Monday, March 19, 2007


what is the difference between a democratic society and one that lives under fascist tyranny? an important part of the answer to that question concerns the matter of culpability, oversight, and basic checks and balances. these precious commodities, critical to a free society, are slowly being eroded in this great nation of ours. an interesting article illustrating an example of this fact was recently published in The Nation. It deals with war profiteering Y2K style - corporations building, training, and arming small armies that it rents to the government for big $$$. You can read it here.

for those of you who missed it the first time around, you should check out my homage to Gandhi. you can read that here.

for one among a multitude of good reasons why China should not be eligible to host the Olympics go to a LiveJournal entry I wrote while in India here.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Entitled to Happiness: the (mental) State of the Union

"Ugh, I am truly unhappy" she said. "In fact I am painfully miserable. I am suffering when it is my very right to be free from such. Somebody must be to blame. Somebody is responsible for this condition. My husband perhaps. Could be my third grade teacher. Well, I may not be certain just yet, but I'll find out. And when I do I am going to sue their ass off."

somewhere along the way, the great paragon of rights and democracy became a great cesspool of gluttons who have confused rights with privileges and who have traded democracy for plutocracy. somehow egalitarianism gave way to egoism and now every one of the tragic lot is lost in a whirlwind of accusation and blame. the right to the pursuit of happiness has been edited. without the problematic responsibility of pursuit, the fools are free to indict one another when the sun doesn’t shine all day every day.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Who is King Abdullah II and why was he in the United States recently?

Don't Panic... your war questions answered


Devoted fans of the 1990s TV series "Star Trek: Voyager" may have noticed a familiar face on their televisions last week. One of the nonspeaking extras from season two was in Washington, D.C.

On Tuesday night, he and his wife had dinner at the White House with President Bush. On Wednesday, he addressed a joint session of Congress from the same podium President Bush uses for the State of the Union address.

Trekkie's name is Abdullah. He'd probably prefer that you call him King Abdullah, or Your Majesty King Abdullah II. I like to call him Trekkie.

King Trekkie is the king of Jordan. Jordan is wedged between Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Israel. It's roughly the size of Indiana and takes its name from the Jordan River (of biblical fame).

Trekkie was born in 1962 in Amman, Jordan. According to his official website, he is the "43rd generation direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad" which is the equivalent of great-grandson if you said "great" 41 times. Neat.

Trekkie's father was the late King Hussein and his mother was an English woman. Her real name was Antoinette Avril Gardiner, but after she married Hussein, she was called Queen Muna.

King Hussein did not seemingly intend for Trekkie to become king. Hussein didn't declare Trekkie his official heir apparent until just a few days before his death. The first 37 years of his life were spent being a rich, feckless prince with a kick-ass toy collection. Here's how the British celeb magazine Hello! describes him:

"A man of action, Abdullah is a scuba diving and automobile racing fan – he's a former Jordanian National Rally Racing Champion – plus a qualified frogman, pilot and freefall parachutist. He's also a keen collector of ancient weapons and armaments."

Trekkie actually spent so much time dicking around England that he speaks with a posh English accent. He's like Jordan's Madonna, but worse. At least Madonna speaks her native tongue well. By all accounts, Trekkie speaks his country's native Arabic with an accent that makes him sound like a foreigner.

Trekkie is married to an ethnic Palestinian named Rania. Rania went on "Oprah" last year and said that Trekkie loves to barbecue. She also gave an interview to India's Delhi Times newspaper in December where she evoked the spirit of Kermit the Frog by declaring that "It's not easy being a queen."

Trekkie is one of those Middle East leaders that the U.S. government and the news media call a "moderate." Moderate is an exceptionally vague word, but it's meant to imply goodness, decency and level-headedness. In fact, when the United States calls a Muslim leader a "moderate," that means he's our friend. Jordan is a dictatorship. The only thing moderate about it is that it's moderately less fascist than its neighbors Saudi Arabia, Syria and Egypt.

