Sunday, July 31, 2005


If you check out Real Art regularly (and I know a few people actually do), then you've noticed that I've reworked the links section over on the left side of the page, including the new greatest hits section. In addition to making my permanent links more user-friendly, the re-organization is also about sprucing up the page a bit, making it ever so slightly more visually appealing. That's also why I've been trying to use more pictures in my posts: my prose might be the most brilliant stuff in the history of English literature (okay, I'm well aware that it's not), but most people aren't going to stick around long without a little flash and dash. Along those lines, and to give the page a bit more symmetry, I've decided to put to use some of my favorite Paintshop self-indulgences over in the right-hand column. It's only three pictures now, but expect the list to grow--I got pretty obsessed with creating digital art a couple of years ago, and have plenty of product on my hard drive.

Now I must admit that what I'm posting as "art" on my page called "Real Art" in no way conforms to what I have asserted real art ought to be about. That is, there is virtually no political content in my visual work. It doesn't expose the struggle of workers against their capitalist oppressors. It doesn't particularly oppose war or greed or hate or any of the other mal-manifestations of human relationships. It simply serves to stimulate an aesthetic response. On any given day, I might even argue that my art actually serves power because it doesn't particularly oppose it, and generally I believe that's true for any cultural artifact that seems to be politically neutral. By my own pompous and pious standard, my "art" isn't at all "real art." Just bear in mind that I'm really only posting this stuff for the purposes of giving Real Art some festive ornamentation. Now having said all that, I must also observe that placing these politically neutral works in juxtapostion to my fiery anti-establishment polemics essentially creates political meaning. That is, it's difficult to emotionally separate the cute orange kitty picture from the pot-shots against the police or corporations or the military right next to it: to some extent, the neutrality of these pictures becomes problematic in that they are presented in an extremely political context.

So there. You know, sometimes I'm so into my own bullshit that I think I'm capable of convincingly illustrating that black is white or two plus two equals five. Sometimes. But enough of that. Let me tell you a bit about these first three works of (un)Real Art. The first one is an emotional response to years of listening to my favorite jazz piano player Bill Evans. Miles Davis once described his playing as sounding like delicate droplets of water cascading down a waterfall, which is as good of a description as any--Evans' greatest work in my opinion is on the song "Blue in Green" from the Kind of Blue album (here's a brief sample). The second is a tribute to my dear departed cat Alec. Alec loved the outdoors, but as he aged I feared more and more for his safety. Consequently, he was ultimately forced to be a house-cat, looking out the window at the world he loved. The third is a salute to, well, my two favorite Superman powers: wouldn't you like the ability to throw your voice half-way around the world? Wouldn't you like to see through any substance except lead? Yeah, me too.

Anyway, that's all for now, but like I said, this is just the first batch. Stay tuned for still more of Ron's (un)Real Art.



From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Some experts say the split reminds them of 1930, when a similar rift occurred. The fierce competition between unions that followed took membership to record highs in the mid-1950s, but growth stalled after the merger of the AFL and CIO in 1955.

With the new split, "the constraints will come off and they'll be in direct competition for a lot of those same people," said David Lipsky, a professor at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

Employers may interpret the labor infighting as disarray. But some experts say the divide could actually create more challenges for companies.

The labor rift "should be a huge wake-up call for employers," said Philip Rosen, who leads the labor practice group at Jackson Lewis LLP, a law firm representing companies in workplace cases. "They really need to look at it and say: 'The fight is coming to my work site tomorrow.'"

here for the rest.

If competition is supposed to be good for business, then it must also be good for unions. For many decades now, the only game in town has been the lumbering, top-down, elitist, and Washington-centered AFL-CIO. If you wanted to be involved in some way with the the rotting remains of the labor movement, you had to deal with them. Not anymore. Now there's a choice, and, as the above linked article observes, if history is any indicator, labor can only benefit. The old union regime tried to play the corporate cash game, and even though labor money has been a large factor in Democratic politics for years, they just couldn't keep up with the ever growing influence of coroprate dollars on American politics. Labor's real strength is not terms of money: rather, labor's strength is in numbers, millions of workers with the ability to bring the economy to a standstill with mass strikes and demonstrations. The AFL-CIO has forgotten this simple fact, and labor power has therefore atrophied. The new Change to Win labor coalition is bound and determined to organize and recruit the raw street power needed to fight the robber barons who rule the world, and because they stand to draw potential membership away from the old guard, the AFL-CIO status quo is most likely going to be shaken up as well. It's about time.


Friday, July 29, 2005

Means "Who Polices the Police?"

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Denton constable accused of soliciting child sex

A Texas law enforcement officer was jailed on $100,000 bond after allegedly trying to solicit sex with a child.

Police arrested Larry Dale Floyd, 62, the elected constable in Denton County's Precinct 2, near a restaurant Thursday.

here for the rest.

This is slightly different from my usual cop-watch posts in that this guy's pedophilia probably doesn't have anything to do with police culture, which seems to be a factor in most of the police abuse and corruption cases I've read about. Pedophiles come from all walks of life, and police are not immune simply because they are police, and that's the point: cops are human beings, just like everybody else, and are consequently subject to all the foibles and frailties that plague the entire human race. Police culture, however, seems to implicitly mandate a sense of superiority among the men in blue--the so-called "code of silence," which excuses the vilest of behavior when performed by brother officers, is but one example of many. Cops are every bit as capable of immoral and illegal acts as criminals are, and mainstream society must not only acknowledge this fact, but it must also factor this information into the way that police departments are managed and run. Otherwise, expect more of the same.




Phil and Frankie



Lance Mannion courtesy of Emphasis Added:

The moral calculus decent people measure their behavior by is this:

Some acts are sins. People who commit those acts are sinners. I have commited one of those acts. I am a sinner.

These conservatives probably think they use the same measure. But they don't, because they start with the belief that it is impossible for them to commit those bad acts because bad acts are what others do. Crime is the act of others. Sin is the moral failure of others.

So their personal moral calculus winds up looking like this:

Good people do good things. Bad people do bad things and bad people are the others. I am one of the good people. Therefore the things I do must be good.

This is why if Jesus were around today and a woman taken in adultery ran to him for protection and he said to the crowd, Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone, forty-six Republican adulterers would bean her with rocks.

Cheating on your spouse is something Democrats do.

here for the rest.

