Saturday, May 13, 2006

Looking for Something to Read This Weekend?

Billmon's got you covered. Might keep you awake, though, and not in a good way. Still, take a look--or three. It's worth it.

Friday, May 12, 2006


The moral equivalent of a president...

As Strother Martin said in Butch Cassidy, "Morons. I've got morons on my team."

Forty-five minutes of less-than-zero:

...And so when you talk to me today, I just want you to know I not only strongly believe in the decisions I make, I'm optimistic that they're going to work -- very optimistic.

These are all Texas paintings. That's West Texas, those are other Texas paintings. At least if you're a Texan, it reflects a way of life and a way of thinking. The interesting thing about Washington is that they want me to change -- they being the -- and I'm not changing, you know. You can't make decisions if you don't know who you are, and you flip around with the politics. You've got to stay strong in what you believe and optimistic about that you'll get good results.

And so --the other thing I want you to know about me is that no matter how pressurized it may seem, I'm not changing what I believe. Now, I may change tactics, but I'm not going to change my core beliefs -- a belief that freedom is universal, or the belief that private markets work, a belief in ownership -- when p own something, society is better off; a belief that there's a role for government, but it's limited in nature. And I'm not changing. I don't care whether they like me at the cocktail parties, or not. I want to be able to leave this office with my integrity intact.

That's George Washington, the first President, of course. The interesting thing about him is that I read three -- three or four books about him last year. Isn't that interesting? People say, so what? Well, here's the "so what." You never know what your history is going to be like until long after you're gone. If they're still analyzing the presidency of George Washington -- (laughter.) So Presidents shouldn't worry about the history. You just can't. You do what you think is right, and if you're thinking big enough, that history will eventually prove you right or wrong. But you won't know in the short-term.

Lincoln -- this is the place on the Oval Office wall where the President puts the most -- the best President, and I put Lincoln here, and I don't think there's any question -- now, people will have their -- but I think he was the most influential President ever. And the reason why is because that in the midst of a difficult presidency, needless to say -- the Civil War, thousands of people dying, with Americans killing Americans -- he had a vision of a United States. It's conceivable this country would have ended up being two countries had he not had a clear vision, even though all around him was seemingly falling apart. He was a great President.

That's called, "A Charge To Keep," based upon a religious hymn. The hymn talks about serving God. The President's job is never to promote a religion. The great thing about America -- and Germany, for that matter -- is that you should be able to worship freely. I like to tell people, you're equally American whether you're a Jew, Muslim, Christian, or Atheist -- you're equally all Americans -- and that if we ever lose that, we begin to look like the Taliban.

I understand in parts of Europe, some scoff at my faith. It doesn't bother me. But I happen to believe, for me at least, faith is one way to make sure that my values stay intact, and that I keep life in proper perspective, which is a very important part, in my judgment, of being a good decision-maker.
Dust, Fog, and Dusty Foggo

The Scum Also Rises...

By now I assume most folks stopping by have seen the news about old Dusty...and if anyone thinks it ends with him, call me...I've got a bridge over I-10 you might be interested in...

Will it reach midnight?

If they WERE painting schools, maybe our soldiers wouldn't be quite as stressed out...but they're not. They're playing a horrific, sick version of combat roulette, and it shows:

Only 22 percent of U.S. troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan seen at risk for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder have been referred by Pentagon officials for mental health evaluation, a report has found.

Thursday's report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, found the Pentagon did not provide reasonable assurance that troops who needed referral for evaluation for combat-related stress actually got it.

Investigators found that 9,145 of 178,664 troops -- about 5 percent -- who served in Iraq or Afghanistan may have been at risk for developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder based on responses they gave to a Defense Department questionnaire. Among Army soldiers, the figure was 6.4 percent.

Of those at risk, the report found that Pentagon health care providers referred 22 percent for further mental health evaluations, with the rate differing among Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force personnel.

The study looked at troops deployed through the end of September 2004.

