April 07, 2014
Why We Will Never Learn

Thomas Polgar, the last CIA station chief in Vietnam, died in March at the age of 92. His obit is in today’s New York Times. And here’s Polgar himself, remembering the fall of Saigon. As well as, in this brief aside, the war criminal Henry Kissinger.

One day I had an opportunity to ask Mr. Kissinger what he thought of our intelligence. Not speaking of Vietnam, but generally. He was getting this big flow of intelligence from CIA world wide at the time. What did he think of the value of it? And he thought for a moment and then he said, “Well, when it supports my policy, it’s very useful.” And I think we are here at the heart of the problem. It is that American policy is not formulated in response to what the intelligence shows. We first formulate the policy and then we try to find the intelligence to support it.

It is interesting to speculate what might have happened if Truman had decided to let the country continue to bumble along, as it had somehow since 1776, without any “intelligence” agency at all. No Shah of Iran, hence no hostage crisis and no Ronald Reagan. No U2, hence no refreezing of the Cold War. No Bay of Pigs, hence no Cuban Missile Crisis. No arming of the Taliban, to teach those Russians a lesson. No Weapons of Mass Destruction, hence no… The list goes on and on. The CIA stands in relation to the White House as the drug dealer stands to the addict.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:37 PM
April 26, 2013
Daddy’s Little Boy

Yesterday’s cringe-worthy dedication of Bush’s Folly leads me to re-post, not for the first time but I hope for the last, my 2006 psychoanalysis of the frat boy president. (For further elaboration on the theme, see this from 2002.)

The younger Bush’s career can only be understood as a lifelong obsession with disappointing the father he so plainly hates.

He follows his father’s footsteps in school, as a pilot, as a businessman, and finally as a politician. Unable to fill those footprints, he made each one seem unimportant by pretending contempt for it. He got C’s where his father got A’s; he was a cheerleader while his father captained the baseball team; he ducked the combat flying that made his father a hero; he burned through the seed money his father’s friends gave him, failing in the oil business which had made his father rich.

At last he was taken in hand by a sleazy political op who realized that the father’s name and money would be enough to elect the wayward son governor of Texas. (Polls at the time showed that a significant portion of the voters thought that W. actually was his father.)

Then Karl Rove set out to hand-carry his meal ticket into the White House itself.

Take that, you old fart, junior must have thought as he took the oath of office. Any asshole can get to be president. But even that wasn’t enough. Deep inside, where the Oedipal snakes writhed in his subconscious, there was still work to do.

What better to way to humiliate his father than to degrade the supreme office the old man had spent his life to reach? What sweeter revenge than to slime, like a slug, the presidency itself? And so he enlisted Rumsfeld and Cheney, his father’s ancient enemies, to help in the work of patricide.

Outdoing his father as president, the junior Bush must have known in his heart, was beyond his limited capacities. But his whole life offered proof of his ability to fail, and so he took the only path remaining. He would become, God help the rest of us, the worst president in history.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:42 AM
April 16, 2013
Truer Words…

Cherries picked from an interview George W. Bush gave to the Dallas Morning News

“The best way for people to understand what I meant by ‘compassionate conservative’ is to look at the programs we implemented and look at the results…”

“Much of my presidency was defined by things that you didn’t necessarily want to have happen.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:52 PM
March 01, 2013
Virginia is for Lovers

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — A Virginia Beach pizza shop owner is showing his support for firearm rights by giving gun owners a 15 percent discount. The discount is given to anyone who brings a gun or concealed handgun permit to All Around Pizzas and Deli…

Since the discount began last Friday, Laze says 80 percent of his customers have brought guns into the pizza shop. He says one customer came in with an AK-47.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:26 AM
February 16, 2013
The Man Who Taught His Ass to Talk

I came to this via Democratic Underground, which led me to the an archived website called Moondog Madness, which contained a remarkably prophetic political analysis from the late beat novelist William Burroughs. For the gentle reader I have left out certain parts of his essay, but enough remains to explain just what the hell has happened to your father’s Republican Party anyway. The unabridged version is here.

Did I ever tell you about the man who taught his ass to talk? …After a while the ass start talking on its own.…the asshole would eat its way through his pants and start talking on the street, shouting out it wanted equal rights. It would get drunk, too, and have crying jags nobody loved it and it wanted to be kissed same as any other mouth. Finally it talked all the time day and night, you could hear him for blocks screaming at it to shut up, and beating it with his fist, and sticking candles up it, but nothing did any good and the asshole said to him: ‘It’s you who will shut up in the end. Not me. Because we don’t need you around here any more. I can talk and eat AND shit.’

…One thing the asshole COULDN’T do was see. It needed the eyes. But nerve connections were blocked and infiltrated and atrophied so the brain couldn’t give orders any more. It was trapped in the skull, sealed off. For a while you could see the silent, helpless suffering of the brain behind the eyes, then finally the brain must have died, because the eyes WENT OUT, and there was no more feeling in them than a crab’s eyes on the end of a stalk.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:20 PM
February 05, 2013
Torture Mainstreamed

Here’s your monthly reminder to go immediately to New York Magazine and read Frank Rich’s new column. An excerpt:

My own issues with Zero Dark Thirty (a slack second hour, a two-dimensional heroine) have nothing to do with its opaque position (if any) on the usefulness (or not) of torture in pursuing leads to bin Laden. Where the film really stands on that point may never be conclusively adjudicated. But its success does resolve the far more serious question of where most Americans stand on torture four years after George W. Bush disappeared into the witness-protection program: They don’t mind it.

The anguish Zero Dark Thirty has aroused on op-ed pages simply has not spread to the broader public. Moviegoers cheer bin Laden’s death (who wouldn’t?) without asking too many questions about how we got there. This is hardly the movie’s fault. The public reaction to Zero Dark Thirty is consistent with the quiet acquiescence of most Americans, Democrats included, to the Obama administration’s embrace of drone warfare (civilian casualties notwithstanding) and domestic surveillance…

The movie’s popularity offers confirmation, if any is needed, that, for the first time since the Vietnam War, it’s a Democratic president who is presiding over — and countenancing — a national shift to the right on national security.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:30 PM
December 31, 2012
Dredging Up the Past

The late Al Weisel, blogging as Jon Swift, used to run a best blog posts of the year feature, selected by the bloggers themselves. Below is mine for 2007, as I am reminded by Vagabond Scholar. I had completely forgotten the post but it seems to me to hold up, and so I reprint it in an excess of immodesty. And as a demonstration of Plus ça change… And to prove I am smarter than Muammar Qaddafi, who would be alive today if he had listened to me:

In the current Newsweek Evan Thomas has an unusually vapid review of a book by Andrew Roberts which may or may not be equally vapid, depending on how accurately Thomas has described it. The review is in a section called “Ideas,” and here is Thomas’s: People who speak English are really, really special, and the rest of you owe us a really, really lot.

This idea is hardly worth engaging, and so let’s pass on to one which is worth engaging — although only because it has invaded the national brain like some ghastly tumor threatening the very values that Thomas supposes us to possess:

The English-speaking peoples have been seriously threatened by force four times: twice by German aggression, once by Soviet totalitarianism, and most recently by Islamic fanaticism. The forces of freedom and democracy reeled after the first blows—at Dunkirk and Pearl Harbor in World War II and at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11. “The English-speaking peoples rarely win the first battle,” writes Roberts, “but they equally rarely lose the subsequent war.”

All right, everybody. Let’s relax for a minute here.

The English-speaking peoples are not seriously threatened by force from Islamic fanaticism. The only major war subsequent to 9/11 was one we sought in Iraq, and it lasted only a few weeks. Everything after that was a badly botched occupation.

The 9/11 attacks and World War II are no more parallel than longitude and latitude are parallel, no matter how badly George W. Bush wants to be Winston Churchill. (I might mention here that I myself would very much like to be Dame Judi Dench, although the odds are against it.)

The only human force that can seriously threaten the existence of the United States, let alone the English-speaking peoples, would be a full-scale military attack from a combination of opponents. A coalition of Russia, Japan and China might pull it off.

But in the real world this will not happen, because the United States, Russia and China all have atomic weapons and Japan could have them by next Tuesday.

This is why North Korea and Iran are in such a scramble to get nuclear weapons: not to attack us, but to make sure we don’t attack them. The strategy works very well, as may be seen in the case of North Korea. Next thing we know, Bush will visit Pyongyang, nation-building.

Returning to the real world, the war on terror is not a war. Osama attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon with stolen airliners and kamikaze pilots because, lacking an air force, he was incapable of war. One engages in terrorism not because one is powerful, but precisely because one is weak.

Terrorism is almost always about real estate, as in Ireland, Chechnya, Spain, Sri Lanka, the Middle East, and elsewhere around the globe. If the United States had remained neutral in the land dispute between the Israel and its Arab neighbors, there would have been no 9/11.

And if we were now to become neutral in that dispute, there would be no more 9/11s. That is the only way to end Islamic terrorism in this country. Every informed American with a double-digit I.Q. knows that; the only meaningful question left is whether our continued blind support of Israel is somehow worth whatever it costs in future terror attacks.

We have been misled to believe that we are mired in an apocalyptic clash between the forces of Islamic darkness and the forces of English-speaking light. But it only seems that way because Bush responded to an act of terror with an act of war against an evil but in this case innocent bystander.

Nor are the Iraqis reacting to Bush’s occupation with some fiendish and unfair new form of combat called “asymmetrical warfare” in which they cunningly “adapt to the enemy” in new and hitherto unimaginable ways. No, the Iraqis are reacting to occupation by a more powerful enemy in the same way that resistance fighters reacted to Hitler’s storm troopers. They are improvising against an occupying army the best they can.

Nor should we be surprised if the neighbors lend a hand. They do so for the same reasons that the Soviets supported Tito and British agents aided guerrillas all over Europe. The neighbors don’t want to be the next ones occupied.

Fortunately even if Bush turns Iran into his very own Cambodia, we will eventually be forced to withdraw from the Middle East just as Nixon did from Southeast Asia.

In both misbegotten struggles, our opponents were clear in what they wanted — our absence — and we were unclear about what we wanted. Our presence? Did we really want to stay? For how long? Forever? Why?

Was such a dubious prize worth the life of even one George Walker Bush or Richard Bruce Cheney? Like millions of other Americans neither of them thought so. But that, of course, was then.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:00 PM
November 22, 2012
Not Even Pakistan?

Or Yemen? Or Somalia? Or Mali? From ABC News (h/t Corey Robin):

Speaking at a joint press conference with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Obama called for an end to the firing of missiles into Israel by militants inside Gaza, saying “there is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.”
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:58 PM
August 07, 2012
Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid

Exciting news from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

FORT WORTH, Texas — George P. Bush has signed on to serve as deputy finance chairman for the Republican Party of Texas.

The nephew of former President George W. Bush and son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the 36-year-old Bush has been closely watched from his days at law school to his deployment to Afghanistan as an intelligence officer in the Navy Reserve…

“Clearly he is being groomed for great things in Texas and perhaps beyond,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “This is about his current visibility, his access to fundraising lists and his name recognition to people who will be on the other end of his fundraising calls.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:31 AM
January 23, 2012
Have You Got What It Takes to Be a Marine?

From the Associated Press:

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — A Marine accused of killing 24 unarmed Iraqi women and children pleaded guilty to dereliction of duty on Monday, reaching a deal that will mean a maximum of three months confinement and end the largest and longest-running criminal case against U.S. troops to emerge from the Iraq War…

[Staff Sergeant Frank] Wuterich faces a maximum of three months confinement, two-thirds forfeiture of pay and a rank demotion to private when he’s sentenced, likely on Tuesday. The plea agreement calls for manslaughter charges to be dropped…

Wuterich’s former squad members testified that they did not take any gunfire during the 45-minute raid on the homes nor find any weapons, but several squad members testified that they do not believe they did anything wrong, fearing insurgents were inside hiding.

The prosecution was further hurt by the testimony of Wuterich’s former platoon commander who said the squad was justified in its actions because house was declared “hostile,” and from what he understood of the rules of combat at the time that meant any use of force could be used and Marines did not need to positively identify their targets…

Six squad members have had charges dropped or dismissed, including some in exchange for testifying at the trial. One was acquitted.


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From The Guardian, May 31, 2006:

George Bush pledged yesterday that any marines found to have been responsible for the massacre of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha last year would be punished, and that an investigation into the killings would be made available to the public…

“If, in fact, laws were broken, there will be punishment. I know this. I’ve talked to General Pete Pace [chairman of the joint chiefs of staff] about the subject. He’s a proud marine. And nobody is more concerned about these allegations than the marine corps,” he said…

The army is also examining the possibility of a cover-up by senior officers, who approved compensation to families of the victims, but failed to investigate allegations of execution-style killings until presented with hard evidence by journalists.

The first official report on the incident claimed that the civilian casualties had been killed by the roadside bomb, but the New York Times reported yesterday that a preliminary investigation by an army colonel as early as March uncovered serious discrepancies in the marines’ account.

John Murtha, a veteran marine and Democratic congressman, told CNN: “Something like this happens, they knew about it. The Iraqis knew about it. The Americans pay them, and then it goes up the chain of command and somebody stifles it.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:33 PM
January 17, 2012
A Public Embarrassment

Consortium News interviews Phil Donahue, fired by MSNBC in 2003 for telling the truth in a public place:

Well, there’s almost a worship of people in power. You never see a peace worker or leader on Meet the Press. The established journalists cover established power…

So did the so-called expert generals, defense people on CNN and the other channels … I mean [the run-up to the Iraq war] was so managed and the press made it happen. One of the few journalists that I admire who doesn’t care if the White House calls them back is Sy Hersh. And I’m sure you’ve interviewed and you know you won’t see him on Meet the Press

You know, if a Marine goes into a Fallujah home and blows away the family with an AK47 that’s a war crime. If we drop a bomb on that house and incinerate the family, it’s collateral damage. We are in denial. And we are creating language to help us continue to be in denial. This is awful…

A president doesn’t get a statue for fixing health care. The only way you get a statue in a park is winning a war. That’s why we’ve got horses and swords; we have military airplanes in parks that kids play on. We’ve cannons in parks, in parks! We celebrate war. There’s no other way to say this.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:42 AM
December 15, 2011
The Enemy is Us

We knew it happened. We knew it always happens, on all sides in all wars. The problem is not the warriors, but the wars. Nor are the wars the problem. The politicians who start the wars are the problem. But neither are the politicians the problem. We put them in power. We are the problem.

Read all of the extraordinary New York Times story from which the following is excerpted:

General Johnson, the commander of American forces in Anbar Province, said he did not feel compelled to go back and examine the events because they were part of a continuing pattern of civilian deaths.

“It happened all the time, not necessarily in MNF-West all the time, but throughout the whole country,” General Johnson testified, using a military abbreviation for allied forces in western Iraq.

“So, you know, maybe — I guess maybe if I was sitting here at Quantico and heard that 15 civilians were killed I would have been surprised and shocked and gone — done more to look into it,” he testified, referring to Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia. “But at that point in time, I felt that was — had been, for whatever reason, part of that engagement and felt that it was just a cost of doing business on that particular engagement.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:22 AM
November 10, 2011
Gone for Soldiers, Every One…

Chris Jones, at Esquire’s Politics Blog, has the first sensible take I’ve seen on the handling of small bits of war casualties at the Dover Air Force Base mortuary. If you go into the killing business on an industrial scale there’s going to be loss and spillage along the way. All the faux rage now being directed at the men on the clean-up crews should be aimed instead at Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and all the other suits up in the executive suite. And at all the voters who put them in office. This would include, I suspect, most of the loudest protesters in this whole sorry business. Their outrage comes ten years too late.

A sample from Jones’s essay:

There are no flawless factories. And despite the impossible work of many good people, despite the care that might have been taken however many steps along the way, despite the heavy symbolism and solemn salutes, Dover remains a factory. That might be a hard thing for people to accept, especially for the families of the men and women who have passed through there, but maybe it's time we stopped measuring our words about these things. War leaves people dead, and it kills them in terrible ways, so that their bodies are hanging from trees or burned virtually to dust, and it's a minor miracle that more mistakes have not been made in bringing them home. This story is just another reminder of how terrible this whole awful business is.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:45 PM
September 15, 2011
Deadlock

William Pfaff on United Nations membership for Palestine:

However, what al-Faisal does not say is that the U.S. is the only nation to possess the strength and opportunity to act preemptively to solve this crisis. Israel now is incapable of rescuing itself because of its quasi-permanent internal political deadlock.

President Obama could spectacularly reverse policy and save the day. He could declare that the U.S. will vote in support of Palestine’s full membership in the U.N. It will use all of the means at its disposal to support Israeli withdrawal of illegal settlements from territory designated as part of the Palestinian state in the 1948 U.N. partition of Mandate Palestine. It will do all in its power to impose the solution that everyone — including realistic Israelis and the Palestinians — understand to be the inevitable, permanent and just solution of this problem.

True enough. Unfortunately, however, the United States of America now is incapable of rescuing itself because of its quasi-permanent internal political deadlock. For more on how stupid we’re about to be and why, read Pepe Escobar here.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:47 AM
August 24, 2011
He Is the Very Model of a Modern Texan President…

Here’s an excerpt (via Jay Bookman), but watch the video for the full intellectual experience. That Rick Perry will probably be the GOP’s White Hope in 2012 would be hard to believe — if we hadn’t just lived through eight years of George W. Bush.

SMITH: Governor, why does Texas continue with abstinence education programs when they don’t seem to be working? In fact, I think we have the third highest teen pregnancy rate in the country.

PERRY: “Abstinence … works.”

(audience laughter)

SMITH: “But we have the third highest teen pregnancy rate among all states in the country. The questioner’s point is, it doesn’t seem to be working — abstinence education.”

PERRY: “It, it, it works. Maybe it’s the way it’s being taught, or the way it’s being applied out there, but the fact of the matter is it is the best form of — uh — to teach our children.”

SMITH: “Can you give a statistic telling me that it works?”

PERRY: “I’m just going to tell you from my own personal life, abstinence works …”




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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:49 PM
July 29, 2011
Try Speaking Truth to Power…

…and see how far it gets you:

[Dennis] Blair said the continuing drone strikes are more of a nuisance than a real threat to al-Qaida, and that only a ground campaign by Pakistan would truly threaten it and other militant organizations.

“It can sustain its level of resistance to an air-only campaign,” he said.

The retired admiral also suggested cutting the cost of hunting terrorists by relying more on local forces in places like Yemen and Somalia. The U.S. is already working with indigenous forces in both countries, but also sustains a large and expensive offshore presence aboard a ship off the Yemeni coast, as well as flying armed and observation drones from Djibouti and other sites in the region.

He estimated that there are some 4,000 terrorists worldwide, and a budget of some $80 billion devoted to fighting them — a figure he said did not include the wars of Afghanistan or Iraq.

“That’s $20 million for each of these people ... Is that proportionate?” he asked. He pointed out that 17 Americans have been killed inside the U.S. by terrorists in the decade since Sept. 11, including the 14 killed in the Ft. Hood massacre, while car accidents and daily crime combined have killed some 1.5 million people during the same 10 years.

“What is it that justifies this amount of money on this narrow problem?” he asked.

Blair, who was forced to resign by the Obama administration, says the White House undermined his authority as director of national intelligence by siding with the CIA, instead of telling it to listen to him.

“They sided enough with the CIA in ways that were public enough that it undercut my position,” Blair said.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:36 AM
July 27, 2011
Delusions of Adequacy

I subscribe to Newsweek, but normally skip right past the tweety bird of the right, George Will. So I missed this rather amusing trifle back in February, but Alternet’s Sarah Jaffe didn’t.

Generations hence, when the river of time has worn this presidency’s importance to a small, smooth pebble in the stream of history, people will still marvel that its defining trait was a mania for high-speed rail projects. This disorder illuminates the progressive mind…

Forever seeking Archimedean levers for prying the world in directions they prefer, progressives say they embrace high-speed rail for many reasons — to improve the climate, increase competitiveness, enhance national security, reduce congestion, and rationalize land use. The length of the list of reasons, and the flimsiness of each, points to this conclusion: the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.

To progressives, the best thing about railroads is that people riding them are not in automobiles, which are subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends. Automobiles go hither and yon, wherever and whenever the driver desires, without timetables. Automobiles encourage people to think they—unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted—are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.

Will gives away the game with the phrase “delusions of adequacy.” It is pure projection, since the whole point of the GOP’s own marketing is to keep the suckers quiet with delusions of adequacy. If the boobs can drive their car anywhere they damn please, no damn government Nazi is going push them around (that’s the bank’s job, the minute they’re late with a payment.) An AK-47 over every hearth is adequate to the task of protecting freedom-loving Americans from the feds who would otherwise enslave them (never mind Waco or Ruby Ridge.) And of course there’s nothing like a submissive wife and obedient children to make a fellow feel adequate. Except maybe pushing around a minority while you’re still, precariously, in the majority. Or that greatest delusion of adequacy of them all: belief in American exceptionalism as our ship of fools slowly sinks under the weight of their delusions.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:18 PM
July 04, 2011
Cop Lovers and Soldier Sniffers

Here, from Tom Engelhardt, is our text for this Fourth of July:

These days [President Obama] can barely open his mouth without also bowing down before the U.S. military in ways that once would have struck Americans as embarrassing, if not incomprehensible. In addition, he regularly prostrates himself before this country’s special mission to the world and never ceases to emphasize that the United States is indeed an exception among nations. Finally, in a way once alien to American presidents, he invokes God’s blessing upon the military and the country as regularly as you brush your teeth.

Think of these as the triumvirate without which no Obama foreign-policy moment would be complete: greatest military, greatest nation, our God. And in this he follows directly, if awkwardly, in Bush's footsteps…

The president’s recent Afghan remarks were, in this sense, par for the course. As he plugged his plan to bring America’s “long wars” to what he called “a responsible end,” he insisted that “[l]ike generations before, we must embrace America’s singular role in the course of human events.” He then painted this flattering word portrait of us:

“We’re a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens. We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others. We stand not for empire, but for self-determination... and when our union is strong no hill is too steep, no horizon is beyond our reach... we are bound together by the creed that is written into our founding documents, and a conviction that the United States of America is a country that can achieve whatever it sets out to accomplish.”

I know, I know. You’re wondering whether you just mainlined into a Sarah Palin speech and your eyes are glazing over. But hang in there, because that’s just a start. For example, in an Obama speech of any sort, what America’s soldiers never lack is the extra adjective. They aren’t just soldiers, but “our extraordinary men and women in uniform.” They aren’t just Americans, but “patriotic Americans.” (Since when did an American president have to describe American soldiers as, of all things, “patriotic”?) And in case you missed the point that, in their extraordinariness and their outsized patriotism they are better than other Americans, he made sure to acknowledge them as the ones we “draw inspiration from…”

Oh, and let’s not forget that no significant White House moment ends these days without the president bestowing God’s blessing on the globe’s most extraordinary nation and its extraordinary fighters, or as he put it in his Afghan remarks: “May God bless our troops. And may God bless the United States of America.”

The day after he revealed his drawdown plan to the nation, the president traveled to Ft. Drum in New York State to thank soldiers from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division for their multiple deployments to Afghanistan. Before those extraordinary and patriotic Americans, he quite naturally doubled down.

Summoning another tic of this presidential moment (and of the Bush one before it), he told them that they were part of “the finest fighting force in the world.” Even that evidently seemed inadequate, so he upped the hyperbole. “I have no greater job,” he told them, “nothing gives me more honor than serving as your commander in chief. To all of you who are potentially going to be redeployed, just know that your commander in chief has your back... God bless you, God bless the United States of America, climb to glory.”

As ever, all of this was overlooked. Nowhere did a single commentator wonder, for instance, whether an American president was really supposed to feel that being commander in chief offered greater “honor” than being president of a nation of citizens. In another age, such a statement would have registered as, at best, bizarre. These days, no one even blinks.

In the excerpt above, Engelhardt expands on a point made long ago by the late George Carlin — that America is a nation of “cop lovers and soldier sniffers.”

But Engelhardt goes on to argue, inarguably, that President Obama is leading us into a mess in Afghanistan from which we will never extricate ourselves without further dishonor and defeat. Thus he follows with precision the political strategy of Johnson and Nixon, both of whom also pursued reelection by keeping alive a murderous war that they knew to be pointless and unwinnable.

Please read not just the passages I’ve posted, but Engelhardt’s whole essay.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:48 AM
May 29, 2011
Business as Usual

CNN World, May 29, 2011:

An investigation was underway Sunday into allegations that a coalition airstrike in southern Afghanistan killed a dozen children and two women, Afghan and NATO officials said…

“We do know about the allegations,” Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ronald Flesvig, an ISAF spokesman, told CNN. There was no mention of possible civilian casualties on ISAF’s daily operational update posted daily on its website…

Residents, according to Ahamadi, said an ISAF helicopter conducted the airstrike, which hit two houses where women and children were staying.

New York Times, September 7, 2002:

The United States Central Command acknowledged tonight that scores of civilians were killed or injured in an American airstrike on a string of Afghan villages in July, but blamed Taliban fighters for placing women and children near valid miitary targets…

“The ground location of the source of the fire was identified and fires were directed to that area,” the summary said. “Just as the weapon itself is not seen, it is also not possible to determine if the fires from the AC-130 gunship have damaged or destroyed the weapon. Consequently, personnel at the weapon’s location were the primary targets. Unfortunately, it is also not possible to distinguish men from women or adults from children.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:39 AM
May 02, 2011
The Price for Bin Laden’s Head

In my morning email was this, from Merry: “I really want to read your take on the ‘killing Bin-Laden’ story.’” Naturally I was excited, since no one had previously given a rat’s fundamental orifice about my take on anything. So here:

I’m ashamed to say that my first reaction was to wonder what effect the assassination would have on the 2012 election. This was narrow, parochial, and in all respects unworthy, but I’m still counting the news cycles till the Republicans start asking the president what took him so long. Maybe because Obama rhymes with Osama? Hmm?

My second reaction was to wonder how much we will wind up paying Pakistan for selling Bin Laden to us. After all, the Saudi millionaire wasn’t hiding in some remote frontier wilderness where the writ of law runneth not. He was in Abbottabad, which turns out to be as far from Islamabad as Manassas is from the White House.

Furthermore, many of Abbottabad’s residents are army personnel and all of them must be blind. (For this and the following details, go here.) The elusive 6' 5" terrorist lived in a million-dollar mansion built five years ago, apparently to hide him. It had 18-foot high walls topped with barbed wire and was “roughly eight times larger than the other homes in the area.” None of this seems to have come to the attention of all those army personnel, or of the Pakistan intelligence service.

A suspicious person might reach a tentative conclusion that Bin Laden had been held in a sort of country club jail until the price was right, and then ratted out to Pakistan’s hated enemy, the United States, for a price that will never be disclosed.

Once again we play the battered wife, submissive and forgiving. Our abusive husband this time is Pakistan. Next time it will be Israel or Saudi Arabia. We cannot bring ourselves to admit that it is these three countries which pose the greatest actual threats to America’s actual security. Unhappily this pathology is bipartisan. There it lies at the heart of our national security policy, unuttered and unutterable.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:25 PM
March 04, 2011
Making America Less Safe

Let’s start by all agreeing that terrorism is a bad thing, okay? But let’s also agree to the indisputable: that it will not and cannot destroy the United States. Here is a very partial list of states that have been visited by terrorism in recent memory: England, France, Spain, Ireland, Canada, India, Pakistan, Bolivia, Nicaragua. On and on. All of them remain in existence. None has assumed the fetal position, whimpering in fear and laying down unaimed fire in every direction. This is to say that only in the United States have the terrorists won.

More on this point from Daniel Larison at Eunomia.

The latest round of interventionist foreign policy over the last ten to thirteen years has focused heavily, though not exclusively, on countering the threat from jihadist terrorism, and everyone would acknowledge that many of the major policy decisions of the last ten years were made politically viable by the 9/11 attacks. Arguments for all of the policies connected to the “war on terror” lean heavily on the idea that terrorism, and specifically jihadist terrorism, represents a major or even an “existential” threat. Any reasonable assessment of the threat shows this to be absurd, and along with those overblown claims goes a large part of the rationale for pretty much every “war on terror” policy.

It seems to me that non-interventionists and realists make blowback arguments to focus on the consequences of current policy, and to point out the flaw in a national security and warfare state that actively makes America less secure by creating enemies where none should exist and provoking attacks that need not happen. It is also a rhetorical move to appeal to public concerns about security without endorsing standard authoritarian and jingoist responses to threats.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but what non-interventionists and realists should be trying to do is to channel the public’s appropriate moral outrage over terrorist atrocities towards reforming the policies that create these unintended, avoidable consequences. To that end, there doesn’t need to be any exaggeration of the nature of the threat or the power of jihadism, but there should be a steady stream of arguments that the threat can be significantly reduced or possibly eliminated by reforming U.S. policies so that they actually minimize the risks to the nation rather than generate new dangers. The threat from terrorism isn’t all that great, but it could be greatly reduced. All that it will cost us is our undesirable pursuit of hegemony.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:51 AM
October 24, 2010
Fine Words

This from Alternet:

ADM. MIKE MULLEN: Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is, they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family. Disagree with the war all you want, take issue with the policy, challenge me or our ground commanders on the decisions we make to accomplish the mission we’ve been given, but don’t put those who willingly go into harm’s way even further in harm’s way just to satisfy your need to make a point.

Words to live by, from the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. Whose own mission requires him to have on his hands the blood of thousands of young soldiers and Afghan families in order to make a point.

And what point exactly? In the service of what greater good? Does anyone even remember?

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:32 PM
October 21, 2010
Wasting Bullets on Dogs

From the Washington Post:

When the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade arrived in Afghanistan, its leader, Col. Harry D. Tunnell IV, openly sneered at the U.S. military’s counterinsurgency strategy. The old-school commander barred his officers from even mentioning the term and told shocked U.S. and NATO officials that he was uninterested in winning the trust of the Afghan people…

Some soldiers have since told investigators that their company commander became furious after learning that the platoon had killed a second unarmed Afghan in January. But rather than referring the incident up the chain of command, he demanded that soldiers find evidence that would justify the shooting.

In March, the platoon’s first lieutenant and sergeant were removed from their posts because their soldiers had been caught shooting at dogs, according to Army investigative records. In contrast, no disciplinary action was taken after platoon members shot and killed four Afghan men — who were allegedly unarmed — in as many incidents. (Three of those shootings are now the focus of murder investigations.)


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:51 PM
October 10, 2010
Their Man in Washington

More news from the swill kings who caused the present depression. (Don’t tell me this isn’t a depression; I have eyes.)

However, while Paulson has been criticized, unfairly or not, because $12.9 billion of the bailout money went to Goldman, he’s drawn little scrutiny for what he did in his first 18 months in office, during the final frenzied stages of the housing bubble.

In his eight years as Goldman’s chief executive, Paulson had presided over the firm’s plunge into the business of buying up subprime mortgages to marginal borrowers and then repackaging them into securities, overseeing the firm’s huge positions in what became a fraud-infested market.

During Paulson’s first 15 months as the treasury secretary and chief presidential economic adviser, Goldman unloaded more than $30 billion in dicey residential mortgage securities to pension funds, foreign banks and other investors and became the only major Wall Street firm to dramatically cut its losses and exit the housing market safely. Goldman also racked up billions of dollars in profits by secretly betting on a downturn in home mortgage securities.

“No one was better positioned . . . than Mr. Paulson to understand exactly what the implications of his moving against the (housing) bubble would have been for Goldman Sachs, because he knew what the Goldman Sachs positions were,” said William Black, a former senior thrift regulator who delivered the harshest criticism of the former secretary.

Paulson “knew that if he acted the way he should, that would have burst the bubble. Then Goldman Sachs would have been left with a very substantial loss, and that would have been the end of bonuses at Goldman Sachs.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:39 AM
June 07, 2010
Lovable Old Gipper’s Folk Wisdom Saves World

Reagan’s national security adviser, Richard V. Allen remembers Israel’s 1981 air strike on the nuclear reactor under construction in Iraq:

In what seemed an eternity but was only two minutes or so, President Reagan was on the line, a slight note of irritation in his voice: “Yes, Dick, what is it?” I quickly recited what happened, and he asked me to repeat the message. After pausing for a few seconds, he asked, “Why do you suppose they did that?” My answer was something to the effect that the Israelis clearly did not want that reactor to become operational.

He went silent, and the phone line again filled with the churning of the copter. With characteristic aplomb, he suddenly asked: “Well, you know what?” I said, “What, Mr. President?” His retort was classic: “Boys will be boys!”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:40 PM
May 05, 2010
Was Jesus in a Safety Position?

Spencer Ackerman brings us this etymological note from Joint Task Force Guantánamo:

Interrogator #2 also described other techniques allowed for interrogators at Bagram that appeared abusive. ”We could play music, yes sir. … Loud music, yes.” A report about Khadr contemporaneous with Interrogator #2’s time in Bagram said Khadr was “sedated” during an interrogation. And Interrogator #2 chafed when Jackson asked if Bagram interrogators could use “stress positions,” replying that they were cleared to use something called “safety positions.”

“Well, first it was called stress positions, wasn’t it?” Jackson asked. “Yes, sir,” Interrogator #2 replied.

That raised Parrish’s interest: “Is there a difference?”

Interrogator #2 replied, “No, sir.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:06 PM
April 30, 2010
Tall Tales and War Games

President Obama’s official timeline for surging our military presence in Afghanistan still has fourteen months to run; in that timeframe, there is (in some quarters) an expectation that the US and NATO will manage to quell increasing insurgent attacks, convince Afghan government officials that corruption doesn’t pay, plant the framework of a 21st century democracy (i.e., “Government-in-a-box”) — while simultaneously training tens of thousands of illiterate drug addicts to serve as guardians of the peace in the National Police Force — the “mission critical” key to success in Afghanistan, we are told. So far, the insurgent’s “Shadow Government,” alive and well throughout Afghanistan, has “Government-in-a-box” beat all to hell according to this recent report:

The Taliban-led insurgency’s “operational capabilities and operational reach are qualitatively and geographically expanding,” said the report, adding the “strength and ability of (insurgent-run) shadow governance to discredit the authority and legitimacy of the Afghan government is increasing.”

Complicating that already tall order for the next 14 months, is the apparent need for one last face-saving summer offensive on the Taliban’s “spiritual home” turf in Kandahar — the military equivalent of “territorial marking” — so that we can get the hell out of Afghanistan without being called “losers.” General McChrystal has already telegraphed his impending assault and added that this will be “no D-Day or H-hour” — believable enough if the muddled precursor Marjah “offensive” is any indication. The Kandahar Offensive, of course is the public battle that provides distraction from the secret “special operations” program of targeted assassinations and “things that go bump in the night” that have the civilian population of Afghanistan quite effectively terrorized (and blaming the Coalition forces for their state of terror)…


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Surely, as far as President Karzai (and his brother Wali) are concerned, the offensive in Kandahar is unnecessary and politically unpopular. No one in Kandahar is feeling particularly beset by the Taliban, whom they describe as their “Afghan brothers.” Flying solo, Karzai has already launched a fairly sensible-sounding endgame of diplomatic meetings with Taliban leaders that has drawn in Afghanistan’s neighbors, in region — Pakistan, Iran, India, Saudi Arabia — even Russia is said to have dropped in and out. NATO is signaling its weariness with America’s version of the War on Terror; only the US seems out-of-the-loop on winding down, like staggering guests who don’t realize when “the party’s over.”

Who’s Zooming Who?

One of the persistent complaints about our strategy in Afghanistan has been that we don’t seem to have one. No one is very clear on our mission or what victory might look like. Others are getting ever clearer on the need to end it, whatever “it” is. To that end, Hamid Karzai is scheduled to visit the White House, next month and, as Ahmed Rashid has written in the Washington Post, it’s pretty much “crunch time” for our Nobel Laureate President to decide whether he’ll come down on the side of continued war or a regionally-brokered peace in Afghanistan. Here’s a snip from Rashid’s article:

“According to U.S. and Afghan officials, Karzai’s first question when he arrives will be whether Washington supports his efforts at reconciliation with the senior Taliban leadership. In January, the United States and NATO agreed to reintegration — bringing in Taliban foot soldiers and low-level commanders — but Washington balked at full reconciliation, saying it wants to see the Taliban weakened militarily over the next six to 12 months before considering talks with its leaders.”

“Karzai’s representatives, however, have spent the past 12 months holding talks about talks with senior Taliban representatives in several Arab Gulf states. Taliban leaders have made clear that they want to talk directly to the United States, and Karzai knows his discussions with the Taliban cannot go further without public U.S. support and a commitment to engage. The Afghans want a clear answer from Washington that they will lead any future negotiations.”

The position that “Washington balked at full reconciliation, saying it wants to see the Taliban weakened militarily over the next six to 12 months before considering talks with its leaders” smacks of a bout of magical thinking on the part of the Administration. The US military has had close to ten years to a) find Osama bin Laden b) eliminate Al Qaeda and (c) break the back of the Taliban. Osama bin Laden, is, of course, still at large; Al Qaeda has been routed in Afghanistan only to resurface in Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, etc; and, as of, six months ago, in October, it was reported that the our nine years of efforts have only resulted in a resurgent Taliban that is growing exponentially and nearing military strength. Here’s a bit from that report:

“WASHINGTON – A recent U.S. intelligence assessment has raised the estimated number of full-time Taliban-led insurgents fighting in Afghanistan to at least 25,000, underscoring how the crisis has worsened even as the U.S. and its allies have beefed up their military forces, a U.S. official said Thursday.”

“The U.S. official, who requested anonymity because the assessment is classified, said the estimate represented an increase of at least 5,000 fighters, or 25 percent, over what an estimate found last year.”

“’The rise can be attributed to, among other things, a sense that the central government in Kabul isn’t delivering (on services), increased local support for insurgent groups, and the perception that the Taliban and others are gaining a firmer foothold and expanding their capabilities,’ the U.S. official said.”

And then there’s this article from March, 2010 handily blaming NATO for the Taliban resurgence:

“‘The Taliban has reaped a recruiting bonanza the past two years, capitalizing on NATO’s stagnant posture in southern Afghanistan by increasing fighter ranks by 35 percent,’ U.S. officials say.”

“The increase is one reason NATO forces, in an ongoing offensive, are meeting strong resistance as they fight town by town to gain control of the Taliban stronghold in the city of Kandahar and in Marjah in neighboring Helmand province.”

“It also shows the enemy’s resilience in an eight-year insurgency. In the face of air strikes and NATO raids that kill scores of Taliban at a time, the former rulers of Afghanistan still have been able to pad their ranks.”

And, finally, we have this “straight from the horse’s mouth”:

“The Taliban commander, who uses the pseudonym Mubeen, told the Associated Press that if military pressure on the insurgents becomes too great, ‘we will just leave and come back after’ the foreign forces leave.’”

“Despite nightly raids by NATO and Afghan troops, Mubeen said his movements have not been restricted. He was interviewed last week in the center of Kandahar, seated with his legs crossed on a cushion in a room. His only concession to security was to lock the door.”

“He made no attempt to hide his face and said he felt comfortable because of widespread support among Kandahar’s 500,000 residents, who, like the Taliban, are mostly Pashtuns, Afghanistan’s biggest ethnic community.”

“’Because of the American attitude to the people, they are sympathetic to us,’ Mubeen said. ‘Every day we are getting more support. We are not strangers…’”

At the risk of sounding unpatriotic, all of this suggests to me that, perhaps, we have been dead wrong about everything Afghan and should reconsider our approach; and I’m not talking about switching from traditional combat to Gen. McChrystal’s odd concoction of public and clandestine “black ops” warfare tricked out as “counterinsurgency.” These Middle East adventures have been propaganda campaigns and it’s pretty much time to send a message to Congress and the Pentagon that the American people are not as stupid, naïve and gullible as they are banking on.

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It . . .

Our military is currently engaged in two separate endeavors in the Middle East that they are ill-equipped to take on as part of their mission – one is PR and the other is nation-building. Bungling these aspects of the conflict do us no good at all; in fact, it’s likely that they do permanent damage to America’s diplomatic stature in the world. Our military is nothing if not persistent, however, so the nonsense goes on until someone has the presence of mind to order them to stop.

Consider some of the more recent SNAFUs and ask yourself if these nonsensical events wouldn’t get you quickly fired if you tried to pull them in your “real-world” job:

The Marjah Offensive — by now many of us (who care to know) discovered that the much-touted Marjah Offensive was a world class Snow Job, not to mention an embarrassing non-event that made Coalition forces look ridiculous. Much is made of the illiteracy of the Afghan population but those illiterates saw through the Marjah Offensive and had a good laugh at the Coalition’s expense. From the distortion of the unincorporated villages of the Marjah district into a bustling city of 80,000 and a hub of Taliban support to the appointment of the ex-con, expatriate governor who hasn’t set foot in Afghanistan for 15 years and who’s afraid to leave home unless he’s in an Osprey, Marjah was an unmitigated pack of lame lies aimed at whipping up some enthusiasm for the War in Afghanistan in a world grown weary of it.

