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Archive for July, 2006|Monthly archive page

Some Lebanon links

In Misc. on July 27, 2006 at 11:40 pm

I haven’t really been posting since this mess in Lebanon started, so I wanted to post up some links to articles I either liked or found interesting.

For the most recent updates (aka today),  BBC had a good article that included some sumamaries of the conflict.  Here are a couple of highlights from the article:

“We received yesterday at the Rome conference permission from the world… to continue the operation,’ Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon said.”
“[Israeli Justice Minister] Ramon…said that in order to prevent casualties among Israeli soldiers battling Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon, villages should be flattened by the Israeli air force before ground troops moved in.”

Then last week, while in Brussels, one of my in-laws gave me this article to read.  One of the highlights of the article is:

Neoconservatives deceived Americans into an illegal attack and debilitating war in Iraq. American neoconservatives are closely allied with Israel’s Likud Party….neocons hold high positions in the Bush regime. Ten years ago these architects of American foreign and military policy spelled out how they would use deception to achieve “important Israeli strategic objectives” in the Middle East. First, they would focus “on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.” This would open the door for Israel to provoke attacks from Hezbollah. The attacks would let Israel gain American sympathy and permit Israel to seize the strategic initiative by “engaging Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran as the principal agents of aggression in Lebanon.”

This article is the only place i’ve read these accusations, so I can’t vouch for them, but if they are true, then things are deeper than everyone realizes.  It’s worth checking into.  Anyone have any more information?

Finally, in trying to find the above mentioned artilce online, I encountered another good article on the economic impacts of the Israeli assaults on Lebanon.  Most of what I read and hear in the media talks about civilian casualty counts, which is bad enough, however  the larger picture of long term economic effects also needs to be considered.  The article claims that Lebanon has already suffered so much damage that its economy may never recover.

Palestinian Acknowledgement

In International politics, Terrorism on July 27, 2006 at 11:05 pm

New York is a great city for walking around and overhearing fragments of random and funny conversations. So, today I’m walking in the East Village and I overhear one guy saying to another:

“You watch CNN and they’re talking about Palestinians. There’s no such thing as a Palestinian! Arafat invented it.”

First of all, if you invent something, doesn’t it exist? Plus, I’d say that the common and frequent usage of the term in media means that Palestinians do exist.

Either way, it’s a statement that intrigued me and inspired me to brush up on my knowledge of the word.

Wikipedia has a good article on the history of Palestine and Palestinians here, and according to the article, the guy on the street was at least partially right. It says “The idea of ethnic ‘Palestinians’ was the brainchild of the PLO in the 1960s in an effort to promote nationalism.”

However, right before that it says

“Between July 1922 and 1948, the term Palestine referred to the British Mandate of Palestine. The term referred to all of what is now Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip and was used by both Arabs and Jews without any ethnic connotations. For example, the Jerusalem Post, an Israeli newspaper, was known as the Palestine Post from its founding in 1932 until 1950.”

So even though the word Palestinian is used in terms of ethnic origins today, it isn’t always used that way, and it existed long before the PLO reframed it. It can be used in terms of ethnic origin, place of origin, citizenship, the old British mandate, or birthpalce. The way this area and the people in it have been redefined and recategorized so many times in the past 100 or so years makes it quite interesting, and I suggest that people who want to learn more read the entire article.

——————————

Now that the history/vocabulary lesson is over, did the media forget that right before the fighting between Hezbollah and Israel started in Lebanon, Isreal was putting a major assault on Palestinians in the West bank and Gaza strip. Remember, the whole thing about Hamas kidnapping an Israeli soldier and Israel responding with bombings and attacks?

Well guess what, it’s still going on. Don’t allow the conflict in Lebanon let you forget about the other part of Israel’s fight.

Here are a couple of articles about what’s going on in these areas:

http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0727/p10s01-wome.html
http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=10&categ_id=2&article_id=74120

Oh, and for more NYC street conversation fun:

http://www.overheardinnewyork.com/

GOP’s Immigration “War Room”

In Culture jamming, Economic Justice, Immigration, International politics, International Trade, Laws & Regulation, New York City, US Politics on July 18, 2006 at 12:36 pm

The Hill reports that House Republicans have created a communications “War Room” specifically for their War on Immigrants.

