Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Forget it, Mark. It's Chinatown.

This is the second big-time US media article today to leave me aghast (the first being the front page NYT article about a reporter's frustration in not being able to ascertain how often Hot Bill and Cold Hill have sex. At least the mid-terms are firing-up the Ol' Gray Lady.)

To say that legal reporting in the US is miserable is clichéd at best but I expect more out of the AP.

Surprise, non-expats! Other countries have their own rules for employment and public office. It's like they're sovereign or something! It puts me in mind of a line from another movie, The Jerk, where Steve Martin says, "Those darned French! It's like they have a different word for EVERYTHING!"

After one of the most ridiculous ledes I've ever read which states that Schwarzenegger couldn't be a governor in Mexico and that Sergio Villanueva couldn't join the D.F. fire department, the next paragraph reads:
"Even as Mexico presses the United States to grant unrestricted citizenship to millions of undocumented Mexican migrants, its officials at times calling U.S. policies "xenophobic," Mexico places daunting limitations on anyone born outside its territory."
Sweet jumped up Baby Jeebuzz. I'm going to go out on a limb here without benefit of Lexis/Nexis and say that the Mexican government has never called for unrestricted citizenship for millions of undocumented migrants. But even if a weak case could be made for some utterance by a public official south-of-the-border ever having said this...how can the AP mention this without any mention of what "unrestricted citizenship" for undocumented foreign workers would do to Mexico's economy? Does he really think that there would be even ONE Mexican waiter in Cancún if it wasn't for Mexican law?

But no, having set the "unrestricted citizenship" car on fire AP writer Stevenson slips away from it very quickly. He darts across the street to light-up the panel-van marked "look at all the jobs even Mexican citizens can't hold if they're not born there!"

Our poor reporter Mark. For him, the world belongs to the US but the only the US is the master of it's own fate. "Only two", he fairly shouts from the third graf, "only two posts — the presidency and vice presidency — are reserved for the native born." This line is deceptive at best, at some middling point it's just plain bad news reporting, at worst it's carrying water for a political point of view. It is here that we see him slip away from the van to put the torch to another old beater parked on the corner.

To even imply that it is unfair for Mexico to set the requirements for its own members of government while mentioning any office for which the US reserves this right is incendiary. However, to do so without even parenthetically recounting the surprise Barry Goldwater got at the courthouse with his birth certificate in hand...just makes the story even more shallow.

So now what impression could he possibly have left the AP's dear readers? That there are only two jobs in the US for which you must be native-born? That's what I got. Of course, he never said any such thing. In darting from one act of arson to another he conveniently left himself in a place where he had an alibi for not mentioning the sensitive military and civilian positions for which citizenship is required in the US. Of course, the doctrine of American Exceptionalism allows us to change these requirements at will, without incurring the wrath of our reporter. Something to do with national sovereignity, as well, if I remember correctly.

It doesn't really stop with it being just another bit of pap ground out by another maleducated young graduate of a journalism program from which the likes of Jimmy Breslin and Mike Royko never benefited. No mention is made, of course, that the Governor of California's status as an illegal worker has recently been examined by a reporter uninterested in party invitations.

That such graduates can be reliably expected to give equal consideration to even "flat-worlders" or groups that feel "gravity is only a theory" (as long as they hail from the appropriate wing of the political spectrum) adds insult to injury.

Young Mr. Stevenson deigns not to expand his focus even enough to allude to the widespread fraud committed by US employers which is the font from which the "US immigration problem" springs, this in direct contrast with Mexican employers who appear to be adhering to the law of their land although they could benefit greatly from Yanqui labor.

Nope. All we get from this disgraceful piece of pablum spoon-fed to the Bush Administration's fringe/base is, "Unfair! Unfair! The Mexican government is unfair to immigrants!" Just what the doctor ordered for the administration's desperation surrounding the mid-term elections.

And last but not least, there sits unmentioned, as well, the 1000 pound gorilla in the corner: there is no "illegal Mexican worker problem" in the US. Any employer that can make use of illegal Mexican labor is a happy employer. Any illegal Mexican laborer that succeeds in finding employment with such an employer feels he has met with a great measure of success.

