Friday, May 19, 2006

He's Making an Idiot of Himself...Again

It won't be long before Pat Robertson goes beyond mere batshit insane statements and starts doing things like pissing himself in public...until then, well:

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — In another in a series of notable pronouncements, religious broadcaster Pat Robertson says God told him storms and possibly a tsunami will hit the U.S. coastline, including the Pacific Northwest, this year.

Robertson has made the predictions at least four times in the past two weeks on his news-and-talk television show "The 700 Club" on the Christian Broadcasting Network, which he founded.

"If I heard the Lord right about 2006, the coasts of America will be lashed by storms," Robertson said May 8. On Wednesday, he added, "There well may be something as bad as a tsunami in the Pacific Northwest."

The sound you're hearing, Pat, is the echo inside your empty head.

I guess the fairy tales come forth in such numbers because reality is a real bitch for this administration:

During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein's Information Minister became the butt of a million jokes for proclaiming that American soldiers were being routed, even as U.S. troops were quickly closing in on Baghdad. “Their infidels are committing suicide by the hundreds on the gates of Baghdad,” Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf—aka Baghdad Bob—said as Saddam's end neared. “Be assured, Baghdad is safe.”

Now, on the subject of Iraq the Bush administration has roughly the same credibility as Baghdad Bob, and for similar reasons: the administration covers its ears when it gets bad news and anyone bold enough to deliver it is sent to face the firing squad. “This administration,” Bob Graham, the former Senator and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told me, “does not seek the truth as a basis for its judgments, but tries to use intelligence to validate judgments it has already made.”

A number of current and former intelligence officials have told me that the administration's war on internal dissent has crippled the CIA's ability to provide realistic assessments from Iraq. “The system of reporting is shut down,” said one person familiar with the situation. “You can't write anything honest, only fairy tales.”


Gregory: Let me ask you about your leadership. In the most recent survey, your disapproval rating is now one point lower than Richard Nixon’s before he resigned the presidency. You’re laughing...

Tinkershrub: I’m not laughing.

Gregory: Why do you think that is?

Tinkershrub: Because we’re at war. And war unsettles people. Listen, we’ve got a great economy. We’ve added 5.2 million jobs in the last two-and-a-half years, but people are unsettled. They don’t look at the economy and say, 'life is good.' They know we’re at war. And I’m not surprised that people are unsettled because of war. The enemy’s got a powerful tool — that is to get on your TV screen by killing innocent people. And my job is to continue to remind the people it’s worth it. We’re not going to retreat hastily. We’re not going to pull out of there before the job’s done and we’ve got a plan for victory.

Gregory: They’re not just unsettled, sir. They disapprove of the job you’re doing.

Tinkershrub: That’s unsettled.

Gregory: That’s how you see it?

Tinkershrub: Yeah, I do. I see it as the war has… the war is… the war is difficult. And I understand that. I understand why people wonder whether we can win the war or not. But there’s a big difference between some of us who believe we’re doing the right thing and moving forward and a group of people who want to pull out before the jobs is done.
So THAT'S What That Smell Was

I thought it was just more chemical plant flaring...

Deadeye Dick visited Red Stick today and spoke to the new LSU graduates. I wonder what sort of message he gave them?

"It used to be 'greed is good.' Now, it's 'greed, stupidity, mendacity, and just plain evil'--after all, look where it got me. Now go fuck yourselves before I shoot you in the face. Thank you."
Midlife Crisis

Guys react differently to male menopause

Some take up sports

Others get themselves a brand new toy
Purple Fingers and Passports

How long will it take before the Fighting Keyboarders and Chairbornes start calling these folks traitors?

Deaths run like water through the life of the Bahjat family. Four neighbors. A barber. Three grocers. Two men who ran a currency exchange shop.

But when six armed men stormed into their sons' primary school this month, shot a guard dead, and left fliers ordering it to close, Assad Bahjat knew it was time to leave.

"The main thing now is to just get out of Iraq," said Mr. Bahjat, standing in a room heaped with suitcases and bedroom furniture in eastern Baghdad.

In the latest indication of the crushing hardships weighing on the lives of Iraqis, increasing portions of the middle class seem to be doing everything they can to leave the country...