“After the hard-fought victory of GOP Rep. Brian Bilbray in California’s special election, House Republicans have increasingly hung their hopes of retaining the majority on their unwillingness to compromise on enforcement-first immigration reform… The ‘war room’ is not a physical space but rather a coordinated strategy to monitor local and national media coverage of the immigration debate and to saturate those markets with favorable comments about the House bill… The staffers involved hold a conference call every morning at 8:30 to report on clips they have compiled from the local press each day… The goal is to place opinion pieces and win positive coverage in regions where immigration reform is a prominent issue. To do that, leadership staff will co-opt rank-and-file members from those regions to place op-eds in their local papers or conduct television and radio interviews supporting the House bill.”

Five-Fingered Diplomacy

In International politics, Misc., US Politics on July 18, 2006 at 12:27 pm

massageJust plain weird, which the LATimes says, “Entering the meeting room, as relayed by a Russian television camera, Bush headed directly behind the chancellor, reached out and, placing both hands on the collar of her gold jacket, gave her a short massage just below the neck.  She smiled.”

She doesn’t look to be smiling to me.  Looks like he found the one woman at the table and decided to touch her.  If I were a bettin’ man, I’d guess “skeez” is the word on her mind.  Or maybe
View the video here.

Bush-Blair Speak Candidly

In International politics, International Trade, Laws & Regulation, Misc., Terrorism, US Politics on July 17, 2006 at 12:44 pm

There’s gonna be quite a bit made of this, but a Bush-Blair conversation was inadvertantly picked up by a microphone at the G8 in Russia. The transcript, I believe, was first compiled by Sky News here, but the NYTimes takes the pathetic cake with this journalistic gem: “Leaning over the back of Mr. Bush’s chair, Mr. Blair first brought up trade discussions, as the president chewed thoughtfully on a roll.”

Damn, that everyday man’s man president certainly is deep. W’s even thinkin when he’s chewin on rolls!

Wall Street Journal Endangers Americans Abroad?

In International politics, Terrorism, US Politics on July 17, 2006 at 12:28 pm

With all the huffy-puffy chest-pounding against the NYTimes disclosure of the administration’s domestic bank spying program (“it put Americans in danger because terrorists are now more aware of how we’re tracking them!”) it seems the Wall Street Journal somehow flew under the radar for an even more direct endagerment of Americans abroad.

Yesterday’s WSJ website noted, “In a conference call, U.S. officials said they still don’t know how to get Americans out of Lebanon and they don’t know when they will have a plan to do so.”

The basic premise of “too much disclosure” requirement in terms of troops in battle is that if a reporter gives the coordinates of troops in battle, it clearly endagers them. Granted I doubt al Queda reads WSJ’s Washington Wire (or this blog) for its info on how to attack Americans, but is it not endagerment if you say American civilians have no exit strategy, no escape hatch in an area currently in complete chaos?

Turf Battles For Banking Regulators

In Economic Justice, Laws & Regulation, US Politics on July 17, 2006 at 11:18 am

The Bank Lawyers Blog discusses the continuing turf battle between federal regulators around Wal-Mart’s proposal to charter a bank (an “Industrial Loan Corporation”) in Utah. We have a primer on the application here.

 

A turf war like this happens because the regulators get their paychecks, quite literally and quite directly, from money they collect from the banks they regulate. Therefore, if regulators have more banks to regulate they have more money coming into their coffers and fewer banks means less money. If Wal-Mart is going to have a bank, each regulator want to be the one knocking on Wal-Mart’s door for a cut. Because Wal-Mart seeks to create this specific type of bank, the type of which is expected to explode in numbers in the coming years, each of the regulators wants to get in early and be the one responsible for looking after this growing sector.

