Saturday, August 04, 2007

Pot, Meet Kettle, Presidential Candidates Version

Via Atrios, Juan Cole chides Barack Obama for talking about using nukes in Pakistan, reversing his original position, and Hillary Clinton for saying that "all options should remain on the table" (would that Nancy Pelosi felt that way about Dubya and impeachment).

I am not pro-nuclear war, but actually, I think Clinton's phrasing is the way to go here. Since she is a grownup, unlike anyone in our current presidential "leadership," she would understand that that language is bland enough to virtually rule out the possibility of a pre-emptive strike with nukes on our part.

And I don't feel that Obama committed any particular kind of a faux pas with his reversal into not ruling anything out, staged Pakistani outrage aside (giving up bin Laden would put an end to it, bin Laden's "protected" status notwithstanding). Unlike Cole, I don't think Obama made a "serious error." If this ends up as an "issue" somehow, it will be because our corporate media made it so to reinforce some kind of "crazy Dems" narrative about Barack Hussein Obama (we mustn't forget his middle name, right, wingnuts?).

This, by the way, brings us to John McCain and Mitt Romney, who are now making hay at Obama's expense. How funny is that considering that Romney has stated that he wants to double the size of Guantanamo and McCain wants to "bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb-Iran" (here - "lighten up," huh? Let us know when that ol' "Straight Talk Express" gets rolling once more and your fundraising numbers head into positive territory again, OK John?).

I wonder if those genius utterances brought consternation to friend and foe alike? And gee, I wonder why Tom Casey in the State Department decided to keep his mouth shut when McCain and Romney uttered these words, but instead chose to sound off about Clinton and Obama (here)?

I will note, though, that both Casey and Juan Cole are absolutely right about Tom Tancredo, especially Cole. The man belongs in a rubber room.

You Blew It, Harry (Nancy Too)

This was a gut check, and boy, did you fail (and you'll "revisit" this, like funding for Iraq that you handed to Dubya without a timeline for troop withdrawal?).

I have a message for you, Harry; take a look at Question 4 of this poll. It asks those polled whether or not they approve of the job Congress is doing.

As of 7/21, 60 percent of those polled disapprove. And do you know why? It is because you and your fellow lapdog Democrats refuse to stand up to President Numbskull, that's why. And this latest example, though egregious by itself, is far from the only one.

Because you have no spine, Dubya (as Steve Benen said) will get everything he wants. Again.

The only thing worse than unrestrained Republican corruption, arrogance and old-boy favoritism is Democratic indecisiveness and cowardice. I am not quite done with you, but keep doing stuff like this and I will be.

Update 1: What a sorry lot among the Senate Dems who caved, including Casey (and Jim Webb??).

And by the way, House Dems, don't even imagine signing onto this stinking dead dog of a measure (I just contacted Patrick Murphy's office to communicate that message).

Prof. Marcus has more here.

Update 2: I'm absolutely going to puke (more here).

Update 3 8/5: I knew Patrick's name wouldn't be on this list, but he should be as ashamed of the 30 Blue Dog Democrats out of 41 total who caved for Bush as I am (and next time, I'm not going to lift my little finger to help either Chris Carney or Ciro Rodriguez).

Update 4 8/5: Uh huh...

Friday, August 03, 2007

Friday Videos

Happy Birthday to James Hetfield of Metallica ("Enter Sandman" - never a bad time to hear Metallica)...



...Happy belated Birthday to Stan Ridgway of Wall of Voodoo ("Mexican Radio")...



...Happy Birthday also to Leon Drucker (alias Lee Rocker) of The Stray Cats ("Rumble In Brighton" live - they were huge for a time)...



...guitarist Paul Reynolds of Flock of Seagulls hits number 45 tomorrow ("Space Age Love Song," with Hawkman from Marvel Comics on keyboards and lead vocals - not sure who the guy is who pops up at 2:43)...



...tomorrow also marks what would have been the 106th birthday of Louis Armstrong ("Basin Street Blues" recorded in 1959 - many thanks to 14nitetripper at YouTube for this one)...



...and a great big Happy Birthday wish for a joyous number 81 goes out to the one and only Tony Bennett ("I Left My Heart In San Francisco," with images of "the city by the bay").

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (8/3/07)

As reported in last Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer, here is how Philadelphia-area members of Congress were recorded on major roll-call votes last week.

Iraq bases ban. Members passed, 399-24, a bill to prohibit the United States from establishing permanent military bases in Iraq or exerting economic control of the Iraq oil industry.

A yes vote was to pass HR 2929.

All Philadelphia-area representatives voted in favor of the bill.
Part of me is shocked by the unanimity of the vote here, though, as you can see, the 24 votes against this bill all came from Republicans.

Farm bill. Members passed, 231-191, a bill that would extend the system of payments to growers of major crops, expand nutrition programs such as Food Stamps, fund fruit and vegetable programs, and promote conservation.

A yes vote was to pass the five-year farm program (HR 2419)

Voting yes: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Joe Sestak (D., Pa.), and Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.),

Voting no: Michael Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.) Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.) Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).
I noted a short time ago that the Repugs were prepared to sign on board with this bill, but when they found out it would be financed by closing the loophole that allows U.S.-based foreign companies to set up offshore operations to avoid our taxes, they decided to fight it en masse.

I just hope that every Repug who opposed this and whose districts include farms (such as Lancaster County, “Voting No” Joe Pitts?) has to face the music when his (in this case) constituents go to the polls next November.

Senate

Homeland security. Senators passed, 89-4, a $40.6 billion Department of Homeland Security budget for 2008.

A yes vote was to fund the agency (HR 2638).

All Philadelphia-area senators voted in favor of the bill.

Student-loan ethics. Senators passed, 95-0, a renewal of the Higher Education Act that would ban firms that lend to students from offering inducements such as trips to college officials.

A yes vote supported the bill (S 1642).

All Philadelphia-area senators voted in favor of the bill.
Oh, and by the way, speaking of student loans, I came across this story that originated in the New York Times yesterday which tells us that the Department of Education, after all of the goings-on with private lenders, still doesn’t have a means to detect and uncover misconduct by these entities and protect student borrowers; this probably accounts for the decisive vote.

OK, let’s all join in on this one – “Heckuva Job, Margie!”

Chertoff No "Top Banana" Here

(I know this is disturbing, even by my lax standards – sorry…).

Via McClatchy, I have an update to this post from March that told of how Jeffrey Taylor, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, filed charges against Chiquita Brands after the company admitted paying protection money to a Colombian paramilitary group that happened to be on our government’s terrorist organization watch list. The Department of Justice is now conducting a criminal probe into the matter.

As noted here (from yesterday - registration may be required)…

(Chiquita board member) Roderick M. Hills, who had sought the meeting with former law firm colleague Michael Chertoff, explained that … he knew that such payments were illegal, according to sources and court records, but said that he needed Chertoff's advice.

Chiquita, Hills said, would have to pull out of the country if it could not continue to pay the violent right-wing group to secure its Colombian banana plantations. Chertoff, then assistant attorney general and now secretary of homeland security, affirmed that the payments were illegal but said to wait for more feedback, according to five sources familiar with the meeting.

Justice officials have acknowledged in court papers that an official at the meeting said they understood Chiquita's situation was "complicated," and three of the sources identified that official as Chertoff. They said he promised to get back to the company after conferring with national security advisers and the State Department about the larger ramifications for U.S. interests if the corporate giant pulled out overnight.

