Saturday, January 03, 2004
Strong and Wrong
There is a long article in the New York Times Magazine regarding the strategy that Howard Dean plans to take in the 2004 Presidential Election regarding the Iraq war and terrorism. If you enjoy what I write in any way, trust me, the link is worth a full and thoughful read. It raises a lot of questions.
In the article, James Traub asks Howard Dean how he will handle the argument that Bush will inevitably make that the Democrats are weak on defense:
Toward the end of our conversation, Dean said to me: ''The line of attack is not Iraq, though there'll be some of that. The line of attack will be more, 'What have you done to make us feel safer?' I'm going to outflank him to the right on homeland security, on weapons of mass destruction and on the Saudis,'' whom Dean promises to publicly flay as a major source of terrorism. ''Our model is to get around the president's right, as John Kennedy did to Nixon.''
Reading this article, I have come to a conclusion. If Howard Dean is elected, we will NOT be leaving Iraq. Not anytime soon; indeed, I believe that President Dean will stay until we either a) right the wrongs of the Bush Administration in Iraq, or b) run out with our tails between our legs. I believe that President Dean will make the decision that the Democratic Party must never be "weak" on world threats again.
Indeed, during moments where Americans feel vulnerable, President Clinton said, according to Traub, that Americans prefer a posture that is "strong and wrong" rather than one which is "weak and right". Bush is the master of "strong and wrong"; I suspect either Dean or Clark intends to "outflank" him by being even stronger and wronger.
Basically, you can be many thoughts regarding Iraq:
1. Iraq was a bad idea. We should get out as soon as possible. We attacked the wrong guys. Staying in Iraq makes American more dangerous.
2. Iraq was a good idea. We should stay there until a pro-Western democracy is installed in Iraq. Staying in Iraq makes America safer.
Dean intends to take the third road: that Iraq was a bad idea, but that staying in Iraq makes America safer, in the belief that a Dean Administration can use its smarts to Get Iraq Under Control in a way that makes moderates happy. And who knows? Dean says that he hasn't discarded the idea of preemptive warfare -- merely that he does not wish to make it the active posture of the United States.
We might be able to heal our relationships with the world powers. We might be able to get them on board with us in Iraq. But trust me -- Dean is not going to leave Iraq. If I'm proven wrong, well, thank goodness for it. However, there is a definition of insanity: "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results each time". My fear is that Dean wants a "do-over" in Iraq, changing the names but leaving the structure of our occupation in place.
More soldiers will die in Iraq. Will we feel better about their deaths? Will a Dean Administration somehow make Iraq "right"? If Dean decides to pre-emptively invade Saudi Arabia, will we, as progressives, cheer him, or boo him? How far is America willing to go to feel confident and secure?
I feel very saddened after reading this. Someone cheer me up.
posted by Green Voicemail 1/03/2004 10:05:00 PM
The Hannitys and Coulters of Tomorrow
If you're a conservative, and want to take your kids to camp, a camp you'll be hearing about is the Robert Welch University Summer Camp. Hey, if you want to find out about the camp, you can watch the video here . Just be prepared to be thoroughly skeeved out. (For those of you who have DSL, the super-duper hi-fi link is here .
An ancient (1996) link from the Los Angeles Times sums up what the camp is about. " A lot of what's taught is standard conservative rhetoric -- but always with a sinister twist ." For the Robert Welch University Camp used to be known as the John Birch Summer Camps.
For most liberals, the John Birch Society is probably seen as some kind of outdated joke, in the same category as the Great Flouride Terror and The Manchurian Candidate. However, the John Birchers are still out there. The video hardly mentions the JBS, a quick and brief mention, no longer than it takes to say "John Birch Society" and zoom on to something else.
Why the summer camp? John Birch Society membership has sort of hit the skids and the camps are seen as a way to get 'em when they're young, I suppose. The JBS probably has between 40K and 60K members -- putting their membership somewhere between the Neo-Nazi groups and the far-right Liberty Lobby.
What they believe in is conspiracy -- they are not just anti-progressive (they call it "anti-collectivist"), but believe that there is a force within the United States and the other governments of the world to force Americans to bow down before a New World Order (TM). They are conspiracy minded, and somehow manage to jam in everything that isn't 100 percent fundamentalist Christian pro-corporatism into their conspiracy thinking.
The camps are definitely an effort to get kids to think in terms of conspiracy, and they are more than a little bit creepy. Counselors invade bunks in the middle of the night, menacing figures in weird costumes whose goal is to scare the crap out of kids. Just harmless pranking? Nah. These invasions are to warn kids to be prepared when the jackbooted troops of the New World Order come to invade your home.
If YOU TOO would like to enroll at Robert Welch University -- I strongly suspect this is the "screening test" that determine whether kids get basic indoctrination or "Advanced Classes" -- take this simple quiz . Post how well you did.
P. S. I got 48 out of 56 right. A "B", I suppose, which saves me from Guanatanamo, I suppose, and I won't have to go to a reeducation camp, although they'll be keeping a careful watch on me. Given some of these screwy questions, some of you will never get 100 -- unless you're a John Bircher yourself.
posted by Green Voicemail 1/03/2004 12:59:00 PM
Friday, January 02, 2004
Bushonomics in One Lesson
Right now, you'll hear a lot about the rise in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA). Funny that when the DJIA was DOWN, the Republicans didn't want to say a word about it; now that it has gone up, BOOM!, Bush is an economic genius.