In case anyone needs to be reminded of how combat can adversely affect an individual, this story is getting some mention, if not exactly headlines...but it's worth noting:

Jeffrey Hopper and his wife didn't stop as they drove through Washington, D.C., on their way home to Florida, fearful of the sniper who was roaming the region and picking off people at random. But their caution wasn't enough.

Hopper told jurors Thursday in the murder trial of sniper John Allen Muhammad how he was struck in the abdomen by a bullet as he and his wife walked out of a Ponderosa restaurant in Ashland, Va., just north of Richmond.

"`I've been shot. Oh my God, I've been shot,'" Hopper said, recalling how he fell to the ground and prayed with his wife, Stephanie, as they waited for help to come. "It was hard to believe. It was the worst fear came true."

The Hoppers were returning from Philadelphia on Oct. 19, 2002 when Jeffrey was hit by .223-caliber bullet. He lost most of his stomach and parts of other organs, and still has bullet fragments inside, he told jurors.

It was the 12th of 13 sniper shootings Montgomery County prosecutors have described during the first two weeks of Muhammad's trial. With no court on Friday, they are likely to present evidence from the final shooting, the slaying of bus driver Conrad Johnson, next week.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The United States Government Honors Its Heroes

By forcing them to camp in the ruins of their home.

Another link from Oyster--to Third Battle of New Orleans and WWL:

After Hurricane Betsy, a New Orleans man became a hero when he rescued others from the flooded areas of the city.

Then after Hurricane Katrina, the same man asked FEMA for a trailer to live in until his flood damaged home could be rebuilt. On Wednesday, Eyewitness News found him living in a tent.

Ed Wragge, 71, has been sleeping on a cot inside a tent that has been pitched in a room of his gutted Gentilly home.

“It’s been real frustrating, I give up. The government should do well for people. I don’t know what to do,” cried Wragge.

Wragge doesn’t have a kitchen, so he eats meals from cans and drinks bottled water. He does not have a bathroom, yet outside his home sits the FEMA trailer he had asked for in October.

He said it has been there seven weeks, and he has yet to receive the keys. Wragge had been staying with friends, but couldn’t any longer.

“I got to sleep in this house. I have no place else to stay, everybody died. They died on me,” Wragge said as he tried to hold back his tears.

Before he bought the tent, Wragge was sleeping in his car, which he said was even worse.

“Oh, it’s miserable. I’m too tall, I couldn’t stretch out my legs,” he said.

Seymour sums up perfectly:

Eight fucking months and this guy--a hero following Hurricane Betsy no less--has to "make do" living in his car and in camping in a tent within his moldy house???? What the fuck is wrong with this country? This shit makes me livid. And you know what the worse part is? This isn't an isolated situation . . . .

I am so sorry this bores you, America.

And, as we found out today, instead of spending money on ensuring safe levees, the government's been pissing it away on things like monitoring our phone calls...and Operation Create a Photo Op/Stunt for Shrubya's ReSelection. $279 billion would pay for titanium levees, for chrissakes (ok, to be fair, let's divide that by fifty--that still leaves almost $6 billion, which might well have been sufficient, had it been spent on maintenence/upgrading BEFORE the storm).

Well, Mr. Wragge can perhaps take small solace in knowing his phone hasn't been monitored since late August of 2005--because I'll bet he doesn't have a home phone anymore.
Dueling Crescents

If you haven't taken a look at YRHT's latest posts, by all means (memes?) try to do so. And check the comments.

Don't know about y'all, but reading them is giving me a decent education as to recent NOLA political history...
Bush: "We're Not Trolling"

"Now tell this ear of corn what's on your mind..."


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

American Dynasty

Here's the story--and once again I'll defer to Billmon for cogent analysis.
Dick "Dandy" Cohen

"In my experience, there’s no bigger bunch of crybabies in American public life than the fops and courtiers of our Washington press corps."
So, Rummy--Is it Still "Like Chicago?"

"fresh blood for feasting..."

Almost 1100 people found eternal "freedom" last month in Baghdad:

Baghdad's morgue reported that 1,091 people were killed in the city's daily violence in April, the Iraqi president's office said in a statement Wednesday.

