Friday, October 29, 2004


So using Beslan like Bush used 9/11, or indeed as so many elected autocrats used atrocities before them, Putin got the Duma around to abolish even more democratic elements - for example, regional governors will now be appointed by Putin, not elected. Meanwhile, Putin is campaigning in the Ukraine for one candidate.

Russia is moving fast to become the Soviet Union again in everything but name.

How The EU Advances

This post is kind of an update to earlier posts on Barroso's failure to steamroll through the European Parliament with unfit candidates, which strenghtened the stature of the EU's only democratic institution, even before the new EU Constitution gives it more power relative to the European Council (which is essentially the private club of national governments).

Progress Of The EU 

Nothing captures the essence of what is the EU better in my eyes than the above caricature. (I downloaded it some years ago, and completely forgot the source - propably a Hungarian paper.) The EU is the institutionalised form of the relationship of European countries - one that binds together political leaders not in some idealistic collective march to progress, but a constant tussle - but thus preventing violent collisions and open battle - and amazingly, this constant tussle leads to rather slow but steady progress.

European Eurosceptics should contrast this with business as usual in the previous three thousand years - no period without a major European war longer than forty years. American Eurosceptics might consider whether bureaucratic complicatedness, ineffectivity and inertia are really that big a disadvantage relative to laissez-faire competition (if bureaucratic monster Airbus's success against Boeing wasn't convincing enough).

More Ohio Voter Supression

I earlier wrote about the voter supression and intimidation effort the US Republicans are implementing in the US battleground state of Ohio, one reminding of fascist tactics in Germany in the last few elections before total dictature.

Just how transparent the effort is, one can see from this case. The Republicans assembled lists of newly registered voters, sent them registered mail, and if people refused to take mail with the Republican Party in the From: field, they were put on a list - but activists who got the list were just told 'delivery failed to the addresses these people specified'.

Note that the court throw-out of the case is not the end of the story: The Republicans were prepared for that, and plan to go ahead 'challenging' these people on Election Day.

UPDATE: The Republoscum are trying to confuse and discourage black voters in Michigan too. See also at a site taking up the rallying cry in Eminem's astonishingly direct anti-Bush song Mosh.


The death toll of the US/UK/CotW invasion and occupation of Iraq is an unknown. The most commonly cited number, that of the Iraq Body Count site, is only based on press reports, and only on Western press reports. Hospital numbers ignore the fact that many dead are buried without people bringing them to hospital morgues. Diseases and extra deaths from a further destroyed public infrastructure can only be evaluated statistically, but Iraq is in chaos.

Now a study by medical researchers was published in The Lancet (which is apparently under a Pentagon hacker attack right now...) [UPDATE: Here is the link; and another to a free mirror]. They used a method earlier applied in Kosovo and elsewhere: after selecting 33 locations around Iraq, and clusters of 30 homes at each location, they sent out questioners with a medical background, to ask the families about deaths and births in the year-and-half before, and the year-and-half after the invasion - the difference in death rates is the invasions' death toll. Note that the questioners found much of the houses selected in Fallujah in ruins, with only neighbours to ask, so in the end Fallujah was excluded.

I am not surprised at their end result of 100,000 or more Iraqi dead from the invasion (98,000 is the exact centerpoint of their without-Fallujah probability distribution). But I am surprised at the relative weights of causes. Most extra deaths were violent deaths, not diseases and other public health factors as I would have assumed - tough infant mortality doubled (to 57 per thousand from 29; compare: Russia 19.51, USA 6.75, UK 5.28, Germany 4.23, Afghanistan 142.5). 83% of violent deaths were attributed to invading armies, only a minority to common criminals, terrorists and insurgents. 95% of US/UK/CotW-caused deaths were from airstrikes and artillery, a staggering ratio, with all the stories we read about ground forces-inflicted deaths. Most victims were women and children.


The near-two-thirds support for the war among British Labour voters in recent polls is all the more sickening.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Who Is Your Candidate?

