Friday, December 22, 2006

Ignore That Draft Board Behind the Curtain

The Selective Service Agency is performing a test on the systems required to operate a draft. But don't worry, "The agency is not gearing up for a draft," says an agency official.


And Iraq was linked to 9/11, Iraqis greeted us with flowers and chocolates, Bush will listen to the generals and Compassionate Conservatism is not an oxymoron.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

It's the Thought That Counts

I woke up a little groggy this morning and as I was walking to the shower trying to avoid walking into walls in the dark, a thought worked its way into my still sleeping brain. This thought had to do with my wonderment and anger at so many people in the US, conservative and liberals alike, who are so willing to "give up a little liberty in exchange for a little security." I agree with Franklin that such people deserve neither, but what would account for otherwise intelligent people willing to do such a thing?

Maybe it's the season, when the old saying I used to title this post is used so often. But my thought was that Americans who have rolled over to BushCo. in giving up such fundamental (in the truest sense) rights such as freedom of speech and habeas corpus have lost sight of what it is that we are supposed to be protecting when we talk of saving America.

While in the very narrowest of meanings, "America" is a place, I believe that America is best represented by what all elected government employees and soldiers refer to in their oaths of office:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of [President, Senator, etc.], and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
But where so many of us have gone wrong is to think of the United States more as a place than as an idea - or perhaps even an ideal. Phrases such as "Homeland" betray this wayward thinking, betrays the oath above, betrays what it means to be an American. Such thinking makes it all the easier to pass laws that abridge the freedoms so many before us had fought and died to procure; to throw them away without much thought at all. Consider how little outrage there has been in regards to the unconstitutionality of so many provisions of the so-called Patriot Act.

We have fundamentally forgotten - perhaps out of fear, perhaps out of lack of education and knowledge (when was the last time you heard of a Civics course in our public schools?), perhaps out of sheer laziness - what it is that makes us, what makes America, different from any other country in the world, indeed any other country or kingdom in history.

It really is the thought that counts.

You should think about it.

Is Debbie Schlussel a Nazi?

Schlussel sure sounds like a German name. Which means somewhere in her background there must be a Nazi or two. The mere fact that she's kept such a Nazi sounding name while living in our great country means that she must have some fondness for her Nazi ancestors.

Doesn't that call her loyalties to America into question?

The questions are only fair.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Republican Definition of Impartiality

Sam Brownback has identified what he thinks will be the first big wedge issue in the 2008 presidential election. Apparently he thinks that gay marriage will be more important to the Republican base than the Iraq war, the economy or anything else. Given the behavior of the religious reich, he's probably correct.

I'm not sure if his latest action is a retreat from that position or not. Certainly his remarks around the nomination of Janet Neff to the federal bench leave me wondering just what the hell he's thinking... Ms. Neff had attended the same-sex union ceremony for the child of a close friend sometime during the past couple of years. Brownback had blocked her nomination to the bench because he thought that attendance would affect her impartiality on future cases involving same-sex marriage. His fallback position was that he would un-block her nomination if she'd recuse herself from all such future cases; something legal scholars thought highly illegal and possibly unconstitutional.

So here's what I wonder: If Janet Neff's attendance at a same-sex union calls into question her impartiality, doesn't attendance at any kind of marriage do the same?

I mean to be absolutely impartial (an absolute impossibility anyway), a judicial nominee would have never been married, attended a marriage or even sent a wedding present.

I think Sam Brownback is backing himself into an irrelevant corner.

Monday, December 18, 2006

With Friends Like These...

You can tell a lot about the new Forest Service rules on long-term planning by who supports them:

The timber industry supports the new policy. Chris West, the vice president of the American Forest Resource Council, a trade group in 12 Western states, called it overdue.
Not that I'm really surprised. Every place where environmental concerns have bumped up against the interests of industry, in fact every place where any kind of concern bumped up against industry interests, BushCo. has appointed former industry officials to powerful posts.

