Friday, April 08, 2005

Worldwide Standards

Here's a sign on hope in a troubled world:

When Bush's face appeared on giant screens showing the ceremony, many in the crowds outside St. Peter's Square booed and whistled.
Guess I'll Have to Watch This

C-SPAN has a video stream of the NPC panel discussion "What is a journalist?" I think this might be a direct link but if it doesn't work you can go to C-Span's main page.

Why watch? According to America Blog, Crooks and Liars, and even Atrios, James Guckert/Jeff Gannon pretty much ran away with the title of panel idiot, and yeah, I'm in the mood for a bit of schadenfreude. Wonkette, on the other hand, apparently acquitted herself well--and let Jeff have it more than once. Finally, I really don't know about Yglesias's performance--but this will be interesting to watch.
The Buck, Over There

Helen Thompson demonstrates clearly who's reasonable and who's completely whacked with this op-ed:

WASHINGTON -- White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan says President Bush was "pleased" with the latest investigation that blames CIA analysts for the false information that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

That's the reason Bush invaded Iraq, remember? Once again it's those low-level bureaucrats who took us into war. And once again a panel of "don't rock the boat" establishment figures has let the commander in chief off the hook.

I asked McClellan if the president was upset to be so misguided and at such a human cost. Well, you had to be there.

He danced around on the subject, talked about "a culture in the intelligence community that had not adapted to meet the threats that we face today." But he could not be pinned down on how the president personally felt about making war on the basis of bum information.

Any other president would have blown his stack. Instead, Bush honored former CIA Director George Tenet with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

No shiite. I still don't know what's worse--the baldfaced lies told by the Bush administration, or the utter lack of concern from slightly more than half the voting public that apparently doesn't mind being lied to. As for Ms. Thomas, well, she shows a hell of a lot more class than either George W. Bush (who broke with tradition in no longer calling on her--because he can't handle tough questions) or Brit Hume, who's said absolutely foul things about her on the air.

Helen Thomas is by no means a perfect journalist--but she is A journalist, which is a hell of a lot more than you can say for most of them these days...
Speaking of DeLay

Steve Gilliard proffers a big "FU" to Tom and family--then gives his own theory about Tom's Russian junket:

Fuck Tom DeLay, his wife and spawn.

I just wanted to say that because it needed to be said...

The Russians are very subtle in using espionage, and creating agents of influence.

This was not random, it was not accidental. My belief is that DeLay was cultivated by the SVR (the KGB's external successor)...

What this means is that the SVR has a large and detailed file on DeLay, and knew his weaknesses...

The SVR and the Russian government were not only committed to saving the Serbs, their traditional allies, but in blunting Western influence, especially German and French influence in the Balkans. What they needed was someone to stop Clinton and Major, then Blair from intervening and crushing their allies. The Croats, with help from Dynacorp and other merceneries, retrained their Army and blew the Serbs away in a blitz. The Russians didn't want that to happen in Bosnia or what was exploding in Kosovo. So they had probably worked for a cuple of years to get to people near DeLay. They knew his weaknesses were arrogance and money...

Now, they would never say "hey, we're Russians, do our bidding", but they knew from their Washington station that he was eager to make Clinton look bad at any price and was greedy as well.

So, knowing DeLay's outsized ego and his penchant for gifts, they lay on this trip. Now, I don't think they mentioned this between tee shots, I think they worked in how the Muslims were backing the Bosnians and Kosovans and that Clinton was in over his head and that the best way to handle the region was to leave it to the Europeans. It was never ham handed, for one thing. It was never as overt as a bribe. All they wanted from DeLay was to know he would listen to their side. That's all they needed.

Click on the link above to read the whole thing. Then, if you don't mind viewing an ad (or if you've got a subscription) this Salon story nicely summarizes Citizen Tom's recent and less recent lapses.

Short (bus) version: the man is not merely ethically challenged. He is ethically retarded.
Just Plain Creepy

I tuned into C-Span last night just in time to catch Tom DeLay's video rant to a "conservative conference in Washington entitled "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith." Geez.

