United States will pursue its own plans to put a missile defense in Eastern Europe despite Russia's surprise suggestion to locate it outside the region, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told The Associated Press Friday.

In a wide-ranging interview, Rice said Russian President Vladimir Putin's offer to share a Soviet-era radar tracking station in Azerbaijan for the project had caught the Bush administration off guard, but was worth looking into even while missile defense negotiations with Poland and the Czech Republic continue....

Translation: "Yeah, whatever. We'll call you. "

Asked for more detail on US designs in Europe, Rice then struck a more diplomatic pose:

"I'll get you, my Puty, and your little dog too!"


Putin Chides President's Comment on Democracy

Putin Cites US' Excessive Use of Force

The Official Restart of the Cold War


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Caribbean Terror Mastermind Exposed

Authorities have identified the mastermind behind the recent spate of terror plots hatched by dastardly Caribbean allies of Al Qaeda. The suspect is shown here in recently-released footage from a training video found during a raid of an alleged Al Qaeda safe house cleverly disguised as a beef pattie stand:

Boo, unlikely Caribbean Islamic extremist!



Don't believe the hypeWhy does Ron Paul hate public education?

A lot of people have been getting excited about Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-TX) lately after his performances in the recent Republican primary debates, his appearance on The Daily Show and Bill Maher's glowing endorsement of him on his show, Real Time. Clearly, he has done a very good job of positioning himself as a new kind of "maverick" republican, willing to push back against the prevailing rightward tilt of the party. But is any of this posturing real?

I've noticed a number of reporters and bloggers out there who have rightfully raised questions about Paul's stances on issues of race. As an example, via C&L I found this post by Dave Neiwert at Orcinus that examines it rather closely. To wit (emphases mine; some hyperlinks added):

What I can tell you -- what all of us need to know before we run out and sign on for a summer of Ron Paul Love Feasts -- is that Paul has some long-standing ties to early-90s Patriot groups -- and some ugly attitudes on race and equality -- that should give us all long and serious pause. Diarist phenry at Daily Kos lays out the particulars here and here.

According to phenry, Paul's newsletter, The Ron Paul Political Report (renamed The Ron Paul Survival Report in 1993, in a bid to pander to the militia audience that was peaking that year) was a Patriot movement must-read, full of helpful advice on tax protest, gold-backed currency, urban race war and other pet legal and social theories of the extremist right. While content is very hard to come by now (Paul has scrubbed much of what was on the Web, and refuses to release the newsletter to the media), phenry dug up a few choice samples, including:

* A 1992 screed on African-American "racial terrorism" in Los Angeles, in which Paul insists that "our country is being destroyed by a group of actual and potential terrorists -- and they can be identified by the color of their skin."

* Another 1992 article, this one asserting that "complex embezzling" is "100% white and Asian;" and noting that young black male muggers are "unbelievably fleet-footed."

* A Houston Chronicle citation from 1996, in which he asserts that Barbara Jordan was a "fraud." Paul wrote: "Everything from her imitation British accent, to her supposed expertise in law, to her distinguished career in public service, is made up. If there were ever a modern case of the empress without clothes, this is it. She is the archetypical half-educated victimologist, yet her race and sex protect her from criticism."

In the second post, phenry outlines Paul's connections to various white supremacists groups. In 1996, Paul was one of only two candidates endorsed by Christian Identity leader Larry Pratt (who had previously worked with David Duke, and resigned from Pat Buchanan's team when his Identity role became public). Paul refused to repudiate the endorsement; and Pratt has stepped forward again with a quasi-endorsement of Paul's current campaign.

Without question, these revelations about Paul's racial views and associations with radical racists are very disturbing and worthy of discussion. A big thank you goes out to people like phenry and Dave Neiwart who have done the work to uncover this information. But I've been surprised that the criticism of him has so far been limited this.

Racism is a big issue, obviously, but it's also a very polarizing one. GOP candidates get accused of racism virtually all the time, often rightfully so. But such an accusation, though cautionary for right-thinking people, will actually function as a badge of honor for others. Sadly, it is not yet something that Americans have finally settled as an issue and, because of that, I think it is a mistake for those of on "the left" to get so caught up in that issue alone. Yes, it should be exposed and pursued, but not exclusively, especially if there's something else about the guy that a vast majority of Americans will find almost equally unacceptable, if not more.

