Tuesday, December 30, 2008

In Gaza, 100 Eyes For An Eye

How long will America stand passively by as Israel conducts "security operations" inside its 21st century Ghetto?

With a wink and a nod, the Bush Administration has continuously demonstrated its unwavering support for Israel's disproportionate use of lethal force. (After all, it is profitable for our defense industry which has supplied the new "bunker buster" weapons strategically "deployed" in the latest attacks.) Each time Israel initiates a major campaign, the Administration awaits a signal that the "mission" has been accomplished before expressing a measure of feigned concern for the victims.

Southern Lebanon is still littered with unexploded cluster bombs, the lasting legacy of Israel's previous security operations.

Where the Bush Administration has been criminally negligent, the Obama Administration must actively engage in a multilateral campaign to restore peace in the region.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dick Cheney, WMD

Dick Cheney's Fantasy World

Published on Wednesday, December 17, 2008 by The Guardian/UK

Despite the facts, the vice-president still insists that Saddam Hussein could have produced weapons of mass destruction

by Scott Ritter

In yet another attempt at revisionist history by the outgoing Bush administration, vice-president Dick Cheney, in an exclusive interview with ABC News, took exception to former presidential adviser Karl Rove's contention that the US would not have gone to war if available intelligence before the invasion had shown Iraq not to possess weapons of mass destruction. Cheney noted that the only thing the US got wrong on Iraq was that there were no stockpiles of WMD at the time of the 2003 invasion. "What they found was that Saddam Hussein still had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction. He had the technology, he had the people, he had the basic feed stock."

The vice-president should re-check both his history and his facts. Just prior to President Bush's decision to invade Iraq, the UN had teams of weapons inspectors operating inside Iraq, blanketing the totality of Iraq's industrial infrastructure. They found no evidence of either retained WMD, or efforts undertaken by Iraq to reconstitute a WMD manufacturing capability. Whatever dual-use industrial capability that did exist (so-called because the industrial processes involved to produce legitimate civilian or military items could, if modified, be used to produce materials associated with WMD) had been so degraded as a result of economic sanctions and war that any meaningful WMD production was almost moot. To say that Saddam had the capability or the technology to produce WMD at the time of the US invasion is a gross misrepresentation of the facts.

While one can make the argument that Saddam had the people, insofar as the scientists who had participated in the WMD programmes of the 1980s were still in Iraq and, in many cases, still employed by the government, these human resources were irrelevant without either the industrial infrastructure, the economic base or the political direction needed to produce WMD. None of these existed. The argument Cheney makes on feed stock is even more ludicrous. Precursor chemicals used in the lawful manufacture of chemical pesticides were present in Iraq at the time of the invasion, but these were unable to be used in manufacturing the sarin, tabun or VX chemical nerve agents the Bush administration claimed existed inside Iraq in stockpile quantities prior to the invasion.

The same can be said about Iraqi biological capability. The discovery after the invasion of a few vials of botulinum toxin suitable for botox treatments, but unusable for any weapons purposes, does not constitute a feed stock. And as for the smoking gun that the Bush administration did not want to come in the form of a mushroom cloud, there was no nuclear weapons programme in Iraq in any way shape or form, nor had there been since it was dismantled in 1991. Cheney's dissimilation of the facts surrounding Iraqi WMD serves as a distraction from the reality of the situation. Not only did the entire Bush administration know that the intelligence data about Iraqi WMD was fundamentally flawed prior to the invasion, but they also knew that it did not matter in the end. Bush was going to invade Iraq no matter what the facts proved.

Cheney defended the invasion and subsequent removal of Saddam from power by noting that "this was a bad actor and the country's better off, the world's better off with Saddam gone". This is the argument of the intellectually feeble. It would be very difficult for anyone to articulate that life today is better in Baghdad, Mosul, Basra or any non-Kurdish city than it was under Saddam. Ask the average Iraqi adult female if she is better off today than she was under Saddam, and outside of a few select areas in Kurdistan, the answer will be a resounding "no".

The occupation of Iraq by the United States is far more brutal, bloody and destructive than anything Saddam ever did during his reign. When one examines the record of the US military in Iraq in terms of private homes brutally invaded, families torn apart and civilians falsely imprisoned (the prison population in Iraq during the US occupation dwarfs that of Saddam's regime), what is clear is that the only difference between the reign of terror inflicted on the Iraqi people today and under Saddam is that the US has been far less selective in applying terror than Saddam ever was.

At a time when the US and the world struggle with a resurgent Iran, the Iranian-dominated Dawa party of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki governs Iraq today in name only. The stability enjoyed by Iraq today has been bought with the presence of 150,000 US troops who have overseen the ethnic cleansing of entire neighbourhoods in cities around Iraq, and who have struck temporary alliances with Shia and Sunni alike which cannot be sustained once these forces leave (as they are scheduled to do by 2011).

