Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Sliver of Hope

Any "permanent" majority is, well, damn difficult in a democracy. Rove's hubris doesn't change that. He's had the kind of success that requires a lot of Big Media worship and hagiography and a failure to be revulsed by his what you could call Naziesque tactics (I'm sure they're clearly discussed in "Mein Kampf"):
But just as Rove has become entangled in petty scandal, he has bungled the bigger strategy as well. Six years into the Bush presidency Rove’s fantasy of a permanent Republican majority is fast becoming a B-movie of a broken political movement.

The myth of Rove’s political brilliance is not hard to dispel. He has often picked the easiest and sleaziest short-term tactic over the more difficult long-term strategy. He began his career race-baiting and liberal-bashing a moribund Democratic party in the Deep South. It wasn’t hard to fell those teetering timbers in the 1970s and 1980s.


Even so, Rove actually advised Bush to stop campaigning the weekend before the vote, and suppressed a drunk-driving record that emerged very late in the campaign and nearly derailed the entire effort. These tactical errors made Bush’s victory a statistical rounding error.

Then came what in retrospect seems the stupidest decision made in a very long time in American politics. Rove advised a moderate, congenial and compassionate Republican, elected with a minority of the popular vote, to forget about retaining the political centre. Rove believed that appealing to moderates was a fool’s game when there were millions of alienated evangelical voters waiting to be tapped.

“Play to the base” was Rove’s mantra — and he could create what he called a “permanent majority”. If four or five million fundamentalists who had previously never voted could be marshalled into a new political movement, victory would be his. The rest could be bribed with large amounts of government spending (cash for churches, pills for the elderly, tax breaks for big business, tariffs for steel, subsidies for agriculture).

So Bush cut taxes, turned on the spending spigot and stuck to a strictly religious line on social policy: no new federal embryonic stem cell research, judicial appointments designed to reverse the Roe vs Wade case that established women’s right to abortion, a constitutional amendment to ban civil recognition of gay couples and a clumsy attempt to play politics with Terri Schiavo, a woman in Florida in a permanent vegetative state.

Bush’s response to 9/11 fell exactly into this Rovian pattern. Some war leaders respond to an attack by bringing the opposition party into their cabinet (as Winston Churchill did) and creating a government of national unity. Bush did the opposite, forging a war policy solely in the executive branch, sidelining the Senate and then running a mid-term election strategy by accusing Democrats of being soft on terror. It worked in the short term. But by the 2004 election the strains were beginning to show. Mistakes in Iraq were not viewed as national faults, to be corrected, but as the president’s sole responsibility, to be denied.

In wartime, Americans tend to back their president: those reelected to a second term do so with big majorities. Bush, thanks to Rove, broke this pattern, gaining a mere 51% in wartime with an economy goosed by Keyne-sian spending. Yes, he won — and he was lucky again in his opponents. But the basic structure was weak.

Just how weak is beginning to become clear. The Rove coalition has no viable candidate for 2008. Rudy Giuliani is a social liberal; McCain loathes the Rove base,* [*An interjection: Dear Andrew is just about dead wrong on this, I think; OTOH, I think that base, as we recently posted, may be shrinking significantly] and the feeling is mutual; Mitt Romney was only very recently boasting that he would be more pro-gay than Edward Kennedy. Evangelicals are splitting between those who want to keep their focus on sexual issues and those who want to take a more public stand on issues such as the environment and torture.

The mismanaged war has removed the Republicans’ advantage on national security. The younger generation is overwhelmingly Democratic. I remember when it was actually cool to be conservative. Those days are gone. In 2002 the parties were tied at 43% each across all Americans. After five more years of Bush, according to a survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center released last week, the Democrats have 50% support compared with the Republicans’ 35%.

The survey also found big drops in religious intensity and big increases in the percentage eager to see government play a larger role in taking care of the poor. One of Rove’s ideological legacies may be the revival of old-school liberalism.

What Rove has also done by centring the Republican party in the Deep South is alienate many moderates and centre-right voters in the Rocky Mountains and Midwest. A state such as Colorado that was once evenly split now looks increasingly Democratic. California — the state of Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon — was abandoned long ago. And the one issue that really fires up the white base of the Republican party is hostility to illegal immigration. But a policy like that could turn off the huge and growing Hispanic vote, isolating the Republicans even further into a white, narrow and angry image.

Rove, in other words, may be on the verge of a historic realignment of the kind he used to boast of. He may indeed have created a new and permanent majority — but for the Democrats, not the Republicans. Machia-velli would be unimpressed.

Our Leaders at Work: Making the World a Worse Place

The Justice Department is far from the only government agency troubled by politicization under the Bush administration. All you have to do is spin the wheel.

So today, it's the Fish and Wildlife Service! And at the center of it is one Julie A. MacDonald, appointed by Bush to be the deputy assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks at the Interior Department. The very ugly details of her malfeasance have been exposed by an inspector general report. (Update: MacDonald, by the way, has a degree is in civil engineering and has no formal educational background in natural sciences.)

Ms. MacDonald, whose job is to oversee policy decisions on endangered species and other wildlife, sent internal agency documents to industry lobbyists (e.g. she twice sent "internal Environmental Protection Agency documents — one involving water quality management — to individuals whose e-mail addresses ended in ',") and generally ran roughshod over agency scientists.

Here's how she works: MacDonald just made stuff up. If scientists recommended a certain action, MacDonald would alter the recommendation or simply ignore it if it threatened industry or landowners in any way.

Some examples of her scientific method:

MacDonald tangled with field personnel over designating habitat for the endangered Southwestern willow flycatcher, a bird whose range is from Arizona to New Mexico and Southern California. When scientists wrote that the bird had a "nesting range" of 2.1 miles, MacDonald told field personnel to change the number to 1.8 miles. Hall, a wildlife biologist who told the IG he had had a "running battle" with MacDonald, said she did not want the range to extend to California because her husband had a family ranch there.

MacDonald argued with Hall over the Kootenai River sturgeon, a fish in Montana and Idaho that needs a certain level of river flow in order to spawn. Field biologists determined that the sturgeon's needed flow level ranged between 2.3 and 5.9 cubic feet per second, but MacDonald instructed them to cite only the 5.9 figure, which would have aided dam operators. After Hall demanded she put the request in writing, the report noted, "she ultimately relented and they kept the 2.3 to 5.9 range."

...Ms. MacDonald lobbied for a decision to combine three different populations of the California tiger salamander into one, thus excluding it from the endangered-species list, and making the decision legally vulnerable. A federal district judge overturned it in 2005., saying the decision was made “without even a semblance of agency reasoning.”

Our Leaders at Work in their Department of Injustice

Over the past six years, the administration maneuvered to spread voter-fraud fears and recast the Civil Rights Division -- doing so in ways "that clearly were intended to influence the outcome of elections," as Joseph Rich, the former chief of the voting section in the Civil Right Division, affirms in an Op-Ed in today's Los Angeles Times.

Rich's indictment is particularly damning in details exposing a thumb-on-the-scales evaluation process for career Justice Department lawyers -- the same bogus process that reared its ugly face with Kyle Sampson's hit list in the U.S. attorneys scandal. Rich, a 35-year veteran of the Justice Department who served until 2005, explains what happened to career public servants who disagreed with loyal Bush appointees: "Seven career managers were removed in the civil rights division," he writes. "I personally was ordered to change performance evaluations of several attorneys under my supervision. I was told to include critical comments about those whose recommendations ran counter to the political will of the administration and to improve evaluations of those who were politically favored."

