Tuesday, December 26, 2006


The death toll of American soldiers in Iraq just surpassed the death toll of American civilians on 9/11 and to hear the right-wingers in these parts tell it, we're ruining Iraq to avenge 9/11.

Some vengeance--we've now lost more Americans in Iraq than we did on 9/11 and we've been waging what Bush called the "battle of Iraq" for longer than we were involved in WWII.

We're wasting both money and lives. And some Democrats are saying that they could be persuaded to go along with the proposed troop surge? How in God's name are we going to bring this ever-worsening nightmare to an end?

Monday, December 25, 2006


Went to my parents' house for Christmas today and one of the first things we talked about was their seemingly malfunctioning Apex DVD player. My mother said she had gotten it 3 or so months ago for $35.

I took a look at it, power cycled it, tried to get it to read DVDs, etc.--all to no avail. My father asked whether one takes something like that to get fixed or just gets another one--knowing the answer, of course, is to simply get another player. He lamented that simply throwing out a machine like that to replace it just seemed like an "ugly American" thing to do.


I mentioned something about the lasers inside the players, and my dad marvelled at the fact that the advanced technology in such a machine could be sold for such a cheap price. I suggested that such a situation was possible because of cheap overseas labor, with words to this effect: "Well, they're so cheap because they're made by Chinese workers who get 2 cents a day or something like that."

My father found that highly unlikely. He said that with all the capitalistic reforms that are being made in China, and the footage one sees in the news with Chinese cities being overrun with cars, Chinese workers are surely not being ripped off. He said that China will eventually go the way of Japan--start off making cheap crap and then become the world leader in manufactured goods at which time Chinese workers will be paid like kings.

How I handled it--not very well

I didn't vocalize my disagreement with everything he said for a couple reasons. One, I was full of food from my imperialistic, ugly American, completely commercialized and commodified holiday celebration and therefore somewhat addled and not looking for much of an intellectual give-and-take. Two, his citation of video footage of lots of cars on Chinese streets threw me off.

I mean, I know that Chinese workers work cheap. That's why everything comes from China--that's why Wal-Mart's biggest supplier is China, as it says in this article:

Nevertheless,...China is Wal-Mart's most important supplier in the world. The overseas procurement home office in Shenzhen, a city of South China's Guangdong Province, has played a key role in the firm's global purchasing business.

Wal-Mart shifted its overseas procurement centre from Hong Kong to Shenzhen in February 2002 to better serve the purchasing and exporting business.

"If Wal-Mart were an individual economy, it would rank as China's eighth-biggest trading partner, ahead of Russia, Australia and Canada," Xu said.

So I just kinda let it go, disappointed in myself that I didn't speak up more because of a lack of confidence in my grasp of the facts. But I came home and Googled some stuff and found stories like the following about the state of Chinese labor:

China Labor Watch said the workers are forced to labor 11 hours a day, six days a week, with "total overtime of up to 70 hours a month." Chinese "law" says employees work a 40-hour week, with overtime limited to 36 hours a month. Workers at the plant, irrespective of reality, get 574 yuan or $72 a month.

Subsistence wages have fueled a staggering increase in Chinese toy imports, along with China's continued tricks to undervalue its currency.
Buffalo News 12/18/06 by William Turner

Here's another, from the AP:

MGA Entertainment Inc.'s Bratz dolls are made at a factory in southern China where workers are obliged to toil as many as 94 hours a week, labor rights advocates alleged in a report.

The report by U.S.-based China Labor Watch and the National Labor Committee details allegations of harsh working conditions, especially during peak delivery months, and of violations of Chinese laws that give workers the right to work-injury and health insurance.

And here's more on the Bratz and profit-over-people situation:

Workers are paid the equivalent of 17 US cents for each doll, the report said, while the dolls retail for $16 apiece or more in the US.

The report contains allegations similar to those aimed at many Chinese factories producing big brand products for export. They include forcing workers to stay on the job to meet quotas, required overtime exceeding the legal maximum of 36 hours a month, and the denial of paid sick leave and other benefits...

Last year the CLW reported on conditions inside the Huangwu No 2 Toy Factory in Dongguan City. The factory makes toys for Wal-Mart and, according to the CLW, there were few safety precautions for any of the workers, who are working up to 15 hours a day in peak season.

Some passed out from exhaustion after spraying 1,115 small toys per hour. That’s one toy every 3.23 seconds.

And then, in the same article, the CEO of Timberland shoes spells out the horrible, ultimately self-defeating situation:

Recently I interviewed Jeff Swartz, chief executive of Timberland, who has done more than most to ensure his Chinese contractors do not abuse their workers. Timberland strictly monitors its factories and will not allow workers to put in more than 60 hours a week.