Maybe it didn't look so bad for the people at the conference, but the extra layer of video for a television viewer cast a blue pall over the visage of the Majority Leader. And the rhetoric, combined with this, gave me the impression of a Peckerwood Big Brother exhorting those in attendence to do their best two-minute hate:

Judicial independence does not equal judicial supremacy," Mr. DeLay said...[he] faulted courts for what he said was their invention of rights to abortion and prohibitions on school prayer, saying courts had ignored the intent of Congress and improperly cited international standards and precedents. "These are not examples of a mature society," he said, "but of a judiciary run amok."

"The failure is to a great degree Congress's," Mr. DeLay said. "The response of the legislative branch has mostly been to complain. There is another way, ladies and gentlemen, and that is to reassert our constitutional authority over the courts."

Mr. DeLay's comments are the latest evidence of his determination to follow through on his vows to hold federal judges accountable in the aftermath of the failure of the federal courts to order the reinsertion of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube as Congressional conservatives intended...

Mr. DeLay criticized Congress as failing to act vigorously enough. "I believe the judiciary branch of our government has overstepped its authority on countless occasions, overturning and in some cases just ignoring the legitimate will of the people," he said. "Legislatures for too long have in effect washed our hands on controversial issues from abortion to religious expression to racial prejudice, leaving them to judges who we then excoriate for legislating from the bench. This era of constitutional cowardice must end."

Mr. DeLay alluded to Congressional authority to "set the parameters" of courts' jurisdictions and its obligation "to make sure the judges administer their responsibilities."

The organizers of the conference and Congressional staff members who spoke there called for several specific steps: impeaching judges deemed to have ignored the will of Congress or to have followed foreign laws; passing bills to remove court jurisdiction from certain social issues or the place of God in public life; changing Senate rules that allow the Democratic minority to filibuster Mr. Bush's appeals court nominees; and using Congress's authority over court budgets to punish judges whom it considers to have overstepped their authority.

"I am in favor of impeachment," Michael Schwartz, chief of staff to Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, said in a panel discussion on abortion, suggesting "mass impeachment" might be needed...

Dr. Rick Scarborough, chief organizer of the conference, called on Congress "to protect us from an overactive judiciary," saying: "Right now they are ruling as an oligarchy. They are the kings of the land."

Mr. DeLay, who was previously criticized by some Democrats who said his open-ended remarks about holding judges accountable might incite violence, took care to warn the few dozen attendees at the conference to keep their emotions in check.

"As passionately as we all feel, especially about issues of life and death, the fact is that constitutional rule of law is a matter for serious and rational discussion," he said. "People on all sides of this debate need to approach the issue for what it is: a legitimate debate by people of good will trying to clarify the proper constitutional role of courts."

"People on all sides of the debate..." ? WTF? DeLay is truly giving in to his inner dementia, while fellow travelers like Schwartz call for batshit insane measures like "mass impeachment"? That's a debate? No, that's wingnuttery. And they don't stand a chance of doing anything like that. However, by extending the line ever rightward, I'm sure they're hoping to practice some good old fashioned strong arming--more or less the same thing that Cornyn did earlier in the week. But the fact that they feel comfortable enough to bully their way around like that is plenty troubling.

Of course, this could be the dying gasps of a hammerhead shark flopping around on dry land--DeLay, as most folks know, isn't merely ethically challenged--he's ethically retarded. Cornyn's speech was roundly criticized, and the article above notes even William Rhenquist's concern. After all, there are plenty of conservative judges: the GOP has held the White House for sixteen of the last twenty-five years. DeLay--and Cornyn's--rantings are as much infantile pouting as they are veiled threats.

So, let's hope the public sees through this and votes those bastards (and the minions who follow them) out on their ear. The last thing this country needs in positions of power are people who can't decide if they're crybabies or thugs...
Science Friday

For those interested, a partial Solar Eclipse will be visible for some of us in the southern US--though some folks with time, money, or connections have taken to cruising the Pacific Ocean, where the eclipse will be total.

Looks like Baton Rouge will be in prime "viewing" area from roughly 5 to 7 o'clock. If I really feel like it, I might do the pinhole through a sheet of paper thing; otherwise, check the sunlight/shadow effect on the ground--especially near, say, a tree.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Failure of Character? Or Worse?