Sources close to Chiquita say that Chertoff never did get back to the company or its lawyers. Neither did Larry D. Thompson, the deputy attorney general, whom Chiquita officials sought out after Chertoff left his job for a federal judgeship in June 2003. And Chiquita kept making payments for nearly another year.



Chiquita's executives left the meeting convinced that the government had not clearly demanded that the payments stop. Federal prosecutors, however, are now weighing whether to charge Hills; Robert Olson, who was then Chiquita's general counsel; former Chiquita CEO Cyrus Friedheim; and other former company officials for approving the illegal payments, according to records and sources close to the probe.
It sounds as if Chiquita was trying to do the right thing; sure, they were doing business with thugs, but our government wasn’t telling them to pull up shop and get out (and as I noted in March, all of the multinationals in that hemisphere have an eye towards Venezuela, especially Coca-Cola).

Also, I probably was a little kinder than I should have been to Chiquita in March when it comes to the allegations of fighting attempts to unionize workers and harassing those workers who are union members, but we’re not talking about that at the moment.

What we are talking about is another episode of Mike (“City Of Louisiana”) Chertoff dropping the ball on behalf of a friend, as well as the goof by Larry D. Thompson; I guess Chertoff thought the problem would just go away when he left the assistant attorney general post he held at the time of the Hills meeting for a federal judgeship.

We’re also talking about another ideological collision of sorts between Bushco’s beloved global market economy and its terra, terra, terra bombast, and we know who wins that showdown every time.

Broken English

I’m trying to play catch-up a bit on the story that broke earlier this week of Repug U.S. House Reps. Phil English (Erie) and John Peterson (Pleasantville, Venango County) doing their best to fight the proposed tolls along Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania. The purpose of the tolls, backed by Gov. Ed Rendell, would be to fund bridge and highway improvements as well as mass transit.

(By the way, as noted here, I-80 was one of the roadways impacted by last February’s severe snow and ice storm, along with I-81 and primarily I-78. Is it too much of a stretch to imagine that money could be used to make those highways easier to access or exit in the event of another weather emergency of that type?).

The stupidity of this exercise by English and Peterson is matched only by the horrifically bad timing of their antics; the recent bridge tragedy in Minnesota (pictured) only underscores the importance of trying to repair the crumbling infrastructure in this country, particularly our highways.

Anyway, here is what English said last Tuesday…

“We are not going to stand idly by and watch Harrisburg politicians pick the pockets of western Pennsylvanians to prop up Philadelphia’s mass transit system.”
We just heart you so much too in these parts, Phil, you good buddy.

Well, as noted in this Inquirer story today (still reading online, sometimes against my better judgment)…

The state Senate's top Republican yesterday called two U.S. representatives from his party "obstructionists" for trying to stop a plan to add tolls on Interstate 80 and use the revenue to pay for bridge and highway improvements and help mass transit.

Sen. Joe Scarnati, the chamber's president pro tempore from Jefferson County, said in a statement that the money was badly needed to fix nearly 6,000 bridges that are structurally deficient and 9,000 miles of road in poor condition.

And he blamed U.S. Reps. Phil English and John Peterson for failing to secure enough federal transportation dollars for Pennsylvania.



Peterson contended that Pennsylvania already got one of the largest shares of federal transportation funding, and that tolls on I-80 would hurt local economies.

"I think that Mr. Scarnati would be well served to have visited with his companies" before he backed the toll legislation, Peterson said.
His companies?” I would say that the opinion of “his constituents” would be to favor the tolls, particularly in light of the Minnesota tragedy, you fool. And how sad is it that both you and English were called out not by a Dem, but by the head of your own party?

I suppose I could say more about Knucklehead A, who would be Peterson, but instead I want to concentrate on Knucklehead B, who would be English.

As noted from this Source Watch link, it looks like English, along with Joe Pitts and former rep Jim Greenwood, is another Repug who broke a term-limit pledge, and Howie at Down With Tyranny comments on how bad English is here in typically understated fashion (smirk).

It looks like Dem Steven Porter is going to run against English for Congress again next year (here), and Porter has been making steady gains while English continues to ride the coattails of Repug incumbents (as we know, though, those “coattails” have been gradually shrinking). In the case of English, we’re not talking about a district inherently receptive to Dems, though English may have handed Porter a nice weapon by his latest blundering. We’ll see.

Update 8/16: Here's more from Down With Tyranny.

One Fraud Guilty Of Another?

Gosh, it seems like those pesky little voting troubles for little Annie Coulter just refuse to go away, don’t they? As noted here...

(The Palm Beach Post's Jose) Lambiet wrote that the sheriff's office "punted a voting fraud probe in April" but "the Florida Elections Commission now is investigating" the February 2006 incident in which Coulter -- who's also an author and lawyer -- allegedly cast her ballot in the wrong precinct in a Palm Beach election after registering with an address that wasn't hers.

"The Coulter voting saga is now known as FEC Case No. 07-211," Lambiet continued. "The investigator assigned, Tallahassee's Margie Wade, wouldn't confirm she caught the case; FEC complaints are supposed to be confidential. Still, [I'm] told Coulter already has been notified she's under investigation.



'I actually saw her vote at St. Edward's (Church), and she looked in a hurry,' [Campaign consultant] Richard Giorgio, whose stable of candidates includes mostly Democrats, said (Giorgio filed the charges). The church is reserved for voters from the north side of the island, while Coulter lives south near Worth Avenue.

"'I didn't realize that she had tried to vote somewhere else and was turned back. This was willful. Anyone else would have been prosecuted.'"
Indeed (the E&P story links to The Brad Blog, which has the latest on this I’m sure, and Lambiet’s original Palm Beach Post story).

Despite all of this, it sounds like the worst that could happen would be that Coulter’s case ends up in the lap of the Florida Elections Commission, all of whose members were appointed by former Repug governor Jeb Bush, thus ensuring what would be a predicable result (love to be wrong on that, though).

But for now, as long as Coulter seems to be trying to tread legal water here, let’s send her a life saver (I mean the candy, not the flotation device, a la Groucho in “Horsefeathers”) and let Henry Rollins take one more shot, complete with bad words.

Uh, HuffPo? (a few updates...)

As you can see from the headline in the photo, it looks as if Our Man Arlen Specter is calling definitively for the ouster of Abu Gonzales as Attorney General at long last.

The problem is that, when you read the story from the link, you find out that that bears not the slightest resemblance to what Specter actually said.

This excerpt tells you what you need to know…

Democrats, who control Congress, would allow the messages from foreign targets to be intercepted, but only after a review by the special FISA court to make sure the surveillance does not focus on communications that might be sent to and from Americans.

They reject the Bush administration's proposal to give Gonzales speedy authority to decide if the surveillance properly targets people overseas _ and not in the United States.

In a counteroffer, the White House proposed that Gonzales share that power with the national intelligence director, Mike McConnell. That proposal, however, did not appease Democrats. They want court review of highly classified surveillance that has been at the heart of civil liberties disputes with the White House for years.

But Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said having the two men share legal oversight of the spying would, at least, eliminate "the concerns I have about giving any additional authority to the attorney general."

