The Four Corners

Friday, March 28, 2003
 

THIS JUST IN:Thanks no doubt in part to pressure from The Third Avenue, Richard Perle has resigned his post at the Defense Policy Board, choosing, like Kissinger secrets and Saudi money over transparency and decency.

I would like to congratulate Steve in particular for starting us off on this noble pursuit. Hat's off to you, Steve. Good work!


Thursday, March 27, 2003
 

Well, well, well, turns out Governor Davis wasn't lying at all: FERC (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) said that more than 30 private firms manipulated natural gas and electricity prices during the California energy crisis, and would in turn increase the state's refund to about $3.3 billion.

Who are some of these culprits? Why Enron of course. According to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics,

    "Between 1989 and 2001, Enron contributed nearly $6 million to federal parties and candidates, more than two-thirds to Republicans. More than $2 million of that money came during the 1999-2000 election cycle alone, when the company became one of the biggest boosters to President Bush's campaign for the White House. Enron's PAC and its employees contributed $114,000 to Bush during the 2000 campaign, while former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay served as one of Bush's Pioneers, individuals who raised at least $100,000 for the campaign."


Meanwhile, FERC, after resisting in 2001 and 2002, is finally getting tough on these companies, threatening to revoke the trading authority of eight subsidiaries of Enron for, according to the LA Times, "allegedly gaming the natural gas market." FERC is also prepared to strip the trading authority of Reliant Energy Services Inc., now known as Reliant Resources Inc., and BP Energy Co. for allegedly engaging in "coordinated efforts" to manipulate electricity prices at Palo Verde, a key Arizona trading hub.

Instead of being pleased by the 3.3 billion in fines, ornery Gray Davis, who has become increasingly unpopular and is under threat of a recall petition that won't go away, said "Show me the money! ...Where's the $9 billion that we've been asking for, for two years? That is when I'll finally feel vindicated, when we get the money back that these energy companies stole from this state."

Don't get me wrong, I am no fan of Davis. He has about as much spine as a certain junior senator from Massachusetts, leaving his convictions at the door and his opinions be whatever popular opinion or check bearing interest groups deem proper. Nonetheless, to get recalled, a governor needs to do something about as bad ex-IL Gov. Ryan, CT Gov. Rowland, and KY Gov. Patton combined are accused of doing.


 

America the Medieval. Hans Blix is now on record saying that none of the evidence the American/British invasion has unearthed thus far indicates that Iraq continues to hold prohibited weapons. Let history remember that it was the US, not Iraq, that terminated the inspections process before guilt could be ascertained beyond a reasonable doubt. Today, the Bush and Blair administrations posture as defenders of international law. But what kind of law are they defending? What kind of law is it that cuts short an investigative process to dole out a punishment that the accusers resolved was necessary, in advance? True, the Iraqi nation's punishment, for a crime its government is not known to have committed, may yet discover evidence of that regime's guilt or innocence. But what kind of a system is it that uses a crime's punishment to determine whether or not that crime was committed? A system far crueler and more irrational than the legal processes of Medieval Times. Bush and Blair should not be surprised that most of the world's peoples find their legalistic rhetoric implausible. Their administrations do not appear to be peddlers of anything other than American might.

 

Amid all the dying and war in Iraq, America lost another great patriot here at home: Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

The Harvard professor turned Senator of New York was the last of the academic Senators. While many may claim he was a liberal's liberal, many leftist would object to such a line given his memos and books on race relations (and African-Americans in particular). Moreover, he worked for Presidents Nixon, Ford, Johnson and Kennedy (and that was before his four terms in the Senate). He was even wise enough to urge federal authorities take custody of Lee Harvey Oswald, which could have averted the whole conspiracy mess that makes us watch Oliver Stone films.

This is a man who, unlike the current crop of millionaires and/or relatives of politicians past who make up the 108th U.S. Senate, grew up in Hell's Kitchen fatherless and impoverished.

Other than that, rumors have it that if one wanted Moynihan's opinion on the social security reform board that he chaired for Dubya, you had to reach him before 4 PM. After that, he would either be drunk or trying to become that way.

