Friday, January 20, 2006

The Dotted Line

Neil Shakespeare tries to adopt a preznitial strategery when it comes to paying bills--a signing statement.
One Coin

No Sense, No Cents, Comes Up "Tails, You Lose" Everytime.

Robert Fisk writes about the latest bin Laden audiotape:

It's the same old story: Osama bin Laden talks to us from the mouth of a cave, from within a cave, from a basement perhaps, from a tape almost certainly recorded down a telephone line from far away...

We invaded Afghanistan to find Bin Laden and we fight and die in Iraq to kill his supporters - yet still he eludes us, still he threatens us, still he taunts us.

How much longer can this nonsense go on? President Jacques Chirac warns that France - of all countries - might use nuclear weapons, if attacked. On whom, I wonder? America blows Pakistani children to pieces and claims it has killed five wanted men, including a bomb-maker. But there's absolutely no evidence. Bin Laden says that America will be attacked again unless it accepts a truce in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Weren't we supposed to be winning the "war on terror"? Oh no, the "experts" tell us, Bin Laden and al-Qa'ida are losing, that's why they want a truce. Some hope.

It's a game. Bin Laden has no intention of calling an end to his own war and nor has George Bush and nor has Tony Blair. The Bin Laden offer, almost certainly, is intended to be rejected. He wants Bush and Blair to refuse it. Then, after the next attack, will come the next audio tape. See what happens when you reject our ceasefire? We warned you. And we'll ask: is it him? So why no video tape? Never before in history have so many wanted men sent pictures and messages and video tapes out of the dark.

The irony, of course, is that Bin Laden is now partly irrelevant. He has created al-Qa'ida. His achievement - that word should be seen in context - is complete. Why bother hunting for him now? It's a bit like arresting the world's nuclear scientists after the invention of the atom bomb. The monster has been born. It's al-Qa'ida we have to deal with...

It is as if both "sides" in this conflict live on illusions. Mssrs Bush and Blair keep telling us things in Iraq are getting better, when we all know that they are getting worse. Anarchy has seized that entire country. American bodies coming home to the United States? Just don't let the press take photographs of the coffins. Bombs in London? Nothing to do with Iraq, Blair haplessly told us last July.

Now there's a website in Spanish about Iraq on the White House screens. Why? Because the Spaniards are interested in the war their army has left? Or because so many of the American soldiers dying in Iraq are Hispanics? And now we have Paul Bremer, America's equally hapless former pro-consul in Baghdad, telling us that those same Spanish troops contributed to the uprising in Najaf because they weren't performing their tasks in Iraq. More nonsense. What started the uprising was Bremer's own anger at an attack on him in a tiny Shia Muslim newspaper which he ordered to be closed (in an announcement of execrable Arabic). It was this which prompted Muqtada al-Sadr to fight the Americans.

And so we go on. Blame foreign fighters - even if 158,000 of them in Iraq happen to be wearing American uniforms - blame Syria, blame Iran. And blame Spain of course. Blame anyone who is not "with us".

In truth, it will need Iran and Syria to help get the US and Britain out of this shameful adventure. Yet what do we do? Raise the stakes on Iran by claiming that it intends to make nuclear weapons. And why Iran? Why not that infinitely more unstable Islamic state called Pakistan whichhas nuclear weapons? Because its dictator, President General Musharraf is on "our side". Why not attack North Korea, whose leader is more unstable than any Iranian cleric? Because he also has nuclear weapons.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban are slowly returning. Outside Kabul every woman wears a burqa. Weren't they supposed to have taken them off? Weren't women now "free" in Afghanistan? US troops are being killed at an increasing rate there. Weren't they supposed to have won? Now Canada has split its troops and sent a battalion to Kandahar to fight the Taliban and al-Qa'ida. What are the Canadians now doing in combat operations? What risks does this now pose for the Canadian nation which kept out of Iraq?

It was only a few months ago that Bin Laden was bombarding us with explanations for his movement's attacks. Why did no one ask, he said, why Sweden was not assaulted? And so, I suppose, we can indeed fear more attacks on the United States, more bombing raids, further chapters in the "war on terror".

And all the time we in the West fail to look for a way to end this "war" . How about some justice in the Middle East? How about lifting the blanket of injustice that has lain across the region for so many decades? Muslims there will probably like some of the democracy we say we're trying to export to them. They would also like human rights off our Western supermarket shelves.

But they would also like another kind of freedom - freedom from us. And this, it seems, we are not going to give them. So the war goes on. Stand by for more audio tapes, and more threats, and more death.
Good Question

Another one from the King of Zembla; paraphrasing here, if the finger-in-the-bowl-of-Wendy's-Chili scam cost the perpetrators nine years and twenty-one million bucks...then how much does THIS finger cost?

