Sunday, December 31, 2006

20-20 Vision, Hindsight; Part 2

And Medea Benjamin reveals a new side, candy-ass: she actually claims in public that progressives made some progress in 2006. Well, no, there actually was no lasting progress....

20-20 Vision, Hindsight

Juan Cole looks back and finds ten ways Our Leaders messed up in Iraq.

Freedom on the March -- in America -- Backward

If Our Leaders are so great at retreating from American freedom and liberty then what's so hard about retreating from Iraq? Just scream "P.U.!" and run like Hell.

But I digress.

We are no longer free to discuss possible policies, you know, before the fact.

Our Course, Proto-Fascists are Conservatives and Conservatives Cannot Deviate....


In unexpected dig against Jeff Greenfield, entire Bush war cabinet adopts Ahmadinejad look.

Link.

Thought for the Day

[Y]ou can still discern a liberal from a conservative by whether she perceives the protesters or all the President's men as a greater threat to democracy.
Link.

Well, yeah, it was the great fear of the anti-war demos in the 60s, the establishment's fear of loss of control -- more powerful than its fear of doing something wrong and disastrous.

Some but not All of the Issues on which Our Leaders are Dropping the Ball

Richard Clarke's piece here, how you say, scratches the surface. There is so much more Our Leaders' ineptitude. It's the Harding administration on crack and steroids.

Message for the Day

Link.

A Trbute to Pinochet

Once upon a time, the wingnuts was besotted by Pinochet's privatization of Chile's social security system. It was in fact a sadly typical example of how a rightist idea can be made to sound fantastic on paper.

But that wonderfulness rested on a pair rickety supports. First, the Chilean economy had been so depressed that accelerated growth was inevitable. And the system relied not just on growth but growth at, well, an unsustainable pace. (In the real world, I mean, not the right wingnuts' faith-based -- delusional -- world.) Second, the brilliant free market system forgot to include actual incentives to make people opt from the public plan to the private system.

Speaking of the private plans, they included what were essentially unconscionable management fees -- you know, in that right wing perverse free market where offering money managers a huge pool of money they wouldn't normally have access to isn't enough. Rather, they have to be assured of unconscionable profits in addition to the assured profits thay'd have anyway.

Only problem:

It failed.

Not that that teeny-weeny fact will affect Our Leaders' determination....

Official Portarit of the Leader of Homeland Security

Link.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Wounded in Iraq

You read stuff like this and it almost hurts to bitch about the war's wounded, what a waste, etc. Guys like this, regardless how stupid the whole fandango is, has to live with this.

Bryan Anderson: here and here.

Can You Afford Vista

Well, it's awfully expensive. And it's actually a multiple times more expensive than that.

Rhetorical Question for Iraq

Inquiring minds want to know: Are you better off now than under Saddam?

Friday, December 29, 2006

Our Leaders: Making Us Safer; Today's Example

Placing sky marshals in first class.
A U.S. Airways passenger was charged with assaulting and slapping a Federal Air Marshal in the first class cabin....
Link. (Emphasis added.)

DHS really thinks that's the best possible place to post them? Terrorists tend to fly first class? Idea is to blast them through a bottleneck as they head to the cabin? And ignore whatever's happened in the back??

Given the breath-taking lack of intelligence evidenced by Our Leaders in all policy matters that don't involve greed and venality, odds are overwhelming that I'm right and DHS is wrong.

Today's Art

Link.

Draw Your Own Conclusion

One of DC's more prominent Wise Old Men -- outside the Beltway, we call them fools that clot the airwaves and newspapers -- George Will:
Baghdad is the problem and while we debate what to do in Baghdad, the Shiites are changing the facts on the ground in Baghdad through incremental—not at all stealthy—rather rapid ethnic cleansing. So we may get a monochrome Baghdad out of this which would be ahhh, sad, but perhaps tranquilizing.
Link.

This, for the young'uns and those who forget their history, is essentially the Nazis' rationalization for the Final Solution. Good to see that old school rightwing nuts still subscribe to their Nazi love.

The Iraqi fandango was completely unjustified and shits like Will still don't or refuse to get it. It was completely unjustified, is not justifiable, and will never be justified.

Fair! Balanced! We report, you decide!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Headline of the Day, Followed by a Rhetorical Question

Bush Praises Ford as ‘Man of Complete Integrity’
Really, how would Our Leader know? What does he know about integrity? Or to be less snarky, does he really have a basis for knowing whether or not Ford was a man of integrity or just a party hack?

Big Media's Greatest Hits 2006

Stuff they really wanted you to know, crap someone was worth spreading....

Something to Think About

Of course, Ike spent eight years saying and doing nothing about this but he at least brought it to the attention of the masses at the end....
....While the former general, Eisenhower, was well aware of the military threat posed by the Soviet Union, he chose in his farewell presidential address to the nation to warn that the war profiteers had an agenda of their own, one that was inimical to the survival of American democracy:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

Ponder those words as you consider the predominant presence of former Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney in the councils of this White House, and how his old company has profiteered more than any other from the disaster that is Iraq. Despite having been found to have overcharged some $60 million to the U.S. military for fuel deliveries, the formerly bankrupt Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root continues to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in lucrative contracts.

There is more. Military spending has skyrocketed since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, returning to Cold War levels. A devastating report by the Center for Defense Information, founded by former top-ranking admirals and generals, reveals that in the most recent federal budget overall defense spending will rise to more than $550 billion. Compare that to the $20 billion that the United Nations and all of its agencies and funds spend each year on all of its programs to make this a safer and more livable world.

That U.S. military budget exceeds what the rest of the world’s nations combined spend on defense. Nor can it be justified as militarily necessary to counter terrorists, who used primitive $10 box cutters to commandeer civilian aircraft on 9/11. It only makes sense as a field of dreams for defense contractors and their allies in Washington who seized upon the 9/11 tragedy to invent a new Cold War. Imagine their panic at the end of the old one and their glee at this newfound opportunity.

Yes, some in those circles were also eager to exploit Iraq’s oil wealth, which does explain the abysmal indifference to the deteriorating situation in resource-poor Afghanistan, birthplace of the Sept. 11 plot, while our nation’s resources are squandered in occupying Iraq, which had nothing to do with it.

Yes, some, like Paul Wolfowitz, the genius who was the No. 2 in the U.S. Defense Department and has been rewarded for his leadership with appointment as head of the World Bank, did argue that Iraq’s oil revenue would pay for our imperial adventure. A recent study by Nobel Prize-wining economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard University’s Linda Bilmes marked that absurdity by estimating the true cost of the Iraq adventure to U.S taxpayers at a whopping $2.267 trillion, in excess of any cost borne by the Iraqis themselves.

The big prize here for Bush’s foreign policy is not the acquisition of natural resources or the enhancement of U.S. security, but rather the lining of the pockets of the defense contractors, the merchants of death who mine our treasury. But because the arms industry is coddled by political parties and the mass media, their antics go largely unnoticed. Our politicians and pundits argue endlessly about a couple of billion dollars that may be spent on improving education or ending poverty, but they casually waste that amount in a few days in Iraq.

As Eisenhower warned: “We should take nothing for granted, only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. ... We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.”
Link.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

So "The Greatest Generation" Comes Home from War and this is what They Promptly Do....



They declare "It's a Wonderful Life" communist propaganda.

Dunno the reasoning. In Bailey's nightmare, Potter is the nightmare of the uber-capitalist. In reality, Bailey is a balance to Potter for the benefit of the community. So the movie's not pro-Randian so, yeah, I guess it does make it commie propaganda. Unless the reason was excessive sappiness and sentimentality.

Wait, wait, here's the answer:
The FBI specifically detested the way Mr. Potter was portrayed:

The casting of Lionel Barrymore as a "scrooge-type" resulted in the loathsome Mr. Potter becoming the most hated person in the film. According to the official FBI report, "this was a common trick used by the communists."

"What's interesting in the FBI critique is that the Baileys were also bankers," said Noakes. " and what is really going on is a struggle between the big-city banker (Potter) and the small banker (the Baileys). Capra was clearly on side of small capitalism and the FBI was on the side of big capitalism.

The FBI misinterpreted this classic struggle as communist propaganda. I would argue that 'It's a Wonderful Life' is a poignant movie about the transition in the U.S. between small and big capitalism, with Jimmy Stewart personifying the last hope for a small town. It's a lot like the battle between Home Depot and the mom and pop hardware store." Source: Franklin and Marshall College and Delilah Boyd
The FBI memo is above, still censored after all these years; query who, albeit long-deceased, is being protected.

Anyway, 1947 was a weird year, first of a series....

Stuff You Should Know About

The Year's Most Underreported Stories

Siberia's permafrost is melting: Why is this an important story? Because Arctic permafrost, which in Siberia covers endless miles, contains massive amounts of methane. The melting soil releases the methane into the air, where it is now expected to massively and irrevocably accelerate global warming. It's a process that has already begun, but just. This massive climate bomb literally has the potential to end civilization. Its discovery should have not only been the year's top story, but an impetus for all humanity to unite in a common struggle for survival. Maybe in 2007. Or 2009, when someone who believes in science occupies the White House.

