Saturday, October 16, 2004

Transatlantic Views - part 2

Opinion of the UN (page 21) is positive by majorities everywhere (tough only a relative majority in Turkey) - UN-haters are highest in the USA (14% very unfavorable opinion, further 20% mostly unfavorable) and Turkey (11%+25%), but closely followed by Spain (9%+24%) and France (5%+27%) - this might surprise some, but I know many people had too high expectations and blame the UN for the Iraq war, too. Italy has still the most UN-enthusiasts (very positive views: 27%) with Portugal as surprising second (26%). Overall, there has been small shifts for the worse opinion since 2003.

In the feelings towards countries section (page 22), I was first curious about how much people like their own country, but only four were included - ranging from the French (78 on a scale 0-100) to, predictably, Americans (89, a fall from last years' 92). Showing most Europeans to still separate the country from its government, only for Turkey (28) and for insulted-for-its-election Spain (42, just above 40 for both North Korea and Saudi Arabia) is the opinion on the USA negative on the average - it is highest in divided-on-the-war UK (62) and anti-war Italy (62), but declined remarkably even since 2003 in Poland (from 61 to 56). In contrast, the EU enjoys a positive view throughout, but with Turkey (52) surprisingly underachieving the UK (59) and the USA (62) - I wonder what the figures are right now. BTW, the UK again likes France (57, after 49 last year) and better likes Germany (57, after 53), same pattern in the USA (51 after 45 and 61 after 56) while Turkey doesn't like either (34, 46). European views of Turkey are expectedly weakly positive in Germany (52) and the Netherlands (53, same as given by Americans), even in the UK, negative elsewhere (again as expected, with lowest scores in Poland and Slovakia: 37, 36).

Ariel Sharon orchestrated a campaign to paint France as some epicenter of chronic anti-semitism, and Turkey as the model of a Muslim ally, but we find Turkey most negative on Israel (13 on a scale 0-100), and the Central-Eastern Europeans next (Slovakia 30, Poland 31; of especially the latter, the charge of European center for anti-semitism would be more appropiate) - France is in the EU midfield (42). Only the USA has a positive figure (60) - shared hypocrisy or false solidarity because of biased news? Palestinians aren't liked much either, with Central-Eastern Europeans (Slovakia 26, Poland 33) and Portugal (34) surprisingly exceeding Americans (41). Iran is also disliked, but least disliked not in Turkey (36), but the UK (42) and Germany (37), and most disliked again in Slovakia (25). Same pattern for Saudi Arabia (41, 49, 45, 28). Russia has many moderate friends, even Slovakia (52) and the USA (57, highest!), but not Turkey (21, only Israel is more disliked), Poland (42) and Portugal (44). On China, opinions are even more even, except for my Central European racists (aimed at the many Chinese shop owners over here; Poland 37, Slovakia 38) and Turkey and Portugal (both 41).

If we look at the previous table in the other direction - the USA likes Germany about just as much as Israel, both barely better than Russia; the French-German love affair grew steadily in the last two years despite the unpopularity of the leaders who forged it (62-67-70 in France and 59-71-74 in Germany); the UK still loves the USA most, but barely better than its European partners; Italy abadoned a similar position and now loves France most (66) followed by Germany (62) and the USA (61); the Netherlands had this transition earlier, and became more positive (up 4 points) on both France (64) and Germany (67); while discounting the EU (65!) Poland now likes France most (57) and and is unchangedly mildly positive on Germany (52, possibly reflecting a population divided into lovers and haters), Spain is cool on other countries (Germany 62, France 60, China 50 top the list); but not Slovakia (France 70! Germany 66!); while Turkey harbours a small bit of of positive feeling only for the EU and Palestinians (both 52).

Transatlantic Views - part 1

In the Transatlantic Trends 2004 study, based on a poll conducted by Gallup in nine EU members, Turkey and the USA, we find interesting numbers.

Right on page 8, we find something both local atlanticist elites and Kerry's advisers should take heed of: those who see strong US leadership in world affairs as very desirable is 15% at its highest - in Britain; everywhere else, including Central-Eastern Europe, that number is single-digit. Even if you add those who see strong US leadership as "somewhat desirable", we have majorities only in the Netherlands (59%) and the UK (54%), while in supposed staunch US ally Poland its 39%, in Slovakia just 21%. (Turkey - 16% - and Spain - 18% - also score well below France - 24% - on the atlanticist scale.) Also note the decline even since 2003. (And, as many American pundits raised the silly argument that Europeans don't want to engage in world affairs, see the numbers at page 7 - everywhere but in Slovakia, an active part in world affairs for their own country is supported by majorities exceeding 70%.)

