Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Reality, O Reality, Where art Thou?
— Shutting down not only Iran's oil production but Iraq's as well, and possibly triggering Iranian retaliation against the oil production and shipping in other nations around the Persian Gulf. Are we ready for $300 a barrel oil?Because you know that they have everything planned out and it's not their fault if everything goes down the crapper.
— Putting 160,000 American troops and another 125,000 American and foreign contractors in Iraq at much greater risk, as neighboring Iran signals Shiite allies there to begin all-out war against us and sends in its own well-armed guerrillas to lead the attack. Our 250-mile main supply lines in Iraq run through the heart of Shiite-controlled southern Iraq, and they would be cut. If we think we have troubles now with the shaky Iraq national government in Baghdad, which has already snuggled up to Tehran, what would war with Iran bring?
— Risking confrontation with the newly oil-rich and energized Russian Federation and President Bush's ex-KGB soul-mate Vladimir Putin. Since Putin has his hand on the natural gas and oil pipelines that keep our presumed allies in Europe from freezing to death, it is wise to assume that any support for an American attack on his ally Iran would be slim to none.
— Assuming that any U.S. air war against Iran would not be enough by itself — and such air campaigns seldom are definitive in modern history — where would we find the ground forces capable of doing the really hard part? Our Army and Marine Corps are stretched to the breaking point maintaining the force level in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have no strategic reserves available to help secure our allies in the Persian Gulf, much less to mount any offensive inside Iran.
When you add it all up, you have your answer: No one in their right mind would believe that attacking Iran now makes any sense at all.
But that doesn't mean that Bush and Cheney won't do it.
Good news for today
A grieving father won a nearly $11 million verdict Wednesday against a fundamentalist Kansas church that pickets military funerals in the belief that the war in Iraq is a punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.Those vicious pissants, the Phelpses don't have that much, so maybe this will keep them otherwise employed or in jail for a while. Couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch.
The jury first awarded $2.9 million in compensatory damages. It returned later in the afternoon with its decision to award $6 million in punitive damages for invasion of privacy and $2 million for causing emotional distress.
From the pen of Ann Telnaes
Quote of the Day
"I seriously believe we have to start asking questions about his mental health. There's something wrong. He does not seem to understand his words have real impact."Dennis Kucinich, speaking of Our Dear Embattled Leader
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Great goodely moodlies, look what the GAO found
The U.S. and Iraqi governments have failed to take advantage of a dramatic drop in violence in Iraq, according to a report issued Tuesday by a U.S. watchdog agency, which warned that prospects were waning "for achieving current U.S. security, political and economic goals in Iraq."The Iraqis have their own agenda but this is right on target with Our Dear Embattled Leader's plan. Nothing has been done because he had no intention of doing anything. The whole purpose of the surge was to prove that the Democrats couldn't stop him from doing whatever he wanted to do. The surge therefore is a success, but the war is still a failure.
Iraqi leaders have not passed legislation to foster reconciliation among Shiite Muslims, Sunnis and Kurds, and sectarian groups still retain control of ministries and divide Iraqi security forces, according to the Government Accountability Office report.
Moreover, the Bush administration's efforts to stabilize and rebuild Iraq are plagued by weak planning, a lack of coordination with the Iraqi government and among U.S. agencies, and an absence of detailed information on "the current and future costs of U.S. involvement in Iraq," it said.
"U.S. efforts lack strategies with clear purpose, scope, roles and performance measures," the report said.
Read the GAO report here
Iraq moves to revoke Order 17
The legislation was in response to Iraqis' anger over the shooting Sept. 16 of 17 Iraqis by security guards for Blackwater USA. Blackwater said the shooting was in response to an ambush, but witnesses said they saw no one open fire at the convoy and Iraqi government officials have called the shooting unprovoked.Just about what you would expect from any self respecting sovereign nation, in fact, probably milder than the circumstances warrant. The mercs don't like this law. I would strongly advise the mercs to go pound sand up their asses if they don't like it.
The legislation, which the parliament also must approve, would revoke Order 17, which was issued by L. Paul Bremer, who was the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority before the CPA dissolved in June 2004 and authority passed to an Iraqi government. The order exempted private security contractors from liability under Iraqi law.
Under the legislation, security contractors working in Iraq would have to register their firearms and equipment with the Ministry of Interior. Foreigners working for the security companies would have to apply through the Foreign Ministry for visas to work in Iraq.
From the pen of Pat Oliphant
The largest dam in Iraq is in serious danger of an imminent collapse that could unleash a trillion-gallon wave of water, possibly killing thousands of people and flooding two of the largest cities in the country, according to new assessments by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other U.S. officials.The dam has had problems since it was built and the invasion and occupation just added to the trouble. Just like in that old Shake-N-Bake ad with the twins, "and we helped"! One more problem for Our Dear Embattled Leader to sidestep.
Even in a country gripped by daily bloodshed, the possibility of a catastrophic failure of the Mosul Dam has alarmed American officials, who have concluded that it could lead to as many as 500,000 civilian deaths by drowning Mosul under 65 feet of water and parts of Baghdad under 15 feet, said Abdulkhalik Thanoon Ayoub, the dam manager. "The Mosul dam is judged to have an unacceptable annual failure probability," in the dry wording of an Army Corps of Engineers draft report.
At the same time, a U.S. reconstruction project to help shore up the dam in northern Iraq has been marred by incompetence and mismanagement, according to Iraqi officials and a report by a U.S. oversight agency to be released Tuesday. The reconstruction project, worth at least $27 million, was not intended to be a permanent solution to the dam's deficiencies.
Monday, October 29, 2007
The Governator and The Leaf
California governor and former film star Arnold Schwarzenegger has told a magazine that marijuana is not a drug.I guess steroids aren't drugs either, but I prefer to hang out with good old Mary Jane. But when the Governator starts speaking, he just can't stop. Asked about the greatest leaders his choices were
The ex-Hollywood actor said in a GQ interview that he had not taken drugs, even though he was shown smoking a joint in 70s documentary Pumping Iron.
"That is not a drug. It's a leaf," he told the magazine. He added: "My drug was pumping iron, trust me."
Tony Blair as one of the greatest leaders in history.Sorry Li'l George, but seriously, who knew Arnie was a diplomat?
Mr Blair was ranked alongside former South African president Nelson Mandela, ex-US presidents John F Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Mr Schwarzenegger was also asked about his opinion of current US president, George Bush.
"I would say that I was... very fond of his father. I worked for President Bush Sr and he was a great man.
"I think his son does some great things and there are some other things I don't agree with."
State Dept fucks up mercenary murder investigation
The State Department promised Blackwater USA bodyguards immunity from prosecution in its investigation of last month's deadly shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians, The Associated Press has learned.If they are tried in an American court the rules of evidence would obviously work against the prosecution, and don't think the Staties didn't know that. But there is a way around this, thanks to Our Dear Embattled Leader. Send them to Guantanamo. When you're in Gitmo, Hell Knows, Anything Goes!
The immunity deal has delayed a criminal inquiry into the Sept. 16 killings and could undermine any effort to prosecute security contractors for their role in the incident that has infuriated the Iraqi government.
"Once you give immunity, you can't take it away," said a senior law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.
Addendum: They probably did it for the Presidunce's amusement, like this.
Monday Music Blogging
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Still rocks pretty good
Democracy For America Pulse Poll
Hey Friends,Or vote for another, if you please. But check this out before you do.
I wanted to drop you a short note to ask for your help. DFA is holding a Presidential Primary Pulse Poll to decide which candidate deserves their support. I voted for Senator Christopher Dodd and I need help to move him from 9th place in the poll.
Could you take just a minute to vote for Christopher Dodd right now? Here's the link:
Thanks for your help.