Just askin'...
A Couple of Crooks

Da Po' Blog points to USA Today's perpetuation of stereotype vis-a-vis the Gret Stet:

Despite its ragged reputation, Louisiana isn't the worst state when it comes to public scandals. In terms of raw numbers of federal public corruption convictions, California, Florida and Ohio are worse.

From 1995 to 2004, there were 871 federal public corruption convictions in California, according to the U.S. attorney general's office. Florida had 813 convictions. New York had 790. Ohio and Pennsylvania were even with 515 convictions each. Louisiana's toll: 310.

Still, Louisiana has nothing to crow about. California, the USA's most-populated state, has 36 million residents. Louisiana, No. 24 in population size, claims just 4 million residents.

The point: For a small state, Louisiana produces a lot of crooked politicians.

Louisiana's historically cavalier attitude about corruption also sets it apart, says Fred Smith, president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.

In most jurisdictions, public scandals are considered highly embarrassing events, but in Louisiana, he says, they're practically a point of pride.

"Corruption exists in every culture," says Smith. "But in Louisiana it is accepted to a level that is unbelievable."

Da Po' Boy response is as good or better than anything I could come up with:

I don’t know anyone who is cavalier about corruption. As far as embracing debauchery and eschewing convention, I don’t see how that leads to corruption. And I am going to have to remember that Mardi Gras is a “weeklong hedonistic celebration” next time I am on St. Charles with my family enjoying a parade.

Except for a couple of interviews with an expert and an official, what real journalism was done here? Does a reader not from Louisiana actually learn anything from this article? Or, does the author simply reinforce negative stereotypes of the region?

Funny. I wonder how we got our “ragged reputation.”
Say it's So, Joe

Link via King of Zembla.

Joe Bageant has a few things to say about a lot of things--but the closing paragraphs of his latest post are a thing of beauty, even as he laments our national decline:

All of which still leaves those crooked elections lingering as the backdrop to, or perhaps harbinger of, the 2008 elections, despite the lack of reporting on it. Reporters may perhaps be bound by a duty to refrain from assumptions. But I sure as hell ain't. And I'm assuming that if the Bush junta got away with it the first time, they will keep right on doing it until somebody breaks their goddamned legs. People like Katherine Harris, Karl Rove and Republican Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell haven't climbed to the top of the GOP dung heap because of their morals and restraint. They are big time Republicans precisely because they are willing to steal chickens and lie to the sheriff.

At some deep national level we all know, George W. Bush has no right to be farting into the Oval Office desk chair. Even the few genuinely moderate Republicans not driven into hiding by the Brownshirts look sheepish when you bring up Florida and Ohio. Yet Americans go on pretending that everything is OK. The people pretend along with the media that George W. Bush belongs in that chair. Pretend that his is the face of a man capable of deep and serious thought, that the smirk is not really a smirk and that he really gives a rat's ass about those coffins at Dover or those black people in New Orleans. They pretend that it was not farcical when he told the nation this week that despite the city being soaked in petro-toxins and defined mainly by bulldozed piles of rotting timbers, clothing and sewerage, overturned cars and botulism filled refrigerators, "New Orleans is still a great place to bring the family and have fun." They pretend that strange nationwide spider web of bitter GOP operatives could not possibly have worked together in Ohio and Florida and heaven only knows where else. Everything is OK.

As Helen Caldicott recently put it: "What's to become of us? Ask any experienced mental health practitioner what happens to a person who constructs and tries to maintain a life based on denial of fundamental reality. It can be done for a while, in spite of occasional outbursts of behavioral oddities (remember Dr. Strangelove's disobedient arm that was always popping up in an embarrassing Nazi salute). But how long can such a pretense be maintained, even when the pretender is surrounded by the best handlers money can buy?"

Apparently, Helen, a damned long time. At least eight years.
New Look WaPo

The General has a preview.

Team Bush released a report "justifying" their law-breaking re: warrantless wiretaps. I think ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero's reaction is as good as any:

"Any opinion coming from the Justice Department has to be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism, given Attorney General Gonzales' involvement in the warrantless spying as White House counsel," he said in a written statement. "The fox may now be guarding the henhouse, which is why we need an independent special counsel."

He added, "Congress must hold open, substantive hearings to let the American public know how their privacy was invaded. The president must not use a claim of preserving the nation as justification to undermine the very principles that define our nation. Freedom, liberty and privacy must be protected and preserved."