What if it turned out that Ron Paul was diametrically opposed to a policy -- a way of life, really -- that poll after poll reveals is strongly supported by the overwhelming majority Americans? What if, in addition to his repugnant views on a polarizing issue like race, he can also be shown to be in support of radical ideas that are anathema to long-standing American traditions and values? That would be worth pursuing too, would it not? Could such a thing aslo have an effect on the honeymoon he's currently enjoying?

More after the jump

Well, poll after poll does, in fact, show that when it comes to the issue of public education Americans can't get enough of it. By numbers upwards of 60 - 65% Americans have consistently indicated their desire for federal funding of public education to be increased, not decreased. Roughly the same numbers are even willing to pay more taxes, not fewer, in order to publicly fund education and believe public school teachers are payed too little, not too much.

At the same time Americans have registered ambivalence, if not outright rejection of charter schools and private school vouchers as viable alternatives to public education.

For a more comprehensive and current look at public attitudes towards public education please check the 38th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. PDK keeps an archive of their poll results from each year so be sure to check any year to confirm the persistence and consistency with which Americans register these sentiments.

So, where does Ron Paul stand in the face of overwhelming public support for public education?

Well, let's put it this way. The Alliance for the Separation of School & State (the poetically appropriate acronym being ASSS) is an organization founded on the principle that government should have no involvment whatsoever in educating our nation's children. They have a very interesting web site, I must say. In it they make it abundantly clear that they do not favor the mere reform of public education nor merely settling for alternatives to it. No, no, silly-billy. They want to end all government involvement in education. That's K-12, community colleges, universities, GED's -- the whole thing. They don't want No Child Left Behind. The want no child's behind left in a public school. In the section entitled The Case for Separation they make this point clear and I strongly recommend checking it out, if for no other reason, to become more familiar with the rhetoric of these extremists. It's important to be able to recognize it when it's regurgitated by public officials.

In addition, if the preceding was not already clear enough, you also have this:
"I proclaim publicly that I favor ending government involvement in education."
The preceding is a direct quote of a proclamation crafted by the Alliance and set up on their site as an online petition of sorts. Now, here's the kicker. Guess who signed it?

Why, everyone's favorite GOP "maverick", Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX), of course.

Now you may ask, "But how will be ordinary families pay for their children's education if government isn't involved to provide a public resource? "

Well the good folks at ASSS have an answer. They'll just deal with it!

"Most people are more able to pay for education than they think."

"Parents would also find creative ways to help fund their children's schooling."

"Keep in mind that many thousands of parents of very modest means now find the resources to send their children to private schools..."

Put simply, Ron Paul wants public education in America abolished.

That's right... ABOLISHED!

How does this radical idea comport with traditional American values or the overwhelming will of the American public? How many of us owe our current standard of living, our earning power and our college educations to the benefits we derived from public education? How many of us were raised in households that could not have afforded private school at all, let alone a decent one? Do public schools play a positive role in your community?

I believe the answers to these questions are self evident. Someone needs to call Ron Paul publicly on his hostility to public education. Make him either recant or explain endorsement of this petition. But, whatevery one does, do not go trusting this man just because he talks a good game on reality TV shows diguised as political debates. TV is not real.

Ron Paul is every bit as radical as the rest of the Republican field.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Official Restart of the Cold War

[Cue mysterious-sounding music]

In a world where domestic budget surpluses abound....

...where international weapons inspectors can completely disarm a tyrant...

...and the "communist threat" suddenly vanishes...

...all your hopes and dreams for a global Armageddon hang in the balance. Now, there's only one man you can turn to...

"I'm the commander guy!"

New, from the the makers of...

"Big Brother 2000"

"Quagmire in Iraq"


"Sosa for Palmiero"

...comes a new dimension in adventure....

"Get dowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwn!

The image


Cold War II

This time, it's completely avoidable!


This is not a film. It has not yet been rated because you're living it right now.


Monday, May 28, 2007

Politics, Race & Katrina Reconstruction

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, here's your response for the next time some closet bigot or one of their enablers asks you why the folks in the 9th Ward of New Orleans can't "get their act together" like those can-do, salt-of-the-earth, real Americans in Mississippi...

Since Katrina, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has received heaps of praise for his political savvy -- and ability to use his GOP connections to get a lion's share of federal relief funds for his state.

But with all the honors and money, how is the Mississippi recovery going? My colleague Sue Sturgis and I investigate in a special report published at Salon today.