Shakespeare's Sister suggests that this "moral calculus" stems from the born-again concept of clean slate. That is, it's easier for fundamentalists to be judgmental because they have been forgiven of their sins, and therefore on the side of righteousness:

They don't just see you and I and everyone else as a sinner, a criminal, separate from themselves; they see themselves in two pieces—the sinner, the criminal, the dead self that was bad, now gone through being born again, replaced with the new self who is good, and God-full, and gifted with the ability to avoid the same pitfalls that the old self knew so well.

I agree that this concept is in play somehow for fundamentalists. However, having once been a Southern Baptist myself, I think that both Mannion and Sister give the religious right too much credit. That is, I don't think fundementalists are thinking about this stuff at all--these two essays do a nice job of describing how their logic works (or doesn't work as the case actually is), but if you ran these ideas past a few born-again types, they'd totally disagree--"What do you mean 'I don't think I'm a sinner?' Of course I'm a sinner. I'm not perfect; I just have a close walk with the One who is."

I had a fundamentalist buddy years ago at a restaurant where I worked who once dropped a slogan on me that had apparently been floating around the evangelical "Bible church" he attended: "We are aliens, not of this world." I think his statement hits much closer to the truth. That is, the moral calculus going on with the religious right is nothing more than simple tribalism. As with the above theories, no self-respecting fundamentalist would ever agree with me on this, but having seen how things are on the inside, it's undeniable. Fundamentalists so strongly believe that their understanding of the universe is right, and that "the world," dominated by Satan who was given Earthly dominion by God, persecutes them for being righteous, that a bunker mentality is hard to avoid. To the fundamentalists, it's everybody versus them, and only they are on the right side.

Compounding matters, and providing an archetypal narrative for Christian understanding, is the endless stream of Old Testament stories about the persecution of "God's children," the Israelites, that are the meat and potatoes of evangelical sermons: born-agains invariably liken their situation on the world stage to the travails of the original Twelve Tribes. And what did "God's children" do whenever they had the upper hand? They essentially committed genocide, destroying their enemies utterly, down to the last woman and child, all with the Lord's blessing, of course.

The Bible does, indeed, go on and on about "sin" and how to avoid its wages (i.e., "the wages of sin is death"), and all serious fundamentalists are well schooled in their salvation discourse, but as a poststructuralist might say, that's just another discourse. Right-wing Christians generally don't seem to dwell on such ideas much further than "being saved," or "bringing souls to the Lord." The true philosophical emphasis among evangelicals is in terms of smiting the wicked, and "wicked" is defined as it was defined for the Israelites, that is, everybody who is not one of them. It's old school tribalism, plain and simple.

These people are paranoid beyond all reason, and truly believe that everyone is out to get them: that's why fundamentalists, despite the teachings of Jesus, feel completely free to be as judgmental as they are. From their point of view, they're not really talking about human beings such as themselves. From their point of view, we're all Philistines, and need to be completely destroyed. And they believe that day is coming soon.


Thursday, July 28, 2005

Oil and Blood

From the New York Times' Bob Herbert courtesy of Eschaton:

The Bush administration has no plans to bring the troops home from this misguided war, which has taken a fearful toll in lives and injuries while at the same time weakening the military, damaging the international reputation of the United States, serving as a world-class recruiting tool for terrorist groups and blowing a hole the size of Baghdad in Washington's budget.

A wiser leader would begin to cut some of these losses. But the whole point of this war, it seems, was to establish a long-term military presence in Iraq to ensure American domination of the Middle East and its precious oil reserves, which have been described, the author Daniel Yergin tells us, as "the greatest single prize in all history."

here for the rest.

This is very much the same conclusion I've come to. It's not like I'm brilliant or anything; in fact, it's pretty easy to dope this out. None of the Bush administration's stated reasons for the invasion make any sense at this point, so we have to look elsewhere for answers. It's pretty obvious that the only real US interest in the Middle East is oil. Indeed, all US foreign policy toward the region since World War II has been in terms of oil. Israel, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, all American relationships with these nations and others are negotiated with the politics and power of oil as the overwhelming backdrop. Like I said, obvious.

What's slightly more complicated is the simplistic notion that invading Iraq is about enriching the oil companies that created Bush and making sure that supply disruptions don't hurt the US economy. That's a part of the equation, yes, but the American power elite have a much more compelling motivation. They want to control the spigot. With US economic power slowly declining, American influence stands to be substantially eroded in the coming decades. However, as Noam Chomsky has observed many times, the one dimension in which the United States is still without peer is military might. Ultimately, the permanent American occupation of Iraq is about transmuting military power into economic power: once global oil extraction has peaked, and many experts believe that has either already happened or will happen very soon, oil prices will steadily increase; if the US controls the lion's share of oil reserves, all nations must kiss its ass in order to function.

The Iraq invasion, then, is one of the ballsier moves in world history, one of the great power plays of all time. If it succeeds, it will guarantee the existence and strength of the American empire for many years to come. That's why neither Bush nor any of his successors, Republican and Democrat alike, will ever pull out of Iraq. It really is blood for oil. And oil for power.

I know there's no such thing as Hell, but sometimes I wish there was.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Prosecutor In CIA Leak Case Casting A Wide Net

From the Washington Post courtesy of

The special prosecutor in the CIA leak probe has interviewed a wider range of administration officials than was previously known, part of an effort to determine whether anyone broke laws during a White House effort two years ago to discredit allegations that President Bush used faulty intelligence to justify the Iraq war, according to several officials familiar with the case.

Prosecutors have questioned former CIA director George J. Tenet and deputy director John E. McLaughlin, former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, State Department officials, and even a stranger who approached columnist Robert D. Novak on the street.

In doing so, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has asked not only about how CIA operative Valerie Plame's name was leaked but also how the administration went about shifting responsibility from the White House to the CIA for having included 16 words in the 2003 State of the Union address about Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium from Africa, an assertion that was later disputed.

here for the rest.

Blaming the CIA for the bogus Niger-uranium story was always pretty weird. It was already on record that the Agency had told the White House before the 2003 State of the Union address that claims of Iraq attempting to get lightly processed "yellowcake" uranium from Africa could not be verified. Nonetheless, CIA director George Tenet eventually fell on his sword for Bush, which made absolutely no sense.