Salon’s Glenn Greenwald did a great job of summing up the Marjah propaganda strategy and telling us what to expect ahead of the Kandahar Offensive:

“The Independent declared on February 9, 2010, that General McChrystal wants the Marjah offensive to “be one of the most significant in the country since the fall of the Taliban in 2001″ and, of Obama’s war strategy, said that “Marjah looks like being its first major — and possibly decisive — test.” The BBC quoted a NATO official who proclaimed that Marjah “was ‘probably the definitive operation’ of the counter-insurgency strategy” and “this operation could potentially define the tipping point, the crucial momentum aspect in the counter-insurgency.” Time helpfully informed us that “U.S. officials believe it will mark a turning point in the war.”

“Now that that ‘make-or-break decisive test’ has failed (or, at best, has produced very muddled outcomes), did the Government and media follow through and declare the war effort broken and the strategy a failure? No; they just pretend it never happened and declare the next, latest, glorious Battle the real ‘make-or-break decisive test’ – until that one fails and the next one is portrayed that way, in an endless tidal wave of war propaganda intended to justify our staying for as long as we want, no matter how pointless and counter-productive it is.”

Sure enough, The New York Times rolled out the “trailer” for the Kandahar Offensive this week, breathlessly pronouncing it:

“The looming battle for the spiritual home of the Taliban . . . shaping up as the pivotal test of President Obama’s Afghanistan strategy, including how much the United States can count on the country’s leaders and military for support, and whether a possible increase in civilian casualties from heavy fighting will compromise a strategy that depends on winning over the Afghan people.”

Notice that the Times is already anticipating an “increase in civilian casualties from heavy fighting” that could complicate “winning over the Afghan people.” Of course, those who care to dig out details on where we are in our battle “to win over the Afghan people” will know that the Kandahari’s have already spoken and the only possible way for us to “win over” the 90% of Kandahari’s who despise us is to stay away from their city.

Another fact that could easily slip past us is the mention of Gen. McChrystal’s strategy of keeping American troops outside of Kandahar and send the Afghan Army in to do the fighting as a test of their ability to be effective counterinsurgents. That should yield interesting results . . .

The Morning After

OK, so we declare a “decisive, pivotal, turning point of a win” in Kandahar – and then what? According to Jason Ditz at AntiWar.com the Pentagon just released an ominous report to Congress explaining how it might be disastrous to turn over a “liberated” Afghanistan to the hand-picked, but nonetheless, evil and corrupt (if not drug-addled and downright crazy) Hamid Karzai. Here’s that:

“The Pentagon has issued a new report to Congress about the ongoing war in Afghanistan, warning that the Taliban is increasing the size of their insurgency even as support for President Hamid Karzai remains sparse in the most important regions.”

“In fact of the 121 districts cited as ‘key’ to winning the war in the report, only 29 of those districts had populations seen as even sympathizing with the Karzai government.”

“The report pointed to the enormous levels of corruption in the Karzai government as a major problem fueling this lack of credibility, and warned further that the political will to reform was ‘doubtful.’”

Funny how the same problems are cropping up in Iraq, too? War is over, democratic government has been installed and yet … insurgent attacks are on the rise, and the government can’t get out of it’s own way. Could it be that neither Iraq nor Afghanistan actually want the US (or at least their treasury) to leave before they’ve sucked a lot more US dollars out of them. And could it be that the Pentagon is only too happy to report that the State Department picked a bad “puppet” to install as head of state in Afghanistan and now the military will have to hang around to ensure peace for the couple of years it’ll take to effect regime change?

Along those lines, The Washington Post published an interesting report, this morning, on recent US manipulations of the political scene in Kandahar. Having failed to budge Wali Karzai out of his position of control in Kandahar, the US has decided to try an end-run around him by supporting the prodigiously unimportant Governor of Kandahar, Tooryalai Wesa, another expatriate “outsider” like the newly installed Governor of Marjah. The Post describes Wesa as “a mild-mannered academic who spent more than a decade in Canada and is considered by many Afghans to be ineffectual.”

The American thinking behind the sudden infatuation with Wesa is described this way:

“In the hope of pushing power brokers such as Karzai to the sidelines, American officials are trying to infuse Wesa and his government with more clout and credibility. They see better governance as a central part of a U.S.-led effort that has brought thousands of troops to the region for a summer offensive against the Taliban.”

“But the government headed by Wesa has severe problems of its own. It remains understaffed, is viewed by many as corrupt and does not reflect the province’s tribal mix. Karzai and other allegedly corrupt political bosses who dominate Kandahar show no sign of giving way.”

“’Wesa is a weak governor,’ said Rahmatullah Raufi, a former general and Kandahar governor.

Nevertheless, the US knows best and is busily indoctrinating Governor Wesa in anticipation of turning Kandahar over to him after our “pivotal” win there this summer.

“To bolster Wesa’s beleaguered office, U.S. officials plan to hire about two dozen Afghan staff members, to be split with the mayor. American helicopters ferry Wesa to meetings, where U.S. officials take notes on his progress. They hope that Wesa’s attempts at grass-roots organizing, combined with an infusion of funds into the province, can earn some support from a skeptical public.”

My money says Wesa will be dead sooner rather than later. As Rahmatullah Raufi, former general and Kandahar governor put it: “If Ahmed Wali Karzai wants him to die, he will die. If he says, ‘Live,’ he’ll live.”

The Rumors of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Most of this public relations carnival can at least be quasi-rationalized, but some just gets recycled until it’s totally meaningless. Like the saga of Hakimullah Mehsud, current leader of the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), who has been “assassinated” and confirmed dead seven times – since last August.

“According to a senior member of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency Hakimullah, who was “confirmed” killed in January and then assumed to be gravely wounded, and who was “confirmed” to have died of his injuries in February, is alive and “basically ok.’”

And of course there was the recent high-fiving in Baghdad over the alleged assassination of two legendary leaders of Al Qaeda in Iraq by a joint US – Iraqi force. That news might have been more earthshaking if it had not included the name of “Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the shadowy leader of the group’s umbrella organization, the Islamic State of Iraq.

Here’s al-Baghdadi’s resume:

March 9, 2007 — the Interior Ministry of Iraq claimed that al-Baghdadi was captured in Baghdad on, which claim was later recanted

May 3, 2007 — the Iraqi Interior Ministry said that al-Baghdadi was killed by American and Iraqi forces north of Baghdad

July, 2007 — the U.S. military reported that al-Baghdadi never actually existed. A detainee identified as Khaled al-Mashhadani, a self-proclaimed intermediary to Osama bin Laden, claimed that al-Baghdadi was a fictional character created to give an Iraqi face to a foreign-run terror group, and that statements attributed to al-Baghdadi were actually read by an Iraqi actor.

Autumn, 2008 – US military officials reported that although the previous al-Baghdadi was fictional, Al Qaeda had filled the “Baghdadi vacancy” with an actual Al Qaeda leader.

April 23, 2009, Agence France-Presse reported that al-Baghdadi was arrested by the Iraqi military, and on April 28 the Iraqi government produced photos to prove it to skeptics. The claim was denied by the Islamic State in Iraq which according to SITE Institute released an apparently genuine recording of al-Baghdadi denying the government’s recent claims. However, the Iraqi government refuted this claim and insisted that the man captured was indeed Baghdadi.

Which brings us to April, 2010 in which the previously killed/captured al-Baghdadi somehow got away from his Iraqi captors, last year, and wound up in a safe-house in Tikrit where he was, once again, apprehended and killed.

Pardon my skepticism but I think that there is more truth in this statement from The Washington Post account than in any of the foregoing:

“The two top leaders of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq were slain in a U.S. airstrike over the weekend, a decisive tactical victory for American and Iraqi forces and one that provides Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki with additional political leverage at a crucial time.”

“Maliki stands to gain from the slaying of the men — Masri was perhaps the most wanted person in Iraq — at a time that is critical to his political future. He has made restoring security and weaning Iraq from dependence on the U.S. military centerpieces of his bid to keep his job once a new parliament is seated. Maliki’s bloc, which came in second in the elections, securing 89 seats, must woo other coalitions in order to secure the 163 votes needed to appoint a new prime minister.”

How timely. Of course the announcement was met with skepticism in Iraq — Maliki’s government has in the past falsely reported the death and the capture of Baghdadi, most recently last spring. It never retracted the claim back then, making the most recent announcement a sort of back-handed admission that the previous story was total bunk. Oh well…

Now, however, enjoying the last word, the US has confirmed via DNA analysis (please, gimme a break) that the story is true and Gen. Ray Odierno and Vice-President Biden quickly did a little victory dance in the end zone.

I really only have one question remaining and that is “Do our leaders really believe that the American people are stupid enough to be taken in by all of this inane and inexpert propaganda?” But, come to think of it, they probably care less if we “buy” it, as long as we’re willing to keep paying for it…

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Posted by Frumpzilla at 02:06 PM
When Will They Ever Learn, When Will They Ever Learn?

Insert Vietnam for Afghanistan as appropriate:

KABUL, Afghanistan — A Pentagon report on the last six months in Afghanistan portrays an Afghan government with limited credibility among its people, a still active if not growing insurgency and an enormous reliance on American troops to train, outfit and finance the country’s defense forces for the foreseeable future.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:54 AM
April 21, 2010
Still Crazy After All These Years

Here’s a little quiz for the “armchair generals” among us who may have become a tad disillusioned by the way that our US military appears to be conducting itself over this first decade of The Long War. Here we go, but before you get started here’s a tip: Because this is war we’re talking about, there are no right, wrong or good answers — just questions.

1. It is easy to identify enemy insurgents in Afghanistan. If you see the following behaviors chances are you’ve spotted an insurgent: (a) anyone who acts nervous at checkpoints; (b) anyone digging a hole; (c) anyone who doesn’t instantly follow orders screamed in English; (d) anyone carrying something large, roughly the size and shape of an AK-47 or grenade launcher e.g, camera equipment; (e) people who grab their guns when you break down their door in the middle of the night.

2. The best intelligence sources on where insurgents can be found include: (a) any Afghan willing to talk to you; (b) air-surveillance spotting of people with trucks/vans; (c) local drug lords; (d) little kids.

3. The best way to minimize collateral damage is: (a) stop killing people; (b) clean up the evidence when victims are obviously civilians; (c) deny it — the Taliban human shield defense works well; (d) if all else fails — lie; say the bodies had already been murdered by someone local e.g., honor killings (if victims are female) or “tribal justice” if victims are male.

4. The best ways to win “hearts and minds” are: (a) leave the country; (b) run around shirtless with a “mock” headdress and shades like a Medal of Honor avatar; (c) build things like cutting edge water treatment plants that are too complex for the locals to operate; (d) burn your high-tech trash in open fires to leave your mark on future generations.

5. The best in-country partners for a counterinsurgency are: (a) local CIA assets; (b) ex-cons; (c) local arms smugglers; (d) popular, clueless charlatans.

Well. That’s enough for now, you get the idea…

Whatever the doctrine or mission or strategy that landed US forces in Afghanistan it’s increasingly hard to come up with a good rationale for staying, let alone surging … perhaps it’s battle fatigue; or the growing effect of an influx of Black Water-y commandos and their 21st Century Art of Warfare program; or maybe it’s just plain old ignorance, bungling and mismanagement — more than likely it’s a combination of the three. Whatever the cause, there are legions of dead Iraqis and Afghanis to attest to the fact that “shit happens” in War and a no-win situation only gets more dismal when you throw more resources at it.

Back in the beginning of the century, I don’t think that anyone, no less anyone in the Bush administration, could have foreseen the absolute travesty and international humiliation that these wars would wreak on participant nations. Unfortunately, the rest of the world seems to be awakening and tiring of their supporting role quicker than we’d like. After all, it’s one thing to be Emperor and quite another to be a “friend of the Empire,” at the end of the day.

Also, unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly evident that perhaps the American collective consciousness doesn’t really have the stomach or the inherent ruthlessness to be global conquistadors. It’s difficult to shape a population reared on a public image of honesty, integrity and generosity into a lean, mean permanent war machine.

I’m not saying it can’t be done — just that it takes longer and more concerted effort to root out the innate common decency that has no place in a global domination program. In my opinion that’s why we’re doing such a crappy job of it and why it’s become necessary to contract so much of the job out to sociopathic gunslingers that cause more problems than they solve.


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Posted by Frumpzilla at 06:08 PM
April 10, 2010
The Subhuman Side of the News

Today’s Waterbury Republican-American carried this story on the appearance of beloved elder statesman Henry Kissinger at the Kent, Connecticut, Lions Club:

Kissinger delighted the audience with his humorous remarks and took his time answering a half-dozen different questions.

First Selectman Bruce K. Adams was the last in line and he took the opportunity to ask Kissinger for advice in governing and leading the small town he lived in. Kissinger candidly admitted that he has been focused on foreign policy rather than local politics. “I’m counting on you in making this the special place it is.”

Also today, the Associated Press carried some earlier advice from the retired Sage of Foggy Bottom:

WASHINGTON — As secretary of state, Henry Kissinger canceled a U.S. warning against carrying out international political assassinations that was to have gone to Chile and two neighboring nations just days before a former ambassador was killed by Chilean agents on Washington’s Embassy Row in 1976…

In 1976, the South American nations of Chile, Argentina and Uruguay were engaged in a program of repression code-named Operation Condor that targeted those governments’ political opponents throughout Latin America, Europe and even the United States.

Based on information from the CIA, the U.S. State Department became concerned that Condor included plans for political assassination around the world. The State Department drafted a plan to deliver a stern message to the three governments not to engage in such murders.

In the Sept. 16, 1976 cable, the topic of one paragraph is listed as “Operation Condor,” preceded by the words “(KISSINGER, HENRY A.) SUBJECT: ACTIONS TAKEN.” The cable states that “secretary declined to approve message to Montevideo” Uruguay “and has instructed that no further action be taken on this matter…”

“You can instruct” the U.S. ambassadors “to take no further action” on the subject of Operation Condor, said the Sept. 20 cable by Harry Shlaudeman, assistant secretary of state for Inter-American affairs, to Shlaudeman’s deputy.

The next day, on Sept. 21, 1976, agents of Chilean Gen. Augusto Pinochet planted a car bomb and exploded it on a Washington, D.C., street, killing both former Ambassador Orlando Letelier, and an American colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffitt [below]. Letelier was one of the most outspoken critics of the Pinochet government.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:55 PM
March 31, 2010
The Long War: America’s Love Affair with the Bogeyman

Pardon my cynicism, but does anyone else find President Obama’s weekend pep rally in Afghanistan a bit show-boat-y? Especially, coming as it did on the heels of a week-long spree of Presidential power-lifting? — health care reform, student loan help, underwater mortgage help and recess appointments.

And then, as we all know, nothing spells ‘presidential’ like parachuting into the front lines of America’s “War du Jour.” I could almost hear the Andrews Sisters singing “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” as back-up for Obama’s motivational moment with the troops before they start dying, in earnest, to make a point in Kandahar.

“The United States has made progress in the fight against al Qaeda and its allies. I know it’s not easy,” he said. “If I thought for a minute that America’s vital interests were not served, were not at stake here in Afghanistan, I would order all of you home right away.

“The United States of America does not quit once it starts on something … We keep at it. We persevere. And together, with our partners, we will prevail. I am absolutely confident of that.”

When I look at that be-camouflaged audience, all I can think of is “Why?” Why would anyone put a single one of those lives in harm’s way for something as dubious and irrational as a foothold in Afghanistan. These soldiers aren’t laying their lives on the line to make anyone safer — their very presence in Afghanistan makes them, and us, considerably more unsafe.

Non-partisan experts from all corners of the earth and many diverse disciplines have told us that, in compelling terms, for years now, but it has become increasingly clear that neither reason, nor prudence, not even survival instinct will dissuade the “powers that be” from replacing the Cold War with the Long War.

Al Qaeda has very effectively become the 21st century version of ‘dirty, rotten Commies.’ “Better Dead than Red” has been replaced with a fatwa on Terrorism, ensuring decades and generations of defense contracts, weapons development, arms sales, special ops, espionage and war games aimed at “making the world safe for democracy…”


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The Long War

Whenever I want to get an update on the Long War, I look to Tom Hayden who has been screaming into the wind about it for ages now (and for you old Hippies, yeah – that Tom Hayden). Just yesterday Hayden wrote an article for the LA Times that is a short, good read that will catch you up on the “Long War” concept if it has escaped your attention.

Basically, the Long War is an undeclared, undebated, largely undisclosed 80-year (give or take) war plan cooked up by the Pentagon and its neo-con fellow travelers and think tanks. The theater for the Long War is primarily the Middle East and South Asia or wherever else our Soldiers of Fortune see fit to lead us.

As taxpayers, we needn’t worry our little heads about any of this because our representatives in Congress don’t really have a role to play, outside of approving any and all defense budgets, supplemental, emergency and otherwise. Since that signatory function has become a political measure of patriotism, it is unlikely that outspoken constituents can have any impact.

If you are scratching your head, at this point, and saying ‘what the hell is she going on about?’ you’re in the right place, as far as DoD is concerned. You see, the Long War is less a war and more a state of mind that is being fed to the American psyche by slow-drip intravenous.

Here’s Hayden’s timeline:

The term ‘Long War’ was first applied to America’s post-9/11 conflicts in 2004 by Gen. John P. Abizaid, then head of U.S. Central Command, and by the retiring chairman of the Joint Chiefs of State, Gen. Richard B. Myers, in 2005.

According to David Kilcullen, a top counterinsurgency advisor to Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and a proponent of the Long War doctrine, the concept was polished in “a series of windowless offices deep inside the Pentagon” by a small team that successfully lobbied to incorporate the term into the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review, the nation’s long-term military blueprint. President George W. Bush declared in his 2006 State of the Union message that “our own generation is in a long war against a determined enemy.”

The concept has quietly gained credence. Washington Post reporter-turned-author Thomas E. Ricks used The Long War as the title for the epilogue of his 2009 book on Iraq, in which he predicted that the U.S. was only halfway through the combat phase there.

It has crept into legal language. Federal Appeals Court Judge Janice Rogers Brown, a darling of the American right, recently ruled in favor of holding detainees permanently because otherwise, “each successful campaign of a long war would trigger an obligation to release Taliban fighters captured in earlier clashes.”

Among defense analysts, Andrew J. Bacevich, a Vietnam veteran who teaches at Boston University, is the leading critic of the Long War doctrine, criticizing its origins among a “small, self-perpetuating, self-anointed group of specialists” who view public opinion “as something to manipulate” if they take it into consideration at all.

Lovely! Already we see how one war can segue into another: as troops are drawn down from Iraq, troops swell in Afghanistan. Some “troops,” that we prefer not to speak of, are already at work in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. Avenging Angels are poised to strike Iran, if Ahmadinejad doesn’t behave. Even Turkey is currently misbehaving, not to mention Israel…

An amorphous (or imaginary) “enemy” calls for untraditional tactics and boatloads of money to completely refit our own enormous military, as well as the foreign militaries that we are re-purposing and creating in our own image and likeness. Unfortunately, so far, we really suck at it…


The Afghan National Police and Other Insecurities

One of the more ludicrous goals that the US has set as a measure of success in Afghanistan is to leave the country in the hands of a well-trained National Police force that will provide the safety and security necessary for the flowering of a law-abiding Afghan society into a well-armed, fully compliant partner in US control of the Middle East.

Never mind that currently there are neither laws nor a judicial system in place to support police activities — all things in good time. When the laws are written and the courts established, prisons have been built and judges appointed, there will be a crack police force in place to enforce those laws. All Afghans will surely rejoice when their thousand years old de-centralized system of tribal justice is replaced with a top-down well-policed system. No doubt, tribal warlords will be happy to relinquish their local power for the sake of modernization.

The notion of the Afghan National Police program defies reason in so many well-documented ways that it boggles the mind that, eight years and $7 billion dollars later, sane people would countenance renewing contracts with Dumb and Dumber, Inc. (Xe aka Blackwater and/or DynCorp) for another $1 billion whack at this losing proposition. Unless, of course, the architects of the Long War find it expedient to create impossible goals to keep us interminably engaged in the region and supporting that military-industrial complex which is currently America’s only ‘booming business’ and major export.

I’m no military expert but I do know a thing or two about business management and I’m certain that, without an endless flow of taxpayer dollars, this dog of a project would have been written off ages ago by any self-respecting private or publicly-owned business.

A joint team of Defense and State Department Inspectors General wrote a lengthy (and fairly scathing) analysis of the situation in 2006. That investigation found that the contractors hired (DynCorp) were ill-equipped to do the job (some of the trainers’ police backgrounds were as campus security guards) and that the State Department was doing an epically bad job of managing the contracts. There were essentially no stated contract requirements and virtually no oversight – just blank checks and free rein.

Unfortunately, this program is not only a fiasco; it can be argued that it is actually colossally counterproductive to the US mission in Afghanistan (if there is such a thing). As Pratap Chatterjee reported on TomDispatch.com:

The Obama administration is in a fix: it believes that, if it can’t put at least 100,000 trained police officers on Afghan streets and into the scattered hamlets that make up the bulk of the country, it won’t be able to begin a draw-down of U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan by the middle of next year.”

The Obama administration’s strategy for the Afghan police is to increase numbers, enlarge the ‘train and equip’ program, and engage the police in the fight against the Taliban, says Robert Perito, an expert on police training at the United States Institute of Peace and the author of a new book, The Police in War. “This approach has not worked in the past, and doing more of the same will not achieve success.”

When it comes to police training, the use of private contractors is not unusual — and neither is failure. North Carolina-based Xe has, in fact, been training the Afghan border police for more than two years, and Virginia-based DynCorp has been doing the same for the Afghan uniformed police for more than seven years now. Nonetheless, the mismanagement of the $7 billion spent on police training over the last eight years, partly attributed to lax U.S. State Department oversight, has left the country of 33 million people with a strikingly ineffective and remarkably corrupt police force. Its terrible habits and reputation have led the inhabitants of many Afghan communities to turn to the Taliban for security.

And, later:

“There are some parts of Afghanistan where the last thing people want to see is the police showing up,” Brigadier General Gary O’Brien, former deputy commander of the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, told the Canadian Press news agency in March 2007. “They are part of the problem. They do not provide security for the people — they are the robbers of the people.”

Seven years and $7 billion of taxpayers’ money later, at a June 2008 discussion at the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Congressman John Tierney summed up findings on the 433 Afghan National Police units of that moment this way: “Zero are fully capable, three percent are capable with coalition support, four percent are only partially capable, 77 percent are not capable at all, and 68 percent are not formed or not reporting.”

That dismal result did not come flying unexpectedly out of the blue, either. As Chatterjee reports:

“A prevalent view, even among some international police, is that Afghanistan is unready for civilian policing and holds that the police must remain a military force while insecurity lasts,” writes Tonita Murray, a former director general of the Canadian Police College, who worked as an adviser to the Afghan Ministry of Interior in 2005. “If such a view were to prevail, only military solutions for security sector reform would be considered, and Afghanistan would be caught in a vicious circle of using force against force without employing other approaches to secure stability and peace…”

Earlier this month, Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, head of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan, admitted that police training has been a train wreck since the toppling of the Taliban almost nine years ago. “We weren’t doing it right. The most important thing is to recruit and then train police [before deployment]. It is still beyond my comprehension that we weren’t doing that.”

The realization that giving illiterate, drug-prone young men a uniform, badge, and gun (as well as very little money and no training) was a recipe for corruption and disaster is certainly a first step. But how to withdraw the 95% of the Afghan police force that is still incapable of basic policing for months of desperately needed training in a country with no prior history of such things? That turns out to be a conundrum, even for President Obama.

If the Pentagon does not dramatically alter the current training scheme, it doesn’t look good for either governance or peace in Afghanistan. Yet the likelihood remains low indeed that Pentagon officials will take the advice of a chorus of police experts offering critical commentary on the mess that is the police training program there.

Instead, it’s likely to be more of the same, which means more private contracting of police training and further disaster. Bizarrely enough, the Pentagon has given the Space and Missile Defense Command Contracting Office in Huntsville, Alabama, the task of deciding between DynCorp and Xe for that new billion-dollar training contract. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, as the French say: The more things change, the more they stay the same.


Counterinsurgency Sniff Test: Shit Happens


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Meanwhile, the old Afghan War continues with its new Counterinsurgency strategy which seems to involve many of the old conventional tactics — night raids, special ops, drone attacks, checkpoint shootings. etc — with the notable addition of apologies from Gen. Stanley McChrystal whenever the wrong people get killed, which appears to be frequently.

Rumors about collateral damage are no longer solely the province of “bleeding heart liberals,” anonymous sources or anti-war politicians. ‘Straight from the horse’s mouth’ we have this incredible admission from Gen. McChrystal to no less than The New York Times (where some neocon gatekeeper was clearly out to lunch):

We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat,” [my emphasis] said Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who became the senior American and NATO commander in Afghanistan last year. His comments came during a recent videoconference to answer questions from troops in the field about civilian casualties.

Failure to reduce checkpoint and convoy shootings, known in the military as “escalation of force” episodes, has emerged as a major frustration for military commanders who believe that civilian casualties deeply undermine the American and NATO campaign in Afghanistan.

Well, General, if you think that’s frustrating, imagine the “frustration” of the dying and maimed innocents and their families and loved ones. To make the point McChrystal-clear, Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Hall (the senior NATO enlisted man in Afghanistan and a trainer in the same session) added that “Many of the detainees at the military prison at Bagram Air Base joined the insurgency after the shootings of people they knew. There are stories after stories about how these people are turned into insurgents. Every time there is an escalation of force we are finding that innocents are being killed.”

And then, of course, there are the recent inconvenient revelations of one Jerome Starkey, an Afghanistan-based reporter and an eyewitness to atrocities committed by Coalition forces, followed by a fairly bungling campaign to deny and discredit Starkey’s report.

Over the past few months, Starkey exposed two incidents where NATO initially claimed to have engaged and killed insurgents, when they’d in fact killed civilians, including school children and pregnant women. In both cases, when confronted with eye-witness accounts obtained by Starkey that clearly rebutted NATO’s initial claims, NATO resisted publicly recanting.

In the first case, NATO officials told him they no longer believed that the raid would have been justified if they’d known what they now know, but no official would consent to direct attribution for this admission.

In the second case, NATO went so far as to attempt to damage Starkey’s credibility by telling other Kabul-based journalists that they had proof he’d misquoted ISAF spokesman Rear Adm. Greg Smith. When Starkey demanded a copy of the recording, NATO initially ignored him and eventually admitted that no recording existed. NATO only admitted their story was false in a retraction buried several paragraphs deep in a press release that led with an attack on Starkey’s credibility.

Get used to it, though, 80 years of Long War can’t be conducted without casualties and since the “enemy” is such a shape-shifter, well … mistakes happen. On the bright side, evidently, it’s now OK to shoot an “amazing number of people” who don’t pose a threat, if you’re convinced they are Taliban, or al Qaeda or something like that…

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Posted by Frumpzilla at 05:14 PM
March 19, 2010
Oops, My Bad

The Cato Institute is a libertarian “think tank” in Washington. Yesterday it hosted a panel led by Grover Norquist, who thinks. His principal thought so far, the one for which he will be remembered once he is finally gathered into the loving arms of Ayn Rand, is this: “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” Another Norquist thought, posssibly related: “When I became 21, I decided that nobody learned anything about politics after the age of 21.”

From the Cato Institute website:

In a Thursday panel at Cato on conservatism and war, U.S. Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) and John Duncan (R-Tenn.) revealed that the vast majority of GOP members of Congress now think it was wrong for the U.S. to invade Iraq in 2003.

The discussion was moderated by Grover Norquist, who asked the congressmen how many of their colleagues now think the war was a mistake.

Rohrabacher: “I will say that the decision to go in, in retrospect, almost all of us think that was a horrible mistake … Now that we know that it cost a trillion dollars, and all of these years, and all of these lives, and all of this blood … all I can say is everyone I know thinks it was a mistake to go in now.”

McClintock: “I think everyone [in Congress] would agree that Iraq was a mistake.”

Following this revelation virtually every Republican in Congress and most of the Democrats disemboweled themselves on the steps of the Capitol. Just kidding. The American language has no word for “shame.”




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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:51 PM
February 02, 2010
Know Your Enemy 101

Here is an economic primer for all your teabagger friends from Fred Clark at slacktivist. It deserves as wide circulation as it can possibly get. Now I’ve done my part. Do yours.

Hey you. You there in the Glenn Beck T-shirt headed off to the Tea Party Patriot rally.

Stop shouting for a moment, please, I want to explain to you why you’re so very angry. You should be angry. You’re getting screwed. I think you know that. But you don’t seem to know that it doesn’t have to be that way. You can stop it. You can stop it easily because the system that’s screwing you over can only keep screwing you over if you keep demanding that it do so.

So stop demanding that. Stop helping the system screw you over.

Look, you can go back to yelling at me in a minute, but just read this first.

1. Get out your pay stub.

Or, if you have direct deposit — you really should get direct deposit, it saves a lot of time and money (I point this out because, honestly, I’m trying to help you here, even though you don’t make that easy Mr. Angry Screamy Guy) — then take out that little paper receipt they give you when your pay gets directly deposited.

2. Notice that your net pay is lower than your gross pay. This is because some of your wages are withheld every pay period.

3. Notice that only some of this money that was withheld went to pay taxes. (I know, I know — yeearrrgh! me hates taxes! — but just try to stick with me for just a second here.)

4. Notice that some of the money that was withheld didn’t go to taxes, but to your health insurance company.

5. Now go get a pay stub from last year around this time, from January of 2009.

6. Notice that the amount of your pay withheld for taxes in your current paycheck is less than the amount that was withheld a year ago.

That’s because of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan, which included more than $200 billion in tax cuts, including the one you’re holding right there in your hand, the tax cut that’s now staring you in the face. Republicans all voted against that tax cut. And then they told you to get angry about the stimulus plan. They didn’t explain, however, why you were supposed to get angry about getting a tax cut. Why would you be? Wouldn’t it make more sense to get angry at the people who voted against that Obama tax cut?

But taxes aren’t the really important thing here. The really important thing starts with the next point…


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7. Notice that the amount of your pay withheld to pay for your health insurance is more than it was last year.

8. Notice that the amount of your pay withheld to pay for your health insurance is a lot more than it was last year. I won’t ask you to dig up old paychecks from 2008 and 2007, but this has been going on for a long time. Every year, the amount of your paycheck withheld to pay for your health insurance goes up. A lot.

9. Notice the one figure there on your two pay stubs that hasn’t changed: Your wage. The raise you didn’t get this year went to pay for that big increase in the cost of your health insurance.

10. Here’s where I need you to start doing a better job of putting two and two together. If you didn’t get a raise last year because the cost of your health insurance went up by a lot, and the cost of your health insurance is going to go up by a lot again this year, what do you think that means for any chance you might have of getting a raise this year?

11. Did you figure it out? That’s right. The increasing cost of health insurance means you won’t get a raise this year. Or next year. Or the year after that. The increasing cost of health insurance means you will never get a raise again.

That’s what I meant when I said you really should be angry. That’s what I meant when I said you’re getting screwed.

OK, we’re almost done. Just a few more points, I promise.

12. The only hope you have of ever seeing another pay raise is if Congress passes health care reform. Without health care reform, the increasing cost of your health insurance will swallow this year’s raise. And next year’s raise. And pretty soon it won’t stop with just your raise. Without health care reform, the increasing cost of your health insurance will start making your pay go down.

13. I wish I could tell you that this was just a worst-case scenario, that this was only something that might, maybe happen, but that wouldn’t be true. Without health care reform, this is what will happen. We know this because this is what is happening now. It has been happening for the past 10 years. In 2008, employers spent on average 25 percent more per employee than they did in 2001, but wages on average did not increase during those years. The price of milk went up. The price of gas went up. But wages did not. All of the money that would have gone to higher wages went to pay the higher and higher and higher cost of health insurance. And unless Congress passes health care reform, that will not change.

Well, it will change in the sense that it will keep getting worse, but it won’t get better. Unless the problem gets fixed, the problem won’t be fixed. That’s kind of what “problem” and “fixed” mean.

14. Sadly for any chance you have of ever seeing a raise again, it looks like Congress may not pass health care reform. It looks like they won’t do that because they’re scared of angry voters who are demanding that they oppose health care reform, angry voters who demand that Congress not do anything that would keep the cost of health insurance from going up and up and up. Angry voters like you.

15. Do you see the point here? You are angrily, loudly demanding that Congress make sure that you never, ever get another pay raise as long as you live. Because of you and because of your angry demands, you and your family and your kids are going to have to get by with less this year than last year. And next year you’re going to have to get by with even less. And if you keep angrily demanding that no one must ever fix this problem, then you’re going to have to figure out how to get by on less and less every year for the rest of your life.

16. So please, for your own sake, for your family’s sake and the sake of your children, stop. Stop demanding that problems not get fixed. Stop demanding that you keep getting screwed. Stay angry — you should be angry — but start directing that anger toward the system that’s screwing you over and taking money out of your pocket. Start directing that anger toward fixing problems instead of toward making sure they never get fixed. Instead of demanding that Congress oppose health care reform so that you never, ever, get another pay raise, start demanding that they pass health care reform, as soon as possible. Because until they do, you’re just going to keep on getting screwed.

And it’s going to be that much worse knowing that you brought this on yourself — that you demanded it.

Thanks for your time.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:59 AM
November 17, 2009
With Friends Like These…

Anyone who follows the news with moderate regularity and an open mind is already well aware that the real force behind jihad and 9/11 was and is our great and good friend, Saudi Arabia.

Anyone else should read the article by Johann Hari of Independent UK from which this is excerpted:

…And so Usama begins to tell me his story. He arrived in Tottenham in North London in the mid-1970s, when he was five years old. His Pakistani father was sent here by the Saudi Ministry of Religious Affairs, which aims to spread its puritan desert strain of Islam to every nation. His family led a locked-down life, trying to adhere to Saudi principles in a semi-detached house in the English suburbs. “We weren’t allowed music or TV or any contact with the opposite sex,” he says. “We were very sheltered. I didn’t go out a great deal.” By the age of 10, he had memorised every word of the Koran in its original Arabic…

He started to recruit other students, as he had done so many times before. But it was harder. “Everyone hated the [unelected] government [of Hosni Mubarak], and the US for backing it,” he says. But there was an inhibiting sympathy for the victims of 9/11 — until the Bush administration began to respond with Guantanamo Bay and bombs. “That made it much easier. After that, I could persuade people a lot faster…”

But once they had made that leap to identify with the Umma – the global Muslim community — they got angrier the more abusive our foreign policy came. Every one of them said the Bush administration’s response to 9/11 — from Guantanamo to Iraq — made jihadism seem more like an accurate description of the world. Hadiya Masieh, a tiny female former HT organiser, tells me: “You’d see Bush on the television building torture camps and bombing Muslims and you think — anything is justified to stop this. What are we meant to do, just stand still and let him cut our throats?”

Britain’s foreign policy also helped tug them towards Islamism in another way. Once these teenagers decided to go looking for a harder, tougher Islamist identity, they found a well-oiled state machine waiting to feed it. Usman Raja says: “Saudi literature is everywhere in Britain, and it’s free. When I started exploring my Muslim identity, when I was looking for something more, all the books were Saudi. In the bookshops, in the libraries. All of them. Back when I was fighting, I could go and get a car, open the boot up, and get it filled up with free literature from the Saudis, saying exactly what I believed. Who can compete with that?”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:28 PM
November 11, 2009
Here We Go Again

Excellent piece at Lenin’s Tomb on the Soviet Union’s 1979 military (the Soviets were already present in many other respects) invasion of Afghanistan. The parallels to our own Afghan idiocy just keep on piling up…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:11 AM
September 26, 2009
You Can’t Believe Impossible Things

We are asked to believe the following proposition: The United States can’t provide for its citizens what every Western country offers as a matter of common policy, national health insurance.

On the other hand, we’re told, the United States can achieve what no other country has ever done before: win a war in Afghanistan.

Go to the board and write it two-hundred times, children.

It calls to mind a passage from Through The Looking Glass:

“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.

“Can’t you?” the queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again, draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”

Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said. “One can’t believe impossible things.”

“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”


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Posted by OHollern at 04:44 PM
September 21, 2009
Torture Works, and Here’s How

From the Associated Press:

“The assumption is that the (methods) are without effect on memory, or indeed facilitate the retrieval of information from memory,” O’Mara said.

But overwhelmingly, scientific literature shows the opposite: Chronic stress and trauma — the likely result of the CIA’s methods, particularly for long-term prisoners, according to O’Mara — can damage the hippocampus, the part of the brain that integrates memory.

The list of techniques the CIA used included prolonged sleep deprivation — six days in at least one instance — being chained in painful positions, exploitation of prisoners’ phobias, and waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning that President Barack Obama has called torture. Three CIA prisoners were waterboarded, two of them extensively.

Those methods cause the brain to release stress hormones that, if their release is repeated and prolonged, may result in compromised brain function and even tissue loss, O’Mara wrote.

He warned that this could lead to brain lobe disorders, making the prisoners vulnerable to confabulation — in this case, the pathological production of false memories based on suggestions from an interrogator. Those false memories mix with true information in the interrogation, making it difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is fabricated.

Waterboarding is especially stressful “with the potential to cause widespread stress-induced changes in the brain, especially when these are repeated frequently and intensively,” O’Mara wrote.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:04 PM
September 01, 2009
Cheney’s Endless Book Tour

As you sit stupefied before Cheney preening his soiled and broken feathers on every talk show he can find, relieve the monotony with this thought from Steve Benen:

What Obama really ought to do, according to Dick Cheney, is seek out the former vice president’s advice and follow it. After all, Cheney believes he’s proven himself on the issue.

I seem to recall the Bush/Cheney era a little differently. Cheney thinks it was a sterling success when it came to national security and counter-terrorism. Perhaps there’s something to this. After all, except for the catastrophic events of 9/11, and the anthrax attacks against Americans, and terrorist attacks against U.S. allies, and the terrorist attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Bush’s inability to capture those responsible for 9/11, and waging an unnecessary war that inspired more terrorists, and the success terrorists had in exploiting Bush’s international unpopularity, the Bush/Cheney record on counter-terrorism was awesome.

After the previous administration established a record like that, President Obama didn’t ask Cheney for tips? The nerve.

I am curious about something, though. Terrorists first attacked the World Trade Center in 1993, early on in President Clinton’s first year in office. Six people were killed, hundreds more were injured. The Clinton administration caught those responsible, subjected them to the U.S. criminal justice system, and foreign terrorists did not strike again on U.S. soil during Clinton’s terms in office.

So, at any point in 2001, did the Bush White House turn to Bill Clinton and Al Gore and ask, “How did you do it? What were the keys to keeping this country safe over that period of time?”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:01 PM
August 26, 2009
Torture for Dummies

You will have read about the CIA’s guidelines for torturing prisoners. But for the full horror of the thing, go here. Every American should be at first ashamed and then furious to see 79 pages of this filth under the letterhead of the United States Department of Justice, signed by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Steven G. Bradbury. Most Americans will not give a damn, however, which is what makes the rest of us fear for the Republic.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:27 PM
August 12, 2009
Don’t You Just Love It!

Isn’t that little Rove boy just the cutest thing?

Robert Luskin, a lawyer for Mr. Rove, said the material released Tuesday demonstrated that there was “absolutely no evidence” the White House had used inappropriate political motivations to punish federal prosecutors. Mr. Luskin said Mr. Rove and other White House aides were legitimately concerned about voter fraud and were debating “completely reasonable and legitimate policy questions.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:36 PM
July 29, 2009
Feds Trick, Terrify Mother of Five

I have a fat and constantly growing file of FBI stupidity, inefficiency, incompetence, bribery, theft, entrapment, perjury, burglary, and murder. But this — this — still surprised. To think of such a thing requires a mind of vileness beyond the imagination of decent people. To carry it out is unspeakable.

…But Boyd, a 41-year-old mother of five and U.S.-born convert to Islam, reserved her sharpest comments for what she called a cruel trap that law enforcement authorities set up to get her out of her house Monday while agents scoured it for documents after the arrest of her husband, two sons and four other men.

Boyd, whose family lives in the Johnston County community of Willow Spring, described a harrowing experience Monday afternoon when she answered the door to find a man she thought was a family friend wearing a shirt that appeared to be bloodied. He told her that Daniel and their three sons, Dylan, Noah and Zakariya, were in a serious car crash. He asked her to get into a Highway Patrol cruiser that would take her to Duke Hospital, where they were being treated.

Boyd summoned her daughter and pregnant daughter-in-law. They wrapped their heads in scarves, grabbed their Qurans and flew out the door. For Boyd, it was a particularly painful experience. Her 16-year-old son, Luqman, died in a car crash near their home in 2007.

When they arrived at Duke Hospital, the cruiser took them to a construction site at the rear of the facility. A man dressed as a doctor came out and asked whether she was the wife. When she said yes, he extended his hand. She told him she does not shake men’s hands. He then grabbed her wrist and handcuffed her.

“I’m not a doctor. I’m an agent and your family is not in the hospital,” he told her. “You’re being detained, and you need to cooperate with us.”

Boyd estimates she was then surrounded by 30 agents who frisked her and asked whether she had weapons or weapons of mass destruction…

U.S. District Attorney George E. B. Holding declined to respond to Boyd’s version. “I am sticking to the four corners of the indictment. We try our cases in court and won’t go back and forth before then,” he said Tuesday.

