Tuesday, May 31, 2005

From the Baltimore Sun

LET'S CLEAR AWAY the propaganda and concentrate on the meaning of Memorial Day. Since the Civil War, it has been a day to remember those who died in action. They are the heroes we celebrate this day, and more than 1,800 have joined the memorial rolls since the outbreak of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. A nation mourns their loss and honors their memory.

They were men and women serving on the treacherous front lines and working the dangerous supply routes. They were 19-year-olds out of high school and "weekend warriors" old enough to be their fathers.

They died for America and Americans. That they were ill-served and exploited by the government that sent them into action has nothing to do with their sacrifice.

Except this - a government that was either smarter or more honest would not have squandered so many lives. The war in Iraq could have been avoided. Or, once launched, enough troops could have been deployed to ensure a successful occupation. Body armor and Humvee armor could have been provided. Familiarity with Arabic and with Arab customs could have become a top priority. American officials could have handled the crucial early weeks after the fall of Baghdad with finesse and good sense, rather than doing everything possible to earn the hostility and contempt of so many Iraqis.

That's not, of course, the story we hear from the White House. The people running this war have signed on to a different narrative altogether: feel-good, strutting, flag-waving. Naturally, it plays to the image of brave, heroic troops in the field - but, quite unnaturally, it values fiction over reality.

At the beginning of the Iraq war, Pfc. Jessica Lynch's story was so overspun and distorted as to become ridiculous. In Afghanistan, we now know, Ranger Pat Tillman was mistakenly killed by U.S. soldiers, but the Army seized upon his death to try to create a fighting legend - out of whole cloth. These PR blunders serve neither of those soldiers well. Lies have marked these wars from the beginning, and besides being ultimately self-defeating, they are an affront to all Americans, most especially those whose bravery and sacrifice have gone unheralded.

If the Bush administration truly wanted to memorialize the war dead, it wouldn't spirit them into Dover Air Force Base under cover of a photo blackout - as if the White House were ashamed of those who died abroad. If the president truly wished to honor their memory, he would demonstrate to the nation that the government that has botched so much of the war at least has some inkling as to how to draw it to a successful conclusion - so that the dead will not have died in vain.

But critics of the war have a particular responsibility, too. The best way to honor the memory of all those American heroes who have been killed in action is not to lose faith, or hope, but to remain engaged, to hold the administration to account, to seek out and advocate ways to achieve a real peace in Asia. It still must be possible - and it would be a lasting monument to those who gave their lives for their country.
Nothing more need be said; much more needs to be done.

Winning the hearts and minds

Over at Baghdad Burning, River has a post that gives a "homies" eye view on how well we are doing in the race to make all the Iraqis love us.
Remember Muhsin Abdul Hameed? He’s the head of the Iraqi Islamic Party in Iraq- a Sunni political party that was basically the only blatantly Sunni party taking part in post-occupation politics in Iraq. For those who have forgotten, Abdul Hameed was chosen as one of the rotating presidents back in 2003. Mohsin was actually, er, Mr. February 2004, if you will....

We woke up this morning to the interesting news that Muhsin Abdul Hameed had also been detained! A member of the former Iraqi Governing Council, a rotating puppet president, and *The Sunni*. He is The Sunni they hold up to all Sunnis as an example of cooperation and collaboration. Well, he’s the religious Sunni. There is a tribal Sunni (supposedly to appease the Arab Sunni tribes) and that is Ghazi Al Yawir and there is the religious Sunni- Muhsin Abdul Hameed.

The Americans are saying Muhsin was “detained and interviewed”, which makes one think his car was gently pulled over and he was asked a few questions. What actually happened was that his house was raided early morning, doors broken down, windows shattered and he and his three sons had bags placed over their heads and were dragged away. They showed the house, and his wife, today on Arabiya and the house was a disaster. The cabinets were broken, tables overturned, books and papers scattered, etc. An outraged Muhsin was on tv a few minutes ago talking about how the troops pushed him to the floor and how he had an American boot on his neck for twenty minutes.
Well, you may say, any towelhead should be proud and happy to have an American boot on his neck. But these Iraqis are a queer lot.
Talabani was seemingly irritated. He wondered why no one asked him about the arrest before it occurred- as if the he is personally consulted on every other raid and detention. The detention is disturbing. Now I am not personally fond of Muhsin Abdul Hameed- he looks somewhat like a dried potato, and he’s a Puppet. It is disturbing, though, because if this was really a mistake, then just imagine how many other ‘mistakes’ are being unfairly detained and possibly tortured in places like Abu Ghraib. Abdul Hameed is one of their own and even he wasn’t safe from a raid, humiliation and detention. He was out the same day, but other Iraqis don’t have the luxury of a huffy Talabani and outraged political party.
Don't bet the rent money on this trifecta.

The significance of Coin-Gate

Is discussed in this article from the Toledo Blade.
With its intrigue of missing rare coins bought with state funds and campaign cash flowing to Ohio Republican leaders, some are predicting that "Coingate" will be a bigger scandal than the one that led to a near-Democratic sweep of statewide offices in 1970.

Federal and state authorities Thursday said they are pursuing criminal and civil charges against Mr. Noe for allegedly misappropriating millions from the state's rare-coin investment.

It's unclear whether Mr. Noe used some of the state's money to make contributions to Republican candidates, including President Bush's re-election campaign, said Ron O'Brien, Franklin County prosecutor.

The U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI are investigating whether Mr. Noe violated campaign-finance laws. That probe has focused on an October, 2003, fund-raiser in Columbus that generated $1.4 million for the Bush campaign.

The Bush-Cheney campaign lists Mr. Noe as a "pioneer" for raising from $100,000 to $250,000 for the President's re-election campaign.

Ohio ended up being the most crucial swing-state win for Mr. Bush in last year's election, with Democrat John Kerry conceding the race on the day after the election only after it became clear that Ohio's electoral votes would go to Mr. Bush.

Mr. Noe and his wife, Bernadette, have contributed more than $200,000 to politicians, political parties, and political action committees over the last 15 years. Their giving increased greatly in 1998, the year Mr. Noe's coin fund received the first of two $25 million payments from the bureau to invest in rare coins.
This scandal should be really good. I am beginning to think that the Ohio GOP has a beached whale in the hot sun here.

Saw this quote on BlondeSense

And I had to steal it.
"Only among men is Nature's Law of 'Survival of the Fittest' thwarted and indeed, reversed; for in almost every generation the fittest are sent forth to be slaughtered by orders of the stunted, the twisted, and the senile". -- Sidney J. Harris

The Big Brass Alliance is Formed

Please spread the word and take action.
You may see this plea on hundreds of blogs today.

AfterDowningStreet.org is a Coalition of veterans' groups, peace groups, and political activist groups, which launched on May 26, 2005, a campaign to urge the U.S. Congress to begin a formal investigation into whether President Bush has committed impeachable offenses in connection with the Iraq war. The campaign focuses on evidence that recently emerged in a British memo containing minutes of a secret July 2002 meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top national security officials.

The name is a reference to the Downing Street Memo, a British memo recently made public in the London Times, which contained the minutes of a secret July 2002 meeting between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top national security officials.

The recent release of the Downing Street Memo provides new and compelling evidence that the President of the United States has been actively engaged in a conspiracy to deceive and mislead the United States Congress and the American people about the basis for going to war against Iraq. If true, such conduct constitutes a High Crime under Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution.’"

Congressman Conyers is now seeking 100,000 signatures to sign a letter on the Downing Street Inquiry. Please sign it now, if you haven't already. Write to your Congresspeople here.

Another important piece of information that has been overlooked in this story, as reported in a recent Salon article by Juan Cole, is that Tony Blair had to convince George Bush to go after al-Qaida in Afghanistan, and Bush would only do so in exchange for Britain’s support of the Iraq invasion:

“Astonishingly, the Bush administration almost took the United States to war against Iraq in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11. We know about this episode from the public account of Sir Christopher Meyer, then the U.K. ambassador in Washington. Meyer reported that in the two weeks after Sept. 11, the Bush national security team argued back and forth over whether to attack Iraq or Afghanistan. It appears from his account that Bush was leaning toward the Iraq option.

Meyer spoke again about the matter to Vanity Fair for its May 2004 report, "The Path to War." Soon after Sept. 11, Meyer went to a dinner at the White House, "attended also by Colin Powell, [and] Condi Rice," where "Bush made clear that he was determined to topple Saddam. 'Rumors were already flying that Bush would use 9/11 as a pretext to attack Iraq,' Meyer remembers." When British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in Washington on Sept. 20, 2001, he was alarmed. If Blair had consulted MI6 about the relative merits of the Afghanistan and Iraq options, we can only imagine what well-informed British intelligence officers in Pakistan were cabling London about the dangers of leaving bin Laden and al-Qaida in place while plunging into a potential quagmire in Iraq. Fears that London was a major al-Qaida target would have underlined the risks to the United Kingdom of an "Iraq first" policy in Washington.

