Wednesday, June 30, 2004


Amazing that one of the most powerful words in the English language has only two letters.

If the proper planning had been done for nation building in Iraq we might not be stuck in what is surely a quagmire. If the proper number of troops had been committed to the war and post-war effort security would likely not be a problem for Iraqis and foreigners working to rebuild. If neoconservative ideology were not the driving factor in BushCo. actions, we might not have started an unprovoked war. And of course, if Katherine Harris, Jeb Bush and the SCOTUS had done their jobs, there might not be a Bush administration right now.

Today's if: If it had been the Bush Plan instead of the Marshall Plan Germany would still be a third-world backwater struggling to emerge from post-World War II destruction.

From today's NYT:

In the initial months of the American occupation, the hard-earned lessons of earlier nation-building campaigns by the United States and the United Nations in places like Bosnia, Afghanistan and East Timor were ignored by Pentagon planners, who tried to rush ahead with showcase infrastructure projects before securing public safety and a sense of participation, critics say.
If only Bush and his neocon wingnuts had learned the lessons of history, perhaps things might be a little better for us all.

Excuse Me, Your Geek is Showing...

Tonight my daughter and I are going to see Spider Man 2. All the reviews I've heard or read have said that this is going to be even better than the first, which would be incredible. The trailers and commercials have been mind-blowing.

I'm so psyched!

*AHEM* Back to our regularly scheduled blogging.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Another Reason Bush Must Go

As if you really needed another reason...

Via Atrios, I found an interesting post on Better Angels. Basically, Biblio, the blogger there, lays out the evidence that far-right wingnuts are teaming up with our old friends in the Christian Right to push for BushCo.'s next excellent adventure. Not satisfied with the mess he's made in the Middle East, these whack-jobs have their eyes on a bigger prize. Here's the headline:

Christians and Neocons Join Forces to Drag Us Into War with North Korea
Go read the whole thing. And when you stop shaking, resolve to get as many friends as you can to the voting booth this November.

Read 'em and Weep

I've said often that the Wall Street Journal is schizophrenic. The news is covered wonderfully in its pages, while the OPED section corrals the most reactionary and conservative bits into one place. I slog through it every day to gain some perspective on current conservative thought. Sometimes painful, sometimes hilarious; the letters provide me with plenty of opportunity to laugh out loud or to shake my head.

Today's edition contained a letter (subscription) that after I first read it made me think that I must have mis-read it. But no, this was really the first paragraph:

Daniel Henninger's June 28 column Wonderland "Evil Or Just Politics?" seeks to examine the spectrum of plausible excuses for the inexcusable. Whether it is supporting senseless abortion, beheadings or terrorism perpetuated by people who claim their behavior rooted in a fanatical and limited belief in God, it can only be summed up by one word. Evil.
Did you catch it? Did it make you do a double take?

In reverse order, the writer conflated the following items: terrorism, beheadings and abortion.

In that short paragraph, this person summarily places anyone who's had to make the difficult, personal, medical decision to have an abortion (and truthfully, anyone who has thought about it or approves of it) in the same moral category with terrorists and fundamentalist thugs. And make no mistake about it, these people would make the punishment for all three the same if they could.

The final two sentences of the letter illustrate the absolute break with reality faced by the writer and his like minded cohort:

President Bush and Prime Minister Blair understand this important history regarding humanity and are providing a marvelous example of authentic leadership to a cynical world desperately in need of it. The overall policies that the U.S. are engaged in from abortion to Iraq under the leadership of President Bush seem to be a set of responsible, coherent, strategic policies consistent with a nation that champions human rights while seeking the defeat of global terrorism.

Monday, June 28, 2004

God of the Sky, Ruler of the Titans

While we scurry about on our little speck of rock, pretending to be about important matters, a small, robotic explorer is approaching the most beautiful, sublime planet in our solar system. Cassini/Huygens will fire its engines and insert itself into Saturn orbit on July 1. As it approaches it sends back data that amaze and surprise and photos that boggle the mind.

Dictionaries in Short Supply?

Can someone please give the talking heads at ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CNN, MSNBC a dictionary?

They all keep saying that Iraq was given sovereignty this morning. And yet no such thing happened. It's true that Paul Bremmer gave a letter to al Yawer saying so. It's true that Bremmer then left Iraq with all the alacrity of a rat from a sinking ship. But we all know that what the new Iraqi government has been left with is nothing like sovereignty;

n. government free from external control.
via WordNet.
But just for fun, wouldn't it be great if they actually tried to act as though they did? What would happen if al Yawer ordered all American military personnel out? What would happen if he sent his security forces - if any of them are working these days - to claim true custody of Saddam Hussein?

Farce might be too mild a word.

Skulking Away in the Night

The security situation in Iraq is in such great shape that Paul Bremmer had to hand over "sovereignty" to the new Iraqi government two days early and then skulk away in the night.

We've done such a wonderful job there, haven't we? Makes you proud to have BushCo. in the White House.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Transition, Sovereignty and Security

This doesn't sound like a country with a security situation stable enough for the US to transition power to a sovereign Iraqi government to me:

Insurgents launched coordinated attacks against police and government buildings across Iraq Thursday, less than a week before the handover of sovereignty. Sixty-nine people including three American soldiers were killed, and more than 270 people were wounded, Iraqi and U.S. officials said.

The large number of attacks, mostly directed at Iraqi security services, was a clear sign of just how powerful the insurgency in Iraq remains -- and could be the start of a new push to torpedo the June 30 transfer of sovereignty to an interim transitional government.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Reverse Jujitsu

Wanda, from Words on a Page, left an interesting comment to a post on Dancing With Myself. In particular, this sentence, about the importance of not just not voting for Bush (or for Nader), but voting for Kerry, really caught my eye:

This is a case where [their] mantra works in reverse. You are either against them or [you're] with them.


An interesting word, perspective. As a sometimes artist and photographer, it has interesting shadings of meanings. As a relatively recent student of politics, I find that those shadings can be instructive. With a long-time interest in perspective, in its many meanings, I have clearly seen that Bush and his neoconservative cabal are lacking in perspective on many things; lacking in historical perspective, lacking in military perspective. Their seeming willful ignorance on many issues is puzzling and dangerous.