Like I wrote yesterday, can anyone seriously believe "suspicion of terrorist acts/sympathies" WOULDN'T get law enforcement officials a warrant these days? Geez. Hell, even IF somehow, somewhere, you managed to come across a FISA judge who wouldn't sign off, it'd just be red meat for the wackos come election time. No, don't be fooled by slick documents. The clowns running the show AREN'T using warrantless wiretaps for tracking terrorists. It's got to be something far more sinister. And, considering the levels to which they'll stoop (literally down to dirt level) while their chorus of minions declare they've maintained collective dignity...something just doesn't add up.

Which explains today's "statement," and a lot of other recent CYA actions...

Hat tip to Attaturk. GOPers may not have an absolute monopoly on assholes, but they've got enough market share to make for an awfully strong cartel:

Ed Rogers, GOP lobbyist, from last night's Hardball (emphasis added): ". Look, this is going to come out. Nobody is going to keep it a secret. Jack Abramoff is so radioactive—I've got Jack Abramoff fatigue already. I mean, good grief, he didn't kill anybody.
Maybe that one guy in Florida."

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Almost three years into the Iraqi war, and it's STILL a clusterfuck (link is to printable version--hit "cancel" to display):

BAIJI, Iraq - Pfc. Robyn Houston fires bursts of bullets into the air as his Humvee swerves around a pothole and lurches over a highway median. His convoy bears down on oncoming traffic, forcing Iraqi cars to swerve onto a dirt shoulder.

Roadside bombs "are really bad here!" the vehicle's commander, Staff Sgt. Sean Davis, 30, of Crestview, Fla., shouts over the gunfire and growl of the Humvee. "We're firing warning shots to get them off the road!"

It's a tactic Davis and his platoon resort to daily to avoid deadly explosions in Baiji, a Sunni Arab city long neglected by American forces and still firmly in the grip of insurgents, soldiers here say. In the first month after the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division took over security duties in northern Iraq in late fall, roadside bombs killed or wounded more than a quarter of the 34-man platoon.

Baiji has emerged as a critical priority for the U.S. military because of its importance to Iraq's oil industry, a fact underscored last month when insurgent threats forced officials to shut down the country's biggest oil refinery here, which handles 200,000 barrels a day.

But the city was virtually unknown territory when Davis's platoon -- part of Bulldog Company of the 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment -- and hundreds of other 101st Airborne soldiers were dispatched into the heart of Baiji for the first time last fall, Army officers here say. The knowledge deficit has proven to be deadly.

Like many small cities and towns in Iraq, Baiji, with a population of about 60,000, has long festered as an insurgent haven while U.S. commanders concentrated their limited forces in large cities such as Baghdad and Mosul. Previous American units stayed mostly outside the city, and intelligence was minimal, officers say.

As a result, even these battle-hardened troops from the 101st, many of them veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, have fallen into the pattern of many Army units that suffer high casualties in their first six weeks in Iraq, as insurgents test them in unfamiliar terrain.

This month, Army commanders frustrated by fatalities from bombs, mines, and more recently suicide car bombings began building up sand walls with bulldozers, digging ditches and setting up barricades to sharply restrict entry to the city. They completely sealed off a section of Baiji -- the village of Siniyah -- with a six-mile-long, eight-foot-high berm.

Meanwhile, Davis's platoon resorts to do-it-yourself tactics to try to stay safe. They scour their base for concrete, mixing it with water and pouring it into potholes where insurgents can hide improvised bombs. "I've been trying to find some Quikrete" concrete mix, said Sgt. 1st Class Danny Kidd, 36, of Fulton, N.Y., who like many in his unit is surprised by the intensity of attacks. Other soldiers have mounted shrieking police sirens on their Humvees to clear Iraqi traffic off the roads.

"It's definitely more dangerous this time around," agreed Spec. David Jones, 24, of New York, on his second tour in Iraq with the platoon. "I didn't expect to lose so many friends so soon."

Meanwhile, in the OTHER clusterfuck, officials last night gloated about the possible killing of yet another "high ranking Al Qaeda officer..." or maybe it was Rosey Grier they got (the picture isn't so good). Or maybe it was someone else entirely...anyway, that supposedly makes it ok, and never mind the "collatoral damage," because, well, we didn't mean it, so it doesn't count. And the world was treated today to yet another screed from world class nutjob Osama bin Laden--remember him? Good, you're doing better than this administration. Bin Laden's offering a "truce," which of course means he's hoping Team Bush will haughtily reject it and continue throwing lives and money away, while simutaneously serving as top recruiters for Wahabbist lunacy. You'd think they were on the bin Laden payroll.