It is more than just the killing that has sapped hope for the future. Iraqis have waited for five months for a permanent government, after voting in a national election in December, and though political leaders are on the brink of announcing it, some Iraqis say the amount of haggling it took to form it makes them skeptical that it will be able to solve bigger problems.

Abd al-Kareem al-Mahamedawy, a tribal sheik from Amara in southern Iraq who fought for years against Saddam Hussein, compared the process to "giving birth to a deformed child."

As if to underscore the point, a scene of sorrow unfolded just outside Mr. Mahamedawy's gate, where an extended family gathered, full of nervous movement, and absorbed the news of the strangling death of their 13-year-old boy by kidnappers. A woman brought her hands to her head in the timeworn motion of mourning.

Then again, I'd like to know if 'nut crowd would willingly accept having a child--or grandchild--strangled by kidnappers in exchange for a purple finger...
Dear Leader...

...proudly shows off a flood wall he personally designed.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

When Wingnuts Attack

A swarm of 'nuttery

This latest post from Glenn Greenwald (scroll down or go to his main page) reminded me of something else I saw thanks to Cursor the other day (Tuesday, in fact) that I almost linked to...but work has to come first over here, alas.

The focus of both posts is the ugly/violent rhetoric that seems to be a staple of wingnutology, particularly when in response to anything short of groveling subservience towards Dear Leader and the Shrub Wonder.


I can't think of a single prominent Democratic political figure (perhaps other than Joe Lieberman) who hasn't been routinely accused of being a traitor and at whom threats of imprisonment haven't been launched by certain Bush followers around the blogosphere. News that journalists are being investigated, and even calls for the imprisonment of journalists, are now so routine that they hardly attract notice any longer. And anyone who reveals information that reflects poorly on the administration -- including life-long military veterans and pro-military Congressmen -- is an anti-American traitor who is tantamount to a criminal.

The Bush administration and many of its followers are coming increasingly to see hostile journalists and various political opponents as traitors and criminals, and their escalating rhetoric includes what are now routine calls for the investigation and punishment of those who politically harm the administration.

Robert Parry:

While Bush doesn't always join personally in the attack-dog operations, he has a remarkable record of never calling off the dogs, letting his surrogates inflict the damage while he winks his approval. In some cases, however, such as the punishment of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, CIA officer Valerie Plame, Bush has actually gotten his hands dirty...

Bush's backers even mocked U.N. arms inspector Hans Blix for not finding WMD in Iraq in the weeks before the U.S. invasion. CNBC's right-wing comic Dennis Miller likened Blix's U.N. inspectors to the cartoon character Scooby Doo, racing fruitlessly around Iraq in vans.

As it turned out, of course, the Iraq War critics were right. The problem wasn't the incompetence of Blix but the fact that Bush's claims about Iraq's WMD were false, as Bush's arms inspectors David Kay and Charles Duelfer concluded after the invasion.

And they're the ones accusing the left of being shrill.

Indeed, the entire conservative movement has been based on relentless attack to the extent that the very word "liberal" is now considered perjorative. And I doubt the 'nuts--or their nutsymps--have any problem going beyond the political...just a month or so ago, Michelle Malkin proudly took the low road in choosing to publicize personal phone numbers of campus activists...but couldn't reach quickly enough for a victim's badge when the tables were turned.

But the real issue with the sort of ugly rhetoric highlighed by Greenwald and Parry is that it reflects a decline in the degree of political tolerance in this country...or, perhaps, a return to something else entirely...after all, it wasn't THAT long ago when respect for political opponents was confined to those who could actually BE political without risking serious consequences.

Then again, it's not like the 'nuts have shown any genuine degree of remorse for the beliefs of their political, if not ancestral forebears. Sure, they toned down the ugliness for about fifteen years, until St. Ronald made it ok again. But they certainly never forgot how to hate...and the next generation is doing their best to carry the torch.

As for me, I'm torn--on the one hand, stooping to that level is, well, stooping to that level. On the other hand, sometimes you've got no alternative but to fight fire with fire. And let's not kid ourselves: when it comes to political rhetoric/political campaigning, and whatnot, everyone claims to hate negative advertsising, but negative advertising always ends up being part of the strategy...because it works...

Especially when it involves humor--not something wingnuts are noted for (which also probably explains the hysterical--literally--reaction to Stephen Colbert's speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Oh, and getting off topic for just a second, did anyone else see the L&O: CI rerun the other day featuring Colbert as forger/villain? I had to look it up to be sure it was him).

