Tuesday, December 23, 2003


In Greek mythology, sirens were sea nymphs who inhabited an island surrounded by dangerous rocks and sang so enchantingly that all who heard were drawn near and shipwrecked. A fitting metaphor for the Bush administration's misadventures with iraqi oil? Development economist extraordinaire Jeffrey Sachs would argue so.

Writing in the Financial Times today, Sachs debunks the Bush administration's neo-realist thinking on American hegemony that views dominance of Middle Eastern oil resources as the keystone to continued U.S. supremacy.

Sachs: "Yet the vice-president's view of US energy security is dead wrong, in terms of both energy economics and geopolitics."

Sachs argues quite compellingly that a vast supply of economically competitive alternative fossil fuels is well within our reach...not to mention potentially vast untapped markets for sustainable energy technology that is languishing amid a dismal market failure (it doesn't help when the latest energy bill passed by the Republican Congress lavishes subsidies and tax cuts on fossil fuel extraction and dinosaur power plants).

On geopolitics, Sachs argues that the American attack on and occupation of Iraq will foment the same disaffection that toppled the U.S. imposed Shah of Iran and is threatening the U.S.-backed monarchy in Saudi Arabia. (Witness an article in today's New York Times: "Talk of Tikrit's Favorite Diner: Hatred of Hussein, Fury at U.S.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Inquiry Suggests Pakistanis Sold Nuclear Secrets (NYT)

Two quick points:

"The Pakistani action to question Dr. Khan's associates was prompted by information Iran turned over two months ago to the International Atomic Energy Agency, under pressure to reveal the details of a long-hidden nuclear program."

Gee, I guess the United Nations is actually pretty effective at monitoring and uncovering illicit programs to build weapons of mass destruction. (Oh, and these were the same inspectors Bush booted out of Iraq).

"A senior Bush administration official, while declining to comment on what was learned when Pakistani officials questioned the men, said that all three had been 'well known to our intelligence folks.'"

So, the Bush administration knew the Pakistanis were selling "nucular" (sic) secrets to the "axis of evil" (Iran and North Korea), and yet still thought it was a good idea to provide the Pakistanis with military aid and sophisticated weapons sales, preferential trade concessions (that undercut U.S. workers with exploited Pakistani labor), and an air of legitimacy to a military dictatorship.

Sunday, December 21, 2003


Because people go to their jobs to work, not to die.



Timothy Smeeding, world renowned poverty expert:

"In 1997 -- in the midst of a robust economy -- one in five American children lived in poverty. This is about double the rate in other wealthy industrialized nations, such as France, Germany and the Nordic countries...We in America have high child poverty rates because we choose to, not because we cannot do anything about it. Other nations make different choices and get different results."

Thursday, December 18, 2003


The path to security and the solutions to many of our and the world's collective problems--from stopping terrorism to stopping the spread of AIDS--lies in international cooperation. The Bush administration however is leading our country down and the world down a very different path. While most public scrutiny is fixated on Bush's unilateral push for war in Iraq and a unilateral occupation, it is useful to look back on the path Bush has forged, even before 9/11 "changed everything" (by which I mean it changed nothing), with such utter disdain for the world community, human decency, and the enlightened U.S. interests that encompasses these goals.

To recap:

U.S. has done nothing or hindered effective action:
*Climate change--Bush renounced the Kyoto protocol, took no domestic action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and rather torpedoed environmental and clean air policies aimed at curbing emissions.
*Small Arms Trafficking (the root of civil war around the world)--Bush blocked and weakened key provisions of a draft UN agreement to curb the illicit global small arms trade.
*Tobacco--Bush blocked and weakened key provisions of draft Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. 80 countries signed it, including Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the UK, and even the shut in countries like North Korea and Myanmar.
*Population control and reproductive health--Bush cut off U.S. assistance to foreign NGOs providing family planning services and pre-natal care. (Thus ensuring more kids in the Third World inherit poverty as their birth right).

U.S. flouted rules-based international system:
*Trade--Bush imposed egregious and ineffective steel tariffs (see my previous post), and racked up outrageous farm subsidies as part of a misguided agricultural policy that impoverishes the world's farmers and puts food in the hands of monopolistic multinational corporations.
*Chemical Weapons Convention--Bush only ratified the convention after asserting "special rights" to refuse inspections and to prevent collected samples from leaving U.S. territory.
*Nuclear Weapons Proliferation--Bush withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty in order to proceed with his pipe dream (and pet of his military-industrial complex cronies) National Missile Defense project.
*War Crimes--Bush "un-signed" the Rome treaty establishing the International Criminal Court and announced the court would not receive US cooperation. Bush also threatend to invade the Netherlands should the court attempt to try an American (say, for example, his Daddy for alleged crimes against humanity).