What is the DJIA, and why do we care so much about it anyway? This link explains the Dow Jones Industrial Average in a way that even *I* can understand it! Basically, the performance of the DJIA is contingent on the performance of 30 stocks chosen by the Wall Street Journal. Before we begin confusing the neanderthals of the WSJ of cooking the books, remember that what gives the DJIA its power is that it is a relatively stable index and the WSJ has avoids changing the historical indicators unless it absolutely has to.
So Preznit Bush has broken 10000 on the DJIA! I would like to hope that this means a recovery, seeing that for the most part the Dow Jones has trended DOWN during his administration. Check the chart , and look at it to the right of the "2001" line. Is this upturn a sign that Bush is a genius? Or will the market trend down after the upturn. Some forecasters predict that the Dow will sink right back again by May 2004. I hope not. We need some economic good news.
Truly, for the person who isn't investing in the market, the most important economic statistics are the Consumer Price Index ("inflation") and the Unemployment Index. The ordinary joe doesn't care too much about how the market is doing except in abstract terms. What he cares about is a) how much things cost and b) will he have a job tomorrow?
How has Bush done? In the "having a job tomorrow" category, he's been a disaster.
Unemployment is about 5.9% -- but it was about 4.0 percent at the end of the Clinton Administration and unemployment was as high as 6.4% in June. The last time unemployment was 6.4% was in 1994, under Clinton...and it was going DOWN then. Unless Bush can bring unemployment under 5.5%, he's going to have a hard time claiming that he's created new jobs -- and if it trends back up to above 6%, you'll hear a LOT about the Dow Jones from Bush but not a peep about employment except for rosy forecasts. Our erstwhile forecaster above indicates that unemployment will probably head down to under 5.5%, so Bush's outlook for the personal economy looks good.
Part a), the Consumer Price Index, is a bit more obscure, since as a rule prices tend to go up and inflation is never a negative number. Furthermore, inflation hasn't gone up more than 3% over the last ten years.
Results: the numbers are not nearly as good as Bush claims they are. Of course, the DJIA will give the PERCEPTION that his numbers are good, and as long as the Dow is up, Bush will mention the Dow a lot.
Predictions: Dow UP Unemployment DOWN -- Bush becomes near unbeatable.
Dow DOWN Unemployment DOWN -- Weak trend to Democratic candidate.
Dow UP Unemployment UP -- Strong trend to Democratic candidate.
Dow DOWN Unemployment UP -- Homeland Security increases Threat Level to Red. Oh, and all Democrats are traitors.
posted by Green Voicemail 1/02/2004 01:28:00 PM
Bush Sucks and Bush Bites
George W. Bush doesn't like criticism. Especially not on the Internet. The year before his run for the presidency in 2000, Bush's campaign quietly bought up unflattering domain names like "bushsucks.com" and "bushbites.com". This in itself might be an illegal act, since technically his campaign couldn't spend any money -- the myth in construction being that Bush had to be begged to run, like Cincinnatus was begged from the plow.
I would like to inform readers of Green Voicemail that the "bushsucks.com" and "bushbites.com" domain names are now for sale . I encourage any progressive out there with some spare cash (Atrios? Kos? NTodd?) to buy those domains and put them to good use. However, "bushblows.com" has been snapped up already -- but it will take you to the Hated.com web site, where you will find a wealth of anti-Bush material.
Where did I find this out? From Realchange.org . Check the link for your "talking points" on the totality of the crumminess that is Bush Jr. The web page (it's a bit long) discusses just about everything, from the "sixteen little words" to Bush's wealthy background to his drunk driving convictions to his dubious (and possibly, criminal) record as Governor of Texas. Trust me, there's a lot of great ammo there, and I intend to use some of it in 2004.
posted by Green Voicemail 1/02/2004 10:24:00 AM
I will always mention the Tradesports.com site every chance I get, due to their betting on the primary races, the Democratic nomination, the presidential election, and on how each state will go. However, there are new "betting" sites up -- some with much more intellectual and far-reaching views, and more serious discussion.
In July 2003, Pentagon officials proposed something called the Policy Analysis Market . The idea was based on futures markets in the stock markets. The idea was that "investors" (bettors) would make bets based whether or not certain real-world events were likely to happen, say, that the King of Jordan would be assassinated or that another 911 type attack would take place.
Democrats trashed the idea , led by no other than Senator Tom Daschle. His basic argument was that it threatened National Security, that terrorists would speculate on these events and be encouraged to generate fatal outcomes themselves, killing Americans and making some cash on the side. Furthermore, hostile regimes would encourage speculation on events as well, say, "Will the President of the US be assassinated?", and encourage terrorists to not only make bets, but collect the bonus.
The Policy Analysis Market website is still up, but is more or less a shell of itself, having foresworn speculation on any terrorist events -- if the futures market ever opens at all. This link to an old CNNfn broadcast more or less sums up the hoohah.
And yet, speculation still takes place, because people will bet on just about anything. Even liberal bloggers of note -- myself included -- have at least speculated as to whether future terror events will take place, and how devastating they will be. Conservatives do the same type of speculation, and if a market in speculation on such things were opened, it would probably be swamped with cash within hours.
The newest serious "future speculation" site is Longbets.org . There is no true "betting" going on in that someone is going to walk away with a bundle. Rather, these are "friendly" bets, with the loser giving his or her money to a designated charity. All bets are made in public, under the bylines of named individuals or organizations.
For example, Stewart Brand, co-founder of Longbets.org has a $1000 "bet" with Brian Eno that a Democrat will win the 2004 Presidential Election. With registered bets, both sides make a reasoned argument as to why their position is correct. Currently, 72 site users have voted as to which prediction is the most likely. The tally is 36-36. Dead even. A foreshadowing of the upcoming election?
