Friday, May 25, 2007

Reading List

I hope dear leader enjoyed his pleasure reading/contest with Turdblossom last year...too bad he didn't bother with required materials...the reading that's part of the goddamned job description:

Intelligence analysts predicted, in secret papers circulated within the government before the Iraq invasion, that al-Qaida would see U.S. military action as an opportunity to increase its operations and that Iran would try to shape a post-Saddam Iraq.

The top analysts in government also said that establishing a stable democracy in Iraq would be a "long, difficult and probably turbulent process."

Democrats said the newly declassified documents, part of a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation released Friday, make clear that the Bush administration was warned about the very challenges it now faces as it tries to stabilize Iraq.

"Sadly, the administration's refusal to heed these dire warnings — and worse, to plan for them — has led to tragic consequences for which our nation is paying a terrible price," said Senate Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

Yeah, but that sort of reading is so...boring, eh? Not nearly as much fun as The Big Bam, The Life and Times of Babe Ruth. Besides, being hard work.

So hard you've gotta spend some time vacationing, even as you sign more death warrants this Memorial Day weekend.
Remedial Student

It's good to see Ron Paul not backing down but instead upping the ante--suggesting that Rudy Giuliani read a book or two before opening his trap and bloviating "9/11" ad nauseum. Good.

I just wish someone would call these clowns on their behavior more often. Both Giuliani and Team Bush wave the bloody banner of 9/11 and prance around like it's some sort of badge of honor emblazoned upon their concave sternums. Time to call bullshit--a normal, non-egomanical human being would be thoroughly shamed if such a horror happened on their watch. You know, it's not like bin Laden popped up out of thin air. And it's not like the responsibility of executive offices, like say, Mayor of New York, or President of the United States, didn't include defense of the public as a function/duty until after the attack.

Actually, recent events like yesterday's Bush the Bizarro at the press "conference" demonstrate pretty clearly that he barely possesses self-respect at this point...on the other hand, Giuliani might need some negative electoral feedback before he changes his tune. Good to see Paul doing his best to help.
And Haley, You're Doing a Heckuva Job

Well, this will come as no surprise to most of us--it's a Salon feature that chronicles Team Bush generosity towards fellow Rethuglican Haley Barbour in post-Katrina Mississippi, in contrast with their penurious stance towards the Gret Stet. That said, the article notes that some communities east of the Pearl River are still in pretty bad shape:

Outsiders might be surprised to learn then, that despite the plaudits, and despite the fact that Barbour's GOP connections seem to have won him a disproportionate share of relief money from Washington, post-Katrina recovery in some of the hardest-hit areas of the Mississippi coast is moving as fast as molasses in winter.

In Hancock County, Rocky Pullman paints a bleak picture. The recovery is proceeding so slowly that, almost two years after the storm, most of his neighbors still can't get mail. Before Katrina, the majority of Pearlington residents used post-office boxes; but since no post offices -- or any other major city, county or school buildings in Hancock County -- have been rebuilt, they have to drive an hour round-trip to Bay St. Louis to pick up a letter.

"We've been asking for three post offices to be erected in Hancock County for well over a year now and have got no response whatsoever," Pullman says. "Those are the kind of things that really bother you. It's hard to get people to feel good when they have to spend the amount of money they do with the price of gasoline just to get their mail." ...

For the residents of Hancock County, Barbour and Mississippi's ability to capture the lion's share of Katrina relief dollars makes the slow progress in their area all the more demoralizing. The county's 911 system still operates out of a trailer. Damaged wastewater and drainage systems frustrate hopes of a return to normalcy; earlier this month in Waveland, 16 miles east of Pearlington, a 9-and-a-half-foot alligator was found swimming in a drainage ditch next to a bus stop at 8 o'clock in the morning. Mayor Tommy Longo says the creatures freely roam throughout devastated residential areas.

Indeed, Hancock County was one of three Gulf Coast areas recently singled out as having "severe problems" by the Rockefeller Institute on Government and the Louisiana Public Affairs Council, with the towns of Waveland and Bay St. Louis flat-out "struggling to survive." ...

In Hancock County, towns racked up massive debt when federal officials promised to make disaster loans but failed to move quickly enough. The Mississippi Development Bank stepped in and loaned $5.3 million to Hancock County and $4.5 million to the town of Waveland to keep basic operations running. State officials hoped FEMA would reimburse some of the money, but that hasn't materialized.

Now those loans -- about $79 million across the Mississippi coast -- come due in October, and small towns hardest hit by Katrina have no idea how they'll meet the obligation. "We literally had no choice" but to take out those loans, says Waveland's Mayor Longo. "And in the ground zero area of Hancock County and Waveland, we're not in really much better shape economically than we were then. We're certainly not in any shape to pay back those loans right now."