Holding, you will be unsurprised to learn, is a piece of legal litter left over from the George W. Bush administration. He is a fat rich kid who owes his job to that unspeakable embarrassment from North Carolina, the late Senator Jesse Helms.

One of Obama’s most puzzling failures has been leaving so many George Holdings in their U.S. Attorney jobs, bad aftertastes from the most disgraceful period in the history of the Justice Department. When you move into a new house, it’s a good idea to clear out the old owner's garbage.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:19 AM
July 27, 2009
Nutrisystem, Army Style

Here’s a little more background on the man President Obama picked to be his General William Westmoreland in Afghanistan:

Dietary manipulation was one of 14 interrogation techniques that were outside the Army Field Manual but used as a matter of policy by the Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq when it was under the leadership of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who President Obama has now tapped to run the war in Afghanistan. The 14 techniques were more “than… any other military organization at that time,” according to a 2004 report by Vice Admiral Albert T. Church, then the Naval Inspector General. Other techniques including use of muzzled dogs, “safety positions,” sleep adjustment/management, “mild” physical contact, isolation, sensory overload and sensory deprivation.

McChrystal’s tenure began shortly after Amin’s five-day stay at Camp Nama but coincided with the abuses alleged in the New York Times and Human Rights Watch reports.

None of the senators on the Armed Services Committee asked McChyrstal about Camp Nama during his confirmation hearing for the Afghanistan post last month. McChrystal testified that he does not condone mistreatment of detainees and that he was uncomfortable with some of the interrogation techniques he found in place in Iraq when he assumed his command in October 2003, adding that he immediately sought to reduce the use of certain methods.

In a sharp follow-up query to McChrystal after the hearing, however, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) pointed out that seven months into his command McChrystal made a request to Gen. John Abizaid, head of U.S. military operations in the Middle East, for permission to use five additional “enhanced” interrogation techniques not listed in the Army Field Manual — techniques that had been suspended by Abizaid two months prior — including “sleep management,” “control positions,” and “environmental manipulation.” As an addendum, McChrystal asked that, in “exceptional circumstances,” handcuffs be allowed to “enforce the detainee’s position.”

Abizaid denied McChrystal’s request to use control positions, but approved the other four, which, in his written response to Levin’s query, McChrystal said he used “sparingly.” He also noted that he chose not to request permission to use physical contact or diet manipulation, “techniques which were in use by the SMUs [Special Mission Units] when I assumed command,” he wrote.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:07 AM
July 03, 2009
More Filth Bubbles Up from the Bush Years

Unknown News put me onto an intriguing story from The Hill that I hadn’t seen elsewhere. Two bits that caught my eye…

This:

Moreover, a public-relations maxim of the Bush White House and its press officers was to shorten the lifespan of any bad press to make sure that it got out as widely as possible to as many major news organizations on the same day. For example, in February of 2006, after learning that The New York Times was going to run a story about an administration program to covertly obtain bank records to track down potential terrorists, the White House briefed reporters from the competing Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times so that they would all be able to publish the story that same night.

The case study of what occurred in that instance became the playbook for how public-relations specialists for the administration handled minimizing the impact of bad news and putting their own spin on it: Get everything out everywhere at once, get it out to authoritative news sources, and get your version out first.

And this:

After [Arizona U.S. Attorney] Charlton’s firing, there was speculation in the media that it may have been due to his pursuit of Renzi. (Charlton himself never publicly suggested that that was the case.) Yet the report into the firings of the U.S. attorneys concluded there was “no evidence” of that.

Charlton was targeted, the report said, because he clashed with Gonzales over a death penalty case. Charlton wanted the Justice Department to foot the bill for recovering a murder victim from a landfill to make absolutely sure the forensic evidence supported the conviction. Gonzales refused. “I didn’t want to be left to wonder a year later, or 10 years later, or 20 years later whether a life might have been taken unjustly just to appease some political paradigm,” Charlton said.

The first excerpt came as a surprise to me, although I spent a good many years as a press officer for a U.S. Embassy, the Carter campaign, and the Federal Aviation Administration. Silly me, I never thought of (or heard of) diluting the news value of a reporter’s story by leaking it immediately to the competition.

As to the second, no great news there, I guess. Just another example, no more ripe than a hundred others, of the schweinerei that Bush and Rove made of the United States Justice Department. Who would have expected the ineffable Alberto Gonzales to spend the taxpayers’ money just to find out if a condemned man was really guilty?


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:11 AM
May 29, 2009
What If Torture Does Work, Dick?

Nephew Will Doolittle’s column in today’s Glens Falls Post-Star:

The point of social institutions, especially legal institutions, is to impose uniformity and objectivity on social interactions that would otherwise be personal and unpredictable.

When Mario Cuomo was governor of New York, and debating the death penalty, which he opposed, he would propose a scenario where a member of his own family was killed during a robbery, making the criminal eligible for a first-degree murder charge.

Would he want that murderer executed? Would he want to kill him with his own hands?

Yes, Cuomo would say, but, for the good of all, the legal system would not allow him a personal revenge.

Victims are prohibited from punishing their victimizers, except through the offices of the state. That’s how order is maintained.

When I have criticized Bush-era officials for engaging in torture, the most consistent response from readers has been, “What if your child were in danger?”

Let’s say my child were kidnapped and, by some fantastic set of circumstances, one of the kidnappers was sitting in my kitchen and I believed that, by torturing him, I could save my child — would I do it?

I probably would, which is no justification for legalizing torture.

It is our capacity for violence that makes laws forbidding it necessary, unless, of course, you think torture is fine.

If torture is fine, then, as Jesse Ventura asked recently, why didn’t we torture Timothy McVeigh to find out who helped him in the Oklahoma City attack? Why not torture murderers for the names of their accomplices? Why not torture prisoners of war for information about our enemies?

If, as Dick Cheney asserts, the end of squeezing information out of suspected al-Qaida terrorists justified the means of torturing them, then, surely, torture is worth doing in other circumstances where American lives are threatened.

We should have tortured prisoners we captured during the Vietnam War, for example, to find out what they knew about our enemy’s plans.

We should have tortured Squeaky Fromme after she tried to shoot Gerald Ford, to find out if any other members of the Manson family were planning to attack the president (one of them was).

We should torture teens caught plotting Columbine-style attacks to make sure no co-conspirators are left at large.

The question is not whether torture works. Let’s say it does. The question is whether the costs of employing torture outweigh the benefits of any information you glean. I think they do.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:41 AM
May 22, 2009
Ho Chi Minh, Meet George W. Bush…

…you guys have got a lot to talk about. For instance, does this sound familiar?

[Rev. Robert G.] Certain remembers how easily his Vietnamese captors justified crossing the line with him. They said American prisoners weren’t covered by the Geneva Convention.

“They said we were not prisoners of war because there was no legal declaration of war,” Certain says. “Therefore we were air pirates and they could treat us anyway they felt."

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:06 PM
May 07, 2009
Jesus Loves Him, This We Know…

For the rest of the story:

In all, 98 detainees have died while in U.S. hands, with 34 identified as homicides, at least eight of which were tortured to death…

“Abed Hamed Mowhoush [was] a former Iraqi general beaten over days by U.S. Army, CIA and other non-military forces, stuffed into a sleeping bag, wrapped with electrical cord, and suffocated to death,” Human Rights First writes. “In the recently concluded trial of a low-level military officer charged in Mowhoush’s death, [Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer] received a written reprimand, a fine, and 60 days with his movements limited to his work, home, and church.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:37 PM
May 05, 2009
Our Three-Front War

Steve Clemons brings not-so-good news on Pakistan, a nuclear power with which we have been at war since last fall. Didn’t notice? The Taliban did.

The mounting tensions in Pakistan were brought home to me personally when I learned that the United States Central Command has rejected on security grounds the visit of Patrick Cronin to Pakistan today. Cronin is Director of the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University and Senior Adviser and former Director of Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and also served as Director of Studies at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

To be clear, although Cronin had received clearance for the Pakistan visit from those in command in Pakistan, his visit was yesterday rejected because “facts on the ground had changed” and CENTCOM refused to override. The fact is that it easier today to visit Baghdad than Pakistan…

Some like National Defense University military expert Patrick Cronin believe that the tactical US military success of knocking out Taliban and related insurgents and disrupting operations that they have planned is blinding General Petraeus and other senior Obama administration officials from the fact that these drone attacks are fueling the growth and popularity of the insurgency — and that the tactical is undermining the strategic.

In other words, some believe that we are potentially on the verge of seeing the Pakistan government collapse and run a serious risk of Taliban/al Qaeda takeover of the Pakistani government because of the corrosive results of drone attacks.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:07 PM
April 23, 2009
Treaty-busting for Fun and Profit

The Rude Pundit is shocked, shocked— You can tell because he got through an entire paragraph without potty-mouthing.

But what doesn’t come through immediately is the answer to a simple question: why? Why did the Bush administration commit and allow (and encourage, if not force others to commit) what are, seemingly without a doubt, treaty-busting crimes? Because, see, you read something like footnote 10 on page 2 and you come across this line: “According to Gonzales, the ‘positive’ consequences of setting aside the Third Geneva Convention include ‘preserving flexibility’ and ‘substantially reduc[ing] the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act,’” and you realize that, whatever the motivation of the people involved, they didn’t care. And they didn’t care for a simple reason to answer that simple question: the Bush administration thought it was the beginning of an ascendant Republican reign and that they’d never be investigated.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:11 PM
April 20, 2009
What Waterboarding Specifically Is

We now know that CIA torturers waterboarded Khalid Sheik Mohammed precisely 183 times and Abu Zubaydah 83 times. That comes to 266 times in all. To get a full sense of what lies behind this number then, you must multiply what you will read below by 266.

I posted it on September 14, 2006, and repost it now to remind us of the exact nature of the crimes committed by Bush, Cheney, Addington, Libby, Tenet, Bybee, Ashcroft, Gonzales, Yoo and the many others in a chain of command that stretched directly from the Oval Office to the secret overseas torture chambers of the CIA. None of these criminals will ever be punished, because our part of the world doesn’t work that way. This isn’t Chile or Germany or Cambodia, after all.

Being of unsound stomach, I tuned out TV’s Monday wallow in the guilty pleasures of 9/11 and only just now came across Matt Lauer’s disturbing interview of Bush, a president.

The president’s body language comes straight from the barroom. He stands too close — into Lauer’s space, almost in his face. Since Bush is on TV, he can’t engage in the usual shoving ritual of the perpetually adolescent male. His jabbing finger, never quite making contact, has to do the job for him. Lauer stands his ground but does not jab back. It would cost him his job, as both men well know.

Lauer can use his words, though. And so he brings up the matter of waterboarding, a form of torture which Bush uses on suspected terrorists. But Bush, as both men also well know, can’t admit to that on TV. So the president, of course, lies. But then — twice, in the same prepared words — he goes on to tell us why he does the thing he doesn’t do:

I’m not going to talk about techniques that we use on people. One reason why is because we don’t want the enemy to adjust …

I’m not going to tell you specifically what’s done because I don’t want the enemy to adjust.”

Adjust? How can the enemy adjust? Grow gills?

Since the torturer Bush won’t tell us specifically what he has done, let’s turn to somebody to whom it was done half a century ago. This is from a 1958 book called The Question. The author, a French newspaper editor in Algeria named Henri Alleg, had already resisted a month of hideous torture at the hands of his own country’s paratroopers, including having his testicles burned. The worst was yet to come:

A few moments later L— came into the room. Twenty-five years old, short, sunburnt, pomaded hair, small forehead. He came up to me, smiling, and said, “Ah! So you’re the customer? Come with me…”

L— now laid on the ground a black plank, sweating with humidity, polluted and sticky with vomit left, no doubt, by previous “customers.”

I lay down on the plank. L—, with the help of another man, attached me by the wrists and ankles with leather straps fixed to the wood…

Together they picked up he plank to which I was attached and carried me into the kitchen. Once there, they rested the top of the plank, where my head was, against the sink. L— fixed a rubber tube to the metal tap which shone just above my face. He wrapped my head in a rag, while Captain D— said: “Put a wedge in his mouth.”

With the rag already over my face, L— held my nose. He tried to jam a piece of wood between my lips in such a way that I could not close my mouth or spit out the tube. When everything was ready, he said to me: “When you want to talk, all you have to do is move your fingers.”

And he turned on the tap. The rag was soaked rapidly. Water flowed everywhere: in my mouth, in my nose, all over my face. But for a while I could still breathe in some small gulps of air. I tried, by contracting my throat, to take in as little water as possible and to resist suffocation by keeping air in my lungs for as long as I could.

But I couldn’t hold on for more than a few moments. I had the impression of drowning, and a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me. In spite of myself, the fingers of both my hands shook uncontrollably,

“That’s it! He’s going to talk,” said a voice.

The water stopped running and they took away the rag. I was able to breathe. In the gloom, I saw the lieutenants and the captain, who, with a cigarette between his lips, was hitting my stomach with his fist to make me throw out the water I had swallowed. Befuddled by the air I was breathing, I hardly felt the blows.

“Well, then?” I remained silent. “He’s playing games with us. Put his head under again!”

This time I clenched my fists, forcing the nails into my palm. I had decided I was not going to move my fingers again. It was better to die of asphyxia right away. I feared to undergo again that terrible moment when I had felt myself losing consciousness, while at the same time I was fighting with all my might not to die.

I did not move my hands, but three times I again experienced this insupportable agony. In extremis, they let me get my breath back while I threw up the water.

The last time, I lost consciousness.

M. Alleg, shown below in a 2004 photo, never broke under the torture and was sent away to ten years in prison, from which he escaped and fled to Czechoslovakia.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:05 PM
April 07, 2009
How Hard Can It Be?

See? The Peruvians can do it.

LIMA, Peru — A special tribunal convicted former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori of murder and kidnapping on Tuesday and sentenced him to 25 years in prison, saying he authorized a government death squad during the Shining Path insurgency.

The 70-year-old former leader, who remains popular for rescuing Peru from the brink of economic and political collapse in the early 1990s, was convicted of what the court called “crimes against humanity,” including 25 murders by a military hit squad.

Presiding judge Cesar San Martin told a hushed courtroom there was no question Fujimori authorized the creation of the Colina unit, which the court said killed at least 50 people during its 15 months as the state crushed the fanatical Shining Path rebels.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:53 PM
March 19, 2009
The Chicago Boys Go to Iraq

In the 1970s and 1980s the tiny country of Uruguay was a military dictatorship ruled by sadists and murderers. Dissenters were tortured for years in military jails. Those who survived were next sent to a nightmare of a prison called Libertad, or Liberty.

The name was not a joke. Liberty Prison was a lab experiment in which words might mean their opposite, clocks kept different and constantly changing time, calendars were inaccurate, lights were manipulated so that days would shorten or lengthen unaccountably, meals would arrive at odd intervals or not at all, and behavior that was punished on Tuesday would be rewarded on Wednesday. If indeed it had been a Tuesday or a Wednesday.

This house of mirrors had been designed by behavioral psychologists, and was carried out under their direction. And the meaninglessness had meaning. From Lawrence Wechsler’s 1998 book, A Miracle, a Universe:

Major A. Maciel, who was a director of Libertad, observed at one point, regarding the prisoners under his charge, “We didn’t get rid of them when we had the chance, and one day we’ll have to let them go, so we’ll have to take advantage of the time we have left to drive them mad.”

No matter what creatures like Cheney and Rumsfeld and Yoo and Addington may say or even believe, the goal of torture is only incidentally to elicit information. What, then were the masters of Uruguay really after with their physical and psychological tortures? Lawrence Wechsler, again, writing in the New Yorker 20 years ago:

Eduardo Galeano, the noted Uruguayan writer, provided me with a characteristically terse, aphoristic reply: “In Uruguay, people were in prison so prices could be free.”

Several other people I spoke with in Montevideo concurred, explaining that one of the main reasons for the military’s repression was to enable the generals to hand the country’s economy over to their “Chicago boys” — neoliberal economic technocrats, many of them trained at the University of Chicago under the monetarist influence of Milton Friedman, who prescribe an unfettered marketplace, with a minimum of government interference, as the cure for most of the world’s economic ills.

These economists generally oppose protective tariffs, social entitlements, minimum-wage standards, government safety-and-health regulations — the kind of things on behalf of which unions, for example, might be expected to struggle.

So what were our own torturers and psychologists in Guantánamo, Bagram, and Abu Ghraib really after? Are there parallels? Divergences? What economic philosophy has been forced on Iraq, with what results? What is the point of “mosaic intelligence” as opposed to “actionable intelligence” of the Jack Bauer variety?

Contrast and compare.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:13 PM
March 16, 2009
Those Wascally Iwanians

From BBC News:

US forces shot down an Iranian drone 60 miles (100km) north-east of Baghdad last month, the US military says … The US has long accused Iran of military interference inside Iraq.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:22 PM
February 20, 2009
The Times, They Are a-Suckin’

This from my nephew Will Doolittle, columnist for the Glens Falls PostStar.

Usually, I reject the proposition that “times have changed,” especially when the speaker means “for the worse.” The good old days were very bad, in some ways.

But the part of me that wants to say, “When I was a kid ...” flares up when I read stories like the one in Wednesday’s paper about the two 16-year-olds from Cambridge charged with felonies. They were charged when someone called the State Police after spotting a plastic sled the teens had placed by the road, near the house where one of them lives.

On the sled were a soccer ball wrapped in foil, some wire and a battery pack. Also on the sled was a note that said: “If you touch this, you will be shot.”

They had put this hodgepodge by the road Sunday night because another friend, with whom they often play war games, was supposed to be riding his bike down the road that night to join them. But the friend didn’t show up, and the teens didn’t collect their creation right away Monday. Someone else saw it and was scared by it.

I spoke recently with Anthony Jancek, the father of Nicholas, who was charged. Nick had never even had detention before this happened, Mr. Jancek said. Anthony Jancek doesn’t blame anyone but his son, whom he has grounded, he said, “until the court date, at the very least.”

And Nick, on his own, is writing letters of apology to the person who got scared, and to the troopers who had to spend time dealing with a soccer ball on a sled.

Nick’s good manners and his maturity — when the troopers showed up, he told them exactly what happened, Mr. Jancek said — are encouraging. And Mr. Jancek’s good parenting, insisting that Nick take responsibility, is great.

But, as an uninvolved party, you can’t help thinking, “What the heck?”

And right after that thought come the memories of the things you did when you were a kid, and the times you got caught, and the punishments. What you probably don’t remember are the felony charges you faced.

Because, despite all the understandable precautions officials must take, it is crazy to be charging kids with serious crimes for goofing around with each other. We used to understand, but don’t any longer, that kids need some latitude, so they can learn lessons without collecting big black marks on their records.

But times have changed, and for the worse.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:39 AM
February 19, 2009
The Worst of the Worst…

were never at Guantanamo Bay. They were in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and in the White House:

Recent interviews with troops from the early days at Guantanamo confirm that the “worst of the worst” charge was suspect from the very first encounters with the detainees. There wasn’t any reliable vetting. Although the first troops on the ground at Guantanamo were led to believe that they would be receiving the “worst of the worst,” the detainees themselves seemed from the start to be far from the dangerous men they had expected — symbolically, individuals who, according to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, were capable of chewing through hydraulic cables on board the transport planes but who it turned out arrived with rotting teeth and weakened physiques.

Overall, the U.S. military was blindsided by who they received at Gitmo and by the condition in which the detainees arrived. Arriving dehydrated, and startlingly thin, the detainees were mostly not only small and weak, but did not even speak the languages which the troops on the ground had been told to expect. Many came from countries outside of the Afghanistan/Pakistan area. Some did not even seem capable of any dire acts.

Among the earliest arrivals, one was apparently an octogenarian; another was over ninety. One was a diagnosed schizophrenic. However possible the danger quotient of these first arrivals, the inclusion of these cases made the team at Gitmo suspect that the vetting process had been haphazard at best.

Later investigations have shown that most of the detainees were not captured directly by U.S. troops. Instead, the U.S. paid bounties to, or otherwise received the prisoners from, Pakistani boarder guards and Northern Alliance troops. There was no single profile for the detainees; instead they seemed like a ragtag and miscellaneous group. Nor did they arrive with information.

The pocket litter that detainees were carrying when captured – materials that trained police would have carefully preserved and labeled for use during interrogation – came stuffed randomly into bags but was often not separated per individual. Doubts about the identities of the detainees were registered by visiting Congresspersons and by members of the Bush Administration, but these doubts never seemed to go anywhere.

Thus began the story of defending a mission that seemed in part fraudulent from the start. As the general in charge has noted in retrospect, it took a petty officer to put a detainee on the plane to Guantanamo and an order signed by the President of the United States to get him out.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:01 PM
February 10, 2009
The Inner Bush

Don da Man sends this along, claiming that it would make me chuckle. He was right, and so I post it in its entirety. But click on the link, too. The blogger, Paul Tatara, is a first-rate writer. He has, that is, the ability to make interesting a subject in which the reader has no interest. In this case, bad popular music.

So go see. And meanwhile:


25 Random Things About Me

by

George W. Bush

1. I am fascinated by words, but not so much by sentences.

2. I feel the basis of any stable relationship is my ability to strike first.

3. I don’t mind if someone I distrust is made to feel like he or she is drowning.

4. When my daughters are drunk I often feel jealous.

5. Just because I am the only person in the room and the mirror suddenly breaks, that doesn’t mean I broke the mirror.

6. If I had my life to live over again I would not eat pretzels.

7. Sometimes when I talk to Jesus, he tells me to do stupid stuff. But I still do it.

8. I believe empirical evidence is too often misleading.

9. When confronted by a brick wall, I will slam into it again and again until my head looks like a mass of bloody pulp. This, I think, is my key strength as a person.

10. I feel that people who die because of me are heroes. Unless they’re not American, then they’re just dead.

11. I have always believed that if you live near a levee, don’t have any money, and are too old to swim, you get what you deserve.

12. I enjoy throwing out the first pitch at baseball games because there’s no umpire to get all judgmental.

13. When Dick Cheney says something nice about me I blush like a schoolgirl. But he usually just makes that animal noise.

14. I’m always amazed what Americans will say on the telephone when they don’t know you’re listening.

15. I like to make up funny nicknames for people so I’ll look more like a regular guy and less like one of them arrogant douche bags.

16. Laura is both the love of my life and my best friend, now that everybody else has pretty much backed off.

17. On those occasions when I pull my head out of my ass it takes a while for my eyes to adjust to the light.

18. The next time I see the Pope I plan to trade infallibility stories with him.

19. Over time, I have come to dislike celebratory banners.

20. I have long felt that the best co-workers are those who agree with every fucking thing you say.

21. My favorite food is Texas-style barbecue ribs cooked by an old Negro.

22. It seems pretty obvious to me that if man really evolved from monkeys, God would have made Adam and Steve, not Adam and Eve. Or something like that. I don’t remember the actual jingle.

23. I’m sorry I never got to thank Ken Lay for dying.

24. Sometimes I wish I knew if I was ever in the military.

25. I will badly miss my “veto erections.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:17 PM
February 04, 2009
The Great Bush Con: Chapter 1,206

Another Bush League bait-and-switch operation, brought to you courtesy of the xenophobic /racist wing (is there any other?) of the GOP?

The raids on homes around the country were billed as carefully planned hunts for dangerous immigrant fugitives, and given catchy names like Operation Return to Sender.

And they garnered bigger increases in money and staff from Congress than any other program run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, even as complaints grew that teams of armed agents were entering homes indiscriminately.

But in fact, beginning in 2006, the program was no longer what was being advertised. Federal immigration officials had repeatedly told Congress that among more than half a million immigrants with outstanding deportation orders, they would concentrate on rounding up the most threatening — criminals and terrorism suspects.

Instead, newly available documents show, the agency changed the rules, and the program increasingly went after easier targets. A vast majority of those arrested had no criminal record, and many had no deportation orders against them, either.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:12 PM
January 25, 2009
Not a Successful Conversation

For high-level political gossip, don’t miss the oral history of Bush’s administration in the current Vanity Fair. More tomorrow, but here’s a first taste from Kenneth Adelman, describing how he came to be a former member of Donald Rumsfeld’s Defense Policy Board:

So he says, It might be best if you got off the Defense Policy Board. You’re very negative. I said, I am negative, Don. You’re absolutely right. I’m not negative about our friendship. But I think your decisions have been abysmal when it really counted.

Start out with, you know, when you stood up there and said things — “Stuff happens.” I said, That’s your entry in Bartlett’s. The only thing people will remember about you is “Stuff happens.” I mean, how could you say that? “This is what free people do.” This is not what free people do. This is what barbarians do. And I said, Do you realize what the looting did to us? It legitimized the idea that liberation comes with chaos rather than with freedom and a better life. And it demystified the potency of American forces. Plus, destroying, what, 30 percent of the infrastructure.

I said, You have 140,000 troops there, and they didn’t do jack shit. I said, There was no order to stop the looting. And he says, There was an order. I said, Well, did you give the order? He says, I didn’t give the order, but someone around here gave the order. I said, Who gave the order?

So he takes out his yellow pad of paper and he writes down — he says, I’m going to tell you. I’ll get back to you and tell you. And I said, I’d like to know who gave the order, and write down the second question on your yellow pad there. Tell me why 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq disobeyed the order. Write that down, too.

And so that was not a successful conversation.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:01 PM
January 19, 2009
George W. Bush’s Real Legacy

The following piece ran May 17, 2006 under the heading, “Mission Almost Accomplished.” Now that Bush’s awful mission is completely accomplished, I put it up again. No updating seems necessary.

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It’s been nearly four years since I first posted my analysis of the nasty psychopathology that has forced George W. Bush to fail all his life, and is causing him to fail so spectacularly now. Consider this from the Washington Post (emphasis added):

Bush’s job approval rating now stands at 33 percent, down five percentage points in barely a month and a new low for him in Post-ABC polls. His current standing with the public is identical to President George H.W. Bush’s worst showing in the Post-ABC poll before he lost his reelection bid to Bill Clinton in 1992.
The younger Bush’s career can only be understood as a lifelong obsession with disappointing the father he so plainly hates.

He follows his father’s footsteps in school, as a pilot, as a businessman, and finally as a politician. Unable to fill those footprints, he makes each one seem unimportant by pretending contempt for it. He gets C’s where his father got A’s; he ducks the combat flying that made his father a hero; he burns through the seed money his father’s friends gave him, failing in the oil business which had made his father rich.

Then at last he was taken in hand by a sleazy political op who realized that the father’s name and money would be enough to elect the wayward son governor of Texas. (Polls at the time showed that a significant portion of the voters thought that W. actually was his father.)

Then Rove set out to hand-carry his meal ticket into the White House itself.

Take that, you old fart, junior must have thought as he took the oath of office. Any asshole can get to be president. But even that wasn’t enough. Deep inside, where the Oedipal snakes writhed in his subconscious, there was still work to do.

What better to way to humiliate his father than to degrade the supreme office the old man had spent his life to reach? What sweeter revenge than to slime, like a slug, the presidency itself? And so he enlisted Rumsfeld and Cheney, his father’s ancient enemies, to help in the work of patricide.

Outdoing his father as president, the junior Bush must have known in his heart, was beyond his limited capacities. But his whole life offered proof of his ability to fail, and so he took the only path remaining. He would become, God help the rest of us, the worst president in history.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:16 PM
January 17, 2009
Thank God for Small Favors

We seem to have heard the last, thank God, of Bush’s incredibly bad imitation of a West Texas accent. (I know it’s bad because I was working as an oil field roustabout in McCamey, Texas, back when Bush was still a boy just up the road in Midland, exploding frogs.

During Bush’s self-worshipping, self-pitying embarassment of a legacy tour hardly a trace remained of the laughably phony accent on which nobody in the media ever called bullshit, to my knowledge, for eight long years.

But now that Bush no longer has to suck up to the base by pretending he’s country, the First Wrangler has reverted to talking like every other spoiled brat from the rolling prairies of Connecticut. (I know that accent, too, having grown up with rich white trash in Connecticut myself. God help me, I probably have it.)


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:29 PM
The Kiss of Death

And speaking of Howard Dean, as I was last night, here’s a clue to why he was frozen out (as if the identity of the incoming White House chief of staff wasn’t enough). It’s by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, writing in the London Review of Books:

Key organisations in the Lobby make it their business to ensure that critics of Israel do not get important foreign policy jobs. Jimmy Carter wanted to make George Ball his first secretary of state, but knew that Ball was seen as critical of Israel and that the Lobby would oppose the appointment. In this way any aspiring policymaker is encouraged to become an overt supporter of Israel, which is why public critics of Israeli policy have become an endangered species in the foreign policy establishment.

When Howard Dean called for the United States to take a more ‘even-handed role’ in the Arab-Israeli conflict, Senator Joseph Lieberman accused him of selling Israel down the river and said his statement was ‘irresponsible’. Virtually all the top Democrats in the House signed a letter criticising Dean’s remarks, and the Chicago Jewish Star reported that ‘anonymous attackers … are clogging the email inboxes of Jewish leaders around the country, warning — without much evidence — that Dean would somehow be bad for Israel.’

This worry was absurd; Dean is in fact quite hawkish on Israel: his campaign co-chair was a former AIPAC president, and Dean said his own views on the Middle East more closely reflected those of AIPAC than those of the more moderate Americans for Peace Now. He had merely suggested that to ‘bring the sides together’, Washington should act as an honest broker. This is hardly a radical idea, but the Lobby doesn’t tolerate even-handedness.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:18 PM
January 16, 2009
Happy Birthday, Dear Shoe Guy…

From the Associated Press in Baghdad:

BAGHDAD – The Iraqi journalist jailed since throwing his shoes at President George W. Bush got a visit from his brother Friday and a birthday party from his guards as he turned 30.

Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who has gained cult status for his bizarre protest, is in good shape but has been denied access to his lawyer, relatives said after his brother Maitham visited him for two hours in his detention cell in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone…

Maitham al-Zeidi was not available to comment on the visit, but another brother, Dhargham, told The Associated Press that he was told the wounds had healed.

“Muntadhar was in a good shape ... and his morale was high. Yesterday was his birthday and some patriotic officers there organized a party for him and brought birthday cake,” Dhargham al-Zeidi said.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:55 PM
January 06, 2009
Legacy

From Historians Against War, via The Rag Blog:


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:55 PM
January 02, 2009
Bush Revealed as Humane

From a Washington Post interview with White House chief of staff Joshua B. Bolten:

Bolten said another of his goals when he took over was to try to get the country to see the likable boss he and other aides saw in private, convinced that would boost Bush’s popularity. “I failed miserably,” he conceded. “Maybe in the beginning of the sixth year of a presidency, that’s a quixotic task… But everybody who has actual personal exposure to the president, almost everybody, appreciates what a good leader he is, how smart he is and, especially, how humane he is.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:33 PM
December 31, 2008
So Long, It’s Been Good To Know Ya

Yep, it’s time for ole Dubya to mosey on down the trail, droppin’ his “g’s” as he goes. Be headin’ back to the Lone Star State where it all began, where the legend was born. After all he’s done, that boy needs a good long rest. Kickin’ back in boots and jeans, him ’n Laura, kids comin’ by now and then, all helpin’ put books on the shelves of the Dubya Liberry. Catchin’ them Rangers on the TV and shootin’ some birds when the mood takes him. Nothin’ like killin’ things to make you know you’re livin’.

Cheney liked to shoot birds, too, until he found out it was even more fun to shoot people. “What’s all the fuss about?” he kept saying. “Only shot him in the face.” Admit it now, is Dick Cheney some kind of hoot, or what? There’s another boy knows how to have a good time.

Dubya’s hopin’ for visits from Donny and Condi and the Rover once things settle down, though Condi’s been actin’ a little funny lately. Actin’ like she wouldn’t mind seein’ the back of Li’l Georgie once and for all so’s she can concentrate on rehabilitatin’ her sorry ace. Which is not in the best of shape after years of consortin’ with a war-makin,’ law-breakin’ moron…

So maybe Condi won’t be stoppin’ by, after all. And you know Colin Powell won’t be comin’ by, not after he came out for the skinny guy from Chicago with that long-winded speech on the TV. God Amighty! Didja think maybe he’d never get to the point? Mr. Holier Than Thou. Doesn’t like waterboardin’. Doesn’t like this. Doesn’t like that. Man has no sense of humor, that’s the problem.

Seems like Donny’s a little frosty these days, too. ’Course, Donny’s never forgiven Dubya for bein’ president when everybody knew Donny was smarter and tougher and meaner and had a better plan. Now he’s busy rehabilitatin’ hisself, too, though most people think his raggedy ace is beyond savin’. Should have got it out of town a long time before he did.

Li’l Donny wrote a article not long ago in the New York Times of all places. Covered most of a page and seemed to be about the Surge and how we have won the war in I-Rack but just don’t know it. Donny’s still a little haired off at Dubya for makin’ him take the fall for all the money’s been wasted and all the people’s got killed.

But, hell, Donny’s always been haired off at somebody. Been that way since he was a rasslin’ champ down at Tiger Town. Look funny at him, he’ll take you to the mat with a triple half-nelson and a double headlock. Break your legs, arms. Break your neck. Then he’ll stick your head under water ’til you cry “uncle.”

Dubya could get lonely down there in Big D, with all these people not showin’ up like they said they would. They was like a nuke-you-lar family, you know. Thick as thieves. Peas in a pod. Bugs in a rug. Tight as ticks. Gonna be tough goin’ it alone with just Laura. You can see from her pictures she’s nice but no fun.

’Course, if there’s one thing Dubya knows how to do it’s have fun. Not like Donny and Condi. They’re too busy tryin’ to get they aces out of the fryin’ pan of history. Worried about they legacy or somethin’.

Not Cheney, though. Not him. You can take your legacy and put it… well, you know where. That’s what he seems to be sayin’. You don’t like it, sue me. Indict me. Get too close, I’ll have a heart attack. Cheney’s tough. They’ll never lay a glove on him.

Or Dubya either, come to think of it. Not that anybody’d want to. He did his best and you can’t ask more’n that from a man. People say, Yeah, but his best wasn’t good enough. In fact, they say, his best was the worst we’ve ever seen. People say he lied to us and listened to our phone calls and opened our mail and screwed around with the Constitution and got us into a crazy war and screwed up the economy and generally behaved like a despot — if only a junior varsity kind of despot.

Well, maybe. But let’s not be churlish. We were always told we lived in a country where anybody could become president. And anybody did.

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Posted by Paul Duffy at 02:16 PM
December 17, 2008
The Bush Base

Many of you have written and called to learn more about the 25% of Americans who still approve of Bush. Who are these odd folk? Are they deaf? Can they see? Read? Do simple sums? Feed themselves?

We report; you decide:

When Tucker Carlson said to her, “A lot of entertainers have come out against the war in Iraq. Have you?” [Britney Spears] replied, “Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision he makes and should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:51 PM
December 15, 2008
The Draft Dodger’s Legacy

Martha Raddatz of ABC interviews George W. Bush:

GWB: One of the major theaters against al Qaeda turns out to have been Iraq. This is where al Qaeda said they were going to take their stand. This is where al Qaeda was hoping to take...

MR: But not until after the U.S. invaded.

GWB: Yeah, that's right. So what?

So what? I’ll tell you what, you— Ah, forget it.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:23 PM
November 30, 2008
Restoring Integrity to the White House, Chapter 6,431

A memo to all hands from White House chief of staff Joshua B. Bolton, dated May 9, 2008:

The President has emphasized that the American people deserve a regulatory system that protects and improves their health, safety and environment … We need to continue this principled approach to regulation as we sprint to the finish, and resist the historical tendency of administrations to increase regulatory activity in their final months…

Except in extraordinary circumstances, regulations to be finalized in this Administration should be proposed no later than June 1, 2008, and final regulations should be issued no later than November 1, 2008…

Agencies should provide adequate time for necessary analysis, interagency consultation, robust public comment, and a careful evaluation of and response to these comments.

How’s that working out for you, Josh?

WASHINGTON — The Labor Department is racing to complete a new rule, strenuously opposed by President-elect Barack Obama, that would make it much harder for the government to regulate toxic substances and hazardous chemicals to which workers are exposed on the job…

With the economy tumbling and American troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Bush has promised to cooperate with Mr. Obama to make the transition “as smooth as possible.” But that has not stopped his administration from trying, in its final days, to cement in place a diverse array of new regulations.

The Labor Department proposal is one of about 20 highly contentious rules the Bush administration is planning to issue in its final weeks. The rules deal with issues as diverse as abortion, auto safety and the environment.

One rule would make it easier to build power plants near national parks and wilderness areas. Another would reduce the role of federal wildlife scientists in deciding whether dams, highways and other projects pose a threat to endangered species.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:50 PM
October 30, 2008
What If Bush Gave a War and Nobody Came?

Good news, if true. It would seem to rule out an October (or November) Surprise from that particular set of evildoers anyway. Now all we have to worry about is the ones in the White House — Bush coming to the last-minute aid of a desperate McCain.

But what more can the little fellow do along those lines? He’s already plunged us into two more wars with his illegal attacks on Pakistan and Syria and the voters didn’t even notice.

DUBAI (Reuters) — An al Qaeda leader has called for President George W. Bush and the Republicans to be “humiliated,” without endorsing any party in the upcoming U.S. presidential election, according to a video posted on the Internet.

“O God, humiliate Bush and his party, O Lord of the Worlds, degrade and defy him,” Abu Yahya al-Libi said at the end of a sermon marking the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr, in a video posted on the Internet.

Libi, one of the top al Qaeda commanders believed to be living in Afghanistan or Pakistan, called for God’s wrath to be brought against Bush equating him with past tyrants in history


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:57 PM
October 23, 2008
Pre-writing History

For a glimpse of history to come, see this from Ohollern at his first-rate blog, Donkey Mountain. Rather than excerpting and linking, I’m lifting it intact. As you read, bear in mind the splendid cosmetic surgery that our historians have already done on Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and the sainted Reagan. Among others.

When I woke up this morning, something was different. I felt a sense of lightness and hope that I haven’t experienced in eight years. Then it hit me. The Bush presidency is coming to an end. It fully sank in and I truly grasped it. The Bush presidency is coming to an end. Say it with me, brothers and sisters, and say it long and loudly so all God’s creatures might know, the Bush presidency is coming to an end!

I’m aware that my joy might be premature. I well remember that a few months back Bush told some sycophantic interviewer on FOX News that he wanted to “finish strong.” That’s a statement that should give us pause. And, of course, with Cheney still lurking around the dark hallways of the White House like a child thief waiting to pounce, we must all remain vigilant. Still, barring any major catastrophes (a bold hope, I know), we can plausibly assume that in a couple of months, our long national nightmare will be over. Praise be to God and the U.S. Constitution. Praise be to Mr. Madison. Praise be to the United States of America. Take me in your arms once more and let me love you again!

After permitting myself to indulge in this pleasing notion for an unseemly length of time, I regained my composure and came back to cold reality. Or, to paraphrase Shakespeare, the buttocks of the evening gave way to the forehead of the morning. I began to wonder how we’ll explain the dark phenomenon of Bush-Cheney to our posterity. How will we justify ourselves and lay claim to any virtue when we allowed these dense, cold-blooded reptiles to seize power and inflict such grievous harm on the world?

How?

Then a few names began floating through my mind, like lazy clouds that occasionally blot out the sun on a summer’s day. Doris Kearns Goodwin. Michael Beschloss. David McCullough. Suddenly, my stomach began to bloat and churn as if I’d eaten bad Mexican food. Of course, I thought, we’ll explain it away the same way we always explain our sins. We’ll send in the Court Historians.

They’ll unfurl their scrolls and begin scribbling away, doing what they always do best: make history nice. They’ll set to work writing, publishing, speaking, and frequently materializing on C-Span and the Jim Lehrer News Hour. Gradually, an acceptable narrative will take shape. It will acknowledge the misdeeds of the Bush Administration but place them in a context that makes them palatable to the saplings in high school who must, at all costs, be made into patriots. I suspect it will look something like this:

George W. Bush was a man of deep faith. He fervently believed in the rightness of what he was doing. Unfortunately, the devoutness of his beliefs often led him into errors of judgment. He was a good man, a likable man, the kind of guy you want to have a beer with, but, alas, his religious devotion to spreading democracy crashed on the rocks of a world that wasn’t ready for it … His greatest failing was an inability to adapt his beliefs to the vicissitudes of the world, or some such crap.

Bottom line, George was a true believer and the disasters that resulted stemmed from good motives.

It practically writes itself. That’s why legions of no-talent, hack historians will be rolling it off like machines in the next few years. Their books might even include a few photos of George W. standing alone in the White House, back to the camera, staring pensively out the window like LBJ or Nixon. I can Hear Doris Kearns Goodwin now, “He agonized over the the failure of Iraq. His faith simply didn’t allow him to accept that it wouldn’t work. Since defeat was not an option, he doggedly persevered . . . “

The more ambitious historians will tie in the Freudian angle. Georgie was driven by a subconscious urge to outshine his father. His insecurity created a manic striving for greatness that actuated itself in the form of military conquest and nation-building. If the war in Iraq failed, he failed, and that meant his father won. George W. couldn’t face that prospect, so even in the face of mounting disaster he persevered .… In other words, he wasn’t just an illiterate simpleton who didn’t know what the fuck he was doing. No. He was a complex soul propelled by dark subconscious forces that brought about his fall.

