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Sunday, July 30, 2006




Blair sets out his stall to Murdoch's News Corp. by Phil Hazlewood
Sun Jul 30, 5:40 PM ET

British Prime Minister Tony Blair will set out a robust defence of his style of leadership and political ideology in a speech to senior executives of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. empire.

The behind-closed-doors address, at the upmarket Pebble Beach resort near San Francisco, touches on many themes close to Blair's heart, from the need to fight Muslim extremism to climate change, globalisation and Third World debt.

Yet it can also be seen as a manifesto for his repositioning of the governing Labour party, which secured him the support of Murdoch's influential British tabloid The Sun before his landslide 1997 general election win.

Blair, 53, is not standing for a fourth, straight term at the next election but speculation is rife back home that he is keen to ensure the media tycoon's support for his likely successor, finance minister Gordon Brown.

The contents of the speech may please Murdoch, whose established free-market, pro-US, eurosceptic views are matched by a strong line supporting the war in Iraq and the global fight against extremism in his newspapers.

Blair will restate his position on the Middle East conflict and liken it to a wider, ideological struggle around the world between extremists and moderates, according to advance copies released to reporters.

"I have many opponents on the subject (of foreign policy) but complete inner confidence in the analysis of the struggle we face," he will say.

The comments echo his views in a British television interview earlier this year in which he said he made policy decisions according to his conscience, which is guided by his Christian faith.

"My concern is that we cannot win this struggle by military means or security measures alone, or even principally by them," he will add.

"We have to put our ideas up against theirs. But our cause will only triumph if people see it as based on even-handedness, on fairness, on a deep and genuine passion to help others."

Blair -- criticised for his support for Bush over Iraq and now the Middle East -- will tell the US-Australian tycoon and his executives that the Europe-US alliance is of "seminal importance" in global politics.

He will restate his "alarm" at growing anti-Americanism in a large part of the European media, describing it as "foolish, short-sighted and ultimately very dangerous".

Touching on globalisation, he will attack the traditional European welfare state and social model as "hopelessly inadequate" to meet the challenge of the modern competitive international market.

But significantly for newspapers that traditionally ally themselves to left or right wing parties, Blair will say that such distinctions no longer exist and there is "no steady state in political leadership today".

"Most confusingly for modern politicians, many of the policy prescriptions, cross traditional left/right lines," Blair, who took the left-wing Labour party to the centre ground after taking over as its leader in 1994, will say.

"Basic values, attitudes to the positive role of government, social objectives -- these still do divide along familiar party lines," he will add.

"But on policy the cross dressing is rampant and is a feature of modern politics that will stay. The era of tribal leadership is over."

Instead of the "neat filing of policy to the left or the right", there was now a division between "open versus closed" in global politics, he will say.

"Take the three '-isms' that run throughout most political debates in Europe and the US today. They're not socialism or capitalism. They're protectionism, isolationism, nativism, by which I mean to do with migration and national identity."

Blair will admit that voters are confused by the breakdown in traditional political alignments and set himself firmly on the "open" side, saying the constant pace of change forces modern leaders to adapt.

The alternative has "nothing to offer a nation except the delusion that the tide of change can be turned back; or alternatively a weaker version of the same delusion, namely that hard choices can just be evaded", he will add.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Despite relentless pressure from the president and their fellows, a few courageous lawmakers are standing up and speaking out against the Israeli offensive in Lebanon or the manner in which it is being conducted.

But before you pick up your telephone to report them to American Israel Public Affairs Committee, consider this:

These lawmakers are Israeli not American.

While U.S. congress continues to tow the line like loyal members of Likud, some members of Israel's Kineset are speaking out critically of Israel's decision to launch a full-scale invasion of Lebanon in retaliation for the capture of two Israeli soldiers by the Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon.

Criticism is also heard from newspapers and military analysts.

But again, you won't read it or hear it in the United States; these critics are Israeli.

"The war is leading us by the nose to sink deeper in the Lebanese mud. The Hezbollah wants to drag us into its territory. The moment the army will be in Lebanon for an extended period, it will be hell for us in there," said Ran Cohen, a dovish lawmaker and a colonel in the Israeli army reserves. "The deeper we get drawn in, the worse it will be."

"We should have begun moving troops on the ground right from the beginning, when the war started," said Moshe Arens, a former defense minister from the Likud Party. "It's difficult terrain, and we're up against some tough fighters who have dug in, who have prepared themselves for six years for this encounter."

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert tried to quell the criticism Wednesday, warning of tougher times ahead and asking lawmakers to hold their tongues until the fighting ended.

Israel's Haaretz newspaper featured three front-page columns reflecting the frustration. Their headlines: "Was there a proper decision process?", "No goals attained," and "Has the army failed?"

Among the questions raised were whether the military operation included an exit strategy and took into consideration the scope of rocket fire at Israeli towns, and whether the army has the ability to crush Hezbollah. They also questioned whether the military was prepared for guerrilla warfare on enemy land.

Israeli military analyst Shlomo Brom said it was too early to say whether any strategic mistakes had been made in the offensive. He did, however, say there was something wrong in the way the political leadership was relaying its message to the people.

"They aren't telling the public where we are going, what are the realistic aims and how we are going about achieving them," he said.

All this makes one wonder what is wrong here in the United States that there is a virtual blackout of critical analysis on Israel's policies and actions. I am a supporter of Israel and find myself surprised at the muted response to Israel's invasion of Lebanon, a sovereign Nation.

A resolution by the House of Representatives supporting Israel in its assault in Lebanon passed with only 8 negative votes. The Democrats a few days later demanded an apology from the visiting Iraqi Prime Minister, for criticising Israel's invasion. Surely there is another point of view in America on Middle-Eastern Affairs. There is a diversity of opinions in Israel. Why not here?

