Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Bush On The Economy
In this speech, Bush touches on the recession and the effects of his tax cuts. Bush claims that he provided tax incentives to small business owners and brags about how sizzling hot the economy has become.
One of the real claims I have a huge difficulty with is "We're the largest exporter in the world. Last year we exported a record $1.4 trillion worth of goods and services. Now, in order to export something, somebody has to make it." Bush fails to mention that the export surge is nowhere close to balancing America’s trade. The US imported more than $2 trillion worth of goods and services, or about 50 percent more than they exported, resulting in a trade deficit of about $700 billion. The trade deficit means that the US as a whole is more in debt and has more interest to pay.
Further in the speech, Bush asserts "In other words, when I talk about numbers, behind the numbers is people who are providing the service and/or making the product. So the more one exports, the more likely it is people are going to be working."
Quite the opposite is true. Companies have improved profits for American companies, but have actually cut the number of workers. Before the last recession there were 17.2 million U.S. manufacturing jobs and today there are only 14.2 million, according to the Labor Department. This constitutes a loss of 5 million manufacturing jobs. American firms have managed to squeeze more goods out of their plants with the same number of workers. This means more productivity, more profits for the companies, but less pay for the remaining workers. Due to rising energy costs, remaining workers have had less money to buy stocks and thus have not had the opportunity to share in the dividends the companies have paid out. Americans have less money left to invest into the next economic cycle because they are more in debt than they were previously.
I don't think things are as rosy as Mr. Bush paints them. The 7.2 Million jobs created since the recession ended in 2003 are not high-paying manufacturing jobs, but low-paying service industry jobs - more Starbucks baristas, McDonald's burger flippers and more people to answer phones. Even those jobs are being outsourced these days. The sad part is that the 7.2 Million jobs created does not even account for the normal growth of the workforce over the last three years.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
The Urban Legend
Of Tony Snow
On Jan 12, 2007, White House spokesman Tony Snow dispelled President Bush's apparent preparations for war on Iran and Syria as a mere urban legend. Snow, speaking to reporters at the daily White House briefing, emphatically said there are no plans for war with Iran and Syria. However, most people that I've talked to from various sides of the political spectrum fully believe that Bush is very much interested in starting wars with both Iran and Syria. Why?
How does such an idea float amongst people? How does it persist although it may be false? Can the same principles that make urban legends work be used to sell political ideas to the public? We've all heard that word-of-mouth is the best means of selling. Perhaps urban legends can be used to sell political ideas. What is it about these stories that makes people want to spread the word?
All successful urban legends have three essential components: a hook, a threat and a request. The components get the reader or listener personally involved, frightened or intrigued, and instructions to pass the story on.
One such cautionary tale immediately comes to mind. Here is the outline:
At one time vast oceans protected our country from foreign ennemies. Then a hundred years ago, we invented planes so that we could cross these oceans. We trusted other people to fly all over the world on planes. Then 911 happened. Be afraid, very afraid. Things are different now. 911 is the fault of our freedoms (and liberals that adhere to them). The smoking gun is a mushroom cloud. Now we're fighting them abroad so that we can defeat them there and we won't have to fight them here at home. Iraq has turned into a civil war. And the terrorists have now moved on to Iran and Syria. Support our troops. Pass it on because the liberal media is not going to tell you this.
I have heard this urban legend in part and in whole dozens of times during lunch at work, from friends and family. President Bush's speeches are embellished versions this urban legend. And, in fact, Tony Snow's job is to snow people into spreading it.
By the way, Bush has been planning a regime change in Iran
BEFORE becoming President.
Friday, January 26, 2007
Bush Defends Torture
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has re-defined torture so that only interrogation techniques which caused death or pain equal to that associated with organ failure constitute torture.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
- What Happened To It?
I found this earlier today. It left me such a disgusting after-taste, which I'm sure you'll all feel after finishing the read. Except for the initial shock, horror and total disgust, it brought to mind one (rhetoric) question: do we have the right to call ourselves human?
We accept such happenings everyday, nay, we encourage them via our open markets daylight robbery, wars, mayhem, you name it. We deplore and cry the Muslim women veiling, yet encourage their Iraqi daughters to sell their bodies for 50 Syrian pounds. Yes, this is the price of an Iraqi 15 years old in the local Gulf States infested brothels. That's 1 US Dollar, by the way. Cheap, yes, compared to a 6 years Cambodgian put to serve some mid-aged European or Arab freak.