Other bets range from whether by 2007, political web blogs will be more important than the New York Times, to whether a computer can pass the "Turing Test" for artificial intelligence by 2015, to which will happen first -- the US Men's Soccer team winning the World Cup or the Red Sox winning a World Series.
Even though politicians gasp and choke that such financial speculation is going on -- it will go on. It just won't go on under the Pentagon's watch. Wonder if it makes Daschle any happier?
posted by Green Voicemail 1/02/2004 12:11:00 AM
Thursday, January 01, 2004
Silent (cough) Victims
In 1983, it is estimated that between 300 and 500 people under the age of 25 died because of something no one talks much about. It is estimated that the death rate has only increased since 1983.
It could probably be prevented. But no one wants to talk about it. It doesn't just kill the poor, or blacks, or gays, or any other group whose pain could be ignored. Its victims are as young as 9 and as old as 80. It strikes all social classes, all levels of intelligence, it is truly a random sample of the American male population. There is no vaccine for it, no medical cure for it. And God knows how many lives have been lost over the years because of it.
What is "it"? "It" is autoerotic asphyxiation (PDF file warning). For those who don't know, autoerotic asphyxiation is the practice of cutting off oxygen to the brain, usually through some kind of self-induced hanging, while masturbating to orgasm. The experience provides not only heightened physical pleasure, but for some it provides psychological pleasure due to the feelings of helplessness induced.
Certainly, the overwhelming majority of the victims have no desire to kill themselves. These elaborate rituals are usually carefully self-monitored so as not to induce unconsciousness and death. However, practicioners of "self-hanging" walk a fine line, and sometimes accidentally cross that line. When their bodies are found, asphyxiated, partially or completely nude, and often surrounded by pornography or bondage equipment, it can be a very shocking surprise for family members and loved ones to say the least. The family is left with a slew of unanswered questions. Was it some kind of murder? Did the loved one commit suicide? One thing is for certain -- families usually don't want the shocking information made public, and researchers have to make careful studies of the circumstances of adolescent death to reach their surprising conclusions.
So how do you stem the tide? The best would be providing information about the dangers of autoerotic asphyxiation in sex education classes. Unfortunately, the subject of masturbation as a source of self-pleasure would have to be breached.
The last person in officialdom brave enough to discuss the topic was Dr. Jocelyn Elders, who was fired after the public firestorm. By the favorite president of Democrats everywhere, Bill Clinton.
(Oddly enough, if Bill Clinton had followed the advice of Dr. Elders, he probably wouldn't have gotten in so much trouble.)
So I have this question to ask any conservative readers? If you really believe that matters of sexual education are left to parents, how exactly do YOU discuss the matter with your kids? ("Johnny, I have to warn you. When you're jerking off, don't tie a belt around your neck or cover your head with a plastic bag because someone told you you'll come REALLY hard. You'll probably pass out and we'll find you dead. ") I'd pay $50 to hear THAT conversation.
The fact is, NO ONE in America discusses masturbation, or any sexual matters inside the home. Parents are simply too squeamish to do the job. Of course, the Bush Administration is trying to limit sex education -- because after all, "just say no" is the solution to all matters sexual. But frankly, I don't expect much from any Democratic candidates out there, Dean, Kerry, Clark, whoever you want to name. And kids die not only from STDs, but in ways that you'd never expect.
One of these days, a parent who son died is going to step up to a microphone and he is going to mention the unmentionable on national TV, and ask why "just say no" means that her son had to die. And a lot of Democrats and Republicans are going to be doing a lot of embarassed throat-clearing,
posted by Green Voicemail 1/01/2004 11:37:00 PM
Wednesday, December 31, 2003
It is time for Environmentalist Greens, Labor Greens, Progressive Democrats and Centrist Democrats to come together.
To come together for one candidate.
To defeat George Bush in 2004.
Maybe not come together permanently...maybe to go our separate ways afterwards...but to come together this one time.
The defeat of George W. Bush in 2004 is of paramount importance. Disputes cannot be allowed to get in the way.
Run as a candidate for an office as a Green.
If you can't run as a Green, run as a progressive Democrat.
If you can run as a progressive , donate money to a progressive.
If you can't donate to progressives, work as volunteers for progressives.
If you can't work as a volunteer for progressives, speak up for progressive candidates.
If you can't speak up for progressive candidates, support them with your writing.
If you can't write for progressives, then vote for progressives. Voting is the last line of defense.
No one can do everything ....
Everyone can do SOMETHING. And the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for the good to do nothing.
Remember. Vote Democratic in 2004. For a Green Future.
posted by Green Voicemail 12/31/2003 06:29:00 PM
Coin Flips for 2004
Secure in the knowledge that none of these predictions will ever come true, here is the Tinheart List of Predictions for 2004.
Baseball: NL -- San Francisco, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago. San Francisco gets all muscular and whips up on Houston. Chicago will defeat Atlanta, and in the battle of the steroids, San Francisco gets back in the World Series. AL -- New York, Boston, Chicago, Oakland. Boston beats Oakland again, New York defeats Chicago, and Boston finds a way to lose one more. New York defeats San Francisco. Barry goes home emptyhanded, the Yankees win again. Yawn.
Football: The Titans get their revenge, beating the St. Louis Rams in February of this Year.
Basketball: The Lakers win. No one cares. Except Kobe.
Hockey: The players call a strike. The owners demand a shift of the salary cap and eliminating some teams. They say this time, they will fight to the death. Of course, they capitulate and the resulting NHL season -- starting in 2005 -- is a joke.