Source: Simmons, P.J. 2002. "Global Challenges: Beating the Odds." Carnegie Endowment For International Peace Policy Brief No. 17. August.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003


Here is how the Bush administration is progressing in their effort to strangle terrorists of of their financial resources:

"A report released last week by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, noted that U.S. law enforcement still has no clear idea of how terrorists move their money and that the FBI, which is the lead agency in tracking terrorist assets, still does not "systematically collect or analyze" such information."

"Governments around the world are not enforcing global sanctions designed to stem the flow of money to al Qaeda and impede the business activity of the organization's financiers, allowing the terrorist network to retain formidable financial resources, according to U.S., European and U.N. investigators."

And the Bush administration is a culprit. Here is a list of multinational corporations who are aiding and abetting global terrorists that got a punitive slap on the wrist from Treasury. The notables include ChevronTexaco (where Nat'l Security Advisor Condi Rice served on the board of directors), Citigroup (the world's largest financial services corporations, known to launder money for the Russian mafia and Latin American drug cartels), ExxonMobil, Dow Chemicals, and Fleet Bank (now Bank of America) to name a few of the Bush administration's cronies in the Fortune 500.

What were they doing? Exporting goods that can be used in manufacturing weapons and biochemical warfare and moving large sums of money around the world through secret private bank accounts, mostly with such friendly countries as Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Sudan.

Citigroup was fined a whopping $2500. The company is worth $250 billion, with income of $456 million from private banking (managing an undisclosed level of private banking assets).

Keep up the good work, George.


Yesterday I wrote that the U.S. would likely move to try Saddam in Iraq for a couple of key reasons. First, viewed from within the United States, the semblance of Iraqis standing up to pursue their own justice for Saddam, most Americans will see it only as a rounding of the circle in Iraq: closure on Saddam, a return to normalcy in Iraqi society, and the roots of democracy taking hold. This story seems to be the most appealing one from the media's perspective, a heart-warming allegory of Iraq's first baby steps on the path to liberalism. Spun this way, the media will confer sufficient legitimacy on the working of the triad, however it will exclude the Kurds, Israelis, Iranians, Kuwaitis, and others from receiving justice for their sufferings under the hand of Saddam. Not to mention justice for the American people who deserve to know how the Reagan and Bush I administrations (and many actors recycled into the current Bush administration) helped Saddam rise to power, gas the Kurds, and acquire and deploy chemical weapons.

The Bush administration/Iraqi governing council yesterday expressed its desire to bring Saddam to trial by next spring. Let's do some math. Next spring falls approximately April 21-June 21. Iraq's first democratic elections are tentatively scheduled for next July. So, Saddam's trial would begin anywhere from one to three months before the Iraqi people have any opportunity to cast votes in a national election. This means that justice will not be apportioned by the Iraqi people, but by the Iraqi governing council, established and loaded with hand picked overseas Iraqis by the U.S. occupational administration.

(Side note: general elections in Iraq will not mean that Iraq has acheived democracy. In the election (if we ever progess that far), the Iraqi people will be asked to choose leaders to fill a political framework engineered by the non-democratic Iraqi council and the U.S. to entrench power in a new Iraqi state in ways favorable to the U.S. and their Iraqi lackeys. Going by political scientist Albert O. Hirschman's astute observation of individuals' options in any given political regime: exit, voice, or loyalty--sometimes also portrayed as disloyalty. ." Exit does not appear a viable alternative for the downtrodden and impoverished majority of Iraqis. If they could get out, they would have previously. In fact, now those who had the resources and connections to get out are coming back to carpet bag. Iraqis have as much voice under the American occupation as they did under Saddam. That leaves us with the options of loyalty to/disloyal resistance to the American tailored regime.)