In the upsurge in sectarian violence after the February 22 attack on a Shiite shrine in Samarra, slain bodies have been found almost daily in the capital, many showing signs of being tortured.

The mosque attack inflamed tensions between Sunni Muslims, the Muslim sect that controlled Iraq during Saddam Hussein's reign, and Shiite Muslims, who make up 60 percent of the population.

"We feel shocked, saddened and angered," President Jalal Talabani said about the violence.

Talabani said these killings are no less dangerous to Iraqis than terror strikes. He called for all Iraqi security forces and political leaders to take immediate and forceful action to end the bloodshed.

CNN's also carrying a story marked "exclusive" about the trauma teams operating in the war zone. If they're airing it, I'm sure they've either heavily edited or suggested discretion.

Meanwhile, "model city" Tal Afar (cited as such by idiot Shrub last March--next thing you know, he'll cite "Falluja") saw a suicide bomber disguised as a discount flour salesman kill almost two dozen people...the report suggests women and children were primary victims.

And Billmon, as always, lends some much needed and well written perspective to the whole sorry charade.
And Islam Karimov Gets the Humanitarian Award

h/t Suspect-Device.

Porter and Dick get some hardware:

On Wednesday afternoon in the U.S. Capitol, Distinguished Service Awards will be bestowed upon Vice President Dick Cheney and former CIA Director Porter Goss, two former House members selected by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), RAW STORY has found.

"The Congressional Distinguished Service Award was established to honor former Members of the House who have performed their duties on behalf of their constituents and the American people with such extraordinary distinction and selfless dedication as to merit special recognition," reads an invitation to the ceremony obtained by RAW STORY.

Unfreakingbelievable. And, after another reference to a Vanity Fair profile of Big Time, I'm struck by the resemblence of the Dickster to General Jack Ripper in Dr. Strangelove.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Slow Boil

Even the back burner can get hot...

William Lind reminds us of the other war:

As rising U.S. and NATO casualty counts attest, the war in Afghanistan is heating up. It is doing so on Afghan time, which is to say slowly. When you have all the time in the world, why hurry?...

...the core of this failure by the U.S., NATO and the Afghan government is a common and often fatal military phenomenon: conflicting objectives. On the one hand, the U.S. and its allies want to defeat the Taliban and other "terrorists." But at the same time, they also want to stop opium production. If the Senlis Council's analysis is accurate, attempts to pursue the second objective are pushing us away from attaining the first...

Determining strategic objectives, and ensuring that those objectives are not contradictory, is the job of the most senior level of command, in this case the White House. By demanding that U.S. and allied troops pursue two conflicting objectives simultaneously, the Bush administration has created a no-win situation. Efforts to defeat the Taliban only work if they can gain the support of the rural population, but poppy eradication pushes the rural population toward the Taliban and its allies. (One could add a third incompatible objective, promoting women's rights in a conservative Islamic culture.)

President George W. Bush likes to say, "I'm the decider; I decide." The role of being the "decider" includes making sure that decisions are logically consistent. Mr. Bush is, from that perspective, a failed "decider" in Afghanistan. He failed similarly in deciding to invade Iraq as part of a global war against "terrorism," when the destruction of the Iraqi state proved, predictably, to work in favor of the "terrorists." He is failing yet again in picking quarrels with Russia and China when we need an all-states alliance against anti-state forces.

President Harry S. Truman said, "The buck stops here," in the Oval Office. When it comes to deciding on strategic objectives, President George W. Bush has torn the buck into confetti and tossed it to the winds of chance.

Now I'm beginning to understand why Shrub would point to catching a big fish as his greatest accomplishment: everything else he's done has turned to shit.
What's Next?

Congratulations on your induction into the armed forces...

Let's see: it's common knowledge that the military has been lowering standards...and I've read reports saying recruiters have resorted to all sorts of questionable tactics in order to make the numbers slightly less dismal...

