March 31, 2006
Catblogging 3/31/2006

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Posted by Buck Batard at 11:33 AM
Opportunity Knocks

Major new analysis by Teixeira of the Democrats’ chances to stop or at least stanch Bush’s nation-weakening in the elections this fall.

Bottom line: the climate is favorable, and the Democrats have an opportunity to return the country to strength, as long as they have the sense and self-confidence to put forth a forceful agenda responsive to the clear anti-Bush majorities on specific big issues, such as opposition to the war and fixing the health care insurance system.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:30 AM
March 30, 2006
Rube Goldberg Made It Work Right

Booman Tribune reminds us once again that democracy might just be a pipe dream:

Yet, the e-voting machines are just part of the digital problem facing U.S. voters. Diebold’s election software packages include what many activists describe as “one stop shopping” for election fraud. Most of the e-voting machine companies also sell software that creates digital electronic voter registration databases. In the Cleveland area, an estimated 7000 voters were knocked off the voter registration rolls when Cuyahoga County Board of Elections adopted the Diebold registration system. The e-voting machine companies can control everything electronically, from voter registration to election day vote recording to final vote tabulation and recounting.

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Neither the Times nor USA Today nor any other major national publication has been willing to take the problem to its logical conclusion. None have seriously investigated how these very electronic machines were used to help steal the presidential election in Ohio 2004, or to defeat two electoral reform issues in Ohio 2005, or to swing key US Senate races in places such as Georgia, Minnesota and Colorado in 2002.

But the fact that these publications are finally acknowledging the obvious, overwhelming mechanical “glitches” with these machines is at least a start. Now that the Government Accountability Office has confirmed electronic voting equipment is easily hackable for mass vote stealing, and now that the Times and USA Today have reported that there are serious mechanical problems, maybe somebody at one of these media outlets will finally come to the obvious conclusion: electronic voting machines are merely high-tech devices designed to steal elections. And that is precisely why George W. Bush is in the White House today.”

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Posted by Buck Batard at 10:05 AM
They Ain’t the Hell’s Angels Anymore

There’s plenty out there to fuel paranoia, but this story should set off some neurons in the brains of true American patriots:

In a scene that could have been inspired by the movie “Minority Report,” one North Carolina county is using a UAV equipped with low-light and infrared cameras to keep watch on its citizens. The aircraft has been dispatched to monitor gatherings of motorcycle riders at the Gaston County fairgrounds from just a few hundred feet in the air — close enough to identify faces....

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Posted by Buck Batard at 08:00 AM
March 29, 2006
Realio, Trulio!

Twenty-four hundred American boys and girls dead, tens of thousands more wounded, all in the name of spreading democracy and freedom. Elections in Iraq almost four months ago, but still no government named. So what do we do?

U.S. officials sent a message this week to Iraq’s senior religious cleric asking that he help end the impasse over forming a new Iraqi government and strongly implying that the prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jafaari, should withdraw his candidacy for re-election, according to American officials.

We’re forced to ask an America-hating cleric (Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani) to make the bad, bad Iraqis name a government. But, it’s not a theocracy our kids died for, and it’s not a civil war that’s going on, and it all was realio, trulio, worth it-oh.

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Ogden Nash

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 10:22 PM
A Peaceful Scene in Downtown Baghdad Istanbul

Editor and Publisher confirms it. Zero points for the mainstream media and a three pointer for the blogosphere.

How far will critics of media coverage of the Iraq war go to prove reporters are wrongly focusing on the negative?

One answer came this week, in a shocking if amusing episode featuring one Howard Kaloogian, a leading Republican running for the seat in Congress recently vacated by indicted Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham.

He posted on the official Web site for his campaign a picture taken in “downtown Baghdad,” he said, during his visit to the city, which supposedly indicated that the media was wrong about the level of violence in the city. “We took this photo of downtown Baghdad while we were in Iraq,” he wrote. “Iraq (including Baghdad) is much more calm and stable than what many people believe it to be. But, each day the news media finds any violence occurring in the country and screams and shouts about it — in part because many journalists are opposed to the U.S. effort to fight terrorism.”

But the blogosphere quickly smelled a rat. The photo featured people who didn’t seem dressed quite right for Iraq, and signs and billboards that looked off, too. In the now-familiar pattern, the ace detective work leaped from obscure blogs to the well-known (Talking Points Memo, Eschaton, Attytood, (and more), and back again, as eagle-eyed experts proposed alternative locales, with Turkey a likely suspect.

In less than a day, it was over. “Jem6X” at the popular DailyKos blog confirmed the street scene was in Istanbul, not Baghdad.

It might be also noted that Wikipedia has already been updated to alert us to the honesty of the Republican hopeful responsible for this sordid tale. Wikipedia also offers this nice screenshot of the offending page given to us by Mr. Kaloogian, who is surely soon to be relegated to the dustbin of history.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 05:03 PM
“The Pentagon has once again investigated itself!”

Molly Ivins does it again:

The Pentagon has once again investigated itself! And — have a seat, get the smelling salts, hold all hats — the Pentagon has once again concluded the Pentagon did absolutely nothing wrong and will continue to do so.

In this particularly fascinating case, the Pentagon investigated its own habit of paying people to make up lies about how well the war in Iraq is going, and then paying other people to put those lies in the Iraqi media, thus fooling the Iraqis into thinking everything in their country is tickety-boo. Well, if we can’t fool them, whom can we fool?

The case revolves around a contract worth several million dollars given by the U.S. military command in Baghdad to the Lincoln Group, a public relations outfit started by two young entrepreneurs, one British, one American, in 2003 in Iraq. Articles were written by American military personnel from the American point of view about the war, to wit, it’s going well. Lincoln Group in turn paid Iraqi journalists, some “on retainer,” to print the articles without revealing the source.

Amusingly enough, through other programs, the U.S. government is also spending money trying to teach Iraqis about the importance of a free press in a democracy. According to the Pentagon’s investigation of itself, none of the Lincoln Group’s actions violate military policies because the Pentagon is just trying to counter the vast amount of anti-American propaganda carried in Middle Eastern papers.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 02:20 AM
March 28, 2006
A Real Condi-ribution To Civil Discourse

This website is not totally devoted to the comings, goings, and hairdos of Condoleezza Rice — for instance, we have some Cruella mixed in — but it comes close enough to satisfy.


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Motto: “I keep track of Condoleezza’s hairdo so you don’t have to.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 11:47 PM
The Government Has Gone Too Far

It is amazing and a little bit wonderful that the biggest corporate law firms in the country have come out solidly against the Bush Administration’s plan (being argued in the Supreme Court today, BTW) to weaken our country and strengthen bin Laden and his sympathizers by denying court review to detainees at Gitmo:

Many of the nation’s top law firms have signed briefs against the government and in support of Salim Hamdan, the detainee who allegedly served as chauffeur to Osama bin Laden and who is being detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

More than three dozen briefs have been filed on Hamdan’s side, largely arguing that the military tribunals established by the White House to try the detainees are illegal. By contrast, only a handful of briefs have been filed on the other side, backing the administration’s expansive view of executive authority.…

The covers also carry the names of the big-ticket New York, Washington, D.C., and other national law firms that are bringing their muscle to bear, from Cravath, Swaine & Moore to Covington & Burling to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld to Jones Day.

“The blue-chip firms are all in this case, and it’s the senior partners who are involved very often,” said David Remes, the Covington partner who coordinated the amicus curiae effort for Hamdan.&hellip

“This is not noblesse oblige by the big firms. It is an extraordinary no-confidence vote by the establishment bar in what the administration is trying to do here.”

[Professor Burt Neuborne of NYU Law School] said the only recent parallel was the effort 50 years ago by New York firms to help desegregate public schools.…

Neuborne too points to a long tradition of major law firms representing the unpopular.

“Wendell Willkie was representing communists and aliens in World War II,” he said, referring to the one-time presidential candidate and partner in the New York firm now known as Willkie Farr & Gallagher.

But Neuborne sees the Guantanamo effort as different, and more widespread.

“The centrist establishment bar has rallied to this as a defining issue,” he said. “The government has gone too far.”

Now, I opened by saying all this was remarkable, and it is fair to say so. And, those white-shoe attorneys deserve our thanks for adding hard-to-ignore muscle to the battle to fight those forces, led by W (a/k/a, “the Weakener-in-Chief”) and his co-weakeners in all branches of government, whose hard-to-understand but plain-to-see intent is to weaken our great nation by all means possible, in this case by attacking and circumventing the legal system. But that is the glass half-full take.

The glass half-empty take is, “Corporate lawyers? You’ve got to be kidding me. How horrible that our nation has come to such a pass that we must rely on Cravath Swaine & Moore to defend our nation from its internal enemies in the Capitol and the Department of Justice and the White House.”

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 10:09 PM
No Wonder They Replaced Him As Whip — They Know He’s Not Packing Heat Anymore!

Tom Delay wants his license to carry a concealed weapon back. (Image via.)

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:39 AM
March 27, 2006
Go, and Sin No More

Pachacutec at Firedoglake writes, admirably and compellingly:

A sizable portion of Americans are like me: they supported the invasion and now know they fucked up. They may not understand why they fucked up, but if Democratic leaders are to have any credibility with the majority public, they need to do their own version of what I just did. More honesty equals more credibility equals greater turnout equals greater gains in 2006. Even if you lack the sense to do the right thing for moral reasons, the public is ahead of you: do it based on calculation. It’s what you do best (and much of why you fucked up in the first place).

Not so admirably, I point out that Bad Attitudes and millions of others didn’t fuck up. The link is to an entry on March 20, 2003, four days before Bush began his Long War by bombing Baghdad. My photographer son Mike took pictures of the huge demonstration at the Washington Monument (one of many around the country). They are here.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:58 PM
The Ten Million Dollar Mite

Let us reflect on the scriptures:

Mark 12:41–44. 41: And he sat down over against the treasury, and beheld how the multitude cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. 42: And there came a poor widow, and she cast in two mites, which make a farthing. 43: And he called unto him his disciples, and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, This poor widow cast in more than all they that are casting into the treasury: 44: for they all did cast in of their superfluity; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

What better example of the poor widow and Christian piety than Katherine Harris, who reminds us via this article in the Orlando Sentinel of her steadfast faith in the Lord:

Harris makes reference to a poor, pious widow in a biblical parable, saying she, like the widow, was “willing to take this widow’s mite … and put everything on the line.”

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Posted by Buck Batard at 09:30 AM
You Heard It Here First

While Avedon at The Sideshow showcases the latest Bra of the Week, we here at Bad Attitudes work harder to find something more useful — something you can put in your wallet and that’s free. We hope you get to enjoy using it.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 09:04 AM
March 26, 2006
Snakeblogging

You’ll thank me, I know, for sharing this. It’s a video of a kingsnake regurgitating a corn snake longer than itself. Enjoy!

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:16 AM
March 25, 2006
Bringing Democracy to Iraq

Via Laura Turner at Liberalism without Cynicism, this revolting news from Liberated Iraq.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:51 AM
IS THAT JUST A HEAD!?

Hey, there, cat lovers! Check this out.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:10 AM
March 24, 2006
G.N.O.F. (“Good News On Friday”)

Hey, I know a lot of you guys out there have been following the paper-ballot story closely. Did you notice this:

Diebold, the electronic voting machine maker, suffered another sharp setback recently, when Maryland’s House of Delegates voted 137-to-0 to drop its machines and switch to paper ballots.…

Maryland was one of the first states to embrace Diebold. But Maryland voters and elected officials have grown increasingly disenchanted as evidence has mounted that the machines cannot be trusted.…

Many states have passed laws requiring paper records for electronic voting. What is happening in Maryland is important, because not a single member of the House stood behind the once popular Diebold machines. It is just the latest indication that common sense is starting to prevail in the battle over electronic voting.

