September 11, 2014
Just So…

From Andrew Sullivan at The Dish:

What I under-estimated was the media’s ability to generate mass panic and hysteria and the Beltway elite’s instant recourse to the language of war. I believed that Obama was stronger than this, that he could actually resist this kind of emotional spasm and speak to us like grown-ups about what we can and cannot do about a long, religious war in the Middle East, that doesn’t threaten us directly. But he spoke to us like children last night, assuming the mantle of the protective daddy we had sought in Bush and Cheney, evoking the rhetoric he was elected to dispel.

What the president doesn’t seem to understand is that this dramatic U-turn isn’t just foolish on its own national security terms; it is devastating to him politically. He is now playing on Cheney’s turf, not his own. His core supporters, like yours truly, regarded our evolution from that Cheney mindset one of Obama’s key achievements — and he tossed it away last night almost casually. He committed himself and us to a victory we cannot achieve in two countries we cannot control with the aid of allies we cannot trust. And, worse, he has done so by evading the key Constitutional requirement that a declaration of war be made by the Congress. He is actually relying on the post-9/11 authorization of military force against al Qaeda in Afghanistan to wage war in Syria (in violation of international law) and in Iraq.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:27 PM
September 05, 2013
Not a Vatican Probe!

I mention this story of clerical exploitation notable here less for its unfortunate lack of novelty than for the barely safe-for-work prose in which it was reported.

The Vatican has recalled its ambassador to the Dominican Republic and relieved him of his duties after local media accused him of paedophilia.

The Dominican attorney general later announced that a special prosecutor had been appointed to investigate Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, who has been nuncio, or ambassador, in the capital, Santo Domingo, for nearly six years.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the Holy See had started a probe of Wesolowski and he had been recalled “in the last few weeks”, specifically over the paedophilia accusations.

Wesolowski could not be reached for comment.

Perhaps all this reaching and probing is what got the whole problem started to begin with. And to think this is from the British press! Oh, right, it’s The Guardian.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 01:45 AM
June 02, 2013
NewsBlur Rocks!

My first-line news site used to be iGoogle because it brought together most of the major sources such as BBC, the Guardian, WaPo, NYT, and so on on the same page with weather and whatever other widgets you chose to add. It was a simple and useful interface that I expect was based on Google Reader, which is why they’re both disappearing at the end of October.

Long story short, I’ve switched to NewsBlur. With NewsBlur I can view headlines from any news source with an RSS feed, which means nearly everybody; we have one near the top of the page in the right-hand column, “Syndicate this site (RSS/XML)”. They’re easy to set up — RSS means Rich Site Summary but it’s often called Really Simple Syndication — so every major news source has some sort of feed, and many have specialized feeds for particular types of news.

The result of aggregating these various feeds is a presentation something like the following. Click on the image for a full-size view of it.


NewsBlur%204.jpg


In addition to aggregating the wheat and not having to sort through the chaff, you can train NewsBlur to bring the types of stories that interest you by giving thumbs up or down to each story based on its title and tags.


NewsBlur%205.jpg


This ability is limited by the news source’s tagging; some sources provide multiple tags, some provide few or none. You can also choose phrases in the title you want or don’t want. So it’s not everything one might want in the area of trainability, but those limitations seem to be in the content provided rather than the aggregating software. The stories you’ve flagged as uninteresting are still available, but by default you only get what you want or at least haven’t said you don’t want.

All in all, NewsBlur is a nice tool for seeing lots of headlines quickly. What I’ve found is that I hardly ever visit the actual websites of my major news sources like the Guardian because everything comes in through NewsBlur and the site itself is all duplicates. That’s not true for Talking Points Memo, almost alone among the sources I aggregate.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 08:22 PM
April 29, 2013
Philosophy and NewsBlur

As one of the victims of recent withdrawals of Google tools I’m now in a more or less continuous mode of looking to avoid their products. To the extent possible, which of course is limited. I’m unhappy about the end of iGoogle, the news aggregator that’s probably a cute interface to Google Reader; but what really hurt was the ending of Google Sync for BlackBerries, which I didn’t know about because I wasn’t reading the Google blog. When that support ended the calendar stopped being synced and my next attempt to sync contacts removed a bunch of contacts from my phone’s address book. They still exist in Google Contacts and I can re-enter them by hand, so it’s a hassle rather than a tragedy. But it’s a big hassle, as is the loss of calendar syncing.

At this point I look for alternatives and use them when possible. I have a Gmail account but it’s my backup email and I don’t go to the website, I just hook my Opera browser’s mailer to that account and use Google servers. My default search engine is DuckDuckGo, which doesn’t collect or store any information about your searches. I try OpenStreetMap a lot and will start to contribute data once I finish grad school. But neither OpenStreetMap nor DuckDuckGo equal the Google tools at this point. And there’s no real replacement for Google Voice or Google Scholar.

But for the upcoming loss of iGoogle and Google Reader I’m finally feeling no pain. NewsBlur is, I’m happy to say, a fine and improving replacement. The screen layout is more utilitarian and less configurable than iGoogle. But the configurability that matters most to me is the content, and in that area NewsBlur wins hands down. You can bring in any source that has an RSS feed; all you do is copy the link from the source page you want to follow and paste it into a NewsBlur form and you’ve got it. Even cooler, and beyond anything iGoogle ever offered, is the ability to train the retrieval engine to understand your interests. You can prefer to get or avoid articles by topic, source, and author if the original source provides that much info (The Guardian does, Reuters doesn’t).


NewsBlur1.jpg

All of which is merely prologue to my offering of two quotes recalled after scanning many NewsBlur headlines in a short period. These quotes are from two famous philosophers. First Sören Kierkegaard:

People demand freedom of speech to make up for the freedom of thought which they avoid.

Ending with a flourish is Mark Twain:

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.
Webding3.jpg
Posted by Chuck Dupree at 12:59 AM
April 04, 2013
You Know What’s a Great Question?

Why does every interviewee in the whole wide world of television preface every answer to every vapid question with, “That’s a great question”? Instead of, for instance, “That’s a dumbass question. Better give it another shot.” Or “Have you actually read the book/speech/report/transcript/newspaper coverage/anything?”


aSacha-Baron-Cohen-as-Brun-001.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:14 PM
February 08, 2012
Ride the Pink Pony

Hey, all you Callista fans, Princess Sparkle Pony is back with another in-depth probe of his Goddess, plus a fascinating bit of speculation: “At breakfast this morning, one of my coworkers couched the idea of the hairdo's majestic side tentacle actually being prehensile. Oh wow, my mind was flooded with such visions!”

Returning to the hard news, though, January’s crise de coiffure seems to have passed: “The formidable hair sculpture has recovered nicely from its recent run-in with a cruel, overzealous dye pot wielder. Phew.”

For the full snark, and a stunning portrait, go here.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:59 AM
February 21, 2011
Libya Can, Why Can’t We?

This is amazing! The Libyans are about to dump Gaddafi, as resistance to oppression finds openings across the Arab world, a world many of whose issues and conflicts were created by outsiders, especially the British and the Americans. After decades of exploitation, people are managing to throw off the yoke even of a dictator as brutal and ruthless as Gaddafi.

True, the reports of him fleeing the country may be premature and have not been verified. But it is clear that the entire Libyan UN delegation has turned against him, refused to resign, and called for his prosecution for crimes against humanity over his reaction to the current crisis. You don’t get to be a UN ambassador without being able to read the tea leaves, so when the whole delegation agrees that the best way to hold onto their lives and possibly jobs as well is to switch sides, you can stick a fork in him, he’s done.

Gaddafi doesn’t fit the pattern of brutal dictators propped up by the UK up to the Second World War, then handed over to the US. So why is he falling? He hasn’t become less ruthless; witness the orders given to fighter pilots to bomb the protestors. He seemed, initially at least, to have more control over his armed forces than Mubarak did; in Egypt the military has been seen as connected to the nation rather than the ruler. So how did it happen that this tighter grip also failed?

One possible answer is people power. I’m far from crediting Twitter and Facebook for these revolutions; the influence of social networking sites has been limited by the ability of the governments in question to severely restrict internet access. But they have had an effect in building communal connections and awareness before the protests started. If you’ve gone for decades with poor communications, you expect nothing else. But once you get used to emailing, if your email system is shut down you look for alternatives.

It’s more than communications, though, it’s the widespread realization that if enough people flood the city centers, only the military can repel them. That would require the military to fire on its own people, which most members of the military are reluctant to do because they’ve been trained to think of themselves as defending the population from which they come.

So it seems to me that much of the inertia causing revolution to sweep the Arab world is the general realization of people power. And that is frightening to every government everywhere in the world.

Maybe it’s really true that if you’ve cheated and tortured and killed enough people, you can be forced to resign in disgrace, and even prosecuted. Mubarak should have run while the running was good; at this point much of his loot has been frozen and he’s likely to face some sort of inquiry. For Gaddafi it may be too late; one can hope, at least.

If the people of Libya can do this against a brutal dictator, why can’t the people of the US do vastly more with a political system that is, nominally at least, a democracy?

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 02:34 PM
January 04, 2011
You Heard It Here Second, But Before the Guardian or Times

Almost two weeks ago (Dec. 22), I griped about the US government hiring out its diplomatic staff in France to Monsanto. This revelation, or confirmation of obvious fact depending on how you look at it, came to us thanks to Wikileaks. The Establishment here in class-free America is rushing to cover up all the details revealed when the curtain was pulled back.

I noticed at that time a complete lack of mention of this cable, pointed out by Mike Ludwig at Truthout, at the Times or the Post. Well, only twelve days later, the Guardian leads the way as usual, with an entire article on the subject, opening thus:

The US embassy in Paris advised Washington to start a military-style trade war against any European Union country which opposed genetically modified (GM) crops, newly released WikiLeaks cables show.

The Guardian report confirms the utter servitude in which US government diplomats now find themselves with respect to the corporations, their masters.

…the cables show US diplomats working directly for GM companies such as Monsanto. “In response to recent urgent requests by [Spanish rural affairs ministry] state secretary Josep Puxeu and Monsanto, post requests renewed US government support of Spain’s science-based agricultural biotechnology position through high-level US government intervention.”

It also emerges that Spain and the US have worked closely together to persuade the EU not to strengthen biotechnology laws. In one cable, the embassy in Madrid writes: “If Spain falls, the rest of Europe will follow.”

The cables show that not only did the Spanish government ask the US to keep pressure on Brussels but that the US knew in advance how Spain would vote, even before the Spanish biotech commission had reported.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 01:40 AM
December 22, 2010
Biotech Versus the “Common Interest”

Like a teacher fresh out of ideas who resorts to requiring memorization of material, the American intelligence community, so called, has often resorted to accusations involving sexual misconduct in attempts to silence, or at least strike back at, critics of the imperial policies.

Not that the accusations are always baseless; it seems that those adventurous enough to join the game are also adventurous in other areas of life, sometimes reprehensibly so. Witness the story of Scott Ritter, for one. But realistically, and without excusing such behavior, sexual escapades are nothing new in the annals of the great game. Not infrequently, the most publicly moralistic are found to act quite differently in private.

But such accusations are becoming rather transparent, a sort of playground vengeance, calling names when no straightforward denial or defense is available. The Secret Government, as Bill Moyers called it in his famous documentary, does not like its methods laid bare to public view. Not only does scrutiny displease the players, whose activities proceed more efficiently outside the spotlight; it seriously embarrasses the officeholders, past and present, who appear as salaried government employees, thus on the taxpayer’s dime, acting as agents of corporations attempting to take over foreign markets. Even more-or-less friendly countries are subject to corporate invasion assisted by all the wiles and strategies of American diplomacy.

Summary: Mission Paris recommends that that [sic] the USG reinforce our negotiating position with the EU on agricultural biotechnology by publishing a retaliation list when the extend “Reasonable Time Period” expires. In our view, Europe is moving backwards not forwards on this issue with France playing a leading role, along with Austria, Italy and even the Commission. In France, the “Grenelle” environment process is being implemented to circumvent science-based decisions in favor of an assessment of the “common interest.” Combined with the precautionary principle, this is a precedent with implications far beyond MON-810 BT corn cultivation. Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices. In fact, the pro-biotech side in France — including within the farm union — have told us retaliation is the only way to begin to begin to turn this issue in France. End Summary.


monsanto-no-food.gif

For the non-agriculturally minded like me, MON 810 turns out to be a genetically modified maize from Monsanto. The cable never actually mentions the company by name, but each of the first four paragraphs includes a mention of MON 810, and the remaining three discuss the anti-GMO movement in Europe. Unless my untrained eye has overlooked something, no other product or corporation is mentioned directly, though the term “science-based decision-making” is used to obscure the reality of corporations deciding on diets rather than people choosing their own. Do we get to eat what we want, or will we eat what corporations tell us to eat? Will we let Monsanto eliminate traditional farming and force every farmer to buy seeds for each new crop every year from now on?

The cable refers derisively to the “common interest” as the alternative to science-based decisions, putting quotes around the term. Then it proceeds to a consideration of possible action.

Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits. The list should be measured rather than vicious and must be sustainable over the long term, since we should not expect an early victory.

The final sentence of the cable stipulates a variance between US-French cooperation with respect to many foreign policy objectives, and the conflict over what the cable calls “ag biotech”.

We can manage both at the same time and should not let one set of priorities detract from the other.

Foreign policy objectives should not detract from governmental assistance for Monsanto’s attempts to introduce GMO corn to a wary or unwilling population.

Interestingly, the New York Times website produces a page in response to searches for news on Monsanto whose last entry is dated October 7 of this year, and is entitled “Monsanto Income Drops by Nearly Half”. Most likely the Times article on the new revelations from Wikileaks is still in preparation.

Searching the Washington Post website for Monsanto turns up two articles in the last sixty days, the first an obituary for a former employee and the second an AP report explaining that Monsanto’s chairman, president, and CEO Hugh Grant — apparently a different person than the well-known actor, but even more egotistical — has taken a 2.2 percent pay cut this year, mainly because his incentive compensation is down $1.1 million. His salary and “stock-related rewards” climbed.

The article notes that Monsanto is trying to move away from its less profitable herbicide business into the more lucrative area of genetically engineered crops. If that’s such a wonderful thing that the government is engaged in retaliating against EU countries who resist its introduction, then why do people resist its introduction? It’s not just a debate over whether you can trust corporations to tell you what you must eat; it’s a fight over whether corporations will control humanity’s access to food.

If crops worldwide become dependent on new batches of seeds from Monsanto, what’s the point of governments?

[h/t Mike Ludwig at truthout]

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 12:49 AM
September 15, 2010
Is There Still Hope for Obama?

ABC News is reporting that the Obama administration will name Elizabeth Warren to a position that will allow her to serve as interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Board, bypassing the inevitable Republican virtual filibuster.

Why the Democrats continue to allow virtual filibusters rather than forcing actual physical ones remains beyond my limited conception.

But if this report is correct, it is just barely possible that Obama has realized how completely politically screwed his policies have left him, and is in the process of tacking toward his base and away from that part of the electorate that will never accept him no matter how many tax breaks he gives them.

Maybe, just maybe, Obama will manage to pivot from this moment of weakness toward finding his voice on important social issues, and welcoming the hatred of those who suck the lifeblood from society, as generally happens in late-stage empires.

I try to hold onto hope, at least.


Elizabeth-Warren-01.jpg


Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 08:02 PM
September 09, 2010
The Feds Now Decide Which Lawsuits Can Proceed

Every political system involving some sort of centralized power has so far led to attempts by the central power to gain control. Since the cannon set kings and princes above mere lords, centralization has been the trend.

That trend continues in our increasingly centralized power structure.

A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that former prisoners of the C.I.A. could not sue over their alleged torture in overseas prisons because such a lawsuit might expose secret government information.

The sharply divided ruling was a major victory for the Obama administration’s efforts to advance a sweeping view of executive secrecy powers. It strengthens the White House’s hand as it has pushed an array of assertive counterterrorism policies, while raising an opportunity for the Supreme Court to rule for the first time in decades on the scope of the president’s power to restrict litigation that could reveal state secrets.

The case reveals — or reiterates — the continuing stance of the executive branch of the current form of government. Regardless of party or ideology, every President has tried to accumulate power. As our economic system concentrates wealth, the political system designed by the founders tends to concentrate power.

On the plus side, our system concentrates power more slowly than, say, a monarchy or a dictatorship, whether of the elite or the proletariat. But late-stage empires, regardless of ideology, have already concentrated wealth so heavily that politics cannot fail to be deflected by the private interests of a very few. Suppose we in the US decided to free ourselves of the oil industry, or hedge funds; how would we accomplish that?

One thing we’ve hopefully learned is that electing a chief executive on the promise of change isn’t guaranteed to produce any.

While the alleged abuses occurred during the Bush administration, the ruling added a chapter to the Obama administration’s aggressive national security policies.

Its counterterrorism programs have in some ways departed from the expectations of change fostered by President Obama’s campaign rhetoric, which was often sharply critical of former President George W. Bush’s approach.

The crowning touch on the 6-5 ruling that state secrets trump human rights, that the state can decide which legal cases are allowed to proceed, is the court’s admission that the plaintiffs had a legitimate case.

There were signs in the court’s ruling that the majority felt conflicted. In a highly unusual move, the court ordered the government to pay the plaintiffs’ legal costs, even though they lost the case and had not requested such payment.
Webding3.jpg
Posted by Chuck Dupree at 01:02 AM
November 13, 2009
Cutting Through the Crap

From an interview with Gary Sick, a national security advisor to President Jimmy Carter and an expert on the Middle East. Unlike most analyses of the verbal war between Israel and Iran, his makes sense:

As I said in my talk, when Israel keeps talking practically every day of attacking Iran, to me, that is the best evidence that they are not going to do it. If you look back at almost all the raids and operations they have carried out whether it was in Entebbe, in the alleged Syrian nuclear site recently, or on Iraq’s nuclear facilities in 1982, all of those took place absolutely without any previous warning. They were treated as state secrets. Israel knew that one of their strengths was the element of surprise.

In this case, by talking about it for several years, Iran has responded by diversifying its program; they have tucked away their supplies. The storage site that was recently found near Qom was clearly meant as an alternative option in case Israel bombed Iran’s main centrifuge site in Natanz. Iran has been able to put things underground, which makes it harder for a possible strike. It would be very difficult for Israel to destroy Iran’s program in a single strike. And they do not have the capacity to come back and bomb for several days or a month, the way the US did in Iraq.

Israel could do some damage but they could not wipe out the whole system. When they hit the facilities in Iraq, there was no defense, everything was above ground. There were no preparations made and it was a very straightforward bombing of a single target. That is not true in Iran today. It is a peculiar strategy to use because you are basically telling your opponent to take as many precautions as possible, or to hide the materials in question, and that is exactly what Iran has done and is doing. Israel can only hit specific targets on one occasion but cannot continue for several days. Iran will retaliate and things will be far worse.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:06 AM
October 12, 2009
If They Read Chomsky We’re Screwed

Not that it’s any surprise, but I find it both ironic and typical that the US military deems it necessary to censor political thought among the prisoners at Guantánamo to the extent that the Gitmo library has refused a gift of a Chomsky book.

The 2007 book, Interventions, collects op-eds written for and distributed by the New York Times syndicate, presumably another example of the liberal press subverting America.

A rejection slip accompanying the Chomsky book did not explain the reason but listed categories of restricted literature to include those espousing “Anti-American, Anti-Semitic, Anti-Western” ideology, literature on “military topics,” and works that portray “excessive graphic violence” and “sexual dysfunctions.”

It’s hard to imagine how a man confined to a cage nearly 24 hours a day would miss the contradiction between the espoused ideology of freedom, in whose name he’s being held, and the actual practice of censorship. Of course we probably don’t circulate a list of banned books to the prisoners.

But the story perfectly illustrates Chomsky’s description of how the American system works. The elites decide on the parameters within which rational discussion can take place; anyone advocating anything outside those parameters is ipso facto irrational and can be ignored. Since Chomsky criticizes American government policy, he’s anti-American. We can’t have those Gitmo guys realizing that there are intelligent Americans who reject their government’s actions — then where would we be?

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 01:57 AM
September 24, 2009
Where Washington Doesn’t Hold Sway

The instinct toward primitivism remains strong in our species, and we see primitive urges acted out with increasing frequency now that the myth of white male supremacy can no longer be maintained. The inchoate rage that the next-to-lowest group in the socioeconomic stratum has always nursed finds today an outlet in the theory that government, our only tool to restrain the rich, is in fact not a shield but a burden which we’d be well advised to drop.

And if we ignore this well-intentioned advice? Then we must be federal revenue folks, with whom all rules are off. In the state I grew up in, such folks can find themselves hanged.

When Bill Sparkman told retired trooper Gilbert Acciardo that he was going door-to-door collecting census data in rural Kentucky, the former cop drawing on years of experience warned: “Be careful.”

The 51-year-old Sparkman was found hanged from a tree near a Kentucky cemetery and had the word “fed” scrawled on his chest, a law enforcement official said Wednesday, and the FBI is investigating whether he was a victim of anti-government sentiment.

Seems like a worthwhile angle to check out. But who can we trust to do the checking? And why can’t we know what instrument was used to inscribe the word?

Kelsee Brown, a waitress at Huddle House, a 24-hour chain restaurant in Manchester, when asked about the death, said she thinks the government sometimes has the wrong priorities.

“Sometimes I think the government should stick their nose out of people’s business and stick their nose in their business at the same time. They care too much about the wrong things,” she said.

Yeah, the government should keep other people from doing what I don’t like, and let me do whatever I want. That, my friend, is the true meaning of freedom.

Sparkman’s mother, Henrie Sparkman of Inverness, Fla., told The Associated Press her son was an Eagle scout who moved to Kentucky to direct the local Boy Scouts of America. He later became a substitute teacher in Laurel County, adjacent to the county where his body was found.

She said investigators have given her few details about her son’s death. They did tell her his body was decomposed and haven’t yet released it for burial.

“I was told it would be better for him to be cremated,” she said.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 03:48 AM
July 04, 2009
Winners Quit
Life is too short to compromise time and resources… it may be tempting and more comfortable to just keep your head down, plod along, and appease those who demand: “Sit down and shut up”, but that’s the worthless, easy path; that’s a quitter’s way out. And a problem in our country today is apathy. It would be apathetic to just hunker down and “go with the flow”.

Nah, only dead fish “go with the flow”.

No. Productive, fulfilled people determine where to put their efforts, choosing to wisely utilize precious time… to BUILD UP.

Typically Palin: a colorful, folksy, nature-oriented metaphor that’s completely nonsensical once you examine it, and to the extent it contains any substance it’s astoundingly self-regarding: screw the state, this isn’t working for me. (As you’d expect from someone who thinks it’s okay to shoot animals from planes.) But just to make it explicit, it’s quite obviously not true that only dead fish go with the flow. How do those Alaskan salmon reach the ocean to begin with?

As David Kurtz says, “Quitters stick to it. Winners quit.”

So long, Sarah, it was fun while it lasted! Maybe you thought you were being a tease by quitting right in the middle; maybe you figured we’d be left panting for more. But in fact we’ve begun to catch onto your fast-and-loose manner with the facts and the law, and only the truly Low-Information Voters are still tuning into Desperate Governors. If you manage to make it out of this year without a jail term you’ve still got a shot at the Christist vote, which might be enough to get you elected on the Alaskan Independence Party ticket. But you’ve just ended any hope of national elective office. Not that you had a realistic one anyway, so nothing really lost.


deadfish.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 07:21 AM
June 08, 2009
In Praise of Efficient Markets, Especially in Health Care

At least we’re finally getting to the core of the argument about health care.

In a nutshell, the question is whether insurance companies should be allowed to continue their bloodsucking ways, insulated from market forces; or whether their high-paid execs should be given that free market they claim to want, competing against a so-called public option similar to Medicare.

Medicare is clearly cheaper and provides better outcomes, which is why the health-care industry, so called, is against it.

…critics argue that with low administrative costs and no need to produce profits, a public plan will start with an unfair pricing advantage. They say that if a public plan is allowed to pay doctors and hospitals at levels comparable to Medicare’s, which are substantially below commercial insurance rates, it could set premiums so low it would quickly consume the market.

Although the numbers are disputed by public plan advocates, the Lewin Group, a health care consulting firm, recently projected that a plan paying Medicare rates would prompt 119 million of the 172 million people who are privately insured to switch policies (while also providing coverage to 28 million of the 46 million uninsured).

Makes sense, if you consider it. A public, or single-payer, plan would have less overhead and therefore be cheaper. Any idiot can see that, even an insurance-company executive. Then there’s the negotiating leverage, currently firmly in the grasp of execs from the drug and health-care companies, that would naturally end up in the hands of consumers. Namely, you and me.

It’s so unfair, so contrary to the basic philosophy of capitalism, to start with a pricing advantage arising from superior efficiency and reduced need for profit! It’s cheating, really; you can see why true capitalists want to be insulated from such practices.

Capitalism, to paraphrase Prudhon, is theft. The sooner we realize that money is holding up the advance of civilization, the sooner we grow up and reach for the stars. Universal health care should be a basic human right: if you exist, you get health care. And food, clothing, housing, education, and transportation. We could do all that now if we chose, but we don’t because it wouldn’t serve to concentrate wealth.

Sunset all corporations; force those whose aspirations require a large gap between themselves and others to declare that fact publicly. After all, markets are most efficient when most fully informed.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 04:59 AM
May 19, 2009
The Republican Howard Dean

Recently I’ve suffered from a bit of schadenfreude overload. Watching the Republican party regroup is a laugh a minute, funny enough to take your mind off how sad the Democratic party has already turned out to be.

Where, for instance, did they find Michael Steele? I mean, he looks good on camera, has a pleasant voice and so on. But, truthfully, does the GOP expect him to be their Howard Dean? Many of the things he says don’t seem calculated to draw in the so-called middle of the road types to whom both parties have paid obeisance for so long.

“The era of apologizing for Republican mistakes of the past is now officially over,” Steele will say in a speech to the RNC’s 2009 State Chairmen’s Meeting, according to excerpts obtained by CNN. “It is done. We have turned the page, we have turned the corner. No more looking in the review mirror. From this point forward, we will focus all of our energies on winning the future.”

It’s obvious why the Republicans have turned the page; unfortunately for them, most Americans haven’t. (And what does “winning the future” imply for the country at large?) So they’ve got the Mighty Wurlitzer in overdrive, grasping the opportunity provided by widespread economic distress, ramping up the fear factor with swine flu and socialism.

The RNC meeting wraps up on Wednesday with a scheduled vote on a controversial resolution that calls on Democrats to rename their party the “Democrat Socialist Party.”

Please, oh please, pass this resolution. It can be my birthday present! And if you’ll rename your party the False War and Corruption Party, it can be my Christmas present too.

If only the Republicans were correct…

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 02:47 AM
April 28, 2009
Specter Reads the Writing on the Wall

This will be all over the news, of course, but I can’t resist putting it up. Fascinating and truly, truly important. Heute Specter, Morgen die Franken, as Hitler used to say. Well, something like that anyway.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Veteran Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter told colleagues Tuesday that he switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party, Sen. Harry Reid says.

The Specter party switch would give Democrats a filibuster-proof Senate majority of 60 seats if Al Franken holds his current lead in the disputed Minnesota Senate race.

“Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right,” Specter said in a statement posted by his office on PoliticsPA.com.

“Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.”


MeneMene.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:49 PM
January 17, 2009
Is Sullenberger an Omen? I Sure Hope So

If you haven’t seen this capture of the plane landing in the Hudson and the rescue boats arriving, check it out. This is what American pilots, crews, and emergency folks can do when they’re on point.



I hope this turns out to have been an omen forecasting the resurgence of the American spirit. We can, if we put our minds to it, do what needs to be done.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 06:44 AM
January 14, 2009
Rock a Fella

Everyone in America is in trouble. But did you know that the Rockefellers are in bigger trouble than you are? They’re having to restructure! It doesn’t get worse than that.

Even before word came on Tuesday that Citigroup might split into pieces to shore up its finances, an unpleasant message was moving through Congress and President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team: the banks need more taxpayer money.

In all likelihood, a lot more money.

And you can see why.

House legislation placing restrictions on financial institutions that get assistance through the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program had included a provision that recipients of the money would be prohibited from owning or leasing private aircraft.

But Kansas is one of the nation’s centers of aircraft manufacturing, and Kansas lawmakers complained that the provision could reduce aircraft orders, cost jobs, and damage the industry’s image.

On Tuesday, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass, the author of the bill, lifted the jet ban from the bill.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 03:50 AM
January 08, 2009
The Murder of Gaza

The artist Mark Wilson recommends this article in The Guardian by Oxford professor Avi Shlaim. Its conclusion is below. For some of the history supporting that conclusion, see Professor Shlaim’s full essay, and also read this, by Professor Saree Makdisi of UCLA and author of Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation.

A rogue state habitually violates international law, possesses weapons of mass destruction and practices terrorism — the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. Israel fulfills all of these three criteria; the cap fits and it must wear it. Israel’s real aim is not peaceful coexistence with its Palestinian neighbours but military domination.

The first picture below (all are from The Guardian website) shows the crater made in an Israeli street by one of the homemade rockets from Gaza. To date they have killed four Israelis. For each casualty, Israeli bombs and bullets have so far killed more than a hundred Gazans. This number will rise hugely as the invasion continues. As with our own bombardment of cities in Iraq, most of the victims will be civilian noncombatants.

The second picture shows a relative weeping for the ten members of a family killed when Israelis bombed a school run by the United Nations in Gaza. The last picture shows mourners praying over the victims of that air strike. Click to enlarge images.










Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:02 AM
November 23, 2008
Could Be Worse

With all the leaks about Obama’s cabinet, and his camp’s lack of discomfort with those leaks, we’re spectators at the assembly of the team we hope will lead us into a new era.

What can we say about the cabinet Obama appears headed for? It’s just as centrist and DLC dominated as he indicated it would be. Clinton, Geithner, Emanuel, Summers, Scowcroft, the old guard. By no means everything these people bring to the table is negative; at a minimum the Obama administration will be an effective one. It will also have a Congress full of folks whose individual self-interest lies in making stuff happen over the next four to eight years.

After eight years of what we called incompetence, but was in fact exquisite technique in pursuit of a goal opposite to ours, we’re predisposed to applaud, or at least give slack to, anyone who seems capable of finding the bathroom by themselves. Following the cognitive spiral in a negative direction leads to depression unless one breaks free in time; so let’s spiral up instead.

In that vein I note a few positives so far in a host of what I consider negatives. Leaks say Obama intends to name Janet Napolitano to head DHS, and Tom Daschle for HHS. It’s not so much that either person harbors serious progressive impulses, but that both are capable and both keep a fairly close ear to the ground.

The public push for health care could allow Daschle to get somewhere. He won’t get there by leading, but if we push him he might turn out to be a very effective implementor. That’s a hopeful sign.

Napolitano is in a similar position, having dealt with the realities of immigration and border issues as well as the ideologies. She seems to be a non-wacko at a time when even that relatively low standard is a clear improvement.

Both people have skill sets that would allow for a large upside; if constituents lead in the right direction, these two could get stuff done.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 09:08 PM
November 19, 2008
Praise the Lord and Prepare the Prisons

Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzalez and a covey of Judges indicted in Texas. There are many stories coming out of Texas on these indictments. Here are a couple. Google News has dozens if not hundreds more.


Webding3.jpg

Posted by Buck Batard at 02:47 AM
September 24, 2008
Cut and Run McCain Seeks to Avoid Debate - Americans Say No!!

By now, many of you have read that John McCain has suspended his campaign and said he wants to cancel Friday night’s scheduled debate with Obama.

The first polling results are in from SurveyUSA since this news came out and Americans overwhelmingly say: Let the debate go on!

America’s First Reaction: Friday's McCain-Obama Debate Should Still Be Held On Friday, But Perhaps with New Focus: Immediately after John McCain's announcement 3 pm ET today, Wednesday 09/24/08, that he was suspending his campaign and seeking to postpone Friday’s schedule presidential debate, SurveyUSA interviewed 1,000 adults nationwide. Key findings:

A majority of Americans say the debate should be held. Just 10% say the debate should be postponed. A sizable percentage of Americans, 36%, think the focus of the debate should be modified to focus more on the economy. 3 of 4 Americans say the presidential campaign should continue. Just 14% say the presidential campaign should be suspended. If Friday's debate does not take place 46%, of Americans say that would be bad for America.

I don’t usually pay attention to Herr Bush, but I must admit that I’m going to watch to see what kind of fraud he tries to pull over on us tonight. The Republicans must be getting real nervous with the results of the polls Jerry just posted. The election isn’t close enough to steal at this point and they’ll do anything to try to get their “cover up the theft” candidate into office. Watch for the weird to keep happening. We are living in perilous times. Too bad old Cut and Run McCain seems to be trying to avoid this debate. That old soldier seems to have lost his fighting ability.


Cut%20and%20Run%20McCain.jpg


Webding3.jpg

Posted by Buck Batard at 05:37 PM
September 01, 2008
Lest we forget Katrina

Who can recall Operation Blessing? Surely you remember the crooked charity run by Pat Robertson that was first on the Bush Katrina “relief list”. And who remembers that the Red Cross was turned away by the Bush Administration from helping Katrina victims, most likely because they weren’t cooperating in hiding the crimes being committed at Guantanamo Bay? In case you don’t remember, let me jog your memory by republishing a short segment of an article which appeared in The Nation magazine in 2005 that detailed just some of the abuses committed by the Bush Administration during that year. But don’t expect that kind of relief this time. The sole focus this time will be on helping McCain win and trying to rebuild the Republican brand and enriching supporters of the Bush Administration, again. So watch for the political ploys and please pass them on in comments here when you see them happening.

With the Bush Administration’s approval, Robertson's $66 million relief organization, Operation Blessing, has been prominently featured on FEMA's list of charitable groups accepting donations for hurricane relief. Dozens of media outlets, including the New York Times, CNN and the Associated Press, duly reprinted FEMA’s list, unwittingly acting as agents soliciting cash for Robertson. “How in the heck did that happen?” Richard Walden, president of the disaster-relief group Operation USA, asked of Operation Blessing’s inclusion on FEMA’s list. “That gives Pat Robertson millions of extra dollars.“

Though Operation USA has conducted disaster relief for more than twenty-five years on five continents, like scores of other secular relief groups currently helping victims of Hurricane Katrina, it was omitted from FEMA’s list. In fact, only two non-“faith-based” organizations were included. (One of them, the American Red Cross, is being blocked from entering New Orleans by FEMA’s parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security.) FEMA, meanwhile, has reportedly turned away Wal-Mart trucks carrying food and water to the stricken city, teams of firemen from Maryland and Texas, volunteer morticians and a convoy of 1,000 boat owners offering to help rescue stranded flood victims. While relief efforts falter in the face of colossal bureaucratic incompetence, the Bush Administration’s promotion of Operation Blessing has ensured that the floodwaters swallowing New Orleans will be a rising tide lifting Robertson's boat.

katrina%20barbour.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Buck Batard at 10:00 AM
August 31, 2008
Obamaniacs v. DHS

Which of the following imaginable scenarios is more likely to produce actual physical assistance for people in Gustav’s path?

This:

[Scott McClellan] also suggested that McCain could benefit politically from such a scenario: It would allow Bush to mount an effective GOP response to a disaster, while removing the unpopular president from the convention roster. “It could be a two-fer,” McClellan said.

Or this:

Barack Obama, in Lima, Ohio, this morning, told reporters that he and his staff are in touch with Gulf Coast officials and will wait to see the impact of the hurricane and to get word on what’s most needed in terms of specific supplies or volunteers, and once that becomes clear "we can activate an email list of a couple million people" who support his campaign and would want to help.


Hurricane-Gustav.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 09:26 PM
August 25, 2008
There They Go Again

It’s hard to believe they’re still running this scam, but apparently it pays them a decent salary. And it’s about as easy a gig as you could imagine.

It is a fraying, combed-back helmet that barely covers a longtime fact of Washington life: The senator from Delaware has taken steps to pre-empt baldness.

The most common hypothesis is that he received a hair transplant, where follicles from the bushier back of the head are grafted onto fading spots closer to the front of the dome.

Well, it’s a good thing someone’s keeping us up to date on the Hair of the Democrats. I wonder how long it’ll be before someone determines how much Biden has spent on his hair, compares that sum to what McCain spends on his, and turns the comparison into an implication that McCain of the Seven Houses would be a better manager of the economy.

Fortunately, not everyone in the traditional media, which Politico certainly is despite its web-based delivery method, is that vapid. Another article there reminds us of a Biden zinger at the Democratic debate on July 23, 2007.

Via a video clip, a man identifying himself as Jered Townsend from Clio, Mich., said: “To all the candidates, tell me your position on gun control, as myself and other Americans really want to know if our babies are safe.”

Then Townsend picked up what appeared to be a semiautomatic assault rifle.

“This is my baby, purchased under the 1994 gun ban,” he said. “Please tell me your views. Thank you.”

After a lengthy explanation of past Democratic difficulties with the gun issue, we get a reprise of Bill Richardson’s pander to the NRA.

Then [Anderson] Cooper turned to Joe Biden. “Senator Biden,” he asked, “are you going to be able to keep his baby safe?”

And Biden gave an answer that was 100 percent Joe Biden.

“I’ll tell you what, if that is his baby, he needs help,” Biden said. “I don’t know that he is mentally qualified to own that gun.”

Biden went on to say that he was “the guy who originally wrote the assault weapons ban” and “we should be working with law enforcement, right now, to make sure that we protect people against people who are not capable of knowing what to do with a gun because they’re either mentally imbalanced and/or because they have a criminal record.”

Then Biden added sardonically: “I hope he doesn’t come looking for me.”

It was, as Roger Simon says, “a tough, honest answer that did not play to the crowd.” If only we could get that kind of honesty on the bankruptcy bill, or Iraq, or NAFTA.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 07:30 AM
August 22, 2008
LobeLog Keeps the Flame Alive

Commentary in the blogosphere ranges, it seems to me, from informed and deeply thoughtful at one end to mean-spirited, vitriolic, and false at the other, with of course a vast and sometimes indistinct horde in between. At best it’s sublime; at worst it’s the unavoidable sound created by the operations of the machinery of democracy.

Then there’s the special case of the established reporter who also blogs, mixing some opinion with some straight reporting. Again a variety of hybrid cases fill the screen. Josh Marshall was a legitimate reporter before he started Talking Points Memo, but he’s certainly far more influential because of TPM than he ever was, or was likely to be, as a traditional-media columnist.

I was thrilled to find blogs by writers whose work I never miss, like James Fallows at The Atlantic, The New Yorker’s Hendrick Hertzberg and George Packer, and Ken Silverstein and Scott Horton at Harper’s.

Jim Lobe’s LobeLog is among the few blogs to which I subscribe by RSS feed. For one thing, you get the entire post delivered to your mailbox. Since my emailer/news aggregator M2, the best mailer I’ve used by far, is part of my browser (Opera), the RSS feeds show up on the same tab as email.

Also, Lobe doesn’t flood my inbox. I don’t subscribe to TPM, though I read it most every day, because of the volume; Lobe posted about a dozen times in July. His real job, as you probably know, is with IPS, though you’ll see his reporting at many other sites as well. When he blogs, it’s usually because he has special knowledge as a reporter that combines with the general news of the moment to offer some unique or at least specially helpful insight.

Even when he’s just reviewing other peoples’ work, he puts ideas together in interesting ways. His latest post begins:

I’m still on vacation but, like everyone else, have been quite amazed at the ongoing Georgia crisis, particularly the failure so far of the administration and the campaigns of the two presidential candidates to absorb its potential significance and the need for Washington (and the West more generally) to fundamentally reassess its global position and how over-stretched it has become.

At first you think, Duh! Of course the candidates are not going to address the idea that the American Empire is ending, that it’s powerless to affect events in Georgia despite the desperate thirst of the oil giants for the light, sweet nectar coursing through the pipeline in that country.

Then you realize Lobe was leading you rather than telling you.

While the notion that the Georgia crisis takes us back to the end of the Cold War and the “return of history” has become a cliche among most of the commentariat (while some neo-cons predictably compare it to the Sudetenland, Munich and 1938), both columns see the present moment as signaling much deeper historical and even epochal challenges to U.S. and western hegemony in what is now, ever more clearly, a multipolar world that rejects Pax Americana. And, if U.S. leaders, actual and imminent, continue to insist on a hard line toward Russia, that rejection will very likely extend to Europe, as well. Indeed, western (or “old”) Europe, in particular, has some major strategic decisions of its own to make, having seen where its habitual deference to Washington has gotten it.

Prediction: US leaders present and future will continue to insist on a hard line toward Russia as long as they can get away with it. But that won’t be long. Soon the fear that everyone will be laughing at the paper tiger will induce more modest behavior. Unfortunately, the Roman and British examples tend to suggest that the imperial ambition will only die out over generations.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 12:37 AM
August 17, 2008
Left Meets Right

The most important geek news of the week is the court decision (PDF) in the case of Jacobsen v. Katzer, in which a violation of a non-traditional copyright was held to be just like a violation of a traditional copyright, with the same enforcement mechanisms.

The copyright holder in the case is Robert Jacobsen, the lead developer of the Java Model Railroad Interface, a software package used by model railroad enthusiasts. A firm called Kamind Associates downloaded parts of Jacobsen’s project, stripped out the copyright notice and other identifying information, and began redistributing the modified version without Jacobsen’s approval.


JavaModelRailroadInterface.jpg


Copylefts, as they’re sometimes called, grant more rights to users than traditional publishing or media organizations have. The Creative Commons Attribution license recently added to our sidebar is the “By” license, the loosest level: anyone is free to redistribute, remix, and make commercial use of licensed material, as long as proper attribution is included.

More restrictive options exist as well. It’s possible to prohibit commercial use, or to allow redistribution only if the redistributed work itself carries an equivalent license, for example. If you want to license your website, you can do it in five minutes: first choose the appropriate license at the Creative Commons site, then copy and paste the HTML that’s provided wherever you want it on your web pages.

This is good news for Flickr users and bloggers and other such folks who want to share the products of their imaginations or skills. But it’s particularly great news for the free software community. I’m thinking there were some glum faces in Redmond this week, out of which Bill Gates, as I’ve said before, hauled ass at a propitious moment.

At the personal computer level, free software is today both more powerful and easier to use (and maintain) than corporate software. What keeps the dinosaurs going is control of the hardware environment, and specialized applications. Linux has to work everywhere, with every language and font and screen and central processor and network interface; Windows systems are much more proscribed, and the Mac is another universe. Macs have cool media-creation and -editing apps, for example; Windows programs in that area are improving, but it’s hard to make a quality product in a Windows environment. I’m not kidding; I’ve built apps on Windows, Mac, Unix, and a couple other OSs, and Windows is the least reliable. Mac is probably the quirkiest; a fair amount of it is there just to be different. Unix is superficially the most obscure, but in fact the most sleekly and reliably designed of the three (though DEC’s VAX/VMS far surpassed Unix).

