Saturday, August 25, 2007

Saturday Videos

Support Larry LaRocco for the Senate, you Idahoans...

...and don't forget Darcy Burner's online town meeting next Monday (while Dubya is doing his "9/11, Terra, Iraq 4 Evah!" bit for the cretinous Dave Reichert in Washington state)...

...and here is an excerpt of "Real Time with Bill Maher" last night with Tim Robbins, Michel Martin and Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard"

And regarding Hayes, by the way, I give you the following from YouTube Commenter HoustonRockets87...

Hayes is full of shit:

Michael Scheuer explains more fully in the revised edition of his 2002 book the exhaustive study of the evidence of Iraq-al-Qaeda cooperation that eventually led him to the conclusion that there was no relationship between the two forces:

For a number of reasons, I was available to perform the review of Agency files on Iraq and al Qaeda, and the chief of the bin Laden unit handed me the assignment. I was delighted with the task, eager to begin, and sure that my research would support the analysis I had presented in Through Our Enemies' Eyes. For about four weeks in late 2002 and early 2003, I and several others were engaged full time in searching CIA files -- seven days a week, often far more than eight hours a day. At the end of the effort, we had gone back ten years in the files and had reviewed nearly twenty thousand documents that amounted to well over fifty thousand pages of materials. I was both pleased and embarrassed by the results of the research. I was pleased because CIA's position was reaffirmed and the analysis of Mr. Feith's unit was discredited. There was no information that remotely supported the analysis that claimed there was a strong working relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. I was embarrassed because this reality invalidated the analysis I had presented on the subject in my book.
I admire the heck out of Bill Maher, but this is one of the reasons why I can't watch his show. Like many of you I'm sure, I can't properly communicate my disgust with people like Stephen Hayes who thought our invasion of Iraq was acceptable because of an alleged "operational relationship" between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, and then Maher or Martin quite rightly asks, "Then where were the WMD?," and Hayes quickly says, "Oh, that's a different story."

NO IT'S NOT, YOU ASSWIPE! And by the way, how do you define "relatively peaceful"? The casualty figure for our service people doesn't make it into double digits by the end of the month?

Also, I can't imagine why Martin would ask Robbins why he automatically discounts the possibility of accidentally wrong intelligence on Iraq as opposed to purposefully wrong intelligence. As HoustonRockets87 and others have noted, Douglas Feith cooked the intelligence the way Bushco wanted. We're done on that, OK?

And speaking of those crooks, here is the Cheney video once more that Maher mentioned.

And let's not forget to Impeach Cheney First.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Friday Videos

Shinedown ("I Dare You"; I think this is the video for "Heroes" with a new song, but it's good anyway)...

...Happy belated birthday to Roland Orzabal of Tears For Fears ("Mad World"; indeed)...

...Doug Fieger of The Knack also celebrated a birthday on Monday ("Good Girls Don't," just a bit derivative of The Fab Four here - this is loud)...

...and to commemorate what would have been the 61st birthday yesterday of drummer extraordinaire Keith Moon (party guy extraordinaire also, of course), here's "Won't Get Fooled Again" by The Who, from "The Kids Are Alright" (the great retrospective 1979 film of the band contained lots of concert footage, but strangely enough, they didn't have any of this song, so it was performed just for the movie; though I hear Nicky Hopkins on keyboards, I don't see him, unless they just dubbed it in - Moon died a few weeks after this was recorded...after enduring Bushco, this song will never mean the same thing to me again).

They'll Never Trust Us Again

This link takes you to a New York Times analysis yesterday of the latest dunderheaded nonsense from Dubya in comparing the Iraq war to Vietnam (glad to see “the old gray lady” clarifying the latest stupidity, such as his claim that our exit from southeast Asia gave birth to the Khmer Rogue, when in fact they had already existed and were defeated by the Viet Cong in 1979; I’ll grudgingly admit that our presence was a factor in their ascent, though).

It’s not my intention to dissect everything in this column, but I want to highlight this excerpt…

“If one is really concerned about the Iraqi people, and the fate that may be awaiting them as this war winds down, then we ought to get serious about opening our doors, and to welcoming to the United States those Iraqis who have supported us and have put themselves and their families in danger.”
Those words were spoken by Andrew J. Bacevich, a platoon leader in Vietnam who is now a professor of international relations at Boston University (and Bacevich knows the ultimate price of war, by the way…my sympathies). And I think he is absolutely right.

It was my intention to note this story long before now, but Bacevich’s comment yesterday gave me a good reason to do so today; the Times of London tells us of the plight of those Iraqis who assisted the British military, only to face greater risk now as they try to escape from the carnage…

At first, (R Mageed, married with a one-year-old daughter) leapt at the chance to work for the British military in Iraq. He had been studying English at university. “When I started my work three years ago there was no trouble. All the people liked the British. I wanted to help them,” the young man said, surrounded by the three other Iraqi interpreters, who were all just as anxious to tell their story.

“At the time, however, the militias were forming and the people started to support the militia and hate the British Army. That put all the Iraqi interpreters in danger. One of our friends, Ali, was shot dead.”

They dare to travel home only once a week for a two-day break before coming back to work. “What will we do when the British troops leave Iraq? If we stay the militia will kill us,” Mr Mageed said.

Stuck in small cabins, with little to do other than chat to each other and the Irish Guards who are training members of the Iraqi Army, the interpreters say they long for a life of freedom, and without fear. “We want refugee status from the British because the Danish gave their interpreters asylum,” a second member of the group, A. Yassin, 36, said.
And this CNN story tells us the following…

The young Iraqi known as Ronnie fears for his life. Nearly four years ago, as a recent high school graduate, he signed up to be an interpreter for the U.S. military. It seemed like a good job at the time. Today, he is a marked man.

"I swear, my god, every other night, I have a nightmare that some militia is trying to kill me," he says. "I've lost hope. I can't see any future to this country. That's why most of the interpreters want to get out of Iraq."

But for Ronnie and thousands of other interpreters working with the U.S. military, getting out is unspeakably difficult. And with insurgents and death squads viewing them as collaborators with the enemy, going back home isn't a realistic option, either.

"[W]e drove by my house, and you know how painful it is that when you see your house and you can't stop to see your dad or your brother or your mom to say 'Hi,' " Ronnie says.

To help take care of people like Ronnie, the U.S. government is offering 1,000 special immigration visas over the next two years for Iraqis and Afghans working with U.S. forces. But that accounts for just a small percentage of the roughly 9,000 interpreters working with the United States in Iraq. Tens of thousands of others work with various government agencies and contractors. The numbers don't include the interpreters' families.
This takes you to information on H.R. 2265 in the U.S. House of Representatives, which is a bill to grant special immigrant status for certain Iraqis and to assist Iraqi refugees. It seems that the only actions currently taking place on this bill and companion legislation are a lot of introductory remarks so far.

And this takes you to information on similar legislation sponsored by Ted Kennedy in the Senate, along with six other Senators including Biden – I know I was all over him earlier, but he’s doing the right thing here – and The Last Honest Man, which is only appropriate, since he, McCain and a few others own this Iraq mess more than anyone else, aside from President Stupid Head of course.

Oh, and speaking of enablers of the war, let’s never forget why the neocons and some liberal simpatico types who apparently doubted their manhood felt we had to initiate this epochal horror (the explanation is provided below by Little Tommy Friedman – h/t Atrios).

What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, um and basically saying, "Which part of this sentence don't you understand?"

You don't think, you know, we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we're just gonna to let it grow?