Virtually every other remaining American falls into two small groups: those that have no contact with illegal workers and those that simply feel the satisfaction that no organized group exists to protect American workers. Mr. Stevenson's torch hopes to inflame these last two groups. Whether or not there's enough kindling there, however, is doubtful at best.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Uncle Sam Needs your Fear

...from Steve Gilliard (via MyDD)

Iranian Nukes in Sixteen Days?

by Scott Shields, Thu Apr 13, 2006 at 12:00:13 AM EST

The latest hit in the rapidly building drumbeat for war with Iran is that they could have a nuclear bomb at their disposal in sixteen days. The headline is blared across Drudge even as I type this: "Iran 'Could Produce Nuclear Bomb in 16 Days'." So what's the claim based on? Could it possibly be true? In a word, no. Here's the reporting from Bloomberg on the sixteen days claim currently being trotted out by the administration.

Iran will move to "industrial scale" uranium enrichment involving 54,000 centrifuges at its Natanz plant, the Associated Press quoted deputy nuclear chief Mohammad Saeedi as telling state-run television today.

"Using those 50,000 centrifuges they could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in 16 days," Stephen Rademaker, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, told reporters today in Moscow.

The small amount of uranium that Iran just announced producing was enriched using 164 centrifuges. The 50-54,000 centrifuges Rademaker is talking about? They do not exist. Here's the AP article Rademaker's basing these numbers on, in case you might be curious. (All emphases mine, of course.)

Deputy Nuclear Chief Mohammad Saeedi said Iran has informed the International Atomic Energy Agency that it plans to install 3,000 centrifuges at its facility in the central town of Natanz by late 2006, then expand to 54,000 centrifuges, though he did not say when.

"We will expand uranium enrichment to industrial scale at Natanz," Saeedi told state-run television.

Saeedi said using 54,000 centrifuges will be able to produce enough enriched uranium to provide fuel for a 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plant like one Russia is finishing in southern Iran.

In theory, that many centrifuges could be used to develop the material needed for hundreds of nuclear warheads if Iran can perfect the techniques for producing the highly enriched uranium needed.

Iran, which has made no secret of its plans to ultimately expand enrichment to around 50,000 centrifuges to fuel reactors, is still thought to be years away from a full-scale program.

This 'sixteen days' claim is nothing short of a sick, fear mongering lie, designed to push public opinion in a pro-war direction. Iran is not now and will not soon be sixteen days away from producing enough material for a nuclear bomb. Andy Grotto, a Senior National Security Analyst with the Center for American Progress pegs five years as the minimum amount of time it will take for Iran to build a nuclear weapon. And the State Department is even less optimistic about the abilities of Iran's nuclear program. As John Aravosis has pointed out, their own website says that "it will be ten years before Iran has a bomb."

Josh Marshall and others may choose to point out that people like Rademaker are known for their dishonesty. That's fine -- there's value to that. But this claim is a straight-up lie, and it doesn't take a background check on Rademaker's character and honesty to prove it. At the end of the day, the unavoidable fact is that, on matters of war, the administration of George W. Bush is not to be trusted. They have proven over and over and over again that when they want to go to war, the truth will not stand in their way.

16 days? Bullshit.

Let me tell you how this ends. It ends with the US Army fleeing for their lives across 300 miles of open road south from Baghdad. Because we are going to push Iran into supporting a widespread Shia rebellion which will drive us from Iraq.

The idiots in Washington are playing games with a lot of lives.

The one difference is that no one believes Washington now.

posted by Steve @ 1:53:00 AM

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

GOP Controlled Senate goes on Vacation with No Clear Plans to Revisit Immigration

GOP Hard Corps Left Holding the Bag Again

"Some people call you the 'elites'. I call you my base."

Maybe it was the heapin' helpin' of hospitality in George W. Bush's remark to his wealthiest supporters in October of 2000 that allowed them to overlook that slight.

But more than 5 years later these shock troops that can always be rallied to the GOP cause of virtually any "hot button" distraction must be questioning what their blind support is getting them.

It's been a long time between paychecks for a group that can always be counted on to show up for work on-time.

This core-constituency of foot soldiers has made the difference for nearly every Republican elected since 1980. Every year they have been radicalized more by the GOP until they began to exhibit the qualities of a hard crystal of right-wing radicalism.