The U.S. Forest Service no longer will give close environmental scrutiny to its long-term plans for America's national forests and grasslands.

It also no longer will allow the public to appeal on long-term plans for those forests, but instead will invite participation in planning from the outset.
And we all know how diligently they listen to the public.

Distracted in Iraq

Of the many rotating rationalizations that BushCo. has given for the invasion of Iraq, "fighting them [terrorists, al Qaeda, etc] there so we don't have to fight them here" has been one of the most touted in right-wing circles. And one of the most ridiculous. There were no terrorists in Iraq until after we destroyed Hussein's capability to keep them out and did nothing to replace it.

Even so, the rationalization may not have gone completely unheeded.

While our attention and military have been bogged down in Iraq and unable to finish what should have been its primary mission in Afghanistan, al Qaeda has been busy. Not just helping to reestablish the Taliban in Afghanistan, but elsewhere as well:

Six months ago, the Bush administration launched a new policy in war-torn Somalia, putting the State Department in charge after secret CIA efforts failed to prevent Islamic fundamentalists from seizing power in Mogadishu. It hoped that diplomacy would draw the Islamists into partnership with more palatable, U.S.-backed Somali leaders.

Today, that goal seems more distant than ever. Since coming to power in June, the Islamists have expanded their hold on the south. A largely powerless, U.S.-backed rump government remains divided and isolated in the southern town of Baidoa. U.S.-sponsored talks, and a separate Arab League effort, seem to be going nowhere.

Al-Qaeda, long hovering in the shadows, has established itself as a presence in the Somali capital, say U.S. officials, who see a growing risk that Somalia will become a new haven for terrorists to launch attacks beyond its borders.
So not only have we mostly ignored the famine that is gripping much of Sub-Saharan Africa, but that ignorance has allowed our real enemy in the world to establish a potential haven there.

BushCo. continues to be the most horrific failure in our history.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Civics 101

George W. Bush may not know it - in fact I'm pretty sure he has never read the document - but the oath he took as assumed office is prescribed in Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution. Let's have a look at that oath:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Note that not only does the constitution, from which his power flows, lay out a basic blueprint for how to "execute the office," but it also limits the power of that same office. It's true there's no mention of limits, but they are there nonetheless.

Read the last clause of that one sentence oath carefully: "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." The current squatter in our Whitehouse has done everything in his power, with the help of a prostrate Congress to destroy that same document from which is power flows.

Violating that oath is an impeachable offense.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bush "Won't Be Rushed"

Of course he won't be rushed.

None of his kids are dodging bullets in Iraq. Nobody he knows is in danger of losing their arms or legs from IEDs. He has no stake in the war at all other than appeasing his oil company patrons and his friends in the weapons industry.

Oh, and his legacy.

Bush, prior to telling us that he's going to "stay the course" after all in January, will celebrate the holidays at home, with all of his family. Including his two draft-aged daughters. But in the mean time, there are gifts sitting in a military mail room somewhere in Iraq waiting to be delivered to a soldier who will not be alive to receive it by Christmas.

Take your time, Mr. President. No need to rush.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Best Government Money Can Buy

Republicans once again are thumbing their noses at you and me and planting said noses firmly up the asses of large corporations who have filled their campaign coffers in the past and who will hire them when they walk out of the Capitol.

The Justice Department placed new restraints on federal prosecutors conducting corporate investigations yesterday, easing tactics adopted in the wake of the Enron collapse.


...they are being made at a time when companies are seeking — and receiving — greater protection from criminal and regulatory scrutiny.


At the same time, there are growing calls to scale back the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, the legislation aimed at increasing corporate accountability in the aftermath of the Enron collapse.
Because, of course, big business has learned its lesson and will behave itself in the future. Just as they've always done.

The Hollow Army

It's been nearly 14 years since I left the Army but I remember clearly what would happen if a major unit were to have to report as not ready to deploy. Division commanders would be replaced, their careers over. Most likely the Corps commander would be replaced or at least reprimanded, their careers done as well. Reports would be sent up the chain of command to the Joint Chiefs and the repercussions would be felt all over. Lots of people would lose their jobs, training would be ramped up, there would be investigations into the reasons why people and equipment were not ready to deploy.