Well, Suck. On. This.


That Charlie was what this war was about. We could've hit Saudi Arabia, it was part of that bubble. We couldn't hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.

"Biden" His Time Until He Departs

Based on this column, it appears that the AP’s Matt Stearns has no idea as to why Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware “has no traction” among the contenders in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.

As Stearns tells us (with subtle digs aimed at Dems in general, by the way)…

Of the 2008 presidential campaign’s storylines, that of Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del., is among the strangest: Eminent senator, 34 years service, respected chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee during an era of international tumult. Retail politician of rare skill, with a bedazzling smile, a golden tongue and frequent hands-on touches of voters, as if to draw life-force from them. A compelling personal story of early success, horrific personal loss, professional humiliation and ultimate recovery. Even a new book, “Promises to Keep,” inching this week onto the New York Times best-seller list.

This even as the election turns on Biden’s specialty, national security.
And leave it to Biden to come up with the wrong answer as to why he’s trailing (well, it’s partly right, I’ll admit).

Biden says his chief problem is voters know him only from Sunday talk-fests.
No. Biden’s chief problem is that the netroots thinks he’s a joke (but of course, leave it to Stearns to totally ignore that also).

And that’s not just because we’re mean, it’s because Biden’s voting record on the big issues is pretty bad, nice man that I’ll admit he is, as well as knowledgeable on foreign policy, for the most part.

Here is perhaps Joe’s most ignominious moment, and that is his vote in favor of the fraud bankruptcy bill. Also (as noted here), he voted to confirm Michael Hayden as CIA director because he thought he was “a nice guy,” even though Hayden, in true Bushco form, supported the gutting of FISA (to be fair to Biden, though, he did the right thing in the most recent episode of cowardice by the Democratic congress).

Biden also sponsored a bill to prohibit satellite recording here with Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, and he voted against two amendments requiring Iraq troop withdrawal (noted previously, preferring to take “one last shot” here instead).

I would also like to hear an explanation for Biden’s support of the 1996 “partial birth” abortion ban passed by Congress that Bill Clinton had the infinite good sense to veto back then.

There, Joe (and Stearns); are you starting to understand now why you’re not likely to move from your current 5 percent “perch” among the Democratic field?

This also gave me a chuckle in Stearns’ column…

The other half of the Biden-has-a-chance equation involves the weaknesses of the front-runners. Clinton’s negatives already veer into the mid-40s, before the attacks really begin. Obama’s inexperience unsettles some. And neither seems well-positioned for the red states, where Biden says he can compete because he speaks the language of white middle-class males: “It’s who I am.”
Uh, didn’t you forget somebody, Stearns? You know, the guy leading at 30 percent among likely Democratic voters in Iowa?

Oh, sorry, I forgot – the media doesn’t like John Edwards (that's a shame, because he sure as hell knows how to give a speech).

And speaking of Democratic presidential front runners, I think Sen. Clinton would do well to forget about trying to divine the mood of this country in the event of another unspeakable occurrence. Does she honestly think she’s going to win over any hard-core Rethugs with a little reverse psychology?

The "Timoney Travails" Epic Continues

This AP story tells us that Miami police chief John Timoney is in hot water for using an SUV gratis over the prior year; though he apparently broke no law in doing so, he admits that it creates the perception that he received “something for nothing.”

The story also notes the following…

An officers' union scheduled an unusual no-confidence vote next month in an effort to oust him. Timoney said he will formally ask the city manager, to whom he reports, and the city's ethics board to determine if he did anything wrong.
And in case you were wondering, no, the no-confidence vote isn’t solely over what were apparently free rides in an SUV…

The chief also said there were issues other than the SUV involved in the union decision to hold a no-confidence vote, which he labeled as politically motivated. (Union treasurer William) Scarola acknowledged that the SUV was "a catalyst" among officers who have chafed under rules they perceive as limiting their discretion and treating them as "guilty until proven innocent" in disciplinary matters.
This is par for the course with Timoney, by the way; by that I mean that he knocks heads together to get police to abide by his way of doing the job, and when things go bad at a certain point, the long knives come out.

On the one hand, Timoney gets results, I give him that; his famous “bike patrols” during his time as Philadelphia police commissioner resulted in at least temporary crime deterrence, and they also publicized him through photo-ops printed obligingly by area newspapers. And though there are many fine men and women in law enforcement, there are at least a few in need of Timoney’s tough measures.

On the other hand, when things blow up with Timoney, they do so in a big way. In New York City, he criticized Howard Safir, the successor to his former boss, police commissioner William Bratton (he keeps coming up, as he did here and here), calling Safir a “lightweight,” and that led to Timoney’s dismissal. In Philadelphia, he rounded up everyone in sight (tear gassing a few in the process) during the 2000 Republican National Convention held in Philadelphia; this tells of the 2004 trial that acquitted the last three activists held on charges, and yes, I recall those detained for possessing “instruments of crime” such as cell phones and handheld data organizers (I have not been able to determine the cost of the litigation surrounding these incidents, but I’m sure it is exorbitant).

His handling of the 2000 Republican convention in Philadelphia (as well as the World Economic Forum in New York City, in which he worked as a security consultant) made Timoney attractive to Miami with the Free Trade of the Americas Summit upcoming in that city (along with the attendant legacy of police corruption in every department inherited by Timoney), and I recall that the bike patrols returned in that area also for a time.

I should probably detest Timoney, but part of me doesn’t. As I said, he gave us results, which was important to me as a one-time Philadelphia taxpayer, though he did so by trampling on civil rights of legitimate protestors on occasion. And you have to be a special type of a person to work on a police force in a major city in this country, knowing that the flow of guns to criminals will proceed unabated as more join their ranks due to missed opportunities in education, joblessness, and the easy availability of drugs (among other factors). We’re basically talking about what is, in many ways, a losing battle.

Also, Timoney has dealt with family troubles, including the fact that his son was nabbed in a pot bust two years ago. This and other incidents in Timoney’s personal life were discussed in Elsa Walsh’s fine profile of him in The New Yorker last March, which I can’t link to online, unfortunately (adding to the narrative of Timoney’s life and career, which represents a Greek tragedy in many ways, I guess).

I will await the outcome of the no-confidence vote, along with everyone else, and hope that Timoney make it. If he goes down, though, I hope a more substantive case is made against him than the fact that he took some free rides in a fresh “whip.”

Update 9/5: Timoney has brass ones for standing up to the FOP, as he does here.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Thursday Videos

Political stuff - the first is in response to the "Freedom Crock" campaign...

...and the second is some more "Back Talk" about the most important threat that we face, as opposed to the threat against overseas terrorism (the latter is important also, but it can't destroy the foundation of our government, and even former Reaganites see it, such as Bruce Fein and Paul Craig Roberts, of course).

Unhappy Holidays?

Inspired (?) by this story...

‘Twas some time before Christmas, and all through the house
Laura and Dubya were both getting soused
Once-loyal Bushies were scarcely in sight
With only Darth Cheney out prowling at night
Jenna was wearing a holiday glow
As soon-to-be-hubby enjoyed ho-ho-ho
And Bar at a frat house drank “GTs” galore
And now found herself all passed out on the floor

The first flakes of winter now slowly appeared
As Dubya no longer sought comfort in beer
After he stared at the new-falling snow
He opened his stash and went looking for “blow”
When what to his wondering eyes should appear
A Republican senator shaking with fear
“Please Mr. President,” John Warner said
“Help save our troops and don’t leave them for dead.”