I continue to be amazed at the course this investigation seems to be taking. The White House's teflon coating may yet prevail, but I've got to give a lot of respect and credit to special prosecutor Fitzgerald for placing the truth above partisan politics. He's proving that there are still principled conservatives out there, and my feeling is that they, much more than the ineffectual Democrats, are this nation's real hope. Don't get me wrong; I still think conservativism is ultimately morally bankrupt as a political and social philosophy, but it's nice to be reminded that some conservatives still value their country over their party.



There may be more to a GOP proposal to "review" the CIA leak investigation than meets the eye. This excerpt originally appears in Wayne Madsen Reports, which has no permalinks, so it's siphoned through
TalkLeft courtesy of Crooks and Liars:

Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, announced that his commitee will be "reviewing" the criminal probe by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald of the White House leak of the identities of covert CIA agents. If Roberts is serious and not just grandstanding, this may indicate that the White House is looking to give Fitzgerald's targets (Karl Rove, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and others) congressional general immunity from prosecution in return for their testimony before Roberts' committee. This was the method by which John Poindexter and Oliver North were able to avoid jail time for their roles in Iran-contra, their convictions being overturned by a federal appeals court because of their previously granted congressional immunity.

here for more.

I'm not too worried about this myself because of reports that Fitzgerald will soon finish his investigation: the reason the Iran-Contra convictions were overturned was because the Congressional hearings which granted immunity occurred well before there were actual legal proceedings. That is, if I understand correctly, Poindexter and North's convictions were not overturned because of they had "immunity;" rather, it was their testimony before Congress that was made off limits to the courts, and the judges who threw out their convictions believed those protected statements were used against them while on trial. This Wikipedia article makes what I'm saying more clear:

Oliver North and John Poindexter were indicted on multiple charges on March 16, 1988. North, indicted on nine counts, was initially convicted of three minor counts, although the conviction was later vacated upon appeal on the grounds that North's Fifth Amendment rights may have been violated. The violation was said to be the indirect use of his testimony to Congress which had been given under a grant of immunity. Poindexter was convicted on several felony counts of lying to Congress, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, and altering and destroying documents pertinent to the investigation. His convictions were also overturned on appeal on similar grounds as North's. The Independent Counsel chose not to re-try North or Poindexter.

here for the rest.

So Congressional hearings after the criminal investigation has run its course are not such a big deal as far tainted evidence is concerned. As long as the prosecution is diligent about sticking only with evidence gathered during its fact-finding probe, there should be no problem. I think. Like I said, anything could happen, but I do know that if something does happen, it won't go down like Iran-Contra.

Still, this GOP pledge to "review" Fitzgerald's investigation is troubling, if only because it reeks of an impending smear-job, which is ironic, because a smear-job is what got this whole thing rolling in the first place. On second thought, given the current Republican modus operandi regarding smear-jobs, it's probably not ironic at all.


Toyota, Moving Northward

The latest from Princeton economist Paul Krugman. From the New York Times:

You might be tempted to say that Canadian taxpayers are, in effect, subsidizing Toyota's move by paying for health coverage. But that's not right, even aside from the fact that Canada's health care system has far lower costs per person than the American system, with its huge administrative expenses. In fact, U.S. taxpayers, not Canadians, will be hurt by the northward movement of auto jobs.

To see why, bear in mind that in the long run decisions like Toyota's probably won't affect the overall number of jobs in either the United States or Canada. But the result of international competition will be to give Canada more jobs in industries like autos, which pay health benefits to their U.S. workers, and fewer jobs in industries that don't provide those benefits. In the U.S. the effect will be just the reverse: fewer jobs with benefits, more jobs without.

So what's the impact on taxpayers? In Canada, there's no impact at all: since all Canadians get government-provided health insurance in any case, the additional auto jobs won't increase government spending.

But U.S. taxpayers will suffer, because the general public ends up picking up much of the cost of health care for workers who don't get insurance through their jobs. Some uninsured workers and their families end up on Medicaid. Others end up depending on emergency rooms, which are heavily subsidized by taxpayers.

Funny, isn't it? Pundits tell us that the welfare state is doomed by globalization, that programs like national health insurance have become unsustainable. But Canada's universal health insurance system is handling international competition just fine. It's our own system, which penalizes companies that treat their workers well, that's in trouble.

here for the rest.

This is yet another example where the real world is completely different from the neo-liberal economic theory that dominates political discussion in the US. The main point is that fair economic treatment of workers and citizens does not hurt the bottom line. It may mean that the rich don't get quite as rich as they'd like, but that's just too bad. It most certainly does not mean fewer jobs with less pay--the reality is that neo-liberalism causes fewer jobs with less pay, and it's time for these propaganda lies of the elites to end. Maybe this new labor coalition (see post below) will do something about that.


Labor split hits close to home for Democrats

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

The AFL-CIO splintered on Monday in a dispute over the future of the fading labor movement, and the exodus could have enormous political implications for pro-labor Democrats.

Democratic politicians catch most of the AFL-CIO donations, one reason why party leaders worry about a weakened federation. The AFL-CIO also spends millions on programs that help get Democratic voters to turn out on Election Day.

Some Democrats said Monday they hoped the warring factions would come back together. Others suggested the competition would jolt organized labor out of its decades-old slumber.

"We're in uncharted waters," said Democratic consultant David Axelrod of Chicago. "Obviously, you have to believe a unified and coordinated effort is better than a disparate one and, obviously, the labor movement is a vital part of the Democratic coalition."

Some Democrats cast the breakup in apocalyptic terms. "It's the worst thing that could happen to us as a party," said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic strategist with long ties to labor.

here for the rest.

My understanding of this whole dispute is something along these lines. The new Change to Win coalition believes that the key to labor power lies in the grass roots. That is, with US union membership hovering around an anemic ten percent of the overall work force, labor is but a ghost of its once powerful self: the only way to gain political strength is to dramatically raise membership levels, and unionize the massive sectors of the economy that are now unorganized. The AFL-CIO, however, believes that the current political climate is such that organizing won't work: only by currying favor with powerful Democrats can labor create a situation such that increasing union membership is possible.

To me it's obvious that the AFL-CIO is completely full of shit. They've been employing the same top-down strategies for decades now while worker rights, wages, and benefits have steadily decreased. It strikes me as totally nuts that they think more of the same will somehow create different results. The Democrats happily take labor dollars, but have done little or nothing to help workers. Indeed, it's quite the reverse: under the control of Bill Clinton and his pro-corporate Democratic Leadership Council throughout the 90's, the Democratic Party has incrementally moved in an anti-labor direction. As if that even matters now that the Republicans control everything.

