Thursday, June 28, 2007

stop me if you’ve heard this one. . .

There are three new reports out on the failures of the Bush Administration to deal with Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. . . wait, that sounds almost passive. . . let me rephrase: There are three new reports out on the willful disregard for public safety and health exhibited by the Bush Administration during and after the Hurricane Katrina disaster (that’s better). For instance:

A GAO report revealed that EPA publicly downplayed the risk of asbestos inhalation, which is often released during home demolition, to city residents and failed to deploy air monitors in predominantly African-American neighborhoods. Furthermore, EPA waited nearly eight months to inform residents that short-term visits could expose them to dangerous levels of asbestos and mold.

Hmmm. . . downplayed risk of asbestos, downplayed risk of asbestos. . . where have I heard—oh, yeah:

Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan), whose district includes lower Manhattan. . . cited a 2003 finding by the EPA's inspector general that Whitman's assertion the air was "safe to breathe," was falsely reassuring and lacked a scientific basis.

"In the six years since the attacks," Nadler said, "we have accumulated a mountain of evidence that tens of thousands of those exposed are suffering from chronic respiratory disease and, increasingly, a variety of rare cancers."

. . . .

Nadler and others also pointed to the vetting of EPA press releases through the White House. They cited one Sept. 13 draft that said preliminary EPA sampling indicated "no or very low levels of asbestos. However, even at low levels, EPA considers asbestos hazardous in this situation."

They noted the tone of the final release was reassuring rather than cautionary, saying, "EPA is greatly relieved to have learned that there appears to be no significant levels of asbestos dust in the air in New York City."

I don’t know, what do you think—just a coincidence?

Didn’t think so.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

in memory of. . .

Copyright © 2003 J.B. Handelsman

This is the last “cartoon of the week” to adorn the website of J.B. Handelsman during his lifetime. Handelsman died June 20th at the age of 85.

Handelsman was a prolific cartoonist (almost 1,000 cartoons for the New Yorker since the early Sixties, plus additional work for Punch, Playboy, and a host of books), and a witty one, but I note his passing because, as this and many others of his cartoons show, his heart was in the right place.

I also note it because, when I hear or read about the death of someone who undoubtedly had doubts about the current regime and its policies, or who was just disgusted by the war in Iraq, or America’s various other injustices, post January 2001 (bet you thought I was going to say “9/11”), I get sad. Or, rather, extra sad. . . because I think it sad that these people—in this case, J.B. Handelsman—did not get to experience the satisfaction, joy, or maybe just simple relief of seeing this chapter of American history come to an end.

I know that when the current collection of crooks, cretins, and crazies moves out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, I will heave a millennial sigh. And, should I be lucky enough to see the end of US-influenced hostilities in Iraq, I will party like it’s 1999 (as they say).

Too bad we can’t turn back the clock for those already departed.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

with great power comes great responsibility

Take a deep breath, and then read part one of the Washington Post’s series (and here’s part 2) on the machinations of the Dark Prince as he moved to seize unprecedented power and gain unfettered control of the federal government—it will confirm if not exceed your wildest fantasies and deepest fears—and then keep this in mind:

We can all speculate as to Deadeye Dick’s motives for his connivances, crisscrosses, and crooked dealings (and outright creepiness). Perhaps he is paranoid, perhaps he is greedy, perhaps he is venal, perhaps he doesn’t get enough at home (none of these are mutually exclusive). . . perhaps, at the end of the day, Dick Cheney considers himself a true patriot (that one is mutually exclusive)—the only man who can save America from itself—but no matter the motive, it is now evidently hard to argue that the titular second in command didn’t get everything he wanted.

Dick Cheney sought to pursue policies and objectives without the messy nuances of Constitutionality or consensus, and without regard to law or precedent. . . or for the people that might get hurt along the way. . . and that sort of totalitarian free reign is, alas, what the Vice President got.

And what has all that power done for him. . . and us?

Whether it’s the two hot wars, or some nebulous cold ones, domestic economics, national security, disaster preparedness, energy independence, global warming, or international relations, America has done it Dick’s way. As a result, countless lose life or limbs across the Middle East, America is no better protected from foes, foreign or domestic, we torture, we disappear people, we “try” prisoners in star chambers—some we never try at all—we let ports function unsupervised, chemical plants operate unsecured, we let big oil manipulate the energy market, we let a sham company like Enron scam its way to ruin, and we let a vibrant city like New Orleans drown. Dick Cheney is truly the architect of our misfortune.

