Monday, April 30, 2007

Recursion

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday he does not consider himself "embattled" and is not considering resigning.
A day after appearing before a frustrated Senate Judiciary Committee, beleaguered U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales continues to resist calls for his resignation over his role in the firings of eight federal prosecutors.
World Bank President Paul D. Wolfowitz, defending his role in a pay increase and promotion for his girlfriend, told a special bank panel today that he "acted transparently" and in good faith, and he said he has no plans to resign....
[Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert vowed to remain in office despite calls for his resignation from coalition partners as well as opponents.
Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Grilling time

World Bank Panel to Grill Wolfowitz

It's what's for dinner.

Do as I say, not ...

The "DC madam" prostitution story, which has now led to the resignation of Deputy Secretary of State, Randall Tobias, is unimportant in the grand scheme of things but further serves as a reminder of the Republican ethos permeating the administration. Though frankly, I don't need anymore reminders of this. And I'm sure many have grown just a little weary of the constant stream of reminders of Republican sanctimony and hypocrisy this White House keeps hosing us with.

As Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance, Tobias was to coordinate Bush's 2003 AIDS initiative and came to the Bush administration from Big Pharma; he is chairman emeritus at Eli Lilly. But undermining the Global Fund to fight AIDS by refusing lowered drug prices for Africa was only one of Tobias' functions. He also insisted on prerequisites that countries receiving foreign aid not distribute condoms to prostitutes, denounce prostitution, and encourage abstinence-only education. In fact, under Tobias and his previous repellent incarnation, Andrew Natsios*, the US government has cut funding for condom distribution across the continent, which led to the expected rises in infection rates. Some countries that have seen dramatic reductions in HIV infection rates under condom distribution programs have actually refused US aid that comes attached with Bush's Victorian prescriptions of chastity and virtue, qualities that the Bush administration obviously and wholly lacks itself.

As an administration as vastly perverted as this one and considering all the other federal investigations this White House has sought to obstruct through the attorney purge, one would think they might at least have had the wherewithal to keep the Feds off the back of the woman who runs a prostitution ring of which their own staff have availed themselves. But then sanctimony is like that.


* Interestingly, Natsios was appointed Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development with little or no experience for the post. Perhaps it was reasoned by the Bush administration that US Aid would require someone who could run big projects; Natsios was previously "in charge" of Boston's Big Dig project, which may help to explain the incompetence witnessed at that project.

But no, that is probably not the thinking. Natsios was buddies with Andrew Card, who was then White House chief of staff. That's the one and only job requirement at the Bush administration. Once you're in with that crowd, then it's party time and all the hookers you can handle.


The Bush administration

Brian Ross revealed tonight that the list of customers of an alleged Washington-based prostitution service includes White House and Pentagon officials as well as prominent attorneys.

“There are thousands of names, tens of thousands of phone numbers,” Ross said. “And there are people there at the Pentagon, lobbyists, others at the White House, prominent lawyers — a long, long list.” Ross added that the women who worked for the service, potentially as prostitutes, “include university professors, legal secretaries, scientists, military officers.”

On Friday, Ross broke the news that U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Randall Tobias had frequented the escort service. Ross added new details to that story tonight, recounting how he asked Tobias in a telephone interview “if he knew any of the young women, their names. He said he didn’t remember them at all. He said it was like ordering pizza.” Under President Bush, Tobias oversaw a program helping men in poor countries “develop healthy relationships with women.”
So, we've had -- still have -- military officers and university professors working as prostitutes for clients in the White House, various GOP lobbyists and the Pentagon. It's really all one big family-values happy family.

Fox News: "I'm not making this up"

This is from a couple of days ago, but it is, nonetheless, instructive.

Think Progress reported that Fox News claimed that a fake Onion-like story from the folks at Associated Content was the real thing. In other words, the phony story about the establishment of an "anti-ham response plan" at a school wherein students had taunted Muslims peers with a ham steak was believed by the clowns at Fox. They reportedly checked in on-line, no doubt consulting the wisdoms of Instaputz and Michelle Malkin. To the folks at “Fox & Friends” that was all that needed checking.

Without a doubt, the item is laden with schadenfreud, as the spoof-suckers went on to proclaim that they couldn 't believe it; that it sounded like it was "almost from The Onion." Howls of protest emanated from the multitude of dumb-asses in front of the camera and on the screen: "I'm not making this up," was the theme of the morning outrage.

No. Someone else did.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

There's worse and then there's worse

Yeah, I know this is easy:

CHENEY: The important thing here to understand is that the people that are at Guantanamo are bad people. I mean, these are terrorists for the most part. These are people that were captured in the battlefield of Afghanistan or rounded up as part of the Al Qaeda network. We've already screened the detainees there and released a number, sent them back to their home countries. But what's left is hard core.

HANNITY: About 550 people.

CHENEY: That's right.


The people, for example, in Guantanamo Bay, are Osama bin Laden's bodyguards. They're suicide bombers. They're terrorists. They're murderers and these are bad people. These are not good people.
--Donald Rumsfeld,
June 26, 2005


More than a fifth of the approximately 385 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been cleared for release but may have to wait months or years for their freedom because U.S. officials are finding it increasingly difficult to line up places to send them, according to Bush administration officials and defense lawyers.

Since February, the Pentagon has notified about 85 inmates or their attorneys that they are eligible to leave after being cleared by military review panels. But only a handful have gone home, including a Moroccan and an Afghan who were released Tuesday. Eighty-two remain at Guantanamo and face indefinite waits as U.S. officials struggle to figure out when and where to deport them, and under what conditions.
-- Washington Post,
April 29, 2007
Down to 300 of the "worst of the worst."

Public acknowledgement of old news

Not that this is news, but Senator Durbin publicly acknowledges just why Condoleezza Rice is going to resist the Congressional subpoena, while George Tenet's self-serving, finger-pointing book further confirms what has long been known.

Friday, April 27, 2007

An Army of Dumb

This is staggering. Right wing, anti-immigrant xenophobia has penetrated the US Army. Not surprising, I guess, considering how much right wing, Christianist fundamentalism has also penetrated that organisation.
The commander of New Mexico's National Guard is demanding an apology from the Army brass after dozens of his soldiers in a mostly Hispanic unit were ordered to strip to their gym shorts and searched for gang tattoos while on duty in Kuwait.
Army brass say no harm, no foul; it was all perfectly reasonable to assume that a group of Hispanic National Guardsmen might be gang bangers. How's that for a morale booster?


[h/t Cernig]

Trotting out al Qaeda

[Update below]

It is always amusing to watch the Bush administration being licked by flames of recrimination. This certainly has been true lately, despite various media organs trying to cover for them. The Tillman and Lynch testimonies were only the latest in an ongoing rush of bad news for Bush. So, you just had to know some vital announcement was in the offing. Right?

Well, here it is. The Pentagon hastily trots out another captured, "high value" al Qaeda operative. But it is not an grand announcement of capture. al Hadi is merely be transferred from one military prison to another. The Washington Post, however, sees fit to portray the transfer as a recent capture with an entirely misleading headline:
Al Qaeda operative in U.S. custody
What does that make the story sound like?
An Iraqi al Qaeda member accused of assassination plots against Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and other attacks was transferred by the CIA to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo this week, the Pentagon said on Friday.

Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi was also accused of commanding al Qaeda's paramilitary operations in Afghanistan and launching attacks on U.S. and coalition forces from Pakistan, the Defense Department said.
We've seen this often enough, though you'd think by now the military would get their story straight before making these announcements.
One U.S. government official said al-Hadi was captured by the CIA, but another said he was first in military custody and given to the CIA for interrogation.
Even more amusing still is that the acutal capture of al Hadi probably occurred years ago, while WaPo would have readers think it has just occurred, at least from the headline. No one knows for sure because the Pentagon won't say when they captured him:
The Pentagon would not say when he was captured.

