Friday, December 09, 2005


We sure do miss you still--and will for as long as we're here.
Your Tax Dollars

Think Halliburton isn't raking it in? Check this out:

KBR, a subsidiary of Dick Cheney's infamous former company Halliburton, is in the third year of a 10-year contract with the U.S. military. According to the Washington Post, by May of 2006, KBR will have received more than $11 billion for work related to LOGCAP (the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program), which pays for, among other things, chefs, electricians, mechanics, medics, laundry, pest control, construction and water purification workers.

On Nov. 4, U.N. auditors called on the United States to repay Iraq $208 million that had been paid to KBR from Iraqi oil proceeds for services that the auditors found to be overpriced, lacking proper documentation and awarded non-competitively. While much of that money surely ended up in executive paychecks, it's also helped KBR become an attractive employer with 200,000 job applications on file.

The cardboard display on the table outside the hotel conference room promotes benefits like "integrity," "adventure" and "pride," but "the money is the big draw," says Dale, another of about 60 KBR hopefuls at this afternoon's session, which consists of an hour-and-a-half long presentation by Peter Howatt, a recruiter with KBR's special projects group.

Six other recruiters out in the hallway sift through resumes while Howatt lays out a far more realistic scenario than the military presents to Army recruits. "We don't pull any punches," said Howatt. "People know exactly what they are getting themselves into."

For the most part, the Vietnam veteran stays true to his word. In the first 10 minutes of his talk, Howatt provides his audience with the official KBR contractor death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan (68 at the time). He tells the applicants that they'll be working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, with 10 days off every four months. After a short film showing construction of a tent city in the desert, he advises the room full of military veterans, former Halliburton/KBR employees and average Joes and Jills (complete with a crying baby in the back) that if they are killed in an NBC (nuclear biological or chemical) attack and their remains are contaminated, they won't be flown home to their families. Instead, they will be cremated.

But heads perk up at the mention of salary, and Howatt's sales pitch to the group is tight: "If you owe back taxes, call the IRS, tell them you are gonna go overseas, make a ton of money, and they'll be glad to let you go. Same with child support."

So Dick's company plays pimp for folks caught up in the economic vise brought Dick's administration. Dick's parents must've known something when they named him...Dick.

That story reminded me of something I saw at Ian's site--yep, they're trying the same stunt for oilfield workers. Wonder if they're also investing in dead peasant policies on 'em...

That said, at least they're offering big bucks despite the disgusting "money for blood" nature of the operation. To continue the theme of Team Bush Fucking Up There AND Here, it's interesting that NOLA reconstruction isn't exactly providing the same quality/quantity of salary--instead, thanks to their initial suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act, NOLA's rebuilding is being handled by...immigrant labor (probably undocumented), forced to live in tent cities:

I started to get a taste for the ongoing scandals, small and large. One example: the largely immigrant workers, who are hired by sub-contractors to do rebuilding in the city (the contracts are sub-contracted several times, leaving little once it gets to the workers). They stay in a makeshift tent village in City Park. This is where they live -- no showers, a handful of port-a-johns. It's getting cold, into the 30s and 40s.

I realize the enormous bull market when it comes to outrage fatigue, but juxtaposing these two situations...well, goddamnit, if they're causing MY blood pressure to rise dangerously, then they oughta take away Dick's heart pills too.

Stop the Presses

Temperatures in hell might be inferno-like, as usual, but the mercury is low here in the Gret Stet...and Faux News actually get a link from me (courtesy of FireDogLake):

WASHINGTON — Speeches by President Bush in recent weeks before military audiences about the Iraq war debate have raised questions about partisan issues being brought up in front of U.S. Armed Forces...

lately the president has been saying more than just "hello" to troops. Twice last month in speeches to military audiences, the president attacked Democrats and fired back at their accusations that pre-war intelligence was manipulated by his administration.

"It is irresponsible for Democrats to now claim we misled them and the American people," Bush said.

On Nov. 11 at the Army Depot in Tobyhanna, Pa., Bush told the audience of servicemen and women that some Democrats who voted to authorize the use of force against Iraq have attempted to rewrite the past.

"The national interest is too important for politicians to throw out false charges," he added.

The attacks against critics at military settings may have put troops in the awkward position of undermining their own regulations. A Department of Defense directive doesn't allow service members in uniform to attend "partisan political events."

Questions have been raised about the military's attendance at events where Bush says something like "they spoke the truth then, they're speaking politics now." Several members of the military told FOX News that Bush is inviting the troops to take sides in a partisan debate in his speeches.

"This is a very bad sign," said retired Marine Gen. Joseph Hoar, who led Central Command in the early 1990s and is an administration critic. "This is the sort of thing that you find in other countries where the military and political, certain political parties are aligned."

Bush often appeared with troops in his 2004 campaign. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., endorsed him before hundreds of cheering soldiers.

"Where you have our uniformed members being put in a position where it looks like they're rooting for one side or another is very disconcerting," said Greg Noone, a former Navy lawyer.

In the end, though, Rupert's Runts stick up for the dauphin, concluding with a paragraph saying, "Many asked in an unofficial survey told FOX News that they don't have a problem from when or where this president attacks Democrats." But I'll give some credit to Faux for even raising the question, and agree wholeheartedly with Reddhedd's closing:

When you add in the Social Security road trip, where the President held scripted "town hall" meetings with only the Kool-Aidiest of his supporters, hand screened by local GOP organizations, and using the Secret Service as his own personal bouncers (or at least people who pretended to be the Secret Service -- we still don't know the answers on the whole Denver mess, now do we?) you start seeing an odd pattern of staged propaganda appearances to shield either the public or the Preznit from any whiff of controversy or problems.

Political staging in this country is an art form. Since the advent of televised political shows, the sound bite has become the most sought after plum. But using substantial public money and military personnel who are required under orders to attend political events is at odds with military policy. Why does this particular Commander in Chief feel he is above the law, time and again -- on this issue and so many others?