Thus the emotionally stunted moron becomes a tragic, Shakespearean figure who the citizens of the American Empire can sympathize with. It worked for Nixon.

If that fails, they can always fall back on what I call the “Cardinal Wolsey Defense.” It was a popular trope during the Middle Ages. Basically, it absolves the King of responsibility for his evil deeds by placing the blame on his advisers.

The King, after all, is a good, decent man who thinks of nothing but the welfare of his people. He doesn’t wilfully act out of purely vain or selfish motives. It’s always his evil counselors who are to blame when shit goes bad. They are the villains! Thus the disasters of the last eight years will be the fault of Cheney, Rove and Rumsfeld. Doris Kearns Goodwin, once again, “Cheney took advantage of Bush’s naïveté to implement his own agenda.”

You watch.

That all of this is pure horseshit is irrelevant. This pure horseshit is exactly what your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will be taught about our dismal gray era and the petty little wannabe Cæsar who presided over it all. We know what he really was. They will not. Even if the psychological crap is true, it doesn’t excuse him. All of us have issues and resentments. It’s called life. Most of us deal with them in a responsible way. That’s called being a mature human being.

If Poor Little Silver Spoon Georgie, who was born a millionaire, who was given a pampered upbringing, who was given an Ivy League education, and who was given numerous profitable careers by Big Bad Ole’ Daddy, cant’ figure that out then, well, I guess that makes him an object of some small pity.

That he carried these adolescent neuroses to the White House and used his power to kill hundreds of thousands of human beings makes him a monster, no different than Caligula or Domitian or Lucretia Borgia. He is a mental, moral and intellectual midget. He is evil. No amount of vanilla ice-cream scooped up and slathered over our historical memory by the likes of Doris Kearns Goodwin or David McCullough must ever be allowed to white-wash over that simple fact.

This war is about to end. Praise God.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:27 AM
October 04, 2008
The Warhogs Go to Pakistan

Has it occurred to anybody that we’re already at war with a nuclear power? No? We’re not? Suppose a country — let’s say Japan — began to bombard American territory — let’s say Hawaii — with guided missiles. Would we get all upset and claim it was an act of war?

October 3:

US air strikes have killed at least 20 people including suspected foreign militants close to Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, reports say. Missiles were launched in attacks on villages in Pakistan's North Waziristan region, Pakistani intelligence officers said, speaking anonymously.

September 3:

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) — Around 3,000 Pakistani tribesmen Friday chanted "Allahu Akbar and death to America" in protest at a raid by Afghanistan-based US-led troops that saw at least 15 people killed. One of their elders warned US authorities to prepare for assaults on their bases in Afghanistan if they do not stop attacks on Pakistan's northwest border area, according to local residents and officials.


September 15:

A week ago, U.S. helicopters reportedly landed near Angoor Ada, a border village in nearby South Waziristan, but returned toward Afghanistan after troops fired warning shots. A Pakistani military spokesman said last week that troops had orders to open fire in case of another cross-border raid by foreign troops.

And many more:

Frustrated by an intensifying Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, U.S. forces have in the past month carried out eight missile strikes by pilotless drones and a commando raid on the Pakistani side of the border.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:55 AM
October 01, 2008
Hell Yes, I’m an Elitist!

Here’s a great rant from Alicia Morgan, whose enemy you would definitely not want to be.

…George W. Bush, in celebrating his own lack of intellect and curiosity, has made a virtue of ignorance, and by breaking the glass ceiling on stupidity, demonstrated to those who already think this way that there are no limits to where ignorance can take you. He has also demonstrated that governing by ignorance is not only possible, but easily done, and that ignorance can beat intelligence, given the right set of circumstances…

Case in point is the love child of George Bush and Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin. While George Bush is a relative latecomer to the fundamentalist fold, he insisted that “God told him to attack Iraq.” He relies on his ‘gut’ instead of brains, and considers that a completely acceptable, even preferable choice.

Sarah Palin takes those traits to a whole different level. No Johnny-come-lately she, Palin was steeped in fundamentalist principles from birth, and is both far more radically religious and far less educated than George W. Bush. Which, in the Bizarro-World of right-wing logic, makes her...even better! According to the Bush standard, all you need is a mule-stubborn refusal to yield to be a successful world leader, and intelligence just gets in the way of that. Sarah Palin describes it as “you can’t blink.” What she means is “you can’t think.”

This demonization of intelligence is getting worse, not better, as the ignorant and venal are rewarded ever more richly in our society. If the unthinkable come to pass, with a McCain presidency Sarah Palin — would-be book-banner, science-hater, reproductive-rights-destroyer, Rapture-ready end-timer — will be a fibrillation away from being the leader of the free world. One would not think it possible, but she makes George W. Bush look like Noam Chomsky.

Hell, yes, I’m an elitist. You should be, too.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:08 PM
September 24, 2008
Meme of the Day

To: USA

Subject: Not Spam — Important Business Offer!!!

Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude. I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars U.S. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Phil Gramm, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transaction is 100% safe.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully,

Minister of Treasury Paulson

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:14 AM
September 23, 2008
Remember My Forgotten Man

This song, timeless and yet timely, written in 1933 by Harry Warren and Al Dubin and updated recently with a photo montage by a creative person on YouTube who styles herself as Solitaire11 seems almost as timely now as it was when it was produced in 1933. Hopefully some folks will find it comforting. Because we’ve been here before.


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Posted by Buck Batard at 06:40 PM
September 12, 2008
Teapot Dome?

The sex-and-drugs scandal at the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service didn’t look at first as if it amounted to much: just a bunch of career bureaucrats on the take for peanuts. Meals and drinks and ski trips from oil companies.

But it’s starting to look as if this baby is developing real legs. The career guys were small fry maybe, but take a look at the big fish that McClatchy Newspapers have hooked:

WASHINGTON — Senior Justice Department officials blocked the U.S. attorney in Colorado from supporting a whistleblower’s suit last year, jeopardizing the government’s prospects for recovering as much as $40 million from a major oil company for its alleged underpayment of royalties.

U.S. Attorney Troy Eid said Washington overruled his request to enter the case against the Kerr-McGee Corp. A lawyer for the whistleblower said he was told that decision was made “at the highest levels” of the Justice Department, then run by former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.…

Meanwhile, former MMS auditors have alleged in some of the 80 lawsuits that high-ranking Interior Department officials blocked them from issuing routine subpoenas seeking company records that could document the fraudulent underpayment of royalties…

Eid told McClatchy that he did not know who in Washington made the decision or why. LaFond said that Christian told him the decision was made “at the highest levels … It was clear that this case had political stuff written all over it…”

Porter and LaFond asserted that last week’s inspector general’s reports reflect “the tip of the iceberg” in the oil-leasing scandal.

Jack Grynberg, the owner of a Colorado petroleum company and a petroleum engineer, said he has identified 68 ways in which companies “steal” natural gas and oil by underreporting the amount pumped. Grynberg has filed more than 70 False Claims Act suits accusing other oil companies of $200 billion in theft, but said the Justice Department intervened in only two.

State officials have voiced concerns, too. In 2003, a year before Maxwell sued Kerr-McGee, a Louisiana official analyzed the company’s sale prices and emailed an MMS agent that that they were “far below” the market. The MMS agent said he was aware of the discrepancy.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:30 PM
September 04, 2008
Jailhouse Rock

From The Guardian, and about time:

Biden’s comments, first reported by ABC news, attracted little notice on a day dominated by the drama surrounding his Republican counterpart, Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

But his statements represent the Democrats’ strongest vow so far this year to investigate alleged misdeeds committed during the Bush years.

“If there has been a basis upon which you can pursue someone for a criminal violation, they will be pursued,” Biden said during a campaign event in Deerfield Beach, Florida, according to ABC.

“[N]ot out of vengeance, not out of retribution,” he added, “out of the need to preserve the notion that no one, no attorney general, no president — no one is above the law.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:59 AM
September 02, 2008
Land That I Loved

Bush has spread his filth from Bagram and Abu Ghraib and Guantanomo all the way back home to the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Watch the girl holding the flower — not violent, not impeding in any way the slow march of the cops, anonymous behind their beetle masks — but merely holding out a flower.

Watch the vicious little shit in blue amuse himself by spraying her in the face with pepper spray. Now watch the same cowardly torturer, still safe and unthreatened behind his armor and his gun, as he delivers another long dose of agony, this one even more gratuitous, on the bare back of the helpless girl as she retreats in pain.

And be proud you’re an American.




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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:08 PM
September 01, 2008
Amy Goodman and Others Arrested — Fascism Has Arrived

We have unquestionably descended into a true fascist state. Amy Goodman, the journalist all of us in the left blogosphere admire and respect, along with a large group of other peaceful protesters exercising their right to free speech were arrested in the last few days in St. Paul, Minnesota. Video of the Nazi fascist goons arresting our journalist friend appears below. Glenn Greenwald has more on the many stories.

I suppose the feeling that I have now is that which some Germans felt on the night of Kristallnacht. We now know that they will come for the liberals first. Weep for what your country has become. And call your Senators, Congresssman, and elected officials tomorrow. The descent into hell has just begun. Who will be next?



[UPDATE: As recommended on the Democracy Now website in their news release, I just called the Mayors office to speak to Chris Rider from Mayor Coleman’s office at 651-266-8535. I got an answering machine which stated that the mailbox was full. I then called the Ramsey County Jail to ask about the status of the arrested peaceful protesters and to demand the immediate release of Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar and all the other peaceful protesters in the County jail. After a long wait after being put on hold, I finally spoke to someone who did not identify herself. After briefly inquiring about the journalists, the person at the jail curtly said “Amy has been released”. I then asked "What about the other peaceful protesters”. At that point, the person who answered the phone hung up the phone in my face.

I urge everyone to keep making those inquiries requested by Democracy Now, even if you have to wait till late into the night to get through, and continue the pressure tomorrow. We have stood by too long and let this country descend into a state of fascism. The Communist Chinese who we heard so much criticism about from our mainstream media during the Olympics have no reason to change their ways. The example being set in this country shows not only a denial of the right to peacefully protest, but there is a crude violence shown by our own law enforcement that even the Chinese rarely engage in. The only thing the Chinese can learn by our example is to be teach their own law enforcement officials to engage in even more cruelty than they are currently familiar with. The video speak for itself. I don’t even need to tell you this. You can see it with your own eyes.

Update II: More photos of the goons in action at Open Left. The horror show seems to be spreading thoughout the net. This story will unquestionably make the history books. If not in this country, in other foreign countries to prove we are indeed a fascist state.

When the rest of the world sees the photos and videos, American will never again be respected anywhere in the world, not that most of the respect we once had has been destroyed in the last eight years already. But we MUST document this horror to the rest of the world. It is the only way to have any chance at all of preventing it from ever happening again.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 09:17 PM
August 31, 2008
God Bless You, Mr. Buchanan…

Hold on, did I just write those words about the man who once put the words in Reagan’s mouth? Yes, I did. Like the little girl in the nursery rhyme, when Pat is right he is very, very right and when he is wrong he is horrid. For an instance of the former:

[Truman, Johnson, Carter & Reagan] were not cowards. They simply would not go to war when no vital U.S. interest was at risk to justify a war. Yet, had George W. Bush prevailed and were Georgia in NATO, U.S. Marines could be fighting Russian troops over whose flag should fly over a province of 70,000 South Ossetians who prefer Russians to Georgians.

The arrogant folly of the architects of U.S. post-Cold War policy is today on display. By bringing three ex-Soviet republics into NATO, we have moved the U.S. red line for war from the Elbe almost to within artillery range of the old Leningrad…

For a dozen years, Putin & Co. watched as U.S. agents helped to dump over regimes in Ukraine and Georgia that were friendly to Moscow.

If Cold War II is coming, who started it, if not us?

The swift and decisive action of Putin’s army in running the Georgian forces out of South Ossetia in 24 hours after Saakashvili began his barrage and invasion suggests Putin knew exactly what Saakashvili was up to and dropped the hammer on him.

What did we know? Did we know Georgia was about to walk into Putin’s trap? Did we not see the Russians lying in wait north of the border? Did we give Saakashvili a green light?

Joe Biden ought to be conducting public hearings on who caused this U.S. humiliation…

The United States must decide whether it wants a partner in a flawed Russia or a second Cold War. For if we want another Cold War, we are, by cutting Russia out of the oil of the Caspian and pushing NATO into her face, going about it exactly the right way…

Go read the whole thing, though. It’s great stuff. Once again we see that the two ends of the American political circle can overlap at the extremes. There we unregenerate liberals now and then find ourselves in a surprising mind-meld with the Pat Buchanans and the Bob Barrs of the Paleolithic right.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:04 PM
August 24, 2008
An Insider? Me??

Is there a level of dishonesty that would embarrass Nancy Pelosi? It appears not.

Asked whether she classified herself as a “Washington insider” at a briefing sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, Pelosi answered, “Oh, absolutely not. No.”

Who could possibly imagine that a mere 22 years in Congress made the daughter of a “prominent Maryland political family” part of the system? Just because she’s spent her time as Speaker of the House making sure Bush and Cheney get everything they want?

Pressed for an explanation, Pelosi said that being an insider is about a person’s “state of mind,” not their tenure in politics.

“Inside, outside — you have to know the territory so you can work it, but you never become a part of it”, she said.

This kind of dishonesty with herself helps us understand why she’s been so dishonest with us.

Cindy Sheehan for Congress! Honesty, for a change.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 03:25 AM
August 19, 2008
The Crosses, Row on Row…

Neighbors of mine, producers for Bill Moyers, put up a thousand home-made crosses on their property in memory of the many, many thousands Bush has killed in the war we let him wage.

That was several years ago, and even then a thousand crosses was not nearly enough. The disparity grows worse. The war goes on and spreads. Democrats, Republicans, we still let it.

By next summer the weeds will have hidden the crosses completely. “It will be worth it if in the end I manage,” the poet Philip Larkin once wrote, “to blank out whatever it is that is doing the damage.”



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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:17 PM
August 07, 2008
The Home of the Craven

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The U.S. military is segregating violent Iraqi prisoners in wooden crates that in some cases are not much bigger than the prisoners.

As a boy I was a great reader of the English adventure writer Percival Christopher Wren. He is remembered today only as the author of the book on which the movie Beau Geste was based, but he wrote many more books about the French Foreign Legion.

Life was hard in Wren’s Foreign Legion. Mess up and you spent the day with a rock-filled pack on your back, double-timing around the parade ground in the North African sun.

Really mess up and the sergeants put you in a stress position called the crapaudine, or locked you inside a box no bigger than a refrigerator where you would stay until you went mad.

I was terrified and yet fascinated. Could people be so cruel to one another? Did such evil really exist outside of books? Later I learned that it once had — in the chain gangs of our own South, where it was called the “hot box.” Imagine a citizenry so primitive, so low, so depraved, so ignorant, so devoid of humanity, as to permit such things!

The chain gangs were history by then, although fairly recent history. But before long, as fear of various Others made us not brave and strong but small and mean, the chain gangs came back. The cancer of prisons spread and metastasized. The land of the scared was becoming the home of a vast corporate gulag.

All the while we sat by and cheered, fat and ignorant and frightened, until now now we have at last what Jimmy Carter in his innocence once promised us — a government as good as the American people themselves.

Now we have our very own hot boxes in our very own colonies and most of us must be just fine with that. After all, none of this is the fault of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, those nasty amoral morons who rule in our name. If our vote could be won by compassion, humility, the rule of law and a preference for peace, they would hide their disgust and try to deliver. No, the draft-dodging duo is the effect, not the cause.

The cause is those nasty amoral morons who put our two warhogs in the White House, and who then, after taking a good, long, four-year look at the results, chose to leave them there.

We built those boxes, and if there were a God in heaven we would be in them ourselves.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:19 PM
July 30, 2008
Read His Lips

Out of the mouths of babes… Bush yesterday, in Ohio:

I’ve worked hard to keep your taxes low. Our energy policy hasn’t done a very good job of keeping your gasoline prices low, and therefore it’s like paying a tax.
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:04 AM
July 29, 2008
If Only Gore Hadn’t Invented the Internet

Evidently somebody at the White House knows how to use the Google. From Froomkin:

“Another prosecutor was rejected for a job in part because she was thought to be a lesbian. And a Republican lawyer received high marks at his job interview because he was found to be sufficiently conservative on the core issues of ‘god, guns + gays.’”

The report “found that White House officials were actively involved in some hiring decisions.

“According to the report, officials at the White House first developed a method of searching the Internet to glean the political leanings of a candidate and introduced it at a White House seminar called The Thorough Process of Investigation. Justice Department officials then began using the technique to search for key phrases or words in an applicant’s background, like ‘abortion,’ ‘homosexual,’ ‘Florida recount,’ or ‘guns.…’

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:36 PM
July 26, 2008
Hypocrisy of the Day

From a New York Times story on Bush’s manipulation of images showing that his war, well, kills people.

Journalists say it is now harder, or harder than in the earlier years, to accompany troops in Iraq on combat missions. Even memorial services for killed soldiers, once routinely open, are increasingly off limits. Detainees were widely photographed in the early years of the war, but the Department of Defense, citing prisoners’ rights, has recently stopped that practice as well.
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:50 AM
July 25, 2008
Nixon Nostalgia

Like many stone liberals who suffered through those days, I often surprise myself by slipping into Nixon nostalgia. So does the veteran — and invaluable — journalist Robert Scheer. Here goes:

The Democrats scare me a little. Republicans scare me more because I don’t see any Eisenhowers or even Nixons in the ranks of the Republicans. The Republican Party has moved very far right, and people like Nixon would be considered flaming peacenik liberals by today’s standards.

After all, Nixon believed in a guaranteed annual income for everyone. Imagine if Clinton had done that instead of wiping out welfare. And Nixon believed in the Environmental Protection Agency. He did many sensible things. He did terrible things in escalating the war in Vietnam and Cambodia, but he broke the whole momentum of the Cold War by opening to China. By today’s standard there are no Republicans like that.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:37 AM
July 21, 2008
Will January 20 Never Come?

It just gets sadder and sadder. Here is the highest legal official in the land, God help us:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Congress should explicitly declare war against al Qaeda to make clear the United States can detain suspected members as long as the conflict lasts, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey said on Monday…

Hey, kids, I know! Let’s declare war on the Mafia! The president can lock all of ’em up but one and that way the war would never end and we’d never have to let ’em out and there wouldn’t be any more loan sharking except wait a minute, then we’d have to declare war on Visa too so forget about the Mafia and how about we declare war on the ACLU instead? I mean, you know, now that wars don’t have to be with a, like, country anymore.

Cool, dude! Then we could lock up the UN and the DNC and the Harvard Faculty Club and People for the American Way and the Carter Center and the United Auto Workers and all those Friends of Bill, and, and…

Oh, hell, it’s all just too depressing. This guy is a former federal judge and the attorney general of the United States. How pathetic is that?


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:42 PM
Just Standard Procedure

The Times brings us another routine story from the new American gulag. For not the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really ashamed of my country. (Video of Michelle Obama here.)

Edmund Burke: “For us to love our country, our country ought to be lovely.”

So when Mrs. Villegas went into labor on the night of July 5, she was handcuffed and accompanied by a deputy as she was taken by ambulance to Nashville General Hospital at Meharry. Cuffs chaining her foot to the hospital bed were opened when she reached the final stages of labor, Mrs. Villegas said…

The phone in her room was turned off, and she was not permitted to speak with her husband when he came to retrieve their newborn son from the hospital on July 7 as she returned to jail, she said.

As Mrs. Villegas left the hospital, a nurse offered her a breast pump but a sheriff’s deputy said she could not take it into the jail, Mrs. Villegas said…

“There is a perception that she was treated different from other inmates, and it just is not true,” Ms. Weikal said. “Unfortunately the business of corrections is that families are separated. It’s not pretty, it’s not understandable to a lot of people.”

She said that it was standard procedure to bar medical equipment like a breast pump from the jail.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:19 PM
July 11, 2008
Bush’s New War

In today’s mail was a message from Mr. Edwin of Chiang Mai, Thailand. Mr. Edwin is a friend from the old days in Southeast Asia. He spent many years inside the world of black ops and secret war. It takes a lot to frighten him. He is frightened.

Everybody, I would hope, has read Seymour Hersh’s essential article in the last New Yorker: Preparing the Battlefield: The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran. It is a vital piece, and an alarming one.

But until Mr. Edwin alerted me, I was unaware of Terry Gross’s conversation with Hersh about his article, which was broadcast July 1 on NPR’s Fresh Air. It runs for 45 minutes, but take the time to listen to it. Please.

The interview amounts to the author’s gloss on his own story: an assessment of his sources, his feelings about his discoveries, his astonishment at the cowardice of the Democratic leadership, his fears that the Lone Cheney and his faithful companion, Dubya, will trick us into another of their idiot wars before the 22nd Amendment drives them from office.

It’s fascinating and terrifying stuff.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:31 AM
July 09, 2008
To Slime a Nation

I meant to put this up a couple of weeks ago but hey, what’s the rush? If you haven’t read it yet, it’s still news to you.

The link takes you to McClatchy Newspapers’ magnificent week-long series on the open running sore that Bush has created at Guantanamo Bay.

A lot of criticism from both sides of the blogosphere is directed at the press, much of it deserved. When newspapers are bad, they are indeed horrid. But when they are good they are very, good.

I have worked for five of them, from a California weekly to the Washington Post and I’m no more sentimental about the business than my brother Bill is. Which is not sentimental at all, as you may know from his occasional posts on the subject.

But still, but still…

You can’t live with ’em and you can’t live without ’em. Someday somebody somewhere may come up with an internet business model that makes it possible for two reporters to spend eight months in 11 countries interviewing scores of Bush’s victims (a shocking percentage of them plainly innocent), their lawyers, their jailers, their neighbors, and their families. For now, though, the MSM is all we’ve got.

The McLatchy team will win Pulitzers for this job of reporting, if there is a God in heaven. Which there probably isn’t, or creatures like Bush and Cheney wouldn’t be allowed to run loose all over the planet.

Sadly, the “worst of the worst” are not at Guantanamo Bay.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:12 PM
June 25, 2008
A Senator with a Spine

Chris Dodd is mad as hell and he isn’t going to take it anymore. In a speech yesterday, the senator from Connecticut started out attacking Bush’s plan to issue a get-out-of-jail card to the telecom companies who helped Bush to spy illegally on us all.

But he went on to attack Bush’s contempt for the entire rule of law, which exceeds even that of Richard Nixon. Here are excerpts, but do read or listen to the whole magnificent screed here.

So, why are we here? Because, Mr. President – it is alleged that giant telecom corporations worked with our government to compile Americans’ private, domestic communications records into a database of enormous scale and scope.

Secretly and without a warrant, those corporations are alleged to have spied on their own customers – American customers.

Here’s only one of the most egregious examples. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

Clear, first-hand whistleblower documentary evidence [states]…that for year on end every e-mail, every text message, and every phone call carried over the massive fiber-optic links of 16 separate companies routed through AT&T’s Internet hub in San Francisco — hundreds of millions of private, domestic communications — have been…copied in their entirety by AT&T and knowingly diverted wholesale by means of multiple “splitters” into a secret room controlled exclusively by the NSA…

A prisoner at Guantanamo — to take one example out of hundreds — was deprived of sleep over 55 days, a month and three weeks. Some nights, he was doused with water or blasted with air conditioning. And after week after week of this delirious, shivering wakefulness, on the verge of death from hypothermia, doctors strapped him to a chair — doctors, healers who took the Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm”— pumped him full of three bags of medical saline, brought him back from death — and sent him back to his interrogators…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:02 PM
June 19, 2008
American Values

HONOLULU — The Marine Corps said Wednesday it was expelling one Marine and disciplining another for their roles in a video showing a Marine throwing a puppy off a cliff while on patrol in Iraq.

Lance Cpl. David Motari, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment at Kaneohe Bay, is “being processed for separation” from the Marine Corps, the Marine Corps said in a news release. He also received unspecified “non-judicial punishment.”

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CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — A military judge dismissed charges Tuesday against a Marine officer accused of failing to investigate the killings of 24 Iraqis.

Col. Steven Folsom dismissed charges against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani after finding that a four-star general overseeing the case was improperly influenced by an investigator probing the November 2005 shootings by a Marine squad in Haditha…

Of eight Marines originally charged in the case, only one is still facing prosecution in the biggest U.S. criminal prosecution involving Iraqi deaths to come out of the war.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:40 PM
We’re Number Two!

Peter sends wonderful news. The global leader in whom the world has least confidence is Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. One step above him is our own lovable scamp, George Walker Bush of Greenwich, Connecticut. Way to go, George! We always knew you didn’t have it in you.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:31 PM
Predictions, Please

I beg your indulgence for a rant, intended to provoke you to respond to some blog-poll questions at the end.

The price of honesty

You remember Antonio Taguba, right? The only person I can immediately think of who came out of the whole Abu Ghraib thing looking good. As Froomkin says,

In his 2004 report on Abu Ghraib, then-Major General Anthony Taguba concluded that “numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees.” He called the abuse “systemic and illegal.” And, as Seymour M. Hersh reported in the New Yorker, he was rewarded for his honesty by being forced into retirement.

Now, in a preface to a Physicians for Human Rights report based on medical examinations of former detainees, Taguba adds an epilogue to his own investigation.

taguba.jpgSeymour Hersh’s New Yorker profile of Taguba was impressive. Antonio grew up in a Catholic home with a strong sense of what he says is “above all, integrity in how you lived your life and practiced your religion.” His father was drafted into the Phillipine Scouts, captured by the Japanese, and survived the Bataan Death March. His mother, who spent most of the war in Manila living across the street from a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, told stories about prisoners who were bayonetted arbitrarily or had their fingernails pulled out. When he was eleven his family moved to Hawaii, where his father retired from the military to work on the logistics of preparing units for deployment to Vietnam.

When Antonio was handed the Abu Ghraib investigation, because they needed a major general to investigate a lieutenant general, he realized he was well and truly screwed: “If I lie, I lose. And, if I tell the truth, I lose.” Sure enough.

That’s not abuse, that’s torture

Thing was, he couldn’t deny the facts without dumping his upbringing, his honor and integrity and truthfulness, as well; and he wasn’t as facile at compartmentalization as his colleagues. One lieutenant general refused Taguba’s requests to look at the Abu Ghraib pictures (WARNING, graphic depictions of violence): “I don’t want to get involved by looking, because what do you do with that information, once you know what they show?”

Taguba also knew that senior officials in Rumsfeld’s office and elsewhere in the Pentagon had been given a graphic account of the pictures from Abu Ghraib, and told of their potential strategic significance, within days of the first complaint. On January 13, 2004, a military policeman named Joseph Darby gave the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division (C.I.D.) a CD full of images of abuse. Two days later, General Craddock and Vice-Admiral Timothy Keating, the director of the Joint Staff of the J.C.S., were e-mailed a summary of the abuses depicted on the CD. It said that approximately ten soldiers were shown, involved in acts that included:
Having male detainees pose nude while female guards pointed at their genitals; having female detainees exposing themselves to the guards; having detainees perform indecent acts with each other; and guards physically assaulting detainees by beating and dragging them with choker chains.
No one ever tells me anything

Rumsfeld claimed to Taguba the day before testifying to Congress that he’d followed the hear-no-evil see-no-evil strategy.rumsfeld.jpg

Here I am,” Taguba recalled Rumsfeld saying, “just a Secretary of Defense, and we have not seen a copy of your report. I have not seen the photographs, and I have to testify to Congress tomorrow and talk about this.” As Rumsfeld spoke, Taguba said, “He’s looking at me. It was a statement.”

At best, Taguba said, “Rumsfeld was in denial.” Taguba had submitted more than a dozen copies of his report through several channels at the Pentagon and to the Central Command headquarters, in Tampa, Florida, which ran the war in Iraq. By the time he walked into Rumsfeld’s conference room, he had spent weeks briefing senior military leaders on the report, but he received no indication that any of them, with the exception of General Schoomaker, had actually read it. (Schoomaker later sent Taguba a note praising his honesty and leadership.)

Not among the poll questions following this rant is whether Rumsfeld is the most disgraceful person ever to hold the office of Secretary of Defense (including his predecessors, the more accurately named Secretaries of War). The implementation of torture as a policy of the United States government has dropped our moral standing below that of our opponents in most of our conflicts, and no amount of corruption can top that.

The obvious question is, what we will do about it? The Senate investigation has shown that the Bush administration initiated the use of torture. Consistent claims that the initiative came from field commanders, and the actions in the prisons were those of a few bad apples, have been shown to be what we knew all along they were in fact: lies.

After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.
What will happen?

So here are the promised/dreaded poll questions.

  • Was the Bush administration honest with American citizens about its reasons for invading Iraq?

  • Does the responsibility for the torture of detainees lie in the offices of the President and the Vice President?

  • Did the Bush administration violate laws prohibiting the government from eavesdropping on American citizens?

  • Do you agree with Antonio Taguba that “there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes”?

  • Which of the following outcomes do you think is most likely?
    • History won’t be as harsh on the Bush administration as we are.
    • History, possibly even near-term history, will condemn the actions of the Bush administration, but no one, or at least no senior official, will be punished for the abuses.
    • Congress will hold hearings resulting in impeachment actions or providing information for indictments for war crimes.

  • Have you made your views on this subject known to your Representative and your Senators?

To say that this is not a scientific poll is tautological, of course, but there it is.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 01:33 AM
June 13, 2008
The Purge of the Generals

Go here for a fuller explanation of the real significance behind Bush’s recent shake-ups in the top ranks of the Pentagon. A sample:

Petraeus was also a supporter of Cheney’s proposal for striking Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps targets in Iran, going so far as to hint in an interview with Fox News last September that he had passed on to the White House his desire to do something about alleged Iranian assistance to Shi’ites that would require US forces beyond his control.

At that point, Fallon was in a position to deter any effort to go around DoD and military opposition to such a strike because he controlled all military access to the region as a whole. But Fallon’s forced resignation in March and the subsequent promotion of Petraeus to become Centcom chief later this year gives Cheney a possible option to ignore the position of his opponents in Washington once more in the final months of the administration.

For still more on why Bush and Cheney find Petraeus such a useful tool for locking the next president into their idiot war, see this.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:30 PM
June 12, 2008
Our Pygmy President

Dan Eggen, in the Washington Post

“For most other Europeans, it seems, the sprint cannot end soon enough. For years, protesters regularly crippled European capitals with massive anti-Bush demonstrations. Now, the president’s last scheduled visit to Europe this week is prompting a continental yawn, as Europeans look ahead to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) or Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) as his successor.”

Adrian Hamilton in The Independent:

“Not a tear was shed, nor a cheer raised. Not even the protesters have bothered to turn out as President Bush has wound his way around Europe on the final visit of his two-term occupancy of the White House. Instead, he has come almost like an anonymous diplomat to hold talks in private, say a few words to the cameras and — unless the UK has something very unexpected up its sleeve this weekend — to depart almost unrecognised, and certainly unacclaimed.
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:29 PM
May 29, 2008
The U.S. Department of Fear

I’ve seen bits and piece of this before, but Christopher Ketcham has gathered them all under one roof in Radar magazine. Here are a few teasers from his long article; do read the whole thing.

It’s scary stuff, and the Department of Homeland Security is a scary outfit. Joe Lieberman’s brainchild, this product of multiple bureaucratic miscegenation has become the gold standard for incompetence, carelessness, callous indifference, and paranoia posing as prudence.

Under law, during a national emergency, FEMA and its parent organization, the Department of Homeland Security, would be empowered to seize private and public property, all forms of transport, and all food supplies. The agency could dispatch military commanders to run state and local governments, and it could order the arrest of citizens without a warrant, holding them without trial for as long as the acting government deems necessary…

In the late 1980s, the Austin American-Statesman and other publications reported the existence of 10 detention camp sites on military facilities nationwide, where hundreds of thousands of people could be held in the event of domestic political upheaval. More such facilities were commissioned in 2006, when Kellogg Brown & Root—then a subsidiary of Halliburton—was handed a $385 million contract to establish “temporary detention and processing capabilities” for the Department of Homeland Security…

According to the Washington Post, the Terrorist Identities list has quadrupled in size between 2003 and 2007 to include about 435,000 names. The FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center border crossing list, which listed 755,000 persons as of fall 2007, grows by 200,000 names a year…

If previous FEMA and FBI lists are any indication, the Main Core database includes dissidents and activists of various stripes, political and tax protesters, lawyers and professors, publishers and journalists, gun owners, illegal aliens, foreign nationals, and a great many other harmless, average people…

If Main Core does exist, says Philip Giraldi, a former CIA counterterrorism officer and an outspoken critic of the agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is its likely home. “If a master list is being compiled, it would have to be in a place where there are no legal issues”—the CIA and FBI would be restricted by oversight and accountability laws—”so I suspect it is at DHS, which as far as I know operates with no such restraints.” Giraldi notes that DHS already maintains a central list of suspected terrorists and has been freely adding people who pose no reasonable threat to domestic security…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:25 PM
May 26, 2008
Apocalypse Forever

It’s Memorial Day, so remember this:

Today, at the end of his deployment in Diyala province, Col. Lehr, the commander of the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, said he still believed in that strong-armed, high-explosive approach.

It “sends a significant message,” he said in a conference call this morning. “It’s just like if we started shooting artillery rounds into your neighborhood... It would quickly get your attention.”

The brigade fired over 11,500 artillery rounds during their nearly 14-month deployment. Col. Lehr credits the strikes with helping to bring down violence in their area, Diyala province, by nearly 70 percent.

Do you suppose that Colonel Lehr’s 70 percent reduction in violence includes the violence unleashed on random Iraqis by 11,500 artillery rounds? Do you suppose that pigs fly?

If you suppose either thing, you are probably capable of believing that only or even mostly “insurgents” were killed by those bombardments. Long distance killing is by its nature random. Even if bombs and artillery shells were really “smart,” they are not aimed by people smart enough to know which targeted structures contain “insurgents” and which contain innocent bystanders.

Nor does it matter, as Colonel Lehr seems to understand all too well. The point of raining explosives on cities and towns is to create terror among civilians by killing them. And of course it works. It worked on 9/11 when Bin Laden did it to us, and it works when the colonel does it in Diyala province. As both men employ terror, both are terrorists. However harsh this sounds, proper understanding can only proceed from proper naming.

Proper arithmetic helps, too. Here’s some:

Iraqis and Americans both being human beings, one dead American does not = 100 dead Iraqis. The correct equation is: One dead human being = one dead human being.

Keeping this equivalency in mind, let’s examine an equation that Bush used to justify his invasion of a country that only threatened us in the nightmares of neocon fools.

Bush’s argument: leaving Saddam in power would allow a brutal dictator to kill X Iraqis over the next five years. Sanity’s argument: Overthrowing him would result in the deaths of Y Iraqis over the same period.

Is Y larger than X? By how many magnitudes?

If you have trouble solving this equation, ask an Iraqi.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:38 PM
May 22, 2008
It’s Called “Liberate Us from Bush Square”

On September 22, 2003, six months after Bush invaded Iraq, neocon propagandist, chickenhawk, and enthusiastic warhog Richard Perle gave an audience at the American Enterprise Institute a look into his crystal ball:

The problems in Iraq are ahead of us, but we’re doing better than people think. And a year from now, I’ll be very surprised if there is not some grand square in Baghdad that is named after President Bush. There is no doubt that, with the exception of a very small number of people close to a vicious regime, the people of Iraq have been liberated and they understand that they’ve been liberated. And it is getting easier every day for Iraqis to express that sense of liberation.

Thanks.

[Applause.]


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:54 PM
May 14, 2008
Principles are Forever

Another masterful performance by the Little Prince from an interview with Politico.com. For one thing, he looks forward to the day when he can sent emails again. The way things are now everything has to be deleted each time Congress sends over another subpoena.

And for another thing, you will be touched in the appropriate place to learn that Bush gave up golf as an expression of solidarity with the Gold Star mothers whose sons he has killed. Sorry the following post is so long, but there are lots of presidential shallows to be plumbed here.

Q: Mr. President, thank you very much for having us into the Roosevelt Room for the first online interview. In the spirit of the Internet, I wonder if we could ask a question from one of our users, Steve Bailey, of New York, who says: With oil at $126 a barrel, pushing up the price of everything — even food — what can your administration do to help people right now?

THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate Steven’s concerns. With the price of gasoline going up, it’s like a tax. I wish I could give Steven a quick answer. In other words, it took us a while to get to where we are — very dependent on oil, and in a world in which demand is greater than oil. So my answer to Steven is that the best thing we can do is to increase supply, and to drill for oil and gas in environmentally friendly ways at home, and build more refineries. Steven probably doesn’t know this, but we haven’t built a new refinery since 1976, and if we’re truly interested in relieving the pressure on our consumers, then we ought to have a very active domestic policy now…

Q: Mr. President, the one thing we don’t see in here is a computer, and we know that you went cold turkey off email for security reasons. What are you looking forward to when you finally get your computer back?

THE PRESIDENT: Emailing to my buddies. I can remember as governor I stayed in touch with all kinds of people around the country, firing off emails at all times of the day to stay in touch with my pals. One of the things that I will have ended my public service time with is a group of friends, a lot of friends. And I want to stay in touch with them and there’s no better way to communicate with them than through email…

Q: Mr. President, acknowledging those constraints, you’re an oil man — some people say that climate change, global warming could have been your Nixon-to-China. Do you wish you’d done more?

THE PRESIDENT: I did what I think is necessary to actually work, Michael. I mean, I could have signed a — I could have supported a lousy treaty and everybody would have went, “Oh, man, what a wonderful sounding fellow he is.” But it just wouldn’t have worked. I don’t think you want your President trying to be the cool guy and not end up with policies that actually make a difference…

The biggest issue we face is — it’s bigger than Iraq — it’s this ideological struggle against cold-blooded killers who will kill people to achieve their political objectives. Iraq just happens to be a part of this global war. Iraq is the place where al Qaeda and other extremists have made their stand — and they will be defeated. They’ll be defeated through military action, but they’ll also be defeated as this young democracy takes hold. They can’t stand to live in a free society, that’s why they try to fight free societies…

I feel like — I felt like there were weapons of mass destruction. You know, “mislead” is a strong word, it almost connotes some kind of intentional — I don’t think so, I think there was a — not only our intelligence community, but intelligence communities all across the world shared the same assessment. And so I was disappointed to see how flawed our intelligence was.

Q: And so you feel that you didn’t have all the information you should have or the right spin on that information?

THE PRESIDENT: No, no, I was told by people that they had weapons of mass destruction — as were members of Congress, who voted for the resolution to get rid of Saddam Hussein. And of course, the political heat gets on and they start to run and try to hide from their votes. But intelligence communities all across the world felt the same thing. This was kind of a common assessment.

So “mislead” means, do I think somebody lied to me? No, I don’t. I think it was just, you know, they analyzed the situation and came up with the wrong conclusion.

Q: Mr. President, you haven’t been golfing in recent years. Is that related to Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, it really is. I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the Commander-in-Chief playing golf. I feel I owe it to the families to be as — to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal…

Q: Now, Mr. President, President Carter recently told Charlie Rose the next President could change America’s image in 10 minutes. Here’s what he said: “I think the next President could change the image of this country around the world in 10 minutes by making an inaugural speech that would start off and say, ‘As long as I’m President we will never torture another prisoner, as long as I’m President we will never attack or invade another country unless our own security is directly threatened.’”

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, well, what he ought to be saying is, is that America doesn’t torture. If the implication there is that we do now, then he’s wrong. And you bet we’re going to protect ourselves by the use of military force. What he really is implying is — or some imply — you can be popular; if you want to be popular in the Middle East just go blame Israel for every problem. That will make you popular. Or if you want to be popular in Europe, say you’re going to join the International Criminal Court.

Popularity is fleeting, Michael. Principles are forever.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:02 PM
May 13, 2008
Our Huddled Masses

The Immigration and Naturalization Service, as it used to be called, was previously the lead standard for dysfunctional government agencies. By comparison even the FBI was efficient.

Then came the Homeland Security Act of 2002, legislation of a stupidity so stunning that even George W. Bush, in a rare divgation into common sense, at first opposed the measure.

But Senator Joe Lieberman (Likud-CT) shepherded this bureaucratic camelope into law. The old INS disappeared into the bowels of the new Department of Homeland Security, where part of it was reborn as a miscarriage called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

This new monstrosity, created from the conflation of racism and xenophobia with the paranoia of Bush’s “war on terror,” appears to be even more cruel, more indifferent, more sluggish, less accountable and more of a cause for national shame than its unfeeling predecessor.

The Washington Post has exposed the mess to daylight in a shocking series of articles by reporters Dana Priest and Amy Goldstein. This is the kind of thing that newspapers can still do better than any other institution we have. Here’s a good place to start, and I hope you will.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:17 AM
May 03, 2008
The Iran Outside Our Bubble

As the Pigmy President and his warhogs continue to beat the drums for an attack on Iran, the need for Americans to step outside our media’s echo chamber becomes more and more desperate.