The Power of AIPAC.
Could it be as Harvard Researchers John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt found--that the America Isreal Public Affairs Committee or AIPAC exerts an unprecedented influence on American foriegn policy? Could it be that this influence of AIPAC is so pervasive here that there is actually more dissent in the Kineset than there is in the American Congress?

It seems that, in the Age of Bush, we have become a nation where shibboleth trumps reason. Criticize the execution of the War in Iraq and you will find your patriotism question; dare to support an investigation of Representative McKinney's (D-GA) assault on a Capitol Hill police officer and find yourself labeled a racist; academically examine the redoubtable "Israeli lobby" and find your research characterized as "David Duke with Footnotes" by the likes of Alan Dershowitz.

The Harvard University study by Mearsheimer and Walt, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," has resulted in such a fury by the Lobby and its partisans that Walt has been forced to step down from his post as [academic] dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government.

So universal is the condemnation of the study in the media, by congress and by Harvard itself that I recommend a new title for the second printing: "QED".

As Isreal plays middle-eastern cowboy and the Bush administration remains effectively "disengaged" with it's absurd commitment to "sustainable cease-fires", other nations will step into the diplomatic vacuum. When they do, the United States will be forced to deconstruct its prime directive of Israel Uber Allis in order to become relevant to events as they unfold. When this happens, Congress--and the Kineset--will be forced to realize that both "neoconservatism" and the Zionist hegemony it breeds are relics of an older world view that has no place in the emerging community of nations.

Information for this post taken from By ARON HELLER, Associated Press Writer "Criticism of Isreal's Invasion Growing" 7.25.06

Monday, July 24, 2006


"...Underscoring the fragile security situation, Rice's car convoy whisked past armed Lebanese security guards as it shuttled across the battered capital..." So writes AP Writer Shrader in her piece on Secretary Rice's meeting with Lebanese AND Hezbollah Officials. Her meeting with Nabih Berri is interesting. It demonstrates the unrealistic positioning of the United States in this affair. It also shows the inexperience of Rice and her team. Berri is an old name from Lebanese Affairs going back to the Nixon-Ford era. My theory is that Rice is not personally comfortable with Shuttle Diplomacy as she has been noted to have "performance anxiety" in other, less streesful situations. Therefore, the White House and the State Department damped down expectations--"no cease-fire for the sake of a cease fire" I believe is how Rice put it. Of course, cease-fires are useful things even as an end in themselves because they prevent loss of life. Over 700 civilians have died in the fighting thus far. But--in the world of Condi Rice--a cease-fire is worthless when it only prevents further loss of life.

Once again, the Bush Administration damages America's moral authority and reputation for "getting things done".

Rice visits Lebanon, disappoints leaders
Associated Press Writer

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sought to buttress Lebanon's fragile democratic government Monday after nearly two weeks of warfare, making this stricken capital a surprise first stop on a high-stakes Mideast diplomatic mission.

At the same time, the Bush administration announced it was sending humanitarian aid.

Rice's visit marked the first high-level U.S. diplomatic mission to the area since fighting erupted on July 12. But she disappointed Lebanese leaders who had hoped her lightning trip would hasten a cease-fire in the fighting between Israel and the Hezbollah militants in Lebanon that has claimed hundreds of civilians' lives.

"Thank you for your courage and steadfastness," she told Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, who has repeatedly asked for international help in bringing a halt to cross-border Israeli-Hezbollah shelling. Rice flew next to Jerusalem but made clear that she would not pressure Israeli leaders for an immediate cease-fire during meetings Monday and Tuesday.

In a meeting that appeared tense, Saniora told the U.S. diplomat that Israel's bombardment had taken his country "backwards 50 years," the prime minister's office said. And Nabih Berri, a veteran Lebanese politician who is Lebanon's parliament speaker and Hezbollah's de facto negotiator, rejected proposals brought by Rice almost as soon as she left.

Berri told Rice that a cease-fire must precede any talks about resolving Hezbollah's presence in Lebanon, an official close to the speaker said. Rice, reflecting the U.S. view that a quick cease-fire would not be sustainable, had proposed that the fighting stop at the same time that an international force deployed in southern Lebanon, the official said. Rice also proposed that Hezbollah weapons be removed from a buffer zone extending about 18 miles from the Israeli border, said the official. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were private.

Berri proposed instead a two-phased plan. First would come a cease-fire and negotiations for a prisoner swap. Then an inter-Lebanese dialogue would work out a solution to the situation in south Lebanon.

The Bush administration has said that a cease-fire would be premature unless it addresses the threat Hezbollah fighters pose to Israel.

Asked whether Rice's meeting with Berri went poorly, Assistant Secretary of State David Welch replied, "That's unfair." Welch added, however, that Berri approached the session with the position that a prisoner exchange would resolve other problems.

"That is not what we think," Welch said.

Underscoring the fragile security situation, Rice's car convoy whisked past armed Lebanese security guards as it shuttled across the battered capital. Though south Beirut has been heavily targeted by Israeli warplanes because of Hezbollah's presence there, no explosions were heard during her stay.

Rice said Bush wanted her to make Lebanon the first stop on her trip to the region.

Rice's nearly two-hour meeting with Saniora went on longer than planned. She also met for about 45 minutes with Berri, who is considered friendly to Syria, which held political and military sway in Lebanon for decades before pulling out troops last year.

Going into the session at Berri's lavish office and residence, Rice said, "I am deeply concerned about the Lebanese people and what they are enduring. I am obviously concerned about the humanitarian situation."

