Friday, February 11, 2005

Like Being Shot Out of a Gannon

America Blog is definitely the best source of information regarding the sorry saga of Jeff Gannon/J.D. Guckert. Here's a good list of questions John suggests that also offer a good summary of the matter to date.
Lost in Translation

From Timshel, here's a link to Brian Thevenot's latest in the online Pic. In much the same vein, Steve Gilliard has a post of his own, with a link to Salon (requires subscription or watching an ad). Short version: if you're an Iraqi translating for US forces, you stand a damn good chance of being targeted by insurgents.

Of course, even if you aren't a translator, it's hard to escape the conclusion that, to paraphrase a line from Casablanca, human life is cheap. More than twenty people were killed in separate bombings today, (Juan Cole says over fifty)even as Rummy slunk in and out of the country on an unannounced visit (security concerns prevented a more celebratory attitude)...

The Donald apparently felt a little generous, handing a twice wounded soldier (who still has nine more months in-country) a small coin before wishing him good luck. Easy for him to say, eh?

Meanwhile, results from the "election" are being held up--something tells me that despite the weirdness of the process, the results look bad for the US--and then there's the ongoing, well, I was going to say joke, but pathetic tragedy might be better--the pathetic tragedy of watching Rummy once again spew, well, bullshit, as he pulls out the threadbare promise that everything will be just peachy once the Iraqi "security forces" are properly trained and on the ground...

I can't even laff at that anymore. Rummy might as well be hoping for the Great Pumpkin to arrive.

Finally, Patrick Cockburn has a good article reprinted in Counterpunch that underscores my point about human life is cheap in Iraq--it's entitled "In Baghdad, It's Easy to Get Killed."

Some success...
Psychopathic Conservatives

Here's another article I came across while reading Bad Attitudes--in it E.L. Doctorow rips Dubya a new one as he demonstrates clearly that the chimp has zero understanding and even less concern for the ramifications of his war of choice. As Doctorow says:

He does not feel a personal responsibility for the 1,000 dead young men and women who wanted to be what they could be.

They come to his desk not as youngsters with mothers and fathers or wives and children who will suffer to the end of their days a terribly torn fabric of familial relationships and the inconsolable remembrance of aborted life . . . they come to his desk as a political liability, which is why the press is not permitted to photograph the arrival of their coffins from Iraq.

It took me about a nanosecond to realize that I'd come across a very similar response to Iraq last night while catching up with Juan Cole's website. Cole notes a disturbing element to his tete-a-tete of late with Jonah Goldberg...well, tete-a-tete might be giving a little too much credit to Jonah. Tete-a-derriere is a little closer to the truth:

I am so sorry to bother readers here with this one last posting on the whole Goldberg fiasco...But the ignorance was already apparent. The really sad thing is this paragraph:

' Anyway, I do think my judgment is superior to his when it comes to the big picture. So, I have an idea: Since he doesn't want to debate anything except his own brilliance, let's make a bet. I predict that Iraq won't have a civil war, that it will have a viable constitution, and that a majority of Iraqis and Americans will, in two years time, agree that the war was worth it. I'll bet $1,000 (which I can hardly spare right now). This way neither of us can hide behind clever word play or CV reading. If there's another reasonable wager Cole wants to offer which would measure our judgment, I'm all ears. Money where your mouth is, doc. One caveat: Because I don't think it's right to bet on such serious matters for personal gain, if I win, I'll donate the money to the USO. He can give it to the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade or whatever his favorite charity is. '

I cannot tell you how this paragraph hit me in the gut. I was nearly immobilized by disgust and grief. This man really does see Iraqis as playthings. He is proposing a wager on the backs of Iraqis. Millions of Iraqis are going through winter with insufficient heating oil. They are jobless. The innocent 250,000 Fallujans are homeless. Imagine what $1000 means to them. And here we have an prominent American media star, a man who sets opinion on the Sunday afternoon talking heads shows, betting on them as though they are greyhounds in a race. They are not human beings to him, but political playthings on which to be wagered.