Hey, they got legal bills to pay
McConnell tucked money for three weapons projects for BAE Systems into the defense appropriations bill, which the Senate approved Oct. 3. The Defense Department failed to include the money in its own budget request, which required McConnell to intercede, said BAE spokeswoman Susan Lenover.In fairness, Mitch was probably forced to do it by Dear Leader to somehow help his 'cousin' Bandar Bush. As Melanie Sloan of Crew has said.
BAE is based in Great Britain but has worldwide operations, including a Louisville facility that makes naval guns and employs 322. McConnell has taken at least $53,000 in campaign donations from BAE's political action committees and employees since his 2002 re-election. United Defense Industries, which BAE purchased two years ago, pledged $500,000 to a political-science foundation the senator created, the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville.
In June, BAE confirmed that the Justice Department is investigating possible corruption in its Saudi Arabian deals. According to British media reports, BAE set up a slush fund with hundreds of millions of dollars in a Washington, D.C., bank to bribe Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan in order to win weapons contracts. Bandar, who heads the Saudi National Security Council, has denied the allegation.
"Most politicians decide that a scandal is a good time to stop doing business with a company, at least until the scandal is over," Sloan said. "Particularly when we're talking about a criminal investigation over bribery. You would think that a member of Congress would want to steer clear of anyone accused of bribery."Ole Mitch got brass balls that clank when he walks, and it seems the noise bothers him so much he can't think straight.
Even without the scandal, it looks bad for a senator to earmark federal money for a corporation, as compared to a public university or a local government in his state, said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center in Washington.
"Why did they need special favors from Senator McConnell instead of going through the usual open competition and budgeting process at the Pentagon?" Boehm asked.
Halloween Fright Sight
A Tale of Two Brothers
As the U.S.-led battle for Iraq's future rumbles toward the five-year mark, the Walters brothers are among the thousands of part-time warriors who will quit their civilian lives and their home towns to spend 10 months in a parallel reality. Four state Guard brigades, among them Indiana's 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, will mobilize in early December, the next wave of deployment to support President Bush's plan for keeping at least 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq through next year.They are ready and willing to deploy to a war that has no purpose and, if Our Dear Embattled Leader has his way, no end. Whatever you may think of these two Americans and all the other men and women in the military, they deserve far better than to be a part of this Republican sponsored disaster.
More than 3,400 Indiana soldiers are training now for the war, a conflict more complicated, more unpredictable and less popular than at any time since the March 2003 invasion. When the troops -- farmers and factory workers, students and executives, sons and daughters -- ship out, they and the communities they leave behind will be braced for the worst. "This is a tougher mission," said Col. Courtney Carr, commander of the Indiana brigade. "There's a good chance that not all our soldiers will come back."
Saturday, October 27, 2007
The road to war with Iran is longer than you think
In the years after 9/11, Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann worked at the highest levels of the Bush administration as Middle East policy experts for the National Security Council. Mann conducted secret negotiations with Iran. Leverett traveled with Colin Powell and advised Condoleezza Rice. They each played crucial roles in formulating policy for the region leading up to the war in Iraq. But when they left the White House, they left with a growing sense of alarm -- not only was the Bush administration headed straight for war with Iran, it had been set on this course for years. That was what people didn't realize. It was just like Iraq, when the White House was so eager for war it couldn't wait for the UN inspectors to leave. The steps have been many and steady and all in the same direction. And now things are getting much worse. We are getting closer and closer to the tripline, they say.Read on and see how this crew in the White House was given priceless opportunities to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East, opportunities that were thrown away like used Kleenex because they did not fit the path preordained by Dickwahd, Rummy and their minions. Saddest of all was the response of that hopeless post turtle in the Oval Office, he who now speaks of his legacy after letting a potentially greater legacy pass him by.
"The hard-liners are upping the pressure on the State Department," says Leverett. "They're basically saying, 'You've been trying to engage Iran for more than a year now and what do you have to show for it? They keep building more centrifuges, they're sending this IED stuff over into Iraq that's killing American soldiers, the human-rights internal political situation has gotten more repressive -- what the hell do you have to show for this engagement strategy?' "
But the engagement strategy was never serious and was designed to fail, they say. Over the last year, Rice has begun saying she would talk to "anybody, anywhere, anytime," but not to the Iranians unless they stopped enriching uranium first. That's not a serious approach to diplomacy, Mann says. Diplomacy is about talking to your enemies. That's how wars are averted. You work up to the big things. And when U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker had his much-publicized meeting with his Iranian counterpart in Baghdad this spring, he didn't even have permission from the White House to schedule a second meeting.
Quote of the Day
"The Republican leaders have made their choice. They want to stay in Iraq and deny our kids health care,"Howard Dean, hitting the nail on the head.
Acronyms don't always work
The RIP process, he noted, is lengthy because it reaches all the way down to the individual soldier level.Where is re-write when you need them?
1-2-3 what're we fighting for?
They stop, look around. The streets of Sadiyah are deserted again. To the right, power lines slump down into the dirt. To the left, what was a soccer field is now a pasture of trash, combusting and smoking in the sun. Packs of skinny wild dogs trot past walls painted with slogans of sectarian hate.Caught in the middle without enough manpower to keep the factions apart, but enough to lose 20 soldiers for what? George only knows, but one thing is sure, there will be another 450 days of this. And much more if George and Dickwahd get their war in Iran.
A bomb crater blocks one lane, so they cross to the other side, where houses are blackened by fire, shops crumbled into bricks. The remains of a car bomb serve as hideous public art. Sgt. Victor Alarcon's Humvee rolls into a vast pool of knee-high brown sewage water -- the soldiers call it Lake Havasu, after the Arizona spring-break party spot -- that seeps in the doors of the vehicle and wets his boots.
"When we first got here, all the shops were open. There were women and children walking out on the street," Alarcon said this week. "The women were in Western clothing. It was our favorite street to go down because of all the hot chicks."
That was 14 long months ago, when the soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, arrived in southwestern Baghdad. It was before their partners in the Iraqi National Police became their enemies and before Shiite militiamen, aligned with the police, attempted to exterminate a neighborhood of middle-class Sunni families.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Now they look at them
This team of 10 auditors, criminal investigators and acquisition experts are starting with a sampling of the roughly 6,000 contracts worth $2.8 billion issued by an Army office in Kuwait that service officials have identified as a hub of corruption.Happy hunting, guys!
The office, located at Camp Arifjan, buys gear and supplies to support U.S. troops as they move in and out of Iraq. The pace of that operation has exploded since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003.
Based on what the team finds, the probe may expand and the number of Army military and civilian employees accused of accepting bribes and kickbacks could grow, U.S. officials told The Associated Press. Nearly two dozen have been charged so far.
At least they are trying to move them quickly.
The Air Force has been forced to use Russian commercial cargo jets to rush mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles from the U.S. to Iraq because it does not have enough C-5 and C-17 planes to do the job, the service’s top civilian official said recently.This should speed up the allocation to front line troops as the general officers should be outfitted sooner than planned.
Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne said at an Oct. 24 House Armed Services Committee hearing that American reliance on Russian Antonov jumbo jets to move critical war supplies indicates that the Air Force may need more than its current 300 C-5s and C-17s.
“We are now sharing the mission of flying MRAPs over to Iraq between C-17s and Antonov airplanes,” Wynne said. “Did [we] truly envision that we would fly war supplies with Russian-made airplanes? I don’t know.”
In the '60's we didn't have YouTube
Charlie Rangel is subversive
Setting the stage for a bitter election-year battle over the direction of U.S. tax policy, the House's chief tax writer yesterday unveiled a broad proposal that includes repealing the alternative minimum tax as well as reducing taxes on an estimated 91 million mostly lower- and middle-income Americans while raising them for many in the upper income brackets.Imagine that, letting the people who make the most money pay the most tax! No wonder the Republicans are trying to call it a tax hike.