Here's my response: this isn't a kingdom, it's a democracy. The laws apply to everyone, including King George. It's about damn time we started asking questions as to why he isn't following them.
Doomed to Repeat

Glenn Greenwald did some research and discovered Howard Dean pretty much got it right when he recently said

"I've seen this before in my life. This is the same situation we had in Vietnam. Everybody then kept saying, 'just another year, just stay the course, we'll have a victory.' Well, we didn't have a victory, and this policy cost the lives of an additional 25,000 troops because we were too stubborn to recognize what was happening."

Greenwald adds

Many of Bush's statements and those from our Generals and war pundits are not just similar but almost verbatim to what was said in Vietnam in order to convince the public to support ongoing war and to attack those who favored an end to the war. Because all of this occurred almost 40 years ago, memories have faded and many, many people did not live through it.

For that reason, it is incomparably valuable to go back and review what was being said at the time. If nothing else, it enables one to assess the Bush Administration's claims about Iraq with some historical perspective.

And I'll note that, regardless of the titled "plan" for victory (.pdf) now pretty much tossed aside as last week's news, neither the administration nor any of their apologists have articulated ANY genuine course of action--their "plan" consists of saying they've got a plan, followed by a promise that their "plan" will work by...working. In other words, victory by tautology.

Not that they will, but I'd love to see some reporter call them on this--the next time they or a fellow traveling clown puffs up, someone should say "calling for victory is NOT a plan. Now, tell us, what IS the plan?"

It's the logical follow up to the question of why we're in Iraq in the first place...oh, and on that note, here's a lovely piece from American Pravda that explains exactly why torture doesn't work: you see, torturees LIE (duh) to make it stop. In this case, the torturee--Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi--got them to stop by...claiming an Iraqi/Al Qaeda link. Which was, of course, bullshit, but bullshit the administration wanted to hear. Yep, I'll bet a LOT of bullshit was collected by this much that they're now eyeball deep in it.

And they wonder why they reek...
Home and Abroad

Krugman nails it (no link yet--sent by a friend):

The Promiser in Chief

Sometimes reconstruction delayed is reconstruction denied.

A few months after the invasion of Iraq, President Bush promised to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure and economy. He - or, at any rate, his speechwriters - understood that reconstruction was important not just for its own sake, but as a way to deprive the growing insurgency of support. In October 2003 he declared that "the more electricity is available, the more jobs are available, the more kids that are going to school, the more desperate these killers become."

But for a long time, Iraqi reconstruction was more of a public relations exercise than a real effort. Remember when visiting congressmen were taken on tours of newly painted schools?

Both supporters and opponents of the war now argue that by moving so slowly on reconstruction, the Bush administration missed a crucial window of opportunity. By the time reconstruction spending began in earnest, it was in a losing race with a deteriorating security situation.

As a result, the electricity and jobs that were supposed to make the killers desperate never arrived. Iraq produced less electricity last month than in October 2003. The Iraqi government estimates the unemployment rate at 27 percent, but the real number is probably much higher.

Now we're losing another window of opportunity for reconstruction. But this time it's at home.

Two weeks after Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Bush made an elaborately staged appearance in New Orleans, where he promised big things. "The work that has begun in the Gulf Coast region," he said, "will be one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen."

Such an effort would be the right thing to do. We can argue about details - about which levees should be restored and how strong to make them - but it's clearly in the nation's interests as well as local residents' to rebuild much of the regional economy.

But Mr. Bush seems to have forgotten about his promise. More than three months after Katrina, a major reconstruction effort isn't even in the planning stage, let alone under way. "To an extent almost inconceivable a few months ago," a Los Angeles Times report about New Orleans says, "the only real actors in the rebuilding drama at the moment are the city's homeowners and business owners."

It's worth noting in passing that Mr. Bush hasn't even appointed a new team to fix the dysfunctional Federal Emergency Management Agency. Most of the agency's key positions, including the director's job - left vacant by the departure of Michael "heck of a job" Brown - are filled on an acting basis, by temporary place holders. The chief of staff is still a political loyalist with no prior disaster management experience.

One FEMA program has, however, been revamped. The Recovery Channel is a satellite and Internet network that used to provide practical information to disaster victims. Now it features public relations segments telling viewers what a great job FEMA and the Bush administration are doing.

But back to reconstruction. By letting the gulf region languish, Mr. Bush is allowing a window of opportunity to close, just as he did in Iraq.
To see why, you need to understand a point emphasized by that report in The Los Angeles Times: the private sector can't rebuild the region on its own. The reason goes beyond the need for flood protection and basic infrastructure, which only the government can provide. Rebuilding is also blocked by a vicious circle of uncertainty. Business owners are reluctant to return to the gulf region because they aren't sure whether their customers and workers will return, too. And families are reluctant to return because they aren't sure whether businesses will be there to provide jobs and basic amenities.

A credible reconstruction plan could turn that vicious circle into a virtuous circle, in which everyone expects a regional recovery and, by acting on that expectation, helps that recovery come to pass. But as the months go by with no plan and no money, businesses and families will make permanent decisions to relocate elsewhere, and the loss of faith in a gulf region recovery will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Funny, isn't it? Back during the 2000 campaign Mr. Bush promised to avoid "nation building." And so he has. He failed to rebuild Iraq because he waited too long to get started. And now he's doing the same thing here at home.

I tried yesterday to say much the same thing, although my writing skills are nowhere near Paul Krugman's. But I'll repeat: if the administration can't--or won't--rebuild the Gulf Coast, then how in hell can anyone expect them to clean up the mess they've made in Iraq? Reality in this case is so glaringly obvious that even the media, despite their whorish relationship with the GOP, has been forced to look into this, even if they play their timid supplicant/courtesan role when in the dauphin's presence. At this point, I wouldn't trust Team Bush to properly bake a potato...but they're in charge at perhaps THE most critical time for the nation in recent memory.