Not that it would surprise me, mind you.

From Sifu Tweety a link to a post that turns the whole "ticking time bomb" nonsense on it's head:

Okay, here’s the scenario: Terrorists have planted a nuclear weapon in a major American city and if you don’t stop it millions will die. If you have any sense of honor at all, wouldn’t you give your own life to stop that? Most of us would say yes, wouldn’t we? What about prison? If you could save them at the cost of spending years in prison, maybe even the rest of your life, wouldn’t you have to make that choice? As bitter as the years might be, could you live with yourself knowing that you allowed a nuclear holocaust just so you could live out your own days in comfort and freedom? Fair? No. But what kind of man or woman worth the gametes that got them going could look someone in the eye and say, “I could have prevented it, but I would have suffered.”

So if it’s ticking bombs that worry you, what do we need laws permitting torture for? Do the crime, save the lives, then do the time. Leave possible pardons aside. We are hard men for hard times and we want hard make-believe conundra.

Don’t talk to me about the suffering you’d bravely inflict on someone else. Tell me the cost you yourself would pay. Those are the “tough choices.” Next time the subject comes up, ask your interlocutor to make one.

And, not straying too far from the topic, any argument to the effect that it's just too damned difficult to fill out all them forms 'n stuff when it comes to getting either a regular or FISA warrant is, when you think about it, patently absurd prima facie--you mean "suspicion of terrorist acts/sympathies/etc." ISN'T the slam dunk of all slam dunks when it comes to obtaining a warrant?

Yes, Team Bush evidently DOES think we're morons (see below). I return the sentiment, and raise the stakes by saying they're criminals, too...
Food for Thought

WIIIAI comments on suggested modifications of Congressional ethics rules:

Princess Sparkle Pony points out that Trent Lott is confused by the “outrageous” provision in the Republicans’ compromise(d) ethics rule lowering the spending limit on meals congresscritters could accept to $20. “Where are you going to – to McDonald’s?” The concepts of either a) eating a meal that costs less than $20, or b) paying for his own food, are so alien to him that they literally didn’t enter into that head-like object he keeps under his toupee.
Transitions--Not Just the Name of a Prescription Lens

Think Progress comes up with a major reason why Team Bush has been in full court stonewall mode re: matters Abramoff.

He was evidently on the Bush transition team. And they've got what may be a photo of the lunatic and lobbyist together. Could be the first of many links the administration is probably wishing could be airbrushed away.

Reality's a bitch.
Settin' the Woods on Fire

Bob Herbert
(no link)

Al Gore offered a civics lesson this week for anyone willing to listen. Speaking at Constitution Hall in Washington, the former vice president said:

"As we begin this new year, the executive branch of our government has been caught eavesdropping on huge numbers of American citizens and has brazenly declared that it has the unilateral right to continue without regard to the established law enacted by Congress to prevent such abuses."

Americans do not seem especially concerned about this incredible affront to the integrity of the government and the rule of law. The attitude of a slender majority seems to be that if the likes of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney see fit to dismantle the heretofore sacred system of checks and balances, so be it.

A Washington Post-ABC News Poll showed that 51 percent of respondents felt that in the fight against terror, it's fine for the government to engage in the warrantless wiretapping of telephone calls and e-mail. In other words, it's fine for the president to break the law.

I find it peculiar that an awful lot of Americans who would be outraged by the burning of the American flag are positively sanguine about the trampling of the Constitution.

One of the ugliest aspects of the Bush administration is the outright deceit that is such a major aspect of its modus operandi. Tens of thousands of men, women and children are tragically dead because of the war in Iraq, which was launched from a monstrous superstructure of deceit. Why wouldn't we expect the administration to deceive the public about the illegal spying of the National Security Agency?

As Mr. Gore noted, "During the period when this eavesdropping was still secret, the president went out of his way to reassure the American people on more than one occasion that, of course, judicial permission is required for any government spying on American citizens and that, of course, these constitutional safeguards were still in place."

The president was either lying, or -- I don't know what.

So why is the president illegally spying on Americans when the administration can so easily comply with the law by secretly getting warrants from the terminally compliant court established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act?

Clues can be found in a couple of lawsuits seeking to stop the illegal spying that were filed this week by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights. In addition to arguing that the domestic spying program should be shut down because it is illegal, both groups express the fear that the National Security Agency has been spying on individuals who have had nothing whatever to do with terrorism.

That fear was bolstered this week by an article in The Times that said the N.S.A. had all but overwhelmed the F.B.I. with raw tips, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, names - all manner of information - in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Hundreds of F.B.I. agents were required to check out thousands of N.S.A. tips a month.