As for something Europeans should take heed of - especially those who confuse Americans with their government, or even the views of deluded Bush voters with the views of Bush - US support for strong EU leadership in world affairs is still a massive 79%, and 37% even see it as very desirable - and, page 10, 41% even want the EU to become a second superpower! That's a sympathy better held to, for possible later use.

British Tories should note that 69% of the Polish and even 54% of the British want the EU to become a second superpower - only Slovakia has an anti-any-superpower majority (57%). Interestingly, there is strong difference among European countries on how increased military spending factors in support or opposition, but - to my happiness - less than 60% want an EU superpower with increased military spending in any country. Support for the US as sole power is (except for the USA, 40%) highest in Britain, still just 21%.

Surprisingly, competing with the US vs. cooperating with it is seen by the highest percentages as an advantage of an EU superpower in Spain (41%) and Slovakia (43%) - and France (36%) is outdone by the UK (37%)!

Markedly more Americans think their country spends too much on the military (38%) than those who think it spends too little (21%) - in Europe, the figures are similar, except Britain (both 28%) and Poland (19% vs. 41%!).

The recognised threat level of terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism (page 16, 20 and 14) is high almost everywhere - disproving American pundits yet again; the latter is actually highest not in the USA (51% say it's 'extremely high') but Germany (59%), while in the former, the USA is even with not-yet-al-Qaida-stricken Italy (76%), and beaten by Spain (77% to 75%) when the use of WMD by terrorists is considered. The threat leavels seen are lowest in Turkey (39% and 24%) and Slovakia (63% and 31%). Interesting to note that by large parts of the population, terrorism is not equated with Islamic fundamentalism - everywhere. As for WMD sceptics, the Netherlands leads (34%) followed by Germany (27%) and Slovakia (23%).

The threat level of immigration (page 15) shows a main problem with Europe, widespread xenophobia, tough to me surprisingly, the USA is still more xenophobic than polled EU countries on the average (extremely important threat: 26% vs. 22%, not important: 28% vs. 29%). However, over the last two years, there has been marked improvement, both in the USA and the EU. Showing how inappropiate the media's over-focus on the Pim Fortuyn phenomenon was, The Netherlands still leads as least afraid of a flood immigrants (15% see an extremely important threat, 40% see a not important threat) - and the French are second (18% vs. 33%), Germany third (21% vs. 31%). Then comes Italy, the USA and the UK; while Turkey has a large number of don't-know's.

There aren't significant differences in assessing the threat posed by the Israeli-Arab conflict (page 17) or that posed by AIDS (page 18) - except the Netherlands in the latter case, with a full 28% seeing AIDS as not an important threat, and just 33% as extremely important. On the threat of an economic downturn, the Dutch and Slowaks stand out as optimists, and Portuguese as extreme pessimists, but overall, more than 80% see it as a threat of some importance - rightly so, I think.

The Robbery Of Iraq

In Naomi Klein's latest piece in the Guardian, she writes about the continued reparations "freed" Iraq pays for Saddam's 1991 invasion of Kuwait - and contrasts it with what was actually spent for Iraqis (rather than on security and on stuffing up US-imposed authorities):

Next week, something will happen that will unmask the upside-down morality of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. On October 21, Iraq will pay $200m in war reparations to some of the richest countries and corporations in the world. a condition of the ceasefire that ended the 1991 Gulf war, Saddam agreed to pay damages stemming from the invasion... What is surprising is that even after Saddam was overthrown, the payments from Iraq have continued.

Since Saddam was toppled in April, Iraq has paid out $1.8bn in reparations to the United Nations Compensation Commission... Of those payments, $37m have gone to Britain and $32.8m have gone to the United States... the vast majority of those payments, 78%, have gone to multinational corporations, according to statistics on the UNCC website...

...Halliburton ($18m), Bechtel ($7m), Mobil ($2.3m), Shell ($1.6m), Nestlé ($2.6m), Pepsi ($3.8m), Philip Morris ($1.3m), Sheraton ($11m), Kentucky Fried Chicken ($321,000) and Toys R Us ($189,449). In the vast majority of cases, these corporations did not claim that Saddam's forces damaged their property in Kuwait - only that they "lost profits" or, in the case of American Express, experienced a "decline in business" because of the invasion and occupation of Kuwait...

