Monday, July 30, 2007

a question you never want to be asked about your country's chief justice official

This article about Alberto Gonzales, de facto Attorney-General, Torturer-Advocate in Chief, personal legal lackey to de facto President George W. Bush, essentially comes down to this question: Is he a moron, or is he a lying sack of shit?

I don't know which is worse, having a buffoon with less memory retention than a 98-year-old Alzheimer's patient on the deathbed head up the Department of Justice (and retaining the professed trust and support of the President, who's intellect also could be confused with that of a 98-year-old Alzheimer's patient on the deathbed), or having a competent person who is willing to repeatedly stoop to lies, misdirections, lies, innuendos, lies, lies, and lies in the mistaken belief (shared by Sara Taylor among others) that service to El Jefe I mean George W. Bush is more important than any obligation to the people or the Constitution of the United States. That pesky oath be damned.

Crook, or idiot? Oh heck, why choose? I vote for both.


genuinely good news from iraq

There are web sites that only report the good news from Iraq, convinced that such hot topics as the Iraqi Prime Minister visiting some province would be front page in the US if it weren't for the evil media conspiracy to repress the good news and instead report all that unpleasant stuff about bombs blowing up 50 people on any given day and Iraqi policemen being found beheaded - which everybody knows just isn't that important compared to US Army engineers fixing some water pump in Basrah.

But there genuinely IS some good news from Iraq today. Iraq's men's national soccer team beat Saudi Arabia 1-0 to win the Asian championship for the first time. No fluke either - Iraq had to beat the two pre-tournament favorites, Australia and Japan, to reach the final.

So it was good news. But even in the good news, there is bad news. Well, first it wasn't news FROM Iraq. The game was played in Indonesia, one of the hosts of the tournament. And the players, while all Iraqi, don't actually play their professional soccer in Iraq. It's just too damn dangerous. The Iraq goalkeeper (Noor Sabri) had a brother-in-law killed by a bomb just 4 days before the championship began. So most of them play in other leagues in the region, in particular in Saudi Arabia. Oh, and after one Iraq victory earlier in the tournament, 50 celebrating fans were killed by bombs. So the Iraqi regime and US military slapped curfews on after this game, keeping the death toll so far to four, killed ironically by celebratory gunfire.

Congratulations to the Iraq national soccer team. I hope some day you guys can play professional soccer in your home country safely.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

file under "ironic headline"

A Post article about how development could kick out a homeless advocacy group: "Agency for the Homeless Faces Homelessness".

Surely Alberto Gonzales has lied about this.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

perjury and doping

I'm shocked, shocked, by the recent revelations coming out of France concerning doping by competitors in the Tour de France. Now the guy leading the tour (Michael Rasmussen from Denmark, surely you knew that?) has been kicked out of the race by his team for lying about his whereabouts. I guess you need to keep track of where these guys are at all times or else they'll immediately reach for the testosterone, blood doping stuff, and human growth hormone.

Doping comes as naturally to these cyclists as lying comes to the de facto Bush Administration. As slippery and evasive as the Tour de France competitors are fast and powerful, most of the Bushies have avoided legal problems. But now Senate judiciary chairman Patrick Leahy is considering perjury charges against de facto Attorney General and all-around lover of tortured logic in favor of torture Alberto Gonzales. Why? Seems some public comments by AG have come to light that contradict what Gonzales told the Senate back in March 2004 about some hush-hush intelligence thingamajig.

For the Bush Administration, giving testimony on the record is like providing blood samples is for the Tour de France cyclists: a dangerous act that can expose their lies. That's part of the reason they are ordering even former Administration flunkies like Harriet Miers and Sarah Taylor to keep their traps shut.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"mr. attorney general, do you expect us to believe that?"

The Washington Post editorial page complains (correctly) that the recent decision by de facto President Bush on the Geneva Convention may result in "the return by the CIA to methods that most people, including most of the world's democracies, regard as improper and illegal under international law -- and to a new threat to Americans captured by hostile governments."

And yesterday another Bush Administration official, de facto Attorney General and Torturer-Advocate-General Alberto Gonzales inflicted his unique brand of torture on the Senate Judiciary Committee. His series of lies, evasions, misdirections, lies, lies, and lies clearly frustrated the Democrats and Republican Arlen Specter.

The subject this time was the sickbed assault on then Attorney-General John Ashcroft over an unnamed intelligence gathering operation, presumably concerning warrantless wiretaps. It isn't important to quote what Gonzales said in response to direct questions, because his answers were utterly void of content and full of contempt and deceit. A few of the responses HE provoked from the gathered Senators gives a sense of the session:

Patrick Leahy: "I don't trust you."