Berri is an influential figure in Lebanon's complicated and factionalized political structure. Although the United States considers Hezbollah a terrorist group and has no direct dealings with it, Rice has met with Berri before. Rice could use her discussions with him to send an indirect message to Hezbollah, and to try applying pressure on Syria.

Rice also met with members of the Lebanese parliament who have been staunch opponents of Syria's influence in Lebanon. After visiting Israel, she was to fly to Rome, where she expects to meet with officials of European and moderate Arab governments.

Rice's five-hour visit to Beirut was not announced in advance because of concerns for her safety. She rode in a phalanx of SUVs through largely deserted streets patrolled by Lebanese Army troops.

Beirut, shattered during Lebanon's horrific civil war, has again become a war zone as Israel tries to extinguish what it calls the terrorist threat from Hezbollah militants.

American and other refugees have been streaming out of Beirut for more than a week. Israeli bombing has displaced an estimated half million people in Lebanon, and destroyed infrastructure worth an estimated $1 billion.

"We're talking about the humanitarian situation, and we're also talking about a durable way to end the violence," Rice said.

President Bush has ordered helicopters and ships to Lebanon to provide humanitarian aide, the White House announced.

Welch, the assistant secretary of state, said the U.S. was offering $30 million worth of goods, part of what was hoped would be a $150 million international aid package. He said the U.S. assistance would include medical kits for 100,000 people and 20,000 blankets.

"We are working with Israel and Lebanon to open up humanitarian corridors," Bush spokesman Tony Snow said at the White House.

Nearly 12,000 Americans have been evacuated over the past week, including more than 2,000 in the past 24 hours, said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Mercosur 2006 & More Irony in the Age of Bush

Is Anyone Watching Mercosur 2006?

With G8 exploding in Bush's face and Isreal invading Lebanon, it's not surprising that you may have missed it.

According to the Merco Press:

The MERCOSUR, Mercado Común del Sur, (Common Market of the South) is an ambitious economic integration project which includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Other Southamerican countries are in different stages of association with Mercosur, among which Chile and Bolivia, and others are considering the formal request to beguin the association process: Colombia, Perú and Venezuela.

Mercosur's main objective is to increase the efficiency and competitiveness of the four economies by opening markets and accelerating economic development, making better use of available resources, conservation of the environment, improvement of communications, coordination of macroeconomic polices and the complementation of the different industries.

Wikipedia notes:
Some South Americans see Mercosur as giving the capability to combine resources to balance the activities of other global economic powers, perhaps especially the United States and the European Union. The organization could also potentially pre-empt the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), however, over half of the current Mercosur member countries rejected the FTAA proposal at the IV Cumbre de las Américas (IV Summit of the Americas) in Argentina in 2005.

This the FTAA represents an attempt (begun under the Clinton Administration) to put the United States at the table with Mercosur countries, presumably to color the agenda into a tone more resonant with U.S. objectives.

It appears that, now, with the incorporation of Venezuela and Bolivia into the Mercosur as associate members, chances of FTAA approval are signficantly diminished.

The Mercosur countries are gatekeepers to significant economic power in this hemisphere: There are more than 220 million people in this region and the combined Gross Domestic Product of the member nations is more than one trillion dollars a year.

Last winter, during the Fourth Summit of the Americas, The Bush Administration proposal for what was known as the Washington Consensus, which embodies the free-trade message, was soundly defeated. Hugo Chávez was particularly scathing in his condemnations and threatening to steal the show, has been resisting.

"We have not yet attained a common language," Argentina's deputy foreign minister, Jorge Taiana, said at the time. "Different countries have different experiences, and therefore different visions of things."

According to Web Site "Global Exchange", the meeting was a tough time for Bush. It is clear after Mercosur, that the tough times are getting tougher. Here is what Global Exchange reported in November, 2005:

Polls show Mr. Bush to be the most unpopular American president ever among Latin Americans, and thousands of demonstrators, led by the soccer idol Diego Maradona, are flocking to the Argentine beach resort of Mar del Plata to protest his presence at a summit meeting of Western Hemisphere leaders. The greeting from his fellow heads of state, who have been complaining of his administration's neglect of and indifference to the region for five years, does not promise to be especially warm, either.

The theme of what is formally known as the Fourth Summit of the Americas is "Creating Jobs to Fight Poverty and Strengthen Democratic Governance." But the feeling among many Latin Americans is that the United States is coming with little to offer other than the usual nostrums about free trade, open markets, privatization and fiscal austerity, the same recipe that has vastly increased social inequality throughout Latin America during the past decade.


As recently as the end of the Clinton Administration, the leaders of Latin America were solidly obligated to technocrats running the World Bank and IMF initiatives in South America. The United States was clearly a player in writing and delivering the agenda of trade meetings of Latin American Counties. Fidel Castro (at U.S. insistence) was systematically excluded from most of the business of Latin America whenever the United States was involved.

At the at a conference of Ibero-American heads of state in Spain in October, 2005, Mr. Bush's counterparts made clear they were declaring independence of the domination of U.S. economic and political management:

...In unusually blunt language, their final communiqué sharply criticized Washington's position both on Cuba, which was not invited to the summit meeting, and on terrorism.

Rather than just condemn the American economic embargo of Cuba, the statement referred to a "blockade," the term that Fidel Castro favors because it implies a violation of international law. The declaration also called on the United States to extradite a Cuban exile wanted in Venezuela and Cuba for blowing up a Cuban airliner in 1976, saying that every nation must have a "commitment to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations."

("Global Exchange", ibid.)

What a difference five years makes (since the end of the Clinton Administration).