This entire paragraph is an excellent symbol for the entire project of the neo-imperial American Right. They are making their own fortunes with a wager on the fates of others, whom they are treating like ants. Get in their way and they stomp on you. Make an anthill the wrong place and they blow it up...

A wager on the backs of human beings. Perhaps Mr. Goldberg would like to bring back slavery, as well.

Indeed. I continue to be amazed at how utterly cynical the wingnut/warmonger crowd is when it comes to the sorry mess they've created in Iraq--and Afghanistan. The only thing that matters to them--the ONLY thing--is the potential to gloat. The fact that they're gloating about a whole lot of dead people doesn't register, probably because few if any have ever considered putting themselves on the line AND because, well, they take after their leader, who shows a remarkable lack of concern about why the war was fought in the first place (JOKING about the lack of WMDs? Unfuckingbelievable).

You know, even if Dubya can't comprehend values like sympathy, empathy, compassion or concern, perhaps someone should explain simple strategy (strategery) to him. There's a nice little book about military strategy called The Art of War. Sure, the tactics are a bit out of date (best estimates place its writing between 320-400 B.C.E.)--but one strong strategem that's still relevant today can be found in one sentence:

Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.

What part of that didn't he get?
Strong to the Finish

Laff. From Bad Attitudes, here's an AlterNet report that suggests the source of the cartoon character Popeye's strength isn't spinach, but "spinach." "Pure Bolivian Spinach," according to at least one comic strip written in the 1980's.

Interesting article...
Justice Department Fiddles, Too

Proving that hypocrisy isn't exclusive to Bush, Rummy, Cheney, and the rest of the inner circle, Lynne Stewart was convicted of supposedly aiding and abetting Omar Abdel-Rahman. What Ms. Stewart DID was offer her services as a competent defense attorney to Rahman, who was convicted of various charges involving plots to bomb buildings and/or tunnels.

Unpopular defendants, like it or not, need lawyers too--otherwise, you might as well close down the courts and substitute, oh, lynching or divine right of kings (the latter seems to be Bush's program, see below). By convicting Stewart, the message is that quality, aggressive criminal defense is no longer tolerated. In other countries, that would imply that the halls of justice had turned into kangaroo court.

There's more at TalkLeft.

However, in the spirit of IOKIYAR*, aiding and abetting terrorists is not only ok, you can get promoted if you're sufficiently passive in the face of over fifty specific threats that mention Al Qaeda--and it even bolsters your case for advancement if you lie about your inability to understand plain English, in this case, a memorandum arguing that immediate strategies be implemented to counter the threat of that organization.

*IOKIYAR=It's OK If You're A Republican

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Selling Off Rights

The US Senate passed a bill that will limit class action lawsuits:

The Senate approved a measure to help shield businesses from major class action lawsuits on Thursday, giving President Bush the first legislative victory of his second term.

Under the legislation, long sought by big business, large multistate class action lawsuits like the ones that have been brought against tobacco companies could no longer be heard in small state courts. Such courts have handed out multimillion-dollar verdicts.

Instead, the cases would be heard by federal judges, who have not proven as open to those type of lawsuits.

Worse still, the legislation passed comfortably (72-26)--in other words, some Democratic Senators proved they can pander to big business as much as their colleagues across the aisle.

I've yet to see ANY genuine data indicating that so-called frivolous lawsuits burden taxpayers or consumers. I've seen a lot of bullshit coming from the pResident on down through the ranks of well fed individuals who'd just as likely go apeshit if THEIR day in court was denied. These same folks routinely pass along urban myths as if they're gospel truth--like the MacDonald's case. And with the help of corporate lobbying and campaign dollars, they've now convinced the US Senate to reduce citizens' rights.

The fact is that judges can--and do--dismiss tort claims as baseless. A halfway decent lawyer employed by a corporation (and yes, corporations employ legal counsel for this and all kinds of other things) can get an immediate dismissal if the claim is without merit. This is simply trampling on rights--and is fully consistent with the record of George W. Bush:

"Texas has gone from one of the most friendly states for consumer protection to one of the most anti-consumer states," said University of Houston law professor Richard M. Alderman, an expert on consumer rights. "It all began in 1995. Bush oversaw a significant retreat for consumer protection, and it was all done under the guise of attacking 'frivolous' lawsuits."

