Sunday, December 31, 2006


Gay Sheep and Human Dignity

How important is it to know? I came across the link to this article on Raw Story, and I thought, “Huh? Gay sheep? OK, it’s a slow news day I might as well read it.”

I’m glad I did. I’m amazed at the breadth of research these days. And I’m amazed I find myself in agreement with People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals; I usually find them laughable and contemptible at the same time. This time, though, they’re right: it is a colossal waste of money. And an affront to people's rights to their own sexuality—not what someone else wants them to be. It's playing God, and that's a bad idea.

However, the lead sentence in the fifth paragraph...well, I always thought some people took things very seriously because they had no sense of irony: “Navratilova defended the ‘right’ of sheep to be gay…" Lighten up, Martina.

The Sunday Times December 31, 2006

Science told: hands off gay sheep
Isabel Oakeshott and Chris Gourlay
Experiments that claim to ‘cure’ homosexual rams spark anger

SCIENTISTS are conducting experiments to change the sexuality of “gay” sheep in a programme that critics fear could pave the way for breeding out homosexuality in humans.

The technique being developed by American researchers adjusts the hormonal balance in the brains of homosexual rams so that they are more inclined to mate with ewes.

It raises the prospect that pregnant women could one day be offered a treatment to reduce or eliminate the chance that their offspring will be homosexual. Experts say that, in theory, the “straightening” procedure on humans could be as simple as a hormone supplement for mothers-to-be, worn on the skin like an anti-smoking nicotine patch.

The research, at Oregon State University in the city of Corvallis and at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, has caused an outcry. Martina Navratilova, the lesbian tennis player who won Wimbledon nine times, and scientists and gay rights campaigners in Britain have called for the project to be abandoned.

Navratilova defended the “right” of sheep to be gay. She said: “How can it be that in the year 2006 a major university would host such homophobic and cruel experiments?” She said gay men and lesbians would be “deeply offended” by the social implications of the tests.

But the researchers argue that the work is valid, shedding light on the “broad question” of what determines sexual orientation. They insist the work is not aimed at “curing” homosexuality.

Approximately one ram in 10 prefers to mount other rams rather than mate with ewes, reducing its value to a farmer. Initially, the publicly funded project aimed to improve the productivity of herds.

The scientists have been able to pinpoint the mechanisms influencing the desires of “male-oriented” rams by studying their brains. The animals’ skulls are cut open and electronic sensors are attached to their brains.

By varying the hormone levels, mainly by injecting hormones into the brain, they have had “considerable success” in altering the rams’ sexuality, with some previously gay animals becoming attracted to ewes.

Professor Charles Roselli, the Health and Science University biologist leading the research, defended the project.

He said: “In general, sexuality has been under-studied because of political concerns. People don’t want science looking into what determines sexuality.

“It’s a touchy issue. In fact, several studies have shown that people who believe homosexuality is biologically based are less homophobic than people who think that this orientation is acquired.”

The research is being peer-reviewed by a panel of scientists in America, demonstrating that it is being taken seriously by the academic community.

Potentially, the techniques could one day be adapted for human use, with doctors perhaps being able to offer parents pre-natal tests to determine the likely sexuality of offspring or a hormonal treatment to change the orientation of a child.

Roselli has said he would be “uncomfortable” about parents choosing sexuality, but argues that it is up to policy makers to legislate on questions of ethics.

Michael Bailey, a neurology professor at Northwestern University near Chicago, said: “Allowing parents to select their children’s sexual orientation would further a parent’s freedom to raise the sort of children they want to raise.”

Critics fear the findings could be abused.

Udo Schuklenk, Professor of Bioethics at Glasgow Caledonian University, who has written to the researchers pressing them to stop, said: “I don’t believe the motives of the study are homophobic, but their work brings the terrible possibility of exploitation by homophobic societies. Imagine this technology in the hands of Iran, for example.

“It is typical of the US to ignore the global context in which this is taking place.”

Peter Tatchell, the gay rights campaigner, said: “These experiments echo Nazi research in the early 1940s which aimed at eradicating homosexuality. They stink of eugenics. There is a danger that extreme homophobic regimes may try to use these experimental results to change the orientation of gay people.”

He said that the techniques being developed in sheep could in future allow parents to “play God”.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the pressure group, condemned the study as “a needless slaughter of animals, an affront to human dignity and a colossal waste of precious research funds”.

The tests on gay sheep are the latest in a long line of experiments seeking to alter the sexuality of humans and animals.

Günther Dorner, a scientist in the former East Berlin, carried out hormone-altering tests on rodents in the 1960s in the hope of finding a way to eradicate homosexuality.

In 2002, Simon LeVay, an American neurologist, claimed to have discovered that homosexual and heterosexual men had physically different brains. His tests on the corpses of gay men who had died of Aids were widely criticised.

Copyright 2007 Times Newspapers Ltd.

Friday, December 29, 2006


Poverty Is NOT a Defect of Character, No Matter What Rush Says

Following up on an earlier post, about poverty not necessarily being caused by a character defect ("The only reason you're poor is because you're lazy!"), I found an article from the Guardian, UK, that I'd posted elsewhere. I know Blaming The Victim ("She was asking for it!" "Well, he wouldn't give me his car, so I hit him," and the all-time favorite, thanks to Laurel and Hardy, "Now see what you made me do?")...blaming the victim is an easy way out of any moral quandry: it means we don't have to do anything.

Poverty, though, is good for the wealthy: cheap lawn care, lots of servants, and if people start to complain you can fire 'em and hire sombody else who works cheap...or, nowadays, you can denounce them to the feds and have them deported...

37 million poor hidden in the land of plenty

Americans have always believed that hard work will bring rewards, but vast numbers now cannot meet their bills even with two or three jobs. More than one in 10 citizens live below the poverty line, and the gap between the haves and have-nots is widening

Paul Harris in Kentucky
Sunday February 19, 2006,,329415755-119093,00.html

The flickering television in Candy Lumpkins's trailer blared out The Bold and the Beautiful. It was a fantasy daytime soap vision of American life with little relevance to the reality of this impoverished corner of Kentucky.

The Lumpkins live at the definition of the back of beyond, in a hollow at the top of a valley at the end of a long and muddy dirt road. It is strewn with litter. Packs of stray dogs prowl around, barking at strangers. There is no telephone and since their pump broke two weeks ago Candy has collected water from nearby springs. Oblivious to it all, her five-year-old daughter Amy runs barefoot on a wooden porch frozen by a midwinter chill.

It is a vision of deep and abiding poverty. Yet the Lumpkins are not alone in their plight. They are just the negative side of the American equation. America does have vast, wealthy suburbs, huge shopping malls and a busy middle class, but it also has vast numbers of poor, struggling to make it in a low-wage economy with minimal government help.

A shocking 37 million Americans live in poverty. That is 12.7 per cent of the population - the highest percentage in the developed world. They are found from the hills of Kentucky to Detroit's streets, from the Deep South of Louisiana to the heartland of Oklahoma. Each year since 2001 their number has grown.

Under President George W Bush an extra 5.4 million have slipped below the poverty line. Yet they are not a story of the unemployed or the destitute. Most have jobs. Many have two. Amos Lumpkins has work and his children go to school. But the economy, stripped of worker benefits like healthcare, is having trouble providing good wages.

Even families with two working parents are often one slice of bad luck - a medical bill or factory closure - away from disaster. The minimum wage of $5.15 (£2.95) an hour has not risen since 1997 and, adjusted for inflation, is at its lowest since 1956. The gap between the haves and the have-nots looms wider than ever. Faced with rising poverty rates, Bush's trillion-dollar federal budget recently raised massive amounts of defence spending for the war in Iraq and slashed billions from welfare programmes.

For a brief moment last year in New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina brought America's poor into the spotlight. Poverty seemed on the government's agenda. That spotlight has now been turned off. 'I had hoped Katrina would have changed things more. It hasn't,' says Cynthia Duncan, a sociology professor at the University of New Hampshire.

Oklahoma is in America's heartland. Tulsa looks like picture-book Middle America. Yet there is hunger here. When it comes to the most malnourished poor in America, Oklahoma is ahead of any other state. It should be impossible to go hungry here. But it is not. Just ask those gathered at a food handout last week. They are a cross section of society: black, white, young couples, pensioners and the middle-aged. A few are out of work or retired, everyone else has jobs.

They are people like Freda Lee, 33, who has two jobs, as a marketer and a cashier. She has come to the nondescript Loaves and Fishes building - flanked ironically by a Burger King and a McDonald's - to collect food for herself and three sons. 'America is meant to be free. What's free?' she laughs. 'All we can do is pay off the basics.'

Or they are people like Tammy Reinbold, 37. She works part-time and her husband works full-time. They have two children yet rely on the food handouts. 'The church is all we have to fall back on,' she says. She is right. When government help is being cut and wages are insufficient, churches often fill the gap. The needy gather to receive food boxes. They listen to a preacher for half an hour on the literal truth of the Bible. Then he asks them if they want to be born again. Three women put up their hands.

But why are some Tulsans hungry?

Many believe it is the changing face of the US economy. Tulsa has been devastated by job losses. Big-name firms like WorldCom, Williams Energy and CitGo have closed or moved, costing the city about 24,000 jobs. Now Wal-Mart embodies the new American job market: low wages, few benefits.

Well-paid work only goes to the university-educated. Many others who just complete high school face a bleak future. In Texas more than a third of students entering public high schools now drop out. These people are entering the fragile world of the working poor, where each day is a mere step away from tragedy. Some of those tragedies in Tulsa end up in the care of Steve Whitaker, a pastor who runs a homeless mission in the shadow of a freeway overpass.

