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Recent Posts
 
7/16  I'm back!  A steady flow of mail relating to this site, particularly from disgruntled Walmart workers, has convinced me to start posting again.
 
11/2  The White House succeeds in quashing negotiations for an Independent Commission to investigate September 11.
 
10/30  The New York Times back tracks from its preposterous underreporting of the anti-war demonstration last weekend.
 
Brazil is a fairly poor country, with high levels of illiteracy.  The US is extremely wealthy, and prides itself on its democracy and high technology.  So who had an efficient, clean presidential election recently?
 
10/28  Harry Hay, 1912-2002.
 
Before creating more war  veterans, isn't it worth pausing and looking at the consequences of training people to kill?
 
Mexico makes trouble for Bush in the Security Council.  Bravo!
 
10/27 In the eye of the beholder: Washington Post emphasizes big turnout at anti-war demonstration in DC, New York Times claims numbers were disappointing.
 
Twelve Americans protest imminent war in Bagdad, and the New York Times is there to cover it in an unbiased manner!
 
I don't know who is crazier:  the fundamentalist Christians who want to bring on the apocalypse, or the American foreign policy elites who probably think they are preventing it.
 
10/23  Armed vigilantes may have been responsible for the deaths of two Mexican immigrants last week.
 
Bush signs a huge defense budget into law:
 

The $355.4 billion defense bill, approved at Bush's request with overwhelming support, increases spending by more than $34 billion over the previous fiscal year.

Good thing he saved 200 million gutting the SEC, as noted on 10/18.
 
 
10/18  How thoughtful of the Bush administration to pick a Friday (i.e. Saturday newspaper, which no one pays attention to) to announce that its going not going to fund the pathetic anti-corporate crime measures it grudgingly signed into law.
 
I just noticed this truer-than-real-life piece in the Onion.
 
 
10/16  The non-aligned movement, whose 'inefficiency' for the US was noted yesterday, has succeeded in attaining a forum at the UN for airing their reservations about a US attack on Iraq .  Not least among them is Kuwait.
 
Most attention about the US passing a security council resolution legitimizing an attack on Iraq has focused on the prospect of a veto by Russia, France or China.  But such a resolution would have to attain a majority of the fifteen members on the council, not only avoid a veto.
 
10/15  A bipartisan committee says the US's image at the UN is in terrible shape.  No big surprise there.  What is more interesting is that the group recommends destroying the non-aligned movement:
 
the United Nations still does much of its business through five unwieldy regional groups and the Non-Aligned Movement, which "continues to bind many democracies with highly repressive tyrannies and is an outdated obstacle" to more efficient action, the report said.

The United States could restore its reputation in the organization and win backing for its goals by forging a new alliance based on "the effective promotion of democracy, human rights and counterterrorism."

Although not particularly strong lately, the non-aligned movement still provides something of an independent voice for the countries of the South.  This, rather than the fact that it includes a few dictatorships, is the reason for its 'inefficiency' in US eyes.

  The loss of lives among Mexican immigrants as a direct result of the insane measures they are forced to take as they commute to work is a human rights tragedy on the scale of 9/11 (see also postings on 9/14, 8/12, 8/8 and 8/5).
 
10/14 In the twentieth century, a popular maneuver by intellectuals who craved attention but had nothing much to say was to quibble over who was most indubitably anti-Stalinist.  I had thought this move had been tossed into the dustbin of history, but apparently not.
 
Rumsfeld has announced he wants the US military to be able to deploy more rapidly and flexibly.  No surprise there.  This is an administration obsessed with secrecy and keeping public and international opinion at bay.  If the military can be called upon more quickly, its that much harder to be hamstrung by public opposition, diplomacy, etc.  So why did the New York Times claim that

A faster mobilization could give Mr. Bush extra time to pursue more avenues of diplomacy or to allow weapons inspections to run their course.

 
10/11 Our noble public servants who steward the land and always sell it at fair prices:
 
In one trade in Nevada several years ago, a developer acquired 70 acres of public land that the bureau had valued at $763,000, then sold it the next day for $4.6 million.
 