I've suspected that they lack any serious or deep perspective on why things have gone so deadly wrong in their Middle East adventures. While ideology drives their actions, some true perspectives on the history, religions and peoples of the are would serve them well and temper their actions.

What made me think of this was a wonderful Op-Ed piece in the New York Times today by Youssef M. Ibrahim, a former Middle East correspondent for the NYT.

It would be a mistake, however, to consider the Shiites a problem solved. Rather, Bush administration strategists should undertake an in-depth analysis of the entire Shiite phenomenon, which since the Iranian revolution that brought Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to power in Iran in 1979 has repeatedly upset America's plans in the Persian Gulf. It is vital that Washington understand that it cannot consider the Shiites of Iraq to be an independent, national body. Shiism, forged during more than 1,500 years of persecution at the hands of the Islamic world's Sunnis, is a phenomenon that transcends borders and domestic politics.
This paragraph alone is probably more background that ever given to Bush during one of his Readers-Digest Presidential Daily Briefings. The lack of perspective on a religio-political phenomenon that stretches so far into history and which colors events in an area they've chosen to involve themselves speaks volumes to why things have gone so badly.

The few minutes it would take to read this article are time well spent; for us and for Bush.

Shortage Affects Liberal Bloggers

If you're a progressive blogger and wondered why you've had a hard time with posting lately, I may have found the reason. Rivka, at Respectful of Otters has discovered a serious shortage of a key ingredient in good, liberal blog entries...

Best check it out, and perhaps contact your investment broker.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Up to My Eyeballs...

Really busy today - and probably for the rest of the week. I'll post when I can, but no promises. Drop by and leave a comment, but go visit some of the great folks in my blogroll at left; especially those fine folks in the Liberal Coalition.

Thanks for your continued support!

Monday, June 21, 2004

GITMO: More BushCo. Lies

"The worst of a very bad lot," VP Dick "The Dick" Cheney has called them. We've been told that they are not necessarily subject to the Geneva Conventions or the Conventions on Torture because 1) they are not on US territory (absolutely specious) and 2) because they are a fount of actionable intelligence that could prevent more attacks on US soil.

In light of every other deception from this maladministration, it shouldn't be surprising, but it was:

But as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on the legal status of the 595 men imprisoned here, an examination by The New York Times has found that government and military officials have repeatedly exaggerated both the danger the detainees posed and the intelligence they have provided.

In interviews, dozens of high-level military, intelligence and law-enforcement officials in the United States, Europe and the Middle East said that contrary to the repeated assertions of senior administration officials, none of the detainees at the United States Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay ranked as leaders or senior operatives of Al Qaeda. They said only a relative handful — some put the number at about a dozen, others more than two dozen — were sworn Qaeda members or other militants able to elucidate the organization's inner workings.
Haven't we had enough of the constant deceptions of these bastards? Where are the calls from Congress for impeachment? How do we fire these idiots?

Abu Ghraib Development

An interesting turn of events in the latest court martial for three Military Police who abused prisoners in abu Ghraib. The military judge has ruled that as part of their defense, their lawyers could examine top commanders in Iraq at the time. The New York Times has this:

The judge granted the defense request to interview top officials in the chain of command, including Gen. John P. Abizaid, the commander of American forces in the Middle East, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the ground commander in Iraq, and others.

The pre-trial hearings also indicated that the defense lawyers would try to show that the highest levels of the government created an atmosphere in which any technique was acceptable to get information from detainees.
In a related, rather confusing ruling, the judge said that the defense did not have the right to review Justice Department and Defense Department memoranda relating to treatment of prisoners and the application of the Geneva Conventions.

Sometimes It Just Writes Itself

The Christian Coalition has decided to try to ride the coattails of "gay marriage" back into a position of power within the Republican hemisphere. It's the same lunacy we've been hearing from other christo-fascists lately, so there's nothing really new about their goals. However, when I clicked through to this article in the Wall Street Journal (subscription), I couldn't help noticing the byline:

LOONEYVILLE, W.VA.--The Christian Coalition has fallen far from its glory days as a pro-Republican fighting force in the 1990s. But now Pastor J. Allen Fine has a new political weapon.

"Gay marriage is societal suicide," says Mr. Fine, a religious broadcaster who was recently installed as state director of the coalition's West Virginia chapter. "We were asked on our radio program, 'Is sodomy still a sin?' It brought in so many calls and the dish of the fax machine overflowed."
You couldn't make up a more apt town name for these right-wingnuts.

A Complete and Total Failure

Via the indispensable (and fellow Liberal Coalition Member)Corrente, I found this first of three articles in the Washington Post on the failures of BushCo. in Iraq. Xan thinks that the Pulitzer Committee can just stop working and award the prize this year to the author, Rajiv Chandrasekaran. I don't know about Pulitzers, but I do know a damning indictment. And this is definitely one. This is just the lead paragraph:

The American occupation of Iraq will formally end this month having failed to fulfill many of its goals and stated promises intended to transform the country into a stable democracy, according to a detailed examination drawing upon interviews with senior U.S. and Iraqi officials and internal documents of the occupation authority.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Paul Johnson

I'm too disgusted to write about this...

Disgusted at a world that could spawn people who would behead an innocent man and claim to be doing so in the name of their god. Disgusted at a world that could spawn people who would take an entire nation to war with lies and deception; and probably in the name of his god as well. Disgusted with humans who would do such things to each other.

A New Front in the War on Terror?

In the case of Iraq, it was enough for Bush to invade that al Qaeda members had, at some unspecified and uncorroborated time, visited there. Now we have irrefutable proof that al Qaeda is: operating in Saudi Arabia; receiving major funding from the citizens and members of the Saudi government; and - while operating unmolested inside of Saudi Arabia - able to kill American civilians. So, when will we be invading our erstwhile allies?

Where are Bush's puppetmasters and talking heads calling for an invasion to depose the House of Saud? Where are the banners on CNN and MSGOP proclaiming the "Drumbeat for War?" Where are the FOX News wingnuts screaming for war? Where are our friends the chickenhawks?

Oh, aren't the Bush Family and the House of Saud close friends?


This is Who We Are?