Each day the homeless and the drug addicted gather here, looking for a bed for the night. Some also want a fresh chance. They are men like Mark Schloss whose disaster was being left by his first wife. The former Wal-Mart manager entered a world of drug addiction and alcoholism until he wound up with Whitaker. Now he is back on track, sporting a silver ring that says Faith, Hope, Love. 'Without this place I would be in prison or dead,' he says. But Whitaker equates saving lives with saving souls. Those entering the mission's rehabilitation programme are drilled in Bible studies and Christianity. At 6ft 5in and with a black belt in karate, Whitaker's Christianity is muscular both literally and figuratively. 'People need God in their lives,' he says.

These are mean streets. Tulsa is a city divided like the country. Inside a building run by Whitaker's staff in northern Tulsa a group of 'latch-key kids' are taking Bible classes after school while they wait for parents to pick them up. One of them is Taylor Finley, aged nine. Wearing a T-shirt with an American flag on the front, she dreams of travel. 'I want to have fun in a new place, a new country,' she says. Taylor wants to see the world outside Oklahoma. But at the moment she cannot even see her own neighbourhood. The centre in which she waits for mom was built without windows on its ground floor. It was the only way to keep out bullets from the gangs outside.

During the 2004 election the only politician to address poverty directly was John Edwards, whose campaign theme was 'Two Americas'. He was derided by Republicans for doing down the country and - after John Kerry picked him as his Democratic running mate - the rhetoric softened in the heat of the campaign.

But, in fact, Edwards was right. While 45.8 million Americans lack any health insurance, the top 20 per cent of earners take over half the national income. At the same time the bottom 20 per cent took home just 3.4 per cent. Whitaker put the figures into simple English. 'The poor have got poorer and the rich have got richer,' he said.

Dealing with poverty is not a viable political issue in America. It jars with a cultural sense that the poor bring things upon themselves and that every American is born with the same chances in life. It also runs counter to the strong anti-government current in modern American politics. Yet the problem will not disappear. 'There is a real sense of impending crisis, but political leaders have little motivation to address this growing divide,' Cynthia Duncan says.

There is little doubt which side of America's divide the hills of east Kentucky fall on. Driving through the wooded Appalachian valleys is a lesson in poverty. The mountains have never been rich. Times now are as tough as they have ever been. Trailer homes are the norm. Every so often a lofty mansion looms into view, a sign of prosperity linked to the coal mines or the logging firms that are the only industries in the region. Everyone else lives on the margins, grabbing work where they can. The biggest cash crop is illicitly grown marijuana.

Save The Children works here. Though the charity is usually associated with earthquakes in Pakistan or famine in Africa, it runs an extensive programme in east Kentucky. It includes a novel scheme enlisting teams of 'foster grandparents' to tackle the shocking child illiteracy rates and thus eventually hit poverty itself.

The problem is acute. At Jone's Fork school, a team of indomitable grannies arrive each day to read with the children. The scheme has two benefits: it helps the children struggle out of poverty and pays the pensioners a small wage. 'This has been a lifesaver for me and I feel as if the children would just fall through the cracks without us,' says Erma Owens. It has offered dramatic help to some. One group of children are doing so well in the scheme that their teacher, Loretta Shepherd, has postponed retirement in order to stand by them. 'It renewed me to have these kids,' she said.

Certainly Renae Sturgill sees the changes in her children. She too lives in deep poverty. Though she attends college and her husband has a job, the Sturgill trailer sits amid a clutter of abandoned cars. Money is scarce. But now her kids are in the reading scheme and she has seen how they have changed. Especially eight-year-old Zach. He's hard to control at times, but he has come to love school. 'Zach likes reading now. I know it's going to be real important for him,' Renae says. Zach is shy and won't speak much about his achievements. But Genny Waddell, who co-ordinates family welfare at Jone's Fork, is immensely proud. 'Now Zach reads because he wants to. He really fought to get where he is,' she says.

In America, to be poor is a stigma. In a country which celebrates individuality and the goal of giving everyone an equal opportunity to make it big, those in poverty are often blamed for their own situation. Experience on the ground does little to bear that out. When people are working two jobs at a time and still failing to earn enough to feed their families, it seems impossible to call them lazy or selfish. There seems to be a failure in the system, not the poor themselves.

It is an impression backed up by many of those mired in poverty in Oklahoma and Kentucky. Few asked for handouts. Many asked for decent wages. 'It is unfair. I am working all the time and so what have I done wrong?' says Freda Lee. But the economy does not seem to be allowing people to make a decent living. It condemns the poor to stay put, fighting against seemingly impossible odds or to pull up sticks and try somewhere else.

In Tulsa, Tammy Reinbold and her family are moving to Texas as soon as they save the money for enough petrol. It could take several months. 'I've been in Tulsa 12 years and I just gotta try somewhere else,' she says.

From Tom Joad to Roseanne

In a country that prides itself on a culture of rugged individualism, hard work and self-sufficiency, it is no surprise that poverty and the poor do not have a central place in America's cultural psyche.

But in art, films and books American poverty has sometimes been portrayed with searing honesty. John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath, which was made into a John Ford movie, is the most famous example. It was an unflinching account of the travails of a poor Oklahoma family forced to flee the Dust Bowl during the 1930s Depression. Its portrait of Tom Joad and his family's life on the road as they sought work was a nod to wider issues of social justice in America.

Another ground-breaking work of that time was John Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a non-fiction book about time spent among poor white farmers in the Deep South. It practically disappeared upon its first publication in 1940 but in the Sixties was hailed as a masterpiece. In mainstream American culture, poverty often lurks in the background. Or it is portrayed - as in Sergio Leone's crime epic Once Upon A Time In America - as the basis for a tale of rags to riches.

One notable, yet often overlooked, exception was the great success of the sitcom Roseanne. The show depicted the realities of working-class Middle American life with a grit and humour that is a world away from the usual sitcom settings in a sunlit suburbia, most often in New York or California. The biggest sitcoms of the past decade - Friends, Frasier or Will and Grace - all deal with aspirational middle-class foibles that have little relevance to America's millions of working poor.

An America divided

· There are 37 million Americans living below the poverty line. That figure has increased by five million since President George W. Bush came to power.

· The United States has 269 billionaires, the highest number in the world.

· Almost a quarter of all black Americans live below the poverty line; 22 per cent of Hispanics fall below it. But for whites the figure is just 8.6 per cent.

· There are 46 million Americans without health insurance.

· There are 82,000 homeless people in Los Angeles alone.

· In 2004 the poorest community in America was Pine Ridge Indian reservation. Unemployment is over 80 per cent, 69 per cent of people live in poverty and male life expectancy is 57 years. In the Western hemisphere only Haiti has a lower number.

· The richest town in America is Rancho Santa Fe in California. Average incomes are more than $100,000 a year; the average house price is $1.7m.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006


No Security at Homeland Security: Guns Stolen

There’s nothing new in reporting that the government is selling itself off like a border-town whore. Privatization is the style: highways, social services, schools—when the Ruling Party talks about “making government smaller,” what they really mean is making their business buddies richer and more powerful.

Now, we have an agency dedicated, absolutely dedicated to protecting the father—er, homeland. Their track record isn’t too good, but track records, these days, are just petty annoyances to The Party.

Our Department of Homeland Security, apparently doesn’t even do its own security. Maybe they don’t trust themseelves. I don’t.

Contractor's Handguns Missing From Homeland Security Vault
Wednesday, December 27, 2006; A02

The Department of Homeland Security said yesterday that it is investigating how four handguns recently went missing from its headquarters in Northwest Washington.

Jarrod Agen, a department spokesman, said the guns belonged to Paragon Systems of Chantilly, which provides security for the department's facility on Nebraska Avenue NW.

"DHS is investigating the report," Agen said. "Paragon guns do not belong to DHS nor are they under the control of DHS."

A person familiar with the investigation and who requested anonymity while the probe is underway said four .40-caliber handguns vanished about two weeks ago from a vault where Paragon security officers store their weapons.

Attempts to reach Paragon officials for comment yesterday afternoon and evening were unsuccessful.

-- Allan Lengel

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Junkies Rejoice: New Cheap Smack!

Boy, I’m sure glad that Americans are too decent to get involved in this trade!,0,6587078,full.story
Afghan heroin's surge poses danger in U.S.
The world's purest form can kill more addicts, as seen in L.A. County.
By Garrett Therolf
Times Staff Writer

December 26, 2006

Supplies of highly potent Afghan heroin in the United States are growing so fast that the pure white powder is rapidly overtaking lower-quality Mexican heroin, prompting fears of increased addiction and overdoses.

Heroin-related deaths in Los Angeles County soared from 137 in 2002 to 239 in 2005, a jump of nearly 75% in three years, a period when other factors contributing to overdose deaths remained unchanged, experts said. The jump in deaths was especially prevalent among users older than 40, who lack the resilience to recover from an overdose of unexpectedly strong heroin, according to a study by the county's Office of Health Assessment and Epidemiology.

"The rise of heroin from Afghanistan is our biggest rising threat in the fight against narcotics," said Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino. "We are seeing more seizures and more overdoses."

According to a Drug Enforcement Administration report obtained by The Times, Afghanistan's poppy fields have become the fastest-growing source of heroin in the United States. Its share of the U.S. market doubled from 7% in 2001, the year U.S. forces overthrew the Taliban, to 14% in 2004, the latest year studied. Another DEA report, released in October, said the 14% actually could be significantly higher.

