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September 12, 2003
Ask yourself

Why George, Senior is visiting Russia.

You name it and market players were buzzing Thursday about the real reasons behind the former American leader's visit -- an $18 billion play by U.S. oil giant ChevronTexaco for a blocking stake in the new Yukos-Sibneft combo? The launch of a $500 million private tie-up between Alfa Group and Pentagon-connected Carlyle Group? Divvying up the hydrocarbon resources of postwar Iraq?

More speculation follows in the body of the article.

And on the side of the other side, read this and think about it carefully. There's much truth in it.

It brings up another thing I've been pondering which is, if we're still in this mess in '04 and Dubya doesn't (please) get re-elected, exactly how are we going to handle this mess? Are we going to bow out of the "war on terror"? Are we going to return to signing off on the same kind of U.N. resolutions most countries ignore now? Are we going to keep making pompous speeches about how everyone ought to get along while we sell guns and ammo to everyone on the planet with a grudge?

On a more personal note, I have no objection to the idea of looking 10 years younger After all, I'm already on a diet to look 10 years thinner, aren't I? The only problem is where to get fresh salmon in Denver. (Well, and trying to force fish down at breakfast.)

Posted by AnneZook at 02:51 PM | Comments (8)
Why are we at war?

First, in case you're wondering about the actual source of the Administration's confidence about Iraq's possession of WMD, check out this pdf: US Arms Sales and Military Interventions

The US made $1,652,000 in direct commercial arms sales to Iraq in 1990. From 1985-1990 more than $500 million in dual-use technology was sold to Iraq. These dual-use items were licensed to export for the Iraqi Air Force and the Iraqi Atomic Energy Agency, among others.

Anyhow. Now, on to today's topic. Why are we at war?

Government defends Iraq war, despite intelligence warning of more terrorism

The British government is again defending its decision to go to war in Iraq, even though there was an intelligence warning that it could boost the threat of terrorism.

Australia was told: war will fuel terror

Intelligence given to Australia before the Iraq War warned that the terrorist threat would increase if military action was launched against Saddam Hussein, contradicting repeated assertions by the Prime Minister.

Afghan officials fear bin Laden tape may lift followers

Afghan officials warned that the latest videotape of Osama bin Laden could rally his followers and trigger more terror attacks, and they urged Pakistan yesterday to do more to track down the Al Qaeda leader.

The War on Terror: Two Years Hence

By September 11, 2002, on the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks, much had been achieved in the war on terror. Al Qaeda forces had been defeated in Afghanistan and the Taliban rulers had been ousted. The United States was leading a broad international anti-terror effort. Funding sources for Al Qaeda and its affiliated groups were being tracked down and blocked. There was hope that Afghanistan could limp back to normalcy and thwart the efforts of terrorists to use it again as a launching pad for operations.

[....]

But it is hardly time to celebrate yet. In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai's dictates apply only within Kabul. The Taliban and Al Qaeda have been resurrected in Pakistan, and are staging increasingly bold attacks on U.S.-led military forces, Karzai's army, and foreign aid workers. Threats from the region still reverberate all the way to U.S. shores, and Al Qaeda has carried out attacks in Saudi Arabia and Southeast Asia against American targets. A primary reason for the turn of events in Afghanistan is the change in focus to Iraq in the past year. With military and intelligence assets diverted to overthrowing Saddam, and then pacifying Iraq, the Taliban and their Al Qaeda friends got a reprieve, allowing them to regroup.

India Mulls 'Pre-Emptive' Pakistan Strike, Cites U.S. Iraq War Precedent

Defence Minister George Fernandes reiterated Indian warnings that Pakistan was a prime case for pre-emptive strikes.

"There are enough reasons to launch such strikes against Pakistan, but I cannot make public statements on whatever action that may be taken," Fernandes told a meeting of ex-soldiers in this northern Indian desert city on Friday.

The renewed warning came just hours after US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Washington would strive to cool tensions between nuclear enemies Pakistan and India, who have fought three wars since 1947.

Fernandes said he endorsed Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha's recent comments that India had "a much better case to go for pre-emptive action against Pakistan than the United States has in Iraq." (4/11/03)

Israel Says Removing Arafat Is Like US Deposing Saddam

Removing Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat from the Israeli-Palestinian equation is not much different than the U.S. removing deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from power, a senior advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said on Friday.

All the fun of the fair

The more an economy is dependent upon the sale of arms, the less that country will be inclined to see that peace prevails around the world.

In 2000, from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the Regional distribution of arms production

Country - USA
Sales in billions - 94.6
% of Market - 60

Well? Any questions?

Posted by AnneZook at 09:10 AM | Comments (5)
Razor's edge

What's important to consider about these kinds of reports is exactly how on edge, how tightly strung the USofA troops must be if they continue to open fire at the suggestion of a problem. They're shooting before anyone could possibly take a second to think, to listen, or to see what's really going on. It's a siege mentality.

No matter how bad we're thinking it is in Iraq, this tells me that things are much, much worse than that if you're a soldier.

