Friday, May 13, 2005

Spin, Spin, Spin

Two weeks ago, the memo of a July 2002 British government meeting was leaked. The news was that for the first time, we saw it explicitely laid out that diplomacy was not just not an option, but was meant to be used to create a casus belli for an already decided-upon war. (I wrote about it.)

However, for leftist Americans, it became a "smoking gun memo" for something else, a line leaked months ago already: MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove reporting that intelligence is "fixed around the policy" in the USA.

Now after much delay, as f.e. Left I notes, the US mainstream press started to cover the story.

Apparently, finding the right spin took time. Here is the LA Times's subtitle:

Critics of Bush call them proof that he and Blair never saw diplomacy as an option with Hussein.

Huh. Heh. Hah. No, critics call them proof that Bush and Bliar never wanted to allow diplomacy as an option. War of choice, not war of misunderstood necessity. The mainstream press is such a coward.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Mexico Overtakes The US

The sixty-year successful campaign of the car, highway-building and airline industries against public transport in the USA, so far, also succeeded in stopping every high-speed rail project. IIRC Bush's election as governor killed the Texas Triangle, his younger brother in Florida succeeded to castrate the high-speed project written into the Florida constitution; and Arnold Schwarzenegger recently made noises about tossing California's well-advanced plans.

Meanwhile, even under the leadership of a Big Business President (Vincente Fox), Mexico has kicked off a high-speed project - nearing the tendering stage (via US pro-rail e-zine Destination:Freedom):

In a move to jump-start high-speed rail in Mexico, the country’s Ministry of Communications and Transport (SCT) has appointed SYSTRA to help draw up tender agreement terms for a turnkey project connecting Mexico City and Guadalajara, according to Railway Age.

Slated to run at speeds of 186 mph, the rail operation will cut travel time to two hours and serve some 28 million passengers. It also will link up with the cities of Queretaro and Irapuato. According to SYSTRA, the tender is scheduled for launch by mid-year.

In the project’s second phase, SYSTRA will help SCT draw up the contacts and deed of concession, which will be awarded to a firm responsible for the design, construction, and operation of a double-track line. Two Mexican companies are supporting SYSTRA in its work – one for legal aspects and the other for technical assistance.

The Mexican federal government reportedly has been in the developmental stages of high-speed rail since 2002.

(Needless to say, I'd prefer at least operation to be run by a public organisation rather than a private company.)

Shiite Theocracy

There is a Western press consensus that Sistani is a 'moderate', who doesn't want to control the state like Khomeini.

I have argued earlier against this, to recap: the difference between what Sistani wants and what Khomeini wanted is mainly in official titles, not the power they can exert. Khomeini had a Guardian Council to strike down laws, and had the top ayatollah as quasi-head-of-state with control over some government organisations. In contrast, Sistani wants to rely on a permanent Shiite majority in parliament, where Shiite MPs would be constitutionally required to respect clerical rulings - a more indirect but just as sure control over lawmaking. And contrary to presumptions, Sistani won't keep himself out of daily politics either - tough it must be said, this time it seems a wise move, unlike his manoveuring during the assaults on Fallujah - (via Juan Cole):

Al-Zaman/ AFP: Sistani recently pressed the new Interior Minister, Baqir Jabr, to investigate the murder of 6 members of the powerful Sunni Dulaim tribe in the Kisra district of Baghdad.

Shiite Discontent Growing

In-between the news of the continued bloody mayhem, the power struggle and the general chaos in Iraq, some news come along that allow us a deeper insight into what's brewing. I think the most important news of May so far is this (via Juan Cole):

Al-Zaman/AFP/DPA: Shiite followers of Sistani in Karbala demonstrated on Monday, demanding that Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari distribute to the people their flour rations (the rations had been established under the oil for food program of the United Nations). They complained that this key foodstuff had not reached them for four months. They also demanded an end to corruption and bribe-taking by the police. They further insisted that a timetable be set for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.
So now, first, even pro-Sistani people can't be kept back from demanding action on basic needs. This discontent is bound to grow, as Jaafari is unlikely to be able to fulfil their demands: if anything, the US control of ministries through the Bremer-imposed 'advisors' and through the control of the money sources will prevent that.

Second, the US-approved police are deeply unpopular just where they were supposed to beleast rejected. Unfortunately, the way this will most likely be 'corrected' is the takeover of the police by the Badr Corps in some form.

Third, even while they have such pressing needs for motivation as a four-months lack of food supplies, the rejection of US occupation is still a central issue for these pro-Sistani people.