The plan would not change the amount of revenue collected, according to the staff of the Joint Tax Committee, but it would alter existing law to shift $1 trillion of the tax burden over 10 years.
Right on, Charlie!
Republicans still hate children
Once again defying a veto threat from President Bush, the House on Thursday passed a bill to provide health insurance for 10 million children. But supporters did not have enough votes to override the promised veto.I just have to believe these are Republicans who believe in term limits and are trying to keep their promises.
The bill was approved by a vote of 265 to 142, less than the two-thirds needed to override a veto.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Rosa Brooks does not think Dear Leader is a criminal
The U.S. is full of ordinary people with serious forms of mental illness -- delusional people with violent fantasies who think they're the president, or who think they get instructions from the CIA through their dental fillings.Me, I think he is criminally insane and he and Dickwahd should immediately undergo a prolonged treatment of therapeutic waterboarding.
The problem with Bush is that he is the president -- and he gives instructions to the CIA and military, without having to go through his dental fillings.
Send a letter to Harry
Join in with other concerned Americans to send this letter to Sen Harry Reid D-Nutless
Dear Senator Reid,You will be in some good company. And if you need a reason, read Digby.
Senator Chris Dodd recently announced his intention to place a 'hold' on any bill coming before the Senate that includes provisions for so-called 'amnesty' for large companies involved in illegally spying on Americans, and to filibuster any such bill if necessary. We are writing to ask you use your position as Majority Leader to honor this hold and join Sen. Dodd's leadership efforts to stop legislation that would allow these companies to escape liability.
For decades, it has been against the law in the United States for companies to give data about their customers, or access to their customers' conversations, to the Government without a warrant. But it now appears that for the last five years-at least-AT&T, Verizon, and numerous other politically connected corporations have repeatedly broken the law, turning over to the Bush adminis- tration unfettered access to the telephone calls, Internet activities, and calling records of millions and millions of Americans.
As a result of this lawbreaking, their customers, along with privacy groups, have sued them in federal court, and they are making progress. One federal judge, an appointee of the first President Bush, emphatically rejected the excuse put forward by the corpo- rate lawyers that the companies mistakenly thought that what they were doing was legal. U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker wrote:
AT&T's alleged actions here violate the constitutional rights clearly established [by the U.S. Supreme Court]. . . . AT&T cannot seriously contend that a reasonable entity in its position could have believed that the alleged domestic dragnet was legal.
These companies have now asked Congress to pass a special law asking for 'amnesty.' The law would prohibit courts from ruling on whether these companies broke the law and force the dismissal of all court proceedings against them. We know of at least one company, Qwest, that refused these illegal government requests, a factor that adds weight when considering whether these com- panies were 'just doing' what the government requested. The companies seeking immunity clearly chose to break the law.
Providing amnesty to lawbreaking corporations is a complete assault on the rule of law and on the basic fairness of our political system. When ordinary American citizens are accused of breaking the law, they are forced to go to court and, if the accusations are proven, they suffer the consequences. If the telecoms really did nothing wrong, they should prove that in court, like all Americans must do.
Congress has faced up to this before. In 1965, some of our nation's largest banks were found by courts to have broken our anti- trust laws and also wanted amnesty from Congress for what they did. Senator Robert F. Kennedy spoke out forcefully against this. As The New York Times reported:
He objected to the basic philosophy of retroactive immunization which, he said, might logically be applied to 'murder or any other crime.'
The rule of law is the basic guarantee in our society that all Americans are treated equally. Amnesty for big business is an assault on that principle. To grant retroactive amnesty would be to announce that our wealthiest corporations are free to break the laws we pass, and amnesty would be yet another huge step in eroding our core political principles.
American Civil Liberties Union
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Moveon.org Political Action
Working Assets Wireless
Glenn Greenwald, Salon
Jane Hamsher, Firedoglake
Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, Dailykos
Christy Hardin Smith, Firedoglake
Matt Stoller, OpenLeft
Taylor Marsh, TaylorMarsh.com
Duncan Black, Atrios
John Aravosis, Americablog
Chris Bowers, OpenLeft
John Amato, Crooks and Liars
Howie Klein, DownWithTyranny
Cc: Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Dick Durbin, Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee
Quote of the Day
"We will not be a safer country, we will not be a safer America if the whole world watches us being defeated by a bunch of kids with improvised explosive devices,"Fred "Dopey" Thompson, one of the Republican Seven Dwarfs, stating his opinion of the US Army and Marines.
Who is better than Oliphant?
No Joy in Blackwaterville
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Hey, Big Spender
George W. Bush, despite all his recent bravado about being an apostle of small government and budget-slashing, is the biggest spending president since Lyndon B. Johnson. In fact, he's arguably an even bigger spender than LBJ.Unlike with LBJ however, the citizens of the United States have received little or no benefit from all his spending. But we have lost over 3800 good Americans in Iraq.
“He’s a big government guy,” said Stephen Slivinski, the director of budget studies at Cato Institute, a libertarian research group.
The numbers are clear, credible and conclusive, added David Keating, the executive director of the Club for Growth, a budget-watchdog group.
“He’s a big spender,” Keating said. “No question about it.”
Helluva legacy George.
"Grinding up our seed corn"
The U.S. Military Academy at West Point was founded to educate career officers for the Army, and upon graduation each officer owes Uncle Sam five years on active duty. The hope is that most will remain for a full career, and historically just 28.8 percent have opted out after five years.These are the people who make the glorious generals triumphant orders actually work and if they are missing, so is the heart of the military.
A total of 35 percent of the West Point Class of 2000 left the Army in 2005; 46 percent of the Class of 2001 left in 2006, and a staggering 58 percent of the Class of 2002 left active duty when their obligation expired this year.
Those figures are mirrored among officers who are commissioned through university ROTC programs, with attrition rates now at a 30-year high. The Army Reserve reports that the situation is even worse for critical ranks and specialties: The Reserve has only 58 percent of the sergeants first class it needs, 53 percent of the needed captains and 74 percent of needed majors.
Perhaps Dear Leader plans to hire Blackwater to take their place.
Quote of thr Day
Call him Judas Giuliani.New York Post editorial ripping His 9-11-ness for rooting for the Red Flops.
All you need to know
There are only 17 contract compliance officers at the State Department’s management bureau overseeing spending of the billions of dollars on these programs, officials said.Soon the experience with Festung Baghdad will be commonplace throughout the department, George W Bush's gift to government.
MoDo on Madness
As Pat Buchanan noted on “Hardball,” “Cheney and Bush are laying down markers for themselves which they’re going to have to meet. I don’t see how ... Bush and Cheney can avoid attacking Iran and retaining their credibility going out of office.”Brilliant!!
In other words, once our cowboys have talked their crazy talk, they have to walk their crazy walk.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
How does this happen?
Now you know why.
A stray thought
Quote of the Day
"Certain corners of the Administration seem to exist in order to provide employment security for wrong theories and exploded assumptions that can live on without fear of the sack, insulated from facts, providing language for a Vice-Presidential speech and continuing to inform policy at the highest level. This is a working description of ideology, and it is a dangerous thing, whether in Tehran or in Washington."George Packer, via Froomkin
Tom Toles Tuesday
State Dept oversight? You must be joking, sir.
A State Department review of its own security practices in Iraq assails the department for poor coordination, communication, oversight and accountability involving armed security companies like Blackwater USA, according to people who have been briefed on the report. In addition to Blackwater, the State Department’s two other security contractors in Iraq are DynCorp International and Triple Canopy.So, Condi can't handle the Iraqis or anyone else in the Middle East, can't handle Pootie Poot, can't handle Cheney/Adderington by herself and now we find out that she can't run the State Dept. But she sure can shop.