Mayor Longo thinks at least part of Mississippi's post-Katrina tax windfall could go to help his and other storm-crippled communities deal with their debt, but Gov. Barbour has rebuffed the idea. And that has Longo and other local officials in Hancock contemplating the heretofore unimaginable.

"One thing you continually hear from officials from FEMA to the state level is that -- and they love this phrase -- they've 'never seen a city go under because of a natural disaster,'" Longo says. "But there have been so many firsts in Katrina."

The article also points out Shrub's insistence on enforcing the Stafford Act, although thankfully Congress waived that particularly odious decision...meanwhile, Davis-Bacon provisions calling for fair wages are being ignored...that is to say, Bush shows the true face of "compassionate conservativism:" row after row of shark's teeth.

And Haley took it all the way to the bank. But he must've deposited the money in his personal account.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Animal Hero

First Draft has the details. The Democratic leadership could learn something...
"There's No Doubt in My Mind...That Cutting Off My Nose to Spite My Face is the Right Thing to Do"

The "Defining Conflict of This Century" evidently isn't so dire that it requires bigots to rethink their prejudices:

Lawmakers who say the military has kicked out 58 Arabic linguists because they were gay want the Pentagon to explain how it can afford to let the valuable language specialists go.

Seizing on the latest discharges, involving three specialists, members of the House of Representatives wrote the House Armed Services Committee chairman that the continued loss of such "capable, highly skilled Arabic linguists continues to compromise our national security during time of war."
Ye Olde Car Bomb

Gregory Cochran, writing for The American Conservative, muses on the wingnuttia's alternate/revisionist history, where, "America, after the Revolution, was a flaming cesspool like Iraq today."

He thinks it's a question of disruption in the space-time continuum, and that somehow yer average and not-so-average 'nuts ended up over here...given, to put it diplomatically, the ocean-sized gap between their version of history and that of the reality based set.

Or maybe there was a spate of car bombs in historic Philly...but no one dared report it. After all, cars weren't even going to be invented for another hundred and fifty years or more...

h/t Cursor.
Stay the Course
Image Hosting
Shrub says the next few minutes of the canoe ride will be a "critical time." No shiite.

To tell the truth, the picture above isn't entirely accurate: he'd never actually put himself on the firing line.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Ped X'ing

Here's a country song guaranteed NOT to be a major hit:

I keep a close watch on DOJ slime,
I keep my wide open for...naked statues in the camera's line,

I may have gone too far in...asking political questions of applicants for career positions on Justice's dime,
Because I may have taken inappropriate political considerations into account on some occasions,
I crossed the line.
Out of His League

If you illegally invade it, he will come:

President Bush used declassified intelligence about Osama bin Laden Wednesday to defend his Iraq war policy.

During a commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy, the president mentioned declassified intelligence that said bin Laden discussed sending a top lieutenant in 2005 to Iraq to set up a base from which to launch attacks in the United States.

"There's a reason bin Laden sent one of his most experienced paramilitary leaders to Iraq," Bush said. "He believes that if al Qaeda can drive us out, they can establish Iraq as a new terrorist sanctuary."

Hey dumbass--maybe you should've thought about that back in 2003...
Poppies, Poppies

Shrub's addiction:

Farmers in southern Iraq have started to grow opium poppies in their fields for the first time, sparking fears that Iraq might become a serious drugs producer along the lines of Afghanistan.

Rice farmers along the Euphrates, to the west of the city of Diwaniya, south of Baghdad, have stopped cultivating rice, for which the area is famous, and are instead planting poppies, Iraqi sources familiar with the area have told The Independent.

The shift to opium cultivation is still in its early stages but there is little the Iraqi government can do about it because rival Shia militias and their surrogates in the security forces control Diwaniya and its neighbourhood. There have been bloody clashes between militiamen, police, Iraqi army and US forces in the city over the past two months.

The shift to opium production is taking place in the well-irrigated land west and south of Diwaniya around the towns of Ash Shamiyah, al Ghammas and Ash Shinafiyah. The farmers are said to be having problems in growing the poppies because of the intense heat and high humidity. It is too dangerous for foreign journalists to visit Diwaniya but the start of opium poppy cultivation is attested by two students from there and a source in Basra familiar with the Iraqi drugs trade.