Such a report was rare. Not because readiness was inflated to match expectations; there were too many ways to see through any kind of artifice, but because commanders at all levels knew how important it was to be able to complete the mission (and to keep their jobs, let's be honest).

Reading this article today left me feeling sad at the state our military has been left by the ill-advised and illegal invasion of Iraq and the continuing occupation. Analysts are using the phrase "hollow Army" again as they did in the decade following the Vietnam War.

BushCo. has managed not only to increase the threat of terrorism and destroy our standing in the world, but also ruined our ability to defend ourselves and our allies.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Apology Accepted, Captain Needa

Please, please, please go read this post by Driftglass.

All of us who opposed the Iraq Invasion/War/Occupation/Mission Accomplished are due an apology from the rest of America. I stopped holding my breath a long time ago. But that doesn't negate that we are due.

Driftglass puts exactly the right amount of venom in his closing paragraphs:

Never forget that while Iraq was going up in flames, while the deathreek of the Hell that was coming was as sharp in the air as fresh blood, vomit and gasoline, and while the responsible 49% of the electorate begged and screamed and pleaded for the rest of the country to wake the fuck up, 51% of the electorate drank the Koolaid, shoved their collective heads ever further up their smug asses, called us traitors and voted for this lunatic.


Which is why the only thing I want to hear from every fucknozzle who voted for Bush in 2004 – from now until the end of time – is “I have quit my job to volunteer full time to work with disabled vets, and I am soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo fucking sorry.
Now I don't have to figure out how to say it.

What's Good for the Goose...

With Republicans, in a last gesture of disdain for their constituents, trying to gut EPA lead regulations it seems only fitting to read this:

A report released today by Democratic staffers in Congress found that official Capitol Hill gift shops were selling items containing dangerous levels of lead, according to news stories in Roll Call and The Hill.
I wonder how many of these trinkets and gifts they've given to their friends and families? I wonder if they will call for the manufacturers to be held to the standards they are trying so hard to get rid of?

Rumsfeld to Gates: "You're on Your Own"

I imagine this is how the entire Bush administration will take their leave. "Yep, we made the whole world a friggin' mess and now it's all yours. Enjoy!" Then they'll climb back into whatever crypt they were raised from and disappear.

According to the Wall Street Journal's "Washington Wire" blog, when Hannity asked if Rumsfeld could suggest any advice to Robert Gates, who will succeed him, he responded that "I don’t have any advice for him."

Monday, December 11, 2006

Burdensome Regulation

The next time you hear a conservative talking about Democrats and all the regulation of industry they have/will impose, don't forget to bring up all the recent outbreaks of E. coli and salmonella in the food chain:

Although meat and dairy products are regulated by the Department of Agriculture, the safety of fruits and vegetables is the responsibility of the Food and Drug Administration and the states. But they have jurisdiction only over processing plants. Food safety at the farm level is largely self-regulated.

That has left government regulators in the position over the past eight years of nagging the produce industry to improve food safety by publishing voluntary guidelines and sending letters of admonishment.

The FDA's critics say the agency doesn't have the manpower to do more. From 2003 to 2006, the budget for the agency's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition has fallen 37 percent, according to agency data. That has meant fewer inspectors and less frequent inspections. In 2005, the FDA conducted 4,573 inspections of domestic food-processing operations. For 2006, the agency said, it hopes to conduct 3,400. There are more than 12,000 such plants in the nation.

"The reality of FDA's situation is they don't have the basic inspectors to inspect the food supply they're in charge of," said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "They just don't have the people . . . to manage this problem at the farm level."
We all know how well industry regulates itself...

No Slack for Democrats

In some ways, I want to cut incoming Democrats and those new to their leadership roles a little bit of slack. They have, after all, been systematically locked out of everything over the past six years and more.