At the same time, a government audit expected to be released Tuesday says that records documenting the work of DynCorp, the State Department’s largest contractor, are in such disarray that the department cannot say “specifically what it received” for most of the $1.2 billion it has paid the company since 2004 to train the police officers in Iraq.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Quote of the Day
Here is the reality. Iran has an economy the size of Finland's and an annual defense budget of around $4.8 billion. It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are quietly or actively allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?Fareed Zakaria, writing in Newsweek
Yeah, this should be a huge success
President Bush scrambled Monday to avert a full-scale military assault by Turkey against Kurdish rebels inside northern Iraq, urging Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to stop cross border attacks by the separatist group known as the PKK.Can't you just see some poor schmuck writing Dear Leader's script for the phone calls so he doesn't tell Turkish President Abdullah Gul something like, "it sure is a good thing that Attaturk guy is dead". On second thought, DL would have no idea who Attaturk was.
Bush also telephoned Turkish President Abdullah Gul to expressed "deep concern" over the killing of Turkish civilians and troops by the PKK and assured him that the United States would press Iraq to move on the group, the White House said.
The life of a refugee
It worked with Al Capone
Rep. Henry Waxman, who chairs the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, released a March letter from the Internal Revenue Service that states the company's classification of a security guard as an independent contractor, instead of company personnel, was "without merit."This is only the beginning.
Under U.S. law, companies must pay Social Security and other federal taxes on their employees. But unlike other security companies operating in Iraq, Blackwater says the guards it trains, equips and deploys to Iraq and elsewhere are independent contractors hired directly by the federal government.
"By classifying its armed guards and other personnel as independent contractors instead of employees, Blackwater has apparently evaded withholding and paying these taxes," Waxman, D-Calif., wrote in a letter to Blackwater chief Erik Prince.
Monday Music Blogging
Krugman thinks Greenspan is right
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Why Dear Leader and Dickwahd should retire to Guantanamo
All of this is by way of introduction to the notorious Plame affair, notorious only because Novak and members of the Bush administration colluded in betraying their...No. Let's not talk about something as "abstract" as an entire country, where you see an ocean of faces, rather than individuals. Let's talk about that betrayal in the personal terms in which it should be discussed.The Republican scum in DC wouldn't know national security if it jumped up and bit them in the ass.
These unspeakable bastards - Novak, especially - betrayed your parents, your friends, and all your neighbors. Through their criminally irresponsible behavior, they quite literally made my daughter's life far more precarious than it had to be. And these scumbags are walking the streets, unpunished, unrepentant. And they dare to lecture me on my values, my patriotism, and my seriousness in protecting what I love.
You can't make lemonade out of this
Two children of a Fort Bliss soldier flown back from Iraq with combat injuries are dead and a third is on life support following a car accident on the way to visit their father in the hospital, Army officials said.
Army Spc. John Austin Johnson was waiting for his wife and three kids to visit him at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio Oct. 13 when another soldier told him his family’s car had rolled over four times on Interstate 10 about 12 miles east of Ozona on the gusty West Texas plains.
“He said, ‘Two of my children are dead?”’ Army Sgt. 1st Class Eugene Schmidt told The Dallas Morning News. “And we started crying.”
Schmidt said Johnson has survived five brushes with improvised explosive device blasts during two years in Iraq. The latest left him with a traumatic brain injury, and he speaks with a severe stutter.
Dick Cheney prepares to go to war - again
The United States and other nations will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday.So Dickwahd again undercuts any moderate element in the Iranian government, hoping for another disastrous military folly while over in Pakistan the very real possibility of al-Qaeda and the Taliban getting their hands on Pakistans nukes AND delivery systems continues to grow. And, as usual, the real threat is aided and abetted by the blundering and stupidity of the Bushoviks.
"Our country, and the entire international community, cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its grandest ambitions," Cheney said in a speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Studies.
He said Iran's efforts to pursue technology that would allow them to build a nuclear weapon are obvious and that "the regime continues to practice delay and deceit in an obvious effort to buy time."
If Iran continues on its current course, Cheney said the U.S. and other nations are "prepared to impose serious consequences." The vice president made no specific reference to military action.
"We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon," he said.
Quote of the Day
"How do you fund a war but not fund the casualties?"Annette McLeod, wife of Army specialist Wendell McLeod, who is suffering from PTSD after serving in Iraq
What it means to be Republican and human?
But the warm reception wasn't for the Republican who since 1995 has represented this stretch of coast from the Virginia state line to the sprawling Marine base at Camp Lejeune. Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr., a soft-spoken, deeply religious man who two years ago turned against the Iraq war, was not there.My king, right or wrong, trumps my country every time for these folks. And poor old Jones compounds the sin by abandoning Rush Limbaugh. How dare he breath the same air! Let us hope this trend continues. The more that decent people are driven from the Republican Party, the easier it will be to crush it and flush it down the drain.
The GOP activists dining on fried fish were cheering Joe McLaughlin, a county commissioner and retired Army major who has launched a hard-charging bid to dispatch Jones in next year's primary by highlighting Jones' votes against the war.
"His is a message of despair, a message of defeat," McLaughlin told the appreciative crowd as he derided Jones, accusing him of abandoning the troops, President Bush, even talk-show host Rush Limbaugh.
Jones, who has never had a primary challenge but is being abandoned by GOP officials across his district, is not alone.
Across the country, other Republican lawmakers who have broken with over the war are under fire from party loyalists.
The Police are our friends
From the courtyard of his concrete-barricaded garrison in southwestern Baghdad that evening, Lt. Col. Patrick Frank heard the distinctive sound of rocket fire. He hurried inside his command office to flat-screen panels displaying aerial imagery to pinpoint the launch site.Gives a whole new meaning, and not a good one, to the phrase "watch your back".
Within minutes, his cellphone began ringing. Several Iraqi informants told him the attack had originated near the decrepit school in al-Amil, recalled Frank, the battalion commander in the neighborhood. His sources agreed on another thing, too, he said: "There were several Iraqi police vehicles spotted leaving the scene."
In the days since the Oct. 10 rocket barrage, U.S. soldiers have arrested eight police officers suspected of collaborating with Shiite militiamen to target the U.S. base. Assaults by mortars and rockets on military installations across the country are relatively common -- though the missiles frequently land in unpopulated areas. But if the police are found guilty, the Camp Victory assault would represent one of the more glaring examples of Iraqi security forces turning on their American partners to devastating effect.
"It's no secret the Iraqi police have some systemic problems with corruption," said Maj. Bill Kinsey, operations officer for the 1st Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment. "They've got dirty cops. I would say 'just like anywhere else,' but there's more of them and the stakes are higher."
God will have to be the judge
In Sadr City, the U.S. military said ''an estimated 49 criminals'' were killed in three separate engagements during a raid targeting a suspected rogue Shiite militia leader specializing in kidnapping operations for which he sought funding from Iran.Militants and criminals or people defending their homes and innocent bystanders? What does it matter, the intended targets were not found and the dead are still dead. And we are still in Iraq for no good reason.
U.S. troops returned fire after coming under sustained attack from automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades from nearby buildings as they began to raid a series of buildings in the district, according to a statement, which added that some 33 militants were killed in the firefight. Ground forces then called in airstrikes, which killed some six militants.
The U.S. troops were then attacked by a roadside bomb and continued heavy fire as they left the area, killing another 10 combatants in subsequent clashes.
''All total, coalition forces estimate that 49 criminals were killed in three separate engagements during this operation. Ground forces reported they were unaware of any innocent civilians being killed as a result of this operation,'' the military said in the updated statement.