Not only is Mr. Castro invited to the Mercosur 2006 meeting in Argentina, but he is treated as a "Special Guest", a "dignitary" being squired around by the president of Venezuela. In contrast to the rock-throwing demonstrators who greeted George Bush last November, Fidel is being met by cheering throngs of well-wishers and admirers.

The photos of Castro and Chavez paying homage to Che Guevara at his birth home in Argentina made me smile as broadly as, I am sure, brought heartburn to the Battistanistas and neoconservatives of the Bush White House.

Hugo Chavez...Ooooh the Irony....

Irony, the special spice of this weblog, abounds in this tale of Mercosur 2006 and the leftward tilt of a confident South American region.

In one sense, perhaps the Bush Administration policies of laissez-faire capitalism that has resulted in high energy pricing, tax breaks abroad, and multi-national corporation with no loyalty to their home nation has contributed as much as anyone to the emergent spirit. When Hugo Chavez was elected president of Venezuela in 1999, his oil was selling for $10 a barrel; today it is selling for $70 a barrel. Argentina, as recently as 2002 facing fiscal collapse, will be oil independent and a net exporter this year, strengthening its economy.

There is irony in Dick Cheney trotting around the country calling Chavez a "thug" and a "dictator"--considering the thuggery of the Cheney Wing of the White House and the dictatorial shifting of executive powers Cheney & Company have engineered. The Irony is sweetened by two facts: (1) Chevez was elected democratically--and overwhelmingly--by "The People", for whom the Bush Administration has little regard in most cases ("Democracy" being a code word amongst Bushniks for Corporatism); (2) Chavez has approval ratings in the 80 percentile range--approximately 50 higher than Bush and 60 higher than Cheney.

There is irony in Cheney and the Bushniks and their proxies in congress talking darkly about "corruption" by the small elite of Chevezistas and the need for regime change in Venezuela. The Bush Republicans control everything in the U.S. from the Whitehouse to the outhouse and the rot of corruption is everywhere. But the sweetest pange of irony comes from the fact that Chevez has used Venezuela's new wealth to create a larger middle class and alleviate poverty in his country. His goal is to eradicate poverty, create 100% literacy and provide universal health care in his country by 2010.

What comparable goal can the Bush Administration hold up that has a reasonable chance of being accomplished?

All the Bush-Cheney Administration seeks to accomplish is tax relief, reduction in regulation, and redistribution of national wealth into the pockets of millionaires. And this administration will go to war and foment fear to accomplish these goals.

Is anyone paying attention to Mercosur 2006? It is a glimpse into the future for anyone with eyes to see...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

President Candide & The Schemes of Pangloss

In Voltaire's biting satire of 18th century pretensions, the naive Candide was tutored by an philosopher named Pangloss whose view of the world was so self-contained and sufficient that his name has become synonymous with "self-delusion". Among other theories, Pangloss is most famous for : "...if everything is made for an end, then everything is necessarily for the best end..." By extension, therefore,

"...observe that noses were made to wear spectacles, therefore we have spectacles. Legs were visibly instituted to be breeched, and we have breeches..."

So it might be said of the Panglossian Bush Administration that advises it's Candide-like Commander Extrodinaire.

"...observe that deciders were made to make decisions, therefore we have a decision. Commanders were instituted for times of war, therefore we have war..."

Everthing that fits in service of the president is, by definition, legitimate; anything that does not is illigitimate or unimportant.

For example.

On Tuesday, July 18, 2006 Attorney General Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee that President Bush personally blocked a Justice Department investigation of the anti-terror eavesdropping program that intercepts American's international calls and emails. When asked by Senator Arlen Specter why the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) was denied access when "...many other lawyers had access" Gonzales replied:

"The president of the United States made the decision."

See? He's the Decider.

Yet, according to OPR chief Marshall Jarrett, many prosecutors and FBI agents were granted clearance to pursue an investigation into leaks of information that resulted in the program's disclosure in December. Justice Department inspector General Glenn A. Fine and two of his aides were among other department officials who were granted clearances, Jarett said in an April Memo that was released on Tuesday and prompted Specter's questions.

So, if Bush blocked an internal wiretap probe by the OPR, doesn't that mean he obstructed justice?

Justice was clearly obstructed by someone. Gonzales says it's the president.

But the president is the decider.

So it's okay.

The strategy of the Bush White House is clear. Spend 5 years setting precedent for absolute power in the Commander-in-Chief through a War on a Noun and then kick every violation of law up to him. That is what was done in the Plame Affair. No violation of the law occurred because The President declassified the information that was leaked to Judy Miller and Bob Novak by Rove and Libby at the direction of Cheney.

Wiretaps, intercepted email...who knows what-all. When you get caught doing something wrong in this White House--like obstructing justice or lying to congress--kick it upstairs... President Candide.


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Thousands of Israeli bombs have fallen on Lebanese homes, roads, bridges, ports, broadcasting towers and even a lighthouse.

Nearly 300 people, mainly civilians, have been killed, Lebanon's prime minister said.

Analysts say Israel's targeting of civilian and government infrastructure overshadows its strikes on the offices and rocket launchers of Hezbollah guerrillas, whose capture of two Israeli soldiers triggered the attacks.

"This is a classic strategic bombing campaign," said Stephen Biddle, a former head of military studies at the U.S. Army War College now at the Council on Foreign Relations. "What the Israelis are trying to do is pressure others into solving their problem for them, hence the targeting of civilian infrastructure."

But the growing list of civilian casualties — despite Israel's use of U.S.-designed precision-guided bombs — could turn Arabs and others against the Jewish state and its key ally, the U.S., and still not fatally wound Hezbollah, said military analysts.

Israeli Cabinet ministers have said the bombing aims to punish Lebanon and make the government understand the entire country will suffer if Hezbollah — which operates freely in the south — isn't reined in.