Michael Jackson flirts with becoming a member of the Nation of Islam, but instead calls Lisa Marie and joins the Scientologists, who have money and lawyers. Rumor has it that Jackson is claiming to associates that yes, he DID have a problem with pedophilia, but it has been cured by Scientology "Tech".
Rob Cesternino beats Lex Van Der Burghe in All Star Survivor with a 5-2 vote. Richard Hatch doesn't even make it to the jury.
American Idol premieres to huge ratings in January 2003. The new American Idol's album will debut at #1. One of the previous winners -- Kelly, Ruben, or Clay -- will release a follow up album which is roundly panned.
Madonna will divorce Guy Ritchie after Ritchie releases another bomb. Kill Bill, Part II will bomb as well. Peter Jackson will be called in to save the Harry Potter franchise.
The Music Industry dumps money into Republican coffers as CD sales drop another 10 percent. The "Preservation of American Music" is passed, making file-sharing of music files a felony and requiring that at least 80 percent of radio music is played by American musicians, shutting the doors to European music.
Dean will easily win the Democratic Nomination, although there will be a delegate fight as the DLC tries to paint Dean as the next McGovern. Clark runs as an independent, the Democratic Party is split, and Bush walks to the presidency in 2004. The Homeland Security Threat Level goes to Orange during October, just in case. A protestor is killed during the Republican convention by New York Police, and no one in the media pays much attention. A Hollywood Producer makes a heartwarming film to be played at the 2004 Republican Convention. It features the Twin Towers, waving flags, and Bush looking very resolute. Orchestral music plays in the background.
Powell resigns from Secretary of State, stating he wants to spend more time with his family. Cheney resigns as VP for health reasons. Bush chooses Tom Ridge as vice-president, Clark chooses Kerry, and Dean chooses Feingold.
Nader decides to run as a Green again for President in 2004. He is rejected by the Green Party organization. As Nader flounders and the Democratic Ticket is split, the Greens nominate Arianna Huffington as their presidential candidate, making for some outrageous -- and thoughtful -- soundbites. Huffington, however, refuses to join the Green Party.
Saddam Hussein's trial is not made public, and there are only selective releases from the trial transcript as John Ashcroft states that "National Security Issues" are involved.
Over 100 American soldiers are killed during a single incident in Iraq. Bush vows to "stay the course". At the end of the year, Taiwan is declared by China as a "protectorate" while the Chinese Navy embargoes the island. Bush does nothing.
The numbers of the CPI and the Unemployment index don't change much, but don't get any worse either. The Dow falls back down to below 10,000, but not by much.
Gold prices remain high. The dollar remains weak.
New chip technology is introduced, increasing computing power by a factor of 10. A chimpanzee is cloned. A diabetes vaccine is tenatively introduced and undergoes testing by the FDA.
Kicking the Bucket
John Paul II.
posted by Green Voicemail 12/31/2003 05:38:00 PM
New Year's Day, 1959
Is the day when Fidel Castro assumed power in Cuba . The conservatives will turn their attention to one of the few free-standing Communist powers on earth for a few moments, then go back to making plans for increasing Iraq oil production.
So what is life in Cuba like today? It really depends on who you ask. If you talk to an exile or a conservative, they'll recite a litany of misery and woe, like something out of a 1920s silent film with Little Nell tied to the train tracks and Castro curling his mustache, rubbing his hands, grinning wickedly.
In actuality, the Cubans have a love/hate relationship with Fidel. They love how he's been able to flip the bird at the West and get away with it for 45 years, that he was the one who put Batista's Cubans to flight. It's partially a racial thing. Light-skinned Cubans got the sugar, dark-skinned Cubans got the shit in Batista's Cuba. Now, EVERYBODY gets the shit, so Cubans love Castro in the fact that misery loves company.
Actually, according to the fact sheet , Fidel HAS performed something of an economic miracle, despite the fact that there was a strict US embargo and the fact that Fidel had to rely on Soviet "technology".
In Latin America, Cuba is:
#1 in Literacy
#1 in Infant Mortality Rate
#1 in Life Expectancy
#1 in Doctors Per Capita
The funny thing is that the US has just about normalized relationships with every Communist and ex-Communist country on the planet -- except for Cuba. Why the exception? It's supposedly because of its human rights violations. Compared to places like Iraq...and Saudi Arabia and Pakistan...however, Cuba falls behind these evildoers. There aren't the egregious human rights violations, like the "rape rooms" of George Bush's fevered mind, but there isn't much freedom. The Cubans comment about it in their bizarre love/hate relationship with Fidel. They'd like to be free. Just not "Batista-Cuba" free, which is what the United States would love to impose.
And yet, in Conservative America, Cuba is the training wheel on the Axis of Evil. If it's true that the what Cuba spends in one year in its military budget equals TWELVE HOURS of spending by the Pentagon, then why haven't we just invaded Cuba and pushed some Cuban in front of the camera to proclaim, "preznit giv us f'eedom"? If you have an answer for that, lemme know.
posted by Green Voicemail 12/31/2003 04:54:00 PM
James Lileks Says "Oil Theft? What Iraq Oil Theft?"
I would like to point out to progressive bloggers that James Lileks is offended again, yes, SCANDALIZED at the myths promoted by the anti-war, French-loving, cheese-eating liberals that JUST AREN'T TRUE. Mr. Lileks is going to set us all straight about the lies liberals tell.
In his most recent blog entry , Lileks is debating with someone -- private e-mail I suppose -- that ends up by asking what's the difference between Hitler taking French art treasures and Bush stealing Iraqi oil.