But then again, money is way better invested into war. A Cambodgian child is sold into prostitution for 10$ to 100$. How many can be saved with 1.2 Trillion dollars?
And Justice For All?
I often wonder how we can hope to be the shining beacon of democracy when our very own democratic principles have been undermined to help further a so-called war on terror. Innocent until found guilty in a court of law has turned into kidnapping with out a criminal charge, extraordinary rendering to secret prisons, guilty until proven innocent, held indefinitely without charge or trial, no rights to an attorney, no writ of habeas corpus, torture and unusual punishment to get confessions, even executions of totally innocent people.
Under the current law, the President is authorized to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once kidnapped into this perverted system, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights. Essentially anyone can simply be declared an enemy combatant and be whisked away to be tortured without probable cause.
According to Pentagon figures, approximately 380 detainees have been released countries since 2002. Guantanamo still holds about 395 detainees, almost none of whom have been charged with a crime. Why? Are we patiently waiting until they incriminate themselves with a false confession? Are we afraid they may reveal that Gitmo sole purpose is a torture camp? Who knows how many have disappeared to a ghost network of detention facilities and secret prisons like the "Salt Pit" and naval ships.
On one hand, the President tells us that we don't torture, but on the other hand, John Yoo publicly argued there is no law that could prevent the President from ordering the torture of a child of a suspect in custody – including by crushing that child’s testicles. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has re-defined torture so that only interrogation techniques which caused death or pain equal to that associated with organ failure constitute torture. He approved a legal memo defining torture so narrowly so as to authorize practices such as “waterboarding,” denial of pain killer medication, simulated drowning, and threatening to transfer detainees to other countries’ interrogators. It has been well publicized that the US now outsources "stress and duress" interrogation (torture) to governments that routinely torture prisoners.
On such example is the case of Syrian-born Canadian Citizen Maher Arar who was kidnapped at JFK International airport and rendered to Syria where he was beaten with a metal cable, tortured and forced to make a false confession. The American government still firmly denies any wrongdoing although Arar was cleared of all charges.
With its conduct in the war on terror, the Bush administration has made the world less secure, weakened America's influence, and betrayed the very principles America believes in. If I had know this is how the US actually practices democracy, I would have never become a naturalized Citizen.
It's time to start the next hundreds of hours to restore what were once the foundations of our democracy.
1) If we don't want our own servicemen to be tortured, then we must put an end to torturing or outsourcing torture.
2) If we are a just nation, then we do not have a need for secret prisons. We need to close torture facilities such as Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, the Salt Pit, etc.
3) If we are a civilized nation, we need to re-affirm adherence to Geneva Conventions.
4) Our foundation of democracy is our Constitution. However, it has been largely dismantled. We need to restore basic rights such as habeas corpus and due process of law.
5) If there are truly terrorists, then why can't we use normal police procedures, present evidence, try and convict these alleged terrorists? Let's do real police work instead of hunting-down, torturing and executing people on mere rumors.
6) We need to investigate the wrong-doings of this administration concerning the treatment of detainees and/or prisoners. Officials that have openly endorsed torture need to be held accountable. We need an investigation into these allegations. I.e. It's time to impeach Alberto Gonzales.
7) We owe an apology to the falsely incarcerated detainees.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
PGCC Goes Nuclear
Persian Gulf Cooperation Council members, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are expected to hold talks with the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to discuss plans to launch a regional nuclear program.and according to this INA article, The Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC) on supports Iran's legal and inalienable right to access peaceful nuclear technology under rules and regulations of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
PGCC Secretary-General Abdul-Rahman al-Attiya made the remarks while speaking to reporters in Cairo, Egypt.So if Iran develops their own nuclear power program under IAEA safeguards, it's criminal. Critics say "Why on earth should Iran develop nuclear power peacefully? Afterall, they have all an endless supply of oil." They don't mention that Iran hit Peak Oil in 1974.
He said the council also backs settlement of Iran's nuclear case through diplomatic channels or negotiation.
He said the PGCC also backs the international call for establishment of a Middle East region free from weapons of mass destruction, and stressed the importance of Israel being held to account.
Israel is reported to possess more than 200 nuclear warheads, he said, and added it is now clearly the threat to the region because of the absence of supervision over its military and nuclear activities.
If PGCC states (who have loads of oil right across the gulf) propose to do exactly the same thing it's not even mentioned in the controlled news.
If Israel and the UK contemplate a Nuclear Pre-Emptive Strike to put a stop to Iran's nuclear power project, it fits into Bush's plan of the War on Terror and it's wonderful.