Iraqi police and hospital officials put the death toll at at least 13 and said a woman and three children were among the dead from the pre-dawn raid in the sprawling district. They said 52 people were injured.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
The economy is just fine
NOW, let me go back to my role as Little Benjy Sunshine. None of this will sink our glorious economy. The losses are nothing compared with the losses in the tech debacle. They will be nothing like the numbers bandied about in the fear-mongering media. If there is a questionable $200 billion pool of loans, that means a small percent will be lost, not all of it. This big, strong economy will sail on through.And day by day there is less and less we can do about it. I suppose you could try sewing fishhooks in your pockets.
But the vicious, cruel truth is that some very greedy, selfish and, yes, stupid men made fortunes on deals that were economically and/or ethically wrong. (Why else hide them off balance sheet or abroad?) They got immense fees, stunning paychecks and the inheritance of maharajahs. Their great-grandchildren will be rich from their deeds and misdeeds. As far as I can tell, they are not being called to account in any major way. The ones at the top aren’t fired or, if they are fired, are fired very rich. (Never mind that silly mouth music from Citigroup about “the year of no excuses.”) Despite what looks to me like a breathtaking lack of disclosure, I have not seen any lawsuits by the Securities and Exchange Commission against any of these big money-center princes or principalities — not to mention criminal investigations from other law enforcement authorities.
And we stockholders and taxpayers foot the bill, of course. But even this is not the worst part: there are still lots of people who can say with a straight face that the world of finance is overregulated, that we should trust the power players to do the right thing, that if we put finance under a microscope, or allow financial miscreants to be sued for misconduct, America will be harmed. There are still people, and I know many of them well, who believe that old myth that you can trust the markets to fix everything — that old magical thinking that some thieves will stop other thieves from robbing the sheep like us. That’s the really sad part. Some babies never learn.
* Big Swinging Dicks for those of genteel sensibilities.
When they get older
Nevertheless, many parents work hard to keep the memory of the dead parent alive for their children. CamerynLee and her mother, sitting in their sunny kitchen in this middle-class town outside Buffalo recently, looked at pictures of Lance Corporal Orlowski, along with letters of condolence from President Bush and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Outside, the Marine Corps flag was flying near a Halloween scarecrow.The legacy of George W Bush.
Ms. Kross also showed her daughter a letter that her father wrote from Kuwait City, which began, “What’s up ladies?” He ended it by telling CamerynLee to be a “good girl for Mommy” and urging Nicole, a former Air Force reservist, to “take care of yourself.”
It was the first time that Ms. Kross had shown the letter to CamerynLee, a sprite of a girl with a gentle voice and large blue eyes. “I think about him every day,” CamerynLee said as she studied the letter. “I remember cooking with him. He was helping me flip the sausages. I remember him carrying me. I wish he was still alive.”
Frank Rich looks at Republican war corruption
War profiteering happens even in “good” wars. Arthur Miller made his name in 1947 with “All My Sons,” which ends with the suicide of a corrupt World War II contractor whose defective airplane parts cost 21 pilots their lives. But in the case of Iraq, this corruption has been at the center of the entire mission, from war-waging to nation-building. As the investigative reporters Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele observed in the October Vanity Fair, America has to date “spent twice as much in inflation-adjusted dollars to rebuild Iraq as it did to rebuild Japan — an industrialized country three times Iraq’s size, two of whose cities had been incinerated by atomic bombs.” (And still Iraq lacks reliable electric power.)Frank should be careful, he documents a number of deaths, including a couple of convenient suicides, in his record of Republican corruption. It's enough to make you wonder if we know about all of Blackwater's services yet.
Jay Leno makes a funny
"Vice President Dick Cheney's wife, Lynne Cheney, said that Barack Obama and Dick Cheney are related. She said they are actually eighth cousins. Isn't that amazing? Dick Cheney now has more blacks and gays in his own family than in the entire Republican Party."Amen
Some good news
Our best wishes to the couple for a long and happy marriage.
The day has come!
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is engaged!
It's over for all those single femmes in Chicago and Washington, D.C., hoping one day to snag bachelor Fitzgerald, 46, who turned female heads while spearheading Washington's CIA probe and the Scooter Libby trial.
One of the nation's most eligible bachelors and one of People magazine's "Sexiest Men Alive" plans to marry a Head Start teacher from Chicago named Jennifer Letzkus, 34, whose family hails from Decatur.
What is as blue as the Kansas sky?
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment yesterday became the first government agency in the United States to cite carbon dioxide emissions as the reason for rejecting an air permit for a proposed coal-fired electricity generating plant, saying that the greenhouse gas threatens public health and the environment.This stops the emission of 11 Million Tons of CO2 annually. That is a hell of a lot of gas. If you live east of Kansas, send them a thank you note.
The decision marks a victory for environmental groups that are fighting proposals for new coal-fired plants around the country. It may be the first of a series of similar state actions inspired by a Supreme Court decision in April that asserted that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide should be considered pollutants under the Clean Air Act.
What part of "service" don't they understand?
the company had scheduled installation of its much ballyhooed "Triple Play" service, which combines phone, cable and Internet services, in Shaw's brick home in nearby Bristow. But Shaw said they failed to show up on the appointed day, Monday, Aug. 13. They came two days later but left with the job half done. On Friday morning, they cut off all service....What happened next, while beyond the pale, is a joy to behold. Go read it and enjoy.
...So on that Friday, Mona Shaw and her husband, Don, went to the local call center office to complain.
Let's pick it up, mid-action, according to Shaw:
Mona demands to speak to a manager. A customer service representative says someone will be right with them. Directs them to a bench, outside. (Remember, it's mid-August.) Mona and Don sit.
Tick, tick, tick, goes the clock. Sit, sit, sit, go Mona and Don.
For. Two. Hours.
And then -- this is the best part -- the customer rep leans out the door and says the manager has left for the day. Thanks for coming!
Friday, October 19, 2007
The latest Republican strategy
Law enforcement authorities, including the Justice Department, are expressing concern over a recent spate of noose sightings in the aftermath of events in Jena, the small Louisiana town that has been engulfed by racial strife and was the scene of a recent civil rights demonstration.Given the vigor with which this Justice Dept. prosecutes crime against the Republican base, we will be lucky to see any prosecutions before 2009, if then.
Nooses have been looped over a tree at the University of Maryland, knotted to the end of stage-rigging ropes at a suburban Memphis theater, slung on the doorknob of a black professor's office at Columbia University in New York, hung in a locker room at a Long Island police station, stuffed in the duffel bag of a black Coast Guard cadet aboard a historic ship, and draped around the necks of black dolls in the Pittsburgh suburbs.
The hangman's rope has become so prolific, some say, it could replace the Nazi swastika and the Ku Klux Klan's fiery cross as the nation's reigning symbol of hate.
"I think the noose is replacing the burning cross in the minds of many white people as the primary symbol of the Klan,"
Quote of the Day
“Absolutely not. I may have dishonored the commander in chief, but I think he’s done pretty well to dishonor himself without any help from me.”Pete Stark D-CA, responding to the usual bullshit whining of John Boner R-Septic Tank
He added the real dishonor is that Republicans refuse to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. “The fact is that I do support the troops in Iraq. They’re there fighting to protect our children here,” said Stark. “I think (Republicans) owe the troops in Iraq an apology for not protecting the children that those troops left behind.”
Here comes the Super Roach
The crew is using an irradiator in the basement of Hanford's 318 Building just north of Richland. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory usually uses it to calibrate dosimeters and test for radiation damage on equipment such as video cameras and fiber optic cables...Survival my foot, it sounds like they are trying to develop a lead character for the next Men In Black sequel. Anybody want to bet the lose track of a bunch of the 100K rad group just as they are starting to grow larger?
...Fifty will get no radiation so they can be used as a control group. Another 50 will be exposed to 1,000 rad of radiation, the exposure that's lethal to humans.
