Sunday, July 31, 2005

Starting bids at a dozen nutria for Jenna and Barbara

The Week (8/8/2005) speculated that Godwin Kipkemoi Chepkurgor, a local councillor, may have business to discuss with former President Clinton on his official visit to Kenya. In a letter to the White House back in the year 2000, Chepkurgor offered Clinton 20 cattle and 40 goats in return for Chelsea Clinton's hand in marriage.

The decline of the U.S. economy

In yet another article by Paul Craig Roberts on CounterPunch about the dramatic changes to the U.S. economy wrought by globalization:

In recent years I have stressed the erosion of the conditions on which the case for free trade rests. Production functions based on acquired knowledge lack the uniqueness required for the operation of comparative advantage, and the international mobility of capital and technology allows those factors of production to seek absolute advantage abroad in skilled, disciplined, low-cost labor. The real conditions in the world today no longer conform to the assumptions of free trade theory.

Thus, once world socialism collapsed and the highspeed Internet was up and running, first world living standards were no longer protected by unique accumulations of capital and technology. The changed conditions made it possible for American companies to use employees drawn from large excess supplies of foreign labor as cheaper substitutes for American employees.

Using the nanotech sector to illustrate his point, Roberts argues that it isn't enough for the United States to have a strong research sector, where new ideas are spawned and patented (although the ability of the US education system to provide an ample supply of well-trained minds should be questioned as well). Most of the money is not in intellectual property. It's in the utilization of intellectual property:
An equally important part of intellectual property is manufacturing process knowledge-the manufacturing ability to turn a new principle into salable things. Without the ability to commercialize and manufacture products based on the new ideas, we not only lose the ability to capture most of the economic rewards but also eventually lose the ability to think up the ideas. Without process knowledge from manufacturing, it is difficult to recognize promising nanotech innovations.

Part of the solution to redress the imbalance being created by cheap labor overseas and capital mobility, argues Roberts, is "to abandon the income tax and replace it with a value-added or sales tax or even tariffs." Roberts argues that the U.S. income tax places a burden on U.S. manufacturers that foreign manufacturers don't have:
[The U.S. income tax] imposes no appreciable tax burden on foreign goods and services sold in the US but imposes a heavy tax burden on US producers of goods and services regardless of whether they are sold within the US or exported to other countries.

It's beyond my scope of understanding to remark on Roberts' radical conclusion. I simply offer it as food for thought.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Bush administration defends its right to torture

Sgt. Santos A. Cardona and Sgt. Michael J. Smith are being court-martialed for inappropriate use of dogs against prisoners at Abu Ghraib. They claim they were just following orders when a dog bit a naked detainee while his cell was being searched. They might have a point:

The Washington Post (Thursday):

Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller told top officers during an advisory visit to Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison that they needed to get military working dogs for use in interrogations, and he advocated procedures then in use at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to court testimony yesterday.

Maj. David DiNenna, the top military police operations officer at Abu Ghraib in 2003, said that when Miller and a team of Guantanamo Bay officials visited in early September 2003, Miller advocated mirroring the Cuba operation.

"We understood he was sent over by the secretary of defense," DiNenna testified by telephone. DiNenna said Miller and his team were at Abu Ghraib "to take their interrogation techniques they used at Guantanamo Bay and incorporate them into Iraq." ...

The use of military dogs to exploit fear in detainees was approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for use on a specific important detainee in Cuba in late 2002 and early 2003.

"He was going to talk to [Lt. Gen. Ricardo S.] Sanchez and get us the resources we needed." ...

The dogs ... arrived a few weeks later.

A day earlier, the NY Times reported on documents obtained by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) - himself a former military lawyer - which show that:
Senior military lawyers lodged vigorous and detailed dissents in early 2003 as an administration legal task force concluded that President Bush had authority as commander in chief to order harsh interrogations of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, newly disclosed documents show.

Despite the military lawyers' warnings, the task force concluded that military interrogators and their commanders would be immune from prosecution for torture under federal and international law because of the special character of the fight against terrorism.

From the same NY Times story, here are some of the statements by military lawyers made to the Bush administration's legal task force in early 2003:
  • Several of the "more extreme interrogation techniques, on their face, amount to violations of domestic criminal law" as well as military law. ... The use of many of the interrogation techniques "puts the interrogators and the chain of command at risk of criminal accusations abroad" (Air Force, Maj. Gen. Jack L. Rives).

  • While detainees at Guantánamo Bay might not qualify for international protections, "Will the American people find we have missed the forest for the trees by condoning practices that, while technically legal, are inconsistent with our most fundamental values?" (Rear Adm. Michael F. Lohr, the Navy's chief lawyer).

  • All the military lawyers believed the harsh interrogation regime could have adverse consequences for American service members. General Sandkuhler said that the Justice Department "does not represent the services; thus, understandably, concern for service members is not reflected in their opinion" (Brig. Gen. Kevin M. Sandkuhler, a senior Marine lawyer).

  • The approach recommended by the Justice Department "will open us up to criticism that the U.S. is a law unto itself" (Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Romig, the Army's top-ranking uniformed lawyer).

In a Friday editorial, the Washington Post clarified the role of Miller and of the Bush administration in not just authorizing torture methods that violate both the Geneva Conventions and U.S. military code, but in covering up their roles in continuing to use the same torture methods and then covering up their authorization of those methods:
In statements to investigators and in sworn testimony to Congress last year, Gen. Miller denied that he recommended the use of dogs for interrogation, or that they had been used at Guantanamo. "No methods contrary to the Geneva Convention were presented at any time by the assistance team that I took to [Iraq]," he said under oath on May 19, 2004. Yet Army investigators reported to Congress this month that, under Gen. Miller's supervision at Guantanamo, an al Qaeda suspect named Mohamed Qahtani was threatened with snarling dogs, forced to wear women's underwear on his head and led by a leash attached to his chains -- the very abuse documented in the Abu Ghraib photographs.

The court evidence strongly suggests that Gen. Miller lied about his actions, and it merits further investigation by prosecutors and Congress. But the Guantanamo commander was not acting on his own: The interrogation of Mr. Qahtani, investigators found, was carried out under rules approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Dec. 2, 2002. After strong protests from military lawyers, the Rumsfeld standards -- which explicitly allowed nudity, the use of dogs and shackling -- were revised in April 2003. Yet the same practices were later adopted at Abu Ghraib, at least in part at the direct instigation of Gen. Miller.

Meanwhile (here we go again), rather than take a principled stand for human rights and the better aspirations of the United States, with a few exceptions, congressional Republicans have placed themselves in the indefensible position of defending the right of the Bush administration to use torture.

It would be hard to find (in the mainstream press), but thanks to Daily KOS and the ACLU, we now know that Bill Frist postponed debate on the $442 billion defense authorization bill (in a time of war) because a few wild Republicans are drafting an amendment that:
...includes provisions to bar the military from hiding prisoners from the Red Cross; prohibit cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees; and use only interrogation techniques authorized in a new Army field manual.

The NY Times last week featured an article on Dick Cheney's lobbying to kill the amendment, threatening Republicans that President Bush would veto the defense appropriations bill if it contained any language against abuse, and today featured an opinion on the White House's obtuseness with regard to condemning abuse.
The three Republicans are John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John W. Warner of Virginia, the committee chairman. They have complained that the Pentagon has failed to hold senior officials and military officers responsible for the abuses that took place at the Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad, and at other detention centers in Cuba, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Earlier this week, NPR's Morning Edition featured John McCain's remark that the provision is only doing what the U.S. military code already requires.

How unusual that, in a time of war, the Senate would leave in suspense military appropriations for the coming fiscal year.

Oh yeah, before Frist postponed the Pentagon budget vote, he inserted an NRA-friendly amendment protecting the gun industry from lawsuits. I guess that pretty much demonstrates that politics trumps defense among rank-and-file Republicans.

Friday, July 29, 2005

D'oh...oh yeah, it's freedom we're defending

NY Times:

An Algerian man received 22 years for plotting to bomb the Los Angeles airport on the eve of the millennium. ...

U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour said the successful prosecution of Ahmed Ressam should serve not only as a warning to terrorists, but as a statement to the Bush administration about its terrorism-fighting tactics.

"We did not need to use a secret military tribunal, detain the defendant indefinitely as an enemy combatant or deny the defendant the right to counsel," he said Wednesday. "The message to the world from today's sentencing is that our courts have not abandoned our commitment to the ideals that set our nation apart."