The impact has been felt by home buyers such as Mary and Keith Cohn, whose elegant new residence in this well-off Houston suburb came with a leaky roof that led to rotting and moldy wallboard throughout the structure. After their daughters became ill, the Cohns moved out. The repairs ultimately cost more than $300,000.

To their astonishment and dismay, they learned that when the builder refused to repair most of the damage, they could not sue him for redress. Instead, they could pursue private arbitration, a process they considered stacked against them.

More here.

The right to be heard in court should be basic--it's the foundation of the phrase "a nation of laws, not men."
House of Cards

ABC reports that the FAA had 52 pre-9/11 warnings about al Qaeda:

The Federal Aviation Administration received repeated warnings in the months prior to Sept. 11, 2001, about al-Qaida and its desire to attack airlines, according to a previously undisclosed report by the commission that investigated the terror attacks.

The report by the 9/11 commission that investigated the suicide airliner attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon detailed 52 such warnings given to FAA leaders from April to Sept. 10, 2001, about the radical Islamic terrorist group and its leader, Osama bin Laden.

The commission report, written last August, said five security warnings mentioned al-Qaida's training for hijackings and two reports concerned suicide operations not connected to aviation. However, none of the warnings pinpointed what would happen on Sept. 11...

Al Felzenberg, former spokesman for the 9/11 commission, which went out of business last summer, said the government had not completed a review of the 120-page report for declassification purposes until recently.

What the ABC report doesn't mention is how many of these warnings were passed along to the NSC (or, conversely, how many were passed to the FAA by the NSC), but considering that ANY potential hijacking could be considered a matter of national security, you've got to conclude that at least some were. The question then becomes, "What the hell would it take for Condoleezza Rice to do something?" A goddamned calling card?

"Al Qaeda requests your presence at a tragedy of epic proportions..."

Sadly, I doubt that even THAT would have moved slugs like Rice to take any countermeasures. Just as bad is the lukewarm mush that comprises any Democratic response.

Democrats should be--and should have been--hitting this administration on questions of competence from the moment Rove decided to turn 9/11 into a political loyalty test. Wrapping the flag around themselves like a security blanket as soon as the 2002 election season started can be considered, yes, a smart, if not brilliant tactic; however, the failure of the Democratic Party to correctly assess responsibility for the tragedy speaks volumes. Team Bush was asleep at the wheel--and setting the stage for careening off the cliff with the quagmire in Iraq--which continues unabated despite a curious lack of interest in the media of late. I guess the "election"--the results of which are being delayed (hmmmm), has taken the country off the radar screen.

On the other hand, when you look at today's headlines, like Korea announcing that yes, it has a few nukes, or the trade deficit that's expanding like the waistline of your average MacDonald's CEO, maybe the Iraq tragedy is just too much for editors to handle--after all, only one US solider was killed in the last 24 hours, which by Bush standards must qualify as a smashing success.

But "success" in Bushworld is by any other measure pure incompetence. Incompetence for another four years.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

In One Paragraph

Another link to a big shot, but this one is so spot on accurate it'd be remiss not to note it:

Marshall not only exposes Bush's flawed reasoning in one paragraph, he does it in one SENTENCE:

"As we've discussed here many times, President Bush's gloomy predictions about the demise of Social Security are premised on a 21st century of anemic economic growth while his claims for private accounts are based on a 21st century of robust economic growth."

And here's the Post article he links to.
One Note re: Jeff Gannon aka JD Guckert

Any number of the big blogs have post(s), and they're all worth looking at--as I've been doing all day while denying that I'm sick--on the latter point, no, I can't call it a Fat Tuesday was actually a sober one for the first time in years, since I was driving back yesterday evening (believe me, though, I made sure that Lundi Gras was celebrated, um, properly).