“How’d you get into my house?” Dubya cried
“Had to – was freezing to death,” John replied
He then pleaded on, “I have here a bill
I pray that you read it – it’s not one to kill
It still shows support for the war in Iraq
But our people will know that you now ‘have their back’
Our forces in theater slowly we’ll purge
But if Maliki goes, you can salvage the surge.”

Dubya took it from Warner with care
Affixed his eye firm in a stuporous stare
Warner didn’t know quite what to think
When Dubya glanced up and gave him a wink
He saw that the Senator, oh so composed
Had jowly cheeks and a shiny red nose
But though he’s a pal, Bush still thought it a crock
He then cocked his fist and gave Warner a sock

The senator fell, holding onto his face
Despite the blood, all else was in place
I’d squash him, Warner thought in his grief
But this doofus is still the commander in chief!
The senator propped himself up by hand
As Dubya screamed, “This will not stand!
The first lady stirred with a thundering head
As she sat up, Dubya yelled, “Go back to bed!”

“Mr. President, listen,” Warner did plead.
“There’s no timeline here that will not let you lead.”
“No more,” said Dubya, stalking away
“Besides, what will Republicans say?
That I have no nerve? I won’t see it through?
I’ll tell you instead what to do.
Go find Brit Hume, Cavuto and crew
Even Wolf Blitzen. They’ll know what to do.

‘Round the clock airplay of Qaeda attacks
Those damn liberal Dems will stop dead in their tracks
DHS color codes, more Anthrax scares
And I’ll bring Karl back – they’ll be caught unawares.”
The senator saw there was no hope in sight
And prepared to head back out into the night
And we heard Bush exclaim as Warner left, sore
“Get your ass out the door, and long live the war!”
My sincerest apologies to the estate of Clement Clark Moore, by the way.

Thursday Gun Nonsense

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports today that Gov. Ed Rendell is shutting down PA’s instant background check system for gun purchases from Sept. 2nd to the 6th because of “much-needed computer upgrades.”

OK, all you gun nuts, time to “lock n’ load”…

"This is a slap in the face to the law-abiding citizens of the commonwealth who wish to purchase a gun during this time," Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati (R., Jefferson) said in a statement issued this week.
(The story notes that the four-day stretch when the network will be down coincides with the start of hunting season, when doves and early Canada geese become fair game.)

Scarnati continued with this utterly calm response – snark…

"I am concerned that this is just another attempt by liberals from Philadelphia to limit the rights of gun owners and those who wish to become a gun owner."

Scarnati did not return phone calls yesterday to elaborate.

He is not the only one expressing concerns about the shutdown - though others are not as quick to blame liberals.

Said Melody Zullinger, executive director of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, which represents about 100,000 sportsmen and women: "I don't think the shutdown was initiated by Philly's liberals. I guess some people could lump it that way because Rendell is from Philly.

"I just think that the administration, given their liberal bent, didn't stop to think," she said.
Oooh, this sounds like a fun game, everybody; just how many times can we say the word “liberal” in this story?

Can I play? Oh goody…

Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal…

Ha ha, I win! Super (OK, time to “serious up” here).

You know, somehow it doesn’t bother me a whole lot if some hammerheads out there feel deprived because Gov. Rendell is trying to effect maintenance to a system that would do something to lower the body count from handgun-related deaths in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, primarily. Just anticipate that the system will be down and plan your purchases accordingly, or is thinking that far ahead too much work for you?

For anyone out there doubting Rendell who still needs to find a clue on this issue, I would like to present this New York Times column from Bob Herbert that appeared last week (behind the Times Select wall by now, sadly)…

On Saturday in Newark, three young friends whose lives and dreams vanished in a nightmarish eruption of gunfire in a rundown schoolyard were buried.

On Sunday in a small town in Missouri, a pastor and two worshipers were murdered by a gunman who opened fire in a church.

Murder, that darkest of American pastimes, celebrated in film and song and fostered by the firearms industry and its apologists, continues unabated.

It has been almost six years since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when the nation's consciousness of terror was yanked to new heights. In those six years, nearly 100,000 people -- an incredible number -- have been murdered in the United States.

No heightening of consciousness has accompanied this slaughter, which had nothing to do with terrorism. The news media and most politicians have hardly bothered to notice.

At the same time that we're diligently confiscating water and toothpaste from air travelers, we're handing over guns and bullets by the trainload to yahoos bent on blowing others into eternity in armed robberies, drug-dealing, gang violence, domestic assaults and other criminal acts.

Among those who have noticed the carnage are the nation's police chiefs, and they are alarmed. Surges of homicides and other violent crimes in many cities and towns over the past couple of years have prompted Bill Bratton, the police chief in Los Angeles, to warn of the possibility of a ''gathering storm'' of criminal violence in the U.S.

''Philadelphia and Baltimore are having horrendous problems,'' he said in an interview. ''You just had that awful shooting in Newark. What we'd like to do is bring this issue of crime back into the national debate in this election year. What you don't want is to let it get out of control like it did in the late '80s and early '90s.''

Mr. Bratton is a past president of the Police Executive Research Forum, a group based in Washington that is composed of the heads of some of the largest state, county and local law enforcement agencies in the country. The group's report on crime trends in 2005 and 2006 tracked disturbing increases in robberies, aggravated assaults and murder.

The report described violent crime as ''making a comeback,'' not to the same degree as the crack-propelled violence of the late-'80s and early-'90s, but in frightening numbers, nevertheless.

Chuck Wexler, the forum's executive director, offered a particularly chilling statistic. The number of cases of aggravated assault with a firearm is about 100,000 a year. In some cases, the gunman misses, but each year roughly 60,000 people are actually shot.

''Over the past five years,'' said Mr. Wexler, ''more than half a million people have been the victim of an aggravated assault with a firearm. We have become numbed in this society.''

Law enforcement officials believe there is something more vicious and cold-blooded, and thus more deadly, about the latest waves of crime moving across the country. Robberies involving juveniles with little regard for the lives of their victims are becoming more prevalent. Individuals with cellphones, iPods and other electronic devices are particular targets.

In the forum's report, Chief Heather Fong of the San Francisco police described a phenomenon called ''rat-packing'' in which robbers using cellphones call in fellow assailants to surround a victim.

Former Police Chief Nanette Hegerty of Milwaukee noted that in a number of holdups a cooperative victim was shot anyway.

Local authorities need help coping with violent crime. Huge numbers of criminals were locked up over the past 10 or 15 years, and they are leaving prison now by the hundreds of thousands each year. With few jobs or other resources available to them, a return to crime by a large portion of that population is inevitable.

The federal government played a big role in the effort that reduced crime substantially in the 1990s. But much of that federal support has since vanished, in part because of the tremendous attention and resources directed toward anti-terror initiatives, and in part because the Bush administration and much of the Republican Party have held fast to the ideological notion that crime is a local problem.

A similarly rigid ideological stance is undermining the effort to control the flow of guns and ammunition into the hands of criminals.

We have not returned to the bad old days of the late-'80s and early-'90s, but the trends are ominous. ''We have to get the feds back into this game,'' said Chief Bratton. ''They have the resources. They can help us.''
I hate to be a wet blanket here, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon under Bushco. And that makes the efforts of Rendell and other governors as well as mayors of our cities all the more important.

And for that, some doves and Canadian geese can continue to fly freely for a little while longer.

One more thing; LA Police Chief Bratton is friends with this guy again, apparently (his former boss in NYC). He should tell Rudy! to stand up to the wingnuts here and try to save some lives.