Oh, the righteous fury of a good man!! To quote selectively from the link above:
"What I found fascinating was the assertion -- stated as a common fact, known to all - that the US emptied Iraq's museums, and glugs Iraqi crude into Texaco tankers as we speak.... It took me about 45 seconds of googling to come up with a long, boring press release from the IMF about the disposition of Iraqi oil revenues. They're audited by the international community in accord with a UN resolution. (emphasis by tinheart) How did that happen? ... It doesn't surprise me. I would have been surprised if the administration had said they were diverting Iraqi oil revenues to pay for American war costs, just as I would have been surprised to learn that we insisted our Iranian disaster relief package contain Gideon Bibles. Doesn't track. "
The rest of the Lileks rant goes about "non-contiguous information streams", subtly comparing oil war critics to flat earthers and people who believe the US didn't land on the moon. You can read the rest, but I warn you, the sheer lack of logic will cause your head to implode. (Lileks still believes those WMDs will be found -- in the Criswellian logic of "can you prove it DIDN'T happen"?)
And then...it struck me. Lileks says he found a memo in just 45 seconds of web searching proving that Iraq's oil revenues are being taken care of the UN. BUT HE DOES NOT PROVIDE A LINK .
Why doesn't he? Laziness? Or something else?
So I decided to find out what is happening with Iraq's oil wealth, and maybe find Lileks's missing memo. It was a wonderful hunt; I learned a lot.
What the next link points to is probably Lileks's memo, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. It mentions that the International Advisory and Monitoring Board, established on May 22, 2003 in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1483, is auditing all of that Iraq oil revenue -- obstensibly, to make sure that there isn't a truck with 100 million barrels of oil high-tailing it to an American tanker somewhere high-tailing it to the Persian Gulf.
The reason all of this cash/oil is to be audited is that it's all supposed to be going to the Development Fund for Iraq. There is a website called Iraq Revenue Watch which keeps tabs on these matters. This press release is only the first step to understanding the whole story in Iraq.
In December 2002, the James Baker III Institute (yes, *that* James Baker) and the Council for Foreign Relations published
"Guiding Principles for US Post-Conflict Policy in Iraq". (Found at Republicons.org ; Blogger won't let me post URLs with question marks in them, write me for the complete URL.) Half of the report is devoted to oil; indeed, the project was chaired by men with ties to Big Oil.
Two things stand out. First, and I quote from the website, that one major section of the report is called:
" Crafting a Viable and Credible Public Diplomacy Campaign -- the report urges the U.S. to publicize its humanitarian activities to quash the notion that this conflict was designed to "steal Iraqi's oil"."
But the second thing that stood out was the really interesting part. Some background. In 1991, before the first Gulf War, Iraq had an oil production capacity of about 3 million barrels of oil per day (3 mil b/d). American oil interests believed that Iraq had the capacity to produce 7 million barrels of oil per day. Indeed, it's believed that Iraq has the second largest oil reserves on the planet.
The REAL money in Iraq was not going to come from the 3 mil b/d of earlier Iraq production. It was going to come from the 7 mil b/d of production to be gained by 2009. It would take SIX YEARS for Iraq to reach full oil capacity. There was a lot of money to be gained not just from the oil revenue itself but from the supporting industries that would spring up around the maintainence of this windfall.
The question was how the US would get this oil. If you overturned the Hussein government, who was to say that the new government wouldn't just keep their own oil revenue? A paragraph in the link above tells you the answer:
On the other hand, just before the actual invasion, a former senior Exxon official, R. Gerald Bailey, commented: "Iraqi exiles have approached us saying: 'You can have our oil if we can get back in there.' Bailey added: 'All the major American companies have met with them in Paris, London, Brussels, all over. They're all jockeying for position. You can't ignore it, but you've got to do it on the QT. And you can't wait till it gets too far along." Ahmad al-Chalabi, the controversial leader of the Iraqi National Congress who has been touted by some elements of the Bush Administration as a prospective Iraqi prime minister or president...was quoted in the run-up to the war as saying 'American oil companies will have a big shot at Iraqi oil.'"
From there, well, you don't need a tin heart OR a tin hat to understand that the United States had a serious financial interest in an invasion of Iraq. The revenue generated from 7 mil b/d, much less from getting it out of the ground, could not be underestimated. There were a whole set of consequent circumstances from controlling that military, political, all favorable to the United States.
There was only one obstacle to this plan. The United Nations. Even if the United States invaded Iraq without UN approval, the UN would never allow an American usurption of the oil revenue. Furthermore, France and Russia had contracts of their own to develop Iraqi oil; they had no interest in losing the potential oil revenue under Iraqi soil to the United States.
Clearly, the Iraqis could never be allowed to run their own oilfields -- even though they had the expertise to do it. This had to be a United States operation through and through. Nothing was to be gained with "working with" Iraqis, since the Iraqis had the capacity to do it all without United States h elp.
After the first phase of the Second Gulf War -- the "military victory" of the United States over the regular Iraqi army -- the United States wanted the trusteeship of the Iraqi oil fields , which would be necessary until a pro-US Iraq client regime could be installed. The question was, would the UN lift its sanctions against Iraq? As long as there were sanctions, no Iraqi oil wealth was going to be used to buy ANYTHING.
On May 22 2003, the UN removed its sanctions against Iraq. ( Use the interactive link and follow it to Page Five.) The UN oil revenue would be put in a Development Fund, under the trusteeship of the United States and to be audited by the future IAMB.
It now only remained for Bush to undo Security Council Resolution 1483.