Check out Today in Iraq's post.
Stop Loss=You Lost

So much for one weekend a month, two weeks a year:

Emiliano Santiago was a high-school junior in Stanfield, Ore., when a National Guard recruiter came to his school. The recruiter impressed Santiago, the child of farm workers and a Mexican immigrant who had been in this country for five years. "I was really excited to see the uniform," says Santiago, now 26. "I wanted to wear the same uniform, to be a part of that."

From a series of meetings with the recruiter, Santiago understood that serving in the National Guard was "a little off-side thing that you could do," almost guaranteed not to result in deployment. "The only reason the National Guard would get deployed is if there was, like, a World War III," Santiago remembers the recruiter telling him. Eighteen years old, he signed up for eight years and became a helicopter refueler for a unit based in Pendleton, Ore. He also got married, moved to Pasco, Wash., and became an electronics technician at a laboratory run by Battelle Memorial Institute for the U.S. Department of Energy.

On June 11, 2004, two weeks before Santiago's National Guard contract was due to expire, his platoon sergeant informed him that he was subject to the Pentagon's controversial "stop-loss" policy and would not be allowed to leave the Guard. Last October, months after his contract was supposed to have ended, the Guard ordered Santiago to report to Fort Sill, Okla., for training in preparation for deployment to Afghanistan. Santiago balked. Although he reported to Fort Sill as ordered and is there still, he's fighting the government in court...

Making it all the stranger is that the Army presented him with a new contract that extended his service until 2031. Army spokesperson Hart says the date was arbitrary, meant to allow for "wiggle room." Says Santiago, looking at another 27 years in the Army over and above the eight he signed up for: "It's crazy."

His legal case revolves to a large extent around the contract he signed with the Guard. While Santiago says the recruiter never raised the possibility that his contract might be involuntarily extended, it was in the contract's fine print. The contract, however, enumerated "a limited number of specific circumstances," according to Santiago's legal brief. One was a "time of war or national emergency declared by Congress." The president has declared a national emergency, but Congress has not.

It's a somewhat technical point but not an insignificant one, contends David Ettinger, one of Santiago's lawyers. He notes that a formal congressional declaration of a national emergency is a rare event.

The government nonetheless argues that an enlistment contract is not the be-all and end-all, as if it were just any contract. "Enlistment in the armed forces does not constitute merely a bargain between two parties, but effects a change of status by which 'the citizen becomes a soldier,'" reads its brief. And, the Army notes, soldiers are governed by a number of federal laws. One such law says that "during any period members of a reserve component are serving on active duty . . . the President may suspend any provision of law relating to promotion, retirement, or separation applicable to any member of the armed forces. . . . "

Santiago's lawyers claim the language of the law means that the Army can only forcibly extend a soldier's contract if he or she is already serving on active duty, which was not the case with Santiago. The government counters that it is empowered to exercise its stop-loss policy as long as any members of the National Guard are serving on active duty.

A federal District Court judge in Oregon who heard the case, Owen Panner, agreed and ruled in favor of the government. Now it's up to the 9th Circuit.

Three weeks ago, Santiago's unit left for Afghanistan without him. Because of the case, the Army moved his date of deployment to two days after the hearing. Since the court rarely makes decisions that quickly, his lawyers are fighting that date by seeking a preliminary injunction.

Santiago says fellow soldiers have not given him grief about his refusal to go with them. In fact, he says, "everyone agrees with me." He provides them with regular updates about his case.

King of Zembla found this story in his archives, which refers to "Curveball" the "source" of Iraqi WMD "intelligence" and full time drunk...

Didn't it occur to anyone in the intelligence community that undercover types sometimes pick their code names for a reason? From the L.A. Times:
The Bush administration's prewar claims that Saddam Hussein had built a fleet of trucks and railroad cars to produce anthrax and other deadly germs were based chiefly on information from a now-discredited Iraqi defector code-named "Curveball," according to current and former intelligence officials.

U.S. officials never had direct access to the defector and didn't even know his real name until after the war. Instead, his story was provided by German agents, and his file was so thick with details that American officials thought it confirmed long-standing suspicions that the Iraqis had developed mobile germ factories to evade arms inspections . . . .