Despite the $18.4bn of US tax dollars allocated for Iraq's reconstruction, the Washington Post estimates that only $29m has been spent on water, sanitation, health, roads, bridges, and public safety combined. And in July (the latest figure available), the Department of Defence estimated that only $4m had been spent compensating Iraqis who had been injured, or who lost family members or property as a direct result of the occupation...

I have only one thing to add. It is a sky-high hypocrisy to argue that oil contracts are void with regime change, but reparations for a war fought by the deposed regime are not.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Billion-Dollar Waste

Everyone predicted this years' US Elections will be the greatest spending spree ever; but the numbers I see now at The Center For Responsive Politics website are just staggering - as I write this, money received by the Presidential candidates:

  • Bush(R): $338,341,211
  • Kerry(D): $310,851,634
  • Nader(-): $2,800,717
  • Badnarik(L): $555,800
  • Peroutka(C): $361,018
  • Cobb(G): $100,366

...and of this already spent:

  • Bush(R): $222,175,200
  • Kerry(D): $197,610,497
  • Nader(-): $2,740,841
  • Badnarik(L): $521,496
  • Peroutka(C): $352,615
  • Cobb(G): $86,187

Compare total campaign campaign receipts over the years:

  • 1976: $171.0 million
  • 1980: $161.9 million
  • 1984: $202.0 million
  • 1988: $324.4 million
  • 1992: $331.1 million
  • 1996: $425.7 million
  • 2000: $528.9 million
  • 2004 so far: $838.2 million

This is an incredible waste of money, even if dwarfed by money wasted in Iraq, in the armament business, or on SUVs.

It is also of interest to look at campaign contributors per sector. Hesiod at Counterspin wondered why Kerry, in the third TV debate with Bush, didn't seize the issue of the shortage of flu vaccines to blast outsourcing and greediness of pharmaceutical corporations - maybe because he received $460,737 from them (Bush got $904,679).

As expected, Bush gets $2,199,385 from Oil & Gas and - surprising ratio - $160,595 from Tobacco - Kerry 'only' $223,300 resp. $18,800.

Also as expected, Kerry gets $2,267,990 from Computers/Internet vs. Bush's $1,736,155, and $2,805,924 from TV/Movies/Music vs. Bush's $1,232,750.

As for some big fish - Finance/Insurance/Real Estate gave $30,508,873 to Bush and $11,844,568 to Kerry, of this Banks alone contributed $2,913,317 resp. $1,104,396 - and Insurance $2,878,523 resp. a mere $630,058.

Defense gave $718,743 to Bush, $327,728 to Kerry - again, a surprising ratio relative to other contributors.

Overall, these numbers would indicate a not too important role of corporations - they show that no single industry contributed more than 1% to these campaigns. However, they might just reflect widespread tricksery. We Europeans know - or at least most Germans know - onetime Chanchellor Kohl and the late Liberal Party leader Möllemann's method of dividing up large donations and 'receiving' these from false, stolen or borrowed names.

Nader Campaigns With Republican Money - Charge Campaigners With Republican Money...

With U.S. elections closing in, I switched to regular reading of some major pro-Democrat blogs 'inside the matrix'. As most posts now are about flooding on-line polls, some rumours, campaigns against detractors, non-issue dirt on these detractors, and promoting Democrat candidates, I have ambiguous feelings.

On one hand, it is encouraging to see that they learn to stand up to the Republican Machine - hitting hard conservative TV stations owner Sinclair by discouraging their advertisers, or swiftly tracking down the Republican connections of and multiple local troubles with a private voter registration firm. On the other hand, they act even more like freepers than I observed before, and it's all about the candidates and not the issues - I don't see how, as some Dean-ists promised, they would stop an elected Kerry from sinking deeper into the Iraq quagmire, or get him to adopt any progressive policy. (My prediction is that they will concentrate on defending him against Republican attacks.)

Now Nader-bashing didn't stop either - it reached bizarre levels. Inside-the-matrix pro-Democrat bloggers are hell-bent on trying to prove that the Nader campaign is orchestrated by the Republicans. But, as I followed successive revelations through pro-Kerry vs. pro-Nader blogs, the former consistently picked campaign contributors who also donate to, and donated more to, Democrats. Here, quoting from an article defending Nader, I will only present the most bizarre moment of this sorry tale:

An ad produced by the Nader haters at charge Nader with all but conspiring with the RNC to steal the election from Kerry. You should know that is a project of the National Progress Fund, a rag-tag team of major Democratic players, which, according to the IRS, received its single largest donation from corporate executive Bobby Savoie. (Savoie's company, Apogen Technologies, is a major contractor with several departments of the federal government, including the department of Homeland Security.) Savoie donated a generous $25,000 gift to the National Progress Fund one month after donating the same amount to the Republican National Committee. A month before that, he gave the RNC another $2,000 (his wife Lori gave equal amounts on the same days).