Sheldon Whitehouse: "You, sir, are in fact the problem." (Sheldon, you're wrong. Gonzales is a reflection of the problem. The problem is in the big house where BushCheneyRove live. Gonzales is not solely the problem.)

Jay Rockefeller: "He once again is making something up to protect himself." (Not quite, Jay - it is also to protect BushCheneyRove.)

Arlen Specter: "I do not find your testimony credible, candidly."

Chuck Schumer: "You just constantly change the story, seemingly to fit your needs to wiggle out of being caught."

A medley from Arlen Specter, courtesy of Dana Milbank: "The department is dysfunctional. . . . Every week a new issue arises. . . . That is just decimating, Mr. Attorney General. . . . The list goes on and on. . . . Is your department functioning? . . . What credibility is left for you? . . . Do you expect us to believe that? . . . Your credibility has been breached to the point of being actionable."

Dianne Feinstein: "Somethings's rotten in Denmark." Indeed. And like a fish, this Administration is rotting from the head.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

ohio's swing

EJ Dionne today rights about Ohio Democratic Governor Ted Strickland and Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, both elected in 2006. He also notes that, according to polls, 30% of Bush voters in 2004 voted for Strickland in 2006, and 20% for Brown.

Why? Some reasons include Iraq, scandals in Ohio (Coingate, Bob Ney), a tremendously unpopular Republican governor (Bob Taft).

But also remember that it is strictly conjecture to assume that Bush in fact won Ohio in 2004. Long lines in pro-Democratic precincts, mysterious terrorism threats that caused GOP election officials to lock themselves alone in buildings to count votes, glitches on voting machine that surprise, surprise, always worked in Bush's favor, a final result that was dramatically different than the exit polls that had ALWAYS been accurate before. Fact is, Bush almost certainly LOST Ohio in 2004. So the further swing to Democrats like Brown and Strickland was there in 2006 but at least some of it (5 percentage points, perhaps?) may reflect the fact that Karl Rove wasn't focused on stealing Ohio.


Sunday, July 22, 2007

working for the wrong people

Jay Garrity, the Mitt Romney staffer who impersonated police and security people in order to avoid paying tolls and get into facilities more easily, has resigned from Romney's presidential campaign.

He's working for the wrong people. He should be working for the de facto Bush Administration, where he could pretend to know what the hell he is doing.


Friday, July 20, 2007

"executive privilege trumps all"

Now the de facto Bush Monarchy I mean Administration has said that, law to the contrary, the US Attorney in Washington DC (and the Justice Department) will NOT be allowed to pursue Congress' "contempt charges against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege."

In other words, the President by a word can prevent the application of a law (an impulse also used in his signing statements). And the President, by uttering the magic incantation "executive privilege", can prevent Congress (a co-equal branch of the government) from using the courts (another co-equal branch of the government) from trying to get Administration officials to speak. This gives the White House - not just the de facto Bush White House, but the upcoming Clinton or Obama or Giuliana or Romney White House - a much greater ability to prevent people from investigating any wrong-doings.

George Mason professor Mark Rozell said this was "a breathtakingly broad view of the president's role in this system of separation of powers. What this statement is saying is the president's claim of executive privilege trumps all."

Yep. Even more breathtaking was what a former Reagan/Papa Bush legal official, David Rifkin, said about this decision (which he likes). He said "U.S. attorneys are emanations of a president's will."

"Emanations of a president's will?" That sounds like some sort of justification for rule by divine right or something. Does that mean every single person working in the executive branch, whether a US attorney or a Social Security clerk, is expected to blindly follow presidential will rather than exercising their expertise and understanding of law and regulation? If that's the case, heck who needs laws? We can just trust King George the Immature to tell us what's what.

Congressman Henry Waxman wondered if Bush's next step would be simply to abolish the Department of Justice. Wrong, Congressman. Why abolish it when you can convert it into a tool of your personal political will? Why abolish it when you can order it to pursue prosecutions for political reasons? Why abolish it when you can use it in your campaign to suppress the vote by minorities and the poor (aka, "Democratic voters")? Why abolish it when you can order it, and the US attorneys, not to look into wrongdoings by the White House by uttering that potent phrase, "executive privilege."

If we do maintain the rule of law and democracy in this country, with the people able to express their collective will with the expectation that the government might actually respect the results of elections, it will be in spite of the best efforts of the Cheney-Bush junta.

Ben Franklin said we had a republic, if we can keep it. I fear we may keep a republic. A banana republic.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

perfect qualifications for a bush appointee

Dr. James Holsinger is de facto President Bush's nominee to be the new Surgeon General. Senator Ted Kennedy has said about a paper Holsinger wrote in 1991 about gay men that it is "unscientific, biased, and incredibly poor scholarship." He said it also "cherry-picks and misuses data".