Rod, at Proof Through the Night, has written one of the best posts I've read lately; bar none. He has synthesized much of the bad news we've had lately about the actions of the BushCo. regime and what they mean in terms of "who we are" as a nation. Titled "The Fall of the American Republic," his post is a damning indictment of the lawlessness, secrecy and hubris of Bush and his handlers.

It is impossible to argue with his penultimate paragraph:

I have said many times that, while I do not believe that September 11 "changed everything" (for example, it certainly did not change what is right and what is wrong), it clearly changed one thing: It changed a strong, confident, imperfect but essentially just nation into a small, frightened, cowardly one. Again: This is who we are.
His final paragraph, which I won't reveal here, took my breath away. Rod's conclusion is - well, I haven't quite come to grips with it yet. I hope that he's wrong, and fear that he's right. I hope that our democratic institutions and habits are so ingrained that we can recover from this administration with all of them intact. I fear that they have been so subverted that it may not be possible.

Hyperbole? Perhaps; maybe it's just the thoughtful mood his post has put me in. Maybe.

WSJ in Wonderland

Nobody who regularly reads the Wall Street Journal can escape noticing how disconnected its news reporting has become from its Opinion Pages. I've often wondered if the reporters ever speak to the people who write the editorials or to the opinion columnists. I think they actually work in separate buildings.

A prime example of this is today's "Wonderland" piece by Daniel Henninger, titled "'Under God' Is the Firm Link To U.S. Security." The WSJ is of course by paid subscription only, but I thought under fair use laws I would post the entire piece here for you to read (pdf).

His concluding paragraph is the crowning achievement of insipid, right-wing, religiously fired nationalism (in the worst meaning possible of that word):

This innocuous little Pledge and its two words, "under God," has become for school children the last link joining national purpose to God -- a union that is this country's best, proven hope for ensuring national strength. When that link is finally broken, the U.S. will start to become, well, France -- smart, sophisticated, agnostic and save for nuclear bombs, inexorably weak. That is one test case I'd as soon not try.

The Puppet Master

Many of us on the left have jokingly - and sometimes seriously - characterized Bush as a "sock puppet," and various other administration officials (mostly Cheney) as pulling the strings. It seems that - once again - we have been proved prophetic, in this case by the 9-11 Commission. Again from today's Wall Street Journal (subscription):

The commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks gave new details yesterday on the "shootdown" order passed from the White House to the military on the morning of the terrorist attacks, raising questions about whether Vice President Cheney issued the command without first getting the approval of President Bush.
I guess that clears things up for anyone who still had any doubt who was pulling aWol's strings during this whole crisis. It also does away with the mystery of why Bush didn't leap into action on 9-11 and continued reading at that school in Sarasota, Florida. He knew the President would take care of things...

But of course, nothing is that simple. Not that the fighters scrambled, eventually, to intercept the highjacked airliners would have ever caught up to them before the terrorists on board completed their mission, but even if they had, and if they'd have had the time to shoot them down, they wouldn't have been able to.

The commission also disclosed that the unprecedented order directing the military to open fire on hijacked airliners never was passed to fighter pilots who had scrambled aloft in response to the crisis.
Now, why is it that we're supposed to trust the competence of this misfit band of neo-con knuckleheads?

Turning Over Stones

Where will the latest troubles at Halliburton subsidiary KBR lead? From this morning's Wall Street Journal (subscription):

Halliburton Co. cut ties to Albert J. "Jack" Stanley, a consultant and former chairman of its Kellogg Brown & Root unit, saying Mr. Stanley's actions had violated "codes of business conduct."

The Houston-based defense and oil contractor said it had terminated the relationship because of "receipt... of improper personal benefits." The company said the concerns developed after a previously disclosed internal investigation into work on a Nigerian natural gas facility.

The Securities and Exchange Commission late last week opened a formal investigation into more than $100 million in payments made by a KBR subsidiary, TSKJ, in the Nigerian project, $5 million of which are believed to have ended up in an account controlled by Mr. Stanley, who recently retired.
Of great interest in all of these ongoing investigations into Dick "The Dick" Cheney's old company is what happens when the questions get really uncomfortable for those indicted. These rich, powerful and arrogant people never go down without taking someone higher up with them. How wide will the investigations go? Especially since the Nigerian bribery scandal occurred while Cheney was still in the head office...

Thursday, June 17, 2004

This Won't Hurt Much - Nudge, Nudge, Wink, Wink

Via Eric Alterman at Altercation, I found this article by Monty Python alum Terry Jones. Terry explores some of the ramifications of the "Torture Memos" as they relate to child rearing and... well, here's a sample:

For some time now, I've been trying to find out where my son goes after choir practice. He simply refuses to tell me. He says it's no business of mine where he goes after choir practice and it's a free country.

Now it may be a free country, but if people start going just anywhere they like after choir practice, goodness knows whether we'll have a country left to be free. I mean, he might be going to anarchist meetings or Islamic study groups. How do I know?

The thing is, if people don't say where they're going after choir practice, this country is at risk. So I have been applying a certain amount of pressure on my son to tell me where he's going. To begin with I simply put a bag over his head and chained him to a radiator. But did that persuade him? Does the Pope eat kosher?
Go read the rest...

Boycott Virginia

At AMERICAblog, recently added to my blogroll (whose tagline is "Because a great nation deserves the truth"), in a supportive post, I found this excerpt from the Seattle Post-Inelligencer:

Gay activists are urging a boycott of Virginia because of a new ban on civil unions and other marriage-like arrangements for same-sex couples., a Web site created by two Seattle men, urges people not to buy products or services from Virginia-based companies and suggests tourists visit states that are friendlier to gays. The name is a play on the state's tourism motto, 'Virginia is for Lovers.'
Drop in on AMERICAblog - there are lots of great posts and comments to browse through. Click through to, read the background to the boycott, then do what you can to support them.

The Doctor Won't See You Now

A new report from the private group Families USA, reported on MSNBC, is fuel for the impending firestorm in healthcare. Over the two years of 2001 and 2002, almost 82 million Americans were without health insurance for at least part of that time - most for more than nine months.