Sound familiar?

"At the same time," Rich continues, "career staff were nearly cut out of the process of hiring lawyers. Control of hiring went to political appointees, so an applicant's fidelity to GOP interests replaced civil rights experience as the most important factor in hiring decisions."

As Rich notes, this was an extraordinary departure from past practice. "I worked for attorneys general with dramatically different political philosophies -- from John Mitchell to Ed Meese to Janet Reno. Regardless of the administration, the political appointees had respect for the experience and judgment of longtime civil servants," Rich says. "Under the Bush administration, however, all that changed."

Meanwhile, the damage to the public trust has been grave, says one of the fired U.S. attorneys. "Once you have given the public a reason to believe some of your decisions are improperly motivated, then they are going to question every decision you have made, or make in the future," Bud Cummins, the U.S. attorney forced out of his post in Arkansas, told me in a recent e-mail. "You only get one chance to hold on to your credibility, and my team, who hold temporary custody of DOJ, has blown it in this case," he said. "DOJ will be paying for it for some time to come."

And meet Our Leader's Monica -- a partisan Christofascist nutjob who plans to take the 5th even though she allegedly *snicker* didn't do anything illegal. (But of course when you have no respect for the law, you pervert -- like using the 5th amendment to hide embarrassing stuff, such as being an unprincipled partisan whore without any respect for a system of law as opposed to, like, anything relating to an actual crime.)
Monica Goodling, a previously unknown Justice Department official who served as liaison to the White House, has become a key figure in the Attorneygate scandal. When newly released emails revealed the prominent role Goodling played in engineering the firing of seven US Attorneys, Goodling pled the Fifth Amendment, refusing to testify under oath.

Josh Marshall writes that Goodling may be "afraid of indictment for perjury because she has to go up to Congress and testify under oath before the White House has decided what its story is."

Goodling's involvement in Attorneygate is not the only aspect of her role in the Bush administration that bears examination. Her membership in a cadre of 150 graduates of Pat Robertson's Regent University currently serving in the administration is another, equally revealing component of the White House's political program.

Goodling earned her law degree from Regent, an institution founded by Robertson "to produce Christian leaders who will make a difference, who will change the world." Helping to purge politically disloyal federal prosecutors is just one way Goodling has helped fulfill Robertson's revolutionary goals.

Regent has assiduously cultivated close ties to the administration and its Republican outriders. Gonzales's predecessor, John Ashcroft, is currently cooling his heels at Regent as the school's "Distinguished Professor of Law and Government." Christian right super-lawyer Jay Sekulow, who also teaches at Regent and shares a Washington office with Ashcroft, participated in regular briefings with the White House on court appointments. In 1998, he leased a private jet through Regent to fly Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to speak at the school's 20th anniversary (Though Sekulow regularly argues cases before the Supreme Court, he apparently did not view hobnobbing with Scalia as an ethical breach).

When the Bush administration came into power, it looked to Regent for a reliable pool of well-groomed Republican ideologues eager to wage the culture war from the inside. The former dean of Regent's Robertson School of Government, Kay Coles James, was promptly installed as the Director of the Office of Personnel Management.

According to her bio, from 2001 to 2005, James was "President Bush's principal advisor in matters of personnel administration for the 1.8 million members of the Federal civil service." In that role, James rolled back the power of unions in the federal sector. Now that she's out of government, James is back among her Christian right allies, appearing frequently as a guest on James Dobson's Focus on the Family radio show.

Another Regent figure who impacted White House policy is Jim David, the current Assistant Dean for Administration in the Robertson School of Government. David was inserted in the Justice Department in 2003 as yet another sop to the Christian right; he served as deputy director of the department's Task Force for the Faith-Based & Community Initiative.

Since leaving the DoJ, David has spent a considerable portion of his spare time writing opinion pieces that appear on Regent's website. One of his most noteable screeds, penned in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, described a bright spot in the destruction of New Orleans. "We do not grieve, however, for the flooded and destroyed sex clubs that filled men with lust and degraded women," David wrote. "We do not miss the casinos that preyed upon individuals whose lack of self-control deprived families of needed food and shelter. We do not lament the destruction of voodoo stores prevalent in New Orleans before the flood."

At Regent, Goodling was drilled in the importance of unflinching loyalty to the Republican program. Once in the Justice Department, she proved an able cog in the Bush administration's political machine, meeting with Republican activists in 2006 to help plot the firing of New Mexico's prestigious US Attorney David Iglesias, a fellow Republican who "chafed" against administration initiatives.

But as scrutiny of her actions intensifies, the evangelical Goodling must resort to the 5th Amendment -- man's law -- to avoid breaking the biblical commandment against lying. Only the goodly and godly Pat Robertson could have prepared her to make such a decision.

Our Leader's Love for his Troops: Hide the Problem with Obfuscation

President Bush visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center today. ***

"The system failed you and it failed our troops, and we're going to fix it," he said. "I've taken important steps to achieve the objective."

One of the first steps is bringing on Brig. General Michael S. Tucker as the new deputy commanding general of Walter Reed. Bush noted that Tucker has a reputation as a "bureaucracy-buster."

From there, the steps follow a less linear path. Bush said he has formed three "working groups" to "address problems that may exist or may arise" at Walter Reed. Group one is a Pentagon panel that has been created to "examine the conditions at Walter Reed and Bethesda." Group two is led by Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson, with the goal of identifying "potential gaps in the services our wounded troops receive as they return from the battlefield." Group three is "a bipartisan presidential commission" chaired by Bob Dole and Donna Shalala, which "will conduct a comprehensive review of the entire system for providing physical and emotional care to service men and women injured in this war."

But wait, there's more. According to the Air Force Times, both the Army and the Navy have groups looking into the treatment of wounded veterans.

At least five different panels. Five different reports. One surefire plan to bust the bureaucracy.

Friday, March 30, 2007

If Only....

Republicans across the country are warning that increasing public discontent toward President Bush, the Iraq war and the GOP brand in general threatens to send the party's 2008 campaign planning into a tailspin.

Already, the problems are having tangible effects. Some of the party's top recruits in key races from Colorado to Florida are refusing to run for Congress. Business executives - the financial backbone of the GOP - are sending more and more money to Democrats. Overall Republican fundraising is down sharply from the same time frame during the past two presidential elections.

Then there are the voters.

Polling data released this month confirm what GOP officials are picking up anecdotally: Swing voters are swinging away from Republicans at high velocity. Most alarming to GOP strategists is a new survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center that found 50 percent of those interviewed consider themselves a Democrat or leaning that way; only 35 percent tilt Republican.


"There's a certain nervousness I hear that if the war is going badly and we're still in this intractable fight between a Democratic Congress and President Bush about the course of the war, we may have a tough time."


Bush's low approval ratings are an illustration. Some experienced GOP campaign strategists believe that there is virtually no chance that a Republican can succeed Bush if his approval ratings remain mired in the 30s. The Democratic strategy of investigating administration scandals and policy blunders is calculated to achieve exactly that goal - and the burgeoning controversy over the firings of eight U.S. attorneys has given Democrats in Congress yet another inviting target.
To make matters worse, as long as Bush is unpopular, Republicans on the Hill - already frustrated at what they perceive as White House indifference to lawmakers' political problems - are less inclined to defend Bush from attacks.