In an ideal world, he said, he would not manufacture in China at all, but the low prices he can get there mean he can’t afford not to. The most he could hope for at the moment was to be “the good plantation owner,” he said.

I know better than to keep my mouth shut, but it's my dad--I don't want to fight with him. But I fear that most people feel like he does--that Wal-Mart is good for Americans and that the cheap laborers abroad are happy to have the work and the pittance they earn. He even said that he and my mother are a "Wal-Mart family."

Not blameless

I guess another reason I didn't speak up is that I'm not blameless. I shop at Wal-Mart. I like to get quality products for the least money possible. I don't know the way to rectify this lopsided situation that hurts the wages of both overseas and domestic workers. There has to be some sort of either legal or moral (or both) turning away from the "profit uber alles" mentality of both the corporation and the public. But I don't know how to make that happen.

But I do know that Chinese labor is cheap and not afforded the same (eroding) protections we supposedly have here. And saying so with confidence, even to my family which I love, is one infinitesimally tiny way to start changing perceptions. I guess...

Thursday, December 21, 2006


I figured that the "London terror plot" would unravel. Frankly, I thought it would happen sooner, but you can't win 'em all.

A judge in Pakistan threw out the terrorism charges against the supposed mastermind of the "plot." Now say what you will about Pakistan and justice, but they are our allies in the war on our freedom...I mean, the war on terror. Here's what went down (yeah, I'm a week late on this story):

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Dec. 13 — A judge threw out terrorism charges on Wednesday against Rashid Rauf, a Briton of Pakistani descent whom prosecutors depicted as a major figure in a plot to smuggle liquid explosives onto trans-Atlantic airliners and detonate the bombs in flight.

The ruling means there are now no terrorism charges against two people once accused of being linchpins of a major Al Qaeda bombing plot. The other is Tayib Rauf, Mr. Rauf’s younger brother, who was detained in Britain last August and soon set free without charge.
The problem for this guy Rauf is that once you get accused of something, the stigma tends to stay with you even if you've been proven innocent. Everyone has the question "Yeah, but why would they even go to the trouble of accusing him if he really didn't do anything?" in the back of their minds.

Terrorism is a problem Republicans do not want to solve

And this is true even if you're a veteran of the Navy, and white, and a U.S. citizen.
Just like Donald Vance was. He was a whistleblower who was thrown in detention in Iraq for being a whistleblower. That's not what they told him, of course--they told him he was a suspect because he was working in the same place as the people on whom he was blowing the whistle.

Anyway, my point is that the "war on terror" is a farce and these two incidents are further proof of that fact. But terrorism is a problem Republicans would like to be viewed as trying to solve but which in fact they do not want to solve.

So they find somebody, anybody, they can accuse of whatever they need them to be accused of, blare it in the press, then the reality gets whispered weeks, months, or years later. But the job has already been done--the stigma remains. The patsies have been used, the public has been fooled, the politicians have covered their asses, the press got a juicy story--and our freedoms are that much more in jeopardy.

If you doubt that, and/or think such things don't affect you directly, think back to when the story of the liquid bomb plot broke. Mothers were having to pour out breast milk, boarding was delayed for hours, the entire air travel system was in complete disarray. Airlines immediately banned liquids in planes but relaxed that restriction about a month afterward. The current guidelines are still pretty ridiculous. Especially when you consider the fact that the liquid bomb plot was either manufactured from whole cloth or was purposely blown way the hell out of all proportion to its significance. And that one of the main suspects has been cleared of those charges.

Feeling safer yet? Feeling freer?

The conventional wisdom now dictates that there was a liquid bomb plot against British airliners. And pundits and reporters continue to talk of that supposed incident as if that is absolute fact, despite the news that the charges against the mastermind were dropped. And that's how this war on our freedom, I mean, terror gets perpetuated.

Be skeptical and you'll probably be right.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

2006 TOP 10

Kinda tired...don't wanna justify or defend these picks...here they are:

1. Ben Kweller/self-titled/Red Ink
2. Comets On Fire/Avatar/Sub Pop
3. Crystal Skulls/Outgoing Behavior/Suicide Squeeze
4. Destroyer/Destroyer's Rubies/Merge
5. Ian Love/self-titled/Limekiln
6. Michael Franti & Spearhead/Yell Fire/Anti
7. Nobody & Mystic Chords Of Memory/Tree Colored See/Mush
8. Neko Case/Fox Confessor Brings The Flood/Anti
9. Will Kimbrough/Americanitis/Emergent
10. Zombi/Surface To Air/Relapse