Drug smugglers have for long used Iraq as a transit point for heroin, produced from opium in laboratories in Afghanistan, being sent through Iran to rich markets in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. Saddam Hussein's security apparatus in Basra was reportedly heavily involved in the illicit trade. Opium poppies have hitherto not been grown in Iraq and the fact that they are being planted is a measure of the violence in southern Iraq. It is unlikely that the farmers' decision was spontaneous and the gangs financing them are said to be "well-equipped with good vehicles and weapons and are well-organised".
Bottom Feeder

You can watch Goodling's testimony at First Draft, Firedoglake is live-blogging, and TPM Muckraker links to two stories in the WaPo and LA Times, the latter containing this tidbit:

After law school and a stint during the 2000 election doing opposition research for the GOP, Goodling landed in the public affairs office at the Justice Department.

That says it all: a so-called Christian dredging the bottom, no doubt willing to pass along any rumor, no matter how unfounded, as long as it smelled sufficiently foul.

Because that's how "oppo" works.

Oh, I'm sure you'll see a different Monica Goodling today, thoroughly scrubbed, appropriately attired, and sounding quite sincere. But bullshit walks and actions speak volumes. And nothing reeks worse, in my book, than the genuine sleaze of the politics of hate...perfected by...fake Christians like Goodling.

As the saying goes, I wish there WAS a hell for people like her to rot in...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

He Loves the Smell of Burning Flesh

"Kill 'em All" John Bolton reacts to the news from Lebanon.
Cost of War

It's not just a dollar figure.
Filet Hockey Puck

I'll let the big bloggers make the case re: the travesty of a well-done steak (scroll slightly more than halfway down)...I'd like to focus on the even more appalling and destructive habit of Duke, et al, who use the "Defense" budget as their own private gravy train, acting like overfed, spoiled brats, while throwning tantrums and sneering at anyone who suggests fealty to the public trust might be in order for an elected federal office holder:

In one case, an appropriations staffer sent an email to one of Cunningham’s aides to notify him that earmarks had been cut across the board, including for Wade. The aide emailed back to say he was hiding under his desk because he was afraid of Cunningham’s reaction. The aide soon wrote again to say Cunningham was furious and was demanding that the money for Wade be restored. As a result, Wade got a $6.3 million earmark for a storage device for an agency called the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, which hadn’t asked for the device–and it’s not clear that it ever used it. Wade billed the government the full $6.3 million for the device, though he subcontracted the project to Wilkes, who bought it off the shelf for $700,000 and had it delivered to CIFA.

3. And yet Cunningham claimed he was a patriot, right?
After his arrest, Cunningham argued that no matter what sort of gifts he received, everything he did was good for national security and the country. What he was really doing was plundering the defense budget year after year. Meanwhile, this was a guy who ranted on the House floor and attacked people who wanted to cut the defense budget. When former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder stood up to challenge him he called her a socialist and told her to sit down.

How many more members of Congress are eyeball deep in Cunningham-style hypocrisy? Who knows...although one, I doubt seriously Duke is a solo case, and two, these same miserable shits are waxing piously about the mere possibility of losing a few nickels when it comes to reconstructing the Gulf Coast...suddenly finding the wherewithall to wag their fingers at people who've lost everything...while not so much as asking a question when Cunningham literally wrote down his price.

A genuine case of the "very well done" filet mignon calling the kettle black.
Better Living With Chemistry Dying With Team Bush Ideology

May 21, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
Fear of Eating
Yesterday I did something risky: I ate a salad.

These are anxious days at the lunch table. For all you know, there may be E. coli on your spinach, salmonella in your peanut butter and melamine in your pet’s food and, because it was in the feed, in your chicken sandwich.

Who’s responsible for the new fear of eating? Some blame globalization; some blame food-producing corporations; some blame the Bush administration. But I blame Milton Friedman.

Now, those who blame globalization do have a point. U.S. officials can’t inspect overseas food-processing plants without the permission of foreign governments — and since the Food and Drug Administration has limited funds and manpower, it can inspect only a small percentage of imports. This leaves American consumers effectively dependent on the quality of foreign food-safety enforcement. And that’s not a healthy place to be, especially when it comes to imports from China, where the state of food safety is roughly what it was in this country before the Progressive movement.

The Washington Post, reviewing F.D.A. documents, found that last month the agency detained shipments from China that included dried apples treated with carcinogenic chemicals and seafood “coated with putrefying bacteria.” You can be sure that a lot of similarly unsafe and disgusting food ends up in American stomachs.

Those who blame corporations also have a point. In 2005, the F.D.A. suspected that peanut butter produced by ConAgra, which sells the product under multiple brand names, might be contaminated with salmonella. According to The New York Times, “when agency inspectors went to the plant that made the peanut butter, the company acknowledged it had destroyed some product but declined to say why,” and refused to let the inspectors examine its records without a written authorization.