This painful cycle has some high-level Republicans braced for the likelihood that last fall's rout, in which Democrats won the House and the Senate, may be a prelude to a 2008 knockout that would leave the GOP without control of Congress or the White House for the first time since 1994.

And the best thing is that if a Dem gets elected in 08, the inevitable effing up will still look pretty good next to the current administration...

Love that Rudy! Or Else!

How the boy is pandering his way to the top. His absolute lack of any principle other than his own success is breathtaking.

Meanwhile, just picture him being presidential. Rudy as president: absolutely (or, in a manner of speaking, Absolutly) mindblowing....

The Love for the US of Our Leaders' Closest Allies

Of course, in the GOP-Saudi relationship, it's always been known that the Saudis are almost always the tops.
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia told Arab leaders on Wednesday that the American occupation of Iraq was illegal and warned that unless Arab governments settled their differences, foreign powers like the United States would continue to dictate the region's politics.

Speaking of the Miracles of the Free Market; UPDATED WITH A GOOD POINT

The insurance industry is of course a necessity -- but they use that necessity as a jumping off point for the most vile, if not evil, practices i.e unbridled greed and extortion.
A consumer coalition has released a new study that disputes insurers' contention that the most recent medical malpractice insurance crisis for doctors was caused by rising costs.

The study, Stable Losses/Unstable Rates 2007, by Americans for Insurance Reform (AIR) , a coalition of over 100 consumer and public interest groups, finds that the insurance crisis that hit doctors between 2001 and 2004 was not caused by claims, payouts or legal system excesses as the insurance industry claimed. Rather, the study of the industry's own data, found:

Inflation-adjusted payouts per doctor not only failed to increase
between 2001 and 2004, a time when doctors' premiums skyrocketed, but they have been stable or falling throughout this entire decade.

Medical malpractice insurance premiums rose much faster in the early years of this decade than was justified by insurance payouts.

At no time were recent increases in premiums connected to actual
payouts. Rather, they reflected the well-known cyclical phenomenon
called a ''hard'' market. Property/casualty insurance industry ''hard'' markets have occurred three times in the past 30 years.

And another, better opinion:
Neat, isn't it? Of course Circuit City could have made similar savings by first firing its CEO, Philip J. Schooner, who earned around 2.17 million dollars last year and then letting him reapply at the "market" rate for CEOs.

Now why would a firm openly admit to doing something like this? Could it be a way around possible age discrimination suits? Many better paid workers are not only more experienced but also older.

Thought for the Day

"The world is a dangerous place to live not because of the people who are evil,
but because of the people who don't do anything about it." -- Albert Einstein

Great Moments in Dynamic Capitalism: Fired for Excessive Competence

Circuit City is a crap operation. It does nothing particularly well. I go there solely because of convenience i.e. location. Which is to say it's not an attraction. (In that regard, it's in a class with the semi-dying CompUSA.)
Circuit City said yesterday that it had fired 3,400 of its highest-paid sales staff and will replace them with lower-paid workers, a risky strategy to cut costs that goes beyond the layoffs, buyouts and hiring freezes commonly used by struggling companies.

The fired workers will receive severance packages and a chance to apply for lower-paying positions after a 10-week delay, said the 655-store electronics chain based in Richmond, Va.

Layoffs and buyouts have been common as companies respond to pressures from Wall Street and global competitors. Last year, for example, 72,000 U.S. auto workers agreed to leave their jobs or take early retirement. And a growing number of companies, including the Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons grocery chains in Southern California, have adopted two-tier systems that provide lower wages and less valuable benefits to newer employees.

But the Circuit City approach is different.

“What you're looking at (with Circuit City) is that strategy on steroids,” said Jared Bernstein, a senior economist with the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C., research group that focuses on labor issues.

Circuit City Chief Executive Philip Schoonover described the firing of 8 percent of his company's work force as one of several “aggressive actions” being taken to “improve our cost and expense structure.”


“This is no reflection on job performance,” he said. “We deeply regret the negative impact. Retail is extremely competitive, and if we're going to thrive and operate a successful company for our shoppers, employees and shareholders, we just have to control costs.”


This is the second time Circuit City has jettisoned some of its most seasoned personnel. In 2003, the company eliminated commissions for sales staffers and switched them to a straight hourly wage.

“They had spent a lot of money training them, and they were some of the best people in the consumer electronics industry,” said George Whalin of Retail Management Consultants in San Marcos. “You could go in there and talk to somebody who really knew their stuff.”

At the time, the move hurt the company's sales, Whalin said.

Another factor that might hurt sales staff morale is the growing gap between their lowered wages and executive compensation, said Ken Jacobs, chairman of the University of California Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education.

Circuit City CEO Schoonover received $1.4 million in salary and bonuses in fiscal 2006, plus 340,000 stock option shares and $96,929 in other compensation mostly related to use of a company jet, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Our Beloved Honest Leader; Making Us Proud of his Leadership

George W. Bush, March 20, 2006: "Today I'd like to share a concrete example of progress in Iraq that most Americans do not see every day in their newspapers and on their television screens. I'm going to tell you the story of a northern Iraqi city called Tal Afar, which was once a key base of operations for al Qaeda and is today a free city that gives reason for hope for a free Iraq ... If you're a resident of Tal Afar today, this is what you're going to see: You see that the terrorist who once exercised brutal control over every aspect of your city has been killed or captured, or driven out, or put on the run. You see your children going to school and playing safely in the streets. You see the electricity and water service restored throughout the city. You see a police force that better reflects the ethnic and religious diversity of the communities they patrol. You see markets opening, and you hear the sound of construction equipment as buildings go up and homes are remade. In short, you see a city that is coming back to life."

News report, March 29, 2007: "Shiite militants and police enraged by deadly truck bombings went on a shooting rampage against Sunnis in a northwestern Iraqi city Wednesday, killing up to 70 men execution-style and prompting fears that sectarian violence was spreading outside the capital. The killings occurred in the mixed Shiite-Sunni city of Tal Afar ... The gunmen roamed Sunni neighborhoods in Tal Afar through the night, shooting at residents and homes, according to police and a local Sunni politician. Witnesses said relatives of the Shiite victims in the truck bombings broke into Sunni homes and killed the men inside or dragged them out and shot them in the streets. Gen. Khourshid al-Douski, the Iraqi army commander in charge of the area, said 70 were shot in the back of the head and 40 people were kidnapped."

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Great Moments in American Justice

And then there is the case that most troubles Cherry and leaders of the Texas NAACP, involving a 14-year-old black freshman, Shaquanda Cotton, who shoved a hall monitor at Paris High School in a dispute over entering the building before the school day had officially begun.

The youth had no prior arrest record, and the hall monitor--a 58-year-old teacher's aide--was not seriously injured. But Shaquanda was tried in March 2006 in the town's juvenile court, convicted of "assault on a public servant" and sentenced by Lamar County Judge Chuck Superville to prison for up to 7 years, until she turns 21.

Just three months earlier, Superville sentenced a 14-year-old white girl, convicted of arson for burning down her family's house, to probation.