He added that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks have made Americans realize they are vulnerable to terrorism and that some believe "this threat renders our Constitution obsolete ... If that view is allowed to prevail, the terrorists will have won."

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Blood in the oil

David Morse for Common Dreams:

The ink is scarcely dry on oil deals signed between the Islamist dictatorship that rules Sudan from the northern capital, Khartoum, and an eager bevy of oil companies from China, India, Japan, and Britain - even as the genocide continues full tilt in the western region known as Darfur. ...

Oil rigs are now drilling on land seized from black African farmers - who have been killed, raped, and driven off their land by their own government through its proxy militias, known as Janjaweed, in a campaign of ethnic cleansing now in its third year. ...

Oil companies are deeply complicit. Attacks by Janjaweed, often with aerial support from Sudan government forces, have cleared the way for pipelines and drilling. Oil company roads and bridges are used by government troops to carry the genocide into more remote communities in Darfur. ...

American oil companies are not visibly part of the scramble, because in 1997 the Clinton administration added Sudan to the list of states sponsoring terrorism ....

The article continues to describe how Sudan oil is the reason why the Bush administration Bush administration lobbied to weaken the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act, so that U.S. oil companies can get into the action.

The only thing standing in the president's way is the ugly fact of genocide and the ability of the American people to make it politically unacceptable for our president to avert his eyes from what is happening in Darfur.

Post 'yer WSMB complaints right here

I don't know why they can't seem to find their way over to WSMB to register their complaints about the change to progressive Air America programming, but I'm happy to see that, like fly paper, PGR is trapping a lot of right wingers doing searches for WSMB.

Don't get squeezed by big cable

If you're fed up with constant cable rate hikes, poor service and a lack of local and independent programming, the FCC needs to hear from you -- right now.

The FCC may allow the three largest cable companies to control up to 90 percent of the cable TV and broadband market in the United States.

Remember that in most markets, cable companies operate as monopolies. The only way to get them to respond to your concerns is to voice your opinion and apply pressure on local, state, and federal officials.

Free Press has a form you can use to send the following comment directly to the FCC (the deadline for comment is August 8):

Giant cable companies should not be permitted to grow larger. Further consolidation in the cable industry is a clear violation of horizontal ownership rules that must be re-established to serve the public interest.

The concentration of power and control over distribution of media is a growing problem in this country. Though we have more channels available than ever before, they are under the operation of a handful of giant corporations.

If Comcast and Time Warner are allowed to merge with Adelphia, the two companies will control nearly 50 percent of the national market. This level of concentration in the cable industry will lead to higher consumer rates and lower quality service.

Since passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the “deregulation” of cable, consumers have seen their rates jump an average of 59 percent — with some areas experiencing even more dramatic increases.

We are required to buy channels we don’t want or need because the cable operators bundle them together. The quality of customer service often reflects the fact that cable television is not a competitive market.

Meanwhile, the cost of cable modem service remains out of reach for many households, holding constant for years and selectively underserving rural and low-income Americans. The American people are watching the digital divide widen even as the need for access to high-speed networks increases.

Cable companies have become less responsive to the needs and requirements of communities. The quality of public accountability in local franchise agreements has declined, as big companies leverage their power to squeeze local governments.

In many communities, the truly independent sources of local news, information and culture come from the public channels produced at the local access centers. Unfortunately, local channels lack the resources to produce the programming that citizens want and need.

The last thing we need is to reward the anti-competive actions of cable giants by permitting greater consolidation in ownership, reducing competition, and encouraging more of the same.


The Bush administration has been modifying the way it talks about terrorism. This could be a welcome, more rational and realistic change in tone after the way the administration abused its power by "fixing the facts" (Downing Street Memos anyone?) around a policy to invade Iraq that was discussed well before September 11, conflating Iraq with 9/11 and the "global war on terror."

NY Times:

In recent speeches and news conferences, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the nation's senior military officer have spoken of "a global struggle against violent extremism" rather than "the global war on terror," which had been the catchphrase of choice. Administration officials say that phrase may have outlived its usefulness, because it focused attention solely, and incorrectly, on the military campaign.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the National Press Club on Monday that he had "objected to the use of the term 'war on terrorism' before, because if you call it a war, then you think of people in uniform as being the solution." He said the threat instead should be defined as violent extremists, with the recognition that "terror is the method they use."

Although the military is heavily engaged in the mission now, he said, future efforts require "all instruments of our national power, all instruments of the international communities' national power." The solution is "more diplomatic, more economic, more political than it is military," he concluded.

Administration and Pentagon officials say the revamped campaign has grown out of meetings of President Bush's senior national security advisers that began in January, and it reflects the evolution in Mr. Bush's own thinking nearly four years after the Sept. 11 attacks.

One wishes Junior would have listened to his national security advisors before the Iraq invasion, or maybe after 9/11, or hey, how about before 9/11 when "red lights and bells should have been going off" but Junior was too busy clearing brush on his ranch to pay attention to the job of president.

So we've gone from the GWOT, to the GSAVE. Now, Tom Engelhardt suggests a new phrase in his TomDispatch article printed in Common Dreams, "La Dolce Vita War on Terror."

Aside from the very serious matter of U.S. agents seizing an Italian citizen, without approval from the government of Italy, it seems our intelligence agents could use a little more intelligence in how they hunt down possible terrorists, and in how they spend taxpayers' money. In the 2003 "extraordinary rendition" of a muslim cleric in Milan, the 19 implicated CIA agents were "like elephants stampeding through Milan," leaving "huge footprints" of their activities.

Among the footprints:
  • Agents stayed in some of the world's most luxurious hotels, choosing to use credit cards rather than cash, giving their frequent flier account numbers to desk clerks, using unsecured room phones, and ringing up a $144,984 tab.
  • Agents ate in 5-star gourmet restaurants, charging up to $500 a day per agent.
  • With their suspect transported out of Italy, the agents rewarded themselves by taking vacations to Venice and Mediterranean beaches (thanks taxpayers!).

Engelhardt concluded:
The nightly cost of a room in Milan's Hotel Principe di Savoia, $450; the cost of a Coke from a mini-bar in one of its rooms, $10; the cost of leasing a GulfstreamV for a month, $229,639; that feeling of taking the American taxpayer for a ride, priceless.

NPR laughter

Why is it that NPR announcers have such gratuitously long laughs - only stopping when they've expelled all the air from their lungs, and start sucking wind like a fish out of water?

Think Scott Simon, Liane Hansen, Robert Siegel...

Bush wins free trade pact with Tampa, Florida

The House followed the Senate in signing CAFTA into law. It's a done deal once monkey boy signs the legislation.

The NY Times, on the Central America Free Trade Agreement:

The immediate economic impact is likely to be small, at least for the United States, because the combined economies of the six countries are equivalent to about 1 percent of the United States economy or an economy about the size of Tampa, Fla., and its surrounding suburbs.

The curious might ask, so how is this supposed to help the U.S. economy? The cynical might ask, how does this help U.S. businesses and hurt U.S. workers? While the compassionate might ask, how does this hurt Central Americans?

But I wonder, did anyone in the House or Senate have a serious debate on this issue? I'm not talking about a rhetorical debate about how people feel about the idea of free trade. I am talking about an academic debate - one that tests the theories about free trade against actual observable facts. We've lived with NAFTA for over ten years now. There's certainly plenty of material to research.

CAFTA, like NAFTA, will be bad for workers and family farmers in the U.S. and in Central America. It's a secret pact for the enrichment of big business and corporate agriculture. We need FAIR TRADE, not free trade!

To those looking for answers, a good first place to start is

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Remember the folks who gave you the weekend

The Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) members, along with $20 million, left the AFL-CIO. It's a major schism - and a major risk - for organized labor in the United States. The future well-being of American workers - including non-union workers - depends upon the outcome.

Molly Ivins:

If you work in this country, you owe labor, big time. And I'm talking to you, white-collar worker.

This is not about the old stuff -- 40-hour workweek, unemployment insurance, health benefits, safety regs, etc. This is about right now, today. The money that controls this administration is out to screw you -- it's your pension on the line, your salary on the line and your job on the line. If your company can replace you cheaper, you are gone, buddy. And this administration is pushing jobs overseas just as fast as it can.

Stephen Pizzo says that "old labor" just got fat, rich, and lazy:
The old AFL-CIO guard wasted millions of dollars in union dues trying to buy political friends, instead of actually organizing. If Democrats know what's good for them, they will side with 'New Labor.' ...