So, now that things are extra special FUBAR, who do we have to thank—who, in the end, is responsible? Well, it is the Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney, that with a knowing smirk and a dismissive chortle took—simply took—the great power that he sought, and then he took it upon himself to change the way America does things. . . to change, really, what America is.

And here we are. Dick Cheney has the power—will he accept responsibility?

(cross-posted to capitoilette and Dialy Kos)

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Friday, June 22, 2007

so, now the president does product placement?

Middle of last week, I posted this picture, joking that Commander Crocs & Sox should be impeached for his sick-making sartorial choices alone. (After all, ”An impeachable offense,” as Gerald Ford once remarked, “is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.” Surely the majority can agree on this.)

Perhaps I was joking then (perhaps), but as it turns out yet again—and for some reason I always forget this—in BushWorld, the most cynical, short-sighted, greedy, venal explanation is probably the correct one (we call this “Bush’s Razor”). It might have been the President’s choice to add the seal socks, but it is likely that Bush enjoys wearing the plastic shoes in public because those Crocs put money in campaign kitty.

You see, Boulder, CO-based Crocs, Inc. has as its Chairman of the Board big-time Republican contributor/fundraiser Rick Sharp (Sharp is also founder and chair of CarMax), and just a few weeks prior to Bush’s footwear photo-op, George and Laura made a stop in Goochland (that’s the real name, I swear), VA—home to the “sprawling estate” of Rick and Sherry Sharp. The occasion was a fundraiser for the Virginia Republican Party (that night’s haul, a mere $630,000).

Whether the presidential product placement was discussed at the party, or Bush was given those black crocs in exchange for his signature on a big check (OK, I’ll admit it, even at 28% approval, Bush’s mere appearance was probably enough to garner a free pair of plastic shoes), we can only speculate—the event was closed to the media.

But don’t feel bad for the ladies and gentlemen of the president’s press pool—they may not have gotten their own free Crocs, but they did get to play ping-pong (yes, the metaphor writes itself) with White House Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto inside a separate Goochland building that housed the Sharps’ gym.

They even got dessert!

(photo: Julie Mason

(hat tip: GL)

Update: Does 26% still earn you a pair of free shoes? Twenty-six percent—sheesh!

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

a man whose allegiance is ruled by expedience

What the hell—right? I mean, if the late Mayor John Lindsay could jettison his Republican ties after losing the party primary while running for a second term, why can’t Mayor Mike jump a sinking ship after winning his? In Tuesday’s announcement that he is removing the epithetical (R) from his name, however, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R ?) looks less like to me like Lindsay, and more like Wernher von Braun.

To be certain, I am less upset with Bloomberg’s leaving the GOP than I was when he joined it in the first place. The fact of the matter is that then, as now, the mayor had little in common with the New York or the national Republican Party, either with regards to history or ideology. If anything, Bloomberg became more of a Republican after he was elected mayor back in 2001.

Instead, what Bloomberg saw in the Republican Party back in ’01 was an opportunity. Mike had an ambition, and the New York Republicans—already in rapid decline back then—had a need. Bloomberg had no desire to work his way through the system or wait his turn, so he switched from Democrat to Republican expressly to snag a guaranteed ballot spot he likely could not win on his own in a Democratic primary.

Mike also had money, and in the Republican primary, and most certainly in the general election, he spent it. He blitzed his opponents. By most accounts, Bloomberg spent over $70 for each and every vote he received on his way to defeating Democrat Mark Green. (He actually spent even more—over $110/vote—in his campaign for reelection.)

And so, with his loose change and his convenient change of sides, Mike Bloomberg got to be mayor. And while he has been like a breath of fresh air after the vile and nasty Rudy Giuliani, Mayor Bloomberg has hardly been a progressive’s dream (some very recent proposals for a greener city notwithstanding).

Even looking past the unchecked overdevelopment taking place in New York and Bloomberg’s less than small (or large, for that matter) “d” democratic approach to public education reform, it is hard to celebrate Mike’s run as a Republican mayor because of the support he felt necessary to lend to his new found friends. Bloomberg has given $350,000 of his own fortune to the state party and perhaps more to its candidates, and let us not forget his role as host to the 2004 Republican National Convention.