A generation of dominance by the most craven members of the Republican Party has banished any trace of moderation or tolerance from their opinions and their heartfelt belief is that their way of life, even their very lives, are under siege by incomprehensible enemies from within and without the US.

The abject failure in the trenches of the latest confection-controversy, The War on Undocumented Workers, won’t affect the attitude of the shock troops. So insular are their beliefs that they have already found biblical reference to support their service.

Only the realization that the legislature they have put into office has continually turned its back on instituting the radical reforms for which they have marched could possibly break their morale. The intense isolation of these millions from the majority of voters, however, will make this a difficult conversion. Major television outlets already conspire with talk radio to give this group the feeling that their efforts have led to a measure of success and the issue is resolved, for now, thanks to them.

25 years of devotion have bought them lots of lip service to prayer in school, flag burning, school vouchers, ownership of weapons, affirmative action, abortion and contraception, teen sex, stem cell research, but little else. The question now is how little they will continue to accept for their fealty.

The insular characteristics of the group could keep them from noticing the short-change. The affinity they feel for their leader could be compensation enough.

The national percentage of support for Bush may be in the 30's but they are with him 100%. They recognize in their leader the qualities they love in themselves: a lack of curiosity, a suspicion of higher education, the belief that Jesus Christ speaks to them and has chosen them for a mission, and the needlessness of any doubt as to the righteousness of US military actions abroad.

That the President delegates such "meaningless" tasks as foreign diplomacy to African-Americans only reinforces their confidence that Bush shares their vision of what eventual victory will look like.

Without ever having to hear him speak it, they are convinced that Bush holds true to their darkest certainties. More mainstream, suburban Republicans are uncomfortable with overt racism and the suppression of the shock troops' native hatred of non-whites has been of paramount importance to keeping the conservative coalition together. That is no matter to the faithful. They know that George W. Bush is one of their own. That he cannot speak it publicly in a world so controlled by the enemies of American virtue makes the President even more endearing, more a part of their underdog's fight.

The opposition turn-out to support the unfairly tarred Latino community was so enormous on the immigration issue that it is difficult to discern if any part of it was due to fatigue among the GOP trenches.

What is certain is that this issue was supposed to last many more news cycles than it did. With still seven more months until the mid-terms the Republicans will be forced to find yet another hide to nail to the barn. The herd’s reaction then will be much easier to gauge.

I'm Soooo Tired

I'm so tired of all the negative news the liberal media is reporting about President Bush. Sometimes it makes me so tired that I need to lie down and go to sleep. When I wake up, I'm so tired that I get up and go take a nap for a while.
It makes me tired to turn off the TV so I keep it on all the time. But having TV on all the time makes me tired and sleepy too. I think the news is the cause of my lethargic state. I can't switch off CNN because that makes me so very tired just trying. So I just keep CNN on, becoming more drained with each exhausting segment.
It is with great effort that I write these words today. If CNN would only stop reporting these horrible lies about the greatest intellectual president of the 21st century, I just might snap out of my pathetic state.
But for CNN to stop the negative reporting about the president, he may need to do something a little bit wacky, like taking ballet lessons on live TV once a week. That would be weird to see but I bet his own reality show would divert the attention of the press really quick and maybe, just maybe, little boys and girls all over the country would start taking ballet class which in turn, could only help the economy via an obvious "trickle down" effect.
Viva La Difference!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Who Put the Bull Back in Bullion?

I loves me some gold. I don’t own any and I would never invest in it but I love it. But not even love can conjure up a greater range of feelings in people on shorter notice than Gold.

Since the shiny yellow stuff broke an important barrier this morning closing at $600 maybe we should try to get a handle on what its recent rise in value means without getting into gold-foil hat territory. This is all guessing game stuff, of course. Gold has both risen and fallen during times of fiscal toughness and vice versa and everything in between.

And we don’t even care about gold…we care about dollars…and increasingly we care about the increasingly painful experience of putting them in our gas tanks.

But gold’s like the tarot for me or reading horoscopes or Freudian dream theory, there’s something primal about the first stuff we adopted to mean portable wealth after we gave up counting it in heads of cattle. As anybody can see, though, we may have taken the gold out of the herd but…well, you know.