Brazilian journalist Pepe Escobar gives us a chance to do so, in this analysis from TomDispatch, via The Smirking Chimp. Samples:

Ahmadinejad is relentlessly depicted as an angry, totally irrational, Jew-hating, Holocaust-denying Islamo-fascist who wants to “wipe Israel off the map.” That infamous quote, repeated ad nauseam but out of context, comes from an October 2005 speech at an obscure anti-Zionist student conference. What Ahmadinejad really said, in a literal translation from Farsi, was that “the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the pages of time.” He was actually quoting the leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, who said it first in the early 1980s. Khomeini hoped that a regime so unjust toward the Palestinians would be replaced by another more equitable one. He was not, however, threatening to nuke Israel…

Speculation is rampant in Tehran that Ahmadinejad, the leadership of the Quds Force, an elite division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), plus the hardcore volunteer militia, the Basij (informally known in Iran as “the army of twenty million”) are betting on a U.S. attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities to strengthen the country’s theocratic regime and their faction of it…

Rafsanjani is, and will always remain, a supporter of the Supreme Leader. As the regime’s de facto number two, his quest is not only to “save” the Islamic Revolution, but also to consolidate Iran’s regional power and reconcile the country with the West. His reasoning is clear: He knows that an anti-Islamic tempest is already brewing among the young in Iran’s major cities, who dream of integrating with the nomad elites of liquid global modernity.

If the Bush administration had any real desire to let its aircraft carriers float out of the Gulf and establish an entente cordiale with Tehran, Rafsanjani would be the man to talk to …


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:40 AM
May 01, 2008
Playing Soldier

Mayday is the international distress signal. We should have known what was coming, on that Mayday five years ago when the Pigmy President promised us Mission Accomplished. But instead we mostly slobbered and drooled and wagged our tails like ecstatic puppies — the fierce watchdogs of the media very much included.

Only a few habitual whiners failed to join in the general joy, and a search of the archives shows, to my relief, that I was one of them:

I just watched George W. Bush on the seven o’clock news, landing on an aircraft carrier to kick off his reelection campaign.

Here are a few paragraphs from CNN’s account of this photo op:

“ABOARD USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN — President Bush made a historic landing aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln Thursday, arriving in the co-pilot’s seat of a Navy S-3B Viking after making two fly-bys of the carrier…

“The exterior of the four-seat Navy S-3B Viking was marked with ‘Navy 1’ in the back and ‘George W. Bush Commander-in-Chief’ just below the cockpit window…”

I tried to imagine other wartime presidents landing on an aircraft carrier, wearing a flight suit for the cameras and saluting every sailor in sight. Roosevelt? Don’t be silly. Truman? Eisenhower? JFK or LBJ? Nixon or George Herbert Walker Bush?

Of them all only Johnson, who habitually wore an unearned Silver Star ribbon in his lapel, would have been capable of a trick so cheap, so tasteless, so tacky.

And two days later, on May 3, I was writing this:

During his campaign kickoff speech Thursday aboard the USS Photo Op, President Bush used the curious phrase, “a target of American justice.”

Of course he didn’t write the words himself, but somebody did and many other somebodies reviewed and approved them. What does the oddly awkward phrase say about all these somebodies and about the president who employs them?

The full sentence is, “Any person involved in committing or planning terrorist attacks against the American people becomes an enemy of this country, and a target of American justice.”

A person can be the target of terrorists or extortionists or the police, but justice does not “target” and indeed in theory cannot. Justice is blind. That is, or once was, the whole idea of the thing.

That this is no longer so in Bush’s America may explain why nobody at the White House seems to have found the language of the speech peculiar. Targeting, after all, is integral to this administration’s concept of justice. Do profiling and preventive detention amount to anything more than targetting? Mr. Ashcroft may aim badly or indiscriminately, but he aims. He is not blind.

Mr. Bush’s doctrine of preemptive war is not blind, either. Here again the target is chosen and the punishment carried out in advance of a trial. There is no longer any real need for a trial — no need, that is to say, for what Americans have long thought of as justice.

But what this president thinks of as justice is actually vengeance. They are very different things, as Abraham Lincoln well knew and George W. Bush does not.

And after four more days, this:

Senator Byrd was getting at my objections when he talked about exploiting the trappings of war and assuming the garb of a warrior. In this Mr. Bush did worse than violate some mere law of the state. The president put himself in contempt of what Albert Jay Nock once called “that court from which there is no appeal.” He violated the canons of good taste.

For which, see below:


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:39 PM
April 30, 2008
What the Banner Meant to Say Was…

During the Vietnam war a bootleg tape called “What the Captain Meant to Say” circulated among the press corps. It purported to be the recording of a press interview in which an Air Force pilot repeated puts his foot in it and a Public Affairs Officer repeatedly breaks in to clear up the mess. A sample from memory:

Pilot: We were trying to hit the Dim Sum Bridge, but we must have missed the son of a bitch by a good half mile at least.

P.R.O: What the captain meant to say was that his squadron cratered the approaches to the Dim Sum Bridge.

Along the same lines, here’s what our Pigmy President said five years ago tomorrow on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln:

“Major combat operations in Iraq have ended,” Bush said at the time … The “Mission Accomplished” banner was prominently displayed above him — a move the White House came to regret as the display was mocked and became a source of controversy …

“The banner should have been much more specific and said Mission Accomplished for These Sailors Who are on This Ship on Their Mission,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said Wednesday.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:19 PM
April 26, 2008
Onward Christian Soldiers, Onward Yet Once More

The excerpts below come from a disturbing story in today’s Washington Post. What possible reason could Iran have to be “hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons?” Possibly because the warhogs in the White House, having demonstrated that our existing military is either too small or too mismanaged to pacify a hostile nation of 28 million, are now hell-bent on invading a hostile nation of 65 million?

As for Mullen, what is he, nuts? Navy and Air Force reservists are no doubt capable of killing large numbers of Iranian civilians from a safe distance, but not all 65 million of them. Who’s going to keep the survivors subdued once the shock and awe are over? Read the papers, Mullen. Suicides, epidemic stress disorders, revolving door troop rotations, recruiting felons. On and on. Get real, Mullen. Tell our pigmy president the truth for once, and then retire with honor.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said a conflict with Iran would be “extremely stressing” but not impossible for U.S. forces, pointing to reserve capabilities in the Navy and Air Force.

“It would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability,” he said at a Pentagon news conference. Speaking of Iran’s intentions, Mullen said: “They prefer to see a weak Iraq neighbor. . . . They have expressed long-term goals to be the regional power…”

In a speech Monday, [Defense Secrtary] Gates said Iran “is hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons.” He said war would be “disastrous” but added that “the military option must be kept on the table, given the destabilizing policies of the regime and the risks inherent in a future Iranian nuclear threat.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:02 AM
April 15, 2008
Ask Them No Questions, They’ll Tell You More Lies

Here I am again, back from one of my idiotic (to you, not to me) herpetological explorations in Georgia and the Carolinas. Meanwhile far more dangerous crawling things have been active elsewhere, I see by the papers. More on that later. Right now, for your semantic pleasure, a selection from Neil Postman’s 1999 book, Building a Bridge to the Eighteenth Century:


Twenty-three hundred years ago, educators devised a pattern of instruction whose purpose was to help students defend themselves against both the seductions of eloquence and the appeal of nonsense.

The pattern was formalized in the Middle Ages, and came to be known as The Trivium. It included logic, rhetoric, and grammar. This tradition survives among modern American educators in a truncated form: they teach the one subject among the three — grammar — that is the least potent, the least able to help students do what we call critical thinking. In fact grammar, which takes up about a third of the English curriculum in junior high school, is not even taught with a view toward helping students think critically. Indeed, it is difficult to know why grammar, as it is presently taught, is included in the curriculum at all.

Since the early 1900s, studies have been conducted to discover if there is any relationship between the teaching of grammar and a variety of language behaviors, such as reading and writing. Almost without exception the studies have found no positive relationship whatsoever.

Although the other two subjects, logic and rhetoric, sometimes go by different names today — among them, practical reasoning, semantics, and general semantics — I would suggest, whatever we call them, that they be given a prominent place in the curriculum.

These subjects are about the relationship between language and reality; they are about the differences among kinds of statements, about the nature of propaganda, about the ways in which we search for truths, and just about everything else one needs to know in order to use language in a disciplined way and to know when others aren’t.

With all the talk these days about how we are going through an information revolution, I should think that the question of what language skills are necessary to survive it would be uppermost in teachers’ minds.

I know that educational research is not always useful, and sometimes absurd, but for what it may be worth, a clear and positive relationship between the study of semantics and critical thinking is well established in the research literature. As with the absence of question-asking from the curriculum, the absence of semantics — the study of the relationship between the world of words and the world of non-words — is also something of a mystery, if not an outrage.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:19 PM
April 10, 2008
Foolspeak

Just finished listening to Bush regurgitating his customary gobbets of misinformation about his -- and unfortunately our -- open-ended military occupation of Iraq against the expressed wish of most Iraqis and most Americans. Same-old, same-old, except for two things.

First off, by now even the talking heads of TV have figured out that it might be part of their professional responsibility to point out, immediately following another presidential eructation, the lies of which it is composed. At least on CNN, they did just that.

Second, at one point Bush said that failure to fund his miscarriage of a war would “lead to massive humanitarian casualties.” Tough times ahead for all you humanitarians, but then of course you already knew that.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:45 AM
April 09, 2008
Don’t Do Something. Just Stand There

The New York Times is upset that Bush insists on installing one of his loyal Torture Boys, Steven Bradbury, in a key Justice Department job. The Times thinks Big Torture Boy should throw Little Torture Boy under the bus so that the Senate Democrats will stop stalling all his other appointments:

At this point, according to a review by Politico.com, the election commission, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board and the National Labor Relations Board do not have enough members to do their jobs. Scores of federal judgeships are vacant. The Council of Economic Advisers is down to one adviser.

This is bad for the country. Mr. Bush should withdraw Mr. Bradbury’s nomination, replace him at the Justice Department with someone committed to upholding the law and take Mr. Reid’s offer. The president’s hyperpartisanship and my-way-or-the-highway arrogance is now close to paralyzing his own administration.

Actually no, this is not bad for the country. It is good for the country. To say otherwise is to imagine that the country is run by political appointees, and will immediately run aground if their wise leadership disappears.

Not quite. In some cases the vacancies will be filled by lower-ranking GOP appointees, hacks who will be more or less identical to the hacks Bush is currently blocked from installing. In others, career bureaucrats will step in. This is infinitely preferable to Option A, above.

Anything that tends to keep the hands of Bush appointees away from the levers of government is good for the country. Good, good, good. If Bush had never made a single appoinment and every department had been run for the past seven years by career bureaucrats serving in an acting capacity, think what the nation and the world would have been spared.

Rumsfeld, just to name a few.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:17 PM
March 24, 2008
Outside Agitators Again

General David Petraeus blames Iran for yesterday’s mortaring of our occupation headquarters in the Green Zone. Maybe, but maybe also we should keep in mind the legal principle of cui bono.

Suppose you are the public face of a “surge” which you claim has greatly reduced violence by al-Qaeda in the country your troops occupy. And suppose your own headquarters has just come under heavy bombardment.

Then suppose you run right out and tell the press that al-Qaeda had nothing to do with the attack. No, indeed. Instead, by one of those happy coincidences to which we have become so accustomed since 9/11, it was outside agitators. What’s more they were from Iran which — what are the odds? — your own commander-in-chief happens to be desperate to invade. What a fortunate confluence of God’s own truth and your own self-interest that would be!

And there was more to come, of a surprising nature:

In response to the news that 4,000 US military personnel have now been killed in Iraq, [Petraeus] said it showed how much the mission had cost but added that Americans were realistic about it.

He also said a great deal of progress had been made because of the “flipping” of communities — the decision by Sunni tribes to turn against al-Qaeda militants. The extent of this had surprised even the US military, he said.

Before we let it surprise us, however, we might want to read the full article in Rolling Stone from which this excerpt comes. The author speaks Arabic, which turns out to be handy once you leave the Green Zone. Apparently everybody out there talks funny except the ones who report to General Petraeus.

Having lost the civil war, many Sunnis were suddenly desperate to switch sides — and Gen. David Petraeus was eager to oblige. The U.S. has not only added 30,000 more troops in Iraq — it has essentially bribed the opposition, arming the very Sunni militants who only months ago were waging deadly assaults on American forces. To engineer a fragile peace, the U.S. military has created and backed dozens of new Sunni militias, which now operate beyond the control of Iraq's central government…

In districts like Dora, the strategy of the surge seems simple: to buy off every Iraqi in sight. All told, the U.S. is now backing more than 600,000 Iraqi men in the security sector — more than half the number Saddam had at the height of his power. With the ISVs in place, the Americans are now arming both sides in the civil war. “Iraqi solutions for Iraqi problems,” as U.S. strategists like to say. David Kilcullen, the counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. Petraeus, calls it “balancing competing armed interest groups…

“Before the war, it was just one party,” Arkan tells me. “Now we have 100,000 parties. I have Sunni officer friends, but nobody lets them get back into service. First they take money, then they ask if you are Sunni or Shiite. If you are Shiite, good.” He dreams of returning to the days when the Iraqi army served the entire country. “In Saddam’s time, nobody knew what is Sunni and what is Shiite,” he says.

The Bush administration based its strategy in Iraq on the mistaken notion that, under Saddam, the Sunni minority ruled the Shiite majority. In fact, Iraq had no history of serious sectarian violence or civil war between the two groups until the Americans invaded. Most Iraqis viewed themselves as Iraqis first, with their religious sects having only personal importance. Intermarriage was widespread, and many Iraqi tribes included both Sunnis and Shiites. Under Saddam, both the ruling Baath Party and the Iraqi army were majority Shiite.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:24 PM
March 16, 2008
Who Knows what Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men Like McCain

While the mainstream media slobbers over Jeremiah Wright’s supposed “sins” (Joyful Alternative tells me that the Prophet Jeremiah was much harder in his approbations of the society that he lived in than Reverend Wright is on ours, but the Bible is not my bailiwick), David Corn, a modern day reincarnation of the great intrepid reporter, the Green Hornet, has been hot on the trail of John McCain and his spiritual adviser, a fundamentalist televangelist named Rod Parsley:

Yesterday, I posted a piece at MotherJones.com that disclosed that a megachurch pastor whom John McCain has hailed as a “spiritual guide’ has called for the destruction of the “false religion” of Islam. This fundamentalist televangelist, Rod Parsley, who is an important political ally of McCain in the all-important state of Ohio, means this quite literally. In a 2005 book, he writes that there is a “war between Islam and Christian civilization” and notes, “The fact is that America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed.”

Being a responsible reporter, I called both Parsley and the McCain campaign’s communications director, Jill Hazelbaker, before posting the story. I had to leave a message for Parsley and didn’t hear back from him. And I never got through to Hazelbaker, but I spoke to another communications aide at the campaign. I explained why I was calling: I was about to publish an article noting that a prominent McCain supporter, with whom McCain had campaigned in Ohio last month, advocates a holy war with the aim of eradicating Islam. “Oh,” she said. Can I read you some of Parsley's quotes? I asked. Go ahead, she said reluctantly. I got through three sentences, and she said, “That's enough.”

Go read the rest of Corn’s piece to find out what the McCain campaign didn’t have to say on this subject. And of course, as was pointed out on this blog several years ago, America is not and never was a Christian nation and is a friend of Muslims everywhere, at least according to George Washington and a Senate that once had the guts to say so.


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Posted by Buck Batard at 09:36 AM
March 14, 2008
The Death of Shame, Irony, etc.

From Reuters, March of 2008:

WASHINGTON — U.S. President George W. Bush got an earful on Thursday about problems and progress in Afghanistan where a war has dragged on for more than six years but been largely eclipsed by Iraq…

"I must say, I'm a little envious," Bush said. "If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed."

From Army counsel Joseph Welch to Senator Joe McCarthy, June of 1954:

Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:02 PM
March 11, 2008
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.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 06:54 PM
March 09, 2008
Be Afraid, Bush. Be Very Afraid.

Still mongering fear after all these years of plummeting polls, America’s protector spake thus this week to his troops at the Department of Homeland Security:

We're in a battle with evil men — I call them evil because if you murder the innocent to achieve a political objective, you're evil.

The events of September the 11th, 2001 demonstrated the threats of a new era. I say "new" because we found that oceans which separate us from separate — different continents no longer separate us from danger. We saw the cruelty of the terrorists and extremists, and we glimpsed the future they intend for us. In other words, there's some serious lessons on September the 11th that it's important for all Americans to remember.

Two years ago, Osama bin Laden warned the American people: "Operations are under preparation, and you will see them on your own ground once they are finished." All of us, particularly those charged with protecting the American people, need to take the words of this enemy very seriously. And I know you do.

At this moment, somewhere in the world, a terrorist is planning an attack on us. I know that's an inconvenient thought for some, but it is the truth. And the people in this hall understand that truth. We have no greater responsibility, no greater charge, than to stop our enemies and to protect our fellow citizens.

The wonder of it all is that the nation doesn’t collapse in laughter or shame or both when Bush trots out this evildoer stuff. Let us start by understanding that most fights are not between a good guy and a bad guy. Most fights are between two bad guys. The good guys aren’t hanging around bars looking for trouble; they’re home playing with the kids or watching other people fight on TV.

So, in the interest of reason and common sense, let’s drop all this crap about what a rotten swine Saddam was. Of course he was. He deserved to die a thousand times over.

Let’s put him at ten on the evil meter, okay? And let’s assume that leaving this butcher in power over the last five years would have resulted in the murders of 100,000 innocent Iraqis.

Now let’s do the math, our unit of measurement being Iraqi corpses. According to every calculation of Iraqi casualties, even the Pentagon’s, George W. Bush outscores Saddam on the evil meter by at least five to one and probably closer to ten to one.

Set against that pile of corpses Bush’s good intentions will count for nothing when his personal End Time comes. St. Peter knows what the road to hell is paved with; if Bush actually believes in a Judgment Day, he’d better hope he’s wrong.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:58 PM
March 08, 2008
Restoring Morality to Washington, Chapter 4,032:

More news from Halliburton, which as you will recall has Vice President Dick Cheney on its payroll to this day. I urge you to read it the whole story in the Boston Globe. Benumbed as we are from our long wallow in the squalor of the most corrupt administration in American history, this still retains the power to shock.

CAYMAN ISLANDS — Kellogg Brown & Root, the nation’s top Iraq war contractor and until last year a subsidiary of Halliburton Corp., has avoided paying hundreds of millions of dollars in federal Medicare and Social Security taxes by hiring workers through shell companies based in this tropical tax haven.

When Texas pipe-fitter Danny Langford applied for unemployment compensation after being let go by Service Employers International Inc., he was rejected, he was told, because he worked for a foreign company.

More than 21,000 people working for KBR in Iraq — including about 10,500 Americans — are listed as employees of two companies that exist in a computer file on the fourth floor of a building on a palm-studded boulevard here in the Caribbean. Neither company has an office or phone number in the Cayman Islands.

The Defense Department has known since at least 2004 that KBR was avoiding taxes by declaring its American workers as employees of Cayman Islands shell companies, and officials said the move allowed KBR to perform the work more cheaply, saving Defense dollars…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:04 PM
March 07, 2008
Prematurely Anti-Bush

Susan Sontag, who read books and learned from them and was in many other ways a suspicious person, wrote the following a few days after 9/11. Fools and warhogs, always in the majority, promptly called her a despicable traitor to all that America holds dear. Time has told.

The disconnect between last Tuesday’s monstrous dose of reality and the self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing. The voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize the public.

Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a “cowardly” attack on “civilization” or “liberty” or “humanity” or “the free world” but an attack on the world’s self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? How many citizens are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq?

And if the word “cowardly” is to be used, it might be more aptly applied to those who kill from beyond the range of retaliation, high in the sky, than to those willing to die themselves in order to kill others. In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday’s slaughter, they were not cowards…

Let’s by all means grieve together. But let’s not be stupid together. A few shreds of historical awareness might help us understand what has just happened, and what may continue to happen. “Our country is strong,” we are told again and again. I for one don’t find this entirely consoling. Who doubts that America is strong? But that’s not all America has to be.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:45 AM
March 04, 2008
..And All that Remains is the Faces and the Names ...

With all due respect to rising tides...


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Posted by Buck Batard at 08:05 AM
March 02, 2008
First Things First

From Reuters. I’m guessing that Stiglitz knows a little something about economics, since he won the Nobel Prize for it. (On the other hand Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize and what he knows about peace could not only fit in the barrel of a gun, but did.)

Meanwhile, the U.S. government is severely underestimating the cost of the war, Joseph Stiglitz and co-author Linda Bilmes write in their book, "The Three Trillion Dollar War" (W.W. Norton), due to be published on Monday…

To illustrate how the money could be spent elsewhere, Bilmes cited the annual U.S. budget for autism research — $108 million — which is spent every four hours in Iraq. A trillion dollars could have hired 15 million additional public school teachers for a year or provided 43 million students with four-year scholarships to public universities, the book says.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:23 PM
February 28, 2008
Without Comment

Jesus, where do you even start with stuff like this? It’s beyond funny. It’s beyond tragic. All I can do is lay it out there on the sidewalk and let you guys pick at it.

NEW YORK — President Bush, saying he was unaware of predictions of $4-a-gallon gasoline in the coming months, told reporters Thursday that the best way to help Americans fend off high prices is for Congress to make his first-term tax cuts permanent.
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:50 PM
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 ?

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Posted by Bill Doolittle at 02:55 PM
February 18, 2008
America in Agony

The entry on day 337 of my George W. Bush Countdown Calendar:

On the one-year anniversary of Katrina in 2006, Bush was asked by NBC’s Brian Williams if he shouldn’t “have asked for some sort of sacrifice after 9/11.”

He replied: “Americans are sacrificing. I mean, we are. You know, we pay a lot of taxes. America sacrificed when they, you know, when the economy went into the tank. Americans sacrificed when, you know, air travel was disrupted. American taxpayers have paid a lot to help this nation recover. I think American have sacrificed.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:47 AM
February 07, 2008
A Government of Lawless Men

There has been a remarkable consistency among George W. Bush’s attorneys general in one respect. All three of them have openly argued for breaking the law and have proceeded to do so on a daily basis.

Here is Michael Mukasey, currently taking his turn as our nation’s chief law-breaking officer:

Also Thursday, Attorney General Michael Mukasey told lawmakers he will not open a criminal investigation into the CIA’s use of waterboarding on terror suspects.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers asked Mukasey bluntly whether he was starting a criminal investigation since Hayden confirmed the use of waterboarding.

“No, I am not, for this reason: Whatever was done as part of a CIA program at the time that it was done was the subject of a Department of Justice opinion through the Office of Legal Counsel and was found to be permissible under the law as it existed then,” he said.

Mukasey said opening an investigation would send a message that Justice Department opinions are subject to change.

“Essentially it would tell people, ‘You rely on a Justice Department opinion as part of a program, then you will be subject to criminal investigations ... if the tenure of the person who wrote the opinion changes or indeed the political winds change,’” he said. “And that’s not something that I think would be appropriate and it’s not something I will do.”

This last paragraph might sound reasonable to someone unfamiliar with the law: Gee, officer, the Justice Department said it was okay. Go give them the ticket.

But under the law it is not okay at all. Mukasey’s own Justice Department will ship you off to jail if that’s the best excuse you can offer for committing a felony. And they do it every day.


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Wayne Uff explained the process for us several months ago, as former attorney general John Ashcroft’s was doing his best to let our largest telecomunications companies off the hook for the illegal wiretapping they did at George W. Bush’s request.

Uff, a retired federal prosecutor himself, makes an argument that may seem counterintuitive to the layman. It is, however, the law, and the law is what Torture Boys Ashcroft, Gonzales and Mukasey swore an oath to uphold.

In this article former Attorney General John Ashcroft defends immunity for the telephone companies who turned over wiretap information without warrants in reliance on the government’s say-so that it was legal. Ashcroft argues that:

Longstanding principles of law hold that an American corporation is entitled to rely on assurances of legality from officials responsible for government activities. The public officials in question might be right or wrong about the advisability or legality of what they are doing, but it is their responsibility, not the company’s, to deal with the consequences if they are wrong.

Small problem: he’s wrong on the law. Companies that deal with the government in fact are not entitled to rely on promises made by government officials, and it is common for companies to lose major legal cases despite the fact that they relied on what they believed to be valid advice from government officials.

What Ashcroft wrote probably sounds like a reasonable rule to the average person: it’s not fair for a company to be penalized for doing something the government told it to do. The real rule, at least as reasonable as Ashcroft’s, is exactly the opposite. That rule is described, elaborated, and relied on in hundreds of cases, mostly government contract cases. Contrary to Ashcroft’s teaching, the rule is that businesses who deal with the government are not entitled to rely on a government official’s promises that their behavior is legal. A government official cannot make an act legal simply by erroneously telling a citizen the act is okay. The problem that these cases address is that government officials are human, and can make mistakes in interpreting laws. Or, officials can even be corrupt, or otherwise purposefully misinterpret the laws. A mistaken or corrupt government official does not have the power to make an illegal act legal.

A company that deals with the government is required to make its own, independent analysis of whether or not the actions proposed by the government are legal, and where a government official gave wrong legal advice, the company can lose the lawsuit.

There are hundreds if not thousands of these cases out there. And, it is very common for the citizen who relies on an erroneous representation by a government official to get to get the shaft, high and hard. Here’s just one that I found in a minute on Google:

As to “actual authority,” the Supreme Court has recognized that any private party entering into a contract with the government assumes the risk of having accurately ascertained that he who purports to act for the government does in fact act within the bounds of his authority. Fed. Crop Ins. Corp. v. Merrill, 332 U.S. 380, 384 (1947); accord CACI, Inc. v. Sec’y of the Army, 990 F.2d 1233, 1236 (Fed. Cir. 1993) (“A contractor who enters into an arrangement with an agent of the government bears the risk that the agent is acting outside the bounds of his authority, even when the agent himself was unaware of the limitations on his authority.”). ....

But even if the Secretary of the Air Force himself had said to the recruiters that they could and should promise free lifetime medical care to aid in recruitment, those promises would be a nullity because, as shown below, the pertinent regulation provided to the contrary.

And, even on fairness, the rule that the letter of the law governs – and not the flawed interpretation of a government official – has much to recommend it. One of the rationales for this rule is that “The People” passed the laws, and it is the people’s law that governs, not the imperfect officials who may mistakenly interpret the law. It is not fair to force the people to abide by the perhaps twisted and erroneous interpretation of their laws by the imperfect individuals who hold office temporarily. It is not the people’s fault that their laws were misinterpreted by an official, and it is not fair to penalize the people for the mistakes of public servants. Remember the old saw about ours being a government of laws, not men? This is exactly what is meant: actions aren’t made lawful by the president’s saying they are lawful; actions are lawful if they are within the law.

One corollary to this legal rule: anyone who is shafted by relying on the mistaken legal interpretation of a government official usually cannot sue the government for relief because the sovereign is immune from suit, but such an injured citizen may have a legal recourse: a suit against the personal assets of the government official who made the mistake.

Just sayin’.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:24 PM
January 17, 2008
…by the Twilight’s Last Gleaming

Day by day Bush and Cheney drag our nation’s honor — and our own — further down into their sewer:

OTTAWA (Reuters) — Canada’s foreign ministry has put the United States and Israel on a watch list of countries where prisoners risk being tortured and also classifies some U.S. interrogation techniques as torture, according to a document obtained by Reuters on Thursday…

The document — part of a training course on torture awareness given to diplomats — mentions the U.S. jail at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba where a Canadian man is being held…

“The United States does not permit, tolerate, or condone torture under any circumstances,” said a spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in Ottawa.

As a former spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Laos, I offer this spokeswoman my sympathy and this advice: quit while you still know you’re lying; I did, and it didn’t hurt at all.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:13 PM
January 01, 2008
A Blast from the Past

Last year — very late last year — Chuck put up a link to Jon Swift’s list of 2007’s best blog postings, as chosen by the bloggers themselves. One of them was mine.

I didn’t remember Jon’s request, or that I had submitted anything to him. And when I read my February posting myself, I couldn’t even remember having written it. This is one of the considerable joys of a fading mind: the world becomes full of wonder and fresh delights. All things are new again.

Actually this guy’s stuff holds up pretty well, it seemed to me once I had rewritten it to disk. In fact it’s more or less what Noam Chomsky finally got around to saying in CT Review just last month. Maybe he stole it, who knows? And so here’s an authorized re-posting, on the theory that maybe it will be new again to you, too:

In the current Newsweek Evan Thomas has an unusually vapid review of a book by Andrew Roberts which may or may not be equally vapid, depending on how accurately Thomas has described it. The review is in a section called “Ideas,” and here is Thomas’s: People who speak English are really, really special, and the rest of you owe us a really, really lot.

This idea is hardly worth engaging, and so let’s pass on to one which is worth engaging — although only because it has invaded the national brain like some ghastly tumor threatening the very values that Thomas supposes us to possess:

The English-speaking peoples have been seriously threatened by force four times: twice by German aggression, once by Soviet totalitarianism, and most recently by Islamic fanaticism. The forces of freedom and democracy reeled after the first blows—at Dunkirk and Pearl Harbor in World War II and at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11. “The English-speaking peoples rarely win the first battle,” writes Roberts, “but they equally rarely lose the subsequent war.”

All right, everybody. Let’s relax for a minute here.

The English-speaking peoples are not seriously threatened by force from Islamic fanaticism. The only major war subsequent to 9/11 was one we sought in Iraq, and it lasted only a few weeks. Everything after that has been a badly botched occupation.

The 9/11 attacks and World War II are no more parallel than longitude and latitude are parallel, no matter how badly George W. Bush wants to be Winston Churchill. (I might mention here that I myself would very much like to be Dame Judi Dench, although the odds are against it.)

The only human force that can seriously threaten the existence of the United States, let alone the English-speaking peoples, would be a full-scale military attack from a combination of opponents. A coalition of Russia, Japan and China might pull it off.

But in the real world this will not happen, because the United States, Russia and China all have atomic weapons and Japan could have them by next Tuesday.

This is why North Korea and Iran are in such a scramble to get nuclear weapons: not to attack us, but to make sure we don’t attack them. The strategy works very well, as may be seen in the case of North Korea. Next thing we know, Bush will visit Pyongyang, nation-building.

Returning to the real world, the war on terror is not a war. Osama attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon with stolen airliners and kamikaze pilots because, lacking an air force, he was incapable of war. One engages in terrorism not because one is powerful, but precisely because one is weak.

Terrorism is almost always about real estate, as in Ireland, Chechnya, Spain, Sri Lanka, the Middle East, and elsewhere around the globe. If the United States had remained neutral in the land dispute between Israel and its Arab neighbors, there would have been no 9/11.

And if we were now to become neutral in that dispute, there would be no more 9/11s. That is the only way to end Islamic terrorism in this country. Every informed American with a double-digit I.Q. knows that; the only meaningful question left is whether our continued blind support of Israel is somehow worth whatever it costs in future terror attacks.

We have been misled to believe that we are mired in an apocalyptic clash between the forces of Islamic darkness and the forces of English-speaking light. But it only seems that way because Bush responded to an act of terror with an act of war against an evil but in this case innocent bystander.

Nor are the Iraqis reacting to Bush’s occupation with some fiendish and unfair new form of combat called “asymmetrical warfare” in which they cunningly “adapt to the enemy” in new and hitherto unimaginable ways. No, the Iraqis are reacting to occupation by a more powerful enemy in the same way that resistance fighters reacted to Hitler’s storm troopers. They are improvising against an occupying army the best they can.

Nor should we be surprised if the neighbors lend a hand. They do so for the same reasons that the Soviets supported Tito and British agents aided guerrillas all over Europe. The neighbors don’t want to be the next ones occupied.

Fortunately even if Bush turns Iran into his very own Cambodia, we will eventually be forced to withdraw from the Middle East just as Nixon did from Southeast Asia.

In both misbegotten struggles, our opponents were clear in what they wanted — our absence — and we were unclear about what we wanted. Our presence? Did we really want to stay? For how long? Forever? Why?

Would such dubious prizes be worth the life of even a single George Walker Bush or Richard Bruce Cheney? Like millions of other Americans neither man thought so at the time. But that, of course, was before Richard Nixon gave us the precious gift of a volunteer army.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:10 PM
December 26, 2007
There’s Never a Nuremberg Around When You Need One

All right, enough of this Yuletide stuff. Let’s get back to the anti-Santa, George W. Bush. Thanks to Avedon Carol at The Sideshow for this link to Andrew Sullivan in the Sunday Times. Sullivan, as you probably know, is about as liberal as I am conservative. Does this lend a certain gravitas to his attacks on Bush? I report; you decide.

What are the odds that a legal effective interrogation of a key Al-Qaeda operative would have led many highly respected professionals in the US intelligence community to risk their careers by leaking top-secret details to the press?

What are the odds that the CIA would have sought to destroy tapes that could prove it had legally prevented serious and dangerous attacks against innocent civilians? What are the odds that a president who had never authorised waterboarding would be unable to say whether such waterboarding was torture?

What are the odds that, under congressional grilling, the new attorney-general would also refuse to say whether he believed waterboarding was illegal, if there was any doubt that the president had authorised it? The odds are beyond minimal.

Any reasonable person examining all the evidence we have — without any bias — would conclude that the overwhelming likelihood is that the president of the United States authorised illegal torture of a prisoner and that the evidence of the crime was subsequently illegally destroyed.

While I’ve got you on the line, isn’t it about time that some really skillful Photoshopper or caricaturist came up with the image of Bush waterboarding a suspect? Ideas or leads welcome.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:03 PM
December 23, 2007
We Need Investigations

Zachary Coile has put together an excellent summary of Speaker Pelosi’s first year.

Since I often complain about the reporting we get these days, I make a special effort to applaud the reporting I appreciate. So I complimented him on an excellent article about the historic first year of the first woman to be Speaker of the House. But I had one issue (punctuation/links modified to fit the medium):


Though I live in her district, I didn’t vote for her because of disagreements with her stands and actions on the recent wars, and the Middle East in general. I was aware of most of the items you mentioned in your article when they happened, but putting them into a big picture is helpful (I used to be a tech writer). Your piece made clear that in the big picture Pelosi’s tenure has seen some encouraging signs of the return of the values of the Democratic wing of the Democratic party. I hope the New Year brings more of them.

There’s one item I consider important that I think your list overlooked. In fact to me it’s of overriding importance. I applaud the successes of the first Pelosi year; I understand and commiserate with the defeats and frustrations; and I’ve seen the numbers on the filibusters by Senate Republicans, who were trying to abolish the filibuster only a couple of years back.

My single biggest issue is the preservation of the United States as a republic, more or less under public control, with sovereignty residing — actually, not merely theoretically — with the people. That concept has been under assault for several administrations.

The Constitution begins by describing Congress, the representatives of the people. Next comes the President, who is not supposed to be superior to Congress, or become an emperor. But this President, driven by his Vice President, has run roughshod over the Constitution and openly gotten away with power-grabs far more significant than any Richard Nixon dreamed of. If these actions are not investigated, fully, no matter what office they reach, the next power-tripping President will be the end of the Republic.

You’ve probably read the statement of the lawyers mentioned in The Nation. If we consider this subject too unpleasant to look at or do anything about, we’ve ceded full control to the Executive, and that means empire. The problem for us is that we’ll get all the worst of empire without the benefits. We’ve already had those, and we’re on the verge of giving them up to get security; then we won’t get security either.

Speaker Pelosi has opposed efforts, by Chairman Conyers in particular, to open investigations that might lead to impeachment proceedings. To me, this is the single biggest issue we face, of more importance for our lifetimes even than Iraq, the economy, and health care: do we maintain the rule of law? If the President can flaunt his disregard for it and pay no penalty, be subject to no sort of censure, not even lose a political battle, the Republic is over, and Congress serves the same purpose as the Roman Senate under Augustus.

Your article helped convince me that this is the major issue standing between me and voting for Pelosi. The thing is, it’s my number one issue. Regardless of actions intelligent or otherwise on the important issues of the day, if the United States follows the lead of Rome or Spain rather than that of Britain and France, the next half-century looks ugly.

Thanks again for helping me center my attention on the real issues. I’ve made some changes in my overall evaluations as a result.


Which, I maintain, is what you want reporting to do. Thanks, Zachary!

As postscript, here’s the preamble to the lawyers’ statement.

We, the undersigned lawyers in the United States, have been inspired by the many lawyers in Pakistan who have risked their own liberty and careers in an effort to preserve their nation’s freedoms.

Their courage has deepened our own resolve to defend the rule of law in our nation. As lawyers, we have both a moral and professional responsibility to preserve and defend the Constitution of the United States.

To that end, we are committed to creating a movement of lawyers in this nation dedicated to monitoring and, when appropriate, challenging the actions of our government when those actions threaten our nation’s freedoms.

As our initial act, we are issuing the following statement to the U.S. House and Senate Judiciary Committees, urging hearings into the unconstitutional and possibly criminal actions of the Bush Administration.


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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 03:11 AM
December 21, 2007
The Last Rays

This is from Once Upon a Time, a blog by Arthur Silver that I just discovered (my thanks to commenter Lefty27), and highly recommend:

With the enactment of the Military Commissions Act, we feel only the vanishing warmth of the final traces of the sun's distant rays, and the shadows lengthen and grow darker. We will not see noon again, or even late afternoon, in our lifetimes.

And all this is not because of George W. Bush, although he has hastened events. How could it be remotely conceivable that such an utterly ridiculous figure would bring down the most powerful nation in the world, even with the aid of his corrupt cabal? He, and they, could not; he, too, is a symptom of the rot that has been eroding the country's foundations for at least a century. Do you think so little of the United States that you truly believe the country you imagine still exists could be destroyed by this?

But Bush is the perfect embodiment of what has brought us here: he captures the arrogance, the determined anti-intellectualism and embarrassing incoherence, the insatiable greed for power and the predilection for violence, and the absolute conviction that fortune and God smile upon him and us as upon no other peoples in the entire span of history, in a single, pathetic, laughable imitation of a genuine human being.

George W. Bush is our fate, and our reward. We have earned him.



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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:09 PM
December 16, 2007
Losing the War of Words

Way back when (in April, actually) I posted this:

Bush’s Iraq “war,” in the sense that most of us understand the word, ended in a few weeks. Our “enemy” didn’t fight, it is true, but our victory was beyond question.

The next step in many wars — as in this one — is an occupation. Virtually all of our casualties in Iraq have thus been the result not of a war, but of an occupation. Our enemies are not soldiers fighting on behalf of a state, but what we called, in Hitler’s Europe, maquisards or resistance fighters or guerrillas or partisans.

Failure to call the occupation of Iraq by its proper name has been a powerful part of why Bush has been able to continue occupying that unhappy nation. If we can be deceived into believing that it is still a “war,” then we can be made to feel that pulling out would somehow “lose” it.

But occupations are not lost. They are simply ended, and by the victor at a time and place of his choice. It is beyond me why the Democrats do not grasp this simple point, and hammer on it every day. Reframe, idiots. Read Lakoff.

When Bush sets out to leave our public schools behind, he calls it Leaving No Child Behind. When the Democrats want to leave Bush’s Folly behind, they call it H.R. 1234 or some damned thing and stand by like fearful little children when Daddy Bush and Uncle McConnell call it defunding the troops.

How about the Stand Up Iraq Act? The Full Freedom Act? The Iraq Independence Act? The Democracy Restoration Act? The Iraq Sovereignty Act? The Iraq Liberation Bill? Iraq Stands Tall? Setting Iraq Free? The Iraq Self-defense Act? The One Last Chance Act?

But first of all the Democratic leadership, and I use the term loosely, must stop calling an occupation a war. For more on this, see the interview with Thom Hartmann from which the following comes:

If Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi were to stand up and say, “OK, everybody, we’re all going to use the same language. From now on, we’re all going to refer to what’s going on in Iraq as an occupation. We’re never going to use the word ‘war’ again.” It would be the smartest thing they could do, and probably 70 percent of their party would call a press conference and trash them for trying to put words in their mouths…

I actually wrote an op-ed about war and occupation a couple years ago, suggesting this, and for a brief period, for two or three months afterward, one of the liberal think tanks came up with the same idea and suggested this. Between the two of us out there beating that drum, there were a number of Democrats in the media who I noticed started to use the word “occupation” instead of the word “war.”

But the media was so in love with the word “war” because war is a powerful thing. It’s legalized mass murder. It is the most horrific thing that as a society we can sanction. So, the media just kept referring to it as a war no matter what …

Ultimately, the Democrats gave up and went back to using the word “war.” In fact, many of them found that using the word “war” over the short term was useful because it scares people. I think it’s bad policy and bad politics. But some Democrats are Republican lite, and some Democrats are worried about survival, and some Democrats are not thinking about this all that deeply.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:55 PM
December 15, 2007
Sign the Petition to Impeach Cheney

Congressman Robert Wexler, D-FL, has started a drive to collect signatures of those who think the Vice President should be impeached. Among whom I count myself.

