Greetings, many friends,
First of all, did anyone see the MacNeil-Lehrer Report last night, where Elizabeth Farnsworth interviewed an Iraqi sheik? How about that very fetching head-scarf she had on?
Anyway, my sense of humor has been somewhat reactivated. It can't be television...so far this week on PBS, I've been subjected to documentaries on dirty bombs, genetically modified germ warfare, Mary Todd Lincoln flipping out, and color films of World War II narrated by the infamous dead soldiers' love letters. Yeah, in all that darkness, you seek out the light, eh?
I've just started a new book which will appeal to some of you (if you can find it); it's called Instant Karma by Mark Swartz, supposedly the diary of a raving anarchist in Chicago. At the beginning he's working for the Salvation Army as a bell-ringer, but they fire him for wearing a paper bag over his head while he swings the bell. You know I have a sick sense of humor, but I was laughing on the subway with this one.
Here's a sample that you know I'd like...the anarchist is visiting the Chicago Public Library:
Friday 18 November - Eve has been overworked and inhospitable, just like the Mary that George Bailey never married. Muscles clench in her temples when she tries to smile. She seems close to the edge. How would a librarian act during a nervous breakdown? Would she remember to remain quiet? Don't be afraid, Eve, it's the easiest thing in the world. Think of it as accepting a dare. I dare you to laugh out loud for no reason at all. Now, I dare you to topple that stack of books. I double dare you to lose your mind.
That reminds me, some folks on the web are collecting anecdotes related to: who has the most exciting (or boring) rapid transit system? These are their results so far:
1. New York, 2. Los Angeles, 3. Chicago, 4. New Orleans, 5. Mexico City, 6. Miami, 7. Paris, 8. London, 9. San Francisco, 10. Washington DC
I am, of course, gratified to see my own city rated so highly, and can attest to the fact that the MTA bus/streetcar/subway can be very entertaining here. I was surprised to see New Orleans rated so well just because of the St. Charles streetcar, but go figure. I've never been to Miami or London but agree that the Paris Metro is fairly dull. But what happened to Frisco! The BART used to be a barrel of laughs, and one of my favorite early short stories is called "The N-Judah". But some of you who live up north concur, Bay Area commuters are depressing bunch. Send in your favorite my-public-transit-nightmare experience and I'll share. I've saving mine (yeah, there's a gun in it) for the next screed.
Let me share one more bit of literature with you; I just finished reading Anais Nin's five-book novel Cities of the Interior, one of my truly favorite novels, which I last read in college. Sort of like seeing "La Dolce Vita" after twenty years, it made a lot more sense. Here's a scene from near the end of the last book, Seduction of the Minotaur, where the New York jazz pianist Lillian is "going native" at a rural Mexican dance hall:
Doctor Hernandez frowned and said: "Lillian, put your sandals on!" His tone was protective; she knew he could justify this as a grave medical counsel. But she felt fiercely rebellious at anyone who might put an end to this magnetic connection with others, with the earth, and with the dance, and with the messages of sensuality passing between them.
With Fred too, she was unaccountably angry. Because he looked pale and withdrawn, and because he was watching, not entering. He kept his shoes on, and not even the monodic jubilance of the singer could dissolve this peregrine, this foreign visitor. And then it was not longer Fred who sat there, spectator and fire extinguisher, but all those who had been an obstacle to her efforts to touch the fiery core.
The plants which overflowed into the dance hall and brushed the shoulders, uninvited guests from the jungle, the sharp stinging scent of tequila, the milk of cactus, the cries of the street like the cries of animals in the forest, bird, monkey, the burning eyes of the urchins watching through the leaves almost as phosphorescent as the eyes of wildcats; the water of the sewers running through the trench hissing like a fountain, the taxis throwing their headlights upon the dancers, beacons of a tumultuous sea of the senses, the perspiration on the shirt backs, the touch of toes more intimate than the touch of hands, the round tables seeming to turn like ouija boards of censurable messages, every message a caress, all this orchestration of the effulgence of the tropics served to measure by contrast these moments of existence which did not bloom completely, moments lived dimly, conjunctions and fusions which did not take place.
Whoa! Hot stuff.