In the classic critical-mass fashion, state-of-the-art media manipulation software hasn’t yet migrated to Linux. But for the more quotidian operations such as browsing the web, doing email, cataloging, watching, and listening to media, fiddling photos, and doing MS Office-style stuff, the Linux tools are superior in function and ease of use. Plus, they’re almost universally faster at the same operations.

This kind of quality has not always been there in open-source software, it’s true; but then commercial software is no walk in the park either.

Generally, open source has an outstanding record of providing reliable and useful software. If you spend the effort to build something, package it, and distribute it for free, you must actually have some ego invested in it. If you care about it enough to maintain it over a period of years, coördinate assistants in that process, and accept contributions and consider requests from users, it becomes something like your child.

This kind of approach tends to create communities. When the original impulse is to solve a problem, and the first contributors all face that problem and are coöperating on solutions, what emerges has passed all the tests that its designers thought of, which means at least it solves the original problems. Things that work well tend to get adapted to other situations rapidly; if your product doesn’t evolve, it was probably a pretty simple idea to begin with. If users are soon thinking of uses you never imagined, that’s a sign of success.

The court ruled in Jacobsen v. Katzer that copylefts are enforceable as copyrights, overruling a lower court decision that this was not a copyright violation but a violation of contract. Copyright laws are much stricter, so this and some prior, more limited, rulings are clear encouragement to the free software community. Work can be done in a non-capitalist fashion, and distributed, used, and relied upon world-wide, without the capitalists either stealing it or shutting it down.

As ours becomes better than theirs, they’ll go under.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 12:48 AM
August 15, 2008
It’s Going Unanswered

The theory has been advanced that Certain Elements residing towards the neo-con end of the Cheney administration spectrum might have encouraged Mikheil Saakashvili to ignore all Stephen Colbert’s recommendations not to poke the bear. It seems clear that this theory is not without foundation.

As Seaumas Milne says, we hear top government officials from the US and the UK vowing action on the Georgia issue.

Could these by any chance be the leaders of the same governments that in 2003 invaded and occupied — along with Georgia, as luck would have it — the sovereign state of Iraq on a false pretext at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives? Or even the two governments that blocked a ceasefire in the summer of 2006 as Israel pulverised Lebanon’s infrastructure and killed more than a thousand civilians in retaliation for the capture or killing of five soldiers?

You’d be hard put to recall after all the fury over Russian aggression that it was actually Georgia that began the war last Thursday with an all-out attack on South Ossetia to “restore constitutional order” — in other words, rule over an area it has never controlled since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Those who remember the invaluable contributions of Robert Parry, or the antics alleged to have been part of the Iran-Contra affair, would not put it past the US intelligence community to apply some judo concepts to the game of geostrategy. And perhaps that’s what this represents:

The long-running dispute over South Ossetia — as well as Abkhazia, the other contested region of Georgia — is the inevitable consequence of the breakup of the Soviet Union. As in the case of Yugoslavia, minorities who were happy enough to live on either side of an internal boundary that made little difference to their lives feel quite differently when they find themselves on the wrong side of an international state border.

Such problems would be hard enough to settle through negotiation in any circumstances. But add in the tireless US promotion of Georgia as a pro-western, anti-Russian forward base in the region, its efforts to bring Georgia into Nato, the routing of a key Caspian oil pipeline through its territory aimed at weakening Russia’s control of energy supplies, and the US-sponsored recognition of the independence of Kosovo — whose status Russia had explicitly linked to that of South Ossetia and Abkhazia — and conflict was only a matter of time.

On the other hand, the relationship between the Cheney administration and the CIA is currently less than cordial. True, Cheney and McCain are also less than cordial, but then one suspects that being cordial is not high on the Vice President’s to-do list. In any case, it’s clear that the neo-con school’s hoping to propagate into the next administration by adapting, however unhappily, to McCain.

This means the CIA starts with a dichotomy: McCain has a military history, but insiders tell suspicious stories about him; Obama is an unknown military quantity, but he has toed every line the military drew and he’s not crazy, unlike his opponent. He’s been vetted by the war machine.

In the end I suspect the neo-cons of everything, but I think it’s unlikely the CIA is helping to gin up a war in an attempt to help McCain over Obama.

Saakashvili may be an American agent, but more likely he’s what they call a useful idiot. Or maybe he believed McCain or his neo-con fellow travelers. More likely still, he’s just a regular idiot who gambled that the pipeline running through his country gave him leverage. Might have worked at a different time, but given the lack of available US moral standing or military power, the Olympics, and the worldwide economic and energy issues, Saakashvili has to have been really stupid to think this would work right now.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 04:53 AM
August 13, 2008
More From the Real News Network on Georgia

You won’t see anything like this on your American television, but once again, the Real News Network gives us more details on what’s really happening in Georgia. I urge you to donate to support the worthy cause of REAL news. Why not skip your donation to Public Television this year, which has been veering far, far, to the right, and do your part to support a worthier project? If you like this news piece, there’s more where that came from.

Comments on today's REAL news segment are once again welcomed.


Posted by Buck Batard at 06:12 PM
August 12, 2008
The Real News Network Gives Us the Scoop on Georgia

I've been a fan of the The Real News Network for quite some time. Today we get an unbiased view of what’s happening in Georgia. So now you know the real news. Any comments?

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Buck Batard at 10:56 AM
August 11, 2008
Has Somebody Let Loose Another April Glaspie?

You remember April Glaspie right? That April Glaspie. It could have been anybody, it might have been nobody, but no one would put it past Karl Rove to have actually been the one to have given the Georgians the green light to attack Ossetia.

But is there more to this story than first appears? Curious minds are pondering questions (see below for excerpt) which would normally be unthinkable except under a Bush Administration. The question appeared over on a message board that I’m not familiar with, but the question bears repeating in serious circles. As far as I’m concerned, just about anything is possible with an unchecked Bush Administration in power.

The Georgian president must be a near fool. He seemed full of panic in a recent interview. I felt sorry for him. Couldn’t help but wonder if April Glasby [sp] has been doing some moonlighting for the present Bush Administration? Look for Putin to give the Georgian president the Saddam Hussein (gallows) treatment if he does’t politely step down from power and leave the country. Some sages are wondering if “we” gave up Georgia in order to get the green light from Russia to attack Iran.

Could it be true? Is Iran next? If you're like me, you believe that the Bush Administration is capable of anything and dismissing such seemingly ludicrous questions doesn’t necessarily seem wise when you’re talking about two “soul mates”. At least the question ought to make the rounds in public discussions, just in case the Bush Administration is back doing things that it’s best known for.


glaspie_hussein.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Buck Batard at 06:42 PM
August 03, 2008
Do we have a lesser replay of the Warren Commision Report?

Glenn Greenwald today posted a second long article regarding the anthrax attacks and the suspicious events surrounding the events that occurred before and after the incidents. Included in the links in the article is to a news release issued by the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. A portion of the news release appears below:

Today's shocking revelation about the apparent suicide of a top Army microbiologist and lead suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks has intensified the need for a thorough investigation into the only significant bioterrorism attack on U.S. soil, said Alan Pearson, Director of the Biological and Chemical Weapons Control Program at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

“The FBI must not let the death of Bruce Ivins deter it from completing a full and thorough investigation of the attacks, ” said Pearson. “The chance to prove Ivins’ guilt before a court of law has been lost, but the need for a thorough investigation and a full accounting to the American people remains.“ CNN reported today that the FBI will soon close the case “because a threat no longer exists.”

Pearson says that the number one question still to determine is whether Ivins was responsible for the attacks and, if so, whether he acted alone and with complete secrecy. “If Ivins was indeed responsible for the attacks, did he have any assistance? Did anyone else at the Army lab or elsewhere have any knowledge of his activities prior to, during, or shortly after the anthrax attacks?” questioned Pearson. “The FBI must see this investigation through to completion.”

If the FBI does close this case now, we will be beset for years with unresolved questions and there’s no telling what the inevitable book writers may come up in their investigations. If anything, the private investigations and books to follow may rival those that occurred after the Kennedy Assassination. I’m surprised that the FBI would allow such a substantial risk to its own reputation. Perhaps they have decided that it can’t get any worse than it already is.


Jedgar.jpg
Webding3.jpg

Posted by Buck Batard at 01:59 PM
August 02, 2008
Anthrax Suspect Called a “Revenge Killer”

Here is the ten-minute audio of a July 24 court hearing in which social worker Jean Duley sought and received a protective order against Bruce E. Ivins. He died Tuesday of Tylenol poisoning in what authorities characterized as a suicide. Ivins was about to be charged with murder in the anthrax killings that occurred in September of 2001.

More details are in this story from the Associated Press. A sample:

“As far back as the year 2000, the respondent has actually attempted to murder several other people, either through poisoning. He is a revenge killer. When he feels that he’s been slighted or has had — especially toward women — he plots and actually tries to carry out revenge killings.”
Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:25 PM
August 01, 2008
Are People Capable of Changing?

Apparently the rumors that SecDef Gates is angling for a spot in an Obama administration are not without foundation.

“The use of force plays a role, yet military efforts to capture or kill terrorists are likely to be subordinate to measures to promote local participation in government and economic programs to spur development, as well as efforts to understand and address the grievances that often lie at the heart of insurgencies,” the [DoD] report says.

“For these reasons, arguably the most important military component of the struggle against violent extremists is not the fighting we do ourselves, but how well we help prepare our partners to defend and govern themselves,” it says.

This from Bob Gates?

The final report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters, issued on August 4, 1993, said that Gates “was close to many figures who played significant roles in the Iran/contra affair and [as the CIA’s Deputy Director of Intelligence] was in a position to have known of their activities. The evidence developed by Independent Counsel did not warrant indictment…”

[…]

The issue was whether the Independent Counsel could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Gates was deliberately not telling the truth when he later claimed not to have remembered…

[…]

In 1984, as deputy director of CIA, Gates advocated that the U.S. initiate a bombing campaign against Nicaragua and that the U.S. do everything in its power short of direct military invasion of the country to remove the Sandinista government…

[…]

Gates has been a member of the board of trustees of Fidelity Investments, and on the board of directors of NACCO Industries, Inc., Brinker International, Inc., Parker Drilling Company, Science Applications International Corporation, and VoteHere, a technology company which sought to provide cryptography and computer software security for the electronic election industry.

Recruited by the CIA in college, and hoping to provide cryptography for elections. Somehow that makes me uneasy. Fortunately he’s a past president of the National Eagle Scout Association.


bush-gates.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 07:56 AM
July 29, 2008
Who Learns Faster, Congress or the Military?

I was pleased to see that H.R. McMaster, who wrote the book on failures at the top of the Vietnam-era military command structure (Dereliction of Duty), was given his first star a couple weeks ago. He and Sean McFarland, who was also promoted, are called by the reliably informative Nancy Youssef

HRMcMaster-in-Iraq.jpg

…legends of the Iraq War for what many in the military consider their masterful counterinsurgency skills. McMaster, who wrote a revered book called Dereliction of Duty, lead a successful counterinsurgency campaign in Tal Afar in 2005. And through that effort, he became a member of Gen. David Petraeus’ famed brain trust. He helped craft the surge strategy. And has monitored its progress throughout.

He was passed over for a promotion the last time he went for a star, which caused an uproar through the ranks. McMaster speaks out, and in Iraq, made adjustments on the ground far outside his rank. Some of the senior officers didn’t like it; they saw such unilateralism as a threat to the Army’s structure. Others defended him, saying that is exactly the kind of soldier counterinsurgency requires. So when he didn’t get promoted, his career suddenly came to personify the Army’s struggle between its old way of fighting (and promoting leaders) and the new wars it faces.

macfarlandx.jpg Col. Sean McFarland was based in Anbar in 2006 when he crafted a system that eventually became a key part of surge. He built outposts in Ramadi, a onetime deadly city for U.S. troops. He reached out to Iraqis who had declared his soldiers the enemy and started negotiating. The violence fell, and suddenly the Army dropped its weapons and started considering other tactics to quell the situation there. That is, McFarland spurred a service-wide discussion about how the Army should approach Iraq differently.

So I think most will look at the list (which I have included below) and conclude that the Army is slowly adjusting what it looks at when putting a star on a soldier. Starting today, it is no longer as simple as following orders.

In general, the more hierarchical an organization is, the slower change tends to happen in it. So it’s heartening to see that US military folks are at least looking (being allowed to look) at what’s worked and what hasn’t, and updating doctrines accordingly.

Of course it’s what they’re supposed to do, but Congress is supposed to impeach law-breaking Presidents and Vice Presidents too, and Pelosi et.al. are preventing that. Here’s the stage our decline has reached: San Francisco Democrats are war- and torture-enablers, leading the rest of the party in ignoring the worst crimes a US administration has ever committed.

The July Harper’s includes a conversation (subscription req’d) titled “High noon for the Republican Party: Why the G.O.P. must die”. The following exchange is between Scott McConnell, editor of The American Conservative, and Kevin Baker, a novelist, historian, and Harper’s contributing editor. Luke Mitchell moderated the conversation.

MCCONNELL: If the next president orders the military to invade or bomb Iran or some other country, I would probably welcome it if some key generals said, “No Mr. (or Madam) President, not this time,” and went over the head of the president for congressional and popular support. At this point I’d put as much trust in the judgment and patriotism of a high-ranking military officer as in that of a politician who has spent decades catering to the fabulously rich men who finance both major parties. That’s one way the current stasis could be broken — our version of a Gaullist coup.

BAKER: I have to admit that I wrote in Harper’s five years ago, “In the end, we’ll beg for the coup.”

MITCHELL: Do you still believe that?

BAKER: I’m not so sure. I’m beginning to wonder if America today isn’t more like Oliver Wendell Holmes’s “wonderful one-hoss shay” — a contraption so finely constructed that it will never break down but will just wear out. The things we are doing are so unsustainable — occupying an enormous chunk of the most fractious piece of Asia until it learns democracy, driving the working wage relentlessly downward, draining our natural resources as fast as we can — that we simply won’t be able to do them any longer. If that is the case, then there will be immense opportunities for whichever party can get us to revert to what Americans used to do best, which was making brilliant improvisations to deal with seemingly insurmountable problems.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 11:23 PM
We’re Outta Here!

The Register, a consistently excellent source for technology news, reports “Virgin Galactic to unveil tool to fling rich people into space”!


Virgin-Galactic-mothership1.jpg


Well, not rich exactly; it’s only $200,000 per person. In a generation or so, the Grand Tour will have you in a rotating ship on approach to a space station, with Strauss’s “Blue Danube” playing in the background.

You might, like James Michener, figure that getting off the planet is a historical imperative that we shoulder or fail. Or you could decide that humans are (becoming) unlike pigs, and the best chance we have for survival is to abandon our former environs, now exploited beyond immediate recovery.

Or you might just be a fan of airplane design. If that’s the case, all you need to hear is “Burt Rutan”. You probably already know about his latest (video).


Virgin-Galactic-mothership2.jpg


The Virgin Galactic mother ship was unveiled today. It’s scheduled to reach 50,000 feet before it looses the payload of rich people. The center fuselage containing the passengers will then burn its fuel and rocket into outer space, resulting in five minutes of weightlessness. (What will Larry Flynt pay for pictures…?)


Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 05:18 AM
July 21, 2008
Hope for the Future

Good news from the Washington Post:

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, accused architect of massacres making him one of the world’s top war crimes fugitives, was arrested on Monday evening in a sweep by Serbian security forces, the country’s president and the U.N. tribunal said.

Karadzic is accused of masterminding mass killings that the U.N. war crimes tribunal described as “scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history.”

He is accused of organizing the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica and other atrocities of the Bosnian war.

[…]

If Karadzic is extradited to the tribunal in The Hague, he would be the 44th Serb suspect extradited to the tribunal. The others include former President Slobodan Milosevic, who was ousted in 2000 and died in 2006 while on trial on war crimes charges.

“This is a very important day for the victims who have waited for this arrest for over a decade. It is also an important day for international justice because it clearly demonstrates that nobody is beyond the reach of the law and that sooner or later all fugitives will be brought to justice,” [UN tribunal head prosecutor Serge] Brammertz said.

Karadzic has been a fugitive since he was indicted in July 1995. Charges against him include genocide, murder, inhumane acts, and other crimes committed during the 1992-1995 war.

From Jay Leno via Froomkin:

Human rights activists have sent a letter to President Bush, asking him to raise human rights issues with the Chinese government during the Olympics. Unfortunately, they also sent a letter to the Chinese government asking them to bring up human rights issues with President Bush. So, it’s pretty much a wash…


george-w-bush.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 06:37 PM
July 10, 2008
Peter Packs Porn In

(Editor’s note: Peter Cook is the former Mr. Christie Brinkley)

ASSOCIATED PRESS: …Cook also admitted spending thousands of dollars a month on interactive Internet pornography, but insisted that he stopped the habit after his breakup with Brinkley…

(Editor’s query: Where does the poor guy go for kicks now? Animal Planet?)


Mice.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:30 PM
June 19, 2008
NEWS FLASH: Democrats Cave

The New York Times reports that the White House and the Democrats have agreed on a rewrite of the wiretapping rules. It’s not entirely clear why anyone cares to take the trouble. Everyone knows the administration has been ignoring the existing rules; why would a rewrite make a difference?

Perhaps the most important concession that Democratic leaders claimed in the proposal was a reaffirmation that the intelligence protocols are the “exclusive” means for the executive branch to conduct wiretapping operations in terrorism and espionage cases. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had insisted on that element, and Democratic staff members asserted that the language would prevent Mr. Bush, or any future president, from circumventing the law. The proposal asserts that “that the law is the exclusive authority and not the whim of the president of the United States,“ Ms. Pelosi said.

In general, rewriting the law to emphasize to those who knowingly violated it in the past that the law must be obeyed is an ineffective means of making the point.

The Democrats are letting the telecoms off the hook for activities the companies knew were illegal; the precedents were clear. In exchange for this immunity the Democratic, I hesitate to say leadership in this context, can depart grasping the idea that this reaffirmation will constrain a President when the first affirmation did not. It seems to be a textbook case of doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

Or alternatively, perhaps the Democrats have no problem with warrantless wiretapping and torture and illegal wars as long as it’s the Democrats in power at the time. All power corrupts, said John Emerich Edward Dahlberg, and he was right.

If you worked long hard hours and years to reach the upper atmosphere of Congressional leadership for your party, it’d be hard to think in terms of the American empire ending. It’d be hard to realize that there is an American empire to begin with; as Chomsky says, you can’t reach a position of power in the US government without believing that the country is unique in history in acting purely from altruistic motives.


pelosi-sheehan.jpg

That’s abroad, of course; domestically, it’s devil take the hindmost. In the current case, as so often in recent years, the hindmost is the American public. This is somehow more grating now that we have Democrats controlling Congress. In 2006 we took the reins from the Republicans, too corrupt, incompetent, and downright evil to live with any more, and handed them to the Democrats, who promised, as all parties do in such circumstances, to restore dignity and truth to the institution and to assert the rule of law.

Hah! In fact, they’ve repeatedly capitulated. As Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, the only real accomplishment the Democrats had to show for taking control of Congress was refusing to cave on telecom immunity. Now they’re caving on that too.

I just bought a couple Cindy Sheehan for Congress buttons.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 11:38 PM
June 15, 2008
He’s On It Now

Dead or alive, wasn’t that the threat?

Well, time’s running out, and having spent little or no effort on finding bin Laden, Bush has apparently decided it would be good PR to catch his nemesis/partner before leaving office. He’s in Britain now, begging assistance from the beleagured Gordon Brown; that’s how bad it is. Apparently Brown has agreed to provide folks from the British military units the Special Boat Service and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment.

Now that time is running out for Bush, he’s actually asking for help! Wonder if it would have made any difference if he did this six years ago? But whatever, he finally got around to it.

Intelligence on the whereabouts of Bin Laden is sketchy, but some analysts believe he is in the Bajaur tribal zone in northwest Pakistan. He has evaded capture for nearly seven years. “Bush is swinging for the fences in the hope of scoring a home run,” said an intelligence source, using a baseball metaphor.

One source said the hunt was “completely sanctioned” by the Pakistani government; another, a senior Pakistani government source, said President Musharraf had given tacit support to Predator attacks. Given Musharraf’s precarious hold on power, indeed freedom and possibly life itself, this doesn’t seem like an overwhelming vote of confidance. But when you’re down 3-1 with two games on the road yet to play, you’re desperate, and you’ll try anything.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 03:34 AM
June 14, 2008
Ceci N’est Pas Un Journaliste
This delicious morsel about the “Meet the Press” host and the vice president was part of the extensive dish Cathie Martin served up yesterday when the former Cheney communications director took the stand in the perjury trial of former Cheney chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

Flashed on the courtroom computer screens were her notes from 2004 about how Cheney could respond to allegations that the Bush administration had played fast and loose with evidence of Iraq’s nuclear ambitions. Option 1: “MTP-VP,” she wrote, then listed the pros and cons of a vice presidential appearance on the Sunday show. Under “pro,” she wrote: “control message.”

“I suggested we put the vice president on ‘Meet the Press,’ which was a tactic we often used,” Martin testified. “It’s our best format.”

That is, Russert would do whatever we tell him to do, at the same time convincing wimpy liberals that he was a journalist rather than a soldier for the Empire. As the lying war-criminal VP, what do you want more than that?

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 12:49 AM
June 07, 2008
What Color Are Your Glasses?

We are so over George W. Bush that he can make startling and outrageous claims and we barely notice.

I know people are saying we should have left things the way they were, but I changed after 9/11. I had to act. I don’t care if it created more enemies. I had to act.

That’s the spirit: full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes! He couldn’t stand to think of himself as a President who studied the situation and made a considered choice, as opposed to one who sprung into immediate destructive action in useless directions. At least he acted; no one can say he didn’t.

This is the great war of our times. It is going to take forty years…

Otherwise we wouldn’t need those 50 permanent bases (they’re not even bothering to call them “enduring” any more), continued immunity from Iraqi law, the ability to detain Iraqis unilaterally, and control of Iraqi airspace below 29,000 feet. Which of course should not be seen as detracting from Iraqi sovereignty any more than, say, Roman control of Greece detracted from Greek freedom. And really we don’t need permanent bases; we’ll leave when the oil runs out.

Fortunately there are signs of progress.

I think the election of Hamas was a good thing. It proved to Abbas he was failing. I told Abbas, “You lost the election because you aren’t providing for your people, jobs, education, what people want.” Now they know they have to compete.

That’s right, all anyone’s asking for is a fair playing field. Abbas has got to make use of those resources he’s sitting on to better the lives of the Palestinian people. Like Bush did for the American people.

One thing that strikes me, not unexpectedly, is that Bush doesn’t even consider the possibility that it wasn’t so much Abbas as Bush who was failing. Certainly failure was happening; as Reagan famously read, “Mistakes were made”. Fortunately not by anyone, so no one had to be fired.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is Olmert. This is a man who came to power on a promise that he was going to unilaterally define a Palestinian state. You can’t pressure democracies.

And democracies don’t start wars, either. Nor do they elect the frankly delusionary. All, in short, is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.


CandideChatelet460.jpg


Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 08:09 AM
June 01, 2008
The Cost of No Leadership

Daniel Levy remains a treasure.

In “Bush’s Dwarf Diplomacy and the Seven Gazans” he discusses the reprise of the Freedom Fries saga that has seen the US withdraw Fulbright scholarships from seven Gazan students for reasons no one can explain. What’s the threat? How is the US, or Israel for that matter, better off if these seven students can’t study at American universities?

The issue is not just the humanitarian disaster among the Palestinians, it’s the disaster predicted in Report From Iron Mountain: the possibility, nay the desirability for the majority of the population of each involved country, of peace.

The question is, what are we doing to help? Well, I expect you know the answer.

Just look at the last couple of weeks and what has transpired in the Middle East. Lebanon was on the brink of chaos and renewed civil war. A deal was brokered to elect a new President and for a new power-sharing cabinet. That deal was brokered by… Qatar. The talks were hosted in Doha. America was absent. It’s a fragile deal; it needs nurturing. Will the Bush Administration play that role? There is nothing to suggest a positive answer.

Israel and Syria conduct proximity talks, resuming negotiations after an 8 year hiatus in peace talks. Those talks are designed to bring predictability and security to Israel’s Northern border, to establish a peace treaty and to coax Syria into a network of relationships less focused on Iran. The negotiations are being brokered by… Turkey. The talks were hosted in Istanbul. America was absent. The peace talks will be difficult, creating a new reality needs nurturing. The Bush administration has not facilitated, encouraged or expressed any enthusiasm for these Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations.

There are reasonable claims also being made that the Sadr City ceasefire was brokered by Iran.

And that brings us back to our Fulbright Scholars story, where the Bushite diplomatic dwarf meets the seven Gazans. These 7 bright youngsters make up just 0.000005% of the population of Gaza. What about the other 1.4 million Gazans living with collective punishment and under a closure that continues to have a devastating impact on every social, health and economic measure that one can imagine? And what about the 20,000 residents of the Israeli town of Sderot, and the neighboring communities, who are coming under frequent rocket barrage, including occasionally the town of Ashkelon, with its 117,000 residents? Where is American diplomacy?

There is an alternative — a ceasefire. And what do you know, Israel is in fact indirectly negotiating with Hamas and with the other Palestinian factions in Gaza to reach a ceasefire arrangement. This would allow the civilians on both sides to resume some normalcy in their lives, remove them from the line of fire, improve security and give people some hope. And these ceasefire negotiations are being mediated by… well it’s the Egyptians. The talks are being hosted in Cairo. And you’ve already guessed the American contribution — nada, oh, there was a Presidential speech about appeasement.

Realistically, if corruption doesn’t topple the current Israeli government, good things could happen. If it does, good things might be in the offing anyway. Unless, of course, you’re a member of one of those two apocalyptic groups: the rapture crowd, who need Armageddon to validate their self-despising world view; and the oil companies, from whose point of view the world will end in fifty years regardless. But I’m guessing you’re not.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 06:41 AM
April 30, 2008
Have You Considered Defense?

It’s amazing how people who make a living, and an excellent one, doing something complicated and involved can at times seem utterly clueless about it. Take, for instance, several members of the Phoenix Suns at this for them unfortunate stage of their season.

The Suns, you’ll no doubt recall, are the run-and-gun team featuring Steve Nash, the sometimes floppy-haired anti-war Canadian point guard whose sensational passes as he pinballs around the court, plus his deadly three-point aim, have brought him fame, awards, and fans from many nations, but so far no championship. He seems a likable sort, if not particularly deep. The Wikipedia entry on him, for example, records his reluctance to do a lot of endorsements, and his wish to work with socially responsible companies, both quite admirable, as well as his longstanding relationship with Nike.

Last year, the playoff series between Nash’s Suns and their rivals the San Antonio Spurs, who’d already knocked them out of the playoffs twice in prior years, was a knock-down drag-out affair, not settling for mere arguments and posturing, but extending to hard fouls and rule violations resulting in suspensions.

In the end the Suns lost, and one Sun was so begrudging of his opponents’ victory that he’s sometimes satirized by the substition of “whiner” for “mire” at the end of his name. This year the networks seemed to play up that image in the broadcasts I saw, using as his stock photo a shot of him with arms out, palms up, and a look of disbelief on his face. The stock Spurs photos that shared the screen showed players making layups or snatching rebounds.

Despite his lack of the big ego common to basketball players (particularly West Coast point guards, not to mention anyone’s name, or call him by the name of the felony he committed), Nash’s skill as the quarterback of his team is beyond question. Late in last year’s series the Suns lost an extremely closely contested game. At one point late in that game occurred one of the hard fouls the teams exchanged; this one left Nash’s nose bleeding on the sidelines. Until they could staunch the bleeding and get some bandage to cover it, by rule he had to be off the court. During that period the Suns fell apart on offense, exhibiting a tenderfoot’s sense of stability and direction; and by the time Nash returned it was too late. To top it all off, his children’s godfather, Dirk Nowitzki, beat him for the individual trophy.


spurs_suns_basketball.jpg

Nash was instrumental in transforming the Suns into one of the top teams of the Western Conference. He led the Suns to the Western Conference Finals in the 2004–05 season, and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. He was named MVP again in the 2005–06 season, and missed out on a third consecutive MVP title to Nowitzki the next season. Named by ESPN in 2006 as the ninth greatest point guard of all time, Nash has led the league in assists and free throw percentage at various points in his career, although he has occasionally been criticised for his poor defence. He is ranked as one of the top players in league history for three point shooting, free throw shooting, total assists and assists per game.

Nash, who is married, is also heavily involved in charity and humanitarian work. His other interests include soccer and film-making. In 2006, Time magazine named Nash as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. On 28 December 2007 it was announced that Nash will receive Canada’s highest civilian honour, the Order Of Canada.

You can count on Time magazine to keep you informed about what’s really going on.

In the most recent offseason, the Suns were in conflict with four-time All-Star Shawn Marion. Like many offensive-minded players, he considered himself underused, in his case as the third option in the offense after Nash and Stoudamire; thus he expressed, somewhat explicitly, his desire to leave. Rather than lose him for nothing, the Suns decided to seek compensation for Marion by trading him, and a deal was cobbled together with the Miami Heat: Marion and Marcus Banks to Miami in exchange for Shaquille O’Neal. One might think from the respective records — Phoenix tied for fifth in the deep Western Conference at 55-27, Miami trailed the league by five games at 15-67 — that history’s verdict was in favor of Phoenix.

’Tis not so. After last year’s thrilling six-game series, this year the Spurs won four of the first five, and will get a few days to rest before the next round. How, Suns fans are no doubt asking, could this happen — we added the legendary Shaq to our A-list offense, yet we lost faster this year than last? Some of the Suns themselves seem uncertain as to the answers.

“We went up against a team that knows how to win,” Suns coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Every time we needed to close something out — a half or a game — they got the best of us. That’s why they’re the champions.”

A team that knows how to win? The Spurs finished one game ahead of the Suns for the season. But they knock the Suns out of the playoffs once again.

“They beat us with the intangibles,” said [Raja] Bell, who had 14 points. “They beat us with the little things. They beat us with the gamesmanship. They beat us with the attention to detail. The game plan. The commitment to doing all the little things to win games.

“That’s why they’re the champs. That’s why year-in and year-out no matter what people say about them they find a way to be right there in the mix and vie for a championship.”

What kind of training leads to improvement at the intangibles? In fact, how does one even know whether improvement is happening? Other than the the won-lost record, of course.

Here, note the quiet reference to the departure of Marion:

“Every year it seems like we always play the Spurs, and they beat us every single time,” [Amare] Stoudemire said. “As long as I’m here we’re going to break it sooner or later, because I’m tired of losing to these guys. I’m sick and fed up.”

Most telling of all, perhaps, are the words of the team’s leader, Nash.

“I think on paper we have more talent than they do. But I think their experience, their commitment and understanding of what they’re trying to do is greater than ours. Their ability to play together and make small plays on both ends of the floor is unsurpassed.”

Stock statements of self-belief, no doubt. But what I find striking is that other than one instance in the Wikipedia entry, the concept of defense didn’t arise, and the single use by Wikipedia was to note that Nash isn’t considered a good defensive player.

San Antonio, on the other hand, is consistently among the top two or three teams in the league in defense, as measured by statistics such as points allowed per game and opponents’ shooting percentage. They feature Tim Duncan, whose Shaq-supplied nickname is The Big Fundamental, but they also have some great outside shooters, some great lane penetrators, and most of all a team-wide commitment to play the real game: defense.

In basketball defense wins, over the long term, for a good reason. Shooting the ball is very much a touch sort of thing; there are good days, when you can throw up a hook with your off hand confidantly, and bad days, when you miss layups. Defense requires quickness, but it’s mainly effort and knowledge. If you’re willing to work, and you know what to do, you can be part of a team that plays excellent defense. Thus defense will be there when you need it if you’re willing to put in the energy, while your shooting touch can disappear at any moment and be gone for a quarter or so.

Steve Nash, a wonderful point guard on the offensive end, seems to me a more athletic version of his coach, Mike D’Antoni, whose style of play was similar: quick, good hands, excellent passer, good outside shooter (though not as good as Nash), middling defense. And relatively short, which means easy to shoot over.

It seems to me that Phoenix continues to do the same thing, expecting a different result. The idea that a team which is great on offense but so-so on defense might not be able to beat, in fact might be less talented than, a team that’s very good on offense and great on defense is beyond their horizon.

The Phoenixians have more talent because they run faster and jump higher; what else is talent about? Their announced strategy is to shoot the ball within seven seconds of touching it. (Presumably Shaq will take up a location in one half of the court and remain there.)

But there is talent also in the mind of the player who thinks, What is my opponent planning? How can I frustrate those intentions? How can I turn the situation to my advantage? There is talent in the hand that anticipates the shot and deflects the ball to a teammate. Most of all, there is talent in the team that dedicates itself to defending its own goal first and foremost. On a team, the big stars are comfortable with their own numbers for the year dropping, because the only number that really counts is going up: team wins.

The final series I look forward to is the Spurs and the Celtics. But the league will probably rig in the rapist.

Update: It appears that D’Antoni’s version of run and gun in the desert has come to an end. J.A. Adande at ESPN thinks the Suns will now admit the need for defense. I think they’ll find another fast-break coach and look for some players who are a bit faster, or can jump a bit higher.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 06:31 AM
April 28, 2008
Does the Al Kibar Bombing Mean War With Iran?

Daniel Levy continues to strike me as one of the most intelligent and informed commentators on Middle East issues, and a good writer to boot. (And we sure need informed comment on these subjects.) Levy has another fine piece up, this time at TPM, about revelations, or perhaps “revelations”, at Thursday’s Senate and House intelligence committee briefing on the Israeli bomb strike on Syria last September. Of course the briefing was closed, so what we have is from the press conference that followed.

The whole story of the bombing raid has not, I expect, been told. Probably no one knows it. It’s unlikely that anyone in any country has a complete accounting for the actions and inactions of Israel, Syria, and the US, to begin with. It’s unlikely that Israel or the US know precisely what has happening in Syria, or that the Syrians fully understand Israel’s motivations. Certainly each of the three governments includes contending factions, about which more in a moment.

In such situations my instinct is to look to the most reliable sources. Like Seymour Hersh. He’s not right 100% of the time, and his predictions can be pretty pessimistic. But he understands and practices the art of investigative journalism, and as a result generally knows what he’s talking about. My guess is, therefore, that his February report on the raid is currently the best available.

One argument against things being as they seem is that no one’s explained themselves. Why didn’t Syria respond to what under most circumstances would be considered an act of war? Why didn’t it become a UN issue? And why was Israel so circumspect afterward? When it bombed the Osirak reactor in Iraq in 1981, says Hersh, “the Israeli government was triumphant, releasing reconnaissance photographs of the strike and permitting the pilots to be widely interviewed.” Not so this time.

Absent such data, inactions are being analyzed. In addition, pressures continue to be applied from multiple sides, thus causing some doubts about credibility of released information.

Whatever happened in Syria, what happened in Washington on Thursday could have been a propaganda effort. I mean, it’s not inconceivable.

…the evidence and photos, if they are to be taken at face value, were certainly impressive and convincing according to those who attended the briefing. Writing in the Washington Post, Robin Wright did add this note of caution: “The sole photograph shared with reporters depicting Syrian and North Korean officials together did not appear to be the Al Kibar reactor site.”

So how convincing is the evidence, really? Or perhaps more accurately, convincing to whom?

Levy proposes to break this problem into four questions. (One of the oddest features of TPM is the combination of high quality information with an apparent disinterest in typographical niceties such as spelling and punctuation, or in this case consistent capitalization.)

  1. What were the Syrians up to and why?
  2. Why now, and is it all about Matzah?
  3. And If Now, Was It Wise?
  4. Israel-Syria: Peace or War

There are those in the US — Levy mentions John Bolton’s Cheshire-cat smile at the press conference that followed the briefing — who would like, and therefore try to instigate, more conflict in the Middle East. Apparently life there has become boring.

Then there are those of us who fear that any more conflict added to an area with an existing surfeit of it would be unwise, and would create a world even less sane and much more dangerous.

In all three countries there are factions in the current governments ferociously opposing each others’ plans. And then there’s Iran, which may in the end be the real point made by those Israeli bombs.

Here in the US, the question is whether to start another war, to be known as Hopefully the Last Gasp of the Neocons. (The title for the sequel is still being debated.) Our government is by no means free of neocon influence. Despite never having been right, they keep insisting that theirs is the only view that makes sense, and they keep making alliances with people who see a profit to be made if they get their wish, a war on Iran.

Oddly enough, this Congressional briefing comes as Israel and Syria are said to be involved in what might turn out to be the forerunner of truly momentous negotiations. Syrian President Assad has reportedly said:

…direct negotiations need a sponsor and, unfortunately, this sponsor can only be the U.S. This is the reality of the situation. But the current administration has no vision and no will to support a peace process… perhaps with a future administration in the U.S., we would be able to speak of direct negotiations.

Why would he be interested in negotiations beginning January 21 of next year? Because Israel’s Ehud Olmert is said to be offering to withdraw from the Golan Heights in return for a peace agreement based on UN resolutions and on international criteria. Levy thinks this is happening right now in part because the Knesset is dispersed for the Passover holiday, so it’s impossible to offer a no-confidence resolution.

As he says,

So here is a delicious and rare moment of Israeli-Syrian agreement: we both want to talk, the nature of the Syria-Israel issue is that we both need US facilitation, the Bush Administration is not interested and so, we will have to wait.

One can only imagine the depth of the chagrin, verging on despair, such negotiations would produce among the neocons, their compatriots in Israel, and the Left Behind crowd. Anything but peace! How can we stop it? How about pretending there’s a nuclear reactor in Syria we have to bomb, at the same time proving that our technology allows us to evade Syrian, and thus Iranian, air defense?

Apparently Olmert was against the release of any new details on the raid. He’s trying not to provoke a possible future negotiating partner. Says Levy:

This is one more demonstration that the neocons who pushed for this have their own agenda — and to the extent to which it dovetails an Israeli agenda — it is the agenda of the opposition on Israel’s far-right and has nothing to do with actual Israeli security interests (or any logical reading of American interests for that matter).

There is still of course the question of why none of this was taken to the IAEA over the past seven months or before.

Perhaps it wasn’t taken to the IAEA because, according to Hersh, their experts already examined the evidence and concluded it was, in Mohammed ElBaradei’s words, “unlikely that this building was a nuclear facility.” It didn’t look like one in a lot of ways; for example, the main building was the right size horizontally but not vertically, and expected support and defense facilities were not nearby.

There are, it appears, factions in the US and in Israel, in both cases on the far right wing, that want war, and will try any trick they can think of to get it. But their time is running out; everyone’s aware of them; and I think the Joint Chiefs know the military can’t handle another war.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 12:42 AM
April 02, 2008
The Paulson Principle

It continues to impress me how much the Bush administration does to inspire emotions that do Americans proud.

For example, consider the swift and courageous action the Secretary of the Treasury proposes to take in the face of impending national financial doom. Does it extend a friendly help-up to those who encountered an offer they couldn’t refuse and moved into a house they couldn’t afford? No; that would involve us in what the faithful call a moral hazard. You might think that involved things like war profiteering, torture, and high-level corruption, but you’d be wrong.

Moral hazard is the prospect that a party insulated from risk may behave differently from the way it would behave if it were fully exposed to the risk. Moral hazard arises because an individual or institution does not bear the full consequences of its actions, and therefore has a tendency to act less carefully than it otherwise would, leaving another party to bear some responsibility for the consequences of those actions. For example, an individual with insurance against automobile theft may be less vigilant about locking his car, because the negative consequences of automobile theft are (partially) borne by the insurance company.

Or for another example, a Wall Street firm might bet fifteen or twenty times the value of the farm on black, knowing that if it comes up red, sympathetic taxpayers will supply the diff. Hey, no prob, you guys buy the first round next time.

Perhaps the government will decide to regulate the activities of the people who have stolen so much, making sure they can’t repeat their profitable scam?

Bush’s move, while a good start and potentially capable of getting bipartisan support, fits more closely with the pattern he has established since they took over Congress in 2006: a near freeze on new regulations unless and until the legislative or scientific ground gives way beneath him, at which point he launches savvy, preemptive moves to limit the scope of any new regulatory power.

As Everett Dirksen — a man I admire at least for his name, which I share, and his voice, which Stephen Colbert would be sampling if Dirksen were still on the Hill — may or not have said, a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.

But if this whole thing sinks like a lead balloon, don’t blame the president! He is officially not putting his political capital behind this one.

White House press secretary Dana Perino made that clear yesterday.

Q. “Dana, is the President’s goal to get this passed and in place before he leaves office?”

Perino: “I think we’ll have to see. I think if there is — it’s a big attempt, but this President doesn’t shy away from big challenges — and also, if necessary, actions in order to address problems. And this is something, if you’ve looked at some of the coverage, that Secretary Paulson has been working on this package for about a year.”

By contrast, Bush continues to insist that a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is possible before the end of his term. So file the Paulson plan as somewhat less likely to come to fruition than Middle East peace.

That’s comforting. At least we’ve got our best people on it.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 06:02 AM
March 16, 2008
BS, 1923-2008

Worried about the state of the world economy, the American piece in particular? You might want to skip the Bear Stearns story.

Bear Stearns, recently the fifth largest investment bank in the US and heavily invested in the subprime mortgage market, was badly damaged by the troubles there. So badly that it’s been forced to sell itself for a relative song, and even that in a stock-only transaction.

A collapse of Bear Stearns could have heightened anxiety in world financial markets amid a deepening credit crunch. JPMorgan’s acquisition of Bear Stearns represents roughly 1 percent of what the investment bank was worth just 16 days ago.

The deal marked a 93.3 percent discount to Bear Stearns’ market capitalization as of Friday, and roughly a 98.8 percent discount to its book value as of Feb. 29. The company is set to report its first-quarter results after the closing bell on Monday.

Bear Stearns shares closed Friday at $30 a share. At their peak, the shares traded at $159.36.

A 99% loss in two and a half weeks, worth thirty bucks on Friday, sold for two on Sunday — it’s the kind of thing that leads skittish investors to panic. So JPMorganChase stepped in, and the government acted on a weekend, hoping to forestall the event everyone’s worried about.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 10:12 PM
March 11, 2008
Saturday Night McMaster?

The Fallon resignation leaves me wondering if we’ve reached a Saturday Night Massacre and a McMaster point simultaneously.