 

Think of bank regulation like a high school cafeteria — if your high school had four different cafeterias, each with its own disciplinarian, odds are that the kids that want to steal someone’s milk money would go directly to the cafeteria with the most lax disciplinarian, knowing that they’re unlikely to get in trouble even if they get caught. (For those of you in the banking world asking about why a student chooses to go to a cafeteria they’re likely to get jumped in, imagine that the students in the cafeteria are unaware of the cafeteria they’re in and which disciplinarian regime they’re under). If that lax disciplinarian is literally and directly paid by the bully and will actually get paid more if the bully can steal more, the disciplinarian becomes more likely to turn a blind eye when someone gets beat up — after all, the disciplinarian is going to get their cut. If the disciplinarian speaks up in defense of the kid bleeding in the lunchline, the bully can just switch cafeterias and start pickin pockets over there.

 

Surely, more on this later.

Industry Funded Non-Profit Lobbying

In Culture of Corruption, Laws & Regulation, Netroots, US Politics on July 17, 2006 at 10:42 am

Rick Cohen, Director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, has a quick and interesting piece about, “Nonprofits Carrying Out the Lobbying Agendas of Their Corporate Sponsors.” The info isn’t anything new, but it’s a great primer on the topic. It’s posted on the DMI Blog. Excerpt:

 

“The fact that some corporations are doing what Jack Abramoff did, to hide behind the nonprofit corporate form to conduct undisclosed lobbying for special interests, shouldn’t be a surprise. There are unfortunately lots of examples of corporations funding ostensibly independent nonprofits that actually serve as front groups for their corporate benefactors… The problem? Corporations are required to disclose their contributions to nonprofits if they are made through corporate foundations, but increasingly less corporate philanthropy flows through their foundations and more gets distributed through marketing departments, executive offices, and other corporate departments immune from philanthropic disclosure requirements. While corporate grantmaking is apparently rising, corporate grantmaking through their foundations–that is, the portion required by law to be disclosed to the public–is decreasing. So, perhaps as much as half of corporate contributions to nonprofits is not disclosed to the public.”

CBS Egg Adverts

In Misc. on July 17, 2006 at 10:26 am

NYTimes reports that CBS, “plans to announce today that it will place laser imprints of its trademark eye insignia, as well as logos for some of its shows, on eggs — 35 million of them in September and October.”

 

Reminds me of my friend from Seattle who told me years ago that his uncle would put a “Swoosh” sticker on each apple in his orchard so that when the apples ripened and he removed the sticker, there would be a color change in the shape of a Swoosh under the sticker. Nike would buy the apples for the its worker cafeteria.

Specter’s Proposal Railed By WaPo

In Culture of Corruption, International politics, Iraq War, Laws & Regulation, Terrorism, US Politics on July 15, 2006 at 2:35 pm

Deservedly so, the Washington Post railed against Sen Arlen Specter’s proposal to retroactively legitimize the NSA warrentless, domestic surveillance program, which you read about here yesterday. WaPo’s editorial board slams Specter and his proposal as follows:

It isn’t a compromise, except quite dramatically on the senator’s part. Mr. Specter’s bill began as a flawed but well-intentioned effort to get the program in front of the courts, but it has been turned into a green light for domestic spying. It must not pass… The bill’s most dangerous language would effectively repeal FISA’s current requirement that all domestic national security surveillance take place under its terms… It would also, in various places, insert Congress’s acknowledgment that the president may have inherent constitutional authority to spy on AmericansThis bill is not a compromise but a full-fledged capitulation on the part of the legislative branch to executive claims of power. Mr. Specter has not been briefed on the NSA’s program. Yet he’s proposing revolutionary changes to the very fiber of the law of domestic surveillance — changes not advocated by key legislators who have detailed knowledge of the program. This week a remarkable congressional debate began on how terrorists should face trial, with Congress finally asserting its role in reining in overbroad assertions of presidential power. What a tragedy it would be if at the same time, it acceded to those powers on the fundamental rights of Americans.”

 

 

 

 

What a tragedy, indeed. Tell Specter to withdraw and burn his proposal publicly and with intentional disrespect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sao Paulo On The Brink

In International politics on July 14, 2006 at 4:12 pm

Still a mess in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The Guardian reports that, “The presidential candidate Cristovam Buarque said Brazil was in the midst of a civil war.”

