Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Bush Political Capital Already Spent

From the Washington Post:

Two days after winning reelection last fall, President Bush declared that he had earned plenty of "political capital, and now I intend to spend it." Six months later, according to Republicans and Democrats alike, his bank account has been significantly drained.

In the past week alone, the Republican-led House defied his veto threat and passed legislation promoting stem cell research; Senate Democrats blocked confirmation, at least temporarily, of his choice for U.N. ambassador; and a rump group of GOP senators abandoned the president in his battle to win floor votes for all of his judicial nominees.

With his approval ratings in public opinion polls at the lowest level of his presidency, Bush has been stymied so far in his campaign to restructure Social Security. On the international front, violence has surged again in Iraq in recent weeks, dispelling much of the optimism generated by the purple-stained-finger elections back in January, while allies such as Egypt and Uzbekistan have complicated his campaign to spread democracy.

The series of setbacks on the domestic front could signal that the president has weakened leverage over his party, a situation that could embolden the opposition, according to analysts and politicians from both sides. Bush faces the potential of a summer of discontent when his capacity to muscle political Washington into following his lead seems to have diminished and few easy victories appear on the horizon.

You mean Bush's 51-49 % mandate is gone already? Gee, that was quick.

I hope somebody tells the preznit. He still thinks he's got a Reagan/Roosevelt mandate to remake America into a Dobsonland.

Monday, May 30, 2005

I'm a bubbling hot, hot, hot!!!

I'm no real estate expert, but if interest only loans and adjustable rate mortgages account for 63% of all new mortgages, does that not bode ill for many homeowners and the real estate market in general as interest rates continue to rise through 2005?

The Washington Post reports that foreclosure rates are up in 47 states. Working-class neighborhoods are really being decimated by foreclosures.

But Uncle Alan says there's only a little "froth" in the real estate market.

Hmm. I'm no expert, but I just had a friend purchase a 475 square foot studio apartment in Brooklyn for $295,000 dollars. A Manhattan studio apartment will cost you somewhere in the $400,000-$450,000 dollar range. When I was a kid in the 70's, you could buy a mansion for that kind of money. Same with the 80's. Now it gets you a studio apartment.

Seems a little frothy to me. But again, I'm no expert, and Uncle Alan is.

A Memorial Day Message

From the Minneapolis StarTribune:

In exchange for our uniformed young people's willingness to offer the gift of their lives, civilian Americans owe them something important: It is our duty to ensure that they never are called to make that sacrifice unless it is truly necessary for the security of the country. In the case of Iraq, the American public has failed them; we did not prevent the Bush administration from spending their blood in an unnecessary war based on contrived concerns about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. President Bush and those around him lied, and the rest of us let them. Harsh? Yes. True? Also yes. Perhaps it happened because Americans, understandably, don't expect untruths from those in power. But that works better as an explanation than as an excuse.

The "smoking gun," as some call it, surfaced on May 1 in the London Times. It is a highly classified document containing the minutes of a July 23, 2002, meeting at 10 Downing Street in which Sir Richard Dearlove, head of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, reported to Prime Minister Tony Blair on talks he'd just held in Washington. His mission was to determine the Bush administration's intentions toward Iraq.

At a time when the White House was saying it had "no plans" for an invasion, the British document says Dearlove reported that there had been "a perceptible shift in attitude" in Washington. "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The (National Security Council) had no patience with the U.N. route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."

It turns out that former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke and former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill were right. Both have been pilloried for writing that by summer 2002 Bush had already decided to invade.

Walter Pincus, writing in the Washington Post on May 22, provides further evidence that the administration did, indeed, fix the intelligence on Iraq to fit a policy it had already embraced: invasion and regime change. Just four days before Bush's State of the Union address in January 2003, Pincus writes, the National Security Council staff "put out a call for new intelligence to bolster claims" about Saddam Hussein's WMD programs. The call went out because the NSC staff believed the case was weak. Moreover, Pincus says, "as the war approached, many U.S. intelligence analysts were internally questioning almost every major piece of prewar intelligence about Hussein's alleged weapons programs." But no one at high ranks in the administration would listen to them.

On the day before Bush's speech, the CIA's Berlin station chief warned that the source for some of what Bush would say was untrustworthy. Bush said it anyway. He based part of his most important annual speech to the American people on a single, dubious, unnamed source. The source was later found to have fabricated his information.

Also comes word, from the May 19 New York Times, that senior U.S. military leaders are not encouraged about prospects in Iraq. Yes, they think the United States can prevail, but as one said, it may take "many years."

As this bloody month of car bombs and American deaths -- the most since January -- comes to a close, as we gather in groups small and large to honor our war dead, let us all sing of their bravery and sacrifice. But let us also ask their forgiveness for sending them to a war that should never have happened. In the 1960s it was Vietnam. Today it is Iraq. Let us resolve to never, ever make this mistake again. Our young people are simply too precious.

There's nothing else to say. Happy Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Bush Administration Creates a New Generation of Trained, Battle-Hardened Terrorists and Jihadists

From The Washington Post:

The Bush administration has launched a high-level internal review of its efforts to battle international terrorism, aimed at moving away from a policy that has stressed efforts to capture and kill al Qaeda leaders since Sept. 11, 2001, and toward what a senior official called a broader "strategy against violent extremism."

The shift is meant to recognize the transformation of al Qaeda over the past three years into a far more amorphous, diffuse and difficult-to-target organization than the group that struck the United States in 2001. But critics say the policy review comes only after months of delay and lost opportunities while the administration left key counterterrorism jobs unfilled and argued internally over how best to confront the rapid spread of the pro-al Qaeda global Islamic jihad.

Why the sudden policy shift in the War on Terror?:

The review marks the first ambitious effort since the immediate aftermath of the 2001 attacks to take stock of what the administration has called the "global war on terrorism" -- or GWOT -- but is now considering changing to recognize the evolution of its fight. "What we really want now is a strategic approach to defeat violent extremism," said a senior administration official who described the review on the condition of anonymity because it is not finished. "GWOT is catchy, but there may be a better way to describe it, and those are things that ought to be incumbent on us to look at."

In many ways, this is the culmination of a heated debate that has been taking place inside and outside the government about how to target not only the remnants of al Qaeda but also broader support in the Muslim world for radical Islam. Administration officials refused to describe in detail what new policies are under consideration, and several sources familiar with the discussions said some issues remain sticking points, such as how central the ongoing war in Iraq is to the anti-terrorist effort, and how to accommodate State Department desires to normalize a foreign policy that has stressed terrorism to the exclusion of other priorities in recent years.

"There's been a perception, a sense of drift in overall terrorism policy. People have not figured out what we do next, so we just continue to pick 'em off one at a time," said Roger W. Cressey, who served as a counterterrorism official at the National Security Council under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. "We haven't gone to a new level to figure out how things have changed since 9/11."

"No question this is the next stage, the phase two," another senior counterterrorism official said. "We are coming to the point of decisions."

Much of the discussion has focused on how to deal with the rise of a new generation of terrorists, schooled in Iraq over the past couple years. Top government officials are increasingly turning their attention to anticipate what one called "the bleed out" of hundreds or thousands of Iraq-trained jihadists back to their home countries throughout the Middle East and Western Europe. "It's a new piece of a new equation," a former senior Bush administration official said. "If you don't know who they are in Iraq, how are you going to locate them in Istanbul or London?"

Another key aspect is likely to be the addition of public diplomacy efforts aimed at winning over Arab public sentiment, and State Department official Paul Simons said at a congressional hearing earlier this month that the "internal deliberative process" was broadly conceived to encompass everything from further crackdowns on terrorist financing networks to policies aimed at curbing the teaching of holy war against the West and other "tools with respect to the global war on terrorism."

Oh my, the Bushies have discovered they have other tools in their War on Terror toolbox than a hammer, an anvil, and Operation Iraqi Freedom! Now they say they want to win over Arab public sentiment!

Hey, I bet holding thousands of Muslim men as "terror suspects" in Guantanamo Bay prison for years and years without any criminal charges being filed is one way to win over Arab public sentiment! I bet holding these thousands of Muslim men as "terror suspects" for years and years even though many are believed to be innocent of any criminal wrongdoing even by military interrogators is another fantastic way to win over Arab public sentiment! I bet allowing Muslim "terror suspects," to be abused, tortured, and murdered in prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq and Gitmo is another great way to win over Arab public sentiment! And I bet blaming Newsweek for publishing an incorrect story on "Koran abuse" instead of openly investigating all of the credible allegations of Koran abuse made by freed terror suspects and documented by the International Red Cross, Amnesty International and the FBI is another great way to win over Arab public sentiment!