H.R. McMaster’s Dereliction of Duty tells us that during Lyndon Johnson’s acceleration of the war in Vietnam, the Joint Chiefs of Staff were ambivalent about a land war in Asia. To a man they agreed that the American system had to be defended against the godless Commies, but there were questions about what it would take to win in Vietnam, whether it was worth it, whether we had the resources and the resolve, and so on. Not to mention which service should take the lead. Should the Navy shell the enemy from the sea, or the Marines establish beachheads, or the Air Force bomb them into submission, or the Army put boots on the ground to excerise the only real control that matters? Interservice rivaly contributed greatly to their failure to offer better options early on, and more coherent resistance to the poor decisions as the quagmire deepend.

Many members of Johnson’s inner circle, in fact, lacked trust in the military and intelligence communities.

  1. CIA recommendations and predictions led to the debacle at the Bay of Pigs.
  2. Civilian officials considered much high-level military strategy obsolete in light of atomic weapons.
  3. The military and intelligence communities do not seem from the record (imperfectly reliable with respect to covert agencies) to have supported releasing the photos Adlai Stevenson showed the UN to engage the world in the Cuban Missile Crisis. The themes of Stevenson’s bravura performance were repeated as farce in Colin Powell’s fiasco preceding the US invasion of Iraq.

As a result of their perceived ambivalence about taking over the colonial burdens of the French in Indochina, the Joint Chiefs were consigned to tasks involving only tactical considerations. In the planning stages they were rarely consulted except for political cover or occasional feasibility studies. Input from the military at the strategic level was unwelcome.

The CIA was also feeling ignored. Its frequent reports of difficult social and economic situations in Vietnam, and the political realities that arose from these conditions, were generally edited out of the situation reports to Washington from the US embassy in Saigon. The Agency, of course, was not dependent on State to get its reports back to Langley, so some administration skeptics eventually heard some of the information. But the tide of groupthink was too strong, and the lure of war profits too great, for a few leaners to change the course of the ship of state.

In the end, the CIA director resigned in protest against the LBJ inner circle’s refusal to accept Agency input on the situation in Vietnam; but none of the military brass whose advice and experience was treated with sometimes-polite contempt followed his lead. McMaster’s book is well enough known to prompt the question among intelligent military folks of when it’s time to resign rather than accept a destructive and probably illegal order.

Then there’s the Saturday Night Massacre, involving consecutive firings by the embattled Richard Nixon of two Attorneys General (Eliot Richardson, William Ruckelshaus) who refused to rid Nixon of the troublesome Special Proscutor investigating Watergate, who had him dead to rights. Finally the one left standing at main Justice was the ever-helpful Robert Bork, who courageously stanched the flow. Perhaps Michael Mukasey can manage to keep the courts from hauling George W. Bush before the bench for the next ten months or so? My mantra is, There’s no statute of limitations on war crimes.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 10:17 PM
Makeshift Patriots in the White House

It appears the struggle to create a war with Iran is in its last throes.

Meanwhile, the uneasy partnership between Karl Rove and Dick Cheney continues. While Rovian operations take out political opponents like Don Siegelman in Alabama and Eliot Spitzer in New York, the Cheneyists struggle against the so-called adult leadership of war criminals like Robert Gates and Condoleezza Rice, and the increasingly lonely rational Republicans in Congress. Wikipedia reports that

The final report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters, issued on August 4, 1993, said that Gates “was close to many figures who played significant roles in the Iran/contra affair and was in a position to have known of their activities. The evidence developed by Independent Counsel did not warrant indictment…”

When such a person is your adult leadership, the outlook is sub-optimal indeed.

And sure enough, the makeshift patriots on the Dark Side have managed to gain one of their objectives: Admiral William “Fox” Fallon is resigning as Commander in Chief of Central Command, which includes Iran and Iraq. (Check out this map; I knew CentCom covered a lot of ground but I didn’t realize it was this much, basically Kenya to Kazakhstan.) Fallon is said to have called General (soon, presumably, Saint) David Petraeus, who reports to him, an ass-kissing little chickenshit. Evidence available to the public since the revelation of this remark suggests the characterization was not entirely without merit; but it was certainly unwelcome in the White House, and even more unwelcome in the Undisclosed Location. No doubt similar reactions followed the reports of Adm. Fallon responding to a question about a US war against Iran with “…not on my watch.’

Apparently Fallon’s approach was insufficiently aggressive.

The Persian Gulf right now is booming economically, and Fallon wants to harness that power to connect the failed states that pockmark the landscape to the outside world. In this choice, he sees no alternative.

“What I learned in the Pacific is that after a while the tableau of failed, failing, or dysfunctional states becomes a real burden on the functional countries and a problem for their neighborhood, because they breed unrest and insecurities and attract troublemakers very well. They’re like sewers, and they begin to fester. It’s bad for business. And when it’s bad for business, people tend to start restricting their investments, and they restrict their thinking, and it allows more barriers, so we’re back to building walls again instead of breaking them down. If you have to build walls, it means you’re moving backward.”

[WARNING: lyrics accompanying this video are not suitable for sensitive ears of any age.]


Fallon has no illusion about solving the Middle East or Central Asia during his tenure, but he’s also acutely conscious that with globalization’s rapid advance into these regions he may well be the last Centcom commander of his kind. Already Fallon sees the inevitability and utility of having a Chinese military partnership at Centcom, and he’d like to manage that inevitably from the start rather than have to repair damage down the line.

“I’d like to continue to do things that will be useful to the world and its inhabitants,” he says. “I’ve seen a lot of good things, and I’ve seen a lot of stupid things.”

He omitted to specify the deciders in the cases of the stupid things he’d seen, or even which side they were on.

Discussing one of the incidents in which Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboats showboated around and taunted American warships in the Strait of Hormuz,

Fallon’s eyes narrow and his voice becomes that whisper: “This is not how a country that wants to be a big boy in the neighborhood behaves. How are we supposed to take these guys seriously as players in the region? You’d like to deal with them as big-league players, but when they do this, it’s very tough.”

As before, there is the text and the subtext. Admiral William Fallon shakes his head slowly, and his eyes say, These guys have no idea how much worse it could get for them. I am the reasonable one.

And time will tell whether being reasonable will cost Admiral William Fallon his command.

Well, it has. I’m not one to glorify any part of military life or militarism, so I don’t mean to put Fox on a pedestal. I agree with Gibbon:

…as long as mankind shall continue to bestow more liberal applause on their destroyers than on their benefactors, the thirst of military glory will ever be the vice of the most exalted characters.

Nowadays, as Thorstein Veblen pointed out, we’re more likely to vanquish our enemies with lawyers than soldiers. If you’re a threat to win a governorship we want, we’ll find a way to put you in jail on trivial or even trumped-up charges. If you’re a rising star, we’ll investigate your private life, and tell lies about your name, history, family, and religion. If you get elected President on a platform you copied from us, we’ll impeach you for adultery.

And if you try to stop our war machine, we’ll run over you.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 06:54 PM
March 05, 2008
Empty Lapels

This piece of mine ran several days ago in Salon. com. To see it in its original home, go here. One of the commenters, Blueturtle, made a point that hadn’t occurred to me, but seems aesthetically solid:


Beyond the Left's often correct belief that wearing the flag is facile posturing, there is a larger, deeper problem with the lapel pin.

Isn't it the great unspoken truth that the American flag is simply ugly? Bold, primary colors parceled out in too small stripes and indeterminant stars. It has always paled in comparison to the understated tricolor of France, the composite crosses of the Union Jack, or the beautiful exoticism of any number of developing nations' standards.

The stars and bars speaks for a nation that never could really figure out what it stood for. In response, states' rights and muddled federalism left us with a compromise guidon of cobbled together symbols.

Obama knows that will clash with any outfit that is not made for preschoolers in their bold jumpers.


Flag Pins are for Losers — Literally


Is a man fit to be commander-in-chief if he won't even fly the flag from his buttonhole?

Does that man, Barack Obama, think he's "too good — too patriotic! — to wear a flag pin on his chest?" Because that's what William Kristol believes.

Grow up, the Chicago Sun-Times advises: "Oh for Pete's sake, Senator Obama, pin the darnn American flag to your chest. Otherwise, the poor dope will "catch a world of hurt for ... polarizing comments [that] make him sound like a hardened leftist."

Has Obama's failure to wear a flag pin really done "more damage to his White House hopes than a bomb bursting in air?" The New York Daily News thinks so.

Or is it just possible that Barack Obama knows more about getting to be president than all of these pundits laid end to end, as they probably should be? Is it possible that an empty buttonhole might actually help a candidate of either party, now that the nation's number one flag-wearer is circling the bowl with the lowest presidential approval ratings ever recorded?

Let's go beyond the Beltway and take a look. Out there on the campaign trail, who's actually been wearing lapel flags in this race and who hasn't -- and how's that been working out for you guys anyway?

On April 26 of last year in Orangeburg, South Carolina, the Democrats held the first debate in the campaign that never ends. First thing that morning the candidates were all in a hurry to throw on their clothes, grabbing any old thing that came to hand. Yeah, right.

It was the most important day of their political lives to date, and they agonized over each tiny sartorial decision. Windsor knot or four-in-hand? Blue or red?

Here's where everybody came out on lapel flags. The photo coverage of the debate shows that only Joe Biden decided to wear one. The other seven -- Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Bill Richardson, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Chris Dodd — went without.

Of course you'd expect that from a bunch of surrender monkeys, wouldn't you? So let's turn to the Republicans, tough-talking patriots to a man. Their first debate came a week later in Simi Valley, California. And sure enough, Tommy Thompson, Tom Tancredo and Rudy Giuliani, nonveterans all, were careful to pin on their flags.

Wait a minute, though. Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Sam Brownback, Jim Gilmore, Duncan Hunter, and Mike Huckabee all left their little flags back home on the bureau. And so did John McCain. Hmm.

By May 15, at the Columbia, South Carolina Republican debate, Tancredo had stopped wearing his flag. By June, Democratic candidate Joe Biden had deflagged as well.

The only candidate of either party who chose to add a flag in the course of the campaign was Bill Richardson, who flagged up toward the end of the summer. With Biden's flag gone by then, Richardson had become the only Democratic candidate to wear a flag in the debates.

On the Republican side Tommy Thompson continued to wear his flag till the bitter end, which came in August when he placed sixth in the Iowa straw polls. The empty Thompson slot was filled the following month by Fred. The lobbyist/actor picked up Tommy's banner, so to speak, and was still wearing it in January when he, too, dropped out.

Rudy Giuliani, who probably wears a flag to bed, dropped out a week later after racking up a pathetic 15 percent of the vote in the Florida Republican primary.

Do we see a subtle pattern emerging here? Every presidential candidate of both parties who ever wore a lapel flag during the debates, even as briefly as Biden, bought himself a one-way ticket to Palookaville.

And every major party candidate who remains viable today — John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama — has seldom if ever been spotted with a flag in his or her lapel.

Don't think the press hasn't been noticing, either. To this day there has been a steady drumbeat of silence in the media over the flagless-ness of Huckabee's, Clinton's and McCain's lapels.

Nor would Obama's disrespect have made news if only he had thought to point the finger at everyone else still in the race when a TV reporter posed his trivia question back in October. But instead he gave an honest if incomplete answer.

Obama said he had worn a pin after 9/11 but stopped once he began to notice, and here I paraphrase wildly but no doubt accurately, that most of the people still wearing lapel flags were assholes.

On the evidence of the campaign so far, Obama wasn't the only one who noticed.

Clinton, Huckabee and McCain, we may say with confidence, would wear anything or even nothing at all if they thought it would help them win the nomination. Then why, when it came to miniature flags, did the three join Obama in opting for nothing?

Dosed with Pentothal, each would most likely come up with a variant of the answer Obama had hinted at: that lapel flags no longer signify simple patriotism, but something that you don't want sticking to your fingers these days..

For these past six years and more, men with those bright little flags apparently riveted to their lapels have fed the voters a daily diet of fear, secrecy, lies, and a cruel war with neither point nor end.

No sensible politician would want to march under this tiny, metallic banner. Just look at all the fallen stars who did.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:41 PM
February 28, 2008
Un-American Activities

Imagine this. Democratic candidate John Doe is set to speak at a local campaign rally that his advance men have prepared.

Chosen to warm up the crowd is a well-known local Communist. He comes out and berates the Republican candidate, dissing his race, religion and capitalist beliefs.

It's on film. When Doe finds out about the speech, he apologizes and says it will never happen again.

A local political commentator explains the Communist has a large following and is good at getting out voters. That explains why Doe's staff chose him to deliver his harangue.

Instantly Doe is pilloried by both Republicans and Democrats and is driven into early retirement. Too bad for him he wasn’t a Republican.

Republican neocons and the GOP's mean trash-talkers are tolerated, even revered, by the Republican establishment.

And yet neocons, having captured the executive branch, have caused far more harm to the United States than any domestic Communist ever dreamed of doing. Still, they are tolerated or embraced by a major American party.

The far left of the Democratic party, on the other hand, has been branded as dangerous to the nation. The mainstream Democrats ousted them and would never choose one of them to warm up the crowd at a political rally.

So which party is radical ? Which one harbors anti-Americans in its ranks? Which tolerates members who are a proven threat to the United States ?

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Bill Doolittle at 02:55 PM
February 18, 2008
Long Live One King, Down With the Other

We note with pleasure the return of our royal friend and colleague Simbaud to the active throne. He points us to Scott Horton’s post at Harper’s, “Congress Cites Bolten and Miers for Contempt — But Is the Issue Really Impeachment?”. We certainly hope it is.

Horton’s point is that the House vote this week to hold in contempt the contemptible Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten seems gratuitous, in that there’s next to no chance of it being enforced. No Attorney General working for Dick Cheney will ever prosecute Republican lawbreakers, no matter what law they break; and a court case, which the House can mount even if main Justice opposes it, will show no results before the eagerly awaited January 20, 2009.

But past experience indicates that John Conyers does not act gratuitously, and Horton’s sources tell him that the DoJ investigation into the firings of US attorneys like New Mexico’s David Iglesias are likely to conclude that the firings were politically motivated.

Now the Justice Department’s investigation focuses only on Alberto Gonzales, Paul McNulty and a handful of other senior political appointees, almost all of whom have left. It does not have the jurisdiction to address staffers in the White House like Rove, Miers and Bolten, nor indeed, President Bush.

But they are clearly within the jurisdictional remit of the Judiciary Committee. Moreover, if the Justice Department’s report implicates not just Rove, Miers and Bolten, but also Bush in the decision to fire for improper reasons — a conclusion which is now looking extremely likely — then it will be up to Conyers’s committee to press the investigation forward. In so doing, he is entitled to conduct hearings on the footing of impeachment. If he does, the executive privilege objection interposed by the White House and backed in another Constitution-defying opinion of the Attorney General, would not apply.

It’s even possible that the obviousness of White House influence in the firings would overcome the well-known resistance of the Speaker to anything that might hurt the Republican administration. We can hope, at least.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 03:32 AM
January 27, 2008
Bad Rubbish

I doubt anyone will be sad to hear that Haji Mohammad Suharto, whose brutal and bloody dictatorship set Indonesia’s development back a generation, whose graft and nepotism turned what could have been a wealthy country into a poor one, is dead.

He ruled Indonesia for thirty-three years, until mass protests drove him to resign in 1998.

Absolute power came in September 1965 when the army’s six top generals were murdered under mysterious circumstances, and their bodies dumped in an abandoned well in an apparent coup attempt.

Suharto, next in line for command, quickly asserted authority over the armed forces and promoted himself to four-star general.

Suharto then oversaw a nationwide purge of suspected communists and trade unionists, a campaign that stood as the region’s bloodiest event since World War II until the Khmer Rouge established its gruesome regime in Cambodia a decade later. Experts put the number of deaths during the purge at between 500,000 and 1 million.

Over the next year, Suharto eased out of office Indonesia’s first post-independence president, Sukarno, who died under house arrest in 1970. The legislature rubber-stamped Suharto’s presidency and he was re-elected unopposed six times.

Wikipedia briefly notes the assistance provided by the CIA in naming and locating many of those who were “purged”, but doesn’t spend as much time on the support he received from the US as, say, Chomsky.

But he wasn’t just a murdering bastard, he was also a thieving bastard.

Suharto’s economic policies, based on unsecured borrowing by his cronies, dramatically unraveled shortly before he was toppled in May 1998. Indonesia is still recovering from what economists called the worst economic meltdown anywhere in 50 years.

Still, he claimed the mantle of anti-Communism, so the US loved him. Gerald Ford and Henry Kissinger were pleased to green-light his brutalization of East Timor, where his troops “purged” about a third of the population. Apparently he couldn’t kill enough people to satisfy our bloodlust. Or our fear.

Good riddance.

suharto-1965.jpg


Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 03:24 AM
January 23, 2008
Is Gallup Putting Us On?

Let me start by stipulating: I fully understand that snappy titles attract readers to articles. I’ve tried that trick myself on occasion, though without noticeable success. So maybe that’s all Gallup’s doing in today’s article, “An Inexplicable Jump in Americans’ Long-Term Optimism”.

Or maybe it’s more subtle than that. Perhaps the editors at Gallup are sneaking in a Stewart-like funny, describing with a smirk the reality we’re supposed to believe in.

When I was living in Rochester, NY, the local paper once had an article on research about depression, which showed a significant disparity among days of the week and parts of the day. The researchers reported, but claimed to be without an explanation for, the result. The part of the week most highly correlated with depression, it turned out, was Sunday afternoon.

Gallup-mood-01-23-08.gif

(h/t Froomkin)

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 09:34 PM
January 19, 2008
“Don’t Even Talk to Me About Losing, I Can’t Stand to Think of It”

I note with sorrow the passing of a permanent legend of the chess world.

Bobby Fischer long ago stopped competing openly, though there were lots of rumors that an anonymous player of tremendous strength was beating GMs on the internet. His last officially sanctioned game was in 1972, when he played Boris Spassky for the world championship. His brilliance and eccentricity are both well chronicled, so I’ll only relate a few of my favorite anecdotes.

Everyone knows he learned to play when he was 6, and dropped out before graduating from high school because he was already a professional chessplayer. In fact he won the US championship, handily, when he was 14. Such talent cannot fail to warp the way a child learns to deal with the world. Much like Mozart or Gauss. And yes, I am comparing Fischer as chessplayer to Mozart as composer and Gauss as mathematician.

But also as weirdo. Unfortunately chess has acquired a nerdy reputation, based largely on the overwhelming percentage of nerds among chessplayers, though those of us in the chess-instruction industry are laboring night and day to change that. And it must be admitted that Fischer is only an extreme manifestation of an intense, inwardly-directed, perfection-seeking personality that one often finds in chessplayers. Fischer famously complained during his match with Spassky about the noise from the cameras that were broadcasting the board position. Even when the cameras were in a separate room shooting through glass.

He blundered badly in the first game of the match, then disputed a ruling so vehemently that he refused to show up for the second game and was forfeited, thus starting the match 0-2. From that point he proceeded to demolish a strong, sharp, and resourceful sitting champion in Spassky, ending the match plus four at 12.5-8.5. Winning by a clear point (draws are worth half a point) is usually considered a strong showing in a tournament; two points is a large lead in a match. To beat the reigning champion by four is historic. Yet Spassky actually gained rating points, because Fischer’s rating was so much higher than the champion’s when the match began.


BobbyFischer-at-board.jpg

From an early age Fischer was famous for playing the same openings in all his games — 1. e4, or P-K4 for you old-style readers, as White, specializing in the Ruy Lopez; as Black, Najdorf Sicilian against king-pawn players and King’s Indian, or occasionally Gruenfeld, against queen pawns. He apparently believed that he understood the tree of possible moves and the consequences thereof so clearly that he knew certain paths all the way through the tree. (Try to build a tree of all the possible moves in one of your favorite openings and see how quickly the tree expands.) He also claimed to remember every game he’d ever seen.

In his match with Spassky he opened with the queen pawn for the first time in his career in a serious game. Spassky played his favorite defense. Fischer didn’t just beat it, he refuted it. Next cycle, he went back to the king pawn. I think it was that game, though I haven’t looked it up, that ended with Spassky so impressed that when he resigned he stood and began to applaud along with the audience. This was both a typically classy move by Boris and a smooth psychological ploy. Fischer was so rattled he got up and left the stage immediately.

On his way to beating Spassky, becoming the first and so far only American ever to win an official World Championship of chess, he got a congratulatory call from the President, who happened to be the old cold warrior Richard Nixon, happy for any American citizen beating a Soviet one. Fischer told him what he could do with it. He said he didn’t represent the US or anyone but himself. And that was right.

Bobby Fischer obviously had lots of psychological problems. His 1982 screed I Was Tortured in the Pasadena Jailhouse! convinced many that he’d completely lost it. You can understand how he might have become paranoid; his parents really were watched by Hoover’s FBI. And the Soviets were not above conniving to draw each other, saving all their energy for beating Fischer. He was paranoid, no doubt about it. But they really were after him, too. Poor guy.

At the time of Fischer-Spassky, grandmaster games usually had time controls of forty moves in two and a half hours. If the players hadn’t finished the game as the five-hour mark approached, the game would be adjourned. To equalize the overnight-analysis playing field, the player on the move would write down a move on a piece of paper but not make it on the board or show it to the opponent. The tournament director would seal that move. When the game was resumed, the TD would open the envelope and make the move written down. Then the opponent would be on the move and the game would proceed.

Spassky’s entourage, supplied by the Soviet chess machine, was impressive, with multiple masters and grandmasters, even including a couple of former World Champions, plus physical trainers and at least one psychologist (Fischer was particularly freaked by Krogius). If a game was adjourned, Spassky could analyze for an hour or two, then go to bed. When he got up, the assembled GMs would relate their findings as to the best plan and series of moves to employ upon resumption.

Fischer refused help. His entire support staff in Iceland consisted of William Lombardy, a priest as well as a grandmaster, mainly there to deal with the press. Lombardy later talked about analyzing with Fischer, saying that when they combined adjournment analyses Bobby would be moving the pieces so fast that Lombardy, a GM, could not follow the ideas.

After he won, he hit the big time: he continued his column in Boy’s Life, and was invited on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, proving to be the world’s worst interview. Carson had obviously boned up on the chess lingo and asked good questions, nearly all of which got monosyllabic answers. The only really memorable line to me was when Carson asked what, given Fischer’s intense concentration on the game, he did for fun. Bobby looked at him like he was crazy, and said, “I play chess.”

When he was 13 he played a game still known as the Game of the Century. He was famous for opening preparation; yet author and International Master Jeremy Silman ranks him among the top five endgame players so far (along with Lasker, Rubenstein, Capablanca, and Smyslov). An attacker who paradoxically enjoyed difficult defenses, he excelled at turning a small technical advantage into something tangible and then attackable and finally decisive.

Wikipedia says he did the Fifteen Puzzle in less than 25 seconds multiple times, including once for Johnny Carson. He invented a new kind of chess clock now in very wide circulation. He suggested a new way to play chess, now called FischerChess or Chess960, in which pieces are placed behind the pawns on the first rank randomly, thus requiring players to operate on positional understanding rather than memorized lines.

He held many unpleasant, and some despicable, opinions. I don’t recommend anything about his method of living to my students. Presumably music teachers don’t recommend a Mozartian life to their charges either. But the genius is undeniable in both cases. It’s too bad Fischer’s life was outwardly so unhappy. But I suspect he didn’t really give much of a damn about that. He was the best chessplayer who ever lived, and that’s what he cared about.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 06:11 AM
December 26, 2007
Heavenly Ivories

Sorry to see Oscar headin’ out. But he left us something to remember him by. I think it was about 200 albums’ worth of something.

Webding3.jpg
Posted by Chuck Dupree at 12:30 AM
December 22, 2007
Dopes Who Dope

My interest in baseball runs neck and neck with my interest in the carbon-based life form said to be growing within the younger sister of Britney Spears.

And the idea that the sport possesses an “honor” which is capable of being “besmirched” seems to me as ludicrous as Bush talking about his love of “freedom” while he maneuvers us toward a permanent military occupation of Iraq.

Still, I found this op-ed in today’s New York Times interesting. As so often in our great national outrages, nobody till now has bothered to ask the underlying question: ”Do performance-enhancing drugs improve performance?” Professors Cole and Stigler have.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:46 AM
December 08, 2007
RIP Karlheinz

Not that I’d been following his career recently, but I do report with sadness the passing of a unique character in the world of music.

Karlheinz Stockhausen was a true weirdo, in the best sense of the term. He made waves of all types, from declaring that he was educated “on Sirius”, which would presumably mean he wasn’t human, Sirius being a star rather than a planet, to composing the world’s longest opera.

The logistical demands of the 29-hour long work are staggering. For just one section alone, entitled “Helikopter-Streichquartett” (Helicopter String Quartet), a string quartet hovers in four different helicopters above the concert hall, with audio and video feeds relayed to the audience below.

You can see why you’d need one helicopter for each of the quartet’s members. Can’t you?

I first heard his works in my first year of college. The professor who played them in class also introduced me to John Cage. One of my proudest achievements was building a relationship with that professor that led to one class on the blues and another on early jazz, both huge hits among the student body, mostly for the music but perhaps also for the intoxicants and the social scene. I miss him. Now I can miss Stockhausen along with him.


Stockhausen.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 05:35 AM
December 04, 2007
NIE: Diplomatic Signal or Cheney Embarrassment? Or Both?

Steve over at TWN quotes the recently released NIE on Iranian nuclear capabilities, which seems to be exactly what you’d expect: a nuanced attempt to tell the administration something of what it wants to hear without overtly lying or stating confidance where little exists.

E. We do not have sufficient intelligence to judge confidently whether Tehran is willing to maintain the halt of its nuclear weapons program indefinitely while it weighs its options, or whether it will or already has set specific deadlines or criteria that will prompt it to restart the program.
~ Our assessment that Iran halted the program in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure indicates Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs. This, in turn, suggests that some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways, might — if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible — prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program. It is difficult to specify what such a combination might be.

~ We assess with moderate confidence that convincing the Iranian leadership to forgo the eventual development of nuclear weapons will be difficult given the linkage many within the leadership probably see between nuclear weapons development and Iran’s key national security and foreign policy objectives, and given Iran’s considerable effort from at least the late 1980s to 2003 to develop such weapons. In our judgment, only an Iranian political decision to abandon a nuclear weapons objective would plausibly keep Iran from eventually producing nuclear weapons — and such a decision is inherently reversible.

But how difficult is it really to specify the basis of a combination of carrots and sticks, backed by credible US statements, that would induce whatever entity runs Iran to bargain in good faith? Seems to me that if we told them we wouldn’t attack them unless they attacked us or our allies, and they believed it, everything else could be worked out. The problem is that the current US “strategic posture”, as announced by the Pentagon, is to exert a certain level of control over all the world, allowing no rivals in military power. This requires us to “take out” — a phrase until recently more associated in the US with food than bombs — any potential threat.

How could any conception of a world community, ordered or otherwise, contain the idea of one globally dominant country, claiming the sole right of intervening at any time, place, or hour, without everyone else feeling threatened? This seems to me an instantiation of the abstract object I call the Mythical Knockout Punch. Truman rode this sucker to the everlasting infamy of two needless massacres, thinking the Russians, little men that they were from Harry’s grand viewpoint, would be quaking in their boots with respect for the Americans, proudly standing tall; possibly they would even concede, like the Japanese.

By the way, it’s interesting to note that then as now the biggest problems were with policy rather than procedure, the politicians rather than the military men. Truman was advised not to the drop the bomb by:

Adm. William D. Leahy, President Truman’s chief of staff[…;] commanding general of the U.S. Army Air Forces, Henry H. “Hap” Arnold; Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, commander-in-chief of the Pacific Fleet; Adm. William F. Halsey Jr., commander of the U.S. Third Fleet; and the famous “hawk” who commanded the 21st Bomber Command, Maj. Gen. Curtis E. LeMay. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall[…;] [Gen.] Dwight D. Eisenhower [commander-in-chief of Allied forces in Europe…]

He paid as little attention to them as our current Big Man did to active Generals like Shinseki and retired ones like Zinni and Clark. And in order to sell the policy of massacre to the American population, earnestly striving to win but equally sincerely tired of war, Truman fixed the facts around the policy (if you don’t believe this I suggest a dose of Gar Alperovitz).

One thing about Roosevelt’s war, though: it wasn’t naked aggression on our part. It may have been, in fact I expect it was, an intentional oversight at Pearl Harbor, in some ways like that of 9/11. Those who believe in war, like those who believe in tax cuts, have the gift of seeing validation in every event. Every set of ideas is self-reinforcing, as the cognitive psychologists demonstrate.

One idea that, to the philosopher’s surprise, continues to motivate despite its opposition to the real world as it’s experienced is that if you hit your opponent hard enough he’ll give up. Civilization is thus represented by one of its least civil activities, boxing.

But it seems a superficial notion at best. For example, in chess tournaments my threat indicator hits red as soon as I start thinking I’m winning. It’s an easy time to trip up and make an oversight, at exactly the moment the opponent is panicking and buckling down with all available energy. It’s extremely rare to find oneself in a situation of such dominance that resistance is truly futile. The resistance may be, as we call it today, asymmetric. But it’s unlikely to resign the game while breath remains.

Truman hit Stalin with everything he had, calling it the greatest thing in history. It did indeed scare the Russians, so much they instituted a crash program and quickly generated their own bomb. Knockout punches only work in boxing and video games, where the opponent’s anger and shame and need for revenge aren’t relevant because time has expired.

As long as we continue to invade countries and take their resources, or claim the right to kidnap who we will off the streets of allies like Britain at the President’s whim, no one would believe any guarantee of security we made. Nor should they. Friends, in short, will be few and hard to come by.

But perhaps George Friedman, who usually seems to me the most right-wing of the Stratfor folks on Middle East topics, is correct to suggest that the NIE might be a signal of US readiness to consider the possibility of thinking about negotiations with Iran. As long as they wouldn’t deny interest in nukes, it was hard for us to negotiate; but if the intelligence community can say that they’re working on nucular power but not nucular weapons, talking might be possible. After all, we allowed Syria to show up at the Annapolis photo ops, where of course there wasn’t any action to exclude them from, thus preserving their diplomatic feelings.

In any case, it’s looking less and less likely that Cheney will be able to add one more war to the trough before he returns to a few years (all spent in this country, of course) of fabulous wealth and privilege in that part of the private sector that benefits most from the destruction.

Bush, Cheney, and those we would call their henchmen if these disastrous decisions and situations were being reported from Haiti, or even Mexico, have committed crimes against humanity and peace, and war crimes to boot. They should be in the dock at The Hague. It’s our job to send them there if we wish to maintain some international credibility as a nation.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 03:58 AM
November 22, 2007
Ineptitude Ugs Its Headly Rear

Where, oh where, could Howard have learned such a trick? And why didn’t he adopt Karl’s skill in execution?

The election strategy of the Australian prime minister, John Howard, was in turmoil today after members of his Liberal party were caught red-handed in an inept dirty tricks campaign.

Bogus flyers from a fake organisation called the Islamic Australia Federation were distributed through the letterboxes of voters in a marginal seat, claiming the Labor opposition sympathised with Islamic terrorists.

How inept were they? Well, how about rendering Allah Akbar, God is Great, as Ala Akba? Evidently the husbands of a retiring candidate and her replacement did not have a high opinion of the intelligence of their target audience. Obvious authoritarian conservatives, and probably Christianists to boot.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 07:48 AM
Albright versus Kissinger

You start thinking that reporting in the mainstream has grown old and lost its teeth, has followed the population and completely abandoned anything hinting at effort or thought, simply regurgitating what its masters feed it.

Then you read some of the questions asked of former Secretaries of State William Cohen and Madeline Albright, co-chairs of the Genocide Prevention Task Force (apparently without irony). To wit:

  • How do you reconcile your work in trying to build a moral American consensus against genocide when just very recently each of you signed letters urging America not to recognize the Armenian genocide? [Answer: there are American troops in a position that requires help from Turkey.]
  • If we are saying that this isn’t the right time to acknowledge this [Armenian] genocide, does that mean that you are arguing that for political expedience purposes, we are not going to be taking action on nor should we take action on future genocides because of what are perceived to be U.S. interests? [Answer: yes, but we don’t want to say it that way.]
  • It sounds as if you are both saying — if our friends do it, it is not genocide… And if our enemies do it, it is genocide. A professor at the University of Haifa, Ilan Pappe, has written recently that he believes there is genocide ongoing in Gaza and ethnic cleansing in the West Bank. But you folks wouldn’t agree with that because Israel is our friend and we couldn’t say that about Israel. Secretary Cohen, you say — we can’t say that about Turkey and the Armenian genocide because our boys and girls are in harm’s way. If you are going to define genocide by who does it, not by what it is, your task force is in trouble. [Answer: we’re looking to the future, not the past. “You can have all kinds of emotional arguments why something is wrong and then you never get it off the ground” — Albright.]

I recommend the article, it’s short and pithy. Where were these reporters when we needed honesty about Iraq? Otherwise assigned, no doubt, for obvious reasons.

My opinion: William Cohen’s not a bad guy for a Republican. But the difference between Madeline Albright and Henry Kissinger was only opportunity.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 07:26 AM
November 11, 2007
Every Day in Every Way…

I’m reminded of JFK’s famous mutter as he left a briefing on US plans for nuclear war: “…and we call ourselves the human race.”

In our continuing effort to concentrate all wealth and power in the hands of a few, Congress has allocated $100 million for a vehicle that can be launched with 48 hours notice, travel 9,000 nautical miles from the continental US, deliver 12,000 pounds of “payload”, presumably not food, and return in two hours.

Sound unbelievable? The first generation is scheduled to go into operation at the end of next year.

Hypersonic speed is far greater than the speed of sound. The reusable vehicle being contemplated would “provide the country with significant capability to conduct responsive missions with quick turn-around sortie rates while providing aircraft-like operability and mission-recall capability,” according to DARPA.

The vehicle would be launched into space on a rocket, fly on its own to a target, deliver its payload, and return to Earth. In the short term, a small launch rocket is being developed as part of Falcon. It eventually would be able to boost the hypersonic vehicle into space. But in the interim, it will be used to launch small satellites within 48 hours’ notice at a cost of less than $5 million a shot.

What could possibly be more useful?


weapon.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 11:58 PM
November 04, 2007
Washingtonian Oversimplification

Are you pro-“War on Terror” or anti-?

That’s what it comes down to, isn’t it? All the Republicans except Paul are pro-, in fact they’re for all wars, as long as we’re attacking enemies we know are too weak to resist us on the battlefield (thus 4GW). Clinton and Obama have both made it clear that they think the GWOT is a real thing, and that we face a threat from an Islamic Mussolini. To me that makes them excellent examples of the old Chomsky saw that you can’t reach a position of power in our government unless you believe that the US is unique in history in acting purely from altruistic motives. If there’s any conflict that we’re involved in — and there is, always, because it’s the only thing we excel at — we’re the aggrieved party. We may have been the invaders, and we may have invaded for no reason, indeed for less than no reason; but our inherent goodness and altruism prove that if we torture it’s because torture was required, and those who were tortured understand that.

Personally I agree with John Edwards that the GWOT is nothing more than a bumper sticker, a slogan used to concentrate wealth and eliminate civil liberties. Only the foolish and the power-hungry take it seriously. And the oil companies.

Which doesn’t mean there’s no such thing as terrorism. What is a B-2 if not a terror weapon? Bombing Iraqi cities has only one purpose, to terrorize. A case can be made that bombing German cities during World War II was an attempt to destroy the industrial base, thus shortening the war. I don’t personally buy it, but there’s a real argument to be made there. But flattening Fallujah, a war crime by any definition, had nothing to do with removing the insurgency’s industrial base; it was simply an attempt to terrify the population. That’s terrorism, and if we wanted it to stop we could stop doing it.

So am I saying that the US is the leading terrorist country in the world? Yes. Followed by Israel, much of whose terrorism the US funds.

The Bush administration’s double standards are as glaring as meteor impacts. When, in the summer of 2006, Israel used the capture of two of its soldiers by Hezbollah to unleash a pre-programmed devastating war on Lebanon, destroying great swathes of the country, the Bush administration immediately gave the Israelis the green light. When 12 Turkish soldiers are killed and eight captured by PKK guerrillas based in Iraqi Kurdistan, the Bush administration urges Ankara to take it easy.

The “war on terror” is definitely not an equal-opportunity business.

It is a business, though. The current problem for the terrorism industry is the incompetence, indeed the idiocy, of its MBA CEO and his board. Their inability to understand the complexities of the world drives them to shrink the problem to the point where their little minds can wrap around it, the issue being that such grotesque simplification removes their ability to predict the outcome of their actions.

A reasonable view of the world allows its holder to predict results with a non-zero chance of being right. Unfortunately, a view of the world that is one hundred percent wrong can sometimes produce the same results. For instance, if someone doesn’t hate you, but you believe he does, you’ll act hatefully toward him, thus generating in him a strong distaste for you, which you will then interpret as confirmation of what you always thought, thus increasing your confidance in your misapprehension, and eventually changing it to a truism.

An oversimplified view of the world, on the other hand, regularly produces unexpected results.

US plans for Iraqi Kurdistan, stretching back to that 1990 Israeli-devised Turkish plan, are in jeopardy. And once again all because of the enemy within.

Washington played the ethnic card in Afghanistan, pitting Tajiks against Pashtuns; the result, apart from a never-ending war in Afghanistan, was that Pashtuns on both sides of the border united and are now destabilizing even further the US ally, Pakistan.

Washington played the Kurd card to destabilize Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and as a beachhead for its control of the country after the invasion. Not only Iraq turned into a quagmire, Washington helped to plunge Kurdistan into the line of (Turkish) fire.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 05:43 PM
October 28, 2007
Why Do We Embarrass Ourselves Like This?

Why is it that San Francisco, by any measure among the most progressive constituencies in the country, continues to elect do-nothings like Pelosi, right-wingers like Feinstein, and embarrassments like Lantos?

Dutch lawmakers who visited the Guantanamo Bay military prison this week said they were offended by a testy exchange in Washington with a senior congressional Democrat.

The lawmakers said that Tom Lantos, chairman of the House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee, told them that “Europe was not as outraged by Auschwitz as by Guantanamo Bay.”

[…]

“You have to help us, because if it was not for us you would now be a province of Nazi Germany,” Lantos said, according to the Dutch lawmakers.

“The comments killed the debate,” said Harry van Bommel, a member of the Socialist Party. “It was insulting and counterproductive.”

Not to mention typical.

Is there any thread that ties these atypical San Franciscans? Anything they can agree on, other than a rejection of San Francisco values?


CongressmanLantosBush.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 10:53 PM
October 26, 2007
The Practice Run?

From the UK we get news of what’s happening in Pennsylvania. I’m getting a little afraid already knowing that the State of Pennsylvania is protecting the right to vote by ensuring that the citizens don’t know where to vote. It’s not Halloween, but are you scared yet? Maybe you should be.

State officials have decided not to publicize their list of polling places in Pennsylvania, citing concerns that terrorists could disrupt elections in the commonwealth.

The Department of State was influenced by the terrorist bombings that struck just days before Spain's national elections in 2004, spokeswoman Leslie Amoros said. Election officials consulted with state police, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the state Office of Homeland Security.

“The agencies agreed it was appropriate not to release the statewide list to protect the public and the integrity of the voting process,'” Amoros said.


terrorskulls.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Buck Batard at 11:44 AM
Oil Trading, Hedge Funds, and Mike Gravel

Suppose your life led from Harvard through trading oil for Morgan Stanley to managing a hedge fund in your late 20’s. You’re living in New Hampshire, land of no income tax, with a certain amount of disposable cash. Your interest in politics is such that you first voted in 2004. What would you splurge on?

How about a million bucks worth of ads for Mike Gravel? That’s what Gregory Chase chose.

Impressed with Gravel after seeing him in a televised debate, Chase was provoked by Gravel’s omission from the next debate to call NBC and ask why. They pointed him to Drexel University, the debate location, which pointed him to the DNC, which pointed him to NBC. In the end, he said, it was “pretty clear” that NBC was making the decision. It’s a textbook example of Chomsky’s view on how civic discussion is controlled in the United States: not by determining the outcome and forcing citizens to swear allegiance to the One Truth, but by setting the parameters of allowable debate, arguments outside of which are considered ipso facto untenable. Gravel’s arguments are, to me, actual and factual and in many cases satisfactual as well, but they’re certainly beyond the pale for the Imperial War Machine.

So what does the young multimillionaire with a newfound political will and a heartfelt cause to celebrate do about it? He contacts NBC and tells them that if money is an issue, he would be willing to pony up the dough himself. Today Chase sent this letter to five executives at NBC, DNC chairman Howard Dean, the President of Drexel University, and also published it as an advertisement in four newspapers. In it, he said this:
If it would help get Senator Gravel back into the debate, I offer to purchase $1 million of advertising from NBC, or simply pay NBC $1 million in exchange for the service of allowing Senator Gravel to participate in your debate.

He also made a public offer of $25,000 for the YouTube video on Mike Gravel that gets the most views between now and December 31. And he’s buying ads in the three most important New Hampshire newspapers every day for the rest of 2007.

These ads are all entirely funded by Mr. Chase, they are not connected to the campaign, and touch on issues ranging from decreasing military spending to repealing the Federal Income Tax in favor of a national sales tax and imposing a carbon tax. There is even one advocating lowering the drinking age to 18, the same age at which one can join the military. All of them match Sen. Gravel’s positions and hint at Mr. Chase’s passion.

I admire Chase’s commitment and activity. If everyone could contribute to the debate that way, it would be great. I think today that’s the American Dream, unsustainable and in most cases unattainable as it is. So I don’t want to seem ungrateful.

But I’m put in mind of one of my favorites from Bertrand Russell.

[John Locke] makes a great deal of the imperishable character of the precious metals, which, he says, are the source of money and inequality of fortune. 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.
russell-at-10.jpg

(Russell at 10)

Conservatism is such a poorly defined word. Does it refer to conserving the values and goals of the Declaration and the Constitution? I’m all for that. Those documents include some of the greatest public pronouncements ever made. The obvious fact that the actual US has never for a moment lived up to its own founding ideals doesn’t detract from the beauty or worth of the ideals; it simply emphasizes the imperfections of humanity, a shopworn theme.

But it doesn’t seem to me that most conservatives these days are interested in conserving anything from the Constitution other than their misapprehension of the meaning of the Second Amendment. They’re mainly in favor of vicious behavior toward anyone who refuses to follow the narrow path the “social conservatives” have chosen. Those familiar with the history of the first few centuries of the Roman church will recognize the pattern. And shudder.

Still, one must be grateful for the Gregory Chases of the world, and still more for the Mike Gravels.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 02:24 AM
September 21, 2007
Don’t Let Ahmadinejad Speak! He’ll Break the Spell

In a recent post, Josh Marshall mentions discussions with his readers about reactions to the President of Iran’s request to visit Ground Zero.