Here's the clincher. According to the New York Times,'s television ad cost them $5,000 to produce and another $20,000 to run in New Mexico and Wisconsin, totaling $25,000 dollars, the exact same amount that corporate Republican Bobby Savoie donated. Could the Democrats really be so hypocritical as to charge Ralph Nader with financing his campaign with Republican money - with Republican money?

The same article also tells about more recent Democrat operations to get Nader off some state ballots. The tricks are as brazen as Catherine Harris's in Florida, in 2000. Some, yet again, involving law firms mostly donating to the RNC, Ken Starr's among them... And again for the bizarre moment:

Hand it to the Democrats to keep some costs down, though. A contractor they hired in Michigan to make phone calls to check the validity of our tens of thousands of signatures outsourced the work to India.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Iraq's Drug Problem

Riverbend is back, with a long article on drugs - from valium used to still panicking aunts during "Shock And Awe" to newly available cocaine et al.. Just a short excerpt:

One friend of E.'s was actually detained on one occasion by some Iraqi police because he had forgotten his car's registration papers. He was hauled off to the station along with his cousin and they were both locked up in a crowded cell. Half an hour into the detention, a police officer came along with some sort of pill and offered it to the prisoners for 250 Iraqi dinars a piece.

Bipartisan Foreign Policy

Lenin's Tomb directed me to an article in the Asian Times from 21 March 2001, about the difference beweeen words and actions of Bush admin Deputy Secretary Of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in Southeast Asia (with the prophetic sub-title "A man to keep a close eye on").

However, it begins with recounting how Richard Holbrooke praised Wolfie as is ex-collague, by - in May 2000! - bringing up how they cooperated in the US policy of covering and encouraging Indonesia's invasion of East Timor in 1975.

(I must admit, I still had a better opinion of Holbrooke until I read this.)

Anonymous Sources

Tom Engelhardt, on the ocassion of the NYT article on planned post-election attacks on Iraqi cities, wrote an extensive critique of the use of anonymous sources. Best read it all. (I have written about some of the same problems in my fourth post on this blog.)

Iraq Descends To Hell

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersch talked about the unwinnable war in Iraq at Berkeley. Together with some other news, his arguments, and his newest as yet unreported story, a picture even more dire than before emerges.

First some other news:

Both Bush and Kerry want to repeat the Vietnam error of building up local police/armed forces to fight in US soldiers' stead. Now the idea of having Iraqis kill Iraqis for American causes is stupid enough, but what makes it even more idiotic in Iraq is the jobs situation - what do you hope for with recruits like this one [via Left I]:

It was the latest in a series of insurgent strikes targeting Iraqi recruits and security personnel that have killed at least 100 in the past month.

But the applicants keep coming.

``They told us to come back next Saturday if we still want the job. And I will come back,'' said Mohammed, 24. ``Either I will die or I will have this job.''

It isn't love of country or hatred for the insurgents that motivates Mohammed. He called interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi a ``terrorist'' and ``worse than Saddam.''

``But I have to live. There are no other job opportunities. I have looked everywhere,'' he said.

The second news is about WMD: I have often argued, last time in the comments to this A Fistful Of Euros post, that to deal with a WMD-wielding rogue state with terrorism in mind, invasion is the worst choice, because post-war chaos is the best condition for WMD to get on the black market. But, what is true for WMD is also true for WMD programme spare parts - and as an update to stories of the looting of Iraqi nuclear sites, the IAEA found that high-precision equipment is still missing, unlike other stuff that surfaced in various scrapyards:

Equipment which could be used in an illicit nuclear bomb programme has disappeared from previously monitored sites in Iraq, and radioactively contaminated items from there have been found abroad, the International Atomic Energy Agency has told the UN.
Installations in Saddam Hussein's former nuclear bomb programme were being systematically dismantled, its director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, has told the security council, warning of the implications for trafficking.

In a letter to Sir Emyr Jones Parry, the British diplomat presiding over the security council, Dr ElBaradei said his inspectors had "been able to identify quantities of industrial items, some radioactively contaminated, that had been transferred out of Iraq from sites [previously] monitored by the IAEA".

These did not not include "high precision equipment" with a dual civilian or military use which would be valuable in a nuclear bomb programme. But he added: "The disappearance of such equipment and materials may be of proliferation significance."