Invading Iraq and removing Saddam, the glue that held that nation together as a secular entity, was the worst action the US could have undertaken for the people of Iraq, the Middle East as a whole and indeed the entire world. For Cheney to articulate otherwise, regardless of his fundamentally flawed argument on WMD, only demonstrates the level to which fantasy has intruded into the mind of the vice-president.

Scott Ritter was a Marine Corps intelligence officer from 1984 to 1991 and a United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. He is the author of numerous books, including "Iraq Confidential" (Nation Books, 2005) , "Target Iran" (Nation Books, 2006) and his latest, "Waging Peace: The Art of War for the Antiwar Movement" (Nation Books, April 2007).

Saturday, December 13, 2008

For those with fuzzy memories, Bush sets the record straight

On December 9th, the Los Angeles Times featured a story on a White House memo sent to Cabinet members and other high-ranking officers. The "Speech Topper on the Bush Record" offered talking points to help set the record straight on the Bush Administration accomplishments. Here, Keith Olbermann responds:

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Bush Finally Admits We're in Recession

President Bush has finally admitted the country is in recession. This after the Labor Department released data showing 533,000 jobs lost in November, and an unemployment rate of 6.7%. (The “effective unemployment rate”, considering those unemployed, those underemployed and those, like myself, who are unemployed but have ceased looking is closer to 12.5%)

For at least two decades now, corporate America has been obsessed with growth through mergers and acquisitions, increasing worker efficiency, off-shoring of operations, maximizing earnings per share, seeking tax havens. Through 401k and other investment schemes, encouraged by the government and lured by the "promise" of future earnings, average Americans have had their savings drawn into supporting the "ownership class". It is indeed a "Ponzi Scheme". The wealthy have taken their money (and ours) and run.

And over these recent decades the consistent message to American workers is “we don’t need you anymore, you are expendable. Re-train, learn a new skill. There are plenty of jobs out there." But increasingly the "new opportunities" for these downsized workers have been lower-paying service sector jobs.

Of course, this business school "model corporation" is unrealistic and unsustainable in the new globalized economy. As the wealthy consolidate their riches internationally, and the American middle class shrinks, demand for services here at home declines. We no longer have jobs for the disenfranchised - not even at McDonald's and Wal-Mart.

America does not have to look far to see where this trend leads. Impoverished nations around the world demonstrate the ravages of wealth and power abused.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving Weekend at Graeagle

A game of "Scattergories"

Jessica presents her award-winning pumpkin cheesecake

A walk to town

Susan, Ted, Jackie, Cathie, Pete, Jessica and Sergio in Graeagle. In the background, Eureka Peak, also known as "Gold Mountain", featured on the California State Seal.

Jackie, Susan, Cathie and Jessica


To see additional photos, click here.


Sergio celebrates victory. Jessica is not impressed.

Cathie cracks under the "Scattergories" pressure


Cathie, Jess and Sergio concentrating on "Scattergories"

Sergio - ready to dig in

Pete, Cathie, Ted, Jackie, Susan, Jessica and Sergio

Susan hamming it up

Cathie and Pete

Ted and Jackie trekking to town

Sergio and Jess

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Stop at Base Camp Alpha

Returning from Las Vegas, I took a few days to help establish the site of Jim Hyde's "Base Camp Alpha", near Trona, California. Jim (pictured pointing to the arsenic sign) created "RawHyde Adventures", the motorcycle training program that I attended in 2005, prior to my "Americas Trip".

"RawHyde Adventures" has recently been designated an official BMW off-road training center, one of nine worldwide. Jim plans to establish "base camps" throughout the Mojave Desert and Eastern California, from which training expeditions will be conducted.

At the end of the week, the small group assembled for a photo at the nearby Ruth Mine.

Stephanie, Jim and Jamie Lee

(Photos courtesy of Steven Koch)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Otto, Janie and Rocky outside their Henderson home

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Las Vegas tradition. Watching the Buffalo Bills - New England Patriots game at "Home Plate Grill & Bar"

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Wedding of Corey Taylor and John Petrini!

John and my niece Corey

Corey, John and Robert

Mother and daughter

Robert escorts Corey down the aisle

Birdseed in the hands

Pelted with bird seed

Mary, Janie, Otto and Corey

Janie, Corey, John and Otto

Corey and John with Special Guest Star Timtraveler

To view additional photos, click here.

Otto and Janie

Krissy and Ben!

Bride's hand

Corey, Janie, Krissy and Mom (Mary)...

...and their hands