The problem reaches deep into the middle-class, affects African-Americans and Hispanics disproportionately and is most pronounced among people younger than 25, according to the group’s analysis of census data.
The state with the highest number of uninsured?

The study, which was being released Wednesday, found that 8.5 million Texas residents, or 43.4 percent of the non-elderly population there, did not have health insurance — the highest rate in the country.

Other states where more than 35 percent of people younger than 65 were uninsured were: New Mexico, 42.4 percent; California, 37.1 percent; Nevada, 36.8 percent; Louisiana, 36.2 percent; Arizona, 35.7 percent; Mississippi, 35.1 percent, and Oklahoma, 35 percent.
There are so many countries with single-payer health care systems, most of them work very well, so that we have a broad array of systems and components to choose from. We are the richest country in the world, and in history. There is no reason that we could not ensure that every citizen's health is taken care of.

It's been shown that on a system wide basis, a single-payer system is less expensive because of economies of scale and because of reduced redundancies in administration. Businesses would reap immediate and huge savings from not having to subsidize insurance for their employees. Society would reap huge benefits in not having large swaths of the population with no regular access to preventive health care as emergency, follow up and long term care of chronic illnesses are much more expensive.

The economic questions are all answered, in some form, around the world. The ethical question has only one answer. The only question remaining to be answered is "why not?"

The answer you'll get to that question from those opposed to universal coverage is ugly and exposes the worst in Americans.

Backwards Planning

There's a concept I learned in the Army, used when writing Operations Orders. "Backwards Planning" involves starting with the end point of the mission and planning backwards from there. The primary purpose is to ensure that you apportion what time you have as required, so that you leave the staging position in time to be where you are supposed to be at the specified time. But it can also be used to ensure that you do the things you need to do to arrive at the end point with everything you need, having done everything necessary for the end state to happen.

I thought about backwards planning this morning when I heard the news of the latest car bombing in Baghdad that killed nearly three dozen Iraqis; most of them waiting to sign up for the new Iraqi Army.

Every new story says that the SUV that exploded was filled with explosives and artillery shells. Likely most of these came from ammunition dumps that remained unsecured after the US invasion and the routing of the old Iraqi Army. There weren't enough troops on the ground to secure all the ammo dumps, there weren't even enough to secure the more dangerous chemical and radioactive stocks.

So it all disappeared. Only to show up later. To kill our soldiers, to kill innocent Iraqis.

Because the planning for the occupation was shoddy, at best.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Where is the Line?

A question for my late night and early morning readers:

At what point does a church cross the line in advocating for a particular candidate and become liable to lose its tax exempt status? Or is there a point? I'm not going to give you choices and I'm not interested in what the law literally says; I'm hoping to start a true discussion. In comments to my post below on Bush asking the Pope to interfere in the upcoming elections, there are those who say it's almost impossible to cross that line without actually uttering the words "vote for [fill in the blank]." I have my own opinion on the subject, but am very much interested in what you all think.

The comments are all yours...

"O, What a Tangled Web We Weave..."

If you know the rest of that line, then you'll know the relevance of this photo to today's events.

This Garden Orb Weaver spider, about 1/2 inches across, had spun its web across the outside of my in-laws' front window.

Bush; Domestic Abuser

Is America a "battered spouse" in its relationship with the current adminstration? Tresy, at Corrente, thinks so. Certainly they treat the country, and all of us, like an abuser treats their battered partner; with incessant lies, spiteful disrespect and a demand for instant and unquestioning obedience. After you read this post, you might see the analogy as well. Particularly telling is this paragraph:

The real horror show will come this November, if, having lived through everything that's gone before, we turn around and ratify it. There will then be no excuse. There will be no one in the world who will sympathize with us. Our self-abasement will be complete. We will have effectively told our abusers that we won't fight back, that we deserve it. And you can bet on it, they will not miss that message.

Sometimes it Just Writes Itself

Headline for story at CNN's site:

Bush: Afghanistan is a victory over terrorism

UPDATE: For the real story, see: here, here, here, and here.

No Kidding!

No story yet, but the headline on CNN's site reads:

BREAKING NEWS: Commission reports "no credible evidence" that al Qaeda and Iraq cooperated in 9/11 attacks on United States. Details soon.

UPDATE: Here, where you'll read this:

The findings come in the wake of statements Monday by Vice President Cheney that Iraq had "long-established ties" with al Qaeda, and comments by President Bush yesterday backing up that assertion.
Aren't these two lies (and the resultant death and destruction) more harmful to the nation and the world than a lie about a little consensual sex on the side?

Where are the calls for impeachment?


CIA Redacts Large Portions of WMD Report. Via CNN:

Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating prewar Iraq intelligence expressed displeasure Tuesday with CIA efforts to keep large parts of the committee's report secret.


Sen. Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, an expert on Senate rules and procedures, said the committee may decide to overrule the CIA and publicly release the bulk of the report by the end of the week.

Sovereignty Hot Potato

Not that July 1 will be materially different in Iraq than June 29; if Saddam is handed over to the Iraqi government he will be secured by US forces, the Army and Marines will not disappear from the streets and those that remain will not answer to any Iraqi, the Coalition Provisional Authority - the name will probably change - will not abandon the Green Zone, pack their bags and leave. Iraqi sovereignty will be that in name only after June 30 even though BushCo. clings to that date like a lifeline.

But even if it were real sovereignty, I wonder if anyone in the new Iraqi government would really want it? With insurgents killing anyone they can find with connections to the American occupation, there could be no bigger targets than members of the new government. In fact they have already been targeted. Is this new government going to willfully accept the mantle of "sovereign?"

So the new government will have to act a lot like the current CPA. Holed up in a new version of the Green Zone, unable to move freely around the country they supposedly control. They will command security forces that have yet to be trained and who appear to chose which orders to obey and when. They will inherit a country without any form of functioning infrastructure; from sewage to electricity, from roads to a civil aviation authority.

In fact the new government is going to be a lot like the current Interim Governing Council: powerless.