Yes, the Bush Administration is doing a terrific job of winning over Arab public sentiment as anti-American demonstrations by Muslims sparked by allegations of Koran abuse pop up all over the world over. Demonstrators in London last week chanted "Kill kill USA, kill kill George Bush" and "Bomb New York" in Grosvenor Square, joining anti-American protestors in Somalia, 2,500 demonstrators in Palestine chanting "Death to America" and thousands more in Calcutta, where protestors burned, spat and unrinated on an American flag.

Sure seems like our campaign to win over Arab public support is working. And we know Arabs are highly impressed with our "catastrophic success" in the Iraq War, which is quickly devolving into rampant Sunni/Shia sectarian violence. Which brings up another part of the Washinton Post article that seems quite interesting. Administration officials are afraid that the Iraq War has created "a new generation of terrorists" and "Iraq-trained jihadists" who will "bleed out" to their home countries in the Middle East and Western Europe. These battle-hardened terrorists returning from the Iraq conflict are a big problem because, as the former senior Bush administration official quoted in the article says, "If you don't know who they are in Iraq, how can you locate them in Istanbul or London?"

So basically in Bush's War on Terror, he attacked Iraq to make the nation and world safer but instead created a civil war and generated a whole slew of Iraq-trained jihadists who will be bringing their terror skills back to their home countries as soon as the U.S. military pulls out of Iraq and gives the country over to complete Sunni/Shia sectarian discord.

Sounds like victory, doesn't it! Boy, I'm glad Americans re-elected George W. to keep us safer in the War on Terror. God knows, John Kerry would have really screwed up the War on Terror, you know?

God bless our Great Leader! I feel safer even with the orange alert.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Violence Continues To Surge Across Iraq

From John Burns in the NY Times:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 28 - The surge of violence that has swept Iraq since its first elected government took office nearly a month ago continued on Saturday, with at least 30 new deaths reported across the country, some of them in what appeared to be sectarian killings.

The latest attacks raised the total number of Iraqis killed this month to about 650, in addition to at least 63 American troops who have been killed, the highest American toll since January.

In two of the worst incidents reported on Saturday, at least five Iraqi border guards were killed and more than 40 people were wounded in a double suicide bombing near the gates of an Iraqi military base at Sinjar, 40 miles from the northwestern border with Syria.

Farther south along the Syrian border, in the Sunni Arab city of Qaim, a police commander confirmed the killing in recent days of 10 Shiite pilgrims returning from a shrine in Syria, The Associated Press reported.

In other incidents, two Sunni Arab tribal leaders, one in Baghdad and the other in the northern city of Kirkuk, were killed on Friday, according to police reports. In the Kirkuk killing, local officials suggested that the victim, Sheik Sabhan Khalaf al-Jibouri, might have been a target because of his attempt to have friendly relations with Kurdish leaders.

How close is Iraq to total civil war? Here's a Newsday article from May 12th, 2005 that quotes security experts who say Iraq already is a civil war no matter what the ostrich-heads in Washington think:

With security experts reporting that no major road in the country was safe to travel, some Iraq specialists speculated that the Sunni insurgency was effectively encircling the capital and trying to cut it off from the north, south and west, where there are entrenched Sunni communities. East of Baghdad is a mostly unpopulated desert bordering on Iran.

"It's just political rhetoric to say we are not in a civil war. We've been in a civil war for a long time," said Pat Lang, the former top Middle East intelligence official at the Pentagon.

Other experts said Iraq is on the verge of a full-scale civil war with civilians on both sides being slaughtered. Incidents in the past two weeks south of Baghdad, with apparently retaliatory killings of Sunni and Shia civilians, point in that direction, they say.

Also of concern were media accounts that hard-line Shia militia members are being deployed to police hard-line Sunni communities such as Ramadi, east of Baghdad, which specialists on Iraq said was a recipe for disaster.

"I think we are really on the edge" of all-out civil war, said Noah Feldman, a New York University law professor who worked for the U.S. coalition in Iraq.

He said the insurgency has been "getting stronger every passing day. When the violence recedes, it is a sign that they are regrouping." While there is a chance the current flare of violence is the insurgency's last gasp, he said, "I have not seen any coherent evidence that we are winning against the insurgency."

"Everything we thought we knew about the insurgency obviously is flawed," said Judith Kipper of the Council on Foreign Relations. "It was quiet for a little while, and here it is back full force all over the country, and that is very dark news."

Note the quote by Professor Noah Feldman, former employee of the Coalition Provisional Authority. He says every time the violence recedes "it is a sign they are regrouping...I have not seen any coherent evidence that we are winning against the insurgency."

Funny thing, George W. sees something different when the violence in Iraq periodically recedes. He sees "victory"! From USA Today on May 21st:

In Iraq, Bush said, two deputies of the terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi have been captured and thousands of other terrorists and insurgents have been killed or captured near the Syrian border.

"While some difficult days still lie ahead, these recent victories are making America safer and the world more secure," the president said. "As we make progress against today's enemies, we are also transforming our military to defeat the enemies we might face in the decades ahead."

Sure, Mr. Preznit, the nation is safer now that you've got the army bogged down in Iraq for the forseeable future, the Muslim world up in arms over American abuse of "terror suspects" and"mishandled" copies of the Koran, and a federal deficit and debt quintupling by the millisecond because you decided to fight simultaneous wars on the tax code and Islamic terror.

Yup, America's safer. If only those bastards at Newsweek and CBS could be shut down for good, Putin-style, and America would really be safe!!!

Well, I guess they can do that during Jeb's first term.

Bush Administration Accountability: Make Mistakes, Receive Yearly Cash Bonuses!

Walter Pincus in the Washington Post:

Two Army analysts whose work has been cited as part of a key intelligence failure on Iraq -- the claim that aluminum tubes sought by the Baghdad government were most likely meant for a nuclear weapons program rather than for rockets -- have received job performance awards in each of the past three years, officials said...

Pentagon spokesmen said the awards for the analysts were to recognize their overall contributions on the job over the course of each year. But some current and former officials, including those who called attention to the awards, said the episode shows how the administration has failed to hold people accountable for mistakes on prewar intelligence.

Despite sharp critiques from the president's commission and the Senate intelligence committee, no major reprimand or penalty has been announced publicly in connection with the intelligence failures, though investigations are still underway at the CIA. George J. Tenet resigned as CIA director but was later awarded the Medal of Freedom by Bush.

The president's commission urged the Bush administration to consider taking action against the agencies, and perhaps the individuals, responsible for the most serious errors in assessing Iraq's weapons program.

Washington lawyer Richard Ben-Veniste, who was a member of the Sept. 11 commission and whose government experience goes back to service as a Watergate prosecutor, said it is important for the administration to hold the intelligence community accountable for mistakes.

"It matters whether it was carelessness or tailoring [of intelligence], whether it was based on perceived wants of an administration or overt requests . . . It is time now to demonstrate the need for the integrity of the process," Ben-Veniste said.

So CIA Director George Tenet, the man who presided over the worst intelligence failure in U.S. history since Pearl Harbor, was given a Medal of Freedom. Paul Bremer, who created the post-war chaos in Iraq by spending lots of time trying to create a tax-free haven for free-wheeling capitalists but very little little time on security, was given a Medal of Freedom. General Ricardo Sanchez, top commander in Iraq who approved a variety of torture techniques to be used against prisoners being held at Abu Ghraib and other prisons in Iraq, has managed to avoid punishment for his role in the scandal while Army Reserve Brigadier General Janice Karpinski had her rank reduced to colonel. Now the analysts who cooked up some of the erroneous pre-Iraq war intelligence relating to the infamous "aluminum tubes" have been give job performance awards three years running.

Yet Bush wants to hold public school teachers accountable if their special education students don't perform as well on standardized tests as general education students?

Sheesh. You can't make this stuff up.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Pentagon Admits to Koran "Mishandling"

Pentagon officials admitted there have been five incidents in which the Koran was "mishandled" by interrogators and military personnel at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. FBI documents relating to the prisoner abuse at Gitmo also contain allegations by a prisoner that the Koran was flushed down a toilet, but officials say this accusation has not been substantiated by investigators. Pentagon officials stressed that the mishandling incidents were all minor and had occured before specific guidelines for the handling of the Koran were instituted in 2003.