Some security analysts previously said the U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan captured al-Hadi in 2001, but the Defense Department on Friday accused him of providing leadership and reconnaissance support in attacks on U.S. forces as late as 2003.
According to Global Security, there is confidence that al-Hadi was captured in January, 2002.

Once again, we are being treated to the sight of the American media serving as a vehicle for White House/Pentagon propaganda designed to distract us from current imbroglios -- and there are a lot of them -- and make it seem like the military is winning, or at least not losing, the War on Terror™ by announcing the mere transfer of a years-long captured prisoner to Guantanomo Bay.

Freedom of the press. That really has a weird sound to it these days.


Update: Well, it seems that, rather than recognizing the Washington Post headline for it was, other major outlets are jumping on the propaganda bandwagon and declaring that the US has "nabbed" an al Qaeda operative, this from Murdoch's reliable network of dull-witted bridge trolls. The Voice of America is claiming that Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi was captured last year rather than the generally believed time of January, 2002. The NY Times jumps in with a blaring headline much like the Washington Post's, noting as well that the Pentagon refuses to say when he was actually captured. How the VOA comes by its "information" is not clear.

The buck stops ... over there

Regarding recent testimony on Capitol Hill that described the lies told by the Pentagon about the circumstances of Pat Tillman's death, White House spokesperson, Dana Perino, said that President Bush "hopes" that people in the Defense Department are "held to account." Yes, the United States Commander in chief, a title Bush never elides when speaking about being a "war president," has a concerted hope that someone, somewhere in the bowls of his military organisation will be held accountable for orchestrating a cover-up of Tillman's death.

I believe this was his sentiment when he said he hoped an investigation into the Plame leak would expose the culprits.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Floating freely

Briefly released from the bounds of a force he has spent his life studying, Stephen Hawking got a little relief from his wheelchair existence:
Free of his wheelchair and tethered only to heart rate and blood pressure monitors, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking on Thursday fulfilled a dream of floating weightless on a zero-gravity jet, a step he hopes leads to further space adventures.

The modified jet carrying Hawking, a handful of his physicians and nurses, and dozens of others first flew up to 24,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean off Florida. Nurses lifted Hawking and carried him to the front of the jet, where they placed him on his back atop a special foam pillow.

The jet then climbed to around 32,000 feet and made a parabolic dive back to 24,000 feet, allowing Hawking and the other passengers to experience weightlessness for about 25 seconds.
After four decades of gravity glomming onto his frail frame, that must have felt good.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds, – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless falls of air...
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor eer eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high, untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
-- John Gillespie Magee,
pilot, RCAF

Nobody suffers better

Curry: You know the American people are suffering....

Laura Bush: Oh, I know that, very much. And believe me, no one suffers more than their president and I....
-- Today Show,
April 25, 2007

Oh, if only that were true, because in reality,
I must tell you, I'm sleeping a lot better than people would assume.
-- George Bush,
December, 2006

Can't you read the signs?

If you read one thing about how the "surge" is working out, Andrew North delivers the bleak news. Which is to say, "there are no signs of change."

Of course, this only means that we will need to stay ... longer.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Robocalls puzzle RoboTimes

The most immediately obvious and glaring omission in the NY Times story about the so-called "robocalls" that were seen prior to the November elections is how the story's author, Susan Saulny, manages to make it the whole way through without once mentioning anyone's party affiliation, except when noting that Republican lawmakers have grown angered by the sleazy tactic. That is a pretty remarkable feat in our current political climate, so one is forced to conclude that Saulny's omission was conscious and intentional.

Right off the bat, Sulany must confess that State investigators are "trying to figure out" who was behind the aggressive use of robocalls in Nebraska that may ultimately have kept Democrat Scott Kleeb from winning the election, after having led in the polls just prior.
State investigators here are still trying to figure out who sabotaged Scott Kleeb’s campaign for Congress last November with a barrage of automated telephone calls to voters. The unauthorized calls, officials said, distorted Mr. Kleeb’s views and even used a recording of his voice — sometimes arriving in the middle of the night — with the greeting: “Hi, this is Scott Kleeb!”
While it may be true that, as a matter of evidence, investigators do not "know" who was behind the irritating robocalls, rest assured, everyone really does know. Is this really that fucking hard to figure out? But Ms. Saulny won't tell readers the obvious affiliations. Kleeb was the Democratic candidate for Nebraska's 3rd district and nowhere in the story does Sualny mention this. Now, a robocall campaign in which Nebraska voters were called 20 times a day and makes Kleeb appear to be the offending party; hmmm, who could be behind such a scheme?

The Times' story goes on to describe how various states' lawmakers have grown rather irked by these negative tactics. If her job was make the robocall tactic appear bipartisan, well, Saulny certainly managed that on its face. But in doing so, Saulny actually achieves to opposite for her media outlet: she manages to make the NY Times look partisan. And not toward the Democrats nor the truth behind the matter. But then we're already used to that. What struck me was just how blatant this latest effort to wash over GOP dirty election tricks came across. Nowhere in this article does Saulny inform readers of what actually went on prior to the election. Nowhere do the words "National Republican Congessional Committee" make an appearance, either together or separately.

In fact, it was widely reported that in the days leading up to the November elections, the National Republican Congressional Committee had contracted at least two companies to perform robocall campaigns in at least 20 tightly contested districts around the country. One company was Direct Strategies, which was paid $3500 by the NRCC for phone banking in Kleeb's district in Nebraska, the very place where Sualny tells us investigators are puzzling over the calls. The other comapny was Conquest Communications, which made between $1500 and $7000 per district for the robocall campaign, bought and paid for by the NRCC. (Incidentally, the $1500 was charged for Kentucky's 2nd district, all others were far more expensive that this. Not a lot of phones in Kentucky, I guess.)

The NY Times has been on a long term mission painting the American electoral system as perfectly fine; just something with a few bipartisan and benign hick-ups. They have editorially chosen to attack those who have questioned election results or otherwise produced evidence that the elections in 2000, 2002, 2004 and now 2006 experienced major problems, problems that were the direct result of electoral malfeasance on the part of partisan Republican operatives like Kenneth Blackwell. Oftentimes, at least when the NY Times is not ignoring these problems completely, they paint highly qualified experts as conspiracy theorists. It is an established fact that the Republican party bought and paid for a nation-wide robocall campaign designed to annoy voters away from the Democratic candidates. The latest news coming out of Ohio should be raising sirens at major news outlets but, in reality, not a word is coming out about the fact that Republican National Committee computers were serving election results in November, 2004, while Blackwell had the Ohio State government's web servers redirect traffic to the RNC machines.

But at the NY Times, laze is the order of the day and nothing is out of the ordinary in this country's electoral system; just a few bipartisan tricks, nothing that Republican lawmakers won't get fixed. My only question for the NY Times editors is, why bother with nonsense like this? Oh, I know, you're part of the corporate machine that must insist American democracy is healthy but, really, a worthless piece of crap like Saulny's story only makes you look bad.

[for another hit on NY Times propaganda, check out Chris Floyd's latest about the anarchy in Somalia story.]

Abramoff investigation faces DeLay

Tom DeLay has been out of the news lately, except for Fox News tour of his "book." But you had to know this was on the horizon, an horizon that looks decidedly closer these days:
The federal probe into corruption related to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff could be inching closer to former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay of Sugar Land as investigators focus on a former DeLay chief of staff who later employed the Republican leader's wife.What is amazing is that the Feds are pressing the investigation.
Apparently, Rove and Gonzales didn't entirely purge the DoJ bureaucracy of anyone but "loyal Bushies." Of course, it may be the case that there was no love lost between the Bush White House and the Bugman, despite DeLay's efforts for the Republican majority. The White House regarded DeLay as "a bull in a china shop," while DeLay had little respect for Bush's boy, Karl Rove.
DeLay thinks of Karl as a former mail vendor, not some great guru.
This development comes on top of the Texas state indictment of DeLay for money laundering and violations of Texas campaign law.