But Israeli military spokesman Capt. Jacob Dallal said Wednesday that Israel's bombing targets have direct military significance, since Hezbollah uses roads to transport its rockets and stores them in houses.

"A lot of the rockets are stored in people's homes in urban areas, fired from within villages and brought in from the Damascus-Beirut highway," Dallal said. "We are in day eight and the present condition of Hezbollah is unlike it was on day one. There's no comparison, their infrastructure, their weaponry have all been degraded considerably."

Classic strategic bombardment campaigns aim to flatten key economic resources and are usually designed to bend the targeted government to the will of its attacker or turn the populace against the government.

The United States has been one of the chief proponents of strategic bombardment, launching campaigns in Vietnam, Iraq and Serbia. In World War II it targeted factories, railroads, bridges, ports and, in some cases, residential neighborhoods.

James Dobbins, a former Bush administration envoy to Afghanistan who now heads military analysis for the Rand Corp., said choice of targets by Israel was the key and may be misdirected.

"The military rationale seems rather thin, since many of the targets have no conceivable relationship to Hezbollah," he said.

Hezbollah has little visible presence and few links to Lebanon's military. It is skilled at cloaking its actions from Israeli sensors, while its primitive rockets — which have also killed innocents — are fired from easy-to-hide mobile launchers. Their lack of a guidance system leaves them without a traceable electronic signature, said Mustafa Alani, a military analyst with Dubai-based Gulf Research Center.

"The Israelis face their classic problem: They cannot punish Hezbollah, which has no physical structure to destroy," Alani said.

Instead, Israel is bombing Hezbollah's Shiite Muslim power base, leveling villages and office and apartment blocks in Shiite neighborhoods in the eastern Bekaa Valley, southern Lebanon and south Beirut.

Dallal said the Israeli military bombs civilian buildings or homes if intelligence points to a Hezbollah office or munitions on the site.

"If there is a rocket stored in an apartment building and we attack the apartment in the building in which it is stored," he said. "We have the right to attack because of the missile."

The Brookings Institution's Michael O'Hanlon said the Israeli campaign most closely resembles the U.S.-led NATO bombardment of Serbia in 1999, in which a victory was achieved without a land invasion.

But the 78-day NATO bombardment of Serbia had clear international legitimacy and was more gradual. Air crews targeted Serbian military and communications sites first, and when that didn't persuade the Serb military to pull out of Kosovo, planes hit civilian and government targets.

Targeting was far more discriminatory. Despite tens of thousands of sorties, NATO is thought to have killed 500 civilians in the 2- 1/2 month campaign. By contrast, Israel has killed more than 250 Lebanese in eight days.

And the Serbian actions that triggered NATO's airstrikes were far larger than anything launched from Lebanon, Dobbins said.

"The Serbian government was responsible for the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo that drove a million people from their homes," Dobbins said, "while the Lebanese government is not responsible for the rocket attacks upon Israel."

The government, however, has been unable to fulfill a U.N. directive that Hezbollah be disarmed and that government forces take control of southern Lebanon.

Israel has also chosen to hit targets that the United States would probably reject, because of the danger of killing civilians, said Michele Flournoy, a former Pentagon strategist now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

U.S. war planners realize their campaigns lose international and domestic support when innocents are killed, Flournoy said.

"Our own population is very discriminating in the use of force. People here have bought into the idea of proportionality and the just war," Flournoy said.

For Israel, "it's a balancing act," Flournoy said. "They want to use enough force to get through to the terrorists, while at the same time staying within international norms, so as not to become a pariah."

Israel's history, however, has produced a defense posture that views its enemies as fundamental and existential threats to the country's very survival.

"The airports and bridges don't belong to Hezbollah," Alani said. "People may understand their (Israeli) reactions for the first few days. But world leaders will soon say 'we don't see any links between your attacks and the threat you face.'"

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


The Ex-Speakers Speak With One Voice on the Sorry State of Congress

By Dana Milbank
Thursday, July 13, 2006; Page A02
(C) Washington Post Corporation

Washington Sketch
A national political reporter for the Post, Milbank writes Washington Sketch, an observational column about political theater in the White House, Congress and elsewhere in the capital. He covered the 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns and President Bush's first term. Before coming to the Post as a Style political writer in 2000, he covered the Clinton White House for the New Republic and Congress for the Wall Street Journal.

There are not too many issues that would give common cause to Thomas Foley and Newt Gingrich. Yet there they were, sitting next to each other yesterday: the last Democratic speaker of the House and the man who ousted him to become the first Republican speaker of the House in half a century.

And they were in perfect harmony as they kicked around the notion of "How Congress Is Failing America."

Thomas Foley: "It's the obligation of Congress to decide how far they want executive power to be exercised."

"Congress really has to think about how fundamentally wrong the current system is," Gingrich said of his former colleagues. When facing crises at home and abroad, he said, "it's important to have an informed, independent legislative branch coming to grips with this reality and not sitting around waiting for 'presidential leadership.' "

Foley nodded at Gingrich's points and applauded when he finished. "If I didn't have a somewhat long history with Newt Gingrich," the Democrat said, "I would listen to what he had said if he were a candidate for Congress and say, 'I think I'll vote for this guy.' I think he's absolutely dead right in his diagnosis of what's happening to this country and to the Congress."

The old foes had come to the American Enterprise Institute at the request of two of the capital's most ubiquitous pundits, Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, to launch "The Broken Branch," the scholars' new book about Congress.

For nearly two hours, Gingrich, Foley and their bespectacled hosts spoke with one voice about the lowly state Congress now finds itself in -- and the lack of easy solutions.