God, that sucks.
A Little Salt for that Wound, Son?

Here's some compassionate conservativism in action:

How do you say "Merry Christmas" in Scottish terrier? Just ask presidential pups Barney and Miss Beazley...

The video, "A Very Beazley Christmas," tells the story of a very jealous Barney, who hides presents meant for his more popular sister, Miss Beazley.

The president's chief of staff, Andrew Card, and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, as well as television hosts Nancy O'Dell and George Stephanopoulos, raise Barney's ire by heaping praise on the charming, photogenic and younger Miss Beazley.

After scolding Barney for playing hide and seek with Miss Beazley's gifts, President Bush chides a contrite Miss Beazley, saying, "I understand you've been a media hound."

He patches up the dogs' differences by telling them, "You have to remember the true meaning of the holiday season."

The video is available on the White House Web site.

Hey, Team Bush, why not just go ahead and send the video to these web sites--Snowball's Chance and/or KatrinaFoundPets. I'm sure lots of Gulf Coast residents can't wait to see footage of dogs living more comfortably than themselves--and it'll remind them of their own four legged companions.

Maybe you can send a special copy to a certain young boy who's dog was probably the only thing he had to call his don't recall what happened? Here's a reminder:

When authorities began to evacuate people to the Superdome with buses, they refused to allow pets to board. According to [Mary] Foster's AP story:

"At the front of the line, the weary refugees waded through ankle-deep water, grabbed a bottle of water from state troopers and happily hopped on buses that would deliver them from the horrendous conditions of the Superdome.

"At the back end of the line, people jammed against police barricades in the rain. Refugees passed out and had to be lifted hand-over-hand overhead to medics. Pets were not allowed on the bus, and when a police officer confiscated a little boy's dog, the child cried until he vomited. 'Snowball, Snowball', he cried. The policeman told a reporter he didn't know what would happen to the dog."

Yeah, I'm sure that young child would be thrilled to see a video about pResident Bush's dogs...and I've got to hand it to them: apparently Operation Ignore the Gulf Coast is going so well they can't be bothered to recall one of the saddest elements of the neglect: the forced separation of people and their pets.

Now THAT'S what I call compassionate conservativism.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


Here's Harold Pinter's Nobel Lecture--all I can add is, amen.

Sadly, amen.
Lies, Damn Lies...and George W. Bush

Dan Froomkin takes note of all kinds of dirt--and god knows what else--Team Bush threw under the rug when their dear leader did his speechifying yesterday:

Some American journalists intent on fact-checking President Bush's vision of Iraq are finding it too dangerous to inspect the areas Bush yesterday cited as models of success.

Which sort of tells you the story right there.

While conceding that American efforts to rebuild Iraq have been flawed at times, Bush nevertheless yesterday touted the effectiveness of reconstruction projects in Najaf and Mosul in particular as examples of the "quiet, steady progress" transforming the country.

So how are those projects really doing? Hard to say.

It's too dangerous to allow visitors to inspect them freely, Rick Barton of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington told James Glanz of the New York Times. "I bet if we could get around and see these places that they would not be the story that he's telling," Barton said.

Check out the whole piece know, I'm really beginning to wonder...either this administration is the biggest gang of liars, cynics, crooks, synchophants, etc.--or they're all so hopped up on some sort of superdrug that they haven't got the first clue. If it's the latter, man, that must be some powerful stuff.

Changing the subject just a bit, I saw this at some site calling itself Eschaton--maybe you're heard of it: An interview with Mike Wallace, father of professional shithead Chris Wallace. Mike apparently has a few more functioning brain cells than junior (hmmm...sort of like another father/son combination). Here's what he'd ask Shrubusto, if given the chance:

What in the world prepared you to be the commander in chief of the largest superpower in the world? In your background, Mr. President, you apparently were incurious. You didn't want to travel. You knew very little about the military. . . . The governor of Texas doesn't have the kind of power that some governors have. . . . Why do you think they nominated you? . . . Do you think that has anything to do with the fact that the country is so [expletive] up?

Guess that's why Wallace the elder isn't going to get an exclusive any time soon.

I wonder though, what sort of response his question would elicit? I guess it depends on whether or not the dauphin was or wassn't whacked out on the aforementioned superdrug.
Just Thinkin

I usually ignore pond scum like Ann Coulter, but her remark last night--"I love to engage in repartee with people who are stupider than I am"--certainly makes it sound like she has pretty low self-esteem.

Or maybe Ann's admitting the obvious: She's just plain stupid.
"Likens Katrina's Impact to the Trauma of War"

These two articles from Truthout aren't exactly uplifting, but are worth a look nonetheless (the first is also available here, with a hat tip to Blake for the link).

First, Mike Tidwell sounds the alarm--while it might seem at first glance that he's calling for the abandonment of NOLA, that's not the case: my own take on his position is that he's just saying that the city CANNOT exist in the state of limbo Team Bush thinks is just swell. In addition to Category 5 hurricane protection, steps MUST be taken to restore marshes, barrier islands, and wetlands surrounding the city; otherwise, you're literally begging for another disaster. Sadly, the government--also noted by YRHT--took the political equivalent of a burnt stick and poked it right into the region's eye with an appropriation request of less than half a penny on the dollar for a plan to do just that...a plan that, as the article states, was "confirmed" as sound by the National Academy of Sciences.

The second story in the Truthout link focuses on the mental/psychological trauma on a scale unprecedented in this country--and where I lifted the quote that's titling this post. The situation IS a lot like a war, which further highlights the inadequacy, incompetence--and venality of the government. Overseas, they've literally wrought the carnage that defines their legacy. Here at home, nature might have caused the problem, but the gang in charge don't seem to have the first clue as to how to fix things...or, even worse, they simply refuse to act.

How can ANYONE trust them on ANYTHING? They're going to magically restore stability to the Middle East when they can't--or wont--bring stability to their own nation? And, on the flip side, they can't print money fast enough for Mesopotamia, but snap shut the national wallet when it comes to fixing things here?