Keep piling it on.

Tumble down

Record high for the Dow today, while the US dollar suffers further (see below).
The dollar ended the day at its lowest level ever in the history of a trade-weighted basket of seven major currencies tracked by the Federal Reserve for the past 34 years.

The dollar also neared a record low versus the euro after a government report showed that sales of new homes undershot expectations in March, backing a view that a faltering housing market will lead the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates.

It must be spring, impeach blossoms are everywhere

The articles of impeachment against Richard B. Cheney, introduce to the House by Kucinich. House speaker Nancy Pelosi now has phones set up to take calls supporting impeachment proceedings. Give them a call at 202-225-0100. I'm sure there will be a bit of a wait, as all operators will probably be busy with other callers. Please, stay on the line and one of the operators will be with you as soon as possible.

A spectrum of investigation

Karl Rove is to be investigated by the head of the Office of Special Counsel, Scott J. Bloch. People have cheered, hooray! about time! What is not generally being discussed -- at least so far -- is that Scott J. Bloch is himself under investigation by inspector general of the Office of Personnel Management. Bloch has been accused by employees within the Office of doing what almost every other administration agency has been doing; covering their tracks, whitewashing problems and media control. One employee said that Bloch tried to
dismantle the agency, illegally barred employees from talking to the news media and reduced a backlog of whistle-blower complaints by simply discarding old cases.
So, a "loyal Bushie" who has marginalized and politicized the Office of Special Counsel with a purge of his own is going to be the guy the White House will use to "investigate" Karl Rove for his involvement in marginalizing and politicizing the US Attorney purge. That should work out well for the White House.

Just as a refresher, the AP recently composed a highly entertaining list of investigated, indicted and/or convicted Bush administration officials -- current and former -- which is entirely separate from all the congressional Republicans who have been investigated, indicted and/or convicted.
--Scooter Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice...

-- Alberto Gonzales, facing congressional investigations into his role in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys...

-- Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank and a former deputy defense secretary, facing an inquiry into allegations of cronyism after having arranged a State Department job and large pay raise for his girlfriend.

-- J. Steven Griles, an oil and gas lobbyist who became deputy Interior Secretary J., last month became the highest-ranking Bush administration official convicted in the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal...

-- David H. Safavian, was convicted last year of lying to government investigators about his ties to Abramoff

-- Roger Stillwell, a former Interior Department official, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge for not reporting tickets he received from Abramoff.

-- Sue Ellen Wooldridge, the top Justice Department prosecutor in the environmental division until January, bought a $980,000 beach house in South Carolina with ConocoPhillips lobbyist Donald R. Duncan and oil and gas lobbyist Griles. Soon thereafter, she signed an agreement giving the oil company more time to clean up air pollution at some of its refineries.

-- Matteo Fontana, a Department of Education official who oversaw the student loan industry, was put on leave last week after disclosure that he owned at least $100,000 worth of stock in a student loan company.

-- Claude Allen, a former Bush domestic policy adviser, pleaded guilty to theft in making phony returns at discount department stores while working at the White house.

-- Philip Cooney, a former American Petroleum Institute lobbyist who became chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, acknowledged in congressional testimony earlier this year that he changed three government reports to eliminate or downplay links between greenhouse gases and global warming. He left in 2005 to work for Exxon Mobil Corp.

-- Darleen Druyun, a former Air Force procurement officer, served nine months in prison in 2005 for violating federal conflict-of-interest rules in a deal to lease Boeing refueling tankers for $23 billion, despite Pentagon studies showing the tankers were unnecessary. After making the deal, she quit the government and joined Boeing.

-- Eric Keroack, Bush's choice to oversee the federal family planning program, resigned from the post suddenly last month after the Massachusetts Medicaid office launched an investigation into his private practice.

-- Lurita Doan, head of the General Services Administration, is underinvestigation for violations of the Hatch Act.

-- Robert W. Cobb, NASA's inspector general is under investigation on charges of ignoring safety violations in the space program. An internal administration review said he routinely tipped off department officials to internal investigations and quashed a report related to the Columbia shuttle explosion to avoid embarrassing the agency.

-- Julie MacDonald, who oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service but has no academic background in biology, overrode recommendations of agency scientists about how to protect endangered species and improperly leaked internal information to private groups, the Interior Department inspector general said.
After all this prior and ongoing exposure of illegality, we now learn of yet another regulatory agency that, under Bush, doesn't like regulations at all. Bush appointed OSHA officials are now under investigation for ignoring workplace hazards.
The agency has killed dozens of existing and proposed regulations and delayed adopting others.
Dr. David Michaels, an occupational health expert, has this to say about the current version of OSHA:
The people at OSHA have no interest in running a regulatory agency. If they ever knew how to issue regulations, they’ve forgotten. The concern about protecting workers has gone out the window.
This administration is in desperate straights and under fire. The fact that they either cannot find someone in the administration who is not under investigation or in prison or have consciously decided to whitewash the decidedly bad scene over the attorney purge with a partisan Christianist hack and save Karl Rove's increasingly burdensome ass, demonstrates that they haven't quite figured out that Republicans aren't in the majority anymore. But if one things is clear from all of this, it is that the band of criminals currently occupying the White House have a much different idea of what the word, "administration" means than what has generally been accepted.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Falling houses, falling dollars

Fred Cederholm has a rather intriguing article about the strength demonstrated in various markets lately and the concurrent shocks the US dollar has been experiencing. Indeed, it has been a puzzling run, given that there appears to be no "noteworthy triggering event" that would have sparked such market enthusiasm, especially as it comes on the heels of that whopper downturn spurred by the drop in Asian markets a few weeks ago.
last week the US equity markets experienced a buying frenzy. Last Friday, the Dow Industrials closed at 12,961.98 (up 158.35 for the day), the NASDAQ closed at 2,526.39 (up 21.04 for the day), and the Standard and Poor’s 500 closed at 1,484.35 (up 13.62 for the day). Crude oil closed at $63.38 and gold closed at $695.80.
Cederholm wonders who was doing the buying and with what. At this point, one can't help but note the pounding the US dollar has been taking, with the Euro hitting an all time high and the Sterling popping over $2. That spells one thing: one or many dollar holders are buying equity and using dollars to do it. And, as Cederholm also points out, there is fundamental distaste on world markets for how the American economy is being run.
This downward activity by the US buck was fully understandable. The US government and the American public continue to live well beyond their means – underwriting their profligate spending on the largesse of foreigners. The US National Debt topped $ 8.882 TRILLION on Friday. The National Debt has continued to increase an average of $1.56 billion per day since September 29, 2006!
The US dollar is the de facto world trade currency. It has been since 1971, when the US dollar was declared a fiat currency, unbacked by anything other than demand. That demand was secured by an agreement between OPEC (really, Saudi Arabia) and the US government to use US dollars for oil trading. But, as I've pointed out before, that precarious situation is experiencing some perturbations, as all the major dollar holders have indicated that they will be "diversifying" their assets away from the dollar. Cederholm points out that the increased price of oil today
is almost completely explainable by the erosion in value of the dollar relative to the POUND or the EURO. It may be claimed that the Dollar is still the “official” currency of the energy markets, the facts show otherwise.
Furthermore, our ratcheting trade deficit is swamping countries with US dollars, dollars that are falling in value. The trade deficit right now creates an outflow of $2.2 billion per day.
This has been going on for quite a while, so it should come as no shock that there are at least four geo-political entities which have accumulated dollar holding in excess of a TRILLION, EACH! These are the Chinese, the Japanese, the EURO (currency) zone, and the Arab OPEC’s. When you sit on that huge a block of Dollars, do you continue to hold them – watching them erode in value, or do you try to convert them to something else?
All of this buying is completely opaque, so no one really knows who is actually making the markets flush while the dollar tumbles. But it looks pretty obvious. And do not ignore the fact that each of these "geo-political entities" opposes US foreign policy in general and especially as regards Iraq and Iran.