Apparently most readers felt that we shouldn’t allow him the propaganda victory. Josh asks if he’s alone in supporting the idea that we should ignore him, that we’re bigger than that. “Why should we care what he says?” is Josh’s view, and I think there’s a lot to that.

In fact, I’d go beyond that to say that we should escort him there, and give him access to the press. Make sure he gets a good view of our gaping national wound.

If we were strong and proud and sure of ourselves, that’s what we’d do. In fact, we’re a nation scared stiff, not unlike our Congressional representatives, strutting and puffing ourselves up but secretly afraid that we’re about to lose it all. We’ve got an incurious faith-based windshield cowboy at our head, our general’s an ass-kissing little chickenshit, and most of the rest of us watch the soap opera on TV, seemingly unaffected except that our economy is ruined as our liberties disappear and our representatives cower.

Ironically, here’s where the argument against letting Ahmadinejad make a propaganda point holds up best. If we allow him to see our national wound, for which some of us seem to bear him ill will, what’s to keep him from pointing to one of Iran’s most grievous wounds, the destruction of the elected government of Mossadeq and its replacement with the brutal Shah and his secret police? And where did Savak learn its “interrogation” techniques?

A case can be made that the United States has wounded Iran more than Iran has wounded us. And we don’t want to think about that. That’s the propaganda victory that would hurt, because it would break the spell of American exceptionalism, which we’ve tried so hard to re-weave after the revelations of Abu Ghraib.

We used to be brave because we were sure we were good. Lots of times we weren’t, but we were sure we were anyway. Now we know we’re not, and we’re frightened.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 07:29 PM
September 17, 2007
Dispatches From Our Washington Correspondent

Monique Frugier, whose work has appeared on Bad Attitudes previously, sends a video collage of photographs from the march in Washington taken this past Saturday, September 15, 2007. She's gone to the trouble of uploading the video she created with her photographs to YouTube (below). More of Monique’s videos are available here. You won't find this kind of coverage on your television, in your papers, or virtually anywhere else. But you’ll find it here. Thanks Monique!



Webding3.jpg

Posted by Buck Batard at 07:28 PM
September 10, 2007
How I Read the Post

Everyone will be talking about the Washington Post article whose byline comprises six writers (Peter Baker, Karen DeYoung, Thomas E. Ricks, Ann Scott Tyson, Joby Warrick, and Robin Wright) and a researcher (Julie Tate).

The Story

The story of executive branch discussions provides plenty to chew on, from vicious infighting to blithe disregard for reality to political calculations that involve lives.

Ed Gillespie, the new presidential counselor, organized daily conference calls at 7:45 a.m. and again late in the afternoon between the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, and the U.S. Embassy and military in Baghdad to map out ways of selling the surge.

With that level of effort they had a chance to produce a decent policy, had they taken it in mind to do so. But their policy is faith-based. The Decider has decided, and experience tells us what that means:

“The president has already decided that terrorists do not receive Geneva Convention protections,” Addington replied angrily, according to Goldsmith. “You cannot question his decision.”
The Interpretation

I expect some people will take issue with this article on the basis that a lot of it is bullshit. My view is that the bullshit parts are probably accurate representations of the administration’s thinking. Whether they’re equally representative of the thinking of the article’s authors is a different question. DeYoung has written some of the best stuff about the political decision-making process on Iraq; Tyson, Warrick, and Baker have done good work as well. Ricks was famously for the war at the beginning but has contributed critical thinking once he realized it would fail, regardless of motive. Robin Wright has been in the moderate-Republican to hawkish-Democrat neighborhood since at least the Iran hostage crisis; a viewpoint far to the right of mine, but I still read her because her sources are good, and I don’t think she lies. I disagree with her bias, but I know what it is and interpret information in that light.

This article is not, in other words, written by Post equivalents of Judy Miller, but by people who can be read in a way that is informative if you read between the lines just a little.

To get access to this level of inside thinking in a famously secretive administration, reporters would essentially be required to agree to present the thinking as given to them, without much commentary. I don’t think these folks have pulled a Broder or a Woodward, I think they’ve agreed to restrictions because knowing how insiders were thinking serves several ends.

The most basic purpose served is that of informing the public about the real goings-on in the republic. In this case, how completely the White House has lost its grip on reality, if more data were needed in that area.

The article also contributes data to the historical record. I have no objection to, in fact I strongly support, adding the self-proclamation to the record. It’s often useful in assessing a situation to know what people were thinking as they made their decisions, particularly when the results were disastrous. Recording those thoughts doesn’t mean we’re granting their sanity or morality. It means that in order to get a realistic Big Picture we need to consider what the various actors were doing, and why.

In fact, as William Faulkner’s novels demonstrate at length, your enemies and opponents, whom you may regard as acting from evil motive, almost never see themselves that way. Sometimes they see you that way. But it’s extremely rare that people actually decide to do what they think is evil. Much more often, they choose what seems best from what they view as a limited set of choices.

The Psychology

Cognitive psychology suggests that we filter the data our senses get from the world because there’s too much of it to process. The shape of the filter is based on our ideas about the world, and that shape determines what we call information as opposed to noise. The logical conclusion is that a belief fundamental enough to affect the filter will tend to be confirmed by sensory data; what doesn’t confirm it will tend to seem irrelevant or anomalous.

If we believe in miracles or alien visitations or demons, we’re more likely to encounter them. If our experience is that difficult problems can be solved by breaking them into smaller pieces, we’ll at least try that before we give up. If we believe that absolute unchanging truth should be the basis of life, we tend to be attracted to authoritative personalities, whom non-believers call authoritarian. If we believe in a Hobbesian world, a sort of modern jungle, we’ll avoid coöperation even when it’s in our interest, just to prove the point. If we believe government is a bad thing, we’ll govern badly. If we believe we’re attractive, we’ll interpret friendliness as a come-on; if not, we won’t recognize overt signals.

It may be an overstatement to say that we create our own reality, but we do create our own list of choices based on our understanding of the situation. At a simple level, generals or chessplayers who invent a strategy that takes the opponent by surprise are celebrated because they realize that received wisdom about the available choices is incomplete; in the popular phrase, they think outside the box. They have a limited set of variables to consider, but the number of combinations, though finite, is really, really huge. In such situations, practice generates intuition. Playing lots of five-minute chess may have bad influences or not, but it certainly provides a breadth of experience that helps one locate areas of comfort and preference, and thus to navigate in that direction. War games serve, or at least should serve, a similar purpose.

The Point (and I Do Have One)

But I digress. What I want to say about the Post article is that if you’ve been reading, say, Karen DeYoung’s articles, frequently linked to in the blogosphere, you know she’s been showing a bit more skepticism than we saw from the press corps for the first few years of Bush II. So I look for subtle indications of whether she’s buying the administration line, or just recording it for informational and historical purposes.

Amid the uncertainty, the overriding imperative for Bush these past eight months has been to buy time — time for the surge to work, time for the Iraqis to get their act together, time to produce progress. In Washington’s efforts to come to grips with the war it unleashed, the story of these months is one of trying to control the uncontrollable.

They don’t bring up the deaths likely to occur as Bush buys time, overtly; the subject lurks ominously just out of sight.

They pass up the chance to make fun of Bush’s trip to Camp Cupcake, not mentioning its size, remoteness, or hardening, but consistently attending to the effect of the visit on insider thinking.

The trip energized Bush and his team. Even Gates said he was more optimistic than he has been since taking office. While the secretary had been “cagey” in the past, a senior defense official said, “he’s come to the conclusion that what Petraeus is doing is actually more effective than what he thought.”

But the trip did not end the debate. [Petraeus’s superior, Chief of CENTCOM, Admiral] Fallon has made the case that Petraeus’s recommendations should consider the political reality in Washington and lay out a guide to troop withdrawals, while Petraeus has resisted that, beyond a possible token pullout of a brigade early next year, according to military officials. The Joint Chiefs have been sympathetic to Fallon’s view.

Right now, it looks like the Joint Chiefs are the defenders of sanity (!), or what remains of it. It certainly makes a difference in your calculations when you’re involved in the enterprise for the long term. If like Reagan you expect Armageddon, or like Bush Œdipal Victory, you don’t care what might happen twenty years from now. You got yours. Would we be better off if our so-called leaders didn’t believe in an afterlife, but followed the Romans in thinking that the only thing we leave is our actions and their effects on the community? But that’s a utilitarian analysis, and a believer in absolute truth wouldn’t find it convincing.

Of course I may have it all backwards. The Joint Chiefs have expressed their interest in having some flexibility to deal with problems outside Iraq. Which could mean Iran. But given that Times article, I hold out hope, foolish though it may turn out to be.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 01:39 AM
August 17, 2007
Oil, Bribery, Weapons Laundering, and Possible Treason

I think I remember hearing of this case a couple years ago, when the principals were indicted. To the extent I paid attention, I was less surprised that profiteering and bribery were involved in the food-for-oil program the US engineered after the first war against Iraq than I was that someone had actually been caught and indicted. War is good for business, and the US is currently set up to do very little else efficiently and effectively.

Which means Oscar Wyatt is probably in even deeper doo-doo than would be the case had he only bribed Saddam to get oil. He did that, of course, but here’s what looks worse: in his upcoming trial, due to start Sept. 5,

His attorneys are asking a federal judge in New York to prohibit prosecutors from presenting as evidence handwritten notes purportedly made by an Iraqi oil official, which suggest Wyatt conveyed information about when the United States might begin bombing, when ground forces would be sent in and how many soldiers would be deployed.

“Oscar Wyatt never passed secret information on to the Iraqis,” Wyatt attorney Gerald Shargel said in an interview Tuesday.

It’s gotta be a bit disheartening when your lawyer’s first statement is denying treason. But what information did Wyatt actually pass on?

The biggest problem seems to be in the diary of Mubdir Al-Khudhair, a former official with Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization. Therein lies an entry that is dated January 27, 2003. But the notes in question appear to be scribbled on a page dated Tuesday, August 13. No year is given, but August 13 was a Tuesday in 2002. Thus there’s some question about when the conversation covered by the diary entry took place.

That document, mostly in Arabic, recounts a purported communication between Al-Khudhair and one “Oscar Wayatt.”

Dated Jan. 27, 2003, the notes focus on the impending U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

“The current schedule is that the bombing will start on 2/15,” the notes read, according to an English translation provided with the document. “At that time there will be 160-180 thousand American soldiers. The ground attack will start at the beginning of March.”

Of course, as Shagel argues, this information was widely known, though little discussed. The numbers turned out to be pretty far off at first, but more accurate later; the dates turned out to be off by a couple of weeks. I could have produced something that accurate from the Post and the Times, had I wished to pass information to a worthless piece of humanity like Saddam.

It might have been harmless business talk designed to keep the customer in the store. But BayOil, the company Wyatt, David Chalmers, convicted today, and others were involved with, had additional issues with the Feds. And some history, going back to the Iran-Iraq war in which Saddam was our son of a bitch. Seems BayOil helped set up a three-way deal in which Saddam got arms, BayOil got oil, and the arms dealer got cash. What did Saddam’s little heart desire? Cluster bombs.

Apparently oil made Wyatt do it. He’s a fine symbol for an empire about to ride its favorite wealth-concentration engine down the tubes. Chessplayers try to develop a spidey-sense of danger lurking. In this situation, no such sensitivity is required. Many, I daresay most, Americans are interested in environmental quality, even to the point of supporting intelligent taxes for cleanup and enforcement. In San Francisco Priuses are everywhere, as are recycling bins. (In northern California, it’s not our fault that we put on the mileage like there’s no tomorrow: everything’s so far away from everything else. Right?)

Nationwide, we continue to use oil as if it will be here forever. You don’t have to believe that we’ve reached the Hubbert peak to see the slowing rate of new discoveries coinciding with an increase in demand both significant and continuing. As Michael Klare says, tough oil times are ahead. Five years from now, if things go pretty well.

Which Presidential candidate is most likely to act to reduce our dependence on oil? We should be asking them now, when they’re taking questions.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 08:48 PM
August 09, 2007
Little Boy Lost, He Takes Himself So Seriously

No doubt elated by his recent surge in popularity, the President once again played the little boy caught in malfeasance who knows that what he was caught doing is the least of his transgressions. If that's all he suffers for, he'll do it again. If he gets caught in major misdoings, he'll blame everyone around him.

In a White House news conference before leaving for vacation, Bush also had cautionary words for U.S. allies in the region: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. He said Maliki, who is visiting Tehran, should realize that Iran is playing a “very troubling” role and that he would need to “have a heart to heart” talk with the Iraqi leader if he believed the Iranians were being constructive. Bush said he expects the embattled Musharraf to take “swift action” against Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders if there is “actionable intelligence” on their whereabouts in Pakistan's rugged tribal areas, and he called on the Pakistani general to hold a “free and fair election.”

On U.S. domestic issues, Bush dismissed the idea of raising the federal gasoline tax to generate funds for repairing the nation's bridges in the wake of the collapse last week of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis. Instead, he said Congress should do a better job of setting priorities.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 03:13 PM
July 29, 2007
From Barbarism to Decadence

Does anyone know the actual source of the observation that the US is the only society to have gone from barbarism to decadence without passing through civilization along the way? Wikiquote says Wilde or Shaw or Clemenceau…

‘All the way through that flight I was on the verge of screaming,’ al-Rawi said. ‘At last we landed, I thought, thank God it’s over. But it wasn’t — it was just a refuelling stop in Cairo. There were hours still to go … My back was so painful, the handcuffs were so tight. All the time they kept me on my back. Once, I managed to wriggle a tiny bit, just shifted my weight to one side. Then I felt someone hit my hand. Even this was forbidden.’

He was thrown into the CIA’s ‘Dark Prison,’ deprived of all light 24 hours a day in temperatures so low that ice formed on his food and water. He was taken to Guantanamo in March 2003 and released after being cleared of any involvement in terrorism by a tribunal.

Turns out he had been a source for MI5, and had freely given information under the strictest assurances of confidance, which were — surprise — violated. Bad move, apparently.

The report confirmed that al-Rawi, 39, was only held after MI5 sent the CIA a telegram, stating he was an ‘Islamic extremist’ who had a timer for an improvised bomb in his luggage. In reality, before al-Rawi left London, police confirmed the device was a battery charger from Argos.

The committee accepted MI5’s claim, given in secret testimony, that it had not wanted the Americans to arrest him, in November 2002, concluding the incident had damaged US-UK relations.

Yeah, that’s how I remember November, 2002. A chill in US-UK relations.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 05:12 AM
July 27, 2007
Vick, Benoit, Tillman, Iraq

Where’s the outrage? Pointed in the wrong direction, to allow us to acquit ourselves of participatory guilt.

Everywhere you look there’s outrage at the accusations against Michael Vick for running a dog-fighting ring. With good reason; the fighting alone is a disgusting thing, not to mention the gruesome executions. But I don’t really understand why people are surprised, or why it’s such a big deal.

Compared, say, to Chris Benoit’s murder of his wife and child, quite clearly a product of the same chemically-induced rage that Vick and his fellow scumbags sought a release for.

Or to the accusations that Pat Tillman was killed intentionally by comrades, shot three times in the forehead with an M-16 from ten yards away.

Or to the deaths of about a million Iraqis, and the torture of who knows how many others.

In my book, people are more important than dogs. I expect I’ll be accused of speciesism, but there it is. Hell, I may as well go all the way and declare that I believe war is more important than wrestling (especially fake wrestling), and, God help my future book sales, even football.

But it’s easier to direct one’s inner rage against a target like Vick. Especially given the sensitive nature of the steroid issue right now, and the approach by Bondsy Barr to hallows everyone knows he didn’t earn and doesn’t deserve, the official records of which should in my opinion be erased, not asterisked (at least his chemically-induced rage hasn’t killed anyone, as far as I know). Benoit, after all, has the benefit of being dead.

Just as with the war in Vietnam, and for the same reasons, Americans have a lot of inner rage right now. A lot of it comes from inner conflict, very especially among those who found some reason to support the war. It’s not just the right-wing warmongers who feel this; liberal interventionists like George Packer are still struggling to resolve the contradictions in their positions without having to admit they were wrong morally, wrong legally, and wrong realpolitik-wise.

Given all those inner conflicts, plus the constant drumbeat of distraction from the media, it’s not surprising that people look for scapegoats, and focus on things that don’t really matter to the exclusion of things that do.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 09:33 PM
July 16, 2007
Withdrawal Begins on Expat Airlines

So it begins.

It’ll be harder to extract our military from Iraq than we’ve admitted to ourselves (and that’s saying something), because with all the mercenaries and their support systems we’ve really got over a quarter-million people on the ground. Of course about a quarter of them are Iraqis, but a lot of those will want to leave.

They’ll have to catch something other than Expat Airlines, though. So will the Indians and Pakistanis who’ve been employed in large numbers by the various contractors, as described for example in Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City.

Pro Group, with offices in Amman and the United Kingdom, is launching Expat Airways in conjunction with the Jordanian Air Force. The Baghdad flights will use Jordan’s Marka Airport.

Ashraf Mraish, managing director for Pro Group, based in Amman, said Jordan’s tight visa restrictions drove the decision to exclude non-Westerners. Refugees have overwhelmed Jordan, which has imposed strict entry requirements for Iraqis.

“It would cost us much more to accommodate non-Westerners,” Mraish said this week. “We hope this flight is a solution to make (contractors’) lives easier.”

You can see why the Jordanian Air Force would consider it a national security issue to get Americans and other Westerners out of Baghdad, can’t you? Well, I can’t. It looks to me like a US operation under Jordanian cover. Probably Blackwater and Halliburton types starting to draw down.

According to the article, US taxpayers are funding payroll for 180,000 contract workers in Iraq. And of course we also have about 150,000 uniformed military folks there. It’s gonna take a while to get that many people out. But with those in the White House seeing clear signs of desertion in Republican ranks, the panic they deny is obviously setting in.

So it looks like they’re starting to decamp. But they don’t want anyone to know that, a perfect symbol of which is that Expat Airlines planes will have no logo.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 06:23 PM
July 12, 2007
Impeach ’Em Both, God Will Know His Own

California has well over 35 million people. And who’s more connected than we are?

I just went to Senator Diane Feinstein’s web site and entered a comment from a constitutent. The site says “The total number of e-mails sent to Senator Feinstein through this web page”, before the one I sent, was 114,864.

Where the hell is everybody? Californians: Senator Feinstein is on the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Patrick “Go Fuck Yourself” Leahy, currently attempting to extract information from Sara Taylor, Harriet Meirs, and the White House over the US attorney firings. Got anything to say to her?

Here’s what I said.


I believe the Senate should hold Ms. Sara Taylor, Ms. Harriet Meirs, and the President in contempt of Congress absent full testimony in the matter of the firing of the US attorneys.

My understanding is that Ms. Taylor and Ms. Meirs no longer work for the White House, and are therefore not under its direction. If the President is claiming that his executive privilege allows him to prevent former aides from testifying about possible illegal actions, I don’t believe such a claim would hold up even in today’s Supreme Court.

If the Congress does not act to restrain this President, he will cause even more harm to the country.

But the greatest harm, an irreparable one, would occur if the Congress fails to enact legal punishment for this administration’s illegal actions.

This President and, most especially, this Vice President have acted as if they are above the law. Congress must show them that they are not, most vigorously, or future Presidents will be completely unaccountable, and the Republic will fade away, like Rome’s did.

It’s not enough to pass resolutions that call President Bush a bad guy. He’s a war criminal; he should be in the dock in The Hague along with his Vice President. In addition, he’s a domestic criminal: he’s violated our civil rights with abandon, and he’s made us less secure, breaking all kinds of laws in the process, and ignoring many more through signing statements.

There are so many reasons to impeach both the President and the Vice President that it appears to me to be the Constitutional responsibility of this Congress to proceed along that path.

Sincerely,
Chuck Dupree

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 04:04 AM
July 03, 2007
It Runs in the Family

Even a stopped watch is right twice a day, and even the Freepers can sometimes spot a crook when they see one.

Something very significant happened during our country’s savings-and-loan crisis, the greatest financial disaster since the Great Depression. It happened quietly, secretly, without any fanfare and attention. It happened before our very eyes, yet we knew it not.

What we all missed was the massive transfer of wealth from the American taxpayers to a select group of extremely rich, powerful people. What these people had in common -- unknown to the American public -- were their symbiotic relationships to the Mafia and the CIA, and to the two most prominent, powerful politicians from Texas, President George Bush and Senator Lloyd Bentsen.

This small cabal of businessmen realized that the S&Ls were going the way of the dinosaurs. They recognized that S&Ls couldn’t survive under rapid inflation and high interest rates. So they decided to exploit the situation for their own purposes, with help from, and rewards for, the Mafia, the CIA and their favorite politicians. They probably figured that the insulation and protection these powerful institutions and individuals conferred upon them, in addition to all the endemic protections with the financial, judicial, political and journalistic systems, made them invulnerable. They were probably right.

[…]

This information enables one to view the 1988 elections, in which not one cross word was ever spoken about the savings-and-loan debacle, in a whole new perspective. It was not merely a fortuitous coincidence that both Bush, the Republican nominee for President, and Bentsen, the Democratic nominee for Vice President, were part of, and beholden to, the same group of Houston businessmen. Even if the Democrats lost that presidential election, as they did, Bentsen could still win re-election to his Senate seat under the so-called "LBJ rule." The Houston boys, as usual, had their bets covered.

I’ve read Pete Brewton’s book (The Mafia, CIA and George Bush) from which this is quoted, and (despite the URL) the contents appear to be pretty solidly reported. Brewton wrote for the Houston Chronicle, a surprisingly aware newspaper considering its locale, and chronicled some bad craziness, which after all is all they’ve got to do in the heat and humidity of Houston. Alternatives include hanging out on the freeways, bowling, and driving to what’s left of Nawlins.

Brewton shows connections between Bush I and the Vice Presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket at the time, Lloyd Bentsen, and says that if Dukakis and Bentsen had won he would have named the book The Mafia, CIA and Lloyd Bentsen, but otherwise would have had to change very little.

It’s all about strategic placement of the bombs in front of your flag. Put your marshals and generals where they can attack but also fall back. Make sure you’ve got a couple of “low-level officials” to throw under the bus; that should at least slow it down and buy you some time.

And make sure those low-level officials don’t actually have to serve any hard time.

Possibly the most interesting comment comes from Patrick Fitzgerald, who said he would continue to “seek to preserve (Libby’s) convictions through the appeals process.”

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 12:19 AM
July 02, 2007
Scoot Free

So the Scooter scoots. Bound to happen. I originally thought Shrub would wait until after the election, but he really doesn’t seem to care about his party any more. He’s got his.

The thing is, commuting Libby’s sentence is a smart defensive move. With all the scandals that are breaking, and who knows how many more about to break, you don’t want an example like Libby having to spend any time in jail. Folks might be willing to lie and take the fall as long as they get off with a $250,000 fine after having raised millions for the defense fund. (Crappy defense, too, by the way — Scooter deserves a rebate on that…)

But isn’t it kind of an admission of complicity in guilt?

And won’t there be a bump in the pro-impeach crowd? Personally, I immediately wrote to my Representative (“Madame Speaker, we must impeach…”)

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 07:46 PM
The Wrong Pew

A young woman in Kennebunkport has the same problem facing so many Repubican members of Congress:

Carrying signs that read “Impeach the Son of a Bush,” and “Stop the War,” the marchers passed by a couple of dozen war supporters who held a modest counterprotest.

“We’re here to show there’s another side of the story,” said Byron Grant, 62, a salesman, at the counterdemonstration.

There was some confusion in the demonstrators’ ranks. A young woman sitting peaceably with the war supporters and holding one of their machine-made “Support the Troops” signs and pictures of two soldiers she called “my boys,” said, “I just want them home.” Realizing that she was in the wrong spot, she eventually moved on.


pew-1.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:15 AM
June 27, 2007
Bong Hits 4 Newspaper Editors?

Given the general right-wing bent of the editorial page at the Washington Post, perhaps less shrill than the WSJ but almost equally pro-war, it’s a bit of a surprise to read this editorial in the Post today. They actually disagree with the Supreme Court ruling in the Bong Hits 4 Jesus case!

You probably read about the student in Juneau who put up a banner with the offending slogan across the street from his school during a school event. His banner was torn down and he was suspended, so he sued claiming free speech rights. I expect that’s why the Post feels some kinship with the case, since they told a bunch of whoppers a few years back themselves. They haven’t really processed that yet, with a couple of exceptions like Froomkin. But when they’ve made excuses, they’ve often referred to the First Amendment.

So they can see the kid’s point, or rather the lack thereof:

As Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his dissent: “To the extent the court independently finds that ’Bong Hits 4 Jesus’ objectively amounts to the advocacy of illegal drug use — in other words, that it can most reasonably be interpreted as such — that conclusion practically refutes itself. This is a nonsense message, not advocacy.”

Perhaps that nonsense thing is what the editors at the Post are connecting to.

Or perhaps they’ve been sneaking out to the alley on break:

Issues of drug use and drug policy are matters of serious contention. High school students must be able to debate them frankly — and that might even involve students taking the position that bong hits are not that bad.
Webding3.jpg
Posted by Chuck Dupree at 06:09 PM
June 13, 2007
Aren’t You Glad…?

At least we got rid of a tyrant.

Building a competent Iraqi security force is at the center of the U.S. effort to turn over military operations, but serious gaps in the capability of Iraqi forces are limiting their role in pacifying Baghdad and safeguarding civilians under the counterinsurgency plan being implemented by the top U.S. commander, Gen. David H. Petraeus, [Lt. Gen. Martin] Dempsey [, who until recently led the U.S. military's training effort in Iraq] said.

Describing the U.S. effort in Iraq as a labor of Sisyphus, he said the metaphoric stone is “probably rolling back a bit right now in Baghdad. But I don’t think it’s going to roll over us.”

Dempsey depicted the level of violence tolerated by Iraqis as “mind-numbing” and acknowledged that a dearth of security has made some Iraqis nostalgic for the rule of Saddam Hussein, who was ousted by the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. “You’ll hear people say, ‘You know, we were a lot more secure and safe during the Saddam regime,’ ” he told the oversight panel of the House Armed Services Committee.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 05:24 AM
May 18, 2007
With Friends Like George…

As much as I despise Tony Blair’s policies and actions, I don’t question his manners any more than I doubt his ability to communicate whatever lies and bullshit he chooses. So it must be excruciating for him to accompany Shrub to press conferences and become the subject of his sentences. Today the Frat Boy in Chief supposedly denied that Blair was his poodle. Far from it, sez the Prez, Blair has a “dogged” leadership style.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 01:08 AM
May 01, 2007
Just Can’t Say No

Newsweek recently published a story that comes from a not yet published biography, Twice As Good: Condoleezza Rice and Her Path To Power, by Marcus Mabry. The article offers some delightful insight into one of the fawning harlots in Bush’s inner circle.

We can be assured that the reporter did due diligence by getting real dirt from friends and blood relatives. Selected paragraphs from the article appear below:

Bush was also a bad boy. And Rice, according to friends and family, had a thing for bad boys. That was why, as a 20-year-old grad student, she preferred her second Fighting Irish football player boyfriend to her first, said Jane Robinett, Rice’s best Notre Dame friend: John “Dubie” Dubenetzky, cocky and handsome with wavy blond hair, was less deferential than Wayne Bullock, the sweet fullback who had moved Condi’s boxes into Lewis Hall.

But the reason Rice stayed on for the second term, she told me, visibly humbled, perhaps schooled by the mistakes of the previous six years, was “I thought there was more we could do. Over the first three years we’d basically broken down a lot of the old system. And,” she sighed, “and I’ve been very cognizant of the need to put it back together in a different configuration, one that lays a foundation. And so I thought, ‘Well, I’ll try to do that.’ ”

Speaking with uncharacteristic pauses, Rice said the last words gently. Crossing and uncrossing her legs, tugging at the bottom of her cherry skirt, she looked weary for the first time, an image that belied the aura of Alabama steel that surrounded her public persona.

Of course, her friends and her stepmother Clara Rice offered a simpler explanation for why she stayed: “she just can’t say no to that man.”

witchslippers.jpg
Webding3.jpg
Posted by Buck Batard at 04:43 AM
April 30, 2007
One More Accountability Moment!

Wow, what’s happened at the Times? Hadley’s high has rarely been so harshed.

It is the kind of task — a little bit of internal diplomacy and a lot of head-knocking, fortified by direct access to the president — that would ordinarily fall to Mr. Hadley himself. After all, he oversaw the review that produced Mr. Bush’s troop buildup in Iraq. But his responsibilities encompass issues around the globe, and he has concluded that he needs someone “up close to the president” to work “full time, 24/7” to put the policy into effect. He hopes to fill the job soon.

“What we need,” he said in a recent interview, “is someone with a lot of stature within the government who can make things happen.”

Yeah. We used to call that the National Security Advisor.

If you’re trying to pass off the responsibility for what’s at best an enormous collective blunder, this is probably not the best time to be looking for candidates. Ain’t too many generals lining up to run an occupation at this stage. It’s really too bad we’re wasting Petraeus on this essentially hopeless mission; if George Packer’s reporting on Petraeus is accurate, he’s exactly the sort of commander who could have made a big difference if they’d used him at the right time. Now, he’s just one more object to be thrown under the onrushing bus by an administration trying to postpone another accountability moment.

So anyway, what’s the idea of the war czar?

…the war czar proposal has left some in Washington scratching their heads. At a recent press conference, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates described it this way: “This is what Steve Hadley would do if Steve Hadley had the time.”

But Mr. [Ivo] Daalder, who is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, was mystified. “If Hadley doesn’t have time for this,” he asked, “what does he have time for? Our policy toward Nicaragua?”

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 05:43 AM
April 29, 2007
We Are SO Far Behind…

Freedom may, as the White House continually suggests, be on the march; but my guess is that maglev trains will arrive at a useful destination far more rapidly.

Too depressed by what you hear from Bill Moyers, Jon Stewart, and Josh Marshall to face the future? If so, you’re probably not reading this blog; but just in case, please consider the possibility that there are alternatives to our crazed war-machine culture that are not pie in the sky or rose-colored glasses.

Certainly we’ve screwed things up pretty badly in a variety of ways, from the war to climate change to politicization of the justice system to thoroughly corrupt goverment that’s often indistinguishable from the corporations whose greed it should be restraining. And so on.

But there alternatives. Consider what Japan has decided to do with an estimated $76.3 billion: make the legendary shinkansen obsolete.

Magnetic trains zooming at a landscape-blurring 500 kilometers (310 miles) an hour will connect Tokyo and Nagoya by 2025, one of Japan’s biggest railway operators said Friday.

The new magnetically levitated, or “maglev,” trains would slash the 100-minute travel time down the country’s busiest transportation corridor and are envisioned as a successor for Japan’s iconic bullet trains, or shinkansen, first introduced to the world in 1964.

Right off, damn, that’s embarrassing. We haven’t even got bullet trains yet. Here in the Bay Area, CalTrain runs what it calls Baby Bullets, which are normal trains in express mode. They probably top out in practice around 50 mph, and since they don’t stop every mile or so and have no lights or traffic to deal with, they make far better time than the standard trains. But they’re not bullet trains, not like Japan and France have.

But noooo, we prefer the glory, honor, and sacrifice of war. One commenter calculated that for the $420 billion we’ve spent so far in Iraq we could build a maglev train system approximately equivalent to half the existing interstate system, perhaps five east-west and seven north-south routes.

Problem is, we’d need less oil, steel, rubber, cars, insurance, health care…

shikumi41.jpg
Webding3.jpg
Posted by Chuck Dupree at 04:30 AM
April 24, 2007
He Was an Excellent Reporter

David Halberstam did some good work. The right people disliked him, which says a lot. He was filing negative reports from Vietnam for years before most Americans even began to catch on to the disaster we’d created.

From today’s Froomkin:

“William Prochnau, who wrote a book on the reporting of that period [the US-Vietnam war], ‘Once Upon a Distant War,’ said last night that Mr. Halberstam and other American journalists then in Vietnam were incorrectly regarded by many as antiwar.

…‘They were shut out and they were lied to,’ Mr. Prochnau said. And Mr. Halberstam ‘didn’t say, “You’re not telling me the truth.” He said, “You’re lying.” He didn’t mince words.’

As Glenn Greenwald says, what made Halberstam a great reporter is exactly what journalism now lacks: dogged pursuit of the truth regardless of the toes you’re stepping on, and a willingness to go against the conventional wisdom if that’s where the facts lead. (I particularly recommend the extensive quotes from Halberstam Glenn has included; they’re often stunning.)

From John Nichols at The Nation:

Weich: In The Next Century, you wrote: “As the network news format trivializes political debate, the political system adapts to it. Serious discussion of serious issues is too complicated.” That statement could be applied any number of recent events, including the most recent presidential election.

Halberstam: And very much to our political system now. It’s really very trivialized.

Weich: Where does that leave us?

Halberstam: We’re an entertainment society. We want to be entertained more than we want to think. It’s a serious problem. We’re the most powerful nation in the world, but our network broadcast is increasingly about celebrity, sex, and scandal. It’s less about substance than it used to be. It’s not as good as it should be. And it makes us a more volatile society.

We pay very little attention to the rest of the world, then when the rest of the world doesn’t act in concert with us and salute us, we’re very angry. We think, How could this happen? Why don’t they like us more? We’re not paying very much attention.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 07:44 PM
April 22, 2007
One at a Time Here, By the Thousands There

Not yet completely Gonzoed out? I came across a couple of new points this weekend.

Elizabeth Shreds Him

At Truthout, Elizabeth de la Vega talks about “The Problem With Alberto”. (The title recalls the tagline of my favorite website for a long time, Suck.com, now defunct and despite its name not a porn site. Their satire was bald enough to deserve the tag “A fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun”.) In particular, Ms. de la Vega, who was an assistant US attorney for twenty years, knows more than most about how things really work in such an office. Thus she can shred Alberto’s argument

…that, no, the work in the US attorneys’ offices is done by the career prosecutors, who will keep doing their cases no matter who the US attorney is. Indeed, Gonzales offered plaintively, the Office of the Attorney General didn’t really even know “that much” about what was going on in the US attorneys’ offices.

As one who worked as an assistant US attorney from 1983 through 2004 — in two districts, under four presidents and roughly ten different US attorneys — I can say that virtually every clause, and certainly the overall implication, of Gonzales’s claim is false.

To begin with, the already enormous reporting requirements for a US attorney’s office were tripled by the Bush administration. The list of reports the DoJ gets about every case, from the initial opening of a file to every activity, even simply procedural, that occurs on the case makes it clear that the Attorney General controls the US attorneys at every level of detail.

It was precisely such an Urgent Report that former San Diego US Attorney Carol Lam used to notify the Attorney General’s Office on May 10, 2006 that search warrants were going to be conducted in the Randy “Duke” Cunningham case. The next day, of course, was when Alberto Gonzales’s top aide wrote an email talking about the “very real problem we have right now” with Carol Lam.

Which is probably why those reporting requirements are there: so the AG can decide which cases to proceed with, what terms can be offered in plea agreements, and which accusations can be dropped.

And who does the AG ask for advice? My guess is Karl Rove.

(When I say I’d never vote for Hillary, I often add that I’d jump at the chance to vote for Elizabeth de la Vega. She’s exactly the sort of person we need in politics, yet have driven away.)

Dahlia Gets Him

At Slate, Dahlia Lithwick suggests that Gonzales’s testimony might not have been the abject failure most pundits have called it.

In fact he might have taken a high inside pitch for the team. As she says, nobody wants to look like a dolt on national television. (Of course, the possibility exists that, as a dolt, the Attorney General can hardly fail to look like one, regardless of location.)

Big Ungay Al’s performance at the big table (described by Dana Milbank as chosen and placed to emphasize the witness’s short physical stature), though uninformative as usual, was of a piece with the general approach of this administration’s unitary-executive mindset. He basically let the Senate know he didn’t give a damn about their investigation because they can’t do anything to him.

…consider this telling colloquy with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham:
I tried to have dialogue with the Congress, to try to be as forthcoming as I can be, to reassure the Congress. I’ve tried to inform the Congress that I don’t have anything to hide. … I didn’t say no to the document request. I didn’t say, “No, you can’t interview” to my internal staff. … I’ve done — everything I’ve done has been consistent with the principle of pursuing truth and accountability.

This man was doing the Senate a favor by showing up at all. Turning over documents? He deserves a medal!

I wouldn’t be too surprised to see him get one.

I’d Dump Him (But That’s Not Enough)

Clearly Bush is not going to fire Gonzales right now, because that would make him look weak. The fact that everyone knows he is weak doesn’t seem to affect his judgements, as long as he’s doing what he thinks will make him look strong. As a result, he’d rather wait until after the Republicans lose the election to dump Rumsfeld, thus further alienating his own party, than admit that he’s going to have to dump Rumsfeld at some point, and take the hit up front.

This is what my mother would call diagnostic. If everyone knows you’re weak, how can you possibly imagine that you’d look strong? Or perhaps he’s just incurious enough to believe that what things look like is what they are.

But it’s just as obvious that Rove will convince Bush that his legacy is at stake, and he has to jettison Gonzo. The AG will announce, no doubt late on a Friday evening, that he wants to spend more time with his family, take a needed vacation, and play some golf. They might even find a medal lying around somewhere.

My guess is that Bush, Cheney, Rove, and Rice are looking at a bus headed right for them. This is all about their lies over the war, and everyone knows it. Same with Wolfowitz: it’s not mainly about corruption at the World Bank, it’s mainly about warmongering. Corruption is what we catch them for, like jailing mobsters for tax evasion.

Their only remaining strategy seems to have two prongs. First, they’ll throw one person at a time under the Congressional investigation bus, each time slowing it slightly. Perhaps that will be sufficient to keep the inner circle out of jail. Second, they’ll continue the lost war, killing thousands more in their quest to avoid another accountability moment. Perhaps that will allow them to hand the war over to the next President.

These war criminals have killed nearly a million people. They should be sent to The Hague for trial.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 07:23 PM
April 18, 2007
View of the American Media From a Foxhole Commander

Interesting perspective from a lieutenant colonel Gian P. Gentile, who commanded an armored reconnaissance squadron in the 4th Infantry Division.

He opens with this evaluation:

From my foxhole-view as a tactical battalion commander in western Baghdad in 2006, the American press, although not perfect, has reported the reality of the Iraq war.

Daily Show watchers can already see Stewart rubbing his eyes in disbelief. “Wha…?”

It is my opinion that the American military’s ongoing condemnation of the American press’s reporting of the Iraq war has more to do with its own mistaken belief that the American media lost the Vietnam War and has less to do with the current reporting on Iraq. I also believe that because the American military fears so deeply the loss of support of the American people over Iraq as an outgrowth of Vietnam it tends, wrongly, to allay these fears by blaming the American press for not reporting enough of its successes in Iraq.

But as I looked around Baghdad from my foxhole in 2006, I saw, by and large, fair and balanced reporting. This is a minority view within the American military, but it was and still is my foxhole view.

Story via Cursor, as usual.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 10:57 PM
April 16, 2007
One Honorable Republican

Digby has a long post about the new coach of the University of South Carolina Gamecocks football team, Steve Spurrier, who has just come out and endorsed removing the Confederate Flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State House.

While the Republican Presidential candidates get ready to hem and haw on this issue while politicking in South Carolina, let us take time to honor a man who deserves recognition for spurning the conventional wisdom of his party to do the right thing.

David Beasley was an honorable man. Keep an eye out for who isn’t.

In November 1996, less than two years into his first term as governor of South Carolina, David Beasley, a conservative Republican, went on statewide television and asked the legislature to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state house dome, where it had flown beneath the American flag and the state flag since 1962.

Although Beasley had begun his term promising not to move the Confederate flag from atop the dome, a spate of racially motivated violence compelled him to reconsider the politics and symbolism of the Confederate flag, and he concluded it should be moved. Contending that the flag had become a means to stir up hateful politics, Beasley suggested that it be moved to a place of honor at a Civil War memorial on state house grounds.

His reversal on the flag stunned fellow Republicans and generated an angry backlash among his conservative political base. Bumper stickers soon sprouted around the state, blaring, “Keep the flag, dump Beasley!” The South Carolina legislature rejected his proposal.

Political observers believe bitterness over the Confederate flag was one factor that shrank turnout, particularly among the conservative Republicans who had been the mainstay of Beasley’s political base, when he ran unsuccessfully for re-election in 1998.

In 2000, the South Carolina legislature agreed to move the Confederate flag from the dome to the Confederate Soldier Memorial on state house grounds, just as Beasley had proposed four years earlier. But although it no longer flies above the dome, the flag’s place on state grounds today remains a subject of debate.


David%20Beasley.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Buck Batard at 02:17 PM
Et Tu, Morning News?

Did you see that the Dallas Morning News, hardly a bastion of liberal thought, has called in an editorial for Texas to ban the death penalty because of all the errors and fraud that have been uncovered?

First the Chicago Tribune, and now this. Apparently the Republicans are right about the collapse of American civilization.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 04:30 AM
March 31, 2007
The Screaming Men

For all of our readers in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, we remind you that Joe Bageant, that audacious purveyor of “THAT WHICH MUST NOT BE SPOKEN” will make a public appearance in the Philadelphia area this Tuesday, April 3, 2007, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm in the Arts Café, with an introduction by Linh Dinh, CPCW Fellow in Poetics and Poetic Practice.