A good development, to be sure.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 10:28 PM
Wonder of Wonders

Well, I’m surprised. The Washington Post interviews Noam Chomsky.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 08:02 PM
Those Who Can't Do, Teach

From the New York Times this morning: Note that it is also somewhat ambiguous and, I guess, unintentionally ironic.

"U.S. troops are trying to train Iraqi forces to battle the Sunni-led insurgency without resorting to abductions, torture and murder."

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Posted by Tom Street at 09:56 AM
Wa-Wa Land: Basically Accurate And Reflects Reality

More shoot-the-messenger from the incompetent cry-babies running the country:

Cheney said his comments that Iraqis would welcome Americans as “liberators” and the Iraqi insurgency was “in its last throes” were “basically accurate and reflect reality.” The problem, he said, was that news reporting has created a negative impression “because what’s newsworthy is the car bomb in Baghdad. It’s not all the work that went on that day in 15 other provinces in terms of making progress toward rebuilding Iraq.”
I remember when the strong, muscular G.O.P types would laugh at Hollywood and Los Angeles, calling it “La-La Land.” Don’t bust a gut, funny, hunh? Get it? Because they are all goofy and ineffective liberals out there on the Left Coast, call it “La-La Land.” Shirley MacLaine, ha-ha!

Now, the rulers astride Washington, D.C. just can’t stop whining and crying and blaming everybody but themselves. Blame the press, not getting the message out, blah-blah and wa-wa.

That’s why we should start calling Washington, D.C., the Cry-Baby Capital Of The World, “Wa-Wa Land.”

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:32 AM
The New Guy on the Blogroll

Spiiderweb has been a godsend to this blog (alright, blast me for my use of the deity if you will, but nevertheless, Spiiderweb has a fascinating blog).

In one of his latest posts he starts out with a picture of Harry S and then morphs over to Molly Ivins [Bill Doolittle, please take note of Molly’s article] and then hits us with the following (below), just after he calls “bullshit” on Molly Ivins. On top of that, he’s a prolific blogger.


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Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to defend myself. My spot in this swirl of blogs is to try to post info I think people might miss and try my best to post earlier than others. Most US bloggers are asleep when I’m blogging. I often catch breaking news within seconds.

I also often usually offer my opinions. Those opinions are as well informed as I can make them or just based on experience. Those opinions are mine and can be accepted or rejected by my readers based on thier opinions, experience, trust or beliefs.

Other bloggers are more informed and knowledgable than I in many areas and have sources and experiences I haven’t. I would never challenge Juan Cole, Redd Hedd, Jane Hamsher nor many others. They provide info as good as, if not better, than MSM reporters.

Damn! Shouldn’t have started listing bloggers. There are far too many and omissions signify nothing.

Finally, I’m no celebrity and thus am not in anyone’s spotlight. I’ve been interviewed by radio stations, television stations and newspapers on a few occasions. So each reporter was “covering the five-car pile-up on Route 128” as it were. In every single interview I gave, without exception, the reporter made factual mistakes and erroneously quoted me on something. Usually the errors were significant. So “being there” doesn’t guarantee reliable information or accuracy. I’m just saying.

It’s awfully hard for a “new guy on the block” to get picked up and added to the blogrolls of the more popular blogs, but I urge those who visit here to explore his blog and consider adding him to their blogrolls. He seems to have come out of nowhere and has a lot of good things to say.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 05:48 AM
Catblogging 3/24/2006

Our sweet Mabel has been getting edgy. It seems that she caught a glimpse of Martha Bridegam’s cat Edgie and she is quite concerned that she might not be considered the meanest cat on the blogs anymore. Not to worry. Mabel proved herself this week after our hiatus, displaying once again her resolve to protect our non existent garden. Mabel says “eat your heart out Edgie, cats in the suburbs have the upper paw” over those in the city. On the other hand, we don’t know what to do about this. We haven’t taught her to read yet.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 04:55 AM
March 23, 2006
Mrs. Cheney: “Let them Drink Perrier”

The Smoking Gun brings us an interesting travel document in which Dick Cheney gives directions to the Five Star Hotels about his preferences. We might note that sparkling water is only required if Mrs. Cheney is present. We can only assume Dick is still sticking with the hard stuff, probably a requirement for those who are so intellectually challenged such that Fox News is the only channel worth watching.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 09:51 AM
A True Native American Hero — Osceola

With all due respect to Bill Doolittle’s previous post, I offer up the following, mainly because I caught glimpse of, and then took a picture of, what for me was an unexpected encounter with the grave of Osceola while touring the South this past week. The grave of Osceola is located at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island, SC (Edgar Allen Poe fans take note), and I have been itching for an opportunity to post it.

Although Andrew Jackson is sometimes fondly remembered for the first of the Seminole Wars, let us not forget the Second Seminole War, of which has been written:

The greatest lesson of the Second Seminole War shows how a government can lose public support for a war that has simply lasted for too long. As the Army became more deeply involved in the conflict, as the government sent more troops into the theater, and as the public saw more money appropriated for the war, people began to lose their interest. Jesup’s capture of Osceola, and the treachery he used to get him, turned public sentiment against the Army. The use of blood hounds only created more hostility in the halls of Congress. It did not matter to the American people that some of Jesup’s deceptive practices helped him achieve success militarily. The public viewed his actions so negatively that he had undermined the political goals of the government.

[Thanks to Martha Bridegam for her comments in the previous post, which reminded me (I’m a poor history scholar) that Osceola (misspelled on the grave) had a connection to Andrew Jackson.]

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And it also has been written of Osceola:

Although Osceola was not an elected chief, his band of about 4,000 men successfully held 100,000 U.S. Army troops at bay for over ten years by employing hit and run guerrilla warfare tactics from bases deep within the wilderness swampland that was then central and south Florida.

On October 21, 1837, on the orders of U.S. General Thomas Sidney Jesup, Osceola was captured when he arrived for supposed truce negotiations in Fort Payton. He was imprisoned at Fort Marion, St. Augustine, Florida.

Osceola’s capture by deceit caused uproar even among the white population and General Jesup was publicly condemned. Opponents of the contemporary administration cited it as a black mark against the government.

The next December, Osceola and other Seminole prisoners were moved to Fort Moultrie, South Carolina. There painter George Catlin met him and convinced him to pose for him for two paintings. Robert J. Curtis painted an oil portrait of him. These pictures inspired a number of other prints, engravings and even cigar store figures. Afterwards numerous landmarks, including Osceola Counties in Florida, Iowa, and Michigan, have been named after him.

I might suggest that there are striking parallels between the first and second Seminole Wars and the first and second Iraq Wars, but heck, what’s the use. President Bush never claimed to be a history scholar anyway. And for what it’s worth, the politicians would call Osceola a terrorist these days. At any rate, let us hope that it doesn’t take ten years this time around.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 08:05 AM
Money Ill-Spent

Bob Herbert of NYT (behind the scum-sucking pay wall) finally gives some MSM play to an academic study, noted on this blog when it came out months ago, regarding the real cost of the Iraq war — now measurable in the trillions. Herbert says:

Now comes a study by Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at Columbia University, and a colleague, Linda Bilmes of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, that estimates the “true costs” of the war at more than $1 trillion, and possibly more than $2 trillion.…

In an interview, Mr. Stiglitz said that about $560 billion, which is a little more than half of the study’s conservative estimate of the cost of the war, would have been enough to “fix” Social Security for the next 75 years. If one were thinking in terms of promoting democracy in the Middle East, he said, the money being spent on the war would have been enough to finance a “mega-mega-mega-Marshall Plan,” which would have been “so much more” effective than the invasion of Iraq.


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Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:49 AM
March 22, 2006
Lousy Comparison

I am opposed to the censure of President George W. Bush for two reasons. First, it implies that he is unworthy of impeachment. Second, he will be mentioned in the same breath as Andrew Jackson, the only President to be censured.

Jackson was one tough son of a bitch. At the age of 13 Jackson “refused to clean the boots of a British officer, (and) the irate redcoat slashed at him, giving him scars on his left hand and head, as well as an intense hatred for the British.” He went on to become a war hero and champion of the common man. His body was covered with scars. He tried to do away with the Electoral College so the people, not the rural states or the Supreme Court, could directly elect their president.

Nobody ever accused him of being a nice person, and he had no patience for fools. In contrast because Bush is a fool himself, he’s unable to fire them. Doing so would indict George W. Bush himself.

Nothing less than impeachment and removal from office is proper for Bush. It will not happen because impeachment is a political action, as was the censure of Jackson.

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Posted by Bill Doolittle at 04:53 PM
In Deo Speramus
I decry the power of the Church and its use of that power, in America in particular! Throughout the world, as all know, the churches are so organized as to have the wealth, size and formation of a great corporation, a government, or an army. And in America, the wealthy individuals who rule in corporate affairs appear to be attracted to the church by reason of its hold not only on the mind but the actions of its adherents. Politically, socially and otherwise, they count on its power and influence as of use to them. And not without reason, since especially among the ignorant and poor, its revealed wisdom counsels resignation and orders faith in a totally inscrutable hereafter. In short, it makes for ignorance and submission in the working class, And what more could a corporation-minded government or financial group, looking toward complete control of everything for a few, desire?

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Yet the Church, realizing the power of wealth as well as mentally-controlled numbers, seeks to gather to itself all it can. Each year in America we see its influence grow, the political and “educational’ activities of the Catholic Church in particular being everywhere apparent. Thus, the phenomenon of a religious adherent such as Al Smith, seeking from a people whose political as well as mental independence is not acknowledged by his Church, the official (in the sense that an American President has that) control of the same. And not only that, but the spectacle of many of the most grasping commercial magnates in America being elevated to leadership in the Church.

The sentiments expressed in the few paragraphs above might have been written yesterday. Yet they were not. They were shamelessly lifted off the internet by yours truly from a portion of a largely unknown book published in 1931 entitled Tragic America, written by none other than Theodore Dreiser. Jerry Doolittle’s previous post, which mentioned Theodore Dreiser, got me interested in his work, none of which I had previouly read until today. Obviously Dreiser was a man of his time, and perhaps also, a man ahead of his time as well.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 04:52 PM
The Spoiled Brat

Theodore Dreiser in Newspaper Days, describing a type of rich kid who played at journalism when he was a poor reporter in New York a century ago. Remind you of anybody?

There is a species of mind which is apparently sealed to the misery of others and fixed solely and narcissistically upon itself. Such brains or temperaments can only view and grasp their own or similar merits and perfections, and, in consequence, what life is likely to do for them.

They can no more visualize the circumstances and conditions which delay and betray and beleaguer another than they can interpret time or space. Little if anything of the grilling forces of nature — its harrying storms, inequalities, traps, lures, deprivations and congenital defects, which delay or destroy the millions via whose defects such brains or temperaments prosper — is ever or even vaguely comprehended by them.

To the eyes and the minds of such mannikins the fate of every individual is in his own hands. All one need do to be successful, attractive, powerful, and so admired, is to try, to bestir oneself, to gallop here and there, willing that this, that, and the other thing shall be, in order that it shall be. The unbelievable handicaps and weights which delay and finally mire the many in the slough of despond or worse are to these unknown…


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To them the less successful individual is never so by reason of conditions which he has not and never can have control, but rather by reason of defects which he himself willfully incurs — ignorance, weakness, dirt, a shabby mind and a cowardly heart — and by reason of which, and the nonwillingness on his part to overcome these same, he fails.