One eye-opening item we found is just how lopsided Mississippi's take of Katrina relief has been:

Consider the Gulf Coast housing crisis, one of the key issues that has kept nearly half the population of New Orleans from returning to the city since Katrina. More than 75 percent of the housing damage from the storm was in Louisiana, but Mississippi has received 70 percent of the funds through FEMA's Alternative Housing Pilot Program. Of the $388 million available, FEMA gave a Mississippi program offering upgraded trailers more than $275 million. Meanwhile, the agency awarded Louisiana's "Katrina Cottage" program, which features more permanent modular homes for storm victims, a mere $75 million.

This truly gives the lie to all the finger-waggers in conservative talk radio land, on our television screens, on the web and in print who hold up the relative progress of Mississippi's reconstruction as a example of a self-reliant community picking itself up without the aid of government "hand-outs". For years now we've listened to these windbags excoriate the residents of New Orleans for supposedly demanding government handouts while they, being morally depraved and underserving of empathy, do nothing for themselves, unlike those plucky residents of Mississippi.

Well, hardy-har-har. Looky where all the "handouts" went after all. You will, of course, hear nothing of this from any of these people.

[More after the jump]

Now, what's the difference between Lousiana and Mississippi that might account for this disparity? Well, MS has a Republican governor and LA has a Democratic one. But that's not the only reason to suspect that the disparity is borne of pure political motivation. The grossly under-reported appointment of none other than Karl Rove himself, Maximum Ruler's Chief Political Advisor, as the "Czar" of Gulf Coast reconstruction is the smoking gun in this case. By "Czar" I'm assuming that means he controlled how it was run and it appears that he decided the money should go to Mississippi and it's Republican governor instead of Louisiana, where the bulk of the devastation occured.

Is anyone really surprised by this? Putting the political goals and interests of the GOP generally and George W. Bush specifically ahead of the public good is not just a bug in how the Bush administration operates. It's a feature. It is a defining characteristic of literally everything they do.

But here's the thing that should make the blood of any Louisiana resident's blood run cold. Bush carried the state of Louisiana by an overwhelming margin in each of the last two presidential elections. They voted him in en masse and he, in turn, did this to them.

That really is the big picture in a nutshell. Bush and GOP plays on a wide array of boogeymen to get people to vote for them. They hold themselves up as stalwarts against the perceived intrusions of one hated group or another and a certain segment of the population buys it to their eventual peril.

So people vote for Bush and Republicans because they they think these folks will "git the blacks", "git the faggots", "git the A-Rabs", the immigrants, the liberals, the secular humanists or whoever happens to be the right's Satan of the Month at the time. But in the end, the only people they're is really going "git" is YOU.


Same guys?

A couple of months ago Tom Englehardt, in an article I referenced here, wrote in amazement about the lack of media coverage of the apparent support the Bush administration was giving to Sunni extremists groups in Lebanon, some of whom are known to be sympathetic to Al Qaeda. I repost his remarks here:

Let me see if I've got this straight. Perhaps two years ago, an "informal" meeting of "veterans" of the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal -- holding positions in the Bush administration -- was convened by Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams. Discussed were the "lessons learned" from that labyrinthine, secret, and illegal arms-for-money-for-arms deal involving the Israelis, the Iranians, the Saudis, and the Contras of Nicaragua, among others -- and meant to evade the Boland Amendment, a congressionally passed attempt to outlaw Reagan administration assistance to the anti-communist Contras. In terms of getting around Congress, the Iran-Contra vets concluded, the complex operation had been a success -- and would have worked far better if the CIA and the military had been kept out of the loop and the whole thing had been run out of the Vice President's office.

Subsequently, some of those conspirators, once again with the financial support and help of the Saudis (and probably the Israelis and the Brits), began running a similar operation, aimed at avoiding congressional scrutiny or public accountability of any sort, out of Vice President Cheney's office. They dipped into "black pools of money," possibly stolen from the billions of Iraqi oil dollars that have never been accounted for since the American occupation began. Some of these funds, as well as Saudi ones, were evidently funneled through the embattled, Sunni-dominated Lebanese government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to the sort of Sunni jihadi groups ("some sympathetic to al-Qaeda") whose members might normally fear ending up in Guantanamo and to a group, or groups, associated with the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood.