Whether he was an alcoholic or not, Moynihan contributed much to the Senate and the United States, even if his career, as Adam Clymer puts it, "was marked not by legislative milestones but by ideas."


Wednesday, March 26, 2003
 

War Casualties Update. Today's online Boston Globe contains an excellent tally of American, British and Iraqi casualties. On the US/British side, the numbers are not trivial. Thus far, there have been 18 confirmed American combat casualties, for example. Meanwhile, about ten Americans have been killed in non-combat incidents. The British figures are comparable to the American figures, while Iraqi military and civilian casualties probably both number in the hundreds. Iraqbodycount.net now estimates that the total number of Iraqi civilian casualties is up to between 227 and 307, while the Boston Globe article suggests that at least 100 Iraqis may have suffered death or serious injury as combatants.

 

Remember back, way back, to 1998? When Clinton said he had "never had sexual relations with that woman?" Or when GOP Congressman Chris Cox started his witch hunt to link Clinton's 1996 re-election efforts to a tit-for-tat with the People's Republic of China?

Back then, while Clinton was out destroying any chance Al Gore had of ever winning the White House (and undoing all his political successes through not only his sex acts but, more importantly lying and cover up of the whole affair), the Republican Congress was believed that Clinton had sold satellite technology to the Chinese government in exchange for doubly-illegal campaign contributions. Of course, the money from Chinese nationals was returned the instant it turned out to be illegal, and neither the tit-for-tat nor the endangering national security charges would ever be substantiated.

Flash forward to 2003. Richard Perle, an unpaid but government employee nonetheless is "advising" Global Crossing for a mere $125,000. Global Crossing, by the way (for those of you with short memories) is the same company which lost millions of dollars after admitting to Enron-like accounting measures and which DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffie suspiciously made tons of money on his "lucky" stock picks.

Because Global Crossing is bankrupt, they are trying to sell a controlling interest in their company, whose assists consists mostly of a fiber optic network, to Chinese and Singapore companies! And the little trouble with this sale is that this state-of-the-art fiber optic network is used by the U.S. government (including the military) and that Perle gets another $600,000 if the government approves the deal.

Oh isn't the irony sweet? Instead of the claim that the Chinese are trying to influence U.S. elections (even though Clinton was going to and did win handily without the money), a counterclaim can be made that the communist country can now try to control the one thing they can't-- the Internet. In theory, they could also mess up or tap U.S. military information streams as well.

Three and a half years ago, then Majority Leader Trent wrote the Pentagon saying, "This administration [the Clinton administration] is allowing a scenario to develop where U.S. national security interests could not be protected without confronting the Chinese communists in the Americas," adding, "We have given the farm away without a shot being fired."

The same could be said for the current administration, except instead of giving the farm away, they are selling it for $725,000, or one millionth of their tax cut plan for the rich!


 

Richard Perle, arguably the most influential pro-war intellectual in the United States, may soon be under investigation for serving on the president's Defense Policy Board, where he advocated a regime change in Iraq irrespective of whether or not that country complied with the UN inspection process, while advising private companies on how they can profit from that war. In this piece, Maureen Dowd advises Perle to "remove the laurel wreath from his head and replace it with a paper bag". Perle deserves much, much worse.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003
 

Why is the Today Show interviewing the families of the POWs after just interviewing Iraq's ambassador to the U.N.? I am not questioning their loyalties, but rather their interviewing skills. These guys are meant to interview Adrian Brody after winning Best Actor, not a lying diplomat or nervous families.

I can't bring myself to watch the interviews with POW families. First of all, its painful to torture them this way. Secondly, it serves no purpose. What news is there to report, that they renounce their wimpy son/daughter for being caught? Are the armed forces going to forget about these POWs and leave them to rot in Saddam's torture chambers? No. Does it bring the reality of the war to our living room? Maybe, but it feels more like interviewing a family after their loved one just committed suicide or something outside social norms. We all wiggle in our seats like when President Bush has to pronounce a big word.