In the old days -- when labor was young — there was no money. Instead, labor used its muscle to get attention and cooperation. Okay, it wasn't always pretty, and it was really hard work. It required union leaders to engage in one-on-one retail organizing. It meant handing out union fliers at factory gates in the wee hours of the morning, sometimes in freezing weather.

Back in those days union leaders, like Samuel Gompers, John L. Lewis, Harry Bridges and Cesar Chavez, put their personal safety, freedom and lives on the line facing down pipe- swinging company thugs on picket lines.

It was hard, uphill work back when Labor was young. But with the winds of righteousness at their backs, it was effective too. American workers organized in record numbers, salaries went up, benefits went up, standards of living went up. ...

[But later], as [the] rape of labor marched on and on Sweeney and his kind at the top of labor had become indistinguishable from corporate CEOs and politicians.

Blaming the AFL-CIO for it's failure to fight the assault on unions, and the Democratic Party for letting it happen, Molly Ivins is putting her faith in "new labor":
SEIU has successfully organized the "unorganizable" -- some of the poorest, most powerless people in our society, the people who push mops, clean toilets and never voted in their lives. Credit is due to a superb new generation of organizers.

Bush cabinet estate tax savings

The phase out of the estate tax will be complete in 2010. But in 2011, it is supposed to be reinstated. H.R. 8, passed earlier this year, would eliminate the 2011 sunset provision, thus making the estate tax cut permanent.

The Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center calculated that permanent repeal would take $270 billion out of the treasury over the next ten years.

Using the estimates of their net worth, Rep. Henry Waxman calculated the amount of money members of President Bush's cabinet stand to gain:

Waxman's fact sheet can be downloaded as a pdf.

I regret to inform you...

On the way to work today, I heard Jerry Springer can the right wing tactic of setting up a straw man to knock down. "The liberals," they say, "want the terrorists to win." The liberals do this, the liberals do that, creating a false representation of what a liberal is that they can then tear down with all that ignorant self-righteous anger pent up inside.

Springer rightly assailed the tactic, arguing that there isn't a single liberal in the country who would say such a thing. Of course not! Liberals want to win against terrorism, but liberals say we can do it smarter. Bravo!

Later, during my lunch break, I heard a "Best of Al Franken" show with guest George Packer, who recently wrote a story for The New Yorker, "The Home Front: A soldier’s father wrestles with the ambiguities of Iraq." Packer said that Bush doesn't want to hear any news of failure or complications in Iraq. His conversations with advisors are benign and untroubled. Unlike Johnson, who stayed up late at night waiting for body counts, the Bush administration thinks that the right way to win a war is to leave the details to other people, to stay on a positive note, to repeat the message of victory ... to ignore the Americans dying over there.

All the while, the scene has been replayed over and over again, to date, 1783 times. From Packer's New Yorker article:

Frosheiser met the lieutenant colonel outside the building and invited him in, hoping it was all a mistake, and they briefly made small talk in the living room. Frosheiser went to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. When he returned, the lieutenant colonel suddenly stood at attention: "I regret to inform you that your son Kurt was killed as a result of action in Baghdad."

Packer found the Bush administration lacking in honesty, even to themselves, of the reality of the situation in Iraq:
"We all have doubts all the time," [Richard] Perle said. "We don’t express them, certainly not in a public debate. That would be fatal." Expressing doubts in public would empower opponents. In public, Perle himself essentially said, "I told you so." Soon after the invasion, he told a French documentary filmmaker, "Most people thought there would be tens of thousands of people killed, and it would be a long and very bloody war. I thought it would be over in three weeks, with very few people killed. Now, who was right?" As the war became longer and bloodier, Perle was still right, but in a different way: If only ten thousand Iraqi National Congress members had gone in with the Americans as he had wanted, if only Ahmad Chalabi had been installed at the head of an interim government at the start, all these problems could have been avoided. None of the war’s architects publicly uttered a syllable of self-scrutiny. ...

"It’s not accidental that President Bush, during the campaign, couldn’t answer the question whether he ever made a mistake. I’ve never seen those folks say they were wrong. ... Johnson was a tragic figure. He was driven by the imperative not to lose the war. He knew he couldn’t win. Bush is Johnson squared, because he thinks he can win. Bush is the one true believer, a man essentially cut off from all information except the official line."

My message of support to WSMB 1350 AM for making the change to Air America format:
Thank you! Thank you for the Air America format change. Thank you for giving New Orleans an alternative to the bile and venom spewed over the airwaves by self-promoting, right-wing talk radio hosts. Democracy can't survive the poisoning of minds to indefinitely. Americans are dying, literally, for a home where reasonable minds can engage in civil discussion. I applaud your vision and courage in making such a bold move.

Once again, I can hardly believe that it took so long to get an alternative voice out there on the radio to combat the freakshow of wingnuts like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

Show your support of the WSMB Air America format as well by contacting WSMB. It's important!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

¡Cuba sí! ¡Castro no!

Oyster's right on the money:

When Fidel finally dies, how can we expect to positively influence future events in Cuba if we are not engaged-- commercially, diplomatically, ideologically, culturally...? This stupid embargo punishes everyone (including the U.S. and LA) except Castro. I'm convinced the embargo practically sustains this hale bastard. Our policies over the past 4 decades have given him the ultimate boogeyman; the ultimate scapegoat.

I don't think it's even a popular view anymore that the embargo is working, or should be continued.

There's actually a second danger that arises out of the Bush administration's policy of tightening restrictions on trade and travel - the danger that Cubans' right to self-determination will be sold out from under them. Without a tradition of democracy and economic empowerment, Cubans will be extremely susceptible to willfully selling over their unique ingenuity, creativity, and self-sufficiency big investors. Cuba will become a Cancun for the rich and powerful. And yes - while it might not be popular to say it - the very real progress that has been achieved by some of Castro's policies (albeit at great cost to Cubans) will be reversed.

Read about the new crackdown on Cuban dissidents, then sign the Statement Protesting Repression in Cuba:
Democratic change in Cuba needs to be achieved by the Cuban people themselves. The Cuban government's violations of democratic rights do not justify sanctions or any other form of intervention by the United States in Cuba.

Make the pie higher

Actual quotes from George W. Bush:

by George W. Bush

I think we all agree, the past is over.
This is still a dangerous world.
It's a world of madmen and uncertainty
and potential mental losses.

Rarely is the question asked
Is our children learning?
Will the highways of the Internet become more few?
How many hands have I shaked?

They misunderestimate me.
I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.
I know that the human being and the fish can coexist.
Families is where our nation finds hope, where our wings take dream.

Put food on your family!
Knock down the tollbooth!
Vulcanize society!
Make the pie higher! Make the pie higher!

Bush ignored 9/11 warnings

Representative Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), who returned to the Senate this year after her 2002 election defeat, was joined on Friday by 9/11 family members and a number of other panelists to explore the questions left unanswered by the 9/11 commission about what the Bush administration knew about the possibility of attacks on the United States before 9/11.

The panelists argued that the Bush administration ignored warnings of an attack from the CIA, FAA, foreign governments, and others, that Osama bin Laden was planning an attack on the United States using hijacked airliners.

Why didn't George W. Bush do anything? The panelists argued the Bush wanted to expand his power.

In light of what we know now about Bush's plans to invade Iraq well before the 2000 election, I agree with the panelist's conclusion. I think it's entirely possible that Bush may have "misunderestimated" the extent of damage that could be inflicted by an attack. He may have had other things on his mind that summer before 9/11. We certainly know that he was too busy clearing brush, finding his voice, trying to figure out how he would ever fool the public into believing he was the president, trying to look presidential.

jcb382 commented on the news of the hearing:

Bush is described as a knave and a hand-puppet with Cheney telling him what to think, Rove telling him what to say, and Gonzelez running between the two fixing the legalities.

May Junior wear the yoke of 9/11 around his neck until his dying day, not just because he could have done more to prevent the attacks, but because there are now almost 1800 dead American soldiers, over 13,000 wounded, and tens of thousands of dead Iraqis, who all died because of the way that the Bush administration repeatedly lied about Iraq having a connection to 9/11.

Hold on to your wallet

ExxonMobil set the world record for corporate profit last year: $25 billion.

Other energy companies are also rolling in the dough (previous post).

Hmm...hey Congress, this seems like a good time to give 'em a break. I'm thinking of a figure in the neigborhood of...$11.5 billion!

I can't wait to graduate into the ranks of the super-rich so I can get nice fat tax cuts too!

Oh, what's that you say? A war going on in Iraq? You say it's cost $200 billion so far? Energy companies are the beneficiaries? We'll bankrupt future generations by passing the cost on to them?