And let us not forget the preventive detentions, security clampdowns, and the more recently revealed covert infiltration of protest groups that lead up to and surrounded that convention—a style of policing that was not a so much a special case as a case study for the Mayor Bloomberg/Police Commissioner Ray Kelly regime.

Also let us not forget Mike’s not insubstantial campaign help lent to Joe Lieberman (Monomaniacal Party-CT) as the Senator fought successfully to circumvent the will of his constituents and (up till that moment) party.

In fact, it is maybe in Lieberman that we have the best object lesson for understanding Bloomberg’s de-partification (if you will). Both of these men like to brag about how their worldview extends beyond ideology or party, and, in a way, they are right. Neither man is about party because both are all about themselves.

As with Beltway Joe mouthing off almost every week on the Sunday talk shows, many of Mayor Mike’s moves can be seen as grand attempts by a lame duck to remain relevant. Or, if not relevant, at least visible—it is hard, after all, to relinquish the spot light, the bully pulpit, or even the rope line.

But, beyond the attention, what does Michael Bloomberg want? Von Braun was easier to understand—he wanted to make rockets. If he had to join the Nazi party and build V-2s to do it, so be it; if he had to become a naturalized American and make ICBMs, all the better. In the end, he was eulogized as the man who got mankind to the moon.

Bloomberg has recently aimed for the moon himself, making many ambitious and sweeping proposals for changes that will almost all theoretically come to fruition long after he is out of office—his current office. I, for one, still question whether his heart is really in it.

That remains to be seen—as does whether Mike really wants (as he currently claims) to be mayor for another 900-odd days. If not, I fear what we learn about Michael Bloomberg and what he wants will, in reality, be less about what he wants for others, and more about what he wants for himself.

(hat tip: Tom Lehrer)

(cross-posted to capitoilette and Daily Kos)

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

the new number one reason to stop Hillary Clinton from getting the Democratic nomination

If you don’t, you’ll have to listen to this. . .
over and over. . .
all the way through next November.

Unlike StarKist, we want a president with good taste. . . sheesh!

More later. . . .

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pointing an ink-stained finger at the truth

The Bush Administration likes to point to the February 2006 bombing of the golden dome of the Askariyya Mosque as the beginning of the sectarian violence—the civil war—in Iraq, and most of the lazy establishment media has just decided to ignore the historical record and parrot that construction. The inconvenient truth of the matter is that sectarian murders were already a regular part of Iraqi life at the time of that first Samarra bombing. A more accurate assessment would trace the beginnings of the civil war to a seemingly much more peaceful event—the parliamentary elections of January 2005.

That Iraqi election, coming only a couple of months after the first US assault on Falujah (a Sunni stronghold), was almost completely boycotted by Sunnis, and the result was a national government dominated by Shiites and Kurds. From that point on, the Sunni’s felt little investment in the US-imposed Iraqi government, and the Shiites felt little constraint on their power.

Funny enough, just two days after that election, Bush made a big show of his democracy agenda, bragging in his State of the Union speech about elections in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Palestinian Territories to a purple-fingered joint session of Congress.

Looking at those places a little over two years later, it is hard to imagine a worse advertisement for democracy. . . what’s up with that?

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Monday, June 18, 2007

General Patsy builds his dream house

Reflecting on the latest bombing of the al-Askari mosque, Washington Post reporter (and author of Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq) Thomas Ricks looks at America’s position in Iraq and is reminded of a cautionary allegory told to him by Warren Buffett:

If you’ve been playing poker for half an hour and you don’t know who the patsy at the table is—you are the patsy.

If you don’t think that rings chillingly true all by its lonesome, have a gander at the words of General David Petraeus, Commander of US forces in Iraq, as he begins his long Summer’s spin toward the September assessment of the Bush war escalation (assembled from three sources):

If you drive around Baghdad, you'll find astonishing signs of normalcy in perhaps half to two-thirds of the city. I’m talking about professional soccer leagues with real grass field stadiums, several amusement parks — big ones, markets that are very vibrant. . . .

The Iraqi army has, in general, done quite well in the face of some really serious challenges. In certain areas it really is very heartening to see what it has done. . . .