My sympathy goes out to the families of the policemen.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:03 AM | Comments (0)
September 11, 2003
It's 9/11 (2003)

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm glad the world is ever so much safer than it was two years ago. Afghanistan is pacified and Iraq is under control and no one's recycling Iraq-era lies to get us into a new war. We're popular everywhere these days.

We're economically more secure too, aren't we?

Is sure is good to live in the USofA, land of the free and the home of the brave.

By the way, do you know what your government is up to?

Forget a link between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein, maybe someone should be explaining to the public about how 9/11 might not originally have been the brainchild of the Taliban at all? One presumes that our gov'mint is still investigating 9/11 but the whole shroud of secrecy around what they are (or aren't) doing blocks our right to know exactly what progress is (or is not) being made.

The lawsuits against Colorado's highly partisan redistricting move go on. The battle in Texas could be almost over since one Democrat broke ranks and returned to Austin, thus providing the legislature with the necessary quorum. Hooray for democracy.

People in employer-sponsored health plans in the United States are paying 48 percent more out of their own pockets for care than they did three years ago, according to an authoritative new study, and the cost will be even higher next year. And this, I'd like to point out, is happening in a year when a lot of managed care plans are posting record profits. Hooray for the free market.

And then there's Malpractice: A new diagnosis. (registration required)

On the heels of medical malpractice reforms adopted by Florida, the U.S. General Accounting Office has come out with a report that casts doubt on the severity of the malpractice crisis.

"Medical Malpractice: Implications of Rising Premiums on Access to Health Care" examines the issue in nine states.
Of those, Florida is one of five in which higher-than-average rising liability insurance premiums are believed to have driven physicians to move out of state, retire early or severely curtail the services they provide.

The conclusion: Rising malpractice premiums have not created an exodus of physicians, or serious curtailment of medical services in this state.

After some quibbling, and pointing out that premium increases and malpractice problems don't always coincide in one state, they get to the kickers:

But the GAO also determined that jury awards were rare, and big jury awards -- those in excess of $1 million -- were rarer still. Most claims, though, never got to a jury: Only four out of every 100 claims actually went to court.

For those thinking that filing a lawsuit is an easy path to riches, I recommend thinking again.

And then there's the real news, buried toward the end of the article:

GAO also found that the rising costs of premiums could be traced to insurance companies' investment losses as well as extremely competitive pricing for insurance premiums in the 1990s.

Got that? Insurance pricing...skyrocketing. Significant cause....risky investment strategies that didn't pay off. It's like a government agency, isn't it? We gave them money, they threw it away, now they want more.

I was already boycotting diamonds, even before I knew how the trade makes the children suffer. I'm going to have to boycott chocolate. (Not that significant a move, since I'm on a diet at the moment, but it's at least symbolic.) The sad thing about some of these situations is that, bad as they are, many of the people involved honestly think they're doing something good.

Many of them do. Not all of them, of course. Some people just need more cannon fodder or find the emotional instability of the teenager ripe for exploitation. (Warning: Extremely unsettling photograph.)

Posted by AnneZook at 02:37 PM | Comments (0)
A moment of silence

Forget the "war" on terrorism and the dubious invasion of Iraq and our failure to finish the job in Afghanistan and the growing menace of Ashcroft's Homeland Security gang.

Pause for a moment and remember where you were, two years ago today. Let's have a moment of silence for the victims of terror, both on the ground and in the air.

And let's remember the tens of thousands of people around the world who have gone through similar things many times. People the USofA press, and the USofA public didn't care that much about until after it happened here.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:26 AM | Comments (2)
September 10, 2003
Don't bother me.

I'm in a bad mood.

Just got some material back from the company writing our marketing material and web pages for us and they said the things I specifically asked them not to say, did not say the things I specifically asked them to say, didn't remove the things I wanted removed, and failed to "tighten up" the text so that it was less rambling.

It makes it worse, much worse, that the small company we're working with is actually owned by a couple of personal friends of mine. Where most consultants would be struggling to meet the client's needs, I sometimes thing these two people are ignoring me just out of habit (one of them used to be my boss in a different company) and because they have a rooted belief that they know our product better than we do.

The one thing I really wanted to spend my morning on was a three-page rewrite of this junk. If I were someone who could write marketing material well, we wouldn't have hired them in the first place, okay?

I did a quick skim of this morning's headlines and one interesting thing I found was a story about people protesting that arms fair in the U.K. that I mentioned a few days ago.

Also, here's another article critical of Powell's performance over the WMD issue over the last months.

And I can't remember, sorry, where I found the link, but CNN has a page detailing Coalition Casualties in Iraq. I approve. I think it's right to honor each soldier individually.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:11 AM | Comments (0)
September 09, 2003
Politics and war (and a little sex)

John Dean, a man who certainly knows about those in power breaking laws, thinks Cheney and his Energy Plan Cohorts might have done just that.

I'm not convinced yet that Dean is my candidate, but he makes a good speech and asks the questions lots of us would like to ask.