Trekkie's visit to the United States is the most recent in a series of high-level back-and-forthing between the United States and Jordan. Trekkie and Dubya are talking so much these days because they're desperately trying to figure out a way to turn Iraq into a working country again. Trekkie is concerned that chaos in Iraq will lead to war throughout the Middle East.

Trekkie is working with Dubya to halt the formation of what Trekkie calls the "Shiite Crescent". The Shiite Crescent is a stretch of land from Iran to Lebanon populated by Shiite Muslims. If Shiites get too much power, Trekkie warns, U.S. interests in the Middle East will be damaged. By U.S. interests, Trekkie means Israel and oil.

Trekkie's keenest interest is, naturally, his own job. U.S. policy in Iraq and the Bush administration's uncritical support of Israel has helped radicalize his people. Trekkie implored Congress to pressure Israel into helping relieve the suffering of Palestinian people. A workable peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians will probably draw energy and support away from the Islamist radicals who want to see Trekkie's head on a stick.

Congress did not react warmly to Trekkie's requests. Expect Trekkie to seek solace on the back of his new Alabama-made Hellcat motorcycle. The $70,000 bike was Trekkie's 45th birthday gift to himself.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Is the United States preparing to go to war with Iran?

Don't Panic... your war questions answered


Cue up your Daryl Worley CDs. Stock up on patriotic car magnets. Get ready to start referring to your Persian cat as a freedom feline. The United States is planning to go to war with Iran.

I'm not saying the United States is certainly, most definitely, undoubtedly going to launch a military strike against Iran. I'm saying the Bush administration is putting all of the necessary military pieces in place to launch an enormous and sustained bombing campaign against Iran as early as this spring.

Although the Bush administration has denied that it intends to go to war with Iran, the rhetorical and military buildup has unmistakably begun.

Just before Valentine's Day, anonymous U.S. officials held a dramatic, secretive press briefing to show off Iranian-made roadside bombs being used in Iraq to attack U.S. troops. It was followed by a presidential press conference during which Bush repeatedly stated his intention to protect American troops in Iraq from Iranian weapons.

The briefers and the bombs said nothing new about Iraq. Administration officials have been complaining about Iranian military support for Iraqi Shiites since 2003. The episode's only news value was to reveal how the Bush administration will attempt to justify a war with Iran by claiming, among other things, self-defense. Like Dubya said: "My job is to protect our troops. And when we find devices that are in that country that are hurting our troops, we're going to do something about it." If you argue with that, you must be against the troops.

Though the rhetorical war just recently got hot, the military buildup against Iran started last year when the Pentagon ordered the aircraft carriers U.S.S. Eisenhower and U.S.S. Stennis to swim in lazy circles near Iran's southern coast. It's the first time since 2003 that two U.S. carriers have been deployed there at the same time.

In addition to carrying approximately 60 strike aircraft, U.S. carriers are accompanied by cruisers, destroyers and submarines capable of firing hundreds of guided missiles at land targets over a sustained period. Bombs and guided missiles are the weapons that the Bush administration would use if it chose to attack Iranian military and nuclear installations.

Seymour Hersh reports in the March 5 issue of the New Yorker that some in the military believe the carriers will stay even after their scheduled replacements arrive this spring. Four U.S. carriers off Iran's southern coast would be one-third of the U.S. Navy's carrier strike-force capability.

In addition to all the naval airpower moving into place, there are already 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, which borders Iran to the west, 27,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, which borders Iran to the east, and several U.S. bases in countries to Iran's north and south. Iran is also quite close to the joint U.S.-U.K. airbase on the Indian Ocean island Diego Garcia. Diego Garcia bases several of the biggest long-range bombers in the U.S. military. The United States would need British permission before using Diego Garcia for an attack on Iran. In the event that the Brits don't grant that permission (Tony Blair might, but his successor this spring will likely not) the United States has moved several of its long-range bombers from Diego Garcia to Qatar in the Persian Gulf. Qatar is right off Iran's coast.

Speaking of the Brits, the conservative and pro-Iraq War British newspaper the Telegraph reported last month that the United States has already started a ground war of sorts in Iran.