All men are the victims of their own idleness, sins and the like. They court failure and eschew success, while themselves make all the virtues and qualities which further them so rapidly. The asininity of it all is of course enough to make an observer of even ordinary intelligence smile, but so it is.

Such people are most happily insulated against the depressing effect of the woes of others. Your bark may be sinking, but your cries will never disturb their moonlight ditties as they drift before a favoring wind past the scene of your despair.
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:40 PM
What Al Gore's Been Up To

Good piece in The American Prospect on what Al Gore’s been up to these days, all but unnoticed by the MSM.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:37 AM
Cassandra

Kevin Phillips forty years ago accurately foresaw the rise of the Republican party. Now, he sees doom ahead:

…his new book, American Theocracy, argues that the Republican Party — and the country — is headed for disaster.

Subtitled “The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century,” American Theocracy puts the trials of modern America into the context of other great historical powers. From Rome to Great Britain, Phillips identifies the keys to their decline — and draws parallels to modern America.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:32 AM
So What If Iran Has a Bomb?
Of course, a fundamental part of the non-proliferation bargain is the commitment of the five nuclear States recognized under the non-proliferation treaty — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — to move toward disarmament. Recent agreements between Russia and the United States are commendable, but they should be verifiable and irreversible. A clear road map for nuclear disarmament should be established — starting with a major reduction in the 30,000 nuclear warheads still in existence, and bringing into force the long-awaited Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

If the global community is serious about bringing nuclear proliferation to a halt, these measures and others should be considered at the non-proliferation treaty review conference next year.

In areas of longstanding conflict like the Middle East, South Asia and the Korean Peninsula, the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction — while never justified — can be expected as long as we fail to introduce alternatives that redress the security deficit. We must abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue weapons of mass destruction yet morally acceptable for others to rely on them for security — and indeed to continue to refine their capacities and postulate plans for their use.

When it’s all put this simply, it’s hard to figure out what the hell we’re doing.

Take a look at Article VI of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty:

Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

The United States signed that treaty. Has the US “pursued negotiations in good faith … on a treaty of general and complete [nuclear] disarmament”? Of course it hasn’t. US policy has been to tell other countries, “Do what makes it easy for us to control you, not what makes it easy for you to be independent”. Given how much, and how many, nations were beholden to the US after the Second World War, this policy worked for a while, especially when the Soviet Union could be invoked as the boogeyman. These days, overuse and dishonesty have turned the policy into a boy crying wolf.

Truly, it’s not surprising that other countries have decided to attempt to ensure their own territorial integrity by acquiring a weapon even the schoolyard bully would fear: a nuke. This kind of escalation is directly related to bullying and aggression by the strongest power, the only country to mount thousand-bomber raids over cities, and the only country to use nuclear weapons. So far.

When you see Iraq attacked, and North Korea harangued, it’s extremely difficult to avoid the conclusion that you’ll be invaded unless you have a nuclear bomb. If you’re Iran, you’re gonna get that damn bomb built ASAP no matter what it takes. Says Bill Greider:

It’s time for a real public debate, [New York Times reporter David] Sanger suggests. He doesn’t paint a happy picture as he lays out the new power equation of nuclear proliferation — Iran with the bomb becomes the dominant regional power in the Mideast — but he suggests the most plausible option may be “containment.” Working out unsentimental relationships with Iran and other nuclear wannabes means terms that define clearly how far is too far to go. Muddling through sounds less satisfying than war-making, but it worked well enough during the decades of the cold war. At least nobody dropped the big one.
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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 05:58 AM
March 21, 2006
Outsourcing Freedom

I knew that outsourcing was the rage, but I didn’t know until today how far we have yet to go. Please don’t tell the Republican legislator in South Carolina responsible for this about the last civilized country which tried a similar scheme. It might break his heart to know that he’s stealing ideas from the country which brought us French Freedom Fries.

South Carolina could contract with foreign countries to house inmates convicted of drug-related offenses or crimes related to the sexual abuse of children under a bill introduced this afternoon in the S.C. House.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 08:00 PM
Jack Abramoff, Just Another Reformer

From Jack Abramoff’s interview in next month’s Vanity Fair:

“The exposure of my lobbying practice, the absurd amount of media coverage, and the focus — for the first time — on this sausage-making factory that we call Washington will ultimately help reform the system, or at least so I hope.”
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:38 PM
Let Al Gore Clean Up the Mess

NBC cut away in the middle of its live coverage of George W. Bush’s press conference this morning, no doubt stifling a yawn. I, of sterner stuff, surfed over to ABC and hung on till his last words. Like so much that had gone before, they were lies: “Appreciate the opportunity to visit with you all,” the Great Kidder said. “Look forward to future occasions.”

But occasionally truth did rear its ugly head, as here:

Q: Will there come a day — and I’m not asking you when, not asking for a timetable — will there come a day when there will be no more American forces in Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: That, of course, is an objective, and that will be decided by future Presidents and future governments of Iraq.

And here, although he was talking about illegal immigration rather than illegal wiretapping:

When you make something illegal that people want, there’s a way around it, around the rules and regulations.
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:36 PM
You Should Keep Your Voice Down In Church Anyway

Wow. I missed this one: The Pentagon hired a contractor “to help it collect data on houses of worship, schools, power plants and other locations in the United States.”

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:24 AM
Gathered From Third-Anniversary Commentaries

Naturally the third anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq brought a lot of comment on the editorial pages. Not much of it was clear or helpful, but here are excerpts from three that were excellent.

Wish I’d Said That

Gary Younge nails it in The Guardian. Several of his points are things I’ve tried to say, but he says them coherently. Damn.

Six years into his presidency it is difficult to think of a single, substantial foreign policy initiative that US president George Bush has pursued that did not involve war, or the threat of it. There is good reason for this. It is the one area in which America reigns supreme, accounting alone for 40% of the global military expenditure and spending almost seven times the amount of its nearest rival, China.

Yet greatness eludes him. For if the last six years have proved anything, it is the limitations of military might as the central plank of foreign policy. Indeed, shorn of meaningful diplomacy or substantial negotiation, it has failed even on its own narrow, nationalistic terms of making America safer and securing its global hegemony. In short, in displaying his strength in such a brash, brazen, reckless and ruthless manner, Bush has asserted power and lost authority and influence both at home and abroad.

With his approval ratings at Nixonian lows and the mid-term elections on the horizon, many of his fellow Republicans regard him as a liability.

All as Emmanuel Todd predicted.

But of course he’s writing for a British paper. It actually occurs to me that maybe, after the American empire is gone, we might return to having actual civic discourse in our newspapers, like the British and French. Maybe we’ll even have civility in Congress…

Mr. Dithers

Greg Mitchell’s right, I think, when he says that “On 3rd Anniversary: Editorials Dither While Iraq Burns”.

The New York Times, for example, cogently lays out everything that has gone criminally wrong, with little hope for improvement, but concludes with this ringing call for … what? “The Iraq debacle ought to serve as a humbling lesson for future generations of American leaders — although, if our leaders were capable of being humbled, they could have simply looked back to Vietnam,” the Times declares. “For the present, our goal must be to minimize the damage, through the urgent diplomacy of the current ambassador and forceful reminders that American forces are not prepared to remain for one day in a country whose leaders prefer civil war to peaceful compromise.”

Urgent diplomacy and forceful reminders: In other words, leave it to the incompetent gangs in Washington and Baghdad that the editorial has just eviscerated.

Here is what the Times wrote on the first anniversary of the war in 2004: “Right now, our highest priority is making the best of a very disturbing situation.” The “possibility” of “an Iraq flung into chaos and civil war, open to manipulation by every unscrupulous political figure and terrorist group in the Middle East, is too awful to contemplate.” Two years later, we’ve got it.

He’s equally hard on the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. After all, the vast majority of editorial pages in the US, though few elsewhere, supported the war; and the straight news stories, such as those from Walter Pincus in the Post, that questioned or contradicted the administration’s stated reasons for going to war ended up on page 16.

Stunted Democracy

This is the kind of American propaganda, or rather self-censorship, that stunts the growth of democracy.

If you really believe democracy can be a workable political system, then you must, it seems to me, believe that most people will make pretty decent decisions most of the time if they have all the relevant information.

Of course, they rarely have all the information, so it’s hard to tell what they’d do if they did. In the US right now, the major issue is that the mass media are owned by a handful of huge corporations, which carefully package the “news” to encourage the sorts of buying behavior they prefer (whether we’re talking blenders or Senators). As the target of the most powerful propaganda machine ever, popularly known as the Mighty Wurlitzer, much of the US public is not surprisingly overwhelmed.

Democracy, as some who publicly claim to champion it say, can be a messy business. For instance, after decades of being marginalized, the Palestinians elect a bunch of Hamas folks to replace the famously corrupt Fatah. There were stories in US news outlets about the money the US was providing for public-works projects and the like in the last couple of months before the election. Apparently that trick, an oldie but goodie here in the US, didn’t fool the Palestinians. In the end, the administration reverted to its old favorite, “I don’t think anyone ever imagined that …” exactly what happened was going to happen. So far, that has turned out to be a bald-faced lie every time.

Yes, Ma’am

Given the supine nature of a lot of the US editorial pages, how about this one?

While Gen. John P. Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, has said that the United States has no plans for permanent bases in Iraq, the Pentagon has spent $1 billion on base reconstruction in and around Iraq and Afghanistan and wants to spend $1 billion more.

Bush administration officials have refused to specifically rule out U.S. bases on Iraqi soil, although doing so might help quell the insurgency — or at least clarify our intentions. That’s because we always intended to stay.

That’s Cynthia Tucker, editorial-page editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, writing in the Baltimore Sun. I’ve always liked Cynthia Tucker, by no means only because I agree with her most of the time.

What Ms. Tucker is saying corresponds with what Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, ret., said long ago in an LA Weekly interview I’ve plugged before. The lieutenant colonel points to the permanent bases as one of the three main reasons for the war.

Or, as Chalmers Johnson said, the reason they don’t have an exit plan is that they don’t plan to exit.

The Long Anti-War

The point is that it’s easy for those of us who were right about the war to grow frustrated with the inability of those who were wrong to admit it. Iraq, it’s true, is not Vietnam; the time scale, among other things, is different. But in Vietnam days, dissent grew slowly for several years, during which many of the dissenters found it hard to believe they’d ever see success. Then critical mass was reached and success soon followed. On a different time scale, I expect a somewhat similar process is taking place nowadays.

In other words, keep the faith, brothers and sisters. The war machine is creaking.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 04:01 AM
March 19, 2006
The Scoop on Newspapers

I humbly offer a peek at the reality of daily newspaper publishing in the United States based on personal experience as a publisher as well as conversations with newspaper owners. The time is right because of the brouhaha over the business problems of large daily newspapers and the very real pressures on publicly-traded newspaper companies to keep up obscene profit margins.

Profit margins of US publicly traded companies over the last 25 years averaged 8.3 percent. That means they keep 8.3 percent of the gross income after all expenses. Daily newspapers routinely make 20 to 25 percent, and many make 30 percent and more. The more profitable ones are in so-called “clean” markets without significant print competition and unions. These newspapers tend to be somewhat isolated geographically. Most newspapers that earn below that are considered troubled. (Big city newspapers seldom are able to earn such percentages.)

Most US daily newspaper owners are used to making more than twice as much profit as the average US company. This has been the rule ever since the elimination of composing rooms by computers and automatic offset, high speed typesetting machines. What labor was left the publishers shoved into the editorial department without extra copy desk staffing …


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Publishers who fail to meet the high margins are dismissed. I’ve never heard of a publisher being dismissed for putting out a lousy product. OK, that’s the situation today. So what is the result ? Given the opportunity to significantly improve their editorial product with more and better reporters and editors, daily newspaper publishers chose to take the money to enrich themselves, and their shareholders or use it to buy more newspapers.