Top Songs

"Dear Mr. President" Pink
"Your Shopping Lists Are Poetry" Mint
"G'Dang Diggy" Common Market
"Priest's Knees" Destroyer
"Hallelujah Boys" Chip Taylor
"Rock Or Pop?" Some Girls
"Velvet Underground" Television Personalities
"Hands" Raconteurs
"Hard-On For War" Mudhoney
"Try Telling That To My Baby" Heavy Blinkers
"Less Polite" Will Kimbrough
"Long Distance Call" Phoenix
"Luther Vandross" Treasure Mammal
"No Child Of Mine" Truckstop Honeymoon
"Ruling Class" Loose Fur
"Penny On A Train Track" Ben Kweller
"Silverjacket Girl" David & The Citizens
"Slash From Guns 'n' Roses" I See Hawks In L.A.
"Underground Sun" Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3
"You Blanks" Portastatic
"Yell Fire" Michael Franti & Spearhead
"The Cosmic Door" Crystal Skulls
"John Saw That Number" Neko Case

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Listening to the Young Turks this morning and they had a guest from the Nation who had just written an article for the magazine supposedly debunking the 9/11 truth movement.

However, as the conversation went on, Cenk Uygur said their talk was making him more convinced of 9/11 truth rather than less convinced. They were talking about "how could our government be so evil" and so forth and then the guy from the Nation said something rather ludicrous.

He said that scientists still have yet to figure out why WTC 7 collapsed in on itself. Oh, they know exactly why WTC 1 and 2 fell in 10 seconds each. But this Nation writer expects us to buy that the jury is still out on WTC 7? So-called scientists and 9/11 truth debunkers have every aspect of 9/11 down to a "T" but they just can't quite figure out why a building that wasn't hit by a plane collapsed neatly into itself even though Larry Silverstein is on videotape saying he gave orders to bring it down (though not in so many words).

The writer from the Nation compared the jury being out to the fact that no one figured out why the Challenger blew up in 1986 until a year or two later. Well, it's more than a couple of years after 9/11, we've had an official investigative commission, and they still don't know why WTC 7 fell? That's unacceptable. They don't want to admit why it fell, so that's why they're so loathe to even talk about it.

Cenk said that when you put everything together--the Iraq war, the pipelines, petrodollar warfare, no clear video of a plane hitting the Pentagon, etc.--you can almost come to no other conclusion but that someone's not telling the truth. And I hope he lets himself go more toward that conclusion and realizes that we don't have to be able to explain every inconsistency--like we don't have to explain what happened to the people in the plane that didn't hit the Pentagon. We just don't know what happened to them.

But we know the official story is not what actually happened.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Been thinking this over for a few days since I read where Aravosis said that "Markos is right" with a link to this:

Bowers throws fuel on a fire that was simmering down and lists his argument against impeachment. I'll add further fuel with one more argument --

We have one year to make our case for 2008 to the American people. We need to show not just that we deserve to hold on the Congress, but that we should be given the White House as well.

2008 won't work, since as an election year, all meaningful legislative work will grind to a halt and the press will be focused on the horse race (as will we). So 2007 is it.

We can spend 2007 either pushing impeachment (which isn't as popular as Zogby claims, see Bowers' piece), or we can use it educating the American people about what a Democratic government would look like -- passing meaningful legislation that would improve their lives like the minimum wage, health care reform, ethics reform, stem cell research funding, policies that help families and the middle class.

Impeachment does none of that.

In a perfect world, we could do all of the above. But we don't live in a perfect world. And the second we start impeachment proceedings, the media will focus on that. Heck WE'LL focus on that, and the Democratic legislative agenda will fade into the background, ignored. A perfect opportunity to brand the Democratic Party in a positive light will be forever squandered.

So what is more important, proving that we can govern and making the case for future Democratic majorities? Or a high-profile vendetta campaign against Bush? It really is just one or the other.

It's an easy call.

Don't worry about Bush and company. Congress will pursue its oversight duties. Waxman and Slaughter and Conyers and the rest of those guys aren't about to take the next two years off. People will be held accountable. Impeachment isn't the old path to accountability.

And Bush? He's going down as the nation's Worst President Ever. We don't need "impeachment" to make that case, Bush has done a great job of it all by himself.

What the Hell?

There are so many wrongheaded ideas in this post that it's hard to know where to begin.

1) First of all, I guess, the idea 2007 could be spent "educating the public about what a Democratic government would look like" is a farce. The public already knows what a Democratic government would look like, and that's why they kicked the Republicans' ass. The only people who need to be educated are the 30% that still say that Bush is doing a good job, and they are beyond hope, so they must be written off. There is nothing we can do to change their minds--in fact, in their minds, having Democratic control of anything is anathema and tantamount to impeachment anyway, so we might as well do it.