Quoting a CIA official and a former U.S. diplomat, the article claims that the United States is funding terrorism perpetrated by Iran's ethnic minorities in an effort to pressure Iran from the inside into surrendering its nuclear program. Terrorist attacks inside have increased sharply over the past two years.

You read that correctly. The country presided over by the man who famously said in November 2001 "You're either with us or against us in the fight against terror," is funding terrorism in Iran. The U.S. Department of Irony continues to outdo itself.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Has there been any progress in the United States' effort to stop Iran's nuclear program?

Don't Panic... your war questions answered


Like my career, the United States' nuclear standoff with Iran doesn't ever seem to progress.

Since 2003, the Bush administration (with international support) has been demanding that Iran halt its nuclear fuel enrichment program. And since 2003, Iran has been telling George W. Bush to take his demands, roll them tight and cram them up his axis of evil. Iran insists that its fuel enrichment is solely for treaty-approved nuclear power production and it will therefore continue.

The main reason this dispute seems to be going on and on: the aggressive ineptitude (and the inept aggression) of the concerned parties.

The Bush administration insists that it's willing to sit down with Iranian diplomats to negotiate about Iran's nuclear program, but only if Iran agrees to give up its nuclear program before the negotiations start. Translation: "We'll negotiate with Iran on the condition that Iran agrees to give us exactly what we want before negotiations even start." Apparently, the Bush administration's $35 billion fiscal year 2007 diplomacy budget doesn't include the $5.99 (plus tax) needed to buy a dictionary that includes the definition of the word "negotiate."

Even stupider, the Bush administration turned down an offer made by Iran in the spring of 2003 to negotiate a comprehensive settlement of all the two nations' disputes.

Try to let that sink in for a second. In 2003, just after the United States toppled Saddam Hussein but before Iraq began its steady decline into chaos, Iran sent a note to the United States essentially saying that, in exchange for security guarantees and normalized relations, Iran would be willing to give up its nuclear program, stop funding Hezbollah and Palestinian militants, and work with the United States to help stabilize Iraq. The Bush administration didn't just ignore the offer, it admonished the Swiss diplomats who delivered it to us from Iran.

Not to be out-stupided by the Bush administration, the mullahcrats in Tehran have seemingly gone out of their way to give the world the impression that their dictionaries are missing the word "sane."

In 2005, Iran's real leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, allowed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to become Iran's president. Ahmadinejad has undermined Iran's previous claims that its nuclear program is peaceful by repeatedly stating Iran's intention to eliminate Israel. Because Iran doesn't border Israel and because Israel is by far the dominant conventional military power in the Middle East, official Iranian references to eliminating Israel are interpreted to mean nuclear holocaust. And if one had any doubt that Iran's president is thirsty for angry confrontation with the West, late last year he hosted a conference of holocaust deniers in Tehran.

The current best hope for a peaceful settlement of the nuclear fuel enrichment standoff is that the stupidity of the United States and Iran has thus far united the international community in pursuit of a peaceful solution.

Annoyed and frightened by Iran's posturing and by the Bush administration's colossal bungling in Iraq and Afghanistan, the nations of the U.N. Security Council have united to try to rein in Iran before the United States attempts another ill-conceived bombing campaign.

In December, U.N. Resolution 1737 froze the assets of companies with ties to Iran's nuclear sector. And the United States has used its economic leverage to get international banks to stop doing business with Iran. The result has been an economic squeeze in Iran that has prompted a wave of public criticism of Ahmadinejad for turning the world community against Iran while turning his back on the promises he made to improve Iran's economy. Ahmadinejad didn't win Iran's presidency by campaigning on a platform of holocaust-denying and high-fiving Hugo Chavez. He won promising economic reforms that would improve standards of living and budge Iran's 20-percent unemployment rate.

Public criticism in Iran of Ahmadinejad is significant. The government of Iran regularly imprisons and kills people who complain. If thousands are bold enough to speak up, Iran's government knows there are millions more who are angry but scared to complain. If the United States, the EU and the United Nations stick together, it's likely that Iran can be coaxed into negotiating a settlement similar to the one it offered in 2003.

In the meantime, will someone please teach the Bush administration the definition of the word "negotiate"?