Feeding the Troops - Or Not

KBR, subsidiary of our friends at Halliburton, are at it again. From today's Wall Street Journal (subscription):

Pentagon auditors told a House committee that contractor Kellogg Brown & Root billed the government for as many as 36% more meals than it has provided to troops in Iraq and Kuwait, adding to the dispute over how the Halliburton Co. unit previously billed for dining-hall services.
Our tax dollars, that are supposed to be used to serve hot meals to our soldiers, are going to line the pockets of Halliburton exectutives - including Dick "The Dick" Cheney, who continues to amass deferred compensation from his former company. These guys continue to plumb the depths of corporate greed and avarice. And BushCo. continues to feed them our tax dollars.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Support Release of Fahrenheit 911

A right-wingnut site called Move America Forward is asking its readers to call on the movie chains that plan to show Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911 and complain. They have posted a page with contact information for executives for the major movie houses for that purpose.

I propose that we subvert their own resources: Please go to this page and pick one, two or all of the contacts listed there and e-mail them with support for their decision to screen this film.

Mention the First Amendment. Mention a couple of groups known for wanting to suppress dissenting views; Communists, Fascists, Dictators of all stripes. Throw in a few of your own. Then mention the fact that you can influence a group of people not to patronize their businesses; how many people read your blog? how many people do you speak to daily? Let them know there are consequences for backing down from these fascist tactics. Be polite, don't use any profanity. But be firm in your conviction.

Go. And please, pass this around - post it on your blog.

Bush's Tax Cuts Are Working!

Well, that is if you have over $1 million in assets (not including your house). In an article in this morning's Wall Street Journal (subscription), they state that the number of millionaires in the US jumped by over 17% in 2003.

However, even the WSJ sees problems:

...the gap between the very rich and the rest of the population probably won't close -- and could widen in coming years. While the ultra-wealthy are prospering, average real wages in the U.S. haven't kept pace. Real estate, which makes up a far bigger share of wealth for middle-class households, could take a hit with rising interest rates. President Bush's tax-cut programs disproportionately benefit those at the top of the wealth pyramid.
BushCo.: Taking care of those who take care of them. Screw everyone else.

Monday, June 14, 2004


What kind of simpering, liberal, soft-on-terrorism, America haters want to oust Bush in November?

Members of the group -- a mix of Republicans and Democrats -- have served in capitals from Moscow to Tel Aviv and Lima to Kinshasa. The list includes a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a former head of U.S. Central Command, a former CIA director and a decorated array of former ambassadors and assistant secretaries of state and defense.


The group calls itself Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change.
Read the article - and the list of names and their former posts. This is going to be very damaging. Very damaging.

Cheney Caught in KBR Lie?

From today's Wall Street Journal (subscription):

Mr. Cheney has repeatedly denied any involvement in the choice of Halliburton, where he served as chief executive from 1995 until 2000, when he joined the Bush campaign. Kevin Kellems, Mr. Cheney's spokesman, said the office stood by its previous statements, and accused Mr. Waxman of trying to score political points. Various administration officials have said that the decision to pick Halliburton was made entirely by contracting officials within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.


But in a June 8 briefing to Mr. Waxman's staff, Pentagon official Michael Mobbs said it was an energy task force he headed within the U.S. Defense Department that decided to give the work to Halliburton without competition. The decision was then put before a high-level meeting of officials in the Bush administration that included Mr. [Scooter] Libby. Mr. Mobbs said none of the officials present at the meeting objected to the approach, according to the Waxman letter.

Mr. Waxman, the ranking minority member of the U.S. House of Representatives' Government Affairs Committee, also asked Mr. Cheney to clarify a March 2003 e-mail sent by an official at the Army Corps that indicates the Halliburton contract had been "coordinated" with the vice president's office. In the letter, Mr. Waxman asked Mr. Cheney to turn over any records on meetings or discussions his office may have had related to Halliburton's work in Iraq.
This is not the only "irregularity" in which KBR and the VP appear to be involved.

To quote Josh Marshall on another subject: "Always the VP, always the VP."

What Goes Around, Comes Around

How many bloggers - especially those of us on the left - predicted that BushCo.'s breaches of the Geneva Conventions and the Conventions on Torture would turn around and bite our soldiers and citizens on the ass? We didn't have to wait too long.

Like all of his past screw-ups, though, Bush never has to suffer the consequences. It's left for someone else. This time it's Paul M. Johnson Jr.

The kidnappers' statement threatened Mr. Johnson with violence like that suffered by Iraqi prisoners held by the American military at Abu Ghraib prison. It referred to him as a Christian "parasite," using an obscure Arabic word made popular by the former spokesman for Saddam Hussein's government.
Who will it be next?

The Gipper from the Grave: "Mr. Bush, Tear Down That Wall!"

From late Friday night on Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo comes word (via The National Catholic Reporter)that our very own George "Holier Than Thou" Bush is continuing his work to tear down the wall separating church and state. Not satisfied with "faith based charities" and stirring up the racist and homophobic fears of his conservative, born-again base, Bush has enlisted the Pope in his re-election campaign. From Friday's NYT:

In a column posted Friday evening on the paper's Web site, John L. Allen Jr., its correspondent in Rome and the dean of Vatican journalists, wrote that Mr. Bush had made the request in a June 4 meeting with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state. Citing an unnamed Vatican official, Mr. Allen wrote: "Bush said, 'Not all the American bishops are with me' on the cultural issues. The implication was that he hoped the Vatican would nudge them toward more explicit activism."

Mr. Allen wrote that others in the meeting confirmed that the president had pledged aggressive efforts "on the cultural front, especially the battle against gay marriage, and asked for the Vatican's help in encouraging the U.S. bishops to be more outspoken." Cardinal Sodano did not respond, Mr. Allen reported, citing the same unnamed people.
If the Federal Election Commission had the gonads to enforce election laws, the Catholic church would be on the precipice of losing its tax exempt status in the US. If Bush had the intelligence to read the Constitution (and SCOTUS Case Law) he'd know he was treading on very dangerous ground. If Congress had anyone to truly lead they would impeach Bush tomorrow.

If pigs had wings...

Friday, June 11, 2004

Hi Ho, Hi Ho

It's off to Canada we go...

We're off to The Great White North for the weekend, eh. I'll be away from any real computer access - my wife's parents do have a computer, way up there in Moose Jaw; but it's very old, very slow and only has dial-up access through a couple of beer cans on a string. So no blogging until Sunday evening at the earliest, hosers.