Massive Grass Roots Win on Net Neutrality: The telecommunications lobby, the most powerful in Washington, spent $200 million in the 109th Congress to ram through a communications "reform" bill that would have given giant providers preferential access to the Internet, fundamentally changing how media in the 21st Century will be used and crippling the Internet's remarkably democratic culture. The slam-dunk bill miraculously failed -- due to a massive grass roots lobbying campaign on an issue that got almost no corporate media coverage. Millions of American responded on an arcane issue publicized solely through New Media, marking as milestones not only the victory but how the victory was achieved. Activists need to claim more of their triumphs, and this was one of the biggest in memory.

It's hard to believe that the year's biggest story was also badly underreported, but most Americans really do have no idea how bad things have gotten in Iraq. The proper debate as of late December is not over whether to call what's happening a civil war, but whether to call it ethnic cleansing or genocide. The scale with which America's unprovoked, illegal invasion has ripped this country apart molecule by molecule is simply unimaginable to most Americans. And American media doesn't even try to report the big picture, focusing instead on the numbing drumbeat of daily death totals. The armed thugs and death squads now ruling Iraq are fully capable of driving America out of Iraq militarily in the next two years.

On the other hand, we might be driven out of Afghanistan very, very soon. As in Iraq, the puppet American-installed "government" is irrelevant and Washington has made endless boneheaded decisions that are adding up to the Taliban retaking the country, steadily, province by province, month by month. Unlike Iraq, few Americans realize we're also losing Afghanistan badly, and in some ways more quickly. If only Afghans had oil, they could at least make the news. Maybe.

There's other major crises afoot in the Middle East, too, and the U.S. has a hand in all of them: Israel's attacks on Palestine. Palestine itself now on the verge of civil war. Israel's attack on Lebanon. Lebanon itself now on the verge of civil war, too. The threat that Israel or the U.S. could attack Iran or Syria, or both. Saudi Arabia's threat to intervene on the side of the Sunnis in Iraq, while Iran supports the Shiites. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States announcing plans to develop their own nuclear weapon program to counter Iran. What a mess. One name links all these stories: George W. Bush.

India, Pakistan, and nukes: India and Pakistan have hated each other for nearly 60 years. That's why in the late '90s they both exploded nuclear devices, which is why the Clinton administration slapped sanctions (later lifted by Dubya) on both. So what happened in 2006? Bush signs a massive deal to expand India's nuclear program, and continues to reward both Pakistan's Musharraf dictatorship and the Pakistani intelligence elements that developed Pakistan's nuclear program (and shopped it to North Korea, Iran, and Libya, among others) -- while at the same time undercutting the Musharraf regime, especially in the country's northwest, a Taliban and Al-Qaeda stronghold. Confusing, sure, but the upshot is that in turn this has increased the chances that, with an Islamist coup, Pakistan's nukes would fall into the hands of America's enemies. A real lose-lose, except for America's enemies. And at ground zero, the people of Pakistan and India, innocents in the crossfire of a conflict where we've rewarded the nuclear armament of both sides.

Say, where is Osama bin Laden, anyway?

We know who lost Iraq and Afghanistan. But who lost Russia ? In 1949 conservatives were asking this about China after the Soviet-allied Mao seized power, but in 2006 Vladimir Putin took countless additional steps to move what in the 20th Century was America's biggest rival for global power back to being an authoritarian state. In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down, nonviolent revolutions swept communist tyrants from power from Russia throughout the Soviet bloc, and it was all supposed to be better. And conservatives claimed that Reagan and America were responsible for this triumph of democracy. Who, then, is responsible for its failure? And more importantly, what does this mean for what is still the world's largest country and a major holder of oil and gas reserves?

Similarly, since when did torture, suspension of habeas corpus, and domestic warrantless spying become America's status quo? Since 2006, that's when. Three terrifying, textbook examples of how, in short progression, the unthinkable becomes the hotly debated becomes The Way We Do Things. As we enter 2007, all the elements for a fully "constitutional" dictatorship have quietly fallen into place. All it now takes is someone smarter or more ruthless than George Bush to exploit them.

Much of the so-called "Global War on Terror" is all about power and profiteering: Neocons wanted an empire abroad and expanded state power at home, sure. But wherever the U.S. military has gone in the last five years, which pretty much resembles a map of Planet Earth, privatization and lucrative contracts for well-connected companies have followed. Much of the logic of this so-called war is economic and intended to benefit only a very, very select few. While the threat posed by terror is real (especially in the wake of post-9-11 American policy), there are other far larger threats to the country's national security. Global warming, for one.

America's massive budget and foreign trade deficits, for another. Media has done little to enlighten us on just how badly the Bush regime has bankrupted our country's treasury for generations to come, and left our economy in the hands of foreign creditors like China and Japan. As 2006 closes, the housing bubble has burst, the flow of U.S. jobs overseas now resembles whitewater rapids, and the value of the dollar against foreign currency is plummeting. This is just the beginning. Thank the "terrorists" in the White House.

Amazingly, given how much it came up during the midterm elections, Republican corruption wasn't covered well at all in 2006. Media never followed the Abramoff scandal through to the dozens of lawmakers who traded his money for their votes. More broadly, there were almost daily stories of executive and legislative branch sleaze that never made waves beyond the Beltway and legislators' home constituencies. But cumulatively, they formed a damning indictment of how Washington does business. And almost no outlets covered the story as leaders of both parties buried attempts at meaningful post-Abramoff congressional ethics reforms in early 2006.

As with most labor news, The National Labor Relation Board's ruling disqualifying up to eight million Americans from union membership got almost no play. But this was no ordinary labor news; it was, by the AFL-CIO's reckoning, the worst government decision on labor in nearly 60 years. It was ignored anyway.

Even as the gap between the well-connected rich and everyone else continued to widen in 2006, class went back to being a forbidden word in corporate American media. A year after Katrina ripped away the thin veneer hiding race and class issues in America, and with Katrina's victims still being victimized by government agencies and insurance companies, with middle class jobs evaporating, privatization and government corruption endemic, health care and education costs still skyrocketing, class mobility in America decreasing, and levels of homelessness and hunger continuing to increase, the media veneer was firmly back in place. In America's increasingly vicious class war, one reason the wealthy are winning is corporate media's insistence (all evidence to the contrary) that no such war exists.

On the brighter side of that equation, though, the stranglehold of Big Money on American politics is ending. The 2006 elections showed that activist and especially Internet campaign fundraising can go dollar-for-dollar against corporate-friendly candidates. The technology is now in place to make it far easier for many little donations o match a few big special interest ones. It's no substitute for public financing of campaigns -- which would allow some of that money to be invested in meeting real needs instead -- but it's still a powerful democratizing force. As we enter 2007, we need all of those we can get.
Link.

Of course, I disagree with the name "global war on terrorr". It's a "Total War against Terror".

Headline of the Day -- And for the Rest of the Year

U.S. Deaths in Iraq Exceed 9-11 Count
And this is what's been making us safer. Not domestic security (although of course a little aggressive investigation likely would have prevented 9/11), not global coert ops performed in cooperation with allies and others.

There is no legitimate reason or even excuse for this war. It is and always will be unjustifiable.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Ho, Ho, Ho! Two Cartoons for Our Leader for Xmas





Get the picture, Mr. President? Obviously, the briefings don't get through to you, maybe pictures will.

Holiday Greetings

Link.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Hall of Shamelessness

As I said just below, these people have no shame. Here's a 2000 litany of blame against the Clintonites with commentary about Our Leaders' successes fixing these problems:
The administration has run America’s defenses down over the decade through inadequate resources, promiscuous commitments, and the absence of a forward-looking military strategy. [As opposed to breaking the Army and Marine Corp, sending troops to war without adequate body armor and equipment, and only deciding to increase force levels five years into a global conflict.]

The arrogance, inconsistency, and unreliability of the administration’s diplomacy have undermined American alliances, alienated friends, and emboldened our adversaries. [My all-time favorite!]

World trade talks in Seattle that the current administration had sponsored collapsed in spectacular failure. [Doha anyone?] An initiative to establish free trade throughout the Americas has stalled because of this lack of Presidential leadership. [Ah, yes. Bush’s leadership on this issue really has made a difference — 6 years later and we’re not a step closer to a deal.]

The problems of Mexico have been ignored, as our indispensable neighbor to the south struggled with too little American help to deal with its formidable challenges. [Think the Mexicans feel they’ve gotten any help from Bush lately? After declaring the relationship with Mexico America’s most important on September 9, 2001, Bush has ignored our southern neighbors ever since.]

The tide of democracy in Latin America has begun to ebb with a sharp rise in corruption and narco-trafficking. [And since then, only America’s friends in Latin America have won elections… Not!]