E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post says exactly what's on my mind now that the Pentagon has admitted to Koran abuse incidents by Americans at Gitmo. If Koran abuse did take place at Gitmo, why did the Pentagon and the White Huse so furiously denounce the Newsweek report, since retracted, that an American official had witnessed a Koran being flushed down a toilet at Gitmo? Was it because:

The war on Newsweek shifted attention away from how the Guantanamo prisoners have been treated, how that treatment has affected the battle against terrorism and what American policies should be. Newsweek-bashing also furthered a long-term and so far successful campaign by the administration and the conservative movement to dismiss all negative reports about their side as the product of some entity they call "the liberal media."

At this point, it is customary to offer a disclaimer to the effect that my column runs in The Post, is syndicated by The Washington Post Writers Group and that The Washington Post Co. owns Newsweek. I resisted writing about this subject precisely because I do not want anyone to confuse my own views with Newsweek's or The Post's.

I write about it now because of the new reports and because I fear that too many people in traditional journalism are becoming dangerously defensive in the face of a brilliantly conceived conservative attack on the independent media.

CBS was "killianed" and everybody dropped the story that George W. received special treatment in the Texas Air National Guard. Newsweek's credibility was flushed over the "Koran in toilet" piece and Chris Matthews follows Scott McClellan's lead and asserts on Hardball that the incident certainly never happened because the Bush Administration says it never happened and Newsweek must rectify this "journalistic atrocity" immediately. The right-wing blogosphere and the right-wing propangda machine at FOX, Wall Street Journal, etc. all jump on the bandwagon and continue the Bushies' work of discrediting all media operations that are not on the White House payroll.

Whew. Brilliant stuff this Rove does. If a Republican Congress and a Republican Senate won't investigate administration misdeeds and/or crimes and a cow-towed press is constantly kept on the defensive by the right-wing propaganda machine and an attack dog administration, the Bushies will be able to get away with their crimes forever.

Especially if they continue to steal presidential elections the way lots of smart people believe they stole the last two.

Bolton Delay

Senate Democrats forced a delay on Preznit Bush's United Nations Ambassador nominee, John Bolton, last night. The vote was 56-42 to extend debate on the Bolton nomination. Republicans needed 60 votes to end debate and send the nomination up for a final vote.

Why did Democrats extend debate on Bolton? From the Washington Post:

Democrats said they launched the delaying tactic only as a means of pressuring the Bush administration to provide documents related to Bolton's handling of classified information and his role in preparing congressional testimony about Syria in 2003. They rejected the administration's argument that some of the requested information is not relevant to the confirmation debate.

"We are not here to filibuster Bolton -- we are here to get information," Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said on the floor shortly after the vote was taken. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), who led the opposition to Bolton, said: "I have absolutely no intention of preventing an up-or-down vote on Mr. Bolton."

Why do the Democrats want these documents turned over by the administration? For two reasons: 1. Democrats think Bolton may have misused classified National Security Agency intercepts relating to Syria and 2. Democrats and even some Republicans are sick of the administration telling them to go screw themselves when they request material relating to congressional business. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind), Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn) and Ranking Member Joseph Biden (D- Del) all requested the material relating to the NSA intercepts. All of these requests were denied.

So why won't the administration turn over the requested information? Is it simply another case of administration arrogance or do the documents contain evidence that John Bolton misused classified intelligence for "personal reasons"? Given Bolton's habit of anatgonizing colleagues and underlings, these questions are important. If Bolton put the security of the United States at risk by misusing classified material, not only should he not be confirmed as UN ambassador, he should be prosecuted for breaking the law.

You know, the way Sandy Berger was charged with a crime for stuffing classified terror documents down his pants. Remember how much fun the Moonie Times and FOX had with that story? It's funny how the right-wing propaganda machine isn't up in arms over the Bolton thing though.

Gee, you don't think the right-wingers could be hypocritical or anything, do you?

Thursday, May 26, 2005

A Return to Divided Gov't

From the New York Times:

Newly released documents show that detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, complained repeatedly to F.B.I. agents about disrespectful handling of the Koran by military personnel and, in one case in 2002, said they had flushed a Koran down a toilet.

The prisoners' accounts are described by the agents in detailed summaries of interrogations at Guantánamo in 2002 and 2003. The documents were among more than 300 pages turned over by the F.B.I. to the American Civil Liberties Union in recent days and publicly disclosed Wednesday.

Unlike F.B.I. documents previously disclosed in a lawsuit brought by the civil liberties union, in which agents reported that they had witnessed harsh and possibly illegal interrogation techniques, the new documents do not say the F.B.I. agents witnessed the episodes themselves. Rather, they are accounts of unsubstantiated accusations made by the prisoners during interrogation.

The Bush Administration dismissed the newly released reports, claiming the allegations were old news made by "enemy combatants" who could not be trusted to tell the truth.

But if the Bush Administration won't allow abuse allegations to be investigated by somebody outside of the Administration or the military, how will we credibly investigate the accounts one way or the other, even if they are old news?

Here's what we know:

There has been a pattern of abuse, torture, and murder in Abu Ghraib, Camp Bagram in Afghanistan, and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There are many photos and reports documenting this pattern of atrocities. Yet the Administration continues to deny any problem exists or they scapegoat low-level members of the military and call the atrocities "isolated incidents". Or they destroy the messenger by focusing on small parts of an accusation report that are unconfirmed while whitewashing or smokescreening the larger truths.

The solutiuon to this mess is for the American electorate to return a divided government to Washington. The Bush Administration has gotten away with making torture, abuse, and murder unofficial policy (wink,wink) in its War on Terror without anyone holding them accountable precisely because the Republicans control every part of the government. A Republican congress has allowed this Administration to quite literally get away with murder, bankrupt the country both financially and morally, and bog the military down in two wars that seem to be unraveling more and more each day. While a few brave Republicans like John McCain and Lindsey Graham have tried to hold the Bushies accountable for the debacle in Iraq or for the prison abuse scandals, most have cheerfully ignored the problems and gone along with the White House propaganda.

Give back either the Senate or the House to the Democrats. Let them open real investigations into pre-war intelligence manipulation, the Downing Street Memo, the Abu Ghraib scandal, Koran abuse, Gitmo abuse, etc. Because as long as Republicans control every branch of government in Washington, the Bush Administration will never be reined in or punished for the terrible crimes they have committed in their War on Terror.

And there have been many.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

No Nuclear War

Man, everybody in the blogosphere was set for nuclear war this morning. We had our tubs filled with fresh water, we had sealed our windows with duct tape, we were practicing how to duck and cover while manning our keyboards.

And then they made a deal to avert the war!

Seven Republican and seven Democratic moderates agreed to avert a nuclear showdown over the filibuster on the floor of the Senate this morning. Democrats have blocked votes on 10 of Preznit Bush's judicial nominees, claiming the nominees were extremists and didn't deserve life-time appointments to judgeships. Bush and Rove wanted up or down votes on all of their nominees, even though Bush has gotten 218 of 228 nominees appointed.

So Senate Majority Leader and Religious Right Shill Bill Frist was set to force a vote to eliminate the minority's right to filibuster judicial nominees. Republican Whip Mitch McConnell claimed Frist had the votes to ban the filibuster. Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid claimed he had 49 votes against the rules change with four undecideds. He needed two more Republican Senators to beat Frist, because Vice President Cheney would cast the deciding vote in the event of a 50-50 tie.

But 14 moderates from both parties agreed to a compromise that averted the filibuster showdown. The Democrats agreeed to allow votes on three of Bush's nominees, while four others would not get votes. Three other nominees had already withdrawn from the process. Democrats also agreed to only use the filibuster in "extraordinary circumstances" (the definition of the phrase "extraordinary circumstances" was left open to interpretation.) The Republicans agreed to support no changes in Senate rules, effectively defusing Frist's nuclear war before he could press the button. The filibuster remains in place for the Supreme Court nomination process expected later this year when Chief Justice Rehnquist steps down from the bench, though Republicans reserved the right to revisit the filibuster ban if they believe Democrats are using the filibuster for less than "extraordinary circumstances."

So who won and who lost?

I dunno who won, but I know who lost. Bill Frist, looking like a puppy who had been hit on the nose with a newspaper after he peed on the couch, sure looked like a loser last night on the Senate floor as he commented on the compromise agreement. The preznit, who had reiterated yesterday his demand that he get up and down votes on all of his judicial nominees, surely lost. Not only does he not get up or down votes on all of his nominees, but the filibuster remains in place and will be used against him if he nominates some nutcase to replace Rehnquist. This preznit accepts only total victory in all of his political battles, from Social Security privatization to judicial nominations, so any compromise is a net loss. And the right-wing blogosphere and evangelical base who had been pushing strongly for the filibuster ban also came up losers, judging from their reactions to the compromise. Michelle Malkin called the agreement a "Republican buckle" and James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family and prime proponent of nuclear war in the Senate, called the agreement "a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats."