Free Trade Agreement w Korea

In Economic Justice, International politics, International Trade on July 14, 2006 at 3:47 pm

Protesters in Seoul, South Korea, stamp on slogans during a demonstration against a proposed free trade agreement with the US. Negotiations broke down a day early.

Picture courtesy of BBC and AP.

Tsunami Evaluation Cmte Says What Needs to Be Said: The Obvious

In Economic Justice, International politics, International Public Health on July 14, 2006 at 3:43 pm

From the Tsunami Evaluation Committee’s Joint evaluation of the international response to the Indian Ocean tsunami:Synthesis Report as relayed in this BBC article:

 

 

“Emergency relief is given not only on the basis of need, but in response to political pressures and what aid agencies believe may be popular with the donating public.”

“The gross inequity in funding for different emergencies is evident in people reduced to half-rations in Sudan in the face of increasing malnutrition, while Iraq and Afghanistan continue to get generous funding.”

“The scale and frequency of modern emergencies is on the rise and the quality, capacity and regulation of the international relief system is currently inadequate to support this.”

“While aid agencies are recognised for providing affected populations with the security they needed to begin planning what do next, they need to involve them in the management of the response. This is particularly important when emergency relief priorities rapidly change to those of rebuilding and re-establishing livelihoods.”

Bob Ney, in Toss-Up Mode, Panders to Poor w. B.S. Bill

In Culture of Corruption, Economic Justice, Housing, Laws & Regulation, US Politics on July 14, 2006 at 3:19 pm

Rep Bob Ney of Ohio, facing a toss-up race in Ohio’s 18th District, is attempting to pull himself in such distant directions that even Stretch Armstrong would be envoious. Ney’s introducing a bill that purports to raise the minimum wage (the bill, H.R. 3414, is still not listed on Thomas).

This bill will not move, that is the only thing here that will be able to be taken to the bank. This is pathetic election year B.S. As for Ney’s own bank-dealings, here is an old post about his disgusting pandering to financial scum preying on those poor he claims to be “fighting” for.

Rove’s Talking Points from Raw Story

In Culture of Corruption, International politics, Iraq War, Terrorism, US Politics on July 14, 2006 at 2:58 pm

As “Plamegate” continues to unfold, be sure to check out the Rove-centric Republican talking points, distributed earlier this week, before they’re regurgitated in your Sunday morning soaps, err, I mean political talk shows.

And if you’ve missed it, here’s the new and bizarre Joe and Valerie Wilson website at www.wilsonsupport.org.

Here’s the beginning of the memo…

Former USTR Zoellick Keeps On Dancin’

In Culture of Corruption, Economic Justice, International politics, International Trade, US Politics on July 14, 2006 at 12:32 pm

Just weeks after former US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick left the State Department to go to Goldman Sachs (where the new Sec of Treasury, Henry Paulson, was last situated), he was pulled back in under who else but the new Sec of Treasury, Henry Paulson.

 

We have more on the recently nominated USTR right here.

Re-Post: Specter’s “deal” with Bush

In Culture of Corruption, International politics, Laws & Regulation, Terrorism, US Politics on July 14, 2006 at 12:25 pm

Courtesy of AmericaBlog:

As I recall, the initial “deal” Specter was offering – the deal that Bush refused to accept – would have retroactively made legal all the quite-likely-illegal domestic spying Bush already has conducted. If that deal wasn’t acceptable to Bush, I’d really like to know what Specter gave away this time to get the latest deal?

Not to mention, the media could really use a bit more nuance in their headlines (and stories). The AP story headline and first paragraph give you the idea that Specter’s legislation will force Bush to submit his domestic eavesdropping programs to a court of law.

Not so.

Buried way down in the story you find the following:

Gonzales said the bill gives Bush the option of submitting the NSA program to the intelligence court, rather than requiring the review.

Two points:

1. So Specter’s “landmark” legislation will give Bush the ability to do what he can already do under current law – go to the FISA court so that they can decide whether Bush’s domestic spying is legal. So that “breakthrough” is irrelevant.