The men had no trouble identifying the symptoms: a collapse of committee deliberations, the demise of oversight of the executive branch, the loss of the "regular order" of rules for debate and legislation, a runaway spending process, and a shrinking legislative calendar. The causes were also not difficult to find: gerrymandered districts, travel and fundraising needs keeping lawmakers away from Washington, the loss of centrists in both parties, quickening news cycles and the reliance on lobbyist-raised cash.

"Flatly, in the 36-plus years we've been here, we've never seen it this bad," Ornstein said.

Said Mann: "If you were to look back on history for a comparable period, it might well be the late 19th century." Foley and Gingrich nodded.

Gingrich was even more dire. "I believe we are drifting into a cycle where the challenges we face are a greater mismatch with our potential solutions than any time since April of 1861," he said.

Foley struggled to keep pace. "If the Congress fails, democracy fails," he said.

It was heartwarming to see the former speakers removing the knives they had stuck in each other's backs. Though they serve on a Pentagon advisory board together, it was their first joint public appearance other than a congressional hearing. They shook hands cordially, at times reached to pat each other on the shoulder as they spoke, and cited each other's points with phrases such as "I agree with Newt on this" and "Speaker Foley will not disagree with me" and "As Newt says."

Gingrich, 63, cited a favorite Foley story he heard years ago, and Foley, 77, applauded Gingrich when he finished. Foley let only one scowl cross his face, when the moderator mentioned the Contract With America, the manifesto of the Republican Revolution of 1994. Each man confessed how his own leadership contributed to the problem.

In a sense, both former speakers share a need for rehab after highly public falls, Foley to an unknown challenger in his Washington state district and Gingrich at the hands of colleagues after poor election results and an earlier ethics flap. "Nothing gets one referred to as a great leader of an institution more than a willingness to show up on a panel," Gingrich quipped, "and one can gradually rebuild almost any reputation if you pander enough to the authorities that write columns and show up on TV."

The two were also united in their inability to offer a "silver bullet," as Foley put it. Their solutions were incremental: Restore committee power to write laws, ban fundraising in Washington, abolish lawmakers' political action committees, end spending "earmarks" and enforce the rules that guide the legislative process.

But a real change, they concurred, would come only with fresh blood. "The correct answer," Gingrich said, "is for the American people to just start firing people. This is what the Progressive movement was."

Until then -- and there are few signs of a mass movement building -- the legislative branch will have to heal itself. Gingrich suggested Congress rediscover its power to supervise the administration. "The failure to do effective, aggressive oversight disserves the country and disserves the president," he argued.

Foley encouraged Congress to stop whining about executive power and push back. "There's no mystery about Dick Cheney's position," he said. "It's the obligation of Congress to decide how far they want executive power to be exercised."

And, while waiting for a voter backlash to clean up Congress, Gingrich had some pithy advice for lawmakers who, in the current wave of scandal and personal enrichment on Capitol Hill, have confused the public interest with their personal interests. Said the former speaker: "My answer to them is 'Go home.' "

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Blair and Merkel, two of a shrinking community of Bush Allies in the world, were both embarrassed by by that goofy ADHD guy we call 'president'. The stories are below. First, the Reuters story and then a link to the website of Germany's Bilde which trumpets: Bush:liebes attacke auf Merkel or "Bush's Love Attack on Merkel".


By Adrian Croft
Tue Jul 18, 10:54 AM ET

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair was roundly mocked as a U.S. poodle on Tuesday after an off-the-cuff chat with President George W. Bush was accidentally broadcast.

Bush and Blair enjoyed a gossip over lunch at the Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg on Monday, unaware that a microphone in front of them was switched on and their words would be relayed around the world.

Breaking with diplomatic formalities, Bush hailed Blair, his closest European ally, with the words "Yo, Blair." His solution to the Middle East crisis was that Syria should press Hizbollah to "stop doing this shit."

The British media pored over the text of the conversation, saying it cast Blair in a subservient role and showed the unequal nature of Britain's much-vaunted "special relationship" with the United States.

"Yo, Bush! Start treating our prime minister with respect," the popular tabloid Daily Mirror said, joining others in seeing the U.S. president's greeting as disrespectful.

The broadcast chat "reinforces the damaging public image of Blair as the U.S. president's poodle," it said.

But most damaging to Blair was what commentators saw as his plea -- rebuffed by Bush -- to be allowed to visit the Middle East to try to stop fighting between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas.


Blair suggested he could prepare the ground for U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, because "if she goes out, she's got to succeed ... whereas I can just go out and talk."

The left-leaning Guardian said Blair "all but offers to carry her (Rice's) bags."

"He sounds less like the head of a sovereign government than a Bush official, waiting for the boss's green light -- which he does not give," the newspaper said.

Blair has been Bush's most trusted ally, putting his political future on the line by backing the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 despite rows with European allies and fierce political attacks at home.

The Independent described the spurned offer to act as peacemaker as a setback for Blair, who is under pressure from within his own party to set a date to step down after a series of government scandals over sex, sleaze and incompetence.

Blair has said he will not stand at the next general election, expected in 2009.

Wyn Grant, politics professor at Warwick University, said the conversation suggested "that perhaps Blair doesn't have the kind of relationship with Bush that he would sometimes like to claim he has."

But he said the conversation only reflected reality. "The U.S.-UK relationship throughout the whole period since World War Two has always been an asymmetrical one. It's always been one in which the U.S. has been dominant."


Prime Minister Romano Prodi and Germany's Prime Minister Angela Merkel were steeped in a one-on-one conversation when Bush...perhaps bored and manic from the pressures of unfolding events in Lebanon...walk up behind Prime Minister Merkel and squeezed her shoulders, causing her to jump and shocking onlookers with his maladroit behavior. See video....