Awww...stop yer crabbin' and go get'cherself some balls!

The shuttle is back in space

May it carry its crew safely back home...

STS-114 crew

...while we remember those who went before them.

STS-107 crew

Jerry Springer reminisces about New Orleans

On Air America this morning (WSMB 1350 AM in New Orleans), Jerry Springer said he hasn't had as much fun since his days in college at Tulane.

A little-known fact: Jerry began his broadcasting career at WTUL.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Pop the housing bubble

The NY Times reported today that "sales of existing homes rose 2.7 percent in June to a record pace as home prices soared 14.7 percent from a year ago, the biggest jump in nearly 25 years."

Any of you homeowner's seeing any benefit from this housing bubble? I doubt it. You buy your house, sell high, and then what? You have to go out and buy another house at an inflated price.

The only people making money in this boom are investors who buy houses just to turn them around and resell them at a higher price.

This really has to get under control, because while people with money to burn are making more money to burn, workers who save their pennies to buy a house are themselves getting burned in the process.

Could we perhaps have a system where, if you want to own more than, say, two houses, the interest rate doubles? Or maybe the capital gain on the sale of a second house in a year could be jacked up to, say, 50 percent of the profit on the sale.

Then, the only people who will buy houses will be the ones who want to actually live in them.

Get'cher balls in the Army

Ho hum.

Could we just get on with it and IMPEACH BUSH!!! It just has to be done. In all the Supreme Court and Rovegate hoopla, the Downing Street Memos have fallen off the radar.

While I wait for events to finally overcome the Bush administration, I thought I'd take a look at Dear George Letters:

Dear George:

I have served my country in Iraq, and lost both legs doing so. What have you lost? Why did you lie to the world? There never were any WMD's! I will dedicate the rest of my life to telling the truth, and making sure nobody ever joins the military again. War is never the answer. Jesus has taught me to wage peace. This is what I shall do. Please don't shame true Christians by calling yourself one.

Satan will surely have his way with you, Mr. Bush. May god have mercy on your eternally damned soul.

Age 21

After Dwayne's post, David from Savannah, Georgia, said he loved serving in Iraq, and continues "serving proudly with balls in the US Army."

Well now that's odd isn't it? Why would someone feel like they needed to tell the President about their balls? That really is the problem, isn't it? The guys who come out of a war without a scratch just can't get enough of it, and add to the macho blood lust.

If Dwayne had his friggin' ass blown off by an IED, well then, we wouldn't really be hearing him talking about his balls now, would we? Of course not. Because guys who get killed never get to talk about how great it was.

News for two track minds

Just a reminder that today is supposed to be the day that WSMB 1350 AM in New Orleans makes that radical shift to Air America programming.

I haven't been able to confirm yet, but this is the anticipated schedule:

5-8am Morning Sedition Mark Riley and Marc Maron, Live
8-11am Jerry Springer, Live
11am-2pm O'Franken Factor, Al Franken and Katherine Lanpher, Live
2pm-4pm Ed Schultz, Live
4pm-7pm Tom Fitzmorris, Live, Local
7pm-9pm Randi Rhodes
9pm-midnight Mike Malloy, Live
midnight-3am Majority Report, Janeane Garafalo and Sam Seder
3am-5am Mike Malloy

It's going to be important to encourage WSMB to stick with the format. They're sure to get angry calls from the right, so be sure to let them hear your support.

I wish that talk radio didn't have to be split into two angry camps. I wish there could be open dialog on issues of importance. But as long as people like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh think it's okay to spit their venemous anger over the airwaves, and to poison citizens' minds with spin and lies, I'm glad that at least now there's an alternative.

Jon Stewart talked about this division into two camps recently on NPR's Fresh Air, saying that, no, it's not enough for broadcasters to present two differing perspectives on an issue. This assumes that there are only two approaches to a problem. He wishes there were a spectrum of ideas presented over the airwaves.

I support that sentiment, and again call attention to a bill that would restore the Fairness Doctrine, but that bill will go nowhere if it doesn't get public support. We need to ramp up attention on this vital issue, in the same way that public outcry forced FCC Chairman Michael Powell to back off from loosening restrictions on media ownership in 2003.

Finally, in War Talk, Arundhati Roy explained why ideas are so circumscribed by media:
Public opinion in "free market" democracies is manufactured just like any other mass market product - soap, switches, or sliced bread. We know that while, legally and constitutionally, speech may be free, the space in which that freedom can be exercised has been snatched from us and auctioned to the highest bidders. Neoliberal capitalism isn't just about the accumulation of capital (for some). It's also about the accumulation of power (for some), the accumulation of freedom (for some). Conversely, for the rest of the world, the people who are excluded from neoliberalism's governing body, it's about the erosion of capital, the erosion of power, the erosion of freedom. In the "free" market, free speech has become a commodity like everything else - justice, human rights, drinking water, clean air. It's available only to those who can afford it. And naturally, those who can afford it use free speech to manufacture the kind of product, confect the kind of public opinion, that best suits their purpose. (News they can use.) ...

[In] the United States in particular - media barons, powerful corporate lobbies, and government officials are imbricated in a more elaborate but less obvious manner. (George Bush, Jr.'s connections to the oil lobby, to the arms industry, and to Enron, and Enron's infiltration of U.S. government institutions and the mass media - all this is public knowledge now.) ...

After the September 11, 2001, terrorist strikes in New York and Washington, the mainstream media's blatant performance as the U.S. government's mouthpiece, its display of vengeful patriotism, its willingness to publish Pentagon press handouts as news, and its explicit censorship of dissenting opinion became the butt of some pretty black humor in the rest of the world. ...

There is, however, a brighter side to the amount of energy and money that the establishment pours into the business of "managing" public opinion. It suggests a very real fear of public opinion. It suggests a persistent and valid worry that if people were to discover (and fully comprehend) the real nature of the things that are done in their name, they might act upon that knowledge. Powerful people know that ordinary people are not always reflexively ruthless and selfish. (When ordinary people weigh costs and benefits, something like an uneasy conscience could easily tip the scales.) For this reason, they must be guarded against reality, reared in a controlled climate, in an altered reality, like broiler chickens or pigs in a pen.

Those of us who have managed to escape this fate and are scratching about in the backyard, no longer believe everything we read in the papers and watch on TV. We put our ears to the ground and look for other ways of making sense of the world. We search for the untold story, the mentioned-in-passing military coup, the unreported genocide, the civil war in an African country written up in a one-column-inch story next to a full-page advertisement for lace underwear.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The United States of multi-national corporations

Right on the heels of remarks I made about how the U.S. economy may soon start to look like the old Soviet Union, I found an article by Molly Ivins echoing the same assertion (originally from Working for Change, reprinted in Common Dreams):

I recommend Bill Greider's op-ed article in the July 18 New York Times, "America's Truth Deficit." He begins with the startling thesis that we face structural economic problems as serious as those that destroyed the late Soviet Union and that, like the USSR before its breakup, our leaders cannot talk about these problems honestly. "[Our] weakening position in the global trading system is obvious and ominous, yet leaders in politics, business, finance and the news media are not willing to discuss candidly what is happening and why. Instead they recycle the usual bromides about the benefits of free trade and assurances that everything will work out for the best. ...

"Washington defines 'national interest' primarily in terms of advancing the global reach of our multinational enterprises." Problem is, our multinational corporations increasingly work against the interests of Americans themselves.

Exhuming Westmoreland

Writing for Common Dreams, Norman Solomon, on General William Westmoreland, who passed away last week:

In April 1967, a month when several hundred thousand Americans participated in antiwar protests, General Westmoreland spoke to an Associated Press luncheon and asserted that -- despite "repeated military defeats" -- the Vietnamese Communist enemy was able to continue the anti-U.S. struggle "encouraged by what he believes to be popular opposition to our efforts in Vietnam." At the time, independent journalist I. F. Stone aptly called it "the oldest alibi of frustrated generals -- they could have won the war if it hadn't been for those unpatriotic civilians back home."

From the Boston Globe, Derrick Jackson, quoting Westmoreland, and then comparing his comments to the reality in Vietnam, and his legacy now in Iraq:
"The Oriental doesn't put the same high price on life as does a Westerner. Life is plentiful. Life is cheap in the Orient." ...

Assumptions of cheap life in the East led to bombing without a conscience by the West, admitting no mistakes along the way. President Johnson boasted in 1967 that everything was moving along nicely as we were outkilling the North Vietnamese forces 10-1. ...

"We're dealing with an enemy that has no conscience," Bush said on the campaign trail last year. ...

