Thursday, May 31, 2007

Straight talk express

Tom Toles on the US-Iranian talks:

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Cattle prod

In the spring of 2004, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, a small cattle operation in Kansas, wanted to use a then recently approved rapid test for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad cow disease, to test all of the company's cattle. The occurrences of mad cow then had led several countries, such as Japan and Korea, to impose a broad ban on the import of US beef and these sanctions were very much hurting small enterprises like Creekstone Farms. The Japanese ban was costing Creekstone $40K per day and the company had to lay off 50 employees and furthermore, Japan was demanding that all cattle be tested just as they are there.

But the US Department of Agriculture refuse to allow Creekstone to test all of the their cattle, claiming that such complete testing was "not scientifically warranted.'' In reality, what the USDA was trying to prevent was any requirement on large beef producers from having to remain competitive with smaller operations that were more than willing to ensure their product was safe and to comply with Japanese import requirements. At the time, Creekstone indicated that it might go to court to fight what appeared to be an entirely political and small-minded decision.

Three years later, Creekstone's fight with the USDA wound up in US district court and US district judge James Robertson ruled that
Creekstone sought to use the same test the government relies on and said the government didn't have the authority to restrict it.
But the USDA still believes that it does and has now vowed to
fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease.
Robertson's ruling was due to become effective on June 1. Note, though, that ruling is not about whether all beef producers must test all animals but only that Creekstone, or any other like-minded entrepreneur, can test all its animals if it so chooses. Clearly, Creekstone feels that complete testing will help it in the market place and such a move should be hailed by the self-described "free market" boosters the Bush administration claims they are. It is within the context of this particular story that this venal administration's declarations about their love of the "free market" appears to be the utter bullshit we already knew they were.

Not to be outdone by their own naked posturing for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, only a few days ago, the Bush administration demanded that South Korea lift import restrictions on US beef and now has vowed to fight any increased testing, despite the fact that the request to South Korea is based in part on a report that has described beef as a "controlled risk," with adequate testing levels, testing levels the Bush administration refuses to employ. I'm guessing this might be one of a spectrum of reasons as to why George Bush likes the decades-long US occupation on the Korean peninsula: it makes it much easier for the South Koreans to appreciate the American perspective.

As with all such intertwined and globalized pathways, this story comes with its own rich vein of irony as it was only a few weeks ago that the Chinese food industry was being hammered by US criticism for the tainted pet food issue and, more recently, befouled toothpaste and cough syrup, and faced threats of increased regulation of Chinese food imports. Rather than brush off the criticisms and calls for increased regulation, as the Bush administration has so brusquely done, the Chinese promised reform and have just handed down a death sentence to the former head of China's top food and drug safety agency, Zheng Xiaoyu, on charges of bribery and corruption.

Whether South Korea will bend to White House demands to relax import restrictions on US beef remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: the days of easily claiming that the US food industry is the "safest in the world" are long past and rather than refusing to recognize the cache of increased regulation and testing that it would impose on everyone else, the Bush administration must embrace its own rhetoric about food safety and properly ensure that what is produced here is every bit as stringently tested and regulated as we would require everywhere else.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Gas pains in pipelineistan*

As Chomsky is fond of saying, if you really want to know what is going on, read the business news. It doesn't fart around with the platitudinous rhetoric about freedom and democracy that routinely spills out of the mouths of venal politicians. Which is why news that Russia is once again aiming to turf out western oil companies currently involved in oil and gas projects within Russia's vast Siberian wilderness, where the largest natural gas deposits in the world are found, is of significant note and further establishes the ongoing narrative of pipelines and imperial missions.

It was only last fall that Russian authorities claimed that Royal Dutch Shell was violating environmental regulations and forced the company to sell off controlling interest in the Sakhalin II project, routinely described as "the world’s largest combined oil and natural gas development," which was promptly bought up by Russia's state-owned petroleum company Gazprom. While nothing changed "on the ground," the new ownership resulted in a new-found compliance with environmental laws, just as Vladimir Putin had predicted. Prior to this petroleum putsch, Putin's regime had essentially appropriated the Yukos oil company through what many believe was a front company for Gazprom. Yukos had been owned by vocal critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who now languishes in a Russian prison on largely trumped up charges, though the dispatch of the inconvenient Khodorkovsky appears to have been a mere side benefit to the larger agenda of consolidating oil and gas production under the Gazprom umbrella.

And now the Russian government is about to relieve British BP of its controlling interest in the Kovykta gas field, which is (was) BP's largest natural gas project in Russia and which will also be acquired by Gazprom. Located near Lake Baikal, the Kovykta gas field is conveniently near to new and expanding Asian energy markets, where economic growth is now thought to be hobbled by unmet energy demands. Furthermore, ExxonMobile is also under pressure from "environmental regulators" and this may too lead to Gazprom acquiring majority interest in the Sakhalin Island project.

All of this movement on the part of Putin's government more than indicates a drive to monopolize the gas market throughout Asia and Europe. Putin has leveraged Russia's already strong control of gas supplies to send messages to erstwhile Soviet block countries for their complicity with western interests such as NATO. Attentions were first pricked a few months ago when Iran proposed the idea of a gas cartel to the Kremlin. Putin appeared to embrace the idea. So much so, that now Russia has recently signed gas agreements with the Central Asian countries, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, which also appears to seriously undermine US plans for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline (the so-called TAP or TAPI with Indian involvement). Of course, with Afghanistan failing to be drawn to heal by US and NATO forces, plans for the TAPI, while officially readying for "accelerated" construction, are in fact stalled under the extent mayhem.

With Putin's overbearing direction, the Kremlin continues to assert control over Eurasia's energy supplies. The new and emerging markets of China, India and Southeast Asia will only grow more dependent on the supplies that we can see are now being planned as a cartel wherein Iran -- if it is not bombed "back to the stone age" -- and Moscow are destined to become the main players in the world's future energy markets. It is with this view in mind that continued US military posturing in the regions of both the Middle East and Europe can have no good or useful outcome. Both Tehran and Moscow know they've got a lock on the vast new energy markets throughout Eurasia and there is little the US can do about it other than threaten military action. Ultimately, this is why we have seen Moscow and Tehran in a firm embrace, with China indicating that it, too, will not find further US military aggression in the Middle East at all tolerable.

None of this is meant to indicate that the volatile admixture of Muscovite monopolistic authoritarianism and Iranian mullahocracy is going to have beneficent results for world markets. At this point, no ones knows what such a blend might bring. But while it is almost certainly unlikely under this sabre-rattling administration, the US needs to recognize that there are ways that such collusion might have been addressed, and could be addressed now, to the benefit of all. In fact, the current collaboration between Moscow and Tehran (and China) might have never arisen had it not been for the utterly misguided fantasies of those who imagined the US as the agent of a "benevolent global hegemony," especially when that "benevolence" is to be delivered by 500 lb bombs, white phosphorous and 20mm cannon rounds.