Meyer told Vanity Fair, "Blair came with a very strong message -- don't get distracted; the priorities were al-Qaida, Afghanistan, the Taliban." He must have been terrified that the Bush administration would abandon London to al-Qaida while pursuing the great white whale of Iraq. But he managed to help persuade Bush. Meyer reports, "Bush said, 'I agree with you, Tony. We must deal with this first. But when we have dealt with Afghanistan, we must come back to Iraq.'" Meyer also said, in spring 2004, that it was clear "that when we did come back to Iraq it wouldn't be to discuss smarter sanctions." In short, Meyer strongly implies that Blair persuaded Bush to make war on al-Qaida in Afghanistan first by promising him British support for a later Iraq campaign.”

We must inquire if this underreported outrage is true.



Be A Political Activist From Your Computer Chair!

Write your Representative Now!
Sign Rep. Conyers' Letter to Bush
Contact Your Local Media
Email Everyone You Know
Print, Copy, Hand Out Flyers

Rewarding incompetence

Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo has this post on the Dubyazation of the intelligence community.
In today's paper [WaPo], Pincus has an article detailing how two intelligence analysts responsible for what is probably the single greatest screw-up about Iraqi WMD (the aluminum tubes issue) have received job performance awards in each of the last three years.

It's always important to avoid punishment or scapegoating not tied to specific malfeasance or poor performance. But, as this and other articles amply demonstrate, the screw-up tied to the aluminum tubes wasn't just a bad call made with imperfect evidence. At a minimum, it also involved bad tradecraft on several fronts.

That each of these men could have been given such high commendations over the period of time in which their errors and poor performance became apparent makes it hard not to think that they were actually being intentionally rewarded for their flawed assessments. At a minimum, it demonstrates a complete indifference to any sort of accountability for a national embarrassment and scandal the magnitude of which the country has not even begun to come to grips with.
These folks were party to the Big Lie that sold a bill of goods to the American public and started Georgies Great Adventure. Reward, of any kind, is not deserved by these sad sacks.

Compare the above to this:
John Riggs spent 39 years in the Army, earning a Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery during the Vietnam War and working his way up to become a three-star general entrusted with creating a high-tech Army for the 21st century.

But on a spring day last year, Riggs was told by senior Army officials that he would be retired at a reduced rank, losing one of his stars because of infractions considered so minor that they were not placed in his official record.

His Pentagon superiors said he allowed outside contractors to perform work they were not supposed to do, creating "an adverse command climate."

But some of the general's supporters believe the motivation behind his demotion was politics. Riggs was blunt and outspoken on a number of issues and publicly contradicted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld by arguing that the Army was overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan and needed more troops.

"They all went bat s- - when that happened," recalled retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay M. Garner, a one-time Pentagon adviser who ran reconstruction efforts in Iraq in the spring of 2003. "The military part of [the defense secretary's office] has been politicized. If [officers] disagree, they are ostracized and their reputations are ruined."
The Bushoviks do not like people who do what's right. But they do Support The Troops.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

I'm hot stuff!

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Eigth Level of Hell - the Malebolge!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very Low
Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Moderate
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
Level 7 (Violent)Very High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Very High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)High

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

Friday, May 27, 2005

Oh, those clever wogs.

Iraq's insurgents, described earlier this year by U.S. officials as a dwindling force, have resisted military efforts to halt their attacks and have an apparent new bombing strategy to inflict headline-grabbing casualties, according to diplomatic and academic experts.

The specialists, including one with extensive experience in Iraq, suggested that Washington misinterpreted a lull in attacks after January's national elections as a sign that the Iraqi insurgency was dying out or relaxing its effort to force a foreign military retreat.

Instead, the experts said, the insurgents have shown patience as they regrouped, devised new strategies and repeatedly demonstrated an ability to thwart U.S.-led efforts to stabilize Iraq. The persistent campaign of attacks has demoralized the population while proving the insurgents can withstand repeated military offensives designed to defang them.

Events in Iraq this week showed the effectiveness of the insurgents' campaign. A car bomb exploded Tuesday outside a girls' school in Baghdad, killing six people, while eight U.S. troops were killed in separate attacks. A total of 14 Americans have been reported killed since Sunday, while about 60 Iraqis have died in shootings, car bombings and suicide attacks launched by the insurgents around the country.
And what does it all mean?
Toby Dodge, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said the insurgents have exposed how vulnerable Iraqi police and army troops would be if U.S.-led multinational forces withdrew. As a result, U.S. and British troops, who form the largest foreign contingents, should expect to remain in Iraq indefinitely.

"I don't think we have a viable exit strategy," Dodge said.
And we still don't know why Our Dear Leader wanted his war.

Coin-Gate update

It just gets better as the Toledo Blade makes clear.
Federal and state authorities are pursuing criminal and civil charges against Tom Noe for allegedly misappropriating $10 million to $12 million from the state’s rare-coin investment.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said yesterday that he has “reason to believe” Mr. Noe, a prominent Toledo-area Republican fund-raiser and rare-coin dealer, has misappropriated “more than $10 million” in state assets.

“I have reason to believe it is more than just missing assets or lost assets or otherwise,” said Mr. O’Brien, a Republican. “I have reason to believe there is actual misappropriation of state funds involved ... I’m talking about conversion for personal use.
And what did Tom do with the money. Don't know yet but
It is unclear whether Mr. Noe used some of the state’s money to make contributions to Republican candidates, including President Bush’s re-election campaign, Mr. O’Brien said.

The Bush-Cheney campaign lists Mr. Noe as a “Pioneer,” for raising from $100,000 to $250,000 for the President’s re-election campaign.

The U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI are investigating whether Mr. Noe violated campaign-finance laws. That probe has focused on an October, 2003, fund-raiser in Columbus that generated $1.4 million for the Bush campaign.
Now remember, the money came from the state so it could not have been so dirty that Tom had to wash it.

Read the whole thing, it should be one great scandal, even if the Republicans control the state.

Friday Night Airplane Blogging

The North American P-51, the quintessential fighter plane of the European theater, was just another good but not great plane when it first flew. It took the British addition of the Merlin engine to make this a plane that could operate at high altitude, fly to Berlin and back and still out fight the bad guys. Posted by Hello

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Coin-Gate gets better.

Apparently Ohio had diversified investments in Tom Noe's fund and didn't even know it. Still doesn't since Tom won't let Ohios people near the assets for an audit.
Auditors were stunned Wednesday to discover that money from the state's $55.4 million rare-coin investment has been spent on "an enormous inventory" of collectibles, such as autographs or other valuable papers.

The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, which engineered the investment, also discovered a note re cording a $530,000 loan to an unknown person that used col lectibles as collateral.

For the third straight day, bureau auditors were prevented from examining the state's largest cache of rare coins in Maumee, being held by Tom Noe, a major Republican fund-raiser who is the subject of investigations by six state and federal agencies over allegations of influence peddling and campaign contributions.

The latest developments raise new questions about the safety of Ohio's multimillion-dollar investment in what the bureau termed "tens of thousands of coins" as well as Noe's recordkeeping.

Investigators already are questioning a loan from the bureau's Capital Coin funds to a Toledo real estate business, after learning that an auditor could find no documents to prove the loans were sufficiently covered by the value of the real estate held as collateral.

Noe's attorney, William Wilkinson, said the state was violating a court-sanctioned agreement reached Tuesday to first inspect the non-coin collectibles purchased by the two coin funds managed by Noe. Then state auditors would get access to the coins, he said.

"The investments included non-coin collectibles, things like valuable letters and papers," Wilkinson said. "These are assets of the coin funds. There is an enormous inventory of non-coin collectibles." Wilkinson was unable to provide details.
Republicans are trustworthy stewards of public money.

Republicans make the US stronger

Except when they are in power.Daily Kos has an insightful post about our military problems, including:
1) The perception of US invulnerability has been shattered. After the US and its Northern Alliance allies routed the Taliban, the world quivered in the face of US military might. Saddam caved on every demand presented him -- destroy his missiles, allow inspectors back in.

The US could've used that perception to push for meaningful concessions in North Korea, Iran, and elsewhere. Instead, we're bogged down in an unecessary war in Iraq, our military spent and depleted, and with Americans unwilling to replenish the ranks. The diplomatic fallout is obvious, but our inability to use force as a tool is a bigger casualty.

2) The military has long been one of our nation's most effective tools for social promotioon. How many poor or lower middle class kids have taken advantage of the Army's educational benefits to get educated and climb the socio-economic ladder? Me, for one.