With weak and wavering policies toward Russia, the administration has diverted its gaze from corruption at the top of the Russian government, the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians in Chechnya, and the export of dangerous Russian technologies to Iran and elsewhere. [The biggest mistake wasn’t seeing Putin’s soul…]

A generation of American efforts to slow proliferation of weapons of mass destruction has unraveled as first India and Pakistan set off their nuclear bombs, then Iraq defied the international community. Token air strikes against Iraq could not long mask the collapse of an inspection regime that had — until then — at least kept an ambitious, murderous tyrant from acquiring additional nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. [North Korea? Iran? Oh, and what do we do when inspectors in Iraq return?]
Link.

Thank God George W. Bush is president!

Answer: No


Question: Have these people any shame?

Condi speaks:
"There have been plenty of markers that show that this is a country that is worth the investment, because once it emerges as a country that is a stabilizing factor, you will have a very different kind of Middle East."

Link.

Thinks in Iraq will inevitably get better. But an investment that's been worth it? For a couple of tax-dodging oil companies, probably. For the world: never.

And a democracy that will change the Middle East? Likliest: Never. Remote possibility: A sort of encouragement of fiefdoms.

A Return to the Good Old Days

A surge in troops... wasn't that the plan in Vietnam?

Straight Talk -- Well, Symbolism -- from Rudy Giuliani



Link. Rudy symbolically tells us that he is willing to take any position, as the wind blows, as it were, that he has no principals except getting elected. One might be reminded of Our Leader except Rudy is being straight about it -- in a roundabout way.

Image of the Day


Link.

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Are Our Leaders really trying to spread democracy in the Middle East or just good old fascisim? Just asking....

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Zippy Strip for Our Leaders

Seems to say it all....



Link.

Our Leaders Have Special Love for Jews

Our Leaders so love the Jews and have such respective for the losses of the Holocaust that thay gave us this:
Ever since [Dennis Prager] wrote this totally innocent column suggesting that the only holy book that matters in the U.S. is the Bible, all the liberals just keep bashing him. And we feel bad for poor Prager, we really do. After all, he was misunderstood. When he said, to Congressman-elect Keith Ellison, that "America should not give a hoot what Keith Ellison's favorite book is. Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible," he wasn't being discriminatory, not really. Because, hey, Prager's Jewish, and he says he'd take the oath of office on the New Testament, because it's totally not at all about religion -- really, how could you think otherwise?

Members of Congress don't take the oath of office on a Bible anyway. But we digress.

They're being mean to Prager again, is what we really wanted to talk about. The president recently appointed Prager -- no doubt for his expansive views on the freedom of all religions to exist peacefully -- to the Holocaust Memorial Council, the board that oversees the U.S. Holocaust Museum. And now the council has condemned Prager, writing that what Prager said was "antithetical to the mission of the Museum as an institution promoting tolerance and respect for all peoples regardless of their race, religion or ethnicity."
Link. (Emphasis added.)

Truly, Our Leaders believe in the best and the brightest....

Friday, December 22, 2006

Another America-Hating GOP Exemplar

Virgil Goode is a Republican Congressman from Virginia. He might be the most anti-Semitic person ever elected to the United States Congress. Just look at what he has to say about Jewish-Americans:

"If American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Jews elected to office ... I fear that in the next century we will have many more Jews in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America."

How can we allow a member of Congress to be this out of control anti-Semitic? Is there any way he can be removed from office? Can we mobilize to take action? Will the media be calling for his resignation?

Oh wait, I screwed that up. He didn't say that about Jews. I put "Jews" in for every time he said "Muslims." My bad.Since that's a direct quote about Muslims instead, it's no problem. Then he obviously doesn't have to apologize. It's perfectly acceptable to discriminate against Muslim-Americans.
Link.

And from an open letter to this crime against humanity:
I am writing to you today to thank you for making all Virginia residents look like lip-doodling, drooling morons.

Your recent letter to supporters regarding the already bottom-feeding “controversy” regarding what bound stack of papers Rep.-Elect Keith Ellison of Minnesota will rest his palm upon when his photograph is taken as he pretends to be sworn in has managed somehow inexplicably to make more of this towering non-issue than has already been made of it, and you managed as well to prove yourself to be an ignoramus.
Of course, I can't criticize the idiots and cretins and all around general scum that keeps him in office since my district kept re-electing the vile Sue Kelly....

Word For th Day: Zugswang, Zugswang, Zugswang!!!!

zugswang (noun, from German): a position in chess where every possible move you can make results in a worse position.
Link.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Increase Your Word Power: Word of the Day

Surge -- surge to victory.
Folks talking about increasing U.S. troop levels should first consider some painful military statistics: to begin with, according to the Pentagon’s own figures, every front line soldier requires at least three other military types to back him up: engineers, electricians, medics, bookkeepers, etc. Which means that 20,000 more troops to Iraq works out to only about 5,000 additional American trainers or soldiers actually pulling the triggers.

There’s another jolting irony: while the conflicts in Iraq (and Afghanistan) have been a recruiting dream come true for radical jihadists, they’ve created an enlistment nightmare for the American military. Though the U.S.army claimed they had met manpower targets for 2006, they managed to do so only by offering 700 million dollars in retention bonuses; and spending $300 million more for their recruiting drive.

On top of that is the soaring cost to prepare each American soldier: $120,000 for training plus $25,000 for basic equipment. For that amount, the government could instead send each new troop to Harvard for three years.

But, despite the huge sums spent to fill the ranks, the Army has at the same time been obliged to lower its standards. According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, more than ten percent of the recruits last year required “moral waivers” for past drug use and criminal offenses—that came to 8,500 men and women, triple the figure of ten years ago.

The military was also obliged to accept more applicants scoring in the lowest third on the army’s aptitude test. if that wasn't enough, word was also passed to hapless drill instructors that just about everyone was to make it through basic. In May 2005, about 18% of Army recruits were selected out before completing initial training. These days, only about 6% get the boot. Magnifying the problem is the serious shortage of sergeants, who have always been vital for leading rank-and-file grunts.

All of this, at a time, when the U.S. troops are being dispatched to what has become an ever more bewildering conflict: attempting to combat local insurgents in an urban environment, at the same time as much of the country is engulfed in a sectarian civil war. In addition, though they lack any real knowledge of the peoples of Iraq, their cultures and language, U.S. troops are somehow supposed to train Iraqi soldiers or engage in grass roots projects intended to foster economic growth and democratic development. Yet, instead of learning about differences between Sunni and Shiites, or acquiring basic language skills, they are just learning to use weapons they should have been issued with months ago.

Incredibly, one of the key factors still limiting the ability of the army to increase its forces in Iraq— is that they don’t have the equipment. This despite the fact that over the past fifteen years, the Pentagon has spent more than 1.7 trillion dollars. Problem is, most of that huge sum went for multi billion dollar weapons systems—aircraft carriers and super sophisticated bombers—the kind of toys that fascinated Donald Rumsfeld, Washington lobbyists and defense contractors—but not the basic weapons and protection--—rifles, body armor and Humvees – the American soldier desperately needs to deal with the bloody guerrilla conflict they are confronting in Iraq and Afghanistan—and other countries down the road.
Link.

We must surge to victory because the only alternative is to lose.

And, personally, we owe the Iraqis. You know, like an eye for an eye: Destroy the country, rebuild the country.

Actually, maybe the best solution is to rebuild the armed forces to near-1991 levels then hope for a military coup. Some of our best allies used to be military juntas... maybe again. It'll be a tribute to Pinochet, the Republicans' lust object!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

John Dean has a Great, Wonderful Idea

Don't impeach W.; impeach the enablers....
The Constitution's Impeachment Clause applies to all "civil officers of the United States" - not to mention the president, vice president and federal judges. It is not clear who, precisely, is among those considered "civil officers," but the group certainly includes a president's cabinet and sub-cabinet, as well as the senior department officials and the White House staff (those who are issued commissions by the president and serve the President and Vice President).

Quite obviously, Bush and Cheney have not acted alone in committing "high crimes and misdemeanors." Take a hypothetical (and there are many): Strong arguments have been made that many members of the Bush Administration - not merely Bush and Cheney -- have engaged in war crimes. If war crimes are not "high crimes and misdemeanors," it is difficult to imagine what might be. Jordan Paust, a well-know expert on the laws of war and a professor at University of Houston Law Center, has written a number of scholarly essays that mince few words about the war crimes of Bush's subordinates. For example, many of their names are on the "torture memos."

Why impeach lower-level officials, rather than the "big enchilada," as Nixon used to say? There are multiple reasons.

Focusing On Bush Administration Officials

Lowering the aim of an impeachment effort to focus on those who have aided and abetted, or directly engaged in, the commission of high crimes and misdemeanors, would have all the positives, and none of the negatives, of going after Bush and Cheney. It would not be an effort to overturn the 2004 election, but rather to rid the government of those who have participated, along with Bush and Cheney, in abuses and misuses of power; indeed, many among them have actually encouraged Bush and Cheney to undertake the offensive activities.