Simbaud's post is over a year old and one election ago--which speaks volumes. But his concluding comment is worth citing:

Administration officials continue to maintain, however, that a wealth of rock-solid intelligence was provided by other informants from the Iraqi exile community, including "Fruitcake," "Batshit," "Flim-Flam," "Snow Job," "Hogwash," and the yet-to-be-identified "Ibalahc Damha."
Told You So

From Ben. Dana Milbank reports on round II of the Wesley Clark/Richard Perle deathmatch joint appearance before the House Armed Services Committee--Richard, with some questionable judgement calls, apparently won round I two years ago, but General (ret.) Clark scored a number of body blows in round II. Additionally, Perle was gang tackled by his purported allies (GOPers) on the panel. Milbank noted he probably wasn't expecting the blindsides, given that he waddled in (Perle and Dennis Hastert probably can't ride the same elevator, lest they exceed the listed weight limit) carting a copy of Kitchen Confidential. And I'll mention for the record that Perle, like any good rat, scampered for the lifeboats at the first sign of listing with Operation Go Cheney Ourselves aka the Iraqi invasion.

Anyway, check it out. And I wonder if any of the fine dining establishment evidently frequented by Mr. Perle offer expertly prepared crow, with a side of humble pie.
Putting on Stupid Caps

Among the ten or so folks who stop by, there might be one or two who doesn't read Atrios, so, as a public service, here's a bit of news about Brian Darling, who wrote the GOP "Talking Points" that celebrated the Terry Schiavo tragedy as a "great political issue" for the Republicans.

I wonder how Brian feels about dead puppies and kittens...

For the record, Darling was a former aide to Senator Mel Martinez of Florida--and, as you probably guessed, "former" means in the very recent past, i.e., the memo removed--for the time being--HIS political sustenance. However, I don't think this is his curtain call--not unlike another (part-time) resident of Florida in the more distant past, we'll have Darling to kick around for a while. To wit:

Darling, whose resignation was confirmed by Martinez aides late Wednesday, is a former partner at the GOP powerhouse lobbying firm Alexander Strategy Group, founded by a former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas.

Speaking of DeLay--and also from Atrios--here's a link to Mark Kleiman, who brings up an interesting element of one of Tom's latest bits of dirty laundry to rise to the top of the cauldron, namely, the trip to Russia that was financed by pro-Russian lobbyists:

Kevin Drum offers another good reason to move to expel DeLay right now. Kevin recalls correctly that DeLay was on Milosevich's side against Bill Clinton. He doesn't mention the extraordinary maneuver by which DeLay managed to send an encouraging message to the enemy while our men and women in uniform were in harm's way, by promising Clinton a resolution of support for the air war and then arranging for it to come to the floor and fail. (Of course, DeLay wasn't alone among Republicans, back then, in hating the President more than he hated the mass murderer the President was trying to rein in.)

And now we know, as Kevin points out, that DeLay was doing all of this as the beneficiary of largesse from the Russian security services. Taking an expensive vacation at the expense of the military of a foreign power to support America's enemies probably doesn't amount to treason under the Constitutional definition, but it comes close. (click on the link to Kleiman in order to get to other references)

Geez. What sleezeballs. If the Democratic Party can't work with this, then maybe the country truly IS lost...
And the Horse You Rode In On

From TBogg. Athenae at First-Draft has a few things to say to the various wingnut morons (yeah, I know that's redundant) who flung mud at several Pulitzer winning photojournalists, charging them with sympathy for the devil (minus any redeeming qualities of the Rolling Stone song):

What's the matter, don't like looking at your pretty war, Michelle [Malkin]? Pictures of the dead and wounded don't get you off anymore, Powerline [blog]? Guess what? Freedom isn't free. You're awfully fond of that slogan, aren't you? Freedom isn't free.

So why aren't you using these photos in your "support the troops" rallies? Why aren't you using them to remind us all what a solemn and glorified endeavor this war really is? Why do you so hate to look at the thing you profess to love?

Freedom isn't free, you say, giving me the impression that whatever other xenophobic homophobic fundie whackjob tendencies you harbored, at least you understood that for your bravado somebody pays a price. I hope you got a receipt, because it sounds like freedom's a little more expensive than you counted on. In fact freedom's so fucking expensive you can't stand to be told what market price is these days.

Check out the entire post.