There have long been complaints about the overrepresentation of blacks and Latinos in our armed forces, often viewed as signs of inequity. Yet for many, the Army (and Marines, Air Force, and Navy) were a one-way ticket out of their ghettos, or trailer parks, or barrios. Here was a meritocratic mini-society more color-blind than any other in our nation. Where people of color where equally represented in the enlisted ranks from bottom all the way to the top.

The military was either an honorable career, or a stepping stool toward a college degree and all benefits that flow from that.

Yet I wouldn't join the Army of 2005, the way I did in August 1989. And severe recruitment shortfalls mean that thousands of kids who would've used the military for social advancement will not get a chance to do so.
Feeling safer?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Molly lets someone else talk today.

Read it.

Republicans just love the military.

That must be why Rep Duncan Hunter (R-Calif) acted so warmly and generously to Guardsmen, Reservists and their families.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., has employed a rarely used authority to strike a provision in the committee-passed $441.6 billion defense authorization bill that would have opened the military's Tricare health care system to all National Guard members and reservists.

The provision, one of only a handful of Democrat victories during the 14-hour markup last week, would push the military's mandatory spending levels beyond those allowed under the fiscal 2006 budget resolution. The bill is scheduled for floor consideration Wednesday.
Apparently Tricare " would have allowed Guardsmen and Reservists to buy health coverage for $75 a month (or $233 a month for their family)." God forbid they get inexpensive health care for their families while they put the lives on the line.

UPDATE:Rep Gene Taylor (D-Miss)who offered the original amendment, responds to his chairmans cupidity.
i would like to remind my colleagues that on 21 occasions already this year, 21 major pieces of legislation came to this floor where they waived every budgetary restraint. sometimes it was so people like paris hilton could inherit tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars without paying any taxes on it. sometimes it was for things like the prescription drug benefit for seniors, that we were told at the time would cost our nation $435 billion, but it turns out it is really going to cost $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. but they waived budgetary rules for that.

the one time they selectively chose to enforce the budgetary rules was over $5 million for a very narrow bracket of national guardsmen who happen to be federal employees who are already on fehbp and who might want to enroll in tricare. so the same folks who in the past 4 years have added over $2 trillion to the national debt, giving the wealthiest americans, the political contributor class of america, enormous tax breaks, decided that these folks who are serving in iraq and afghanistan, that they do not deserve the opportunity to buy their health care coverage. i think that is wrong.
Stolen, with thanks from Skippy the Bush Kangaroo.

Sometimes You are Just Screwed

It was so right on that I had to steal the title from Juan Coles' post today. Read the rest as he shows why there are no short term solutions in Iraq.
The guerillas have enormous advantages, of knowing the local clans and terrain and urban quarters, of knowing Arabic, and of being local Muslims who are sympathetic figures for other Muslims. American audiences often forget that the US troops in Iraq are mostly clueless about what is going on around them, and do not have the knowledge base or skills to conduct effective counter-insurgency. Moreover, as foreign, largely Christian occupiers of an Arab, Muslim, country, they are widely disliked and mistrusted outside Kurdistan.

US military tactics, of replying to attacks with massive force, have alienated ever more Sunni Arabs as time has gone on. Fallujah was initially quiet, until the US military fired on a local demonstration against the stationing of US troops at a school (parents worried about their children being harmed if there was an attack). Mosul was held up as a model region under Gen. Petraeus, but exploded into long-term instability in reaction to the November Fallujah campaign. The Americans have lost effective control everywhere in the Sunni Arab areas. Even a West Baghdad quarter like Adhamiyah is essentially a Baath republic. Fallujah is a shadow of its former self, with 2/3s of its buildings damaged and half its population still refugeees, and is kept from becoming a guerrilla base again only by draconian methods by US troops that make it "the world's largest gated community." The London Times reports that the city's trade is still paralyzed.
And as we all should know by now, the problems are not all over there.
The quality of leadership in Washington is extremely bad. George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and outgoing Department of Defense officials Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, have turned in an astonishingly poor performance in Iraq. Their attempt to demonstrate US military might has turned into a showcase for US weakness in the face of Islamic and nationalist guerrillas, giving heart to al-Qaeda and other unconventional enemies of the United States.
And we still don't know why Boy George started his war.

Frist flops with Right in NH

From the Manchester Union-Leader editorial page
Because the deal lets Democrats kill seven of Bush's nominees and filibuster any future nominee, it is hard to see what Republicans gained. The GOP would have come away with more had Frist forced the Democrats to actually shut down the Senate over the nominees. Instead, Frist wrung his hands for months, giving the Democrats more power with each passing day and providing McCain with an opportunity to fill the void left by this inactivity.

Democrats get what they really wanted all along — enough political clout to make President Bush think twice about nominating a conservative for the Supreme Court — and can perpetuate the fiction that the impasse over judges was a bipartisan creation, when it really was a show of extraordinary partisanship on the part of Democrats.

Frist has again showed that he is no match for Senate Democrats. If he cannot effectively lead 55 Republican senators, how can he be trusted to lead the party and the country three years from now?
I, for one, never figured Billy the Cat Killer was any kind of a leader. It's hard to get respect when you are always following the real B.S.D's.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

To quote Our Dear Leader

We should not use public money to support the further destruction of human life.
So, uh, they will be pulling the troops out any day now, right?

The smell of mendacity in the Ohio air.

More Coin-gate from the Toledo Blade
State fraud investigators, ordered by Gov. Bob Taft to “execute a complete inventory” of all rare coins owned by the state, were barred yesterday by Maumee coin dealer Tom Noe from beginning the inspections.

Eight to 10 fraud investigators from the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, representatives of the state auditor’s office, and employees of Sotheby’s auction house had planned to start checking the coin inventory yesterday at five locations where Mr. Noe’s Capital Coin Fund Limited maintains inventories: Monclova Township, Broomall, Pa., Wilmington, Del., Sarasota, Fla., and Evergreen, Colo.

But Mr. Noe’s attorney Bill Wilkinson, informed by state officials yesterday of the planned inspections, advised him not to agree to the inspections until he could have attorneys present at all the locations where the state’s coins are held.

The Blade first reported April 3 that the bureau had invested $50 million with Mr. Noe to purchase rare coins.

Since then, reporters have found that as many as 121 state-owned coins valued at about $400,000 are missing or stolen.
Way to go Ohio! Tip the mark before the raid.

But everything is just ducky in Kaffiristan

That is what The Man Who Would Be King told us just the other day. It now looks like the Brits will cover this one.
DEFENCE chiefs are planning to rush thousands of British troops to Afghanistan in a bid to stop the country sliding towards civil war, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.

Ministers have been warned they face a "complete strategic failure" of the effort to rebuild Afghanistan and that 5,500 extra troops will be needed within months if the situation continues to deteriorate.

An explosive cocktail of feuding tribal warlords, insurgents, the remnants of the Taliban, and under-performing Afghan institutions has left the fledgling democracy on the verge of disintegration, according to analysts and senior officers.

The looming crisis in Afghanistan is a serious setback for the US-led 'War on Terror' and its bid to promote western democratic values around the world.

Defence analysts say UK forces are already so over-stretched that any operation to restore order in Afghanistan can only succeed if substantial numbers of troops are redeployed from Iraq, itself in the grip of insurgency.

But American military experts last night claimed an increase in the British presence in Afghanistan would inevitably threaten the numbers committed to Iraq.
However all is not lost.
a newspaper last night claimed that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had said in a memo that a poppy eradication program aimed at Afghanistan's heroin trade was ineffective partly because of President Hamid Karzai's leadership.
There will still be plenty of smack to go around.

And in Iraq it's business as usual.

According to the AP
A car bomb exploded next to a U.S. Army convoy in Baghdad on Tuesday, killing three soldiers, while another American died in a drive-by shooting a half-hour later. Their deaths pushed the number of U.S. troops killed in three days to 14, part of a surge in attacks that have also killed about 60 Iraqis.

Three U.S. soldiers were killed Tuesday in central Baghdad when a car bomb exploded next to their convoy. A U.S. soldier sitting in the back of a Bradley fighting vehicle at an observation post was then killed in a drive-by shooting.

Four soldiers were killed Monday after they were attacked in Haswa, 30 miles south of Baghdad, the military said. They were assigned to the 155th Brigade Combat Team, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

A Marine was killed during an indirect fire attack Monday on an American base in Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, the military said.

As of Tuesday, at least 1,643 U.S. military personnel have died since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to the AP count.

A Georgian serviceman suffered serious wounds to his legs and arms Tuesday after the U.S. Army jeep he was traveling in north of Baghdad hit a land mine. There are 850 Georgian troops in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

The U.S. military announced that a two-day operation involving more than 2,000 Iraqi soldiers and police - the largest joint campaign in the Baghdad area - had rounded up 428 suspected insurgents.