Anyway, I have a great weekend, eh. If you stop by, leave a comment so the old blog doesn't get lonely - oh, and have a beer, eh!

More Trouble for Cheney?

The lead in this story from the NYT:

The Securities and Exchange Commission is formally investigating allegations that a Halliburton Co. subsidiary was involved in paying $180 million in bribes to get a natural gas project contract in Nigeria. Vice President Dick Cheney was head of the oil services conglomerate at the time.
Looks like BushCo's own Tricky Dick might be a little busy, what with investigations inside and outside of his government job...

Wall Street Journal Splitting Hairs

While the main sections of the Wall Street Journal continue to set the standard for reporting on many issues, the Editorial and Opinion pages continue to sink further into desperation in defense of BushCo. Consider this morning's unsigned editorial (subscription) about the recent leaking of administration memoranda on torture.

They could start by noting that no one has come up with a single instance of torture by American soldiers or with any policy directive advocating its use. The Abu Ghraib abuses were disgusting and are being duly punished, but the court martial charges do not include any incidents of torture.
Sometimes court cases go to trial where someone clearly murdered another person, but the prosecution doesn't think they can convict or they want to use the threat of a capital crime to get the accused to turn state's witness. That doesn't mean a murder hasn't occurred. So it is possible, in this case, that prosecutors are using these first trials to shake loose someone really responsible for what went on. The request by the major general (two stars) currently running the investigation that he be replace by someone with enough rank to question people much higher in the chain of command certainly hints at such a potential.

Consider, too the legalistic head-fake Ashcroft pulled when directly questioned about whether anyone in the administration authorized the use of torture, or interrogation methods that could be construed as torture: "This Administration rejects torture."

It makes me want to scream: "Just answer the goddamn question!"

Further hair splitting:

The latest hubbub concerns a December 2002 list of interrogation techniques approved by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and similar to those used at Abu Ghraib. They include forcing prisoners to stand for a maximum of four hours, the use of hoods, and quizzing them in 20-hour stretches. These "stress positions," as they're called, aren't torture either.
And finally, a little moral equivalism from our Rethug friends? Hard to believe, I know, but:

The subject of Wednesday's Senate hearing was the "torture" memos produced by the Justice Department early in 2002 and used as the basis for a Defense Department report a year later. The government hasn't released these private communications, but they have been leaking out in dribs and drabs in a kind of Beltway political torture.
The WSJ claims that these memos weren't policy, but were explorations of the legal landscape to be trod by the president. BULLSHIT. Lawyers do not spend their high-priced hours writing these things for no reason. Somebody in the administration wanted to know what they could get away with. They asked. The lawyers wrote the memos.

The Next World War?

I've been thinking about oil lately.

The price per barrel is approaching record highs when adjusted for inflation, but it's not the price that has me thinking. Most OPEC countries, save Saudi Arabia, are pumping near their capacity and it takes several years to build additional capacity and all the infrastructure that supports that capacity. Large oil companies - most infamously Shell - have "re-structured" their reserves or outright reduced the amount of oil they claim in known reserves. South East and Pacific-Rim nations, most especially China, have economies and populations that are expanding at unsustainable rates. And with growing economies and growing populations come rising demand for energy. The primary oil supplying region of the world is in perpetual turmoil.

So what happens when demand, whether temporary or permanently, outstrips supply? Of course prices go up. Way up. And demand will temporarily ease. But growing third-world populations will not stand by while their standards of living stagnate and that of the first-world continues to absorb resources at prodigious rates. The Chinese will not be denied their cars and their motorcylces and their washers and dryers and their internet connected refrigerators. Nor will the Indians, Pakistanis or Indonesians.

At what point will some leader emerge in what country and claim the need for - not leibensraum - but oil? And what will they do?

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Farewell, Hesiod

Counterspin Central is no more.

Hesiod is one of the reasons I started blogging. And now he's gone. Go say farewell before his blog goes down.

If Only...

If you haven't seen the Quicktime movie "Bush for Peace," you really should. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wonder who let go of the puppet's strings...

" A Little Torture..."

It is commonly said that we are a nation of laws, not men. And we are. But beyond the laws, we are also a nation of men and women with a common ethic. Some things are not American. Torture, for damned sure, is one of them.
Richard Cohen, in an opinion piece in today's Washington Post. He is dead on. Go read the rest.

Stealth Outsourcing

Hemmed in by labor contracts with United Auto Workers and perhaps sensing the public's distaste for outsourcing and the attendant bad publicity, the Big Three Automakers have hit upon a new strategy. Force their suppliers to outsource. The automakers bring prices they can get in China to their suppliers and use those as the benchmark. They threaten their domestic suppliers with going directly to the Chinese if they can't meet the price. Of course the differences are so great that the only way the suppliers can meet the price and keep the business is to move their own manufacturing to China or buy subcomponents there. From this morning's WSJ (subscription):

Both GM and Ford acknowledge that Chinese auto-parts suppliers now serve as global "benchmark" prices for quality and price on certain components, such as electric-wire cables, radios, speakers, small motors, and even brakes, suspensions and aluminum wheels. The prices reflect China's average wage costs of 90 cents an hour, compared with $22.50 in the U.S., according to Roland Berger Strategy Consultants of Munich, Germany.

"It's Economics 101, Adam Smith," Ford President Nick Scheele says in an interview. "It's the law of comparative advantage." He says the benchmark component prices Ford is asking suppliers to match these days represent "optimal" prices, and can come from anywhere in the world, including China.
You read that correctly; 90 cents and hour. You can be sure that wage does not include any kind of retirement plan or health plan. Rest assured, too that no pesky environmental laws restrain the pollution of the communities where these parts are made and no OSHA rules get in the way of keeping Chinese workers in high-pressure, long-hour, dangerous working conditions.

The results of the pressures on the parts and accessories supply industry is devastating. Think about the following numbers, then think about other industries doing similar things. Then think about the people behind those numbers. The next statistic could be you.

According to a recent study of parts suppliers by Roland Berger, 133,000 jobs, or 16% of the labor pool, in the American parts industry have disappeared over the past four years as parts suppliers cut costs by improving productivity or shifting jobs to lower-cost countries such as China and Mexico. By 2010, the same study predicts a further 127,000 jobs, or 18% of the 707,000 remaining, will disappear or move overseas, says Andreas Mai, the author of the Roland Berger study.