* Thanks to Pepe Escobar for the term, pipelineistan, from his book, Globalistan, How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War. Nimble Press, LLC, 2006.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The mirage

photo via NY Times

While increasingly irrelevant right wingers fuss and fidget about the latest activities of Cindy Sheehan, on this Memorial Day, the rest of the country is beginning to recognize that it is in no way represented by our putative "representational" government. Nor, for that matter, are the citizens of another putative, albeit nascent democracy, Iraq, being represented adequately by theirs. As Democratic leaders demonstrated abundantly this past week, Congress does not represent the interests of "the people." This has often been the case, of course, but events of this past week have cemented this truth into the minds of even the most naïve of citizens.

Fully 72% of the American public disapprove of the war and want the US out of Iraq. The same percentage of US troops agreed that they were doing no good there over a year ago and that the US should withdraw. Amazingly, and prior to the US midterm elections, the exact same number of Iraqis said the US should withdraw within a year. And yet, six months after the Democrats were elected on a mandate to end the war, the war slogs on, not just in steady state but at an accelerating rate, with troops levels now expected to rise, secretly, to more than 200,000 by the end of the year. As was certainly the case from day one of the invasion and before, the Pentagon
is considering maintaining a core group of forces in Iraq, possibly for decades.
A series of military installations could be maintained around Iraq, with a total of total of 30,000 to 40,000 U.S. troops, for a long period of time — maybe a few decades. There are currently about 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

The bases would be located in various strategic locations, ones that served by air landing strips, for instance. The bases would be sealed and U.S. forces wouldn't be on patrols as they are now.
The end, as is not usually said, is nowhere near nigh.

But then, that has always been true. The entire "debate" surrounding US forces in Iraq has been an utter pretense, designed, it seems, to deliver an air of legitimacy to a process that was meant to look like it considered Americans' increasing disillusionment with the war while never actually intending toward anything other than long term occupation of the most geopolitically crucial real estate on the planet. The congressional majorities have abdicated any responsibility for ending the Iraq war that was given in winning those majorities, Democratic political calculations evincing greater importance than the will of the American public.

If anything, Democrats have corroborated the fact that their party is as much a part of the real agenda for Iraq as the GOP and the Bush administration; the corroboration established by their insistence that the Iraqi parliament swiftly pass the Iraq Oil Law or suffer the consequences of withheld reconstruction funds. With reconstruction as abysmal as it has been, it is not entirely clear how this threatens Iraqis; perhaps Congress will simply give the reconstruction funds directly to no-bid American contractors without the fuss and muss of actually being in Iraq pretending to do things. It certainly does threaten Iraq politicians, however, who, in all likelihood, profit personally and handsomely from the distribution of such funds. Nevertheless, the threat contained within the war funding bill just passed indicates fully that the Democrats don't just seem like a front organisation for the GOP, both parties behave like front organisations for, among others, the multinational oil companies, organisations that are otherwise euphemistically known as "western oil interests" within the context of the Iraq Oil Law.

So here we find ourselves, during this fifth consecutive Memorial Day of the Iraq war, when the country washes itself with grief for those brave men and women lost in wars past and present, wars our national psyche, the political class and the corporate media insist have all been necessary and conducted for the most beneficent of reasons. Extant war amplifies the national reverence of Memorial Day and we smoother the hidden reasons, pretending the sacrifice has not been made in the name of ill gotten gain and vainglory, that the fighting men and woman of this country's military machine are not mere fodder for the gods of profit. Perhaps one day we will celebrate Memorial Day as the day when this country's citizens wrestled back control from a government that is no longer responsive to the public will and fully resolve to stop grinding up people's lives, both here and afar, with such callous abandon.

Meanwhile, as the nation's military families suffer under the yoke of brutal service for a covert agenda, the profit takers continue on their merry way. For this is a nation at war.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Back to the drudgery

John McCain finally wend his confused way back to the Senate after taking heat for missing almost half of all Senate votes this year, far more than any other presidential candidate. McCain justified his extensive absences by saying,
the people of Arizona understand why I'm missing the votes.
They may understand it, but that doesn't mean they like it. One Arizona state legislator, Phoenix-area Republican Russell Pearce, called for McCain to resign if he won't do his job:
I think if McCain wants to be a full-time candidate and not be at the Senate, he ought to consider resigning.
Furthermore, Pearce said that an appointment to replace McCain by Democratic Governor Napolitano would be "better than no representation."

Only one senator has missed more votes than McCain, Tim Johnson, who is "recovering from a brain hemorrhage he suffered in December." By all accounts, John McCain is not recovering from the brain hemorrhage many believe he suffered around the time he announced his candidacy for president.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Skies and monkies

This is just a quick follow up to the post below on Blogs for Brownback, which appears to be the go-to "helioleftist" conspiracy theory center, mostly because I just can't resist. It is a surprisingly rich vein of extreme wingnut hilarity and one not to be missed. Even the comments are hysterical. For instance, on a post yowling about, of all things, education, one insightful visitor wonders,
What earthly good is learning about astronomy and evolution, unless you want to stare at the sky and think you’re a monkey?
Seriously, I'm not making this up. But I'm still not convinced they aren't either. It has to be a joke.

Widow maker

Steve Clemons delivers the goods on that son of a bitch:
Cheney Attempting to Constrain Bush's Choices on Iran Conflict: Staff Engaged in Insubordination Against President Bush.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Conflict of interest

Occasionally, one can bump into a scene on a website that reeks of incongruity. Ok, this may happen more than occasionally on the web. Nevertheless, the other day I checked in on Americablog, which tends not to be terribly enlightening but does bang through a lot of news. What greeted me at first sight was so jarring that I thought it must have been some sort of radical campaign whose banner was fixed to the top of the page.

But I was wrong.

Bear in mind that Aravosis is adamantly anti-war and anti-Bush. I don't imagine that oil companies figure prominently in his list of most admired corporations either. But there was Chevron (and still is), buying up the most prominent ad space on the anti-war Americablog.

Stop taking blood money, John.

Running up that hill

How people find these things is beyond me. But they do and reading such items certainly can be weirdly entertaining in shorts bursts. Nonetheless, the post in question was making the rounds, to the bemusement of many, in which Sisyphus denounced Heliocentrism as an historical lie promulgated by a cabal of conspiratorial Jews, Wiccans, atheists and other pagan ne'er-do-wells. In fact, he/she went so far as to label heliocentricism a "fatuous lie." Not that there aren't flat-earthers still around, too, but the true amusement here has to be drawn from the fact that the post appeared at Blogs 4 Brownback, designed and maintained, I suspect, by a cabal of contrarians who really, really hate Sam Brownback and wish nothing but doom for his presidential campaign. Either that or Sisyphus is trying to self-actualize his/her Greek doom by adopting a position so bizarre that they will suffer a lifetime of burdensome insult and still keep pushing every ridiculous notion they can conjure.

Really, what else could it be?

A grand delusion

It sure is hard getting a clear picture of just how creationists view the history of a 6,000 year old earth. One day, they're telling us that the dinosaurs were "unleashed" by the original sin, then all drowned and were fossilized by the Great Flood. The next, we're hearing that dinosaurs romped happily in the Garden of Eden alongside Adam and Eve and were even brought onto Noah's Ark. Which is confusing. So, why aren't any dinosaurs roaming the earth only a few thousand years later? Don't look for an answer here. I'm not the one making this shit up.