That's just plain sick.

Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn republished a 1971 interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono--it's long, but makes for highly interesting reading.

I guess we can only wonder what Lennon would think of things today...
Herbert to Bush: Put up or Shut Up

Apologies for the late start today--it's been a little busy around, for your reading pleasure, here's Bob Herbert's latest, sent to me by a friend:

Sharing the Sacrifice, or Ending It

If it is true, as President Bush and many others have argued, that horrific consequences will result if American forces are pulled from Iraq in the near future, then how is it that we are even considering a significant drawdown of troops in advance of next fall's Congressional elections?

Opponents of a swift withdrawal speak of potential consequences that are dire in the extreme: the eruption of a wider civil war with ever more horrendous Iraqi casualties; the transformation of Iraq into a safe haven and even more of a training ground for anti-American terrorists; the involvement of neighboring countries like Iran, Syria and Turkey in a spreading conflict that could destabilize the entire Middle East.

Vice President Dick Cheney told troops at Fort Drum, N.Y., on Tuesday that in the event of a swift withdrawal of American troops, Iraq "would return to the rule of tyrants, become a massive source of instability in the Middle East and be a staging area for ever greater attacks against America and other civilized nations."
Senator John McCain, who defines "complete victory" in Iraq as the establishment of a "flawed but functioning democracy," told Tim Russert of NBC that achieving even that modest goal would be "long and hard and tough."

If the hawks are right, if all of this is so - and if this war is, indeed, still winnable - then the Bush administration has an obligation to level with the American people, explaining clearly what will be required in terms of casualties, financial costs and other sacrifices, and telling the truth about the shabby, amateurish state of the Iraqi security forces.

As it stands now, the United States is incapable of defeating the insurgency with the forces it has in Iraq. So it is beyond preposterous to think that Iraq can be pacified in a year or 18 months or two years by a fledgling, underequipped Iraqi Army and a hapless police force riddled with brutal, partisan militias.

What's more, the U.S. military itself is in danger of cracking under the strain of this endless Iraq ordeal. Troops are being sent into the war zone for their third and fourth tours, which is hideously unfair. The more times you roll the dice, the more likely snake eyes will pop up.

Even with lowered standards, the Army can't meet its recruitment goals. And the National Guard and Reserves have been all but exhausted by the war effort.
The combination of troop shortages, declining public support for the war and the Republicans' anxiety over next year's elections all but ensures some substantial reduction in U.S. forces in Iraq over the next eight to 12 months.

And yet the hawks say we must continue the fight. Well, wars fought with one eye on the polls and one eye on the political calendar get lots of people killed for nothing.

If this war is worth fighting, it's worth fighting right. And that means mobilizing not just the handful of troops who have borne the burden of this wretched conflict, but the entire nation. Taxes would have to be raised, the military expanded, the forces in Iraq bolstered and a counterinsurgency strategy developed that would have some chance of actually defeating the enemy.

To do that would require implementing a draft. It's easy to make the case for war when the fighting will be done by other people's children.

If this war is as important as the hawks insist it is, the burden should be shared by all of us. The youngsters sacrificed on the altar of Iraq should be drawn from the widest possible swath of the general population.

If most Americans are unwilling to send their children to fight in Iraq, it must mean that most Americans do not feel that winning the war is absolutely essential.

The truth is that no one knows for sure what will happen if we pull our troops out of Iraq. Many of those who insist that the sky will fall were insisting three years ago that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that invading U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators.

The public initially supported this war because the administration was very effective at promoting the canard that Iraq was somehow linked to Al Qaeda and involved in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Now the hawks must once again bear the burden of persuasion. They must persuade the public that the U.S. should continue indefinitely fighting this war, which has embedded us in such a hellish predicament and taken such a horrendous toll.

If it's not worth fighting, then we should be preparing an orderly exit now.

Now's also the time for those arguing to stay in the fight to join in--or forever wear the medal of chickenhawkery.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Spine Watch

While clowns like Joe Lieberman continue to reveal their inner jellyfish, a few Democrats are doing their best to demonstrate how opposition to Team Bush actually leads to...well, if not upright walking, at least inclusion in the order of vertebrates.

You know, it's not like it actually takes MUCH in the way of backbone...the John Murtha position, as he's all but literally spelled out, is simply a reflection of the goddamned Pentagon, minus the political appointee morons. Sure, wingnuts who don't even qualify as pathetic excuses of insectia, much less human beings, have tried their tired smear routine without really grasping the underlying meaning of Murtha's statements (grasping must be "hard work" for them, even with six limbs...and antennae).

Points of interest in the transcript above were already noted by Think Progress, including, once again, more supplementals to the defense budget for war operations--$50 billion already on the table, another $100 billion for next year, which might partially explain administration foot dragging on reconstruction right here--and lord only knows what sort of oversight...speaking of: Henry Waxman (D-CA) noted the following discrepencies in previous war spending, which makes me think the new round of money will similarly accounting for at all:

Large government contractors like Halliburton have repeatedly overcharged the taxpayer. Auditors at the Defense Contract Audit Agency have identified over $1.4 billion in unreasonable and unsupported charges by Halliburton in Iraq. Whistleblowers have testified about $100 bags of laundry, $45 cases of soda, and brand new $85,000 trucks being abandoned because of a flat tire. Yet the Administration refuses to take action. Last month, the Defense Department paid Halliburton $130 million in reimbursements, profits, and bonuses for billings that the department's own auditors recommended against paying.

The Bush Administration's management of the reconstruction of Iraq has been fundamentally incompetent. Billion-dollar contracts were awarded with little or no competition to favored contractors. Competition for discrete reconstruction projects was suppressed by dividing Iraq into a handful of fiefdoms and awarding lucrative monopoly contracts to companies that never had to compete against each other for specific reconstruction tasks.