2) Markos rightly worries about what the media will make of the situation if impeachment were to go down. He writes here that the Democratic legislative agenda will be obscured. It seems to me, though, that that's how you get things done, as the Republicans have shown us--you distract with wars on Christmas and/or actual wars (our distraction would of course be impeachment instead of war).

3) He says "impeachment isn't the old [sic--I'm sure he meant "only"] path to accountability." That may be, if by "accountability" you mean "a slap on the wrist." Markos tells us not to worry, that Bush is already going down as the worst president in history, so the next two years can only dig a deeper hole for him.

The thing is, though, is that Bush's war in Iraq and his war on our freedom have to stop--the sooner the better. If Bush is still president for the next two years, neither of those wars will stop before he leaves office and they are likely to escalate.

Bush needs to be removed from office, and Cheney along with him. I don't know why it wouldn't be possible to have the hearings and trial in January-February 2007, and Bush and Cheney are in jail by March. Then it's over with--Bush and Cheney get their just desserts, the war is over, Democrats are in power, and the electoral coup that began in 2000 is finally and thankfully over.

That scenario would also be a good way to educate the public about what a Democratic government would be like--waste our blood and treasure on an unnecessary war and you pay the price for it.

There's more

If Bush isn't impeached, I can imagine the conservative taunts after 2008: "Why would anybody vote for Democrats--they're weak and spineless! They had the pistol of impeachment against Bush's head but couldn't bring themselves to pull the trigger--even though they said he was irresponsible, dangerous, and a threat to the country and the world! How can such wimps be trusted to fight al Qaeda?"

Or look at it this way: our soldiers in Iraq don't have two years for us to wait to take them out of harm's way. This fucker Bush has got to be reined in and made an example for the future.

I would feel completely different about this if it wasn't for the wars mentioned earlier. But this guy has abused our trust and the Constitution from the day he was (s)elected.

There are some other points I wanted to make, but they kind of vanished for now...I'll have to think about them some more and then update this post or something.

Here's one final thought, though. A lot of people thought there was no way that the Democrats could take back the Congress in 2006. Very few thought there could be a complete upset like there was. My point is, a Democratic takeover (of both houses of Congress, no less) seemed to be too much to hope for on Nov. 6. On Nov. 8, it was a reality.

I think it could be the same way with impeachment. Markos and Aravosis and others are hedging their bets, and not trusting in the people by thinking that they somehow couldn't handle impeachment and would be turned off by it and the Democrats. I think that the sweep of the elections ought to embolden our side and give us confidence. Right now, it seems to some that impeachment would be too politically costly--but what if it actually turned out to be politically beneficial, which is also a likely outcome.

Let's face it, the Republicans didn't take over and get us into this situation by being timid and hoping the press would be nice to them. And we should learn from that...

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Read this story today from the AP wire:

"More American homes are getting discounted oil from Venezuela's state-owned oil company. The company's US subsidiary, Citgo, is expanding a program that's part of a promise by Venezuela's socialist leader to aid America's poor."

But the words of former Rep. Joseph Kennedy were what really brought it home for me:

"It is an unbelievable act of charity on the part of a major oil company," Kennedy said.
he told reporters he wrote to "every major American oil company and every member of OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) and asked them, as they have had enormous price increases that have brought untold billions into their hands, to give up a little bit, just a little bit to help the poor. Every single company said no. Every single one except one, and that was Citgo.
"So it is important that when a major company reaches out and does something like this, that we should acknowledge and celebrate the kind of action they are taking."
"Exxon made $10 billion in a quarter, in three months out of the year they made $10 billion. And they say, when it comes to helping the poor, sorry, there is no money in the till."
What other oil company besides Citgo, Kennedy asked, would come to a poor neighborhood in Providence and talk about the plight of the poor? There is no other oil company in the world that I know of that talks about these issues, that cares about these issues and actually gives money to help with these issues."

Say what you want about Chavez, but he puts his money where his mouth is when it comes to helping the poor. Think of it--not a single American oil company would help its own customers. Every other OPEC nation, even the one led by Bush's boyfriends, declined to help out our citizens.

The only person willing to help was Hugo Chavez, a man who recently called our president "the devil." And yet those on the American right would demonize this man? And those on the American left try to distance themselves from him?

Is there anybody in a position of power in this country with any goddamn sense? If so, they sure aren't acting like it. Chavez deserves our admiration and our gratitude, not our scorn and derision.

Limbaugh and his cohort shouldn't be telling people to boycott Citgo, they should be boycotting Exxon and Shell...