Call on the Hot Line, Mr. President

Barbara Brugger, from comments at Respectful of Otters, said she wished she knew a T-shirt artist to make up a shirt with one of those "While you were out" memoes. I'd tell you what she wanted to say on that T-shirt, but instead, I whipped up the graphic she wanted. And I couldn't agree more.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Thank You!

Sometime this morning, The Fulcrum Site Meter officially went over the 10,000 visitor mark since mid-November of last year. Thank you to each and every person who has come by and especially to those of you who have left comments. I've used your comments to improve my writing and the blog itself. Each of your blogs, each of your comments has also taught me a lot about keeping such a site and about writing. I hope that I've managed to live up to the wonderful examples that so many of you have set.

Thank you, all. I look forward to reaching the 20K benchmark!

Extraconstitutional Excrement

What could possibly excuse the moral bankruptcy of this administration?

They started a war on false pretenses - all the pretenses they spun out were false. They alienated our country from our traditional allies. They failed to provide enough men or protective materiel to prosecute the war and its followup. They failed to sufficiently plan for the nation building that must follow a war. They failed to maintain a command climate that would discourage acts that violate several conventions on the treatment of prisoners.

What could be worse?

How about having White House lawyers draw up memoranda claiming that the President of the United States is not bound by the laws and treaties that apply to everyone else in the country. No such privilege can exist in a true democratic nation of laws. Bush feels he is above the law - in fact he had his lackeys draw up documents to claim exactly that.

What's next? Perhaps the "October Surprise" that so many on the left expect this year will be a coronation.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Bush; Setting Aside Laws and Torture

In yesterday's Wall Street Journal (via Josh Marshall) we learn that White House counsel advised that prisoners and detainees in the Middle East could be treated more harshly than would be allowed under the Geneva Conventions and the Conventions Against Torture.

To protect subordinates should they be charged with torture, the memo advised that Mr. Bush issue a "presidential directive or other writing" that could serve as evidence, since authority to set aside the laws is "inherent in the president."
Besides the outrageous - and completely false - claim of extraconstitutional powers in this statement, it is disgusting to see the de-facto acceptance of torture in our actions in Afghanistan, Iraq and GITMO. And yet, we can see from the little evidence that we have seen that, indeed, this statement was not only accepted at face value by the administration, but its propagation down the chain-of-command was "successful."

In an interesting juxtaposition, an article in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription) notes that military lawyers were, and remain, uncomfortable with the liberties being taken with international and US law by the Bush administration.

Some top military lawyers in the Pentagon are questioning the propriety of interrogation techniques currently being employed to question al Qaeda captives at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, senior defense officials said.


Military lawyers, many of whom worked closely in drafting the interrogation rules, have conveyed their concerns to Bush administration officials in the Pentagon, the defense officials said. Their objections to many of the tactics approved for use at Guantanamo illustrate a rift between senior military lawyers and Bush administration lawyers inside the Pentagon about which extreme interrogation measures are legal.
The highlighted sentence provides a peek into this world of chickenhawks versus the military. The military lawyers know that it is vital to the interests of the soldiers that the US been seen as holding the high moral ground in how we treat our prisoners and detainees. The civilian lawyers under the thrall of neo-con Pentagon advisors and their leash holders, are more interested in results - any results - regardless of the efficacy, the legality or the morality of their methods.

Having been in the military, I can tell you that it pains me to say this, but in this instance, the military lawyers, the folks from the JAG Corps, are the ones upholding the honor and the best interests of the military. We were let down by the commanders and the soldiers - by everyone in the chain-of-command - who let the abuse and torture of prisoners happen. Cooler heads did not prevail.

I hope that they kept all of their briefing notes. They may be needed at the Hague.

Monday, June 07, 2004

The Other Quagmire?

Did you know that the US now has 20,000 troops in Afghanistan? Did you know that's the most troops we've ever had there?

I didn't either.

Read the rest of my thoughts on this in my post "The Other Quagmire?" at The Liberal Coalition.

Begin the Beatification

It's actually been underway for years now. The renaming of National Airport. The attempt to get a street in every town renamed. Redesigning a coin with his likeness. But now that Ronald Reagan is dead, the movement among the right-wingers to make him some sort of national saint will pick up speed and momentum.

Get ready: over the next week it's going to be All Ronnie, All the Time.

To hear them speak about Reagan, in hushed tones more suitable to a church than to politics, is to see visions of his face peering down from murals and up from coins in a sort of reverse Soviet cult-of-personality. To the wingers he is "The Gipper," or "Dutch" or "The Great Communicator."

What you won't hear pass their lips are phrases like "October Surprise" or "Iran-Contra" or "ballooning deficits." And if you look at the old photographs of Number 40 in office, you'll see a eerily familiar and infamous cast of characters... faces that haven't changed in the intervening years as though they've made some sort of Dorian Grey deal with the devil.

Some great things happened while Reagan was in office, as did some very bad things. There is more evidence that he was directly responsible for the latter than for the former.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Secure, Undisclosed Location II

At first there were three, small, pale blue eggs. Nestled down into a cozy nest of straw and grass and an errant string or two. And then there were five. This afternoon, there was only one egg remaining - but this is a happy story. For the past couple of weeks, I've watched a female starling flit in and out of the fill tower to our underground propane tank. It seems her spring-time mission is coming to fruition.

A couple of sharp whistles gets these two to open their mouths, awaiting a treat. The other two must have only hatched this afternoon and have not quite figured out how to get their mother's attention. I hope the final egg hatches as well...

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Overreaction and The Continued Erosion of Civil Rights

A young Boston College student decided to protest outside a local military recruitment office. His idea? To dress as that anonymous abu Ghraib prisoner pictured standing on a box in a hooded cape with wires dangling from his fingers and genitals.

Brilliant, no?