This split has me excited, actually. Looking at American history, it's pretty clear that workers have gained no significant rights or advancement without huge numbers of them out in the streets, backing up their leaders' demands. The old labor movement is dead and has been so for some years. It's time to go back to square one, and build a new movement from the ground up. It's pretty cool that the always hardcore Teamsters union is part of the vanguard. They're old school, and know how to bust heads when the time is right; they also know how to take a few for the team. In short, they're scrappers, and that's exactly what workers need to be right now.

Really, when you get right down to it, this is simply the labor manifestation of the same phenomenon that's had all varieties of progressives quitting the Democratic Party and looking for other options: the Democrats are disorganized losers, all talk and no action; they no longer stand for anything except being reelected. The Green Party would do well to quickly forge an alliance with Change to Win.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Buried at the tail end of a Reuters article about the Senate looking into the general issue of secret agent security. From the Boston Globe courtesy of the Daily Kos:

Little said the Senate committee would also review the probe of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who has been investigating the Plame case for nearly two years.

Click here to see it in context.

Kos suggests that this is happening "because he won't fly the elephant above the Stars and Stripes," in other words, punishment. I think it's simpler than that. They're scared. If that's the case, it only adds credence to my speculation that this Plame thing could end up gutting the Bush administration beyond repair. I can only hope.



Not that there's anything wrong with that. From the New York Daily News courtesy of

Lively court briefs

Amid the political hullabaloo surrounding white-bread Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, gay activist Michelangelo Signorile remembers a much more colorful candidate.

"There was a contender for the federal judiciary in the George W. Bush administration who I began receiving information ... about him making sexual advances on men in gyms in Washington and other cities," Signorile told us Friday. Immediately after sex, "he would ... go into a religious tirade and then tell them how morally wrong all this was. His record was really conservative."

here for the rest (and scroll down to the second item; this appears to be from a gossip column).

The real question here, if this homoerotic monkey business is true, is about whether Roberts is one of these socially conservative gay guys who inexplicably use their positions of power to attack gay rights. This is not without precedent: my guess is that the contradictory nature of the closeted gay conservative mind makes manifesting self-hatred as anti-gay policy rather appealing. Senate Democrats would do well to quiz Roberts about his views on gay rights, and if he agrees with the Supreme Court that homosexuals are a specific class of American citizen protected by the fourteenth amendment. And I'm sure the religious right would like to know what he thinks about hot gay sex, as well.

He sure does have a pretty mouth, don't he?

UPDATE: After re-reading the gossip piece and looking at the comments about it over at Eschaton, it's not clear that Signorile was talking about Roberts; it may have been somebody else. However, it's not clear that Signorile wasn't talking about Roberts, either. At any rate, it's enough to fuel speculation until there's some sort of clarification about it. God, I just love gossip.


Monday, July 25, 2005


Mr. Spock talking on his cell phone while holding hands with his one-time girlfriend!


How Costco Became the Anti-Wal-Mart

From the New York Times courtesy of
the Daily Kos:

But not everyone is happy with Costco's business strategy. Some Wall Street analysts assert that Mr. Sinegal is overly generous not only to Costco's customers but to its workers as well.

Costco's average pay, for example, is $17 an hour, 42 percent higher than its fiercest rival, Sam's Club. And Costco's health plan makes those at many other retailers look Scroogish. One analyst, Bill Dreher of Deutsche Bank, complained last year that at Costco "it's better to be an employee or a customer than a shareholder."

Mr. Sinegal begs to differ. He rejects Wall Street's assumption that to succeed in discount retailing, companies must pay poorly and skimp on benefits, or must ratchet up prices to meet Wall Street's profit demands.

Good wages and benefits are why Costco has extremely low rates of turnover and theft by employees, he said. And Costco's customers, who are more affluent than other warehouse store shoppers, stay loyal because they like that low prices do not come at the workers' expense. "This is not altruistic," he said. "This is good business."


IF shareholders mind Mr. Sinegal's philosophy, it is not obvious: Costco's stock price has risen more than 10 percent in the last 12 months, while Wal-Mart's has slipped 5 percent. Costco shares sell for almost 23 times expected earnings; at Wal-Mart the multiple is about 19. Mr. Dreher said Costco's share price was so high because so many people love the company. "It's a cult stock," he said.

here for the rest.

I'm not picky. If socialism is the only way to create a more just society, then so be it. But I don't really believe that we have to go that far. I think that it's possible to reform capitalism such that workers are treated more fairly, and I think this Costco guy's got a good model for how to do it. The big problem with capitalism, the American version of it anyway, is that it assumes that workers are just like any other kind of capital, like buildings, raw materials, equipment, or money. In other words, capitalism reduces human beings to the level of disposable things, and they are treated thusly. For decades now the business community has insisted that this is the only way to keep the economy functioning; it is a regrettable but necessary "fact" of economics. Of course, they're wrong, and Costco is proving it. The point here is that businesses can still be not only profitable, but dominant, when they treat their employees fairly. I think that, on some levels, this is actually understood by business: the real reason for shafting workers is so that the elites can become all the more wealthy--a great deal of "economic theory" seems to actually be only a web of justification for rampant greed. Whatever the case may be, if American companies continue much longer to operate under the bogus assumption that fair labor practices hurt the bottom line, they may not have the luxury of choosing between fair and unfair employee treatment. An angry and economically strapped electorate may one day impose the Costco standard on business. Either way, American citizens win.


Experts say motives, not al-Qaida mastermind, link bombings

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

With havens in Afghanistan under pressure and their finances under scrutiny, militants may take philosophical guidance from the likes of Osama bin Laden but are largely relying on their own resources in carrying operations, experts interviewed by The Associated Press said Saturday.

"They all want to be part of this phenomenon," said Loretta Napoleoni, author of "Terror Incorporated: Tracing the Dollars Behind the Terror Networks," as she explained the terror wave. "It's not like someone is telling (the militants), `You bomb on the first of July.'"

Anger over the U.S.-led war in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict also seems to be providing some inspiration, despite early arguments from Bush administration officials that fighting insurgents in Iraq would help prevent them from launching attacks on Western targets. The war has instead turned into a recruiting tool, experts said.