Citing interviews with current and former officials, the article said that virtually all of the tips "led to dead ends or innocent Americans."

Warrants for domestic eavesdropping were not only easily available, but could even be obtained retroactively. Nevertheless, as Anthony Romero, executive director of the A.C.L.U., remarked yesterday, "The president chose to completely disregard the rules of the road."

"That means," said Mr. Romero, "that the N.S.A. has been unleashed in a much broader way on Americans."

In a separate interview yesterday, Bill Goodman, the legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, spelled out his belief that the government was using the cover of terror investigations to spy on the private conversations of law-abiding individuals.

"I think they are engaging in surveillance that they don't want even the FISA judges to see. They don't want them looking over their shoulders and seeing that they are doing things like listening in on attorney-client conversations, listening in on journalists talking to their sources, engaging in the kind of Big Brother tactics that will turn this society from a free one into an authoritarian one."
What Can Brown Do For You? (Not much)

Fuckuva Job, Brownie

Mikey is showing his mellower side with the passage of time, now admitting his performance stunk worse than a horsebarn that hasn't been mucked in a couple of months:

Ex-FEMA Director Michael Brown said Wednesday that he deserved much of the blame for pre- and post-Katrina failures, saying he fell short in communicating the magnitude of the disaster and in calling for help...

Brown said he failed to communicate the extent of the devastation to the media and to the federal government.

His concessions reversed his version of the events stated during a congressional hearing Sept. 27. At that time, he blamed most of the government's failure to properly respond to the hurricane on Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin — both Democrats. He specifically targeted them for failing to evacuate New Orleans, restore order and improve communication.

Brown then launced into the "let's not point fingers" defense, i.e., where the hell do you think fingers would point? Then we get this gem:

He told attendees at the annual Operation Sierra Storm — a gathering of broadcast and National Weather Service meteorologists at snowy Mammoth Mountain Ski Area — that he failed to delegate responsibility and instead tried to attend to the details himself.

Details like his wardrobe, dinner, and career plans, evidently.

Meanwhile, there are STILL over 3,000 people officially listed as "missing" (to be fair, most of these instances are probably people who've slipped through the cracks, as it were, although the article suggests more victims might be found in debris--or, worse, may have ended up forever in the surrounding waters.

I'll reiterate my own modest proposal: for every dollar spent in Iraq or Afghanistan, an equal amount should be appropriated for the Gulf Coast (close friends who visited the Gret Stet during the holidays wrote me recently, and described the scene along Highway 90 as you travel east. The destruction is unimaginable). I don't see why this should even be debated, and Schroeder found an excellent article that explains why:

"How," I want to ask our current president, can it be deemed unjust and un-American to abandon the democratization of Iraq, while at the same time you "cut and run" on an American democracy?

Team Bush should be asked this question EVERY DAY until real progress is made.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Doing the Media's Job for Them

Once again, it falls upon someone else--in this case, a Reagan era Secretary of the Navy--to show the media that "objective" reporting is NOT regurgitating half-digested talking points spewed out by wingnut "news" services:

During the 2000 primary season, John McCain's life-defining experiences as a prisoner of war in Vietnam were diminished through whispers that he was too scarred by those years to handle the emotional burdens of the presidency. The wide admiration that Senator Max Cleland gained from building a career despite losing three limbs in Vietnam brought on the smug non sequitur from critics that he had been injured in an accident and not by enemy fire. John Kerry's voluntary combat duty was systematically diminished by the well-financed Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in a highly successful effort to insulate a president who avoided having to go to war.

And now comes Jack Murtha. The administration tried a number of times to derail the congressman's criticism of the Iraq war, including a largely ineffective effort to get senior military officials to publicly rebuke him (Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was the only one to do the administration's bidding there).

Now the Cybercast News Service, a supposedly independent organization with deep ties to the Republican Party, has dusted off the Swift Boat Veterans playbook, questioning whether Mr. Murtha deserved his two Purple Hearts. The article also implied that Mr. Murtha did not deserve the Bronze Star he received, and that the combat-distinguishing "V" on it was questionable. It then called on Mr. Murtha to open up his military records.

Cybercast News Service is run by David Thibault, who formerly worked as the senior producer for "Rising Tide," the televised weekly news magazine produced by the Republican National Committee. One of the authors of the Murtha article was Marc Morano, a long-time writer and producer for Rush Limbaugh.