In fact, the car bomb numbers have come down fairly steadily as well until just a couple of days ago, and we'll see if we can get those coming down again. . . .

There's a real vibrancy in certain parts of Iraq, and in others obviously there is continued fighting and a sectarian cycle of violence underway. Obviously, there is damage, a need to … help them stitch back the fabric of society that was torn during the height of the sectarian violence.

Many have jumped all over the “soccer leagues” reference as a good example of how either out-of-touch or untrustworthy Petraeus is, but what jumped out at me was that last line, the one that refers to the height of sectarian violence in the past tense (was torn).

The General made his comments on the same day as the minaret bombings in Samarra, and before Thursday’s retaliatory attacks on numerous Sunni mosques, but after the release of a Pentagon report that showed how very much in the thick of sectarian violence Iraq and its occupiers are right now.

Spencer Ackerman and Think Progress have more on the specific absurdities in the Petraeus assessment, but even a casual observer of the situation knows that, in the darkest terms, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

And, if it is the case that General Petraeus is not just another Bush apologist, if it is the case that he actually believes that things are vibrant, or getting better, or that the peak sectarian violence is behind us, well, then, you really ain’t seen the worst.

As Ricks, evaluating the latest round of miscalculations and Pollyanna pronouncements, says, paraphrasing legendary military strategist Carl von Clausewitz:

The first and really only task of the top commander is to understand the nature of conflict in which he is engaged.

If von Clausewitz were around to play cards with today’s global leaders, he probably wouldn’t need the full half hour to fix his gaze firmly on the US command. Isn’t it about time for General Petraeus, and the civilian leadership to which he must answer, to take a good look around the table—and a sincere look at the entire house of cards that is Iraq?

(cross-posted to Daily Kos)

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Friday, June 15, 2007

failing the smell test

Late on Thursday, the White House released this terse statement:

On June 14, 2007, the President signed into law:

S. 214, the “Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007.”

Sounds good, right? Bush actually signed a bill passed by the Democratic Congress written to undue the provision at the heart of the US attorney scandal—what could be wrong with that?

Well, actually, plenty. In fact, it stinks. . . .

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

tell me something I don’t already know

The covers of most major metropolitan newspapers today trumpet what even a casual observer has known for months—and what many of us knew even earlier—there has been no drop in violence in Iraq since the Bush escalation (or “surge,” if you must) began early this year.

Three months into the new U.S. military strategy that has sent tens of thousands of additional troops into Iraq, overall levels of violence in the country have not decreased, as attacks have shifted away from Baghdad and Anbar, where American forces are concentrated, only to rise in most other provinces, according to a Pentagon report released yesterday.

Most articles go on to explain that efforts at bridging political and ethnic differences have so far failed, that sectarian killings have surpassed pre-escalation levels, and that suicide bombings in the January to April period have more than doubled.

Like I said, most of us in the reality-based dominion knew this would happen even before the first extra boot hit the blood-soaked Baghdad ground, but that’s not news, right? You want the “new” in news, don’t you? Well, here it is: all this violence means the Bush splurge is a success.

Don’t believe me? Just ask Tony Snow:

[W]hen you see things moving towards success, or when you see signs of success, that there are acts of violence.

Snow goes on to cite Palestine and Lebanon, in addition to Iraq, just to underscore. . . what. . . oh, yeah. . . HOW FUCKING INSANE THIS IS!

That the administration and its mouthpiece engage in Orwellian “War = Peace” doublespeak is, again, not news. That the assembled ladies and gentlemen of the press don’t gasp, laugh, or scream when every George, Dick, and Tony reiterates this crap is, alas, not really news anymore, either.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

reason enough for impeachment

President Crocs & Sox. . . . complete with the presidential seal on the socks.

Your tax dollars hard at work.

(photo h/t dKos)

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

next mechanism please

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called again for the resignation of Attorney General (and “loyal Bushie”) Alberto Gonzales. Speaking during the debate to end the debate on the so-called “vote of no confidence,” Reid began as follows:

I rise in support of S.J. Res. 14, a resolution expressing the Sense of the Senate that Attorney General Gonzales has lost the confidence of Congress and the American people. The Senate has a responsibility to express its displeasure with a Cabinet officer who has grossly mismanaged his responsibilities and failed the American people. That is the one and only mechanism we have – short of impeachment – to address malfeasance by a high-ranking federal official.