That was ironic, since we have bombed and killed thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of Iraqi civilians to ''save" them. The right wing loves to hound liberals and the left, claiming that they ignored Saddam's prior carnage to his people. But two years after the invasion, the hawks have still not answered why two massacres -- however careful our soldiers tried to be -- make a right.

White House homoeroticism

Frank Rich points to another White House personal attack used to silence anyone who would dare publicly embarrass the Bush administration, revealed by the Washington Post in 2003. Just a day after Joe Wilson debunked the administration's Niger uranium claim with his column in the NY Times:

On that evening's broadcast of ABC's "World News Tonight," American soldiers in Falluja spoke angrily of how their tour of duty had been extended yet again, only a week after Donald Rumsfeld told them they were going home. Soon the Drudge Report announced that ABC's correspondent, Jeffrey Kofman, was gay. Matt Drudge told Lloyd Grove of The Washington Post at the time that "someone from the White House communications shop" had given him that information.

Rich then points out that such attacks by Rove are a common tactic:
As Joshua Green reported in detail in The Atlantic Monthly last year, a recurring feature of Mr. Rove's political campaigns throughout his career has been the questioning of an "opponent's sexual orientation."

Who can help but wonder why? Why does Karl Rove have it in for gays? Is he hiding his embarrassment at his own sexual proclivities?

At the same time - as is well-documented by Rob at Realitique - the Bush administration is now known to have seeded the White House press corps with people like Jeff Gannon (a homosexual) to gratuitously ask questions that please the White House, rather than accept questions the press would like to ask.

While I may be criticized for crossing the line into out-of-bounds territory, I can't help but draw comparisons to another paranoid, insular, media controlling, militaristic, fascist regime. Yes, that one.

There's a not insignificant amount of fascinating literature examining the homoerotic tendencies of the Third Reich. Some of Hitler's closest confidants were homosexuals, and there's considerable conjecture that Hitler himself may not have refused sexual relations with other men.

I don't want to play this out too much as a possible characteristic of the White House because it's really of no consequence to me, and there are far more important things to focus on. Nevertheless, I do think Karl Rove's actions beg closer scrutiny.

Obviously, too much hay can be made of this with loose allegations. Furthermore, it's not my point to bash gays. I merely intend to expose Rove's wicked hypocrisy. I'll just leave it here, with a couple of side by side photos of Karl Rove and two of the people in Hitler's inner circle whom (it has been argued) were homosexuals, and with whom Rove may share a striking physical resemblance (as suggested in, as well as shared personality traits:

Heinrich Himmler

Hermann Goering

Der Rove (aka Junior's Turdblossom)

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Nice-guy Novak

David Margolick's profile of Robert Novak which appeared in Vanity Fair a few months ago has some great quotes. Of course, this does nothing to advance a fair and reasoned debate about Rovegate, but then, when has Bob Novak ever promoted a fair and reasoned debate:

Everyone knows the toothy Novak smile, conveying derision and condescension more than mirth. And the Novak scowl, directed at those people—all told, pretty much everyone—he feels are more ignorant and less principled than he. And the Novak squint as he gazes through his sinister, heavily lidded eyes at the latest fool to cross his path. And the Novak harrumph, that distinctive compound of contempt, exasperation, and boredom with which he greets what they say. And the Novak splutter, when his lips and tongue can't quite keep up with the bile gushing from his brain. "Why does everyone take such an instant dislike to me?" Novak, surely more curious than concerned, once asked Robert Strauss, the former Democratic Party chieftain and an old friend. "Saves time," Strauss replied. ...

Novak's attack on Kerry led comedian Jon Stewart to label him "a douche bag of liberty." ...

"Underneath the asshole is a nice guy, but underneath the nice guy is another asshole," Michael Kinsley, a Crossfire veteran, has said. ...

"Now that Novak's a Catholic, I wonder if he'll become a Christian?" Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan remarked. ...

"Novak was a very intrepid, dogged, mainstream reporter, not this sinister, egomaniacal figure he is now," recalls Bill Moyers, a former Johnson staffer. I ask Moyers what occurs to him upon juxtaposing the two incarnations of Novak, then and now. "Every monster begins as a baby in a crib," he replies. ...

The Soviet States of America

I had a something else in mind when reading this column by Stephen Hadley in today's NY Times - questioning the motives of the Bush administration's global anti-terrorism empire strategy - until I came across this:

In the fight against Communism, our armed forces deterred the enemy. But it was the superior appeal of human freedom - not bombs and bullets - that ultimately led to democracy's triumph. After all, the cold war's most powerful voices proved to be those who lived under the Communist system and could expose its lies.


Okay, mostly wrong. I'll say about 90 percent wrong. While it's true that the yearning for liberty can inspire people to heroic gestures against their oppressors, the Soviet Union did not so much collapse because of street protests, but because the apparatus of oppression had morally decayed. Soviet troops would no longer obey their masters, having become enormously disillusioned with the disparity between the rhetoric of a great empire, and the reality they saw when they went home to their families. The Soviet experiment as an authoritarian planned economy had run its course. Notwithstanding an incredibly rapid modernization through WWII (at enormous cost to Soviet citizens), by the 1970s, the system began to show it fatal flaws.

As I've repeated elsewhere, the United States can't continue the luxury of believing that, because the Soviet Union was "defeated," that the U.S. system is therefore vindicated. It would be folly for the United States to ignore the failings of its own economic system. Capitalism, yes! "Free" markets, no! Americans, universally, need to acknowledge that regulated markets are healthy markets; that while the government can overreach, the economy is a reflection of the will of the people, with rules of fair play, and rights that belong to the people, not to be trammeled by corporations and elites. Global financial interests don't give a damn about the United States if they can make their money somewhere else. I believe we will witness in this century a continuing trend of money and power becoming more and more concentrated, and draining out of the United States. If we don't finally "get it," the U.S. could go the way of the bad old Soviet Union.

Like those people who lived under the oppressive Soviet state, but saw beyond its hypocrisy, we need to question the actions and intentions of our government - especially now, at this critical juncture in history, because we may not get a second chance to get it right.

Children tortured at Abu Ghraib

It's not the graphic detail which, in Seymour Hersh's account, demands your attention, but at least the NY Times is on the story:

In early June, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of Federal District Court in Manhattan ordered the release of the additional photographs, part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union to determine the extent of abuse at American military prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan and at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The government has turned over more than 60,000 pages of documents on the treatment of detainees, some containing graphic descriptions of mistreatment. But the material that the judge ordered released - the A.C.L.U. says there are 87 photographs and 4 videos - would be the first images released in the suit. The judge said they would be the "best evidence" in the debate about the treatment of Abu Ghraib prisoners.

That Seymour Hersh account can be seen in this video of his speech at the ACLU conference (courtesy of Daily KOS).

Friday, July 22, 2005

NYT, WaPo, WSJ - all MIA

The Center for Constitutional Rights, (hat tip to Daily KOS), is criticizing the Bush administration for disobeying a federal judge's order to release the remaining Abu Ghraib photos.

The most offensive acts revealed in the collection of materials, according to Seymour Hersh who had access to them, are kids being saddamized at Abu Ghraib (caution - url contains the mark of Satan):

"The worst is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking" ...Hersh says there was "a massive amount of criminal wrongdoing that was covered up at the highest command out there, and higher."

What the hell? How can this be justified? How can someone higher up in the chain of command of the Bush administration not be called to answer for these crimes?

Get off of your freakin' couches America!!! It's hammer time for George W. Bush!!!

The CCR's complaint (emphasis added):
In June, the government requested and received an extension from the judge stating that they needed time in order to redact the faces of the men, women and children believed to be shown in the photographs and videos. They were given until today to produce the images, but at the eleventh hour filed a motion to oppose the release of the photos and videos, based on an entirely new argument: they are now requesting a 7(F) exemption from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act to withhold law enforcement-related information in order to protect the physical safety of individuals. Today’s move is the latest in a series of attempts by the government to keep the images from being made public and to cover up the torture of detainees in U.S. custody around the world.

Yeah, the mainstream press is MIA on this story, although, the Washington Post printed an Abu Ghraib story on July 14th, later offering the following correction:
A July 14 article said that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld approved the use of certain interrogation tactics against a detainee who the government believed was to be the "20th hijacker" in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Rumsfeld approved the use of aggressive tactics against Mohamed Qahtani, but he did not specifically approve attaching a leash to Qahtani's chains or forcing him to wear women's underwear on his head, tactics that were authorized and used by interrogators on the prisoner in late 2002.