So we have a nuclear freeze. We'll see how long it holds. Perhaps the first Supreme Court nomination battle will send us scurrying for our duct tape again. But two things are certain; John McCain, leader of the fourteen moderates is sitting pretty today and Bill Frist is not. And George W., with much of his political capital spent just six months into his second term, is not the all-powerful puppetmaster of his party any more. When moderates in the House stick it to the preznit over stem cell research today, the preznit's political capital will be diminshed even more.

But I am glad nuclear war has been averted. Now maybe we can go back to fighting the real war in Iraq, where seven more U.S. military personnel were killed in the last two days.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

It's Fun To Investigate Yourself!!!

Did the Bush Administration cook up the intelligence in the lead up to war with Iraq, as the Downing Street Memo alleges? What did the Administration know about a possible Al Qaeda attack in the summer of 2001? Who was really responsible for the atrocities at Abu Ghraib and why were only low-level army personnel punished for the abuse? Did the Bush Administration unofficially condone torture and abuse of prisoners in their so-called "War on Terror" by excluding "terror suspects" from the Geneva Conventions? What atrocities have taken place at prisoner camps in Guatanamo Bay, Cuba and Afghanistan? What happened at Al Qua Qa and other Iraqi ammunition dumps that were looted in the first weeks after Saddam's overthrow? Why did the administration not hold members of the Coalition Provisional Authority accountable when $8.8 billion dollars disappeared from Iraq during the first fourteen months of reconstruction?

Lots and lots of questions about the conduct of Bush Administration officials, Pentagon officials, military personnel, and the preznit himself. And yet, with Republicans controlling all three branches of government, we get no real investigations into these scandals or incidents of potential wrong-doing. Instead we get whitewashes (the Pentagon absolves itself of any wrongdoing in the Abu Ghraib scandal and scapegoats the low-level military personnel arrested in the case), stonewalling (the Pentagon insists Koran abuse never happened in any of its prison facilities despite hundreds of allegations made by former "terror suspects" who have since been freed), or scapegoating (when Newsweek retracted their allegation that a military interrogator flushed a Koran down the toilet, the Bush Administration said this proved that no Koran abuse has ever taken place).

We don't get any real investigations into administration wrongdoing. Before the 2004 election, Senator Pat Roberts promised an investigation into the possible political manipulation of pre-war intelligence. Now that the election is over, we get no investigation. The Downing Street Memo, which seems to document that the Blair and Bush governments knew their case for war with Saddam was horseshit and decided to manipulate intelligence to bolster their flimsy case, has gotten little play in the U.S. media or in Washington. The Bush Administration sticks to its rote line that Abu Ghraib was an isolated incident perpetrated by a few "bad apples" and totes out a few Pentagon investigations to bolster their claim. Wrongdoing (prisoner abuse, Koran abuse, murder) by American military personnel at Bagram, Afghanistan was either ignored by the army or investigated without any charges being filed.

In case after case, the Bush Administration gets to investigate and absolve itself in a plethora of scandals that would have been broken open had the opposition party held one seat of power in this government. The press has played along for the most part, either unwilling to take on the Administration lest what happened to CBS and Newsweek happen to them, or because the press has become an extension of the Republican Party (FOX, NY Post, Wash Times, etc.)

My fear is that this preznit, who is the most murderous, evil, arrogant, fanatical thug to ever sit in the White House, is going to get away with at all. I waver between thinking there's no way Rove can keep quashing all of the scandals before one of them breaks and touches the preznit to feeling like nothing will ever touch any of these depraved bastards. When you get an incident like the Newsweek thing, where the press parrots the administration line that Koran abuse did not happen in any American military prison because we say it did not happen, I despair that we will ever get a fair and honest investigation of any misconduct or scandal.

I also despair of what will happen to this nation in the next three-and-a-half years. We are already witnessing world-wide protests against the United States by Muslims. We already know that most people in the world in poll after poll hold a very low opinion of the U.S. We know our military is stretched dangerously thin because of the never-ending war in Iraq that is far from "accomplished". We know that some crazies in this government would like to pick a fight with Iran and Korea if possible. We know that at home, Bush wants to load up the federal judiciary and the Supreme Court with judges and justices who follow a higher law than the Constitution - the law of Jesus Christ and the New Testament. We know that Bush wants to destroy what is left of the social safety net by bankrupting Medicare and Medicaid and privatizing Social Security. We know that Bush wants to eliminate public education by having all public schools in the United States declared "failing" by 2015. We know that Bush wants an "ownership society" in which employers will pay third-world wages and cover no pension or health benefits for employees while workers are forced to compete with overseas labor and subject to the unforgiving vagaries of the global marketplace. We know that Bush wants to end all taxation on investment and place it all on labor.

We know Bush wants to do these things I have listed above. I suspect Bush also is setting up the world for the coming "Rapture" by sowing as much discord in the Middle East as possible to create the elements needed for the "Second Coming". Don't kid yourself. That Bush is trying to create as much chaos in the world as possible is not beyond the pale. Bush and Rove are both evangelical nutcases who believe in this Rapture business. Bush and Rove work very closely with Rapture Christians. For example, Pastor Robert G. Upton, head of the Apostolic Congress, a Rapture group, once bragged "I'm briefed at least once a week via telephone briefings" and according to an August 13, 2003 Jeannette Walls article on MSNBC.com, Condi Rice's office contacted Apocalyptic Preacher Jack Van Impe, author of Israel's Final Holocaust and The Great Escape: Preparing for the Rapture, the Next Event on God's Prophetic Clock, for a timeline on the end of the world. So why wouldn't two Rapture believers, with the guidance of fellow Rapturists, create the conditions needed for the Great Rapture? Looking at Bush's Mideast policy, North Korea policy, environmental policy, and economic policies, it sure does look like he's preparing for the end of the world. Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan sees a connection between Rapturists and Bush policy. He wrote on Antiwar.com on April 22, 2004 that:

We are bringing fire and destruction to the Middle East. And to ourselves.

This is exactly what American evangelical Christians desire, according to George Monbiot. In The Guardian (April 20), Monbiot describes the strong support Christian fundamentalists provide for Bush’s Middle Eastern war. "True believers" actively seek to provoke a final battle with the Muslim world. They believe this will usher in the Rapture, and they will be wafted up to heaven, where they will sit at the right hand of God and watch the rest of us endure the Years of Tribulation.

According to Monbiot, "American pollsters believe that 15-18% of US voters belong to churches or movements which subscribe to these teachings. A survey in 1999 suggested that this figure included 33% of Republicans. The best-selling contemporary books in the US are the 12 volumes of the Left Behind series, which provide a fictionalized account of the Rapture."

In 2002 when the US foreign policy community still had a say (it no longer does), Bush asked Sharon to pull his tanks out of Jenin. Angry emails from 100,000 Christian fundamentalists flooded the White House, and Bush never mentioned the matter again.

With the public inattentive, there is no check on the Christian-Zionist agitation to escalate the Middle Eastern conflict. Prepare to sacrifice your sons to Christian fundamentalist delusion and to a Greater Israel.

I'd say let's call for an investigation into the connection between Apocalyptic Christians and Bush administration policy, but they'd probably put Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson or Pope Benedict Panzer the I in charge of the whitewash. The only hope we actually have of getting any fair and honest investigations into Bush Administration crimes is a Republican ballot box whacking in 2006. But short of that, I guess we just get more self-exonerations.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Koran Abuse at Gitmo and Prisoner Abuse at Afghanistan

The Daily News reports that at least one American interrogator at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba prison was punished for "disrespecting an inmate's Koran."


Under White House pressure, Newsweek on Monday retracted a story that determined a Koran was flushed in a Gitmo toilet, which the Pentagon slammed as "demonstrably false."

But two reliable military sources confirmed the previously undisclosed reprimand at the Camp Delta prison - contradicting Bush administration denials of any "credible and specific allegations" about Koran desecration at Gitmo.

Meanwhile The New York Times reports that American treatment of prisoners at a detention facility in Bagram, Afghanistan was brutal, harsh, and deadly. At least two prisoners were murdered. Many were treated harshly for various reasons: to extract information during interrogations; to humiliate the prisoners; or just because military guards were bored and looking for something to do. The most egregious example of abuse:

Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him.