But the continued slide of the greenback is not the only economic woe threatening to derail the American dream as news today indicates that existing home sales dropped 8.4% in the month of March. Furthermore, median home prices dropped 0.3% for the month and have been doing so for eight contiguous months, an unprecedented stretch of decline.

This should alarm almost everyone -- and it is -- and the real reasons for it ought to be admitted. But they aren't. We're still being treated to the insight of "analysts" telling us that, while they don't really "know" what is going on, it must have been bad weather that kept home sales down. But they don't then explain why the previous low month for sales was June of 2004. Too hot, I guess. Americans sure are fickle when it comes to their home-buying weather conditions.

The loss of home equity, most of which now is the hallucinated result of inflationary pressure, is perhaps the only source of "wealth" most Americans actually have. And this loss started about the time the American public began to enjoy a negative savings rate for the time since the Depression. This does not make for a happy future scenario for many people: no savings, a falling dollar, rising oil prices, and now, loss of the hallucinated wealth generated by a housing bubble everyone knew would, if not pop, at least deflate.

The whole melange is starting to have a fairy tale quality, paired as that always is with an expected happy ending. Of course, American life has been marketed that way for decades and only the most cynical among us would chafe at the notion of better living through square footage and mortgage debt. But no matter how much we want to believe it, Disney will not produce the history of the United States. When not completely ignoring the economic tsunami rolling in, we and our estimable political class pretend these ominous signs are not signs at all. It's the weather. Rail against foreigners, foreign lands and pony up for that sweet new Toyota. Everything is grand. Buy stuff, blame the Chinese for selling it to us and keep on truckin'.

Oh, and remember, we invaded Iraq for the democracy.

Tales from Iran

In a fine turn that demonstrates a far greater grasp of reality than that which his now irksome brother seems to clutch, Peter Hitchens delivers a fascinating and discursive tale about his travels in Iran and his interactions with the Iranian people. More of this sort of reporting about the reality on the ground is what Americans need to see. Which means, of course, that it is exactly the kind of story the Bush administration does not want them know.

Hitchens' conclusion:
By threatening Iran, we only help its rulers keep the wavering support of their people and strengthen their alliance with Muslim hardliners elsewhere.

Iran is not a serious threat to us, and if we treat it as one we will be tumbling into yet another foolish trap, devised by silly, ignorant politicians, from which it will take decades to escape.

Read it all. More on his daily travels throughout Iran, where he presents his dairy of the trip.


[via Cernig at the revamped Newshoggers]

Monday, April 23, 2007

Birthday wishes

Birthday shouts to Bill Shakespeare, Vladimir Nabokov, Sergei Prokofiev, Max Planck, J.M.W. Turner, Cervantes, Roy Orbison. Thanks, guys!

Game plan

As a citizen of this country -- any country -- what would one think about a situation in which a political party was reporting the results of an important and hotly contested election? Furthermore, what if that political party was the one in power? Undoubtedly, most citizens would find such a situation not just unacceptable but intolerable.

Well, that appears to have been exactly what happened during the 2004 presidential election. Unsurprisingly, the party in question is the GOP and the scene of the crime is Ohio. Steven Rosenfeld and Bob Fitrakis are reporting in The Free Press, with notable tips to epluribusmedia and Joseph Cannon's Cannonfire, the sordid details of some of what really went wrong in Ohio.
On Election Night 2004, the Republican Party not only controlled the vote-counting process in Ohio, the final presidential swing state, through a secretary of state who was a co-chair of the Bush campaign, but it also controlled the technology that allowed the tally of the vote in Ohio's 88 counties to be reported to the media and voters.
Those suspicious servers used by "White House officials" (really Republican party operatives working in the White House and being paid with tax payer money, just like the rest of the Bush administration) that have been revealed during the US Attorney purge investigation have also been found to have hosted the Ohio election results after those results were redirected from the Ohio government website to the GOP servers.
There is more than ample documentation to show that on Election Night 2004, Ohio's "official" Secretary of State website – which gave the world the presidential election results – was redirected from an Ohio government server to a group of servers that contain scores of Republican web sites, including the secret White House e-mail accounts that have emerged in the scandal surrounding Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s firing of eight federal prosecutors.

Recent revelations have documented that the Republican National Committee (RNC) ran a secret White House e-mail system for Karl Rove and dozens of White House staffers. This high-tech system used to count and report the 2004 presidential vote– from server-hosting contracts, to software-writing services, to remote-access capability, to the actual server usage logs themselves – must be added to the growing congressional investigations.

Numerous tech-savvy bloggers, starting with the online investigative consortium epluribusmedia.org and their November 2006 article cross-posted by contributor luaptifer to Dailykos, and Joseph Cannon's blog at Cannonfire.blogspot.com, outed the RNC tech network. That web-hosting firm is SMARTech Corp. of Chattanooga, TN, operating out of the basement in the old Pioneer Bank building. The firm hosts scores of Republican websites, including georgewbush.com, gop.com and rnc.org.
And things get decidedly worse.
The software created for the Ohio secretary of state’s Election Night 2004 website was created by GovTech Solutions, a firm co-founded by longtime GOP computing guru Mike Connell. He also redesigned the Bush campaign's website in 2000 and told "Inside Business" magazine in 1999, "I wouldn't be where I am today without the Bush campaign and the Bush family because the Bushes truly are about family and I’m loyal to my network."
And no doubt the Bush campaign wouldn't be were it is today -- in the White House again -- without the efforts of the indebted and chummy Mike Connell, an obvious "loyal Bushie" in the right place at the right time. After Walter O'Dell's damning pronouncements about delivering Ohio to Bush, it is amazing these people say shit like this. Perhaps there really is an overweening sense of invincibility within the GOP. Of course, when the Democrats are your "opposition," how can one not have such a sense? Because check out just some of the odd occurrences in an election that was said to have been "clean."
On Election Night 2004, many of the totals reported by the Secretary of State were based on local precinct results that were impossible. In Clyde, Ohio, a Republican haven, Bush won big after 131 percent voter turnout. In Republican Perry County, two precincts came in at 124 percent and 120 percent respectively. In Gahanna Ward 1, precinct B, Bush received 4,258 votes despite the fact that only 638 people voted for president. In Concord Southwest in Miami County, the certified election results proudly proclaimed at 679 out of 689 registered voters cast ballots, a 98.55 percent turnout. FreePress.org later found that only 547 voters had signed in.
These are irregularities that have been extremely well documented. Our media ignores these facts and disparages those who won't. The cowering Democrats, too afraid of being called sore losers, won't press it. But if the Democrats don't wake up to what is and has been going on here and admit, at least to themselves, that they are doomed without countering this siege of the electoral system, they and we will be doomed to GOP control until they do. There now seems to some inkling on the part of the Democrats now that the US Attorney purge has revealed the lengths to which the GOP will go in order to maintain power.

And don't believe for one odor-free moment that November was an indication that everything is just fine. It is wasn't and isn't right now. Karl Rove and the rest of the operatives simply weren't prepared for both a deep and wide rejection of their party. They still tossed 3 million votes and vote totals were, once again, completely at odds with exit polls, polls that matched pre-election polls very well. Those exit polls indicated that Democrats should have won between 35 and 50 seats. The Democrats ended with +31 seats and, how odd, 7 of 10 undecided seats were finalised in favour of the GOP by the slimmest of margins in districts were huge voting problems were reported. Florida's contested 13th district is only one example, where 18,000 votes disappeared and the Republican was declared the winner by 373 votes.