To do this he wrote Executive Order 13303 . As a presidential order, Bush's actions were freed from legislative oversight. The order more or less exempted any oil or oil products in control of the United States or United States persons. Under an interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by the Supreme Court, a corporation can be a "person" in American law. In short, Bush's order gives United States oil corporations sweeping powers to ignore United Nations law. The development of Iraq's oil revenue under Big Oil could now proceed unabated.
Indeed, the United States could have nothing but contempt from now on from United Nations oversight. $1.5 billion of the oil revenue was spent before it could be audited.
Halliburton was allowed to purchase $600 million dollars worth of fuel at inflated prices with US-controlled Iraqi oil money without any kind of oversight.
So why would James Lileks blithely assert that it was all being taken care of, that the United States was humbly playing by UN rules, that it wasn't about oil?
There are only two reasons. The first is that he was deliberately trying to deceive people. I don't buy that. The man believes everything that comes out of his mouth; he doesn't lie consciously.
The other reason? That, like most conservatives, he's guilty of the very things he accuses liberals of. That he accepted, prima facie, an assertion by the Internation Monetary Fund and investigated no further than that. Lilek's "forty-five second Google search" is all the power that the brain of James Lileks devoted to the problems of Iraq oil revenue. Don't believe it? Read the rest of his blog entry. Tell me that this is a great political thinker.
Oh, are you waiting for my tin hat moment, conservatives? Here goes....
(puts on tin hat)
There has always been a question of where the James Baker III Institute gets its bountiful funds. However, they came up with a prize for distinguished public service in 1995. Past winners have included Mikhail Gorbachev and Colin Powell.
The name of the prize? The ENRON Prize. And one of the two named authors of the report served on Enron's board.
(takes tin hat off, and goes to bed)
posted by Green Voicemail 12/31/2003 12:51:00 AM
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
With Friends Like These....
For those of you who don't know the difference between a Yellow Dog Democrat and a Blue Dog Democrat, and if you can't find Steve Bates in the room, I'll explain it to you. The term yellow dog democrat is as old as the Hoover/Smith election, but doesn't quite have the same meaning in 2004 as it did in 1928.
There are yellow dog Democrats, who tend to be progressive Democrats, and there are blue dog Democrats, who are conservative Democrats who tend to drift over to the Republican side. Some of them are familiar names, like, oh...Kerry, Lieberman, Edwards....
The complete list of names is here. There will be a few surprises on this list, like Hillary Clinton. (Geez, you'd think she was a socialist, the way the Republicans talk about her.) We also have John Breaux and Bob Graham who are retiring; John Edwards, who just threw away his Senate seat for his ill-advised campaign...and Zell Miller of Georgia, and we all know what a friend HE'S been for progressive causes. Looks like that Blue Dog pack is getting smaller by the minute.
(By the way, you won't find Hillary's name on this linked list above. You WILL find it if you deselect the "senators only" option on the list and choose the "all members" option. Hmm.)
Apparently, the offer of "bipartisanship" extended to the Republicans across the isle does NOT extend to progressive Democrats. Read the selected link where the Blue Dogs try to spin an remark by Dean into an all-out assault on Bill Clinton. They were OUTRAGED! OUTRAGED, I tells ya! And if this one makes you mad, DON'T read the New Dem Daily's article on the capture of Saddam Hussein -- it reads as if it were ghostwritten by Republicans.
Yeah, I guess they really ARE seeking outreach to the Senate Republicans. If it's true that Yellow Dog Democrats are rabid, then Blue Dog Democrats are good at begging for favors and eating scraps off the table. They make fine housepets, but shitty presidential candidates. Doesn't matter if it's Kerry, or Lieberman, or Edwards if Dean loses. That (blue) dog won't hunt.
posted by Green Voicemail 12/30/2003 01:22:00 AM
Monday, December 29, 2003
And Now, A Lighter Moment
From Claritas . Enter your zip code and learn wonderful things.
posted by Green Voicemail 12/29/2003 12:36:00 PM
One of the favorite memes of the Republicans is that Howard Dean is George McGovern in drag, calling into mind the shitstomping that Nixon gave McGovern in 1972. For those of you too young to remember the campaign (I was 7), Nixon pulled every state except Massachusetts and the District of Coulmbia. Go here to get a list of the results. Jesus. I mean some of those state by state returns sound more like the results of an Eastern Bloc election, or come out of science fiction. In Mississippi, Nixon beat McGovern 78 to 19!
The Republicans would have you accept the comparison at face value: both McGovern and Dean are/were anti-war, popular with a disillusioned portion of the electorate, and were bucking their own party establishments. Therefore, they are equal, QED. However, upon closer examination of why McGovern lost, three things came to mind -- and McGovern was in control of only one of them.
1. The Eagleton nomination. In my opinion, it was how McGovern handled the Eagleton situation that was the final nail in the coffin for McGovern's campaign. Senator Thomas Eagleton of Missouri was chosen by McGovern to be the vice-presidential candidate for the Democrats in 1972. However, there was one thing Eagleton failed to disclose to the McGovern camp -- he had had ECT Therapy ("shock treatment") at least twice for episodes of depression.
How McGovern handled the problem is an exercise in political schizophrenia. First, McGovern came out with the truth after the press had gotten wind of it. Yes, he was going to keep Eagleton. Yes, Eagleton had his 1000 percent support, yes McGovern knew everything but he had full faith and confidence in Tom Eagleton.
Five days later, Eagleton was forced away from the ticket. He withdrew his candidacy, but we all knew what happened.