Anyway, the only point I'd like to make is that if the president was a Democrat, do you think it would be ignored by virtually EVERY media outlet? I can't find a single article on any mainstream news web site (America Blog says Wolf Blitzer will have/has had something late on his show). Since most folks stopping by know the Gannon details--or, if you're not familiar, click on any link above--I won't bore you with the details. But I can't imagine it would be ignored to this degree if this had happened during the Clinton era. Hell, we might've seen two or three rotting conservative pundits work themselves into heart attacks (come to think of it...). Consider--this is a situation involving potential criminal activity, it DOES involve deliberate deception by the Bush administration, Mr. "Gannon" Guckert, and who knows else, there's definitely the possibility that Gannon/Guckert was paid a la Armstrong Williams...but, from the press, almost nothing.

IIRC, Goebbels's major directives to Nazi propagandists were orders to...remain silent on one topic or another (source). Well, some things don't change, eh?
Deputy Rove

Outing a CIA agent is now officially a means to betterment.
Judge to Soldiers: Drop Dead--Literally

Federal Judge Royce C. Lamberth made it official--the federal government has the right to enforce stop-loss orders if it feels that additional fodder is needed. Well, a federal judgeship is a lifetime appointment, so maybe Lamberth thinks he understands...

After all, the poor judge has to make do with an annual salary of not even $150,000 --it's a mere $145,100. And I'll bet that once a week or so there's some son-of-a-bitch in his CLEARLY RESERVED parking space. I tell you, until you've suffered like a federal magistrate, you just can't complain about anything--like, say, an I.E.D.

Staying on the same topic, more or less, Maximum Leader (until 2009) Bush thinks that health care for veterans is a privilege, not a right--hence, he proposes doubling the co-pay for veteran drug coverage AND instituting a $250 fee for even using government health services...thank you for your sacrifice...Dick Cheney announces this is "the tightest budget he's submitted"--to which I'll note that it's awfully easy to call it a "tight" budget when you screw the veterans and take the costs of war off book.

On the other hand, Bush now admits his "drug benefit" for senior citizens will cost about $720 BILLION dollars, as opposed to the already outrageous $400 billion it was supposed to, screw the veterans, take the costs of war off book (and act like the financing will be accomplished by, oh, I don't know, magic, I guess), then announce a $720 billion dollar...well, let's not dink around, a $720 billion dollar SUBSIDY to drug companies. Conservative? You decide...

Oh, and to round the late morning/early afternoon off, let's tip our hats to Kevin Benderman, who's decided he's had enough killing to last a lifetime. Sergeant Benderman determined one combat tour was enough, and he declined to rejoin the 3rd ID for another deadly game of lottery in Iraq. His request for conscientious objector status is under review, and he is facing charges of desertion:

"War is the greatest form of wrong," Benderman wrote in his seven-page conscientious objector application. "I believe that my moral obligation to humanity is to not allow myself to be a part of this destruction."

In the six months he spent in combat in Iraq in 2003, Benderman said, he was badly shaken by what he witnessed. He saw a young Iraqi girl with her arm horribly burned and blackened, standing helplessly on a roadside as Benderman's convoy rushed past. He saw dogs feasting on civilian corpses that had been dumped into pits. He saw young U.S. soldiers treat war like a video game, he said, with few qualms about killing or the effects of the invasion on ordinary Iraqis.

Benderman said he begged an officer to stop and help the girl, but was told that the unit couldn't spare its limited medical supplies. "I had to look at that little girl, look into her eyes, and in her eyes I saw the TRUTH. I cannot kill," Benderman wrote in his application.

I'm amazed that this country would even THINK about trying Sgt. Benderman for desertion while at the same time electing Bush president in 2004. For the record, I think the sergeant would make a better commander in chief than Dubya...

(off topic, but: got back to BR not all that late, but I might have a mild case of whatever's affecting Oyster. If I'm a little slow to write today, that's the reason).

Monday, February 07, 2005


Off to NOLA for the big's unlikely I'll be able to post anything till tomorrow eve. See you then.