Well, while a majority of the Senate clearly expressed their lack of confidence, the move for cloture failed to gain needed 60 votes. The final “yes” vote of 53 included seven Republicans; the 38 “no” votes included Republican toy balloon Joe Lieberman (Schmuck-CT).

I probably don’t need to remind you of the litany of Gonzo’s misdeeds (if you need reminders, New York Senator Chuck Schumer has a few here), but perhaps we all need reminding that, success or failure of S.J. Res. 14 notwithstanding, today, as yesterday, Alberto Gonzales is still the Attorney General, he is still in charge of the Department of Justice, he is still our nation’s “top law enforcement official.”

Senator Reid said the resolution was the only mechanism available short of impeachment—well, the cloture vote fell short, so what does that leave Reid, the US Senate, and the American people?

Senator Reid, Senator Schumer, Senator Leahy, Democrats—it’s time. Enough Pussyfootin’. If you want to keep the pressure on this miscreant and his lords and masters in the White House, if you want to start fighting back against the partisan political attacks on our Constitution and our electoral process, if you want to maintain your own credibility as the Party that stands in opposition to the criminal ways of the Bush Administration, then you need to start the wheels turning on that other mechanism. You need to begin hearings on the impeachment of Alberto Gonzales.


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Monday, June 11, 2007

sow now, reap later

Not a lot of time for the big think-piece today, so I’m going to let you play some high-minded connect the dots. Let me direct your attention to three stories:

First, from the New York Times:

U.S. Arming Sunnis in Iraq to Battle Old Qaeda Allies

BAGHDAD, June 10 — With the four-month-old increase in American troops showing only modest success in curbing insurgent attacks, American commanders are turning to another strategy that they acknowledge is fraught with risk: arming Sunni Arab groups that have promised to fight militants linked with Al Qaeda who have been their allies in the past.

Second, from the LA Times,

U.S. relies on Sudan despite condemning it
The nation accused of aiding the killings in Darfur provides spies in Iraq. In return, it gets access in Washington.

WASHINGTON — Sudan has secretly worked with the CIA to spy on the insurgency in Iraq, an example of how the U.S. has continued to cooperate with the Sudanese regime even while condemning its suspected role in the killing of tens of thousands of civilians in Darfur.

President Bush has denounced the killings in Sudan's western region as genocide and has imposed sanctions on the government in Khartoum. But some critics say the administration has soft-pedaled the sanctions to preserve its extensive intelligence collaboration with Sudan.

And third, from the AP by way of HufPo:

Prisons Ban Books Over Fear of Radicals

NEW YORK — Inmates at the federal prison camp in Otisville, N.Y., were stunned by what they saw at the chapel library on Memorial Day _ hundreds of books had disappeared from the shelves.

The removal of the books is occurring nationwide, part of a long-delayed, post-Sept. 11 federal directive intended to prevent radical religious texts, specifically Islamic ones, from falling into the hands of violent inmates.

Discuss. . . .

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Friday, June 08, 2007

the food at the Kempinski’s terrific no doubt. . .

. . . so sang Ella Fitzgerald in her classic Berlinification of Mack the Knife—“the food at the Kempinski’s terrific no doubt”—but don’t tell that to George Bush. That would be George W. Bush, who, if we are to believe reports this morning, has a stomach that reacts to international banquets much like his father’s did. They just don’t fry bologna (or whatever the heck it is this guy considers “real” food) the way they do back home.

Yes, President GW Bush is playing hooky from the G8 this Friday—he says it’s on account of his stomach ache, but I say he’s playing at sick today because yesterday he just got played.

Vladimir Putin gave everybody a lesson on how to stand up to a bullying Bush by countering the American plan to abrogate the ABM treaty and destabilize yet another part of the world with a shrewd offer of his own.

The Bush Administration was angling to put early warning radars on Russia’s doorstep—in Poland and the Czech Republic—as part of the fantasyland boondoggle the guys who don’t believe in science call the “Strategic Defense Initiative,” but you and I affectionately remember it as “Star Wars.” Forget that Bush and his crazy mad brain trust want to risk reigniting the Cold War (can you do that—reignite cold?) on a multibillion dollar scheme that absolutely does not work, and let’s just focus on the not in the least bit accidental side effect that moving towards building this thing—or things that look like they would be this thing if this thing actually were a real thing—has produced: a face-off with a resurgent Russia.