The second key point is that a trial in Iraq will be a de facto trial by the United States, orchestrated by the U.S. occupation to ensure no juicy, dammaging information is revealed about Saddam's connections with (and potential war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by) Republican officials and operatives

Monday, December 15, 2003


"On Saturday, a convoy of ten humvees and personnel carriers descended on the old headquarters building of the Transport and Communications Workers union, in Baghdad's central bus station, which has been used since June as the office of the
Iraqi Workers Federation of Trade Unions. Twenty soldiers jumped out, stormed into the building, put handcuffs on eight members of the Federation's executive board, and took them into detention."


See question three in the post below (or click here)

According to the NYT website this afternoon:

"I've got my own personal views of how he ought to be treated," Mr. Bush told reporters at a late-morning news conference. "It's going to be up to the Iraqis to make those decisions."

MEANWHILE IN KABUL U.S. opens latest McDemocracy Franchise

I'll take one constitutional democracy value meal, please. Oh, and could you supersize that.


In case you live in a cave (this means you Osama), this morning U.S. forces paraded a scraggly, captive Saddam Hussein before the global media machine. Indeed a momentous turn of events, Saddam's capture raises a number of pressing questions.

(1.) What does this mean for violent resistance to the American occupation of Iraq?

If Saddam was masterminding the resistence of loyal remnants of the Republican, then we might expect the violence to taper off. This is the sore loser scenario oft charged by conservatives who like to gloat over their perceived victories (a charge also levied against tholse in the West who opposed the war). If the resistance arises from oppostion to U.S. occupation, as many many many who opposed the war prophecied, then we should expect the resistance to remain constant or increase.

Here I turn to GWB: "I also have a message for all Americans: The capture of Saddam Hussein does not mean the end of violence in Iraq. " Despite early reports this morning of (a) new intelligence that Saddam was orchestrating the resistance and (b) two new car comb attacks against police stations, it is my impression that Saddam couldn't have been too involved in the resistance. Why do I say this? Mainly because Saddam was living in a hole in the ground. Judging from his mangy dog appearance, it doesn't look like he got out too much. Oh, and his hole isn't like the bunker in Nebraska--with all its computers, analysts and telecommunications infrastructure--where GWB flew to hide out on 9/11, it was just a hole under a farm house.

"Yesterday, December the 13th, at around 8:30 p.m. Baghdad time, United States military forces captured Saddam Hussein alive." Kudos to you, GWB.

(2.) But how are we doing with regards to capturing OBL? You know, the guy who masterminded and financed the attacks on the WTC (twice), the Pentagon, the Whitehouse (failed, thanks to some very brave souls), the S.S. Cole, the Embassies in Africa, and so on.

(3) Okay, we got him. Now what do we do with him? The good folks at the CIA will eventually tire of flogging Saddam with the proverbial rubber hose, and the question of bringing Saddam to justice--where, how, by whom, and for whom--will lurch to the forefront of public intrigue.

It seems there are three options: Try him in Iraq, try him in the United States, or try him at the international court. There is a fourth scenario, too. Saddam could suffer congenital heart failure, fall down a flight of stairs, commit suicide, and so on. I would not rule this out, given what Saddam knows about the involvement of President Reagan, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and a myriad of other Republican hawks in Saddam's rise to power, war against Iran, business deals with U.S. firms to extract oil and develop chemical weapons.

Here we must recall the "logic of the triad." Courts essentially derive their legitimacy from this triad--it??the idea that two parties in conflict refer their dispute to a third, neutral party for resolution. We can see right away that there are many more than two parties at play in this conflict. Here is an inexhaustive listing: the Iraqi people (subjected citizenry), the Kurds (genocidal victims), the Americans (colonial overlords), and the Kuwaitis, Israelis and Iranians (victims of war crimes).

There is a fourth, oft overlooked component to the triad (probably omitted so they wouldn't have to call it logic of the "quad"): the general public who decide on the legitimacy of the third party and the judicial process.

It would seem the international court would be best suited to deal justice to such a diverse group of parties. But that raises the risk for the Bush Administration that information Saddam potentially could divulge would come back to bite them (and previous Republican administrations--including Daddy Bush) in the ass. An American trial would reek of impartiality (and an improper fit to redress the broad breach of justice waged under Saddam's regime). It's safe to say that putting Saddam on trial in the U.S. would evoke outrage from much of the world, particularly in regions where the Bush administration would like to usher an era of democratic enlightenment.