According to the company, the agency never followed through. This brings us to our third villain, the Bush administration.

Without question, America’s food safety system has degenerated over the past six years. We don’t know how many times concerns raised by F.D.A. employees were ignored or soft-pedaled by their superiors. What we do know is that since 2001 the F.D.A. has introduced no significant new food safety regulations except those mandated by Congress.

This isn’t simply a matter of caving in to industry pressure. The Bush administration won’t issue food safety regulations even when the private sector wants them. The president of the United Fresh Produce Association says that the industry’s problems “can’t be solved without strong mandatory federal regulations”: without such regulations, scrupulous growers and processors risk being undercut by competitors more willing to cut corners on food safety. Yet the administration refuses to do more than issue nonbinding guidelines.

Why would the administration refuse to regulate an industry that actually wants to be regulated? Officials may fear that they would create a precedent for public-interest regulation of other industries. But they are also influenced by an ideology that says business should never be regulated, no matter what.

The economic case for having the government enforce rules on food safety seems overwhelming. Consumers have no way of knowing whether the food they eat is contaminated, and in this case what you don’t know can hurt or even kill you. But there are some people who refuse to accept that case, because it’s ideologically inconvenient.

That’s why I blame the food safety crisis on Milton Friedman, who called for the abolition of both the food and the drug sides of the F.D.A. What would protect the public from dangerous or ineffective drugs? “It’s in the self-interest of pharmaceutical companies not to have these bad things,” he insisted in a 1999 interview. He would presumably have applied the same logic to food safety (as he did to airline safety): regardless of circumstances, you can always trust the private sector to police itself.

O.K., I’m not saying that Mr. Friedman directly caused tainted spinach and poisonous peanut butter. But he did help to make our food less safe, by legitimizing what the historian Rick Perlstein calls “E. coli conservatives”: ideologues who won’t accept even the most compelling case for government regulation.

Earlier this month the administration named, you guessed it, a “food safety czar.” But the food safety crisis isn’t caused by the arrangement of the boxes on the organization chart. It’s caused by the dominance within our government of a literally sickening ideology.

Monday, May 21, 2007

You Can Cut and Run, But You Can't Hide

Iraqis are supposedly drawing up a "just in case" plan...just in case Shrub finally gets through his thick skull that each additional death in Mesopotamia is further repudiation of his "policy," if you can dignify his repulsive, primitive, Oedipal nightmare with the term.

Meanwhile, the Green Zone was hit by mortar rounds...again.

Meanwhile, US forces continue to search for three soldiers missing since last week.

Meanwhile, British forces clashed with insurgents near Basra.

Meanwhile, 58 more civilians were killed.

And--there's now evidence that we tried--and failed--to assassinate Moqtada Al-Sadr a couple of years ago. You know, in a certain sense, that's totally reflective of the "policy:" a BAD idea AND one that was apparently poorly executed (no pun intended). Wonderful.
Baby Newt

Desperately seeking some sort of victimhood, no matter how false.
A Government Safety Net...Belongs to Those Who Own One

Those who own a government, that is:

h/t First Draft

If Allstate attributed the damage to wind or rain, for example -- putting it on the hook for payment under the customer's homeowner policy -- the company priced the cost of removing and replacing the drywall at 76 cents per square foot. But if the damage was blamed on storm surge or flooding, the estimated cost of removing and replacing the drywall more than quadrupled, to $3.31 per square foot.

"On my best day, I couldn't get my client paid that much for Sheetrock. It would almost be misrepresentation or fraud," said Karpells, a registered public insurance adjuster as well as a real estate investor. "What the hell's the difference between wind Sheetrock and flood Sheetrock?"

A key difference between flood Sheetrock and wind Sheetrock is this: Allstate must pay for damage covered by its homeowner policy. But damage blamed on flooding is covered by the National Flood Insurance program, set up by the federal government and subsidized by taxpayers. And who decides which policy covers which damages? As with 96 percent of flood policies these days, it is the private insurer, in this case Allstate.
A Uniter, Not a Divider

Feel the love.

A major CIA effort launched last year to hunt down Osama bin Laden has produced no significant leads on his whereabouts, but has helped track an alarming increase in the movement of Al Qaeda operatives and money into Pakistan's tribal territories, according to senior U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the operation.

In one of the most troubling trends, U.S. officials said that Al Qaeda's command base in Pakistan is increasingly being funded by cash coming out of Iraq, where the terrorist network's operatives are raising substantial sums from donations to the anti-American insurgency as well as kidnappings of wealthy Iraqis and other criminal activity.

Hell, at this point it's probably only public opinion that keeps bin Laden from funding an effort to repeal the 22nd Amendment.