The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days

Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar's face.

"Come on, drink!" the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. "Drink!"

At the interrogators' behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.

"Leave him up," one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying.

Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen. It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.

Interestingly enough, the LA Times had the Dilawar story back in March, but the rest of the American media was too busy searching for runaway brides back then to cover the Dilawar story.

And then came the Newsweek brouhaha. Now Chris Matthews and the rest of the media fatheads have been following Scottie Mac's lead and screaming all week about how the "Koran in toilet" article in Newsweek has permanently harmed America's reputation abroad.

Right. If Tweety-Bird and the rest of the press parrots would stop mimicking the Administration line that prisoner abuse incidents have been infrequent and isolated and start really investigating the abuse allegations, they would find that the United States has systematically tortured, abused, mutiliated, humiliated, and/or murdered thousands of "terror suspects" all in the name of "freedom." Occasionally the American authorities get squeamish with one or two of the cases and transfer the suspects to Egypt or some other country and let them do the torturing and murder for us. Nonetheless, the United States has been behaving like Nazi Germany in the way it runs its detainment camps and the way it has been fighting its "War on Terror."

If there was any justice in this world, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Condi Rice would be tried for war crimes and sent to Gitmo or Afghanistan where the American military would give them a taste of their own torture medicine.

Unfortunately, these bastards are getting away with all of it.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Red Cross Documents Numerous Incidents of Koran Abuse

From the Chicago Tribune:

The International Committee of the Red Cross documented what it called credible information about U.S. personnel disrespecting or mishandling Korans at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and pointed it out to the Pentagon in confidential reports during 2002 and early 2003, an ICRC spokesman said Wednesday.


There were "multiple" instances involved and the ICRC made confidential reports about such incidents "multiple" times to Guantanamo and Pentagon officials.

In addition to the retracted Newsweek story, senior Bush administration officials have repeatedly downplayed other reports regarding alleged abuses of the Koran at Guantanamo, largely dismissing them because they came from current or former detainees.

But, Michael Schorno, an ICRC spokesman said...

"All information we received were corroborated allegations," he said, adding, "We certainly corroborated mentions of the events by detainees themselves."

`Not just one person'

Schorno also said: "Obviously, it is not just one person telling us something happened and we just fire up. We take it very seriously, and very carefully, and document everything in our confidential reports

Hmm. And NEWSWEEK had to retract its Koran in toilet story because Scottie McClellan said so. I bet if somebody else in the press looked into this story, they'd find numerous incidents of Koran disrespect occuring at both Gitmo and in Iraq. I also bet no one will have the guts to look into it now that NEWSWEEK has been "killianed" into submission.

I bet George W. and Karl Rove are smirking about this right now.

Oh, Well, I Guess They Can Stop-Loss the 140,000 Already There

So much for bringing the troops home from Iraq soon. The recent upsurge in insurgent violence, coupled by the Iraqi government's and security forces' inability to protect the populace from violence, means no American troop drawdown in the near future.


Two eye-popping items from the John Burns article in the Times: One military officer said Wednesday that the American military deployment in Iraq would last "years" and that the enterprise in Iraq "could still fail." He said "I think it's going to succeed in the long run, even if it takes many, many years."

Many, many years. Do you think all of the pom-pom wielding, cheerleading Americans who supported the war in 2003 thought 140,000 Amercian troops would still be in the country "many, many years" later? Didn't Wolfie and Rummy tell us this would be a quick, cheap surgical strike? Didn't the Bushie's figure Iraq would be turned into a democratic, free-market playground called "Bremerland" and they could be leaning on Iran by now?

Oh, well. In the short run, there have been 21 car bombs in Baghdad this month compared to 25 all of last year. But as Rummy would say, the more violent the insurgency gets, the more we're succeeding.

With over 500 people killed in the past few weeks in insurgent violence all over the country, we must really be making progress.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

George Galloway, MP

George Galloway, Minister of Parliament, defended himself today against allegations he took kickbacks from Iraq as part of the oil-for-food program. Galloway, speaking in front of Senator Norm Coleman's (R-Minn.) sub-committee of the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, told the senators "I am not now nor have I ever been an oil trader and neither has anyone on my behalf. I was an opponent of Saddam Hussein when British and American governments and businessmen were selling him guns and gas."


Galloway tore Coleman two new rectal orifices, blasting the United States' rationale for the war as "a pack of lies" and terming Coleman's accusations against him "schoolboy howlers."

I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction.

I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda.

I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001.

I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.

Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.


"Now I want to deal with the pages that relate to me in this dossier and I want to point out areas where there are - let's be charitable and say errors. Then I want to put this in the context where I believe it ought to be. On the very first page of your document about me you assert that I have had 'many meetings' with Saddam Hussein. This is false.

"I have had two meetings with Saddam Hussein, once in 1994 and once in August of 2002. By no stretch of the English language can that be described as "many meetings" with Saddam Hussein.

"As a matter of fact, I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns. I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war, and on the second of the two occasions, I met him to try and persuade him to let Dr Hans Blix and the United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country - a rather better use of two meetings with Saddam Hussein than your own Secretary of State for Defense made of his.

"I was an opponent of Saddam Hussein when British and Americans governments and businessmen were selling him guns and gas. I used to demonstrate outside the Iraqi embassy when British and American officials were going in and doing commerce.

"You will see from the official parliamentary record, Hansard, from the 15th March 1990 onwards, voluminous evidence that I have a rather better record of opposition to Saddam Hussein than you do and than any other member of the British or American governments do.

Galloway's testimony in front of Coleman's sub-committee was such a breath of fresh air after years of horseshit, propaganda, and groupthink in Washington. The sweet irony is that Galloway told the truth about the war, the lies used to launch it, and how many American companies have profiteering from it on the same day that the White House and the right-wing propaganda machine at FOX News and The New York Post are hammering Newsweek for an "erroneous report" in which the magazine stated that a copy of the Quran was flushed down a toilet at Guantanamo Bay Prison by American interrogators. The White House claims the report sparked anti-American riots in Afghanistan that killed 17 people and damaged the United States' reputation abroad.

Huh? The U.S.'s reputation was "damaged" by the Newsweek report? After the pyramid photos from Abu Ghraib? After the Duelfer Report undermined Bush's rationale for war and proved there were no WMD's in Iraq? After the Rycroft memo proved that the Bush and Blair governments cooked up the pre-war intelligence to fit their decision to go to war? After the various reports of extraordinary renditions where "terrorist suspects" are flown across the world and delivered into the hands of Muslim allies for torture and abuse? After the multitude of reports that Muslim men have been abused at Guantanamo Bay prison by American interrogators, including one report where an American woman smeared "fake menstrual blood" on a prisoner in order to humiliate him?

And Newsweek's causing all of the problems for us in the Muslim world?

We need more George Galloways in this country to tell the Norm Colemans, the Donald Rumsfelds and the George Bush's that they are lying, thieving, conniving bullshit artists and war criminals who shoud burn in hell for all of the harm they have done to the world in the name of oil profits and "democracy".

PS: I loved it when Galloway told Norm that Rumsfeld was a better friend to Sadaam than Galloway himself. People have conveniently forgotten, or Americans are just that stupid, but back in the 80's Sadaam was our guy in the Persian Gulf. We traded with him, we armed him, we made pipeline deals with him. And Rumsfeld was often the point man on many of these deals (check out the handshake picture from the late 80's!) If only we had a true and free press in this country, the run-up to the war would have been a true discussion instead of the pom-pom, rah-rah cheerleading we got from Tim Russert, Judith Miller and Chris Mathews.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Journalists I Admire

Partisans on both sides of the political aisle spend a lot of time bashing journalists and reporters. And why not? When you have reporters like the snarks at ABC's The Note tell you they don't think the media thinks the Iraq carnage is important enough to cover in between runaway bride stories and breaking "news" in the Michael Jackson trial, why should journalists garner any respect from people?