Update 8/24: In this case, Ed, shoot first, as it were, and don't ask questions at all.

The 8.6 Percent Non-Solution

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know much about California politics. And this story is good news in that Democratic State Assemblywoman Laura Richardson is going to Washington to fill the seat of the late Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald.

But I’d like to note the following about her victory (which was anticipated, apparently)...

As expected, turnout was low, at 8.6 percent. Tuesday's runoff was a bit anti-climactic after a bruising primary campaign in June between Richardson and state Sen. Jenny Oropeza.
Now I have to admit that I know a thing or two about elections that, due to a one-party plurality, end up being mere formalities (we have such a case in Philadelphia with Democratic nominee and presumed-next-mayor Michael Nutter running against Republican Al Taubenberger – not to be a cynic, but the real election was the Democratic primary, which Nutter won against four other candidates).

But 8.6 percent? That’s not low, that’s microscopic!

Is it really necessary for me to point out that we have seen elections in Iraq and Lebanon where people risked their lives to vote, knowing what was at stake (I’m the last person to act as a commercial for Bushco, but let’s have a little context here, OK?).

A turnout of 8.6 percent is absolutely shameful. If it weren’t for the possibility that Ahh-nold would automatically give the win to Kanaley the Republican (likely that would happen), I would encourage that the results be thrown out and the seat awarded by The Governator to the winner on merit (again, I have no clue as to whether or not that would stand up to a court challenge, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s what the voters of that congressional district deserve).

And yes, I’ll say something like this in a few months if a similar result occurs in the Philadelphia mayoral election.

All Terra, All The Time (updated)

I think National Intelligence Director (an ironic job for this man if ever there was one) Mike (“Ooga Booga!”) McConnell must think we’re as dumb as he is.

As noted by Editor and Publisher here…

McConnell confirmed for the first time (in an interview with an El Paso, TX newspaper…gotta keep this away from the New York Times, I guess) that the private sector assisted with President Bush's warrantless surveillance program. AT&T, Verizon and other telecommunications companies are being sued for their cooperation. "Now if you play out the suits at the value they're claimed, it would bankrupt these companies," McConnell said, arguing that they deserve immunity for their help.
Oh sure, act on a bogus lead from AT&T or Verizon phone records, break into the home of an elderly couple instead of an alleged “terrist,” either the man or woman is shocked into having a heart attack and dies for the screwup, and either one of the two companies ends up not being liable because they have immunity from prosecution?

I don’t think so (Update 8/26: Based on the New York Times editorial below, though, it would seem the telecoms have that immunity now based on the Dems' caving in the latest FISA nonsense, but McConnell wants some kind of retroactive immunity as well). Also…

McConnell said it takes 200 hours to assemble a FISA warrant on a single telephone number. "We're going backwards," he said. "We couldn't keep up."
Yeah, well, that may be how long it takes to do the legal prep work before submitting the warrant to a judge, though now that is overseen through McConnell and Abu Gonzales, with the Dems claiming that this utterly bogus arrangement will be revisited when this temporary law “sunsets” in six months, and I’ll believe that when I see it, boys and girls.

My point is that, since he and Abu G. oversee the warrants anyway, what is McConnell complaining about here? Or is this just some kind of pre-emptive PR strike anticipating that the Dems may restore the rule of law to this nonsense?

Also, McConnell gives the misleading impression that he must wait for surveillance to be approved by a court, when in reality (as noted by Wikipedia here)…

…The President may authorize, through the Attorney General, electronic surveillance without a court order for the period of one year provided it is only for foreign intelligence information [7]; targeting foreign powers as defined by 50 U.S.C. §1801(a)(1),(2),(3) [8] or their agents; and there is no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party.[9]
And as Glenn Greenwald reminds us here (regarding Bushco’s claim that FISA is out of date and some relic of the rotary-phone era)…

That FISA was substantially expanded in October of 2001 -- at the administration's request -- is one of the central (and often overlooked) facts illustrating how severe is the corruption and dishonesty which lies (still) at the heart of the NSA lawbreaking scandal.

The same President who demanded changes to FISA in light of the terrorist threat, who received all the changes he demanded, and who then assured the nation he had all the surveillance tools he needed under the law, then proceeded -- the very same month -- to eavesdrop on Americans in violation of that law. Then, once caught, he sought to excuse his lawbreaking by claiming that the law (which his own administration re-wrote and heralded as sufficient) was somehow inadequate.
And with typical understatement, McConnell communicates the following in the El Paso story…

Even as he shed new light on the classified operations, McConnell asserted that the current debate in Congress about whether to update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act will cost American lives because of all the information it revealed to terrorists.

"Part of this is a classified world. The fact that we're doing it this way means that some Americans are going to die," he said.

(Oh, excuse me for a moment, I need to stop and take a drink...there, that's better.)

Once more...


Is it possible for you to stop with the fear mongering and act like an intelligent adult here, Mr. National “Intelligence” Director? I mean, it is your job to protect us, isn’t it? And isn’t that last sentence a tacit admission, then, that you don’t know what you’re doing?

O, to be ruled by adults again…

Update (as noted above): This editorial appeared in the New York Times today...

After more than a year and a half of administration stonewalling on President Bush’s illegal domestic wiretapping, it was nice to see Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, finally unburden himself in a newspaper interview. It would have been nicer if Mr. McConnell had really wanted to enlighten the public.

Take, for example, his disclosure that the government has eavesdropped without warrants on thousands of telephone calls in which one party was outside the United States. He said the government got warrants to continue spying on the person in the United States only “100 or less” times.

This was supposed to make us feel better. It did not.

After Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Bush ordered the National Security Agency to intercept communications between people in the United States and people abroad without a warrant. That is a violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA.

Now we know the law was broken thousands of times. In 100 or so cases, the unlawfully intercepted calls led agents to believe that the person in the United States was a bad actor (Mr. McConnell implied, sort of, that they were terrorists), and the government’s lawyers obtained a warrant. We are still looking for that loophole in the Fourth Amendment.

Mr. McConnell told The El Paso Times that it was necessary to rush through major changes to FISA before Congress went on vacation because warrants require pesky paperwork — 200 hours’ worth each.

Really? The government applied for 2,181 FISA warrants in 2006, which the blog Threat Level translated to 436,200 hours. Figuring a 40-hour workweek with two weeks off, that’s more than 218 top-secret-cleared officials doing nothing all year but writing out FISA applications.

Mr. McConnell said telephone companies turned over call data to the National Security Agency without a court order, which may be illegal. He revealed this while praising Congress for giving the telecoms immunity from lawsuits or criminal sanctions if they continue doing that. Now, he said, Congress should absolve the companies retroactively. That would be a nice twofer: protect a deep-pockets industry that may have broken the law, and cut off judicial scrutiny of Mr. Bush’s decision to ignore FISA in the first place.

Other parts of Mr. McConnell’s interview were bewildering, like his claim that debating wiretapping in Congress will cause American deaths. It was odd that he spoke at all about matters the intelligence community still considers classified. But there was a secret Mr. McConnell was determined to keep. He was asked why the White House bitterly fought reasonable Congressional proposals to give spies a bit more needed flexibility to use modern technology. Mr. McConnell said there was “untenable” language in the bills and lawmakers refused to fix it. The White House then stampeded Congress into passing a bill it wanted, one that shredded FISA.

What was the language? Sorry, that’s classified.
This seems like as good a time as any to stick in a plug for the ACLU and its efforts to hold "the Democratic leader-sheep" accountable, so...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Wednesday Videos

Happy Birthday to Paul Doucette of Matchbox Twenty ("Push")...