The wingnuts wanted a glorious war in Iraq--it was to be the biggest diamond in the jewel-encrusted tiara they were planning to coronate their jester George W. with. But it looks like the diamond isn't even a zircon, or a lump of coal. It's a steaming pile of shit--so they look for someone to blame (hence the title of Athenae's post--On Messengers and Shooting).

Wingnuts: mirrors are available almost anywhere.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Culture of Life

Via Cursor. Jonathan P Sydnor researched George W. Bush's record on executions as Governor of Texas. It makes for quite a sobering read.
Rental Car Fishin'

Suburban Guerrilla notes this story and I actually read it earlier in the day:

In the past, car rental companies were willing to overlook minor damage to their vehicles, particularly when evidence of the renter's responsibility was flimsy. Not any more. The industry, slow to recover from the travel slump that began after 9/11, now appears bent on pursuing even the smallest cases.

"Car rental companies are getting much more aggressive about their claims," said Jeff Miller, a travel lawyer with the firm of Lipshultz & Miller in Columbia, Md. Chasing down customers who scratch or dent cars, he said, "is a growth business."

"Chasing down customers..." my ass--more like harassing the shit out of customers who haven't spent excessive time recording the smallest of defects.

I speak from experience: last year a goddamned punk from Enterprise accused me of causing damage to their car based on a fender scratch that I didn't cause (but unfortunately, didn't note in the vehicle assessment--hell, I thought it was dirt). Luckily, I had decided to shell out the extra $15 bux for insurance, which covered any liability. But I won't be renting a car from them again (actually, I won't be renting a car period--I retired my old on-its-last-legs-fossil-burner last year, bit the bullet, and bought a new, small, fuel efficient car). And the tactic of squeezing every last penny out of paying customers is pretty disgusting--but sadly typical in these times.

King of Zembla, Hullabaloo, Swing State Project, and Suburban Guerrilla all note Guvnah Ahnuld had a difficult time in San Francisco yesterday--he was there to schmooze and raise funds for November ballot initiatives:

Protester Juanita Yee, 40, of Brisbane, denounced the governor for failing to support public education in the ways he had promised.

"I can't afford private school," said Yee, who has four kids. "It's not an option with a stay-at-home mom and a father who's a union plumber."

Santa Clara fire Capt. Bill Stone had never attended a protest before but was spurred to do so Tuesday by proposed benefit cuts for public safety employees.

"Firefighters will step up when it's an issue that affects people like teachers," said Stone, who arrived with seven other firefighters from Local 1171 in Santa Clara.

The crowd was largely middle-aged, equipped with signs such as "Grope-n-ator, keep your hands off our retirement" and "Nurses heal, Arnold wheels and deals."

John Bilicska, 46, an unemployed North Beach resident who used to work at UC Irvine, said, "The governor's calling the people who do the work the special interests, while the businesses that are shipping our jobs overseas are just great. I don't trust him. He's a typical Republican politician."

Swing State Project did some live blogging of the event--what's interesting is the sympathetic treatment received at the hands of the police, who generally don't take to protests, although they're certain to be affected by any Gropinator funding cuts.
The McClellan CD Needs Cleaning

Benjamin provided the link--Froomkin reports on Eric Brewer, the second blogger to get White House credentials (BTC News). Brewer's version is here, by the way.

The question he asked was a good one, on a topic that's probably of great interest to an awful lot of people.

It's also precisely the kind of question your typical full-time White House correspondent doesn't ask anymore -- because there's simply no point. You're not going to get an answer.

Here's the question Brewer asked, by his own account in a shaky voice:

"Back to the report on the botched WMD intelligence, have the massive intelligence failures documented in the report caused the President to rethink his policy of preventive war?"

It's a good question because the doctrine of preemption is one of the most defining and precedent-shattering elements of the Bush canon. The apparently sorry state of the U.S. intelligence apparatus makes it entirely unclear whether the doctrine is still in effect -- and under what circumstances it could again be called into service...

But the response, such as it was, was classic McClellan. In fact, it could literally have been stitched together from previous McClellan responses to similar questions.

Here's what McClellan said...

"You know, September 11th taught us a very important lesson, and that lesson was that we must confront threats before it is too late. If we had known of those attacks ahead of time, we would have moved heaven and earth to prevent them from happening. This President will not hesitate when it comes to protecting the American people. And in the post-September 11th world that we live in, the consequences of underestimating the threat we face is too high. It's tens of -- possibly tens of thousands of lives.