It gets worse from there for the bugs. The next 50 will be exposed to 10,000 rad and the final to 100,000 rad.
How Congress works
House Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey (D-Wis.) hates this "misbegotten, stupid, ill-advised" Iraq war. He won't even consider President Bush's latest war funding request until next year. And he wants to tax Americans to pay for it.I support this tax because it is what Americans have done for every war that we have had prior to discovering how Republicans do it. We pay for it. Only a party of cowards, child molesters, wife beaters and tea room twinkies would want to burden our children to the Nth generation to pay for Dear Leader's private amusement.
The positions surprised many of his colleagues. But not House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Obey's friend for decades.
"I went to Nancy a week before we did it, and I told her: 'Nancy, I'm gonna do two things. One of them you're gonna like, and one of them you're not," Obey said. He told her he wouldn't take up Bush's funding request for Iraq until next year. "And she said: 'I like that. What won't I like?' "
She doesn't like that war tax. "We don't go forward lightly when we're talking about a tax on all the American people," Pelosi said. No problem -- Obey will introduce the tax proposal anyway on Tuesday.
Festung Baghdad update
A mortar shell smashed into the hulking new U.S. Embassy that's under construction in Baghdad last May, damaging a wall and causing minor injuries to people inside the building. It also exposed enormous problems in the management of what's become a $592 million government construction project.Put there are no real problems here, just the normal teething problems of your average crony built fortess. Nothing to see here, let's move along now.
The State Department contractor in charge of the project, James L. Golden, attempted to alter the scene of the blast, according to government officials familiar with the incident. The State Department inspector general prevented Department officials from investigating the incident, according to interviews and documents.
A congressional committee is examining whether the walls of the still-unfinished embassy complex, which are supposed to be blast-resistant, performed as they should have during the mortar attack.
U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker banished Golden from Iraq, but he continues to oversee the construction of the embassy in Baghdad; to be the liaison with the contractor, Kuwait-based First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting Co.; and to supervise other projects for the State Department's Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) bureau.
The embassy — actually a 104-acre, Vatican-size compound of 21 buildings meant to house and sleep about 1,000 U.S. officials was originally meant to open in June, then in September. Now, due to problems with the sprinkler system, the latest in a series of deficiencies blamed on First Kuwaiti, it remains unclear whether it will be ready for occupancy this year. Golden didn't return phone calls seeking comment.
McClatchy Newspapers has also learned that:
— Aspects of the embassy's construction are the subject of at least one U.S. government criminal investigation, according to officials in Congress and the administration. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter and declined to divulge more details for publication.
— In order to rush the project, the long-time head of OBO, retired Army Maj. Gen. Charles Williams, signed a waiver in July 2005 allowing a sole-source contract to be awarded to First Kuwaiti.
"The only acquisition option that can be considered is to issue Sole Source Awards to contractors capable of completing the design and construction in accordance with the required schedule, budget and performance parameters," Williams wrote in a memo reviewed by McClatchy.
— Columbia, Md.-based Cosmopolitan Inc., which was awarded the lead contract to build the embassy's classified spaces, where intelligence officers and others work, meet and store information, was kicked off the job for alleged non-performance. It was replaced by Kaseman Corp. of Chantilly, Va.
Mukasey shows his true colors
Mukasey aroused Democrats' concerns by testifying that there may be occasions when the president's powers as commander in chief could trump a federal law requiring that a special court approve intelligence-related wiretaps. That answer jibes with one of the legal rationales used by the Bush administration in defense of its controversial Terrorist Surveillance Program, under which the National Security Agency eavesdropped on calls between persons in the United States and those overseas without first securing a court warrant.And I say, give him a taste of the bucket and let him make up his mind.
Mukasey also repeatedly demurred when asked whether an interrogation technique that involves simulated drowning, known as waterboarding, constitutes torture and is therefore illegal. "I don't know what's involved in the technique," Mukasey said. "If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional."
And good old Tony Farto gets it wrong, as usual.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto defended Mukasey, saying he "is not in a position to discuss interrogation techniques, which are necessarily classified," because he was not briefed on such programs.See, nobody asked about interrogation techniques, they wanted to know if "strapping the prisoner to a hard surface, covering his face or mouth with a cloth, and pouring water over his face to create the sensation of drowning" is torture. Normal people think it is but not your average Bushovik. Bushoviks think it is a wonderful interrogation technique because every time they use it, they get the answers they want to hear.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Why is the price of oil going up?
154 Republicans say, Let the kids die
A furious campaign to persuade Republicans to change their votes on the $35 billion expansion of the government children's health insurance program fell 13 votes short today when the House failed to overturn President Bush's veto of the legislation.Gotta love old John Boner, ignoring the outrageous rhetoric of his fellow travelers, calling for working together after defeating one of the few bills that resulted from Democrats and Republicans working together. And now Dear Leader and his minions will call for a "compromise", knowing full well they will accept nothing less than Dear Leader's Dickensian original proposal. It is almost as if the new motto of the Republican Party is "Children are for eating, not for healing".
Supporters of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) expansion packed House galleries, bringing in children and parents to apply last-minute pressure. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), meeting with Zeke Taylor, the March of Dimes' frail, smiling 7-year-old "ambassador," exhorted: "This is a banner issue for the Congress of the United States. . . . We want the members today to vote as if their children's lives depend on their votes."
But ultimately, the president's demand for a far more limited extension of the existing insurance program held sway with enough Republicans. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) charged that "SCHIP stands for Socialized, Clinton-style Hillarycare for illegals and their parents."
"Americans are tired of the rhetoric," said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). "They're tired of the political games, and they want us to find a way to work together."
Jesus would approve of the political defeat of these Republicans:
Robert Aderholt, Todd Akin, Rodney Alexander, Michele Bachmann, Spencer Bachus, Richard Baker, J. Gresham Barrett, Roscoe Bartlett, Joe Barton, Judith Biggert, Brian Bilbray, Gus Bilirakis, Rob Bishop, Marsha Blackburn, Roy Blunt, John Boehner, Jo Bonner, John Boozman, Charles Boustany, Kevin Brady, Paul Broun, Henry Brown, Ginny Brown-Waite, Michael Burgess, Dan Burton, Steve Buyer, Ken Calvert, Dave Camp, John Campbell, Chris Cannon, Eric Cantor, John Carter, Steve Chabot, Howard Coble, Tom Cole, Michael Conaway, Ander Crenshaw, Barbara Cubin, John Culberson, David Davis, Geoff Davis, Nathan Deal, Mario Diaz-Balart, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, John Doolittle, Thelma Drake, David Dreier, John 'Jimmy' Duncan, Terry Everett, Mary Fallin, Tom Feeney, Jeff Flake, Randy Forbes, Jeff Fortenberry, Virginia Foxx, Trent Franks, Rodney Frelinghuysen, Elton Gallegly, Scott Garrett, Phil Gingrey, Louie Gohmert, Virgil Goode, Bob Goodlatte, Kay Granger, Sam Graves, Ralph Hall, J. Dennis Hastert, Doc Hastings, Robin Hayes, Dean Heller, Jeb Hensarling, Wally Herger, Peter Hoekstra, Kenny Hulshof, Duncan Hunter, Bob Inglis, Darrell Issa, Sam Johnson, Tim Johnson, Walter Jones, Jim Jordan, Ric Keller, Steve King, Jack Kingston, John Kline, Joe Knollenberg, Randy Kuhl, Doug Lamborn, Jerry Lewis, Ron Lewis, John Linder, Frank Lucas, Daniel Lungren, Connie Mack, Donald Manzullo, Kenny Marchant, Kevin McCarthy, Michael McCaul, Thad McCotter, Jim McCrery, Patrick McHenry, Buck McKeon, John Mica, Jeff Miller, Gary Miller, Marilyn Musgrave, Sue Myrick, Randy Neugebauer, Devin Nunes, Ron Paul, Stevan Pearce, Mike Pence, John Peterson, Chip Pickering, Joe Pitts, Ted Poe, Tom Price, Adam Putnam, George Radanovich, Thomas Reynolds, Mike Rogers, Hal Rogers, Mike Rogers, Dana Rohrabacher, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Peter Roskam, Edward Royce, Paul Ryan, Bill Sali, Jim Saxton, Jean Schmidt, Jim Sensenbrenner, Pete Sessions, John Shadegg, John Shimkus, Bill Shuster, Lamar Smith, Adrian Smith, Mark Souder, Cliff Stearns, John Sullivan, Tom Tancredo, Lee Terry, Mac Thornberry, Todd Tiahrt, Timothy Walberg, Greg Walden, Zachary Wamp, Dave Weldon, Jerry Weller, Lynn Westmoreland, Ed Whitfield, Roger Wicker, Joe WilsonAnd their two Blue Dog enablers:
Jim Marshall, Gene Taylor
Senate caves in on FISA bill
Senate Democrats and Republicans reached agreement with the Bush administration yesterday on the terms of new legislation to control the federal government's domestic surveillance program, which includes a highly controversial grant of legal immunity to telecommunications companies that have assisted the program, according to congressional sources.So now they are waiting for Dear Leader to scratch their tummys, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting.