Location: Kelly Writers House
 3805 Locust Walk
 Philadelphia, PA 19104

Meanwhile, that which must be spoken will continue on as usual, Messrs. Murdoch, Moon, Scaiffe and like minded individuals will most certainly attend to ensuring that the citizenry is properly informed of what it should think. We would like to remind our readers that we had occasion to hear belatedly from Messr. Mark Twain, whose advice Messrs. Scaiffe, Murdoch, Moon, Boisfeuillet, Keller and other purveyors of that caustic but soothing medicine of the press will no doubt obligingly follow to the letter, and most certainly will promptly deliver to their adoring public with the usual bombastic aplomb:

Having now laid all the historical facts before the Person Sitting in Darkness, we should bring him to again, and explain them to him. We should say to him:
“They look doubtful, but in reality they are not. There have been lies; yes, but they were told in a good cause. We have been treacherous; but that was only in order that real good might come out of apparent evil. True, we have crushed a deceived and confiding people; we have turned against the weak and the friendless who trusted us; we have stamped out a just and intelligent and well-ordered republic; we have stabbed an ally in the back and slapped the face of a guest; we have bought a Shadow from an enemy that hadn’t it to sell; we have robbed a trusting friend of his land and his liberty; we have invited our clean young men to shoulder a discredited musket and do bandit’s work under a flag which bandits have been accustomed to fear, not to follow; we have debauched America’s honor and blackened her face before the world; but each detail was for the best. We know this. The Head of every State and Sovereignty in Christendom and ninety per cent of every legislative body in Christendom, including our Congress and our fifty State Legislatures, are members not only of the church, but also of the Blessings-of-Civilization Trust. This world-girdling accumulation of trained morals, high principles, and justice, cannot do an unright thing, an unfair thing, an ungenerous thing, an unclean thing. It knows what it is about. Give yourself no uneasiness; it is all right.”
Now then, that will convince the Person. You will see. It will restore the Business. Also, it will elect the Master of the Game to the vacant place in the Trinity of our national gods; and there on their high thrones the Three will sit, age after age, in the people’s sight, each bearing the Emblem of his service: Washington, the Sword of the Liberator; Lincoln, the Slave’s Broken Chains; the Master, the Chains Repaired. It will give the Business a splendid new start. You will see. Everything is prosperous, now; everything is just as we should wish it. We have got the Archipelago, and we shall never give it up.

twaincigar.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Buck Batard at 04:45 PM
March 21, 2007
Sunshine Ushered Us Out of the Dark Ages

I didn’t listen to Mr. Bush’s speech last night, but I heard about it. He made several references to the term “klieg lights&rdquo. At first blush and without doing a little research, my first thought was that this term must have come out of Nazi Germany. It didn’t. It is an archaic term these days, as the Kliegl Light Company went out of business in the 1990’s, although they had actually quit producing real Klieg lamps in the early part of the last century. Klieg lights were carbon arc lamps that were used in stage lighting, but they haven't been used for at least 75 years. Thus the term is as archaic as Mr. Bush’s use of it is.

Actually, though, stage lighting was first used at the end of the dark ages and the beginning of the period that we now call the Enlightenment. According to my sources, stage lights were first used in 1580 in Italy and helped usher us out of the Dark Ages.

So where could Mr. Bush have gotten the idea to use the term klieg lights to refer to the fact that Congress wants to shed a little sunshine on the dark inner recesses of the White House and the dark age that has descended upon America since he took office?

I did a little googling and I think I have answers for our readers. On February 21, Chris Cilizza of the Washington Post wrote a blog post entitled “Democrats Find it Hot Under the Klieg Lights”. Cilizza’s article was critical of Hollywood and the Democrats. Why would Bush choose such a term that his friends at the Washington Post had used in a disparaging manner against Democrats? I don’t think he believed that anyone would notice, just like he doesn’t think anyone will have the political strength to deliver much needed sunshine into the inner recesses of the dark, shady dealings that are and have been going on in his administration for the last six years.

It’s time to let the sun shine in on the White House. Sunshine is brighter than a klieg light ever was and it’s time to let the sun shine brightly. Make haste, fellow Democrats, make haste.

sunshinebush.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Buck Batard at 04:32 AM
February 27, 2007
Off the Shelf, Stand-Alone Enterprise

As the giant said to Detective Cooper, it’s happening again.

The first contributions were sent by the donors to bank accounts controlled and used by the contras. However, in July 1985, North took control of the funds and — with the support of two national security advisers (Robert McFarlane and John Poindexter) and, according to North, Director Casey — used those funds to run the covert operation to support the contras.

At the suggestion of Director Casey, North recruited Richard V. Secord, a retired Air Force major general with experience in special operations. Secord set up Swiss bank accounts, and North steered future donations into these accounts. Using these funds, and funds later generated by the Iran arms sales, Secord and his associate, Albert Hakim, created what they called “the Enterprise,” a private organization designed to engage in covert activities on behalf of the United States.

The Enterprise, functioning largely at North’s direction, had its own airplanes, pilots, airfield, operatives, ship, secure communications devices, and secret Swiss bank accounts. For 16 months, it served as the secret arm of the N.S.C. staff, carrying out with private and non-appropriated money, and without the accountability or restrictions imposed by law on [the covert] aid program that Congress thought it had prohibited.

Although the C.I.A. and other agencies involved in intelligence activities knew that the Boland Amendment barred their involvement in covert support for the contras, North’s contra support operation received logistical and tactical support from various personnel in the C.I.A. and other agencies. Certain C.I.A. personnel in Central America gave their assistance. The U.S. Ambassador in Costa Rica, Lewis Tambs, provided his active assistance. North also enlisted the aid of Defense Department personnel in Central America, and obtained secure communications equipment from the National Security Agency. The Assistant Secretary of State with responsibility for the region, Elliott Abrams, professed ignorance of this support. He later stated that he had been “careful not to ask North lots of questions.”

Does anyone have reason to think that The Enterprise ever really shut down? I mean, Poindexter with Total Information Awareness. Elliott Abrams in the highest position available that wouldn’t require Congressional confirmation, which he wouldn’t have had a chance to get even before the Democrats took over. And of course this was when Negroponte (John, not Nicholas, largely responsible for the $100-dollar laptop) became a war criminal through his actions as ambassador to Honduras.

Seymour Hersh in the latest New Yorker provides a possible explanation for Negroponte’s decision to take a lesser post after only a few months as Director of National Intelligence (it’s encouraging to think that such a thing exists).

The former senior intelligence official also told me that Negroponte did not want a repeat of his experience in the Reagan Administration, when he served as Ambassador to Honduras. “Negroponte said, ‘No way. I’m not going down that road again, with the N.S.C. running operations off the books, with no finding.’ ” (In the case of covert C.I.A. operations, the President must issue a written finding and inform Congress.) Negroponte stayed on as Deputy Secretary of State, he added, because “he believes he can influence the government in a positive way.”

The government consultant said that Negroponte shared the White House’s policy goals but “wanted to do it by the book.” The Pentagon consultant also told me that “there was a sense at the senior-ranks level that he wasn’t fully on board with the more adventurous clandestine initiatives.” It was also true, he said, that Negroponte “had problems with this Rube Goldberg policy contraption for fixing the Middle East.”

The Pentagon consultant added that one difficulty, in terms of oversight, was accounting for covert funds. “There are many, many pots of black money, scattered in many places and used all over the world on a variety of missions,” he said. The budgetary chaos in Iraq, where billions of dollars are unaccounted for, has made it a vehicle for such transactions, according to the former senior intelligence official and the retired four-star general.

“This goes back to Iran-Contra,” a former National Security Council aide told me. “And much of what they’re doing is to keep the agency out of it.” He said that Congress was not being briefed on the full extent of the U.S.-Saudi operations. And, he said, “The C.I.A. is asking, ‘What’s going on?’ They’re concerned, because they think it’s amateur hour.”

If only. In fact it’s religious and ideological idiots allied with war profiteers. Dangerous stuff.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 03:55 AM
February 01, 2007
“Molly Doesn’t Sand Down”

A truly great loss. What will we do without Molly?

ivins.jpeg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 06:40 AM
December 03, 2006
Tear Down This Wall, Mr. Bush

In the first issue of a new magazine called 02138 was this take on the border crossing nightsweats from which the Bush Base suffers so:

As the U.S. Congress struggled this summer with competing immigration bills and Mexico showed little evidence of addressing the gross inequities of its own society, a visiting reporter for the British newspaper the Independent put the immigration in a fresh perspective by asking what would happen “if Canada introduced a minimum wage of $70 an hour, and then tried to keep out U.S. citizens.”

Berlinwall.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:26 PM
December 02, 2006
Obama and Hunter

I know there are some serious issues with Barack Obama as a presidential candidate, including some of his votes such as the one for the bankruptcy bill. I grok the essence and the importance of this argument.

On the other hand, not many politicians in recent years would go before one of the biggest evangelical churches, in which the invitation to Obama had already caused controversy, and advocate condom distribution as a way to fight AIDS. Many in the church objected to his being allowed to speak at all because of his support for abortion rights, for example. Yet he managed to orchestrate the propaganda act of taking an AIDS test with Sam Brownback, the extremely conservative, or should I say right wing, Senator from Kansas.

This leads to two observations. First, he’s certainly acting like he’s planning to run in 2008. Second, his ability to talk with red-state types, coupled with his demonstrated courage in telling them things they don’t want to hear, might result in a President who can actually turn a number of liberal ideas into programs. Russ Feingold isn’t going to be elected any time soon. John Edwards might be; I’d love to see Edwards and Obama on a ticket, in either order. A couple of pretty faces who speak well, talk about the economic divide, aren’t from dynastic families, and come across as more-or-less normal people. Not that they are, of course; but these guys are not Gore and Kerry, you gotta admit. How is it that the Democrats can nominate such lifeless candidates twice in a row, thus snatching defeat from the jaws of victory? Sure, the Bush folks cheated, but that only works in close elections. If your candidate is behind by fifteen points, it’s hard to cheat enough to win without being very obvious.

Anyway, it seems that there is a split going on in the evangelical movement over things like the environment, health care, and poverty. You probably read about the new leader of the Christian Coalition resigning, or being dumped, before he actually took the reins. Turns out he had read the New Testament and found no mention of abortion and homosexuality, nothing in favor in war, but a lot about caring for peoples’ health and reducing poverty, and plenty to support the idea of stewardship of the planet we’ve been given.

“My position is, unless we are caring as much for the vulnerable outside the womb as inside the womb, we’re not carrying out the full message of Jesus,” [Rev. Joel Hunter] said in a telephone interview yesterday. “They began to think this might threaten their base or evaporate some of their support, and they said they just couldn’t go there.”

Turns out he’s also in favor of increasing the minimum wage, and he’s against the death penalty. Horrors! No wonder they dumped him.

With the evangelicals splitting and a few Democrats available who can speak to the reds, reports of liberalism’s death might turn out to have been exaggerated.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 04:36 AM
November 08, 2006
A Walk on the Real Side?

What Republican headquarters might be thinking tonight:

It’s high time for a walk on the real side
Let’s admit the bastards beat us
I move to dissolve the corporation
In a pool of margaritas
So let’s switch off all the lights
And light up all the Luckies
Crankin’ up the afterglow
’Cause we’re goin’ out of business
Everything must go

Talk about your major pain and suffering
Now our self-esteem is shattered
Show the world our mighty hidey-ho face
As we go sliding down the ladder
It was sweet up at the top
’Til that ill wind started blowing
Now it’s cozy down below
’Cause we’re goin’ out of business
Everything must go

Now the question is how well the Democrats handle it, as I said in the discussion at the blog of our esteemed colleague and fellow BARBARian Paperwight. (Not to mention friend and drinking buddy as well.) A natural supposition might be support for removing as many Republicans from Congress as possible.

Certainly I agree about the House races (not to mention the governors and so on), but there’s one or two Republican Senators who aren’t running this time who it seems to me are worth keeping. Hagel, for one. I think I’d keep Lugar too, and there are others who could be worked with by an honest and well-intentioned Democratic party. The House, though, screw them.

It appears we’ll soon be bereft of the services of Sen. Man-on-Dog, Rep. “Stick a fork in him, he’s” Weldon (plus Ann Northrup, but unfortunately not Geoff Davis), and my personal favorite Rep. Jim Ryun, of whom I was a huge fan in jr. and sr. high, when the only sports I was even halfway-decent at were track and tennis. I didn’t realize how out of it he is; I admired his finishing kick. The track CW at the time was against going outside more than one lane to pass on a curve. Ryun was famous for his final kick, including passing outside by three or four lanes on a curve if necessary to retain his momentum, thus adding several yards to the mile he was already running. When his kick started, he was comin’ through whether or not, distance be damned.

Turns out he was a real idiot.

Now if only the victorious Democrats can do something useful and sure-footed at the same time… Problem is, they just won by keeping their heads down in sync at appropriate times. I don’t know if they’re prepared to play the power game at an appropriate level, sophisticated about technology and game theory but heartfelt about values — by which I mean FDR coalition-style stuff like Social Security, economic fairness in general and minimum wage increases in particular, health care, and education; but I’m hoping. I certainly look forward to people like Conyers and Waxman having the chance to attempt real solutions to some of the serious social challenges for which their talents fit them.

At the highest level, it may be that we’ve actually turned a corner and there’s light at the end of tunnel on the whole lying, robocalling, vote-suppressing, faith-based-evaluation thing. It remains to be seen, but one can hope.

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 05:49 AM
Rove Plans for Success but Fails

Rove just told Bush that the Democrats have taken control of the House of Representatives. All their denials of the obvious fact in recent weeks turn out to verify Weathervane Woodward’s latest title.

The real question has been how the administration would react to a situation that requires coöperation. Even the normally supine media has recently put that question to administration spokesmodels, who simply denied the possibility. I was reminded of other, earlier, denials.

Some neocons began agitating inside the Bush administration to support some kind of insurrection, led by Chalabi, that would overthrow Saddam. In the summer of 2001, the neocons circulated a plan to support an INC-backed invasion. A senior Pentagon analyst questioned whether Iraqis would rise up to back it. “You’re thinking like the Clinton people,” a Feith aide shot back. “They planned for failure. We plan for success.”

Well, here we are, and the plans for success, in Iraq as well as the election, have failed. Irrefutably. Facts, it turns out, do matter. How will the administration react?

White House spokesman Tony Snow said the outcome of the elections, in which Democrats were projected to win control of the House and pick up several Senate seats, was “not what we would’ve hoped.”

“But it also gets us to a point: Democrats have spent a lot of time complaining about what the president has done. This is an opportunity for them to kind of stand up,” Snow said.

Yes, an opportunity to stand up and admit that they’ve been wrong all along, and the President’s lies, failed wars, and disdain for the Constitution have been right. I expect the Democrats have been itching for a chance to stand up and show their support for the President.

“Now, one of the things is both parties have got a lot work to do,” Snow said. “The president has got a very active agenda for the next two years and you’re going to need both parties. There has to be a calculated decision by the Democrats.”

Indeed: do the Democrats, and the people who voted them into control of the House despite the best gerrymandering efforts of the DeLay Republic, stand with the President or against him?

The numbers are clear.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 12:26 AM
November 03, 2006
The Summer Sodomite and the Sunshine Predator Will, in This Crisis, Shrink from the Frosts of Winter

Our Spokesman of the Week award goes to John Clark of the United States Marshals Service, which slapped together a transparently hokey “roundup” of “fugitive sex offenders” just in time for the midterm elections. (Former Republican congressman Mark Foley somehow eluded the net, however.)

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said in response to a question at a news conference that there was no political motivation behind the arrests and that the Justice Department “played no role in the timing of this program,” less than a week before the midterm elections.

John Clark, the director of the United States Marshals Service, which coordinated the operation, said that planning for the arrests began months ago “without regard to any political elections coming up.” One factor in the timing, Mr. Clark said, was to move ahead before the “harsh winter weather” hit because officials said that the wanted fugitives would be less likely to congregate outdoors.

Let’s lay out Clark’s logic so we can all understand it. It’s late October, right, so the weather is still mostly mild except for Buffalo, where they’ve got that lake effect, whatever it is. So apart from Buffalo most of your pervs tend to be outside someplace or other — schoolyards, scout jamborees, youth league soccer games, you name it. So what you do, you want to hit ’em hard before the cold drives them all indoors to their workplaces and homes because those addresses you’ve got on file already and where’s the challenge in that for crissake?

Whatever.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:14 PM
November 01, 2006
Too Weird, Dear Friends?

Is it too weird, dear friends? Well, it’s getting there.

Rep. Clay Shaw, who helped Shrub hand enormous amounts of money to the drug companies with the prescription drug bill, thus screwing many of his South Florida constituents, is now touting his coöperation with — wait for it — Bill Clinton. Apparently he considers his relationship with the dread pirate Clinton will boost his chances in next week’s election.

“The greatest moments of the Clinton years came when Democrats and Republicans worked together,” the ad said. “Like welfare reform… Signed by Bill Clinton and written by our congressman, Clay Shaw.”

The ad went on to cite Shaw’s work with Clinton to repeal the earnings tax on Social Security and the bill to restore the Everglades. “More than almost anyone else in Congress, Clay Shaw solves problems across party lines,” the ad concludes. “So as Palm Beach County welcomes Bill Clinton to town, let’s say ‘thank you’ to Clay Shaw. He’s independent and effective.”

Republican Clay Shaw and Democrat Bill Clinton; they’re like this! (Shaw did vote against all four articles of impeachment, after all…)

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 12:39 AM
October 12, 2006
Stopped Watch in Washington

You know what they say, even a stopped watch is right twice a day.

According to Kuo, Karl Rove’s office referred to evangelical leaders as “the nuts.”

Kuo says, “National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as ‘ridiculous,’ ‘out of control,’ and just plain ‘goofy.’ ”

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 02:15 AM
Changing the World

Here’s how you change the world.

Libya could become the first country to provide every school-age child with a laptop computer and internet connection under a scheme supported by the UN Development Programme.

In a £134m deal with One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), an American non-profit group, Libya will acquire 1.2m computers with internet connection.

The deal, reported by the New York Times yesterday, follows a visit by computer scientist Nicholas Negroponte to Colonel Muammar Gadafy last August.

[…]

OLPC has also reached tentative purchase agreements with Argentina, Brazil, Nigeria and Thailand.

In his meeting with Col Gadafy, Mr Negroponte discussed the possibility that Libya might fund laptops for poorer African countries such as Chad, Niger and Rwanda, according to the New York Times.

It is possible that Libya will become the first country in the world where all school-age children are connected to the internet through educational computers, he told the newspaper. “The US and Singapore are not even close,” he said.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 01:57 AM
October 09, 2006
Lucky Bastards

So it seems the Republic party will pull this baby out after all.

Could they possibly have imagined, or created, a more useful distraction than the nuclear test by North Korea? If anything can make the fear-driven heartland more afraid than sex, and particularly sexual predators going after their kids, it’s a nuke.

I expect that Kim Jong Il has managed to drive Mark Foley off the front pages. You gotta figure Karl is delirious. Perhaps this is what he meant by an October Surprise.

UPDATE: On the other hand, this, plus the OPEC production cut, will drive up gas prices again. But sex and nucular weapons are much more scary to the “base”, an appropriate adjective if there ever was one.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 02:17 AM
October 08, 2006
That Quiet Admission

Time, the magazine and CIA front my grandfather read cover to cover every week, is both declaring and picturing The End of the Elephant.

On conservative commentator Laura Ingraham’s show, the longest-serving Republican House Speaker in history explained why he would not resign despite a sex scandal that has produced a hail of questions about his leadership and the failure to stop one of his members from cyberstalking teenage congressional pages. “If I fold up my tent and leave,” Dennis Hastert told her, “then where does that leave us? If the Democrats sweep, then we’d have no ability to fight back and get our message out.”

That quiet admission may have been the most damning one yet in the unfolding scandal surrounding Florida Congressman Mark Foley: holding on to power has become not just the means but also the end for the onetime reformers who in 1994 unseated a calcified and corrupted Democratic majority.

TimeElephant.jpg
Webding3.jpg
Posted by Chuck Dupree at 09:42 PM
August 27, 2006
Reality Check

Our very good friends at The Register have put together a coolly rational recipe for making triacetone triperoxide, TATP, the famously explosive liquid that can supposedly be made from household ingredients that are difficult to detect.

Turns out it’s not that easy to put TATP together.

The genius of this scheme is that TATP is relatively easy to detonate. But you must make enough of it to crash the plane, and you must make it with care to assure potency. One needs quality stuff to commit “mass murder on an unimaginable scale,” as Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson put it. While it’s true that a slapdash concoction will explode, it’s unlikely to do more than blow out a few windows. At best, an infidel or two might be killed by the blast, and one or two others by flying debris as the cabin suddenly depressurizes, but that’s about all you’re likely to manage under the most favorable conditions possible.

We believe this because a peer-reviewed 2004 study (http://www.technion.ac.il/~keinanj/pub/122.pdf) in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS) entitled “Decomposition of Triacetone Triperoxide is an Entropic Explosion” tells us that the explosive force of TATP comes from the sudden decomposition of a solid into gasses. There’s no rapid oxidizing of fuel, as there is with many other explosives: rather, the substance changes state suddenly through an entropic process, and quickly releases a respectable amount of energy when it does. (Thus the lack of ingredients typically associated with explosives makes TATP, a white crystalline powder resembling sugar, difficult to detect with conventional bomb sniffing gear.)

When crying wolf is normal, it’s refreshing and invigorating to find someone doing their homework and stating the simple and logical case. Of course, given that it’s the folks at The Register, it’s not surprising; they’ve been doing it for many years at a very high level. A prime candidate for Most Underappreciated Web Site.

Fortunately, in this case the web seems to be listening to the words of wisdom. And forwarding the link.

The al-Qaeda franchise will pour forth its bowl of pestilence and death. We know this because we’ve watched it countless times on TV and in the movies, just as our officials have done. Based on their behavior, it’s reasonable to suspect that everything John Reid and Michael Chertoff know about counterterrorism, they learned watching the likes of Bruce Willis, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Vin Diesel, and The Rock (whose palpable homoerotic appeal it would be discourteous to emphasize).

It’s a pity that our security rests in the hands of government officials who understand as little about terrorism as the Florida clowns who needed their informant to suggest attack scenarios, as the 21/7 London bombers who injured no one, as lunatic “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, as the Forest Gate nerve gas attackers who had no nerve gas, as the British nitwits who tried to acquire “red mercury,” and as the recent binary liquid bomb attackers who had no binary liquid bombs.

Well, it’s not a pity in one way. If there were real threats from seriously threatening people, we’d all be in trouble. The fact that they’re catching these bumbling wackos doesn’t prove that serious threats are lacking; unknown unknowns, and all that. But given our so-called leadership, we here in the US had better be hoping for bumbling wackos. That’s all Chertoff is likely to catch.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 10:18 PM
August 17, 2006
No One Likes a Loser

Predictably, it’s beginning to hit the fan in Israel.

As Israelis struggle to assimilate the results of their invasion of Lebanon, they’re realizing that there is no sense in which their war of choice can be called a success. Like the US invasion of Iraq, it has decreased rather than increased their security.

But Israel differs from the US in that its citizens are openly disgusted with their leaders and are attacking them with whatever tools are at hand. In this case, the easiest tools to grab are corruption investigations.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is under investigation for having bought a house worth $1.6–1.8 million for $1.2 million.

There is another suspicion: The house the Olmerts bought had been earmarked for preservation. Converting a house marked for preservation into a house that can be torn down, rebuilt or expanded requires special and irregular permits from the Jerusalem municipality. There is evidence to support the suspicion that Olmert’s confidants helped the contractor who sold Olmert the house obtain those irregular permits. If this is the case, the real estate deal was probably a bribery deal. The prime minister and his wife will be questioned about that.

And:

It is very likely that the document will leave Attorney General Menachem Mazuz with no choice but to open a criminal inquiry against the prime minister and his wife.

It is highly doubtful that Olmert could even temporarily survive such a police probe considering the present public mood. Chances are that within about two months he will no longer be Israel’s prime minister.

Then, of course, there’s the Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, the pilot whose overestimation of the power of his own air forces to force a surrender by Hezbollah caused so much destruction in Lebanon and failed so utterly.

According to the report, three hours after Hezbollah attacked an IDF patrol and abducted two soldiers, at 12 P.M., Halutz called his investment adviser at the Bank Leumi branch on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv and ordered him to sell the shares in his investment portfolio, worth NIS 120,000. Over the next two days the value of the stock in the Tel Aviv stock exchange lost 8.3 percent of its value.

During the hours that the chief of staff was avoiding financial losses, he was also participating in meetings with the General Staff and the defense minister, in which he recommended a heavy air assault against Lebanon, resulting in an escalation and a full scale war between Israel and Hezbollah.

Halutz told Maariv that “one cannot link [the sale of the stock] with the war. Such a connection is fantastic. At that time I did not think and did not expect that war would occur.”

Fantastic? Fantastically obvious, is what. Does he really think anyone will believe that as he was recommending a heavy air assault he was not expecting war?

The affair raised a genuine storm in the IDF. Senior General Staff officers and officers in combat units alike expressed severe criticism at Halutz’s conduct. They said it was a reflection of lack of understanding of what was was going on in the war.

The officers said Halutz now faces a “breach of confidence” in his leadership and they expressed doubts in his ability to correct the problem.

The officers added that it would be difficult for Halutz to look veterans of the war in the eyes, and meet families who lost sons in the war.

“His priorities are distorted,” they said.

As are his government’s. Fortunately for his country, some of his fellow citizens are questioning the Israeli strategy.

I am trying to recall when I last saw Israeli leaders talking with Arab leaders about peace, and finding it hard to remember. In recent years, our compulsive tendency to talk to ourselves about an agreement with the Arabs has been strengthening, as though the real conflict in the Middle East were between the right and the left. The fruitless discussions between these two tired bodies have had two goals: to neutralize any possibility of change and to freeze the reality on the ground, for fear that any step toward peace will ignite a domestic war among the Jews. And if we are already fated to go to war, say our architects to themselves, it is better to have a war against the Arabs. It is torturous to think that had similar diplomatic energy been invested vis-a-vis Palestinian leaders, Lebanese leaders and Syrian leaders, perhaps everything would look different. Perhaps we would even be living in peace with them.

Is it possible that the miserable war in Lebanon and the endless slaughter in Gaza are an outcome of the lack of willingness to talk with our neighbors? When was the last time we tried to talk to the Palestinians about their future and about our future? When was the last time we sent out probes to the Lebanese about signing a peace agreement with them? When was the last time we tried to renew the truncated negotiations with the Syrians about the possibility of arriving at a peace agreement?

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 10:59 AM
August 14, 2006
Sitting on Top of the World

I haven't seen anything from the American mainstream media about the bad news from Tibet. Nor have we heard one peep from the Administration on the subject. We can only surmise that the whole affair has something to do with this.

Incidentally, Joe Bageant’s new book about deer hunting is available for preorder on Amazon, just not yet ready for primetime. Until then, you might want to read Joe’s essay from some time ago touching on the subject of Tibet that might be of interest.

Shangri-la.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Buck Batard at 07:52 PM
July 31, 2006
Democracy in the Streets

Way to go, Mexico!

BBC reports estimates ranging from half a million to two million in the march that began the day. AFP says the government estimate was 1.2 million.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, AMLO, who thinks he was cheated, asked his supporters to set up forty-seven camp sites around Mexico City and shut it down ahead of the Monday morning rush hour. Within hours, dozens of tents were set up on major arteries. Police are unlikely to intervene, according to the reports, because AMLO was a popular mayor of the city and his party still controls the city government.

The BBC report said EU election monitors found no irregularities; but AMLO’s Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) sent an 836-page document to the elections court. I have no special knowledge of the situation, but I’ve read that Mexico uses a fancy new computerized voting system. I think ChoicePoint is involved, which if true would constitute unequivocal proof of cheating in my book.

Gee, if only we had a Party of the Democratic Revolution here in the US!

Update: Reuters reports on the effects of the blockade.

“I had to cancel a breakfast where I was going to close a contract for one million pesos (about $92,000). Do you think I’m happy, or that I support these bastards?” said Enrique Salas, an insurance broker who was one of thousands forced to walk to work along Reforma.

Apparently Calderon still owns the angry-insurance-salesman vote.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 02:26 PM
July 30, 2006
What's the Point of This UN Resolution?

Iran reacted to the news of this resolution exactly like everyone should have expected. They’re a proud nation and don’t like being bullied. So what purpose does this resolution provide? They couldn’t wait for the Iranian response to the Western incentive proposal on 22 August?

Iran’s government will reject a proposed United Nations resolution that would give it until August 31 to suspend uranium enrichment or face the threat of international sanctions, state-run radio says.

“Iranians will not accept unfair decisions, even in the framework of resolutions by the international bodies,” the radio commentary said.

There has been no official comment to the draft resolution, but state radio often is thought to provide the Iranian government line.

The resolution was formally circulated to the full 15-member UN Security Council on Friday and will probably be adopted next week.

“Ultimatum and deadline cannot be acceptable to us,” the commentary said, accusing the US and its allies of making what it called an illegal demand by the United States, France, Germany and Britain.

The intelligent thing to do is wait to see Iran’s answer on 22 August and then, if its unsatisfactory, set a deadline for cessation of uranium enrichment activities if they must. However, I’ve posted before (here) that no one has the right to tell them to stop.

(read more)

Webding3.jpg

Posted by SPIIDERWEB™ at 08:31 AM
The Fly in the Ointment

In an earlier post (at SPIIDERWEB™ or at Bad Attitudes) I said it appeared the Sheba Farms would become an important issue, but resolvable unless Israel balked. Well, Hizballa is pushing this issue to center stage. It’s a deal breaker so it they might as well discuss it now.

Fouad Siniora, the Lebanese prime minister, has said that if Israel wants secure borders it must withdraw from the disputed Shebaa Farms area it has occupied since 1967.

Israel, which has bombarded Beirut’s suburbs and southern Lebanon with aircraft and artillery since July 12, has said it wants to weaken Hezbollah so that the Lebanese government can disarm the group.

In an interview with Aljazeera.net late on Friday, Siniora said his government cannot force Hezbollah to disarm as long as Israel continues to occupy the Shebaa Farms.

(read more)

Webding3.jpg

Posted by SPIIDERWEB™ at 07:18 AM
Unintended Consequences

Or is this unintended? Did Israel attack Qana, Lebanon to stop Rice?

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called off a trip to Lebanon today after the Lebanese government asked her not to come.

Lebanese officials said the request was made after dozens of civilians were killed in an Israeli airstrike on the Lebanon village of Qana.

(read more)

Webding3.jpg

Posted by SPIIDERWEB™ at 05:57 AM
Comments on the Content of My Last Two Posts

Hey, as long as this horse is staggering around on all fours, I’m gonna keep beating it until I know its dead and may not stop even then.

Not one Hizballa guerilla has been identified as killed in the attack on QANA, Lebanon. Only civilians were killed. Its obvious to me that this is revenge against the Lebanese people for supporting or, at the least ignoring, Hiszballa in their midst. This is totally unacceptable behaviour. This isn’t defending Israel, this is aggression against the Lebanese people who aren’t lobbing missiles at Israel at all.

It sort of makes you question just how “accidental” the attack on the UN outpost was considering the UN observers could report what’s really happening as opposed to what Israel wants to say is happening. Being innocent doesn’t spare anyone in Lebanon from Israeli destruction.

You can thank me for not showing you the pictures I’ve seen of Afgan, Iraqi and Lebanese children’s dead and mutilated bodies. The pictures are of atrocities I hoped never to see again.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by SPIIDERWEB™ at 05:49 AM
July 29, 2006
Water, Water Everywhere and… Will It Last?

Getting back to that global warming thing that doesn’t exist because Dim Son says so. We’re starting to see near-term disaster. Take Mount Kilimanjaro, please.

In the thin, cold air here atop the Andes mountains, the blue ice that has claimed these peaks for thousands of years and loyally fed the streams below is now disappearing rapidly.

Mountain glaciers such as this are in retreat around the Earth, taking with them vast stores of water that grow crops, generate electricity and sustain cities and rural areas.

Farmers here say that over the past two decades they have noticed a dramatic decrease in the amount of ice and snow on their mountaintops. The steady supply of water they need to grow crops has become erratic.

“There is less water now. If there is no water, this land becomes a desert,” said Benedicto Loayza, a 52-year-old farmer, standing under pear trees fed by channels dug on the mountain centuries ago to collect runoff.

“You can think of these glaciers as a bank account built over thousands of years,” said Lonnie Thompson, one of the first scientists to sound the alarm, as he stood by the largest ice cap in the Andes. “If you subtract more than you gain, eventually you go bankrupt. That’s what’s in process here.”

Thompson arrived at the blue-white face of the Quelccaya glacier this month after a two-day hike from the nearest road, climbing into the oxygen-thin air of 17,000 feet above sea level. Since he started his annual visits here in 1974, he said, the huge ice cap has shrunk by 30 percent. In the last year, the tongue of the ice has pulled back 100 yards, breakneck speed for a glacier.

Since Thompson’s first reports, he and others have confirmed a rapid recession of glaciers worldwide. Snows on Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro, extolled by Ernest Hemingway as “wide as all the world, great, high, and unbelievably white,” will be gone within 14 years, Thompson estimates. Glaciers in the Alps, the Himalayas and throughout the Andes are also shrinking, he and other researchers have found.


The point is we will, in many of our lifetimes, see horrible water shortages caused by melted snow on Kilimanjaro and probably other places which is being caused by fictitious global warming.

To be fair, the moron isn’t solely at fault, but does share the blame because he isn’t acting now to stop global warming. Clinton, Bush Sr and others share the blame because this isn’t a sudden discovery. Even Gore, as VP, could have done more.

(read more)

Webding3.jpg

Posted by SPIIDERWEB™ at 09:01 AM
A Little Good News Out of Lebanon

This peace proposal sounds pretty good except for one glaring omission. There must be weapons inspectors in the south. That may be implicit, but everyone has to know the guerrillas have laid down their arms. Then there’s the matter of Chebaa Farms, but that appears potentially reconcilable.

Hezbollah politicians, while expressing reservations, have joined their critics in the government in agreeing to a peace package that includes strengthening an international force in south Lebanon and disarming the guerrillas, the government said.

The agreement — reached after a heated six-hour Cabinet meeting — was the first time that Hezbollah has signed onto a proposal for ending the crisis that includes the deploying of international forces.

The package falls short of American and Israeli demands in that it calls for an immediate cease-fire before working out details of a force and includes other conditions.

But European Union officials said Friday the proposals form a basis for an agreement, increasing the pressure on the United States to call for a cease-fire.

The details:

It starts out with an immediate cease-fire. Following that would come:

• the release of Lebanese and Israeli prisoners; Israeli withdrawal behind the border; the return of Lebanese displaced by the fighting.

• moves to resolve the status of Chebaa Farms, a small piece of land held by Israel and claimed by Lebanon. The proposal calls for the
U.N. Security Council to commit to putting the area under U.N. control until a final demarcation of the border.

• the provision by Israel of maps of minefields laid during its 18-year occupation of the south.

• “the spreading of Lebanese government authority over the entire country,” meaning the deployment of the Lebanese army in the south, with the strengthening and increasing of the small, lightly armed U.N. peacekeeping force currently there.

The provisions do not spell out the order in which the steps must take place, but Saniora has said the government cannot spread its authority in the south unless the Chebaa farms issue is resolved. Israel’s hold on Chebaa has provided Hezbollah with a rationale to maintain its arsenal and its “resistance” against Israel.

(read more)

Webding3.jpg

Posted by SPIIDERWEB™ at 08:00 AM
Israel Is After Hizballah

That’s been the claim of Israel, but they’re really after Lebanon. If there was ever any doubt, what with the disproportionate number of civilians being killed, this pretty much eliminates any doubt:

Israeli Cabinet Minister Avi Dichter said on Israel radio Saturday that it was unacceptable for Lebanon’s government “to hide behind the claim that a terror organization is operating on their ground and they cannot stop it.” He said Israel holds the government fully accountable for what Hezbollah is doing there and that “Lebanon is paying the full price these days.” [emphasis mine]
(read more)

Webding3.jpg

Posted by SPIIDERWEB™ at 07:12 AM
July 28, 2006
Information You Need to Know

Just what is this increase in the minimum wage? Is it a windfall or a mild breeze?

Reporters, who write news stories for a living, do have the time to adjust numbers for inflation and should routinely do so in their news stories. This means that when an article tells readers that a bill in Congress will raise the minimum wage to $7.15 an hour in 2007, from 5.15 an hour at present, it would be helpful to tell readers that this is equal to approximately $5.32 in 1997 dollars, the year the last minimum wage hike took full effect. This means that minimum wage workers would get about a 3.0 percent increase in real wages from 1997 to 2007, if this bill was approved.

Hmmm. I feel a slight draft.

(read more)

Webding3.jpg

Posted by SPIIDERWEB™ at 11:12 AM
Tour de France/Landis Update

I admit I’m no cycling fan per se (wow French!), but I do follow the Tour de France privately. I blogged earlier this was not over and we may know more soon.

Floyd Landis plans to give a news conference Friday in Madrid about the positive doping result that threatens to wipe out the American's victory in the Tour de France, his lawyer’s office said.

It would be the American cyclist’s first public appearance since Thursday’s announcement by his team, Phonak, that he tested positive for abnormal levels of testosterone after the 17th stage of the Tour.

The office of Landis’s lawyer, Jose Maria Buxeda, told The Associated Press that a news conference with the cyclist will be held at 11:30 a.m. EDT in the Spanish capital.

Landis denied any wrongdoing in a teleconference with reporters on Thursday and vowed to clear his name.

read more)

Webding3.jpg

Posted by SPIIDERWEB™ at 10:50 AM
Gunman Slays Somali Constitution Minister

I’m not sure how much longer I can ignore Somalia. With limited brain capacity and serious limitations on initiative (read I’m lazy), its impossible to keep up with all the conflicts. Are there still “troubles” in Northern Ireland? Damned if I know. The MSM can’t mention everything either.

That said, this is very sad. The report paints Abdalla Derrow Issak as a reasonable man who wanted what was best for his country. Now he’s dead.

An unknown gunman has shot and killed Somalia’s constitutional and federal affairs minister in the provincial town of Baidoa, making him the first high-profile politician in the 18-month-old transitional governmment to be slain, officials and relatives said.

Abdalla Derrow Issak was shot three times as he left the mosque after Friday prayers in the temporary government base in Baidoa, about 250 kilometres (155 miles) northwest of the capital Mogadishu, but the gunman fled. He died as passers-by rushed him to hospital, witnesses said.

“Allah shall forgive him, Abdalla passed away after he was shot by an unidentified gunman,” one of his relatives told AFP on Friday.

Somalia parliament speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden mourned the minister as a “peace-loving” Somali and vowed that the government, which is largely regarded as weak and defenceless, will bring the criminal to justice. The motive of the killing remained unclear.


(read more)

I do know Nepal isn’t peaceful.

The collective sigh of relief heard around the capital last week, as reports of possible United Nations involvement in a tenuous peace process came in, is a sign of just how much faith ordinary Nepalis place in the world body.

Ordinary citizens believe that once the U.N. gets involved, Nepal’s 11-year-old Maoist problem will be resolved in favour of a peaceful democratic state. The local intelligentsia, too, holds similar beliefs. “The U.N.’s role will be to effectively manage the peace process. It will be difficult initially but we are certain that the U.N. will succeed,” says Narayan Wagle, editor of the influential ‘Kantipur’ newspaper.

Such faith is striking considering the U.N. is nowhere near being involved. And even if it does, its recent failures in places like Rwanda, the Balkans and Cambodia give spoilers enough to derail any such role in Nepal.

(read more)

Webding3.jpg

Posted by SPIIDERWEB™ at 10:34 AM
On the Road Again

John Dean [Wikipedia], the Watergate whistle-blower, in his new book asks if the US is on the road to Fascism. He says not, but we should be wary. I disagree about the “road” part. We’re so far down the road we don’t even speak the local dialect. See if you don’t agree.

John Dean, the White House lawyer who famously helped blow the whistle on the Watergate scandal that drove Richard Nixon from office, says the country has returned to an “imperial presidency” that is putting the United States and the world at risk.

In his new book, “Conservatives Without Conscience,” Dean looks at Republican-controlled Washington and sees a bullying, manipulative, prejudiced leadership edging the nation toward a dark era.

“Are we on the road to fascism?” he writes. “Clearly, we are not on that road yet. But it would not take much more misguided authoritarian leadership, or thoughtless following of such leaders, to find ourselves there.”

Read the Merriam-Webster definition.

fascism: 1 often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition 2 : a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control [early instances of army fascism and brutality — J. W. Aldridge]

We’ve arrive according to Aldridge’s definition and, except for the forcible suppression of opposition —assumed physical as opposed to strong-arming and subterfuge — we’re nearly there by M-W’s definition.

(read more)

Webding3.jpg

Posted by SPIIDERWEB™ at 09:48 AM
Blair To Press Dim Son on Ceasefire in Lebanon

This is cute. Blair is strutting around saying he’s gonna press the moron. Then, Bushco pulls the carpet out from under Blair by stating they’ve already decided to take a resolution to the UN. Blair just can’t win. You don’t upstage Bushco or give the impression you have.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair will press United States President George Bush on Friday to support “as a matter of urgency” a ceasefire in Lebanon as part of a United Nations Security Council resolution next week, according to Downing Street sources.

At a White House meeting, Blair will express his concern that pro-western Arab governments are “getting squeezed” by the crisis and the longer it continues, the more squeezed they will be, giving militants a boost. The private view from Number 10 is that the US is “prevaricating” over the resolution and allowing the conflict to run on too long.

But diplomatic sources in Washington suggest the US and Israel believe serious damage has been inflicted on Hezbollah, so the White House is ready to back a ceasefire resolution at the UN next week.


(read more)

Webding3.jpg

Posted by SPIIDERWEB™ at 06:37 AM
July 27, 2006
Disappointing Tour de France News

This isn’t over, so take heart.

Tour de France champion Floyd Landis tested positive for high levels of testosterone during the race, his Phonak team said Thursday on its Web site.

Landis rode the Tour with a degenerative hip condition that he has said will require surgery in the coming weeks or months.

Arlene Landis, his mother, said Thursday that she wouldn’t blame her son if he was taking medication to treat the pain in his injured hip, but “if it’s something worse than that, then he doesn’t deserve to win.”

“I didn’t talk to him since that hit the fan, but I’m keeping things even keel until I know what the facts are,” she said in a phone interview from her home in Farmersville, Pa. “I know that this is a temptation to every rider but I’m not going to jump to conclusions … It disappoints me.”


All I have to say is, “Good for mom”. She’s being supportive while being ethical. That isn’t always easy.

(read more)

Webding3.jpg

Posted by SPIIDERWEB™ at 11:46 AM
Why Do People Think War is Like a Video Game?

Why doesn’t everyone realize, regardless the superiority of force, in and out isn’t an option.

It was meant to be over by now. This time last week Israeli military planners were demanding another 72 hours to finish the job: that’s all they needed, they promised, to clear southern Lebanon of Hizbullah. Yet the enemy has proved stubborn. Despite two weeks of bombardment, Hizbullah’s formidable arsenal remains in place. Yesterday they fired yet more rockets — 60 of them — deep into Israel, reaching the city of Haifa and killing a teenage girl in the Arab village of Maghar.

This persistence is causing the first rumblings of Israeli disquiet. Why are the Katyushas “still coming, and killing?” asks one Israeli columnist.

There aren’t going to be anymore quick wars. Asymmetrical warfare dictates protracted engagement unless total annihilation is employed.

(read more)

Webding3.jpg

Posted by SPIIDERWEB™ at 10:53 AM
Now This Is Spin

First, the details:

In failing to agree on a call for an immediate Middle East ceasefire, the world has given Israel permission to press ahead with its military offensive in Lebanon, a senior Israeli cabinet minister said today.

A high-level Middle East conference in Rome yesterday ended without agreement.

Most European leaders want Israel to halt its offensive against Hezbollah guerrillas immediately while the United States is willing to give Israel more time to punish the guerrilla group.