The Democrats inability to confront this reality is truly puzzling. Yes, they take a pounding in the press, which more than happily bullhorn Republican complaints about the most tepid of Democrat complaints. It is not puzzling, however, if the Democrats really are just a front company for mobster Republicans; a facade designed to make American democracy appear to be at least somewhat legitimate. But even if this were the case, you'd think that even the Democrats would get a little tired of being called traitors all the time. Maybe that was part of the job description:
must appear to bristle at being called treasonous, which will occur frequently when your orchestrated criticisms are deflected by Republicans in the White House and Congress. Do not be alarmed by this name-calling. It is all just part of the act.
But again, as citizens of this country, we are not disposed toward a belief that this is what is really in place in our political system. And if it is not, why then would we or the Democrats tolerate the obvious problems and partisan nature of those who are counting the votes in this country's elections? Most Americans wouldn't if they actually knew anything about it. But with our corporatized media machine unwilling to shatter the myth of American democracy with reality, that oblivion will remain in place. Because as far as corporate America is concerned, your only real purpose here is to simply buy shit. And the less you know about what is really going on, the better.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Youtube Fire and brimstone

Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church are now offering up some Youtube evangelism with their marvelous message: God hates the world.

Oh, yeah.



I expect most people have a hard time imagining what kind of dull mind embraces shit like this. But it's the certitude of their odious convictions that remains the most disturbing aspect of these cretins.

By the way, these folks more than adequately reinforce the theory that the word "cretin" has its etymological roots in a medieval French dialect and derived from the word for "Christian."

Where things are rotten

Our current epoch's triumvirate of "Western oriented" warring nations, the US, the UK and Israel, share more than just an unhealthy blood lust and desire for continued conflict. The administrations of these countries, while endlessly spouting on about how they, through the vehicle of war, only wish to bring goodness to the world, also share a remarkable record of internal corruption that appears entirely orthogonal to the corruption redolent in the war-making process.

Firstly we have the Bush administration and various congressional lackeys, which have been embroiled in corruption and criminal scandals for quite sometime now. Despite the obvious politicization of the Justice Department the US Attorney purge in now revealing, so many congressional Republicans, enabling lobbyists, and administration officials have been investigated, indicted and convicted, it is difficult to keep track of them all. Tom DeLay, TRMPAC, Bob Ney, Randy Cunningham, Bill Frist, David Safavian, Jack Abramoff, Curt Weldon, Conrad Burns, John Doolittle, Kyle Foggo, Brent Wilkes, Mitchell Wade, Rick Renzi, Alberto Gonzales, ... well, you get the idea. Furthermore and directly on the heels of the attorney purge and the scuffle at the World Bank over Wolfowitz's covert cronyism, comes the latest imbroglio wherein Christopher J. Doherty and various other officials at the Department of Education are being investigated for making at least $1 million off the Reading First program of the No Child Left Behind Act by directing tax payer funds to ... themselves. All of this is quite apart from the innumerable investigations the Bush administration has weathered over various programs in pursuit of the War on Terror™, like illegal wiretapping, secret prisons, extraordinary rendition, torture, indefinite detention, etc. Things are decidedly rotten therein.

Then we have the Blair government, with Tony Blair and his Labour Party's cash for honours scandal. While relatively benign in comparison to the vast palette of grubby GOP efforts in tax payer money funneling and one party rule in the US, the scandal produced an unprecedented questioning of the British Prime Minister by police. Again, this sleazy little operation appears to be quite separate from the investigations of "sexed up" dossiers and phony intelligence used in the run-up to the war.

Finally, there is Prime Minister Olmert's government in Israel. In an ode to Republican operations, Olmert himself is under investigation for a shady land deal, accepting bribes and steering business to his lobbyist lawyer. Just a few months ago, his former justice minister, Haim Ramon, was convicted of "indecent behaviour," after forcing his unwanted attentions on a female soldier. Israel's attorney general intends to indict Israeli President Moshe Katsav for rape, sexual assault and fraud. And now, Olmert's finance minister, Avraham Hirchson, has agreed to step down during an investigation of embezzlement allegations while, at the same time, Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman was questioned by police about illegal primary funding and a related Cyprus bank account. This after Lieberman has already been questioned about ties to the Russian mafia. The parallels with the Bush and Blair governments continue as an investigation into Olmert's Lebanon war is expected to produce a damning report on the Prime Minister's conduct of that insidious debacle.

Quite a buffet of payola, racketeering, venality, and malfeasance has been laid out by these vanguards of "freedom and democracy," who never seem to miss an opportunity to remind us about the importance of the "rule of law." Then again, when one is capable of justifying illegal wars with lies, proclivities toward personal criminality seem only natural and entirely expected.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Magic Carpet

In 2001, The White House concierge asked George Bush what kind of rug he wanted in the Oval Office. Bush said,
Make sure the rug says, ‘Optimistic person comes to work.’
Feeling put upon by all the scandals and bad press swirling around his administration, George Bush set out to find some friendlier territory. Hard to come by these days, but apparently it can still be had in certain remote regions of Ohio. Tipp City, to be precise. There, Bush surrounded himself in a wash of admiration and, facing no challenges, proceeded to spout his usual soporific platitudes about steadfastness and resolve; he pays no attention to polls that say his governance is largely condemned. Except in Tipp City. He told the rapt Ohio halflings that history would vindicate him, despite the current, hostile feelings. Bush has been insisting on this eventual praise for himself for quite sometime now.

He then proceeded to discuss American prospects for winning in Iraq, though no one really knows what "winning" would actually mean there. Not to worry, though, he is still optimistic. He said,
Remember the rug?
Apparently, George has forsaken his direct line to God. Now, his rug tells him all he needs to know.

Stick in a thumb, pull out a plumb

Well, it's good to see the mainstream media is finally noticing just how much oil may be buried under Iraqi sand. The Financial Times notes that "the most comprehensive independent study" of Iraq's oil wealth indicates that there may be as much as 100 billion bbls of oil under the western deserts of al Anbar province, effectively doubling Iraq stated reserves.
Iraq could hold almost twice as much oil in its reserves as had been thought, according to the most comprehensive independent study of its resources since the US-led invasion in 2003.The potential presence of a further 100bn barrels in the western desert highlights the opportunity for Iraq to be one of the world’s biggest oil suppliers, and its attractions for international oil companies – if the conflict in the country can be resolved.
Oil executives are salivating at this prospect and have been for sometime. As IHS consultant Ron Mobed notes:
Obviously the security situation is very bad, but when you look at the sub-surface opportunity, there isn’t anywhere else like this. Geologically, it’s right up there, a gold star opportunity.
But this is not news. The potential of Iraq's Western Desert was reported on at least as far back as 2004 and this huge potential was surely known or suspected by the oil industry for sometime. Arom Roston discussed the Western Desert potential more than three years ago, when oil companies were already anxious to move in:
[Iraqi Oil Ministry executive] Ali Hammadi says many of the shoppers in this international oil bazaar were interested in a vast region known only as the "Western Desert"--inhabited by nomadic tribesman and virtually unexplored. The Western Desert is what one international oil consultant, his voice mockingly falling to a worshipful murmur, called the "Holy Grail" of the oil industry.
And cheap? Oh, yeah:
Iraqi oil is miraculously cheap to pump out of the ground, costing about a dollar a barrel. Iraqis in general seem to have a touch of pride about their oil. "It comes up to the ground," one man told me, smiling. "I've seen it seeping up." Another one laughed one day: "You put a pipe in the ground and oil comes out."
Back then, though, the Iraqi Oil Law was a pipe dream, or a pipeline dream if you prefer the obvious riff. Today, the Oil Law is on the verge of enactment, having already been agreed to by Maliki's cabinet. Whether al Sadr's withdrawal of his ministers will have an impact on the prospects for the Oil Law remains to be seen. The Iraqi Parliament is expected to be far more resistant to the thought of having Western oil interests oversee the distribution of oil contracts. More than a few Iraqis are well aware of what is in store with this Oil Law.