Poppy production in Afghanistan jumped significantly after the 2001 U.S. invasion destabilized an already shaky economy, leading farmers to turn to the opium market to survive.

Not only is more heroin being produced from Afghan poppies coming into the United States, it is also the purest in the world, according to the DEA's National Drug Intelligence Center.



Poverty: Caused By Not Having Money

The last couple of years or so, I’ve been on the board of directors for a local non-profit agency dedicated to getting rid of poverty. We’re not making much progress, but we do give jobs to professional social-service-agency wonks who then do research on what could be done to eliminate poverty, and instigate programs to do just that. Most of the programs have to do with educating poor people, teaching them good work habits, turning them into “responsible” workers.

Nobody has suggested redistributing income as a way of relieving poverty. That would be a political solution. As a non-profit agency, we’re not allowed to advocate political action. Besides, it might bring up reminders of the struggle between the wealthy owners and the poor non-owners—we used to call it the “class struggle.” No more, though. Besides...oh, what the hell…

Here’s a good Paul Krugman column about Britain’s anti-poverty work:

Helping the Poor, the British Way
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times
Monday 25 December 2006

It's the season for charitable giving. And far too many Americans, particularly children, need that charity.

Scenes of a devastated New Orleans reminded us that many of our fellow citizens remain poor, four decades after L.B.J. declared war on poverty. But I'm not sure whether people understand how little progress we've made. In 1969, fewer than one in every seven American children lived below the poverty line. Last year, although the country was far wealthier, more than one in every six American children were poor.

And there's no excuse for our lack of progress. Just look at what the British government has accomplished over the last decade.

Although Tony Blair has been President Bush's obedient manservant when it comes to Iraq, Mr. Blair's domestic policies are nothing like Mr. Bush's. Where Mr. Bush has sought to privatize the social safety net, Mr. Blair's Labor government has defended and strengthened it. Where Mr. Bush and his allies accuse anyone who mentions income distribution of "class warfare," the Blair government has made a major effort to reverse the surge in inequality and poverty that took place during the Thatcher years.

And Britain's poverty rate, if measured American-style - that is, in terms of a fixed poverty line, not a moving target that rises as the nation grows richer - has been cut in half since Labor came to power in 1997.

Britain's war on poverty has been led by Gordon Brown, the chancellor of the exchequer and Mr. Blair's heir apparent. There's nothing exotic about his policies, many of which are inspired by American models. But in Britain, these policies are carried out with much more determination.

For example, Britain didn't have a minimum wage until 1999 - but at current exchange rates Britain's minimum wage rate is now about twice as high as ours. Britain's child benefit is more generous than America's child tax credit, and it's available to everyone, even those too poor to pay income taxes. Britain's tax credit for low-wage workers is similar to the U.S. earned-income tax credit, but substantially larger.

And don't forget that Britain's universal health care system ensures that no one has to fear going without medical care or being bankrupted by doctors' bills.

The Blair government hasn't achieved all its domestic goals. Income inequality has been stabilized but not substantially reduced: as in America, the richest 1 percent have pulled away from everyone else, though not to the same extent. The decline in child poverty, though impressive, has fallen short of the government's ambitious goals. And the government's policies don't seem to have helped a persistent underclass of the very poor.

But there's no denying that the Blair government has done a lot for Britain's have-nots. Modern Britain isn't paradise on earth, but the Blair government has ensured that substantially fewer people are living in economic hell. Providing a strong social safety net requires a higher overall rate of taxation than Americans are accustomed to, but Britain's tax burden hasn't undermined the economy's growth.

What are the lessons to be learned from across the pond?

First, government truly can be a force for good. Decades of propaganda have conditioned many Americans to assume that government is always incompetent - and the current administration has done its best to turn that into a self-fulfilling prophecy. But the Blair years have shown that a government that seriously tries to reduce poverty can achieve a lot.

Second, it really helps to have politicians who are serious about governing, rather than devoting themselves entirely to amassing power and rewarding cronies.

While researching this article, I was startled by the sheer rationality of British policy discussion, as compared with the cynical posturing that passes for policy discourse in George Bush's America. Instead of making grandiose promises that are quickly forgotten - like Mr. Bush's promise of "bold action" to confront poverty after Hurricane Katrina - British Labor politicians propose specific policies with well-defined goals. And when actual results fall short of those goals, they face the facts rather than trying to suppress them and sliming the critics.

The moral of my Christmas story is that fighting poverty isn't easy, but it can be done. Giving in to cynicism and accepting the persistence of widespread poverty even as the rich get ever richer is a choice that our politicians have made. And we should be ashamed of that choice.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Ford: an average suburban guy...

Hell, I have to say something about Jerry Ford: "Something."

There. He was a jock, a party hack, loved golf, everybody liked him, his wife was a drug addict— just your average suburban guy. Who let Kissinger put the finger on tens of thousands of people, allowed Indonesia to kill a half-million or so Timorese...just your average American president...


In Case You Wondered...

Actually, this is a New Year's letter. But I started it just before Christmas...

A Christmas letter: what a novel concept.

Only to somebody like me… Mister Contrarian.

Well, I’m obviously mellowing with age. Either that or I’ve just reached the point where I’m beat down and joining up with the rest of the culture seems like a good idea. “Resistance is futile.” No, I’m contesting every inch of my retreat. A Christmas letter is...well, it’s defensive, I guess.

Been quite a year. The last couple of years have qualified, each one, as “quite a year.” Sometimes, it’s felt like a string of cosmic dump trucks have used me as a disposal site. I know that’s not true, of course: “learning experiences,” each and every one of them. “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Ouch.

I’m a slow, difficult learner. Seems to take some pretty heavy-duty lesson plans to get through to me. Here’s a lesson that finally got through to me: I’m 68 years old, beat, physically crumbling, and there’s a bunch of stuff I can’t do anymore—if I ever could really do them, uh-huh. There’re quite a few things I’ve never done that I can’t do. I can tie my self-esteem—my ego, really—into achievements, and I can do that without hardly noticing what I’m doing. I still dance a little close to the edge on that one.

In 2005, I understood that something I needed to do was participate in a Sun Dance by pulling buffalo skulls. Two skewers inserted through the skin over my shoulder blades, and ropes hooked over those that are tied to the skulls. It’s a complicated line of reasoning, intuition, and recklessness that led me to doing that. That year, on a spur-of-the-moment action, I pulled the skulls. And I decided I’d do it again this year; and each year as long as I could. I didn’t realize just how hard that would be. The pain part of it was easy: I’ve had a lot of physical pain. There’s a high involved, like runners hitting the wall (or so I’ve heard!), and then you’re past it. It’s true—at least it was for me. That wasn’t the hard part.

The hard part was that when I got home, I had a full-blown case of bronchitis. I thought I was suffocating. I went to the hospital in an ambulance, and I spent three days there, on oxygen, inhalers, anti-biotics, and steroids. I got diagnosed with C.O.P.D.; too many years of smoking, the kyphosis —hunching—of my back, and assorted other things contributed to a diminuation of my lung capacity. That was a reality-mortality sandwich— a triple decker.

Back to the exercise class at the pool! And a couple of months later, I slipped on some stairs there, coming out of the whirlpool tub, and broke both my tibia and my fibula. I’m still seriously gimped from that one. There’s a major irony there, going to the pool to enhance my health and breaking my leg in the process. Another month or so, though, and I’ll be back at the exercise class. Aside from the (usual) health benefits, there’s something really nice about seeing it as self-affirmation. I can pat myself on the back, to use an old-fashioned cliche, for following an exercise routine. And I’m a social person: I like interacting with people. Being laid up—I’m getting around, slowly, with a walker—has put a crimp in socializing. You bet: the internet is a god-send.

Hasn’t been a totally catastrophic year, though. Last summer, we got in a great little trip to Vancouver, British Columbia. I kind of fell in love with it. Great place to visit: cosmopolitan residents, inexpensive restaurants with world-wide cuisines, book stores, and breath-stopping scenery. And the people are nice. Another visit is in the works: the anthropology museum at the University of British Columbia is still waiting for me. There are dozens of untouched used book stores. Malaysian food. Low-end French cuisine, British bangers and meat pies...Fresh sea food. Really fresh sea food. Sea food as a staple rather than a delicacy—what a concept!
After visiting Vancouver, we crossed back into the States and drove across the Northern Cascades Highway. Then we re-entered Canada—after being stopped by the U.S. Feds and asked why we were going into Canada...I know, I know: that sort of thing is just for our own good—National security my ass.

So, yes, it’s the same ol’ same ol’.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Pelosi: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss...

The Who: "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…” Except, yes, we will get fooled again and again. What on earth could disgrace Congress even more than it’s been disgraced, off-camera? Empty seats? Not as disgraceful as empty heads and full pockets.

I’m sure Ms Pelosi is sincere and everything else. She’s actually quite protective of Congress, because what goes on there is terrible and it actually might bring shame-waves to the hearts and souls of our elected officials—although I think they’re immune to that sort of thing...

Pelosi says no to C-SPAN request on floor proceedings
Associated Press
El Paso Times
WASHINGTON -- Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi cited the need to preserve the ''dignity and decorum'' of the House as she rejected a request Friday that C-SPAN operate its own cameras in covering the chamber.

The public service network has provided gavel-to-gavel television coverage of House proceedings since 1979. But the House leader has kept control of the cameras, with coverage generally limited to tight shots of the speaker or the podium.

The situation is similar in the Senate, which C-SPAN has televised since 1986.