A trial in Iraq, while shunning all other injured parties from the process of justice, would ring most true to the average American. Conveniently for the Bush administration, Iraqi civil society is in such shambles that there is no way a judicial system capable of ruling on international human rights and war crimes laws could be up and running in any foreseeable length of time. Most of the country still has no electricity, let alone the litigation and jurisprudence skills necessary for such an undertaking. "Have I got the solution for you," Paul Bremer is thinking. While a trial by Iraqis would likely earn Bush considerable political capital domestically, in reality it could be no more than a kangaroo court orchestrated by the heavy, invisible hand of the U.S. potentate, which would ensure Bush of the appropriate outcome: Saddam guilty, dirty little Republican secrets stay under wraps.

(4) What about those pesky WMDs? If there is anyone who can, Saddam should lead us once and for all to those elusive missiles, fissile material and biological weapons aresenal. You know, the stuff about which Sec. of State Collin Powell presented the UN with detailed intelligence as to the locations and activities: . Either they were there and now we get them, or Bush lied to the American public and the world. Period.

Yes, there are more questions to be posed and pondered, but for now I need to go earn my keep at my job.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Bush Defends Policy on Awarding Contracts to Rebuild Iraq

"...the expenditure of U.S. dollars will reflect the fact that U.S. troops and others risk their life."

That's funny, I thought the no-bid sweet heart contracts reflected top Bush administration officials' insidious business ties to the military-industrial-oil complex. (See also here). Go figure. It was patriotism all along.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003


It might just be me, but I thought Japan gave up its imperial flag. (Japanese troops en route to an ill-defined tour of duty in Iraq.)

Monday, December 08, 2003

WHAT I'M READING: Dastardly Republicans

I don't use the word messianic lightly, and I wouldn't use it to describe Al Franken's latest opus, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. I will say that Franken, with the help of a dozen research assistants and a remarkable wry wit, has written a masterful dissection of the "vast right-wing conspiracy"--which, by Franken's measure, combines shameless, avaricious and evil geniuses with a confedarcy of dunces.

It's hard to decide which incidence of right-wing forked-tongue malfeasance described by Franken is most offensive to my American values of common decency and fair play, but I'll try. Franken on the 2002 Minnesota Wellstone-Coleman Senatorial campaign (I'm sure Al Franken won't mind me quoting part of his book here, hope the good people at Penguin Publishing are as understanding--from p. 179-80 of Lies, book excerpt in my italics):

The Wellstone-Coleman campaign had been considered one of the most negative in recent memory...But mainly it was Coleman's proxies who played it dirty. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) ran an ad called "Pork" that hit the hypocrisy jackpot. It savaged Wellstone for voting "to spend thousands of dollars to control seaweed in Maui," claiming that he prioritized seaweed control over national defense. In fact, Wellston did vote for S.1216, as did Strom Thurmond, Trent Lott, and eighty-four other senators. That bill did appropriate the seaweed control spending--but it also provided $21 billion for veterans' health care, $27 billion for veterans' compensation and pensions, and block grants to assist NYC's recovery from 9/11. The NSRC was chaired that year by Bill Frist, who later replaced Trent Lott as Senate majority leader. Before the [Wellstone] memorial, Frist spoke with the Wellstones' older son, David, who later recounted the conversation to me.

"I'm sorry about your parents and your sister," Frist told David.

"Did you authorize the seaweed ad against my dad?"


"And did you vote for the seaweed bill?"

There was a pause. They both knew that the answer was yes. Finally, Frist said, "It wasn't personal."

"My dad took it personal. Thanks for coming to my family's memorial"

...And so on for about 350 pages. Not to be outdone by Franken's research team, I wanted to check the facts before I posted. So I went to Thomas, the online repository of the Congressional record hosted at the Library of Congress. It's really slow because it contains millions of pages of documents, so be patient.

Following the historical track of legislation is tricky even for seasoned researchers-- Navigating the absurdities of parliamentary procedures, the renaming, renumbering, tabling, conferencing and sending to committee of bills, etc. Conferences occur when the House and the Senate version of a bill are in discord. A bicameral group of legislators get together to reconcile the two bills. This is where a lot of horse trading takes place away from public view. Legislative items that have nothing to do with the disputed bill are tacked on and core components of the bill are stripped out. Sometimes conferences are usefully employed to get legislative work done that would be arduously time consuming in the larger legislative bodies, and sometimes they are used to strongarm pork, pet projects, and grotesquely egregious legislative items.