This practice, however, is never cited as a cause of the decline in readership. Why ? Because publishers, who routinely describe their newspapers as “franchises,” do no not want the general public to know they have been reaping obscene profits out of their papers for decades while grossly underpaying all employees. Even their on-site publishers are paid far less than the industry average for managing same-size operations.

Owners in general are no different than any other greedy capitalist even though they wrap themselves in the First Amendment and speak of the papers as providing a public service. One egregious example: decades ago daily newspaper publishers fought tooth and nail to keep their child carriers out of Worker’s Comp insurance, despite the fact that the children have the most dangerous job at newspapers — seven times more dangerous than the next most dangerous, pressmen, according to Worker’s Comp risk assessments. Remember pressure from publishers allows kids to carry newspapers at a younger age than they can legally perform other work.

Newspapers get enormous breaks on mail fees, with the difference picked up by you and me. The results of the sky-high margins are plain to see: almost all newspapers fail to provide decent local coverage, and the page counts are so squeezed that national and international coverage is minimal. Instead the papers go crazy adding glitz while dumbing down what’s left of the content. See Gannett newspapers (and cry).

Now, faced with real, aggressive competition (using the written word), in the Internet, the publishers worried their honey pot might dry up and they are blaming their problems on everyone but themselves. Finally the new media competition is forcing tight-fisted publishers to spring for defensive measures, but my guess is that they will bring too little imagination to the battle.

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Posted by Bill Doolittle at 04:11 PM
March 18, 2006
Greider on Feingold

What can you say? Greider’s at it again.

The Washington Post runs an obligatory account on page 8, quoting Mr. Anonymous Democrat Strategist on the unwisdom of Feingold’s gesture. The New York Times story on page 24 quotes the esteemed constitutional authority Dick Cheney. The House Repubican leader (who replaced the corrupt House leader who resigned) denounces Feingold’s resolution as “political grandstanding of the very worst kind.” Like the Republican impeachment of Bill Clinton for fellatio in the White House? Go away, Feingold, let us get back to the people’s business.

The real story — naturally overlooked by cynical editors — is that an honest truth-teller is loose in the fun house and disturbing the clowns. Man bites dog, senator defends Constitution.

Feingold has a reputation for such quaint deviations — a naïf who voted against the war in Iraq and the Patriot Act. On principle! How naïve is that? He talks like he might run for President, yet he seems tone-deaf to the artful resonances of power politics — the cutesy games insiders play and the press cherishes. Hey, what is this Constitution thing anyway?

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 11:16 PM
Lack-of-Property Qualifications

Seems to me we should institute a lack-of-property qualification for Congress.

Clients and Patrons

Back in the day, you had to be rich, male, and free (there were rich male slaves) to have a chance of gaining entry into the Roman Senate. The result of this explicit plutocracy was that the society’s legal and military decisions were made by its owners. Then the Roman version of supply-side economics took over, supposedly delivering appropriate shares to the clientela through the formalized, and to some extent legally required, generosity of the patron.

In a lot of ways, this system was effective. The will of the rich was generally enacted without much internal conflict, except of course in those cases where rich interests diverged. And even in those situations, there was at least an open forum for discussion available, should the disputants choose to take advantage of it. And there was, at least in theory, a method for representing the needs of the plebs.

In a lot of ways, too, this system was visible in outline in European feudalism, whose legal system was based on mutual obligations between the lord and his vassels and serfs.

Employees and Employers

These days, we have about half that contract left. Employees owe part of their lives in the contract, while employers can discharge their obligations with a check. Sometimes corporate lawyers can find ways to avoid even that. Therefore personal-injury lawyers are reviled, because they can sometimes return the favor.

The clients, in many ways, are still obligated to the patron. But the patron’s obligation is to maximize profit, which encourages exploitation, or at least maximum use, of all available resources. Including clients.

This is not a positive change for the average person; indeed, in many ways we’re witnessing a long-term surge in the power of the few as opposed to the many. This is just what one might expect to follow the end of the perception of opposition offered by the Cold War: a hubristic expansion of self-confidance, and an inability to see contradictory evidence.

A belief in the legitimacy of empire, and the illegitimacy, by consequent definition, of resistance.

What’s to Do?

Of course the best answer would probably be some utopian fantasy world in which so much was available that no one was without whatever they wanted, space travel as well as food. (Think Iain Banks’s Culture.) Where the capabilities of the society were marshalled for the purpose of enriching the common wealth.

In the real world, however, I can think of at least two possible alternatives.

Poor Congress

First, we could institute a lack-of-property qualification for Congress, to offset a couple of centuries of the effects of the opposite. According to my plan, no one who could be proven to have assets beyond their house, car, clothes, and computer would be allowed to serve, and everyone would be term-limited. Then we’d measure peoples’ net worth as they entered and left Congress, and publish the comparisons as their going-away gifts.

If the ethic could be created that integrity on the public stage required minimizing that difference, then we’d set up a situation in which members of Congress would have to be bought with promises for the future. Presumably that might include promises of employment, since actual physical ownership of assets would be traced, à la Duke Cunningham.

But promises of employment at those levels where compensation is high and effort low can be extremely attractive to a legislator, not rich to begin with nor expecting to end up that way. So perhaps the best solution would be to present departing members of Congress with a million bucks if their assets while in Congress were essentially constant from first to last after inflation. Or, hell, make it five milion. Enough so that everyone who leaves Congress without a legal cloud can be comfortable for the rest of their lives if they choose to retire from public life.

In other words, two terms and you’re out to public pasture. At least this would regularly generate new crops of millionaires.

Modern Feudalism

Second, we could go completely the other way and set up a modern feudal society, with obligations going down as well up the ladder. Just go with the whole increasing-inequality thing and see where we can ride it. There are compensations for being considered property; for instance, you have an inherent value, which a prudent owner will conserve.

Bertrand Russell said of John Locke that

He seems, in an abstract and academic way, to regret economic inequality, but he certainly does not think that it would be wise to take such measures as might prevent it. No doubt he was impressed, as all the men of his time were, by the gains to civilization that were due to rich men, chiefly as patrons of art and letters. The same attitude exists in modern America, where science and art are largely dependent upon the benefactions of the very rich. To some extent, civilization is furthered by social injustice. This fact is the basis of what is most respectable in conservatism.

See, I think there might have been some animus there. Conservatism in the US, at least, could theoretically mean conserving the values of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I would call such a position eminently respectable.

In practice, of course, people calling themselves conservatives are radically changing the relationship of government to citizen, bringing us closer to Orwellian visions of the intrusive Big Brother than we’ve ever been. Their saving grace, if they have one, will probably turn out to be their ineptitude.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 04:14 AM
March 17, 2006
Time Lag

When a baby takes a sudden, severe hurt, such as getting her hand snapped in a mousetrap, there is a several second delay before she starts to cry. This brief period of time is required for her to get over the surprise, absorb what happened to her, realize, “Hey, I’m screwed,” start to feel the hurt, and then take a breath to ramp up the wail.

In the case of the American public, taking the example of the invasion of Iraq, we find that that absorption period is somewhat longer, approximately three years:

A new poll of likely voters finds that President Bush and his party no longer have the advantage on issues of foreign policy and national security, which they used to dominate.

Of course, the child then becomes inconsolable; we’ll see what happens to America.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:02 AM
March 16, 2006
Iraq-Nam: The Smell Of Victory

KR leads the way again:

A review of military data shows that daily bombing runs and jet-missile launches have increased by more than 50 percent in the past five months, compared with the same period last year.…

The numbers also show that U.S. forces dropped bombs on more cities during the last five months than they did during the same period a year ago. Airstrikes hit at least 11 cities between Oct. 1, 2004, and Feb. 28, 2005, but were mostly concentrated in and around the western city of Fallujah. A year later, U.S. warplanes struck at least 22 cities during the same months.

If you had any doubt that our adventure in Iraq is spinning badly out of control.

To paraphrase the Robert Duvall character in Apocalypse Now who stands on the beach and revels in the smell of the napalm after leading a dawn helipcopter gunship assault on a seaside village, “I love the smell of progress in Iraq in the morning. … Smelled like … victory.”

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:57 AM
Incompetence, Or Raw Evil? You Decide.

Ah yes. That special Bush touch, that certain je ne sais pas, that incomparable and consistent mix of utter blithering incompetence and nation-weakening lawlessness (via):

On February 8, 2006, President Bush signed into law a version of the Deficit Reduction Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 2005 that was different in substance from the version that passed the U.S. House of Representatives. Legal scholars have advised me that the substantive differences between the versions — which involve $2 billion in federal spending — mean that this bill did not meet the fundamental constitutional requirement that both Houses of Congress must pass any legislation signed into law by the President.

Rep. Waxman: “If the President signed the Reconciliation Act knowing its constitutional infirmity, he would in effect be placing himself above the Constitution.”

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:09 AM
Zooming Out
Regional integration in Asia and Latin America is a crucial and increasingly important issue that, from Washington’s perspective, betokens a defiant world gone out of control. Energy, of course, remains a defining factor — the object of contention — everywhere.

China, unlike Europe, refuses to be intimidated by Washington, a primary reason for the fear of China by US planners, which presents a dilemma: steps toward confrontation are inhibited by US corporate reliance on China as an export platform and growing market, as well as by China’s financial reserves — reported to be approaching Japan’s in scale.

Two paragraphs and you’re in a different, higher-order world. It’s like zooming out in Google Earth: you see things at a more general level.

So, from this level, what’s up with the India deal?

The key is India-China cooperation. In January, an agreement signed in Beijing “cleared the way for India and China to collaborate not only in technology but also in hydrocarbon exploration and production, a partnership that could eventually alter fundamental equations in the world’s oil and natural gas sector”, [Siddharth] Varadarjan [deputy editor of the Hindu] points out.

An additional step, already being contemplated, is an Asian oil market trading in euros. The impact on the international financial system and the balance of global power could be significant. It should be no surprise that President Bush paid a recent visit to try to keep India in the fold, offering nuclear cooperation and other inducements as a lure.

As Karen Kwiatkowski has been saying for a long time, preventing the world oil market from converting to euros was one of the most important reasons for invading Iraq.

We’re looking at significantly reduced US influence in the world. A coupla tens of thousands of insurgents in Iraq, armed with explosives, hand-held weapons, and a certain amount of suicidal courage, are handing the vaunted American military a defeat of the Vietnam type: that is, one based on poorly-conceived justifications. We’re not losing in Iraq because our military is inept; quite the contrary. Rather, we have once again given our military forces an impossible mission. (Avoiding this situation was the original point of the Powell Doctrine; but instead of defending it, when push came to shove the doctrine’s namesake dumped it, and lied to help start another war. That’s what Colin calls “being a good soldier”.) Determined insurgents always win; and the Iraqi insurgents have the added benefits of sufficient supplies of money, arms, and recruits. (Of course the number of recruits is a matter for which Bin Laden, Zarqawi, et. al. should thank President Bush, the most productive employee in the Al Qaeda recruiting department.)

Couple another military quagmire with enormous debt, whose crippling effect was intended by the so-called small-government conservatives, and you have a helpless giant, or, as the title of the article suggests, a crumbling empire.

One more…

Venezuela, apart from supplying Argentina with fuel oil, bought almost a third of Argentinian debt issued in 2005, one element of a region-wide effort to free the countries from the controls of the IMF after two decades of disastrous conformity to the rules imposed by the US-dominated international financial institutions.