Many of these men (and a few women) are young enough that it is very likely that they will return to other posts in future Republican Administrations, and based on their experience in the Bush/Cheney Administration, they can be expected to make the offensive conduct of this presidency the baseline for the next president they serve. Impeachment, however, would prevent that from happening.

It will be recalled that Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution states: "Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States." (Emphasis added.) After any civil officer has been impeached, under the rules of the Senate, it requires only a simple majority vote to add the disqualification from holding future office.

In addition, it is likely that the impeachment process of any official in a position below that of the president or vice president, would be treated the same as the impeachment of federal judges. The work is done in both the House and Senate by special subcommittees, so it does not consume the attention of the full bodies until the final votes.
Link.

Image of the Day



From somewhere at buzzflash.com.

It's a Lie that Our Leaders and Their Enablers Oppose Gay Marriage and Out-of-Wedlock Children

Mary Cheney.

Whose mother is in denial that her daughter is a known gay
. And, I would suppose, that she's in a gay marriage, and is pregnant by someone other than her husband.

You really, really have to love the hypocrisy... even by modern political standards low as they are....

You Have to Love Charlie Rangel

I mean, at the least, he's one of the most honest speaking, direct pols out there (I know, the pool is pretty $%#@ing small... tiny):
"....you have a President that’s in deep shit."

Our Next Leaders

Giuliani. McCain. Newt:
Gingrich cited last month's ejection of six Muslim scholars from a plane in Minneapolis for suspicious behavior, which included reports they prayed before the flight and had sat in the same seats as the Sept. 11 hijackers.

"Those six people should have been arrested and prosecuted for pretending to be terrorists," Gingrich said. "And the crew of the U.S. airplane should have been invited to the White House and congratulated for being correct in the protection of citizens."
Link.

One nightmare after another, one more unfit than the next. The Dems are at least mediocre; these guys are all scary crazy nuts.

Making the Homeland Safer

Maybe we are getting something out of our tax dollars to DHS.



Link.

Well, There's Gotta be Good News Our of Afghanistan? Our Leaders have to Succeed Somewhere

Afghanistan was considered a necessary war after 9/11 because, you know, Al-Qaida was there. Or near there. Or had been there. And it was a historically uncontrolled and uncontrolled area at the time under such control as there was by Islamofascists.

So how we doing?

Um, let's not
:
The Taliban owe some of their renewed strength to the fact that they can play on the fears of a generally conservative population who worry about corrupting foreign influences exemplified by the new brothels in Kabul. A hundred miles to the south of the capital, for instance, the Taliban have recently appeared in force in nearly half the districts of Ghazni province, which sits astride the key road between Kabul and the southern city of Kandahar. Around Kandahar this past summer fierce battles raged between the Taliban and NATO forces, who encountered much stiffer resistance than they anticipated. In September I embedded with soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division at a fire base on Afghanistan's eastern border with Pakistan. The Taliban launched rockets at the base on an almost daily basis, and foot patrols were regularly encountering Taliban forces. Three years earlier, when I was embedded in the same region with soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division, their main complaint was how little action they were seeing.

Between the rising Taliban insurgency, the epidemic of attacks by suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and spiraling criminal activity fueled by the drug trade, Afghanistan today looks something like Iraq in the summer of 2003, when the descent into violent conflict began. As a former senior Afghan Cabinet member told me in September, "If international forces leave, the Taliban will take over in one hour."

* * *

A key theme of Chayes's angry, very well-written book is her gradual disillusionment with President Karzai, who early in the narrative is portrayed as a possible savior of Afghanistan, "remarkably cultivated" and "uniquely devoid of brutality and arrogance." The villain of Chayes's story is the uncouth Gul Agha Shirzai, who became governor of Kandahar with US support in December 2001. Once in office Shirzai built his "personal power base" with no regard for anyone other than his own tribe, which received the choicest American contracts, and he would allegedly bump off perceived rivals on occasion. Yet much to Chayes's frustration, Karzai seemed unable or unwilling to rein in warlords like Shirzai. "Instead of protecting the people from the warlords, curbing them, or removing them from office, Karzai seemed to be waltzing with them." In January 2003 Chayes, who was close to the president's brother Qayum Karzai, hammered out a plan of action about how to rid Afghanistan of the warlords. Item one of Chayes's plan, which she submitted to President Karzai, was: "Begin with Gul Agha Shirzai." Nothing happened.

* * *

Where Kabul in Winter begins to take off is in Jones's devastating critique of American aid to Afghanistan, which is consumed all too often by foreigners, evident in the fleets of Land Rovers and Toyota Land Cruisers that choke Kabul's smog-filled streets. Jones wryly observes: "Afghanistan, we learned from TV, had been 'rebuilt' thanks to millions of dollars of international aid pouring into the country. Where was it?" In a conversation with an American education expert Jones receives a depressing answer to that question. The expert explains that 80 to 90 percent of American aid goes to US contractors to cover overhead for back offices in the States as well as housing and office space in Kabul, and perks such as drivers, R and R, imported food, furniture and alcohol.

* * *

The United States' experience in both countries calls to mind Kant's observation: "Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made." Perhaps in coming years we will learn a little humility and patience about the efficacy of the wholesale export of Western democratic values and institutions into countries with very different social mores and political structures. Those Western exports have now beached on the shoals of reality from the Tigris to the Kabul River.

I Miss the Point

We destabilize and de-weapon a country, invade it for no good reason (no reason but for, maybe Our Leader's personal animus but definitely to loot), destabilize it much more, have no clue what we're doing there (actually, it's Our Leaders who have no clue), and people on the left actually think the correct thing to do is bug out.

Here's the example of the moment.

Last intelligent thing Colin Powell said was we break it, we fix it. The goal, at least, is that simple.

Sunday Funnies


Doonesbury usually is at least making a dead-on point when it isn't funny i.e. it has socially redeeming value generally when it fails to meet its primary target, making one yuck.

Then there's today's (17 December) strip, which does both.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

We are Ever Safer with the Current Regime than we Would Ever be with Spineless Liberal Democrats

Of course, people leaving the U.S. by land isn't the greatest threat to this nations' security but this shows how concerned Our Leaders are when it comes to actually, you know, acting.

You'd almost think this is a joke....
The Bush administration on Friday defended its decision to postpone a plan to track foreign visitors as they leave the country by land. * *

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said he still intends to implement the tracking program, but the department currently does not have a viable system to track people crossing into Canada and Mexico by land.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who will chair the Judiciary subcommittee on terrorism and homeland security, said in a statement that she was dismayed by the department's decision.

''This failure, which follows on delay after delay since 1996, essentially means that there will be no exit-monitoring system at the nation's 50 busiest land border crossings,'' Feinstein said.

At a midday news conference, Chertoff said the department's ''priorities have been tailored to the highest risk.''

''The highest priority is to keep terrorists out of the country,'' he said. ''If we keep them out in the first place we don't have to worry about them staying over.''

Chertoff's comment followed a report by congressional investigators that said another five to 10 years will be needed to develop technology record and track travelers leaving the United States by land without major disruptions at border crossings.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, in an interview with The Associated Press, expressed surprise at the development, and said that the program's former head, Jim Williams, had a pretty clear vision of where he thought the program had been headed.

In a report released Thursday, the Government Accountability Office concluded that the entry portion of the Visitor and Immigration Status Indicator Technology program, known as US-VISIT, has been installed at most of the nation's land borders with minimal disruption.

Link (emphases added).

How an electorate can put up with such relentless, endless crap eludes....

The Genius of Donald Rumsfeld: What We Shall Miss. Maybe but Doubtfully

Rummy:
Today it should be clear that not only is weakness provocative, but the perception of weakness on our part can be provocative as well.
Link.

Exactly so.

Which is why you don't make threats you can't or won't or shouldn't back up.

Rummy and the rest of the nutjobs painted us into a fine corner resulting in one the worse-planned -- to the extent it was planned with any care for anything past the first few weeks -- military adventures ever.

What Rummy brought us was, to say the very least, a great disservice to our country. Although one say so inept a perfomance in so important a job could well be characterized as treason. And the appointment of Rummy and his gang can well be argued to be a ground for impeachment.

The Way the World Works: Our Dysfunctional Leader

A family intervenes with its scion, a moronic, alcohol- and/or drug-abusing wastrel who then accepts Jesus in his heart, yada yada yada. (Note that he talks the talk but to date has never demonstrated his commitment to his God.)

Having (he claims) accepted his God, he's now too good to listen to the family whose intervention saved him.

Link.

Of course, it's somewhat more complicated. Scope of the intervention isn't truly known. And to the extent there was one, it was daddy's doing. And the ne'er-do-well is really his mommy's boy -- and she is pig-headed and pretty much pig-brained.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Iraq Jokes!?!?!?!?

At least IraqSlogger runs jokes. This one came very close to making me laugh:
A driver is stuck in a traffic jam on the highway. Suddenly a man knocks on his window. The driver rolls down his window and asks, "What's going on?"