Between May 2003 and June 2004, U.S. officials shipped nearly $12 billion in cash to Iraq. As government audits later found, the cash was spent and disbursed by U.S. officials with virtually no financial controls or reliable accounting. The Administration cannot account for over $8 billion that was transferred to Iraqi ministries. This unsupervised flood of cash into Iraq became an open invitation to corruption. A senior U.S. official already has been charged with accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks from a U.S. contractor in exchange for steering up to $3.5 million in fraudulent contracts his way. Government investigators have said that there are dozens of other criminal corruption cases being processed.

And Congress waxes piously about LOUISIANA corruption? Huey, Earl, and the Old Regulars COMBINED wouldn't come close.

Oh--and back to Murtha--he's got some news for those who, like Slow Joe L., worry about administration "credibility:"

QUESTION: Mr. Murtha, what do you say to Senator Lieberman whom yesterday said Democrats need to acknowledge that this president is commander in chief for three more years, that undermining his credibility...

MURTHA: Undermining his credibility? What has he said that would give him credibility?

He said there was Al Qaida connection. He said there was a connection with nuclear weapons. He said there's biological, chemical weapons there. He said there's progress now. I'm showing you that I don't see the kind of progress he sees.

I'll tell you what they're saying to me when they call. It's refreshing. We're seeing some honesty about this thing.

Now, I don't know that you could call them dishonest but it certainly is not -- the public is not buying it and they've changed their mind, I think, because they feel that they've been misled.

Exactly--and for the life of me, I can't fathom why ANY Democratic politician would allow themselves to be led around on a leash held by Karl Rove. No matter how much he'll claim about everything being "in the national interest," the fact is he--and his party--will jerk on the choke chain early, often, and at every opportunity. That's WHY the war resolution debate came up when it did, that's WHY Big Time ominously questions the patriotism of anyone NOT allowing themself to be put on an administration leash, and that's WHY the entire agenda of this administration is full of shit: they're NOT governing in the national interest, and they NEVER have. Everything is all politics, all the time to them.

It might win elections, but it makes for horrible administration--as anyone who's seen the Gulf Coast now knows.
Divorced From Reality

I can't believe I'm citing Dan Fucking Quayle, but with the latest headlines touting Shrub's latest attempt at speechifying, the first thing that came to my mind was close enough to "What a terrible thing to have lost one's mind. Or not to have a mind at all. How true that is." I might as well give credit...

Oh for the days when the VP was merely a dingbat/airhead.

So, it looks like the dauphin is adopting a Rumsfeldian "metric" for "defining success" in Iraq--that is to say, as long as we ignore death and mayhem, hostage taking, suicide bombs, official lies, etc. etc. etc., things are going just great. Besides, electricity is so overrated anyway, as Iraqis of all persuasion now know.

Meanwhile, it looks like other headlines will push Shrub's speech aside--but, after giving it a closer look, it's evident the pResident is as loony as Rummy. Two and a half years after Mission Accomplished, the boy-in-chief is now lauding our successes in exactly two cities, Najaf and Mosul, the former recently in the news for giving Iyad Allawi the shoe treatment, the latter presently below the radar...but already taken over by insurgents last winter (while Team Bush trumpeted their success to the south in much less heavily populated Fallujah, which, thanks to their handiwork, is even LESS populated but no less hostile--but I digress)...and Mosul could probably be taken again by insurgents when they so choose.

Otherwise, Shrub's latest drone was only notable for its utter lack of anything noteworthy: generalities about painted schools or the odd plumbing fix, 9/11, Zarqawi, Zawahri, stay the course, and freedom, freedom, freedom.

Hell, Shrub and his neo-con/wingnut phalanx of synchphants--AND their fellow travelers in the press--haven't the first idea of what freedom means in THIS country, much less almost halfway across the planet. Do they speak ANY arabic? No. Do they visit with the people over there and ask them questions? No. Do they even seek out individuals who might be able to make a legitimate claim to popular support in Iraq? Of course not. Instead, they throw around platitudes for domestic consumption HERE (as evidenced by the fact that a pollster was called in to help draft the speech in Annapolis) while not bothering to ask Iraqis if they wanted to be the test case for the hastily concocted "flypaper" strategem--which isn't working anyway.

But again, while I'm angry--livid--I'm not all that surprised by Dodo-in-Chief's effort. Here at home, business as usual, i.e., we've got fine instances of cronyism where they don't even bother to pad the payroll in Tammany Hall fashion, that is, just throw the money and don't bother with even creating a few patronage jobs. Members of Congress show off their inner feelings of racial superiority as they continue to single out this hurricane season for scrutiny...something they most decidedly DID NOT DO in 2004...which all adds up to a government that presently spends upwards of $6 billion dollars a week to accomplish absolutely nothing overseas (well, except for the deaths of our own soldiers and Iraqi citizens) while spending almost NOTHING on rebuilding an area critical to the economy of the nation.

They're completely fucking delusional. What else can you say?
Don't Forget

The Gret Stet was hit by TWO major hurricanes this season--and the Bush administration's response has been abysmal on BOTH:

I wanted to write to you all on return from our relief efforts in Cameron Parish, Louisiana...

For those with the desire and wherewithal to do something, they desperately need volunteer labor. Short of that, money would be helpful but I would definitely avoid the Red Cross or FEMA. The best groups on the ground were local churches. We worked closely with the regional office of the Methodist church and two Methodist church communities. They have the best sense of need and are the most efficient with resources...

What we witnessed was a calamity that has been largely ignored. Certainly, the residents of southern Louisiana feel that way. The level of misery and disorientation is high.

I think we are under the impression that FEMA and other voluntary organizations are all over this and help is there or on the way. It isn't. Two months out, there is still wide spread destruction. FEMA is managing dumps and the Army Corps of Engineers is picking up debris if you can get it to the road, but many can not. We saw no sign of the Red Cross. Those who have the means to hire clean up are getting it done, those who can't are living in utter destruction. Social class is dictating the outcome. Many local churches and groups are doing what they can with very limited resources.