But Jack Straw, admitting the 45 minutes claim was wrong, still thinks the invasion was justified...

Now to Seymour Hersch. As my source, I leave the new stories for last, first some of his arguments:

"How could eight or nine neoconservatives come and take charge of this government?" he asked. "They overran the bureaucracy, they overran the Congress, they overran the press, and they overran the military! So you say to yourself, How fragile is this democracy?"

Indeed - it is not enough to blame the neocons, you have to ask what's wrong with the system that allowed them to succeed relatively easily.

"It doesn't matter that Bush scares the hell out of me," Hersh answered. "What matters is that he scares the hell out of a lot of very important people in Washington who can't speak out, in the military, in the intelligence community. They know in ways that none of us know, the incredible gap between what is and what [Bush] thinks."

Here's one of the things what's wrong with the system. People in the bureaucracy cover their ass, their personal ass, despite the fact that what they watch unfolding is a big kick in their collective ass (I won't use stronger expressions).

[Bush], if he's re-elected, has only one thing to do, he's going to bomb the hell out of that place. He's been bombing the hell of that place — and here's what really irritates me again, about the press — since he set up this Potemkin Village government with Allawi on June 28 — the bombing, the daily bombing rates inside Iraq, have gone up exponentially. There's no public accounting of how many missions are flown, how much ordinance is dropped, we have no accounting and no demand to know. The only sense you get is we're basically in a full-scale air war against invisible people that we can't find, that we have no intelligence about, so we bomb what we can see.

It is indeed outrageous how the US media won't pursue, won't analyse and buries the bombing stories (that another wedding party bombing I recently wrote about seems now prehistoric...), or indeed stories of US soldiers and their Iraqi forces shooting into civilian crowds, as in Najaf and Baghdad [I can't even find a link to what I saw on a German TV of Baghdad police shooting at a crowd some time after the 12 September shooting of civilians from a US helicopter].

And with the US military doing the bombing the hell out business at roughly one thousand casualties per city rate (roughly 1000 in Nassiriyah in March/April 2003, 800 [2nd source] to 1200 in Fallujah this April, 950+ in Najaf this August), the unreported total of the casualties of invasion and occupation will soon rise another ten thousand.

"I think it's real simple to say [Bush] is a liar. But that would also suggest there was a reality that he understood," explained Hersh. "I'm serious. It is funny in sort of a sick, black humor sort of way, but the real serious problem is, he believes what he's doing." In effect, Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and the other neocons are "idealists, you can call them utopians."

Yes, what people angry at bad politicians often forget is that they can be A) stupid, B) self-deluded too - or, worse yet, C) tell lies to support their position under new circumstances, and later convince themselves that those lies weren't lies. I think this aptly describes British PM Tony Bliar; his foreign secretary Jack Straw less so. But Bush and the neocons? I think at least part of the lies they tell they know are lies, and don't convince themselves otherwise; based on the vehemence and brazenness with which they lie. And also because I don't buy that their motives equal their rhetoric. (Now this is more true of the neocons than Bush; but in his case, living in a virtual reality might be more due to a lack of intellect than susceptibility to self-delusion.)

"No amount of body bags is going to dissuade [Bush]," said Hersh, despite the fact that Hersh's sources say the war in Iraq is "not winnable. It's over." As for Kerry's war plans, Hersh said he wished he could tell him to stop talking as if the senator's plan for Iraq could somehow still eke out a victory there. "This is a disaster that's been going on. It's a civil war, the insurgency. There is no 'win' anymore in this war," he argued. "As somebody said, 'We're playing chess, they're playing Go.'"

Kerry, Edwards, Randy Beers, Fareed Zakaria, anyone listening?...

Sources were suggesting that the many acts of domestic terrorism in Iraq that U.S. officials have been attributing to suspected Al Qaeda operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi are in fact a smokescreen set up by the insurgents. "They decided to wage war against their own population," he said. "It's a huge step, with enormous consequences.…The insurgency has simply deflected what they're doing onto this man. And we fell for it."

Well, I think his sources are shifting the blame here. It was much more than falling for it - US propaganda built up Zarqawi, a nasty terrorist for sure but certainly not a central leader, as the next comic-strip Enemy after Osama and Saddam, blaming just about every major attack on him/excusing US bombings with him (I wrote about this earlier). On the other hand, it is legit to say that both Zarqawi and various Iraqi groups targeting civilians (say the killers of Grand Ayatollah Al-Hakim last year, where ex-Baathists are implicated) are happy with Zarqawi getting all the blame.