“We received yesterday in the Rome conference permission, in effect, from the world, part of it gritting its teeth and part of it granting its blessing, to continue the operation, this war, until Hezbollah’s presence is erased in Lebanon and it is disarmed,” Justice Minister Haim Ramon told Army Radio.

Ramon is considered a confidant of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Let me get this straight. Most European leaders favored immediate cease-fire by Israel. But because the US wouldn’t agree, they issued no joint statement. That means they gave permission? Wow! My head hurts.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by SPIIDERWEB™ at 09:20 AM
July 26, 2006
Information you need to know

Everyone knows an Israeli soldier was kidnapped. Its the reason given for the resultant attacks by Israel on Palestine. But was it really the root cause of the current fighting?

"Gaza, itself, the latest phase, began on June 24. It was when Israel abducted two Gaza civilians, a doctor and his brother. We don't know their names. You don't know the names of victims. They were taken to Israel, presumably, and nobody knows their fate. The next day, something happened, which we do know about, a lot. Militants in Gaza, probably Islamic Jihad, abducted an Israeli soldier across the border. That's Corporal Gilad Shalit. And that's well known; the first abduction is not. Then followed the escalation of Israeli attacks on Gaza, which I don't have to repeat. It's reported on adequately."

BTW, if you clicked on the second link in my last post, you saw that blogger also mentions the physican's kidnapping along with a family member.

(read more)

Webding3.jpg

Posted by SPIIDERWEB™ at 08:13 AM
Israel and Gaza

This a Faux news interview with Lord Gilmour who probably will not be asked to return.

At the end of the interview, Lord Gilmour said Israel's expansion is Gaza is continuing. He goes on to say this:

"They pretend they want peace but they're still stealing Palestinian land by building their illegal colonies and that is very provocative to whom - to a lot of other people as well."

Compare his thoughts with this blogger's.

Only the sadly uninformed or religious zealots believe that the powers that be in Israel want peace in the former Palestine. The two sides' hatred for each other is now generational.


The Israelis never planned to actually return the occupied territories to the Arabs with the possible exception of Yitzhak Rabin, and look what happened to him, at the hands of perhaps only one of his countrymen.


(source)

Webding3.jpg

Posted by SPIIDERWEB™ at 07:51 AM
Does Anyone Else Have a Problem with this Story?

This reported in HAARETZ.com, an Israeli news source.

The role of the international force that will be sent to Lebanon following a cease-fire will be to assist the Lebanese army to deploy in the south, ensure that Hezbollah does not rebuild its positions there and ensure that quiet is maintained along the Israeli-Lebanese border, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed Tuesday.

Uh, the US and Israel agreed on the role of the international force? What about the rest of the international community? They get no say in the matter? There's no mention in the story the US and Israel even "consulted with" other countries.
Webding3.jpg

Posted by SPIIDERWEB™ at 03:54 AM
Huh?

Some people sure do talk funny. Wanna take a shot at interpreting the following quotation?

The killings have also alarmed the Roman Catholic church, with papal envoy Archbishop Fernando Filoni earlier this month stressing that there remains "an activity of high incidence of a moral and political violence against those who profess different political ideologies."

Here's what the story reports 2 paragraphs earlier:
Leftist groups who have been openly critical of [Philippines President] Arroyo's leadership have said that nearly 100 leftist activists have been killed by masked gunmen since the president came to power in 2001.

Does that remotely resemble your interpretation?

(read more)

Webding3.jpg

Posted by SPIIDERWEB™ at 03:19 AM
July 25, 2006
No Brains Required

Some people don't have the intelligence of a carrot.

Police have condemned a huge role-playing game where contestants travel all over London armed with water pistols looking to "assassinate" other players, saying it could spark terrorism alerts.

"StreetWars", which is described on its Web site as a "3-week long, 24/7, watergun assassination tournament", begins on Tuesday in the capital.

The game, which has already taken place in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Vienna, involves players hunting down targets whose details they have been given and then squirting them with water to eliminate them.

But angry police say the appearance of people behaving suspiciously, armed with what could look like real guns, risked sparking major alerts in a city where four suicide bombers attacked the transport system last year, killing 52 commuters.


(read more)

Webding3.jpg

Posted by SPIIDERWEB™ at 07:03 AM
Does Bushco Really Want Israel to Severely Weaken Hezbolla? Or…

Is this Bushco's real reason for supporting Israel's attacks on Lebanon? They've done their best to de-stabalize Iran in the past. Helping the rest of the world fear Iran would go a long way in setting Iran up for invasion.

Iran insists it will not be drawn into the Middle East fighting between Israel and Tehran's Hezbollah clients but may be unable to avoid fallout on the already difficult diplomatic struggle over its nuclear program - hardening positions on all sides, experts on the talks say.

Outside Iran, the fighting could sharpen the resolve of Western powers and others that fear Iran wants to build a nuclear weapon and is using what it calls a civilian program as a cover for that ambition. Inside the country, hard-line forces might become increasingly unwilling to make concessions.

One of the immediate worries is that Iran could set off a regional arms race and bring new risks to an area brimming with tensions. The fighting in Lebanon and the Hezbollah rocket attacks highlight concerns that nuclear material, whether from Iran or elsewhere, could in the future find its way into the hands of militant groups like Hezbollah who want to destroy Israel.


After all, playing the fear card has worked out quite nicely on Americans.

(read more)

Webding3.jpg

Posted by SPIIDERWEB™ at 06:30 AM
July 22, 2006
Why Israel Ultimately Will Lose in Lebanon
“The irony in all this is that Israel has an interest in a multicultural Lebanon and not an Islamist Lebanon, and the high hopes for the former are being dashed.”

— Chuck Cogan
Former Chief of CIA’s Near East Division
Speaking from Harvard

“For decades now Israel has established buffer zones, occupation zones, red lines, blue lines, green lines, interdiction zones, killing fields, surrogate army zones, scorched earth, and every other conceivable kind of zone between it and Arabs who fight its occupation and colonial policies — all without success. Here is why: Protecting Israelis while leaving Arabs to a fate of humiliation, occupation, degradation and subservient acquiescence to Israeli-American dictates only guarantees that those Arabs will regroup, plan a resistance strategy, and come back one day to fight for their land, their humanity, their dignity and the prospect that their children can have a normal life one day.”

— Rami G. Khouri
Editor-at-large of the Beirut-based Daily Star
July 20, 2006

Via NO QUARTER
Webding3.jpg
Posted by SPIIDERWEB™ at 02:33 AM
Israel Plans to Invade Lebanon

Most of the various news media keep reporting “Israel is saying it won’t rule out a full-scale invasion of Lebanon” or “the Lebanese, and many others, fear a full-scale invasion”.

What I don’t understand is why the uncertainty? This is and has been the plan from the start. Israel finalized just such a plan over a year ago.

It’s beyond me how anyone who’s thought it through could believe such a retaliation possible without significant pre-planning.

Israel’s military response by air, land and sea to what it considered a provocation last week by Hezbollah militants is unfolding according to a plan finalized more than a year ago.

In the years since Israel ended its military occupation of southern Lebanon, it watched warily as Hezbollah built up its military presence in the region. When Hezbollah militants kidnapped two Israeli soldiers last week, the Israeli military was ready to react almost instantly.

“Of all of Israel’s wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel was most prepared,” said Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University. “In a sense, the preparation began in May 2000, immediately after the Israeli withdrawal, when it became clear the international community was not going to prevent Hezbollah from stockpiling missiles and attacking Israel. By 2004, the military campaign scheduled to last about three weeks that we’re seeing now had already been blocked out and, in the last year or two, it’s been simulated and rehearsed across the board.”

More than a year ago, a senior Israeli army officer began giving PowerPoint presentations, on an off-the-record basis, to U.S. and other diplomats, journalists and think tanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail. Under the ground rules of the briefings, the officer could not be identified.

In his talks, the officer described a three-week campaign: The first week concentrated on destroying Hezbollah’s heavier long-range missiles, bombing its command-and-control centers, and disrupting transportation and communication arteries. In the second week, the focus shifted to attacks on individual sites of rocket launchers or weapons stores. In the third week, ground forces in large numbers would be introduced, but only in order to knock out targets discovered during reconnaissance missions as the campaign unfolded. There was no plan, according to this scenario, to reoccupy southern Lebanon on a long-term basis. [emphasis mine]


(Link)
Webding3.jpg

Posted by SPIIDERWEB™ at 01:08 AM
July 21, 2006
Rational Citizens, Warmongering Governments

Ira Chernus, Professor of Religious Studies at UC Boulder, had an interesting piece at Common Dreams the other day.

His sister can see Lebanon from her back yard, so he has a particular interest in rockets fired into northern Israel. But, he says, the real threat to his sister and her neighbors doesn’t come from Lebanon. “The real threat comes from the Israelis themselves — and the rest of the world — forgetting how and why this war started.”

Israel has in the past been ready to ransom kidnapped soldiers by returning some of the captives it holds, so he doesn’t think it started over that provocation. For an explanation that makes sense, he quotes columns and letters in Ha’aretz.

For the Israeli government, another Ha’aretz columnist wrote, “it is best that the Palestinians remain extremists because then no one will ask the government of Israel to negotiate with them. How do we ensure that the Palestinians remain radical? We simply strike at them, over and over.” So Israel responded to the Palestinian offer of negotiated peace with an allout assault on Gaza. That’s how and why it all began.

Of course it’s not news that Ha’aretz has rational columnists. What’s more encouraging, and in a way more discouraging too, is that regular citizens have equally rational views. It’s encouraging because it shows once again that Israelis are not bloodthirsty thieves. It’s discouraging because it shows that rational views among Israelis don’t seem to affect their government, a situation familiar to Americans. Chernus quotes from some letters by these rational citizens to Ha’aretz.

“The Israel Defense Forces once again looks like the neighborhood bully. … One and only one language is spoken by Israel, the language of force. The IDF absorbed two painful blows, which were particularly humiliating, and in their wake went into a war that is all about restoring its lost dignity.”

[…]

“While we’re in no hurry to get to the negotiating table, we’re eager to get to the battlefield and the killing without delay, without taking any time to think. That deepens suspicions that we need a war every few years, with terrifying repetition, even if afterward we end up back in exactly the same position.”

Why need a war every few years? Turn for a moment from Ha’aretz, often called the Hebrew equivalent of the New York Times, to the real New York Times, where Israeli novelist Etgar Keret pulled back the curtain. Among Israeli Jews, Keret wrote, after the attack on Lebanon began, “there was a small gleam in almost everyone’s eyes, a kind of unconscious breath of relief. … We long for a real war to take the place of all those exhausting years of intifada when there was no black or white, only gray … Once again, we’re a small country surrounded by enemies, fighting for our lives, not a strong, occupying country forced to fight daily against a civilian population. So is it any wonder that we’re all secretly just a tiny bit relieved?”

[…]

“Israel has no option in the long run other than withdrawing from the territories and from the occupation. … Israel’s interest is for the Palestinians to live a life of plenty and well-being.” But if this Israeli government “sinks into the destructive, meaningless routines that characterized its predecessors, the rest of the decade will turn into a disaster zone.”

If only we in the US had a press willing to take on the real issues, like Israel does! But even a free press doesn’t affect a warmongering government, there or here. As Chernus says:

The best writers in Ha’aretz know that some day Israel must give up its bullying, and that means giving up its illusions: the fiction that Israel is an innocent victim, merely responding to unprovoked aggression, and the vain hope that brutal force can restore an insecure bully’s wounded pride. As long as that lethal brew of illusion dominates Israel’s public mind and mood, Israeli bombs will keep on killing in Lebanon and Gaza, and the victims will fight back, endangering Israeli lives too.
Webding3.jpg
Posted by Chuck Dupree at 11:05 AM
July 18, 2006
Self-Destructive Republicans

The Republicans, committed to a strategy of lies and propaganda, continue to self-destruct on at least two issues: immigration and stem-cell research.

Thus did Bush find Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, on the Senate floor yesterday comparing the president’s position to those who opposed Columbus, locked up Galileo, and rejected anesthesia, electricity, vaccines and rail travel. Such attitudes “in retrospect look foolish, look absolutely ridiculous,” said Specter, daring Bush to join them.

Admittedly, Senator Magic Bullet has a track record of dissing the President ineffectively. His collusion with the administration on the issue of warrantless wiretapping is a typical example.

What’s fun to watch is the Republican meltdown. Since they divested themselves of truth and patriotism, their only strength has been their willingness to march in mindless lockstep. Nowadays, even that is falling apart.

Bush’s congressional allies, meanwhile, were mailing it in yesterday. GOP Reps. Joseph Pitts (Pa.), Mike Pence (Ind.) and Dave Weldon (Fla.) called a “background briefing” on stem cells for 11 a.m. in the Cannon House Office Building — but none of the three showed up. “He’s a host and sponsor,” explained Pence spokesman Matt Lloyd. “I don’t think we ever said he was coming.”

Still, you gotta hand it to them for intelligence, consistency, and grammatical correctness.

Marlene Strege, with her 7-year-old daughter, who was adopted as an embryo, displayed a drawing by the girl of an embryo asking, “Are you going to kill me?” Said Mom: “Mommy and Daddy and her are all adopted into God’s family because of what Christ did on the cross.”

Historical lies have never held them up before; why should they stick with the truth now, when it’s most likely to hurt them?

Even my least favorite California Senator chimed in:

“We’re going to see whether the first veto that the president of the United States makes in his entire political career will be a veto which will dash the hopes of millions of Americans,” Feinstein taunted.
Webding3.jpg
Posted by Chuck Dupree at 12:09 AM
July 17, 2006
Shootin’ the Shit at the Summit

From the Associated Press account of Bush’s meeting with Blair at the G-8 summit in Russia yesterday:

“See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s over,” Bush told Blair as he chewed on a buttered roll…

Bush expressed amazement that it will take some leaders as many as eight hours to fly home — about the same time it will take Air Force One with Bush aboard to return to Washington.

”You eight hours? Me, too. Russia’s a big country and you’re a big country,” Bush said, at one point telling a waiter he wanted Diet Coke. “Takes him eight hours to fly home. Russia’s big and so is China.”
Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:07 AM
July 15, 2006
What I Said

Today I sent the following message to my Senators and Congresswoman.


I write to urge the strongest possible sanctions on the outlaw state of Israel.

Israel is intentionally bombing civilians and infrastructure, collective punishment which is blatantly illegal under international law.

We, the United States, are paying for this destruction in two senses.

First, we provide the money. If we did not pay for Israel’s war machine, the Palestinian and Lebanese civilians would not be dead.

Second, we are creating thousands of new terrorists by supporting Israel’s murder of their families and friends. We will suffer for that illegal support for a long time, probably multiple generations.

I believe the United States should:

  1. Immediately cease to provide aid of any sort to Israel. No money, no weapons, no intelligence for as long as Israel continues the illegal activities.
  2. Cease lying about the causes of the conflict. Israel started this conflict by kidnapping two civilians the day before Palestinians abducted an Israeli soldier. I condemn all instances of kidnapping and abduction. But the initial provocation came from Israel.
  3. Stop vetoing UN attempts to place blame where it belongs. The world, and especially the Muslim world, sees our continued refusal to allow the truth to be stated as a double standard. We should either support the rule of law and treat Israel like every other country, or prepare for the massive increase in terrorism we’re generating.

My reading of the administration’s policies is that the President and Vice President want to invade Iran. Since the country (including the military) clearly does not support such an invasion, and is not likely to believe another set of lies from those who lied to generate a war in Iraq, the administration is trying to enter its favored mode — war — through the back door.

There are many possible reasons for this. One is clearly to influence the elections in November by creating fear among voters. It’s also possible that a subset of Bush supporters are hoping this war will be the one that leads to Armageddon.

The administration and its supporters are not simply wasting American lives and dollars. They are making the world drastically more dangerous. They must be stopped. Israel is a sovereign nation and we cannot force it to act according to our views; but we can and should refuse to pay for Israeli military actions that are illegal, immoral, and harmful to US interests in both the short and long term.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 06:04 PM
July 14, 2006
Israel Started It, Says Chomsky

Our tax dollars at work.

What’s happening in Gaza … begins with the Hamas election, back the end of January. Israel and the United States at once announced that they were going to punish the people of Palestine for voting the wrong way in a free election. And the punishment has been severe.

[…]

Gaza, itself, the latest phase, began on June 24. It was when Israel abducted two Gaza civilians, a doctor and his brother. We don’t know their names. You don’t know the names of victims. They were taken to Israel, presumably, and nobody knows their fate. The next day, something happened, which we do know about, a lot. Militants in Gaza, probably Islamic Jihad, abducted an Israeli soldier across the border. That’s Corporal Gilad Shalit. And that’s well known; first abduction is not. Then followed the escalation of Israeli attacks on Gaza, which I don’t have to repeat. It’s reported on adequately.

The next stage was Hezbollah’s abduction of two Israeli soldiers, they say on the border. Their official reason for this is that they are aiming for prisoner release. There are a few, nobody knows how many. Officially, there are three Lebanese prisoners in Israel. There’s allegedly a couple hundred people missing. Who knows where they are?

But the real reason, I think it’s generally agreed by analysts, is that — I’ll read from the Financial Times, which happens to be right in front of me. “The timing and scale of its attack suggest it was partly intended to reduce the pressure on Palestinians by forcing Israel to fight on two fronts simultaneously.” David Hearst, who knows this area well, describes it, I think this morning, as a display of solidarity with suffering people, the clinching impulse.

It’s a very — mind you — very irresponsible act. It subjects Lebanese to possible — certainly to plenty of terror and possible extreme disaster. Whether it can achieve any result, either in the secondary question of freeing prisoners or the primary question of some form of solidarity with the people of Gaza, I hope so, but I wouldn’t rank the probabilities very high.

So how much have you heard about Israel kidnapping the doctor and his brother? Probably nothing; I was unaware of it. But it fits a multi-decade pattern by a nation that seems determined to play to the worst stereotypes of its citizens.

And we pay for it. If the US didn’t provide the money, these Palestinian and Lebanese civilians wouldn’t be dead.

If someone complains about the abduction of a soldier from the oppressors, point out that

If there’s a conflict going on, aside physical war, not in a military conflict going on, abduction — if soldiers are captured, they are to be treated humanely. But it is not a crime at the level of capture of civilians and bringing them across the border into your own country. That’s a serious crime. And that’s the one that’s not reported. And, in fact, remember that — I mean, I don’t have to tell you that there are constant attacks going on in Gaza, which is basically a prison, huge prison, under constant attack all the time: economic strangulation, military attack, assassinations, and so on. In comparison with that, abduction of a soldier, whatever one thinks about it, doesn’t rank high in the scale of atrocities.

How is it that the United Nations, which was established to prevent exactly this sort of immoral and illegal action, is powerless in this instance?

…the UN resolution was — the veto of the UN resolution is standard. That goes back decades. The U.S. has virtually alone been blocking the possibility of diplomatic settlement, censure of Israeli crimes and atrocities. When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, the UN vetoed several resolutions right away, calling for an end to the fighting and so on, and that was a hideous invasion. And this continues through every administration. So I presume it will continue at the G8 meetings.

The United States regards Israel as virtually a militarized offshoot, and it protects it from criticism or actions and supports passively and, in fact, overtly supports its expansion, its attacks on Palestinians, its progressive takeover of what remains of Palestinian territory, and its acts to, well, actually realize a comment that Moshe Dayan made back in the early ’70s when he was responsible for the Occupied Territories. He said to his cabinet colleagues that we should tell the Palestinians that we have no solution for you, that you will live like dogs, and whoever will leave will leave, and we’ll see where that leads. That’s basically the policy. And I presume the U.S. will continue to advance that policy in one or another fashion.

Collective punishment, bombing infrastructure and killing civilians, is blatantly illegal under international law. If you can name a country with a worse record in this regard than Israel, I’d like to know who it is. Not counting the US, of course, which pays for Israel to commit its atrocities.

Israel is using the crisis it helped to create in Iraq to steal more land and kill more Palestinians. The Bush administration, frustrated by the military’s straightforward refusal to invade Iran, is trying to create a necessity that the military cannot avoid.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 03:17 PM
July 08, 2006
And For the Title of “Most Clueless”…

I’ve long thought that the Worst Person in the Senate is the senior Senator from the state I grew up in, Mitch McConnell. Of course Joe Lieberman easily outdistances the field to take the title of Most Hypocritical.

For Most Clueless, I nominate Ted Stevens. The New York Times reports on his June 28 explanation to the Senate of his opposition to the net-neutrality bill.

The Internet is “not a big truck,” Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, informed his Senate colleagues on June 28. “It is a series of tubes.”

[…]

“Just the other day,” he said, “an Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o’clock in the morning on Friday and I got it yesterday. Why? Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the Internet commercially.”

Perhaps a bridge to nowhere would help. But really, has this ever happened to you? In my twenty-eight years on the internet, I’m unaware of an example. In fact this is what would happen without legislated net neutrality. It’s come to the point where the Republicans adopt the Big Lie strategy reflexively.

[P.S. Have you contacted your Senators and expressed your opposition to Senate Bill 2686, which in its present form dumps net neutrality?]

tedstevens.jpg
Webding3.jpg
Posted by Chuck Dupree at 10:17 AM
July 07, 2006
Today Berlusconi, Tomorrow BushCo

So consider the original Coalition of the Willing, and how many of the leaders of those countries who went along with Bush’s war are now out of government. Spain, Poland, Italy, soon Japan, and so on; at this point, I think the only Bush friends still holding onto power are Howard in Australia and Blair in Britain. Blair’s struggling mightily to hold on, but his poodling over the war has cost him dearly.

Now the question is, can we hold our leaders to account when they lie and steal and murder? Well, the Italians seem to be making an effort. After the recent arrest of the current and previous heads of military intelligence the other day comes this item:

A judge on Friday ordered Italy’s former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to stand trial over alleged fraud at his family’s broadcaster Mediaset.

Preliminary hearings began in October after a four year investigation by Milan magistrates into claims of embezzlement, false accounting, tax fraud and money laundering in television rights deals between 1994 and 1999.

Of course I’d rather see BushCo prosecuted for their war crimes than for their corruption. But I’d settle for any successful prosecution.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 01:25 PM
July 05, 2006
Extraordinary Extradition

From Milan, the New York Times reports that

Italian prosecutors today sought the arrest and extradition of four Americans, three of them Central Intelligence Agency operatives, for their role in the 2003 kidnapping in Milan of a radical Egyptian cleric. Two officials of the Italian secret service were arrested in the case today.

The fourth American worked at the military airbase in Aviano from which the kidnapped imam was flown to Egypt in one of the most famous examples of extraordinary rendition. To their credit, the Europeans have complained loud and long about this practice, although everyone knows that whatever they claim in public, most governments would coöperate in secret if the US “asked”.

Two more interesting sentences from the article:

News agencies identified the arrested Italians as Marco Mancini, the current head of military counterespionage, and Gustavo Pignero, who held the same post at the time of the abduction.

[…]

The government of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi rejected the prosecutors’ request and repeatedly denied having any knowledge of the operation on Italian soil.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 01:15 PM
Let the Conspiracy Theories Begin!

This is just out and I thought some of our readers would be interested. It wasn’t even up on Google News a minute ago.

Former Enron Corp. chairman Ken Lay died of a massive heart attack, according to broadcast reports.

Houston TV station KPRC and CNN both reported that Lay's death was confirmed Wednesday.

Lay, 64, was admitted to the Aspen Valley Hospital overnight with a massive coronary, according to KPRC.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Buck Batard at 10:08 AM
June 28, 2006
Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

You knew the Bush gang had looted FEMA and sent the National Guard overseas, and in the new paradigm, in case of natural disaster you have only the church people who aren’t still working on Katrina relief or Florida recovery to help you out with your troubles. So now that hurricane season is here, you figure you’d better pay close attention to weather information and flee while you can.

Surprise, surprise. Don’t count on NOAA.

Pennsylvania’s had six solid days of rain, and 200,000 people have been evacuated. We spend our days redirecting rainspouts, pumping out basements, gaping at swollen brown creeks and boiling the public water drawn from those creeks, and being grateful we still have electricity for TV and the Internet to know what roads are closed and what further precautions we must take. We need to follow where the downpours are headed and what’s happening upstream in New York state.

We may not get any help if the torrents come rushing through, but at least we’ll have good information and know when we need to run for our lives, or so we thought:

Even as midstate residents worried about an approaching flood, the Mid-Atlantic River Forecast Center's Web site, which many came to depend on in the 2004 flood, crashed and then went haywire yesterday afternoon.

meltdown.bmp

The page showing a chart with the projected Susquehanna River crest worked fine until about noon, when the initial crash occurred. It then loaded and failed to load. When it loaded, it showed the wrong page for Harrisburg.

A chart for June 6 or June 8 was often all that came up.

A forecaster at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Mid-Atlantic River Forecast Center in State College, who would not give his name, confirmed the problems. He said the NOAA Eastern Region computer network “is weak” and badly in need of upgrade.

“Our network infrastructure stinks,” he said. “The public is going to suffer.”

He said that forecasters had repeatedly complained, but no one would listen.

That was in today’s newspaper, a sidebar by business reporter David DeKok that I couldn’t find online. Pictures of a baseball stadium filled with muddy water and a snowplow clearing debris are here. The Beachboys concert is still on for this weekend despite the underwater status of the beach.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Joyful Alternative at 07:35 PM
June 27, 2006
Burn Free or Die

You might be able to convince people that they’re being manipulated and exploited if they could pay attention long enough.

Checks and balances? Yes and no…

Take the folks who support amending the Constitution to allow Congress to outlaw flag burning. (It’s interesting that they didn’t propose an amendment to outlaw flag burning, but rather one to allow Congress to outlaw it.)

Orrin Hatch, the amendment’s chief sponsor, offered the traditional checks-and-balances argument in this non-traditional application:

“This amendment is one of the most important things we can do — to send a message to the United States Supreme Court that you cannot usurp the power” of Congress, Hatch said.

At least Hatch is consistent in his focus on non-problems. Personally, I’d say flag burning is at least as important a problem as the usurpation of Congressional powers by the Supreme Court.

The President can pretend that his “signing statements” free him from the necessity of following the law, and that his Constitutional authority during a time that’s not war, because only Congress can declare war, is unlimited. Like the Pope, this President presumes to decide that now is one of those times at which his authority is complete.

Bush flaunts his acceptance of the unitary executive theory, the belief that his office is not subject to the checks and balances so clearly intended and designed by the founders. But as power hunger leads to party loyalty, the Republicans are extremely unlikely to investigate or even strongly resist the obvious power grab by this administration. They might whine a bit, but they’ll override the checks-and-balances thing if it helps them continue to operate the scam that’s yielding billions to a favored few.

Strange bedfellows indeed

One thing that surprised me, still, cynical as I am, is how many Democrats added their votes to the Republicans’ empty gesture. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the former mayor of San Francisco ignored my request and voted for the amendment. Now and then Jay Rockefeller shows some intelligence, but such displays are commonly sandwiched between instances of abject submission. Like today’s vote. I never had much hope for the twelve other Democrats who voted Yes.

But the single biggest surprise to me is that Mitch McConnell, my summer Senator, voted No. He claims it’s a principled stand:

“No act of speech is so obnoxious that it merits tampering with our First Amendment.” Doing so, he said, “could also set a dangerous precedent for the rest of the Bill of Rights.”

Mitch McConnell??? Either I’m in Bizarro World, or I’ve fallen through the looking glass.

Or perhaps McConnell’s backers are concerned that limits on the First Amendment might lead courts to decide that money is not speech and restrict the political actions of corporations.

The money quote

A favorite quote from the Post article was Dick Durbin’s line:

“The real issue isn’t the protection of the American flag,” he said. “It’s the protection of the Republican majority.”
Webding3.jpg
Posted by Chuck Dupree at 11:32 PM
June 24, 2006
Extremism in the Fence of Liberty

More signs of panic on the right as they contemplate what Stephen Colbert feared more than global war or environmental disaster tonight, the Democrats controlling the House:

Don Goldwater, nephew of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, caused an international stir this week when EFE, a national news agency of Spain, quoted him as saying he wanted to hold undocumented immigrants in camps to use them “as labor in the construction of a wall and to clean the areas of the Arizona desert that they’re polluting.”

Weird, but apparently true.

How do you arrive at the conclusion that the problems America has created for itself are the responsibility of people who are, in this society at least, weak, poor, and not always legal? How silly do you have to be to attribute agency to those without power? All power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely; so said John Emerich Edward Dahlberg, Lord Acton, in a letter to a friend. The logical conclusion is that social problems are caused by those with the capacity to cause problems.

True, Goldwater is claiming he was quoted out of context, that he was talking about work programs for convicted felons. But he’s apparently expressed such sentiments more than once.

“Build us that wall — now!” Goldwater said, referring to a proposal to add 700 miles of fences along the U.S.-Mexico border. He promised then that if elected, he would put illegal immigrants in a tent city on the border and use their labor to build the wall.

Arizona Republicans Sen. McCain and Rep. Kolbe called Goldwater’s remarks “deeply offensive” and asked Arizona Republicans to pick someone else for Governor. Yes, Goldwater’s running for Governor of Arizona.

How does this talk of the US melting pot being polluted by immigrants differ from the ideas of the Nazis? (Aware of the superabundance of Nazi references these days, I use the term only to indicate the principles and actions of the German National Socialist Party in the nineteen-thirties and -forties.) “[T]o clean the areas of the Arizona desert that they’re polluting” has more than an tinge of that racial-purity thing the Aryan Nazis were high on. Or am I mistaken?

Finally, in case you missed the news, the St. Petersburg Times reported today (for a short time) that Karl Rove is plotting tactics for the November election with his friend and partner, Satan. Could be a tough team to beat.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 12:07 AM
May 27, 2006
Kwiatkowski and Murtha, But Warner and Biden Not So Much

One of the greatest pleasures of reading Karen Kwiatkowski is that she hasn’t lost her anger over the difference between the magnificent promise of the United States of America and reality as we’re living it today.

Warner, and McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden all stand in sharp contrast to another aging politician, Representative John Murtha, who has single-handedly made what happened in Haditha a major domestic news story. Murtha has been willing to act morally in the face of grave political danger. God bless him, and the Walter Jones, and the Ron Pauls and others in Congress who have bucked the administration and tried to do the right thing to remedy this illegal invasion, ongoing U.S. quagmire, and unnatural disaster for 25 million Iraqis.

I second her blessing on Murtha. He seems to be the real deal. My feeling is that as long as we have citizens who take seriously their responsibilities to the community, as Murtha and Kwiatkowski so clearly do, we’ve got a shot.

The Lieutenant Colonel, ret., does not appear to be happy with the brass.

No flag officer seems interested in going to the mat for any of the young men in the US military who stand accused of war crimes &mdash and who very likely will be found guilty on most counts. This is a perfect replay of the lack of any responsibility — not even the most infinitesimal drop of responsibility — exhibited by senior military and civilian leaders after the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal.

Instead, modern American military leaders, like trained dogs, sit silently alert. They are not alert to the physical, psychological and moral damage to Americans in uniform brought on by enforcing a wrongheaded police state in a shattered Iraq. Instead, they are alert only to any sign that their political masters may be displeased. Barring that, our great military leaders are as silent as the tombs in which nearly 2,500 Americans already rest.

[…]

While the truth of what I have written here is verifiable by every American soldier and Marine in Iraq, and every general officer they serve, not a single flag officer on active duty will risk his reputation as a good boy who sits and stays.

We will figuratively hang those Marines who participated in the slaughter at Haditha. We will also crucify those who did not participate, but failed to stop it, and those who helped to cover it up. We will not pity those young Americans we trained to kill when they failed to show mercy in a place they don’t understand, on a mission as frivolous as it is insincere. We will hold them responsible.

We ought to set our sights a bit higher, and begin in a serious way to politically destroy those people in Washington who placed our young men and women in Iraq, on such a frivolous and insincere mission. Those worthy of a criminal punishment include much of the Senate, many in the House, and of course, our great decider, his untrustworthy Vice President, and their Pentagon senior staff.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 12:17 PM
May 02, 2006
How to Make the White House Happy

This could blow a bunch of holes in several stories the Cheney administration has been hoping would hold up:

The Secret Service has agreed to turn over White House visitor logs that will show how often Jack Abramoff, the convicted former lobbyist, met with Bush administration officials — and with whom he met.

U.S. District Judge John Garrett Penn approved an agreement last Tuesday between the Secret Service and Judicial Watch, a public interest group, that requires the agency to produce records of Abramoff’s visits from Jan. 1, 2001, to the present.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 06:20 AM
April 20, 2006
Hold On, Valerie, Justice Might Still Come Along

Did McClellan take one more for the team on his way out the door? Sure. The real question is, what was he providing cover for?

The White House press secretary is reported to have planned on staying in the job through the upcoming elections. However, as Josh Bolten, the new chief of staff, has said, if you’re gonna leave, now’s a good time. With calls for new blood and new ideas coming from Republican as well as Democratic quarters, even this famously insular and non-poll-watching White House has been forced to respond.

So far, the results are not particularly impressive. The main issue, of course, is that the people now on the front line are just the people who were behind the previous front line. In fact the replacements seem to be chosen to minimize the ratio of new ideas to unfamiliar faces, just what you expect from this White House. From that point of view, whose departure would affect the image of the White House the most? The spokesperson. Yes, of course, the President, but realistically.

So changing press secretaries has great symbolic value, and I took it to be no more than that. If that’s all it is, I thought, Scott got cheated, because he went through hell nearly every day. I’m not saying he didn’t deserve it, but it was hell. And to be dumped just to provide a week’s worth of new-image news.

But it now appears that the news cycle Scott’s resignation muddies contains worse than bad poll numbers.

Just as the news broke Wednesday about Scott McClellan resigning as White House press secretary and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove shedding some of his policy duties, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald met with the grand jury hearing evidence in the CIA leak case and introduced additional evidence against Rove, attorneys and other US officials close to the investigation said.

The grand jury session in federal court in Washington, DC, sources close to the case said, was the first time this year that Fitzgerald told the jurors that he would soon present them with a list of criminal charges he intends to file against Rove in hopes of having the grand jury return a multi-count indictment against Rove.

Everyone’s pointing out how quiet Robert Luskin, Rove’s usually motor-mouth attorney, has been recently. I guess he’s been too busy preparing for trial.

Luskin was asked if Rove had discussed any plea deal with Fitzgerald. “Mr. Rove’s cooperation is not contingent on any plea agreement with the prosecutor,” Luskin said. “He has always cooperated voluntarily and unconditionally.”

Well and bravely said, sir. I hope to see your man frog-marched out of the White House in the near future.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 10:38 PM
Who’s the Boss?

Tom Toles on the economic realities.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 02:31 AM
April 16, 2006
What Newbold Did

More evidence that Rumsfeld’s days are numbered:

Consider, for example, Lt. General Newbold. He was the J-3 for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In other words, he was the top General with the specific responsibility for planning operations. You do not start a war without a plan. Although the responsibility for crafting the plan to invade Iraq fell specifically to CENTCOM, which was under the command of General Franks, General Newbold was in a position to monitor and comment on those plans. He can now appear before both the Senate and House Armed Services Committees and explain precisely how Don Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz fiddled with the plan first developed by Generals Zinni and Peay (former Centcom Commanders) in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War and circumvented the recommendations of senior military officers.
Webding3.jpg
Posted by Chuck Dupree at 10:06 AM
There is No Balm in Gilead to Heal His Sin-Sick Soul
There is a balm in Gilead to make Mr. Rumsfeld whole.

But there is no balm in Gilead to heal his sin-sick soul.

I don’t take the Washington Post print edition, it’s even hard to buy here, but screaming out at me top and center on their web page this morning is this article. A short selection follows:

President Bush is expected to approve soon a national pandemic influenza response plan that identifies more than 300 specific tasks for federal agencies, including determining which frontline workers should be the first vaccinated and expanding Internet capacity to handle what would probably be a flood of people working from their home computers.

The Treasury Department is poised to sign agreements with other nations to produce currency if U.S. mints cannot operate. The Pentagon, anticipating difficulties acquiring supplies from the Far East, is considering stockpiling millions of latex gloves. And the Department of Veterans Affairs has developed a drive-through medical exam to quickly assess patients who suspect they have been infected.

balmingilead.jpg

[...]

Much of the federal government’s plan relies on quick distribution of medications and vaccine. The Strategic National Stockpile has 5.1 million courses of Tamiflu on hand. The goal is to secure 21 million doses of Tamiflu and 4 million doses of Relenza by the end of this year, and a total of 51 million by late 2008.

In addition, the administration will pay one-quarter of the cost of antivirals bought by states. The Pentagon, VA, USDA and Transportation Department have their own stockpiles — and most intend to buy more as it becomes available.

Blumenthal, the former assistant surgeon general, questioned why two years after Congress approved a $5.6 billion BioShield program to develop new drugs and vaccines, so little progress has been made.

Now, for something entirely different and as far as we know now, totally unrelated:

Donald Rumsfeld has made a killing out of bird flu. The US Defense Secretary has made more than $5m (£2.9m) in capital gains from selling shares in the biotechnology firm that discovered and developed Tamiflu, the drug being bought in massive amounts by Governments to treat a possible human pandemic of the disease.

[...]

Rumsfeld was on the board of Gilead from 1988 to 2001, and was its chairman from 1997. He then left to join the Bush administration, but retained a huge shareholding.

The firm made a loss in 2003, the year before concern about bird flu started. Then revenues from Tamiflu almost quadrupled, to $44.6m, helping put the company well into the black. Sales almost quadrupled again, to $161.6m last year. During this time the share price trebled.

Rumsfeld sold some of his Gilead shares in 2004 reaping — according to the financial disclosure report he is required to make each year — capital gains of more than $5m. The report showed that he still had up to $25m-worth of shares at the end of 2004, and at least one analyst believes his stake has grown well beyond that figure, as the share price has soared. Further details are not likely to become known, however, until Rumsfeld makes his next disclosure in May.

The 2005 report showed that, in all, he owned shares worth up to $95.9m, from which he got an income of up to $13m, owned land worth up to $17m, and made $1m from renting it out.

He also had illiquid investments worth up to $8.1m, including in partnerships investing in biotechnology, issuing reproductions of paintings, and operating art galleries in New Mexico and Wyoming. He also has life insurance with a surrender value of up to $5m, and received up to $1m from the DHR Foundation, in which he has assets worth up to $25m, and $773,743 from the Donald H Rumsfeld Trust, in which he has assets of up to $50m.

In a statement to The Independent on Sunday the Pentagon said: “Secretary Rumsfeld has no relationship with Gilead Sciences, Inc beyond his investments in the company. When he became Secretary of Defence in January 2001, divestiture of his investment in Gilead was not required by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Office of Government Ethics or the Department of Defence Standards of Conduct Office.”

Why do I view a great deal of this, except for the hard facts, with such skepticism? Of course, it’s not surprising that the Washington Post leaves out important details that one has to go elsewhere to discover.

...and a few words from Mr. Poe are in order to finish up this post:

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!— prophet still, if bird or devil! — Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore, Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted — On this home by horror haunted — tell me truly, I implore— Is there — is there balm in Gilead?— tell me— tell me, I implore!” Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

theraven.jpg


[Update: I do have to give Dana Millbank at the Washington Post credit for this excellent article, which says in a unique way what I very subtly suggest in this post.]

[Update Two: Hoffmann provides us with a link to some very interesting articles. I found the one about putting small chicken farmers out of business compelling. A few years ago small hog farmers got taken out all across the Southeast. Hoffman’s link is here. Some might call some of this stuff the work of a conspiracy theorist. Others will find some or all of it compelling. Some of Engdahl’s writing sounds like malarky, I just did a short speed read of his views on Roosevelt that I vehemently disagree with. (I haven’t had time to read it all) Comments here are always appreciated.]


Webding3.jpg

Posted by Buck Batard at 07:59 AM
April 15, 2006
If You Have Stock In Rummyworld, Get Out While You Can

I’m starting to think Rumsfeld isn’t going to last the rest of Bush’s second term.

Yeah, Right

Certainly he won’t leave without a fight. He’s got the most powerful person in the administration, and one of the most ruthlessly effective players of the past couple of decades, on his side. Bush will resist the idea as well.

In fact he’s resisting now.

In an unusual statement issued from Camp David, where he had already retired for the weekend, Bush stepped directly into the debate over Rumsfeld’s performance to offer his “strong support” and make it clear he will keep the embattled defense secretary. Rumsfeld separately declared that he will not go.

“I have seen firsthand how Don relies upon our military commanders in the field and at the Pentagon to make decisions about how best to complete these missions” of fighting terrorists while simultaneously transforming the military, Bush said. “Secretary Rumsfeld’s energetic and steady leadership is exactly what is needed at this critical period. He has my full support and deepest appreciation.”

“That’s credibility. That’s a different animal.”

Two points suggest themselves. First, when the President has to interrupt a vacation, it’s news. He doesn’t seem to be vacationing in Crawford much these days, huh? Apparently Cindy Sheehan kicked his ass. And when he has to express full confidance in you, your job is on the line. Dana Milbank said (I can’t immediately Google it, so this is from memory) that when the President must publicly express confidance in you, you might as well start packing. Average span in job after such declarations is measured in weeks.

Of course Rumsfeld is a special case, given his connection to Cheney.

The second point to suggest itself is that what Bush says he has first-hand evidence of is the same thing the retired generals are saying isn’t there.

We went to war with a flawed plan that didn’t account for the hard work to build the peace after we took down the regime. We also served under a secretary of Defense who didn’t understand leadership, who was abusive, who was arrogant, who didn’t build a strong team.
Credibility Put To Use

That’s Maj. Gen. John Batiste, ret., the most recent retired officer to go into public opposition to Rumsfeld. (Cursor linked to a New York Times graphic with brief quotes from the six retired generals in question. Bite now or forever hold your peace, New Pravda links go stale pretty fast.)

The gut reaction (Homer: Sometimes you’ve just gotta go with your gut. Marge: You always go with your gut!) of the White House is defensive. The thing is, they’re already hunkered down about as low as they can get, but stuff, to use Rummy’s euphemism, continues to be thrown at them. And it continues to stick because it’s true, and mostly provable.

Raw Story’s transcript includes the following exchange between Batiste and Diane Sawyer:

MS. SAWYER: You have done an extraordinary thing, calling on Secretary Rumsfeld to step down. Why?

GEN. BATISTE: Diane, there’s really two reasons. One is, leaders need to be held accountable. By that I mean, we went to war with a flawed plan. We certainly had the troops necessary to win the fight to take down Saddam Hussein, but we in no way considered the hard work to win the peace. There was 10 years of good, deliberate war planning by U.S. Central Command that was essentially ignored.

MS. SAWYER: But the president approved the plan. If the president is in charge, do you include him in your indictment?