Of course it’s true that war crimes and crimes against humanity have no statute of limitations. But if they manage to leave the dirt and the office at the same time they will have gotten away with it. They won’t be able to travel openly outside the US, of course; but Bush had hardly traveled before he was President, and Cheney never does anything openly anyway. Rice will be feted by Stanford, like Rumsfeld, and no one will think of attaching any taint of blame to the man sent to the UN to do his masterly sales job on the world.

We gotta start somewhere. No one can fire the Vice President, so he can’t be let go late one Friday evening after a decision to cut losses. And no reasonable person wants to impeach Bush only to end up with Cheney. So OVP seems like a good place to start.

By the way, if you hear anyone argue that simply leaving office in disgrace is sufficient suffering, point out that, for example, convicted liar Elliot Abrams is still poisoning public policy. Five Presidential terms (that is, three Presidents) later, he’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy.

Unless we put a wooden stake through the area where the heart would be, they’ll be back. Cheney’s an excellent place to start.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 09:41 PM
December 11, 2007
Words to Live By

Colin Powell, former everything, offers his recipe for world peace to the House Armed Services Committee in 1992:


“I want to be the bully on the block.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:22 AM
December 10, 2007
Whatever Happened to That Nice Rove Boy?


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:50 PM
November 30, 2007
The Warhogs

Terrific piece at The Smirking Chimp by Ernest Partridge dissecting and discarding the excuses of those — you know who you are — who joined in Bush’s rush to war out of cowardice or good old American bloodlust.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:05 AM
November 07, 2007
An Argument for Hell

The man, with the “Proud father of a Marine” bumper sticker on his shiny silver pickup pulled into my drive to buy a used extension ladder. He was a talkative, sweet guy.

Without warning he said, “My youngest son is in combat every day in Iraq. It’s near the end of his second tour.” His son was shot through his right shoulder not long ago, his dad said. Vitals missed. He was sewn up and returned to the front in three days.

He was supposed to come home near Christmas, ending his service in Iraq. But his second tour was just extended, and he was told there would be a third tour after a brief home leave. He’s been under fire, his dad said, for nearly two years already.

“He’s a Marine, you know, They’ve got to do what they’re told to do. It’s hard on us, being nervous all the time.”

As he backed out with the ladder I was thinking about the man who is ordering this boy to return for his third tour after being wounded. I was hoping there was a God, and a hell, and I was praying for that man to spend eternity there.


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Posted by Bill Doolittle at 08:51 AM
November 06, 2007
Ashcroft Wrong On Immunity Law

See this article by former Attorney General John Ashcroft? He’s defending immunity for the telephone companies who turned over wiretap information without warrants in reliance on the government’s say-so that it was legal. Ashcroft argues that:

Longstanding principles of law hold that an American corporation is entitled to rely on assurances of legality from officials responsible for government activities. The public officials in question might be right or wrong about the advisability or legality of what they are doing, but it is their responsibility, not the company’s, to deal with the consequences if they are wrong.

Small problem: he’s wrong on the law. Companies that deal with the government in fact are not entitled to rely on promises made by government officials, and it is common for companies to lose major legal cases despite the fact that they relied on what they believed to be valid advice from government officials.

What Ashcroft wrote probably sounds like a reasonable rule to the average person: it’s not fair for a company to be penalized for doing something the government told it to do. The real rule, at least as reasonable as Ashcroft’s, is exactly the opposite. That rule is described, elaborated, and relied on in hundreds of cases, mostly government contract cases. Contrary to Ashcroft’s teaching, the rule is that businesses who deal with the government are not entitled to rely on a government official’s promises that their behavior is legal. A government official cannot make an act legal simply by erroneously telling a citizen the act is okay. The problem that these cases address is that government officials are human, and can make mistakes in interpreting laws. Or, officials can even be corrupt, or otherwise purposefully misinterpret the laws. A mistaken or corrupt government official does not have the power to make an illegal act legal.

A company that deals with the government is required to make its own, independent analysis of whether or not the actions proposed by the government are legal, and where a government official gave wrong legal advice, the company can lose the lawsuit.

There are hundreds if not thousands of these cases out there. And, it is very common for the citizen who relies on an erroneous representation by a government official to get to get the shaft, high and hard. Here’s just one that I found in a minute on Google:

As to “actual authority,” the Supreme Court has recognized that any private party entering into a contract with the government assumes the risk of having accurately ascertained that he who purports to act for the government does in fact act within the bounds of his authority. Fed. Crop Ins. Corp. v. Merrill, 332 U.S. 380, 384 (1947); accord CACI, Inc. v. Sec’y of the Army, 990 F.2d 1233, 1236 (Fed. Cir. 1993) (“A contractor who enters into an arrangement with an agent of the government bears the risk that the agent is acting outside the bounds of his authority, even when the agent himself was unaware of the limitations on his authority.”). ....

But even if the Secretary of the Air Force himself had said to the recruiters that they could and should promise free lifetime medical care to aid in recruitment, those promises would be a nullity because, as shown below, the pertinent regulation provided to the contrary.

And, even on fairness, the rule that the letter of the law governs – and not the flawed interpretation of a government official – has much to recommend it. One of the rationales for this rule is that “The People” passed the laws, and it is the people’s law that governs, not the imperfect officials who may mistakenly interpret the law. It is not fair to force the people to abide by the perhaps twisted and erroneous interpretation of their laws by the imperfect individuals who hold office temporarily. It is not the people’s fault that their laws were misinterpreted by an official, and it is not fair to penalize the people for the mistakes of public servants. Remember the old saw about ours being a government of laws, not men? This is exactly what is meant: actions aren’t made lawful by the president’s saying they are lawful; actions are lawful if they are within the law.

One corollary to this legal rule: anyone who is shafted by relying on the mistaken legal interpretation of a government official usually cannot sue the government for relief because the sovereign is immune from suit, but such an injured citizen may have a legal recourse: a suit against the personal assets of the government official who made the mistake.

Just sayin’.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 12:12 AM
October 31, 2007
The Evildoers

This is from Robert Novak’s weekly Evans-Novak Political Report . “Caused by Hurricane Katrina” seems a little imprecise here. How about “caused by White House efforts to profit politically from Hurricane Katrina?”

Republican anxiety over runaway losses in the Senate next year was eased by two developments. First, the decision by former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D) not to run in Nebraska for an open seat (see below) turns a probable Republican loss into a probable retention. Second, the landslide win for governor of Louisiana by Rep. Bobby Jindal (R) reflects the loss from the state of up to 200,000 black voters caused by Hurricane Katrina and puts Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) in jeopardy next year.

Remember all those African-Americans evacuated to Houston and elsewhere while their ruined homes rotted and FEMA fiddles? Only the blind or the Bush-besotted could fail to see Rove’s hand in this.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:03 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?


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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 10:53 PM
October 12, 2007
Quis Custodiet?

Excerpted from Chris Floyd’s essay at Empire Burlesque on Bush’s attempts to muzzle the CIA’s inspector general:

And so we ask again: why do the Democrats in Congress — or indeed, any figure in the Establishment, Democrat or Republican — continue to treat this criminal gang as the legitimate government of a constitutional republic? How can any Senator or Representative go about their daily business while these brutal apes in tailored suits degrade the nation with their torture, their tyranny, their war crimes? Why are they not moving heaven and earth, using all the powers and legal procedures at their command, to oust Bush and Cheney and the whole sick crew from office?

The answer, of course, is that they do not really object to torture, tyranny or military aggression.

Sadly, Chris is right.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:48 AM
September 29, 2007
What, Him Worry?

You may have George W. Bush mixed up with somebody who gives a shit. John Dean knows better:

Many observers have suggested that the Bush/Cheney Administration may, in the eyes of history, be the worst ever. Yet this condemnation must seem beside the point to authoritarians, for these people simply do not care what others think of their performance. What is important, in their eyes, is simply that these leaders and their compliant followers are doing things the way they believe they must be done, and enforcing their will upon any who dare to dissent or disagree.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:41 AM
September 27, 2007
The Coward Dies a Thousand Deaths, the Hero Only One

This is from Never Coming Home, a new book by Andrew Lichtenstein. For a slide show from it and an interview with the artist, go here. Lichtenstein went all around the country photographing the funerals of men and women killed by George Walker Bush and Richard Bruce Cheney. George Walker Bush is not in any of the pictures, as his policy is to boycott the funerals of his victims. This is not because he is ashamed to show his face; it is because he is a coward.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:19 PM
September 12, 2007
Quagmire in a Box

Tom Engelhardt of TomDispatch has all your need to know about Petraeus’s appearance before Congress, done up in one handy package.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:21 AM
September 07, 2007
Run Everybody, Run. The Village Idiot is Still Loose!

That’s right, last fall’s stake in the heart didn’t work. Be afraid, be very afraid. Not just you, Iran. All of us. The whole world.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:07 PM
September 02, 2007
A Deadly Certainty

George W. Bush has already begun talking to his chosen biographer, Robert Draper, who in turn has been talking to the New York Times. The book is to be called “Dead Certain,” the ambiguity of which we could hardly expect Bush to have noticed. He doesn’t do nuance.

Another thing about Bush, he’s consistent. He doesn’t just lie to us, he lies to himself. Here is the Decider, showing how, dadgum it, he just goes right ahead and flat-out decides stuff! You could look it up. Hadley took notes.

And in apparent reference to the invasion of Iraq, he continued, “This group-think of ‘we all sat around and decided’ — there’s only one person that can decide, and that’s the president…”

Mr. Bush acknowledged one major failing of the early occupation of Iraq when he said of disbanding the Saddam Hussein-era military, “The policy was to keep the army intact; didn’t happen.”

But when Mr. Draper pointed out that Mr. Bush’s former Iraq administrator, L. Paul Bremer III, had gone ahead and forced the army’s dissolution and then asked Mr. Bush how he reacted to that, Mr. Bush said, “Yeah, I can’t remember, I’m sure I said, ‘This is the policy, what happened?’ ” But, he added, “Again, Hadley’s got notes on all of this stuff,” referring to Stephen J. Hadley, his national security adviser.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:50 PM
August 28, 2007
Without (Much) Comment

From a 2000 PBS interview with Clay Johnson III, prep school and college roommate of George W. Bush and a front runner to replace the enormously competent Michael Chertoff as head of the fabulously efficient Department of Homeland Security:

When he decided to run for governor, I don’t think he had any thought at all about running for president. He wanted to be a real good governor. When he decided I think it was towards the end of his first term as governor, that they were doing some polls about likely presidential candidates four years hence and I was in the room when Karen Hughes as communication director came in and said, “Governor, you’re not going to believe this. They’ve got this poll out about likely presidential candidates and you’re in the lead. You’re the favored candidate for four years from now.” And there was just total disbelief and it appeared to me that the thought had never entered his mind until there started to be some feedback from the populace that they wanted George W. Bush to run for president.

So as it became more and more real and more and more a possibility and more and more plans being made to run or not, a lot of people tried to talk him out of it. Very close personal friends of his and Laura’s tried to talk him out of this. And one woman in particular, a good friend of theirs for many years, just pleaded with him not to run. It would so irrevocably change their lives that she just asked them please not to run. “Don’t do this to yourself.” And his response to her was, “Look, I share your concern. But if I don’t run, who else is there? If not me, who? Who do we want-- Who are we going to be pleased with as our next president? We-- I would love to think that there’s somebody else out there that we could all get behind, but I don’t know who that person is.” (Ed. note: Al Gore?)

My take on that was that there is this calling, this sense of there’s a need there and I, George W. Bush, have some of what it takes to satisfy that need. He has no misconceptions about Washington is equal to Austin. That what he has been so successful at working with people here in Austin, he can be equally successful in Washington. But I guarantee you that he has a sense that he can be much more successful than some recent presidents have been and bring some of that bipartisan relationship and a focus on end results and depoliticization of it. But I think he’s fully aware of what the differences are between Washington and Austin. And believes that much of what-- In the same sense that he has brought great, positive change and a great track record to Texas, he can bring similar progress and change and accomplishment for the country. Not for him, but for the country.

And does not believe that there’s anybody else out there that could do that in his absence. (Ed. note: Dick Cheney?)

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:44 AM
July 30, 2007
Good Clean Fun

George W. Bush’s brutalization of our children goes on — and on and on. This is from Alternet:

Iraqi families were routinely fired upon for getting too close to check points, including an incident where an unarmed father driving a car was decapitated by a 50-caliber machine gun in front of his small son, although by then, Mejia notes, “this sort of killing of civilians had long ceased to arouse much interest or even comment.”

Soldiers shot holes into cans of gasoline being sold alongside the road and then tossed incendiary grenades into the pools to set them ablaze. “It’s fun to shoot shit up,” a soldier said. Some open fire on small children throwing rocks. And when improvised explosive devices go off the troops fire wildly into densely populated neighborhoods, leaving behind innocent victims who become, in the callous language of war, “collateral damage.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:47 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.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 05:12 AM
June 25, 2007
Our Very Own Evildoer

Decent opinion is divided about Dick Cheney, some holding that he’s the evil troll under the White House and others that he’s the crazy aunt in its attic. Trolls and aunts indignantly reject both hypotheses.The Washington Post offers strong evidence for both contentions, however, in a four-part series currently running:

One lawyer in his office said that Bellinger [ranking national security lawyer in the White House, reporting to Condoleezza Rice] was chagrined to learn, indirectly, that Cheney had read the confidential memo and “was concerned” about his advice. Thus Bellinger discovered an unannounced standing order: Documents prepared for the national security adviser, another White House official said, were “routed outside the formal process” to Cheney, too. The reverse did not apply.

No one but a present or former senior government bureaucrat (I am the latter) can fully appreciate how stunning this is. Till Bush turned Cheney loose on the land, the last adviser to have this sort of power was Rasputin.

From that moment, well before previous accounts have suggested, Cheney turned his attention to the practical business of crushing a captive’s will to resist. The vice president’s office played a central role in shattering limits on coercion of prisoners in U.S. custody, commissioning and defending legal opinions that the Bush administration has since portrayed as the initiatives, months later, of lower-ranking officials…

That same day, Aug. 1, 2002, Yoo signed off on a second secret opinion, the contents of which have never been made public. According to a source with direct knowledge, that opinion approved as lawful a long list of interrogation techniques proposed by the CIA — including waterboarding, a form of near-drowning that the U.S. government has prosecuted as a war crime since at least 1901. The opinion drew the line against one request: threatening to bury a prisoner alive…

“That’s just the vice president,” said Gerson, the former speechwriter, referring to Cheney’s October remark that “a dunk in the water” for terrorists — a radio interviewer’s term — is “a no-brainer for me.”

Gerson added: “It’s principled. He’s deeply conscious that this is a dangerous world, and he wants this president and future presidents to be able to deal with that.”

Himmler added: “It’s principled. Der Führer is deeply conscious that this is a dangerous world.” Not that I’m equating Gerson to Himmler, of course. I’m equating, all right, but to a couple of other guys.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:32 PM
June 23, 2007
BRAVE AIDES PIERCE PREXY’S BUBBLE

From today’s New York Times, a revelation:

The revival of a bitter, long-running debate behind closed doors in the Bush administration comes only a few months after the Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told President Bush that they believed that Guantánamo’s continued existence was undercutting American foreign policy efforts around the world, and would ultimately prove a stain on Mr. Bush’s legacy.

”I guess I shouldn’t be surprised,” the president said on learning of the stain. “We have an old saying down in Texas, we say no good deed goes unfurnished.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:07 PM
June 10, 2007
The Senator with the Warmest Nose

Joe Lieberman finally and totally jumped the shark on Face the Nation today, calling for war on Iran.

Any such catastrophically idiotic attack would of course constitute an unlawful act of war. But by now the dimmest among us must know Bush’s opinion of the law, which is that he is it.

And plainly appeals to decency, let alone to common sense, won’t get you far either — not with specimens like the president from Greenwich and the oleaginous senator from Likud. Still, let’s give it a shot.

Bush and Lieberman as well as great many other Republicans and too many Democrats are able to maintain a straight face as they maunder mindlessly on about Iran’s more or less clandestine support of the resistance fighters in neighboring Iraq.

Or “freedom fighters,” as Reagan used to call his murderous Contras when they were carrying out pretty much the same function in Nicaragua as today’s “insurgents” do in Iraq. But those sons of bitches, as Roosevelt once said, were our sons of bitches.

Just for the hell of it, though, imagine that Venezuelan forces were to invade and occupy the United States, Hugo Chávez having noticed that our army was busy elsewhere. Canada, sensing a threat to the Alberta oil sands, sends aid to the American resistance. Joe Lieberman is what? Outraged?

Very likely you can imagine such a scenario, but Bush and his warhogs cannot. This is because anything they do, even if it appears to be evil, is actually good. Or they wouldn’t be doing it, okay? Evil, as only a blind man could see, is when somebody else does it.

Consequently we cannot expect Lieberman, slavering at the prospect of a wider war, to draw any parallels between Iran’s support of roadside bombers in Iraq and our own bombardment of Iraq, which has been going on for well over a decade. (Remember the No-fly zone? Few do.)

Ken Bode, following an earlier (2005) washing of Lieberman’s brain in Iraq, wrote this:

[Eugene] McCarthy won no popularity contests among modern politicians, and with penetrating wit he returned their affection. Garrison Keillor wrote a warm eulogy to his fellow Minnesotan, including this McCarthy observation: “One thing about a pig. He thinks he’s warm if his nose is warm. I saw a bunch of pigs one time that had frozen together in a rosette, each one’s nose tucked under the rump of the one in front. We have a lot of pigs in politics.”

The senator with the warmest nose in Washington today is Joe Lieberman.

A wonderful image, isn’t it? We have suffered through till January of 2009 and there they are out in the cold at last, that whole wonderful gang that brought you war in our time.

All of them, Bush, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Cheney, Gonzales, Yoo, Tenet, Libby, Rice, Ashcroft, Rove, Lieberman, and thousands of other warhogs, snouts frozen to rectums in one gigantic rosette stretching from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial.

“He’s smiling,” a small boy suddenly cries. “Look! Old Abe is smiling.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:32 PM
June 01, 2007
Greater Love Hath No Man

Once in a while you come across something that shifts your focus all of a sudden, making clear a thing that had been in front of your eyes all along. “No man,” Albert Jay Nock wrote more than a half century ago, “can learn what he does not already know.”

Moving right along, Georgie Anne Geyer wrote yesterday in the Dallas Morning News:

But by all reports, President Bush is more convinced than ever of his righteousness. Friends of his from Texas were shocked recently to find him nearly wild-eyed, thumping himself on the chest three times while he repeated “I am the president!” He also made it clear he was setting Iraq up so his successor could not get out of “our country’s destiny.”

Of course. We’ve known all along, those of us who are not purblind, that Bush means to pass his trash to the next president. And most of us have seen this as just the latest and worst demonstration of Bush’s lifelong pattern of irresponsible cowardice.

But I, at least, never before understood it as an act of kindness toward the next president. A selfless sacrifice of one’s own place in history by forcing the next occupant of the White House into doing the right thing, even if he or she is a blackhearted, brie-sucking surrender monkey of a Democrat.

Bush is hanging on bravely, heedless of plunging polls and the rats blackening the hawsers of his sinking ship (Bartlett is only the most recent), until he has nailed the next president’s feet to the ground of Iraq with thousands more dead GIs crying out to America’s idiot heart for revenge, with completion of the biggest embassy in the history of the earth, with the ring of huge permanent bases that our media seems determined to ignore, with a takeover of Iraq’s oil fields by the Seven Sisters.

By Inaugural Day in 2009, our crackpot savior hopes, the quicksand will already have closed over the head of whichever poor sucker is taking the oath that Bush has so dishonored.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:36 PM
May 31, 2007
The Outlaw Georgie Bush

The devil, as always, is in the details. Most of the press passed more or less lightly over the tale of Tom Heffelfinger, who had served for nearly a decade as U.S. Attorney for Minnesota before resigning last year. Since then it has turned out that he bailed out just in time: he was on Bush’s hit list of U.S. attorneys who had shown an unhealthy respect for the rule of law.

Out here in Minnesota, where I’m busy getting a granddaughter properly graduated from high school, the Minneapolis Star Tribune went into some of those details today. It’s no news by now that the president-select has partisanship and patriotism all mixed up in his head, but it can’t hurt to keep piling up the evidence. One out of five Americans, the polls tell us, remain drunk on the Decider’s KoolAid.

At a time when GOP activists wanted U.S. attorneys to concentrate on pursuing voter-fraud cases, Heffelfinger's office was expressing deep concern about a state directive that could have the effect of discouraging Indians in Minnesota from casting ballots.

Citing requirements in a new state law intended to prevent voter fraud, Republican Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer directed that tribal ID cards could not be used for voter identification by Indians living outside reservations. Heffelfinger and his staff feared that the ruling could result in discrimination against Indian voters. Many do not have driver's licenses or forms of identification other than the tribes’ picture IDs.

The issue was politically sensitive because the size of the Indian vote can be pivotal in close Minnesota elections. The Minneapolis-St. Paul area has one of the largest urban American Indian populations in the United States. Its members turn out in relatively large numbers and predominantly identify with Democrats…

“I have come to the conclusion that his expressed concern for Indian voting rights is at least part of the reason that Tom Heffelfinger was placed on the list to be fired,” said Joseph Rich, former head of the voting section of Justice's civil-rights division. Rich, who retired in 2005 after 37 years as a career department lawyer -- 24 of them in Republican administrations -- was closely involved in the Minnesota ID issue. He played no role in drafting the termination lists, which were prepared by political appointees…

After reviewing the matter, Rich recommended opening an investigation. In response, he said, Bradley Schlozman, a political appointee in the department, told Rich “not to do anything without his approval” because of the “special sensitivity of this matter…”

After Heffelfinger resigned, his job went to a conservative Justice Department employee, Rachel Paulose. One of her first acts was to remove Lewis, who had written the 2004 e-mails to Washington expressing concern about American Indian voting rights.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:17 PM
May 18, 2007
Honk If You Love Justice

The astonishing showdown between the Justice Department and White House three years ago over Bush’s illegal wiretapping of American citizens is a really, really big deal.

We don’t seem to be grasping the point yet, but it’s a bigger deal than the scandal that brought Nixon down. Watergate was indeed a second rate burglary when compared to Bush’s vast program of criminal spying (yes, such spying is a felony, and carries jail time) on millions of our phone calls.

Bush’s reckless lawlessness was too raw for Attorney General John Ashcroft, who is low on anybody’s list of civil rights bulldogs. It was too raw for his top deputy, James Comey. It was even too raw for Robert Mueller, the FBI director.

How raw is this? Well, Watergate itself wasn’t too raw for Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell or for his FBI director, Patrick Gray.

And yet the impact of the present Wiretappergate (Snoopergate? Bigbrothergate? Bug-gate?) seems so far to be very slight. What more will it take to wake up our TV network masters, and subsequently ourselves? Would the thugs in the White House actually have to pull guns on our top law enforcement officials?

Because they did everything but. Read the full Glenn Greenwald piece excerpted below, then go out and raise whatever hell you can. Honk your horn if you love Justice.

But more revealingly, just consider what it says about this administration. Not only did Comey think that he had to rush to the hospital room to protect Ashcroft from having a conniving Card and Gonzales manipulate his severe illness and confusion by coercing his signature on a document — behavior that is seen only in the worst cases of deceitful, conniving relatives coercing a sick and confused person to sign a new will — but the administration’s own FBI Director thought it was necessary to instruct his FBI agents not to allow Comey to be removed from the room.

Comey and Mueller were clearly both operating on the premise that Card and Gonzales were basically thugs. Indeed, Comey said that when Card ordered him to the White House, Comey refused to meet with Card without a witness being present, and that Card refused to allow Comey’s summoned witness (Solicitor General Ted Olson) even to enter Card’s office.

These are the most trusted intimates of the White House — the ones who are politically sympathetic to them and know them best — and they prepared for, defended themselves against, the most extreme acts of corruption and thuggery from the President’s Chief of Staff and his then-legal counsel (and current Attorney General of the United States).


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:10 AM
April 27, 2007
The United States of Paranoia

I hadn’t heard about the Cheryl Kuehn case until reading the column (below) that Judy sent from Canada. Here it is. Who knew that a minor traffic stop could land you in a Georgia jail if you happened to be guilty of DWC — Driving While Canadian. Just another minor atrocity from the late days (633 left) of Benito Bush’s America.

Trying as always to locate the silver lining in every cloud, I note that at least the Georgia authorities are equal opportunity over-reactors: Ms. Kuehn is white and blonde.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:46 PM
And This is Just What Our Friends Think …

Judy from Canada writes, “You might be interested in this accurate take on our pathetic gov’t. Am working to see it defeated ASAP.”

The article she sends along is from Lawrence Martin, writing in The Globe and Mail. It concludes as follows:

In the past, there was a greater tendency to speak out when America was in tumult. Today, we are in passive mode. Some of us stubbornly hold to the old and wonderful assumptions about the United States, even though evidence is everywhere that the country has vitally and mightily changed. Others see the folly but subscribe to the colonial mentality wherein the cash register of trade takes higher priority than speaking out for what’s just.

As well, there are many who say that to criticize the Bush administration is to be anti-American. Given what is transpiring in the United States, given what is happening to its freedoms, its great traditions, it is those who sit in silence who are the anti-Americans.

But read the full article, to get a sense of how Bush’s America looks from across our longest border.


Listen closely and you’ll barely hear a sound. What nice, placid neighbours we are. All that upheaval next door and we respond with a hush. No matter how adversely we are affected, or will be affected, the silence from the Great North prevails.

The surging calamity in Iraq? Our government won’t dare say a word -- even though it is the tragic U.S. diversion there that has led to us being bogged down in a war ourselves. If Washington had committed more of its military mass to Kabul instead of Baghdad, the situation in Afghanistan would likely be far more stable today.

Paul Wolfowitz was a leading architect of the Iraq war. He was rewarded with the presidency of the World Bank. He has plunged the bank into scandal and disrepute, just as he did his country in the war. As a World Bank member, Canada was in a position to issue a firm rebuke. But we gave him a pass.

At Guantanamo Bay, we have a Canadian, Omar Khadr, who is being denied even primitive legal rights. The Australians went to bat in Washington for one of their prisoners held in Guantanamo; so did the British. We haven’t done the same.

Six of our former foreign ministers, including Joe Clark and John Manley, issued an open letter urging our Conservative government to speak out. It turned the other way. It doesn’t want to offend President George W. Bush. Or Halliburton’s Dick Cheney.

Yes, the Vice-President. Remember back in the early days of the Iraq war, when all those ne’er-do-wells were saying the Veep’s a creep and that we should watch what happens to Iraq’s oil. Well, look now and see what companies are moving into control of the oil fields. Check it out and check how the news media has all but ignored the story.

The great Canadian silence prevails on matters more local as well. This month, a 23-year-old university student from Ottawa was pulled over for a traffic violation in the state of Georgia. She was fingerprinted, forced to strip, shower, and stuffed in a cell with two other jeering inmates. Georgia officials explained that they have to check foreigners to make sure they are in the country legally. They did that and the girl, Cheryl Kuehn, was clear.

But, just for good measure, the police kept her in the slammer all night anyway. The outrage in Georgia produced no outrage from Ottawa.

Americans in their own country, in what was once known as the beacon of liberty, are having their telephone calls tapped and their mail intercepted under anti-terrorist laws. We are mum on that and we are totally in the dark on what covert activities they are conducting up here. Initially, Prime Minister Stephen Harper put forward some opposition to the new U.S. law requiring passports at the border. But we’ve pleasantly succumbed.

We’ve watched over the years as the Bush administration spurned America’s multilateralist tradition. Among the international agreements it scorned: the Geneva Conventions, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, NAFTA, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the International Criminal Court, the accord on land mines. What, in most instances, has been the Canadian response? Get the hands out. Sit on them.

We’ve watched in silence as Washington has run up colossal debts and deficits that will, with time, likely reverberate up here, sending our economy into a tailspin. We watch other things, like the ongoing vulgarization of American culture with its spillover effect, without saying much. Post-Virginia Tech, don’t look for us to join in any international chorus condemning America’s 18th-century gun laws. Our government has trouble countenancing a gun registry.

Neighbours needn’t meddle in the other’s internal affairs. But many of the aforementioned instances hit Canada hard.

In the past, there was a greater tendency to speak out when America was in tumult. Today, we are in passive mode. Some of us stubbornly hold to the old and wonderful assumptions about the United States, even though evidence is everywhere that the country has vitally and mightily changed. Others see the folly but subscribe to the colonial mentality wherein the cash register of trade takes higher priority than speaking out for what’s just.

As well, there are many who say that to criticize the Bush administration is to be anti-American. Given what is transpiring in the United States, given what is happening to its freedoms, its great traditions, it is those who sit in silence who are the anti-Americans.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:56 AM
April 18, 2007
War an Anachronism?

Paul M runs a website devoted to the deconversion stories of former Christians: Exchristian.Org He made the following comment on a recent post of mine, which I had cross-posted to The Smirking Chimp. Paul’s comment makes sense to me, and so I pass it on with his permission:

To leave without attaining the aims of the war (a pacified, “democratic” Iraq) would expose an important truth: war just doesn’t work anymore. War, in and of itself, is an anachronism.

Blame it on democratic ideas, or on nationalism. Blame it on the firearm and on TNT. It is no longer the case that if a state conquers another state, it acquires the people and wealth of that state. The peasants no longer consider themselves items to be bartered between owners.

A state can defeat a state, but it cannot defeat a people.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:19 PM
April 02, 2007
Everything You Need to Know About The Last Six Years

Hat tip to Hellblazer for this gruesome video. Anyone here speak in tongues?

Actually, it was Jerry who sent me the link to Hellblazer to put this up for you folks. I suspect that his snake hunting expedition might have been just as fruitful had he been on location at this shot; surely they were handling the snakes later in the day. I’m pulling out my HL Mencken Monkey Trial transcripts to get my bearings. I lived in the South almost all my life and have seen my share of weird and scary, but this tops it all.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 09:28 PM
March 26, 2007
What is Past is Prologue

A little bit of history.

The President considers convening a new grand jury to investigate Watergate as preferable to the Watergate committee. The sessions would be private, and rules of evidence would apply.

D: You can take the Fifth Amendment.

P: That’s right.

H: You can say you have forgotten too, can’t you?

P: You can say I don’t remember. You can say I don’t recall.

Repeating itself .

By Laurie Kellman, Associated Press Writer | March 26, 2007

WASHINGTON—Monica Goodling, a Justice Department official involved in the firings of federal prosecutors, will refuse to answer questions at upcoming Senate hearings, citing Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, her lawyer said Monday.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 04:35 PM
March 15, 2007
This is Not Just a Metaphor, This is Reality

Farewell to Storyville.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 06:41 AM
March 13, 2007
The Reality Gap

Another one of those Holy Shit! moments, this one brought to you by the New York Times:

Last October, President Bush spoke with Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to pass along concerns by Republicans that some prosecutors were not aggressively addressing voter fraud, the White House said Monday.
Is this just hypocrisy making another bow to virtue? Can bullshit be piled this high in Bush’s brain? Is it possible that he really doesn’t read the papers, or at least hasn’t since the beginning of the 2000 “election?”

I suspect the answer is even more disturbing. I suspect that Bush’s powers of rationalization are so abnormally overdeveloped, like 28-inch biceps, that he actually doesn’t believe that his presidency is the product of an elaborate voter fraud scheme carefully planned and ruthlessly executed by his more competent younger brother.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:15 PM
March 12, 2007
The Education of George W. Bush

Amy Goodman interviews Andrew Cockburn on his new book, Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy:

Goodman: In 2006, you write that George W. Bush said to his father, “What’s a neocon?”

Cockburn: That’s right. One of the rare moments of sort of communication between the two. Bush said to — they were out at Kennebunkport, and Bush Jr. says, “Can I ask you a question? What’s a neocon?” And the father says, “Do you want names or a description?” The President says, “I’ll take a description.”

He says, “I’ll give it to you in one word: Israel,” which is interesting on all sorts of levels, including the confirmation that our president doesn’t really read the newspapers.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:36 PM
March 07, 2007
VERMONT TO GWB: DROP DEAD

Judy from Canada sends along the article from which the paragraphs below come. When she and I were undergraduates at Middlebury College back in the Eisenhower days, the rap on Vermont politics was, “As Vermont goes, so goes New Hampshire.”

You’ve come a long way, baby:

“It became clear that no one was going home until they had the chance to discuss the resolutions and vote on them,” explained David Rosenberg, a political science professor at Middlebury College. “And being a good politician, he allowed the vote to happen.”

By an overwhelming voice vote, Middlebury called for impeachment.

So it has gone this week at town meetings across Vermont, most of which were held Tuesday. Late Tuesday night, there were confirmed reports that 36 towns had backed impeachment resolutions, and the number was expected to rise. In one town, Putney, the vote for impeachment was unanimous.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:17 PM
March 06, 2007
Move Along Mr. Cheney, Nothing for You Here

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Posted by Buck Batard at 12:09 PM
February 26, 2007
In Search of A Wider Audience

I don’t know the demographics of those who read Bad Attitudes, but I suspect the music on the following video is not aimed at our typical reader, but what the heck, you never know, and besides, it needs a wider audience than just those who visit the website, and besides again, they give the code for free without going through YouTube, so here’s my FTA post of the day, which I hereby dedicate to recalcitrant Generals.

PS: Pass it on.




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Posted by Buck Batard at 01:06 PM
February 22, 2007
English Speakers Face Existential Threat

In the current Newsweek Evan Thomas has an unusually vapid review of a book by Andrew Roberts which may or may not be equally vapid, depending on how accurately Thomas has described it. The review is in a section called “Ideas,” and here is Thomas’s: People who speak English are really, really special, and the rest of you owe us a really, really lot.

This idea is hardly worth engaging, and so let’s pass on to one which is worth engaging — although only because it has invaded the national brain like some ghastly tumor threatening the very values that Thomas supposes us to possess:

The English-speaking peoples have been seriously threatened by force four times: twice by German aggression, once by Soviet totalitarianism, and most recently by Islamic fanaticism. The forces of freedom and democracy reeled after the first blows—at Dunkirk and Pearl Harbor in World War II and at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11. “The English-speaking peoples rarely win the first battle,” writes Roberts, “but they equally rarely lose the subsequent war.”

All right, everybody. Let’s relax for a minute here.

The English-speaking peoples are not seriously threatened by force from Islamic fanaticism. The only major war subsequent to 9/11 was one we sought in Iraq, and it lasted only a few weeks. Everything after that has a badly botched occupation.

The 9/11 attacks and World War II are no more parallel than longitude and latitude are parallel, no matter how badly George W. Bush wants to be Winston Churchill. (I might mention here that I myself would very much like to be Dame Judi Dench, although the odds are against it.)

The only human force that can seriously threaten the existence of the United States, let alone the English-speaking peoples, would be a full-scale military attack from a combination of opponents. A coalition of Russia, Japan and China might pull it off.

But in the real world this will not happen, because the United States, Russia and China all have atomic weapons and Japan could have them by next Tuesday.

This is why North Korea and Iran are in such a scramble to get nuclear weapons: not to attack us, but to make sure we don’t attack them. The strategy works very well, as may be seen in the case of North Korea. Next thing we know, Bush will visit Pyongyang, nation-building.

Returning to the real world, the war on terror is not a war. Osama attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon with stolen airliners and kamikaze pilots because, lacking an air force, he was incapable of war. One engages in terrorism not because one is powerful, but precisely because one is weak.

Terrorism is almost always about real estate, as in Ireland, Chechnya, Spain, Sri Lanka, the Middle East, and elsewhere around the globe. If the United States had remained neutral in the land dispute between the Israel and its Arab neighbors, there would have been no 9/11.

And if we were now to become neutral in that dispute, there would be no more 9/11s. That is the only way to end Islamic terrorism in this country. Every informed American with a double-digit I.Q. knows that; the only meaningful question left is whether our continued blind support of Israel is somehow worth whatever it costs in future terror attacks.

We have been misled to believe that we are mired in an apocalyptic clash between the forces of Islamic darkness and the forces of English-speaking light. But it only seems that way because Bush responded to an act of terror with an act of war against an evil but in this case innocent bystander.

Nor are the Iraqis reacting to Bush’s occupation with some fiendish and unfair new form of combat called “asymmetrical warfare” in which they cunningly “adapt to the enemy” in new and hitherto unimaginable ways. No, the Iraqis are reacting to occupation by a more powerful enemy in the same way that resistance fighters reacted to Hitler’s storm troopers. They are improvising against an occupying army the best they can.

Nor should we be surprised if the neighbors lend a hand. They do so for the same reasons that the Soviets supported Tito and British agents aided guerrillas all over Europe. The neighbors don’t want to be the next ones occupied.

Fortunately even if Bush turns Iran into his very own Cambodia, we will eventually be forced to withdraw from the Middle East just as Nixon did from Southeast Asia.

In both misbegotten struggles, our opponents were clear in what they wanted — our absence — and we were unclear about what we wanted. Our presence? Did we really want to stay? For how long? Forever? Why?

Was such a dubious prize worth the life of even one George Walker Bush or Richard Bruce Cheney? Like millions of other Americans they didn’t think so. But that, of course, was then.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:09 PM
February 18, 2007
A Marriage Made in Hell

Major General Walter L. Stewart (Ret.) argues persuasively that Richard Nixon and Jane Fonda were the mother and father of modern day American foreign military entanglements:

In 1969, with his order to a presidential commission to justify an end to the draft, President Nixon planted the seeds of military adventurism that first bore fruit in Beirut, know the bitter harvest of Somalia and Iraq, and ripen for the picking in Iran. The all-volunteer military, as grateful senior leaders like to say, “wants to be there,” and “there,” with the surrender of Congress, has devolved to the call of a single person — a “decider.”

Nixon, to the delight of presidents who followed and now legions of neocons and chicken hawks, decided the centuries-old struggle between the sometimes imperialism of Alexander Hamilton and the always republicanism of James Madison in favor of Hamilton. (See Helvidius No. 1, written in 1793, for a debate on the “Bush doctrine ” of pre-emptive war.)

I remember Nixon's pathetic plan to have White House guards re-uniformed in imperial costumes — a buffoonery the American people laughed into the trash bin of bad ideas. Now, almost 40 years later, we find that Nixon has the last laugh, because even though he did not get the plumed hats of a Sun King’s court, he did get a king’s military — a professional military that “wants to be there” — and our republican ethic of shared sacrifice has not survived.

But Nixon could not have done this without help from the strange bedfellows of America’s anti-war and anti-draft left. How ironic that the radical left of the Vietnam era joined with Nixon to force the replacement of a complaining, questioning, yet “valiant for the right fight” draft-induced army with an army that never complains or questions. If Nixon is the father of the all-volunteer military — and some have credited economist Milton Friedman — then Jane Fonda is surely its mother.

Their creation of a military that “wants to be there” would invite war as whimsy; free congressmen and congresswomen to trivialize soldier sacrifice with “thank you for your service” platitudes; consign diplomacy, if it is in the race at all, to run a poor second to force; and lift the spirits of millions of uninvolved Americans by perversely equating the hardships and blood-costs of soldiering with going shopping and paying taxes.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 10:25 PM
February 06, 2007
Take My Medicine Like a Man, Don

More from Bob Woodward’s State of Denial. Ohio’s Republican governor and Ohio’s Republican secretary of state have handed Bush the electoral college and Colin Powell has been discarded like an old handkerchief so full of Bush’s snot that it was no use anymore. And then—

At one point, Card spoke with Cheney about a possible change at the Pentagon. No, Cheney said, he was predisposed to recommend that the president keep Rumsfeld right where he was.

That was no surprise.

Bush and Cheney were talking in private. For Cheney, the hydraulic pressures in the Washington political system were well known. Rumsfeld’s departure, no matter how it might be spun, would only be seen as an expression of doubt and hesitation on the war. It would give the war critics great heart and momentum, he confided to an aide, and soon they would be after him and then the president himself. He virtually insisted that Rumsfeld stay.

This unmanly evasion of responsibility at the top of the administration runs throughout Woodward’s book, most commonly where Rumsfeld is concerned. As soon as it became clear that the occupation of Iraq was a disaster, Rumsfeld blamed his tame generals. Poor little civilian him, those big nasty four-star bullies told him how many troops they needed, and goodness, look what happened!

And where was the State Department anyway, Rumsfeld whimpered? Golly, they’re supposed to be the nation-builders. Where was Condi’s NSC? Where was the CIA? Don was just a gruff, simple soldier. His job was done.To make this plain, he backed as proconsul one L. Paul Bremer III, a former State Department diplomat and Kisssinger flunky, then washed his hands of the man.

It seldom occurred to the press and the politicians that throughout human history the task of occupation has been an established and essential function of the military. Think Roman soldiers, nailing Jesus to the cross. Think British Raj. Think General MacArthur.

This time, though, it was Cheney rather than Rumsfeld who was ducking responsibility — by making sure that his former boss and life-long mentor remained in office to draw the lightning. Otherwise, the wily old spider in the shadows behind Bush might wind up taking the blame for the war the spider himself had invented.