"All Shaquanda did was grab somebody and she will be in jail for 5 or 6 years?" said Gary Bledsoe, an Austin attorney who is president of the state NAACP branch. "It's like they are sending a signal to black folks in Paris that you stay in your place in this community, in the shadows, intimidated."

Straight Talking Loser

Guy's a freaking idiot (old news, that, just the fresh examples keep coming).

But of course that doesn't mean he's not electable....
In a radio interview Monday, McCain said that "there are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods, today." And in a CNN appearance Tuesday, McCain told Wolf Blitzer that he "ought to catch up on things." Even outside the Green Zone, McCain said, Iraq is safe enough that Gen. David Petraeus "goes out there almost every day in an unarmed Humvee."

Straight talk? You decide.

As Think Progress notes, CNN's John Roberts has checked with Petraeus' staff and learned that the general "never goes out in anything less than an up-armored Humvee." As for the neighborhoods where "you and I" could take a walk? As Roberts explained to McCain this morning, retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey has just returned from Iraq and says in a report that "no Iraqi government official, coalition soldier, diplomat, reporter, foreign NGO, nor contractor can walk the streets of Baghdad, nor Mosul, nor Kirkuk, nor Basra, nor Tikrit, nor Najaf, nor Ramadi -- without heavily armed protection."

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

In Case Anyone Cares.... see yet another example why politicians are despised and despicable, specially the goose-stepping rightwing nuts.

Our Free Media Blowing Our Leaders's Smoke Up Our @$$es

In the first conviction of a Guantánamo detainee before a military commission, an Australian who was trained by Al Qaeda pleaded guilty here Monday to providing material support to a terrorist organization.

Only Our Leaders' Big Media enablers could equate copping a plea (to get extradited out of Gitmo) with an actual conviction.

Oh wait, there's more:
The plea by Mr. Hicks came after an extraordinary day in a pristine red, white and blue courtroom here. Earlier the military judge had surprised the courtroom with unexpected rulings that two of Mr. Hicks’s three lawyers would not be permitted to participate in the proceedings, leaving only Maj. Michael D. Mori of the Marine Corps at the defense table.
So the plea is copped a day into a -- no pun intended -- kangaroo trial.

A more lucid and honest analysis than that offered by the Times comes from Amy Goodman:
It is appropriate that a person from Australia, home of the kangaroo, should be the first one dragged before the kangaroo court at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay. David Hicks, imprisoned there for more than five years, pleaded guilty Monday to providing material support for terrorism.

The case of Hicks offers us a glimpse into the Kafkaesque netherworld of detentions, kidnappings, torture and show trials that is now, internationally, the shameful signature of the Bush administration. Hicks’ passage through this sham process affords us all an opportunity to demand the closure of Guantanamo and an end to these heinous policies. Conditions may soon exist to shutter the prison, with George Bush’s lame-duck status, the Democratic takeover of Congress, the possible departure of Guantanamo’s arch-defender and architect, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and, if recent reports are true, a desire to close the prison on the part of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. These bogus military commission trials amplify global contempt for the Guantanamo prison.

The Pentagon claims that Hicks was in Afghanistan fighting against the United States, then was apprehended by the Northern Alliance in late 2001 while fleeing to Pakistan. After transfer to U.S. military control, he was moved around various detention facilities and, he says, brutally beaten and sodomized. By January 2002 he was in Guantanamo. He was subjected to repeated interrogations. He witnessed other prisoners being beaten and terrorized with dogs. He was at times kept in total darkness, at times in continual bright light (he has grown his hair to chest length so he can cover his eyes to allow him to sleep). He had no access to a lawyer for more than a year or knowledge of the charges against him. Others, those lucky enough to have lawyers or to have actually gotten out, tell similar tales of continual cold, of desecration of the Quran and of sexual humiliation designed specifically to torture Muslim men.

During his five years of detention, people fought for Hicks. His father, Terry Hicks, traveled to the U.S. He donned an orange jumpsuit, like the one his son was forced to wear, and stood in a 6-foot-by-8-foot cage on Broadway in New York while fielding questions from the press.

Even the U.S. Supreme Court, the body that appointed Bush president in 2000, agreed that the prisoners must have some access to habeas corpus, the right to challenge one’s imprisonment. This central tenet of Western law, established in the Magna Carta in 1215, has been thrown out the window, along with the Geneva Conventions, by Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Gonzales and others.

Guantanamo has sparked one of the United States’ major growth industries: protesting against Guantanamo. From campuses to churches, the anger has driven regular citizens to action. Cindy Sheehan and members of the Catholic Worker Movement went to Cuba and marched overland to Guantanamo to challenge the illegitimate prison and its jailers in person.

Even in Hicks’ brief moment in the controversial “trial,” the government did what it could to strip him of the few rights it claims he has. The presiding military judge, Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann, dismissed his civilian lawyer, Joshua Dratel, and a Navy reservist attorney, Rebecca Snyder, who was assisting Hicks’ government-appointed attorney. Hicks was stunned, and at first refused to plead. Hours later, after the trial was reconvened, he pleaded guilty to his one remaining charge. Having no hope for a fair trial, he reportedly believed that pleading guilty would allow him to serve his sentence in Australia—his only hope of escaping Guantanamo.

There are still more than 380 prisoners at Guantanamo. Almost none have been charged. Those ultimately charged with murder could be sentenced to death by the military commission. The decider of the death penalty after appeals are exhausted is none other than George Bush, who as governor of Texas oversaw the most active death chamber in the United States. Back then his lawyer was Alberto Gonzales.

The U.S. attorney scandal is threatening to take down Gonzales. But it is his condoning of torture from Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib that should seal his fate.

The grim Guantanamo experiment is reaching its climax. The house of cards that has been erected to support this immoral, criminal enterprise is poised to collapse. Call, shout, sit down, march, donate, write, protest ... demand that Guantanamo be closed.


A Source of Pride: How Our Leaders' Army Recruits

Beyond the pale: anti-gay, racist emails from Army recruiter
by: pam
Mon Mar 26, 2007 at 10:45:00 AM EDT


-- U.S. Army recruiter Sgt. Marcia Ramode, using her military email address to respond to Jersey City resident Corey Andrew, after Ramode learned Andrew was gay.

Is this the General Peter Pace policy at work?

Corey Andrew had his profile and resume posted at, and it caught the eye of Army recruiter Marcia Ramode, who contacted him. He wasn't interested in a position in the military, particularly because of the ban on gays and lesbians in the military.

When Andrew informed Ramode that he is gay, and believed that the DADT policy was wrong, the two engaged in a three-day email exchange that included statements by Ramode, in her official capacity as a recruiter, that boggle the mind. (Jersey Journal):

After more prodding from Andrew on the Army's recruitment policy, the messages escalated into a bigoted tirade. For example, Ramode told Andrew that "being gay is disgusting and immoral."

...Steve Ralls, a director of communications for the Service Members Legal Defense Network, which helps victims of discrimination under the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, says Ramode should be fired.

"The recruiter's remarks were outrageous and offensive in almost every way," Ralls said. "Anti-gay harassment throughout the military is well documented but this is particularly egregious because the recruiter's language is so homophobic and racist."