It's good to see that a mainstream publication is finally waking up to this story. Of course, they will doubtless continue to insist that the Oil Law is going to be great for Iraqis. And we can believe that, probably will believe it, because if we don't then the whole charade insists on the collapse of the "fighting evil doers" myth.

And we can't have that.

Onward and upward

Chris Bowers has compiled an interesting, if not unexpected set of numbers scraped from Iraq Coalition Casualties. It demonstrates an irrefutable and increasingly deadly trend:
According to Iraq Coalition Casualties, here are the coalition fatalities grouped by Friedman unit (half a year), since the start of the war:

3/21/03-9/19/03: 360 total, 1.97 per day
9/20/03-3/20/04: 327 total, 1.79 per day
3/21/04-9/19/04: 485 total, 2.65 per day
9/20/04-3/20/05: 527 total, 2.90 per day
3/21/05-9/19/05: 405 total, 2.21 per day
9/20/05-3/20/06: 421 total, 2.31 per day
3/21/06-9/19/06: 398 total, 2.17 per day
9/20/06-3/20/07: 561 total, 3.08 per day
3/21/07-current: 94 total, 3.24 per day

Alberto then and now

Then:



And now:

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The GOP "key state" project

I guess in some circles this might qualify as news. But not here. Nonetheless, a pretty hard hitting article from Mcclatchy.
For six years, the Bush administration, aided by Justice Department political appointees, has pursued an aggressive legal effort to restrict voter turnout in key battleground states in ways that favor Republican political candidates, according to former department lawyers and a review of written records.

The administration intensified its efforts last year as President Bush's popularity and Republican support eroded heading into a midterm battle for control of Congress, which the Democrats won....

Civil rights advocates contend that the administration's policies were intended to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of poor and minority voters who tend to support Democrats, and by filing state and federal lawsuits, civil rights groups have won court rulings blocking some of its actions....

The administration, however, has repeatedly invoked allegations of widespread voter fraud to justify tougher voter ID measures and other steps to restrict access to the ballot, even though research suggests that voter fraud is rare.

Since President Bush's first attorney general, John Ashcroft, a former Republican senator from Missouri, launched a "Ballot Access and Voter Integrity Initiative" in 2001, Justice Department political appointees have exhorted U.S. attorneys to prosecute voter fraud cases, and the department's Civil Rights Division has sought to roll back policies to protect minority voting rights.

On virtually every significant decision affecting election balloting since 2001, the division's Voting Rights Section has come down on the side of Republicans, notably in Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Washington and other states where recent elections have been decided by narrow margins.

Joseph Rich, who left his job as chief of the section in 2005, said these events formed an unmistakable pattern.

"As more information becomes available about the administration's priority on combating alleged, but not well substantiated, voter fraud, the more apparent it is that its actions concerning voter ID laws are part of a partisan strategy to suppress the votes of poor and minority citizens," he said.

Former department lawyers, public records and other documents show that since Bush took office, political appointees in the Civil Rights Division have:

• Approved Georgia and Arizona laws that tightened voter ID requirements. A federal judge tossed out the Georgia law as an unconstitutional infringement on the rights of poor voters, and a federal appeals court signaled its objections to the Arizona law on similar grounds last fall, but that litigation was delayed by the U.S. Supreme Court until after the election.

• Issued advisory opinions that overstated a 2002 federal election law by asserting that it required states to disqualify new voting registrants if their identification didn't match that in computer databases, prompting at least three states to reject tens of thousands of applicants mistakenly.

• Done little to enforce a provision of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act that requires state public assistance agencies to register voters. The inaction has contributed to a 50 percent decline in annual registrations at those agencies, to 1 million from 2 million.

• Sued at least six states on grounds that they had too many people on their voter rolls. Some eligible voters were removed in the resulting purges.

Nutshell

Shorter version of Gonzales' testimony today:
Q: Who, what, where, when, and why

Gonzales: I don't know. I wasn't in the loop. If I was in the loop, I cannot recall being in the loop, therefore I wasn't really in the loop. The reasons are sound and not political. I do not know what the reasons are, but I assure you, I do know what they are not, even though I wasn't in the loop.

The empath

Hey, anyone. Any idea how much longer this thing's gonna go on?


Inspiring

The march to idiocracy

survey respondents who seemed to know the most about what’s going on — who were able to identify major public figures, for example — were likely to be viewers of fake news programs like Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report”; those who knew the least watched network morning news programs, Fox News or local television news.

Only 69 percent of people in the latest survey could come up with Dick Cheney when asked to name the vice president; in 1989, 74 percent could name Dan Quayle. Fewer could name the governor of their state (66 percent now compared with 74 percent in 1989) and fewer could name the president of Russia (36 percent now compared with 47 percent before).

In 1989, fully 81 percent of people knew that the United States had a trade deficit; today, only 68 percent knew.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Alito's way

Lots of blog punditry has been the order of the day regarding the Supreme Court's decision upholding the partial birth abortion ban. I'm going to cut through the chaff and describe exactly why this decision means both nothing and everything and why the left and the right are respectively sad and mildly happy about it.

This decision will have no de facto impact most American women's lives. But those that it does impact will assuredly suffer for it.

Intact dilation and extraction is performed at a rate of less than 0.2% and then, the reasons for it are usually severe fetal injury and in utero death. This ban now means affected women will face greater threat from more dangerous procedures that D&X was designed to replace.

But as the left and right recognize, this decision is much more about paving the way for greater restrictions and challenges to Roe v. Wade. And they now will surely come. Hence the sadness on the left and joy, possibly muted, on the right. Remember when we all learned that Samuel Alito advocated an "incremental approach" to repealing Roe v. Wade?

One increment down, probably just a couple more to go.

I wonder how many women will die at the hands of this ridiculous agenda. Not to worry, though. Because the fine minds that brought this decision upon you also believe in angels and they think you will just flutter up to heaven. And wave.

The UN's unending tolerance

The shameful, ongoing Dafur crisis has more than highlighted the often ineffectual nature of the UN "Security Council," a cabal of nuclear powers largely beholden to their own agendas and policies rather than actually curbing international conflicts. While the invasion of Iraq was opposed by the UN Security Council, that did little to prevent Bush's illegal invasion. But Darfur appeared to be an humanitarian disaster no one but the government of Sudan controverted. Four years on, virtually nothing has happened. The carnage, pillage and rape continue apace.

It has been China that has opposed action against the monstrous regime of Omar al-Bashir. Just as the real reasons for the invasion of Iraq swirled around oil, so too is oil the reason the Chinese have demonstrated intransigence regarding sanctions against the Sudanese government for its central role in arming the militias that are causing the heart wrenching mayhem in Darfur. Naturally, al-Bashir has denied any role in the genocide.

But now the UN has delivered a damning report detailing Sudanese government operations, whereby Sudanese military cargo planes, painted white and stenciled with "UN," have been delivering embargoed arms and supplies to the very militias with which al-Bashir has denied involvement. And what is the reaction at the UN Security Council? Mild would be an euphemism for what in other contexts would be regarded as criminal negligence.

Acting US Ambassador to the UN, Alejandro D. Wolff, informs us that, within the hallowed body of the UN, there is a
rising frustration and a diminished tolerance toward Sudan,
and that members might be ready to
consider the need for other measures.
Now there's a bold prescription for immediate action. After four years of murder, plunder and rape, a pogrom by which some 200,000 people have been killed and another 2 million left destitute and on the run, some UN members now have a "diminished tolerance" toward this humanitarian nightmare. Which tells me one thing: there is still tolerance for it. Diminished, perhaps. But there nonetheless.

And these people think they are going to effectively address global warming? The sun will go nova and the UN will be "considering the need for other measures."