One wishes that members of the current administration were able to describe the current situation as simply and accurately as this.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 04:52 AM
March 14, 2006
Up From The Grave He Arose
It was during this same span of time that “all of the various techniques used to repress labor were gradually developed and institutionalized by business and governmental elites … [notably] the use of private police, private arsenals and private detectives, the deputization of private police [and] the manipulation of governmental police agencies.” In this, the Pinkertons quickly assumed a status as an elite in their own right. …

From: The Trajectory of Political Policing in the United States, 1870 to the Present

Maj. Pete Tufaro scanned the fenced lot packed with hundreds of stark white trailers soon to be inhabited by Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Shaking his head, he predicted the cramped quarters would ignite fights, hide criminals and become an incubator for crime, posing another test for his cash-strapped sheriff’s department, which furloughed 206 of its 390 officers after the storm.

Tufaro thinks the parish has the solution: DynCorp International LLC, the Texas company that provided personal security to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and is one of the largest security contractors in Iraq. If the Federal Emergency Management Agency approves the sheriff’s department’s proposal, which would cost $70 million over three years, up to 100 DynCorp employees would be deputized to be make arrests, carry weapons, and dress in the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Department khaki and black uniforms.

“You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between us and them,” said Tufaro, who developed the proposal.

From: The Washington Post, March 14, 2006

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Posted by Buck Batard at 08:39 AM
To Be Expected

Chip Spear over at Political Sports makes some very good points in “Of Course Dems Are Disorganized”.

One is that in periods when the Democratic party is without an agreed-on head, it like most political parties is subject to quarrels over who should take the lead. This results in a clamor of messages from candidates struggling to be heard.

Another is that, with the right-leaning nature of the punditry on US TV, it’s not going to be unusual to find coddled, 30-going-on-18 Media BAs with bow ties and William F. Buckley-style political positions. It’s a growth industry.

We are eight months from a mid-term election. Why do these people think that everything is supposed to be decided now? It seems to me like a normal part of the process. The perception of the election cycles has gotten so ridiculous that the MSM worries about who is running for the next Presidential election a couple of hours after the polls close from the last one. If no one is a clear favorite, they assume there must be something wrong. I find it simultaneously amusing and disgusting.

Exactly. Amusing, because it was designed by some of the foremost practitioners of the art of public relations, sometimes called propaganda. Disgusting, because it’s such an obvious coverup.

Of course, many who work in the media don’t see all this as a coverup; certainly most don’t intend to cover up but to reveal. But a high-level view of the processes shows how each stage contributes to the final impression of a free press. Without having put up with the struggle and dissension that comes with the real thing. As Mark Twain said, “It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either.”

Why do people think things should be decided already? Because, to put Chip’s argument in a nutshell, they’re uncomfortable with the mechanisms of democracy.

But also because many Americans find thinking painful, if we can judge by the effort they exert to avoid it. (This is probably true of people everywhere, but Americans are my topic here.) Or perhaps they’ve been handed so many trite story lines over the years, from Saturday morning cartoons, television sitcoms and dramas, movies, the nightly news, and the government, that it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish among what you might call the known truths, the unknown truths, the known lies, and the unknown lies. Naturally the latter are the most dangerous of the group, because you don’t know what you don’t know.

But seriously, did the President deceive Americans about the reasons for war (known lie)? Or was most of the US government just wrong in estimating the strength of a country with a devastated military (unknown truth)? Weakened by a decade of US-sponsored sanctions, Iraq had no realistic aggressive ambitions. Its army had traveled a highway of death recently, and UN oversight gave every appearance of working. (Of course we now know it was working; but I’m talking about what it looked like then.) Even then, anyone not bent on war who listened to Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei was hard pressed to articulate a clear reason for the US to invade a sovereign country with no provocation; not even so much as some semi-believable faked evidence of hostile intent was proffered.

No real reason. For war. Very likely this war’s caused more than a hundred thousand deaths so far. Why?

I venture to say that there’s never been a legal mind that could successfully defend a client arraigned on charges of intentionally misleading the public into supporting an aggressive war that turned into a fiasco.

As an amateur student of history, I’m forced to specify that successful conquests are often legalized after the fact. Rome or Britain, empires have understood that it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission, especially if the misdeed in question contributed mightily to the communal coffers.

So that was the really scary possibility, which fortunately did not actuate. Had BushCo honestly tried to construct a functioning, popularly controlled state in Iraq, following more or less closely the “Future of Iraq” plans, the whole neo-con adventure in Iraq might have come out looking okay.

And then where would we be?

In fact, ineptitude in the highest offices in the land has been the only thing that’s saved us recently.

Chip speculates that “many political analysts on TV these days seem to lean right.” When the left wing is represented by Mark Shields, I would have to agree with that statement.

The post’s introductory picture shows a group of kids playing King of the Mountain on a floating plastic mountain in the middle of a lake. In other words, it’s a completely artificial situation: the mountain being struggled over has no existence from the waterline down, and the surface of things is obscuring the important issues (e.g., can everyone swim?).

Chip notes rightly that the MSM is trying to keep readers interested, and is willing to construct stuff to do so. Ignoring important news events, such as the rise of the left in South America in recent years, just shows how important they are. To those who can read between the lines.

In any case, the post closes with a familiar rumination.

Anytime one starts a project a period exists when you pull together lots of thoughts, ideas, pictures, information, whatever. Stacks of papers cover desks and tables. You have a general idea where you are headed, but the final pieces are not yet in place. You are working on it, you have no fear. You will get it done. You have been through this before and you will again. The election is 8 months away. There is still time.
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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 06:58 AM
The Pot Calling The Kettle Black

“Bush Accuses Iran of Meddling in Iraq.” No, seriously.


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Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:50 AM
Paging All Computer Geeks

We all know that the 50-year struggle on the computer hardware front can be (over)-simplified as an effort to make computer processors ever-faster. Moore’s law, and all the rest of it.

Now, if I’m reading this article right, comes news that there is in fact no theoretical limit to how fast computers can calculate; experimenters relying on a typically goofy area of quantum theory have developed a simple computer that can generate an answer before (or at the same time) a question is asked; that is, a computer that can function instantaneously.

That’s right, instantaneous calculations — no limitations due to the speed of light or any other physical barrier. Still, of course, leaving the non-trivial question of physically getting the question to the processing unit, and physically getting the answer out.

But still. What will they think of next?

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:46 AM
March 12, 2006
Claude Allen’s Free Pass

Well, here it is in today’s New York Times, a follow-up to yesterday’s discreetly buried story about the shoplifting arrest of Bush’s top domestic affairs advisor, one Claude Allen. This time Allen’s bust rated page 30.

Let’s put this in perspective. This is not the guy who took out the garbage in the White House. He was the rough equivalent, let’s say, of Robert Reich in Clinton’s administration. In the Carter White House Allen’s job was held by Stu Eisenstat.

In the Bush White House Allen filled the same White House post on the domestic policy side that Condoleezza Rice filled on the foreign policy side. And before that, he was the operating head of the Department of Health and Human Services under Tommy Thompson.

If he had been in the Clinton Administration, there would hardly be an American alive today who hadn’t heard of Claude Allen (he was arrested Thursday.) And that isn’t because the MSM is hopelessly pro-Bush, either. The MSM isn’t, not anymore.

 No, it’s because Allen is black. He’s profiting from what his boss likes to call the soft bigotry of low expectations. And so is his boss.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:49 PM
A Conversation In Which I Do Most of the Talking

An email exchange between Bad Attitudes friend Len Hart and Jonathan Simon, who like Len wants to fix the voting system so that we have a real democracy again, started my thoughts wandering.

Len’s Initial Comment

News from the barricades. The tide has turned. CBS News reports Bush’s approval rating at 34% — the lowest ever. Some 60 percent of Americans have turned against continuing the war of aggression against Iraq even as Bush denies the threat of a civil war in Iraq. And every decent American is sickened unto nausea by the idea that our nation, under our Constitution, is perpetrating sexually perverted tortures on people at various secret Eastern European gulags like Nazis!

Jonathan’s Reply

Dear Len —

Means nothing. Bush (and Cheney) actually get off on being disliked. After all, friend, that’s what power is to them: not to be popular but to have your way against the will of the people you rule. That this rule will be perpetuated in a simulated democracy via the unthinkable computerized perversion of the electoral system just sweetens the joke for them. You’ve seen the smirk. Bush, like the more energetic Hitler, is a nihilist at the core and nothing is fulfilling to a nihilist unless it is the big lie (the bigger the better), the utter destruction of reality and of the truth. Bush really couldn’t bear his high approval ratings; they were, in a sense, disempowering. So forget your 34% and your conventional calculus, which would make sense and be heartening only if America were still a democracy. It is not. It resembles a democracy the way a stuffed animal resembles an animal. That’s all that’s left. Besides, Len, with the long-delayed “capture” of Osama on tap for this year (they need a cover story for the theft of E2006), prepare yourself for a reversal to 66% approval in the not-too-distant future (Bush will just have to grin and bear it somehow). Yes it’s highly irrational but Osama’s head on the platter will somehow make it all OK again with the American people. “Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, save it for a rainy day…” It’s that choreographed. It’s that evil.

— Jonathan

Power and Nihilism

I certainly agree with Jonathan that Bush and Cheney (though not Rove) enjoy low poll numbers. Power, after all, is the ability to get the result you want against the opposition of those around you.

In my first stint at Oracle, the famously power-mad Larry Ellison had to sign every offer letter for programmers, tech writers, and so on. Sometimes we missed people we wanted because Larry wasn’t around to sign the letters. Sometimes, after a couple rounds of interviews, and a dozen relevant people agreeing that they had an excellent candidate, Larry, without meeting the candidate, would return the offer letter unsigned. I suppose our judgements were mistaken. (BTW, think “power-mad” is a little strong? When, after many cancellations, the group of about fifty techies I was in finally met Larry in person, the advance folks made sure that the room contained exactly one chair.)

Doing what everyone wants you to do is not power; power is doing whatever you want, and pissing people off in the process. To really enjoy power, you have to want to force other people to put your interest above theirs.

I even agree with the characterization of Bush as nihilist, in the negative sense of that word (not, say, the “Waiting for Godot” sort — I’m a big Beckett fan). Bush and friends, or I should say cronies, are not nihilists in the classic sense, though, because they expect to emerge from the whole adventure enriched.

Democracy on Life Support

Jonathan’s initial statement that America is no longer a democracy may be a slight overstatement. I prefer the way he put it in a subsequent email: democracy is on life support.

He and I would probably agree, along perhaps with many of our readers, on the current sorry state of the practice of democracy in America. But it seems to me that the ideals of democracy still underlie the US system, and a lot of citizens believe in them, however vague their conceptions of those beliefs. Chomsky often quotes polls showing that if the questions are asked in words that aren't loaded — “helping people” instead of “welfare” — most Americans have relatively liberal attitudes.

So the system’s still quite vulnerable to change in positive ways. As William Greider says in The Soul of Capitalism, the US system — he’s mainly talking about the economy, but there’s lots of interaction with mass media and culture — is very attentive to change, and to things that appear to be improvements. Thus, it’s possible to cause serious change to occur in our society by doing something in a limited, local context that works and makes people happy with the results. That kind of meme spreads rapidly, and it can change society more deeply than a head-on assault, or something enforced from above.