Andrew forwarded the emails to SLDN, and, well, it blows your mind to see the calibre of people now being allowed to recruit. This is completely unacceptable, and stains the reputation of those wearing the uniform. Can you believe this brazen filth was sent out under a military domain as official business communication --

and [click on this and] look at this:

And here's another, where Ramode tells Andrew to "migrate to another country" if he objects to paying taxes to support the military, which discriminates against gay and lesbian citizens, and "if you do not like me writing in caps then delete my email and do not respond I think it scared you to death."

According to a statement from public affairs officer, Sgt. Douglas Smith, the U.S. Army Recruiting Command's Staff Judge Advocate has bumped the case up to Ramode's commander for "review, investigation and appropriate action." Ramode, as you might imagine, didn't return calls from reporters.

Our tax dollars are paying for taxpaying citizens to be treated like this; gays and lesbians are fighting and dying for their country right now, while Ramode gets to sit at a desk and tap out homophobic, racist tirades to U.S. citizens while representing the Army. It's wrong on so many levels.

NOTE: The Jersey Journal article also noted that the name calling went in both directions once Ramode lobbed the first volley of outlandish statements.

The insults were not only flying one way, as Andrew criticized her vocabulary and poor spelling and, after finding out she was a Native American, wrote:
"So take that to your next rain dance."

That was racist and out of bounds as well, but of course the whole nonsense wouldn't have occurred had Ramode simply said that the military's policy is that we don't recruit openly gay and lesbians citizens, and left it at that. She clearly felt the need to unleash the vitriol and it all escalated. She was the one representing the government -- and the taxpayers.

UPDATE: in the land of conservative make-believe, Riehl World View chooses to believe that the military recruiter was set up to engage in that flame war. Oh yes -- but, she made the first contact, and chose to continue communicating in that manner while representing the government. Get real. If Ramode felt so curiously compelled to respond as she did (or knew any better), she should have opened a Gmail, Yahoo or other non-work account, no? Please.
Bigoted emails from Army recruiter outrage gay man
Monday, March 26, 2007

Jersey City resident Corey Andrew, like thousands of other job seekers, recently posted his profile on a popular career-based web site, hoping to nab some work as a copywriter. But the response he received was anything but typical.

The posting on brought several potential suitors, including an Army recruiter who replied in late February.

However, Andrew had no interest in joining the Army for a number of reasons, including the military's ban on openly gay and lesbian citizens from putting on the uniform. Andrew identifies himself as gay.

His lack of interest didn't stop him from asking the recruiter whether he was able to serve in the Army as a gay man. The question sparked a bizarre three-day exchange, escalating into a bigoted tirade from the recruiter and an official military investigation.

Using a military email address, U.S. Army recruiter Sgt. Marcia Ramode fired off an email in capital letters that " IF YOU ARE GAY WE DON'T TAKE YOU. YOU ARE CONSIDERED UNQUALIFIED."

After more prodding from Andrew on the Army's recruitment policy, the messages escalated into a bigoted tirade. For example, Ramode told Andrew that "being gay is disgusting and immoral."

In a separate email, Ramode wrote, "You must be a total idiot and so stupid to presume that you do not know what gender you are." Ramode added that Andrew should be more grateful to the military for defending his freedoms, but that as a gay man "he should leave the United States."

The insults were not only flying one way, as Andrew criticized her vocabulary and poor spelling and, after finding out she was a Native American, wrote:

"So take that to your next rain dance."

Ramode didn't limit her email attacks to insults about Andrew's sexual preferences.

Andrew, who is black, criticized Ramode's word choices and poor spelling. In response, the apparently enraged sergeant said in graphic language that Andrew should "GO BACK TO AFRICA AND DO YOUR GAY VOODOO LIMBO TANGO AND WANGO DANCE AND JUMP AROUND AND PRANCE AND RUN ALL OVER THE PLACE HALF NAKED THERE."

The U.S. Army Recruiting Command's Staff Judge Advocate has referred the email exchange to Ramode's commander for "review, investigation and appropriate action," Sgt. Douglas Smith, a public affairs officer based Fort Knox, Texas, said in a statement.

Under the Department of Defense's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, recruiters do not ask applicants any questions about their sexual orientation.

"If an applicant makes a statement that he or she is homosexual, the recruiter must inform the applicant in a professional manner that they are not eligible for enlistment," the statement said.

Andrew, who is also a singer-songwriter and has worked for New York's advertising giant Young & Rubicam, said he thinks the Army contacted him because the Iraq war has made it harder to recruit.

Steve Ralls, a director of communications for the Service Members Legal Defense Network, which helps victims of discrimination under the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, says Ramode should be fired.

"The recruiter's remarks were outrageous and offensive in almost every way," Ralls said. "Anti-gay harassment throughout the military is well documented but this is particularly egregious because the recruiter's language is so homophobic and racist."

Ralls is relieved the Army appears to be taking the email exchange seriously.

"The command expects its recruiters to conduct themselves in a professional manner in all dealings with potential applicants and members of the public," said Smith of the Army. "We are ambassadors for America's Army."

Ramode did not return phone calls seeking comment.


Our Leaders' Version of Honesty in LeadershipThe Justice Department's Monica Goodling, Alberto Gonzales' senior counsel and liaison to the White House

The Justice Department's Monica Goodling, Alberto Gonzales' senior counsel and liaison to the White House, will invoke her Fifth Amendment privilege to refuse to answer questions put to her by the U.S. Senate.

"The potential for legal jeopardy for Ms. Goodling from even her most truthful and accurate testimony under these circumstances is very real," Goodling's lawyer, John Dowd, tells the Associated Press. What's the worst thing that could happen if Goodling were just to go in and tell the truth? "One need look no further than the recent circumstances and proceedings involving Lewis Libby," Dowd said.

Of course, Libby found himself in trouble not for telling the truth but for lying -- repeatedly and under oath -- about what he knew and what he said about Valerie Plame. If the White House is right that no crimes were committed in the prosecutor purge -- and if Goodling would really tell the truth while testifying -- then what possible reason could she have for refusing to do so?

Yes, if she were to be honest and there's no claims of illegality, why the 5th? And if it's being used inappropriately, she's setting herself up for a contempt charge.

Very bizarre -- of course, God knows the current administration is, so to speak, chock full of nuts.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Our Leaders' Love for the Constitution and the System of Law

The setup: on February 6th, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the administration intended to nominate (and have the Senate confirm) replacements for all the ousted prosecutors. But as the emails make clear, Alberto Gonzales' chief of staff Kyle Sampson was advising the use of the AG's newfound power to appoint replacements indefinitely -- without the trouble of Senate confirmation.

The Greatness that is Big Media Journalism

Perhaps the most disturbing display of all, however, was 60 Minutes' Katie Couric. She spent most of her interview with the Edwardses behaving like a prosecutor, cross-examining them about why they are going forward with the presidential campaign. And when I say "interrogate" I mean interrogate. This was no ordinary interview - this was a televised guilt trip. She stated as fact to John Edwards that he is supposedly "putting your work first, and your family second." She also pulled the "some say" technique, claiming that an unnamed "some" say that in making this decision, Edwards is displaying "a case of insatiable ambition."

In pursuing this line of repeated questioning, of course, Couric ignored the pretty well-known psychological value of work during health care crises. She also ignored the fact that this is an immensely personal decision that does not require some multimillion-dollar journalist to perform a televised, Gitmo-style interrogation in order for viewers at home to glean the "news value." And most incredibly, she ignored her own behavior when her spouse was diagnosed with cancer.