Two years late in opening, the Creation Museum, aka The Museum of Creation, is set to astound us all and dismiss evidence that fossils, geostratification and the Grand Canyon could not possibly exist on an earth that was 6,000 years old. It can and has, the founders of the museum say and have proceeded to demonstrate this compacted coexistence with some fancy animatronic and entirely disingenuous displays.

A modern day Oryx stands next to a child-friendly dinosaur while it licks
a giant Kraft Marshmallow, also thought by the Creation Museum
to have been present in the Garden of Eden 6,000 years ago.

I'm not sure what is worse with this most recent story: that such a ridiculous undertaking is about to open or that the New York Times feels a need to accommodate Biblical literalists and present their "museum" as a legitimate venue of historical record. Some of the statements in this most recent sop to the Christian right are truly aggravating when seen in "the paper of record," a self-approbation that continues to defy all common sense.
Outside the museum scientists may assert that the universe is billions of years old, that fossils are the remains of animals living hundreds of millions of years ago, and that life’s diversity is the result of evolution by natural selection.
Yes, that's all that scientists do, assert things.

Further along, Eric Rothstein informs readers that, to the scientifically literate, a visit to the museum is a "disorienting mix of faith and reason." While I'm quite certain that the Creation Museum's displays are indeed "disorienting," which appears to be another way to describe ignorant lies, the conceit that this dumb show and the organisation behind it have attached any reason to the animatronics is beyond abysmal. There is no reason here. That is why it is called faith.

Names will always hurt them

After years of calling the Democrats terrorist lovers, GOP leaders explain that the Democrats are so brow beaten and scared, they won't do anything if they think Republicans will call them names. "We've got them by the balls," said Mitch McConnell, speaking to reporters with John Warner.

Shortly after the Democrats bowed to the will of the White House and withdrew any requirement of a timetable for troop withdrawal, we learn that fully 72% of the country disapproves of George Bush's handling of Iraq. We also learned just what the overriding concern of Democratic "strategists" was in backing down from White House bellicosity. The concern was, in fact, White House bellicosity:
Democrats said they did not relish the prospect of leaving Washington for a Memorial Day break — the second recess since the financing fight began — and leaving themselves vulnerable to White House attacks that they were again on vacation while the troops were wanting. That criticism seemed more politically threatening to them than the anger Democrats knew they would draw from the left by bowing to Mr. Bush.
There it is, by their own admission. The Democratic leadership, if such a term can be used for that band of cowed and dithering simps, is more afraid of being subjected to the full wrath of "White House attacks" -- a White House with 28% approval in the country -- than anger over the war and the accompanying desire to bring it to an end. Apparently, "the left" in the country now comprises 72% of the population.

Not that they had much to begin with, but the Democratic party are now utterly without moral or political purpose. Having been given a mandate by voters in November to bring this ghastly, hated war to end and withdraw troops in a practicable fashion, the Democrats would rather avoid being called names. This is not a way to stand in opposition to a failed and bloodyminded policy and if the Democrats think that voters will trust them to do "the people's work," as congressional hacks love to call their self-serving machinations on Capitol Hill, they may be in for a bit of a shock.

Then again, there really is no alternative. If you're pissed off with the Democrats for failing to stand up, the Republicans are hardly an option. GOP candidates would rather just invoke more talk of terror to convince the country that war is the right way to go, no matter how badly that way actually is.

And voters? If ever an episode demonstrated a simple, raw truth about the American political system, this is it: You have no choice.

All that he wants

After the November elections, I was informed by any number of optimistic friends that, ah hah! now things will be different. Just you wait. This after several Democrats had voted for the egregious Military Commissions Act that, among other awful provisions, stripped habeas corpus from Guantanamo detainees. This, went the conventional wisdom regarding the Democrats, was a political calculation designed to help them in the elections. Don't worry, once in the majority, all these terrible, terrible laws, secret programs and Bush's unchecked war would be addressed, and in no uncertain terms.

We're all still waiting.

Without need of resorting to my own blather about the Democrats caving on the Iraq war funding bill, Olbermann delivers the righteous message to the lily-livered Democrats and their weak, pathetic, inept handling of this issue. One wonders just what the Democrats think they are doing with the majority now. Despite the posturing and weeks of tossing about by Democrats, the "results" speak to a simple reality that control of Congress is immaterial to Bush getting what he wants, regardless of the fact that 70% of the country firmly demand that he stop getting it.

Are the Democrats at all aware of just how craven they appear?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Liberty or death

To those who live life outside the realm of religious extremism, Jerry Falwell and Fred Phelps would seem to have been agents of a similar agenda; intolerance based upon Old Testament fire and brimstone. Apparently, this is not the case and it wasn't too long after the blessed passing of Jerry Falwell when news broke that the insane congregation of Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church declared that they would protest Falwell's funeral because the dreadfully departed preacher was a "corpulent false prophet." While I certainly wouldn't take issue with that statement, the context of the complaint makes clear that the problem the Westboro wackos really had with Falwell was his preaching that "God loves everyone." It also seems clear from their ire that these people really paid no attention to Falwell's generally racist history nor did they appreciate his later condemnations of the "homosexual agenda" and that 9/11 was godly payback for America's general tolerance for gays, lesbians and other declared undesirables.

As convinced as the Phelps' boors are that Falwell was a false prophet who preached God's love, the Westboro clan set out to disrupt the funeral with their usual flair. The expected protest convinced another group of religious extremists from Liberty University, Falwell's own school for the learning disabled, to launch a counterprotest to defend the good name of their late mentor. As extremists often will, one such Falwell follower, Mark Uhl of Liberty U, decided that carting several homemade bombs to the funeral would be just the thing to keep the other group of religious extremists at bay.
Mark D. Uhl of Amissville, Va., reportedly told authorities that he was making the bombs to stop protesters from disrupting the funeral service. The devices were made of a combination of gasoline and detergent....
Nothing like tossing a few bombs around to prevent disruption. This is exactly the same thinking that comes out of the White House; reduce tax revenue to raise it (hasn't worked yet with this administration's cuts), kill civilians to save them, start a war to prevent one.

It is fairly obvious at this point that with the national media narrative now firmly established, had this been a Muslim with a trunk load of bombs, our media would be lapping up this story and blasting it across the headlines. As it is, it's treated as merely the action of an addle-pated teenager. How quaint.

Fredo's revenge

While I've been super busy with work and too burned out afterwards to read or comment about any of the ongoing horrors or the new ones that are sprouting up with alarming regularity, MCM passed this along for my and your viewing enjoyment. Short but brilliant:

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Passion fish

Now that Paul Wolfowitz has tendered his resignation at the World Bank, the White House is reportedly looking to quickly fill the slot of president at the bank. Despite years of evidence that the Bush administration has utterly no interest in filling any position with "the best individual for the job," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said,
We want someone who has a real passion for lifting people out of poverty.
Laughable on its face, if the White House thinks they're going to find such a creature loping around the halls of the West Wing or any other of this administration's deeply cynical, politicized agencies, "quickly" will not be the way the position of president of the World Bank will be filled. It will be filled quickly, I'm sure. But it won't be by anyone even closely resembling the above description.