Noble prize committee to Bush:  Drop Dead!
 
 
10/10  Mexico cleanses its city center of poor people trying to sustain themselves.
 
 
10/4  Which Middle Eastern country has kept someone in jail for over ten years for talking about their nuclear weapons program?
 
Bush scuttles Blair's bid for a Middle Eastern peace conference.
 
 
10/3  Lunatic dreams of a global American empire.  Unfortunately, the lunatics are the main advisors to the US president.
 
That the US can pour American 'trainers' into Colombia to defend an oil pipeline without anything resembling a public debate is a little shocking.
 
10/1  Tariq Ali on Anti-war protests in London
 
Europe sells out to the US on the International Criminal Court.
 
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9/28  I once remember Alexander Cockburn writing a column about how Nancy Reagan was the closest thing to a voice of reason in the Reagan White House.  And now she is demonstrating her virtues once again.
 
This article is so clear about the likely impact of a war with Iraq on the natural friends of the US in the Mideast that you almost have to wonder what the reporter was thinking.  Could she be one of those terrorist sympathizers John Ashcroft has warned us about?
 
 
9/26  Rich people are making the rounds of doctors with their kids, trying to get a diagnosis of learning disability so their kid can get extra time on the SAT (now that it's not recorded on the transcript that you've been given extra time).  I remember in the eighties, when welfare recipients would be caught pulling a stunt like this, it would be the biggest news story for weeks.
 
9/25 The IMF issues its bleakest economic forecast in years:
 
In many respects, the latest World Economic Outlook paints a picture of a global economy stacked precariously like a house of cards, waiting for a hit from just one more morsel of economic misery to bring on a global recession
 
A vote of a moderate Republican denies Bush authority to ignore federal regulations in the case of  'homeland security' workers.  Perhaps our national security is in danger!

Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, said that the president "has made it very clear" that he would not sign any legislation if it "doesn't adequately protect the country with the flexibility that the work force needs to do their job well."

Yes, the work force can't work well if the President can't arbitrarily fire them.

Mexican photographer exposes the lifestyles of the rich and tasteless.
 
9/24 Excellent article on the growth of Islam among Blacks and Latinos in the US.
 
Lawrence Sumners, President of Harvard, equates global justice protesters and NGOs opposed to Israeli policies with synagogue burners.  Full text here.
 
9/23  George Bush, feminist?
 
Al Gore actually takes a stance against Bush's crazed war drive and 'pre-emptive strikes'.
 
  The US has decided that Germany's efforts to mend fences for the sin of opposing US policy on Iraq aren't good enough.  Perhaps its time for a little 'regime change' in Deutchland?
 
9/22  Tom Tomorrow has put up a link to this site!  Thank you Tom.
 
Will Dave Eggers trigger a revolution against the  corporate bastions of the publishing industry?
 
Ken Loach on Britain's anti-war movement and the substantive questions about the war not being asked.
 
Israel says it will retaliate if Iraq attacks it if and when the US invades.  In other words, the US cannot even control the actions of its very closest ally in the region.
 
 
9/20  The Bush administration is claiming that Cuba is giving them false leads in the war against Al Quaeda: 
 
The accusation, which Mr. Fisk aired in separate conferences Tuesday on Cuba policy, marks the second time this year that a State Department official has portrayed
Cuba as a national security threat to the United States without releasing any evidence. Last spring, UnderSecretary of State John R. Bolton accused Cuba of developing biological weapons, which President Castro vigorously denied.
 
Should the US have an easy time overthrowing Saddam Hussein, expect Cuba to be in their sites next.  Full article
 
A Guatemalan fast food restaurant chain is spreading across the US.  The chickens of globalization come home to roost.  Full article.
 
 
 
9/19  The Demise of Rosie Magazine presents a post-modern conundrum:  Who is "Rosie O'Donnell"?

Regardless of what the contract says, there is an expectation that the magazine belongs to the person it is named after. But Gruner & Jahr officials said Ms. O'Donnell was not the person she had played on TV and not the one they struck a deal with last year. They said that they teamed up with a talk show host who had a huge following of middle Americans who saw themselves in the sweet-as-pie television figure who had a visible crush on Tom Cruise. In less than a year, she had quit her talk show, announced she was a lesbian and said she was tired of acting nice all the time.