Whoops! I guess Rumsfeld is in the clear now.

Speaking of bags of putrid air ...

Barton Foley at The Church of Lazlo observes that Supreme Court Justice nominee, John Roberts, looks a little like Otto, the inflatable autopilot from Airplane.

Meanwhile (courtesy of Crooks and Liars), Damnum Absque Injuria has a must-see animated GIF that morphs Roberts into Otto.

NPR attempts 24/7 coverage

NPR can be mindnumbingly mediocre about 60 percent of the time. Unfortunately, it's the only news worth listening to on the radio (at least here in Louisiana).

Here's my parody of a report I heard this morning:

RM: This is Morning Rendition from NPR News with Linda Worthammer. I'm Renee Montana. Police in London have shot and killed a man at a London subway station. This happens just a day after four small explosions hit the London transportation system, underscoring the tension that exists in the city. We'll be reporting on this story as updates become available.

Ten minutes later ...

RM: This is Morning Rendition from NPR News with Linda Worthammer. I'm Renee Montana. Police in London have shot and killed a man at a London subway station. This happens just a day after four small explosions hit the London transportation system, underscoring the tension that exists in the city. The man was said to have been wearing a heavy raincoat. Joining us now is Kathy Slane of the Associated Press in London. What can you tell us now about what happened this morning.

KS: What we can say is that police in London have shot and killed a man at a London subway station. Police confirm that the man was wearing a heavy coat. It's quite warm today. Apparently police agreed that it was unusually warm today. I'd say it was muggy, maybe even a smidge oppressive.

LW: What are you wearing Kathy?

KS: Well I'm wearing a light sweater to take the chill off should the weather change slightly, which under present conditions, is unlikely to happen.

RM: Thank you Kathy. Again, police in London have shot and killed a man in a London subway station. NPR will continue to report this story as updates become available.

Ten minutes later ...

RM: This is Morning Rendition from NPR News with Linda Worthammer. I'm Renee Montana. Police in London have shot and killed a man at a London subway station. The man was reportedly wearing a heavy raincoat. This happens just a day after four small explosions hit the London transportation system. There must be a lot of confusion there. It is humid, so anyone wearing a raincoat might be considered suspicious. Kathy Slane is a reporter there for the Associated Press. She thought it would be prudent to wear a light sweater today, but did not take a raincoat with her when she left for the office this morning. Kathy, what can you tell us about what's happening there?

KS: Apparently police were pursuing a man because he was wearing a raincoat. The man went into a London subway station, where something happened that caused police to shoot him. Of course, police are on the lookout for suspicious characters, and wearing a heavy raincoat would be considered suspicious. Police confirm that the man was killed.

RM: Kathy, do you have any information about the raincoat the man was wearing?

KS: Well, police haven't commented on that detail yet, but if I were to wear a raincoat, I think I'd want to wear something light because it is quite warm and humid today.

RM: Kathy Slane, reporter for the Associated Press in London. Thank you Kathy. Again, police in London have shot and killed a man in a London subway station. NPR will continue to report this story as updates become available.

Ten minutes later ...

RM: This is Morning Rendition from NPR News with Linda Worthammer. I'm Renee Montana. Police in London have shot and killed a man at a London subway station. The man was reportedly wearing a heavy raincoat. This happens just a day after four small explosions hit the London transportation system. There must be a lot of confusion there. It is humid, so anyone wearing a raincoat might be considered suspicious. Kathy Slane is a reporter there for the Associated Press. She thought it would be prudent to wear a light sweater today, but did not take a raincoat with her when she left for the office this morning. Kathy, there have been a lot of reports about this incident. What can you tell us?

KS: Yes, Renee. Well, police confirm that they shot a man at a subway station. They reported that he was wearing a heavy raincoat, and they confirm that anyone wearing a raincoat must either be slightly daft, or a possible terrorist. I, for example, being neither, am only wearing a light sweater. Police pursued the man into a London subway station, where in an altercation of some kind, police shot at the man. Police confirm that the man was killed. The incident happened at the Stockwell station, on the Northern line of London. The thing you have to know is that London is a big, sprawling city, so you can divide it into quadrants: north, south, east and west. This incident happened in the northern quadrant.

RM: Kathy, isn't it true that London police officers, also known as "bobbies" aren't normally armed with guns? That they are armed, doesn't that perhaps suggest that they are more concerned with protecting Londoners.

KS: You're right Kathy. London police officers are known as bobbies, and when I came to London 15 years ago, I almost never saw an armed bobbie - isn't that a cute name for a police officer? Yes, I think bobbies feel that they should be armed with guns in case they encounter a terrorist.

RM: Thank you Kathy. Kathy Slane, reporter for the Associated Press in London. Thank you Kathy. Again, police in London have shot and killed a man in a London subway station. NPR will continue to report this story as updates become available.

Ten minutes later ...

RM: This is Morning Rendition from NPR News with Linda Worthammer. I'm Renee Montana. Police in London have shot and killed a man at a London subway station. The man was reportedly wearing a heavy raincoat. Kathy Slane is a reporter there for the Associated Press. London is a big city. It is divided into north, south, east and west quadrants. London police officers are known as bobbies, and until recently, they weren't armed with guns. Kathy, we've been hearing a lot about this incident. How are Londoners reacting?

KS: Well Renee, Londoners are obviously worried, given the terrorist bombings a couple of weeks ago, and the smaller explosions yesterday. I'm not seeing anyone wearing raincoats today. I wouldn't expect them too anyway, since it's such a warm day. But I think they might want to leave their raincoats at home now, in light of the suspicion that could cause.

RM: Isn't it true, Kathy, that it rains a lot in London? How will Londoners cope if they don't feel like they can leave their homes wearing a raincoat?

KS: Well, it might be a bit frustrating and inconvenient. I think we'll be seeing more people using umbrellas. I happen to have a little Tote umbrella I carry with a pair of dress shoes for the office (I usually wear more comfortable walking shoes until I get to the office). So I'm ready for just about anything, Renee.

RM: Well, I have to say, Londoners have always been a well-organized efficient lot of people, haven't they?

KS: Yes Renee, it's true. Although I'm an American citizen, living here for 15 years can change your habits. I feel like I've really picked up some habits of Londoners.

RM: Thanks Kathy. Kathy Slane, reporter for the Associated Press in London. Again, police in London have shot and killed a man in a London subway station. NPR will continue to report this story as updates become available.

Ten minutes later ...

RM: This is Morning Rendition from NPR News with Linda Worthammer. I'm Renee Montana. Police in London have shot and killed a man at a London subway station. The man was reportedly wearing a heavy raincoat. Kathy Slane is a reporter there for the Associated Press. She said London is a big city divided into quadrants. She's lived their for fifteen years and feels like a real Londoner now. London police officers are known as bobbies, and we imagine they're doing the best they can to keep Londoners safe and secure. Of course, there's only so much they can do, and Londoners may now have to start carrying umbrellas instead of wearing raincoats. Kathy Slane has been reporting on this story for us this morning. She's wearing a comfortable pair of walking shoes and a light sweater. Kathy, what's the weather like now? Is is expected to rain today? ...

More rural Americans dying in Iraq

Robert Cushing (sociologist) and Bill Bishop (Austin journalist) report today in the NY Times that more soldiers from rural areas are dying in the Iraq War than from urban areas, and that this trend reflects the lack of opportunities in less-developed parts of the U.S., and the more aggressive military recruiting effort in those areas.

It must be the Oxycontin talkin'

Mike Jones over at The 18 1/2 Minute Gap tuned in a couple of days ago to hear Rush Limbaugh fuming "for ten solid minutes of national radio airtime about how the Plame storie is not important," and frothing that the "NY Times was just an 'underground leftwing newspaper'."

Funny how if it's not important, it merits ten minutes.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

I'm a source, not a target

Read the button. Yeah, it's real. That's no Photoshop touch up job.

I owe Digby twice today for getting my attention.

The AP/Lauren Shay photo was printed in The Times of Frankfort, Indiana. The caption read:

In this photograph taken in June 2003, Karl Rove, senior advisor to President Bush and Robert Novak are pictured together at a party marking the 40th anniversary of Novak's newspaper column at the Army Navy Club in Washington DC. At the event a number of people wore buttons reading, 'I'm a source, not a target.' Rove is at the center of a controversy about the leaking of a CIA operative's identity which originally appeared in Novak's newspaper column.