Anyway...I expect we'll continue to see the nuts ratchet things up (no pun intended). Let's just hope they don't end up inspiring more than rhetoric from some of their fold...
A Modest Proposal *

Inspired by Oyster's Immigration Proposal, here's a suggestion for getting Congress to act on Cat 5 levees, coastal restoration, and reconstruction of New Orleans. Show them this picture:

Hell, they might build us a one hundred foot tall, fifty foot thick wall out of titanium...

Note for the irony challenged: this is SATIRE, folks.
Careening To Nowhere, and Out of Control

I came across this story last night at Rising Hegemon. This morning I see Billmon has a few choice things to say about it, too:

A Pentagon probe into the death of Iraqi civilians last November in the Iraqi city of Haditha will show that U.S. Marines "killed innocent civilians in cold blood," a U.S. lawmaker said Wednesday.

From the beginning, Iraqis in the town of Haditha said U.S. Marines deliberately killed 15 unarmed Iraqi civilians, including seven women and three children.

One young Iraqi girl said the Marines killed six members of her family, including her parents. “The Americans came into the room where my father was praying,” she said, “and shot him.”

On Wednesday, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said the accounts are true.

Military officials told NBC News that the Marine Corps' own evidence appears to show Murtha is right.

A videotape taken by an Iraqi showed the aftermath of the alleged attack: a blood-smeared bedroom floor and bits of what appear to be human flesh and bullet holes on the walls.

The video, obtained by Time magazine, was broadcast a day after town residents told The Associated Press that American troops entered homes on Nov. 19 and shot dead 15 members of two families, including a 3-year-old girl, after a roadside bomb killed a U.S. Marine.

On Nov. 20, U.S. Marines spokesman Capt. Jeffrey Pool issued a statement saying that on the previous day a roadside bomb had killed 15 civilians and a Marine. In a later gunbattle, U.S. and Iraqi troops killed eight insurgents, he said.

U.S. military officials later confirmed that the version of events was wrong.

Sadly, I'm reminded of my own encounter with folks who condone the shooting of children: in my case, it was following a 2003 peace march in New Orleans. A person in Jackson Square let me know in so many words he'd have no problem at all with shooting the young child depicted on the poster I carried.

That was probably mere tasteless bravado, but I've thought about it a bit over the last three years, especially as it's become tragically, painfully obvious that the leadership of this country pretty much sanctions this sort of thought, if not behavior...both over there, AND at home...where the tragedy along the Gulf Coast is magnified by the cynical political games played in the aftermath, e.g., Chris Matthews asserting that political considerations should take precedence over doing the right thing.

We've got a little more than two years of this particular habit...and lord knows what will follow. But how can ANYONE--that is, anyone with a conscience--feel good about anything "accomplished" by this administration?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Tobin's Gray Bar Hotel

Equals Ten Months...wonder how much time a Democrat would've got?

TPM has been covering this for some time and has more.


In October 2002, Charles McGee, executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party, was mailed a Democratic flier that offered Election Day rides to the polls. The circular listed telephone numbers of party offices in five cities and towns.

"I paused and thought to myself, I might find out -- I might think of an idea of disrupting those operations," McGee later testified. A Marine Corps veteran, McGee approached the situation like a combat operation: "Eventually the idea coalesced into disrupting their phone lines . . . [it's] military common sense that if you can't communicate, you can't plan and organize."

When voting began Nov. 5, McGee's plan worked like a charm. For two crucial hours, an Idaho telecommunications firm tied up Democratic and union phone lines, bringing their get-out-the-vote plans to a halt. The effort helped John E. Sununu (R) win his Senate seat by 51 to 47 percent, a 19,151-vote margin.

Well before Election Day ended, however, the scheme began to implode -- in ways that still echo nearly four years later.

McGee and two other participants -- Republican National Committee regional political director James Tobin and GOP consultant Allen Raymond-- have been found guilty of criminally violating federal communications law. Tobin will be sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Concord, N.H.

The New Hampshire Republican Party, burden by legal bills, is virtually broke, with $733.60 in its federal and state accounts.