He also repeated a question often posed to him: "Was it immoral to go in … [T]he idea that Saddam was a torturer and a killer, doesn't that lend a patina of morality to going after him?" The answer to that one, he said unsmilingly, "is of course, Saddam tortured and killed his people. And now we're doing it."

That's succint, but doesn't cover half the hypocrisy in the 'Saddam was evil, so wasn't it good to remove him?' question.

What the US & allies did wasn't removing Saddam, it was removing the lifes of tens of thousands (and I see no reason to differentiate between civilian and ordinary soldier casualties of an illegal war) in the process of replacing the brutality of Saddam's regime with the brutality of an occupation army, its puppet regime, 'friendly' militias, opposed militias, unchecked crime gangs, careless resistance fighters, domestic and foreign terrorists. (And that angle doesn't even address the further destruction of public infrastructure, of the economy esp. jobs and domestic producion, the contamination with unexploded ordnance and DU, and the robbery passing off as 'reconstruction'.)


My government has a secret unit that since December of 2001 has been disappearing people just like the Brazilians and the Argentineans did. Rumsfeld decided after 9/11 that he could not wait. The president signed a secret document…There's a team of people, they fly in unmarked planes, they fly in Gulfstreams, they have their own choppers, they don't carry American passports, and they just grab people.

Operation Phoenix II.

The original idea behind the sexually humiliating photos taken at Abu Ghraib, Hersh said he had heard, was to use them as blackmail so that the newly released prisoners — many of whom were ordinary Iraqi thieves or even civilian bystanders rounded up in dragnets — would act as informants. "We operate on guilt, [Muslims] operate on shame," Hersh explained.

Makes sense. That's how Israel got informants in Palestine, too. Interestingly, an Israeli who wrote Hersch thinks the Americans went further than theirs:

"We've been killing them for 40 or 50 years, and they've been killing us for 40 or 50 years, but we know that somewhere down the line we're going to have to live with those SOBs…If we had treated our Arabs the way you treated them in Abu Ghraib, the sexual stuff, the photographs, we couldn't live with them. You guys do not begin to understand what you've done, where you have put yourself in the Arab world."

And here's the final whopper: altough as yet single-sourced, Hersch has the story of My Lai-style rural mass murder:

Hersh talked about a call he had gotten from a first lieutenant in charge of a unit stationed halfway between Baghdad and the Syrian border. His group was bivouacking outside of town in an agricultural area, and had hired 30 or so Iraqis to guard a local granary. A few weeks passed. They got to know the men they hired, and to like them. Then orders came down from Baghdad that the village would be "cleared." Another platoon from the soldier's company came and executed the Iraqi granary guards. All of them.

"He said they just shot them one by one. And his people, and he, and the villagers of course, went nuts," Hersh said quietly. "He was hysterical, totally hysterical. He went to the company captain, who said, 'No, you don't understand, that's a kill. We got 36 insurgents. Don't you read those stories when the Americans say we had a combat maneuver and 15 insurgents were killed?'

As a closing note, it is a useful reminder that according even to the US-installed government's Health Ministry, US & allied forces killed more than twice as many Iraqi civilians as the insurgents:

...The ministry began separating attacks by multinational and police forces and insurgents June 10.

From that date until Sept. 10, 1,295 Iraqis were killed in clashes with multinational forces and police versus 516 killed in terrorist operations, the ministry said. The ministry defined terrorist operations as explosive devices in residential areas, car bombs or assassinations.

...At the Baghdad morgue, Dr. Quasis Hassan Salem said he saw a family of eight brought in: three women, three men and two children. They were sleeping on their roof last month because it was hot inside. A military helicopter shot at them and killed them: "I don't know why."

Monday, October 11, 2004

Nonlinear Global Warming About To Hit Us?

Most laypeople who acknowledge human-induced global warming implicitely assume that the greenhouse effect is linear: that is, if a given amount of CO2 emissions cause average temperatures to rise by a certain amount, then twice as many emissions will cause a temperature rise also twice as big.

However, in reality, global climate includes a lot of non-linear effects - effects that produce much stronger changes if certain thresholds are passed, and sometimes changes in the opposite direction; effects mostly involving some kind of feedback. Some - even if portrayed as far-off, thanks to great uncertainities about where the thresolds lie - are well-publicised by now: if the Gulf Stream grinds to halt, it alters the global heat transport, cooling the North and heating the South; if ice caps melt, the Earth's heat absorbtion will grow (because there is less ice to reflect most incoming solar radiation away), and the freshwater will probably stop the Gulf Stream; if temperatures rise in artic seas above continental shelfs above a certain temperature, methane trapped in the mud could be released and act as a much stronger greenhouse gas.