Yep, always jonesing for regime change, no matter how foolhardy and brutally irresponsible, the neo-nut wing of the Republican Party is seeking to recapture the glory of the Reagan years by again beating back the red menace (that they have misread history and overestimated Reagan’s role in the downsizing of the Soviet Union goes without saying). And if you can do so while lining the pockets of your defense industry friends, then all the better!

They know that SDI won’t work—hasn’t to date, never will—but they hope that in rapidly developing it and pushing it right up against Putin’s backside, they can provoke another arms race that will bankrupt and/or destabilize Russia.

Can you imagine a more inaccurate assessment of the current situation?

Russia of the mid-oughts is not the USSR of the mid-eighties. For one, they’re leaner and meaner, with oil and gas reserves that are still underexploited at a time when Middle East oil is past peak and mired in the logistical nightmares of conflict. The wealth that is rapidly accruing from that oil and gas is not only available to fund its own military expansion, it is there to buy influence at a time when the US is strapped for cash. Maybe you can’t make friends with salad, but you sure can with oil.

Further, back in the 1980’s, the USSR was bogged down in an unwinnable conflict with Islamic insurgents—in Afghanistan—now, well, gosh, what a difference a day (or 20 years) makes.

Knowing that they know that we know that they know what we’re up to, the Bush Administration has decided, all-of-the-sudden-like, that this “missile shield” isn’t directed at Russia (how you direct a shield is another thing altogether)—no! Never! We’re doing this to protect ourselves. . . or Europe. . . or ourselves. . . wait, no. . . whatever. . . against the threat—the imagined threat—from Iran. Yeah, that’s it—Iran!

So. . . you’re deploying a nonworking system against a nonexistent threat?

Please ignore the man puking behind the curtain!

OK, where was I? Oh, right. . . So, President Bush thought it would be funny/a political coup to tell Putin to cool his jets because we can make our magic shield protect you Russians, too.

What’s that old Peanuts cartoon about playing chess with a checkers mentality?

Really, as if Putin didn’t likely have the situation gamed-out already, Bush’s bullying combined with his bogus offer really just laid it all on a silver platter. Russia leases an airbase in Azerbaijan that is perfectly placed for monitoring Iranian air-space—what could be easier for Putin than to offer it as a staging ground for the new extra-special x-band radar the US was going to put in the Czech Republic?

This is not meant to be all rah-rah Vladimir—by no means. I think Putin is a frightening figure—despotic, repressive, possibly expansionist, probably brutal—which is what makes the situation we see playing out in the Heiligendamm Kempinski all the more disturbing. The US simply doesn’t have the sort of quality leadership capable of going head-to-head with the Russian president.

Instead, the best we can muster, it seems, is a sort of bull in a china shop approach to our interests. Bush can completely dishonor his host, Angela Merkel of Germany, by derailing the climate change agreement that had been negotiated at lower levels for months, and he can posture about security while acting to make everyone less secure, but the administration is so ideologically constipated that it can’t show up at a high-powered summit with the stomach for the real hard work of international diplomacy. Global warming, nuclear proliferation, Islamic extremism, population control, globalization, immigration, food safety, disease control—just look at what needs to get done on a high-level, multinational scale!

But that’s not what does get done—not when George W. Bush is seated at the dinner table. Instead, time is wasted, face-saving proclamations become placeholders for action, the undemocratizing Russia is allowed to claim the title as grand master of statecraft, and the US president throws up his dinner—if not his hands.

Meanwhile, it is the rest of us that are left feeling ill.

(cross-posted to capitoilette and Daily Kos)

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

war is a force that gives republicans meaning

Chris Hedges, writing in Sunday’s Philadelphia Enquirer (re-posted to truthout), describes in stark terms one of the most absolutely terrifying possible legacies of the Bush/Cheney war on and occupation of Iraq: the building and empowering of “America’s first modern mercenary army.”

In his piece, Hedges describes how billions of federal dollars have been funneled to private firms with strong ties to the Bush administration and to the Christian right—not just for the 100,000 or so that provide logistical support to government forces, but for 20,000 to 30,000 armed security “contractors.”