The constant images on Arab language networks of dead and dying civilians - coupled with U.S. soldiers conducting operations - has only heightened sensitivities.

"Iraq has been an absolute gift to al-Qaida," said Paul Rogers, a professor of peace studies at Bradford University in northern England. "(Al-Qaida) seems to have no difficulty in getting more and more recruits."

Click here for the rest.

This story, along with a couple of others (here and here), make it clear that the security establishment seems to finally be willing to publicly oppose the absurd notion that terrorism can somehow be eradicated by military action. Quite the reverse, waging war on Muslim populations only encourages more terrorism. Only a massive change in US foreign and economic policy, that is, holding Israel to a much higher standard in its dealings with the Palestinians, removing US troops from Muslim nations, and ending support for despotic Middle Eastern regimes such that oil profits are shared by rank and file citizens, coupled with reasonable security measures at home, good old fashioned police work, and aggressive prosecution of the terrorists themselves, have any chance of reducing global terrorism to a more manageable level. This has been pretty obvious for years now, but patriotic hysteria shepherded by evil Republican geniuses like Karl Rove has made mainstream discussion of what really needs to be done all but impossible. The tide appears to be turning.


Saturday, July 23, 2005


Continuing the series of pictures I took in New Orleans last May. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4).

As I've said before, the French Quarter is a work of exquisite beauty, and it's beauty goes beyond that which was intended. The closed quarters of the neighborhood, it's narrow streets and alleyways, all make for an angular, abstract-expressionist orgy of weird geometric shapes and colors wherever you look. Like this view right outside our guest room:

Of course, that's just a cool by-product of the architectural landscape. The architecture itself is also beautiful, not to mention old. Many of the buildings date back to Spain's brief colonial control of the Louisiana territory at the end of the eighteenth century--most of the preexisting French structures were destroyed by a couple of major fires; even though the Spaniards managed to clean up a great deal of political corruption in the Crescent City, fire fighting was apparently not one of their strong suits.

But, hey, check out this old and cool chimney and bay window:

If you look closely at the chimney, you'll notice gray patches of masonry where it has seemingly been repaired numerous times over the years. I don't think the above picture is an example of the Spanish architecture style I was talking about a moment ago: it seems Victorian, so my bet is that this rooftop dates to sometime in the mid-nineteenth century, when many other buildings in the Quarter were built; by this time New Orleans had become thoroughly Americanized, although I understand one could still hear French being spoken in Vieux Carre as late as the early twentieth century.

Anyway, back to the Spanish influence. One of the most distinctive characteristics of the Quarter is its abundance of wrought iron.

From iNeTours:

Prior to the industrial age, blacksmiths worked with wrought iron, made and refined in charcoal fires. Charcoal iron can withstand corrosion for hundreds of years as evidenced by many a two hundred year old French Quarter balcony.

Traditional decorative ironwork is not easy to maintain. Repousse—shaped or decorated with patterns in relief formed by hammering and pressing on the reverse side—is often difficult to paint.

Once mild steel was introduced with its ability to be mass produced, wrought iron, and the craft skills associated with it, gradually disappeared. Most of the ironwork in the French Quarter is actually cast iron and dates to the 1850's when this type of adornment became wildly popular

Click here for the rest. it's not wrought iron at all! It's actually cast iron. Like my grandma's skillet that I still use to fry catfish. I guess you learn something everyday. The cast iron of New Orleans is, like the architicture, quite beautiful as well, but, also like the architecture, tends to create an aesthetically pleasing by-product. Like these cool shadows on the sidewalk:

Speaking of sidewalks, here's another shot looking down my favorite French Quarter street, Decatur:

Note the gay oriented Rainbow Flag flown proudly beside the US Flag. New Orleans is a center of gay culture, and the French Quarter is to New Orleans what the Castro is to San Francisco, the Village is to New York, and Montrose is to Houston. That is, the Quarter is pretty gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that. In fact, it's pretty cool. New Orleans, as a post WWII port city, had one of the earliest gay communities in America--apparently, gay service men and women who had met during the war decided in droves to stay in the more sophisticated coastal port cities rather than return to their repressive home towns. Evidence of the New Orleans gay scene is all around the French Quarter. Like this nighttime neon-lit storefront window display of Ken dolls in gay regalia:

All this gay talk somehow makes this last photo fitting:

This shot is looking up into a mimosa tree somewhere in the Quarter. It's fitting because "mimosa" is also the name of a fruity drink. Get it? Fruity? Ah, never mind. Interestingly, the mimosa tree, which seems to be all over Louisiana - there's one in our next door neighbor's front yard, in fact - isn't actually its real name. Apparently, it's real name is albizia, and is mistakenly called "mimosa" because of its resemblance to a shrub of the same name. Personally, I prefer the name "mimosa;" it's delicate sounding. The tree's weird pink flowers don't really look like what I think of when I hear the word "albizia." Actually, I don't really know what I think of when I hear the word "albizia." Eastern Europe, maybe.

More New Orleans photoblogging to come...


Friday, July 22, 2005

The Plame Floodgates Open

the Daily Kos:

It's only been a few days since the Supreme Court nominee was hurriedly announced in an attempt to get Karl Rove off the front pages. Since then, all hell has broken loose.

Bloomberg is reporting that Rove and Libby both gave testimony to the grand jury that flatly conflicts with the testimony given by those they said they talked to.

We now know that the Top Secret memo most consistent with the talking points that Rove and Libby told reporters was seen in the hands of Press Secretary Ari Fleischer in the days before the leak occurred. And that Fleischer told the grand jury he never saw it.


This is, to use the most calm and soothing phrase possible in such circumstances, extremely f---ing bad for the administration. It shows the broad outlines not just of multiple perjury charges, but indeed of linked conspiracy charges against a number of administration officials.

here for the rest.

This scandal that has plodded along at a snail's pace for two years is suddenly moving at light speed. Only a couple of weeks ago this thing was all about Rove. "Bush's Brain" is still in the middle of the maelstrom, but the storm has very quickly encompassed several other highly placed White House officials, both current and former. A week ago I made this speculation: "I wonder if Fitzgerald inadvertantly pulled some of the threads that keep this whole tapestry of mendacity together." I was engaging in wishful thinking about the entire bag of WMD lies cobbled together by the Bush administration in order to justify the Iraq war; it is increasingly looking like I made a good guess. Still, I'm not going to hold my breath. BushCo has gotten away with murder, again and again, and I have no reason to believe that's not going to be the case here, and there is historical precedent for Republicans in the midst of major scandal getting off scot-free--the Iran-Contra affair back during the waning years of the Reagan administration should have resulted in our President's father being imprisoned, but did not. Nonetheless, I'm crossing my fingers.