A post by tex at UnFairWitness directed me to this test on what US Presidential candidate's positions one would agree most. Here is my score:

1. Your ideal theoretical candidate. (100%)
2. Cobb, David - Green Party (95%)
3. Nader, Ralph - Independent (95%)
4. Sharpton, Reverend Al - Democrat (83%)
5. Dean, Gov. Howard, VT - Democrat (82%)
6. Kucinich, Rep. Dennis, OH - Democrat (81%)
7. Brown, Walt - Socialist Party (79%)
8. Clark, Retired General Wesley K., AR - Democrat (79%)
9. Moseley-Braun, Former Senator Carol, IL - Democrat (77%)
10. Kerry, Senator John, MA - Democrat (71%)
11. Edwards, Senator John, NC - Democrat (69%)
12. Gephardt, Rep. Dick, MO - Democrat (63%)
13. Lieberman, Senator Joe, CT - Democrat (48%)
14. LaRouche, Lyndon H. Jr. - Democrat (47%)
15. Badnarik, Michael - Libertarian (25%)
16. Peroutka, Michael - Constitution Party (17%)
17. Hagelin, Dr. John - Natural Law (16%)
18. Bush, President George W. - Republican (12%)

This line-up pretty much how I would have put it, except for Al Sharpton and the relative level of the scores.

Fallujah Death Toll

The Iraq Body Count webpage published its analysis of the death toll of the April 2004 assault on the city by the Marines (scroll down to PR9). The result:

Today the Iraq Body Count (IBC) website has published its analysis of the civilian dealth toll in the April 2004 siege of Falluja. This analysis leads to the conclusion that between 572 and 616 of the approximately 800 reported deaths were of civilians less than 308 of those killed were women and children.

They also created a separate archive of Fallujah victims.

(I earlier collected the links to some near-final casualty totals, which were forgotten by a media that repeated the number 600, omitting to mention that 600 was just the 12 April total.)

European Parliament Victory

So they managed to stop Barroso yesterday. (EU Commission President-select and ex-PM of Portugal Barroso withdrew his proposal for members and tasks of the new Commission from the vote at the EP, certain of defeat.)

I hope this victory will be more lasting than that of opponents of the Iraq war at the UN SC last year - i.e., the governing heads in the European Council won't find a way to circumvent the EP, nor will Barroso and Bliar be successful in buying enough support for Barroso among our ideologically spineless representatives from new member states. (I wrote more on the background of the Barroso issue earlier.)

Berlusconi, of course, for now insists on Buttinglione, the European version of John Ashcroft. Laudably, the major pro-government Hungarian daily did report that the ruling opinion among fellow EP Socialists is that our unfit-for-the-job Energy commissioner-select, ex-foreign-minister László Kovács should get a different post.

On another issue that went under among the headlines, Schröder got Chirac to publicly declare that France will vote for starting membership negotiations with Turkey - and Chirac sought to underline the seriousness of his new position by declaring that he hopes the process will lead (in 10 to 15 years) to actual membership.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Fascism And Bushism

One instance of the current Republican attempts at election fraud by voter disenfranchisement give me the opportunity to expound on this matter a little.

Many people even among Bush-haters discount comparisons between fascism and Bushism. I would in general distinguish two groups. One of those who, in reverse wishful thinking, just don't want to consider the possibility - be it because it is frightening, contradicts their view of the USA, or because they are generally tired of illicit comparisons to fascism in public discourse. The other is more reasonable, making arguments about devaluing the moral outrage of fascism - for example, that Guantanamo et al isn't anywhere near Auschwitz.

There is certainly much overdone hyperbole. But still I will take issue with the latter here. First I have a general consideration: more important than 'devaluing' the moral outrage of fascism is to learn from history - and by restricting the lesson of the developed world's experience with 20th Century fasicm[*] only to what can be characterised as a 100% re-emergence by whatever standard, we effectively give up learning from this history.

Then, of course, there is the German saying that is surprisingly sparsely known and used outside Germany: wehet den Anfängen, that is, 'fear the beginnings'. You should not wait for fascism to show itself full-blown to fight it, fascism must be stopped before it takes over - and this kind of pre-emption is worthwile even if you err in thinking that the attacked social-political misdevelopment would have led to full-blown fascism.

On a more specific note: just what constitutes full-blown fascism? When I ask people who object to Bushism-fascism comparisons, it is usually clear that their image of fascism is death camps, invasion of the Soviet Union, burning cities.

However, these horrors are constrained to the last four years of one fascism, German Nazism. But Nazism was in power for a decade before that, Italian fascism two decades, and Spanish and Portuguese fascism was in effect in power for decades to follow.