The Republican National Committee, in turn, has paid $3 million in legal fees in criminal and civil cases growing out of the controversy. The RNC has paid at least $2.8 million to Williams & Connolly and other firms for Tobin's defense, and about $150,000 to Covington & Burling to defend the RNC in a civil suit brought by the New Hampshire Democratic Party.

The RNC's legal fees exceed the $2.4 million spent by Sununu, the winner of the U.S. Senate race.

Most tantalizingly to Democrats, evidence filed in Tobin's trial in December shows 22 phone calls from Tobin to the White House between 11:20 a.m. Election Day, two hours after the phone jamming was shut down, and 2:17 a.m. the next day, four hours after the outcome of the election was announced.

Democrats charge that these phone calls and the RNC payment of Tobin's legal fees suggest possible White House involvement or knowledge of the phone jamming plan. RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman was at the time serving as White House political director. He said he had no involvement or awareness of Tobin's scheme, and that it was not unusual that there would be lots of calls back and forth to the White House political office from a crucial state.

But the case has drawn complaints even from Republicans. By covering Tobin's legal fees, "the GOP appears to sanction and institutionalize corruption within the party," Craig Shirley, of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs, recently wrote in a commentary published by The Washington Post.

The phone-blocking occurred from 7 to 9 a.m. the crucial morning hours when many voters want to go to the polls before work.

"The phones were starting to ring, and as I would pick up one phone, it automatically bumped over to another line," testified Manchester firefighter Jeffery S. Duval, who was working the phones at union headquarters. "There was nobody on any of the phones. The phone lines were dead once we went to pick them up. . . . We gave the police department a call."

The local police began to investigate. Realizing that what seemed at first like a clever tactic could have criminal implications, state Republican officials hurriedly called their telecommunications consultants to stop the jamming, according to court testimony. But the case was soon turned over to the FBI and the Justice Department because the allegations involved violations of federal telecommunications law.

Tobin, a longtime GOP operative, was later appointed New England chairman for the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign, but resigned when he became a subject of the federal criminal inquiry. On Dec. 15, 2005, Tobin, 45, was convicted of two counts of telephone harassment.

Former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie decided to pay Tobin's legal fees. "He was accused of doing something in his capacity as an RNC consultant, and we believed him to be innocent," Gillespie said. While the RNC had no contractual obligation, "it's the custom, not written anywhere, that you covered your people," Gillespie said.

Bunck of fucking crooks is what I say...Tobin, his fellow crooks Kenny Boy 'n Jeff...and for that matter, the entire GOP political cabal belongs in the clink...and not Club Fed, but general population. After all, they're the one's who've barked and brayed the loudest about "law and order." Let them experience it first hand.
Basra: A More Leisurely Approach to Creating Chaos

Now that I think about it, I don't recall any "bring 'em on," or "Mission Accomplished" moments from Tony "Lap Poodle" Blair...but that doesn't make him any less foolish in his wholehearted embrace of Operation Let's Waste a Billion...No, Make That Almost $300 Billion...and Thousands of Lives:

One person is being assassinated in Basra every hour, as order in Iraq's second city disintegrates, according to an Iraqi Defence Ministry official.

And a quarter of all Iraqi children suffer from malnutrition, a survey of 20,000 households by the Iraqi government and Unicef says.

The number of violent killings in Basra is now at a level close to that of Baghdad, and marks the failure of the British Army's three-year attempt to quell violence there. Police no longer dare go to the site of a murder because they fear being attacked. The governor of Basra, Mohammed Misbahal-Wa'ili, is trying to sack the city's police chief, claiming that the police have not carried out a single investigation into hundreds of recent assassinations.

The collapse of government authority in Iraq is increasing at every level and leaders in Baghdad have yet to form a cabinet, five months after parliamentary elections on 15 December.

Insurgent attacks on American and British troops are also proving more lethal, with 44 US soldiers and seven British killed so far this month, and with daily losses exceeding anything seen for more than a year.

Majid al-Sari, an adviser to the Iraqi Ministry of Defence, describing the situation in Basra to the daily al-Zaman, said that on average one person was being assassinated every hour. Militiamen and tribesmen are often the only real authority. When Sheikh Hassan Jarih al-Karamishi was killed by men dressed in police uniforms at the weekend, Mr Sari said his heavily armed armed tribesmen stormed one police station in south Basra, killing 11 police, and burnt down two other buildings, headquarters for a political party...