Previtera stood outside the recruitment center for over an hour. And then the police arrived. Within hours he was facing charges more serious than any US soldier is facing for their role in the actual prison abuse in Iraq. Previtera was charged with three crimes: disturbing the peace, possession of a hoax device and making a false bomb threat. If convicted he could face years in prison.
You read that correctly; making a false bomb threat. Despite that one picture beamed around the world a million times and being instantly familiar to everyone, the cops charged him with making a bomb threat.

Michael McCarthy, a spokesman for the Boston Police Department told the Boston Phoenix: "It can be implied, with fingers and wires - especially in a heightened state of alert, as we are. Mr. Previtera should know better. He's a young adult educated at Boston College from a wealthy suburb. I'm sure he knows wires attached to his fingers, running to a milk crate, would arouse suspicion outside a military recruiters' office [when he's] dressed in prisoner's garb. If he has any questions as to why people think he may've had a bomb, then he needs to maybe go back to Boston College to brush up on his public policy. Or at least common sense, but they can't really teach that there."
Seems to me that Mr. McCarthy is the one in need of lessons on "common sense." And this seems to be another case where the rights of a citizen to protest peacfully is being trampled in the name of "security." But security in the defense of democracy is not served by destroying the very democracy being defended.

Via Terrette in the comments at The Yellow Doggerel Democrat.

CIA Head to Resign

No details yet, but Bush says Tenet to resign for personal reasons.

Is this the start of the unravelling of BushCo.? It will be interesting to see what details emerge about the real reasons Tenet is jumping ship.

UPDATE: Some details emerging. See here.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Bush Retains Lawyer in CIA Leak Probe

Just in case, of course...

President Bush has consulted a private attorney in case he is interviewed or forced to testify about who may have leaked the name of a covert CIA operative to the media last summer, the White House said Wednesday.
Yes, it looks like Bush is preparing to "fully cooperate" as promised. Much like the way the rest of his staff has cooperated so far...

See more here.

Blogs for Bush: Rebutted

I've accepted an invitation from a few other bloggers to participate in a new blog called Blogs for Bush Rebutted. In the spirit of other blogs whose mission is to "watch" other blogs and present a more balanced viewpoint, this new endeavor will keep an eye on Blogs for Bush (no link from me) and try to present a nuanced, fact based rebuttal to charges leveled there against John Kerry, Democrats and liberals in general.

The genesis of the Rebuttal blog was an instance of banning an opposition commenter from the Blogs for Bush comments. Since the folks who run the blog were apparently not interested in a truly open forum, we decided to provide that forum - and perhaps more.

Please drop by Blogs for Bush Rebutted, see what the opposition is up to and get an open discussion on the issues.

Twins vs. Twins

Is the fact that Julia Roberts is pregnant with twins really that much more important than the theft of twin propane tanker trucks that CNN (and most talking head news networks) lead with the Roberts story and the other - if it was covered - was well down the list?

I'm not sure if that says more about the things that most Americans care about or how our friends in the SCLM prioritize stories. Or maybe it's a sure sign of the end of the American empire...

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

It's All True; It's All False

All progressive bloggers - myself included - have long written about Bush's bait-n'-switch habits, making promises to fund programs and then making sure that Republicans in Congress failed to include funding for those same programs in budget bills. The past is evidence of their mendacity, but most on the Right will not learn the lessons of history when it comes to BushCo..

New evidence, though, raises the question "will they learn from direct evidence of intent to continue their ways?" My best guess is "no." From the Paul Krugman in today's New York Times:

Last week The Washington Post got hold of an Office of Management and Budget memo that directed federal agencies to prepare for post-election cuts in programs that George Bush has been touting on the campaign trail. These include nutrition for women, infants and children; Head Start; and homeland security. The numbers match those on a computer printout leaked earlier this year - one that administration officials claimed did not reflect policy.
Lots of folks have commented on the fact that BushCo. officials would rather lie even when the truth would prove favorable to them; they are pathological liars. So there doesn'tnecessarilyy need to be a reason for them to lie. But in this case, Krugman thinks there really is a reason for the bald faced lie:

...whatever they may say in public, administration officials know that sustaining Mr. Bush's tax cuts will require large cuts in popular government programs. And for the vast majority of Americans, the losses from these cuts will outweigh any gains from lower taxes.

It has long been clear that the Bush administration's claim that it can simultaneously pursue war, large tax cuts and a "compassionate" agenda doesn't add up. Now we have direct confirmation that the White House is engaged in bait and switch, that it intends to pursue a not at all compassionate agenda after this year's election.
Note closely those programs slated for cuts; programs that provide for the poorest among us and for homeland security.

When it comes time to vote in November, remember this story (and all the others) and ask yourself: "is this the kind of country I want to live in?" Vote your conscience.

Abu Ghraib - More of the Same

An article in today's Wall Street Journal claims that poor preparation was a key ingredient in the prisoner abuse scandal at abu Ghraib. The scope, type and duration of operations in the detention system were not anticipated nor planned for.

A big part of the problem was the intelligence system itself. Many interrogators and analysts showed up at Abu Ghraib with almost no knowledge of Iraqi culture. "I learned about everything I know about Islam after I deployed," Spc. Monath said.

In addition, though many of the interrogators had put in years of training in the U.S., an equal number knew practically nothing about their assignment. "We hardly got any training in interrogation before we went over," said Spc. Teaca. "It was really surprising because the job is so crucial."


The interviews show an intelligence system ill-equipped to battle a largely faceless insurgency. Interrogators and analysts at Abu Ghraib, some of whom say they had little experience interrogating prisoners, knew little about the enemy they were fighting. And they were working within a military-intelligence system that was never designed to incarcerate and interrogate thousands of prisoners for months on end.

Problems were exacerbated by a corrosive relationship between soldiers and some of their superiors, who pressed interrogators to meet quotas on the number of interviews and reports they generated. The soldiers also faced unclear rules of interrogation that often seemed improvised on the fly.
So, instead of being an anomaly, this was another facet of the poor planning and the purposeful lack of resources given to the military in this misadventure by BushCo. Although not as deadly as sending soldiers into Iraq without the proper body armor or sufficient vehicle armor, it is, nonetheless, symptomatic of the hubris with which the whole affair was "planned."

This travesty, like the needless death of hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of Iraqis, rests squarely on the shoulders of Bush and his coterie of neo-con chicken-hawks.