In instances where the two disagree on issues, "I think that Gonzales' vote will be of lesser weight than McConnell's," Specter said. Asked why he believed that, he answered, "Because I know the two men."
Boy, am I sick and tired of listening to any politician (but primarily the Repugs) saying “Trust me” to us! If our founding fathers had thought that that was an appropriate rationale for governance, we would all still be colonies of the Empire.

So Arlen thinks it’s OK for the surveillance (from the executive branch) to be overseen by the attorney general and the national intelligence director (from the executive branch). That’s something else that those who risked their lives to form this nation are no doubt spinning in their graves over as I type these words.

Sen. Patrick Leahy said that the surveillance should be overseen by a FISA court, and that no attorney general – in particular this one – should have that kind of oversight power. Period.

As I said recently, as far as I’m concerned, there is no reason why Democrats should continue to work with this crooked cabal on messing around with FISA partly because, as James Risen of the New York Times alluded to in his recent story, Bushco has refused to spell out for Congress its legal basis for its warrantless surveillance (probably because such a basis, if it exists at all, is questionable at best?).

Leahy and the Senate Dems should hammer this point into submission in the presence of everyone with ears to hear what they’re saying.

And in the meantime, I would suggest that The Huffington Post look for a new headline writer.

One more thing: in case you haven't signed the petition yet, here's another chance.

Update 1: Kagro X nails it again.

Update 2: Even the deal shot down here by President Brainless stinks - "guidelines" from the Attorney General for spying on Americans with no warrant required? Does "U.S. persons" mean "U.S. citizens"?

This whole issue should be deader than deader than dead and left to the winner in '08 who, God willing, will be a Dem - are you as sick of listening to Dubya play that oh-so-tiresome fear card again and again and again as I am?

Update 3: Upon further review as they say, I should note that I actually have found the quote from Specter online at the Inquirer site and elsewhere, but it isn't in the linked story. Further, my point is that Specter is going to be pulling this stuff for as long as he is in the Senate - protesting as if he's really going against his Republican masters, but totally bailing out on the Democrats when it's time to lay it on the line; of course, our corporate media will continue to do all they can to perpetuate the myth of his "independence."

Update 4 8/4: I have a message for Harry Reid; take a look at Question 4 of this poll. It asks those polled whether or not they approve of the job Congress is doing.

As of 7/21, 60 percent of those polled disapprove. And do you know why? It is because you and your fellow lapdog Democrats refuse to stand up to President Numbskull, that's why. And this latest example, though egregious by itself, is far from the only one.

Because you have no spine, Dubya (as Steve Benen said) will get everything he wants. Again.

The only thing worse than unrestrained Republican corruption, arrogance and old-boy favoritism is Democratic indecisiveness and cowardice. I am not quite done with you, but keep doing stuff like this and I will be.

And by the way, House Dems, don't even imagine signing onto this stinking dead dog of a measure.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Thursday Videos

The Long Blondes ("Once And Never Again")...



...and Happy 50th birthday (ye gods!) to Mojo Nixon ("619-239-KING" - was that Kris Kristofferson? Some topical '80s references thrown in and spoofed accordingly, and Michael Jackson beat you to it on Lisa Marie - bleaugh!).



...a couple I forgot earlier; Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records, would have been 84 yesterday (here's Booker T. and the M.G.'s performing "Time Is Tight" from 1970 on the Stax label, which was part of Ertegun's empire, and I know the video is beat up a bit; I'll have to catch the "American Masters" program about Stax that recently aired at another time - also, drummer Stu Cook and John Fogerty of Credence Clearwater Revival were looking on)...



...and Happy 75th Birthday to actor Peter O'Toole, shown in this clip which is a trailer for the movie "Lawrence of Arabia" from 1962 (possibly my favorite film; it's right up there on the list - would that Dubya had bothered to watch it and pay attention before he invaded Iraq, especially Lawrence's speech about "a little people, a silly people" concerning Arab tribes, though he probably would not have understood the meaning anyway).

$22 Billion Versus This?

Hey Dubya, before you attack Nancy Pelosi over what you want to spend versus what people living in something closer to reality want to spend in budgetary appropriations, tell us how you’re going to start getting this number under control…

And Pelosi is a “career politician,” huh? As opposed to you? Too funny…

And here’s something worth a chuckle…

“If Congress doesn't pass the spending bills by the end of the fiscal year, Cabinet secretaries report that their departments may be unable to move forward with urgent priorities for our country”…
Congress has passed a bunch of bills already – as noted here, however, you’ve suddenly decided that you don’t like any of them.

Once more, then, I give you “Back Talk”…

Hardly A Cause For Celebration

From Editor and Publisher (here)…

For two days, the press has touted the notion that July was an encouraging month for the U.S. in Iraq, partly because American deaths declined from previous months this year. Maybe this meant the surge was working?

Closer (but usually ignored) analysis shows something else, however.

Actually, the number of fatalities made it the deadliest July yet for the U.S. side.

The number of confirmed deaths, 78, was indeed the lowest for any month in 2007, but it easily topped the worst July ever, with the previous mark of 54 in both 2004 and 2005.
Only Bushco (or O'Hanlon and Pollack) would even imagine that a lesser quantity of a negative number as opposed to a greater quantity of a negative number represents progress concerning anything.

Walking The Walk, Again

As noted here, Patrick Murphy authored two measures for inclusion into the Veterans Health Care Improvement Act of 2007 recently: a permanent program that would identify active duty military members at risk of homelessness, and a proposal for the Veterans Administration to make its homeless veterans programs more accommodating for female veterans (which this story describes as growing in population as well as men).

As also noted in the story…

Young, alienated and often living on their own for the first time, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans increasingly are coming home to find that they don't have one. Already, nearly 200,000 veterans—many from the Vietnam War—sleep on the streets every night, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. But young warriors just back from the Mideast—estimated around 500 to 1,000—are beginning to struggle with homelessness too. Drinking or using drugs to cope with PTSD, they can lose their job and the support of family and friends, and start a downward spiral to the streets. Their tough military mentality can make them less likely to seek help. Advocates say it can take five to eight years for a veteran to exhaust their financial resources and housing options, so they expect the number to rise exponentially in a few years. "Rather than wait for the tsunami, we should be doing something now," says Cheryl Beversdorf, president of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.
Here is a link to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans web site (I just added it to the home page also).

I don’t want to think about Dubya vetoing the Veterans Act, by the way; I find any more that I have to conserve my outrage as effectively as I can.

Tell Me Where That Finger Has Been, Brit

Based on this post from Taylor Marsh (via Atrios), it seems that Faux News spin boy Brit Hume is just so full of outrage at those nasty, unkempt liberal bloggers again (I’ll watch the video later).

I have a question, though. Is it safe to assume that Hume and his crowd are ideological fellow travelers with sites like, say, Little Green Snotballs?

I can’t imagine any other honest answer to that question except yes, so with that in mind, here is a link to a recent post by James Wolcott (don’t check with him nearly as much as I should) in which he notes that someone named Shamela of the freeper site Atlas Shrugs managed to snag a photo of herself with Cindy Sheehan in which Shamela extends the middle digit to Sheehan without the latter’s knowledge.