Paul Wolfowitz spent much of his time at the bank politicizing that institution in the exactly the same way the Bush administration has treated the US federal government: a welfare dole for family, friends and campaign donors. And, as is so obvious, not terribly competent ones. The difference at the World Bank is that there has been significant resistance to this. If anyone thought the ouster of Wolfowitz was about shunting some bucks to his girlfriend, it would be advisable to understand that directors at the Bank have been critical of Wolfowitz for quite sometime for his practice of driving out knowledgeable, experienced experts and replacing them with ideologically like-minded Republican hacks who are "short on expertise and long on political connections." That was the real crime that was not sitting well with the Bank. The girlfriend was a convenient pretext -- some say an orchestrated one -- to boot him out before too much damage was done. The Bush administration and certainly Wolfowitz are all too familiar with how well pretexts can be used to exact an agenda of a completely different sort.

In reality, the White House has little interest in "lifting people out of poverty." Six years of corporate friendly policies, which have led to millions more poor in this country alone, is hardly a record that would suggest they have any concern for the poor elsewhere.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

John Ashcroft, guardian of the Constitution. Who knew?

Everyone seems blown away by the forthright testimony of former Deputy Attorney General James Comey, wherein he described yet more blatant, abhorrent behaviour on the part of Alberto Gonzales and White House chief of staff Andrew Card when they dashed over to John Ascroft's hospital bed in order to get the then Attorney General to reauthorize a continuance of the NSA wiretapping program, something Ashcroft's Justice Department had concluded they could not do.

The blown away part is not that the smirking Gonzales or the servile Card did this, but rather, it comes from hearing Comey testify with clear, precise answers -- complete with a full recollection of events. It is entirely jarring. Really, who is used to that after the hours and hours of vaguish testimony, dim recollections and countless utterances of "I don't recall," that have been emitted on the Hill since the Democrats gained the offices of congressional oversight? Frankly, watching Comey's testimony shocked me, complete as it was with the gobs of intelligible and unambiguous content. I'm still reeling.

Another salient point from the testimony: John Ashcroft appears to have been a man of at least some conscience about the law. He may have been a prude and an evangelical nutter, but at least he and his staff knew a major constitutional violation when they saw one. Leave it to this White House to make a guy like John Ashcroft look like a legal scholar and guardian of the Constitution and all while he was doped-up on pain medication and deathly ill. All it took was to put him up against the unctuous and simpering toady who became the Attorney General Bush and Cheney really wanted: Alberto Gonzales.

The surge

Yep, it's a surge, alright.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The eye of a needle

Jerry Falwell probably now knows whether his "devotion to Christ," as he liked to call his promulgation of fear and loathing in service of a corpulent, multi-million dollar existence, has any basis at all. And I'm not above imagining Falwell's appearance at the Pearly Gates, with a serious case of karmic retribution about to kick in. St. Pete is there with the big book, a dour expression greeting a rather stunned Falwell, who is thinking, "... uh oh ...."

St. Peter (voice of Lawrence Olivier): Jerry Falwell.

Falwell: Yes, sir.

St. Peter: You have gotten our message rather wrong, I'm afraid. Badly wrong. And, it seems, quite intentionally.

Falwell: What do you mean, sir?

St. Peter: Do you really think you can get away with that here?

Falwell: But, but ...

St. Peter: Jerry, please, we don't have much patience for blubbering. Good bye. I expect you know what that means.

Open sores

In its single-minded drive to gain advantage, maintain market share and prevent competitors from emerging, like most corporate action, the behaviour of Microsoft rarely surprises me. Microsoft is waving the threat of patent violation at open source software, GPL and Linux in particular, in order to drive customers away from open source Linux. I emphasize patent violation here because a mere two weeks ago, The US Supreme Court ruled in favour of Microsoft in a lawsuit AT&T brought against the Redmond behemoth for its own infringement of AT&T patents on voice recognition software. Microsoft knowingly engaged in this patent violation, has not denied it, but argued that because the software was being sold in China through various agents, any patent violation was not under US jurisdiction.

Despite its record of resistance toward open source document formats being adopted by various state governments, Microsoft thinks that it has been an industry friend to open source and that the newest Gnu Public License will "tear down the bridge between proprietary and open-source technology that Microsoft has worked to build with the industry and customers." It probably comes as quite a surprise to most people to learn that Microsoft has been building a bridge between "proprietary," i.e. Microsoft, and open source technology but this is what they say. This is nonsense, of course, and recognized as such by a growing body of organisations such as the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, which announced that it would move to open source software, citing concerns over "security and the high cost of Windows systems."

Nonetheless and in spite of their propaganda, Microsoft appears to have little or no compunction about violating patent rights and fighting for the right to do so all the way to the Supreme Court, while berating others for violating Microsoft patents, which are based mostly on software Microsoft has either stolen or co-opted.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Let's not argue over who killed whom

Allies in the War on Terror™.
Pakistan and Afghan troops clash

Pakistani and Afghan troops have clashed along their border with both sides claiming a different number of casualties and blaming the other for sparking off the most border clash in years.

Pakistan claimed it killed five Afghan soldiers but Afghanistan said only two civilians and no soldiers were killed in Sunday's gun battle.

Major-General Waheed Arshad, a Pakistan army spokesman, blamed the Afghan army for "unprovoked" gunfire at about six Pakistani border posts in Kurram agency, a Pakistani tribal region opposite Afghanistan's Paktia province.

He said three Pakistani soldiers were wounded.

A Pakistan military statement said troops from its Frontier Corps returned fire and five Afghan National army soldiers were killed.
This seems to be going about as well as the rest of the War on Terror.

Incredible things

Cassel: If the President deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, there is no law that can stop him?

John Yoo: No treaty.

Are we really in such a civil liberties crisis if bloggers are able to use this new media to say I think quite incredible things?"
-- John Yoo, NPR,
April 25, 2007

[h/t Kiko's House via Newshoggers]

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Our liberal media

Well, that didn't take long. Mere days after releasing a short yet blistering critique of George Bush, CBS fired General Batiste from his position at the network as news consultant. Keith Olbermann picks up the slack other "liberal" media outlets refuse to touch.

Going Blackwater

Jeremy Scahill testifying before Congress on the rise and presence of mercenary contractors in Iraq and elsewhere hired by the Pentagon. Scathing.

Don Giuliani

After you've read about Rudy Giuliani snubbing farmers in Iowa because they "aren’t worth a million dollars and he is campaigning on the Death Tax right now," Paul Craig Roberts lays down the smack in The Criminal Career of Rudy Giuliani.

A few choice snippets:
Giuliani is a media creation. Giuliani was unknown until in search of name recognition he staged a stormtrooper assault on the financial firm Princeton/Newport involving fifty federal marshals outfitted with automatic weapons and bulletproof vests. On another occasion he had two New York investment bankers hauled off their trading floor in handcuffs.

Giuliani’s victims had done nothing and were exonerated. But Giuliani’s media stunts served to turn public sentiment against white-collar defendants.
Roberts goes on to detail Giuliani's pursuit of Michael Milken; threatening to arrest his brother, hassling his grandmother, all in order extract a plea bargain because Giuliani knew he had no case. And American law doesn't come out of this too well, either.
It is a damning indication of the collapse of American law that an assistant US attorney can be well received when he brags to law school students that federal prosecutors frame Americans with novel interpretations that create ex post facto law and violate mens rea – no crime without intent – the foundation of the Anglo-American legal system.
Other tidbits: Leona Helmsley was framed, The National Review once exposed Giuliani and now sings his praises, The Wall Street editorial page sucks now too. Ok, maybe that's not much of a tidbit. But he nails them all.