Cherry-picking and misusing data? Being unscientific and biased? Heck, why waste this guy on Surgeon General? Surely there is a senior job in the Pentagon for him? Or maybe even as Vice President?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

they're back...

A National Intelligence Estimate, just released, says that Al Qaeda "has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability" and has been able "to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks." How? By allowing the Al Qaeda name to be attached to one of the many groups in Iraq that are fighting the American occupation. And again remember, Iraq was NOT connected to 9/11. And Al Qaeda had NO presence in Iraq before the US deposed Saddam.

De facto President Bush Frances Fragos Townsend, who once said that Osama Bin Laden's capture was "a success that hasn't occurred yet", said we were harassing Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Iraq. Too bad we quit the job in Afghanistan before it was finished in order to undertake the absurd and self-defeating invasion of Iraq, simultaneously letting Bin Laden get away AND giving him his greatest recruiting tool to date.

So, nearly six years after 9/11, Bin Laden hasn't been gotten dead or alive and Al Qaeda is regathering strength. And in the process of allegedly making us safer, the Republicans have gotten thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed, have shredded our constitutional liberties, besmirched the image of the United States all around the world, approved torture as a formal policy, squandered hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq so far, and brought the US Army to the breaking point.

Bin Laden couldn't have imagined such success.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

more on bonds

Eugene Robinson writes that he just can't get hung up over Barry Bonds. He says he gets a bad rap because he's surly, and that although he does use steroids, so have others, and other heroes like Pete Rose have been tarnished.

True enough. But I still cannot applaud Bonds for breaking Hank Aaron's record, as he should do by the end of August. I'll give Bonds being a jerk. He's allowed to be. I don't care much about him hanging out with strippers and cheating on his wife. Lots of rich and famous men who spend months on the road do exactly the same thing.

But I don't feel like excusing the steroids. It is NOT a race thing, at least for me, although unfortunately surveys seem to indicate it is a factor. I don't want Mark McGuire to be in the Hall of Fame. I'd like to erase Bonds', McGuire's, and Sammy Sosa's 66+ home run seasons. And I firmly believe that Roger Clemens, one of the biggest assholes in baseball, is a long-time user of steroids too. Hell, I hate Clemens more than Bonds.

Again, the sad thing is that before Bonds started using steroids, he had already established himself as one of the very best hitters of all time. He was (is) a no-brainer Hall of Famer despite being a bit of a jerk. But I can't cheer for him when he passes Hank Aaron.


modesty comes too late

The Pentagon has been conducting war games to determine what may happen in Iraq if the US pulls out of there. They aren't quite sure. "Would the Iraqi government find its way, or would the country divide along sectarian lines? Would al-Qaeda take over? Would Iran? Would U.S. security improve or deteriorate? Does the answer depend on when, how and how many U.S. troops depart?" One anonymous officer (and an Iraq veteran) was quoted as saying "The water-cooler chat I hear most often . . . is that there is going to be an outbreak of violence when we leave that makes the [current] instability look like a church picnic."

One person, identified as "(a) senior administration official closely involved in Iraq policy imagines a vast internecine slaughter as Iraq descends into chaos."

Ouch. But then that same senior administration officials says he might be wrong. After all, "We've got to be very modest about our predictive capabilities."

Now where the hell was THAT attitude in late 2002/early 2003, when the de facto Bush Administration was predicting: a cakewalk; that our troops would be greeted as liberators; that they would find massive caches of WMD.

This modesty comes about 5 years too late to be any good. Now it is just used to say, "gosh it is possible it won't be totally f***ed there when we leave." Inspiring.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

bill kristol thinks he's backing a winner

Conservative pundit Bill Kristol today writes in the Post (in a column subheaded "On the Bright Side") "why Bush will be a winner." Let's analyze his thesis, shall we?|

First, Kristol starts off with a statement that I will agree with and that shows he has not completely lost his marbles. He says, "I suppose I'll merely expose myself to harmless ridicule if I make the following assertion: George W. Bush's presidency will probably be a successful one."

From here, things go downhill. How much of this is due to delusions, wishful thinking, or outright dishonesty depends on the reader.

First, Kristol starts by dismissing from the equation anything that isn't related to terrorism, the economy, Iraq, or the 2008 presidential elections. I'll get back to that.