The accusations against Mr. Murtha were very old news, principally coming from defeated political rivals. Aligned against their charges are an official letter from Marine Corps Headquarters written nearly 40 years ago affirming Mr. Murtha's eligibility for his Purple Hearts - "you are entitled to the Purple Heart and a Gold Star in lieu of a second Purple Heart for wounds received in action" - and the strict tradition of the Marine Corps regarding awards. While in other services lower-level commanders have frequently had authority to issue prestigious awards, in the Marines Mr. Murtha's Vietnam Bronze Star would have required the approval of four different awards boards...

The political tactic of playing up the soldiers on the battlefield while tearing down the reputations of veterans who oppose them could eventually cost the Republicans dearly. It may be one reason that a preponderance of the Iraq war veterans who thus far have decided to run for office are doing so as Democrats.

A young American now serving in Iraq might rightly wonder whether his or her service will be deliberately misconstrued 20 years from now, in the next rendition of politically motivated spinmeisters who never had the courage to step forward and put their own lives on the line.

Not that there's a chance in hell of it happening, but there are any number of cases where the media could point out glaring examples of incompetence or mendaciousness by this administration--offhand, I can think of Enron, Abramoff, Halliburton, the Katrina non-response...not to mention Operation Enduring Twin Clusterfucks, the obvious rhetorical hot air that can't be backed up with anything re: Iran (Digby appropriately labeled it "premature ejaculation" from an administration hell bent on giving the boy-king a splendid little war...that turned into the ultimate example of "be careful what you wish for")..., and, for that matter, 9/11 itself--I mean, anyone ever wonder why the media gave Team Bush a free pass instead of asking how the hell something so deadly could happen on their watch?

No, instead, the press busies themselves with nonsense like "did John Murtha earn his medals? Marc Morano thinks not" (without ever mentioning Mark Morano works for Rush Lamebaugh...the likewise either fail to challenge Team Bush on their associations with garbage like this, or meekly accept their lame statements alleging "distance."

The Persistence of Stupidity

Stupid is as stupid does...and idiot-in-chief, according to Robert Parry, holds as dim a view towards the citizenry as we have towards him:

Many Americans believe George W. Bush is uninformed, simpleminded and, in a single word, stupid. But there is a different way to look at the evidence and conclude that while Bush may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, it is he who thinks the American people are the real dullards.

After all, Bush is the one who explains the “facts” about current events as if he’s speaking to people with the mental capacity of a five-year-old. He also assumes – with some justification – that his listeners don’t mind being misled and lied to, as long as he gives them some bromides that make them feel good.

Parry goes on to identify half a dozen major topics where Shrubusto and his ship of fools lie, mislead, run roughshod, and so on, before concluding with:

So, the question for the American people remains – is Bush so ill-informed that his war policy is guided by a false historical analysis and so forgetful that he can’t remember important events in which he played a leading role?

Or does Bush think that the American people are so gullible that they will buy whatever he sells them – as long as he does it with a folksy charm?

Well worth a look.
Sound Familiar?

Now, nearly three years after...the buildings are still piles of debris. Electricity is terrible. Water is cut off for days at a time. Telephone lines come and go. Oil production isn’t even at pre-war levels… and Iraqis hear about the billions upon billions that come and go. A billion here for security… Five hundred million there for the infrastructure… Millions for voting… Iraq falling into deeper debt… Engineers without jobs simply because they are not a part of this political party or that religious group… And the country still in shambles.


I'll bet there are any number of Gulf Coast residents who can relate all too well. Loud talk and hot air from the administration in the aftermath of a disaster of their own making. Followed by...nothing.

And, shifting gears just a bit, check out Riverbend's previous post--Jill Carroll's translator, killed when she was kidnapped, was a friend of hers. A friend who ran a music store in Baghdad. He's gone now...forever. Folks along the Gulf Coast can probably sympathize and empathize about that, too.

You know, it'd be nice to have a government that does more than destroy things...
Fodder Body Armor

Pulling teeth with pliers is a walk in the park in comparison...the government spends $425 BILLION dollars on "defense," although "war" apparently isn't part of "defense;" ergo, the various "supplemental" defense appropriations...except that neither the regular nor supplemental funds--which amount to over half a TRILLION dollars annually--provide adequate amounts of body armor, which, oh, I don't know, you'd think would be pretty basic...right there with "beans & bullets."

Anyway, this appalling bit of stumblebumery on the part of the Pentagon forced regular soldiers--not exactly trust fund babies--to go out and purchase body armor privately, either because the military didn't HAVE the stuff, or because WHAT they have is...crap (at least one military type prowling around the internets commented often--and proudly--about how it was "normal" for soldiers to buy gear on the side, given that government-issue was garbage and everyone, i.e., the "smart guys," all know that)... does the gubmit respond to such initiative?