Unfortunately, the current world situation doesn't allow for any slack.

That's why this story should get wide dissemination:

In an interview with the editor on national security for Congressional Quarterly, the incoming Democratic chairman for the House Intelligence Committee [Texas Congressman Silvestre Reyes] was unable to answer "fundamental questions" related to the Middle East, including which sects terror groups adhere to.
However, despite having absolute control and access to everything during this period, those Republicans in important roles were even less informed than their incoming Democratic replacements:

But Stein reports that Reyes knew more than his last round of "Gotcha" victims.

"Rep. Jo Ann Davis, R-Va., and Terry Everett, R-Ala., both back for another term, were flummoxed by such basic questions, as were several top counterterrorism officials at the FBI," when Stein wrote about them in October.

Willie Hulon, Executive Assistant Director for the FBI's new National Security Branch, falsely answered that Iran and Hezbollah were Sunnis, while the Republican House intelligence subcommittee chairs couldn't tell the difference between Shiites and Sunnis, although they both admitted that such knowledge was "very important."
Now is not the time for slack. Now is not the time for slackers.

Democrats had better spend the holidays boning up on such basics rather than celebrating their win and glad-handing with newly interested corporate donors.

We're watching.


I only caught a few moments of it this morning so I don't have any good links, but it sounds like a lot of Congress-critters are bad mouthing the President on the morning news shows. I even heard someone use a construction of the old saying about the definition of insanity being doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. They never used the word "insanity," but I knew exactly what they meant.

What party, you ask?

Funny, they all had an 'R' after their name...

Friday, December 08, 2006


"Not winning," otherwise known as losing, has now become:

"...not succeed[ing] as fast as we wanted to succeed.
Got that?

All the chaos and the all-but-admitted civil war; the continuing death and maiming of our soldiers and Iraqis; the completely compromised Iraqi army and police; the faltering Maliki government. That's not failure!

That's slow motion success.

The other George would be so proud.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Moonbase Alpha

When I was growing up there was a sci-fi show by Gerry Anderson called "Space 1999." In that show, by the year 1999, there was a well established - and large - scientific outpost on the moon. There were also lots of nice looking young women and very cool spacecraft; so of course I watched it all the time.

Now, over 30 years after the last Apollo astronaut walked on the moon, NASA says that we should go back to the moon and establish a permanent base. And that we should start doing this within about 20 years.


From the time John Kennedy gave his famous speech to Congress about "sending a man to the moon and returning him safely to the earth," it took only nine years to make that first lunar landing. Sure there was the specter of the Soviet Union beating us to the punch hanging over everything we did then that added a little extra incentive to the entire nation. But come on...

Of course this is another BushCo. boondoggle. Lots of speeches and announcements, but nobody's being asked to push for an exciting goal, there haven't been any calls for a national effort or sacrifice to achieve this, and like almost every other potentially good thing this administration has called for, there's no funding.

Above all, again like everything else Bush touches, there's no excitement in this. No real challenge, no truly hard technical hurdles to overcome. And of course there's the knowledge that, ultimately, it just won't happen.

This is not 1961.

This is not 1999.

Above all, Bush is not JFK.


Besides, we all know where the real action is:

MARS, bitches!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Support the Troops, Part MCCIV (And Counting)

Just in case you've lost count or maybe thought that our Republican friends had started truly caring for the troops instead of using them as a bludgeon... This should do away with any of those illusions:

Army studies show that at least 20 percent to 25 percent of the soldiers who have served in Iraq display symptoms of serious mental-health problems, including depression, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Administration officials say there are extensive programs to heal soldiers both at home and in Iraq.
Sounds good, right? "Extensive programs." But wait, there's more:

But an NPR investigation at Colorado's Ft. Carson has found that even those who feel desperate can have trouble getting the help they need. In fact, evidence suggests that officers at Ft. Carson punish soldiers who need help, and even kick them out of the Army.
Ah, there are the "compassionate conservatives" we've come to know and love! But there has to be a reason, right?