That being said, there are reporters I admire very much for their talent and skill at cutting through the webs of p.r. spun by the political hacks, the journalistic inertia that quickly becomes "conventional wisdom" in the political world, and various others forms of bullshit that provide cover for greedy and/or self-righteous people to do bad things to the American electorate. Frank Rich is one of those journalists. Nobody in "legitimate" journalism calls the religious right on their hypocrisy better. Today's Rich piece on the religious right's obsession with homosexuality is brilliant, noting that "what adds a peculiar dynamic to this anti-gay juggernaut is the continued emergence of gay people in its ranks," like Arthur Finkelstein, the political operative behind Jesse Helms' campaigns who recently married his long-time gay lover and Spokane Mayor James West, an anti-gay politician who wanted to fire gay state employees during the day while trolling for gay men on the internet by night. Rich also exposes the "recurrent emergence of gay-baiting ideologues with openly gay children (Phyllis Schlafly, Randall Terry, Alan Keyes)" to show that what the religious right hates, the religious right is. Rich does this without outing the other obvious Republican Party and Administration closet case, like California Congressman David Dreier, who lives with his boyfriend/chief of staff, Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman, Bush Spokesman Scott McClellan (a frequent visitor to the Austin gay bar scene and apparently friend to Jeff"James Guckert" Gannon, the male prostitute/journalist for Talon News) and Ed Schrock (Virginia Congressman, co-sponsor of the Federal Marriage Amendment and staunch opponent for any rights for gay people, including anti-discrimination rights in the workplace.) Rich goes on to say that the gay-baiting is going to blow up on the religious right and the Republican Party soon, since so many of them are either gay or related to gay people. So far, the gay-bating has worked, harming John Kerry for noting that the Vice Preznit's daughter, mary Cheney, is a lesbian even though she has worked as Coors Beer's Gay and Lesbian Outreach Director and Liaison. But eventually, the Dreiers, McClellans and Mehlmans of the world are going to be called on their hypocrisy on camera, and the responses will be no prettier than James West's belief that he is a hetrosexual man who has "relations with adult men."

Times columnist Paul Krugman is another journalist who calls the liars and cheats on their deception. While Josh Marshall at Talkingpointsmemo.com has done much to keep wishy-washy Dems strong in the battle for Social Security privatization, Krugman has provided all of the statistical evidence one needs to prick the hot air out of all of the mathematical "bamboozling" the privatizers have used to fool people into thinking the preznit's private accounts proposal is a good idea. Krugman does this in 300 word easy-to-digest columns that can be shared around the water cooler or over lunch, a marked contrast to the confusion spread by such journalists as Tim Russert, who seems to delight in making a complex problem even more complex (and thus easy to fool the American people on). Thank you, professor Krugman.

Finally, New York Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica has been holding Mayor Moneybags' feet to the fire over the stadium deal since the beginning. Today he takes on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who can almost permanently derail Bloomberg's Jets stadium bamboozle with a "no" vote when the Public Utilities Control Board meets this week to decide the issue. Lupica writes:

Silver ought to stand up to Bloomberg on this stadium deal not because of promises Bloomberg makes about the reconstruction of the World Trade Center site, but because it is the right thing to do, because there can be no other real-estate priority in this city at this time than the true rebuilding of downtown Manhattan.

Except that while Bloomberg and Pataki have become obsessed with getting this stadium built, the reconstruction plans for Ground Zero have become a bigger joke than the NHL.

Silver has indicated in the past that he sees no reason to approve this $300 million subsidy and thereby approve the stadium plan - pending all the lawsuits, of course - until he finds out whether New York is going to get the Olympics. This is only common sense. If the Jets get their stadium and New York doesn't get the Olympics, an absolute fortune in taxpayer money will go to building a football stadium that the Jets will use 10 times a year.


These politicians can't get it right at Ground Zero. But they want to make things right for the Jets, who according to Richard Kaplan in the Sports Business Journal are prepared to borrow more than $1 billion to hold up their end of this stadium.

You're supposed to believe they're doing it for you.

Joe Bruno is upstate, not New York City. Silver is supposed to be New York City. He has the chance to stand and deliver this week. Or roll over for the mayor of big checks, and big money, like everybody else.

Bloomberg can't be shamed into doing what's right. That much is obvious. I hope Silver can be. As long as there are columnists brave enough and angry enough to call politicians on their bullshit, we've always got a chance to beat bastards like Bloomberg and Bush in the end. Remember, they got Nixon, and they can get these guys. It just will take some courage and guts that the snarks at The Note don't have and wouldn't buy if they could (though their all dying to get themselves a genuine nickname from the preznit!)

PS: Honorable Mention Roll: Bob Herbert, Molly Ivins, Keith Olbermann.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Whoo-Hoo!!! Mission Accomplished Again!

Operation Matador, a week-long offensive along the Syrian border in western Iraq, ended today. The U.S. military called the operation a success, saying they had "neutralized" an insurgent sanctuary, killed over 125 militants, detained 39 insurgents of "intelligence value," and seized weapons and bomb-making material.


The Associated Press wonders just how successful Operation Matador was:

The U.S. military said the seven-day operation “neutralized” an insurgent sanctuary. But in Qaim, the town where the campaign began, masked fighters armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades remained in plain sight just 24 hours earlier, setting up checkpoints and vowing to defend the town if U.S. forces return.

Why do we even bother believing these clowns anymore? They told Americans the war would be fast and inexpensive. They lied. They told us Sadaam had weapons of mass destruction. They lied. They told us Sadamm brought down the World Trade Center or at least partly funded the attack. They lied. They told us major combat operations were over in May 2003 and the mission in Iraq was accomplished. They lied. They told us in mid-2003 that the insurgency was a temporary distraction from the progress in Iraq and that the few "dead-enders" involved would be taken and punished. They lied. They told us the insurgency would lose steam after they captured Sadaam. They lied. They told us the insurgency would lose steam after Bremer handed over power to the Iraqi interim government. They lied. They told us the insurgency would have its back broken after the Iraqi people held successful democratic elections in January. They lied.

Why do we believe anything anybody in the administration says? They do nothing but lie. I'm stealing this line, but it is so appropos: Every word that comes out of George W. Bush's mouth or the mouths of any of his minions is a lie including "and" and "is".

Operation Matador. Mission Accomplished. Again.

With His International Agenda "Accomplished", Bush Turns to Domestic Concerns

President Bush, having returned home from his Eurpoean trip and accomplished his broad, sweeping international agenda to bring freedom and democracy to all parts of the world, will now refocus on his domestic agenda, the Washington Post tells us on Saturday. But before we allow the preznit to refocus on his domestic agenda, we should take a penetrating look at his foreign affairs record so we Americans can all bask in the glow of the preznit's greatness.

Here are some of the international stories in the newspapers and American media sources today:

Hundreds of protesters were killed in Uzbekistan on Saturday by government troops. Uzbekistan, an American ally who allowed the U.S. to stage military operations into Afghanistan following 9/11, tortures and represses people who oppose the government.

Anti-American rioting has spread in Afghanistan from the eastern city of Jalalabad to the capital city of Kabul. At least 15 people have been killed in four days of anti-American demonstarions which have stemmed from a May 9th report in Newsweek that "interrogators at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba had placed copies of the Koran in bathrooms and flushed one text down a toilet." There were also peaceful anti-American demonstrations in Pakistan, Indonesia, and the Palestinian territories on Friday, but the protests in Afghanistan have become a concern for the pro-American government of Hamid Karzai as anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan has swelled in the last year, stoked by a resurgent Taliban.

There seems to be no end to the Iraqi insurgency, which has been declared on the decline many times since the President Bush issued his "Mission Accomplished" address in May 2003, but only seems to be growing in strength. United States Marines took to the offensive this week in a stretch of desert near the Syrian border in an effort to destroy Iraqi insurgents and Islamic jihadis. Dubbed Operation Matador, the U.S. military estimates that 100 insurgents have been killed in the offensive while 9 marines have died. There have been many operations like this in the past, from Operation Iron Hammer in November 2003 (where U.S. forces "destroyed" many insurgents in Baghdad, Tikrit, Baquoba, Fallujah, and Kirkuk) to Operation Vigiliant Resolve in April 2004 (where U. S. and Coalition forces "pacified" violent elements in and around Al Anbar Province after the killing of four American contractors) to Operation Phantom Fury in November 2004 (where 10,000-15,000 American troops and 2,000 Iraqi forces assaulted the city of Fallujah and rooted out 2,000-3,000 entrenched Iraqi insurgents) . As can been seen by the recurrent nature of the violence in Iraq, these operations have made Iraq safer and have severely hampered the insurgency's ability to strike at Iraqi military forcres, Iraqi civilians, and Americans.

Meanwhile back in Baghdad, another suicide bomber blew himself up next to an Iraqi police patrol, killing at least four people. Over 400 people have been killed in less than two weeks as violence has erupted all over Iraq, taxing the newly formed Iraqi government's ability to provide security. The United States military has urged Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari to retaliate to the insurgent violence with swift military action as civilian confidence in the Iraqi government has steadily eroded.