Some of the fields we cleared for poor farmers had debris that took 15 people to move. In two of the houses we cleaned up, we piled debris 10 feet high, fifteen feet wide, and over 200 feet long. Single widows with children lived there. We toured the area we originally thought we would be working in southern Cameron parish. There is nothing left to rebuild. It is completely destroyed. I know that your primary responsibility is to this college but your influence in letting people know of what is going on in these areas would be greatly appreciated. I think people are not aware of how bad it is in these places.

While this may sound pretty dire, and it is, let me convey a couple of lessons that I learned. First, it's often not the big things but the little things that made a difference. While moving big stuff was critically important, the two most profound images in my head were more delicate. I watched a group of students working with a women cleaning up what others may think of as junk and trinkets but that were the remains of 25 years of living in her house. Their sensitivity in dealing with her made me weep. On another occasion, Mary Mike Hailey and my group stopped to clean up garbage in a ditch outside of a neighborhood that had been hit pretty hard. People came out of their houses and wept. A women told me that on one level, she could take having a house leveled, but driving by your neighborhood day in and day out that is littered in trash was so demoralizing and overwhelming. Doing something as simple as picking up garbage out of a ditch had a profound moral affect.

First, a heartfelt thanks for anyone who comes to help out--it's profoundly appreciated.

But the generosity of individuals and groups is sadly counterweighted by the abject failure on the part of the government--which takes our resources, alters our landscapes to suit the national agenda...then can't be bothered to assist us in our hour of need.

Neither the generosity of individuals and groups nor the penury of the government will be forgotten.
Just Like His College Report Card

17 D's and/or F's:

The members of the Sept. 11 commission gave dismal grades to the Bush administration and Congress on Monday in measuring the government's recent efforts to prevent terrorist attacks on American soil, concluding that the government deserved many more F's and D's than A's...

"While the terrorists are learning and adopting, our government is still moving at a crawl," said Thomas H. Kean, the commission's chairman and a former Republican governor of New Jersey. "Many obvious steps that the American people assume have been completed have not been. Our leadership is distracted."

The new report by the 9/11 Public Discourse Project, a private group established by the commission's five Republicans and five Democrats when the panel formally went out of business last year, graded the government's response to the 41 recommendations made in the commission's final report 17 months ago.

There were 17 F's or D's - including an F to Congress for its failure to allocate the domestic antiterrorism budget on the basis of risk and a D for the government's effort to track down and secure nuclear material that could be used by terrorists. There was only one A - and it was an A minus - awarded for the government's efforts to stem the financing of terrorist networks.

With the release of the report, the commissioners announced that they were shutting down the Public Discourse Project, which had represented an unusual private effort by members of a federal commission to retain some political viability and lobby for their recommendations.

The White House, which often tangled with the Sept. 11 commission during its official investigation, defended its performance in dealing with terrorist threats, insisting it had acted on most of the panel's recommendations.

I hope nobody's surprised--after all, the "security" administration couldn't handle the response to this season's hurricanes...which, as disasters go, at least have some degree of predictability. But the failing grades also are a genuine reflection of George W. Bush the person: his ENTIRE LIFE STORY has been one of lurching from one failure to another. I can't fathom why anyone would think things would be different now.

His daddy's rich friends will probably bail him out of this one too--but the entire country will be on the losing end, not just a group of investors willing to take a bath for access.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Let Congress Freeze in the Dark

So, the same gang of swine who lard the budget with enough pork each year to literally clothe themselves in bacon now wants to tighten the pursestrings because the Gret Stet has a history of corruption:

After battling in Congress for months to get more federal money for their hurricane-ravaged state, some Louisiana officials have come to believe they are up against something more than concerns about the budget deficit or conflicting visions of reconstruction.

Maybe, they speculate, their colleagues just don't trust them...

What is clear is that the initial outpouring of sympathy for victims in the state hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina has been replaced on Capitol Hill by a climate of suspicion — even resentment — toward what is seen as an increasingly demanding supplicant.

Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) echoed sentiments expressed by many of his colleagues when he insisted recently that every federal dollar sent to Louisiana be strictly monitored.

"Louisiana and New Orleans are the most corrupt governments in our country, and they have always been," Craig told a newspaper in his home state. "Fraud is in the culture of Iraqis. I believe that is true in Louisiana as well."

The result of such attitudes, say current and former Louisiana officials, is that the reconstruction effort has been hampered as basic questions about the federal government's commitment to the effort remain unanswered.

Louisiana officials testifying before Congress have faced so many questions about whether the state's history of corruption made it a poor risk for massive federal aid that they developed a counter-response: They list other states where politicians have been charged with misdeeds and remind their questioners that Congress has its own ethical woes.

The article goes on to note what ought to be obvious: to Congress, it's all about the politics--they don't give a damn about the lives lost, the communities that were totally devastated, the people who were and are still in a state of flux--hell, as World Class New Orleans pointed out, even Bob "not-quite-Speaker-of-the-House" Livingston upbraided the institution.

Of course, if New Orleans changed it's name to "New Baghdad" (or how about New Baghdaddy...or even New Baghdiddy?), maybe Congress' tune would change. Seems like they're more than willing to dump money on things Iraqi, with scant regard for where it ends up. But it's probably too late for that.

So, why not cut off the lights--AND the heat--in the hallowed halls. Given that there's hardly a more pampered group of crybabies on earth than the 535 representatives and senators, I'd bet they'd cave in a matter of minutes, if not seconds.

On a more serious note: has there EVER been a more egregious case of total neglect in the recent history of this country? Congress is telling a huge segment of this nation's citizens to fuck off. I think the public should return the favor.
Seeking the Lowest Level

Riverbend and Digby both note more than a bit of irony in the Saddam Trial:

I was only half listening a minute ago as NBC's Jim Meceda in Bagdad was describing how a woman was stripped and tortured and then taken to Abu Ghraib and terribly abused. I turned quickly to see who this latest person was who had come forward to accuse the US of inhumane treatment --- only to find that it was a witness testifying at Saddam's trial. Wow.