It made McGovern, the "idealist" look like the most craven of hypocrites. Furthermore, when McGovern looked for replacement candidates, no high-ranking Democrat would take his calls. This is where McGovern lost any chance of unseating Nixon.
2. The Press. Nixon hated the press. Personally, he had nothing but contempt for them, and he was certainly going to treat them that way. Nixon was a vindictive man, privately, and publically, with "enemies" all around in his own imagination.
He made that clear early on in his administration. Nixon let it be known that the press would be "punished" if it didn't see things his way. Reporters would be cut off from the White House press pool. And when his enemies list came out, Nixon was not above siccing the IRS and other branches of the government both on individuals and publishers.
It worked. The press was fearful of not towing the line -- they did not want to bash Nixon in the 1972 election coverage because Nixon was a man with a long memory. Nixon was treated in a "fair and balanced" way and the press saved all of its heavy ammo for McGovern.
3. A divided Democratic Party. Everyone "knew" that the front-runner was going to be Ed Muskie. He had the support of all the big men in the party, the entire Humphrey/Daley wing. Unfortunately, Muskie's campaign imploded and McGovern was connecting with the disenchanted anti-war youth of America.
When it became obvious that McGovern was heading towards the Democratic nomination, the Old Guard pulled out all stops to prevent it. The 1972 Democratic convention didn't have tear gas and policement, but it wasn't much better than the one in 1968. McGovern had a whole slew of California delegates taken away from him on the grounds that his slate wasn't representative of the California population. Then Daley lost a slew of HIS delegates on a challenge by a group headed by, of all people, a young Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Ill feeling persisted. The Old Guard wasn't happy about losing control. Their support for McGovern was tepid, in name only. No amount of outreach by McGovern could change that.
Let's review. Three critical points. Truly, the only critical point is Number One. If McGovern was an adept politician, he might have been able to spin Eagleton's problems into something positive. You know that Clinton would have gotten out of that one, but McGovern was no Clinton.
As for Number Two, a hostile press is a problem if, and only if, there is a perception that you are losing. If McGovern had pulled to five points ahead of Nixon or above, I suspect that the press would have jumped ship, if only for a chance to get revenge on Nixon. The press would have gotten the chance to kick Nixon around one MORE time.
Number Three is really beyond any one's control.
Face it, there are many tiers of politican. There are some that are brilliant, some that are okay...and some that are just inept. Mondale, Dukakis, Bush the First. Those are the inept guys -- Bush I only won because Dukakis was even worse at campaigning than he was. Then you have Reagan and Clinton, the war horses. And for any conservatives reading this, I don't care HOW smart you are -- it's just too early to know which group Dean belongs to.
I think the press can be controlled, in the most cynical of ways. You could simply explain to them that they're in a no-win situation, that if they are scared of Bush, that life will be no easier for them in a Dean presidency. Remember The Untouchables? "They send one of yours to the hospital, you sent one of theirs to the morgue!" Dean should make it clear that he's keeping a little list of his own, that he intends to learn the lessons of Scaife and Fox News. Carter learned a hard lesson. Bush I learned the same lesson, and Clinton eventually learned it. The press are lazy. They are NOT your friends, and there is no point in treating them that way. I suspect Nixon had the right idea.
The big problem, the one only in the control of Gephardt/Kerry/Lieberman/the DNC, is will they fall in behind Dean if he gets the nomination?
History should teach the centrists a lesson. The Humphrey/Daley wing withheld its support from McGovern in an effort to isolate the progressive wing and send it to defeat while hanging on to control of the Party. What they forgot is that as a rising tide lifts all boats, a falling tide steers the strongest of boats into a reef.
The question is if the centrist Democratics decide to leave Dean to twist in the wind, would a Dean defeat foreshadow further defeats in the House and Senate? It would be a horrible scenario for the Dems to shoot themselves in the foot that way.
In fact, this is not 1972. This is, or will be, 2004, thirty-two years later. Claiming that Dean would go down in defeat because McGovern did in 1972 is just as foolish as claiming that Dean would win because another populist Democrat -- Franklin D. Roosevelt -- won in 1940.
Maybe it's not 1972 all over again. Maybe it's 1932.
posted by Green Voicemail 12/29/2003 12:10:00 PM
Leave it to the Bangladeshis to figure out Dean better than anyone I've read this year. This link provides a great explanation of why Dean is where he is today -- and why Bush/Dean isn't going to be the traipsing walk-in-the-park-with-picnic that the conservatives tell themselves it's going to be.
I never really thought of Dean as a SMART politician before -- just as a LUCKY one, like an intelligent chimpanzee that somehow discovered the power of Internet fund-raising. However, the way he's run circles around pros like Gephardt (the perpetually failed presidential candidate -- how many times are you going to try before you give up, Dick?), Kerry, and Lieberman indicate that there's something going on in Dean's head that we're not picking up on.
An interesting paragraph:
"Even Dean's opposition to the invasion of Iraq can be turned into a positive if it is spun right. What we have seen with the Bush White House is the triumph of spin -- the triumph of positioning oneself so that what should be political liabilities slide off you. George Bush is the original teflon president -- nothing sticks to him. Well, two can play at that game -- and the Republicans are about to find out that nothing much sticks to Howard Dean either."
I've noticed this about Howard Dean, too. Already the Kool Kids have started with the lazy lead-ins --"angry", "pessimistic", "far-left" -- but it doesn't seem to be sticking, not in the popular culture, anyway. Whereas Gore was just a magnet for anything that anyone wanted to call him (a velcro candidate as opposed to a Teflon candidate), Dean exudes an aura of a man who just keeps on keepin' on, smiling through the shitstorm.