Supreme Court Pick Shifts Attention
From Rove, Agent Disclosure

From Bloomberg courtesy of
the Daily Kos:

Bush accelerated his search for a Supreme Court nominee in part because of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the leak of a CIA agent's name, according to Republicans familiar with administration strategy.

Bush originally had planned to announce a replacement for retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on July 26 or 27, just before his planned July 28 departure for a month-long vacation at his Crawford, Texas, ranch, said two administration officials, who spoke on the condition they not be named.

The officials said those plans changed because Rove has become a focus of Fitzgerald's interest and of news accounts about the matter.

here for the rest.

Just as Kos speculated a couple of days ago: Bush picked Roberts early in order to take the media heat off Rove. Hell, for all we know, it was Rove's idea in the first place. Nice chess move. I guess. The one thing this makes evident is something that Paul Krugman has been saying about the Bush administration for years. Everything is political for them. The White House makes not a single move without a full awareness and manipulation of its political ramifications. Contemplative consideration of the candidates for one of the most powerful offices in the land? Hell no! We've got a political firestorm out there; get somebody's name out, now! I admire Bush in the same way I admire ... say ... Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler, Lee Kuan, Krotus ... you know, all those brilliant evil guys.


Large Volume of F.B.I. Files Alarms U.S. Activist Groups

From the New York Times courtesy of
This Modern World:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has collected at least 3,500 pages of internal documents in the last several years on a handful of civil rights and antiwar protest groups in what the groups charge is an attempt to stifle political opposition to the Bush administration.

The F.B.I. has in its files 1,173 pages of internal documents on the American Civil Liberties Union, the leading critic of the Bush administration's antiterrorism policies, and 2,383 pages on Greenpeace, an environmental group that has led acts of civil disobedience in protest over the administration's policies, the Justice Department disclosed in a court filing this month in a federal court in Washington.

The filing came as part of a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act brought by the A.C.L.U. and other groups that maintain that the F.B.I. has engaged in a pattern of political surveillance against critics of the Bush administration. A smaller batch of documents already turned over by the government sheds light on the interest of F.B.I. counterterrorism officials in protests surrounding the Iraq war and last year's Republican National Convention.

F.B.I. and Justice Department officials declined to say what was in the A.C.L.U. and Greenpeace files, citing the pending lawsuit. But they stressed that as a matter of both policy and practice, they have not sought to monitor the political activities of any activist groups and that any intelligence-gathering activities related to political protests are intended to prevent disruptive and criminal activity at demonstrations, not to quell free speech. They said there might be an innocuous explanation for the large volume of files on the A.C.L.U. and Greenpeace, like preserving requests from or complaints about the groups in agency files.

Click here for the rest.

This comes as no surprise given the FBI's historical tendency to meddle with political opposition groups. FBI agents are cops when you get right down to it, and cops, contrary to the conventional wisdom, do not serve the public: rather, as governmental employees, cops serve the wealthy elites who own the government. I don't know whether this obvious attempt to use the FBI to stifle political dissent - and this monitoring can only be seen as being anti-dissent because that is its largest and most inescapable effect, regardless of what the stated motivations are - comes out of some weird zeal on the part of the Bureau or if they were ordered by the Attorney General or President Bush, but it's clear that, ordered or not, the FBI knows the interests of its masters, and is seeking to do their will.

It's also particularly creepy that FBI counterterrorism officials seem to be gunning for groups as benign as the ACLU and Greenpeace. Both groups are without a doubt non-violent, and spending tax dollars on "monitoring" them is either a huge waste of money and anti-terror resources or clear evidence that Bush is every bit the Nazi that the right wing loudly insists he is not. Either way something's rotten in the District of Columbia.


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Vocalist was focal point for band Buddhacrush

From the Houston Chronicle:

Tim McGlashen, frontman for Houston band the Buddhacrush, died Tuesday; he was 49.

The Buddhacrush has been a mainstay on the local music scene with its funk-rock sound.

McGlashen was hospitalized last week with an infection. His death surprised friends and fans.

"Tim was a fantastic musician, but an even better person," said Jeff Balke, bassist for Houston band orange is in. "His passion for his own art was surpassed only by his genuine compassion for his friends and musical family. He will be sorely missed."

here for the rest.

Tim was one of my brother-in-law's best friends--I met him soon after Becky and I became a couple back in 1997. He was one of the nicest, most intelligent, and artistically supportive people I've ever known. Indeed, he made an effort to see many of the shows I did with
dos chicas over the years. His sense of artistic camaraderie, however, was more than simply showing up. One night a few years back, I performed some of my songs at a party, but I was a bit drunk and under-rehearsed; actually, I sucked. Tim, however, had nothing but words of encouragement and praise for me. That turned into a philosophical conversation about the nature of artistic success, and whether an artist has to be a star in order to have "made it." Like I said, he was smart. In fact, I remember touring with him the Mayan ruins at Tulum in Mexico back in 1998; Tim regaled me, eyes twinkling, with detailed stories of the Spanish conquistadores as if he had read about them only a few hours before--the reality is that he had a masters degree in history, and was able to call up facts as though he was an encyclopedia. His funeral was one of the saddest events I have ever attended; Tim's death hit everyone who knew him like a cinder block smashing into a windshield. I'm sad for Tim. I'm sad for his wife. I'm sad for his friends and family.

Body of leopard, eagle's head
And whetted beak, and lion's mane,
And frost-grey hedge of feathers spread
Behind -- he seemed of all things bred.
I shall not see his like again.

From "The Combat" by Edwin Muir

Farewell, Tim.


Star Trek's Scotty, James Doohan, dies at 85

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

James Doohan, the burly chief engineer of the Starship Enterprise in the original Star Trek TV series and movies who responded to the command "Beam me up, Scotty," died Wednesday. He was 85.

Doohan died at 5:30 a.m. at his Redmond, Wash., home with his wife of 28 years, Wende, at his side, Los Angeles agent and longtime friend Steve Stevens said. The cause of death was pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease, he said.

He had said farewell to public life in August 2004, a few months after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

here for the rest.