On the economy, Kristol says that de facto President Bush's push for tax cuts for the rich (Kristol calls this "supply-side") are the reason for the strong economy. Never mind that the economy was even stronger under Clinton without those tax cuts, that the growth in jobs has been marked by greater growth in low-paying jobs, and that economic security for America's families (as in, how likely is a family to lose significant income, their house, etc, due to layoffs, etc) has diminished drastically even as the top 1% of Americans grow far richer far faster than the rest of us, under their handpicked chief. Kristol also gives Bush credit for reducing the budget deficit. That's fair, since Bush and the GOP Congress are also about 99% RESPONSIBLE for turning the Clintonian surpluses into the biggest deficits in US history.

Kristol also manages to praise Bush for the appointments of Robers and Alito to the Supreme Court (hey, I thought you were focusing on just 3 topics, Bill?). That is "successful" if you are a radical authoritarian conservative.

Kristol defines success in terrorism as not having suffered a second terrorist attack in the United States. Talk about a low bar. Gosh, just think how successful they could have been if they had actually paid attention to their counterterrorism experts and had even tried to stop the FIRST one they had on September 11, 2001.

But at least Bush remembers his pledge to get Osama Bin Laden "dead or alive." Oh, wait, we haven't actually DONE that. And the Administration recently said Al Qaeda is getting stronger again, and Homeland Insecurity Secretary Chertoff fears another attack in the US soon. If that's what Kristol calls successful, he must be very pleased by the New Orleans' Saints record of success over the past 40 years.

Kristol then turns to Iraq. He's right that the biggest reason for the poor public perception of Bush is over Iraq. Which is fair. After all, if you are going to lie and cheat and deceive us to start a war of choice (remember WMD?) you should at least WIN THE GOD-DAMN WAR (pardon the shouting). But where Kristol differs from most sentient human beings is in thinking we have a 50-50 chance of a "messy" victory there. And General Petraeus (whom Kristol compares to US Grant - talk about putting the pressure on!) is just the guy to snatch Bush's chestnuts out of the Iraqi fire, Kristol thinks.

And Kristol finishes by writing, after asserting that getting a sympathetic successor elected is necessary for Bush to be a success, that "What it comes down to is this: If Petraeus succeeds in Iraq, and a Republican wins in 2008, Bush will be viewed as a successful president. I like the odds."

Touching faith.

Meanwhile, what does Kristol leave out of the equation? Climate change for one, where eight years of Republican delay and obstruction will ultimately damage our economy far more than taking action would have - either because we will need to make drastic changes quicker to mitigate the effects of climate change, or because climate change will become worse than it needed to be and the effects of drought, flooding, and extinction will cost us (humans) dearly. 'Course, a Republican like Kristol would see this as a success since they largely deny climate change is caused by people.

This leaves out the shredding of the Constitution, a concern shared by many conservatives as well as moderates. It leaves out our vastly reduced moral standing in the world (Kristol celebrates the fact that our relations with Mexico and Brazil aren't as bad as he had feared, another damn with faint praise). It leaves out the compounding effect that incompetence has had, for example in the feeble response to Hurricane Katrina, making the damage from Bush's "screw the poor, support the rich and big business" that much greater.

Kristol may judge the Bush administration, aided and abetted by six years of Republican Congressional meek obeisance, as a success. A large majority of Americans will not agree.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

executive privilege, yet again

Another White House claim of executive privilege to justify its refusal to give information requested by Congress. The latest concerns the friendly-fire death of Corporal Pat Tillman (the former Arizona Cardinals star) in Afghanistan.

The de facto Administration has turned over 10,000 pages about this death - and about the initial cover-up. You'll recall, at first the Pentagon said Tillman was killed in a fight against the Taliban. It turned out that he was actually killed by fellow American troops, accidentally. That happens, and it's sad. But it's worse when the military lies about it - and even conducted an investigation of the incident and lied then, too.

And now the White House won't turn over documents that Congressmen Henry Waxman (D) and Tom Davis (R)believe "would show communications between senior administration officials and top military officers shortly after Tillman was killed in Afghanistan in 2004."

So what we will end up finding, after these things get leaked, is that Karl Rove, contacted by some senior Pentagon officer upon Tillman's death, agreed to or more likely suggested planting a false story to make it appear that Tillman didn't die in friendly fire.

Surprised? You shouldn't be by now. This Administration would lie and say today was Thursday and that grass is orange if they thought there was a shred of political gain in it.

Friday, July 13, 2007


I believe Congress has right on its side in initiating contempt charges against Harriet Miers for refusing to appear before the Senate on Thursday to discuss the Great US Attorney Massacre.

But I wonder what the outcome of a court case on this could be? Worst case scenario: it reaches the Supreme Court which backs the de facto Bush Administration and we end up with their absurdly far-reaching claims of executive privilege and immunity gaining judicial approval, strengthening the imperial presidency further.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

royal privilege

So on Wednesday former White House political director Sara Taylor deigned to testify before the Senate, but refused to take questions that basically had anything to do with the White House. And Harriet Miers lawyer told the Senate that she wouldn't testify, because she'd been ordered not to by the de facto Bush Administration.