That's right, Katie Couric's husband was diagnosed with cancer in 1997. I did a quick check of the transcripts for that year - and it's pretty clear that she kept working as the anchor for NBC's Today Show, if not full time, then pretty close to it.

I want to be extremely clear: That Couric continued to work while her husband was sick was entirely her and her family's personal decision. I'm not going to comment on the merits of that decision not because I think it was a bad one or a good one, but because it's AN ENTIRELY PERSONAL DECISION. Really, who the hell am I - and who the hell is anyone else - to question someone's decision to keep working during a family health crisis?

Questioning the Edwardses about their decision is perfectly legit; questioning in an arrogant, hostile manner isn't -- except for the water carriers who are not required to report but to promote the GOP.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Our Leaders Show their Love for Our Troops (Cont'd)

Army deployed seriously injured troops

Soldiers on crutches and canes were sent to a main desert camp used for Iraq training. Military experts say the Army was pumping up manpower statistics to show a brigade was battle ready.

Speaking of more:
The Army is rethinking the way it evaluates wounded and injured soldiers who are no longer fit for duty because of post-traumatic stress disorder and certain other conditions.

But a board at Fort Lewis continues to move soldiers with those medical problems through the Army's disability assessment system, even though the new guidelines have yet to be published, according to attorneys who represent soldiers.

In effect, soldiers must argue their case without knowing the rules by which the board will size up their injuries, say the three Army lawyers who represent soldiers before the Fort Lewis Physical Evaluation Board, or PEB.

Attorneys from the Office of Soldiers' Legal Counsel stated their objections in a Monday letter to the PEB president, Col. John O'Sullivan.

"A soldier's statutory right to a full and fair hearing is fundamentally violated if they are not provided the standards upon which they are to be judged in advance of the hearing," they wrote.

Meanwhile, in a letter sent after visiting Fort Lewis several weeks ago, the Army's top civilian lawyer raised concerns about a possible "Wal-Mart greeter test" in determining whether soldiers are well enough to be denied benefits.

The PEB decides whether wounded and injured soldiers from across the Western United States should receive retired pay and military benefits such as health care coverage and base privileges, or one-time severance payments with no benefits, or no compensation at all.

The three attorneys who wrote the MMonday letter are Maj. Damon D. Gulick, Lt. Col. Ronda W. Sutton and Steven E. Engle, a civilian who is the chief of office.

They said that until the new rules are distributed, the soldiers and their lawyers "do not know what evidence to gather, marshal and present that will be most relevant" to the board's decision-making in each case.

A board official and an Army Human Resources Command spokesman declined to comment Friday.

Fresh Look at PTSD Guidelines

The Army's Physical Disability Agency is in the midst of a rewrite of the guidelines for rating the severity of injuries such as PTSD; lost range of motion in joints such as the neck and shoulders; sleep apnea; and other conditions.

The revisions are apparently in response to complaints that have come to light in the wake of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal last month. Since then, soldiers and their advocates have raised questions about the fairness of the Army's system for determining whether wounded and injured soldiers are fit for duty, and if they're not, how to compensate them for their disabilities.

Fort Lewis is home to one of three Physical Evaluation Boards in the Army. The others are at Walter Reed in Washington, D.C., and at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. A fourth, mobile board is occasionally convened to address case backlogs around the country.

Each PEB is made up of a senior line officer, a doctor and a personnel expert. If they find a soldier isn't fit to return to duty, they decide if the disability is related to his or her service in the Army, and if it is, the board sets a percentage rating to the disability.

Soldiers whose disabilities are rated at 30 percent or more generally are entitled to be medically retired. They receive a percentage of their base pay each month and continue to receive benefits including health care coverage and base privileges.

Soldiers who are rated at less than 30 percent disabled generally receive a severance payment equal to two months pay for every year of service, up to 12 years. They're released from service with no further benefits.

In some cases, the boards find that a soldier's disability is due to a condition that existed before he or she joined the Army, in which case the soldier is entitled to no compensation.

Despite dramatic increases in the number of wounded and injured soldiers, the number receiving medical retirements from PEBs had dropped - from 642 in 2001 to 209 in 2005, according to recent reports in the Army Times.

The "Wal-Mart Greeter Test"?

Soldiers have complained that PEBs unfairly discount the impacts of injuries, often releasing them from the Army with modest severance payments, no military medical coverage and a disability that makes it difficult to find work as a civilian.

The Army's top civilian lawyer, Benedict S. Cohen, earlier this month wrote a memo to senior Army officials to report several complaints he heard from Fort Lewis staff "closely involved in the administration of the PEB process."

During a Fort Lewis visit several weeks ago, Cohen reported, staff members alleged that the PEB "routinely" misapplies Army regulations and Department of Defense instructions "to evade reaching the 30 percent disability threshold that triggers soldier eligibility" for medical retirement and benefits.

"It was claimed that PEBs employed a 'Wal-Mart greeter' test, whereby if an injured soldier could function as a Wal-Mart greeter he or she would receive a rating of 0 percent disability, as opposed to the outcome mandated" by Army and Defense Department regulations, Cohen wrote.

"The staff cited as evidence of misapplication of relevant standards the fact that despite the onset of the GWOT (global war on terrorism) and subsequent dramatic increase in the number and severity of injuries, findings of disability had held steady at 9 percent and more recently had even fallen below that average," he wrote.

"Further Assessment"

Cohen sent his memo to the assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs, the Army Inspector General, and the Army Judge Advocate General. He wrote that he had no way of knowing whether the allegations were true, but that, "In my view, this information may warrant further assessment."

An official with the Fort Lewis PEB said Friday that he could not respond to News Tribune inquiries about cases before the board. He referred a reporter to the public affairs officer with the Army Human Resources Command in Alexandria, Va., Lt. Col. Kevin Arata.

Arata did not return telephone and e-mail inquiries from The News Tribune, but instructed the Fort Lewis PEB official not to speak with the paper, the official said.

"He said we weren't to discuss the subject," said John Mills, the chief adjudicator with the Fort Lewis PEB. "We can't talk about it."

The lawyers who represent soldiers before the PEB wrote that it was unclear how the board would account for the new guidelines for PTSD and other conditions in the cases it is hearing while the rewrite is under way. The board hears up to four or five cases each workday.

It was unclear whether the new guidelines would be retroactive, or if soldiers would have the chance to argue their case in another hearing.

Soldier Will Fight Fort Lewis Board

Dennis Abitz, a retired Army Reserve sergeant major, has post-traumatic stress disorder and a metal plate in his neck.

He said the Physical Evaluation Board at Fort Lewis on Thursday reduced his disability rating from 30 percent to 10 percent, even though his injuries would appear to fall within the categories of cases the Army is now reviewing.

Abitz had been on temporary disability retirement the past year and had to appear last week for a reassessment of his status.

His neck injury was reduced from 20 percent to 0, and his PTSD held at 10 percent, he said.

"They weren't supposed to come up with a decision until after the new rules came out," said Abitz, 47, who belonged to an Army Reserve unit in Wisconsin. "The regulations make it clear they've got to give you a copy of what the new rules are so that you can make your case."

Abitz said he began to suffer PTSD after the Persian Gulf War, when he encountered the horrific remains of Iraqi troops obliterated by U.S. airstrikes as they tried to retreat from Kuwait.