Anyone normally reading these pages knows that there is not a high regard for George Bush to be found here. And while he has done little to halt the Darfur disaster so far, Bush has been one of the few leaders who has spoken out strongly against al-Bashir and US diplomats have been very active in helping or trying to help the desperate refugees in the region. Bush is now promising to enact unilateral sanctions if Sudan does not halt this violence. This is not a tough call, really, because there is very little trade between the US and Sudan, which means it isn't that strong of a threat. Nonetheless, I do hope Bush isn't just grandstanding on an issue about which it is easy to grandstand. At the very least, such a move might spur a few other from their disgraceful tolerance of this terrible butchery.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Immediate action

While most reasonable people are loathe to draw hasty conclusions so soon after the horrifying events in Blacksburg, Virginia, spotty reports of the shooter's identity lend themselves to at least one action deserving prompt implementation: Michelle Malkin must be imprisoned immediately. She's of Asian descent, obviously unhinged and capable of who knows what mayhem. Quite possibly, she represents a threat to anyone in her immediate vicinity.

Given Malkin's advocacy of racial profiling and internment*, I'm sure she won't mind, knowing that her imprisonment would be a necessary step in preemptively protecting the public.



*For further information about the necessity of race-based internment, see In Defense of Internment: The Case for 'Racial Profiling' in World War II and the War on Terror, M. Malkin, Regnery Press, 2004. Now available for as little as $2.56.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Cost Benefit Analysis





[h/t Musings of a working Mom]

Gonzales testimony postponed in wake of school shooting

WASHINGTON - (ATS) The Senate Judiciary Committee today postponed the scheduled April 17 testimony of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, saying that testimony in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting would be inappropriate.

While reviewing his latest version of the truth, Gonzales was heard to say, "shooting? what shooting? Whatever it is, I was out of the loop. If documents later demonstrate that I was in the loop, then I will have no recollection."

The Attorney General's testimony is now slated for Thursday, April 19. This will allow Gonzales two extra days to prepare, during which time other versions of the truth will be rehearsed in order to see how well they hold up.

The Western Orient Express

We don't get it. We ... just ... don't ... get it.

By "we," I mean the policy wonks in Washington, the entire administration, military leaders and the population of this country in general.

Retired Marine Corps general, John J. Sheehan, posted an op-ed in The Washington Post today, describing why he refused to accept the newly minted "war czar" position, thought, no doubt by the White House, to be a way to rescue the failing efforts in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Sheehan's article has been met with fairly glowing admiration by Bush administration critics as evidence that, indeed, the White House really has no idea what they're doing, as though further confirmation of this were needed. But people like hearing that from a general. Sheehan's op-ed was clear, concise and reasonable. And entirely wrong-headed. And until we recognize why, the larger Middle East will be doomed to the now extant, nightmarish conditions, ad infinitum.

Contained within Sheehan's article was a statement that many or most people reading it probably passed over with nary a notice. The statement revealed, albeit subtly, that our fundamental problems with the rest of the world and in particular the Middle East, are simply not recognised for what they really are.
There has to be linkage between short-term operations and strategic objectives that represent long-term U.S. and regional interests, such as assured access to energy resources and support for stable, Western-oriented countries.
This country and especially policy makers have not yet learned the one vital lesson from all our decades of meddling in the affairs of oil-rich countries in the Middle East, wherein the majority of the population are not "western-oriented." They generally don't want to be "Western-oriented" because they have often been victims of regimes that have been "Western-oriented" and which, therefore, allowed "assured access to energy resources." In fact, the backlash against our aggressive support for "stable, Western-oriented countries" is a direct result of the support we have enthusiastically ladled upon the most brutal dictators and monarchies throughout the region in order to assure US access to energy resources.

The United States has overthrown democratic governments and supported the ruthless Shah of Iran and the equally detestable Saddam Hussein, both of whom have tortured and murdered countless citizens of their respective countries, citizens who rose to oppose these dictators. Administrations across the board have demonstrated an unswerving devotion to the repressive Saudi monarchy and other "Western-oriented" regimes throughout the Persian Gulf region. The current administration sat idly by while Mubarak's state police shot and murdered Egyptian voters who were expected to vote the wrong way -- for the Muslim Brotherhood. Palestinians continue to suffer for exercising their voting rights. And they suffer under the yoke of unilaterally imposed "sanctions" in violation of international law. If there has been one unifying theme for the citizens of the countries that have maintained close ties with the United States, it is that being a "Western-oriented" country in no way means that it will represent or heed the needs or interests of the citizens of that state. If you are a "Western-oriented country," well, you'll be allowed to get away with bloody murder and if you are not "Western-oriented," you could be the victim of it.

Americans continue live in a bubble of delusion. It is pervasive and reinforced daily. It is evidenced by Sheehan, who seems content to passively suggest that being a "Western-oriented country" is something the world aspires to, if only troublesome, contrarian leaders would get out of the way. That delusion stems from an American mythos, which we hear often enough today, that the United States is exceptional and uniquely so. From this, we wish to believe or are told, over and over again, that everyone else wants to be just like us. But they don't. And they especially do not when they have lived in a country or some region of murderous repression that the US government has supported and endorsed.

The sooner we recognize that much of the world is not inclined to be "Western-oriented," and indeed, has a great deal of resentment toward that notion, the sooner we will be able to start actually solving some of theses problems, many of which stem directly from a misguided belief that everyone wants to be like us or, at the very least, should be inclined to support American "interests." Everyone has interests and they do not often coincide. In fact, they will oftentimes be at odds. But we can no longer afford the long-prevailing attitude that the world should bow to our interests. That is a a recipe for endless conflict.

Of course, there are no guarantees that this is not exactly what the military-industrial complex would very much enjoy.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Where is Karl?

The good folks at Blue Oregon are keenly anticipating Karl Rove's visit, though it seems likely that an invitation will not be forthcoming. And on that note, they have pointed the way to Rove spoof video, Karl:

Dead again

Boris Berezovsky, one of the most outspoken critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin, drew the fury of Russian prosecutors on Friday, after he said he was financing attempts to overthrow Putin.

The Russian oligarch, who lives in exile in London, told The Guardian he was plotting to oust Putin in a palace coup, using people close to the Russian president....
There is only one obvious conclusion to draw from Berezovsky's declaration: he will be found dead or in a Russian prison at some point in the future should the Kremlin take this threat seriously. Considering his ex-pat status, I'm guessing dead.

Brother from another planet

My little blog is fairly well off the radar, but occasionally some crazed ranter stops by and offers up a bit of extremist wisdom for me, just to set me straight. Such has occurred on the post below about Don Imus, a man of little to no significance when thinking about the world and whose most substantial function seems to have been to serve as a book tour stop for Beltway bubble authors humping their latest paper-based maledictions.

Wolf B'Shannon's comment really is grand reading, full of insights that had me reeling at their fortitude. For instance, did you know that "the White Race is the 'whipping boy' for everyone"? Me neither. I guess being the world's whipping boy does carry with it some advantages, though, such as running everything.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Dust up

The Christian Science Monitor has normally been a news outlet that has delivered some excellent reporting on Iraq. But John Dillin delivers an editorial today that sounds like it came straight out of the halls of the American Enterprise Institute. Or The Weekly Standard. Or The National Review. Not that differentiation is needed here because, at heart and fact, they're all the same war-mongering, neo-con wonks.

In this piece, Dillin positively demands that America fight the Iraq war as brutally and unremittingly as possible. Damn the civilians and damn everything else in the country. "Total war" is what he wants and, in justifying a military need to "pound the other side into dust," he blithely compares Allied bombing campaigns of World War II against the Germans to what needs to be done now in Iraq. He further implies that the fire bombing of Dresden and the nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were, if harsh, a necessary means to a glorious end. He even goes on to cite the effectiveness of a "total war" strategy in the civil war, vis a vis the burning of Atlanta. He speaks of "the South" as though it was an enemy posing an existential threat to the United States.
when the US has fought "total" wars during the past 150 years, it has always won, including the Civil War and World War II. The American South tasted the bitterness of "total war" in 1864 when Union Gen. William Sherman drove everyone, including women and children, out of Atlanta and then burned most of the city to the ground. He then marched 200 miles across Georgia to the sea with 62,000 soldiers who burned and pillaged as they moved through farms and towns. Soon after, the South surrendered.
Ahh, yes, that glorious victory when the US beat ... the US. Perhaps he should have relabeled the Yanks and the Rebs as "us" and "them." That might have made the pillaging and burning of the southern states a little more palatable.