Although gold’s been marginalized by oil and the dollar, there is something deep in our psyche that makes us reach out for it when we’re feeling threatened and insecure about all the other things that go into our pockets and onto our tax returns. If you’ve got better things to do with your money you don’t buy gold. When you lose faith in the modern instruments of wealth and exchange, however, the old mystic properties start sounding better and better.

To talk about today’s close means talking a little about the short modern history of gold. FDR made it illegal for US citizens to own bullion in ’33 but foreign nations could still redeem any currency they held for what was then the real deal.

That is until the Vietnam war and some pretty startling fiscal imprudence under the Nixon administration. As the US began to really pump out paper money to cover a multitude of sins, countries holding large amounts of greenbacks started to take advantage of the old deal of gold for paper. Ft. Knox got very nervous very quick. Dick Nixon and Henry the K took the dollar completely off the gold standard in ’71. The dollar floated and gold became the commodity it is today.

Talk about takin’ the bull out of bullion! But let’s not get crazy. The almighty dollar fell a bit but it didn’t become just another pound, mark, franc, yen or peso. Unlike those “lesser” currencies, there were still mountains of dollars all over the world in every bank in every country and because of that it was just plain easier to conduct international business in greenbacks.

Even during the oil shocks of the early 70’s OPEC still billed the world in dollars…it was just easier that way. That did good things for the new gold-less dollar because the rest of the world was now spending 400% more of them on their biggest national purchase: energy. At the same time that Americans were donating their new ’73 Coupe de Villes to the Salvation Army the new big-time oil prices were unexpectedly helping the dollar: for a while all those excess dollars were being vacuumed out of national treasuries all over the globe.

That got Henry to thinkin’: high oil prices might not be so bad, these prices are bringing the dollar back up!

Then it flipped back. Major industrialized countries began to protect their shrinking reserves of the now more valuable dollars and started trying to get OPEC to accept different currencies for oil purchases. No way, says the K.

You can find any opinion you want about exactly how Kissinger put a stop to the idea that nations could buy oil with anything other than the dollar…but they all involve something along the lines of intimidation and something about the Shah of Iran. Let’s leave it at that. Except, of course, that the Shah fell in ’79 and gold shot to almost $900 as a result.

Yep. Almost $900 an ounce.

This $600 figure you’re hearing about comes from when the cost of bling was heading way back down into “sane” territory and the Kissinger’s dream of a “petrodollar” was assured…for now.

Tomorrow: “What’s a Petrodollar?”

Monday, April 10, 2006

Double Fantasy

Over the next seven months viewers in the central part of North America will be treated to the rare spectacle of two colliding fantasies: immigration policy and the Project for the New American Century!

Fantasy #1: Our problem with illegal immigrants could be solved if only the laws were enforced. If enforcing the law isn't enough, we can make new laws and that will fix everything.

Fantasy #2: Talk radio’s message to low and medium income white, fundamentalist Americans who have marched to every call from the Reagan Revolution to "the contract with America" to the Clinton impeachment to Saddam-was-behind-911 to the War on Christmas. This group has voted against their own interests all in the hopes of becoming accepted into the Republican Party and sharing the eventual spoils.

US immigration policy from the first act to restrict foreign workers has been a wink-wink, nod-nod, nudge-nudge affair...and that's the way we like it.

It hasn't worked out too badly for the US. It's generally been a good deal for Americans that want cheap labor drawn from the most ambitious of foreign labor pools and it's generally been good for those that have not paid with their lives for the voyage over desert and ocean and air. And "generally" has been...generally...all the "good" we've been interested in. That's the reality. The fantasy comes in when somebody pipes-up that "all this is against the law!" Well, of course, it is. It always has been.

So what's wrong all of a sudden? Apparently, someone wants to wake us up. Whoever that is would do well to remember that it is dangerous to wake Americans from a fantasy.

We were sleepily, dreamily, revering in the cozy comfort of incredibly cheap labor that could be threatened with being turned into the police at the first complaint about anything. Anything. From patting the maid on the ass to out-and-out non-payment of factory wages. And if the threat didn't work you could always drop the dime for real.

Who's complaining? No complaints from the traditional small-business base of the Republicans...nor the big-business base. The Democrats with their traditional base of old and new immigrants have welcomed these new arrivals and have fully expected their eventual votes. Illegal workers very occasionally speak up against the blackmail, hardship and mistreatment but they certainly don't complain about themselves being here.