The Army called him back up to active duty in December 2002 to return to Kuwait with his logistics unit to set up camps for the invasion of Iraq that would follow in four months.

He'd had neck surgery just a month earlier, but the Army cleared him for duty.

After several months, he said, an Army doctor in Kuwait diagnosed him with a fragmented disk, and he was sent home.

Since then, Abitz has been locking horns with the Army's medical and disability system. The Veterans Administration rated his injuries as a 70 percent disability, but he said he wants to receive the medical retirement status from the Army so his wife and his child will have medical insurance.

Abitz said he's going to appeal.

"I'm not yet willing to walk away," he said.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

What We're Listening To

Dad's Gonna Kill Me
Written by Richard Thompson copyright Beeswing/Bug Music
Appears on Sweet Warrior (2007)

Out in the desert there’s a soldier lying dead
Vultures pecking the eyes out of his head
Another day that could have been me there instead
Nobody loves me here
Nobody loves me here

Dad’s Gonna Kill Me
Dad’s Gonna Kill Me

You hit the booby trap and you’re in pieces
With every bullet your risk increases
Old Ali Baba, he’s a different species
Nobody loves me here
Nobody loves me here

Dad’s Gonna Kill Me
Dad’s Gonna Kill Me

I’m dead meat in my HumV Frankenstein
I hit the road block, God knows I never hit the mine
The dice rolled and I got lucky this time

Dad’s Gonna Kill Me
Dad’s Gonna Kill Me

I’ve got a wife, a kid, another on the way
I might get home if I can live through today
Before I came out here I never used to pray
Nobody loves me here
Nobody loves me here

Dad’s Gonna Kill Me

Dad’s in a bad mood, Dad’s got the blues
It’s someone else’s mess that I didn’t choose
At least we’re winning on the Fox Evening News
Nobody loves me here

Dad’s Gonna Kill Me
Dad’s Gonna Kill Me

Dawn Patrol went out and didn’t come back
Hug the wire and pray like I told you, Mac
Or they’ll be shovelling bits of you into a sack

Dad’s Gonna Kill Me.

And who’s that stranger walking in my dreams
And whose that stranger cast a shadow ‘cross my heart
And who’s that stranger, I dare speak his name
Must be old Death a-walking
Must be old Death a-walking

Dad’s Gonna Kill Me

7 muzzle monkeys standing in a row
Standing waiting for The Sandbox to blow
Sitting targets in the wild west show

Nobody loves me here

Dad’s Gonna Kill Me

Another angel got his wings this week
Charbroiled with his own Willie Pete
Nobody’s dying if you speak double-speak

Dad’s Gonna Kill Me


An Analysis of the Greatness of Our Leader

One thing that is fascinating about George Bush is how little he has grown in office. No, that's not right. It's not that he hasn't grown, he has gotten smaller; less Presidential, more sad little man watching his paper boat circle the drain. After six years of playing The Decider he should at least have a thin candy shell of gravitas as opposed to coming across like one of those guys on Peoples Court who not only has an unshakable belief that people won't see through his bullshit, but that no one will notice his artful comb-over either.

As bad a president as George W. Bush has been (and lets face it, not only is he the worst ever, he's actively lobbying to be considered worse than at least the next five, possibly six presidents, and that includes President Patrick McHenry [warning: video] who will come to power following the Great Munchkin Uprising of 2021. You don't want to know...) he is a worse person and it shows whenever he is under pressure; he melts down into a greasy little puddle of glares and smirks and incipient panic. But tonight was special. Tonights performance lays to rest any notion other than the fact that he's not a very bright man who has nothing but contempt for a world that refuses to dumb down for him.

And here's an exercise: Picture his future as a former president. Will there be anything substantive he can do like ex-presidential, other personal profiteering. He'll make his grubbing, slimy scumbag old man -- the father he doesn't listen to -- look like a statesman.

Atrios Makes a Joke

This is delicious:
It's obvious that Republicans in general and the presidential candidate especially will have to run against George Bush in '08 if they want to have any chance of actually winning control.

It's also obvious that fealty to dear leader is still an extraordinarily important thing to the 30 percenters.

It's also probable that our blessed media, who spent '00 demanding that Al Gore run away from Bill Clinton due to his hideous 65% approval ratings, will be unlikely to do that to the Republican candidate in '08.

The current leadership is toxic and anathema to a very significant portion of the (actual) voters and Big Media will not allow the GOP candidate run against Our Leaders.

OTOH, that's Rudy's great advantage: he's the least tarred by the current administration. But of course, he fully supports it in his current pandering....

And he has another one!
As has been the case since I've been obsessing about this crap, journalists obsess about mostly trivial ethical issues, pat themselves on the back for doing so, and proceed to ignore more serious issues.

Why was Jayson Blair a bigger scandal than Judith Miller?

Some questions answer themselves...

History Lesson

What's truly surprising about all of this is how surprised people seem to be. None of this is new — American corporations have been trading with America's enemies for as long as they have been able. They are corporations first and Americans second. A corporation's ultimate allegiance is to the bottom line and the pursuit of profit, not to American liberty or justice. American corporations have a long history of sacrificing the long-term interests of the environment, their own workers, and even the economy for the sake of the short term and the profits of the next quarter.

The Ford Motor Corporation is regarded as about as American as a company can be, but they had few qualms about trading with Nazi Germany. By September, 1939, Ford's manufacturing plants in Germany were the second largest producer of trucks for the German Wehrmacht. According to U.S. intelligence documents, "of the 350,000 trucks which the motorized German army possessed in 1942, 100,000 to 120,000 were Ford-built."

The Nazi Blitzkrieg that wrecked Europe was, quite literally, built Ford tough. Ford-Werke, the German subsidiary of the Ford Motor Company in America, placed an advertisement in the Frankfurter Zeitung in January, 1941 to promote their role in the war effort. According to the ad, Ford vehicles were present for the German invasions of Poland, Norway, Holland, France, and Belgium: "German Ford vehicles were the dependable servants of the brave soldier." Some historians estimate that by the end of the war, around 60% of all the 3-ton tracked trucks used by the German military were Fords.

Compared to IBM, though, Ford was a paragon of virtue. In April, 1933, Adolf Hitler announced that a long-delayed census of the German people would occur. Although this sounds innocuous, it was not: a census gave the Nazis more accurate information about who was a Jew and where the Jews could be found. That information was worthless if it couldn't be quickly accessed and used, however — and that's where IBM enters the picture.

The importance of IBM's German subsidiary Dehomag and the IBM machines in the Nazi persecution of Jews, as well as their later extermination efforts, probably cannot be underestimated. IBM's Hollerith machines and their punch cards made it possible for the Nazis to organize and manage detailed information about who was and was not Jewish, to trace people's racial lineage, to calculate how much they owned, to track their movements, and much more.

Willy Heidinger, manager of IBM's German subsidiary Dehomag, sent a message to IBM president Thomas J. Watson in October, 1936, about plans to build massive bomb shelters to protect the Dehomag equipment, vital for the Nazis' ability to organize and control the German population. Heidinger wrote, "The authorities have approached us with demands that sufficient care should be taken to protect our plant and operations against air attack. In view of the fact that we are located close to a railway station, such demands seem justified.... [W]e believe we should recommend immediately the setting up of air raid shelters." These Nazi authorities already knew that war was coming, and now so did Watson, who authorized the construction of two massive bunkers that would protect IBM machines, cards, and operators from future Allied bombing raids.