But more disturbing than the Iraqi armed resistance on the way to Baghdad is the fact that we don't see images of smiling Iraqis greeting U.S./U.K. forces (except for that first village across the Kuwaiti border). I agree with Mickey Kaus that Andrew Sullivan made the understatement of the month by saying,

    "I also think that we hawks might have under-estimated the Iraqis' sense of national violation at being invaded - despite their hatred of Saddam.

If we had been able to get the U.N. to sanction this action, which by now seems impossible given the fact that we are finding Russian and French equipment in the hands of the Iraqi army/Ba'th party, there would have been less resistance and less appearance of oil-driven motivations towards an American Empire.

Yes, Anthony and Steve, I am drudging that old bit out again. To some extent, I too worry about neo-con drives for a "new American Empire" which they thing will be better than the Romans, etc. because they mean well. Oh and the other imperialist thought they were just dominating? Please. The truth is, Americans have never been good at colonies or domination that way. Just look at our record in the Caribbean or Philippians circa Teddy Roosevelt.

Now those Marxists who march on the World Bank, IMF, and WTO meetings would say that we control countries in a colonial fashion via trade and loan agreements. While it is true that the "North" has vastly more money and influence on the international system than the "South," it is a bit ridiculous to say that the U.S. control them, otherwise they would have voted with the U.S. on the second U.N. resolution.

This whole notion of finding the next McArthur to replace Saddam after we conquer Baghdad is really creepy and misguided too. As General Wesley Clark warns,

    "Above all, we must not use our presence in Iraq as a launching pad for self-glorification, imperial pretenses or further expeditions but as an opportunity to strengthen the international institutions that we have spent more than 50 years developing and nourishing."


Monday, March 24, 2003
 

Remember when the first President Bush asked Americans to "Read my Lips"?: Well now you should heed the words of his son in this hilarious bit by swedes with lots of free time and video tape. No matter how you feel about the war, or Bush (or Blair for that matter), I bet you will be laughing by the end of it.

Make sure you have your speakers turned up, that is where the fun starts, but make sure your boss can't hear it. :)


 

Thank God for the folks at iraqbodycount.net, who estimate that Iraqis have suffered between 135 and 209 civilian casualties since January of this year. It is one of our media's most glaring failures that no one compiled a reliable estimate of the number of Iraqi civilian casualties caused by American operations during the last Gulf War. As a result, there is no reliable factual basis that can be used to judge that war's humanitarian merits (although, if one includes the destruction wrought by the ensuing sanctions regime, that war can almost surely be judged a humanitarian nightmare). I encourage readers to assess Iraq Body Count's methodology themselves.

As an aside, inquiring minds ought to know that a similar inquiry estimates that America's Afghanistan campaign is, thus far, responsible for over 3000 civilian casualties--a number comparable to our own country's tragic losses on September 11.

 

GIVEN HOW MANY REPUBLICANS (and Democrats, for that matter) have by now been fully absorbed into the Bush cult of personality, which continues to grow stronger as troops advance toward Baghdad, it's refreshing to think that there's at least one Republican out there with a mind of his own. Yesterday's New York Times Magazine provides a lengthy piece on Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), whose opposition to the Bush tax plan, efforts in Iraq, and several other key aspects of the Bush agenda make him one lonely Republican. I actually met Chafee In Providence back in 1999, when he had just been appointed his father's successor to the Senatorial seat. While illuminating some important points about Chafee's background as a rare liberal Republican, I think the piece actually does quite a bit of injustice to the man, painting him as a political fish out of water, unsure of his place in Congress and unable to gain the respect of his colleagues (he doesn't even have the courage to eat in the Senate lunch room, preferring to eat alone in his own office). When I heard him speak in person, before he had literally any experience in Washington, he spoke with the confidence of a man who understood well his duty as a legislator, and was both optimistic about his future and reflective of the work of his emiment father, without whom he wouldn't be there.

Underlying Chafee's story is a poignant illustration of the current political landscape; specifically, why is being a liberal Republican so rare at the moment? Chafee is what the article calls a "Yankee Republican," whose relatively liberal stances on fiscal and foreign policy come closer to resembling Clintonian Democrats than Republicans. Chafee laments, however, that Bush has taken the Republican party in an entirely different direction, kowtowing to the conservative interests of the South and Midwest, and taking on a true Reaganite philosophy that belies the originally centrist platform upon which he campaigned in 2000: "It was such a surprise to see the agenda. It was so different from the campaign rhetoric."