And what a terrible injustice that would have been. Because for goodness’ sake, the whole thing would have been a cakewalk except for that fellow over at the Pentagon, whatever his name was.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:43 PM
February 05, 2007
The No-Doubt Zone

More from Bob Woodward’s State of Denial

”Don’t they have moments of self-doubt?” Armitage asked Powell one day. Didn’t Bush within his soul wonder if all this was right? They [Armitage and Powell] always had self-doubt. They lived on it, mainlined it. If you didn’t, Powell said, if you didn’t get up in the morning wondering if you’re doing a good enough job or if you can still hit the long ball, you’re not worth much.

”Not worth a shit,” Armitage said.

Doubt never seeped into the president’s public rhetoric. And as far as Powell’s and Armitage’s experience went, he was the same in private.

Powell said Bush and Cheney didn’t dare express reservations. Armitage agreed. “They cannot have any doubt about the correctness of the policy because it opens too many questions in their minds.

But the president was at the center. Armitage was baffled. “Has he thought this through?” Armitage asked Powell. “What the president says in effect is we’ve got to press on in honor of the memory of those who have fallen. Another way to say that is we’ve got to have more men fall to honor the memories of those who have already fallen.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:11 AM
Emmylou Harris and Colleagues Take Note

The following song is an old classic, and has historical significance. America really doesn't have but a few hoboes anymore. We have streetpeople, whose plight is often worse than that of the old hoboes. My wife and I worked many nights in homeless shelters last winter, and I was struck by the fact that most were working people. So the song is not really relevant, unless you can make analogies. Where are the singer/songwriters of the modern era? Doesn’t this song need updating?

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Posted by Buck Batard at 08:33 AM
January 20, 2007
Stop Him Before He Kills Again

Ten days ago Bush all but announced his insanely dangerous plan to invade Iran. Yesterday a former State Department analyst filled in some of the blank spots. Full story.

“We’re not talking about just surgical strikes against an array of targets inside Iran. We’re talking about clearing a path to the targets” by taking out much of the Iranian Air Force, Kilo submarines, anti-ship missiles that could target commerce or U.S. warships in the Gulf, and maybe even Iran’s ballistic missile capability, White said.

“I’m much more worried about the consequences of a U.S. or Israeli attack against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure,” which would prompt vigorous Iranian retaliation, he said, than civil war in Iraq, which could be confined to that country.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:02 PM
January 18, 2007
Bush Calls for Troop Cuts

More and more reporters and politicians seem to have grasped that to describe Bush’s desperate escalation as a “surge” is to play the White House’s semantic game. But few have noted that it is neither an escalation nor a surge. Taking the not very long view, it is an actual reduction in force.

In May of 2003, Bush’s army in Iraq stood at 180,000 — plainly, since we were not winning, not enough to win. By the end of 2005 we were still not winning with 159,000 troops.

At present, we continue not to win with 132,000 (winning now being modestly defined by Bush, although not in quite those words, as failure to fail). Bush’s absurd “surge” will thus put us in a position to continue not to win with a total strength of 152,000 — 7,000 smaller than the number of troops it took us not to win a little more than a year ago, and 28,000 fewer than it took us not to win almost four years ago.

The whole question of winning, however, is academic. Bush has been bleating over and over again these last weeks that “failure is not an option.” Oh, yes it is. He has left us no other. Surely even the most delusional of the White House warhogs knows by now that Bush has already failed. A hundred thousand more troops, even if we had them, would not be enough to rescue a failure so great.

Bush’s murderous plan aims at nothing but exchanging the lives of American soldiers to rescue a legacy that he has already irremediably soiled. It is a coward’s attempt to pass his loaded diaper on to a Democratic successor. Calling Bush's latest mess a surge won’t change anything.

You can’t shine shit.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:58 PM
January 07, 2007
The Good, the Real, and the Ugly

In The Mind in the Making, which has gone untaught in American schools for fifty years or more, Columbia University historian James Harvey Robinson wrote:

I remember years ago attending a public dinner to which the Governor of the state was bidden. The chairman explained that His Excellency could not be present for certain “good” reasons; what the “real” reasons were the presiding officer said he would leave us to conjecture.

This distinction between “good” and “real” reasons is one of the most clarifying and essential in the whole realm of thought. We can readily give what seem to us “good” reasons for being a Catholic or a Mason, a Republican or a Democrat, an adherent or opponent of the League of Nations. But the “real” reasons are usually on quite a different plane …

To illustrate Professor Robinson’s point, here are two excerpts. Both appeared during the week before the 2004 election. Neither made the slightest difference. The first is from the New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh; the second from journalist Russ Baker’s interview of Mickey Herskowitz, once hired to write an as-told-to campaign biography of George W. Bush and then fired when Bush’s handlers learned that their boy had told too much.

I’m one of those people who believes that Bush really did go to war to free the Middle East and turn these nations into democracies. I don’t think he went to war for oil primarily or Israel. He went because he has this idée fixe that it was his mission, his crusade to change the Middle East — to turn it into a democratic stronghold of good, well-meaning people who would buy American and support Israel against the Palestinians and keep the oil flowing.

It’s idealistic. It’s utopian. Is there anything more dangerous than an ideologue who doesn’t know he’s wrong?
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According to Herskowitz, George W. Bush’s beliefs on Iraq were based in part on a notion dating back to the Reagan White House — ascribed in part to now-vice president Dick Cheney, Chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee under Reagan. “Start a small war. Pick a country where there is justification you can jump on, go ahead and invade.”

Bush’s circle of pre-election advisers had a fixation on the political capital that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher collected from the Falklands War. Said Herskowitz: “They were just absolutely blown away, just enthralled by the scenes of the troops coming back, of the boats, people throwing flowers at [Thatcher] and her getting these standing ovations in Parliament and making these magnificent speeches.”

Republicans, Herskowitz said, felt that Jimmy Carter’s political downfall could be attributed largely to his failure to wage a war. He noted that President Reagan and President Bush’s father himself had (besides the narrowly-focused Gulf War I) successfully waged limited wars against tiny opponents — Grenada and Panama — and gained politically.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:13 PM
January 05, 2007
In Dreams We Are Insane

have just finished Consilience, a masterpiece on deep ethics written by the great evolutionary biologist from Alabama, Edward O. Wilson. I can count on my fingers the number of books I have read more than once as an adult; Consilience is one of them. In my first re-reading since Bush occupied Iraq, these excerpts struck me:

There seems to be no limit to the combinatorial power of the dreaming brain. And whatever we see we believe, at least while sleeping; it rarely occurs to us to doubt even the most bizarre events into which we have been involuntarily thrust. Someone has defined insanity as an inability to choose among false alternatives. In dreams we are insane. We wander across our limitless dreamscapes as madmen …

What we call meaning is the linkage among the neural networks created by the spreading excitation that enlarges imagery and engages emotion. The competitive selection among scenarios is what we call decision making. The outcome, in terms of the match of the winning scenario to instinctive or learned favorable states, sets the kind and intensity of subsequent emotion. The persistent form and intensity of emotions is called mood. The ability of the brain to generate novel scenarios and settle on the most effective among them is called creativity. The persistent production of scenarios lacking reality and survival value is called insanity.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:57 PM
January 02, 2007
So How About Cutting Dickie an’ Donnie an’ Dubya a Little Slack Here, Okay?

From an essay by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., called “Crime and Automatism,” in Pages from an Old Volume of Life:

The most frightful crimes, committed without a sign of compunction, and leaving not a shadow of regret, are without any moral character whatever; from which it follows that the unfortunate subject of moral idiocy is just as innocently acting out the tendencies he inherited as the rattlesnake, which we hate by instinct, which we extirpate through legislation if necessary, which we take as a type of evil in our theologies, but which is just as much a poor, dependent, not ill-meaning citizen of the Universe as the lamb and the dove, which are our most sacred symbols.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:24 PM
About That Other Guy Named Jerry

Today they’ll be burying one of the people most responsible for helping jump-start the careers of two of the most corrupt individuals ever to wield executive power: Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Jerry Ford was being eulogized so sweetly in the mainstream press that I was gagging on the sickeningly sweet saccharin, sugar molasses and arsenic concoction. For all of you prosecutorial types who tell us that criminals need to be brought to justice so that the victims can have “closure”, the Nixon pardon is quite difficult to explain, isn’t it?

Thanks to Jason Miller at P! for offering something other than the vile concoction that all of the mainstream press is serving up to the ever gullible public. Go here to read the whole thing. And for those of you who think we are all sour grapes here at Bad Attitudes, read on till the end of this post. We did, at the very least, have something kind to say.

Now that you have perused samples of the rubbish our oligarch overlords are attempting to burnish into the minds of their unsuspecting plebeian underlings, consider how the affable “Jerry” enabled or caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of human beings and ensured that the ruling elite in the United States would reclaim the power they had begrudgingly ceded to the masses in the face of economic upheaval, civil unrest, and powerful progressive movements.

Like our current unitary executive, Ford did not get into the Oval Office by winning an election. Also like Bush, in spite of the fact that the people did not vote him into office, Ford brazenly defied the will of the American public on an issue of great magnitude. Exercising the integrity of the mythologized Ford, “Jerry” fulfilled his end of the bargain he had made with Alexander Haig. In exchange for his ascendancy to the Empire’s throne, he shielded Richard Nixon from facing consequences for his multiple grievous transgressions of international and domestic laws.

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Paving the way for Reagan and his successors to marginalize America’s poor, minorities, and working class and to gut our Constitution, Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, chose to keep habitual war criminal Henry Kissinger on as his Secretary of State, and elevated future mass murderers, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney to key White House positions.

Letting Nixon off the hook was a particularly sinister act in at least two ways. Ford, an unelected president in a purported constitutional republic, absolved a fellow patrician of grave violations of international law, the public trust, and the US Constitution. Thus Ford became Nixon’s accomplice. At the same time, he landed a crushing blow for the moneyed class in their persistent assault on the republic envisioned by men like Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine.

Bear in mind that Ford pardoned a man who was responsible for the deaths of at least 600,000 innocent civilians. During the invasion and occupation of Vietnam, Nixon ordered secret bombings of neighboring Cambodia. The goal was to strike North Vietnamese supply and transit routes, but unfortunately for the Cambodian people, the B-52 carpet bombings did not distinguish the nationalities of victims.

Nixon’s use of illegal wire-taps was such a flagrant abuse of executive authority that Congress passed the FISA Law in 1978 to prevent similar breaches of Constitutional law. In the wake of Nixon’s immunity from prosecution, the Bush Regime has subsequently ignored the FISA Laws and run roughshod over the Constitution, without consequence. Thank you for setting the precedent, “Jerry”.

Ford also enabled Nixon to evade prosecution for obstruction of justice, perjury and possible income tax evasion. The IRS eventually ordered Nixon to pay $467,000, a relative pittance for a man of his means.

Despite the damage and suffering they left in their wake, Nixon and Ford both lived in security and wealth until their mortality finally caught up with them.Like his predecessor, Ford was quite enamored with Henry Kissinger. He once summarized him with this quip: “wonderful person. Dear friend. First-class Secretary of State. But Henry always protected his own flanks.”

Obviously, Gerald Ford was far more shrewd and Machiavellian than the mainstream media’s recent wave of white-washing would indicate. Aside from his complicity in Nixon’s crimes (for which our Ministry of Truth has exculpated Ford by concluding that the pardon was necessary to “heal the nation”), and his role in the carnage in East Timor, he also aligned himself closely with J. Edgar Hoover.

Admittedly, some of the positive qualities and deeds the corporatized Fourth Estate has recently been attributing to Gerald Ford are true.


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Posted by Buck Batard at 04:56 AM
December 26, 2006
It’s a Helluva Life

Now that everyone is comfortable settled in, fat, and happy after Christmas, you’ll be pleased as well laced Christmas eggnog punch to know that the movie "“It’s a Wonderful Life” was nothing but a communist plot, at least according to the FBI.

The casting of Lionel Barrymore as a “scrooge-type” resulted in the loathsome Mr. Potter becoming the most hated person in the film. According to the official FBI report, “this was a common trick used by the communists.”

“What’s interesting in the FBI critique is that the Baileys were also bankers,” said Noakes. “and what is really going on is a struggle between the big-city banker (Potter) and the small banker (the Baileys). Capra was clearly on side of small capitalism and the FBI was on the side of big capitalism.”

Hat tip to Liberal Avenger and Wise Bread.

And speaking of the present, don’t wait till the Republican interest rate crisis that’s coming comes to pass to figure this all out, most likely to be foisted upon a Democratic administration. Get prepared now.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 05:02 PM
December 23, 2006
Today’s Ghost of Christmas Past

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Posted by Buck Batard at 01:29 PM
December 19, 2006
However, All Is for the Best in This Best of All Possible Worlds


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:03 PM
December 11, 2006
The Pace of Failure

Tucked shyly away on page A-12 of today’s Times is this bit of plain common sense from the president of Iraq who, unlike our own president, seems to inhabit the real world:

BAGHDAD, Dec. 10 — President Jalal Talabani said Sunday that the American program to train Iraq’s security forces had been a repeated failure and he denounced a plan to increase the number of American advisers working with the Iraqi Army, saying it would subvert the country’s sovereignty …

American commanders have poured more than $12 billion into training and equipping Iraq’s security forces and have tied a withdrawal of American troops to success in these efforts. But Mr. Talabani ridiculed them. “What have they done so far in training the army and the police?” he said. “What they have done is move from failure to failure.”

Is it possible nobody in the White House remembers that Kennedy, before his death, had already sent 17,000 “advisers” to South Vietnam? That Kennedy’s war then blundered hopelessly and helplessly along under two more presidents willing to trade millions of human lives for their own reelection? That the second of these presidents, Nixon, ran on a secret plan to end that war which later turned out to be something called “Vietnamization?” That “Iraqization,” which is to say inserting American advisers into Iraqi police and military units, is the same thing, with the same purpose?

And that purpose is not to speed what Bush has called “the pace of success,” but to slow, at whatever cost to anybody except himself, the pace of failure. Only the Congress can stop this bloody fraud and nothing about the new Democratic leadership suggests that it has the courage for the job.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:54 PM
December 07, 2006
How About a Little Sauce for the Ganders?

Neither of the following minor items from this week’s news was likely to have come to the attention of any more Americans than could correctly define, to pick a nonrandom word, the verb “to wrack.” Yet we may hope that both were read with a slightly sick feeling in the pit of the stomach by such gentle folk as Rumsfeld, Libby, Tenet, Addington, Yoo, Chertoff, Perle, Wolfowitz, Gonzales, and all the rest of the torturer-in-chief’s brave little torture boys.

In the first story, the American son of Liberia’s ex-dictator was indicted in Miami for torturing a prisoner in Liberia — under an American law which gives American courts jurisdiction over Americans guilty of torture wherever in the world it occurs. This should be of special interest to Geoffrey Miller, Bush’s very model of a modern major general and the man who took with him to Abu Ghraib the methods of torture he had perfected at Guantanamo Bay.

In the second, the head of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was forced from office for helping Bush’s torturers to kidnap an innocent Canadian citizen and outsource his subsequent torturing to Syrian torturers.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:57 PM
December 05, 2006
And Bush Knows Stubborn…

In re: the tragic loss of John R. Bolton at the U.N., we hear the voice from the burning Bush:

“They chose to obstruct his confirmation, even though he enjoys majority support in the Senate, and even though their tactics will disrupt our diplomatic work at a sensitive and important time,” Mr. Bush said. “This stubborn obstructionism ill serves our country, and discourages men and women of talent from serving their nation.”
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:07 AM
November 29, 2006
The Trickle Down Voodoo Waterspigot Runs Out

Our friends at Slate bring to our attention the latest round of statistics regarding wealth creation in the United States. A couple of choice excerpts are below — rush on over and read the whole thing:

As they survey the ruins of the conservative movement, Republicans ponder what might have been, if only Bush hadn’t blundered so often and Congress plundered so much. A study in today’s New York Times provides shocking evidence of the latest conservative betrayal. According to the latest available IRS data, the richest Americans have fared worse under Bush than any other income group.

.......

This is shattering news for Democrats and Republicans alike. What is the point of supply-side conservatism if it can’t even make the rich richer? For that matter, where is the joy in railing against it? Supply-side economics never made any sense to begin with, but now its logic isn’t worth the napkin it was written on. Trickle-down theory turned out to be no trickle, just down.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 09:59 AM
November 06, 2006
Neo-cons Play the Lamest Blame Game Yet

Maureen Dowd, who is sometimes a very shrewd judge of human nature and sometimes nuts (her savaging of Al Gore), is as far as I know the first one to have used the phrase “office wife” to describe members of the supportive harem George W. Bush has gathered around himself.

Now one of the despicable neo-cons who manipulated us into this war in the first place has piled on too, as he and his pack rush to distance themselves from the catastrophe they created. Here (thanks to a heads-up from Everett VanDorn) is Michael Ledeen, a “freedom scholar” at the American Enterprise Institute:

“Ask yourself who the most powerful people in the White House are. They are women who are in love with the president: Laura [Bush], Condi, Harriet Miers, and Karen Hughes.”

For more squealing from these neo-con rats as they flee the ship they sank, see this from Vanity Fair. The main argument they advance is that the war was an excellent idea, but Bush and his team were too incompetent to pull it off. All Richard Perle and the boys did was talk the village idiot into jumping off a cliff; it’s not their fault if he didn’t have wings.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:45 PM
November 02, 2006
Further Adventures of Tricky

Faithful readers will remember that when we left President Tricky in our last installment of Philip Roth’s 1974 novel, Our Gang, he was about to strike at the heart of the shadowy network of pornographers that threatened America’s very existence. Here, in his “Something is Rotten in the State of Denmark” speech, the president announces his plan for a swift victory:

Now I know there are always those who would prefer that we take a weak, cowardly and dishonorable position in the face of a crisis. They of course are entitled to their opinion.

I am certain, however, that the great majority of the American people will agree that the actions I have taken in the confrontation between the United States of America and the sovereign state of Denmark are indispensable to our dignity, our honor, our moral and spiritual idealism, our credibility around the world, the soundness of the economy, our greatness, our dedication to the vision of our forefathers, the human spirit, the divinely inspired dignity of man, our treaty commitments, the principles of the United Nations, and progress and peace for all people.

Now no one is more aware than I am of the political consequences of taking bold and forthright action in behalf of our dignity, idealism and honor, to choose just three.

But I would rather be a one-term President and take these noble, heroic measures against the state of Denmark, than be a two-term President by accepting humiliation at the hands of a tenth-rate military power. I want to make that perfectly clear …

If, however, Copenhagen should refuse to negotiate in good faith by giving us what we want, I shall immediately order 100,000 armed American troops onto Danish soil. Now, quickly, let me make one thing very clear: this will not constitute an invasion, either.

Once we have overrun the country, bombarded the major cities, devastated the countryside, destroyed the military, disarmed the citizenry, jailed the leaders of the ProPornography government, and established in Copenhagen the government currently in exile so that, as Abraham Lincoln said, it shall not perish from this earth, we shall immediately withdraw our troops.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:54 AM
October 24, 2006
A Presidential Library Selection

A selection from the JFK Presidential Library:

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air—
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

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It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath—
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows ‘twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear…
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

Posted by Buck Batard at 11:20 PM
October 11, 2006
The Database of Thieves

Do you suspect there is thieving going on in Washington? Naw, you know it is going on. Do you want to do some more research on the subject? Here’s where to look.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 10:42 AM
October 05, 2006
As The Tubes Turn

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Posted by Buck Batard at 11:04 PM
September 29, 2006
Things You Need To Know

Presumably, the following, one part of a series of Lectures in History to be held near the Army War College in Carlisle, PA, will be open to the public since the announcement was published in a hometown newspaper. I won’t speculate as to who might find it useful.

Dec. 6 — “Dealing with the Devil: Assertive Secretaries of Defense and How to Deal with Them” by Richard Kohn, the Omar Bradley Chair of Strategic Studies at the Army War College.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 06:11 PM
September 27, 2006
A Threat to Liberty

You’ll never see it on TV. You won’t hear about it on the radio. It won’t be in Time magazine, even if a half a million people are involved.

But dissent is alive and well in the English speaking world. Nonviolent war protesters are thanked in Great Britain. Senator Kohl in Wisconsin has a friendly exchange with war protesters. However, in Rick Santorum’s America, they are slapped with conspiracy charges. Monique Frugier and Bill Perry send pictures from an antiwar protest at Senator Santorum’s office in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is, as most Americans know, the birthplace of Liberty in America. Let’s hope that’s not where it dies.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 02:00 PM
The Question

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Posted by Buck Batard at 07:49 AM
September 18, 2006
The Great Big Bush Book Burn

From the Washington Post:

Naim al-Shatri, a bookseller on Baghdad’s Mutanabi Street since 1963, said the violence plaguing the city “means the death of education, the death of the history of the street, the death of the culture of Baghdad.”

Two Fridays ago, Shatri took action. He and other members of his writers union gathered in front of his shop. They sipped breakfast tea. Then, at around 9:30 a.m., they poured kerosene over a pile of books and set them aflame.

“I cried when I was burning the books,” Shatri said.

“It’s a message to the government,” said Nakshabandi, who also took part. “It’s an S.O.S. Help us. An important part of Baghdad is dying. And it is on its last breath.”


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Posted by Buck Batard at 11:04 AM
September 14, 2006
The Torturer and the Tortured

Being of unsound stomach, I tuned out TV’s Monday wallow in the guilty pleasures of 9/11 and only just now came across Matt Lauer’s disturbing interview of Bush, a president.

The president’s body language comes straight from the barroom. He stands too close — into Lauer’s space, almost in his face. Since Bush is on TV, he can’t engage in the usual shoving ritual of the perpetually adolescent male. His jabbing finger, never quite making contact, has to do the job for him. Lauer stands his ground but does not jab back. It would cost him his job, as both men well know.

Lauer can use his words, though. And so he brings up the matter of waterboarding, a form of torture which Bush uses on suspected terrorists. But Bush, as both men also well know, can’t admit to that on TV. So the president, of course, lies. But then — twice, in the same prepared words — he goes on to tell us why he does the thing he doesn’t do:

I’m not going to talk about techniques that we use on people. One reason why is because we don’t want the enemy to adjust …

I’m not going to tell you specifically what’s done because I don’t want the enemy to adjust.”

Adjust? How can the enemy adjust? Grow gills?

Since the torturer won’t tell us specifically what he has done, let’s turn to somebody to whom it was done half a century ago. This is from a 1958 book in my library called The Question. (I find that it has just been reissued by the University of Nebraska Press.) The author, a French newspaper editor in Algeria named Henri Alleg, resisted a month of hideous torture at the hands of his own country’s paratroopers:

A few moments later L— came into the room. Twenty-five years old, short, sunburnt, pomaded hair, small forehead. He came up to me, smiling, and said, “Ah! So you’re the customer? Come with me” …

L— now laid on the ground a black plank, sweating with humidity, polluted and sticky with vomit left, no doubt, by previous “customers.”

I lay down on the plank. L—, with the help of another man, attached me by the wrists and ankles with leather straps fixed to the wood …

Together they picked up he plank to which I was attached and carried me into the kitchen. One there, they rested the top of the plank, where my head was, against the sink. L— fixed a rubber tube to the metal tap which shone just above my face. He wrapped my head in a rag, while Captain D— said: “Put a wedge in his mouth.”

With the rag already over my face, L— held my nose. He tried to jam a piece of wood between my lips in such a way that I could not close my mouth or spit out the tube. When everything was ready, he said to me: “When you want to talk, all you have to do is move your fingers.”

And he turned on the tap. The rag was soaked rapidly. Water flowed everywhere: in my mouth, in my nose, all over my face. But for a while I could still breathe in some small gulps of air. I tried, by contracting my throat, to take in as little water as possible and to resist suffocation by keeping air in my lungs for as long as I could.

But I couldn’t hold on for more than a few moments. I had the impression of drowning, and a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me. In spite of myself, the fingers of both my hands shook uncontrollably,

”That’s it! He’s going to talk,” said a voice.

The water stopped running and they took away the rag. I was able to breathe. In the gloom, I saw the lieutenants and the captain, who, with a cigarette between his lips, was hitting my stomach with his fist to make me throw out the water I had swallowed. Befuddled by the air I was breathing, I hardly felt the blows.

”Well, then?” I remained silent. “He’s playing games with us. Put his head under again!”

This time I clenched my fists, forcing the nails into my palm. I had decided I was not going to move my fingers again. It was better to die of asphyxia right away. I feared to undergo again that terrible moment when I had felt myself losing consciousness, while at the same time I was fighting with all my might not to die.

I did not move my hands, but three times I again experienced this insupportable agony. In extremis, they let me get my breath back while I threw up the water.

The last time, I lost consciousness.

M. Alleg, shown below in a 2004 photo, never broke under the torture and was sent away to ten years in prison, from which he escaped and fled to Czechoslovakia.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:25 PM
September 13, 2006
There’s a Reason He’s Called “43”

You can call me an unpatriotic Al Qaeda type, you can call me a freedom-hater, heck, ya can even call me an appeasement lover! But don’t call me someone who doesn’t think this is hilarious:

We in the media are sometimes accused of letting liberal bias subtly slip into our writing and reporting. That accusation is calumny. We are dispassionate observers and seekers of truth. All we do is ask questions.

Today’s question: Is George W. Bush the worst president in American history?

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 12:08 AM
September 11, 2006
The Dark at the End of the Tunnel

The utility of 9/11, to Bush and his neocon nutsos, was that it could be used to fool an ignorant, frightened public into backing the invasion of Iraq. Let’s see how that’s going, on this anniversary day:

The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country’s western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents.

And Anwar province isn’t exactly Rhode Island or Delaware, either. It’s about a third of the country, stretching westward from Baghdad. So read the rest of this Washington Post story. And weep for the Republic.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:18 PM
September 10, 2006
Lest We Forget


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Candidate George W. Bush, November 3, 2000: “That’s what a leader does. A leader sets priorities.” Five years ago today, in a Sarasota classroom, Bush set his priorities for us all to see.
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:38 PM
Joe Ain’t Gonna Say it Ain’t So

A while back yours truly predicted, based on information gleaned from one of the head fixers, that the fix was already in on gas prices before the next election. Never bet against the fixers. Predictably, “market forces” are coming into play, just in time for the ball game. If the electorate is as game as before, you can bet this little trick will throw a few races:

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The recent drop in prices at the pump could pick up steam, driving gasoline sharply lower in coming months.

“I’d say $2 to $2.50,” said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service. “Once you get past Sept. 15, it’s really a downhill game.”

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Posted by Buck Batard at 09:31 PM
September 05, 2006
Pea Brains From the Same Pod

TEHRAN, Iran (AP)— Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Tuesday for a purge of liberal and secular teachers from the country’s universities...

PHOENIX (AP) — Conservative state lawmakers are targeting what they see as left-leaning university professors, pushing a series of bills in recent and upcoming sessions designed to ensure that students are not unduly influenced by professors' beliefs.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 10:21 AM
September 04, 2006
Speaking of Invidious Comparisons…

Donald Rumsfeld is onto something when he suggests that opponents of Bush’s occupation of Iraq are at best appeasers like Chamberlain and at worst Vichy collaborators like Marshal Pétain. World War II parallels to Georgie’s Excellent Adventure actually do exist, although not where our Secretary of “Defense” finds them. They’re in Casablanca.

Doesn’t the Nazi, Major Strasser, remind you of Rummy himself? And of course to most of the world (all of the Arab world), Feldmarschall Rumsfeld’s Iraqi “terrorists” look strikingly like that heroic resistance fighter, Victor Laszlo.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:38 PM
September 01, 2006
And Indian Chiefs

Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter with Kansas has been writing guest editorials in the New York Times, ironically, only available only to “Select” online readers. A short selection follows (sorry, no free link available):

... [T]ake the “inevitability” of recent economic changes, a word that the centrist liberals of the Washington school like to pair with “globalization.” We are told to regard the “free-trade” deals that have hammered the working class almost as acts of nature. As the economist Dean Baker points out, however, we could just as easily have crafted “free-trade” agreements that protected manufacturing while exposing professions like law, journalism and even medicine to ruinous foreign competition, losing nothing in quality but saving consumers far more than Nafta did.

[Update: Dean Baker, mentioned by Frank above, has made his book The Conservative Nanny State available for free! Point your browser here to read it in pdf or here to read it in html format.]

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Posted by Buck Batard at 05:31 PM
August 16, 2006
The Worst Is Yet to Come

Even if Bush didn’t secretly egg Israel into this new war, he publicly supported it by delaying a ceasefire and replenishing the bombs as fast as the Israelis could drop them. Read all of Robert Fisk’s report in The Independent, from which this excerpt comes. And thanks to Gordon Coale for the link.

From this morning, Hizbollah’s operations will be directed solely against the invasion force. And the Israelis cannot afford to lose 40 men a day. Unable to shoot down the Israeli F-16 aircraft that have laid waste to much of Lebanon, the Hizbollah have, for years, prayed and longed and waited for the moment when they could attack the Israeli army on the ground.

Now they are set to put their long-planned campaign into operation. Thousands of their members remain alive and armed in the ruined hill villages of southern Lebanon for just this moment and, only hours after their leader, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, warned Israel on Saturday that his men were waiting for them on the banks of the Litani river, the Hizbollah sprang their trap, killing more than 20 Israeli soldiers in less than three hours.

Israel itself, according to reports from Washington and New York, had long planned its current campaign against Lebanon — provoked by Hizbollah’s crossing of the Israeli frontier, its killing of three soldiers and seizure of two others on 12 July — but the Israelis appear to have taken no account of the guerrilla army’s most obvious operational plan: that if they could endure days of air attacks, they would eventually force Israel’s army to re-enter Lebanon on the ground and fight them on equal terms.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:33 AM
July 17, 2006
What Goes Around…

Today’s New York Times gives us a glimpse of the future in Iraq, which looks very much like the past. American troops seem likely wind up as janissaries in the service of some new Sunni Saddam.

And this regime nonchange will have been brought to you at a cost upwards of a trillion dollars by our very own Axis of Stupidity: neocon meddlers, American Likudniks and fundamentalist endtimers.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 16 — As sectarian violence soars, many Sunni Arab political and religious leaders once staunchly opposed to the American presence here are now saying they need American troops to protect them from the rampages of Shiite militias and Shiite-run government forces …

The Sunni Arab leaders say they have no newfound love for the Americans. Many say they still sympathize with the insurgency and despise the Bush administration and the fact that the invasion has helped strengthen the power of neighboring Iran, which backs the ruling Shiite parties.

But the Sunni leaders have dropped demands for a quick withdrawal of American troops. Many now ask for little more than a timetable. A few Sunni leaders even say they want more American soldiers on the ground to help contain the widening chaos.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:58 PM
July 07, 2006
In Our Name…

…ass plugs have been conceived of, staffed out, determined to be in accordance with international laws and treaties, approved with many a secret wink and nod by draft dodgers at the highest level of government, and duly inserted:

After being held for a week in a prison in the mountains of Malawi, Mr. Saidi said, a group of people arrived in a sport utility vehicle: a gray-haired Caucasian woman and five men dressed in black wearing black masks revealing only their eyes.

The Malawians blindfolded him, and his clothes were cut away, he said. He heard someone taking photographs. Then, he said, the blindfold was removed and the agents covered his eyes with cotton and tape, inserted a plug in his anus and put a disposable diaper on him before dressing him. He said they covered his ears, shackled his hands and feet and drove him to an airplane where they put him on the floor …

Men in black arrived, he said, and he remembers one shouting at him through an interpreter: “You are in a place that is out of the world. No one knows where you are, no one is going to defend you.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:56 PM
July 02, 2006
Abbie Hoffman Lives!

In the spirit of Independence Day and the spirit of Abbie Hoffman, and to try out some new software, we thought we might bring you (see below) part of a screenshot from a story that appeared on NPR about this time last year. Since Mrs. Batard and I live in a mostly Republican neighborhood, I decided this year to act like one on Independence Day. Therefore we will be lighting up our Republican Citronella “made to burn” flag candles that came straight from the shores of China. A tantalizing find from a bargain store that I bought for a buck each, complete with bamboo stake holders to place them in one’s yard. I would have bought more, but when I went back to stock up, the store was sold out. It appears that all these flag-waving Republicans enjoy burning faux American flags these days, witness the candles, so we decided to join in all the regalia and will be dutifully burning our flag candles this year on Independence Day. Anyone else found these in your neighborhood shops? If Abbie were around anymore, I wonder whether he would be enjoying the spectacle.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 04:48 PM
June 13, 2006
Busch Macht Frei

A sign on the front of the US prison in Guantanamo Bay reads “Honor Bound to Defend Freedom.”

A sign over the gate of the Fort Dix stockade, where war protesters were jailed during the Vietnam days: “Obedience to the law is freedom.”

A sign I saw in 1979 on the Grady County courthouse in Chickasha, Oklahoma: “The Safety of the State is the Highest Law.”

A sign I saw on a billboard in Franco's Spain in 1958: “Sin orden, no hay libertad.” (Without Order, There is No Liberty.)

A sign beside the gate at Auschwitz: “Arbeit Macht Frei.” (Work Makes You Free.)

And so it goes.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:45 PM
Family Feud

What’s the matter with Kansas? Republicans are at each others’ throats or else running as Democrats.

In 1994, when the GOP won both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years, a group of religious conservatives in Kansas ousted the moderates who ran the party. The intramural squabbling grew so great that four years later, the then-chair of the party unsuccessfully ran against the moderate Republican governor.

Today, websites for some county branches of the party instruct on how to identify RINOs — Republicans In Name Only — and keep them from gaining influence. Social conservatives have solidified their power over the party and are especially influential in low-turnout primaries and local elections. Increasing numbers of moderates like Parkinson are saying they’ve had enough.

Is the same thing happening in Pennsylvania? My newspaper (the one that asks for your zip) reported on Republican and Democratic annual reorganizations in a local county. The Democratic chair cheerfully passed the baton to the former vicechair “to keep that momentum going”: “Her challenge is going to be meeting the expectation the Democratic Party is very close to a breakthrough year in Dauphin County.”

By contrast, the Republicans, who “hold a large registration edge,” are having a dogfight. Lots of “we can't keep losing ground” versus “a handful of dissidents and malcontents that are trying to take over” talk. This is the state where Arlen Specter almost lost his primary fight to the Club for Growth candidate two years ago and where a State Senate seat that’s been Republican for at least a century turned Democratic in a special election last month.

Is this infighting and turmoil going on elsewhere, like where you live? Can I hope this is a good sign for future Novembers in even-numbered years?

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Posted by Joyful Alternative at 12:44 PM
May 29, 2006
How to Truly Honor Our Dead

In a single sentence New York Times columnist Bob Herbert (no free link) tells us how to scrape Georgie's Excellent Adventure off our national shoe:

Start sending the children of the well-to-do to Baghdad, and start raising taxes to pay off the many hundreds of billions that the war is costing, and watch how quickly this tragic fiasco is brought to an end.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:35 AM
May 26, 2006
Who Of Us Can Say “We Didn’t Know”?

I’ll confine this post to a few items recently reported in the mainstream media:

From MSNBC:

A Pentagon probe into the death of Iraqi civilians last November in the Iraqi city of Haditha will show that U.S. Marines “killed innocent civilians in cold blood,” a U.S. lawmaker said Wednesday.

From the beginning, Iraqis in the town of Haditha said U.S. Marines deliberately killed 15 unarmed Iraqi civilians, including seven women and three children.

One young Iraqi girl said the Marines killed six members of her family, including her parents. “The Americans came into the room where my father was praying,” she said, “and shot him.”

Jerome Doolittle and Joyful Alternative point out two horrible stories appearing in regional newspapers.

From The Hartford Courant:

A Courant investigation has uncovered extreme examples of failures by the U.S. military to properly screen, treat and evacuate mentally unfit troops.

From the Harrisburg Patriot News:

[Tonya] Conway … unsuccessfully argued to a military review board that she was unfit for duty.

“I have a contract to fulfill,” she said. “I have to go. Their final word is I have to report or I will become AWOL.”

Conway said she has not recovered from her first tour in Iraq, with the Army in 2003. The smell of bodies and the shock of incoming fire still haunt her. She believes she has symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

If soldiers mentally unfit for duties are knowingly sent into combat and thereafter commit the kind of atrocities that MSNBC tells us have happened already and likely will happen again, who is responsible? Who of us can say ’We didn’t know’? Tbogg asks “Now can we compare it to Vietnam’? I ask: Does anyone in Washington have any memory of what the world tried to accomplish at Nuremburg?

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Posted by Buck Batard at 07:09 PM
May 23, 2006
The Republican Party — The Party of “The Elite”

Leave it to the Republican Party to once and for all prove that they are the party of the elite, despite their rhetoric to the contrary. It has come to our attention that Representative Jake Knotts, Republican Senator from South Carolina, famously quoted on this blog previously as saying:

“The governor didn’t mean for the pigs to do what they done. If you pick up a pig and squeeze it, something’s going to come out. I’m sure the governor didn’t know that.”
wants to make it a requirement that all elected officeholders in South Carolina possess a four year college degree.

However, as mentioned in the Charleston, SC, Post and Courier,

“…experience has shown that completing an undergraduate education doesn’t necessarily translate into judgment and maturity, qualities that every candidate for constitutional office needs in abundance.”

No doubt truer words were never spoken. Let’s hope this doesn’t become a movement. Not that we don’t have enough educated fools already in office, State Senator Knotts and President Bush being two fine examples.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 03:49 PM
May 07, 2006
Fun at the Pump

I have my doubts about impeachment, on the theory that having Cheney as vice president is bad enough. But nevertheless, in that spirit of fair play which so categorizes Bad Attitudes, here’s a suggestion from the Impeach Bush Coalition:

These days, there is no better place to get your point across to the average American than while he/she is standing there at the gas pump. Aren’t we all muttering at the gas pump these days? So here is my (latest) call to arms.

Let’s reach the American gas consumer at the moment he/she is most open to our message, while he/she is pumping gas. How?

Guerrilla Advertising!!

A nicely placed “Impeach” sticker, right next to the “Dollars and Cents” dial on your local gas pump will do the trick.

It’s one word. Impeach. But sitting there on the Exxon gas pump, juxtaposed with the cost of fuel, it really says it all, doesn’t it?
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:47 AM
May 06, 2006
Surprise, Surprise

Hubert Humphrey used to say that the GOP’s (and Dubya’s) golden economic oldie — the trickle-down theory of economics — meant that if you fed the horses enough oats, eventually the sparrows would have something to eat too. In this case, a $20 bill:

The tax cut bill that Senate and House leaders have generally agreed upon is expected to save Americans at the center of the income distribution an average of $20 each, according to estimates by the Tax Policy Center, a nonprofit research organization in Washington.

The top tenth of 1 percent, whose average income is $5.3 million, would save an average of $82,415. Those in the top group would see their tax bill cut 4.8 percent, while Americans at the center of the income distribution — the middle fifth of taxpayers, who will earn an average of $36,000 this year — could expect a 0.4 percent reduction in their tax bill, or about $20.

Those who make less than $75,000 — which includes about 75 percent of all taxpayers — would save, at most, $110 each. Those making more than $1 million would save, on average, almost $42,000.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:16 AM
May 03, 2006
News from The Good War…

according to the New York Times:

Uruzgan, the province where President Hamid Karzai first rallied support against the Taliban in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, is now, four years later, in the thrall of the Islamic militants once more, and the provincial capital is increasingly surrounded by areas in Taliban control, local and American officials acknowledge. A recent report by a member of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan shown to The New York Times detailed similar fears.

The new governor, Maulavi Abdul Hakim Munib, 35, who took up his position just a month ago, controls only a “bubble” around Tirin Kot, an American military officer said. The rest of the province is so thick with insurgents that all the districts are colored amber or red to indicate that on military maps in the nearby American base. Uruzgan has always been troublesome, yet the map marks a deterioration since last year, when at least one central district had been colored green, the officer said.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:45 AM
April 28, 2006
After The Garden is Gone

Wanna hear some protest music? Some antiwar music? Some music that resounds with the meme “Bush is an incompetent crook”? Want it from someone who by all accounts was once a diehard Republican and supported Bush, but like all true believers who drink the Kool Aid eventually do, has finally come around?

Yes indeed, the times they are a changin’ and now you can hear in music the message that you’ve heard coming from the left blogosphere for years from the mouth of a True Believer who has rolled over.

Here.

In case you’re interested.

[Update: In case you’re not, Peter adds a great link in comments to Country Joe’s website (yes, that Country Joe-for your younger folks with tender ears who don’t remember, listen to the Woodstock album!). Thanks Peter. Peter’s link to Country Joe’s site is here.]

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Posted by Buck Batard at 03:56 PM
April 09, 2006
The Purloined Letter

While doing a general web search on Google, I ran across a document on the State Department website that seems to have “disappeared”, at least from the State Department Website.

Fortunately, Google’s cache made it available to me.

I have cut and pasted the whole thing below. Are there any Sherlock Holmes sleuths out there who can explain why this document disappeared from the State Department website? I suggest that it speaks to issues that are critically important right now. I saved the google cache of the document to my hard drive. I suggest others do the same. Perhaps there is a rational reason why this document is no longer at the website, but current events suggest to me that perhaps there are reasons other than a rational one.