...the U.S. Army appears to be singling out soldiers who have purchased Pinnacle's Dragon Skin Body Armor for special treatment. The soldiers, who are currently staging for combat operations from a secret location, reported that their commander told them if they were wearing Pinnacle Dragon Skin and were killed their beneficiaries might not receive the death benefits from their $400,000 SGLI life insurance policies. The soldiers were ordered to leave their privately purchased body armor at home or face the possibility of both losing their life insurance benefit and facing disciplinary action.

You know, for the life of me, I STILL can't figure out how the Pentagon can spend over half a trillion dollars and NOT procure adequate amounts of body and vehicle armor. Shit, these clowns are worse than Joseph Mobutu. For chrissakes, there ought to be enough money for both Midas sized graft AND adequate equipment.

They're not even competent crooks...but they sure do a good job of spitting in soldiers' faces.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

From the "You Just Can't Make This Shit Up Department"

From CNN's story about the execution of Clarence Ray Allen (emphasis mine):
Having suffered a heart attack back in September, Allen had asked prison authorities to let him die if he went into cardiac arrest before his execution, a request prison officials said they would not honor.

"At no point are we not going to value the sanctity of life," said prison spokesman Vernell Crittendon. "We would resuscitate him," then execute him.

Inspired by the title of this post (Mayor Nagin and the Chocolate Factory)

Come with me

And you'll be

In a world of utter devastation

Take a look

And you'll see

Misery and deprivation

We'll begin

With a spin

Traveling in a bubble

Of my own creation

If you want to view Paradise

Simply look around and view it

Wanta change the world? There's nothing to it

There is no life I know
To compare with pure imagination

Living there, you'll be free
If you truly wish to be...

From Cursor, here's a link to a story about Wilbert Rideau, who was released from Angola one year ago. Datelined out of Baton Rouge, the story doesn't make clear whether or not Rideau is actually in Red Stick, but that could be the case...

Obviously, Mr. Rideau has had some ups and downs--for instance, he's been charged for trial expenses to the tune of $127,000 (including the judge's food bill), and, as he expected, promises of journalism jobs didn't pan out--as he puts it:

"I recognize that up there in prison, while I was editor, the thing I had going for me and the magazine is that we were a novelty," Rideau said. "I was a dog playing a piano. So you guys were always interested and everybody was interested and wanted to help. I'm no longer in that situation, but I learned a lot of skills up there that are transferable."

But he's got a positive attitude:

"I told him [a prison guard he ran into recently] I'm probably the only person in the world that you know that you don't have to ask how I'm doing," Rideau said. "I am the only guy you know who wakes up in heaven every morning."

He also continues to express remorse for his crime.

Best of luck, Mr. Rideau.
Like My Desk at Work

The title refers to the fact that my desk here is testimony to the power of miscellany--over the three day weekend so many things happened I'm having trouble keeping track...

Beginning with news around here, most folks probably have heard about Ray Nagin's decision to eschew more traditional adjectives in describing NOLA--"creole," "melting pot," "cultural and ethnic diversity," etc. etc.--choosing instead , ahem, "chocolate"...Nagin also alluded to almighty wrath as the storm's cause, suggesting a message of punishment for military misadventures abroad and black/African-American irresponsibility at home, i.e., a new Old Testament, or The Revenge of the YHWH.

And I thought it was a combination of warm water conditions, the Loop Current, and so on...

Changing subjects, I heard about/read Al Gore's most recent speech, once again wondering why he wouldn't or couldn't be as strong a speaker back in 2000, when it might have saved us from the present predicament. Yeah, yeah, I know that 2000 was sooooooo pre 9/11, but, then again, so is the Constitution, and it survived the War of 1812, the Civil War, the First and Second World Wars, though the Mexican-American, Spanish-American, and Vietnam Wars, not to mention the American Indian and Western Hemisphere campaigns, certainly certainly added a few dings and dents prior to Cheney and Shrub's ongoing attempt to shred it (I dunno--I hear the Consitution is printed on hemp paper--maybe Jenna's stash is low).

Operation-Who-Gives-a-Shit,-Blast-Away, um, succeeded...if by "success," you mean maybe killed a few low level Al Qaeda operates (emphasis on maybe) and certainly killed at least a dozen people--including women and children--who were guilty of...being Pakistanis. And, of course, issues of sovereignty and respect for international borders is soooo....pre 9/11.