...Happy Birthday also to Gary Lee Conner of Screaming Trees ("Nearly Lost You")...

...Happy Birthday also to Tori Amos ("Cornflake Girl"; pardon a bit of artsy self-indulgence - never would have thought to have a song-and-dance performed atop a used pickup truck, complete with Amos on "air piano")...

...and for a complete and total about-face, here is filmmaker Robert Greenwald's latest "Fox Attacks" video, this time concerning Iran (hate to break the news to these idiots on TV, but anyone who thinks our fine service people, already wiped out by Iraq, can take on this infinitely superior military power at this point must be jacking off in front of a photo of General George S. Patton or something, or possibly GWB; nice to shed their own blood in such a fool's errand, though I realize that's waaay too much to ask - just watch "24" instead, since I guess that's the only real "war on terra" in which they're willing to participate, and yes, the sight of Lieberman's face by itself without his holier-than-thou whining makes me want to vomit).

Silvio’s Fishy New Protégé

Gosh, it’s been just so darned long since I checked in with former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to find out what well-moneyed right-wing businessmen do with themselves to pass the time on “the continent” once they’ve fallen from power, I know.

You remember Silvio, don’t you? He tried to abstain from sex until last April’s Italian general election (no word on whether or not he succeeded), he once referred to himself as “the Jesus of politics,” and he held out for a time on calling his successor Romano Prodi to concede (though Silvio eventually acted like a stand-up guy and did the right thing).

Now, according to the Times of London here, he is promoting Michela Vittoria Brambilla as the head of something called the “Party of Freedom,” which I guess is supposed to a new conservative coalition or something. And as the Times also notes…

Brambilla runs a fish import business specialising in salmon and seafood, and is head of the Italian young entrepreneurs association. She has a two-year-old son, Vittorio, by her partner, Eros Maggioni, also a businessman.
Leave it to the swarthy Italians to choose Eros as a masculine name. Takes a bit of guts, I think, considering all of the schoolyard taunting you’d have to overcome growing up.

Well, I wish Berlusconi and Brambilla luck; we need all of the overseas, non-deadly political intrigue we can get. And I wish business-oriented conservatives in this country had a better eye for (and appreciation of) beautiful women.

On second thought, paging Dirk Kempthorne…

Dirk's Dirty Work

This editorial appeared in the New York Times yesterday…

Dirk Kempthorne’s arrival in Washington as secretary of the interior raised hope among conservationists that he would moderate the Bush administration’s aggressive search for oil and gas in some of the country’s most environmentally sensitive lands. This has not happened. The Bureau of Land Management, which issues drilling leases and permits, seems to moving as recklessly as it did under Mr. Kempthorne’s predecessor, Gale Norton, and even the administration’s natural allies have finally had enough.

Last Friday, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership sued the Interior Department to protest the recent authorization of 2,000 new oil and gas wells, along with 1,000 miles of roads and another 1,000 miles of pipeline in a wildlife-rich area of south-central Wyoming known as the Atlantic Rim. The suit accuses the bureau of multiple violations of federal law, including the requirement that it fully assess less destructive alternatives. It also notes that the bureau itself conceded that under its plan the “natural setting would be converted to an industrialized setting” with severe adverse impacts on mule deer, elk and pronghorn antelope.

The partnership has previously protested leases in sensitive areas of Montana, Utah and other Western states and registered dismay with the administration on a range of environmental issues. This is its first lawsuit against the government, and one it did not undertake lightly — in part because it is not a litigious group and partly because the hunters and anglers who make up the bulk of its membership tend to be largely Republican.

That the partnership is now going to court shows how distasteful the administration’s public lands policies have become and how little they have changed since Vice President Dick Cheney, in his notorious energy report, ordered up a full-court press for domestic oil and gas resources regardless of the environmental consequences. Like other conservation groups, the partnership has never disputed the need to develop supplies of natural gas, nor has it objected to responsible development undertaken at a measured pace with due regard for other values, including the protection of wildlife.

What drove the partnership over the edge and into court was the sheer one-sidedness of the administration’s approach, as well as its reckless disregard for the law, and if that does not get Mr. Kempthorne’s attention, nothing will.
And regarding his arrival (mystified by the Times' note that conservationists expressd hope, I must admit), Timothy Noah of Slate called him “the Democrats’ godsend” back in August of 2003, and also noted (back when Kempthorne’s selection to replace Gale Norton was not yet confirmed; Norton should also have her face on a Wanted poster fixed upon every tree in America)…

If it is Kempthorne, Bush will have made a comically anti-environmental choice. During six years in the Senate in the 1990s, Kempthorne scored a "0" on the League of Conservation Voters' legislative scorecards every year except 1993, when Kempthorne scored 6 percent on the basis of one little-remembered vote against funding a rocket booster for the space program that environmentalists judged harmful to the environment. Knight Ridder's Seth Borenstein reported June 23 that in the two years after Kempthorne became governor of Idaho, the state increased toxic emissions by 2 percent—this during a period when the national average declined by 9 percent. The chief of staff for Idaho's Department of Environmental Quality told Borenstein that environmental inspections were at "a bare-bones minimum" aimed only at staying in compliance with a state court order. Kempthorne did battle with EPA Administrator Christie Whitman over an Idaho Superfund cleanup, at one point threatening to evict EPA officials from the state.
Also, Kempthorne appears to be either unique, less discreet, or less lucky among his Repug brethren, though, in that some of his, shall we say, extracurricular activities have drawn more notoriety than his same-party peers (or, as 43rd State Blues notes here, Dirk seems to "like his pages bent over," if you know what I mean).

And as noted here, our boy Dirk "surrounded the Idaho state capitol with concrete barriers and other security measures in the wake of September 11. It seems that rather a lot of people (were) upset that Dirk spent $335,000 on his hidey-hole when the rest of state government is cutting spending in other areas."

All the better for Dirk’s “leisure activities,” I suppose.

Thank You, President 25 Percent "Mandate"!

This is an occasion where words pretty much fail me (well, not completely).

In a year and a political climate where all of the foul Repug chickens, as it were, have come home to roost (Iraq, domestic spying, continued inaction on the climate crisis, obstructionism by Incurious George on all manner of legislation from the 110th Congress, the possible onset of a recession...for everyone, including the investor class...due to the subprime mortgage debacle - and note that legitimate Immigration reform, though important, isn’t on the list), reflected in the fact that they trail the Democrats in fundraising (and in congressional races also), you’ll never guess how they’re choosing to spend their money.

By attacking each other! O happy, happy day!!

As kos notes here…

Former White House aides are joining Republican fundraisers in bankrolling a $15 million, five-week advertising campaign putting pressure on lawmakers whose backing of President Bush's Iraq war strategy may be wavering.

The group, Freedom's Watch, launched the ads Wednesday, even as Bush delivered a renewed call for keeping U.S. forces in Iraq. The money will pay for ad placements on national cable and local television stations as well as on radio and the Internet.

The ads will run in 20 states and will urge viewers to ask their member of Congress to stand by Bush's plan. Organizers of the effort would not identify the targeted lawmakers, but a review of the initial TV ad placements done by a group opposed to the war shows most of them are in Republican congressional districts.
And look who’s on the list from PA; why, that would be Our Man Arlen Specter and Jim “Robo-Call” Gerlach.

This is way too damn funny…

Update: And former White House PR flak Ari Fleischer ends up with egg on his face? Better and better...