Disclosure of the deal followed a decision by House Democratic leaders to pull a competing version of the measure from the floor because they lacked the votes to prevail over Republican opponents and GOP parliamentary maneuvers.
UPDATE: TPM is reporting that Sen. Chris Dodd, the real senator from Connecticut, is going to put a hold on any bill that allows retroactive immunity to telcos. Good man!
Somehow I thought this was long gone.
The head of the Federal Communications Commission has circulated an ambitious plan to relax the decades-old media ownership rules, including repealing a rule that forbids a company to own both a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same city.If you have any question about whether this is a good idea or not, you need only consider who is for it. If that evil old fart Rupe Murdoch is for it, it has to be a very bad idea. That S O B has never done anything good for the US.
Kevin J. Martin, chairman of the commission, wants to repeal the rule in the next two months — a plan that, if successful, would be a big victory for some executives of media conglomerates.
Among them are Samuel Zell, the Chicago investor who is seeking to complete a buyout of the Tribune Company, and Rupert Murdoch, who has lobbied against the rule for years so that he can continue controlling both The New York Post and a Fox television station in New York.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Not all economic downturns are bad
A drop in violence around Iraq has cut burials in the huge Wadi al Salam cemetery here by at least one-third in the past six months, and that’s cut the pay of thousands of workers who make their living digging graves, washing corpses or selling burial shrouds.They will never go out of business, but there is nothing wrong with them having lean times.
Few people have a better sense of the death rate in Iraq.
"I always think of the increasing and decreasing of the dead,” said Sameer Shaaban, 23, one of more than 100 workers who specialize in ceremonially washing the corpses. “People want more and more money, and I am one of them, but most of the workers in this field don't talk frankly, because they wish for more coffins, to earn more and more.”
Republicans will do anything to stop Obama
In an interview on MSNBC Tuesday afternoon, Mrs. Cheney said that in the course of researching her husband's genealogy for her new book, "Blue Skies, No Fences," she discovered that the two public figures share an ancestor eight generations ago...Poor Barack, if I knew that about my family, I would be on a suicide watch
...But Obama's family ties to the Bush administration don't stop with Cheney. According to an article in the Chicago Sun-Times last September, Obama is also an 11th cousin of the president himself. The two share a 17th century Massachusetts relative.
Hilary truly against the war in Iraq?
What I do know, is that I heard her say that she would end the Iraq war immediately upon taking office. Lots of heads snapped up when she said that (and there was plenty of applause, even a little whooping) and the very politically plugged in person sitting next to me remarked that the statement was “completely new”. She went on to say that the troops had already done everything they had been asked to do: got rid of Saddam, created a situation where elections could take place, surged to create political stability so the elected Iraqi government could do some legislating and work out a political solution (which she said they have not done) and that it was unfair to ask our troops to stay in Iraq and “play referee to an Iraqi civil war.” She said there is no military solution.If true, she has finally learned how to speak like an American.
The NY Times had 8 and the WaPo now has 12
Against this backdrop, the U.S. military has been trying in vain to hold the country together. Even with "the surge," we simply do not have enough soldiers and marines to meet the professed goals of clearing areas from insurgent control, holding them securely and building sustainable institutions. Though temporary reinforcing operations in places like Fallujah, An Najaf, Tal Afar, and now Baghdad may brief well on PowerPoint presentations, in practice they just push insurgents to another spot on the map and often strengthen the insurgents' cause by harassing locals to a point of swayed allegiances. Millions of Iraqis correctly recognize these actions for what they are and vote with their feet -- moving within Iraq or leaving the country entirely. Still, our colonels and generals keep holding on to flawed concepts.The authors are
U.S. forces, responsible for too many objectives and too much "battle space," are vulnerable targets. The sad inevitability of a protracted draw-down is further escalation of attacks -- on U.S. troops, civilian leaders and advisory teams. They would also no doubt get caught in the crossfire of the imminent Iraqi civil war...
...There is one way we might be able to succeed in Iraq. To continue an operation of this intensity and duration, we would have to abandon our volunteer military for compulsory service. Short of that, our best option is to leave Iraq immediately. A scaled withdrawal will not prevent a civil war, and it will spend more blood and treasure on a losing proposition.
12 former Army captains: Jason Blindauer served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005. Elizabeth Bostwick served in Salah Ad Din and An Najaf in 2004. Jeffrey Bouldin served in Al Anbar, Baghdad and Ninevah in 2006. Jason Bugajski served in Diyala in 2004. Anton Kemps served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005. Kristy (Luken) McCormick served in Ninevah in 2003. Luis Carlos Montalván served in Anbar, Baghdad and Nineveh in 2003 and 2005. William Murphy served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005. Josh Rizzo served in Baghdad in 2006. William "Jamie" Ruehl served in Nineveh in 2004. Gregg Tharp served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005. Gary Williams served in Baghdad in 2003.
Big Brother is listening.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Quote of the Day
Any military commission Majid is to face will follow rules specifically designed to ensure that the government gets the outcome it seeks.Gitanjali S. Gutierrez, attorney for Majid.
Moreover, the proceedings will be tainted with secrecy. A transparent trial would risk revealing the events surrounding Majid's detention and treatment while in CIA custody. The government's need for secrecy has nothing to do with Majid's alleged wrongdoing -- only the circumstances under which he was captured, hidden away and interrogated. He will continue to be held behind a shroud of secrecy to protect the CIA program under which he was originally detained. He is a prisoner being punished in order to protect his jailers. The logic is terrifying. And it is being done in the name of the American people.
What's going on here?
Riechers’ body was discovered by friends who called in the incident, Troxell said. A Virginia state medical examiner performed an autopsy Monday morning, but could not release any other information.Curious.
An Air Force internal communication announcing Riechers’ death said that the cause of death appeared to be suicide. The sheriff’s office is investigating the cause of death and could not confirm the appearance of a suicide.
Riechers served in the deputy position since Jan. 25 under Sue C. Payton, the service’s acquisition chief. He was the first person to hold the title since Darleen A. Druyun, who went to prison in 2005 after admitting to improperly favoring The Boeing Co. in four contracts she negotiated on behalf of the Air Force in exchange for personal favors, including a job for herself.
Riechers was the subject of an Oct. 1 Washington Post report citing a two-month contract he received from Commonwealth Research Institute, a tax-exempt nonprofit that works in various capacities supporting the Pentagon. The story revealed that Riechers had almost no interaction with CRI during his employment there, and that his contract was arranged at the request of the Air Force.