But insurgents continued to wreak havoc in the capital.
And Our Dear Leader still won't tell us why he started this war.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Holdens obsession with the Gaggle

The daily press briefing in the White House is commonly referred to as the Gaggle, as in geese. Holden over at First Draft reads it every day so you don't have to. Enjoy his daily summaries of Little Scotty and The Evil Press, where you will find gems such as this.
Q Scott, last week you said that claims in the leaked Downing Street memo that intelligence was being fixed to support the Iraq War as early as July 2002 are flat-out wrong. According to the memo which was dated July 23, 2002, and whose authenticity has not been disputed by the British Government, both Foreign Minister Jack Straw and British Intelligence Chief Sir Richard Dearlove said that the President had already made up his mind to invade Iraq. Dearlove added that intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. Do you think these two very senior officials of our closest ally were flat-out wrong? And if so, how could they have been so misinformed after their conversations with George Tenet and Condoleezza Rice?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me correct you on the -- let me correct you on the characterization of the quote you attributed to me. I'm referring to some of the allegations that were made referring to a report. In terms of the intelligence, the -- if anyone wants to know how the intelligence was used by the administration, all they have to do is go back and look at all the public comments over the course of the lead-up to the war in Iraq, and that's all very public information. Everybody who was there could see how we used that intelligence.

And in terms of the intelligence, it was wrong, and we are taking steps to correct that and make sure that in the future we have the best possible intelligence, because it's critical in this post-September 11th age, that the executive branch has the best intelligence possible.
Your tax dollars at work.

More from Ohios' Coin-Gate

In the Toledo Blade we learn this new fact.
It looked like Mark Chrans had reached a dead end in 1999.

A bank was foreclosing on the house the rare-coin dealer and his wife, Dinah, had bought in an upscale neighborhood in Lexington, Ky., and other creditors were lining up.

Chrans told the federal bankruptcy court he had $300 in clothing, $750 in cash, and a 1988 Mercury Sable worth $1,500.

But he had something else - a benefactor by the name of Tom Noe who was sending him $25,000 a month from the state of Ohio.

And, records show, Mr. Noe had loaned Chrans an additional $250,000 - again money from the state of Ohio.

In his bankruptcy filings, Chrans listed his creditors as the bank that loaned him the money to buy the Lexington house, the IRS, and other state and local tax collectors.

But Chrans didn't list Mr. Noe's Capital Coin Fund Limited, which had hired Chrans to buy and sell rare coins with money from the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

In fact, as he filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection, Chrans and his wife were starting a new life in southern California.

Mr. Noe, a Toledo-area coin dealer and prominent Republican fund-raiser, helped Chrans make a fresh start.

Within a couple years, the rare-coin dealer, now in California, was $850,000 in debt to Mr. Noe, an amount Mr. Noe wrote off as uncollectible.
Sort of like the State of Ohio was his personal piggy bank.

The article has a good summary of the scandal if you missed anything.

This Grover is neither kind nor cute.

The NYT has a lovely article shining light on one of the bull goose cockroaches of the neo conmen. If you have not heard of Grover Norquisling, you must read this piece.
While Mr. Abramoff has been under scrutiny for more than a year, Mr. Norquist has attracted unwelcome attention in recent weeks. A Congressional committee investigating whether Mr. Abramoff defrauded Indian tribes has subpoenaed records from Mr. Norquist's group, Americans for Tax Reform, after he refused for six months to turn them over voluntarily.

The Justice Department is reviewing records of an advocacy group Mr. Norquist started with Gale A. Norton, now secretary of the interior, after reports that Mr. Abramoff instructed Indian tribes to give it $250,000. And Mr. Norquist's name appears over and over in newly disclosed documents outlining Mr. Abramoff's work in the Northern Mariana Islands, an American protectorate in the Pacific, which Democrats are agitating to investigate.

In interviews, Mr. Norquist dismissed any suggestion of wrongdoing on his part and said that the only reason he is "getting dragged into this" is because Senator John McCain, the head of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which is investigating Mr. Abramoff, holds a grudge against Mr. Norquist for campaigning for President Bush in the 2000 Republican primaries.

"McCain hates me," he said.
Go get him, John!

Our Good Friends in Israel.

Juan Cole has one of those posts that ties up all the dots reported by the media but never connected.
It is George W. Bush who has encouraged the Israeli far right, by "unleashing Sharon" and letting the rightwingers know that Washington will support them no matter what. That is how they came to have the chutzpah to try to mob the First Lady. These are people that every US citizen is involuntarily taxed hundreds of dollars a year to support, and this is our thanks? We are spied on and then denounced for jailing the spy? And our First Lady is nearly mobbed?
Read it all.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Mother of All Puff Pieces.

Attytood has a nice dissection of the NYT magazine cover story (with a most pious picture) on Sen Ricky Sanctimonious.
Indeed, the article goes to great lengths to portray Santorum as a friend to blacks and Latinos. There's a long passage with Philadelphia minister Herb Lusk, who says wonderful things about the senator -- a senator who's helped Lusk and his non-profit gain millions in government aid. Ditto the Black Clergy of Greater Philadelphia and Vicinity, which lined up $4 million in government aid by way of Santorum and Specter.

The missed opportunities are many:

In 2002, in a little-noticed interview that took place in Rome, Santorum told National Catholic Reporter, a U.S.-based weekly, that he considered George W. Bush, a Methodist, to be ''the first Catholic president of the United States.''

But Sokolove passed here on a chance to mention why Santorum happened to be in Rome: He was flown there by the academic arm of the ultra-conservative Catholic group Opus Dei. The event was to honor Saint Josemaria Escriva, the Opus Dei founder whose life and subsequent canonization under Pope John Paul II has been shrouded in controversy.

Santorum told the National Catholic Reporter that he was an admirer of Escriva -- who is recorded as having whipped himself until the walls of a bathroom were splattered with blood and once wrote: "Blessed be pain. Loved be pain. Sanctified be pain...Glorified be pain!" Santorum may be a man of faith, but his views would be considered extreme by most American Roman Catholics -- something you wouldn't know from this article.
I do hope that whatever the NYT got paid for this piece covers the shortfall in their ad revenue. There is no other reason for something this bad.

The Revised Revised Version of the Declaration of Independence

World O'Crap has it posted. Here is Article 1
ARTICLE I: You want a Cadillac, Welfare Queen? You do not have the right to nice things because you're poor and therefore lazy. What's the matter, too good to work three jobs? Then you'd damn well better have money, and the best way to do that is by either having rich parents or the kind of family connections that will get you into Yale and Harvard Business School and allow you to become CEO of a Texas oil company.
Go see the rest.

A little of that good Texican justice.

Here's a story about a few good ol' boys doing a little drinking in the field. The party consisted of young white men and a black man, Billy Ray Johnson, well-known around town as a friendly but "slow" character who loved dancing and was lured to an all-white pasture party where underage drinkers fed him alcohol and picked on him.
"I feel like he was invited to be taunted because of his limited mental capacity, not so much his race," said District Attorney Randal Lee, who is white. "He was the entertainment for the night."
Then the entertainment waned and the fun began.
Owens and Stone, who pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony charge of injury to a disabled person by omission, testified that Amox and Johnson were arguing about country versus rap music when Amox told Johnson to leave.

Then Amox swung at Johnson, who fell and began vomiting and gagging, according to testimony. The men loaded Johnson into a truck and drove to an old tire dump, where they left him on an ant hill.

Doctors soon determined he had suffered a concussion that, without medical attention, could have killed him, Lee said. Johnson was hospitalized for weeks. He now resides in a nursing home, undergoes rehabilitation and is unable to walk without help or speak clearly.
So, two guys who helped dump a seriously injured man on a fire ant hill plead guilty to " third-degree felony charge of injury to a disabled person by omission" And the other two guys are tried by different juries for the same felony charge. We should be getting some jail time here, right?
Amox, facing the same felony charge as Owens and Stone, was convicted of misdemeanor assault in March. The jury recommended a suspended one-year jail sentence, meaning no time behind bars.

This month, a different jury found Hicks guilty of the felony charge, which carries a penalty of two to 10 years in prison. That jury recommended that Hicks' three-year prison sentence also be suspended.

Owens and Stone agreed in their plea deals to 30 days in the county jail and a $2,000 fine.
And you might ask, what does the DA think of this outcome?
"This is not that horrible of an outcome. They were all convicted, they'll all be on probation, they'll all have a criminal record, they'll all be watched," he said. "They didn't get off scot-free."
No sirree Bob, they sure didn't get off scot free. Why two of them even got 30 days! And their victim. Well he is in a nice comfortable nursing home. And if he can't walk or talk too good, well he weren't the brightest bulb in the chandelier anyway. And the good folks in town, how do they feel?
But R.C. Taylor, a white retired heavy equipment operator and barber, said the boys didn't deserve harsh punishment.

