Archive for February, 2007

February 23rd, 2007

Cheney in Australia hints at Attack on Iran

Posted in Mideast & Oil by ed

Cheney hints at Iran strike

by Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor, February 24, 2007

The Australian

– US Vice-President Dick Cheney has raised the possibility of military action to stop Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

– He has endorsed Republican senator John McCain’s proposition that the only thing worse than a military confrontation with Iran would be a nuclear-armed Iran.

In an exclusive interview with The Weekend Australian, Mr Cheney said: “I would guess that John McCain and I are pretty close to agreement.”

The visiting Vice-President said that he had no doubt Iran was striving to enrich uranium to the point where they could make nuclear weapons.

He accused Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of espousing an “apocalyptic philosophy” and making “threatening noises about Israel and the US and others”.

He also said Iran was a sponsor of terrorism, especially through Hezbollah. However, the US did not believe Iran possessed any nuclear weapons as yet.

“You get various estimates of where the point of no return is,” Mr Cheney said, identifying nuclear terrorism as the greatest threat to the world. “Is it when they possess weapons or does it come sooner, when they have mastered the technology but perhaps not yet produced fissile material for weapons?”

Mr Cheney also condemned Kevin Rudd’s plan to withdraw all Australian combat troops from Iraq. Although he did not mention the Opposition Leader by name, Mr Cheney said the withdrawal of Australian troops “would clearly be a disappointment from our standpoint”.

He encouraged further Australian involvement: “The more allies we have and the more committed they are to the effort, the quicker we can anticipate success.” Mr Cheney said the allied coalition could not afford to “anticipate failure” and said that the outcome in Iraq would affect not only US security: “We all have a stake in getting the right outcome in Iraq.”

The US, he said, would stay in Iraq until it “got the job done”.

“We deeply appreciate Australia, the Brits and others who have been there from the beginning and made a contribution and have been willing to get into the fight with us.”

Earlier, in an address in Sydney to the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue, Mr Cheney had emphasised the importance of the challenge of defeating Islamist terror, underlining the long-term nature of the struggle for the US and its allies. We have never had a fight like this, and it’s not a fight we can win using the strategies from other wars,” he said.

In his interview with The Weekend Australian, Mr Cheney said the US-Australian alliance was, based on his knowledge of the relationship, now closer than ever and that this was in part because of John Howard. However, he believed that new institutional closeness between the US and Australia, as evidenced in new intelligence-sharing arrangements and in the trilateral security dialogue among the US, Japan and Australia, would outlast individual politicians.

Mr Cheney paid tribute to the Australian military contribution in Iraq and Afghanistan. He singled out the elite SAS for particular praise.

Mr Cheney, who is regarded as the most hardline member of the Bush administration, was unrepentant about the Iraq operation.

“The world’s better off now that (Saddam Hussein) is dead and there’s a democratically elected Government in his place in Baghdad,” he said. “The Iraqi people are well on the road to establishing a viable democracy.

“In the long term when we look back on this period of time that will be a remarkable achievement. We’re not there yet. We’ve still got a lot to do.”

Mr Cheney saw Mr Rudd yesterday afternoon and will spend today with Mr Howard.

February 16th, 2007

Noisy Neighbors Get What’s Coming to Them

Posted in Death by ed

Couple who murdered neighbours shock Italy

· Three women and boy, 2, die in noise dispute
· Slaughter ‘had been planned for months’

Tom Kington in Rome
Saturday January 13, 2007
The Guardian

Italians were aghast yesterday when it emerged that a grisly murder that has gripped the country was perpetrated by an unremarkable middle-aged couple, who confessed to slaughtering four neighbours over a noise dispute.

Olindo Romano and his wife Rosa Bazzi seemed to share the sense of national shock when they were interviewed on TV before Christmas about the murder of their upstairs neighbours.

They echoed the suspicion of many Italians that their neighbour, Raffaella Castagna, 30, her two-year-old son, her mother, and a third woman had their throats cut on December 11 by Castagna’s drug-dealing Tunisian husband.