Bomb, bomb, bomb - bomb, bomb Iran
Many thanks to TPMtv for the montage.
To help you start the week right
Monday Music Blogging
Sorry about the audio losing synch in the middle.
Krugman explains Republican hatred of Gore.
The worst thing about Mr. Gore, from the conservative point of view, is that he keeps being right. In 1992, George H. W. Bush mocked him as the “ozone man,” but three years later the scientists who discovered the threat to the ozone layer won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In 2002 he warned that if we invaded Iraq, “the resulting chaos could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam.” And so it has proved.Nowadays, everything decent and honorable threatens Republicans.
But Gore hatred is more than personal. When National Review decided to name its anti-environmental blog Planet Gore, it was trying to discredit the message as well as the messenger. For the truth Mr. Gore has been telling about how human activities are changing the climate isn’t just inconvenient. For conservatives, it’s deeply threatening.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Your Government at work,
As the headlines teach us, American security contractors in Iraq have been implicated in enormous crimes, including murder, assault, rape, kidnapping and extortion. In a contractor population of 180,000 for three years the Justice Department, which has direct responsibility for law enforcement, has failed to bring a single prosecution for violent crime. And instead one of the few FBI investigators assigned to Iraq is brought home to America to terrorize people involved in raising campaign funds for Administration opponents. This tells you as clearly as possible what the priorities of the officials directing this case were. They have nothing to do with preserving the integrity of the federal elections process. Rather just the opposite. They are employed to assail political opponents and provide unfair advantage to the Republican Party and its candidates. This is morally corrupt and repugnant.Guantanamo is too good for these people.
The only right is being on the right team
He soon discovered, however, that senior officials in government were taking quite the opposite view: they were breaking US and international non-proliferation protocols to shelter Pakistan's ambitions and even sell it banned WMD technology. In the closing years of the cold war, Pakistan was considered to have great strategic importance. It provided Washington with a springboard into neighbouring Afghanistan - a route for passing US weapons and cash to the mujahideen, who were battling to oust the Soviet army that had invaded in 1979. Barlow says, "We had to buddy-up to regimes we didn't see eye-to-eye with, but I could not believe we would actually give Pakistan the bomb.
How could any US administration set such short-term gains against the long-term safety of the world?" Next he discovered that the Pentagon was preparing to sell Pakistan jet fighters that could be used to drop a nuclear bomb.
Barlow was relentless in exposing what he saw as US complicity, and in the end he was sacked and smeared as disloyal, mad, a drunk and a philanderer. If he had been listened to, many believe Pakistan might never have got its nuclear bomb; south Asia might not have been pitched into three near-nuclear conflagrations; and the nuclear weapons programmes of Iran, Libya and North Korea - which British and American intelligence now acknowledge were all secretly enabled by Pakistan - would never have got off the ground. "None of this need have happened," Robert Gallucci, special adviser on WMD to both Clinton and George W Bush, told us. "The vanquishing of Barlow and the erasing of his case kicked off a chain of events that led to all the nuclear-tinged stand-offs we face today. Pakistan is the number one threat to the world, and if it all goes off - a nuclear bomb in a US or European city- I'm sure we will find ourselves looking in Pakistan's direction."
Wall St looking to bust out pensions
Most employers seeking to end pension plans or get rid of frozen plans issue a lump-sum payment to employees and retirees, or they buy annuities from insurance companies, which take over management of the assets. The assets then fall under state insurance regulations, which require that the companies maintain certain reserves to balance risks in the investment portfolio.First off, none of the players, which include the likes of Citigroup and J P Morgan Chase, would give this a second thought if there were not visions of LARGE profits to be made or HUGE tax benefits. Naturally these would be at the expense of the beneficiaries or the rest of us taxpayers. And there is no downside, if they can't make money by hook or by crook, they just dump it on the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp a/k/a us taxpayers.
The buyout proposals suggest a different scenario: Financial firms would take control of the assets and liabilities of a pension plan, and continue to operate it under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. ERISA, which governs company-run pension plans and establishes minimum standards, requires that the assets be invested with "care, skill, prudence and diligence." The PBGC is the final backstop for failed pensions.
The financial services firms are in discussions with the federal agencies that interpret and enforce pension laws, including the PBGC, the Labor Department and the Internal Revenue Service, to sort out legal and regulatory questions. The firms are seeking a ruling on whether a buyout firm would be a legitimate sponsor of a pension plan and, if so, whether it could continue to receive tax breaks on contributions to the pension plan.
Some critics fear that a financial entity might buy out a pension fund and gamble with its assets, knowing that if the investments made money, the firm would reap the excess profits, and if it lost money, the PBGC, which is funded by insurance premiums paid by pension funds, would be the backup.Just the latest in a long line of sleazy and easily fraudulent schemes to take your money from you, and all they need is a few rules changed, maybe a law here or there and with this crew in DC, who can doubt they will get what they want.
"This is like the latest wonderful product from the people who brought you the subprime disaster," said Damon A. Silvers, associate general counsel of the AFL-CIO. "When you have a situation in which a risk is being laid off, and none of the participants in the transaction have that much of an interest in seeing that the benefits are being paid . . . the likelihood that there are going to be inadequate assets is pretty high."
Well done, Nancy
"We don't believe that any authorities that the president has would give him the ability to go in without an act of Congress," Pelosi told ABC's "This Week" program.So now we are all set up for the "Iranian" attack on some US "Gleiwitz". And you can bet your bottom dollar that Dickwahd and Addington are pushing every button and pulling every string they have to set up just such an incident.
"Any president, if we are attacked, if our country is attacked has -- even under the War Powers Act -- very strong powers to go after that country. But short of that, he must come to the Congress," said the top Democrat in the House of Representatives.
But, getting back to Ms. Nancy, she has apparently forgotten that we were attacked on Dec 7, 1941 and the next day one of America's real presidents went before Congress and asked for a declaration of war. And it was six months before the first real efforts to strike back began, but we all know how those efforts ended. Ms. Nancy seems to have accepted that an immediate response is more important than a legal response. And this can only be music to the ears of Our Dear Leader and his Dickwahd.
And when they come home
After revelations about the poor treatment of outpatient soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center earlier this year, President Bush appointed a commission to study the care of the nation's war-wounded. The panel returned with bold recommendations, including the creation of a national cadre of caseworkers and a complete overhaul of the military's disability system that compensates wounded soldiers.Were it not for help from Operation Homefront and an increase in Troy's disability, they would probably have lost their home and car, but there is still much that needs to be done for the people who have given so much for the country they love.
But so far, little has been done to sort out the mess of bureaucracy or put more money in the hands of newly disabled soldiers who are fending off evictions and foreclosures.
In the Turner house, that leaves an exhausted wife with chipped nail polish to hold up the family's collapsing world. "Stand Together," a banner at a local cafe reminds Michelle. But since Troy came back from Iraq in 2003, the burden of war is now hers.
Michelle has spent hundreds of hours at the library researching complicated VA policies and disability regulations. "You need two college degrees to understand any of it," she says, lacking both. She scavenges information where she can find it. A psychotic Vietnam vet she met in a VA hospital was the one who told her that Troy might be eligible for Social Security benefits.
Meanwhile, there are clothes to wash, meals to cook, kids to get ready for school and a husband who is placidly medicated or randomly explosive. Besides PTSD, Michelle suspects that Troy may have a brain injury, which could explain how a 38-year-old man who used to hunt and fish can lose himself in a three-day "Scooby-Doo" marathon on the Cartoon Network.
"He can't deal with everyday stresses of living," Michelle says. "He can't make decisions. He is a worrywart. Fearful. It's like they took Troy and put him in a different person."
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