Saturday, January 07, 2006

From Every Time Zone

Saturday, January 7, 2006 12:42 PM EST
  1. US generals disagree over exploding Iraqi violence (SMH)

  2. UN peace mission chief in Haiti shot dead (BBC)

  3. Iraqi Shiites rally against killing spree (Beirut Daily Star)

  4. Sri Lanka resuming civil war (Times of India)

  5. GOP working to oust DeLay (LAT)

  6. Better armor would've saved 80% of Marines killed (NYT)

  7. Al Qaida: US faked al-Zawahiri letter (Al-Jazeera)

  8. Al Qaida taking credit for US-Iraq drawdown (Al-Jazeera)

  9. Hugh Thompson, My Lai massacre hero, dead at 62 (BBC)

  10. Lou Rawls, dead at 72 (LAT)

  11. Report questions legal basis for Bush spying (NYT)

  12. "Citizen Journalism" in South Africa (Johannesburg G&M)

  13. US could be training militias for hire in Iraq (NYT)

  14. How Alito would shift Sup. Court on key issues (CSM)

  15. WVa. Gazette editorial: Where were mine regulators?

  16. 11 US troops killed in one day in Iraq (AP/Boston Globe)

  17. When national ID cards become an insult (Taipei Times)

  18. Britain's Liberal Party leader near oblivion (Guardian)

  19. The emotional vacuum of text messaging (WPost)

  20. Italian president's wife insults the North (Corriere DSerra)

  21. Robertson: Sharon stroke result of "God's enmity" (Haaretz)

  22. Middle East worries of hawkish post-Sharon Israel (DStar)

Friday, January 06, 2006

Republican Reckoning

It's nice to see the Wall Street Journal's editorial page--covenant of America's corporate cotton plantation--once in a while wizen up to its heroes' corruptions. Here are the choice graphs from today's "Cleaning House" editorial. But as always, the Journal doesn't make the connection between the vice it decries and the vice inherent to the philosophy it extols: Running government as a business is not just a contradiction in terms. It's an a priori conflict of interest. In a corporate world government's role is above all that of arbitrator, balancer, watchdog (remember West Virginia). Running government as a business is a euphemistic way of saying that government is an adjunct of business. Without government's checks and balances on a private sector programmed to run amok (if permitted), you get the Abramoff effect. The Journal's editorial looks only to clean house of its most vulgar felons, those dumb enough (in the Journal's unspoken implication) to get caught. It says nothing about the underlying crud of a system it still defends as its own:

What's notable so far about this scandal is the wretchedness of the excess on display, as well as the fact that it involves self-styled "conservatives," who claimed to want to clean up Washington instead of cleaning up themselves. That some Republicans are just as corruptible as some Democrats won't surprise students of human nature. But it is an insult to the conservative voters who elected this class of Republicans and expected better. [...]

More broadly, however, the Abramoff scandal wouldn't resonate nearly as much with the public if it didn't fit a GOP pattern of becoming cozy with Beltway mores. The party that swept to power on term limits, spending restraint and reform has become the party of incumbency, 6,371 highway-bill "earmarks," and K Street. And it's no defense to say that Democrats would do the same. Of course Democrats would, but then they've always claimed to be the party of government. If that's what voters want, they'll choose the real thing. [...]

Republicans won't escape voter anger by writing new rules but only by returning to their self-professed principles. Gradually since 1994 they've decided they want to reform and limit government less than they want to use government to entrench their own power, and in the case of the Abramoffs to get rich doing so. If Speaker Dennis Hastert, interim Majority Leader Roy Blunt and other GOP leaders are too insulated to realize this, then Republicans need new leaders, and right away.

That is, more savvy scoundrels. [See the full editorial...]

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Florida Supreme Court Strikes Down Vouchers

A 5-2 decision that slows down, but won’t stop, the Republican heist of public money to subsidize private education. The relevant portion of the 35-page opinion by Chief Justice Pariente [OSP refers to Florida’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, the Republican-dominated Legislature’s euphemism for vouchers]:

“Our inquiry begins with the plain language of the second and third sentences of article IX, section 1(a) of the [Florida] Constitution. The relevant words are these: ‘It is… a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.’ Using the same terms, ‘adequate provision,’ article IX, section 1(a) further states: ‘Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools.’ For reasons expressed more fully below, we find that the OSP violates this language. It diverts public dollars into separate private systems parallel to and in competition with the free public schools that are the sole means set out in the Constitution for the state to provide for the education of Florida'’ children. This diversion not only reduces money available to the free schools, but also funds private schools that are not ‘uniform’ when compared with each other or the public system. Many standards imposed by law on the public schgools are inapplicable to the private schools receiving public monies. In sum, through the OSP the state is fostering plural, nonuniform systems of education in direct violation of the constitutional mandate for a uniform system of free public schools.”

See the full opinion...