"We believe that when she lost the anchor of that television show, something inside her snapped," said one of the editors who worked with her at Rosie. "There is no other way to explain her behavior."  Full story.

 
According to a secret report described in the Scottish Sunday Herald (which my friends tell me is not so secret), not only did Bush have plans to tumble Saddam before he came into the White House, but his claque plans to topple China.  China.  Waddya, nuts?  Full link
 
Toronto Sun Foreign Editor Eric Margolis, member of the International Insitute for Strategic Studies, the body which has supplied the "evidence"upon which Bush built his case before the United Nations, says that the IISS had its arm twisted by Tony Blair to come up with the requisite findings... full story

 
9/14  According to Serge Schmemann:  'On the Palestinian side, leaders avoided declaring any retreat in resisting what they call the Israeli "occupation"'
Whyever would they call it that? full link.
 
14 Mexican immigrants die in the worst car accident in Maine's history.  Will anyone besides their families morn them next September?
 
9/11  Intelligent, not sanctimonious piece by Susan Sontag on the dangers of the 'war on terrorism' metaphor (or not?).  Many of the letters published in response are also thoughtful.  Why is this discourse at a superior level to that of our professional pundit class?-
 
9/3 Florida police cars to sport advertising as a money-saving tactic.
 
 Bechtel is suing Bolivia because its water privatization scheme proved politically untenable, resulting in lost profits.
 
9/2  EU caves into US on not renewable energy resources at Johannesburg summit.
 
US-Europe treaty on terrorism raises rights issues.
 
 
 
8/28  More black men are in prison than in institutions of higher education.  It wasn't always this way.
 
8/25  Interesting article in the NY Times by Victoria De Grazia on the selling of the US as a brand.
 
Excellent article from Newsday about 'corporate terrorism'.
This is the key passage:
 
According to Senate testimony from Kenneth Roth, whose Human Rights Watch
group two years ago documented "widespread labor rights violations" in the
United States, in the 1950s a few hundred workers a year were fired -
illegally - for trying to organize unions. But in 1998 - despite a much
lower level of union organizing activity - 24,000 workers lost their jobs
just because they were trying to exercise their internationally guaranteed
freedom to associate with other workers on the job.

 
8/24  Militant protests against Bush in Oregon, for the most part ignored by the US media.
 
8/22  File under:  it doesn't get any stupider than this:  Peruvian converts are the newest settlers on the West Bank.
 
8/21 Blair's strategy of trying to change the US by getting close to it has failed.
 
 Exports from the US aren't increasing much, despite a weakening dollar.  Not much of a payoff from the end of the great strategy of the eighties and nineties, using a strong dollar to attract foreign capital to the US:
 
Subtracting capital sent abroad from the United States, the net inflow into the country fell 83 percent, or $16.4 billion, in the first quarter compared with figures in the period a year earlier. Switzerland alone invested $11.1 billion in the United States in the first quarter of 2001; in the first quarter of this year, it withdrew $154 million worth of capital.

Mr. Schoenholtz said he viewed the dollar's decline as a signal of these retreating capital flows. The business climate in the United States, crippled by accounting scandals and faltering profits, makes investment in American securities less attractive. With less demand for American securities comes less demand for dollars with which to buy them, and the currency loses value.

Dollar falls as Saudi Arabia, unhappy with the US, pulls some money out.
 

Despite scepticism over a big Saudi shift out of dollar assets, Iran - described as part of an "axis of evil" by President George Bush, is reportedly considering switching crude oil sales from dollars into euros.

If they did so, and were followed by other oil producers, the consequences for the US would be serious.
 
8/20  Things aren't going well when the US can't even get Colombia, the third largest recipient of US military aid, to agree to its policy on the international criminal court.  Guess even dependents don't like to be ordered to violate treaties they've signed.
 
8/13  Today is left-hander's day!
 