"Terrorists down the road have kidnapped George W. Bush and Dick Cheney," the man says, "They're asking $100 million ransom. Otherwise they're going to douse them with gasoline and set them on fire. We're going from car to car taking up a collection."

The driver asks, "How much is everyone giving on average?"

The man responds: "Most people are giving about a gallon."
And there's this one:
An Iraqi guy has a new girlfriend and wants to know whether she is Sunni or Shia. But he is too shy to ask directly. Finally he asked her, "where does your family bury your corpses?"

Everything You Want to Know about Iraq?

Maybe here.

Great Moments in Leadership

Gee, it is really a tragedy to lose legislative leadership like this:
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) -- head of the do-nothing Republican Senate -- took to the chamber's floor on Thursday to tick off a list of nine legislative accomplishments made by the GOP in the last Congress. Here are some of Frist's proudest moments:

"We passed legislation securing the right to prayer in U.S. military academies.

"We passed legislation protecting the Mount Soledad Memorial Cross.

"We passed the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act, which allows for the 10- fold increase of FCC fines for indecency violations.

"We passed Cord blood legislation that harnesses the power of stem cells in cord blood to develop new cures for life-threatening diseases.

"We passed the Fetus Farming Prohibition Act, which prohibits the gestation of fetal tissue in order to use it for research.

"We passed the Stem Cell Research Alternatives bill, which provides federal funding for a variety of stem cell research that do not involve destroying human embryos."

They didn't do squat about little things like jobs, health care, the environment or performing even a shred of oversight on the executive branch of government -- but, by God, they saved a cross, cracked down on those ten-thousand-acre fetus farms springing up all over Kansas and made sure TV stations will pay through the nose if we ever see Janet Jackson's nipple again.

***

Then we had the ever-goofy, Rick Santorum (R-PA) who, when talking about the Iraq quagmire in his final days as a U.S. Senator, blamed the media for reporting the news on the war...

"Let’s look at other interested parties as we look at how we solve the problem in Iraq and dealing with Iran. The American media seems to be very focused and spends a lot of time talking about how poorly things are going in Iraq," said Santorum. "They report daily — not just recently but repeatedly for the past 3 years, daily — the body count in Iraq. It is the lead and has been virtually every single day for 3 years."

***

Santorum didn't have much to say about the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) he claimed to magically uncover in Iraq over the summer, while trying to shore up support for the war... It must have been that the "WMD" were shell casings that were buried at least back in the first Gulf War, followed by the fact that the Defense Department, the CIA and the White House all said the casings were not relevant to the current conflict.
Link.

Holiday Gift Guide

A game that teaches good old Xian intolerance.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Movement -- In Some Direction....

U.S. policy in the Middle East is staggering toward the abyss along a path marked in the past few days by the Saudi ambassador's abrupt resignation and George W. Bush's postponement of a major speech on the Iraq War. It's increasingly apparent that Bush has no intention of changing direction despite prospects for a region-wide conflict. As the crisis worsens, some hidden history is relevant as are thoughts on what a creative path forward might look like.
Link.

Why We Love St. John McCain

He loves blogs and freedom of speech -- not.

Lovely Good News from Iraq; Or: Our Leaders Brilliantly Bringing Instability to the Mid-East

When Saudi leaders summoned Dick Cheney to Riyadh for a "come to Jesus" talk last month, this is what they had to tell him: If the United States pulls out of Iraq, leaving the Sunni minority at the mercy of Shiite death squads and handing Iran a free pass for further influence there, the Saudis may decide to start funding the Sunni insurgency.

As the Times explains, the Saudis have been "wary of supporting Sunnis in Iraq because their insurgency there has been led by extremists of al-Qaida, who are opposed to the kingdom’s monarchy. But if Iraq’s sectarian war worsened, the Saudis would line up with Sunni tribal leaders."

Let's say that again slowly. With his ill-advised war in Iraq, George W. Bush has now created a situation in which one of his closest allies in the Middle East may decide to side with al-Qaida in Iraq -- even though al-Qaida would like to see its government overthrown.

No wonder it's taking so long for the new "way forward."
Link.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Who Cares? Does it Really Matter?

It'd be just another lie, about W being clean and sober. Besides, wouldn't it really being expecting too much, at this point, that a pissant like Our Leader, so unqualified, so in-over-his-head, mightn't fall off the wagon?

We report, fair and balanced; you decide!!

Links to videos are here.

A Request


I am of course against impeachment; too many guys to get rid of to rid us of the cancer that is this administration. Getting rid of Our Leader would accomplish nothing -- at least nothing good. The wingnuts would get even crazier and the policies would stay the same. (Of course, I'm also against any precipitous withdrawal from Iraq so, yeah, I'm something of a heretic.)

All that said, a request for those who might be interested....

Link.

A Report from the Heart of the Empire

Redmond, I mean, home to Micro$oft, exemplar of forcing God-awful products on people, an exemplar of the inherent flaw of the radical rightist bidness model: forcing a product is paramount, the product's essence, as it were is irrelevant. (An example: When M$ rips off Apple, it's to steal an idea or make an interface too pretty to work easily, never to copy the structure of an idea. Zune is a perfect example: it's success will be based on its link to Windows, not because of any inherent, actual goodness. Or Aero: damn pretty, just can't really look at it to use as a, you know, actual GUI.)

So here's the report:
I went to work before the appetizers were served at the opening supper by asking event organizer Nick White (whose business card describes him as "Product Manager, Windows Marketing Communications") why I should trust a company whose CEO consistently threatens to sue me and other Linux users over unspecified patent violations.

"That's history," Nick said. "We're trying to move forward."

"I was referring to some comments Steve Ballmer made just a week or two ago," I said.

"Well, that's not really anything I can comment on," he replied. "I'm a product marketing guy."

This was the kind of answer I got to all the hard questions I asked, including several suggested by Pamela Jones of Groklaw. None of the Microsoft people I met had anything to say about their deal with Novell, working with the Open Document Format (ODF), acceptance of the GNU General Public License (GPL) as a legitimate software license, how DRM built into Vista may anger users, or other topics I thought might interest you.
Like any rightist organization, a great deal of energy goes into denial of reality. Some would call it delusional paranoia....
I came away with a sense that Microsoft doesn't currently have a clear sense of what Microsoft should be and where Microsoft should be going.

***

But there are also many people who don't like Microsoft. Some dislike the company because of its poor record on software security (and, all too often, poor software quality in general), some dislike its business practices, and others have other reasons. You might even go so far as to say that many computer users merely tolerate Microsoft even as they use its products, and that some of the company's customers might even revile it but feel they have no choice besides Microsoft's software.

Imagine working for a company that is tolerated, at best, in many social circles. Imagine being a computer science graduate, going to a class reunion, telling people you work for Microsoft, and watching your former classmates slowly back away as if you'd just told them you had a venereal disease.

Microsoft is not short of smart, hard-working employees. I'm sure that in many ways it's a great place to work. I also think, from what I heard during my visit and what other Microsoft employees and customers have told me at other times, that it has degenerated into a series of disconnected fiefdoms that aren't all moving in the same direction.
Loads more here.

Man(que) With a Plan

Almost four years after the invasion -- of course, back then, the concern was with cooking intel and spread known lies -- Our Leaders inch closer to finally having a plan after fifteen years of nation-destruction:
White House press secretary Tony Snow said today that the president won't be announcing his not-staying-the-course strategy until sometime in early 2007.
Link.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Journal Asks

Why was Pinochet more hated than every other dictator?

Probably because he gave a bad conscience to almost everybody across the political spectrum. For the left, he symbolized the tragic consequences of the Third World's socialist utopia. For the right, he embodied the diabolical temptation to dispose with the rule of law when the political institutions of democracy are tested to the limit. For Latin American democrats of the left and of the right, he was a walking reminder of their own failure to bring about economic prosperity. For free marketers, he was that ugly example of economic success and political repression that used to make it so hard to defend free markets without appearing to condone torture and mass murder. And for human-rights groups, he was, until the discovery of his hidden fortune in 2004, the "ethical" dictator who could be accused of many things but not corruption.
Link.

To which, let me add: Overthrowing a democratically-elected government, taking away freedom and engaging in mass killing... well, maybe that makes a populace more unhappy than one oppressive dictator replacing another. And, as an aside, Castro was some sort of improvement for many Cubans over his predecessors.

Tech "D'uh" Duh Jour; Our Periodic Windows Bashing

Windows Vista Security Not a Big Improvement
Let's parse this: M$ wants in on the anti-virus-/spy-/malware business. How better than to make Vista better enough to be a selling point but still pretty crappy?

We Have a Plan, At Least We Have a Plan Today!

The sheer genius we can count on from Our Beloved Leader:
George W. Bush, after meeting on Iraq today with State Department officials: "I'm looking forward to continuing my deliberations with the military. There's no question we've got to make sure that the State Department and the Defense Department are -- the efforts and their recommendations are closely coordinated so that when I do speak to the American people, they will know that I've listened to all aspects of government, and that the way forward is the way forward to achieve our objective: to succeed in Iraq. And success is a country that governs, defends itself, that is a free society, that serves as an ally in this war on terror."
Link.