Like comics artist Jim Aparo who died yesterday, James Doohan played an instrumental role in stoking my childhood imagination. I have always, always, always loved Mr. Scott, and Doohan was the man who brought him to life. Really, as goofy as it may sound, I wouldn't be the person I am today without him.

Farewell, Mr. Doohan.


Jim Aparo, R.I.P.

From News From Me courtesy of This is not a compliment:

Comic book artist Jim Aparo has died at the age of 72 following a recent illness. Despite a bit of training at the Hartford Art School, Aparo considered himself a self-taught illustrator. A lifelong fan of comics, he always wanted to work in the business but his samples did not arouse any interest until around 1966 when Dick Giordano, who was then an editor at Charlton, decided to give him a try...on a teen strip called "Miss Bikini Luv." That, and subsequent assignments for Charlton's war, western and ghost comics worked out so well that, despite Charlton's niggardly pay rates, Aparo was able to quit his day job at a Hartford advertising agency and realize his dream as a full-time comic book artist.

Click here for the rest.

Aparo was my favorite Batman artist, if not my all time favorite comics artist. I've known his distinctive style for as long as I can remember--indeed, many of my first experiences with DC heroes came from him. My childhood would have been much less rich without his wonderful work.

Here's how he drew the death of Robin back in the 80s:

Farewell, Jim. You helped give me my imagination.


War radicalized most, probes find

From the Boston Globe courtesy of
This Modern World:

New investigations by the Saudi Arabian government and an Israeli think tank -- both of which painstakingly analyzed the backgrounds and motivations of hundreds of foreigners entering Iraq to fight the United States -- have found that the vast majority of these foreign fighters are not former terrorists and became radicalized by the war itself.

The studies, which together constitute the most detailed picture available of foreign fighters, cast serious doubt on President Bush's claim that those responsible for some of the worst violence are terrorists who seized on the opportunity to make Iraq the ''central front" in a battle against the United States.


A separate Israeli analysis of 154 foreign fighters compiled by a leading terrorism researcher found that despite the presence of some senior Al Qaeda operatives who are organizing the volunteers, ''the vast majority of [non-Iraqi] Arabs killed in Iraq have never taken part in any terrorist activity prior to their arrival in Iraq."

''Only a few were involved in past Islamic insurgencies in Afghanistan, Bosnia, or Chechnya," the Israeli study says. Out of the 154 fighters analyzed, only a handful had past associations with terrorism, including six who had fathers who fought the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, said the report, compiled by the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Herzliya, Israel.

American intelligence officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, and terrorism specialists paint a similar portrait of the suicide bombers wreaking havoc in Iraq: Prior to the Iraq war, they were not Islamic extremists seeking to attack the United States, as Al Qaeda did four years ago, but are part of a new generation of terrorists responding to calls to defend their fellow Muslims from ''crusaders" and ''infidels."

''The president is right that Iraq is a main front in the war on terrorism, but this is a front we created," said Peter Bergen, a terrorism specialist at the nonpartisan New America Foundation, a Washington think tank.

here for the rest (emphasis mine).

This is so utterly obvious that I've been saying pretty much the same thing from almost the beginning of Real Art: "the war on terrorism" is really a war that creates more terrorism. It's good that there is actually now some real research supporting this observation, but it's really amazing that nobody in the mainstream thought about it during the run-up to the Iraq invasion. Bin Laden and his cohorts have been perfectly clear about their grievances. They resent US support of tyrannical governments in the Middle East that enrich themselves with oil profits while average citizens wallow in poverty. They resent US support of whatever barbaric abuses Israel heaps on the Palestinians. They resent US troops in Muslim lands. These are reasonable complaints, and our government can easily accommodate them. Unfortunately, the elites who own our government are just fine with the way things are now, and all war all the time plays into the hands of Republican fear mongering for votes. The writing is on the wall, but the powers that be just don't care. Consequently, terrorism will continue, both in Iraq, and in Europe and the United States.



Okay, I have no thoughts just yet about Judge John Roberts, but I do want to link to someone who does. From
the Daily Kos:

So who is this guy Roberts? He has only two years of judicial experience, and his legal advocacy can be dismissed as doing the bidding of his bosses.

Fair enough. I'm willing to hear the guy out. We're not going to get a Ginsburg, but I'd be happy with an O'Connor-style moderate conservative. For all we know (and for all the religious-right knows), Roberts might be that sort of guy.

But he has to be honest and forthcoming, unlike his previous confirmation hearing. The Senate must take its time deliberating over the nomination. And this is something that all sides should want, not just ours. For all the right wing knows, this guy may be the next Souter who simply pretended to be virulently anti-privacy.

here for the rest.

Hmmm. I guess Kos doesn't know anything either. But he's much more verbose on his not knowing than I am. Go check it out. It's not much longer than the excerpt, but it does manage to look at the politics of the announcement vis-a-vis the Rove situation, and that's worth a read.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005


First, from the Washington Post's E. J. Dionne:

Rove investigation puts

administration on the defensive

The conventional view is that Rove will be safe as long as he escapes indictment. Given how much Bush values his services, that may be true. But even if Rove survives, the events of this week will leave scars on the administration by dramatizing negative perceptions that, until now, have done little damage.

As long ago as at least October 2002, when Washington Post writer Dana Milbank wrote a memorable story under the headline "For Bush, Facts Are Malleable," the administration has been accused of distortions, exaggerations and falsehoods. The spectacle of McClellan being unable to back up his previous denials -- McClellan said in the fall of 2003 that Rove and two other administration officials "assured me they were not involved in this" -- brought this problem home as no catalog of questionable administration statements ever could.

here for the rest.

And from uber-Texan Molly Ivins:

Truth flies out the window as GOP
springs to the defense of Karl Rove

A consistent theme of the spin is that "no crime was committed," that outing Plame as a CIA agent meant nothing since she was then working as an analyst in Langley.

Unfortunately, Plame spent years overseas for the CIA working for a civilian firm without benefit of a diplomatic passport, meaning that she was especially vulnerable, could have been executed if caught and showed special courage. True, she was not working undercover when Novak named her in his column. However, as many CIA officers have pointed out, the outing left her former company and colleagues vulnerable. That this was done for petty political revenge is unforgivable. It is a result of being so focused on your political opponents that you take them more seriously than you do the country's real enemies.