Brewer followed up: "What about the cost of overestimating?"

McClellan: "Are you talking about the Iraq situation?"

Brewer: "Going into Iraq, yes, with bad intelligence."

McClellan: I think we've talked about this before.The world is safer with Saddam Hussein's regime removed from power. The Iraqi people are serving as an example to the rest of the Middle East through their courage and determination to build a free future."

And at this point, Hearst columnist Helen Thomas piped in:

"The ones that are alive, you mean?"

If you go back to Froomkin's piece, you'll note hyperlinks to every sentence McClellan uttered--it's as if he doesn't actually have a brain (perhaps explaining his empathy with Terry Schiavo); instead an unseen hand pulls a string following each question (you'll also note from the links that Froomkin is a Firefox user).

The idea, of course, is to stay "on message," and it's as "Clintonesque" as you can get, to be honest. But it's high time SOMEONE confronted these clowns in such a way that their inner greasepaint becomes apparent. Over and over the mantras of 9/11 and Saddam is bad have emanated from the White House walls. Someone needs to ask why it was necessary to invade BEFORE soldiers and Humvees were armored (thus increasing the casualty count dramatically).

That'd be the equivalent of giving the CD player a good whack. And I'll bet the McClellan CD is so full of dirt that even a good cleaning wouldn't help. Maybe it'd be best to toss it and buy another one...

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

One of Those Goddamned Days

Sorry for the slow posting--I was late into work AND made the mistake of signing up for an early week help desk slot. Things have been, in a word, busy. Back in a bit.

I'm not quite sure what was going on in the brain of Joe Cornyn yesterday--but I'm guessing most folks have seen reports on the big blogs.

Short version: Cornyn suggested that activist judges have created a climate where certain individuals resort to violence--because, you see, they're all frustrated about rulings n' stuff. In fact, you can find Cornyn's comments here (in an editorial calling for his resignation). In this matter, the Senator has demonstrated an almost DeLay-like ability to 1)sound incredibly stupid, vicious, and dangerous, while 2)probably shoring up his base in Texas, where things are "different." (different in the sense that some people are "special").

Now, admittedly, some of the "different" of Texas has, like Houston's smog, dispersed--George W. Bush is pResident, Tom DeLay runs the House (both are temporary, although DeLay's position is decidedly more tenuous then Shrub's, who will continue to captain the listing ship through 2009--ouch). There are also plenty o' nuts of the wing as well--and they think Dubya's take on war (shoot first, plan later), democracy (less votes? more votes? who gives a damn?), "judicial activism" (fine with Bush v. Gore or Terry Schiavo--terrible otherwise), the protestant/evangelical interpretation of Jesus (i.e., he spoke AMERICAN ENGLISH and wore a suit) etc., is a real hoot.

But the Texas interpretation of the GOP, in spite of having any number of adherents (I envision pasty-faced losers who, in the privacy and comfort of their little apartments, consider themselves truly the masters of their domain), isn't exactly a winning strategy. Texas is big (34 electoral votes), but it's not a majority. And Bush shows no sign whatsoever of understanding that his twin disasters of foolish war and economic mumbo jumbo. At a certain point, the shit WILL hit the fan--leaving the GOP with one possible liferaft--blaming the Democrats, IF the disaster occurs after January, 2009 AND if the Democrats manage to nominate a winning candidate. But if the meltdown happens sooner, well, all the guns in Texas won't be able to save George and his minions...
Dark Horse

Ridiculopathy offers their own dark horse candidate for the vacant office of the papacy, along with a suggested name: Maximilian I.

Meanwhile, The Poor Man might have revealed exactly who is the "mystery cardinal" given the red hat by John Paul II back in 2003.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Can You Sing the Blues in an SUV?

Probably not, but owners of gas guzzlers aren't whistling Dixie either now that gasoline prices are averaging about $2.20 a gallon (the last I checked, prices here in the Gret State were about a dime lower, but I only have to fill the tank about every two weeks or so--I'm glad I own a small car).