C-SPAN's chairman and chief executive told Pelosi, D-Calif., that under this arrangement, cameras are prevented ''from taking individual reaction shots or from panning the chamber, leaving viewers with an incomplete picture of what's happening in the House of Representatives.''

Brian Lamb wrote Pelosi on Dec. 14 that media cameras long have been permitted to cover committee hearings and that for a dozen years or more independent cameras have been allowed into the chamber for joint sessions and joint meetings in the House.

He said C-SPAN would cover floor proceedings in the same manner it covers hearings _ ''fully, accurately and with the unbiased production style on which we've built our reputation for the past 28 years.''

Pelosi said in her response Friday, ''I believe the dignity and decorum of the United States House of Representatives are best preserved by maintaining the current system of televised proceedings.''

Lamb said in an interview he was ''very disappointed'' by Pelosi's decision. He said he tried unsuccessfully to change the policy when Republicans gained control of the House in 1995 and thought this would be another good opportunity because Pelosi has stressed that this will be the most open and ethical Congress in history.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


Merry Christmas!

OK, it's Christmas Eve. I think that's nice, even in the coldness of my curmudgenly (is that how you spell it? Got me) heart. Christmas is over-hyped, over-advertised, and over-sold. But in the cold dark of winter, we need to remember that the wheel turns and the days are getting longer and our hearts will again warm themselves in the sun of spring...

Have fun! Remember the title of Alice Walker's new book: We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For. We really are.

It's up to us.


Muslims in Congress? And Buddhists, Jews, Agnostics, and Lions and Tigers, Oh My!

The Republicans, I have to admit, really do deserve the bigot-of-the-year(s) award. They do it so effortlessly, too. Kind of like without even thinking about it the Republicans can take their inner bigots. Maybe it’s just because they’re the party in power—I certainly don’t think the Democrats are any less cynical, obtuse, power-hungry, or corrupt—that I notice their stupidities so often.

Anyhow, this goes down with “macaca” for right-wing-foolishness of the year...I hope for Christmas they all get their white hoods and robes.

Buddhists in Congress? Who knew?

Contributed by Tommy Stevenson - Posted: December 22, 2006 10:11:25 AM

TUSCALOOSA | In all the brouhaha stirred up by Virginia Republican U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode over the first Muslim ever elected to Congress using a Koran in his private swearing-in ceremony next month (the official swearing-ins are done sans holy books of any kind), little attention has been paid to the fact that on Nov. 7 the first two Buddhists to ever serve in Congress were also elected.

Not only that, one of them is a southerner, Rep. Hank Johnson, a Democrat from our neighboring state of Georgia, who took out the inflammatory and confrontational former Rep. Cynthia McKinney in last year's primary and coasted to victory in the general election in his heavily black, Democratic district in and around Atlanta. The other Buddhist elected in November was Rep. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii, a state which probably has more Buddhists than any other.

In his mean-spirited attack on Rep.-elect Keith Ellison, a Democrat and Muslim elected in Minnesota, Goode has generally shown himself not only to be a fool, but a bigoted one at that. In a letter to his constituents, in which he failed even to use Ellison's name, referring to him only as "The Muslim Representative from Minnesota," Goode said that he does "not subscribe to using the Koran in any way" and warned that "if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode [don't you love it when politicians refer to themselves in the third person] position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran."

Never mind that Ellison, who has handled Goode's hysterical attack on him graciously, can trace his roots in this country back to the 1700s and is a Muslim-convert, was born in America as an American. His presence here has absolutely nothing to do with immigration (unless you are talking about the forced kind in the belly of a slave ship) and he was duly elected by a majority of the people in his district, just as it is supposed to work in our democracy under the United States Constitution.

Maybe after Goode finishes making a idiot of himself over Ellison and the Koran, maybe he can turn his attention to these two nefarious Buddhists. Wonder what they will place their hands on in their own private ceremonies?

Oh, that's right, they are Buddhists. So the answer would be "nothing."


Who "Drives Down" Wages?

One of the subtle little anti-immigrant messages that came down the pike is how immigrants “drive down” wageBolds. Uh-huh. There are huge demonstrations by immigrants, legal and illegal, protesting high wages. After all, in their countries-of-birth wages are much much lower, and since everyone knows there’s a major conspiracy to turn the USA into a Third World nation, wages have to go down. The employers reluctantly have gone along with this…

Swift Tried to Depress Wages, Say Ex-Workers in Lawsuit
The Associated Press
Tuesday 19 December 2006

The meatpacking company "knowingly" hired illegal workers in an effort to cut labor costs, a lawyer says.

Dallas, Texas - Former employees are suing Swift & Co. for $23 million, alleging the meatpacking company conspired to keep wages down by hiring illegal workers.

The 18 former employees are legal residents who worked at a plant in Cactus, Texas, north of Amarillo. The plant was one of six facilities - including one in Marshalltown, Ia. - raided in a multistate federal sweep that led to the arrests of nearly 1,300 employees and temporarily halted Swift's operations.

"These plaintiffs are ... victims in a long-standing scheme by Swift to depress and artificially lower the wages of its workers by knowingly hiring illegal workers," said their lawyer, Angel Reyes.

The lawsuit was filed late Friday against Swift, based in Greeley, Colo., and investment firm HM Capital Partners LLC, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. They contend Swift and HM Capital Partners engaged in racketeering to manipulate commerce.

"When the Swift plant opened in Cactus, wages were approximately $20 an hour," said another plaintiffs attorney, Michael Haygood. "Now, the average wage is approximately $12 to $13 an hour."

Wages went up this fall after about 400 workers were fired or left Swift's plants voluntarily after the company demanded interviews of workers it suspected of being in the country illegally.

In Marshalltown, the starting wage was raised from $9.55 to $11.50 this fall in an attempt to fill the vacancies, said the United Food and Commercial Workers union.


KY Jelly OK In Carry On Luggage

In honor of Christmas, we're not traveling. Beth's working, I'm gimped, and even though we're now allowed to take as much KY Jelly as we want in our carry-ons (I'm not making this up:, it just doesn't seem to be worth the effort. Besides, I don't particularly want to take my shoes off in some goddam airport. Those security check-points must smell like sock-hops...

A friend flew back to the Twin Cities three months ago; as he was catching the flight back to Oregon, the ticket agent called him by the wrong name. Huh? Yup, he'd been cleared and flown from central Oregon to Minnesota on someone else's ticket. Some security...but he could have carried all the KY Jelly he wanted....

Friday, December 22, 2006


Bend's Buses A Bust

Bend, as many Oregonians don’t know and probably don’t care, recently got a fixed-route bus system up and running. The city had stonewalled the Feds for years; it even converted it’s disabled bus service—dial-a-ride—into a system usable by the general public. For eons, Bend was the largest city in the state without a regular bus system. It seems to have liked it that way. After all, who, except the poor folks, would ride a public system?

Actually, it’s turned out that a lot of people, not all of them poor by a long shot, like riding the buses. Bicycle commuting is fun and hip and all that, except in the slushy winter. The fixed route system is doing just fine, thank you.

Well...except for a couple of problems: the buses were bought from a California (ah-hah!) used-bus lot. They been sold off by Utah Transit, for between $1,300 and $1,800 apiece, because they were utterly unreliable. Bend bought them for $35,200 each. Since they’ve been in service here, the city has spent over $70,000 trying to keep them running. The city Purchasing Agent didn’t do much homework on that purchase. The Purchasing Agent signed the checks to Honest Bob’s Used Buses—or whatever the company calls itself. “These work good?” “Oh, yeah, sure, great buses. We’re losing money on this deal, tell you the truth.” “Honest?” “Yup.” “OK, then. Here’s your money.”

I don’t think I’ve ever bought a car that way. Not even in my craziest moments. Maybe because I was spending my own money—or because I can’t imagine buying anything on wheels without a little investigation in advance.

That was pretty bad, but things get worse. The dial-a-ride system has been disliked by the powers-that-be for a long time. They thought it should be self-supporting, if there even has to be such a service. Now that there’re fixed-route buses (by no means blanketing the city or anything close to that), Bend has tightened up on the requirements for people who are disabled and need the service. A five page form is required, signed off by a doctor. A woman who’s used the service for years—she has no legs and only one arm—was dropped from the service because she “didn’t get the paperwork” in on time. Why anyone like that would even need to show paperwork boggles the mind—unless it’s a bureaucratic mind, I guess. seems a bit vindictive, when you get right down to it.

And, capping things off, it turns out that a number of bus stops are not at all accessible to the disabled. There are reports of people in wheelchairs having to be manually lifted off the bus and carried to the actual stop itself, because the buses don’t get that close. So, now, Bend has a lawsuit to deal with, filed by a disability advocacy organization. They deserve it.


Ain't Nothing Like A Scapegoat or Two...

There is nothing like a scapegoat! Well, two of them is better, I have to say.
The pro-war faction, the Christian Nationalist wing of the Republican party, have two scapegoats these days. They must be as happy as pigs in a full corn crib.
The fave, all time, all the time, scapegoat is, of course, “the media.” They’ve contributed to the strength of the Taliban, the Communists, the Iraqi insurgents—name it: every time the U.S. has been frustrated in recent years, it’s been the fault of the media. Ever since Walter Cronkite looked at the Viet Nam mess and said, we can’t win, the media has been to blame. The dirty bastards. These days, the AP has joined the conspiracy of left-wing media. The Associated Press—what a clear example of the Christian Right’s delusional world.