Apparently someone liked that speech the other night. I suppose it's possible. I looked Sunday night and couldn't find anyone who seemed to care and on Monday morning, of course, the stories were all about the $87,000,000,000 he wanted. Even $87B isn't enough but we're hoping one of the countries we reviled before the invasion listening will stump up a few billion. (registration required)

Paul Krugman is blunt. Another OpEd in the NYT is just as plain-spoken.

The Moscow Times gets funny. The headline reads, " Gaidar Invited to Shock, Awe Iraq"

The architect of Russia's at times disastrous transition to a market economy, Yegor Gaidar, has been invited by the U.S.-led coalition authority in Iraq to help craft a recovery plan for that country's war-torn economy.

We sure can pick our advisors.

Is the "jobless recovery" going to become Zoe Williams makes fun of the drive to promote abstinence. Sex is, as she points out, " the only perpetually renewable resource known to mankind" so it's interesting that it's the only "resource" that large numbers of USofA citizens seem to be able to get behind conserving.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:43 AM | Comments (0)
September 08, 2003
It's still war

Bush is still trying to portray himself as JFK for a new generation and, I need hardly add, failing miserably but no one likes a critic, so I figure this guy is going to be heavily targeted for defeat the next time he comes up for re-election.

I wonder just how many new agencies are going to start questioning someone's right to barge in, guns blazing, mowing down people right and left just because someone who's no longer on your Christmas card list sits around wishing they had some big ol' guns of their own. Since when are we the Thought Police, anyhow?

And, speaking of senseless oppression of people just because their opinions differ from yours, I'd think that the revelation of long-term policy of giving pedophiles a safe haven would be enough press for the Vatican for a while, but maybe not. Now they're taking on UNICEF.

It's dangerous to be a child in today's world but while I like seeing UNICEF focusing on children's problems, I can't blame them for wanting to help everyone who needs help.

The torturers' picnic "Repressive regimes will be stocking up again at this week's arms fair - and we're footing the bill"

On September 11, the defence industry will be commemorating those who died in New York two years ago with a gala dinner in a central London hotel. Here, the world's best weapons makers will be breaking gourmet bread with the world's best weapons buyers, discussing future deals in the safety of a private event, guarded by police lines. The gala dinner is the highlight of Europe's biggest arms fair, Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEI), a five-day weapons expo held in London's Docklands. Indeed, such is the extent of the event's glitziness that the defence secretary, Geoff Hoon, will be its starring guest speaker.

The gala date, says Alan Sharman, director general of the Defence Manufacturers Association,the organisers, is pure coincidence. Even if it had not been a coincidence, he says, it would not have been an issue, since a weapons expo dinner is no different from a motor or boat show dinner (his examples). You'd only think it a problem, says Sharman, if you had a problem with the arms fair.

Duh.

Among the list of nations invited to attend DSEI 2003 are Saudi Arabia, where torture and political arrests remain rife; Kenya, where routine executions and torture take place; Colombia, where last year 4,000 civilians were killed for political motives; and Turkey, where torture in police custody remains widespread.

. . .

Also on the list of DSEI invites is Syria, the US-decreed "axis of evil" state supposed to be harbouring chemical weapons. And China has been invited too, even though it is the subject of a partial arms embargo.

The U.K. oughta be ashamed of itself, but if they have to be, I guess we'd have to be, too.

I'm thinking, rule of thumb, if there's potential for abuse and they're refusing to say what they're actually doing, there's probably abuse. I'm talking about that UNPatriot Act, of course.

Read this. It's interesting.

When I have time, I'm going to go read all about the upcoming WTO meetings.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:49 AM | Comments (6)
September 07, 2003
Hmph

I was going to comment on that speech, but all I can think is, "we waited four months for him to tell us what was going all and all that's going on is that he wants $87,000,000,000?"

Where on earth does he think the government is going to get that kind of money? They gave it all back, does he remember that?

Does he remember inheriting a budget surplus and squandering it?

Did he remember, as he made those pious remarks about our brave and noble soldiers, how his Administration worked to cut benefits for the lucky ones that return instead of joining the hundreds that have died to support his invasion?

Did you hear him blithely abeitly ambiguously repeating those remarks about Hussein's WMD?

Did you hear the thinly veiled threats aimed at the U.N.?

Did you hear him say he's got the terrorists running scared? I suppose it's true, but it sure doesn't look like it to me or, I suspect, to the people in Afghanistan. (Okay, it's quite possible they're getting desperate, but I still think if we'd done a decent job in Afghanistan, and finished that job before moving on, things would be in better shape now.)

Sanctimonious hypocrite. That was my first reaction and I'm sticking with it.

Ed. to add:

Lookit this.

Did you hear an exit strategy? I heard he's got 60,000 Iraqis trained and acting as security in the country, something I haven't heard confirmed by any of the news sources I've been following on the past few weeks.

Is he, in fact, getting ready to bail out on Iraq and Afghanistan both? Is that what the outrageous eighty-seven billion dollar request was for, so that he can blame Congress?

Posted by AnneZook at 09:08 PM | Comments (1)