But now, in a twist that has gripped Italy and monopolised front pages, the couple have confessed to the crime after blood traces were found in their car, telling magistrates that they were angry about the noise made by Castagna and husband, Azouz Marzouk.

“We just could not stand them anymore,” Bazzi, a petite housemaid obsessed with cleanliness, told investigators as she confessed to killing the two-year-old with a knife. “He was always screaming, my head was exploding,” she said, according to media reports.

In a well-prepared murder, apparently planned over months by Bazzi, the pair rang Castagna’s doorbell at 8pm, wearing gloves and armed with knives. Castagna was stabbed in the face by Romano, 43, as she opened the door. In all, she was stabbed 12 times.

Romano then stabbed Castagna’s mother, Paola Galli, while Bazzi moved to silence two-year-old Youssef. In her full and detailed confession she told investigators that she cut the boy’s throat.

The couple’s well-laid plans then went awry. As they set fire to the apartment to destroy the evidence a neighbour, Valeria Cherubini, arrived in the hall outside the front door, where she was also stabbed to death.

Coming to her aid, Cherubini’s husband, Mario Frigerio, was stabbed and left for dead, but survived and was able to describe some of the mayhem to police.

But the key evidence that trapped the couple was the trace of Mr Frigerio’s blood, left in Romano’s car as he and his wife drove rapidly from the scene of the crime to a nearby McDonald’s, to get a receipt they hoped would provide an alibi.

According to investigators who had bugged their home after the murders, Romano and Bazzi were heard to say to each other: “See how peaceful it is now? We can finally sleep well.”

Prosecutors in the nearby town of Como said that they would seek to try the couple for premeditated murder, while the couple’s lawyer said a psychiatric examination would be carried out.

Bazzi, 43, was unable to have children, which Italian media have suggested as a possible cause of her anger with the sound of the child’s crying.

Earlier this week, before their arrest, Bazzi and Romano were seen on TV shooing reporters away when suspicions mounted against them, insisting they “had nothing to do with it”.

Italian politicians and newspapers initially suspected Castagna’s husband after it was discovered that he had just been released from prison for drug dealing. The nature of the murders also led to theories of a drug-related vendetta.

A media uproar about lax immigration and crime subsided when Mr Marzouk was found to be in Tunisia on December 11. Yesterday he demanded a public apology from politicians belonging to the rightwing Northern League and National Alliance parties.

“They called me a monster on the front pages, and now no one is prepared to apologise,” he said, adding that he did not share the forgiveness expressed by Castagna’s father, Carlo. “He did not see the state of the bodies,” he said.

Romano and Bazzi are now being held in isolation in Como jail after other prisoners threatened to kill them.

Castagna and Youssef are due to buried in Tunisia today.

February 15th, 2007

Playboy Drill Sgt axed by Air Force

Posted in These United States by ed


Air Force Strips Playboy Poser of Stripes
By Elizabeth White, Associated Press Writer

SAN ANTONIO – An Air Force drill sergeant who posed nude for Playboy magazine has been removed from active duty, she and the Air Force said Wednesday.

Michelle Manhart, who appeared in a six-page spread in Playboy’s February issue, said she got word Friday that she was removed from “extended active duty” and was also told that she was demoted from staff sergeant to senior airman.

“I’m disappointed in our system,” Manhart told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “They went too far with it.”


Manhart, a 30-year-old mother of two, said the military’s action against her hinged on the fact that she was pictured wearing her uniform.drill3pp.JPG
She was photographed in uniform yelling and holding weapons under the headline “Tough Love.” The following pages showed her partially clothed wearing dog tags and fully nude. After the pictorial hit newsstands in January, Manhart was relieved of her duties pending an investigation.

The mother of two says she’s now looking forward to a career in entertainment or modeling.

February 13th, 2007

Google hit by Belgian court re freedom of info

Posted in These United States by ed

This is from a Minyanville wire:

The WSJ reports that a Belgian court has ruled against Google (GOOG) in a copyright infringement case, stating that the internet behemoth violated the country’s copyright laws when it published pieces and links from newspapers without permission.