If we really think that the US no longer a democracy, then what the hell’s the use? We’ve got precious few options. Either pick a new nationality, which most of us have considered; or go underground culturally. I persist in believing that the accumulation of lots of different kinds of shit will cause regime change soon, though I admit to using a historian’s definition of “soon”. Given the current Republican hold on all levers of federal power, impeachment is unlikely. But if the Democrats can manage to semi-articulate the obvious positions on the obvious issues — “redeploy” the troops in Iraq; follow the laws, especially those on privacy, environment, and corporate behavior; do something real about health care — they have an excellent chance to take one of the houses of Congress. (The question, as Henry Banta incisively discusses, is: has the Democratic machine been bought lock, stock, and barrel by folks who would seem to be natural electoral opponents of the party’s long-held positions? Maybe they’re the ones who owned the Republican party before it was taken over by the premillennial dispensationalists…)

If the Democrats won the House with gains concentrated on the coasts, the new Speaker of the House would probably be a woman from San Francisco. If the Democrats won effective control of the Senate through alliance with some southern Republicans fed up with the war and the budget crisis, we might be talking a return to the relatively collegial times in the Senate — Lugar, Hagel, McCain — before the so-called Republican Revolution (an oxymoron if there ever was one). In any case, many of these scenarios might result in real investigations of the warrantless wiretapping and the torture. Those would be two giant steps. Then if we could get to the lies leading up to the war, we’d be talking. I’m not holding my breath on that one.

As the Tide Turns

Has the tide really turned? I think we in the reality-based community are looking at the situation in some ways too positively, and in other ways too negatively. Jonathan refers to some of this with his speculation that Osama will be captured right before the 2006 election. It doesn’t appear to me that the news from Pakistan makes this imminent; to me it seems that if they could produced that head before the 2004 election they would have done so.

I certainly agree that BushCo would have no compunction about putting the country at risk for pure short-term political gain; witness the Plame affair. But I claim that such a craven strategy, executed by such an inept bunch, will eventually and inevitably backfire. As heroic whistleblowers of the past such as John Dean and Daniel Ellsberg, not to mention former intelligence folks like Ray McGovern, continue to call for more people in sensitive positions to leak information that can help expose wrongdoing, more information leaks out.

I think we can become too focused on the short-term difficulties, such as investigations that don’t start or that go nowhere, and miss the long-term trends: even Republicans are pissed about the blatant illegalities and inept cronies of the Bush administration. If the polls are right, most citizens are, too. Change is in the air; will it have an outlet?

Democracy in America

The problem that Jonathan and Len are working on is finding ways to ensure that the vote is counted correctly. We’ll probably be the last major industrialized country to outlaw proprietary software in vote counting systems; but I don’t think we’ll hold out as long on that as we have on the death penalty. So there’s that.

It’s certainly true that we must do everything possible to make our elections as fair as they can be. Cheating is not a new phenomenon in elections; nor is it something we’re likely to eliminate through clever technology or strict oversight. But we should apply our cleverest technology and our strictest oversight to the most important problem we have as a political community: making sure that the will of the voters is acted on. Most of the ills that afflict us right now — Iraq, torture, warrantless eavesdropping, etc. — arose in part because the popular will is not really being acted on, but subverted, and propagandized into believing that miracles still happen: for example, that a peaceful democracy will arise from a occupation that sanctions torture.

Much of the population agrees with the slogans the Republicans use; few of those people actually follow the news or hear about the results of implementing those slogans. As Thomas Frank describes in What’s the Matter With Kansas?, a significant portion of the electorate votes for candidates whose actions in Congress hurt the very people who voted for them.

The right has come to dominate the discussion through clever, and not always honest, use of language and control of the definitions of terms. The latter was not so much won as conceded by the continuing willingness to compromise of their bargaining opponents in the Democratic party. For purposes of structural regularity, I would have said “on the left”; but there’s very little evidence to my eyes of any influence of left-leaning thought on Democrats’ actual candidates and positions for the last several election cycles. The Democrats, with a few notable exceptions such as Feingold, have been afraid to articulate any solid alternative to the Republicans; who, after all, you may despise, but at least you know what they claim to stand for. Whether or not you believe them.

The Real Issue

If we can get the election-rigging problem under control, I argue, then the issue becomes policy, not mechanics. For instance, the Democrats’ problem is not how efficient their machine is. Sure, an efficient machine is said to be worth two to four percentage points in an election. But take the effort by Harold Ickes et. al. to put together a potential-voter database outside the party structure, described by Thomas Edsall as “in part a vote of no confidence that the DNC under Chairman Howard Dean is ready to compete with Republicans on the technological front.” That strikes me as rich when coming from a Clinton Democrat, already involved in Hillary’s campaign-to-be; and when aimed at Dean, who with Joe Trippi and friends revolutionized the way Democrats raise money and made the small political donation useful again. Organizing such an effort outside the party while the party claims to be involved in one of its own seems designed to divert rather than focus party energy. If the DLC was on a winning streak they might have an argument.

Given what we know about the irregularities in the last two Presidential elections from sources like Mark Crispin Miller’s Fooled Again, we can continue to expect a certain amount of voter fraud from the less honest, and now dominant, wing of the Republican party. (What, the Democrats have never cheated? No, it’s just that their cheating was not as effective or as brazen on such a large scale.)

But I don’t believe we need a perfect voting system to win; I think the Democrats could win on their policies if they had the intestinal fortitude to articulate the natural Democratic positions.

To Win

To beat the Republican machine will, I think, require breaking free of the golden handcuffs Mr. Banta describes, and advocating for the less fortunate. You know, the bottom 90%.

As Molly Ivins says in “Enough of the D.C. Dems”, the Democrats have about forty good issues to run on, and they’ll probably run on thirty-nine of them. To me it seems obvious that the big issue is Iraq: the dishonesty and illegal behavior associated with the war and with the wider war on terror. And sure enough, Molly makes it number one on her list of issues the Democrats should emphasize, along with public financing of campaigns and single-payer health insurance. Personally I argue that insurance is a waste of resources; just give me health care, and I’m happy. But whatever, I could work with her position.

And, as she says, this paradigm gives us a new legitimacy:

I am tired of having the party nomination decided before the first primary vote is cast, tired of having the party beholden to the same old Establishment money.

We can raise our own money on the Internet, and we know it. Howard Dean raised $42 million, largely on the web, with a late start when he was running for President, and that ain’t chicken feed. If we double it, it gives us the lock on the nomination. So let’s go find a good candidate early and organize the shit out of our side.

I always thought the old Will Rogers line, “I don’t belong to any organized party, I’m a Democrat”, expressed a valuable truth, and one of the best things about the party: it welcomed a variety of viewpoints, because one of its shared values was tolerance, and another was curiosity.

If the Democrats are to regain their winning ways, I think they need to adopt the policies that most people, according to the polls, want their leaders to hold. Democrats don’t march in lockstep to a central beat, they coalesce around shared values and interests: Get out of Iraq as quickly as it’s practical to do so, and whatever you do, don’t lose the army. Fix the election trickery. Provide health care for everyone. And can we do something about public education?

But first and foremost, stop the war.

UPDATE: Just to make official an offer I made earlier in email: our pages are open to replies if Len or Jonathan feel moved to do so.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 06:47 AM
March 11, 2006
A Tale of Two Lieutenant Generals

William Odom, retired Lieutenant General, US Army, and former head of the NSA, continues to speak suprisingly strongly against the war in Iraq.

Phase Two in Iraq reveals that the same kind of strategic denial error [committed in Vietnam] prevails today. Since 2003, public discourse has focused on how the war is being fought. Reconstruction is inadequate. Not enough troops are available. We should not have dismantled the Iraqi military. Elections will save the day. The insurgency is in its “last throes.” And so on. Some of these criticisms are valid, but they fail to address the fundamental issue, the validity of U.S. strategic purpose.

As al Qaeda marched into a country where it had not dared to tread before, the White House refused to admit that its war allowed them in. As Iran’s influence with Iraqi Shiite clerics and militias quietly expands, the administration refuses to confess its own culpability. As Shiite politicians appear headed to dominate the U.S.-created “democracy” in Iraq, no one is asking “Who lost Iraq to Iran?”

Instead, after each election and referendum in Iraq, hope surges in the media. The New York Times’s reporting on the elections in February of last year was eerily reminiscent of its reporting from Saigon on the 1968 elections.

It feels weird to find myself agreeing so consistently with a former head of the NSA, but there it is: the fundamental issue is the validity of US strategic purpose. Damn straight.

Makes an interesting contrast with Michael Hayden, also a Lieutenant General and also a former head of the NSA, currently Deputy Director of National Intelligence, working for Director Negroponte, and thus in the position of issuing position papers and statements explaining and justifying administration strategies and tactics.

Another interesting contrast is made by a commentor, who identifies himself as having been a Navy officer on a destroyer in Vietnam. He’s unhappy with General Odom’s article:

We have a critical national security interest to see it through, not an easy task certainly, but the cut and run crowd is completely off base. Leave Iraq to fall to the terrorists and 9/11 will be a monthly occurrence all over the world until there’s nothing left. The general smoked too much of that Thai stick in VN and it has addled his brain. Time for the rocking chair, general. Thanks for serving your country once upon a time, but you do it a vast disservice now.

Those who posted later comments were kind enough to assume that this guy was himself a bit addled; but they certainly disdained his argument.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 10:59 PM
Bringing Honor and Dignity Back to the White House

Here’s Doug Ireland’s L.A. Weekly profile of Bush’s former domestic policy czar, Claude Allen, reecently eased out of his job after Maryland police busted him for stealing thousands of dollars from local department stores. But of course that isn’t the real scandal. The real scandal is that a man with his vicious and cruel history in public office should have been named to be chief domestic policy advisor to a president of the United States in the first place. Here’s his portrait, courtesy of the Montgomery County Police Department.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:41 PM
March 10, 2006
Cheney’s Base

Cheney’s approval rating is down to 18 percent, leading one to wonder what kind of person could still be drinking his Kool-Aid. Stop wondering, one. This comes, word for word, from a letter that ran yesterday in our local weekly, The Lakeville Journal:

Your obviously biased question regarding the shooting accident involving the vice president prompts me to reply.

Would I go quail hunting with Dick Cheney? I would be honored to be invited and would go without a worry. He is an experienced hunter, has served our country well for decades and is highly intelligent.

Would you go riding in a car I drove? My record includes a fatality, more than one speeding ticket, and (most recently) a totaled car and more than 40 stitches in my head. But find me one person afraid to ride with me. The point: accidents happen …
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:06 PM
Catblogging 3/10/2006

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Posted by Buck Batard at 07:56 PM
Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch …

… Bush continues to bungle what should have been Item One in any real war on terrorism: finding and killing Osama bin Laden, and getting rid of the Taliban. Both are thriving in Pakistan while we are off frying bigger fish such as tax cuts for the wealthy.

Instead, we’re off weakening our own country by continuing to refuse to do basic, real war-on-terror stuff, such as insuring that freight entering our country is actually inspected. (And, of course, the “it costs too much” defense is ridiculous, since a number of advanced and economically successful ports abroad, such as Hong Kong, in fact do have effective, 100 percent inspection programs: “This low-cost system of inspection is being carried out with no adverse impact on the marine terminals operations and without any U.S. government funding. It could be put in place globally at a cost of $1.5 billion or roughly $10 per container.”)

And, since the apparent goal of the Bush Administration is to weaken our country as much as possible, the proactive steps that the Bush Administration has taken, such as spying on U.S. citizens with no warrant and alienating all our allies, are both ineffective at detecting terrorist plots and corrosive of the strong, liberty-based, individual-protecting model that made our country great.

(For the record, I don’t pretend to know exactly why Bush has made it his goal to weaken and tear down our country; I suspect that with respect to the president personally, it has to do with revenge against the Big Daddy father who so clearly holds him in contempt to this day. But this doesn’t explain his legions of eager enablers, both in his administration, in congress, and in the media. Some crazy self-destructive biological urge like lemmings’ mythical rush to the sea? I don’t know. But it really doesn’t matter why Bush is weakening the country in every way he can. The only important thing is to identify that it is happening, and that the process cannot be reversed until Bush is either hobbled or leaves office. More BA posts on Bush as the “Weakener-in-Chief” here.)