Thus, in a way, those who decry the devaluing of the moral outrage of fascism devalue it themselves: fascism as it was for most of the time in most places, and as it was known to and hated by contemporaries for long years, is implicitely deemed not horrific enough in itself - not to mention foreshadowning worse things to come.

I personally do think that what we are facing in the USA, also because of the alternative on offer, is another crisis of the core values of the developed world. Some gloating Chinese leaders already declared the failure of the model of Western democracy. (I am definitely more sceptical than some Kerry sceptics who think Bush is actually the lesser evil, arguing from Bush's hypocrisy that he would probably pull out of Iraq soon and direct rhetorical horses elsewhere. These last believers in Bush's rationality should read this piece of spoof history, a journo in an alternative universe hypothetising about what if Bush had been president instead of Gore. Even in case Kerry will make things worse in Iraq than Bush, a still greater danger I see in what comes after Kerry.) And it does remind me of Germany, in the first half of the thirties, not later.

The latest parallel in a long line I observed is in the Ohio voter disenfranchisement the Republicans planned. The idea is to prohibit voters from casting provisional ballots in neighbouring precints (even tough a judge repeatedly ordered the Ohio version of Katherine
Harris, J. Kenneth Blackwell, to lift that rule), then show confusion with robo-phones to get voters into the wrong precints, who will be awaited by Republican 'volunteers' looking out for them, or indeed looking out for any Democrat-looking voter to test and intimidate. E.g., as the NYT laudably thematises (via Steve Gilliard):

In the name of fraud prevention, the Republicans plan to use 3,600 challengers in Ohio, a pivotal state where the race is dead even and there has been a big surge in first-time registrations for Democratic voters. There is no telling how many partisan challengers there will be nationwide next week because many states do not require them to be identified in advance. If challengers behave properly, they can help make elections better. But partisan challengers acting in bad faith can do considerable damage. Aggressive challengers have been known to bully poll workers, many of whom are elderly and have only limited knowledge of election law.

'Defending' the Elections, November 1933

[*] Fascism was a crisis of Western values, thinking, culture and civilisation, not unprecedented levels of horror and barbarity. Those at the receiving end of colonial rule, pre-modern Western and non-Western conquests and violent country reforms faced horrors of similar or higher magnitude (relative to the total population). It is the implosion of humanist moral ideas and our self-image of benign enlightement, at the very centre of our civilisation, and its source within this civilisation - worse: in no small part within the progressive streams of this civilisation - what makes it special to us.

The Colonial Precedent

Mark Curtis in The Guardian contrasts present British practices and rhetoric in Iraq with that of late colonial Britain in Kenya, Malaysia and - yes - Vietnam.

Theocracies In The East And West

I was itching to find a fitting context to link to Salam Pax's seven-part account in The Guardian, of his stay in Washington, DC. Now here is a quote from Salam:

And that is another thing that seemed to be incomprehensible to one of my new Washington friends: when we were talking about the popularity of the clerical militia chief Moqtada al-Sadr I was asked how anyone could be fooled by someone who so obviously used religion to boost his own popularity and went for the lowest common denominator for popular appeal? I was saved by another guest who asked if we were talking about Bush or Sadr here.

...and from a different angle, here is Naomi Klein's acidic remark, towards the end of her long account of the failed neocon attempt to turn Iraq into a free-market paradise (see previous post):

Iraq was to the neocons what Afghanistan was to the Taliban: the one place on Earth where they could force everyone to live by the most literal, unyielding interpretation of their sacred texts.

No Plan For Post-War Reconstruction!?!?!?

Ah, I am reminded, another of those nice spins virtually uncontested in the media, and even mainstream leftist blogs: that the Bush Administration had no plan for post-war reconstruction.

It did have one. Just not the one the State Department had.

One that failed miserably, and predictably.

One that the political and economic elites won't talk about (hell, won't even admit to themselves), as it is a real-life demonstration of the idiocy of the currently all-pervasive neoliberal socio-economic philosophy (or should I call it cult).

The Bush Admin plan was to turn Iraq into a free-enterprise paradise, a reconstruction by a boom of private investment.

Who reminded me was Naomi Klein, who wrote a long article in Harper's Magazine.

The teams of KPMG accountants, investment bankers, think-tank lifers, and Young Republicans that populate the Green Zone have much in common with the IMF missions that rearrange the economies of developing countries from the presidential suites of Sheraton hotels the world over. Except for one rather significant difference: in Iraq they were not negotiating with the government to accept their “structural adjustments” in exchange for a loan; they were the government.