Of course, the other good scapegoat is “the immigrants.” Some dipshit member of Congress, Virgil Goode, has announced that unless we immediately curb immigration, Muslims are going to serve in Congress—in great numbers! Oh my, oh my. And I thought it was those Mexican Catholics who were going to take over… How wrong can one man be? Or, maybe, you suppose, they’re all part of the vast anti-American conspiracy? You know, like the way, people say the Jews are at the root of it all...The Jews manipulating the Catholics and Muslims and Communists and pro-immigrationists, the anti-abortionists, the integrationists...the mind boggles, doesn’t it?

I'll have to ask Mr Goode about that...

We have the kind of government we deserve; Jefferson was right.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


"Surge" new-speak for "Escalate"

The buzzword-of-the-month is "surge." As in, "President Bush wants to surge the number of U.S. troops in ________________." (Fill in the name of the once-sovereign country of your choice)

That's bullshit, of course. The word is "escalate," although for the neo-cons that might have some bad connotations with Viet Nam. We kept "surging" troops there, but all it did was squander more money and ruin more lives than if we'd simply packed up and gone home in, say, 1965. But, people don't read history. Particularly not politicians, but I think they're at least aware they can get away with that because nobody else reads it, either. They do hire advisors who read history, sure: just so they don't have to come up with any new ideas...

So, fuck "surge." And the horse All the President's Men and Women Rode In On.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


The Almost-Shortest Day of The Year

I have a friend who watches the "Judge _____________" shows on TV to remind herself that her life could be a lot worse. Instead of watching people squabbling over vapid and dumb issues, she could be on the shows, I guess. I'm not quite sure just what's the difference. If you watch the shows on TV, at least you don't have to be actually interacting with the litigants... I just object to letting them into my head in the first place.

Almost finished another month of being "home-bound," as the physical therapist calls the condition. I said "Shut-in," the P.T. said, no that sounds so bleak. I said when I heard "home-bound" I thought of being wrapped up in ropes and tied to the house. Whatever, another month of this stuff and I should be somewhat mobile. I've become much more agile with a walker than I ever thought I'd find necessary. From one end of the apartment to the other; I've even figured out how to carry things while I'm using it. Right now it's parked next to me, with the "transfer board" (the shaped piece of plywood you're supposed to use as a bridge to slide in and out of a wheelchair) stuck across it and the computer mouse on the board. If I have the mouse at the same level as the keyboard, my shoulder gives me fits.

Beth is working, still, at the horse ranch. Her latest schedule is to hang around the apartment until one or two, and then go to work, coming back after dark. She likes to go out to dinner—and hates cooking—so her idea of me getting out of the house is a run to the restaurant in the winter dark. Unfortunately, that isn't my idea. Distance. I need to see distance—a half-mile, a mile, five miles, twenty miles. When all I look at is close to me, my world closes down, too. When I can look off into the distance, then my heart seems to open up. Up close: closed down. Must have something to do with having spend a lot of time laid up as a kid, a "shut-in"—"home-bound," forgive me...

Friday, December 15, 2006


Army Wants More of Everything

Billions for defense, but not a cent for humanitarianism. That’s what it amounts to. The Chief of Staff for the Army would not say “Hello” without clearing it with his bosses. Of course they want a bigger army: there are countries we have yet to invade and occupy, terrorists yet to be made, and domestic "peace-keeping" just waiting to be implemented.

Top General Wants Bigger Army

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker has testified that his force “will break” without an increase in troops and greater ability to draw on Army National Guard and Reserve units. The general cited the strain of commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he told reporters: “We would not surge [in Iraq] without a purpose. And that purpose should be measurable.”


More Revelations of Lying About Iraq's "WMDs"

I like to believe there was a time, once, when blatant lying by the government would be punished. I like to believe, too, that the British Government is led by honorable people, if the US Government is sometimes led by...ah...thieves and thugs. I mean, England: honor and bravery personified.

No. No more than here. Revelations in England, as well as in the United States, clearly show that the war on Iraq was launched under a network of big-time lies. No weapons of mass destruction; no 45 minute timelines to disaster, no threats to neighboring countries. That was all lying. By Britain’s PM, Tony Blair, and by the hierarchy of Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, and Powell, here in America. Lies. Criminal lies.

Does anyone think Rummy and Dubya, et. al., will ever stand trial for their murderous lies? Does anyone doubt they did lie—and continue to do so?

Diplomat's suppressed document lays bare the lies behind Iraq war
By Colin Brown and Andy McSmith
Published: 15 December 2006

I like to believe there was a time, once, when blatant lying by the government would be punished. I like to believe, too, that the British Government is led by honorable people, if the US Government is sometimes led by...ah...thieves and thugs. I mean, England: honor and bravery personified.

No. No more than here. Revelations in England, as well as in the United States, clearly show that the war on Iraq was launched with a network of big-time lies. No weapons of mass destruction; no 45 minute timelines to disaster, no threats to neighboring countries. That was all lying. By Britain’s PM, Tony Blair, and by the hierarchy of Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, and Powell, here in America. Lies. Criminal lies.

Does anyone think Rummy and Dubya, et. al., will ever stand trial for their murderous lies?

Diplomat's suppressed document lays bare the lies behind Iraq war
By Colin Brown and Andy McSmith
Published: 15 December 2006
The Goernment's case for going to war in Iraq has been torn apart by the publication of previously suppressed evidence that Tony Blair lied over Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

A devastating attack on Mr Blair's justification for military action by Carne Ross, Britain's key negotiator at the UN, has been kept under wraps until now because he was threatened with being charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act.

In the testimony revealed today Mr Ross, 40, who helped negotiate several UN security resolutions on Iraq, makes it clear that Mr Blair must have known Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction. He said that during his posting to the UN, "at no time did HMG [Her Majesty's Government] assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests."

Mr Ross revealed it was a commonly held view among British officials dealing with Iraq that any threat by Saddam Hussein had been "effectively contained".

He also reveals that British officials warned US diplomats that bringing down the Iraqi dictator would lead to the chaos the world has since witnessed. "I remember on several occasions the UK team stating this view in terms during our discussions with the US (who agreed)," he said.

"At the same time, we would frequently argue when the US raised the subject, that 'regime change' was inadvisable, primarily on the grounds that Iraq would collapse into chaos."


The Foreign Office had attempted to prevent the evidence being made public, but it has now been published by the Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs after MPs sought assurances from the Foreign Office that it would not breach the Official Secrets Act.

It shows Mr Ross told the inquiry, chaired by Lord Butler, "there was no intelligence evidence of significant holdings of CW [chemical warfare], BW [biological warfare] or nuclear material" held by the Iraqi dictator before the invasion. "There was, moreover, no intelligence or assessment during my time in the job that Iraq had any intention to launch an attack against its neighbours or the UK or the US," he added.

Mr Ross's evidence directly challenges the assertions by the Prime Minster that the war was legally justified because Saddam possessed WMDs which could be "activated" within 45 minutes and posed a threat to British interests. These claims were also made in two dossiers, subsequently discredited, in spite of the advice by Mr Ross.

The Government's case for going to war in Iraq has been torn apart by the publication of previously suppressed evidence that Tony Blair lied over Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

A devastating attack on Mr Blair's justification for military action by Carne Ross, Britain's key negotiator at the UN, has been kept under wraps until now because he was threatened with being charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act.

In the testimony revealed today Mr Ross, 40, who helped negotiate several UN security resolutions on Iraq, makes it clear that Mr Blair must have known Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction. He said that during his posting to the UN, "at no time did HMG [Her Majesty's Government] assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests."

Mr Ross revealed it was a commonly held view among British officials dealing with Iraq that any threat by Saddam Hussein had been "effectively contained".

He also reveals that British officials warned US diplomats that bringing down the Iraqi dictator would lead to the chaos the world has since witnessed. "I remember on several occasions the UK team stating this view in terms during our discussions with the US (who agreed)," he said.

"At the same time, we would frequently argue when the US raised the subject, that 'regime change' was inadvisable, primarily on the grounds that Iraq would collapse into chaos."


The Foreign Office had attempted to prevent the evidence being made public, but it has now been published by the Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs after MPs sought assurances from the Foreign Office that it would not breach the Official Secrets Act.

It shows Mr Ross told the inquiry, chaired by Lord Butler, "there was no intelligence evidence of significant holdings of CW [chemical warfare], BW [biological warfare] or nuclear material" held by the Iraqi dictator before the invasion. "There was, moreover, no intelligence or assessment during my time in the job that Iraq had any intention to launch an attack against its neighbours or the UK or the US," he added.

Mr Ross's evidence directly challenges the assertions by the Prime Minster that the war was legally justified because Saddam possessed WMDs which could be "activated" within 45 minutes and posed a threat to British interests. These claims were also made in two dossiers, subsequently discredited, in spite of the advice by Mr Ross.


Thursday, December 14, 2006


Little Joe's predictions on Iraq...

Hah hah


"Alleged War Criminal Throws..."

“Alleged War Criminal Throws Party Attended By Washington Elite and Other Scum!”

How’s that for a headline? It seems to me the criminal insanity that grips this country’s government grows worse every day. I guess well over half of Washington’s insiders know that Cheney and Rumsfeld—not to mention Bush, Kissinger (you know he was in on it, one way or the other), and various other upper level members of the administration) committed crimes against humanity with the invasion of Iraq. But, in the world of geo-politics, what’re a few war crimes among friends?