But "accepting" autistic kids? Geez:

The tawdry recruitment of Southeast Portlander Jared Guinther shouldn't require a very lengthy "investigation" by the Army. It's obvious that Guinther, who is autistic and considered disabled, isn't an appropriate candidate to serve as a cavalry scout. Serving in such a role would endanger himself and his fellow soldiers.

As The Oregonian's Michelle Roberts reported in a disturbing story Sunday, Army recruiters signed Guinther, an 18-year-old high school senior, to a four-year Army contract and steered him toward a military career as a scout.

When his parents found he was taking an enlistment test, they were startled. They contacted the recruiters with information about Jared's disability, from the special education classes he's taken to the menial job he got through a program for disabled workers. Their concerns, they said, were dismissed. His stepmother said a recruiter told her, "Well, Jared's an 18-year-old man. He doesn't need his mommy to make decisions for him."

This is, in a word, outrageous. The Army and members of the state's congressional delegation should swiftly declare it so. Jared should be released from his contract, his parents apologized to and the recruiters disciplined.

The Army said Monday it is still investigating the case and doctors have asked for more medical records. Nobody outside the recruiting office where Jared was persuaded to enlist thinks he should serve, especially as a scout in a war zone.

Of course, the case of Jared Guinther is about something much larger than a single Portland teenager. The United States is fighting a dangerous and increasingly unpopular war, military recruitment numbers are lagging, and recruiters are under severe pressure to bring in new soldiers. The military has increased its bonus payments to those who enlist or re-enlist, put more recruiters in the field, raised the maximum recruiting age and relaxed rules that would bar some recruits from signing up.

Some recruiters have gone farther by deliberately bending the rules, recruiting people who shouldn't qualify for military service. While it's too soon to say that Jared's recruiters did so, recruiters elsewhere clearly have. Last year, after evidence that recruiters in Colorado, Texas and elsewhere had broken rules by threatening recruits, forging documents or agreeing to overlook criminal behavior, the Army called a one-day recruiting moratorium to emphasize the need for ethical behavior by recruiters.

The Army is in a tough spot, but it makes its position worse by knowingly taking advantage of vulnerable people. Not only do unqualified recruits pose risks to the Army's own troops, but they undermine the public's perception of the military and its methods. And that is a shame.

This country needs a well-qualified, well-equipped and highly motivated military force. And through training, education, discipline and even dangerous duty, the military can offer a better life to many. It can give structure, purpose and a sense of honor to many whose lives lack those qualities. It's regrettable when the clarity of that message is overshadowed by the Army's own misconduct.

By acting promptly and firmly, the Army can undo at least some of the damage it did itself by recruiting Jared Guinther.

And, not that anyone should be surprised, but the chickenhawk, warblogging 101st Fighting Keyboarders and 82nd Chairbornes aren't exactly beating a path to recruiting offices. Maybe they're hoping puppies and kittens will take up the slack...
Can I Enter the Design Contest?

I see that Dear Leader is beginning to consider his legacy, and wants to open his version of a "think tank." So, I offer the following--more as "overall concept" than architectural or engineering models, but...I think they're workable...and accurate:

The "I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully" Institute of Strategic Fishery.

The Only in America Center.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Captain Conservative

It's hard out there for a Shrub

Posting has been slow today, in part because I'm at home feeling less than a hundred percent. Nothing serious: I had a great time yesterday at JazzFest, and even maintained an astonishing degree of sobriety, considering the location...but I was driving, and at least ONE person behind the wheel should be sober in transit between NOLA and Red Stick...

But I was still a tad stiff and sore, both from the fest and the usual...and there are plenty of chores to catch up on. Damn--you take a weekend off and things really come back to bite...

I've also been a little slow because I've been absorbing a couple of long, but good essays from Glenn Greenwald and Hunter at Daily Kos...and, with Krugman's latest once again hitting the nail on the head, they make for an interesting afternoon of reading.


Indeed, right-wing pundits have consistently questioned the sanity of Bush critics; "It looks as if Al Gore has gone off his lithium again," said Charles Krauthammer, the Washington Post columnist, after Mr. Gore gave a perfectly sensible if hard-hitting speech. Even moderates have tended to dismiss the administration's harsh critics as victims of irrational Bush hatred.