Again, changing subjects, sort of, it seems flouting laws isn't just for village-idiots-in-chief anymore: in an example of trickle down, three teenagers in Florida decided they could ignore the law too, and engaged in a fine example of Storm Trooper imitation in beating and killing homeless people. But, full disclosure here: beating and/or killing homeless people isn't exactly a new phenomenon. Sadly, I once personally witnessed an obviously homeless person get similar treatment from a few young thugs. Fortunately, a police car was passing by, and I was able to flag the officer down. To be honest, I have no idea what happened to the old man who was beaten pretty badly--he was loaded into an ambulance and my involvement was over after that. But, in the more recent case, I have a strong feeling the culture of violence pervading this country of late must've had some effect on their decision (not to absolve them of any responsibility, mind you).

Scalito seems to be on his way to the bench; unfortunately, that's not a sports metaphor. I've mostly been avoiding this topic--first, because others are doing a much better job, and second, because it's just too goddamned depressing, particularly when "our team" has to limp along with an such an obvious last-pick like Joe Biden. Grrr...

But I'll note one thing: once again, it's wingnuttia that can't seem to grow up and accept the end of the 1960's. Scalli himself made reference to the era--BEFORE his membership in CPA was brought up--and it follows a pattern I've noticed: lame-o's like the judge, who were hopeless chickenhawk nerds at that time, continue to harbor a bull-sized taste for revenge. Kate O'Beirne writes a horrible little screed of a book, Shrub himself scornfully dismisses the era with the line "it used to be 'if it feels good, do it,' now it's 'let's roll'" (one of THE MOST ironic phrases in modern politics, considering his personal history), Operation Enduring Clusterfuck aka the Twin Defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan (and, no, heaven forbid, they're going for the trifecta) ARE, for this generation, an attempt to "prove" that Vietnam was "winnable" (and, with defeat looming, they're playing the same old blame game), and, in a truly gross spectacle, preen around on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day while doing all they can to undermine his legacy (a legacy that, back IN the day, they were unremitingly hostile towards).

And I haven't even gotten around to looking at Josh Marshall's interesting observation re: Gore's speech--the "connection between authoritarianism, official secrecy and incompetence."

Finally, to throw the kitchen sink into this post, a couple of lines on television last night really hit me. The first two came from The History Channel's special on Abraham Lincoln (which I can recommend--not all that enthusiastically, but recommend nonetheless). Some academic type--didn't catch his name--noted, pointedly, that Lincoln didn't demand syncophantry. I even wrote down his exact statement:

Mediocre presidents hide from bad news. Great presidents seek it out.

Someone might want to tell that to the boy king, who, I believe, has taken to thinking of himself as a modern day Abe Lincoln.

And Gore Vidal, featured on the program, offered this by way of saying "Shrub, you're no Abe Lincoln:"

A war against terror is like a war against dandruff.

Vidal also had a few things to say about wingnut fantasia, i.e., their drooling over coercive measures Lincoln took during the war. You'll have to catch the program itself to see his response.

Finally, if you've managed to get this far, I'll close with one last bit of miscellany: while wandering through channels during the commercial break, I happened across a basketball game just in time to hear Dick Vitale commending someone for doing "a heckuva job."

To paraphrase Emeril Lagasse, bam.

George W. Bush: the Dick Vitale of American presidents.

Monday, January 16, 2006


Greg Peters links to this story about NOLA from Nik Cohn:

Why did B and so many others have to endure those eight days? Was it racism? Of course. None of this could have happened in Boston or Beverly Hills and the politicians who've pretended otherwise are liars. New Orleans, two-thirds black, largely impoverished, has been for years a sinkhole of neglect and racial profiling. Katrina simply exposed to the world what those in the city already knew.

Was it, therefore, simply a matter of white 'haves' abandoning black 'have-nots'? Not quite. In the decades since the civil-rights movement, America has enmeshed itself in a cocoon of self-delusion and double-talk where race is concerned, and many African-Americans, their own fortunes improving, have played along. The black middle-class has distanced itself from those left behind. Chris Rock, the black comedian, jokes that he loves black people - it's niggas he can't stand. For others, it isn't a joke. The people stranded at the Superdome and Convention Centre were pariahs, and the root of their exclusion, deeper even than race, is poverty. They are what's buried below. Everything that the American Dream is supposed to wipe away. They aren't supposed to exist, yet here they are. How, in God's name, to make them disappear?

I've been obsessed by New Orleans and its music since childhood and have lived there, off and on, more than 30 years. For me, it has always been the most seductive city on earth - corrupt, murderous, half-mad, but so intensely alive that its sins could never outweigh its allure.

Reddhedd at Firedoglake offers a collection of quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. today:

We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people...

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity...

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy...

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere...

A time comes when silence is betrayal...

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

And some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

The post itself has links to the speeches in question. Take a look if you have the time.