All of this was being done as part of a "sea change" in the Bush administration's Middle Eastern policies aimed at rallying friendly Sunni regimes against Shiite Iran, as well as Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Syrian government -- and launching secret operations to undermine, roll back, or destroy all of the above. Despite the fact that the Bush administration is officially at war with Sunni extremism in Iraq (and in the more general Global War on Terror), despite its support for the largely Shiite government, allied to Iran, that it has brought to power in Iraq, and despite its dislike for the Sunni-Shiite civil war in that country, some of its top officials may be covertly encouraging a far greater Sunni-Shiite rift in the region.


Yep, that's quite a doozy, isn't it. These claims are supported by Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker. In an article entitled, The Redirection Hersh writes:

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.


The new American policy, in its broad outlines, has been discussed publicly. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that there is “a new strategic alignment in the Middle East,” separating “reformers” and “extremists”; she pointed to the Sunni states as centers of moderation, and said that Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah were “on the other side of that divide.” (Syria’s Sunni majority is dominated by the Alawi sect.) Iran and Syria, she said, “have made their choice and their choice is to destabilize.”

Some of the core tactics of the redirection are not public, however. The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process, current and former officials close to the Administration said.

This is of particular interest now (as if it shouldn't have been all along) because of recent news:

TRIPOLI, Lebanon - Lebanon's prime minister vowed Thursday to wipe out an Islamic militant group barricaded in a Palestinian refugee camp, raising the prospect that the army will either storm the camp, in what would likely be a bloody battle, or dig in for a long siege to force its surrender.


Fighters from the al-Qaida-inspired Fatah Islam militant group, estimated in the hundreds, have barricaded themselves in the camp, saying they will fight off any Lebanese attack.

...and here...

US military planes have delivered more equipment to the Lebanese army, as its stand-off with Islamic militants at a Palestinian refugee camp continued.

Lebanese PM Fouad Siniora again called on Sunni militants inside the camp to surrender or face army action.


He was speaking after the leader of Shia militant group Hezbollah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, said Lebanon should not be part of a US war on al-Qaeda.

The confrontation at the Nahr al-Bared camp is now in its seventh day.

Mr Siniora would not say whether a decision had been taken for the army to go into the camp, but plane-loads of American military supplies continue to arrive, apparently in preparation for just such a battle, says the BBC's Jon Leyne in Beirut.

"We want to end this situation," Mr Siniora told the BBC's Arabic service.

"Either they surrender themselves to Lebanese justice... or else the Lebanese authorities will be forced to take the decision to let the army deal with this matter."

To summize, not only we were supporting Sunni extremists in Lebanon friendly to Al Qaeda, which is ridiculous enough on its own merits, but now, after lending such support, we're sending military aid to Lebanon to fight Sunni extremists there.

Are these the same guys?

It sure is interesting that this small group you've never heard much about before has become such a big deal at this point in time, isn't it? Is it possible that we would support groups diametrically opposed to our "interests" only to choose to fight them by proxy, essentially supporting both sides of the conflict. If so, why?

This administration yells from the highest mountains to complain about "foreign terrorists" crossing borders to fight against our troops in Iraq and "rogue states" that support them. Could it be that the support we lend to these groups also show up in Iraq in the form of insurgent attacks on US servicemen?

Is this yet another case of blowback or is it something even worse?

Someone with a bigger megaphone than I should be asking these questions.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Bush & Bin Laden

As you well know by now, American Strongman George W. Bush held a press conference in which he once again invoked Al Qaeda as a justification for everything he does. Some of the reporters present tried to challenge this tired old framing by asking him direct questions about his utter failure to capture Bin Laden after nearly 6 years.

But at this point it seems clear to me that this is a waste of time. To hell with him. What did they expect, that he'd break down and tell them something substantive and true? Can any good really come of continuing to engage him as if he has any credibility at all?

No. Bush is a known quantity. At this point there can be no doubt as to what to expect from him. The task before us now, knowing what he is, is to deal with him accordingly. So here's what should be done from now on every time Generalisimo invokes the specter of Osama bin Laden to scare us all into submission. Don't ask him for the truth. Simply take this video to the streets and play it over and over and over. Bypass him and his spin machine altogether and let the people get a reminder of how his alarmist rhetoric today contrasts with this...

(Partial transcript after the jump)

Q: Mr. President, in your speeches now you rarely talk or mention Osama bin Laden. Why is that?...

THE PRESIDENT: Deep in my heart I know the man is on the run, if he's alive at all. Who knows if he's hiding in some cave or not; we haven't heard from him in a long time. And the idea of focusing on one person is -- really indicates to me people don't understand the scope of the mission.