You bet there is!

Evidence suggests that officials are kicking soldiers with PTSD out of the Army in a manner that masks the problem.

Richard Travis, formerly the Army's senior prosecutor at Ft. Carson, is now in private practice. He says that the Army has to pay special mental-health benefits to soldiers discharged due to PTSD. But soldiers discharged for breaking the rules receive fewer or even no benefits, he says.
The emphasis is mine.

That about says it all.


I'm fighting off the remains of a very bad cold or sinus infection that really had me down and out on Sunday. And when I woke up Monday, my left eye was swollen and red; that whole side of my face felt puffy and somewhat numb. I feel much better today, but still very tired and wrung out from all the work my body is doing to repel whatever microscopic invaders had wreaked such damage.

Maybe it's a bit of fevered delirium left over from my illness, but it occurred to me this morning that our body politic appears to be going through something very similar. Over the past six years our country has fallen into a kind of illness. If you read my blog or any of the others in my blogrolls, you know the symptoms. We even know exactly which organisms have caused this sickness; they've worked right out in the open, barely trying to conceal the damage they were doing to our country, to our government, to our Constitution.

But like any relatively robust body, our country, over time, has begun to reject the invaders. The recent mid-term elections could perhaps have been the break of a long fever. Our heads are still groggy and our limbs still weak, but with the break of the fever, perhaps we can now start on the long road to recovery. And it will be a long recovery; a lot of damage has been done. There are still bitter pills to swallow and we could all use a good dose of chicken soup.

And when we are recovered, healthy again in our democracy, we can start to stem the spread of our disease, help those in Britain and in Australia; those that followed too closely and caught whatever it was that we had. We can help those who we trampled in our delirium in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will take a long time - recovery is rarely quick or easy.

At the end of that recovery we can look back on this as just one of those illnesses that we all go through, soon to be forgotten in the renewed glow of health.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Fresh Air

From Robert Gates' nomination hearing today:

“Mr. Gates, do you believe that we are currently winning in Iraq?” Mr. Levin asked.

“No, sir,” Mr. Gates replied...

Mr. Levin said Mr. Gates’s remarks amounted to a “necessary, refreshing breath of reality.”
So will Bush - and, perhaps more importantly, Cheney - breathe the fresh air or will they continue to suffocate in their delusional world where the Iraqis are still showering us with flowers and greeting us as liberators? My bet is on the latter, but I've been wrong before...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Fat Tony's "No Scientist"

If our government is supposed to be representative of We the People, then I suppose Antonin Scalia represents the worst of our know-nothing conservative culture. During questioning in a case that could be pivotal in forcing the EPA to deal with global warming, Fat Tony had the following exchange:

"Respectfully, Your Honor, it is not the stratosphere. It's the troposphere," Milkey said.

"Troposphere, whatever. I told you before I'm not a scientist," Scalia said to laughter. "That's why I don't want to have to deal with global warming, to tell you the truth."
Like our President, Scalia not only doesn't know, he doesn't want to know. Not about global warming, not about peak oil, not about the civil war in Iraq.

It's long been a conservative trope that people who worry and think about things other than making money are "egg-heads" or "intellectuals" locked in their ivory towers on some Left-Coast campus. This attitude has permeated much of our culture and now the smartest among us are sneered at and dismissed; unless of course the knowledge can be used immediately to make more money or to make a better weapon (whether it works or not doesn't matter - see Star Wars - as long as it makes one or more campaign contributors more money).

The scientific consensus is well established on global warming and on its human causes. Just because Fat Tony doesn't join in on that consensus, just because conservatives don't want to stop the current gravy train of "sustainable development" doesn't mean that global temperatures won't continue to climb or that weather patterns won't continue to change.

History is full of cautionary examples of the danger of ignoring science. Even though our current President and his advisors choose to ignore the lessons of science and history the world continues to obey the laws of chemistry and physics. We continue to elect such know-nothings at our own peril.