In conclusion:
Giuliani rode his prosecutions of the rich to the NYC mayoralty, just as he rode 9/11 to become a GOP presidential candidate. Giuliani’s career never served justice; it served his personal ambition, his ego. That a person so short on integrity could become a candidate for president is a damning indictment of the US political system.
Now, think about those farmers. Not so bizarre after all. And I bet The Wall Street editorial page won't even notice it.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The enemy within

The phrase, "told you so," pops up a lot when it comes to discussion surrounding things the Bush administration promises or claims is a goal. Even Republicans have stopping swallowing. No one believes administration nonsense anymore, except when it comes to them promising never to withdraw troops from Iraq.

On April 11, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced a new deployment schedule, with extended deployment periods of up to 15 months and "guaranteed" 12 month "dwell time," i.e. at home rest. This rest period, as described by Gates, would
provide some long-term predictability for the soldiers and their families … particularly guaranteeing that they will be at home for a full 12 months.
I expected that this was entirely disingenuous, designed to placate immediate negative reactions:
the "guarantee" is risible. The DoD have been changing their deployment rules, recruiting rules, moral waiver rules, "as necessary," for so long now, no one can remember what the original "guarantees" even were.
Well, one day shy of a month from that announcement, the predictable reneger has been made manifest.
Members of the 1st Armored Division’s 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry, Company A, learned Tuesday that they are scheduled to head back to Iraq in November, just nine months after the 150-soldier company left the combat zone in February after a 13-month deployment.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman indicated that the 12-month rest period between deployments “is a goal,” not a guarantee. Considering how well this administration, and particularly the DoD, has met previous goals, this is hardly a promising statement for US service personnel. The troops probably already knew that such a promise was more like a dream than anything. And let's remember that Gates originally justified the extended battle field deployments with this "guaranteed" 12 month rest because it would will give soldiers a timetable that is, and I quote, "more predictable" and "reliable."

So, there is the final equation for US troops: no guarantee, no predictability, no reliability of anything other than of being assured that their tired asses will wind up back in Iraq definitely at some point, and probably sooner rather than later.

The Bush administration continues to be the single most destructive force the US military has ever encountered.

Stop laughing

Mark Crispin Miller serves up a heaping helping of meaning behind the infiltration of Regent University and Patrick Henry College grads throughout various agencies and departments of the Bush administration. He chastises Bill Mahr and Jon Stewart for joking about Regent University as though the penetration of government by radical fundamentalists can and should be laughed off as some sort of aberration, that somehow these Biblical literalists will just go away after the next election or if we just laugh at them hard enough.

"Infiltration" is the wrong word, of course, for that implies some secretive action on the part of these Christianists and that the White House is perhaps unaware that it has been happening. Nothing could be further from actuality, because the White House has been actively seeking to fill executive ranks with these fledgling theocrats. If the US Attorney purge should have demonstrated one thing to this country, and especially to the Democrats, it is that the current version of the GOP is now so severely compromised by the Christian right, the party has no interest in actual democracy and will go to any and all lengths to secure its dominance in government through massive, fraudulent efforts in every election. The GOP has subverted and will continue to subvert government agency to their own political purposes, purposes which have been clearly shown to be antithetical to ideal of liberal democracy. What actual Republicans don't seem to realize is that by co-opting, as the party has, this faction of Christianists intent on Biblical law for America, they have doomed their own existence as a political force. Christianists really won't care whether you are liberal or conservative if you are insufficiently infused with the spirit of the Lord.

As Miller say, stop laughing at the "hayseeds" and wake up. Because they really don't care whether you laugh at them or not. If their ultimate goal comes to fruition through their diligent work and our continued inattention, they know we won't be laughing too much longer.

What's the matter with Kansas?

Google's new Lat Long Blog is providing a kml file specifying ground overlays for recently acquired satellite imagery for Greensburg, Kansas, before the tornado and afterwards.

This is a sampling, before and after:

As superlative as the rhetoric has been in describing this scene, with some claiming that Greensburg had been wiped off the map, it is now obvious that this is exactly what happened. Utter devastation.

"You have placed our nation in peril"

Music to ears that have been pounded by a six year long cacophony of Bush bullshit and media distortion; General Batiste lays down a short sweet groove of righteous dissent.

[h/t hotpotatomash]

Bill bound

Congress is dismayed because they have not been informed of "significant" covert operations being conducted by US intelligence agencies.
The Committee was dismayed at a recent incident wherein the Intelligence Community failed to inform the Congress of a significant covert action activity. This failure to notify Congress constitutes a violation of the National Security Act of 1947.

Despite agency explanations that the failure was inadvertent, the Committee is deeply troubled over the fact that such an oversight could occur, whether intentionally or inadvertently.

The Committee firmly believes that scrupulous transparency between the Intelligence Community and this Committee is an absolute necessity on matters related to covert action.
Scrupulous transparency between the Congress and executive branch intelligence agencies? In what country do these people think they're living? I'm sure they must think that Iran-Contra was an inadvertent oversight.

In further developments, Congress is also considering requested changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the law Bush has been inadvertently ignoring for several years now. Speaking volumes about the times in which we find ourselves, the House Intelligence Committee has attached a request to potential changes to the FISA:
Before the Committee will support any change to existing law, it is essential that the President provide some measure of assurance that were he to sign a bill modifying FISA into law, he would agree to be bound by it.
While this might indicate that Congress has some inkling that Bush will ignore any law when it suits him, which he has, observing this bizarre constitutional chicken dance is truly disturbing. Bush has proposed changes to FISA, which Congress will enact if only he will agree to be bound by the new law as he has requested it. This is the state of the "rule of law" for the president of the United States. Law, even one proposed by the president, is now merely something he might agree to be bound by.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Arresting development

It's awfully amusing to see that a number of online petitions have cropped up, demanding Paris Hilton be jailed for violations of her probation, which she engendered following a DUI conviction.

I'm guessing that by jailing Paris Hilton, the masses are supposed to extract some trivial sense of satisfaction in thinking that the entrenched power structure is actually answerable to the law, that frivolous, rich twits are treated the same as the hoi polloi within the US system of justice. It may be true that we like to see such twits fall under the gavel once in awhile. But this episode merely serves as a veneer of legitimacy for our mythical egalitarian "rule of law" fantasy. We stomp up and down and wail: Paris Hilton must be jailed! This will show us all how great the American legal system is.

Spare me.

Ignoring the immense litany of illegality, corruption, graft and larcenies both petty and grand that currently swirls around the Bush administration, yesterday came news that Chevron would likely agree to settle with US prosecutors over that company's role in the oil-for-food scandal, a scam whereby our own Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, as chair of Chevron's public policy committee, was complicit in illegally directing millions of dollars in direct payments to Hussein's regime, a direct and illegal violation of UN and US sanctions. For this, Chevron will agree to several million in fines and admit that the company "should have known" that its consciously illegal activities were ... illegal. It will not admit that it did anything wrong.