(For the purposes of full disclosure, I should note that I have employed that image in posts frequently, with the gesture often originating from President Nutball. However, I personally have only used it towards Christopher Hitchens who precipitated a spat by doing the same thing on “Real Time”; I would never imagine doing that to a mother of one of our dead service people even if I disagreed with that person.)

Should I be surprised that such juvenile pranks pass for acceptable “commentary” within right-wing circles of the blogosphere (still hate that word, actually).

As long as Hume is venting his fury over lefty bloggers, I will also await what should be similar treatment in response to the incident Wolcott has cited (and I know I shouldn’t hold my breath on that).

And by the way, Kagro X describes another glorious moment with Hume here.

At Least Tierney Didn't Get It

(Not that he had a shot anyway…).

I’m referring of course to the purchase by Rupert Murdoch of the Dow Jones empire, including Barron’s, The Wall Street Journal, and the debt of the parent company (for whatever it’s worth, I already posted on this some time ago here thinking it wouldn’t happen, forgetting of course that Murdoch usually finds a way to get what he wants).

In the May post, I included a recent update with a link to an excellent Daily Kos post featuring an excerpt from an interview Keith Olbermann conducted with Rachel Maddow that I thought was very interesting (here).

I’ve also included this link to a column in today’s Inquirer by journalist Claudia Rosett of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies about Murdoch’s purchase. The column is absolutely startling in that it provides no insight whatsoever into the potential ramifications of the deal and instead contains the typical boilerplate you would expect from Philadelphia’s conservative paper of record (newspapers are profit-driven enterprises with subscribers as consumers and oh-we’ve-progressed-so-far-from-the-early-cut-and-paste-days and misty memories of days gone by, etc.).

Again, how sad that the Inquirer considers this to be acceptable editorial commentary (and why on earth is someone who belongs to a think tank supposedly dedicated to fighting international terrorism writing about the media business anyway?).

And by the way, if anyone has any regrets later, don’t forget that I tried to prevent this (and if anyone thinks that the august publication formerly owned by the Bancroft family will be immune to the treatment the New York Post received here, they should tell me when the spaceship lands).

Update: I'll admit that Edwards is tossing a bone to those nasty, unkempt liberal bloggers such as yours truly here, but he also happens to be right; I wish there had been more of this during the media mergers of the '90s.

Update: Negroponte was "assigned to monitor the WSJ's 'editorial independence'," huh? Typical Murdoch tactic (memorize what Rachel Maddow said in that kos post).

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Wednesday Videos

The Dandy Warhols ("We Used To Be Friends"; after watching this video, I've never felt more alive - get it, felt?)...



...Happy Birthday to Robert Cray ("Bad Influence")...



...Jerry Garcia would have been 65 today (interesting take on "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" from the movie "Smoke" with Harvey Keitel - seems to end all of a sudden, though)...



...and last but far from least, a great big Happy Birthday goes out to Pierre Robert of radio station WMMR in these parts and around the world (delivering his "Beer Baptismal" during that station's "Day Off At The Slopes" earlier this year, with commentary by Preston and Steve and Jerry playing in the background, appropriately enough).

Another Red State Triumph

(I should be fair and state, though, that similar laws as the one noted in this story exist in Arizona, Indiana, and Michigan.)

It looks like voter ID will be required for a special election to be held in Georgia in September after ongoing legal battles that are on hold for the moment (the story also notes as follows)…

Opponents claim the photo ID law will disenfranchise minorities, the poor and the elderly who don't have driver's licenses or other valid government-issued photo IDs. Supporters say it is needed to prevent voter fraud.
The Georgia Supreme Court threw out the case, but it will be appealed to federal court where a judge had blocked enforcement of the law last September but stayed his ruling pending a decision in the state court of appeals.

This article from Barbara Burt and Jonah Goldman provides more background on how ID laws are used to discourage minorities from voting, and it also notes the role that the supposed problem of voters showing up at the polls with incorrect ID posed in the U.S. Attorneys scandal (Abu G., of course, didn’t think the fired attorneys were prosecuting the “issue,” so that’s why they were let go).

I thought this part of the Burt/Goldman article tied it all together…

Why, when too many voters must contend with electronic voting machines that routinely lose thousands of votes, forced to wait in lines that last for hours, are mistakenly purged from voter lists by the thousands, receive incorrect directions from overstressed poll workers and face a myriad of other problems, would lawmakers focus on a problem that barely exists? Could there be an ulterior motive for calling for harsh voter identification requirements?

Like the poll taxes and citizenship tests of old, ID requirements are effective at depressing voter turnout among particular groups. In 2006, research by the non-partisan Brennan Center for Justice found that a quarter of all African American citizens don’t have government-issued photo identification, 18 percent of citizens 65 and older don’t have photo ID and at least 15 percent of citizens earning less than $35,000 lack photo ID.

The problem for politicians hoping to selectively depress voter turnout is this: Without voter fraud, there’s no justification for restrictive ID requirements.
This Brad Blog post from last September tells us what the Dems in Congress have tried to do about legitimate voting issues, by the way, such as ensuring a paper ballot backup for all electronic votes; this includes the bill from the great Rush Holt of New Jersey in the House. If I can track down information on any more recent developments, I’ll update this post accordingly.

Today’s Visit With The Missing Texas Idiot

Just in case you missed it, I should let you know that President Clouded Vision represented our country by insulting BBC political editor Nick Robinson yesterday…

Robinson, who has asked Bush pointed questions in the past such as whether the president was “in denial” over the Iraq war, posed a question to Bush about whether he could trust visiting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown not to “cut and run” from Iraq.

Bush replied with a dismissal: “Are you still hanging around?”

Later on, Bush poked fun at the bare-pate of Robinson, joking, “You’d better cover up your bald head, it’s getting hot out.”

The respected British reporter shot back, “I didn’t know you cared.”

Bush responded with a cool, “I don’t.” The Mirror reports that Bush then “snorted disdainfully” and “walked away to laughter.”
"Walked away to laughter" from Dubya’s equally brain-damaged minions I’m sure.

And if he’s making fun of bald people now, I just have three words - watch out, Smerky!

(Better to have nothing on top than nothing inside though, I hasten to add.)

So presidential…

(You know what? Just for fun, let's take a look at this again - a fitting "tribute" to President Brainless.)


Update: And the beat goes on...

Patrick And The Dems Keep A Promise

There is good stuff coming from the Democrats despite that last post, such as acting on the 9/11 Commission’s homeland security recommendations (Patrick Murphy talks about it here)...

The ($4 billion) 9/11 bill would require screening of all cargo on passenger planes within three years. It also sets a five-year goal for scanning all container ships for nuclear devices before they leave foreign ports.

The legislation shifts money to high-risk states and cities, rather than spreading it equally across the country. The bill expands the screening of air and sea cargo and puts money into a new program to ensure that security officials at every level can communicate with each other.
I think the five-year cargo screening bill is a bit ambitious, but it’s definitely worth a try.

And to see homeland security funds distributed in a manner that totally disregarded the 9/11 Commission recommendations in typical Repug fashion (as was the case in New Jersey two years ago, a vitally important state in terms of potential targets), just click here – thankfully, this is but a laughable memory now.

Another Profile In Cowardice

I read this story from James Risen of the New York Times today, and I simply could not believe my eyes.

It seems that the Democratic Party “leadership” in Congress has “a new willingness” to work with Dubya on expanding the wiretapping powers of our government, altering FISA law in the process.