Excellent article available free at the NACLA website on the coup and un-coup in Venezuela in April, particularly focusing on the perfidy of the Venezuelan private media, which broadcast soap operas rather than live reports of pro-Chavez demonstrations.
 
Item:  According to reporter Elizabeth Bumiller:
 
  Even Republican supporters of Mr. Bush have recently criticized the forum as an exercise in promoting the Bush economic agenda and a reaffirmation of the president's policies, rather than an open airing of the economic problems facing the country. 
 
So why did the Times headline her article Bush's Forum on Economy:  More than the Usual Crowd ?
 
 
8/12  Breaking up a child smuggling ring sounds very noble--but it should be noted that the children were being smuggled so that their parents in the US could see them, and that the smuggling ring is necessitated largely because of US immigration policy.  Now that it is busted it, it's not clear how these parents will ever see their children (Although, obviously, where there is a demand, an enterprise will probably emerge, legal or no).
 
The interesting thing about this article is not so much that US arrogance toward Japan remains intact even after the US bubble burst; the interesting thing is that the potential of Japanese decline is seen as a problem for the US:  
 
If the Japanese really lost hope, they might start thinking more about acquiescing in Chinese power," said Robyn Lim, an expert in international relations at Nanzan University in Nagoya, "so Japan's return to some semblance of economic health is a vital interest of the U.S. for both security and economic reasons.
As always, worth noting how 'US security' seems to depend on the right behaviour of countries thousands of miles away.
 
 
Blurring the line between advertising and advocacy seems particularly heinous when the subject is medicine.  Watch out for celebrities on talk shows claiming some medication worked for them--they may be on a company payroll.
 
Weird--the 'it wasn't Argentina's fault, it was the IMF's' line, articulated by a regular reporter for the New York Times.
 
 
8/10  Blunt article in the Times clarifying the way the IMF is seeking to tie the hands of the next administration in Brazil.
 
This article, about the way stagnant wages may hinder US economic recovery, is also useful.
 
The US is officially going to aid the Colombian government in its struggle against the rebels of the FARC (and against right wing paramilitaries--yeah right).  Just what we need, another war to get involved with...
 
 The US now wants any country getting military aid to agree to give immunity to US troops from the international criminal court (in other words, violate a treaty they've signed).  Its almost as if the US wants to see how tightly it can pull the strings of its empire before they snap...
 
8/8 Consequences of US immigration policy of deporting convicted felons.
 

In a tangled legal case, Mr. Sor Vann [deported to Cambodia] said he had been convicted of indecent exposure for urinating in public, then of violating his parole, and had ended up serving four years in prison before he was released....

As the deportations continue in the months to come, the Cambodian government will find itself burdened with hundreds of people like this, lost, jobless, many of them unable to function in the Cambodian language, all with criminal records. The hard cases among them could become a menace, possibly joining criminal groups or forming their own gangs

 

Good, frank article about the reasons for the IMF bailout of Brazil, supported by the US.  Some highlights:

 

For one thing, a Brazilian collapse would be much more frightening [than Argentina's]. Brazil's economy is several times as big as Argentina's. Its external debt of $264 billion is more than double that of Argentina, and American banks like Citigroup, FleetBoston and J. P. Morgan Chase have much greater exposure to Brazilian loans than to Argentine ones.

Brazil has also been a big magnet for American industrial investment. General Motors and other car companies have sunk billions into factory expansions, and a Brazilian meltdown would turn those into white elephants....

The I.M.F. loan was carefully structured to affect Brazil's upcoming elections, in which two left-wing candidates are in the lead and had been threatening to reverse Brazil's free-market approach to economics and trade.

Most of the loan cannot be tapped until after the elections, and the left-wing candidates strongly implied today that they will continue the current belt-tightening budget policies in order to satisfy the fund.

The loan may well keep Brazil on the neo-liberal track.  But as Paul Krugman admits in this surprising column, that track has not been particularly beneficial to the poor majority.