According to Hoosiermama, the button refers to a quip Novak made at a 2001 National Press Club roast honoring Novak's 38 years as a journalist:
Bob finished up by having some fun at the expense of the many sources for his column who were in the audience. He noted that he had learned one important thing in his 43 years in Washington: "There are two kinds of people in this town, sources . . . and targets, and you better make up your mind which you are."

What goes around comes around.

Wonder boy discovers x-rays

In considering the astoundingly halfwit remarks by George W. Bush, Digby wonders, "What is he, 6?" I encourage readers to visit the comments section to Digby's post.

Here was Geedubya's dewy-eyed discovery as reported by the Associated Press:

"What I'm telling you is that we're focused here," Bush said from the Port of Baltimore, where he got a waterside demonstration of cargo-screening techniques. "When you're at war, you can't lose sight of the fact that you're at war."

Among the state-of-the-art techniques Bush observed were computerized systems, sophisticated radiation detectors and advanced X-ray equipment.

"You can look inside in the truck, and you don't even have to get in it," Bush said afterward to an audience of state and local officials and port employees. "That's called technology. And it's working. It makes a big difference."

Ivory-billed woodpecker evidence disputed

Is it a pileated woodpecker or the mythic ivory-billed woodpecker thought to be extinct for more than 50 years?

The NY Times is reporting that three ornithologists are challenging the evidence in a soon-to-be published article unnamed scientific journal:

The debate revolves around four seconds of fuzzy videotape that, by chance, captured a bird with sweeping white-and-black wings as it darted from its perch on the far side of a tupelo tree in April 2004 and flicked over swampy waters before vanishing in the trees 11 wing beats later.

That video clip was just one piece in a pile of drawings, recordings and other evidence collected in more than a year of searching and deploying cameras and listening devices across the vast swampy reaches of the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge.

Altogether, the original research team, led by scientists from Cornell University and the Nature Conservancy, compiled seven sightings, including the video, as well as recordings of a "double knock" sound typical of the ivory-billed bird.

But only the video was potentially solid enough to confirm for the wider ornithological community the existence of the bird, the authors said in various statements at the time.

Everyone agrees that the bird that appears on the tape is either an ivory-billed woodpecker or a pileated woodpecker, a slightly smaller bird that is relatively common. Both species have a mix of white and black plumage. However, the ivory-billed woodpecker has a white trailing edge to its wings while the pileated woodpecker has a black trailing edge.

The team that conducted the original search for the bird ran extensive tests, including recreating the scene captured in video using flapping, hand-held models of the two types of woodpecker. They concluded that the plumage patterns seen in the grainy image could only be that of the ivory-billed woodpecker.

The authors of the new paper disagree.

I remain optimistic, in particular because the recorded sound evidence is pretty compelling. The video can be viewed at

Further down in that NY Times article is this interesting little nugget of information which really deserves a much more extensive discussion:
The Bush administration used the reported sightings in Arkansas to promote its "cooperative conservation" philosophy. The day the rediscovery was publicized, the administration announced a variety of initiatives, including a plan to pay more than $13 million to landowners within the region's floodplains who plant and maintain forests.

The question we should be asking is, how much can the government regulate private property? By promoting compensation to landowners to keep trees on their land, isn't the Bush administration advancing an ideology that the government has no right to say what owner's can do? I may not have a popular perspective on this, but I contend that a title only entitles an owner to engage in activities that are sanctioned by society - since, after all, society provides legal (and physical) protection for that title and the resources defined in that title.

There's more on the ivory-billed woodpecker in my previous posts on that topic, and on other posts to see cypress/tupelo forests better defended.

Bush says to Louisiana - "Go f*** yourself"

Baton Rouge Advocate (7/20/2005):

Gov. Kathleen Blanco said it was "incomprehensible" to learn that the energy secretary, on behalf of the Bush administration, opposed coastal-restoration assistance and the sharing of revenue with the energy-producing coastal states in the federal energy bill being hammered out by a conference committee of House and Senate members.

"That this administration could actively oppose compensating states that continue to produce so much of our nation's energy is just shortsighted, it's irresponsible," Blanco said in a written statement. ...

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., were able to shepherd a provision into the measure that would give Louisiana an estimated $540 million from offshore gas and oil royalties for coastal restoration over four years. ...

Blanco urged Louisianians to write or call The White House to tell the administration about the importance of the state's coast. She also invited President Bush and Bodham to tour the coast. ...

"Since Louisiana's coast contributed more than $5 billion to the federal treasury last year alone, we have certainly done our fair share to support the needs of the treasury," Landrieu said in a written statement. ...

"They talk about the importance of saving the coast, but when it comes to putting the money on the table, they show they don't have much of a stomach for it," said Mark Davis, executive director of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. "The White House sees this as a budget issue and never seemed to buy the idea that saving our coast was in any shape or form tied to this nation's energy policy."

Vitter said he was disappointed in the White House. He added that he was meeting with conference committee members and that he was hopeful an energy bill would emerge with money for Louisiana still in it.

Blanco has called revenue sharing the best source of funding to fix Louisiana's coast, which has lost an area the size of Delaware since the 1930s. The state continues to lose coastal wetlands, and by 2050, scientists say, the state could lose 700 more square miles if nothing is done.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

James Doohan, RIP

James Doohan, aka "Scottie" from the original (and best) Star Trek series, passed away in Washington State. He suffered from pneumonia and Alzheimers. He was 85 years old.

Listen to the NPR remembrance where he can be heard to say in his thick brogue, once again griping that the engines cahn't take it:

I cahn't change the laws of physics Captain!

I'm sad to say, of course, that's true. James Doohan, like the rest of us, was a mere mortal. But he is now truly venturing forth where no man has gone before!

Godspeed! Er...maybe I should be saying "warp speed!"

Google Moon

Happy Anniversary Apollo 11

As a total freakin' space nut when I was a kid, I always wanted to be an astronaut. I'm not old enough to remember Apollo 11 (although I was probably propped in front of someone's television ), but I remember the later Apollo missions.

So, I just discovered that if you right click on today's Google image of the moon, your taken to, where you can see the landing sites for the 6 lunar missions.


P.S.: G'head...zoom in all the way...

The devil of Tangipahoa parish

Nice job Bruce Nolan, writer for the Times-Picayune, who has this profile of Joe Cook, the Louisiana ACLU representative who has almost singlehandedly taken on the creationists, racists, and school prayer advocates:

To many of the people of Tangipahoa Parish -- to the merchants, teachers and small farmers around Ponchatoula, Hammond and Loranger -- the figure of Beelzebub himself, the demon enemy of faith and destroyer of community, is embodied today in Joe Cook, a slight, trim fellow Southerner with gray hair, glasses and a heavy Arkansas drawl. ...

Not surprisingly, the largest ornament on the wall behind Cook's desk is a framed copy of the Bill of Rights. It is defaced by a bureaucrat's red stamp that reads, "Void where prohibited by law." ...

"People shouldn't put their faith in any political party to do the right thing," he said. ...

"Government is not in the business of granting rights. It is in the business of taking them away. And once they're lost, we'll never get them back," he said. ...

At home and in the Baptist church of his youth, Cook said, he was taught that Catholics were damned, black people were inferior, and women had certain well-defined roles in family and society. ...

Cook believes this out of his own youthful experience, when deacons made sure no African-American worshippers arrived at the door of his church, and where the Bible, he said, was served with a full measure of hypocrisy. The skeptic in him recoils at the memory. Today, he said, the golden rule is his sufficient guide. ...

"My daddy used to say somebody's got to stir the pot to keep the little guy at the bottom from getting scorched," he said.

NOPD gets mo' bad than before

When I get back from my vacation, you kids better have this house scrubbed from top to bottom or no more sno-cones for the rest of the year...

The Times-Picayune (7/20/2005):

New Orleans Police Department Deputy Chief Warren Riley interrupted an 18-day seminar at Harvard University last week to fire off an urgent memo to his district captains telling them to curb violent crime or risk losing their command posts. ... Riley also ordered patrol officers to work an extra weekend shift every three months and increased the commanders' crime-strategy meetings from one to three times a week.

Measures that have been used in the past, such as allowing officers to work big chunks of overtime, are no longer feasible because of the tight squeeze on the city budget and the evaporation of federal grant money.

Bad education + lousy jobs = crime

The Times-Picayune (7/11/2005):

According to a new report released by State Policy Reports, in 2003 Louisiana imprisoned 801 people for every 100,000 residents. Mississippi was next worst, with 768 people in prison for every 100,000 people who live there.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that two states with high rates of child poverty, lagging economies and a long history of subpar schools would have crime problems.