For her part in illegally funding the Iraqi regime, Rice will remain untouched by our system of justice, the one that we're supposed to wish would jail Paris Hilton and make us all feel that "the law" is blind.

Oil for Rice scandal

When the Iraqi government secretly imposed new "surcharges" on exported oil sold under the auspices of the UN administered Oil-for-Food program in August of 2000, Condoleezza Rice sat comfortably on the board of directors at Chevron Oil and chaired the company's public policy committee, "which oversaw areas of potential political concerns for the company." Chevron is now about settle with federal prosecutors for participating in a system of laundered, illegal oil-for-food kickbacks paid to Hussein's regime beginning at the time when our now Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was leading Chevron on public policy.

Shady intermediaries were employed by Chevron to shunt kickbacks directly to Iraq through the company's London office. Chevron's London oil buyer, Michael Dugdale, said that, "every deal I did was approved by senior management." Senior management being Condoleezza Rice's public policy committee for the Chevron board.

For this Chevron is expected to admit that "it should have known" about it's own conscious effort in illegality by thwarting UN sanctions and delivering millions directly to Hussein. It will not admit that the company did anything wrong.
Chevron, which now owns Texaco [ed. also involved in the oil-for-food scandal], is not expected to admit to violating the U.N. sanctions. But Chevron is expected to acknowledge that it should have been aware that illegal kickbacks were being paid to Iraq on the oil.
There's a fine piece of justice: senior management (did I mention Condoleezza Rice, our Secretary of State?) approves an elaborate money laundering scheme to shuffle millions in illegal kickbacks to Hussein and all they have to do is pony up a few million and admit they "should have known" they were doing this.

And Condoleezza Rice? Onto bigger and better things.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Democrats enforce Iraqi Oil Law

Speaking at the West Los Angeles Democratic Club a couple of days ago, Dennis Kucinich relayed what many have suspected to be the actual reason for the invasion of Iraq and he informed the audience that the Democratic bill recently vetoed by Bush had a provision -- otherwise known as a "benchmark" -- that demanded that Iraq "must privatize its oil." As usual, most congressional members didn't bother to read the bill, which expectedly provided for the retention of a sizable US military force in Iraq for a very long time -- the Petraeus plan calling for a continued military presence in Iraq for at least 10 years -- those handy permanent bases becoming what they were designed for in the first place: garrison outposts guarding private western contractors sucking dollar-a-barrel oil out of the Iraqi desert sand.
You would think that by reading the reports that this bill was going to take us out of Iraq. Not a chance. What it would do, it would remove a substantial number of U.S. troops, to be sure, but an equally substantial number would stay. Why would they stay there? They would stay there to protect the contractors. They would stay there to run special missions. It doesn't end the occupation. The base is still staying there. The occupation continues.

But there was another provision of this bill that most American citizens don't even know about. This bill had provisions that the White House asked for, and the Democrats said to the president, okay, this is what you say you want, well we're going to give you what you want. Here's the provision is the provision that I argued against in the Democratic Caucus. This is the provision that says that the Iraqi government must privatize its oil.
While hardly news to anyone paying attention to the development of the Iraq Oil Law, the version approved by the Iraqi cabinet was leaked back in February to nary a whiff of recognition by the US media. And recently, official reports have estimated that Iraqi oil reserves may be double what the official reserve estimates previously claimed, with an additional 100+ billion barrels suspected in the al Anbar province where 5,000 US troops were sent as part of Bush "surge" tactic.

Kucinich further implicates his own Democratic Congress in this brazen imperial grab, which is threatening the Iraqis with actual withdrawal if they don't pass the Oil Law.
We have the Democratic Congress promoting President Bush's bill that provides for the privatization of Iraq's oil under the guise of a reconciliation program, that tells the Iraq government that unless they agree to privatize their oil, that we're going to pull our troops out and not put replacement troops and peacekeepers in.
It has come as a cynical non-surprise that the Iraq Oil Law is "one of four major benchmarks [the White House] would like the Iraqi government to meet before fall," with Secretary of Defense Gates and Secretary of State Rice flatly stating that the Iraqis "obviously have to pass an oil law." What they never will say is just what this oil law will actually do. What you will hear is a lot of happy talk about how this wonderful Oil Law will reconcile the Iraq factions and that everyone will start sharing the wealth. At least what little wealth is left to them after the multinationals take what most expect will be a rather sizable chunk.

Though the original draft oil law specifically mentioned Production Sharing Agreements (PSA) with western oil interests and other unmentionables like 75% of the profits going to those interests, the oil law passed by the Iraqi cabinet was far more circumspect and merely provided that western oil executives or as the law cloying puts it, "executive managers of from [sic] important related petroleum companies," will sit on a Federal Oil and Gas Council (FOGC) and decide who gets what in an ad hoc process with no accountability.

What a scam.

FOB Vincenza

After pissing off the Russians over proposed missile defense sites in the Czech Republic and Poland, now the White House has infuriated Italians with yet more dispersed American military power. Swanson at AfterDowningStreet, with a righteous slam on the American media:
The U.S. government has proposed to make Vicenza, Italy, the largest US military site in Europe, but the people of Vicenza, and all of Italy, have sworn it will never happen.

As with the story of the Downing Street Minutes two years ago this week, a major news story and huge controversy in Europe right now is unknown to Americans, despite the fact that it is all about the policies of the American government. In February of this year, 200,000 people descended [1] on the Northeastern Italian town of Vicenza (population 100,000) to march in protest. Largely as a result, the Prime Minister of Italy was (temporarily) driven out of power. Meanwhile, just outside Vicenza, large tents now hold newly minted citizen activists keeping a 24-hour-per-day vigil and training hundreds of senior citizens, children, and families every day in how to nonviolently stop bulldozers. The bulldozers they are waiting for are American.

The conflict, should it come about, will be as surprising to American television viewers as were the attacks of 9-11, unless someone tells them ahead of time what is going on. This week a group of Italians is in Washington, D.C., attempting to do just that [2]. A group of Italian Members of Parliament also visited [3] Washington last month in opposition to the base.

To understand this story it is necessary to be aware of a few basic facts [4] that Americans are not supposed to be aware of, including that our military maintains several hundred bases in other people's countries, and that many of the residents of these countries resent the U.S. military presence. (Of course, the alleged planner of the murderous 9-11 attacks said he was reacting to U.S. bases on foreign soil, in that case in Saudi Arabia. The Bush Administration closed the offending bases.)

[more ...]

Saturday, May 05, 2007

How low will he go?

Bush approval hits all time low of 28 percent.
I guess you have to get down to a 2% approval rating before people start banging drums for your resignation. But Bush will never get that low. After six years of Bush buggering up literally everything, he has an entrenched and devoted base that still love the guy and think he can do no wrong. Just to give you an idea of how stubborn and blind these people really are, this is an even smaller number of people than that which believes the earth is six thousand years old, It seems likely that the remaining Bush supporters who claim to be "satisfied" with the president are simply a subset of the creationists and a damned intransigent subset at that.

Way back when

You know, Queenie, apart from those big English teeth, you're kinda cute.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Little boxes

Do you believe in magic?