Yes, the preznit surley has made the world safer for us all as he spreads democracy and freedom across troubled parts of the world. Just think how unsafe the world was in the 90's before the preznit won his stirring mandate in 2000 and think how much safer you feel now in 2005. And with the preznit ready to take on Iran and North Korea, you'll feel even safer in 2006 and 2007!

But wait! Before he tears Kim Jong ll another one and shows those Iranian mullahs who's boss, the preznit's got some domestic business to attend to. He's got a Social Security program to partially privatize, an environment to pollute through his new energy policy, a federal budget to further bankrupt through tax reform, and low income and middle income American citizens to enslave into serfdom through his "class warfare" economic policies. The Wall Street Journal, no bastion of wishy-washy liberalism, reported yesterday that economic mobility is now easier to achieve for low income and midlle income folks in Europe than in the United States.

Money Quote:

But the reality of mobility in America is more complicated than the myth. As the gap between rich and poor has widened since 1970, the odds that a child born in poverty will climb to wealth -- or a rich child will fall into the middle class -- remain stuck. Despite the spread of affirmative action, the expansion of community colleges and the other social change designed to give people of all classes a shot at success, Americans are no more or less likely to rise above, or fall below, their parents' economic class than they were 35 years ago.

Although Americans still think of their land as a place of exceptional opportunity -- in contrast to class-bound Europe -- the evidence suggests otherwise. And scholars have, over the past decade, come to see America as a less mobile society than they once believed.

The Journal article says that Americans tolerate a huge income gap between rich and poor in this country because they believe the myth that their children or grand-children can become wealthy in a land of opportunity. The consequences of this mistaken assumption are widespread:

Many Americans believe their country remains a land of unbounded opportunity. That perception explains why Americans, much more than Europeans, have tolerated the widening inequality in recent years. It is OK to have ever-greater differences between rich and poor, they seem to believe, as long as their children have a good chance of grasping the brass ring.

This continuing belief shapes American politics and economic policy. Technology, globalization and unfettered markets tend to erode wages at the bottom and lift wages at the top. But Americans have elected politicians who oppose using the muscle of government to restrain the forces of widening inequality. These politicians argue that lifting the minimum wage or requiring employers to offer health insurance would do unacceptably large damage to economic growth.

Despite the widespread belief that the U.S. remains a more mobile society than Europe, economists and sociologists say that in recent decades the typical child starting out in poverty in continental Europe (or in Canada) has had a better chance at prosperity. Miles Corak, an economist for Canada's national statistical agency who edited a recent Cambridge University Press book on mobility in Europe and North America, tweaked dozens of studies of the U.S., Canada and European countries to make them comparable. "The U.S. and Britain appear to stand out as the least mobile societies among the rich countries studied," he finds. France and Germany are somewhat more mobile than the U.S.; Canada and the Nordic countries are much more so.

Our fine preznit has been living off the stupidity of Americans who buy into the Amercian dream mythos he sells while ignoring all of the incontrovertible evidence before their eyes that they are falling down the economic ladder, not climbing upward. Bush, the Republican Party and the Republican propaganda machine (FOX News, Washinton Times, etc.) are very skilled at selling their Reverse Robin Hood agenda while pursuing a vicious class war against the poor and middle income people. They are very good at attacking any progressive who takes issue with their policies as a "liberal" or a "Marxist". They have used cultural wedge issues to get poor, working class, and middle class folks to vote against their own interests. In the past twenty years, they have made this nation into an economic oligarchy, have destroyed worker's protections, and are in the process of dismantling the social safety net. The preznit and his minions have made us poorer at home and put us more at risk in the world.

And I wonder, given that the American media would rather laugh at his wife's handjob jokes than hold him accountable for his crimes against humanity, if any of this will stop before the nation descends into a total feudal state.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

American Media Doesn't Think Iraq Carnage Important Enough To Cover

From ABC News The Note:

Brides gotta run, planes gotta stray, and cable news networks gotta find a way to fill a lot of programming hours as cheaply as possible. (CNBC gets to talk about the booming April retail sales numbers, and the NRA's television network will replay the Secretary of State on Larry King over and over.)

We say with all the genuine apolitical and non-partisan human concern that we can muster that the death and carnage in Iraq is truly staggering.

And/but we are sort of resigned to the Notion that it simply isn't going to break through to American news organizations, or, for the most part, Americans.

Democrats are so thoroughly spooked by John Kerry's loss —- and Republicans so inspired by their stay-the-course Commander in Chief —- that what is hands down the biggest story every day in the world will get almost no coverage. No conflict at home = no coverage.

Unfortunately, the smarmy Noters are right. The press isn't interested in covering Iraq anymore. They've moved on to other, more important, stories. But what strikes me as ironic is how the Noters kinda leave themselves and their own network from their media smackdown.

Couldn't ABC World News Tonight spend some time covering the Iraq carnage instead of doing a story about ducks that live on the White House grounds? Couldn't Good Morning America cancel one segment of make-up tips for mothers on the go and spend some time covering the Iraq carnage? Couldn't 20/20 choke John Stossel with his own mustache and spend some time covering the Iraq carnage instead of giving the Geraldo wanna-be a platform for his "Shame on You" crapola? Couldn't Primetime Live spend some time covering the Iraq carnage instead of doing an expose of American Idol?

Yeah, I bet ABC News could spend a little less time on the infotainment and give a little more air time to the Iraq carnage. Maybe if the souls of all of the ABC News employees weren't owned by Disney we would get those Iraq carnage stories. Instead we get the make-up tips from Charlie Gibson and the finger wagging from John Stossel.

So guess what, Noters? Dems may be spooked by Bush's stolen re-election, but even when they try to play like a real opposition party and hammer the administration on the war, you guys are too busy doing the American Idol blowjob exposes to run the story. For instance, has ABC even mentioned the Rycroft Memo, British government documents which prove that Bush and Blair had "made a secret decision to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein nearly a year before launching their attack, shaped intelligence to that aim and never seriously intended to avert the war through diplomacy"?

Nope. No mention of the Rycroft Memo on ABC. But they've got a follow-up on the Paula Abdul blowjob scandal over at American Idol. Whoo, hooo! You go, ABC!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Ridge: Terror Alerts Raised on "Flimsy Evidence"

Tom Ridge gave us the lowdown on Bush Administration political manipulation of the terror alert system at a Washington forum yesterday:

The Bush administration periodically put the USA on high alert for terrorist attacks even though then-Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge argued there was only flimsy evidence to justify raising the threat level, Ridge now says.

Ridge, who resigned Feb. 1, said Tuesday that he often disagreed with administration officials who wanted to elevate the threat level to orange, or "high" risk of terrorist attack, but was overruled.

His comments at a Washington forum describe spirited debates over terrorist intelligence and provide rare insight into the inner workings of the nation's homeland security apparatus.

Ridge said he wanted to "debunk the myth" that his agency was responsible for repeatedly raising the alert under a color-coded system he unveiled in 2002.

"More often than not we were the least inclined to raise it," Ridge told reporters. "Sometimes we disagreed with the intelligence assessment. Sometimes we thought even if the intelligence was good, you don't necessarily put the country on (alert). ... There were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said, 'For that?'

Apparently code orange meant Bush's poll numbers were plummeting below 45% and in need of immediate resuscitation. That's when Ashcroft and Rove would leap into action and raise the alert on some nebulous, outdated, debunked evidence. This cynical manipulation of the terror alert system fooled millions of Americans into thinking they were safer under a Texas Air National Guard veteran who went AWOL when he found completing his terms of service inconvenient than they would be with a decorated Vietnam War combat veteran who had the guts to protest the stupid war when he came home.

You know, there are times when I think the morons who re-elected Bush because they thought he would keep them safer from terrorism deserve everything the Bushies are giving them - from the unraveling of the social safety net to the prevalence of lower wages, poor health care and bankrupt pension funds.

But only sometimes. Because while 51% of voters re-elected Bush, 49% voted to throw the bum out. And it's the 49% who are really getting screwed.

Who Says Bolton Can't Get Along With Other People

Larry Flynt, the "smut peddler who cares," says he has corroborated allegations from numerous sources that Bush UN Ambassador nominee John Bolton engaged in group sex during many visits to Plato's Retreat, the infamous swingers club in NYC during the 70's and 80's. Flynt also claims to have evidence proving that Bolton forced his first wife, Christine, to take part in group sex.