8/7  Apparently the prospect of South America's largest economy collapsing is too much even for the Bush administration, which is working with the IMF to get Brazil money to stave off its currency decline.  On the other hand, they have not been so generous to Argentina:
 

Between his meetings with government officials and businessmen, Mr. O'Neill visited a day care center in a Buenos Aires suburb in which more than half of the 500,000 inhabitants are now living below the poverty line. As his motorcade sped through the streets, onlookers rubbed their fingers together to indicate money and one man shouted "where's the cash, where's the cash?"

Workers at the center, built with a grant from the World Bank, said that most of the parents of the 110 children, ages 2 to 5, enrolled in the program were unemployed. The breakfast and lunch which today consisted of chicken and rice with milk and flan for dessert is the only nourishment many of the children receive, the workers said.

 
8/6  In a display of what is becoming typical US world leadership, the US is trying to get countries to agree to not extradite US troops to the international criminal court. So far, the US has gotten two countries to agree .  Who besides Israel?  Romania, presumably in need of some loans.
 
8/5 When people try to change the subject away from Israel, as in this repellent piece by Richard Bernstein, they often mention situations like Chechnya or the war in Congo, which have resulted in more deaths.  But it might be more useful to direct attention closer to home, to US border policy, which has actually produced a death toll comparable to the conflict in Israel/Palestine.
 
 The Screw Turns:  The IMF is unhappy with the US economy.  Some specifics: 
 
The report said that some executive board members also recommended increases in U.S. energy taxes as a way to reduce America's use of energy reserves.

The IMF urged U.S. policy-makers to consider rolling back some of the future tax cuts in an effort to keep budget deficits under control and said the administration's current forecasts of when the federal budget will return to surpluses could prove too optimistic.

The report was also critical of the recently passed farm bill, which sharply boosts farm subsidy payments, saying this would also be a drain on the budget in coming years and undermine the U.S. position in global trade talks that all farm subsidies should be dramatically scaled back.

8/4  Will Brazil follow Argentina into financial chaos?  The subtext of this question is revealed in this quote: 

Behind many of the tremors in Brazil are polls showing that Mr. Cardoso's hand-picked candidate, the former health minister José Serra of the president's centrist Social Democracy Party, is steadily losing ground to his main rivals: the leftist Workers' Party candidate, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a former metalworker who used to talk loudly about renegotiating Brazil's debt, and the dark horse candidate, Ciro Gomes of the Labor Front coalition, who still talks about it.

In other words, the investing class may well throw the country into turmoil to punish it for democratically electing leaders it disapproves of. 
 
 
8/3 What does it mean if the Pentagon parking lot is empty in August?  Could it possibly mean that people have been told to take their vacations now, since there may be a war soon that will but all breaks on hold?
 
Ericsson further blurs the line between advertising and life.
 
Add Bolivia to the list of countries in Latin America where the left is accumulating strength.  A coalition of peasants, unions, and indigenous people (in other words, 'terrorists', in the judgement of the US government) may attain the presidency this weekend.
 
 
 The US is having trouble attracting foreign investment, slowing its recovery. 
 
  Reading the New York Times lately, including this piece  featuring Republicans with reservations about invading Iraq, I've begun to wonder whether the newspaper of record actually supports the idea of this invasion.
 

Senator Trent Lott, the Republican minority leader, told reporters today that he did not think the administration needed Congressional approval for a major assault. He said that authority had been granted last fall in a resolution supporting military action against Al Qaeda.

"I suspect that Al Qaeda elements are in Iraq," Mr. Lott said. "The resolution we passed, we made it very clear the president has the authority to pursue the Al Qaeda wherever they may be found, in whatever country, which could very well include Iraq."

The logic here is wonderful.  If Bush thinks Al Quaeda might be in Iraq, he has the right to attack them without any sort of input from the senate.  Actually, we know Al Quaeda is active in a number of Western European countries, not to mention the US...  Why doesn't Bush just attack them?
 
 
 
7/31  UN Human Rights chief Mary Robinson: forced out by the US?
 
 
Good article from Counterpunch about global music censorship. 
 
Add Jordan to voices questioning the US war drive against Iraq.
 
 The first voice in this piece badmouthing the Bush war drive on Iraq is an analyst for Lehmann Brothers.  The second is a member of the Kuwaiti royal family. 
 