The number of Iraqis killed as a result of violence receives some international attention, but many others, particularly young children, die because they are malnourished and vulnerable to disease. A quarter of all Iraqi children suffer from chronic malnutrition, according to an Iraqi government survey of more than 20,000 households, backed by Unicef's Iraq Support Centre.

The number of children between six months and five years old suffering from acute malnourishment rose from 4 per cent in 2002, the last year of Saddam Hussein's rule, to 9 per cent in 2005, Unicef said.

In the midst of the turmoil, Iraq's political leaders have been labouring unsuccessfully to put together a unity government. Their inability to do so after five months only serves to demonstrate their deep disunity. The prime minister-designate, Nuri al-Maliki, is due to announce a cabinet by next Monday, but there is no agreement on the most important posts such as the interior and defence ministries.

At the root of the failure to form a government is the fact that Shia religious parties won two parliamentary elections last year, on 30 January and 15 December.

Last year, Ibrahim al-Jaafari led a government based on an alliance between the Kurds and Shia religious parties. The Shia fear that the US and Britain, supporting the Kurdish and Sunni parties, want to rob them of their electoral victory.

Meanwhile, the rest of Baghdad has slipped into civil war. Yesterday gunmen shot dead five guards in the largely Shia district of Shaab. As bystanders went to help the dead and dying, a car bomb blew up beside an oil tanker, killing another 13 people.

But...they've got so many freshly painted schools...
Moderator Chris "Tweety" Matthews

Karl celebrated a late Mardi Gras last night.

GOP talking points spilled out of Tweety's pie hole like a backed up toilet during last night's mayorial debate--fortunately I was busy with chores and could only listen...

As I commented over at Moldy City, I can't afford a new TV right now, and if I'd actually been watching when Karl, um, Chris, suggested, without any hint of irony, that it's acceptable for the federal government to abandon the city because it's a DEMOCRATIC STRONGHOLD, I think I would've kicked out the screen.

Between that and the rest of his theatrically driven drivel--rude interruptions, incorrect statements/myths presented as "facts," the standard wingnut "cabdriver" story, etc., etc., genuine matters of public concern were lost. However, this hopefully generated some degree of national publicity, and neither Nagin nor Landrieu embarrassed themselves.

I even noted--with approval--Ray's statement about the "biggest budget" being that of the federal government...and, also in my comment, I mentioned a degree of concern about the political rhetoric of late: Yeah, there's an election going on, but I hope the idea--pushed, if not shoved, by Team Bush--that the mismanaged response was the result of local/state incompetence doesn't cement itself in national public opinion as a result.

Over and over I've pushed this post from Billmon, because I think it effectively sums up the issue. When pressed--or when it was politically expedient--this administration pulled out ALL the stops. When the political stakes no longer mattered, they yawned and proffered a half-hearted the face of genuine tragedy and dire need. And, when confronted with this abysmal, miserable failure, they've either played the blame game...or let their surrogates like Tweety do it for them.

You can find more about the debate--with additional links--here, here, here, here, here and here.

Meanwhile, more on the "Ray Nagin as Useful Idiot" theory here. h/t YRHT and Library Chronicles.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Bait and Switch

Busy day over here, although I made my usual rounds around blogaea--and, of course, last night I listened to Dronorator-in-Chief make his televised dronoration...hmmm...

I guess, "Hey, look over there!" in so many words doesn't qualify as a second term agenda.

On the other hand, changing the topic, as opposed to "changing the tone," might well be as much a strategery as anything, given that the REAL problems facing this country are either direct results of Shrubian initiative--tax cuts for the rich and wars of choice--or Shrubian response, i.e., the Gulf Coast's non-recovery on the cusp of a new hurricane season. So, they've reached into the grab bag and pulled out a real red-meat, if not entirely red-state issue...

Call it a variation on the "Southern Strategy", although el presidente Arbusto apparently didn't quite hit the mark--I suppose that's because he eschewed the position taken by World Nut Daily and their fellow travelers vis-a-vis non Caucasians: a final solution, (en Español, una solución final). On the other hand, what he DID propose: Guard troops on the border, biometric identity cards--well, Leviathan would be pleased.