Other nonlinear effects are less well known. One is that the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere itself depends not only on how much we emit, but also on how much the rest of Nature absorbs from the atmosphere. Most of the latter is not done by trees: both seas and soil are more important - and both absorb CO2 in a way that is not well known, but well enough to say it is temperature-dependent in a non-linear way. Also, peat bogs store a lot of carbon, which can be released as CO2 or methane, also dependent on temperature rises.

Earlier, I have only read studies that told of warning signs regarding peat bogs, but a first sign that there could be something wrong overall was reported today. From the Independent:

...The possibility that it may be occurring now is suggested in the long run of atmospheric CO2 measurements that have been made since 1958 at the observatory on the top of Mauna Loa, an 11,000ft volcano in Hawaii, by the American physicist Charles Keeling, from the University of California at San Diego.

...Across all 46 years of Dr Keeling's measurements, the average annual CO2 rise has been 1.3ppm, although in recent decades it has gone up to about 1.6ppm.

There have been several peaks, all associated with El Niño, the disruption of the atmosphere-ocean system in the tropical Pacific Ocean that causes changes to global weather patterns. In 1988, for example, the annual increase was 2.45ppm; in 1998, 2.74ppm; both were El Niño years.

Throughout the series those peaks have been followed by troughs, and there has been no annual increase in CO2 above 2ppm that has been sustained for more than a year. Until now.

From 2001 to 2002, the increase was 2.08ppm (from 371.02 to 373.10); and from 2002 to 2003 the increase was 2.54ppm (from 373.10 to 375.64). Neither of these were El Niño years, and there has been no sudden leap in emissions.

While the jury is out about the underlying mechanism; Dr. Keeling speculates:

..."It is possible this is merely a reflection of the Southern Oscillation, like previous peaks in the rate, but it is possible it is the beginning of a natural process unprecedented in records.

"This could be a decoupling of the Southern Oscillation from El Niño events, which itself could be caused by increased CO2 in the atmosphere; or it could be a weakening of the earth's carbon sinks. It is a cause for concern."

Of course, politicians and most voters are sleeping. In Europe and Asia. In the USA, they are hallucinating. And they tell us terror is the greatest danger facing our world...

Sunday, October 10, 2004

What's Wrong With Outsourcing?

Economics has ceased to be an empirical science and has become a religious faith.

The above is the closing line of Paul Craig Roberts' article referred to in my last post. Most of the article is a deconstruction of all the silly pro-outsourcing arguments, demonstrating how outsourcing hurts US employees and the economy, and that both in the low-tech and high-tech sectors. I don't fully agree with his argumentation and focus, but before advancing a different train of thoughts, I highlight some bits with quotes:

The US is losing the ability to manufacture a range of advanced technology products and is now dependent on imports of advanced technology goods from China and Japan. Entire high tech occupations are beginning to disappear in America, with computer engineering enrollments in topflight schools such as M.I.T., Georgia Tech, and UC, Berkeley shrinking by 45%.

I too noted (not on this blog), that what is often touted as one of the last economic advantages of the USA over the rest of the developed world, its supposed dominance in the sciences, 'aint true anymore either. As economics indeed largely turned into blind religious faith, facts are replaced by products of wishful thinking, accepted uncritically, and used as 'proof', to continue policies that further the destruction already reflected by the real data. And thus the religion of neoliberalism (or however Dear Reader prefers to call it) ruins its origin and supposed role model for the rest of the world, too (I wrote more on this here and here).

...All the while the American labor force is being redirected into domestic nontradable services, an influx that depresses wages in domestic services...

This is the creation of a service class, something I wrote about lately.

...As high-tech US jobs move offshore, economists chant a lemming-like chorus: the answer is more high-tech education.

Bill Gates responds to shrinking job opportunities for American engineers by beating the drums for more engineering majors.

...American students are becoming aware of the facts, but economists hold firmly to their fantasy that other new and even better jobs are taking the place of those that have been outsourced. There is no evidence whatsoever in behalf of this claim.

The same contradictory logic is behind the myth of demographics as the reason behind budget deficit problems, something I also wrote about recently.

Now, my critique of outsourcing would focus on what is hinted at at the end of the second-before-last paragraph:

When Intel, Microsoft and all the rest hire Asian software engineers, the US engineers are out of work. US careers are sent abroad and given to foreigners, and with them go the incomes that comprise America's ladders of upward mobility.