And one of his supporters has a pretty brilliant plan too:
Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback says the United States should do more than just engage with Syria and Iran: We should ship Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice over there until everything is better. "We've been very patient with this, and we've invested a lot," Brownback said Sunday on Fox. "I do think as well it's time for us to put diplomatic pressure to the point where you just park the vice president and secretary of state in the region. It's shuttle diplomacy going back and forth between the countries that will receive us, really pushing on them to stop funding things into Iraq and start working with us, because they don’t need a civil war in that region either, and to really have them start coming to the table instead of just sitting back and even hurting the situation inside of Iraq."
Link.

And Dear Leader has a second plan as well: betrayal and further instability:
When George W. Bush declared Nouri al-Maliki "the right guy for Iraq," the Iraqi prime minister probably should have seen this coming: As the Associated Press reports, "major partners" in Iraq's governing coalition are angling to oust al-Maliki as prime minister.

The AP doesn't come right out and say that the Bush administration is pushing for al-Maliki's ouster, but it does take note of the fingerprints that seem to be there. The administration has criticized al-Maliki for not doing enough to stop sectarian violence in his country. The leader of the new alliance -- but probably not the next prime minister -- is likely to be Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who met with Bush last week in Washington. And, as the AP says, another "key figure" in the alliance, Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, will meet with Bush Tuesday -- three weeks before he was originally scheduled to do so.

An aide to al-Maliki tells the AP: "We know what's going on, and we will sabotage it." Maybe that's right -- it wouldn't take much to "sabotage" much of what the Bush administration has done in Iraq -- but is anyone else seeing the inevitable White House logic on this? Blame al-Maliki for all of Iraq's woes, prop up someone else in his place, then declare that the new government is going to need more time to stand up. Remember: The only way to lose is to quit before the job is done.
Link.

And Our Leader has a message for us:



Link.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

An End to the War, Not that War, the One that Matters!

An Exit Strategy for the War on Christmas
By Barbara Ehrenreich, AlterNet
Posted on December 9, 2006, Printed on December 10, 2006
http://www.alternet.org/story/45222/

As a dedicated secular humanist, I must regretfully acknowledge that the War on Christmas has not been going well. Some would use the word "quagmire," and urge a phased redeployment to other fronts, like Easter and Mardi Gras.

Others argue that we simply need more boots on the ground, and that our allies, such as the ACLU, have not been fielding sufficient troops. I say we have only ourselves to blame, and that -- however noble our intentions -- we haven't been putting up much of a fight.

Take me, for example. I had big plans for the season: I was going to spray paint the local church crèches with atheist graffiti, sue my town over the lights on Main Street, let termites loose on the mega-tree at Rockefeller Center, and start rumors about an E. Coli infestation of the nation's fruitcake supply.

But here it is, December already, and I've done nothing to rate a mention on Bill O'Reilly's show or even a mild rebuke from the Pope, who, apparently oblivious to the anti-Christmas threat, spent last week cozying up with Muslims in Turkey.

What's my excuse? Well, Christmas of course. There are those catalogues, which usually get recycled directly from the mail box, to study. Menus to plan. Should we do the Cuban-style roast pork or a re-run of the Thanksgiving turkey? Cards to buy and address: How will the pretty Virgin and baby go over with my Wiccan friends?

Then there's the annual fight over the tree: Can it be multi-colored and gaudy, as I prefer, or all-white, as certain puritanical in-laws insist? And toys, toys, toys. I spent yesterday searching for obscure members of the Dora the Explorer tribe: What's with this pre-Christmas shortage of Dora's monkey sidekick, Boots?

Let's face it: Christmas is not the exclusive property of those who think God came to earth 2000 years ago as a baby in Bethlehem. I caught the Christmas bug from my parents, who were militant atheists of the Richard Dawkins ilk.

I celebrated it with my first husband, the son of Jewish atheists. True, we tried Chanukah too one year, but it bombed with the kids. What's a little Chanukah gelt compared to a floor-full of presents?

My second husband, who had been inadvertently converted to atheism by the nuns at Catholic school, was the worst. We fought over whether to measure the extent of our excess by the volume of presents under the tree or their weight as determined by the bathroom scale.

How Christian is Christmas anyway? The tree and the wreathes descend from pagan, tree-worshipping, Druidism. The December date for the holiday probably comes from the Roman Saturnalia, a pre-existing blow-out featuring feasting and role-inversion (masters had to wait on slaves.)

Even if you fixate on Jesus, he was a pretty ecumenical guy -- a Jew who invented Christianity and is also much honored by Muslims. And who would be grinch-like enough not to welcome a baby whose mission was to bring world peace? Hell, I'm such a baby freak I think any baby, anywhere, any time, should be a cause for major celebration.

At the post office last week, where I was stocking up on stamps for the above-mentioned cards, I struggled over the seasonal options: Chanukah, Kwanza, Eid (the post-Ramadan Muslim holiday), or a traditional Virgin and Child. "You should get a sheet of each," the postmistress helpfully suggested, "More and more people are doing that." So I did, and I now declare the war is over -- the War on Christmas anyway.

Essential Reading

The Gary Webb story. Read it and weep, for him and for us.

King of the Wankers?

On the eve of a report that repudiates his son’s leadership, former president George H.W. Bush broke down crying when he recalled how his other son, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, lost an election a dozen years ago and then came back to serve two successful terms. The elder Bush has always been a softie, but this display of emotion was so over the top that it had to be about something other than Jeb’s long-ago loss.

The setting was a leadership summit Monday in Tallahassee, where the elder Bush had come to lecture and to pay homage to Jeb, who is leaving office with a 53 percent approval rating, putting him ninth among the 50 governors in popularity. The former president was reflecting on how well Jeb handled defeat in 1994 when he lost his composure. “He didn’t whine about it,” he said, putting a handkerchief to his face in an effort to stifle his sobbing.

That election turned out to be pivotal because it disrupted the plan Papa Bush had for his sons, which may be why he was crying, and why the country cries with him. The family’s grand design had the No. 2 son, Jeb, by far the brighter and more responsible, ascend to the presidency while George, the partying frat-boy type, settled for second best in Texas. The plan went awry when Jeb, contrary to conventional wisdom, lost in Florida, and George unexpectedly defeated Ann Richards in Texas. With the favored heir on the sidelines, the family calculus shifted. They’d go for the presidency with the son that won and not the one they wished had won.

The son who was wrongly launched has made such a mess of things that he has ruined the family franchise. Without getting too Oedipal, it’s fair to say that so many mistakes George W. Bush made are the result of his need to distinguish himself from his father and show that he’s smarter and tougher. His need to outdo his father and at the same time vindicate his father’s failure to get re-elected makes for a complicated stew of emotions. The irony is that the senior Bush, dismissed by Junior’s crowd as a country-club patrician, looks like a giant among presidents compared to his son. Junior told author Bob Woodward, for his book “Plan of Attack,” that he didn’t consult his father in planning the invasion of Iraq but consulted a higher authority, pointing, presumably, to the heavens.

The father also consulted a higher authority: family fixer James Baker. The Iraq Study Group, co-chaired by Baker, pulls no punches in calling Bush’s policies a failure. It’s a statement of the obvious, but when you have a collection of Washington wise men, plus retired Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor (perhaps doing penance for her vote that put Bush in the White House during the disputed 2000 race), it’s the equivalent of last rites for Bush’s Iraq policy, along with his presidency. It’s not a plan for victory because that doesn’t exist except in Bush’s fantasy. The recommendations Baker and company offer—of more international engagement and shifting U.S. troops to a backup role to Iraqi forces—may help the administration manage and mask defeat. Even so, that may be hard for Bush to accept. His body language when receiving the report, while polite, was dismissive, thanking the eminences assembled for breakfast at the White House for dropping off a copy.

This president has lost all capacity to lead. Eleven American servicemen died in Iraq on the day Bush was presented the report, which calls the situation there “grave and deteriorating.” Events on the ground threaten to overtake even this grim assessment. And we’re left to analyze Bush’s tender ego and whether he can reverse course on the folly that is killing and maiming countless Iraqis along with U.S. troops. Historians are already debating whether Bush is the worst president ever, or just among the four or five worst. He has little choice but to accept the fundamental direction of the Iraq Study Group. He’s up to his neck in quicksand, and they’ve thrown him a rope. It’s trendy to make fun of the over-the-hill types in Washington, but they’ve done a noble thing in reminding us that war is not just about spin and a way to win elections. It’s about coming together to find a way out, however unpalatable.

Bush was asked during the campaign in 2000 what would happen if he lost. He said he’d go back to Texas, watch a lot of baseball and have a great life with Laura and the girls. He’s an accidental president, a man who was vaulted into a job he wasn’t prepared for, and who treated war like a lark. Bush’s father observed between sobs in his Florida speech, “A true measure of a man is how you handle victory and how you handle defeat.” He was talking about Jeb, but surely it’s his first-born who triggers the tears.
Link.