Taylor's mis-statement (repeated until Senator Patrick Leahy finally got her to recant) that she swore an oath to Bush rather than the Constitution was no mistake; that's clearly how this crowd sees it. Loyalty to the Republican Party and to the Decider in Chief. The country, the constitution, us citizens be damned. "If they ain't with us, they're against us, right?"

Taylor's friend, another White House type, said "I just feel like it's incredibly unfair that she's being caught in what's really a struggle between Congress and the White House." True. But it is solely because of this White House's mania for complete control, extending even to former staffers, and utter secrecy, and its to-the-death defense of its royal prerogative. Excuse me, I mean "executive privilege."

As for ordering Miers not to testify - hey since when can the President give orders to a private citizen? Isn't this still a free country? I mean, if he had a legal leg to stand on maybe he could get a court to issue some sort of gag order on her. But this is pure crap.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

these are the republicans

I was struck how, just reading one day in the Washington Post, I could quickly find so many reasons that we should never give the Republican Party a vote ever again.

Today's tour of stupidity and dishonesty starts in Iraq. Republican members of Congress are pushing the de facto Bush Administration to do something, something, about Iraq. Is the is act of sober, patriotic legislators trying to make sure that our actions in Iraq are in the best interests of the United States? No. This is a panicked reaction to put distance between themselves and a President who is now less popular than Barry Bonds in the Hank Aaron house. This is a simple case of "every man (and woman) for himself." Remember the rubberstamp support the Republicans (and alas, many Democrats) gave the Bush neocon Conquest of the Middle East agenda back in 2002-2003. And they would STILL be supporting if if the Iraq adventure were going well.

Oh, and remember how back in 2003 the Republicans were telling us this war would pay for itself? Sorry, that too was a lie. The Congressional Research Service now has estimates that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are costing us $12 billion a MONTH, and is expected to top one TRILLION dollars. Even in Washington, a trillion is a big number. What a waste. All for a misbegotten adventure that, I'm sorry to say Mr. De Facto President, will NOT look any better in September when General Petraeus issues his report on the wonderful surge.

But no, this Administration's misadventures, supported by the Republican Congress, doesn't end in Iraq. The former Surgeon General for Bush from 2002 to 2006, Richard Carmona, has just "accused the Bush administration of muzzling him on sensitive public health issues, becoming the most prominent voice among several current and former federal science officials who have complained of political interference."

Too bad Carmona didn't come out with this earlier. Read Chris Mooney's book, "The Republican War on Science," to get more details. This isn't just the Bush Administration ignoring, obfuscating, and deceiving about science - it is a well-established Republican pattern ranging from tobacco to missile defense to climate change.

So, leaving the mess in foreign relations and science, we turn to domestic politics. We have seen before clear evidence that Attorney General and chief torture advocate Alberto Gonzales has lied about the Great US Attorney Massacre. Now we see that he has lied about something else, specifically his knowledge of FBI mistakes or abuses about intelligence-gathering tools, also known as spying on Americans in America. This just further underscores the Republicans' willingness to shred our Constitutional rights, allegedly to protect us from grossly exaggerated terrorist threats.

And speaking of shredding the Constitution, a former Bush aide Sara Taylor, asked to testify before Congress about the Great US Attorney Massacre, will talk but per White House instructions, not about "White House consideration, deliberations, or communications, whether internal or external, relating to the possible dismissal or appointment of United States Attorneys, including consideration of possible responses to congressional and media inquiries." The Bush-Cheney penchant for secrecy is unparalleled in American history; they make the Nixon Administration look like the very paragon of open government. No, the Executive Branch, nor whatever branch Cheney believes he is a part of, is not above the law and specifically is not above answering questions from Congress. But the Republicans, who funny enough seemed to believe differently when they were in control of Congress and Clinton was in the White House, seem ready to create a monarchy for the United States.

Oh, as for Senator Vitter's confession to using an escort service - I won't blame that on being a Republican, that's an issue between him and his wife. And the voters of Louisiana.

These are the Republicans of 2007. Don't expect them to be meaningfully different in 2008.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

how to kill a sea

The Post today runs an article about how part of the Aral Sea has returned. How? By closing it off from the other part of it. In other words, it really isn't back.

The murder of the Aral Sea, by Soviet inspired cotton irrigation in Central Asia, is a cautionary tale about how humanity's works can wreak wide-spread ecological disaster. Remember, over-irrigation is just one way we can ruin an inland sea or lake (and dramatically change the local weather and economy). Another way is by reducing rainfall - one of the expected effects of runaway climate change for many places in the world.