As implied above, the issue has not just Iraq or US, but a global relevance, I recommend everyone to read it in full. One fitting quote here:

The CPA pays up to $1,000 per imported blast wall; local manufacturers say they could make them for $100. Minister Tofiq says there is a simple reason why the Americans refuse to help get Iraq’s cement factories running again: among those making the decisions, “no one believes in the public sector.”

That is also true for a lot of free-market reformers here in Central-Eastern Europe, as well as in Western Europe.

Fallujah & The West

When I blasted the media in one of my first posts, I brought up Fallujah as example:

Or more recently, had they asked some (real, not AEI) Iraq expert or read up in some book, or just re-read newspaper reports from the area from April 2003, the now solid myth of Fallujah as the city especially loyal to Saddam wouldn't be there. (Instead, the token reminder at the end of articles would include references on one hand to Fallujah the filthy city, the city of hundred minarets and base of Salafism persecuted by Saddam; on the other hand to the 1991 US bomb on the marketplace and its 150 casualties, still sympathy for the US upon its arrival in 2003, the harrassments in April, the two protests shot up and followed up by changing lies, the many civilian casualties in the following anti-insurgency operations, the officially indiscriminate killing in 'Operation Iron Hammer', the ceasement of activity upon the 82nd Airborne's withdrawal from Fallujah in February and the disastrous Marine demonstration of force before the mercenary slayings.)

Recently, Whatever It Is, I'm Against It also wrote about media amnesia regarding Fallujah, later returning with a recent example and giving his own recap-links, and returned to the issue after I emailed him/her about events preceding the two shootings at protesters - adding his apparent own research to the scant info I gave on the 1991 event, which I recalled from memory.

I made my own Googling in the meantime, here are the results:

It happened on 14 February 1991, 3pm local time, just 12 hours after the USAF bunker-busted the Ameriya bomb shelter with 400 dead (lying about it for the next couple of days and roasting Peter Arnett of CNN for correct reporting). Tough I found several pages claiming so, the Fallujah marketplace boming was not by a USAF plane - on this I trust people more who visited the place in the nineties, Voices In the Wilderness UK. They write it was an RAF plane allegedly targeting a bridge, missing it and killing 137 civilians at a central marketplace. The claim that the target was a bridge and that it was missed is called into doubt by a different account, one that says the planes returned for a second strike, killing people who rushed in to rescue those trapped in the rubble of the first hit.

(UPDATE 28/09: WIIIAI finally found a quote in an 1992 Ramsey Clark book that tells of over 200 casualties in two separate strikes allegedly targeting but missing Fallujah bridges, the second hitting a housing complex [we see the marketplace and housing complex contracted into one in my link for the second account].)

Also, I mention here that similar victims of the second bombing of the bridge of Varvarin, Serbia that was already destroyed in the first flightover - a bridge that was unfit (too weak) for military vehicles and hence not a legitimate military target, and which was on a B list to unload bombs upon when no primary target could be found or approached - last year lost a compensation claim against NATO at a German court. The despicable cowardy decision was based on the arguments was that 1) the intervention was in accordance with the Geneva Conventions (heh - this one was based on nil evidence, that is NATO's own claims!...); 2) compensations can only be requested by and paid to states, not individuals; 3) Germany only participated with reconnaisance planes, so wasn't party to the crime (heh, heh).

Monday, October 25, 2004

Jon Stewart Is A Genius, Part II

From the CBS 60 Minutes quasi-transscript, Stewart gets critical on John Kerry:

"Kerry is - I think if he really, really focuses, he can defeat Nixon and I think have our troops out of Vietnam by '74," says Stewart. "He is what Kennedy has wrought, John Kennedy, not Ted Kennedy. Ted Kennedy has wrought a whole other thing that has to do with not wearing pants and running around Palm Beach."

"(Kerry is) Kennedy if you squint," adds Stewart. "You know, if you're not really paying that close attention. Sort of profiles in courage, profiles in might have been courage, profiles - you know what I'm saying?"

For the benefit of those who didn't get it, Nixon got the troops out by '73.

Funny that even the one charge of CNN Crossfire co-host Carlson Tucker, who made a complete idiot of himself by claiming Stewart is not funny while the Crossfire audience was rolling on the floor, that seemed to stick, evaporates.