I Mean Really, Who is in Charge?

Josh, recently, as a single example:
Back before the election, Andrew Sullivan said the 2006 midterm was shaping up not so much as an election as a collective national intervention. But do you get the sense now that it was a failed one?

I don't mean that in the sense that it was a failed election or that the Democrats have fallen short in any way. I mean more specifically about the president.

I go around the web and I see headlines like, Will President Listen to What James Baker Says?

Then there's Stephen Hadley saying, Believe Me, the President Knows Something Has to Change.

It's like hearing from relatives and friends that so and so knows he has to make a change. But will he?

And this is the guy running the country?
Link.

My question is: Does Our Leader truly lead the administration? Or is he led, no more than a cheerleader, a front man for the real policy-makers? Put it this: How much influence does he carry in the administration? Can he say "I don't want to do this?" or "I want to this?" Are we stuck in Iraq for another two years just because W can't wrap his mind around developing any sort of plan that would result in an exit strategy?

Simply: Who is really in charge? Is it really Bush? Or is he amongst the led?
lead

The Honor Roll of Our Leaders; Our Beloved Leader Succeeds in Restoring Honor to the White House

Indicted / Convicted/ Pled Guilty

* Scooter Libby - Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff - resigned after being indicted for Obstruction of Justice, Perjury, and Making False Statements in connection with the investigation stemming from the leak of a CIA operative's identity.

* Lester Crawford - Commissioner, FDA - resigned after only two months on the job. Pled guilty to conflict of interest and making false statements.

* Brian Doyle - Deputy Press Secretary, DHS - Resigned in wake of child sex scandal. Pled no contest to 32 criminal counts.

* Claude Allen - Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy- resigned, pled guilty to shoplifting from Target stores.

* David Safavian - former head of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy at the Office of Management and Budget - convicted of lying to ethics officials and Senate investigators about his ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

* Larry Franklin - intelligence officer, Defense - resigned, pled guilty to passing secrets to Israel.

* Roger Stillwell - desk officer, Interior Department - pled guilty to failing to report Redskins tickets and free dinners from Jack Abramoff.

* Frank Figueroa - senior DHS official, former head of anti-sex-crime Operation Predator - pled no contest to exposing himself to 16-year-old girl in Florida mall. Girl says he fondled himself for ten minutes. Figueroa forfeited his badge, gun, and access to databases; employment status pending internal DHS review.

* Darleen Druyun - senior contracting official, U.S. Air Force - pled guilty and sentenced to nine months in prison for her role in the Boeing tanker lease scandal.

* John Korsmo - chairman, Federal Housing Finance Board - pled guilty last year to lying to the Senate and an inspector general. He swore he had no idea how a list of presidents for FHFB-regulated banks were invited to a fundraiser for his friend's congressional campaign. On the invites, Korsmo was listed as the "Special Guest." Got 18 months of probation.

Resigned Due to Investigation

* Carl Truscott - Director, Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Bureau - resigned. A report by the Justice Department's Inspector General found that Truscott wasted tens of thousands of dollars on luxuries, wasted millions on whimsical management decisions and violated ethics rules by ordering employees to help his nephew with a high school video project.

* Joseph Schmitz - Inspector General, Defense - Resigned amid charges he personally intervened to protect top political appointees.

* Steven Griles - Deputy Secretary at the Interior Department - resigned, currently under investigation by the Justice Department for his ties to Jack Abramoff.

* Susan Ralston - assistant, White House - resigned amidst revelations that she had accepted thousands of dollars in gifts from Abramoff without compensating him, counter to White House ethics rules.

* Dusty Foggo - Executive Director, CIA - stepped down following accusations of corruption in connection to the Duke Cunningham scandal. Under investigation.

* Janet Rehnquist - Inspector General, Department of Health and Human Services - resigned in the face of allegations she blocked a politically dangerous probe on behalf of the Bush family.

* Ken Tomlinson, Board Chairman, Corporation for Public Broadcasting; member, Broadcasting Board of Governors - resigned at the release of an inspector general report concluding he had broken laws in spending CPB money to hire politically connected consultants to search for "bias" without consulting the board. At BBG, a separate investigation found he was running a "horse racing operation" out of his office, and continuing to hire politically-wired individuals to do "consulting" work for him. He's still there.

* George Deutsch - press aide, NASA - resigned amid allegations he prevented the agency's top climate scientist from speaking publicly about global warming.

* Richard Perle - Chairman, Defense Policy Board - resigned from Pentagon advisory panel amid conflict-of-interest charges.

* James Roche - secretary, U.S. Air Force - resigned in the wake of the Boeing tanker lease scandal, after it was revealed he had rather crudely pushed for Boeing to win a $23 billion contract.

* Marvin Sambur - top contracting executive, U.S. Air Force - Druyun's boss, Sambur resigned in the wake of the scandal. Investigations cleared him of wrongdoing.

* Philip Cooney - chief of staff, White House Council on Environmental Quality - a former oil industry lawyer with no scientific expertise, Cooney resigned after it was revealed he had watered down reports on global warming.

* Thomas Scully - Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services - shortly after Scully resigned in 2003, an investigation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General found that Scully had pressured the agency's actuary to underestimate the full cost of the Medicare reform bill by approximately $100 billion until after Congress passed the bill into law. Scully was also charged wtih conflict of interest allegations by the U.S. attorney's office for billing CMS for expenses incurred during a job search while he still headed the agency. He settled those charges by paying $9,782.

* Michelle Larson Korsmo - deputy chief of staff, Department of Labor - Helped her husband (see Frank Korsmo, above) with his donor scam. Quietly left her Labor plum job in February 2004, about two weeks before news broke that she and her husband were the targets of a criminal probe.

* David Smith - Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Interior Department - resigned after shooting a buffalo and accepting its remains as an illegal gratuity. He eventually paid over $3,000 for the dead buffalo, but only after the internal inquiry had commenced.

Nomination Failed Due to Scandal

* Bernard Kerik - nominated, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security - withdrew his nomination amidst a host of corruption allegations. Eventually pled guilty to a misdemeanor relating to having accepted improper gifts totaling tens of thousands of dollars while he was a New York City official in the late 1990's.

* Timothy Flanigan - nominated, Deputy Attorney General - withdrew his nomination amidst revelations that he'd worked closely with lobbyist Jack Abramoff when he was General Counsel for Corporate and International Law at Tyco, which was a client of Abramoff's.

* Linda Chavez - nominated, Secretary of Labor - withdrew her nomination amidst revelations that an illegal immigrant lived in her home and worked for her.
Link.

Know Your New Do-Nothing-Good Secretary of (So-Called) Defense

I utterly support [joke] Our Leader's selection [rather, one made for and imputed to him] for Secretary of Defense and appreciate the sacrifices he's making:
Perhaps of greatest interest ot the public, Gates holds a total of between $450,000 and $1 million worth of stock options in companies he advises, including Parker Drilling Company, restaurant group Brinker International, and NACCO Industries.

NACCO has roughly $30 million in Department of Defense contracts, according to FedSpending.org. Conflict? The government's ethics police allowed the last Defense chief, Donald Rumsfeld, to hold on to stock worth up to $25 million in a company, Gilead Sciences; its business with the Pentagon soared after Rumsfeld took over, according to the LATimes. (He cleared $5 million on the deal, the paper found.)

According to its Web site, Parker Drilling, an oil services company, has operations around the world including Kuwait, Russia, Kazakhstan and Colombia. Since 1994, the company has worked with Halliburton on a Chinese offshore drilling effort.

But Gates has a variety of other income streams. From January 2005 to the present, Gates has been paid $752,788 as president of Texas A&M, and earned over $135,000 in deferred pay, according to his filing.

During the same period Gates also earned $143,000 in fees for speaking to private groups, including the National Pest Management Association, numerous investment groups, and the retail giant Target. He made about $15,000 a pop with that gig.

Gates also picked up $788,366 as a director or adviser to companies.

The nominee also has money spread around a vast array of investment funds, including a few he shares with his wife and son.

Keep in mind that for all his wealth, Gates isn't even approaching the wealth amassed by Rumsfeld. According to opensecrets.org, Rumsfeld, worth as much as $199 million, could buy and sell Gates many times over.
Link.

And the raw data start here.

Lesson for the Day; Take Heart, Obey!


Link.

A Story I Love That's Deserving of More... Prominence

There's a whole lot of dumbness here....
December 8, 2006, 10:33 am
‘For Inches and Centimeters, Let Fools Contend’
By Tom Zeller Jr.

The BBC reports this morning that a “a survey of more than 1,000 men in India has concluded that condoms made according to international sizes are too large for a majority of Indian men.”

The survey showed that about 60 percent of Indian men have penises that are between three and five centimeters shorter than a standard condom — a size differential that can often cause the prophylactic to fall off or tear during intercourse. In the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS, this is an acute problem.

The United Nations revealed earlier this year that India has the highest number of H.I.V. infections of any nation — 5.7 million — although this is less than one percent of the country’s overall population of 1.02 billion.