Climate change. The one thing we as a country and as a planet should have at the top of our to-fix list.


Monday, July 09, 2007

an unrealistic prescription

Occasionally it is useful to remind yourself that the de facto Bush Administration isn't the only thing with absurdly simplistic policy prescriptions for the Middle East and on the so-called war on terrorism. The head honcho of the Aspen Institute, Walter Isaacson, weighs in with his earnest ideas in the Washington Post today. So, how does Walter do?

First, he compares the risk from terrorism to that from the Soviet Union in the late 1940s. The USSR - a major industrialized state, with a dozen countries under its control, that had just won a major war, was armed to the teeth with huge conventional armies and was quickly catching up to the US on atomic weapons, who posed a serious threat to the survival of the United States and our allies. Terrorists - a disjointed hodgepodge of people who control parts of Afghanistan, who do kill a few people here and there for various reasons, and who do not pose a threat to the existence of the United States and our allies.

Not a promising start, Walter.

Walter goes on to make some suggestions for presidential candidates to explore. Among them:

"· A new defense pact, supplementing NATO and with the same armed potency, that would serve as a Middle East anti-terrorist alliance. It would be open to all nations allied in the struggle against radical Islamic extremism and terrorism, including moderate Arab countries such as Egypt and Jordan. Like NATO, it would train joint military forces capable of making war or keeping the peace."

Okay Walter. How about some details. Who'd join? If it has the same "armed potency" as NATO, that would imply you'd need a bunch of the actual NATO members. So what's the point? And NATO has a trigger, an armed attack on one being an attack on all. Same for this new entity? How do you define it? How do you actually make it work? Who gets to define who are radical Islamic extremists or terrorists? if Egypt for example said an opposition party were terrorists, do we all agree? A weak proposal.

"· A new type of Marshall Plan that would provide small-business loans to help create a stable middle class across the Middle East. At the Aspen Institute, we have been working at the behest of the Overseas Private Investment Corp. to launch such a program in the Palestinian territories, with the cooperation of Israeli and Palestinian business leaders."

So, how is that Palestinian program working? Oh yeah, real well. Also this makes the false supposition that a "stable middle class" will reduce terrorism. But the evidence clearly shows this is WRONG WRONG WRONG. The big one, Osama Bin Laden? Hell, he wasn't even middle class, he was rich. And most of the 19 terrorists that perpetrated the attacks of 9/11 were middle class Arabs. And what about the recent half-assed car bomb plots in Britain? Many of THOSE guys were doctors, for pete's sake. No, poverty is not the cause of anti-western terrorism in the Middle East, although it may create hostile attitudes towards the local government.

"· An organization for public diplomacy in the digital age. This is a field in which America, with its values and media savvy, should be triumphing, but instead it is failing astonishingly. The outmoded structures of the Broadcast Board of Governors, Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and the like -- built for an analog broadcast era -- should be swept away for a coherent agency empowered to create an honest and open information strategy built for the age of blogs, social networks, digital streaming and satellite. It should be led by people with the integrity of Edward R. Murrow (who was tapped by President John F. Kennedy to run the sorely missed U.S. Information Agency) and the creativity of the inventors of Google and MySpace."

Sure, public relations. But the problem is that a PR program won't work if you don't have something good to sell. It doesn't change the fundamental bases for the hostility towards the United States among many terrorists, namely our armed presence in the holy land of Islam, Saudi Arabia. Remember, Bin Laden's goals for Al Qaeda were basically to get the US out of Saudi Arabia. As long as we are supporting repressive Arab regimes - and nowadays, blundering around Iraq killing civilians and suporting a feeble puppet regime - our best public relations won't make much diference. The hell of it is, many Arabs are already well aware of the attractive elements of America - democracy (more or less), economic opportunity, and all that. It is our government's POLICIES that many of them hate. Not America per se.

Isaacson also calls for a Peace Corps like group of "doctors, engineers, teachers, administrators and municipal workers" to help countries with hospitals, schools, and all that. Maybe he's never heard of the US Agency for International Development, that used to do this sort of thing when it had a budget. That didn't help much, why would this? Naive. And good luck attracting a cadre of trained professionals like this who are willing to go live in some small Arab town or village. I'm sure lots of them are fluent in Arabic, intimately familiar with the social, economic, and political milieus of Arab countries and are anxious to live in places where they would stand out like sore targets, I mean thumbs.