American taxpayers have so far handed a staggering $4 billion to "armed security" companies in Iraq such as Blackwater, according to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.). Tens of billions more have been paid to companies that provide logistical support. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D., Ill.) of the House Intelligence Committee estimates that 40 cents of every dollar spent on the occupation has gone to war contractors. It is unlikely that any of these corporations will push for an early withdrawal. The profits are too lucrative.

Hedges goes into chilling detail about the implications of the rapid growth of this modern-day Praetorian Guard—this armed, extra-legal force—and I strongly recommend you click on over for the full read (though maybe not right before bedtime), but here, let me just couple that article with recent statements by President Bush, his Defense Secretary, a chief military commander in Iraq, and his Ambassador to Iraq, all seemingly designed to ease American opinion toward a place where we accept a more or less permanent occupation of Iraq.

I do not doubt for a minute that many inside the administration know that continued occupation means continued billions to the private contractors. I only wonder if they fully realize what that money will buy.

(My apologies to Hedges for the riff on the title of his 2002 book. I’m thinking he may not mind so very much.)

(cross-posted to Daily Kos)

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

on lameness

Unlike with other papers in the region, the so-called JFK “terrorist plot” did not make the front page of the New York Times. In fact, it didn’t even make the first section—the Times decided to run it on the front of its Metro section (hey, that’s the front of something, ain’t it?). New York Times national editor Suzanne Daley, answering questions this week over at, took some heat from a hopped up public, no doubt jonesing during their commuter time for a little more “all hysteria, all fear, all the time” tabloid or tabloid television coverage.

In artfully defending the editorial decision made by the Times, Daley as convincingly denigrates the prosecutorial (and you can’t spell “prosecutorial” without “PR”) decision made by the government:

Here's the basic thinking on the J.F.K. story: In the years since 9/11, there have been quite a few interrupted terrorist plots. It now seems possible to exercise some judgment about their gravity. Not all plots are the same. In this case, law enforcement officials said that J.F.K. was never in immediate danger. The plotters had yet to lay out plans. They had no financing. Nor did they have any explosives. It is with all that in mind, that the editors in charge this weekend did not put this story on the front page.

In truth, the decision was widely debated even within this newsroom. At the front page meeting this morning, we took an informal poll and a few editors thought the story should have been more prominently played. Some argued it should have been fronted, regardless of the lameness of the plot, simply because it was what everyone was talking about.

And yes, I have mixed feelings about the introduction of “lameness” as used above into the officially sanctioned lingua franca of the Gray Lady, but when it is used to describe this “plot”—and so, by association, this episode in the Bush Administration’s “war on terror”—how can I do anything but heartily approve?

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

adding a little color this summer?

Yesterday’s LA Times featured a story about how Democrats (and the activists that love them) are planning on making this summer the Summer of Iraq (cue music).

WASHINGTON — Democratic congressional leaders, whose efforts to force a withdrawal from Iraq were stymied last month, plan a summer of repeated Iraq-related votes designed to force Republican lawmakers to abandon the White House before the fall.

. . . .

"The debate on Iraq will continue," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said last week. Pelosi, who in March helped push Democrats to embrace a withdrawal of American combat forces, has pledged that the House will vote on numerous measures aimed at ending the war.

My first thought was, “Wouldn’t it have just been better to continue full-bore with the spring offensive to shut down this war?” My second thought was, “Gosh, for Iraqis, and the troops over there, and for all of us here that have been paying attention, every day of every season has been ‘of Iraq’ for the past four years.” But then I settled on another thought. . . .

If the Democrats goal is to split Republicans away from the Bush Administration on the Iraq issue, well, I admire the effort, but, as recent votes show us, it’s a heavy lift. However, the issue where congressional Republicans seem to have no problem standing up to and against the White House is immigration. I mean, honestly, nothing dries up a rubberstamper’s inkpad like the threat of adding a little color to the American envelope.

So, what if Democrats made one of their front-and-center “all Iraq, all the time” bills a piece of legislation designed to, on an emergency basis, quickly allow for, and even facilitate, a massive up tick in the numbers of Iraqi refuges allowed into the United States? What if the Democrats say the mayhem necessitates that a humane nation take care of the people whose lives we’ve disrupted? What if they propose a resettlement to the US of, say, 20,000, or 50,000, or even 100,000 Iraqis?