"It's been handled good as far as I'm concerned. They ought not to have been tried at all," Taylor said. "I think they should be turned loose, set free, with a slap on the wrist. It was just one of those things."

Others say that's the kind of attitude that led to the assault of Johnson.

"Whites stay with whites, blacks stay with blacks and the American flag still flies like a rebel flag," said Donovan Epps, a black 22-year-old hanging out with friends at Dairy Queen. "Getting probation is just like not getting tried at all. You leave a person for dead, that's like murder."

Up in the air, junior prayer leaders

Over at Skippys place, he has a nice update on the pseudo Christian takeover of the Air Force Academy. It looks like Jesus himself will have to return to clean out the place. Let's hope he doesn't need to call on the Super Best Friends.

Stark , raving lunacy that will only kill people in the end.

That is the only way to describe the attitude of the pseudo Christian Right who use the boogie man of pre marital sex to enforce their narrow evil views on the rest of America. Two major drug companies have developed a vaccine for human papilloma virus, a wide spread STD and a major cause of cervical cancer that kills 4000 women each year.
Wonderful, you are probably thinking, all we need to do is vaccinate girls (and boys too for good measure) before they become sexually active, around puberty, and HPV -- and, in thirty or forty years, seven in ten cases of cervical cancer -- goes poof.

Not so fast: We're living in God's country now. The Christian right doesn't like the sound of this vaccine at all. "Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful," Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council told the British magazine New Scientist, "because they may see it as a license to engage in premarital sex." Raise your hand if you think that what is keeping girls virgins now is the threat of getting cervical cancer when they are 60 from a disease they've probably never heard of.

I remember when people rolled their eyeballs if you suggested that opposition to abortion was less about "life" than about sex, especially sex for women. You have to admit that thesis is looking pretty solid these days. No matter what the consequences of sex -- pregnancy, disease, death -- abstinence for singles is the only answer. Just as it's better for gays to get AIDS than use condoms, it's better for a woman to get cancer than have sex before marriage. It's honor killing on the installment plan.
Minions of the Anti-Christ forming Our Dear Leaders base.

They were waist deep in the Big Muddy and they don't want to push on.

The other side of the Armys' manpower problem is retaining the experienced junior commanders who have "been there and done that". The LA Times has an article on the steady drain of lieutenants and captains who should be the core of its future command structure.
It is especially troubling for Pentagon officials that the Army's pool of young captains, which forms the backbone of infantry and armored units deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, could be the hardest hit.

Last year, Army lieutenants and captains left the service at an annual rate of 8.7% — the highest since 2001. Pentagon officials say they expect the attrition rate to improve slightly this year. Yet interviews with several dozen military officers revealed an undercurrent of discontent within the Army's young officer corps that the Pentagon's statistics do not yet capture.

Young captains in the Army are looking ahead to repeated combat tours, years away from their families and a global war that their commanders tell them could last for decades. Like other college grads in their mid-20s, they are making decisions about what to do with their lives.

And many officers, who until recently had planned to pursue careers in the military, are deciding that it's a future they can't sign up for.
And what kind of men are leaving the service for the corporate world?
"I am seeing the highest caliber of candidates now that I have seen in five years of doing this," he said. "The companies we work with are absolutely, unbelievably impressed."

Employers such as General Electric Co., Home Depot Inc. and others are always on the lookout for managerial talent, Hollitt said, and mid-level commanders tested in war are considered experienced leaders.
Makes you wonder what is left for the Army?

Striving To Be All They Can Be, the Army is taking anyone it can get.

When you read stories like this, you realize just how badly the Bushoviks have damaged our armed forces.
According to Mark Crispin Miller's News from Underground blog, concerned neighbors of Ever Jandres of Encino, Calif., recently wrote a letter to U.S. Rep. Howard Berman charging recruitment malfeasance and asking him to look into the 24-year-old learning-disabled epileptic's mysterious disappearance.

Jandres, who is Salvadoran and has a borderline low IQ, was apparently "befriended" by a local Army recruiter, who invited him to come with him to Arizona for three days to observe basic training. Five days later, his distraught mother (who speaks no English) got a phone call from her son, who told her, hysterically, that he was on a military base in South Carolina. He was in the Army, he said, and wasn't allowed to stay on the phone longer than a minute. Family members' and friends' attempts to get any information from the Army have been fruitless.
A "learning-disabled epileptic" would really make me feel safe in my foxhole. It kinda makes the druggies and high school dropouts look like command material.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Your tax dollars at work.

Just read this summary by Digby of a New York Times article. It would be very difficult to say it better.

Republicans love America

Little more than a flick of a patriotic frisbee from the White House is a cornucopia of tourist kitsch, at knockdown prices courtesy of low-wage workers halfway across the globe.

Tourists can choose a "President of the United States" baseball cap, with a pirated official seal across the front -- good value at 12 dollars.

Or plump for a pewter-style handheld statue of Abe Lincoln or a model of the US Capitol for eight dollars.

Even more ironic is the seven buck scene of one of the quintessential moments of American mythology, the raising of the US flag by marines at the World War II battle of Iwo Jima.

In one of the most patriotic nations on earth, each of these pieces bears a "Made in China" sticker on its base.

Only a few garments have a "Made in the USA" label, and some of those were woven in the Dominican Republic with American material.

Hardly anyone is priced out of the market: a dishevelled homeless man patrols the streets in an "FBI" shirt, made in Vietnam, and a matching woolly hat.
The Mother of All Outsourcing?

Sen "Billy the Cat Killer" Frist has priorities.

Florida vegetables are important to him but folks in Tennessee aren't. Terry Schiavo stirs him to passionate rhetorical heights. The cutback in state health care to thousands of people in his home state whose lives depend on it is not of value to him. Perhaps it is because he is a Christian or perhaps because CNN and Faux News aren't covering it. You read and you decide.

A petition to Sen Ricky "Man on Dog" Santorum

Go here a sign on the petition to Sen Ricky, calling for him to apologize for his remarkably stupid comparison of Democrats to Hitler. They also have the clip if you didn't hear his remarks.

The Bushoviks sink America.

With a little help from some Navy boffins.
The retired aircraft carrier USS America is on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, sunk by the Navy in a series of explosive tests that upset some veterans.

"Not a day goes by that I don't think about it," said Lee McNulty, president of the USS America Foundation, which wanted to turn the ship into a museum. "Of all the carriers, that one should have been saved, just for the name America."
During WWII Hitler had the battleship Deutschland renamed Lutzow to avoid the possibility of the Allies sinking a ship named after Germany. But what did he know.

A call to action from the Right

Paul C Roberts, a senior fellow at the John M. Olin fellow at the Institute for Political Economy, a research fellow at the Independent Institute, and senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, has this conservative view of Our Dear Leader.
George W. Bush and his gang of neocon warmongers have destroyed America’s reputation. It is likely to stay destroyed, because at this point the only way to restore America’s reputation would be to impeach and convict President Bush for intentionally deceiving Congress and the American people in order to start a war of aggression against a country that posed no threat to the United States.

America can redeem itself only by holding Bush accountable.
And he bases his thesis on this.
The secret British government memo (dated July 23, 2002, and available here), leaked to the Sunday Times (which printed it on May 1, 2005), reports that Bush wanted “to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. . . . But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. . . . The (United Kingdom) attorney general said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defense, humanitarian intervention or UNSC (U.N. Security Council) authorization. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult.”

This memo is the mother of all smoking guns.
And then asks the mother of all questions.
Why isn’t Bush in the dock?
Good question.

John Kerry shows he can get it right when he tries.

Sen. Kerry gave an eloquent speech in defense on minority rights on Thursday, describing the dangers we face.
The real interests of Americans are served by remembering that the greatest strength and virtue of our democracy is the protection it provides to the minority. That’s what’s special about America. That’s what make’s us different. That’s what makes our democracy so respected and even awesome to people all around the world.

So, this is a dangerous time for our democracy. What’s at stake here is something far greater than the confirmation of these judges. No matter how much time is spent on the life story of Priscilla Owen, we all know it’s nothing more than a smoke screen for what this is really about. It’s not about these few judges. We could have confirmed four judges this morning, but Republican leadership is determined to deny the minority the right to hold the executive accountable for lifetime appointments to the judiciary. It’s about George Bush and Karl Rove and the Republican leadership and their quest for absolute power over the Supreme Court and this Congress. It’s about the gratification of immediate ideological goals and the pursuit of power regardless of the long-term consequences for the Senate – Congress – or our Constitution.
And the tactics used.
So now we find ourselves in a struggle between a great political tradition in the United States that seeks common ground so we can do the common good – and a new ethic that, on any given issue, will use any means to justify the end of absolute victory over whatever and whoever stands in the way.