Maintaining Government Integrity: The Perspective of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics

Amy Comstock, Director, U.S. Office of Government Ethics
Remarks to the Global Forum II Law Enforcement Workshop
The Hague, Netherlands
May 29, 2001

In the American experience, accountability of public officials is deeply ingrained within the Constitutional framework of the country. The political and civic culture of the United States is based on the notion that public officials should always perform their duties in the public interest. For example, the Constitution begins with the words “We the People.” These words signify that all Government authority, whether exercised by elected or appointed officials, is ultimately derived from, and accountable to, the American people. Given this conception of public service, misconduct on the part of public officials presents one of the greatest threats to citizen confidence in the Government.

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This truth is evident in the events and ramifications surrounding a variety of political scandals throughout U.S. history that at the time they occurred damaged public confidence in the integrity of the Federal Government. Many of these events have resulted in new legislation to deal with the perennial challenge of controlling misconduct and maintaining the public's trust. Certainly this is an appropriate response. If we are to create a democratic culture, if we are to avoid the cynical conclusion that public officials merely use their public offices for their own profit and advantage, if we are to ask people to have faith in Government and to believe that all will be treated fairly, we must have institutions and systems that ensure that public officials are held accountable and that Government operations are open to public scrutiny.

When we look at the executive branch of the U.S. Federal Government today, we find a highly developed ethics infrastructure. This infrastructure includes a variety of specialized agencies that carry out preventive, investigative, prosecutorial and oversight functions. These agencies implement a comprehensive framework of laws and administrative rules that are intended to preserve the integrity and impartiality of Government operations and decision making, and maintain public confidence in democratic governance. Much of the infrastructure that supports the current ethics program was created in the wake of the Watergate crisis of the 1970s. The Watergate crises vividly illustrated the dangers of when those in power become too self-absorbed and far removed from the people they are meant to serve. Perhaps more than any recent event, the perceived abuses of the Nixon administration threatened to put a wall of distrust and fear between the U.S. Government and its citizens. This threat spurred the Government to launch a series of ongoing initiatives to promote ethics and financial integrity in Government programs and operations and prevent the sort of abuse exposed during Watergate from occurring again.

As part of this reform effort, Congress also passed the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 which, among other things, established the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE). OGE is an independent agency responsible for exercising leadership in the executive branch to prevent conflicts of interest on the part of public officials and to resolve those conflicts of interest that do occur. In partnership with other executive branch agencies and departments, OGE's mission is to foster high ethical standards within the public service and to strengthen the public's confidence that the Government's business is conducted with impartiality and integrity.

While OGE plays a central role in the overall ethics program of the Federal Government, it is important to distinguish its role of preventing conflicts of interest in contrast to the responsibilities of the individual ethics offices within every executive branch agency and department. OGE is a policy-making body responsible for issuing and interpreting the rules which govern the standards of conduct and conflict of interest policies. In this capacity, OGE establishes the ethics program requirements which agency ethics offices are required to fulfill. In order to implement these requirements, agency ethics offices are responsible for carrying out the daily administration of the ethics program within each of the 125 agencies and departments that comprise the executive branch. Through cooperation with one another, OGE and agency ethics offices strive to protect the integrity of the Government and the Federal workforce by administering systems designed to identify and resolve conflicts, and to provide counseling and advice to those who educate public officials about the rules that govern their conduct.

Each arm of the integrity infrastructure — prevention, investigation and prosecution — in the Federal Government has its own contribution to make. Effective enforcement is absolutely necessary to maintain the credibility of ethics laws and regulations. However, in one sense a prosecution for public corruption is an admission of systemic failure. Large numbers of arrests and prosecutions do nothing to reinforce the public’s belief in the fairness and legitimacy of Government institutions. While enforcement is vital, it is largely reactive. Preventive measures, on the other hand, are proactive. Each has an important role with the overall integrity infrastructure, and when performed effectively they can even have the added benefit of reinforcing one another. Credible law enforcement actions have the potential to encourage further compliance to the policies and systems that have been established to prevent misconduct. Likewise, preventive measures raise awareness among public officials of the rules governing their conduct and help them avoid unintentional wrongdoing that might result in enforcement actions against them. The ethics program involves a series of preventive measures that are designed to help public officials avoid conflicts of interest that might jeopardize their own integrity and the integrity of Government as well. Preventing misconduct avoids the corrosive impact corruption has on public confidence and the cynicism and disillusionment which it inevitably brings. Preventive efforts allow governments to take proactive approaches to addressing conduct that has traditionally been punished only after the fact through law enforcement efforts. In this respect, preventive measures can form a supporting pillar of a holistic approach to controlling official misconduct that eases the burden of a strict reliance on law enforcement while also enhancing ongoing enforcement efforts.

There is an ongoing debate about the state of public confidence in the Federal Government and its institutions. Some public opinion polls reported in the media suggest that public confidence in the Federal Government has declined, while others indicate that even though the public trusts career civil servants, popular opinion of the U.S. Government is most often influenced by the conduct of elected officials and senior political appointees. Despite differing notions of where the public has targeted its discontent, there is more agreement as to its cause. For example, when referring to the Federal Government, most Americans do not distinguish between the executive and legislative branches, or within the executive branch between the political and career civil servants. Since most publicized &dquo;scandals” concern political appointees or Members of Congress, it is easy to see why the entire Government is often broad-brushed as corrupt. The criticism that is perhaps most often expressed with respect to the civil service is that it is too large, too powerful and should be more limited. This type of criticism is probably more prevalent than widespread concerns that the ethical standards of the average Federal employee have declined. In fact, annual summaries of ethical violations at the Federal level suggest that there are a relatively small number of such cases.

Nevertheless, certain highly publicized cases involving senior appointed or elected officials can have a severe effect on public confidence in Government. In the United States there is continual and intense scrutiny of Government officials and programs not only by the media but also by various public interest groups. Frequently, politicians and interest groups use this scrutiny as a forum for undermining and attacking a political opponent. Allegations of ethical violations, whether true or false, seriously damage personal reputations and erode public opinion. Related to this is the fact that criticism of the bureaucracy in Washington has been a feature of electoral politics for several decades. The cumulative effect of this rhetoric has been to generate an increasing degree of cynicism about Government and public servants. OGE exists in part to combat this cynicism and to foster a more positive image of the Government in the eyes of the public. However, OGE does not act alone in this effort. As a small agency with oversight authority over roughly 3.5 million public servants, including the military, OGE relies on the individual ethics offices within each agency and department of the executive branch to give life to the ethics program. Agency heads have ultimate responsibility for the quality of their agency's ethics program. Agency heads are required to appoint a Designated Agency Ethics Official (DAEO) to lead the ethics program.

It is vital that each DAEO has the full support of the agency leadership in order to run a successful program. The agency head has ultimate responsibility for creating the political commitment within their agency to maintain a strong ethics program. Agency leadership must sustain this political commitment by working closely with the DAEO and their staff when ethics issues arise, and by offering the DAEO a high level of access into agency processes. The decision by senior leadership to lend political will to the ethics program is the predicate for how agency employees will perceive and comply with program requirements. Employees will have less incentive to consider ethical conduct a priority if agency leadership fails to explicitly establish the connection between the agency's mission and the high ethical standards needed to achieve that mission. Therefore it is critical that DAEOs are appointed at a high level in order to provide the DAEO with necessary access to agency leadership and to communicate the importance of the ethics program throughout the agency. Moreover, the value of such a visible demonstration of political commitment in support of ethics programs is echoed in research on the role of ethics offices in private corporations and the success of their programs.

DAEOs and their staff are responsible for the daily administration of the ethics program. Under the supervisory attention of their DAEO, agency ethics officials interact with the employees within their agencies on a regular basis and are the most visible representatives of the ethics program. In this role, they provide ethics counseling and training to every public official, from the most junior level employee to the Cabinet secretary level. While OGE's leadership and policy-making authority is essential to managing this highly decentralized network of agency ethics offices, the success of the ethics program depends on the leadership that DAEOs exercise over the ethics program in their respective agencies.

Having a DAEO and an adequately staffed ethics office in every agency is critical because the DAEO is most likely to know the issues particular to their agency and how best to address ethics matters as they relate to agency initiatives with senior officials. For this reason, no matter how detailed a policy OGE issues, it is the DAEO who "breathes life" into the ethics program on a daily basis. Agency DAEOs are the primary intermediaries between the policies OGE issues and public officials. DAEOs accomplish this role by: coordinating policy implementation with OGE; reviewing financial disclosure reports; conducting ethics education and training; providing advice and counsel to employees on ethics matters; and monitoring administrative actions and sanctions related to ethics policies. In order to fully understand the interaction between OGE and agency ethics offices, it is useful to examine the broad scope of OGE's programmatic responsibilities. For example:

* OGE issues executive branch-wide regulations dealing with standards of conduct, financial disclosure, conflict of interest waivers, post employment restrictions, and ethics training;
* OGE provides guidance and interpretation to agencies, including providing informal advisory opinions and publishing annually versions of selected opinions (without personal identifying information);
* OGE oversees systems of both the public and confidential financial disclosure systems and plays a key role in reviewing the financial disclosure reports of Presidential nominees in the confirmation process;
* OGE provides leadership in ethics training to executive branch agencies; and
* OGE regularly reviews agency ethics programs to ensure that they maintain effectiveness.

As this list indicates, the relationship between OGE and agency ethics offices determines the successful implementation of the ethics program. Each side has to work with the other to ensure the program is accomplishing its objectives and is operating in the most effective manner possible. However, the final measure of the ethics program is whether it succeeds in strengthening the public's confidence in Government institutions and processes while at the same time giving appropriate and practical guidelines to employees. This is the ultimate challenge that OGE and agency ethics offices face.

The ability of the ethics program to foster public confidence centers on the impact of the code of conduct and the financial disclosure system at both the policy level and the implementation level within the agencies. The code and financial disclosure are intimately related. These program elements reinforce one another to promote the high level of transparency the public has a right to expect from the Government, and which public officials should expect of themselves. In conjunction with the written code to which employees must adhere, financial disclosure has the potential to engage the public in a proactive way that gives them insight, and ultimately a voice in their own Government. Each element plays a critical role in helping to communicate OGE's commitment to strengthening the public's trust in Government.

The current code of conduct, in effect since 1993, provides a uniform set of standards applying to all executive branch officials. The code communicates the values and standards that condition Government service to the public at large. These standards are based on important general principles, including the expectation that public officials should not use their public offices for their own personal gain; that they should avoid conflicts of interest; and that they should act impartially. The primary goal is not simply to achieve mere compliance with specific rules. Rather the goal is for public officials to have a clear understanding and a deep commitment to these principles and to abide by the rules as they fulfill the responsibilities of public office.

One of the central principles within the code of conduct is the notion that Government officials must be impartial in fulfilling their official duties and cannot allow their professional judgment to be influenced by their private interests. This principle is crucial to maintaining public confidence in Government. It is part of OGE's mission to provide information through financial disclosure in order to assure the public that Government officials meet the expectations embodied in the code and remain free of conflicts that would affect their impartiality. In many ways, this is the most important function of the public financial disclosure. It is specifically designed to translate the code into a system that opens a window into Government processes and creates a measure of accountability that might otherwise not exist.

Under the law, all senior officials, from the President and the Vice President, to political appointees and senior agency heads and managers, to general officers in the military, must publicly declare their assets, sources of income, and outside activities. Approximately 20,000 officials in the executive branch complete public disclosure reports every year. Officials covered by the statute must report their financial interests, as well as the interests of their spouse and dependent children. These interests include: stocks, bonds, mutual funds, pension interests, income-producing real estate, earned and other non-investment income, and honoraria. Officials must further disclose gifts, including food, lodging, and entertainment from non-Government sources. Finally, liabilities must be reported, as well as outside positions and future agreements or arrangements for employment.

Ethics officials are expected to thoroughly review the contents of each financial disclosure report before making them public. Through their review of a report, ethics officials are then able to identify potential conflicts before they occur and work out appropriate remedies. Once the reports are made public they are freely available to anyone upon request. The very openness of this system is ensured by the ease of access to the reports. OGE regularly receives requests for disclosure reports from the media, non-Government organizations, and other interested entities. The high frequency of these requests is a healthy sign of the interest that citizens take in probing the conduct and integrity of public officials.

One example of the public's interest in these forms is provided by the relatively recent experience of the Clinton administration. Before leaving office, and in keeping with financial disclosure requirements, President Clinton completed a termination financial disclosure report. When the report was made public, the media closely scrutinized its contents, and among other things drew particular attention to the fact the Clintons had accepted nearly $190,000 in gifts from various friends and political supporters. Using information provided on President Clinton's financial disclosure form, media reports created significant concern among the public and the political establishment over the value of the gifts and the circumstances under which they had been offered. The extent and value of the gifts they had accepted raised many questions of propriety. More significantly, the media raised questions about the connection between certain individuals who had offered significant gifts and controversial decisions made by the Clinton administration on the eve of its departure from office that favored those individuals. Under the pressure of public outcry over these issues, President Clinton ultimately returned nearly half of the gifts he had received.

This anecdote illustrates a very visible instance in which public financial disclosure provided the public with the information it needed to influence the political process in a fundamental way. Frequently observers focus on the role of OGE and agency ethics officials in eliminating conflicts of interest through disclosure. However, as the case of the gifts given to President Clinton demonstrates, solely focusing on this role of disclosure obscures its dual purpose to both identify potential conflicts that must be avoided, and also make transparent all other financial interests so they can be held under public scrutiny.

In the United States we have come to rely on this level of transparency as a crucial check and balance on the Government. Public scrutiny brings an added measure of confidence to our system of democratic governance and further reassures the American people that senior public officials uphold the highest standards of integrity. Moreover, public financial disclosure demonstrates the Government's commitment to keeping the citizenry informed and involved in the decision making process of their leaders. It sends a clear message that citizens have a role to play in ensuring the effective and honest functioning of Government. In addition to informing the public, financial disclosure provides ethics officials with a tool to counsel senior officials on possible conflicts of interest. The act of filing public financial disclosure reminds senior officials of the ethical standards they must meet and the high level of transparency and integrity that their position demands.

The results of a recent survey of executive branch employees confirms the positive impact of financial disclosure and ethics training on employee perceptions and awareness of the ethics program. The survey report, entitled Executive Branch Employee Ethics Survey 2000, provided a number of interesting findings. The study, designed to measure employee perceptions of the ethics program, indicated the importance of financial disclosure and regular ethics training in enhancing awareness of ethics program requirements. Officials who are required to file financial disclosure reports are also required to receive ethics training annually. According to survey results, these officials are more likely to be familiar with the rules of ethical conduct and to seek advice and counsel from ethics officials when ethics issues arise. Furthermore, survey respondents who attended regular training had a more positive perception of their agency's ethical cultural compared to employees who attended training less frequently. Of all available methods, employees indicated that in-person training led by an agency ethics official was most effective in raising program awareness.

In addition to underscoring the relationship between training and program awareness, survey respondents emphasized the role of strong supervisory and political leadership in the success of the ethics program. Respondents who indicated a high level of awareness of the ethics program also noted the importance of executive leadership in promoting ethical behavior on the part of agency employees. According to survey responses, supervisory attention to ethics and executive leadership were the two highest factors in facilitating intended ethics program outcomes. These results support the notion that leaders who strive to integrate ethical conduct within the mission of their agencies, and who demonstrate that commitment through their own conduct, are more likely to gain an equal commitment from agency employees. While the survey was designed only to measure employee perceptions, it provides useful data for assessing program effectiveness and targeting resources in order to improve program outcomes.

Survey results, and further corroboration through empirical evidence from the private sector, supports the notion that executive and supervisory leadership is perhaps the most important resource in developing ethical conduct within Government and in effect helping to earn the public's trust. As one private sector study on this issue summarized: Leadership was a key ethical culture factor -- one of the most important factors in the study. Where employees perceived that supervisors and executives regularly pay attention to ethics, take ethics seriously, and care about ethics and values as much as the bottom line, all of the outcomes were significantly more positive. Employees paint all leaders with the same broad ethical brush. When it comes to ethics, leaders are leaders, and the level (supervisory or executive) doesn't seem to matter much to employees.

The concept of leadership is embodied in the structural design of the ethics program in the executive branch. Leadership is diffused throughout the ethics program on account of the decentralized network of agency ethics offices and the oversight role OGE plays in this system. OGE exercises leadership through its role in coordinating the efforts of agency ethics offices, while agency DAEOs strive to exert their own leadership over their ethics programs. In this very practical way, leadership and ethics are intrinsic to one another. In order to be successful, the ethics program must be actively promoted through proactive leadership, while leaders themselves must demonstrate their own ethical conduct as the foundation of their moral authority to serve as leaders.

While the ethics program in the United States is designed to foster ethical conduct within Government, its ultimate goal is to maintain public confidence that Government is serving the interests, needs, and demands of all citizens. The structure of the program is only one model for achieving the challenging task of integrating accountability with democratic governance. It is designed to provide alternatives to relying strictly on law enforcement efforts to address wrongdoing by emphasizing prevention approaches that both complement and enhance law enforcement efforts. Over the years this structure has proven effective in accounting for the size, extent, and diversity of the executive branch, while implementing systems of prevention, such as a code of conduct and financial disclosure. These elements are only a piece, albeit an important one, of the larger mission to prevent conflicts of interest and provide the public with the access and information it needs to hold Government accountable to the highest standards of integrity and honesty. Ultimately we must reach for the standard Woodrow Wilson set in his classic work on democracy:

A sense of highest responsibility, a dignifying and elevating sense of being trusted, together with a consciousness of being in an official station so conspicuous that no faithful discharge of duty can go unacknowledged and unrewarded, and no breach of trust undiscovered and unpunished, — these are the influences, the only influences, which foster practical, energetic, and trustworthy statesmanship.

Posted by Buck Batard at 06:33 PM
April 08, 2006
Curtis Lemay Bush — Apocalypse Now

I read somewhere years ago that Vice Presidential Candidate General Curtis Lemay was quickly ushered off the stage when he mentioned using nuclear weapons in Vietnam. George Wallace, his running mate, was ruined by this revelation. Sane minds agreed that LeMay was nuts and Wallace’s campaign was ruined. More can be read about Lemay here and here. Cuckoo crazy nuts are not supposed to be allowed to be the President or Vice-President. At least that’s the way it has been since the nuclear age.

However, Revelation is an entirely different word in the twenty first century. Think Progress tells us, based on a Seymour Hersh article in The New Yorker:

The administration of President George W. Bush is planning a massive bombing campaign against Iran, including use of bunker-buster nuclear bombs to destroy a key Iranian suspected nuclear weapons facility, The New Yorker magazine has reported in its April 17 issue.

…The former intelligence officials depicts planning as “enormous,” ”hectic” and “operational,” Hersh writes.

In recent weeks, the president has quietly initiated a series of talks on plans for Iran with a few key senators and members of the House of Representatives, including at least one Democrat [My bet is it’s Lieberman], the report said.

Get ready for Armegeddon.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 02:16 PM
April 07, 2006
When Can We Leave Wonderland?

Let me get this straight. Releasing classified information is harmful to national security and, therefore, anyone who releases classified information, will be “taken care of” in the words of President Bush. However, if the President releases information that was previously classified, then, by definition, the release of that information is not dangerous to national security.

However, if the information was released under the guise that it is not dangerous to national security, then why was it classified in the first place? And why is it that the President releases or authorizes the release of information that just happens to support his position on issues like why we went to war in Iraq.

In short, formerly classified information is released when it supports the administration. Information not supporting the administration is kept classified and anyone who releases that information needs to be punished.

The policy seems to be that we classify everything and then we release those bits and pieces that are helpful to the administration politically. We punish those who hurt the administration and we promote those who help the administration, regardless of the true impact of any information they release on national security or, for that matter, on the personal security of our formerly secret, outed, intelligence agents.

Scott McClellan states that it is ok to declassify information in the public interest but not ok to disclose information that would help terrorists. Unfortunately, he confuses public interest with personal political interest. Apparently, it is not in the public’s interest to learn of those views within the administration that might not support its policies such as going to war in Iraq.

The bottom line here is that the President can do no wrong.

“L’etat, c’est moi.” — Louis XIV

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Posted by Tom Street at 12:30 PM
April 06, 2006
Gott Mit Uns

From an AP article today:

THE ISSUE: The ACLU won a federal court ruling last year that would prohibit the armed forces from supporting the National Boy Scout Jamboree held every four years at a military base in Virginia. The Defense Department appealed and oral arguments are Thursday at the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

THE BATTLE LINES: The Pentagon says organizing the jamboree, which hosts tens of thousands in a tent city, helps train soldiers. The ACLU says the Boy Scouts require members to pledge a “duty to God,” which excludes atheists and agnostics from participating in the jamboree.

WHAT'S AT STAKE: The jamboree attracts tens of thousands of scouts from all over the country and pumped an estimated $17 million into Virginia's economy last year. The lower court ruling would sever a relationship between the military and the Boy Scouts in place since the jamboree's inception in 1937.

Oh, the outrage! I can already hear it. Perhaps the ACLU has a little longer memory and a better understanding of history than the outraged mothers and fathers that are surely crying out all across America like wolves about how outrageous the ACLU is when it acts to protect us from our baser instincts. Perhaps the ACLU brings such lawsuits because the ACLU remembers this, or this, or maybe just the Hitler Youth Cross that is pictured below. How quickly the mob forgets.

Let us never forget!

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Posted by Buck Batard at 06:12 PM
March 29, 2006
A Peaceful Scene in Downtown Baghdad Istanbul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by Buck Batard at 05:03 PM
March 14, 2006
Up From The Grave He Arose
It was during this same span of time that “all of the various techniques used to repress labor were gradually developed and institutionalized by business and governmental elites … [notably] the use of private police, private arsenals and private detectives, the deputization of private police [and] the manipulation of governmental police agencies.” In this, the Pinkertons quickly assumed a status as an elite in their own right. …

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

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

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

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

From: The Washington Post, March 14, 2006

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Posted by Buck Batard at 08:39 AM
March 05, 2006
Old Media Dishes Out A Dose of Castor Oil

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

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

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

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Posted by Buck Batard at 08:05 AM
March 01, 2006
Another Video Indictment

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

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Posted by Buck Batard at 10:47 PM
Rewriting History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe this post counts. Maybe this article counts too.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 11:52 AM
February 22, 2006
The Man Behind the Curtain Port Controversy

I’ve been watching the MSM and it’s SO obvious what is going on. The 2006 elections are coming up. What better diversion than to allow all the Republican Congressmen and women to pretend that the United Arab Emirates port buyout is a major security issue? Does anyone remember that “port security” was a major theme of the Kerry campaign, and Democrats have used it as a rallying cry since then?

Blast the President and get elected. This is ***SO*** Karl Rove. Furthermore, the Abramoff scandal gets pushed to the background, Duke Cunningham is out of the picture, and more importantly, the NSA scandal gets pushed to the background. Forgotten. The Republicans have this scandal figured out. It’s so Rovian. The Man Behind the the Curtain is still pulling levers. The Republicans have pulled the rug on the port security issue from under the Democrats feet.

[Update: I’ve been surveying various “liberal blogs”. I find it hard to understand that none seem to have picked up on this canard. The news fills the airwaves. Is everybody blind? Call me crazy, but this one is so simple minded, that it’s hard to understand why my liberal friends can’t see through the bullshit.]

[I hate to keep piling on, but this news story furthers my theory, assuming you believe that the British Press is in cahoots with our goverment — which isn’t that hard to believe. (Talking Points Memo calls it a ”selective leak” Watch this story over the next several weeks. Selective leaking to the press is the hallmark of this administration.) See how it plays out, but keep this in the back of your mind if you don’t subscribe to my theory yet. Perhaps I’m wrong &mdash many have said so on liberal blogs. But one day we shall all see clearly.]

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Posted by Buck Batard at 06:37 PM
February 21, 2006
Remembering Nuremberg

Nikos at Znet brings us an interesting analogy:

In previous Commentaries I mentioned that: “Of course it rests with me to prove that the comparison of the US to the Nazis is not an exaggeration.” Recent events deferred the analysis of this statement. Finally, here it is:

Let us start at the top: “The Fuehrer told me then that the simplest thing to do would be to take as example the United States of America, where the head of the state is at the same time also the head of the government. Thus following the example of the United States, we combined the position of the head of the state with the head of the government, and he called himself Fuehrer of the German people and Reich Chancellor of the German Reich.” (Robert E. Conot, “Justice at Nuremberg”, Harper & Row, New York, 1983, p. 333)

The words in the above quote were uttered by Hermann Goering during his testimony, on March 13, 1946, before the Nuremberg Tribunal.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 11:13 PM
Wanna Get Paranoid?

No More Apples states:

This video actually turned a confirmed Republican friend into a Bush-antagonist.

(Warning — it’s about an hour and a half long. A high speed connection is probably necessary. And some folks might not find it to be “entertainment”.)

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Posted by Buck Batard at 12:46 PM
February 18, 2006
Woodward and Bernstein on Larry King Live

Did anyone watch Woodward & Bernstein in their interview on Larry King Live last night? I’ll post a link to the transcript, but Bernstein made some pretty startling statements for the MSM. His comments mirrored those of many of us on the left here in the blogosphere — and not the middle left, it was radical for the MSM; I’ve never heard anything like it on the MSM in quite some time. Woodward kept trying to backpedal, but Bernstein kept pushing and even Woodward was forced to agree with a great deal of Bernstein’s comments. Some memes: “they’re liars”, compared the state of the nation as almost an Orwellian 1984, and it kept getting better — he described the pitiful state of the nation much as I hear Chuck describing it. All in all, it was quite refreshing for the MSM. Don’t miss the transcript, or a rerun if they let it run again. Perhaps I shouldn’t feel this way, but I think that this might be a hopeful sign. There’s a lot more. I’d appreciate any comments from anyone who heard it, or who reads the transcript when it becomes available.

[Update: just after I posted this, I saw the transcript was available. Link here. I’ll post one short selection below, but go read the rest.]

BERNSTEIN: Larry just asked exactly the right question why not tell the truth? Why not tell the truth about WMD and the failure of intelligence? Look behind me again. This president has refused to give the record of his deliberations and of those aides of his as to how they responded to this hurricane to the Congress of the United States.

This is unheard of. Why not tell the truth? Why not tell the truth about how it is that this president authorized the use of torture in regulations promulgated by the now attorney general, then counsel to the president Mr. Gonzales?

Why not tell the truth about this spying program without warrants that George Will, the conservative columnist said yesterday represents a grab of presidential authority that might be as dangerous as terrorism itself.

We have got a real problem of truth and I would suggest that we are at a point. We now know, you know, John Dean wrote a book called “Worse than Watergate” about this president and when he wrote it I thought it was just hyperbole. Now, we are at a point where we were after the reporting Bob and I did in Watergate, after Judge Sirica entered the Watergate situation and brought to the light some more facts. We are at a similar point in this presidency where we were with the Irvin investigation…

[update 2: A commenter in a link to this one on another blog, Crooks and Liars (thanks Mike), indicated that the show will rerun tonight on CNN. Don’t miss it. Bernstein is one pissed off fellow in that show, like so many of us, and he doesn’t hide his contempt and scorn. I’ve practically sworn off the MSM, but this one I’m going to watch for a second time...and some of you might want to spot check the current transcript for errors-I’ll do the same.]

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Posted by Buck Batard at 07:23 AM
February 17, 2006
Asking the Right Questions

Spiiderweb asks the question:

Sometimes I feel so lonely. Am I the only one bothered because condi is asking for $75 million for Iraq and some of it will be used to help Iraqi students study abroad? At the same time shrub is cutting student loans to American students?

OK, I’m lazy. Find the links to these facts for yourself. Sorry. I’ll try to do better.

I’ll have to admit, I can’t seem to find anything definitive, but she did say something about funding for education for Iraq here. However, I’m willing to bet two bits and a beer that the School of the Americas or as it is now known, Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, or something like it, is the intended recipient of the students and of the aid.

[update: Spiiderweb has the links and more discussion. Go to his blog to get the complete story — and see the comments for more discussion.]

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Posted by Buck Batard at 03:09 PM
February 13, 2006
The Mean People Are Back
The CIA’s top counter-terrorism official was fired last week because he opposed detaining Al-Qaeda suspects in secret prisons abroad, sending them to other countries for interrogation and using forms of torture such as “water boarding”, intelligence sources have claimed.

Robert Grenier, head of the CIA counter-terrorism centre, was relieved of his post after a year in the job. One intelligence official said he was “not quite as aggressive as he might have been” in pursuing Al-Qaeda leaders and networks.

Way back when I was in the sixth and seventh grades, I had a teacher named Roberta White who, as far as I was concerned, was the epitome of everything evil in the world. The woman was mad as hell at the world, but she had a target. That target was the Soviet Union. She railed and rallied against the evil communists; we heard it every day in class and she spared us none of the propaganda she read in the Reader’s Digest and the John Birch Society newletter. Perhaps some of it was true.

But that wasn’t her point. She was really pissed off at something else. They had put, by way of the Freedom of Choice Program, as she described them, “Nigras” in her classroom. (“Nigra” was her intentionally impolite way to say the real word while disguising as a “proper pronuciation”) Not only that, to try to head off full scale integration in the town of 60% “Nigras”, the powers that be in the town had given the just-built brand new school to the black children, which meant she had to teach in the unair-conditioned, broken down, elementary schoolhouse. They kept her in the "lower school” rather than send her to the fancy air conditioned high school, where all the “upper class” white women were allowed to teach. Which really wasn’t so bad for kids; old folks don’t handle the heat so well. I could handle the heat, it was the teacher I couldn’t stand.

Roberta did give us one thing, though, and that was lots of homework. I mean hordes of homework. So much homework it was practically impossible to get done, especially for a kid with a paper route after school. Many of my friends’ parents wrote letters complaining about the homework; it was that bad. However, she wasn’t about to budge. She knew how to strike back at the crowd in power, and that was through their kids.

So there I was, but how was I to protest without getting myself in trouble with my parents? Well, she did give us an opportunity, and no one knew about it but me and the old bitch herself. We were given assignments to write sentences with certain words. Aha! There was my chance. I turned my full attention to writing sentences that not only were grammatically correct, but blasted the old bitch’s railings against communism and even the old bitch herself. Yes indeed, I even got good grades, but she hated me for it, so eventually I was consigned to the back of the black row. There was one row in the class in which all the black children were required to sit. She caught me talking in class and sent me there for the rest of the year. What joy. The large Afros of the late 60s and 70s kept me hidden back there. I could finally get all my homework done. Mrs. White had finally “put me in my place” — the back of the black row — and I was glad to be there. I even made some lasting friendships on that row.

Now, to get to the point. Old Uncle Joe Stalin used to send off folks who didn’t agree with his policies, or write properly, to the concentration camps. And a CIA chief was just let go because he didn’t approve of the government’s policies. How are these two stories connected? Beats me, but the story reminded me of the old bitch, so now you have it.

Oh yeah, and one more thing I almost forgot. Richard Nixon was the President back then.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 06:01 AM
February 04, 2006
One Goose Step Closer

From today’s New York Times:

The Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a contract worth up to $385 million for building temporary immigration detention centers to Kellogg Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary that has been criticized for overcharging the Pentagon for its work in Iraq.

KBR would build the centers for the Homeland Security Department for an unexpected influx of immigrants, to house people in the event of a natural disaster or for new programs that require additional detention space.....

From an article in Wikipedia:

A concentration camp is a large detention center created for political opponents, enemy aliens, specific ethnic or religious groups, civilians of a critical war-zone, or other groups of people, often during a war. The term refers to situations where the internees are persons selected for their conformance to broad criteria without judicial process, rather than having been judged as individuals.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 11:35 AM
February 03, 2006
Cartoon Chiefs

The Joint Chiefs are shocked! Horrified! Disgusted! They say Tom Toles’s cartoon in The Washington Post dishonors the troops. Perhaps The Washington Post should quit with cartoons and publish pictures instead of cartoons. The truth can be hard to handle, especially by the responsible parties. Get with it, Washington Post. Quit with cartoons and give the Chiefs the real thing.

Photo via and via.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 08:21 AM
January 31, 2006
Hot on the Trail of Mata Hari

Knowing that the government is monitoring peace activists all over the country gives one pause as to what they’re trying to “protect” — certainly not free speech or national security. However, a group in Cleveland, Ohio seems to have come up with a nifty idea intended to turn the tables on the watchers. Link here (you’ll have to make up an age and zip code to read all of it). I hope this idea catches on. If so, go out and buy a trench coat, black sunshades, and get a group together and join in on the fun. Go ahead, let your body be used for lewd purposes, like fake spying. After all, if they fuss about the get up, you can just quote Mata Hari: “Harlot, yes. But traitor? Never!”

The watched became the watchers Monday.

Trench coats and shades. The surreptitious passing of a mysterious black briefcase. Cameras and binoculars focusing on — none of your business.

Someone singing the refrain to “Secret Agent Man.”

It was guerrilla theater staged outside the Celebrezze Federal Building about 7:30 a.m. by the Northeast Ohio Anti-War Coalition (NOAC).

Some two dozen members of NOAC and other groups affiliated with the coalition dressed in exaggerated spy gear to protest government surveillance of a NOAC meeting in Cleveland last November, and similar monitoring of other peace groups, including the Quakers.

Hence, “Operation Turn the Tables,” as one sign read near the man wearing a CIA — “Citizens Intelligence Agency” — jacket.

“Google This!” another sign dared.

NOAC member Sarah Morton said the demonstration was intended to plant a covert tongue in a very serious cheek — matching a perceived government gaffe with an equally ludicrous gesture. To “make people think about the ridiculousness of this federal action,” as Morton said.

The “spies” were bracketed by Homeland Security cars parked behind them, and security keeping a watchful eye in front of them from the building on East Ninth Street and Lakeside Avenue.

Peering back at them through comically fake glasses, under a wide-brimmed fedora matching her tan trench coat, Penny “Peacenik” (her term) Allen, of Cleveland Heights, said of the recent government surveillance, “I can’t imagine why they feel we’re threatening enough to spy on us.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 02:13 PM
January 25, 2006
Circa 1942 vs. Circa 2004

HOW THE WORLD SAW GERMANY — POSTER CIRCA 1942

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HOW THE WORLD SAW THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA — ACTUAL PHOTO CIRCA 2004

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Posted by Buck Batard at 02:24 PM
It’s Just a Practice Run, Folks

Via Reuters:

Web search leader Google Inc. said on Tuesday it was introducing a new service for China that seeks to avoid a confrontation with the government by restricting access to services to which users contribute such as e-mail, chat rooms and blogs.

The new Chinese service at http://www.google.cn will offer a censored version of Google’s popular search system that could restrict access to thousands of terms and Web sites.

The move in China comes less than a week after Google resisted the U.S. Justice Department’s efforts to get information about commonly used sex search terms. That government demand was met by search rivals such as Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft, spokesmen for those companies said.

“China is the most repressive censorship regime on the Internet,” said John Palfrey, one of the principal investigators on a joint university research project on global Internet censorship known as the OpenNet Initiative.

[UPDATE: Don’t miss the NY Times article Peter pointed us to. Thoughtcrime has arrived!]

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Posted by Buck Batard at 06:31 AM
January 21, 2006
The Unsinkable Molly Ivins

Once again, Molly Ivins hits the nail on the head. A teaser is below, but go read the rest. I might also mention that she agrees with Chuck that Murtha is a hero. I still don’t like his militaristic history, but what can I say but that some people are smarter than I am? The Titanic wasn’t unsinkable and neither are they. But Molly keeps on plugging away at it — so should we.

I’d like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for president.

Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone. This is not a Dick Morris election. Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges.

The recent death of Gene McCarthy reminded me of a lesson I spent a long, long time unlearning, so now I have to re-learn it. It's about political courage and heroes, and when a country is desperate for leadership. There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times. There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 12:30 PM
January 18, 2006
Second-degree Murderers

From a New York Times story on developments in the case of a seven-year-old girl tortured and beaten to death earlier this month:

That pattern [of violent abuse] approached its climax on Jan. 10 as Nixzmary’s siblings were compelled to accuse her of eating yogurt without permission and breaking a computer printer, prosecutors said. As punishment, they said, the girl was stripped naked, beaten, dunked in cold water and thrown on the floor to lie untended for hours in a place the other children called “the dirty room…”

Prosecutors accused Mr. Rodriguez and Ms. Santiago of maintaining an improvised torture chamber of fetid mattresses, a soiled litter box and a wooden chair tied to a broken radiator. The biological children of Mr. Rodriguez, aged 6 and 18 months, were spared abuse, but as far back as last summer, Nixzmary and three siblings, 5, 6 and 9 years old, were tied to the chair, gagged with duct tape and beaten with rulers, blocks of wood and fists by both parents, prosecutors said.

Describing the night of Nixzmary’s death, Mr. Hynes said Ms. Santiago had suggested that the girl had taken the yogurt and broken the printer, encouraging Mr. Rodriguez to investigate. He screamed at the children, demanding to know if Nixzmary was responsible. They said yes. After he beat her, dunked her head under water and threw her on the floor in the so-called dirty room, Nixzmary moaned in pain, but Ms. Santiago did not check on her for “several hours,” Mr. Hynes said.

The top charge against both parents is second-degree murder, which has a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

I would be interested to hear from anyone who can puzzle out any functional, legal. ethical or moral difference between what Ms. Santiago and Mr. Rodriguez are charged with doing to one person and what Mssrs. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld have done to hundreds.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:25 PM
January 14, 2006
A Tale of Two Countries
The failure of the government to provide decent health care for much of the population has reinforced the idea of the United States as two separate nations: one insured and increasingly comfortable, the other uninsured and increasingly miserable.

Every year scores of millions of Americans, like the Smith family, face the clash between health and poverty, knowing that if they treat their illnesses they will lack the money needed for housing, education and, sometimes, food.

Even the corporate owned media is regularly filled with accounts of the desperate choices people are forced to make over health care, of seniors who must do without medicine to see whose serious disease will get paid for — families struggling to decide who will be treated because their family cannot afford to treat everyone.

“There’s basically no safety net at all for medical care in the state I live in,” said Willie Jones, a worker working for a company that provides no health insurance. “Our state has a lot of people with disease who are unable to get treatment, just staying at home in bed with barely enough to eat. They are shut in and can’t work, and their disease and poverty have taken away their dignity.”

That the United States finds itself in this situation today is as remarkable as the country’s economic takeoff, benefiting only many government employees, the largest corporations, and those who work for them, and, paradoxically, is inseparably related to it.

You might think I quoted the above from a story from an independent media outfit in the United States.

Actually, I cheated. Let me say it again. I CHEATED, but only a little. The story is essentially unchanged. Recognize it as the real thing? You should.

The story above is actually a portion of one that appeared today in the New York Times about health care in China. I changed a few names and a few minor details to come up with the story above. Yes indeed. The best of times and the worst of times. A tale of two countries.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 07:15 AM
January 03, 2006
And the Poor Get Poorer


Take a moment to read this whole depressing story from Alternet:

The Chicago Transit Authority is refusing an opportunity to alleviate commuting costs for hundreds of thousands in the Windy City’s low-income neighborhoods. Instead of accepting deeply discounted fuel from the Venezuela-owned Citgo Petroleum Corp., the city is instead raising fares to solve budget shortfalls …
Bush’s operatives may not even have had to lean on local officials in order to get them to grind the faces of the poorest Chicagoans. By now, politicians all over the land must have learned that the slightest deviation into decency will be punished swiftly and savagely by the White House.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:00 PM
December 17, 2005
Big Brother is Watching YOU!

Do you think you’re safe from the Homeland Security Goons because you aren’t Muslim? Think again. Reading can be dangerous these days.

A senior at UMass Dartmouth was visited by federal agents two months ago, after he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung’s tome on Communism called “The Little Red Book.” Two history professors at UMass Dartmouth, Brian Glyn Williams and Robert Pontbriand, said the student told them he requested the book through the UMass Dartmouth library’s interlibrary loan program. The student, who was completing a research paper on Communism for Professor Pontbriand’s class on fascism and totalitarianism, filled out a form for the request, leaving his name, address, phone number and Social Security number. He was later visited at his parents’ home in New Bedford by two agents of the Department of Homeland Security, the professors said. The professors said the student was told by the agents that the book is on a “watch list,” and that his background, which included significant time abroad, triggered them to investigate the student further.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 10:01 PM
Hail To the Chief

The next time some pro war politician talks about something that one of the troops had to say, it might be helpful to remind them of the sentiments of one of our military officers. Colonel Fectau, you are hereby awarded the Bad Attitude of the Month Award.

The Air Force Reserve plans to discharge a lieutenant colonel accused of causing thousands of dollars in damage by defacing cars with pro-Bush bumper stickers, officials said Friday.

Lt. Col. Alexis Fecteau, a pilot with 500 combat hours in the first Persian Gulf war and the Balkans, is charged with felony criminal mischief for allegedly using paint stripper to write “F--- Bush” in 18-inch-high letters on cars at Denver International Airport that had bumper stickers supporting President Bush and conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 09:01 PM