As a progressive, I'd probably vote for Gephardt, or Clark, or Kerry, or even Holy Joe if I were forced to. But I really don't see them having the kind of success against Bush that Dean would have. Even Clark, his closest challenger, seems to be running on the strength of his four stars than on any kind of personal magnetism or coherent vision.
Two interesting predictions, and we'll see if they come true or not:
1. Tom Harkin will be coming out to endorse Dean. If that's true, the Iowa primary might be over.
2. Dean will move hard to the center as soon as he picks up enough delegates to win the nomination.
posted by Green Voicemail 12/29/2003 10:10:00 AM
Last Day of the Holidays
Well, it's been a pleasant week off, where I've had a lot of time to fill the blog up with fun stuff. However, I start work again tomorrow.
In general, I work four days a week, 10 hour shifts each time. Even though we do have the Internet at work, we also have spyware, and I'm not too keen on adding entries there, for that reason. Given that my wife needs some facetime -- God bless her -- there might be times and days where I just don't update. If that's the case...y'all know where I am. Just working for my dollar, and blogging for free.
posted by Green Voicemail 12/29/2003 09:56:00 AM
Sunday, December 28, 2003
Looks like Slobodan Milosevic picked up a seat in Serbia-Montenegro's parliamentary elections. The radical Serbs -- including war criminals and nationalist expansionalist -- became the largest party in Serbia, even though a three-party coalition will keep the hard right from taking power.
NATO put down the first Serbian incursion because the member states realized that the last thing they needed is a Balkan War spilling out of its confined space and into countries that weren't really THAT stable anyway after the fall of the Eastern Bloc. Clinton worked with both NATO and the UN and after 78 days of bombing, the Serbians were forced out of Kosovo and Milosevic had found that his support at home had evaporated. There were ZERO American casualties.
Now, the Balkans threaten to simmer over. I remember how conservatives were agast that we would try military intervention in the Balkans -- actually, they were just agast that Clinton tried it; Clinton-hate was already an obsession.
So how will George Bush handle a potential problem in the Balkans? And COULD he handle one, with much of the American military tied down in Iraq? Would the Serbians be emboldened by the quagmire in Iraq?
Would Bush just let Europe handle it, giving Germany the chance to flex its military might for the first time since World War II? Would the Russians get involved in the Balkans -- the Russians have been Balkan allies for the longest time? Would he allow Europe's fledgling steps of political union to be strengthened by a common conflict? Or would he act military? And where would he get the troops? Iraq? The Air National Guard? North Korea?
You'd all better hope that the Balkans remain sane in 2004. Or George Bush will get the chance to exercise his "genius" again, with the usual disastrous results.
posted by Green Voicemail 12/28/2003 04:15:00 PM
Open Crappy Reporter Thread
New post at Steve Gilliard talking about the media and its general lack of accountability. He asks that, rather than bemoan the So-Called Liberal Media in general for its complete lack of objectivity and its willing to comfort the powerful, why don't we hold INDIVIDUAL REPORTERS accountable for their misdeeds?
The problem with his post is that most of the really crappy reporters are the most well known: Kristof, Friedman, Brooks, Oliphant. The missteps of these people are going to be reported all across the progressive spectrum, MANY people are already watching these guys. My question in the Open Thread is: are there any lesser known, but very influential, servants of the conservatives who work for the major press outlets?
I'd like to help out Mr. Gilliard by keeping a watch on one of these print guys. I just don't know WHO to watch.
posted by Green Voicemail 12/28/2003 10:30:00 AM
Blankets for Bibles
With all the hoo-hah about the Southern Baptists wanting to go in pell-mell to evangelize the Iraqis, I thought this link might be of interest. It discusses the current Christian community in Iraq, approximately three percent of the population and how they have been endangered by the power vacuum in Iraq.
This Report (PDF File Warning) discussed the difficulties the Christian community is facing in Iran. The problem is that IF Iraq becomes a fundamentalist Islamic state -- and there is at least a 50-50 chance that it will when, not if, the puppet Iraqi government is installed -- that our chances of having a dialogue with the new Iraq regime regarding saving the Christians of Iraq from persecution will be almost zero. We will have to wait at least twenty years before any headway can be made if the Imams take over in Iraq.
Indeed, I believe that Christianity should have its place in the battle of ideas, that evangelists from other countries have the right to come to Iraq to preach and see if they can win converts. This is not the problem, however, according to a great article in Mother Jones called, "The Stealth Crusade" . The problem is that evangelicals are not so much interested in giving aid as in winning souls. To some evangelical groups, Islamic is a demonic religion and one must win souls "by any means necessary". A paragraph from the link:
"The issue is the disproportional power relationship," says Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that works to promote a positive image of Muslims. "They use their resources to coerce people to do what they want them to do." Hooper remembers reviewing a proposal by a Christian agency to send veterinarians to help impoverished Fulani cattle herders in West Africa. But the plan had a caveat: "You don't get the veterinarian unless you take the missionary," he says. "When people are in desperate circumstances, they'll do things they otherwise wouldn't do."
Evangelical groups claim that no offer of aid will be contingent on being preached to. But given what I've read, I'm sure the evangelicals will bend or even break that rule. Souls have to be won! You're saving these people from hell! By any means necessary!
The result is that we basically go into Iraq, insult the Iraqi religion -- either Sunni or Shi'ite -- and humiliate them into accepting our help, then abandon them after we are eventually forced to leave. I can see no way right now that this will not end in disaster.
posted by Green Voicemail 12/28/2003 12:55:00 AM