Recommended Headlines from Every Time Zone

  [Because the United States is not quite the center of the world; Updated throughout the day at the Notebooks’ home site]
  1. Supreme Ct. allows Padilla transfer to civilian court (NYT)

  2. Sharon has "massive" stroke, fights for life (Jerusalem Post)

  3. Swan beheaded in Belfast (Belfast Telegraph)

  4. Research breakthrough on breast cancer? (The Age)

  5. Spain cancels Bolivia's $120 million debt (Reuters)

  6. Canadian poet, Nobel nominee Irving Layton dies (TG&M)

  7. One measure of poverty up 37% in Japan (Japan Today)

  8. As in 1960s, NSA began US spying well before 9/11 (NYT)

  9. In WVa blast, only one miner survives (WV Gazette)

  10. WVa's Sago Mine had a history of infractions (WV Gazette)

  11. Iraq: US raid kills 12 civilians, bomber kills 30 (WPost)

  12. Bush back on Patriot Act road show (WPost)

  13. Secret services say Iran shopping for nukes (Guardian)

  14. Simultaneous blasts in 3 Nepal cities (Statesman, India)

  15. Global warming down under: Australia frets (The Age)

  16. Pay-per-view Freedom of Information Act? (London Times)

  17. 64% of Iceland's births out of wedlock (Iceland Review)

  18. It isn't just American: Debt and the British (Independent)

  19. Art or porn? The Bush-Chirac-QEII sex romp (Der Spiegel)

  20. US to Iraqi rebuilding effort: Drop dead (Washington Post)

  21. Prison Nation: US exercises expertise in Iraq (DTelegraph)

  22. Snarls over prophet drawings in Denmark (Copnhgn Post)

For and Against Chomsky

Noam Chomsky may be “the world’s top public intellectual,” as Britain’s Prospect, a monthly, described him in a November 2005 cover story. But the American establishment prefers either to ignore him or to revile him. For debates by and about Chomsky, the American reader must look elsewhere. Here are the Prospect pieces: For and Against Chomsky, from the November issue, and Chomsky’s reply, from the January issue.

Homeland Security Sham: A West Virginia Parable

The shamelessness of it. The sheer grubbing for it. Look around the nation’s front pages today: Celebration in cities that will get more “anti-terror” dollars, dismay in cities that won’t. Feasting or starving over terror’s pork tenderloins. You’d think cities should be grateful that they’re not considered high on the list of prospective bombings. But here’s the perversion of terror-age America: Cities are either jubilant that they’ve been designated high-risk targets of terrorism, because that means more dollars, more jobs, more shiny riot gear and charcoal-lined chemical suits for the day when they can be put to use. Or else they’re resentful that they’re lower-risk targets, because there’s fewer tenderloins in it for them. There must be a latent, obscene desire in there somewhere, among cities, for the sort of attacks that would give them a chance to shine in time of crisis, a chance to extract heroism out of the rubble, to have a go at another Ground Zero’s marketable potential. So to be downgraded in the lottery of risk, rather than elicit relief, provokes outrage — at least from the Chamber of Commerce types always foraging for the next quick boost to their city’s repute.

Perspective is a natural casualty of war. But this isn’t a war. It’s the constant reenactment of sham combat to the sound and fury of conventional trappings: Exaggerated fears, rabid patriotism, unquestioned submission to homeland security dogma. None of it rallies the nation’s resources (not when you’re cutting taxes every year of the so-called war). None of it ensure Americans’ safety (not when you’re starting yet another war unprovoked and giving terror’s recruiters more advantages than the Pentagon’s). It merely, richly expedites the profiteering. And isn’t that what running government as a business is all about? The answer — the proof — is not just in those headline over homeland security’s dole. It’s also and especially in the other headline of the day, in the 12 dead miners coming out of that mine in West Virginia.

In its crudest but truest terms, the West Virginia mining tragedy — not unlike the space shuttle program’s Challenger and Columbia catastrophes — is an example of corporate dividends at the expense of workers’ safety. As the Charleston Gazette’s Ken Ward reported, the mine in Sago, W.Va., was a documented disaster zone of safety infractions. Attention for now is focused on the human loss, as it should be. But aside from Ward’s piece, the link isn’t likely to be made between the cost of true safety in day-to-day, working America — in the workplace anywhere, in the mines, in the meat-packing plants, in the rail yards — and the cost of corporate corner-cutting in the name of shareholder demands. In all, 5,703 people were killed in job-related accidents in 2004 (58 of them in West Virginia). It takes money to pay for government inspectors of workplaces. It takes money and commitment to make the federal government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) be more than a wrist-slapper. But the Bush administration despises regulatory agencies like OSHA and sister agencies like the Mine Safety and Health Administration (to say nothing of the Environmental Protection Agency). It starves them of money and authority, enabling companies working under them to snub their noses at them, to laugh at thousand-dollar fine after thousand-dollar fine for safety infractions the way millionaire baseball players laugh at thousand-dollar fines for saying “fuck” near a network mike.