7/29  The Welfare Reform law is apparently creating a class of children not raised by their parents.
 
7/28  Bush's Cuba policy has begun to generate opposition among Republicans.
 
 
7/27 the most effective opposition to a US war on Iraq may come from military officials skeptical about such a campaign.
 
Bush spent about four times as much as Gore on the Florida recount campaign. 
 
 Is Saudi Arabia on the brink of collapse?
 
Brazil has put in place a giant radar system to spy on the Amazon.  Pretty good op-ed piece today in the NY Times about felony disenfranchisement, the scandal of American democracy. 
 
7/26  More on the Nigerian women's protests.
 
  William Pfaff on how Europe might exercise power against the wishes of the US.
 
7/25  How serious is the problem of US national debt?
 
The world economy is having trouble because the US is lagging.  But the US these days seems uninterested in any meaningful concept of world leadership.
 
 
7/24  The US refuses to participate in international goals, others will step up.  People around the world will notice.
 
 
Great quotes from the former king of Afghanistan. The rest of this article is interesting in comparing the war on terrorism to Vietnam, but I think it overestimates how easy it will be for the US to get in and out of Iraq, and also overestimates Bush's desire to wrap up the war on terror.
 
7/22  Article in Le Monde Diplomatique suggests that the WHO has been corrupted by a pro-corporate attitude in its leadership.
 
How does the agenda of corporate advertisers shape even the most creative TV shows?  This tidbit from E!online's Ask Wanda is revealing.
 
 
7/21  Robert Kagan believes the US and Europe see things so differently that the former should basically disregard the opinions of the latter.
 
7/20  The New York Times today has an article claiming hundreds of civilian deaths as a result of the US bombing campaign in Afghanistan. 
 
7/19  'Breaking protocol', poor countries of the ACP critique wealthy--
 
Protests in Peru against free market capitalism (7/18)
 
 
7/14 Drug lords use social network analysis (sophisticated computer analysis of patterns of communication) to smoke out informers in their midst. 
 
 
7/11 Jordan doesn't want to be used as a base for a US attack on Iraq.  But why would that stop theUS--it's just Jordan.
 
7/10  Europe worries about Bush's war policies
 
7/8  Kurds dubious about US war plans for Iraq .  Michael Jackson blasts recording industry racism.  Is Bin Ladenism finished? 
 
7/7:  Plans for war against Iraq.  Has Lula reformed enough for the New York Times?
 
 
 
7/4:  Computer Chips controlling post-purchase use of products.
 
7/3:  Will the new WTO chief get tough on multinationals?
 
 
 
 
6/30:  New York Times on Bolivia's elections.  Le Monde Diplomatique on the failure of the war on terrorism.  The US, peacekeepers, the international war crimes court and internationalism.  The Observer on the crisis of the American capitalism.
 
6/28China displaces the US.  The US business model is being questioned.  Ganglords rule slums of BrazilCouric vs. Coulter.
 
6/26Bush parrots Israel's call for Arafat's removal.
 
6/25:  WalMarts doesn't pay its workers for all the work they do.  Nicholas Kristof, apologist for sweatshops.  Europe courts Chile.
 
6/23Warlords win Loya Jorga.  Judith Williamson on the rights of children.  Pakistan and US clothing tariffsTed Turner and Israel.
 
6/17:  Doctrine of Pre-emptive strikes.
 
6/16:  Limits to the achievements of the war on terrorism.
 
6/13Documentary on possible abuses by US in Afghanistan.  Protectionism and the WTO.  Danger to the world economy if the dollar falls too fast.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
5/30:  Neologism: pomosexuals
 
5/29:  Articles on lawlessness in rural China and the health insurance industry's critique of the pharmaceutical industry.
 
5/28:  Description and link to gatt.org culture jam.
 
5/27Clip from New York Times about difficulties faced by US flight schools, limits of US globalization. Op Ed from the Guardian about the need for an assertive Europe.
 
5/25  Wayne Smith letter in the New York Times about connections between Enron, Bush, and Argentina.

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