Terror is bigger than one person. And he's just -- he's a person who's now been marginalized. His network, his host government has been destroyed. He's the ultimate parasite who found weakness, exploited it, and met his match. He is -- as I mentioned in my speech, I do mention the fact that this is a fellow who is willing to commit youngsters to their death and he, himself, tries to hide -- if, in fact, he's hiding at all.

So I don't know where he is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him, Kelly, to be honest with you...

Q But don't you believe that the threat that bin Laden posed won't truly be eliminated until he is found either dead or alive?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I say, we haven't heard much from him. And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. And, again, I don't know where he is. I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him.

Got that? The next time this fool comes out there with his big-bad Bin Laden hysteria, just hit PLAY.

An aside: By the way, this is my favorite part of that press conference from the other day. Bush makes the following criticism of Bin Laden:

He is -- as I mentioned in my speech, I do mention the fact that this is a fellow who is willing to commit youngsters to their death and he, himself, tries to hide -- if, in fact, he's hiding at all.

Wow. Imagine that!


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Meet the Press for Idiots

This is old but I'm seeing it for the first time. Regardless, it's too funny to not post...


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

I caught this video on C&L today:

Who is really in charge here?


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Apocalypse, Wow! Praying for a Bloodbath

"Creative destruction is our middle name, both within our own society and abroad. We tear down the old order every day, from business to science, literature, art, architecture, and cinema to politics and the law. Our enemies have always hated this whirlwind of energy and creativity, which menaces their traditions (whatever they may be) and shames them for their inability to keep pace. … They must attack us in order to survive, just as we must destroy them to advance our historic mission."

Michael Ledeen
Neo-conservative ghoul

There are several revealing articles out on the web right now covering the "Literary Lunch" Maximum Ruler held at the White House with a group of A-list neo-conservatives. Accounts of that luncheon from both the left and right confirm very clearly the apocalyptic thinking of the "War President". For instance:
Accounts of a Feb. 28 "literary luncheon" at the White House suggest that President George W. Bush's reading tastes -- until now a remarkably good predictor of his policy views -- are moving ever rightward, even apocalyptic, despite his administration's recent suggestions that it is more disposed to engage Washington's foes, even in the Middle East.

The luncheon, attended as well by Vice President Dick Cheney and a dozen hard-line neo-conservatives, was held in honor of visiting British historian Andrew Roberts whose latest work, "A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900", Bush reportedly read late last year and subsequently sent to Prime Minister Tony Blair. Cheney took the book with him on his recent trip to Pakistan.


A major lesson of history, Roberts told Bush, is that "will trumps wealth," according to Stelzer's account of the meeting in the Weekly Standard. He warned that "the steady drumbeat of media pessimism and television coverage are sapping the West's will" to fight and defeat the enemy which, in his view, includes Iran, as well as Sunni radicals, such as al Qaeda.

OK, so that's just a guy giving the President advice, right? You can't blame Bush for things people say to him, you say? Fair enough. But what about this?
In his article, Stelzer, an economist at the Hudson Institute and London Sunday Times columnist, disclosed that Bush had also recommended that his staff and friends read another, even more apocalyptic, analysis of the current war on terror, "America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It", by Toronto-born neo-conservative columnist Mark Steyn.

Steyn's book, which, unlike Roberts', actually made the New York Times bestseller list, sees Europe's demographic trends and its multicultural, "post-nationalist" secularism -- of which his native Canada is also guilty -- as leading inevitably to the "Eupocalypse", the "recolonization of Europe by Islam", the emergence of "Eurabia", and the onset of a "new Dark Ages" in which the United States will find it difficult to survive as the "lonely candle of liberty."

Well, the above characterization aside, what do we really know about this book and why should we assume that it's influence on the most powerful man in the world it's a bad thing?

Christopher Hitchens, no bleeding-heart liberal himself, reviewed this book for the City Journal and quotes Steyn as follows:

"Why did Bosnia collapse into the worst slaughter in Europe since World War Two? In the thirty years before the meltdown, Bosnian Serbs had declined from 43 percent to 31 percent of the population, while Bosnian Muslims had increased from 26 percent to 44 percent. In a democratic age, you can’t buck demography—except through civil war. The Serbs figured that out—as other Continentals will in the years ahead: if you can’t outbreed the enemy, cull ’em. The problem that Europe faces is that Bosnia’s demographic profile is now the model for the entire continent."