GEN. BATISTE: I’m talking right now about the Department of Defense.

MS. SAWYER: And that’s all?

GEN. BATISTE: That’s right.

Of course he’s somewhat circumspect, but you don’t get the feeling the President is very high on this guy’s list either.

Why Now?

This is one of those times when the pundits are right: it’s very unusual to have this much public criticism of the Defense Secretary from retired generals. Batiste, of course, is the guy who turned down a third star and left the Army, so we already know he doesn’t cotton to Rummy. Then there’s Anthony Zinni, a general I can imagine voting for; and any future Democratic administration that doesn’t get him on board in an important position is making a huge mistake.

Batiste says several interesting things in that transcript. Here he is with Katie Couric:

MS. COURIC: … I just want to get this straight, General Baptiste — you’re actually supporting the decision to go into Iraq, even though you say it’s naive to expect democracy to thrive there. So is the main point of your criticism that there weren’t enough troops deployed and Secretary Rumsfeld should be held accountable for that — because in essence, you still support the effort there, correct?

GEN. BATISTE: Katie, it doesn’t matter what I think about whether we should be there or not. That’s a moot point. The question is, where do we go from here?

He appears to be unwilling to express confidance in the original decision to go to war. A moot point? For the military, yes.

One more quote:

MS. COURIC: What is the solution, then? Obviously everyone wants to succeed, but doing so is a vexing problem.

GEN. BATISTE: I think we need a fresh start in the Department of Defense. I think that would be incredibly uplifting. I think we need accountability for what happened five years ago. I think all that has to be resolved before we can move forward and finish what we started.

What happened five years ago? That was 2001, hmm… Is he saying Rumsfeld should be held accountable for 9/11?

Fantasia

The whole situation has a dreamy quality that reminds me of the feeling I got as I saw Nixon’s administration crumbling. That might sound like an exaggeration, though we all hope it’s not; but I don’t mean to exaggerate. When I first read how strongly Bush had backed Rumsfeld, it was contrasted with his tepid statements about John Snow. Presumably Snow has his office pretty well cleaned up and ready to pass on by now.

But what started me thinking about the Nixon comparison (this time) was an article on today’s Boston Globe site. It reports on documents released to Salon.com through the Freedom of Information Act that show Rumsfeld closely monitoring the interrogation of a Guantánamo prisoner.

The documents, portions of a December 2005 Army inspector general report, disclosed for the first time that Rumsfeld spoke weekly with the Guantanamo commander, Major Geoffrey Miller, about the progress of the interrogation of a Saudi man suspected of a connection to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The intense attention Rumsfeld and Miller were paying to the interrogation raises new questions about their later claims that they knew nothing about the tactics interrogators used, which included a range of physically intense and sexually humiliating techniques similar to those in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal in Iraq.

Over a six-week period, according to subsequent investigations, the detainee was subjected to sleep deprivation, stripped naked, forced to wear women’s underwear on his head, denied bathroom access until he urinated on himself, threatened with snarling dogs, and forced to perform tricks on a dog leash, among other things.

It looks to me like the military is as close to open rebellion against the civilian leadership as it can get without violating patriotism or principle. And there are probably one or two records in the Pentagon of actions by the Secretary that he would prefer to disavow.

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 10:51 PM
The Story and the Meta Story

Here’s an odd pair.

The Story Itself

First, there’s the story itself. A Democrat running on a platform of raising taxes! Man bites dog!

Here in California, the race to replace Arnold is underway. According to the polls, most Democrats favor Phil Angelides or Steve Westly. Angelides’s early lead appears to be shrinking. In part this is probably related to his strategy of saving most of his money for the last few weeks before the election. So what does he do to draw some media attention? He holds three press conferences in a week to talk about raising taxes to “fully fund education.”

Westly’s chief political advisor had to be restrained, calling the plan

… “beyond idiotic.”

“I can’t even begin to tell you how stupid that position is,” South said. “If he is the Democratic nominee in November, he is toast.”

Thus, presumably, Mr. Westly is willing to sign a New Hampshire-style No Taxes pledge? “Westly has said that he would consider tax increases only as a last resort.”

Schwarzenegger’s spokesman suggested that at least Angelides is being honest, and accused Westly of “hiding the ball”.

The Element of Surprise

Is Angelides crazy? Perhaps, but he does have an interesting position.

On the campaign trail, Angelides talks about “closing corporate tax loopholes” and “asking multimillionaires to pay their fair share.” He brushes close to a class warfare argument: “They may have fewer Ferraris in the short term — but this whole state will have a better-educated workforce for the long term.”

What’s interesting is what he proposes to spend money on: education and the budget deficit. California spends about $4 billion a year more than it receives in taxes, and he wants to address that problem.

Can We All Just Get Along?

Those seem to be priorities that liberals and conservatives could agree on. Conservatives traditionally wanted balanced budgets, though they haven’t really acted that way in office — not just Bush, but Reagan and Nixon presided over economies out of whack due to their reliance on what Chomsky calls the Pentagon system. Reagan also had some good economic times, but they were much like those Republicans claim we’re having now: grotesquely unbalanced in favor of the already extremely wealthy.

Of course, liberals did the same: Johnson certainly, Kennedy to some extent; but he was also deeply involved in the Cold War, and was talking about ways to reduce that tension before falling off the roller coaster. Carter’s economic troubles were largely foreign in origin and thus not subject to US control; and of course Clinton presided over a boom. So did Eisenhower, but that grew out of the Second World War, after which we were not only the last one standing but also the world’s banker and arms dealer.

What we needed then was markets, and lots of them! Our productive capacity had increased drastically through the war effort, while many parts of Europe and some parts of Asia were devastated. Too devastated to be able to buy what we could produce. We needed those people on their feet and earning money fast, so we could sell them stuff. Otherwise our economy was headed right back down the drain for the same structural reasons as were manifest in the Depression: we use overproduction to enrich the few rather than the many, with the result that the many have nothing to spend and the economy stalls. All for ourselves, and nothing for others, are the sentiments Adam Smith ascribes to the masters of mankind.

The Pentagon system was considered ideal for these purposes. It imposes on the public a large burden of the costs (research and development, R&D) and provides a guaranteed market for excess production, a useful cushion for management decisions. Furthermore, this form of industrial policy does not have the undesirable side-effects of social spending directed to human needs. Apart from unwelcome redistributive effects, the latter policies tend to interfere with managerial prerogatives; useful production may undercut private gain, while state-subsidized waste production (arms, Man-on-the-Moon extravaganzas, etc.) is a gift to the owner and manager, who will, furthermore, be granted control of any marketable spin-offs. Furthermore, social spending may well arouse public interest and participation, thus enhancing the threat of democracy; the public cares about hospitals, roads, neighborhoods, and so on, but has no opinion about the choice of missiles and high-tech fighter planes. The defects of social spending do not taint the military Keynesian alternative, which had the added advantage that it was well-adapted to the needs of advanced industry: computers and electronics generally, aviation, and a wide range of related technologies and enterprises.
So Now What the Hell Do We Do?
(Believe me you’ll find out
that everything’s rotten
from bottom to top through and through
All gold is just glitter
all gains are ill-gotten
But now what the hell do we do …)

(— Rant and Rave, Joe Jackson )

In general, my feeling is that the US should not invade any country unless that country has committed an act of war against us. And no one will be stupid enough to do that; we spend nearly as much on our military as the rest of the world combined. We need to redirect our use of the common wealth to more constructive purposes.

The problem is that our economy is currently built on that base. Military Keynesianism operates on the Keynesian principle of deficit spending to pump up the economy in bad times, and turns the Pentagon into a financial arm of the government. This generates enormous profits for a small number of well-connected corporations, which in turn are owned by a relatively small number of citizens. It’s redistribution, compared to which the amounts we spend on welfare and related issues are insignificant.

How do we break the cycle? Well, a groundswell of anti-war sentiment would certainly help, but in the current propaganda climate a direct assault on the legitimacy of the war machine seems unlikely to succeed. Better to adopt the strategy chessplayers call hypermodern, chip away at the edges of the opponent’s central structure, undermine it, then be ready to rush through when it falls.

Tear Down That Wall

Education chips away at the wall that is growing between the extremely wealthy in the United States and the rest of us, by which I mean at least the bottom 95% of the economic ladder. Or perhaps a better number is 98%. In any case, inequality is reaching dangerous proportions — dangerous to general economic well-being, and thus to social cohesion.

California used to have an educational system that was the envy of the world. Now we rank nearer the bottom than the top of the states in many measures. Even given the difficulty of making accurate rankings, it’s clear that California’s financial policies have resulted in a significant reduction in the capacity of one of our most important public resources.

If a politician made a clear case for education, he or she would have a huge natural base of sympathy for ideas. The economy may be booming for the upper crust, but most people are more likely to have their jobs outsourced than they are to make a million dollars a year. Everyone realizes that education is required to make it in the modern competitive environment. The only argument against education I’ve thought of so far that’s at all reasonable is the basic no-taxes approach.

The Meta Story

Which brings us to the second half of the pair I mentioned at the beginning. (Thought I’d forgotten that, huh?)

What really surprised me was not Angelides’s position, though it does strike me as considered and courageous. My impressions of him come from news reports since I became aware of his candidacy; but my interest was sparked by William Greider’s book The Soul of Capitalism. Angelides is perhaps the prime example of one point the book is making, which is that publicly controlled money such as that in CALPERS can be used to effect changes that are positive for the public, not just the private. Pension funds can be used as leverage to encourage corporations to act in socially responsible ways, and Angelides has tried to do this, sometimes successfully.

His populist credentials are thus pretty solid, and his progressive intent is clear in the nature of the tax increases he supports. I like his Ferrari jab, and it might work.

Of course, you would expect the media to attack this ferociously. Taxes are always bad, right?

California voters are not necessarily against raising taxes on upper incomes: two years ago, voters approved a 1% tax increase on those who make more than $1 million to pay for expanding mental health services. Proposition 63 passed with nearly 54% of the vote.

Public opinion surveys also show a somewhat receptive audience thus far to Proposition 82, a June ballot initiative that would raise the tax rate on individuals making more than $400,000 and couples making more than $800,000 to fund a statewide preschool program.

Oh, and just in passing, Mr. Horrified-by-taxes Westly, like Mr. Angelides, supports Prop 82.

Say What?

The approach Angelides is taking gets him points for honesty and straightforwardness, two premium qualities in the current miasma of ethics in politics. It also brings the obvious political dangers.

Mark A. Peterson, a political science professor at UCLA, said voters “want someone who will tell you the truth. Well, yeah, but they don’t want to be told their taxes are going up. That is a truth they don’t want to hear.”

One irony about raising taxes on the wealthy is that many ordinary Americans, aspiring to be rich, oppose them. Polls show that the strongest support for tax increases on upper incomes comes from wealthy liberals — not middle-class Americans, said John Samples, director of the Center for Representative Government at the Cato Institute.

Angelides seems to expect the public to respond to his argument of governing responsibly and using public resources to help everyone. The Republicans have been calling redistribution in that direction socialism for so long that lots of people believe it. Hey, if progressive tax systems, universal health care, and fully funded education are socialist, I can live with that.

But I don’t expect this from the LA Times:

For a several years, as California has struggled with a persistent budget shortfall, economic experts have suggested temporary tax increases. In a 2003 letter to the Legislature, 14 respected California economists argued that a below-average education system would hurt the economy more than a tax increase.

“It is totally unrealistic to pretend that spending cuts alone can solve the problem,” they wrote. What followed from the Legislature and Davis was the vehicle license fee increase, since reversed by Schwarzenegger.

What? Actual reporting, including actual facts that don’t support the talking points? Whoulda thunk it? Kudos to Robert Salladay and the Times.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 03:11 AM
April 14, 2006
An Argument for Cloning a Human

Julian Borger uses a quote from Seymour Hersh, “I feel like I did in the Vietnam days — I hate to pay taxes just so they can go and bomb more people”, as the title for his profile:

This week’s extraordinary report alleging that George Bush had not only made up his mind to topple the Iranian government, but was also toying with the idea of doing it with a tactical nuclear weapon, was a telling example of his influence. If any other journalist had produced the story, it would almost certainly have been laughed off. Because Hersh wrote it, it was front-page news around the world, notwithstanding Mr Bush’s insistence it was all “wild speculation”. The White House stopped short of denying the story, saying only that the Pentagon was conducting “normal military contingency planning”.

The problem for the president is that the man known in Washington as Sy has become an institution with more credibility than the administrations that come and go in this fickle city.

Of course Hersh has long been primus inter pares. From My Lai to Abu Ghraib, he’s a trustable source. Not right one hundred percent of the time, but as reliable as reporters can be, it seems to me.

One thing Hersh is quoted as saying did surprise me: “They’d be crazy to wiretap me,” because his informants would learn of the tap and alert him. That does not strike me as overwhelmingly convincing.

hersh_2125.jpg

The theory has been advanced at The Poor Man Institute that Hersh could have been played on this issue. If the question switches from attacking Iran to using nukes on it, the basic idea gains some public acceptance. It’s possible the pro-war contingent planted appropriate leads; it’s very much their style.

This theory is not crazy; but one would have to expect that Hersh has considered the question. And the publicity that has accompanied his article has made the issue of attacking Iran impossible for the media to avoid. Discussion of the possibilities should be done very publicly, and this story has started people talking. Plus, his contention that high-level military people are prepared to resign if the nuclear option is not taken off the table validates my current world-view: the military is not the problem.

Fans of Jay McInerney have enjoyed stories about young writers working as factcheckers at The New Yorker.

Before his stories are published, his sources are called by New Yorker factcheckers to verify every detail. “I can’t deal with people who can’t talk to the factcheckers,” he said. “My people will explain to the factcheckers things they think I already know or understand, so they explain things much better, and come out with details I hadn’t even thought of.”

Finally, Hersh sets out on late-night drives, dropping drafts of his stories through the letterboxes of his sources to give them a chance to confirm he has interpreted their information correctly and that he is not going to publish anything that will put the US at risk.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 01:29 AM
April 13, 2006
Tough Call

Without being in the case, there is no way to express a definitive opinion on the issue whether special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald should turn over additional documents to Scooter Libby’s defense team.

Speaking generally on the issue of what documents a defendant can see, there is a division among federal prosecutors. By far the stronger position, in my view, is that the prosecution should turn over all relevant evidence in its possession, with minimal exceptions such as redacting reports by federal investigators to reveal only facts gathered, and to exclude any analysis or interpretation of facts.

This is because the government bears the highest burden of proof in a criminal case, and therefore in the view of many but not all federal prosecutors, the best practice is to turn over all arguably relevant evidence to the defense, not just so-called exculpatory evidence. Will defense attorneys twist and spin marginally relevant evidence unfairly and dishonestly? That goes without saying. But the criminal justice system we have is designed in theory — and in practice often operates — to protect defendants, including allowing defense counsel to distort relevant evidence to protect the guilty as well as the innocent.

That’s a flawed system, and while such statistics are impossible to gather, the likely price we pay is that for every innocent person wrongly imprisoned, a greater number of guilty people either are not prosecuted at all, or in the end go unpunished. But, this is the historic constitutional bargain we have made and the system we have, and to take it seriously, as many federal prosecutors do, requires the prosecution to turn over not just all relevant evidence, but all arguably relevant evidence, to the defense. So-called “open-file discovery.”

The toughest and most praiseworthy prosecutors will overgive, not undergive, evidence. This requires an optional act of courage on the part of the prosecutor, but if the prosecution has done its job of assuring an easily explainable and in the end unassailable core of evidence before indictment, the correct result — conviction — should most likely ensue despite the usual dishonest defense shenanigans and misdirections. Paradoxically, the open-file approach is often in the end the most aggressive prosecution strategy, since it creates goodwill with the judge, and has the added benefit of denying defense counsel any discovery-based ground for appeal.

In the Libby prosecution, though an appropriate judgment cannot be made from outside the case, it is possible that the documents Libby is seeking are not at all relevant to the charges against him. If, however, the documents sought are arguably relevant to the defense, and if Pat Fitzgerald in fact is as tough and courageous a prosecutor as some have said, he’ll give over the documents.

It is no defense to argue that Fitzgerald's criminal investigation of figures like Rove is continuing. If Fitzgerald has evidence he doesn’t want Rove to see before he indicts Rove, then Fitzgerald either indicted Libby too soon or delayed his move against Rove too long, and he and the nation must live with the consequences.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:55 AM
April 11, 2006
Good News and Bad News
Our So-Called Leaders Speak
In Baghdad on Monday for a joint appearance with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Condoleezza Rice suggested that we’ve now given the Iraqis all the help a liberated people can reasonably expect: “We have forces on the ground and have sacrificed here,” she told reporters, so we have “a right to expect that this process [of government formation] will keep moving forward.”

Chiming in, Straw called on the Iraqis to shape up and select a prime minister, pronto: “The Americans have lost over 2,000 people [in Iraq]. We’ve lost over 100…. And billions — billions — of United States dollars, hundreds of millions of British pound sterlings have come into this country. We do have, I think, a right to say that we’ve got to be able to deal with Mr. A or Mr. B or Mr. C. We can’t deal with Mr. Nobody.”

That’s right, the Secretary of State and the Foreign Secretary are blaming the Iraqis for their inability to control security in the country we destroyed. This has at least as much credibility as the Israelis blaming the Palestinians for not securing an area that the Israelis couldn’t secure with many more weapons, enormous amounts of money, and at least equivalent ruthlessness.

Progress Is Our Most Important Product

Still, we’ve reduced the attraction of Islamist extremism, right? Well, not so much.

…“religion’s role in Iraqi political life has ratcheted steadily higher since US-led forces overthrew Mr. Hussein in 2003,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Since the invasion, “not a single political decision” has been made without Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s “tacit or explicit approval, say government officials,” while the “formerly little-known young rebel cleric” Muqtada al-Sadr has “fashioned a political and military movement that has drawn tens of thousands of followers in the south and in Baghdad’s poorest slums.”

Similar developments have taken place in Sunni areas. The vote on Iraq’s draft constitution in fall 2005 turned into “a battle of the mosques,” with voters largely following religious edicts. Few Iraqis had even seen the document because the government had scarcely distributed any copies. The new constitution, the Wall Street Journal notes, has “far deeper Islamic underpinnings than Iraq’s last one, a half century ago, which was based on [secular] French civil law,” and had granted women “nearly equal rights” with men. All of this has now been reversed under the U.S. occupation.

But the Cheney administration keeps telling us that we’ve improved the lot of most Iraqis. Would the President and Vice President lie?

…torture, however horrifying, scarcely weighs in the balance in comparison with the war crimes at Falluja and elsewhere in Iraq, or the general effects of the U.S. and UK invasion. One illustration, noted in passing and quickly dismissed in the United States, is the careful study by prominent U.S. and Iraqi specialists published in the world’s leading medical journal, the Lancet, in October 2004. The conclusions of the study, carried out on rather conservative assumptions, are that “the death toll associated with the invasion and occupation of Iraq is probably about 100,000 people, and may be much higher.”

[…]

Additional effects of the invasion include the decline of the median income of Iraqis, from $255 in 2003 to about $144 in 2004, as well as “significant countrywide shortages of rice, sugar, milk, and infant formula,” according to the UN World Food Program, which had warned in advance of the invasion that it would not be able to duplicate the efficient rationing system that had been in place under Saddam Hussein. Iraqi newspapers report that new rations contain metal filings, one consequence of the vast corruption under the U.S.-UK occupation. Acute malnutrition doubled within sixteen months of the occupation of Iraq, to the level of Burundi, well above Haiti or Uganda, a figure that “translates to roughly 400,000 Iraqi children suffering from ‘wasting,’ a condition characterized by chronic diarrhea and dangerous deficiencies of protein.”

At Least We’ve Learned

Okay, so the news from Iraq is pretty bad. Still, in the final analysis, Americans have learned something. Haven’t they?

The reaction follows the general pattern when massive atrocities are perpetrated by the wrong agent. A striking example is the Indochina wars. In the only poll (to my knowledge) in which people were asked to estimate the number of Vietnamese deaths, the mean estimate was 100,000, about 5% of the official figure; the actual toll is unknown, and of no more interest than the also unknown toll of casualties of U.S. chemical warfare. The authors of the study comment that it is as if college students in Germany estimated Holocaust deaths at 300,000, in which case we might conclude that there are some problems in Germany — and if Germany ruled the world, some rather more serious problems.

Jeez Louise, looks like a few thousand errors might have been made. Well, perhaps we’ll get it right in Iran

The Good News

Now the good news: Venezuela is doing great, bouyed by the price of oil. Its President (who was legally elected, possibly providing an example for neighbors to the north) is attempting to lock in a price of $50 a barrel by negotiating with consumer countries. If this is successful, the heavy crude in which Venezuela is awash would become economically viable, with the result that Venezuela would have the largest reserves of usable oil in the world. Larger than Saudi Arabia, larger than Iraq. (That $50 price is about $15 a barrel lower than the current global level.)

Why is that good news?

As the United States and Europe continue their shift toward a Darwinomic model where rapacious corporations accrue bigger and bigger profits while workers become poorer and poorer, the socialist economic model espoused by President Hugo Chávez has become wildly popular among Latin Americans tired of watching corrupt right-wing leaders enrich themselves at their expense. Left-of-center governments have recently won power in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. Chávez’s uncompromising rhetoric matches his politics, but what’s really driving the American government and its corporate masters crazy is that he has the cash to back it up.

In their desperate frenzy to destroy Chávez, state-controlled media is resorting to some of the most transparently and hilariously hypocritical talking points ever. In the April 4th New York Times Juan Forero repeated the trope that Chávez’s use of oil revenues is unfair — even cheating somehow: “With Venezuela’s oil revenues rising 32 percent last year,” the paper exclaimed, “Mr. Chávez has been subsidizing samba parades in Brazil, eye surgery for poor Mexicans and even heating fuel for poor families from Maine to the Bronx to Philadelphia. By some estimates, the spending now surpasses the nearly $2 billion Washington allocates to pay for development programs and the drug war in western South America.”

You gotta love that: “development programs” and “the drug war”. Politics-free. We’re not bombing insurgents who want to overthrow the right-wing dictatorships we’ve propped up for decades; we’re disinterested in politics, we just want poor people to have a chance to develop. It’s the same approach we take to New Orleans. Indeed, to the whole problem of poverty in America.

The problem for the power structure in America today is what Chomsky has always said it is: the threat of a good example.

Or at least that’s one problem. The other major problem is the impending demise of American world dominance. Which will be a good thing for everyone except Shrub and his cronies (I started to say “friends”, but he has no such).

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 03:31 AM
April 09, 2006
Lily Tomlin Reprise

Are you buying phone or internet service from AT&T? If so, I suggest reconsidering your choice.

AT&T provided NSA eavesdroppers with full access to its customers’ phone calls, and shunted its customers’ internet traffic to data-mining equipment installed in a secret room in its San Francisco switching center, according to a former AT&T worker cooperating in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s lawsuit against the company.

Mark Klein, a retired AT&T communications technician, submitted an affidavit in support of the EFF’s lawsuit this week. That class action lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco last January, alleges that AT&T violated federal and state laws by surreptitiously allowing the government to monitor phone and internet communications of AT&T customers without warrants.

Know me something I don’t tell.

Tomlin1.jpg
Webding3.jpg
Posted by Chuck Dupree at 03:42 AM
April 07, 2006
There She Goes Again

Stupid statement of the week:

“Nothing has taken me more aback as secretary of State than the way energy is — I will use the word — warping international diplomacy,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a Senate committee Wednesday.

Perhaps she’s forgotten the whole oil tanker naming controversy?

…critics said the ship served as a giant floating symbol of the Bush administration’s cozy ties to the oil industry.

“It does underscore that there’s never been an administration in power in this country that has been so close to a single industry — in this instance, the oil-and-gas industry,” Chuck Lewis of the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity said last month when the watchdog organization first raised the issue.

oiltank.jpg
Webding3.jpg
Posted by Chuck Dupree at 11:28 PM
April 06, 2006
Remember That Old Rustbucket?

Ever wonder why cars don’t rust anymore? Just another example of the economic phenomenon whereby our quality of life and real income improve substantially when old products are improved. Think ice cream and sneakers from the 1960’s. (Such improvements in old products, where the price either stays the same or doesn't go up much, but the quality of the product escalates dramatically — called “quality change bias” in economic theory — create a distortion in our ability to measure accurately such things as the Consumer Price Index.)

rusty car.jpg
Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:59 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.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 10:28 PM
March 14, 2006
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?

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:46 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.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 06:31 PM
March 03, 2006
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.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 05:16 AM
February 27, 2006
Rumor: More Than Cheney’s Gun Was Loaded

So … exactly what are your responsibilities if you are a Secret Service agent and you see the vice president of the United States shoot somebody in the head, and you know the VP was shitfaced? (via)

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:44 AM
February 23, 2006
Greider on Ports

William Greider weighs in on the Dubai Ports controversy:

So why is the fearmonger-in-chief being so casual about this Dubai business?

Because at some level of consciousness even George Bush knows the inflated fears are bogus. So do a lot of the politicians merrily throwing spears at him. He taught them how to play this game, invented the tactics and reorganized political competition as a demagogic dance of hysterical absurdities, endless opportunities to waste public money. Very few dare to challenge the mindset. Thousands have died for it.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 04:40 PM
February 22, 2006
Protecting Our Children

More anti-child, anti-parent nonsense, this time in a Connecticut suburb:

Police said the couple parked between the Old Navy and Casual Male stores, four rows deep in the parking lot, about 5 p.m. A witness noticed the girl sleeping in the back seat and called police. The girl was wearing a winter coat and the windows in the car — which was not running — were rolled up, police said.

This is reminiscent of the anti-child, anti-parent reaction to the Danish couple who left their baby sleeping in a carriage outside the NYC café while they were eating six feet away, inside by the window. In any truly civilized society, children are allowed to complete their naps in a safe place such as bundled up warmly in a parked car on a winter day in New England. Yes, don’t do this in the summer with the windows rolled up, but that’s not what happened here.

Now, I myself wouldn’t leave a young child unattended in a parking lot for more than about two minutes, but this not because I feel a need to protect my children from made-up threats like kidnappers or mid-February heat stroke in New England. No, it’s because I need to protect my kids from the real threat to their well-being – cellphone-carrying buttinskis like the one that turned in the poor couple in the excerpted story.

If you want to look after someone else’s kid, volunteer at church, don’t call the police when you see a warmly bundled kid napping in a car on a day with very safe temperatures.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:28 AM
February 21, 2006
Dominoes Falling

While we know the theory is not fondly remembered, this, from Nur al-Cubicle may cause you to rethink the theory. A little bubble boy and his British pal pushed, and down they went:

So this is what happens after 40 years of NATO membership. The US partnership and its nuclear umbrella are ripped to shreds in this film — one you’ll never see in North America but it is showing in all cinemas in Turkey.

Breaking every box office record in the history of the country, the film is about a Turkish avenger who punishes the US military for the humiliating arrest and expulsion of a small Turkish contingent discovered near Sulaymaniyeh in spring 2003. The filmmakers spare no outrage to the audience, showing the US military engaged in defiling mosques, bombing wedding feasts and running a brisk organ trade out of Abu Ghraib prison.

If this film is any indication, the Turkey-Israeli axis is about to crumble. We shouldn’t be surprised that Turkey has invited Hamas leaders to Ankara.

dominoes.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Buck Batard at 11:49 AM
February 14, 2006
Waiting to Own Up?

Corpus Christi Caller-Times photographer and gun enthusiast George Gongora fires a shotgun similar to the Vice President’s at a human-sized target from 90 feet, then examines the pattern of holes in the paper. Short video (maybe 90 seconds or so), impressive results. (via Froomkin)

Could Mr. Whittington be in deeper trouble than they’re admitting? The Post reported today that he’s had a minor heart attack due to a piece of birdshot lodging in his heart. IANA doctor, but prima facie that doesn’t sound like a positive thing, especially for a patient who’s 78.

À la Reagan, reports have Mr. Whittington joking from his hospital bed. But the Dallas Morning News continues:

Sally (Whittington) May said her father does not recall a lot of the incident, nor was he involved in how or whether information about the incident was released: “He didn’t know at the time if he was going to the hospital or the mortuary.”

Perhaps she’s being a bit florid verbally; but that seems like an odd metaphor for a daughter to make in such a situation. Perhaps she meant it.

Given the amount of grief he’s got over not saying anything (Kevin Drum: “The Veep’s office can’t rouse itself to say even a single word about what happened, but somehow they have the time to assure us that Cheney is good for the seven bucks he failed to pay for an upland game bird stamp?”), a rational observer might wonder if simply holding a press conference, or even just sending out a damn press release, in which the VP acknowledged the accident and said nice things about Mr. Whittington, wouldn’t have been a lot less painful.

But maybe they’re not sure what the outcome will be for Mr. Whittington. Assuming he lives, with something like 200 BBs in the face and chest, if they miss your eyes you have to wonder how. In which case, they might want to wait until they know what they have to take responsibility for. And whether there will be legal problems.

At least Mr. Cheney has that stamp paid for.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 10:42 PM
February 11, 2006
Why Are They Letting Brown Talk?

Preserving the conjunction of body and soul back in meatspace has taken up undue portions of time recently, but I’m baaack.

Here’s something that puzzles me. If Michael Brown — who was at one point famously doing a heckuva job at FEMA, and is now testifying before Congress on why things turned out so badly — asked for a claim of executive privilege with respect to his testimony, and you occupied the White House during the natural disaster of Katrina, wouldn’t you feel that his claim was worth honoring?

There’s a range of things Brown might testify to, from little or no contact with the White House during a large-scale disaster, leading to essentially no action; to lots of contact leading, as before, to essentially no action; to intentional exacerbation of the difficulties by administration policy. None of these scenarios make the White House look good from any angle I’ve thought of so far.

So why are they letting this happen? By “they”, I suppose I really mean Karl Rove, the image-meister. Why does he consider the required expenditure of message time or swing-vote credibility unjustified by the reward in this case?

I posit these scenarios:

  1. Rove might consider Brown to be sufficiently discredited in the public eye that it would take more political capital than it’s worth to keep him from having to testify, and that no one will believe him anyway. Closeness to Brown indicates acceptance of ineptitude, with overtones of racism. Distance from Brown indicates fear of contagion, justified or not. (Witness the Congressional game of “Jack Who?” going on these days.) Given the widespread connection of his surname with the images of destruction and apathy that accompanied Katrina, it’s easy to imagine that Mr. Brown’s testimony will taken lightly.
  2. Rove might believe that Brown would realize that his own interest, not to say physical safety, will benefit from his exercise of selective memory durimg testimony. This seems like something that would work in a large number of scenarios. Main problem: whether its obviousness might escape the witness.
  3. Rove might calculate that the recent revelations about Vice President Cheney directly authorizing Scooter Libby to reveal classified information indicate that it doesn’t matter what people are talking about this week, or next. When the Vice President resigns for reasons of health and to be with his family, as I’m guessing he will before the 2008 election, he will likely leave behind many unanswered questions about his role in Plamegate. Or perhaps I should say, many questions to which the answers have not yet been proven in court. All this will overwhelm and make irrelevant whatever was going on immediately before that.

If compelled to wager, I expect I would let it ride on number three. But the range of options might be seen to indicate a marshalling of Republican resources for use in influencing, as Rovians like to call it, “the base”.

Is it me? Are we in a Robert Anton Wilson novel? Or is Al Qaeda often translated as “The Base”? Is it, in short, as so concisely put by Firesign Theatre, too weird, Dear Friends?

Or are you seeing patterns like those that strike me? I’m reminded of the unfolding of the Watergate scandal. Things are different now, true, like Iraq versus Vietnam; but there are many similarities too.

The biggest difference is the current control of Congress by the wing of the Republican party most comfortable with a “unitary executive”. This makes investigations unlikely. But if the Democrats gain control of either house of Congress in the 2006 elections, that probability changes dramatically.

The biggest similarity, to me, is the spectacle of the main body of the American people being forced to realize uncomfortable truths. This requires us to shift on our couches, and come to terms with a new and slightly different position.

It’s increasingly difficult, even on what passes for news shows these days, for administration apologists to claim with a straight face that the President has the innate authority to wiretap Americans’ phone calls (“George Washington did it!”). Even if they manage to pull off the act, their credibility has dropped quite a bit after the announcement by judges in the national security area of unhappiness about warrantless wiretapping, the continuing revelations by insiders that many experienced people in positions of responsibility believed the wiretapping to be illegal, and the result that out of thousands of illegal wiretaps they have no solid evidence of having made anyone’s life better.

It seems to me that the immediate future will continue to set its own standards, some for comedy, some for tragedy; but that the similarities with the Watergate era will not be random. Similar levels of hubris among those in power are now accompanied by significantly less game-playing ability. The main advantage the Bush administration has is increased corporate control of the mass media; the main (though by no means only) advantage those interested in honesty in goverment have is the government’s inability, so far, to control the internet.

Hail Eris!

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 06:58 AM
January 31, 2006
Boycott the SOTU

The MSM is abuzz with talk about what the Chimp-In-Chief plans to talk about during his state of the union speech. But really. Anyone who thinks they’re going to tune in tonight and hear anything true about the state of the union needs their head examined. If you tune into the state of the union speech to hear about what’s going on in the country, you probably also listen to Bush’s press secretary to find out about what’s going on at the White House. That is to say, you’re delusional and, really, you’re probably one of the 39% of the country that approves of the way Bush is handling the presidency.

All you really need to know is that Bush has accomplished a helluva lot since he was elected President. He has managed to throw away hundreds of billions of dollars in a totally unjustified war. He has destroyed or otherwise compromised most of our environmental laws. He has almost completely ignored the biggest problem ever to confront this planet — global warming. He has virtually destroyed all our credibility and respect abroad. Terrrorism has radically increased during his administration despite the fact that fighting it is his biggest priority. He totally fucked up rescue operations pursuant to Katrina. He has wrecked our enforcement of mine safety laws. He has caused the biggest trade and budget deficits in U.S. history. He has flagrantly violated the constitution and the law of the land by spying on American citizens without a warrant. He has lost millions of jobs overseas, and presided over what looks like the coming demise of the U.S. auto industry. The list goes on and on and if he has anything to do with it, the list will get even longer during the remaining years of his presidency.

Why anyone would take the time to watch Bush lie once again about the state of the union is beyond me. And the applause. Who on the left could possibly stomach all that applause?

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Tom Street at 02:28 PM
January 26, 2006
Vietnam and Three Mile Island

Say what you will about the good ole US of A, you can’t deny we’re good at getting over things. Or just forgetting them altogether.

Thanks to the decades-long exertions of some hard-working self-styled patriots we’ve managed to overcome the dreaded Vietnam Syndrome. In fact, we overcame it with such zest that we admitted openly that our new war was unprovoked, a war of aggression pure and simple.

Now it appears those same leaders are going to help us overcome our Three-Mile-Island Syndrome:

The Bush administration is preparing a plan to expand civilian nuclear energy at home and abroad while taking spent fuel from foreign countries and reprocessing it, in a break with decades of U.S. policy, according to U.S. and foreign officials briefed on the initiative.

The United States has adamantly opposed reprocessing spent fuel from civilian reactors since the 1970s because it would produce material that could be used in nuclear weapons. But the Bush program, envisioned as a multi-decade effort dubbed the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, would invest research money to develop technologies intended to avoid any such risk, the officials said.

[…]

The notion of accepting other countries’ spent fuel at a time when the United States has had trouble disposing of its own nuclear waste could also prove highly controversial.

That whole nuclear proliferation thing hasn’t turned out to be nearly as much of a threat as we thought. After all, the more countries we can claim are developing nukes, the more candidates we have for pre-emptive war; and look how much money we’ve made off Iraq!

And as long as we’re Number One, no one dares say, at least in US media, the obvious: that the US is the largest proliferator of nuclear weapons. We are in clear violation of our obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to reduce our stockpile of nukes; we helped Israel get them and cover them up; we are sufficiently disconnected from reality that we were surprised when India and Pakistan went nuclear (or so we claimed).

Probably our most important effect is that we attack states we know are not armed with nukes (e.g., Iraq and Afghanistan), thereby compelling our declared enemies (e.g., North Korea and Iran) to develop them as the only means of resistance.

American militia types who worry about black helicopters from the UN would be well advised to check the color of American helicopters. It’s the US government that wants to rule the world.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 03:00 AM
January 18, 2006
Another Set of Lies About Iran

In case we needed further proof that the dance with Iran is a charade:

[American Ambassador to, and therefore Viceroy of, Iraq Zalmay] Khalilzad was not allowed to negotiate with Tehran. US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack pointed out to reporters that the ambassador had “a very narrow mandate … and it deals specifically with issues related to Iraq”.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki immediately said Iran had no intention of negotiating with the United States. However, it is clear that Iran is willing to reach agreement on ways of stabilizing Iraq, provided a broader range of issues is also on the table.

On May 4, 2003, according to a Financial Times story 10 months later, a Swiss diplomat conveyed to the US State Department an Iranian proposal for a “grand bargain” that would result in coordination of Iranian and US policy toward Iraq, support for a two-state Palestinian-Israeli solution and an end to Iran's nuclear-enrichment program in return for US normalization of relations and dropping “regime change” from US policy.

But neo-conservatives in the administration, led by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, hoped for the collapse of the Iranian regime, and the White House rejected the proposal.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 04:16 AM
They Really Did Know

It appears that the US government informed the Pakistani government of its intent to fire missiles at that Pakistani village. Surprise.

Media reports claim that Zawahiri only escaped death because he did not keep a dinner date in the area that was targeted. Yet intelligence contacts tell Asia Times Online that the target was not specifically Zawahiri — it could equally have been Taliban leader Mullah Omar or Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of the Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan and a key figure in the Afghan resistance.

A Western intelligence source told Asia Times Online that the US had heard of a “big meeting” in Bajur of Taliban, Pakistani and al-Qaeda leaders. “They flew three Predator drones over the area for a few days and a few hours before the strike, and that seems to be what tipped Zawahiri off,” the source said.

Whether or not Zawahiri missed dinner, the US is becoming increasingly aggressive in its hunt for a major scalp in the “war on terror”, so much so that it can now launch such attacks in Pakistani territory.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 04:04 AM
January 16, 2006
Is Musharraf History?

Looks like our old friend Gen. Pervez Musharraf is in deep doo-doo.

By now you’ve heard about CIA-operated Predator drones killing over a dozen Pakistanis in an unsuccessful attempt to knock out Ayman al-Zawahiri, generally called the number two person in Al Qaeda. (There are conflicting reports about the use of Predators; it’s possible that the missiles were fired by piloted planes, which would mean the Air Force.) It appears that the air strike was executed without permission from the Pakistani government, which is believable because the US doesn’t trust Musharraf’s government, probably for good reason. And it wouldn’t be politically prudent for Musharraf to know about such an airstrike in advance anyway.

In any case, Musharraf is facing an enraged citizenry. Eight thousand people are reported to have attended a rally in Karachi where speakers condemned the US, condemnations that included Musharraf for what the speakers see as complicity in the US crusade. In response, Pakistan announced that it would file a formal complaint with the US (you know how much the US government will care), and the Pakistani Information Minister had little choice but “to assure the people we will not allow such incidents to recur”, as if there were anything they could do about it.

Are US government officials concerned?

“We apologize, but I can’t tell you that we wouldn’t do the same thing again,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “We have to do what we think is necessary to take out al Qaeda, particularly the top operatives. This guy has been more visible than Osama bin Laden lately.”

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) also defended the action. “It’s a regrettable situation, but what else are we supposed to do?” he said on CNN’s “Late Edition.” “It’s like the wild, wild West out there. The Pakistani border is a real problem.”

Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said the strike was “clearly justified by the intelligence.”

We have to do what’s necessary, and sometimes what’s necessary is to kill a bunch of innocent people without even coming close to killing any real enemies. As a poor, helpless superpower, our fears are more important than your lives. We can’t have this Zawahiri guy tweaking us in his broadcasts; it makes us look tweakable. And hey, stuff happens.

This kind of action will clearly not advance the cause of reducing terrorism. (Of course, this action is itself terrorism, but let’s stick to the narrower definition of the word for now.) As Ted Rall says in To Afghanistan and Back:

…it’s always possible to carry a hypothetical war on terrorism to its logical extreme: somehow, perhaps using satellite surveillance and pixie dust, the U.S. and its allies successfully hunt down every single member of every militant Islamic organization in the world and either jail or kill them. Who knows how? Anyway —

It still wouldn’t matter. Those dead and jailed militants have mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. They have friends. And countless ordinary Muslim people would watch, driven to vengeance by the extraordinary ruthlessness of such a massive assault by America on individuals whose only proven sins are their beliefs. A new army of jihadists would arise from the ashes of Bush’s 21st century crusade.

Nevertheless, America must have its vengeance. We’re not the kind of people to sit around and mourn a few thousand dead office workers when there’s some serious ass to kick. So we’ll bomb or invade or something. It won’t matter, but that doesn’t matter. It’s what we do.

Or maybe it was all planned, as part of a US attempt to weaken the Pakistani military.

According to sources close to the power corridors in Washington who spoke to Asia Times Online, the administration of US President George W Bush is now convinced that a weaker Pakistani army is as necessary now as a powerful one was when Islamabad did a U-turn on its support for the Taliban soon after September 11, 2001.

This realization has taken root over the past few months, and developments since last November have been enough to set alarm bells ringing among the military leadership of Pakistan.

The Asia Times article discusses some contacts between “a person close to the US Central Intelligence Agency” and various Indians and Pakistanis in December, and an upsurge in funding for opponents of Musharraf, from Benazir Bhutto to an insurgency in Balochistan.

The US government may have concluded that Musharraf has outlived his usefulness.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 02:21 AM
January 12, 2006
Apologetic Links

There’s too much going on right now to comment in depth about everything that’s interesting. So, with apologies, I simply offer a set of links to the most interesting things I’ve read recently.

Here’s Chomsky on the recent elections in Iraq:

Elections, if taken seriously, mean you pay some attention to the will of the population. The crucial question for an invading army is: “Do they want us to be here?”

There is no lack of information about the answer. One important source is a poll for the British Ministry of Defence this past August, carried out by Iraqi university researchers and leaked to the British Press. It found that 82 per cent are “strongly opposed” to the presence of coalition troops and less than 1 per cent believe they are responsible for any improvement in security.

Analysts of the Brookings Institution in Washington report that in November, 80 per cent of Iraqis favoured “near-term US troop withdrawal.” Other sources generally concur. So the coalition forces should withdraw, as the population wants them to, instead of trying desperately to set up a client regime with military forces that they can control. But Bush and Blair still refuse to set a timetable for withdrawal, limiting themselves to token withdrawals as their goals are achieved.