Well, it’s a shrinking circle of friends, and it’s pretty highly localized, and that means things could shift. If the rest of the world would stop acting as if God chose the US to run things, there could well be a series of trials that would remind many many people of post-WW2 Germany. The world is changing, gradually—so gradually that I don’t think I’ll live to see the outcomes I foresee—but the changes don’t bode well for the US. Latin America is running in the other direction, toward some sort of social justice. Right: that’s the opposite direction from the one taken by this country. America is becoming more and more isolated; resentments are turning to outrage over this country’s behavior. We’re gobbling 25% of the world’s resources, confusing greed with moral standing. But various people, well-invested in the status quo, can’t see the writing on the wall. Or they won’t look—I think that’s closer to the truth. The writing’s there, but they won’t look….

December 14, 2006 The Huffington Post

Borat wasn't on the list, but at least one product of Kazakhstan managed to gain access to Vice President Dick Cheney's holiday party on Tuesday night at his Massachusetts Avenue residence.

Snow Queen vodka, a product of the central Asian country, was the "official liquor donor" at the 400-strong party of high-powered pols and their staffers. Among those on the list who braved the "blinding" lights on Mass Ave. and the long security procedure to rub elbows with the Veep: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Afghan Ambassador Said Jawad, Jordanian Ambassador Karim Kawar, former Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rima Al-Sabah, wife of the Kuwaiti ambassador.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Our Loyal Saudi Allies Threaten Aid To Iraqi Sunnis

A cheery-as-mumps post in this morning’s NY Times announced that our loyal royal allies, the Saudis, are threatening financial aid to the Sunni population of Iraq if we pull out of that country. Where would we be without Saudi Arabia? Maybe using some sort of alternate energy…

The Bush’s are very tight with the Saudis. One of the things our invasion of Iraq accomplished was removing a very real threat to the Saudi government. It also increased our imports of oil from Arabia and effectively took Iraqi oil off the market…

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12 — Saudi Arabia has told the Bush administration that it might provide financial backing to Iraqi Sunnis in any war against Iraq’s Shiites if the United States pulls its troops out of Iraq, according to American and Arab diplomats.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia conveyed that message to Vice President Dick Cheney two weeks ago during Mr. Cheney’s whirlwind visit to Riyadh, the officials said. During the visit, King Abdullah also expressed strong opposition to diplomatic talks between the United States and Iran, and pushed for Washington to encourage the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, senior Bush administration officials said.


Until now Saudi officials have promised their counterparts in the United States that they would refrain from aiding Iraq’s Sunni insurgency. But that pledge holds only as long as the United States remains in Iraq.

The Saudis have been wary of supporting Sunnis in Iraq because their insurgency there has been led by extremists of Al Qaeda, who are opposed to the kingdom’s monarchy. But if Iraq’s sectarian war worsened, the Saudis would line up with Sunni tribal leaders.


In a speech in Philadelphia last week, Prince Turki reiterated the Saudi position against an American withdrawal from Iraq. “Just picking up and leaving is going to create a huge vacuum,” he told the World Affairs Council. “The U.S. must underline its support for the Maliki government because there is no other game in town.”


Social Democrats: Center-Left and Center-Right

Many conservatives I’ve talked to accuse the Democrats as being, essentially, “Marxists.” You can hear this, too, on a lot of call-in radio and TV shows. Despite such zombie-ish places as North Korea or Cuba, there aren’t any Marxists governments anywhere. If people read history or politics they’d figure this out. But...they don’t, right.

Here’s a news story I came across on The Raw Story. It’s a German press agency report on the illness of Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD). It refers to the Democrats as “centre-left” and the Republicans as “centre-right.” Not Marxists—nor, on the right, “Nazis” (hey, the Germans should know…).

We have one political party here in the States. It has two wings, one somewhat left and one somewhat right—but none of them question the essential order of things, political or economic or social. They both accept the status-quo of corporate capitalism… Social Democrats is basically what both parties are.

Democratic US senator takes ill, could change Congress control
dpa German Press Agency
Published: Wednesday December 13, 2006

Washington- A Democratic US senator took ill Wednesday
afternoon with a possible stroke, raising a chance that his seat
could become Republican in the event he cannot continue in office.
Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota, 59, was taken to George
Washington University Hospital "suffering from a possible stroke," a
statement from his office said.

The centre-left Democrats barely eked out a majority in the US
Senate in November elections, with 51 seats to 49 for the centre-
right Republicans.


Doctor Strangelove, I Presume

I’m not super-fond of soy. I use “Silk” soy creamer in my coffee, now and then I eat tofu in Asian food, but that’s about it. I never developed a taste for it—maybe because soy is one of the most flavorless edible foods I’ve ever encountered...But, I have nothing against it.

However, It would appear that soy should join mercury-amalgam fillings, flouridation, immunizations, and assorted other aspects of modern life as part some diabolical conspiracy to overthrow all that good patriotic Chrisitianist Americans hold holy. Reminds me of Doctor Strangelove, yup.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Soy is making kids 'gay'
Posted: December 12, 2006
1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Jim Rutz
© 2006

There's a slow poison out there that's severely damaging our children and threatening to tear apart our culture. The ironic part is, it's a "health food," one of our most popular.

Now, I'm a health-food guy, a fanatic who seldom allows anything into his kitchen unless it's organic. I state my bias here just so you'll know I'm not anti-health food.

The dangerous food I'm speaking of is soy. Soybean products are feminizing, and they're all over the place. You can hardly escape them anymore.

(Column continues below)

I have nothing against an occasional soy snack. Soy is nutritious and contains lots of good things. Unfortunately, when you eat or drink a lot of soy stuff, you're also getting substantial quantities of estrogens.

Estrogens are female hormones. If you're a woman, you're flooding your system with a substance it can't handle in surplus. If you're a man, you're suppressing your masculinity and stimulating your "female side," physically and mentally.

In fetal development, the default is being female. All humans (even in old age) tend toward femininity. The main thing that keeps men from diverging into the female pattern is testosterone, and testosterone is suppressed by an excess of estrogen.

If you're a grownup, you're already developed, and you're able to fight off some of the damaging effects of soy. Babies aren't so fortunate. Research is now showing that when you feed your baby soy formula, you're giving him or her the equivalent of five birth control pills a day. A baby's endocrine system just can't cope with that kind of massive assault, so some damage is inevitable. At the extreme, the damage can be fatal.

Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality. That's why most of the medical (not socio-spiritual) blame for today's rise in homosexuality must fall upon the rise in soy formula and other soy products. (Most babies are bottle-fed during some part of their infancy, and one-fourth of them are getting soy milk!) Homosexuals often argue that their homosexuality is inborn because "I can't remember a time when I wasn't homosexual." No, homosexuality is always deviant. But now many of them can truthfully say that they can't remember a time when excess estrogen wasn't influencing them.

Doctors used to hope soy would reduce hot flashes, prevent cancer and heart disease, and save millions in the Third World from starvation. That was before they knew much about long-term soy use. Now we know it's a classic example of a cure that's worse than the disease. For example, if your baby gets colic from cow's milk, do you switch him to soy milk? Don't even think about it. His phytoestrogen level will jump to 20 times normal. If he is a she, brace yourself for watching her reach menarche as young as seven, robbing her of years of childhood. If he is a boy, it's far worse: He may not reach puberty till much later than normal.

Research in 2000 showed that a soy-based diet at any age can lead to a weak thyroid, which commonly produces heart problems and excess fat. Could this explain the dramatic increase in obesity today?

Recent research on rats shows testicular atrophy, infertility and uterus hypertrophy (enlargement). This helps explain the infertility epidemic and the sudden growth in fertility clinics. But alas, by the time a soy-damaged infant has grown to adulthood and wants to marry, it's too late to get fixed by a fertility clinic.

Worse, there's now scientific evidence that estrogen ingredients in soy products may be boosting the rapidly rising incidence of leukemia in children. In the latest year we have numbers for, new cases in the U.S. jumped 27 percent. In one year!

There's also a serious connection between soy and cancer in adults – especially breast cancer. That's why the governments of Israel, the UK, France and New Zealand are already cracking down hard on soy.

In sad contrast, 60 percent of the refined foods in U.S. supermarkets now contain soy. Worse, soy use may double in the next few years because (last I heard) the out-of-touch medicrats in the FDA hierarchy are considering allowing manufacturers of cereal, energy bars, fake milk, fake yogurt, etc., to claim that "soy prevents cancer." It doesn't.

P.S.: Soy sauce is fine. Unlike soy milk, it's perfectly safe because it's fermented, which changes its molecular structure. Miso, natto and tempeh are also OK, but avoid tofu.

Related special offer:

"The What's-for-Dinner Cookbook"

Monday, December 11, 2006

I have no trouble with Christmas, Chanukah, celebrating the winter soltice, or anything else people celebrate at the end of the year. It’s apparent there are people who do have trouble with various celebrations that Aren’t Christmas. People on radio and TV get excellent ratings proclaiming Christmas is under attack.

An aside: are media-heads really concerned about a perceived attack on a religious holiday or are they more concerned about ratings? The function of media is to corral an audience which they can then market to adverrtisers. That’s what it’s about.

Yes, I enjoy sniggering at those who are outraged at any display of sensitivity toward anything more diverse than, say, Christmas. I have to admit it. I know I’m being intolerant of bigotry...well, of people who are insecure enough that they see enemies everywhere and express their insecurities through bigotry....I’m still no spiritual giant.

So, I think the only way to react to the blatherings of people who see a "War on Christmas" going on around them is to smile and shake my head, and remember. Remember something or other...

An Exit Strategy for the War on Christmas
By Barbara Ehrenreich, AlterNet
Posted on December 9, 2006, Printed on December 9, 2006

As a dedicated secular humanist, I must regretfully acknowledge that the War on Christmas has not been going well. Some would use the word "quagmire," and urge a phased redeployment to other fronts, like Easter and Mardi Gras.