What's wrong with this picture?? Maybe Iran refused to buy its nuclear power and reprocessing plants from US companies.
Poll #11 Results
South Africa AIDS
And 450,000 Orphans
I do wonder why this is at the bottom left hand corner of the paper? Is there some sort of inverted racism going on?
South Africa has the most Aids orphans in the world, according to a United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) report released this week. The report focused on data from 2005. It found that a total of 15.2 million children around the world had lost at least one parent to Aids. Most of these children were in sub-Saharan Africa – and 1.2 million were in SA.
These are not the only South African orphans. Advertisement Unicef estimated that a massive 2.5 million South African children under 18 had lost at least one parent due to any cause, with about 450 000 having lost both parents.
For those countries with data, only seven had more children who had lost both parents - China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Unicef said orphans often lost out on schooling, food and clothing, they may suffer anxiety, depression and abuse, and they had a higher risk of exposure to HIV.
Aids effects kids in many ways"Orphans due to Aids are not the only children affected by the epidemic.
"Many more children live with parents who are chronically ill, live in households that have taken in orphans due to Aids or have lost teachers and other adult members of the community to Aids."
Access to meds still lackingUnicef estimates that about 240 000 South African children under 15 were HIV-positive, a figure matched globally only by Nigeria. About 28% of these needed antiretroviral (ARV) treatment but only 18% of those who needed it were getting it.
About one third of an estimated 250 000 HIV-infected pregnant mothers received ARVs. About a third received ARVs for prevention of mother-to-child transmission, which Unicef said showed progress as this had increased from 22% the year before.
Only about 64 000 of the babies born to HIV-infected mothers - about a quarter of them - started cotrimoxazole prophylaxis, to prevent opportunistic infections that can be fatal.
Unicef said the virus progressed rapidly in children, with about a third dying before their first birthday and about half before their second. Last year about 380 000 children died around the world from Aids-related causes.
Most deaths preventable"The vast majority of these deaths were preventable, either through treating opportunistic infections with antibiotics or through antiretroviral treatment."
The World Health Organization recommends giving cotrimoxazole to HIV-positive children and to babies born to HIV-positive mothers.
Unicef said South Africa was one of a few countries which had been able to scale up HIV treatment of children by integrating this into sites for adults.
ARVs for children now cost about 60 US dollars a year (about R430).
Unicef estimated that 5% of South African boys aged 15 to 24 years and 15% of the girls that age were HIV-positive.
About 18% of the country's adults were estimated to be HIV-positive.
Grants do help Unicef said that child grants help.
"In South Africa, for example, the country with the largest number of orphans due to Aids, more than 7.1 million children under 14 living in poverty - 79% of those eligible – were benefiting from the child support grant by April 2006.
"This represents a two-thirds increase since 2004 and a 20-fold increase since 2000.
"More than 325 000 children were benefiting from foster care grants in 2006." – (Sapa)
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Friday, January 19, 2007
I have been, for the past month or so, been getting to know the Lebanese Community on the blogosphere. There are over 400 blogs in Lebanon, and couple of on-line bloggers decided to do an aggregator that covers all the blogs from Lebanon. During the day, I usually click on their links and read those aggregator pages as if reading a daily newspaper (despite the right-wing presence) which becomes an alternate source for the newspaper.
The reason I am writing this is why we don't establish a left-wing aggregator (I know it sounds a mission impossible) for all the left-wing blogs and everyone would get to know everyone. Moreover, our aggregator would be similar to the Alternate Media, while comrades from over the world would know each other.
The two samples I will put are Liliane's Aggregator and Rampurple's aggregator.
Probably we can do it per country & Alphabet (or per continent and Alphabet) but what do you think?
Waiting to hear your ideas
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Good $ After Bad?
In economic and in business decision-making, "sunk costs" are costs that have already been incurred and which cannot be recovered to any significant degree. Applying microeconomic theory, only variable costs (costs that are will change due to the proposed course of action) are relevant to a decision. Economics proposes that a rational actor does not let sunk costs influence one's decisions, because doing so would not be assessing a decision exclusively on its own.