More Bad Karma From Big Pharma

This AP/Minnesota Public Radio story tells us of a law in that state that requires drugmakers to disclose how much money they spend on members of state advisory panels who select the drugs used in Medicaid programs, and what kind of revelations are discovered (hmm, can you smell just a whiff of collusion, boys and girls?).

As noted…

Those panels, most comprised of physicians, hold great sway over the $28 billion spent on drugs each year for Medicaid patients nationwide. But aside from Minnesota, only Vermont and Maine require drug companies to report payments to doctors for lectures, consulting, research and other services.

An Associated Press review of records in Minnesota found that a doctor and a pharmacist on the eight-member state panel simultaneously got big checks - more than $350,000 to one - from pharmaceutical companies for speaking about their products.

The AP began looking at the records in mid-June. Soon after, the Minnesota Medicaid Drug Formulary Committee began considering a conflict-of-interest policy that would require members to disclose such financial relationships and recuse themselves from voting in some cases. The committee is expected to act on the policy next month.

John E. Simon, a psychiatrist appointed to the panel in 2004, earned more than $350,000 from drug companies between 2004 and 2006. Pharmacist Robert Straka served from 2000 to 2006 and collected $78,000 from various drug makers during that time.

Both men, and the committee chairman, said the payments did not influence their work with the committee.
Uh huh…

…ethical experts said the Minnesota data raise questions about the possibility of similar financial ties between the pharmaceutical industry and advisers in other states.

"In the absence of disclosure laws, there's certainly no way to know," said Jack Hoadley, a research professor specializing in Medicaid at Georgetown University in Washington. "There are a lot of physicians in general who have at least some contract or grant funding out of pharmaceutical companies, and additional (who) do speaking engagements."
Fortunately, this American Prospect story tells us that…

…Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Herb Kohl of Wisconsin said they intended to push for a national registry. McCaskill's press office would not give details about any forthcoming legislation, but said the senator has "moved in the direction of a national disclosure registry for gifts to physicians."

''If it becomes a public record, it will have a cleansing effect on what I think is an insidious practice,'' McCaskill told the Miami Herald in July.

To avoid the same pitfalls as the state laws, Wolfe said Congress has to "be serious" about creating legislation that does not shield drug companies and doctors. But with lawmakers remaining mum about it, it is too early to tell if possible legislation will have any teeth.
To get more of an idea of the importance of this issue, let’s consider the fact that Merck has fought every single case brought against it over Vioxx, a painkiller that has been linked to 27,000 cardiac deaths and heart attacks in this country (that number sounds low, actually, believe it or not, based on this report – the New York Times has the plaintiff number at 45,000 here). And based on the Times story, Merck seems to be winning the majority of the cases, even though the Times report notes the following…

“The possibility of increased C.V. events is of great concern,” a Merck scientist, Dr. Alise Reicin, wrote in a 1997 e-mail message.” “C.V. events” is medical shorthand for cardiovascular incidents like heart attacks. “I just can’t wait to be the one to present those results to senior management,” Dr. Reicin’s message continued.
So yes, Merck was indeed warned about Vioxx.

Don’t you think the plaintiffs in the Merck cases would want to know how much money may have changed hands between the company and their family physicians to promote the drug that injured or killed one of their family members?

Hil Is A "Pill" On Iraq

(She's not alone, though - I think U.S. House Rep. Jerry Mc Nerney needs a "manhood" test based on this, and I never thought I'd ever say this, but kudos to Ellen Tauscher.

McNerney's wants to "see what is acceptable to Republicans"? Screw you! Way to repay Markos et al for their help.)

So Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton is telling us that the surge is “working” in Al Anbar province, huh?

Thanks loads, Senator.

Yes, there have been some gains, as noted by David Bonior of the John Edwards campaign, but Bonior quite rightly says that "by cherry-picking one instance to validate a failed Bush strategy, it risks undermining the effort in the Congress to end this war.”

(And by the way, we should leave Iraq if for no other reason that to show up Nouri al-Maliki for the monumental ingrate that he is; yes, Bushco has fracked up in endless ways, beginning with the original invasion of a country that was never a threat to us – even Rummy never took the threat of Iraqi nukes seriously – but the fact of the matter is that our men and women are losing their body parts, to say nothing of their lives, as well as shedding blood and suffering all kinds of other trauma over there, and I don’t think a little bit of stinking gratitude from this guy is too much to ask).

Bonior’s accurate analysis of Clinton’s words prompted this response from Howard Wolfson, Clinton’s communications director…

"Senator Edwards was right on Sunday when he said that all the Democrats would end the war and that the differences between them were small," he said. "He is wrong today to distort Senator Clinton's opposition to the surge in a sad attempt to raise his flagging poll numbers."
Really? Funny thing, Howie, but according to this, John Edwards is still leading among Iowa caucus-goers in the Democratic primary.

Give us a bit of a warning the next time you decide to steal from Karl Rove’s playbook, OK?

The importance of Clinton’s words is more symbolic than literal here because, as Bonior says, it distracts from the goal of getting our people out. Yes, Clinton opposed “the splurge” when it was first proposed in January, but her words play into the hands of Petraeus and company who want this mess to go on for ten years (dear God).

I’ll tell you what; I’m just going to post the entire New York Times editorial written last Sunday by seven of our military personnel returning from Iraq. They are in a much better position to evaluate what has been going on over there than anyone else.

They are…

Buddhika Jayamaha (Army Specialist)
Wesley D. Smith (Sergeant)
Jeremy Roebuck (Sergeant)
Omar Mora (Sergeant)
Edward Sandmeier (Sergeant)
Yance T. Gray (Staff Sergeant)
Jeremy A. Murphy (Staff Sergeant)
(As noted in the column, Staff Sergeant Murphy was wounded…best wishes for a full and speedy recovery)

This needs to be read thoroughly by every one of us (I know that will turn this into an enormously long post, but I think it’s necessary, especially since this has been largely ignored by our corporate media).

VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.

As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.

Similarly, Sunnis, who have been underrepresented in the new Iraqi armed forces, now find themselves forming militias, sometimes with our tacit support. Sunnis recognize that the best guarantee they may have against Shiite militias and the Shiite-dominated government is to form their own armed bands. We arm them to aid in our fight against Al Qaeda.

However, while creating proxies is essential in winning a counterinsurgency, it requires that the proxies are loyal to the center that we claim to support. Armed Sunni tribes have indeed become effective surrogates, but the enduring question is where their loyalties would lie in our absence. The Iraqi government finds itself working at cross purposes with us on this issue because it is justifiably fearful that Sunni militias will turn on it should the Americans leave.

In short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear. (In the course of writing this article, this fact became all too clear: one of us, Staff Sergeant Murphy, an Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader, was shot in the head during a “time-sensitive target acquisition mission” on Aug. 12; he is expected to survive and is being flown to a military hospital in the United States.) While we have the will and the resources to fight in this context, we are effectively hamstrung because realities on the ground require measures we will always refuse — namely, the widespread use of lethal and brutal force.

Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side.

Coupling our military strategy to an insistence that the Iraqis meet political benchmarks for reconciliation is also unhelpful. The morass in the government has fueled impatience and confusion while providing no semblance of security to average Iraqis. Leaders are far from arriving at a lasting political settlement. This should not be surprising, since a lasting political solution will not be possible while the military situation remains in constant flux.