Others argue that we simply need more boots on the ground, and that our allies, such as the ACLU, have not been fielding sufficient troops. I say we have only ourselves to blame, and that -- however noble our intentions -- we haven't been putting up much of a fight.

Take me, for example. I had big plans for the season: I was going to spray paint the local church crèches with atheist graffiti, sue my town over the lights on Main Street, let termites loose on the mega-tree at Rockefeller Center, and start rumors about an E. Coli infestation of the nation's fruitcake supply.

But here it is, December already, and I've done nothing to rate a mention on Bill O'Reilly's show or even a mild rebuke from the Pope, who, apparently oblivious to the anti-Christmas threat, spent last week cozying up with Muslims in Turkey.

What's my excuse? Well, Christmas of course. There are those catalogues, which usually get recycled directly from the mail box, to study. Menus to plan. Should we do the Cuban-style roast pork or a re-run of the Thanksgiving turkey? Cards to buy and address: How will the pretty Virgin and baby go over with my Wiccan friends?

Then there's the annual fight over the tree: Can it be multi-colored and gaudy, as I prefer, or all-white, as certain puritanical in-laws insist? And toys, toys, toys. I spent yesterday searching for obscure members of the Dora the Explorer tribe: What's with this pre-Christmas shortage of Dora's monkey sidekick, Boots?

Let's face it: Christmas is not the exclusive property of those who think God came to earth 2000 years ago as a baby in Bethlehem. I caught the Christmas bug from my parents, who were militant atheists of the Richard Dawkins ilk.

I celebrated it with my first husband, the son of Jewish atheists. True, we tried Chanukah too one year, but it bombed with the kids. What's a little Chanukah gelt compared to a floor-full of presents?

My second husband, who had been inadvertently converted to atheism by the nuns at Catholic school, was the worst. We fought over whether to measure the extent of our excess by the volume of presents under the tree or their weight as determined by the bathroom scale.

How Christian is Christmas anyway? The tree and the wreathes descend from pagan, tree-worshipping, Druidism. The December date for the holiday probably comes from the Roman Saturnalia, a pre-existing blow-out featuring feasting and role-inversion (masters had to wait on slaves.)

Even if you fixate on Jesus, he was a pretty ecumenical guy -- a Jew who invented Christianity and is also much honored by Muslims. And who would be grinch-like enough not to welcome a baby whose mission was to bring world peace? Hell, I'm such a baby freak I think any baby, anywhere, any time, should be a cause for major celebration.

At the post office last week, where I was stocking up on stamps for the above-mentioned cards, I struggled over the seasonal options: Chanukah, Kwanza, Eid (the post-Ramadan Muslim holiday), or a traditional Virgin and Child. "You should get a sheet of each," the postmistress helpfully suggested, "More and more people are doing that." So I did, and I now declare the war is over -- the War on Christmas anyway.

Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of 13 books, most recently "Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream.
© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Keeping Up Appearances

Information overload is alive and well here at disturbing the comfortable. Trying to keep a who's who of the scandalous in the administration is about too much for me. I'm used to government corruption; I can't remember when there weren't major examples of it in the news. But, we have achieved, I think, the Alpha and Omega under the Bush-Cheney Junta.

Our Great List of Scandalized Administration Officials

By Justin Rood - December 4, 2006, 7:11 PM
A number of readers have sent in tips to help the folks at Powerline, who recently admitted to having trouble remembering administration officials (beyond Scooter Libby) who had been accused of corruption or resigned in the face of scandal.

How could you foresake us! cry our old pals Claude Allen, David Safavian, Brian Doyle. Who could forget former FDA commissioner, Lester Crawford? After the jump, you'll find our partial (but fast-growing) list. If we're missing a name, please send it along!

Indicted / Convicted/ Pled Guilty

* Scooter Libby - Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff - resigned after being indicted for Obstruction of Justice, Perjury, and Making False Statements in connection with the investigation stemming from the leak of a CIA operative's identity.

* Lester Crawford - Commissioner, FDA - resigned after only two months on the job. Pled guilty to conflict of interest and making false statements.

* Brian Doyle - Deputy Press Secretary, DHS - Resigned in wake of child sex scandal. Pled no contest to 32 criminal counts.

* Claude Allen - Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy- resigned, pled guilty to shoplifting from Target stores.

* David Safavian - former head of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy at the Office of Management and Budget - convicted of lying to ethics officials and Senate investigators about his ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

* Larry Franklin - intelligence officer, Defense - resigned, pled guilty to passing secrets to Israel.

* Roger Stillwell - desk officer, Interior Department - pled guilty to failing to report Redskins tickets and free dinners from Jack Abramoff.

* Frank Figueroa - senior DHS official, former head of anti-sex-crime Operation Predator - pled no contest to exposing himself to 16-year-old girl in Florida mall. Girl says he fondled himself for ten minutes. Figueroa forfeited his badge, gun, and access to databases; employment status pending internal DHS review.

* Darleen Druyun - senior contracting official, U.S. Air Force - pled guilty and sentenced to nine months in prison for her role in the Boeing tanker lease scandal.

* John Korsmo - chairman, Federal Housing Finance Board - pled guilty last year to lying to the Senate and an inspector general. He swore he had no idea how a list of presidents for FHFB-regulated banks were invited to a fundraiser for his friend's congressional campaign. On the invites, Korsmo was listed as the "Special Guest." Got 18 months of probation.

Resigned Due to Investigation

* Carl Truscott - Director, Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Bureau - resigned. A report by the Justice Department's Inspector General found that Truscott wasted tens of thousands of dollars on luxuries, wasted millions on whimsical management decisions and violated ethics rules by ordering employees to help his nephew with a high school video project.

* Joseph Schmitz - Inspector General, Defense - Resigned amid charges he personally intervened to protect top political appointees.

* Steven Griles - Deputy Secretary at the Interior Department - resigned, currently under investigation by the Justice Department for his ties to Jack Abramoff.

* Susan Ralston - assistant, White House - resigned amidst revelations that she had accepted thousands of dollars in gifts from Abramoff without compensating him, counter to White House ethics rules.

* Dusty Foggo - Executive Director, CIA - stepped down following accusations of corruption in connection to the Duke Cunningham scandal. Under investigation.

* Janet Rehnquist - Inspector General, Department of Health and Human Services - resigned in the face of allegations she blocked a politically dangerous probe on behalf of the Bush family.

* Ken Tomlinson, Board Chairman, Corporation for Public Broadcasting; member, Broadcasting Board of Governors - resigned at the release of an inspector general report concluding he had broken laws in spending CPB money to hire politically connected consultants to search for "bias" without consulting the board. At BBG, a separate investigation found he was running a "horse racing operation" out of his office, and continuing to hire politically-wired individuals to do "consulting" work for him. He's still there.

* George Deutsch - press aide, NASA - resigned amid allegations he prevented the agency's top climate scientist from speaking publicly about global warming.

* Richard Perle - Chairman, Defense Policy Board - resigned from Pentagon advisory panel amid conflict-of-interest charges.

* James Roche - secretary, U.S. Air Force - resigned in the wake of the Boeing tanker lease scandal, after it was revealed he had rather crudely pushed for Boeing to win a $23 billion contract.

* Marvin Sambur - top contracting executive, U.S. Air Force - Druyun's boss, Sambur resigned in the wake of the scandal. Investigations cleared him of wrongdoing.

* Philip Cooney - chief of staff, White House Council on Environmental Quality - a former oil industry lawyer with no scientific expertise, Cooney resigned after it was revealed he had watered down reports on global warming.

* Thomas Scully - Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services - shortly after Scully resigned in 2003, an investigation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General found that Scully had pressured the agency's actuary to underestimate the full cost of the Medicare reform bill by approximately $100 billion until after Congress passed the bill into law. Scully was also charged wtih conflict of interest allegations by the U.S. attorney's office for billing CMS for expenses incurred during a job search while he still headed the agency. He settled those charges by paying $9,782.

* Michelle Larson Korsmo - deputy chief of staff, Department of Labor - Helped her husband (see Frank Korsmo, above) with his donor scam. Quietly left her Labor plum job in February 2004, about two weeks before news broke that she and her husband were the targets of a criminal probe.

Nomination Failed Due to Scandal

* Bernard Kerik - nominated, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security - withdrew his nomination amidst a host of corruption allegations. Eventually pled guilty to a misdemeanor relating to having accepted improper gifts totaling tens of thousands of dollars while he was a New York City official in the late 1990's.

* Timothy Flanigan - nominated, Deputy Attorney General - withdrew his nomination amidst revelations that he'd worked closely with lobbyist Jack Abramoff when he was General Counsel for Corporate and International Law at Tyco, which was a client of Abramoff's.

* Linda Chavez - nominated, Secretary of Labor - withdrew her nomination amidst revelations that an illegal immigrant lived in her home and worked for her.

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Thieves 'r' Us

The New York Times is carrying a story about some major expensive SNAFUs in the Coast Guard (

Billions, in the last four years, have gone down the rat-hole. From the taxpayers to the corporate bosses.

One ship, new, at a pricetag of over $500,000,000 (yes, one, count it, one fucking ship), is reported to have such serious structural problems that it’s un-sea-worthy. Sort of the sea-going equivalent of un-armored Humvees. Interestingly enough, both the new Coast Guard ship and the death-trap Humvees have appeared under the regime of George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donny Rumsfeld. Avatars of unbridled capitalism, each and every one. Businesses rule—and get to write the rules.

It’s like we turned all the banks over to the Dillinger Gang. The last six years this country has been robbed as brazenly as any junta in some banana republic could do. We have become the moral equivalent of a Third World nation.