Sunday, July 16, 2006


The Bush administration has become as polarizing abroad as it is at home. The G8 Conference, virtually a shambles, has obviated chinks in the Bush diplomatic wall. The U.S. political agenda and its own version of the War on a Noun is pitted against the known world. While there are subtleties and nuances to which Bush supporters can cling to preserve the appearance of order and leadership by their President, most informed observers are viewing the events of the past week and the G8 summit as obviating the failures of neoconservative policies and the Bush foreign policy of unilateralism.

Just look at the headlines:

"Disputes Stall Efforts to Finance Medicine for Poor Countries"
New York Times, 7/16/2006
The United States is essentially pitted against the world because it wants to link the funding of medicines to poor countries with "economic incentives" for pharamceutical companies. Italy's Burlusconi had helped advance the concept as a proxy for the U.S. prior to his political demise. The U.S. now stands virtually alone.
“What’s concerning is how politicized the whole thing has become,” said Dr. Tido Von Schoen-Angerer of the Campaign for Essential Medicines at Doctors Without Borders. Critics of the proposal, in Germany and France, have worried that if the amount of money guaranteed to drug companies is too high, the plan could become a gift for Western manufacturers, particularly those in the United States.
France and Britain, meanwhile have come up with a plan for a levy on airline tickets that would fund the program. “Anything that smacks of a transnational tax is anathema to the U.S.,” said one official who was involved in the discussions.

Another headline:

"India will seek "zero tolerance" pledge on terrorism from G-8"
Here the problem is with the United States and it's relationship with Pakistan which has been an ally in the War on a Noun in Afghanistan. India has traced the recent terrorist bombing in Mumbai that killed hundreds to Pakistan. Although Pakistan denies that this is the case, it HAS been the case in the past. The effect of India's Anti-Terror initiative is to force the United States to accept that it's War on a Noun is not the only game in town. Terror is a fact of life among other nations and sometimes, as in the case of the Mumbai bombing, the U.S. agenda masks the more immediate threats of terrorism to other Countries like India. The United States is separated by an ocean where as cross-border terrorism is a fact of life for India.

Another headline:

"As Tensions Rise, U.S. and Moscow Falter on Trade"
Like it or not, the United States must face the reality that Russia has positioned itself to be a significant supplier of energy and a major consumer of European goods. For centuries, Moscow and St. Petersberg have been considered European Cities. In the time of the Russian Empire, the term "European Russia" was used in the Empire to refer to traditional East Slavic territories under Russian control, including modern Belarus and most of Ukraine (Dnieper Ukraine). Russia shares the Black Sea, and commerce, with middle-European states and President Putin feels that he meets the major criteria necessary to become a member of the WTO. They are a democracy, or at least a Republic, they have significant reserves of foreign exchange, they have a stock market, a central bank, and their currency floats in the basket of foreign exchange.
President Bush, meanwhile, raises "concern" about religious and civil freedon in Russia, suggesting that a "Green Zone" type democracy (my phrase not the president's) in Iraq would be preferable to whatever Russia has. This led to the following exchange _______________________________________________________________
From 7.16.06 NYT

In the sharpest exchange, Mr. Bush said he had told Mr. Putin during a private dinner here Friday night about “my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world like Iraq — where there is a free press and free religion — and I told him that a lot of people in our country would hope Russia would do the same thing.”
Mr. Putin, standing bolt upright in a dark blue suit, responded dryly, “We certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy as they have in Iraq, I will tell you quite honestly” — a clear dig at the challenges still facing the American-supported government there. Mr. Bush, in a light blue suit and standing more casually than his counterpart, turned to face Mr. Putin, smiled and said, almost to himself, “Just wait.”

In Another Headline:

"Bush, Peers Worlds Apart on Approach to the Crisis"
LA Times, 07.16.06
Fouad Siniora, the Lebanese prime minister, is considered an ally of the United States. The Bush White House was never shy about pointing to Lebanon as one of the great successes of neoconservative bullying (my phrase not theirs) after the invasion of Iraq, as Syria was forced to withdraw from Lebanon.

Background. On June 21, 2005, George Hawi, the former secretary general of the Lebanese Communist Party was also assassinated by a car bomb in Beirut. The assassination of Hariri resulted in huge anti-Syrian protests by Lebanese citizens in Beirut demanding the resignation of the pro-Syrian government. (From Wikipedia:) "Following the examples of the Rose Revolution and Orange Revolution in 2004, the popular action was dubbed the "Cedar Revolution" by the US State Department, a name which quickly caught on among the international media. On February 28, 2005, with over 70,000 people demonstrating in Martyrs' Square, Prime Minister Omar Karami and his Cabinet resigned. They remained in office temporarily in a caretaker role prior to the appointment of replacements, as outlined by the constitution. Eventually Syria withdrew and after the elections, Hariri's Future Movement party, now the country's dominant political force, nominated Fouad Siniora, a former Finance Minister, to be Prime Minister."

Blind Support for Isreal. It is seemingly not in the United States' interest to destablilize the current Lebanese government...but allowing Isreal to invade the country to "root out terrorists" by which Isreal means the millions of members of Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Bush Adminsitration has done just that. By not reigning in Isreal, which the Bush administration has the power to do, the United States has forced Prime Minister Siniora to oppose Isreal. Isreal, meanwhile, in a full military paroxysm of fear and aggression, threatens both Syria and Iran with a wider war.
The international community, including most of the G8, are on one side, questioning the proportionality of Isreal's response, and the Bush administration is on the other side supporting Isreal's actions.