One thing that struck me about what the witnesses were saying- after the assassination attempt in Dujail, so much of what later unfolded is exactly what is happening now in parts of Iraq. They talked about how a complete orchard was demolished because the Mukhabarat thought people were hiding there and because they thought someone had tried to shoot Saddam from that area. That was like last year when the Americans razed orchards in Diyala because they believed insurgents were hiding there. Then they talked about the mass detentions- men, women and children- and its almost as if they are describing present-day Ramadi or Falloojah. The descriptions of cramped detention spaces, and torture are almost exactly the testimonies of prisoners in Abu Ghraib, etc.

It makes one wonder when Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney and the rest will have their day, as the accused, in court.

Then we've got the spectacle--in the gawker sense of the term--of Condoleezza Rice traipsing around Europe, in the words of The Rude Pundit, "like a rabid mongoose," while the horrific treatment of Khaled Al-Masri is finally getting some attention (because he STILL can't enter this country to file a claim based on false imprisonment)...and, as the link demonstrates, Masri is not alone.

Scum might rise to the top--but it's still scum.
Sharpen Your Pencils

Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman offer the Corporate Crime Quiz, where you can find out, for example, how many of the 30 corporations comprising the DJIA have been convicted of criminal acts. And who said this:

"Any member of Congress, Republican or Democrat, must take their office seriously and the ethics seriously. The idea of a congressman taking money is outrageous. And Congressman Cunningham is going to realize that he has broken the law and is going to pay a serious price, which he should."

Note: one day this person might find out it's not just Congress that needs to take their office and ethics seriously.
Pick Three

Caught a little bit of Countdown when it reaired last night--the show's becoming a bit of a habit for me (might have to start shelling out for the decent cable teevee when my free sample runs out). In quick succession, the following were noted:

1) Blanco's release of documents detailing Louisiana's response to Hurricane Katrina...and the federal government's LACK of response...a lack of response that devolved into outright dingbattery--Jesus H. Christ, people were literally dying, and the fed's wanted an extra copy of a letter they could've just as easily PRINTED off a goddamned web site. Fuckers.

Olbermann got it right:

...the reason the White House does not want to play the blame game could very easily be because it would almost certainly lose that game.


KERRY SANDERS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Hurricane Katrina caused havoc, behind the scenes, a storm of a different sort. You can hear it in this recorded phone call.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (on phone): We requested it, have requested it, been requesting it, and nothing‘s coming.


SANDERS: That‘s an angry Louisiana official. Ten days after the hurricane, FEMA still hadn‘t delivered promised food and water.

It‘s one of the 100,000 documents presented to congressional investigators chronicling the massive failure of local, state, and federal emergency coordination.

The day Hurricane Katrina hit, Governor Kathleen Blanco says, in an executive summary, that she told the president in a phone call, “We need everything you‘ve got.”

Then, four days later, the governor says she handed an official letter to the president asking for federal help. But it took another five days before she got this e-mail from a presidential aide. “Could you send a copy of the governor‘s 9/2 letter to the president? We found it on the governor‘s Web site but need an original to formally process the requests she is making.”

SILAS LEE, NEW ORLEANS POLITICAL ANALYST: This verified what she was saying all along, that she was reaching out to the federal government for help, and the federal government basically acted like a negligent parent.

Countdown also took a look at Khalid el-Mazri, a German citizen, who, in a case of MISTAKEN IDENTITY, was kidnapped, thrown on an airplane, dumped in Afghanistan, and held for five months of "interrogation" before being released. He's STILL on a "watch list" by the way, meaning he can't enter the United States for purposes of filing a legal complaint. Guess that's Team Bush's definition of "freedom on the march."

And finally, speaking of freedom on the march: apparently USAID is looking into offering up to a billion dollars for any enterprising soul who...has a plan for stabilizing "10 strategic cities" in Iraq...something that evidently CAN'T be done by the military...

Hmmm...shouldn't they have thought of that BEFORE they decided to waste 2100 and counting US lives, thousands more Iraqi lives, and so on?

What a bunch of dumbfucks.

Actually, dumbfuck might be a little generous.

Countdown transcript here.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Shrub's Plan: First the Cart, THEN the Horse

Democratic Underground's Top Ten Conservative Idiots of the Week is worth reading in full; however, perennial finalist Shrubusto gets a special nod as number 1 this week, with pictures to prove why:



I half expect the boy king suggest a Trojan Rabbit as his next "bold" step.
You Sure it's not LamER Advertising?

Lamar Advertising of Baton Rouge--which owns eyesores billboards around the country, has a less than absolute position on free, or for that matter, paid speech:

WASHINGTON - An advertising company that gives most of its political donations to Republicans blocked the Democratic National Committee from putting up billboards criticizing GOP Rep. Jean Schmidt of Ohio.

Lamar Advertising Co. of Baton Rouge, La., refused to put up two billboards in Portsmouth, Ohio, and another in Cincinnati with a picture of Schmidt and the following message: "Shame on you, Jean Schmidt: Stop attacking veterans. Keep your eye on the ball — we need a real plan for Iraq."

The billboards are the result of 7,000 donations, DNC executive director Tom McMahon said, after Schmidt attacked Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha (news, bio, voting record), a Democrat and Marine veteran, for his call for withdrawal from Iraq. Schmidt was booed off the House floor two weeks ago when she said "cowards cut and run, Marines never do."

She has since apologized.

Lamar's Huntington, W.Va., regional manager, Mark Watts, rejected the billboards criticizing Scmidt as a personal attack, said Hal Kinshaw, Lamar's vice president of governmental affairs.