Frankly, it reeks of Rove -- and it is what's wrong with much of politics today. If the prosecutor cannot prove a crime, Rove should still be fired, not just because Bush said he would fire anyone involved in the leak, but also because what Rove did is ethically disgusting.

Click here for the rest.


Monday, July 18, 2005

Cheney aide another source in CIA story

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

The vice president's chief of staff, Lewis Libby, was a source along with the president's chief political adviser for a Time story that identified a CIA officer, the magazine reporter said today, further countering White House claims that neither aide was involved in the leak.

In an effort to quell a chorus of calls to fire deputy White House chief of staff Karl Rove, Republicans said that Rove originally learned about Valerie Plame's identity from the news media. That exonerates Rove, the Republican Party chairman said, and Democrats should apologize.

But it is not clear that it was a journalist who first revealed the information to Rove.

here for the rest.

When you couple this information with Rove's defense team leak asserting that it was columnist Robert Novak who first told Rove about Plame's identity, and that Rove only confirmed the information, you've got to start wondering about plausible deniability stories. That is, if Rove didn't tell Novak about Plame, who did? Obviously, if this anonymous attorney-leaker is correct, then Libby had to be the one who told Novak in the first place--after all, Novak spoke of two White House sources in his 2003 op-ed outing Plame. But this is just getting too weird and convoluted to follow: it totally reeks of an ill rehearsed cover up story. Sure, it's plausible that Rove only confirmed Plame's identity to Novak, which doesn't even really matter because either way Rove crossed the line, but such thinking invites razor-thin differentiations of minute and irrelevant details. It is just as plausible that Libby and Rove were working together to smear Plame's husband, Bush critic Joseph Wilson, and are now playing a he-said-she-said game to deny involvement. One thing is clear, however: a CIA agent's cover was blown by somebody inside the White House, and Karl Rove, who is right smack dab in the middle of the scandal, seems to have only Clintonian "definition of 'is'" arguments to support his innocence. No matter how much bullshit the right wing spews forth from its fiery orifices, it's looking bad for Rove. And that's good for America.


Karl Rove's America

Paul Krugman finally weighs in. From the New York Times courtesy of

John Gibson of Fox News says that Karl Rove should be given a medal. I agree: Mr. Rove should receive a medal from the American Political Science Association for his pioneering discoveries about modern American politics. The medal can, if necessary, be delivered to his prison cell.

What Mr. Rove understood, long before the rest of us, is that we're not living in the America of the past, where even partisans sometimes changed their views when faced with the facts. Instead, we're living in a country in which there is no longer such a thing as nonpolitical truth. In particular, there are now few, if any, limits to what conservative politicians can get away with: the faithful will follow the twists and turns of the party line with a loyalty that would have pleased the

Click here for the rest.

I've pointed out that the real story about the Rove scandal is how the White House lied repeatedly to the American public in order to justify a war that Bush's neo-con advisors are on record as having wanted for years before their boy came to power. Krugman, however, pulls back a bit further and sees the context that includes everything. Lies, supported by a massive chorus of chest-thumping pundits and politicians, are the meat and potatoes of the Bush administration. Social Security, stem cell research, civil rights, abortion and birth control, economic policy and tax cuts, energy, everything they say of any importance at all is served up with a heaping bowl of lies. Rove is simply an example of all this. It's one thing to have political differences; it's quite another to just make shit up: Republicans wield their untruths at democracy's peril. America cannot function in this way.


Sunday, July 17, 2005


This is pretty wild. From
The Great Depression courtesy of Crooks and Liars:

In the summer of 1933, shortly after Roosevelt's "First 100 Days," America's richest businessmen were in a panic. It was clear that Roosevelt intended to conduct a massive redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor. Roosevelt had to be stopped at all costs.

The answer was a military coup. It was to be secretly financed and organized by leading officers of the Morgan and Du Pont empires. This included some of America's richest and most famous names of the time...


And what type of government would replace Roosevelt's New Deal? MacGuire was perfectly candid to Paul French, a reporter friend of General Butler's:

"We need a fascist government in this country… to save the nation from the communists who want to tear it down and wreck all that we have built in America. The only men who have the patriotism to do it are the soldiers, and Smedley Butler is the ideal leader. He could organize a million men overnight."

Click here for the rest.

I had not heard of this, but it comes as no surprise. It's no big secret that the wealthy elites who literally own the nation feel that they ought to run it, too, and this attitude goes all the way back to the American Revolution. For the most part, they've gotten their way, and rarely are they really challenged--the New Deal was one of those rare occasions, which is why they plotted this coup.

Of course, this is unthinkable today: the wealthy elites, through a combination of their ownership of media companies, the propagandistic public schools, lobbying, and campaign finance laws that do nothing more than sanction the buying and selling of politicians, have perfected a system of controlling the machinery of "democracy." Any policy program that resembles something like the New Deal is virtually impossible under these circumstances.

If all that were to somehow change, however, I bet my comic book collection that the elites would, once again, seriously consider a military coup. They see controlling this country as their right, and nothing will stand in their way.


Saturday, July 16, 2005

Chinese general warns of nuclear risk to US

the London Guardian courtesy of Crooks and Liars:

A senior Chinese general has warned that his country could destroy hundreds of American cities with nuclear weapons if the two nations clashed over Taiwan.

Major general Zhu Chenghu, a dean at the National Defence University, said he was expressing a private opinion, but his comments, the most inflammatory by a senior government official in 10 years, will fuel growing concerns in Washington about the rise of China.

Click here for the rest.

This is the stuff of my childhood nightmares. I remember shedding tears of joy when the Berlin Wall was pulled down back in the late 80s: it meant that the probability of humanity destroying itself in a nuclear apocalypse had gone way down. I never in my wildest dreams imagined any circumstances that would take us back to those days of insanity. But here we are again. And can anyone really blame China? The Republicans have turned America into a consciously belligerent nation, invading Afghanistan and Iraq, in many respects, to show the world that it can and will do so elsewhere if desired. This stance essentially forced North Korea to come clean on its nuclear weapons program. Iran is apparently following suit. Now China has joined in on the atomic saber rattling. What else are they supposed to do? Anything the White House tells them to do? No, of course not. Nuclear weapons are the only real deterrent to a mad America drunk with power, and Bush and his cohorts bear sole responsibility for creating this situation. It may take decades to clean up this diplomatic mess. Bastards.