There’s a good reason why the United States cannot tolerate a sovereign, more or less democratic Iraq. The issue can scarcely be raised because it conflicts with firmly established doctrine: We’re supposed to believe that the United States would have invaded Iraq if it was an island in the Indian Ocean and its main export was pickles, not petroleum.

And here’s Representative Murtha on the current situation in Iraq. As Arianna says, “Reports from around the country are that wherever Murtha goes — be it a Home Depot or a Starbucks — applause breaks out.”

In engaging in the debate about how to proceed, let’s stick to the facts. It is a disservice to substitute personal and political attacks for reasoned debate about a deadly serious topic, especially when such prominent Americans as the following have spoken out:
  • General Brent Scowcroft (Army Ret.), who served as President George H. W. Bush’s National Security Advisor, has said that the war in Iraq is “feeding” terrorism;
  • General George Casey, Jr., Commanding General, Multi-National Force Iraq, said in a September 2005 Hearing, “the perception of occupation in Iraq is a major driving force behind the insurgency”.
  • General John Abizaid, Commander, U.S. Central Command, said on the same date, “Reducing the size and visibility of the coalition forces in Iraq is a part of our counterinsurgency strategy

It is also a disservice to our fine young men and women in uniform to argue that leaders in Washington and elsewhere must refrain from debating this issue for fear of hurting the morale of the troops in the field. Our troops know that diversity of opinion and honorable debate over matters of war and peace are integral and essential parts of America’s democratic system. A system they have pledged to defend. A vigorous debate based on facts and not political hyperbole helps to hold our leaders accountable and keeps our country strong. Our troops expect their political leaders to come to these decisions that can affect their lives with much deliberation, and a sense of putting the interests of our nation ahead of personal political gain.

Our military forces today are one of the finest in our history. They are loyally and faithfully fulfilling their duty and carrying out their orders. What is demoralizing to them is not a debate in Washington, but the many missteps by the civilian leadership that have led to a situation where the vast majority of the Iraqi people now view them as occupiers, not as liberators.

Finally, evolution and progess continue to improve the world as “Levi Strauss debuts iPod-ready jeans”.

Denim giant Levi Strauss said on Tuesday it had designed jeans compatible with the iPod music player, featuring a joystick in the watch pocket to operate the device.

The Levi’s RedWire DLX Jeans for men and women, which will be available this fall, also have a built-in docking cradle for the iPod and retractable headphones. Pricing was not immediately available.

Thank heavens.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 12:06 AM
January 11, 2006
Check The Caymans, Not Camden

Yes, it is true that a large number (but still a small percentage) of working-class taxpayers illegally claim refunds under the IRS’s Earned Income Tax Credit program. And, yes, this is serious criminal activity that should be punished when discovered by the government. And yes, in the aggregate this theft from you and me amounts to billions of dollars every year. So yes, it is required that the IRS’s Criminal Investigation Division should police EITC fraud. To deny any of this, as certain advocates for the poor do, is indefensible.

But none of that changes the fact that the real money, the big bucks, of criminal tax fraud is among high-income individuals and corporations. There is much more bang for the enforcement buck in devoting relatively more resources to going after the high-income crook, and relatively less to the EITC low-life. And, certainly, holding up the refunds of millions of needy EITC filers in order to prevent the distribution of a small number of fraudulent refunds is not justified.


Leona Helmsley.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:15 AM
January 05, 2006
Oscars

I may have to actually watch this year. (March 5, 2006.)

160X_stewart_050919.jpg


Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 11:25 PM
It’s Happening Again…

Thus Bill Hicks:

You know we armed Iraq. I wondered about that too. During the Persian Gulf War, those intelligence reports would come out: “Oh, Iraq? Incredible weapons. Incredible weapons.”

“How do y’all know that?”

“Well. Ha ha. Ah, we looked at the receipt. But as soon as that check clears, we’re going in.”

Remember that line the giant kept repeating in Twin Peaks? “It’s happening again…

The story dates back to the Clinton administration and February 2000, when one frightened Russian scientist walked Vienna’s winter streets. The Russian had good reason to be afraid. He was walking around Vienna with blueprints for a nuclear bomb.

To be precise, he was carrying technical designs for a TBA 480 high-voltage block, otherwise known as a "firing set", for a Russian-designed nuclear weapon. He held in his hands the knowledge needed to create a perfect implosion that could trigger a nuclear chain reaction inside a small spherical core. It was one of the greatest engineering secrets in the world, providing the solution to one of a handful of problems that separated nuclear powers such as the United States and Russia from rogue countries such as Iran that were desperate to join the nuclear club but had so far fallen short.

The Russian, who had defected to the US years earlier, still couldn’t believe the orders he had received from CIA headquarters. The CIA had given him the nuclear blueprints and then sent him to Vienna to sell them — or simply give them — to the Iranian representatives to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). With the Russian doing its bidding, the CIA appeared to be about to help Iran leapfrog one of the last remaining engineering hurdles blocking its path to a nuclear weapon. The dangerous irony was not lost on the Russian — the IAEA was an international organisation created to restrict the spread of nuclear technology.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 02:18 AM
January 04, 2006
Locomotive Coming Off The Tracks

Sounded like such a good idea at the time:

The corruption investigation surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff shows the significant political risk that Republican leaders took when they adopted what had once seemed a brilliant strategy for dominating Washington: turning the K Street lobbying corridor into a cog of the GOP political machine.…

GOP leaders, seeking to harness the financial and political support of K Street, urged lobbyists to support their conservative agenda, give heavily to Republican politicians and hire Republicans for top trade association jobs. Abramoff obliged on every front…

“This is the one thing that could result in a change in who controls the Congress,” said Paul Weyrich, a conservative activist.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 01:43 PM
You Light Up My Life

Here’s a person who needs a remedial course in “How The World Works:”

The coal industry knows that as much as Americans may love a cheap kilowatt, they are not going to support burning coal if it results in people suffering miserable deaths in Appalachian coal mines.
158200495059_EnergyHogTattoo.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:12 AM
January 02, 2006
Hopeful Signs

The Bush administration clearly begins the new year under seige for its illegal acts and immoral approaches. The American empire is collapsing, as Emmanuel Todd predicted, and that loss of power is well deserved. But there are positive reasons to hope in addition to the negative ones.

For example, there’s the recent election in Bolivia, which produced a President with this level of understanding:

What happened these past days in Bolivia was a great revolt by those who have been oppressed for more than 500 years. The will of the people was imposed this September and October, and has begun to overcome the empire’s cannons.

[…]

…what I dream of and what we as leaders from Bolivia dream of is that our task at this moment should be to strengthen anti-imperialist thinking. Some leaders are now talking about how we — the intellectuals, the social and political movements — can organize a great summit of people like Fidel, Chávez, and Lula to say to everyone: “We are here, taking a stand against the aggression of the US imperialism.”

A summit at which we are joined by compañera Rigoberta Menchú, by other social and labor leaders, great personalities like Pérez Ezquivel. A great summit to say to our people that we are together, united, and defending humanity. We have no other choice, compañeros and compañeras — if we want to defend humanity we must change systems and this means overthrowing US imperialism.

Every hopeful event inspires others.

The Zapatistas are embarking on a six-month tour of Mexico’s 31 states as an “alternative project” to the presidential elections.

Their enigmatic, pipe-smoking leader, Marcos, has dropped the title of subcomandante to become Delegate Zero.

marcos220.jpg

I realize a lot of people, especially Americans, and most especially those who watch a lot of television, will disagree with me, but I think Marcos is the very model of a leader: he makes it clear to everyone that the movement is not about him. To call yourself subcommander is to indicate that the people of the movement are the true source of power. This is the real meaning of democracy.

The Zapatistas are not impressed with former Mexico City Mayor Manuel López Obrador, of the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party. In response to continued failure by the establishment to help the indigenous people, they apparently intend to build a grass-roots movement across Mexico like the one that has revolutionized Bolivian politics.

The caravan’s trip through all 31 states and Mexico City is meant to influence Mexico’s July presidential election. Marcos has said Zapatista leaders will reach out to leftist groups across the country, creating a national movement that will “turn Mexico on its head.”

As Bolivia has been. If this trend continues, where might it lead?

Among the rebel’s sympathizers gathered in La Garrucha was a group organized by Higher Grounds, a company from Lake Leelanau, Mich., that buys coffee from Zapatista communities at prices about 50 percent above the market rate.

Higher Grounds’ 31-year-old owner, Chris Treter, said the Zapatista ideas could resonate north of the Rio Grande.

“There are a lot of people in Mexico and in the United States who are disenfranchised and are looking for a voice they can’t find in the political parties,” Treter said.

Scared, unregenerate (degenerate?) minds have taken to the soapbox:

By the end of this year a Morales imitator could be president of Peru, Daniel Ortega and his Sandinista movement could once again control Nicaragua, and Mexico could be led by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a socialist who has never visited the United States.

Horrors — never been in the US! What could he possibly know of life? And what if Ortega “controls” Nicaragua through having been freely elected? (Does Bush “control” the US? Well, maybe a little. But since he was elected without ever having left the US, at least he can be trusted.)

Worse, what if those Latin Americans realize we can’t do anything to prevent them from taking back their countries?

Thanks to Mar del Plata [where he was “jeered by demonstratorsand taunted by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez”], Bush is at least aware of the problem. On his return he ordered a high-level review of U.S. policy in the region. A subsequent meeting of senior officials from the departments of State, Defense, Treasury and other agencies generated a handful of new ideas. For example, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, who helped defuse a political crisis in Nicaragua in October, proposed an initiative to deepen U.S. engagement with countries in Central America as they implement the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

Treasury spoke of working more closely with Brazil on its financial stability. There was talk of an energy initiative, perhaps in conjunction with Canada, to compete with Chavez’s aggressive program of providing cheap oil to countries in the Caribbean and elsewhere.

That’ll work. Suppose we destroy their agriculture with our subsidized exports, get our banks to buy their corporations, and reduce labor and environmental standards to compete with their poor people? Oh, and if we drill in ANWR we can sell oil cheaper than Venezuela, right? That’ll convince those silly Spanish speakers that life is hopeless, they may as well submit to the empire. (Yes, I know Brazil speaks Portugese, but I bet Bush still doesn’t, even after the visit in which he was surprised to find black people there.)

What stands in the way of such a great program are several Washington policies, most importantly immigration and the International Criminal Court. Countries like Mexico, El Salvador, and Chile are upset by the former and in some cases losing US aid over the latter.

All these developments may not matter much in the long run. Latin America poses no serious threat to U.S. security. Chavez and his populist followers will fail to create sustainable prosperity, as they have throughout Latin history. The same democracies that are giving leftists a chance to rule, if preserved, will oust them when they fail. In the short term, however, much of Latin America is going to be an unfriendly place for liberal ideas and free markets — and with them the United States.

An almost incredible level of fatuousness. I assume that Jackson Diehl, who wrote this drivel, believes that the US is a democracy. Yet the center-right, which he hopes will regain its rightful power in Latin America, has patently failed to create a sustainable prosperity here, and we have not been able to oust them. Note also the conflation of liberal ideas and free markets, as if the two were similar.

Can our system still change by elections, like Latin America is doing? Those in power had better hope so, if they want to avoid Paris Communes. But perhaps they are comfortable with such an outcome.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 04:22 AM
December 21, 2005
Selling Out The Kids Not A Good Plan

I agree. Just pay the friggin’ bus drivers (in NYC and elsewhere). And, thank them for standing up to the typical management practice of insulating current employees from the most drastic cuts, and hanging out future workers to dry. All Democrats should stand together on this one. Yes, that means you, Sen. Hillary Wuss Clinton. It’s crazy and self-defeating if we don’t stand up for our youth and our kids who are still coming up. Who’s going to take care of us when we’re old?

(Link via.)

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 11:07 PM
December 20, 2005
Take It Back

Gail Collins: She’s still got it:

Mr. Bush says Congress gave him the power to spy on Americans. Fine, then Congress can just take it back.
Webding3.jpg
Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:58 AM
December 16, 2005
“It’s Oil, and It’s Empire and It’s Business”

By now you’ve probably heard how Howard Zinn demolished Lynne Cheney’s latest propaganda ploy, delivered, typically, to elementary-school kids. But it’s worth a re-hearing.

“Two hundred and seventeen years ago, we held our first vote under our Constitution,” the Second Lady said. “We started then on the path the Iraqis are walking now.”

It’s sort of ridiculous the juxtaposition of an election that took place in the United States after we had gotten rid of an occupying power, England, an election which represented our independence, with an election that is taking place now, which is in the midst of an occupation. … We were holding an election after ousting the occupying power.

But you might not have heard what he thinks is going well:

What’s going well is the growing rejection of the war by Americans, the growing willingness of the Americans to speak up against the war, the growing protest against high school recruiting by young people and people all over the country. What’s going well is what has always gone well — the willingness of the American people to resist the war and growing consciousness of what is wrong. The graph is moving in the direction of greater public understanding and also going in the direction of the crumbling of the legitimacy of this Administration.

If only the Democrats would get it together…

If I were Nancy Pelosi I would certainly say to my fellow Democrats, “If we want to win the next election we better get with the American people, they’re way ahead of us. The American people are forthrightly against the war and we’re forthrightly about [nothing].” The American people are much more bold and forthright. If I were any Democratic leader, if I were Howard Dean — who unfortunately has been the kind of silent head of the Democratic National Committee — I would say to my fellow Democrats, wake up. If you don’t give the American people what the American people want, then you are going to go down in history as a party that loses and loses and loses.
Webding3.jpg
Posted by Chuck Dupree at 11:14 PM
December 14, 2005
Novak Comes Clean

Well, sort of.

Robert Novak said Tuesday that people should “bug” President Bush rather than journalists about who outed now-former CIA operative Valerie Plame, according to a Wednesday story in The News & Observer of Raleigh.

“I’m confident the president knows who the source is. I’d be amazed if he doesn’t," said Novak, the Chicago Sun-Times/Creators Syndicate columnist who published Plame’s name in 2003. “So I say, ’Don't bug me. Don't bug Bob Woodward. Bug the president as to whether he should reveal who the source is.’ "



don't bug me.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Buck Batard at 01:59 PM
Who Says Camels Don’t Drink Often?

The tobacco companies for several years have been operating under a consent decree that prevents them from marketing tobacco to kids, as part of the settlement of the various states’ successful claims against Big Tobacco.

To slime out from under this requirement, RJR, the maker of Camels, the second-most popular brand among teens, is sending out birthday packages that don’t directly promote smoking; rather, they include a set of coasters that promote heavy drinking, which I’m going to guess research would prove is associated with … smoking.

The birthday coasters bear some nice mellow sippin’ recipes. Such as one, “Kiss Your Worries Goodbye,” that calls for five shots of rum (to be fair,“light rum”), and a can of frozen lemonade, blended and poured in one tall glass. (Link to a PDF of the coasters.)

Note that this is even too much for the by-definition strong-stomached liquor industry:

All four distillers indicated that they previously were not aware of the promotion. Moreover, the distillers noted that the promotion would violate the alcohol industry’s advertising code, which specifically prohibits marketing practices that encourage excessive drinking, promote the intoxicating effects of alcohol consumption, or urge individuals to drink as a rite of passage into adulthood. The distillers have all written to Reynolds, asserting that Reynolds has violated their trademark rights and demanding that Reynolds “cease and desist” the promotional campaign, or face potential litigation. Reynolds has refused those requests.
camel_zipc.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:54 AM
Of Course, We May Have To Rename It “Freedom Cabbage”

Post-New Orleans, post-Iraq, post-two years of flu vaccine shortages, we know we can’t rely on the Bush Administration Kings of Incompetence to protect us from an avian flu disaster. But, thank goodness, we don’t need to rely on the U.S. government to ward off avian flu; we have the Great Lakes Kraut Company and the Halm Enterprises kimchee company for that.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:41 AM
December 09, 2005
Ouch

Nation’s boomers live long but suffer.


woman_backache.jpg
Webding3.jpg

Well-priced flashdrive products available here.

Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:43 AM
A Loser’s Game

The latest installment in the ongoing Bad Attitudes project on “how to recognize the dark ages when you’re in them”:

…from Seoul to San Francisco, affluent online [computer] gamers who lack the time and patience to work their way up to the higher levels of gamedom are willing to pay the young Chinese here to play the early rounds for them. … These workers have strict quotas and are supervised by bosses …
Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:20 AM
December 06, 2005
Efficiency In Government

Here’s my question: if the Chinese government within a matter of months can produce enough avian flu vaccine to inoculate 14 billion chickens, geese and ducks, how come in three of the last five flu seasons, the U.S. government and vaccine industry couldn’t supply enough regular flu vaccine for just 300 million human beings?

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:42 AM
December 05, 2005
Falsies

Are you a breast implant manufacturer whose implants leave behind troubling silicone oil stains when handled? The solution is easy: fix the samples used to demonstrate the product to doctors and potential patients, but no need to fix the ones ultimately used for implantation.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 10:14 PM
November 22, 2005
Separated at Birth?

Yesterday Vice President Dick Cheney offered the American Enterprise Institute his views on the conflict in Iraq:

The terrorists believe that by controlling an entire country, they will be able to target and overthrow other governments in the region, and to establish a radical Islamic empire that encompasses a region from Spain, across North Africa, through the Middle East and South Asia, all the way to Indonesia.

Surprisingly — or maybe not — these views closely parallel a geopolitical analysis by Osama bin Laden which has been privately communicated to Bad Attitudes:

The infidels believe that by controlling an entire country, they will be able to target and overthrow other governments in the region, and to establish a radical Christian empire that encompasses a region from Spain, across North Africa, through the Middle East and South Asia, all the way to Indonesia.


cheneysneer.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:14 PM
November 07, 2005
Dirty Tricks At The IRS?

Ms. D’Arc, on the money again, notes that the IRS, on the one hand, is looking to repeal the tax-exempt status of a church in California where the pastor told the congregation that one could vote for either Kerry or Bush and still be a good Christian, while on the other hand, the agency is ignoring the massive and highly organized pro-Bush political campaign waged from pulpits everywhere in 2004.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 07:49 AM
November 01, 2005
That Special Bush Touch

The special Bush touch of weakening our nation, but doing it in an incompetent, expensive, and semi-corrupt way, is on full display in the ongoing construction in Louisiana and Mississippi of numerous so-called “Georgetowns,” the ill-conceived and doomed trailer park ghettos the administration is constructing to warehouse Katrina refugees.

The reason that America shops at Sam’s Club is that if you buy in bulk, you should get a deal and save some of your hard-earned money. Whereas, when the Weakener-in-Chief goes shopping for 95,000 trailer homes with your hard-earned money, he pays twice the going rate.

Here’s the skinny:

$22 million to prepare the lots for 573 trailers. That’s about $38,000 apiece, or more than twice the average price of each trailer.…

[M]ore than a million apartments sit empty across the South, prompting many critics to say FEMA missed a golden opportunity to house hurricane victims using the same kind of rapid-response rental voucher system that was used during a previous natural disaster.

“To be frank, I'm bewildered by what has gone on here,” said Bruce Katz, a former official with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. “There doesn't seem to be a plan that was really thought out in any significant way.”

Yes, that special Bush touch — on your wallet.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 07:13 AM
October 30, 2005
Big Trouble for Big Time

In my previous post, I claimed that we’re watching a couple of sea changes: television news feeds us Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala when we want to understand the Fitzgerald investigation (Olbermann, the exception as usual, interviews John Dean, and advances our understanding). The blogosphere, on the other hand, is not limited to ranters; it includes knowledgeable folks as well. Which is why an increasing percentage of our fellow citizens are turning to the web for information. I claim this is a encouraging development for the cause of democracy.

The second sea change I think we’re living through is embodied in the Fitzgerald investigation.

I haven’t been posting much recently as I’ve tried to absorb the events of Fitzmas, or as Al Franken calls it, Fitznukkah: “It isn’t a one-day holiday like Fitzmas. This could go on and on.” I think that’s likely.

If you haven’t spent every spare hour scouring the viewpoints on this story, I particularly recommend Fitz’s Knuckle Ball, in which a lawyer and former SEC enforcement official explains why the holiday’s not over. To begin with, as we now know, Fitzgerald has empaneled a new grand jury. But more importantly, the Libby indictment layed out a case in much greater detail than required by federal rules:

The Libby indictment goes considerably beyond what the rule requires, or even envisions. It is what’s called, in courthouse vernacular, a “speaking indictment.” The purpose of a “speaking” filing, in any court proceeding, is to show the other side some of the stronger cards you’re holding in your hand, and this indictment is no exception.

cheney2.jpg So who is “the other side”? Barton Gellman’s article in the Post provides a possibility:

As Cheney returned to Washington with I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby [on Saturday morning, July 12, 2003], the two men spoke of the news on Iraq… A troublesome critic was undermining a principal rationale for the war: the depiction of Baghdad, most urgently by Cheney, as a nuclear threat to the United States.

Defending the war became the animating priority aboard Air Force Two that day. According to his indictment on Friday, Libby “discussed with other officials aboard the plane” how he should respond to “pending media inquiries” about the critic, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. Apart from Libby, only press aide Catherine Martin is known to have accompanied Cheney on that flight.

As Gadfly points out in the Booman post, the fact that Libby hasn’t been charged under the Espionage Act doesn’t mean he can’t be. The indictment as published seems to make a strong case for doing so, suggesting that Fitzgerald is keeping the possibility of that charge in reserve. Why? Perhaps to encourage Scooter to flip and provide information on the conspiracy, implicating Cheney; but such a scenario seems unlikely. Perhaps to encourage Rove to cooperate by pointing out that he is susceptible to the same charge. Perhaps to point out that Fitzgerald has the power to minimize or maximize the destruction depending on what sort of cooperation he receives.

Let’s agree on something else right now: Libby’s case will never get to trial, primarily because Bush and Cheney will never allow such a trial to become precisely the kind of exposé of the administration’s motives and actions in the run-up to the war they were worried the indictments would constitute. It would be their worst nightmare to have their war machinations presented to a jury of 12 ordinary citizens in the District of Columbia (read: predominantly African Americans) who would be sitting as proxies for the families of 2,000 plus military fatalities in Iraq and the plurality of the country that opposes the war. The risk there is not just exposure to the possibility of conviction in Washington, D.C., but a subsequent prosecution in The Hague as well.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 06:27 AM
October 29, 2005
Greens Against the War

Bad news for the White House and good news for America comes from that last bastion of liberalism and home to the training base for the Green Berets, the State of North Carolina:

A majority of current and former military members surveyed this week in North Carolina disagree with how President Bush is handling the war in Iraq, according to a poll released Friday.

More than 56 percent of military members surveyed in an Elon University poll said they disapprove or strongly disapprove with how the president is running the war.

Nearly 53 percent disapprove or strongly disapprove of Bush’s overall job performance.

The results are startling because military members almost always overwhelmingly support wars and the president, said poll director Hunter Bacot.

green_beret_cd.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Buck Batard at 06:28 PM
October 28, 2005
Clemons and Rove: Yeah, Sox!

Roger Clemons. Karl Rove. Ya like one, ya like the other, same sorta folks. High and inside, otherwise known as cheating. You playin’ in the big leagues, where they hit heads?

This, I want to see. More than Roger Clemons hit in the head repeatedely with a baseball: Scooter and Karl, shooting at each other.

White House officials said their presumption was that Mr. Libby would resign if indicted, and he and Mr. Rove took steps to expand their legal teams in preparation for a possible court battle.

It’s good to see that the Times, in the wake of the Judy Miller fiasco, hasn’t lost its taste for understatement:

At the White House, the withdrawal of Harriet E. Miers as the president’s nominee to the Supreme Court dominated the day. Still, officials waited anxiously for word about developments in the investigation, which has the potential to shape the remainder of Mr. Bush’s second term.

D’ya think? Like, maybe, whether the Pres or the Veep will be in office by the end of the term? That might tend to shape things, one way or the other.

Administration officials said that the White House would seek to keep as low a profile as possible if indictments were issued…

Which should be easy; I mean it’s only the White House, no one will notice if they’re gone for a day or two.

Allies of Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby have hoped that Mr. Fitzgerald could be convinced that any misstatements were inadvertent and not intended to conceal their actions from prosecutors.

In addition, they have hoped that the prosecutor would conclude it would be difficult to convince a jury that Mr. Rove or Mr. Libby had a clear-cut motive to misinform the grand jury. Lawyers for the two men declined to comment on their legal status.

Completely believeable: Scooter and Karl just overlooked this detail. It’s the kind of thing they do. And it’s not like they had means or motive, or an opportunity. Much. And their modus operandi is not exactly the same. Well, okay, it is, but that’s just chance.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 05:51 AM
October 25, 2005
It’s Not That Complicated

The no-mind MSM continues on its path of thinking that it knows everything Pat Fitzgerald knows. That’s crazy. (These links are both to NYT Select op-eds by Tierney and Kristof; sorry. Short version: Fitzgerald is Javert, his evidence is weak, and perjury is not a crime.)

I don’t know Pat Fitzgerald personally. But I well know – and admire – his type: hard-driving, low-key, press-shy career prosecutor. Ken Starr was a politician and a press hound; Fitzgerald is a quiet professional killer. And, I can tell you this: these people do not move unless they have an absolutely clean head shot. They want to produce dead bodies, not press conferences. One way to insure clean kills is to make sure that the targets don’t know what you know, until you are ready.

That’s why it is foolish, bordering on insane, to assume that all of, or at least the broad outline of, Fitzgerald’s evidence is known to jabber-jockeys worldwide. Yes, many of the grand jury witnesses have blabbed, as is their right. But to assume they all have is nuts. It is likely that some people out there are still trying to preserve careers and anonymity, hoping against hope that the cases plead out and they won’t get called at trial. And that’s just the live witnesses; my guess is that Fitzgerald has presented box after box of documents to the grand jury. So, don’t be surprised if the Fitzgerald indictments, if any, include charges not dreamed of by the likes of Tierney and Kristof.

Equally idiotic and harmful to the nation is the MSM’s assumption that misleading criminal investigators and prosecutors or lying to a grand jury is somehow not a serious crime. My guess is that this assumption has currency among the jabber-jockeys because journalists are used to getting misled and lied to, and so they don’t understand what the big deal is if a prosecutor or federal agent is misled.

Well, let the word go forth: it is not a crime to lie to a reporter; that’s what we call “business as usual.” However, don’t try this at home, when the FBI comes calling; and don’t try this from the grand jury witness box. When you are talking to a federal agent or prosecutor, when you are talking to the grand jury, the rules have changed. At that point you are playing in the major leages, and you better tell the truth, or you can go to jail. If you don’t want to tell the truth, you have the right not to say anything; just don’t lie. It’s really not that complicated.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:37 AM
October 24, 2005
Fristed

Looks like Senator Frist is gaining on his better-known colleagues in the race to the bottom:

In January 2003, after winning election as majority leader, Frist was asked on CNBC whether his HCA holdings made it difficult for him to push for changes in Medicare, a federal health program for seniors that added to the hospital company’s revenue.

“I think really for our viewers it should be understood that I put this into a blind trust,” Frist replied. “So as far as I know, I own no HCA stock.” He added that the trust was “totally blind. I have no control.”

Two weeks before that interview, M. Kirk Scobey Jr., a Frist trustee, informed the senator in writing that one of his trusts had received HCA stock valued at between $15,000 and $50,000.

“He [Frist] could have been more exact in his comments,” said Bob Stevenson, spokesman for Frist. Stevenson added that Frist might better have said he did not know to what extent he owned HCA shares.

“[C]ould have been more exact”, yes. Could have been more truthful, too. Wasn’t.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 12:51 AM
October 21, 2005
McGovern Meets Wilson

I’ve long been a fan of Ray McGovern, who “was a C.I.A. analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.” If you’ve ever seen him on TV talking about his memories of and actions in Vietnam, you know what I mean. This is a real man, who did some stuff he’s not proud of, and has been working his butt off for many years trying to contribute positively to society as a direct result. No one’s perfect; some try to recover.

So I was doubly interested to read McGovern’s account of his introduction to the man George H.W. Bush rightly called an “American hero”, Joseph Wilson (via our friends at Cursor).

When introduced to former ambassador Wilson at the June 14 conference, I wasted no time asking him — rather naively, it turned out — if he knew who the former U.S. ambassador who went to Niger was. He smiled and said, “You’re looking at him.” I asked when he intended to go public; in a couple of weeks, was the answer.

Wilson then turned dead serious and, with considerable emphasis, told me the White House had already launched a full-court press in an effort to dredge up dirt on him. He added, “When I do speak out, they are going to go after me big time. I don’t know the precise nature the retaliation will take, but I can tell you now it will be swift and vindictive. They cannot afford to have people thinking they can escape unscathed if they spill the beans on the dishonesty undergirding this war.” (Sad to say, the White House approach has worked. There are perhaps a hundred of my former C.I.A. colleagues who know about the lies; none — not one — has been able to summon the courage to go public.)

Wilson’s tone was matter of fact; the nerves were of steel. Hardly surprising, thought I. If you can face down Saddam Hussein, you can surely face down the likes of Dick Cheney.

It appears that those nerves are about to win out. The lies are ever more manifest.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 11:14 PM
October 15, 2005
Daily Double

Interesting but probably statistically meaningless daily factoid double:

  1. Yesterday’s report of the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finding Bush’s approval among African-Americans at 2 percent, and today’s Pew Research Center poll, which reports 12 percent.
  2. Today’s report from Dana Milbank:

    The men and women who would judge Rove, 11 of them black and four white, were mostly older, and casually dressed in jeans, sneakers or sweaters.

One other semi-amusing tidbit from Milbank:

Pete Yost of the Associated Press tried again. “Karl,” he said, “If it came down to a root canal or a couple of hours with Fitzgerald, what would you do?” This caused Rove to turn back and look, but he remained silent.
Webding3.jpg
Posted by Chuck Dupree at 12:15 AM
October 13, 2005
The President’s Economic Plan & You

On one level, I fully understand the president’s upcoming proposal to end the income tax deduction for mortgage interest payments: it’s part of the Weakener-in-Chief’s drive to financially burden (i.e, “tax”) people who work for a living in order to shift wealth to rich people by giving them further tax breaks. Just another element in his ongoing project to weaken and divide America (and this relentless, pathological nation-weakening drive I do not fully understand, except to know that it is inarguably there, and that the reasons for it are vicious, sick, and deeply personal to the president).

(The president has said that he will not accept any such recommendation by his blue-ribbon panel to cut the mortgage interest rate deduction, but the writings of his economic handlers such as Jude Wanniski leave no doubt that he would love to do it if he could get away with it politically, and I doubt that former GOP Sen. Connie Mack, who is leading the commission, would have let such a proposal surface without White House consent.)

But examining the proposal purely on its economic merits, we only have one sure thing supporting the economy at this point: the China-funded residential real estate boom. So isn’t eliminating the mortgage deduction much akin to cutting off the leg of a one-legged stool? Or not?

Anybody out there have a guess as to what will be the result of cutting the mortgage deduction? Obviously, the first impact will be a real increase in home prices from the buyer’s perspective, but what will the reaction to that be? A drop in home prices to keep houses moving, or a drop in interest rates to keep mortgages flowing, or some of both? But then again, isn’t the reason interest rates are this low that Chinese and other investors abroad perceive that our economy will continue to chug along, and since we all know that that chugging is fueled by low mortgage rates and high home prices, maybe our creditors will feel that the likely hit to real estate stemming from cutting the mortgage deduction is a reason to get out of the U.S. fast. And if that is true, will the end result be simply a deflating of the entire real estate sector?

In short, what in tarnation is going on here?

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:55 AM
October 12, 2005
Sit Back, Relax, And Enjoy The Show

While the criticism of Harriet Miers’s résumé is dramatically unfair, it is also beside the point. She appears to be not just a presidential toady and Weakentrooper to the core, but a dingbat besides; who else would name the pompous and ineffective Chief Justice Burger – who stepped into the High Court’s middle seat straight out of Gilbert & Sullivan — as a favorite jurist? In other words, Fantastic Woman Justice Weakentrooper will certainly do all she can to advance W’s America-weakening agenda, but all she can won’t be much. Americans who want to restore America’s heart and greatness should just sit back and watch the Weakentroopers’ catfight.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 10:53 PM
America ♥’s Freedom

Amazing. Here’s a totalitarian country, unlike Iraq, with a chance for democracy — not a large chance, and not anytime soon — but we don’t do shit except take their money while pro-democracy protesters are beaten until their eyes are hanging out of their sockets.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 07:17 AM
October 11, 2005
TIAA-CREF: End Of An Era

TIAA-CREF, the teachers’ retirement fund company that is the largest private pension manager in the world, was for decades the place to be for low fees and high service, and the nation was stronger therefor. In 1997, TIAA-CREF was forced by the federal government to convert to a for-profit company. And, more recently, the company lost John Biggs, their buttoned-down, low-key, Mr. Business Ethics leader, who left to further strengthen his nation by running the new federal accounting watchdog agency set up in the wake of Enron, Worldcom, and all the rest. The late, never-lamented SEC Chief Harvey Pitt, who had been put in place by the Weakener-in-Chief (a/k/a, “W’) to weaken the nation by gutting securities laws because they protected non-players like you and me, left Biggs swinging in the wind.

The latest upshot of all this nation-weakening activity by the GOP: millions of teachers across the country, who had been relatively unscrewed by Wall Street because TIAA-CREF was run with their interests in mind, are about to get their financial hymens popped.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 07:44 PM
What Does She Do in the Oval Office Late at Night, Sitting in the Big Chair, When No One Else Is Around?

After reading this, you may need a hot shower:

Harriet Miers, President Bush’s nominee for the Supreme Court, quickly developed a deep and almost gushing admiration for her boss from her earliest days in Texas government.

“You are the best governor ever — deserving of great respect!” she wrote in 1997…

The reaction of the Weakener-in-Chief? “Never hold back your sage advice.”

I want to know what the relationship is between Harriet and Condi — cat fight, anyone?

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 07:03 AM
October 10, 2005
Frog-Marching Imminent?

The most promising speculation I’ve seen yet on the upcoming Rove frog-march is at The Next Hurrah. Plus, there’s the added attraction of a CSN-related title (“Sweet Judy Blew Lies”) For significantly greater detail, check out the thread of emptywheel’s Plamegate coverage.

emptywheel fits in all the facts I know and then some. It explains the connection between the forged Niger documents, Italian intelligence (SISMI), Judy Miller, Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Shrub, and their conspiracy to discredit anyone who attacked the forged documents they planted, then referred to as a basis for the war they’d decided on before they came to office.

Plus, as we know, grand juries, unlike blue-ribbon commissions, are not restricted in what they can investigate.

This thing is starting to make Watergate look like a third-rate burglary.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 01:55 AM
Now We’re Cookin’

Wow … lookit Karl Rove hang Andy Card out to dry on the Miers nomination:

According to a presidential adviser who has been briefed on the chronology of the decision, senior adviser Karl Rove was less involved than he is in most major decisions. …

The driving force was chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr., who took over the vetting role. “This is something that Andy and the President cooked up,” the adviser [said].

It may be just business, Karl wanting to stay viable to be hired in the future by rightwing, America-weakening candidates like Sam Brownback and George Allen. Whatever the reason, it is fabulous, and good for America, to finally see some serious internecine warfare in the White House.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 12:03 AM
October 09, 2005
Still Standing By

I’m still standing by my earlier statement:

“Harriet Miers [is] the most qualified nominee in many years, at least since Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 10:52 AM
Recipe For …

great literature:

“The concept of writers as drunken Hemingwayesque malcontents traveling the globe is over,” Ms. Cecil said. “They see it as a job now, and they see themselves not as inspired alcoholics, or depressive psychopaths alone in a tenement. It’s more mainstream. It’s good kids going to M.F.A. programs, then looking for a place to find the kind of writerly community they had in grad school.”

That was too easy; but what the hell, it’s Sunday.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 10:50 AM
October 06, 2005
Miers and the Death of Competence

Bush’s pick for the Supreme Court is nothing short of a disgrace. What’s worse, however, is the reaction from Democrats such as Harry Reid (who instantly praised Bush’s pick) and left-leaning bloggers such as Matt Yglesias who tells us that Miers’s lack of credentials “aren’t a big deal.”

But it is precisely the lack of credentials that makes this such a big deal, and such a disgrace for all involved. Anyone sitting on the highest court in the land should have some minimal qualifications for the position beyond being a presidential sycophant. Miers, as near as anyone can tell, has no qualifications whatever beyond holding a now-disused law degree.

Placing such a blatantly unqualified individual on the Supreme Court pretty much signals the demise of America. Where once we demanded competence and expertise from public officials, confirming Miers carves in stone Bush’s governng philosophy: Competent people need not apply. With the need for qualifications, credentials, competence, experience, and expertise swept away, we will no longer demand or even expect that anyone in any part of our government have even a vague idea what they’re doing. Merely being able to fog a mirror and befriend whoever makes the hiring decision will be enough. And who could speak against such a system? After all, if we do not demand competence from those we place in the highest offices in the land, how can we demand competence from anyone lower in the organizational chart?

On the other hand, I have become convinced that the Republican agenda is to make real Reagan’s mantra: Government is the problem. If converting our government into a hive of incompetent cronies and corrupt patronage seekers makes yet more Americans lose all faith in their own government, then for Bush and his right-wing nitwits it will be one more “Mission Accomplished.”

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Moe Blues at 02:16 PM
An Accountability Moment? Well, Not So Much

Hold onto your hat. In fact, you might want to sit down. This is likely to prove a big shock.

The CIA will not seek to hold any current or former agency officials, including ex-director George J. Tenet, responsible for failures leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, CIA Director Porter J. Goss said yesterday, despite a recommendation by the agency’s inspector general that he convene an “accountability board” to judge their performance.

What? After all the trust we lodged in Goss?

Goss said the report in no way suggests “that any one person or group of people could have prevented 9/11.”

If you believe that one, please email me; I’m in possession of several major transportation structures in the Manhattan area you might be interested in purchasing.

“I think it is utterly reprehensible for Director Goss to be hinting towards not holding anyone accountable, particularly since he was in an oversight capacity as house chairman and is now in a position to atone for his own failures,” said Kristin Breitweiser, whose husband, Ron, was killed at the World Trade Center. “He is either avoiding embarrassment or trying to hide something.”

Cheeky, a mere citizen claiming the right to judge our superiors.

“Of the officers named in this report,” [Goss] said, “about half have retired from the Agency, and those who are still with us are amongst the finest we have.”

I’m sure it’s a great comfort to those who lost friends and family to know that while, in Reagan’s classic phrase, mistakes were made, they were made by the finest intelligence agents we’ve got. It’s a comfort to me to know that those people are still on the job.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Chuck Dupree at 03:16 AM
October 05, 2005
Miers: Qualified, But Still Wrong

Nobody noticed when I called John Roberts one of the most unqualified Supreme Court nominees in years, for reasons stated here by Sen. Harry Reid: “‘As bright and brilliant and as good a lawyer as Judge Roberts was, I asked him – he’d never taken a deposition, he’d never picked a jury, never tried a case,’ Reid said.”

Thus, I expect that nobody will notice me now, calling Harriet Miers the most qualified nominee in many years, at least since Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

This doesn’t mean I support her; she’s clearly a presidential toady who is wrong for the country because she believes strongly in W’s America-weakening agenda. It just means that Miss Miers’s many years as a trial-level litigator, coupled with her brief service as an elected official, and lengthy service as a high government official in Washington and Austin, makes her much more qualified than Roberts to sit on the Supreme Court.

Sen. Reid is right again: “[Roberts] never tried a case. [Miers] has. We need people like that who have real-life experiences.”

Appellate experience, which is all that Chief Justice Roberts has, is like book learning to a surgeon: nice, but basically irrelevant compared to bloody-hands practice. If you needed a new heart, would you rather be operated on by this man, or by someone who got an “A” in their medical anatomy class?

By the same token, speaking now of qualifications divorced from personal philosophy or political inclination, if the survival of your business hinges on getting the Supreme Court to review a legal matter turning on an improperly selected jury or an objectionable question at a deposition, there can be no dispute that Miers comes to the bench far more knowledgeable and prepared than Roberts in the purely résumé sense.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 11:48 PM
House Special: Weakenburger

The Bush Administration’s drive to weaken the country in every way is so deep that it must be pathological. How else can you explain the proposal by the Weakener-in-Chief (a/k/a “W”) to keep America’s burger eaters exposed to Mad Cow Disease? Can it really be true that most Americans don’t want to pay the price for a truly effective Mad Cow prevention program like those adopted by civilized countries? The only explanation for this and the hundred other finely crosshatched and interstitial decisions weakening the nation’s food supply (including W’s otherwise incomprehensible order literally prohibiting willing U.S. companies from performing testing that would allow their beef back into Japan) is that W, for sick reasons of his own, doesn’t want the United States to have a strong, safe food supply system. (A conclusion which dovetails with Blogistan’s consensus that at some point, systemic incompetence becomes indistinguishable from malice.)

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Wayne Uff at 07:42 AM
October 03, 2005
Directly Involved

Think Progress brings us news that appeared on network television this weeek, which seems to indicate George Bush and Dick Cheney were directly involved in the outing of CIA Agent Valerie Plame. President Bush previouslysaid he would “get to the bottom of” the matter. I would presume this means we now know where the bottom is.

Near the end of a round table discussion on ABC’s This Week, George Stephanopoulos dropped this bomb:
Definitely a political problem but I wonder, George Will, do you think it’s a manageable one for the White House especially if we don’t know whether Fitzgerald is going to write a report or have indictments but if he is able to show as a source close to this told me this week, that President Bush and Vice President Cheney were actually involved in some of these discussions.
left behind.jpg
Webding3.jpg
Posted by Buck Batard at 06:25 AM
October 01, 2005
Femaville USA ?

There is a new and perhaps appropriate name for the new “towns” that are going to be built as a result of the recent Hurricanes. I haven’t seen the name anywhere else, but ran across it in this article in the online edition of the Guardian. I’m a little bit bothered by the name though, seems to me that it might be a subtle way to shift blame from the disastrous behaviour of incompetent government stooges to a once strong and useful — but much needed — government agency that was intentionally and recklessly dismantled.

A month after Hurricane Katrina, US authorities have placed just 109 Louisiana families in temporary housing. The Federal Emergency Management Agency signed contracts worth $2bn for temporary housing in the aftermath of the disaster, including 120,000 trailers. By this week only 1,397 had been installed in Louisiana.

Fema officials blamed local officials for the delay.

The strategy of creating large trailer parks has its critics. “You’re concentrating people in the middle of nowhere, and once they’re there it’s very hard for them to get out,” said Susan Popkin of the Urban Institute in Washington.

The parks, referred to as Femavilles, are seen by many as a dumping ground. Often isolated, with few services or amenities, they have been plagued by crime, poverty and unemployment.

femaville.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Buck Batard at 06:27 PM