The new view says if you don’t like the facts, just change them; if you can’t win playing by the rules, just rewrite them. The new view says if you can’t win a debate on the strength of your argument, demonize your opponents. The new view says it’s ok to ignore the overwhelming public interest as long as you can get away with it.

And this time the Republican leadership has gone farthest of all to get away with it, hoping to convince Americans that by breaking the Senate rules they are acting to defend the Constitution, honor the words of our Founding Fathers, and avert a judicial crisis.

But we all know this debate is fueled by ideology, not by defense of democratic principle or some shortage of judges on the bench. The facts have been repeated clearly again and again, and are repeatedly brushed aside and ignored. But with over 95% of the judges already approved, we all know this is nothing more than a power grab by an Administration bent on controlling every aspect of our government, even if that means weakening it.
And what is at stake.
What is threatened is a delicately balanced system that for 214 years successfully prevented the Executive from usurping power granted in good faith by the American people. And that threat manifests itself in a nuclear option that threatens the character of this Senate. The integrity of this Senate is threatened when the majority attempts to change the rules by breaking the rules. The balance of power is threatened when the power of advice and consent is gutted. Our democracy is threatened when we set the dangerous precedent that minority rights can be silenced whenever they inconvenience the majority. And I believe that our courts and the justice they are meant to deliver are threatened by some of the judges President Bush has nominated.
Read the whole speech here.

Friday, May 20, 2005

How much are you willing to pay?

The Christian Science Monitor has a story chock full of information about what Our Dear Leaders Bush War II is costing the US taxpayers.
Overall, Congress has approved about $192 billion for the Iraq war itself, according to an analysis by the Congressional Research Service. Another $58 billion has been allocated for Afghanistan, and some $20 billion has gone for enhanced air security and other Pentagon preparedness measures in the US.

That totals $270 billion for all military operations since 2001, according to the CRS analysis. The cost of war in Iraq by itself has already far exceeded the $85 billion inflation-adjusted price tag of the 1991 Gulf War, notes Mr. Kosiak. Plus, that war was largely paid for by contributions from US allies.

As for all military operations combined, add in the $50 billion in war spending the Senate Armed Services Committee last week added to the fiscal 2006 defense budget bill, and the total will surpass $320 billion in US funds. "That's close to the Korean war level of $350 billion [in today's dollars]," says Kosiak.
Some good points to think about after reading this.

1. Thanks to ODL, our wealthiest citizens, including those who are profiting from the war, will not have to bear the burden of taxation.

2. We still don't know why ODL started his favorite little war.

Friday Night Aiplane Blogging

The Grumman F3F3 was the last biplane fighter in US Navy service. Built to the rugged Grumman standards, it shows many of the design features that would become so familiar in the F4F Wildcat. The 3 planes shown here are part of a group of 4 full scale reproductions of this model, built by the Texas Aircraft Factory.  Posted by Hello

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Send an e-mail to Frist

And tell him you won't vote for him to be preznit in '08 because of his bad judgement with the nukyular option.

Use this link.

Now let Christs' love in and out and in...

This is really sick. A Louisiana minister and his buddies having sex with kids and animals.

Republican Holly-wood

It seems that a former California gubernatorial candidate and noted Porn star Mary Carey will be attending a dinner for Our Dear Leader and his evil Grand Vizier Karl Rove.
Porn star and former gubernatorial candidate Mary Carey will be joining her boss, Kick Ass Pictures president Mark Kulkis, in attending a dinner with President Bush in Washington, D.C. on June 14.

Kulkis was invited to attend the event by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), which is organizing the event. Over a two-day course of NRCC events preceding the dinner, Carey and Kulkis will be attending a meeting with presidential advisor Karl Rove, giving their recommendations on important national issues.

“I’m hoping to run as Lieutenant Governor of California next year,” Carey said. “Since Arnold {Schwarzenegger} is a Republican, I thought this dinner would be a great networking opportunity for me.”

“I’m honored to be invited to this event,” Kulkis said. “Republicans bill themselves as the pro-business party. Well, you won’t find a group of people more pro-business than pornographers. We contributed over $10 billion to the national economy last year.”

“I’m especially looking forward to meeting Karl Rove,” Carey added. “Smart men like him are so sexy. I know that he’s against gay marriage, but I think I can convince him that a little girl-on-girl action now and then isn’t so bad!”
Perhaps she can talk Karl & Georgie into backing one of her films. Don't the Producers get to visit the set?

Harry the Patriot speaks.

Read it.

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, I've addressed the Senate on several recent occasions to set the record straight about Senate history and the rules of this Chamber. I'd much rather address ways to cut health care costs or bring down gas prices. But the Majority Leader has decided that we will spend this week debating radical judges instead. I'm happy to engage in that debate, but I want it to be accurate.

For example, the Majority Leader issued a statement last Friday in which he called the filibuster a "procedural gimmick." I took some time yesterday to correct that assertion. The filibuster is not a gimmick. It has been part of our nation's history for two centuries. It is one of the vital checks and balances established by our Founding Fathers. It is not a gimmick.

Also, Republicans have not been accurate in describing the use of the filibuster. They say the defeat of a handful of President Bush's judicial nominees is unprecedented. In fact, hundreds of judicial nominees in American history have been rejected by the Senate, many by filibuster. Most notably, the nomination of Abe Fortas to be Chief Justice of the United States was successfully filibustered in 1968. And during the Clinton Administration, over 60 judicial nominees were bottled up in the Judiciary Committee and never received floor votes.

In addition, Republicans engaged in explicit filibusters on the floor against a number of Clinton judges, and defeated a number of President Clinton's executive branch nominees by filibuster. It's the same Advice and Consent Clause - why was a Republican filibuster of Surgeon General nominee Henry Foster constitutional, but a Democratic filibuster of Fifth Circuit nominee Priscilla Owen unconstitutional? The Republican argument doesn't add up.

And now, the President of the United States has joined the fray and become the latest to rewrite the Constitution and reinvent reality. Speaking to fellow Republicans on Tuesday night, he said that the Senate "has a duty to promptly consider each...nominee on the Senate floor, discuss and debate their qualifications, and then give them the up or down vote they deserve."

Duty to whom? The radical right wing of the Republican Party who see within their reach the destruction of America's mainstream values?

It's certainly not duty to the tenets of our Constitution or to the American people who are waiting for progress and promise, not partisanship and petty debates.

The duties of the United States Senate are set forth in the Constitution of the United States. Nowhere in that document does it say the Senate has a duty to give presidential nominees "an up or down vote." It says appointments shall be made with the Advice and Consent of the Senate. That is very different than saying that every nominee receives a vote.

This fact was even acknowledged by the Majority Leader on this floor last week. Senator Byrd asked the Majority leader if the Constitution accorded "to each nominee an up or down vote on the Senate floor?"

Senator Frist's answer? "No, the language is not there."

Senator Frist is correct. And the President should read the same copy of the Constitution that Senator Frist was referring to.

It is clear that the President misunderstands the meaning of the Advice and Consent Clause. The word "Advice" means "Advice." President Clinton, consulted extensively with then-Judiciary Committee Chairman Hatch. Senator Hatch boasts in his autobiography that he personally convinced President Clinton to nominate Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer to the Supreme Court instead of more controversial choices.

In contrast, this President has never ever sought or heeded the advice of the Senate. But now he demands our consent.

That's not how America works. The Senate is not a rubber stamp for the Executive branch. Rather, we're the one institution where the Minority has a voice and the ability to check the power of the Majority. Today, in the face of President Bush's power grab, that's more important than ever. Republicans want one-party rule. The Senate is the last place where the President and his Republican colleagues can't have it all. And, now President Bush wants to destroy our checks and balances to ensure that he does get it all.

That check on his power is the right to extended debate. Every Senator can stand up on behalf of the people who have sent them here and say their piece. In the Senate's 200 plus years of history, this has been done hundreds and hundreds of times...to stand up to popular presidents arrogant with power...to block legislation harmful to America's workers...and yes - even to reject the President's judicial nominations.

Who are the nominees now before the Senate?

Priscilla Owen is a Texas Supreme Court Justice nominated to the Fifth Circuit. Justice Owen sides with big business and corporate interests against workers and consumers in case after case, regardless of the law. Her colleagues on the conservative Texas court have written that she legislates from the bench. Her own colleagues have called her opinions "nothing more than inflammatory rhetoric," her interpretation of the law to be "misconceptions," and even rebuked her for second guessing the legislature on vital pieces of legislation. If she wanted to legislate, she should run for Congress. If she wants to interpret and uphold the law, she should be a judge. She can't do both.