Okay, back to business. If you're getting this message on Wednesday, 26 February, it's nearly time to pay your rent for living on the planet...crank call your Senators and naturally, Mr. Bush. That's right, it's the "virtual march on Washington" today. For info on the Virtual March, go to http://www.moveon.org/winwithoutwar/.
Say, did anyone hear anything else about a general strike being called for the first day of our war on Iraq? I haven't heard anything since...maybe because I haven't gotten an e-mail from Paul yet. C'mon Paul, I know you're in on it.
Okay, per request, some more information about further degradations to the Bill of Rights, that's right folks, it's PATRIOT II. Remember "America--Love It or Leave It"? Some of these weasels have already left, they just haven't sold their houses yet (Thanks, Monde):
The ACLU analysis:
Talk show host Alex Jones' analysis:
Next up, an important announcement from our friends in Canada. I don't know how this went off last weekend, but it didn't make the New York Times (big whoop):
On the morning of February 23, a delegation from Rooting Out Evil will attempt to inspect the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Maryland. We have sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld notifying him of our intentions, and are awaiting a reply. You can read the letter on www.rootingoutevil.org. Whether we receive a response or not, we are planning a visit to Edgewood on Sunday with international media in tow.
If you'd like to help draw attention to the inspection, we encourage you to call the foreign desk of your local newspaper or broadcast affiliate and ask them if they'll be covering this important event. You can direct them to the media relations section of our website, which features our press releases, our letter to Donald Rumsfeld, and our contact information:
The international Inspection Team is composed of prominent Canadian, British, American, Danish and Italian parliamentarians, scientists, academics, faith and union leaders. The delegation includes: Libby Davies, Member of Parliament (Canada); Christy Ferguson, Organizer and Spokesperson, Rooting Out Evil; David Langille, Director of Public Affairs, Centre for Social Justice; Alan Simpson, Member of Parliament (United Kingdom) and head of Labour Party Against the War; Edward Hammond, Director, Sunshine Project; Peter Shorett, Director of Programmes, Council for Responsible Genetics; Samaa Elibyari, Representative, Canadian Islamic Congress; Deborah Bourque, National President, Canadian Union of Postal Workers; Steven Staples, Defense Analyst, Polaris Institute; Mel Watkins, Professor Emeritus - Economics and Political Science, University of Toronto; Francesco Martone, Italian Senator; Graziella Mascia, Member of Parliament (Italy); Pernille Rosenkrantz, Member of Parliament (Denmark).
Shall we dance once more with the forces of insanity?
In England, perhaps?
Jedis Become a Force to Be Counted
Cheese Buffs Steal a Ton of Choice Comte
And is this any surprise?
Bush Faces Increasingly Poor Image Overseas
By Glenn Kessler and Mike Allen
The messages from U.S. embassies around the globe have become urgent and disturbing: Many people in the world increasingly think President Bush is a greater threat to world peace than Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Even the Israelis agree that the only country that will win in a war against Iraq is their oldest enemy next door, Iran:
And here, last but not least, is the scariest shit of all, my friends. And you thought that the danger of our nuclear (that's NOO-CLEE-AR) demise had evaporated...not the danger, but maybe us.
US plan for new nuclear arsenal - Secret talks may lead to breaking treaties
Julian Borger in Washington
Tuesday February 18 2003
The Bush administration is planning a secret meeting in August to discuss the construction of a new generation of nuclear weapons, including "mini-nukes", "bunker-busters" and neutron bombs designed to destroy chemical or biological agents, according to a leaked Pentagon document. The meeting of senior military officials and US nuclear scientists at the Omaha headquarters of the US Strategic Command would also decide whether to restart nuclear testing and how to convince the American public that the new weapons are necessary.
The leaked preparations for the meeting are the clearest sign yet that the administration is determined to overhaul its nuclear arsenal so that it could be used as part of the new "Bush doctrine" of pre-emption, to strike the stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons of rogue states. Greg Mello, the head of the Los Alamos Study Group, a nuclear watchdog organisation that obtained the Pentagon documents, said the meeting would also prepare the ground for a US breakaway from global arms control treaties, and the moratorium on conducting nuclear tests. "It is impossible to overstate the challenge these plans pose to the comprehensive test ban treaty, the existing nuclear test moratorium, and US compliance with article six of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty," Mr Mello said.