Google has been ordered to remove the material and pay €25,000 ($32,500) per day the illegal content remains. The fines are retroactive, meaning GOOG must pay for every day the content has been up, ringing the bill up to a daily-increasing €3.45 million.

The case represents a movement towards copyright protection that may take a direct shot at Google’s attempts to make internet information free to all.

February 13th, 2007

Clean Break War = Israel & Sunnis vs Shia?

Posted in Mideast & Oil by ed

Here is a new piece in the (very good) Jewish Daily Forward re theme touched on in prior posts here — that the evolving regional war in the mideast may find Israel allied with Sunni neighbors against Shia forces, and that the sudden Israeli interest in peace with the Palestinians is related.

Could Israel Make Common Cause With Sunni Arabs?
The Strategic Interest

| Fri. Feb 09, 2007

It is now generally understood among Middle East experts that last summer’s war in Lebanon created a kind of paradigm shift in Israel’s interaction with the region. The threat posed to Israel by Iran, its proxy Hezbollah and its ally Syria was also recognized as a threat by the Sunni Arab heartland.

The Sunni-Shi’ite struggles in Lebanon and Iraq were understood in both their historic Persian-Arab contexts and their internal Islamic ones. Israel and the major Sunni Arab states — Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf emirates — now appeared to share an enemy.

But could they actually make common cause? The Arabs made their condition clear: Israel had to make peace with its neighbors, beginning with the Palestinians, in order to confront Iran side by side with the Sunnis. And for that to happen, everybody suddenly remembered, the Arab League had established a strategic framework back in March 2002, the Saudi plan for comprehensive Arab-Israel peace.

SEE LINK above for rest of story.

February 10th, 2007

Likudist cultural assault ongoing

Posted in These United States by ed

Came in passing across a recent book that seems another blow — comic but telling — in the relentless, wide-ranging assault on American consciousness by right-wing Israeli interests:

“The Arrogance of the French — Why They Can’t Stand Us, and Why the Feeling Is Mutual. By Richard Z. Chesnoff. Arrogance, snottiness, backstabbing, and disdain. To paraphrase de Gaulle, what else would you expect with 246 varieties of cheese? Chesnoff reveals why French culture is in decline, why their economy is in dire straits, and their financial ties to Saddam Hussein. Shopworn. 187 pages.”

The Likud lobbyists in D.C. generally hate Europe and aim to weaken U.S. ties to same — both these feelings and this aim are everywhere in their writing. And France — where the Vichy state collaborated broadly with the Nazis — seems their favorite target.

But anyone who has spent more than a weekend in France realizes it’s probably the best society on the planet. And of course Saddam Hussein’s big banker was the United States, not France.

Who published this silly pollution?  Penguin USA, through its Sentinel imprint. From their site:

“Sentinel was established in 2003 as a dedicated conservative imprint within Penguin Group (USA) Inc. It has a mandate to publish a wide variety of right-of-center books on subjects like politics, history, public policy, culture, religion and international relations. The name Sentinel symbolizes a tough-minded defense of America’s fundamental values and national interests. Sentinel’s first books were published in the summer of 2004, and the imprint now publishes approximately 10 hardcovers per year, as well as trade paperbacks. Some of Sentinel’s early success stories include:

  • A Matter of Character by Ronald Kessler (New York Times bestseller)
  • A Patriot’s History of The United States by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen
  • The Truth About Hillary by Edward Klein (New York Times bestseller)
  • Do-Gooders by Mona Charen (New York Times bestseller)
  • The War on Christmas by John Gibson
  • The U.N. Exposed by Eric Shawn

Upcoming Sentinel highlights include:

  • Now They Call Me Infidel by Nonie Darwish
  • Leaving the Left by Keith Thompson
  • One Nation, One Standard by Herman Badillo
  • Exposing the Real Che Guevara by Humberto Fontova
  • Legal Weasels by Wendy Murphy
  • Reagan & Thatcher by Nicholas Wapshott”
February 8th, 2007

Impeachment perhaps, as a practical matter

Perhaps impeachment proceedings, against both Cheney and Bush, are the only practical way to hamper their warmongering.