For example, when one pre-orders a non-refundable movie ticket, the price of the ticket becomes a sunk cost. Even if one decides that one would rather not go to the movie, there is no way to get back the money originally paid. But to go to the movie (and not liking it) simply because we've already paid for the ticket is an irrational decision. And making a party of it and inviting more of your friends to the bad movie is simply insane. (or maybe just a Rocky Horror Picture Show)
It's Time ton Say No on Iraq
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Under Attack By China
(MFL notes: this came from the www.marxists.org, for those who do not know what the Marxist Internet Archive, it is the greatest Marxist archive assembled with time that even includes audio-visuals, minutes of the internationals, and almost everything related to Marxism.)
In early November we came under sustained denial of service attack from Internet hosts in China attempting to exploit a misconfiguration in our server's operating system. The nature and origin of the attack, our previous history with the PRC, and the experience of others suggest that this maybe politically motivated and directed by the Chinese government. Protecting ourselves necessitated rebuilding part of the kernel and rebooting the system remotely. The failure of the system to properly boot into the new kernel caused a prolonged outage as we scrambled to find someone with the necessary access to get the system back into the previous configuration.
While the attacks continued and greatly degraded MIA performance, we were understandably cautious about rebuilding the kernel and trying again. On January 15, the server became unresponsive and we asked for it to be remotely rebooted, taking the opportunity to bring it up with the new kernel.
While this alleviated the previous issue, it seems to have uncovered another, more serious, problem with our CPU that causes random errors (machine check exceptions) and cause the system to reboot.
Each time the system reboots, it causes our RAID storage system to reinitialize and rebuild, a lengthy process that severely degrades performance. To make matters worse, the redundant disk in the array seems to be failing.
As if that weren't bad enough, while attempting to make arrangements to buy a new server, we learned that our colocation facility will be closing on February 1, leaving MIA literally homeless.
At the moment, our redundant disk is back online and we are rebuilding the array to protect against data loss on the server. We also have offsite backups of all MIA content should the worst come to pass. We are furiously searching for new hosting space, but our data transfer needs (approximately 1.3TB a month) make this a very difficult choice compared with our previous non-profit host.
The bottom line: there is a significant probability that we will not be able to find and deploy an acceptable solution in time to meet the February 1 lights-out date.
This means that the MIA will be off the air. We will make every attempt to bridge the gap with the help of our dedicated mirror operators though we may need to stop serving some of our more "expensive" content such as MP3s and PDFs.
There is also a chance that our ultimate solution may require us to make a long-term evaluation of the type of content we serve and make things like PDFs available via alternate distribution channels (e.g. BitTorrent). However, despite our recent litany of seemingly fatal problems, the MIA remains a strong organization with a wealth of content, committed to providing the premiere electronic library of Marxist writings. Despite the political, technical, or economic pressures, rest assured that we will find a way to keep these works available to the world.
The Pentagon's Energy-Protection Racket
The Bush administration and its neo-con supporters offer a vision of a vast imperial enemy-in-the-making that they call "Islamo-fascism". That is the publicly acceptable code expression trumpeted to US dummies. Decoded, it reveals the real more chilling course, "energo-fascism", or the militarization of the global struggle over ever-diminishing supplies of energy. US armed forces are being turned into a multibillion-dollar "global oil protection service" in this ruthless scramble. The full article by Michael Tare expanding this appeared today in Asia Times.
Friday, January 12, 2007
Broken Laws Of War
By Both Hizbullah And Israel
Claims Human Rights Watch
MFL: I do not agree with several contents of the Human Rights Watch report, but it is worth to discuss it. This article by Iman Azzi is taken from the Lebanese Daily Star
BEIRUT: Israel and Hizbullah violated the laws of war this summer, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in its annual report Thursday, blaming both sides for indiscriminately targeting civilians during the 34-day war. Other Middle Eastern states did not fare better, as the human rights watchdog pointed at oppressive regimes for stifling human rights across the region.
The Israeli Army "repeatedly violated the laws of war by failing to distinguish between combatants and civilians," the report said. A total of 1,189 Lebanese, mostly civilians, were killed during the fighting, according to the Lebanese government.
Israel justified striking civilian areas by saying that Hizbullah hid in them, but HRW reported that the "attacks responsible for a majority of the civilian deaths took place at times when there was no evidence that Hizbullah fighters or weapons were even in the vicinity."
HRW also condemned the use of cluster munitions during the summer war. Israel fired an estimated four million sub-munitions into Lebanon, leaving behind as many as one million hazardous duds, which have killed or wounded over 120 people since the end of the war.
The United Nations has said that Israel fired 90 percent of the cluster bombs during the last 72 hours of fighting when a cease-fire was imminent.