So, no one's real happy...except maybe Shrubusto's handlers (see Rove, Karl) who, at least for a few fleeting moments, have managed to divert attention from the reality of miserable failure overseas and at home (not to mention the upcoming summer blockbuster, Karl's Frogmarch)..., where, (at home, that is), I've been keeping up with Oyster's--and those to whom he links--analyses of the pending election for New Orleans mayor...another example of GOP bait and switch. Have a look.

Oh--and Jeffrey really hit it dead on when he made the explicit comparision between Shrub Dubya Bush...and C. Ray Nagin a while back. Sorry for not pointing to it back then.

Hmmm again...I seem to have lost focus, so let me try to get back on at least a semblence of a point. I suppose what I'm trying to note is how, be it on a local, regional, or national level, yer GOP is far less interested in, ahem, public service, and much more keen on waving bloody flags in our direction...while rifling through the public till with far more skill and dexterity than, say, Dick Cheney's shooting technique. And, unfortunately for us, the examples become glaringly obvious once you, well, get past the glare, the smoke and mirrors, the waving of bloody flags, and so on.

Of course, to do that, you've gotta pay some degree of attention--and, while that's easy enough for me (political science grad, keeping up with public policy matters is, I guess, sort of a hobby), it might not be quite as simple for folks less inclined--especially if, to cite a favorite singer/songwriter, they're "fall[ing] behind just standing still..." And that might even explain the maddening tendency among some of these folks to take the bait, especially when the media's going for it hook, line, sinker, rod and reel, dutifully barking about "our southern border" or, in earlier Shrubian bait/switch, "Iraqi WMD's."

Very real issues facing our country include, but are not limited to, an economy that runs more on reputation than production, an entire region still reeling from the effects of Katrina and Rita--and, interestingly, with all the bloviating about "our southern border," no one seems to give a shit about large numbers of almost certainly illegal immigrants working in or around NOLA (thanks in no small measure to rules promulgated by Team Bush "relaxing" employment standards)--plus we've got Operation Mesopotamian Quagmire, it's little brother in Afghanistan, a real but otherwise ignored threat from Islamic fundamentalists...and an executive branch that's, quite frankly, drunk on power and careening out of control.

Belching and braying about immigration, under these circumstances, is like worrying about your hairstyle after being involved in a five car pileup on I-10. I'm sure we all like to look our best whenever we can...but I'd be checking for broken bones, internal bleeding, and whatnot, rather than preening in a mirror...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Drug Plan: A Katrina-Sized Mess

I'm a Pill Popper

From FDL.


WASHINGTON (AP) — Tens of thousands of procrastinating seniors kept Medicare's operators busy Monday during the final hours of enrollment for the government's new drug benefit.

First lady Laura Bush and top administration officials attended an afternoon registration drive at a local church, while critics of the program met at a pharmacy near the Capitol and urged the administration to extend the midnight deadline and waive a financial penalty for late enrollees.

At the District of Columbia's Shiloh Baptist Church, Mrs. Bush met volunteers and some last-minute enrollees. She told people with little need for medicine now to still consider signing up for a private insurance plan, warning, "As you age, it's likely you'll add medications to your health care."

Mark McClellan, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said about 40,000 to 50,000 people were on the agency's website —— at any given moment Monday. Operators at 1-800-Medicare were also experiencing a rush of calls, and most callers were having to wait a few minutes to reach an operator.

"We've seen a real surge," McClellan said. "The deadline is making a difference."

This one's gonna be just like the Katrina response, just like the Iraq war, just like pretty much anything they touch: boatloads of cash delivered to their contributors and cronies, little to nothing--or less--in actual accomplishment...
Let Them Hate, So Long as They Fear

May 15, 2006
America the Fearful
In the dark days of the Depression, Franklin Roosevelt counseled Americans to avoid fear. George W. Bush is his polar opposite. The public's fear is this president's most potent political asset. Perhaps his only asset.

Mr. Bush wants ordinary Americans to remain in a perpetual state of fear — so terrified, in fact, that they will not object to the steady erosion of their rights and liberties, and will not notice the many ways in which their fear is being manipulated to feed an unconscionable expansion of presidential power.
If voters can be kept frightened enough of terrorism, they might even overlook the monumental incompetence of one of the worst administrations the nation has ever known.

Four marines drowned Thursday when their 60-ton tank rolled off a bridge and sank in a canal about 50 miles west of Baghdad. Three American soldiers in Iraq were killed by roadside bombs the same day. But those tragic and wholly unnecessary deaths were not the big news. The big news was the latest leak of yet another presidential power grab: the administration's collection of the telephone records of tens of millions of American citizens.