Granted, even 100,000 is a drop in the bucket compared to the million Iraqis that will be displaced this year because of this conflict, but even 20,000 is a massive improvement over the 68—yes, sixty-eight—that have been relocated to the US this year. It is possible that 4 million Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes since the start of Bush’s war, surely Bush’s country can make room for a small fraction of those poor people.

That would be the argument, anyway (one I actually believe).

Now, I understand that both President Bush and his rubberstamp Republicans are both opposed to the idea of increased Iraqi resettlement for their own selfish reasons, so you won’t necessarily get a divided vote out of the GOP caucus—but imagine the floor speeches! Who wouldn’t like to hear a variety of Republicans try to gracefully meld immigration reform with Iraq war policy? Whose heart doesn’t quicken at the prospect of seeing the odd elephant chase its own tail in an attempt to find just the right way to stand on being helpful to our Iraqi brethren while safeguarding our white race, oh, I mean, our nation’s borders?

And how about the pickle in which this would put Senator and presidential wannabe John (asshole) McCain? He’s pro immigration reform and pro-escalation. . . and now, pro-fifty-years-war.

I know that the Democratic leadership has a lot to do to get back on offense this summer, but I can think of few better ways than to take two issues that have the backing of two-thirds (or more) of Americans (ending the Iraqi occupation and liberalizing our immigration policy), and hold them up to show whose on the side of the voters. . . and who is on the other—the Republican—side.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

look ma—I’m a terrorist!

This is apparently pretty much all it takes.

According to Justice, all you need is Google and a dream. . . and an idiot or two to dream it.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

ape man

Friends of George W. Bush and the less than friendly all over the vast interwebtubes are all duly alarmed by reports of the President’s less than balanced behavior as reported Thursday by Georgie Ann Geyer in the Dallas Morning News:

Friends of his from Texas were shocked recently to find him nearly wild-eyed, thumping himself on the chest three times while he repeated “I am the president!”

This story corroborates another recent report of W’s Nixonian freak-outs:

[S]ome big money players up from Texas recently paid a visit to their friend in the White House. The story goes that they got out exactly one question, and the rest of the meeting consisted of The President in an extended whine, a rant, actually, about no one understands him, the critics are all messed up, if only people would see what he’s doing things would be OK…etc., etc. This is called a “bunker mentality” and it’s not attractive when a friend does it. When the friend is the President of the United States, it can be downright dangerous. Apparently the Texas friends were suitably appalled, hence the story now in circulation.

Of course, we all should be appalled, if not overly surprised. It is scary to think of the putative “leader of the free world” behaving like petulant toddler—at best—or a wounded animal—at worst—but it is not hard to imagine. Who among you now reading this can honestly say that you have trouble instantly picturing the Boy King pounding his chest and making claims as to his perceived proper place in the world?

I thought so.

But as disturbing and easy as those images are, the far more distressing part of the Geyer piece is this:

He [Bush] also made it clear he was setting Iraq up so his successor could not get out of “our country’s destiny.”

Isn’t that the bigger story here? George Bush, with his talk of a democracy and freedom, of surges and new ways forward, of liberty and strategy, is aping “leadership” while purposefully scuttling our ship of state, purposefully dragging us deeper into his filthy quagmire, so that “our country’s destiny”—read, “Bush’s legacy”—cannot be brought back to the reality-based world after he leaves office.

Screw the facts, screw the Constitution, screw the will of the American people, screw the lives of the soldiers and marines, and screw all of the people in the Middle East, Dead End George wants things his way, so that’s how it’s going to be. This, more than his whining and chest thumping, is what makes George W. Bush a menace. This is what makes it time for him to go.

Seriously, how can you negotiate with a man who is sworn to fuck you over? I mean, we already knew he didn’t bargain in good faith, but here is all the proof you need that it is something beyond all that—he doesn’t respect anyone else, he barely acknowledges your rights to a future of your choosing. He doesn’t care if you live or die, as long as he gets his way and gratifies his ego.

So, I give that to you, voters and leaders—beyond the crazy behavior, look at the truly mad goal. Let us all move with a sense of urgency to take the reigns of power out of this ape-man’s hands.

And, why did I know that I would have no trouble finding something like this:

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