The documents leaked to Mr Mello are the minutes of a meeting in the Pentagon on January 10 this year called by Dale Klein, the assistant to the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to prepare the secret conference, planned for "the week of August 4 2003". The National Nuclear Security Administration, which is responsible for designing, building and maintaining nuclear weapons, yesterday confirmed the authenticity of the document. But Anson Franklin, the NNSA head of governmental affairs, said: "We have no request from the defence department for any new nuclear weapon, and we have no plans for nuclear testing.
"The fact is that this paper is talking about what-if scenarios and very long range planning," Mr Franklin told the Guardian.
However, non-proliferation groups say the Omaha meeting will bring a new US nuclear arsenal out of the realm of the theoretical and far closer to reality, in the shape of new bombs and a new readiness to use them. "To me it indicates there are plans proceeding and well under way ... to resume the development, testing and production of new nuclear weapons. It's very serious," said Stephen Schwartz, the publisher of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, who added that it opened the US to charges of hypocrisy when it is demanding the disarmament of Iraq and North Korea. "How can we possibly go to the international community or to these countries and say 'How dare you develop these weapons', when it's exactly what we're doing?" Mr Schwartz said.
The starting point for the January discussion was Mr Rumsfeld's nuclear posture review (NPR), a policy paper published last year that identified Russia, China, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya as potential targets for US nuclear weapons.
According to the Pentagon minutes, the August meeting in Strategic Command's bunker headquarters would discuss how to make weapons to match the new policy. A "future arsenal panel" would consider: "What are the warhead characteristics and advanced concepts we will need in the post-NPR environment?" The panel would also contemplate the "requirements for low-yield weapons, EPWs [earth-penetrating weapons], enhanced radiation weapons, agent defeat weapons". This is the menu of weapons being actively considered by the Pentagon. Low-yield means tactical warheads of less than a kiloton, "mini-nukes", which advocates of the new arsenal say represent a far more effective deterrent than the existing huge weapons, because they are more "usable". Earth-penetrating weapons are "bunker-busters", which would break through the surface of the earth before detonating. US weapons scientists believe they could be used as "agent defeat weapons" used to destroy chemical or biological weapons stored underground. The designers are also looking at low-yield neutron bombs or "enhanced radiation weapons", which could destroy chemical or biological weapons in surface warehouses.
According to the leaked document, the "future arsenal panel" in Omaha would also ask the pivotal question: "What forms of testing will these new designs require?" The Bush administration has been working to reduce the amount of warning the test sites in the western US desert would need to be reactivated after 10 years lying dormant.
And other article, about our friends across the Atlantic and their own doubts (thanks, Ellen,)
Both the military and the spooks are opposed to war on Iraq
Blair hasn't even convinced his own security establishment
Monday February 24, 2003
Why now? The question is of course being asked by those opposed to a war against Iraq, and those who have not made up their minds. But it has also been asked by one of the most senior Whitehall officials at the centre of the fight against terrorism. The message was clear: the threat posed by Islamist extremists is much greater than that posed by Saddam Hussein. And it will get worse when the US and Britain attack Iraq.
Tony Blair may not want to admit it, but this is the common view throughout the higher reaches of government. As a leaked secret document from the defence intelligence staff puts it: "Al-Qaida will take advantage of the situation for its own aims but it will not be acting as a proxy group on behalf of the Iraqi regime." Osama bin Laden must be praying for a US assault on Iraq.
"Do we help or hinder the essential struggle against terrorism by attacking Iraq?" asks the former Conservative foreign minister, Lord Hurd. "Would we thus turn the Middle East into a set of friendly democratic capitalist societies ready to make peace with Israel, or into a region of sullen humiliation, a fertile and almost inexhaustible recruiting ground for further terrorists for whom Britain is a main target?" He poses the rhetorical questions in the latest journal of the Royal United Services Institute.
Blair says "now" because George Bush says so. Put it another way, had Washington decided to continue with a policy of containment, Blair would have followed suit. This, too, is the common view in Whitehall. It helps explain the government's problem in justifying a war.
Claims that the Iraqi regime is linked with al-Qaida were dropped when ministers failed to provide the evidence. Blair and his ministers follow the wind from Washington and then counter public opinion at home. First, the objective was to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. When the UN inspectors reported progress and "intelligence" dossiers were seen to be bogus, the emphasis shifted to regime change. When this was met with objections, notably of legality, Blair went for the moral high ground.