The Iraqi government is run by the main coalition partners of the Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, with Kurds as minority members. The Shiite clerical establishment formed the alliance to make sure its people did not succumb to the same mistake as in 1920: rebelling against the occupying Western force (then the British) and losing what they believed was their inherent right to rule Iraq as the majority. The qualified and reluctant welcome we received from the Shiites since the invasion has to be seen in that historical context. They saw in us something useful for the moment.

Now that moment is passing, as the Shiites have achieved what they believe is rightfully theirs. Their next task is to figure out how best to consolidate the gains, because reconciliation without consolidation risks losing it all. Washington’s insistence that the Iraqis correct the three gravest mistakes we made — de-Baathification, the dismantling of the Iraqi Army and the creation of a loose federalist system of government — places us at cross purposes with the government we have committed to support.

Political reconciliation in Iraq will occur, but not at our insistence or in ways that meet our benchmarks. It will happen on Iraqi terms when the reality on the battlefield is congruent with that in the political sphere. There will be no magnanimous solutions that please every party the way we expect, and there will be winners and losers. The choice we have left is to decide which side we will take. Trying to please every party in the conflict — as we do now — will only ensure we are hated by all in the long run.

At the same time, the most important front in the counterinsurgency, improving basic social and economic conditions, is the one on which we have failed most miserably. Two million Iraqis are in refugee camps in bordering countries. Close to two million more are internally displaced and now fill many urban slums. Cities lack regular electricity, telephone services and sanitation. “Lucky” Iraqis live in gated communities barricaded with concrete blast walls that provide them with a sense of communal claustrophobia rather than any sense of security we would consider normal.

In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, “We need security, not free food.”

In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.

Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.

We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.
Every Democratic presidential nominee should repeat this over and over in case they need to do so: our presence is fueling the insurgency, our presence is fueling the insurgency, our presence is fueling the insurgency…

And if your candidate doesn’t do this, Howie, she’s going to lose ground from the 22 percent that she has now, and she’s already trailing. Then we’ll see whose poll numbers are “flagging.”

Update 1: Well, at least Dubya is finally comparing Iraq to the correct war in our history, as opposed to Korea and WWII.

Update 2: More Iraq news of dangers facing our troops for Jerry McNerney.

Update 9/12/07: Dear deepest sympathies to the families and friends of Sgts. Mora and Gray.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tuesday Videos

The Presidents Of The United States of America ("Lump," nice to be understated, guys, and never forget that, when all is said and done, this is a song about a fish)...

...Happy Birthday to Kenny Rogers, and as a tribute, here are those OK Go guys and their damn treadmills again doing what they do best (?) to "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" from those swinging, psychedelic '60s bay-bee; the mind-blowing last few seconds are missing, but that's OK (Rogers sang this song with The First Edition, of course, 1967 or so I believe)...

...Happy Birthday also to Glenn Hughes of Black Sabbath ("War Pigs," with images of Iraq and elsewhere burned into our memory thanks to Bushco)...

...and before there was Clapton (yes, there was such a time), there was guitar god James Burton (played with Elvis), who celebrates a birthday today (picking the electric on Nick Lowe's "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding" which Lowe sings with Elvis Costello - I'll let you interpret the message accordingly).

Bobby Jindal Is An Idiot

(Sigh - here we go again...).

I know there are many tolerant Catholics possessing common sense and compassion who are just living their lives, have no desire to try and cram our beliefs down anyone else's throat and wish for all of us to just get along (like me). But why oh why is it that many of the Catholics in public life are intolerant, loudmouthed morons?

Rep. Bobby Jindal is a Republican (surprised?) running for governor of Louisiana. Aside from hoping and praying and doing what I can to help the people of Louisiana whose lives were turned completely upside down by Katrina to get back on their feet, I couldn't give a fig about what happens in that state, politically, culturally, or otherwise.

However, the fact that Jindal passes himself off as someone who represents my faith (he most certainly does not, as far as I'm concerned) is repellent and abhorrent to me to the point where I believe I have to speak out against him.

So here is the YouTube video and this link to the Daily Kos post that provides more information.

God, am I sick of these people!

P.S. - I get mad at the Fundies because many of them are guilty of Jindal's behavior and advocate a like-minded political agenda, and continue to do so; I certainly don't disrespect their desire to worship as they see fit.

Patrick May Regret This

I’m not sure it was particularly wise on the part of Patrick Murphy to endorse Barack Obama as the Democratic Party nominee for president at this moment.

Oh sure, he’s entitled to do what he thinks is best, even though it means denying John Edwards of his well-deserved endorsement. And this fits in with Patrick’s M.O. of charging forward and doing the right thing with the courage of your convictions, which is otherwise laudable (and Obama did show leadership, I thought, in this speech calling for an end to our utterly ridiculous embargo of Cuba, and I have to admit that I think Obama was right to keep the door open for discussion with unpopular leaders in a potential first year of a first term, despite the “slapping down” he got from Hillary among others).

But as a TPM commenter noted, this is awfully early in the process to come out in favor of a nominee. And though there has already been more presidential candidate saturation than this time four years ago (sometimes too much, maybe?), there’s no way we could or should know everything, and I just think it would have been more prudent to wait until we got closer to the PA primary at least and had more information.

But again, I respect the courage of Murphy’s convictions (and like me, Patrick will of course support the nominee of the party).

I can’t help but wonder what Bill will think of this, though (no more of Bubba at rallies like the one pictured above in Bristol last year, I guess, seeing as how this also freezes out Hillary for now).

So Release The Damn Report Already!

According to the Washington Post today…

Former CIA Director George Tenet (pictured) did not marshal his agency's resources to respond to the recognized threat posed by al-Qaeda before the Sept. 11 attacks, the agency's inspector general (John Helgerson) concluded in a long-classified report released today.

A 19-page executive summary of the report, completed in June 2005, said it could not find a "single point of failure nor a silver bullet" that would have prevented the attacks, but went on to fault the senior management of the CIA for failing to deal with the al-Qaeda threat. "The agency and its officers did not discharge their responsibilities in a satisfactory manner," a team led by (Helgerson) found.

The report, which in part sought to determine whether any intelligence officials should be held accountable for pre-Sept. 11 failures, said that as early as December 1998, Tenet signed a counterterrorism memorandum declaring, "We are at war." But neither Tenet nor his deputy "followed up these warnings and admonitions by creating a documented, comprehensive plan to guide the counterterrorism effort," the report said. Tenet's deputy chaired at least one related meeting, "but the forum soon devolved into one of tactical and operational, rather than strategic discussions."

Moreover, the Counterterrorist Center (CTC) "was not used effectively as a strategic coordinator of the [intelligence community's] counterterrorism efforts," the report added.
Tenet, of course, refutes this, and current CIA director Michael Hayden said he, “he did not want to release the report, saying it ‘would distract officers serving their country on the front lines of a global conflict. It will, at a minimum, consume time and attention revisiting ground that is already well plowed’.”

Uh, no.

As Digby notes here, this report (completed in 2004 as she notes, despite the WaPo’s claim that it was completed in ’05) has been “well plowed” as it were under the proverbial rug by former acting CIA director John McLaughlin and former director Porter Goss (who disappeared the minute he was linked to poker parties and hookers at the Watergate here).

Let’s stop worrying about releasing sensitive information that could make Bushco or its alums look bad (with this administration’s stinky approval ratings and daily episodes of either scandal or malfeasance at the very least, how could that possibly matter any more?) and instead focus on how to better protect our country, OK?