(In the unlikely event that someone from the Democratic congressional leadership is actually reading this, please click this link to a prior post today that explains how domestic spying has been taken over by Repug corporate benefactors as a reward from the person taking up space in the Oval Office. This isn’t being driven by national security concerns, it’s being driven by money, as usual – or are you guys in on the scam also?).

This paragraph was particularly revolting…

Democrats appear to be worried that if they block such legislation, the White House will depict them as being weak on terrorism.

“We hope our Republican counterparts will work together with us to fix the problem, rather than try again to gain partisan political advantage at the expense of our national security,” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said in a statement Monday night.
Why the hell should any Democrat worry about how they are depicted by this White House? When are these people going to understand that their approval numbers are only going to go up the more they distance themselves from this crooked cabal?

By the way, this section appeared in the print version of this story, but for some reason, it was omitted in the online version (at least, I couldn't find it)…

Until recently, Democrats in Congress were reluctant to agree to changing the law, which was proposed by the White House in April. Democratic leaders said they did not want to amend it until the administration provided more information about how the security agency had secretly skirted the law earlier.

But the White House refused Congressional demands to turn over the secret legal opinions that had been used to justify the program of wiretapping without warrants, prompting the Senate Judiciary Committee to issue subpoenas to the administration in June.

Democrats now say they are willing to work with the White House on a narrow FISA bill.
So what happened to the subpoenas? Were they ever enforced? Why weren’t the supposed legal geniuses behind this program called to account before Congress (and I also wonder why this was omitted from the online version)?

The only good news I can glean from this (and I’m really trying hard) is that the Dems are fighting for the eavesdropping to be reviewed by a secret FISA court instead of the attorney general (if the Dems give in to letting Abu G. handle this, I will tear up my voter registration card and, in all likelihood, shut down this blog; that would pretty much kill any impulse I would have towards political activism).

And speaking of FISA, Ken Sanders of Democratic Underground provides the following here, including what I thought was a noteworthy excerpt…

Not surprisingly, as was recently reported by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, in the FISA Court's first 22 years of existence, it didn't deny a single one of the government's 13,102 secret warrant applications. Only two were even modified. Since 2001, however, the FISA Court has modified 179 of the Bush administration's 5,645 warrant requests to spy on U.S. citizens. A total of 173 of those modifications occurred in 2003 and 2004. In that same two-year period, the FISA Court rejected or deferred at least six of the Bush administration's warrant requests.

While only little more 3 percent of the Bush administration's secret warrant requests were modified or denied by the FISA Court, the fact that any were modified or denied is telling. On 185 occasions, the FISA Court found that the Bush administration committed "clear error" in its conclusion that there was probable cause to believe that a U.S. citizen was communicating with enemies of the state.

No wonder the Bush administration finds FISA to be too cumbersome. It minimally checks Bush's otherwise unchecked authority.
Also, I wonder how much we’ve consulted with other countries who are (hopefully still) our allies in this matter (pertaining to the international calls routed through here)?

You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas, Harry.

Update 8/2: I think Russ Feingold does the best he can with this situation here (per mcjoan at The Daily Kos).

Keeping The Heat On Abu G.

The latest from Democracy For America...

Congress is beginning to get it.

After years of evidence that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is both an embarrassment and a danger to the Justice Department, The Seattle Times reports that Congressman Jay Inslee (D-WA), "will introduce a resolution today directing the House Judiciary Committee to investigate whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should be impeached."¹

Democracy for America has been pushing Congress to take this action for months. Over 80,000 members have already petitioned their representatives.²

Now that we've made real progress on Capitol Hill, will you show your support for the impeachment resolution by becoming a Citizen Co-Sponsor?

Click here.

As The New York Times wrote this weekend, "Americans have been waiting for months for Mr. Bush to fire Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who long ago proved that he was incompetent and more recently proved that he can't tell the truth. Mr. Bush refused to fire him after it was clear Mr. Gonzales lied about his role in the political purge of nine federal prosecutors."³

Our wait for justice could soon be over.

The Gonzales impeachment resolution is already co-sponsored by five members of Congress. All of them are former prosecutors. Will you join them?

It is urgent that Congress hears from you and your friends today! Sign on as a Citizen Co-Sponsor:

Click here.

Thank you for what you have done to move Congress to this point. We still have lots of work ahead of us in order to return integrity to the Justice Department. But, because of you, we are making progress.

Tom Hughes
Executive Director

¹ Inslee leading effort to impeach Gonzales (
here)

²
Here also

³ Mr. Gonzales’s Never-Ending Story (
here)
To tie this in to the John Edwards for President campaign, I should say that I thought this was an interesting article in today's New York Times about the campaign's web-based focus (and as always, to learn more, click here).

Ending Another "Boys Only" Tradition?

I’m getting to this a bit late, but Parade Magazine on Sunday featured a story in the Intelligence Report column here about a lawsuit filed against the CIA by women fired from that agency for having foreign fiancées, boyfriends, or relatives (that is claimed in the lawsuit anyway, and the charges seem to be valid – the story appears under “Sexism Among Spies”).

This actually is based on an extensive U.S. News and World Report article written by David E. Kaplan last April that can be accessed from Talk Left here. Kaplan’s story discusses a few of the cases, with almost all of the women using aliases to tell their story – Janine Brookner is featured primarily; she is a former agent who was dismissed and subsequently put herself through law school and now represents the 25 (at last count) who have joined the complaint against the agency. The CIA’s Centers for Security and Counterintelligence is the department singled out in the complaint (the equivalent of a police department’s “Internal Affairs” unit); a key point of contention is that the men at the agency engaged in similar activities as the women (as well as stuff like sex parties of one type or another), but received preferential treatment.

A typical case is that of “Sherry Norris,” who discusses in the article the extent to which all agents are required to divulge their activities with anyone who could compromise them (Norris describes how she met and fell in love with a Middle Eastern diplomat and told CIA headquarters everything, including “when we first made love…it was pretty embarrassing”).

Norris did all she could to end the relationship when told to do so in order to preserve her career, but she still was interrogated by the Centers for Security and Counterintelligence and had to take a polygraph. She was told that she had failed the polygraph, then afterwards let inspectors into her house to download everything from her computer in an attempt to defend herself.

Her case was referred to the FBI, which eventually cleared her of any wrongdoing, but a CIA personnel evaluation board then decided to review her case. The board found her insubordinate and voted to fire her, even denying her the opportunity to meet with the board and plead her case (the ordeal dragged on for two years).

So how has the CIA responded? As noted in the article (page 7)…

Security concerns aside, the women's case falls short of the standards required for it to be certified a class action, the CIA has argued before the EEOC. The agency has scoured its records going back to 1995, officials say, and found only four women forced to leave, at least in part, because of unauthorized contact with foreigners. But that's not how it works, say the women U.S. News interviewed. Most are pushed out, they claim, on other charges. Words like unsuitability, lack of candor, insubordination, and security violations fill their personnel files-all because, they say, of their having flings and friendships that male officers routinely enjoyed. The impact is far-reaching: Security clearances are revoked, and the person is in effect blacklisted from work at the Pentagon, the FBI, or other agencies that do classified work. That's why key among the lawsuit's demands is expunging of their files. "It means more than money to the women," says Brookner.