A call is afoot to begin manufacturing a smaller brand of condoms specifically for Indian men, although a chemist quoted in the article indicated that smaller sizes are available. Many men are simply too embarrassed to ask for them.

Said Sunil Mehra, the former editor of the Indian version of the men’s magazine Maxim, to the BBC (adding apologies to Alexander Pope): “For inches and centimeters, let fools contend.”

The study comes on the same day as a Times of India report indicating that the country’s National AIDS Control Organization has admitted that it is falling behind in getting antiretroviral drugs to HIV-infected patients, which would help stave off progression of the disease to full-blown AIDS.

Advocacy groups have complained that the country was making little progress on this front.

5 comments so far...

1.
December 8th,
2006
11:37 am
Given India’s billion plus population this information tells us ardor rather than big swinging ***** is what really counts.
— Posted by MARK KLEIN, M.D.

2.
December 8th,
20061:02 pm
Perhaps Indian men need to check their email spam folders more often….I’ve got about a dozen offers in there for ways to help them fit into a standard condom.
— Posted by Brian

3.
December 8th,
2006
1:11 pm
I hope I’m an above average Indian!
— Posted by Yolanda Lowell [with a name like that???]
Link.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Attack of the Clones -- For Real!!



Link.

And why is the man smiling?

A Symbolic Image of Our Leader and the Iraq Policy He Pushes


There's something about the cop being carried by Popeye, battered nigh-senseless, that's kinda sorta representative of Our Beloved Leader.

Link.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Our Leaders Make Us Safe and Secure

Military readiness lowest since Vietnam War

Great Leadership from Our Beloved Leader: The Last to Know....

Thank God George W. Bush is president!
George W. Bush, speaking today on the Iraq Study Group report: "The truth is a lot of reports in Washington aren't read by anybody. To show you how important this report is, I read it."

Asked whether he's still in "denial" about Iraq, Bush shot back: "It's bad in Iraq. That help?"
Link.

Does it help? Well not as much as getting rid of this administration and all of its enablers would help....

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Oh, This Doesn't Look So Bad, Does It, Not Like Getting Your Nuts Fried....

First hint: It's bad enough.



Link.

Our Leaders' House Wit Tells Us What They Really Think of Us

"Politicians are interested in people. Not that this is always a virtue. Fleas are interested in dogs." -- P. J. O'Rourke

Monday, December 04, 2006

Olbermann on Future-President Newt's Support for Freedom in America

And look close and you'll that Newt is supremely (albeit not uniquely) qualified to lead us.
“This is a serious long-term war,” the man at the podium cried, “and it will inevitably lead us to want to know what is said in every suspect place in the country.”

Some in the audience must have thought they were hearing an arsonist give the keynote address at a convention of firefighters.

This was the annual Loeb First Amendment Dinner in Manchester, N.H. — a public cherishing of freedom of speech — in the state with the two-fisted motto “Live Free Or Die.”

And the arsonist at the microphone, the former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, was insisting that we must attach an “on-off button” to free speech.

He offered the time-tested excuse trotted out by our demagogues since even before the Republic was founded: widespread death, of Americans, in America, possibly at the hands of Americans.

But updated, now, to include terrorists using the Internet for recruitment. End result — “losing a city.”

The colonial English defended their repression with words like these.

And so did the slave states.

And so did the policemen who shot strikers.

And so did Lindbergh’s America First crowd.

And so did those who interned Japanese-Americans.

And so did those behind the Red Scare.

And so did Nixon’s plumbers.

The genuine proportion of the threat is always irrelevant.

The fear the threat is exploited to create becomes the only reality.

“We will adopt rules of engagement that use every technology we can find,” Mr. Gingrich continued about terrorists, formerly communists, formerly hippies, formerly Fifth Columnists, formerly anarchists, formerly Redcoats, “to break up their capacity to use the Internet, to break up their capacity to use free speech.”

Mr. Gingrich, the British “broke up our capacity to use free speech” in the 1770s.

The pro-slavery leaders “broke up our capacity to use free speech” in the 1850s.

The FBI and CIA “broke up our capacity to use free speech” in the 1960s.

It is in those groups where you would have found your kindred spirits, Mr. Gingrich.

Those who had no faith in freedom, no faith in this country, and, ultimately, no faith even in the strength of their own ideas, to stand up on their own legs without having the playing field tilted entirely to their benefit.

“It will lead us to learn,” Gingrich continued, “how to close down every Web site that is dangerous, and it will lead us to a very severe approach to people who advocate the killing of Americans and advocate the use of nuclear and biological weapons.”

That we have always had “a very severe approach” to these people is insufficient for Mr. Gingrich’s ends.

He wants to somehow ban the idea.

Even though everyone who has ever protested a movie or a piece of music or a book has learned the same lesson:

Try to suppress it, and you only validate it.

Make it illegal, and you make it the subject of curiosity.

Say it cannot be said, and it will instead be screamed.

And on top of the thundering danger in his eagerness to sell out freedom of speech, there is a sadder sound, still — the tinny crash of a garbage can lid on a sidewalk.

Whatever dreams of Internet censorship float like a miasma in Mr. Gingrich’s personal swamp, whatever hopes he has of an Iron Firewall, the simple fact is, technically they won’t work.

As of tomorrow they will have been defeated by a free computer download.

Mere hours after Gingrich’s speech in New Hampshire, the University of Toronto announced it had come up with a program called Psiphon to liberate those in countries in which the Internet is regulated.

Places like China and Iran, where political ideas are so barren, and political leaders so desperate that they put up computer firewalls to keep thought and freedom out.

The Psiphon device is a relay of sorts that can surreptitiously link a computer user in an imprisoned country to another in a free one.

The Chinese think the wall works, yet the ideas — good ideas, bad ideas, indifferent ideas — pass through anyway.

The same way the Soviet bloc was defeated by the images of Western material bounty.

If your hopes of thought control can be defeated, Mr. Gingrich, merely by one computer whiz staying up an extra half hour and devising a new “firewall hop,” what is all this apocalyptic hyperbole for?

“I further think,” you said in Manchester, “we should propose a Geneva convention for fighting terrorism, which makes very clear that those who would fight outside the rules of law, those who would use weapons of mass destruction, and those who would target civilians are in fact subject to a totally different set of rules, that allow us to protect civilization by defeating barbarism …”

Well, Mr. Gingrich, what is more “massively destructive” than trying to get us to give you our freedom?

And what is someone seeking to hamstring the First Amendment doing, if not “fighting outside the rules of law”?

And what is the suppression of knowledge and freedom, if not “barbarism”?

The explanation, of course, is in one last quote from Mr. Gingrich from New Hampshire and another from last week.

“I want to suggest to you,” he said about these Internet restrictions, “that we right now should be impaneling people to look seriously at a level of supervision that we would never dream of if it weren’t for the scale of the threat.”

And who should those “impaneled” people be?

Funny I should ask, isn’t it, Mr. Gingrich?

“I am not ‘running’ for president,” you told a reporter from Fortune Magazine. “I am seeking to create a movement to win the future by offering a series of solutions so compelling that if the American people say I have to be president, it will happen.”

Newt Gingrich sees in terrorism, not something to be exterminated, but something to be exploited.

It’s his golden opportunity, isn’t it?

“Rallying a nation,” you might say, “to hysteria, to sweep us up into the White House with powers that will make martial law seem like anarchy.”

That’s from the original version of the movie “The Manchurian Candidate” — the chilling words of Angela Lansbury’s character, as she first promises to sell her country to the Chinese and Russians, then reveals she’ll double-cross them and keep all the power herself, waving the flag every time she subjugates another freedom.

Within the frame of our experience as a free and freely argumentative people, it is almost impossible to conceive that there are those among us who might approach the kind of animal wildness of fiction like that — those who would willingly transform our beloved country into something false and terrible.

Who among us can look to our own histories, or those of our ancestors who struggled to get here, or who struggled to get freedom after they were forced here, and not tear up when we read Frederick Douglass’s words from a century and a half ago?: “Freedom must take the day.”

And who among us can look to our collective history and not see its turning points — like the Civil War, like Watergate, like the Revolution itself — in which the right idea defeated the wrong idea on the battlefield that is the marketplace of ideas?

But apparently there are some of us who cannot see that the only future for America is one that cherishes the freedoms won in the past, one in which we vanquish bad ideas with better ones, and in which we fight for liberty by having more liberty, not less.

“I am seeking to create a movement to win the future by offering a series of solutions so compelling that if the American people say I have to be president, it will happen.”

What a dark place your world must be, Mr. Gingrich, where the way to save America is to destroy America.

I will awaken every day of my life thankful I am not with you in that dark place.

And I will awaken every day of my life thankful that you are entitled to tell me about it.

And that you are entitled to show me what an evil idea it represents and what a cynical mind.

And that you are entitled to do all that, thanks to the very freedoms you seek to suffocate.
Link. (Emphasis added.)

It's true; the rightist leadership hates what America stands for other than being a big market for stuff.