Harper’s Mag led the charge on this last spring. Ramsay Clark has elaborated articles.

February 7th, 2007

Attacking Iran question now mainstream

Posted in Mideast & Oil by ed

I gave up posting things about the possibility of attacks on Iran by the U.S. and/or Israel because after Bush’s speech of Jan 10 the worry came into the mainstream press.

The American sabre-rattling has gotten stronger in past weeks. And Saudi Arabia — since Cheney’s quasi-secret quick visit to the King in December — has come forward to lead regional animus against Iran. Nothing but sabre-rattling? to douse the Baker-Gates momentum of November and December (which was pissing all over the Bush policy in Iraq)? Or preparation indeed for the full-blown Clean Break war?

Last weeks also saw continuing if moderated spat between the Saudi ambassador in D.C. and the Saudi oil minister as to how much a barrel of oil should cost. Naimi (the oil man) has been brought into line with the soft price talk but the spectacle of their disagreement there for a three or four weeks surely clues everyone into what’s really going on.  (Saudis talking oil down in support of impending war effort.)
The other Saudi initiatives/public addresses the past two weeks do support, it seems to me, the notion that what was cracked open in Mesopotamia when we invaded in 2003 was an all-out sunni-shia war, with Israel with the sunnis. It’s rare for Saudi Arabia to speak of such things. They are now loudly proclaiming their concern.

Speculation that the sudden concern in December to be nice to Palestinians in Israel had something to do with getting ducks in line for the larger war have now been voiced by many commentators. Appearances easy enough to paper there.

But Hezbollah in Lebanon seems nothing like under control (from Israel-US-Saudi pov). And what Syria would do, if the attack on Iran happens … The ducks are not in line yet.

And although oil is back over $60 a barrel this morning, there has been no sign of panic buying there; rather, it seems to have been a gentle rising within now-established trading range, supported by the arrival of something like winter in north america; traders seem to expect it to cycle back down toward 52 or so. Thus no forecasting there, it would seem, of imminent attack on Iran.

But, from this armchair, the best guess is yes, Israel or the US or both will strike Iran before October.

February 7th, 2007

Guardian joins chorus contra 9/11 truth nuts

A while back The Nation broke its silence with Roots of Paranoia, dismissing with  a conceptually empty paternal piece people who find the official story of 9/11 unbelievable. Yesterday The Guardian (a bit below) contributed its guffaw. The substance and rhetoric in these things are so weak, one wonders why they bother. Pressure to say something, I suppose. Pressure from above or below?

A 9/11 conspiracy virus is sweeping the world, but it has no basis in fact

George Monbiot
Tuesday February 6, 2007
The Guardian

There is a virus sweeping the world. It infects opponents of the Bush government, sucks their brains out through their eyes and turns them into gibbering idiots. First cultivated in a laboratory in the US, the strain reached these shores a few months ago. In the past fortnight, it has become an epidemic. Scarcely a day now passes without someone possessed by this sickness, eyes rolling, lips flecked with foam, trying to infect me.

The disease is called Loose Change. It is a film made by three young men that airs most of the standard conspiracy theories about the attacks of September 11 2001. Unlike the other 9/11 conspiracy films, Loose Change is sharp and swift, with a thumping soundtrack, slick graphics and a calm and authoritative voiceover. Its makers claim that it has now been watched by 100 million people.

February 3rd, 2007

The French way with words

Posted in Arts & Private Life by ed

My Larousse dictionary reports that “negre” can mean “negro” — but also “ghostwriter.” Or “stooge (said of a writer).”

I am also instructed that “Deuxieme Bureau” (Second Bureau) — the name of the wing of French army intelligence responsible for grasping the enemy’s capabilities — is used quaintly in francophonic Africa to refer to a wife arranging for a concubine to satisfy her husband. The Second Bedroom, as it were.

Martial, marital …