In case after case, Justice Owen's record marks her as a judge willing to make law from the bench rather than follow the language and intent of the legislature or judicial precedent. She has demonstrated this tendency most clearly in a series of dissents involving a Texas law providing for a judicial bypass of parental notification requirements for minors seeking abortions. She sought to erect barriers that did not exist in law, such as requiring religious counseling for minors facing a tough choice.

Janice Rogers Brown, a California Supreme Court justice nominated to the D.C. Circuit, is using her seat on the bench to wage an ideological war against America's social safety net. She wants to take America back to the 19th Century and undo the New Deal, which includes Social Security and vital protections for working Americans like the minimum wage. Every Senator in this body should tell the more than 10 million working Americans already living in poverty on minimum wage why someone who wants to make their life harder and destroy their hopes and dreams should be elevated to a lifetime to one of the most powerful courts in the country.

Justice Brown has been nominated to the court that oversees the actions of federal agencies responsible for worker protections, environmental laws, and civil rights and consumer protections. She has made no secret of her disdain for government. According to Justice Brown, government destroys families, takes property, is the cause of a "debased, debauched culture," and threatens civilization.

Moreover, Justice Brown received a "not qualified" rating from the California Judicial Commission when she was nominated for the California Supreme Court in 1996 because of her "tendency to interject her political and philosophical views into her opinions" and complaints that she was insensitive to established legal precedent.

Speaking recently at a church on "Justice Sunday," Brown proclaimed a "war" between religious people and the rest of America. Is this someone we want protecting the constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state, or freedom for all Americans to practice religion?

She has expanded the rights of corporations at the expense of individuals -- arguing to give corporations more leeway against attempts to prevent consumer fraud, to stop the sale of cigarettes to minors, and to prevent discrimination against women and individuals.

Janice Rogers Brown may be the daughter of a sharecropper, but she's never looked back to ensure the legal rights of millions of Americans still fighting to build better lives for their children and children's children.

These are the nominees over which the Republican leadership is waging this fight. And they are prepared to destroy the Senate that has existed for over 200 years to do it.

The Senate is a body of moderation. While the White House is the voice of a single man, and the House of Representatives is the voice of the Majority, the Senate is a forum of the states. It is the saucer that cools the coffee. It is the world's greatest deliberative body.

How will we call this the world's greatest deliberative body after the majority breaks the rules to silence the minority?

This vision of our government - the vision of our Founding Fathers - no longer suits President Bush and the Republicans in the Senate. They don't want consensus or compromise. They don't want advice and consent.

They want absolute power. And to get it, the President and the Majority Leader will do all they can to silence the Minority in the Senate and remove the last check on Republican power in Washington.

The White House is trying to grab power over two separate branches of government - Congress and the Judiciary - and they're enlisting the help of the Republican Senate leadership to do it.

Republicans are demanding a power no president has ever had, and they're willing to break the rules to do it.

And make no mistake Mr. President. This is about more than breaking the rules of the Senate or the future of seven radical judges.

At the end of the day, this about the rights and freedoms of millions of Americans.

The attempt to do away with the filibuster is nothing short of clearing the trees for the confirmation of an unacceptable nominee on the Supreme Court. If the Majority gets its way, George Bush and the far right will have the sole power to put whoever they want on the Supreme Court -- from Pat Robertson to Phylis Schlafley. They don't want someone who represents the values of all Americans, someone who can win bipartisan consensus. They want someone who can skate through with only a bare partisan majority, someone whose beliefs lay in the fringes of our society.

Nobody will be able to stop them from placing these people on the highest court in the land - extremist judges who won't protect our rights and who hold values far outside the mainstream of America.

Here's what's really at stake here:

The civil rights of millions of Americans.

The voting rights of millions of Americans.

The right to clean water to drink and safe air to breathe for millions of Americans.

The right to free speech and religious beliefs.

The right to equality, opportunity and justice.

And, nothing less than the individual rights and liberties of all Americans.

It is up to us in this Chamber to say no to this abuse of power. To stand up for the Constitution and let George Bush and the Republican Party know that the Supreme Court is not theirs to claim.

This debate all comes down to this: will we let George Bush turn the Senate into a rubber stamp to fill the Supreme Court with people from the extreme right's wish list?

Or will we uphold the Constitution and use of advice and consent powers to force the President to look to the mainstream?

Mr. President, I hope it's the latter. I know that is what my fellow Democrats and I will fight for, and I hope the responsible Republicans we've heard from will have the courage to join us.

Even the generals say the shit is pretty deep.

The NYT has an article on the generals in Iraq and their views of how things are going.
Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top American officer in the Middle East, said in a briefing in Washington that one problem was the disappointing progress in developing Iraqi police units cohesive enough to mount an effective challenge to insurgents and allow American forces to begin stepping back from the fighting. General Abizaid, who speaks with President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld regularly, was in Washington this week for a meeting of regional commanders.

In Baghdad, a senior officer said Wednesday in a background briefing that the 21 car bombings in Baghdad so far this month almost matched the total of 25 in all of last year.

Against this, he said, there has been a lull in insurgents' activity in Baghdad in recent days after months of some of the bloodiest attacks, a trend that suggested that American pressure, including the capture of important bomb makers, had left the insurgents incapable of mounting protracted offensives. But the officer said that despite Americans' recent successes in disrupting insurgent cells, which have resulted in the arrest of 1,100 suspects in Baghdad alone in the past 80 days, the success of American goals in Iraq was not assured.

"I think that this could still fail," the officer said at the briefing, referring to the American enterprise in Iraq. "It's much more likely to succeed, but it could still fail."
Over 1600 good americans dead in this disaster,so far. Let's not forget our allies casualties and an unknown number of Iraqis.

And we still have not been told why Our Dear Leader wanted his war.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Brits invented the language and aren't afraid to use it

Witness this quote from George Galloway in The Guardian.
Before the hearing began, the Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow even had some scorn left over to bestow generously upon the pro-war writer Christopher Hitchens. "You're a drink-soaked former Trotskyist popinjay," Mr Galloway informed him. "Your hands are shaking. You badly need another drink," he added later, ignoring Mr Hitchens's questions and staring intently ahead. "And you're a drink-soaked ..." Eventually Mr Hitchens gave up. "You're a real thug, aren't you?" he hissed, stalking away.

And you can find his full opening remarks to the Senate committee here.

Give 'em hell, Harry!

From The Daily Kos we get the text of Sen Harry Reids speech to supporters on the Senate steps. Here it is in full.
Unity event just took place on the Senate steps with House and most Democratic Senators.


Remarks as prepared for delivery:

The hour of decision has come for our nation's Senate. In the debate that has begun, the Republican majority that holds the reins of power will have to make a choice.

They will have to choose between their partisan interests or the people's interests.

Between upholding our liberties and rights or overturning 200 year old protections.

Between continuing to abuse the power the American people have lent them or using that power on behalf of everyday Americans who are looking for a fair break.

When Americans think of a scary person in a black robe, they should be thinking of Darth Vader, not Republican choices for judges. But what the Republican leadership is attempting to do is to pack the courts with judges far out of the mainstream of American values.

To do so they want to scrap rules that have been in place since our nation's beginning that give every Senator the right to speak their mind and say their piece. They are demanding a power no president has ever had: the ability to all-but personally hand out lifetime jobs to judges without giving the other party any say.

That's too much power for one person. That's too much power for one President. That's too much power for one political party.

Our Constitution says the Senate should give "advice and consent." Not advice as long as we agree with everything President Bush wants. Not consent as long as we rubber-stamp the most extreme elements of the Republican agenda.

These checks and balances were put in place by our founding fathers. And they are there for a reason: to prevent any political party from abusing its power.

Look at the facts: more than 60 of President Clinton's nominees to be judges never were allowed an up-or-down vote. In contrast, we have approved 208 out of President Bush's 218 nominees. That's the best record any president has had in a quarter of a century. But its not enough for George Bush and the Republican leaders.

We've approved 95 percent of their picks. But that's not enough for them. They want 100 percent. They want it all. All the say. All the control. All the power. It's their way or the highway. But that's not the American way.

The Washington Republicans are on a quest for absolute power...and we all know what that brings. Their corruption and abuse of power is already here for all Americans to see. House Republican leader Tom Delay is a walking symbol of what's wrong with Washington DC.

At a time when gas prices are going through the roof and families are cutting back on summer vacations, George Bush and Dick Cheney are trying to line the pockets of big oil and walking hand-in-hand with the Saudi princes.

And while health care costs are rising, pensions are sinking, and our economy is stuck in place, Washington Republicans are wasting our time by trying to pay off the far right.

We are a nation at war. And the American people want their leaders to be focused on achieving progress, not playing partisan games.