In 2004 eight workers at the Sago mine in West Virginia were injured badly enough to be kept off the job for at least a year. The entire year, the company sustained $9,515 in fines — a few weeks’ pay for a single worker. They call that safety regulation. It’s as toothless as a dentured crash-test dummy. The bottom line isn’t safety. It isn’t keeping Americans secure in their job. It isn’t doing what it takes to hold employers accountable for workplace safety. The bottom line is the bottom line. A company’s management usually and easily survives the occasional worker’s death and the more than occasional worker’s injuries. It wouldn’t survive shareholders’ ire as effectively. In that sense, the West Virginia mining tragedy is a parable of Homeland Security America.

And so the flip side of today’s morning headlines — the grubbing and crying over the Department of Homeland Security’s tributes to chosen cities: The Orlando Sentinel, jubilant that Disney pays off once again: “Orlando in Line for Terror Grant.” The San Francisco Chronicle, in disbelief over the rule that twelve Bay Area cities must compete for one grant: “Homeland Security Directive Shocks Local Governments.” The New York Daily News, writing as if 9/11 did, in fact, kill irony: “The good news for New York is the feds say they'll finally dish out more homeland security money based on risk. The bad news is we'll be competing with towns prone to natural disaster.” The solution is in the News’ headline: “N.Y. Eyes Bucking Risk-Fund Formula.” They’re almost celebrating in Seattle. This from the Post-Intelligencer: “Although they like what they heard Tuesday from the Department of Homeland Security, Seattle-area emergency preparedness officials said it's too early to tell whether the latest tweaks in a federal grant program will mean more money for their communities.” Leave it to Joe Lieberman, earliest architect of that monstrosity known as the Department of Homeland Security, to whine over Connecticut’s missing the lottery: “I am deeply disappointed, once again, that Connecticut’s most populous cities will not be eligible to apply for these critical risk-based security grants,” he is quoted as saying in the Hartford Courant, longing, as always, for the days when Connecticut’s military industry could pull in $4 billion a year. Houston, meanwhile, doesn’t think it has a problem. From the Houston Chronicle: “Funding change may benefit Houston.” And so on down the security-industrial complex.

It was clear early on, even as 9/11’s smoke was hazing over Manhattan, that this so-called war on terror would become above all the greatest concentrated war profiteering opportunity since the 1950s (the decade that gave births to such American trademarks as the “military-industrial complex”). So it has been, not only in the United States but wherever Halliburton and its raking likes are contracted to fly the flag of American empire, and with absurd consequences. CBS’ 60 Minutes summed up the absurdities in a report last April ($7.2 million for 13,000 hazard suits in Missouri, $183,000 for the mostly invisible town of Tiptonville, Tenn., which the police department used to buy an all-terrain vehicle and a couple of defibrillators, now used at high school basketball games, etc.) The juxtaposition of today’s stories though, between West Virginia’s avoidable loss and the nation’s schizophrenic howls over the Homeland Security Department’s troth, is as good an illustration as any of the lie at the heart of the government’s promise of safety at all costs. There is no heart for safety where it matters, in day-to-day working America. There’s only a dance between handicapped regulatory agencies and the companies that operate beneath their gaze while lording it over their inspectors.

And there’s only an illusion of safety where the risks of terror are imagined most. Spending money to buy more riot gear won’t stop the next Timothy McVeigh or the next Mohammed Atta. As David Carr wrote in the Atlantic in January 2002, “When one target is shored up, nimble transnational cells that can turn on a dime simply find new bull’s-eyes. Up against those practical realities, homeland security is the national version of the gas mask in the desk drawer — something that lets people feel safer without actually making them so.” The government knows it. But that doesn’t mean there’s no money in it. That’s virtually all there is of substance in it. To a lucky few, the Bush administration and its corporate oligarchy among them, terror-war America has been the best of all possible worlds: Perpetual war for perpetual profits, with a war on regulation and oversight thrown in as a bonus. Today, West Virginia is ground zero in that war. Al-Qaeda is nowhere in sight. The victims are American. The perpetrators are American. The dots are all-American, and yet unconnected.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Centcom Centerfold

Disinformation in the Bush administration wasn't born yesterday. A reminder...

And how the Bush administration undermines homeland security: This from today's N-J editorial:

"A look at the Department of Homeland security's Web site ( leaves you feeling warm and safe. The picture of a smiling family sits above a "Resolve to be READY!" caption and faces toward a headline about making emergency preparedness America's New Year's Resolution. The site is hued in comforting blues and grays. It's the work of Landor Associates, the creative design firm that branded such things as the Atlanta Olympics, oil giant BP's new eco-friendly flower and Pizza Hut's latest make-over. If only homeland security was just a public relations exercise." Read the rest...