2. And just as important, the legislation will not force Bush to submit his domestic spying to the courts, as the article leads you to think, it only give Bush the option of going to court, if he wants. And why in heaven’s name would Bush “want” to do that? That’s a bit like repealing the murder statutes and replacing them with legislation that makes murder legal unless the murderers choose to turn themselves in.

3. The story reports that Bush promised Specter he’ll go the court anyway, so long as the legislation doesn’t change between now and the time it passes the Congress, which is incredibly unlikely – not to mention, since when do the president and one Senator get to decide the details of an entire piece of legislation, no amendments allowed? Especially legislation this important?

A Digest For The Day…

In Misc. on July 13, 2006 at 3:57 pm

Summer is hitting hard, but here are a few stories worth checking out:

– Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo discusses the role of China in the US dispute with North Korea, arguing: “our policy of begging the Chinese to solve our problem with the North Koreans makes no sense and is in fact a joke since it assumes Chinese interests in helping us that do not in fact exist.”

– Fox News Online editorializes about the impending “implosion” of DailyKos, musing that, “in the two weeks since (NY Times editorialist) David Brooks fittingly concluded that Markos ‘has challenged his enemy and become it,’ it seems that some of Zuniga’s followers are beginning to agree. And, this is threatening an implosion at the House of Kos.”

– YouTuber interfaith posted The Daily Shows take on GWB’s approach to North Korea.

– Bill Roggio at CounterTerrorism Blog has a not-so-subtle bio of Hezbollah military commader Imad Fayez Mugniyah, who Roggio implicates in the recent kidnapping of Israeli soldiers. Here’s the Wikipedia post on him.

The Daily Mail relays a report that claims, “Morning sickness may be nature’s way of protecting an unborn baby from harm, research suggests. A study has found that women are more likely to suffer from it if they consume lots of sugars, sweeteners, fried food, meat, milk, eggs and stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol.”

– Colo Dem Rep Diana DeGette posted on The Hill’s Blog about the White House’s reaction to her proposal to further stem cell research: “And while it’s regrettable that President Bush will not grant us the common courtesy of a meeting, it’s just insulting that he sent his head political advisor to my hometown with a veto threat. Earlier this week, Karl Rove met with the Denver Post editorial board and announced that President Bush will veto H.R. 810 if it passes th U.S. Senate. This research is far too important to let Rove turn into a wedge issue like flag burning or gay marriage.”

Amy Schatz at the Wall Street Journal shakes her journalistic fist at the Dems on the FCC Board, blaming them for causing the board meeting to start four hours late as the Dems, “stayed upstairs in their offices working out final details (of the Adelphia breakup between Comcast and Time Warner), even as their three Republican colleagues waited in the FCC’s meeting room.”

– The Marching Season hits it highpoint in the North of Ireland, with relative calm. “Police and politicians reported little violence and lower-than-usual tensions as Protestants from the uncompromising Orange Order brotherhood mounted more than 600 parades for “the Twelfth.” Almost all shops, pubs and restaurants closed for the official holiday, which commemorates the July 12, 1690, victory of a Protestant king, William of Orange, over his dethroned Catholic rival, James II. Catholics generally despise the marches, particularly the Orangemen’s so-called “kick the pope” bands of fife and drum. Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Army-linked party, since 1995 has mobilized Catholics to block passing parades, a tactic that has helped inspire widespread violence in years past.”

FIFA will hold hearings about the Zenadine Zedaine reaction to Marco Materazzi’s insults next week. I know trash talking is part of sports, but in sports, like in life, there’s a line. Hand down a heavy suspension on Materazzi if he said the things he’s been reported to say.

– Murray Armstrong, editor of The Guardian, takes on the extradition of NatWest financial criminals to the US from the UK, discussing if it is the right thing for the UK to do. The Daily Mail‘s Fiona Barton and Bob Graham recently wrote, “These three men made millions from a suspect financial deal. But is it right that they are being sent to America for trial when this country (the UK) cannot push for U.S. citizens to be given the same treatment, forcing them to face trial here?”