So why aren't these claims being investigated by the mainstream media? They got the forensic evidence on Monica's dress, they should be able to figure out if Bolton was schtupping people in public at a sex club or forcing his wife to have group sex. How do you think all those voters who re-elected Bush over "moral issues" will feel when they find out Bolton is a swinger and a sexual victimizer?

Once again the Republican Right has shown how easily they manipulate "moral values" for votes yet have no intention on living up to the moral standards they set for the rest of us. From Jeff Gannon to Spokane Mayor James West to John "Dirk Diggler" Bolton, lots of people on the right love to tell us how to live while carrying on their own unethical, illegal or just hypocritical behavior.

First, They Came for the Pensions

Courtesy of bink on the Daily Kos:

First, they came for the pensions.
They raised executive salaries so high
That companies could not afford
To pay into their pension funds.
Then, they bankrupted the companies
And took the rest of our pension savings
And dissolved whatever was left of them.
I did not speak out
Because I thought my 401(k)
Would take care of me.

Then, they came for the 401(k) accounts.
The 401(k) was supposed to be better than pensions
But contribution rules, corporate corruption
And stock market manipulation
Drained the money out of my account.
Somehow, the rich got richer and I got stiffed.

I did not speak out
Because I thought Social Security
Would take care of me.

Then, they came for Social Security.
Tax breaks for the wealthy
Meant that there was not enough money
For the program
And so they took it away.

I did not speak out
Because I am an able-bodied person
And I thought that I could always work
Even just to support myself day-to-day.
But they moved all of the jobs overseas
Where it is more profitable.

Without work, I was desperate
And I did not know what to do.
So I tried to file for bankruptcy
So I could get my bills in order.
But they took that away too ...

Then they came for the minimum wage, tax-funded public education, government susbsidized college loans...

bink may be no Whitman, but he sure does capture the plan behind Bush's ownership society: "to dismantle every single public or private policy tool that stands between the middle class and economic desperation."

Welcome to Bush's Ownership Society

From the Financial Times:

Real wages in the US are falling at their fastest rate in 14 years, according to data surveyed by the Financial Times.

Inflation rose 3.1 per cent in the year to March but salaries climbed just 2.4 per cent, according to the Employment Cost Index. In the final three months of 2004, real wages fell by 0.9 per cent.

The last time salaries fell this steeply was at the start of 1991, when real wages declined by 1.1 per cent.

Stingy pay rises mean many Americans will have to work longer hours to keep up with the cost of living, and they could ultimately undermine consumer spending and economic growth.

Many economists believe that in spite of the unexpectedly large rise in job creation of 274,000 in April, the uneven revival in the labour market since the 2001 recession has made it hard for workers to negotiate real improvements in living standards.

I believe this is what Bush means when he blathers on about creating an ownership society in America: the companies and the capitalists own the workers and pay them whatever the hell they want and call it "free-market principles". The companies shift the responsibilities for the retirements and the health care costs of their employees over to the workers, the government gets out of the social safety net business by privatizing social security and bankrupting medicaid and medicare (as Ron Brownstein noted in Monday's LA Times), and low-income and middle-income Americans everywhere carry their own burdens. In the meantime, corporations pay little or no American taxes by shifting their headquarters to the Cayman Islands, wealthy individuals lower their already historically low taxes taxes by shopping for"taxpayer friendly" states and declaring a post office box as their home address (as President Bush did in 2004), and the debt and the deficit grow and grow and grow.

But so do the corporate profits. And by god, don't you declare low-income and middle-income American are being screwed by the rich and powerful in this country or the toadies at FAUX News and MSNBC will call you a Marxist and dismiss you for trying to start class warfare.

Right. The Republican Party has been waging class warfare at least since Reagan. They are quite effective at it. Remember the old urban myth of the "welfare queen" driving her cadillac in the 70's. That was replaced this year by the myth of the American freespender who runs up thousands in credit card debts in Vegas and declares bankruptcy every seven years. Yes, the corporate interests know how to sell their economic programs and how to wage class warfare.

And that's why real wages are down, unions are being busted left and right, employees have little bargaining power, the federal social safety net is disappearing through privatization or bankruptcy, the credit card companies can charge whatever interest rates they want, and millions of Americans have no health care coverage while the health insurance companies are worth trillions (just look at their stocks - they're way up in a year when nearly every other stock is down 5%!).

Welcome to Bush's ownership society, otherwise known as feudalism. All hail the great lord of the manor! Work! Work! Work!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Jim Lampley: Repugs Stole the 2004 Election

Jim Lampley, HBO boxing commentator and recent guest blogger on Ariana Huffington's new celebrity blog, says the Republicans stole the 2004 election. How does he know? He says you need to follow the numbers, especially the betting odds:

At 5:00 p.m. Eastern time on Election Day, I checked the sportsbook odds in Las Vegas and via the offshore bookmakers to see the odds as of that moment on the Presidential election. John Kerry was a two-to-one favorite. You can look it up.

People who have lived in the sports world as I have, bettors in particular, have a feel for what I am about to say about this: these people are extremely scientific in their assessments. These people understand which information to trust and which indicators to consult in determining where to place a dividing line to influence bets, and they are not in the business of being completely wrong. Oddsmakers consulted exit polling and knew what it meant and acknowledged in their oddsmaking at that moment that John Kerry was winning the election.

And he most certainly was, at least if the votes had been fairly and legally counted. What happened instead was the biggest crime in the history of the nation, and the collective media silence which has followed is the greatest fourth-estate failure ever on our soil.

Many of the participants in this blog have graduate school educations. It is damned near impossible to go to graduate school in any but the most artistic disciplines without having to learn about the basics of social research and its uncanny accuracy and validity. We know that professionally conceived samples simply do not yield results which vary six, eight, ten points from eventual data returns, thaty's why there are identifiable margins for error. We know that margins for error are valid, and that results have fallen within the error range for every Presidential election for the past fifty years prior to last fall. NEVER have exit polls varied by beyond-error margins in a single state, not since 1948 when this kind of polling began. In this past election it happened in ten states, all of them swing states, all of them in Bush's favor. Coincidence? Of course not.

Karl Rove isn't capable of conceiving and executing such a grandiose crime? Wake up. They did it. The silence of traditional media on this subject is enough to establish their newfound bankruptcy. The revolution will have to start here. I challenge every other thinker at the Huffington Post: is there any greater imperative than to reverse this crime and reestablish democracy in America? Why the mass silence? Let's go to work with the circumstantial evidence, begin to narrow from the outside in, and find some witnesses who will turn. That's how they cracked Watergate. This is bigger, and I never dreamed I would say that in my baby boomer lifetime.

Wow. Every smug reporter on MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC should be forced to read Lampley's post and watch All The President's Men over and over again until they get some freaking guts to call the Repugs on their subversion of the American democracy. But instead we get the Howard Finemans and the Judy Woodruffs of the world who smirk every time the "stolen election" story is mentioned and say, "That can't happen in America. We're not a banana republic."

Right. And the World Series couldn't be fixed either. But Arnold Rothstein did fix it in 1919 and made a bundle of money off of the deal too. Never got caught for it either, though the Black Sox players were banned from baseball for life and lots of people lost their shirts on the fraudulent outcome.

So you know Rove had the 2004 election fixed too. The exit polls don't lie. I knew the fix was in about 9:30 p.m., when the president called the press into the White House for an off-the-cuff conference to confidently tell Americans he was going to win the election. Son of a bitch, I thought, Rove's pulled a Rothstein! And he had. Ohio was his. Florida was his. The fix was in. They knew! There was no paper trail from the electronic voting, the plan was foolproof! Nobody would believe the election could be fixed in 2004!

And Rove was right. Nobody believed. If you even mentioned the "stolen election" story in mixed company, most people started measuring you for a tinfoil cap. But the people who knew, we weren't crazy, just cynical enough to believe Rove could get away with it.

And as Lampley writes in his post, sports bettors knew that night that Rove had fixed the election too, just the way Bush and Rove knew, just the way some folks in Ohio and Florida know. And Lampley's right, they can be turned, if only somebody from the press would get on the case. Remember, nobody thought Nixon could be brought down either. And while Rothstein got away with the 1919 Black Sox scandal, he did get his in the end. He was murdered in 1928 for welshing on a $320,000 poker debt.

Which means there's hope for getting Rove and Bush. If Rothstein and Nixon could go down, so can Rove and Bush. And wouldn't you love to see both of those bastards being perp-walked out of the White House for the "perp-walk loving" cable media?

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