Unfortunately, Chafee seems alone in his analysis of Bush's transformation, which, curiously enough, almost no one has else has pointed out. In her book, Washington, a confluence of reflective memoir and dissection of Capitol Hill social culture, the late Washington Post editor Meg Greenfield discusses at length the playground-like workings of Congressional life, with "freshman" legislators having to "pay their dues" in order to move up into the ranks of the revered senior statesmen, risking social ostracization should they try to break the mold:

"'Freshman,' for instance, is a congressional designation that is taken very seriously,
entailing if not exactly hazing at least some initiation rites and put-downs by the big
kids and expectations of deference to the elders while one is being tested and looked
over and kept busy learning the place's protocols and taboos."

Chafee is certainly facing the brunt of this reality as he continues to be the lone voice of Republican dissidence. But maybe some of his colleagues should be coming to his office for lunch instead.

 

After a weekend of non-stop, exhausting war coverage with intermittent NCAA basketball games, I think we have officially reached the 21st century--and all the horrible events and consequences of it.

Within moments of the grenade incident at Camp Pennsylvania [more on the name later], all the networks were streaming back via video phone the news, even before the Pentagon could inform the families.

As of today, reporting has described the situation (in which one died and 16 are wounded) as fratricide by a Muslim member of the 101st Airborne who, because of disciplinary problems was to stay behind when the group was to cross the border into Iraq.

We still don't know why this man did this to his fellow soldiers, so we should not pass judgment yet until the full truth is know.

In other grim news, Iraqi units, pretending to surrender (by acting as described in the pamphlets that Psyche-Ops had rained down on Iraq), ambushed troops killing between 10 and 15. To add to the troubles, it appears that some support troops took a wrong turn and have been captured by Iraqi forces. Of course, these POWs are being treated inhumanely, and Iraq has already violated the Geneva Convention.

Of course, the U.S. had to stoop to guerilla and deceptive tactics once before, during the Revolutionary War, when we too were vastly ill-equipped and out manned compared to the invading force. Nevertheless, I am NOT comparing Iraqi army to the Continental Army of the 1770s-80s. The Iraqi people are ruled by a man not unlike Stalin or Hitler who sees people as his stepping-stones to achieving world domination and tyrannical control. He views the Kurds with even less respect, using them to test out his Weapons of Mass Destruction, which are also against international law. He is a horrible, horrible man, who I will not cry over when he dies.

Whether or not one is for this war, or has loved ones or countrymen involved in it, everyone should morn the loss of life and torture of individuals. I know, the far left would like me to mention the innocent civilians that already have been harmed by this war. So far, however, these loses are still far outpaced by the torture and loss of life of Iraqis by Saddam and the Ba'th party over its nearly 40-year reign of terror. Soon, U.S. and British forces will forever close down the rape rooms and torture chambers, uncover vast troves of chemical and biological weapons that Iraqi still denies possessing.

And we all hope that the Iraqi people will someday soon be able to govern themselves in a Federalist style government so that each ethnic and warring faction can counter-balance the other, in contrast to the current systems of government in the region.

The honorary Oscar for Peter O'Toole, who played Lawrence of Arabia should remind everyone why we have such horrible troubles in the middle east. The British Empire and that man Lawrence in particular, who bargained away the sovereignty of Arabs to defeat the Ottomans and control the flow of oil. In fact, the shape of Iraq and Jordan are solely to accommodate a pipeline to the Mediterranean Sea and have absolutely nothing to do with the people that live there, nor their illegitimate royal rulers.

Speaking of rulers, our own President Bush and his military planners decided to send out one last message that Al-Qaeda and Hussein are connected by naming camps in Northern Kuwait after the states that suffered loss of life from September 11, 2001. Please Mr. President, I don't agree with Michael Moore, but stop insulting our intelligence with such acts.