This has not been a good week for the Bush neoconservatives. But that is scant comfort for those of us opposed to Bush policies-- because a good week for them is usually a bad week for everyone else while (as long as they are in power) a bad week for them is, literally, Hell on Earth.

Friday, July 14, 2006


In the first few days of the offensive against Lebanon tens of millions of dollars worth of U.S. munitions have been used by Israel against a country friendly to the United States and a government fully supported by America.

A special high-level envoy of the President should be sent to the region to seek an end to the attacks on civilians by both Israel and Hezbollah. But the United States should not stop there; there are three issues between Israel and Lebanon, which must be solved if the same old pattern of tit-for-tat is to be ended once and for all. The absence of the United States from engaging in the region, especially in the past six months, has been the most remarkable reason for the breakdown of the ceasefires.

The fact that the most democratic Arab country is being attacked by Israel undercuts the claim often made by members of the current administration that democracies never go to war with each other. The president is correctly concerned, as he has stated that the Israeli retaliatory attacks on Lebanon should not undermine Prime Minister Siniora's government. It is of course ironic that the major civilian targets for Israel were the international airport and the bridges and highway named after Rafiq al-Hariri. We can only hope that Israel did not consult with the United States before striking these particular targets.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

FERC Report Contains Gas-Line Irony

The Federal Energy Repulatory Commission issues its second report on the status of various proposed Alaska gasline projects. While briefly mentioning two other projects, including the Alaska Port Authority ("All-Alaska") project, the report focused on only one--the Producer-Murkowski project.

At first read, the FERC report seems to be a piece written to support the Producer-Murkowski Gasline Contract. Certainly the report in 7/11/06 ADN characterizes the FERC report as such "Delay May Scuttle Gas Line, Feds Say".

On closer read, however, there are some surprises.

One of the important factors for the economics of the Canadian Route may be the ability to mix a subsidized Canadian gas stream into an end product that sells as a higher end price. That was part of the economic calculus for the Northwest Alaska Project in the late '70s. The 1.2 billion c.f. gasline out of the Canadian Arctic and down the MacKenzie Valley, partly sponsored by Alaskan Producers, Conoco-Philips and Exxon-Mobil, is not a slam-dunk, however. The report (P. 9) says that "...discussing royalty and fiscal issues concerning the project with the Government of Canada... have paused pending review of the project's cost estimate and construction schedule"
According to today's L.A. Times there is still an unresolved Native Claims Dispute in the MacKenzie Project. See ADN Section F P1 7/11/06.

A delay in the MacKenzie Pipeline might also benefit the Alaska projects by reducing the impact cited in (unattributed) "industry reports" by FERC of a supply-side conflict caused by dual Canadian-Alaskan projects. Steel and workers would would be in short supply FERC says.
Another interesting argument FERC makes for an expedited Alaska Gas project in the study is competition with foreign supplies. Competition is indicated in the approval by FERC of 11 new LNG infrastructure projects in recent years. FERC staff argues that this indicates that there will be a large stream of gas coming from somewhere else entering the American Market-- presumably in competition with Alaska Gas.

Ironically, would this not strengthen the Port Authority project argument?
One argument I heard last year against the Port Authority project is that an LNG port-based system would face downstream distribution delays through LNG conditioning bottlenecks. But with an abundance of LNG facilities being built, such a bottleneck may no longer be a problem. Finally, and most interestingly, if all of these LNG facilities are economical for natural gas transported from countries like Venezuela, surely an LNG facility serving domestically produced gas would be economical as well.

Added together: the extra-territorial regulatory, the Canadian Native claims issues and the timing linkages between the Producer-Murkowski pipeline and the producer-sponsored Canadian Line, and the FERC report is a boost for the Port Authority project.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


A former Army private accused of raping an Iraqi woman and killing her and three family members was a high-school dropout from a broken home who enlisted to get some direction in his life, yet was sent home early because of an "anti-social personality disorder."

So reports the AP as the military and propoganda experts in the White House begin the image make-over of Steven D. Green from an honorably discharged Iraq war veteran to an abnormal character suffering from anti-social and even pathological behavior.

We are to believe that War and Anti-social behavior have nothing to do with one another. As in all of the instances of misbehavior in Iraq and Afghanistan we have witnessed before, we will be told that this guy was an "isolated case"...a "bad apple".

Okay, I get it, this guy's behavior has nothing to do with this screwed-up War. Nor does the "Nature of War" have impact on the behavior of the others involved in the rape of an Iraqi girl and the murder of her and her family. Nor does the "Nature of War" have anything to do with the actions of scores of other people involved in four separate war crimes that have come to light in as many months. Nor did did the "Nature of War" affect the behavior of the dozens of people involved in or condoning of the criminal behavior of soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison.

I get it, War does not, by its very nature, foster an anti-social or psychopathic environment.

Yeah, sure. If you believe that, I have some yellow cake from Niger to sell you.

We seem to be committed to accepting war as "normal" because so much of our economy and our political culture depends upon its perpetuation. We struggle to explain rape, murder and suicide among our warriors in the context of our "norms" as a peacetime society. It is not normal for people of murder and rape, therefore soldiers who do it in a war zone must not be "normal".

This meme, that war is an extension of the normative American Culture, moves the spectre of the madness of War "off the table" so our military-industrial complex can wave the flag, reap profit, steal oil, and continuously recruit Armies of One as if all this is an honorable pursuit. So we blame the handful of perps and let the criminal enterprise of this War continue unquestioned.
In my opinion, America is engaged in not only anti-social and pathological behavior, but delusional behavior as well.

Given the fact that we are likely to be engaged in a "War On A Noun" for a long, long time, we can expect this hallucinatory State of the Union to last for a long, long time as well.