[Update below]

One of the top "vote-getting" questions for Republican candidates coming from readers at The Politico was, "do you believe in evolution?" When asked if there was anyone on the stage who does not believe in evolution, three hands went up. There's your Bush-supporting 30%. The GOP simply will not abandon hapless illiterates. Of course, without them, they'd never win another election, which is why they cater to this lowest of denominators.

Incidentally, I think the "plug" for The Politico by the moderator was brilliant. By saying that this question was a "top vote getter" from readers at The Politico, he slyly pointed out those readers' facile and idiotic concerns. Nice one. Of course, "readers" of the Politico probably were pumped up by the recognition, which amounted to, "hey everyone, check out the idiots who read The Politico." I'm sure it flew right past them.

Update: Or maybe not. It turns out that there may have been a more transparent reason for the specific mention of The Politico during the debate last night. As Glenn Greenwald notes, the chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Reagan Library (where the debate was hosted), Frederick Ryan, is also president and CEO of The Politico. So much for a clever put down. It now looks more like the overt plug that it first appeared to be. Sigh.

By the way, read the whole Greenwald post, as it details the nefarious connections and background of those who came to fund The Politico, which now has all the appearances of a pure GOP propaganda machine (Augusto Pinochet even makes an appearance). Of course, it was not hard to figure that out just from the content alone.

Oil and gas

There was a great deal of discussion about the falling price of oil and gasoline, coming as it did in the weeks prior to the mid-term elections. People moderately inclined toward the misguided belief that oil companies have no control over prices, claimed that all of this was just a natural ebb and flow of the uncontrollable free market. While not claiming the fix was in, I certainly offered up abundant evidence that the fix could be in, if there were desire for it to be so.

Let's recall the situation then, which you can see in the graphs to the right. In July, 2006, the spot and futures price of oil was topping $77/bbl and gas was sloshing into tanks for $3+/gal. Oil prices then began a precipitous drop, this being explained away as the natural fall in demand at the end of "driving season." Gas prices likewise began to tilt downward, dropping from over $3/gal to less the $2.25/gal, a decline of 25%.

Shortly after the election, the numbers started to crawl back up the charts, though oil has remained rather stable lately, hovering around the mid-sixties for sometime now. Today, in fact, the Brent spot price dropped 1% to $65.02 and the NYMEX futures price remained at $63.19.

But there's something happening to gas prices that dependence on oil prices does not explain: they are rising. Nationally, gasoline has again topped $3/gal, while oil prices remain stagnant have hovered in the low to mid sixties since January.

Here we are now, with oil prices at $63/bbl and gasoline hitting $3/gal. when nine months ago, $77/bbl was bringing in $3/gal. gasoline. Oil that is almost $15/bbl cheaper is rendering the same $3 gasoline.

Now, tell me again that gasoline prices and oil prices track closely. They don't and there is a lot of wiggle room. There are other reasons for gas price fluctuations and all of those are under the control of the gasoline distributors, i.e. oil companies.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Let fly

Hotline posted this picture of one of several airplane banners being flown above the first Republican debate at the Reagan library. The planes were rented by Americans Against Escalation in Iraq.

I'm almost surprised a couple of F-16s didn't swoop in and escort them away, all while Giuliani squawked, "nine eleven, nine eleven." Such is the state of this country now that, not only is that conceivable, it is surprising that it didn't happen.

The banner reads, "Republicans, Mission Accomplished?"

Master and Commander Guy

Bored and listless after being The Decider for a few months, George Bush is thinking in new terms. Speaking about the congressional bill that set timetables for a projected withdrawal of troops, Bush decried civilians busying themselves with trying to end the war.
The question is, who ought to make that decision? The Congress or the commanders? And as you know, my position is clear — I’m the commander guy.
I really don't need to point out all the commanders Bush ignored until he found one who would execute his commander-guy plan. You already know about that.

Defining Diplomacy Down

When asked about issues Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice might raise with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki at this week's security conference on Iraq, which is being hosted by Egypt, President Bush said,
Should the foreign minister of Iran bump into Condi Rice, Condi won't be rude. She's not a rude person. I'm sure she'll be polite.
Ignoring for the moment the ridiculous conceit that Rice will merely "bump into" the Foreign Minister of Iran as though such an encounter will only occur on a trip to the bathroom, herein exposed, in three sentences, all that is wrong with George Bush and his administration.

Firstly, he doesn't even understand the question. Secondly, he doesn't understand the question because he is, first and exclusively, a simple and dull-minded bully. Thirdly, all he has surrounded himself with espouses the same Neanderthal mentality.

Or at least Bush thinks he has. So much so, that he is capable of believing that Rice would be rude if given the chance. But he's "sure" she won't be. That Bush believes he is reassuring us all, when in reality he is assuring no one but himself, is more revealing of himself, as the best of his gaffes usually are. Bush is probably the only person in the country capable of believing Condoleezza Rice would, or might be rude at an international conference on Middle East security. If he weren't, such a thought would not have entered his mind. Think of the question yourself; does an image of Condoleezza Rice being rude to the Iranian Foreign Minister in any way pop into your head?

But apparently Bush must reassure us on this, because you just never know what might fly out of Rice's potentially rude mouth. What Bush is showing us here is not what he thinks we think Rice capable of, but of what he thinks Rice -- or indeed any of his underlings -- capable. It is not a statement about Rice at all and in that regard Bush is displaying his usual antipathy for reality and reaffirms for us just how insulated and delusional he really is.

That Bush thinks the question about possible discussions with Iranian officials would amount to Rice being rude or not belays Bush's troubling sense of the world. He knows, of course, that his administration has been bullying the Iranians and they, in response, have bullied back. But that the President of the United States understands a question of diplomacy in the terms he has clearly demonstrated does not bode well for the remaining period of his presidency or prospects for an equitable solution regarding Iran's nuclear program.

So this is how we have been shown the attitude of Bush's White House toward diplomacy. It is nothing new, really. While the word "diplomacy" has come out of a lot of White House mouths, in practice, it has been rarely in evidence. Because what they think of as diplomacy has merely been attempts at not being rude while they march lock-step and unflinching toward the aims of a preset agenda. Anything else has been an unintended consequence.

Performance related issues

On a somewhat related topic to the post below, it probably won't come as any shock to learn that those Bush appointees in charge of the Walter Reed Hospital and directly responsible for the mistreatment being ladled onto wounded vets there and across the country have earned themselves some healthy bonuses. Big bonuses.
Months after a politically embarrassing $1 billion shortfall that put veterans' health care in peril, Veterans Affairs officials involved in the foul-up got hefty bonuses ranging up to $33,000.

The list of bonuses to senior career officials at the Veterans Affairs Department in 2006, obtained by The Associated Press, documents a generous package of more than $3.8 million in payments by a financially strapped agency straining to help care for thousands of injured veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The VA now sports the most generous bonuses in government, averaging $16K per year. This in an agency for which Bush and his Republican allies in Congress have proposed budget cuts almost every year of his presidency.