By summer this year, an administrative judge at the EEOC's Washington field office will decide whether Norris, Griffith, and the others will get their day in court. If their class action suit goes forward-and if the CIA's personnel records indeed show a pattern of bias-the agency may well move to settle out of court. And if the case fails, the women say they at least will have shone some needed light on one of the darker corners of the CIA.
To say nothing of being patently wrong, treatment such as this is stupid because these women are specialists in (among other things) speaking in Farsi, Arabic, and Chinese. Don’t you think we have a need for people skilled in those particular areas?

The CIA also states in its defense that 39 percent of the National Clandestine Service is now female, including more than a fifth of its case officers or spies.

(As I read Kaplan’s article, the impression I got was that the CIA was being dragged kicking and screaming into cleaning up its act, with director Michael Hayden talking a lot about the importance of diversity – we’ll see if that’s for real or not. Also, Brookner is trying to sue on behalf of women who have been turned down for jobs with the agency, claiming that more men have been hired – if she can make her case, more power to her, but it sounds like a stretch.)

And speaking of the National Clandestine Service, author R.J. Hillhouse describes here how more than 50 percent of that agency has been outsourced to private firms, which in effect means that companies such as Abraxas, Booz Allen Hamilton, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon have direct input into the President’s Daily Brief, this country’s most important and most sensitive national security document. And the article also notes their role in the massive domestic spying effort going on in this country, which no doubt means big money for these companies.

(Sounds to me that, since the Repug executive branch has effectively abandoned its task of governance which it abhorred and didn’t do very well anyway, then the CEOs of these operations might as well take up residence in the White House and tell Dubya to go to Camp David and sit out the duration. They might as well make it official at this point.)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I Smell (More) Trouble

Karsten Voigt is my new hero (for the moment, anyway); he is identified in this story as the foreign ministry coordinator for German-American relations in Berlin.

This is why…

Washington is trying to assure Gulf allies, worried by the growing strength of Iran and by the war in Iraq, that the United States is committed to the region and will stand by them, and the (recently announced $43 billion) arms package is part of that process, U.S. officials say.

The plan to upgrade Saudi Arabia's missile defences and air force and to boost its navy is at odds with U.S. plans to nurture democratic standards in the region, Voigt said.

'The U.S. said a couple of months ago the main problem in the region was the lack of democracy,' he said. 'I do not know how one can support democracy by supplying weapons for Saudi Arabia, which is anything but a very democratic country.
'
And our "dear friends" the Saudis would never support the insurgents in Iraq – would they?

Nobody Touches, Sees…Or Thinks

This takes you to a post from People for the American Way about the “modesty movement” from those dear, oh-so-tolerant hammerheads at Focus On The Family. Quoted is Colleen Hammond, who tells us…

'We’ve learned from history that as the morality of women declines, the culture follows with it,' Hammond said."
Please do me a favor and take a look at the drawing accompanying this post (and this related news story) and explain to me what separates Hammond and her ilk philosophically from the Islamic fundamentalists who abuse women even slightly uncovered from head to foot; to me, these are two groups of people developmentally immature to the point where they are afraid of the human body in all of its God-given wonder.

Played For Fools

After all that has been written and said about Alberto Gonzales and his parade of lies and evasions before the Senate Judiciary Committee, can someone please explain to my why an organization like the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Executives still allowed him to speak before their annual training conference yesterday?

I have no clue as to why that invitation wasn’t withdrawn, so why don’t we access their web site from here and ask them why not (here is a contact Email address).

Today's BoBo Blather

In his bi-weekly opportunity to offer the literary output you might expect after an hour or so of gazing at your navel, David Brooks finds himself a bit torn today as he decides whether or not to chide the anti-poverty proposals of Democratic presidential candidates John Edwards or Barack Obama (here). He finally decides that he dislikes what Obama proposes less, and here is why…

The Obama policy provides more face to face contact with people who can offer praise or disapproval. Rising out of poverty is difficult – even when there are jobs and good schools.
Speaking from firsthand experience, I’m sure…

It’s hard to focus on a distant degree or home purchase. But human beings have a strong desire for approval and can accomplish a lot with daily doses of praise and censure. Standards of behavior are contagious that way.
So…making those in poverty feel like the dregs of the earth and then telling them, “but, really, you’re profoundly important dregs of the earth, and never forget that” is the way to go here?

It’s a little funny – but pathetic, ultimately – to watch conservatives concoct pejorative nonsense like this as opposed to discussing policy as a solution that would, at some point, involve the effective application of the fully functioning and representative government that they so utterly despise.

The main reason I want to mention what Brooks said, though, is because of this…

(Concerning Obama’s plan)…The problem here is that there are few historical examples of neighborhoods being lifted up all at once. There are 4,000 community development corporations around the country and they have not lifted residents out of poverty. The positive influences in the center get overwhelmed by the negative peer influences all around.

The organizations that do appear to work, like the Harlem Children’s Zone (there’s no firm data yet)…
Then how does Brooks know that it “appear(s) to work”?

...tend to have charismatic leaders like Geoffrey Canada who are willing to fight teachers’ unions and take on bureaucracies. It’s not clear whether their success is replicable, let alone by the federal government.
(This tells you more about Geoffrey Canada, by the way – interesting story.)

Ahh, so Brooks likes the Obama plan because it involves fighting the teachers’ unions – the truth discovered at last! Fortunately, Ezra Klein reminds us here that it’s the job of Brooks and our other elite pundits to find every opportunity to flay this scapegoat as completely as possible.

Over and out, Bobo.

Keeping Iraq (And Us) In The Dark

This appeared from David Roberts at HuffPo yesterday concerning the Iraq electricity crisis (of course, Bushco won’t characterize it as such, but that’s what it is).

Roberts notes that the amount of electricity available to residents of Baghdad, according to reports from our ruling cabal, was about 5-6 hours a day as of earlier this year, but as of last week, Baghdad residents could count on (drum roll, please) a grand total of one hour per day.

I’ll let that sink in for a minute – a grand total of one hour of electricity per day.

Can you imagine anything approximating normal activity in one’s life when all you can count on is one hour of electricity per day?

Well, leave it to Bushco to snap into action on this; as Roberts tells us…

(The duration of Baghdad’s electricity is a figure that) has not been sent to lawmakers for months because the State Department, which prepares a weekly "status report" for Congress on conditions in Iraq, stopped estimating in May how many hours of electricity Baghdad residents typically receive each day.

Instead, the department now reports on the electricity generated nationwide, a measurement that does not indicate how much power Iraqis in Baghdad or elsewhere actually receive.
This Think Progress link provides a chart of electricity usage, with the levels at an all-time low last October since the invasion (of course, as noted, they’ve diminished even more up to now).

With this in mind, I’d like to step back to May 2004 and provide an excerpt from this story that begins to give some indication of what is going on out of the willfully short reach of our corporate media…

Baghdad resident Salam Obidy is frustrated by the unreliability of the electrical grid. "I have three hours on, and four hours off," he said. "Mostly it is completely unscheduled. Yesterday I spent all night not sleeping because it was so hot."

And it is only getting hotter. The temperature during the day in Baghdad is beginning to approach 100 degrees now. It consistently climbs to 110-120 degrees in July and August.