But the overriding tone, if you cannot glean it from the above passage, is one of "let's do it right." And by "right," Dillin means mercilessly obliterating the Iraqi population, as though they are an actual enemy that posed a serious threat to the United States before we invaded.

That was clearly not the case, though the Iraqi population has certainly grown a great deal of animousity towards the occupation. There is an asymmetry in what is happening in Iraq: the Iraqis see the US as the aggressor and occupier -- which it certainly is -- and the US sees itself as the liberator, destined to bring freedom and democracy to hapless Iraqis. Well, at least the Bush administration tells us that that is how we should view our presence there, once the weapons of mass destruction failed to materialize. But most of us know better than that.

Finally, Dillin poses what appears to me to be one of the single most clueless questions that I have seen uttered in the mainstream media (admittedly, most of the mainstream have never really bothered to ask the question in the first place). He seems to be posing it quite sincerely and using it, rhetorically, to further justify his reasoning that, since we're there, we should do it right. i.e. wage total war on the Iraqi population and bring them to their knees.
Perhaps the message to Mr. Bush, Congress, and the American people should be: If this fight is worth doing, if America truly has an unquestionable moral imperative to win, then wage it with everything you've got. Otherwise, why is America there?
Mr. Dillin, this fight was never worth "doing," and you know it. And the astonishing conceit that America has an "unquestionable moral imperative" in this war -- waged illegally -- while at the same time advocating that the United States pound Iraq "into dust" is simply beyond belief. Iraq wasn't even "a fight" until the Bush administration consciously made it one. The provenance of America's new found preemptive imperative rose out of the ashes of the World Trade Center and, rather than actually fighting the putative "war on terror," the Bush administration co-opted the event to exact their repellent agenda of "benevolent global hegemony," starting with Iraq, the softest target in the region. Why is America there? Didn't you get the memo?

Waiting in the wings of Waziristan

News comes that "Pakistani tribesmen" have routed al Qaeda-linked fighters in Waziristan. If true, this would tend to indicate that the locals have grown fed up with the extremist group holing up in their tribal lands. I'm not altogether convinced of this story, considering how it seems to be emanating from the government of President Musharraf, whose own intelligence agency ISI is a known supporter of the Taliban and other insurgent groups in the region. Musharraf has always denied that his government is in anyway involved with Taliban or al Qaeda forces but the evidence is more than clear on this point. Musharraf has been taking a great deal of heat for this behaviour and he may think that this will demonstrate some resistance in Pakistan to the al Qaeda presence.

But an amazingly daft statement came out of Musharraf when he described this event as some kind of victory:
The people in South Waziristan have risen against the foreigners ... [and] they will get support from the Pakistan army if they ask for support.
If they ask for support? We are supposed to be under the impression that the Pakistani government is an active ally in the War on Terror
™ and was supposed to be taking the fight to the Taliban, not hanging in the background and waiting to be called upon by disgruntled locals. Of course, we know that Musharraf doesn't have much interest in reigning in the Taliban or al Qaeda, but this statement reveals that Musharraf himself is happy in playing a passive role while tribesmen in the area take the fight to the jihadis.

Then again, it may all be a fiction. Who knows? In either event, Musharraf has exposed more about his own policies than any putative gains against the forces of al Qaeda.

The farting's over

I just want to say that George W. Bush is the syphilis president....

-- Kurt Vonnegut,
Ohio State University,
March 2006

More sad news as another accomplished and pissed off oldster who can't remember a worse government, Kurt Vonnegut, has passed away. Thankful, probably. As he once said, reflecting on the fact he was still alive during reign of terror that is the Bush administration,
I’m going to sue the cigarette companies because they haven’t killed me.
I'd just like to say that I am honored to have been published in The Humanist magazine, the publication of the American Humanist Association, an organization of which Kurt Vonnegut had been honorary president since 1992. This is my own, albeit somewhat removed, brush with greatness.

Your time to "fart around" has come to end, Kurt. Rest in peace.

Turkey club

As many had predicted, Turkey is now threatening to join the fray in Iraq and turn the otherwise moderately under control, semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq into a roiling cauldron of war and death.
The head of Turkey's powerful military General Staff called for a military operation in northern Iraq to quash Turkish Kurdish rebels hiding there.

"From the military point of view, a (military) operation in northern Iraq must be made," General Yasar Buyukanit told a rare news conference, adding that a political decision from the government was first required to authorise such a step.
Well, if the Turkish government is anything like the US government has been in the five years, that shouldn't be too much of a problem.

Move along people

Please, do not be alarmed by the suicide bomber killing lawmakers inside the Iraqi Parliament building inside the Green Zone. Things are perfectly fine in Baghdad. The Surge is working wonders. Just ask John McCain.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Reliability extension

McCain continues to yowl about Democrats demanding what the American public demands: a withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. To McCain and the ever-dwindling numbers of Bush supporters, setting a timeline imperils the troops. Just once, I'd like to see a headline that went something like
White House, McCain continue to defy American public over troop withdrawal
Wishful thinking, I know.

But, guess how the White House really supports the troops? Why, by keeping them over there longer, that's how.
In a hastily-called Pentagon news conference, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace announced today that active-duty US Army force deployments in Iraq will be extended from a maximum of 12 months to a maximum of 15 months, with a guaranteed 12 months at home base between deployments.
Because, the troops love it there. And 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.

In a amazing, ass-backwards justification that no doubt will fail to assuage tumbling morale, Sec Def Gates said that the extended deployment will give soldiers a timetable that is, and I quote, "more predictable" and "reliable," surely to be seen as a plus by soldiers who probably now think they will be resent to Iraq every twelve months for the rest of their lives, however long those might be.

Nappy Dugout

The Don "racist dumb ass" Imus debacle continues to gather steam as news arrives that advertisers are pulling sponsorship from Imus' CBS radio show. Bunker mentality is setting in at CBS and Wall Street, which both seem more concerned with keeping the media "gang" together than doing what is so obviously called for. CBS has offered a token "suspension," whereby we are expected to imagine Imus navel-gazing for two weeks, pondering the deep and gnarled roots of his racist misogyny. Or his misogynistic racism. Mostly likely, he'll simply be asking for an updated media-savvy racist code book.

Despite CBS' paltry offering, advertisers have already recognised that sponsoring the kind of "dialogue" found on The Imus Show hardly serves their larger interests. Staples spokesperson, Paul Capelli indicated his company's position:
Because of the recent comments that were made on the program it did prompt us to take a look at our decision to advertise on the program and we have decided to stop advertising.
Rather than take the obvious step and can Imus, CBS has decided that the revenue hit is tolerable because, as equity analyst David Joyce tells us in ladling out the infinite wisdoms of Wall Street,
The radio division is a rather small contributor to the overall CBS company. The division will do $1.8 billion in revenue this year, which is 12.5% of total CBS revenue. It's not terribly important to CBS.

It is almost immaterial.
In Wall Street's eyes, racist diatribes on public airwaves are perfectly acceptable as long as it doesn't impinge too greatly on the bottom line.

Now, I don't have a television and I don't listen to Imus, so I can't really boycott them any further. But, a few well placed calls to CBS advertisers might shake up the bottom line a little more than what Wall Street is willing tolerate. The message must be that the presence of jerk-offs like Imus on public airwaves is not acceptable, whether "immaterial" to Wall Street or not.