The Bush crowd, which gets together each morning to participate in a highly secret ritual of formalized ineptitude, is trying to get its creepy hands on all the telephone records of everybody in the entire country. It supposedly wants these records, which contain crucial documentation of calls for Chinese takeout in Terre Haute, Ind., and birthday greetings to Grandma in Talladega, Ala., to help in the search for Osama bin Laden.

Hey, the president has made it clear that when Al Qaeda is calling, he wants to be listening, and you never know where that lead may turn up.

The problem (besides the fact that the president has been as effective hunting bin Laden as Dick Cheney was in hunting quail) is that in its fearmongering and power-grabbing the Bush administration has trampled all over the Constitution, the democratic process and the hallowed American tradition of government checks and balances.

Short of having them taken away from us, there is probably no way to fully appreciate the wonder and the glory of our rights and liberties here in the United States, including the right to privacy.

The Constitution and the elaborate system of checks and balances were meant to protect us against the possibility of a clownish gang of small men and women amassing excessive power and behaving like tyrants or kings. But the normal safeguards have not been working since the Bush crowd came to power, starting with the hijacked presidential election in 2000.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, all bets were off. John Kennedy once said, "The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war." But George W. Bush, employing an outrageous propaganda campaign ("Shock and awe," "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud"), started an utterly pointless war in Iraq that he still doesn't know how to win or how to end.

If you listen to the Bush version of reality, the president is all powerful. In that version, we are fighting a war against terrorism, which is a war that will never end. And as long as we are at war (forever), there is no limit to the war-fighting powers the president can claim as commander in chief.

So we've kidnapped people and sent them off to be tortured in the extraordinary rendition program; and we've incarcerated people at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere without trial or even the right to know the charges against them; and we're allowing the C.I.A. to operate super-secret prisons where God-knows-what-all is going on; and we're listening in on the phone calls and reading the e-mail of innocent Americans without warrants; and on and on and on.

The Bushies will tell you that it is dangerous and even against the law to inquire into these nefarious activities. We just have to trust the king.

Well, I give you fair warning. This is a road map to totalitarianism. Hallmarks of totalitarian regimes have always included an excessive reliance on secrecy, the deliberate stoking of fear in the general population, a preference for military rather than diplomatic solutions in foreign policy, the promotion of blind patriotism, the denial of human rights, the curtailment of the rule of law, hostility to a free press and the systematic invasion of the privacy of ordinary people.

There are not enough pretty words in all the world to cover up the damage that George W. Bush has done to his country. If the United States could look at itself in a mirror, it would be both alarmed and ashamed at what it saw.
When the Levees Broke*

Schroeder links to a Pic graphic with all the details.

Also check out Da Po' Blog's (h/t YRHT) recent posts.
Well, Duh

This story is resonating about the internets today:

A senior federal law enforcement official tells ABC News the government is tracking the phone numbers we call in an effort to root out confidential sources.

"It's time for you to get some new cell phones, quick," the source told us in an in-person conversation.

ABC News does not know how the government determined who we are calling, or whether our phone records were provided to the government as part of the recently-disclosed NSA collection of domestic phone calls.

Other sources have told us that phone calls and contacts by reporters for ABC News, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post, are being examined as part of a widespread CIA leak investigation.

One former official was asked to sign a document stating he was not a confidential source for New York Times reporter James Risen.

Why would ANYONE be surprised? The most massive database on earth--being compiled courtesy of el presidente arbusto imperial--has little use EXCEPT for things like exacting punitive measures against, say, political opponents/the press, etc.

Even IF international terrorists were dumb enough to use devices like unencrypted email or telephones, it'd be pretty damn easy to foil any efforts on our part to intercept/interpret their way is to simply speak in a language that we lack fluent, expert speakers Arabic--and, um, I don't think I'm giving terrorist too much credit when I suggest they might, oh, I don't know, speak in code?...

Oh--there is one more potential use for such an otherwise program: maintaining the climate of fearmongering, which makes holding onto power/looting the public treasury SO much easier...sort of like the terror color code, Mark II...another Rovian "sucker born every minute" sleaze tactic, designed for the off-year election coming up.