Only then can a real, non-scared shitless, world community-based struggle against the forces that created the murderers of 9/11 begin.


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Posted by Wayne Uff at 05:52 AM
March 09, 2006
You’re Someone Till Nobody Loves You

From Reuters:

In the article, Mr. Abramoff complained that many of those who used to work closely with him now claim that they never knew him.

“You’re really no one in this town until you haven’t met me,” he said.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:32 AM
Jes’ Right!

Ah, yes:

One bite into the chili-strewn dish known as Water Boiled Fish, and your mouth explodes. Your forehead erupts in beads of sweat, eyes water, the nose runs, and the tongue and lips go prickly. Sichuan food isn’t just hot and spicy. Some of it is numbing. Hardly anywhere else in China does one encounter such innocent-looking but searing food. Nor can one find a people who eat blisteringly hot food with such gusto. …

Locals say some discomfort is to be expected. At the end of one Sichuan meal, a waitress inquired how a foreigner liked the food. Told that it was, er, special, she offered an apt summation.

“The consuming of Sichuan food is both painful and happy together!” she said, trotting off.

I’m reminded of a Cajun-born friend’s description of the Crawdad Delight served at the Old Venice Pizza Company on the main square of Oxford, Mississippi (a good-eatin’ little town if there ever was one; and while there, don’t forget to drive to the Old Taylor Grocery in Taylor, too): “Sometimes it’s too hot, you know when it’s so hot it makes your lips numb, and down where I’m from when it’s too hot, that’s when it’s jes’ right!”

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SICHUANESE WATER BOILED FISH

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:30 AM
March 08, 2006
Jack and Tweety

If, like me, you avoid Chris Matthews, widely known in Left Blogostan as Tweety, you might have missed this exchange with Jack Murtha.

MATTHEWS: OK, I want to talk to you about Iran because you know something about this military situation, I expect a lot. If we were to do a surgical strike on Iraq — or Iran, rather, and knocked out what we thought were their nuclear facilities and sent them back a couple of years, what would be the danger to America in that kind of approach?

MURTHA: In the first place, Chris, I don’t think it’s necessary to even think about that in the near term. They’re not close to having nuclear capability, so what we need to do is stress diplomatic relations. We need to work with Russia, we need to work with these other countries.

One of the problems we have is when we go off on our own, we get no support from anybody else. You’ll remember in the ’91 war, President Bush not only got support from the international community, they paid for the war. They paid the $60 billion and we’re paying — we’re going to spend $450 billion in this war by the end of this year, money that could be spent much better someplace else, and that doesn’t even take care of the upgrading the military.

And the other thing that’s happening, when the military gets stretched too thin, like it is, the problem is that they can’t — we can’t scare anybody. In other words, when Cheney makes a threat like that, it falls on deaf ears because they know darn well we couldn’t accept it. But the big thing is, as much money as we spend on intelligence, we don’t know where the targets are, we don’t know exactly what we need to do. So there’s no use in even talking about the military strikes.

If the Democrats are unable to make an issue of that $450 billion, they deserve to lose again.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 06:31 PM
Soaring Free

Barack Obama has not yet come close to earning the plaudits he receives, and he has taken some actively repellent and politically unnecessary positions, such as voting to confirm Condoleeza Rice, in an apparent attempt to establish himself as a grown-up U.S. senator.

Now, however, comes the first truly admirable and against-the-grain act of his tenure: when he got into office, he started partaking of the congressional scam of taking corporate jets, and then reimbursing the company for first-class air fare, though the real cost of a corporate jet flight is many times that of a first-class commercial seat. But that all somehow just didn’t feel right to the new senator, and now he won’t take the jets and is backing a rule change to require senators pay the real cost of the corporate jet trips.

And listen to how they’re whining:

Other lawmakers, in both parties, say travel on corporate planes is necessary in modern politics. …

“I flew from Colorado to L.A. to San Diego to San Francisco to Sacramento, back to L.A., to San Bernardino and back to San Francisco,” [Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California,] said of a week’s itinerary.

An opponent of the increase, she said: “I couldn’t do it. It’s too expensive.”

Isn’t that just the point? I guess Dianne isn’t exactly the kind of girl U.S. senator you take camping.

Obama’s still got a lot of ground to make up, but every journey starts with the first step, and he gets full credit for this.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:59 AM
On The New Yorker

Some thoughts on The New Yorker provoked by Joyful’s “Before I Had a Dishwasher”.

Now that, thank God, we’re in the post-Tina-Brown era, my opinion is that the world’s best magazine has regained its luster, in most ways.

True, David Remnick, the new editorial honcho, supported the war before it started. The New Yorker community of writers included several liberal hawks like George Packer. Pretty much all of them converted to anti-war as events unfolded, in most cases fairly early in the process. And Remnick, who realized very early that he’d been tricked, dealt with the situation with what seemed to me good grace: namely, he said nothing until things were pretty clear, and then bitched, but not too much. I can’t imagine fooling myself into believing in an aggressive American war, so I don’t know how he got there. But I respect people who agree they made a mistake and are trying to learn from it. Damn, if it wasn’t for that, and our willingness to sacrifice our lives for the next generation, there wouldn’t be much progress.

And true, also, that Pauline Kael is irreplaceable. I don’t expect to learn as much from all the other movie critics I read for the rest of my life put together as I did from her. But Anthony Lane writes the most enjoyable reviews I’ve ever read; I read everything he writes, even if I have no interest in the movie. Even Mel Gibson movies. And for someone like me, who sees maybe three or four films a year, it’s important to be able to tell from a David Denby review what the best movie of 2005 was gonna be; and he was right. (I admit I momentarily questioned mysef on this point when the Academy unexpectedly agreed with me this year; but, as they say, even a stopped watch is right twice a day.)

But overall, that thang that TNY had, which Joy describes so well, is back. You could read it while traveling or washing dishes, then sitting for fifteen or twenty minutes afterward; and in an hour you’ve learned a enough about a difficult topic to realize that the our so-called leaders, to use Robert Zimmerman’s trademarked phrase, dunno what they’re talking about. It is possible for a good writer with a huge amount of information to convey a faithful overview of a subject to an intelligent audience in a surprisingly small package. Witness Elizabeth Kolbert’s series on environmental issues over the past year.

It seems to me that the liberal-hawk New Yorker folks… well, might as well say it: have issues. They certainly seem to be out of step with most of their readers. But an intelligent community understands that reasonable people can disagree. The once pro-war folks soon saw that things were not likely to lead in positive directions. I think of George Packer, for example, who wrote movingly of the impact on an Iowa family of the loss of their son in Iraq (among other topics) in The Assassins’ Gate. He spent a lot of time, some of it harrowing, in Iraq. His sensitive and detailed reporting on the effects of the war on normal Iraqis, by a writer who supported the war and feels some responsibility for it, surpasses everything else I’ve read so far on the subject.

By my half-attentive recollection, Remnick’s byline didn’t appear at all in the magazine for a few months as the Iraq adventure was turning sour. Then he wrote some non-political pieces. Finally he, like several other principled liberal hawks, accepted the facts and regretted the incompetence. I don’t know if he actually still believes the war was okay in theory, but was simply bungled, or worse. I don’t think Packer has changed his mind about the theory of the war, but he certainly deplores what has actually happened.

And then, of course, there are the cartoons.

But I digress. Suffice it to say, I think The New Yorker is (pretty much) back. We’re not talking the golden years of William Shawn’s editorship, at least not yet, but at least they’ve recovered from Tina.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 04:25 AM
March 07, 2006
Looking for a Few Good Zombies

I linked last week to Wonkette, and didn’t think I’d do it again, but she posted a letter she received from one of our troops out in the field in a blog post entitled “Our boys need gossip” and I couldn’t resist, so here’s the letter.

Unfortunately anonomizers [sic] don’t work out here (never have). Anyway, I had a few minutes today and thought I’d look and see what else was banned on the Marine web here. I think the results speak for themselves:
  • Wonkette — “Forbidden, this page (http://www.wonkette.com/) is categorized as: Forum/Bulletin Boards, Politics/opinion.”
  • Bill O’Reilly (www.billoreilly.com) — OK
  • Air America (www.airamericaradio.com) — “Forbidden, this page (http://www.airamericaradio.com/) is categorized as: Internet Radio/TV, Politics/Opinion.”
  • Rush Limbaugh (www.rushlimbaugh.com) — OK
  • ABC News “The Note” — OK
  • Website of the Al Franken Show (www.alfrankenshow.com) — ”Forbidden, this page (http://www.airamericaradio.com/) is categorized as: Internet Radio/TV, Politics/Opinion.”
  • G. Gordon Liddy Show (www.liddyshow.us) — OK
  • Don & Mike Show (www.donandmikewebsite.com) — “Forbidden, this page (http://www.donandmikewebsite.com/) is categorized as: Profanity, Entertainment/Recreation/Hobbies.”

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Posted by Buck Batard at 11:26 AM
March 06, 2006
What Would He Say Now?

This unpleasant reminder comes from Joe Manifesto at Beggarscanbechoosers (by all means go to his blog and read more of his post) and reminds me of Jerry’s current series, of which we anxiously await more. The Photo also comes from Beggarscanbechoosers:

In 1962, American journalist Eugene Lyons, author of the 1937 nonfiction classic Assignment in Utopia, gave a lecture about what turned him from a pro-Leninist radical in 1928, when he took a news job in the Soviet Union, into the conservative, fiercely anti-communist Reader’s Digest editor he became years later.

“It was … the appalling contempt for human life which I found to be the hallmark of communism in practice. For I found myself in a world where such age-old concepts as justice, conscience, human dignity, the values that set man apart from the beasts, were despised as a species of treason. …”

“Do men and women have an intrinsic worth, or are they merely the raw stuff for building some dehumanized state structure? Is the human being the final measure of all things, or merely a statistic?”

Two generations have passed since Lyons gave that talk, and the Soviet empire has been, as conservatives say, “on the ashheap of history,” for going on two decades.

A great irony is how true this sounds for 2006 if one substitutes “global capitalism” for “communism” and “corporate structure” for “state structure.” Communism is all but dead; yet, in our new world economy, dehumanization seems very much alive and on the march. The biggest difference is that the perpetrators' flag isn't red.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 05:57 PM
Five Stars Gone to the Dogs

Link via Adventus. Old Uncle Albert must be rolling over in his grave.

A five-star hotel in the Indian capital is playing host to a special team that is part of US President George Bush’s security entourage — “some 65 dogs that are referred to as “officials”.

The specially trained dogs were flown in as part of the multi-layer security for Bush and have been put up in deluxe rooms at the Le Meridien Hotel in central Delhi.

According to Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) MP Nilotpal Basu, who gave the information to the media, the hotel authorities initially refused to accommodate the four-legged “officials”, saying they did not have provisions for accommodating animals.

“But the US officials apparently insisted that they were not dogs, but skilled security ‘officials’ and no one should call them dogs,” Basu told reporters at Parliament House.

“These dogs cannot be called animals. They can be addressed either by their ranks such as sergeant, major, etc. And the hotel staff had to accept it,” he said.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 10:43 AM
March 05, 2006
Just Another Letter
Why tell you these things, since you are fully aware of them — or if not of these, then of other equally grave crimes committed by this frightful sub-humanity? Because here we touch on a problem which involves us deeply and forces us all to take thought. Why do the American people behave so apathetically in the face of all these abominable crimes, crimes so unworthy of the human race? Hardly anyone thinks about that. It is accepted as fact and put out of mind. The American people slumber on in their dull, stupid sleep and encourage these fascist criminals; they give them the opportunity to carry on their depredations; and of course they do so. Is this a sign that the Americans are brutalized in their simplest human feelings, that no chord within them cried out at the sight of such deeds, that they have sunk into a fatal consciencelessness from which they will never, never awake?