When Bush came to office, he was calling himself the CEO president. In Bush's deranged mind, this was supposed to comfort and soothe the American voter and allay concerns about how he would manage or mismanage the country. Of course, this went over well with his have and have-more base. But anyone familiar with Bush's previous performances in the private sector took Bush's "promise" as the warning it actually was. Nonetheless, Bush has performed as promised, mimicking the worst of recent corporate behaviour. He has bankrupted the country, engaged in accounting fraud to cover up the true costs of various programs, and rewarded his various stock holders with untold fortunes at the expense of the environment and the American public. And now, in the worst traditions of failing enterprises and on top of his shameful record of graft, corruption and fraud, his "CEO" administration rewards itself hefty bonuses even in the face of the worst possible failure to the American public: mistreatment of those sent to fight his bloody-minded, illegal war.

The next time someone tells you that they will be a "CEO president," consider yourself warned.

Veto Corleone

[Update below]

While the media seems content to allow Bush and the White House their usual bullhorn to label the Democrats as "defeatist" for the recently passed Iraq legislation, that all the Bush administration needs is "a chance" and everything will work out great, there are authoritative and less sanguine voices out there that the mainstream media seem determined to avoid hearing and, by implication, prevent the American public from hearing it. Though it doesn't make it any less infuriating, we're used to that by now.

After Bush took a beating from retired generals over his insistence that Rumsfeld remain Secretary of Defense, now at least two former commanding generals in Iraq are incensed that Bush vetoed the bill.
The President vetoed our troops and the American people. His stubborn commitment to a failed strategy in Iraq is incomprehensible. He committed our great military to a failed strategy in violation of basic principles of war. His failure to mobilize the nation to defeat world wide Islamic extremism is tragic. We deserve more from our commander-in-chief and his administration.
--Maj. Gen. John Batiste, USA, Ret.

This administration and the previously Republican controlled legislature have been the most caustic agents against America's Armed Forces in memory. Less than a year ago, the Republicans imposed great hardship on the Army and Marine Corps by their failure to pass a necessary funding language. This time, the President of the United States is holding our Soldiers hostage to his ego. More than ever apparent, only the Army and the Marine Corps are at war - alone, without their President's support.
--Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, USA, Ret.
But Bush has managed to purge the ranks of disgruntled generals who have watched the Bush administration ride roughshod over the troops and bring the US military to near the breaking point. As fewer and fewer people with minimal military qualifications are choosing to sign up for Iraq deployments ad infinitum -- this is a long war, don't cha know -- recruiting standards have been lowered, moral waivers are on the rise, the mercenary trade booms, and wounded vets -- those citizens who ought to receive the very best of care from the "wealthiest nation on earth" -- are slipped out the door and hustled on their debilitated way.

Even the mob takes better care of their own than the pricks currently inhabiting the White House.

Update: More, many more generals have piped up:
With this veto, the president has doomed us to repeating a terrible history. President Bush's current position is hauntingly reminiscent of March 1968 in Vietnam. At that time, both the Secretary of Defense and the President had recognized that the war could not be won militarily - just as our military commanders in Iraq have acknowledged. But not wanting to be tainted with losing a war, President Johnson authorized a surge of 25,000 troops. At that point, there had been 24,000 U.S. troops killed in action. Five years later, when the withdrawal of U.S. troops was complete, we had suffered 34,000 additional combat deaths.
--Lt. Gen. Robert Gard (USA Ret.)

Almost 5 years ago, Congress trusted the President enough to give him the power to transform Iraq. Bush violated that trust and deceived us with a misuse of force. Today, the President violated the trust of the American people, our troops, and their families by vetoing this bill and not choosing to do what is right. He has let us down.
--Brigadier General John Johns (USA, Ret.)

The rhetoric of Congress not supporting our troops is pure "hogwash". The real non support of our troops is the Presidential Veto. Vetoing this Bill sends a message to our troops, that the President will fund them to fight but is not concerned about returning them to their families.
--Maj. Gen. Mel Montano (USANG, Ret)

By vetoing this bill and failing to initiate an immediate and phased withdrawal, the President has effectively gone AWOL, deserting his duty post, leaving American forces with an impossible mission, suffering wholly unnecessary casualties."
--Lt. Gen. William E. Odom (USA, Ret.)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Cheney, Libby and nukes, oh my!

Luke Ryland, whose home is normally at Wot is it good 4, has branched out with a great article at Raw Story about Cheney, Libby, various other war agitators and their complicity in facilitating Pakistan's illicit nuclear weapons program. Ryland interviewed former CIA analyst Richard Barlow, who monitored Pakistan's nuclear program during the Reagan administration.

By "great," of course, I mean infuriating beyond measure.

May day, may day

Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to loose but your chains!
This morning, on NPR, I heard the upbeat declaration by the NPR announcers that today was May Day, a world-wide labour day celebrated almost everywhere but the United States. I wondered if he understood just why that was, what it meant or if he was even aware of its significance at all.

Happy May Day to all short-shrifted, working stiffs everywhere.

Patents and piracy

Is it just me, or does this seem ... at odds?

Yesterday, The US Supreme Court ruled that Microsoft is not liable for patent infringement of AT&T software when the software is sold overseas in places like China.
The Supreme Court sided with Microsoft Corp. on Monday, finding that U.S. patent law doesn't apply to software sent to foreign countries.

In a 7-1 decision, the court rejected AT&T's position that it is entitled to damages for every Windows-based computer manufactured outside the United States using technology that compresses speech into computer code.
Today, the Bush administration threatened to flex some muscle toward countries, like China, that violate copyright and other intellectual property protections.
China, Russia and 10 other nations were targeted by the Bush administration for failing to sufficiently protect American producers of music, movies and other copyrighted material from widespread piracy.
The Supreme Court's reasoning in the Microsoft case is entirely bizarre -- software is like a "blueprint"?
The Supreme Court said software should be treated like exported blueprints and schematics....
However, the difference between the two situations is one of legality. Patent law has never been considered to be enforceable beyond borders. But the Bush administration is not approaching this from a legalistic perspective. They know piracy is happening. They and the companies for which they are acting want it stopped and they're willing to impose sanctions to stop it (Would they require China to stop Microsoft from using AT&T software? You'd think AT&T would have a little pull here considering how accommodating they've been of Bush's NSA black-ops domestic surveillance program.)

But these back-to-back episode demonstrate a rather conflicted view of things, which other countries, like China, will no doubt find puzzling. On the hand, one American company can pirate another American company's software and be absolved of infringement because the software was sold in China. At the same time, the Bush administration is threatening sanctions against China for piracy of American produced "software." The piracy of movies and music is no different than piracy of software, which is also huge in Asia. You can buy any kind of software you want in Bangkok or Shanghai -- Microsoft Office, Photoshop, etc. -- for pennies on the dollar. I'm sure that the White House considers pirated software, eg. games, as much a part of the foreign offense as music and movies. The real difference is that this is a situation in which Chinese companies are stealing from American companies and not one in which one US outfit is ripping off another.

There are obvious legalistic issues involved but the two situations still appear entirely at odds and ultimately makes US outrage at piracy look, if not disingenuous, then at least conflicted. It's only bad when someone else is doing it, an attitude we find redolent in much of American foreign and trade policy. American firms will happily use loopholes like China to skirt IP law and get the Supreme Court's blessing for doing so. But when the Chinese are doing it directly, well, there will be hell to pay.