He did say something about "A tough, sensible and nonideological energy policy that tackles the security problems that arise from being so dependent on foreign oil and the environmental problems caused by the emission of greenhouse gases. (Fortunately, these security and environmental needs coincide more than they conflict.)" That's OK. It should be the number 1 issue for candidates in 2008, period.

Isaacson closes with some vague call for a global mission statement. Ooh, mission statements -- that'll show them.

Surely your average college freshman could come up with something better than this. This isn't a "vision to match the threat". It doesn't even identify the threat correctly. I think the corporations that pimp I mean sponsor the Aspen Institute are wasting their money.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


The next time de facto President George Bush complains about how Congress has "drug out" the Great US Attorney Massacre, remember it is being "drug out" (in his elegant phrase) because of consistent stonewalling by the White House and the so-called Department of Justice. A fine example is today's report in the Post that the White House has supposedly decided to defy Congress again and refuse to supply more information related to the firing of the US attorneys. It seems the White House lawyers are ready to go to court on this because they think they can win. Legal experts don't necessarily share that assessment, though.

The White House has also directed former aides Harriet "Not on the Supreme Court" Miers and Sara Taylor not to respond to Congress's subpoenas. Taylor's lawyer has said (and I paraphrase) "oh boo hoo, li'l Sara shouldn't have to choose between responding to Congress and disappointing her dearly beloved President". To which I say, tough. Congress has the legal ability to compel people to testify. Too bad if you have to say something the White House won't like.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

that sound you are hearing ...

... is the sound of your constitutional rights being flushed away. A lawsuit against warrantless wiretaps has been dismissed by a federal appeals court. Why? Because the ACLU and others that brought the case don't have standing because they couldn't prove they had been placed under clandestine surveillance.

So according to this court's thinking, only if you can PROVE you're being spied on can you sue against the legality of this program. That is a very narrow, conservative, authoritarian attitude completely at odds with American democracy.

But feel free to sue if the domestic spooks spying on you are clumsy and ineffective enough that you can prove they're doing it.


Friday, July 06, 2007

no pardon for scooter's commutation

More commentary on de facto President Bush's cynical, self-serving commutation of Scooter Libby's 30-month prison term.

First, the de facto Administration has accused the Clintons of hypocrisy following Senator Clinton's denunciation of the commutation. Again, I don't want to defend President Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich and 139 others in the waning days of Bill's presidency. Such pardon-fests at the last minute are pretty common (and tawdry, no matter who does them), although Rich did NOT deserve one and the Clinton Administration didn't follow usual procedures. It was wrong.

However, it was fundamentally different than what Bush has done. Clinton didn't pardon an official of his administration convicted of crimes related to the governance of the country, and related to the outing for petty political revenge of an undercover CIA agent. Clinton's pardon recipients didn't participate in a campaign of deceit to build support for a war of choice. Libby (and others) did. And by doing a commutation rather than a pardon (coming in early January of 2009 I'd guess) Bush keeps Libby from having to testify before Congress, further strengthening the coverup.

EJ Dionne admits to feeling rage when the commutation was handed down - but no surprise. He also cited the steady retreat from the moral high ground by the Bush regime:
Notice the pattern: When the heat was on in the CIA leak case, Bush issued a strong pledge to fire anybody involved in leaking. He didn't. When Libby was indicted, Bush ducked comment until Libby was at prison's door. Now, by keeping Libby free, Bush can conveniently postpone a full pardon until after the 2008 election. In the meantime, Libby has no incentive to tell prosecutors anything new about what happened in this case. As liberal blogs have noted, since he was not pardoned outright, he can use the pending appeal of his conviction to avoid testifying before Congress.

Eugene Robinson also weighs in today, pointing out the much harsher treatment meted out to Martha Stewart and L'il Kim for much the same offense, obstructing justice. Except again, their cover-ups did not reach to crimes committed at the highest levels of government. Robinson says (half-jokingly) But we can't accept presidential rule-by-fiat as the norm. If we do, our way of life is threatened, and the terrorists have won.

He shouldn't apologize for the joke. This Administration continues to shred our constitution and our civil liberties with its willingness to break laws to spy on us, its willingness to lie to lead us into wars of choice (which they can't even win), its willingness to commit electoral fraud and to suppress the vote, and so much more. The terrorists haven't won because they haven't achieved their goals, in particular the departure of US forces from Saudi Arabia. But we're losing.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

an iraqi metaphor

Seems the construction on the new US embassy in Baghdad isn't going so well. For example, a kitchen to feed the embassy guards was finished way after schedule, and when they tried to cook in there electrical wires began to melt and they had to abandon the effort.

This is a nice little metaphor for the Republican adventure in Iraq. First, things aren't going to plan at all. And you wonder how KBR got the job -- bet it was a sweetheart, no-bid deal.