By mid-1944, the Nazis had Hollerith Departments (Hollerith Abteilung) "installed at the main concentration camps at Mauthausen, Ravensbrüch, Flossenbürg and Buchenwald." The SS Hollerith cards included codes for the grounds for confinement (Jehovah's Witness=01, homosexuals=02, Jews=05), birth date, gender, ethnicity (Reich German=0, Ethnic German=1, Foreigner=2), labor capacity, occupation, and reason for departure (execution=3, escape=4, special treatment=6). These IBM Hollerith numbers would be tattooed on the arms of people entering Auschwitz

All of this information was sorted and tabulated to make the administration of the massive camp system possible. Dachau alone was using 24 IBM machines by the end of the war. These machines were, in many ways, both the origin of the "surveillance society" and an example of everyone's fears about what happens when powerful authoritarians have too much access to too much information about us.

It wasn't just corporations that made a killing from the Nazi killing machine, though. In October, 1942, U.S. Alien Property Custodian Leo T. Crowely issued Vesting Order 248 under the Trading with the Enemy Act. All assets of the Union Banking Corporation of New York were to be seized because the company was being used as a front for "enemy nationals" and, in fact, wasn't even really a bank at all. Instead, it was just a front operation that laundered money for Germans who were funding Hitler's war machine and propaganda efforts.

The partner in the company who had been administering all Nazi investments was Prescott Bush, father of President George Herbert Walker Bush and grandfather of President George W. Bush. An investigator for the U.S. Justice Department found that Prescott's father-in-law, Bert Walker, was "one of Hitler's most powerful financial supporters in the United States." One of the Nazi-affiliated corporations whose investments Prescott Bush had been overseeing was the Hamburg-Amerika Line which, according to a U.S. Congressional investigation, had "subsidized a wide range of pro-Nazi propaganda efforts both in Germany and the United States."

Apparently, Prescott Bush had made millions of dollars for the Nazis and had gotten wealthy himself in the process. According to John Loftus, former United States Justice Department Nazi war crimes investigator and president of the Florida Holocaust Museum, "The Bush family fortune that helped put two members of the family in the White House can be traced directly to the Third Reich." This is not because the Bush family were secretly Nazis, but because they were openly capitalist: they went where the money was and were only interested in profit. Making money from the Nazis wasn't immoral because there is no such thing as "immoral" when it comes to profiting from the free market.

This long historical discursion might appear to be irrelevant, but I'm presenting it for a purpose: large American corporations were trading with and profiting from enemies even as extreme as the Nazis, so we should expect them to try to do the same with Muslim extremists as well. We shouldn't tolerate it, but we should expect it.

The real trouble is how our government is willing to tolerate it — for all the noise politicians make, they rarely do anything substantive to punish corporations which are found to be trading with enemies. Several American corporations have been caught trading with Sudan, Cuba, Iran, and Iraq (before we invaded). The fines were little more than slaps on the wrist — which is more than what companies like Ford and IBM suffered, but not enough to serve as a punishment or deterrent.

This ensures that the problems will continue: whatever conflicts the American government gets involved in, American corporations will be making a profit from both sides. They aren't on our side, they are on their own side. They won't be on our side unless we hold them accountable — or force our elected representatives to do so. Can the American people muster sufficient will to limit the power and activities of American corporations, though?

Just the Very Latest Example of the Bankruptcy of Big Media Journalism


A Leader Stolen from Us

A paean to the man actually elected president in 2000. One can dream....
by Nicholas von Hoffman

Al Gore, Global Statesman

[posted online on March 23, 2007]

Al Gore is not one of those Power Point politicians whose standard spiel is to pledge to carry on:

• The war against cancer

• The war against terrorism

•The war against sexual exploitation of children

• The war for medical insurance coverage for all

• The war against poverty

• The war against the war against the middle class

•The war against drugs

•The war for family values

•The war for God

•The war for diversity

Plus other wars which momentarily slip my mind.

Al Gore does not play those politics. Instead of a war-against list, Gore can speak on a single topic for half an hour, an hour, an hour and a half. He has facts. He has figures. He has long thought out complicated ideas. The man has something to say.

There Gore was testifying before Congress the other day on the subject of global warming, and he pigmy-tized many small-minded Senators and Representatives. They dwarfed out when they were caught in the same room with him.

On the subject of global warming Gore has more to contribute than the politician's standard ethanol pitch and the promise that if you wait, the science boys will come up with something to save us from having to make changes or adjustments or do anything at all.

Some of his ideas are sweeping and some are intriguing. He proposes an immediate cap on any further growth of carbon dioxide emissions. To stop emissions growth everything from industrial plants to lawn mowers and snowmobiles would have to be rejiggered in a serious way.

To achieve that goal he would require that no new electric generating plants be built without carbon dioxide traps to prevent the gas from puffing out into the atmosphere.

He would strictly tax carbon dioxide emissions by businesses, providing a sharp and painful incentive for businesses to find ways to green up. The money, which there would be a lot of, would be used to cut payroll taxes, which include Social Security, Workers Compensation, etc. That would put more money in people's paychecks, a lot more for the millions whose Social Security tax is larger than their income tax. It would also make it cheaper for employers to hire people, thus creating more jobs.

Another Al Gore idea would be to require corporations to include an energy/carbon dioxide audit statement in their annual report and stock prospectus. Companies which do not have their energy emissions under control would be less desirable as investments than those which do.

Gore would end the era of the incandescent light bulb. They burn too much electricity. He would fix a date about ten years from now after which their manufacture would be illegal. From then on, instead of bulbs, our bright ideas will come in the form of those high-intensity, low-power squiggly bulbs which, Gore says, are getting better.

Gore has something of the 19th century about him. He is almost courtly in his manners. He can talk to Republicans, at least of the non-flat-earth variety. He has a deep voice and sometimes he thunders as few modern politicians can. At the same time you would be hard-pressed to find another major public figure so conversant with such a wide span of technology and with the earth, air, fire and water problems which are reaching crisis proportions in our century.

It has been so long since we have seen one that we may not remember what one looks like. We may not recognize that Al Gore has become a statesman.

The Genius of one of Our Leader's Enablers

The Republican National Committee (RNC) on Wednesday sent an e-mail to its followers containing a personal message from Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL), the Republican Party General Chairman, and it was chock-full of unintentionally funny items.

"I have said that it is irresponsible to pronounce judgment on the replacement of the U.S. Attorneys before we have the facts. Unfortunately, some would prefer to make political pronouncements instead of getting the facts," says the e-mail, attributed to Martinez.
... he says in a political pronouncement.

As he does everything possible to ensure that the facts will not be obtained.


Another Sunday Funny


The Genius of Our Leader and his Honesty in Leadership

From the War Room:
George W. Bush blasted back at House Democrats today by saying that the Iraq war withdrawal plan they passed today amounted to "an act of political theater" in which they "voted to substitute their judgment for that of our military commanders on the ground in Iraq." It was a nice line and all, but perhaps it wouldn't be a bad idea if the reporters who go about quoting it tonight mention that the president had to oust his own "military commanders on the ground in Iraq" in order to find some who agreed with his plan to send more troops there.

Homemade Sunday Funnies