"Cull them"? Excuse me but... did he just endorse ethnic cleansing?

Dave Neiwart, what do you think?
I don't see how it's possible to interpret this excerpt -- given that Steyn is also contending that these demographics are inevitable throughout Europe, and he offers no solution that would accommodate or assimilate Muslims -- as anything other than outright advocacy of genocide and the Bosnian model of "ethnic cleansing" for the rest of Europe.

Agreed. The President of the United States is now running around recommending this book both to his staff and to friends and associates.

Oh, but wait. There's more. What about that other book mention earlier that Dick Cheney keeps under his arm for long trips abroad?

Glenn Greenwald has the goods:
Roberts recently wrote the right-wing historical revisionism tract entitled History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900. The book, as Roberts himself described it in an interview with Front Page Magazine, "does not consider British imperialism to have been a Bad Thing, argues that the Versailles Treaty was not harsh enough on Germany, [and] defends the bombing of Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki . . . . " A central theme is that "Intellectuals of the Left bear a heavy responsibility for the cruelties and savagery of the 20th century," and Roberts' world-view is filled with banalities like this:

I fear, in the light of Congress's recent nonbinding (and utterly self-contradictory) resolution opposing the surge, the gross bias of much of the Left-Liberal media, and the present poll ratings of Sen Hillary Clinton, that the US will lose the will to fight the War against Terror in any manner that might hold out the hope of ultimate victory.

So one can see why Roberts was chosen to be honored as the President's new favorite historian, and why his "history" book, which affirms George Bush's imperial worldview in every way, has become one of the President's favorites.

That's quite a reading list he has there. But, isn't there a lot of pressure from the American people to abandon this destructive course, Mr. Bush?
"I just don't feel any," he says with the calm conviction of a man who believes the constituency to which he must ultimately answer is the Divine Presence.

Ah, of course...

See also:

Doomsday Book: Bush Literary Lunch Foretells Horrors Ahead
Empire Burlesque


Fox News STILL Smearing Obama

Ohhhh, SNAAAAAP! G-DUB, representing ze Fazaland!Fox News is a complete joke.

Nearly a month after CNN thoroughly debunked its preposterous "madrasa" smear of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, Fox News, amazingly, is still peddling revised versions of this steaming loaf of journalistic dung. I quote none other than the former journalist, Brit Hume, directly:

New Information on Whether Barack Obama Was Once a Practicing Muslim

Never a Muslim?

Barack Obama's chief spokesman has been saying since January that the Democratic presidential candidate has never been a practicing Muslim. Now the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Obama was registered as a Muslim when he attended primary school in Indonesia.

The Times quotes friends and teachers as saying Obama took Muslim religious classes in school and went to prayers at a local mosque. The Obama campaign reacted to the story this morning by reiterating its position that the senator "has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim and is a committed Christian."

You know, I don't even have to write this one. A buddy of mine wrote it for me when this was sent to me:
"Would it make me a MOTO to point out that he most likely didn't fill out his own registration for primary school, and that it was most likely completed by his MUSLIM father? What 5 year-old actually "practices" any religion? Can any of us honestly say that we were "practicing Christians" at that age?"

Now, back to Fox News. Their apologists may argue that since they used the LA Times as their source they shouldn't be blamed for this shoddy reporting and that my problem is really caused by the notoriously "liberally biased" west coast daily. But given the recent changes at that paper, that claim is even more dubious than it otherwise would have been.

Furthermore, if one were to take the time to look up the actual Times story Fox cited, one would find that it wasn't quite as cut-and-dried as they implied. He attended Catholic schools, Muslim schools and secular public schools, for instance. All of this, of course, was reflective of his mixed parentage:

His former Roman Catholic and Muslim teachers, along with two people who were identified by Obama's grade-school teacher as childhood friends, say Obama was registered by his family as a Muslim at both of the schools he attended...


In 1968, Obama began first grade at St. Francis Assisi Foundation School, just around the corner from his home...


"At that time, Barry was also praying in a Catholic way, but Barry was Muslim," Dharmawan said in Obama's old classroom, where she still teaches 39 years later. "He was registered as a Muslim because his father, Lolo Soetoro, was Muslim."
Now, isn't that what I just said. Shouldn't this obvious fact have occurred to the learned Brit Hume before he filed his report? If not, shouldn't he have have read it in the LA Times story he cited?