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

a cherry car?

Chrysler has signed a deal to import small cars made by the Chinese manufacturer Chery Automobile.

I'm sure they will meet the high safety and quality standards we have come to expect from Chinese toothpaste and petfood.

Think I'll stick with my Japanese and German and American cars.

the war crimes of george(s)

On this Fourth of July, Columbia history professor John Fabian Witt reminds us of one of the innovations from the Declaration of Independence -- the advancement that there should be laws that govern warfare. Thomas Jefferson's brilliant draft denounced the military of George III for piracy, for burning towns down, for taking hostages, and other unsavory acts. As Witt notes, that started an American tradition of codifying the laws of war, culminating in our leading role in the 20th century.

We weren't just being idealistic. We were conscious that laws of war would also protect American soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen.

It is these laws that de facto Attorney General Alberto Gonzales the Forgetful called "quaint." It is a sad thing that over 200 years after the founding fathers of our country denounced George III that George the Junior has shredded laws and traditions against torture and indefinite detention without trial.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

it's a free country, isn't it?

Well, maybe it isn't so free. The latest sign is mentioned in this from Marc Fisher's blog. Seems that a guy trying to take photos on the street in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland was stopped by the police. Why? The company (the Peterson Cos.) that developed the downtown strip retail stores said it was verboten.

Another example of the power of corporations to tell us what we can or can't do, similar to companies that ban their employees from smoking (tobacco, I mean, which is legal) while NOT on the job or in the place of work, or companies that question how their employees vote.

Monday, July 02, 2007

no prison for scooter, no justice

De facto President Bush has commuted Scooter Libby's prison sentence. He says it was too harsh. So much for a law and order Republican Party, whose members were pushing hard for a pardon for Libby. But wait, harsh prison sentences are just for the little people, you know those who have two convictions for smoking pot and one for shoplifting who get 20 years. Not for allegedly respected public "servants" whose only crime is LYING DURING A TRIAL. But wait, Bush said:

"our entire system of justice relies on people telling the truth. And if a person does not tell the truth, particularly if he serves in government and holds the public trust, he must be held accountable."

But Scooter has no prison term now. He does face a $250,000 fine but you know the same neocons who raised millions for his legal fees will quickly raise this small amount to pay off the fine. So he's just left with probation. That means Scooter can't carry a gun or hang out with other felons. Since nobody in the de facto Bush Administration has been convicted (yet) of any of their crimes, that really won't even keep Scooter from hanging with his peeps. This is now less a slap on the wrist than a gentle caress.

Bush said he "respected" the jury's decision, but clearly he did not. This is the worst pardon or commutation since Ford did Nixon. At least then Ford could make the argument that this would let the US get over Watergate. There is no similar excuse for this commutation. (And no, the absurd and indefensible Clinton pardon of Marc Rich isn't as bad because Rich hadn't been convicted of crimes in office, where higher standards should prevail. But it was still stupid and wrong.)

As for expressing compassion for Scooter's wife and kids, two thoughts. Republican-backed mandatory sentencing laws show no such compassion towards families of other convicted criminals, especially if they are not the big corporate criminals who are likely to vote and donate Republican. And second, no justice for the undercover agents the US employs, who often risk their lives.

No prison for Scooter, no justice. Bush's America.

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strange but true

Strange but true -- I actually agree with the de facto Bush Administration on something. I think the US should ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. This sucker was negotiated back in the 1970s, with significant US involvement. But the Senate, back during the Reagan Administration, refused to ratify it. Despite the paranoid rants of a couple of conservative professors, ratifying this is a good move, and a rare example of the de facto Bush Administration doing something multilateral.

I wonder what's up their collective sleeve?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

end of the term

The papers have all the analyses of the first full term of the Roberts-Alito Supreme Court. As Linda Greenhouse writes in the NY Times, "It was the Supreme Court that conservatives had long yearned for and that liberals feared." Anti-abortion laws upheld. Free speech rights curtailed. Local governments have their ability to better integrate schools restricted. Big businesses insulated from shareholder suits. A very conservative, authoritarian Supreme Court not shy about overturning long-established precedents on 5-4 votes. The very definition of "activist judges," except when de facto president Bush complains about activist judges, he really means "activist judges who don't support my consertive, all-power-to-the-President ideology."

The article by Edward Lazarus in the Post reminding us that historically, extremely conservative Supreme Courts have been more the rule than the exception doesn't make me any happier at the prospect of a long-term conservative swing coming up. Especially since the oldest justice, John Paul Stevens, is a member of the liberal wing of the court.

Would it be wrong of me to wish poor health on Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas, starting in February of 2009?