Kilshaw said Lamar doesn't do many billboards for either Republicans or Democrats, but the company does have a political action committee that contributes to candidates. In 2004 elections, it gave Republicans 70 percent of its U.S. House race donations and 60 percent of its U.S. Senate race contributions.

The DNC says it went to Lamar because it controls the market in the area but is looking for other options.
Battling With Buchanan

I'm a little late to the party in noting this story--Attaturk and Simbaud both beat me to it, and I'll bet plenty of others have too--but it reminds me of reports where the Gret Stet fights hard with Mississippi for the coveted 49th spot--because at least it means you're not dead last:

The History News Network at George Mason University has just polled historians informally on the Bush record. Four hundred and fifteen, about a third of those contacted, answered -- maybe they were all crazed liberals -- making the project as unofficial as it was interesting. These were the results: 338 said they believed Bush was failing, while 77 said he was succeeding. Fifty said they thought he was the worst president ever. Worse than Buchanan.

This is what those historians said -- and it should be noted that some of the criticism about deficit spending and misuse of the military came from self-identified conservatives -- about the Bush record:

He has taken the country into an unwinnable war and alienated friend and foe alike in the process;

He is bankrupting the country with a combination of aggressive military spending and reduced taxation of the rich;

He has deliberately and dangerously attacked separation of church and state;

He has repeatedly "misled," to use a kind word, the American people on affairs domestic and foreign;

He has proved to be incompetent in affairs domestic (New Orleans) and foreign ( Iraq and the battle against al-Qaida);

He has sacrificed American employment (including the toleration of pension and benefit elimination) to increase overall productivity;

He is ignorantly hostile to science and technological progress;

He has tolerated or ignored one of the republic's oldest problems, corporate cheating in supplying the military in wartime.

Quite an indictment. It is, of course, too early to evaluate a president. That, historically, takes decades, and views change over times as results and impact become more obvious. Besides, many of the historians note that however bad Bush seems, they have indeed since worse men around the White House. Some say Buchanan. Many say Vice President Dick Cheney.

George W. Bush--the Mississippi of presidents...

Picture of the day...well, at least the picture of MY day--courtesy of Agitprop

Rumsfeld: War is Peace

I think Atrios was right this weekend when he wrote something to the effect that Rummy's genuinely insane. From Think Progress:

In a speech today, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld offered some pointers on how to assess the situation in Iraq.

Don’t pay attention to terrorist attacks:

“To be responsible, one needs to stop defining success in Iraq as the absence of terrorist attacks,” Rumsfeld said in remarks at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Don’t pay attention to U.S. fatalities:

Pressure on the administration over the war has grown as the number of U.S. military deaths has surpassed 2,100. Rumsfeld said a focus on that number would be as misleading as concentrating on the large numbers of deaths at battles like Iwo Jima during World War II, without acknowledging the victories eventually achieved.

Don’t pay attention to the media:

Rumsfeld also delivered a broadside against the media, saying that in the present era of the 24-hour new cycle, events in Iraq may be reported too quickly and without context, and at times with little substantiation.

Totally batshit insane.
Setting the Record Straight

Governor Blanco released an enormous volume of records detailing the Gret Stet's efforts at hurricane relief in the aftermath of Katrina. These two WaPo articles--here and here, with a hat tip to Suspect Device for the latter--offer an initial summary of the trove.

The articles make one thing clear: while the Gulf Coast was obliterated, State officials did their best, under trying circumstances and with limited resources, to provide assistance. National officials, on the other hand, were playing politics.

They still are.

"We need everything you've got," Blanco is quoted in a memo as telling President Bush on Aug. 29, the day Katrina made landfall. But despite assurances from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that 500 buses were "standing by," Blanco's aides were compelled to take action when the FEMA buses failed to materialize, documents show. "We need buses," Andy Kopplin, chief of staff to Blanco, said in an e-mail to Blanco staffers late on Aug. 30, the day after the storm hit. "Find buses that can go to NO [New Orleans] ASAP."

Two days later, on Sept. 2, Blanco complained to the White House that FEMA had still failed to fulfill its promises of aid. While cloaked in customary political courtesies, Blanco noted that she had already requested 40,000 more troops; ice, water and food; buses, base camps, staging areas, amphibious vehicles, mobile morgues, rescue teams, housing, airlift and communications systems, according to a press office e-mail of the text of her letter to Bush.

"Even if these initial requests had been fully honored, these assets would not be sufficient," Blanco said. She also asked for the return of the Louisiana Army National Guard's 256th Brigade Combat Team, then deployed to Iraq.

Tensions between state leaders and the White House seemed at times near the boiling point. At 3:49 p.m. on Sept. 2, after spending three hours to appear with Bush at a Mississippi news conference, Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.) wrote Blanco's staff, "I am returning home to baron[sic] rouge in hoping I can accomplish something for the people I represent other than being occupied with PR."

He added that Bush's "entire effort on behalf of the federal government has been reflected in his and his people's nonchalant attitude to the people of LA. You may give him this to read."

The question of buses has been hollered over down to excruciating detail--including a post of my own back in September--and I don't think going over it again is necessary. But simple logic is plenty sufficient to realize a national government with a budget of almost two and a half TRILLION dollars will have a lot more resources available than a State with a total budget of eighteen BILLION dollars, i.e., roughly three days of federal spending. And now that we know the reason for devastation in NOLA was at least in part due to failure on the federal level to build proper floodwalls and other words, NOLA got the shaft going both ways.

The Bush administration continues to play politics, opting for a stall-and-hope-the rest-of-the-country-forgets-approach...unfortunately, this seems to be working, as I noted last week. However, chickens do come home to roost, and I'm beginning to think "let them freeze in the dark--and let their products, agricultural or otherwise, rot in place" might be the wakeup call the rest of the country needs.

As for Team Bush, well, I think their general policy of hide, stall, and blame speaks volumes, especially in comparision to Blanco's open record policy. And when the Shrub records DO see the light of day, Scooter'll have a lot of company in the cellblock...