Fifty years ago this Spring, a US Senator in the majority party wrote that "Fanatics and extremists are always disappointed at the failure of their government to rush to implement all their principles." But that the job of leaders is to follow the "course of their conscience."

Those were the words of John F. Kennedy in "Profiles in Courage." Now comes a time of testing for our own time. In the coming days, we will see who our nation's leaders of courage are today. I ask Republicans who believe in liberty and limited government to join us in taking a stand against this abuse of power.

Its time that the Republican leaders in Congress stopped silencing people's voices and began hearing the voices of Americans who are calling on us to live up to our nation's promise.

And if you don't play nice...

Well I guess Newsweeks' tribulations are an example of what you can expect.
"It's appalling that this story got out there," said the secretary of state. "Shaky from the very get-go," thundered the White House spokesman. "We've not found any wrongdoing on the part of U.S. servicemembers," declared the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Outrage filled the airwaves this week as administration officials took turns denouncing Newsweek's brief report of alleged desecrations of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay. But among the many declarations of shock, shock, shock, among the multiple expressions of self-righteous horror at the riots the story sparked in Afghanistan, only one reflected any hint of self-reflection, any sense that this story might be more than just another mainstream media screw-up. "People need to be very careful about what they say," said the secretary of defense, " just as they need to be very careful about what they do."
Hardly a veiled threat from Old Man Rummy there. I wonder when it will be your turn.

Play nice with Our Dear Leader

And he will let you do whatever you want to with your own.
"It is a long way from Uzbekistan, where a popular uprising in the city of Andijan has been put down with perhaps the loss of 500 civilian lives, to Washington, from whence George W. Bush issues the clarion call for the spread of freedom and democracy across the world. But distance is no excuse for the muted response from the White House."

Karimov gets special treatment from Washington, the editors of the Glasgow daily charged, because he allows the U.S. military to use the Karshi-Khanabad airbase in the war on terrorism.

"The American response (or lack of it) to the popular revolt in Andijan, and the brutality with which it has been quelled, confirms that the Bush administration supports the spread of democracy only where it suits American interests," the editors said.
Dare I ask if anyone was even a little bit surprised by the Bushoviks response?

When will the NYT & WaPo convert to "Penny Savers"?

The government has blocked the press from soldiers' funerals at Arlington National Cemetery. The government has prevented the press from taking pictures of the caskets that arrive day after day at the Dover Air Force Base military mortuary in Delaware, the world's largest funeral home. And the government, by inferring that citizens who question its justifications for this war are disloyal Americans, has intimidated a compliant press from making full use of pictures of the dead and wounded. Also worth noting: President Bush's latest rationale for the war is that he is trying to "spread democracy" through the world. He says these new democracies must have a "free press." Yet he says all this while continuing to restrict and limit the American press. There's a huge disconnect here.

More than 1,600 American soldiers have died in this war that began a little over two years ago. Wounded Americans number about 12,000. No formal count is kept of the Iraqi civilian dead and wounded, but it is far greater than the military toll. But can you recall the last time your hometown newspaper ran a picture spread of these human beings lying crumpled at the scene of the slaughter? And when was the last time you saw a picture of a single fallen American soldier at such a scene?
The Village Voice has a piece on the sad state of the American press, including pictures of your tax dollars at work. Compare what you read with what you see in your paper or on your TV.

Where is the outrage?

Molly Ivins, very clearly outlines what should stir outrage in every real American:
"This is America? While White House lawyers were arguing about what separates torture from legitimate 'coercive interrogation techniques,' the following was taking place: Prisoners were hanged for hours or days from bars or doors in semi-crucifixions; they were repeatedly beaten unconscious, woken and then beaten again for days on end; they were sodomized; they were urinated on, kicked in the head, had their ribs broken, and were subjected to electric shocks.

"Some Muslims had pork or alcohol forced down their throats; they had tape placed over their mouths for reciting the Koran; many Muslims were forced to be naked in front of each other, members of the opposite sex and sometimes their own families. It was routine for the abuses to be photographed in order to threaten the showing of the humiliating footage to family members."
And where is the outrage over this and other desecrations of all that Americans hold dear and true christians believe in?
So where does all this leave us? With a story that is not only true, but previously reported numerous times. So let's drop the "Lynch Newsweek" bull. Seventeen people have died in these riots. They didn't die because of anything Newsweek did -- the riots were caused by what our government has done.

Get your minds around it. Our country is guilty of torture. To quote myself once more: "What are you going to do about this? It's your country, your money, your government. You own this country, you run it, you are the board of directors. They are doing this in your name. The people we elected to public office do what you want them to. Perhaps you should get in touch with them."
After all this, we should be rousing ten times the noise and anger that these evil bastards stirred up with Monicas damned blow job.


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Our Dear Leader fooled by real christians

Not the trademarked variety. When he speaks at the commencement of Calvin College on Saturday, he will find that not every evangelical is brain dead, some of the students and faculty really do believe the teachings of Jesus. 130 people from the small evangelical college are taking out a full page ad in the Saturday edition of the local paper saying,among other things.
"As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers and to initiate war only as a last resort," the ad will say. "We believe your administration has launched an unjust and unjustified war in Iraq."
"No single political position should be identified with God's will," says the ad, which also chastises the president for "actions that favor the wealthy of our society and burden the poor."
And why do they do this?
"We are a serious theological and intellectual school, and we try to have our students informed by thoughtful reflection about the concerns," said history professor Randall Jelks, who is rounding up signatures for the ad.
"We are not Lynchburg," he said, referring to the more conservative Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell. "We are not right wing; we're not left wing. We think our faith trumps political ideology."
I guess God is not as dead as some would have us believe

Keith Olbermann suggests that "Little Scottie" McClellen resign.

And I think it's a good idea. Read it and see if you don't agree.

English speaking Brit 1 - Senate 0

George Galloway, MP from Bethnal Green and leading anti war politician in England, came to our country to defend himself against charges that he profited from Iraqi oil sales. Unlike so many before the Senate who quake and obfuscate before the majesty of those self satisfied blowhards, George handily bearded the lions in their own den.
[He] told US senators who accused him of profiting from Iraq oil dealings their claims were the "mother of all smokescreens".

"I know that standards have slipped over the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice," he told Senator Norm Coleman, the Republican subcommittee chairman.

"I am here today - but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever having written to me or telephoned me, without any contact with me whatsoever - and you call that justice."
Mr Galloway said he had met Saddam Hussein on two occasions - the same number of times as US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and give him maps," Galloway said in a heated opening statement.

"I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war, and on the second occasion, I met him to try and persuade him to allow Hans Blix and U.N. inspectors back into country,"
And, lest anyone confuse him with a Saddam sympathizer.
"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong - and 100,000 have paid with their lives, 1,600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies," Mr Galloway told Sen Coleman.

"I was an opponent of Saddam Hussein when the British and American governments and businessmen were selling him guns and gas,"

"I have a better record of opposition to Saddam Hussein than you do."
Read all about it here and here and here and here

Monday, May 16, 2005

Support your PBS

Your Faithful Fireman does not much believe in petitions, though I do sign those I agree with. I find that they are most useful in starting up the old charcoal barbecue. Given the Texican fondness for barebrcue, I am sure Our Dear Leader loves to see petitions arrive at the White House.

Having said that I am putting a link to an online petition drive at www.freepress.org in support of their drive to oust Kenneth Tomlinson. Please hop over there and sign up. And don't forget to send a little love to your station, too. As my father used to say about the little old lady who pissed in the ocean, "Every little bit counts"

If we had sent them toilet paper,

The Afghans wouldn't have been reading Newsweek in the outhouse. Skippy has a wonderful summation of the Koran in the Toilet riots in Southwest Asia. Liberally sprinkled with links that you should follow, it should disabuse you of any notion that Newsweek was the villain in this series of events.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Juanita is good for the soul.

With all the bad karma running around these days it is good to have a place like Juanitas to go to for necessary grounding. Any woman that can write this knows what makes the world spin.
The absolutely worst argument for putting the Ten Commandments at any government building is that they’ve been on a monument at the Texas capitol for forty-four years - because it hasn’t done diddle squat to make the government any better. In fact, we were much better off before 1961. The monument has made things worse. I think any real Texan would agree that Sam Houston on his drunkest day was more righteous and lawful than Tom Craddick or Rick Perry.

Think about it. Since 1961 we’ve lost every war that we entered, the oil boom busted, cancer has gotten worse, and the Beatles broke up. Personally, I don’t think the monument has a very good record.

And, Darlin’, the evidence is even worse in its immediate vicinity. Half the members of the Legislature are crazed with ego and the other two-thirds carry a lightening rod just in case God spots them. There are third world dictators less corrupt than the majority of people on the grounds of the Texas Capitol.
Molly eat your heart out.

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