In the Al-Adhamiyah district of Baghdad, a man named Abu Talan also complained about the lack of electricity in his neighbourhood. "My family and I sometimes have thirteen hours with no electricity whatsoever," he said. "Usually we average six hours per day. If there is no fuel for our small generator, we all suffer."
Also (and again, this is dated from May 2004)…

In addition to sabotage of gas and transmission lines in Iraq, as well a shortage of supplies, the reconstruction problems in Iraq have been underscored by the mass exodus of foreign contractors.

"Bechtel is responsible for the rehabilitation here," Omair explained. "The companies they subcontracted to, Siemens and Babcock, have pulled out their engineers. Without their presence, the Iraqi companies Al-Marjal and United Company, have been unable to do as much work."

Companies that were working on many of the electricity projects include U.S.-based Seimens-Westinghouse, Bechtel, and General Electric, along with two Russian companies, Tekhnopromexport and Inter Energo Servis (IES), according to the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity.

Yet, according to (Ra’ad) Al-Haris, the acting electricity minister, many of these companies began departing Iraq prior to the invasion in March, 2003 -- well before the most recent round of exits caused by the deteriorating security situation under the U.S. occupation.

"The work in these stations was started during the past regime," Al-Haris said, "but it was stopped before the war when the companies left Iraq, and the work is still stopped." Al-Haris added, "There are tens of trucks stopped on the border of Turkey, Jordan, and Syria, and they cannot enter because of the bad security situation. All the equipment in the trucks is very important to continue our work."

He reported that another problem is the huge consumption of electricity in Iraq and the huge quantity of electrical consumer goods people are buying. He said, "The annual increase of the consumption of the electricity in the entire world is about 3-5 percent, but in Iraq it is 30 percent."
So it looks like Iraqis bought a bunch of consumer goods (no doubt trying to emulate their “benefactors”) in anticipation of some kind of prosperity, but all of that has degenerated into chaos. I hope at least that they were able to take their digital camera phones and other communication devices with them as they fled for their lives.

A presidential administration in this country composed of reasonable adults would have recognized long ago that, if you want to help defeat an insurgency, you find a way to provide basic services that are needed for the people you are occupying so they can live something like normal lives, thus giving them a reason not to be insurgents. If you are unable to do that yourselves, you go with your hat in hand to a governing body of nations and ask for help, offering some kind of reparation in the process. You don’t concoct some kind of a “surge” for P.R. purposes, throwing our military into the Iraq quagmire for no good reason other than to get people killed by an enemy growing ever greater in strength as long as we continue to reside in their country.

Also (and this is off-topic a bit), I came across this item in which the White House PR machine spun into action against the Associated Press last year concerning that news organization’s analysis of Iraq, with Tony Snow Job stating in a press briefing from last September 27th that Osama bin Laden wanted to use Iraq as a “central battleground” to wage war against the United States; according to Snow, bin Laden stated this in a fatwa issued in February 1998.

As you can read here, bin Laden made reference to the prior war in Iraq as an act of the “crusader-Zionist alliance,” but there is no other mention of staging a war in Iraq against us.

Some Bushco lies are just too easy to refute.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Monday Videos

Fountains Of Wayne ("Strapped For Cash," otherwise known as my life story, on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" - I would definitely be watching his show if this were, say, 15 years ago)...



...Happy Birthday to David Sanborn ("Chicago Song")...



...Happy 71st Birthday to Buddy Guy, performing "I Can't Quit You Baby" with B.B. King (such naughty language, Buddy!)...



...and Conan O'Brien introduces a retrospective of clips with Tom Snyder and all kinds of guests, cultural icons of one type or another.

Smerky's Such A Clever Boy!

Yesterday, Michael Smerconish claimed credit for inventing a new word in yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer, and that would be “hatriolic” (if you choose to punish yourself by reading his column and finding out why he thinks it is important, feel free to do so here if you’re registered, thought I’m sure it will be cross-posted at HuffPo shortly).

The only comment I will make on the substance (what of it there is) of his column is to say that I did a Google search on his word, and all kinds of links came back that showed nothing but profanity, intolerance for anything democratic/progressive/liberal in any way, shape or form, and tons and tons of bad spelling. Why anyone would claim credit for anything that causes these results is something I cannot imagine.

Actually, Smerky (and the Inquirer also), I have my own word for all of you idiots, and here it is: cancellation. My subscription officially ends tomorrow.

See ya’.

General (President Someday?) Nonsense

Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, said last month that the Iraq war, which he views as a counter-insurgency operation, could last as long as ten years (a nested, linked story notes that Petraeus also said that we would need to maintain a presence in Iraq such as that we have maintained for over 50 years in South Korea…I don’t recall any counter-insurgency activity between North and South Korea over that time – I always thought that the purpose of our presence was to stop encroachment along the 38th parallel).

And here, Petraeus said that a recent wave of suicide bombings in Iraq was intended to create a “mini-Tet.”

After hearing all of this, am I the only one who thinks Petraeus doesn’t know what he’s talking about any more concerning the war?

And another thing; I think it’s high time for myself and anyone else to get over the impulse not to respectfully question a member of our military concerning the conduct of the war (a proper impulse to be sure, under ordinary circumstances, but one that doesn’t apply in the ever-more horrific cauldron of Iraq).

I was reminded of all of this when I read Frank Rich’s fine column in the New York Times yesterday, particularly this excerpt…

Though General Petraeus wrote his 1987 Princeton doctoral dissertation on "The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam," he has an unshakable penchant for seeing light at the end of tunnels. It has been three Julys since he posed for the cover of Newsweek under the headline "Can This Man Save Iraq?" The magazine noted that the general's pacification of Mosul was "a textbook case of doing counterinsurgency the right way." Four months later, the police chief installed by General Petraeus defected to the insurgents, along with most of the Sunni members of the police force. Mosul, population 1.7 million, is now an insurgent stronghold, according to the Pentagon's own June report.

By the time reality ambushed his textbook victory, the general had moved on to the mission of making Iraqi troops stand up so American troops could stand down. "Training is on track and increasing in capacity," he wrote in The Washington Post in late September 2004, during the endgame of the American presidential election. He extolled the increased prowess of the Iraqi fighting forces and the rebuilding of their infrastructure.

The rest is tragic history. Were the Iraqi forces on the trajectory that General Petraeus asserted in his election-year pep talk, no "surge" would have been needed more than two years later. We would not be learning at this late date, as we did only when Gen. Peter Pace was pressed in a Pentagon briefing this month, that the number of Iraqi battalions operating independently is in fact falling - now standing at a mere six, down from 10 in March.

But even more revealing is what was happening at the time that General Petraeus disseminated his sunny 2004 prognosis. The best account is to be found in "The Occupation of Iraq," the authoritative chronicle by Ali Allawi published this year by Yale University Press. Mr. Allawi is not some anti-American crank. He was the first civilian defense minister of postwar Iraq and has been an adviser to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki; his book was praised by none other than the Iraq war cheerleader Fouad Ajami as "magnificent."
Dick Polman of the Philadelphia Inquirer actually had a good post on this a few weeks ago (ending with Petraeus’ sickening echoing of Deadeye Dick Cheney’s remark about our forces being “greeted as liberators”). Polman recalled the following from Allawi’s book…

In April 2004, Allawi writes, the U.S. decided to launch a program to train and expand the Iraqi army. The Iraqi Ministry of Defense was designated as the agency that would run the show, line up the weapons contractors, and disburse the money (primarily American money, naturally). Gen. Petraeus was brought in to supervise.