I am dismayed whenever a Westerner complains about having to give up his standard of living because foreigners with a much lesser standard of living get his job. I am also allergic of the use of the phrase 'illegal aliens', as employed by Roberts. Such argumentation shows no real concern for the well-being of fellow humans, yet it often comes from liberals and social democrats who pay lip service to universalist goals.

However, such a global 'trickle-down', shifting wealth from the middle class of richer countries to the middle or lower classes of poor countries is a lesser effect of outsourcing. Stronger are other, negative effects: 'shifting' the lack of workers' rights and consumers' rights from poor countries to rich countries, and shifting wealth from the middle and lower classes in both rich and poor countries to the economic elites in both countries. And consequently, having empowered these economic elites, democratic institutions can be corrupted easier, and their power over policy issues related to the economy is eroded.

Undoing the socio-economic reforms of the 20th Century, we head back to a different re-run of the conditions that spawned communism in the 19th Century.

More On Pre-Election US Economics

Reading Paul Craig Roberts reminds me that I forgot to mention another feature of Bush's fraudulent 'job creation':

Of September's 96,000 new jobs, 73% are accounted for by two categories: government jobs and temporary help! There were only 59,000 private sector jobs created in September, and 33,000 of those--56%--are temps!

(To recap, a circumstance ignored in most mainstream press and economists' accounts is that 140,000 news jobs a month are needed just to keep up with current population growth, and when accounting for it, Bush is 6.3 million short of the employment level just after his inauguration.)

In a similar vein, I note that not only are federal agencies hiring to secure Bush's first election, oil companies are giving up profits by holding down petrol prices while crude oil soars (now more than $1.25 per gallon). View the saved graph below, and column D onthis xls table, both from EIA DoE.

Gasoline Prices Posted by Hello

For crude oil prices relevant to the USA, best see the charts at BBC, which I saved in the image below. Upon comparison, the bigger picture is: US crude oil and gasoline prices clearly became uncoupled with the massive gasoline price spike in May, followed by a decline while crude oil prices spiked in August, that is: oil companies earned in May what they expected to lose until the elections.

Crude Oil Prices Posted by Hello

Even last three weeks' uptick after the long decline from 26 May, a rise from 1.846 to 1.938 $/gal., falls short of the crude oil price increase over this period. For, even if crude oil could be fully converted to gasoline (that is one barrel into 42 gallons), consumers only paid for a crude oil price rise of $3.864 - while inreality it grew $6 in the same period, and also $6 in the three-week period ending 27 September (if we allow for a one-week lag).

I should follow this story.


...the majority of countries have elections, and the majority of those countries are not democracies.

The above quote from Whatever It Is, I'm Against It says it all about the present Afghan and soon-to-come Iraqi elections. Read his whole post, I won't repeat the points here.

In Australia, despite a string of lies and scandals and Iraq, but with quite some help from the Murdoch Empire, the Howard government got re-elected. This may contribute to a Bush victory in the USA. On the other hand, Green votes grew from 5% to 7.2% - after Canada, a second Anglo-Saxon country with a stronger progressive presence.

Regarding US elections, I think two points about the debates are worth a note. First is the buzz about the possibility that Bush wears an earpiece and gets his punchlines[*] read to him through it (deeper analysis). Now I always viewed Bush as a puppet; but never thought of a so, what do I call it, close control - I was more thinking of a stupid guy who can be easily convinced by the real policy authors among his subordinates, tough sometimes these subordinates are in conflict and Bush 'chooses'. However, if Bush really gets his points from an earpiece, he must be a conscious puppet.

The second point is about the Democrat's campaign. Given how successfully the DNC teamed up with the RNC to peddle the "Angry Dean" spin, it should be no problem now to successfully peddle an "Angry Bush" spin - with the added benefit of it being both true and on-point (for Bush's anger is of a blind man with Caesar complex kind, neither of which sane people would wish as the quality of a leader; while Dean's 'anger' was of the justified kind). But if they won't even capitalise on this, why would anyone expect them to take upon the Repubs on any major issue even after an election victory? As the briefly emerging from the dead Billmon wrote:

Anger Management

If Kerry and the Dems can't make an issue out of the fact that the president of the United States is utterly incapable of controlling his hairtrigger temper, they don't deserve to win this election.

I mean, the man is a walking time bomb.

Finally, for a future outlook, I think the most significant real election next year will be the one in Italy - it will define the direction European right-wing populism will take.

[*]: The voiceover heard with Bush's D-Day speech seems better explained by a re-sepaker of a speech-recognition device.