What makes John Roberts dangerous

What?! Out of hundreds of people who must be as prepared as this schmoe, monkey boy couldn't find one woman or minority to balance out the court?

Am I surprised? No. Nothing about the radical right wing actions of the Bush administration suprises me anymore.

Robert Gordon at TPM Cafe wrote:

Roberts is the least likely of the rumored short listed candidates to provoke outrage. He is a well-known Washington insider, an institutional player, a highly-placed member of the legal Establishment. He enjoys the kind of respect Kenneth Starr had before embarking on his anti-Clinton crusade, as a safe, sound man, not an ideological zealot like Edith Jones or wacko like Janice Rogers Brown. These qualities are going to make Roberts's confirmation easier.

They are also what make him dangerous.

People for the American Way on Roberts:
On the Environment
During his short tenure as a judge on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Curcuit, Roberts has issued troubling dissents against environmental protection and veterans’ rights. In one case, Roberts wrote a dissent suggesting that the Endangered Species Act, at least as applied in a case concerning a California development project, was unconstitutional.

On Individual Privacy and Reproductive Rights:
As Deputy Solicitor General during the first Bush administration, Roberts tried to convince the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade in a case that didn’t even directly concern that issue.

On the Separation of Church and State:
Roberts argued against clear First Amendment protections for religious liberty and in favor of officially sponsored school prayer at graduation ceremonies before the Supreme Court, which rejected his argument.

Veteran Protections:
Roberts argued American POWs tortured in Iraq during the Gulf War should not be able to utilize federal courts to pursue their claims.

Excessive Arrest Procedures:
Roberts ruled against a 12-year old girl who was handcuffed, arrested and taken away by police for eating a single French fry on the D.C. Metro, even though an adult would only have gotten a paper citation in that situation.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

May God and the ghosts of Vietnam have mercy on General Westmoreland

NY Times:

Gen. William C. Westmoreland, who commanded the United States forces in Vietnam from 1964 to 1968, overseeing the vast troop buildup and the height of the fighting, died last night in a retirement home in Charleston, S.C., his son, James Ripley Westmoreland, announced. The general was 91.

It doesn't give me any pleasure being the critic of a man who just passed away. I know that William Westmoreland had a family and was loved by many. And I know he had a job to do. That we all have to do a job, however, doesn't mean we can't use discretion in choosing the jobs we do, or how we do those jobs. Under the circumstances, I think this is a good time to evaluate Westmoreland's views on Vietnam against the hard light of hindsight, and in the view of current events in Iraq.

Westmoreland always argued that the United States "did not fulfill its commitment to South Vietnam." From the same NY Times article:
In his memoirs, General Westmoreland blamed the outcome on the South Vietnamese Army and on President Johnson's refusal to broaden the war into Laos, Cambodia and North Vietnam. The general contended that in Vietnam the American forces' record of "achievements was remarkable: the mammoth logistical buildup, various tactical expedients and innovations, the advisory effort, civic action programs."

Wow! I wish the NY Times would have straightened out some of those gross euphemisms!:

"Mammoth logistical buildup." Translation? The United States dropped more bombs on Vietnam than it dropped over Europe in WWII. Millions of Vietnamese were annihilated. Today, Vietnamese citizens continue to be killed and maimed from unexploded bombs and mines.

"Tactical expedients and innovations." Would this include village massacres?

"The advisory effort." Translation: Teaching the South Vietnamese to live under a US handpicked puppet regime while using torture and assassination to crush dissent.

"Civic action programs." Translation: Torching fields and homes, moving rural populations into controlled villages where they were policed by armed members of their own population. Collaborators with "communists" (aka, national revolutionaries) would meet the same fate as other red gooks.

Pulitzer-prize winning historian Stanley Karnow, author of Vietnam: A History, was interviewed on NPR's Morning Edition today:
General Westmoreland was contributing to what we call the credibility gap by making greatly optimistic statements at a time when the situation was dreadful. And he kept using phrases like "we see the light at the end of the tunnel," and "victory's just around the corner," just as the war went on endlessly without any sign of progress."

If only we could have bombed a million more Vietnamese into oblivion. Sound familiar? Just a few weeks ago, Dick Cheney said the insurgency in Iraq was in its "last throes." Just after that remark, the insurgency picked up. The last month has been one of the deadliest on record.

On Westmoreland's criticism of TV journalists embedded with troops, Karnow said:
Unfortunately he did not understand the nature of the war, and of course he lashed out and tried to find reasons why we lost and why we couldn't make any progress. He had to attack - he attacked television as if the television cameras made a difference. ... If there weren't any television cameras in Vietnam - if there wasn't [sic] any reporters in Vietnam, the situation wouldn't have changed. The Vietnamese communists were not fighting the war on the nightly news.

Westmoreland also held to the bizarre belief that the United States had stanched communism in the larger Southeast Asia region. Nothing could be farther from the truth. One only needs to look to Cambodia, where the United States armed and financially-supported Pol Pot. This led directly to the blowback of Pol Pot's plan to return Cambodia to the Stone Age by torturing and murdering over a million Cambodians in forced agricultural labor camps.

I hold in the highest regard the soldiers who served in the Vietnam War. They deserve the highest respect. Unfortunately, people like Karl Rove (spreading rumors about John McCain's sanity) and Vietnam Veterans for Truth Lies, are just as guilty as anyone of desecrating the sacrifice of American soldiers in Vietnam. Respect for the service of Vietnam veterans doesn't have to mean, however, that we can't disagree about the rationale for why the United States was in Vietnam, and what the goals were. The Vietnamese wanted our help. Ho Chi Minh believed the United States would help him liberate his country from its French colonial oppressors.

In his letter to the editor of the NY Times, printed on May 2, 2005, Seymour Topping laid out the history that led the U.S. to the wrong side of justice (which the United States continued to repeat in other countries thereafter):
In 1945, President Harry S. Truman abandoned President Franklin D. Roosevelt's proposal for transformation of Indochina into a United Nations trusteeship and yielded to Charles de Gaulle's demands for assistance in restoring French control of the colony in return for cooperation in Europe.

As described in Robert S. McNamara's book "Argument Without End," "This was how U.S. involvement with Vietnam began: absentmindedly, almost as a kind of 'throwaway' in a grand bargain for the heart of Europe, to appease its defeated, temperamental and proud French ally."

Truman never replied to at least eight appeals by Ho Chi Minh for American support of independence and cooperation on the Philippine model. Ho was then compelled to turn to Beijing and Moscow for material aid against returning French troops.

The disastrous, extremist policies ... came into effect mainly after Ho Chi Minh's death in 1969 with the ascendancy of the Communist hard-liner Le Duan. As Vietnamese war veterans told me when I toured their country in March, the self-sacrificing motivation of North Vietnamese and Vietcong fighters, who suffered 900,000 killed, was not support of any ideology or government but simply determination to rid the country of foreign invaders, as with the Chinese and the French.

It was this human force that defeated American might and the dependent South Vietnam regime.

With a few exceptions, the United States has done more to frustrate democracy around the world rather than help. The United States could have pursued a different path in Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Nicaragua, Iran, the Phillipines, etc., supporting liberation from dictatorships and self-determination first, then focusing on constitutional government and democratic institutions. Furthermore, people need to stop thinking that change must be instantaneous. The United States needs to give countries room to form their own expressions of self rule. Unfortunately, this is precisely the problem. It isn't so much that countries are "communist" that causes them problems in their relations with the United States. It's that they're so bold as to demand independence from the stranglehold of the United States economy and multinational corporations.

As long as the United States supports despotic dictatorships and authoritarian puppet regimes, it will be on the wrong side of the people, and on the wrong side of history.


Stanley Karnow has a condensed view of the Vietnam War in this Salon article debunking revisionists who think the United States could have won the war if it had stayed the course and kept on bombing and killing villagers.

Karnow has a profile of Ho Chi Minh in this Time magazine article, and there are some letters by Ho Chi Minh here, including one he wrote to President Truman in 1945.

A brief review of Karnow's volume on Vietnam, as well as other scholarship, can be found in this page by Charles Gaskill from Pacific University.

There's a timeline of the Vietnam War in this BBC guide, or check out the more detailed year by year timeline at The History Place.

A more in-depth blow by blow history of the Vietnam War can be found in this Vincent Demma chapter to a volume of military history.

The Smithsonian Vietnam Veterans' Memorial is a volume with photographs of the monument and more history on the Vietnam War.

A nice presentation on the lessons of Vietnam War can be found in this essay by Edward Herman.