Hoekstra’s Letter

In Culture of Corruption, International politics, Laws & Regulation, Terrorism, US Politics on July 11, 2006 at 6:10 pm

In case you missed it, Sen Pete Hoekstra’s letter to GWB has been published in full (it’s about the CIA’s cabal and a spying program that has only now been disclosed to the House). Excerpts:

Dear Mr. President:

I write to address three issues of great importance to me, and, for that matter, to our collective efforts to improve intelligence. I wish to address the nominees for leading the CIA, very briefly discuss concerns about intelligcnce reform in general, and, finally, the oversight of intelligence activities of the U.S. Government. First, I am concerned that the nominations for Director and Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency signal a retreat from needed reforms of the Ageacy. I have respectfully shared my strong concerns regarding these nominees, and I think it would be an understatement to say that I am disappointed that Congress was never consulted on either of these choices.

[…]

Regrettably, the appointment of Mr. Kappes sends a clear signal that the days of collaborative reform between the White House and this committee may be over. I am concerned that the strong objections – not just about this personnel selection – are being dismissed completely, pezhaps sending us back to a past, less cooperative relattionship, at a time when so much more needs to be done. Individuals both within and outside the Administration have let me and others know of their strong opposition to this choice for Deputy Director. Yet, in my conversations with General Hayden it is clear that the decision on Mr. Kappes is final.

[…]

There has been much public and private speculation about the politicization of the Agency. I am convinced that this politicization was underway well before Porter Goss became the Director. In fact, I have been long concerned that a strong and well-positioned group within the Agency intentionally undermined the Administration and its policies. This argument is supported by the Ambassador Wilson/Valerie Plame events, as well as by the string of unauthorized disclosures from an organization that prides itself with being able to keep secrets. I have come to the belief that, despite his service to the DO, Mr. Kappes may have been part of this group.

[…]

The fact is, Mr. Kappes and his Deputy, Mr. Sulick, were developing a communications offensive to bypass the Intelligence Committees and the CIA’s own Office of Congressional Affairs. One can only speculate on the motives but it clearly indicates a willingness to promote a personal agenda. Every day we suffer from the consequences of individuals promoting their personal agendas. This is clearly a place at which we do not want or need to be.

[…]

My view for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence was, and remains, one of a lean, coordinating function that provides “corporate” leadership to the individually high-fidelity intelligence agencies – “corporate divisions” if you will. This vision does not include the DNI “doing” things so much as the DNI “making sure things get done” by the agencies.

[…]

I have learned of some alleged Intelligence Community activities about which our committee has not been briefed. In the next few days I will be formally requesting information on these activities. If these allegations are true, they may represent a breach of responsibility by the Administration, a violation of law, and, just as importantly, a direct affront to me and the Members of this committee who have so ardently supported efforts to collect information on our enemies. I strongly encourage you to direct all elements of the Intelligence Community to fulfill their legal responsibility to keep the Intelligence Committees fully briefed on their activities. The U.S. Congress simply should not have to play ‘Twenty Questions’ to get the information that it deserves under our Constitution.

I’ve shared these thoughts with the Speaker, and he concurs with my concerns. Regrettably, there are other issues that need to be discussed. What I’ve provided here are the most pressing. Thank you for your consideration of these items.

    Sincerely yours, Pete

Cc: Steve Hadley
Josh Bolton
John Negroponte

Secrecy News

In International politics, International Public Health, Iraq War, Laws & Regulation, Terrorism, US Politics on July 11, 2006 at 5:26 pm

Sorry for the vacation-related absence. Secrecy News (“from the American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy”) has a good post today:

“Don’t use your left hand for contact with others,” advises the U.S. Marine Corps in a new edition of the Iraq Culture Smart Card (very large pdf) which is distributed to military personnel in Iraq. “It is considered unclean.”

It seems late in the day for such niceties. Amid the daily brutality of the Iraq war, there is probably little to be gained by courtesy or to be lost by mere rudeness.

But the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity evidently thinks otherwise.

The MCIA has produced an updated Iraq Culture Smart Card, dated May 2006, which features rudimentary information on Iraqi customs, religion and language. A copy was obtained by Secrecy News and is available here (in a very large 22 MB PDF file).

P.S. It is also BigDaddyChris’ birthday this week!!