Friday, December 08, 2006


"Very low food security" equals, "hunger."

This doesn't need much commentary: in these decades of obfuscation and b.s., we're all aware of the horrible abuse of language. We're hammered by it on a daily basis.


The hungry can't eat D.C. jargon

Wednesday, December 6, 2006


Good news, America! Your starving citizens are no longer in plight.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released a report clarifying that the hungriest Americans are no longer hungry but instead are disadvantaged by "very low food security."

Let's ignore the ridiculous image of padlocked pears and Big Macs sealed in fireproof safes. (Although at my house precautions close to those have been taken during Girl Scout cookie season.) While perusing the new classifications, I began wondering what advantages this nomenclature offers.

Is it more politically correct? Perhaps. But then how do you calculate PC-ness? If up to me, I'd find a hungry person and ask him if he'd feel discriminated against if I were to call him "hungry." Doubtful, but then again, it's always hard to tell these days. I'm positive, though, that my fraternity-living friend Kevin would never exclaim "Hey dude! Can we stop by Taco Bell? I am sooo experiencing low food security right now."

My lighthearted take on hunger may seem inconsiderate and even sacrilegious by downplaying hunger's significance, but here's the point. What this new terminology has done is create a dangerous euphemism for the plight of millions of Americans who already have difficulty alerting the "highly food secure" percentage of the population to heed the very real call of their grumbling bellies. Deborah Leff of the Public Welfare Foundation says it well: "When (the public) hears 'very low food security,' it sounds like bureaucratic jargon. It doesn't sound like people who can't get enough to eat."

So who does this new phrase aid? The USDA report was not clearer or more direct because it used the term -- on the contrary, I had to search for the euphemism's definition on the Web site. It's obvious that it is not to help understand the problem. Is the reason for the switch truly an act by a government that wants to "trick" the public into believing our problems are smaller than they really are? Or are we so caught up in love for ambiguity that we've finally found a way to complicate the simplest of concepts?

It's lucky that steps to address the issue already have been taken. In 1995, a group of enlightened government worker bees recognized the harm ambiguity and convoluted language inflict on society and formed a federal government branch called PLAIN -- Plain Language Action and Information Network.

PLAIN's mission statement is to "improve communication from the federal government to the public." But the underlying ideology is taken almost straight from George Orwell's essay "Politics and the English Language": The best communication is short, clear and free from unnecessary jargon.

A noble effort, but it's sad to note that the PLAIN site has not been updated in recent years. (This corresponds eerily to the recent euphemism-heavy presidential terms. Highlights include "alternative interrogation procedures" for "torture" and, of course, "Operation Freedom" for "invasion.")

How we decide to look at language ultimately shapes our thinking, and as a result, our actions. Will "low food security" affect my perception of hunger? Maybe. But it won't change the fact that 35 million Americans won't get enough to eat tonight, no matter how you say it. And that's definitely something to be insecure about.

Rachel Powers is an undergraduate at the University of Washington.

© 1998-2006 Seattle Post-Intelligencer


More on Iraq's oil

United States policy requires secure supplies of energy. Right now the primary source of energy is oil (as if you didn't know, eh?). We invaded Iraq to obtain Iraq's oil. That's what it was all about, once you scrape aside the layers and layers of lies. If the oil-addicted Republicans have their way, American troops will be engaged in Iraq forever.

Oil for Sale: Iraq Study Group Recommends Privatization
By Antonia Juhasz

Thursday 07 December 2006

The Iraq Study Group may not have a solution for how to end the war, but it does have a way for its corporate friends to make money.
In its heavily anticipated report released on Wednesday, the Iraq Study Group made at least four truly radical proposals.
The report calls for the United States to assist in privatizing Iraq's national oil industry, opening Iraq to private foreign oil and energy companies, providing direct technical assistance for the "drafting" of a new national oil law for Iraq, and assuring that all of Iraq's oil revenues accrue to the central government.
The proposals should come as little surprise given that two authors of the report, James A. Baker III and Lawrence Eagleburger, have each spent much of their political and corporate careers in pursuit of greater access to Iraq's oil and wealth.
"Pragmatist" is the word most often used to describe Iraq Study Group co-chair James A. Baker III. It is equally appropriate for Lawrence Eagleburger. The term applies particularly well to each man's efforts to expand U.S. economic engagement with Saddam Hussein throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. Not only did their efforts enrich Hussein and U.S. corporations, particularly oil companies, it also served the interests of their own private firms.
On April 21,1990, a U.S. delegation was sent to Iraq to placate Saddam Hussein as his anti-American rhetoric and threats of a Kuwaiti invasion intensified. James A. Baker III, then President George H.W. Bush's secretary of state, personally sent a cable to the US embassy in Baghdad instructing the U.S. ambassador to meet with Hussein and to make clear that, "as concerned as we are about Iraq's chemical, nuclear, and missile programs, we are not in any sense preparing the way for preemptive military unilateral effort to eliminate these programs."*
Instead, Baker's interest was focused on trade, which he described as the "central factor in the US-Iraq relationship." From 1982, when Reagan removed Iraq from the list of countries supporting terrorism, until August 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, Baker and Eagleburger worked with others in the Reagan and Bush administrations to aggressively and successfully expand this trade.
The efficacy of such a move may best be described in a memo written in 1988 by the Bush transition team arguing that the United States would have "to decide whether to treat Iraq as a distasteful dictatorship to be shunned where possible, or to recognize Iraq's present and potential power in the region and accord it relatively high priority. We strongly urge the latter view." Two reasons offered were Iraq's "vast oil reserves," which promised "a lucrative market for U.S. goods," and the fact that U.S. oil imports from Iraq were skyrocketing. Bush and Baker took the transition team's advice and ran with it.
In fact, from 1983 to 1989, annual trade between the United States and Iraq grew nearly sevenfold and was expected to double in 1990, before Iraq invaded Kuwait. In 1989, Iraq became the United States' second-largest trading partner in the Middle East: Iraq purchased $5.2 billion in U.S. exports, while the U.S. bought $5.5 billion in Iraqi petroleum. From 1987 to July 1990, U.S. imports of Iraqi oil increased from 80,000 to 1.1 million barrels per day.
Eagleburger and Baker had much to do with that skyrocketing trade. In December 1983, then undersecretary of state Eagleburger wrote the U.S. Export-Import Bank to personally urge it to begin extending loans to Iraq to "signal our belief in the future viability of the Iraqi economy and secure a U.S. foothold in a potentially large export market." He noted that Iraq "has plans well advanced for an additional 50 percent increase in its oil exports by the end of 1984." Ultimately, billions of loans would be made or backed by the U.S. government to the Iraqi dictator, money used by Hussein to purchase U.S. goods.
In 1984, Baker became treasury secretary, Reagan opened full diplomatic relations with Iraq, and Eagleburger became president of Henry Kissinger's corporate consultancy firm, Kissinger Associates.
Kissinger Associates participated in the U.S.-Iraq Business Forum through managing director Alan Stoga. The Forum was a trade association representing some 60 American companies, including Bechtel, Lockheed, Texaco, Exxon, Mobil, and Hunt Oil. The Iraqi ambassador to the United States told a Washington, D.C., audience in 1985, "Our people in Baghdad will give priority - when there is a competition between two companies - to the one that is a member of the Forum." Stoga appeared regularly at Forum events and traveled to Iraq on a Forum-sponsored trip in 1989 during which he met directly with Hussein. Many Kissinger clients were also members of the Forum and became recipients of contracts with Hussein.
In 1989, Eagleburger returned to the state department now under Secretary Baker. That same year, President Bush signed National Security Directive 26 stating, "We should pursue, and seek to facilitate, opportunities for U.S. firms to participate in the reconstruction of the Iraqi economy, particularly in the energy area."
The president then began discussions of a $1 billion loan guarantee for Iraq one week before Secretary Baker met with Tariq Aziz at the state department to seal the deal.
But once Hussein invaded Kuwait, all bets were off. Baker made a public plea for support of military action against Hussein, arguing, "The economic lifeline of the industrial world runs from the Gulf and we cannot permit a dictator such as this to sit astride that economic lifeline."
Baker had much to gain from increased access to Iraq's oil. According to author Robert Bryce, Baker and his immediate family's personal investments in the oil industry at the time of the first Gulf War included investments in Amoco, Exxon and Texaco. The family law firm, Baker Botts, has represented Texaco, Exxon, Halliburton and Conoco Phillips, among other companies, in some cases since 1914 and in many cases for decades. ***.
This past July, U.S. Energy Secretary Bodman announced in Baghdad that senior U.S. oil company executives would not enter Iraq without passage of the new law. Petroleum Economist magazine later reported that U.S. oil companies put passage of the oil law before security concerns as the deciding factor over their entry into Iraq. Put simply, the oil companies are trying to get what they were denied before the war or at anytime in modern Iraqi history: access to Iraq's oil under the ground. They are also trying to get the best deal possible out of a war-ravaged and occupied nation. However, waiting for the law's passage and the need to guarantee security of U.S. firms once they get to work, may well be a key factor driving the one proposal by the Iraq Study Group that has received great media attention: extending the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq at least until 2008.
As the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group are more thoroughly considered, we should remain ever vigilant and wary of corporate war profiteers in pragmatist's clothing.
*All quotes are referenced in my book, The Bush Agenda.

Antonia Juhasz is a visiting scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, author of The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time, and a contributing author, with John Perkins and others, of A Game as Old as Empire: The Secret World of Economic Hit Men and the Web of Global Corruption.

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