Pity For Vick Won't Do The Trick

I really have tried to avoid saying anything about Michael Vick, the quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons who has just accepted a plea deal involving prison time for his involvement in a dogfighting ring, since that really isn’t the sort of thing I want to devote time to here. But after reading this HuffPo column from Earl Ofari Hutchinson about Vick today, I felt like I had to respond (and some of this may sound strange coming from me, I’ll warn you in advance).

My gripe with Hutchinson can be boiled down to this single quote in his post…

“Should we feel pity for Michael Vick? Yes and no.”
How is there a possible yes answer to that question?

How did Michael Vick not totally squander a lucrative living and a position of influence granted among media personalities and other figures in the public eye only by virtue of the fact that he can run with and pass a football?

Is it because he’s black? (cue the dramatic incidental theme music…).

Spare me the “200-plus-years-of-oppression” rap. This is the implied message from posts or columns like those of Hutchinson (and by the way, I would say the same thing if we were talking about Al Sharpton and Tawana Brawley).

Yes, Hutchinson is admitting that Vick’s actions were cruel and stupid, at the very least (I can pretty much take the “alleged” out of that sentence since Vick has copped a plea), as he should. But the very title of the post, “Crucifying Michael Vick,” creates the victimhood theme here that Hutchinson wants to feed above all others.

And I don’t care what race or ethnicity were talking about; when it comes to someone who has perpetrated a crime or is accused of doing so, and they then seek to play the “pity” card with our media, they should be roundly criticized for doing so.

(Also, Hutchinson notes that Vick was “fingered by his pals,” or something like that. I can tell Hutchinson right now that one notable exception to that generalization is Donavan McNabb, quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles. McNabb, in addition to being a better player in the same position as Vick than Vick could ever be in his life, also has shown his typical class in standing by Vick and hoping for the best in this mess.)

When it comes to legal issues involving people of color, though, one exception in my mind is the case of Kia Vaughn, a member of the Rutgers women’s basketball team who is suing Don Imus for defaming her with the media personality’s infamous “nappy headed hos” remark. Vaughn merely wanted to pursue an education and play basketball and sought no notoriety whatsoever, but Imus changed all of that by his conduct (and of course, leave it to the freeper media shock troops to leap into action in defense of someone who has granted a forum for them in the past).

Finally, I want to point out something apart from the Vick mess, and that is the fact that Philadelphia Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky has written a column criticizing Vick here.

I have a question for some of Bykofsky’s peers, though.

Where is the column criticizing Stu Bykofsky?

You remember what Bykofsky said almost two weeks ago, don’t you? “I’m thinking another 9/11 would help America.”

After writing something like that, how the hell can this guy even imagine that he would have the right to criticize anyone else?

I’ve jumped all over Michael Smerconish in the past for other reasons, but he seems to be the local media personality who takes it upon himself to carry the All Things 9/11 banner when it suits him. And to be fair, he has contributed to the 9/11 Memorial Garden, and I would guess that he’s helped the families of those lost on that day in other ways that may or may not be publicized.

But unless he’s criticized Bykofsky on his local radio show (I’ll never listen to that awful station to hear those clowns, so I wouldn’t know; I except Sid Mark from that, though), he’s been silent on the matter as far as I know. And even if he had, he should have followed that up with a column telling Bykofsky that he’s an idiot, and I haven’t been able to find one.

So does Bykofsky skate, then? You can just abuse your position as spokesperson of a fashion by advocating mass murder with impunity?


Update: And speaking of the Daily News (and, by association, the Stinky Inky), it seems that Brian Tierney is going to sell the building that houses the employees of Philadelphia Media Holdings L.L.C. (here).

Well, I know that 20th and Lehigh streets is an “iconic location” since Connie Mack Stadium, the former home of the Phillies, once resided there, but I don’t think I’d want a newspaper staff to work in an area without shelter and busted chain link fence, cracked concrete and broken glass, even though, to Tierney’s way of thinking, it would be cost efficient I suppose (photos of other proposed locations appear below).

Sick Kids Pay The Price For Bushco

Coming from President Brainless, this is not surprising. And frankly, at a certain point, I have to state that I don’t know why people are outraged any more (this is a prior post on this subject).

If it isn’t obvious by now that George W. Bush is a delusional, narcissistic, arrogant psychotic, then it never will be, and this latest SCHIP nonsense is typical. The only remotely sane policy he has advocated of late is a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, and of course that was hooted down by his wingnut base (what’s more, he could not have come up with that on his own; he was told to stand for it because it suits the cheap labor needs of his corporatist constituency, the only one that matters in the Republican Party).

Is it beyond repugnant that he is making the rules to qualify for children’s health insurance through SCHIP more cumbersome, since trying to underfund the program to the point of killing it in favor of private carriers has resulted in the current stalemate, requiring (in his juvenile mind) this latest fit of pique as noted by Atrios? Absolutely (and particularly now, when Congress is in recess).

But you can say the same thing about his policies and positions towards a whole host of other issues, most notably the Iraq war, with the ever-mounting evidence that our presence in that country is fueling the insurgency that is responsible for the slaughter of our military as well as innocent Iraqis, making it impossible to achieve anything approximating a stable government or anything attributable to a functioning, sovereign nation (water, electricity, other utilities, a police department, an ability to build and repair infrastructure without the risk of getting killed, etc., etc., etc.).

Here is my point; every man, woman and child in this country (including your humble narrator) must re-dedicate him or herself to the cause of impeaching not only George W. Bush, but Dick Cheney also (the fine bloggers at The Daily Kos have, quite rightly, been pushing for the impeachment of Alberto Gonzales, which is so obvious that it should be almost unnecessary to mention it – almost – but we need to go beyond that).

Oh, and as a reminder, here is one reason why Cheney has to go also (his utterly correct analysis of what would happen if we unilaterally invaded Iraq in 1994, notwithstanding this “coalition of the willing” BS, except for Great Britain, courtesy of – again, surprised that this has not raised more of an outcry - I know Dick Polman of the Inquirer noted it a few days ago - but then again, this didn’t either within our bought-and-paid-for corporate media)…

And let's not forget to Impeach Cheney First (and here's more ammunition; the long and short of it is that Deadeye Dick admits to having memos pertaining to unauthorized FISA spying, but typically for Bushco, he refuses to turn them over to Congress).

The fact that George W. Bush is doing what he can to deny health coverage to 5 million (and let’s think about that number for a minute – 5 million!) children in this country is the cherry on the icing on the proverbial cake concerning this guy.

And it’s long past time to pick it up and smash him in the face with it.

Update 9/20/07: What a fucking idiotmisinformed person. (sorry for the bad word, but I can't think of a more polite way to communicate how I feel about this)

Update 9/22/07: This is a killer of a post by DemFromCT at The Daily Kos on this.

(This is probably another opportunity for some “Back Talk”; if not, I’ll put it up here again anyway).

Finally, I’d like to share with you the following that was Emailed to me last night (and I sincerely hope the Democratic Party “leadership” in Washington, among others, reads it carefully in hope that it dictates their response to the “magical September” report by Gen. Petraeus Dick Cheney on “the splurge”)…

"We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end ... But I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been rethroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless."
It would have been nice if John Kerry, running for president in 2004, had uttered these words or something similar since it would have shown him to be a visionary statesman (he may be that, but that did not come across nearly as much as it should have in the campaign).

No, what you just read was communicated by the 16th president of the United States as The Civil War started to wind down, as horrific and as bloody an affair as mankind has ever seen (and at the advent of reconstruction in the South and industrial retrenchment that led to The Gilded Age of corporate robber barons).

Smart fellow, that Abraham Lincoln…