Friday, January 21, 2005

Two perspectives on hunger in America:

Mark Kleiman writes that "undernutrition due to poverty is no longer a serious problem in advanced societies", and that the nutritional problem faced by the poor in America these days is more that they eat bad food (and sometimes too much of it).

Gary Farber asks for Paypal contributions so that he'll have something to eat between now and next week besides the ramen and cans of soup in his otherwise bare cupboard.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The United Nations, and Kofi Annan personally, have been widely criticized for allowing corrupt exploitation of the Iraqi Oil for Food program.

Of course, some things are best done in the private sector, rather than through quasi-public bureaucracies like the U.N. There were private-sector enablers of corrupt exploitation of the Iraqi Oil for Food program. Dick Cheney and Halliburton, for example.

via Sisyphus Shrugged

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Seymour Hersh is back. And the scariest thing to me about his new article isn't that Rumsfeld is setting up his own covert action crew in the Pentagon, to evade the limits that got put on the CIA after its own misadventures. Or that he thinks he can also evade Congressional oversight for it. Or that they are already conducting covert operations against Iran's nuclear program, potentially blowing up European anti-proliferation negotiations, acting on an apparently faith-based assessment that the negotiations are preordained to fail. Or that the goals of Rumsefeld and co. don't seem to be limited to Iran's nuclear program; a well-connected consultant tells Hersh that they "want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible."

The scariest part isn't even that they have a nod-and-wink deal with the Pakistanis to allow that nuclear program to go full blast, and to keep its high officials away from international arms enforcers. (As if we had a guarantee that the Pakistani government, once friendlier to the Taliban than us, was now guaranteed to remain permanently in our corner).

No, the scariest thing is why they seem to think that they can just go into Iran and smash things up:

The government consultant told me that the hawks in the Pentagon, in private discussions, have been urging a limited attack on Iran because they believe it could lead to a toppling of the religious leadership. “Within the soul of Iran there is a struggle between secular nationalists and reformers, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the fundamentalist Islamic movement," the consultant told me. “The minute the aura of invincibility which the mullahs enjoy is shattered, and with it the ability to hoodwink the West, the Iranian regime will collapse”like the former Communist regimes in Romania, East Germany, and the Soviet Union. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz share that belief, he said.

Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz also shared the belief that a pliant Iraqi population would welcome their troops, and their privatization schemes, with open arms. They had studied the matter carefully, with Wolfowitz noting in Congressional testimony that there was no history of ethnic strife in Iraq, unlike in, say, Kosovo. (Well, except for the oppression of the majority Shiites by the Sunnis, and that whole Kurdish genocide thing -- neither of which rose to the notice of Wolfowitz). And so, he explained, we'd have a quick operation there, with most of the troops out in months, and a bill of well under $100 billion.

And we all know now how well that turned out. Besides, any reports of problems will surely be faced with the same steely-eyed resolve reportedly shown by Dubya himself:

According to Chas Freeman, former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia and head of the independent Middle East Policy Council, Mr Bush recently asked Mr Powell for his view on the progress of the war. “We're losing,” Mr Powell was quoted as saying. Mr Freeman said Mr Bush then asked the secretary of state to leave.

What could possibly go wrong?