But now those harsh critics have been vindicated. And it turns out that many of the administration supporters can't handle the truth. They won't admit that they built a personality cult around a man who has proved almost pathetically unequal to the job. Nor will they admit that opponents of the Iraq war, whom they called traitors for warning that invading Iraq was a mistake, have been proved right. So they have taken refuge in the belief that a vast conspiracy of America-haters in the media is hiding the good news from the public.

Unlike the crazy conspiracy theories of the left — which do exist, but are supported only by a tiny fringe — the crazy conspiracy theories of the right are supported by important people: powerful politicians, television personalities with large audiences. And we can safely predict that these people will never concede that they were wrong. When the Iraq venture comes to a bad end, they won't blame those who led us into the quagmire; they'll claim that it was all the fault of the liberal media, which stabbed our troops in the back.


This Bush, however, is if anything not quite sufficiently interested in the actual tasks of government to be aware of where the failures of his own policies lie, and we have therefore been able to have a rather more spectacular demonstration of Conservatism, Unbound. He is uninterested in critique or analysis, and therefore intentionally ignorant of anything but the glowing conservative rightness of his wisdom: his conservatism is pure and unadulterated by pesky details such as economic figures or on-the-ground results. The results are uncut neoconservative foreign policy, (a now-proven fiasco), religious conservatism as overt as possible (without utterly fracturing his own coalition and causing many to doubt his sanity) and a conservative fiscal policy that burps out, with I will point out again full conservative House and Senate encouragement and one-upsmanship, deficit spending so absurdly and obviously buffoonish as to be worth nothing short of full mockery even by those coming up with the plans.

In that conservatism would appear, at this point, to be nothing but kleptocracy of the upper class coupled to whatever faux issue can be dreamed up to provide the rallying cry for the "base", I'm not sure in what aspect Bush is not the full and complete embodiment of the movement.

He does what his unapologetically and impeccably conservative advisors tell him, can we all agree on that point? And can we all agree, furthermore, that these economic, social and foreign policy advisors are all as conservative as a president could possibly manage to intentionally achieve, short of gunpoint purges? So if the advisors are unabashedly conservative, and the think-tank generated policies are from long-term conservative sources, and the Congress is controlled by conservatives, exactly where is this notion coming from that the failures of that entire collection is somehow outside the responsibilities or explicit actions of the conservative policymakers involved?

Bush's foreign policy, especially, is founded on several unapologetic cornerstones of the conservative movement: fear and dismissal of the international community, fear and dismissal of international law and treaty, and the dedicated notion that United States military power can act as forceable agent of spreading pro-American interests. Neoconservatism takes that further, to the premise that United States military power can and should in fact reshape anti-American regions into pro-American regions, through mere expenditure of bullets: it is a profoundly Stupid premise, but it rooted quite firmly only in conservative notions of international "policy".

Similarly, the corporatist premise that private industry must be removed from government intrusiveness is another critical cornerstone of the conservatism -- and is being followed, enthusiastically, by the Bush administration. Divesting government responsibilities into the hands of for-profit business, also conservative to the core. Not just "sortof" conservative, but fundamentally and unambiguously a central conservative tenet. Reducing tax burdens of the wealthy, on the oligarchic and Randian notion that the piteous blokes have enough to worry about what with the full weight of industry on their shoulders, and really can't be expected to contribute personally to the government whose very laws and infrastructure made that wealth possible -- please. You couldn't get more "conservative" than that if you shoved Reagan, Noonan, Gingrich, Buckley and Hume into a sausage making machine and fed the results to George Will during a Yankees game.

There's nothing here that's not "conservative". Calling the natural and obvious outcome of those choices as being, whoops, not what we meant is, in the case of Goldberg, Noonan, and others, tawdry and roundly dishonest.

You puts your money in; you gets your prize back out.