I'll also add that the image/myth of the "rugged individualist" is a hard one for me to buy into--you know, I don't think too many folks refine their own crude oil, regardless of how far out in the countryside they live.
Post-Time for the Papacy

Rising Hegemon has the odds--and a unique "insider" scouting report--on the favorites going into the conclave.
Fun Time

The Observer UK reports on a memo--believed to be authentic--from Blackwater Security:

One of the biggest private security firms in Iraq has created outrage after a memo to staff claimed it is 'fun' to shoot people.

Emails seen by The Observer reveal that employees of Blackwater Security were recently sent a message stating that 'actually it is "fun" to shoot some people.'

Dated 7 March and bearing the name of Blackwater's president, Gary Jackson, the electronic newsletter adds that terrorists 'need to get creamed, and it's fun, meaning satisfying, to do the shooting of such folk.'

Hmmm...that reminds me of something:

Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, an infantry officer who has commanded Marines in both Afghanistan and Iraq, made the comments Tuesday while speaking to a forum in San Diego about strategies for the war on terror. Mattis is the commanding general of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, Va.

An NBC 7/39 news crew attended the forum Tuesday and recorded Mattis' comments. Among other things, he said, "Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot. ... It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling."

I guess Mattis has alternative employment to look forward to if/when he decides to muster out. Well, either Blackwater or the carny maybe. But it sends a hell of a message to the rest of the world when we talk about what a hoot it is killing people--particularly when it's become clear that the forces overseas really don't know who the enemy is.

Macho posturing might make for sound bites that bring out the whoop-it-up from the wingnuts. But like another famous--excuse me, infamous case of mouth-in-motion/brain-disengaged, the consequences could well be damned unpleasant, at least for the folks out on patrol. Think about it: Bush, Mattis, and now Blackwater are all BEGGING for US soldiers to be attacked. As the saying goes, them's fightin' words. And the Iraqis are, well, fighting...and it's not a carnival.

Jeffrey wonders what it would be like.
Reality Bites

Riverbend managed to post something new, and, as always, I'll recommend it highly. Her theme today is the saccharine element of US television programming, particularly news, and she concludes with something I either posted on (but can't find it in the damn archives) or wanted to post about and never could boil it down properly:

I have a suggestion of my own for a reality show. Take 15 Bush supporters and throw them in a house in the suburbs of, say, Falloojeh for at least 14 days. We could watch them cope with the water problems, the lack of electricity, the check points, the raids, the Iraqi National Guard, the bombings, and- oh yeah- the ‘insurgents’. We could watch their house bombed to the ground and their few belongings crushed under the weight of cement and brick or simply burned or riddled with bullets. We could see them try to rebuild their life with their bare hands (and the equivalent of $150)…

I’d not only watch *that* reality show, I’d tape every episode.

Call it Fallujah House, run it on PBS (a la Colonial House, etc.), and I think we'll have a winner. Of course, the goal might be to get voted OFF the island here.
Operation Grandstand

As predicted by James Wolcott, pResident Chimpy wants to bask in the warmth of a good funeral following the less-than-stellar reviews of "Puppet-Show-and-Bush-Social-Security-Privitization-Personalization-Wait, I don't have a plan actually afterall-Road-Show" of the past six weeks or so.

Bush waxed, well, as, um, eloquently as one can expect, considering his documented challenges with public speaking...but did the pope reciprocate? Hmmm...depends on who you read:

Bush's self-proclaimed adherence to Christianity (during one of the presidential debates he said Jesus Christ was his favorite "philosopher") and his constant reference to a new international structure bypassing the United Nations system and long-standing international treaties are worrying the top leadership of the Roman Catholic Church. Well-informed sources close to the Vatican report that Pope John Paul II is growing increasingly concerned about Bush's ultimate intentions. The Pope has had experience with Bush's death fetish. Bush ignored the Pope's plea to spare the life of Karla Faye Tucker. To show that he was similarly ignorant of the world's mainstream religions, Bush also rejected an appeal to spare Tucker from the World Council of Churches - an organization that represents over 350 of the world's Protestant and Orthodox Churches. It did not matter that Bush's own Methodist Church and his parents' Episcopal Church are members of the World Council.