The objectives were muddied further when Blair defended the "moral case" for war as follows: "It is not the reason we act. That must be according to the UN mandate on weapons of mass destruction. But it is the reason, frankly, why if we do have to act, we should do so with a clear conscience."
Then, as Blair added the humanitarian case for war to the moral one, his spokesman further confused the message. "If Saddam cooperates," he said, "then he can stay in power." A senior adviser to Blair remarked recently that the Bush administration's aim is the "export of American democracy" throughout the Middle East; and Blair shared this vision.
In his new book, Paradise and Power, the former US state department official Robert Kagan argues: "America did not change on September 11. It only became more itself. The myth of America's 'isolationist' tradition is remarkably resilient. But it is a myth. Expansion of territory and influence has been the inescapable reality of American history."
British and American military commanders are hoping for a quick collapse of the regime, leaving the existing Iraqi state infrastructure, including the Republican Guard, to maintain law and order.
Iraqi forces will be "monitored" by British and American officers to keep them in line. Hopelessly optimistic or not, the scenario has little to do with democracy.
But let's say the objectives do include exporting democracy. Does that mean giving the Shi'a majority in Iraq a free vote? What if the Kurds vote for independence? Turkey's generals are calling for a return to emergency rule in the Kurdish areas of south-eastern Turkey. Does the export of democracy cover Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, including authoritarian Oman, in effect a British protectorate? Or Egypt, one of the largest recipients of American aid?
The latest issue of Le Monde Diplomatique reminds us that the US supported Marcos in the Philippines, Suharto in Indonesia, the Shah in Iran, Somoza in Nicaragua, Batista in Cuba, Pinochet in Chile, and Mobutu in Congo/Zaire. "Some of the bloodiest tyrants are still supported by the US," it adds, noting that Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea was received with full honours by Bush last September. Now the US is cuddling up to Uzbekistan, another country with an appalling human-rights record, because it is convenient for US bases.
Ah, says the government, but Saddam poses a unique threat, not only to his own citizens - ministers now claim they have intelligence that the Iraqi dictator is planning to poison all Iraqi Shi'as - but to the national security of Britain and the US. The US, meanwhile, barters with Turkey for bases from which to attack Iraq. How much is a decision opposing the will of more than 90% of Turks worth in dollars? What is the morality in bribing the UN security council to support a war waged, we are told, on moral grounds?
Every time Blair and his ministers repeat a truth - that Saddam used gas against the Kurds and Iranian troops in the 1980s - they remind us that Britain responded by secretly encouraging exports of even more nuclear and other arms-related equipment to Iraq while Washington supplied the regime with more crucial intelligence.
In his speech on the "moral case" for war last Friday, Jack Straw referred to Saddam's "ethnic cleansing" of the Marsh Arabs in the 1990s. That was after the US and Britain encouraged the south, and the Kurds in the north, to rise up following the 1991 Gulf war, only to betray them. The southern "no-fly" zone is said by Britain and the US to be a humanitarian initiative, yet it has not achieved any humanitarian purpose, any more than sanctions have. Its purpose is to disable potential threats to US and British forces rather than to protect the Iraqi people - US and British planes have bombed Iraqi missile, radar and communications systems 40 times this year, the last occasion on Saturday.
While those responsible for protecting Britain's national security are concerned about the increased threat of terrorism from a military attack on Iraq, there is deep disquiet in Britain's military establishment about the confused objectives of a war and a pre-emptive strike against a country that poses no threat to the attackers. The latest dispute over the marginal excess range of Iraq's Samoud 2 missiles only highlights the weakness of the US-British argument. Saddam may believe he has nothing to gain by cooperating fully with UN inspectors if the Bush administration has already decided to invade, whatever concessions he makes. But those advocating war have yet to make anything like a convincing case for military action.
Richard Norton-Taylor is the Guardian's security editor.
And lastly, I've enclosed a picture I'd like to see on the cover of the LA Times (thanks, Miles) and a nice photo of our recent rally...yeah, I know the geek in the middle (thanks, Gus.)
P.S. Next Tuesday is MARDI GRAS!
25 February 2003
Greetings, many friends,