Fox News: They distort. I deride.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Recommended Links

Apocalypticism in Action

"We’re conducting military operations inside Iran right now. The evidence is overwhelming. From both the Iranians, Americans, and from Congressional sources."

Col. Sam Gardiner
Army War College
CNN, September 18, 2006

I call attention to my earlier allusions to the Bush Administration's penchant for apocalyptic thinking here, here and here to provide context for what's going on now.

Now, consider how the Bush administration funds it's "Islamo-Fascist" enemies in the "War on Terror" and sponsors terrorism itself in an intentional effort to extend the sectarian bloodbath to the wider region. Tom Englehardt and Seymour Hersh explain..

Let me see if I've got this straight. Perhaps two years ago, an "informal" meeting of "veterans" of the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal -- holding positions in the Bush administration -- was convened by Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams. Discussed were the "lessons learned" from [the Iran Contra scandal]... In terms of getting around Congress, the Iran-Contra vets concluded, the complex operation had been a success -- and would have worked far better if the CIA and the military had been kept out of the loop and the whole thing had been run out of the Vice President's office.

Subsequently, some of those conspirators... began running a similar operation, aimed at avoiding congressional scrutiny or public accountability of any sort, out of Vice President Cheney's office. They dipped into "black pools of money," possibly stolen from the billions of Iraqi oil dollars that have never been accounted for since the American occupation began. Some of these funds, as well as Saudi ones, were evidently funneled through the embattled, Sunni-dominated Lebanese government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to the sort of Sunni jihadi groups ("some sympathetic to al-Qaeda") whose members might normally fear ending up in Guantanamo and to a group, or groups, associated with the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood...


In "The Coming Wars" in January of 2005, [Hersh] first reported that the Bush administration, like the Israelis, had been "conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since" the summer of 2004... He also reported that American combat units were "on the ground" in Iran, marking targets for any future air attack, and quoted an unnamed source as claiming that they were also "working with minority groups in Iran, including the Azeris, in the north, the Baluchis, in the southeast, and the Kurds, in the northeast. The troops ‘are studying the terrain, and giving away walking-around money to ethnic tribes, and recruiting scouts from local tribes and shepherds,' the consultant said. One goal is to get ‘eyes on the ground'… The broader aim, the consultant said, is to ‘encourage ethnic tensions' and undermine the regime"...

The Seymour Hersh Mystery: A Journalist Writing Bloody Murder… And No One Notices
By Tom Engelhardt
Tom Dispatch

In the past few months, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated, the Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, has significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The “redirection,” as some inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has co√∂perated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda...

The Redirection: A Strategic Shift
By Seymour Hersh
The New Yorker

Add to this list my own post from September of last year...
Early last year Seymour Hersh of the The New Yorker wrote this piece outlining what his sources told him was a plan by the Bush administration to put special forces inside Iran -- to perform search & destroy missions, target identification and foment unrest -- in preparation for an attack on that country. At the time the article was published his assertions were ridiculed as "far-fetched" and "riddled with errors" by the Bush administration. Not much has been spoken of this since that time.

But then a strange thing happened, something I noticed shortly after seeing that article and in the months before I started this blog. Stuff in Iran started blowing up. Each time the explosions were dismissed as something innocuous but, yet and still, stuff kept blowing up. I got curious so decided to continue to check up on it from time to time and, amazingly, these explosions kept happening. I'm talking about an unusually high number of freak explosions for one country that size without any kind of war (that we know of) going on. It was in the process of this little project that I first thought, "I should start a blog".

As I tracked these explosions and listened to the Bush Administration's simultaneous pronouncements that any talk of attacking Iran in the short term was ridiculous (but not off the table) I couldn't help but think about how, if Hersh was correct, this would all mirror the M.O. used in Iraq. So it all fits together, you know? Mind you, this was nothing one could present as a "smoking gun" for predicting future events or anything but it was interesting nevertheless.

Finally, explosions in Iran compiled from this collection:

Explosion in Iran sets off fears
USA Today
February 16, 2005

Explosion in Tehran Kills 1
Iran Focus
June 12, 2005

Deadly blasts hit two Iranian cities
Al Jazeera English
June 14, 2005

Explosion Hits Office in Southwest Iran
ABC News International
May 8, 2006

Bomb Kills 11 on Military Bus in Iran
February 14, 2007

Order restored after blast at girls school in Iran
February 17, 2007

"Birth pangs of a new Middle-East"...