Bush's blood lust, his repeated commitment to Christian beliefs, and his constant references to "evil doers," in the eyes of many devout Catholic leaders, bear all the hallmarks of the one warned about in the Book of Revelations - the anti-Christ. People close to the Pope claim that amid these concerns, the Pontiff wishes he was younger and in better health to confront the possibility that Bush may represent the person prophesized in Revelations. John Paul II has always believed the world was on the precipice of the final confrontation between Good and Evil as foretold in the New Testament. Before he became Pope, Karol Cardinal Wojtyla said, "We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of the American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel." The Pope, who grew up facing the evils of Hitler and Stalin, knows evil when he sees it. Although we can all endlessly argue over the Pope's effectiveness in curtailing abuses within his Church, his accomplishments external to Catholicism are impressive.

According to journalists close to the Vatican, the Pope and his closest advisers are also concerned that the ultimate acts of evil - the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon - were known in advance by senior Bush administration officials. By permitting the attacks to take their course, there is a perception within the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy that a coup d'etat was implemented, one that gave Bush and his leadership near-dictatorial powers to carry out their agenda

The Pope worked tirelessly to convince leaders of nations on the UN Security Council to oppose Bush's war resolution on Iraq. Vatican sources claim they had not seen the Pope more animated and determined since he fell ill to Parkinson's Disease. In the end, the Pope did convince the leaders of Mexico, Chile, Cameroon, and Guinea to oppose the U.S. resolution. If one were to believe in the Book of Revelations, as the Pope fervently does, he can seek solace in scoring a symbolic victory against the Bush administration. Whether Bush represents a dangerous right-wing ideologue who couples his political fanaticism with a neo-Christian blood cult (as I believe) or he is either the anti-Christ or heralds one, the Pope should know he has fought the good battle and has gained the respect and admiration of many non-Catholics around the world.

The preceding paragraphs, by the way, represent one of the more enigmatic aspects of John Paul II--while his conservative--indeed, midieval theology, was well known, and while there was the very public dressing down of Fr. Miguel D' Escoto in Nicaragua (while the pope himself led cheers when it came opposing the communist government of Poland), there were times when Juan Pablo displayed a surprising degree of progressive thoughts, if not necessarily tendencies. I was reminded of that again last night, while flipping through my limited number of cable channels--the Catholic channel had an extended remix of a number of public addresses he gave, and the amount of time devoted to social justice issues was surprisingly large. Sure, it was mostly window dressing--rarely was any of this publicized in the western press, and some of the anti-capitalist rhetoric can be attributed to the Catholic church being rather fond of feudalism (THEIR good old days)--but it still was interesting to listen to, particularly when one is bombarded over and over again with variants of "greed is good."

And, at least according to Wayne Madsen, JP could see through the wafer thin religiosity of George W. Bush, seeing the inner lump of coal that governs the man's "moral" convictions. And, to change the subject slightly, Juan Cole argues that progressives shouldn't dismiss the late pope out of hand just because he was (in my own words) a complete idiot when it came to gays, women, the sex scandal (well, maybe not an idiot regarding the sex scandals--more of a calculating, cynical head of an organization that hasn't come to grips with a genuine crisis). Cole has a point--and nobody, particularly a pope--is perfect (hell, I voted for Kerry even though I really couldn't think of anything I really liked about the guy, other than the fact that he wasn't Bush). So, arrivederci, GianPaulo--I didn't think you were perfect--by a long shot--but I guess you could've been a lot worse.
Not About the Pope

I WILL have a few items re: JP el segundo, but first, a few notes and news from elsewhere, including this--ANOTHER attack on Abu Ghraib. I guess most folks heard about this weekend's raid, which, in typical fashion, was dismissed by a "senior American officer" as a sign of "desperation" on the part of the insurgents...

Damn, they sure have been desperate for a LONG time.

Juan Cole also notes the deaths of two more soldiers as well as mortar rounds aimed at the Green Zone (hardly worth mentioning in the press these days, it seems).

Violence also flared up in Thailand and Saudi Arabia--which hardly bodes well for the "global war" on terror. Something tells me that Team Bush, after boldly announcing their intent to blast away (made for GREAT ratings), quickly lost interest and began looking for other toys to play with. Unfortunately, those whom they declared "war" on decided to fight back...
Saints & Sinnah's

I forget where I saw this, but there's a cross posting on a Daily Kos diary...2 Political Junkies postulate on who might be a 'living saint'--here's a sample:

Check out the rest.