But here’s what was happening while Petraeus was (in Allawi’s words) “waxing lyrical” about the training program in the American press: The money earmarked for weapons procurement was disappearing. Or, as Allawi puts it, “the Ministry of Defense was being systematically looted.”

As a 2005 Iraqi investigation later discovered, the top Ministry of Defense officials – none of whom had any experience in procurement – awarded no-bid contracts to con men who never intended to provide quality equipment. Allawi writes that “in a series of astounding and brazen decisions that broke every contracting and procurement rule, the ministry started to award huge contracts without any bidding and with minimal documentation.”



Most of the American money for the program, as much as $2.3 billion, wound up in the foreign bank accounts of “unknown people,” writes Allawi. And, not surprisingly, the equipment supplied to Petraeus’ training program “was of poor quality, (worth) a fraction of the money that was paid out by the Ministry of Defense.”

Allawi writes about the helicopters, for instance. They were 30 years old, originally owned and operated by a nation that has ceased to exist, the Soviet Union. All told, “the litany of disastrous and outrageously overpriced equipment covered the entire spectrum of armaments, from machine guns that were copies of the ones actually contracted for, to armored vehicles that were so poorly armored that machine-gun bullets would easily pierce them.” Moreover, “the Iraqi army was saddled with vehicles equipped with right-hand drive steering,” which was a problem, because “Iraqis drove with left-hand steering.” Most of the culprits ultimately fled the country.

You might wonder, “Where was Petraeus while all this was happening?”

Allawi replies that Petraeus basically let it happen: “Petraeus was a firm believer in giving the new Iraqi government as wide a latitude as possible to make its own decisions, without intrusive involvement” from the Americans.
That may have arisen from a sense of letting the Iraqis manage their own country, but considering that the money came from us, it definitely showed poor judgment.

And as far as who exactly it is that we are fighting over there so we supposedly don’t have to fight them over here, A.J. Rossmiller at AmericaBlog tells us here that Petraeus is wrong in his estimation of the composition of the enemy as well as his over-estimation of the seeming success in Anbar as something that could, in all probability, be replicated…

Just as worrisome from an analytical standpoint is the unrelenting -- and wholly misplaced -- focus on the so-called al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Priority of the surge? "To disrupt al-Qaeda . . ." Timeframe of the surge? "Al-Qaeda is keenly aware of the Washington clock." Political progress? "[T]ribes changed from being on the fence or tacit support for al-Qaeda to active opposition."

The vast, vast majority of the insurgency in Iraq is driven by native Iraqis, primarily Ba'athist party members and/or sympathizers. AQI activities are almost exclusively limited to suicide bombings, which get attention because they are high-profile, mass-casualty events, but these attacks are in fact a relatively small part of the overall picture. AQI is regularly estimated at 3-5% of the overall insurgency, and its members will be quickly expelled or killed following a U.S. withdrawal. Current cooperation between AQI and the Iraqi-based insurgency is a matter of temporary convenience, not long-term ideological confluence.

Even political progress is framed by Petraeus as AQI-focused, as he cites conflict between AQI and Sunni tribes in Anbar province as an important development. That shift would happen much more quickly if our presence wasn't driving cooperation between all anti-U.S. parties. In fact, Petraeus' only nod to the national government's efforts is to cite an oil revenue distribution law that he claims (without any supporting evidence) is "very, very close."
Actually, to be fair to Petraeus, a draft oil deal was approved by Iraq’s government (as noted here, before they left for vacation while our people continue to face death, no doubt).

It’s not the fault of Petraeus that Bushco operates on blind hero worship, propaganda, deceit, and cronyism. But the fact that he has risen to the “inner circle” within this bunch by holding out hopes of a “magical September” while also playing our typically-compliant corporate media like the proverbial fiddle is sickening given the risk to the military personnel under his command.

And one more thing; lest we not forget...

Update 7/31: Arianna Huffington has more.

Patrick, Dems Keep College In Reach

The following Guest Opinion appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times from Patrick Murphy yesterday.

Students and parents today face the harsh reality of rising costs. While students are going to class and working hard, far too many still worry about how to pay for their higher education.

Parents also face this challenge when their kids eagerly open their college acceptance letters. A college or technical degree is vitally important for a high paying job yet more expensive than ever.

In my case, I worked my way through Bucks County Community College, graduated from Kings College and then earned my law degree from Widener University. I worked long hours after class and received ROTC scholarships, but still worried about the debt I would face and how I would pay for it. Now, 16 years after I started, I am still paying off my debt.

More kids from Bucks County are enrolling in two- and four-year colleges and universities than ever before. Those students, unfortunately, are met with rising costs. They are graduating with more debt, while working harder than ever. Too often, they must rely on their parents to help pay back their college loans — further squeezing middle-class families. Worst of all, the cost of a college degree has become the No. 1 impediment to a higher education — preventing qualified students from attending in the first place.

As a former educator at the United States Military Academy at West Point, the issue of making sure young Americans are prepared for what lies ahead is personal for me. That's why I know we have to do whatever it takes so that our American workforce can continue to compete with workers across the globe.

Last week, I proudly voted for the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007. This bill passed the House with wide bi-partisan support. It will provide the single largest investment in higher education since the GI Bill — allowing more qualified students to go to college by cutting the financial burden on them and their families. The typical debt carried by a student at a four year college in Pennsylvania is nearly $14,000 and more than 211,000 students rely on need-based aid in Pennsylvania every year.

The College Cost Reduction Act boosts Pell Grants and cuts interest rates on college loans in half.

This rate cut will save students and their families thousands over the life of their loans. This legislation also provides upfront tuition assistance for excellent undergraduate students who agree to teach in public schools and loan forgiveness for college graduates who go into public service. Providing incentives for public service will help many in our area learn the value of giving back to our community and country and help them use their education to benefit others.

Just as making sure more kids go to college is an investment in the future, promising not to saddle future generations with our debt is just as important. That's why I am proud, as a fiscal conservative, to report that this bill is fiscally responsible. By eliminating exorbitant subsidies to lending companies, this bill costs taxpayers nothing and is not only fully paid-for, but even provides $750 million in federal deficit reduction. This is crucial considering our country carries $9 trillion of debt — with each of us owing $29,000. The interest alone costs our country about $21 billion per month.

Making college more affordable and preparing American students to excel has been a priority of mine since going to Washington. Within weeks of taking office in January, I supported another measure that boosted Pell Grants. That important increase — for which students and families have waited years — is now law. Another measure I support seeks to make college tuition permanently tax deductible. This would enable families to deduct up to $4,000 of post-secondary education expenses per year. These steps are just the beginning but they provide real solutions and hope for so many families working to give their children a brighter future.

By investing in our future, we can make the dream of a college education a reality for all Americans.

In the era of rapid globalization — where Bucks County students are competing, not just with kids from Ohio and New York, but going head to head with their peers from India and China — we need to give American students every advantage possible. By preparing more students to compete in this global marketplace we will maintain America's leadership in the world. We are increasing access to higher education and helping children to succeed in high-tech and specialized fields — making sure that their future is even brighter than ours.
To learn more about Patrick, click here.