For example, say they are debating a bill to appropriate money to give flags to widows of Marines killed in Iraq that will most certainly pass unanimously. A legislator could, say, tack on a rider that cuts off appropriations for overseas funding of family planning centers that distribute condoms--a highly polarized issue that is difficult to raise in open session. But no one will dare vote against giving flags to war widows, so the anti-choice measure passes into law. If legislators succeed in reporting a bill out of conference, all likelihood is that it will pass resoundingly (as members of both parties have just come to an agreement). Since there is no conflict, there is no news story, and the bill passes to law without public scrutiny (usually when this happens).

As far as I can tell, the thread through S.1216 disappears when the bill is sent to the Senate Commerce Committee on 6/10/99. Go figure. I'm not saying Franken is wrong; I just don't have more time to spend on this goose chase.

In conclusion, this is a must read for all political persuasions. Intellectually honest conservatives will want to know what is behind the "facts" and people who are shaping their beliefs. And, if you can bite your tongue through the comedy routine, you may be surprised at what you learn. Intellectually cowed liberals will discover new resolve.

This is a good one for the book shelf.

Friday, December 05, 2003

A Little Too Close to Home:

As if I needed more reason to dislike Joe Lieberman (D-CT), here's what he had to say today:

"I like doughnuts. I like sweets. I like candy. I'm not saying if you eat a jelly doughnut or have a high-sugar bottle of soda, you're going to get sick, but if you have too many it's going to affect your health."

Look, it's pretty clear that the political economy of our global food production system is founded upon hyper consumption of fats and simple corn and potato starches for some people, starvation for others. Fat is a public health issue with political origins. We can debate the wisdom of US agricultural policy that shamelessly subsidizes overproduction and the dumping of surplus capacity on world markets (and into big fat American tummies), but let's not scapegoat the donuts. They're delicious.

This should make Decision 2004 that much simpler for Democrats in New Hampshire and Iowa:


Two words: No Contest.

Thursday, December 04, 2003


Don't forget to get your flu shots!

Bush Dsicovers Miracle Cure for U.S. Steel

Let me be the first liberal instapundit to say that the steel tariffs erected by President Bush in March 2002 were the wrong solution to a very serious long-term economic and national security problem. The tariffs were a cynical political ploy to curry favor in key states for the 2002 mid-term elections (PA, WV, OH, IL, MO, IN, et. al.), and in no way resembled a legitimate solution to the problem at hand. **This is what inside the beltway political analysts who have never even heard of a blast furnace derisively refer to as the Nascar vote.**

The decision by President Bush to nix those tariffs less than two years later signals that they have served their purpose. Did the tarrifs "allow American steel makers to get themselves in shape to survive against intense global competition"? Well, let's see:

1. Employment in the US steel industry has fallen more than 20% since its peak five years ago...more than 7% since the tariffs went into effect.

2. Scores of US steel companies are in the midst of bankruptcies, suffering from a global glut in the supply of steel.

3. Foreign steel producers still benefit from government industrial policies that promote overinvestment in steel productive capacity and beggar-thy-neighbor trade competition.

That's curious. If you actually look at the situation in the steel industry, it might seem that the steel industry is actually in worse shape now than it was before the tarrifs. So either the steel tariffs are an example of really ineffective policy choices by the Bush administration, or they were intended only to court a politically important constituency. Maybe that's why Bush announced the tariffs in a very public display, but has opted to ax the tariffs behind the scenes, sending his commerce envoy (and oil crony), Donald Evans, to do his unpleasant biddings.

The only real viable solution (other than letting the US steel industry go down the tubes which is politically unfeasible and would do unthinkable dammage to US national economic and security interests) lies well beyond the reach of the Bush administration's capabilities--the steel crisis, like all global challenges, demands multilateral cooperation.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Court Finds Rwanda Media Executives Guilty of Genocide:

"'The power of the media to create and destroy human values comes with great responsibility,' the court said in a 29-page summary of its judgment. 'Those who control the media are accountable for its consequences.'"

Let this be a lesson to Fox News, Clear Channel, Al-Jazeera, et. al. who choose to employ the Promethean gift of mass communications to foment war.

Good news for environmentalists 'Cause only when it affects the playground of the world's elite, Davos, Switzerland, will anything get done on global warming.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Sounds like a bout of amnesia has struck a Weekly Imperialist, er... I mean, Weekly Standard journalist.