Who could it be then?

White, fundamentalist, voters of the lowest Republican income-brackets have been feasted on God, guns, and gay-bashing. Finger-lickin' good distractions as their jobs and sometimes whole factories were sent overseas, their sons and daughters to war, their treasury into the pockets of profiteers and speculators, their legal protections into the shredder. Even as their incomes shrank they were exhorted to spend lest the terrorists win, fattening the credit card companies that eventually took away even the hope of bankruptcy.

Long suckered into believing that they made enough money to be Republicans, there is the creeping realization that someone has made off with the till and they will be much poorer than when love was new. The sense of betrayal is rising. First to sense trouble in the herd is their long time leadership: talk radio.

The masses smell the poor house, the talk radio leadership smells the political orphanage.

Talk radio knows their shock troops well. If the enlisted ranks were content with racist gruel, the grail of the generals is still the prospect of getting as fat as Limbaugh's contract and membership in the "real" Republican Party. Without the minions they are nothing. Short of a Dolchstoss, it's once more into the breach. Broadcast 24/7 all across your AM dial, "Enforce our laws, secure our borders, save our jobs!", the fantasy continues in full throat.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Pull it! Military Officers Resigning over Bush Plans to Nuke Iran

Well this is as good a place to start as any and many thanks to my buddy Vince for allowing me to guest blog tonight.

We are to be forgiven for surpressing our Stranglovian nightmares all these years. We simply couldn't believe that anyone would be both crazy enough to do it and get elected to the presidency. Even after both of those things happened we always had the feeling that some kind of sanity would prevail. Hello rube.

Beginning with Juan Cole's new year's predictions I've had the unsettling feeling about a 2006 meltdown. As I went through the list with friends I found myself signing-off with my fear of a Bush Admin nuclear strike in the Middle East.

To tell the truth, I kinda thought they'd get the Israelis to do it but after their smackdown of the Iraqi reactor in '81, I guess it's our turn. Probably because of that I never stopped to consider what the reaction of the US military would be (even though I'm former USAF.)

If I had given it some thought I'm sure that I'd have pondered the reaction of the officer corps:

1. they hate Rumsfeld and always have. I remember the front page of the NYT on the morning of 9-11-01 saying that the Bush Administration wanted to fire Rummy but was waiting because they didn't want him to break Les Aspin's record as the shortest lived Sec'y of Defense. The purges of the biggest Rumsfeld-haters began almost immediately.

2. in spite of Geo. C. Scott's portrayal of dear ol' Gen. LeMay, the military doesn't like nuclear weapons. It goes contrary to their education. War is personal for the officer corps and they like it that way. Nukes are to be used against nukes, otherwise, war is their opportunity to excersise that for which they have trained a lifetime.

3. the order has to come from somewhere. There had better be legitimacy behind it. I remember the days when Henry the K made the phonecall that told the Pentagon to ignore any late-night orders for nukes from Dick Nixon. I imagine there are a few others that remember that, too.

Of course, we're talking about "tactical" nuclear weapons and not the nightmarish, dual-key, underground North Dakota, ICBM scenario that my generation spent a lot of time ducking and covering from. But we've never launched any of those. These will be bombs. But Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombs, too.

Ike was of the opinion that dropping nuclear bombs on Japan was a bad idea and was so angry with Truman that he barely spoke to him again (it made for a strange inauguration.) I suspect there is still a strain of that thought within the military today. Not to mention that these bunker busters are actually more powerful than the two we dropped in 1945, just shaped and timed to go off underground instead of overhead...if all goes well.

The men and women that will follow and give the orders to use these weapons are more than just a little aware of how this war has been sold to the American public. And if the parallels between glorious WWII and Bush's Iraqi cakewalk have sounded strained to you and I, military personnel that have been to Iraq
really don't see the connection between the two wars. (Practically 100% have rotated through by now.)

That we're hearing of resignations over this shouldn't have surprised me but it did. http://stevegilliard.blogspot.com/2006/04/time-to-quit.html

...of all the gin joints in Jackson, Morocco...

Great giggly-wiggly, it's dark in here.