It seems to be so, and will certainly be so, if the American does not at least start up out of his stupor, if he does not protest wherever and whenever he can against this clique of criminals, if he shows no sympathy for these hundreds of thousands of victims. He must evidence not only sympathy; no, much more: a sense of complicity in guilt. For through his apathetic behavior he gives these evil men the opportunity to act as they do; he tolerates this “government” which has taken upon itself such an infinitely great burden of guilt; indeed, he himself is to blame for the fact that it came about at all! Each man wants to be exonerated of a guilt of this kind, each one continues on his way with the most placid, the calmest conscience. But he cannot be exonerated; he is guilty, guilty, guilty!

It is not too late, however, to do away with this most reprehensible of all miscarriages of government, so as to avoid being burdened with even greater guilt. Now, when in recent years our eyes have been opened, when we know exactly who our adversary is, it is high time to root out this brown horde. Up until the outbreak of the war the larger part of the American people were blinded; the Neocons did not show themselves in their true aspect. But now, now that we have recognized them for what they are, it must be the sole and first duty, the holiest duty of every American to destroy these beasts.

The above is a slight rewriting of a portion of the second Letter of the White Rose Society, now reborn. Maybe the movie will be worth watching.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 08:37 AM
Old Media Dishes Out A Dose of Castor Oil

I’m not used to seeing an article in the MSM as strongly worded as this one in today’s Washington Post. The word Nixon even creeps in there. Could this signal the beginning of the end of the nightmare? We can only hope. A short teaser is below, but go read the whole thing.

Some media watchers, lawyers and editors say that, taken together, the incidents represent perhaps the most extensive and overt campaign against leaks in a generation, and that they have worsened the already-tense relationship between mainstream news organizations and the White House.

“There’s a tone of gleeful relish in the way they talk about dragging reporters before grand juries, their appetite for withholding information, and the hints that reporters who look too hard into the public’s business risk being branded traitors,” said New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller, in a statement responding to questions from The Washington Post. “I don't know how far action will follow rhetoric, but some days it sounds like the administration is declaring war at home on the values it professes to be promoting abroad.”

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Posted by Buck Batard at 08:05 AM
March 04, 2006
Late Catblogging 03/04/2006

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Posted by Buck Batard at 09:02 AM
March 03, 2006
A Walk on the Noir Side

Rara-avis is my Yahoo list for keeping up with what’s worth reading in noir and hard-boiled crime fiction. Periodically, personal definitions of noir and hard-boiled are reargued, and occasionally current events take us off on a tangent. In bringing such a diversion soundly back to the topic of the list, my esteemed colleague Kerry Schooley produced an analysis that I believe deserves a wider audience:

I think it an oversight that we’ve ignored the dark side of Barney Fife in this latest thread of noir character roles played by recently deceased actors.

It’s true that in his nineteen motion pictures, his own television variety series and several specials, Knotts was known best for his comedy roles, but Barney was forever scheming for permission to put bullets into his gun, to what nefarious purposes we may only speculate. How eagerly Fife wanted to lock up everyone in Mayberry, and have his way with them. What greater example exists in the history of American television entertainment of the bald exercise of corrupt power? In hindsight, it was really only Griffith’s comic reaction, as the long-suffering and overly patient Sheriff Taylor, who brought out what humour there was in the existence of the loser Fife.

I’d also like to ask who could forget the darkly sinister, sexually obsessive Ralph Furley, as assayed by Knotts on Three’s Company, but apparently everyone has.

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Posted by Joyful Alternative at 03:34 PM
Past Progressive, II

Another reminder that periods of savage inequity are nothing new in American history — and yet liberal Democrats have dug us out of similar holes before. The estimable Grover Cleveland was not a progressive Democrat, but a conservative one. Nonetheless there were limits to the elasticity of his craw:

”The gulf between employers and the employed is constantly widening, and classes are rapidly forming, one comprising the very rich and powerful, while in another are found the toiling poor …

”The communism of combined wealth and capital, the outgrowth of overweening cupidity and selfishness, which insidiously undermine the justice and integrity of free institutions, is not less dangerous than the communism of oppressed poverty and toil, which, exasperated by injustice and discontent, attacks with wild disorder the citadel of rule.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:51 PM
Smirk or Leer? You Decide.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:15 PM
Outsourcing Nuclear Power

This strikes me as one of those things that starts small and becomes a big issue.

Apparently President Bush has agreed to help India in that little matter of nuclear power.

The agreement spells out how India, a fast-growing economic power which never has signed an international nuclear nonproliferation treaty, will separate its civilian nuclear power-generators from a military weapons program that tested its first atomic bombs in 1976 and tested again as recently as 1998.

This is what will make the deal between Bush and Singh a tough-sell in Congress, where critics question why they should allow an exception for India. American law prohibits the U.S. from sharing its nuclear technology with nations that have not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which more than 170 nations have signed, or with nations that have tested nuclear weapons.

Really interesting article. Another interesting thing about the article: no mention of Israel, which has nuclear weapons and would therefore seem to be one of those nations we can’t legally deal with in certain circumstances. Perhaps Israel might slip by on the definition of what “is” is, since there’s no public proof (of which I’m aware) that they’ve actually tested their nukes.

I guess I have to say I find this new agreement somewhat scary. Basically the President seems to be announcing a de facto unilateral repeal of the Nonproliferation Treaty. If, as the article says, we’re going to help India have nuclear power, why not Pakistan? Iran? North Korea? Not, of course, to say that India is an enemy, as most Americans think North Korea is (insert your favorite Team America quote here); but American and Indian interests often diverge. Each country leads an important faction of international weight and opinion, and those factions are often at odds.

Truly, this agreement will be a tough sell in Congress, especially following so closely on the heels of the inept handling of the Dubai Ports affair, which of course was piling on after the warrantless wiretapping revelations, the Libby resignation, the Abramoff scandal, the Katrina disaster, and the continued bad news from Iraq.

When trust starts to leak out, it seems to me, it drains faster than you expect, unless you stop the leak. In this case the leak is built so directly into the world view of the Bush/Cheney administration that they’d be violating their principles to act differently. Their belief in their own rightness requires them to proceed without regard to, even particularly in the face of, widespread resistance. Resistance even appears to them to be a vindication of their elitist views of leadership: only the elite understand what needs to be done (namely, as far as I can see, enrich the elite).

As a result, there appears right now to be little the administration can do to alter perceptions, at least on the scale required to perform adequately in the elections this fall. It still has the Mighty Wurlitzer at its command, but more and more people recognize the MW as soon as it begins to play. Nowadays we have text messaging on mobile phones and Blackberries and podcasts; it’s increasingly difficult to control what information is available to the public.

The Big Lie doesn’t work so well when the audience is skeptical; and the video this week of Bush failing to ask a single question at a pre-Katrina meeting, then assuring everyone that the federal government was ready to do its part, didn’t help. The Dubai Ports deal angered many conservatives. The warrantless wiretapping impacts on members of Congress as well as on private citizens, perhaps even more directly. (See “Hoover, John Edgar”.)

The true believers will continue to believe that God put W in office no matter what happens. (After all, if things get really bad, it’s proof that Armageddon is near, a joyful time for the premillennial dispensationalists.) Nixon had twenty percent or so on his side at the moment he resigned, when the vast majority of Americans had become convinced he was a liar and a crook. Hell, Alan Keyes got 27%; isn’t that the definition of the “crazification factor”? So Bush, with about a 35% approval rating, is only 8% above the crazification line. And of course Cheney, at 19%, falls clearly below the political Mendoza line. Even a lot of Republicans are pissed, and the politicians are having to act like they get it. If, as I expect, the Democrats capture at least one house of Congress this fall, things could get interesting. Picture John Conyers as the chairman of some committee…

If I could short Bush-Cheney over a twelve-month period, I’d be strongly tempted. It looks to me like the chickens might be gathering round the old roost.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 05:16 AM
March 02, 2006
There is Less to Dubai Than Meets the Eye

Anyone tired of the bullshit from both sides on the Dubai ports issue should click on over to Xymphora. He offers up a clear, calm and lucid (meaning that he agrees in every particular with me) explanation of the whole silly business.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:07 PM
Charity Begins at Home

Of course, in the Gospel according to Rick, charity really does begin “at home”. In this case, a very, very large home indeed. One that makes Tara in Gone with the Wind look like the cookhouse out back. To see the story behind what God hath begotten, today’s Philadelphia Daily News gives us another example of what the the corrupt crowd in power has given us in the latest attack that we know of on America. And there’s more to this sordid story here.

The largest known giver to a controversial charity founded by U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum made its $25,000 donation as the senator was working to win as much as $8.5 million in federal aid for the donor’s project in Delaware County.

Federal tax records show that Preferred Real Estate Inc., the developer of the Wharf at Rivertown project in Chester, wrote the check to Santorum’s Operation Good Neighbor Foundation in 2002.

Pictures, and more of them here courtesy of SANTORUM CYBERGATE.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 12:12 PM
March 01, 2006
Another Video Indictment

Somehow I started at Avedon and ended up finding this powerful video . I can’t remember how I got there, but it takes three minutes and is the best indictment I’ve seen in a while. Plus there is a great Jackson Brown acoustic solo to boot. Don’t miss it.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 10:47 PM
Vengeance is Mine Saith the Lord

Those Zogby statistics were a little weird (in depth discussion courtesy of Simbaud) — most Americans now understand that Saddaam Hussein had nothing to do with the 911 attack, however our soldiers haven’t quite grasped that fact yet. Wait till they get home and digest it all, there will eventually be one angry crowd of soldiers. Sometimes reality takes a while to set in, but eventually it will.

Probably related, Reddhedd at firedoglake just uncovered this little tidbit over at Wonkette.

According to Wonkette, the US Marine Corps has decided our soldiers are fighting for Communist China or Stalinist Russia or something — because they are heavily censoring what our soldiers can or can’t read — including limiting access to any news organizations or blogs who would *gasp* dare criticize the Administration. E-mail access has also been blocked (wouldn’t want our soldiers learning anything contrary to what our government wants them to know, now would we?) You know, in the not so distant past, this nation valued the First Amendment and freedom of speech and liberty. It all seems so quaint now, doesn’t it? (And who the hell decided that soldiers are gonna stay cheery on the battlefield without access to internet porn? Sheesh.)

Oh yeah, one other thing, the photo is something from The Onion, but it makes the point.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 02:01 PM
Rewriting History

From Pennsylvania comes this interesting story about a church’s plan to remember George Bush’s war dead. Multiculturalism in America is also apparently dead, at least at the Bethel Assembly of God.

Crosses will go up in June on the front lawn of Bethel Assembly of God.

There will be more than 2,000 of them, all sparkling white, representing U.S. service members killed in Iraq. …

Organizers say the exhibit will be about compassion, not politics. It is not meant to make a statement for or against the Iraq war, Kish said, but to pay homage to the Americans who have died.

Each cross will bear the name and date of death of a service member. A larger cross and a banner stating “Freedom is never free” will tower over the display. …

Reaction to Bethel's plan has been favorable, too, he said.

“I haven’t gotten one negative e-mail,” Kish said. “I was expecting something, but it has been only positive.”

Maybe this post counts. Maybe this article counts too.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 11:52 AM