Oxfam estimates that up to 85 percent of Lebanon's farmers lost some of all of their harvest as a result of the war.
Hizbullah also fired Chinese-made cluster rockets. HRW reported that Hizbullah packed "more than 4,000 anti-personnel steel spheres ('ball bearings') that shoot out upon impact, causing many of the civilian deaths and injuries." A total of 39 Israeli civilians and 100 Israeli soldiers were killed by Hizbullah rockets.
"While Hizbullah appeared to target some of its rockets at military objectives, in some cases hitting them, many of its rockets hit civilian areas, far from any apparent military target. Such attacks - at best indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas and, at worst, deliberate attacks against civilians - violated the laws of war," the report said.
The annual report highlighted other human rights concerns in Lebanon, pointing to the continued efforts to form an international tribunal to try the assassins of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and the lack of progress toward uncovering the fate of over 17,000 Lebanese, Palestinians and other nationals still missing since the 15-year Civil War.
Across the Middle East, monarchs and authoritarian leaders received poor marks on the progress of human rights.
"Overall human rights conditions remain poor in Saudi Arabia ... The government undertook no major human rights reforms in 2006, and there were signs of backsliding on issues of human rights defenders, freedom of association, and freedom of expression," the report said. The respect of both Syria and Iran for basic human rights "deteriorated," it said.
Egypt "displayed a heavy hand against political dissent in 2006," it said, adding that the government renewed the Emergency Law in April 2006, despite pledges by President Hosni Mubarak to allow the controversial legislation to expire.
The HRW announced unsurprisingly that in Iraq, "the human rights situation worsened significantly in 2006." The country saw an increase in sectarian attacks and an independent group estimated that over 650,000 Iraqis have been killed since 2003, it added.
Iraqi refugees faced trouble in neighboring countries - an average of 2,000 flee every day. Syria and Jordan have taken in the majority, but after an Iraqi gunman killed 57 Jordanians in November 2005, sympathy for the half million Iraqis seeking shelter in the kingdom has waned, the report said.
In Libya, human rights conditions "improved somewhat in 2006 as the country continued its slow international reintegration, but serious violations remain," it said, adding that the Benghazi AIDS cases plagued the government's hopes of improving relations with Europe.
Lack of freedom of expression, assembly and the press featured prominently as concerns for the region. Other issues were gender inequality and the torture of prisoners.
The release of the HRW report coincided with the five-year anniversary of the creation of the Guantanomy Bay prison by the United States.
In September, President George W. Bush defended torture - referring to it euphemistically as "an alternative set of [interrogation] procedures" - and secret CIA prisons.
In October, the US Congress, acting at the behest of the Bush administration, denied Guantanamo detainees the right to challenge their detention in court. Human Rights Watch called on the US to close the prison, adding that it is long past time to either bring detainees to trial or set them free.
Bush Speech Reaction
I have to conclude that most of this is magical fairy dust to get you to watch the left hand while the right hand does something else. The key here is not the 20K increase in troops, but the Billions of dollars that needs to be spent on re-constructing Iraq that is tied to this effort. The Billions of dollars is another non-competitive bonanza for contractors like KBR, and companies like GE. Check out this US Government web page. Take a careful look at the last picture on the bottom - a whole trade event centered around on spending lots of money. And we, the citizens of the US will pay for all of it.
ordo ab chao
Looking up the webpage for next year's trade show I found the following table:
Iraq reconstruction needs until 2007
o Local administration & civil society $300 million
o Health, education & employment $7 billion
o Infrastructure $11 billion
o Electricity $13 billion
o Agriculture and water resources $3 billion
o Security and police $5 billion
o Oil $8 billion
o Culture $1.5 billion
I wonder if this is in addition to the $100 billion dollar emergency spending bill that Bush will require in February.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Of Bush's WarThe iron law governing the politics of imperial debacles seems to be that the leaders who commit a country to failed war realize at some point that they have seriously miscalculated and that the war cannot be won, but by then they figure it is already too late; they must act as though they are aiming at victory, because of the fear of admitting the truth. Read more in an Asia Times article by Gareth Porter.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Why Not Renewables?
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
I would call on all the readers of this post to organize an action in their town or city, something which could be implemented immediately upon a call for escalation of the horrible conflict in Iraq. Enough is enough. The game is over. It is obscene to even consider sacrificing more life to salvage a "legacy". More soldiers would have no more of a defined mission as the current 140,000. A surge would only mean a tidal surge of more blood. Get out and organize quickly.