It is true that Bush is unquestionably not a small-government conservative -- not in any way -- but he is even further away, much further away, from anything resembling "liberalism." His expansions of federal power are devoted to goals which are wholly alien and repugnant to political liberalism, and many of the expanded powers are neither conservative nor liberal because they are simply contrary to the basic principles of American government and well outside of the range our most basic political values.

Ultimately, Bush's ideological purity matters little. It is conservatives whose support twice put him in office, who vigorously supported him for virtually his entire presidency, who never objected to his being described and self-labeled as "conservative," and who -- with rare exception -- repeatedly claimed him as one of their own. I understand the desire to re-cast Bush as a "liberal"; he's now akin to a live grenade frantically being tossed around because nobody wants to be stuck with him in history.

But for conservatives, this effort is futile. Bush is indelibly branded in the public mind as a conservative, largely because of the unyielding support given to him by most conservatives. For that reason, his failure will almost certainly be viewed as a failure of conservatism, despite the last-minute and rather unprincipled effort by conservatives to engage in an emergency re-labeling campaign.

I think Greenwald's last paragraph here really hits on something that this debate has ignored: whether or not Shrub is ideologically conservative matters less than public attitude, which associates Shrub and the GOP with the "conservative" label regardless of how they actually govern.

And let's not forget the role of yer "liberal" media: working hard ("it's hard work") to keep the public in line, or at least convince us of various myths, like the validity/legitimacy of the war in Iraq, or, closer to home, the problems in Louisiana after the deluge being the result of inept local officials who failed to timely commandeer buses.

Well, to paraphrase John Murtha, the public is once again way ahead--so far ahead that the GOP, their media syncophants, and assorted petit pundit attempts to "redefine" the conservative movement are likely to fall as flat as the land surrounding Midland, Texas. Which is why, for the next two years, Shrub should be tied to the GOP like the proverbial chicken around a dog's neck. GOP--he's YOURS, now and forever.

I'll give the GOP small credit: they destroyed the political label "liberal" by any and all means necessary, and did so without shamelessly and without regret...the fact that "liberalism" happened, among other things, to at least rid us of statutory segregation, create Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, pass the original GI bill, etc. etc. etc. didn't matter to them AT ALL.

Well, thanks to Shrub's incompetence--incompetence to such an extent that catching a big ol' fish is HIS idea of his greatest accomplishment--those of us not enamored of what amounts to old-fashioned elitism in the guise of "Christian" principle have a chance...and I think we should be merciless: whether you call him a dead chicken(hawk) or lame duck, it's essential that the modern GOP be labeled as George W. Bush's legacy. And, if we're lucky the "live hand grenade," when it blows up, will merely cause political damage.

Because, unfortunately, Shrub's method of governance is leaving ALL of us vulnerable to much worse.
Junk News

I keep looking at the mainstream stories about Porter Goss's sudden "desire to spend more time with..." or "for reasons of health" moment, which actually have become "the latest shakeup in the Bush administration" moment or "John Negroponte won the clash" moment...for the moment.

Of course, there's not a word about Hookergate, Fornigate, Watergategate, or whatever you might want to call it. And while it's just a rumor, you'd think the media would at least NOTICE it. After all, they weren't exactly shrinking violets about matters sexual just one administration ago.

And the very idea that the TOP of a spy agency--or his number three deputy--might engage in conduct conducive to the possibility of extortion or bribery should give every citizen pause.

Actually, I really don't give a damn about a person's sexual proclivities, or whether or not they're paying for it...or having it paid for. But given the hyper nature of this country when it comes to such things, again, you'd think the media would at least make note.

But they didn't...and haven't.

Which makes me think Shrub's little lie about his "greatest moment as pResident"--catching a big ol' perch, or bass,
or whatever, not only demonstrates just what a dink we've got in office--at a time when we ESPECIALLY need dexterous leadership--but also misses the mark.

Instead, the media, to paraphrase Alexander Cockburn, swallowed Team Bush's crap-bait hook, line, sinker, rod and reel. And we're the one's paying the price in the empty calories they regurgitate in our direction.

Thanks, MSM.